The Western Disease

By now, even militant anti-Hollywood people are aware of the zombie apocalypse, where humanity is put at risk by a plague of zombies. It’s not always zombies. It could be a vampire problem. The general idea is always the same though. For some reason, people turn into murderous crazies, attacking normal people. Another variation is the newly dead rise and begin attacking the living, thus increasing the number of zombies while decreasing the stock of the living. This is the most popular version of the concept.

The cause of this problem is either a virus that just turned up for no reason, a virus made by man or some alien bug that arrived here for unknown reasons. The germ of this idea, so to speak, is the novel I Am Legend. In it the hero is the last normal person on earth, plagued by what appears to be vampires. He eventually figures out that they have been infected with a disease that causes the vampire like symptoms. The book ends with him having been captured by a hybrid group of vampires that are the future of man.

The odd thing about Hollywood adaptations of this idea is they never focus on the logic behind a disease that would cause a species to murder itself. A virus that kills the host can only work if the host, in the process of dying, infects new hosts. A pathogen that killed instantly would die off quickly, so it would most likely never evolve in the first place. The first iteration would kill the host, before it could spread or kill the population so quickly that no one could get to another population group in time to infect them.

Species do go extinct, so it is not inconceivable that some new environment element could evolve to take out humanity or a large part of it. The Black Death did a number on Europe, so we know such a plague is possible. Thousand cankers disease is a blight that attacks certain walnut trees. The disease results from the combined activity of the walnut twig beetle and a fungus. It could very well wipe out the walnut tree. Similarly, the common banana, known as the cavendish, is at risk from Panama disease.

This idea of a disease that causes people to turn on one another, combined with the habit of nature to clean the slate from time to time, is a useful way to think about the western disease of multiculturalism. Rather than think of it as a set of nutty ideas or a conspiracy by one population to prey on another, it is best thought of as a pathogen that is causing Europeans to attack themselves. Instead of rage zombies, we have people obsessed with the emotional well-being of aliens, at the expense of their kin.

This live stream with Ed Dutton, John Derbyshire and Richard Spencer from last week gets into it a little bit. Around the 50-minute mark, they talk about how the Finns, in particular, but Europe as a whole, have suddenly and inexplicably become pathological in their altruism. The whole video is worth watching, as Ed Dutton is a very interesting guy with a head full of dangerous ideas. As is often the case, when smart people from this side of the divide get together, they end up puzzling over the disease of multiculturalism.

That’s the thing though, no one ever thinks of it like a disease. Instead, the rock solid belief is that it is simply the result of misreading history or drawing the wrong lessons from the industrial wars of the 20th century. The quest for half a century has been to find the right combination of noises that will drop the scales from the eyes of the ruling elites so they will reject multiculturalism. Despite thousands of smart people working tirelessly to find the right combination of sounds, the disease has spread to all corners of the West.

An important thing Dutton points out is that the Finns used to be a very inward looking population group. In fact, northern people in general were very hostile to outsiders, for practical reasons related to ecology. When you live in challenging environments, cooperation is essential. This inevitably rewards traits that bind people close to their social group and traits that make people hostile to outsiders, who could come in and take some of the precious resources of the group. It’s ecological tribalism.

In the last half century, even the notoriously inward looking Finns have been plagued by the need to invite the world, particularly the most hostile parts, into their community. As Dutton mentions, it even seems to be causing the Finns to lose their shyness, something for which they have been known since forever. What possible reasons could a happy people like the Finns suddenly decided to destroy themselves by inviting in hostile foreigners from the other side of the globe? What’s causing this madness?

That is an important part of stress, with regards to multiculturalism. It is new and just sort of arrived in the middle of the last century. We think of bad ideas as a disease of the mind, but what if it is actually a disease? What if like Toxoplasma gondii, a new germ is infecting Europeans, causing them to lose their natural fear of that which is a threat to their existence? Instead of turning local populations directly against themselves, as is the case with the rage zombie idea, they are losing their ability to defend themselves.

It sounds incredible, but there is growing evidence that the bacteria responsible for gum disease may be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. It has long been known that there is a correlation between periodontal disease and pancreatic cancer. It was assumed it was a common genetic cause, but it could be a common virus or bacteria. Greg Cochran has speculated that something similar could be the cause of homosexuality. His “gay germ” theory is speculation, but not unreasonable, given the data.

Now, such a result would mean the “cure” for multiculturalism is we either treat these people like the rage zombies in TV shows or begin to think of them as lost and unable to assimilate into a newly rationalized West. That is, they will be eaten by the rage zombies they invite into our communities. The rest of us, like the survivors in those TV shows, will have to find our own place to hold up and rebuild. Those in the West immune to the disease of multiculturalism will become the founding stock of the new Western people.

Better Human Capital

Are people better today than in the past? The answer to that question, more often than not, says things about the person answering than anything else. The cosmopolitan globalists and their attendants will argue people are better today, overall. The cynical critics of the current arrangements will go the other way, pointing out that people are dumber. In other words, the answer usually has to do with your view of the neoliberal order, rather than any factual considerations. The winners are happy while the losers are unhappy.

There are practical ways to think of the question. Steve Pinker looked at interpersonal violence over the ages, using it as a proxy for human progress. His assumption is that coming to a violent end is bad. Therefore, if fewer people are coming a violent end, it means there are fewer violent people in society. His analysis shows that violence within western societies has been in steady decline. He also points out the decline in the celebration of violence in society. The conclusion is we are getting better.

The trouble with that sort of analysis is it starts with a subjective definition of better, when nature may have other ideas. The point of life for all creatures, including humans, is to reproduce. As the saying goes, life is built for speed. Get to sexual maturity as quickly as possible, reproduce and after that it is all gravy. It’s why humans evolved some brutal responses to diseases that strike the young. Malaria is the obvious example. The risk of an ugly death in adulthood is worth the risk in order to reach sexual maturity.

Therefore, fertility rates are a pretty good proxy for measuring the health of a species, which is why biologists use them all the time. If a type of finch stops laying eggs, biologists will assume something bad is happening to the species. Whites, the engine of human material progress, have seen their fertility rates collapse. The fertility rate for Africans is rocket high. A biologist would look at those realities and conclude that the former is in trouble, while the latter is flourishing. Better may not be better after all.

Another way of looking at the question is from the perspective of the emerging data from ancient DNA. Until recent, what we knew about the intelligence of people in the past was speculative. Aristotle was obviously a brilliant person, but how smart were the guys growing olives? Were they smarter than the people working at one of Amazons distribution centers? The SAT scores for Athenian farmers have been lost, so we have no way to compare their scores to those of their analogs in our society.

The assumption has been the modern people must smarter, as we live in technologically advanced societies. The data coming in from genetics says the opposite is most likely true and there is a very good chance the data from ancient DNA will confirm it. As Cochran says, we have known for a while that people are getting dumber, but no one has been able to point to hard evidence of it. Now there is hard evidence for a relatively recent decline in European IQ. We’ll soon know where moderns stand on the IQ scale.

Of course, this all leads to the question of what defines “better” when it comes to human capital. Those Africans breeding like bunnies are a bit smarter than previous Africans due to better nutrition and medicine. They are still a full standard deviation dumber than Europeans and Asians. From the perspective of biology, their fertility rates suggest they are more fit than their childless counterparts to the north. Maybe nature is telling us something about what really matters in the game of natural selection.

On the other hand, maybe the selection pressures in the post-scarcity world are different in ways not yet understood. If the correlation between education and low-fertility is what we’re told, it would have showed up a long time ago. It used to be smart people got rich and they had a bunch of kids. Now, rich people claim to be smart and they avoid having children at all. Perhaps in a highly automated, post-scarcity world, general intelligence is not much of an asset at either end of the social structure.

Interestingly, if this is even somewhat true, it supports the observation that cognitive abilities did not evolve equally around the globe. This would explain the differences in measured intelligence. In a place with lots of naturally available food, but lots of predators, being smart is not as big an edge as being quick. In a world of high-scarcity, low time preference and the ability to plan ahead are important. The post-scarcity, technological society is a grand experiment demonstrating this in real time.

That brings us back to the initial question. Is the human capital of today better than the human capital of the past? The answer is probably yes and no. The populations with low fertility could be obsolete, to be replaced with low-IQ Africans. Alternatively, they could be in the midst of a change to better equip them for the post-scarcity world. On the other hand, maybe the formerly high IQ populations unleashed environmental changes that will keep lowering intelligence unto this high tech society collapses.

Maybe what’s really going on is a weird race to the finish line. On the one hand, human intelligence is declining as automation takes over more and more tasks. On the other hand, the robots are getting smarter and will one day function as our caretakers. The race is to see if the robots get to that point before we run out of smart people able to create the artificial intelligence and super-intelligent robots. If we get too dumb too fast, the future may be primitives living in the wreckage of formerly high tech societies.

The Fifth Columnists

Imagine you are an antiquarian who specializes in obscure books. You like the odd stuff that focuses on folktales and legends. After a while, you start to notice some similarities between legends that should not be connected. Maybe they came from different time periods are different parts of Europe. You get curious and after years of research you establish four main categories of this particular legend. There’s overlap between all of them, but none of them are exactly like any of the other three.

One possible explanation is that each set of authors borrowed from the previous authors, but added and removed material to fit their audience. On closer inspection, you can’t see how any of these authors had access to one another’s work. That and two were contemporaries, but separated from one another by a great distance. While it was possible they borrowed from one another, it is highly improbable. Instead, the most likely answer is they were working form a common source, some unknown body of work.

Those familiar with biblical scholarship will recognize where this is going. Most Bible scholars have come to believe that the solution to the question of the specific literary relationship among the three synoptic gospels is they relied upon an as yet undiscovered source or sources. They have constructed what that source would look like by careful comparison of the three Gospels, to catalog their similarities and differences. The term they use for the source is the Q Document, that may or may not have existed.

Discovery through inference is a useful skill for understanding the world, because we are usually presented with incomplete evidence. In the case of biblical scholars, their understanding the provenance of the Gospels would be simple if the writers had used end notes, hyperlinks and direct quotations. That’s not the case, so they have to “recreate” the missing data in the same way one figures out the shape of the missing pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. You fit everything else in place and examine the gaps.

That’s a useful way of thinking about these waves of fake scandal stories that are becoming a feature of the Trump era. On the surface, they look like what we used to call tabloid news or what we now call fake news. The “reporters” take some information and frame in such a way it takes on a whole new sinister meaning or they salt some fantasy they are peddling with unrelated facts to make it seem plausible. The headline makes one claim, but the body of the report fails to deliver the goods.

There’s some truth to that, but there are facts that don’t fit that narrative. For example, the main organs of the media are often silent on these things until they run their course. For example, instead of running with the BuzzFeed story, the main stream sites showed a great deal of wariness. Even CNN was skeptical. Part of it had to do with the fact that the authors were, as Columbia Journalism Review out it, “serial fabulists.” Still, CNN has never been afraid to make up the news, so it was odd that they were skeptical.

Then there is something else. The NeverTrump loons dropped all of their other subversive activities in order to push this story on social media. Confirmed plagiarist Jonah Goldberg was still pushing it even after the Mueller people knocked it down. As far as Goldberg is concerned, the story is true, even if it is false. The odious carbuncle John Podhoretz was working his greasy little fingers raw pushing the story on Twitter. Of course, the pope of the neocon fifth columnists, Bill Kristol, is still pushing the story.

There’s also the ham-handed nature of this caper. Giving the story to a serial liar like Jason Leopold was bound to raise suspicion. Giving it to the tabloid like BuzzFeed is just asking for scrutiny as to the accuracy of the sourcing. If you’re trying to push a rumor, this is the wrong way to do it. The way to drop a story in the media is to find a low level reporters at the Washington Post or the New York Times and give them the scoop of the year. That’s how the professionals put a rumor into the system.

The one guy capable of being comically ham-handed when trying to undermine Trump is Bill Kristol. This is the guy with some sort of weird attraction to bald gentiles. He first pushed the mentally unstable David French as a primary opponent to Trump and then landed on Evan McMuffin, the guy with comically bulbous head. One has to assume that Mitt Romney is loading up on Gillette products so he can run as the bald alternative to Trump in the 2020 primary. Yes, Romney is that obsequious.

The point of this rambling post is that when you start to think about these endless waves of fake news about Trump, there seems to be a missing source. That is, the patterns suggest there is a piece of the puzzle missing. It’s just assumed the neocons all share the same thoughts about foreign policy for the obvious reason. Maybe what we are seeing is an active conspiracy. Maybe these guys are coordinating their efforts, while working at various news outlets and government posts.

It is certainly a cliché to call people like Bill Kristol a subversive, but clichés don’t spring from nothingness. They have some truth. We know he was involved in the fake dossier the FBI used to spy on the Trump campaign. How unrealistic is it to believe that this crew is the source of the endless waves of fake news about Trump? Further, how unrealistic is to think they are actively conspiring with one another? In other words, the missing piece to this puzzle is a wide ranging conspiracy of people with a shared interest.

Winter Comes To Lagos

Winter finally arrived in Lagos, with cold temperatures and snow last night. It was not a big snowstorm, but it is still snowing as I type this. The local weather people say we will get 5-8 inches of snow today, in addition to the four or five that came last night. It’s hard to know with weather forecasts these days, as they exaggerate everything. They name every storm so they can talk about it like it is a monster from a 1960’s Japanese monster movie, “Mothra is attacking Lagos with snow and freezing temps!”

I’m a big fan of winter and I like snow, so I look forward to it snowing. I had some errands to run this morning, so I was out at sunup to shovel the truck out and clear the walk. I’m one of those people who enjoys shoveling snow. There is a limit to my enjoyment, but as long as the snow is not three feet deep or super-heavy, I enjoy the exercise and the satisfaction of seeing a clean walk. So, I was out first thing to shovel and then run some errands. I did not see anyone else out and about, so it was more quiet that usual.

That’s something I’ve observed in different parts of the world. When I lived in New Hampshire, the locals all seemed to love shoveling snow, almost as much as they loved complaining. The distinguishing feature of the New England Yankee is complaining about the weather. I recall the first snow storm when I moved to Manchester. I went out at first light to see all my neighbors out shoveling their walks and driveways. By breakfast, all of the walks were clear on my block and most drives were clear as well.

In contrast, Lagos may never clear the snow. My first snowstorm here was my first year, so I was unfamiliar with the local customs. We got a big snowstorm, over 30-inches, and the city was shut down for a week. I drove to the office to shovel the walk and found I was the only person out shoveling his walk. In fact, that whole winter the sidewalks were an obstacle course of frozen boot-prints, patches of ice and snow boulders. In theory, there’s a fine for not shoveling your walk, but I never heard anyone mention it.

That explains a weird thing you see here in Lagos, as well as other vibrant areas. When it snows, the locals walk in the streets. They will do this even when the walks are clear. I think it is just years of conditioning that has turned into a custom. You will see this in the county when it snows. People go out and walk in the streets. Here in Lagos, it means driving gets even more adventurous, as the locals could very well attack you while you are trying to navigate around them on the snow covered streets.

The other thing you see in places like this is how differences in time preference turn up in city planning efforts. My first storm here I learned that no one had bothered to service the city’s snow removal equipment. In fact, much of it was either disabled or missing. I recall that half the plows were either broken or unaccounted for, so snow removal was a comical failure. When your focus is on today, that is you have a high time preference, planning for even predictable eventualities is beyond your scope of interest.

This, of course, is a great way to introduce people to evolutionary concepts regarding human diversity. A thousand generations in a place without snow and inevitably the humans will adapt to a life without snow. It’s not just learned behavior at work. Nature is always tinkering with her creations. As Nick Wade put it, evolution is local, recent and copious. Put people from the real Lagos in a place with variability in the environmental conditions and their biological limitations will be exposed.

Of course, something that seems near universal is the panic that comes before every snowstorm, even in the snowiest places. I went to the market this morning and it was stone silent. The reason is everyone piled in yesterday. I saw this in New England when I lived there, so it is not just an unfamiliarity with snow. This seems to happen everywhere, so maybe the sense of something happening triggers the preparedness instinct in people with low time preference. The itch to prepare always needs to be scratched.

That said, there seems to be a strong desire among some pale folk to never have to deal with winter. I have friends who talk every winter about their desire to move south and never see another snow flake in person. The number of pale retirees in the Sun Belt says a large portion of pale people may be built for winter, but they really hate it. I’ve always found this baffling. I love winter and love the snow. It’s peaceful and beautiful. There’s a simplicity to it that appeals to me. Even in Lagos, I welcome old man winter.

The End Of The Line

The Consumer Electronics Show happened this week in Las Vegas. There was a time when this was an international event, as everyone wanted to see the latest electronic gadgets that were about to hit the market. The pace of change was so quick, every year featured cool new ideas and concepts that promised to alter how we experience our entertainments. There was also the futuristic factor, as companies would preview what cool new technology they were about to bring from the lab to your home.

That’s no longer the case as the consumer electronics business seems to have run out of road, as far as cool new ideas. This is apparent in the troubles Apple is suddenly facing. It makes a cool looking toy, but there’s nothing unique about an iPhone. It does what all the phones do now. The gap between it and the low end brands is not enough to warrant a premium. This is an issue turning up all across the consumer electronics space. There’s just no new technology to make any of it “must have” or any brand unique.

The big new idea this year is 8K TV, which is just becoming a reality. TV makers have made 4K the default now. Everyone hopes these super high resolution TV’s will spark a revolution in both accessory items and the content itself. So far, 4K has not made much of an impact on consumers. It turns out that better resolution does not improve the quality of the content. That was true of HD, but at least those sets looked cool and they were much easier to move around the living room. They also made 80-inch screens possible.

That’s the tell with this stuff. If a new technology has an impact on the consumer, it can first sell at a premium. That was the case with HD television. Middle-class white guys in the suburbs built man caves around their big screen. That did not happen with 4K television as people just ignored it until the price dropped to normal levels. That means the same will happen with 8K. The resolution and sound of the television has reached the point where it is more than good enough for the majority of people.

Manufacturers have known this for a while, which is why they invested heavily in virtual reality. Virtual reality or some other immersive technology is the assumed to be the next step, but people don’t seem to like the idea. VR headsets have been out for a while and they have been a big flop with the public. Part of it is you look like an idiot wearing the things and no one wants to look ridiculous. The experience so far is less virtual reality and more altered reality, like being on hallucinogens.

There’s also the fact that virtual reality will probably not work anything like the electronics makers imagine. Human perception is something we know little about and what we think we know we have all wrong. Much of our reality is probably generated by our brains from stimuli that we get through our senses. We’re not living in the matrix, but we are living in a stripped down version of reality. Our brains consumer just what is necessary to build a reality from information stored in our brains that we accumulated in life.

Otherwise, the “new” stuff coming from electronics makers is increasingly ridiculous implementations of things like voice activation. A voice activated parasol was probably fun to design, but it is entirely useless. In fact, voice activated stuff will most likely fail miserably for two reasons. One is the idiocy of it. Just think of how annoying it is to talk to a robot on the phone when dealing with the bank or pharmacist. No matter how good the technology gets, you will always know you are talking to a thing and that feels dumb.

The other factor is privacy. You have to be close to retarded to invite these devices into your home, given what we already know about the tech firms. If the mobile carriers are willing to sell your location data in real-time to anyone who wants to buy it, including criminals, then they will sell your private conversations in real time too. Just as prisoners figure out how to make their cells a private space, the future means the home becomes a technology free area, so people can have an escape from the panopticon.

The end of the road for consumer electronics will no doubt have an impact on video content creation. Something that has gone unnoticed is how the technological revolution transferred billions every year from consumers to the entertainment business, without much change in the content. If anything, the result was more bad content and much more propaganda. The selling of the poz is so over the top now, it is intolerable. That suggests the content makers are ripe for “disruption” as the cool kids say.

A hint of it is in the audio space. It took a while, but the mp3 altered music and spoken word formats. People still listen to talk radio, for example, but the switch to podcasts and live streams is happening quickly. Like evening news shows, terrestrial radio is the thing that appeals to older people. It has no future. In all probability, we are on the cusp of a similar revolution in video content. It will have different contours, but the end result will be a radical change in the economics of entertainment.

Of course the petering out of the consumer electronics revolution will have economic consequences. The PC revolution ran its course, just as we are seeing with home entertainment and mobile phones. At the end, we quickly saw a consolidation and commoditization of the market. No one thinks much about the big name computer makers and in time no one will care who makes their television or smart phone. These household names will either move onto other things or go out of business.

The Risk Of Speed

When it comes to automation, people tend to assume the robots will perform the same tasks as the humans they replace, just with fewer mistakes and fewer days off. While that is true, automation almost always means changing how the work gets done, in order to break it into discrete operations. Instead of a man at a workstation, doing a series of tasks, each task is done as a single event by a single robot. This simplifies the task of automation and reduces the cost of the automation by eliminating variables.

This atomization of the work not only makes the work process more efficient, it changes how the humans have to analyze it. Instead of focusing on the people, they must focus on the process. That’s always part of process improvement, but because the process changes and the variables change, new phenomenon turn up in the process. In statistics, they say quantity has a quality all its own. In automated systems, speed has a quality all its own. Those super fast, super accurate robots change the nature of the process.

Think of the game of table tennis. It is a pretty simple game, in terms of strategy. The players try to trick one another with various tactics like setting up a shot or putting spin on the ball so it is hard to return. Player A will use top spin to force Player B to change how he strikes the ball. At some point Player A will change, thus fooling Player B, who then hits the ball beyond the far edge of the table. Alternatively, one player will make the other player move side to side, increasing the chances of a physical error.

If you are coaching table tennis, it is all about training the human to play against the other human. Now, replace the players with robots. The first thing that changes is the players will not make physical errors. So, the side to side business no longer makes sense. The same is true of using ball spin to induce a physical error. The robots will strike the ball correctly each time. In other words, when you remove human error and human emotion from the game, the strategy of the game has to change as well.

It also means the game changes. For example, the team that makes the first robot player will build it to capitalize on human error. Soon, other teams will replace their humans with robots. At that point, everyone stops trying to exploit human error. Instead, they are trying to make faster robots. If their robots can exceed the physical limits of the other robots, then they win. Soon, there is an arms race between the robot builders to make the fastest robot, in terms of physical response, along with the faster processors.

If you stop and think about what this would look like, it sounds kind of cool at first. The first robots would be slow and stupid, but eventually they would pretty amazing. They would go from amusing to terrifying as the speed of the game would become incomprehensible to humans. The speed, agility and processing power of the machines would have the ball flying through the air near its maximum velocity of 900 miles per hour. The paddles would be made of special material, in order to prevent them from flying apart.

Automating the game of table tennis would first result in removing the strategy of the game that exploits human failure. This would be true of any system that is being automated. System analysis would also change as the speed of the machines would create new points of failure and new challenges, in terms of finding efficiency and a competitive edge. In other words, as the problem solving shifts from the human variable to the engineering issues, system analysis has to change accordingly.

Now, instead of robots playing table tennis, let’s think of something else. Currently, close to 90% of trades in the equities markets are done by robots, which are just computer programs attached to the financial system. These programs have access to financial data throughout the system, which is inputted into their systems and the output is the buy and sell decisions. Teams of smart people called “quants” spend endless hours fine-tuning their programs to make them faster and more efficient at trading equities.

If you read the book The Money Game, which was written in the 1960’s, it presciently predicted the rise of the machines in the financial markets. What was clear to smart people at the dawn of the robot age, but not clear to most people, is the old systems regulating and controlling markets would not hold up to automation. It took the Black Monday crash of 1987 for everyone to realize that the controls had to change in order to accommodate the new robot players in the financial system.

In the 2000’s, the rise of high speed trading algorithms and large scale trading models eventually broke the system again. The emergence of the so-called “flash-crash” was entirely due to speed. While the first phase of automation removed the normal human checks on trading, resulting in runaway selling, the next phase of automation allowed for bad human decisions, like errors in trading algorithms, to be implemented so quickly, the systems could not respond. The result was erroneous sell-offs.

That brings us to the current market volatility. The decline itself is getting all of the attention, mostly for marketing and political reasons. The dullards in the media know how to sell gloom and they like blaming bad news on Trump. Historically, this bear market is not important. Whether it is called a correction or a bear market, the numbers are not all that significant. We’ve seen much worse. No one is jumping from their office windows and the public is not banging the sell button on the investment account.

What’s unique about this market is the weirdness. There is sustained volatility, but also a sustained decline, that does not appear to correlate to factors in the economy or in the financial system. The tiniest bit of news can cause wild swings. Apple announced what everyone should have known by now, that their toys are not selling as well as in the past, and the market takes a big tumble. Apple shares dropped 10% in minutes. Of course, this ripples to the rest of the market in seconds as well.

What could be happening is the next phase of automation. The speed and complexity of the algorithms are no longer comprehensible by the humans involved in the system. Like our table tennis playing robots, a level of speed and complexity passes the event horizon of humans to comprehend. Watching the robots play table tennis would be like watching a whirl of stars, beautiful, but impossible for the mind to fathom. Similarly, the new market dynamics may be reaching the limits of human regulators to fathom.

This is not to imply that the robot traders have become aware and are now taking control of the system from humans. That would be interesting, but the robots are still relatively dumb. Instead, they have reached levels of efficiency and speed that exceeds our ability to model properly. The result is the wild volatility and the seemingly irrational behavior of the markets. Put another way, this is the age of basic ideas implemented so fast and with such efficiency, they become irrational to their human creators.

2019 Predictions

Most of the predictions for the coming year have something about Trump and his agenda, as he faces a divided Congress. What will be revealed is the Congress is not so divided after all, as both parties will boldly lock shields to thwart the Trump agenda. The House will spend the year issuing subpoenas and holding hearings so their more clownish elements can perform for the cameras. The Senate will go on strike, doing nothing other than quietly pushing through Trump’s appointments to the Federal bench.

The Mueller probe will take a different turn in 2019. Now that it has been established as a semi-permanent oversight office, charged with keeping Trump from doing anything, the cover-up of the FBI subversion will be completed. All Congressional inquiries will end and the IG reports will contain nothing. Team Mueller will then turn to watching everyone working in the White House to make sure nothing can be done without the approval of official Washington. Team Mueller will be the shadow cabinet going forward.

The race to see who succeeds Trump in 2020 will be where the action is as the Democrats start to get serious about building their field. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris will be working the donor circuit, using exploratory committees to help build their brands in early states. The Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary are just 13 months away. Elizabeth Warren will turn out to be Howard Dean in a dress, as her campaign will make a lot of noise in the media, but not appeal to actual voters.

Because the Democrats will be shifting their focus to winning the White House in 2020, the censorship trend will take a different turn, as the tech giants begin to censor the Left. Look for the social media companies to begin cracking down on the BernieBro wing, in an effort to boost the standing of party approved candidates. Suddenly, groups like Antifa are going to find themselves without the protection they have enjoyed. They were always corporate tools, they just never knew it. In 2019, they find out who signs their checks.

The volatile bear market will continue as the financial world adjusts to some big new realities. One is the white retirement will quicken, slowing the flow of cash into retirement funds. Second, the Fed will continue to unwind its positions, thus raising the value of cash, while managing a mild deflation in asset values. Home prices will start to fall in certain markets and categories. The great demographic turnover has begun and the financial world will begin learning why no one cares about the Mexican stock market.

The world will start to notice that the Chinese economy cannot transition to one reliant on domestic demand fast enough to avoid a correction. China built its economy on currency manipulation and exploiting loopholes in global trade arrangements. Those loopholes are now closing. The Fed and ECB are much less tolerant of currency manipulation. The transition to a more normal economic model will require breaking more than a few iron rice bowls. That means China will get more authoritarian in the near term.

Theresa May will not get her fake Brexit bill through the Commons. Instead, there will be a second referendum later in the year so the Brits can vote correctly this time. The original deadline will be suspended pending the outcome of the new referendum, which will be rigged to make sure the remain side wins. Theresa May’s government will fall and new elections will be held. All concerned will accept a Tory defeat as the price that must be paid in order to defend British democracy.

On the Continent, populist unrest will give momentum to the Three Seas Initiative as part of a corrective to the European project. This year will see two camps emerge with one favoring the decentralized model championed by Poland and another camp favoring a centralized model with Germany in charge. The irony of the decentralized model being favored by all of the former communist nations will not be lost on anyone. The great test for both camps is their approach to immigration, which is becoming untenable.

Cord cutting will begin to have a real impact on the sports entertainment business. The rapid growth of American sports was driven by television money. That television money came from the cable monopolies that were given the right to tax households for content they would not otherwise purchase. Cord cutting and the demographic changes mean fewer households willing to pay the Hollywood jizya. This is the year when college and professional sports leagues begin to feel the pinch.

Finally, this is the year when serious questions about the authenticity of the Facebook business model go mainstream. For years, everyone has accepted their word, as far the number of users looking at ads on the site. Every six months they have to apologize for another “bug” in the metrics that overstated their claims. No one really knows how many humans actually use the site and advertisers have no way to know if humans really view their ads. This year people begin to wonder if Facebook is on the level.

Year In Review

This is the time of year when lazy writers post about the comings and goings of the previous year, usually in the form of a listicle. “The top-10 events of the past year” is a column that used to turn up in every newspaper at least once. Then you have the predictions for the coming year, which no one ever mentions as part of their year in review posts. With technology being what it is, you would think a new genre of year-end post would be the review of futures past type of post, but that has not happened.

There is some utility in looking at these things. It’s a lot like reading old articles about the glorious future of the 1990’s. It is a good reminder that most of the things we think are important turn out to be not so important. You look at some of the predictions from last year and wonder why anyone cared to mention it. Of course, you also wonder why no one mentioned what happens to be important right now. How many forecasters predicted a budget fight between Trump and his own party over wall funding?

Looking at your own past predictions is a bit humbling, which is probably why no one does it as a part of their year-end posting. Here is my post from last year with my crystal ball forecast for the upcoming year. I’m not a fan of the listicle, so it is written in the normal format. Looking back on it, maybe a list is not such a terrible thing to do for these sorts of posts. It does make it easier to read. That said, the very worst people write listicles, so I just can’t bring myself to do it. One has to keep up appearances.

So, how’d I do?

Well, I got the DACA stuff mostly right. The part I got wrong is that Trump would just drop the whole thing, rather than let the program expire unnoticed. Instead, he and his new boy-toy, Lindsey Graham are talking about trading 700,000 green cards to invaders in exchange for a down payment on his wall. In fact, Trump has gotten nothing from Congress with regards to immigration, so on that score I can only give myself a solid “C+” for getting close, but over estimating Trump’s political skill.

A similar thing is true with the Mueller probe. I got the easy part right. The farcical nature of the thing is now plain to everyone. Even the Democrats have stopped yapping about Russian collusion. The mask has dropped and they are clear about it being a way to hobble Trump. That’s not entirely true, as it is mostly a way to cover-up the Obama effort to subvert the last presidential election. I got the midterms right too, but that was so easy, so I’m not sure it’s worth grading.

I did nail the gene editing stuff. The Chinese may have used the new technology to “fix” the DNA of an embryo. That’s the claim, at least, but none of it has been independently verified. The Chinese will lie about anything, as it is a bandit culture. What has been released to the public that can be verified looks legitimate. Even if it proves to be false, it does reveal a willingness to do it by China, which has the West thinking about how to get past the ethics of it so it can be done here as well. Welcome to the future.

One thing I got very right is the continued growth of nationalist and populist parties in Europe. It is easy to forget that the smart people were all talking about the populist wave having crested last year, so going the other way was a bold prediction. Not only have the populists displayed staying power, new movements from the Left are turning up. The Yellow Vest thing in France is much more of a leftists cause, especially in Paris, than a right-wing phenomenon. That’s something to watch for next year.

Another thing I got very right is the IPO for Saudi Aramco. It’s funny to think that was a big news item last year. It’s a great example of how something we think is important in the moment turns out to be easily forgotten. Alternatively, it is a good example of something the mass media is instructed to forget, once the news turns ugly. Notice how no one talks about our second greatest ally in the world these days. A shrewd analyst might be thinking of a way to bet against the Saudis surviving next year.

What really mattered?

The dogs that were not barking last year, like the aggressive censorship of dissidents and the absolute failure of the Trump administration, have turned out to be the most important stories of 2018. This time last year most people thought the Left was starting to run out of steam with their Nazi hunting, but that turned out to be wrong. The move to a Chinese style censorship regime actually took a big leap forward. Similarly, people thought Trump was settling into the job, but it turned out he was getting worse at it.

If one were to honestly characterize 2018, it would be as the year that even cynical dissidents were shocked at the number of masks dropping. This year we learned that Congress is so frightened of Silicon Valley, that it is fair to say the real power base in the empire is in San Francisco. Similarly, Congress is so frightened of the intelligence agencies, they have become the Praetorian Guard of the empire. A shrewd analyst may be thinking that 2019 is the year we dispense with democracy altogether.

In Defense of Error

The other day, I followed a back and forth on Twitter between two smart people and one of them pointed out that the other had been wrong about the issue in the past. The details are not important as nothing serious ever gets discussed on Twitter, but what struck me is how even smart people can resort to this sort of score keeping. In the context of an internet exchange, it is about as sensible as claiming the other guy has cooties. It’s just a childish way of dismissing an argument or criticism without examining it.

It is a form of the fallacy of the undistributed middle. Someone could have a great record of being right about a topic, but those past predictions have little or even no connection to the current prediction. A gambler can get on a great roll at the craps table. It does not mean he’ll keep winning. This also means that the legendary loser at craps can win once in a while too. That’s the way it is with intellectual endeavors. You will get a lot wrong, but you can get a lot right too. Intellectual advancement is the story of trial and error.

Anyway, it got me thinking about something that turns up a lot on the dissident right. That is the quest to purify one’s past. It seems that a lot of people feel they should be ashamed of having been a libertarian or an unthinking conservative, who listened to Rush Limbaugh and voted Republican. Often you hear people talk about their journey to this side of the great divide as an awakening. It’s not a terrible way to frame it, as it certainly feels that way when you are going through it.

I know in my my case, I still remember when it dawned on me that the Bush people were serious about the spreading democracy stuff. From 2001 until 2005, I was quite confident that the democracy talk was mostly public relations. It was a way to troll the Left, by using their language as a justification for Afghanistan and Iraq. What was really going to happen is the CIA would find a friendly strong man to take over as an authoritarian. We’d install our guy and that would be that.

Even during the election with the purple finger stuff, I was quite confident it was just a show for domestic consumption. Then, it became clear they really thought they could turn Iraq into a European style democracy that would be an ally to Israel and help with the coming war with Iran. The scales fell from my eyes and I quickly moved from thinking the neocons were wrong to thinking they were crazy. Bill Kristol was just as deranged as the guys talking about the invisible imam and the end times.

Now, I take solace in knowing that I was not the only one to make this error. Tucker Carlson often talks about how he supported the war on terror and then realized it was going to be a catastrophe. John Derbyshire has written about his regret for having gone along with something he always sensed was a bad idea. Lots of smart and skeptical people were fooled by the Bush gang, so I don’t lose sleep over it. The neocons are very good at turning virtues into vices. It is their nature.

The thing is though, I’ve always thought the two best things to happen to our side are the Bush years and the Obama years. For men of my generation, the Bush year opened our eyes about the reality of the Buckley Right. Whatever the Buckley project was at the start, by the 1990’s it became a vehicle to undermine heritage America, every bit as toxic and dangerous as Progressivism. The Obama years created more race realists that an army of Charles Murrays and Steve Sailers.

The point is, mistakes have consequences, but they are often a necessary intermediate step in discovery. This is true of science and technology and it is true in the evolution of culture and society. The bungling of guys like Richard Spencer, which set off the aggressive campaign of censorship and de-platforming, has opened a lot of eyes, especially on our side, to the realities facing us. If the alt-right had been more prudent early on, the battle lines would not be so clear now.

A point I made on RamZPaul’s Christmas special was that the aggressive censorship and the fallout from it will make us better in the long run. James Edwards did not seem to like that point, but I am right about this. This is not a game you win by mastering the other side’s rules. There are no rules, just force. Our side will be better as we learn how to navigate around the searchlights, armed patrols and ideological enforcers. The path to victory is not in the appeal to their virtue, but the exploitation of their vices.

In a way, the dissident right is the result of error. Much of the skepticism that defines this side of the great divide is the result of having been wrong about a great many things, especially the integrity of the people in charge. Just as science and technology are the story of error, whatever comes next is going to be the result of many mistakes. It’s what an awakening is, when you think about it. It is that point when you realize you have been wrong about important things and begin to figure out the right answers.

Vertical Thinking

Some time ago, someone sent me a link to a news story about vertical farming, which is a form of urban agriculture. Here is the Wiki on it and here are some news stories about it here, here and here. Amusingly, when you dig into the subject, you find that the growth of vertical farming can be credited to marijuana growers, who used hydroponic farming to grow weed outside the prying eyes of the man. Big agriculture is now jumping into the business, as a way to both cut labor cost, but also transportation costs.

The cost drivers for food production have always been labor, land and transportation, so farmers have always looked to technology to mechanize their process and increase the yield per acre. Getting the result to market, on the other hand, has always been controlled by distance. Farmers are way outside the city and the customers are in the city. Things like motorized transport and refrigeration have had the strange result of increasing the distance between farm and table. Most city dwellers have never seen a farm.

Vertical farming not only allows for greater yield per acre, you just keep growing up, it also allows for the distance between farm and table to collapse. Vertical farms are just buildings using hydroponics and can be as tall as you like. Almost every city has an excess of abandoned warehouse and factory space. Those spaces, in theory, can be turned into vertical farms. The area around them could literally be turned into farmer’s markets, where the locals can buy their food from the farmer.

The other twist on this is the growing of food in a building, rather than out on the land, makes automation easier. Having robots roaming around the countryside sounds like fun, but robots break, so that means people roaming the countryside to fix the robots. In contrast, an automated warehouse requires just a few people to maintain the robots, relatively speaking. A Japanese firm has built a vertical lettuce farm that is entirely automated. It is a robot vertical farm that is commercially viable.

It’s not much a jump in thought to imagine where this can lead. This method of food production means that cities could become independent of the countryside, maybe even become agricultural centers. That means the interdependence of rural and urban that is enforced and regulated by government could be be broken. That does not mean cities would break from from the countryside, but it means they could survive, at least, if order breaks down and government is no longer able to maintain the balance.

The science fiction scenario is not such a big leap, if vertical farming can be what the industry thinks it can be in a few decades. The cosmopolitans who run the cities and control finance and trade, would move to seal off the cities from the countryside. Inside we get the Brave New World of Huxley, while outside we get the depopulated countryside of John the Savage. The cities would be connected by hyper loops built by Elon Musk. Port cities will be where goods and services enter the system from overseas.

As John Derbyshire remarked at the most recent Mencken conference, the future imagined by Huxley is not only more likely than that imagined by Orwell, it is right around the corner. Cities may not become entirely self-sufficient in the next generation, but the world of work and want is possibly coming to a close in the West. A lot can happen between now and the glorious future, like a plague or an unforeseen financial collapse that upends social order, but the future imagined by Huxley is visible on the horizon.

There is one problem with all of this, whether it is self-sufficient cities run by robots or the future imagined by Huxley. That is, what would be the point? Ruling elites have the population they need to rule. They always seek to reduce that which is not useful to their grip on power. The proliferation of birth control is simply eugenics with a happy face. The societies to the South are sending their excess population north because they don’t want them. Every African potentate will tell you. He has too many Africans.

In the robot cities of the future, most of the people would serve no purpose, so they could be expelled out of the city or recycled for their mineral content in the vertical farms. At some point, the only useful people to the ruling elite would be the guards, who defend the city from the outlanders and expel excess people. Some jobs can never be automated, at least not in foreseeable future, so cities would still have people, just not a lot of them. The logical result of that is much smaller cities, but that becomes self-defeating.

Just play out the dynamics of the imaginary world of self-sufficient cities run by robots and it becomes ridiculous in a hurry. The expulsion of people drives up the population of outlanders and drives down the population of cosmopolitans. To keep from being overrun, the number of guards needed by the city must go up. The self-sufficient cities run by robots eventually become armed camps for no other purpose than to guard the vertical farms and give the ruling class someone over whom to rule. It’s pointless.

Of course, there is another side to the question. That is, what’s the point of living in the world imagined by Huxley. That is the thing Derbyshire noted in his talk. People prefer Orwell, because his future seems like it has a point. There is a reason to live. In the Brave New World, life is consumption and fornication floating in an ether of soma, the opioid-like narcotic freely available in Huxley’s future. That’s what makes it so unpleasant for modern readers. Life without purpose is not utopian. It is dystopian..

As we get closer to that world and drug addiction rates spiral upward, suicide rates climb higher and now life expectancy is declining, it suggests there is a stop between here and Huxley’s imagined future. That’s death. Humans, at least Europeans, are not built for captivity. This reality is probably what is driving the migrant invasions. What’s the point of defending your lands when you have no reason to get up in the morning? People don’t defend land. They defend the life that can be built and lived on that land.