Locklin on science

Data is not the new oil: a call for a Butlerian Jihad against technocrat data ding dongs

Posted in econo-blasphemy, machine learning, Progress by Scott Locklin on November 5, 2020

I tire of the dialog on “big data” and “AI.” AI is an actual subject, but as used in marketing and press releases and in the babbling by ideologues and think tank dipshits, the term is a sort of grandiose malapropism meaning “statistics and machine learning.” As far as I can tell “big data” just means the data at one point lived in something other than a spreadsheet.

 “BigDataAI” ideology is a continuation of the program of the technocratic managerial “elite.” To those of you who are unfamiliar with the work of James Burnham, there is a social class of technocratic “experts” have largely taken over the workings of society in the West; a process which took place in the first half of the 20th century. While there have always been bureaucrats in civilized societies, the ones since around the time of Herbert Hoover have aped “scientific” solutions even where no such thing is actually possible. This social class of bureaucrats has had some mild successes; the creation of the American highway system, public health initiatives against trichinosis, US WW-2 production. But they have mostly discredited themselves for decades: aka the shitty roads in America, the unaffordable housing in major urban centers, a hundred million fat diabetics, deindustrialization because muh free market reasons, the covidiocy and most recently, the failure of every noteworthy technocrat in the world’s superpower to predict election outcomes and even its ability to honestly count its votes. Similar social classes interested in central planning also failed spectacularly in the Soviet Union, and led to the cultural revolution in China. There are reasons both obvious and deep as to why these social classes have failed.

The obvious reason is that mandarinates are inherently prone to corruption when there are no consequences for their failures. Bureaucrats are  wielders of power and have the extreme privilege of collecting a pension on the public expense. Various successful cultures had different ways of keeping them honest; the Prussians and pre-Soviet Russian bureaucrats recruited from honor cultures. Classical China and the early Soviets did it  via fear. The Soviet Union actually worked pretty well when the guys from Gosplan could be sent to the Gulag for their failings (or because Stalin didn’t like their neckties -keeps them on their toes). It progressively fell apart as it grew more civilized; by the 1980s, nobody was afraid of the late night knock on the door, and the Soviet  system fell apart when the US faked like it was going to build ridiculous space battleships. The rise of China has largely been the story of bureaucratic reforms by Deng where accountability (and vigorous punishment for malefactors) were the order of the day. Singapore makes bureaucrats meet regularly with their constituents; seems reasonable -don’t know why every society doesn’t make this a requirement. It is beyond question the American equivalent of the Gosplan mandiranate is almost unimaginably corrupt at this point, and the country is falling apart as a result. 

While it gives policy-makers a sense of agency having a data project, consider that there isn’t a single large scale data project beyond the search engine that has improved the lives of human beings. Mind you, the actual civilizational utility of the search engine is highly questionable. What improvement in human living standards has come of the advent of google in the last 20 years? The only valuable content on the internet is stuff made by human beings. Google effectively steals or destroys most of the revenue of content creators who made the stuff worth looking at in the first place. Otherwise, library science worked just fine without blue haired Mountain View dipshits running SVD on a link graph. INSPEC (more or less; dmoz for research) is 120 years old and is still vastly better for research than google scholar. Science made more progress then between 1898 and 2005 or so when google more or less replaced it: and the news wasn’t socially toxic clickfarming idiocy back when the CIA censored the  news instead of google komissars with facial piercings. These days google even sucks at being google; I generally have more luck with runaroo or just going directly to things on internet archive.

If “AIBigData” were so wonderful, you’d see its salutary effects everywhere. Instead, a visit to the center of these ideas, San Francisco is a visit to a real life dystopia.There are thousands of data projects which have made life obviously worse for people. Pretty much all of nutrition and public health research post discovery of vitamins, and statisticians telling people not to drink toilet water is worthless or actively harmful (look at all those fat people waddling around). Most biomedical research is false, and most commonly prescribed drugs are snake oil or worse. Various “pre-crime” models used to justify setting bail or prison sentences are an abomination. The advertising surveillance hellscape we’ve created for ourselves is both aesthetically awful and a gigantic waste of time. The intelligence surveillance hellscape we’ve created mostly keeps its crimes secret, and does nothing obviously helpful. Annoying advertising invading every empty space; I don’t want to watch ads to pump gas or get money from my ATM machine.  Show me something good these dorks have done for us; I’m not seeing it. Most of it is moronic overfitting to noise, evil or both.

It’s less obvious but can’t be stated often enough: often “there is no data in your data.” The technocracy’s mathematical tools boil down to versions of the t-test being applied to poorly sampled and/or heteroskedastic data where they may not be meaningful. The hypothesis under test may not have a meaningful null no matter how much data you collect. When they talk about “AI” I think it’s mostly aspirational; a way out of heteroskedasticity and actual randomness. It’s not; there are no “AI” t-tests in common use by these knuckleheads, and if there were, the upshot wouldn’t look that much different from 1970s era stats results. When they talk about big data, they don’t talk about \frac{1}{\sqrt{n}}, or issues like ROC curves and bias variance tradeoff. They certainly never talk about data which is heteroskedastic or simply random, which is most of it. 

In reality, data collection is mostly useless. In intelligence work, in marketing, political work: most of it is completely useless, and collecting it and acting on it is a sort of cargo cult for DBAs, cloud computing saleslizards, technocratic managerial nerds, economists, Nate Silver and other such human refuse. Once in a while it pays off. More often, the technocrat will take credit when things go his way and make complicated excuses when they don’t; just look at Nate Silver’s career for example; a clown with a magic 8-ball.  There’s an entire social class of “muh science” nerds who think it a sort of moral imperative to collect and act on data even if it is obviously useless. The very concept that their KPIs and databases might be filled with the sheerest gorp …. or that you might not be able to achieve marketing uplift no matter what you do… doesn’t compute for some people. 

Technocratic data people are mostly parasitic vermin and their extermination, while it would cut into my P/L, would probably be good for society. At the very least we should make their salaries proportional to (1- Brier) scores; that will require them to put error bars on their predictions, reward the competent and bankrupt the useless. Really though, they should all be sent to Idaho to pick potatoes. Or ….

83 Responses

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  1. Raul Miller said, on November 5, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Some valid points there, but some not well thought out issues, also.

    For example, talking about fat people while not talking about the extensive impact of the sugar lobby and how the corresponding structures are probably right for people engaged in serious long-term physical labor but not so useful for couch potatoes seems…. superficial?

    • William O. B'Livion said, on November 5, 2020 at 3:35 pm

      I think that’s his point–if BIg Data was able to do anything it would be providing Our Bureaucratic Overlords with actionable *information* to tell the Sugar, Corn, and Soyboy lobbies to fuck the hell off.

      As it is “Big Data” is like a stage magician. You see what they want you to see,

      • Scott Locklin said, on November 5, 2020 at 7:43 pm

        Just so; the technocracy has basically failed at everything. Why are we paying those pricks?

        • William O. B'Livion said, on November 8, 2020 at 11:11 pm

          They haven’t failed.

          Their goals just aren’t the goals of people who want the world to be a better place.

          Statistics, big data, “AI”–even the machine learning/neural network stuff that passes for it is like any other tool, it is morally agnostic. The good or bad that comes from it is up to the people running it.

          And most people are banal, mediocre and have no moral courage.

          Hell, even I hide behind a nome de guerre these days, lest the Social Justice Weenies in HR line up my True Names.

          The technocrats serve their masters well. Hunter Biden has had a great life of doing crack off strippers asses, banging his brothers wife, and generally being a wart on the dick of humanity, paid for by the technocratic elite to give them access. Hell, Pelosi’s son and Romney’s son were on the gravy train too.

          In the mean time we get to live a *pretty* commodious life by historical standards. If this were the early 1950s I’d be paralyzed from what has become so common a procedure that the neurologist in Australia that cut me had done about 500 of them.

          Things could be better, a LOT better, but they’ve also been a HELL of a lot worse living memory. Well, not my memory, but there’s more centenarians out there than ever before and they remember (well, some of them) the great depression. WAY worse than today. They barely had 300 baud modems back then.

          • Scott Locklin said, on November 10, 2020 at 5:42 pm

            Family formation is arguably a more important metric than how many baud are in your modem; the world was better in 9600 pre electron days.

            I don’t think the data dorks do much of anything to make stuff better. Doctors figuring out how not to cut your dick off or whatever didn’t figure it out because of a technocrat.

            • William O. B'Livion said, on November 11, 2020 at 6:39 pm

              The 300 baud thing was a joke–there were no modems during the Great Depression, and there was a great deal of family *dissolution*.

              This is sort of like the Skeptical Environmentalist book that Lomborg wrote. He (more or less) took the *good* side of the error bars and claimed to show that the world is a cleaner, better place. Caught all kinds of hell for it.

              Conditions–until this year–were pretty good. Now that the Bureaucrats have figured out that they can scare the bejeezus out of people and get whatever they want we’re FUBAR, but before that the reasons that family formation were down had nothing to do with economic or physical conditions.

              And I agree that the social and cultural conditions that are reducing family formation are bad for the long run, but I don’t think that they’ll survive the long run.

              • CH said, on April 13, 2021 at 1:14 am

                Those conditions have survived for centuries. Long-run declines in family formation were discussed as “??? what’s going on here” as far back as the 1700s. The “data” of family formation is a topic of immense interest to me because as detailed in many of Locklin’s other commentary, it’s a situation where the reasons why x/y/z is happening *and the data demonstrating it* exist and have even in some cases been gathered for centuries. But nobody studying families or family formation within the academic/managerial environment is asking the questions about the extant data that gets you there.

                The only people even coming close don’t work in family-specific or fertility-focused demography at all (or aren’t credentialed).

            • William O. B'Livion said, on November 11, 2020 at 6:56 pm

              Oh, and the folks that figured out how to fix my spine weren’t data dorks, they were early “bio-mechanical engineers”.

              But I bet there were “data dorks” in the mix of those who figured out the HPV->Cervical/Penile cancer.

              Leaving AI out of it, I think there is a place for people who specialize in working with really large sets of data, and data that doesn’t lend itself to “select from…union…union…union..union where (complex subquery(complex subquery))”

              I just don’t think that “Big Data” has a lot of people who are good enough at that to do what they claim.

  2. William O. B'Livion said, on November 5, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    BTW, you missed a *HUGE* failure of the managerial elite–Vietnam. The “Bright Boys” in the puzzle palace made *huge* mistakes because they didn’t know a fucking thing about war, or their enemy.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 5, 2020 at 7:45 pm

      It’s a classic example. Kids these days probably never heard of it, or saw McNamera’s mea culpa tour “Fog of War.” I bet if you described what the “whiz kids” were doing they’d all think it very modern and cool, rather than an old and mostly discredited ideology.

      • Walt said, on November 6, 2020 at 2:31 am

        McNamara never understood the transition to 4th Generation/non-trinitarian war. Mao wrote the book. We haven’t won a war since WII. We have amazing weapons, but couldn’t beat the Taliban.

        • Scott Locklin said, on November 6, 2020 at 9:06 am

          To be fair, our oligarchy is pretty successful without winning wars.
          Soft colonialism turns a profit; export degeneracy, turn some large fraction of the population into a fifth column; you don’t even have to build fancy air forces to scare the natives into compliance. Meanwhile our oligarchs make money by burning the furniture, printing the money and selling it to foreigners. Foreigners use (a small amount of) the money to bribe our politicians to keep the spice flowing for the oligarchs.

          The hardware left over from the military upgrades of 70s and 80s is still pretty good, as the Russians mostly stopped making new stuff as well. It’ll continue to work until we have to actually fight a war with a first rank adversary with good morale and sensible combat doctrine. Losing to the Chinese would be hilarious, but it would probably be something lame and deniable like loss of an aircraft carrier. Would be even funnier if we lost to Venezuela or Cuba or something. Not like a Vietnam tier loss; a real trying to invade and spectacularly failing loss. That Baker in Serbia who shot down a stealth fighter should have been a warning.

          • Raul Miller said, on November 6, 2020 at 9:40 am

            Eh… I’m not sure our two party system really qualifies as an oligarchy. Then again, though, I really don’t understand a lot of the labels that get thrown around in political circles. Mostly I hear a lot of words which all too often seem intended to mean something near the opposite of the dictionary meanings.

            I think we’re suffering a lot from an absence of places for people to develop practical experiences nowadays. We have been pretty good at investing in the entertainment side of things, but… for example: intellectual property law changes and treaty arrangements aimed at helping Disney retain ownership of old mickey mouse content haven’t resulted in all that great of a set of regulations for maintaining and upgrading computing systems. And it probably doesn’t help that we’ve been pushing hard for market based solutions to problems that markets can’t solve.

            As for the Taliban… as near as I can tell, our objectives there were to get rid of Bin Laden in response to 9/11 (done), and to avert a potential consequent engagement between the nuclear powers in the area. But I don’t know how well we’re doing on that long-term part of the issue.

            • Scott Locklin said, on November 6, 2020 at 5:19 pm

              I dunno what you would see as an oligarchy if the US isn’t one. Can you think of a historical or present day example which is more of an oligarchy?

              • Raul Miller said, on November 6, 2020 at 6:39 pm

                I’d go with these if I wanted examples of oligarchies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-party_state#Current_one-party_states

                • Scott Locklin said, on November 6, 2020 at 11:25 pm

                  That’s not what an oligarchy is.

                  • Raul Miller said, on November 7, 2020 at 9:00 am

                    The primary definition of “oligarchy” is “a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.”

                    Which has to do with why I feel that countries with a one party system are good examples of oligarchies.

                    That said, I feel “oligarchy” also points at countries low on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index — to be high on that index suggests a more distributed control of the country. (But that doesn’t really contradict pointing at one party countries.)

                    Anyways, one thing about the USA is that it was designed from the start to be collaborative in structure. The whole concept of checks and balances is woven deeply into the constitution. And the federal / state model is both an example of this character, and an example of how its structure conflicts with a meaningful concept of “oligarchy”.

                    • Scott Locklin said, on November 9, 2020 at 12:48 pm

                      I consider Oligarchy to be rule by Oligarchs. The ones who made Joe Biden rich in his 4 years out of government for example. The two parties are, as far as I am concerned, a uniparty that supports oligarchs, the surveillance warfare state, foreign interests, unrestricted mass immigration, outsourcing the industrial base and looter capitalism a la Bain and associates.

                      Of course each party has its yahoos which represent actual human beings; Trump, Buchanan on the right, and Bernie and maybe Omar on the left. Trump achieving power was an anomaly: if he had gone along with the program of looting the country and building the military surveillance slave state, they’d have treated him at least as well as Bush (who, mind you, created black site prisons, rendition, an apparently interminable war, domestic spy agencies, etc etc, but it’s all OK because he ain’t Trump I guess).

                      There’s no telling how long they’ll be able to maintain this; it only lasted 10 years or so in Russia, but I guess America has more to loot. It will be interesting to watch the career of AOC (who appears to be a spook) and, say, Josh Hawley. The obvious tactic for the Republicans is to become a worker’s party, since there are presently no worker’s parties. That was what Trump attempted to do, and it kind of worked.

          • Walt said, on November 6, 2020 at 4:49 pm

            Bill Lind likes to point out that we invade these countries to help their women vote, vamp, and abort, so the men have no choice but to fight us. We introduce social media to countries merely to start color revolutions. Your thesis holds up well.

            Lind also remarks that armed conflict between nation-states has really turned into a high-tech jousting tournament. IOW, it’s all for show. Whenever that happens, prepare for a sea change caused by men who like to fight. One example would be Genghis Khan’s invasion of Russia and Eastern Europe. The knights were used to lining up and posturing on either side of the battle field. The Mongols were used to killing.

            • Scott Locklin said, on November 6, 2020 at 5:21 pm

              The depressing reality is the US can coast for a long, long time, despite how shitty it is. Spanish empire was really dead by 1750 or so, but it was still around for 150 years longer….

              Lind’s great of course.

      • William O. B'Livion said, on November 6, 2020 at 6:11 pm

        Anybody who knows the first thing about war, Asian history or Communism would think what McNamara’s crew was doing was utterly fucking stupid.

        First off was their assumption that we could simply kill our way to victory. Not “take land by killing”, but literally kill Viet Cong and NVA until the North Vietnamese government cried Uncle. That was utterly ignorant of them.

        Second was doing utterly stupid shit like *planning a bombing mission from D.C.* and then *TELLING THE NV WE WERE COMING* so they’d evacuate the site.

        I could go on, but my cortisol levels are already higher than they should be for this time of day.

  3. […] via Data is not the new oil: a call for a Butlerian Jihad against technocrat data ding dongs — Locklin… […]

  4. glaucous noise said, on November 5, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    yeah, I was a PhD student in a big joint program years ago. They were merging efforts in various departments to work on biology and I was on the computational physics side. Although a lot of bullshit infests the biophysics world, I was astonished at the brazen mediocrity of my colleagues with computer science and stats backgrounds, who often told me that what I was doing was “antiquated” as it was not “data driven”.

    To think that the laws of fluid, quantum, and statistical mechanics are “antiquated” is truly baffling.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 5, 2020 at 7:52 pm

      Everything old is new again; even MC Hammer is on the “throw neural thingees at your differential equation problem” bandwagon.

      Or for another example of this nonsense:

      All of this, of course, is just over-complicated Kriging. You could just do KNN and get the same answer for less effort. Or solve the differential equations; people are pretty good at that these days.

      • glaucous noise said, on November 5, 2020 at 8:24 pm


        My hope is that the Communist Party in China has their back up against the wall hard enough that they come out swinging and give ole’ Uncle Sam a run for his money, thereby shocking the US back into a semblance of scientific discipline, but, astonishing though it may seem, my experience with Chinese science for about a decade now has left me with the impression that, impressively, they have developed an even worse system than we have! (a feat worthy of a prize, I’d wager!)

        The only innovations we seem to be getting in today’s world in new methods for racing faster to the bottom.

        • Scott Locklin said, on November 5, 2020 at 9:42 pm

          I think the last New Yorker article I approved of was about some Chinese goofballs trying to steal Perelman’s proofs.


          I think the Russians and the Japanese still do some decent science, and some Americans are OK. The problem with America is it’s become a giant talent sink; the talent comes here and proceeds to do horse shit designed to optimize ad click through rate or whatever. And they’re surrounded by morons who not only assign them to bad problems, but also simply interfere by existing in close proximity. Put a lot of smart people close together you get Bell Labs. Put a lot of smart people in a room with blue haired political activists and MBAs, you get …. Google or Microsoft.

          Russia has enough defense problems their defense industry does some bang up work with very little, using genuinely intelligent people and keeping them away from maroons. Japan, well, they’re just Japanese and good at everything. Not so good at new things, but very good at perfecting things.

          • glaucous noise said, on November 5, 2020 at 10:21 pm

            The state of the American technology industry is disturbing, with bean counting tape worms calling the shots at now zombified former titans like GE or IBM, and soon to be zombified titans like Boeing. Zombie here actually has a specific meaning: GE and IBM would not survive without quantitative easing, in the former case some evidence (if I understand it correctly) suggests that they must take out loans to pay interest on their loans, or something to that effect.

            Speaking of the Rooskies, I too am incredibly impressed with their military technology. The new T-14 really impressed me, although I’m not a tank guy so maybe it’s all bells no whistle. What I find most frustrating about America’s technological dominance is that it more or less has maintained an iron grip on the semiconductor industry, with several vassal states like South Korea or Taiwan playing a permanent secondary role. I do wish I could go to an electronics store and have foreign options in various markets (e.g. CPU’s). The fact that Russia has failed miserably in modern technology such as this is tragic. The ingenuity of Soviet engineers and scientists to succeed in that socialist nightmare-scape serves as an example that whichever faction of managerial roundworms slithers into DC by January, one can still produce great things, and the world can certainly be much worse.

            Japan is nearly an exception and their craftsmanship is laudable, but crack open the latest Nintendo and it’s packed with American electronics.

            • Scott Locklin said, on November 5, 2020 at 10:54 pm

              I have a couple of inside contacts at Boeing (their smaller companies were bought). One of their recent pre-covid breakthroughs: they started supplying the men’s rooms with tampons. I’m not sure what this means, but it’s made me reluctant to fly on non-Airbus hardware; even the ones missing the $10 pitot tube with the bleeding edge Bangalore avionics system.

              I’m quite certain you can buy all-Russian or Chinese CPUs. I know you can buy Japanese, or could until recently. The thing is, building latest gen fabs is hard, and the USGov works hard to prevent the 1-2 companies that build the optics and metrology for these billion dollar installations from selling it to “the bad guys.” The Russians are most likely to pull off really decent chips, probably first for their domestic security branches. Western chips have been treading water for 10 years anyway; the vaunted Threadripper isn’t all that much faster on single threaded tasks than my 2009 era 4 thread pentium.

              Examples: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elbrus-8S#Elbrus_Elbrus-8SV_information

              I’d consider running on an Elbrus, but their supply chains are pretty shitty and I bet the NVIDIA drivers are better on AMD hardware.

              • glaucous noise said, on November 5, 2020 at 11:39 pm

                Yeah I think I’m getting on an Airbus from now on, Jesus holy mother of Christ!

                Thanks for the Elbrus tip-off, I have an affinity for Slavic languages so maybe I”ll see if I can snag one to play with.

                • Walt said, on November 6, 2020 at 12:35 am

                  Yeah, Boeing is not inspiring confidence:
                  Matt Stoller has written a lot about Boeing’s collapse too. Airbus is in France and I wonder how long before France’s problems and the airline industry’s current problems bring it down. Flight is not a given, especially not airline transport flight. We used to have far more small aircraft manufacturers too, but liability brought a lot of them down.

                  Makes you wonder if globalism is coming to an abrupt end.

                  • glaucous noise said, on November 6, 2020 at 2:57 am

                    Matt Stoller is pretty awesome. I still need to read Goliath.

                    Oh sure, betting on the EU over the US always looks good for about a few seconds. Then you realize that the EU is probably significantly more screwed. After that you find that bottle of scotch you promised yourself you’d leave in the liquor cabinet for a few more days and pop it open, remarking privately that “I’ve had a bad day, I can kick this habit later.”, before taking a deeper swig than you intended.

              • asciilifeform said, on November 10, 2020 at 6:53 pm

                Elbrus, incidentally, not only delivers early-1990s horsepower at a late-1980s price ($4k+ for a complete system! if you can find a reseller on your continent at all) but is fabbed at TMSC. That is, on the usual NSAware stack.

                As for the Soviet native designs — the К1801ВМ1 (compat. w/ PDP-11) was, last I knew, still made at Zelenograd. A 1980 design, it will address 256kB. AFAIK this was the very last item designed there and produced on native fab equipment. (Today, rumour is, they make them on a surplus-market AMD production line.)

                AFAIK there are today no modern (however defined; let’s say — can boot Linux) CPUs being manufactured aside from NATO Reich designs (x86; ARM), on equipment built in same, and with NSAware (e.g. MS-win) running in every stage of the design/production conveyor. I would love to be proven wrong about this, but to date have turned up nothing resembling a counterexample.

            • Raul Miller said, on November 6, 2020 at 12:57 am

              From my perspective, the biggest problem with USA systems is that while we love finding problems for our solutions we’re not so good the other way around,

              But, hey — give me a couch and I’m sure I can keep it from floating away. I’ll sit on it if I have to.

              • Scott Locklin said, on November 6, 2020 at 9:12 am

                That’s a pretty good synopsis, and more or less what I’m talking about. There’s a huge “managerial” class that purports to solve problems which it sets up for itself. By “sets up for itself” -sometimes this class causes the problems, then acts busy trying to solve them.

                It used to really solve problems; the space pen is really cool, even if the rooskie just used a pencil.

                • glaucous noise said, on November 6, 2020 at 6:05 pm

                  This actually describes the current state of theoretical physics pretty well. They deliberately avoid obvious answers in such a way as to render, say, quantum field theory more convoluted, thereby giving themselves an infinite amount of “work” to do

            • William O. B'Livion said, on November 6, 2020 at 6:02 pm

              > GE and IBM would not survive without quantitative easing,

              GE might not, IBM would just restructure and adapt. They’ve been doing that for a long long time.

            • Igor Bukanov said, on November 6, 2020 at 9:46 pm

              I recently learned that the key components of modern EUV lithography are made in The Netherlands. But you are right about vassal status. The US was able to prevent a sale of those incredible pieces of engineering to China.

          • rottenresearcher said, on November 6, 2020 at 4:57 am

            I assume you are making normality assumptions about the population in different countries. However, ground-breaking sciences usually do not conform to normal distributions, they are done by that tiny fraction of the population. The competition is thus about who can retain that tiny fraction of 10X talents.

        • RottenResearcher said, on November 6, 2020 at 4:44 am

          As a Chinese who happens to do research here, I don’t take offense. The reason I am here is exactly about the bureaucratic science community over there in China. When science is determined by dictatorship, sometimes you get 100% correct, sometimes you get 100% wrong. Whereas what I am seeing here is 50%vs 50% for better or worse.

  5. Rickey said, on November 6, 2020 at 3:30 am

    Even if we had accurate analytics of “big data” it would not make any difference. I work for the gubbermint and often get tasked for data calls since I seem to be the only one in my department who knows how to keep organized records. All of my submissions look like they went through a wood chipper as the get routed up the bureaucratic chain since no one wants accurate and objective analysis. They just want to use the information that supports their agenda and ignore or delete any information that does not.

    On a side note, one of the reasons our technological progress is decelerating is that the “smart kids” are no longer becoming engineers or researchers. Why schlep at a career that barely makes six figures annually when you can go into the financial services industry or create social media apps and make real money. I have a very intelligent nephew that was going to be an engineer but is now raking in piles of cash working for Wells Fargo manipulating money. A neighbor who was a physics professor is now living large in Malaysia writing financial software for an international bank. Those jobs do require intelligence and effort but they do not actually produce anything beneficial to society like a more efficient engine or a new vaccine.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 6, 2020 at 9:31 am

      My career reflects this. I’d have liked to work on more interesting things, but interesting/beneficial to humanity is basically inversely proportional to salary. Being poor sucks. I’m not sure it would matter though, if we had giant post-Sputnik style science funding. I’ve been thinking about lack of progress for around 12 years now, and while it is complicated and you can point to lots of things which contribute to it, “our civilization is declining” is a decent summary.

      “This machine-technics will end with the Faustian civilization and one day will lie in fragments, forgotten — our railways and steamships as dead as the Roman roads and the Chinese wall, our giant cities and skyscrapers in ruins like old Memphis and Babylon.”

    • Walt said, on November 6, 2020 at 4:45 pm

      Something like 70% of HYP grads go into finance. I once talked to a junior patrician from my town who’d graduated Harvard and now runs a hedge fund and lives in Westchester county. When he said he’d graduated from Harvard and started as a physics major, I immediately said, “Oh, you work in finance now huh?” “How’d you know that?” he replied. “70% of graduates of Ivy Leagues go into finance. That’s where the money is.” He became long-faced as though he’d been caught betraying his principles, but then changed the subject to how he likes to build fine furniture in his free time.

      I don’t think hedge funds actually deliver monetary value versus, say, and index fund. But so what? Our money isn’t even real, like our elections.

  6. Carl said, on November 6, 2020 at 7:22 pm

    I think the fundamental flaw in Montesquieu’s three branches theory was thinking the third branch was the judiciary. It is not. It is the bureaucracy. The executive wrangles the bureaucracy, but they are separate things. Bureaucracy has its own expertise—law (judges), shooting people (military), street patrols (police), medicine (VA hospital), misinterpreting foreigners (State Dept, CIA), paperwork (all of them)—and to run effectively, people need to be promoted internally based on objective criteria, not the mere favor of their superiors. But to run effectively, a bureaucracy needs to be directed by someone with vision, responsive to the will of the people, and willing and able to fire (although death by 10K cuts is good too) them to get results. That is, or ought to be, the role of the executive. But our system is poorly conceptualized, and so the executive meddles in the bureaucracy without really directing it in any effective way. Instead the executive and the bureaucracy are just twin parasites, and legislature is paralyzed by its own ignorance and division. It’s a hard thing. It will get better someday because it can’t keep getting worse indefinitely without disruption, but the disruption may take a long time to come.

  7. Igor Bukanov said, on November 6, 2020 at 9:32 pm

    If data-obsessed technocrats are able to rule US for 80 years, then at least it should be acknowledged that they are good at selling their snake oil and sucking resources from the society. And given how good are they at doing that, one should be fascinated by those parasitic species. Like that Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus that alters ant’s brain so it travel to areas more suitable for fungus where finally fungus totally consumes the brain and spread its spores.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 6, 2020 at 11:27 pm

      It’s not so fascinating when they’re your next door neighbors. You could say the same about gypsies.

      Other countries should take heed though.

      • Igor Bukanov said, on November 12, 2020 at 11:28 am

        Gypsies is a transient problem. In Norway after WWII the government tried to settle them in government-provided apartments. Then after repeated failures they realized that they could just bye Gypsies motorhomes. That if not solved all the issues, at least made the problem transient enough to ignore it.

        And if a parasite is very successful, then the only practical solution is introduction of another species that feed on the parasite. This is what happens in nature with that fungus feeding on ants. It got own parasite. And it is rather successful strategy on some organic farms to the point that farmers starts to question why did they get involved with pesticides in the first place?

  8. George W. said, on November 7, 2020 at 5:16 am

    What did everyone expect?

    There was a book published in 1978, “Four Arguments for Eliminating Television” by Jerry Mander. It warned of the technocrats. Not trying to say that digital media is inherently evil, but the predictions therein have been highly accurate.

    Here are some random solutions I like to fantasize about in my freetime:

    -Tax and regulate advertising out of existence.
    -Dissolve Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and the rest of big tech
    -Turn the internet into a giant interconnected colorless book of hyperlinks.

    -Tax on colleges with useless majors like Intercultural dance studies
    -Eliminate subsidies for non-trade school colleges.

    -Term Limits
    -Public executions for politicians who accept bribes/money.
    -End tax benefits for NGOs, charities, large churches, and other nonsense
    -Simplify tax code.
    -Eliminate useless laws and lawyers.

    -Promote constructive competition in the economy.

    • William O. B'Livion said, on November 8, 2020 at 11:45 pm

      > -Dissolve Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and the rest of big tech

      You don’t have to dissolve it, just *actually* enforce the law. You can’t claim “common carrier” status if you don’t carry everything. As soon as you edit, you’re no longer a common carrier.

      > -Eliminate subsidies for non-trade school colleges.

      Engineering isn’t a trade, Graphic Design is. Which one is more useful? (And I say that as someone with LOT of Graphic Design college credits, and almost no Engineering credits).

      > -Term Limits

      That just leaves the politicians at the mercy of the permanent bureaucracy.

      Better to disperse the government. Break D.C. up and move all the agencies out across the country. HUD should be in Chicago. Move the Department of the Interior to Wyoming. Put the BATF in Idaho. Rename the Department of Defense back to the War Department and put it in Joplin Missouri. Make the Bureaucrats live among the people.

      Oh, and Congress is now *virtual*. No need to live in D.C., every District gets it’s own congressional office with a state of the art high bandwidth public conference room (and a smaller one for “secret” and “top secret” conferences). Then the congressional staffers live in the district with their constituents.

      > -Public executions for politicians who accept bribes/money.

      One of the problems with capital punishment–although I prefer the term “death penalty” is that juries tend to be squeamish about levying it. Other than that I’m all for it.

      > -Tax on colleges with useless majors like Intercultural dance studies

      Nah. Just make colleges responsible for the student loans they give out.

      > -End tax benefits for NGOs, charities, large churches, and other nonsense

      You’d get much better effect if you just require that *every* charity that is tax exempt keep two sets of accounts. One for the actual charitable work, and one for “overhead”, and that money that goes into “overhead” (salaries, etc.) has to be *explicitly* allocated by the giver.

      That’s what these guys do: https://www.charitywater.org/about/financials. EVERY dollar you give to them goes to getting water to people who need it. Unless you say otherwise, then THAT dollar goes to keeping the offices open and staffed.

      • Raul Miller said, on November 9, 2020 at 11:42 am

        It seems simple, doesn’t it?

        But our laws are designed with some “give” in them. Not a lot, but it adds up. People are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And even that concept itself isn’t universal because free speech allows some accusations of guilt without any court mediation. And then there’s the right to bear arms — if you’re dead, you’re dead (but maybe your friends aren’t, and also the police will have something to say about that, sooner or later).

        Meanwhile, the intent and design of government is to push back against the worst of the problems. Government is not about fixing all problems. Trying to fix all problems leads us right into the failure modes you illustrate. (But, on top of that, we have a bunch of treaty arrangements which were set up in the hope of averting another WWII.)

        I could give you various examples which would illustrate why these things are important. But… probably better is to go outside and take a walk.

        Actual disasters are rare events. They do happen. They do not happen often. It’s up to us to be prepared for them, as best we can. And I think that that’s a core issue that you’re pointing at.

      • George W. said, on November 10, 2020 at 1:39 am

        Please refrain from debunking everything I say. It will save us both time and frustration. Note that “solutions I like to fantasize about” is not equivalent to “ideas that I advocate for and believe will work without consequences.”

        You have some unique positions on these issues and are a somewhat fervent political thinker, why not start your own blog?


  9. rottenresearcher said, on November 9, 2020 at 1:44 am

    I support dissolving Google, Amazon, Facebook and etc, but my worry is how do we stop Baidu, Alibaba, Tecent and Tiktok like state-run foreign giants from taking over the world? The latter ones are exporting high-tech surveillance/censorship to non-democracy areas. This excuse is used by Zuckerburg in Congress I recall, but I don’t have a good answer to it.

    • George W. said, on November 9, 2020 at 4:53 am

      > how do we stop Baidu, Alibaba, Tecent and Tiktok like state-run foreign giants from taking over the world?

      Simple. Just ban them, we have the power to. Still, this is a complete fantasy. “Big tech” is basically all of wall street / the stock market. Congress is in bed with wallstreet: can you guess who’s on top and makes the decisions?

      Anything that threatens the power system is struck down. Look at what they did to Sanders in the democratic caucuses. It took a couple dozen lying corporate bozos, hundreds of millions and every news outlet in America to edge out a win against him.

      1.) Big tech is part of the propaganda automaton.
      Common forms of propaganda: colleges, advertising, social media, movies, cable television, news articles, etc.

      2.) America is being sedated.
      There are many sedatives: weed, antidepressants, junk food, porn, digital entertainment, social media, consumerism etc.

      3.) At some point, the propaganda arm will fail and people will wake up. This may result in war.

      Popcorn anyone?

      • William O. B'Livion said, on November 9, 2020 at 5:17 pm

        > Just ban them, we have the power to.

        Not really. I mean Congress can write the law, the President can sign it, and the SCOTUS can uphold it, but the infrastructure really isn’t in place to build the Great Internet Wall around America.

        > Congress is in bed with wallstreet

        If you have *any* sort of retirement plan beyond “Find an underpass to live under whilst I drink myself to death” then you too are “in bed” with Wall Street, or (if you’re not American) your countries version of it, unless you have a government pension. And if you have a government pension you’re even worse off–because you and your generation aren’t having enough kids to sustain those pensions without bringing in a lot of external workers, and then you get Paris and Germany.

        The problem isn’t Congress, or Wall Street. The problem is that WE have made a whole bunch of individual decisions to cut ourselves off from our neighbors and communities, and now we’re looking online to replace those connections. Which are then mediated by the technocratic elite. It is *trivial* delete facebook and twitter from your nerd dildo. It is trivial to remove *EVERYTHING* from that device except the essential functions that make it worth having. But you don’t. Hell, my wife still checks facebook and her IMs before she gets out of bed in the morning.

        And I’m guilty as hell of part of this. I moved a lot of my social interaction online in the early to mid 1990s, and haven’t been able to move most of it back (though I’ve been trying more). I’ve had email on my cellphone since April, and that only because my current “job” is delivering groceries to pay the mortgage while looking for other work–I’m out of the house for 8 to 10 hours a day where I can’t have a laptop to check email (for job search stuff). If I start the job I’ve been offered on Monday, that will stop.

        All we have to do is *individually* refuse to use the crap they feed us. It’s *our* responsibility.

        • Raul Miller said, on November 9, 2020 at 6:24 pm

          Well… think about this: The USA does not manufacture the surveillance gear. That’s made over on the other side of the Pacific. Also, ever since Reagan’s “trickle down ‘economics'” we have been shutting down most industrial efforts and switching over to being more of a sales and distribution outfit.

          Our laws are largely constructed by lobbying organizations and the actual law writing is delegated by congress critters to private outfits. And we have the GATT treaty which prohibits or restricts us from interfering with trade coming from outside the country.

          And, probably since before I was born, we have been trying to use markets to solve problems that markets can’t solve. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficient-market_hypothesis

          Anyways… all the evidence points at our government not actually having been in control here.

          Or: to the degree that we have an oligarchy, it’s an incredibly incompetent at being an oligarchy.

          • Raul Miller said, on November 9, 2020 at 6:25 pm

            (This comment was intended to be attached to what I see as the ‘Scott Locklin said, on November 9, 2020 at 12:48 pm’ comment. That didn’t happen. Yay wordpress, or something…)

          • Scott Locklin said, on November 10, 2020 at 3:00 pm

            Yeah, that’s what I mean by an oligarchy. The actual government working for the government’s self interest would do different things than what the oligarchy demands: which is all this looter capitalism horse shit. If you have a better word for “rule by oligarchs” than “oligarchy” -feel free to share.

            • Raul Miller said, on November 10, 2020 at 3:57 pm

              I am not really understanding what you’re saying, I guess.

              “Looter Capitalism” would seem to describe Wall Street, probably more than DC. And it doesn’t really describe our two party system, nor our federal/state system, nor our Hollywoodesque structures. Well… maybe it does describe Hollywood? I’ll have to think about that.

              Anyways, I’m not saying that we haven’t evolved a part of our country into a Looter Capitalist regime. To at least some degree we have. But:

              (1) I see to many other things going on in our own country for me to believe that we have a Looter Capitalist Oligarchy. We even have the remnants of an Industrial civilization (though not currently enough have much party representation).

              (2) Looking at international affairs, and looking at history, I think I see evidence that “Looter Capitalist” is a survival mechanism that kicks in when other systems fail — I think it can’t be unique to our country with all the issues which surround it.

              (3) We’ve got a massive farming economy. And it’s a sort of fractal structured thing where we’ve got all sorts of sizes of farms. And the profit margins there are way too low — with too much seasonal risk — for it to survive without a subsidy system. And this is basically the Republican voter base (granted, with a certain amount of resentment which builds up from the perceived unfairness of the subsidy systems).

              (4) I think “Capitalist” basically describes the post-WWII treaties which were set up to enforce economic interdependence between countries, to prevent another WWII from breaking out. Near as I can tell, that still is our best option. It’s just that we’ve gotten some important issues backwards, and that hurts.

              (5) Looter, though, … actually that one should be uncompressed. Like I said, I can see a Wall Street interpretation. But I can see a different interpretation which applies to governments in general. And, I can see yet another interpretation which applies to stuff like rioting.

              But … anyways.. oligarchy? I’m not seeing it.

              I think there’s other countries which much better fit the Oligarchy label (one party governments, in particular). And it seems like a really awkward label for the USA (not that politics makes a lot of rational sense, most of the time).

              That said, we only have one president at a time. Which does lead to https://xkcd.com/2383/ issues.


              I still think our two party system, puts us out of the running as an Oligarchy.

              • Toddy Cat said, on November 10, 2020 at 4:06 pm

                So if a country has two parties that are functionally identical except for fringe furbelows, collude with each other, and act in concert to slap down any challenges from outside the system, that’s not an oligarchy, just because the country has two semi-competing semi-cooperating gangs of sedentary bandits instead of one? Have you considered that maybe your definition of “oligarchy” is perhaps a bit too narrow?

                • Raul Miller said, on November 10, 2020 at 4:10 pm

                  Uh… I guess define “functionally” identical?

                  I mean — government is essentially a collective mechanism for damping out extreme changes. You don’t have a government if it doesn’t do that.

                  But if all government is “functionally identical”, there’s no meaningful distinction being drawn.

                  What you’re seeing, here, I think, is not an absence of differences in leadership. Instead, what I think you’re seeing here is that leadership changes largely depend on the underlying system continuing to function.

                  • Toddy Cat said, on November 10, 2020 at 4:49 pm

                    “government is essentially a collective mechanism for damping out extreme changes.”

                    Whose definition is this? And I guess that this is why we’ve seen no extreme changes in the US in the last fifty years. For God’s sake. Also, I don’t recall saying that all governments are “functionally identical”, just that mainstream Republicans and democrats were. By the way, you kind of dodged the question – can a country with a multi party system not be an oligarchy? If not East Germany, Putin’s Russia, and Singapore among others want an apology.

                    Look, the dictionary definition of oligarchy is “Oligarchy (Greek Ὀλιγαρχία, Oligarkhía, from óligon, “few,” and arkho, “rule” ) is a form of government in which political power effectively rests with a small, elite segment of society.” If you can’t see how this applies to the modern United States, I guess that we have nothing to discuss. If you don’t like the word oligarchy, call it what you will, but Scott is essentially right.

              • Scott Locklin said, on November 10, 2020 at 5:24 pm

                I look at Looter capitalism and actual Oligarchy as what happens when you allow a class of Oligarchs to sell and burn the proverbial furniture and move the proceeds, and eventually possibly themselves abroad. The post Soviet 90s era Russia a perfectly representative oligarchy. We still call Russia an Oligarchy, though it is much less so now that Putin has controlled the oligarchs. FWIIW Berezovsky literally set up a two party system of soft left and soft right, just like we have in the US, both controlled by the Oligarchs, just like we have in the US. His mistake, and that of his social class, was that he thought Putin was a little bureaucrat who would be easily controlled, rather than their undoing.

                Post Soviet Russia was legally a representative democracy, more or less like any of the West European countries. It was actually an Oligarchy; a very lawless one in early years, with literal pitched gun battles in the streets fought between …. used car dealerships on up. Just like the US is legally a representative democracy with two parties, but in actuality is controlled by Oligarchs. We don’t have pitched gun battles between oligarch factions in the streets. Yet. Now a days, Russia is something else: less like the 90s oligarchy, and more like whatever Singapore is. I think you will agree with me that Singapore is legally a representative democracy with European style parliamentary system; except effectively it is controlled by a single party and even a single man. A (mostly) benign dictatorship.

                It isn’t complicated; I think you just don’t like me calling America this naughty word. Perhaps you labor under the delusions inculcated in your high school civics class that America is what it claims about itself; a representative democracy. Uganda is also a representative democracy; with a matching GINI index even -do you believe them? Technically America has had the same system of government since the Canadians kicked our asses in 1812. Do you actually believe things work the same now as they did in 1813, or 1870, or 1935 or 1965? I don’t; those are all very distinctive eras with vastly different political systems as we have today. What we have today is very obviously an Oligarchy, even if we don’t like to admit it. It exerts its powers through corporations, NGOs, lobbying, blackmail (Epstein totally didn’t kill himself, and the pedophile Hastert is still a respected lobbyist), propaganda, bribery and physical threats.

                • Raul Miller said, on November 10, 2020 at 7:02 pm

                  Well.. I agree with you on a number of the factual issues. I’m just dubious about your labelling.

                  It’s like I said: to the degree the USA is an Oligarchy, it’s not competent at being an Oligarchy.

            • George W. said, on November 10, 2020 at 5:09 pm

              Shadow oligarchy may be the word of choice.

              On one hand, there’s no law preventing American corporations from adopting moral business practices and cutting out bureaucracy. Likewise, there are no laws preventing American citizens from electing competent leaders and politicians to do the same.

              The same can’t be said about China, and yet, in both America and China, the system of power is in the hands of a select few. Our technocrats provide the illusion of democracy, then in the shadows, the nihilistic oligarchs do what benefits themselves.

              Otherwise, someone explain why many policies that poll well and have obvious benefits (i.e., ending the wars & cutting military waste) are never enacted in congress?

              With this specific issue, I’ve noticed two trends. In right wing media, anyone opposed to neocon foreign policy is labeled weak, as hating the troops, and as wanting to destroy the military. Yet, nearly 2/3 s of veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanastan said they were not worth fighting.

              • George W. said, on November 10, 2020 at 5:15 pm

                (unedited. didn’t mean to send that^^)

                [1] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/10/majorities-of-u-s-veterans-public-say-the-wars-in-iraq-and-afghanistan-were-not-worth-fighting/

                Trend 2: In left wing media, they basically use the race card on anyone opposed to endless wars. Since everyone is racist/bigoted these days, that’s always a possibility. Sometimes they claim people are “Russian puppets or allies” or that they are weak–they did that to both Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.

                • Scott Locklin said, on November 10, 2020 at 5:30 pm

                  The authentic, aka “people who would like more economic equality” left pretty much self immolated with intersectionality and associated horse shit like “the progressive stack” during Occupy Wall Street. Mind you: intersectionality comes from programs in the colleges funded by oligarchs, and was pushed on mush headed leftists by their agents, basically to prevent the left from developing effective enough leadership to raise their taxes. Same shit is used on the antiwar left; elect a smiling spook-affiliated nonentity minority to tout the latest colonial wars; you’re a racist/homophobe/woman hater if you oppose.

                  It’s all very sad. Trump at least didn’t start any new wars, which is more than any other presidents since Nixon can say (or maybe Eisenhower if Laos counts). FWIIW, this is why I voted for Bernie (would have preferred Tulsi if it were even close) in the primaries; he’s real, and the rest are just lizard controlled neocon robots.

                  FWIIW outsourcing, surveillance dystopia, cancel culture, eternal war, mass immigration (to keep the peasants divided amongst themselves and salaries low), monopoly and oligopoly capitalism, racial and cultural strife, censorship: these are the principles of the uniparty. None of these things are popular or help anybody, but we still keep getting this, and have since the 80s. But hey, “I’m just a bill” schoolhouse rock is still true, so everything’s great, right?

                  • asciilifeform said, on November 10, 2020 at 8:29 pm

                    “Self immolated” is what the arsonists would like you to think. (Reminiscent of the Clinton-era “Branch Davidians self-immolated” !)

                    Instead, the “intersectionality” people get taxpayer funding and press exposure; while, e.g. the old-Left “where’s the shorter workday? why stopped at 8 hours, and creeping back up to 19th c. ?” people are effectively “unhappened” — neither Google nor supposedly “alternative” WWW search engines will index them.

                • Raul Miller said, on November 10, 2020 at 9:57 pm

                  Some things about “endless” wars, as I understand them are these:

                  (1) As far as any individual is concerned, war involvement is a rare thing.

                  (2) However, since WWII, preventing nuclear holocaust has become an issue which most people are (rightly) afraid to neglect.

                  Meanwhile, the USA was formed from international tensions and has since then been molded by them. Basically any country can buy laws that we are supposed to follow with only a few layers of indirection.

                  So we do a mix of being pushed in every direction while still trying to keep things from boiling over.

                  This puts us in a very strange position. But our politics almost start to make sense when viewed from this perspective.

                  • Walt said, on November 10, 2020 at 10:23 pm

                    That is a fitting explanation. For example, we elect Trump to get us/keep us out of wars. The Israelis like him more than Obama and Hillary who were on the side of the Palestinians. Trump won’t go to war in Syria at the request of Israel, so they turn on him. Netanyahu has already congratulated Biden, who will go back to funding the Palestinians.

                    Other big pushes come from Soros and other globalist billionaires who fund Antifa and BLM. Or from the Chinese as explained by H. John Poole. The list is really endless.

                    The pot is definitely boiling over because the plebes have figured out that this country doesn’t belong to them when it should because they’ve been fighting and dying for it.

                    • William O. B'Livion said, on November 15, 2020 at 7:14 pm

                      > For example, we elect Trump to get us/keep us out of wars

                      Getting us out of wars was not what the majority of people voted for Trump for. It was something that most didn’t believe.

                      Trump was elected for a LOT of reasons:

                      1) Not Hillary or Jeb Bush.
                      2) Putting America first (building the wall, renegotiating NAFTA etc.)
                      3) Draining the swamp.

  10. chiral3 said, on November 12, 2020 at 2:27 pm

    I’d argue that comparing today’s wars to yesterday’s wars is like comparing the political systems of 1812 versus today: very similar on paper, and that’s about it. The usual trope is that Vietnam (or maybe even Korea) was the beginning of unconventional warfare, but wars today are largely campaigns that serve murky purposes. Company men securing Montagnard assets and it’s ilk being a parallel, as counterinsurgency seems to be the thread. Save for “hearts and minds”, basicially CI, war today can be fought with sanctions and playing video games from a locker in Arizona.

    On the other hand, our psychological need to root out purpose and cause excessively ascribes “organization” to something that is largely “self-organizing” and emergent. Sure, corporations and NGOs benefit greatly but the conspiracies are tired. Isn’t much of the perception biased with inconsistent weights on either frequency OR severity, depending on the desired argument?

    Speaking for America, there are too many people to exert direct control. Thirty years ago a subset of people picked up the Inquirer on line at the local supermarket. Nobody believed the content. Reading, writing, and arithmetic scores were higher, as was the (non normalized) IQ of the nation. We had religion and community to keep people in check, focused on what’s in front of their noses, not losing their mind over an amplification of something that maybe did or didn’t matter 1000 miles away. We did lose our minds over real pictures of war, back when we had real-feeling wars with real pictures, where you could smell the cordite through the gelatin silver monochrome.

    Without a common language, without a common set of facts, we are doomed to not debate facts and instead debate opinions; and there’s no winners there. Inverted yield curves, fucked GINIs, mass unemployment, …, all the supposed cues derived from previous fallen civilizations can’t possibly be valid anymore.

    Back to work…

  11. Anonymous said, on November 13, 2020 at 11:51 pm

    the internet infamous Mencious Moldbug praises your blog at the linked timestamp—though you’d get a kick out of this: https://youtu.be/TmhMjSjegdw?t=5244

    • Chiral3 said, on November 14, 2020 at 3:57 pm

      Congratulations Scott, you’ve arrived. While acknowledgement by the NRx crowd is like a working class version of Thiel’s Weinstein, you could achieve permanent quasi-employment in a side gig developing half-ideas for a rabid and directionless group that, with sufficient numbers, could sum to a decent take out dinner once a month. I think I know the trick too: scour the literature and find a really obscure thinker, preferably from Italy or Austria – France has been pumped dry – and make rue they dabbled in esoterica, the occult, mysticism (not Russian, anything but Russian and the failed derivatives, like the Mount Analogue crew), mixed with economics and politics – of their time, preferably 100 to 200 years ago. Once you’ve found this person take their ideas and argue them against Delueze and Baudrillard and Marx and Neal Stephenson.

      All joking aside… coincidentally re-watching the first season of True Detective. Probably the single best thing to be influenced by the the accelerations/NRx group. Of course that group dabbled in pastiche for three decades. It’s ironic that, IMO, the single greatest thing that’s come out of it is a pastiche of their ideas cobbled together as a piece of streaming entertainment.

      • Scott Locklin said, on November 15, 2020 at 6:17 pm

        I’m pretty sure I argued with Yarvin at Rodericks Chamber back when we were both goths, and he was a shitlib who didn’t think there were any intelligent right wing people in the history of the human race. How many half-Ashkenazi, parents from South, parents worked in State Dept, works in telecom, master of run-on-sentence goths in San Francisco can there be? I mean, birthday paradox and all, but it seems unlikely.

        Anyway I don’t read his stuff (the last thing I read was 20,000 words that could be summarized in two sentences) or listen to podcasts so there’s no way to know for sure.

        • Anonymous said, on November 16, 2020 at 5:37 pm

          You’ll know for sure; I fully expect a book-length blog response if he sees this culminating in a call for the IPO of…America. On second thought, maybe he is still a “shitlib”.

  12. chiral3 said, on November 15, 2020 at 11:23 pm

    Scott, have you heard of, or have an opinion on the work of Peter Turchin or his 2010 prediction re 2020?

    E.g., http://peterturchin.com/cliodynamica/the-science-behind-my-forecast-for-2020/

    His cliodynamics focuses on mass-educated society creates more elites than there are elite jobs, the role of wars in prosperity, the emergence of religions in history as elites are created, etc. Leave it to a Russian. Not really into the prediction game, especially things that call for 50-year cycles, but some of the observations derived from history are interesting.

    • Scott Locklin said, on November 16, 2020 at 12:09 am

      I hate that guy!

      Numerology encapsulating the aphorism “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.”

      • chiral3 said, on November 16, 2020 at 6:33 pm

        Your quote reminds me of a somewhat thought-provoking FP article (never mind some of FPs political leanings)


        • Scott Locklin said, on November 17, 2020 at 1:12 am

          He got it wrong in the first paragraph. The Fremen were based on the Chechens (the book which inspired Dune is “Swords of paradise” if you’re interested), who are absolutely hard as nails. It’s a tiny little tribe; there are like 2 million of them, but they almost defeated 150 million russians with high tech, nukes and they still swing for the fences in overall violent insanity. Thank God for Kadyrov keeping most of them leashed. I hope he has Zuck killed for fucking with his Instagram.

          As for Tacitus; he was right -the germans were a huge danger. They destroyed the Roman empire after all; basically once they adopted a superior and literate religious culture and took some training in the Roman army, that was the end of Rome. Had the Roman elites invested in their own warrior class instead of destroying them and depopulating the countryside which bred them (and inviting in Goth refugees, lol), they might have lasted longer. Hell, even when they were illiterate cannibal savages they gave the early Caesars some frights.

          At present, the western nations have little to fear from barbarians, except the ones they invite into their countries …. to provide things for their social workers to do. This won’t necessarily always be so.

          I liked his series on primitive metallurgy, but he should stick to subjects he knows about.

          • Igor Bukanov said, on November 17, 2020 at 4:30 pm

            The state of Russian army greatly contributed to the defeat during the last Chechen wars. Chechens for little cash could get anything. There is a story about an officer who for few thousand dollars ordered a tank with full ammunition to drive for few kilometres and the crew to disembark. When they did it Chechens shot them and took the tank.

            • Scott Locklin said, on November 18, 2020 at 12:36 pm

              I’m sure this is true, and the Russians seem to have them well in hand now with their superior cunning, but even in the 80s it was known that the Chechen NCOs in the Soviet Army were like a different species for their steel testicles.

          • chiral3 said, on November 17, 2020 at 10:03 pm

            Sabres of Paradise. Ordered for the pile. Scott, you’re an awesome source of information, as always.

            Gotta stop off in Manchester the next time I am headed up to the Whites. Passed on a trip with some friends this week up in the Allagash (ME) that would have clipped by you. No cell reception up there. If you get hurt you have to figure out to unfuck your situation yourself. Hard to find wilderness like that anymore on the east coast. Some parts of the Adirondacks, western North Caroline, but anything less than ten miles from a trailhead has been ruined by COVID. Hiking and climbing aside, big difference between ADK and ME is the tool: compound versus 300 win mag. There used to be deer up there. Then there was a huge ice storm in the 1990’s and they were all wiped out. That’s why you never see deer and, even though I punch quarters with the compound at 60yds, much easier to reach out and touch with the 300. There’s still moose, though. In Alaska I’ve walked around areas and the Moose were hanging around like dogs – Kenai, Hatcher Pass – they are everywhere. They are survivors.

            Re the Chechens. I remember the first hardcore death I saw on the interwebs. This was decades ago when you couldn’t watch anything you wanted whenever you wanted like today. Napster days. It was a Chechen fighter beheading this dude in the woods. Even if there were fakes back then, you just knew this was real. It was grainy, but the sawing, the gurgling, the blood patterns, the body movement when he got spined. Brutal. Seared right into my memory and I can still picture it today.

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