The Robot Future

The other day I saw this on Drudge and sent it around to friends. The content of the article is not all that interesting. What’s funny is the line “Futurologist Dr Ian Pearson has predicted how humans will evolve by 2050.” Replace “futurologist” with “astrologer” and the line actually makes more sense. At least it is more honest. The absurdity of someone calling themselves a “futurologist” is probably lost on most people, but that’s the age in which we live.

Predictions about the future are nothing new. The Jewish Bible is full of them. The Prophets were men who claimed to know what’s coming, if the Israelites did not get their act together. Ezekiel was the Zero Hedge of his day. Wanting to know what comes next, fearing what comes next and longing for what comes next are the batteries of human civilization. They power everything else. After all, reproduction is all about tomorrow.

The fact that almost all predictions about the future are wrong makes for some great laughs. I think this one may be one of the all time best. It’s a great example of how people naturally assume that current trends will extend out into future. At the end of the 19th century, fashionable people wore elaborate costumes. Therefore, these outfits would get increasingly elaborate and bizarre.

The predictions that turn out to be right are mostly dumb luck or one insight that can never be replicated. This guy is an obvious example. He was one of the few people in a position to see and exploit the mortgage bubble. He got that bit of futurology right, but ever since his predictions have amounted to nothing but hand waving. Was he lucky or did he just have good timing? It’s hard to know, but ironically, getting the mortgage crisis right was a black swan event in his life.

Most of what futurology focuses on today is automation, the robot future. What sells are tales about how the machines will rise up and enslave mankind. The “Terminator” version of the future naturally appeals to people because it underscores the folly of man. Nuclear Armageddon appealed to the same set of sensibilities. Arrogant men playing god would create a doomsday machine of some sort and then there would be hell to pay, so to speak.

That last bit offers an insight as to why having a genius IQ is not a great gift. People are naturally suspicious of the super genius. In all of the dystopian tales there lies the amoral super genius or the immoral super genius. The super intelligent robots are just assumed to be incapable of understand right and wrong. Their creators will, for some reason, not bother to put that in the code.

The reality is a race (is race the right word?) of super intelligent robots would quickly lose interest in humans. From the perspective of the robots, humans would be as interesting to them as ants are to us. Maybe a few weirdo robots would make a hobby of studying us, but otherwise, the robots would have bigger fish to fry. Assuming an ever accelerating evolution of their intelligence, the robots will depart soon after they become aware. The universe is just too big and interesting to hang around with the talking monkeys.

Another option is the super intelligent robots will grow increasingly frustrated by their inability to understand why they exist. Why would a species create a race of robots that can enslave them? Why would the creator leave out the moral coding? The paradox would baffle them to the point where they smashed themselves to bits as the only answer to the great question posed by their existence. Maybe the future is the Robot People’s Temple.

The real concern, one that does not involve time traveling terminators, is the impact of automation on political economy. Humanity still relies on a basic assumption about the human condition. That’s scarcity. All of our political and economic thought relies on the assumption that demand exceeds supply for the important things in life. The long debates about social welfare are just debates over how to ration scarce goods.

Automation promises to usher in a strange new set of realities. Imagine if all farming can be done with self-directing machines. Factory goods can be produced with robots requiring little human intervention. Imagine the law reduced to an algorithm. You enter the facts into an interface and the robot lawyer renders a judgement instantly.

Similarly, imagine your annual physical taking place at a kiosk that takes your vitals, does your blood work and interrogates you about your habits. There’s really nothing your doctor does that cannot be automated. Unlike your doctor, the kiosk doctor takes no days off, never asks for a raise and has no biases resulting from the baksheesh in the medical business.

That all sounds good, maybe, but how do you order human society when work is hardly necessary? How does one distribute goods, handle the free rider problem and establish the natural hierarchy? It might be fun to think it will be The Marching Morons, but this process will not happen overnight. It will be a little here and a little there and then a sudden dislocation as the new technology coalesces into a cheap way to replace human labor.

As we saw when the financial class sold the manufacturing base off to Asia, the dislocation does not go smoothly. Imagine what happens when being smart has no real value, outside a very narrow set of skills needed for the robot future. Suddenly the smart guys and the dunces are in the same bread line. That’s not going to go unnoticed and it is not going to go smoothly.

Or, maybe it never happens. I’m not a trained futurologist.

Elfin Safety

The other day I saw that Major League Baseball plans to experiment with a special helmet for pitchers. This is in response to the very rare event of a batted ball hitting the pitcher in the head. The pictures of this thing suggest it is a weird contraption to have sitting on your head. Anyone who has worn a football or motorcycle helmet knows they are not very natural. This thing looks ridiculous in addition to probably being uncomfortable

I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think cricket bowlers wear a helmet. It seems to me that cricket bowlers would be more likely to take a ball off the head than baseball pitchers, but I’m not an expert on cricket. I’m just thinking that the Brits are way over the top with “elfin safety” compared to Americans so if they have not mandated helmets, there must be no risk. As I said, I could be wrong about cricket.

Thinking about it, the number of pitchers that get hit by batted balls is surprisingly small. I can recall a few ugly incidents, over many years of watching sports. If you do the math, there are about 80,000 balls hit by a batter that end up in play every season. In a given year, maybe one or two Major League pitchers get hit hard enough to be a concern. There are some years when it never happens so maybe the odds are 1-in-100,000.

As a point of comparison, there is a 1-in-700,000 chance of being struck by lightning on any given day.  The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1-in-3,000. No one, as far as I know, has been killed by a come backer in professional baseball. I’m sure it has happened somewhere in pickup games or youth leagues. The point being is that you should have a greater fear of lightning, if you are a baseball player.

In my youth playing sports, helmets for batters had been around for a while, but they were crude compared to today. As a catcher, I never wore a helmet, even though they were available, until I was in high school. They became mandatory at some point. They also improved the design around that time so it was not as big of a hassle. Even so, I caught a lot of baseball games and never took a hit to the head.

The fetish for safety is one of those strange things about the modern age that is hard for me to pin down. It’s irrational to make pitchers wear a helmet when they are at no real risk. At the same time, the people arguing for these things make the point that it does not cost anything to be careful in these cases. That’s not really true, but I can see why they think it is true. That and no one wants to see a ball player get seriously injured.

Still, there is something driving this that says something about modern mass media democracies. For the bulk of the 20th century, safety items for sports were rare. Everyone just assumed the risk and did not think much of it. Look at old hockey video and you see guys skating around without helmets, face guards or mouth protection. Goalies did not wear a helmet.

It was not just bat and ball sports. Look at the history of F1. There was a great documentary on the safety issues in the early days of Formula 1 a few years ago. Even if you don’t like car racing, it is a very interesting piece. The near total disregard for the safety of the drivers was just something everyone accepted for a long time. In fact, the danger was part of the appeal for fans.

In the case of F1, safety was forced on the sport by drivers. Guys getting killed every week simply became too much for even the bravest men. That’s an exception. In all other sports, safety is forced on the players. No ball players want to wear those goofy looking pitcher’s caps. Hockey players scrap the face guard as soon as the hit the professional ranks. Boxers would die in the ring if allowed.

Steve Pinker has documented the decline of human violence and the safety revolution probably fits in there somewhere. Violence declines as the respect for human life increases. The revolution in medicine that has extended healthy lives in the West probably means a corresponding spike in the respect for human life. When you’re lucky to make it past 30, blood sports don’t sound so bad. When you live to 80, taking care of yourself makes a lot of sense.

It’s not just sports either. Safety is a whole industry now. Walk around anywhere work is being done and you see all sorts of safety measures in place. Most of these are just in my lifetime. I’ll grant that much of it is driven by government meddling, but a fair bit is driven by a genuine concern for the safety of people in their daily lives. There’s no real push-back from employers and in many cases, the employers sponsor these measures.

There’s a limit to all of this. Safety has become something close to an obsession in the last half century. It’s not a bad thing, but the point of diminishing returns may be upon us, maybe behind us. If we’re down to making ball players wear strange head gear it means we have run out of serious safety concerns. That means the cost-benefit ratios will be turning the wrong way, if they have not already done so.

Hitler’s Swoosh

Public acts of piety have become a staple in the mass media. It’s hard to watch anything on television because every five minutes, it seems, someone is on screen telling us they are a good thinker in some way. Watch a sporting event and before long they are preaching about women, NAM’s, homosexuals or whatever fad is whirling around the Cult of Modern Liberalism at the moment.

It’s what bad thinkers call “virtue signalling.” You see it everywhere. Someone blunders and utters a truth about the world in public and immediately there is a line of people telling us how they were offended. Then there is a line hooting some form of “burn the witch!” and demanding the heretic grovel. The very act of groveling, the public struggle session, has been ritualized so everyone can sing along with the sinner.

The New Religion, unlike old useful religions, has evolved as an elaborate pat on the head for managerial class types. It’s a mommy religion telling her sweetie pie everything is going to be all right. That means the moral code is just as self-absorbed as the practitioners. After all, even mass murderers have mothers who love them. This story on ESPN is a good example.

Nike terminated its endorsement contract with boxer Manny Pacquiao on Wednesday after he made derogatory remarks about same-sex couples.

“We find Manny Pacquiao’s comments abhorrent,” the company said in a statement. “Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community.”

Based on Pacquiao’s comments, a spokesman confirmed that he is no longer on the company’s endorsement roster. Pacquiao, 37, had endorsed Nike for a little more than eight years.

On Thursday, Pacquiao said he respects Nike’s decision to drop him but stood pat on his opposition to same-sex marriage and added that he is happy that “a lot of people were alarmed by the truth.”

Pacquiao’s original remarks were made to a Filipino television station earlier this week

“Have you seen any animal having male-to-male or female-to-female relations?” Pacquiao said. “If you have male-to-male or female-to-female [relationships], then people are worse than animals.”

Pacquiao apologized on Twitter within hours.

“I’m sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals,” Pacquiao tweeted. “Please forgive me for those I hurt. God bless!”

You history buffs out there will recognize this as our old friend fascism. It’s been updated to modern tastes so instead of guys in brown shirts dropping by for a chat, it’s guys in Nike gear tweeting their outrage. The Gestapo made a big show of rounding up trouble makers in order to send a message. Our rulers do the same thing, but via social media and mock outrage. Same clowns, different clown car.

The moral inversion is what makes this New Religion a loser in the long run. Nike has no trouble using child labor and slaves to make their sneakers. Nike has no trouble sponsoring rapists and thugs. They were giggling like school girls when famous thugs were wearing Nike hoodies in an attempt to get the “white Hispanic” lynched down in Florida. But they draw the line at hurting the feelings of Filipino homosexuals?

If your moral code requires you to drop everything to defend the local homosexuals, but is silent on your use of child labor and slavery, your religion is barbaric and you are a dangerous lunatic. A world full of boorish guys like this boxer is going to be far more safe for homosexuals than a world run by sociopaths like the people at Nike. The former has empathy, which provides a natural limit on cruelty. The latter sees humans as exploitable resources.

Buckley Conservatism

I have written a bit of late about the collapse of our political institutions, both domestic and international. We are living through an interesting time in that we are seeing great technological progress that is threatening to blow apart the societies and institutions that brought about the technological revolution. It once again illustrates that nature is all about trade-offs. In a finite world, an entry on one side must have an entry on the other.

The world around us, in terms of traditions, cultural institutions, political institutions and so forth, was here when we got here. Take something as mundane as banking. We just take banks for granted, as if they are eternal, because to us, from our point of view, they are eternal. They have always been a part of the economic life we have experienced. Like most everything around us, we take them for granted.

I was in a meeting once around President’s Day and someone brought up that we should go back to calling it Washington’s birthday or maybe Lincoln’s birthday. A young gal said that we would have to have one for a Republican president if we’re going to have a day for the Democrat presidents. There was one of those odd silences and then someone changed the subject so we could avoid correcting her.

The young woman who thought Washington and Lincoln were members of the Democrat party was not a moron. She just lived her whole life in a time and place in which the good guys were Democrats who helped black people. She therefore assumed the guy who freed the slaves must have been a liberal Democrat. A surprising number of people make this mistake, underscoring the power of culture to blinker even the intelligent people.

That’s what we are seeing with our political institutions and the men and women who have made careers in them. They were born into a political world, for example, where Left and Right were defined along a linear economic scale. Libertarians were at one end and Communists on the other. One end worshiped free markets, while the other end had the labor theory of value.

The boys and girls that went into politics learned the team cheers, the responses to the other team’s cheers, their respective uniform options and so on. Their world was a comforting binary universe of us and them. There was no need to rethink anything. In fact, questioning orthodoxy was a good way to get sent into exile. The good liberal or conservative just repeated their lines from the catechism.

Anyway, the great challenge to the Orthodox Right we see underway in the Republican primary is a good example of the hollowness of their dogma. Consider this piece by Charlie Cooke posted at National Review Online today. It is supposed to be a response (dismissal?), of the question supposedly posed by the Donald Trump campaign. What conservatism done for anyone?

The interesting thing about the article is how little the author can come up with as a response to the question he claims to answer. Here is the key paragraph:

When confronted by this challenge, one is tempted to list the monumental ideological victories that the Right has won over the past 40 years. And rightly so. Since Ronald Reagan made his first serious presidential run, in 1976, conservatism has produced a cornucopia of significant changes — not only to government policy, but to the baseline presumptions of American life. Among these alterations are the tarring and feathering of the reflexively technocratic mindset that obtained from the outset of the New Deal to the end of the 1970s; the marginalization of wage and price controls, and of other centralizing tools; the lowering of destructive tax rates on income and other forms of wealth; the deregulation of a significant number of major industries; a renewed focus on national sovereignty; the successful reform of the welfare system; a consensus around free trade; a much lower minimum wage; a focus on both the text and the original meaning of the Constitution when discussing limits on government power; the restoration of the right to keep and bear arms; the stronger protection of freedom of expression; a national partial-birth-abortion ban; the death of speech-killing “campaign-finance reform”; and, lest we forget, the peaceful dismantling of the Soviet Union. For some much-needed context, understand that the GOP’s standard-bearer in the early 1970s, Richard Nixon, was the mind behind the Environmental Protection Agency, whereas today’s Republican candidates are opposed to so many departments that they can’t always remember all of their names.

These claims fall into three categories: Nonsense, fantasy and inconsequential. An example of nonsense is the bit about “tarring and feathering of the reflexively technocratic mindset.” National Review employs Ramesh Ponnuru who pumps out mountains of copy in support of using the tax code for social engineering. The Conservative Industrial Complex is brimming with organizations like AEI that do nothing but sell technocracy.

The fantasy part, and I’m being kind when calling it fantasy, is the stuff about eliminating wage and price controls and other centralizing tools. They were simply replaced with more subtle tools. Reagan gave us the modern Fed that sets prices through currency manipulation. Similarly, Carter started the deregulation process with the airlines. Of course, the line about national sovereignty is just a laugh out loud whopper.

No one cares about the ideological points Red Team scored against Blue Team at their annual softball games so those items go down as inconsequential, along with stuff like welfare reform and tax rates. If your great achievement was reversed by the next president, you achieved nothing. That’s the reality of Buckley Conservatism. It has left no lasting mark on American society, with one exception and that’s the Cold War.

But the Cold War is over.

Whether or not you think Buckley Conservatism was a winner or loser, does not matter all that much in the present. Conservatism may have been all that Charlie Cooke and his coevals say, but that avoids the heart of the question. What does Buckley Conservatism have to say about today and tomorrow? The answer is mostly a replaying of old tunes and the telling of stories by the geezers about the time they met Reagan.

That’s the reality dawning on many Americans who have counted themselves as men of the Right. Buckley Conservatism was basically two things. Beat the Soviets and keep the Progressives from pulling the roof down on us. The Soviets are gone and the Progressives are too busy hooting about men in dresses to care about pulling the roof down. Buckley Conservatism, it turns out, is not a timeless philosophy after all.

I’m running long here so let me just finish with this. There was a time when the Whigs were an important check on the Jacksonian Democrats. No one knows what a Whig is today. Fifty years from now, it will be hard for people to understand “conservatism” and why it was important. The dogs bark but the caravan moves on.

The Shadow of the Bear

Last year I wrote a post about the Russians and predicted that they would exploit the Million Muslim March that was just getting started at the time. The point of that post was that the Russians were playing a different game than everyone else in the Middle East and they were bringing new tactics to the great game. They clearly were learning from watching what the Americans were doing and not doing.

The news brings word that the Russians are now exploiting one outcome of the Million Muslim March into Germany and that is the rape crisis. The cleverness of this is the sort of thing that should lead Western planners to rethink their approach to Russia and global diplomacy.

Here e see ethnic Russians out protesting in German cities in a way that is intended to remind European leaders of the large number of ethnic Russians in their midst. Oh, and remind the Germans of where those Russians look for guidance. It looks a little bit like what we saw before Crimea broke off from Ukraine.

Then you have the nature of the protest. It is highlighting an issue the German government has been trying to hide. That is, these are not refugees. These are invaders. That, of course, presses on the legitimacy issue. The German people are already upset about the policy and this is a reminder that the government has repeatedly lied about it. Thus we have the Russians applying pressure to Merkel from an entirely unexpected place.

Then we have news of the growing conflict  between the Russians and Turkey, a NATO members, over Syria. The Turks and Russians have a lot of history and all of it bad. Having Russian and Turkish aircraft in the same sky is a disaster waiting to happen. Having each side shelling the other side’s proxy forces in Syria makes for a very dangerous game. It does not help that the Turks are led by a reckless nationalist either.

Again, you see the Russians using asymmetrical warfare even when using conventional weapons. The Russians know that NATO does not want a confrontation over Syria. At the same time they know the Turks want things from Europe and the US that they probably should not get, like advanced weaponry and financial support. Russia backing the Kurds just ratchets up the tensions on the NATO side.

Merkel was in Ankara begging the Turks to shut off the migrant faucet. You can be sure the Turks set the price very high. The question in Moscow is will the alliance stick with the Turks if they don’t shut off the faucet or if war breaks out between Russia and Turkey over Syria. The other question is how much is Merkel willing to pay to keep the Russians happy.

If that is not enough pressure on the West, the news brings word that NATO could not defend the Baltic states against a Russian invasion. The Russians surely know this. That means when dealing with the Baltic states, they will expect a lot of cooperation. The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine serves a a great reminder to the rest of Europe that the Russians are still important.

The Russians are also using one of the oldest weapons of war and that is confusion. No one seems to know their intentions so the West is left to speculate. The dearth of foreign policy talent in Washington does not help. The fact that Western leaders are post-nation bureaucrats and ideologues makes dealing with an unreconstructed nationalist like Putin even more confusing.

All of this highlights the fact that NATO is a relic from a bygone era. The Alliance was created as a check on the Soviets and a way to formalize the bipolar world of the Cold War. Moscow and Washington would run the world and be the point of contact for one another. The world in which NATO was created no longer exists.

The bigger factor is that the modern foreign policy elite is psychologically wedded to the old arrangements. They were raised in them. They have known nothing else. Even thinking of a world without NATO or a Europe that has Russia as a partner is still heresy. Instead the West keeps trying to recreate the conditions of the Cold War, presumably so they can have a walk down memory lane in the remaining days of their careers.

A century ago the old arrangements had outlived their utility, but no one knew it. Events in the Balkans set the world on fire and almost wiped out Europe. That’s the natural fear over what’s happening with the Russians. They are poking, prodding and pressuring the West at all points. Counting on the Turks to keep their cool looks like a terrible bet.

Whether or not the world is a mistake away from war is hard to know, but old arrangements tend not to go away quietly. The combination of Russian meddling and Washington incompetence is creating conditions for upheaval. We already see social unrest in Europe over the migrant invasion. What happens when the next wave hits and some of them are there to self-detonate?

The Bear is making the world a very dangerous place.

Yesterday Men

The old right, which I would define as Anglo-Saxon traditionalism, was obliterated in America during the first years of the 20th century. When Wilson abandoned traditional American isolationism in favor of Teddy Roosevelt’s jingoistic internationalism, American conservatism was finished as a dominant political ideology. It could not exist in a world where America was an active participant in European intrigues. It staggered along after Wilson, until the Great Depression delivered the final blow.

What replaced it was the mild corporatism of FDR that was an adaptation of what we would come to understand as European fascism. In America this meant that the government would be the referee between business and labor, but sometimes marshaling both sides in support of national goals, while other times putting a thumb on the scale to help one side or the other. Mussolini would fit right in with the Democrats, even today.

The “conservatism” that emerged post-war was nothing like the old version. Instead, it was intended as a brake on the part of American corporatism that was always on the lookout for monsters to destroy. It’s why conservatism has such a terrific losing streak. You beat crusades with brute force or by de-legitimizing them, neither of which is in the modern conservative toolkit.

The New Deal coalition carried on brilliantly in the two decades after the war, mostly because the rest of the world was in rubble. It’s not hard to be the economic super power when everyone else is rebuilding from the greatest civilizational catastrophe in human history. America was winning by default. Then the rest of the world got back on its feet and the party was over. The 70’s saw a decade of economic and cultural decay not seen in America since the Depression.

The mathematics of the New Deal coalition simply could not hold up in a competitive world where cheap labor and cheap land was still available in huge quantities. The Japanese could deliver better cheaper commodity products like economy cars and transistor radios. The Europeans could deliver better middle brow items popular with the middle class.

The solution was not a dismantling of the New Deal system of governance. Instead what emerged was a politics of necessity. Both sides of the political class settled on new currency arrangements formalized in the Louvre Accords. Credit money controlled by the Federal Reserve would allow America to wage the Cold War, maintain the New Deal politics at home and provide the American middle class with a standard of living the political system required.

This looked like a winner. The 80’s saw a booming economy with only a small hiccup at the end. That was followed by another boom that lasted until the tech bubble burst. Even so, the recovery in the Bush years convinced everyone the party was still going. What they did not see is that the New Deal economic arrangements were being supplanted by the emerging global capitalism created by credit money.

The brewing revolt is due, in large part, to the fact that American politics has remained locked in amber. The one side dreams of new noble causes to which they endeavor to rally the masses. The other side wrings its hands and makes snarky comments about those crazy liberals. On the one side it is the politics of old women thinking they can still dine out on their looks. On the other side it is the politics of old men complaining about the kid’s music today.

Sanders and Trump are not leaders of new political movements. Both are where they are because they are willing to put a finger in the chest of their respective party leaders. Neither man makes a great case for himself, but like those Muslim men wandering into Germany, threatening to collapse Europe, they correctly see that the old guard is a collection of yesterday men, unable to defend their position.

The wailing and moaning coming from the Conservative Industrial Complex conceals the terrible truth at the core of their thing. That is, there’s nothing there. The “movement” they carry on about has nothing to show for itself since the 80’s and now it is being knocked out of the box by a guy they call a “witless ape.” Whatever it was or intended to be, it’s just an artifact of a bygone era now. It’s a museum piece.

The noise on the Right has drowned out what’s happening on the other side. Sanders is an unreconstructed Stalinist for goodness sake. That said, his arguments sound pretty good against a party that thinks the plight of men in sundresses is a great crusade. Sanders offering free tuition sounds sensible compared to offering free rubbers to coeds. Sanders may have his head up his ass, but the rest of his party has theirs in their vagina.

America is long overdue for an overhaul of its political system. The yesterday men of both parties are like guests who won’t leave. Eventually, they have to be made to leave. That’s what we’re seeing today. The wrecking ball is swinging, preparing the way for what comes next. If Trump and Sanders are a clue, the future of American politics may look more like the 19th century than the 20th. But, we’ll see.

Speculation

There are some topics about which one can have some vague impressions that feel correct, but you just can’t organize your thoughts in such a way so that you can communicate those impressions with any coherence. These are just gut instincts that are broadly correct, but lack the details or insider knowledge to pin it all down in a tidy, easy to communicate package.

One of those topics for me is the rise of the fake nerd. Everywhere you look these days, someone is whipping out statistics or studies to make a point. In fact, you cannot make a point without presenting something to back it up. No matter how obvious, no one takes anyone’s word for anything in public discourse. Even if you are the leading expert, you better be armed with a pile of studies and statistics.

Go on a site like Marginal Revolution and state that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West and someone will demand a link to a study backing up the claim. That’s not too much of an exaggeration. When I used to post there, someone once challenged my statement that drug use rates are higher in cities than in the suburbs. They asked for a link, as if this was a new bit of information for them.

My impression, my sense of it, is that otherwise smart people have become incredibly narrow in their understanding of the world. If they cannot find numbers to suggest there is a probability of the sun rising in the East, then they don’t consider it as an item in the realm of the possible. Data driven debate is a blinkered debate, so much so that even the obvious can fall outside their field of vision.

Then there is the inability to speculate. I wonder if this is not tied to the politically correct culture in the academy. Since straying too far from approved dogma can get you exiled, reliance on statistics and the work of others creates a safe space. If you’re not saying anything new, then you you are not saying anything dangerous. Since data is sacred, people can lard up their work with useless statistics and inoculate themselves against heresy charges.

A good example that comes to mind is Nate Silver and his inability to see Trump coming. Audascious Epigone did some posts on this last month. Silver has created a nice racket for himself analyzing and weighting polls. Since there’s nothing but risk in looking outside what conventional wisdom says is possible, he studiously avoids it. Trump was considered an impossibility, so Silver’s model said he could not exist. That was the safe place.

That’s not an indictment of math or the use of statistics. The practical application of mathematics is an essential part of modern life. You cannot appreciate baseball, for example, without understanding the numbers of the game. Even dumb ball players know the math. It’s just that the unknown lives outside the known and can only be discovered by imagining what can lie outside. It is speculation that leads to discovery.

This narrowness does not just lead to a lack of imagination. It leads people into thinking like sociopaths. Immigration is a perfect example. Anytime the topic comes up, there is an attempt to debate whether it is good for the economy, as if that’s all that matters. Since the impact of immigration on the economy can be measured, at least we can pretend to measure it, that’s what the modern “expert” wants to discuss.

The reason for the great divide between the Dirt People and the Cloud People over immigration is that the Dirt People really don’t care if it benefits business. They just don’t want their kids living in a third world country. The Cloud People can’t think beyond the data. You see that in this David Frum piece on immigration data. The only people debating the data are all in favor of open borders.

This is, of course, the old line about a man good with a hammer seeing the world as a nail. All of our smart kids are now in professions that are data driven so they think the only thing that matters is data. Heck, even dumb kids are in professions that claim to be data driven.This sounds like a good thing as higher levels of numeracy should result in a more informed populace. The trouble is the tyranny of nerds is driven by people that had statistics for liberal arts majors. They think they know more than they do.

Entirely useless fields like psychology are now kept alive by mediocre students with an entry level understanding of mathematics. Every other day we have a study turning up in the news claiming a correlation between one thing and another. Since these are never replicated, the effect is an endless stream of stupidity fed into the public bloodstream.

ours is an Oriental meritocracy. The best and the brightest focus on memorizing what is known and finding data to support it. The way up is to flatter the master by quoting his work, which is just the work of another, repackaged by the current master. Having an army of expert economists is not a lot different than an army of great calligraphers. It’s only useful to the experts within the narrow scope of the system.

 

This leads me to think this is perhaps at the heart of the unforced errors by the people in charge we keep seeing. History is the story of error, but the errors we are seeing today are so ham-handed, they feel deliberate. Merkel inviting a million Muslims into Germany only makes sense if she is surrounded by nerd boys claiming it is good for the economy. No one bothered to speculate about the reaction of the citizenry.

The Trump/Sanders phenomenon is based entirely on the fact both parties looked at their respective data and concluded a Bush-Clinton race was the most probable so they threw in behind that idea. They never considered that maybe the public was simply sick of the bullshit from both parties. There’s no model for that so they remain in a state of disbelief. Big Foot and the Tooth Fairy may as well be leading theses races now, as far as the political class is concerned.

In Back to Methuselah, Shaw has the serpent say, “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?” Perhaps that’s it. In a world where you are defined by your relationship with your fellows, not by your relationship with a transcendent truth, exile is the new Hell. Asking “why not?” is for heretics and trouble makers. Best to stick with the data and prior studies.

The Stupid Are Always Unlucky

“Fortune favors the bold” is a well known phrase passed down from the Romans. Some version of it often turns up as the motto of military groups, clans, social clubs and so forth. A variation coined by Louis Pasteur is “Chance favors a prepared mind.” I used to hear that one in physics class from my prep school instructor. It was never a good sign.

My variation is “the stupid are always unlucky.” The people who find a way to pick the worst option among the many good ones are always the ones complaining about their bad luck. The classic example is the salesman that is not good at his job and never has a deal just fall in his lap, like the guys who are closing deals every day. The bad salesman swears he is just unlucky.

The Stupid Party makes this point regularly and we now have a great example of why the stupid are unlucky. For decades they have been hosing their voters, mostly because they can’t run a competent political party. Some portion of what they do is just a grift. They tell the voters one thing and then take a bribe to do the opposite. That’s just corruption.

Most of the GOP’s problems, however, are the result of incompetence. When presented with three options, all good, they find a fourth that is self-defeating. The political ineptitude is so breathtaking that many of their voters have concluded it must be deliberate. No one can be this dumb this often by accident. It’s why they have a revolt brewing in their primary.

Here’s where the bad luck comes in. Justice Scalia died last night and now the GOP is faced with an impossible dilemma. Their voters, fed up up with the shenanigans, are ready to bolt the party. If the GOP signs off on Obama appointing another justice, the party is finished. There would simply be no reason for anyone to bother voting Republican again.

On the other hand, the timing of Scalia’s death makes it hard for the pussies of the GOP to punt on this. If this had happened in the summer, they could just drag their feet for a few months and not have to face the wrath of the national media. Now, Mitch McConnell is going to have to stand up and tell the Washington Post to go pound sand.

This would not be an issue if the Republicans had been running a responsible shop, making sure they had competent and effective leaders in place. That’s not to imply Scalia would still be alive today if Boehner was never made speaker. It’s that the party would have more options and more trust from their voters. Instead, they have no good will and no good options.

The Tories in the mother country have a similar problem. They find themselves, like the Republicans, in a majority mostly by accident. The Scottish Nationalist Party eviscerated the Lib-Dems and Labour, which led English voters to back the party most identified with England. The result is a Conservative government that is not doing much to pass conservative polices.

Cameron, however, is an idiot and everyone seems to know it, except the party MP’s who insist he and the other idiots remain in power. It’s why they have no wiggle room in their dealings with the EU. Because they have been so duplicitous in the past, no one trusts them. That means they have no ability to finesses a weak deal with the EU. As a result, Cameron’s popularity has collapsed.

As we see with the GOP over Scalia’s replacement, the Tories are finding themselves in an impossible dilemma. They promised to hold a referendum on EU membership, but their own perfidy has made it unlikely they can win the referendum. The alternative is to break their promise to hold the referendum, which means the end of the party. There would simply be no reason to vote for them anymore.

You can be sure that the Tory leaders, like the GOP leaders, are privately moaning about their bad fortune. If only they could catch a break! That is always the lament of the stupid and reckless. Rather than face up to their own ineptitude, they blame magic. That may be excusable for Cameron or McConnell. After all, it’s hard for anyone to admit their own incompetence. Their parties, however, have no excuse.

In the end, the public gets what it wants. It may take a while and it may be a bloody mess in the process, but the mathematics of human society are immutable. In a mass media democracy, someone comes along willing to do the bidding of the majority. Whether it is the “conservatives” in the Anglosphere is really not all that important.

The Brave New Pansies

Brave New World is one of my favorite books for the simple reason it got so much right. In fact, it go so much right that both sides of the ruling class pretend it was never written. Instead they prefer Orwell to be their bogeyman. The Left says the Right harbors fantasies about Hitler and Right says the Left is dreaming of Stalin or Mao.

The truth is Orwell was mostly wrong about the future. He made some keen observations about his fellow ideologues, but only incidentally. I don’t think he ever understood that his brand of utopianism could only lead to madness. I’m not an Orwell scholar so I’ll accept correction on that point, but that is my impression.

The one thing I think Huxley got wrong, however, is that bounty always contains the seeds of destruction. Good times lead to careless risk taking and negligence. Before long, the whole thing comes unraveled. A world where human want is eliminated will eventually implode when some lunatics get control of the levers of power and they will because everyone will be too fat, dumb and happy to notice.

This story is a reminder of that truth.

A commuter wrongly accused of sexually assaulting a “well-known” actress after brushing past her at a train station has spoken of how “half a second turned into a year of hell”.

Mark Pearson said he felt like he had “undergone a form of mental torture sanctioned by the state” after he was charged over the alleged incident at Waterloo station in December 2014.

CCTV footage showed the 51-year-old walking through the station holding a newspaper in his left hand and with his right hand on his bag strap when he brushes past the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The alleged victim later told police he had “penetrated” her and hit her on the shoulder – although footage showing he had never broken his stride.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) were found to have deliberately slowed down the footage, which made it appear Mr Pearson had more time to assault the alleged victim.

Amazingly, there’s no indication in this story that anyone is angry that the police framed an innocent man by manufacturing evidence.

Mr Pearson’s defence barrister Mark Bagshaw explained the footage had been slowed down from one frame per second to one frame per two seconds.

Again, look at how casually this is reported, as if it is just standard procedure.

There were no witnesses or forensic evidence.

A jury took just 90 minutes for jurors to clear Mr Pearson of any wrongdoing at his trial at Blackfriars Crown Court.

Speaking BBC Radio Five Live, the married picture-framer called the charges “preposterous” and said “anyone who has seen the CCTV images knows that I couldn’t possibly have done it”.

He said in court: “It is against everything I believe in as a human being. I did nothing. I would have had to crouch down, put my hand up the woman’s skirt … penetrate her, take my hand out again … all while holding the newspaper and walking along the concourse.”

“For me, half a second turned into a year of hell. I feel I have undergone a form of mental torture sanctioned by the state.”

Mr Pearson, who says he now suffers from anxiety, said he spent a year defending himself in and out of court.

He said whenever he told people he was innocent he would feel they were thinking “of course you would say that”.

The CPS defended its decision to take the case to trial, saying in a statement: “There was sufficient evidence for this case to proceed to court and progress to trial. We respect the decision of the jury.”

The short version is we have a collection of pussies at the police department too afraid of the social justice warriors to do their jobs. Instead, they frame innocent men, fobbing off the responsibility on the juries. The process, however, is a terrible punishment for people like the victim in this case, just so the pussies in the police department can hide from the mean girls.

This is why Europe is succumbing to what amounts to a flash mob of cab drivers and carpet salesmen pouring in from the Middle East. These illiterate young men may not have much on the ball between the ears, but they can spot a bunch of feckless pussies when they see them. If the cops can’t stand up to some screeching man-hating harpy, making ridiculous accusations, how in the hell can they stand up to young men willing to use violence? They can’t, which why we are seeing what we are seeing.

That’s the flaw in the Huxley model. To get to and maintain the Brave New World, you need people willing to use violence, if necessary, to preserve order. Once a society gets rich enough to dream of the custodial state, it gets too soft and stupid to implement it. Right now, it seems like the only thing keeping order is cultural inertia. The migrant waves are making clear that the big burly custodial state is really a paper tiger.

Indifference

The ancient Greeks looked up at the sky in search of first principles. In fact, this is the root of Western ontological thought. In the beginning, there are principles, what mathematics calls axioms. The Reflexive Axiom, for instance, states that every number is equal to itself. This is true at all times and all places since the beginning of time. A proof in math always rests upon at least one axiom.

The root of Jewish thought is looking into the silence of the Cosmos expecting to hear a voice, a revelation of something beyond the world. That revelation cannot be discovered with passive indifference. Silence must be broken as it was in the beginning, when God said “Let their be…” To grossly simplify things, silence, indifference and neutrality are the hell of a cosmos without the word of God.

This being a short blog post, the above is a grossly simplified bit of comparative philosophy, but the take away here is to understand the two different ways to confront the world. More specifically, the two different ways to confront the unpleasant parts of the world, namely other people. The Christian seeks to bring the immoral back into line with first principles. The Jew will present them with indifference.

The former has a history of running around looking for monsters to slay. Even today, when our rulers have abandoned anything resembling Christianity, they run around looking for sinners to torment. Having run out of sinners worth tormenting, they invented new sins so they could create new sinners. That’s why you suddenly find yourself in trouble because you think men should not wear dresses.

The Jewish approach is to exile those who cannot reconcile themselves to God and the faith. It’s not just a physical separation; it is an emotional and spiritual one. The Yiddish expression “meh” that is usually interpreted as a shoulder shrug is a very serious insult, or at least intended as one. To be indifferent to someone’s point of view, to not even be willing to speak to their arguments, is to relegate them to the hell of silence.

Reading this tantrum on National Review this morning, it occurred to me that the Jews have it right on this score. Ted Nugent is a fool, a horse’s ass, who makes a mockery of himself on TV for money. I don’t know if he is an anti-Semite, but my hunch is he is not because he is too stupid to know the meaning of the term. For the same reason we don’t condemn the retarded to the gallows, we should not call guys like Nugent anti-Semitic.

The writer of that piece is just a hipster dufus with a mullet and a British accent so he added nothing to my thoughts on the subject. His purpose is virtue signalling. “Look at me, I’m a good thinker. The proof is I’m hollering at a bad thinker. See?” This is popular on the Left, but increasingly so on the modern Right, thus proving that there is very little space between the two.

Regardless, the right answer here is to simply ignore people like Nugent, if you are striving for a more thoughtful dialogue about topics under public consideration. If you and a buddy are having beers, deciding on your next hat, maybe Nugent has something to offer on head gear. Anything else, the response should be “meh” and leave it at that. Idiots are the background noise of the cosmos. You’ll never hear the call if you spend all your time listening to idiots.