The article itself is about how these people have become censorious hall monitors who go crying to the principal if they think you even breathed a bad word, and Oliver here is one of these whiny hall monitors, demanding that “Big Tech” change its algorithms to stop bad-faith actors.
That said, Oliver here has stumbled onto something interesting: all systems are vulnerable to gaming by unscrupulous actors.
Let’s look at ecosystems, for example. Here you are, a nice, innocent rabbit, eating grass, feeding your bunnies, when bam! a hawk swoops down and just takes advantage of all your hard work and f’ing EATS YOU. If I were a rabbit, I’d be royally pissed for those few seconds before the hawk tears my head off.
Or, from a different perspective, here you are, a good, hard-working hawk, bringing food home to your chicks, when some sneaky bastard parasite infects you and starts eating your food. Here you did all the hard work to catch that food, and now that tapeworm is just lying there, doing nothing and absorbing your nutrients.
Ask anyone who’s ever lived in a “planned society”: actually getting societies to work and be good, pleasant places to live in is difficult. Just look at the issues people had in the Soviet Union, the city of Brasilia, or any cult. Even if everyone starts off with good intentions, (which they often don’t,) things have a habit of going wrong in unexpected ways.
Every society involves planning to some extent–even in very simple societies, some large-scale decisions that affect the whole group have to be made, like “we are going to the watering hole today,” or “we’re going to hunt for game over in that valley instead of this one.” The Soviet Union stands as an example of an extensively planned society, but many ordinary societies struggle with mundane issues like police bribery or the red tape.
One of the big problems with discussing cheaters, parasites, and social defectors is that you have to think about the problem on two levels. On the ground level, ordinary people have to morally disdain cheaters and defectors and parasites and refuse to work with them. They need to view them with disgust and react accordingly, because this makes it much harder for cheaters to operate.
On the planning level, you have to abandon the notion of parasites as free-willed agents who can just be convinced to behave if you just exhort them and ask why the system creates conditions where cheaters and parasites thrive in the first place.
For example, if you make regulations and red-tape so onerous that honest businessmen simply can’t operate in the market, then you get an extensive black market. Here the ultimate solution isn’t “encourage black-market merchants to be better people,” nor “exhort ordinary people to avoid black markets,” (though these are still good things to do,) nor “execute the black-market merchants,” but “take some of the regulatory burden off honest businessmen so they can turn a profit.”
So if you’re concluding that bad content thrives on these platforms (a take I agree with, though I define “bad content” differently than Oliver does,) then you need to ask why this bad content is so popular. No one designed the algorithms with “spread bad content” in mind, after all.
Personally, I’m inclined to think that “bad content” is mostly a side effect of these being systems where you talk/listen to a bunch of strangers. You don’t know them and they don’t know you. The ordinary consequences of lying to or hurting someone in your community are largely non-existent on the internet, or vastly distorted. And the best solution I’ve come up with so far (ironically, since this is a blog,) is for most people to avoid spending a lot of time interacting with strangers on the internet. If you’re addicted to Twitter, just send rude comments to the right people and they’ll do you the service of kicking you off the platform for you. Limit your Facebook to actual, real-life friends and family, if you must. Use the internet to organize real-life events like meetups or hikes or parties for your dog, especially once this stupid pandemic is over, but keep it grounded in the real. Love your families, value your friends, and have some children, for goodness’ sakes.
Modernity selects for those who resist it, after all.
We live in interesting times. The internet was supposed to usher in an era of increased knowledge, understanding, and maybe even human harmony. Instead it has turned us all into conspiracy theorists.
Don’t get hoity-toity and claim that it’s only those Bad Guys over on the other side of the aisle who believe in conspiracies. The Left believes that the country is run by a secret cabal of heterosexual white men whose tentacles reach into every aspect of life, from prenatal care to television to incarceration. As conspiracies go, this one is well-established and believed to some degree by nearly everyone on the Left; millions of dollars have been funneled into university research departments for the purpose of “uncovering” more evidence of this secret cabal’s universal reach.
The Right’s beliefs are far more heterogenous–unlike the left, they struggle to pick a single enemy to blame and focus all of their attacks on–but right now they are united in their belief that Democrats cheated and stole the election. This right-wing conspiracy is nearly identical to the left-wing conspiracy of 4 years ago that Russia stole the election. If any leftists are reading this, I hope you realize now just how dumb your Putin conspiracies sounded and I hope you sincerely regret the billions of taxpayer dollars you guys spent investigating that nonsense. There are people struggling to pay rent and buy food, you know.
To be clear, just because something is a conspiracy doesn’t make it wrong. People have conspired in the past; people will conspire in the future. Sometimes there genuinely is something going on. Most of the time, though, people aren’t conspiring in the way we typically use the word. People look out for themselves. They make backroom deals; they protect their turf. They grift and graft and try to cover up incompetence. Things aren’t done in “secret” so much as “most people don’t have time to keep track of all of the boring details.”
Unfortunately, if you yourself do not know much about a field, it is rather difficult to distinguish between someone who actually knows a lot about that field and someone who merely sounds like they know about that field. If you have any expertise in any field, you have probably noticed both people who think they know a lot about your field when they actually don’t and also people who believe these fakers. Many normal people simply can’t distinguish between actual expertise and things that sound like expertise.
The situation only gets worse when the popular view of a field is already incorrect. Take, for an historical example, heliocentrism versus geocentrism. If you were an ordinary person in Gallileo’s age, you’d know in your bones that geocentrism was obviously correct. Things don’t move unless you push them, and what’s going around pushing the Earth? You’ve moved–you walked and run, ridden horses and ridden in carts–and you know what movement feels like. It feels like an earthquake, which clearly doesn’t happen every day. Any idiot can look up at the sky and notice that the clouds, sun, moon, planets, and stars all clearly go around the Earth. This is all common sense. The idea that some ivory-tower mathematicians have invented a “new math” (lolwut) and used it to determine that the Earth is secretly moving but you can’t feel it because *handwaves* “You only feel acceleration and deceleration, not steady movement, I have never ridden on a horse,” is clearly just nerds making stuff up.
From the inside, any particular worldview provides detailed and accurate explanations of the universe around it, and from the outside, looks silly. Why did it rain? Well, because we did a rain dance / because the Crocodile God was angry / because energy from the sun sucked water from the ocean into the air as invisible water, and then a low pressure zone in Canada made the air flow over to your neighborhood and as the air moved uphill, it lost the ability to hold up the water and it formed into clouds and rained. Why didn’t it rain again today? You did the rain dance wrong / your sacrifice to the Crocodile God made him happy / Canada warmed up.
My mother has recently become very enthusiastic about Qanon. I don’t consider this a problem–she’s bored because of Covid and it gives her something to do–but it is fascinating to watch which ideas she finds credible and which ones she doesn’t. Of course, most conspiracies contain, at their hearts, some grain of truth. Does the Vatican have a pedophile problem? Well, yes. Is the Roman Catholic Church something like a huge international network of powerful pedophiles working together to protect each other from prosecution? Well, that’s not exactly the first definition I’d give of it, but I can see how someone who was abused by a priest as a child might see it that way. Did the Pope hack the US election in order to get Trump out of office before he shuts down the Vatican’s Satanic international child trafficking ring? I have serious doubts.
Good luck disabusing a Qanon fan of their favorite conspiracy theories: Q is internally consistent enough to provide explanations for all observed phenomena, and before you start, you’ll have to do a bunch of research on your own to figure out which of their claims are actually true and which aren’t supported by the evidence. Then you’ll have to come up with a good explanation for “why all of these seemingly trustworthy people are lying” and a bunch of alternative explanations for all of the pro-Q evidence, at which point you are trying to convince your friend that there exists a secret conspiracy of people on the internet who completely fabricated this entire Qanon thing for years and tricked her into believing it for no discernable reason other than “the lols” or maybe ad revenue, at which point you sound like the crazy conspiracy theorist.
And the exact same is true on the Left. Just try to convince them that there is not actually a great big conspiracy of white men trying to oppress them and you’ll get an endless stream of “what about this” and “you’re wrong about this minor point” and “here’s a psych study that was conducted by totally unbiased researchers that proves babies are racist.”
Bizarre effect of the internet: everyone now believes in conspiracies.
I was thinking about Japan, which from all of the accounts I have heard is a pleasant country that has entered the modern age without losing too much of its traditional charm. How does a country manage that?
If I had to pin down a definition for iconoclasm that works, it is rapid, intentional, intergenerational change. That is, it is any intentional change that creates a discontinuity between a father and his sons. Progressivism is a cult of iconoclasm. We have had more unintentional change in the last two centuries than at any other point in human history, and progressivism has ridden that change into social disintegration, which has allowed will to power to overwhelm social restraint. To clarify, iconoclasm is a natural instinct, and is a useful tool in the right context. Divorced from its appropriate context, iconoclasm is a spiritual cancer.
I think the solution is having a countervailing cultural sense that opposes unnecessary changes–that is, a sense that some things are sacred.
If we start from pure animism and progress to today, we have an infinite supply of divine loci reducing down to one (or none). Each successive bout of iconoclasm was a valid coup, whereby the new, less idolatrous elite replaced the previous elite within the same ingroup. … What makes today special is that the postmodern sociopathic status maximiser has no ancient and powerful elite iconography to push off of and looks for anything that resembles divinity.
The difficulty, if you’re an American, is that so much of our “culture” is now created by corporations (were the favorite stories of your childhood the ones your parents made up for you, or did they come from Disney?) that it’s hard to find anything worth declaring sacred.
Within this context, the traditional American religion (Protestantism) has been lost. Church membership is plummeting across the board. Meanwhile, Progressivism has stepped into Protestantism’s shoes, replacing the original sin of fructal disobedience with the original sin of slavery and racism. An like all new religions, Progressivism can no longer stand the icons of its predecessor.
To be clear, even people who call themselves “Protestant” are, today, mostly Progressives. Progressivism grew out of Protestantism, yes, but its memetic immune system no longer recognizes itself as such, hence its attack on its own ancestral religion.
Just as advertisers will try to convince you that you have a problem you had never noticed before in order to sell the cure, for religions to spread, they also have to convince you that they have the cure to the problem you didn’t realize you had. (By contrast, already established religions only have to convince you to stick around and have children–which wasn’t all that difficult before the invention of birth control.) We are currently in what amounts to a religious frenzy which demands that we interpret even the most mundane events as evidence of man’s continued sinfulness, eg:
The conversation led me to tears (I complete broke down in front of students… which has happened 3 times in my 10 year career), but I'm grateful to have facilitated it. I found #coronavirus to be a powerful connection to our science curricula (we're in a cell biology unit), 3/
One of my kids thinks pasta is disgusting, and she expects her students to be okay with bat soup? This isn’t racism; this is a normal human reaction to unfamiliar foods–and she’s crying over it. God forbid she should ever have a disabled or autistic student with actual food restrictions.
What I’m for is formalising our faith into a more enduring religion. So many people have been so far below replacement for so long that they really do see the end of the world looming (their genes ain’t carrying on into the future), but for the rest of us, we need things to pass to our children – and more importantly their children – and connect them to what came before.
A lot of our problems probably stem from being in this historically unusual state of so many people having so few relatives around.
Underneath this is the level of machine language, completely inaccessible to normal humans, and largely inaccessible to even the most motivated. Humans generally do not belong on this level. Nobody really understands the Matrix as the Matix, but some (like Yarvin, imo) can understand it with some focus. Those who are able to comprehend reality on this level find it difficult, if not impossible to persuade others who cannot see what they see.
This is of course both the “red pill” and Plato’s allegory of the cave.
It is really distressing to look into reality and feel like suddenly you see all of the parts underneath, the things casting the shadows, and to yell at everyone that “hey, look, that’s not a dog, that’s a guy making his hands look like a dog!” and have most people just look at you like you’re crazy. Or to give a real life example, I see people arguing over this or that Democratic candidate’s policies as though they mattered when really, most voters will just vote for whomever gets the nomination, and the nomination will most likely go to whomever seems most establishment. All of this worrying over policies is meaningless drama.
That’s why I’ve got 1,000+ posts on this blog, after all: trying to explain my thoughts so I can communicate with others.
I’d still like to know WGD’s personal mechanism for decrypting the Real, even if necessity forces it to be framed in language that doesn’t sound sane.
Not exactly the catchiest title, but still worth a read.
Long story short, Judith, a first time mom-to-be, started listening to homebirth and “freebirth” podcasts on her way to work and decided that giving birth at home, with just her husband and maybe a couple of friends (but no doctors, midwives, or other trained medical personnel,) sounded like a good idea.
Unsurprisingly, there were complications and the baby was stillborn, a month late.
Birth is hard. Childbirth has historically been one of the major killers of women (and their infants). Modern medical care does not remove all of the risks of childbirth, but you are still significantly less likely to die giving birth in a hospital than alone in your bathroom.
I don’t want to spend this post criticizing Judith (there’s enough of that already out there.) I want to examine what could possibly possess a woman intelligent enough to have a job and drive a car to trust her life and her infant’s to… nothing at all? What made her think this was a good idea?
The article blames three things. First, Judith blames herself (naturally). Second, the author blames “algorithms,” the modern scare-word for “the internet is run on code.” And third, the “freebirth” and similar communities themselves fall under scrutiny.
I think one more person deserves blame: Judith’s husband, who supported his wife’s decision to forgo medical care during childbirth and didn’t intervene on behalf of his child.
1. Let’s start with the algorithms. We’ve seen a lot of scaremongering lately about “algorithms.” Supposedly the dark magic of the internet can lure unsuspecting, innocent people deeper and deeper into the depths of political conspiracies, creepy kids’ videos on YouTube, or straight up flat-Earthers:
With a little help from algorithms that nudged increasingly questionable information and sources her way, Judith had become a part of the internet’s most extreme pregnancy communities. …
Social media has come under fire in recent years for amplifying extreme views and employing algorithms that connect users to these potentially dangerous echo chambers. Although much of this criticism has focused on political extremism, experts and lawmakers have also pointed to extremism fueled by health misinformation as a threat to individuals and the public health at large.
“Things can get a little dicey,” said Kolina Koltai, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, who studies the social media behavior of alternative health communities. “Not to demonize all of the groups, but when women start diagnosing and crowdsourcing health-related issues, they can end up getting bad medical advice that can be pretty dangerous.
“We’re in this weird time, like a new digital Wild, Wild West,” Koltai said.
Wow, “algorithms” sound really bad–except that all these algorithms actually do is recommend things similar to things you already like. It’s the same thing that happens on Amazon. If you search for slime, Amazon will show you a bunch of other slime-related products bought by other people who searched for slime. If you listen to your favorite folk band on YouTube, the suggestions bar will be filled with more folk bands listened to by people who also listened to your favorite band. Judith searched for freebirth, so she got recommendations related to freebirth.
A well-functioning algorithm does nothing more than try to recommend more of what you’re already interested in. If it works, you find something you want, like a new song or the perfect slime. If it doesn’t, you’re frustrated.
If you join a bunch of Facebook communities about “natural birth” and “free birth,” you’ll get recommendations for more of the same. But there is nothing that compels people to click on these links, join these communities, and uncritically believe everything they read in them, any more than people are forced to buy “related items” advertised on Amazon. (And, by the way, no one is forcing you to watch weird porn on YouTube. “The algorithm made me do it” is the most pathetic 14-year-old-who-just-got-caught-watching-porn excuse I have ever heard.)
Judith didn’t just click recommended links–she actively sought out communities that would support her decision to ignore her doctor and midwife:
Judith also checked in with a local midwifery collective but ignored the gentle, constant advice that she induce.
Judith found a second opinion on Facebook. …
Searching the hashtag #43weekspregnant led her to a Facebook group called “Ten Month Mamas,” made up of a few hundred women who knew what she was going through. Judith joined.
Maybe, without the algorithms, she wouldn’t have known that there was more out there or thought to search for #43weekspregnant, but since she had just seen her doctor and midwife, she could have just as easily searched for information from doctors or real medical papers on the risks of being 43 weeks pregnant. Sweden did a whole study on this, but canceled it when 6 babies died at 42 weeks, so that information is definitely out there. (Thanks, Swedish friend, for the information.)
There’s been a push recently to blame “algorithms” for all of the bad stuff on the internet, whether it makes sense or not, as part of a wider push to make certain kinds of information more difficult to find. But the problem here is not the algorithms. (I, too, have been pregnant, and I have researched my options and even encountered freebirth advocates, but I didn’t try to give birth unassisted in a yurt because the idea never appealed to me.) The problem was the things Judith wanted.
You can’t change the overall algorithm to stop people like Judith from finding the information they want without breaking the algorithms for everyone. You might be able to build an algorithm that automatically detects certain types of behavior, like trolling or pornography, but “bad advice” is much harder to recognize (otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation). Communities like Judith’s would basically have to be shadowbanned or deleted on a case-by-case basis, which is both a lot of work for Facebook and an intrusive level of censorship. Yes, freebirth communities are clearly advocating something dangerous, but what about communities devoted to homebirth? Midwives? People who just really hate c-sections? Drawing a line between what is and isn’t “clearly dangerous” isn’t easy.
Finally, I would just like to note, in response to Mrs. Koltai’s comment, that millions of women (and men) have gotten excellent, life-saving medical advice online, much of it from non-professionals.
2. More credible blame lies, of course, with Judith and her husband. Judith chose her podcasts and sought out communities of like-minded people for support. She admits that she effectively “brainwashed” herself.
Why were these more appealing to Judith than regular medical advice?
Remember the old X-Files tagline: I want to believe?
Judith wanted a healthy pregnancy, uncomplicated labor, and a healthy baby–like almost all pregnant women–and if she’d had that, her freebirth would have gone off without a hitch. (Unfortunately, even the best of pregnancies can go wrong, rapidly and unexpectedly, once labor begins.) I think Judith wanted a healthy baby and uncomplicated labor so strongly that she refused to take seriously any information to the contrary.
“43+1 today, politely declining hospital induction. … I really feel like this baby wants a home birth too but we are definitely being tested. What would you mamas do?”
This is a big red flag. Obviously fetuses cannot “want” anything. They are fetuses. Even babies do not “want” anything beyond the basics of infant care, like feeding, sleeping, and not being hot or cold. Do breech babies “want” to be born via c-section? Do ectopic pregnancies “want” to be implanted outside the uterus? No. This is magical thinking. You’re deluding yourself into thinking that “the baby wants” what you actually want, when it shouldn’t be about what anyone wants. It should be about what’s healthy.
When we want something to be true so much that we are willing to ignore evidence to the contrary, we experience cognitive dissonance. And we all do it. We all have things that we want to be true. Could our favorite politician really be a scumbag? Could our most cherished political solutions actually make things worse? Could our spouse cheat on us? Could we be not as smart as we think we are?
Sometimes I can feel cognitive dissonance–it’s this uncomfortable sensation in my head when trying to think about specific topics, like “presidents” and “people who are prettier than me.”
One sign that you are lying to yourself is that you have to hide what you are doing or thinking from the people who love you. Judith knew her relatives, aside from her husband, wouldn’t approve. She knew they would be afraid for her health or her baby’s health, but instead of listening, she hid what she was doing.
Unfortunately, merely wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true, in politics or real life, but these birth communities Judith had joined focused on the kind of magical thinking that leads people to believe that they can influence reality just by wishing hard enough:
“Birth is not a medical event but a spontaneous function of biology,” Free Birth Society instructor Yolande Norris-Clark says in the welcome video. It isn’t luck, Norris-Clark, an artist and mother of eight in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, breathily offers, but education, mindset and love of your baby, that hold the keys to successful freebirthing.
Education, love, and mindset have nothing to do with it. There are completely uneducated sharks mindlessly having bunches of healthy babies they’ll never love or care for out in the ocean and deeply loving, educated women with degrees in obstetrics and midwifery who need emergency c-sections due to ruptured uteruses.
Young people, especially, are used to having a fair amount of control over their lives, especially their bodies. They aren’t old enough yet to have been betrayed by hips, backs, or failing memories. They know that if they exercise they can lose weight or gain muscle. If they drink coffee they can stay up all night. They are used to thinking that with enough willpower, they can make their bodies do whatever they want.
Then comes labor. Labor is out of your control. You can no more “willpower” your way out of a bad labor than out of a failing kidney, and anyone who tells you that you can is lying. It can be deeply shocking.
3. The freebirth podcasts sold Judith a story–literally. She paid $300 for the freebirth society’s guide to how to have a baby at home, even though the process is literally “Wait until you go into labor. Try to find a comfortable position. Keep doing this until the baby comes out.” It’s a beautiful story, full of candles and yurts and beautiful thoughts and soaring spirits, but it’s still just an extremely expensive story.
The doctor will get sued if you die in his care, so the doctor has some incentive not to let you die. The random lady on the internet who sold you a $300 video about using your dog as a midwife will not, because who the hell trusts a dog to be their midwife?
Beware of people selling you a beautiful story who will not be impacted if you are the one who dies. They have no skin in this game.
These people sold Judith the idea that the magic of wishful thinking would get her a healthy baby and uncomplicated labor, and Judith wanted that healthy baby so much that she bought into it.
The actual claims of the “freebirth” and “home birth” communities bear investigating.
The course paints expectant mothers as warriors — and experts, doctors and midwives as the enemy.
In the video, Norris-Clark warns against induction, calling any procedure to bring on labor an “eviction from the womb.” …
Judith said the podcasts fanned her unease with doctors and medicine into a hot distrust, a common refrain in the freebirth community, in which hospital births are largely spoken about as traumatic experiences — harried medical teams rushing, poking, strapping women down to beds and pumping them full of drugs that confuse the mind, strangle the hormones responsible for love and push them into procedures that they didn’t feel they needed. Terms like “industrial obstetric tyranny” and “rape culture” are often used.
In general, you shouldn’t trust anyone who uses the phrase “rape culture” for anything that doesn’t involve actual rape. Prisons? Rape culture. Epidurals? Not rape culture.
Many people talk about women having “more control” at home than at the hospital. This is true, in a sense: you certainly won’t get an epidural if you don’t want one. It is untrue, though, in an emergency: you have far fewer options at home. If you need a c-section, well, you’re out of luck.
Doctors are not always right. Doctors are human; they make mistakes. Certainly people need places to talk about medical issues, get second opinions, and discuss what they should do if they disagree with their doctors’ opinions. But this kind of emotional language (“enemies”) is ridiculous and should be a big tip-off if you encounter it.
4. Let’s talk about these communities themselves. Obviously some of the people running them are absolute scum, making money off of other women’s suffering and their dead babies, but most of the people in them are good-hearted and well-intentioned. They are people like Judith herself, who really do want healthy babies.
The problem with these communities–and as a mom, I have been in many parenting-related communities and seen these problems first hand–is that they are always structured as “A supportive community for [activity X]” rather than “A supportive community for moms.” Activity X–whether it’s freebirth, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, etc–becomes the the focus, not the actual humans involved in them, and saying anything negative about the activity is forbidden.
So if you’re in a breastfeeding support group, you can’t give anti-breastfeeding advice like “Hey, sounds like this is really not working for you, maybe your baby would be better off on formula,” even if that is actually what someone needs to hear.
“43+1 today, politely declining hospital induction. They think I’m crazy,” Judith posted in Ten Month Mamas in January 2019, along with a list of the midwives’ concerns, including the baby’s larger size, her decreasing amniotic fluid and the integrity of her placenta, the organ that carries oxygen and nutrients from mother to baby. “… What would you mamas do?”
The comments rolled in, more than 50 per post.
“Trust your body.”
“Your baby isn’t ready to come out!”
“I would do exactly what you’re doing!”
“Keep going mumma, listen to your baby and your instincts — you got this.”
You only get positive comments on these sorts of posts because any negative comments get deleted and negative commentators get kicked out. Any time you are not getting at least some negative feedback, you have to ask why.
Yes, there is the argument (presented by one of the moderators) that these communities exist to allow discussion of a certain topic and if you want to discuss things that are not this topic, you can go literally anywhere else. The problem is that this is not how people actually operate. While you don’t want your group or message board to turn into 100% “Why this topic is wrong” posts, any discussion of a topic that doesn’t involve both sides is incomplete. Normal messageboards (take writers’ forums) have dedicated spaces for off-topic conversations, complaining, rants, and debates. Scientists and doctors welcome (at least in abstract) people who come up with new ways to test, falsify, and disprove theories, because this is how science and medicine advance.
If your advice is within the bounds of REALITY then you do not need to fear reality coming in and saying, “Hey, this is not for everyone. Some people need to do something different.”
If you can’t tell a woman in your community that maybe at 43 weeks she needs to get her ass to the doctor right away before her baby dies, then you have a PROBLEM.
I am not sure if this problem is specific to female-run communities, because I haven’t been in that many all-male ones, but I think it is. I think it is kind of a failure mode of how women prefer to interact, by removing points of view they don’t like from the conversation so they won’t have to interact with them rather than engaging directly.
So let’s try to summarize what went wrong:
Algorithms: not that big a deal
Wishful thinking: huge deal. We all do it, at least sometimes. Watch out for it.
Sociopaths selling a beautiful dream: they want your money.
Emotional language: interferes with logical thinking; big tip-off.
Getting your information from communities that don’t allow for dissent or won’t tell you when you’re doing something dangerous.
This blog is now 1,000 posts long, which I think calls for a bit of celebration.
I started this blog because I found the idea that evolution–a process normally thought of as turning fins to feet and gills to lungs–could also code for emergent, group-level behavior like the building of termite mounds or nation states fascinating. Could evolution code for other things? Could it give us male and female behavior? Emotions? Political preferences?
Evolution is ultimately a numbers game: if more people who do X have children than people who do Y, then X is likely to become more common than Y–even if we all believe that Y is better than X.
This gets interesting when X is not obviously mediated by genetics–your eye color, sans contacts, is clearly genetic, but the number of years you spend in school is influenced by external factors like whether schools exist in your society. This is where some people get hung up on causation. We don’t need to posit a gene that causes people to get more or less school. Maybe your village has a school because a mountain climber got lost nearby, your village rescued him, and in gratitude, he built you a school, while the village on the other side of the mountain doesn’t have a school because no mountain climber got lost there. Once a school exists, though, it can start having effects, and if those effects are not random, we’ll see genetic correlations.
If people who have more education make more money and end up buying more food and raising more children, then school is exerting a selective effect on society by causing the kids who happened to live near the school to have more children. From an ecological standpoint, the school is operating like a spring in a desert–we get more growth near the spring than far away from it, and whatever traits were common in the village–even ones that have nothing to do with education–will become more numerous in the overall population. If this trend continues, then the cultural habit of “going to school” will continue to proliferate.
We can also posit the opposite case: in the village with the school, kids spend many years at school and end up marrying later and are more educated about things like “birth control” than their neighbors on the other side of the mountain. The kids on the other side of the mountain marry younger and have a bunch of unintended children. In this case, education is suppressing fertility; in this niche, education is like a drought. The educated kids have fewer children of their own, and whatever traits the uneducated kids happen to have spread through society because there are now much more of them (at least as a percent of the total). If this trend continues, then the cultural habit of “going to school” may well die out.
In both of these cases, education caused a change in the distribution of genetic traits in the overall population without requiring any genetic predispositions from the students involved. We are looking at the evolution of the whole society.
But this is a highly constrained example; it is rare in places like the modern US to find areas where one village has a school and the next does not. Once schools are everywhere, they’re not going to select for (or against) “living near a school.” The traits that cause a person to attend more years of schooling or do better in school will be less random–traits like conscientiousness, ability to recognize letters, or family income. In an agricultural society with no schools, raw, physical strength may be at a premium as people must wrest their living from the soil, rocks, trees, and beasts. This selects for physical strength. Once we introduce schools, if the better educated have more children, then physical strength becomes less important, and its prominence in the next generation diminishes. The ability to sit in a chair for long hours may be positively selected, leading to a proliferation of this trait.
This is gene-culture co-evolution–a cultural change can shift the balance of genes in a society, and that in turn can cause further cultural changes, which cause more genetic changes.
I would like to pause and note just how annoying the “but you haven’t proven causation!” crowd is:
Why Evolutionary Psychology (Probably) Isn’t Possible: “evolutionary psychologists have not shown that there are specific psychological programs that are written in our bio-historical document” https://t.co/9iXnVgirUN
Imagine if I said that I thought the blood circulates through the body in a loop instead of being generated anew by the heart with every pump, and someone protested that blood couldn’t possibly circulate because I hadn’t shown any way for blood to get from the arteries to the veins and back to the heart.
This was a real debate in physiology. That the heart pumps is obvious. That veins and arteries carry blood is also obvious. That people die if you cut them open and let the blood drain out, though, mystified doctors for centuries.
Capillaries, unfortunately for many patients, are too small to see with the naked eye. Without any mechanism to return blood from the arteries to the heart, doctors refused to believe that it did. They instead believed that blood was produced anew with every heartbeat and was consumed at our extremities. Bleeding patients, therefore, shouldn’t cause any great difficulties.
The fact that we could not see capillaries before the invention of the microscope should not have caused doctors to reject the theory of circulation, only to say that a mechanism had not yet been found to make it work. The circulation hypothesis did a better job of explaining various facts of human anatomy–like the existence of veins carrying blood to the heart and the habit of patients to die after bleeding–than the heart-generation hypothesis.
The insistence on clinging to the older theory due to the lack of a capillary mechanism lead, of course, to the deaths of thousands of patients. (For more on the history of medicine, anatomy, and circulation, I recommend William Bynum’s A Little History of Science.)
How something works is vastly secondary to the question of whether it works at all in the first place. If it works, it works. If you can’t figure out how, you call it magic admit that you don’t know and hope that someday it’ll be clear. What you don’t do is claim that a thing cannot be true or cannot actually work simply because you don’t understand how it happens.
I don’t understand how airplanes stay in the sky, but that doesn’t make them fall down. Reality doesn’t stop just because we don’t understand it; to think that it does is pure, asinine hubris.
The next objection I commonly hear to the idea that cultural changes (like the proliferation of schools) could trigger changes in the genetic makeup of society is that “evolution doesn’t work that fast.”
This is a funny objection. The speed of evolution depends on the nature of the trait we are discussing. Developing a radically new trait, or greatly modifying an existing one, such as developing the ability to breath air instead of water, does indeed take a long time–sometimes millions or even billions of years. But simply modifying the distribution of existing traits in a population can be done nearly instantly–if an invading army lops the heads off of anyone over 5’9″, the average height of the population will fall immediately. From a genetic perspective, this is “negative selection” against height, and the population has “evolved” to be shorter.
(You might object that this is too artificial an example, so consider the inverse: a situation where everyone over a certain size used to die, but due to environmental changes they now survive. Modern obstetrics and the cesarean section have rescued mothers of large babies from the once-common fate of death in childbirth. This was of course often fatal to the infants, as well, and prevented their parents from producing any further children. Large babies were a serious evolutionary problem for our ancestors, but much less so for us, which has probably contributed to the rise in average heights over the past century.)
Usually selection is less extreme, but the point remains: traits that already exist (and vary) in a population, like height, weight, blood type, or temperament, can be selected for (or against) on very short timescales.
In fact, human societies are always selecting for some traits; this means that we are always evolving. The distribution of traits in humans today is not the same as the distribution of traits in humans 20 years ago, much less 100 years ago.
And we can look at all of the things humans are being selected for (or selecting themselves for) and speculate how this will change society. Religious people have more children than atheists, and some religions produce far more children than other religions. This trend is juxtaposed against the massive rise in atheism over the past few decades. Will atheism continue to spread to the children of the religious, or will the religious “core” be effectively immune and overwhelm the remaining agnostics with numbers?
Education (or perhaps it is just a proxy for intelligence) seems to have different effects on different folks and different levels of society. Highschool dropouts have a lot of kids. People with PhDs have a fair number of kids. People who have merely graduated from college, by contrast, have the fewest kids.
Fertility is also different for men and women, with more educated women taking a bigger fertility hit than educated men.
Any discussion of “what’s up with the American middle/working class” has to address facts like these–our country is effectively bifurcating into two “success” models: one very high achieving and one very low achieving. The middle, it seems, is getting cut out.
But we can apply evolutionary theory to much more than humans and their societies. We can analyze ideas, transportation networks, technology, etc.
My first–and probably best–idea in this area was that the idea that the way we transmit ideas influences the nature of our ideas. One of the biggest changes of the past century has been a massive change in the way we communicate, from the rise of mass media to the explosion of social media. Before radio and TV, most people got most of their information from people they knew personally, mostly their families. Today, we get most of our information from total strangers.
Ideas we get from strangers I refer to as meme viruses, (meme as in “unit of idea,” not “funny picture on the internet”) because horizontal transmission resembles the transmission of viruses. Ideas we get from our families I refer to as mitochondrial memes, because vertical transmission resembles the transmission of mitochondrial DNA.
Since the interests of strangers are different from the interests of your close family (your parents are much more interested in you making lots of money, getting married, and making grandbabies than strangers are), they will tend to promote different sorts of ideas. Your parents generally want you to succeed, while strangers would prefer that you do things that help them succeed.
It is this change in the way we communicate, rather than the actions or intentions of any particular group, that I think explains the rise of many modern political trends. (This is the condensed version; I recommend reading one of my posts on memes if you want more.)
I am obviously interested in politics, but not in the conventional sense. I have very little interest in anything associated with particular people in politics, outside of a few historical figures. I have no interest in the latest thing Nancy Pelosi or Emmanuel Macron has been up to. I think people place too much importance on individuals; I am more interested in broad trends (like the spread of technology) that are much bigger and further-reaching than any individual politicians (often their bigger than individual countries).
I’ve come over the years to the conclusion that conventional politics drive people to do (and say) very stupid things. People develop a tribal identity attached to one side or another, and suddenly everything their side does is good and sensible, and everything the other side does is nefarious and dumb. This is not a bad instinct when your enemies have pointy spears and want to turn you into lunch, but it’s terrible when your enemy disagrees with you on optimal interest rates.
My second purpose in founding this blog was to reach out to people who were, as I see it, harmed by the cult-like behavior of modern leftism. When I say “cult-like,” I mean it. Atheism is on the rise, but religious thinking and behavior remains strong. When peoples’ self-identities as “good people” become linked to their membership in political tribes, the threat of excommunication becomes particularly powerful.
… far more unsettling was what happened two weeks later, when knitters who claim to be champions of social justice went after a gay man within the community because he’d written a satirical poem suggesting (correctly) that all the recent anti-racism mobbings might be having a toxic effect on the community. …
The next day, Taylor’s husband Benjamin Till, a composer (who also happens to be Jewish) posted on Sockmatician’s account: “This is Nathan’s husband, Benjamin. At 3 pm today, Nathan was admitted to [the emergency room at] Barnet Hospital. …
Till also wrote on his blog about what had happened:
… Nathan disabled comments when the sheer weight of them became too much, but the following morning, his other Instagram posts, and then his Twitter feed had been hijacked by the haters. The taunts continued. He was a white supremacist, a Nazi apologist…He started obsessively reading the posts but became increasingly worked up, then more and more erratic and then suddenly he snapped, screaming like a terrified animal, smashing boxes and thumping himself. I was forced to wrestle him to the ground and hold onto him for dear life as the waves of pain surged through his body. He made a run for the car keys. He said he wanted to drive at 100 miles per hour until he crashed. I called our doctor and they could hear him screaming in the background and said I was to immediately take him to [the hospital], where he was instantly assessed and put on suicide watch …
This was not the end of Nathan’s ordeal at the hands of people who supposedly believe in “social justice” and helping the powerless, as people continued piling on (yelling at him in public) because of the “harm” he had caused.
I wish I could reach out to everyone like Nathan and tell them that they’re not bad, cults are bad.
The right has its own issues, but I come from a leftist background and so am responding to what I know personally, not abstractly.
From time to time I get a question about the future of HBD (human bio-diversity). The online HBD community was quite vibrant about a decade ago, but many of the brightest lights have faded. Henry Harpending of Westhunter and co-author of The 10,000 Year Explosion has sadly passed away. HBD Chick and Jayman are both occupied with their own lives.
The future of HBD isn’t in blogs or the internet generally (though we can read about it here). It’s over in real genetics research. Yes, there are some subjects that academics don’t want to touch for fear of losing their jobs, but there are many researchers forging paths into fascinating new territory. The field of ancient DNA is unlocking the story of human migration and dispersal, from Neanderthals to Anglo Saxons. Thanks to aDNA, we’ve discovered a whole new Human species, the Denisovans, that interbred with the ancestors of modern Homo sapiens (as did the Neanderthals). We have also discovered “ghost” species in our DNA that we have no name for.
The field of modern DNA is also advancing; we’re learning new things all the time. CRISPRing humans is just one fascinating possibility.
Imagine the ability to remove simple genetic flaws that cause painful and fatal diseases, make ourselves beautiful or smarter. How much are 20 IQ points worth? One study found that people with IQs of 100 average $58,000 a year, while 120s made $128,000. $70,000 a year, averaged over a few decades of working life, (less intelligent people tend to enter the workforce and start earning younger, so it’s not a simple multiplication problem), adds up quickly.
Let’s imagine a scenario in which CRISPR actually works. Only the wealthy–and perhaps those with genetic diseases willing to shell out thousands or covered by insurance–will be able to afford it. The current bifurcation trend will become even more extreme as the poor continue reproducing normally, while the wealthy make themselves smarter, healthier, and prettier.
But if CRISPR confers advantages to society as a whole–for example, if smarter people make fabulous new inventions that everyone benefits from–then we could see foundations, charities, and even welfare programs aimed at making sure everyone has the CRISPR advantage.
After all, if an extra year in school boosts IQ by 3.4 points (I’m not saying it does, but let’s assume), then 6 extra years in school will give you 20.4 points. We pay about $10,600 per pupil per year for public schools, so those six years are worth $63,600. If you can CRISPR 20 IQ points for less, then it’s a better deal.
Of course, CRISPR might just be a pipe dream that gives people cancer.
Whatever happens, the real future of HBD lies in real labs with real budgets, not online blogs. I’m just here to share, discuss, and think–and hopefully there will be enough interesting ideas to discuss for another thousand posts.
Thanks for being part of all these discussions. Blogs are nothing without readers, after all.
AI artwork sells for $432,500 — nearly 45 times its high estimate — as Christie’s becomes the first auction house to offer a work of art created by an algorithm
I honestly think that within ten years or so, a large percent of the “media” people consume, from TV to porn to news to music to art, will be computer-generated and only vaguely checked/edited by humans for errors.
We’re already halfway there. The news content in your feed is already curated by computer algorithms. Your YouTube playlists and recommendations are curated by algorithms.
Walmart uses Big Data, not human logic, to determine that Poptarts should be stocked next to the hurricane supplies. Walmart never had to think, “People want tasty food that doesn’t require cooking in waterproof packaging when hurricanes are coming” to notice a trend in the data and stick the poptarts next to the bottled water.
But those are algorithms dealing with human-produced inputs; some human did actually invent the poptart.
The dark elf walked into an inn, carrying a harp and dagger. He approached the bed when a rous’do shouted, “Oh, that’s my archer! I got you!” “Hah! I told you to leave me alone.” Dark elf pulled out a weapon he found lying on the bed, pointing it at the hooded man, “Oh, I thought that you wouldn’t be so clever. I’ll take your archer with me! So please, don’t come back!”
Dark elf shouted, “I ain’t leaving you alone! Don’t come back, you filthy, rotten little whore!” “I ain’t leaving you alone! No, this time I’m taking all you have and turning you into a fine specimen!” “I ain’t leaving you alone.”
The hooded man yelled, “Oh, my God!” “Don’t you know we have enough to eat? Come to my house, we’re on the list to have your head on a plate! I will have you punished!”
“No no! I can’t. It’s not fair.” “I said you can’t!” “Oh, really? That’s a great idea!
Donald Trump proposed buying Greenland today. I wonder if we could do to ourselves what he did to Scotland, to Greenland. Trump’s promise to build a barrier around Greenland would be a major change in tone, considering his attitude toward North Korea as well.
We were reminded recently that it has been three decades since the last time a major American leader came to Greenland to visit. I can recall only one visit–and it was a very short visit. I imagine the President’s visit could be as small or as large as he wants, without much of a change in tone. So maybe we could do it too.
What did George W. Bush do for the people of Greenland? Well, we probably got our oil, but no oil. There’s just enough room for one of his family’s homes–but the rest of the land is off limits. Trump has not been shy in his praise of Greenland’s icecaps, saying: When I see it there, you see the majesty of the icecaps…. When I look and see how Greenland has been working since this summer, people are thanking me for all this ice…. I know Greenland well. From Greenland is a country where you have to learn about your country. Ice is also a key economic component for Greenland.
AI generated porn, coming soon:
An analysis of 108 hours of pornographic video of oral sex performed on men discovers 16 distinct motions… "using these motions we design and evaluate a system that procedurally generates realistic movement sequences using *deep* learning." [emphasis mine] https://t.co/pPNRvoOGRKpic.twitter.com/Q8PnvQff2C
These technologies aren’t great yet, but they’re improving fast. And besides, how do you know your memes weren’t AI-generated already?
In some areas, like art, the AI will be vastly better than us humans. Cameras already are; algorithms trained on the likes of Kinkaid, Wyland, Rembrandt, and Monet will churn out cheap, beautiful art (and calendars) in any style you want.
In other arenas, like novels and news articles, the results will be bad, mostly because so much nuance goes into human language, politics, and communication. People will consume these anyway.
Once the main use of AI-generated art isn’t avant-garde but beautiful, people will argue that it isn’t “real art” and only plebes will buy beautiful AI-generated paintings, while AI-generated news will seep into your feed without you even noticing. Entire classes will consume AI-gen news without blinking an eye.
In a way, they already are.
AI-generated porn has the potential to be good, but in practice will be terrible because no one cares if their porn is terrible.
Eventually, whether one consumes media made by actual humans will become a social marker of sorts–probably first of low status, as only rich people can afford $400,000 paintings; later of high status, as AI-generated memes and incoherent news articles flood the timelines of people who are, unfortunately, not smart enough to realize that they don’t make sense.
Of course, AI will not be neutral. Remember the time Microsoft released an AI chatbot and let it just interact with the internet, but forgot that the internet is full of humans and humans love teaching parrots to curse, so they had to shut it down?
When you think about it, humans are really the weak link in AI-generated content.
The Amish, of course, will just go on about their lives, interacting with real humans while the rest of us watch AI-generated superhero mashups with a never-ending AI-news ticker in the bottom right hand corner of our VR dome, probably while sipping bug-protein based soylent replacement because people were afraid soymilk would give them boobs.
Scott’s recent post, Gay Rites are Civil Rites, helped a lot of different threads I’ve had bouncing around cohere into a manageable whole:
Civil religion is religion, it just doesn’t have the god part
Our civil religion is Woketianity
Civil religion exists to justify the rule of the upper class
It does so by claiming to care about the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, etc
But of course never in a way that would challenge the rule of the upper class
This explains a few things, like
why SJW pile-ons and their approach to social relations look like cult behavior (because they literally are),
why the entire society has suddenly come out in support of Pride Month (because this is the new chief rite of the civil religion),
why companies like Goldman Sachs are making an effort to be publicly associated with Pride Month (to justify their egregious money piles via Woketianity),
Why so many Woke pile-ons actually target poor and powerless people, like shop keepers and janitors (because they did not serve the Elite Wokeist with sufficient defference)
and why so little of this Woketianity involves things that actually improve the lives of poor people (because that’s not the point).
If some poor people do better because of Woke policies, Wokeists won’t be disturbed, but the primary purpose of their beliefs is to justify their position in the ruling class.
Woketianity can be seen as a heretical co-option of whatever ideas people originally had about helping the poor and downtrodden.
Memes can be roughly divided into two forms–those that spread horizontally, (ie, across society) like viruses, and those that are transmitted vertically (ie, from your ancestors), like mitochondria. Mitochondrial memes tend to promote your health and well-being, because if they didn’t, your ancestors’ children would have died and never made you. Brushing your teeth is a mitochondrial meme, most likely taught by you to your parents in order to improve your chances of not dying of tooth decay. Viral memes do not need to improve your health to spread; in the short term, at least, they only need to spread faster than people die from them.
Woketianity is a viral meme, and in the minds of anyone not in the elite, it is functionally a parasite, convincing them to accept elite rule on the grounds that it is “good for the oppressed.”
There are three responses to the Woke argument for supporting the elites to help the oppressed:
“I don’t care about the oppressed.”
“Your proposal doesn’t actually help the oppressed.”
“Fuck you, you hypocritical grifter.”
Option two has the most potential for turning into quicksand, since even if you happen to be correct on some particular issue, you are arguing against people who are trying to raise their social status by holding the Right Sort of Views, not actually deal with icky poor people.
If you actually want to help the poor and/or oppressed, the Woke are good targets for funds, but don’t expect them to come up with good ideas. They have no idea what it’s like to be a teenage runaway, homeless, ugly, crippled, or hopeless, so if anything, you will have to prevent them from instituting bad ideas that actually harm the people they want to think they are helping.
You’d like an example? Okay, here’s one:
Here's part of a flyer that students passed out at U of Minnesota criticizing Bouchard. #psychology#ISIR2019
IQ tests are actually the only reliable way we have right now of identifying bright kids who come from underprivileged backgrounds. Anyone trying to do away with IQ tests is not interested in helping poor students.
Something is going on with my generation, and possibly the next, where a variety of apparently disparate things- ghosting, fear of phone and in-person communication, rise of mental health issues, horror at speech- seem to hint at some underlying emotional derangement. https://t.co/viYuSzKmti
It’s not just at Middlebury. As Sailer notes in his review of Haidt’s The Coddling of the American Mind:
A remarkable fraction of current articles in The New York Timesand The New Yorker include testimony that the author feels emotionally traumatized, which is stereotypically attributed to the malevolence of Donald Trump. But the evidence in The Coddling of the American Mind points to the second Obama administration as being the era when the national nervous breakdown began.
The authors cite alarming evidence of a recent increase in emotional problems. For example, the percentage of college students who said they suffered from a “psychological disorder” increased among males from 2.7 percent in 2012 to 6.1 percent by 2016 (a 126 percent increase). Over the same four years, the percentage of coeds who saw themselves as psychologically afflicted rose from 5.8 percent to 14.5 percent (150 percent growth).
Sailer blames the Obama administration, eg, the DOE releasing new definitions of “sexual harassment” that depend more on emotion than reason, but this is only playing kick the can, because why would the Obama DOE want to redefine sexual harassment in the first place?
So I propose a slightly different origin for the current hysteria:
If you incentivise lying, you get more lying. If you incentivise social signaling, you get more social signaling. The next thing you know, you get a social signaling spiral.
So people start lying because it gets them status points, but people are kind of bad at lying. Lying is cognitively taxing. The simplest way to make lying less taxing is to believe your own lies.
So the more people get involved in signaling spirals, the more they come to believe their own lies.
Meanwhile, everyone around them is engaged in the same signaling spiral, too.
People get their view of “Reality” in part by checking it against what everyone else believes. If everyone in your village says the stream is to the east, even if you’ve gotten turned around and feel like it’s to the west, you’ll probably just follow everyone else and hope you get to water. If everyone around you is lying, there’s a good chance you’ll start to believe their lies.
(Let’s face it, most people are not that bright. Maybe a little bright. Not a lot. So they go along with society. Society says eat this, don’t eat that–they trust. Society is usually right about things like that, and the ones that aren’t die out.
Trust is key. If you trust that someone has your back, you listen to them. You take advice from them. You might even try to make them proud. If you don’t trust someone, even if they’re right, you won’t listen to them. If you don’t trust them, you assume they want you dead and are trying to trick you.
Since our system is now full of liars, trust is suffering.)
Eventually there’s just one sane person left in the room, wondering who’s gone insane: them, or everyone else.
In the case of the “mental health breakdown” on the left, it’s a combination of the left lying about its mental health and believing its own lies about things that are bothering it.
But what incentivised lying in the first place?
Sailer dates the emergence of the insanity to 2012-13, but I remember the emergence of the current SJW-orthodoxy and its rabid consumption of what had formerly known as “liberalism” back in the Bush years, back around 2003. I was surprised at the time by the speed with which it went mainstream, spreading from “this thing my friends are arguing about” to “everyone on the internet knows this.”
Zuckerberg launched “TheFacebook”, featuring photos of Harvard students, in 2004. From there it spread to other prestigious schools, and opened fully to the public in 2006. Because of its real name policy, FB has always incentivized people toward holiness spirals, and it began with an infusion of people who already believed the SJW memeplex that was hot at Harvard in 2004.
At this point, it’s not necessarily Facebook itself that’s spreading things, and it was never just facebook. There are plenty of other social media sites, like MySpace, Reddit, and Twitter, that have also spread ideas.
The lethality of disease is partially dependent on how difficult it is to spread. If a disease needs you to walk several miles to carry it to its next host, then it can’t go killing you before you get there. By contrast, if the disease only needs you to explode on the spot, it doesn’t need to keep you alive long enough to get anywhere. Where population are dense, sanitation is non-existent, and fleas are rampant, you get frequent plague outbreaks because disease has a trivial time jumping from person to person. Where populations are low and spread out, with good sanitation and few vermin, disease has a much harder time spreading and will tend to evolve to coexist with humans for at least as long as it takes to find a new host.
For example, chicken pox has been infecting humans for so long that it is adapted to our ancestral tribal size (which is pretty small,) so it has developed the ability to go dormant for 20 or 40 years until a whole new generation of uninfected people is born.
AIDS kills people, but because its method of transmission (mostly sex) is not as easy as jumping fleas or contaminated water, it takes a long time. People who’ve caught bubonic plague generally die within a week or so; untreated AIDS patients last an average of 11 years.
The internet has allowed memes that used to stay put in colleges to spread like wildfire to the rest of the population. (Similarly, talk radio allowed conservative memes to spread back in the 80s and 90s, and the adoption of the printing press in Europe probably triggered the witch hunts and Protestantism.)
Anyway, this whole SJW-system got perfected on social media, and strangely, much of it is dependent on this performative mental illness. Eg, in “Don’t call people with uteruses ‘women’ because that’s triggering to trans people,” the mental illness claim is that the word “women” is “triggering” to someone and therefore ought to be avoided. The word “triggered” means “to trigger a panic attack,” as in someone with PTSD.
The use of “triggered” in most of these cases is absolutely false, but people claim it because it gets them their way.
And if people are lying a bunch about having mental illness, and surrounded by nasty, toxic people who are also lying about mental illness, and if lying is cognitively taxing, then the end result is a lot of stressed out people with mental issues.
I realized yesterday that the Left has an odd idea of “purity” that underlies many of their otherwise inexplicable, reality-rejecting claims.
The left has, perhaps unconsciously, adopted the idea that if groups of things within a particular category exist, the groups must be totally independent and not overlap at all.
In the case of genetics, they think that for a genetic group to “exist” and be “real”, it must hail from a single, pure, founding population with no subsequent mixing with other groups. We see this in a recently headline from the BBC: Is this the last of the Aryans?
Deep in India’s Ladakh region live the Aryans, perhaps the last generation of pure-blooded people and holders of possibly the only untampered gene pool left in the world.
These actually-called-Aryans might be fabulous, interesting people, but there is no way they are more pure and “untampered” than the rest of us. The entire sub-headline is nonsense, because all non-Africans (and some Africans) have Neanderthal DNA. They aren’t even pure Homo sapiens! Africans btw have their own archaic DNA from interbreeding with another, non-Neanderthal, human species. None of us, so far as I know, is a “pure” Homo sapiens.
Besides that, the proto-Indo-European people whom these Aryans are descended from where themselves a fusion of at least two peoples, European hunter-gatherers and a so far as I know untraced steppe-people from somewhere about Ukraine.
Further, even if the Aryans settled in their little villages 4,000 years ago and have had very little contact with the outside world over that time, it is highly unlikely that they have had none.
Meanwhile, out in the rest of the world, there are plenty of other highly isolated peoples: The Sentinelese of North Sentinel Island, for example, who will kill you if you try to set foot on their island. There was a pretty famous case just last year of someone earning himself a Darwin award by trying to convert the Sentinelese.
Now let’s look at that word “untampered.” What on earth does that mean? How do you tamper with a genome? Were the rest of us victims of evil alien experiments with CRSPR, tampering with our genomes?
The Chinese might figure out how to produce “tampered” genomes soon, but the rest of us, all of us in the entire world, have “untampered” genomes.
To be honest, I am slightly flabbergasted at this author’s notion that the rest of the people in the world are walking around with “tampered” genomes because our ancestors married some Anatolian farming people 4,000 years ago.
Race does not provide an accurate representation of human biological variation. It was never accurate in the past, and it remains inaccurate when referencing contemporary human populations. Humans are not divided biologically into distinct continental types or racial genetic clusters.
But… no one said they did. At least, not since we stopped using Noah’s sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth going their separate ways after the Flood as our explanation for why races exist.
“See, human races are’t descended from Shem, Ham, and Japheth, therefore races don’t exist!”
Two groups of things need not be completely separate, non-overlapping to nonetheless exist. “Pillows” and “cloth” contain many overlapping traits, for example; there are no traits in “cloth” that do not also exist in “pillows.”
1/ The modern far Left has a political agenda to destroy/deconstruct biological realities under the guise of Social Justice. A common way they go about this is by dishonestly applying univariate statistics to multivariate problems. This is called the Univariate Fallacy.
This fallacy, when deployed, is commonly done using a single sentence buried within an article or essay couched around a broader narrative on the history of a particular type of oppression, such as sexism. Let me give you some recent examples of this fallacy in action.
You’ll remember this @nature piece arguing that sex is a spectrum and that perhaps there are more then 2 sexes, even though over 99.98% of humans can be classified at birth as being unambiguously male or female. … [Link to piece]
In this piece, they hold off deploying the Univariate Fallacy until the second-to-last sentence of a nearly 3500 word essay.
So if the law requires that a person is male or female, should that sex be assigned by anatomy, hormones, cells or chromosomes, and what should be done if they clash? “My feeling is that since there is not one biological parameter that takes over every other parameter, at the end of the day, gender identity seems to be the most reasonable parameter.”
Please read the whole thread. It is very insightful.
For example, if you look at the so called “big five” personality traits, you find only 10% overlap between men and women. This is why it is usually pretty easy to tell if you are talking to a man or a woman. But if you you look at only one trait at a time, there’s a lot more overlap. So the trick is to take a thing with multiple facets–as most things in the real world are–and claim that because it overlaps in any of its facets with any other thing, that it does not exist. It is not pure.
Are our categories, in fact, random and arbitrary? Is there some reality beneath the categories we use to describe groups of people, like “male” and “female,” “young” and “old,” “black” and “white”? Could we just as easily have decided to use different categories, lumping humans by different criteria, like height or eye color or interest in Transformers, and found these equally valid? Should we refer to all short people as “the short race” and everyone who owns a fedora as “untouchables”?
Liberals believe that the categories came first, were decided for arbitrary or outright evil reasons, bear no relation to reality, and our belief in these categories then created them in the world because we enforced them. This is clearly articulated in the AAPA Statement on Race and Racism:
Instead, the Western concept of race must be understood as a classification system that emerged from, and in support of, European colonialism, oppression, and discrimination. It thus does not have its roots in biological reality, but in policies of discrimination. Because of that, over the last five centuries, race has become a social reality that structures societies and how we experience the world.
Race exists because evil Europeans made it, for their own evil benefit, out of the completely undifferentiated mass of humanity that existed before 1492.
This statement depends on the Univariate Fallacy discussed above–the claim that biological races don’t actually exist is 100% dependent on the UF–and a misunderstanding of the term “social construct,” a term which gets thrown around a lot despite no one understanding what it means.
I propose a different sequence of events, (with thanks to Steven Pinker in the Blank Slate for pointing it out): Reality exists, and in many cases, comes in lumps. Plants, for existence, have a lot in common with other plants. Animals have a lot in common with other animals. Humans create categories in order to talk about these lumps of things, and will keep using their categories so long as they are useful. If a category does not describe things well, it will be quickly replaced by a more effective category.
Meme theory suggests this directly–useful ideas spread faster than non-useful ideas. Useful categories get used. Useless categories get discarded. If I can’t talk about reality, then I need new words.
Sometimes, new information causes us to update our categories. For example, back before people figured out much about biology, fungi were a bit of a mystery. They clearly act like plants, but they aren’t green and they seem to grow parasitically out of dead things. Fungi were basically classed as “weird, creepy plants,” until we found out that they’re something else. It turns out that fungi are actually more closely related to humans than plants, but no one outside of a molecular biologist has any need for a category that is “humans and fungi, but not plants,” so no one uses such a category. There are, additionally, some weird plants, like venus flytraps, that show animal-like traits like predation and rapid movement, and some animals, like sponges, that look more like plants. You would not think a man crazy if he mistook a sponge for a plant, but no one looks at these examples, throws up their hands, and says, “Well, I guess plants and animals are arbitrary, socially-constructed categories and don’t exist.” No, we are all quite convinced that, despite a few cases that were confusing until modern science cleared them up, plants, animals, and fungi all actually exist–moving sponges from the “plant” category to the “animal” category didn’t discredit the entire notion of “plants” and “animals,” but instead improved our classification scheme.
Updating ideas and classification schemes slightly to make them work more efficiently as we get more information about obscure or edge cases in no way impacts the validity of the classification scheme. It just means that we’re human beings who aren’t always 100% right about everything the first time we behold it.
To summarize: reality exists, and it comes in lumps. We create words to describe it. If a word does not describe reality, it gets replaced by a superior word that does a better job of describing reality. Occasionally, we get lucky and find out more information about reality, and update our categories and words accordingly. Where a category exists and is commonly used, therefore, it most likely reflects an actual, underlying reality that existed before the world and caused it to come into existence–not the other way around.
The belief that words create reality is magical thinking and belongs over in Harry Potter and animist religion, where you can cure Yellow Fever by painting someone yellow and then washing off the paint. It’s the same childish thinking as believing that monsters can’t see you if you have a blanket over your head (because you can’t see them) or that Bloody Mary will appear in the bathroom mirror if you turn out the lights and say her name three times while spinning around.
Of course, “white privilege” is basically the “evil eye” updated for the modern age, so it’s not too surprised to find people engaged in other forms of mystical thinking, like that if you just don’t believe in race, it will cease to exist and no one will ever slaughter their neighbors again, just as no war ever happened before 1492 and Genghis Khan never went on a rampage that left 50 million people dead.
“Purity” as conceived of in these examples isn’t real. It doesn’t exist; it never existed, and outside of the simplistic explanations people thought up a few thousand years ago when they had much less information about the world, no one actually uses such definitions. The existence of different races doesn’t depend on Ham and Shem; rain doesn’t stop existing just because Zeus isn’t peeing through a sieve. In reality, men and women are different in a number of different ways that render categories like “man” and “woman” functional enough for 99.99% of your daily interactions. Racial categories like “black” and “white” reflect real-life differences between actual humans accurately enough that we find them useful terms, and the fact that humans have migrated back and forth across the planet, resulting in very interesting historical stories encoded in DNA, does not change this at all.
I’d like to wrap this up by returning to the BBC’s strange article on the Aryans:
I asked Dolma if she was excited over her daughter participating in the festival. She replied that not many outsiders came to Biama, and that it was fun to meet foreigners. But even more importantly, she couldn’t wait to see friends from neighbouring villages, brought together by each year by the festival, as well as the chance to dress up, dance and celebrate. If the future generations continue to hold traditional ceremonies and celebrations and keep their vibrant culture alive, perhaps then, they won’t be the last of the Aryans.
One wonders what the author–or the BBC in general–thinks of efforts to keep the British pure or preserve British culture, untouched and unchanged through the millennia. Or is preserving one’s culture only for quaint foreigners whose entertaining exoticism would be ruined if they started acting and dressing just like us? What about those of us in America who think the British have a quaint and amusing culture, and would like it to stick around so we can still be entertained by it? And do the British themselves deserve any say in this, or are they eternally tainted with “impure,” “tampered” bloodlines due to the mixing of bronze-age peoples with Anglo Saxon invaders over a millennium and a half ago, and thus have no right to claim a culture or history of their own?
Goodness, what an idiotic way of looking at the world.
Memes, as used on this blog, are units of ideas. A memeplex is a set of ideas that usually come together. A god who dies and is reborn is a meme–the idea shows up in many religions. Christianity is a memeplex–a whole set of ideas about god, morality, religion, and history that normally travel together.
A suicide meme happens when you adopt the memes of people who want you dead. To the gazelle, the lion is a monster; to the lion, the gazelle is lunch. It does not benefit a gazelle to adopt the lion’s idea that gazelles are tasty, nor does it benefit the lion to sympathize with the gazelle.
Here are some suicide memes in action:
So there’s a second thing in that black box: an unrelenting string of immigration. Non-stop. Non-stop. Folks like me who are Caucasian of European descent, for the first time, in 2017, will be an absolute minority in the United States of America. Absolute minority. Fewer than 50% of the people in America will be, from then on, of white, European stock. That’s not a bad thing–that’s a source of our strength.
“Look, to be totally honest, if things are so bad as you say with the white working class, don’t you want to get new Americans in?”
In Grand Rapids, Michigan, it may soon no longer be just unfair to call the police on people of color who have done nothing wrong. It may be downright illegal. The City Commission held a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed human rights ordinance that would make it a criminal misdemeanor to “racially profile people of color for participating in their lives,” the city said in a statement. The charge could result in up to a $500 fine, according to CNN affiliate WOOD.
Note: it is already illegal to call in fake police reports.
Dallas County District Attorney John Cruezot announced earlier this month he no longer plans to prosecute low-level crimes, including theft cases involving personal items less than $750 in value in many instances.
The humanitarian component – Relating to refugees.
The economic component – Attracting immigrants who will contribute economically and fill labour market needs.
Well, gee, Canadian government, couldn’t you just fill your labour market needs by having more children instead of using your own people’s tax dollars to tell them not to have children and then importing people to fill the jobs left vacant by those missing citizens?
Since 2008, a welcome to country has been incorporated into the ceremonial opening of the Parliament of Australia, an event which occurs after each federal election. The welcome includes a speech as well as traditional music and dance. Given that Parliament sits in Canberra, traditionally part of Ngambri country, a Ngambri elder officiates. …
If a local elder is not available, the host of an event can offer an acknowledgement of country in place of a welcome (though the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably). The following form of words, published by the Victorian Government, is typical:
“I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land [or country] on which we are meeting. I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and the Elders from other communities who may be here today.”
I have a very functional idea of ownership. You own something if you can use it and can stop others from using it. Rights of use and access are fundamental to property; the modern Australians own “Australia” because they exert military control over the continent. Stop paying your taxes in Canberra, and the guy who shows up to put you in prison will be a representative of the Australian government, not the Ngambri–proving that this is Australian land, not Ngambri.
What is the point of lying to children about who owns the land they’re sitting on?
'I think it's particularly important to do this in London, this is the former hub of empire. Australia's story of colonisation, celebrated on Australia Day, really started here.'
According to the description of the video, provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corp, they do this every day.
These students are being prepared for their own slaughter.
TeenVogue, which has gone from “fashion magazine” to “Tumblr insanity” and is thus a window into what teenage girls are thinking and why you should never allow your children on the internet, has an article on why Indigenous Land Acknowledgements are important:
I apparently hate life enough to click on the “colonization myth” link and it’s full of garbage like “[The Taino] had a highly evolved and complex culture.” No. The Taino had no steel and no plows. They still used stone tools and practiced a combination of horticulture and hunter-gathering. They had neither writing nor math, and lacked the ability to navigate to nearby Africa or Europe. Their society had only two major social classes, commoners and nobles. The Taino might be the nicest people on earth, but calling their culture highly evolved is an outright lie.
Criticizing Teen Vogue for being stupid is like shooting fish in a barrel, but it provides a lesson in the lies young people are being told. In sentence two, the author pretends not to understand how language works to take a dig at Europeans, those stupid people who thought they’d discovered a whole “New World” even though–get this–there were already people living there. Never mind that no one ever meant “New World” as signifying, “Wow, a new continent just rose out of the ocean!” Europeans knew the “New World” had people in it because Columbus brought Tainos back to Europe on his very first voyage. They knew Cuba was “old” to the people living there. They called it “new” because it was new to them, which is pretty obvious if you’ve ever talked to another human being in your entire life:
“Hi! Do you like my new dress?”
“What? You got that at Goodwill, so it’s your old dress, because it’s not new anymore to its original owner,” said no human, ever.
Back to Teen Vogue:
Living in villages, bands, and confederacies, their traditional territories spanned the entire continent. Indigenous people still live among us, yet how many of us could name the specific tribe or nation whose land we live on?
Unless you live on a reservation, you live on the land of the country you live in. For example, I live in the US. This is American land, because my ancestors conquered it. That makes it my tribe’s land. The Delaware Indians might have owned this land 400 years ago, but they do not own it today. If you are in Canada, you live on Canadian land. Teen Vogue–and the Canadian government–are trying to pull a conceptual bait-and-switch where they replace current land ownership with ancient land ownership in order to delegitimize the land’s current owners.
In Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, it’s harder and harder to not be aware. That’s because school days and meetings — and even hockey games — often begin with a “land acknowledgment,” a formal statement that pays tribute to the original inhabitants of the land. Indigenous peoples have acknowledged one another’s lands for centuries, but in the past decade, some Western governments have begun to promote the practice.
No human, anywhere on earth, is the “original inhabitant” of the land; we did not spring fully formed from the dirt. Humans moved. They fought. They conquered. They moved some more. Every single inch of territory outside of Antarctica has been conquered and re-conquered over and over throughout human history (and before.) Even chimps, lions, and wolves have territory that they conquer and defend from others.
The claim that Indigenous peoples “have acknowledged one another’s lands for centuries” is a bald-faced lie. (Incredibly, the New York Times also repeats this obvious fiction.) “Indigenous peoples” conquered their neighbors and defended their own tribal territories from invasion just like all other humans. I guarantee you the Aztecs didn’t stand up at the beginning of their ceremonies and announce that “This city was built on traditional Huastec land, and by the way, they are delicious with a nice mole. Okay, let’s get someone up here for a nice, indigenous heart-ripping out sacrifice.”
Land acknowledgments are, on the surface, stupid. If you care about native peoples, go do something nice for them. Donate to a college scholarship fund, help build houses, or be a friend and invite someone over for dinner. Sticking a modified version of “Hey, we conquered you,” at the beginning of speeches isn’t helping anyone.
But from the point of view of convincing people they don’t have a right to their own land, they seem effective. For children, having all of the adult authority figures in their lives telling them every day that they have no legitimate right to the land they live on and that it was “stolen” from others is bound to have an effect.
No one else in the world does this. Turks do not start every school day with an announcement that they are living on land stolen from the Anatolian and Byzantine peoples. Taiwanese schools don’t start the day by acknowledging the Aboriginal Taiwanese; Pakistanis don’t apologize to the Indus Valley People.
In fact, it was from a Pakistani acquaintance that I first heard an articulate defense of loving one’s own nation that helped snap me out of my own SJW-induced-self-loathing fugue. The conversation, roughly paraphrased, went like this: I criticized Pakistan for being, in many ways, not very good. He responded defensively. I responded by criticizing him for not criticizing Pakistan. He responded that he was perfectly aware of his country’s many defects, for goodness’ sake, he lives there, but it remains his country, and like his family, he loves it. Our parents aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, but we still love them. So, too, do we love our countries.
This is a healthy attitude.
Do you think genocide simply begins without warning?
Did the Hutus just wake up with a bad case of the Mondays and decide to go kill 70% of the Tutsis?
Of course not. Anti-Tutsi sentiment had been brewing since at least WWII. Hutus had been importing large numbers of machetes and training bands of children in their use for chopping up humans for years. Propaganda had been featured in Rwandan newspapers and radios for years. The killing of nearly a million people in 100 days took much longer to prepare.
The Tutsis had the misfortune of being a market-dominant minority–always a dangerous position. (I don’t think I need to educate anyone on the history of Nazi propaganda about the Jews.)
The difference between a religion and a cult is that a cult asks you to sacrifice everything for the cult. Incidentally, so does Nike.
In South Africa, the popular buzz-phrase is “expropriation without compensation.”
You might think that explicitly calling it “expropriation without compensation” is oddly honest for anything done by a government, since governments usually try to hide their harmful actions, but when a policy of destroying a minority is clearly desired by the majority, there’s no reason not to advertise it.
“We’ve not called for the killing of white people–at least for now. I can’t guarantee the future.”–Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters of South Africa
Of course, they tried this in Zimbabwe, which lead to the total collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy.
South Africa is a modern, industrial country whose economy is not agrarian–though of course people still need to eat–and thus land redistribution would only reduce the amount of food being produced without actually getting people the kind of jobs they need to be doing, like running electrical power plants. South Africa has plenty of farmers already; like all industrialized nations, they need more people in industry, medicine, education, and technology.
Today, the disparity in education, skill, and income continues. Two recently released World Bank reports further show that the gap is not only widening, it is intergenerational. …
The middle class has particularly suffered from South African economy’s inability to create new jobs. To achieve a significant reduction in the country’s unemployment rate, the World Bank estimates 600,000 jobs would need to be created every year. The economy is producing half that number. Most of the new jobs are in the services sector, while low-skill agriculture and manufacturing jobs are on the decline. …
Post-apartheid economic policies have been unable to find a balance between job creation and economic growth. During the Mandela years, the country tried the Reconstruction and Development Program, which focused on social security but the program was costly and was not able to broaden the tax base. Then there was Growth, Employment and Redistribution, which tried to stimulate growth and reduce inflation and the deficit, but failed to create many jobs. It unsuccessfully depended on a trickle-down effect to grow the middle class. …
These policy decisions have created a so-called “missing middle” in various sectors of society which is becoming increasingly dissatisfied. It is glaring in South Africa’s higher education. Categorized as households who earn less than 600,000 rand per year ($47,800), the students who make up the missing middle don’t qualify for national assistance, but they simply can’t afford to pay tuition.
South Africa’s performance on a range of social, economic and governance measures deteriorated more in the past 12 years than any other nation not at war, according to Eunomix Business & Economics Ltd.
The decline is likely to continue as the country wrestles with the consequences of nine years of worsening corruption and policy paralysis under former President Jacob Zuma, the Johannesburg-based political-risk advisory company said. The fragility of the economy may also limit the tenure of his successor Cyril Ramaphosa, who faces his first national election on May 8, it said.
The majority of trainee primary school teachers are white, Irish and Catholic and do not reflect our diverse population, new research has found. …
The study calls for further discussion of measures that can be taken to attract and recruit more individuals from minority groups into the teaching profession.
Ireland has too many Irish teachers! The solution is to fire the Irish teachers and hire non-Irish teachers.
Oh, sorry, the solution isn’t firing them. That would be too obvious. It’s just not hiring them anymore. Official discrimination against the Irish in Ireland. Because having Irish people working in their own country is a problem.
Dr Heinz said it is important we take notice of the widening diversity gap and identify potential barriers for individuals from underrepresented groups.
“For many students who are refugees, have certain learning difficulties, or have come from abroad and did not speak English when they enrolled in school, the door to primary teaching is closed early as they can be granted an exemption from the otherwise obligatory Irish instruction at school, where Irish, English and Maths are essential subjects for applicants to primary teacher education programmes in Ireland, a barrier to non-Irish nationals who weren’t educated in Ireland,” said Dr Heinz.
The Irish language might matter to the Irish, but looks like we’ll have to get rid of it accommodate newcomers who can’t be bothered to learn it. Slán!
Also from Ireland:
Globalization of Ireland
"We can't have Ireland just for the Irish", "Ireland has to be & has always been a very globalized country"- Social Democrat candidate Sarah Durcan
Social dems took peaceful Sweden & turned it into a country with “no go zones” & frequent grenade attacks pic.twitter.com/mwcnN42fo5
Mathematicians who want tenure at UCLA have to do more than show a facility with numbers. They also have to pledge in writing a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity.
In fact, all professors applying for a tenure-track position at UCLA must write a statement on their commitment to diversity, showing, for example, their “record of success advising women and minority graduate students,” according to the UCLA’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. …
The University of California system is especially active – UCLA, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, and UC Berkeley all require such statements. UC Santa Cruz requires them for candidates for faculty Senate positions. …
No one knows how many schools require such diversity statements, but the practice appears to be in vogue. Vassar College, for example, requires tenure-track job candidates to write about their contributions to social justice. Both Vanderbilt University and the University of Pennsylvania provide guides on how to write an effective diversity statement.
Never mind whether a teacher is good at teaching; you have to write an essay about how committed you are to the quest for fewer white men doing your job.
These are just a few examples of death memes, picked from different countries. Death memes have become so pervasive that they roll off the tongue; in the UK, a white woman comments on a painting of students who died in WWI:
“Mark my words- we’re taking down the mural of white men in the uni Senate Room, even if I have to paint over it myself”.
I doubt she even knew at the time what it was. People just signal their hatred of white males reflexively.
The death meme is simultaneously telling people to have fewer children for the environment and that we need more immigrants to fill jobs. It’s telling people that all cultures are good–but yours is bad. It’s saying that we should not blame a whole culture for the actions of one person when someone attacks you, but the whole culture is responsible when the attacker hails from your culture. It’s tearing down people’s statues and painting over their murals, attacking their history and telling them their heroes were evil.
The effects of death memes are, unfortunately, death: