February 2nd, 2014
Copper production shows three peaks: The Roman Empire in the west, the Song Dynasty, and modernity.
The Roman Empire in the west and the Song Dynasty had about seven times the preceding and following level of copper production, thus while those civilizations were going concerns, they had far more production and wealth than the rest of the world put together.
When the Roman Empire in the West fell, its GDP dropped about a hundred fold.
So, looking at the past few thousand years, the norm has been relatively brief periods of civilization in relatively small parts of the world.
I would guess the problem is that the state lacks the cohesion and self discipline necessary to refrain from devouring civil society, and anarchy lacks the cohesion necessary to keep the roads safe and property rights secure. Technology can advance during anarchic periods, often quite rapidly, but the amount of wealth, as indicated by copper production, shipwrecks, and such, tends to be very low indeed during such periods. Despotic states, on the other hand, have higher wealth, probably because they can make the roads safe over a large area, but are apt to end technological progress, and often reverse it. Read the rest of this entry »
January 29th, 2014
Let us compare the career of journalist and writer Yulia Latynina, with the career of Dinesh D’Souza.
Yulia Latynina is a Russian megaphone for the Harvard microphone. Supposedly Bush was a moron, Putin is a tyrant, Putin is a homophobe, Putin murders his political opponents, or jails them on vague laws, selectively enforced. Putin is a sexist, Putin is a criminal, and friend of criminals, and so on and so forth.
Yet she has not been murdered, nor, unlike Dinesh D’Souza, charged under vague and selectively enforced laws. Has not even had to face a SLAPP suite, unlike Mark Steyn.
Seems to me that Russia could do with a whole lot more repression. The reason that Yulia Latynina needs a bullet in the head, while Dinesh D’Souza should not have been charged is that Putin’s repression is arguably protecting Russia, or at least is not obviously stupid, whereas Obama’s repression is destroying America Read the rest of this entry »
January 28th, 2014
AI is a hard problem, and even if we had a healthy society, we might still be stuck. That buildings are not getting taller and that fabs are not getting cheaper and not making smaller and smaller devices is social decay. That we are stuck on AI is more that it is high hanging fruit.
According to Yudkowsky, we will have AI when computers have as much computing power as human brains.
The GPU on my desktop has ten times as much computing power as the typical male human brain, and it is not looking conscious. Read the rest of this entry »
January 26th, 2014
I have been arguing that social decay is ending technological and scientific progress. In most areas it has strikingly slowed, in some areas, going backwards in the west, as we forget how to do what once we could do. Others, however, argue that technological and scientific progress is still running hot, or that if it has slowed, it is that we ran out of low hanging fruit.
But a big tell is that people are lying about it. The lie indicates not only failure, but that the failure is shameful – that the failure is in us, not in external circumstances. That we are lying about it shows the failure is social decay. Read the rest of this entry »
January 23rd, 2014
Several people have been darkly amused by the koan
I walked to Master Moldbug but the road was too long. I visited master Jim and he hit me with a stick.
I did not understand it. Seems to me that I am a pussycat.
But now I think I understand
January 20th, 2014
To make and keep the upper stories of a tall building habitable requires routine high technology. The lifts have to work, the water needs to be pumped, the toilets have let the poop down one hundred stories without shattering violence. It is not all that expensive. Current office space costs in the centers of major cities are so high that very tall buildings are immensely profitable. It is simply difficult to do, requires able people working together, both initially to build the systems, and subsequently to keep them going.
It is habitable floors that are hard to do, and habitable floors are what generates the rental income. So, to assess a society’s technological level, count habitable floors.
By and large, the taller the building, the more the profit. Doubtless there is a limit, but in the center of most major cities, most tall buildings are below that limit. If people could build taller, they would. At our present technological level, settling space seems likely to be fatally unprofitable, but building upwards, building the city of tomorrow, is highly profitable. Read the rest of this entry »
January 18th, 2014
The Orthosphere and Zippy Catholic seem curiously optimistic about the future of the Roman Catholic Church.
Seems to me that anyone who is genuinely Roman Catholic should be making spiritual and organizational preparations for excommunication.
Here are some entertaining bits from the Pope’s interview with La Republica, which came to my attention when it was parodied as “The Third Vatican Council”. I at first mistook the parody for the real thing, since Pope Francis is hard to parody. Read the rest of this entry »
January 16th, 2014
Do you want a tall man on a white horse to restore order?
Having experienced democracy, briefly and suddenly, 95% of Egyptians voted yes.
January 14th, 2014
North Korea is demotic. The US is demotic. North Korea murders large numbers of people. The US does not. Scott Alexander argues, therefore, that the word demotic is not meaningful, in that it lumps unlike things together.
The North Korean regime is based on lies, since it claims its right to rule comes from the will of the people. Therefore, the North Korean regime needs an elaborate apparatus of thought control.
The US regime is based on lies, since it claims its right to rule comes from the will of the people. Therefore, the US regime needs an elaborate apparatus of thought control, and, as the US goes ever further left, that apparatus becomes ever more oppressive. Read the rest of this entry »
January 12th, 2014
Darwin defined race and subspecies to mean the same thing, a difference between kinds that is noticeable, but less than a species difference.
He then proceeded to argue that there was no objective distinction between a race difference and species difference, that two very different races were the same degree of difference as two closely related species.
And thus, that race is the origin of species. Over time, races may become more different, and, as some ill defined and undefinable date, it becomes reasonable to call them two different species rather than two different races.
He then proceeded to argue that the difference between the more distant human races, in particular the difference between blacks and whites, is large enough to be called a species difference, and considerably larger than the differences between many kinds that are recognized as distinct and different species.
Read the rest of this entry »