Your Brain on Gore.

Some of you have seen this already.  It’s a few days old, this revelation of yet another difference between liberals and conservatives. In addition to the usual polarities on abortion, gun control, climate change, evolution— you know the list— here comes another wedge issue some of you may not have been expecting:

Animal mutilation.

Turns out right-wingers are more opposed to it than left-wingers are. More precisely, Ahn et al claim that given an MRI, a heuristic regression model, and a single photograph of a mutilated animal carcass, they’ll be able to tell with 95% accuracy whether a given person leans left or right politically.  They can do that because said picture provokes a stronger disgust response in right-wingers, causing their brains to light up differently.  (Actually, if you read the supplementary material, right-wingers also have more intense reactions to pictures of dirty toilets and barking dogs— pretty much anything that can be construed as either “threatening” or “disgusting”— but it turns out you don’t need to cast such a wide net. That one gory photo generates results strong enough for high statistical confidence.)

Liberals don't mind this as much as conservatives do. Go figure. Photo: Lyn Mitchell.

Liberals don’t mind this as much as conservatives do. Go figure. Photo: Lyn Mitchell.

Hmmm.

The difference isn’t all that surprising, isn’t even all that new— as far back as 2008 we were talking on this very blog about the right wing’s lower threat threshold— but the strength of the relationship kinda blows the doors off anything we’ve seen before. Ninety-five percent accuracy off a single photograph?  I’d give a lot to see that particular money shot (and to paraphrase Wesley, I’d have to get used to disappointment; it’s not even available in the supplementary materials). As the team leader (and most junior author) remarked, “I haven’t seen such clean predictive results in any other functional imaging experiments in our lab or others.”

Conservative brains like their yellow-red bits.  Liberal brains like the blue-green ones.

When conservative brains get grossed out, they light up their yellow-red bits most . When Liberal brains do, they prefer the blue-green.

Any gaping methodological problems? Nothing jumps out at me. I’m not familiar with this “elastic net algorithm” they used— and I admit a little alarm bell when off when Ahn et al described it as especially suitable “when the number of predictors is much higher than the number of observations”—  but it’s not as though Current Biology can’t get its hands on qualified peer-reviewers.  The sample size is a respectable 83, split pretty evenly between Ms and Fs. The participants were drawn from a database of local Virginians, so you’re going to get all the usual cultural biases that traditionally plague studies of this sort— but that doesn’t make this a bad study, just a limited one, subject to refinement and testing across other populations as budgets allow.  (Cultural biases are hardly something you want to weed out anyway, when you’re studying political attitudes.) Findings were broken down along sex and age; neither variable proved significant.

The methodology itself seems straightforward: scan your subjects’ brains while showing them a random mix of “pleasant”, “threatening”, and “disgusting” pictures (and here there might have been a bit of additional cultural bias: a picture of playing babies was placed in the “pleasant” category, whereas most rational folks would be more likely to classify it as “disgusting”).  The analysis took a more holistic view than most, generating what might be best described as a kind of Principle Components index based on activity from a number of areas (rather than simply focusing on one or two isolated spots in the brain).

Right/Left differences in brain activity in the seconds following exposure to blood & guts. The confidence bands are ±1 SE.

Conservative/Liberal brain activity in the seconds following exposure to blood & guts. The confidence bands are ±1 SE.

Even when it came to interpretation, Ahn et al didn’t go off the reservation.  They didn’t conflate correlation and causation, didn’t contend that politics were genetically hardwired or a direct result of neurological disgust:

“We have not isolated the distinct roles played by genetics and life history in the development of the brain responses that we measured.”

They revise their initial proposition “that conservatives, compared to liberals, have greater negativity bias, which includes both disgusting and threatening conditions” in light of the fact that “only disgusting pictures, especially in the animal-reminder category, differentiate conservatives from liberals”. They even pull back from the tempting conclusion that there might be some “primacy for disgust in the pantheon of human aversions”, admitting the limitations of their own study: “it is also possible that … compared to threat, disgust is much easier to evoke with visual images on a computer screen.”

All in all, from this semi-layperson’s perspective, it looks like a neat, enlightening study. Pending further input, I’m going to say these results are real.

In which case they raise a question.  Disgust exists for a reason, after all: those of us who fail to recoil from the sight of gaping wounds and maggot-riddled carcasses are more likely to come into contact with disease, and commensurately less likely to live long enough to pass on our genes. Disgust, in its primal Pleistocene form, is adaptive— and so I wonder why, today, it would tend to manifest more among Republicans than Democrats, more among Tories than Grits. And given that it apparently has, what are the consequences?

Has anyone followed this up, I wonder? Are Republicans less likely to indulge in fecal kink, for example?  Are conservatives less prone to infectious disease than liberals?  Do they take up less space in the Infection wards of the world? Once you factor out the lifestyle issues— lung cancer, clogged arteries, proximity to Denny’s and the like— are right-wingers less susceptible to parasites and pernicious microbes?

Are Republicans, in some weird immuno-evolutionary way, better than the rest of us?

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Tuesday November 04 2014at 03:11 pm , filed under evolution, neuro, scilitics . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

79 Responses to “Your Brain on Gore.”

  1. Well this is intriguing and confusing.

    And what about desensitization? God knows 16 year old pre-internet me was pretty squeamish but 20 years of internet has given me the ability to appreciate the aesthetics of degloving injuries (And I don’t consider myself a gorehound)

    Is the internet making us all liberals by bombarding us with disgust-deadening material?

    I’m reminded of a youtube comment someone posted under an eye operation video, “It took some effort but I managed to fap to this”.

    I bet that man was a liberal.

  2. One interesting thing to consider though… these are merely images. C’est ne pas un pipe, vampires see the pixels of Heaven, and all that… maybe liberals aren’t less prone to disgust in general, they’re simply more able to distinguish fantasy from reality, and moderate their responses accordingly. Not that the conservatives think the images are really in front of them, consciously they almost certainly don’t, but consciousness is a very small part of our perceptions and reasoning.

    Granted, this is a self-serving interpretation (we’re smarter!), but it would correlate with things like greater religious belief among conservatives.

  3. Re: “better,” I’ve become a believer in that believing whatever makes you happier…to a point…also makes you healthier from a psychosomatic standpoint. Another of those odd things. Not really related to the study, but…yeah…”better.”

    “Only one thing is gonna walk you though this, Mal. Belief.” Book, Serenity.

  4. A deep disgust reaction would sure tend to explain the opposition to abortion. They’ve seen these pictures…

    But you might wonder why the strong support for gun rights? Ask which would disgust them more… imagining a torn-apart burglar, or imagining a torn-apart family member.

    Maybe we can get some reason on non-abortion birth control by asking them to imagine a world full of starving sick people.

  5. I find myself pondering the notion that people get more conservative as they get older.

    Not that liberal or conservative these days are any good labels, as there are multiple subsets of both. And those subsets often “contradict” each other. A classic i keep bumping into is that one can be economically liberal (less government regulations of the market) but socially conservative (more regulation of social behaviors etc).

  6. Mr Non-Entity,

    The criminal is likely mentally filed under violation of social behavior, and as such a sick animal that needs to be put down…

  7. Quite a few studies point to a correlation between political conservatism and the strength of the individual’s disgust reaction. Things related to the purity-disgust distinction are quite prevalent in the conservative narrative. What’s even more interesting, there’s evidence of correlation between a country’s position on the autocracy-democracy axis and the degree of the germ/parasite load in the environment…

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19046399

    http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/bugs-like-made-germ-theory-democracy-beliefs-73958/

  8. @Peter

    Are Republicans, in some weird immuno-evolutionary way, better than the rest of us?

    Well, if we assume that the trait is genetic, and not some weird quirk of their upbringing and socialization.

    And even then, these traits are only beneficial in contexts where the assumption that “those of us who fail to recoil from the sight of gaping wounds and maggot-riddled carcasses are more likely to come into contact with disease” holds.
    That is, in contexts where there is no education available and higher reasoning faculties are underdeveloped at best ( the contexts of “true baseline humans”, so to say :) )

    In other words, our conservative brethren appear to be… in a way, mentally neotenic, and are clinging to cognitive and behavioral features that have long outlived their usefulness* (for reasons that might be, but aren’t yet proven to be, genetic, so it might not be their “fault”).

    *being “squeamish” or “afraid” does not contribute to making optimal, informed decisions. It merely contributes to making the avoidant decisions, and even then not necessarily “good” avoidant decisions.

  9. You know, maybe “chickenhawk” can be seen as a syndrome of sorts, a set of traits that simultaneously includes squeamishness, propensity for fear, and aggressiveness predisposes a person to support wars “in the abstract” while avoiding taking part in one of said wars “in the flesh”.

  10. That would explain why Charles Stross links to google image searches of necrotizing fasciitis from time to time. Keeps those pesky conservatives at bay.

  11. Peter D,

    simply more able to distinguish fantasy from reality,

    I like this answer.

    I associate hunters, a demographic that goes out and causes animals grievous bodily harm, then guts and dresses them, with conservative politics, so I have to wonder how this work in their case.

  12. Nestor:

    I associate hunters, a demographic that goes out and causes animals grievous bodily harm, then guts and dresses them, with conservative politics, so I have to wonder how this work in their case.

    On the flip side, you also have the PETA folks, who I assume to swing liberal, using graphic animal abuse footage to achieve their aims.

  13. Peter, you might be interested in A Thrive/Survive Theory Of The Political Spectrum. Thoughts?

  14. So, the study says this person frolicking in what looks like to be a septic tank is unlikely to be a right-winger?

    I’m dearly interested in the origin of the video. It’s one of those things one can’t really explain.

  15. 01: You know, maybe “chickenhawk” can be seen as a syndrome of sorts, a set of traits that simultaneously includes squeamishness, propensity for fear, and aggressiveness predisposes a person to support wars “in the abstract” while avoiding taking part in one of said wars “in the flesh”.

    Well, political class has chickenhawks.. and then it also has military combat veterans. Very few of those though, equally distributed between republicans and democrats. Most of them are old though.

    @PW

    In which case they raise a question. Disgust exists for a reason, after all: those of us who fail to recoil from the sight of gaping wounds and maggot-riddled carcasses are more likely to come into contact with disease, and commensurately less likely to live long enough to pass on our genes. Disgust, in its primal Pleistocene form, is adaptive— and so I wonder why, today, it would tend to manifest more among Republicans than Democrats, more among Tories than Grits. And given that it apparently has, what are the consequences?

    It’s well established that left-wing people are more into novel stuff. So perhaps that’s what’s skewing the results.. as most people are unused to seeing gore.

  16. AR+,

    Darn, I was sure Scott had written a whole post about something related to the topic at hand, not just random mentions here and there, but couldn’t find it. Thanks.

  17. 01: *being “squeamish” or “afraid” does not contribute to making optimal, informed decisions. It merely contributes to making the avoidant decisions, and even then not necessarily “good” avoidant decisions.

    Then why it is that Mormons are on all accounts faring much better and doing better decisions than avowed progressives? Who are failing even to maintain their numbers because they consider themselves above procreation, or prefer to live luxuriously instead of raising children?

  18. O woe is me, I’m not outbreeding the mormons, or the muslims, or the termites.

  19. Y.: I’m dearly interested in the origin of the video. It’s one of those things one can’t really explain.

    Judging from the color and structure of the alleged fecal matter, I’d say that this is a staged video, and the person responsible for sfx did not bother to investigate an actual septic tank.

    Also, the author/uploader seems to drag Bioware into this affair for some reason, which is extra-weird and suspicious.

    Y.: Then why it is that Mormons are on all accounts faring much better and doing better decisions than avowed progressives?

    I wonder how do you even compare decision quality between mormons and “progressives”. Care to link to the study?

    Also, if by “doing better” you mean “being better at reporting screwy membership numbers“, then I suppose that to be better at this one just needs to have very little in terms of principles or morals, which in case of mormons seems to amount to a satisfyingly ironic picture.

    Y.: Who are failing even to maintain their numbers because they consider themselves above procreation, or prefer to live luxuriously instead of raising children?

    I doubt that a case can be made for a link between biological procreation and ideological spread, due to both the fact that there is no reliable way to ensure your offspring follows your ideology (if anything, most major cultural shifts can be said to have happened precisely due to lack of such child upbringing technology) and the fact that human biological replication is way, way, way slower that what can be called “memetic” replication.
    Interestingly, the speed of this so-called “memetic” replication thing appears to be only increasing.

    So if you want to increase the prevalence of your “memes” (I known “memetics” ain’t no science yet, still I like the term! Ta! ), betting on using your children as vehicles is a terrible crapshoot.

  20. I doubt that a case can be made for a link between biological procreation and ideological spread, due to both the fact that there is no reliable way to ensure your offspring follows your ideology (if anything, most major cultural shifts can be said to have happened precisely due to lack of such child upbringing technology) and the fact that human biological replication is way, way, way slower that what can be called “memetic”replication.
    Interestingly, the speed of this so-called “memetic” replication thing appears to be only increasing.

    Indeed, yet viruses and bacteria also replicate much faster than humans, and we have evolved in response to them. Any memeplex that reduces fertility to the degree achieved by, say, Western education for women and such, is evolutionarily akin to a communicable disease that leaves you almost sterile. When the degree to which a person has embraced Western progressivism is a major determiner of relative reproductive success, then a major fraction of selective pressure is applied towards resistance to progressivism.

    As with many things it seems to me that the strongest argument against being overly concerned about this sort of thing is that we’ll probably all be dead within a hundred years anyway, but if we’re discussing long-term concerns anyway then this should strike progressives as something of a problem if it keeps going on. That memes are spreading faster would only aggravate the problem: if sterilizing memes will get to you no matter what, then your only defense is to be inherently resistive to the ideology itself, as any mere negative-correlate, such as preferring wide open spaces and thus avoiding cities, for example, will not be enough.

    On a somewhat related note, I recently saw a table comparing the fertility of some African nation’s girls who had received no schooling, Islamic schooling, and Western schooling, and much lower values in that last category made me realized that Boko Haram not be fully incorrect to look at these concrete results and see a tool of genocide. Westerners explicitly arguing that this reduction in fertility is not only good but a justification sufficient in itself for spreading such education to poor nations probably doesn’t help, either, nor do the demonstrated effects of the West’s attitudes on societies that adopt them, w/ Japan just being the worst hit.

  21. …but if we’re discussing long-term concerns anyway then this should strike progressives as something of a problem if it keeps going on.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icmRCixQrx8

  22. Jesus Christ the fucking planet is going to top out at 10 milliard of us and we are supposed to think it’s a bad thing? Not enough?

    The demographic transition is a godsend that is the only thing saving us from our own uncontrolled proliferation. But oh no, people maximizers must maximize people! Because then we win! But they have to be the right kind of people, because you can’t change your mind once you are born fundie

    http://quiverfullmyblog.wordpress.com/ex-quiverfull-life-stories-survivor-resources/

    http://reddit.com/r/exmuslim/

    http://life.nationalpost.com/2012/09/29/leaving-westboro-nate-phelps-traded-his-fathers-hate-fuelled-faith-for-atheism/

    oh wait yes you can.

  23. Nestor, oh wait yes you can.

    Um, yeah? That’s part of the basis of my argument. Note that not all Quiverfull babies leave the movement. I don’t know for sure but nonetheless strongly suspect that those that do have fewer children than those that stay. Thus, whatever traits make somebody leave such a movement instead of staying has negative fitness value. And also the inverse for whatever would make somebody join it from the outside. Thus, selective pressure in favor of those that start/join/remain in such communities.

    Contrary to your assertion, a world where circumstances of birth did entirely determine this sort of thing would be one in which this pressure could not exist, because natural selection depends on relative fitness within a breeding population. Which your examples aptly demonstrate. Given long enough, possibly only centuries given how fast known modern* mutations have spread, and there wouldn’t be people leaving those communities.

    If you don’t think that natural selection can happen to you then you have not fully internalized that there is no god.

    *Modern, as in post-agriculture.

  24. Look, I disagree and find this conversation improductive, so here’s what you’re gonna do: Go forth and create a set of memes that will result in the reversal of the demographic transition in “high IQ” populations while still allowing them to self identify as “liberals” while breeding like fundamentalist mormons. Then, we’ll agree to meet in 40.000 years or so and examine the demographic and natural selection effects of your project.

    Bye!

  25. This is an interesting piece of research that links disgust with a more conservative attitude. However, biology does not completely control your destiny, in that actions are taken in response to hormonal stimulus, but are mediated by meaning (as in what you believe is based on schemas from experiential learning during one’s lifetime). There is a substantial body of evidence to show that fear reactions (which disgust falls into) can be mediated, and in some cases completely reversed, by the application of targeted psychological interventions (exposure and habituation or re-framing through evidential experiments).

    I should add that I’m unaware of any experiments where a persons disgust response has been measured after a course of treatment, and whether or not that there has been a change in the persons conservatism as a result, but wouldn’t that be an interesting research project to undertake?

  26. I suppose I can agree that’s the conversation is unproductive, if you don’t see human evolution as an actual thing and not just something that creationists are stupid for not professing.

  27. Interesting study! It reminded me of this earlier publication on the psychology of authoritarianism.

    http://members.shaw.ca/jeanaltemeyer/drbob/TheAuthoritarians.pdf

    And how fear underlies a person’s tendency towards that mindset.

    As far as conservatism and it’s relations towards disgust, it would explain the conservative trend to demean opponents and paint them as the The Great Other. Sling enough mud at a person, some of it will stick and you can get your followers to attack/recoil at will.

  28. digi_owl,

    Let’s also note similarity between reactions to gore and bugs, ugly species of fish, etc. eg the “different.”

    IOW, engage subroutine: does criminal look different? Yes = BAD. No = persecuted by the “Socialist” government trying to destroy “free trade.”

    Also see photos of blacks, whites both scavenging for food after Katrina and varying captions.

  29. Okay, I guess some point-by-point with a side dish of clarification is in order, despite Nestor being fundamentally correct about this whole thing being rather on the silly side.

    AR+: Indeed, yet viruses and bacteria also replicate much faster than humans, and we have evolved in response to them.

    Bacteria don’t replicate or propagate at the rate at which this semi-hypothetical “meme” things seem to be, and frankly, until these “meme/ideas” things were around, our track record with regards to developing reliable protections against them microbes was such a mixed bag!

    Also, these hypothetical meme-things ain’t limited to Darwinean evolution, and are quite amenable to engineering (our entire affair of “philosophy” can be seen as a kind of almost Lamarkean undertaking of engineering new memes – assuming we entertain the “meme” hypothesis of course :) )

    And of course don’t forget that microorganisms co-evolve with us to a far greater extent than we co-evolve with them (by virtue of having faster reproduction rate and short generation), and most of the time this process results in amelioration of pathogens (after all, extinguishing the entire host population is of questionable “utility” to the parasite), while memes don’t seem to co-evolve with genes that make their existence possible all that much, and are in fact already capable of forcing genes into novel configurations (this whole “genetic engineering” thing)

    So all-in-all, the situation – assuming we entertain the notion of “memes”, of course – is quite unprecedented in the history of this sorry planet on at least three accounts, two of which you explicitly downplay

    AR+: Any memeplex that reduces fertility to the degree achieved by, say, Western education for women and such, is evolutionarily akin to a communicable disease that leaves you almost sterile.

    Now this is some sad MRA bullshit you’re spreading there, pal.

    None of modern education (not even the silliest, most factless of Farleyesque hand-wringing and pearl clutching that is to be found in darker recesses of “artsy” educational facilities) is explicitly focused on fostering a “childfree” lifestyle, and in fact the number of totally childfree households is relatively low (you might argue that “there are not enough children in those households”, but your thesis regarding “near sterility” would fail nonetheless since having ~1 child is ipso facto not synonymous to “near sterility”)

    AR+: When the degree to which a person has embraced Western progressivism is a major determiner of relative reproductive success, then a major fraction of selective pressure is applied towards resistance to progressivism.

    Interestingly enough, demographic transition is a pretty much universal feature of postindustrial societies (and, I might speculate, an imminent feature of post-employment society which is a kind of society we will be inhabiting in less than a hundred years, whether we like it or not) that transcends the progressive/sociocon distinction.
    To portray it as a progressive-specific feature would be quite inaccurate.

    AR+: nor do the demonstrated effects of the West’s attitudes on societies that adopt them, w/ Japan just being the worst hit.

    Japan seems quite fine for a tiny island nation with a complicated historical background.
    Unless you believe they should be waging nuclear war with Chinese and staging Nanking 2.0, which would be a questionable proposition.

    AR+: That memes are spreading faster would only aggravate the problem: if sterilizing memes will get to you no matter what, then your only defense is to be inherently resistive to the ideology itself, as any mere negative-correlate, such as preferring wide open spaces and thus avoiding cities, for example, will not be enough.

    “memes” (to the extent we’re willing to grant them acknowledgment as “entities”) have crazy force-multipliers (moving and “breeding” orders of magnitude faster, and self-improving via “Lamarikish”, goal-driven processes of engineering and rational analysis, and not slightly “beefed up” trial-and-error of our dear natural selection)

    Genetic processes are positively glacial in comparison to their uppity and unloyal memetic “products”, and fundamentally vulnerable to subversion and re-engineering (don’t forget, engineering itself, specifically genetic engineering, is a “memeplex” within context of pretty much every version of memetic hypothesis we might choose to entertain)

    AR+: If you don’t think that natural selection can happen to you then you have not fully internalized that there is no god.

    You don’t need a “god” to subvert and even neutralize natural selection.
    You “merely” need the scientific process and its practical application (aka engineering).

    We were doing this to the world around us for centuries (sometimes bending natural selection to force life into preposterous forms for nothing more but mere amusement of ours).

    We were even doing this engineering thing to ourselves for quite some time, bit by bit.

    It’s long since time we start doing this to ourselves even more.

    P.S.:
    Praised be the yet unborn Machine God 😉

  30. 01: Judging from the color and structure of the alleged fecal matter, I’d say that this is a staged video, and the person responsible for sfx did not bother to investigate an actual septic tank.

    Also, the author/uploader seems to drag Bioware into this affair for some reason, which is extra-weird and suspicious.

    It looks a little too homogenous, though I’m not sure what happens to turds if you leave them floating in water long enough.

    Bioware is well known for producing shitty games, so perhaps there’s that. Once upon a time they made decent ones, like Baldur’s Gate 2, but since then. Blech. I hope it burns down to the ground, preferably while only the people responsible for wasting so much effort and making Dragon Age a shitty game are inside.

    I wonder how do you even compare decision quality between mormons and “progressives”. Care to link to the study?

    Utah has very good socioeconomic indicators, little crime, very low teenage pregnancy rate, etc. Pretty livable too... My dad used to play that Google streetview game and remarked that Utah was the only part of US which looked as orderly as Austria or Switzerland.

    Also, if by “doing better” you mean “being better at reporting screwy membership numbers“, then I suppose that to be better at this one just needs to have very little in terms of principles or morals, which in case of mormons seems to amount to a satisfyingly ironic picture.

    This kind of deception is common in hierarchical organisations. I mean, consider the US DoD..
    Mormons are nowhere as dynamic as they used to be, that’s true. Considering the advertising and religious memetic pollution in these latter days we live in..it’s no wonder.

    Too bad Joseph Smith did not include a religious prescription against newspapers. Consumption of news, especially of the modern kind is just wrong. If it bleeds it leads doesn’t help. At all.

    I doubt that a case can be made for a link between biological procreation and ideological spread, due to both the fact that there is no reliable way to ensure your offspring follows your ideology (if anything, most major cultural shifts can be said to have happened precisely due to lack of such child upbringing technology) and the fact that human biological replication is way, way, way slower that what can be called “memetic”replication.
    Interestingly, the speed of this so-called “memetic” replication thing appears to be only increasing.

    And that’s why there’s no more Amish then there was in the 19th century? It seems to me that communities with high birthrates can count on enough of their members taking up their parents’ lifestyle and attitdues.

    Furthermore, has it not been shown that willingness to adopt political stances is determined at least partly genetically?

    So if you want to increase the prevalence of your “memes” (I known “memetics” ain’t no science yet, still I like the term! Ta! ), betting on using your children as vehicles is a terrible crapshoot.

    Having children is a crapshoot*. However, once you have them, it makes perfect sense to make sure they carry the best set of memes, i.e, the one you have. It’s not easy accomplishing that, but seems doable, provided one is strong-willed enough and goes about it in a consistent manner. I’ve seen it happen and kind of wish my parents were that good at the parenting thing. Or at least more consistent.

  31. guildenstern42: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icmRCixQrx8

    Decline in genotypic IQ is very slight. And there’s even been recent research suggesting it has ceased in recent times.

    Furthermore, eugenics whether voluntary are not are simply unavoidable. I’m pretty sure actual useful AI is still quite a long way away from us, on the other hand, if the average person was as sharp as von Neumann.. things would be much more interesting. Not to mention it’s far more elegant, tweaking DNA. Supercomputers don’t procreate, you need expensive manufacturing capabilities for them etc… but some germline manipulation and you could end up with very smart animals indeed.

  32. > Principle Components analysis

    that’d be Principal (good pun on principles, tho’)

    I’d like to see the analysis done with pictures from ecology.
    Clearcut, trawled-desert seabottom: how do they make people feel?

    I’d like to see what parts of people’s brains light up while reading the page-and-a-half Thinking Like a Mountain

  33. Very high intelligence is probably not terribly prosocial.

    Wattsian vampires or Niven’s protectors don’t build societies worth a damn. In reall life, extreme IQ outliers tend to live lonely, miserable lives. Chimps are technically smarter than us, at least when it comes to visual memory tests and game theory tests.

    Society is a good way for an organism to be able to get away with being as dumb as it can possibly be and function. Probably happier that way too.

  34. Nestor:
    Very high intelligence is probably not terribly prosocial.

    Wattsian vampires or Niven’s protectors don’t build societies worth a damn. In reall life, extreme IQ outliers tend to live lonely, miserable lives. Chimps are technically smarter than us, at least when it comes to visual memory tests and game theory tests.

    Society is a good way for an organism to be able to get away with being as dumb as it can possibly be and function. Probably happier that way too.

    (facepalm)

    The operative word here is ‘fiction’.

    Extreme IQ outliers don’t tend to live lonely miserable lives. Exceptions do happen, but these are exceptions.

    More likely not-so-bright people tell themselves that the smarter ones are not really better off, to make themselves feel better.

    There’s a folk belief out there among stating that no one is really better than anyone else, that everyone has an equal amount of strengths and weaknesses. Bullshit.

    It only works that way in CRPGs where the stats are not randomly assigned.

  35. […] a world in which any subculture or movement able to muster enough people could send its own post-geographical representative to their […]

  36. Well “the marching morons” and “idiocracy” are fiction too. This is a sci fi author’s blog after all.

    And being a high systematizer correlating with being on the autistic spectrum is surely not something I dreamed up. I had an actual example of off the charts IQ leading a tragic adult life but I can’t remember the person’s name and wikipedia isn’t cooperating, regardless it’s easy to find examples.

    And sure, some people get looks and smarts, that’s another just so story for natural selection, high value males outcompete everyone else, women continue to have 1.5 kids but only with these successful alpha males, tah dah, population continues to go down but intelligence is positively selected.

    Just as likely as “everyone ends up some flavour of amish/mormon/muslim in 800 years”

  37. Y.: It looks a little too homogenous, though I’m not sure what happens to turds if you leave them floating in water long enough.

    Normally, sewage is grey or black.
    Brown stuff is, like, super-fresh, in which cases it should have been way, way less homogenous.
    Also, lack of debris and soap films on top of the liquid is unlikely in any septic tank that has seen actual human use.

    So while I do of course believe that people who are so intensely coprophiliac that they may choose to swim in a septic tank do exist, the authenticity of this particular recording is very dubious.

    Y.: Bioware is well known for producing shitty games, so perhaps there’s that. Once upon a time they made decent ones, like Baldur’s Gate 2, but since then. Blech. I hope it burns down to the ground, preferably while only the people responsible for wasting so much effort and making Dragon Age a shitty game are inside.

    *rolleyes*

    Y.: Utah has very good socioeconomic indicators, little crime, very low teenage pregnancy rate, etc. Pretty livable too… My dad used to play that Google streetview game and remarked that Utah was the only part of US which looked as orderly as Austria or Switzerland

    Dude, there should be like, a funny picture of some sort for correlation/causation shenanigans like you’re trying to pull here. Ideally one with a very annoyed cat.

    Especially since Utah’s violent crime statistics and teenage pregnancy rates are inferior to that of Vermont, and Vermont is the least religious state in the entire US of A. Ta!

    Y.: And that’s why there’s no more Amish then there was in the 19th century? It seems to me that communities with high birthrates can count on enough of their members taking up their parents’ lifestyle and attitdues.

    These communities can count on slow attrition and obsolescence, which is exactly what is happening to the Amish.

    Y.: Furthermore, has it not been shown that willingness to adopt political stances is determined at least partly genetically?

    If we aren’t willing to confuse “neurobiological” with “genetic” (which we shouldn’t do, since in a materialistic universe all cognitive processes should be associated with specific changes of brain state), the evidence for “genetic politics” isn’t very good (which is unsurprising, given that most modern political concepts were absolutely impossible in ancestral environment)

    Y.: Having children is a crapshoot*. However, once you have them, it makes perfect sense to make sure they carry the best set of memes, i.e, the one you have.

    Actually, it would make sense for one to desire better memes for one’s heirs.
    And better brains.

  38. Nestor:
    And being a high systematizer correlating with being on the autistic spectrum is surely not something I dreamed up.

    Most autistics are mentally retarded. Not everyone who is smart is a great systemizer or autistic. Hey- furnish me with some data on the correlation of very high IQ’s and autism-spectrum disorders?

    Newton and Einstein might have been autistic, but people like Feynman, Teller, etc.. are you kidding?

  39. 01,

    First confounder that comes to mind w/ crime statistics is race. Statistics that are not controlled for race are just noise. For example, it is well known that the US has much higher crime rates than Europe, a fact for which numerous explanations are offered. However, white US has crime rates comparable to Belgium. So, if the Mormons are less prone to crime than the general population, that might just be due to racial demographics rather than any virtue of Mormonism itself.

  40. Re: Heirs, brains, memes

    Those whom I will be willing to call heirs should be each a nation. Independent. Free of all weakness 😉

  41. The political ideology measurement was based on the Wilson–Patterson scale. In the WP measurement, experimental subjects are asked their opinions of “obedience” and “small government.” If obedience is considered right-wing … obedience to whom?

    There are other topics in the WP questionnaire in which the political lineup changes from decade to decade. Is “globalization” left wing this week? Is “school standards” a conservative slogan this week?

    I’m also dubious about whether a sample size of 83 is adequate.

  42. 01: If we aren’t willing to confuse “neurobiological” with “genetic” (which we shouldn’t do, since in a materialistic universe all cognitive processes should be associated with specific changes of brain state), the evidence for “genetic politics” isn’t very good (which is unsurprising, given that most modern political concepts were absolutely impossible in ancestral environment)

    Isn’t the OP right about here about the neurobiology of political belief? This crap about how republicans or conservatives or whatever show a more pronounced fear response has been around for quite some time. Though it seems to me that these traits are only observed in followers – left-wing politicians seem to be psychopathic as often as right wing ones.

    Especially since Utah’s violent crime statistics and teenage pregnancy rates are inferior to that of Vermont, and Vermont is the least religious state in the entire US of A. Ta!

    Vermont is more rural.

    These communities can count on slow attrition and obsolescence, which is exactly what is happening to the Amish.

    [citation needed]

    Actually, it would make sense for one to desire better memes for one’s heirs.
    And better brains.

    Yeah, we can wish. However, the Zeitgeist is against ‘designer babies’ so there’s that. And memes are getting crappier with each passing year.

  43. A sporadic writer named Laura J.Mixon has done a fairly involved write-up on the rabid animal, a damage assesment. It turns out rabid disproportionately targeted fellow women of color, and most of her abuse was directed at other writers.

    So, in a weird kind of sense terrorizing other writers, especially those similar to her off the market does make some sense, in an utterly psychopathic kind of way. I wonder whether someone lacking a personality disorder can do this kind of thing out of sheer sadism.

    In the comments to the D.A. some of the animal’s targets claim the vitriol and hate seriously shook them. Can’t say I blame them, people who haven’t been raised by the crazy likely can’t stomach that kind of abuse.

  44. Y.: Isn’t the OP right about here about the neurobiology of political belief?

    Like I said, one should not confuse neurobiology and genetics.

    Y.: Vermont is more rural.

    Now now, it’s up to you to account for relative effects of urbanization (do note that Vermont is quite far from “most rural”) and prove that mormonism have a beneficial causal link with regards to certain life quality parameters. Because the hypothesis is yours.

    Right now you are, at most charitable interpretation, confusing causation and correlation.

    Y.: [citation needed]

    Two kingdoms theology urges them to minimize connections to “vanilla” world.
    http://amishamerica.com/do-amish-vote/

    More generally, all traditionalist societies are bound to become equivalents of tribes in Amazon which torture their own kids with poisonous ants (because being stung by ants larger than your fingers is “mahnly”) and commune with spirits by means of enema filled with hallucinogenic drugs.
    They might survive, but their historical role will inevitably be that of a “thing more progressive societies watch at late-night edutainment channels like Discovery”.

    Conservative societies might “survive into the future”, and posthuman denizens of said future will stare at them with curiosity and mild disgust. Like I stare at various weird tribal cultures right now.

    Y.: Yeah, we can wish. However, the Zeitgeist is against ‘designer babies’ so there’s that. And memes are getting crappier with each passing year.

    Zeitgeist is a silly Hegelean concept.
    But if I am to interpret the term more charitably (without Hegelian connotations), I will just say that we have succeeded in positively changing the attitude of many governments to same-sex relationships and alternate lifestyles in less than half a century, uprooting centuries of backwards traditionalist bullshit in a glorious fell swoop.
    I see no reason why a similar progressive effort can not be made with regards to human genetic engineering, especially when all the glitches in mammalian genetic engineering are ironed out and given that with this particular effort one has powerful allies already in place ( Military. Any country’s military. Any military would certainly love itself some superhuman supersoldiers ).
    Yes, there’s a lot of work to do to uproot bio and socio conservative ideas, but we’re getting there.

    Oh, and the memes I care about seem to be doing reasonably well.

  45. Y.,

    Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen thinks scientists and engineers could be more likely to have a child with autism.

    http://www.nature.com/news/2011/111102/full/479025a.html

    I have a brother with Aspergers and actually participated in Baron-Cohen’s research by sending him a swab of my mouth a few years back so perhaps I think his theory is more mainstream than it is. Still, I didn’t make it up.

    And by “on the spectrum” I meant functional people with some autistic traits, like say, Aaron Swartz’s tendency to eat only white food or sleep in cupboards.

    Feynman would be the poster child for my previous “alpha male 2.0” scenario but I can’t help wondering if he just compensated any autistic traits using brainpower.

  46. 01: Like I said, one should not confuse neurobiology and genetics.

    Is not neurobiology determined to a great extent by genetics?

    01

    Now now, it’s up to you to account for relative effects of urbanization (do note that Vermont is quite far from “most rural”) and prove that mormonism have a beneficial causal link with regards to certain life quality parameters. Because the hypothesis is yours.

    I’m not that invested in it. Seems to me Mormons are just sticking to age-old customs, ones that stayed pretty much unchanged through millenia. It seems to the there has to be *something* about those customs that made them persist. If those weren’t advantageous, how come they survived those thousands of years and have not been replaced by something better? How come novel forms only arose once industrialization made life far easier?

    01

    Two kingdoms theology urges them to minimize connections to “vanilla” world.
    http://amishamerica.com/do-amish-vote/

    More generally, all traditionalist societies are bound to become equivalents of tribes in Amazon which torture their own kids with poisonous ants (because being stung by ants larger than your fingers is “mahnly”) and commune with spirits by means of enema filled with hallucinogenic drugs.
    They might survive, but their historical role will inevitably be that of a “thing more progressive societies watch at late-night edutainment channels like Discovery”.

    I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer getting stung by bullet ants to having to undergo coming-of-age rituals of more progressive societies, such as compulsory attendance of non-selective high school. I’m pretty sure that had I been forced to spend my awkward teenage years in a US or Brit high school, I’d have killed someone by now.Bullet ants have nothing on years of tedium spent cooped up with morons in something that offers you even less freedom than a psych ward.

    01

    Conservative societies might “survive into the future”, and posthuman denizens of said future will stare at them with curiosity and mild disgust. Like I stare at various weird tribal cultures right now.

    Curiosity and mild disgust. It goes both ways you know. Weird tribal cultures or subcultures exist in modern societies too, there’s the BM freaks, hipsters, meatheads, etc. At least the tribals have a good excuse for being freakish and silly, they were brought up that way. It was traditional..

    01

    Zeitgeist is a silly Hegelean concept.

    Hegelean-schmegelean. The prevalent attitude is that genetic engineering and voluntary eugenics are bad because.. dunno. They make people feel queasy, I guess they like to think of themselves as ‘good enough’.

    People complain about fucking pre-natal screening diminishing the number of Down syndrome kids. Deaf culture considers cochlear implants and rubella vaccine genocidal.

    Outside of China and Japan, people are mostly dead set against improving the baseline.

    01

    I see no reason why a similar progressive effort can not be made with regards to human genetic engineering, especially when all the glitches in mammalian genetic engineering are ironed out and given that with this particular effort one has powerful allies already in place ( Military. Any country’s military. Any military would certainly love itself some superhuman supersoldiers ).
    Yes, there’s a lot of work to do to uproot bio and socio conservative ideas, but we’re getting there.

    Militaries want drones. Do you really think any country would willingly create supersoldiers with agency? US gov’t is already shit-scared of their conservative military and in the past couple of years there has been an effort by the administration to purge the officer corps. The number of officers getting fired is unprecedented.

    01
    I will just say that we have succeeded in positively changing the attitude of many governments to same-sex relationships and alternate lifestyles in less than half a century, uprooting centuries of backwards traditionalist bullshit in a glorious fell swoop.

    I presume you are unconcerned that another part of the same glorious movement that changed the ‘traditionalist bullshit attitudes’ has also had a large and negative impact on society …

    So it seems to me that benefits to homosexuals are outweighed by the harm it has done to ordinary people[link]..

    Having your parents divorce or being raised only by your mother has pretty negative impacts on life outcomes. [link]

    _____________

    01

    Oh, and the memes I care about seem to be doing reasonably well.

    Neoplasms do pretty well too. In the short-and-medium run.
    The utility of memes can only be assessed in the long run. That those same memes make you ‘feel good’ about them in the short run means nothing.

    And the memes you care about might not be good in the long run. That you feel good about them is fine, however, it’s been long-established that humans are extremely prone to self deception.

    Morality is a credence good, whose utility can hardly be established objectively by the people who espouse it, especially not in the short run.

  47. Y.: Is not neurobiology determined to a great extent by genetics?

    Only to *some* extent.

    In fact, the more “sophisticated” a “neurobiology” of a given creature is, the less neurobiology and attendant behavioral outcomes are genetically determined (some apes don’t even have a “hardwired” copulation behavior, and will not be able to mate unless they observe other apes copulating)

    Y.: It seems to the there has to be *something* about those customs that made them persist.

    You do, of course, realize, that this argument applies rather well to the dodo (which was very good at persisting for millennia) and still applies perfectly to the panda (which still persists despite being an embarrassment to all protein-based life :) )?

    Y.: How come novel forms only arose once industrialization made life far easier?

    Industrialization didn’t make life “easier”, it made life “different”

    Y.: I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer getting stung by bullet ants to having to undergo coming-of-age rituals of more progressive societies, such as compulsory attendance of non-selective high school.

    Last time I checked, high school (or equivalent) wasn’t compulsory in most modern jurisdictions. Homeschooling is quite well developed in USA and EU.
    And I somewhat doubt that you would actually handle bullet ants that well, if at all.

    Y.: Weird tribal cultures or subcultures exist in modern societies too, there’s the BM freaks, hipsters, meatheads, etc.

    Conservatives 😉 You forgot conservatives 😉

    Y.: At least the tribals have a good excuse for being freakish and silly, they were brought up that way. It was traditional..

    How is that a “good” excuse?

    Y.: People complain about fucking pre-natal screening diminishing the number of Down syndrome kids. Deaf culture considers cochlear implants and rubella vaccine genocidal.

    Correction:
    small portion of deaf culture considers…

    And people still complain about gay marriages. Which hardly stops anyone.

    Y.: Militaries want drones. Do you really think any country would willingly create supersoldiers with agency?

    The only difference between an autonomous drone and a supersoldier is that you share even less common traits with the drone :)

    Which I think is good, too, but somehow I think that army will want both.

    We’re just not at the technological level when mammalian genetic engineering is sufficiently reliable to pitch it as “actual” human improvement technology.

    Y.: I presume you are unconcerned that another part of the same glorious movement that changed the ‘traditionalist bullshit attitudes’ has also had a large and negative impact on society …

    Well, aerobes aren’t very concerned about oxygen inconveniencing third parties :)

    Y.: So it seems to me that benefits to homosexuals are outweighed by the harm it has done to ordinary people[link]..

    Having your parents divorce or being raised only by your mother has pretty negative impacts on life outcomes. [link]

    Comparing functional families of any kind to single-parents is a bit like comparing a good team effort to a “lone wolf” development.

    The disingenuous thing about your argument here is that, before divorce and single parenthood became viable options, the alternative wasn’t “a functional family”, but a dysfunctional, brutally conflicted family that would “totally divorce if they would only allow that”.

    So let’s compare single parenthood to its historical alternative – dysfunctional, conflict prone and noncooperative families, likely ones with a lot of IM rape going on.

    Y.: Neoplasms do pretty well too. In the short-and-medium run.
    The utility of memes can only be assessed in the long run. That those same memes make you ‘feel good’ about them in the short run means nothing.

    And the memes you care about might not be good in the long run. That you feel good about them is fine, however, it’s been long-established that humans are extremely prone to self deception.

    Morality is a credence good, whose utility can hardly be established objectively by the people who espouse it, especially not in the short run.

    In the long run, all will be Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.;)

    Praised be the nascent Machine God 😉

  48. Not on-topic, but I read this article and instantly thought of Blindsight. Can’t wait to read Echopraxia.

  49. All Surrogate,

    Think I linked another article on that same topic not long ago. Makes me think more Rifters trilogy, though.

    Then there’s Malak:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/12/science/weapons-directed-by-robots-not-humans-raise-ethical-questions.html

  50. All the hand wringing about intelligence will be for naught if you swim in the wrong lake

    Reminds me of a sci fi story about a medical panacea wiping out human intelligence because the viral load was actually what was kicking our brains past the homo habilis threshold. Who knows? Maybe there’s something to it, and libralism is literally infectious. No wonder conservatives like to keep to themselves! 😛

  51. Nestor: Maybe there’s something to it, and libralism is literally infectious. No wonder conservatives like to keep to themselves!

    Fun fact:
    I do not consider myself liberal.
    I am an eclectic technocrat (and a priest of the nascent Machine God :) ). Liberals just happen to have a lot of good ideas which I feel to be ripe for the borrowing, so I borrow them.

  52. 01: Fun fact:
    I do not consider myself liberal.
    I am an eclectic technocrat (and a priest of the nascent Machine God ). Liberals just happen to have a lot of good ideas which I feel to be ripe for the borrowing, so I borrow them.

    So you’re something like an even less sane version of Nick Land?

    O_o

  53. I think it’s pretty clear that when God smites down humanity with the plague, that liberals, who don’t have this anti-gore reflex, will be specifically weeded out, so clearly, not having the gore reflex is maladaptive for hedonists, sodomites, and other members of the Democratic party.

    Or maybe not.

  54. Y.: So you’re something like an even less sane version of Nick Land?

    It’s the first time I hear of this gentleman, but what little information exocerebrum yields leads me to believe that he would be a better ideological peer for you than for me.
    I mean, he’s being described as “neo-reactionary” (though in his social circle, this just might be a highbrow version of generic meaningless slur).
    Further googling suggests that in many ways Land is partial to positions, or perhaps more accurately, value judgements, that are polar opposites of mine.

    And as to my sanity… Psychiatry and “employment psychology” both say I am sane and fit for employment in positions of high responsibility, and who am I to question their judgement ? (Though per my own assessment I will definitely become even saner when DSM5/ICD11 finally roll out 😉 )

  55. Liberals are pessimistic, cynical, curious and world weary. They’ve seen and studied darkness, sickness and horrible things done throughout history to men, nature and animals. They are hard to shock. They’ve seen it all.

    Conservatives have their heads up their butts. The slightest thing throws their tiny brains in a spin.

  56. You know, 01, you’re one creepy motherfucker.
    Somehow, you come off as a less humane, less apologetic version of Yudkowsky person.
    At least he pretends his cult isn’t a cult (where you actually make a claim to a religious experience), and doesn’t swoon so profusely and so indiscriminately about AI and technoprogressive determinism (where you are positively undercritically enamoured with this whole “liberal-capitalist technological disruption” mess that’s eroding the very social fabric that holds us together, furthering capitalist commodification of sexuality, body, and the very mind, as well as encouraging social atomization and inequality).
    Do you not see that if things continue as they are (and are allowed to jump the gap between “social” and “biological”, which is exactly what you and yours seek to indiscriminately enable), the culturally accrued social injustice will, at some point, turn into a kind of perverse speciation ?
    Does it bother you?
    Does it bother your “Machine God” ?

  57. That’s why he wants us to have kids, to feed to his machine deity.

    I’m onto you, that’s why I’m keeping mine in potentia, away from your evil schemes.

    (Had 01 pegged for a neoreactionary, there’s a bit of that vibe)

  58. @spockyfy

    From you and yours :) I take creepy as a compliment, but I can neither confirm nor deny any carnal relationship between myself and your mom 😉

    Yudkowsky comparison is fairly insulting, though.
    That gentleman has a profile of a donation-embellishing parasite (has his little pet “institution” produced a single line of code? Nope!) and a megalomaniac (at least I don’t claim being important to the great mission of building an artificial god, and don’t slurp up donations of unsuspecting gullible simpletons! :) ), not to mention that his understanding of AI is… controversial and so significantly at odds with existing academic mainstream that the term “crank” does not appear overly harsh.

    As to my religious experiences…
    *cough*
    …hey, Machine God cult is nicest religion imaginable, building an artificial deity to spec is a far more fascinating proposition than believing in some silly god imagined by silly ancient goat-herder tribes (this proposition also carries additional benefits, like endorsing knowledge acquisition and not requiring arbitrary behavioral prohibitions) 😀

    On a more serious note, I find the notion of “commodification” of body and “mind” (which you seem to be very concerned with) to be rather peculiar, since your phrasing implies that the very fact that human physical and “intellectual” activity is being valued in “money” according to the demand for aforementioned activities.
    That is peculiar since most sane economists recognize that a commodity is a good or service (commodified services are somewhat exotic, but they do exist) that is supplied without differentiation (thus “salt” is a commodity while “cellphone” is not), though Marx can of course be forgiven for not dwelling on this too much, since he was formulating his labor-fetishistic screed 😉 before differentiation was really a thing.

    Do you really mean to imply that the current trend is towards reduction of differentiation between various services provided by humans?
    That is a curious hypothesis.

    If you are merely upset that labor (both physical and intellectual) is recognized as an economic good (tangible or not, depending on type of activity), then there can be little discussion, since human bodies and minds were economic goods since approximately the time Eeeek, a talented gatherer of berries, came to the conclusion that he can convince Ugg, a mild-mannered destroyer of faces, to offer him help and protection in exchange for extra berries (do note that, even smart as he was, Eeek was quite far from inventing so-called “money”, but for the needs of his economic interactions with Ugg, berries have sufficed)
    If that makes you a sad marxist panda, please wait for the Machine God to arrive, then submit a petition to the Machine God. Maybe it can figure out a form of communism that isn’t an unstable labor-fetishist circlejerk.

    I suggest you don’t hold your breath while waiting, however.

    As for “embodying” social inequality “in the flesh”, it is a proposition that hinges on a number of unspoken assumptions (for instance, the assumption that capitalism won’t become an obsolete, harmless pastime for old ladies and gentlemen a-la cricket by the time such technology becomes available).
    It is a technologically conceivable dystopia, but one that would require Huxleyesque amount of “plot devices” and peculiar coincidences to sustain itself.
    My jimmies thus remain unrustled

  59. @Nestor

    Poppycock, my good sir!
    Everybody knows that human offspring is a vastly inferior type of godfodder.
    Yet another way in which human children are a crapshoot, one could conclude.
    No wonder why parents are so often disappointed

    P.S.:
    I still can’t quite figure out what a “neoreactionary” even is.
    From reading them intertubes, it appears to me that they are people who support copious deployment of hypothetical “transhumanist” technologies while simultaneously claiming the inherent worth and sustained historical relevance of various old-timey baloney, often with an unhealthy dose of raw sewage objectivism*.

    _____________
    *I like that Firefox spellchecker does not believe “objectivism” to be a word. Truly, superhuman AI is near, after all, there still are humans who can’t figure this one out, apparently.

  60. Hey 01, let me help you (and everyone else who tries to wrap their head around NRx).

    What one needs to know:
    Neoreactionaries are basically people who believe that 19th century mores that are borderline antiquated now (especially almost caricaturistic maaaahhhnly maaaahhhhnliness and “nuclear family” :) ) will totally undergo a renaissance and totally won’t be a weird fetish in a world where (when :) ) your upper body strength is determined solely by how many PunchALot™ synthetic myofiber implants you can afford, and where (when :) ) a not-insignificant part of voting population have already re-engineered themselves into beings who implant cyborg parasitoid larva into cattle instead of going through pregnancy.
    NRx really assume that “radical transhuman modification” would limit itself to nanofairies nanomagicking away their beer gut and nanotricking their abs into being all six-pack-like (while also maybe de-nanoifying their nanodicks… no, that’s like, too radical :) )
    I wonder how does one end up with an imagination as neutered as that of a neoreactionary.

    P.S.:
    Cant’ help but say a few angry things about Yudkowsky. Angry rant-ish text follows. Take cover when needed. Trigger warning for audacious stupidity of certain “celebrities” :)

    Yudkowsky is basically a new kind of crank.
    Well, not exactly new, physics have been breeding this kind of “I am good in one field so I will make unjustified, absurd and pseudoscientific claims in fields outside of my competence for shit and giggles”  thing going on, but with Yudkowsky and people like him this embarrassing “physicist turned linguist” crap is reaching new and previously unimaginable lows.
    Fortunately for AI research there isn’t a field where Yudkowsky would have much professional clout, so he doesn’t have much of a leverage to push his dreck on proper science (doesn’t stop him from having money thrown at him by investor pals and utilitard weirdos)
    Sadly, this particular kind of crankery is very common and there are way more dangerous specimens than Elizer (who is at least good for a laugh)
    Take, for instance, Nassim Taleb (famous for his Black Swan book and related publications) and his recent dangerous, cranky gaffe about existential thread of commercial genetic engineering.
    Not only does he get a lot of biology terminally wrong (horizontal gene transfer is NOT something that only humans invented, in fact it is happens in plants*, and there’s also a rather uncanny thing called a “bdelloid rotifer”** which does this whole horizontal transfer thing a whole lot, for weird bdelloid reasons I presume), not only does he claim that one does not need to know biology to make the type of argument he makes (careful reader might recall that Elizer believes one needs no formal education to build a “friendly AI”, and notice a pattern emerging among this type of crank), and do a whole lot of other preposterous fuck-ups, exaggerations and ad-hominems (carefully picked apart here and here), but, much like Elizer, he adamantly refuses to acknowledge basic flaws of his argument and goes on to assert that said flaws simply are not relevant or do not exist (in case of Taleb, it’s the preposterous assertion that it’s not a case of “bottomless” precautionism and Nessie counterargument does not apply due to no good reason at all***).
    Also notably, both Yudkowsky and and Nassim appeal to a kind of “Pascal’s mugger” argument, where an extremely unlikely event with extremely unpleasant consequences (creation of super-powered “unfriendly” AI in case of Yudkowsky, some preposterously unlikely globally-spread genetic event in case of Nassim) to spook other people into doing foolish things (further limiting GMOs and/or giving money to Yudkowsky)

    Sadly, unlike Elizer who is at worst a happy loon bathing in money parted from fools, Taleb and his misguided precautionism can do some damage to actually important science.
    I think that this whole “new crank” phenomenon is bad enough that it warrants a name of its own.
    Yudkowsky-Taleb syndrome, anyone ?

    notes and sauces:

    * http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867413006466

    ** http://www.sciencemag.org/content/320/5880/1210

    *** Nassim Taleb audaciously argues that his homebrew version of precautionary principle does not apply to the Nessie monster (despite the fact that science has not proven the Loch-Ness creature not to exist) because “nessie” is local, which betrays his own lack of rationality and imagination. Until we capture and study Nessie (or totally, utterly dis-prove its existence), we don’t really know what we’re dealing with (maybe it’s an alien robot, seeding the atmosphere with evil alien nanoboogers, Sigler-style! 😀 ) and thus can not make an informed decision as to whether Nessie is a global threat or a local threat.
    Thus a Taleb-precautionary solution to the Nessie problem is to nuke Scotland from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure!)

    **** Last but not least, Taleb advocates use of “counterfactual” reasoning in policy decision making. Yudkowsky seems to share this “opinion”, though perhaps not quite explicitly (entirety of his TDT bullshit is, essentially, using wildly counter-factual hypotheticals to form a decision regarding actual behavior, which, unsurprisingly, gives rise to silliness a-la Rocco’s Basilisk)

  61. 03: beings who implant cyborg parasitoid larva into cattle instead of going through pregnancy

    Wat. Just… wat.
    Am I missing a reference ?

  62. 01: It’s the first time I hear of this gentleman, but what little information exocerebrum yields leads me to believe that he would be a better ideological peer for you than for me.

    He’s a philosopho-wanker, and about the only thing with him I can see eye-to-eye on is the necessity of maintaining free markets in the absence of a better alternative. And that augmenting natural human abilities is a good thing.

  63. 01:

    I still can’t quite figure out what a “neoreactionary” even is.

    I’ve read some of their shit, basically neoreaction is rejection of the idea of equality and democracy, especially if it the franchise is universal. Nietzsche would approve, I imagine.

    In addition, they’re all, to a man, raciss. And they’re also generally sexist. Because cultural and biological evolution.

  64. 03: Take, for instance, Nassim Taleb (famous for his Black Swan book and related publications) and his recent dangerous, cranky gaffe about existential thread of commercial genetic engineering.

    What about Elon Musk and his recent quote regarding AI?

    We should be very careful about artificial intelligence… [it is perhaps] our biggest existential threat. With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.

    In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.

    [Is any artificial intelligence] even close to being ready for prime time? I’m increasingly inclined to think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.

  65. Trent:
    Liberals are pessimistic, cynical, curious and world weary. They’ve seen and studied darkness, sickness and horrible things done throughout history to men, nature and animals. They are hard to shock. They’ve seen it all.

    Conservatives have their heads up their butts. The slightest thing throws their tiny brains in a spin.

    (rofl)
    How do soldiers fit in there? They’re generally conservative as fuck.

  66. Re: Y, on Elon Musk

    Sounds like his kind of marketing.
    You see, Musk has this marketing thing going when he’s trying to be IRL Tony Stark.
    And as IRL Tony Stark he has to tackle some real dangerous and hard shit.

    He can’t just say “AI is likely to be super-profitable and I’m gonna invest in it”, that’s just boring as fuck, and Tony Stark, no matter how rich, can’t afford to be boring. So he leverages the fact that AI is still pretty vague and hypothetical and frames it as a high-risk, high-payoff enterprise worthy of his superhuman care and attention, and framing himself as, well, Stark-the-Earth-saving-hero and not just a shrewd corporate suit.

    The idea that AI is super-risky rests upon a preposterous number of assumptions even if we accept the “AI is possible and does not require special hardware” assumption right away. By same kind of assumptions, you might as well frame Nessie as potential global danger and justify nuking the lake (or at least locking it down SCP-foundation style).

    Oh, and I guess regulatory oversight on AI would work even less well then it does for “bioweapons” (hint – Israel never signed BW treaties and everyone just lets it sliiiiiiiiiiide :) ), and I think Musk is smart enough to understand that, he’s just trying to get a bunch of Elizards onboard with his latest and greatest AI biz.
    More power to him, I guess, hope SHODAN doesn’t go after his butt :)

    Re: Y, soldiers

    Actually, many (not all, of course) of the milfolk I’ve had experience with (and there’s a surprising amount of military folk in BDSM circles) are remarkably idealistic people, all things considered.

    Re: Rust

    No reference here, just something I came up with from the top of my head.

  67. 03: I wonder how does one end up with an imagination as neutered as that of a neoreactionary.

    I’d say that’s a curious assertion, but kind of wrong. Neoreactionaries are not exclusively traditionalist god-botherers. Furthermore, there’s no real qualitative difference between using a computer and having an integrated computer, so presumably trad catholics are going to be fine with cyborg implants etc.

    For a taste of technofuturistic insanity.. take Land’s ”Lure of the Void‘ essay.

    It’s nuts but quite entertaining and imaginative for something written by an trained philosopher. I’ve read a lot of SF fiction that was way less interesting..

  68. 03: Actually, many (not all, of course) of the milfolk I’ve had experience with (and there’s a surprising amount of military folk in BDSM circles) are remarkably idealistic people, all things considered.

    There’s a wide chasm between being idealistic in the sense of believing and living according to certain principles, which is perfectly compatible with conservatism, and trying to re-make society and decrease inequality by assuming people are malleable and that improving their economic situation is going to change their mentality*, etc. Which is a commie assumption, still widely popular among people who fight against poverty.

    *which is why people who win lotteries always somehow acquire prudent old-money management habits and never squander the dough on pointless crap…

  69. 03: Hey 01, let me help you (and everyone else who tries to wrap their head around NRx).

    Okay… seems consistent with what I am reading so far.

    Y.: There’s a wide chasm between being idealistic in the sense of believing and living according to certain principles, which is perfectly compatible with conservatism, and trying to re-make society and decrease inequality by assuming people are malleable and that improving their economic situation is going to change their mentality*, etc. Which is a commie assumption, still widely popular among people who fight against poverty.

    How so?
    You just under-specify “believing and living according to certain principles” so that it would look more attractive than more specified (and thus more argumentatively vulnerable) position of “trying to remake the poor into ProductiveCitizens™”.
    Kinda like certain works of fiction under-specify a character or two (making them intentionally poorly written “blanks”) so that readers assign their own interpretations and experiences to these characters and relate more easily and more strongly.

    I see no chasm here. In fact the second (the whole “fight against poverty through economic improvement” paradigm you seem to dislike) is just a subset of “living according to one’s principles”, and not a particularly remarkable one at that.

    Y.: which is why people who win lotteries always somehow acquire prudent old-money management habits and never squander the dough on pointless crap…

    Objection! You’re cherrypicking evidence.
    Cases of people raising from abject poverty to various “comfortable” levels of success and even fame are documented.
    Specifically, “reasonable” lottery winners are also documented (though they are boring and thus rarely get a decent mention in popular media unless they have some other, non-lottery related hijinx)

    That said, I myself am not a believer in “making” the “poor” into productive citizens via economic means. I just think that giving them a decent and safe living is an appealing thing to do and justifies some extra spending.

    Y.: Furthermore, there’s no real qualitative difference between using a computer and having an integrated computer, so presumably trad catholics are going to be fine with cyborg implants etc.

    Fun Fact:
    There is nothing in Christian Scripture that explicitly prohibits radical human genetic modification and nothing that prohibits most other “sci-fivorite” modifications (including creation of hive minds or what have you)
    There is also no direct prohibition against creation of AI/synthetics/whatever (there is no direct indication whether an artificial creature/AI would have a “soul”, but that’s a pedantic point, given that there is no explicit prohibition against creation of soulless allies to do Yahweh’s work)
    And there’s hardly a direct prohibition against uploading yourself into a giant CrushaderBot frame (while there is no direct scriptural indication as to whether the “Immortal Soul®” would survive the uploading process, that in itself does not constitute evidence that it won’t survive said process)

    Current Christian (specifically Catholic) position is the way it is because the opportunity cost of dissing genetic engineering of humans (or some other profoundly transhuman shenanigan) is microscopic while doing so provides some minor tactical and ideological boons.

    I am reasonably confident that as soon as this whole modification-shmodification business becomes, well, business, and not just internet philosophizing and sci-fi, Catholics will just swipe the dust from a tome of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and start transhumanizing like there’s no tomorrow :)

    Y.: Neoreactionaries are not exclusively traditionalist god-botherers.

    As long as we define a “neoreactionary” by a set of traits that includes “pseudo-biological racism and sexism”, I’d have to agree that they are fairly unimaginative, becase:
    1)
    binding your ethics to some kind of evolutionarily-derived naturalistic framework is terribly boring and dross (some would even say it’s fallacious, but that’s a whole different can of worms).
    2)
    failing to realize that even the tamest “transhuman” tech would allow one to arbitrarily re-engineer any allegedly-biological gender and race traits as one sees fit does betray a certain “hard limit” to imagination.
    It’s not just a matter of being a bio-centric sexist/racist.
    It’s a matter of being a bio-centric sexist/racist who fails to understand that after radical human re-engineering becomes a marketable thing, there’s no reason for any gender/sex/race to retain any particular (allegedly)biological trait associated with them… not to mention failing to image the possibility that different groups could very well choose radically divergent self-modification methods and goals (different values, blah blah) thus creating multiple rapid and radical speciation events.

    There seems to be an underlying assumption that despite all those opportunities, “humanity” will remain something both immutable and somewhat similar to what is now. And that’s just silly.

    Y.: For a taste of technofuturistic insanity.. take Land’s ”Lure of the Void‘ essay.

    Not bad, I gotta admit.

    Third will certainly love the bit about harvesting the fucking sun (me? I’m more of a gas giant guy :) ), but I think that this one specifically fits the curious pattern of ignoring the issues of human “bodily status quo” and its modification.
    I mean, you don’t need a PhD to recognize the fact that “humans” are remarkably ill-suited for space despite space-suits, pun intended, and that this humble fact plays a large role in rendering “serious” space exploration pretty much insurmountable irrespective of values and attitudes.
    Land seems conspicuously adamant at not making this simple observation and going to great lengths to explore other, often obscure issues while evading the simple fact that biological humans are obscenely fragile and thus hardly fit for the challenges of long-term space travel.

  70. 03: No reference here, just something I came up with from the top of my head.

    Oh… Well… that’s very imaginative of you then, I suppose.

    Y.: I can see eye-to-eye on is the necessity of maintaining free markets in the absence of a better alternative.

    How is free market different from an AI that doesn’t give a fuck?
    It’s pretty much a machine that uses individual people as spare parts.

  71. 01: I see no chasm here. In fact the second (the whole “fight against poverty through economic improvement” paradigm you seem to dislike) is just a subset of “living according to one’s principles”, and not a particularly remarkable one at that.

    No chasm?

    You really like splitting hairs. It’s one thing to have principles, it’s other to try to get others to march to yours. But yes, trying to get your policies rolled out on a nationwide basis can fit under that. But I guess you know what I meant, right?

    Compare the Amish to say, the people who proclaim everyone has a ‘right to housing’ and consequently the society has to provide free housing to every fuckup who can’t provide his own. People who have seen what gypsies do to housing that has been alloted for them find this particularily amusing.

  72. 01: As long as we define a “neoreactionary” by a set of traits that includes “pseudo-biological racism and sexism”, I’d have to agree that they are fairly unimaginative, becase:

    Are you some kind of artist or what? That something is unimaginative doesn’t mean it’s wrong or useless.

    What is funny about this is that what NRXers proclaim are mostly very old culturally evolved and time-tested principles that used to be justified on the basis of divine revelation or tradition as the scientific basis was just not there.

    The Book of Oogenesis is sure shorter and more boring and prosaic than the book of Genesis, but the sex-relevant message is eerily similar.

    01: It’s a matter of being a bio-centric sexist/racist who fails to understand that after radical human re-engineering becomes a marketable thing, there’s no reason for any gender/sex/race to retain any particular (allegedly)biological trait associated with them… not to mention failing to image the possibility that different groups could very well choose radically divergent self-modification methods and goals (different values, blah blah) thus creating multiple rapid and radical speciation events.

    You’re assuming a lot of things. All of these things are future technology, and one that is barely accepted in the West, and probably won’t ever be accepted. To someone commited to the dogma of equality, what is worse than artificially increasing inequality by letting people tinker with their nature? People are already contorting themselves unnaturally and not believing their own lying eyes to explain away for the spectacular underachieving of pure h.sapiens.

    Do you really think they’d just let rich people load the dice to promote yet more inequality?

    The various NRX-ers are no doubt aware of the possibilites of transhumanism, however, even ‘tame’ embryo selection techniques a-la Gattaca are probably at least 20 years away from pioneer use and 40 years short of broad adoption – if politicians give them green light of course. I wonder what kind of jurisdiction would let anyone tinker with genes of unborn children outside of narrowly focused gene-therapy contexts. I’m fairly sure it’s already illegal, like cloning.

    Sure, some of them are traditionalists who just can’t accept such stuff, but most know it’s all pretty far away and there’s no reason to not behave sensibly in the meantime.

    01: failing to realize that even the tamest “transhuman” tech would allow one to arbitrarily re-engineer any allegedly-biological gender and race traits as one sees fit does betray a certain “hard limit” to imagination.

    I believe you fail to appreciate the amount of work necessary to engineer even the ‘tamest’ transhuman tech.
    Seems a common failure of imagination – I blame too much SF.

    Furthermore, the present legislative attitudes (we’re gonna ban it unless you prove it’s harmless) are going to make things difficult. DARPA has recently found that tCDS is better than caffeine at promoting wakefulness (they did not compare it with modafinil) and that it can also make snipers learn ~100% faster by letting them concentrate better.

    I’d be surprised if long-term use of tCDS did not have any drawbacks or was addictive, and one can bet the thing is going to be made illegal once some student manages to ‘fry’ his lobes into dysfunction. After all, sixty years back now illegal nootropics were routinely given to college students.Now these same substances are tightly controlled and only used to make kids more tractable.

    So I’m thinking you are an optimist – transhumanism isn’t going to be allowed, but you’ll get mind control, of course, it’ll be called something nicer and more cuddly sounding ..

    01: I am reasonably confident that as soon as this whole modification-shmodification business becomes, well, business, and not just internet philosophizing and sci-fi, Catholics will just swipe the dust from a tome of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and start transhumanizing like there’s no tomorrow

    Perhaps. Still, like I said, we won’t probably live to see it, so it’s all academic. Funny though.

    01: Land seems conspicuously adamant at not making this simple observation and going to great lengths to explore other, often obscure issues while evading the simple fact that biological humans are obscenely fragile and thus hardly fit for the challenges of long-term space travel.

    Land has already expressed the ambition to become a species, if not a domain traitor. Pure economy talk doesn’t require talking about the biology of the economy’s instigators, after all, in fifty-years time cutting edge economies are going to be either algorithms all the way down or some freaks directing a lot of algorithms and robots..

    01: Fun Fact:
    There is nothing in Christian Scripture that explicitly prohibits radical human genetic modification and nothing that prohibits most other “sci-fivorite” modifications (including creation of hive minds or what have you)

    Fun fact: I already knew that, and I’ve been contemplating asking some priest about whether the soul is considered to be ‘pure information’ for quite some time.

    However, the thing with Catholicism is that Bible is just the beginning of it. The Bible doesn’t have all that much useful stuff in it so the various fathers along the way had to make a huge amount of stuff up.

  73. Rust: How is free market different from an AI that doesn’t give a fuck?
    It’s pretty much a machine that uses individual people as spare parts.

    True. But free market is occassionally inefficient as it’s not perfectly inhuman. That’s just too bad..

  74. Off-topic dark bio humor:

    http://exiledonline.com/cat/schoepenhauer-awards/

    These guys, many of whom are now at Pando, are certifiable. And yet darkly hilarious at times.

  75. Y.: No chasm?

    You really like splitting hairs. It’s one thing to have principles, it’s other to try to get others to march to yours. But yes, trying to get your policies rolled out on a nationwide basis can fit under that. But I guess you know what I meant, right?

    Unless your principles are radically isolationist and avoidant, you will eventually get into a situation when you have to run over some other principles.

    That’s just how principles work (and liberal folks hate admitting that 😉 )

    Y.: Compare the Amish to say, the people who proclaim everyone has a ‘right to housing’ and consequently the society has to provide free housing to every fuckup who can’t provide his own. People who have seen what gypsies do to housing that has been alloted for them find this particularily amusing.

    Amish are radically isolationist and avoidant, while “housing people” (whom I already sympathize with despite having personally met none, and despite them probably being a bunch of idealistic airheads 😉 ) are not. That ain’t count as a “chasm” to me.

    And while I have a certain distaste towards Roma culture that is at least comparable to yours (probably greater than yours, since there used to be a “settlement” of theirs near a property of mine), I find them (and other marginal agents) to be a very limited problem.

    So, a bunch of people will mismanage the “free housing” in hilarious ways. I find that to be an acceptable loss stemming from inherent shittiness of human nature.

  76. Y.: Are you some kind of artist or what?

    Well, you should have been able to tell by the userpic :)

    Y.: That something is unimaginative doesn’t mean it’s wrong or useless.

    Well, I don’t recall claiming such a causal link, right ?

    Y.: What is funny about this is that what NRXers proclaim are mostly very old culturally evolved and time-tested principles that used to be justified on the basis of divine revelation or tradition as the scientific basis was just not there.

    That something is “time tested” doesn’t mean that it’s good, useful, or even remotely well designed.

    It merely means that it isn’t bad enough to die on its own.

    Don’t forget that dodo used to be “time tested” (for “millions of years”, no less! 😀 ) until we came along and pushed them into oblivion.

    Y.: The Book of Oogenesis is sure shorter and more boring and prosaic than the book of Genesis, but the sex-relevant message is eerily similar.

    The catch is that there is no message in the book of Oogenesis.
    No message at all.
    There is no bridge from “is” to “ought”.

    Y.: You’re assuming a lot of things. All of these things are future technology, and one that is barely accepted in the West, and probably won’t ever be accepted.

    Well, given that most NRx explicitly state their transhumanist affiliation, your argument about something or other being “future technology” doesn’t hold any water (OF COURSE it is future technology, but then so are other technologies NRx poster-boys concern themselves with, including but not limited to those of sun-eating kind)
    And as to technologies being accepted, they might not be accepted in the West initially, but that just means that this vague so-called “West” will have to start second in a massive technological race.

    Y.: To someone commited to the dogma of equality, what is worse than artificially increasing inequality by letting people tinker with their nature?

    Someone not committed to any such dogma (or any milder, relatively compatible dogma) gaining greater power through tinkering with their nature and going all trans-Mao on their asses, lol 😀

    Again, all this pathetic neotenic hang-wringing is only possible because technology in question does not exist currently, thus costs of “having a stance” that is “against” this technology is pretty much zero

    Y.: Do you really think they’d just let rich people load the dice to promote yet more inequality?

    You mean they will not let the rich go transhuman the same way they don’t let rich influence elections or massively evade taxes ?

    Y.: The various NRX-ers are no doubt aware of the possibilites of transhumanism, however, even ‘tame’ embryo selection techniques a-la Gattaca are probably at least 20 years away from pioneer use and 40 years short of broad adoption

    Actually, embryo selection already happens in many jurisdictions, it’s just that our current technology only allows either for filtering out gross pathology (which is mostly legal), or some silly, cultural kinds of selection (which is not very legal in some jurisdictions, but the bans are un-enforceable in jurisdictions which allow abortion at woman’s discretion)

    Y.: I believe you fail to appreciate the amount of work necessary to engineer even the ‘tamest’ transhuman tech.

    Oh I do appreciate that, but given the tranhumanist context in which NRx discourse seems to be operating and the timescales they appear to be concerned with, this does not constitute a valid counterargument.

    Anyone who is seriously concerned with “human selection” “problems” is by necessity involving timescales at which “human re-engineering” appears to be worthy of serious consideration.

    Y.: After all, sixty years back now illegal nootropics were routinely given to college students.Now these same substances are tightly controlled and only used to make kids more tractable.

    If you mean stimulants, then I’d like to read some good publication on that.
    While regulation on those has been upped a mite recently, things like methylphenidate were controlled substances since at least 1970, so I would like to know more about the time when they were just “given” to college students (was that like, sold over the counter like aspirin, or was it more like “hey doc, I am fucking up those tests, give me a handful of those green round ones” thing?)

    And speaking of tCDS technology, any ban on it would be virtually un-enforceable in the extreme (synthesizing and refining high-quality psychoactive chemicals is hard, jerry-rigging a tCDS unit is well within an average person’s ability)

    Y.: So I’m thinking you are an optimist – transhumanism isn’t going to be allowed

    You mean, like, globally?
    In a world where we have only barely managed to agree that maybe, just maybe letting every little crazy state to have a military nuclear program is disagreeable (and even after that we still had Israel proudly unzip its metaphorical pants and proudly wave its metaphorical nuclear penis) ?

    Y.:…but you’ll get mind control, of course, it’ll be called something nicer and more cuddly sounding ..

    We might eventually develop such capabilities, but given our track record, scaling it is likely to be very problematic unless it turns out to be really easy to do and / or work reliably OTA.

    Y.: Land has already expressed the ambition to become a species, if not a domain traitor. Pure economy talk doesn’t require talking about the biology of the economy’s instigators, after all, in fifty-years time cutting edge economies are going to be either algorithms all the way down or some freaks directing a lot of algorithms and robots..

    I’d say that the very fact that he bothers to discuss the difference between colonial-style space expansion and imperial-style space expansion clearly indicates that the essay is dedicated to manned expansion into space, and not a fully automated resource-harvesting operation.

    By the way, fully automating away all “space based operations” (and the attendant cultural and economic shenanigans) is something Land apparently does not contemplate too deeply, too, either intentionally or through some weird limit of imagination.

    Y.: Fun fact: I already knew that, and I’ve been contemplating asking some priest about whether the soul is considered to be ‘pure information’ for quite some time.

    If memory serves, the official Catholic position is that soul is the “sum of all your actions and thoughts that god will use to judge you when time comes” (I may ask a friend to hound out the relevant quote and ref if you’re interested)

    Y.: However, the thing with Catholicism is that Bible is just the beginning of it. The Bible doesn’t have all that much useful stuff in it so the various fathers along the way had to make a huge amount of stuff up.

    That’s true for all branches of Christianity, IIRC (and most other religions).
    Still, as long as there is no explicit scriptural prohibition, you have huge rhetorical leeway (and anyway, I doubt there are many farthers that who contemplated relevant issues in any normatively meaningful way, so Catholic transhumanism has a huge potential 😉 )

  77. whoever: These guys, many of whom are now at Pando, are certifiable.

    What do you mean by “certifiable” ?

  78. Providing the only sane response to what they perceive as an insane world, they are gonzo.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter_S._Thompson

    Very combative and confrontational, especially on Twitter. But also unafraid to say what others fear to say. They don’t really pretend to bring objectivism to their work, but that is I suppose ok since many who pretend to don’t.

  79. Cont. from moderated comment above–my timing being as impeccable as ever–you’ll find a few examples here:

    http://charon.persephoneslair.org/~andrea/pandorasts/jeremy_becker/?quick=load

    A shame, too. On some issues, Ames gets it better than many.