Chaos Patch (#17)

Through experimentation, I’m led to the conclusion that weekly Chaos Patches are excessive. I’m putting this one up out of a sense of contractual obligation, which conveniently dove-tails with zombie-level burn-out from immersion in a Bitcoin essay (final part of series for WdW magazine*). If people use their awesome Exit powers to drive it into extinction, or at least considerably greater irregularity, I’ll take the message.

This two-decade old James Fallows article played a major role in the final phase of the Bitcoin article. Without question, large chunks of NRx will like it a lot more than me, and probably simply a lot. It seems obviously important. Perhaps there’s something better, covering the same ground, that could replace it, but right now I’m not sure what that would be.

Yesterday was fertility day, to an extraordinary degree. In case anybody missed these: Sister Y, Jim, and Woodley et al.

Robo-extermination watch.

* Think I already linked to the first installment, but I’ll put up links for the whole series when it’s there (probably about 7,000 words including notes). There’s nowhere near enough Bitcoin / blockchain discussion in the NRx. I’m warming up for a cyclonic rant on the subject.

ADDED: Almost forgot, fotrkd recommended that this update on the Cult of Gnon get a wider airing.

ADDED: ISIS propaganda video [*ahem*]

ADDED: Azathoth (related).

ADDED: And …

Crab cult

July 7, 2014admin 41 Comments »


41 Responses to this entry

  • Max Says:

    Sister Y’s piece seems to me fairly decisively refuted in the comments section by TGGP’s link to an old Bryan Caplan post. If the empirical claim that having children used to be a profitable activity for families is in fact false, then her entire argument falls apart.

    Being somewhat familiar with The View From Hell, I should confess that I harbor a bias against anything coming from that source – I’m a big fan of the writing style, and its author often tangles with interesting ideas, but I almost always find myself disagreeing with her conclusions, and this is no exception.


    Mai La Dreapta Reply:

    Source? I find the original article to be quite plausible, but as you noted it hinges on the assumption that children were once profitable.


    Kgaard Reply:


    Sister Y’s rebuttal to TGGP is pretty good: Kids didn’t have to be huge winners, just reasonable winners and (not big liabilities) for people to choose to have them. They were farm labor, foot soldiers, social security and future spry hunters. What are they today? Just a mountain of liabilities.

    I found the Sister Y piece to be outstanding. (By the way I highly doubt she’s actually a woman. No woman writes like that.) In the model she lays out, you can actually see the logic behind the feminine turn to promiscuity: If a woman has no economic value in the home, and is not a value-adder in being a babymaker … well … what value does she have left? As a sex object. So that’s the one she pursues. Kind of makes sense when you look at it that way.


    Sister Y Reply:

    This is the absolute best compliment I’ve ever gotten, thanks!

    BTW here is my response to the Ted Bergstrom paper


    Alrenous Reply:

    A time for steelmanning. I think I have to credit nydwracu for this, but here’s the best part:

    First, education reduces the ability of a child to work inside and outside the home – not just because school and studying take up time, but also because the child’s student status makes others reluctant to enforce traditional duties. Second, education increases the expense of raising a child, again not just because school is expensive, but because education increases a child’s demands on his parents for non-school expenses in a manner Caldwell describes as unprecedented. Third, education increases the dependency of children, reframing a formerly hard-working, productive child as primarily a future producer and citizen. Fourth, schooling speeds up cultural change and creates new cultures. Finally, fifth, in the developing world education specifically transmits the values of the Western middle class, which is contemptuous of traditional “family morality” as described above.

    Taking out the distractors, school rips the child’s roots out of the family and re-pot it in scholarship. School is about disrupting family dinners and family-oriented cooperative endeavours. It kills social bonding,first-hand experience of the benefits of cooperation, and blocks the child from seeing the parents do productive things. This is particular tragic because at least 80% of children aren’t well suited to scholarship. In short it does everything it can to elthede the child from its family.

    People are pretty stupid. But they’re not that stupid. They know what their relationship with their parents is like. They know that kids are a lot of work. Why would you go to all that effort to make a live-in rebel? (In the most pejorative sense.)

    Notably, the stupid are resistant to schooling, and thus resistant to the program, which explains much of the regressive fertility effect.


    Posted on July 7th, 2014 at 6:30 pm Reply | Quote
  • Lesser Bull Says:

    Fertility day–it explains why the strong techno-commercial wing of NRx has to be anti-human and believe in a tech singularity, because otherwise you’d have to deal with the fact that capitalism is a mill that grinds seed corn.

    What the solution is, I don’t know, because non-capitalist systems are all failures for other reasons, or even sometimes for the same reason.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    It may be that there is no solution to the fertility problem except the evolutionary one (setting aside utopian daydreams like AI, artificial wombs, and governments carrying on effects eugenics programs), and the evolutionary solution can only be realized in Civ II (we’re Civ 1).

    The problem is that natural selection is selecting for philoprogenitiveness but also for stupidity and dysfunction. Civilization will collapse, Malthus will sit at the right hand of Gnon for a millennium or two to reverse the stupidity and dysfunction, and then we can be prepared for Civ II, assuming that philoprogenitiveness doesn’t get bred out in the interregnum and assuming that philoprogenitiveness doesn’t inhibit the development of civilization for some reason.

    The new civilization will grow slower than ours because the easy fruit of resources won’t be there, but that may be a help. One of NRx’s weaknesses is that it thinks the last few centuries technological explosion and social decay are coincidences, but they probably aren’t. Technological advance is probably disruptive of social arrangements in ways that are net non-beneficial so a slower rate of growth may help.


    an inanimate aluminum tube Reply:

    Reminder that collectivist Israel has solved the fertility problem.

    3.0 Births per woman in a modern(ish) country? It’s happening.

    And it’s not just the ultra-Orthodox doing the breeding. Supposedly non-Haredi Jewish women have an average of 2.6 children per women. Combine that with a reasonable rate of defection from the ultra-Orthodox and things are looking good.

    They’re already outbreeding a number of Muslim countries.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    If true, very encouraging, but I don’t think that being a despised minority with a memory of being genocided and currently surrounded by enemies is scalable.

    an inanimate aluminum tube Reply:

    “I don’t think that being a despised minority with a memory of being genocided and currently surrounded by enemies is scalable.”

    On the contrary, that’s precisely the situation we’re in the process of creating all across Europe and North America.

    But those populations are currently lacking quite a few other fitness enhancing features that are present in Israel.

    JPOutlook Reply:

    One of NRx’s weaknesses is that it thinks the last few centuries technological explosion and social decay are coincidences, but they probably aren’t. Technological advance is probably disruptive of social arrangements in ways that are net non-beneficial so a slower rate of growth may help.

    I don’t believe this is the case. A lot of people say that colonisation of the New World led to vast supply of available resources which aggrandised the Third Estate to the point where it wouldn’t take orders from the First or Second. So, the First and Second became de-formalised.

    But, regardless of understanding the past, that doesn’t change what we should be doing, today, for the future. Does it, “Lesser Bull”?

    Or, are you implying that less worrying should be done about the fertility rate?


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    Worry away, God knows I do. I’d rather see Civ 1.0 make it if it were possible.

    nyan_sandwich Reply:

    >One of NRx’s weaknesses is that it thinks the last few centuries technological explosion and social decay are coincidences, but they probably aren’t.

    That so?


    Shalmaneser Reply:

    The problem is that Civ 1 has burnt through all the easily available fossil fuels. Civ 2’s tech base would top out at 17th century levels if its lucky – no steam engines, no electricity networks, no nuclear power, no spaceflight.


    Blogospheroid Reply:

    Is there any specific reason you’re pessimistic on nuclear power? Also, Solar costs are falling and may be competitive soon.

    nyan_sandwich Reply:


    And the malthusian eugenic wringer will continue to average IQ of 150. Then they will find a solution

    Shalmaneser Reply:

    I cannot imagine getting to nuclear power without easily available fossil fuels with a healthy ERoEI bootstrapping you there. If someone wants to argue otherwise, they will have to lay out a plausible, detailed technoeconomic path – handwaving is just whistling past the graveyard. The same goes for solar – it may prevent the collapse of Civ 1, but Civ 2 will not be able to reach that tech level.

    No. Matter matters. The growth of systems is always constrained by the availability of the rarest vital resource. Now, sometimes intelligence allows you to substitute one resource for another but sometimes you can’t, no matter how smart you are. Cornucopian thinking should always be regarded with utmost suspicion.

    Kgaard Reply:

    Lesser Bull … I don’t know about this. The rate of technological progress is so powerful … Couldn’t it dwarf everything in its path? For instance … What do we need 90-IQ taxi drivers for when we have self-driving cars? An 80-IQ taxi driver would be just as good, no? Ditto just about every other non-white-collar occupation. And even the low-grade white collar ones can be AI-ed pretty easily. So I don’t see how one ends up with collapse. More like Elysium — A really shabby reality for most people but pretty normal living for many others. And the pace of tech advance is probably outrunning the pace of dysgenic breeding — especially in places like the Upper Midwest, or Eastern Europe.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    Doesn’t that just mean the collapse gets pushed back further with a stupider humanity? There’s a lot of smart people out there and a lot of tech momentum, but the dysgenic trend mean that in a few decades you have fewer smart people and the taxi drivers are IQ 70. I don’t see the tech advance curve outpacing the dysgenic curve indefinitely. Even if it did, of course, a future where everyone is a congenital idiot except for one or two IQ 100 types who manage the super spiffy tech to keep everything going is a worse future than a collapse.

    Kgaard Reply:

    That would be true if so … but I don’t think the dysgenic trend moves that fast. If we say IQ falls 3 points a generation That means in 25 years taxi drivers are 87 IQ, down from 90 today. The advance in tech will more than offset the decline. Life (and particularly culture) will get modestly more retarded. But tech advances will make a reasonable life still entirely possible.

    You know where the real problem lies? Trying to decide the most virtuous course for one’s own life. If all around you you see stupidity and ugliness, and if you feel the elites are really just feeding it, what is left but a kind of angry isolationism? It’s very depressing. Seems in such a situation the proper recourse is some kind of retreat to a commune of like-minded people in rural Wisconsin, or perhaps picking up stakes and moving to north-central Europe or Russia.

    One place where many forward-thinking people are heading is Costa Rica, particularly the Pacific coast. Lot of hippies etc but for the groovier types it’s an interesting existence. Not sure the degree they are reproducing though. Hard to create nuclear families in that kind of environment …

    Aeroguy Reply:

    @Lesser Bull,

    You assume there isn’t this thing called assortative mating. Also it should be expected that when birth control was introduced it would cause a genetic culling, after that either tech progresses till breeding becomes obsolete (not as far off as you seem to think) or the people who really want kids (smart and dumb, r and K selected) become Gnon’s favorites seeing a total population curve dip down but then make a startling comeback. At worst you get morlock and eloi, except the looks and predilection for violence will likely be swapped (it won’t be two groups but many stratified groups which will just make inequality even more blindingly obvious). More likely when the zombies threaten the status quo (for now zombies strengthen the status quo of power relations at the top, these people’s only principle is acquire more power) they’ll start sterilizing them en mass. You really can’t assume linear trends and project them to infinity. You’re line of thought shouldn’t start with assuming everyone is a blind idiot, you should start by asking what the amoral cunning people at the top are getting out of it.

    Posted on July 7th, 2014 at 7:00 pm Reply | Quote
  • Chaos Patch (#17) | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on July 7th, 2014 at 8:58 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hanfeizi Says:

    Classic Fallows article, and the one that turned me on to Friedrich List (an important non-Austrian economist for NRx adherents to investigate and engage, given his influence on Asian technocracy)… Fallows has a way of writing things that shape my life. His article about Shenzhen led almost directly to my moving to China six months later; his article about Sioux Falls led me to move back to my hometown four months after it was published. Whatever he does next will probably inspire me in some way I can’t yet foresee…


    nydwracu Reply:

    Moldbug: “But really I’m a mercantilist, and everything I know about economics I learned by reading Friedrich List. Well, him and Mises.”


    Posted on July 8th, 2014 at 12:01 am Reply | Quote
  • fotrkd Says:

    Chaos abhors a timetable (but refuses extinction)… but then you knew that.

    Robo-extermination watch


    Posted on July 8th, 2014 at 12:16 am Reply | Quote
  • NRx_N00B Says:

    The prime objective/subterfuge of Moldbugians is to implant his writings/ideas in the deep wellsprings of NRx—why?


    Posted on July 8th, 2014 at 4:24 am Reply | Quote
  • Blogospheroid Says:

    I’m not convinced about old fashioned mercantilism. When looked at from the perspective of cities, specialization is a great thing when the industry you specialize in, is healthy. When you’re out of the loop, it is utter destruction. Everything in your city would be geared towards serving the mercantilist/protected industry. When you’re running a catallarchy, (techno-commercial city) your main product is the city land. Anything that makes the city land sustainably give more rent is good, because that rent comes to you.

    If X industry pays the rent, that is good. If Y pays the rent that is also good. Running a catallarchy may mean that you do a lot of stuff like advertising your city in international channels, things that may not exactly be in a free trade textbook, but it is not old fashioned mercantilism.

    The best steelmanning of mercantilism is tradeable export certificate plan publicized by warren buffett. I think that proper AD management using NGDP or nominal wage targeting is a strictly superior solution in every way.

    To summarize Henry George (Free Trade + Land taxes) + Scott Sumner (Market monetarism) > Freidrich List or Any set of mercantilist policies, however clever they might sound in the short term.


    Posted on July 8th, 2014 at 5:38 am Reply | Quote
  • docs Says:

    Dear admin,

    Could you tell Mr. Urban Future to check his ccru email account, partially in regards to this:

    Thank ye.


    admin Reply:

    Nothing there — are you sure you’re using the right address?


    Docs Reply:

    Might be in your spam. Can you email me at the address in this sig?


    Posted on July 8th, 2014 at 10:16 am Reply | Quote
  • Doctor Poo Says:

    If the history of AI research is anything to go by, we don’t have anything to fear from our robot friends. They’re going to be dumb metal idiots in 2045, just as they are now. The kind of expectations we have of computers is probably more of a hindrance than help in predicting the future. Sentient robots are the most over-expected myth that will never come true, no matter how long it takes.


    admin Reply:

    We’re clearly not looking at the same world (or trend lines). You don’t think that theorem proving algorithms, unbeatable chess programs, self-driving cars, or functional translation software mean anything?


    Doctor Poo Reply:

    Yes, today’s chess playing software can, apparently, beat the best players. But there is biased thinking in regards to computer intelligence. What does a chess playing computer actually mean in regards to human intelligence?

    Incidentally, Deep Blue was beaten by Kasparov, and some people take the rematch as a good way to highlight the faults inherent in thinking about computer intelligence, as in any way commensurable with human intelligence. Why was Kasparov not allowed to do a re-rematch against Deep Blue where the programmers did not tweak the program midgame? If a tennis player sprains their wrist in the middle of a match, they don’t get to take a week off to recuperate. Moreover, since Deep Blue was allowed to know all of Kasparov’s previous games, Kasparov, by rights, should have been privy to Deep Blue’s previous games, which was denied. Not to mention, as everyone knows, Deep Blue had a bug, an error that was not part of his programming (Rook to D1), which confused Kasparov only because it was a bug and didn’t make any sense – that doesn’t count as a good chess playing computer. Ironically, as chess fans will know, in 2001, HAL cheats to beat his human opponent – perhaps a hint from the director that he didn’t believe in the mythology of computer intelligence surpassing human intelligence.

    The best chess playing computers aren’t, by themselves, machines that play humans, but machines that, through human guidance, play humans. Humans playing the computers are restricted to 45 minutes, whereas the computers can have millions of hours worth of human processing in responses programmed by humans – there aren’t actual chess-playing computers that can process a chess game, having never been programmed to anticipate a particular move before (and if there were, they would have been improperly programmed by any standard). IBM still claims to have built the first human-beating chess playing software, but I don’t buy it – not for a few more years yet did that happen. Let’s also remember that Kasparov became world champion at age 21, whereas chess-playing computer technology took over 85 years, if we start with El Ajedrecista – what this means for computer intelligence, I will leave up to you to interpret.

    Also, who claims that chess is actually the apex of human achievement? The mental processes involved in chess are a small, rather mathematical, facet of human intelligence (and computers don’t actually have that ‘intelligence,’ they just have programming which is reliant upon human intelligence). There are plenty of good chess players whose ability doesn’t translate in any way to other aspects of their existence, or who may not show brilliance in any other regard. They may not have the visual processing skills to paint a great portrait, or the auditory processing skills to compose a great opera. A good example for how technical skill is not representative of the entire human intellect is the case of autistic individuals, who may be able to draw every detail of a city’s skyline, but have the mind of a child when it comes to the majority of tasks in life.

    As for translation software, just like chess playing software or Watson (the Jeopardy! playing computer), this is simply not intelligence, not AI. It is stored information retrieval. I.e. it is totally reliant on stored information created by human beings – an automated library/encyclopaedia, with a text input-output interface. It can’t joke, and it can’t have an opinion. Singularity requires AI, you can’t expand adaptability if you are just an IBM PR gimmick that obeys your pre-programmed commands. Driving is also straight forward in terms of programming, and such automatons do not have intelligence – this should be plain to the veriest dunce.

    If on the other hand, we take as the standard of human intellect, painting a convincing portrait, or being a brilliant stand up comedian, then AI has, by and large, been a failure. Social and motivational functions of the human brain simply haven’t been touched by computers at all.

    Just as children have believed stories wherein animals can talk for aeons, adults also have their fantasies. In ancient Greece, many respected adults may have literally believed that Talos, the giant man made of bronze, actually did circle Crete until Medea’s keres drained the ichor from his heel. Today, many respectable adults, some with PhDs, believe in things like C3PO, or robots taking over the world. It’s just fun. They can have their fun, I don’t care. But I don’t believe it is anything more than that.


    Hurlock Reply:

    Your time horizon is very short.
    Yes, computers will not surpass humans in your lifetime, neither will they do in your children’s lifetime. That is not the point. The point is that the computers ARE in fact getting smarter and quite observably so. Of course belief in the Singularity is something like a religious belief and people who believe in it happening any time soon are similar to the medieval christians who for ages thought that Judgment Day is just around the corner. But while the christians were not able to observe any factual signs of Judgment Day coming closer, we actually do observe the fact that computers are getting consistently smarter. And that’s already a big difference.
    And if you haven’t realized already, civilizations are fragile things who are largely built upon and advance through seemingly ridiculous fantasies.
    The belief in the singularity and of AI surpassing humans is not just some “fun” fantasy. And it’s not just the superstitious belief of a bunch of nerds. Because those nerds are actually making it into a reality it’s more than that, it’s a hyperstition.
    Fantasies can build the future and actualize themselves. They have, they do, and they will.

    Aeroguy Reply:

    We’ve all heard the god of the gaps argument, now we get the humanity of the gaps argument.

    Personally I’m of the opinion that if we get around to defining who and who isn’t sentient, apes shouldn’t count as sentient since we’re reliant on heuristic thinking (how many bugs in human thinking have psychologists alone discovered with their limited techniques) and possess rational thinking so limited and impaired such that we have enormous difficulty deriving basic things like calculus entirely from logic without having it programmed into our brains let alone independently deriving the entirety of mathematics entirely from logic like a rational being should theoretically be able to do. Apes are self aware and can communicate well enough with each other to facilitate status posturing, but to call us rational, let alone sentient, seems like self flattery.

    Strong Intelligence is hard to come by, I agree, after all, none currently exists.

    Posted on July 8th, 2014 at 12:11 pm Reply | Quote
  • Doctor Poo Says:

    I’ve simply not seen any evidence that it is being built into a reality by anyone. Computers don’t do intelligence, they do programmed computing.

    It is fun. It’s fun because everyone loves a story about a sentient robot.


    Posted on July 8th, 2014 at 10:29 pm Reply | Quote
  • Doctor Poo Says:

    @Doctor PooFundamentally, what makes sentience, and a being that is even ‘capable’ of programming a computer, does not actually require the ability to produce mathematical calculations on the fly. An intelligent person undoubtedly is better at producing mathematical calculations on the fly than an unintelligent person, or non-human primate, but even if they weren’t able to do that, their capabilities for problem solving, analysis, and creative capacities, will still be light years ahead of any computer. The reason, as I have made clear, is that computers don’t actually solve problems, humans program them to engage in functions that they are capable of with higher efficiency, in the end it is the humans who create the solutions. Computers, fundamentally, are more compact mechanical devices – think of it like a more complex abacus. No one claims that an abacus solved a mathematical problem, that is just a designation, or description, of the activities done by the human to the abacus that does not apply to the abacus itself.

    Non-human primates are infinitely more sentient than any machine. They weren’t programmed the solve the problems they do, or make tools – they figured it out themselves. No machine can make that claim. It is simply not something that machines will be able to do, because they can’t come to life. It’s not a question of doing a larger number of calculations per second, it’s a question of biological vs. abiological. Without DNA, they’re hopeless dullards.


    Aeroguy Reply:


    "qjfjk" Reply: A little more relevant for these purposes these days.

    Also recommend

    and (very interesting IMO)

    Still a long, long ways off, but some interesting developments at least.


    Alrenous Reply:

    +1, except the vitalism.

    You should separate intelligence and consciousness, though. Intelligence seems to be merely bit manipulation. Learning, reasoning and creativity is just gathering, processing, and (random?) generation, respectively.

    While I suspect biological consciousness employs bits of DNA, it’s just a handy component with any number of possible silicon substitutes. However, to find those substitutes you have to respect consciousness qua consciousness, not pretend it has no existence.

    (The blood-brain barrier is DNA privileging, and the gonads have the same privilege. Why would the brain need to be DNA privileged? It does in fact have shards of DNA floating around in it. Doing something, presumably. Conveniently they match a requirement for my consciousness machine.)


    Posted on July 9th, 2014 at 3:20 am Reply | Quote
  • an inanimate aluminum tube Says:

    Ladies and gentlemen, your new aristocracy:


    Posted on July 10th, 2014 at 5:28 pm Reply | Quote

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