FORWARD BASE B

"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Smart People are a Social Luxury

The basic human existence consists of food production and reproduction.  No one has time for science or literacy.

People who focus on skills that don’t directly contribute to their own breeding success are a social luxury.

Humans have a very limited number of cubic centimeters in their heads.  A woman’s birth canal can only be so wide and allow for efficient upright movement.  We have only to observe how difficult childbirth is for our species to see that we’re already pushing that limit.

With limited real estate to build on, a person who’s especially good at one thing must sacrifice in other ways.  It’s all too common for a great scientist to be socially awkward, because of the temperament required to excel and the time spent away from others pursuing his craft.

So a society that would have scientists must make cultural and biological provisions to allow a scientific breed of human to develop and persist.

Pretty much every culture today that produces lots of good scientists is at least traditionally a highly competitive culture of arranged marriages.
With the first priority of marriage to secure resources to support children, having sought after abilities became more important than having a natural instinct for dance.

In a free sexual market, the scientist who fails to devote all his resources to reproductive and social competition and who has the wrong temperament is crushed out of existence.
Without exception, instinct dominated societies have no science and most certainly no scientists.  The arrangement of evolutionary pressures ensures no such thing comes to pass.  Truth itself has no meaning if it does not further your aims. It does not matter for your purposes if the sun is some mythical god or a gaseous celestial body.  It does not affect the outcome of your own struggles in the grand scheme of nature and you haven’t the luxury to waste energy worrying about it anyway.

So if a technologically advanced society allows a sexual free market, we can predict it will swiftly, within a few generations, revert to the ancestral equilibrium that allows no place for specialists who fail to maximize their immediate individual payoff within the story of their species.
Ability for science, highly skilled arts, advanced craftsmanship, curiosity, self-reflection become handicaps to a human animal that must first be concerned with food production and reproduction.

Pop Music is Folk Music Elevated Beyond Its Proper Place

There has always been folk music, the everyday music of ordinary people.  This is lower music.  Folk music is spontaneous; its structure is informal but often guided by pre-existing traditions that can be quite rigid.  In implementation, it often relies on lyrics as much as melody.  Its purpose is to communicate sentiment and emotion.  Folk music is universally and eternally fixated on the fickle, youthful passions of falling in love, heartbreak, celebration, motivation, and protest.  In a previous age, it was just as much about coordinating while laboring or passing an evening before electricity and the distractions of modern “entertainment.”  It marks the passage of holidays, wedding days, and funerals.
Its players are typically musicians wedded to one instrument and they tend to play alone or in small bands of no more than 3-4 people with rigidly assigned roles.

For thousands of years there have been those who create higher music.  Today, we call them “composers” in the West.  These are the people who very deliberately craft works of music just as a skilled painter carefully applies multiple elements with a plan in mind.
There is a science to their art, it is not done on a whim drawing mostly on pre-established conventions.  Thus, while the composer’s work has more formal structure, it has far more potential for variation and originality.
Composers might dedicate some works to young love, but it is one small area of experience to which they can apply their talent.
The composer engineers the sound in advance, but is not necessarily one of the musicians nor is he associated with any single instrument.  He will write the parts of 100 different instruments if need be, they are artists’ tools, not an attribute of the artist.  He transcends the role of a single musician or small band of musicians and looks down on their movements from above, outside of time itself.
Composers are often inspired by folk music traditions.  Folk music serves as a deep wellspring of inspiration, it provides vision into the vastness of the cultural subconscious.  The composer is the rational neocortex who takes the raw passions of folk culture and uses the science of his craft to make something greater and higher than before.

Since the 1960s or so, there’s been a term thrown around to describe most music: Pop music.
What does this mean?
Pop music seems to be defined by bands and is focused on youthful passions, so it’s clearly folk music, but we have a sense that it’s different from folk music of the past.
What changed?

A big clue is how successful “pop” musicians are called “stars” or even “idols.”
This word choice shows that people understand on a gut level what the big change is.

Pop music is folk music that has risen above its proper place.

Pop music ceases to be the wellspring and usurps the social role that rightly belongs to higher music.  The result is the dilution and degradation of the culture we live in.
Pop music can’t inspire humanity to its heights, it speaks to our base instincts.    By its nature, its most successful forms never wander far beyond animal impulses such as “party all night long” and “everybody dance.”  It’s confined to the now just as higher music lives in the eternal.
Without the guidance and example of higher music, folk music runs rampant, becoming pop as it breaks down to its most basic elements.  The higher folk music rises above its proper place, the lower in form it becomes.

If Pop is Folk that has risen above its station, what happened then to higher music?

The briefest glance at art tells us that the world wars broke the spirit of the West.  Some of the high music of the late 19th and early 20th century was among the most sublime ever known.  In painting, this impressionism combined the best of abstract and literal representation.  You could clearly see a sunny meadow, but could also see the blurring of motion as grasses swayed in the wind.  In the shades of golden sun, you could feel the artist’s pleasure in simply being alive.
High music of that period created creeping and colorful impressions, the composers experimented with rhythms and scales taken from other cultures.
This culture reflected eager anticipation of the progress of humanity to greater and more beautiful forms.

The Great War and then World War II brutally crushed this old culture with its worship of beauty.
Art in all its forms was stripped down to its most basic elements robbed of purpose and meaning, and degraded into an obsession with harsh lines, stark contrasts, and jarring primary colors.
The 20th century was the high tide of centralization as the world was reduced to just a few major nation-states, each with just a handful of people who controlled mass media, systems of education, all access to information.  Uniform mass culture proliferated, until the greatest cultural success was defined by appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Defeated by the 20th century, high music abdicated its place.  Composers toyed with atonal, degraded, nonsensical music and monstrously, inhumanly chose to distance themselves from beauty and meaning.  By neglecting their sacred duty to culture, the sages of higher music left a yawning vacuum.  With the advent of mass media, this vacuum was rapidly filled by folk music—folk music that was hot-blooded as the new high music was dead and wan.  It picked up where the high music left off like it should, adopting the experimentation with new scales and rhythms and trying out new kinds of instruments in new combinations.  Without a firm guiding hand from the sages, though, the new folk music degenerated into pop music, joining the now defunct high music in its worship of ugliness and the lowest of instinct.

In the present day, the high music certainly remains underground, or rather in the background.  Composers continue to thrive in mediums such as movies and video games  but after a time, one begins to realize:
Dramatic movie music is  all descended from Wagner’s operas.
Sci-fi music comes straight from Holst’s the Planets.
It innovates and does wonderful and beautiful things, but in its very limited scope.  The high tradition lives on here, but like a goldfish, is stunted in growth by its small bowl.

If we are to look for composers who don’t just do music that’s considered “classical” or “orchestral” certain schools of electronic music stand out as possible heirs.
I notice that these kinds of music are composed, not played.  Using computers, hundreds of instruments can be used at once if need be, in any combination desired.  The science and philosophy of composition that leads to high music lives on here, but exists marginally.
High music won’t displace pop music in a culture that’s become mob rule in every sense.
Re-organizing culture will require re-organizing society itself.  To have a correctly aligned culture that effortlessly produces the highest of innovation and beauty at the top, the inherent breeds and strata of humanity must be restored to their rightful places.  First, mob rule of culture must end.
Until then, high music will remain mainly as a 18th-19th century style orchestra, a formidable ghost.  If folk music were the same way we’d never have seen banjoes replaced by electric guitars.

On Herdbeasts

No human can survive on its own, so every one of us has to pander to the group to stay alive, let alone to thrive and have the surplus necessary for reproduction.  Independence is a myth, individual freedom is a thing we must steal in the dark.

So selection for group compliance is heavy amongst human beings.
People often know in their hearts that an absurd popular belief is false or at best uncertain, but they have a strange ability to refuse to admit even to themselves except in the dark of night as they try to sleep.  Their herd instincts overwhelm their reason.  This is the dissonance you see in every washed up careerist schlub you meet.  That middle class guy who lives a secure life with a wife and two kids, yet no one envies him.

This is what drives the evangelist to say “but how do you live without Jesus in your heart?”  They’re speaking to their own deeply embedded fears, not to you.  These fears are all the worse because they can never confront them, like ghosts hiding under a child’s bed.

Group existence is likely the cause of human intelligence.  In a group with just 5 other people, you have 25 possible combinations with them to account for.  Chimpanzees live in bands of perhaps 12-16 they deal with perhaps 144 to 256 different combinations.  Humans are equipped to handle groups up to 150 different people, or 22,500 possible combinations of interactions.
The man with even a slight edge in such a large group ends up with the best women and most of the wealth.
A society where millions interact has innumerable combinations and impossibly complex patterns.  Such a situation is bound to create pressures that produce herd predators that have an edge in exploiting mass trends.

Treated as an aberration in youth, I barely survived, but now I find I have great survival advantages.  I see people following trends and reading the news, while I ask how the trend creators gain and what’s in it for the journalists.  I would hope that I am the future and will do everything in my power to make it so.

I don’t fault them as much as I used to.  I’ve come to understand that every group has rules that serve to weed out specimens that are poorly adapted.
On reflection, I’ve come to realize I’d do the exact same thing if I had power.
I would wield it unapologetically, remembering well what life was like when they were in charge.
I’d naturally make life hard for those who displease me and grease all the wheels in life for the right kind of people.

Police Are Powerless Without Consent

90% of police work is accomplished simply by being legitimate in the eyes of most people.  This legitimacy is the most important resource cops possess.  If they were more aware, they would guard this easily squandered wealth most jealously of all.

Police are relevant only when most people in a neighborhood will turn in criminals.  If people don’t call the police, the police are blind.

When the police no longer have the consent of a neighborhood, they have failed.  The next step is military occupation and a system of paid spies and informants.  This sort of escalation makes an area vastly more expensive to govern until it becomes a net loss for the state.

Smart Racial Realism

It seems in the modern day that European Americans are the only group that doesn’t stick together while every other ethnicity seems to help each other out.
In my experience as a wanderer, I discovered the harsh reality that ethnicity is one of my fundamental traits, one I carry with me everywhere whether I like it or not.
I’ve been denied a job before when they learned I wasn’t Mexican.  I’ve been all but forced out of a job by black co-workers.  I curse my ancestors for allowing these outsiders to take over.

Rather than feeling guilt, “whites” should thank their lucky stars that they were the ones with the power.  I’ve seen the solidarity among just about any other group in the real world.  Long-nosed Europeans would have been wiped off the map if they hadn’t been able to defend themselves.  Most East Asian cultures, for example, are very frank about regarding other peoples as monkeys.

But experience also taught me working among European American proles is no better.  Just like the blacks and Mexicans, they sense I’m not of their kind.  Proles are everywhere the same.  Only the proportion of prolishness of a race differs.

Over years I experienced the difficulties of race, but also was forced to accept that class is more important.

This is where retarded white nationalists go wrong.  They blame all their problems in life on race.

I see the American Civil War as a grand monument to this sort of idiocy.

I’ll never understand why a single non-rich white in the South cared to fight for slavery, a system that hurt them and only benefited the very rich.

Most people who opposed the spread of slavery didn’t care about the slaves.  It wasn’t their problem.  What concerned them was the disastrous effect on the job market when abundant free labor arrives!

To your average white guy, the spread of slavery back then was like the mass illegal immigration and automation we face now.
One of the reasons young Abraham Lincoln’s family was forced to leave Kentucky for Illinois—slavery moved in and the prospects for ordinary people plummeted.
This early experience undoubtedly played a role in shaping the future president’s views.  He was first a believer in the whiggish program of spreading wealth through developing infrastructure and commerce.  Slavery, a system that concentrated wealth on a few plantations and strangled commerce was inimical to his aims.

The vast majority of white southerners would have done better to forge an alliance with black slaves to overthrow the parasitic plantation owners without anyone in the North ever having to say anything.

That hundreds of thousands of them lined up to get shot for a system that only benefited the rich shows what dupes they were.  Faithful dogs, mere tools in the hands of their rulers.

To everything there’s a golden mean.  On one hand failing to embrace race realism is willful self delusion.  On the other hand, being obsessed with race makes one an easily manipulated pawn in the plans of the powerful.
If proles are everywhere the same, so are elites.
A millionaire in Massachusetts has far more in common with his counterparts in China or Nigeria than he has with a powerless US prole with his light beer, smokes, and football games.

When you bring up race with people in America only two possibilities can be imagined.
-Outright race war.
-Deluded ideas of sameness and equality.

It’s such a charged subject that no one can actually seem to think about it.  Being treated as a taboo subject prevents the issue being genuinely discussed.

I care about race because I know that when other peoples take over, I’m an outsider to them who will always be last in line to receive the fruits of society.  When you’re obviously different from everyone else, you become an easy target.  Cherokee Indians who tried to integrate into white culture discovered this the hard way.  If you live in another people’s culture, you’re at their mercy.  If one day they decide to exterminate you or take your stuff, too bad.

There’s no mystical magic in a race, though.  If I determine my clan’s interests can be better served by working with other peoples, I will do so.  I would gladly ally with blacks who share my interests against some plutocratic parasite with my skin color.  If I went out and took a bullet in some billionaire’s war because x people are bad, I would deserve what I got.

Race reality in modern America isn’t about racial solidarity to the point of stupidity.  It’s about recognizing opportunities for arbitrage across racial lines.  If I can get a hotter black or latina woman than I can a white woman, then I will not hesitate.
I’ve found that jobs with lots of blacks tend to have lower expectations.  Most Blacks don’t work hard if they don’t have to, a virtue as far as I’m concerned.  So  when I can get along with my co-workers, it’s great, because I can get paid for standing around half the time.  Whites and Asians who aspergically slave away spoil things for everyone.

Smart race realism means:
-A people must guard its territory; there must be a place that is unequivocally its own, even if it’s just a few city blocks.  It must protect its own and not give stupid concessions.  A people that shows signs of weakness gets quickly wiped out by its neighbors.
-A people must also maintain relations with its neighbors, being always ready to make a good deal.
-A people’s internal parasites are as much a threat as any outside people and must be dealt with.

Why Do People Think Human Evolution Has Stopped?

I can’t count how many times someone has remarked glibly and smugly with glazed eyes and a vacant smile “But we have modern medicine/modern society now.  Human evolution has stopped.”  I’m stunned every time.  I’m used to stupidity, but even otherwise intelligent people will say this to me.  Do they choose not to think?
Do they choose to refuse to understand that nature never takes a holiday and that our genes are locked in eternal competition for survival?  Do they not understand that no one will care about their ‘careers’ past the day they retire?  That our ‘accomplishments’ will be forgotten as soon as we are dead?

Changes in stressors merely change the selectors!  Heavy rains are good for some plants, bad for others.  Socially awkward growing up, I keenly felt the cold steel of Darwin’s axe on my neck every day of my entire youth.  I was trapped in a prison of society’s blazing hostility for over a decade.  I was never allowed to delude myself that everyone succeeds.  Before I was a teenager it seemed I stood on the edge of that ignominious trash pit failed specimens are dumped into by nature’s callous hand.  I’ve never, ever forgot it.

This is, in itself, selection at its best.  Those capable of further reflection will have a major advantage over those that buy into the popular platitudes.

The selective barrier I see in modern affluent societies is for an abstract appreciation of the essentials.

For instance, the type A go-getter that always goes for that promotion but never has any kids, dying out as completely as the dinosaurs, no better than the wino on the street corner, no different than a young man brutally mowed down in battle.
In past generations, the type A’s instincts would have been optimally suited towards breeding with the best mates.

Now, however, a more abstract way of thinking about one’s genetic destiny is required for success…or the total absence of thinking, allowing one to rut without care on the animal level.  These are the two present viable formulae for genetic success in the Modern West.

With humans, we give primacy to ‘environment’ and insist on a ‘blank slate.’
We can breed dogs specifically to herd sheep yet do not believe in breeds of people that have come about from the demands of specialization over the last millennia of civilization?

Childish, williful ignorance at its best.

Those who determine the future of the genes, determine the future of the species.

 

 

Where There’s Tea There’s Civilization

Just as I suppose there’s no such thing as home without piping hot food, there’s no such thing as civilization without hot tea.

Hot tea requires taking your time.   The caffeine is stimulating but not overwhelmingly so.  The very act of sipping requires patience.  Every little sip is a ritual of taking delight in the smaller things.  You have to be able to hold back and enjoy sips before a large bite can taste its best.
This goes not just for food, but all life’s pleasures.
Without enjoying the sips, hedonistic overload devolves into the ashen discontent of jaded excess.

Being able to sit down and sip slowly is the mature sensibility of an adult rather than the capricious, excessive desire of a child.  It’s the ability to wait for good things to grow rather than plundering a lesser reward right now.

Taking tea with others is a ritual of humanity.  You pour from same pot as equals, you sit near, humbly, looking one another honestly in the eye.  Taken together, it’s about acknowledging another’s humanity even should they be your mortal enemy outside of that moment.

A person who can’t take tea with you is not a real person, never to be let into one’s trust.
If they can’t share tea with you from the same pot and look you in the eye, how can they be relied on to back you up when it counts?  When survival is at stake?  How can they be taken seriously as an ally in this perilous wilderness if they won’t even acknowledge shared humanity on the most basic level?

Why Haven’t Americans Figured Out How to Serve Hot Food?

In the time I lived in Korea I noticed a fantastic innovation at their restaurants.  Food was brought to the table simmering in these big steel cookers for everyone to browse from.
I was amazed how these not only kept the food hot, they even had an adjustable heat dial anyone at the table could use.

Such a marvellous invention would be unthinkable, revolutionary in stodgy, joyless American culture that takes greatest pride in its prolish junk food.

When it comes to American food, a piping hot meal is one of life’s challenges.
Everything gets served in complete portions on individual plates made of thick, cold ceramic, completely open to the air.  Everyone takes great care to eat as isolated individuals, avoiding any appearance of sharing from the same source.(that would be disgusting)  Browsing from a collective pot is taboo.  Just watching a people at meal time offers great insight into how they see the world on the most visceral level!
By the time people begin to eat, especially if there’s prayer before eating, even the mashed potatoes are starting to get cold.
I never really understood what a truly hot meal was until I went to some other countries where thick sauces, flaky crusts were common, served in the same container it was baked in hot from the oven, served in cast iron cookware or thick pots with small openings or lids to hold in the heat.  It was never the same again to just eat off of a cold plate that hadn’t even been warmed up.  It’s barbaric, really.  Cold food would offend even cave people cooking over their fires.  Actually, cooking over with a fire in the remote woods is far superior to eating off a cold plate.  There’s a radiant glow of heat that warms your face when you take those foil wrapped baked potatoes and pork loin from the embers of the fire.  Something about really hot food revives the spirit even as cold, soggy food chills the mood, even down to the tips of the toes.
In the States, I still often eat out of the hot pan I cooked in instead of serving onto a plate when making food for myself.  I’ll bring a chair right up to the stove and keep the heat on low as I eat.  If I take it into another room, I keep a lid on until the moment I’m about to eat and enjoy the ebullient rush of hot, delicious-smelling steam rising into my face before I dig in.  But even this is often difficult in America since almost all cookware I encounter is designed to get damaged if it’s so much as touched with silverware.  What backwards and alien customs!

I guess I feel that one of the main reasons to even bother to have a society is to make life pleasant for people.  It’s part of the implicit Contract that motivates us to cooperate with a social order at all.
First a people figures out how to invent a perfectly piping hot meal and then worry about surplus activities like missions into space.
It’s perverse in a way that the most wealthy populations on earth haven’t figured out how to apply sustained heat to their food or contain heat with insulation.
Perhaps it’s the Calvinist, Puritanical disdain for joy in this life that leads to such apathy.
Or is it misguided “enlightenment” empiricism? It has the same calories or nutrients served hot or ice cold after all.
Or is it simply a secular religion of competition and money-making that leaves no place for enjoying the smaller things that make life worth living to begin with?

I suspect it is a combination of all these that impede a culture known for innovation from serving food in containers that have a heat source and adjustable dial.  These are after all the same people who take toasters for granted.

The Future of Human Evolution

“Can we trust evolutionary development to take our species in broadly desirable directions?  Starting from primitive, unconscious life, biological evolution has led to the development of ever more advanced organisms, including creatures that have minds, consciousness, language, and reason…the big picture shows an overarching trend towards increasing levels of complexity, knowledge, consciousness, and organization, a trend which, not to put too fine a point on it, we may label “progress”

We shall explore a different set of existential risks in which the world would end more gradually, not with a bang but a whimper. Let us therefore suppose that no sudden cataclysm puts an end to life.  Let us also set aside scenarios in which evolution leads to the erosion of complexity.  We shall explore how, even if evolutionary development continues unabated in the direction of greater complexity, things could nevertheless take a wrong turn leading to the disappearance of all the things we value.

Scenario I: The Mindless Outsourcers

Technological progress continues to accelerate and at some point the technology of “mind uploading” becomes possible.  Some human individuals upload and make many copies of themselves.  Meanwhile, there is gradual progress in neuroscience and artificial intelligence, and eventually it becomes possible to isolate individual cognitive modules and connect them up to modules from other uploaded minds.  Possibly, modules would need to be trained before they can communicate with each other effectively.  Modules that conform to a common standard would be better able to communicate and cooperate with other modules and would therefore be economically more productive, creating a pressure for standardization.
Competitive uploads begin outsourcing increasing portions of their functionality: “Why do I need to know arithmetic when I can buy time on Arithmetic-Modules Inc. whenever I need to do my accounts?
Some uploads might prefer to retain most of their functionality and handle tasks themselves that could be more efficiently done by others.  They would be like hobbyists who enjoy growing their own vegetables or knitting their own cardigans; but they would be less efficient than some other uploads, and they would consequently be outcompeted over time…
There might be no niche for mental architectures of a human kind.
Would these complexes be worthwhile from our current point of view?  Do we, upon reflection, really favor a world in which such alien types of complexes have replaced human-type complexes?

We can thus imagine a technologically highly advanced society, containing many sorts of complex structures, some of which are much smarter and more intricate than anything that exists today, in which there would nevertheless be a complete absence of any type of being whose welfare has moral significance.  In a sense, this would be an uninhabited society.  All the kinds of being that we care even remotely about would have vanished.


Scenario II: All-Work-And-No-Fun

Even if we do not suppose that uploading and outsourcing will result in a widespread loss of consciousness, we can still entertain the possibility that intrinsically valuable activities and states of consciousness become rarer or disappear altogether.  Much of human life’s meaning arguably depends on the enjoyment, for its own sake.
Perhaps what will maximize fitness in the future will be nothing but non-stop high-intensity drudgery, work of a drab and repetitive nature, aimed at improving the eighth decimal of some economic output measure.  Even if the workers selected for in this scenario were conscious, the resulting world would still be radically impoverished in terms of the qualities that give value to life…”

This is just an excerpted version of the first part of the article, emphasis mine.

The full paper by Nick Bostrom, from Oxford University.

Here’s his bio on wiki

He goes on to discuss to discuss how the human activities we find enjoyable such as the arts are “flamboyant displays” like a peacock’s feathers that give a hard-to-fake demonstration desirable mate qualities.  He reasons that rational post-human beings might recognize these as baggage of our evolutionary past and see little value in them.  Not to mention, simply donating vials of sperm is a more efficient mating strategy for an advanced organism than is spending years learning an artistic talent.  Thus, many of the human enjoyments we value highly get weeded out.

He goes on to point out that conscious beings may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage against entities that focus their whole energies on the most effective means of replication, eliminating the unnecessary flamboyant display of consciousness.

Bostrom’s next step, is to ponder if these outcomes could be avoided by conscious beings aka. “eudaemonic agents” controlling the course of evolution and technology to preserve conscious existence for its own sake.
He concludes:
“To this problem there are only two possible solutions: preventing non-eudaemonic variants from arising in the first place, or modifying the fitness function so that eudaemonic traits become fitness-maximizing
Even if the eudaemonic agents could prevent dangerous mutants from arising, their efforts would be to no avail if the original population already contained some individuals with non-eudaemonic fitness-maximizing preferences, because these would then proliferate and eventually dominate.
Forestalling the dystopian evolutionary scenarios by preventing non-eudaemonic agents from arising is therefore a non-starter.  At most, this measure could serve an auxiliary role.”
He also finds it problematic to imagine an air-tight way any social structure or procedure could indefinitely stop an inherently superior approach from eventually taking over.

Bostrom tries to imagine a universe where conscious agents and the un-conscious simply inhabit different niches in the same ecosystem or are even joined together under one governing power.

He ends:

“Current evidence does not warrant any great confidence in the belief that the default course of future human evolution points in a desirable direction.  In particular, we have examined a couple of dystopian scenarios in which evolutionary competition leads to the extinction of the life forms we regard as valuable.  Intrinsically worthwhile experience could turn out not to be adaptive in the future.”

This article caught my attention because in my own inquiries asking what can have any intrinsic meaning in the grand scheme of this universe, itself possibly transient, the development of consciousness is one of the few things I can feel convinced has some kind of inherent value.
In which case the threats that affect its development are possibly the most important to anticipate and address before they become fatal problems.

If there’s one thing we can take away from this article, it’s to not take the existence of self-awareness for granted as the inevitable result of ‘progress.’
Consciousness is a great extravagance that can even cause us to self-destruct or “waste” our energies on enjoyment that accomplishes nothing, directly against the interests of the species.  Once we’ve decided awareness is valuable, it’s the clear mission of conscious agents to defend and develop the luxury of being.  Humans as we exist now are at best modestly self-aware, only slightly removed from other animals, but we have a mission if we should accept it to blow on the spark we have.

It seems clear that:
-first we have to improve ourselves within the bounds of natural selection
-second we must escape the trap of Darwinian selection
-third, we have to be smart enough to prevent synthetic forms of selection from destroying conscious agency.

LINK

Life Lessons from Starcraft 2

Computer games can be time wasters when we’re just playing against a computer. MMOs tend to be a waste in the absence of an end goal in an environment that’s deliberately designed to be aimless and addictive.

Games of strategy, however, tend to exercise the mind and spirit, especially when your opponents are other humans. This is a role Starcraft II fills admirably with its server packed with thousands of people, a game against fresh opponents always ready to play in a few seconds. Each match has clear objectives and an ending, unlike MMOs. In an hour one can play 3-4 different matches finding out what works and what does not.
One quickly finds even at the lowest level of play human opponents are far more dangerous and unpredictable than any AI.
About every 15-25 minutes you can go through life’s conflicts in miniature. It doesn’t take long to see certain patterns emerge, that certain philosophies work optimally while others are mediocre or fail outright.
I will try to list some of the lessons I’ve learned from starcraft that have proved valuable in real life:

1. Experience trumps wits.   Some idiot who’s simply spent more time playing the game will beat you when you’re new, no matter how fast and clever you think you are. You might think you’re smart, but it’s not as much an advantage as you think if you haven’t put in the time and effort.
Coasting on raw ability alone fails miserably in a contest that relies on learned skills. An ordinary guy who knows an optimal build order to execute a sound strategy will destroy a genius who’s trying to figure everything out for the first time.
This is why there’s plenty of average joes doing well in life while everyone knows that “smart” guy who’s losing at life.
Starcraft 2 teaches there’s no such thing as “potential” only results.

2. Success is a numbers game. You have to lose (a lot) to ever be a winner. As you get better the matchup will try to move you up the ladder to people who are your equal or better in ability.
You lose your ego fast when you constantly go up against opponents who you’ll lose to half the time. You’re never allowed to just stay comfortable crushing people who are below you. Every time a new game begins, you’re up against someone you can’t take lightly. By the time you learn enough to play even half decently, you’ve suffered dozens of humiliating defeats and know what it feels like when the winner decides to be an asshole.
Even if you get good, you know there’s no shortage of people who can slap you around effortlessly. You realize gloating in victory is for children who know little of life. A real life Big Man is above such silliness.

3. Time is the most important resource. A dumbass who’s simply faster than you will destroy you every time. If you aren’t ready when he comes for you, if you can’t react fast enough, that’s it, you’re dead. All your boasting and bragging how you’re a master strategist is for naught. Knowing kung fu makes no difference if you’re dropped right away by a swift punch to the jaw.
Imagine getting extra moves in chess! You’d be able to destroy players monumentally smarter and more skilled than you. The day is often decided simply by getting there first with the most.
The importance of time in deciding conflict can’t be doubted if we glance at the American Civil War. A bit more speed would have prevented the rebel armies from uniting at Manassas. A bit more speed could have threatened Washington after First Manassas. A bit more speed could have destroyed Lee’s army at Gettysburg. Longstreet saved Lee from defeat at The Wilderness by arriving at exactly the right time. A little more speed and there would have been no months-long siege of Petersburg…
Starcraft drills this lesson into your head mercilessly. If you’re playing terran and that bunker is completed just a few seconds too late before that zerg rush hits, it’s game over.

4. To everything there’s a golden mean. Goldilocks and Aristotle had the right idea. Too aggressive, you die. Not aggressive enough, you die. Starcraft teaches you the hard way to have a feel for exactly what kind of approach a situation calls for. When we’re first learning to drive a car, we sway back and forth in the lane, compensating then overcompensating. Soon, we drive straight.
In real life, though, we tend to make a major mistake that causes us to overcompensate to an equally faulty extreme. Then we waste years of our lives compounding our error until continuation becomes so painful we’re forced to re-evaluate our strategy. A few decades later, the lucky among us are finally able to drive that car somewhat competently, the rest never learn.
With starcraft, it becomes possible to see a model of that grand learning process in miniature.

5. Your brilliant ideas mean nothing until you try to execute them. Even a simple plan falls apart when you’re under pressure. Being adaptable in the moment is more valuable than making grandiose complicated plans. This is why armchair generals fail. A game like starcraft becomes a laboratory to test your hypotheses about what will work and what will not.
In real life, we can’t formulate a philosophy and then have a series of 20 minute tests to see if it really works as a guide to our actions. But starcraft allows us to come somewhat close to that. Through trial and error we learn that some approaches are objectively better than others. After trying something 20 times and getting your ass kicked every time, you’re forced to stop rationalizing. That approach doesn’t work. Now, no demagogue, ideologue, or politician will ever convince you otherwise; you’re immune to their poisonous talk of relativism because you’ve experienced objective truth for yourself, often painfully.
In real life, winning conflict requires the same principles as engineering. You want the simplest, lowest investment solution that effectively solves the problem. The more complexity, the more points of failure. Evolution shows us this philosophy is one of the underlying laws of reality. A “fit” living thing accomplishes its goals as efficiently as possible with as few points of failure as possible.
The pages of history are littered with egotistical generals who broke this universal law, thinking themselves military geniuses to the bitter end.

6. Always go for decisive objectives that put your opponent under mortal threat, which forces him to try to stop you with all his resources. As with chess, you want to risk your army for proportionate gains. A new player might wreck his opponent’s new expansion base only to find his own main base is now being gutted. Dealing a painful but not mortal blow allows the opponent to retaliate—and they might well kill rather than wound you. If the opponent is constantly forced to prevent unacceptable losses, you control the game. It’s hard to be aggressive in chess when the King keeps getting put into check! If you can seize the initiative, you’ll usually win.

7. The line between defeat and victory is a narrow one. If you forget detectors, that could cost you the game when cloaked units show up. One small oversight and you instantly lose the game, even if you were otherwise in a position to finish your opponent. In real life, battles both literal and figurative are often decided by the smallest mistakes. This is another great lesson that crushes the ego. It’s hard to be an arrogant victor when you’re keenly aware one small mistake would have reversed the outcome.

8. Decisiveness wins. Even the poorest strategy will sometimes succeed if someone commits to it completely and without hesitation. With indecisiveness, we divide and conquer ourselves. In real life, a weak faction like the North Vietnamese can defeat even an overwhelmingly strong faction that is indecisive, uncommitted, with no clear objectives. Without a clear mission to fulfill or a clear course of action to achieve it, there is no such thing as victory.

9. Starcraft teaches us to be less critical of those who have great responsibility. Even a mere game that shows how easy it is to screw up teaches perspective. Bad luck and small mistakes can easily bring disaster even to the competent. Even those who prove incompetent at the highest levels often stand far above the average guy on the street. You begin to realize that herdbeasts who mock and complain endlessly about their betters are just misbehaving children. They have never known leadership or great responsibility themselves yet deign to criticize as if they were equals.

Conclusion:
Starcraft 2 is certainly not a perfect microcosm of real life. For one thing, the playing field is far too orderly and predictable. We never have that much information when making real decisions. If two opponents played 100 different strategy games against each other for the very first time barely knowing the rules, that would be much more like real life. In fact, I think sloppy bronze league play may simulate real life best. But the controlled environment of starcraft allows us to test ideas more extensively. It invites us to reflect on our own lives and contemplate how the mindset we learn playing battle after battle applies to real conflicts we face.
Looking over the battlefield, what are the most effective actions we can take to defeat the obstacles before us? What objectives are vital and which are distractions?
Many now seem to view life as some kind of sentimental TV drama, but to me it is perhaps just another game, the Great Game.

terran, wall, 6 pool, cheese, stop, block

Terran wall blocks early game allins such as Zerg’s “6 pool”. The SCV stands by to repair any attempts to make a breach. Reacting quickly and keeping cool under pressure is critical to survival.

The 3 Keys To Anglo Success

Anglo societies have succeeded tremendously over the last few centuries, but this success hasn’t meant good lives for individuals.  The secret to Anglo success has been squeezing individual men to work as hard as possible for even moderate levels of success, generating more wealth for the nation as a whole.  Getting the best wine grapes or the best hydroponic pot is about forcing the plants to respond to pressure by trying their hardest and producing their best.  Anglo society, likewise, is built on systematic sexual repression.

1. Picky Women

Through their natural sexual power, women are the de facto police force of culture.  What they desire, men clamor to give them.  Anglo women are among the pickiest on the planet.  Maybe it was the long winters combined with high population density, but whatever the reasons, we know Anglo society is intensely competitive.  If you want to get one plain Jane to consider having your kids, a car and house is the minimum price tag.  As many have noted, this basic entry ticket is no longer any guarantee.  You better stand out in some way and have at least local notability.

The Victorian period never really went away.  Anglo women are still prissy, fussy, picky creatures looking to disqualify all the men around them for a mispronounced vowel or an unfastened coat button. They’re as neurotic and unhappy as they ever were—it’s in their blood. Then as now, they obsess over their waistlines, shrinking away from anything substantial to eat while secretly cramming down starchy biscuits and gallons of heavily sugared and creamed tea.  We still indulge in upper middle class Victorian fantasies of innocent childhood and cute pets dripping with sickeningly sweet sentimental syrup.  What are modern peanut allergies and asthma but the product of Victorian smothering parenting?  What are suburbs but the happy ending of a Dickens novel?

Modern neurotic middle class Anglos do a fine job of keeping the tradition alive as sweat beads on their brow whenever someone uses the wrong fork, grit their teeth whenever someone forgets to say ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’, or rush to clean out every last dust mote from their house and turn on the Enya music on low volume before one visitor arrives.

While women of other cultures get just enough wealth to have kids, and then have them, Anglo women demand every man build her a bower to her precise specifications until it becomes a never-ending Babel.  The kids never arrive. The insufferable females that once drove men to conquer the entire planet do little more than foster barren marriages in an age of birth control. If this was once the impetus behind Anglo greatness, it’s now a central cause of its decline.

White women are also more selective, neurotic, and bitchy than any other kind because being picky was necessary for survival. If you just need a wet hole, chasing white women doesn’t make any sense.  Until you’re an elite man, you can almost always find a better deal in the arms of a dark-skinned woman. Any British soldier of the Victorian period sent off to the colonies would readily attest to this.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

2. Prudery

Anglo culture has long been intensely prudish.  For at least a couple centuries, Anglos have been taught myths of courtly love instead of real skills in getting laid.  This trend started to catch on in the middle ages and by the late 18th century, we have Jane Austen.
Prostitution is kept to the margins or outlawed as much as possible.  Fanatical devotion to depriving men of sexual outlets outside of the official monopoly is perhaps the foundation of Anglo dominance.  It’s all part of the plan to have men work their little hearts out for just a little taste of honey.

They would have removed liquor too if they could have so that a workhorse’s only solace in life would be the act of mounting a homely plow mare as his reward for spending every waking minute destroying his competitors.  As it is, alcohol, especially binge drinking, plays a special role in Anglo culture as almost the only (grudgingly) accepted vice.  Possibly even the most straight-lace Anglos would go insane without the alcoholic outlet.  Even Victorians could more readily indulge in tobacco and opium than our modern SWPL prudes.  Today, with even alcohol less tolerated, binge eating takes the place of binge drinking as possibly the last permitted vice.

I’ve always wondered that Westerners created a science of economics yet never applied the same principles to sexual markets.
It’s a testament to the stubborn prudery of Anglo nations that there never was a ‘sexenomics’ until enough disposable males had access to mass networks. Even when it came to the sciences, prude Anglos and like-minded Westerners felt compelled to strategically cover up one particular area with a well-placed fig leaf.

3. Snobbery

You’re not white until you earn $30,000 a year, and that’s just entry level. To really be white, European blood is not enough.  You better have the car, that house in the suburbs, and the obligatory white collar job complete with white rumpled-up button-up shirts and ill-fitting khakis. You don’t have that, forget it. You’re what was once known as a “scalawag” today more commonly called “trash.” Part of the Anglo formula for success is casting out those who don’t make the cut.  If they can’t be gotten rid of in distant colonies or wars, make them live and breed in a separate underclass.

Are you white trash?  Don’t try to deny it just because you have that useless degree.  It pays to own up to it.  If you’re realistic, you’ll see you have more interests in common with Mexicans and blacks than with your overseers and the planter aristocracy.

Hard experience has taught me a key truth.
White is a social, cultural, economic movement.
European is a group of related ethnicities that share common traits, pale skin among them.  Getting the two confused leads to endless strife.  Until you understand who you really are, you can’t live life as you should.

Conclusion

Many seem to mourn the decline of the old Anglo culture, but I for one am happy to see it go.  It always was just another exploitative system that took advantage of men with limited access to information.
The classic Victorian Anglo culture can’t continue to exist among a population of males informed of market conditions on the internet—it has become obsolete.

Even Ben Franklin in the 18th century lamented that white men fled over the Anglo socio-sexual Berlin Wall to live with the Indians whenever they could.  If anything, this problem was just one more reason Anglo society and the Indians couldn’t co-exist.  That Franklin’s very name means “Freedman” a peasant who beat all the odds and made it into the very small skilled middle classes speaks for itself.

The problem with a repressive system is that it collapses as soon as a better alternative becomes available or can even be imagined!  The Anglo system took over the entire world, an impressive feat.  But I am an individual, not a monolithic society.  I care about getting the best deal for myself, just like the men who fled to Indian tribes in colonial America.
Any new system that lasts must take the interests of human beings into account.  In an age of information, no longer can deception be the foundation of a social order.

A Tale of Two Debtors: Britain and France After the American Revolution

By the 1780s, France and Britain had approximately the same debt after spending huge sums fighting over the American colonies.

One recovered and the other collapsed into revolution.

The difference was their systems of finance and taxation.

While the outstanding war debts may have been the same, the interest rates were not.

Bourbon France had to pay twice as much interest on its loans as did the British. And that made all the difference.

To begin with, the English system relied far more on indirect taxes and tariffs for its income.
The French system meanwhile focused on many direct taxes that ended up discouraging economic growth.

The result was that by the time of the French Revolution, England yielded more tax revenue despite having only 1/2 the population of France.

Britain and France were set apart most of all by their systems of credit.

England had relied on the world’s 1st national bank since 1694 to efficiently raise large long term loans. At the same time, new loans kept flowing and interest rates dropped because the English parliament had the power to consistently raise enough taxes. The stability of this system drew in a steady steam of further capital from Dutch investors.

The French crown on the other hand relied on a host of middle men—tax farmers, nobles, high ranked clergy, lenders, and merchants for loans, at high rates of interest.
Without a central source to consolidate its loans, the crown found itself struggling to raise money quickly, keep track of its loans, or pay interest.

Worse, in the French system of direct tax farming, it was more profitable to farm taxes and loan out advances than it was to start businesses and engage in productive industry.
The French system encouraged parasitic plunder while stifling real economic growth that would produce more wealth in the long run.
Wealth ended up being gradually drained from the economy even as the French national debt skyrocketed with each successive war…

Paraphrased and summarized from:

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
Paul Kennedy, 1987
Pages 76-86

 

UK public debt from National Bank founding to modern times

 

French Debt Until the French Revolution

French Debt Until The French Revolution

Thoughts On the Ukraine Crisis

I honestly don’t see the need for war.
Ukraine has been paralyzed by conflict between ethnic Ukrainians and Russians since the collapse of the USSR.
I think the government in Kiev is actually better off without them.
My guess for now is parts of Eastern Ukraine, especially Crimea, could end up going back to Russia.
The Russians get to be part of impoverished Russia.
The western part is finally freed to become part of Europe and to join the rich EU.
Russia gains a bit more territory but at the cost of becoming even more diplomatically and economically isolated.  Even more relegated to being a mere commodity provider for rich countries.
It’s not a good move for Russia.
They may actually be doing the Ukrainians a huge favor.
Perhaps the Russian leadership are savvy enough to understand that pressing this issue won’t help them beyond a certain point and are again posturing in an attempt to boost public opinion at home and boost their appearance of prestige abroad.
Yanukovych was Putin’s man in Kiev.  He was an ethnic Russian from the East who wasn’t even fully fluent in Ukrainian, a shortcoming which made him the George W. Bush of Ukraine, sticking his foot in his mouth at every opportunity.
Irrepressible protests arose after he tried to distance Ukraine from the EU in November and there was a revolution that completely ousted him from power.
I find it odd that present news reports barely even mention the Ukrainian revolution that drove Putin to invade Ukraine.
With events out of context, few seem to understand that Putin is the desperate man, trying to salvage what he can from a wreck beyond all repair.
Ukraine is lost to him forever now and it’s only a matter of time now until it becomes part of the EU and NATO.
Putin will seize what scraps he can but even those will come at a precipitous price.  He spent the last 20 years trying to keep the former Soviet Republics in his orbit, so it’s understandable he’s not acting completely rationally.
I’ve looked at an ethnic map of the Ukraine and have understood that ethnic Russians are barely 1/5 of Ukraine’s population. They’re concentrated in the East.  Crimea is the only part of the entire country that’s majority ethnic Russian.  That may well be the only part that goes back to Russia.
I can see people making comparisons to Sudetenland concessions, but I find them ridiculous.  Nazi Germany was an economic powerhouse while Putin’s Russia is a sick man of Europe.
In time, even Russia will be pulled into the economic vortex that is Europe; even their political power plays will amount to nothing, like one tiny person trying to swim against the current of a river.

 

Percent Ethnic Russians in Ukraine Provinces

Plato, Democracy, and Mob Rule

By the 4th century BC, civilizations had already existed for at least a couple thousand years.
By then, most of the basic patterns of civilization were ancient news.

Plato’s observations about governments over 2,000 years ago might seem disturbingly familiar to us now.

Humans may boast of mechanical technologies such as airplanes and atomic bombs, but social technology, the ways we organize haven’t changed since the very first farming villages:

“Every form of government tends to perish by excess of its basic principle.  Aristocracy ruins itself by limiting too narrowly the circle within which power is confined; oligarchy ruins itself by the incautious scramble for immediate wealth.  In either case the end is revolution.   When revolution comes, it may seem to arise from little causes and petty whims…when a body is weakened by neglected ills, the merest exposure may bring serious disease.

Then democracy comes…But even democracy ruins itself by excess-of democracy.  Its basic principle is the equal right of all to hold office and determine public policy.  This is at first glance a delightful arrangement; it becomes disastrous because the people are not properly equipped by education to select the best rulers and the wisest courses.

As to the people, they have no understanding, and only repeat what their rulers are pleased to tell them.  To get a doctrine accepted or rejected it is only necessary to have it praised or ridiculed in a popular play.
Mob-rule is a rough sea for the  ship of state to ride; every wind of oratory stirs up the waters and deflects the course.

The upshot of such a democracy is tyranny or autocracy; the crowd so loves flattery…that at last the wiliest and most unscrupulous flatterer, calling himself the ‘protector of the people’ rises to supreme power.

Plato complains that whereas in simpler matters—like shoe-making—we think only a specially-trained person will serve our purpose, in politics we presume that every one who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state.  When we are ill we call for a trained physician, whose degree is a guarantee of specific preparation and technical competence—we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one…when the whole state is ill should we not look for the service and guidance of the wisest and the best?   To devise a method of barring incompetence and knavery from public office, and of selecting and preparing the best to rule for the common good—that is the problem of political philosophy.”

-Plato as quoted, paraphrased, and summarized by Will Durant

The Story of Philosophy
Will Durant, 1953, Pocket Books, Washington Square Press
Excerpts from pages 20-21

How Trends In Education Forecast the Decline of the Roman Republic

“If we bear in mind the principles that governed the education of young men in Rome…
These derived chiefly from tradition, from the way in which the son of a country landowner gradually adapted himself to his father’s lifestyle accompanying him on journeys, observing everything he did, and then attempting to do it himself under his father’s supervision.  It amounted essentially to learning by observation and imitation…
This kind of education was continued in the city too, above all in politics, the chief sphere of activity for members of the nobility.

The nobility appreciated the importance of this largely practical patriarchal education.  This is clear from an edict issued by the censors in 92 BC, banning recently opened schools…

We have been informed that certain persons there have instituted a new kind of training for the young…the young who attend their schools are said to spend whole days in idleness.  Our ancestors determined what children should learn and what schools they should attend.  This new fashion, which is at variance with the uses and customs of our ancestors, neither pleases us nor appears to us right…

Whole days spent at school turned young noblemen into schoolboys, alienated from practical life and forced them into idleness.  Instead of being confronted as individuals with models to be emulated, they were thrown together with their own kind and with teachers.
The young gentlemen were offered little that could command their respect…
What probably told most heavily against the schools was that they estranged the young from their natural environment…

Preparation for adult life did not allow the growing boy much chance to enjoy a carefree childhood and youth.  Many demands were made on him, but this meant that at an early age he was taken seriously.”

Caesar: A Biography
Christian Meier, 1982
Excerpts taken from pages 58-60

My Commentary:
Observe how today’s education system infantilizes young adults, separates them from the adult world, and leaves them with other young people as their role models instead of mature people who’ve gone out into the world and accomplished.
The result is a petty royal court culture in schools ruled by a few top athletes and cheer leaders who’ve never done anything to earn their high stations.  What lesson does undeserved adulation for an aristocracy of useless socialites teach growing children about merit and hard work?
A republic that adopts such a system goes into decline as it slips into this indulgent debauchery, wasting its human capital before it’s even budded.

An Experiment to Test the “Watchmaker” Objection To Evolution

“The origin of adaptations…is one of the deepest problems in Darwinism.  How do novel adaptations arise from small and gradual beginnings?

There is a genus of finches with mandibles that cross over at the tips…called crossbills… The twisted beak allows the bird to pry open closed (pine) cones.
What Benkman and Lindholm did was to uncross the beaks of these birds by trimming the crossed part of the mandibles with an ordinary nail clippers.
The birds with uncrossed bills turned out to be just as good as ever at extracting seeds from dry, open pinecones.  Byt they could no longer handle closed cones.
Day by day, as the twist in their beaks grew back, the birds did better and better with more and more recalcitrant cones.  After a month, their beaks were completely regrown.
Benkman and Lindholm could measure the value of an adaptation from its very beginnings to its final form.
If crossed mandibles were useful to these birds only when fully formed, then it really would be a puzzle how they could have arisen by natural selection.  The cross would have to appear all at once.
It would be the kind of problem before which Darwin felt his theory would “absolutely break down.”

But the finches began to get better at opening pinecones when the cross in their beaks was still too small to be visible to the eye.  Even a slight crossing of the mandibles confers a small, incremental benefit, making more and more tightly closed cones accessible….
The press of competition in the woods would have made the novelty of a crossed beak more and more desirable, because it would allow its possessor to eat food n one else could eat; the same competitive pressure would favor each new twist…
Today, however, theere is no profit to a sparrow or bunting in a deformed, twisted bill, because the crossbill niche is taken.”

-The Beak of the Finch
Jonathan Weiner, 1994
Excerpts from pages 180-184, emphasis mine

My Commentary: As convincing as these experimental results are, I still wonder about species such as the Emerald Jewel wasp that rely on precision brain surgery on the host of their larvae to successfully reproduce.

How Fleeing Ancestral Parasites Enabled Civilization

“The extraordinary variety of human parasites that exist in Africa suggests that Africa was the principal cradle for humankind, for nowhere else did the adjustment between human and nonhuman forms of life achieve anything like the same biological elaboration.

Many of the parasitic worms and protozoa that abound in Africa do not provoke immune reactions.
Opportunities for transfer from one host to another multiply with increased human density…when a critical threshold is surpassed, infection can suddenly develop into runaway hyperinfection.  Such epidemic situations seriously interfere with normal activity…

This…can soon reduce a population until the local density sinks safely below the threshold necessary for hyperinfection.

The establishment of human hunters at the top of the food chain…did not…do much to alter these age-old ecological relations.  In triumphantly claiming a new niche, humanity did not, therefore, transform the system as a whole.

Until relatively recent times (say five thousand years ago), human communities in Africa played a comparatively modest role amid the abundance of other life forms.  Humans were the chief predators, to be sure, but remained relatively rare in the balance of nature.
It is…mainly because sleeping sickness…remains so devastating to human populations that the ungulate herds of the African savanna have survived to the present.   Without modern prophylaxis, humans simply cannot live in regions where the tsetse fly abounds…Within the tsetse’s range, something resembling a pre-human ecological balance survives to the present.

In leaving tropical environments behind, our ancestors also escaped many of the parasites and disease organisms to which their predecessors and tropical contemporaries were accustomed.

Humanity’s place within the balance of nature in tropical regions differed fundamentally from what developed in temperate and Arctic climatic zones.
The array…of infections and infestations was vastly diminished from what had thriven in the tropical luxuriance of humanity’s oldest habitat.

Thus humankind’s biological dominion in temperate climes assumed a different order of magnitude from the start.
Humanity was in a situation like rabbits met when introduced into Australia.  Lacking both natural predators and natural parasites in the new environment…

Food production permitted a vast and rapid increase in the number of people, and so sustained the rise of cities and civilizations.”

Plagues and Peoples
William H McNeill

Excerpts taken from pages, 19-30 in no exact order so long as I put the main idea out there as succinctly as possible.
This guy is brilliant, but he really needed an editor.

A US Collapse Vs. SU Collapse

The US and SU had many things in common as massive highly nationalistic, highly idealistic, highly militarized nation states founded on pioneering territorial expansion across their continents.

In fact, it was their very alikeness that made them competitors for the same niche!

The author of this piece argues that for all its flaws, the cooperative, state run nature of the Soviet Union made it easier to weather governmental collapse than we’d see in a zero-sum super competitive ultra privatized US that barely 20 years after the SU’s is certainly in sharp decline and possibly on its last legs.

LINK

Brookings Institute Talk on Russia and America

I attended a talk today at the Brookings Institution about the future of Russian-American relations.

Naturally there was considerable focus on current issues such as Syria and Snowden being given asylum, and how it might affect the upcoming G20 summit.

I didn’t wonder about it much, really.  There’s nothing in Syria that’s central to Russian interests and Snowden, while a nasty diplomatic slap in the face, does nothing to change the larger situation.

I was more interested in bigger political and economic developments and where they might be headed.

Interestingly, the experts pretty much all agreed that the present political order in Russia is dependent on Putin’s cult of personality – that without his influence there would be nothing to hold Russia’s oligarchs together.
And – there is no plan for succession should something happen to Putin tomorrow…

They addressed how Putin’s main objective with his anti-American gestures is to boost his popularity at home.   His anti-American posturing has a huge appeal to his base – Russia’s working classes.
The urban middle and upper middle class has little loyalty to Putin, often protesting him in Moscow and St. Petersburg, so it’s only natural Russia’s ruler tailors his image to the vast majority he relies on.

While Syria is, relatively speaking, a sideshow, the fate of former Soviet republics is not.  Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, among Russia’s first concerns is to bring countries like Ukraine closer to Moscow and prevent them from aligning with Western Europe.

If we look at the numbers, though, it seems to me Russia’s agenda is doomed to fail.

Russia’s entire economy is worth 1.8 trillion.  This is enough to make it one of the world’s bigger economies, but to put Russia’s imperial goals in perspective, Italy’s economy is considerably bigger at 2.2 trillion with 1/3rd the population.

Let’s pretend we are Ukraine for a moment:

Which would we align with:  A 1.8 trillion Russia or a 17 trillion European Union?!

Not to mention, Russia’s economy to this day is based heavily on commodities like natural gas rather than skills or tech.
Indeed, one subject to arise during the question and answer session with the experts was brain drain from Russia…

With no Soviet Union any more that can keep their best talent captive, skilled Russians are increasingly ditching their home country for places like Silicon Valley.  And Russia itself with its feudal oligarchs and powerful crime lords tends to be very unfriendly to commerce.
So long as Russian small businessmen are parasitized by protection rackets and foreign investors are confronted with corruption, their economy is not likely to become truly “modern” any time soon.

A main theme of the talk was to ask what Putin really wants and how to get Russia to work more closely with US objectives.  Even the experts seemed to regard Putin as a mystic, inscrutable, Eastern Czar.
If we look at the numbers, though, it seems clear why the US can’t seem to get Russia to budge.

Relatively speaking, the US really is not that important to Russian interests so it simply doesn’t have that much leverage.
The vast majority of Russia’s foreign trade is with the European Union and with China in a distant second place.   Commerce with the US takes a comparatively puny 4th or 5th place with just a few percent of the total.  Also, the US is just about on the other side of the planet from Russia’s major cities while China and Europe are much more immediate neighbors.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that US requests take a back seat compared to more immediate concerns.  What decisive advantage does America offer in exchange for Putin’s cooperation?  Putin is a pragmatist, so clearly what he’s being offered isn’t worth as much as he gets from slighting the US to boost his domestic approval ratings.

The economic reality on the ground is that Russia is already just a big commodity provider for the EU, and thus in every meaningful sense, already part of Europe.
If we look at the facts, Russia as a modern great power, is pure fantasy.

During the talk, there was mention of a new, more Western generation of Russians just waiting for the older oligarchs to die off.  Such a generation is bound to reconcile Russia’s political reality with the economic reality.
Instead of trying to keep states like Ukraine from being sucked into Europe, Russia will itself be sucked into the Euro zone.

Even if Russia somehow remains an aloof oligarchic kleptocracy, it will still be useful for its resources as a lesser partner of Europe.

Graph Russia Trade Partners

Does the Decline Make Statistical Sense? Does the American Way Make Financial Sense?

The American economy is worth 15 trillion, still over twice as big in absolute terms as a distant 2nd place, China a desperately poor nation with a huge population…
But is that wealth proportionally useful compared to other places?
If we consider GDP by purchasing power parity, China with many times more people still has only 75% as much relative wealth as the US.

The US national debt has passed 100% of GDP but the US remains one of the worlds most reliable debtors: 2% of GDP, 7-8% of Federal Revenue more than pays off all the
interest each year.  The federal government spends 4x as much each on social programs and the military!
The American debt burden would not impress struggling European powers during the Napoleonic wars.
Nations like Japan are far worse off with close to 150% GNP in national debt or Greece at 200%. Germany isn’t that much better off at 85%

The net US trade deficit is by far the largest in the world at about 450 billion, but another 30-40 billion a year of exports could plug the gap and the difference still pales in comparison next to the massive size of the US economy.

The numbers tell us that the US is a monster, yet those of us who live there are experiencing relentless and accelerating decline.  How do we explain this against awe inspiring numbers?
After all even a US in relative decline is still surpassed only by the entire EU.

Here’s some reflections on reconciling the reality on the ground with the statistics?

Virgin Bride: Unbuyable

Wife: Average income just an entry ticket to the arena

Girlfriend: Average income just an entry ticket.

Job Security: Unbuyable

House: At least $200,000 (realistically far more paid after interest, no one can afford that out of pocket)

Car: At least $10,000 if new. (realistically far more paid after interest, no one can afford that out of pocket)

Rent: At least $600/month, $7200/year even in cheap areas after utilities and fees.

Education: 16 years to satisfy basic prerequisites, consuming at least 6 years from age able to enter workforce. Possibly more than a decade with higher degrees. A doctor or successful lawyer may earn a lot but has to compensate for 10+ years of working part time or not at all. Filling a big black hole of years of tuition + living expenses.

Children, Family Before Age 30: The price is a life of grinding poverty.

How much just to break even?  A couple million dollars earned over a couple of decades? Even if everything goes as planned, break even by middle age?

The simple truth that stares us in the face: The “normal” lifestyle with house/apartment, car, job doesn’t make financial sense.
It entails a huge expenditures of time and energy in a desperate bid to break even.
In the past, people may have had prospect of having a family and securing their genetic futures, but now even this basic reward(readily available to many poor peoples all over the world) is elusive.

Just a glimpse at these basic expenses shows us that rent seeking, fees, tuition, royalties, interest on assets and payments is where wealth can actually be made.

Right now what keeps people going? Fear that the only alternative to the “break even track” is to live in true uncertainty of survival.

The United States remains fantastically wealthy on paper yet is the average person’s life essentially any different than the average across time and place?

Is someone in a poorer country who can hope for a genetic future in their reproductive prime, surrounded by supportive family, with an ancestral home to live in, a family trade to aspire to, in fact, better off?

Are Americans as atomized individuals a whole that’s less than the sum of its parts?
Are Americans despite their unprecedented wealth undermined by backwards and wasteful social institutions and culture?

Or is the present trend of declinism as the numbers suggest, a misguided fad?

Insights on this matter?

The Myth of A Europe United Against the Turks

Many modern day nationalists look back fondly on a fabled age where the Turks were twice driven back from the very gates of Vienna.

What they never seem to mention is that plenty of European powers would have liked to see the fall of Vienna and with it the threat of Habsburg power.

The Habsburgs were the European superpower of the time, with the crowns of the Spanish and Austrian empires united under one family, which included enormous bullion rich territories in the New World.

European powers such as France were more than willing to make deals or even alliances with the Ottomans if it meant taking some pressure off of them by diverting the overwhelming military power and wealth of the Habsburgs.

I’ve met far too many people who like to interpret Euro history first as a conflict between Christianity and Islam when the truth is far more complex.

LINK

France and Ottoman

Francis I of France and his ally, Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire

Female Mate Preferences Change With Circumstance

By looking at “simpler” animals, we gain insights into ourselves.

Some naturalists in the 80s spent a decade watching trends in populations of Darwin’s finches on a single tiny island.

They discovered that mating preferences were almost mechanically pragmatic based on the circumstances of the times.

During a drought, female finches were only interested in super specialists of their own species because only specialists in a niche stand a chance as food grows scarce.

During a wet season female finches often prefer “men” of other species. They want hybrid offspring that can best take advantage of abundance by being able to eat marginally well from multiple food sources.

If preference for finches is this malleable and pragmatic, what are the implications for humans?

The finches obviously aren’t thinking things through as they go, probably, they mainly look at courtship displays and “wealth” in the form of health and surplus body fat.
Whatever is “successful” she wants to mate with. And to a lesser extent, vice versa.

So if ruthless sociopaths are the most successful humans able to put on the most impressive plumage and courtship displays, they by definition become the desirable mating stock.

Presumably once a social bubble collapses from being over-exploited by defector parasites, more cooperative men are those that prosper. i.e. Christians during the decline of the Roman Empire.(Mormons during the present decline?)

Biologically speaking, all that matters to man or woman is:
a. offspring
b. the offspring succeed in having offspring

It would seem our instincts impel us in this direction as surely as if we were clockwork toys.
Human “reason” is far overrated.

Source:

The Beak of the Finch, Johnathan Weiner

Why the Roman Republic Collapsed

“An order usually fails when the community is no longer able, with its help, to perform its tasks more or less satisfactorily, or at least without causing major damage.
The late republic could no longer do this.  It could no longer contend with the social problems at home or the military and administrative problems abroad.  For any attempt to solve them only increased the power of individuals…This led to fierce conflicts, to restrictions…to growing inefficiency and thus to the disintegration of the inherited order.  The senatorial regime was not designed to cope with the problems that now faced it.
Time and again it showed itself to be superannuated.  Yet it could not be easily replaced.

Hence a great crisis arose, the main feature of which was that for a long time no alternative could emerge.  An alternative did emerge in the end…

It is wrong to transfer the notion of revolution, informed as it is by nineteenth-century experiences and expectations, to Roman conditions…the people cannot be seen as a new force that set itself up against the old one represented by the Senate…
What we observe is rather the contentment of all who were powerful… and the powerlessness of all who were discontented.
This was because the whole existence of Roman society, indeed its identity, was so bound up with the inherited order as to block off any thought of change…

The oligarchic republic could thus be replaced only by a monarchy.  Yet this became possible only when society had been so weakened by protracted civil wars as to recognize that things could no longer go on without a princeps…

The republic thus destroyed itself.  It had to, for otherwise nothing new, no alternative, would have emerged.  And it destroyed itself even though no one desired its destruction.”

Caesar: A Biography, Christian Meier, p. 491-493

In short:  Where there is a power vacuum and things aren’t getting done…it must eventually be filled.

Francis Bacon Predicted Airplanes, Submarines, and Lasers in the 17th Century

“Nylon and air-conditioning wouldn’t have surprised Sir Francis Bacon. He predicted them, along with most of our other present scientific wonders, over 300 years ago!…

this astounding man foresaw the airplane, television, movies, submarines, automobiles almost the whole range of modern discoveries.

Recently a research scientist, digging through the latin script of this ancient work checked off the list of these three hundred-year-old predictions and found that every one of them had come true except one!”

LINK

 

Many of these predictions arose in Bacon’s “New Atlantis”,  where he writes about an idealized society ruled by scientific method and where the rulers are scientists.

Not only did Bacon’s ideas lead to modern science and the enlightenment, but he also predicted something very like the modern secular state.

I find Bacon interesting because we see in our present world enlightenment ideas taken to an absurd extreme by ideological types.

Bacon was a shrewd politician and statesman who had a nuanced understanding of the real world.   He would never have believed in childish black and white extremes such as  “a war of all against all” or a “noble savage” that plague our civilization to the present day.

I imagine he would weep if he came back and saw where the intellectual movement he helped begin has ended up.

Francis Bacon perhaps gives us a glimpse of what the “enlightenment” could have been like had it been guided by worldly wisdom and savvy rather than reckless idealism and bookish wishful theory.

 

Philosophy was his hobby after his day job as a senior figure in Elizabeth I's government.

Philosophy was his hobby after his day job as a senior figure in Elizabeth I’s government.

 

MacArthur Style “Containment Policy”

“In interviews published posthumously, MacArthur said he had a plan that would have won the war in 10 days: ‘I would have dropped 30 or so atomic bombs . . . strung across the neck of Manchuria.’

Then he would have introduced half a million Chinese Nationalist troops at the Yalu and then “spread behind us — from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea — a belt of radioactive cobalt . . . it has an active life of between 60 and 120 years.

For at least 60 years there could have been no land invasion of Korea from the North.” He was certain that the Russians would have done nothing about this extreme strategy:

“My plan was a cinch.”

LINK

MacArthur knew his push deep into North Korea might trigger a counter-offensive from China and he had a plan to prevent a possibility that soon became a nightmare reality.

MacArthur knew his push deep into North Korea might trigger a counter-offensive from China and he had a plan to prevent a possibility that soon became a nightmare reality.

 

 

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