Menu Close

Category: Uncategorized

2024 April Monthly Meeting

Parsec, Pittsburgh’s premier Science Fiction & Fantasy Organization meets
on Saturday, April 20, 2024 via ZOOM.
Social start time 12:30pm ET
Meeting start time 1:00pm ET

Our guest this month is John J. Ventre, a former multi state Director for the Mutual UFO
Network (MUFON), actor, and author of “They Are Us: The Time Travel False Flag.”

John Ventre was a 10-year multi-State Director for the Mutual UFO Network. It was John’s research into end time prophecy and cultures that got him interested in UFOs in 1996. He is an occasional columnist for many different UFO magazines.
John is the retired PA-WV-VA State Security and Public Affairs Director for UPS. He was a candidate for PA Governor in 2022. John has made numerous televised appearances, including the Anderson Cooper show in 2012, 33 episodes on 7 TV series including 20 episodes on History Channels “Hangar 1”, 116 episodes on PCTV21’s “UFOs over Pittsburgh” and YouTube’s “String Theory of the Unexplained”. He has had 5 movie roles and lectured at numerous UFO conferences including the Wizard World Comicon and MUFON Symposium. John is conference coordinator for 42 PA UFO Conferences and has managed the 2014 & 2018 MUFON Symposium. He is the author of 10 books on 5 topics and gives 20 different PPT conference lectures.

Fear, The Future, and Perception Bias

By Scot Noel

Imagine if you will, today’s world without automobiles. Or rather, a world in which news of their invention has only recently hit the public consciousness.

The media is filled with visions of a future where individuals and families can travel independently, free of transit schedules and crowded buses and trains. Robust rovers are promised that will get you and your family to secluded beaches and mountain hideaways. Tourism will explode. Teenagers can already feel the keys in their hands and look forward to date night taking on whole new possibilities!

But would these heralded symbols of freedom ever find acceptance in a world where the Internet and its doom scrollers enthusiastically predict the end of civilization? No doubt the obvious insanity of the auto would be trolled at every opportunity.

  • Gasoline is flammable! Every emergency room will be filled with burn victims.
  • You’ll have to bury tanks of toxic fuel on every street corner to keep these things going. Without experts to handle the pumping, people would spill gas everywhere.
  • In the US alone, crash deaths might rise to 40,000 to 50,000 fatalities per year. The cost to the economy in injuries, death, and property damage will bankrupt the country!
  • It’s not possible to build enough roads for all these things, and if it were, people would constantly be getting lost. There would have to be signs, and road lights, and traffic control systems. It would bankrupt every state, the US, the world!
  • To keep people safe, you’d have to strap them down, explode air cushions in front of during collisions, and there’s no way to make an automobile safe for young children to ride in!
  • What are you going to do with the worn-out ones? Imagine the wastelands of metal; the endless storage yards of old auto junk; the unsightly graveyards of rusting metal. Not in my backyard!

You get the idea. And I didn’t even go into the enormous health and environmental impact of leaded gasoline. Ethyl, as it was commonly known, was highly dangerous due to its toxic effects on human health and the environment. Tetraethyl lead, the additive used to improve engine performance for over three quarters of a century, caused a range of serious health issues, including neurological and cognitive damage, especially in children, as well as cardiovascular and kidney problems in adults. Its widespread use contributed to environmental pollution, including air, water, and food. It raised lead levels in the atmosphere to dangerous levels, leading to widespread public health concerns.

Yet, in our real world, we not only accepted these risks, problems, and disadvantages, we developed entire industries around mitigating them. Because once automobiles made their way into the culture, nay, into civilization itself, there was no way they were going to be banned, even at the risk of our own lives.

In fact, learning to drive and getting your own vehicle became a rite of passage into adulthood.

I know this social pressure firsthand. As a bookish nerd, I made it all the way through college without getting my driver’s license. (While I’m nowhere near as smart as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, there are parallels.)

When I got my physical for a learner’s permit at the age of 22, the doctor looked at me a little incredulously and asked “so, what the hell’s wrong with you?” Owning and driving cars was not only normalized, but it had also become conventional and expected behavior, regardless of all dangers.

Risk Perception Bias

Humans are bad at evaluating risk. In fact, the average person is pretty darned delusional about it. We tend to see that which is new or which has changed as risky and accept that which we encounter every day as either safe or of minimal consequence to our wellbeing.

Our brains are wired so that familiarity breeds complacency. The more we’re exposed to something, the less we perceive it as dangerous. This leads to an underestimation of everyday risks, while at the same time we vastly overestimate risks when the new and unfamiliar comes our way. This is especially true when we perceive that there is nothing we can do and forces beyond our control are moving us in directions we cannot forestall.

This perceptual bias skews our ability to rationally evaluate the dangers inherent in hurtling down highways in metal boxes powered by superheated explosions. The irony? We buckle up, turn the key, and merge onto the freeway without a second thought, all while fretting over threats which are statistically rarer or even occupy the status of theoretical future events.

(Yes, in our history there was early moral panic about the advent of automobiles, including the effect on the well-being of horses, the economic downturn due to the loss of the carriage industry, and that excessive noise would cause widespread nervous disorders.)

Should We Live in Existential Dread of the Future?

Climate change is here today. Artificial Intelligence and robotic systems are changing everyday life as I write this. We live in a world of gene-editing, nuclear power, genetically modified food, and programmable vaccines.

How much should we be living in fear over these things? After all, something is bound to go wrong and affect the lives of billions of humans!

Or, when it comes down to it, will we get past these new developments the way we got past leaded gasoline and “Unsafe (to drive) at Any Speed”?

Facing fear, dread, and existential threats requires a balanced perspective. Much like society adapted to the cultural and civilizational changes represented by automobiles, we have the capacity for resilience and innovation in all things.

The real challenges of today—environmental, technological, political—are formidable, yet history shows we can navigate perilous waters. Awareness, preparedness, and action are key, not succumbing to paralyzing dread and nihilistic daydreams.

Collaborative efforts, scientific and industrial advancements, and global initiatives offer paths forward, demonstrating our ability to tackle and mitigate existential risks, as we adapt and overcome on our way to a livable future.

AI May Help!

One of our fears, the coming of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), may turn out to be one of our best opportunities for distinguishing between unreasonable fears and real risks, as well as developing the tools and approaches to keep us safe.

AGI, by its nature, could enhance our ability to analyze vast datasets and complex systems, providing insights to help distinguish real risks from exaggerated fears.

It could offer predictive models to help us see the consequences of our actions and policies, thereby guiding us toward safer, more informed decisions.

Furthermore, AGI could assist in designing advanced safety protocols, emergency response strategies, and in mitigating the effects of climate change, pandemics, and other global challenges. Thus, while the coming reality of AGI introduces new considerations, it also holds the potential to become an invaluable ally in securing a safer future.

And that would be a far different vision than the awakening of Skynet and the arrival of the Terminator.

After all, in the world of the automobiles, the fatality rate per distance driven has only decreased, falling dramatically from the 1960s to present day. Restraint systems, crashworthiness, active safety features, and advanced driver assistance all contribute to a level of vehicle safety unknown to previous generations.

Today there are over 100 vehicles on this year’s Top Safety picks Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awards! You can drive safely! And hopefully, while maintaining a little caution, you can also welcome the future with open arms.

END

Reference Links for Further Study:
A Moment in Time: Highway Safety Breakthrough
How the World Eliminated Lead from Gasoline
Why are Humans Bad at Calculating Risk
Risk Perception and Decision making
How Artificial Intelligence Can Inform Decision Making
How AI could power the climate breakthrough the world

2024 March Monthly Meeting

This month our Confluence Topics meeting will be held at the Mt.Lebanon Public Library (16 Castle Shannon Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15228) in Meeting Room A (lower level).
The room opens at 12:30. The meeting starts at 1:00pm.
A Zoom option will be available for those that cannot make it in-person

Joining us in person will be Confluence 2024 Guest of Honor, Richard KadreyRichard is a novelist, freelance writer, and photographer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

At the March meeting, Parsec traditionally holds a brainstorming session for the Confluence Conference held July 26-28, 2024. We’ll be discussing various panel topics for consideration.
Richard will introduce us to his works, career, and writing, and do a reading from one of his books, perhaps the Sandman Slim series or The Dead Take the A Train. He will also participate in our Confluence panel topics discussion.

Richard Kadrey is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim supernatural noir series. Sandman Slim was included in Amazon’s “100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime,” and is in development as a feature film.

“The Dead Take the A Train” is his latest release! Bestselling authors Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey have teamed up to deliver a dark new story with magic, monsters, and mayhem, perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Joe Hill.

Some of Kadrey’s other books include King Bullet, The Grand Dark, Butcher Bird, and The Dead Take the A Train (with Cassandra Khaw). He’s written for film and comics, including Heavy Metal, Lucifer, and Hellblazer. Kadrey also makes music with his band, A Demon in Fun City.

To Register for the Zoom meeting, visit: https://bit.ly/Parsec-Meeting


Coming in April . . .

 Our guest will be John Ventre of the Mutual UFO Network.

Sad news — Kira passed away

kira-rainbowWe are extremely sorry to let everyone know that beloved Parsec member and past president, Kira Heston, passed away a short time ago today. We’re going to miss you, Kira. Check back for info on a memorial service.

Parsec Picnic this Saturday!

The Parsec Picnic will be this Saturday, August 27, 2016, from 12 noon to dusk at the Dormont Park large pavilion.

The park is located between Memorial Dr, Annapolis Ave, Dormont Ave, and McFarland Road. To find the pavilion, park in the lot off Annapolis Ave, and walk on the paved path next to it to the pavilion. The zip code is 15216.

Make your own alien at Confluence

Sample alien
Sample alien

Create your very own alien to bake at the workshop and take home!

We will cover polymer clay basics and how to bake your creations. You will get 4-5 1oz chunks of various colors, a bottle of aloe gel (to clean your hands) and a write up about polymer clay. Limit of 12 people. Material costs: $7.

Sign up at Registration or just stop by the workshop to see if we have room. Watching is free. (Workshop will be held in the same room as the Art Show, Ballroom 2.)

Book Signing at CopyLeft Gallery, May 13

PARSEC SF/F/H BOOK SIGNING   ♦   May 13, 2016   ♦   6:00-10:00 pm

COPYLEFT GALLERY

127 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, PA, 15210

starchildDoors into other universes exist in the tales of novels by ten local, science fiction, fantasy and horror authors. Parsec, the premier speculative fiction organization in Pittsburgh, will host this multi-author book signing and party. Come see our world!

The event is free and open to the public. No registration or RSVP necessary.

Venue is wheelchair accessible.

Authors: Stephanie Keyes; Timons Esaias; Heidi Ruby Miller; Jason Jack Miller (more to be announced)