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Culture War Roundup for the week of June 19, 2023

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The Titan submersible suddenly became very hot culture war.

The wikipedia link is quite thorough.

TLDR as of 2023-06-22 000000z seems to be:

5 people are trapped on a submersible that has lost contact with the outside world.

It was trying to visit the wreck of The Titanic.

Major effort rescue is on under way.

They are running out of air in the next couple of hours.

The name of the vessel is Titan (come on, no one can be that brazen, you are tempting fate)

The people are couple of billionaires, explorer, and the CEO of the company

The vessel can be opened only from outside.

The vessel used some off the shelf parts (like a logitech controller) and somewhat exotic materials.

Now comes the culture war

  1. Somewhat lack of empathy for the people there because of their status in the crazier places of the internet.

  2. The way the vessel was built and operated embodied the SV ethos. There are reports that it was not certified or audited by anyone, that the hull testing procedures were not adequate, that the company moved fast and broke things. So right now said ethos is having torn a new one.

  3. Surfaced a recording of the CEO bragging how they don't want to hire 50 years old white guys because they are not inspiring.

To me actually 2 is the most interesting one out there - 1 is just internet being the internet, 3 - if a small error could lead to death - hire the most safety oriented, pedantic and boring people there are to design your product.

But with silicon valley moving more and more prone to overtaking the meatspace - their physical products kinda suck. From smart thermostats to fridges to whatever we actually have degradation of the experience. So I think we are in a rough ride. And the more products they make smarter or move fast - the more human lives will be at stakes.

I think more than these questions, it's the vast resources that have been marshalled to save these people that's been challenging me. A quick skim through the wiki article lists 9 ships and 5 planes with back-office coordination across 3 military branches and 4 countries. Despite this, the occupants are nearly certainly lost, and would be so even if the vessel had been located by now. The near-zero probability of a rescue was very quickly made apparent to everyone.

It is interesting, to say the least, which imperilled lives cause governments to move mountains without a second thought or rational hope, and which lives may be lucky to see a dime and only then after the case has been proven in a half dozen impact studies and feasibility examinations and pilot programs. Probably one of the more perverse urgency/importance failures yet, but one can't really go around saying the government is too good at reacting to acute crises.

A quick skim through the wiki article lists 9 ships and 5 planes with back-office coordination across 3 military branches and 4 countries.

It's good skills practice for everyone involved, and unlike many "life-saving" expenditures, if these people are saved they have a very high likelihood of going on to live productive lives that are a net-benefit to those around them.

I mean… one of the people on board was the CEO.

Seems like he had a net negative impact on everyone who went on this particular expedition.

The steelman: if the occupants of the submarine are saved (which is nigh impossible at this point) he would be made an example of: his company discredited, he himself fined and possibly jailed. As it is, the sub will either not be found, or it will be found filled with corpses, which also serves as an example of what not to do but is arguably not as effective as having a person to haul in front of a courtroom.