Tuesday, May 12, 2015
  Thanks, Petrov!

The newly publicized story of Stanislav Petrov slaps us with a couple of big lessons.

Petrov is the sanest man in the world, and thus the grumpiest man in the world.

Petrov saved the world from nuclear destruction in 1983.

He was manning the controls for part of Russia's nuclear arsenal, watching his radar and computer screens. Suddenly a blip appeared to be coming across the Arctic from North America. Then it was joined by four more blips in the same direction, but no more. Just five blips.

He had to think fast. There were four possibilities, formed into a truth table.

False indication, don't respond: End of his career. No other harm.

False indication, respond: Instant end of America, eventual end of humanity.

True indication, don't respond: Instant end of Russia, eventual end of humanity.

True indication, respond: Instant end of humanity.


His decision was based on a knowledge of all these possibilities, plus an understanding of his instruments and the meaning of their readings. He decided that five blips could not be a real USA STRONG attack, because USA STRONG understood the End Of Humanity logic as well as he did. If USA STRONG was going to attack, it would be sending hundreds of missiles all at once because there wouldn't be a chance to send the rest after Russia's response.

He chose not to push the button, and we're all alive because he did.

Thanks, Petrov!

It didn't exactly end his career, but he didn't get any rewards either. Now he's barely surviving on a pension, but he's fiercely loyal to Russia.

Lesson #1: Trust technicians. Trust metrology. A technician who understands his instruments will make the right decision far more often than a Professional who understands theories. The Professional will ignore obvious indications of bad readings, and will often intentionally falsify the readings, to keep his theory and his grants running.

Lesson #2: Especially for the beyond-evil hypermonsters who have been misruling USA STRONG since 1989. Don't underestimate Russians. Don't assume that they will surrender because you impose some economic hardships. They are accustomed to self-sufficiency and they are good at improvising. Above all, Russians are unconditionally Russian.

Hardships work on Americans because Americans are only conditionally American. When Goldman imposed economic sanctions on all non-Goldman Americans in 2008, non-Goldman Americans meekly obeyed. We didn't rise up against Goldman, we didn't endanger our careers by deciding not to respond, because we've been trained to obey The Master Race above all. We just keep pushing the button. Borrowing and consuming and borrowing and consuming.

Petrov vs Pavlov. We follow Pavlov.

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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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