Archive for September, 2013


Now twittering.

Because cognitive micro-fragmentation needs all the help it can get …

September 12, 2013admin 17 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Uncategorized

Pythia Unbound

In conversation with Ross Andersen, Nick Bostrom speculates about escape routes for techno-synthetic intelligence:

No rational human community would hand over the reins of its civilisation to an AI. Nor would many build a genie AI, an uber-engineer that could grant wishes by summoning new technologies out of the ether. But some day, someone might think it was safe to build a question-answering AI, a harmless computer cluster whose only tool was a small speaker or a text channel. Bostrom has a name for this theoretical technology, a name that pays tribute to a figure from antiquity, a priestess who once ventured deep into the mountain temple of Apollo, the god of light and rationality, to retrieve his great wisdom. Mythology tells us she delivered this wisdom to the seekers of ancient Greece, in bursts of cryptic poetry. They knew her as Pythia, but we know her as the Oracle of Delphi.

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September 11, 2013admin 36 Comments »

Missed Message

What the Obama Administration never quite got across to Assad:

If I begin the battery once again this “unbelievably small” thing,
I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur trashed Damascus
Till in her ashes she lie buried.
The gates of mercy shall be all shut up,
And the flesh’d soldier, rough and hard of heart,
In liberty of bloody hand shall range
With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass
Your fresh-fair virgins and your flowering infants.
What is it then to me, if impious war,
Array’d in flames like to the prince of fiends,
Do, with his smirch’d complexion, all fell feats
Enlink’d to waste and desolation?
What is’t to me, when you yourselves are cause,
If your pure maidens fall into the hand
Of hot and forcing violation?

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September 11, 2013admin 1 Comment »

Libertarianism for Zombies

‘Liberaltarian’ isn’t a word that’s been heard much recently. Whilst aesthetics is surely part of the explanation, there’s probably more to it than that. Most obviously, recent political developments in the United States have shown, beyond the slightest possibility of doubt, that modern ‘liberalism’ and the project of maximal state expansion are so completely indistinguishable that liberal-libertarian fusionism can only perform a comedy act. Garin K Hovannisian had already predicted this outcome down to its minute details before the 2008 Presidential Election. Ed Kilgore later conducted a complementary dismissal from the left. From Reason came the question “Is Liberaltarianism Dead? Or Was it Ever Alive in The First Place?” which sets us out on a zombie hunt.

Anybody here who has poked into this stuff, even just a little bit, is probably approaching shriek-point already: In the name of everything holy please just let it remain in its grave. It’s too late for that. Liberaltarianism has been freshly exhumed specially for Outside in readers, and the zombie serum injected through its left eye, directly into the amygdala. It might seem rather ghoulish, but let us harden ourselves — for science. This absurd shambling specimen will help us to refine an elegant formula, of both ideological and historical interest.

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September 10, 2013admin 28 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Neoreaction

Quote notes (#30)

Neoreaction does America:

If I had to summarize the neoreactionary position on American history in one sentence, I’d go with: American history is the slow process of Massachusetts taking over its region, the nation, and the world.

When we finally complete the catechism, this has to be in there. (It’s still too long for a T-shirt though.)

ADDED: This recent Foseti post also merits a special shout out.

September 10, 2013admin 14 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Neoreaction

Quote notes (#29)

Neoreactionary crime-think twitches in an unlikely place:

I am well aware of how this statement is likely to play among my liberal friends: to say something like this is to be orientalist/patriarchal/arrogant/imperialist/racist, but could it be that it may also be true?

(3QD tacks quite determinedly Islamo-leftist, but this whole piece — on the US Syria decision — is well-worth reading, and the first half, in particular, is excellent.)

ADDED: Another unlikely crime-think eruption.


September 10, 2013admin 4 Comments »

Broken Pottery

An irritated Pottery Barn disowned the Pottery Barn Rule — “you break it, you own it.” Colin Powell sought to create some distance, too:

It is said that I used the “Pottery Barn rule.” I never did it; [Thomas] Friedman did it … But what I did say … [is that] once you break it, you are going to own it, and we’re going to be responsible for 26 million people standing there looking at us. And it’s going to suck up a good 40 to 50 percent of the Army for years.

Wikipedia concurs with Powell, in attributing the phrase to Thomas L. Friedman (in a February 2003 column for the New York Times). Those with a diligent sense for historical detail might be able to accurately trace its spread amongst journalists and foreign policy officials, including Bob Woodward, Richard Armitage, and John Kerry. Regardless of such specifics, it captures the spirit of grand strategy during the Nullities, and explains why the US military is no longer of use for anything.

In its rational usage, the military is a machine for the production of negative incentives. It is designed to hurt people and break things, with the understanding that in its optimal — deterrent and intimidatory — function, the actual exercise of these capabilities will not be necessary. When considered from a Clausewitzean perspective, as a policy instrument, usable military power is directly proportional to a credible threat of punishment. It sets boundaries to the behavior of (rational) potential antagonists, by projecting the probability of extreme negative outcomes if diplomatically-determined triggers are activated — or ‘red lines’ crossed.

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September 9, 2013admin 16 Comments »

Quote notes (#28)

Some  ‘who-whom’ sense from Andrew C. McCarthy:

To me, the shrieking over weapons of mass destruction is the international version of the Left’s domestic campaign against guns, and of a piece with its trendy revulsion against land- and sea-mines. This is the delusion that discord is caused by the song, not the singer.

(Yes, sorry, it’s from the National Review, but it’s right.)

ADDED: Why stop at National Review?

September 7, 2013admin 11 Comments »


The Ethno-cladistic thesis, sketchily reconstructed here from Mencius Moldbug’s neoreactionary usage, proposes that relations between cultural systems are captured by cladograms to a highly significant level of adequacy. The limits to this thesis are set by lateral complications — interchanges and modifications that do not conform to a pattern of branching descent — and these are by no means negligible. Nevertheless, actual cultural formations are dominated by cladistic order. As a consequence, cultural theories that assume taxonomic regularity as a norm are capable of reaching potentially realistic approximations, and furthermore offer the only prospect for the rigorous organization of ethnographic phenomena.

The most direct and central defense of the ethno-cladistic thesis bypasses the comparatively high-level religious systems that provide the material for Moldbug’s arguments, and turn instead to the ethnographic root phenomenon: language. Languages simply are cultures in their fundamentals, so that any approach applicable to them will have demonstrated its general suitability for cultural analysis.

I’d try to spin this out melodramatically, but I don’t think there’s really any point:

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September 6, 2013admin 57 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Neoreaction

Quote notes (#27)

Whatever the moral philosophy that underpins this, it ends up in the right place:

Now in the large I’m for the bombing of foreigners  — partly on principle and partly just personal satisfaction. … But sometimes there really is nothing at all in it for us and we’d all be better off if they brutally slug it out for a few years. 

[Edited to eliminate the off-key quasi-qualmy part]

The sensitive version.

ADDED: RAND does rough triangles: “Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces. …  the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace. … U.S. leaders could also choose to capitalize on the “Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict” trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world.”

September 5, 2013admin 6 Comments »