My Readers Are Indeed Social Contrarians

Though I do wonder about those six people who voted “none of the above” in my poll of attitudes towards the 10 odd theories that figure prominently in the Karlinist Weltanschauung… with all due respect, but what are you guys doing on this blog then? 🙂

The vast majority agree with Peak Oil, Limits to Growth, Intelligence Theory, and Human Biodiversity. The first three are not surprising, as they have been covered extensively since the blog’s inception, but I am somewhat surprised about the popularity of HBD – after all, I’m only an (open) convert to it fairly recently.

Slightly fewer agree with the precepts of AGW, Game, and 80/20 principle & Parkinson’s Law. Again, this is fairly surprising to me. After all, AGW is socially accepted nowadays; the exceptions are easier to list (e.g. American conservatives), whereas Peak Oil and Limits to Growth are still very controversial concepts with opponents from both sides of the ideological spectrum. “Game” gets an impressively good showing, though this kinda makes sense – it is almost intractably linked with HBD, since by accepting fundamental race differences, doing likewise for gender is a no-brainer. The 80/20 Principle & Parkinson’s Law is admittedly vague, but in essence it is meant to encapsulate the arguments contained within Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Workweek, i.e. that there are structural reasons for why organizations and their employees are very inefficient, and that there exist ways for committed individuals to break that cycle through shortcuts like “muses” (location-independent revenue streams) and geoarbitrage. I highly recommend readers look into these theories because just as with Game for dudes, they have the potential to massively improve life quality.

Only very modest support is voiced for Transhumanism and Technological Singularity, and understandable thing because (1) few people are deeply aware of them, even committed netizens, and (2) they are in ostensible contradiction to core AK themes like Limits to Growth and Peak Oil. But there is no contradiction. My longstanding view has been that IF global civilization manages to avoid collapse or severe degradation in the dangerous mid-century period, when pressures from energy shortages and climate change are likely to heat their peak, then transformative technological change is very likely to occur based on reasonable projections from current trends. Lifespan has already been successfully multiplied by several factors in laboratory mice by genetic tinkering, and it is surely only a matter of time before it these methods can be upscaled to large mammals including humans. Technological singularity is a more iffy possibility, despite Ray Kurzweil’s best attempts to argue for its imminent inevitability, but regardless I am of the opinion that the mind can be simulated on silicon substrates, that “mind uploading” is theoretically possible and may be achievable in practice sooner rather than later because of the exponential nature of growth of computing power, and that even if these exotic possibilities don’t materialize this century it may not be that big of an issue thanks to massively extended longevity.

Low carb diets (paleo, caveman) have by far the lowest approval rating. So I should definitely write a bit more on that. I think the arguments of their proponents are logical, humans simply have not had time to evolve to eat complex grains let alone have them constitute the bulk of their diet. Doing so leads to obesity, diabetes, and a host of other chronic ailments that plight rich country populations. As such I think the standard “food pyramid” advice peddled by nutritionists is bunk and even criminal taking into account the mounting evidence against it.


  1. anon666 says:

    I like your site because it illustrates that acceptance of HBD needn’t necessarily entail an “alt-right” or “traditionalist” political stance. As one who falls on the right half of the bell curve, I’m quite capable of living a stable and productive existence without the aid of tradition, and would not welcome its incursion into my life. As far as those who fall on the left half of the bell curve, I’m not sure that tradition is of any effectiveness in improving their moral virtue. If a group expresses below average future time orientation, for example, it’s unclear how something like religiosity and belief in God would serve to motivate people to postpone gratification for future benefits. Speculation regarding reward or punishment in a purported afterlife is unlikely to be compelling to people who are barely capable of forecasting the consequences of their actions that fall beyond the span of a week.

    Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature” presents a compendium of data showing that many prior eras of history had higher homicide rates and of violent crime in general, in spite the presence of more dire punishments for crime. Black violent crime rates in the more-traditional-than-today late 1800s were disproportionately high compared to the black percentage of the U.S. population, much like today.

    Although I have a few heterodox views that would outrage most other liberals, I’m basically a liberal myself. I like *most* of the policies and practices of countries like Germany and Canada, although I’d probably like both countries even better if they replaced their nurturist/blank-slatist intellectual paradigm with a hereditarian one. While I don’t believe in tradition’s ability to make us virtuous, I do believe in removing carrot that encourages irresponsible and behavior while demanding that the rest of us pay for it (both the carrot and the behavior).

  2. I voted “no” for low carb diet. But that does not mean, that I think high-carb diet is “natural”.
    The inconvenient truth is, that there is no natural diet for humans. We are a species that is still in transition – and the selective pressure has been alternating between mostly vegetarian to mostly carnivorous to mostly vegetarian diet again. In no case has the environment stayed stable long enough (10+ million years) for our metabolism and anatomy to actually adapt to it – like it is for undulates or felines.
    The whole concept of adaptation is often used too idealistically. Natural selection never produces perfection – it’s result is being “good enough” for certain environment. And our organism are “good enough” for various diets and “perfect” for none.

  3. with all due respect, but what are you guys doing on this blog then?

    Perhaps they are doing something similar to what I do? For example, I almost entirely disagree with Vox Popoli, but he is on my RSS feed.

    In my case I am interested a number of topics, and I prefer to consider a variety of opinions and discussions on the subjects from more than one perspective.

    Even if I do not agree with a particular viewpoint, I appreciate the opinions of people who I have deemed to be reasonably intelligent, and apparently well informed enough to have worthwhile arguments to consider.

    But that is just me.

  4. To be clear, the poll was “Which of these are theories are highly useful for understanding the world, being effective in it, and/or worth pursuing?”

    So when you say “Slightly fewer agree with the precepts of AGW, Game, and 80/20 principle & Parkinson’s Law”… it’s not necessarily that people didn’t agree with them. It’s just (at least in my case), I found them less interesting or less important/useful when it comes to discussing our understanding of the world. Given the choice to identify the most critical items, I selected Limits to growth, Intelligence theory, and Human Biodiversity theory.

  5. “…humans simply have not had time to evolve to eat complex grains let alone have them constitute the bulk of their diet. ”

    G. Cochran and H. Harpending argued in their book “The 10,000 Year Explosion” that agriculture seriously sped up human evolution. It led to a population explosion. From what I understand, before agriculture there were only about 4 million people on Earth. An increase in population size led to an increase in the number of mutations per generation. With more rolls of the dice per year, beneficial mutations occurred quicker and more often. Of course the number of harmful mutations per year also increased, but before the rise of the welfare state those weren’t being picked up.

    New food sources, new lifestyle, new diseases presented new challenges, and that also sped up evolution. Obviously, all cavemen must have lacked lactose persistence, for example. Those human groups who have it only developed it after the domestication of the cow.

    I wonder how well Australian Aborigines, Bushmen, the Arctic Peoples and other such groups do with grains. If they do much worse than the rest of humanity when exposed to them (obesity? diabetes?), then we, the rest of humanity, have probably already moved past the point where paleo-diet enthusiasts’ advice could do us a lot of good.

    As everyone knows, the above-mentioned peoples do catastrophically badly when exposed to alcohol. Compared to them the rest of humanity has already evolved to handle booze somewhat better.

    “Technological singularity is a more iffy possibility…”

    I’m sure that a lot of people have noticed an improvement in the quality of machine translation in recent years. Is that because computers are closer to understanding human speech and with it human thought? According to what I’ve read on this subject, the answer is no. They’re just using larger volumes of already-translated (by humans, of course) text. The databases have gotten larger. The AI aspects of machine translation haven’t improved. The sense I got from reading about machine translation projects is that there is disappointment with the AI side of things.

    • Re-grains as new food source. That is of course true, but what it leaves out is that farming communities tended to be a lot less healthy than hunter-gatherer ones. Life expectancy plummeted during the Neolithic; diseases such as rickets became commonplace that are otherwise unknown among hunter-gatherers. The agriculturalists did however outcompete the hunter-gatherers because of greater numbers and technology so in that sense they were superior from an evolutionary point of view. However, what is “good” for population groups or even a whole species isn’t typically so for the individuals within them. The most basic example of that is altruism. Another is social hierarchies. Carbohydrate heavy food sources is another.

      Re-“As everyone knows, the above-mentioned peoples do catastrophically badly when exposed to alcohol.” So do Russians. Or Finns, a generation ago. Or America in the early 19th century, when it was the “Alcoholic Republic”. Propensity to alcoholism (though not alcohol tolerance – on which long civilized East Asians fail!) seems to me one of those things better explained through culture not HBD.

      Re-“I’m sure that a lot of people have noticed an improvement in the quality of machine translation in recent years. Is that because computers are closer to understanding human speech and with it human thought?” Well, this is of course a huge debate in philosophy and CS. I for one think Searle is a quack.

      • “So do Russians.”

        Not to the same extent as the Arctic peoples, both in Russia and North America. There’s also a difference of degree between northern and southern Europe. Southern Europe adopted agriculture before the north. Amerindians with roots in what is now the US are much more prone to alcoholism than Mexicans. Mexicans have a far longer history of agriculture, and everyone who grew crops made alcohol. There seems to be a pattern – longer exposure to agriculture coincides with lower propensity for alcohol addiction. I’m sure that culture and banning can exert their influences too.

        “The most basic example of that is altruism.”

        Altruism can be made to work for individuals if it’s combined with exclusivity. The British aristocracy used to describe itself as “a caste of gentlemen”. If everyone within the caste is altruistic, and entrance into the caste is closely guarded, huge benefits can accrue to individuals. They ended up conquering half the world. I’m sure that the original Roman aristocracy was very altruistic too. If no one within the group has to worry about cheating or any other kind of selfishness, then the group can be spectacularly successful with benefits accruing to members. I have a feeling that the Japanese samurai also operated on that principle, as did Scandinavian states before immigration. If exclusivity can be maintained, then altruism is a huge bonus. If exclusivity is broken, it’s a liability.

      • The result of neolithic revolution (i.e. agriculture) were indeed the population explosion and shortening of average lifespan.
        The first had mostly two causes – the abundance of cheap source of calories and the earlier weaning of children due to changing lifestyle. While among hunter-gatherers the average interval between births was 4-5 years it became considerably shorter in agricultural societies.
        The higher mortality had also several causes. One of them was simply the increase of population density which simplified the spread of contagious diseases. The other was, of course, the lower quality of food. But the problem was not the high concentration of carbohydrates, but low amount of proteins, certain vitamins and minerals in cereals.
        The most visible adaptation to cereal diet is the second depigmentation event among northern Europeans that coincided with the beginning of agriculture in boreal areas. The first depigmentation happened sometimes after the out of Africa migration and was quite similar for European and Asian populations (although having different genetic mechanisms) – light brown skin, dark hair and dark eyes. But as cereal food is remarkably low in vitamin D compared to meat, people living in Northern Europe had to obtain even paler skin to absorb whatever little sunlight was available. This time the depigmentation included also hair and eyes.
        It is remarkable that hunter-gatherers living in far north do not have pale skin because their diet has enough vitamin D from fish and meat.
        It is hard to say which other adaptations may have developed because of cereal diet – but it is quite probable that there are some.
        In any case – I think Japanese populations proves quite well that people eating high-carb diet can be healthy and live long.

    • Re: machine translation. Since I translate legal documents for a living, I have some thoughts on this.

      I’ve tried to use machine translation to make my job easier. Actually it makes it harder. Even when it doesn’t make gross mistakes, it destroys the continuity and consistency of a text, and has no idea of appropriate style and register. Most of the time it makes sense to just translate something the normal way, rather than go through the dreary job of editing that is required after machine-translating a text.

      People have speculated that such programs will replace human translators. As long as homo sapiens thinks differently from a computer, I think not. The only danger is that companies that are satisfied with crappy or so-so translations (which is probably a lot of companies) will rely on them.

      • As you’re aware, I translate a number of Russian texts into English on my other blog. What I typically do is paste in the Russian paragraph, then the machine-translated paragraph below that. Then working from the top, I start writing my own translation, leaning heavily on the machine translation. It gets 90% of stuff right, so why mess with the dictionary and thesaurus myself? It is clear where it is obviously wrong, most commonly that happens when you have complex grammatical structures, when meaning depends on context, or Russian-specific idioms. Then I have to get my thinking cap on and become inventive.

        On the whole however, I find that modern machine translation (Google Translate) helps my productivity immensely. So respectfully disagree here. 🙂

        • Well it depends on the subject matter too. I’m dealing with very specific nuances and points involving legal liability and the like. So I have no choice but to pick through everything slowly, and also to consider questions like “is this the proper style to address a person of this stature?” “Does this terminology need to be clarified or amplified for a person coming from a certain background?” “Are the semantic parameters of this term the same in both languages?” and so on. If computers are ever able to do this, then it will probably be time for homo sapiens to vacate the planet.

          • Understood. That makes sense.

            I think machine translation will largely obviate the need for humans as regards popular articles by 2020 or 2025, understanding these legalistic nuances however you’re venturing into Turing territory.