Those who know what they are doing will take the hint. That is all I have to say.
Morpheus: “We never free a mind once it’s reached a certain age. It’s dangerous, the mind has trouble letting go.”
The Matrix (1999)
Recently I read an article in the NYT about James Holmes. It is a well researched, if somewhat biased, piece that lays out a lot of facts but fails to connect them in ways that would defy the standard “he was becoming nuts” narrative.
In my opinion the first clue that the standard “he was becoming nuts” narrative is wrong comes from the sheer scale, time span and effort he put into planning the mass shooting. It is not like he just started assembling the pieces after he failed some exam in June.
Prosecutors said in court filings released last week that Mr. Holmes told a fellow student in March that he wanted to kill people “when his life was over“. In May, he showed another student a Glock semiautomatic pistol, saying he had bought it “for protection.”
I believe that the available evidence suggests that he had seriously considered killing people at least 6 months before his failure in some annual oral exam. But what makes a guy with no criminal record or history of violence systematically plan and execute a mass shooting? And why did he kill seemingly random people? Why did he not choose and execute individuals who had wronged him? Think about it.. though he was allegedly banned from the campus in June, he probably knew where the professors who failed him lived and had enough info to go and execute the families of 2-3 professors at an opportunity of his choosing. So why did he choose to shoot up a theater when he could have killed the same number of more deserving people?
Now you may say that he was nuts- but people who have lost touch with reality are not known to be so deliberate, rational and methodical. In his last adultfriendfinder ad, he clearly suggested he was going to go to jail after the shooting. He knew that he would be captured alive and used a lot of body armor to make sure that a few accidental shots by overzealous cops would not spoil his plan. He even made sure that the suggestion that he might have “dysphoric mania” was conveyed to people who would be questioned by cops after the shooting. Isn’t it odd that the shrink he was seeing reported him as a threat but not mentally ill?
Some people think that his dismal performance in the oral exams in June 2012 is an indicator of his mental deterioration. I think otherwise, based on my experiences in graduate school. If you look at the guys GPA, other test scores and demonstrated mental ability, it is obvious that he is very smart. People of significantly lesser ability are routinely successful in complete graduate school, even in such s0-called demanding fields as neurosciences.
The sad reality is that most bio-medical (including neuroscience) research is fraudulent, cherry picked data or not reproducible. This is especially true for research findings originating from the so-called top-notch universities where the perverse demands of post-1980 neoliberal competition make it almost necessary to make exciting but fake findings up. The trick is to do it in a manner that will escape detection for the next 2-3 years by which time almost everybody is busy discussing the next set of exciting breakthrough.. I mean scams. The whole idea that graduate school in STEM disciplines requires exceptional intelligence, integrity or competence is a big fat lie. Any barely competent but clever scammer with charm and the ability to bullshit can get a PhD in pretty much any STEM discipline and go on to be successful academic. Academic institutions are secular version of seminaries, decided to propagating sophistic orthodoxy rather than searching for the truth.
Few people flunk or leave graduate school because they are incompetent. Disillusionment, loss of interest or better opportunities are the main reasons why people just stop caring and move on. James Holmes could have easily passed those oral exams if he was still as motivated in June 2012 as he was when he had joined the program a year ago.
But we already know that he was seriously planning the shooting at least six months prior to June. We therefore have to start asking what happened between June 2011 and the first two months of 2012. How did a guy who was interested and capable of getting a PhD in his area of interest morph into someone who was obsessed with killing people? Some of you might think that he was repulsed by the dark and seedy underbelly of academia. That is however unlikely as he had significant prior exposure to the workings of academic research. We can also discount the possibility of relationship troubles pushing him over the edge as he apparently did not have a long-term GF, nor was he ever a ‘ladies man’.
So what made James Holmes go from harmless nerd to mass shooter within the first 6 months of his graduate program? While it is possible that he always had fantasies about killing people, something occurred within a very short time span that made him act on it. What could that be? I mean, the guy spent a lot of his time by himself playing RPG games, smoking pot and goofing around on the intertubes. It is not like he was being influenced by other people and why did he slowly withdraw from people around him anyway? What was going through his head everyday and what was he thinking?
Here is my theory- He had an epiphany about his own life. He realized that almost everything he had done till then was a giant and pathetic waste of time and effort. He realized that he had been misled, conned and abused by a society that he had no intention of delivering even a fraction of what it has implicitly promised people like him.
This process probably started with his struggles at getting even half-decent jobs after he had finished his undergraduate degree with a 3.9 something GPA from a reasonably good university. His isolation after moving to Colorado helped focus his mind on something that he had willingly ignored before. He eventually reached a point where he could no longer believe in the socially sanctioned lies most hold on to. I guess he decided to take it out on some representation of what he hated.
What do you think? Comments?
In my previous post about the negative effects of ideological and other mental filters on the accuracy of predictions, I said the following-
Of course, all predictions are also based on the continued existence of human beings in a familiar biological and social form.
Almost every single person who makes a prediction or hears about one makes the implicit and largely subconscious assumption that human beings and civilization will continue to exist in a form not too different from the one around us right now. I call this assumption the ‘hidden precondition of continuity’.
It might seem rational to assume that people similar to us will exist in the near, if not the distant, future. However this belief is based on what occurred in the past. If we go back even further in the past, it is apparent that many now extinct creatures were around for far longer than us. Even Neanderthals were around for atleast half a million years, before they became extinct or were assimilated by anatomically modern humans. Trilobites thrived and diversified for around 300 million years before disappearing within a very short time, right down to the last sub-species. Megalodon, a very successful species of shark big enough to make the one depicted in ‘Jaws’ look puny in comparison survived for almost 28 million years. Then there is the case of theropod dinosaurs which dominated the terrestrial world for over 200 million years, constantly adapting to changing conditions and filling new ecological niches until something happened and caused their extinction.
A history of success and positive trends is no guarantee to continued existence in the future, let alone success.
While extraneous forces and events could always human extinction, either directly or indirectly, there is another class of scenarios. Humans might willingly or unwittingly evolve into something else, even something that is not quite biological in nature. Would a human derived entity or “species” that could exist in a multitude of forms, biological, augmented or otherwise, be anything like us? Would they care about jobs, work ethic, a suburban house, an ivy league education or even sex in the manner we do? Would a society of such entities be driven by anything even close to the social dynamics that drives contemporary human societies? Would they even have a society as we understand it?
But why go that far.. how many of the 20-30 something guys today are similar to their contemporaries a generation ago? Can you really say that exposure to a diversity of views on the internet, very negative experience with corporatism and feminism, the availability of ubiquitous HQ porn and social atomization has not changed them?
Once we agree that they are different, the next question is- how much? While I am not suggesting that Gen-Y men are a new species, it is quite clear that a significant and growing minority of them cannot be modeled by extrapolating existing assumptions about human behavior and society. While we could wish away the impact of such a change if the population was growing at a faster rate or the world was still a happy and optimistic place, that is not the case.
However all social systems depend on the type of human beings they are optimized for being and remaining the absolute majority.
While societies go to great lengths to maintain the status quo and create or bully people into becoming the type of human being that system is optimized for, they are powerless against large-scale changes. Nor are they willing to accept those changes and adapt to them. Indeed, a retreat into orthodoxy and tradition is the most common and consistent reaction to systemic changes which threaten the status quo.
What do you think? Comments?
It is hard to spend any significant amount of time on the internet and not come across a few overt, and not so overt, predictions about the future. The majority of such predictions display a high degree of certainty and are the products of ideologically committed minds aka zealots. I would go so far as to say that a high degree of ideological, monetary or emotional investment in any particular world view by the ‘prophet’ is the best indicator his predictions will turn out be grossly incorrect.
The more accurate predictions about the future are based on the recognition of certain largely ignored aspects of physical reality and human beings:
1. It is impossible for individuals or groups, irrespective of their ability, to reliably create a desired long-term outcome of any significance.
The world is incredibly complex and has too many hidden feedback loops to make it behave in a predictable manner. Case in point- Eugenics was an idea that seemed right until some guy with a funny mustache came to power in 1930-era Germany. After that, a belief that was the mark of progressive thinkers quickly became something few sane people would associate themselves with. Similarly nuclear weapons, which were developed by the USA to dominate and enslave the world, quickly became the means by which the USA and other western countries lost that ability. I could think of many more beliefs, ideologies, actions, inventions and discoveries which ended up doing the opposite of what they were intended to achieve, but that is best discussed in another post.
2. Complex systems do not display linear behavior outside a narrow and constantly changing range.
I have discussed this in a few previous posts in more detail, but will summarize it once again. Trends that link ‘x’ to ‘y’ and/or assume constant rates of change over time are ephemeral. For example any prediction that the Chinese GDP (in USD) will exceed that of the USA in any given number of years assumes that the either or both countries will still exist at that date in their current form and that world trade will still occur in USDs. It also assumes that the nature of the economy and governance in both countries will remain roughly similar to what it is today. Such predictions are akin to predicting world events in 1955 based on the “best” information available in 1940.
3. Modeling the behavior of people based on widely held beliefs about their motivations and abilities usually turns out to be wrong.
In previous posts I have said the best explanation why the rich want more money is linked to their conscious or subconscious desire, to deprive others rather than enjoy their wealth. While this explanation does against conventional beliefs of why people accumulate money beyond the point of rational usability, it is a better fit to evidence. Now consider the implications of believing in either viewpoint on modeling human behavior for the purpose of predictions. If you believe that rich people want more money for reasons other than depriving others then giving them more money could be seen as a way to benefit the society that made them rich. So how has that worked out in practice? Has giving the already rich more money benefited the societies that made them rich or has it just made the rich more greedy and arrogant? If the elites of western countries were so smart and competent, why did they lead their countries into mostly humiliating and horrendously expensive disasters such WW1, WW2, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan? Could it be that the elite are lucky egoistic pretenders and bullshitters who are drawn to situations which expose their incompetence or react in ways that ensures their downfall?
Of course, all predictions are also based on the continued existence of human beings in a familiar biological form. I will explain what I am hinting at in a future post.
What do you think? Comments?
These links are NSFW.
Ass Up Cuties: Aug 25, 2012 – Ya, what you think it is.
Derpy BJs: Aug 25, 2012 – Some girls look retarded when giving BJs.
It seems that we can hardly go a week without some quiet, lonely and otherwise law-abiding guy shooting up a few people. Such mass shootings have created an outcry among morons who think that guns kill people. There is however considerable evidence that killing lots of people without guns is actually quite easy, if the persons doing it is so determined. Moreover there are excellent contemporary examples, such as the ongoing drug wars in Mexico, that show the inefficacy of legal gun control in preventing people from acquiring guns.
Now I don’t know whether these weekly mass-shootings will become more frequent (likely) or deadlier (somewhat less likely), but that discussion is best saved for another post. But there is another and far more interesting trend that I predict will emerge regardless of whether lawmakers try to pass more restrictive laws about gun ownership. I have partially tackled this issue in a previous post.
People who are unhappy with the system, and see no viable future, will increasingly kill others through means that are not gun or explosive linked.
If you think about it, guns are actually a pretty inefficient means for killing lots of people. There is a whole series of logistic issues starting with how many people you can reliably kill until your guns jam or other armed people intervene. The medical treatment of gunshot wounds has improved considerably and almost all those who don’t die until they receive medical care will survive. Under most conditions you can expect anywhere from 5-40 deaths per incident and maybe double the number of wounded people. In my opinion, it is not too efficient and lacks plausible deniability.
Many other methods are far more efficient and have the advantage of plausible deniability. For example: it is hard to ascertain whether a low level health-care worker who administered the wrong drug, forgot to prevent cross-contamination or acted in any other manner which results in the death of many patients is malicious or just incompetent. Similarly a worker in a meat processing plant whose actions allows millions of tons of highly contaminated meat from entering the food supply killing dozens of kids in a horribly painful way can always plead incompetence or poor training. A low-level guy in a company that makes or packages medicines whose actions cause entire batches of medicines to be contaminated or poisonous can always plead incompetence and bad direction from superiors. The same goes for underpaid and unhappy people running machines and systems whose malfunction can directly and indirectly kill scores of people and cause billions, if not trillions, in secondary and tertiary damage.
Ultimately all complex human systems depend on the non-human components to be well maintained and run by people who do a good job and are proactive. But you cannot motivate people to do that (beyond a few years) by putting a gun to their head or otherwise constantly threatening them with poverty and hunger. This is especially true in an age when even poor people do not have enough extra kids to play against each other or use as fuel or disposable for capitalism. Furthermore the complexity and inter-connectedness of our systems is so great, and redundancy so low, that seemingly small incidents of bad faith could easily amplify and destabilize the whole system.
It is far easier to stop a guy with a gun, than one who is using his trusted position and knowledge of a system to destabilize it in a lethal way.
The current levels of unemployment and underemployment in youth combined with social atomization and the general loss of faith in the ability of society to fulfill its end of the deal make the widespread emergence of such behavior a matter of when, not if.
What do you think? Comments?
In the last year, or so, many news outlets have come out with stories that say something along the lines of- “Gen-Y is not into buying cars”. The purported reasons range from the proliferation of smartphones, hipsterism, generational shifts in attitudes or because they are socially or environmentally conscious. In my opinion, these explanations are full of bullshit.
I believe the real reason behind the lack of enthusiasm by Gen-Yers is a combination of three long-term trends, which have now passed a critical point.
1. Cars are no longer a good proxy for status. Even 20-30 years ago cars were an extension of your make-believe personality. People aspired to own a car that reflected what they wanted others to believe about themselves. Today that is no longer the case, as cars have become more like each other. It is hard to project a distinct image when different car brands and models look like they were designed by the same guy.
Furthermore cars are no longer a signal for wealth or ability to attract for beta chumps to attract hot women. It is now common knowledge among the younger generations that a guy playing in some local band gets far more and much better pussy that your “responsible” and anal retentive physician or engineer can ever aspire. Even the physician or engineer who marries a still attractive cum-rag is likely to end up getting dumped, divorced and paying child support rather than living unhappily ever after in some vaguely dysfunctional marriage. Cars just don’t help you get and keep OK looking pussy like they used to.
2. The next part of our cost-benefit analysis concerns the cost of buying and keeping reliable cars. The price of cars used to be quite low, especially when compared to the median wages for 20-somethings. Furthermore 20-somethings from previous generations did not have crushing and nondischargeable student debt, prolonged low paying jobs and unstable career paths. It was once possible to easily get a decent job in some part of the country, move there and start a new life with a high probability of success. Even failures or setbacks were not as catastrophic in previous eras, as they are now- thanks to our dysfunctional and financialized ‘society’.
Today the cost of the median new car is equal to, more than, the median yearly income of 20-somethings- before taxes and deductions. Even a reliable 5-10 year car old costs between 10-5 k. Then there is the whole issue of car repairs- whose cost and timing can be unpredictable and disastrous for people who are barely solvent. You can add things like the spiraling costs of traffic tickets and all sorts of fines which make car driving a money drain of dubious value, rather than a source of enjoyment and freedom. Did I mention that many have to pay to park their cars at or around the places they work? and who can forget the effect of harsh and useless anti-drunk driving laws, which are used to extract money from and abuse drivers. Buying a car has just became too much trouble for the ever decreasing utility it supposedly provides.
3. Getting married and having kids was THE main reasons behind the growth of housing, suburbs and automobiles in the 20th century. Men bought cars to attract chicks, then bought bigger cars when they got married, then bought houses in ever distant suburbs, and more cars once they had kids or wife got a job just so that they could drive to ever distant jobs , schools and after-school activities. But marriage and having kids steadily became ever shittier propositions. Between no fault divorce, child custody battles, child support payments, post-divorce division of property; the whole marriage and having kids routine became a sucker’s game.
Gen-Y men have seen what happened to the generations before them and have increasingly chosen to not play this rigged game and Gen-Y women are too busy chasing after a small percentage of men. Few men want to bust their ass at some unstable job for a disloyal employer trying to make more money and buy a new car or remodel their house for a capricious status-obsessed wife who can destroy their life with a phone call. It is just not worth it! Furthermore, the older generations still seem to be living in a fool’s paradise and believe that this change is temporary and things will come back- eventually. They also believe that abusing and pauperizing Gen-Yers even further has no effect on their own future.
To summarize: the lack of interest in cars (and automobiles in general) by Gen-Yers is the rational result of a combination of long-term trends and the profit hungry short-sighted mindset which characterizes the later stages of capitalism.
What do you think? Comments?
Last week, I read about some morons in UK get all bitchy about an official announcement regarding India plan to launch an unmanned orbiter probe to mars during late 2013. While this project has been known to exist since 2010, most people outside ISRO never thought that it would be followed up so vigorously. This belief is understandable since Indian politicians and bureaucrats, who control the purse strings of government projects, are rightly seen as morons who drive out or destroy the career and dreams of competent Indian scientists. However this post is not about the state of politics and governance in India, which almost every Indian has had considerable experience with. My post is about whether such a probe is feasible and deliverable within the set time-frame, with available funding using available technology.
I had originally considered starting this post by going through a quick explanation of the basic design, and components used in, a generic space probe. However I realized that it would be far easier to use previously launched space probes as examples to illustrate what I am talking about. So let us begin by using the first really successful Mars probe Mariner 9 as my initial example.
Mariner 9 (Mariner Mars ’71 / Mariner-I) is a NASA space orbiter that helped in the exploration of Mars and was part of the Mariner program. Mariner 9 was launched toward Mars on May 30, 1971 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and reached the planet on November 14 of the same year, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet — only narrowly beating Soviet Mars 2 and Mars 3, which both arrived within a month. After months of dust-storms it managed to send back clear pictures of the surface. Mariner 9 returned 7329 images over the course of its mission, which concluded in October 1972.
For such a small spacecraft and late 1960-era technology, it achieved a lot. For one, it was the first spacecraft to orbit another planet. Over 349 days in orbit, Mariner 9 had transmitted 7,329 images, covering 100% of Mars’ surface. The mission resulted in a global mapping of the surface of Mars, including the first detailed views of the martian volcanoes, Valles Marineris, the polar caps, and the satellites Phobos and Deimos. It also provided information on martian dust storms as well as their effect on shaping the landscape of that planet. Now you have to remember that the probe was launched in 1971, so it used nickel-cadmium battery packs to store solar energy and the resolution of its digital camera was 1 pixel= 100 m to 1 km, depending on its altitude above the martian surface.
Now as some of you know, India did launch a successful unmanned orbiter (Chandrayaan-1) to the moon in late 2008. Its specs, instrumentation and other common parameters of performance were in many cases superior to those of contemporary moon probes from other countries such as Chang’e 1 and SELENE, though it weighed about half as much as either of them. For example, the Terrain Mapping Camera of Chandrayaan-1 had a per pixel resolution of 1-5 m per pixel compared to the 10m per pixel of SELENE (Japanese lunar orbiter) or the 60 m per pixel of Chang’e 1 (Chinese lunar orbiter). Only the later Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has imaged the moon at a higher resolution. It is also worth noting that Chandrayaan-1 provided the first unequivocal evidence of trace amounts of water on the moon’s surface, as well as provide an explanation about its mode of creation and dissipation during each lunar day and night. My only quip with the Indian lunar program has been their laziness or stupidity with regards to not providing public access to tons of pretty pictures (over 70,000 high-resolution 2.5 D photos) of the moon. It might be also helpful for readers to read a bit about the capabilities of Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites, telecommunication satellites (INSAT series) and Radar imaging satellites such as RISAT-1 and RISAT-2.
Therefore the ability of India to design, manufacture and assemble high quality unmanned spacecraft is unquestionable. The proposed 2013 mars orbiter is, if anything, far more spartan than the many satellites designed and built by India over the 2 decades. The next question is- Can they launch it with the PSLV-XL which is the most powerful version of the PSLV.
The logical place to start for an answer to this question is to compare the capabilities of the PSLV-XL to other rocket launchers which have previously launched similar payloads into martian orbits. Mariner 9 was launched towards mars by an Atlas-Centaur SLV-3C rocket, which could supposedly put a maximum of 1,800 kg in Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). Moreover the fully fueled Mariner-9 weighted about 998 kg, or just under a ton at launch and about 560 kg by the time it reached mars. Chandrayaan-1, launched by a previous PSLV-XL rocket, weighed just under 1,400 kg at launch and 675 kg by the time it reached the moon.
Many of you might think that it takes much more fuel to get to Mars than the Moon. However that is not true, as far as conventional unmanned space probes are concerned. The single biggest factor which decides fuel consumption of a probe in orbit around the earth on its way to the next astronomical body is the Delta-v budget. It takes very little energy to push a probe already in earth orbit towards another body in the solar system as long as you factor things like gravity and relative motion of the objects. Without going in too much detail right now, everything else being equal and optimal, you can send a 80-85 kg mass to orbit mars with the same launcher and basic probe design which could send a 100 kg mass to orbit the Moon. Since the mass of Chandrayaan-1 was 675 kg when it was inserted into a stable lunar orbit, we assume that the same launcher and basic probe design can put 80% of that mass (540 kg) into orbit around mars. Let us conservatively reduce that number further to 500 kg. So there you have it.. India could put an unmanned probe with an initial mass of 1400 kg and final orbital mass of 500kg into orbit around mars.
The next logical question is- What can you achieve with a mars probe with a mass of 500 kg? The answer is .. plenty!
Consider the Mars Global Surveyor, an older (1997-2006) american unmanned mars probe. It weighed 1,060 kg at launch and 767 kg at the time it first inserted itself into a stable orbit around Mars. and here is an interesting fact about that mission:
The Mars Global Surveyor mission cost about $154 million to develop and build and $65 million to launch. Mission operations and data analysis cost approximately $20 million/year.
For a mission that cost just over 200 million dollars in the late 1990s, it was able to able to transmit tens if not hundreds of thousands of high-resolution views (best resolution 1 pixel = 1.5 meters) of the Martian surface and information about its atmosphere. The data sent back by that probe was useful for the first detailed geo-chemical study of mars, and the images it returned were used to select landing sites for future mars rovers such as Spirit and Opportunity. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is basically the next generation, and much bigger, version of Mars Global Surveyor. Other martian probes launched in the early 2000s such as the 2001 Mars Odyssey and Mars Express have launch and orbital masses similar to those within the capability of the PSLV-XL. Furthermore, ISRO has been able to build space probes of a similar design, ability and overall weight characteristics to those built and flown by NASA and ESA in the late 1990s-early 2000s.
Therefore, the unmanned Indian 2013 Mars Mission is feasible in the given time frame (Nov 2013 launch). The technological capabilities and budgetary outlay is also not unrealistic. The behavior and lack of competence exhibited by senior Indian bureaucrats and politicians remains the single biggest obstacle to the success of this mission, and any other endeavor in India.
What do you think? Comments?
These links are NSFW.
Legs in the Air: Aug 18, 2012 – The title is self-explanatory.
Beach Cuties: Aug 18, 2012 – Tarts on or near a body of water.
In the previous part of this series, I wrote about how the so-called intelligent and long-term thinking elite are neither. Their modus operandi and attitudes are far closer to parasites, tumors and cancers than anything that is vaguely beneficial to the society in which they exist. While the previous part highlighted the role of randomness and human gullibility in the rise of “elites”, this post will concentrate on another how their short-term world view guarantees their long-term fall. As I have noted in many previous posts, people who become “elites” through some combination of luck and scam are very status conscious.
They are obsessed with maintaining and increasing their relative status to the point that every action and event in their lives is seen through the lens of status.
This is the reason “elite’ patronize art that they are not enthusiastic about, attend the “right” schools and universities, read books they have no particular liking for or buy yachts and airplanes they seldom enjoy. The same obsession explains why they buy, sell and remodel luxurious houses they seldom live in. It is not about enjoying money, but about showing others you have it- overtly or discreetly.
The need to secure as much status as possible (with the minimum effort) also leads them to devote the majority of their mental energy to making other people poorer and more miserable than themselves. That is why billionaires complain about “high” corporate taxes and regulations while trying to pay their workers as little as they can get away with. The same applies to “millionaires” who abuse their employees and domestic staff even though doing so does not increase their ability to enjoy life. Even relatively average people who make good money such as physicians, professors, middle-level managers, HR shysters etc exhibit the same behavioral patterns.
Such an eternal status-seeking mindset does however have a non-obvious but uniformly fatal flaw. The flaw I am going to talk about is usually ignored because most people, including the “high IQ elite”cannot think beyond a few steps. Furthermore, the “elite” mindset is built around and shaped to ignore such ego-deflating flaws.
The status seeking mindset of “elite” will always amplify the destabilizing effects of external shock to the system.
To understand this problem, let us start with a society in some sort of dynamic equilibrium. Whether they are experiencing growth or simple stagnation, most societies can maintain functional integrity even if they are very unequal and shitty places to live in. Therefore a society will remain reasonably stable and predictable even if most people in it are barely scraping out a mediocre living. The problem I am referring to arises when such a society experiences an external challenge- be it natural events like drought, floods, earthquakes and epidemics to man-made events such as wars, invasions or economic problems caused by external actors. It is important to note that the size of the initial external challenge is not important, as otherwise unremarkable events have a way of magnifying themselves.
Societies usually depend on its “elite” to formulate and coordinate a response to external threat or disruption. They do so because the “elite” portray themselves as especially intelligent and competent. However their hard-wired motivations, mental filters and mindset are geared towards increasing their status- both with respect to the people under them and their peers. Therefore almost all their actions and responses are consciously and unconscionably guided by whether a given path of action, plan or strategy increases their status. This obsession with maintaining and increasing status overrides all other such considerations such as the survival of the society they pretend to lead or their eventual fate.
Therefore almost all of their choices and actions end up making things worse for everybody else in that particular society. Whether this happens on the conscious, or unconscious, level is irrelevant to the effect of such actions which causes a further deterioration in the condition of people in that society. The worsening of conditions for average people in any society damages whatever is left of social cohesion which then feeds back into a further worsening of the overall situation resulting in even more status-driven bad decision by the “elite”. At some stage the forces which hold the stressed society together are overwhelmed by those caused by cascading events caused by the unnecessary suffering of the average people in the system. The people abruptly lose their faith in the “elite” and all institutions associated with them or their apologists, creating a power vacuum that is inevitably filled by some other faction or group.
While those who fill such a power vacuum might not be much better than the old “elite”, they do represent a change from the disastrous policies and institutions which drove that society to implode in the first place. However such large-scale changes cannot occur through democratic elections, as another political party or faction is essentially identical to the one it replaced. It is about the system and institutions, not the party or leaders.
What do you think? Comments?
OK, here is an open question to the readers. Why was the practice of making loans with interest rates so unpopular in antiquity. Most of you might think that usury was about excessive interest rates, however historical evidence suggests that usury was about charging any interest on loans. But why?
Some of the earliest known condemnations of usury come from the Vedic texts of India. Similar condemnations are found in religious texts from Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At times many nations from ancient China to ancient Greece to ancient Rome have outlawed loans with any interest. Though the Roman Empire eventually allowed loans with carefully restricted interest rates, in medieval Europe, the Christian church banned the charging of interest at any rate (as well as charging a fee for the use of money, such as at a bureau de change).
How can the idea of charging interest on loans simultaneously offend religions as diverse as Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. What makes usury so repulsive that even “god-less” pagans such as the Romans and Chinese had to often explicitly ban it?
What do you think? Comments?
In some of my previous posts, I have pointed out that most of the so-called “pillars of modern society” from schools, universities, healthcare systems, legal systems, law and order apparatus, elections etc have become pretty dysfunctional and full of perverse incentives. It certainly does not help that they seem to become more dysfunctional with each passing day. Now, I am not suggesting that these institutions had a golden past or were full of upright people, because they were always sorta sketchy. However they were not widely perceived as predominately predatory in nature.
Today a significant minority of people perceive these institutions to be predominantly predatory in nature. Whether this change in perception is driven by more transparency, better communication or an increase in their predatory activities is largely inconsequential. The far more important issue concerns their ability to retain legitimacy in the minds of people.
Institutions that have lost legitimacy in the minds of more than a small percentage of the population are doomed.
While the speed of demise of any particular institution can vary considerably depending on a host of known and unknown factors, the end result is the same. When faced with increasing institutional dysfunction most people call for, and support, reforms to fix the problems. However history suggests that the vast majority of institutional reforms turn out to be ineffective or make the original problem worse. People usually blame nebulous things such as ‘human nature’ or the ‘decay of morality’ for reform failures. In my opinion, the real reasons are far more mundane but usually not discussed in ‘polite’ society.
Most human institutions, including the ‘noblest’ ones, are meant to benefit insiders at the expense of outsiders.
Most teachers have no interest in helping their students learn better or understand the subject being taught. They exist to carry out orders “from above” about what to teach, how to teach and how to test so they can continue to receive their bi-monthly paychecks. Universities do not exist to educate their students or encourage critical thinking. They exist so that an increasing number of administrators who pretend to increase efficiency can be gainfully employed, often at the expense of those who actually do actually educate. They increasingly sell an expensive and fraudulent dream to pump up their balance-sheets even if doing so requires scamming millions of people. Few people enter the medical profession for anything other than making loads of money and showing others that they are clever. They have no interest in providing affordable and beneficial care to their patients as doing so is against their interests. You can make far more money of a dying old person who suffers tons of treatment and misdiagnosed induced complications than you could ever make by acting in the best interest of their patient. The legal profession is seldom concerned with protecting the exploited from the exploiters as there is far more money teaming up with the exploiter to help him exploit other more systematically. Law and order has little interest in helping the average person as doing so more than occasionally carries little financial perks. Acting as the hired goons of ‘elites’ and helping support and enforce laws that incarcerate more people is however far more lucrative. Many people who live in democracies express some surprise when they hear about elected officials acting in the interest of their corporate masters, but what else can one expect from small-time sociopaths who get off on some power and crave money?
The reality is that many institutions in our society from school and universities to the medical and legal profession are not reformable because any significant degree of reform would destroy a very profitable business model. Similarly, expecting cops and politicians to do what they are supposed to do runs contrary to the real reason for their existence. That is not to say we cannot have far less dysfunctional versions of these institutions. However doing so requires dismantling the current version and business model of such institutions, and such efforts will be vigorous resisted by those who profit from them. Then again, there is a reason why wars and genocides often make things better in the medium to long run.
What do you think? Comments?
I have always found the typical reactions of most humans to ‘big’ events as bizarre and irrational. While I can think of many examples, including those listed in some of my previous posts, one stands out.
The human reaction to death is dependent on their perception of cause.
Note that is said “perception of cause” not “facts of cause” or “cause”. The way people react to death is almost totally dependent on what they believe based on their mental model of reality. Case in point- deaths from warfare have had a much bigger impact on human history than those caused by epidemics or other “natural” causes. Let us consider the casualties and impact of two events which occurred within the last 100 years.
WW1 began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. During the course of that war- 8 million were killed, 7 million were permanently disabled, and 15 million were seriously injured. Following WW1 the world was ravaged by the Influenza pandemic of 1918 which very likely began in the trenches during the later stages of WW1. It killed between 50 and 130 million people making it one of the, if not the, most deadly “natural” disasters in human history.
The effect of cause of death on impact and perception can be seen throughout human history, right down to the present day. People will remember the casualties caused by some guy shooting up a theater, summer camp of flying into tall buildings far more vividly than the same number of people dying through individual homicide, car accidents, drug overdoses, suicide, medical neglect or just plain stupidity in the same amount of time. As another example, far more people die yearly from the lack of timely medical care in the USA than those who got killed on 9/11- but we don’t seem to care about them. However the 3,000 odd people who died on 9/11 were enough to convince retards (americans) to support wars and agencies which have cost them trillions of dollars, made their lives shitier and not yielded any real or substantive benefits.
It is as if any real change in human history, good or bad, requires a significant number of “unnatural” deaths.
I will write a bit more about this topic in an upcoming post.
What do you think? Comments?
The last few years have seen a substantial increase in public interest about economics- from honest attempts to understand and compare various belief systems which underlie different schools of economics to attempts at justifying pre-existing biases and prejudices through name dropping and sophistic arguments. However all attempts to understand and use economic theories or ideas suffer from a number of fundamental problems (rational actor, utility maximization etc), but none is as serious as the one fundamental assumption which every brand, version and school of economics makes.
Economics is based on the very peculiar idea that a shared illusion of money is more important than human life itself.
Did you catch that? Economics assumes that abstract numbers in a spreadsheet are worth more than the lives, happiness and continued survival of billions of human beings- who incidentally are the only reason economics exist in the first place. Apparently, economics is more concerned about whether a complex system functions in a particular manner than it exists in the first place. Let me illustrate the bizarreness of this worldview by applying it other complex systems.
Would you believe an ideology that told you that having some form of cancer was a sign of health and youth? While there is no doubt that the rate of new cell formation in an adult with cancer is equal to or greater than a rapidly growing child, most people would not see the growth of cancerous cells as physiological. However an eCONomist on the payroll of the rich (cancerous growths) would gladly invent arguments to justify the accumulation of wealth by his masters even if that process was starving and destroying the rest of society (body). Such an eCONomist might even recommend austerity (starvation and bloodletting) to treat the disease (cancer) rather than exterminate the cause of the disease (the cancerous cells) because his lifestyle and short-term survival is dependent on the continued existence of those cancerous growths. The same eCONomist might also recommend sacrificing functional organs and tissues to feed the cancerous tumors by labeling it “creative destruction” and “signs of a healthy market eCONomy”. He would then justify the suffering of the excruciating pain, intense suffering and slow death caused by the disease and his intentionally misleading advice as an inevitability.
You might wonder- How can anybody get away with such atrociously dishonest behavior? Surely people are not that stupid and gullible? or are they? Well.. I prefer to see people falling for such crap as another example of the harm caused by religious-type beliefs. Human history is full of conflicts, wars and genocides perpetrated by people fighting over whose “god” was the one “true” god. They did so inspite of the fact that their “gods” were incapable of mundane things such as providing them enough food, protecting their kids from infectious diseases or even upgrading their horrendous living conditions.
Economics is like a religion obsessed with getting the approval of an invisible and impotent entity. You cannot rationalize with people who see and hear things (or pretend to do so) to justify their stupidity, cruelty and callousness. The best way to “reform” any religion is to eliminate its true believers and priests down to their last offspring. You might see such actions as inhumane, but can those who fail to see and treat other people as human beings be still classified as human?
What do you think? Comments?
I often spend time googling for photos of anything that catches my fancy. The subjects of my searches range from some particular tropical island, specific food item, animal, plant, old machinery, building etc. During the course of my whimsical googling for pictures about hairstyles and fashions from the 1960-80s, I made an interesting observation.
There was a time, not long ago, when even average looking guys had non-obese and decent looking girlfriends or wives.
Initially I thought that this observation was the result of superficial searching (top 5-10 pages of results) which might bias it towards more attractive chicks. But even detailed and random searches of digitized photo albums of average people from that era did not change my initial observation. For reasons that I will not speculate about right now, the median young woman from 30-40 years ago was significantly thinner and more feminine than her present day equivalent.
The other part of my observation was that even average looking guys with a poor sense of dress and style were going out or married to such women. Now I am sure that there was lots of partner-hopping and ‘experimentation’ in the 1970s-80s, but it is obvious that even average looking guys were frequently tapping some quality ass. Fast forward to today, and you see a different picture. Even average chubby chicks don’t want to be in LTRs, or seen in public, with guys that are not famous, infamous or “hot” unless she can use him as a walking ATM.
Today even non-obese, 6 foot plus guys with decent jobs have trouble finding and maintaining ‘relationships’ with plain but non-obese women. Young men who would have been a catch during their parents generation now spend a lot of the free time fapping to online porn, playing video games and screwing around on smartphones. The majority who try to find women for regular sex and or relationships seem to have, at best, sporadic success in obtaining willing female company.
Apparently, the ‘standards’ and demands of the median young woman has increased at the same rate as her weight and masculinity.
But why? What do you think? Comments?