Archive for April, 2016

The Islamic Vortex (Note-10)

According to the geo-economic logic of the dying status quo, the Islamic Vortex supported oil prices by injecting menace into the supply chain. Peaks of turbulence were associated with oil shocks. ‘Middle East peace initiatives’ (or more drastic interventions) were so deeply entwined with oil supply security imperatives as to be scarcely distinguishable.

Not anymore:

Many energy analysts became convinced that Doha would prove the decisive moment when Riyadh … would agree to a formula allowing Iran some [production] increase before a freeze. … But then something happened. According to people familiar with the sequence of events, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and key oil strategist, Mohammed bin Salman, called the Saudi delegation in Doha at 3:00 a.m. on April 17th and instructed them to spurn a deal that provided leeway of any sort for Iran. When the Iranians — who chose not to attend the meeting — signaled that they had no intention of freezing their output to satisfy their rivals, the Saudis rejected the draft agreement it had helped negotiate and the assembly ended in disarray. […] … Most analysts have since suggested that the Saudi royals simply considered punishing Iran more important than raising oil prices. No matter the cost to them, in other words, they could not bring themselves to help Iran pursue its geopolitical objectives, including giving yet more support to Shiite forces in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. Already feeling pressured by Tehran and ever less confident of Washington’s support, they were ready to use any means available to weaken the Iranians, whatever the danger to themselves.

With ‘Peak oil demand‘ in prospect, and a brutal zero-sum struggle beginning for shares in a market tending to secular shrinkage, the deepening Sunni-Shia has become an engine of systematic oil price suppression. According to plausible Saudi calculations, the Iranian enemy will simply use oil revenues to pursue their geopolitical objectives more competently than the Saudis can themselves. A higher oil price, therefore, is comparatively advantageous to the Shia bloc (at least in the eyes of the Saudis, whose perceptions in this regard uniquely matter, due to their status as sole swing-producer). Any rise in revenues is overwhelmed by the quantity of additional military challenge it brings with it. This holds true whatever the level of social stress a low price inflicts on the Sunni side.

It’s quite a box the Saudis find themselves in. There’s no way out of it that doesn’t require winning a religious war.

April 30, 2016admin 12 Comments »

Twitter cuts (#62)

April 29, 2016admin 29 Comments »

Against Universalism II

Preliminary throat-clearing (as in part one): In its most rigorous construction, ‘universalism’ is robust under conditions of rational argument (i.e. evidence-based logico-mathematical criticism). Mathematical theorems, in particular [sic], are universal truths. Any assertions that can be constructed to a comparable level of formal rigor (and ultimately mechanization) can lay claim to the same status. However, with the slightest departure from this — rigidly algorithmic — criterion, controversy rapidly begins. This is not the place and time to argue the case for transcendental philosophy (within which praxeology in included), but such a case could be made. Ditto strictly proceduralized empirical science. All of this is a digression.

The question of universalism as it concerns us here is not a matter of meta-mathematics, epistemology, or the philosophy of science. It is rather directed at the political scope of argument. Is it mandatory to demand that argument, according to the highest principles of (logical) cognitive compulsion, be imposed globally? Does the quality of argument — however exalted — require its unrestricted application across space and time? It is the affirmative response to this question that defines universalism in its ideological sense. Pure Jacobinism, of course, answers yes. There is a universal duty to compel submission to the truth. This is the secular form of evangelical salvationism.

The contrary suggestion, here defended, is that — under real global conditions — universalism is a catastrophic mistake. The social scope of rational discussion is itself strictly bounded, and attempts to extend it (coercively) beyond such limits are politically disastrous. Laissez-faire envelops the sphere of imperative rationality, and respects its practical contour. Stupidity does not need to be hunted down and exterminated. All historical evidence indicates that it cannot be.

If the universal triumph of reason is an impractical goal, democratic globalism is exposed as a preposterous error. Minimizing the voice of stupidity is the realistic — and already extremely challenging — alternative. Rare enclaves of rigorously self-critical realism have as their primary obligation the self-protection of their (evidently precarious) particularity. In the wider world, fanatical ignorance and grotesque cognitive malformation rage rampantly. Borders, filters, tests, and selection mechanisms of all kinds provide the only defenses against it.

The universalist (Jacobin) model is always a conversation. You have to join together first, simply to talk, and after that reason will prevail. That’s the path of the Zeitgeist — Hegelianism at its most arcane, expedient progressivism at more common levels of popularity — with its twin-stroke motor of aggressive proselytization and mass embrace.
“Invade the world, invite the world” is the Sailer formula (quasi-random link). Amalgamate, then elevate (in the direction of ascending rationality). This isn’t a (theoretically convincing) claim about the unique structure of mathematical proof, it’s a (factually trashed) claim about the global uniformity of human brains. The ‘universality’ it invokes is that of convergence upon the authority of reason. In other words, it’s a bizarre progressive myth that all self-protective sanity seeks to maximally distance itself from.

People learn, but only very rarely through sophisticated argument, or its ‘cunning‘ socio-political avatars. They learn because they fail badly, and it hurts. ‘Mankind’ is a progressive myth, incapable of learning anything. When real cultures learn, it is because they have been locked in intimate particularity, such that the consequences of their own cognitive processes impact intensely upon them. Anything that separates an individual, or a group, from the results of its own thoughts, is an apparatus of anti-learning. Progressive universalism is precisely this.

Dis-amalgamation — isolation — is the way to learn. It’s how speciation happens, long before learning becomes neurological. Individuation (at whatever scale) establishes the foundation for trade, communication, and intellectual exchange. Micro-states commercialize. Macro-states decay into political resource allocation, and entropic sludge. Protect your own patch if you want to have anything to talk about.

There’s going to be a lot of talk about ‘universalism’ rolling in:

It’s a suicidal ideology in its death-spasm phase, but it won’t die quietly.

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April 28, 2016admin 97 Comments »

Quote note (#242)

Scott Alexander (who’s been reading Fischer) shares a glimpse at the lives of 18th century Massachusetts Puritans:

A typical Massachusetts week would begin in the church, which doubled as the town meeting hall. There were no decorations except a giant staring eye on the pulpit to remind churchgoers that God was watching them. Townspeople would stand up before their [fellows] and declare their shame and misdeeds, sometimes being forced to literally crawl before the other worshippers begging for forgiveness. T[h]en the minister would give two two-hour sermons back to back. The entire affair would take up to six hours, and the church was unheated (for some reason they stored all their gunpowder there, so no one was allowed to light a fire), and this was Massachusetts, and it was colder in those days than it is now, so that during winter some people would literally lose fingers to frostbite (Fischer: “It was a point of honor for the minister never to shorten a sermon merely because his audience was frozen”). Everyone would stand there with their guns (they were legally required to bring guns, in case Indians attacked during the sermon) and hear about how they were going to Hell, all while the giant staring eye looked at them.

(Unsoftened Calvinism was by far the best kind.)

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April 27, 2016admin 37 Comments »

Moron bites (#12)

More of an ‘Evil bites’ this time — but it’s a doozy:

(To colonials and others who may not be paying attention, this is a prospective UK Prime Minister tweeting support for murderous full-communism.)

A scarcely less impressionistic, but vastly less depraved corrective can be seen here.

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April 26, 2016admin 17 Comments »
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Quote note (#241)

Robert Kaplan has received some thoroughly-deserved derision recently, but this argument is at least thought-provoking:

… globalization and the communications revolution have reinforced, rather than negated, geopolitics. The world map is now smaller and more claustrophobic, so that territory is more ferociously contested, and every regional conflict interacts with every other as never before. A war in Syria is inextricable from a terrorist outrage in Europe, even as Russia’s intervention in Syria affects Europe’s and America’s policy toward Ukraine. This happens at a moment when, as I’ve said, multinational empires are gone, as are most totalitarian regimes in contrived states where official borders do not conform with ethnic and sectarian ones. The upshot is a maelstrom of national and subnational groups in violent competition. And so, geopolitics — the battle for space and power — now occurs within states as well as between them. Cultural and religious differences are particularly exacerbated: as group differences melt down in the crucible of globalization, they have to be reforged in a blunter and more ideological form. It isn’t the clash of civilizations so much as the clash of artificially reconstructed civilizations that is taking place. Witness the Islamic State, which does not represent Islam per se, but Islam combusting with the tyrannical conformity and mass hysteria of the Internet and social media. The postmodern reinvention of identities only hardens geopolitical divides.

His core thesis seems quite obviously correct: “We are entering an age of what I call comparative anarchy, that is, a much higher level of anarchy compared to that of the Cold War and post–Cold War periods.”

April 25, 2016admin 19 Comments »

Chaos Patch (#111)

(Open thread + links)

UR death squawk. Patched (delicately) into the NYT. Universalist error. Passivism pro and con, also indispensable (1, 2), and a grim reminder. Balkanization is hard. Echoes of Innsmouth, and Snowcrash. Cashless. Deep State signal. The black pill. Ever higher holiness. Horror (1, 2). The weekly round, plus outliers.

The Alt-Right at Vox (more here, and here). Creepy but fabulous.

China’s resilient Legalism. The South African slide (1, 2, 3). Those twentyeight pages. Submission. Badly oiled. A UN plague. Paris under auto-occupation. Midlife crisis in Singapore. Geopolitical switcheroo. Zbigniew Brzezinski’s world, and Dugin‘s.

Austrianism and civilization. Diasporic neocons and smug liberals. Jackson on the chopping block. Space commies. American monarchists and Texan secessionists. Squashing sanity. Cops on the leash. The human zoo. Concept creep. Hashed crypto-politics. The Islamophobia card (also). Mormon transhumanism. Satanic Revolution.

Inheritance reduces wealth inequality. Two monetary regimes. Hard landing.

Trumpenführer panic report (It’s baaack.) Trump and simulation (plus 1, 2). The Silicon Valley Frankenstein monster. Supportive voices (1, 2). Trumpism breeders. The don’t-put-your-hand-in-hornet-nests candidate.

Conservative media hackery. “Triggering is real.” Silicon Valley, academia and the sacred. Red-on-red. The digital branch.

Racial reality and its discontents. White death. Third world flood. Cuckoo extravagance of the week. Opinion in Israel. Ethnic cleansing in SF. Leftist racial lunacy watch (1, 2). Amerikan Jews (1, 2). Racial mysticism.

“When the cult dies, the culture dies and when the culture dies the civilization dies, and when the civilization dies the people die, and that’s what’s happening to western civilization.” Apocalypse cometh. Pulitzer-wreathed tectonic terror.

The trajectory of eugenics (plus 1, 2, 3). CRISPR crispened. Life history strategy theory (relevant). Serial killers re-profiled.

Loss of evidence. Crisis in climate science (1, 2).

History of AI players. AI crafting (also). Soft robots. Robots and racism. Fast flexible transistors. The coming VR wave. What will Bitcoin become? Individualism and smart machines (audio).

Fascist architect of the week. A mapped Mandelbrot set. Evolutionary skepticism. Scott Aaronson interviewed. Hot politics.

April 24, 2016admin 36 Comments »
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Sentences (#49)


The liberal sees that conservatives were foolish to imagine Iraq remade as a democracy; the conservative sees that liberals were foolish to imagine Europe remade as a post-national utopia with its borders open to the Muslim world. But only the reactionary sees both.

(Admitted here as a single sentence, which it should have been.)

April 24, 2016admin 21 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Sentences

Quote note (#240)


[Lenny] approached a band called Mercenary Coalition and suggested “taking on the Goons”. One of their leaders, Sabre A – a man in a leather jacket with a small 100,000 ISK bounty on his head – told him it was “impossible.” The Goons had been a force of nature within New Eden for as long as anyone could remember. Lenny rephrased his question for the mercenary. How much would it take to go after the Goons? […] Sabre plucked a made-up number out of the air, thinking it didn’t matter. Something like six or seven trillion ISK, he said. […] “Okay,” said Lenny, “I have that.” …

… two years previously another group had the same idea – to take on the Goons. Their name was Pandemic Legion and their campaign ended in disaster, in a battle that is now known as “the Bloodbath of B-R5RB” – a furious fight involving over 7000 players and the destruction of ships worth up to $300,000 in “estimated real-world value”. […] Huge battles in Eve undergo the “time dilation effect”. Time literally slows down during the fight, to 10% of normal time, simply to allow the game servers time to process everything that is happening. This means that battles last hours as gigantic capital ships cycle their weapons and hundreds of hulking spacecraft trundle slowly towards their targets. When the Pandemic Legion lost at the Bloodbath of B-R5RB, they had to watch themselves slowly die for 21 hours.

(Some Eve Online research needed this end, evidently.)

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April 23, 2016admin 11 Comments »

X-Risk Democratization

Yudkowsky redux: “Every eighteen months, the minimum IQ necessary to destroy the world drops by one point.”

Quibble with the (Moore’s Law satire) schedule, and the point still stands. Massive deterrent capability tends to spread.

This is ‘democratic’ in the way the term is commonly used by those seeking to latch decentralization tendencies to the ideological credibility of Jacobin legitimation principles. Consumer capitalism, the Internet, and peer-to-peer crypto-systems are notionally ‘democratic’ in this way. They subvert centralized governance, and they spread through horizontal contagion. The fact they have nothing at all to do with popular political representation is of concern only to certain rhetorical agendas, and not at all to others. It’s sophistical pop-capitalist bullshit to use the word democracy in this way, but it’s usually not worth the trouble for the Left to try to contest it, and the part of the Right that isn’t excited to be riding this propaganda strategy is usually too indiscriminate to bother disentangling it. There’s a rare piece of ‘right-wing’ functional PR here, but never enough to matter very much (and it’s too essentially dishonest for the Outer Right to defend).

Unlike Democracy® (Cathedral ideology), however, this ‘democratization’ has deep cybernetic consistency. It falls out of techno-capitalism with such automatic inevitability it’s probably impossible to shut down, without closing down the whole thing. Capital escalation produces technological deflation as a basic metabolic by-product, so the ‘democratization’ of productive capability is ineluctable. Computers have migrated from exotic capital goods to trivial components of consumer products within half a century. Study that trend and you see the whole story.

Deterrence deflation is the deep trend. Connect up the Yudkowsky quote with assassination markets to get where this is going. (Try to shelve moral squeamishness until after you’re seeing the picture.)

Imagine, hypothetically, that some maniac private agent wants only to nuke Mecca. What’s the obstruction? We can confidently say — straight off — that it’s less of a problem with every passing year. The basic historical trend ensures that. Comparatively incompetent Islamic fanatics are the only people seriously testing this trend right now, but that isn’t going to last forever. Eventually smarter and more strategically-flexible agents are going to take an interest in decentralized mass-destruction capability, and they’ll provide a far better indication of where the frontier lies.

Nukes would do it. They’re certainly going to be democratized, in the end. There are probably far more remarkable accelerating WMD capabilities, though. In almost every respect (decentralized production capability, development curve, economy, impact …) bioweaponry leaves nukes in the dust. Anyone with a billion dollars, a serious grudge, and a high-end sociopathy profile could enter into a global biowarfare-threat game within a year. Everything could be put together in secret garages. Negotiations could be conducted in secure anonymity. Carving sovereignty out of the game would require only resources, ruthlessness, brilliance, and nerves. Once you can credibly threaten to kill 100,000,000 people all kinds of strategic opportunities are open. The fact no one has tried this yet is mostly down to billionaires being fat and happy. It only takes one Doctor Gno to break the pattern.

This is the shadow cast over the 21st century. Radically hardcore, massively decentralized deterrence games are simply inevitable. Anyone who thinks the status quo state holds some kind of long-term winning hand under these circumstances isn’t seeing anything.

Global totalitarian government could stop this! But that isn’t going to happen — and because it isn’t, this will.

April 22, 2016admin 33 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Democracy