It’s Complicated

Anyone who has been through a change in software platforms for their company knows that it starts out as a lot of fun, but then turns into drudgery. Initially, thoughts of all the new stuff and better programs makes it feel like Christmas. Then the reality of going through every single business process of the company hits home. You end up re-thinking vast chunks of the company’s business processes, much of which is terribly dull, even though it is essential. It is the only way to get it right and take advantage of the new system.

What you learn from such an ordeal is that the company software system is the repository of the company rules that define how it exists. Over time, the rules changed and evolved and the software was changed to evolve with the company. There were upgrades and modifications. If the software is old enough, there were modifications to modifications and many hands doing the work, many of whom are long gone. More important, many of the processes were created for reasons no one remembers. It’s just the way it is done.

The people who like to argue that complex systems cannot evolve from simple systems have never worked with business software. All complex business software started as simple software. Over decades, it evolved into highly complex systems that even the creators don’t fully understand. Usually, in the case of enterprise systems, there are teams who specialize in one aspect of the system. They have created interfaces that the rest of the system uses to pass data or call functions related to that area of the system.

The reason that systems tend toward increasing complexity is that the world is not a fixed place. Even small changes can require significant changes in how a company does business. In a government regulated industry like food or chemicals, the government is always updating the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). That means regular changes to the forms that are printed or the data that must be captured. That, of course, means regular changes to the company software system. Over time, those changes add up.

Now, the people maintaining and modifying the software are not rewriting large swaths of it every time there is a change. They make small changes, the bare minimum, in order to keep costs down and get the change done quickly. That means they take shortcuts, hybridizing other functions and applying patches to existing code. It does not take long before this gets out of hand and even small changes require lots of thinking and planning.

It is good way to think about all of human organization. The company that started out as two people, but grew to one hundred people, is at least a thousand times more complex than when it started. Obviously, the small town that grew into a city seems infinitely more complex than when it started. Even your social circle can suddenly feel wildly complex if your circle of friends expands to include people outside your initial peer group. Complexity grows at a rate faster than the growth the organization. That’s an iron rule of life.

The people working in artificial intelligence are running into this same problem. Replicating even the most mundane human task requires millions of lines of complex code. What we take for granted as humans is actually quite complex. For the same reason no one person can understand the complexity of their small town, the creators of AI cannot understand the complexity of their creations. Algorithms to handle one small task get unwieldy in hurry once they are interfaced with other algorithms to handle other small tasks.

This is why the robot future is a lot further away than the futurists want to believe. The cost of labor to automate a warehouse is a grain of sand on the beach, compared to the cost and complexity of automating a highway. Just as important, the cost of maintaining it is orders of magnitude higher. As every business owner knows, just because something can be automated, the cost of doing so often outweighs the savings. Put another way, just because something can be done does not mean there is a reason to do it.

Putting aside the cost of complexity, systems often become so complex that they become unpredictable. Even in business systems, which are simple compared to the software for driving a car, the complexity can reach a point where no one truly knows what will happen if some change is implemented. The result is a whole new process for performing quality control, to make sure the changes do not have some unexpected and unwanted downstream result. There are now certifications for software quality control professionals.

This is often why legacy systems are replaced. It’s not the technology, although that is often a handy excuse. It’s that the old system has so many patches and mods that no one knows how it works anymore. New changes result is weird outcomes and costly followup changes. As is true with everything in life, things sometimes get so complicated that the best answer is to start over. It’s why men leave their families and why people change careers. It’s also why the people stand aside and let the revolutionaries topple the rulers.

That’s what a revolution is, when you think about it. It’s a lot like the decision to buy a new software system for the company. It’s not that what comes next will be better. It’s that the status quo is so complicated and unpleasant, anything has to be better. Of course, just a new software never turns out as expected, revolutions always turn out to be a lot more unpleasant than anyone imagined. Instead of firing the initial consultants, the revolution eats its own, by killing off the first group of revolutionary leaders.

Even so, it is something to think about as the West struggles to reform itself. The web of pirates, grifters, reformers and patriots within the ruling classes of the West has reached a point where no one understands what’s happening. That’s why official Washington remains in a state of emergency over Trump. It’s why the European ruling class is worried that they may be too lazy to fight their own people. Everyone knows that the system is not working, but no one has any idea how to fix and everyone is afraid to touch it.

It might be time for a new system.

You Own You

One of the odd developments in the technological age is that it looks like the Europeans will be taking the lead in taming the tech giants. Americans have been brainwashed into worshiping business, so any resistance to what the tech companies are doing to us is met with howls of protest. Even the American Left is in the tank for global business. Things are different with the Europeans, who maintain that old socialist distrust of capitalists. That’s what you see in stories like this one, where the Euros are trying to reign in the socials.

Leading journalists from more than 20 countries joined a call Tuesday for European MPs to approve a controversial media reform aimed at forcing internet giants to pay for news content.

European Parliament lawmakers return in September to discuss the proposal, a first draft of which was rejected last month after a fierce debate.

The so-called copyright and neighbouring rights law aims to ensure that producers of creative content—whether news, music or movies—are paid fairly in a digital world.

But the plans have been firmly opposed by big US tech firms such as Google and Facebook, as well as advocates of internet freedom.

An open letter signed by more than 100 prominent journalists from major news outlets warned Tuesday that “this fleecing of the media of their rightful revenue” was “morally and democratically unjustifiable”.

“We have become targets and our reporting missions cost more and more,” said the letter written by AFP foreign correspondent Sammy Ketz and published in several European newspapers including France’s Le Monde.

“Yet, even though (the media) pay for the content and send the journalists who will risk their lives to produce a trustworthy, thorough and diverse news service, it is not they who reap the profits but the internet platforms, which help themselves without paying a cent,” the letter said.

“It is as if a stranger came along and shamelessly snatched the fruits of your labour.”

The editorial urged the European Parliament to “vote massively in favour of neighbouring rights for the survival of democracy and one of its most remarkable symbols: journalism”.

Major publishers, including AFP, have pushed for the reform—known as Article 11—seeing it as an urgently needed solution against a backdrop of free online news that has wiped out earnings for traditional media companies.

The thing that no one ever seems to discuss is that companies like Facebook don’t make anything and their service is barely adequate. What they are doing is exploiting a natural monopoly so they can monetize the creative work of their users, including their personal information. Social media companies are skimming operations that operate on the fringe of legality. These companies harvest all sorts of information from users without their explicit permission. They are even trying to harvest your medical and financial records

The fact is, the social media companies, and that includes Google, have figured out how to transfer the value of creators from the owner to the tech giant. After all, Google’s search engine can only work if there is something worth finding. The search engine has value, but so does the content. The same is true of the content on FaceBook or Twitter. The only reason to be on those platforms is the content generated by users. The platform is a tiny portion of the value, but the platform owners consume all of the revenue from the system.

This is why, as an aside, newspapers and magazines are going broke. It’s not the only reason, but it is a big reason. If the New York Times took down its web site today, just shut it down completely, subscriptions would suddenly spike. The reason is, the entire liberal ecosystem relies on the New York Times for content and direction. It is the home church of the Progressive cult. Their regular readers would go back to buying the paper like the old days. If all newspapers followed suit, the internet gets quiet all of a sudden.

Putting that aside, there is a simple reform that addresses the abuses of the tech giants, as well as some of the other problems created by technology. You own you. That means your personal information, your image, your words, they all belong to you and anyone using them must have written permission. If FaceBook wants to sell your demographic data to some marketing company, they must have your written permission and not just through the abuse of leonine contracts. You have to consent to each sale.

This is not a new idea. Your credit record is not something the credit bureau can distribute without your permission. The propaganda on TV shows, where the cops instantly access the suspect’s credit card and personal records, is just part of the conditioning campaign against privacy. In reality, they need a warrant and it is hard to obtain. A lender must get your written permission to obtain your credit records from a credit bureau. It’s not just for privacy reasons. That information is your property and you have right to control it.

The thing is, this is a very easy solution to the abuses that have arisen from the technological revolution. The doxxing phenomenon popular with the bubble heads of Progressive media would go away with better property protections. All of sudden, they would be forbidden from using the images and personal information of people they wish to harass. Unless they could show that the information they obtained is in the public domain, they would be liable for any damages, plus the criminal use of stolen goods.

Again, this is not terribly difficult to navigate. If it is not yours, then you need permission to possess it. This is the rule with personal property. If you are found in possession of stolen goods, you are charged with a crime. It does not matter if you did not know they were stolen, because you knew the property was not yours. In other words, unless you are the lawful owner of the property, the burden of proof is on you to show you had a right to possess it. The principle is used in security clearances, so it is not an untested concept.

The result of tighter property laws, with regards to personal information, would be the end of social media as a profitable business. No one should weep for them as they are not technology companies in the conventional sense. They are parasites that exploit bottlenecks and gaps in the law to skim from the public. The internet was much more free wheeling and open without companies like Google and FaceBook. The reason for that is there were no stickup men creating bottlenecks in order to rob the users.

Think Local

For most of human history, we understood that people are not the same. Different people had different customs, different gods, different material habits and of course, they looked different. When describing the people of a foreign land, writers and storytellers would spend a lot of time describing these differences. Julius Caesar, in his commentaries on the the conquest of Gaul, was at his best describing the looks and dress of the Gauls. It not only made his tale interesting, it made a point. The Gauls were not Romans.

In one of life’s ironies, as the Left is about to impose its belief in the blank slate and extreme egalitarianism on society, science is unearthing contrary evidence on a near daily basis. It’s fair to say we now have a mountain of science supporting the claims made by our side of the great divide, with regards to human diversity. That mountain grows larger with every new bit of evidence from the human sciences. This report about Neanderthals and Denisovans is another big piece of data explaining the diversity of man.

Denny was an inter-species love child.

Her mother was a Neanderthal, but her father was Denisovan, a distinct species of primitive human that also roamed the Eurasian continent 50,000 years ago, scientists reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Nicknamed by Oxford University scientists, Denisova 11 — her official name — was at least 13 when she died, for reasons unknown.

“There was earlier evidence of interbreeding between different hominin, or early human, groups,” said lead author Vivian Slon, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

“But this is the first time that we have found a direct, first-generation offspring,” she told AFP.

Denny’s surprising pedigree was unlocked from a bone fragment unearthed in 2012 by Russian archeologists at the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia.

Analysis of the bone’s DNA left no doubt: the chromosomes were a 50-50 mix of Neanderthal and Denisovan, two distinct species of early humans that split apart between 400,000 to 500,000 years ago.

Advances in the ability to extract DNA from fossils is one of those revolutions in science that does not get enough attention. Agenda driven hucksters like Stephen Jay Gould were able to get away with their schemes mostly because there was a lack of hard evidence to support or contradict theories about early humans. That’s changing as material science and genetic testing gets better and the data accumulates. The political narrative about the origins of man is falling apart, giving way to observable reality about the diversity of man.

“The very fact that we found this individual of mixed Neanderthal and Denisovan origins suggests that they interbred much more often than we thought,” said Slon.

Paabo agreed: “They must have quite commonly had kids together, otherwise we wouldn’t have been this lucky.”

A 40,000 year-old Homo sapiens with a Neanderthal ancestor a few generations back, recently found in Romania, also bolsters this notion.

But the most compelling evidence that inter-species hanky-panky in Late Pleistocene Eurasia may not have been that rare lies in the genes of contemporary humans.

About two percent of DNA in non-Africans across the globe today originate with Neanderthals, earlier studies have shown.

Denisovan remnants are also widespread, though less evenly.

“We find traces of Denisovan DNA — less than one percent — everwhere in Asia and among native Americans,” said Paabo.

“Aboriginal Australians and people in Papua New Guinea have about five percent.”

Taken together, these facts support a novel answer to the hotly debated question of why Neanderthals — which had successfully spread across parts of western and central Europe — disappeared some 40,000 years ago.

Up to now, their mysterious demise has been blamed on disease, climate change, genocide at the hands of Homo sapiens, or some combination of the above.

But what if our species — arriving in waves from Africa — overwhelmed Neanderthals, and perhaps Denisovans, with affection rather than aggression?

A point that Greg Cochran has made is that Neanderthals and Denisovans had evolved some highly useful traits that allowed them to survive in areas inhospitable to African populations. As modern humans spread through Eurasia, they mixed with these earlier populations and picked up some of these genetic advantages.They could also have simply observed things the Neanderthals had learned. The smarter and more clever humans then adapted these acquired skills to then dominate their new environments.

Recent research showing that Neanderthals were not, in fact, knuckle-dragging brutes makes this scenario all the more plausible.

Our genetic cousins executed sophisticated hunting strategies in groups; made fires, tools, clothing and jewellery; and buried their dead with symbolic ornaments.

They painted animal frescos on cave walls at least 64,000 years ago, well before most Homo sapiens arrived in Europe.

Far less is known about Denisovans, but they may have suffered a similar fate.

Paabo established their existence with an incomplete finger bone and two molars dated to some 80,000 years ago.

Among their genetic legacy to some modern humans is a variant of the gene EPAS1 that makes it easier for the body to access oxygen by regulating the production of haemoglobin, according to a 2014 study.

Nearly 90 percent of Tibetans have this precious variant, compared with only nine percent of Han Chinese, the dominant — and predominantly lowland — ethnic group in China.

Some things cannot be acquired through imitation, like the ability to breathe at extremely high altitudes. This may not seem all that important in the grand scheme of things, but if all human attributes are genetic, then it probably means the social diversity we see in humans has a genetic basis as well. If local populations can have local traits, then it goes a long way toward explaining the great diversity in human social organization. Even today, the way Africans prefer to live is different from how Eurasians prefer to live.

Of course, what this new data tells us is that the differences between populations are not uniform. Those modern humans who encountered and mixed with Denisovans have a lot more in common with one another than they do with their ancestors in Africa. The same is true of those populations that mixed with Neanderthals. The mixing of Denisovans and Neanderthals would explain why Asians and Europeans have more in common with one another than either group seems to have with their ancestors in Africa.

None of this argues in favor of any political agenda, but it does argue against the assumptions underlying the neoliberal order. Humans are not interchangeable and the differences we see are genetic and the result of local evolution. It turns out that the Left was sort of right when they said, “Think globally, but act locally.” People are the product of their local environment. The best thing to do, for the sake of global harmony, is to leave people in their local environment, so they can live locally, among their people.

The Futurism Is Not Bright

When I was a kid, I stumbled upon a book called Future Shock, by someone named Alvin Toffler. I remember the book for a few reasons. One is it was based on the idea that the pace of change was accelerating and that humans were ill-equipped to handle the onrush of the future. The other memorable part of the book was the claim that society was moving from an industrial age to a super-industrial age. The book was written in 1970 and I read it in the early 80’s, when it was obvious there would be no super-industrial age.

The book is close to 500 pages and it could have been boiled down to 50 pages. In fact, it could probably be condensed into a blog post. The main point of the book was that societal change was accelerating. That point was made just about every way possible and then filled out with predictions that turned out to be all wrong. That was something else I learned from the book. Futurists are extremely long winded. That said, he sold millions of copies and became something of a rock star, so he knew what he was doing.

In fairness to Toffler, by 1980 he had figured out that his super-industrial society idea was a flop, so he came out with an updated vision of the future called The Third Wave. This book predicted that the developed countries would move from industrial to technological societies. He coined the term Information Age. In fairness, he was not wrong about most everything like he was in the previous book. For example, he predicted the end of the nation state and the growth of the global entity that transcended the nation state.

That said, he was still wrong about most stuff. For example, he predicted that technology would result in greater democracy with populations exerting greater control of society and instituting more local control. Pretty much the exact opposite has been the result of the technological revolution. I think we can also say that the idea of a managerial class rising out of the technological revolution was something that many conservatives were onto long before Alvin Toffler predicted it. Burnham wrote The Managerial Revolution in 1941.

Anyway, that all came to mind when I saw this posted on Breitbart. George Gilder is a futurist, an economist and an advocate of intelligent design. He is co-founder of the Discovery Institute. It’s probably accurate to describe him as a techno-utopian, one of those guys who sits around thinking about the singularity. He has a book out predicting the end of Google and the rise of a block chain technology as the salvation of humanity from technocracy. The Breitbart piece is an effort to sell books to conservatives.

Gilder is also a rabid philo-Semite. He wrote a book called The Israel Test, in which he credits everything good in the world to Israel. That won him endless praise from neocons and Buckley Conservatives. He has argued that antisemitism is the hatred of capitalism and excellence. The only reason to mention this is that like all futurists, Gilder is a bit of grifter. The futurism game is not any different from reading tarot cards or doing astrological charts. The idea is to tell the mark what they want to hear. Flattery always sells.

That’s futurism’s main attraction. It allows the futurist, as well as his audience, to avoid dealing with present reality or learning much about past reality. They cherry pick from the past to create a narrative that results in the future of their making. When times are bad, the futurist peddles a future that is devoid of the bad things of today. When times are good, well, all the great stuff of today is going to be awesome in the future. There’s never been a futurist that predicts doom. Those guys are called prophets and we remember them.

In the 1970’s when American manufacturing was in trouble, Alvin Toffler wrote about a future of super-industry, where everyone had a super job. In the 80’s when things were looking up, the future was going to be even more super. The futurist is primarily concerned with future earnings and no one is buying a book or paying for a speech about how crappy things are going to be in the future. That’s why Gilder is out with a book claiming techno-feudalism is going to be replaced by a new utopian algorithm that makes everything super.

Now, what about his central claim about Google? That it’s model for skimming off the economy is doomed to failure? The fact that he seems to not have the slightest idea how Google makes money or how it is arranged as a business is not encouraging. Comparing Google’s business model to Marxism is just marketing. It is boob bait for the bubbas that read people like Michelle Malkin. The book is probably littered with the usual abracadabra words and phrases that titillate the audience of Conservative Inc.

The fact is, Google’s business model was a complete accident. Like most tech companies, it was supposed to be a pump and dump. Page and Brin wanted to sell their search engine once it gained popularity. When they could not find a buyer, they figured out how to turn it into a roadside bandit, charging tolls via ad dollars. They correctly saw that the search engine was a bottleneck and the bottleneck is always the best place to skim from the users. Google simply taxes people on their way from one service to another.

Can this model last forever? Nothing lasts forever, but as a state protected monopolist, they will exist until the state decides otherwise. Given that Google has more than enough money to buy every elected official in Washington, no one in politics is in a hurry to break up Google. Throw in the fact that like the state security agencies, Google can spy on all of the elected officials and their aides, Google and the rest of the oligarchs will remain in power until the revolution. But, that’s not a promising future, so futurists ignore it.

Feudalism.Net

There are certain words and phrases that have no fixed definition, so the use of them usually says more about the person using them, than the object they are being used to describe. Like “fascism” in modern times, the term “feudalism” was mostly a term of disparagement in the 18th and 19th century. According to scholars of the subject, the word “feudal” was first used in the 17th century, as in feudal order. It later came into more common usage in Marxist political propaganda in the 18th and 19th century.

Just because feudalism was largely used as a meaningless epithet, it does not mean it did not exist. Scholars generally agree that feudalism was “a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs.” The lord owned the land, the vassal was granted use of it by the lord. The land was the fief. In exchange for legal and physical protection, the lord expected service, usually military service, but also food rents and labor from the peasants.

Marxists later pointed out that the codes and customs that we associate with this period relied on the lord owning the one thing of value, the land. The person at the top of the feudal order had a monopoly on the one store of value and that gave him a monopoly on the law. The old saying about the golden rule is true. The man with the gold makes the rules. This is why as coinage made a comeback in the medieval period, kings took control of the mints. It was both a source a wealth, seigniorage, and a source of power.

A useful example of this is the decision by Henry VIII to dissolve the monasteries of the Catholic Church. By seizing church lands, which constituted about a quarter of the national wealth, and redistributing them to favored aristocrats, Henry fundamentally altered English society. He weakened the power of the old nobles, by filling their ranks with new members loyal to Henry. He also eliminated an alternative source of economic power in English society. Henry was supreme power because he controlled the land.

Feudalism only works when a small elite controls the source of wealth. Then they can control the exploitation of it. In Europe, as Christianity spread, the Church required lands, becoming one of the most powerful forces in society. The warrior elite was exclusively Catholic, thus they had a loyalty to the Pope, as God’s representative on earth. Therefore, the system of controlling wealth not only had a direct financial benefit to the people at the top, it had the blessing of God’s representative, who sat atop the whole system.

That’s something to keep in mind as we see technology evolve into a feudal system, where a small elite controls the resources and grants permission to users. The software oligopolies are now shifting all of their licencing to a subscription model. It’s not just the mobile platforms. Developers of enterprise software for business are adopting the same model. The users have no ownership rights. Instead they are renters, subject to terms and conditions imposed by the developer or platform holder. The users is literally a tenant.

The main reason developers are shifting to this model is that they cannot charge high fees for their software, due to the mass of software on the market. Competition has drive down prices. Further, customers are not inclined to pay high maintenance fees, when they can buy new systems at competitive rates. The solution is stop selling the stuff and start renting it. This fits the oligopoly scheme as it ultimately puts them in control of the developers. Apple and Google are now running protection rackets for developers.

It also means the end of any useful development. Take a look at the situation Stefan Molyneux faces. A band of religious fanatics has declared him a heretic and wants him burned. The Great Church of Technology is now in the process of having him expelled from the internet. As he wrote in a post, he invests 12 years building his business on-line, only to find out he owns none of it. He was always just a tenant farmer, who foolishly invested millions in YouTube. Like a peasant, he is now about to be evicted.

How long before someone like this monster discovers that Google and Apple will no longer allow him to use any apps on his phone? Or maybe he is denied access to his accounting system? How long before his insurer cuts off his business insurance, claiming the threat from homosexual terrorists poses too high of a risk? Federal law prevents the electric company from shutting off his power due to politics, but Federal law used to prevent secret courts and secret warrants. Things change as the people in charge change.

The power of the church in medieval Europe was not just spiritual. They owned vast amounts of land and could marshal tremendous resources in support of or in defiance of the secular rulers. In fact, the reason the Church acquired lands was for exactly that reason. What drives the tech overlords of today is exactly the same thing. Their desire to impose their moral order on the rest of us is driving them to monopolize the source of power in the information age. They are imposing a new form of feudalism on us.

The difference today is that this new religion is ill-defined and lacking in the outward symbols to distinguish it from the rest of society. The rules of the new religion are always changing, making it impossible to predict. No one in the 12th century was unclear about who set the moral order. The local bishop may have been nuts, but he was predictably nuts. The new religion is formless, with moral codes springing from the mob, as the mood of the mob changes. It’s an anarcho-tyranny, because it is an anarcho-religion.

The solution to this will not be the same as last time. There is no secular authority willing to challenge the power of the new theogarchs. Mark Zuckerberg went to Congress and lied his face off, knowing they were afraid to lay a hand on him. By the 2020 election, social media will have banned Trump and all Trump supporters. The solution, in time, is the people in these oligopolies will have to fear the peasantry in real space. The same civil authorities that are too weak to oppose the theogarchs will be too weak to protect them.

The Nature of Diversity

Imagine an island that is suddenly populated with one hundred couples, each with a unique last name. In other words, no couple has the same last name. Further, they continue the tradition of the females taking the male’s last name upon marriage. As these couples reproduce, their children will be expected to marry one another. Couple A1 has a couple of boys and they marry the girls from Couple C2. This is not a controlled experiment, so nature can take its course and people are free to marry who they like.

Now, some couples will have all girls. Some couples will have no children. Given that the island is pretty boring and all of the couples are sexually normal, the infertile couple will not be the result of a lack of effort. On the other hand, infertility is not that common, so the number of childless couples will be quite small. At the same time, “Fertile Myrtle” is not an unusual phenomenon and some men have a near uncontrollable sex drive. That means there will be quite a few big families to counter the infertile and the strangely disinterested.

Now, if all couples have one male child and one female child, both of whom make it to sexually maturity and marry, then the population will remain stable. The number of last names will also remain constant, as each male heir will carry on the family name. Given this is a small island, a few extra children, or the “heir and spare” model will make sure that the family names live on and the population does not fall into decline. In this perfect scenario, we can come back in a dozen generations and things are about the same.

On the other hand, if each generation has 10% of the females unable to bear children, it will take about 20 generations before almost everyone has the same last name. The decline in last names happens fast initially, but the name singularity is at about 20 generations. Something similar happens if 10% of the couples have only female children that make it to adulthood. Throw in the fact that each generations may not have enough females for all the males and the decline of last names will progress toward one.

Obviously, lots of couples will have all boys or all girls. Since this island does not have video games or feminism, getting busy with the opposite sex will be the main form of entertainment. That means some couples will have lots of kids, but others will be more restrained and have one or two kids. The bigger the family, the lower the odds of having all girls or all boys, but it happens. If that is just ten percent of the result, the initial disappearance of last names is much quicker, but still takes about 20 generations.

Why would anyone care about this? Well, it is a good way to understand how a trait can flow through a population, resulting in a unique population. Instead of last names, let’s use a pronounced brow ridge, indicating high intelligence. If this is a trait passed through the male line of the A2 family, the whole population will have it, if in our experiment the A2 name is the one that comes out on top after 20 generations. If it is not just passed by males, but also results in high fertility, then it can spread quickly in our population.

Add in the fact that men with a prominent brow line will be highly desirable to the opposite sex, now you have a trait that increases the odds of producing children with it by some small percentage. On the other hand, let’s say the one guy in our 100 founding couples with the brow ridge drowns while out for a swim, before he had kids. That means this highly desirable trait, both from a biological as well as reproductive reason, is removed from the gene pool forever. Our island will be full of homely dumb people forever.

This is a simplified and rather crude way of illustrating how a desirable trait can flow through a population, but it is useful. In fact, this is pretty much how we have so many dog breeds. Humans short-circuited nature, by selecting the dogs that would breed, thus selecting for specific traits. After enough generations, one breeder ended up with Great Danes, while another ended up with dachshunds, so to speak. A famous example of this is the creation of a domesticated foxes by a Russian geneticist named Dmitry K. Belyaev.

Another way of understanding this is to imagine our island paradise flourishing with a high fertility rate over many generations. Then a resource scarcity sets off competition among the islanders and eventually a tyrant emerges to control the island. He correctly sees that the issue is the left-handed and has all of them killed. In future generations, anyone found to be left-handed is killed. It will not take long, in fact it could literally happen over night, for the population to lose the left-handed trait. Sometimes, Mother Nature is this cruel.

This is a good way to understand the natural diversity of people. When modern humans emerged from Africa, that is the most likely origin, we carried almost all of the traits present in humans today. As people spread out around the globe, nature found some traits much more useful in the new environment, so those traits eventually were selected for over each generation. Nature also found some traits deleterious and strongly selected against them, like our left-handedness example. Overtime, we got the diversity of man.

It is why anyone who uses the phrase “scientific racism” is rejecting the fundamentals of biology. Just as there is great diversity in the domestic dog, there is diversity in humans, diversity that is measurable and observable. Denying observable reality is a few clicks less reasonable than witchcraft or astrology. It also means multiculturalism is, in effect, a war on nature, as it is an effort to obliterate human diversity. Mixing everyone together into a gray slurry, is just a primitive minded war on nature and biological reality. It is immoral.

The Dumbening

An important project of the Left for a long time now has been to discredit the idea that intelligence is genetic and therefore heritable. In order to maintain the blank slate, they have to argue against genetics and evolution. Anytime someone can produce a study showing that environment alters life outcomes, Progressives rush to the internet to trumpet the study as if it was holy writ. That has been the response to this Norwegian study on intelligence, that claims to observe a reverse in the Flynn Effect.

There is confusion in the commentary, because there is confusion about the meaning of the Flynn Effect. The Left likes to claim that the Flynn Effect shows that better schools and ideological indoctrination make people smarter. That’s false. What the Flynn Effect observes is that populations get smarter as environmental conditions improve. People also get taller when environmental conditions improve. In other words, an improving physical environment means more people able to reach their genetic potential.

On the other hand, the other side often leaps to the conclusion that things like immigration and fertility rates exclusively drive population IQ. This is true in the aggregate. Import large numbers of Africans into Iceland and the average intelligence of Iceland will decline. That does not mean the native Icelander got dumber, although the decision to import Africans could be proof of that claim. The Flynn Effect observes that children will be smarter than their parents, when environmental conditions improve. A better life means better kids.

The reason this Norwegian study is causing blank slate believers to hyperventilate is it claims to show a decline in IQ within families. Specifically, the children are dumber than their parents and younger brothers are dumber than older brothers. Children born in the 1960’s had an average IQ a little over 99, while children born in the 1970’s had an average IQ of 102.Since then, IQ’s have declined to the 1960’s level. Because this was measured within families, the researchers rule out genetics, dysgenics and immigration as causes.

Now, the first thing to note is that blank slate people employ the same tactic we used to see with the intelligent design people. The ID’ers would hunt around for anything they could hold up discrediting Darwin or natural selection, no matter how trivial or tangential, so they could claim evolution was not science. This was supposed to “prove” that intelligent design was therefore a valid theory. Blank slate people play the same game by trying to poke holes in genetics, believing it will prove the blank slate to be valid.

There’s a word for this sort of argument. It is called sophistry. Just because natural selection cannot solve every puzzle in the fossil record, that does not mean magic is the default explanation for the fossil record. Similarly, just because IQ’s appear to be declining within Norwegian families does not mean IQ is not heritable. It has always been known that intelligence varies within families. The question posed by this study is whether this is caused by subtle changes in environment or some unknown randomness in the genome.

Further, it has been observed for a long time that average intelligence within Western societies have been declining since the 1970’s. Overall IQ appears to have peaked in the 1970’s and been in decline ever since. Immigration is one cause. Another is the habit of smart successful people having fewer children. The opening scene to Idiocracy is not entirely wrong, even though fertility among the poor has declined. From the late Middle Ages into the early 20th century, smart people had big families, because they could.

Again, this Norwegian study is not reporting this sort of result. Instead, they are picking up a decline within families. The one potential flaw is that it measures only male intelligence, which means sons are dumber than fathers and younger brothers are dumber than older brothers. The Flynn Effect observes increases in IQ within families due to improved environmental conditions. Therefore, a decline would logically be linked to some unknown environmental changes. In other words, maybe television really does rot the brain.

Of course, the changes are quite small, so it could simply be the Breeder’s Equation at work. The uptick in the sample population used in this study could have been driven by a bit of environmental luck. The decline is simply a reversion to the mean. The recent uptick you see in the above graph could also indicate a natural variance between a maximum and minimum for this group. The observable difference between a 99 and 102 IQ is zero outside of a testing environment, so it has no impact on social outcomes and reproduction.

All that said, there are two things we know are true about overall human intelligence. One is the population of this earth with low-IQ’s are breeding like bunnies. Simple math says mankind is getting dumber on average. The other thing we know is that the load the smart fraction can carry is finite. Pile in enough stupid people in a population and eventually they overwhelm the efforts of the smart people. The puzzle is in figuring out the tipping point and the goal is to make sure your country avoids reaching that tipping point.

Old Aliens

When I was a kid, smart adults still believed that humans would be visiting other planets sooner rather than later. That was mostly a carry over from the previous generations, who managed to get from zero to the moon in roughly a decade. If you were into this stuff in 1968, it was hard not to think that the next stop for man was Mars and then from there the rest of the solar system. By the time I was becoming aware of the world, this was fading, but there were plenty of optimists and romantics, with regards to space travel.

It really was a generational thing. By the time my generation was noticing things the space program had stalled and there didn’t seem to be a point to it. The competition with the Russians had decayed into a fight over the mundane and pointless. My guess is beating the Russians in hockey counted for more to most Americans than the space shuttle managing to take off, go to space and come back in one piece. Subsequent generations are simply too self-absorbed and self-indulgent to care much about space travel.

Of course, a big part of it is the self-inflicted wounds from previous generations that continue to tax us to this day. If Boomers and their parents had not decided to violate the rules of human nature in the 60’s and 70’s with a laundry list of social programs, things may have been different. The money spent on “fixing race relations” could have financed several trips to the stars. Our ruler’s endless fights with observable reality is like a leash keeping us from doing much more than squabbling over our own destruction.

Putting aside the Spenglerian interpretation of the recent past, there is another way to understand the technological stall. This post the other day by Steve Sailer had some interesting stuff in it, but the space travel stuff is what got my attention. Freeman Dyson is of that generation that thought we would be much further along in exploring the universe than we are today. He still assumes it will happen, despite the obvious decline in overall human capital due to changes in demographics and social mobility.

What occurred to me reading it is humanity probably needs to go through a different period of technological advance, before we can make the great leap to exploring the stars. If you look at the generation of geniuses who took us from propeller planes to rocket ships, peaking with the moon landing, it all happened in about one generation. It really was a remarkable run. In the 1930’s, the concepts of rocketry were being worked out and 30 years later a rocket was hurling men to the moon. That’s a great career.

That’s what it really is, one career. The sorts of people who work on these types of projects are not starting as teenagers. They go through years of education and apprenticeship, before they get on the big project. A career making project is going to be one that happens within the normal span of a human career, which is about 30 years for a cutting edge scientist.  A guy like David Reich, who is doing groundbreaking work in ancient genetics, is never going to do much of anything else. This is his peak.

Well, if you are an ambitious guy looking to do space work and be part of a great project, you’re not picking one that will take 50 years to finish. Some people may be fine toiling away at some small aspect of the 50 year project, but most people, especially the people funding it, are not going to find it appealing. If Elon Musk is going to bankroll a trip to Mars, he wants it to happen in the next decade, so he can take credit for it. The same is true of the scientist he would recruit. They want to get it done before they retire or die.

What this means is that space travel, beyond orbiting the earth or maybe revisiting the Moon, is going to first require extending the human life span. A mission to land people on Mars and return them to earth is probably 30 years away. Getting propulsion technology to traverse the solar system is a fifty or sixty year project. Figuring out how to survive longer periods in space is an even longer project. Before humans figure any of this out, it is going to mean living much longer lives so that a person can have a 50 or 60 year working life.

Think about it. If a person could reasonably assume a working career that started in the mid-20’s and goes strong to 100, with a slight decline at the end, that’s roughly a 60 year prime working life. With twice the time, you take more risks and you take on different career objectives. Suddenly a twenty year project to put men on Mars is not that big of a deal to the financiers or the scientists. Stretch the lifetime out further and the much more daunting projects can be chipped away at by a team expecting to finish in their lifetime.

Logically, it means the same would hold for some alien species that eventually comes to visit us on earth. Those aliens we have stored in Area 51 are probably very old, as their species had to unriddle problems that would take hundreds of years to solve, not to mention the fact that it was an extremely long trip from their home planet. The nearest habitable planet outside out solar system is roughly four light years from earth, which means it was a very long trip for our alien visitors. They must have been extremely old.

The other aspect of this is a longer life would mean more experience. Our IQ may be fixed, but we have an infinite capacity for screwing up. The longer the life, the more trial and error a person would endure. Someone living 500 earth years is not going to be any better at math, but they would be much more prudent. That would mean at the upper limits, the species would become less rash and less prone to error. Those dead aliens in New Mexico are an outlier, because their kind rarely misses its intended target.

Anti-Science

You can put me down in the “pro-science” column. I think in the main, science is a good thing for humanity. Life is more than material wealth, but having better food, better shelter, better communications and better medicine is nice. None of those things can happen without men in labs, amateur and professional, fiddling with the bits of nature, trying to learn how things tick. It is the constant trial and error of improvement that has made civilization possible and it is science that has made the modern world possible.

That said, people are flawed so their enterprises will be flawed as well. Science is not an exception to this rule. That’s what makes science different from religion or ideology. Good science is the constant revisiting of past claims, while religion can never permit it. You can become a famous scientist by proving that some accepted bit of science is flawed or simply wrong. New technology can lead to the overturning of fields, which is what we see happening with psychology. Technology is turning psychology into alchemy.

That’s one important aspect of the replication crisis.

Half the results published in peer-reviewed scientific journals are probably wrong. John Ioannidis, now a professor of medicine at Stanford, made headlines with that claim in 2005. Since then, researchers have confirmed his skepticism by trying—and often failing—to reproduce many influential journal articles. Slowly, scientists are internalizing the lessons of this irreproducibility crisis. But what about government, which has been making policy for generations without confirming that the science behind it is valid?
The biggest newsmakers in the crisis have involved psychology. Consider three findings: Striking a “power pose” can improve a person’s hormone balance and increase tolerance for risk. Invoking a negative stereotype, such as by telling black test-takers that an exam measures intelligence, can measurably degrade performance. Playing a sorting game that involves quickly pairing faces (black or white) with bad and good words (“happy” or “death”) can reveal “implicit bias” and predict discrimination.
All three of these results received massive media attention, but independent researchers haven’t been able to reproduce any of them properly. It seems as if there’s no end of “scientific truths” that just aren’t so. For a 2015 article in Science, independent researchers tried to replicate 100 prominent psychology studies and succeeded with only 39% of them.

It is important to understand what is going on here. Science has always been self-correcting by definition, but it does not prevent the problem of the Left abusing the truth. Psychology is a good example. In the 20th century, psychology became part of the theology of the Left, used to justify their latest crackpot ideas about humanity. The money for research went into studies that purported to prove some aspect of the blank slate, rather than challenge these beliefs. It was about confirmation, rather than discovery.

As a result, the soft sciences are under fire. That’s what the replication crisis is about and why it is a good thing, even though it opens the door for people who wish to fly the flag of intellectual authority, but lack the cognitive skills to participate in a STEM field. There are legions of people who will never understand the basics of genetics, for example, but they want to be an authority on evolution and human biodiversity. They will point to the replication crisis and claim that all science is suspect and no better than opinion.

In fairness, the soft sciences are not the only area of “science” taking a beating in the replication crisis. Chemistry has had problems with crap papers flying through the peer review process undetected. That’s about the politics of publishing as much as anything, but it should not happen. Medicine has also come under scrutiny and rightly so. These quack studies on diet, for example, that populate news sites, do more harm than good, because they often lead people into wacko conspiracy theories like pawtism.

This is what Cofnas gets right in his review of the moral and political pressures that undermine and retard the scientific process. The people in charge are the people sponsoring the research and paying for the studies. Like everyone in power, they want confirmation and they will pay good money for it. As long as research is done by humans, there will be humans willing to fake their research to get grants and tenure. That’s the story of climate  science thus far. The “consensus” was money well spent.

Cofnas is wrong to think this is unique to our age. The people in charge in all ages have had their priorities. A smart guy in the Roman Empire was wise to apply his skill to practical things, like how to improve sword making, because that was important. Philosophy was not. In the Middle Ages, the emergence if science meant navigating around the church and crown, as both viewed new ideas with concern. The king and his favorite bishop were more concerned with power than scientific knowledge.

“Reality is that thing that does not go away when you stop believing in it” and that is the reality of the replication crisis. The quackery of the soft sciences eventually runs up against reality. In our age, it is the reality of genetics that is dismantling the nutty ideas popular with the prior generations. That’s what Cofnas gets wrong. Science is self-correcting, just not as quickly as you would like. Sometimes it takes a new technology or simply a generational change, Eventually, reality returns to right all wrongs.

The Gathering Darkness

Christopher Caldwell wrote in Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, “One moves swiftly and imperceptibly from a world in which affirmative action can’t be ended because its beneficiaries are too weak to a world in which it can’t be ended because its beneficiaries are too strong.” It is a wonderful observation that applies to much more than just affirmative action. It seems to apply to all aspect of Progressivism. Today’s minority view is tomorrows absolute, inviolable dogma. It happens so quickly, no one seems to notice.

That’s been the way with Progressives and science. It used to be common to see a Subaru or Volvo decorated with a Darwin fish. The point was to let the world know that the driver was a good liberal, who embraced reason, rather than superstition. Of course, the other point was to stick it to Christians, who the Left had declared their primary enemy somewhere in the middle of the last century. Even so, science was a big part of how Progressives defined themselves. Then suddenly, imperceptibly, the opposite was true.

That’s what we are seeing with the response to David Reich’s book, Who We Are and How We Got Here and the subsequent articles he has written about his research. The great Greg Cochran has been reviewing the book, pointing out the bizarre contortions Reich goes through in order to avoid having his lab burned down. It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that Reich fears an angry torch wielding mob, but it is only a small exaggeration. Many careers have been ruined by getting on the wrong side of the mob.

Understandably, Cochran takes exception to much of this, because he is a true man of science. He values truth above all else. He has no patience for the political, and now theological, nonsense that saturates the modern academy. There’s also a personal aspect to it, as Reich takes some cheap shots at the late Henry Harpending, who was Cochran’s colleague for many years. They collaborated on The 10,000 Year Explosion and on this groundbreaking paper. Cochran can be forgiven for taking this a bit personal.

On the other hand though, David Reich is not an old guy with his career behind him and his retirement vested. He is in his prime years as a scientist and as such he has to be careful to not upset the mullahs in the orthodoxy. That’s why he is going through these ham-handed efforts to inoculate himself against the charge of heresy. The morality police may not burn down his lab, but they are more than happy to burn down his career. If they will hurl a giant like James Watson into the void, they will not flinch at David Reich.

If you are old enough to remember the 1980’s, you remember a time when it was Progressives chanting about free speech, the need for independent media and the glories of scientific inquiry. Today, it feels like a million years ago, only because none of it is true now and not just in small ways. Progressives have swung so far in the opposite direction, becoming what they always claimed they were fighting, it is impossible to imagine them being otherwise. A younger person must assume it has always been this way.

The funny thing is that our Progressive mullahs are probably worse than the people who suppressed Galileo. Relatively speaking, they are worse than Torquemada. The old inquisitor was quite lenient, relevant to the age, when stealing a cow could get you hanged. Galileo’s trouble with the Church had as much to do with politics and his personal squabbles as science. Today, the people in charge take a perverse pleasure in destroying the life of a heretic. Billionaires now hunt Dirt People on-line for sport.

If you are in the human sciences, none of this is lost on you. If you read academic papers, they have become so thick with jargon and statistics, they are impenetrable to all but the people in the field. Some of it is the normal pattern of group behavior, but some of it is a defense against the charge of heresy. Instead of writing coded notes in the margins of approved texts, people in the human sciences rely on impenetrable gibberish and  eye-glazing statistics. Race has now become “ancestry group”, for example.

One thing that is clear, in hindsight, is that Church efforts to contain the growth of scientific inquiry were a rearguard action. The institutional place of the Church was not toppled by science and reason. The role of religious institutions was already diminishing with the rise of the secular institutions and the spread of commerce. The clergy was no longer the richest faction in European society. Their efforts to re-impose their order on society was reactionary and doomed. The world was changing and the feudal era was ending.

Perhaps something similar is happening with Progressives and human sciences. Their embrace of reason was always like their embrace of liberal democracy, socialism and social reform. It is as a means to an end. Free speech was a bus they rode from their position outside the academy, to a position atop the academy. Once they got to their destination, they got off the free speech bus. That’s certainly true of their embrace of science and reason. Once they gained power, they peeled the Darwin fish off the car.

On the other hand, there is no reason to think that humanity is a linear progression from tribal darkness to some glorious post-human future. We have the phrase “dark ages” because there have been dark ages, when civil society reached a dead end, collapsed and sat dormant for centuries. Back when the turn began, Allan Bloom wrote that relativism and multiculturalism were ushering in a closing of the American mind. Perhaps now we are seeing the fruit, the coming of a new dark age ruled by fanatics and dullards.