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Culture War Roundup for the week of September 5, 2022

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I think that the idea that critical theory is an activist philosophy is self-contradictory and that those who practice critical theory to change the world in some way, or motivate action, are basically destined to have an incomplete, irreconcilable worldview.

(edit for clarity: Modern critical theory obviously is often activist, and believing that is not self-contradictory. But believing that critical theory at its core is activist, and should be practiced as a kind of means-to-an-end to affect social change, as many critical theorists believe, I think contradicts with the actual core of critical theory philosophy)

I started coming to this idea watching the Foucault/Chomsky debate, where Foucault is suspicious of Chomksy's Anarcho-syndicalism as a way to bring out a kind of ideal human nature, because he thinks the formulations we make about an ideal human nature, or society without political violence, are informed by the society we live in, which makes violence and non-ideality kind of unavoidable.

This argument is interesting in terms of the political spectrum because on one hand, it "out-criticals" the critical activist, but it also echoes the basic conservative reaction to leftist societal transformation projects.

There's no reason to me that a critical theory couldn't exist critical of social justice projects, BLM, modern Marxism, etc. The modern leftist capture of critical theory appears arbitrary.

But the Foucault debate led me to think, that conservatives, or just anti-progressives, could be a lot more bold in using their own critical theory against them in a way. I think it would be a field worth studying as a way to deconstruct leftist idealism and activism in a way that, like Chomsky, would leave them looking kind of pathetic in debate.

Doing that would kind of require doing the Nietzschian thing of acknowledging power, political violence, etc. and working with it in the debate, which I feel like is probably a step too far for most politicians. But I think specifically that rather than debate competing visions, there's room for a thinker to basically just deconstruct modern "critical theory" on its own terms, argue that it is self-contradictory and unlikely to do anything but breed new forms of political violence and power imbalance.

To tie it back to Nietzsche, it seems his works have an irony to them, even a self-aware irony, and that is what makes his calls for action "work" in some sense. It seems to me that a modern critical theory text that calls for action with no sense of irony is not thorough, and has a huge blind spot by basically not applying self-criticism.

I've been kind of working this idea out on my own, not sure if this is well trodden ground elsewhere, apologies for the half-baked quality.

Doing that would kind of require doing the Nietzschian thing of acknowledging power, political violence, etc. and working with it in the debate, which I feel like is probably a step too far for most politicians. But I think specifically that rather than debate competing visions, there's room for a thinker to basically just deconstruct modern "critical theory" on its own terms, argue that it is self-contradictory and unlikely to do anything but breed new forms of political violence and power imbalance.

This paradox is something that Critical Theorists acknowledge themselves - the paradox being that once the oppressed gain power they can become the new ruling class. However this is not a bug, but a feature - Critical Theorists are not afraid of contradictions and paradoxes, in fact contradictions only reveal that there is more work to be done between Theory and Praxis. The idea even in older strains of Marxism was that it is not bourgeoisie that is the final boss of the revolution, the final boss is the proletariat itself. However the belief is that once the oppressed class(es) gain full consciousness, they will dissolve themselves voluntarily to usher the utopia without oppression. If they do not do it, then it means that another literal revolution of dialectical process needs to take place, the consciousness was not achieved, the "true" communism was not tried. In fact the whole idea of creating socialism as precursor to full communism was to speed up the dialectical process inside permanent revolution framework.

For instance Theodore Adorno stated that “[o]ne may not cast a picture of utopia in a positive manner”. However the feeling of oppression is the sign of a prison that prevents utopia to realize. So endlessly criticizing all forms of oppression is a process to get rid of all the obstacles, utopia will be realized and crystalized through negative thinking. This is the literal basis of "Critical" in "Critical Theory" - to endlessly hunt for and criticize and denounce oppression everywhere all the time, in order to announce the new world.

Now one key difference in modern woke leftism as opposed to old Critical Theory is that there is a "hope", which Paolo Freire described in his Pedagogy of Hope. This is an older idea by Gramsci that the consciousness can be taught, Freire formalized it in his version of "education" which actually means the political education into revolutionary consciousness. So there is still a lot of denouncing going on, but now there is a "positive" thing activists can do - multiply themselves by roping in new generations of activists into the program, with the hope that even if there are no concrete steps to follow into utopia, the next generation of revolutionaries with refined consciousness will get us there.

The perennial failure mode of outgroup criticism is that outgroup homogeneity biases paint internal variation in views as a source of self-contradiction (or, ironically, motte/bailey). This is made easier with handwavey terms like 'critical theory' -- whose theory? The Freud-obsessed and Nazi-fleeing Frankfurt school? Habermas, who railed against postmodernity saying “Whoever transposes the radical critique of reason into the domain of rhetoric in order to blunt the paradox of self-referentiality, also dulls the sword of the critique of reason itself”? Or does critical theory here denote Foucault or Derrida or D&G that were fully on the deconstruction train? Bourdieu (a notably politically active sociologist) commonly gets looped in a kind of 'critical sociologist' but regards the school as out of touch at best:

I've always had a pretty ambivalent relationship with the Frankfurt School: the affinities between us are clear, and yet I felt a certain irritation when faced with the aristocratic demeanor of that totalizing critique which retained all the features of grand theory, doubtless so as not to get its hands dirty in the kitchens of empirical research.

Or oneiric adolescents at worst. Or is critical theory that of people like bell hooks or Kimberle Crenshaw, who both obviously make no bones about their work having emancipatory intent while embracing the postmodern label? Is their embrace of deconstruction taken to the conclusion of abandoning empiric truth altogether, or is theorising the construction of certain social views more important to those who regard those views as morally suspect?

While it is fun to see Chomsky flounder before Foucault (who apocryphally was paid in weed for this engagement), this should hardly be taken as evidence for a reflexive "blind spot" in whatever critical theory denotes. Quite the opposite, the is no end to this particular, acrimonious ouroboros.

There's nothing inherently "activist" about critical theory, but the activism its theories enable are particularly destructive and quasi-nihilistic, so it gets a particularly bum rap.

Critical theory is inherently activist. It's really quite explicit if you read the critical theorists, including Horkheimer himself. There is no distinction between theory and praxis. The whole point of critical theory is explicitly to ruthlessly criticise society for failing to live up to some hypothetical, unspecified utopia, and force people to think in this way. This will essentially raise the 'critical consciousness' of people in society (though many of the theorists don't phrase it in this specific way) which will result in a dismantling of society i.e. a revolution. Critical theory was invented specifically by Horkheimer as a tool to bring a revolution and creation a Neo-Marxist utopia, whatever the hell that's meant to look like.

This article has quite a blatant and succinct description of critical theory and its aim.

"Critical theory rejects as naïve the premise that natural science is a force only for the good, and strongly opposes the positivist separation of fact and value. This opposition leads to a rejection of the positivist conception of science as a mere mirror image of reality, as broken down into elementary observational facts, captured in “protocol sentences” and finally summarised in inductive generalisations expressing regularities in the phenomena. Instead, critical theory advocates a “dialectical” notion of truth, of reality and of social science, with roots in Hegelian metaphysics as mediated by Marx. According to this conception, some of the ostensible “facts” that would be recorded in a purely positivist (i.e. traditional) social science would not be ultimately real but would be mere reifications, anachronistic and repressive aspects of social reality that would call for elimination through political praxis rather than for scientific recording."

"The aim of critical theory is hence not faithful description and inductive generalisation of data, but to be part of, or guide for, a praxis that will serve to eliminate the repressive aspects of social reality. Hence, the truth test is not observational verification, but evidence of the power to inspire successful practice."

Critical theory is not only indistinguishable from praxis (being a framework meant to inspire activism), it also basically endorses lying as long as it results in things which are conceptualised as good under the worldview. Truth has nothing to do with what can be provably verified, truth is anything which will inspire people to become activists for their hypothetical utopia. Rather than basing their goals on facts, the goals come first and said goals subsequently dictate what's true and what's not.

But the Foucault debate led me to think, that conservatives, or just anti-progressives, could be a lot more bold in using their own critical theory against them in a way. I think it would be a field worth studying as a way to deconstruct leftist idealism and activism in a way that, like Chomsky, would leave them looking kind of pathetic in debate.

There is, in fact, an American legal theorist whose name escapes me that argued something along the following lines: All judicial/legal decisions have no basis in reason or rationality, they are simply the product of the dominant ideology. He notes that this would mean people can do whatever they want if they are responsible for doling out legal rulings.

My apologies, I meant that he championed the idea of doling out politically desirable legal rulings under this reasoning. He was unrepentantly the kind of leftist a stereotype might be made about: that of the power-hungry kind who doesn't care what they destroy as long as it suits their political goals.

This, in my opinion, is why you will lose if you try using Critical Theory against its progressive users. They are already aware that you can use their rhetorical tools against them, and they are quite good at using their own power to ensure you can't challenge them effectively in this manner. Go ahead and publish your piece or blog post that details their own failings under Critical Theory and see how far that gets you.

The mistake in your argument, I think, is thinking that they care at all how much they are subject to Critical Criticisms. The people you are talking about have a goal in mind: install progressive thoughts about race, gender, sex, sexual relations, etc. across the minds of the population. Critical Theory is not a rationalist project seeking to be maximally truth-seeking, it was founded by activists very much trying to generate an academic "theory" for convincing people of their ideology.

Does this make them bad people? Only to the extent that people who earnestly believe in an ideology want to convert others to it are also evil.

I've written a set of posts about Critical Race Theory that you may find interesting if you want to know more, as there is some discussion about Critical Theory in the posts and comments.

I appreciate the link, I'll have to spend more time digging through the previous sections but the page you linked helps me understand where you're coming from.

There are a few threads that interest me that I think expose weaknesses in CRT related to your reply here.

  1. If you accept the capture of French philosophy and academic elites by communism in the 60's as analogous to CRT, its collapse could point to similar ways CRT could collapse in the future. And part of that was surely the political situation, but I'm also curious how much of that was Foucault, who possibly gave the academics something to "chew on", a less obviously activist, more wide-ranging theory. I'm sure that's a simplification, but I do think there was this kind of new breed with him and others of something more sophisticated that allowed communism to be kind of moved on from, something passe.

  2. As far as the abusers go of critical theory, like that legal theorist, I'm curious how much that is a kind of perversion or simplification of something that is more useful when treated with maturity, and not just useful to the left, but against the left's power. And it doesn't necessary have to be useful in a sense of persuading them, but instead of disillusioning its sort of fair-weather followers potentially.

  3. The other thing is something that I've had a hard time expressing, but I feel like CRT can't escape it's intellectualist roots, which is a point of failure it shares with communism. It wants to be pure activism, all about changing minds, but its identity demands that it take an intellectual root, and it sort of has to assume that the most effective activism is intellectual (or even pseudo-intellectual) activism, which I think is far from true, because I think you can argue most people bounce off that kind of thing, if not now then after it outstays its welcome.

Anyway I'll read your other posts but those are the threads of thought I've been pursuing

Conservatism would not be able to reconcile this with belief in god. Critical theory is inherently non-theistic believes that power structures can be subverted through reason. Conservatism also is inherently exclusionary: rather than trying to change society, it will create its own institutions, like churches, schools, home schooling, catholic schools ,etc.

Is conservatism inherently theistic though? I'm aware that the two are intimately entwined in the modern US, but it doesn't seem to me necessarily (or even in practice) the case. Thatcher, for example, was an arch-conservative, but while she was in fact kind of religious it didn't particularly play a part in her policies AFAICT.

I don't think there's anything here. Or rather it means nothing on its own.

You might remember how people mocked Peterson for referring to the Kritik people as "postmodern neomarxists". Preposterous they said, the very phrasing is a contradiction. Of course this ignored the next words out of his mouth which were really just a description of the motte and bailey postmodernist philosophy had been engaged in since it's inception and arguably by design, one that analytical philosophers have been pointing out forever: the very same people who criticize metanarratives can't seem to help themselves to insert communism (or other such prejudices) in place of whatever they destroy with their powerful destructive tools of analysis.

As the saying goes, critical theory is self refuting. But who's going to do the refutation? And who's going to hear it?

The Kritik people are really aware of something their critics are not, and it's that in the domain of ideology, the rewards of power and influence don't come merely from showing your opponents to hold contradictory and vacuous beliefs. The activists and institutions have to be there to orchestrate the frame of reality to record the goals you're making. The debate is but a tool to establish your already foregone victory, it is no battlefield, or rather you would not allow it if it was.

In this light all the censorship and weird choice of targets makes a lot more sense. But there is no hope that somehow someone will point out the mistake and the magic gods of reason will restore sanity to the world.

There is no mistake, you are just getting crushed. By people with better tactics.

My instinct though is that if critical theory would evolve to refute itself, it would be a positive evolution, and would be a kind of completion of the original theory, as in more critical theory, not less.

I haven't thought through too much the actual way it plays out in the real world. It's possible the modern critical theorists have immunized themselves. But on the other hand, you had a similar situation with the Marxists in France in the time of Foucault, and that evolution is kind of what I am proposing could happen again today. Similarly, it might be a philosopher who is "inside" the system that hits at the right time during some slump in their power, that speaks their language while subverting them.

I don't know man, post-post-post-structuralism which rejects some minute detail but ends up being the same program of bioleninism and destruction of whatever level of sanity and coherence remains because it's oppressive doesn't really strike me as any change in the program.

If the left wants to get out of this rut the paradigm does have to change, and for that they have to find a new coalition that makes their existing lumpenprole+PMC alliance irrelevant. I don't see a candidate for that but maybe it's there, I'm no political genius.

But for sure the ideas will help organize an existing possible coalition, not create it out of thin air.

Conservatives going back to Plato and Aristotle argued an anti-critical theory stance. That is a stance based on the idea that certain social relations were natural. Aristotle going as far as arguing slavery was natural and any person who was naturally not a slave would rebel and overcome his slavery.

I think that the idea that critical theory is an activist philosophy is self-contradictory and that those who practice critical theory to change the world in some way, or motivate action, are basically destined to have an incomplete, irreconcilable worldview.

I mean, the original conception of what differentiates critical theory from traditional theory is exactly that it is activist.

What you're noticing is that critical theory as a social philosophy of knowledge is self-referentially inconsistent -- it has no of rejecting an application of its own principles to themselves.

I think that's right that that was the original conception, but I think there's something to how Marxists were kind of adapting to the failure of communism, and how Foucault abandoned Marxism, that could have possibly revealed a more core principle to Critical Theory which I think is a critique of power or a lens of dissecting behavior through power.

And through this lens, there's no reason why we couldn't have right-wing critical theory. And I wonder how salient an argument you could have that a lot of right-wing, or anti-activist critique against left-leaning power structures owes any debt to critical theory, including in its arguments against modern critical theorists, by using their arguments against themselves.

Though I could buy that that's not critical theory anymore because it's too dislodged from its leftist activist roots.

I've tried this a few times, and here's how it went each time:

Me: Aren't you just imposing a new hegemony in your own interests? Classical liberalism / colorblindness is a good compromise that avoids turning everything into a political race-to-the-bottom, at least for a while.

Them: We're liberating everyone from white supremacy and patriarchy. If your beloved meritocracy functioned at all, why are there so few black, indigenous, or female leaders in our institutions? Surely you don't think people from these groups are inherently inferior...?

Me, unwilling to commit professional suicide: No, no, of course not...

The debate has organically evolved so that the only rejoinder in almost any discussion involves acknowledging an on-average superiority in many professional fields of white men, which is literally a hate crime in my western country. Including East Asian and Indian men in my answer just begs the question about the remaining groups and they know it.

I've noticed in the last few years that my interlocutors are becoming quicker to ask the Unanswerable Question in these kinds of discussions, or even pre-emptively announce their rejoinder to anyone who might suggest such an idea.

If anyone has a suggested reply that won't get them fired or un-personed, I'm all ears.

Generally I findthe most success in splitting the categories further, southern rural blacks are culturally different from northern urban blacks are culturally different from Africans. As an example.

Use the disparity between the outcomes of west indies blacks and Americans to derail the narrative.

Thanks, but in my particular set of institutions, there are almost no blacks at all, so it doesn't help. But otherwise I do like this line of argument.

It has worked for me in some contexts but my answer to the question has basically been "they don't want to work here, cuz they have better things to do". It worked in the context of hiring diverse candidates for a tech department at a medium size tech company.

We weren't gonna beat out FAANG companies in getting our pick of the best available candidates, and it would have been delusional to think we could.

Obviously doesn't solve the general societal argument but can alleviate some pressure at some work environments.

Thanks. At least in our case, there are enough non-white-or-asian-male candidates who apply, but are poorly qualified, to make your argument difficult.

A female colleague argued that of course non-white-or-asian-males require more resources to achieve at the same level (because of society).

That is incredibly patronizing on her part. If you have any colleagues that are non-white or non-asian try to get her to say shit like that in front of them, and point out the patronizing nature of it.

"So wait, are you saying my (black) colleague Brett can't get as much done as me just because of his skin color?"

"But they need the opportunity to succeed first!"

"That is noble, but we can't train the entire country, we still have a job to get done. We can occasionally give an opportunity to a deserving candidate, but otherwise we need to hire candidates that can already do the job."

If this doesn't sound like a conversation you can have, then I'd personally be worried about a few things:

  1. If external hiring is intentionally skewed, how do you know internal promotion isn't also intentionally skewed? Are you getting screwed out of raises and promotions because of your skin color. If so, there is likely little way to directly find out.

  2. If your organization cannot hire competent talent then it will die a slow and eventual death. You are on a sinking ship if quality people can't be replaced. Even a slow rate of replacement can be a death sentence if you are in a competitive industry.

  3. If this lady is high up in the organization then the organization doesn't have its priorities straight. The priority should be about keeping the organization alive, not picking out who gets the best deck seats on the titanic. (if she isn't high up, then go above her head, and tell her manager that she is making it hard for you to find quality talent, and that she is being unhelpful in the hiring process. If they don't care then the problem still exists, but if they get her out of your way then some of these worries don't apply as much.)

I like that name, The Unanswerable Question as it feels very accurate. I have always wondered why democrats dont push republican politicians on this very directly in debates? It literally does feel unanswerable, so why isn’t it used more often? Why didn’t Hillary or Biden just repeatedly cudgel Trump with this for instance?

I'm guessing because avoiding these pitfalls is politician 101. They're not actually having a debate up there, Trump doesn't have to answer the question he can weasel out somehow, and Dems know it. This is more useful for actual debates where opponenets are trying to convince each other or the audience, i.e. they answer questions more or less honestly

If anyone has a suggested reply that won't get them fired or un-personed, I'm all ears.

I think this might get you fired/un-personed faster, but here's my answer.

The problem is much less "white supremacy" or "patriarchy" and much more something having to do with socioeconomic and networking effects. The problem is that we don't really have a meritocracy right now, due to these forces. By focusing on these things, we can create something more of a meritocracy. The focus on identity, frankly, is an unconscious bias to push away from any sort of need for self-sacrifice from fixing these issues. It's not a solution to the problems that they're pointing to. Truth is, I believe that Neo-Progressive politics amplify these socioeconomic and networking effects.

Going back to the OP, this is what I believe "expanding" Critical Theory looks like. I think it looks like including these other, largely non-identitarian facets of power, privilege and bias into the equation. And I think it's absolutely a non-starter. My belief remains that people will abandon Critical Theory as a whole once that process starts (and I still do think it will start eventually). But I do think people react badly to this sort of thing, because it's seen (not necessarily incorrectly) as a demand that they set themselves on fire to keep other people warm.

That said, I think the activist Right are essentially reacting to the same human impulse.

I don't understand your point. Leftists would probably agree that these days white supremacy and patriarchy are instantiated through socioeconomic effects and networking effects.

There is only one solution. The truth. I know you're afraid of it but there is no other way. And honestly I've found that embracing the truth gets you a lot less hate than you might think, especially in personal contexts, I'd still be wary in certain professional contexts. But through chats with friends I've found that most people are a lot more receptive to HBD arguments than you might think, so long as you explain it right. Most normies have genuinely never heard anyone who isn't genuinely hateful suggest that blacks might have lower IQs so start off slow. Emphasize that what we observe is overlapping Bell curves with different means and make sure to note that you are not saying "every one from this race is dumb". Talk about twin studies. If you're white and not Jewish talk about Asian and Jewish over preformance to make you sound less biased.

Also, to add to this, it's not like you have to make an HBD argument. There are many reasons why an organization (or even an entire field) might not attract black people, and not all of those reasons are necessarily "they're inherently less capable" or "the organization/field is biased". Point out some of those reasons, and say you think that the burden of proof is on the one who claims that it must be bias rather than any other possible reason.

I don't think "burden of proof" makes sense in the context of actually trying to solve a problem. But in any case, yes that is the usually tack that I or others take, suggesting that something like better elementary schools would eventually fix the problem. But then you've ceded that at equilibrium we should expect equal representation, so why not help speed up our approach to that equilibrium? Again, for competitive fields, arguing that the under-represented just don't care enough to try as hard is about as unspeakable as saying they're not as capable (see Damore).

Thanks. I have had the honest convos with people one on one and it has usually gone OK. But lots of my educated acquaintances have heard the basic claims about IQ and also a bunch of rebuttals or claimed debunkings. E.g. They think Gould's Mismeasure of Man showed conclusively that race realists were wrong.

I any case, I am talking about professional contexts, again where people explicitly disavow the possibility that differences in group outcomes could be possibly due to "inherent inferiority".

I see two avenues.

I like personally to just reject collectivism altogether. I don't give a shit if the random distribution of history means people with black skin have weirds stats, why are you obsessing over it? How come this means you get to mistreat my friend here who's a real human being over your skin color percentage fetish? Why are you racist like this, etc.

But if you want to remain within group politics, there's another one:

How come the Asians? How come the Jews?

I've made those anti-collectivist arguments, but the reply is usually that these differences in outcomes are evidence of extreme discrimination, which is unjust and hurting our effectiveness.

As for Asians, they just double down on anti-black racism. Mentioning Jews just makes you sound anti-Jewish.

It's election today in Sweden.

Despite what people might think, there seems to be less excitement or conflict internally in Sweden than usual, ime.

The two blocs have largely converged on a set of desired policies and the question is just where the focus should be and just how hard you should go. One might argue that this makes a large difference but I would say that this at the very least diffuses a lot of the drama surrounding the election itself. People kind of expect things to continue on largely as they have been regardless of who wins. We've had debates between the leaders of the two major parties where one says something and then for the other to just reply "I completely agree".

There is no side that doesn't want to restrict immigration, there is no side that wants to dismantle the nuclear reactors, there is no side that doesn't want to join NATO, there is no side that doesn't want to strengthen the police. Etc.

Interestingly, where people have radically different opinions about things it's within the blocs rather than between them. Both blocs have parties for and against private profit in the "public sector", both sides have parties for and against rent control and both sides have parties for and against lowering or keeping the current levels of unemployment income insurance.

Even the drama surrounding the Sweden Democrats (anti-immigration/xenophobic populists) has somewhat died down. It's still there to be sure and part of the peculiarities about this election and the likely issues with governing after it has to do with this, but the hysteria is mostly gone in my estimation.

So, who will win? Who knows. It's incredibly even and might come down to a few votes or one of the smaller parities unexpectedly not making parliament (there is one on each side in the risk zone).

More interesting to me will be how the actual formation of government and governance will shake out after the election. The social democrats have been able to govern on their own for the past 8 months or so with a very small number of votes directly supporting this (also having to use the right wing parties budget) and it seems unlikely to continue after the election if they win since this was kind of a bridge solution after a crisis last winter and the next election being so close.

On the other side there is the issue of the Swedish Democrats and how they will be incorporated in a ruling coalition. The other parties don't want them in the government, which they might be fine with, but there are pretty severe issues surrounding the fact that SD is in many ways more closely related to the social democrats policy-wise than the right, despite often being labeled as "far right". One salient example of this is them saying that lowering the unemployment insurance payments is a "red line" for them, but it's a campaign promise for the right... This is obviously not the only issue.

Regardless of who wins things aren't going to be easy but my analysis is that the internal contradictions are a smaller on the "right" but that the social democrats are skilled political operators and might do things like create bi-partisan agreements regarding some issues in order to sideline some parties on their side, kind of like what has happened with NATO.

Interesting, to me it seems that the conflict is now not between so called "left/right" but as Steve Bannon said years ago it is between populists (be it national or socialist) and for lack of better word the "technocrats" who want to rule through "expertise" of bureaucratic apparatus.

Interesting, to me it seems that the conflict is now not between so called "left/right" but as Steve Bannon said years ago it is between populists (be it national or socialist) and for lack of better word the "technocrats" who want to rule through "expertise" of bureaucratic apparatus.

Big if true, and not good for the populist side.

What is populism and why it has a bad name?

Populism is politics without theory.

Imagine prototype of pure populism - someone like this guy.

Someone who never wrote or read any books and does not pretend to, someone who does not even care enough to found some "Poujadist instute" and commission some intellectuals to write theory of scientific Poujadism. If you are an intellectual, seeing someone like this will understandably make you furious.

This is the reason why populist movements crash and burn or slowly fizzle out, but never achieve anything lasting, because politics without theory is ultimately like travel without destination.

Populism does not have to be without program or theory. One of the first recorded establishment vs populist clashes was that of Optimates vs Populares like Gracchi brothers in ancient Rome. Populists can have intelligent and well read champions and specific program like land reform, tax reform or election reform in case of aforementioned Populares.

In case of Bannon he named Sander's crowd who called for socialized healthcare, education and overall larger redistribution is one form of populism inside Democratic party, MAGA nationalism with things like subsidizing domestic industries employing workers can be used as populist strain of Republicans.

There is some of that but I think the primary conflict line is centered around how much people dislike/are afraid of SD and how afraid they are of the issues surrounding immigration. This is what has lead to all the current strange alliances.

There could be a conflict line between populists and technocrats but that like everything else gets distorted by SD (and to a lesser extent the issues surrounding immigration).

There is no side that doesn't want to restrict immigration, there is no side that wants to dismantle the nuclear reactors, there is no side that doesn't want to join NATO, there is no side that doesn't want to strengthen the police. Etc.

All of this would seem like evidence of a general shift to a right-wing/conservative direction, no?

Depends on what one means by those labels.

Both blocs have shrunk to fuel SD's growth, but is SD right or left wing? They are anti-immigration for sure and plenty of their representatives are xenophobic but their economic and social security policy mostly aligns with the social democrats.

The biggest loser in Sweden the last 8 years is liberalism, which is kind of dead after it won fairly big back in 06 and ushered in massive changes in Sweden.

It seems the right bloc won the narrowest of victories, although we won't know for certain until Wednesday because it's so even. Perhaps a similar change will occur now. The social democrats seems to have been on board with rolling back many changes but couldn't do so due to their electoral coalition but I suspect they might quietly keep a lot of the changes the right bring about now if they win in 4 years.

It seems the winds of mild reaction has finally reaction has finally reached Sweden and it's a bit hard to tell where we'll be in 4 years. Or perhaps the left will pull out a truly astonishing comeback with the late postal votes and Swedes voting from abroad. We will see.

I've seen some Finnish politics nerds post their results from Aftonbladet's political compass thingy, and their presentation for party results from the compass seems to show SD on the right side of the of economic line.

I had not done that compass since I don't read the evening press but the results there seem a bit different from the other compasses I've tried and looking into it very briefly it seems like their methodology is different.

While the other compass makers have had the parties do the compasses themselves, Aftonbladet seems to source their answers from interviews etc. (Some of them pretty old) They also don't have any questions about social security which is peculiar.

I maintain that the primary identification of SD is populist. They promise both large increases in welfare and public sector and lower taxes. They want to finance this with cuts to immigration and foreign aid.

I don't think anyone really knows where exactly they stand, except that they are strongly against immigration. If the result stands we'll see where they are willing to compromise though.

Economic leftists oppose excessive immigration. It moves the supply and demand curve of labor in favor of employers, and is also shown to reduce the workforce's propensity to unionize or otherwise collectively bargain.

Everyone opposes "excessive" immigration, they just have different ideas of what numbers (if any) constitute "excessive" in a given time and place.

First volley in the AI culture war? The EU’s attempt to regulate open-source AI is counterproductive

The regulation of general-purpose AI (GPAI) is currently being debated by the European Union’s legislative bodies as they work on the Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA). One proposed change from the Council of the EU (the Council) would take the unusual, and harmful, step of regulating open-source GPAI. While intended to enable the safer use of these tools, the proposal would create legal liability for open-source GPAI models, undermining their development. This could further concentrate power over the future of AI in large technology companies and prevent research that is critical to the public’s understanding of AI.

The definition of "GPAI" is vague and unclear, but it may possibly differ from the commonly-understood usage of "AGI" and may include systems like GPT-3 and SD.

I will be very curious to see how much mainstream political traction these issues get in the coming years and what the left/right divide on the issue will look like.

Who cares what the EU thinks? The EU is so far behind China and the US in AI, it will never catch up. The reason they're so far behind is because of this fetish for regulation.

Consider that the entire EU technology sector is worth about 30% of just one of the biggest American tech companies. That was 9 months ago, so maybe they're up to 50% of Apple by now.

Can Europe dominate in innovation? No.

As an example of the principles leading to heavy regulation in the EU, see the precautionary principle, which is a major idea in EU law but almost alien to the US or China:

The classic American principle is "innovate and break stuff, with regulators acting if you break something serious." The precautionary principle, in the extreme, is "we do not need to know that you are breaking stuff to stop you from innovating." Or, as Stewart Brand put it:

"When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public [meaning the regulators, not the public in the sense of the people in general], should bear the burden of proof."

The EU regulators and lawmakers have decided that this principle is worth the price of being a tech industry backwater.

In general, a secular gap has developed between the EU economy and the US economy since the mid-1990s:

Per capita, the gap has always been big, but it's become really big, especially in nominal terms, where the EU has been stagnant since about 2008.

The less players in the AI game the less impossible it is that humanity will survive.

The more players in the game the more likely we are to have an AI on our side of the equation.

Why should anyone care about humanity in the abstract?

Because sentience is the source of beauty, growth, belief, and all good in the world. Humans may very well be the only sentient beings in the galaxy, or universe. We can't tell from a sample size of one.

It would be a shame to lose all good things, therefore humanity's survival is good. Without humanity the idea of good would be lost, potentially forever. I would ask you why not care about humanity in the abstract?

Without humanity the idea of good would be lost, potentially forever.

«Humanity in the abstract» guarantees nothing more than the existence of complex machines with some reward functions; this kind of «the idea of good», by itself, doesn't do anything for me. To automatically value the existence of estimators of value is mind-boggling idiocy, circular reasoning and probably a category error, in my opinion – it straight up doesn't compute. Even utilitarians tend to recognize that they're bootstrapping a formalism from baseline human intuitions, for satisfaction of baseline human intuitions.

I would ask you why not care about humanity in the abstract?

Because a) states of the Universe have inherent aesthetic and moral value that can be appreciated in advance, and b) I assign no value, and in some cases negative value, to beauty, growth, belief and good things enjoyed by my enemies and moral abominations, to the extent that they have access to those notions at all. I'm not alone; google «Heaven and Hell».

Thus, it's not «humanity» but only «humanity that's aligned with me» whose survival matters. To make it clearer: friendly humanity surviving > empty and dead Universe > Universe populated by very satisfied but unfriendly humanity, paperclippers, orgasmium and other sorts of radically misaligned scum, in no particular order. With all this implies.

Less abstractly, this is a somewhat radical way to claim a stake in the future. I refuse to cooperate with clever defectors who will try to sell me, and others, on cooperation in the name of some utopian humanity stemming from them and inheriting their, but not my own and not anyone else's, values and individualities. This includes opposition to their ghoulish and duplicitous propaganda of utilitarian altruism, which inherently devalues individuality and agency, in favor of quantification of sensations experienced by... oh, don't worry about that, it's not your business.

I opt to make it my business.

Interesting critique of utilitarianism at some parts, but I can’t wrap my head around this:

to automatically value the existence of estimators of value is mind boggling idiocy

I can understand not wanting your enemies to prosper etc, and forming a sort of game theory strategy of defecting in advance when it seems the only other option is to get rolled over eventually. That being said… from your first bit about essentially seeing humans as robots that are not inherently worth anything whatsoever, does that mean you would welcome human extinction?

From what you’ve written it seems like under your worldview an asteroid hitting Earth tomorrow would be overall good because it would kill more of your enemies than people who’s worldview aligns with yours. Am I mistaken here?

I guess that's one of the reasons. If you can't reduce the technological lag through competition and innovation, you are even more exposed to strategic dependencies on foreign technologies. "AI protectionism": you set up a regulatory filter to protect from foreign tech and to give at least some advantage to domestic innovators.

As @arjin_ferman observes, this is in line with my more pessimistic scenarios. What is AGI, people ask? Why don't they just click the link? But to be fair, it took me a little while to discover the actual definition, here («WITH PRAGMATISM AGAINST POPULISM & STAGNATION», lmao):

'general purpose AI system' means an AI system that - irrespective of the modality in which it is placed on the market or put into service, including as open source software - is intended by the provider to perform generally applicable functions such as image and speech recognition, audio and video generation, pattern detection, question answering, translation and others; a general purpose AI system may be used in a plurality of contexts and be integrated in a plurality of other AI systems;

It's trivial to realize how this applies to large language models like the GPT series, to say nothing of multimodal systems. We don't have to get even to GATO sorts of multitask training. If anyone thought the cooling effect will only start close to what we intuitively recognize as human performance: think again.

I advise people to notice how synchronized the push against individual agency enhancement is, and it's not, contra the insistence of quokka-economists, explained by innocuous market reasons like economies of scale and data moats. In the US, you have the EA movement with their longtermism, fearmongering, advocacy for «compute governance» and «pivotal acts», and independently from that – politicized corporate AI safety/fairness divisions that'll probably be used to distinguish «responsible actors» and delegitimize smaller ones on the next legislation cycle (like with Oscars: not everyone can afford the demanded diversity package). In the EU, you have this regulation circus building on pop of earlier anti-American big tech rackets masquerading as customer protection. Of course Bostrom's hand is traceable to both sides of the pond, via WEF in the Old World and LW cluster in the New. In Russia... well, if we'll have Russia still on the map in two years, they'll do good if they don't start burning their remaining ML talent for witchcraft; they're also shut out of international markets and can't acquire new compute. Japan is «LOL», as @gwern (not with us I assume) puts it – they don't do any AI R&D worth mentioning, aren't sovereign, and will meekly follow Western lead. In China, as gwern again points out, the newest American export regulations will increase the relative (although not absolute) capacity of central government and big tech, which are already paranoid and illiberal to the highest degree:

The second-order effects here would seem to confirm Chinese autarky and trends towards secrecy, and further, to shift power from Chinese academia/small businesses/hobbyists/general-public to Chinese bigtech and thus, the Chinese government. If you've been following along, the big megacorps, especially in the wake of the attempted US execution of Huawei, have been developing their own DL ASICs for a while with an eye towards exactly this sort of scenario. [...]

If you are rich and well-connected and can finance the lobbying and guanxi and paperwork, you'll be able to get access to compute, one way or another, while the small guys can no longer click 'buy' on or just negotiate their usual datacenter orders and will pay higher costs or go without. It's the same reason why things like GDPR always wind up hurting FANG less than the activists expect (and hurt small actors like NGOs or startups much more), why 'regulatory capture' exists and why big actors often actively lobby for more regulation. It's going to be much harder and more expensive to get Nvidia GPUs or to get proprietary hardware (can you buy a TPU from Google? no, you cannot), therefore, small actors like hobbyists will be systematically disadvantaged and many priced out.

The rest of the world (sorry fellow rest-of-worlders) is comprised of some shades of shithole and Western cryptocolony, wracked by climate disasters, brain drain and, crucially, global economic crisis triggered in no small part by the EU/American/Chinese COVID policies and now the war, extremely vulnerable even to half-hearted sanctions, and won't have the wherewithal to do ML research at scale.

Well, there are exceptions of course, hilariously two exceptions validating priors of Russian conspiracy nuts.

One is a dystopian surveillance state with legendary intelligence services and diplomatic acumen, a history of attempting and partially pulling off ludicrously illiberal tech regulations, but not (yet) any de facto obstruction on advanced AI research for smaller actors; the island where core DeepMind staff is physically located, and Stability.AI incorporated.

The other is a militarized ethnostate with infamously capable intelligence agencies, world-class lithography fabs, world-leading STEM&software talent, brazenly self-interested and defiant of international regulations, not beholden to NATO or really any other alliance, with a good track record in clandestine WMD development and non-signing of non-proliferation treaties and their equivalents.

So: USA, UK, Israel, maaaybe China if (and that's a big if) it doesn't immolate itself with its own bureaucracy and Special Military Operation in a few years. These three and a half – more like one and a half – actors will split the future of the light cone, the way it's going.

That's to be expected of course. Individual agency is a threat to big structures, always has been. Even allowing escape is a threat, an infinitely big threat when multiplied by longtermist numbers and existential anxiety. There used to be a great Motte-adjacent blog, 451somethingsomething, a few years ago, with a good article of the alienation the author felt when he noticed the vibe of eusociality and hivemindedness in the society around him, his own obsolescence as a stubborn independent cell. Not edgy, just desperate. That's kind of how I feel now.

You're quite right about restrictions closing in.

I just spent 20 minutes trying and failing to install stable diffusion (due to poor technical skills). It's amazing how much sanctimonious nonsense they can put in their license. They go on about being biased towards White/Western prompt language and announce that it probably cost about 11 tonnes of CO2 to produce the model, as though anyone cares. I don't understand why you would release software for free, on a very open license and then put in this stuff. Wouldn't releasing your model like that mean you're libertarian-leaning?

The model should not be used to intentionally create or disseminate images that create hostile or alienating environments for people. This includes generating images that people would foreseeably find disturbing, distressing, or offensive; or content that propagates historical or current stereotypes.

Of course, there's already a general in 4chan's /h/ about it. h stands for precisely what you would expect a novel art-creation AI tool to be used for.

I wouldn't read much into it: they have to cover their asses (it doesn't work all that well). And yes, people care about CO2; 11 tons isn't a lot, some models can burn the equivalent of a small city's energy budget, and we need to encourage energy-efficient approaches (hopefully, there's also the added benefit of slowing down major corporate players with near-infinite compute budget, who can just keep scaling).

Emad personally, at least, has a pretty mature (IMO) understanding of ethics around personal freedom, in fact philosophy is one of his specializations. But he clearly doesn't like White supremacy a great deal, being a Bangladeshi, and might really appreciate debiasing of the dataset towards a statistically accurate representation of human phenotypes across the globe. Just under 10% of the global population are white, after all (you'd never tell that from a random English-annotated image content sample).

I think it's time to come to grips with the fact that some of the other 90+% are enabling technical breakthroughs with their own people in mind.

Try some retard-proof guide or prebaked SD-based executable, I'm sure there was one linked on /r/StableDiffusion.

And don't give up after 20 minutes. Come on man, doing something for the first time can take orders of magnitude longer.

Yeah I found an exe shortly after. The technical skill I lacked was the wisdom to look for an easier path. It's good fun to play around with.

But to put the C02 into comparison, some friends of mine put 17 tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere just today with international flights. Your average climate summit probably has a carbon footprint similar to the larger models. Slowing down the big players is nice but the silliness of it irritates me.

And do these people think a primary use-case isn't nuding celebrities or making 'stereotypical' content? Credit where credit's due, the version I got didn't have blockers on it. But it's like making a set of monkey bars and forbidding children to climb on top of them since they might fall. One, it goes against the point and two, it won't be obeyed. A rule made to be despised.

Is it so clear that this is one of those domains where present trends can be meaningfully extrapolated? Theoretically, bringing any modern country up to the cutting edge of AI amounts to transferring a few TB of data and one container-load of GPUs; if you also want people who can understand and iterate on it, perhaps add a classload of people and at most 8 years of training. The people behind the likes of DeepMind do not strike me as actual +4\sigma-on-the-g-distribution individuals that are in genuine short supply globally to anyone that is not the Cathedral as much as moderately smart people who were at the right place at the right time with the right motivations. As I see it, it's not clear that it wouldn't take just one Chinese drone swarm flying too close to the wrong rock for Japan remember the last few times they surprised powers that wanted a slice of their sleepy islands by sudden and very prolific technological copypasta.

Also, I wanted to thank you for linking the Complex Numbers songs in that previous post of yours you linked. Pretty neat, and colours in my mental image of the direction the Russian offshoot of the rationalist community must have moved in. Did you have anything to do with the people behind it?

There used to be a great Motte-adjacent blog, 451somethingsomething, a few years ago, with a good article of the alienation the author felt when he noticed the vibe of eusociality and hivemindedness in the society around him, his own obsolescence as a stubborn independent cell.

Status451? That guy who wrote the book review on Days of Rage?

Right, Ghosts in Every Machine

Last month was strange and horrifying. A guy with an interesting and novel project wanted to talk about it at a conference. A conference run by a solid, upstanding tech leader. And then everyone lost their shit. Suddenly, out of nowhere, everything was crazy. All I wanted to do was protect a conference I’ve enjoyed in the past, to do a nice thing for a guy who made a mistake in the eyes of the public. The next thing I know, I’m surrounded by zombies. News reporters made up lies about us. Communists on the internet joked (haha-no-but-really) about sending us to gulags. Coworkers of mine, not knowing who I am, told me to my face about this “crazy blog defending a horrible bigot,” and how they’re glad there aren’t any terrible people like that in our office. I’ll be laughing for a long time about how I’m officially certified “not supremacist” by the SPLC.

This is insanity. Why did these people do these strange things? Why did people I knew and trusted, interacted with daily, turn into horrible people yelling for my head? The most confusing part was their general ignorance of the details of the situation. Very few of them knew why they should be upset. None of them had ever read the speaker’s offending blog, and few of them had so much as seen the offending quotation. All they knew was that we’re the bad guys, and need to be punished.

Our critics are a part of something bigger than themselves. They’re keyed in to the Waze app, being the human serpents, while my Motorola flip-phone struggles to run the snake game. And why wouldn’t they? At every step along the way, it makes sense. Who cares why the narrative seems a little too perfect, they’re happy. It works for them. Their needs are met. By playing their part, responding to the signals in the memetwork, they enjoy health and happiness, wealth and social status. It would be stupid not to go along.

We here at Status451 have never really fit in. The signals are mangled by the mountains here in Zomia. We’re the single cells. The behaviours of everyone else made no sense to us, and the results were frightening. We can’t see the complex internal signals.

When the mass of cells is bearing down on you, just like in Simon-spore, you do have an option. You have mobility. Freedom. Our critics, keyed into the signal of their culture war narrative, gain a lot of benefits. They get their social needs provided for, in exchange for being the lifeblood of their egregore. But that is the cost: they must be the egregore. They lose the freedom to go their own way. We here have chosen the other path. Maybe “chosen” isn’t quite the right word; I’ve tried my whole life to fit in, be normal, and it just doesn’t work. But our other path, chosen or not, gives us the freedom to see things differently. We can be the masters of our own fate, hold a deeper, fuller agency over our lives. As long as we don’t wake the deep faceless things.

Everyone loves weaponization narrative. Sure, every action, performed by a rational actor (even more so by coalition of actors) is calculated to secure their cozy status quo or disrupt rival one. But know what? Absence of any EU legislation would signify the same weaponization, successfully carried out by other actors like AI-powered businesses. They would have lobbied their way toward just right degree of individual agency, basically any degree you wish to pay for. Monthly agency subscription, pretty interface, but they would also hoard some details of your precious agency in the background, for its safety and for better recommendations, and maybe some other things.

Every disruptive technology would be weaponized, rest assured. And not only technology itself – that’s the bread and butter of technocrats – folks of more modest means weaponize the mere threat of technology. Even your natural claim for agency is already part of a standard sjw toolset you would sneer at in other circumstances.

Instead of pamphleteering away regulatory motion, I’d first explore the strategies they devise, and where exactly this tide is moving. Or do you already have a good strategy of decentralized resistance?

One is a dystopian surveillance state with legendary intelligence services and diplomatic acumen, a history of attempting and partially pulling off ludicrously illiberal tech regulations, but not (yet) any de facto obstruction on advanced AI research for smaller actors; the island where core DeepMind staff is physically located, and Stability.AI incorporated.

Would be hilarious if it actually turns out that Brexit was the singular event that allowed UK to remain sovereign. It would vindicate the deplorables as nothing else.

History is full of these weird little accidents and ironies, like Mussolini getting ousted in the end by the symbolic grand council of fascism he created.

The only clause about “open source” I found in EU reports, says that current regulations should apply irrespective of whether software is open source or not. Brookings doesn’t discuss details of regulations at all, but makes a bunch of empirical claims (I chose interesting):

  1. Open source GPAI (osai) promotes competition and erodes monopolies

  2. Regulation of osai would disincentivize its development by introducing liabilities and delays

1 Since osai has public good features, any breakthrough would be instantly adopted by everyone, but only big players have enough resources to continuously integrate and build off others’ breakthroughs. Some startups would be consumed altogether. If anything, releasing and adopting open source seems to profit monopolies more than anyone else. And curiously, Brookings admits this in their other article about benefits of osai:

At first glance, one might be inclined to think that open-source code enables more market competition, yet this is not clearly the case. […] In fact, for Google and Facebook, the open sourcing of their deep learning tools (Tensorflow and PyTorch, respectively), may have the exact opposite effect, further entrenching them in their already fortified positions

2 Most influential open source DL libraries like pytorch, tensorflow came from BigTech. And since almost every big company released its own library, it appears to be a common strategy – in a competition to entrench your own de-facto standard. Same about cloud infrastructure. Whether you like this status quo or not, it is monopolies who provide most services and tools at the moment.

Would regulation change this situation? Big players would certainly endure the bureaucratic costs, but many small but valuable innovators (esp nonprofits) might be effectively barred from releasing open source.

The document (pdf) mentions “AI regulatory sandboxes” as a measure to alleviate the burden of small entrants:

The objectives of the AI regulatory sandboxes should be to foster AI innovation by establishing a controlled experimentation and testing environment in the development and pre-marketing phase with a view to ensuring compliance […] including by removing barriers for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), including and start-ups.

Moreover, in order to ensure proportionality considering the very small size of some operators regarding costs of innovation, it is appropriate to exempt microenterprises from the most costly obligations, such as to establish a quality management system which would reduce the administrative burden and the costs for those enterprises

Would be interesting to see more substantial analysis of the regulations themselves.

And here it is, as predicted, the managers eventually running into conflict with technology that isn't under their control.

In a sense there probably is some level of regulation that is appropriate, you don't want to live in a society where the algebra decides what you can do, where you can go, what you can say all without any actual justification beyond probability.

But for some reason I don't think the bureaucrats in Brussels fear that rather than it undermining their power. Which is why they are going with this avenue of attack: making sure only they and the people they accredit are allowed to access the tech. Can't give world changing powers to potential ennemies after all.

Ah how I miss the lull of liberalism.

Can you give me an example of how AI could undermine the power of “the bureaucrats in Brussels”?

AI could undermine the power of almost anyone, if carefully applied. Bureaucrats are concerned only insofar as interest groups pressure them. I don't get this folkloric obsession with bureaucrats per se.

Does the existence of openly available cryptographic tools and communication channels, in your mind, undermine the power of state security to quash dissidents? If not, why does Beijing insist on everyone using not Matrix/Element or Briar or even Telegram (with keys beyond their reach) but WeChat, where the Tovarisch Commissar can check up on you? Why do FSB and NSA and everyone else of that Big Brother mindset fight e2e encryption?

Because information asymmetry is power. Being able to go about your business unsupervised by A increases your power relative to A. Being supervised makes you, in the limit, merely an extension of A.

Largely the same principle applies to all areas where AI promises drastic improvements: any sort of generative tools, content curation tools, personal assistants, scientific instruments, CAD, robot control software, you name it. Everything that multiplies individual agency, you would want to be run on instances you can trust without the pinky-promise of industrial-security complex and unaccountable bureaucracies, who can either blacklist your content for some self-determined thoughtcrime, or manipulate the public into approving the criminalization of your thoughts.

Because then it improves the tradeoff between autonomy from them and your quality of life, and autonomy is inherently valuable (not to utilitarians I suppose, but to normal people of Western cultural background). And people would be able to afford more of it, and contribute less to the incumbent actors, and hope to see them diminish and become non-threats.

Hell, why do you think we've even moved over to a website managed by Zorba, from the cozy Advance Publications, Inc. property where the «Director of Policy» has Atlantic Council background? Granted, that's still a compromise, the server being physically controlled by DigitalOcean which just has less but not zero interest in narrowly policing its clients than Reddit in controlling its product for advertisers. Had Zorba tools to become a 10X programmer in his free time (if you consider yourself one, Zorba, then amend that to 100X) – we'd probably be on some insanely robust but still convenient p2p platform, with... I dunno, frontend hosted on magnet links served from ETH smart contract, and backend provided by a distributed swarm of anonymous TOR-routed plain key-value storage data nodes, with every post in a tree PoW- and reputation-economy secured and moderation decisions overlayed on top of it like a voluntary custom filter, cryptographically signed of course...

Which would be an inherently hard target, expensive to shut down for any aspiring Keffals equivalent or even for ADL-level, Western nation state level threats. And that'd become the norm.

AI democratization is the logical next step of the entire FOSS and OSH project, and libertarian, anarchist and communalist political paradigms – go read Bakunin or Rothbard or Hoppe or Stallman, if you want. Right now, you've got to accept material and political sacrifices on par with the Amish to achieve (some qualified) off-grid autonomy, and nobody's willing to go that far; and they, too, exist solely at the sufferance of the oligarchy. At some point in the near future, AI labor multipliers will allow small and distributed communities with limited economic output to maintain the quality of life currently available only for good citizens of large nation states with big corporations; even allow them security, if not from major players then from random crime, if they opt out of the state protection racket. Sure, by that point those good citizens will enjoy hyperpalatable Netflix4D propaganda streaming over Neuralink into their Metaverse pods. But will the marginal increase in marketable quality be worth continuing to slurp down dreary propaganda? The tradeoff changes, and more people become willing to jump ship.

You conveniently assume linear or superlinear returns to capability, where AI will necessarily benefit the incumbent actors even more than commoners. That's not how proliferation works. Just like a 50 Mt warhead is not 100x more of a deterrence than a 500Kt one (assuming similar ability to deliver it to the adversary's capital). There are many asymmetric functions for defense, logistic curves for human preference, and plenty of uncertainty in the future.

A good route, an escape from this path-dependent road to serfdom, is – to put it mildly – not very likely.

But I don't yet see how it is impossible, and if it is possible, it's only via commodified AI.

Wow man, you are on fire today.

I sometimes disagree with your stuff, but more usually am not sure what to think as the inscrutability is too much to bear -- this is different.

Not sure what you've been doing to hone your edge, but I look forward to more of it. (whatever that is)

Does the existence of openly available cryptographic tools and communication channels, in your mind, undermine the power of state security to quash dissidents?

Not really.

The US government did a perfectly fine job of crushing the alt right, and it had nothing to do with their communications not being secret enough.

If not, why does Beijing insist on everyone using not Matrix/Element or Briar or even Telegram (with keys beyond their reach) but WeChat, where the Tovarisch Commissar can check up on you? Why do FSB and NSA and everyone else of that Big Brother mindset fight e2e encryption?

A variety of reasons. I'm quite certain that they could get by even with e2e encryption being easily and publicly accessible though.

Largely the same principle applies to all areas where AI promises drastic improvements: any sort of generative tools, content curation tools, personal assistants, scientific instruments, CAD, robot control software, you name it.

So... how are any of these things going to help you achieve your desired anti-establishment political aims? Is your AI assistant going to put a reminder on your calendar telling you when it's time to take your AI robot buddies and go storm the palace? What happens when the palace guards have bigger and better AI robot buddies?

I'm not really trying to be cheeky. I'm just asking you to describe in sufficient detail what you're imagining. People thought throughout history that lots of different things were going to revolutionize human relations and put an end to tyranny - democracy, reason, public education, communism. None of them did. We're mostly still dealing with the same old shit that humanity has always dealt with. You can't just stop at "AI is awesome and I want it". You need a concrete argument for why things will actually be different this time - otherwise you end up with the classic communist problem where everyone just assumed "well of course if you tear down existing society then everyone will spontaneously rearrange themselves into new social relations that are perfectly just and equitable" without actually stopping to consider the details of how that was going to work.

You conveniently assume linear or superlinear returns to capability, where AI will necessarily benefit the incumbent actors even more than commoners.

Of course it will necessarily benefit the incumbent actors. The US has a rather high rate of gun ownership, and who do guns benefit more? The people or the government?

I'm not really trying to be cheeky

Guess you're just naturally good.

If I want to get some snarky demoralization content to the effect of «Russische Ivan, Rücken nach unten» or «come out and drink your corn syrup», I can go talk with @2rafa (actually looking forward to it). The topic of a hypothetical causal chain getting us from here to there is interesting, but I don't feel like addressing it in depth when you dismiss already present evidence against your model, i.e. efforts of incumbent actors to maintain their tech advantage, with a «not really» and «various reasons».

Is your AI assistant going to put a reminder on your calendar telling you when it's time to take your AI robot buddies and go storm the palace?

It'll do normal reminders, just without inserting propaganda and advertisement to alienate my children against me and eventually convince them that they're trans BLM crusaders. If that's how you want to frame it, though I believe someone like Rob Dreher would be more receptive to such a sales pitch.

If I had to update my beliefs every time I encountered evidence against them, I'd be able to hold very few beliefs about anything of importance.

As a general methodological point, I don't think there's anything objectionable about noting that you don't find an argument convincing, even though you're not prepared to give a fully-formed response to it.

I don't think there's anything objectionable about noting that you don't find an argument convincing, even though you're not prepared to give a fully-formed response to it.


  • A fact-checker-checker

  • A Regime-meme detector

  • A metaverse scrambler

  • Automated chaff generator against "radicalization experts"

Just off the top of my head.

A fact-checker-checker, A Regime-meme detector, A metaverse scrambler

Come on man.

Automated chaff generator against "radicalization experts"

The "radicalization experts" would of course be AI bots themselves, running on more powerful server clusters than whatever The Resistance could cobble together, so they would be able to respond to both human dissidents and the AI-generated content meant to distract them, without missing a beat.

I'll take being outgunned, over being forced to bring a knife to a gunfight.

commonly-understood usage of "AGI"

Honestly, I follow this field largely peripherally, but I don't think anyone understands what "AGI" means. There's a lot of scaremongering about what "generalized intelligence" will entail (it's a classic science fiction trope!), but from what I'm seeing of the development it's not clear that "generalized" will be the sort of thing easily weaponized against us. It seems quite plausible to me that existing neural models won't inherently have any sort of long-term objectives or goals. Are emotions separable from intelligence like science fiction authors would have us believe?

As a rough comparison, I feel like an observer in 1900 watching lots of attempts at powered heavier-than-air flight, but wondering if initiatives to stop investing in roads ("we'll fly!") or railroads (we do fly sometimes) are well-timed. It seems likely someone will be successful, but exactly what it will look like is unclear, and I'm not sure we should start planning for our ornithopter overlords.

I don't think anyone understands what "AGI" means

Most "confusion" over what AGI means seems to come from people who want to shift the goalposts to make ridiculous claims (e.g. that GPT-3 is "already an AGI").

One thing that would obviously qualify an AI as an AGI is if it could do everything a human could do. Obviously this would entail that it has agency, that it has some sort of body that it can use to interact with the physical world, etc.

Maybe some less powerful systems could qualify as AGI as well, e.g. a non-embodied agent that we could only interact with through text. But the fact that there are edge cases doesn't mean that the concept of AGI is particularly difficult to grasp, or that most people don't intuitively understand what is meant by the concept.

The EU’s attempt to regulate open-source AI is counterproductive.

Alternative explanation: no it's not, they know exactly what they're doing. To be fair, at first I also thought Ilforte was being a bit of a drama queen, and now I'm just surprised I had any bit of naivete left to be brutally beaten out of me.

I'm reminded of this Twitter thread I saw a while ago: describing a proposal that Europe take the stance of becoming the "regulatory leader" of AI.

It sounds like a bit of a risky proposition, to me: "if you want our business, you must abide by the rules we set that are stricter than everybody else's" sounds vulnerable, the more and more it is used, to a Laconic reply.

I dunno, it's not like EU is about to get another sort of a competitive advance. US, of course, has a general competitive advance of being the world's richest and most developed area with a tradition of being the cutting edge of the cutting edge in IT, and being able to pay the biggest salaries - EU is not going to achieve that. China, meanwhile, will presumably attempt to compete with unlimited state investment and participation, along with the ability to utilize data received from an unrestricted control society - EU is not going to compete there, either. Why not try be a regulation trendsetter, and hope this contributes to a general movement for strict AI regulation globally - so that if and when it starts happening, you'll be a trendsetter?

if you want our business, you must abide by the rules we set that are stricter than everybody else's

It works for China.


Ban porn, subsidize prostitutes: a modest defense of whoring

The popular view is that masturbating to porn is fine, and using the services of prostitutes is not so fine. Porn is not a poor man’s prostitute, but instead a cleaner acceptable method of sexual satisfaction. You might joke with a friend, like Markiplier on the Logan Paul podcast, that you gave up porn because the two-hour wank sessions got old. Were Markiplier to say he recently gave up prostitutes, which he had been using for a decade, the conversation would have taken a somber tone. Yet for most of Western history, this moral calculation was inverted. Masturbation was seen as worse vice than than the vice girl. Augustine, Aquinas, Kant, Voltaire, and Richard Wagner all thought the solitary vice more dangerous than the sex worker. Why would this be?

We don’t need to get too bogged down in the historical miscellany and theological glosses. For starters, our ancestors noted that fucking a woman is more natural than fucking a hand. But this was not haughty naturalistic phallicy. This is complex. Due to the nature of human habit and memory, obtaining satisfaction from a woman promotes and orients a man’s sexuality toward women, and not oneself. Let’s flesh this out. On the first level, once you’ve completed the intended act with the harlot, a memory is formed in which all preceding sensations cue for satisfaction of the urge. There’s [urge -> satisfaction from woman], but we can go deeper. There’s [urge -> WOMAN -> satisfaction from woman], with all the sensations of a woman encoding sexual satisfaction: pheromones, tone of voice, clothing, mannerisms, and importantly socializing with a woman, implicating your social personality and hers. This works to develop a craving associated with all the sensations of women, increasing the desire for the company of real women and the formation of relationships and marriages. There is one more social benefit, which is that the [dressing up -> traveling -> paying] is more prosocial than opening a tab on a laptop, and associating sex with money is great salience on the value of money.

If sex were the Milky Way and the earth were a wife, prostitutes would be Venus and porn would be Pluto. It’s very far away, and it’s not even a planet.

But the argument is yet to reach its climax. Prostitutes are seen as dirty, and this again betrays our modern misunderstanding of psychology. Going out, away from your home and work, to purge your desire with a woman is a way to keep your home and work life free from the cognitive “stain” of sex, because the whole sexiness is entrenched in its own unique context. The home and office, and the home office, are clean of memories and cues of intercourse — you have ejaculated these cues far away from your “pure” life. There’s no risk of Toobin-ing all over your keyboard after a zoom meeting, because your computer has no cues related to sex. Instead, your conception of sex is caught up in a web of strong cues, all of which are related to real life women.

I would never visit a prostitute, not as much because of morality but more because of myriads of STDs, some of which are highly infectious and very hard to get rid of such as Herpes/HPV viruses against which you cannot protect even with condoms. I sincerely believe that it was STDs that historically made prostitutes "unclean" and made them verboten in loads of cultures/religions. One prostitute infected with syphilis could wipe out half of a small town. In fact, apparently 20% of men in London caught syphilis by the age of 35 despite overall culture denouncing this behavior.

Setting aside the impossibility of banning porn, let's say you somehow could. Your alternative doesn't feature men forced by the dearth of porn to visit a local prostitute... they just find something else to jerk off to, up to and including their own imagination, or memories of past sexual experiences. Porn isn't cutting into the prostitution industry's bottom line in any significant way, I would imagine, or the explosion of online porn would have put them out of business by now.

How does stripping feature into this dichotomy of yours anyway? It's in person, but it just encourages masturbation.

Overall I question your understanding of typical male sexuality.

Masturbation was seen as worse vice than than the vice girl. Augustine, Aquinas, Kant, Voltaire, and Richard Wagner all thought the solitary vice more dangerous than the sex worker. Why would this be?

Sterility, which is why your argument that "prostitution orients men towards sex with women" doesn't work. Porn will have sex with women, why isn't that conditioning as much? Hookers dress and act (and recite a script for interactions) in the stereotypical way which involves a lot of 'this is supposedly sexy clothing and behaviour'.

The reason masturbation was seen as worse than common fornication was precisely because it was a solitary vice. Having casual sex was at least open to the chance of pregnancy, it was following the natural path of "men and women have sex, babies result", even if it was being contorted for pleasure (by men) and money (by women). Masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, use of contraception are trying to avoid the natural end of sex and its natural consequence: babies.

So modern prostitution would be as ill-regarded as porn: it's sterile. Prostitutes and their clients have methods to avoid conception. Sex is purely a transaction of money for satisfaction. The problem with modern sex, be it porn or prostitutes or cohabitation or contraception and abortion within marriage is sterility, deliberately avoiding what sex is meant to do. (This is completely ignoring the problem of STIs, which haven't gone away, and as the monkeypox outbreak demonstrates, good old promiscuous sex is still the best way to spread diseases).

So modern prostitution, even if it did orient men towards women, is not orienting them to relationships with women, it's towards the woman as source of satisfaction as you want it. The prostitute isn't there to have a good time herself, she's there to provide a service that you pay for, and since it's a transaction, she has to sell the goods to your demand. Even if that demand is for intimacy, the 'girlfriend experience', it's still a fake. It's not socialising awkward men to be able to interact with women, it's socialising women to be what men see in porn. Because this is what modern sex has become: for increasing novelty, porn has to provide something new and spicy. And after a while, seeing this in porn, consumers want it in real life and glossy magazines are all too happy to write articles on how you, too, modern woman, can be a porn star in the bedroom.

Oral sex was once something only whores did. Now the expectation is that of course your girlfriend will give you a blowjob. Anal sex was mainstreamed via porn, and once the novelty of heterosexual sodomy has worn off, I have no doubt that Cosmopolitan will be writing articles about the best way to perform the new kink.

Possibly incest, there seems to be a lot of interest in brother-sister as step-sibling incest porn? So Cosmo will have articles on "10 Ways To Role-Play Incest" and "How To Play Sister And Brother With Your Boyfriend".

That's modern sex. That's not about socialisation, it's about 'consent is the most important thing' and 'pleasure is the only reason for sex' and adopting "sex work is real work" will still have a stigma, because there was an excuse for men to go to prostitutes once upon a time (my wife would never do this act and I would never ask her to do it) but nowadays, women are supposed to be sex-positive and willing to do anything, because sex is not dirty and no act should be beyond the pale. So it still will be "only the losers who can't get a girlfriend go to the sex workers".

And again, that is ignoring the whole problem of the awkward men who do want the entire girlfriend experience, who do want "this attractive girl is with me because she wants to be and she likes me for who I am", not "I am paying this woman for an hour of her time and access to her body, and she has other clients before and after me". The socially awkward guys may want "the formation of relationships and marriages" but there's more to being with a woman in a relationship than "okay, I've been to hookers so I know how sex works". If all the problem is "lack of confidence" and going to a sex worker helps with that, it may result in "can get a proper girlfriend". If the problem is more than that, it won't solve it.

There are men who use prostitutes who have wives, etc. and it's a matter of convenience for them. They don't need socialisation, they're horny and want a quick, convenient climax where they don't have to bother about their partner's pleasure or anything other than getting off the way they want. They needn't be jerks while fucking the hooker, they can be quite pleasant, but it's nowhere near "socializing with a woman, implicating your social personality and hers. This works to develop a craving associated with all the sensations of women, increasing the desire for the company of real women and the formation of relationships and marriages".

They already have relationships and marriages, they're horny right now and just want to get off and their wives/girlfriends aren't there to satisfy it.

Prostitution is banned because of the impact on those selling sex, not because of the impact on buyers. I don’t think you have to be a feminist to see that this post totally ignores what selling sex could do to the woman’s psychology (and her health in general). Plus there is always the fear that women are being forced into it by pimps. I personally think it should be decriminalized instead of legalized — I don’t think having a McDonald’s of sex would be a happy development.

McDonalds of sex

"Food, folks and fun" indeed...

Though, this begs the question of how places where prostitution is already legal are fairing. I haven't heard of any major differences between NZ, the Netherlands, Nevada, Denmark, and the rest of the world that are attributable to their approaches to sex work.

I'm not sold on the idea that working as a sex worker in a regulated industry is significantly worse for mental health than other low status occupations, especially given the amount of money earned. If you consider someone who works in hospice care, and while this isn't a low status job per se, it's psychologically grueling, stressful, and disgusting. Additionally, we shouldn't imagine the worst case of prostitution in a defense of the oldest profession, we should instead imagine a case that can be reasonably actionable with regulation. Like if someone wants to bring back coal mining, we shouldn't imagine the worst case of 19th century coal mining, we should imagine an industry with regulation an safeguards.

There are many women who already sell their bodies on Twitch, Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, and OnlyFans. Sex work entails more risk, even when regulated, absolutely, but the psychological act of selling one's body is not different here.

I think having to make physical contact with someone for money is psychologically distinct from selling pics/videos online. In this I guess I agree with the OP!

But yes, this isn't an issue that I feel I have completely made up my mind on, and I'm willing to be convinced that it could be regulated in a relatively safe way. I do think the psychological impact of selling intimacy has to be reckoned with in any argument for legalizing (or subsidizing!) prostitution. I also think that if you are worried about traditional family formation, as many people on this site seem to be, further going down the road of explicitly turning sex into a commodity is a bad thing.

worried about traditional family formation

this genie is out of the bottle and isn't going back in. A retvrn to Christian moral hegemony isn't happening, the tide is going in the exact opposite direction. Furthermore why do we care so much about the psychological impacts of prostitution when we don't care about how the feelings of garbage men or plumbers are affected by their jobs?

And to be clear, we aren't "turning sex into a commodity", we would be treating sex formally as an interaction or transaction between two people. Right now it is that, but we just pretend it isn't because it makes us feel good.

why do we care so much about the psychological impacts of prostitution when we don't care about how the feelings of garbage men or plumbers are affected by their jobs?

Because they're men and we "live in a society" ... - insert more MRA talking points here -

Sadly true but nothing we can do about it right now.

I'm not arguing for a return to "Christian moral hegemony," and I think you can be worried about family formation without wanting a full on return of 1950s sexual politics. But either way, if you are trying to maximize people being in stable, monogamous relationships, legalizing prostitution feels like a significant disincentive for both men and women for pursuing that -- men because they can get easy sex outside of a relationship even if they are not the type of guy who successfully manages to have casual sex, women because they can have a "side hustle" that will often put tension on any serious relationship.

See, you are arguing that monogamy is preferable to hypergamy or whatever else, and i dont disagree. American culture values individualism too much for marriage and even monogamy to a lesser extent, dedicated relationships almost categorically will require sacrifice for and acceptance of someone else. These are just not highly valued traits in modern popular culture. My problem with your argument is that you will have to change how people value others for change to happen, or to put it more bluntly it won't happen. You can't legislate what people want. If people want multiple partners or freedom from commitment, be it financial or otherwise, how are you going to change that?

Legalizing prostitution may even highlight why people would want a real relationship in the first place. If we decouple sex from the partnership of a relationship then peoples incentives can align way more closely in the dating market. letting all of the sleaziest and most animalistic urges get taken care of leaves people who want more with a more like minded pool of people to choose from.

Even further, if the dating market stays effed up or gets more so, prostitution may be the best some guys are gonna get, and i feel like its kindof a dick move to stand between a willing whore and a guy who legit will not get laid without her.

Furthermore why do we care so much about the psychological impacts of prostitution when we don't care about how the feelings of garbage men or plumbers are affected by their jobs?

It's much less garbage men or plumbers, (the people I know who do these things seem to be satisfied with the job itself) and much more telemarketers, retail/service employees and so on.

I don't think sex work is for everybody. And for reasons, I wouldn't make it into expected work, as in, expecting people on welfare to do it. But at the same time, I can see how it would be some people's cup of tea.

Truth be told, I think the trad-sex elements of some forms of conservatism to be well..missing the point I think. It's not that I think they're misidentifying the problem...increasing amounts of men seem to be incapable of fulfilling roles that are broadly seen as desired (even if people like to pretend that's not the case), but the problem isn't really in the sexual sphere. Because of that the solutions are all wrong. Porn/Prostitution in this way are fillers for people who have internalized ideas that either the male gender role is bad, or lack the skills to perform the male gender role.

There are many jobs that are uniquely harmful for the ones performing them, and this is usually compensated for in some way. By higher pay or greater satisfaction or social praise, for examples. I don't see why prostitution requires special regulation.

Or are you implying that whores are always effectively slaves?

There are many jobs that are uniquely harmful for the ones performing them

Name a job? I can think of dangerous jobs or jobs that require long hours. I can't think of a job that involves selling your own body so a stranger can use you for sexual pleasure. That feels different enough to require "special regulation".

I think there are women who enjoy sex work and can do it without too much of an impact on the rest of their lives, yes. But I think that any woman being forced into it, either through physical coercion by a pimp or because they don't see another way to financially provide for themselves, is a moral catastrophe that we should try really fucking hard to prevent.

Selling access to your body would seem to describe surrogacy, possibly certain forms of modeling, organ sales, and paid blood/sperm/plasma/marrow donation as well as prostitution. And notably we put all of those things in a separate category from working at McDonald’s.

I can't think of a job that involves selling your own body so a stranger can use you for sexual pleasure.

You mean, other than prostitution? You can't think of a job that is prostitution, other than things that are prostitution?

Fair enough, I suppose I set myself up for that. My point is that selling your body for sex feels extremely different from other unpleasant/harmful jobs (like being a garbageman or a plumber, which are two examples another poster gave). Setting aside the risks (abuse, pregnancy, STDs), the work is deeply, unavoidably, personal and potentially alienating in a way that other jobs are not.

Also, in the absence of porn people will just jerk off to non-porn naked women, and then almost-naked women, and then mostly-clothed women. (in current modern conditions, upon which that depends very finely. no idea if hunter gatherers masturbate or how often, etc). Or they'd just torrent it. A better argument would probably be directly against masturbation as opposed to for banning it.

Due to the nature of human habit and memory, obtaining satisfaction from a woman promotes and orients a man’s sexuality toward women, and not oneself

Why isn't this also true of masturbation? It orients one towards women because it's images of them!

Old World Monkeys and Apes masturbate so I think it's safe to assume that every version of our ancestors spanked the monkey.

But, frequency - i've seen a video of a monkey sucking its own dick, and some humans do that, but neither is common for either. Is masturbation a once-daily or once-weekly thing for monkeys and apes?

Monkeys are notorious for jacking off (as well as shit-flinging) at the zoo -- if it's common enough to see at a random zoo visit I would think that they do it quite a bit? Auto-fellatio is probably anatomically easier for monkeys, which might explain why humans don't do it so much; also the known problem of being more like sucking dick than getting a blowjob. (which is presumably less of an issue if you're a monkey)

Also, in the absence of porn people will just jerk off to non-porn naked women, and then almost-naked women, and then mostly-clothed women

Do you think they'd do it as often? This sounds similar to saying that if you ban fast food people will just gorge themselves on healthy food, except they'd also probably stop gorging altogether.

It's not obvious that all the anti-porn arguments differentiate that much between masturbating 1x/day and 1x/2 days, tbh. And - from various reading, it seems like, when given access only to 'sexy women' magazines, people still did it very often.

And the problem is it's just complicated - both fast food and health food share issues like having poor nutrient content and tasting mediocre that, locally, lead people to fast food (people say "eat your vegetables", but store-bought vegetables taste flavorless. Heirloom varieties, grown well, of the same often taste great. So replacing fast food (and a store-bought prepared dinner, or even making your own white bread loaf with butter, is still pretty bad) with healthy food still leave people wanting the bad food.

The frequency or characteristics of masturbation could similarly depend on society, but depend on more things than just 'pictures available'. Or maybe it really just is 'pics available'. Wonder if any primitive-ish societies keep around any cosmo magazines.

They absolutely will. Maybe not if you ban sugar entirely.

I should rephrase.

Assuming you can enforce a ban, the further you go along the spectrum of ruling out easy, tasty, addictive, unhealthy foods: the less likely people are to gorge themselves.

And the same for porn, the further you go along the spectrum of removing the easiest, most stimulating porn, the less likely people will be to overindulge.

Yes, marginal effects do matter. Their effects are often a lot less than the perfect solutions one might hope for, but I suspect that it's rare that they have no or negative effect - perhaps compared to what expected, it might feel that way.

A prostitute is about as intimate as your hand, less convenient and more expensive. Beyond that, I fail to see how this is argues for banning porn at all.

I think its time for me to admit that I am an ex John and an ex compulsive porn user. I visited well over 20 prostitutes in my life and there were periods where I was masturbating to porn 3-4 times a day. I don't do either of those things anymore. But that's a different post.

Having laid out my past, I would say your post sucks big time.

Bait title (nothing about banning pornography or subsidizing whores), and same old hot take that 50 million people had on the internet before (go visit /r/redscarepod for 5 minutes). Anyways, since I can't just call your post shit and leave it at that, I will try to lay out why I think so;

  • The central thrust of your post, which is that masturbating to porn and having sex with prostitutes are distinct because one of them involves a "real woman". Is extremely naive to the psychology of actually visiting a prostitute. Why do I say this? Because the distinct categories are not {having sex with a mutually attracted partner, having sex with a prostitute} and {porn} it's {having sex with a mutually attracted partner} and {porn, having sex with a prostitute.} As someone who has had sex with a prostitute and someone who did it willingly, its not the same thing at all!

    When I visited prostitutes, the same pathways in my brain were firing as the ones that do when I beat it to porn. There was no need to please the other person, no mutual feedback, no higher order feelings (such as "love" or a genuine interest in the person), it was a pure satisfying of lust. And I don't think any other John would attest against this.

    In fact, one of the reasons I stopped was because I started going to them incessantly and this was getting too expensive, I never wanted to incessantly have sex with my "real" sexual partners. With them, having sex was a nice thing that happened ever so often, it wasn't something that happened ONLY to satisfy my urges as it were with porn and whores. Seriously, I never went to a whore for anything but sex. And those who visit whores for intimacy are still just masturbating, real intimacy isn't paid for, its reciprocal, it's not something you can summon at will.

  • Prostitution is cleaner than masturbating??

    You are aware that whores tend to have are at least an order of magnitude more likely to have common STD's and multiple orders of magnitude to carry the godfather of all STD's HIV. In some cases upto 57% to whores have HIV.

    Also the psychological distinction also doesn't make sense. If you are separating sex from home, do you not have sex at home? Your logic lies on the fact that sex with a prostitute is the same level of dirtiness as having sex with a consensual partner. Without that assumption it wouldn't be any different from masturbation would it?

  • Masturbating and compulsively masturbating to porn are two distinct things along the axis of purity or whatever you seem to care about. Your arguments apply to both of them, not only one of them.

    Also jacking off into a keyboard? Is this a troll? You shit and piss in the toilet, I don't think jizzing into the toilet seat is all that worse, if you think it is, congrats on the advanced solipsism.

I explained why porn is worse for a human than seeing a prostitute, and why prostitution is in prosocial in its orientation. So I wouldn’t say my title is mistitled at all. I wasn’t going to go into the history of prostitute regulation or scholastic theology. If porn is bad and prostitutes are better, I advocate banning porn and subsidizing prostitution. It would be awesome if the RS subreddit made this point often, but I don’t think I’ve seen it, if you can link me that would be cool.

I can’t dispute your personal lived experience, but I do wonder if you’re an outlier. “The same pathways in my brain were firing as the ones that do when I beat it to porn” is extremely improbable given the unique cues associated prostitution. The lack of intimacy is one reason why prostitution is not identical to real intercourse, but this doesn’t supersede the numerous reasons why it is closer than porn. Living in a society where, I think it’s 30% of men haven’f had sex in a year, doesn’t afford us with the counter argument of “just find a gf bro”. Ideally everyone would be in longterm relationships and yet historically cultures saw fit to introduce regulated prostitution.

Re: cleaner, we’re talking about psychological cleanliness involving cues. A girlfriend is a living breathing psychological cue for sex. She doesn’t exist on a tab in your computer. While sure, your bed would associated with sex (with your girlfriend), that still retains more psychological “purity of space” than having porn in the same browser that you work on. The question is what we’re associating together. Associating being alone and the internet with sexual gratification is worse than either a prostitute or having a significant other.

I explained why porn is worse for a human than seeing a prostitute

Sure, I just think its a very naive argument.

So I wouldn’t say my title is mistitled at all.

Neither of those things are trivial.

Not the banning porn or the subsidizing prostitutes. Books can be written on the edge cases and unintended effects of both those policies.

It reads very much as a hot take clickbait title. You don't even seriously attempt to discuss those policies.

I can’t dispute your personal lived experience, but I do wonder if you’re an outlier.

I know many other Johns. And their thought process is the exact same as mine. The sugar daddy, hire a prostitute for companionship trope is not as common in the "Real world" as certain media would have you believe.

Re: cleaner, we’re talking about psychological cleanliness involving cues. A girlfriend is a living breathing psychological cue for sex.

The prostitute is an entity that lives in <Address of massage place that offers happy endings>.

I don't even remember what the prostitutes individual faces looked like. As I said, you can come up with a lot of armchair psychology on why visiting whores is unlike porn, "cues" and all that, but until you have actually been in the mindspace to have done it for real instead of just thinking about it, you are probably filling in a lot of the gaps with pop-psychology hooplah.

we’re talking about psychological cleanliness involving cues

I'm interested in digging in a bit more on why you think this is important.

A girlfriend is a living breathing psychological cue for sex.

If that's all she is, then you are treating her as a prostitute, and that's not solving the problem you set up.

That is a property of a girlfriend but not the only property of a girlfriend.

Ban anonymous browsing of the internet. Publicly broadcast all internet users' media consumption habits.

As much as I expect to be downvoted for it, this.

Anonymity is the enemy sociability.