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

Tag Archives: how

Sorting Out the Castes: Easy Disqualifiers

Within 30 seconds of looking at someone’s facebook, their room, a list of their favorite hobbies, what they’ve bought lately we get a rough sense of what type of person they are.  It’s possible we could be mistaken but generally quick judgments work.  In modern society we’re told we can’t accurately judge and categorize people but in reality it’s not only doable, it’s pretty easy.
In real life, it’s generally safe to assume that a passing frat bro is more into jack and coke and fireball whiskey than single malt scotch or that a black dude with baggy pants and expensive shoes isn’t a Babylon 5 fan.  That hipster sitting nearby at the coffee shop probably isn’t into nascar(unless he’s being “ironic”), the rugged looking man with the big pickup truck probably doesn’t listen to NPR.  There’s exceptions of course, but even very crude anecdotal stereotypes work most of the time in real life.  So it’s not that extraordinary to expect that we could sort people correctly at least 90% of the time with a very low amount of effort.  If it was broken down to more of a science, I figure people could be put in the right place almost all the time.
If all a system needs to do is sort people out better than the present system, that’s a pretty low bar.

Perhaps we start with easy disqualifiers:

-Regularly buys lottery tickets, gambles against the house.
-Regularly uses payday loans and maxes out credit cards without compelling emergency reasons.
-Buys products from infomercials, web ads, spam emails.
-Doesn’t understand basics of how government works.
-Doesn’t have a basic idea of or curiosity about nation or world outside of their area.
-Buys all junk food at the grocery store and over-indulges in it.
-Doesn’t read, watch, or listen to anything that isn’t light entertainment.
-Buys flashy cars and clothes they can’t afford.
-Hopelessly, non-functionally addicted to any drug they come into contact with.

People that meet these criteria demonstrate they lack critical thinking and judgment. They lack the brain power to understand how probability or compound interest works. They don’t have the impulse control to manage complex choices or delayed gratification. In our present system they are mercilessly parasitized and exploited and they’re fair game because we’re all “equal.” Sorted into their proper caste, kept away from all positions of responsibility, it would be understood they are inherently vulnerable to the clever and must be protected as an adult would protect children or animals.
A pretty simple computer algorithm could probably instantly remove at least the bottom 10-20% or so without having to give evaluations or examinations to millions of people. Just data mining people’s real life behavior could probably make the initial rough cuts.

Imagine just taking away the vote from the dumbest and most impulsive 10% or so of the US population. There would probably be massive systemic improvements and an upgrade in political discourse overnight as if by magic. Just ponder a moment the magnitude of this lowest-hanging fruit alone.
Just weeding out those obviously unfit for civic life and placing them in an undercaste alone opens up huge possibilities before we even get started.

Abstract Reasoning is What Makes Us Human

In movies, the good guys are always emotional acting “from their hearts” while the bad guy lives in his mind creating elaborate plans usually losing in the end because of some variation of “he doesn’t understand the power of love.” In the philosophy of movies, emotion and love is what makes us human.
In real life, the capability of abstract reasoning is what sets apart higher from lower humans and humans from other animals. The person who can ponder the root causes of poverty is more effective than someone who from blind compassion for a picture of a starving kid in a magazine donates to charity and helps pay the “non-profit” CEO’s salary.  The price of not having abstract understanding is to be parasitized and preyed upon.

Humans have moved towards abstract concepts for a long time and some breeds are more advanced than others.
Language itself is a system of symbolic abstractions and is part of the human species as swimming is to fish or burrowing to a mole.
But since civilization, levels of abstraction have gone far beyond what most humans are able to handle.
Consider the concept of interest on a loan, for instance.  A considerable percentage of humans max out their credit cards or mortgages and are then taken by surprise when the compound interest spins out of control.  Or let’s look at estimating probability, something people are really bad at.  In a society of rational humans the only gambling would be against other players, never with unfavorable odds against the house.
The difference is who can understand abstractions and who cannot.
In general, peoples who have lived in complex civilizations longer are better at it.  It comes as little surprise that Jews, Syrian Alawis and Christians, Lebanese Maronites, and Armenians do well wherever in the world they go.  They are all mercantile peoples who spent thousands of years living on top of some of the world’s major trade routes.
Meanwhile, peoples new to the abstractions of civilization struggle to deal with laws, commerce, and the concept of the state.  Unable to formulate long term plans and heavily selected for binging in times of plenty, they become impoverished and hopelessly addicted to drugs and junk food.  Whether we’re talking about the Pima, the Pygmies, the Samoans, the Sioux, or the Aborigines, the problems are always the same, the only variation is degree.

Plato grouped humans into three categories.

Bronze – Ordinary workers and merchants engaged in their work with little awareness beyond their own wants. In Enlightenment philosophy, whether by communism, capitalism, or even libertarianism and anarchism, these people are supposed to be the rulers. That’s why these ideas when unalloyed by common sense never work. Mob rule, tragedies of the commons predictably result.

Silver – Those with enough awareness to be granted some measure of power without selfishly abusing it.  They have enough foresight to understand at least part of the big picture and some ability to think of the longer term within the context of their role. They are the middle management of society, the officers of humanity. They don’t take bribes(they can understand how it damages the credibility of the entire system), they keep utilities cheap and reliable, the trains arrive on time.  They make sure things work.

Gold- Those with enough awareness to understand the complexities of the macroscale and reason beyond oneself.  Those who can best do this are those who should be managing societies.

To care about anything that occurs after one’s death, for example, is irrational in the most literal sense. A bronze-soul squeezes the world for all it’s worth as long as they’re alive. What should it matter if the nation were to fall after they’re buried, or the entire human race to meet its demise?
The difference between a higher man and the stampede is to grasp the highly abstract idea of a future beyond oneself in the endurance of one’s work, deeds, ideas, and seed—to perceive beauty in what we will never see, touch, or taste for it’s own sake.
There’s a Greek proverb: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
Taking delight in what has not yet happened is pure abstraction, but for those capable of it, it is as real as any present and tangible pleasure. As real as are imaginary numbers and infinity to a mathematician.

People are only equipped so far by nature to deal with groups of up to 150.  Abstraction is the only way for limited human beings to work around the limit set by the Dunbar number and be able to reason out the workings of a mass society of millions of people.
A lower human given charge of a nation handles millions of people with the package of instincts appropriate to a small tribe.
What is a great famine that kills millions so long as you, your family, friends, and closest followers are safe?
It makes no sense to care about people we don’t know so long as it doesn’t affect us. It very much makes sense to sacrifice a million strangers we don’t care about in a war to get what we want. Why not abuse and neglect as it pleases us? They’re all just a statistic. To perceive beyond this, a human must use abstraction and imagination.

Ironically, the lower human ruler also projects his warm instinctual feelings for a small group onto many and preserves a million who are destroying everyone else out of crass sentimentality.
The higher being sees a rook is not worth a pawn and does what must be done.
Where the lower man is ruthless, the higher is merciful
And where the lower is generous, the higher crushes.

The gold soul has the same animal instincts as the bronze but it has the quality of consciousness that allows it to reflect on its nature while the bronze just follows its program like any other animal.
The high human can reflect on its own instinctual drives, figure out the purpose of each, and reason the best course to realize the “intended” goal.
The drive to socialize and observe social norms is there to further our survival in a group and to aid the survival of the group itself against other groups.
So if in charge of millions, we ought to use intellect to further the group as an appropriate instinct would, if it existed.
The drive to breed is there to spread our genes.
So we ought to understand that instinctual gratification with contraceptives is an illusion.
Where instinct is not enough, the greater human formulates strategies.
Faced with relentless change, human animals flounder in aimless despair like pandas with their bamboo forests burnt down.
High Humans change their survival strategy with the times.

The Ruling Class: Why Changing Rulers Doesn’t Change Society

The first job of the ruler isn’t to rule well or make anybody happy.
First they have to keep themselves in power.
Next is to keep some kind of society going from day to day even if it’s a shithole, so they have something to rule over.
Finally, they have to worry about competition from other rulers.
The other stuff is mostly optional extras.

From this point of view, most rulers are actually pretty good at what they do and are on top of the pyramid for a reason.
When discontented members of the upper middle class have a successful revolution, they always try to focus on the optional extras first but find that the three fundamentals of being a ruler are deceptively difficult to achieve.
They get way ahead of themselves trying to bring about their ideal world of peace and equality but are smacked in the face with reality when they can’t keep a currency solvent, can’t settle on a stable form of government, counter-revolutionary movements start springing up within the country, and the state’s neighbors eagerly mass armies on the border to take advantage of the chaos.

The American Revolution is a remarkable exception, because it wasn’t started by jealous skilled professionals.  It was begun by a ruling class.
Because of the distance between the American colonies and Britain, a de facto ruling class rose up in the colonies.  Of course, no place can have two bodies of rulers.  The American Revolution was the conflict that resolved this contradiction.
Guys like Washington and Jefferson weren’t well-paid slaves, they were aristocrats.  They already had the experience, broad education, and mentality of mastery required to actually run a place.
We see a lot of crossroads in the early American state where unsuitable rulers would have careened from one excess to another.
Fractured into 13 weak governments, surrounded by hostile Indian nations, all the European nations circling like sharks, faced with internal revolts such as the Whiskey Rebellion and Shays’ Rebellion, with no clear center of government or finance…
They faced all the classic problems that confront yuppie revolutionaries but with their wider wisdom avoided, or at least managed to mitigate the damage of making the same mistakes.
Already aristocrats of their local regions, they were within a couple decades able to figure out what needed to be done to establish a viable state.
They even went further once they had most of the basics under control and made an attempt at fulfilling their ideological goals.
A glimpse at the dismal history of states tells us they didn’t do so bad.  They sailed through reefs riddled with wrecks and survived.

Rulers cannot wield power wantonly.  They’re forced to tread carefully and react to the realities of the world around them appropriately or they don’t stay in charge for long.
Their struggle is not to chafe under a boss, but to work against the limitations of nature.  It’s them against the world.  They can’t call the police if they have a problem, the police call them with their problems.
Ironically, the unsheltered life of the ruling class shares much in common with underclass gangsters.
While wage earners can’t comprehend the life of rulers and idolize the upper middle class, gangsters dream instead of ruling. Indeed, gangsters are opportunists always trying to set up their own shadow state right underneath the ruler’s nose.

Because rulers just do a few simple things and react to their environment to achieve those goals.  It’s up to the people to achieve those goals.
If a population is ignorant, unorganized, and easily ruled by violence, a violent state results.
If you or I rose to power in such a state, we’d do no differently out of necessity.
The USA discovered the hard way that Saddam actually governed Iraq pretty much as it ought to be governed to hold it together as one state.
If we tried to govern through softer methods when violence is more effective, someone would soon come along with no compunctions and quickly depose us.
If a population is smart, conscientious, and organized, the ruler has to drastically change his strategy to stay in power.  He encourages a relatively affluent society instead of a brutal kleptocracy not out the goodness of his heart—sentimental rulers don’t stay alive very long—but because it is more beneficial to him to have a stable, wealthy society that keeps most people content.
If we imagine the ruler as a man in the wilderness, we can suppose the weather represents the people.  The ruler merely reacts to the climate, staying in when there’s a storm or traveling when it’s sunny.  In the largest sense, every government is representative.
Peoples truly do get the government they deserve.

The problem with mass governments, is each of us is just a drop in the ocean, unable to exert any sizable influence.  But for the fear of bigger organizations, it makes a lot more sense for people to organize on a much smaller scale so the nature of their society better moves rulers to act in their interests.

The problem with revolutionaries is they try to change a people by changing the government.  The key to any real change is not the rulers, but the composition of a population.

Why Philosopher Kings Are Rare

From control of wealth comes the power to govern.
Therefore the rulers will always be either a warrior elite or a merchant elite.
How then do you have a system that consistently puts a philosopher king in power?
A system that puts governing into the hands of the most capable.
There never has been a meritocracy of governance only the rule of the strong.
The life of the warrior or the merchant demands intense specialization and requires an incurious personality.  The rulers most societies have had most of the time reflects these realities.

Plato identified the main problem of politics 2300 years ago, but no one has ever figured out how to reliably implement that basic idea of giving that job to the best qualified.

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.

What Gave Away Bin Laden’s Location


As you would expect, Osama Bin Laden kept messages to friends and family reasonably secure. However transmissions between his bodyguards and their families were not subjected to the same level of scrutiny. The fact that he stayed in such a high profile house was unusual however. Anyone with the slightest bit of curiosity would wonder about the purpose of a compound with 12 foot concrete walls and barbed wire. It is to be expected that he would have the cooperation of local military and intelligence elites, rebels have a very difficult time operating unless they stack the deck in their favor by allying with neighboring forces. Their lack of technological sophistication is also pretty standard, many documents have been captured unecrypted from insurgents because they don’t understand that encryption is very difficult to impossible to break if done properly.

Satellite phone calls that Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard made from July to August last year are believed to have helped US forces hunt down the Al Qaeda leader in the Pakistani compound where he was killed early Monday, according to local Pakistani intelligence sources.

US intelligence agencies tracked the Kuwaiti bodyguard’s calls from the compound to Al Qaeda associates in the cities of Kohat and Charsada in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, a narrative that was corroborated by several sources.

From Wiki:

American intelligence officials discovered the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden by tracking one of his couriers. Information was collected from Guantánamo Bay detainees, who gave intelligence officers the courier’s pseudonym and said that he was a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.[5] In 2007, U.S. officials discovered the courier’s real name and, in 2009, that he lived in Abbottābad, Pakistan.[6] Using satellite photos and intelligence reports, the CIA surmised the inhabitants of the mansion. In September, the CIA concluded that the compound was “custom built to hide someone of significance” and that bin Laden’s residence there was very likely.[7][8] Officials surmised that he was living there with his youngest wife.[8]

Built in 2005, the three-story[12] mansion was located in a compound about 4 km (2.5 mi.) northeast of the center of Abbottabad.[7] While the compound was assessed by US officials at a value of USD 1 million, local real-estate agents assess the property value at USD 250 thousand.[13] On a lot about eight times the size of nearby houses, it was surrounded by 12- to 18-foot (3.7-5.5 m)[8] concrete walls topped with barbed wire.[7] There were two security gates and the third-floor balcony had a seven-foot-high (2.1 m) privacy wall.[12] There was no Internet or telephone service coming into the compound. Its residents burned their trash, unlike their neighbors, who simply set it out for collection. The compound is located (34°10′09″N 73°14′33″E) and 1.3 km (0.8 mi.) southwest of the closest point of the sprawling Pakistan Military Academy.[14] President Obama met with his national security advisors on March 14, 2011, in the first of five security meetings over six weeks. On April 29, at 8:20 a.m., Obama convened with Thomas DonilonJohn O. Brennan, and other security advisers in the Diplomatic Room, where he authorized a raid of the Abbottābad compound. The government of Pakistan was not informed of this decision.[7]


US Intelligence services contacted a Pakistani physician through the US NGO Save The Children, to help them set up a fake vaccination program that would allow them to collect DNA to identify the people inside of the compound. This lead to him being arrested and sentenced to 33 years for Treason, supposedly for links to a local tribal terrorist organization:

To identify the occupants of the compound, the CIA worked with doctor Shakil Afridi to organize a fake vaccination program. Nurses gained entry to the residence to vaccinate the children and extract DNA,[9] which could be compared to a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010.[10] It’s not clear if the DNA was ever obtained.[11]

Colleagues at Jamrud Hospital in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber tribal were suspicious of Dr. Shakeel Afridi’s, the hospital’s chief surgeon, absences which he explained as “business” to attend to in Abbottabad. Dr Afridi was accused of having taken a half-dozen World Health Organization cooler boxes without authorization. The containers are for inoculation campaigns, but no immunization drives were underway in Abbottabad or the Khyber agency.[11][12]

Pakistani investigators said in a July 2012 report that Afridi met 25 times with “foreign secret agents, received instructions and provided sensitive information to them.”[13] According to Pakistani reports, Afridi told investigators that the charity Save the Children helped facilitate his meeting with U.S. intelligence agents although the charity denies the charge. The report alleges that Save the Children’s Pakistan director introduced Afridi to a western woman in Islamabad and that Afridi and the woman met regularly afterwards.

Real Cost per Acre of Grains vs. Meat

“I was told that we could feed many more people with the same amount of land if we all became vegetarians. I was swayed…until I realized that we’re talking about feeding people only corn and potatoes. The truth is that creating protein is expensive in terms of land use whether you’re growing soybeans or raising cattle…
What about if we instead raise our livestock on pasture and feed them food waste where appropriate? For cows, you won’t see much difference, but pigs and chickens really begin to shine once you return to a more traditional feeding system. Both of these animals are well adapted to foraging on scraps…
In societies that don’t depend on huge agricultural corporations to feed the masses, a family is likely to have a pig and a flock of chickens that they feed mostly or solely on waste from the farm and kitchen. Remember that adding some livestock to your diversified homestead also equates to manure to fertilize your veggies, and it’s suddenly hard for me to merit the idea of planting a field of soybeans instead.”

Why smart people defend bad ideas

We all know someone who’s intelligent, but who occasionally defends obviously bad ideas. Why does this happen? Link

China Plans to Open Military Bases Worldwide

Dated 2010:

“It is baseless to say that we will not set up any military bases in future because we have never sent troops abroad,” an article published on Thursday at a Chinese government website said. “It is our right,” the article said and went on to suggest that it would be done in the neighborhood, possibly Pakistan.

Dated 2011:

China is weighing up whether to open an Indian Ocean naval base in the Seychelles in a move which will heighten tensions with India amid fears of a regional arms race.

Dated 2012:

China plans military base in Pakistan

Richard Feynman – Explaining Magnets

Here he gets into why explaining “Why” is so difficult.

Napoleon Was Not Short, He Was Actually Above Average Height

%d bloggers like this: