Some say the world will end in fire,Some say in ice.From what I’ve tasted of desireI hold with those who favor fire.But if it had to perish twice,I think I know enough of hateTo say that for destruction iceIs also greatAnd would suffice.
–Some Old White Guy
Spend any time around our nation’s ghettos and you quickly become a believer in Smart Fraction Theory. You often hear people say that the problem in the ghetto is a lack of good role models and most people take that literally, but it’s really just a polite way of saying that there are few smart people. Smart people not only make smart decisions, they mitigate the dumb decisions of others. Often, they take up positions of authority so they can prevent the dumb people from doing dumb things. Someone has to affix those stupid warning labels on products.
Another way to think of it is anti-personnel weapons. Ambush weapons are often designed to wound, not kill, enemy soldiers. A wounded soldier requires medical care. He may also require transport out of the area. Even if it does not halt the advance of the unit, care for the wounded will slow the advance and render the unit less effective. Stupid people have the same effect as wounded soldiers. It’s that they are a non-contributor to society. It’s that they are often a net negative, dragging down society, which is why Ayn Rand wanted to exterminate them.
America, like every Western country, has loads of smart, altruistic people, in addition to lots of middling people. Our Smart Fraction is large relative to places like Africa. This means we can carry a large number of low-IQ violent losers. America is the richest country on earth, despite having a population that is 13% African, because we have recruited the best and brightest from Europe over the last two centuries. Now we are skimming off the best Asians for settlement here.
That’s the theory. People in the cognitive sciences, when drunk or outside the wire, will tell you that you need an average IQ of about 94 to run anything resembling a modern economy. Pakistan with an average IQ of 84 is never going to leave the Iron Age because they lack the human capital. They have some very bright people, but not enough of them. Those smart people are overwhelmed by the teeming hordes of low-IQ hyper-violent mouth breathers from the hills, which is why those bright people flee to Europe.
Even if you reject biology as an explanation, travel a little bit and you soon figure out that there is a limit to the number of dysfunctional people a society can carry before it sinks. The debate, if there is one, is whether this can be arrested or whether technology can mitigate it. In the robot future, for example, the stupid will have their own robot custodian to keep them on the straight and narrow. Or, better training will raise up the stupid making them less stupid. Either way, there is some limit to the number of unproductive a society can carry and everyone gets it. People have always known this.
This long wind up is not in support of sterilizing Hillary Clinton voters, even though that would be a good idea. This is a post about the Zika Virus and similar plagues. What if something like Zika gets lose in the West and dramatically increases the number of pinheads? What if the smart, fearing they may birth a pinhead, further reduce their fertility? It would not take but a generation or two to significantly alter the cognitive profile of society. Further, this weakening of the West would reduce the global carry capacity.
When we think of the collapse of civilization, it is always nuclear war, economic collapse or the zombie apocalypse. What if it happens slower? Some new virus increases the number of unproductive, crazy and violent to the point where they begin to drag down society as a whole. The elites will withdraw behind their walls, but that does not change the facts on the ground. The West would eventually reach the point where it could no longer hold back the barbarian tide. This cascading effect would further reduce global carrying capacity.
It is easy to forget that those billion or so sub-Saharan Africans depend on food and medicine from the West. If that flow stops, they are instantly past their Malthusian limit and you get some combination of mass starvation, Hobbesian violence and mass migration out of Africa. The same is true of the Middle East. Even South America, which has made great strides in food production, still depends on a strong West to remain stable. Just look at Brazil if you want to see how fragile these countries are under the skin.
Here’s another thought. When scarcity was real, people, even the poorest, especially the poorest, had little sentimentality toward the weak. They could not afford to have sentimentality. Newborns with defects were euthanized. The old we left to die. The sick were put out of their misery. It’s a ghastly thing for modern, post-scarcity, humans to contemplate, but it was a necessary reality for most of human history. What if some disease like Zika spreads, resulting in a swelling population of pinheads?
I’m not making any predictions on this. Maybe humanity would quickly respond. Maybe we have lost the capacity to survive when facing real scarcity. There is no way to know. It’s hard to imagine a society that celebrates grief and victim-hood quickly shifting to cold-blooded realism, but maybe nature finds a way. Reality is, after all, that thing that never goes away when you stop believing in it. The reality of life is survival trumps everything, even familial love. Still, one has to wonder if the post-scarcity world is a trap of our own design.