The Persistence of Bad Ideas

The old line about a lie being halfway around the world before the truth is out of bed is a keen observation, but it also suggests something about the nature of lies. That is, a lie that gets around has some appealing quality to it. The reason it spreads so quickly is people want to believe it. There’s something about it that ticks all the right boxes. As a result, even smart and skeptical people, not only want to believe it, but they want to help everyone else believe it. Some lies turn everyone they touch into willing accomplices.

Bad ideas are like that too. For some reason, people want to believe them, even when it really makes no sense to believe them. For example, most people still think your diet can have a significant impact on your health. That if you eat fatty foods, you will have a heart attack. At the extremes this is true, but most disease is genetic. When it comes to heart disease, diet has nothing to do with it. The same is true of things like cholesterol levels, where there is little data to support a link between “bad” cholesterol and heart disease.

Part of what drives the persistence of bad ideas is they seem to address a need among modern people to believe in free will. As the human sciences build the case that we are the product of our genetic coding, the need to believe we can overcome that by force of will becomes stronger. Therefore, if you have a family history of heart disease, you want to believe eating unpleasant food, like some form of preemptive penance, will ward off the reality of your genetic makeup. Your diet becomes a moral issue for you.

The concept of epigenetics seems to be following a similar path. It is becoming this catchall idea that lets people ignore what we know, in favor of speculative nonsense that has no supporting data. This set of long posts on the Arktos site the other day are a good example of the phenomenon. The argument from the author is that epigenetics is proving that experiences can be passed onto subsequent generation through a biological process, just as genetic traits like eye color are passed on from parent to child.

The author is picking up on something Oswald Spengler argued. That is, the land of a people shapes their sense of identity, how they see themselves and their purpose. This in turn shapes their culture. The author of the Arktos piece thinks science is proving that these collective cultural experiences as a people are shared, but also passed on to subsequent generations via the miracle of epigenetics. He points to some papers on the subject and this study on the children of holocaust survivors.

The original definition of epigenetics¹ is the study of how genes are expressed, from a biological perspective. Your DNA contains instructions for determining your eye and hair color, for example, but it also contains instructions for more subtle things like personality traits. You inherit your DNA from your parents. Epigenetics refers to ways in which those genes are turned on and off. Genes are the blueprint for creating proteins, while epigenetics is the study of how genes are read.

The way in which epigenetics is used here and in popular writing is the claim that your experiences can somehow be passed onto your children. This is complete nonsense and there is no evidence to support it. You cannot pass on your experiences to your off-spring through any known biological processes. This nutty idea was cooked up by left-wing agitators so they could claim victim-hood by proxy. Their ancestors were treated poorly, so they are now suffering from the same effects, as part of their biological inheritance.

To now put this bad idea to use in the name of race realism or the moral philosophy of Oswald Spengler is amusing, but every bit as a nutty. As Greg Cochran once put it, this line of reasoning is like saying if you chop off a cat’s tale, it’s kittens will be born without tales. There’s simply no known biological process for passing on experiences or learned behavior. In fact, the changes to how your genes are read as a result of environmental factors are reset in the zygote. In other words, you can’t pass on your experiences.

Now, the author of the Arktos piece is probably a nice guy with good intentions. His background is history and theology, so he can be forgiven for not understanding the human sciences part of this. That raises the question of why epigenetics is so attractive an explanation for someone without math or science. Why embrace something about which you know nothing? The obvious answer is it supports his main point, but another aspect of it is that old need to believe in free will. We are not just moist robots.

In this way, bad ideas are like great salesmen. The bad idea always flatters the person willing to believe it. Pitchmen and motivational speakers have relied on flattery since forever, because people like being flattered. The flattery of free will is that you, unlike the rest of those slobs out there, control your destiny. The promise of epigenetics is that your decisions today will alter the lives of generations to come, because your decisions will be passed onto them, whether they like it or not. You are a god.

Of course, it also suggests something about the future. Many think that the unriddling of the human genome will usher in an age of reason. The fact that our theological overlords have suddenly become evangelical opponents of the human sciences, while embracing things like epigenetics, suggests otherwise. Belief is powerful magic, that has always found a way to override factual reality. That’s probably the main reason bad ideas are like drug resistant viruses. They make it easy to avoid facing reality.

¹I’m not writing a biology textbook here, so if you’re tempted to sperg out on the science, restrain yourself. This is not a post about science.

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.

Slavery As A Service

Unsurprisingly, the first step in the Progressive pogrom against normal people after the Pittsburgh shooting was an effort to de-platform Gab. The ruling class has a deep hatred of the site for a number of reasons. One being it puts the lie to the claim that the tech industry is an open market. The other is it puts the lie to the fact that Americans have constitutional rights. Anything that is seen as a challenge to Progressive rule is marked for death and the people in charge are not about to allow a tragedy go to waste.

The bodies were not even cold and the usual suspects were organized and sent out on social media, and then Progressive media, to denounce Gab as some sort of organized assault “on our democracy.” The only thing missing from the hysteria was the claim that Gab is a Russian agent. Everyone was supposed to drop what they were doing for a five minutes of hate against Gab, a tiny web site with about half a million users. FaceBook has billions of users, Google controls the internet. Yet, Gab is a threat to civilization.

Not soon after the signal from Prog was given, the heads of the tech oligopoly got together to throw Gab off the internet. First their hosting service, a company called Joyent, gave them 48 hours to find a new hosting service. The company is owned by Samsung and it is run by a loathsome bigot named Scott Hammond. The hope was that Gab would not be able to find a replacement over the weekend and the site would go dark. Word was sent out to the media to prepare a celebration of the event so Hammond could be honored.

Gab, ever resourceful, found another hosting company and was able to start making the transition, despite Joyent deliberately trying to sabotage their efforts. That’s when the next step in the operation was launched. GoDaddy, the registrar Gab used to buy the domain name, threatened to steal the domain name from them. This is the trick GoDaddy has used in the past, stealing domain names from owners, who hold opinions contrary to the official orthodoxy. Gab was able to avoid this and is in the process of moving to new digs.

Now, when you start looking at these companies, the thing that should ring out is they are pretty much the standard villain in Hollywood movies. They are large, soulless corporations run by bland automatons like Scott Hammond. They are men hired because they will just follow orders. When you look at a guy like Scott Hammond, you see the face of someone who never asks too many questions. He’s the guy who begs for his life at the end of the Hollywood action movie, but the good guy shoots him anyway.

The question that normal people ask is how this is possible. After all, these companies sign contracts and in theory, we still have courts where contracts can be enforced by impartial judges. While that is a laughable fiction now, the reality is these companies are not bound by standard business agreements. They have been allowed to carve out new law for themselves, forcing their vendors and customers to sign off on what is called an adhesion contract. This gives the tech giants absolute power over everyone else.

An adhesion contract or “standard form contract”  is a contract drafted by one party and signed by another party. The second party typically does not have the power to negotiate or modify the terms of the contract. Adhesion contracts are commonly used for things like insurance or rental contracts. When you rent a car or purchase car insurance, you just sign the contract, because you have to in order to rent the car or get insured. Every technology service provider is now basing their relationships on these types of contracts.

It used to be that the courts carefully scrutinized these types of arrangements, so the contract had to adhere to some basic principles. The courts would often use the “doctrine of reasonable expectations” to void all or part of these contracts, when there was lack of notice, unequal bargaining power, or blatant and substantive unfairness. The reason for this should be obvious. When a powerful company has the right to dictate the terms of the contract to their customers, they have all the power in the contractual relationship.

In western jurisprudence, a valid contract is one in which both parties freely engage and have equal opportunities to negotiate. When one party imposes the conditions on the other, that’s not a contract. That’s slavery. In a world where a handful of people control the public space, these types of contract give them arbitrary power over public discourse. If they become vexed with what you say, they can claim you have violated their terms of service and remove you from the internet. Again, the terms are dictated, not negotiated.

A recent, less emotional, example is what happened with Stefan Molyneux, the alt-lite YouTube personality. He has built up a large following on YouTube for his quirky brand of edgy commentary. He said the wrong thing and was informed by YouTube that his business would be shuttered unless he conformed to their terms of service. His only recourse, like a slave being whipped by the master, was to beg for mercy. After getting a reprieve, he will have to live knowing who holds the whip and who is the slave.

This is not something limited to social media. Microsoft has imposed similar terms of service on users of Office and Skype. In theory, it means they can stop your company from using these products if they find out the owner gave money to the wrong political candidate or has the wrong opinions. All of the content providers like Hulu, Amazon and NetFlix have implemented the same one-way contracts. While they have not banned people from using their services yet, it is something they now have the power to do.

This is why the “cloud” is so popular with the Cloud People. Turn on the television and you are treated to ads telling you how the cloud will solve all the problems of your life. What it is, of course, is an inducement to walk into the cage. Once inside, the door slams shut and you are now just another bit of property on the plantation. In the near future, Brendan Eich will not just lose his job. He will be found to have violated the terms of service for his refrigerator, car and checking account. Internal banishment becomes real.

Slavery tends to end one of two ways. The slave-based society is conquered or the slaves rise up and slaughter their slave masters. It’s too much to hope for the political class to ban these leonine contracts used by global tech to enslave the rest of us, but that would be the peaceful resolution. The courts could also return to the habit of carefully scrutinizing these agreements. Given the behavior of the political class, this seems unlikely. Judging by the physiognomy of Scott Hammond, the alternative seems certain.

It’s Complicated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It might be time for a new system.

You Own You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think Local

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

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

Denny was an inter-species love child.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denisovan remnants are also widespread, though less evenly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Futurism Is Not Bright

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feudalism.Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nature of Diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dumbening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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