Introduction

I am a Russian repatriate, blogger, and intelligence researcher.

My primary blog Powerful Takes is at Substack, where I write about Russia, geopolitics, psychometrics, and transhumanism.

Start here if you’re new to my work.

Review: Wheel of Time S01

Wheel of Time S01 (2022)

The Rafeverse isn’t a different turning of the Wheel as Rafe and Sanderson have claimed, nor even a Turning in which the Dark One won as some have suggested here (if that had happened, he would have been free in all worlds, at all times), but a Mirror World or World That Might Be.

The distinguishing feature of these Mirror Worlds is that while they are possible worlds, their appearance and sustained existence is improbable in the extreme. Stronk women taking down Trollocs with a pocket knife commando-style, while a blademaster can’t kill a single one. Globalized cosmopolitan age levels of ethnic heterogeneity in podunk villages that haven’t received more than a couple of peddlers per year for a millennium. Social mores of a late liberal society persisting after an apocalyptic total war and 3,000 years of upheavals and decivilization. “Darkfriends” managing to erase mention of the Eye of the World from Tar Valon’s libraries

Causality in this world is broken, with all its attendant effects on world self-consistency. Incidentally, this also explains the very low IQ of the characters in the show. Intelligence is only adaptive in worlds governed by consistent rules that can be figured out and then exploited for a competitive advantage. In a world in which an Aes Sedai can’t stop Whitecloaks from burning her at the stake while a bunch of untrained wilders destroy an entire Trolloc horde, or in which a village Wisdom can follow an Aes Sedai’s “tell” which her own Warder cannot, there is no significant payoff to intelligence, hence it was never selected for there. In this sense, Lan is actually rational and smart for not wasting his time training any of the boys in how to use their weapons, this is not how XP is actually gained in this world. He, at least, is fully cognizant of how his world works, and navigates it efficiently.

I would say that the aesthetics of this world tends to back up this theory. It has a washed out look, lack of attention to detail (costumes that spontaneously clean themselves), empty spaces, near empty sets, inconsistent distances and timelines, scales and measures that have no anchor in objective reality, and extreme warped perspectives, as when our heroes go for a Sunday jaunt into the Blight and Trollocs emerge to attack the Gap a few hundred meters behind them (in a normal world, this would beg the question of how they managed to avoid getting caught up in that flood, but not one in which time and distances “bend” in arbitrary ways as in the improbable Mirror Worlds).

One prediction we can make from this is that if the Mirror World theory is true, then it is an already highly unstable and indeed “fragile” existence, and one that may well unravel completely when balefire is weaponized again and breaks the already seeping chains of causality that hold reality in place beyond some critical tipping point. The likeliest point for that to happen is in connection with certain events at the Stone of Tear, i.e. the presumed end of Season 2.

Instead of holding anger against Rafe and the showrunners, I would suggest instead sparing a thought and extending some compassion towards the benighted denizens of this Mirror World, who live tormented and twisted lives with no understanding of how things are really meant to be, and whose very existence will probably soon end, at least bringing with it the small mercy of a final release from the permanent psychosis in which they are forced to live.

(Original).

Could The Mongols Have Conquered Europe?

One of the most frequently asked questions in alternate history discussions concerns whether China could have been first to the Industrial Revolution had Europe also – or instead – been conquered by the Mongols.

Answer: It’s sort of a moot question. It seems to be quite unlikely that the Mongols were capable of conquering Europe in principle.

In one of the finest comment-essays on the Internet, back in 2002, the commenter Lord of Hosts explained why not.

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10 Years of Blogging

It has now been three years since I moved to the Unz Review, and ten years since I started blogging.

Retrospective: http://www.unz.com/akarlin/10-years-of-blogging/

There is a more complete account of my writing history, including lists of my best posts, at this page: http://akarlin.com/start/

My main hope for 2018 is to wrap up my Russia watching career – or at least a major phase of it – with Dark Lord of the Kremlin.

Links 2017

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A Short Guide to Lazy Russia Journalism

To commemorate the final closure of the Da Russophile blog and its permanent transfer and redirection to this site, here is a reprint of an excellent article by Nils van der Vegte (with a little editing from myself) that appeared in Jon Hellevig’s and Alexandre Latsa’s 2012 anthology on Putin’s New Russia.

Truly Will Rogers’ observation in 1926 that “anything is true if it’s about Russia” remains as prescient as ever.


 

A Short Guide to Lazy Russia Journalism

Nils van der Vegte

economist-welcome-to-moscowSo you’re a Westerner who wants to become a Russia journalist? Once you get past the self-serving bluster, it’s really a very safe, well-paid, and rewarding job – but only on condition that you follow a set of guidelines. Inspired by a post at the blog Kosmopolito on lazy EU journalism, I decided to provide a similar service for work ethic-challenged Russia journalists. Enjoy!

1. Mastering and parroting a limited set of tropes is probably the most important part of your work as a journalist in Russia. Never forget to mention that Putin used to work for the KGB. Readers should always be reminded of this: The “former KGB spy”, the “former KGB agent”, etc. Other examples include (but are not limited to) “Putin destroyed democracy”, “The Russian economy is dependent on oil”, “There is no media freedom”, “Russia is more corrupt than Zimbabwe”, “Khodorkovsky is a political prisoner and Russia’s next Sakharov”, “Russia is really weak” (but also a dire threat!), “Russia is a Potemkin village” and “a dying bear” that is ruled by “a kleptocratic mafia.” You get the drift…

2. Not sure who is doing what? Not sure how Russia works? Just make a sentence with the word “Kremlin”. Examples include “this will create problems for the Kremlin”, “the Kremlin is insecure”, “the Kremlin’s support of anti-Western dictators”, etc.

3. This “Kremlin” is always wrong, and its motives are always nefarious. If it requires many signatures to register a party – that is authoritarianism, meant to repress liberal voices. If it requires only a few signatures to register a party – that is also authoritarianism, a dastardly plot to drown out the “genuine opposition” amidst a flood of Kremlin-created fake opposition parties.

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Game Review: Civilization V

Civilization V (2010) ★★

I think it’s by far the worst of the series. This is “Civilization for Dummies,” so to speak (as one reviewed called it). Consider:

1. The AI is primitive, as if it’s actually going backwards rather than forwards with time. Difficulty levels are determined by artificially giving the computer controlled civs more resources, not improving their intelligence. This was acceptable a decade ago. Now, it most definitely is not.

2. There are now almost as many Wonders as there are normal buildings, and the benefits they provide are seemingly random and unconnected with the actual building. The Kremlin is a modern Wonder. WTF. There is no longer that feeling of anticipation and even “wonder” when you manage to construct a Wonder.

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I Will Now be Blogging at The Unz Review

Tomorrow the Russian Reaction blog at http://www.unz.com/akarlin/ will go live, so please reorient your bookmarks and feed subscriptions.

unz-screenshot

The Unz Review is a webzine dedicated to publishing “interesting, important, and controversial perspectives that are largely excluded from the American mainstream media.” You may know Ron Unz, its owner and chief editor, from my old discussions with him at this blog about the evolution of Chinese IQ, as well as from his many other journalistic and political activities. I am honored to join Steve Sailer and Razib Khan as The Unz Review’s third permanent blogger.

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Ukraine Predictions

Reprinted from Facebook (2017/12/31):

Geopolitically, 2015 will be crunch time for the Poroshenko regime. Short of massive Western support, a fiscal crisis is virtually certain.

How will Poroshenko deal with it? A new assault against Novorossiya can’t be excluded; military spending is rising to 5% of GDP. That’s higher than any industrialized nation bar Israel. Totally mad for semi-bankrupt country like Ukraine, unless it’s done for a specific, concrete purpose in mind. (The argument that it’sjust for defense against Russia is bogus. The DNR/LNR have no real offensive capability. The decision against invading Ukraine by Russia proper was taken back in April 2014 and since then the conditions for it have vastly deteriorated).

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On the Crimean Sanctions

Reprinted from Facebook (2018/02/15):

There can only be two “justifications” for it:

(1) If the Crimean referendum was rigged and illegitimate, as Kiev and the West have repeatedly argued, on what grounds are ordinary Crimeans getting punished for what is in fact Russian aggression? Sounds rather whimsical and arbitrary, if that is so.

(2) The Crimean referendum accurately reflected the will of the Crimean people. In that case, the US and EU sanctions on Crimea – already getting expressed in the forms of Crimean residents losing access to the services of Western companies and even getting their money confiscated (https://twitter.com/idaltae/status/547637872233578496) – are, in effect, to punish them for voting the wrong way. In other words, it is economic blackmail by any other name.

So which is it going to be? They are mutually exclusive; you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.