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Thomas Hobbes was a House Slave, Not a Great Philosopher

April 12, 2014 6 comments

The name of a 16th century “philosopher” known as Thomas Hobbes frequently pops up in discussions on a range of topics ranging from the best type of governance to whether a state is necessary for reasonably stable societies to exist. He is best known for writing a book known as Leviathan in which he argues for of a system in which a very small group of “special” people have a monopoly on violence. In his opinion only such a system could guarantee social stability and economic prosperity.One of his most famous quotes is about the state of human society without a top-down repressive regime.

In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently, not culture of the earth, no navigation, nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

So why am I choosing him as the target of this post? Well.. there are two reasons. Firstly, he is a good example of the prototypical academic who will suck cock and write pretty lies for his paymasters. Secondly, his reputation needs to be demolished to the point where nobody wants to remember him, quote him or even try to recycle any of his ideas.

Many of you might wonder how something like this can be done. Wouldn’t irreversibly tarnishing the image of a long dead, semi-famous, white intellectual be hard. My answer is- not really. Think of all the famous white people who stood behind the idea of eugenics in the early 20th century. How many can you name or, more importantly even want to remember? Similarly the memories of even more famous people like Hitler, who was once widely admired in pre-WW2 UK and USA, are now irreversibly associated with evil. To put it another way, engineering large changes in the public images of famous (or semi-famous) people is actually quite easy.

Moving back to the topic at hand, let us start by looking at his early life and see if it provides any obvious clues as to why Hobbes became a servile cocksucker for the elites of his era.

Born prematurely when his mother heard of the coming invasion of the Spanish Armada, Hobbes later reported that “my mother gave birth to twins: myself and fear.” His childhood is almost a complete blank, and his mother’s name is unknown. His father, also named Thomas, was the vicar of Charlton and Westport. Thomas Hobbes Sr. had an older brother, Francis Hobbes, who was a wealthy merchant with no family of his own. Thomas Hobbes, the younger, had one brother Edmund who was about two years older than he. Thomas Sr. abandoned his wife, two sons and a daughter, leaving them in the care of his brother, Francis, when he was forced to flee to London after being involved in a fight with a clergyman outside his own church. Hobbes was educated at Westport church from the age of four, passed to the Malmesbury school and then to a private school kept by a young man named Robert Latimer, a graduate of the University of Oxford. Hobbes was a good pupil, and around 1603 he went up to Magdalen Hall, which is most closely related to Hertford College, Oxford.

Hobbes was not born into a rich family and his early life was somewhat precarious. However, like many of the middle and upper-middle class of today, he had access to centers of credentialism and sophistry aka universities. It is therefore very likely that Hobbes always saw the attainment of elite-approved credentials and subservience to their power as the only realistic way to maintain a somewhat nice and stable lifestyle.

Everything that Hobbes ever said, wrote or argued about must therefore be seen through the lens of his own timid, conformist and sophistic persona. To put it another way, he was an enthusiastic mercenary for anybody who held out the promise of a bit more money, social status and a nice sinecure.

Now let us move on to a critical analysis of the validity of his writings. But before we do that, let me quickly talk about why destroying his reputation is necessary- even 300 years after his death. The arguments put forth in the writings of Hobbes are one of the foundations of modern CONservativism and many other -isms. They, in both their original as well as recycled forms, have been used to justify a variety of socio-economic systems that have brought nothing but impoverishment, extreme misery, starvation and disease to the vast majority of people while greatly enriching a few lucky sociopaths.

One the central arguments in his writings is the idea that all people are highly immoral and only an absolute monopoly of violent force in the hands of a few chosen ones can keep society stable. In some respects his ideas are remarkably similar to those used to justify Chinese-style Legalism. But are most people highly immoral and does monopolizing violent force in the hands of a chosen few really improve the living standards of most people in that society?

While I am certainly not a believer in the myth of noble savages, there is a large body of evidence that hunter-gatherers living in non-precarious environments were not especially avaricious, inhospitable or murderous. Indeed, the lack of centralized authority in such systems makes peaceful inter-group cooperation, diplomacy and exchanges more necessary than it would otherwise be. So the idea that most people will trick, steal from and murder each other without someone in charge is a sophistic lie, projection of the thinker’s own mindset or likely both.

And this brings us to the second part of that particular argument- namely that giving the monopoly of violence to a few “especially suitable” people will make somehow society more stable and better. But how can we decide who is suitable to wield such power and how do we know they are competent? Is there any evidence that supposedly “legitimate” kings are any more competent that those who became kings through less “legitimate” means? How can we define the competence to “rule” when most societies with kings or their secular equivalents (dictators and leaders of one-party systems) are really bad places to be born, or live, in- at least for the vast majority of people?

I am sure that most of you are aware that the material living standards of “civilized” people have been consistently and significantly lower than their hunter-gatherer counterparts except for the last 100-odd years. Moreover the general rise of living standards over the last hundred years are linked to the rise of technology and simultaneous decline of outright autocracy.

The two central foundations of Hobbes worldview therefore have no basis in reality. They do however tell us a lot about his worldview and those of his paymasters.

But why would Hobbes spend so much time and effort on creating this myth? There are those who would like to believe that his worldview was simply a product of the environment he grew up in. I am not so sure and here is why. His early life history suggests that Hobbes had no useful skills beyond learning, conforming and pleasing his superiors. It is also obvious that he always wanted a comfortable and stable lifestyle. So how does a reasonably clever and timid man make a stable and comfortable living in the pre-industrial era?

Obtaining royal (or elite patronage) was the only realistic and feasible occupational choice for a person of Hobbes ability, temperament and desires. In other words, he had to choice to suck elite cock and live reasonably well or not do so and live like an average (poor) person.

Now.. I am not criticizing his decision to suck elite cock to make a stable, decent and trouble-free living. Pretty much anybody in his situation would have done the same. My real problem with Hobbes is that his works are still seen as serious and objective philosophical insights rather than as literary blowjobs to his masters. Doing so is the equivalent of using the collected reminiscences of a house slave as a defense and justification for the institution of slavery.

Hobbes was essentially a clever house slave who got better food, clothing and living quarters because of his ability to flatter his master, justify his brutality and constantly tell him how all those other “lazy and evil” slaves would be lost without the “benevolent guidance” of his master.

What do you think? Comments?

Profit, unlike Gain, is a Measure of Theft from the System

March 24, 2014 4 comments

The idea that profit-driven capitalism is the only system capable of delivering sustained improvement in living standards is a deeply cherished belief of many Americans, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. Some of you might even argue that the dissolution of the Soviet Union is definitive evidence of that ‘there is not other way’. Of course, doing so would require us to ignore that state communism did take Russia from a chaotic 19th century society to a superpower within 30 years, inspite of the massive damages inflicted by Stalin’s paranoia and WW2.

We would also have to ignore that the massive and unprecedented increase in the standard of living in the USA from the mid-1930s to mid-1980s was largely financed by direct and indirect government spending. Imagine an American middle-class without the New Deal, WW2-related spending, GI Bill, Space Race and all other Cold War related spending. But this is not a post about which flavor of capitalism is better than which flavor of state communism. Instead I will try to show how one of the fundamental proxy measures of success in capitalism (and state communism) eventually up destroying them.

I am certainly not the first to point out that monetary profit is fundamentally a measure of theft from other people or groups. However unlike many others, I am more interested in its downstream and knockon effects than the morality and mindset of those who benefit from it. There is also the interesting issue of why capitalism seems to “work” as long as it is kept under control, but becomes destructive to almost everybody once it is unregulated. In my opinion, all of this comes down to difference between profit and gain.

Some of you will counter by saying that “but aren’t profit and gain two words for the same thing”. Well.. not quite and let me explain. We use the word profit to denote a situation where one party benefits at the expense of another party. It is fundamentally impossible for all the parties involved in a profitable transaction to gain from it and is therefore a zero-sum interaction. Now contrast that an interaction where some parties gain more than others but pretty much everybody gets a pretty good and fair deal. Still confused? Let us look at some examples.

Consider the case of a generic multinational corporation which has managed to increase its reported profit by off-shoring its manufacturing base to a low-income country. So who are the winners and losers in this type of scenario? The biggest winners in this scenario are almost always the top-level management, large stockholders and those involved in the financial (and other) intermediation necessary to make it happen. Minor winners include the poorly paid workers in the low-income countries now working at a slightly better paying job and the consumers who benefit from a slightly cheaper product. So who are the big losers in this transaction? Well.. everybody else- starting from the unemployed workers to local business who depended on those workers and the local governments who depended on tax revenue from those workers, business and the corporation.

Now consider the case of a company, business or an institution developing a new way to fulfill some human need or desire. How many people were negatively affected by the development of computer technology? What about antibiotic drugs? What about better automobiles or airplanes? What about effective vaccines for diseases like polio? In each of the above examples, pretty much everybody benefited (or gained) far more than they lost. Moreover each of these products increased the size of the economy without a significant increase in income inequality. That is the important, and crucial difference, between profit and gain. You might also notice that my description of gain is pretty close to most peoples mental image of functional capitalism.

So why is gain-based capitalism in full retreat and why has its profit-based form taken over?

It comes down to concentration of power in the hands of a few large players or oligopolization. Capitalism, or indeed any other system, works best when there are many and almost equally capable competing players in the system. That is also why capitalism seems to function pretty well when a new area opens up for business. But sooner or later you will end up with a handful of major players who will dominate the new area.

But why would narrowing the list of players favor profit over gain. Well.. once again there are many interrelated reasons but they all arise from one characteristic common to all large human organisations- who runs them. The higher levels of large and established organisations are almost always dominated by sociopaths who have learned to climb the pyramid by stepping on others. These climbers often have no understanding of what it takes to make the enterprises they are leading function properly, nor are they interested in making them function properly.

The mindset of these sociopaths is dominated by two interlinked desires. Firstly, they want to subjugate and impoverish everyone else. Secondly, they want to do so while basking in material comfort. They have no interest, desire or even the mental ability to be anything else. These billionaires, “business leaders”, CEOs, board members, banksters, head honchos etc are functionally identical to parasites or viruses in that they both lack a purpose for existence and an internal ability to restrain themselves. They survive and thrive by exploiting the structure of the system and eluding systemic attempts to destroy them. But why are they so interested in generating more profit and suppressing gain? The answer to that question lies in what happens to monetary profit once it is generated.

Monetary profit, unlike gain, is almost never reinvested back into the system. In other words, all money made as profit exits the functional economy and impoverishes everybody else.

Only sovereign governments can replenish this supply of money. It is therefore not surprising that billionaires and other rich people spend lots of their time making sure that the government does not replenish this supply or that they get most of that replenishment. It is not about more money for them, as much as it is about less money for everybody else. Of course, it certainly helps that they have a whole bunch of morons to do their dirty work.

What do you think? Comments?

Film Remakes, Sequels, Prequels and the True Nature of Capitalism

March 1, 2014 8 comments

Have you ever wondered why mainstream movie-making in the last twenty years has gravitated towards remakes, sequels and prequels of previously successful movies? Why do movie studios keep on making newer version of old hits? What is purpose of making progressively inferior sequels or prequels of questionable quality? Now there are some who would say that all literature, theater and cinema is derivative (cleverly plagiarized and recycled) and there is some truth to that. But that is not what I am talking about. Let me explain my point with a few examples.

The original Star Wars and lords of the rings franchises are indeed clever rehashes of epics centered around reluctant hero trope. Furthermore, such epic stories are found across diverse cultures and eras. However reading the Odyssey, Scandinavian sagas or even the much earlier Epic of Gilgamesh does not diminish the enjoyment of watching the original star wars films or the LOTR trilogy because while they all have the same basic story structure, each one takes great effort to create and populate its own unique and self-consistent universe. Similarly modern superhero characters have more than a passing resemblance to the trans-human/semi-divine characters that populate ancient myths and stories. Yet once again, the creators of most modern superhero characters took considerable effort to make them and the worlds they inhabit as unique and richly detailed as possible.

Now contrast this level of creativity and effort to that seen (or not seen) in the Star Wars and LOTR “prequels”. Or take movie remakes- Why do most modern movie remakes and sequels suck so badly? Compare the original Robocop movie to its recent remake. Or compare the remake of Total recall to its far more innovative original version. This is not to say that every remake, prequel or sequel sucks. There are examples where the reboot was as good or better than the original such as Scarface (1983 vs 1932) or the Mummy (1999 vs 1932). Note that both examples of successful remakes mentioned in the previous sentence were quite different from the original versions. Having said that movies in which the remake, sequel or prequel are better than the original are exceptions and not the rule.

But why is that so and what does it have to do with the true nature of capitalism?

The short answer to that question is as follows- trying to relentlessly increase and optimize monetary profits from any new source of income will always kill the proverbial golden egg laying goose. The somewhat longer answer to that question requires us to first take an honest look at what capitalism (or any other materialism based -ism) is really about.

In the preceding paragraph, I hinted that the tendency of capitalism to kill golden egg laying geese is shared by other material-based ideologies (such as state communism). But why would that be so? Aren’t materialism based ideologies more “scientific” and therefore superior to other ways of looking at the world? Well.. it depends and here is why.

Materialism based (reductionist) models work best when the systems are small in size, fundamental in nature and/or tractable. So materialism based models are perfect for doing things such as predicting the motion of planets, understanding the physical nature of matter, launching artificial satellites, synthesizing some new chemical compound or designing a new engine or vehicle. Their predictive value starts to decrease as the systems become more complex or chaotic- yet they are still quite useful for understanding phenomena as diverse as biological evolution, speciation or weather systems. Reductionist models however reach the end of their usefulness when we enter the realms of complex, fundamentally unstable and adaptive systems such as human societies.

Models based in reductionism work well only as long as the fundamental components of the system and interactions between are constant, predictable and measurable. We simply cannot do that with human societies of even basic complexity. This is where reductionist thinkers make two fundamental errors.

Firstly, they try to use an external and artificial standard unit (money) to keep track of exchanges in the system. While the amounts of money exchanged might initially have some correlation to the actual value of most interactions in the system- it always reaches a point where the amounts exchanged between components in the system has little (or no) correlation to the actual value of the interactions. However the quantity and flow of money in the system are now increasingly seen as the only legitimate measure of value of anything or any person in the system. Money becomes a proxy measure for something it can no longer be accurately used to measure.

The triumph of money as the only way to measure the worth of anything results in the second type of reductionist error. The quest for more money results in the ever-increasing use of reductionist models (and thinking) to optimize interactions and actions. It is this mindset that leads to mediocre, insipid or just plain shitty movie remakes, sequels and prequels- while simultaneously starving truly innovative ideas and concepts. The people who make decisions about movie funding therefore have little interest in the quality or craft of the final product. They are principally motivated by the predicted monetary returns on their ill-gained money.

That is why capitalism, communism and all other reductionist -isms, which use artificial gameable proxy units, to model the real world ultimately end up destroying the very things that make their existence possible.

What do you think? Comments?

Why the Snowden Leaks Matter: Evidence vs Assumptions

February 21, 2014 5 comments

It has been over 7 months since the first excerpts from the Snowden document haul were published in the some mainstream media outlets. Since then, many document excerpts and summaries detailing the tools, capacity and ambition of the NSA (and its collaborators) have been published. As some of you may also know, all of the leaks published to date account for less than 2-3% of what Snowden gave to Greenwald and others- which themselves are a subset of all the documents he took with him in the first place.

So far the reaction from the majority of mainstream media outlets has ranged from condemnation to deliberate ignorance and dismissiveness. While this course of action might have been effective at suppressing information about those leaks in the pre-internet world, we live in a very connected world where non-mainstream media is now far more influential than its mainstream counterpart. But do these leaks matter? and will they have any long-term effects on public policy and perhaps more importantly the perception of people about their governments?

One of the favorite technique of mainstream media ‘journalists’ to try and minimize the impact of each new leak involves saying- “But we already knew that.” But is that really true? To put it another way- is hard and objective evidence about the existence of something really the same as speculative assumptions about its existence? Let us look at a few examples in recent history to try and answer that question.

Let us start by comparing the impact of genocides committed under Hitler to the one(s) committed under Stalin. Why do we hear so much about the former while the later is comparatively obscure, even though more people died in the later. Some say that the notoriety of genocide(s) under Hitler is linked to the fact that Jews were disproportionately represented in the body count- and there is some truth to that statement. However the religious and ethnic identity of the victims is secondary to the main reason we know so much the Nazi genocide.

It comes down to how well each one was documented.

The Holocaust was very well documented- both by its perpetrators and those who eventually stopped it. We have hundreds of thousands of graphic photographs, thousands of hours of movie footage, extensive document archives and a mountain of eyewitness testimony about what really happened during the Holocaust. The same is not true about the genocide(s) under Stalin. While we do have some documents, photographs and eye witness testimony about the events that occurred during those genocides- the total amount of such evidence is a very small fraction of what we have about the Holocaust.

The lack of extensive evidence makes the genocide(s) under Stalin feel substantially less “real” than the very well documented Holocaust- even though more people died in the former.

The “realness” of something we do not have personal knowledge or experience about is directly proportional to the amount of available first, and third, party evidence. This is also why the Armenian Genocide, Japanese war crimes and Mao’s great famine are not as well known as they otherwise would have been.

My point is that definitive evidence of something matters far more than vague assumptions about its existence, especially when such knowledge or information guides an appropriate response.

What do you think? Comments?

Why has Social Pressure not Increased Fertility Rates in Asian Countries?

February 12, 2014 20 comments

Few will dispute the idea that Asian societies and cultures have always used high levels of social pressure to sustain themselves even if doing so resulted in high levels of poverty, unhappiness, misery and early death for most of their members. Before we go further, let me remind you that I am not claiming other cultures and civilizations were (or are) significantly better in that respect. Indeed, I have noted in numerous previous posts that all cultures, nations and civilizations are ponzi schemes. Having said that, it is rather obvious that east-asian cultures are (and always have been) especially good at being ponzi schemes.

Between their worship of, and deference to, “tradition” and a profound unwillingness to change unless such change is forced upon them- it is clear that those cultures are interested in perpetuating bad dynamic equilibriums rather than move to better ones. Yet for thousands of years they were able to sustain this self-inflicted hell largely because of high rates of fertility (aka disposable suckers). And once again, non-asian cultures and societies were not much better in that regard.

A lot have changed in the last hundred, and especially the last sixty, years. For one, we have seen voluntary global reductions in fertility rates to the extent that many countries now have barely replacement to below replacement rates of fertility. While the growth and spread of education, mores and technology had their role in this change, we have still largely ignored one of the most important questions surrounding this change. Why are so many people not interested in having kids at all or just having one or two? I believe that the answer lies in the fact that human existence under the prevailing socio-economic systems is (and always has been) highly dystopic. But that is a topic for another post or discussion.

There is however a related question that is fairly specific to east-asian cultures and countries. As I have said before- the ponzi scheme of “civilization” requires a naive and youth heavy demographic profile to persist for extended periods of time. This is especially true of the societies that systemically enforce cultural autism to survive. Now factor in the effect of a sharp reduction in the number of naive suckers caused by a serious and persistent global decline in rates of east-asian fertility. How would systems whose very existence depended on a constant and large supply of naive suckers react to a serious shortfall in fuel?

Let me pose that question in another way- Why are asian societies and cultures who are so good at enforcing self-destructive behavior among their members through social pressure unable to make them provide more fuel.. I mean kids.. for the ponzi scheme? Why is social pressure to enforce self-destructive behavior incapable of making them breed more?

There are those who will say that the large and sustained decline in east-asian fertility is a logical response to overcrowding or poverty. Some will say that it has to do with living in high stress societies which may be partially true. But none of that stopped them from having tons of kids in previous eras, did it? So why now? What changed? Some readers might say that westernization or feminism has made women less willing to have kids and there is something to that argument. However the fertility rates in east-asian countries are low even in those countries where women are not expected to work after marriage- such as Japan.

So what is going on? Why are countries with huge levels of social group-think and pressure unable to make their subjects.. I mean members.. have more kids? Why can’t societies who can browbeat their members in doing anything else not make them have more kids? It is certainly not for lack of trying.

What do you think? Comments?

Two Proxies for Determining the Actual Level of Knowledge

February 9, 2014 3 comments

We have all seen and heard tons of “experts” engage in public demonstrations of their supposed deep understanding about some area of knowledge. We have also seen many examples where the subsequent course of events have clearly demonstrated that they were wrong. Indeed, many “experts” try to normalize their past blunders by claiming that making mistakes is the only way science and knowledge can progress. While that may be partially true, these “experts” almost always forget that concept when criticizing the ideas of those who are not part of their social circle, academic “pedigree” or skin color. My point is that any person who is called, or considered to be, an “expert” is almost always a con-artist who has been especially successful in evading scrutiny.

But that leaves us with a peculiar problem. How do we separate quality knowledge from speculation, lies and bullshit. This is especially problematic as many “experts” hide their incompetence behind degrees from supposedly “prestigious” institutions, social positions, supposed hyper-specialization, arcane language and sophistry. So how do we know who is lying and how much? Well, I have given this issue some thought and come up with two easy to use, fast and highly accurate proxies to help you cut through the web of lies, sophistry, deceit and bullshit.

Proxy 1: The number of plausible theories about something is inversely proportional to the actual understanding about that thing or phenomena.

Prior to the microbial theory of infectious diseases, people believed that such illnesses were caused by everything from divine wrath, evil spirits, bad karma, poisonous air to laziness and insolence. It did not help that all of those theories did sound equally plausible as none of them was capable of explaining observable reality. Contrast that situation to the present day, when pretty much everybody understands that infectious diseases are caused by microbes. Moreover, the association between a particular type of pathogenic microorganism and an illness can always be verified by a variety of experimental techniques that stand up to scrutiny.

The same cannot however be said about many chronic non-infectious diseases. It is therefore no surprise that “experts” routinely come up with new, recycled and mutually contradictory theories about the etiology of diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Coronary Artery Disease. Even worse, the most widespread theories about the etiology of such diseases do not stand up to reality. For example- of all the cholesterol lowering medications approved to date, only the ‘statins’ demonstrate decent (but not great) efficacy at lowering mortality and morbidity from Coronary Artery Disease. Then there is the issue of why no approved drug for Type 2 diabetes has any significant positive effect on the excess risk of Myocardial Infarctions (heart attacks)- which is the single biggest cause of premature death in people with that disease.

And this brings us to the second proxy for determining the actual level of knowledge about a thing, phenomena or process.

Proxy 2: A good understanding of a thing, phenomena or process will quickly leads to multiple, robust and viable strategies for utilizing that knowledge.

Today new cars are not hard to design, build or repair because the principles and factors that govern their performance have been understood for over a century. Similarly complex new airlines can be designed and partially tested on computers because we have very good mathematical models and a solid theoretical understanding of the engineering (and other) principles behind each and every part that is used to build them. Nor are we surprised when companies like Intel or Samsung can keep on building every smaller, faster and better CPUs for personal computers and smartphones. The same is true about large-scale and important chemical process for synthesizing compounds like ammonia or plastics and polymers. Similarly even complex and finicky chemical process such as fractionating various varieties of crude oil have been mastered to the point where the biggest challenges with building new refineries are related to environmental concerns.

Now compare this level of competence and confidence to the hype surrounding high-efficiency “organic” solar cells, exotic “high-capacity” rechargeable batteries, controlled and energy positive nuclear fusion or new therapies based on human genomics. Or take all those breathless reports about exciting cancer therapies. Have there really been any new “paradigm-changing” shifts in that area of medicine for the last thirty years? Look at the survival rates for all types of cancers. Sure things are better than they were thirty years ago- but most of the changes have come from non-invasive diagnostic methods, less-horrible surgical interventions and more thoughtful use of older drug in combination.

In summary, the two best proxies for determining the actual level of knowledge come down to how well we can explain observable reality and use that knowledge for our benefit. Anything else is lies, scams and sophistry.

What do you think? Comments?

Why Jimmy Fallon will Not be a Successful Replacement for Jay Leno

February 1, 2014 13 comments

Many of my recent posts have been a bit too abstract, and therefore I am going to write one about something a bit more frivolous and contemporary. As most of you must have heard for a few months, Jimmy Fallon is going to replace Jay Leno as the host of ‘The Tonight Show‘ in the later half of February 2014. As most of you also know, this is not the first time NBC tried to replace Jay Leno as the host of that late night variety entertainment program.

I predict that this attempt to replace Jay Leno will also fail in stabilizing, let alone increasing, the viewership of that show over more than a few months.

But before telling you my hypothesis about why Jimmy Fallon will not succeed, let us take a quick look at the mindset behind this decision. The upper executive ranks of NBC, like almost every other large corporation in the western world, are populated by a very specific subcategory of people. They are, by and large, people who got into their current positions via some combination of luck, connections and bull-shitting. The vast majority of senior executives in large corporations have no interest or stake in the future of the institutions they control beyond the next quarterly financial report.

These executives will always receive excellent compensation- whether the corporation they run succeeds or fails. Nor is their incompetence a barrier to a similar or better job at another large corporation. They will also never enjoy the public recognition and popularity of the actors and other celebrities who are the public face of their corporation. The confluence of these conditions ensures that most of their professional decisions are rooted in personal likes, dislikes, fashions, power plays and other petty considerations typically associated with the inter-personal behavior of adolescent girls.

So what does any of this mean for the decision to get a new host for a late-night TV program?

Well.. it comes down to their justification for that action. The official version of the story is that Jay Leno’s tenure as the host of that show was just not giving them the kind of ratings they had once hoped for. They were also “concerned” that the median age of the average regular viewer of that show was in the mid- to late- 50s. But can either issue be fixed by replacing him with Jimmy Fallon or anybody else?

Let me ask you a simple question- When was the last time you sat through the majority, let alone an entire episode, of a late night talk show on one of the big networks? I have not done that in almost ten years and I can bet that many of you are in the same boat. The growing popularity of programs on non-basic cable channels, the astronomical increase of searchable media on the internet, YouTube and its clones, NetFlix and other subscription services, mobile internet devices and social media platforms have pulled (and fragmented) the 40- and under crowd away from traditional TV programming. Consequently the only people regularly watching traditional TV programming are in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

Changing the host of a late night show to someone who is younger, “hipper” or more “web-savvy” does not address the fundamental limitations and handicaps of network TV programming. The big networks simply cannot keep up with their much faster and nimbler competitors in the great race for an ever-increasing number of eyeballs. This is not to say that network TV will die out anytime soon, but it is obvious that they will have to cater to an increasingly older and slowly shrinking audience. And this brings me to the main reason why Fallon will not be a successful replacement for Leno as the new host of ‘The Tonight Show’.

Jimmy Fallon simply has the wrong demographic and stylistic profile for most regular viewers of that show.

Jay Leno, at 63, is in the middle of the demographic that regularly watches his show. He is very relateable to most of his audience at multiple levels- from his physical appearance, comedic style, world view to the content of his program. Jimmy Fallon, at 39, is a full generation younger than Leno and has to try hard to be someone he is clearly not- and it shows!

A secondary factor working against Fallon is the strong desire of NBC to attract a younger crowd. I can bet that this desire will somehow translate into some focus-group and consultant driven alterations to the show format that will alienate the core viewership while failing to attract enough younger replacements- resulting in yet more of the same till the downward cycle eventually killing the show. Meanwhile the executives who made these disastrous decisions will have moved on to another corporation where they will do more of the same.

What do you think? Comments?

How the Institutions of an Established Ideology Speed Up its Demise

January 27, 2014 7 comments

An accelerating loss of trust in the objectivity and competence of secular and credentialed “experts” is one of the defining features of our age. People, especially those with more than a basic level of education, have increasingly stopped believing in the competence and abilities of these so-called “experts” like they used to in the “good old days”. While the ivy-league and ox-bridge educated priest-charlatans of today would want you to believe that this is somehow a bad thing, a look at the real world strongly suggests otherwise.

The last decade has seen numerous high-visibility examples of “experts” from various fields dispensing advice that was either plain wrong, maliciously incorrect or as a way to cover up their lack of real understanding of the problems. These high-visibility examples have occurred in areas as diverse as medical research and economics, demonstrating that the problem of experts who are either wrong, lying or misleading is not confined to a few fields. However the visible decay in public trust of experts seen in the last ten years is only a continuation of a trend that started a couple of decades before.

Why did people start losing their trust in secular experts?

To better understand how secular elitist charlatans started losing their authority, let us take a look at an earlier but similar process that led to the loss of traditional religious authority. Though some of you might find it hard to believe it, religion was once the preeminent source of social authority. Most people in the past actually lived their lives according to some interpretation of a series of supposedly divine revelation received by some guy they never met. They did so inspite of any objective evidence that it made their lives safer, better or even more tolerable. While the reasons they did that are interesting in their own right, the more relevant question is- Why did traditional religious authority experience such a steep decline in last one hundred years after reigning supreme for the previous few thousand years?

In my opinion, it comes down to two things. Firstly, traditional regions could not compete with the material goodies delivered by secular ideologies. Praying to some dude who supposedly died for your “sins (whatever than means) does not deliver well heated houses, surplus food, better public health or radio and TV. It is therefore not surprising that “experts” associated with traditional religious ideologies were increasingly seen as obsolete and impotent, especially in comparison to their secular counterparts. But loss of relevance, by itself, was not the death-blow for the authority of traditional religious experts. It was another set of issues that truly sealed their fate and I believe that those same issues are responsible for the ongoing authority loss of secular experts.

But what are ideologies, anyway?

Well.. all ideologies are confidence scams based on creating and propagating simplified and somewhat plausible models of reality for the sole purpose of enriching a few at the cost of many. The creators, propagators and beneficiaries of ideologies have no clue about reality- nor do they have any interest in trying to find out more. They simply use the desire of others to understand reality to enrich themselves, not unlike parasites that use the life force of the host to benefit themselves- often to the detriment of the host. All ideologies are spread and kept alive through misrepresentations, exaggerations, outright lies, sophistry and manipulating others with the main purpose of extracting unearned compensation. Ideologies can however keep on going as long as they are not seriously challenged and there is a new supply of suckers (high birth and death rate).

What causes older ideologies to falter, fail and eventually vanish?

It comes down to actively, though unintentionally, repelling believers through repeated failed attempts at asserting control over the narrative. Let me explain this in a bit more detail. All successful new ideologies (cons), start out with enough doctrinal and ideological flexibility to successfully navigate the environment in which they were created. However their end game, building centralized extractive institutions, require doctrinal and ideological rigidity. Therefore ideological frameworks that started out as fairly flexible and open will transform into inflexible and closed institutions that maintain their power via fear, treachery and attempts at brain-washing. However doing so has little to no effect on the physical world. This leads to an increasing gap between the real world and the distorted model used by believers of an ideology, such that it is very obvious that the ideology is incorrect.

How do the defenders of a faith react to this increase in public dissatisfaction?

The short answer is that they double down, stick to their dogma even harder and defend it even more vociferously. The somewhat longer answer requires us to first understand who these defenders of the faith are and are not. Contrary to what many of you might believe- the biggest beneficiaries of any large scam are seldom its biggest public defenders or champions. Instead the defenders of faith, aka the priest-charlatan “expert” types, typically come from a less affluent (but still comfortable) strata of society. Most of them are smart, but insecure, social climbers who hope to use their public displays of loyalty to the elite as an entrance into that layer of society. Of course, they almost never succeed doing so but that topic belongs to a different discussion.

Getting back to our discussion- How do the reactions of institutional priest-charlatans end up killing the ideology that gives them legitimacy? It comes down to how they react to a progressively stream of bad news. Smart con-artists can usually cut their loss and move on to reinvent themselves. However, priest-charlatans, are not that clever. Moreover many have spent years and decades of their lives defending that ideology in the naive hope that it would facilitate their entry into the elite class.

Hence they stick to their guns and start mounting highly visible and vociferous defenses of their lost cause. Every small attack on them ends up being magnified, largely due to their increasingly desperate and ineffectual responses. Their institutions become increasingly intolerant of those members who display even moderate tendencies towards dissent or reform, and thus lose the very people who could have saved them from irrelevance through change or reform.

This is not to say that the reform and dissent angle is totally ignored by priest-charlatans. Indeed, they love to create and publicize non-functional versions of both in order to fool people. However the fakeness of official attempts at dissent and reform quickly become obvious and resulting in a further loss of image for the priest-charlatans. The downward spiral keeps on going until a competing ideology successfully displaces it from its position or the society it operates in becomes too dysfunctional to support the physical and human infrastructure necessary to keep it going. Secular ideologies displacing religious ones in the early 20th century was an example of the first scenario, the slow motion falling-apart we are witnessing is an example of the second.

What do you think? Comments?

Ice Age Sized Holes in the Case for Anthropogenic Climate Change

January 24, 2014 12 comments

The belief that human activities, especially of the type seen in industrial and post-industrial societies, are somehow responsible for “global climate change” previously known as “global warming” is an established article of faith among a significant percentage of the population in many countries. Hardly a day goes by without an article in some news outlet, mainstream or otherwise, proclaiming the discovery of yet another piece of evidence for anthropocentric climate change. While the intensity of the rhetoric has diminished somewhat since its last peak in 2006-2008, it is clear that the number of hardcore believers has not diminished.

While I am certainly not the first one to point it out- a lot of the rhetoric and beliefs associated the anthropogenic climate change believers are strikingly similar to traditional guilt-based religions such as Catholicism. Many aspects of this new belief system such as appeals to the authority of “approved” experts, secret knowledge that can only be understood by the initiated, persecution of dissenters or “climate change deniers”, constant talk about the dark and malevolent forces that want to make true believers stray from the righteous path are essentially identical to those seen in other traditional religious and secular belief systems.

However this post is not about how the environmental movement is a secular version of Catholicism- which it is. Instead, I am going to point out one obvious, but seldom discussed, problem with the idea that current levels of human activity are causing significant climate change.

What was responsible for the last few ice ages and the interglacial periods in between them?

As some of you might already know, the last 3 million years have witnessed a series of glacial events separated by interglacial events collectively known as Quaternary glaciation or Pleistocene glaciation. During this time period continental glaciers were repeatedly able to push to (and sometimes below) 40 degrees longitude in many parts of the world, including north america.

In addition, a zone of permafrost stretched southward from the edge of the glacial sheet, a few hundred kilometres in North America, and several hundred in Eurasia. Each glacial advance tied up huge volumes of water in continental ice sheets 1,500 to 3,000 metres (4,900–9,800 ft) thick, resulting in temporary sea level drops of 100 metres (300 ft) or more over the entire surface of the Earth. The effects of glaciation were global. Antarctica was ice-bound throughout the Pleistocene as well as the preceding Pliocene. The Andes were covered in the south by the Patagonian ice cap. There were glaciers in New Zealand and Tasmania. The current decaying glaciers of Mount Kenya, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Ruwenzori Range in east and central Africa were larger. Glaciers existed in the mountains of Ethiopia and to the west in the Atlas mountains.

But what does any of this have to do with anthropogenic climate change? Aren’t ice ages and interglacial periods a ‘natural’ phenomena? Didn’t most of them occur before anatomically modern humans evolved?

Well of course they are a ‘natural’ phenomena and that is precisely the problem. It also does not help that industrial civilization, did not exist during any of the ice ages or interglacial periods- other than the interglacial we are currently living in and which started about about 12-15k years ago. So what caused such large and relatively abrupt (on a geological time scale) changes in the earths climate? How do you go from an extended interglacial period of many tens of thousands of years to a fairly sustained glacial period of many tens of thousands of years and then back to another interglacial period?

What factors drove these massive global climate changes and more importantly- are those factors still relevant and active?

You might have heard about the Milankovitch cycles, but even they don’t fully explain the phenomena of Quaternary glaciation. There is also the issue of the various ice ages starting and ending at slightly different times in different parts of the world. For example- the second last glaciation cycle in N. America, the Illinoian (191-130 k years ago), does not run parallel to its equivalent in the British Isles, known as the Wolstonian (325k-130k years ago). While the last ice age started and ended at somewhat similar times throughout the world, it had its own warmer and colder periods- and this was likely the case for the earlier ones too. My point is that even climatic events as large and prolonged as global ice ages do not display high levels of uniformity, stability or predictability.

And this brings us to the fundamental problem with modeling any large, complex, poorly understood and adaptive system. How can you model the primary and secondary effects of slight changes to one parameter (a slight increase in atmospheric CO2 effects) when the dynamics of the underlying system components are poorly understood. Let me explain that with a simpler analogy. Can you confidently measure the effects of drinking an extra cup of tea or coffee per day on a large population, if you did not first have a good understanding of human physiology, society and lifestyles. And would an extra cup of tea or coffee per day have a statistically significant effect that could stand above the noise and fluctuations in the collected data?

So how can you confidently calculate the effect of small changes in one minor parameter on a semi-predictable and ever-changing baseline that is capable of far bigger variations than your cherished effect? To put it another way- can you really measure an effect if the baseline variations are much larger than the said effect?

What do you think? Comments?

Special People Are Not Special, Irreplaceable or Even Competent

January 14, 2014 19 comments

One of the more peculiar aspects of modern financial capitalism is its effect on the price of art. Today, it is not unheard for a painting by an artist who died a century ago to fetch many millions of dollars. While the effect of financial capitalism on art prices raises many questions, one of them is often ignored or seldom asked.

How can the works of a person who lived, and died, in near poverty many decades ago command millions of dollars today?

Proponents and supporters of capitalism, including its more virulent financial strain, never tire of telling others that capitalism rewards innovation and hard work. They also like to tell others that capitalism is a meritocracy or supports a system based in merit. But how do those belief interact with the prices for art by long dead artists?

Let us start by trying to first ask ourselves why artists like Van Gogh, Cézanne, Pollock and Klimt never made a lot of money off their paintings when they were alive. I am not implying that all of them died in poverty or madness. But it is quite obvious that creators of art pieces that fetch over 100 million dollars in auctions today lived rather modestly or close to poverty.

The supporters of capitalism preach that the free market pays each person according to their worth. So how can the artwork of somebody who lived in near poverty like Van Gogh command over a hundred million dollars today. Why did he not receive a fraction of that sum (even inflation adjusted) in his lifetime? Why was his art unappreciated in his own time? Were the capitalist of that era unable to see the true value of his paintings? Also, capitalism believes that all people are principally motivated by the amount of money made during their lifetime. So how does paying over a hundred million dollars for artpieces many decades after the death of their impoverished creators encourage people to create great art?

But we are still not talking about the real elephant in the room. Why are the paintings of Van Gogh, Cézanne, Pollock and Klimt so expensive? What is the source of their value? Do they confer any superhuman power on its owners? Does owning them confer immortality? Do they even add 2 inches to the length of the owners penis? Can any the owners of these 100 million dollar-plus paintings even appreciate art? And what about paintings by contemporaries of these now-famous artists. How many of them fetch that sort of money? and why not? Were all their contemporaries unskilled or incompetent hacks?

Then there is the issue of art fakes. Why is an almost perfect copy of an multi-million artpiece by a skilled chinese artist worth close to nothing when compared to the original? Does the fact that the original was painted by van Gogh or Pollock imbue it with magical properties or a divine aura? and did Jackson Pollock even paint? And how come all these paintings never appreciate much as long as its creators are alive? My point is that the cost of a painting has no correlation to the skill, insight or creativity of the artist who created it.

So what peculiar rationale underlies the valuation of artwork?

Before we answer that question, let us look at a similar problem in the world of entertainment- specifically the money and fame achieved by a few actors, sportsmen, singers and other celebrities. Why do certain actors command millions of dollars while others who are equally good-looking and talented languish as extras for the rest of their lives? Why did some get the lucky breaks or roles that lead them to stardom? Was it competence or just dumb luck?

Why does somebody who plays in the NBA make so much more than an equally talented athlete in something like say high jumping? And what about those guys who for some reason or another just missed getting drafted by some NBA team? Were they really that untalented or just unlucky? Why do certain sports, such as cycling or golf, now attract much more money than they did a few decades ago? Why does cycling quickly through rural France entitle you to almost 100 million dollars over a decade? Or why does playing golf well let you make over 500 million dollars?

How does any of that benefit society? What about famous singers? Why are mediocre and manufactured singers like Katy Perry or Britney Spears in the same income range as far more talented ones like the late Freddy Mercury or even someone like Eminem? How do people like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian make millions off being famous for inserting empty wine bottles in their vagina and having rough sex with a black athlete respectively?

Clearly there is a massive disconnect between the value of what these so-called “special” people provide and their remuneration. What are we paying them for anyway? and who is really paying them and why?

But is this disconnect restricted to art and entertainment, or is it more pervasive? How do CEOs and the senior management of corporations make millions regardless of whether the company they are supposed to run well is making a profit or loss? Do they even understand the products or services provided by the corporations they benefit from? Or take professors and senior faculty at the supposedly prestigious ivy-league universities. How come massive increases in funding to these elites since the 1980s by depriving others of it has not yielded any real breakthroughs.

Sure.. we get lots of irreproducible research, exaggerated press releases, colorful brochures and magazines, polished presentations- but where are the breakthroughs. What about all those new generations of antibiotics, new drugs to treat common types of cancers with minimal side-effects, batteries with very high power densities they keep on promising? What about controlled energy-positive nuclear fusion? Where is all the stuff they have kept on promising for the last 30 years?

What about all the promises made by politicians? Did Bush43 fulfill any of the promises made to the idiots who voted him in twice? What about all the talk about hope and change by Obama? Would Clinton be seen differently if he had not been accidental beneficiary of a freak combination of geopolitical, economic and technological windfalls? Would we worse of if we elected chimpanzees and dogs to political office? Then there is the issue of bankers and other people involved in the higher echelons of the financial sector. Who gets those jobs and how? What do they do anyway? How hard is it to make lots of money when you make it irrespective of whether your clients lose or make money?

Here is my take on all of this.. Human societies (whether they are feudal, capitalistic or communist) are basically giant stagnant ponds that support the growth of liars, fakers, con-artists and other assorted parasites. Special people are just those parasites who got especially lucky and successful by scamming, manipulating and extorting others and hiding from the consequences- not unlike many parasitic protozoa and worms. However this problem cannot be fixed, at least not easily, since the very existence of large stagnant ponds creates opportunities for parasites to evolve and perfect their craft. One of only two ways to fix this problem to any significant extent involves changing the very nature of human societies, either by force or accident. Another way, is to permanently drain the stagnant ponds, even if doing so kills everything else in it.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Peculiarity of Human Reverence for People, Groups and Ideologies

November 30, 2013 22 comments

Growing up, I was always a bit different.. OK.. a lot different. Most of it came down to how I perceived, or mentally modeled, the world around me. This alternate model the world in turn affected how I saw the actions and behaviors of other people around me.

Case in point- As a child, I was unable to understand why most people had such strong, yet almost always unreciprocated, obsessions about celebrities. I also found it odd that most people were so enthusiastic about belonging to groups or institutions that either did not care about them or cynically used them as slaves or worse. Similarly the ability of ideologies (religious and secular) to repeatedly attract millions or billions of faithful followers without delivering on their promises in an objectively verifiable manner made me question the ability of most people to think rationally.

In contrast to that, I never cared much about what people who were not helpful to me thought about me. I was also unable to obsess about the lives of sport-stars, musicians, actors or other “famous” people. I never felt the need to ‘truly’ belong to any groups or institutions. I just could not commit myself to any cause or ideology. That is not to say I was ignorant or oblivious of the world around me. I was very well-informed about what others thought about me and had a better understanding of current affairs, trivia and ideologies than pretty much anyone around me. Nor was I oblivious to the supposed benefits of group or institutional membership.

Yet I was unable to care about any of that stuff beyond the level necessary to be appear normal.

Some might see this as lack of drive, motivation, positive-thinking or any of the other fairy tales most people keep telling themselves. I, however, saw things differently. From my viewpoint, people who exhibited “mainstream” behavior were the real suckers and morons. But how did I come to this conclusion? and why did I reach it at a much younger age than most who eventually get there?

Well.. It comes to careful observations.

I realized early on, by looking at the lives of people around me, that being kind and helpful to people was almost never rewarded- especially on a quid-pro-quo basis. Now one can certainly extend this observation and decide to become ‘extra’ evil and manipulative, but maintaining minimal and very conditional connections to others is a far more effective and practical response to living in a generally unreciprocative world. Face it.. we live in societies where even ‘close’ relatives and friends are unlikely to help you in any substantial way. So what is the point of caring about, assisting or even spending time with them? Do you really think people spend all that time on FB, Twitter or watching TV because they are somehow magically addictive?

I simply understood this fact much earlier than most. It also helps to be born in an age where technology finally made it possible to reduce personal contact with useless or malevolent people without becoming too lonely.

Then there is the issue of how most people spend lots of time following the lives of “celebrities” or trying to somehow get into their inner circles. Even as a child, I could never understand why so many people worshiped movie stars or sportsmen. What is the point of caring so much about people you will almost never meet, let alone reciprocate it? But where does one draw the line between enjoying the performance of an actor or musician and going into the hero-worship or obsession mode? In my opinion, something like say.. trying to find more information or material by some performer on IMDB or YouTube, is about personal entertainment. However buying a product or service because some celebrity endorsed it or wearing a jersey to express support for some sports team clearly crosses the line into unrequited hero-worship.

My cynicism about group and institutional membership was also based on what I saw as a child. It was obvious to me, even then, that most members of groups or institutions never benefited from their commitment, effort or sacrifices for the “greater good” of those groups or institutions. In almost every single case, a small percentage of people at the top of those groupings took away almost all of the gains obtained through the hard work and sacrifices of their rank-and-file members. We can see this dynamic all around us in groups and institutions as diverse as non-profit organisations, small businesses, large corporations and universities to the armed forces of modern nation states. I would go so far as to say that the “normal” mode of operation for pretty much every single type human grouping or institution is identical to a ponzi scheme.

Let us now move on to the topic of religions, ideologies and other belief system. Once again, I was never able to understand how anybody could believe in something as ridiculous as a god that cared about human beings. I mean.. look around you. Do you see any evidence of a trans-human entity or entities that gives a damn about human, animal or any other kind of suffering or pain? Does believing in god improve the materiel quality of your life? Does it feed the hungry? Does it cure the sick? Does it make you a “better” human being? Does it address or correct obvious injustice? I could go on.. but you get the point- belief in god or gods does not achieve anything for true believers. It can however provide a cushy livelihood for priests and provide a justification for looting those who believe in other invisible sky-dudes or dudettes.

Secular religions, such as capitalism, provide another and more modern example of this phenomena. Why are those who slave for, yet never benefit from, capitalism its most ardent and vocal supporters? Why are people getting ass-fucked by the invisible hand of the “free market” often its biggest cheerleaders? Why are all those white knights who support feminism and defend the honor of women not getting laid? Conversely, why are those who support a return to traditional masculine values so eager for female approval, even if comes from a chubby and mentally unstable groupie?

So.. did you notice a common theme running through all of the examples mentioned in this post?

OK.. let me spell it out. In every single example, the majority of people seem to enthusiastically keep on doing something they “know” will benefit them- inspite of a wealth of evidence and repeated reminders that it won’t or is incapable of doing so. So what drives the majority to people to keep on doing something that does not work or cannot deliver on its promise? Are they all suffering from permanent brain damage? Or is something else behind this odd pattern of behavior?

I believe that the answer to this apparent paradox lies in understanding the nature of loyalty and its linkage to the human urge to hurt others even when doing so is not profitable.

I shall explore this issue in an upcoming post.

What do you think? Comments?

Capitalism Cannot Function Without an Endless Supply of New Suckers

October 31, 2013 48 comments

Have you ever wondered if capitalism could become a victim of its own “success” in ways other those put forth by Marx over a century ago. While it is certainly possible that the effects of declining profits and progressive impoverishment of the majority will derail capitalism in a world where there is not much left to plunder or conquer in an economically viable manner, there is an alternative (and possibly synergistic) pathway for things to fall apart.

The reason you have probably never heard of this ‘other’ pathway is because the conditions that made its existence possible are relatively new. Even today- most economic thought, literature and analysis is the product of people mired in the mindset of previous eras. It also helps that doing so keeps the rich patrons of these sophists (economists and intellectuals) happy and thereby ensures a steady stream of table scraps.

So how did I stumble across this pathway? Well.. it comes down to an extension of one of my observations about human beings. We are often told by “intellectuals” that human beings do things because they are naturally competitive. But how many people would jump through all the hoops and cripple themselves in ways that are considered “normal” in developed societies if they were really doing it for themselves?

What kind of moron would slave away for a house in the suburbs where he would be subject to the simultaneous tyranny of his aging hateful wife and municipal zoning guidelines? What kind of idiot slaves away to live his life surrounded by superficial and scheming people at work (colleagues) and home (neighbors)? What idiot would slave away in occupations that involved high stress or high levels of insecurity? What moron would enter vocations with decade long education and internship requirements but not much in terms of job security?

It is clear that the mindset, worldview and behaviors of the average blue- or white-collar person in all developed countries are blatantly irrational. So why do they persist, or more accurately- why was that behavior so prevalent in the past?

In one of my previous posts, I had put forth the idea that civilization as we know it is a ponzi scheme. I chose that particular term since it best describes the overall structure, mode of functioning and life-cycle of civilization. But it also describes how they grow and become bigger. Civilizations, like ponzi schemes, require a continuous influx of new naive members to scam, exploit, enslave and sacrifice. But why? Well for one you have to pay off the higher ranking (but non-apex) members in the scheme. But there is another reason especially relevant to the fate of capitalism in developed countries with low rates of fertility.

A significant minority of people who cannot move up the pyramid will eventually understand the true nature of the system, even if that realization occurs at a subconscious level.

Civilization always results in a significant minority of its members becoming cynical, disloyal and self-serving once they wise up. There is therefore a constant and unrelenting need for more naive suckers to replace and possibly help eliminate those who have wised up. Finding such new suckers was very easy in the pre-contraception era when the average women has more than two kids who lived to adulthood. But barely or below replacement fertility makes that much harder and hence we had immigration for decades. But today even countries like Mexico and India, not to mention China, have fertility rates that are close to or below replacement.

But what does any of this have to do with an alternate pathway for the demise of capitalism?

The answer to that question lies in the high level of similarity between civilization and capitalism in one area – producing cynical burnouts with nothing left to lose. However capitalist societies are also far more efficient at producing such individuals as they burn the inter-personal goodwill and institutional loyalty of their lower ranking members at far higher rates and levels than their pre-capitalist counterparts. Furthermore, the continuous and ultimately counterproductive competitions that characterize such societies are unsustainable in the absence of high level of growth and some wealth redistribution. The high ambient instability of careers in such societies, even those which involve a lot of personal investment and sacrifice, do not make things any better.

Many societies with these features attempt to stabilize themselves through social welfare programs and regulations to improve career/lifestyle stability. While such measures can be partially effective in the short to medium term, they fail in the long-term for reasons linked to human greed and short-sightedness. Moreover they do not produce fewer cynical burnouts- only slightly less bitter ones. There is a reason why even countries as ordered, stable and affluent as Switzerland, Germany and Japan are not full of highly motivated and enthusiastic people.

Now some of you will say.. but what about the USA? isn’t it an exception to the pattern of capitalistic societies having a significant number of burnt out and cynical people? and isn’t the per woman fertility slightly above replacement or something like that? Well.. let us go through each point.

Firstly the USA is not an exception to the pattern of capitalistic societies having a significant number of burnt out and cynical people. It was just a late comer to that club for reasons I shall explain in a moment. As I have previously said, ponzi schemes can grow and appear stable as long as they can afford to pay off the higher ranking (but non-apex) members in the scheme. So things looked great as long as those born between 1930 and 1945 were getting excellent jobs and enjoying the fruits of rapid and fairly egalitarian post-WW2 expansion. They started dimming a bit when those born between 1945 to 1961 started their working lives but things still looked good and the overall system had enough inertia to keep the real party going into the 1990s. The fall of the USSR, opening of low wage countries like China and India, low interest rates on credit and the housing bubble helped the USA stretch it into the mid-2000s.

But the real cracks were visible as early as the mid-1980s. It was the beginning of an era where wages of average people stopped keeping pace with productivity or inflation. It was also the beginning of a breakdown in the implicit social contract that had existed in the USA since 1933. Lifetime job and stable careers slowly became a thing of the past, as did the formal and informal social welfare system. While this trend initially affected only the blue-collar workers, by the early-1990s even white-collar workers started feeling its effects. While the tech boom in the later half of 1990s and housing bubble in the first half of the 2000s masked the decline somewhat, it was obvious to many that something fundamental about the system had changed.

But which age group is most observant about such subtle but fundamental shifts? Is it the people who grew up before the 1980s and 1990s or those who were born and grew up in those decades? My point is that the mindset, worldview and behavior of those in their 20s and 30s today is a far better indicator of where things will go. So what do we see in that group?

Do we see tons of optimism in that age group? How many of them believe in a stable livelihood or the possibility of lifelong relationships? How many of them have kids, let alone one or two kids? How many will eventually have more than two kids? How many of them trust institutions? How many of them believe in a bright future filled with endless opportunities for growth? How many of them are crushed under student debt and working part-time jobs that don’t require degrees? How many want to move to faraway cities? and if not, why not? and most importantly- are things getting better or worse?

My point is that people in that age group have, throughout the developed world, become cynical burnouts. Even more importantly- the system has far less leverage over them than their parents generation.

Now there are many minor yet highly publicized reasons for this lack of leverage, from the growth of the internet, game consoles and smartphones etc. But the two major reasons are seldom mentioned so let me do that for you. First.. you cannot threaten what does not obviously exist (their children) or things whose existence is a matter of blind faith (secure livelihoods, meaningful relationships). The threat of sudden job loss, intermittent poverty and a generally uncaring and cruel society cannot extract enthusiastic compliance from somebody who sees that as inevitable even if they play by the rules. You cannot threaten a long-term homeless guy with lifelong poverty, especially if he knows that his compliance does not guarantee you will honor your end of the deal.

Secondly- social pressures don’t mean a lot in societies where almost every relationship is superficial, adversarial or mercenary in nature. This is especially so in an era where less fucked-up alternatives are readily available. People are no longer restricted to interacting with those in their immediate physical vicinity and now often prefer those who are not. Who wants to hang around people they don’t trust, despise or don’t care about.

But what this have to with capitalism, especially its american incarnation? Let me put it this way.. capitalism requires the majority to work hard and sacrifice for the enrichment of a small minority. However getting the majority to keep on playing this rigged game requires a decent chance of mediocre rewards (real or imagined), skin in the game (future of their children, family, friends) and social reinforcement. Without them- even the best lies, propaganda and marketing become useless rather quickly.

In the past capitalism could get around such problems by tapping into the then almost limitless supply of naive young suckers and desperate wannabe-american immigrants. However we no longer have a surplus of naive suckers or desperate immigrants who want to be american- and that is not going to change anytime in the near future.

What do you think? Comments?

The Unflattering Reason Behind Extreme Accumulation of Money : 1

October 26, 2013 21 comments

More than a few of my previous posts have centered on, or around, an odd but rarely asked, question.

“What is the point of accumulating money beyond the ability to spend it?”

Now, stupid sophists defending the status quo might say that its is impossible to determine what is enough. Curiously these sophists are seldom well off, let alone truly rich, making their defense of the status quo a bit odd. Perhaps they believe that their incessant barking on behalf of the rich might get them get a few more table crumbs or leftovers. But who knows..

Anyway, back to the question at hand. I have previously written that the reasons for accumulating money beyond the point of usability cannot be rational. But what if they are still logical. Confused? Let me explain. An action can be simultaneously logical and irrational, because logic is a mechanistic process in which the inputs don’t have to be factual or real.

For example, burning women accused of having sex with the devil requires that particular entity to exist in the first place and is therefore irrational. However it can be perfectly logical if you were one of those perpetually fearful and greedy semi-retards who believed in the existence of the devil, especially one interested in having sex with human females.

Coming back to our era, a closer look at much of what we think is ‘normal’ and ‘right’ just does hold up to rational scrutiny. Many of my previous posts are about the sheer irrationality underlying a wide variety of systems- from the basic structure of “civilized” society, the bizarre illusion of money, the worthlessness of supposedly important inter-personal relationships to the futility of loyalty to institutions that demand it. To put it another way- most conventional expectations, norms, rules and behaviors are not rational. But what if they are still logical? and more importantly- what does that say about the real nature of the human mind?

One of the main feature of conventional models for the human mind, be they religious, secular or “scientific”, is the assumption that human beings are intrinsically good, rational, caring or at least capable of all those things. Even religious models that portray human as sinful and fallen, or whatever their secular equivalent are, allow for the possibility of being saved, lifted or “enlightened”.

But what if that is not the case? Could it be the vast majority of humans, including the supposedly smart ones, are fundamentally incapable of being rational.

This question is best answered by looking at the entirety of available evidence (aka historical evidence from multiple sources) factoring in the inevitable underlying contexts and biases. Throughout most of the last 5,000 odd years (aka the age of civilization) the general standard of human living was very low and even the very rich were an infection, poisoning or puncture wound away from death. To make things easy and clear, let us temporarily ignore the actions and behavior of insecure and desperate people under constant stress or duress.

We will therefore, for the time being, willingly ignore most of human history- even though it strongly suggests humans are highly irrational.

Let us focus on societies where a combination of resources and technology make it possible to deliver a very high quality of life to all their members. In case you are wondering, I am talking about the situation in developed countries after WW2- especially after the early 1960s. Studying such societies allows us to eliminate the role of scarcity on human behavior or the ability to reason.

Does the functioning of these societies suggest that humans are capable of rational behavior when not under any real resource constraints?

The answer to this question is complicated. From the end of WW2 to the late 1970s, the socioeconomic changes in these countries suggested that human beings might be capable of rationality- at least under certain conditions. Those times were characterized by very significant technological progress and considerable improvement in the living standards of the median person in those societies. This era was also characterized by fairly low income inequality and a realistic chance to improve ones position in society. It was as if after millennia of screwing around without anything to show for it, human societies had finally found the ability and institutional structures to provide a safe, stable and reasonably good existence for almost all of its members.

But there have been many changes since the late-1970s and almost all of them have taken those developed societies increasingly further away their early post-WW2 vision. But why? It is very clear that we do not lack the technology, resources, productivity or ability to extend the general socioeconomic improvements that occurred within the first three decades after WW2. But every single developed society has abandoned the path of improving the lives of its median, let alone its poorer, members.

How can we account for the rise of neo-liberalistive/neo-conservative (neo-feudal) ideologies throughout developed countries since the early 1980s?

There are those who see this is the result of clever propaganda, institutional capture or mass media-driven brainwashing. While this line of thought might sound appealing to those who see average humans as fundamentally good and therefore gullible victims, there are reasons to believe that it is not the case. You might have noticed that a lot of the ideas recycled by neo-conservatives or neo-liberals, from “personal responsibility” to “work ethic”, are actually old lies and fairy tales.

So what makes people want to believe in obvious lies such as “work ethic”, “meritocracy”, “invisible hand of market”, “creative destruction” and “personal discipline” while discarding other equally old and popular lies about the role of divine entities in human affairs.

Are people really that stupid, unobservant and innumerate? Then there is the troubling question of why the middle class is so eager to believe in the lies, scams and bait-and switches which trick, hurt and abuse them the most. Surely, they are not that retarded or unobservant. I also don’t believe that this behavior is due to learned helplessness. A rational person who understood his lack of control over events would not strive for the benefit of those who were abusing him.

Could it be that most people believe in or play along with norms, rules and paradigms that are against their rational interests because it provides surreptitious satisfaction of much deeper urges in their minds?

In a couple of my previous posts (Link 1 and Link 2) I had suggested that hoarding money beyond ones ability to spend it was irrational as it offered no real objective benefits to the hoarder. But what if hoarding money was about depriving others of resources, security and happiness rather than improving your own existence. Furthermore, what if the behavior of the rich is merely an exaggeration of how most humans relate to each other.

Have you considered the possibility that the primary intention behind almost all “normal” human interpersonal interaction is to somehow con, swindle, abuse, hurt, maim or kill the other party?

In upcoming parts of this series, of which there will be many, I shall demonstrate how my model of the human mind is a far better fit for available evidence on human behavior in a variety of situations.

What do you think? Comments?

Dealing With Idiots, Drones, Assholes and Other Assorted Human Scum

October 19, 2013 15 comments

Most regular readers of this blog are aware that I have an extremely low opinion of human beings in general. But don’t mistake my general disdain of humans as misanthropy, because it is not.

Misanthropy is the end result of an unbridgeable gap between an initially positive image of humanity and the pathetic reality.

I never had a positive image of humanity. At best, I was hopeful about finding a few more people who were not completely consumed by greed, pettiness, stupidity and useless malice. This is also why I have never fallen for many of the scams that occupy the minds of most people, especially the so-called “smart” ones.

I was also always aware that my views about humans were very different from almost every single person I knew in “real” life.

You might think that my mindset has a lot to do with a generally “negative” view on life in general. This is especially likely if you grew up in a culture that celebrated mindless “positivity” and conformity masquerading as individualism. Some of you might even claim that my worldview has to do with my lack of “achievements”. Let us talk about that for a minute.

I have had more (paid) sex with more sexually attractive women than almost of you will ever have, unless you take the paid sex route.

And though not in the thousand-plus league, I crossed the hundred mark many years ago. And yes, almost all the sex I have had in the last 10 years has been of the pay-by-the-hour variety. But why did I take this route in the first place? Why don’t I spend all my free time ‘gaming’ women? As I have said before, I have nothing against the basic concepts of ‘game’ and it is good to possess a spine and self-respect. It comes down to the logical consequences of my views on other people and humanity in general.

I live to make myself happy and lack any significant interest in impressing other people.

But why live for yourself and ignore or barely acknowledge other people in “real” life? Wouldn’t that have a severely negative effect on the quality of life? What about having long-term relationships, friends, acquaintances and a supposedly rich social life? Wouldn’t living for yourself be kinda dangerous, sad and pathetic? OK.. here is my counter question.

Have you objectively analyzed the quality of life of those who live to impress other people?

Engaging with other people beyond the bare minimum or accepting hardships to gain their supposed admiration or respect would be worthwhile IF there was a proportional payoff down the line. But does it work like that in contemporary societies? Do the vast majority of those who play by the rules, try to impress others or sacrifice for others get anything worthwhile for their investments?

What about those who enter outwardly lucrative careers such as medicine or law? While they are materially better off than many others, it is very clear that most are not quite happy with their lives. Those who entered careers such as medicine, law or academia had to spend many years, probably the best ones, slaving away towards obtaining papers which allowed them to enter rent-seeking professions.

The worst part of their Faustian bargain is that almost all sexually attractive women would rather have sex with a drug addict in some minor cover band than a doctor, lawyer or academic.

The same is true for those supposedly honest CONservative, and suspiciously white, blue-collar workers. Not only are they seen as totally disposable widgets by the capitalist they worship but the women they cherish would rather have sex with a local small-time drug dealer than a supposedly honest, family-minded man aka a drone. Here is another question.. would a woman like to have a sex with a stupid mercenary (the guy who joins the armed forces) or the sly asshole who dodges authority. I have always found it odd that veterans can’t figure out that they are just washed up and damaged mercenaries who have no power to enforce the contracts made by their employers (armed forces) who in turn are a front for bunch of ultra-rich sociopaths.

I have a strong suspicion that the majority of women understand, at some level, that most of the guys they are supposed to be happy with are actually nothing more than credulous and easily manipulated morons.

Most people (especially men) are stupid suckers who get conned, fleeced and exploited and yet they will never accept they were conned in the first place. They will just vent their cognitive dissonances online and call it the ‘manosphere’. Now some of you might say.. “But what is so bad about such people. Aren’t they otherwise decent human beings who got scammed?”

Let me answer that in two parts.

1] Idiots, drones, assholes and other assorted human scum are problematic even if they are the ones left holding the empty or shit-filled bag. Their very existence allows more specialized sociopaths to flourish and inflict misery on others.

2] Most people (especially men) are solipsistic, stupid, short-sighted and selfish. They would gladly sell you out for a 20 $ bill or less. It is very unlikely that they will they ever help, or be able to help, if you required any real assistance. To put it another way, most people are reliably useless and borderline sociopaths.

Therefore there is no reason to ingratiate yourself to them, try to impress them or care about them in any way beyond the minimum necessary to keep them out of your way.

Why invest your time and effort into endeavors that don’t pay? Why play along with people who want to see you fail and suffer anyway? Why work for assholes who will get rich of your well-intentioned sacrifices? Working together and caring about each other meant something when humans lived in much smaller groups where all those things mattered and were rewarded. We don’t live like that anymore. Screw the opinions, tastes and egos of all the transient and useless people who pretend to be something they are not. Talk and promises, both explicit and implicit, are just worthless simulacra of what they used to be. Don’t get fooled by outwardly friendly and anodyne behavior that is based in deception, greed and ritual rather than anything real.

In my opinion, the most rational way to make important decisions is to constantly ask yourself- “Will this course of action increase my chances of getting what I really want, irrespective of the opinions of all those other useless people around me?”

What do you think? Comments?

How Vacations Perpetuate Voluntary Slavery in Contemporary Societies

October 13, 2013 7 comments

As many of you know by now, I detest anything that is justified by words such as laws, rules, civilization, culture, religion or ideology. All of those respectable-sounding words are simply different versions of the same basic scam – abusing, exploiting and impoverishing people under the name of diffuse and seemingly trans-human authority.

The ephemeral nature of these supposedly trans-human concepts is especially obvious when you study the aftermath of systemic failure in older civilizations and nations.

How many of people still worship the supposedly all-powerful gods of various older civilizations that went extinct or were destroyed? What about their supposedly perfect and divinely ordained system of governance of failed civilizations and nations? What about the inherent ‘correctness’ of their belief systems, customs, rules and lifestyles? A skeptical reading of history shows us that all subjective mental models of the universe are adult versions of fairy tales. All contemporary and historical civilizations or nations (that we know of) are, and have always been, pathetic ponzi schemes.

But how is this connected to my contention that the concept of vacations helps perpetuate voluntary slavery in contemporary societies?

Before I go any further let me say this; I am not anti-vacation or pro-work by any non-sophistic definition of those terms. Doing something you don’t care about, or hate, to justify a deceptive social system paying you barely enough to live is slavery in all but name. It is especially reprehensible for this to continue in an age where increases in non-human productivity make it possible to provide universally high standards of living without everybody working hard or in many cases, at all.

Almost all modern jobs, occupations and vocations are therefore nothing more than sophistic names for voluntary slavery. They do not serve any purpose or have utility beyond making a small percentage of equally pathetic and rapidly decaying human beings feel in control.

It is about paying people to torture themselves doing largely useless stuff they don’t care about.

But what do dystopic systems based on paying people to torture themselves have to do with vacation time. Well.. it has to do with the nature of torture. See, if you torture people continuously they might stop caring or just die. That means you have to find a whole new set of people to torture. Finding new subjects for torture was easy in the old days when almost every woman has 7-10 live births. However the rapid advances in medical sciences within the last 100 years coupled with the widespread availability of contraception had caused a severe and irreversible reduction in the number of naive newcomers who could be tortured through work.

Therefore it became necessary to create concepts like vacations to allow the tortured voluntary slaves to partially recover and retain some hope for their future.

It is no coincidence that countries with multi-generational low-fertility tend to have more vacation time that relatively primitive ones such as the USA. The substantially longer duration of vacations in west-european countries is therefore not about any real moral superiority than their inability to find enough naive newbies to torture through work. It is worth noting that the USA has entered that zone (low fertility + vastly reduced total immigration) within the last five years.

What do you think? Comments?

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