Quote notes (#95)

Nicholas B Stevenson twitting longer:

100 years ago, Einstein, Bohr, Edison, H. Ford, Tesla, etc. were alive on the earth. Today, the earth’s population is about 4 times greater. There should be all of those great minds alive today times 4. Where are they?
A) Incentive structures prevent the truly brilliant from contributing to great epoch-making discoveries; or
B) The human race getting dumber on a genetic level; or
C) both
Any of these answers is quite frightening if you have a long term concern for the human race.

… or even if you have a long-term concern for anything other than accelerating idiocracy.

ADDED: If it looks as if all the “we’ve plucked the low-hanging fruit” comments are ignoring each other — the fault lies at this end. A wave of these remarks were released simultaneously from the securomaniac Outside in spam filter this morning. Apologies for the resulting impression of redundancy. — Admin.

July 15, 2014admin 42 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations


42 Responses to this entry

  • AnonymooseRex Says:

    I think the answer to this question is pretty clear. We’ve plucked most of the low-hanging fruit in knowledge terms, and we’re quickly burning through the “low-hanging fruit” of hydro-carbon energy stores.

    Not getting screwed in the long run will necessitate greater cooperation and integration of intelligent people, rather than instances of individual intuitive genius. This is exactly what is happening. Most of the easy stuff has been picked up, and from here on out everyone with a 120+ IQ will have to slave away together until we’ve survived the intelligence and energy crisis point.


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 4:57 pm Reply | Quote
  • Tom Hunt Says:

    Another possibility: the low-hanging fruit has already been plucked, in terms of physics which is easy to discover and exploit, and the next physical/technological revolution on the scale of electricity generation or mass production requires much greater genius/investment/whatever to realize. Or just isn’t there. (This, of course, is not exclusive with either of the other two explanations, and may well coexist with them.)


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 4:59 pm Reply | Quote
  • Stirner (@heresiologist) Says:

    Bruce Charlton has done a metric shitload of thinking about this topic:


    Aside from the dysgentics, you also have the various A factors.

    Imagine Tesla today, trying to apply for a NAS grant. Yeah, I’m not seeing it either.

    Dean Kamen fits the Edison mould.

    Elon Musk and Paul Allen would be high on my list of candidates as well.


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 5:49 pm Reply | Quote
  • Magus Janus Says:

    or we’ve grabbed the lower hanging fruit. A genius could be a polymath 300 years ago, plenty of stuff to discover in a lifetime. nowadays it takes a single minded focus on one subject to make a small discovery in it. decreasing marginal returns cuz our knowledge of world/etc. is so much larger.

    if this is true, barring a singularity of some sort we’ll see productivity increases driven by technology start to slow down and stall. with VERY interesting social repercussions. The return of Malthusian conditions will show the last 200 years to be an anomaly, not too different from the survivors of the plague plague and their artificially temporarily higher wages.


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 5:58 pm Reply | Quote
  • Nick B. Steves Says:

    It’s not just the 100 years ago. I think you could make a case that the second millennium was a profoundly eugenic millennium. But just as we escaped the Malthusian trap in the 19th century, our ideology got ahead of us and we started going strongly dysgenic. About a century of progress yet remained. But by 1972 we’d put our last man on the moon and were getting read to abrogate Bretton-Woods.

    I do think it is both… and highly likely that incentive structures play a big role in the genetic factors.

    Some twitter banter suggests: Well, they’re out there and we just haven’t discovered them yet, or it’s just way harder to make discoveries in an “information age” (whatever that is). That’s an interesting question in itself. I guess we *do* have Satoshi Nakamoto.


    VXXC Reply:

    Abortion, peer review, war.

    And above all the smart conflating their precious intelligence with ability to rule.

    This has been tried before in History in very limited and one time only doses, the result always being disaster it was not repeated.

    Perhaps with actual religion being replaced with a scientific clerisy is what allowed widespread experimentation this time, that and capitalism’s surpluses allowing slack for experiments.

    Having quite consumed the slack for several centuries to come, perhaps when our trial is over we’ll not fall into the error of retarded theocracy again.

    Yes, retarded. You have to be overly educated to make these kind of idiotic mistakes.


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 6:03 pm Reply | Quote
  • Athrelon Says:

    1. Jobs (as hyped as he is). Musk. Ventner, briefly. Lee Kwan Yew.

    2. It takes time for an aura to accumulate and for outsized contributions to fully appear outsized. Ford in his time was just “one of many auto manufacturers who happened to have interesting ideas about scaling, who knows if that will pay off.”

    3. That said, our systems now are probably less conducive to geniuses doing genius work. Watson was a lousy college student, got excited by a book on biology, and started grad school in Indiana. Today – especially in biology – you’ve got to be doing world-class hoop jumping for a decade before you get to work on anything real.

    In particular, the systematization and funding of Science as an entity is probably what ended the golden age of science in the late 60s. The same happened to medicine and most forms of engineering. A Musk-like talent might be able to do something with exponential biology (genomics, compuational stuff). Computer science is the only frontier where geniuses can immediately roll up their sleeves and get to work.


    Ademonos Reply:

    Jobs? Sure, he does fit the Edison mould fairly well (as in being mostly incompetent, but good at exploiting others). But if we’re speaking of Teslas, then Wozniak is the only person related to Apple that we would want to mention.


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 6:18 pm Reply | Quote
  • scientism Says:

    For an example of how bad A is just look at philosophy. By all rights, philosophy is the work of genius. There’s probably no other subject where progress is so dependent on genius. But what do we find with modern philosophy? A toxic mix of professionalisation and low status. There are more people doing philosophy than ever before, but it has never been less relevant or less rewarding.


    Kgaard Reply:

    Scientism … Well … I think that’s probably a mirage. We probably make the same amount of progress in philosophy as 100 or 200 years ago. It’s just that 1,000x more people are publishing so the noise factor is far higher. It SEEMS like there is a lot of dreck out there. There probably is. But there is also progress. I mean … what is Mencius Moldbug is not progress? And who knows what kind of intense stuff is being whipped up on futurism, robots, etc etc that hasn’t filtered down to the masses yet.

    If we get 10 good and memorable philosophers this century, that would be about on par with the last three centuries, no?


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 8:19 pm Reply | Quote
  • Famous J Says:

    A or B (or C) might be true, but I’d also note a possible D: all the good ideas have been taken.

    Obviously no way of knowing right now, but it’s possible there is no equivalent to the Theory of Relativity out there waiting to be discovered. As for Mr. Ford, it’s also possible that we’ve now figured out about everything there is to know about manufacturing within the realm of possibility, and there’s no new assembly line waiting to be discovered and put to work.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    Spengler would agree. He thinks that each civilizations fundamental mindset has a limited range of new insights possible to it. After a while the new insights start to peter out.


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 8:43 pm Reply | Quote
  • Kgaard Says:

    To me this is a critical question. But objectively speaking I think the answer has to be “D: Plenty of discoveries are being made — it’s just that individuals aren’t in a place to be aware of most of them.” Things have gotten so complex … the cutting edge has gotten to such a high-complexity place … that only a few really understand the significance of the inventions now occurring.

    While I’m as worried about dysgneics as the next guy, logically I don’t see how that can be the root of the problem. The sheet quantity of 140+ IQ people is almost surely higher today than 100 years ago, no? If mean IQ is falling 1-2 points a generation, that doesn’t mean that there is an equal drop in the quantity of genius level IQ people, because they will have been assortatively mating all this time.

    Now … in some areas, we do see OBVIOUS decline — particularly art forms like music, painting, or sculpture — but in those instances it’s a matter of the form having been exhausted (i.e. nothing else to do).


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    I don’t think you’re completely right about the art forms. What really happened is that noovelty–the invention of new kinds of forms–took precedence over quality, to the point now where entire cultural systems are set up to inhibit people from producing the kind of excellence in art that is still possible. I don’t really think its possible to have genius art with the kind of arts culture we have.


    Kgaard Reply:

    Lesser Bull … Wouldn’t it be fairer to say the talent gravitated to the open areas? For instance, it seems pretty clear that today the best art we’re seeing is in long-form TV (Game of Thrones, Mad Men, etc). There truly is nothing left to do in painting — that’s the whole reason the modernists cropped up 100 years ago. They got sick of painting landscapes and cows and sunsets. Ditto classical music — all the appealing combinations were used up. Personally I would argue the same for rock music. (I imagine others would disagree but that’s beside the point.)

    I can’t imagine that anything worthy of the name “art” really needs the approval of a committee — or cultural system to use your term — to get done anyway, no?

    I think we can apply the same insight from the arts to certain areas of technology. For instance … the house. The form of the house was probably perfected 400 years ago. Nothing new to be done there, so we live in houses that look just like those from the 1600s. The action has to take place in categorically new areas. Along these lines, I suspect long-form TV took off in the wake of the invention of video on demand and/or the spread of season-long DVD packages that allowed for binge viewing. Rock music took off upon the electrification of instruments in the ’40s and perfection of multi-track recording in the late 60s. etc etc …


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    A cultural system isn’t an exogenous judge that approves or disapproves. It’s the whole complex of ideas, audience, patrons, critics, you name it. Yes, it matters a lot.

    peppermint Reply:

    No. The reason the classical symphony has died is that there are no patrons or critics.

    There is only the market for shovelware. Whatever is catchy on the radio wins. Thinking things through is counterproductive when you need to appeal to IQs of approximately 100.

    Kgaard Reply:

    Peppermint … For years I’ve considered classical to have been washed up and exhausted by the early 1900s. In this line of thinking, classical composers moved to atonality because all the good combinations had been exploited. But I will grant that perhaps that wasn’t ENTIRELY the case, and that more could have been done. The impressionist movement — the last big classical movement before atonality (and collapse) — was not all that long and didn’t produce that many huge hits. There may have been more earth to plow. Perhaps you are right that falling IQs undermined the potential audience for high-brow, complex music.

    Actually one could make the same argument about rock. Clearly almost anything that was any good was done by 1975, which only a few exceptions (The Cranberries and REM come to mind …). But there was still plenty of room there for people to take it further had they chosen to do so. The best examples are the niches created by Led Zeppelin and Yes. Almost nobody followed them up, perhaps because it was just too freaking HARD. We’re talking multiple time changes, key changes etc etc in each song. And making it all melodic. (Roundabout, Song Remains the Same, etc.) So perhaps you are right — maybe declining IQs and the recognition that, hey, you didn’t have to be any good to sell records, contributed to rock’s decline. You can actually see it in just one band: Heart. The same women who put their stamp on complex and interesting songs like Barracuda and Magic Man were also responsible for all kinds of 85-IQ simpleton dreck once their main guitar players disappeared.

    All the same, I don’t think you can make a parallel argument for painting. Every damn tree and pond that could have been painted was painted by 1920. The abstractionists were forced to move on out of sheer boredom. Ditto sculpture.

    Izak Reply:

    The problem isn’t decline in quality art. It’s a decline in the brain — not the mind, but the brain — of Western man, which has become worn out and numb from overstimulation. The other problem is that all of the good stuff is awash in a sea of blandness or stupidity. So the situation is paradoxical. People who don’t feel like searching out the good material have relatively good, receptive brains, but they don’t bother to look for anything except what’s near, so they say everything sucks. People who are willing to unturn every stone to find all of the great art wind up numbing themselves and damaging their limbic systems in the process, so once they get it, the material does nothing for them except give them lukewarm pleasure, so they say everything sucks.

    The art itself is fine. More masterpieces are being produced than ever before.


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 9:03 pm Reply | Quote
  • Kgaard Says:

    Not to drone on, but one last point here: Perhaps it seems like progress is not happening because the externals of life are basically unchanged since the 1950s — and that’s something I bet none of us expected. We live today almost exactly as people lived in the time of the Happy Days TV show: Houses, cars, schools, phones, TV, spectator sports, bicycles, movies, airplanes and the stock market. Nothing has really changed since I was born. The same yellow school bus goes down the street and picks up the little kids just as it did when I was in grade school in the 70s. Where are our flying cars? Where are our individual jet packs? Where are the martian colonies? Where is our immortality?

    Perhaps this stuff was all harder than expected to invent (and thus will take longer). Or perhaps the safety problems were too hard to overcome (jet packs and flying cars). But if Aubrey De Gray is right and we kick death in 30 years, well, that will count as a pretty big scientific advance!


    nydwracu Reply:

    Show me a blog post from the 1950s and I’ll believe that.

    There were plenty of geniuses in the early days of computing. Engelbart, Dijkstra, Knuth. Then there were the hackers, LISP, UNIX, Linux, all that. They were never public figures, unlike the captain-of-industry types: Jobs and Gates.

    Poking around on Wikipedia looking for names, I found J.C.R. Licklider, who sounds important. I’d never heard of him before. And that’s part of the issue, isn’t it? Everyone heard of Edison when the lightbulb was invented. No one heard of Engelbart or Licklider when the mouse was invented. There could be underlying reasons for it: who was it who made Edison, Tesla, Einstein, etc. famous, and what were their motivations?

    Also, public-key cryptography is kind of important, and that wasn’t developed until the ’70s.


    admin Reply:

    It’s not that there’s nothing happening — just nowhere near as much as inertial momentum would predict, even without massive population increase. Think of the ’30s-40s, which was probably the high-water mark, with Gödel, Turing, von Neumann among others revolutionizing the foundations of logic and engineering simultaneously. PKE and the Blockchain are extraordinarily important innovations, but they stand out like isolated peaks in a wilderness of cultural mediocrity.


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 9:35 pm Reply | Quote
  • Izak Says:

    It’s because the sciences are more and more specialized, so no major discovery is done by just one dude. It’s usually a cluster of dudes, each of whom have focused on one particular facet of the problem. A guy like Tesla would find himself totally perplexed by today’s academic structure.


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 9:43 pm Reply | Quote
  • SE Says:

    There are plenty from this century, the above list just represents last centuries physics-fetishism. We want “Living transmission”.

    Kahneman, Tversky(Dead now), Terrence Tao, ET Jaynes(Dead), Mandelbrot(Dead), Perelman(Poincare conjecture), Andrew Wiles, Judea Pearl, Alan Kay, Musk can’t be our Tesla/Edison combination?, and it goes on and on. The people who are undiscovered, the people I merely cannot think of because I am a fool etc etc


    peppermint Reply:

    First time I’ve seen ET Jaynes on the list. About time, too, he was way ahead of anyone else in terms of describing statistical physics. Terence Tao, too – great communicator.


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 10:47 pm Reply | Quote
  • Bill Says:

    I think about these three geniuses a lot: jaak panksepp – his book: the archaeology of mind, michael gazzaniga – his 6 part Edinburg lectures on YouTube, and grigori perelman – solved the Poincaré conjecture. Sorry for the weird punctuation, typed this on my phone.


    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 12:09 am Reply | Quote
  • Muad'Dib Says:

    One reason comes to mind : the prohibition and anathematising of LSD and other psychedelics. Imagine criminalising spectroscopy in astronomy in 1810 – thats how utile they are in psychology. The harder sciences have suffered too, if we consider the testimony of Crick, Mullis and others.


    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 1:20 am Reply | Quote
  • Blogospheroid Says:

    I feel that there is an inherent difficulty in answering this question as children have to learn more and more to even understand the basic context these days. By the time they need to make an individual contribution, they have so many years of just learning from outside, that the behavioral changes and maybe even the neural patterns that they need to make new breakthroughs aren’t just there. It is a scary thought.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    It is. It would seem to follow that in order to maintain the pace, we’d need a continuing eugenic trend, instead of a dysgenic one, or at least much more attention paid to technics that extend and amplify mental creativity and attention.


    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 4:20 am Reply | Quote
  • Orthodox Says:

    Distraction. A lot of intelligent minds are working on movie scripts and investment banking deals. I have no hard numbers, but it seems like even 20 or 30 years ago, there were more people into hobbies such as rocketry. The ability to distract is powerful. Consider the rise of politics. USG’s mind share has grown from 0% to 5%, to well over 50%. How much brainpower and time is spent debating how to make people equal, and how much brainpower is dedicated to stopping the people debating about it from wrecking society with their hare brained schemes? The Tesla or Edison of today, in terms of stature, is on Twitter trying to get a cismale fired.

    Also, the low hanging fruit. Or as Tainter put it, society is too complex. Marginal cost exceeds marginal benefit, even in R&D spending. Maybe that can be solved through simplification, maybe not.


    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 4:33 am Reply | Quote
  • Mark Yuray Says:

    The reason is probably a combination of “all of the above.”

    I must say though, the 239 contradicting opinions and theories on dysgenics and collapsing fertility that crop up in Rx circles worry me greatly. We sound too much like the Last Man (Men) for me to be comfortable sometimes. It’s why I tend to drop the scientific explanations and head straight for the metaphysical ones. By the time we untangle the mess of causes leading to dysgenics, loss of geniuses, collapsing fertility, etc. we’ll have no society to apply the knowledge to. And if that happens, what was the point?

    It’s more important to get rid of the low-IQs before they shoot you in the face than it is to understand why they crop up in modern times.

    And they’ve already begun shooting.


    VXXC Reply:

    What Sir is it about High IQ’s rule – that’s what we have now the Rule of the Smart – that merits them not getting shot in the face? Who opened the border? Was it the proles? Of course we should shoot you in the face. You’ve been killing us by the hundreds of millions for insane experiments for a century.

    You deserve a preemptive bullet in the face. For that matter a proscriptive bullet in the face.

    BTW you’re not smart.

    You’re insane.


    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 5:16 am Reply | Quote
  • A.B Prosper Says:

    Progress is not the norm for humanity anyway. Periods of minimal growth and small change are pretty much the entirety of history and maybe we are just cycling through.

    As I see it in some sense anyone with good income in the developed world has as nice a life as could be expected at any time in human history. It really doesn’t get better than the good life now.

    Re: progress, exclusive of medicine (aging, disease cures) , disaster defenses and some social policy (i.e encouraging a moral K selected high IQ homogenous population and caring for infrastructure) nothing much out there is really going to make people happier or better.

    We certainly could use some improvement in some areas but its rationally incremental not any big breakthroughs like the Internet.

    As far as the space argument, it may well be the laws of physics don’t allow it with any ease and give that we don’t terraform the Gobi or need to bother living underwater or in massive underground cities for the tiny population interested in such things it makes little sense to spend resources on it.

    Why bother.


    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 8:09 pm Reply | Quote
  • vinteuil Says:

    @Mark Yuray: “get rid of the low-IQs before they shoot you”

    What, exactly, are you suggesting?


    Mark Yuray Reply:

    Fixing civilization before trying to figure out why it works the way it does. On further reflection though, I suppose Nick Land has done just that on a personal level by moving to China (if I am not mistaken).

    My point is simply the dystopian contradiction of reactionaries discussing civilization in Western countries run by degenerate maniacs. Obama and his mafia have just opened a 2000-mile border to a hellhole run by drug lords, and sent a massive invitation in. Ditto the EU, though the baddies are slightly different.


    VXXC Reply:

    The Mafia that just opened the border was sold and believes itself with dreary earnestness to be the smartest crew ever.

    Remember “smart power”? Opening the border might be smart power.

    The actual smarts is shall we say with the Levant types who are pulling Obama’s strings. He’s quite the creature of the Pritzker’s and hence mobbed up banks. [The mob being the Roof].

    As to the Central Americans they might be an improvement over what’s in DC now, at least however evil they’d be men.

    The Smart aren’t men. They’re some sort of detached insect sociopath creatures. Neither ubermensch nor untermensch, Extra-Human perhaps.


    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 9:51 pm Reply | Quote
  • vinteuil Says:

    @Kgaard: “I’ve considered classical to have been washed up and exhausted by the early 1900s…classical composers moved to atonality because all the good combinations had been exploited…”


    “Atonality” was seriously underway by, at least, Erwartung (1909) & Pierrot Lunaire (1912).

    Do you seriously want to argue that “all the good combinations had been exploited” by that time?

    I take it , then, that you’re not very familiar with the works of Gabriel Faure, Leos Janacek, Edward Elgar, Jean Sibelius, Carl Nielsen, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, Frank Martin, Sergei Prokofiev, Paul Hindemith, Francis Poulenc,, Aaron Copland, Joaquin Rodrigo, William Walton, Eduard Tubin, Dmitri Shostakovich, Vagn Holmboe, Samuel Barber, Benjamin Britten…for a start?

    I don’t want to be unkind – but the idea that “atonality” got off the ground because tonality was “exhausted” is a non-starter.

    Just as an experiment, why not give a listen to Shostakovich’s great Prelude & Fugue in e minor Op 87 No 4, composed (supposedly) in memory of the 200th anniversary of the Death of J.S. Bach. About as “tonal” as you can get. No innovations in style or in musical syntax in sight.

    Yet it’s utterly original, utterly personal – and utterly emotionally devastating.

    The possibilities of the tonal system can no more be exhausted than the seas can be drained.


    Mark Yuray Reply:

    I’d just like to lend my support to this statement, and add that “we’re breaking new frontiers because the old stuff is boring!” is the go-to of the degenerate destroyer, and is always untrue and wrong. There’s a Nicholas Gomez Davila aphorism for this, though I can’t remember it.


    vinteuil Reply:

    Thank you. The tonal system was found – not made – by man. It is a natural language (for lack of a better term) unlike purely conventional languages like English, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, or what have you.

    If somebody were to say that there’s no more to say in English, or Chinese, or Russian, or Arabic, nobody would give him the time of day.

    Yet the idea that there’s no more to say in the tonal system very nearly killed the great tradition of Western music stone dead.

    Ah! misère de ma vie!


    Posted on July 17th, 2014 at 1:02 am Reply | Quote
  • Dan Says:

    Regarding the lack of modern versions of Einstein, Bohr, Edison, H. Ford, Tesla…

    I don’t think that is entirely true. Modern computing and communications are astounding. Fracking technology is astounding. Modern genetics is astounding. And all of these really are new.

    But the geniuses of these fields are hardly acclaimed. Remember that we are in a dark ages more complete than to the middle ages under the Catholic church. The excommunications of James Watson and Brendan Eich show that adherence to political correctness theology matters far more than great scientific or technological accomplishment. Charles Darwin and his horrifying Origin of Species would never make it out of the gate in 2014.

    Charles Murray is likely the greatest sociologist in human history. Consider just a few of his books:

    The Bell Curve
    Human Accomplishment
    Losing Ground
    Coming Apart
    IQ and Economic Success
    Income Inequality and IQ
    The Underclass Revisited

    He has presented hard truths of human thriving and civilization more comprehensively than almost any man. For this he is sidelined totally in favor of intellectual midgets peddling utter falsehoods.


    Posted on July 17th, 2014 at 1:22 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:



    Posted on July 19th, 2014 at 1:45 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:




    Posted on July 19th, 2014 at 1:45 pm Reply | Quote

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