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Culture War Roundup for the week of April 15, 2024

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I read the Origins of Woke by Richard Hanania a couple weeks ago. I was going to write a more in depth review covering more sections, but got bored after writing my thought process about how employers aren't allowed to use discriminatory tests and never got around to writing more, so I'll post what I did write.

Let’s all people have a factor that you can represent numerically how good they will be at a job. Let’s call it the m, for mystery, because exactly what will make someone good at a job- e.g knowledge, skill, conscientiousness, etc. can be very difficult to measure, and knowing how important proportionally each sub-factor is to the final m factor or even what every sub-factor maybe is also very difficult. But, we can still try to estimate someone’s m. If you have a job that largely involves lifting heavy boxes and moving them around, you can get a decent estimate by having a candidate try to lift a heavy box- if they fall, they almost certainly have low m for that job, and if they succeed with ease, they’ll likely have a high m for that job. If you have a CEO position for a large multinational corporation, you can like at a candidate’s previous job experience- if they’ve previously been in charge of a corporation that hit records profits during their tenure, they’ll likely have high m. If while previously in charge of a corporation, it went from high profits to bankruptcy, or they’ve only ever held a job as a janitor, you can guess that they’d have low m for the position.

We can say with confidence that on average, black people have lower m than white people for most jobs. Whether this is because of genetics, culture, discrimination, or something else isn’t relevant to this discussion, because this discussion isn’t about increasing their m, just about what are fair hiring practices. In 1964, when the Civil Rights Act passed, both Congress and the general population of America overwhelmingly wanted two things: For black people to not be actively discriminated against, but also for people to be able to still select the best employees for a job, even if all the best employees were white. But what is “discrimination”? That’s a surprisingly hard question to answer.

Let’s say an employer has 1000 job candidates, and needs to select 100 to fill a newly created job. The employer wants to get the 100 employees with the highest m- he is unlikely to succeed perfectly, but he still wants to get as close as he can. If the employer asked all potential job candidates to fill out a brief questionnaire as the first stage of the application process, and one of the questions was “Are you black?”, and then the employer threw out every single application where someone answered “Yes”, the average m in the remaining pool would likely be higher, although he also would’ve likely tossed some candidates who did belong in the final pool. Whether it’s a good idea from the employer’s perspective may vary- maybe the employer really has no good ideas on how to figure out which candidates have higher m, and his next step will just be to randomly select 100 candidates from the remaining pool, in which case he’ll have done better in terms of average m score than if he didn’t purge black candidates.

But, I think almost everyone would agree that purging black applications like that is discrimination, in the letter of the ACR, in the spirit of what Congress intended it, and that the majority of Americans don’t want to see that sort of candidate selection happen, not from government employers and not from private employers either. The government would tell any employer that tried to do that something like, “Stop that, rework your hiring practices so that you’re actually more directly testing for m, and not just discriminating against blacks”.

So the employer goes back to the drawing board, and comes up with another test. He will take a pencil, and slide it into the hair of a candidate. After releasing, if the pencil falls out of the hair, the candidate proceeds to the next stage, if it stays in, the candidate is removed from selection. That’s the Apartheid South African Pencil test, and in practice that’d basically be the same as the previous test, although it’s hypothetically possible some black people would pass and some white people would fail. Or maybe the employer tries to be slightly less blatant, and instead does a swimming test(black have worse buoyancy than white people). Unless the job actually involves swimming in some way, I think most people would still agree that such a test is discriminatory, not actually measuring m in any way, at least not more than a generic fitness test does, and would only have predictive power in job performance because it’s managing to exclude blacks.

The employer now comes up with a fourth test. It will be a straightforward algebra exam, the sort you’d see in a 10th grade math course. If the job does not involve algebra in any way, like it’s a job moving boxes around, or maybe it’s a cashier job at a retailer, or even a more high class job like a lawyer that doesn’t really involve math, then this test will also disproportionately fail black candidates, who tend to be worse at algebra. But, is it actually discriminatory? Where the previous tests only would have any predictive power for job performance in so far as they measured whether or not someone’s black, and black people on average did worse at the job, the algebra test might have real predictive power, because it’s not just measuring algebra skill, it’s also measuring general intelligence, and general intelligence would be a major component of m for almost any job.

Whether the test is actually discriminatory now comes down to whether “general intelligence” is real, and also that if it is real, can it be measured by an algebra test? I don’t think that question, in the absence of formal studies, has an obvious answer. I think reasonable people could very easily come to believe that algebra skill is divorced from other intellectual tasks like public speaking, literacy, chess skill, etc. My understanding of the literature is that that is not true- that there is a general intelligence, and skill at all intellectual tasks are relatively closely correlated. And that that general intelligence is also closely correlated with job performance in pretty much every job. But, reasonable judges who aren’t good at parsing scientific studies themselves can be convinced that general intelligence does not work like that.

Richard Hanania, in The Origin’s of Woke, writes that judges and bureaucrats expanding the definition of discrimination to also include tests that really measure future job performance is one of the key origins of wokeness. I wouldn’t disagree. Where I do disagree with him is that I don’t think it’s easily possible to permit real skill tests but ban actually discriminatory test, because they can look very similar. Ultimately I don’t disagree with his conclusion that the laws should be altered to allow for discrimination though, because I think where in the 60’s the Civil Rights Act may have been needed to prevent employers doing discrimination along the lines of a Pencil Test for employees like how the American people wanted, today the vast majority of Americans are no longer anti-black racist, despite what many on the left think. I think you could remove a lot of anti-discrimination protections, and unlike in the 60’s, a combination of few people today being actually racist and non-governmental social pressure to keep the real racists in line will prevent the sort of racism Americans hate.

According to the internet the Wonderlic test, which is an IQ test, is used by a large number of major American corporations, from Bank of America to American Airlines to Abbott medical. Dozens of other major corporations have their own in-house cognitive assessments. The infamous ‘Google interview question’ is an IQ test. The US military and many parts of federal and state civil services use IQ tests. Somehow these places did not stop using them under legal pressure despite the disparate outcome standard being in place for fifty years or more.

The sole requirement for employers is that they must be able to prove that test performance equals job performance. This is absurdly simple to do in any profession in which performance can be objectively measured (which is most of them).

The major lost cases (iirc a big one semi-recently was some firefighter or cop promotions in New England) are where this standard couldn’t be shown to investigators. If you can prove it the justice department will typically just move on and not even look further into a case.

The infamous ‘Google interview question’ is an IQ test

Obviously it correlates with IQ and G, but it’s not an IQ test.

The point of an IQ test is to measure something “intrinsic”, and so they try not to rely more than necessary on education (e.g. they tend not to include calculus questions), as this confounds your attempt to measure something intrinsic.

In contrast, a genius who has never programmed a computer or taken a CS class is going to fail a technical interview, which is literally by design.

This doesn't seem like a nit when the debate is around what tests are legal, illegal, or legally grey.

By ‘Google interview question’ I mean the historic kind that made Google a famous interviewer in the early 2000s where they’d ask how many pizza boxes could fit under the Golden Gate Bridge or whatever and see how you reasoned your way through the question.

But they and all the big tech companies have stamped out this sort of question precisely because of the chilling effect of the law. You can obviously make a case that it's related to job performance, but their legal departments prefer to stick to coding and behavioral questions where the case is self-explanatory.

Do we know this is the case? Up until now I had assumed these tests got abandoned because much of the predictive power of the test was based on people not knowing how to approach this novel situation and having to figure it out on the fly. Once the secret got out and people learned a script for this type of question, answering got easier and more routine and the tests ceased to be such a good indicator.

I recall the timeline of the tests going away being shortly after everyone on the internet started talking about Google interview questions and specifically questions of this type, and I don't think that was a coincidence.

But you don't know whether you can prove it or not until you end up in front of a judge. That's got to have some sort of chilling effect.

The other famous case recently was teachers in NYC schools. They proved that the test was fine to one judge and then lost on appeal and had to shell out $2 billion. So it's a pretty arbitrary standard that can go either way depending on the judge.

But you don't know whether you can prove it or not until you end up in front of a judge. That's got to have some sort of chilling effect.

It seems to me there are two axes here: vague versus concrete legislation, and restrictive versus unrestrictive. Complaining that the current system is too restrictive (or not restrictive enough) for private companies (or public organizations) seems like a fairly interesting debate. But I really really don't think you want to be asking for concrete legislation that irons out all the ambiguity, like "only these 5 industries can ask math questions during interviews", "you can only require applicants to write essays if their job involves writing more than 4 essays a year", etc.

Passing the buck on to judges is how systems try to avoid insanely idiotic edge cases that inevitably comes from extremely concrete legislation -- judges are the political organ trusted with discretion and judgement.

Yes, that makes the legal system less predictable (which is bad), but the alternative is not "incredibly concrete legislation that doesn't have any terrible edge cases". The alternative is "iron-rules bureaucracy that follows a brain-dead flow chart" -- i.e. precisely the system that people on here like to complain about.

Granted, "prove x is true" can be incredibly sane or downright impossible, depending on how sensible your judge is. I just don't think there is really an alternative here that isn't worse. Similarly, note that the rules on this website are also pretty open to interpretation, and you may get different rulings from different mods. Nonetheless, trying to simply write more concrete rules could never actually work.

The counterfactual isn’t dumb regulations about tests, it’s racial quotas or laissez faire freedom of association. The politics of quotas have been unpalatable to voters forever so instead we get opaque jurisprudence trying to square the circle of stopping racism without noticing minority underperformance. There’s a ton of path dependence that got us here, and while the bureaucracy might be metastatic at this point good concrete legislation in the 1960s might have built a different, more functional world.

Are you arguing you'd prefer the New York school system to use racial quotas? Or that you'd prefer if principals could exclusively hire $race $gender teachers and be protected by freedom of association?

The current system of "hey, try to let the requirements of the job drive the hiring process. Sorry that we can't give you a perfect checklist that guarantees you won't be sued" seems far superior to either of those.

I’d prefer if good workers were hired over bad workers, and failing that quotas could grant the system of racial spoils some transparency. The status quo of neither drives inflationary compliance costs where every company has to shell out for the next hot seminar about racial equity or run the risk of deviating from standard practice and thus become liable for a lawsuit.

But that wasn’t my point. What we get is overdetermined; underperforming minorities are going to underperform, and it’s mean to be mean about that, but they on average are worse than the average worker, so we get a stupid compromise that solves nothing with immense costs but sounds nice and fair so we’re going to be stuck with it forever.

The other famous case recently was teachers in NYC schools. They proved that the test was fine to one judge and then lost on appeal and had to shell out $2 billion.

What was their test like?

It seems trivially obvious that a high school math teacher should have to pass a math test slightly higher than whatever they'll be teaching. Or that a bank employee should be able to do whatever kind of math they might use for their job.

It seems unlikely that the extra friction and expense of requiring kindergarten teachers who can pass even Algebra II is worth it, as long as they're literate, patient, enforce social norms, and willing to stick with the phonics and counting curriculum. I vaguely remember having to pass an algebra test as an adult, some years after taking the course, in order to continue teaching a subject that involved no algebra at all, but a lot of enforcement of social norms and some design stuff. It seemed a little silly, and I do think I would have been pretty pissed if I had failed and needed to both re-learn algebra and pay a fee to re-take the test.

Seems sort of similar to the kinds of friction you get in big companies. Google has teams that require very in-demand skills and teams that require very out-of-demand skills, but front or back, iOS or Android, C++ or JavaScript, everyone gets paid on the same ladder and has to pass the same interview.

Google actually has a separate SWE-Front End position with different interviews. This is not because Google's interview process is good (it's not), but because the market puts some limits on corporate idiocy.

IIRC, most of the interviews were the same for front end SWEs, but they swapped out the system design interview for a frontend interview.

Yeah that's fair. IME out-of-college interviews tend to be very general, algorithms/data structures stuff (e.g. I did a general interview, and was offered a spot on a computer vision team and on a software engineering team). But if you're hiring somebody with industry experience, especially at a senior level (L5), questions will be geared more to their specialty. The pay scale is still the same though, afaik.

It seems unlikely that the extra friction and expense of requiring kindergarten teachers who can pass even Algebra II is worth it, as long as they're literate, patient, enforce social norms, and willing to stick with the phonics and counting curriculum.

The current system of requiring a college degree with an education specialization is also extra friction and expense compared to the previous system of letting school officials hire 16 year old girls and use their judgement to pick which ones would be any good at it.

It seems trivially obvious that a high school math teacher should have to pass a math test slightly higher than whatever they'll be teaching.

Yes, but then they didn't have anywhere near enough black or hispanic teachers, which was not an acceptable outcome in that culture.

The tests weren't made public to protect trade secrets of the testing company unfortunately so I'm not sure.

I agree it might seem silly but I don't think that it would be racist or that you should get a $2 million pay out like in this case.

There may be something to the accusation that some jobs have been set up in a way to favor people who are very good at showing up with to the minute timing, writing emails and reports, and other things that are convenient for managers but not exactly about the work being done, such that it's more convenient to manage a small white woman moving a few boxes than a strong black man moving many larger, heavier boxes, because her m in general office skills and agreeableness are higher. This seems to happen a fair bit in government positions, where there might be several support white women writing grants for some minority local agricultural program or something. I've seen it in politics, with full time non-minority positions devoted to "centering minority voices" in marketing materials.

I'm most familiar with education, and do sometimes see this happen. People often talk about the degree barrier, and schools being organized like mid-century factories. Recently, I saw a situation where a minority community is required to hire an art teacher. The specific community is rich in professional artisans, that and views of nature is all they're known for. But they have to hire someone with a college degree, additional education classes for certification, who can run classes that are cleaned up and ready to leave exactly when the bell rings, do a moderate amount of accurate paperwork, and write some reports. So they get an outsider. They are not allowed to exchange this position for a business or finance teacher, which they might be more in need of. This is a bit silly and wasteful. The skills for m, training the next generation of artisans is not the same as m fitting into a tightly scheduled, interlocking education system that's stressed about specials teachers providing "preps" for the homeroom teachers, and the bureaucratic money goes towards the latter.

That isn't to say that I generally agree with the woke take that surely if you removed barriers we could achieve "equity," especially in high education and prestige positions. But the structure of at least some jobs (probably the kinds of jobs the average woke activist is most familiar with) are not very tightly linked to their ostensible goal.

But, is it actually discriminatory?

What would you say to someone who answered “yes” to this question? Because it comes down to how you define “racial discrimination.” To discriminate is to make distinctions, to distinguish, “to separate from another by discerning differences.” The examples you give all discriminate by race at the individual level; they treat individuals differently according to their race. But what about discrimination at the group level? If a system produces statistically distinct outcomes between two racial groups, even if no individual is treated different on account of their race, does it not still distinguish, separate, and discern differences between the two groups as groups? Does it not then discriminate between the racial groups?

If you read academic race theory works, you end up finding working definitions, usually implicit, in line with exactly this — “racial discrimination” being defined as the presence of “disparate impact” — regardless of whatever causes it. If blacks do have lower average m scores, then anything that sorts on m will discern that difference between the racial groups (unless you deliberately compensate for that racial difference), and thus discriminate between the racial groups. Thus, lower m scores are not an excuse for hiring fewer blacks, they’re the reason using m scores at all is racist.

the algebra test might have real predictive power

Are “having predictive power” and “racially discriminatory” mutually exclusive? They certainly aren’t so if you use the above definition. In fact, given your example, the more predictive power your test has with respect to m, the more racist it is.

Whether the test is actually discriminatory now comes down to whether “general intelligence” is real, and also that if it is real, can it be measured by an algebra test?

Again, no. Even if “general intelligence” is real, if it statistically differs between races as groups, then an algebra test that measures it — or any other test that does so — will be racist for exactly that reason.

will prevent the sort of racism Americans hate.

It doesn’t matter what sort of racism ordinary Americans hate, it only matters what sort of racism American elites hate. And looking at the people who are the credentialed “experts” in these matters, and how the people who interpret and enforce the relevant laws have been drawing upon their views for decades, they’re very much in line with the “disparate impact = racism” view, in which any system that produces statistical differences in outcomes is definitionally racist regardless of the reason why, no matter what real statistical differences it may be detecting. It doesn’t matter if “general intelligence is also closely correlated with job performance in pretty much every job”; that just means that a “colorblind* selection for job performance is racist.

I think you meant to respond to @non_radical_centrist directly

Yeah, sorry about that.

Yes. If (1) races are different, (2) that difference results in one race performing better compared to another race on outcome X, and (3) outcome X is relevant to a company, then (4) you’ll see a different racial mix compared to overall population stats.

The race theorists call this racism and assume it is a bad thing. I don’t think it is is a bad thing and don’t really care whether we call it racism or not.

I don’t think it is is a bad thing and don’t really care whether we call it racism or not.

Except you're not in charge, the "race theorists" are, so what you think or care about doesn't matter, only what they think and care about.

People often talk about the degree barrier

Fun, counterintuitive fact: Degree requirements actually favor black applicants, because in the US, black people are educational overachievers.

That is, for any given test score level, black Americans have, on average, higher educational attainment than non-Hispanic white Americans. If you look here, in 2021, 26% of black and 45% of NHW Americans age 25-29 had at least a bachelor's degree.

If we look here, we see that the 74th percentile for black SAT takers is between 1000 and 1100, let's say 1050. This is an upper bound for the average SAT score of black four-year graduates; it's likely a bit lower due to the imperfect correlation between test scores and educational attainment. The 55th percentile for whites is around 1150, half a standard deviation higher. If we do a similar exercise for masters or higher, again we find roughly a half-sigma difference.

I don't think this is primarily attributable to affirmative action, since most four-year universities do not have competitive admissions. Probably the fact that black students tend to have wealthier and more educated parents than white students with the same test scores plays a role. Athletics may be a factor as well.

Anyway, since black people tend to be more credentialed than white people (and Hispanics) with the same cognitive and academic skills, degree requirements actually give them an edge. I expect that the DEI industry will quickly lose interest in skills-first hiring when they realize that the main beneficiaries are white and Hispanic men.

That's interesting, though not directly related to the community I was thinking of.

One of the things I like least about the current BLM iteration of ethnic strife is the way it read ADOS Black/white dynamics into completely different ethnic histories and interactions in regions very far from the areas affected by slavery. Even entirely different countries are adopting it! European countries, with utterly different ethnic histories! But the American West Coast wasn't centrally racist against blacks more than, say, Chinese for much of its history.

Anyway, I guess I was thinking of crafts and community gardening as a stand in for the kind of traditionally human things that most people who are average for their own group really can do, the community is happy to have, and the government likes to encourage, but for Seeing like a State reasons once they are Jobs, or even just Volunteer Positions, they become administratively complex, such that the people who are perfectly able to do the thing itself cannot administer the permits and grants, where most of the money ends up going.

As Sailer and others have said, you can’t perfectly compare different groups at the same nominal IQ level because actual social dysfunction, being disruptive and other deleterious things are often tied more to how many standard deviations you are below your population average than they are to the overall population. For example the observation that a white kid of 80 IQ is often a lot more dysfunctional and socially incapable than a black kid of 80 IQ. There are entire populations that are capable of functioning at levels that would render an ashkenazi person fit only for a lifetime of psychiatric care.

I wonder if that correlation isn’t only downward. IQ is correlated with conscientiousness, planning ability, time preference and so on. Is it possible that a black person of 130 is likely higher functioning than a Jewish person of 130? Could be an interesting thing to look at.

Is Ben Carson higher functioning than the average rabbi? Seems entirely plausible.

At neurosurgery? Absolutely. At chinuch? Almost certainly not.

What are we talking about, again?

I think the reason for higher rates of comorbidities among low-IQ individuals from higher-IQ populations is that you're very unlikely to get an IQ two standard deviations below the mean purely because of additive genetic effects, so a large proportion of people with IQs this low are going to have some major developmental disorder causing the cognitive deficit. On the other hand, if an IQ of 70 is only one standard deviation below the population mean, then a sixth of the population is going to get there with additive genetic effects and a relatively small proportion will get there through some major developmental disorder.

I don't think it works the other way. The only way you get an IQ two standard deviations above the mean is with additive genetic effects. There's no anti-Down syndrome, where you can get an extra chromosome that gives you 30 extra IQ points.

However, it's worth noting that black students don't actually perform better in college than white students with the same test scores. They're just more likely to enroll and stick it out to the end. This is why I suspect that non-academic factors like higher family SES and athletics play a role. Unlike raw IQ, educational attainment has a substantial shared environment component in twin studies, probably due to a combination of cultural attitudes toward education and parents' ability to help pay for college.

Or it could be the same reason women are more likely to stick college out all the way through, whatever that is- probably a willingness to switch their engineering major for psychology where white men would leave and go to welding school.

But, reasonable judges who aren’t good at parsing scientific studies themselves can be convinced that general intelligence does not work like that.

Many brain cells are expensed trying to justify WHY some groups must ve 'actively discriminated' against when the intuitive value of the above statement is obvious to anyone who has interacted with other people. If everyone was equal in ability and some groups were being discriminated against for no reason, I would hire them since they cost less money/are more desperate and I would crush the competition with my superior offerings. Korean bulge bracket banks are filled with Korean girls because they work hard and don't cause trouble all while being cheaper. Silicon Valley is filled with the obvious Asian (East and South) surplus because of their acretive value. Neither circumstance emerged because of a concerted antidiscriminatory lobby, but because market forces brought them to the fore. Capability tests are discriminatory solely because they are barriers to the value capture efforts of activists. Goldman Korea hires girls because these girls generate more value than their cost, but activists hire minorities because their tribe can parasite the value off the host.

If everyone was equal in ability and some groups were being discriminated against for no reason, I would hire them since they cost less money/are more desperate and I would crush the competition with my superior offerings.

There was a problem with racism in the Jim Crow era where, if you were to be colour blind with your hiring practices and what customers you let in in the South, you could get racists making a lot of trouble for you. I think we're well past that era, but that there was a time when things really were nastily racist needs to be kept in mind.

oh certainly, in those situations then real racism comes to the fore and thats undeniable. It still means there is a resource worth tapping in that case. Why don't agriculture firms get unemployed hicks or 'youth' to go pick their damn strawberries instead of mexicans? Something is at play other than a single line that says 'warm body' and that is what screening exercises are for.

Given the results of integration I have a hard time calling it (the racism) 'nasty' rather than 'warranted' or even 'prescient'. So many downtown areas, neighborhoods, schools, and communities destroyed. So many lives and livelihoods lost. But at least we're not as mean now, I guess.

Another day, another man engaging in auto-auto-da-fe. While the stellar minds of the frontpage Reddit debate if it is QAnon or TDS that make a person set himself on fire, less stellar ones dug up his manifesto, where he places Trump and Hillary on the same side, and Thiel and cryptocurrency at the heart of it all. Points for originality. Not many points, but some points. But this is only the background for a comment which I read in the thread, one of a thousand semantically identical ones over the years.

It sounds incredibly plausible that the term "conspiracy theory" and flooding the field with flat-earthers, bigfoot hunters, extraterrestial anal examination enjoyers, and the rest, is itself a conspiracy designed to discredit people who ask questions about Kennedy assassination and Mkultra by conflating them with kooks and schizos. But going further, there is a meme, that comment which I have read a thousand times, which says it's a fear of nobody in control, of a random universe and of Hanlon's razor that makes people invent conspiracy theories. Is this meme a psy-op itself? Its aim to bring down status of those who ask questions about possible conspiracies even lower, paint them as cowards running from the reality? Given how reliably it appears as a call-response pair with somebody mentioning a conspiracy theory in a discussion, I'm inclined to answer positively.

And maybe it's a typical mind fallacy, but another piece of evidence of the artificiality of this meme is that it reverses the scariness of those two possibilities. To me, a world where people come to harm because of impersonal arbitrary forces, of an inherent chaos which can be mitigated or ignored according to your risk tolerance, is a comforting world. It is not the world I believe in. I believe there are malicious, intelligent, competent agents which plan for humiliation and elimination of large masses of populations, because, respectively, social status is zero-sum and material resources are finite. I know that I'm not as intelligent, as connected, as fortunate in the circumstances of my birth as them, so there is literally nothing I can to in mitigation, not to mention that malice aggravates the feeling of injustice so much more than bad luck, when something horrible happens. This world I believe we live in, the world of conspiracy theories that are true, is without a doubt not the more comforting one of the two.

I believe there are malicious, intelligent, competent agents which plan for humiliation and elimination of large masses of populations, because, respectively, social status is zero-sum and material resources are finite.

This is a silly position to hold. The world is positive-sum given that scientific advances in productivity combined with returns-to-scale have allowed us to make humanity richer than ever before. I presume you are right-wing but this horseshoes pretty well with the leftist idea that European civilizations only got rich by plundering brown countries, and that whites will forever be tainted by this until reparations enforces equity upon all nations (and perhaps not even then). It's utter tripe.

positive-sum

Positive sum in terms of who's system of values? You may have a system that you think everyone should share, but not everyone shares it.

In some other value system, your most positive contribution to the world might involve immediate ritual suicide, to spare the rest of us the effort.

For a less extreme version, someone else's value system might have an axis that does not exist in your system, maybe including such things as "souls" and "afterlives" and suchlike. They might make decisions to de-prioritize improvement in your shared dimensions, in favor of improvements in a dimension that you think is imaginary. (Ritual purity laws might be a good example here.)

It's positive-sum in terms of material resources, which is what I was responding to given the OP's message.

I agree that not everyone shares the same system of values, with some diverging or even outright conflicting. For some, like Nazism, military conflict is required, but that does not necessitate "elimination of large masses of populations". Just some humiliation for the Holocaust and other crimes. For most others, persuasion will suffice. Communism was defeated simply by capitalism existing as a viable and better-seeming alternative. The great thing about democracy and the modern world order is that it heavily emphasizes persuasion as opposed to force of arms to solve ideological disputes. I'd prefer to keep it that way.

Material wealth can be positive sum because we can add to it in discrete components.

Social status is innately relative, and as a function of that is innately zero sum. The lower classes have more absolute wealth than they did in 1800, but they don't have more status.

That just begs the question what social status is. I think ranking is too poor of a definition and instead esteem should be considered at least as an important part of ones social status. Then social status trivially isn't a zero sum game, as we for example could increase the total trust in a system, taking for granted that 'trust afforded' is a component of ones esteem. For example imagine a group consisting of a 1:1 split of gentlemen and Criminal Scum (tm) compared to one that's purely gentlemen. Hopefully I don't have to belabour the point of how the amount of trust and pleasant behavior are different for each group, and how the amount can be increased by decreasing the ratio of Criminal Scum (tm).

I think the closest to zero sum is attention, but even believing that to be zero sum can be likened to believing that material wealth is. Of course there is some maximal bound on both of them, but I don't believe we are anywhere close to saturating the amount of attention that can be given and not either it's quality.

But given that you believe that social status is innately zero sum, how do you think adding people to a system interacts with status? Is the amount diluted or is average kept (per person)?

"Scarcity doesn't exist" is certainly a position, but I usually see it from the people far to the left of the leftmost motte poster. Because you sound like a techno-optimist, let's assume there's a Dyson sphere around the sun. Where to from there? That's it, that the ceiling. Would you rather share the energy with a hundred billion others, or a hundred thousand?

let's assume there's a Dyson sphere around the sun. Where to from there? That's it, that the ceiling. Would you rather share the energy with a hundred billion others, or a hundred thousand?

Humanity is thousands if not millions of years away from achieving Dyson Sphere tier technology. Your argument here is the equivalent of saying we should ignore life-extending medicine due to the eventual heat death of the universe. Maybe at some point in the distant future that will become relevant, but for now it's unabashedly a good thing, just as it has been for the entirety of human history. And who knows, maybe at that point in the distant future we'll be able to pull energy and matter from nothing.

But going further, there is a meme, that comment which I have read a thousand times, which says it's a fear of nobody in control, of a random universe and of Hanlon's razor that makes people invent conspiracy theories. Is this meme a psy-op itself? Its aim to bring down status of those who ask questions about possible conspiracies even lower, paint them as cowards running from the reality? Given how reliably it appears as a call-response pair with somebody mentioning a conspiracy theory in a discussion, I'm inclined to answer positively.

I have seen it in action with family members, mostly harmlessly, and seems best explanation of what is going on (in general reasonable aunt complaining about masons controlling substantial part of catholic church - while being controlled by Soros who also runs entire EU).

I think your aunt is picking up on the quite reasonable to point out fact that a CPA(or anyone else who uses a spreadsheet to make decisions) with dictatorial powers would make better object-level decisions for the organization than the current pope and most of his appointees. And what that's missing is, of course, the enormous amount of internal politicking going on where individual and group actors within the Catholic Church might have conditions which benefit themselves which are drastically different from benefit to the Church(the organization) as a whole, along with lots of true believers in the spiritual side of things making decisions off of what amounts to pure ideology, plus bog standard corruption.

I suspect that this is a very generally applicable and that it explains lots of jewlumminati-type conspiracy theories; organizations can easily become irrational actors.

I tend to agree with the idea that the meme itself is artificial, and I think the aim is to give the public a meme that simply dismisses the idea of conspiracy out of hand. I don’t believe in any particular conspiracy personally, but I find the meme obnoxious simply because dismissing a claim out of hand is a dangerous thing simply because it means not even bothering with the evidence. I think the proper and critical thinking response to a conspiracy claim isn’t dismissing it out of hand, but demanding proof. If the earth is actually round, it will still be round even if I question it. And provided that the evidence is available, truth will eventually win.

I think the proper and critical thinking response to a conspiracy claim isn’t dismissing it out of hand, but demanding proof.

Well, you often get "it is OBVIOUS", "lack of proof is proving strength of conspiracy" or "please view this 2h long youtube video".

What now?

First of all, the person who makes a positive claim is the one obliged to provide evidence. This is simply elementary logic. Negatives cannot be proven, so it’s not on me to prove that no conspiracy happened, it’s on you to provide some evidence that there is a conspiracy.

Second “it’s obvious” isn’t evidence. If it’s obvious, proving it should be easy.

Third, I don’t accept YouTube as a source. Find me a newspaper or other print source so I can check on the facts presented.

And doing this in family setting typically irritates another person much more than ignoring their comment about shadowy conspiracy.

Often dismissing it out of hand rather than demanding proof is much better strategy.

Jack Chick theory of politics.

another piece of evidence of the artificiality of this meme is that it reverses the scariness of those two possibilities. To me, a world where people come to harm because of impersonal arbitrary forces, of an inherent chaos which can be mitigated or ignored according to your risk tolerance, is a comforting world.

Fully agreed regarding relative sentiment. I never quite understood why this default hypothesis is presented as something scary – but for the purpose of stating a paradox, to signal cleverness, and also support for the status quo and high-status groups.

Malice is inherently and obviously threatening. Perhaps "the scary thing is nobody's in charge" folks see it as witty because they're not accustomed to fearing malice of others. Or they have a strong intuition that an orderly technocratic world is preferable, no matter its ultimate morality? In any case, quite alien logic.

I think it meshes nicely with a understanding (that I might have tried posting about in some more detail before, or else at least planned to) that ideologies like grey-tribery are for those who on the margin prefer to extract additional resources from nature, while ones like SJ is for those who extract resources from other people.

If your skill points are in wrangling people, then the "utils are withheld by scheming political coalitions" world is the comfy familiar scenario where you figure things will work out for you somehow, and the "utils are withheld by cold unfeeling nature" world is the maths class where no amount of conformism got you partial credit for the calculation you couldn't do, except now your life is on the line. On the other hand, if your skill points are in wrangling nature, as is probably the case for most people here, the dangers and missing utils of nature are another engineering challenge to overcome with Yankee ingenuity, Bayes and game theory, while the schemers world is like that time in high school you tried to join the cool kids table with Bayes and game theory and got shoved in a locker, except now your life is on the line. Perhaps relate to sentiments on Factorio vs. Diplomacy.

On the other hand, if your skill points are in wrangling nature, as is probably the case for most people here, the dangers and missing utils of nature are another engineering challenge to overcome with Yankee ingenuity, Bayes and game theory, while the schemers world is like that time in high school you tried to join the cool kids table with Bayes and game theory and got shoved in a locker, except now your life is on the line.

I remain unconvinced that there's much overlap between smart, competent people and the social outcasts that got shoved in lockers. I think the outcasts cling to this narrative as a coping mechanism rather than genuinely being all that competent. In my experience, the smart kids also tended towards being popular and good at sports. If your proverbial skill points were more intellect than charisma, you might get shit from your buddies about it, but I really doubt the framing of the highly competent being routinely bullied.

Eh, the locker-shoving thing was (intended as) hyperbole, but as a working academic (CS) my impression has always been that the majority of high-achieving people in the field are hopelessly substandard in matters of politics and coalition-building, easily walked over by those who are not, and often somewhat terrified of them for that. If you're not willing to take it from me, take it from the Y Combinator guy. Note that this does not imply, in either my case or Graham's, that one becomes an actual social outcast; most socialising is not adversarial.

I was never physically bullied in school, but I was an outcast. This was in the 2000s.

I'm not going to share my IQ or anything like that, so I guess you'll have to take it on my word that I'm pretty smart, in college I was an outstanding student. And maybe it's questionable that I'm "competent," though that depends on what skills exactly you're measuring. But the point of the meme is not that future Presidents of the United States with outstanding charisma are being shoved into lockers, it's that geeky kids who would make good researchers, programmers, or professors are. Those are people who do, indeed, have deficits in some areas, though they are capable of being highly successful in certain socially desirable niches. My teachers throughout my schooling told my parents I was capable of great things; my peers did not think so.

The issue was that it was difficult for me to relate to other kids, and for them to relate to me: I'd make jokes, and they wouldn't get them (my teachers sometimes did, though), I'd make references, and they'd go over their head; I also kind of had a Hermione thing going on, and I assure you that the feeling where students don't like the teacher's pet is still alive and well. The first day I went to the local gifted education program -- and then a selective high school program filled with smart people -- were the very first times in my entire life I felt like I belonged, people laughed at my jokes, people were interested in what I had to say.

The issue with public school is it mixes everybody together. The sorts of assortative social connections that allow people to find others they get along with and relate to are often not present; insofar as they are, it's exactly the sort of cool kids table vs geeky kids table vs goth kids table vs drama kids table stuff the comment you've replied to is talking about. If you go to a school which is a greater reflection of broader society -- so, like, a 100 IQ mean -- it is statistically incredibly likely you'll relate intellectually to very few members of the student body. Perhaps you went to a school located in an unusally well-off section of your community?

I would actually say you have a point in such a situation -- in the selective high school program I attended, I do think there was an observable correlation between a person's intelligence, popularity, and charisma, though there were also many niches where people of various interests could be successful. I recall having several friends who were, to put it bluntly, mathematical geniuses with little charisma.

I'm not sure either side of the story, like @Primaprimaprima indicates (dude, why are we so similar?), tells the whole story of what's going on. I think it's also notable that everything, including IQ, is correlative, and sometimes these correlations break down -- sometimes there are people with high verbal intelligence who suck at fractions (raises hand), or people with incredible endurance who can't bang rocks together, or people who understand computers from the boot ROM to the hyperscaler who can't remember to do their taxes, or people who are incredibly charismatic but lacking in prudence. Everyone, reading that sentence, had at least one real person pop into their head. Maybe someone they know, or at least someone they've heard about. We can talk a lot about correlations, especially when discussing broad social trends, but the core argument for liberalism has always been that correlations break down when talking about the individual. I think school experiences might be one of those situations.

The issue was that it was difficult for me to relate to other kids, and for them to relate to me:

Makes sense. That was my experience as well. I think that social skills are like athletic skills or martial arts- no matter how smart you are, you need other people to practice with. And it helps a lot to have partners who are roughly around your own level. That's why so many smart kids turn out a bit socially stunted and awkward- they can't "think themselves" into having genuine peer social connections.

See for example: https://www.aporiamagazine.com/p/a-tale-of-two-teenagers

The social isolation and lack of friendships experienced in gifted children produced by the discrimination and isolation to which brilliant minds are subjected is generally confused as a disorder of lack of sociability. Gifted children no longer experience this situation of isolation by being relocated to specialised centres where they live with their peers (other gifted children).

...

The issue with public school is it mixes everybody together.

On the other hand that does at least give people a measure of humility. I'm worried about the real upper crust of people who are born into wealthy, talented families, got the genes for high intelligence, and then sent to selective schools where they only ever met other high-iq privileged kids. It seems like a sort of breeding ground for entitled assholes- the "Davos Man" who has absolutely no idea what an average Joe is like. For example Bill Gates was sent to a wealthy prep school for middle school, wealthy and ratified enough to have a programmers club in the 60s when that sort of thing was very rate. And obviously that's a huge competitive advantage for someone like Bill Gates, but... he did turn into a bit of an asshole, taking over software monopolies with manic win-at-all-costs, crush-my-enemies energy and only much later in life did it seem like he finally had a change of heart and started to reflect on his actions a bit.

I actually found my experience at the selective high school to be more humbling than the alternative -- while I was rarely intentionally elitist towards other students in the younger grades (typically I felt inferior to them), there were definitely a few times where I was like that. Going to the selective school put me in places where I wasn't the smartest guy around. I even met some people who were more intensely elitist than I had ever dreamed of being, who looked down on anybody who struggled with things they found easy, who couldn't even get along with the very smart student body because they thought themselves better even than them. I went from the top 1% of students to the top 20%. Being not the smartest guy in a room helped me understand my limits and be more empathetic toward people not as smart as me. If I hadn't had that experience, I do wonder if I would have turned out like the "I am enlightened by my intelligence" guy.

I remain unconvinced that there's much overlap between smart, competent people and the social outcasts that got shoved in lockers. I think the outcasts cling to this narrative as a coping mechanism rather than genuinely being all that competent.

Sure, partially. But it's not entirely wrong. The idea didn't just come from nowhere.

I feel like I've seen an overcorrection in recent years away from the smart = socially awkward myth and towards a new myth of a pure linear spectrum between blonde-haired-seven-foot ubermensch math PhD star athletes on the one hand and sickly frail developmentally deficient chronic failures on the other, which is also not an accurate model of reality.

I'm intelligent and I was bullied pretty severely in middle school, up to and including physical assault. Things got better by high school and I had multiple friends and a decently normal social life, but I was never fantastically popular.

the smart kids also tended towards being popular and good at sports

Not sure how we're defining "good at sports" but this point in particular doesn't match my experience at all. The stars on the high school football and basketball teams tended to be C students. Professional athletes in most major sports don't strike me as particularly more intelligent than average, at least compared to people who directly make a living off of cognitive skills.

In general the biographies of great thinkers show enough of what today we might label "sperg" behavior to make me think there's a legitimate pattern here - Newton, Kant, Wittgenstein...

The past truly was a different country. The Marty McFly archetype didn't come into being for no reason.

There’s a soft and hard version of this thesis though. It’s like Cummings writing about how he was surprised, upon becoming the PM’s chief adviser, that there was no secret management room where the competent people were actually running things, even if he disagreed with their ideology. There was nobody in charge. Now, you can say that he merely wasn’t privy to the actual deep state or whatever, and that’s a legitimate theory, but I’ve heard similar sentiments from other powerful people and I don’t believe they’re all lying.

Some people, often those one wouldn’t necessarily expect, and sometimes those one would (‘retired’ Obama is one) truly do wield large amounts of power, but even they’re not really in charge.

I actually consider the viewpoint of:

another piece of evidence of the artificiality of this meme is that it reverses the scariness of those two possibilities. To me, a world where people come to harm because of impersonal arbitrary forces, of an inherent chaos which can be mitigated or ignored according to your risk tolerance, is a comforting world.

inherently scary and threatening. There is plenty of doublethink and celebration paralax going on.

It is a very implausible claim on the face of it.

Things happen for a reason, and in the world there are various groups with different agendas that they coordinate for their goals at expense of others, is simply an unshakeable fact.

J. Edgar Hoover saying the mafia doesn't exist is scary, because the mafia obviously exists and he is covering up for it. There isn't a reading where it is productive to focus upon the comfort of the mafia not existing, just cause Hoover says it doesn't exist. It isn't a realistic scenario. Nor of course can you blame everything that happens on you, on the mafia being behind it, but it is nonsense to come with an understanding of reality that disminishes the mafia.

When people claimed that there was no communist conspiracy, and like people here who do it with the contemporary version of this, promoted weakmen kooky scenarios of communists putting fluoride in water supply, and comedies pushed the meme "Communists are out to get our bodily fluids", and were hating on those who opposed it as right wing extremist lunatics, that was scary. We had communist sympathizers who opposed valid opposition to communists, and painted reasonable vigilance as inherently ridiculous. That is dangerous and a society with no defenses should be afraid of how things are going to degenerate towards.

A reasonable precautionary attitude and suspicion is protective. And I find a society that has a pragmatic, intellectually wise attitude towards precaution and recognizes the things it must focuses upon, to be a more comforting one. Basically, the people who are dismissive are not actually promoting a more comforting vision, but their very action of dismissing valid problems is threatening, and often a result of them sympathizing if not outright belonging in particular factions that are accused of coordinating to screw over people. The meme of a very tiny cabal is unfortunately false, because influential aspiring factions try to recruit others and do have supporters.

There isn't' a scenario where the CIA, or George Soros, or ADL and others like them representing actual factions aren't t doing plenty of nefarious things, or groups like Epstein's don't exist. Or that things like biological weapon programs of CIA, or that it is possible that covid itself might be the result of such research, are inherently ridiculous claims. The scenario we are dealing with is the one where people are covering up for them and worse vilifying those who do oppose and care as lunatics, or as extremists.

To further give my take, and don't misunderstand my tone here as implying you think otherwise, because I am more explaining my understanding than disagreeing with you:

Now, this isn't to say that any kooky claim is legitimate. Criminal conspiracies are real, and nefarious factions that might or might not fit within the definition of criminality, definitely exist without a shadow of a doubt and we know this. This doesn't mean moon landing is fake, or aliens are here. Just as we know this, we also know flat earth is nonsense. There are simply plausible claims, and implausible. Just like people who promote flat earth theory are promoting something which is nonsense, it is also credulous to be dismissive of opposition to genuine factions and pretend it is ridiculous.

In fact it is a strategy, infamously promoted by Cass R. Sunstein to flood the field with kooky conspiracy theories, to disminish suspicions on 9/11 and other issues. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1084585. So they both promote both implausible takes, but also to try to create weakman scenarios with real factions, like George Soros, or like the communists I mentioned. And then people are going to focus on the more sensationalist, kooky, weakman at best scenarios as a strategy of supporting the actions of genuine factions like the CIA, people like George Soros, groups like AIPAC and ADL, or even factions like cultural far leftists, or cliques of influential billionaires like Bill Ackman, etc. Or try to spin legitimate opposition as ridiculous.

Nobody is in charge is just an excuse to cover for the people with power and their actions. There are always people with influence doing things because they decided to do them. Even inaction is a decision, and someone must be held accountable for the direction things are going. It is also a promotion of lack of standards and servile attitude towards elites, and decision makers in general (which can include a decent share of the public on some issues) and even for mediocrity. Good governance requires accountability and holding people up to a standard.

I believe there are malicious, intelligent, competent agents which plan for humiliation and elimination of large masses of populations,

And that's why I'm dooming on AI. Because enough people aren't psychopathic enough and causing a genocide isn't that easy if all you have is a handful of conspirators.

Meanwhile, in the real world, it took giant totalitarian states to do anything, years of effort. AI systems will however make it much easier to pull off a conspiracy or develop a lethal agent.

They'll also make it much easier to detect anyone trying to do either, but doing so is costly and paranoid so the conspiracies will have an edge. Also, gigadeaths, if it didn't involve just 3rd world getting killed would crash the economy and destroy the supply chain. I think the Venn diagram between "non delusional genocidal wannabe world masters" and "wants to live in ruins, relying on scavenging spare parts" contains exactly zero people, and the former category is also very small too.

We have only one that could probably genocide, and it's in a superpower competition so no matter how feisty they might feel, just doing an actual genocide is pointless. Besides, they're patient and rich enough to not genocide people as you can tell by what's going on in Xinyang.

No, what's happening is basically just chaos+information overload and stress. Schizos of a certain sort are liable to act out in such an environment.

There's a good essay on the guy who killed himself here.

Besides, they're patient and rich enough to not genocide people as you can tell by what's going on in Xinyang.

...Is this sarcasm?

In my opinion, convincing someone to kill themselves or forcing them to kill themselves is morally the same thing.

If you are really going with "China depressed Uyghur TFR to 1.2", is suppressing their religion as being "genocide" then what's going in most of the world is also genocide. Religion is gone, TFR is in the crapper, no one is doing anything about it. The preferable solution is 'import people' to replace the dying out population.

What's true seems to be that a large % of their young males are in labor camps, there are anti-melee weapon measures everywhere (metal detectors, plastic shields, batons), there's a shit ton of police everywhere, much of them Uyghur. Strict surveillance, with people having to have tracking phone apps on.. (link worth reading, it's by a highly disagreeable person with no sympathies for either Uyghurs or Leninists.)

Which again, not nice, but unless they're getting worked to death on low rations, still not genocide. And with Chinese labor costs being as they are, I doubt they're not feeding them properly.

Now, not nice at all, but it's a just another case of 'fucking around and finding out'. Uyghurs failed to rein in their radicals, said radicals killed a couple hundred Chinese in machete attacks, caused the ongoing clampdown. Surely you remember the headlines? There was the big riot in the capital, then a half dozen big attacks in the following years.

I think you're overfitting different phenomena into a limited number of buckets. All of the following are true (IMO, of course):

  • The self-immolator is probably schizotypal and connected a lot of dots that aren't connected.
  • There are many schizotypal conspiracy theorists that believe very weird things about the world as a result of their lack of reasoning ability and overly aggressive pattern matching.
  • Some people lean towards conspiracies because randomness bothers them.
  • Some people lean towards conspiracies because humans have a tendency to pattern-match and attribute causality. They're not bothered by randomness, they're just not very good at understanding it, so they see intentionality everywhere.
  • There are substantial conspiracies that actually exist, including those by intelligence agencies, big corporations, non-governmental organizations, and more.
  • Some of these conspiracies will include trying to discredit people that notice what's going on.
  • There probably isn't a shady cabal that secretly controls everything - the most powerful people are probably the people that appear to be the most powerful people.

This set of positions allows plenty of space for some pretty wild conspiracy theories to be true without needing to add unnecessary moving parts to my understanding of the world. The CIA really does organize coups, but the guy that lit himself on fire is a garden-variety nutter.

The CIA really does organize coups, but the guy that lit himself on fire is a garden-variety nutter.

Has the CIA actually coup'd a government since the Church Commission?

There has been no evidence up to even the level of the coup against the Mosaddegh government (ie. not a particularly high bar) that the CIA planned or executed any of it.

I had read this guy's blog before he got famous. I believe his main theory, the one he's held most consistently, is that Bitcoin is literally a vast Ponzi scheme concoted by some financial cabal intent on using it to crash the global economy. As a theory, it's not that much odder than your standard conspiracy theory stuff; what made it slightly notable enough to get my attention is that usually "there's a big financial cabal there trying to crash the economy for nefarious purposes" are pro-crypto and think that crypto's a tool to combat the financial cabal, not the tool of the financial cabal. As such, he didn't seem "crazier" than your average conspiracy guy; YMMV what the baseline of craziness for that crowd is.

That said, his manifesto and pre-suicide entry offer hints that he had been developing into a crazier direction (I suppose getting into the whole conspiracy milieu can't help), so when you get someone who is going down a slope that way and the somewhat notorious Aaron Bushnell immolation, well, that's what you get.

He believed The Simpsons was sending coded messages about an impending global totalitarian government. That’s much crazier than average.

Back in the time when I encountered the blog, he wasn't rambling about The Simpsons, unless I missed something. That's precisely what I was referring to, he has been spiralling to the crazy direction quite fast before his final act.

Kind of seems like you believe in some shadowy cabal keeping you down because that helps you make sense of your life circumstances and gives you someone to blame. There is no actual conspiracy against you, it is just the banality of the human culture machine that grinds on with or without you. The world isn't zero sum, we've proven that by elevating humanity to heretofore unimaginable heights. There is no conspiracy against you.

Nice bulverism.

Not as a reply to that particular poster, but as a general elaboration. My life is pretty carefree. But since 2020 I see what life will be like for everyone really soon, and since it's being steered there by agentic actors, the only escape is death before we get there.

I think the accusation of Bulverism is unfair. 'Me and people like me are being oppressed by shadowy, unnamed forces' is impossible to falsify. The onus is on you to prove it. If you can't or won't do that, then speculating on why you might believe that there are malicious, intelligent, competent agents which plan for humiliation and elimination of large masses of populations is a reasonable thing to do.

It turns out that naming the forces and pointing out their actions and advocates does not actually convince anyone. No level of evidence is sufficient for those who would rather sneer.

Why are you putting something I didn't say in quotation marks as if I did? And then, to add insult to injury, actually quoting me. You'll find that the text in italics is eminently falsifiable. If you want my prediction to be more concrete, then here: by the end of the century human population will be smaller than at the start of it, and an overwhelming majority of the remaining humans will have far less access to energy, resources, and freedoms, both in absolute terms and relative to what those at the top will enjoy.

by the end of the century human population will be smaller than at the start of it

So you are predicting... Two billion dead by the hand of the cabal if they start today?

an overwhelming majority of the remaining humans will have far less access to energy, resources, and freedoms, both in absolute terms and relative to what those at the top will enjoy.

This is already the case, so it's not much of a prediction.

Ordinary humans already have far less access to energy, resources, and freedoms in 2024 than in 2000? You and I have very different definitions of far less. We are not living in pods, eating bugs, and owning nothing yet.

Certainly the median human has "far less access to energy, resources, and freedoms... relative to what those at the top [enjoy]," and by "those at the top" I mean you and me.

The cabal seriously needs to pick up the pace, population is increasing every day and the century is nearly a quarter over.

You're misreading me, two times in a row now. The existence of wealth gap is trivially true and is no prediction at all. I'm saying that it will grow monumentally in 2100 compared to 2000, and also, this part you're completely ignoring for some reason, the absolute value of available energy and freedoms for a common person will be considerably lower in 2100 than 2000. And no, I'm not at the top even if I'm in a position to be a lazy layabout with internet and hookers, and if you're posting here, I assume neither are you. How many banks do you own?

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I think it was pretty clear from the context that the first part was a summary of your views. Plus, I did literally quote you later on with a far stronger claim.

Your prediction isn't predicting all that much. Birth rates are plummeting and have been for decades. Global births peaked in 2016 and the world's TFR is about to fall below replacement. That the global population will shrink significantly is mathematically certain.

The second part is stronger (at least the 'absolute' part if not the 'relative' part), but seems very unlikely to me.

However, we weren't discussing whether or not the average human will be poorer in 2100 than they are now. The discussion was about the 'malicious, intelligent, competent agents'. Who are these agents? Where is your evidence for their existence and motives? What would you accept as falsification of these claims?

And I think I was pretty clear that I sneer at your summary of my views as a strawman. As for what I would accept as falsification, it is simple. Flourishing of common people, rather than death and immiseration. No pods, no bugs, no fifteen minutes cages.

Well, we don't live in pods, nor do we eat bugs. I'm not sure how being able to walk to work counts as a 'cage' but whatever. Falsified, I guess?

But you haven't answered the key question. Who are these malicious actors? What evidence do you have for their exitence or motives?

Why is it consistently missed that this is my prediction for the future? Yes, we don't. We will. Unless we die, or I'm wrong.

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Another C.S. Lewis apologist in the house?

C.S. Lewis apologists generally don't believe the only escape is death.

You did not approve the filtered comment you're replying to, nice moderation there.

Reacting to the shadow on the cave wall, I don't hold Lewis, or any other religionist, in any esteem at all. He had that great quote about tyrants who do it for the moral reasons, I'll give him that, but that's the entirety of my appreciation.

We can't control who gets filtered, and the only sign in the new-comment feed that someone is filtered is a small, greyed-out icon. We try to unfilter them as soon as possible, but it's easy to miss and sometimes we do.

He had that great quote about tyrants who do it for the moral reasons, I'll give him that, but that's the entirety of my appreciation.

Among his many other virtues, his prediction of the trajectory of the sexual revolution was pretty on-point as well.

Don't be a dick.

When we (mods) read comments on the main page, and not by looking in the comments filter, it's not always obvious that a comment we're replying to is currently in the new-user filter and thus not visible to anyone else.

I'm confused. Did Epohon advocate for death as an answer to a question or did he use the term "bulversim"? Why not both?

So the term which is common in political discussions is his invention. Two good things about him, then. Hitler invented autobahns or something.

In the past I've heard a lot of jokes about "The People's Republic of Pennsylvania". I don't know much about the state, but the Secretary of Agriculture has been making news lately.

The latest evolving story is about Rusty Herr and Ethan Wentworth who ran a bovine reproductive services company called "NoBull Sires, LLC".

The dispute arose back in 2010 because the Ag Department sent them a cease and desist plus a statement of fine on the grounds that using an ultrasound was practicing veterinary medicine without a license. The counter argument was that the Ag Department was out of scope of the law. Routine checks don't meet the requirement of "diagnosis and treatment" for practising veterinary medicine, even if they involve an ultrasound machine.

Notably the Ag Department seems to have never filed the paperwork with a court, which is a prerequisite for enforcement. So they were likely aware of the legal issues. In 2020 the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medicine Association sent a complaint to the Department of State.

On April 10-11, 2024 they were arrested and sent to jail for 30 days for "contempt of court". The problem is that the Ag Department seems to have issued the arrest warrant on their own. The case has never been in court. They have not been before a judge.

So they are both in jail serving a 30 day sentence that didn't involve a judge and they haven't been allowed to see a judge.

There is a culture war angle here. The press seems to be reluctant to get involved for a few reasons. These days they like to defer to the bureaucracy, particularly when the Governor is from the right party. Plus Pennsylvania is in play for 2024 so they are reluctant to kick up a fuss that could help Trump.

I'm only finding coverage in the farming press right now and they don't really dive into the legal issues.

https://www.lancasterfarming.com/farming-news/news/livestock-ultrasound-operators-jailed-accused-of-unlicensed-vet-practice/article_39004570-fcd8-11ee-8396-1f8ec41b214f.html

https://agmoos.com/2024/04/17/pregnancy-is-not-a-disease-two-men-jailed-without-bail-for-repro-ultrasounding-of-dairy-cows/

In the past I've heard a lot of jokes about "The People's Republic of Pennsylvania".

I have never heard of that in my life. Pennsylvania is the quintessential purple state, with no one party dominating the state government for more than a term in decades (and that was a Republican trifecta) and it being close to a century since there was permanent partisan control of the sort you see in California or Massachusetts.

Overzealous bureaucracy knows no partisan bounds.

I've heard it before and thinking it over it's poor phrasing. It was always used in reference to bureaucracy.

Specifically back when this was in the news, https://reason.com/2014/12/20/pennsylvania-couple-seeks-return-of-wine/

People were posting about their own stories.

Farmshine has learned that these fines were ignored on advice of their former attorney, so as not to admit guilt. After all, why should Herr and Wentworth admit guilt for actions that have become commonplace and are open to interpretation of the state’s vague and archaic veterinary law in regard to defining ‘diagnosis’ — especially since pregnancy is not a disease to be diagnosed, but rather a condition to be observed?

This advice is so fucking stupid they should be suing whatever attorney gave it to them. I am not a barred lawyer in PA but I am confident that the proper response to "a state executive agency has inappropriately levied a fine and injunction on me" is "file suit challenging the action in a court of competent jurisdiction" not "ignore it and hope it goes away." All that notwithstanding, reading the Veterinary Medicine Practice Act, it sounds like the board has not followed the legally required procedure for enforcing its judgements. Unless there have been some proceedings initiated in a PA court that are not being mentioned.

So... don't walk in a bad neighborhood if you don't want to be raped?

More effort (and, perhaps, tact) than this, please.

good use of commas!

So... don't walk in a bad neighborhood if you don't want to be raped?

A better analogy would be: "If a cop stops you unjustly, don't ignore them or resist, but comply politely and address the issue through the proper channels."

However, it is also not wise to walk through a bad neighborhood alone and unarmed. Someone might do it anyway, but it amounts to bad advice for an expert in that neighborhood to recommend that someone do it.

A better analogy would be: "If a cop stops you unjustly, don't ignore them or resist, but comply politely and address the issue through the proper channels."

Which is a lie Americans tell themselves. Once you comply politely, if you're not arrested, the issue is over. There are no proper channels to go through that will impose any consequences on the cop.

Furthermore, if you do comply, and you are arrested and charged, and you complain, the courts may find that your compliance made the whole thing voluntary, and therefore you have no grounds for complaint.

Wut?

He is suggesting you are blaming the victim. Though really the analogy would need to be: Someone walking in a bad neighborhood was raped, so their lawyer suggested showering afterwards, not calling the police and simply hoping the perpetrator was caught.

I think it would be reasonable to criticize the lawyer, while still being aware that the rape was bad in and of itself as well.

What Jeroboam is trying to say in a very crass and shocking way (he has me blocked and I like it), is that he feels you are victim blaming the guys giving ultrasounds.

So again we see that whatever the supposed rules and procedures about how these things are “supposed to” work, in reality what matters is what you’re able to get men with guns to enforce. (As I’ve said before, a lesson I learned in 7th grade.)

And this gets to one of my common political arguments and frustrations — the perennial criticism of my support for restoring human authority and decision-making. In (the portion I watched of) Benjamin Boyce’s interview with Aydin Paladin, he makes this standard argument against her monarchism: but if you have a king, then won’t he become a tyrant, and take away people’s freedom by enacting a parade of horribles… all of which, Aydin pointed out in reply, are things which democratically-elected governments have done. People ask ‘what if the local aristocrat makes an unfair/unjust/tyrannical decision?’ as if modern bureaucracies can’t do the same (and throw in all the sorts of mistakes and irrationalities — like the classic ‘you must fill out and submit Form A before we can give you Form B, you must fill out and submit Form B before we can give you Form A’ class of problems — of which only bureaucracies are capable).

What if Baron Such-and-such throws you in the dungeon without trial? Well, what if the Pennsylvania Ag Department does it? The difference seems to be that the bureaucracy adds diffusion of responsibility. If the Baron locks you up, everyone knows who to blame. But when it’s a faceless bureaucracy, full of jobsworth human cogs, who ‘don’t make the rules, just follow them,’ where nobody is to blame; and, like @pigeonburger notes below, nobody in government really suffers serious consequences.

Some people talk about “Brazilification,” viewing us as moving in the direction of that South American nation. I say should be worried less about becoming like Brazil the country, and more about becoming like Brazil the Terry Gilliam film.

Great setup for the Brazil joke, but I'm inclined to agree with Hyperion here. There is still a giant bureaucratic apparatus in a monarchy, and you can't even vote out the head of it.

How are kings and nobles going to run anything except through bureauracies? These were things created by kings to run their countries. Kings and aristocrats will still need bureaucrats and courts to run things, your just changing who gets to decide what the laws and regulations are, not the need for them.

How are kings and nobles going to run anything except through bureauracies?

I'm mainly going off of Max Weber's ideas of Modernity as marked "rationalization" and the resulting bureaucratization. A king and his aristocrats may need a veritable army of clerks and petty officials (emphasis on "may"), but those need not be bureaucrats.

The key here is the element of "rationalization" that is the replacement of human judgement and leadership with the implementation rigid, "impersonal" procedures — in short, with algorithms, whether carried out by a computer made of silicon and metal, or one made of a mass of human "cogs." It's the same phenomenon that drives "software eating the world" and much of the "Seeing Like a State" problems — you've got to sanitize your data, reduce the dimensionality of the problem, and lump things together before you can enter it into your spreadsheet, feed it into your algorithm. It also relates to the late William Stuntz's lament that our justice system chose the route of "procedural due process" over the alternative of "substantive due process." It's what leads to the archetypal "Karen" asking to speak to a manager — that is, someone with actual human authority, rather than a meat drone of the Machine.

You can read online about any number of kids suspended or expelled from school for absolutely stupid reasons due to "zero tolerance" rules. Why do schools enact these rules? Because it lets teachers and principals evade any responsibility, which would come with the exercise of even the slightest common-sense discretion (which the lawyers advise, to avoid lawsuits). It wasn't this way in schools a century ago, was it? Teachers weren't always this allergic to exercising authority, were they? And if it wasn't always this way, then it doesn't have to be this way.

To quote Wikipedia:

Weber described the eventual effects of rationalization in his Economy and Society as leading to a "polar night of icy darkness", in which increasing rationalization of human life traps individuals in an "iron cage" (or "steel-hard casing") of rule-based, rational control.

and:

Although he was not necessarily an admirer of bureaucracy, Weber saw bureaucratization as the most efficient and rational way of organizing human activity and therefore as the key to rational-legal authority, indispensable to the modern world. Furthermore, he saw it as the key process in the ongoing rationalization of Western society. Weber also saw bureaucracy, however, as a threat to individual freedoms, and the ongoing bureaucratization as leading to a "polar night of icy darkness", in which increasing rationalization of human life traps individuals in a soulless "iron cage" of bureaucratic, rule-based, rational control.

Weber may have thought this inevitable, but I disagree. Do we really need the buck-passing jobsworths "born to be all obsessive and snotty" (to quote Hermes Conrad)? How many of the sort who will argue it's not his fault he tortured a man to death because someone else brought him the wrong person, so their heart condition wasn't on the paperwork. And even worse, the petty tyrants who aren't simply enforcing the rules, and merely use such as cover.

How far apart are "I don't make the rules, I just follow them" and "just following orders," really? Zygmunt Bauman seems to have had similar views. Again from Wikipedia:

Bauman's most famous book, Modernity and the Holocaust, is an attempt to give a full account of the dangers of these kinds of fears. Drawing upon Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno's books on totalitarianism and the Enlightenment, Bauman argues that the Holocaust should not simply be considered to be an event in Jewish history, nor a regression to pre-modern barbarism. Rather, he says, the Holocaust should be seen as deeply connected to modernity and its order-making efforts. Procedural rationality, the division of labour into smaller and smaller tasks, the taxonomic categorization of different species, and the tendency to view rule-following as morally good all played their role in the Holocaust coming to pass.

How much of this kind of bureaucracy did societies before the Enlightenment and Modernity really have? You say even kings need such to run things. How many of this sort of bureaucrat did Genghis Khan have? Magnus the Good? Alexander of Macedon? Tarquin the Elder? Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui? Sargon of Akkad? How many were in the court of King Kamehameha I? How much bureaucracy does the average Amish community have? How much did the Iroquois Confederacy have? How much do you suppose the builders and inhabitants of Çatalhöyük had? How much bureaucracy do the Sentinelese have?

I've spent much of my life fighting intransigent bureaucracies, and the useless meat machines and petty tyrants that fill them, starting with Anchorage School District administrators. I've spent most of the last year fighting with either Social Security, Alaska's Medicaid department, or both. And I have plenty to say about especially the incompetence of the Anchorage SS office.

I'm tired of these people, and the system that empowers them. I don't want to navigate a stupid "for inconvenience, press 1" automated phone system, I want to talk to a human being. I want to speak to the manager. I want someone to be in charge, someone to be responsible, someone to blame. Whatever it takes to get rid of the Dolores Umbridges, the Carol Beers, even the Hermes Conrads. So many of the people discussed on that "Rationalization" page point to "modernity" and the "Enlightenment" as the root of this process; which is Reason Number One I want the entire Enlightenment project destroyed.

To quote God-Emperor Leto II (from before the awful prequel books retconned the history):

The target of the Jihad was a machine-attitude as much as the machines. Humans had set those machines to usurp our sense of beauty, our necessary selfdom out of which we make living judgments. Naturally, the machines were destroyed.

Whatever it takes to get rid of the Dolores Umbridges, the Carol Beers, even the Hermes Conrads.

It is worth noting that Dolores Umbridge and Carol Beer are very different phenomena, and the only thing they have in common is that they use femininity as a way of making their obnoxiousness less obvious. But you are not the first person to lump them together - the comments to Scott Aaronson's "blankface" post are a dumpster fire because Scott chooses a word that suggests he is talking about Carol Beer and then writes a long post insisting he is talking about Umbridge.

The basic difference is that Dolores Umbridge does, in fact, have agency, and is abusing it. In Order of the Phoenix Umbridge is a senior official who is given broad discretionary authority by Fudge to root out Hogwarts-based opposition to the regime, and does in fact try to do that (ultimately unsuccessfully) while treating the opportunity to sadistically abuse Harry as a fringe benefit. In Half-Blood Prince she fails upwards to become Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic - which to someone familiar with British bureaucratic titles is a high-level policy making role at the same level on the org chart as a Deputy Secretary or Assistant Secretary in the US executive branch. (The equivalence is complicated by the complete absence of political appointees in the Ministry of Magic), although in so far as we see the internal workings of the Ministry she actually appears to be functioning as Scrimgeour's chief of staff. Umbridge is useful to Power, and Power supports her in her abuse of Harry, and would continue to do so even if they knew everything.

If Curtis Yarvin or Peter Theil was critiquing Fudge's performance, they would see his decision to appoint Umbridge and let her get on with it (including backing her up as necessary when she is e.g. accused by Dumbledore of sadistically abusing students) as a relative high point in his career - he actually tried something that could have worked, and would have worked if Fudge hadn't been forced to resign because Voldemort showed up in person around the time Umbridge was completing her takeover of Hogwarts.

Carol Beer, on the other hand, is a shit-tier grunt with no authority. Her only source of power is that she can refuse to do her job some non-zero fraction of the time without getting fired - and it isn't even clear if she is refusing to do her job, or if she is unable to do it because she does not even have sufficient authority to override the computer. But assuming the unfavourable interpretation, Beer is useless to everyone, and the only reason she gets away with her petty sadism is because her uselessness is beneath the notice of Power. If Karen managed to speak to the manager, Beer would be fired. I suspect if Curtis Yarvin wrote a review of Little Britain, he would say that someone in Beer's reporting line was asleep at the wheel, and needed some encouragement.

The two failure modes (evil backed by Power, and evil operating beneath the notice of Power) both function in the same way regardless of whether Power is personal or bureaucratic. The fundamental case for the Rule of Law and bureaucratic process is that it constrains Dolores Umbridge. The case being made against it in this thread is that it creates Carol Beers. This is a trade-off, and the trade-off is real and is not one-sided in the real world. To give a recent notorious example in the UK, Dominic Cummings noticed and has repeatedly blogged about the legal-accountability-driven incompetence of UK government procurement, including how it was likely to kill people during the COVID-19 pandemic. So during the pandemic he used emergency powers to throw out procurement law and allow the government to just buy PPE from willing sellers. The result was a spectacular feeding frenzy of peculation as people with the right connections realised that selling to the government was now a pure matter of getting into the ministers' in-tray, and that anyone who could do that could buy non-working PPE at retail from dodgy Chinese websites and mark it up even further to the government. The total loss to the taxpayer was c. £4 billion, with the £200 million paid to shell companies linked to lingerie entrepreneur and Tory peer Michelle Mone for unusable PPE being the headline example

There are two sayings I sometimes to use to think about this trade-off:

The Cossacks Work for the Czar. To paraphrase Brad de Long, it isn't immediately obvious if the Cossacks who raided your village are:

  • working for the Czar, and fucking with you because the Czar wants them to
  • working for the Czar, and fucking with you because they want to, and fucking with people like you is within the scope of their delegated authority
  • bandits who the Czar has for some reason failed to hang, who are fucking with you because they can.

What de Long means by "The Cossacks work for the Czar" is that above a certain level of sophistication (which a band of raiding Cossacks crosses), Carol Beers have been weeded out, and you can assume that what the system does or fails to do is the result of (often foolish) choices made by the people in charge of it.

It cannot deal with plain error. The full quote from Conrad Russell's An Intelligent Person's Guide to Liberalism is about the necessity for both political and legal accountability.

Political accountability must deal with gross errors of judgement, unworkably drafted legislation, and measures which cannot be enforced. Legal accountability can deal with gross abuses of power and with breaches of clear legal principles. It cannot deal with plain error.

Not firing Carol Beer is an example of plain error. An awful lot of what goes wrong with modern bureaucracies (State and private sector) is that trying to create legal remedies for plain error creates more problems than it solves. But the world where the local Boyar enjoys a de facto droit de seigneur over the peasants as long as he remains useful to the Czar is worse.

I believe the answer from a leviathan shaped hole perspective is that the local baron is a face to be appealed to directly who can solve the coordination problem leading to arbitrary tyranny directly.

I've met elected officials, I've met aristocrats(well, pretenders to the same- individuals with the bloodlines to call themselves nobles but without the state recognizing their title). Honestly I can't tell you whether the graf von whatever or the representative for bumfuck wherever is more of a reasonable person on average- I suspect they come from basically similar social strata and are basically similar people. But an aristocrat at the very least has a bigger bully pulpit to get bureaucrats to back down on their vogonity and probably has legal privileges in a monarchist society to effect the same.

Now in practice I think it's more complicated; 'if only the tsar knew' is a meme for a reason. But- formal one man rule seems to incentivize anti-corruption drives at the very least.

But- formal one man rule seems to incentivize anti-corruption drives at the very least.

Not clear that's true. Insofar as power is concentrated, it is easier to identify who you have to bribe. Things like monopoly concessions in return for money (formal and informal) happened a lot in e.g. Elizabethan England, and (I am no expert) presumably other cases of one-man (male or female) rule. On the other hand, that could be attributed to the problems that feudal rulers had in obtaining tax revenues.

However, from an incentives standpoint, it seems that the more powerful the state and the more concentrated that power, the greater the gain and the lower the cost of outsiders corrupting those with power. That's leaving aside "power tends to corrupt, more power tends to corrupt more" considerations.

Now in practice I think it's more complicated; 'if only the tsar knew' is a meme for a reason. But- formal one man rule seems to incentivize anti-corruption drives at the very least.

You don't seem to be advocating one man rule. You seem to be advocating feudalism. China had formal one man rule and this rule was carried out by a massive, powerful bureaucracy. Same thing in France, Britain or Prussia. Whether the state was being run by a parliament of nobles, an elected parliament or just a king. They all needed bureaucracies once they became centralized.

You seem to be advocating feudalism.

I don't know if @hydroacetylene is advocating it, but I am.

What does "leviathan shaped hole" mean here?

My understanding is it's saying that the situation calls for a protective institution that doesn't exist or isn't doing it's job.

https://www.themotte.org/post/832/culture-war-roundup-for-the-week/180922?context=8#context

https://archive.ph/hLXHa

It's a reference to hlynka(RIP) and also to Leviathan, the 'somebody's gotta do it' defense of monarchism.

What happened to hlynka?

He got permabanned.

What an odd choice. I didn’t always agree with him but he was genuine and a different thinker.

More comments

Permananned for being naughty while arguing with the HBD people.