nhaliday + straussian   51

Information Processing: Beijing 2019 Notes
Trump, the trade war, and US-China relations came up frequently in discussion. Chinese opinion tends to focus on the long term. Our driver for a day trip to the Great Wall was an older man from the countryside, who has lived only 3 years in Beijing. I was surprised to hear him expressing a very balanced opinion about the situation. He understood Trump's position remarkably well -- China has done very well trading with the US, and owes much of its technological and scientific development to the West. A recalibration is in order, and it is natural for Trump to negotiate in the interest of US workers.

China's economy is less and less export-dependent, and domestic drivers of growth seem easy to identify. For example, there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit in the form of "catch up growth" -- but now this means not just catching up with the outside developed world, but Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities catching up with Tier 1 cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc.

China watchers have noted the rapidly increasing government and private sector debt necessary to drive growth here. Perhaps this portends a future crisis. However, I didn't get any sense of impending doom for the Chinese economy. To be fair there was very little inkling of what would happen to the US economy in 2007-8. Some of the people I met with are highly placed with special knowledge -- they are among the most likely to be aware of problems. Overall I had the impression of normalcy and quiet confidence, but perhaps this would have been different in an export/manufacturing hub like Shenzhen. [ Update: Today after posting this I did hear something about economic concerns... So situation is unclear. ]

Innovation is everywhere here. Perhaps the most obvious is the high level of convenience from the use of e-payment and delivery services. You can pay for everything using your mobile (increasingly, using just your face!), and you can have food and other items (think Amazon on steroids) delivered quickly to your apartment. Even museum admissions can be handled via QR code.

A highly placed technologist told me that in fields like AI or computer science, Chinese researchers and engineers have access to in-depth local discussions of important arXiv papers -- think StackOverflow in Mandarin. Since most researchers here can read English, they have access both to Western advances, and a Chinese language reservoir of knowledge and analysis. He anticipates that eventually the pace and depth of engineering implementation here will be unequaled.

IVF and genetic testing are huge businesses in China. Perhaps I'll comment more on this in the future. New technologies, in genomics as in other areas, tend to be received more positively here than in the US and Europe.


Note Added: In the comments AG points to a Quora post by a user called Janus Dongye Qimeng, an AI researcher in Cambridge UK, who seems to be a real China expert. I found these posts to be very interesting.

Infrastructure development in poor regions of China

Size of Chinese internet social network platforms

Can the US derail China 2025? (Core technology stacks in and outside China)

Huawei smartphone technology stack and impact of US entity list interdiction (software and hardware!)

Agriculture at Massive Scale

US-China AI competition

More recommenations: Bruno Maçães is one of my favorite modern geopolitical thinkers. A Straussian of sorts (PhD under Harvey Mansfield at Harvard), he was Secretary of State for European Affairs in Portugal, and has thought deeply about the future of Eurasia and of US-China relations. He spent the last year in Beijing and I was eager to meet with him while here. His recent essay Equilibrium Americanum appeared in the Berlin Policy Journal. Podcast interview -- we hope to have him on Manifold soon :-)
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july 2019 by nhaliday
Christian ethics - Wikipedia
Christian ethics is a branch of Christian theology that defines virtuous behavior and wrong behavior from a Christian perspective. Systematic theological study of Christian ethics is called moral theology, possibly with the name of the respective theological tradition, e.g. Catholic moral theology.

Christian virtues are often divided into four cardinal virtues and three theological virtues. Christian ethics includes questions regarding how the rich should act toward the poor, how women are to be treated, and the morality of war. Christian ethicists, like other ethicists, approach ethics from different frameworks and perspectives. The approach of virtue ethics has also become popular in recent decades, largely due to the work of Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley Hauerwas.[2]


The seven Christian virtues are from two sets of virtues. The four cardinal virtues are Prudence, Justice, Restraint (or Temperance), and Courage (or Fortitude). The cardinal virtues are so called because they are regarded as the basic virtues required for a virtuous life. The three theological virtues, are Faith, Hope, and Love (or Charity).

- Prudence: also described as wisdom, the ability to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time
- Justice: also considered as fairness, the most extensive and most important virtue[20]
- Temperance: also known as restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, and moderation tempering the appetition
- Courage: also termed fortitude, forebearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation
- Faith: belief in God, and in the truth of His revelation as well as obedience to Him (cf. Rom 1:5:16:26)[21][22]
- Hope: expectation of and desire of receiving; refraining from despair and capability of not giving up. The belief that God will be eternally present in every human's life and never giving up on His love.
- Charity: a supernatural virtue that helps us love God and our neighbors, the same way as we love ourselves.

Seven deadly sins: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins
The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, is a grouping and classification of vices of Christian origin.[1] Behaviours or habits are classified under this category if they directly give birth to other immoralities.[2] According to the standard list, they are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth,[2] which are also contrary to the seven virtues. These sins are often thought to be abuses or excessive versions of one's natural faculties or passions (for example, gluttony abuses one's desire to eat).

1 Gula (gluttony)
2 Luxuria/Fornicatio (lust, fornication)
3 Avaritia (avarice/greed)
4 Superbia (pride, hubris)
5 Tristitia (sorrow/despair/despondency)
6 Ira (wrath)
7 Vanagloria (vainglory)
8 Acedia (sloth)

Golden Rule: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule
The Golden Rule (which can be considered a law of reciprocity in some religions) is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in many religions and cultures.[1][2] The maxim may appear as _either a positive or negative injunction_ governing conduct:

- One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself (positive or directive form).[1]
- One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (negative or prohibitive form).[1]
- What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself (empathic or responsive form).[1]
The Golden Rule _differs from the maxim of reciprocity captured in do ut des—"I give so that you will give in return"—and is rather a unilateral moral commitment to the well-being of the other without the expectation of anything in return_.[3]

The concept occurs in some form in nearly every religion[4][5] and ethical tradition[6] and is often considered _the central tenet of Christian ethics_[7] [8]. It can also be explained from the perspectives of psychology, philosophy, sociology, human evolution, and economics. Psychologically, it involves a person empathizing with others. Philosophically, it involves a person perceiving their neighbor also as "I" or "self".[9] Sociologically, "love your neighbor as yourself" is applicable between individuals, between groups, and also between individuals and groups. In evolution, "reciprocal altruism" is seen as a distinctive advance in the capacity of human groups to survive and reproduce, as their exceptional brains demanded exceptionally long childhoods and ongoing provision and protection even beyond that of the immediate family.[10] In economics, Richard Swift, referring to ideas from David Graeber, suggests that "without some kind of reciprocity society would no longer be able to exist."[11]


hmm, Meta-Golden Rule already stated:
Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC–65 AD), a practitioner of Stoicism (c. 300 BC–200 AD) expressed the Golden Rule in his essay regarding the treatment of slaves: "Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you."[23]


The "Golden Rule" was given by Jesus of Nazareth, who used it to summarize the Torah: "Do to others what you want them to do to you." and "This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets"[33] (Matthew 7:12 NCV, see also Luke 6:31). The common English phrasing is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". A similar form of the phrase appeared in a Catholic catechism around 1567 (certainly in the reprint of 1583).[34] The Golden Rule is _stated positively numerous times in the Hebrew Pentateuch_ as well as the Prophets and Writings. Leviticus 19:18 ("Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself."; see also Great Commandment) and Leviticus 19:34 ("But treat them just as you treat your own citizens. Love foreigners as you love yourselves, because you were foreigners one time in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.").

The Old Testament Deuterocanonical books of Tobit and Sirach, accepted as part of the Scriptural canon by Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Non-Chalcedonian Churches, express a _negative form_ of the golden rule:

"Do to no one what you yourself dislike."

— Tobit 4:15
"Recognize that your neighbor feels as you do, and keep in mind your own dislikes."

— Sirach 31:15
Two passages in the New Testament quote Jesus of Nazareth espousing the _positive form_ of the Golden rule:

Matthew 7:12
Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets.

Luke 6:31
Do to others what you would want them to do to you.


The passage in the book of Luke then continues with Jesus answering the question, "Who is my neighbor?", by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, indicating that "your neighbor" is anyone in need.[35] This extends to all, including those who are generally considered hostile.

Jesus' teaching goes beyond the negative formulation of not doing what one would not like done to themselves, to the positive formulation of actively doing good to another that, if the situations were reversed, one would desire that the other would do for them. This formulation, as indicated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, emphasizes the needs for positive action that brings benefit to another, not simply restraining oneself from negative activities that hurt another. Taken as a rule of judgment, both formulations of the golden rule, the negative and positive, are equally applicable.[36]

The Golden Rule: Not So Golden Anymore: https://philosophynow.org/issues/74/The_Golden_Rule_Not_So_Golden_Anymore
Pluralism is the most serious problem facing liberal democracies today. We can no longer ignore the fact that cultures around the world are not simply different from one another, but profoundly so; and the most urgent area in which this realization faces us is in the realm of morality. Western democratic systems depend on there being at least a minimal consensus concerning national values, especially in regard to such things as justice, equality and human rights. But global communication, economics and the migration of populations have placed new strains on Western democracies. Suddenly we find we must adjust to peoples whose suppositions about the ultimate values and goals of life are very different from ours. A clear lesson from events such as 9/11 is that disregarding these differences is not an option. Collisions between worldviews and value systems can be cataclysmic. Somehow we must learn to manage this new situation.

For a long time, liberal democratic optimism in the West has been shored up by suppositions about other cultures and their differences from us. The cornerpiece of this optimism has been the assumption that whatever differences exist they cannot be too great. A core of ‘basic humanity’ surely must tie all of the world’s moral systems together – and if only we could locate this core we might be able to forge agreements and alliances among groups that otherwise appear profoundly opposed. We could perhaps then shelve our cultural or ideological differences and get on with the more pleasant and productive business of celebrating our core agreement. One cannot fail to see how this hope is repeated in order buoy optimism about the Middle East peace process, for example.


It becomes obvious immediately that no matter how widespread we want the Golden Rule to be, there are some ethical systems that we have to admit do not have it. In fact, there are a few traditions that actually disdain the Rule. In philosophy, the Nietzschean tradition holds that the virtues implicit in the Golden Rule are antithetical to the true virtues of self-assertion and the will-to-power. Among religions, there are a good many that prefer to emphasize the importance of self, cult, clan or tribe rather than of general others; and a good many other religions for whom large populations are simply excluded from goodwill, being labeled as outsiders, heretics or … [more]
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Adam Smith, David Hume, Liberalism, and Esotericism - Call for Papers - Elsevier
A very good economics journal--famously an outlet for rigorous, outside the box thinking--is publishing a special issue on hidden meanings in the work of two of the world's greatest thinkers.

Another sign the new Straussian age is upon us: Bayesians update accordingly!
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Noble lie - Wikipedia
In politics, a noble lie is a myth or untruth, often, but not invariably, of a religious nature, knowingly propagated by an elite to maintain social harmony or to advance an agenda. The noble lie is a concept originated by Plato as described in the Republic.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

What if some ideology or political tradition did? what could they do? What problems could they solve, what capabilities would they have?

Various past societies knew a few things along these lines. They knew that there were significant physical and behavioral differences between the sexes, which is forbidden knowledge in modern academia. Some knew that close inbreeding had negative consequences, which knowledge is on its way to the forbidden zone as I speak. Some cultures with wide enough geographical experience had realistic notions of average cognitive differences between populations. Some people had a rough idea about regression to the mean [ in dynasties], and the Ottomans came up with a highly unpleasant solution – the law of fratricide. The Romans, during the Principate, dealt with the same problem through imperial adoption. The Chinese exam system is in part aimed at the same problem.


At least some past societies avoided the social patterns leading to the nasty dysgenic trends we are experiencing today, but for the most part that is due to the anthropic principle: if they’d done something else you wouldn’t be reading this. Also to between-group competition: if you fuck your self up when others don’t, you may be well be replaced. Which is still the case.

If you were designing an ideology from scratch you could make use of all of these facts – not that thinking about genetics and selection hands you the solution to every problem, but you’d have more strings to your bow. And, off the top of your head, you’d understand certain trends that are behind the mountains of Estcarp, for our current ruling classes : invisible and unthinkable, That Which Must Not Be Named. .

“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.

And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

It might be worth making a reasonably comprehensive of the facts and preferences that a good liberal is supposed to embrace and seem to believe. You would have to be fairly quick about it, before it changes. Then you could evaluate about the social impact of having more of them.

Rise and Fall: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/
Every society selects for something: generally it looks as if the direction of selection pressue is more or less an accident. Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this. I mean, they would have known how, if they’d wanted to, just as they knew how to select for destriers, coursers, and palfreys. It was still possible to know such things in the Middle Ages, because Harvard did not yet exist.

A rising empire needs quality human capital, which implies that at minimum that budding imperial society must not have been strongly dysgenic. At least not in the beginning. But winning changes many things, possibly including selective pressures. Imagine an empire with substantial urbanization, one in which talented guys routinely end up living in cities – cities that were demographic sinks. That might change things. Or try to imagine an empire in which survival challenges are greatly reduced, at least for elites, so that people have nothing to keep their minds off their minds and up worshiping Magna Mater. Imagine that an empire that conquers a rival with interesting local pathogens and brings some of them home. Or one that uses up a lot of its manpower conquering less-talented subjects and importing masses of those losers into the imperial heartland.

If any of those scenarios happened valid, they might eventually result in imperial decline – decline due to decreased biological capital.

Right now this is speculation. If we knew enough about the GWAS hits for intelligence, and had enough ancient DNA, we might be able to observe that rise and fall, just as we see dysgenic trends in contemporary populations. But that won’t happen for a long time. Say, a year.

hmm: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100350
“Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this.”

Maybe the Chinese imperial examination could effectively have been a selection for intelligence.
Nope. I’ve modelled it: the fraction of winners is far too small to have much effect, while there were likely fitness costs from the arduous preparation. Moreover, there’s a recent
paper [Detecting polygenic adaptation in admixture graphs] that looks for indications of when selection for IQ hit northeast Asia: quite a while ago. Obvious though, since Japan has similar scores without ever having had that kind of examination system.

decline of British Empire and utility of different components: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100390
Once upon a time, India was a money maker for the British, mainly because they appropriate Bengali tax revenue, rather than trade. The rest of the Empire was not worth much: it didn’t materially boost British per-capita income or military potential. Silesia was worth more to Germany, conferred more war-making power, than Africa was to Britain.
If you get even a little local opposition, a colony won’t pay for itself. I seem to remember that there was some, in Palestine.
Angels from on high paid for the Boer War.

You know, someone in the 50’s asked for the numbers – how much various colonies cost and how much they paid.

Turned out that no one had ever asked. The Colonial Office had no idea.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
The Conservation of Coercion - American Affairs Journal
The two faces of the Kapauku Papuans, and the way their anarchist-friendly political order rested on a deeply illiberal social order, neatly express how Technology and the End of Authority, by the Cato Institute scholar Jason Kuznicki, is both an interesting and a maddening book. Kuznicki states that he was inspired to write the book when he wondered why so many classical political philosophers, despite their disagreements over a vast number of topics, nevertheless all believed the nature and proper role of the state was the most important question concerning the proper organization of human affairs. Even libertarian and anarchist political theorists obsess about states, filling books with discussions of when and why we ought to reject them as illegitimate. The nature of their opposition implicitly concedes that the state, its value and purpose, is the central question for us to grapple with.

In contrast, Kuznicki invites us, if not to ignore the state, then at least to banish it from the forefront of our thinking. He asks us to consider states as just one tool among many that human societies have deployed to solve various sorts of problems. The state is neither God nor the Devil, but something pragmatic and unromantic—like a sewage system, or a town dump. Yes, we want it to function smoothly lest the place start to stink, but good taste demands that we not focus obsessively on its operation. Statecraft, like sanitation engineering, is a dirty job that somebody has to do, but unlike sanitation engineering it should also be a mildly embarrassing one. The notion that political means are a locus of the good, or that the state is imbued with the highest purposes of society, is as ridiculous as the notion that a city exists for its sewers rather than vice versa. So, Kuznicki suggests, we should treat anybody attempting to derive the correct or legitimate purposes of the state with the same skepticism with which we would view somebody waxing philosophical about a trash compactor. The real center of society, the topics worth debating and pondering, are all the other institutions—like markets, churches, sports teams, scientific schools, and families—whose existence the correct operation of the state supports.


The second implication of Kuznicki’s statecraft-as-engineering is that any determination about the proper role and behavior of government must remain unsettled not only by historical and cultural context, but also by the ambient level of technology. Kuznicki explores this at some length. He does not mean to make the common argument that the particular set of technologies deployed within a society can be more or less conducive to particular forms of government—as mass democracy might be encouraged by technologies of communication and travel, or as centralized autocracy might tend to arise in societies relying on large-scale irrigation for intensive agriculture. Rather, if the state is a tool for solving an array of otherwise intractable social problems, Kuznicki surmises, a newly discovered technological solution to such a problem could remove it from the state’s set of concerns—perhaps permanently.


What are the qualities of a society which make it more or less likely to be able to solve these dilemmas as they come up? Social scientists call societies that support commitment and enforcement mechanisms sufficient to overcome such dilemmas “high trust.” Some sources of social trust are mundane: for instance, it seems to make a big difference for a society to simply have a high enough median wealth that someone isn’t liable to be ruined if he or she takes a gamble on trusting a stranger and ends up getting cheated. Others are fuzzier: shared participation in churches, clubs, and social organizations can also significantly increase the degree of solidarity and trust in a community. Thinkers from Tocqueville to Robert Nisbet have pointed out the ways in which the ascendant state makes war upon and seeks to displace the “little platoons” of civil society. It is not well appreciated today that the reverse is also true: a “thick” culture rooted in shared norms and shared history can make the state less necessary by helping to raise the ambient level of social trust above whatever threshold makes it possible for citizens to organize and discipline themselves without state compulsion.


The story of the diamontaires ends with the whole system, private courts and all, falling apart following an influx of non-Hasidic actors into the New York diamond industry. But lack of trust and solidarity aren’t just problems if we want private courts. Yes, a very high degree of social trust can help to replace or displace state institutions, but any amount of trust tends to make governments more efficient and less corrupt. It isn’t a coincidence that many of the most successful governments on earth, whether efficient and well-run welfare states on the Scandinavian model or free-market havens boasting low taxes and few regulations, have been small, tight-knit, often culturally and linguistically homogeneous. Conversely, history’s most successful multiethnic polities have tended to be empires or confederations with a very high degree of provincial or local autonomy. Government is not a problem that scales gracefully: certainly not with number of citizens, but perhaps also not with number of constituent cultures. Those who love cosmopolitanism (among whom I count myself) talk a great deal about the incidental benefits it brings, and a great deal less about its drawbacks. I and other cosmopolitans love to exalt the dynamism that comes from diversity and the way it can help a society avoid falling into complacency. We are less willing to discuss the tiny invisible tax on everything and everybody that reduced social trust imposes, and the ways in which that will tend to make a nation more sclerotic.

In the absence of trust, every private commercial or social interaction becomes just a little bit more expensive, a little bit less efficient, and a little bit less likely to happen at all. Individuals are more cautious in their dealings with strangers, businesses are less likely to extend credit, everybody is a little more uncertain about the future, and people adjust their investment decisions accordingly. Individuals and businesses spend more money on bike locks, security systems, and real estate they perceive to be “safe,” rather than on the consumption or investment they would otherwise prefer. Critics of capitalism frequently observe that a liberal economic order depends upon, and sometimes cannibalizes, precapitalist sources of loyalty and affection. What if the same is true of political freedom more generally?

Some might object that even to consider such a thing is to give in to the forces of bigotry. But the whole point of taking a flinty-eyed engineer’s approach to state-building is that we don’t have to like the constraints we are working with, we just have to deal with them. The human preference for “people like us”—whether that means coreligionists or people who share our musical tastes, and whether we choose to frame it as bigotry or as game-theoretic rationality—is a stubborn, resilient reality. Perhaps in the future some advanced genetic engineering or psychological conditioning will change that. For now we need to recognize and deal with the fact that if we wish to have cosmopolitanism, we need to justify it on robust philosophical grounds, with full awareness of the costs as well as the benefits that it brings to bear on every member of society.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Born that way | West Hunter
In the Atlantic Monthly , which no longer has any reason for existence, since there’s really no point in placing a computer screen on the bottom of a birdcage, Jason Silverstein  – a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Harvard –  has a piece explaining that genes don’t cause racial health disparities – society does! Moreover,  it’s immoral to even look for such genetic explanations.

I guess he should have gotten this published earlier, since we’ve already found some of those naughty genes – pretty important ones. So it’s too late.


Which means that Silverstein is a jackass. Nothing stopped him from digging into biomedical research to see if his thesis was substantially true: he didn’t bother. But why is he a jackass? Born that way, probably.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Edward Feser: Conservatism, populism, and snobbery
feser is good on this: chief task of conservative intellectuals is to defend epistemic credentials of mere prejudice

The Right vindicates common sense distinctions: https://bonald.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/the-right-vindicates-common-sense-distinctions/
In some ways, we’re already there. One of the core intellectual tasks of the Right has been, and will continue to be, the analysis and rehabilitation of categories found useful by pre-modern humanity but rejected by moderns in their fits of ideologically-driven oversimplification.
Consider these three:
1. Friend vs. Enemy. Carl Schmitt famously put this distinction at the core of his political theory in explicit defiance of the liberal humanitarianism of his day that wanted to reduce all questions to abstract morality and economic efficiency. The friend vs. enemy distinction, Schmitt insisted, is independent of these. To identify a threatening nation as the enemy does not necessarily make any statement about its moral, aesthetic, or economic qualities. Schmitt observed that the liberal nations (for him, the victors of WWI) in fact do mobilize against threats and competitors; forbidding themselves the vocabulary of “friend” and “enemy” means they recast their hostilities in terms of moral absolutes. The nation they attack cannot be called their own enemy, so it must be demonized as the enemy of all humanity. This will be a reoccurring conservative argument. Eliminating a needed category doesn’t eliminate hostility between peoples; it only forces them to be incorrectly conceptualized along moral lines, which actually diminishes our ability to empathize with our opponent.
2. Native vs. Foreigner. Much of what Schmitt said about the distinction between friend and enemy applies to the more basic categorization of people as belonging to “us” or as being alien. I argued recently in the Orthosphere, concerning the topic of Muslim immigration, that we can actually be more sympathetic to Muslims among us if we acknowledge that our concern is not that their ways are objectionable in some absolute (moral/philosophical) sense, but that they are alien to the culture we wish to preserve as dominant in our nation. Reflections about the “universal person” are also quite relevant to this.
3. Masculine vs. feminine. Conservatives have found little to recommend the liberals’ distinction between biological “sex” and socially constructed “gender”. However, pre-modern peoples had intriguing intuitions of masculinity and femininity as essences or principles that can be considered beyond the strict context of sexual reproduction. Largely defined by relation to each other (so that, for example, a woman relates in a feminine way to other people more than to wild animals or inanimate objects), even things other than sexually reproducing animals can participate in these principles to some extent. For example, the sun is masculine while Luna is feminine, at least in how they present themselves to us. Masculinity and femininity seem to represent poles in the structure of relationality itself, and so even the more mythical attributions of these essences were not necessarily intended metaphorically.

The liberal critique of these categories, and others not accommodated by their ideology, comes down to the following
1. Imperialism of the moral. The category in question is recognized as nonmoral, and the critic asserts that it is morally superior to use only moral categories. (“Wouldn’t it be better to judge someone based on whether he’s a good person than on where he was born?”) Alternatively, the critic presumes that other categories actually are reducible to moral categories, and other categories are condemned for being inaccurate in their presumed implicit moral evaluations. (“He’s a good person. How can you call him an ‘alien’ as if he were some kind of monster?!”)
2. Appeal to boundary cases. Sometimes the boundaries of the criticized category are fuzzy. Perhaps a particular person is like “us” in some ways but unlike “us” in others. From this, conclude that the category is arbitrary and meaningless.
3. Emotivism. Claim that the criticized category is actually a sub-rational emotional response. It must be because it has no place in liberal ideology, which the liberal presumes to be coextensive with reason itself. And in fact, when certain ways of thinking are made socially unacceptable, they will likely only pop out in emergencies and moments of distress. It would be no different with moral categories–if the concepts “evil” and “unfair” were socially disfavored, people would only resort to them when intolerably provoked and undoubtedly emotional.
4. Imputation of sinister social motives. The critic points out that the categorization promotes some established social structure; therefore, it must be an illusion.

Why the Republican Party Is Falling Apart: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/why-the-republican-party-falling-apart-22491?page=show
Moore and a great many of his voters subscribe to a simplistic and exaggerated view of the world and the conflicts it contains. Moore has voiced the belief that Christian communities in Illinois or Indiana, or somewhere “up north,” are under Sharia law. That’s absurd. But why does he believe it, and why do voters trust him despite such beliefs? Because on the other side is another falsehood, more sophisticated but patently false: the notion that unlimited Islamic immigration to Europe, for example, is utterly harmless, or the notion that Iran is an implacable fundamentalist threat while good Sunni extremists in Saudi Arabia are our true and faithful friends. Each of the apocalyptic beliefs held by a Roy Moore or his supporters contains a fragment of truth—or at least amounts to a rejection of some falsehood that has become an article of faith among America’s elite. The liberal view of the world to which Democrats and elite Republicans alike subscribe is false, but the resources for showing its falsehood in a nuanced way are lacking. Even the more intellectual sort of right-winger who makes it through the cultural indoctrination of his college and peer class tends to be mutilated by the experience. He—most often a he—comes out of it embittered and reactionary or else addicted to opium dreams of neo-medievalism or platonic republics. Since there are few nonliberal institutions of political thought, the right that recognizes the falsehood of liberalism and rejects it tends to be a force of feeling rather than reflection. Moore, of course, has a legal education, and he assuredly reads the Bible. He’s not unintelligent, but he cannot lean upon a well-balanced and subtle right because such a thing hardly exists in our environment. Yet there is a need for a right nonetheless, and so a Roy Moore or a Donald Trump fills the gap. There is only one thing the Republican establishment can do if it doesn’t like that: reform itself from stem to stern.

Who Are ‘The People’ Anyway?: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/who-are-the-people-anyway/
Beware of those who claim to speak for today's populist audience.
- Paul Gottfried

Gottfried's got a real chip on his shoulder about the Straussians
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Who Closed the American Mind? | The American Conservative
Bloom relates that “I found myself responding to the professor of psychology that I personally tried to teach my students prejudices, since nowadays—with the general success of his method—they had learned to doubt beliefs even before they believed in anything … One has to have the experience of really believing before one can have the thrill of liberation.” Bloom’s preferred original title—before being overruled by Simon and Schuster—was Souls Without Longing. He was above all concerned that students, in being deprived of the experience of living in their own version of Plato’s cave, would never know or experience the opportunity of philosophic ascent.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Canon Wars - The Atlantic

Today it’s generally agreed that the multiculturalists won the canon wars. Reading lists were broadened to include more works by women and minority writers, and most scholars consider that a positive development. Yet 20 years later, there’s a more complicated sense of the costs and benefits of those transformations. Here, the lines aren’t drawn between right and left in the traditional political sense, but between those who defend the idea of a distinct body of knowledge and texts that students should master and those who focus more on modes of inquiry and interpretation.

It's this latter debate that's crucial to understanding what's wrong with the contemporary university. In a better world, the multiculturalists and the canonists should have been able to meet halfway - preserving the idea of a canon, while expanding it to include more works from outside the circle of Dead White Males. Such a compromise would have ended up cluttering syllabi with more politically-correct junk than a reactionary like myself might like, but it would have preserved the essential liberal-arts notion that there are great books, and that one of the missions of the university should be to expose its students to as many of them as possible.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Tyler Cowen on Brexit, Steven Pinker, and Joseph McCarthy | askblog
Also, in my other post today, I mention an event on plutocracy co-sponsored by the Hudson Institute and The American Interest. Tyler Cowen makes remarks that have little or nothing to do with the article that he wrote for the event. Two of his more provocative opinions:

1. Steven Pinker may be wrong. Rather than mass violence following a benign trend, it could be cyclical. When there is a long peace, people become complacent, they allow bad leaders to take power and to run amok, and you get mass violence again. (Cowen argues that there are more countries now run by bad people than was the case a couple of decades ago)

2. Joseph McCarthy was not wrong. There were Soviet agents in influential positions. Regardless of what you think of that, the relevant point is that today Chinese and Russian plutocrats may have their tentacles in the U.S. and may be subtly causing the U.S. to be less of a liberal capitalist nation and more of a cronyist plutocracy.

hmm, the USPS stuff here: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:fc443b256b1a
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Geography of Family Differences and Intergenerational Mobility - Marginal REVOLUTION
I am wondering to what extent this is a criticism of Chetty et.al., or simply a disaggregation.  I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what exactly are the differences between place-level characteristics and family- or person-level characteristics.  I don’t take Chetty’s original story about places to concern _what kind of molecules are in the dirt_, or what is the climate, but rather how people in a particular place interact with each other.  In that sense the result always was about family- or person-level characteristics.  Does the ability of family-level characteristics to pick up these interaction effects mean that place-level effects are not operating?

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june 2017 by nhaliday
- the genetic book of the dead [Dawkins]
- complementarity [Frank Wilczek]
- relative information
- effective theory [Lisa Randall]
- affordances [Dennett]
- spontaneous symmetry breaking
- relatedly, equipoise [Nicholas Christakis]
- case-based reasoning
- population reasoning (eg, common law)
- criticality [Cesar Hidalgo]
- Haldan's law of the right size (!SCALE!)
- polygenic scores
- non-ergodic
- ansatz
- state [Aaronson]: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3075
- transfer learning
- effect size
- satisficing
- scaling
- the breeder's equation [Greg Cochran]
- impedance matching

- reciprocal altruism
- life history [Plomin]
- intellectual honesty [Sam Harris]
- coalitional instinct (interesting claim: building coalitions around "rationality" actually makes it more difficult to update on new evidence as it makes you look like a bad person, eg, the Cathedral)
basically same: https://twitter.com/ortoiseortoise/status/903682354367143936

more: https://www.edge.org/conversation/john_tooby-coalitional-instincts

interesting timing. how woke is this dude?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Growing Collectivism: Irrigation, Group Conformity and Technological Divergence
This paper examines the origins of collectivist cultures that emphasize group conformity over individual autonomy. In line with the hypothesis that collaboration within groups in pre-industrial agriculture favored the emergence of collectivism, I find that societies whose ancestors jointly practiced irrigation agriculture have stronger collectivist norms today. The positive effect of irrigation on contemporary collectivism holds across countries, subnational districts within countries, and migrants. For causal identification, I instrument the historical adoption of irrigation by its geographic suitability. Furthermore, this paper establishes that, by favoring conformity, irrigation agriculture has contributed to the global divergence of technology. I document (i) a negative effect of traditional irrigation agriculture on contemporary innovativeness of countries, cities, and migrants; (ii) a positive effect on selection into routine-intensive occupations; and (iii) that the initial technological advantage of irrigation societies was reversed after 1500.

This kind of investigation is always going to be fraught with uncertainty and also controversy, given imperfections of data and methods. Nonetheless I find this one of the more plausible macro-historical hypotheses, perhaps because of my own experience in central Mexico, where varying rainfall still is the most important economic event of the year, though it is rapidly being supplanted by the variability of tourist demand for arts and crafts. And yes, they are largely collectivist, at least at the clan level, with extensive systems of informal social insurance and very high implicit social marginal tax rates on accumulated wealth.

Have you noticed it rains a lot in England?


in-depth reflection on agricultural ecologies, Europe vs China, and internal Chinese differences/ethnic identity/relations with barbarians/nomads, etc.: https://www.gnxp.com/blog/2008/08/wealth-of-communities.php

Irrigation and Autocracy: http://www.econ.ku.dk/bentzen/Irrigation_and_Autocracy.pdf

Emerging evidence of cultural differences linked to rice versus wheat agriculture: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X1930082X
- Historical rice farming linked to interdependent culture.
- Differences tested in China and Japan, as well as in worldwide comparison.
- There is evidence for differences among urbanites with no direct experience farming.
- Rice farming is also linked to holistic thought, fewer patents for inventions.
- Rice cultures are not ‘pro-social’ but rather tight ties, strong division of close versus distant ties.

The agricultural roots of Chinese innovation performance: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014292119300893
We provide robust evidence that counties with a legacy of rice cultivation generate fewer patent applications than other counties, and a legacy of wheat production tends to be associated with more patent applications. The results for rice are robust to, e.g., controlling for temperature, precipitation, irrigation, disease burden, religiosity, and corruption, as well as accounting for migration patterns.

Steve Hsu on this stuff:
Genetic variation in Han Chinese population: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/07/genetic-variation-in-han-chinese.html
Largest component of genetic variation is a N-S cline (phenotypic N-S gradient discussed here). Variance accounted for by second (E-W) PC vector is much smaller and the Han population is fairly homogeneous in genetic terms: ...while we revealed East-to-West structure among the Han Chinese, the signal is relatively weak and very little structure is discernible beyond the second PC (p.24).

Neandertal ancestry does not vary significantly across provinces, consistent with admixture prior to the dispersal of modern Han Chinese.

My fellow officers informed me, that while the negotiation was going on, the ships were constantly crowded with all kinds of refreshments, and that when they were first boarded by the Chinese they received every attention from them that could be shown; and that the presents received by the different officers belonging to the embassy, were of immense value. That the natives of this part of China were of different complexions and manners from those in and near Canton; their colour being nearly white; and in their manners were much more free and candid; and that they were of a larger stature, and more athletic than the southern Chinese—they were much more sociable, and not so particular respecting their women being seen by the men. And were even fond of receiving the officers into their houses, when on shore, provided it could be done without the knowledge of the mandarins.

The study below discusses a psychological/cognitive/personality gradient between N and S China, possibly driven by a history of wheat vs rice cultivation.


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may 2017 by nhaliday
Thucydides - Wikipedia
Allison coined the phrase "Thucydides Trap" to refer to when a rising power causes fear in an established power which escalates toward war. Thucydides wrote: "What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta."[3]
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Sustainability | West Hunter
There have been societies that functioned for a long time, thousands of years. They had sustainable demographic patterns. That means that they had enough children to replace themselves – not necessarily in every generation, but over the long haul. But sustainability requires more than that. Long-lived civilizations [ones with cities, literacy, governments, and all that] had a pattern of natural selection that didn’t drastically decrease intelligence – in some cases, one that favored it, at least in some subgroups. There was also ongoing selection against mutational accumulation – which meant that individuals with more genetic load than than average were significantly less likely to survive and reproduce. Basically, this happened through high child mortality, and in some cases by lower fitness in lower socioeconomic classes [starvation]. There was nothing fun about it.

Modern industrialized societies are failing on all three counts. Every population that can make a decent cuckoo clock has below-replacement fertility. The demographic pattern also selects against intelligence, something like one IQ point a generation. And, even if people at every level of intelligence had the same number of children, so that there was no selection against IQ, we would still be getting more and messed up, because there’s not enough selection going on to counter ongoing mutations.

It is possible that some country, or countries, will change in a way that avoids civilizational collapse. I doubt if this will happen by voluntary action. Some sort of technological solution might also arise – but it has to be soon.

Bruce Charlton, Victorian IQ, Episcopalians, military officers:
Again, I don’t believe a word of it. As for the declining rate of innovation, you have to have a really wide-ranging understanding of modern science and technology to have any feeling for what the underlying causes are. I come closer than most, and I probably don’t know enough. You don’t know enough. Let me tell you one thing: if genetic potential IQ for IQ had dropped 1 std, we’d see the end of progress in higher mathematics, and that has not happened at all.

Moreover, the selective trends disfavoring IQ all involve higher education among women and apparently nothing else – a trend which didn’t really get started until much more recently.

Not long enough, nor is dysgenic selection strong enough.

ranting on libertarians:
About 40% of those Americans with credit cards keep a balance on their credit cards and pay ridiculous high interest. But that must be the right decision!
” then that is their decision” – that’s fucking obvious. The question is whether they tend to make decisions that work very well – saying ‘that is their decision” is exactly the kind of crap I was referring to. As for “they probably have it coming” – if I’m smarter than you, which I surely am, using those smarts to rook you in every possible way must be just peachy. In fact, I’ll bet I could manage it even after warning you in advance.

On average, families in this country have paid between 10% and 14% of their income in debt service over the past few decades. That fraction averages considerably higher in low-income families – more like 18%. A quarter of those low income families are putting over 40% of their income into debt service. That’s mostly stuff other than credit-card debt.

Is this Straussian?

Examining Arguments Made by Interest Rate Cap Advocates: https://www.mercatus.org/system/files/peirce_reframing_ch13.pdf

Interest rate caps on $1,000 installment loans, by US state, today and in 1935
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Shtetl-Optimized » Blog Archive » First they came for the Iranians
pretty damn shite situation
edit: Scott Aaronson got into a lengthy argument w/ Curtis Yarvin (Boldmug), lmao

Ratchets Within Ratchets: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/02/ratchets-within-ratchets.html
i remember on I think scott aaronsons blog? after trump won in the comment section mm was arguing w/ ppl and his most bombastic point was
if you dropped 19th century america in the ocean next to us and gave them wikipedia they would conquer us within the decade
which I remember being hilarious because it was p literally true
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january 2017 by nhaliday
China invents the digital totalitarian state | The Economist
PROGRAMMING CHINA: The Communist Party’s autonomic approach to managing state security: https://www.merics.org/sites/default/files/2017-12/171212_China_Monitor_44_Programming_China_EN__0.pdf
- The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has developed a form of authoritarianism that cannot be measured through traditional political scales like reform versus retrenchment. This version of authoritarianism involves both “hard” and “soft” authoritarian methods that constantly act together.
- To describe the social management process, this paper introduces a new analytical framework called China’s “Autonomic Nervous System” (ANS). This approach explains China’s social management process through a complex systems engineering framework. This framework mirrors the CCP’s Leninist way of thinking.
- The framework describes four key parts of social management, visualized through ANS’s “self-configuring,” “self-healing,” “self-optimizing” and “self-protecting” objectives.

China's Social Credit System: An Evolving Practice of Control: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3175792

The Chinese government is not the only entity that has access to millions of faces + identifying information. So do Google, Facebook, Instagram, and anyone who has scraped information from similar social networks (e.g., US security services, hackers, etc.).

In light of such ML capabilities it seems clear that anti-ship ballistic missiles can easily target a carrier during the final maneuver phase of descent, using optical or infrared sensors (let alone radar).

China goes all-in on technology the US is afraid to do right.
US won't learn its lesson in time for CRISPR or AI.

Artificial intelligence is developing fast in China. But is it likely to enable the suppression of freedoms? One of China's most successful investors, Neil Shen, has a short answer to that question. Also, Chinese AI companies now have the potential to overtake their Western rivals -- we explain why. Anne McElvoy hosts with The Economist's AI expert, Tom Standage

the dude just stonewalls when asked at 7:50, completely zipped lips

What you’re looking at above is the work of SenseTime, a Chinese computer vision startup. The software in question, called SenseVideo, is a visual scenario analytics system. Basically, it can analyse video footage to pinpoint whether moving objects are humans, cars, or other entities. It’s even sophisticated enough to detect gender, clothing, and the type of vehicle it’s looking at, all in real time.


Even China’s Backwater Cities Are Going Smart: http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1001452/even-chinas-backwater-cities-are-going-smart

remember that tweet with the ML readout of Chinese surveilance cameras? Get ready for the future (via @triviumchina)

XI praised the organization and promised to help it beef up its operations (China
- "China will 'help ... 100 developing countries build or upgrade communication systems and crime labs in the next five years'"
- "The Chinese government will establish an international law enforcement institute under the Ministry of Public Security which will train 20,000 police for developing nations in the coming five years"

The Chinese connection to the Zimbabwe 'coup': http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/17/africa/china-zimbabwe-mugabe-diplomacy/index.html

China to create national name-and-shame system for ‘deadbeat borrowers’: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2114768/china-create-national-name-and-shame-system-deadbeat-borrowers
Anyone who fails to repay a bank loan will be blacklisted and have their personal details made public

China Snares Innocent and Guilty Alike to Build World’s Biggest DNA Database: https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-snares-innocent-and-guilty-alike-to-build-worlds-biggest-dna-database-1514310353
Police gather blood and saliva samples from many who aren’t criminals, including those who forget ID cards, write critically of the state or are just in the wrong place

Many of the ways Chinese police are collecting samples are impermissible in the U.S. In China, DNA saliva swabs or blood samples are routinely gathered from people detained for violations such as forgetting to carry identity cards or writing blogs critical of the state, according to documents from a national police DNA conference in September and official forensic journals.

Others aren’t suspected of any crime. Police target certain groups considered a higher risk to social stability. These include migrant workers and, in one city, coal miners and home renters, the documents show.


In parts of the country, law enforcement has stored DNA profiles with a subject’s other biometric information, including fingerprints, portraits and voice prints, the heads of the DNA program wrote in the Chinese journal Forensic Science and Technology last year. One provincial police force has floated plans to link the data to a person’s information such as online shopping records and entertainment habits, according to a paper presented at the national police DNA conference. Such high-tech files would create more sophisticated versions of paper dossiers that police have long relied on to keep tabs on citizens.

Marrying DNA profiles with real-time surveillance tools, such as monitoring online activity and cameras hooked to facial-recognition software, would help China’s ruling Communist Party develop an all-encompassing “digital totalitarian state,” says Xiao Qiang, adjunct professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Information.


A teenage boy studying in one of the county’s high schools recalled that a policeman came into his class after lunch one day this spring and passed out the collection boxes. Male students were told to clean their mouths, spit into the boxes and place them into envelopes on which they had written their names.


Chinese police sometimes try to draw connections between ethnic background or place of origin and propensity for crime. Police officers in northwestern China’s Ningxia region studied data on local prisoners and noticed that a large number came from three towns. They decided to collect genetic material from boys and men from every clan to bolster the local DNA database, police said at the law-enforcement DNA conference in September.

China is certainly in the lead in the arena of digital-biometric monitoring. Particularly “interesting” is the proposal to merge DNA info with online behavioral profiling.



This is the thing I find the most disenchanting about the current political spectrum. It's all reheated ideas that are a century old, at least. Everyone wants to run our iPhone society with power structures dating to the abacus.
Thank God for the forward-thinking Chinese Communist Party and its high-tech social credit system!


INSIDE CHINA'S VAST NEW EXPERIMENT IN SOCIAL RANKING: https://www.wired.com/story/age-of-social-credit/

The government thinks "social credit" will fix the country's lack of trust — and the public agrees.

To be Chinese today is to live in a society of distrust, where every opportunity is a potential con and every act of generosity a risk of exploitation. When old people fall on the street, it’s common that no one offers to help them up, afraid that they might be accused of pushing them in the first place and sued. The problem has grown steadily since the start of the country’s economic boom in the 1980s. But only recently has the deficit of social trust started to threaten not just individual lives, but the country’s economy and system of politics as a whole. The less people trust each other, the more the social pact that the government has with its citizens — of social stability and harmony in exchange for a lack of political rights — disintegrates.

All of which explains why Chinese state media has recently started to acknowledge the phenomenon — and why the government has started searching for solutions. But rather than promoting the organic return of traditional morality to reduce the gulf of distrust, the Chinese government has preferred to invest its energy in technological fixes. It’s now rolling out systems of data-driven “social credit” that will purportedly address the problem by tracking “good” and “bad” behavior, with rewards and punishments meted out accordingly. In the West, plans of this sort have tended to spark fears about the reach of the surveillance state. Yet in China, it’s being welcomed by a public fed up of not knowing who to trust.

It’s unsurprising that a system that promises to place a check on unfiltered power has proven popular — although it’s… [more]
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Economists and the Reds | West Hunter
Heilbroner once said: “The farther to the right one looks, the more prescient has been the historical foresight; the farther to the left, the less so. ”

You know, someone should blame right-wingers for being correct about some things, since that more or less automatically drove left-wingers into being wrong.

I think that’s less of a problem today.

Well, how long was the political right particularly associated with capitalism…100-150 years? Before and after that, I don’t know if the political right’s track record of prediction looks that good.

Heilbroner was talking about people like Friedman, not Edmund Burke.

Paul Samuelson’s repeated predictions of the Soviet Union economy catching up with the USA: https://utopiayouarestandinginit.com/2015/01/24/paul-samuelsons-repeated-predictions-of-the-soviet-union-economy-catching-up-with-the-usa/

Kissinger detente: http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/whic/ReferenceDetailsPage/DocumentToolsPortletWindow?displayGroupName=Reference&jsid=1a94cad9fcddfd654fdca52eca9cf6c8&action=2&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CCX2876100022&u=catholiccenhs&zid=c159e34f1bdf497a992077a286af2b4b

In a passage eliminated from The Nation version, Miss Sontag also criticized liberal publications. ''Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Reader's Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only The Nation or The New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of Communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?''

I think I would have been a Communist in 1910.

I’m not sure what you have to add to 1910-me to make me not a Communist. Extra IQ wouldn’t work - there were a lot of Communist geniuses. The best rationality training available at the time wouldn’t work - it tended to produce a progressive atheism that segued easily into Communism. Some sort of Burkean conservativism would’ve been the only hope, but I’m not sure how you could have convinced me of Burkean conservativism.


Overall I’m very gloomy at whether rationality alone could have prevented Communism, and I’m gloomy that whatever the next Communism is, we’ll have to go through it before we learn our lesson.


I think one could truthfully say that one reason for the failure of Communism in the Soviet Union was that the heart of the country had been torn out. Something similar happened in France, in the 1920s and 1930s. People would talk about some problem that need to be solved, or some desirable innovation, and explain that it never happened, because the guy that should have done it died at Verdun. But it was worse in Russia. And it’s not just the dead: a lot of guys were crippled – so many that they made Moscow look bad, and therefore were exiled to Central Asia for appearances’ sake.

In part, the Soviet Union failed because ” an assegai had been thrust into the belly of the nation”. This makes a half-decent excuse: but it would be a better excuse if the Soviets hadn’t done so much of it to themselves.


Back in the 1950s, Russia was a lot weaker than it looked. I wonder how many people understood that. Ike, certainly.
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january 2017 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
What You Can't Say
E Pur Si Muove:

Sam Altman and the fear of political correctness: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/12/sam-altman-fear-political-correctness.html
Earlier this year, I noticed something in China that really surprised me. I realized I felt more comfortable discussing controversial ideas in Beijing than in San Francisco. I didn’t feel completely comfortable—this was China, after all—just more comfortable than at home.

That showed me just how bad things have become, and how much things have changed since I first got started here in 2005.

It seems easier to accidentally speak heresies in San Francisco every year. Debating a controversial idea, even if you 95% agree with the consensus side, seems ill-advised.
And so it runs with shadow prices for speech, including rights to say things and to ask questions. Whatever you are free to say in America, you have said many times already, and the marginal value of exercising that freedom yet again doesn’t seem so high. But you show up in China, and wow, your pent-up urges are not forbidden topics any more. Just do be careful with your mentions of Uncle Xi, Taiwan, Tibet, Uighur terrorists, and disappearing generals. That said, in downtown Berkeley you can speculate rather freely on whether China will someday end up as a Christian nation, and hardly anybody will be offended.

For this reason, where we live typically seems especially unfree when it comes to speech. And when I am in China, I usually have so, so many new dishes I want to sample, including chestnuts and pumpkin.

replies: http://www.businessinsider.com/sam-altman-ignites-debate-on-whether-silicon-valley-culture-makes-it-tough-to-innovate-2017-12


Baidu's Robin Li is Helping China Win the 21st Century: http://time.com/5107485/baidus-robin-li-helping-china-win-21st-century/
Therein lies the contradiction at the heart of China’s efforts to forge the future: the country has the world’s most severe restrictions on Internet freedom, according to advocacy group Freedom House. China employs a highly sophisticated censorship apparatus, dubbed the Great Firewall, to snuff out any content deemed critical or inappropriate. Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as news portals like the New York Times, Bloomberg and TIME, are banned. Manned by an army of 2 million online censors, the Great Firewall gives outsiders the impression of deathly silence within.

But in fact, business thrives inside the firewall’s confines–on its guardians’ terms, of course–and the restrictions have not appeared to stymie progress. “It turns out you don’t need to know the truth of what happened in Tiananmen Square to develop a great smartphone app,” says Kaiser Kuo, formerly Baidu’s head of international communications and a co-host of Sinica, an authoritative podcast on China. “There is a deep hubris in the West about this.” The central government in Beijing has a fearsome capacity to get things done and is willing to back its policy priorities with hard cash. The benefits for companies willing or able to go along with its whims are clear. The question for Baidu–and for Li–is how far it is willing to go.

Silicon Valley would be wise to follow China’s lead: https://www.ft.com/content/42daca9e-facc-11e7-9bfc-052cbba03425
The work ethic in Chinese tech companies far outpaces their US rivals

The declaration by Didi, the Chinese ride-hailing company, that delivery business Meituan’s decision to launch a rival service would spark “the war of the century”, throws the intensive competition between the country’s technology companies into stark relief.

The call to arms will certainly act as a spur for Didi employees, although it is difficult to see how they can work even harder. But what it does reveal is the striking contrast between working life in China’s technology companies and their counterparts in the west.

In California, the blogosphere has been full of chatter about the inequity of life. Some of this, especially for women, is true and for certain individuals their day of reckoning has been long overdue. But many of the soul-sapping discussions seem like unwarranted distractions. In recent months, there have been complaints about the political sensibilities of speakers invited to address a corporate audience; debates over the appropriate length of paternity leave or work-life balances; and grumbling about the need for a space for musical jam sessions. These seem like the concerns of a society that is becoming unhinged.


While male chauvinism is still common in the home, women have an easier time gaining recognition and respect in China’s technology workplaces — although they are still seriously under-represented in the senior ranks. Many of these high-flyers only see their children — who are often raised by a grandmother or nanny — for a few minutes a day. There are even examples of husbands, eager to spend time with their wives, who travel with them on business trips as a way to maintain contact.

What I learned from 5 weeks in Beijing + Shanghai:

- startup creation + velocity dwarfs anything in SF
- no one in China I met is remotely worried about U.S. or possibly even cares
- access to capital is crazy
- scale feels about 20x of SF
- endless energy
- not SV jaded


Western values are freeriding on Western innovation.
Comparatively unimpeded pursuit of curiosity into innovation is a Western value that pays the carriage fare.
True. A lot of values are worthwhile in certain contexts but should never have been scaled.

Diversity, "social mobility", iconoclasm
but due to military and technological victory over its competitors
There's something to be said for Western social trust as well, though that's an institution more than an idea
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october 2016 by nhaliday
What the hell is going on? - Marginal REVOLUTION
The Straussian reading of this post is that naive single young women are the real problem.

I think this is key: perhaps men more adapted for tech w/out globalization than globalization w/out tech progress.

It’s important to note that female happiness has been stagnant for a long while now, so I’m doubtful that the “improvements” of the past 2 – 3 decades have much accrued to women either. But they’re less likely to rock the boat, so to speak.

Here’s a modest proposal. Highly subsidized, huge volume, semi-professional athletics. Try to channel a sizable proportion of males between 18 and 35 into some sort of sporting team. Imagine 30 million part-time minor league ball players. Have the government pay them a modicum of compensation for their time and effort, with increasingly larger prizes the higher teams and players rise. Strongly encourage the media to extensively cover their hyper-local teams. (The small-p promise of large rewards gives the stories a human interest side).

straight-to-the-point comment by Chip:
Doesn’t Trump do well with white women?

But I don’t think gender is really the point. Despite the media smokescreen it has been a poor decade for America. The economy is sluggish, full time job creation low, debt is soaring, the government increasingly weak abroad and coercive at home, and people really are not happy with the record rate of immigration from low-skilled countries into an expanding welfare state.

The GOP were given a chance to fix things with the mid term landslide. But they didn’t. Now people are turning to something else.


lol: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/06/can-happen-authoritarianism-america.html
That is a forthcoming volume edited by Cass Sunstein. The contributors include Cass, myself, Timur Kuran, Duncan Watts, Martha Minow, Bruce Ackerman, Jack Goldsmith, Geoffrey Stone, and Noah Feldman, among others. Self-recommending, if anything ever was…

My essay, by the way, says no, it cannot happen here. Counterintuitively, American government is too bureaucratized and too feminized to be captured and turned toward old-style fascism. I encourage you to pre-order.

longer excerpt:
My argument is pretty simple: American fascism cannot happen anymore because the American government is so large and unwieldy. It is simply too hard for the fascists, or for that matter other radical groups, to seize control of. No matter who is elected, the fascists cannot control the bureaucracy, they cannot control all the branches of American government, they cannot control the judiciary, they cannot control semi-independent institutions such as the Federal Reserve, and they cannot control what is sometimes called “the deep state.” The net result is they simply can’t control enough of the modern state to steer it in a fascist direction.

…Surely it ought to give us pause that the major instances of Western fascism came right after a time when government was relatively small, and not too long after the heyday of classical liberalism in Europe, namely the late 19th century. No, I am not blaming classical liberalism for Nazism, but it is simply a fact that it is easier to take over a smaller and simpler state than it is to commandeer one of today’s sprawling bureaucracies.

…the greater focus of the night watchman state, for all its virtues, is part of the reason why it is easy to take over. There is a clearly defined center of power and a clearly defined set of lines of authority; furthermore, the main activity of the state is to enforce property rights through violence or the threat of violence. That means such a state will predominantly comprise policemen, soldiers, possibly border authorities, Coast Guard employees and others in related support services. The culture and ethos of such a state is likely to be relatively masculine and also relatively martial and tolerant of a certain amount of risk, and indeed violence. The state will be full of people who are used to the idea of applying force to achieve social ends, even if, under night watchman assumptions, those deployments of force are for the most part justified.

Returning to the question of whether a tyrant can arise in the United States in the near future, my analysis suggests, most emphatically, “no.” A tyrant-wannabe lacks most elements on which to base his or her power. We haven’t experienced a long civil war (at least, not yet), or a catastrophic defeat in an external war. The established elites, while fragmenting, are still very strong. Here I agree with much of what Tyler says in the paragraph I quoted above. An aspiring tyrant has to deal with the deeply entrenched bureaucracy, the powerful judicial system, and the mighty coercive apparatus of the American state (the FBI, the CIA, the military). Also important is that the frustrated elite aspirants are not organized in any coherent social movements. Tyrants never rule alone, they need an organization stuffed by dedicated cadres (a desirable feature of which is the animosity towards the old-order elites).

In my opinion, the greatest danger for us today (and into the 2020s) is not the rise of a Hitler, but rather a Second American Civil War.

A simple theory of baseline mood: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/10/simple-theory-baseline-mood.html
We are not used to feeling as much stress as we do today. Yet even in the optimistic scenarios in my predictions, the level of stress today is relatively low compared to what we can rationally expect for the next few decades.

snowflakes picture
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may 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : dismalityguvnorinfopatternspeepssoft

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