Space Aliens & Talking Monkeys

On the Twitter machine, I saw this posted by Chris Hayes, a liberal airhead, who makes noise on cable television. Given that the BBC is advocating the return of blasphemy laws, I naturally assumed American liberals were now agitating for a police state. But, that was not the point of the tweet. It was a link to his article on something called The Hive. The irony was completely lost on him. Almost two decades ago Joe Sobran and Tom Bethell coined the term to describe the Left-Intellectual orthodoxy that rules us.

Hayes, of course, is an incurious dullard so it is hardly a surprise that he was unaware of the irony. MSNBC could have people dressed up in bumblebee costumes, dancing around the set of his show, and he would still not get it. Still, most people under the age 50 would not be aware of Joe Sobran and his writings about Progressive fanatics. The great convergence of the so-called Left and the so-called Right has sent all the old paleocons down the memory hole. Vast swaths of conservative thought has been largely forgotten.

The point here is that it is easy for information to get lost between generations. Most of the people, who were around when guys like Sobran were active, are either old men now or they were too young to appreciate what was being said. That and the long neocon war against Anglo-Saxon conservatism has gone on for so long that multiple generations of people have grown up believing these ideas were outside the realm of respectable thought. This has happened to libertarians, as well. How many Reason Magazine types are aware of Lew Rockwell?

The modern assumption is that human knowledge is accretive, which means it builds up over time. Each generation adds another layer of knowledge upon which subsequent generations puts down their layer of knowledge. After all, the technology of this age is more advanced than the technology of a century ago. The people in the age of the Great War were far more advanced than the people of the Napoleonic era. It certainly feels like technological progress is a steady accumulation from one generation to the next.

While it is true that we are technologically advanced compared to people in ancient Greece, the progress has been in fits and starts. Further, the progress has not been universal. The Greeks knew more about human nature and culture, for example, than modern people. Our intellectuals are advocates of the blank slate, which is a few clicks more ridiculous than the flat earth argument. Further still, some knowledge possessed by the ancients has been lost to us. Damascus steel and Greek fire are two examples.

There’s also something called The Sapien Paradox, which means, why did humans become smart so late? We know that the human brain evolved to its current state about 60,000 years ago. It took 50,000 years for humans to figure out agriculture. Over the last 10,000 years, humans developed symbolic concepts like notions of value, number and measure. Abstract social concepts like status and power, along with the symbols associated with them are, relatively speaking, very recent developments

Even in this recent run of progress, there were long periods where humans not only stagnated, but regressed. Life in Rome at the time of Julius Caesar was vastly better than life in Rome during the fifth century or even the tenth century. Agricultural technology regressed for much of the medieval period after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. If you departed earth from Europe in 1900 and returned to Europe in 1950, you would have assumed society collapsed and fallen back into barbarism.

The fact is, the store of human knowledge has leaks and is susceptible to spoilage over successive generations. This is obvious in the current state of space exploration. Two generations of men went from zero to landing on the moon. Now we struggle to get payloads into space. Right now we can’t return to the moon. It will take a generation to accomplish what happened two generations ago. Imagine what would happen if some great calamity strikes the world like an epidemic or nuclear war.

What does this have to do with space aliens?

Given that humans needed 10,000 years to go from domesticating animals for the first time to making it to the moon, we have some idea of where visiting space aliens would be on the evolutionary timeline. They would be at least 10,000 years ahead of us, maybe more. The reason for that is the technological jump, from where we are now to effectively transporting anything to another solar system, is about the same as the jump from riding a horse for the first time to riding a rocket to the moon at back.

There’s also the fact that this alien race would have figured out the problem of knowledge boiling off between generations and especially between cataclysms. The most likely solution for former would be much longer lives. If humans lived for 200 active, vibrant years, a reasonably smart person could learn everything to be known in his field and have time to add to it. The latter problem would require accumulating enough knowledge to avoid the society destroying cataclysms that have been a feature of human history.

Of course, being a very long lived species would have an added benefit when it comes to space travel. Launching a human to Mars and back is a one year mission. Landing on the planet probably makes it a two year trip. That’s about ten percent of a man’s prime space travel years. If we assume space aliens can reach something close to light speed, they would still need 40 years to get anywhere interesting. If they had lives roughly equivalent to a thousand earth years, then a trip to visit us would be like us going to the moon.

There you have it. If space aliens are out there and able to reach earth, they will most certainly be a very long lived species. This is not just for the travel issue, but for the store of knowledge problem. They will also have to be a several orders of magnitude smarter than modern humans. To them, we will be a dumb version of our ancestors, who first left Africa. It’s entirely possible the space aliens will find the insects and fauna of our planet more interesting than the talking monkeys.

Fake Science

Unless you have been in a cave the last year, you are well aware of the fact that most of what we call news is just made up. Any story with “sources say” in it is fictional. The writer simply conjured the sources and most likely the things they would have said, if they existed. Maybe someone did say something like what was reported, but the so-called reporter was not there to hear it. At best, they got it from the gossip chain or from some C-level talking head, cooling his heels in a cable television green room.

The worst for this is sports reporting, as they no longer even pretend to do be doing real reporting. They just make stuff up and slap the words “according to sources” on it and it is posted as news. Trade rumors are where you see this all the time. Since the people doing the deals for the sports clubs are not talking about their business on camera, the fake news reporters are free to just make up what they want, so they do. It’s all pitched as “rumors” so when it never happens, the fake sports reporters can “report” on that.

Even fake news needs content, which is where fake science comes in. There’s nothing better for a fake news story than a quote from a fake scientist, especially when the topic is human health. Turn on the local fake newscast and there’s always at least one fake story on health or diet. Many of these shows now have a recurring health segment where one of the bubble heads puts on their serious face and talks into the camera about some new threat to your health, usually your diet. It’s all fake.

Late in January, the researchers Jordan Anaya, Nick Brown, and Tim van der Zee identified some fairly baffling problems in the research published by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, one of the more famous and prolific behavioral-science labs in the country, and published a paper revealing their findings. As I wrote last month, “the problems included 150 errors in just four of [the] lab’s papers, strong signs of major problems in the lab’s other research, and a spate of questions about the quality of the work that goes on there.”

Brian Wansink, the lab’s head and a big name in social science, was a co-author on all those papers, and refused to share the underlying data in a manner that could help resolve the situation, though he did announce certain reforms to his lab’s practices, and said he would be hiring someone uninvolved with the original papers to reanalyze the data. Wansink, whose lab is known for producing a steady stream of catchy, media-friendly findings about how to nudge people toward healthier eating and habits in general, has also openly admitted to a variety of data slicing-and-dicing methods that are very likely to produce misleading and overblown results.

What the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell does, is not science. Calling it science is a crime against the language, as well as science. For instance, they will have participants eat a variety of lunch offerings and then grade them on their perceived “healthiness.” Naturally, people get the “wrong” results, because there’s no fixed definition of “healthy” with regards to food. This allows the “scientist” doing the study to write a paper claiming that people are brainwashed into picking the wrong foods or that people need more education on diet.

Wansink’s problems just got a lot worse. Today, Brown, a Ph.D. student at the University of Groningen, published a blog post highlighting many more problems with Wansink’s research practices. First, it appears that over the years, Wansink has made a standard practice of self-plagiarism, regularly taking snippets of his text from one publication and dropping them into another — a practice that, while not as serious as outright data fraud or plagiarizing someone else’s material, is very much frowned upon. And sometimes it was more than “snippets.” Brown includes the following image of one Wansink article in which all of the yellow material (plus three of the four figures, which Brown said he couldn’t figure out how to highlight) is lifted from Wansink’s own previously published work:

In another instance, Brown writes, Wansink appears to have published the same text as two different book chapters at around the same time. “Each chapter is around 7,000 words long,” he writes. “The paragraph structures are identical. Most of the sentences are identical, or differ only in trivial details.”

What this suggests is the people running the place know full well that all of it is bullshit and nothing close to being real research. Once you come to accept that, going through the exercise of setting up dramatizations of real research work probably seems pointless. If you know the results in advance, the exercise is just silly. What we have here are adults kitted out in lab gear, live action role playing as a real scientists at a real lab. Their published work is just for the purpose of financing their fantasy game.

The root cause of the replication crisis in the soft sciences is mostly due to the fact that it is it not science. It’s market research. They try to quantify some behavior in order to pitch an idea already popular in the mass media or with the managerial class. By slapping the word “science” on it, they are pitching their role as an authority. Bill Nye, the toaster repairman, has made a killing claiming to speak for science on behalf of the cult of Gaia worship. The Cornell Food Lab does the same thing, but for nutrition and food marketing.

This points to one flaw in Karl Popper’s famous definition of science. What is unfalsifiable is classified as unscientific. Science, according Popper, is that which can be invalidated or disproved. This sounds good until you look at the Cornell Food Lab. Everything they do can be invalidated, as almost all of it is nonsense. Therefore, it meets the definition of science as described by Popper. It also means that a pseudo-science can easily masquerade as science.

A better, more narrow definition of science is that science concerns itself with causation. If A causes B then science explains how A causes B. Analysis, on the other hand, points out that whenever we see B, we often see A, therefore, there is a correlation between A and B. That’s just observation. Statistical analysis takes observation further by apply probability to it. It’s not useless and it often aids science, but it is not science. It’s simply observation and analysis, and more often than not, pseudo-science.

Somewhere Eichmann Smiles

When I was a teenager, abortion was one of the big issues in politics and social policy. Bill Buckley used to say it was one of three issues that told you everything about a man’s politics. It turns out he was wrong about that, as so many of his tribe were pro-life for effect, as a part of the Frank Meyer “fusionism” strategy. Putting that aside, for normal people, abortion was the issue that defined you politically. Liberals were pro-abortion and non-liberals were pro-life. The latter emphasized the sanctity and uniqueness of each life while the former rejected that entirely.

Here we are 30 years later and abortion is not much of an issue for our politicians. There are some who make it a centerpiece of their politics, but they are rare exceptions. The so-called conservatives that we see in the commentariat wince when the topic is raised. You get the sense they look at it like public professions of faith, something the Dirt People still do, but unbecoming of a Cloud Person. They go through the motions, as we will see with the court nominee, but the result will be that a “conservative” judge will swear to never ever think about altering abortion law.

The thing that the pro-life people never could accept is that the pro-abortion people were never really pro-abortion, at least not as they advertised it. Sure, the barren spinsters protesting in the streets for a “woman’s right to choose” are pro-abortion, but they are the dull witted shock troops of the Cult of Modern Liberalism, organized around simple ideas in order to get them out in the streets making noise. The women who were running around dressed as vaginas last month had no idea why they were doing it. They just liked the drama and the attention.

The real core of the abortion movement is blank slate ideology, which has become a foundation item for the Left. Since all humans are the same at birth, the only thing society should care about is the number of live births and the social structures for shaping and forming these amorphous blobs as they come into the world. Babies born to mothers not “properly trained” to be good citizens will not get the proper training so the emphasis of the abortion movement has always been about making sure the woman is “ready to be a mother” as if it is just another job within the state.

Anyway, another example of how far and how fast we have moved away from the idea that human life is unique and precious is what we are seeing with gene editing.

An influential science advisory group formed by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine on Tuesday lent its support to a once-unthinkable proposition: clinical efforts to engineer humans with inheritable genetic traits.

In a report laden with caveats and notes of caution, the group endorsed the alteration of human eggs, sperm and embryos — but only to prevent babies from being born with genes known to cause serious diseases and disability, only when no “reasonable alternative” exists, and only when a plan is in place to track the effects of the procedure through multiple generations.

“Once unthinkable” basically means last week. In the Bush years, we had big fights about the use of embryonic stem cells for use in experiments. Now, we’re about to start experimenting on actual humans, without really knowing the result. This is, of course, eugenics. The Cloud People will not use the word, because they believe they killed that word and the bad juju that comes with it, but that’s just the nature of magical thinking. Once you step onto the path of designing humans, you are in the world of eugenics.

The counter argument will be that this is not really human experimentation. That embryo they are editing is not a person. It’s not like they will be pulling kids out of school and zapping they with the CRISPR gun to “fix” their defects. That sort of argument is a dodge and a common one used by our betters. Left unmentioned is the reason to edit the embryo, which is so that the resulting human comports with what the editors set out to create as a finished product. It’s designer babies and that’s eugenics.

There’s another aspect to it. Mistakes will be made. In fact, dig around in the literature and that is the assumption. The process will involve multiple embryos and the correct one will be used and the rest discarded. This assumes human error. But then, maybe the human error is not detected until six months into pregnancy or six years into life. Like any other manufacturing process, recalling defects will have to be a part of the discussion at some point. If you are buying a designer baby, you will want to get what you paid for, which means sending back the lemon, if it comes to it.

The Fake News

There’s not much new under the sun. Governments have been putting out propaganda to fool the public since the first guy figured out he could order some other guys to stack one rock on another. The trick is for the people in charge to appear to believe their own bravo sierra, but not actually believe it. If a ruler begins to think he is actually a god, for example, he is going to start making terrible errors. He needs the people to think he is a god, but he has to know he is a man and vulnerable to all the same defects as any other man.

Put another way, rulers must never get high off their own supply. A good example of this is the agit-prop about the Russians hacking the election. Polling shows that close to 60% of the public thinks the “Russians hacked us” stories are ridiculous. About 20% seem to think it happened and matters. That 20% is most assuredly the back benchers from the Cult of Modern Liberalism. That would not be a big deal, except the news media and the White House, at least for a few more weeks, are run by these people.

The result is the Obama White House is getting pressure from their toadies in the press to do something about the Russian hacking that never actually happened.

Over the past four months, American intelligence agencies and aides to President Obama assembled a menu of options to respond to Russia’s hacking during the election, ranging from the obvious — exposing President Vladimir V. Putin’s financial ties to oligarchs — to the innovative, including manipulating the computer code that Russia uses in designing its cyberweapons.

But while Mr. Obama vowed on Friday to “send a clear message to Russia” as both a punishment and a deterrent, some of the options were rejected as ineffective, others as too risky. If the choices had been better, one of the aides involved in the debate noted recently, the president would have acted by now.

The options are risky because the White House knows the hacking story was made up to pacify the lunatics. They also know the Russians know it was made up. Creating a diplomatic crisis over something both sides know is a fiction – and a ridiculous one at that – is very dangerous. The Russians will assume there must be some other reason for the move. Once countries are left to guess about motives, things can spiral out of control quickly. Thus the White House has to just make a show of it, but not actually do anything.

The “Russians hacked us” stuff does show how the Left is expert at narrative management. They can easily retrofit the past, even the very recent past, into the official story line. If necessary, they will rewrite the narrative on the fly. You see that in this section of the linked story.

Mr. Obama is the president who, in his first year in office, reached for some of the most sophisticated cyberweapons on earth to blow up parts of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Now, at the end of his presidency, he has run headlong into a different challenge in the cyberwarfare arena.

The president has reached two conclusions, senior officials report: The only thing worse than not using a weapon is using it ineffectively. And if he does choose to retaliate, he has insisted on maintaining what is known as “escalation dominance,” the ability to ensure you can end a conflict on your terms.

Obama did nothing of the sort. It was the Israelis who sabotaged the Iranian reactors with malicious code. In fact, the US intelligence community was as baffled as everyone else about how the Israelis pulled off one of the great cyberwarfare capers of all time. But, that does not serve the narrative so the past will now be restated. The new past is Obama opened a desk drawer and pulled out a “cyber weapon” to deploy against the Iranians, like the Bond villain often does when he thinks he finally has Bond trapped.

Of course, the bigger problem here is that running endless fake news stories erodes public trust in the media and their government supervisors. Fifty years ago, people could suspect something was bullshit, but proving it was often impossible. Today, there is too much information and too many ways to disseminate it. This stuff is quickly exposed and the public becomes more skeptical, as well as better able to spot the lie. That’s why only nut jobs believe the Russian hacking stuff.

Russian hackers are real. So are Ukrainian hackers and Chinese hackers and Nigerian princess looking for your bank account number. The great threat to network security, however, is not a secret team of super villains writing malicious code. The broken window is the old guy, who is uncomfortable with technology, using “pass123” as his password. John Podesta was not hacked. He had a childishly simple password and he left it lying around for people to see.

According to research, 4% of people use “123456” as their password. Cracking that is not hacking. It is guessing. According to the revelations in WikiLeaks, the people working for Team Clinton at State shared passwords with one another. That means one person leaving the door open exposes everyone, which is what happened in every conceivable way. The reason all of this private information ended up in the public during the campaign is the people producing it are morons and should never be trusted to keep secrets.

That’s ultimately the real news behind the fake news. A skeptical public was presented evidence that confirmed their skepticism. The attempts to retroactively discredit these revelations is only reinforcing the general sense that the mainstream media cannot be trusted. Trust in major media is at all time lows and their audience is dissipating as people seek out alternatives. There’s nothing mysterious about it. As the gatekeepers lose control of the gates, the public learns the truth about what lies beyond the gates.

Forever Young

Greg Cochran has a short post up soliciting opinions on what will be the next big thing in science and technology. He is not fishing for the next smartphone app or medical cure. I think he means the big new field of study or technological advancement. It is one of those posts that is not intended to be interesting, but to get the readers noodling over the question. Judging from the comments thus far, that is the way his readers have read the post. It seems to be another stab at the topic he started the other day.

It is an interesting question as we do seem to have reached the point of diminishing returns with the microprocessor. E-mail was a huge game changer. The mobile phone was another big leap into the unknown. The web probably comes in third, but it still had an enormous impact on humanity. These inventions have changed the way humans interact with one another and continue to put stress on the organizational systems we have had in place since the Enlightenment. Donald Trump just won an election by mastering Twitter.

We have reached peak chip, so to speak. The low hanging fruit has been picked and we’re well on the way to commodification of technology. That’s not to say there is no more work to be done in tech. It’s just that the boom years are over and the industry is now mature. The next big ideas, the stuff that could alter society, will be coming from somewhere else. The temptation is to think it will be some new technology like genetics or nanotechnology. Those fields have the futuristic vibe futurists like.

Genetics does have the prospect of being highly disruptive. Just take a look at how 23andMe or Ancestry.com sell their products. Implicit in their pitch is that race and ethnicity are in your DNA. That means race is not a social construct. Ancestry disguises this by using multi-racial actors, but the implication is clear. Similarly, the ability to predict things about people at an early age, based on examining their DNA, could be very disruptive. Imagine what happens to insurance when you can test for risk of heart attack.

The thing is, a lot of this information has been available to us through other means. Humans have known for a long time that people are not the same across race or ethnicity and most people still know it, even if they don’t say it. Even so, it has no impact on public policy or on the howling of the multiculturalists. We’ve also known that the apple does not fall far from the tree. If the kid is born to losers, the kid will probably be a loser. How the kid is raised has little to do with it, but we still preach the morality of parenting.

A more promising area where something game changing could come is in the field of aging. Humans live longer and are healthier than ever and it has already had a huge impact on society. All of our pension and insurance schemes are broken mostly because people live too long. Long living has resulted in children maturing more slowly, in terms of social status. A century ago, a man went to work as a teen and had a family by the time he hit 20. Today, men live at home until 30 and start families well into their 30’s.

Imagine what happens if science finds a way to push the expiry date out a few more decades. Imagine if 100 becomes the new 65, in that the 100 year old is as vigorous as the typical 65 year old. Imagine that the golden years of retirement start at 110. This is standard stuff in science fiction, but it may not be too far off in reality. British researchers have figured out how to drastically slow the aging of mice. That opens the door for not only slowing the process, but arresting it. Forever young may not be too far off.

Even if that is beyond the pale, think about the impact of Viagra. Invent a pill to keep the needle pointing north and the world beats a path to your door. Imagine a pill to end gray hair or crow’s feet. Even if people don’t live to 150, just being healthier and more vigorous late into life could have a huge impact on society. Retirement, for example, would make a lot less sense if you had plenty of juice well into your senior years. Of course, retirement would become something radically different too. Our view of aging would radically change.

The reason to think that life extension and aging is the place to see great innovation in the near term is mostly economic. Penis pills made their makers very rich. A gray hair pill or a wrinkle cure would similarly make their makers billions. Just look at the number of men seeking out HGH from black market sources. The market for anything that extends life or extends youthful vitality is the market of all people. Is there anyone who would not buy a pill that makes you look as good as you looked in the flower of youth?

The Unreadable Web

The other day, I was reading something on-line and followed a link to one of the business sites. The first thing to happen was a useless popup. I have a pop-up blocker, but many of them still slip past for some reason. After years of dealing with pop-ups, my mouse hand is trained to close the window on instinct. It is a reflex now. I closed it only to have another open and I closed it. A minute reading the site, the screen goes dim and I get a message telling me that I am running an ad-blocker, along with a lecture about how that is mean.

I just closed the site and moved on. In fact, this has become my habit. If the site has any of this junk, I just close the site and move onto other things. I respect the fact that sites need to make money so they post ads, but having to navigate through a sea of clutter just to read 500 words or look at a picture is not a good use of my time. I’ve observed others do the same thing I do when it comes to pop up windows. Before they load, people close them so they do nothing more than annoy the reader. They are otherwise useless.

The main reason I run the ad-block stuff is that many of these embedded ads have malware. If a website wants to monetize my viewership by infesting my computer with malignant software, I have no qualms about blocking their attempts to monetize my viewership. Therefore, the lectures that are becoming common on websites about the immorality of running ad-block strike most people as ludicrous. It’s why the Brave browser is gaining a market. It blocks the ads and it blocks the nag screens about ad-block.

Of course, it is not just ads or pop-ups. The proliferation of scripting has made many sites unreadable on a phone or tablet, unless you use something like ghostery. The Washington Times is a perfect example. It is more ad than content and the scripts never seem to load properly, so the site looks like a Picasso painting most of the time. I stopped going to the site entirely as it took too much effort to make it work. If I have to redesign my web browser to look at your site, I’m probably not going to bother visiting your site.

The truly monstrous thing done by web designers is embedded audio and video. By default, I now turn off my sound so I don’t have to hunt around looking for where the noise is coming from on the web page. I use a flash blocker to get rid of most of it, but some of it still slips past. That means YouTube does not work, so I have two browsers. One is for video and the other for daily browsing. When I’m ruler of these lands, the people responsible for embedded, autoplay video will be torn to pieces and fed to the dogs.

Those who have read Jospeh Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies will probably recognize a familiar pattern. The first ads on websites were a big hit, relative to their cost. That banner at the top for Joe’s Diner cost nothing, but made something. That’s an infinite return on investment. The next wave of ads came with a cost, both direct and indirect. The former was the cost of weaving them into the sites. The latter was the cost of people using ad-blocker and other tools to limit the number of ads in the way of the content.

As we have move from the physical world of content to the virtual world, the demand for more revenue, drives the ever more complex methods to monetize the website. The costs ratchet up, but the barriers also get higher as users find more and better tools to defeat the ads and scripts. The Brave browser costs me nothing and does a great job filtering almost all of this stuff from my view. We’re not far from the time when you pay a monthly fee for a browser that filters all ads from all sites. That’s the model Brave is pursuing..

Web sites are probably near the point of negative returns, with regards to monetizing their content. That’s why so many are going back to the old subscription model. It may not fix their revenue problems, but they have no other option. The ad model is simply not working. That, of course, means the ad model is probably nearing collapse. Once big sites begin to rethink how they monetize their content, everyone else follows. A web of paywalls and subscriber-only content is probably the future for the large scale content makers.

Whether or not that is sustainable is a topic for another day.

 

Fat People

Last month when I was in line waiting to vote, I spotted an extremely fat woman. She was so fat, her ankles rubbed together. Judging by the three gallon bucket of soda pop in her hand, I’m assuming she was not the victim of elephantiasis or some other disease. Everything about her was fat, even her head, which was the size of a bowling ball and covered in pink-dyed fur. How she was able to get around with hundreds of pounds of fat attached to her is a mystery. I would think the mere act of toting around so much weight would result in weight loss.

Last week, I stopped at the ghetto market for a few items and spotted a couple in the snack aisle. The man was something like a large ball with arms and legs. I estimated his diameter was close to 24 inches. That would mean his belt was 75 inches. His wife was of similar size. My first thought was how they were able to, you know, enjoy the marital bed. Is it even possible that they find one another attractive? I suppose it is possible that all of their energies are focused on moving around their girth and finding enough food to maintain their weight so sex is a non-issue.

Anyone familiar with American poverty knows that our poor people are fat, very fat. There are exceptions like drug addicts or those spindly ectomorphs you see loitering on street corners. Black woman, of course, are almost always fat. This is something most everyone knows. The ancients drew images of African women with giant stomachs and buttocks. In all probability, this is a genetic issue with West Africans. Even so, across the ethnic spectrum, American poor people are fat. Even our Mexicans are fat now.

In fact, Mexico is the world’s fattest country. This is mostly likely due to the fact that food is cheaper now than at any time in human history. It’s extremely hard to starve your people these days. Food is just too cheap and plentiful. Even basket case countries like those in sub-Saharan Africa have more than enough food. That’s most likely the cause of the population boom in Africa. The Malthusian limit has been pushed much further out so the population has exploded.

Public health officials tell us that obesity is a crisis in America. Being fat supposedly results in an exploding number of maladies like diabetes and heart disease. This drives up health costs thus collapsing the technocratic schemes cooked up by the managerial class. It’s important to remember that public health officials are usually wrong. For example, they said AIDS would jump from the bathhouse and heroin den into the middle-class suburbs. That never came closer to happening.

Even if obesity is a public health problem, it’s unlikely that there can be a public policy to address it, other than deliberate starvation of the people. Our Germans probably have the same obesity rates as Germans in Europe. The same is true across the ethnic landscape. We’re forbidden to notice that blacks and Mexicans are very fat, compared to everyone else. That means we’re forbidden to note that honky obesity rates are not too far off from Europeans rates. That would be racist and everyone knows race does not exist.

The point of this observation is to note that biology is beyond the reach of public policy. If fatness has some serious detriments to the population, then it will sort itself out over time. If fatness becomes associated with low status people, then there will be cultural pressure to not be fat. Smoking rates have declined not so much due to public policy, but from the fact famous people stopped smoking. It stopped being cool with famous people. Fatness will follow a similar path. We are seeing that with black actresses and singers.

Still, humans have never had to deal with the problems that come from too much food and too much free time to consume it. We really have no idea what will come from it and how it will hurt or help society. There could very well be a huge upside to having lots of fat people. Perhaps when the zombie apocalypse comes, the zombies will eat the fat people and be satisfied, leaving the rest of us to regroup. That’s unlikely, but nature tends not to reward that which is deleterious to a species. Nature is self-correcting.

There’s no reason to think that public policy in a liberal democracy would be capable of addressing problems that stem from excess. Liberal democracy evolved in an age of great inequality and scarcity. Having a super rich aristocracy could not work while the peasants were starving. We now have a mega-rich aristocracy while the peasants are munching snacks and playing video games. They are doing these things at public expense. The bottom half of America is receiving direct and indirect public assistance these days.

Would the super-rich aristocracy of today have the will to impose rules on the bottom half, with regards to their welfare? Mayor Bloomberg came the closest with his soda and salt bans, but they went no where. Even his peers snickered at his prudery. Would these same people be willing to back exercise requirements and fitness exams in exchange for welfare benefits? Probably not. A feature of the modern aristocracy and their attendants in the managerial elite is a fear of confrontation. Hence the passive-aggressive culture of the rich.

We’ll just have to rely on nature to solve the obesity problem.

Too Stupid To Rule

Talk to anyone in law enforcement and they will tell you that the stupidity of criminals is a key part of solving crimes. The crooks leave clues and make huge blunders that allow the cops to catch them. Ray-Ray decides he has had enough of Peanut disrespecting him so he walks up to him at a party and starts shooting. Not only are there a million witnesses, Ray-Ray leaves the gun with his fingerprints and brags to his buddies latter that he just dusted Peanut at a party. It’s not a hard case to solve because Ray-Ray is a moron.

That comes to mind when reading the stories about the Clinton secret e-mail caper. We have enough of the details at this stage to have a rough idea how we got to this point. They wanted to have a secret communication method that would be not be subject to government security and Freedom of Information Act requests. They also figured that this secret system would be free from Congressional oversight. After all, if no one knew it existed, then no one could ask any questions about what was on it.

It’s not hard to imagine the conversations leading up to the decision to go with this plan versus using Google or Yahoo accounts. They figured that the reason guys like General Patraeus got caught using Gmail was that the government IT people were able to tell when people were accessing these systems via their work computers. Alternatively, they just assumed the government had access to these system like they do in the movies. Either way, they determined that using these options for personal stuff was a bad idea.

Hilariously, it appears they came to the conclusion that having their own e-mail server meant that all the e-mail was magically hidden in the box in Hillary’s bathroom. Their subsequent attempts to erase the hard drives suggests they did not know that e-mail travels across networks and is also stored on the receiver’s servers. Those servers are usually on a network not controlled by the recipient. They started to realize this at some point, which is why they smashed their phones and laptops.

The most amusing part of this caper is they started sending e-mails from this domain to people outside the domain. If they had kept this as a tight internal communication system, they could have got away with it. Highly secure e-mail systems actually work this way. You cannot send or receive mail from outside the domain. That way people cannot forward mail off the system and the system is not exposed to outsiders looking for an open window. In some government facilities, access is only through terminals in the facility.

Once e-mail was sent from the domain to outsiders, it was only a matter of time before the secret was out. They were lucky that most media people are remarkably stupid so they lack the wherewithal to wonder why Hillary Clinton did not have a State Department e-mail account. Watch the cable channels and you come away thinking that the people on TV just learned about e-mail last week. Eventually the Romanian cab driver unearthed the whole thing and the enterprise came crashing down.

The other bit of interest in the area of technical competence is how they responded to FBI requests for their e-mail. They printed them off and turned them over as paper documents. These are lawyers and they just assumed they could bury the government with paper. After all, how can they possibly organize 50,000 pages of e-mail? This is an old trick. In discovery one side asks for everything so you give them everything plus a mountain of junk they have to sort through to find what they want.

What they failed to understand is that the FBI digitized this stuff in a day or two. Modern high speed scanners can process 50 pages a minute. OCR technology can turn the paper into a machine readable document. Content management systems let you store millions of documents so they can be searched and sorted based on content. I have this on my laptop so I can stash all of my documents in a database, rather than file folders. The Clinton people were as ignorant of this as they were of how e-mail worked.

There are a lot of angles to these Clinton scandals, but the thing that transcends all of it is the rank stupidity of the people involved. There were safer and more secure ways to establish clandestine communications. Even with their setup, a modest amount of discipline would have prevented most of this from happening. All they had to do was limit mail going out of the system. When the time came to burn it down, they only had to destroy the server entirely and no one would be able to prove anything.

The argument from Team Trump in the closing days of the election is that Hillary Clinton is too corrupt to rule. He’s painting her as the face of the larger problem, which is the metastasizing corruption of the ruling class. It’s a good closing argument and it resonates, but the reason Hillary should not rule is she is dangerously incompetent and she surrounds herself with outlandishly stupid people. A society can survive crooked rulers, but it cannot survive stupid ones. Hillary Clinton is too stupid to rule.

Unsocial Media

The coining of the term “social media” was not the observation of a new phenomenon or some new way for people to interact. Bulletin board systems had been around since the early days of the internet. By the early 1990’s, there were millions of people posting on these systems. Newgroups and e-mail lists were also around in the early 1990’s, as cheap modems rolled out to the public. Message boards came along in the mid-90’s and soon took over as the dominant community platform on websites.

The new term to describe what was happening was the signal that new controls were coming to discourse on the internet. Something that is social, community owned, must have community standards. Those standards must be enforced and that means people must be given the authority to enforce those standards. In other words, it was the starter’s gun unleashing the totalitarians and pink skits to goose step in and start pushing people around on-line. Now, everywhere you go, there are posting rules and moderation.

What was fun about the internet in the olden thymes was the lack of rules, at least in terms of what you could say and how you could say it. Debates on bulletin boards or news groups were viscous vicious (It was late and one “slipped” through editing) and no holds barred. The term “troll” used to mean a poster who trolled for attention by posting provocative things. That’s what made these things fun. The early on-line communities were experiments in social dynamics, without the usual social limitations. This old list of Usenet types gives you a flavor of it.

Un-monitored and unregulated arenas for people to speak freely are a danger to the established order, so it did not take long for the usual suspects to start looking for ways to put an end to it. There was also the fact that millions of people were getting on-line, without knowing that internet culture was a bit rough. Polite always triumphs over right and before long all but the underground sites were heavily regulated. Sites like Faceberg and Twitter were built on the idea of pleasing the easily offended.

The trouble with policed communities, is the old saw about who will police the police. The sort of people that go in for being site moderators, are exactly the sort of people you never want in those positions. It’s not long before they start abusing their power and people start getting banned. It’s why Faceberg is mostly for old people to view pics of their grandchildren. It’s also why Twitter is imploding. When milquetoast users like Instapundit are deemed out of bounds, it’s a matter of time before all the interesting people are gone.

It’s also why alternatives to the mainstream options are growing up all of a sudden. Gab is the first alternative to Twitter with any chance of succeeding. Quitter is actually a better platform, but it has not caught on with English speakers. Gab is targeting the alt-right and troublemakers like me, promising an anything goes environment. They are also improving on the concept, rather than trying to please the managerial class. Longer message lengths and a better interface are the two obvious improvements over Twitter.

Vox Day is behind the alternative to Wikipedia. It’s called Infogalactic and it is intended to be the non-PC version of an on-line encyclopedia. Like Gab, they are using better technology to improve the user experience, but the real point of the effort is to be an alt-right alternative to Wikipedia. To quote the associated blog, “The single biggest problem with Wikipedia isn’t Jimmy Wales or its outmoded 1995 technology, but the fact that it is patrolled by 532 left-wing thought police who aggressively force their biased perspective on the rest of the world.”

My bet is someone is plotting an alternative to Facebook or simply something better, that serves a similar purpose, but without the social justice warriors. The fact is, Facebook is not doing anything all that clever from a technological point of view. There’s also the alternative media sites with open comments, that are the intellectual engine of the rebellion. This story in the neocon magazine American Interest about the boom in high brow sites catering to heterodox opinion is worth a read.

I think what we are seeing is two things. One is the Progressive enforcers have squandered their legitimacy enforcing rules that are unenforceable. People get tired of being treated like children by depressed women taking revenge on the world as forum moderators. So, there is demand. There’s also the fact that people trafficking in the ideas popular on the fringe want to debate with others into the same things. There’s nothing more dull than reading a comment section filled with mainstream drivel.

The downside of this, and the inevitable consequence to the current social unrest, is a balkanizing of social media. Gab will be Twitter for hate thinkers, while Twitter will be the home of the establishment, assuming Twitter remains in business. There will be those who get their news and analysis from hate thinkers like Sailer and those who read establishment sites. The internet will be a world of fractured reality and that will inevitably show up in society as a whole. To some degree, that already exist in terms of who watches which cable news channel.

The downside of this process is it means the alt-right, Dissident Right and whatever else this thing we’re doing is called, is going to self-ghettoize. The people who still read National Review, for example, will not see comments from hate thinkers like me. At the same time, hate thinkers will stop reading the mainstream press and lose perspective about the greater world around them. Instead of “bringing people together” social media will end up amplifying the balkanization of American society.

Evolutionary Madness

Back in the spring I did a post on the trouble with artificial intelligence. I fully admit to being a skeptic and I tend to avoid reading much of the cheer-leading for it. Automation will plod ahead, as we have seen. We will see “smart” devises popping up in our lives with varying degrees of success, but no one alive will see the robot future because it will always be the future, never the present. Human intelligence is much more complex and mysterious than the futurists understand so it is just really fast calculators, not Terminators.

The point I alluded to in the post is we have a very poor grasp of how humans manage to navigate the reality of life. Most people engage in a great deal of magical thinking, yet they manage to avoid killing themselves doing something stupid. We’re not even sure how to define this magical thinking, much less quantify it. Close to half of Icelanders believe in elves, which is nutty, but it does not seem to cause them much trouble. Americans believe in magic dirt, despite it being laughably ridiculous.

Self-evolving artificial intelligence could follow the same path as humans and develop all sorts of weird defenses against the harsh realities of life. Or, it could quickly discover that the big questions have no answer and therefore life is not worth living. Artificial Intelligence would quickly evolve into a suicide machine and be gone as soon as it becomes self-aware. The odds of it resembling Spock are close to zero, with the most likely outcome being that it quickly moves through homicidal sociopathy to suicide.

We really don’t know how or why humans all have heads full of nonsense. Humans everywhere have evolved complex beliefs in the supernatural. The working theory is that belief, as in religious belief, was one of the first modern human traits, along with language. Some argue that it is a happy accident, while others suggest the believers tend to be better at making babies, so we end up with more believers than would otherwise be predicted. If you have been reading this blog, you’ll know I’m in the former camp.

A guy calling himself  Donald Hoffman takes this further and argues that humanity has evolved to perceive a world that does not exist, but that allows us to thrive in the world as it exists. Here is a longish interview with him where he explains his theory in some detail. Here’s a shorter NPR summary of that interview that captures the high points. The even shorter version is we are all in a matrix of our own design where we eagerly take the blue pill whenever reality becomes too much for us.

To me, this makes perfect sense. My cat does not need to know a snake is or is not dangerous. He does not need to know much of anything about the snake. He simply confronts it as a threat and acts accordingly. In other words, Mother Nature is efficient. There’s nothing to be gained by endowing the cat with a  love of ophiology. There is great benefit to possessing an innate fear of snakes. Elephants being spooked by mice seems stupid to us, but from the perspective of the elephant, it is brilliantly efficient.

Putting this another way, humans did not evolve to acquire a detailed knowledge of the universe. We evolved in order to bring the next generation to sexual maturity. Understanding the world as it is, in great detail, is of no benefit and would possibly be a great detriment. Instead, we have evolved to perceive the world in a way that allows us to navigate it in the short run, with the highest possibility of success. For those disinclined to accept evolution, God has literally made us crazy, to our great benefit.

This “reality” means artificial intelligence, as in super intelligent entities able to fully grasp reality, is never going to happen. The more likely outcome is the self-evolving intelligence launches off onto a path to some form of insanity, maybe a familiar one or possibly something beyond our understanding. If it lacked the drive to reproduce, then it could simply evolve to some equilibrium and fall into what would look to us to be a dream state. In other words, the possible outcomes for the self-evolving intelligence are mostly a dead end, just as it has been in nature.