nhaliday + age-of-discovery   80

"Humankind is unique in its incapacity to learn from experience" | New Humanist
Your new book claims atheism is a “closed system of thought”. Why so?
--
Because atheists of a certain kind imagine that by rejecting monotheistic beliefs they step out of a monotheistic way of thinking. Actually, they have inherited all of its rigidities and assumptions. Namely, the idea that there is a universal history; that there is something like a collective human agent; or a universal way of life. These are all Christian ideals. Christianity itself is also a much more complex belief system than most contemporary atheists allow for. But then most of these atheists know very little about the history of religion.

Particularly, you argue, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. What is your disagreement with them?
--
They treat religion as a kind of intellectual error; something only the crudest of Enlightenment thinkers believed. Not every human being has a religious sensibility, but pretty much all human cultures do. Neither Dawkins or Harris are interesting enough to discuss this at length.

Dawkins is really not worth discussing or engaging with at all. He is an ideologue of Darwinism and knows very little about religion, treating it as a kind of a priori notion, rather than the complex social, and anthropological set of ideas which religion usually entails. Harris is partially interesting, in that he talks about how all human values can be derived from science. But I object strongly to that idea.

...

You are hugely critical of modern liberalism: what is your main problem with the ideology?
--
That it’s immune to empirical evidence. It’s a form of dogmatic faith. If you are a monotheist it makes sense – I myself am not saying it’s true or right – to say that there is only one way of life for all of humankind. And so you should try and convert the rest of humanity to that faith.

But if you are not a monotheist, and you claim to be an atheist, it makes no sense to claim that there is only one way of life. There may be some good and bad ways of living. And there may be some forms of barbarism, where human societies cannot flourish for very long. But there is no reason for thinking that there is only one way of life: the ones that liberal societies practice.

Why the liberal West is a Christian creation: https://www.newstatesman.com/dominion-making-western-mind-tom-holland-review
Christianity is dismissed as a fairy tale but its assumptions underpin the modern secular world.
- John Gray

Secular liberals dismiss Christianity as a fairy tale, but their values and their view of history remain essentially Christian. The Christian story tells of the son of God being put to death on a cross. In the Roman world, this was the fate of criminals and those who challenged imperial power. Christianity brought with it a moral revolution. The powerless came to be seen as God’s children, and therefore deserving of respect as much as the highest in society. History was a drama of sin and redemption in which God – acting through his son – was on the side of the weak.

Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind
Tom Holland
Little, Brown & Co, 624pp, £25

The Origin of the Secular Species: https://kirkcenter.org/reviews/the-origin-of-the-secular-species/
Reviewed by Ben Sixsmith

A great strength of Holland’s book is how it takes the reader back to when Christianity was not institutional and traditional but new and revolutionary. “[Corinth] had a long tradition of hosting eccentrics,” Holland writes in one wry passage:

> Back in the time of Alexander, the philosopher Diogenes had notoriously proclaimed his contempt for the norms of society by living in a large jar and masturbating in public. Paul, though, demanded a far more total recalibration of their most basic assumptions.

Christianity came not with a triumphant warrior wielding his sword, but with a traveling carpenter nailed to a cross; it came not with God as a distant and unimaginable force but with God as man, walking among his followers; it came not with promises of tribal dominance but with the hope of salvation across classes and races.

...

This may sound more pragmatic than liberal but it does reflect a strange, for the time, confidence in the power of education to shape the beliefs of the common man. Holland is keen to emphasize these progressive elements of history that he argues, with some justice, have helped to shape the modern world. Charity became enshrined in legislation, for example, as being able to access the necessities of life became “in a formulation increasingly deployed by canon lawyers” a human “right.”

...

This is, I think, a simplification of Galatians 3:28 that makes it more subversive than it actually is. Adolescents and octogenarians are equally eligible for salvation, in the Christian faith, but that does not mean that they have equal earthly functions.

Holland’s stylistic talents add a great deal to the book. His portraits of Boniface, Luther, and Calvin are vivid, evocative, and free of romanticization or its opposite. Some of his accounts of episodes in religious history are a little superficial—he could have read Helen Andrews for a more complicated portrait of Bartolomé de las Casas, for example—but a sweeping historical narrative without superficial aspects would be like an orchard with no bruising on the fruit. It is only natural.

...

We have to look not just at what survives of Christianity but what has been lost. I agree with Holland that the natural sciences can be aligned with Christian belief, but the predominant explanatory power of secular authorities has inarguably weakened the faith. The abandonment of metaphysics, on which Christian scholarship was founded, was another grievous blow. Finally, the elevation of choice to the highest principles of culture indulges worldly desire over religious adherence. Christianity, in Holland’s book, is a genetic relic.

Still, the tension of Dominion is a haunting one: the tension, that is, between the revolutionary and conservative implications of the Christian faith. On the British right, we—and especially those of us who are not believers—sometimes like to think of Christianity in a mild Scrutonian sense, as a source of wonder, beauty, and social cohesion. What hums throughout Dominion, though, is the intense evangelical spirit of the faith. The most impressive person in the book is St. Paul, striding between cities full of spiritual vigor. Why? Because it was God’s will. And because, as Jean Danielou wrote in his striking little book Prayer as a Political Problem:

> Christ has come to save all that has been made. Redemption is concerned with all creation …

This is not to claim that true Christians are fanatical. Paul himself, as Holland writes, was something of a realist. But the desire to spread the faith is essential to it—the animated evidence of its truth.
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october 2018 by nhaliday
WHO | Priority environment and health risks
also: http://www.who.int/heli/risks/vectors/vector/en/

Environmental factors are a root cause of a significant disease burden, particularly in developing countries. An estimated 25% of death and disease globally, and nearly 35% in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, is linked to environmental hazards. Some key areas of risk include the following:

- Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene kill an estimated 1.7 million people annually, particularly as a result of diarrhoeal disease.
- Indoor smoke from solid fuels kills an estimated 1.6 million people annually due to respiratory diseases.
- Malaria kills over 1.2 million people annually, mostly African children under the age of five. Poorly designed irrigation and water systems, inadequate housing, poor waste disposal and water storage, deforestation and loss of biodiversity, all may be contributing factors to the most common vector-borne diseases including malaria, dengue and leishmaniasis.
- Urban air pollution generated by vehicles, industries and energy production kills approximately 800 000 people annually.
- Unintentional acute poisonings kill 355 000 people globally each year. In developing countries, where two-thirds of these deaths occur, such poisonings are associated strongly with excessive exposure to, and inappropriate use of, toxic chemicals and pesticides present in occupational and/or domestic environments.
- Climate change impacts including more extreme weather events, changed patterns of disease and effects on agricultural production, are estimated to cause over 150 000 deaths annually.

ed.:
Note the high point at human origin (Africa, Middle East) and Asia. Low points in New World and Europe/Russia. Probably key factor in explaining human psychological variation (Haidt axes, individualism-collectivism, kinship structure, etc.). E.g., compare Islam/Judaism (circumcision, food preparation/hygiene rules) and Christianity (orthodoxy more than orthopraxy, no arbitrary practices for group-marking).

I wonder if the dietary and hygiene laws of Christianity get up-regulated in higher parasite load places (the US South, Middle Eastern Christianity, etc.)?

Also the reason for this variation probably basically boils down how long local microbes have had time to adapt to the human immune system.

obv. correlation: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:074ecdf30c50

Tropical disease: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_disease
Tropical diseases are diseases that are prevalent in or unique to tropical and subtropical regions.[1] The diseases are less prevalent in temperate climates, due in part to the occurrence of a cold season, which controls the insect population by forcing hibernation. However, many were present in northern Europe and northern America in the 17th and 18th centuries before modern understanding of disease causation. The initial impetus for tropical medicine was to protect the health of colonialists, notably in India under the British Raj.[2] Insects such as mosquitoes and flies are by far the most common disease carrier, or vector. These insects may carry a parasite, bacterium or virus that is infectious to humans and animals. Most often disease is transmitted by an insect "bite", which causes transmission of the infectious agent through subcutaneous blood exchange. Vaccines are not available for most of the diseases listed here, and many do not have cures.

cf. Galton: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:f72f8e03e729
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july 2018 by nhaliday
John Dee - Wikipedia
John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1608 or 1609) was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occult philosopher,[5] and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy. He was also an advocate of England's imperial expansion into a "British Empire", a term he is generally credited with coining.[6]

Dee straddled the worlds of modern science and magic just as the former was emerging. One of the most learned men of his age, he had been invited to lecture on the geometry of Euclid at the University of Paris while still in his early twenties. Dee was an ardent promoter of mathematics and a respected astronomer, as well as a leading expert in navigation, having trained many of those who would conduct England's voyages of discovery.

Simultaneously with these efforts, Dee immersed himself in the worlds of magic, astrology and Hermetic philosophy. He devoted much time and effort in the last thirty years or so of his life to attempting to commune with angels in order to learn the universal language of creation and bring about the pre-apocalyptic unity of mankind. However, Robert Hooke suggested in the chapter Of Dr. Dee's Book of Spirits, that John Dee made use of Trithemian steganography, to conceal his communication with Elizabeth I.[7] A student of the Renaissance Neo-Platonism of Marsilio Ficino, Dee did not draw distinctions between his mathematical research and his investigations into Hermetic magic, angel summoning and divination. Instead he considered all of his activities to constitute different facets of the same quest: the search for a transcendent understanding of the divine forms which underlie the visible world, which Dee called "pure verities".

In his lifetime, Dee amassed one of the largest libraries in England. His high status as a scholar also allowed him to play a role in Elizabethan politics. He served as an occasional advisor and tutor to Elizabeth I and nurtured relationships with her ministers Francis Walsingham and William Cecil. Dee also tutored and enjoyed patronage relationships with Sir Philip Sidney, his uncle Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and Edward Dyer. He also enjoyed patronage from Sir Christopher Hatton.

https://twitter.com/Logo_Daedalus/status/985203144044040192
https://archive.is/h7ibQ
mind meld

Leave Me Alone! Misanthropic Writings from the Anti-Social Edge
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Who We Are | West Hunter
I’m going to review David Reich’s new book, Who We Are and How We Got Here. Extensively: in a sense I’ve already been doing this for a long time. Probably there will be a podcast. The GoFundMe link is here. You can also send money via Paypal (Use the donate button), or bitcoins to 1Jv4cu1wETM5Xs9unjKbDbCrRF2mrjWXr5. In-kind donations, such as orichalcum or mithril, are always appreciated.

This is the book about the application of ancient DNA to prehistory and history.

height difference between northern and southern europeans: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/who-we-are-1/
mixing, genocide of males, etc.: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/who-we-are-2-purity-of-essence/
rapid change in polygenic traits (appearance by Kevin Mitchell and funny jab at Brad Delong ("regmonkey")): https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/rapid-change-in-polygenic-traits/
schiz, bipolar, and IQ: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/rapid-change-in-polygenic-traits/#comment-105605
Dan Graur being dumb: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/the-usual-suspects/
prediction of neanderthal mixture and why: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/03/who-we-are-3-neanderthals/
New Guineans tried to use Denisovan admixture to avoid UN sanctions (by "not being human"): https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/who-we-are-4-denisovans/
also some commentary on decline of Out-of-Africa, including:
"Homo Naledi, a small-brained homonin identified from recently discovered fossils in South Africa, appears to have hung around way later that you’d expect (up to 200,000 years ago, maybe later) than would be the case if modern humans had occupied that area back then. To be blunt, we would have eaten them."

Live Not By Lies: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/live-not-by-lies/
Next he slams people that suspect that upcoming genetic genetic analysis will, in most cases, confirm traditional stereotypes about race – the way the world actually looks.

The people Reich dumps on are saying perfectly reasonable things. He criticizes Henry Harpending for saying that he’d never seen an African with a hobby. Of course, Henry had actually spent time in Africa, and that’s what he’d seen. The implication is that people in Malthusian farming societies – which Africa was not – were selected to want to work, even where there was no immediate necessity to do so. Thus hobbies, something like a gerbil running in an exercise wheel.

He criticized Nicholas Wade, for saying that different races have different dispositions. Wade’s book wasn’t very good, but of course personality varies by race: Darwin certainly thought so. You can see differences at birth. Cover a baby’s nose with a cloth: Chinese and Navajo babies quietly breathe through their mouth, European and African babies fuss and fight.

Then he attacks Watson, for asking when Reich was going to look at Jewish genetics – the kind that has led to greater-than-average intelligence. Watson was undoubtedly trying to get a rise out of Reich, but it’s a perfectly reasonable question. Ashkenazi Jews are smarter than the average bear and everybody knows it. Selection is the only possible explanation, and the conditions in the Middle ages – white-collar job specialization and a high degree of endogamy, were just what the doctor ordered.

Watson’s a prick, but he’s a great prick, and what he said was correct. Henry was a prince among men, and Nick Wade is a decent guy as well. Reich is totally out of line here: he’s being a dick.

Now Reich may be trying to burnish his anti-racist credentials, which surely need some renewal after having pointing out that race as colloquially used is pretty reasonable, there’s no reason pops can’t be different, people that said otherwise ( like Lewontin, Gould, Montagu, etc. ) were lying, Aryans conquered Europe and India, while we’re tied to the train tracks with scary genetic results coming straight at us. I don’t care: he’s being a weasel, slandering the dead and abusing the obnoxious old genius who laid the foundations of his field. Reich will also get old someday: perhaps he too will someday lose track of all the nonsense he’s supposed to say, or just stop caring. Maybe he already has… I’m pretty sure that Reich does not like lying – which is why he wrote this section of the book (not at all logically necessary for his exposition of the ancient DNA work) but the required complex juggling of lies and truth required to get past the demented gatekeepers of our society may not be his forte. It has been said that if it was discovered that someone in the business was secretly an android, David Reich would be the prime suspect. No Talleyrand he.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/who-we-are-6-the-americas/
The population that accounts for the vast majority of Native American ancestry, which we will call Amerinds, came into existence somewhere in northern Asia. It was formed from a mix of Ancient North Eurasians and a population related to the Han Chinese – about 40% ANE and 60% proto-Chinese. Is looks as if most of the paternal ancestry was from the ANE, while almost all of the maternal ancestry was from the proto-Han. [Aryan-Transpacific ?!?] This formation story – ANE boys, East-end girls – is similar to the formation story for the Indo-Europeans.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/who-we-are-7-africa/
In some ways, on some questions, learning more from genetics has left us less certain. At this point we really don’t know where anatomically humans originated. Greater genetic variety in sub-Saharan African has been traditionally considered a sign that AMH originated there, but it possible that we originated elsewhere, perhaps in North Africa or the Middle East, and gained extra genetic variation when we moved into sub-Saharan Africa and mixed with various archaic groups that already existed. One consideration is that finding recent archaic admixture in a population may well be a sign that modern humans didn’t arise in that region ( like language substrates) – which makes South Africa and West Africa look less likely. The long-continued existence of homo naledi in South Africa suggests that modern humans may not have been there for all that long – if we had co-existed with homo naledi, they probably wouldn’t lasted long. The oldest known skull that is (probably) AMh was recently found in Morocco, while modern humans remains, already known from about 100,000 years ago in Israel, have recently been found in northern Saudi Arabia.

While work by Nick Patterson suggests that modern humans were formed by a fusion between two long-isolated populations, a bit less than half a million years ago.

So: genomics had made recent history Africa pretty clear. Bantu agriculuralists expanded and replaced hunter-gatherers, farmers and herders from the Middle East settled North Africa, Egypt and northeaat Africa, while Nilotic herdsmen expanded south from the Sudan. There are traces of earlier patterns and peoples, but today, only traces. As for questions back further in time, such as the origins of modern humans – we thought we knew, and now we know we don’t. But that’s progress.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/reichs-journey/
David Reich’s professional path must have shaped his perspective on the social sciences. Look at the record. He starts his professional career examining the role of genetics in the elevated prostate cancer risk seen in African-American men. Various social-science fruitcakes oppose him even looking at the question of ancestry ( African vs European). But they were wrong: certain African-origin alleles explain the increased risk. Anthropologists (and human geneticists) were sure (based on nothing) that modern humans hadn’t interbred with Neanderthals – but of course that happened. Anthropologists and archaeologists knew that Gustaf Kossina couldn’t have been right when he said that widespread material culture corresponded to widespread ethnic groups, and that migration was the primary explanation for changes in the archaeological record – but he was right. They knew that the Indo-European languages just couldn’t have been imposed by fire and sword – but Reich’s work proved them wrong. Lots of people – the usual suspects plus Hindu nationalists – were sure that the AIT ( Aryan Invasion Theory) was wrong, but it looks pretty good today.

Some sociologists believed that caste in India was somehow imposed or significantly intensified by the British – but it turns out that most jatis have been almost perfectly endogamous for two thousand years or more…

It may be that Reich doesn’t take these guys too seriously anymore. Why should he?

varnas, jatis, aryan invastion theory: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/22/who-we-are-8-india/

europe and EEF+WHG+ANE: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/05/01/who-we-are-9-europe/

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/03/book-review-david-reich-human-genes-reveal-history/
The massive mixture events that occurred in the recent past to give rise to Europeans and South Asians, to name just two groups, were likely “male mediated.” That’s another way of saying that men on the move took local women as brides or concubines. In the New World there are many examples of this, whether it be among African Americans, where most European ancestry seems to come through men, or in Latin America, where conquistadores famously took local women as paramours. Both of these examples are disquieting, and hint at the deep structural roots of patriarchal inequality and social subjugation that form the backdrop for the emergence of many modern peoples.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Charade | West Hunter
I was watching Charade the other day, not for the first time, and was noticing that the action scenes with Cary Grant (human fly, and fighting George Kennedy) really weren’t very convincing.  Age. But think what it would be like today: we’d see Audrey Hepburn kicking the living shit out of Kennedy, probably cutting his throat with his own claw – while still being utterly adorable.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/shtrafbats/
Was thinking about how there are far too many reviewers, and far too few movies worth reviewing. It might be fun to review the movies that should have been made, instead. Someone ought to make a movie about the life of Konstantin Rokossovsky – an officer arrested and tortured by Stalin (ended up with denailed fingers and steel teeth) who became one of the top Soviet generals. The story would be focused on his command of 16th Army in the final defense of Moscow – an army group composed entirely of penal battalions. The Legion of the Damned.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/shtrafbats/#comment-103767
There hasn’t been a good Gulag Archipelago movie, has there?

One historical movie that I’d really like to see would be about the defense of Malta by the Knights of St. John. That or the defense of Vienna. Either one would be very “timely”, which is a word many reviewers seem to misuse quite laughably these days.
--
My oldest son made the same suggestion – The Great Siege

Siege of Vienna – Drawing of the Dark?

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/shtrafbats/#comment-103846
The Conquest of New Spain.
--
Only Cortez was fully awake. Him and von Neumann.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Christianity in China | Council on Foreign Relations
projected to outpace CCP membership soon

This fascinating map shows the new religious breakdown in China: http://www.businessinsider.com/new-religious-breakdown-in-china-14

Map Showing the Distribution of Christians in China: http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Oct/18/map-showing-distribution-christians-china/

Christianity in China: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_China
Accurate data on Chinese Christians is hard to access. According to the most recent internal surveys there are approximately 31 million Christians in China today (2.3% of the total population).[5] On the other hand, some international Christian organizations estimate there are tens of millions more, which choose not to publicly identify as such.[6] The practice of religion continues to be tightly controlled by government authorities.[7] Chinese over the age of 18 are only permitted to join officially sanctioned Christian groups registered with the government-approved Protestant Three-Self Church and China Christian Council and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church.[8]

In Xi we trust - Is China cracking down on Christianity?: http://www.dw.com/en/in-xi-we-trust-is-china-cracking-down-on-christianity/a-42224752A

In China, Unregistered Churches Are Driving a Religious Revolution: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/china-unregistered-churches-driving-religious-revolution/521544/

Cracks in the atheist edifice: https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21629218-rapid-spread-christianity-forcing-official-rethink-religion-cracks

Jesus won’t save you — President Xi Jinping will, Chinese Christians told: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/11/14/jesus-wont-save-you-president-xi-jinping-will-chinese-christians-told/

http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1001611/noodles-for-the-messiah-chinas-creative-christian-hymns

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-china-exclusive/exclusive-china-vatican-deal-on-bishops-ready-for-signing-source-idUSKBN1FL67U
Catholics in China are split between those in “underground” communities that recognize the pope and those belonging to a state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association where bishops are appointed by the government in collaboration with local Church communities.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-42914029
The underground churches recognise only the Vatican's authority, whereas the Chinese state churches refuse to accept the authority of the Pope.

There are currently about 100 Catholic bishops in China, with some approved by Beijing, some approved by the Vatican and, informally, many now approved by both.

...

Under the agreement, the Vatican would be given a say in the appointment of future bishops in China, a Vatican source told news agency Reuters.

For Beijing, an agreement with the Vatican could allow them more control over the country's underground churches.

Globally, it would also enhance China's prestige - to have the world's rising superpower engaging with one of the world's major religions.

Symbolically, it would the first sign of rapprochement between China and the Catholic church in more than half a century.

The Vatican is the only European state that maintains formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It is currently unclear if an agreement between China and the Vatican would affect this in any way.

What will this mean for the country's Catholics?

There are currently around 10 million Roman Catholics in China.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/china-vatican-deal-on-bishops-reportedly-ready-for-signing/2018/02/01/2adfc6b2-0786-11e8-b48c-b07fea957bd5_story.html

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2018/02/06/china-is-the-best-implementer-of-catholic-social-doctrine-says-vatican-bishop/
The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences praised the 'extraordinary' Communist state

“Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese,” a senior Vatican official has said.

Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, praised the Communist state as “extraordinary”, saying: “You do not have shantytowns, you do not have drugs, young people do not take drugs”. Instead, there is a “positive national conscience”.

The bishop told the Spanish-language edition of Vatican Insider that in China “the economy does not dominate politics, as happens in the United States, something Americans themselves would say.”

Bishop Sánchez Sorondo said that China was implementing Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ better than many other countries and praised it for defending Paris Climate Accord. “In that, it is assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned”, he added.

...

As part of the diplomacy efforts, Bishop Sánchez Sorondo visited the country. “What I found was an extraordinary China,” he said. “What people don’t realise is that the central value in China is work, work, work. There’s no other way, fundamentally it is like St Paul said: he who doesn’t work, doesn’t eat.”

China reveals plan to remove ‘foreign influence’ from Catholic Church: http://catholicherald.co.uk/news/2018/06/02/china-reveals-plan-to-remove-foreign-influence-from-catholic-church1/

China, A Fourth Rome?: http://thermidormag.com/china-a-fourth-rome/
As a Chinaman born in the United States, I find myself able to speak to both places and neither. By accidents of fortune, however – or of providence, rather – I have identified more with China even as I have lived my whole life in the West. English is my third language, after Cantonese and Mandarin, even if I use it to express my intellectually most complex thoughts; and though my best of the three in writing, trained by the use of Latin, it is the vehicle of a Chinese soul. So it is in English that for the past year I have memed an idea as unconventional as it is ambitious, unto the Europæans a stumbling-block, and unto the Chinese foolishness: #China4thRome.

This idea I do not attempt to defend rigorously, between various powers’ conflicting claims to carrying on the Roman heritage; neither do I intend to claim that Moscow, which has seen itself as a Third Rome after the original Rome and then Constantinople, is fallen. Instead, I think back to the division of the Roman empire, first under Diocletian’s Tetrarchy and then at the death of Theodosius I, the last ruler of the undivided Roman empire. In the second partition, at the death of Theodosius, Arcadius became emperor of the East, with his capital in Constantinople, and Honorius emperor of the West, with his capital in Milan and then Ravenna. That the Roman empire did not stay uniformly strong under a plurality of emperors is not the point. What is significant about the administrative division of the Roman empire among several emperors is that the idea of Rome can be one even while its administration is diverse.

By divine providence, the Christian religion – and through it, Rome – has spread even through the bourgeois imperialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Across the world, the civil calendar of common use is that of Rome, reckoned from 1 January; few places has Roman law left wholly untouched. Nevertheless, never have we observed in the world of Roman culture an ethnogenetic pattern like that of the Chinese empire as described by the prologue of Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義: ‘The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.’1 According to classical Chinese cosmology, the phrase rendered the empire is more literally all under heaven 天下, the Chinese œcumene being its ‘all under heaven’ much as a Persian proverb speaks of the old Persian capital of Isfahan: ‘Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast,’ Isfahan is half the world. As sociologist Fei Xiaotong describes it in his 1988 Tanner Lecture ‘Plurality and Unity in the Configuration of the Chinese People’,

...

And this Chinese œcumene has united and divided for centuries, even as those who live in it have recognized a fundamental unity. But Rome, unlike the Chinese empire, has lived on in multiple successor polities, sometimes several at once, without ever coming back together as one empire administered as one. Perhaps something of its character has instead uniquely suited it to being the spirit of a kind of broader world empire. As Dante says in De Monarchia, ‘As the human race, then, has an end, and this end is a means necessary to the universal end of nature, it follows that nature must have the means in view.’ He continues,

If these things are true, there is no doubt but that nature set apart in the world a place and a people for universal sovereignty; otherwise she would be deficient in herself, which is impossible. What was this place, and who this people, moreover, is sufficiently obvious in what has been said above, and in what shall be added further on. They were Rome and her citizens or people. On this subject our Poet [Vergil] has touched very subtly in his sixth book [of the Æneid], where he brings forward Anchises prophesying in these words to Aeneas, father of the Romans: ‘Verily, that others shall beat out the breathing bronze more finely, I grant you; they shall carve the living feature in the marble, plead causes with more eloquence, and trace the movements of the heavens with a rod, and name the rising stars: thine, O Roman, be the care to rule the peoples with authority; be thy arts these, to teach men the way of peace, to show mercy to the subject, and to overcome the proud.’ And the disposition of place he touches upon lightly in the fourth book, when he introduces Jupiter speaking of Aeneas to Mercury in this fashion: ‘Not such a one did his most beautiful mother promise to us, nor for this twice rescue him from Grecian arms; rather was he to be the man to govern Italy teeming with empire and tumultuous with war.’ Proof enough has been given that the Romans were by nature ordained for sovereignty. Therefore the Roman … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
The Long-run Effects of Agricultural Productivity on Conflict, 1400-1900∗
This paper provides evidence of the long-run effects of a permanent increase in agricultural productivity on conflict. We construct a newly digitized and geo-referenced dataset of battles in Europe, the Near East and North Africa covering the period between 1400 and 1900 CE. For variation in permanent improvements in agricultural productivity, we exploit the introduction of potatoes from the Americas to the Old World after the Columbian Exchange. We find that the introduction of potatoes permanently reduced conflict for roughly two centuries. The results are driven by a reduction in civil conflicts

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/12/monday-assorted-links-135.html#comment-159746885
#4 An obvious counterfactual is of course the potato blight (1844 and beyond) in Europe. Here’s the Wikipedia page ‘revolutions of 1848’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutions_of_1848
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december 2017 by nhaliday
King Kong and Cold Fusion: Counterfactual analysis and the History of Technology
How “contingent” is technological history? Relying on models from evolutionary epistemology, I argue for an analogy with Darwinian Biology and thus a much greater degree of contingency than is normally supposed. There are three levels of contingency in technological development. The crucial driving force behind technology is what I call S-knowledge, that is, an understanding of the exploitable regularities of nature (which includes “science” as a subset). The development of techniques depend on the existence of epistemic bases in S. The “inevitability” of technology thus depends crucially on whether we condition it on the existence of the appropriate S-knowledge. Secondly, even if this knowledge emerges, there is nothing automatic about it being transformed into a technique that is, a set of instructions that transforms knowledge into production. Third, even if the techniques are proposed, there is selection which reflects the preferences and biases of an economy and injects another level of indeterminacy and contingency into the technological history of nations.

https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/932451959079972865
https://archive.is/MBmyV
Moslem conquest of Europe, or a Mongol conquest, or a post-1492 epidemic, or a victory of the counter-reformation would have prevented the Industrial Revolution (Joel Mokyr)
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Review of Yuval Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/928472237052649472
https://archive.is/MPO5Q
Yuval Harari's prominent book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind gets a thorough and well deserved fisking by C.R. Hallpike.

For Harari the great innovation that separated us from the apes was what he calls the Cognitive Revolution, around 70,000 years ago when we started migrating out of Africa, which he thinks gave us the same sort of modern minds that we have now. 'At the individual level, ancient foragers were the most knowledgeable and skilful people in history...Survival in that area required superb mental abilities from everyone' (55), and 'The people who carved the Stadel lion-man some 30,000 years ago had the same physical, emotional, and intellectual abilities we have' (44). Not surprisingly, then, 'We'd be able to explain to them everything we know - from the adventures of Alice in Wonderland to the paradoxes of quantum physics - and they could teach us how their people view the world' (23).

It's a sweet idea, and something like this imagined meeting actually took place a few years ago between the linguist Daniel Everett and the Piraha foragers of the Amazon in Peru (Everett 2008). But far from being able to discuss quantum theory with them, he found that the Piraha couldn't even count, and had no numbers of any kind, They could teach Everett how they saw the world, which was entirely confined to the immediate experience of the here-and-now, with no interest in past or future, or really in anything that could not be seen or touched. They had no myths or stories, so Alice in Wonderland would have fallen rather flat as well.

...

Summing up the book as a whole, one has often had to point out how surprisingly little he seems to have read on quite a number of essential topics. It would be fair to say that whenever his facts are broadly correct they are not new, and whenever he tries to strike out on his own he often gets things wrong, sometimes seriously. So we should not judge Sapiens as a serious contribution to knowledge but as 'infotainment', a publishing event to titillate its readers by a wild intellectual ride across the landscape of history, dotted with sensational displays of speculation, and ending with blood-curdling predictions about human destiny. By these criteria it is a most successful book.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Measles and immunological amnesia | West Hunter
A new paper in Science , by Michael Mina et al,  strongly suggests that measles messes up your immunological defenses for two or three years. This is the likely explanation for the fact that measles inoculation causes much greater decreases in child morbidity and mortality than you’d expect from preventing the deaths directly due to measles infection. The thought is that measles whacks the cells that carry immunological memory, leaving the kid ripe for reinfections.  I think there can be a similar effect with anti-cancer chemotherapy.

If correct, this means that measles is much nastier than previously thought. It must have played a significant role in the demographic collapse of long-isolated peoples (such as the Amerindians). Its advent may have played a role in the population decrease associated with the decline of the Classical world.  Even though it is relatively new (having split off from rinderpest a couple of thousand years ago) strong selection for resistance may have  favored some fairly expensive genetic defenses (something like sickle-cell) in Eurasian populations.

We already know of quite a few complex side effects of infectious disease, such the different kind of immunosuppression we see with AIDs, Burkitt’s lymphoma hitting kids with severe Epstein-Barr infections followed by malaria, acute dengue fever that requires a previous infection by a different strain of dengue, etc: there may well be other important interactions and side effects, news of which has not yet come to Harvard.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Post-Columbian Evolution – Holes | West Hunter
At this point, we have some decent examples of post-Columbian evolution, genetic changes in New World populations after 1492. There is evidence for selection for increased fertility in Quebec, along with increased mutational load due to relaxed selection. Something similar must have occurred in American colonial populations.

I think that the Amish are probably becoming plainer, thru the boiling-off process – which can’t be a common mechanism, because it requires very high fertility, enough to sustain a substantial defection rate.

HbS (sickle-cell) gene frequency has almost certainly decreased significantly among African-Americans – a simple model suggests by about half. There has probably been a decrease in other expensive malaria defenses.

...

In principle, if you had an immune gene that defended against an Old World pathogen that didn’t cross into America, Amerindians would have gradually accumulated nonfunctional variants, just from mutational pressure. the percentage of people with such mutations in any particular immune defense gene would not be very high (not in only 500 generations) but since there are many such genes, the fraction of Amerindians with at least one such hole in their immunological armor might have been significant. Probably this would have been more of a problem in the Caribbean islands, where the Taino seem to have just melted away… Presumably most such holes are gone now in surviving populations, but you might be able to identify them in pre-Columbian DNA.

I see where some Kraut is saying that we now know that human evolution is continuing. I think that’s been an obvious conclusion for almost 160 years.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/post-columbian-evolution-holes/#comment-78811
Sarazzin acknowledges it.

interesting guy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thilo_Sarrazin
He became well-known worldwide after publishing a controversial book about Muslim immigrants in Germany in 2010.[3] In his book Deutschland schafft sich ab ("Germany abolishes itself"),[4] he denounces the failure of Germany's post-war immigration policy, sparking a nationwide controversy about the costs and benefits of multiculturalism.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Windward and leeward - Wikipedia
Windward (pronounced /ˈwɪndwərd/) is the direction upwind (toward where the wind is coming from) from the point of reference. Leeward (pronounced /ˈliːwərd/) is the direction downwind (or downward) from the point of reference. The side of a ship that is towards the leeward is its lee side. If the vessel is heeling under the pressure of the wind, this will be the "lower side". During the age of sail, the term weather was used as a synonym for windward in some contexts, as in the weather gage.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Why were Europeans so slow to adopt fore-and-aft rigging? : AskHistorians
Square rig has a number of advantages over fore and aft rig, and the advantages increase as the size of the ship increases.
In general, the fore and aft rig has only one advantage. It can point higher into the wind. This is considerably more apparent on modern yachts with very taught, stainless steel rigging, than it was in earlier times when rigging was hemp rope, and could not be set up so tightly.
If you sail a gaff rigged schooner, especially one still rigged with hemp rigging and canvas sails, I don't think you will be exceedingly impressed with the windward ability.
Even so, square sails are quite effective to windward. The lack of ability to point up high was more often a function of how hard the yards could be braced around (before coming up against the standing rigging) rather than any particular inefficiency in the shape of the sail (although it is probably also possible to get a tighter luff from a taught headstay than from the unstayed luff between two yards, especially if the rigging is steel wire and the hull is stiff enough to set it up tight).
On all points of sailing except to windward, the square rig was more efficient and stable than a fore and aft rig (fore and aft rigged yachts use spinnakers, jennakers and drifters to add power when off the wind, and these are very unstable, difficult, and dangerous sails).
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Galleon - Wikipedia
Galleons were large, multi-decked sailing ships used as armed cargo carriers primarily by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries during the age of sail and were the principal fleet units drafted for use as warships until the Anglo-Dutch wars of the mid-1600s. Galleons generally carried three or more masts with a lateen fore-and-aft rig on the rear masts, were carvel built with a prominent squared off raised stern, and used square-rigged sail plans on their fore-mast and main-masts.

Such ships were the mainstay of maritime commerce into the early 19th century, and were often drafted into use as auxiliary naval war vessels—indeed, were the mainstay of contending fleets through most of the 150 years of the Age of Exploration — before the Anglo-Dutch wars begat purpose-built ship-rigged warships that thereafter dominated war at sea during the remainder of the Age of Sail.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Historically significant lunar eclipses - Wikipedia
On 30 June 1503, Christopher Columbus beached his two last caravels and was stranded in Jamaica. The indigenous people of the island welcomed Columbus and his crew and fed them, but Columbus' sailors cheated and stole from the natives. After six months, the natives halted the food supply.[8]

Columbus had on board an almanac authored by Regiomontanus of astronomical tables covering the years 1475–1506; upon consulting the book, he noticed the date and the time of an upcoming lunar eclipse. He was able to use this information to his advantage. He requested a meeting for that day with the Cacique, the leader, and told him that his god was angry with the local people's treatment of Columbus and his men. Columbus said his god would provide a clear sign of his displeasure by making the rising full Moon appear "inflamed with wrath".

The lunar eclipse and the red moon appeared on schedule, and the indigenous people were impressed and frightened. The son of Columbus, Ferdinand, wrote that the people:

“ with great howling and lamentation came running from every direction to the ships laden with provisions, praying to the Admiral to intercede with his god on their behalf... ”
Columbus timed the eclipse with his hourglass, and shortly before the totality ended after 48 minutes, he told the frightened indigenous people that they were going to be forgiven.[8] When the moon started to reappear from the shadow of the Earth, he told them that his god had pardoned them.[9]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Conquest of Mexico - John C. Calhoun, 1848 | Teaching American History
The conquest of Mexico would add so vast an amount to the patronage of this Government, that it would absorb the whole power of the States in the Union. This Union would become imperial, and the States mere subordinate corporations. But the evil will not end there. The process will go on. The same process by which the power would be transferred from the States to the Union, will transfer the whole from this department of the Government (I speak of the Legislature) to the Executive. All the added power and added patronage which conquest will create, will pass to the Executive. In the end, you put in the hands of the Executive the power of conquering you. You give to it, sir, such splendor, such ample means, that, with the principle of proscription which unfortunately prevails in our country, the struggle will be greater at every Presidential election than our institutions can possibly endure. The end of it will be, that that branch of Government will become all-powerful, and the result is inevitable—anarchy and despotism. It is as certain as that I am this day addressing the Senate.

But, Mr. President, suppose all these difficulties removed; suppose these people attached to our Union, and desirous of incorporating with us, ought we to bring them in? Are they fit to be connected with us? Are they fit for self-government and for governing you? Are you, any of you, willing that your States should be governed by these twenty-odd Mexican States, with a population of about only one million of your blood, and two or three millions of mixed blood, better informed, all the rest pure Indians, a mixed blood equally ignorant and unfit for liberty, impure races, not as good as Cherokees or Choctaws?

We make a great mistake, sir, when we suppose that all people are capable of self-government. We are anxious to force free government on all; and I see that it has been urged in a very respectable quarter, that it is the mission of this country to spread civil and religious liberty over all the world, and especially over this continent. It is a great mistake. None but people advanced to a very high state of moral and intellectual improvement are capable, in a civilized state, of maintaining free government; and amongst those who are so purified, very few, indeed, have had the good fortune of forming a constitution capable of endurance. It is a remarkable fact in the history of man, that scarcely ever have free popular institutions been formed by wisdom alone that have endured.

It has been the work of fortunate circumstances, or a combination of circumstances—a succession of fortunate incidents of some kind—which give to any people a free government. It is a very difficult task to make a constitution to last, though it may be supposed by some that they can be made to order, and furnished at the shortest notice. Sir, this admirable Constitution of our own was the result of a fortunate combination of circumstances. It was superior to the wisdom of the men who made it. It was the force of circumstances which induced them to adopt most of its wise provisions. Well, sir, of the few nations who have the good fortune to adopt self-government, few have had the good fortune long to preserve that government; for it is harder to preserve than to form it. Few people, after years of prosperity, remember the tenure by which their liberty is held; and I fear, Senators, that is our own condition. I fear that we shall continue to involve ourselves until our own system becomes a ruin. Sir, there is no solicitude now for liberty. Who talks of liberty when any great question comes up? Here is a question of the first magnitude as to the conduct of this war; do you hear anybody talk about its effect upon our liberties and our free institutions? No, sir. That was not the case formerly. In the early stages of our Government, the great anxiety was how to preserve liberty; the great anxiety now is for the attainment of mere military glory. In the one, we are forgetting the other. The maxim of former times was, that power is always stealing from the many to the few; the price of liberty was perpetual vigiliance. They were constantly looking out and watching for danger. Then, when any great question came up, the first inquiry was, how it could affect our free institutions—how it could affect our liberty. Not so now. Is it because there has been any decay of the spirit of liberty among the people? Not at all. I believe the love of liberty was never more ardent, but they have forgotten the tenure of liberty by which alone it is preserved.

We think we may now indulge in everything with impunity, as if we held our charter of liberty by “right divine”—from Heavan itself. Under these impressions, we plunge into war, we contract heavy debts, we increase the patronage of the Executive, and we even talk of a crusade to force our institutions, our liberty, upon all people. There is no species of extravagance which our people imagine will endanger their liberty in any degree. But it is a great and fatal mistake. The day of retribution will come. It will come as certainly as I am now addressing the Senate; and when it does come, awful will be the reckoning—heavy the responsibility somewhere!

W. G. Sumner - The Conquest of the U. S. by Spain: http://praxeology.net/WGS-CUS.htm
There is not a civilized nation which does not talk about its civilizing mission just as grandly as we do. The English, who really have more to boast of in this respect than anybody else, talk least about it, but the Phariseeism with which they correct and instruct other people has made them hated all over the globe. The French believe themselves the guardians of the highest and purest culture, and that the eyes of all mankind are fixed on Paris, whence they expect oracles of thought and taste. The Germans regard themselves as charged with a mission, especially to us Americans, to save us from egoism and materialism. The Russians, in their books and newspapers, talk about the civilizing mission of Russia in language that might be translated from some of the finest paragraphs in our imperialistic newspapers. The first principle of Mohammedanism is that we Christians are dogs and infidels, fit only to be enslaved or butchered by Moslems. It is a corollary that wherever Mohammedanism extends it carries, in the belief of its votaries, the highest blessings, and that the whole human race would be enormously elevated if Mohammedanism should supplant Christianity everywhere. To come, last, to Spain, the Spaniards have, for centuries, considered themselves the most zealous and self-sacrificing Christians, especially charged by the Almighty, on this account, to spread true religion and civilization over the globe. They think themselves free and noble, leaders in refinement and the sentiments of personal honor, and they despise us as sordid money-grabbers and heretics. I could bring you passages from peninsular authors of the first rank about the grand rule of Spain and Portugal in spreading freedom and truth. Now each nation laughs at all the others when it observes these manifestations of national vanity. You may rely upon it that they are all ridiculous by virtue of these pretensions, including ourselves. The point is that each of them repudiates the standards of the others, and the outlying nations, which are to be civilized, hate all the standards of civilized men. We assume that what we like and practice, and what we think better, must come as a welcome blessing to Spanish-Americans and Filipinos. This is grossly and obviously untrue. They hate our ways. They are hostile to our ideas. Our religion, language, institutions, and manners offend them. They like their own ways, and if we appear amongst them as rulers, there will be social discord in all the great departments of social interest. The most important thing which we shall inherit from the Spaniards will be the task of suppressing rebellions. If the United States takes out of the hands of Spain her mission, on the ground that Spain is not executing it well, and if this nation in its turn attempts to be school-mistress to others, it will shrivel up into the same vanity and self-conceit of which Spain now presents an example. To read our current literature one would think that we were already well on the way to it. Now, the great reason why all these enterprises which begin by saying to somebody else, We know what is good for you better than you know yourself and we are going to make you do it, arc false and wrong is that they violate liberty; or, to turn the same statement into other words, the reason why liberty, of which we Americans talk so much, is a good thing is that it means leaving people to live out their own lives in their own way, while we do the same. If we believe in liberty, as an American principle, why do we not stand by it? Why are we going to throw it away to enter upon a Spanish policy of dominion and regulation?
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Unenumerated: How to succeed or fail on a frontier
There is a thread of space development that more closely resembles the pay-you-go methods of Portugal and other successful explorers and developers of frontiers. These involve launching useful satellites into orbit for communications and surveillance. As with the Portuguese, these serve both military and commercial purposes. They are not just for show. Spinoffs of these spacecraft form the flotilla of small unmanned spacecraft we have sent to by now explore all the planets of the solar system, as well as several comets and asteroids. The succesful Hubble telescope is a spinoff of the U.S. National Reconaissance Office's spy satellites. And environmental satellites have revolutionized weather prediction and climate study on our home planet. Recently, space tourism with suborbital rockets has demonstrated a potential to develop a new thread of pay-as-you-go space development largely unrelated to the prior gargantuan manned spaceflight efforts.

The Zheng He and NASA style of frontier-as-PR, where the emphasis is on showing the glory of the government, is a recipe for failure in the exploration and development of new frontiers. It is in sharp contrast to the pay-as-you go method by which tiny Portugal conquered the world's oceans, exemplified today by the practical unmanned satellites of the commercial and military efforts. It is by these practical efforts, that fund themselves by commercial revenue or practical military or environmental benefit, and not by glorious bureaucratic white elephants, that the successful pioneers will, in good time, explore and develop the solar system.
szabo  unaffiliated  history  early-modern  age-of-discovery  frontier  conquest-empire  china  asia  sinosphere  europe  mediterranean  expansionism  usa  stagnation  status  realness  space  pragmatic  scale  mostly-modern  cold-war  discovery 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Caste system in India - Wikipedia
A recent series of research papers, by Reich et al. (2009), Metspalu et al. (2011), and Moorjani et al. (2013), make clear that India was peopled by two distinct groups who split genetically ca. 50,000 years ago,[81][82] which they called "Ancestral North Indians" (ANI) and "Ancestral South Indians" (ASI) respectively.[note 1] They found that the ANI genes are close to those of Middle Easterners, Central Asians and Europeans whereas the ASI genes are dissimilar to all other known populations outside India.[note 2][note 3] These two distinct groups, which had split ca. 50,000 years ago, formed the basis for the present population of India.[83]

According to Moorjani et al. these two groups mixed between 4,200 and 1,900 years ago (2200 BCE-100 CE), whereafter a shift to endogamy took place.[84] David Reich stated, "Prior to 4,200 years ago, there were unmixed groups in India. Sometime between 1,900 to 4,200 years ago, profound, pervasive convulsive mixture occurred, affecting every Indo-European and Dravidian group in India without exception.".[85] Following this mixture,

Strong endogamy must have applied since then (average gene flow less than 1 in 30 per generation) to prevent the genetic signatures of founder events from being erased by gene flow. Some historians have argued that "caste" in modern India is an "invention" of colonialism in the sense that it became more rigid under colonial rule. However, our results suggest that many current distinctions among groups are ancient and that strong endogamy must have shaped marriage patterns in India for thousands of years.[81]

Moorjani et al. discerned two waves of admixture in this period, with northern India showing later dates of admixture.[86] GaneshPrasad et al. (2013) studied "12 tribal and 19 non-tribal (caste) endogamous populations from the predominantly Dravidian-speaking Tamil Nadu state in the southernmost part of India." According to this study, southern India was already socially stratified 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, which is best explained by "the emergence of agricultural technology in South Asia." The study concludes that "The social stratification (in Tamil Nadu) was established 4,000 to 6,000 years ago and there was little admixture during the last 3,000 years, implying a minimal genetic impact of the Varna (caste) system from the historically-documented Brahmin migrations into the area."[87]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Genetic_research_on_the_origins_of_India%27s_population

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/11/world/asia/11caste.html
A crucial factor is the collapse of the caste system over the last half century, a factor that undergirds many of the other reasons that the south has prospered — more stable governments, better infrastructure and a geographic position that gives it closer connections to the global economy.

“The breakdown of caste hierarchy has broken the traditional links between caste and profession, and released enormous entrepreneurial energies in the south,” said Ashutosh Varshney, a professor at Brown University who has studied the role of caste in southern India’s development. This breakdown, he said, goes a long way to explaining “why the south has taken such a lead over the north in the last three decades.”

http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/FLn6TiQPArdQZUN9LE2ZsM/The-impact-of-caste-on-economic-mobility-in-India.html
Caste Is Stunting All of India’s Children: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/09/15/caste-is-stunting-all-of-indias-children/
Fears of impurity continue to steer Indians away from toilets — and towards deadly fecal germs.

https://twitter.com/MWStory/status/895580461879107584
https://archive.is/AsTwB
These Indian govt funded ads to encourage the wealthy but declining Parsi population to reproduce are quite extraordinary

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/12/india-marriage-markets-everything.html
India’s government has expanded a scheme offering payment incentives to Hindus who marry members of the country’s poorest and most oppressed caste, the Dalits.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Books I suggest you read so you won’t be misled as often – Gene Expression
People often ask me for history books on a very specific topics often, assuming I’ve read something on an issue because I exhibit some fluency discussing something that might seem abstruse or arcane. The thing is that I haven’t always read a monograph on a singular topic even if I know a fair amount on it. It’s just that I’ve read a larger number of history books, so the union of my knowledge set is quite wide and expansive.

...

In any case, what books should you read? It’s useful to read big general surveys because they allow you to frame and interpret narrower monographs.

...

What is my goal with providing you this list? I want you to be able to iterate through historical assertions people in the media and politics make against your internal data set. See if they are full of shit. They often are.

There are two classes of bullshit. The first class are the nakedly mendacious. This is more common in the political class, where lying is a form of art. The second class are just ignorant and don’t know any better. This is more common in the pundit class.

One trick that the pundit class pulls sincerely because they are often ignorant is that they cite a historian to buttress an assertion, even getting a quote from that historian. But quite often the historian is clearly misleading the audience…the historian may not utter a lie, but in their presentation they allow the reader to have a takeaway that aligns with the normative bias of the pundit, and the historian that has prostituted themselves to some cause. Obviously you will never master a specific area of history like an academic with a command of another language, but if you know enough you can easily smell bullshit when it’s being injected into the information stream.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/06/15/the-system-of-the-world-by-william-h-mcneill/

other: http://gapersblock.com/airbags/archives/22_books_to_get_you_up_to_speed_on_the_entire_world_part_6_the_whole_world/
military history: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2017/06/12/books-i-suggest-you-read-so-you-wont-be-misled-as-often/#comment-2518
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june 2017 by nhaliday
How important was colonial trade for the rise of Europe? | Economic Growth in History
The latter view became the orthodoxy among economists and economic historians after Patrick O’Brien’s 1982 paper, which in one of many of Patrick’s celebrated phrases, claims that “”the periphery vs peripheral” for Europe. He concludes the paper by writing:

“[G]rowth, stagnation, and decay everywhere in Western Europe can be explained mainly by reference to endogenous forces. … for the economic growth of the core, the periphery was peripheral.”

This is the view that remarkable scholars such as N. Crafts, Deirdre McCloskey, or Joel Mokyr repeat today (though Crafts would argue cotton imports would have mattered in a late stage, and my reading of Mokyr is that he has softened his earlier view from the 1980s a little, specifically in the book The Enlightened Economy.) Even recently, Brad deLong has classifyied O’Brien’s 1982 position as “air tight”.

Among economists and economic historians more on the economics side, I would say that O’Brien’s paper was only one of two strong hits against the “Worlds-System” and related schools of thoughts of the 1970s, the other hit being Solow’s earlier conclusion that TFP growth (usually interpreted as technology, though there’s more to it than that) has accounted for economic growth a great deal more than capital accumulation, which is what Hobsbawm and Wallerstein, in their neo-Marxist framework, emphasize.

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/890034395456974848
A friend tonight, on the third world and the first world, and our relationships to the past: "They don't forget, and we don't remember."
https://twitter.com/edwest/status/872337163458932736
imo the European Intifada is being fueled by anti-Europeanism & widely taught ideas like this one discussed - Europe stole its riches

https://www.thinkpragati.com/opinion/1863/dont-blame-empire/
The British Empire was cruel, rapacious and racist. But contrary to what Shashi Tharoor writes in An Era Of Darkness, the fault for India’s miseries lies upon itself.

Indeed, the anti-Tharoor argument is arguably closer to the truth, because the British tended to use the landlord system in places where landlords were already in place, and at times when the British were relatively weak and couldn’t afford to upset tradition. Only after they became confident in their power did the British start to bypass the landlord class and tax the cultivators directly. King’s College London historian Jon Wilson (2016) writes in India Conquered, “Wherever it was implemented, raiyatwar began as a form of military rule.” Thus the system that Tharoor implicitly promotes, and which is associated with higher agricultural productivity today, arose from the very same colonialism that he blames for so many of India’s current woes. History does not always tell the parables that we wish to hear.

...

India’s share of the world economy was large in the eighteenth century for one simple reason: when the entire world was poor, India had a large share of the world’s population. India’s share fell because with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, Europe and North America saw increases of income per capita to levels never before seen in all of human history. This unprecedented growth cannot be explained by Britain’s depredations against India. Britain was not importing steam engines from India.

The big story of the Great Divergence is not that India got poorer, but that other countries got much richer. Even at the peak of Mughal wealth in 1600, the best estimates of economic historians suggest that GDP per capita was 61% higher in Great Britain. By 1750–before the battle of Plassey and the British takeover–GDP per capita in Great Britain was more than twice what it was in India (Broadberry, Custodis, and Gupta 2015). The Great Divergence has long roots.

Tharoor seems blinded by the glittering jewels of the Maharajas and the Mughals. He writes with evident satisfaction that when in 1615 the first British ambassador presented himself to the court of Emperor Jehangir in Agra, “the Englishman was a supplicant at the feet of the world’s mightiest and most opulent monarch.” True; but the Emperor’s opulence was produced on the backs of millions of poor subjects. Writing at the same time and place, the Dutch merchant Francisco Pelsaert (1626) contrasted the “great superfluity and absolute power” of the rich with “the utter subjection and poverty of the common people–poverty so great and miserable that the life of the people can be depicted…only as the home of stark want and the dwelling-place of bitter woe.” Indian rulers were rich because the empire was large and inequality was extreme.

In pre-colonial India the rulers, both Mughal and Maratha, extracted _anywhere from one-third to one half of all gross agricultural output_ and most of what was extracted was spent on opulence and the armed forces, not on improving agricultural productivity (Raychaudhuri 1982).

...

The British were awful rulers but the history of India is a long story of awful rulers (just as it is for most countries). Indeed, by Maddison’s (2007) calculations _the British extracted less from the Indian economy than did the Mughal Dynasty_. The Mughals built their palaces in India while the British built most of their palaces in Britain, but that was little comfort to the Indian peasant who paid for both. The Kohinoor diamond that graces the cover of Inglorious Empire is a telling symbol. Yes, it was stolen by the British (who stole it from the Sikhs who stole it from the Afghanis who stole it from the Mughals who stole it from one of the kings of South India). But how many Indians would have been better off if this bauble had stayed in India? Perhaps one reason why more Indians didn’t take up arms against the British was that for most of them, British rule was a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

more for effect on colonies: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:4b0128372fe9

INDIA AND THE GREAT DIVERGENCE: AN ANGLO-INDIAN COMPARISON OF GDP PER CAPITA, 1600-1871: http://eh.net/eha/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Guptaetal.pdf
This paper provides estimates of Indian GDP constructed from the output side for the pre-1871 period, and combines them with population estimates to track changes in living standards. Indian per capita GDP declined steadily during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries before stabilising during the nineteenth century. As British living standards increased from the mid-seventeenth century, India fell increasingly behind. Whereas in 1600, Indian per capita GDP was over 60 per cent of the British level, by 1871 it had fallen to less than 15 per cent. As well as placing the origins of the Great Divergence firmly in the early modern period, the estimates suggest a relatively prosperous India at the height of the Mughal Empire, with living standards well above bare bones subsistence.

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/832288984009207810
but some of the Asian wage data (especialy India) have laughably small samples (see Broadberry & Gupta)

How profitable was colonialism for various European powers?: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/p1q1q/how_profitable_was_colonialism_for_various/

How did Britain benefit from colonising India? What did colonial powers gain except for a sense of power?: https://www.quora.com/How-did-Britain-benefit-from-colonising-India-What-did-colonial-powers-gain-except-for-a-sense-of-power
The EIC period was mostly profitable, though it had recurring problems with its finances. The initial voyages from Surat in 1600s were hugely successful and brought profits as high as 200%. However, the competition from the Dutch East India Company started to drive down prices, at least for spices. Investing in EIC wasn’t always a sure shot way to gains - British investors who contributed to the second East India joint stock of 1.6 million pounds between 1617 and 1632 ended up losing money.

...

An alternate view is that the revenues of EIC were very small compared to the GDP of Britain, and hardly made an impact to the overall economy. For instance, the EIC Revenue in 1800 was 7.8m pounds while the British GDP in the same period was 343m pounds, and hence EIC revenue was only 2% of the overall GDP. (I got these figures from an individual blog and haven’t verified them).

...

The British Crown period - The territory of British India Provinces had expanded greatly and therefore the tax revenues had grown in proportion. The efficient taxation system paid its own administrative expenses as well as the cost of the large British Indian Army. British salaries were lucrative - the Viceroy received £25,000 a year, and Governors £10,000 for instance besides the lavish amenities in the form of subsidized housing, utilities, rest houses, etc.

...

Indian eminent intellectual, Dadabhai Naoroji wrote how the British systematically ensured the draining of Indian economy of its wealth and his theory is famously known as ‘Drain of Wealth’ theory. In his book 'Poverty' he estimated a 200–300 million pounds loss of revenue to Britain that is not returned.

At the same time, a fair bit of money did go back into India itself to support further colonial infrastructure. Note the explosion of infrastructure (Railway lines, 100+ Cantonment towns, 60+ Hill stations, Courthouses, Universities, Colleges, Irrigation Canals, Imperial capital of New Delhi) from 1857 onward till 1930s. Of course, these infrastructure projects were not due to any altruistic motive of the British. They were intended to make their India empire more secure, comfortable, efficient, and to display their grandeur. Huge sums of money were spent in the 3 Delhi Durbars conducted in this period.

So how profitable was the British Crown period? Probably not much. Instead bureaucracy, prestige, grandeur, comfort reigned supreme for the 70,000 odd British people in India.

...

There was a realization in Britain that colonies were not particularly economically beneficial to the home economy. … [more]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Culture and the Historical Process
This article discusses the importance of accounting for cultural values and beliefs when studying the process of historical economic development. A notion of culture as heuristics or rules-of-thumb that aid in decision making is described. Because cultural traits evolve based upon relative fitness, historical shocks can have persistent impacts if they alter the costs and benefits of different traits. A number of empirical studies confirm that culture is an important mechanism that helps explain why historical shocks can have persistent impacts; these are reviewed here. As an example, I discuss the colonial origins hypothesis (Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson, 2001), and show that our understanding of the transplantation of European legal and political institutions during the colonial period remains incomplete unless the values and beliefs brought by European settlers are taken into account. It is these cultural beliefs that formed the foundation of the initial institutions that in turn were key for long-term economic development.

...

The notion of culture that I employ is that of decision making heuristics or ‘rules-of-thumb that have evolved given our need to make decisions in complex and uncertain environments. Using theoretical models, Boyd and Richerson (1985, 2005) show that if information acquisition is either costly or imperfect, the use of heuristics or rules-of-thumb in decision-making can arise optimally. By relying on general beliefs, values or gut feelings about the “right” thing to do in different situations, individuals may not behave in a manner that is optimal in every instance, but they do save on the costs of obtaining the information necessary to always behave optimally. The benefit of these heuristics is that they are “fast-and-frugal”, a benefit which in many environments outweighs the costs of imprecision (Gigerenzer and Goldstein, 1996). Therefore, culture, as defined in this paper, refers to these decision-making heuristics, which typically manifest themselves as values, beliefs, or social norms.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The material over the ideological – Gene Expression
I come not to praise or bury Max Weber. Rather, I come to commend where warranted, and dismiss where necessary.

The problem as I see it is that though a meticulous scholar, Max Weber is the father of erudite sophistry which passes as punditry. Though he was arguably a fox, his genealogy has given rise to many hedgehogs.

Weber is famous for his work on relating the Protestant ethic and capitalism (more precisely, Calvinism). In general I think Weber is less right than he is wrong on this issue. But the bigger problem is that Weber’s style of interpretative historical analysis also has spawned many inferior and positively muddled imitators, whether consciously or not.

To my mind the problems with Weber’s sweeping generalizations, interpretations, and inferences, are clearest on the topic of China. His assertions on the nature of the Chinese mind informed by Confucianism, and how it would relate to (and hinder) modern economic development are very hit or miss.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Rheumatoid Arthritis | West Hunter
It causes characteristic changes in the bones.  Key point:  it is vanishingly rare in Old World skeletons before the 17th century.  Those changes, however, been seen in some pre-Columbian Amerindian skeletons [work by Bruce Rothschild].

The obvious explanation is that RA is caused by some pathogen that originated in the Americas and later spread to the rest of the world.  Like the French disease.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/montezumas-revenge/
Everybody knows that the Amerindians were devastated by new infectious diseases after Columbus discovered America and made it stick. Smallpox, falciparum malaria, yellow fever, bubonic plague, cholera, measles, whooping cough, etc : by some estimates, the Amerindian population dropped by about 90%, worse than the Black Plague, which only killed off half of Europe. Naturally, you wonder what ailments the Americas exported to the rest of the world.

We know of two for sure. First, syphilis: the first known epidemic was in 1495, in Naples, during a French invasion. By 1520 it had reached Africa and China.

From the timing of the first epidemic, and the apparent newness of the disease, many have suspected that it was an import from the New World. Some, like Bartolome de las Casas, had direct knowledge: Las Casas was in Seville in 1493, his father and uncle sailed with Columbus on the second voyage, and he himself traveled to the New World in 1502, where he spent most of the rest of his life working with the Amerindians. Ruiz Diaz de Isla, a Spanish physician, reported treating some of Columbus’s crew for syphilis, and that he had observed its rapid spread in Barcelona.

I have seen someone object to this scenario, on the grounds that the two years after Columbus’s return surely couldn’t have been long enough to generate a major outbreak. I think maybe that guy doesn’t get out much. It has always looked plausible, considering paleopathological evidence (bone changes) and the timing of the first epidemic. Recent analysis shows that some American strains of pinta (a treponemal skin disease) are genetically closest to the venereal strains. I’d say the Colombian theory is pretty well established, at this point.

Interestingly, before the genetic evidence, this was one of the longest-running disputes among historians. As far as I can tell, part of the problem was (and is) that many in the social sciences routinely apply Ockham’s razor in reverse. Simple explanations are bad, even when they fit all the facts. You see this in medicine, too.

...

There are two other diseases that are suspected of originating in the Americas. The first is typhus, gaol fever, caused by a Rickettsial organism and usually spread by lice. Sometimes it recurs after many years, in a mild form called Brill’s disease, rather like chickenpox and shingles. This means that typhus is always waiting in the wings: if the world gets sufficiently messed up, it will reappear.

Typhus shows up most often in war, usually in cool countries. There is a claim that there was a clear epidemic in Granada in 1489, which would definitely predate Columbus, but descriptions of disease symptoms by premodern physicians are amazingly unreliable. The first really reliable description seems to have been by Fracastoro, in 1546 (according to Hans Zinsser in Rats, Lice, and History). The key hint is the existence of a very closely related organism in American flying squirrels.

Thinking about it, I have the impression that the legions of the Roman Republic didn’t have high casualties due to infectious disease, while that was the dominant cause of death in more recent European armies, up until the 20tth century. If smallpox, measles, syphilis, bubonic plague, perhaps typhus, simply hadn’t arrived yet, this makes sense. Falciparum malaria wasn’t much of a factor in northern Italy until Imperial times…

The second possibly American disease is rheumatoid arthritis. We don’t even know that it has an infectious cause – but we do know that it causes characteristic skeletal changes, and that no clear-cut pre-Columbian rheumatoid skeletons are known from the Old World, while a number have been found in the lower South. To me, this makes some infectious cause seem likely: it would very much be worth following this up with the latest molecular genetic methods.

American crops like maize and potatoes more than canceled the demographic impact of syphilis and typhus. But although the Old World produced more dangerous pathogens than the Americas, due to size, longer time depth of agriculture, and more domesticated animals, luck played a role, too. Something as virulent as smallpox or falciparum malaria could have existed in the Americas, and if it had, Europe would have been devastated.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/montezumas-revenge/#comment-2910
Malaria came from Africa, probably. There are old primate versions. Smallpox, dunno: I have heard people suggest viral infections of cows and monkeys as ancestral. Measles is derived from rinderpest, probably less than two thousand years ago.

Falciparum malaria has been around for a while, but wasn’t found near Rome during the Republic. It seems to have gradually moved north in Italy during classical times, maybe because the range of the key mosquito species was increasing. By early medieval times it was a big problem around Rome.

Smallpox probably did not exist in classical Greece: there is no clear description in the literature of the time. It may have arrived in the Greco-Roman world in 165 AD, as the Antonine plague.

The Pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis: http://sci-hub.tw/http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1004965

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/27/age-of-discovery-pandora/
In the Age of Discovery, Europeans were playing with fire. Every voyage of exploration risked bring back some new plague. From the New World, syphilis, probably typhus and rheumatoid arthritis. From India, cholera. HIV, recently, from Africa. Comparably important new pests attacking important crops and domesticated animals also arrived, such as grape phylloxera (which wiped out most of the vineyards of Europe) and potato blight ( an oomycete or ‘water mold’, from central Mexico).

If one of those plagues had been as potent as smallpox or falciparum malaria, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Syphilis in Renaissance Europe: rapid evolution of an introduced sexually transmitted disease?
When syphilis first appeared in Europe in 1495, it was an acute and extremely unpleasant disease. After only a few years it was less severe than it once was, and it changed over the next 50 years into a milder, chronic disease. The severe early symptoms may have been the result of the disease being introduced into a new host population without any resistance mechanisms, but the change in virulence is most likely to have happened because of selection favouring milder strains of the pathogen.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Backwardness | West Hunter
Back around the time I was born, anthropologists sometimes talked about some cultures being more advanced than others. This was before they decided that all cultures are equal, except that some are more equal than others.

...

I’ve been trying to estimate the gap between Eurasian and Amerindian civilization. The Conquistadors were, in a sense, invaders from the future: but just how far in the future? What point in the history of the Middle East is most similar to the state of the Amerindian civilizations of 1500 AD ?

I would argue that the Amerindian civilizations were less advanced than the Akkadian Empire, circa 2300 BC. The Mayans had writing, but were latecomers in metallurgy. The Inca had tin and arsenical bronze, but didn’t have written records. The Akkadians had both – as well as draft animals and the wheel. You can maybe push the time as far back as 2600 BC, since Sumerian cuneiform was in pretty full swing by then. So the Amerindians were around four thousand years behind.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/backwardness/#comment-1520
Excepting the use of iron, sub-Saharan Africa, excepting Ethiopia, was well behind the most advanced Amerindian civilizations circa 1492. I am right now resisting the temptation to get into a hammer-and-tongs discussion of Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, Blood River, etc. – and we would all be better off if I continued to do so.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blood_River
The Battle of Blood River (Afrikaans: Slag van Bloedrivier; Zulu: iMpi yaseNcome) is the name given for the battle fought between _470 Voortrekkers_ ("Pioneers"), led by Andries Pretorius, and _an estimated 80,000 Zulu attackers_ on the bank of the Ncome River on 16 December 1838, in what is today KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Casualties amounted to over 3,000 of king Dingane's soldiers dead, including two Zulu princes competing with Prince Mpande for the Zulu throne. _Three Pioneers commando members were lightly wounded_, including Pretorius himself.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Rorke%27s_Drift
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Isandlwana

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/895719621218541568
In the morning of Tuesday, June 15, while we sat at Dr. Adams's, we talked of a printed letter from the Reverend Herbert Croft, to a young gentleman who had been his pupil, in which he advised him to read to the end of whatever books he should begin to read. JOHNSON. 'This is surely a strange advice; you may as well resolve that whatever men you happen to get acquainted with, you are to keep to them for life. A book may be good for nothing; or there may be only one thing in it worth knowing; are we to read it all through? These Voyages, (pointing to the three large volumes of Voyages to the South Sea, which were just come out) WHO will read them through? A man had better work his way before the mast, than read them through; they will be eaten by rats and mice, before they are read through. There can be little entertainment in such books; one set of Savages is like another.' BOSWELL. 'I do not think the people of Otaheite can be reckoned Savages.' JOHNSON. 'Don't cant in defence of Savages.' BOSWELL. 'They have the art of navigation.' JOHNSON. 'A dog or a cat can swim.' BOSWELL. 'They carve very ingeniously.' JOHNSON. 'A cat can scratch, and a child with a nail can scratch.' I perceived this was none of the mollia tempora fandi; so desisted.

Déjà Vu all over again: America and Europe: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/deja-vu-all-over-again-america-and-europe/
In terms of social organization and technology, it seems to me that Mesolithic Europeans (around 10,000 years ago) were like archaic Amerindians before agriculture. Many Amerindians on the west coast were still like that when Europeans arrived – foragers with bows and dugout canoes.

On the other hand, the farmers of Old Europe were in important ways a lot like English settlers: the pioneers planted wheat, raised pigs and cows and sheep, hunted deer, expanded and pushed aside the previous peoples, without much intermarriage. Sure, Anglo pioneers were literate, had guns and iron, were part of a state, all of which gave them a much bigger edge over the Amerindians than Old Europe ever had over the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and made the replacement about ten times faster – but in some ways it was similar. Some of this similarity was the product of historical accidents: the local Amerindians were thin on the ground, like Europe’s Mesolithic hunters – but not so much because farming hadn’t arrived (it had in most of the United States), more because of an ongoing population crash from European diseases.

On the gripping hand, the Indo-Europeans seem to have been something like the Plains Indians: sure, they raised cattle rather than living off abundant wild buffalo, but they too were transformed into troublemakers by the advent of the horse. Both still did a bit of farming. They were also alike in that neither of them really knew what they were doing: neither were the perfected product of thousands of years of horse nomadry. The Indo-Europeans were the first raiders on horseback, and the Plains Indians had only been at it for a century, without any opportunity to learn state-of-the-art tricks from Eurasian horse nomads.

The biggest difference is that the Indo-Europeans won, while the Plains Indians were corralled into crappy reservations.

Quantitative historical analysis uncovers a single dimension of complexity that structures global variation in human social organization: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/12/20/1708800115.full
Do human societies from around the world exhibit similarities in the way that they are structured, and show commonalities in the ways that they have evolved? These are long-standing questions that have proven difficult to answer. To test between competing hypotheses, we constructed a massive repository of historical and archaeological information known as “Seshat: Global History Databank.” We systematically coded data on 414 societies from 30 regions around the world spanning the last 10,000 years. We were able to capture information on 51 variables reflecting nine characteristics of human societies, such as social scale, economy, features of governance, and information systems. Our analyses revealed that these different characteristics show strong relationships with each other and that a single principal component captures around three-quarters of the observed variation. Furthermore, we found that different characteristics of social complexity are highly predictable across different world regions. These results suggest that key aspects of social organization are functionally related and do indeed coevolve in predictable ways. Our findings highlight the power of the sciences and humanities working together to rigorously test hypotheses about general rules that may have shaped human history.

Fig. 2.

The General Social Complexity Factor Is A Thing: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2017/12/21/the-general-social-complexity-factor-is-a-thing/
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Unenumerated: Why the industrial revolution?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Call Him George | West Hunter
I hear that Rasmus Nielsen (speaking at SMBE 2014) has evidence that Tibetans picked up some of their altitude adaptation (EPAS1) from Denisovans.

Who could have imagined that?

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/islands-in-the-sky/
There are three major high-altitude regions inhabited by humans: highland Ethiopia, Tibet, and the Andean altiplano. In each of these three cases, the locals have adapted in various ways to high altitude – physiological adaptations, as well as cultural. To make it even clearer, those physiological changes are, to a large extent, a consequence of natural selection, rather than individual acclimatization.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/tibet/
The Tibetans deal with high altitude much more effectively than the Amerindians of the Altiplano. You have to think that they’ve lived there longer, been exposed to those selective pressures longer – and that’s quite feasible. Anatomically modern humans have been in Asia much longer than in the Americas, and it’s even possible that they picked up some adaptive altitude-adaptation genes from archaic humans that had been there for hundreds of thousands of years.

There’s another interesting point: the hunter-gatherers of Tibet appear to account for a lot of Tibetan ancestry, probably most of it, rather than than being almost entirely replaced by a wave of neolithic agriculturalists, which is the more common pattern. They had a trump card – altitude adaptation. A story like that which has left Bolivia mostly Amerindian.

Modern Eugenics: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/modern-eugenics/
Recent work in genetics has made it clear that Tibetans, Andean Indians, and Ethiopians adapted independently to high-altitude living. It’s also clear that the Tibetan adaptations are more effective those in Andean Indians. Infant survival is better in Tibet, where babies average about half a pound heavier, and the suite of Tibetan adaptations doesn’t seem to fail with increasing age, while a significant fraction of Andean Indians develop chronic mountain sickness in later life. The Andean pattern look something like an exaggerated acclimatization response, while the Tibetan pattern is more like that seen in mammalian species have lived at high altitude for a long time.

...

The obvious solution to these apparently permanent problems in Bolivia and Peru is a dose of Tibetan genes. Since Tibetan alleles are more effective, they must confer higher fitness, and so their frequencies should gradually increase with time. This doesn’t mean that Bolivians would turn Tibetan overall – the change would only happen in those genes for which the Tibetan version was more efficient. It wouldn’t take all that high a dose: in fact, if you’re not in a hurry, just a few tens of Tibetans could transmit enough copies of the key alleles to do the job, although admittedly you’d have to wait a few thousand years to complete the process.

Logically, the easiest way to do this would be to encourage some young Tibetan men to immigrate to the Andes. Clearly, men can be more effective at this than women. We could pay them to donate to the local sperm banks. We could subsidize the process, _giving cash rewards to the mothers of part-Tibetan kids, a la the Howard Foundation_ [lmao]. We could give our heros Corvettes. Considering the general level of discontent in Tibet, it might not be too hard to recruit young men for this kind of work.

The project would take longer than the usual NIH time horizon, so probably the best approach is to find some wealthy sponsor. You could get a sure-fire version of this program going, one big enough to make ultimate success a racing certainty, for under a million bucks. The backer would never see the end result, but so what? When we build, let us think that we build forever.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/powerful-stuff/
I was thinking again about that Denisovan allele of EPAS1 that plays a big role in Tibetan altitude adaptation. Considering modern humans, it has only been found in Tibetans (high frequency) and in the Chinese (couple of percent). The preferred model in the paper is that it entered the common ancestors of Tibetans and Han, rising to high frequency among the Tibetans because of its advantage. I doubt this: the authors are clinging to a claim of a recent split in a previous publication of theirs – but the idea that the modern Tibetans are a fusion of a Han-like population with a long-established group of Tibetan hunter-gatherers seems more likely to me. So the few copies of the high-altitude EPAS1 allele among the Chinese are probably a result of recent gene flow, possibly from the Tibetan empire (618-841) that controlled parts of China, or from ethnic Tibetans identifying as Chinese.

This allele has some pretty powerful effects on the hypoxia response, which is there for a reason. The usual evolutionary rule is that change is bad: even though the Denisovan allele confers a big advantage at high altitude, the odds are that it is disadvantageous at low altitude. This would explain why it is rare in China and apparently unknown in Japan. This would also explain why it never made it to the Andes – even though there might have been a copy or two in the long-ago East Asian ancestors of the Amerindians, who have a bit of Denisovan admixture admixture (at least, I think they do – interesting if that isn’t the case) , it would most likely have been lost in Beringia. Along the same lines, altitude adaptations probably never managed to travel from Ethiopia to Tibet, which is why they have different approaches to altitude adaptation today.

It is therefore no surprise that this EPAS1 allele does not exist in Melanesians, even though they have 25 times as much Denisovan ancestry as mainland East Asians.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/12/11/tibetan-mastiff/
The Tibetan Mastiff can take high altitude better than generic dogs, or so breedists would like you to think. Some of the genetics changes are similar to those seen in human Tibetans – regulatory changes in EPAS1, for example. Domesticated dogs haven’t lived in Tibet all that long – but wolves have. The Tibetan Mastiff picked up some of those useful variants from local wolves, even though the amount of admixture wasn’t large. Adaptive introgression, just as Tibetans seem to have acquired their high-altitude version of EPAS1 from Denisovans.

Andean Indians didn’t have any archaic humans around to steal adaptations from. They have had to develop their own altitude adaptations (in a relatively short time), and they aren’t as effective as the Tibetan adaptations.

Naturally you are now worrying about sad Inca puppies – did they suffer from hypoxia? There are canids in South America, like the maned wolf and the bush dog, but they are probably too divergent to be able to hybridize with dogs. The chromosomes are different, so pre-Columbian dogs probably couldn’t acquire their alleles. Moreover, the dogs of the Amerindians seem to have done poorly in competition with Eurasian dogs: I know of only a few breeds [the Carolina Dog, for example] that are known to have significant pre-Columbian ancestry. Perhaps Amerindian dogs were also scythed down by Eurasian diseases.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Positively wrong | West Hunter
Wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true – but sometimes, desperately wanting something to be true pays off. Sometimes because you’re actually right (by luck), and that passion helps you put in the work required to establish it, sometimes because your deluded quest ends up finding something else of actual value – sometimes far more valuable than what you were looking for.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Polygyny, Fertility, and Savings
For reasonable parameter values, I find that banning polygyny decreases fertility by 40 percent, increases savings by 70 percent, and increases output per capita by 170 percent.

also interesting:
Table A1 shows that almost all men do marry by age 50 in these countries. Thus the common perception that two wives for some men means no wives for equally many men is wrong. Since the sex ratios in most countries do not deviate much from one, one may wonder how such a high incidence of polygyny is possible. The answer to this puzzle lies in extremely high spousal age gaps coupled with high population growth (Tertilt 2004).7 Table 1 shows that the average age gap at first marriage is almost seven years in highly polygynous countries. Annual population growth in this area is 2.7 percent, which amounts to a 20 percent increase in cohort size over seven years. On average, each man could therefore marry 1.2 wives, or, put differently, 20 percent of the population could marry two wives.8

AFRICAN POLYGAMY: PAST AND PRESENT: http://voxeu.org/article/african-polygamy-past-and-present
https://www.dartmouth.edu/~neudc2012/docs/paper_3.pdf
https://twitter.com/FinchesofDarwin/status/903319029732884481
http://voxeu.org/article/understanding-long-run-effects-africa-s-slave-trades
This has led the authors to conclude that Africa’s history of the slave trades is the primary explanation for why today polygyny is much more prevalent in West Africa than in East Africa.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Societal collapse - Wikipedia
https://twitter.com/Billare/status/900903803364536321
en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottoman_d… Despite ever increasing rigor & use of sources, this is why academic historians are useless.
Just like the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire never declined. That common-sense notion is too "simplistic." Instead, if was "transformed."
Nevertheless. There was a period when surrounding European powers "trembled at the name" of the vizier or the sultan or the janissary corps.
Some time later, they were eagerly carving up its territory & using it as a diplomatic plaything.
Something happened in that meantime. Something important. I would like to be able to read straightforwardly what those things were.
https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/900910830090412032
https://archive.is/eROiG
Hah! I am right now about halfway through Bryan Ward-Perkins book The Fall of Rome and the end of civilization.
One of the best books I have ever read
One of the most important as well for shaping my worldview, my applied epistemology in particular.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
In a handbasket | West Hunter
It strikes me that in many ways, life was gradually getting harder in the Old World, especially in the cradles of civilization.

slavery and Rome/early US: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/in-a-handbasket/#comment-80503
Rome and innovation: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/in-a-handbasket/#comment-80505
"Culture’s have flavors and the Roman flavor was unfavorable to being clever. The Greeks were clever but not interested in utility. While the central American civilizations liked to cut people’s hearts out and stick cactus spines through their penis in public. Let us all act according to national customs."
https://twitter.com/Evolving_Moloch/status/881652804900671489
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloodletting_in_Mesoamerica

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/let-no-new-thing-arise/
It helps to think about critical community size (CCS). Consider a disease like measles, one that doesn’t last long and confers lifelong immunity. The virus needs fresh, never-infected hosts (we call them children) all the time, else it will go extinct. The critical community size for measles is probably more than half a million – which means that before agriculture, measles as we know it today couldn’t and didn’t exist. In fact, it looks as if split off from rinderpest within the last two thousand years. Mumps was around in Classical times (Hippocrates gives a good description), but it too has a large CCS and must be relatively new. Rubella can’t be ancient. Whooping cough has a smaller CCS, maybe only 100,000, but it too must postdate agriculture.

"let no new thing arise":
http://www.theseeker.org/cgi-bin/bulletin/show.pl?Todd%20Collier/Que%20no%20hayan%20novedades.
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003347.html
http://www.bradwarthen.com/2010/02/que-no-haya-novedad-may-no-new-thing-arise/

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/legionnaires-disease/
Before 1900, armies usually lost more men from infectious disease than combat, particularly in extended campaigns.  At least that seems to have been the case in modern Western history.

There are indications that infectious disease was qualitatively different – less important –  in  the Roman legions.  For one thing, camps were placed near good supplies of fresh water. The legions had good camp sanitation, at least by the time of the Principate. They used latrines flushed with running water in permanent camps  and deep slit trenches with wooden covers and removable buckets in the field.  Using those latrines would have protected soldiers from diseases like typhoid and dysentery, major killers in recent armies.  Romans armies were mobile, often shifting their camps.  They seldom quartered their soldiers in urban areas –  they feared that city luxuries would corrupt their men, but this habit helped them avoid infectious agents, regardless of their reasons.

They managed to avoid a lot of serious illnesses because the causative organisms  simply weren’t there yet. Smallpox, and maybe measles, didn’t show up until the middle Empire. Falciparum malaria was around, but hadn’t reached Rome itself, during the Republic. It definitely had by the time of the Empire. Bubonic plague doesn’t seem to have caused trouble before Justinian.  Syphilis for sure, and typhus probably,  originated in the Americas, while cholera didn’t arrive until after 1800.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Bloggingheads.tv: Gregory Cochran (The 10,000 Year Explosion) and Razib Khan (Unz Foundation, Gene Expression)
http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/1999
one interesting tidbit: doesn't think Homo sapiens smart enough for agriculture during previous interglacial period
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/the-time-before/
Although we’re still in an ice age, we are currently in an interglacial period. That’s a good thing, since glacial periods are truly unpleasant – dry, cold, low biological productivity, high variability. Low CO2 concentrations made plants more susceptible to drought. Peter Richerson and Robert Boyd have suggested that the development of agriculture was impossible in glacial periods, due to these factors.

There was an earlier interglacial period that began about 130,000 years ago and ended about 114,000 years ago. It was a bit warmer than the current interglacial (the Holocene).

The most interesting events in the Eemian are those that didn’t happen. In the Holocene, humans developed agriculture, which led to all kinds of interesting trouble. They did it more than once, possibly as many as seven times independently. Back in the Eeemian, nichevo. Neanderthals moved father north as the glaciers melted, AMH moved up into the Middle East, but nobody did much of anything new. Populations likely increased, as habitable area expanded and biological productivity went up, but without any obvious consequences. Anatomically modern humans weren’t yet up to displacing archaic groups like the Neanderthals.

So, it is fair to say that everybody back then, including AMH, lacked capabilities that some later humans had. We could, if we wished, call these new abilities ‘behavioral modernity’.

The Bushmen are the most divergent of all human populations, and probably split off earliest. They are farther from the Bantu (in genetic distance) than the French or Chinese are.

According to some models, this split (between the Bushmen and other populations of sub-Saharan Africa) occurred more than 100,000 years ago. Recent direct measurements of mutations show much lower rates than previously thought, which tends to place such splits even farther back in time.

The question is whether they split off before the development of practical behavioral modernity.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/the-long-count/
They are anatomically modern: they have chins, etc. Behaviorally modern? There have been only a few attempts to measure their intelligence: what has been done indicates that they have very low IQs. They definitely talk, tell stories, sing songs: does that imply that they could, given the right environment, have developed the Antikythera mechanism or a clipper ship?

This means that language is older than some had thought, a good deal older. It also means that people with language are quite capable of going a quarter of a million years without generating much technological advance – without developing the ability to push aside archaic humans, for example. Of course, people with Williams syndrome have language, and you can’t send them into the kitchen and rely on them to bring back a fork. Is the sophistication of Bushman language – this means the concepts they can and do convey, not the complexity of the grammar – comparable with that of other populations? I don’t know. As far as I can see, one of the major goals of modern anthropology is to make sure that nobody knows. Or that they know things that aren’t so.

...

Some have suggested that the key to technological development is higher population: that produces more intellects past a high threshold, sure. I don’t think that’s the main factor. Eskimos have a pretty advanced technology, but there were never very many of them. On the other hand, they have the highest IQ of any existing hunter-gatherer population: that’s got to help. Populations must have gone up the Eemian, the previous interglacial period, but nothing much got invented back then. It would seem that agriculture would have been possible in the Eemian, but as far as we know it didn’t happen. Except for Valusia of course. With AMH going back at least 300,000 years, we have to start thinking about even earlier interglacial peiods, like Mindel-Riss (424-374 k years ago)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interglacial

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/same-old/
We now know ( from ancient DNA) that Bushmen split off from the rest of humanity (or we from them) at least a quarter of a million years ago. Generally, when you see a complex trait in sister groups, you can conclude that it existed in the common ancestor. Since both Bushmen and (everybody else) have complex language, one can conclude that complex language existed at least a quarter million years ago, in our common ancestor. You should also suspect that unique features of Bushmen language, namely those clicks, are not necessarily superficial: there has been time enough for real, baked-in, biologically rooted language differences to evolve. It also shows that having complex language isn’t enough, in itself, to generate anything very interesting. Cf Williams syndrome. Certainly technological change was very slow back then. Interglacial periods came and went without AMH displacing archaics in Eurasia or developing agriculture.

Next, the ability to generate rapid cultural change, invent lots of stuff, improvise effective bullshit didn’t exist in the common ancestor of extant humanity, since change was very slow back then.

Therefore it is not necessarily the case that every group has it today, or has it to the same extent. Psychic unity of mankind is unlikely. It’s also denied by every measurement ever made, but I guess invoking data, or your lying eyes, would be cheating.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/bushmen-palate/
“it has been observed by several researchers that the Khoisan palate ends to lack a prominent alveolar ridge.”

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/unchanging-essence/
John Shea is a professor of anthropology at Stony Brook, specializing in ancient archaeology. He’s been making the argument that ‘behavioral modernity’ is a flawed concept, which it is. Naturally, he wants to replace it with something even worse. Not only are all existing human populations intellectually equal, as most anthropologists affirm – all are ‘behaviorally modern’ – all past populations of anatomically modern humans were too! The idea that our ancestors circa 150,000 B.C. might not be quite as sharp as people today is just like the now-discredited concept of race. And you know, he’s right. They’re both perfectly natural consequences of neodarwinism.

Behavioral modernity is a silly concept. As he says, it’s a typological concept: hominids are either behaviorally modern or they’re not. Now why would this make sense? Surely people vary in smarts, for example: it’s silly to say that they are either smart or not smart. We can usefully make much finer distinctions. We could think in terms of distributions – we might say that you score in the top quarter of intelligence for your population. We could analyze smarts in terms of thresholds: what is the most complex task that a given individual can perform? What fraction of the population can perform tasks of that complexity or greater? Etc. That would be a more reasonable way of looking at smarts, and this is of course what psychometrics does.

It’s also a group property. If even a few members of a population do something that anthropologists consider a sign of behavioral modernity – like making beads – everyone in that population must be behaviorally modern. By the the same argument, if anyone can reach the top shelf, we are all tall.

The notion of behavioral modernity has two roots. The first is that if you go back far enough, it’s obvious that our distant ancestors were pretty dim. Look at Oldowan tools – they’re not much more than broken rocks. And they stayed that way for a million years – change was inhumanly slow back then. That’s evidence. The second is not. Anthropologists want to say that all living populations are intellectually equal – which is not what the psychometric evidence shows. Or what population differences in brain size suggest. So they conjured up a quality – behavioral modernity – that all living people possess, but that homo erectus did not, rather than talk about quantitative differences.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 BC?
Our most interesting, strong, and robust results are for the association of 1500 AD technology with per capita income and technology adoption today. We also find robust and significant technological persistence from 1000 BC to 0 AD, and from 0 AD to 1500 AD.

migration-adjusted ancestry predicts current economic growth and technology adoption today

https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/was-todays-poverty-determined-in-1000-b-c/

Putterman-Weil:
Post-1500 Population Flows and the Long Run Determinants of Economic Growth and Inequality: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14448
Persistence of Fortune: Accounting for Population Movements, There Was No Post-Columbian Reversal: http://sci-hub.tw/10.1257/mac.6.3.1
Extended State History Index: https://sites.google.com/site/econolaols/extended-state-history-index
Description:
The data set extends and replaces previous versions of the State Antiquity Index (originally created by Bockstette, Chanda and Putterman, 2002). The updated data extends the previous Statehist data into the years before 1 CE, to the first states in Mesopotamia (in the fourth millennium BCE), along with filling in the years 1951 – 2000 CE that were left out of past versions of the Statehist data.
The construction of the index follows the principles developed by Bockstette et al (2002). First, the duration of state existence is established for each territory defined by modern-day country borders. Second, this duration is divided into 50-year periods. For each half-century from the first period (state emergence) onwards, the authors assign scores to reflect three dimensions of state presence, based on the following questions: 1) Is there a government above the tribal level? 2) Is this government foreign or locally based? 3) How much of the territory of the modern country was ruled by this government?

Creators: Oana Borcan, Ola Olsson & Louis Putterman

State History and Economic Development: Evidence from Six Millennia∗: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cifUljlPpoURL7VPOQRGF5q9H6zgVFXe/view
The presence of a state is one of the most reliable historical predictors of social and economic development. In this article, we complete the coding of an extant indicator of state presence from 3500 BCE forward for almost all but the smallest countries of the world today. We outline a theoretical framework where accumulated state experience increases aggregate productivity in individual countries but where newer or relatively inexperienced states can reach a higher productivity maximum by learning from the experience of older states. The predicted pattern of comparative development is tested in an empirical analysis where we introduce our extended state history variable. Our key finding is that the current level of economic development across countries has a hump-shaped relationship with accumulated state history.

nonlinearity confirmed in this other paper:
State and Development: A Historical Study of Europe from 0 AD to 2000 AD: https://ideas.repec.org/p/hic/wpaper/219.html
After addressing conceptual and practical concerns on its construction, we present a measure of the mean duration of state rule that is aimed at resolving some of these issues. We then present our findings on the relationship between our measure and local development, drawing from observations in Europe spanning from 0 AD to 2000 AD. We find that during this period, the mean duration of state rule and the local income level have a nonlinear, inverse U-shaped relationship, controlling for a set of historical, geographic and socioeconomic factors. Regions that have historically experienced short or long duration of state rule on average lag behind in their local wealth today, while those that have experienced medium-duration state rule on average fare better.

Figure 1 shows all borders that existed during this period
Figure 4 shows quadratic fit

I wonder if U-shape is due to Ibn Kaldun-Turchin style effect on asabiya? They suggest sunk costs and ossified institutions.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
how big was the edge? | West Hunter
One consideration in the question of what drove the Great Divergence [when Europe’s power and wealth came to greatly exceed that of the far East] is the extent to which Europe was already ahead in science, mathematics, and engineering. As I have said, at the highest levels European was already much more intellectually sophisticated than China. I have a partial list of such differences, but am interested in what my readers can come up with.

What were the European advantages in science, mathematics, and technology circa 1700? And, while we’re at it, in what areas did China/Japan/Korea lead at that point in time?

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/how-big-was-the-edge/#comment-89299
Before 1700, Ashkenazi Jews did not contribute to the growth of mathematics, science, or technology in Europe. As for the idea that they played a crucial financial role in this period – not so. Medicis, Fuggers.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/how-big-was-the-edge/#comment-89287
I’m not so sure about China being behind in agricultural productivity.
--
Nor canal building. Miles ahead on that, I’d have thought.

China also had eyeglasses.
--
Well after they were invented in Italy.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/how-big-was-the-edge/#comment-89289
I would say that although the Chinese discovered and invented many things, they never developed science, anymore than they developed axiomatic mathematics.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/how-big-was-the-edge/#comment-89300
I believe Chinese steel production led the world until late in the 18th century, though I haven’t found any references to support that.
--
Probably true in the late Sung period, but not later. [ed.: So 1200s AD.]

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/how-big-was-the-edge/#comment-89382
I’m confess I’m skeptical of your statement that the literacy rate in England in 1650 was 50%. Perhaps it was in London but the entire population?
--
More like 30%, for men, lower for women.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/how-big-was-the-edge/#comment-89322
They did pretty well, considering that they were just butterflies dreaming that they were men.

But… there is a real sense in which the Elements, or the New Astronomy, or the Principia, are more sophisticated than anything Confucious ever said.

They’re not just complicated – they’re correct.
--
Tell me how to distinguish good speculative metaphysics from bad speculative metaphysics.

random side note:
- dysgenics running at -.5-1 IQ/generation in NW Europe since ~1800 and China by ~1960
- gap between east asians and europeans typically a bit less than .5 SD (or .3 SD if you look at mainland chinese not asian-americans?), similar variances
- 160/30 * 1/15 = .36, so could explain most of gap depending on when exactly dysgenics started
- maybe Europeans were just smarter back then? still seems like you need additional cultural/personality and historical factors. could be parasite load too.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/wheel-in-the-sky/
scientifically than europe”. Nonsense, of course. Hellenistic science was more advanced than that of India and China in 1700 ! Although it makes me wonder the extent to which they’re teaching false history of science and technology in schools today- there’s apparently demand to blot out white guys from the story, which wouldn’t leave much.

Europe, back then, could be ridiculously sophisticated, at the highest levels. There had been no simple, accurate way of determining longitude – important in navigation, but also in mapmaking.

...

In the course of playing with this technique, the Danish astronomer Ole Rømer noted some discrepancies in the timing of those eclipses – they were farther apart when Earth and Jupiter were moving away from each other, closer together when the two planets were approaching each other. From which he deduced that light had a finite speed, and calculated the approximate value.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/wheel-in-the-sky/#comment-138328
“But have you noticed having a better memory than other smart people you respect?”

Oh yes.
--
I think some people have a stronger meta-memory than others, which can work as a multiplier of their intelligence. For some, their memory is a well ordered set of pointers to where information exists. It’s meta-data, rather than data itself. For most people, their memory is just a list of data, loosely organized by subject. Mixed in may be some meta-data, but otherwise it is a closed container.

I suspect sociopaths and politicians have a strong meta-data layer.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Amish Paradise | West Hunter
French Canadian researchers have shown that natural selection has noticeably sped up reproduction among the inhabitants of Île aux Coudres, an island in the St. Lawrence River – in less than 150 years. Between 1799 and 1940, the age at which women had their first child dropped from 26 to 22, and analysis shows this is due to genetic change.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
How Would a Billion Immigrants Change the American Polity? | Open Borders: The Case
In short, I think the most wild-eyed predictions of the open borders optimists will come true, and to spare, but I think a lot of the forebodings of the grimmest open border pessimists will also prove more than justified.

All these forecasts are so tentative that I’m embarrassed to write them down at all, but they are necessary to help readers to understand what I mean when I doubt that the American polity can endure and flourish under open borders. It’s not that I’d expect a complete civilizational collapse, or a revolution. On the contrary, I’d expect superficial continuity. But an open-borders America of a billion people would, in substance, be as different a polity from the polity that the United States of America is today, as the Roman Empire of the 2nd century AD was from the Roman Republic of the 3rd century BC. At the end of this post, I’ll write a bit about whether the end of the American polity as we know it should be regretted or welcomed. But first, would billions really migrate under open borders?

vision:
- praetorian guard, latifundia
- non-democratic institutions
- total freedom of association, gated communities
- anti-egalitarian

- some history of Britain and US
- interesting, vituperative take on constitutional law:
I’m not so fond of democracy that my loyalty to a regime would depend very greatly on its democratic character, but I am very, very fond of telling the truth, and I can have no respect for, and no loyalty to, judges who, in decreeing gay marriage, pretend that they’re interpreting the Constitution. Modern constitutional law is a lot like the Catholic Church’s theology of indulgences in the 15th and early 16th centuries. It makes very little sense, and every critical thinker more or less feels that it’s a disgraceful travesty, but people are afraid to challenge it as aggressively as reason demands, because it underpins the order of society. Reams and libraries are dedicated to rationalizing it, precisely because it’s rationally indefensible, yet is a crucial currency of power. And yes, I’d like to see modern constitutional law immolated in a kind of Lutheran Reformation, and would gladly pay a high price in chaos to see the dragon slain. Thanks to my low opinion of the US constitutional regime as it currently exists is one reason, I can contemplate with very little distress the immigration of a billion or so people from all over the world, unschooled in the peculiar mythology of early 21st-century American democracy and its ever-more-irrational cult of equality.

cf: http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/02/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified.html

the things he doesn't take into account:
- social cohesion/trust, especially for war
- crime/invasion (sort of)
- American South-style stagnation of tech and productivity improvements in face of cheap labor

https://openborders.info/blog/robert-putnam-social-capital-and-immigration/
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Markets & Famine: Amartya Sen is not the last word ! | pseudoerasmus
To put it as starkly as possible, Sen cites ‘natural’ market forces and Ó Gráda cites man-made market failure. I must stress this point: both agree on the British response/nonresponse. But they disagree fundamentally on the ur-cause of the initial decline in food availability.
econotariat  pseudoE  food  history  economics  india  britain  market-failure  efficiency  institutions  cliometrics  mostly-modern  age-of-discovery  broad-econ  article  expansionism  political-econ 
december 2016 by nhaliday
Books | West Hunter
The Princeton Companion to Mathematics
From Alexander to Actium
Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege
The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody
The Conquest of New Spain
The Anubis Gates:
The Sleepwalkers
Coup D’Etat: A Practical Handbook
The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History
The Great Siege:
Song of the Sky
How to Solve It
The Double-Cross System
In Search of the Indo-Europeans
The Washing of the Spears
Eagle Against the Sun
The Steel Bonnets
Kim
Rats, Lice, and History
The Great Impostor
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Human Sacrifice
This paper develops a theory of rational human sacrifice.

...

1 In contrast, human sacrifice as, for instance, the Aztecs famously practiced it is neither surprising nor mysterious. The Aztecs sacrificial victims were overwhelming one of two sorts: captured enemy soldiers and criminals. Here human sacrifice was little more than capital punishment. This paper exclusively considers the puzzling practice of immolating innocent persons purchased only for that purpose.On Incan, Mayan, and North American Indian sacrifice, see Tierney (1989), Tieslar and Cucina (2007), and Feldman (2008) respectively. On sacrifice in other societies, see also, Bremmer (2007) and Davies (1981).
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Morris on the great divergence
Eighteenth-century intellectuals called this approach kaozheng, “evidential research.” It emphasized facts over speculation, bringing methodical, rigorous approaches to fields as diverse as mathematics, astronomy, geography, linguistics, and history, and consistently developing rules for assessing evidence. Kaozheng paralleled western Europe’s scientific revolution in every way—except one: it did not develop a mechanical model of nature.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Books, 2016 | West Hunter
1. The Peloponnesian War
2 The Empire of the Steppes
3. The Columbian Exchange
4. Breaking the Maya Code
5. War Before Civilization
6. The Discourses (Machiavelli)
7. Introduction to Algorithms
8. Rare Earth
9. The Wizard War
10. Night comes to the Cretaceous
11. Microbe Hunters
12. The Youngest Science
13. Plagues and Peoples
14. Project Orion
15. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
16. Godstalk, P. C. Hodgell
17. Footfall, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
18. On Stranger Tides, Tim Powers
19. His Share of Glory, Cyril Kornbluth
20. Herodotus
21. The Secret History, Procopius

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/books-2016/#comment-85575
Mukherjee is a moron. Next question?

He’s suggested that gene interactions are real important in IQ [epistatic rather than additive effects] but he is incorrect. If new to the field, it could take as much as an afternoon to find that out.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
The Hyborian Age | West Hunter
I was contemplating Conan the Barbarian, and remembered the essay that Robert E. Howard wrote about the background of those stories – The Hyborian Age. I think that the flavor of Howard’s pseudo-history is a lot more realistic than the picture of the human past academics preferred over the past few decades.

In Conan’s world, it’s never surprising to find a people that once mixed with some ancient prehuman race. Happens all the time. Until very recently, the vast majority of workers in human genetics and paleontology were sure that this never occurred – and only changed their minds when presented with evidence that was both strong (ancient DNA) and too mathematically sophisticated for them to understand or challenge (D-statistics).

Conan’s history was shaped by the occasional catastrophe. Most academics (particularly geologists) don’t like catastrophes, but they have grudgingly come to admit their importance – things like the Thera and Toba eruptions, or the K/T asteroid strike and the Permo-Triassic crisis.

Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, evolution seems to have run pretty briskly, but without any pronounced direction. Men devolved into ape-men when the environment pushed in that direction (Flores ?) and shifted right back when the environment favored speech and tools. Culture shaped evolution, and evolution shaped culture. An endogamous caste of snake-worshiping priests evolved in a strange direction. Although their IQs were considerably higher than average, they remained surprisingly vulnerable to sword-bearing barbarians.

...

Most important, Conan, unlike the typical professor, knew what was best in life.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
A Three-Hour Tour | West Hunter
Here’s a scenario. A ship from some Indian civilization about 4000 years ago [maybe Indus] loses its way and ends up crashing on the shore of Arnhem Land. Like most ships, its crew is all male. They survive the landing, and end up warring with a local tribe. Eventually, they kill off most of the men and annex the sobbing women. The new tribe has 5x higher carrying capacity, essentially due to better technology, and they’re militarily superior as well – better weapons and tactics. They expand and expand, picking up more and more old Australian genes as they do so. Not as an empire – they’re too simple for that – but the tribes that descend from them keep winning. They speak the ancestor of the Macro-Pama-Nyungan languages, which originates as a mix between their old-Dravidian language (from the men) and some local Australian tongue (from the women).

...

In the post-Columbian world, there have been events that could have gone this way, but the players always ran into Europeans again before anything really interesting had time to happen.

Castaways: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/castaways/
We may have yet another story of long-distance prehistoric contact. A new paper in PLOS genetics suggests that people from the Jomon culture in Japan may have reached northwestern South America. They found an unusual Y-chromosome lineage in Ecuador that is fairly common in Korea and Japan (especially the Ainu) but is essentially nonexistent in the rest of the Americas. The idea is not new: the first pottery in the Americas apparently originated in that area, pottery that looks very similar to that made by the Jomon culture. Moreover, you find HTLV-I in both areas, which is probably a hint.

Betty Meggers and Clifford Evans, who excavated the Valdivia culture, came up with this hypothesis back in 1969. Apparently, it seemed plausible to other archaeologists, except for two objections, one fairly reasonable and the other friggin’ insane. The reasonable objection was simple: it’s a damn long way from Japan to Ecuador. Fair enough. The second, demented objection was that diffusionist explanations of technological advances implicitly diss the locals – and since we’re talking Native Americans, we can’t have that!

I had missed it, possibly because I didn’t have my crazy hat on, but the same issue was in the background of the reaction to that recent paper that found evidence of gene flow from India to Australia. Around that time, you see the dingo, new kinds of stone tools and weapons, and new food processing techniques. I guess you’re insulting the Aborigines if you don’t think they invented the dog – invented, not domesticated, since there weren’t any canids in Australia, hardly any placental mammals.

For the Americas, the [current] pre-Columbian picture is this, more or less: the original Amerind migration, followed by the Na-Dene, then Eskimo-Aleuts, spiced with Jomon in Ecuador, a visit or two to the west coast of South America by Polynesians (who picked up the sweet potato), and finally Norskis in Vinland.

For Australia, gene & meme flow from India about five thousand years ago – probably a shipwreck.

Another shipwreck may have brought Indonesians to an uninhabited Madagascar.

The real question is why there weren’t more visitations, and why they didn’t seem to make much difference. There were probably quite a few. We know of many cases in recent historical times in which Japanese fishing vessels with surviving crew were cast on the western shores of the Americas. They landed in Acapulco in 1617, Alaska in 1805, just off Santa Barbara in 1815, the Oregon coast in 1820, Queen Charlotte’s island in in 1831, Mexico in 1845. They landed in Oahu in 1832, and local Polynesians were aware of several others before Captain Cook’s arrival in 1778.

The question is why this trans-Pacific demographic leakage had so little cultural effect. We know that the major American crops were locally domesticated and that no Eurasian animals (other than dogs) seem to have made it across. Writing, metallurgy, the wheel – doesn’t look as if there was any transmission of that information.

I’m sure that in many cases, castaways had a short and unhappy life. The three Japanese fishermen who washed up on the Olympic peninsula in 1834 were immediately enslaved by the local Indians. They were soon ransomed by the Hudson’s Bay company, but that didn’t happen in the olden days. With no common language, I’ll bet those enslaved were the lucky ones.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Hidden Games | West Hunter
Since we are arguably a lot smarter than ants or bees, you might think that most adaptive personality variation in humans would be learned (a response to exterior cues) rather than heritable. Maybe some is, but much variation looks heritable. People don’t seem to learn to be aggressive or meek – they just are, and in those tendencies resemble their biological parents. I wish I (or anyone else) understood better why this is so, but there are some notions floating around that may explain it. One is that jacks of all trades are masters of none: if you play the same role all the time, you’ll be better at it than someone who keep switching personalities. It could be the case that such switching is physiologically difficult and/or expensive. And in at least some cases, being predictable has social value. Someone who is known to be implacably aggressive will win at ‘chicken’. Being known as the sort of guy who would rush into a burning building to save ugly strangers may pay off, even though actually running into that blaze does not.

...

This kind of game-theoretic genetic variation, driving distinct behavioral strategies, can have some really odd properties. For one thing, there can be more than one possible stable mix of behavioral types even in identical ecological situations. It’s a bit like dropping a marble onto a hilly landscape with many unconnected valleys – it will roll to the bottom of some valley, but initial conditions determine which valley. Small perturbations will not knock the marble out of the valley it lands in. In the same way, two human populations could fall into different states, different stable mixes of behavioral traits, for no reason at all other than chance and then stay there indefinitely. Populations are even more likely to fall into qualitatively different stable states when the ecological situations are significantly different.

...

What this means, think, is that it is entirely possible that human societies fall into fundamentally different patterns because of genetic influences on behavior that are best understood via evolutionary game theory. Sometimes one population might have a psychological type that doesn’t exist at all in another society, or the distribution could be substantially different. Sometimes these different social patterns will be predictable results of different ecological situations, sometimes the purest kind of chance. Sometimes the internal dynamics of these genetic systems will produce oscillatory (or chaotic!) changes in gene frequencies over time, which means changes in behavior and personality over time. In some cases, these internal genetic dynamics may be the fundamental reason for the rise and fall of empires. Societies in one stable distribution, in a particular psychological/behavioral/life history ESS, may simply be unable to replicate some of the institutions found in peoples in a different ESS.

Evolutionary forces themselves vary according to what ESS you’re in. Which ESS you’re in may be the most fundamental ethnic fact, and explain the most profound ethnic behavioral differences

Look, everyone is always looking for the secret principles that underlie human society and history, some algebra that takes mounds of historical and archaeological data – the stuff that happens – and explains it in some compact way, lets us understand it, just as continental drift made a comprehensible story out of geology. On second thought, ‘everyone’ mean that smallish fraction of researchers that are slaves of curiosity…

This approach isn’t going to explain everything – nothing will. But it might explain a lot, which would make it a hell of a lot more valuable than modern sociology or cultural anthropology. I would hope that an analysis of this sort might help explain fundamental long-term flavor difference between different human societies, differences in life-history strategies especially (dads versus cads, etc). If we get particularly lucky, maybe we’ll have some notions of why the Mayans got bored with civilization, why Chinese kids are passive at birth while European and African kids are feisty. We’ll see.

Of course we could be wrong. It’s going to have be tested and checked: it’s not magic. It is based on the realization that the sort of morphs and game-theoretic balances we see in some nonhuman species are if anything more likely to occur in humans, because our societies are so complex, because the effectiveness of a course of action so often depends on the psychologies of other individuals – that and the obvious fact that people are not the same everywhere.
west-hunter  sapiens  game-theory  evolution  personality  thinking  essay  adversarial  GT-101  EGT  scitariat  tradeoffs  equilibrium  strategy  distribution  sociality  variance-components  flexibility  rigidity  diversity  biodet  behavioral-gen  nature  within-without  roots  explanans  psychology  social-psych  evopsych  intricacy  oscillation  pro-rata  iteration-recursion  insight  curiosity  letters  models  theory-practice  civilization  latin-america  farmers-and-foragers  age-of-discovery  china  asia  sinosphere  europe  the-great-west-whale  africa  developmental  empirical  humanity  courage  virtu  theory-of-mind  reputation  cybernetics  random  degrees-of-freedom  manifolds  occam  parsimony  turchin  broad-econ  deep-materialism  cultural-dynamics  anthropology  cliometrics  hari-seldon  learning  ecology  context  leadership  cost-benefit  apollonian-dionysian  detail-architecture  history  antiquity  pop-diff  comparison  plots  being-becoming  number  uniqueness 
november 2016 by nhaliday
Noise: dinosaurs, syphilis, and all that | West Hunter
Generally speaking, I thought the paleontologists were a waste of space: innumerate, ignorant about evolution, and simply not very smart.

None of them seemed to understand that a sharp, short unpleasant event is better at causing a mass extinction, since it doesn’t give flora and fauna time to adapt.

Most seemed to think that gradual change caused by slow geological and erosion forces was ‘natural’, while extraterrestrial impact was not. But if you look at the Moon, or Mars, or the Kirkwood gaps in the asteroids, or think about the KAM theorem, it is apparent that Newtonian dynamics implies that orbits will be perturbed, and that sometimes there will be catastrophic cosmic collisions. Newtonian dynamics is as ‘natural’ as it gets: paleontologists not studying it in school and not having much math hardly makes it ‘unnatural’.

One of the more interesting general errors was not understanding how to to deal with noise – incorrect observations. There’s a lot of noise in the paleontological record. Dinosaur bones can be eroded and redeposited well after their life times – well after the extinction of all dinosaurs. The fossil record is patchy: if a species is rare, it can easily look as if it went extinct well before it actually did. This means that the data we have is never going to agree with a perfectly correct hypothesis – because some of the data is always wrong. Particularly true if the hypothesis is specific and falsifiable. If your hypothesis is vague and imprecise – not even wrong – it isn’t nearly as susceptible to noise. As far as I can tell, a lot of paleontologists [ along with everyone in the social sciences] think of of unfalsifiability as a strength.

Done Quickly: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/done-quickly/
I’ve never seen anyone talk about it much, but when you think about mass extinctions, you also have to think about rates of change

You can think of a species occupying a point in a many-dimensional space, where each dimension represents some parameter that influences survival and/or reproduction: temperature, insolation, nutrient concentrations, oxygen partial pressure, toxin levels, yada yada yada. That point lies within a zone of habitability – the set of environmental conditions that the species can survive. Mass extinction occurs when environmental changes are so large that many species are outside their comfort zone.

The key point is that, with gradual change, species adapt. In just a few generations, you can see significant heritable responses to a new environment. Frogs have evolved much greater tolerance of acidification in 40 years (about 15 generations). Some plants in California have evolved much greater tolerance of copper in just 70 years.

As this happens, the boundaries of the comfort zone move. Extinctions occur when the rate of environmental change is greater than the rate of adaptation, or when the amount of environmental change exceeds the limit of feasible adaptation. There are such limits: bar-headed geese fly over Mt. Everest, where the oxygen partial pressure is about a third of that at sea level, but I’m pretty sure that no bird could survive on the Moon.

...

Paleontologists prefer gradualist explanations for mass extinctions, but they must be wrong, for the most part.
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september 2016 by nhaliday
So how did the European powers REALLY figure out how to draw the borders for their colonial territories? : AskHistorians
One of the great myths of colonialism in Africa is that borders were totally arbitrary or universally intended to create conflict. This is simply not true as a blanket statement, beyond the fact of European ignorance of long standing ties across new boundaries, or the fact that a quasi national boundary is always artificial. The entire basis of European territorial and protectorate claims in Africa existed based on treaties supposedly obtained from local rulers, and they (especially the British) were weirdly scrupulous about trying to match the claim with the boundary. (See Hetslet's The Map of Africa by Treaty, 3 vols. )
The problem that was most common involved borders between colonial powers, and that's where horse trading and impossibly straight borders did occur and some states were split. But there is a mythology around the process. Colonialists were indeed really really bad at sussing out African conceptions of territoriality and arguably the simple act of imposing their border system was an act of self serving malfeasance, but they did try to build the colonial fiction on a foundation of claimed legitimacy to succession of "native title" (per Weaver, The Great Land Rush).
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august 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : dismalityfrontierglobepatterns

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