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.

I Appear On RT To Discuss Euromaidan

Here it is:

From RT:

‘No going back for Yanukovich now’

If the Ukrainian president goes back on the deal with the EU, he’ll disappoint his supporters and he’s obviously not going to regain the support of those who are protesting, author and blogger Anatoly Karlin told RT.

RT:President Yanukovich is being accused of betraying national interests by turning down the EU deal, but he says it’s bad for the economy. Do you agree with Yanukovich and what are his options at this point?

Anatoly Karlin: We have to look at this objectively. What the EU was offering was $600 million for many years and perhaps some help with negotiating an IMF loan. The IMF loan was much bigger, $16 billion , but it came with some conditions such as  salary freeze, spending cuts, 40 percent rise in gas prices.

With the elections coming up in March 2015, Yanukovich simply cannot afford to accede to those demands, especially since the EU is demanding a lot, but isn’t giving a lot. For instance, there is no visa-free travel; free trade between Europe and Ukraine will destroy a lot of heavy industry, especially in the eastern part of the country, where Yanukovich and the Party of Regions have a lot of their electorate.

On the other hand, young people who are more disposed against Yanukovich are not to going to get the labor movement, they are going to be able to emigrate to Athens and Dublin, they are going to vote against them instead. So it’s not surprising that Yanukovich rejected the EU deal simply because Russia is offering better conditions in terms of money, about $10 billion, when the EU says $600 million.

RT: What can Yanukovich do at this point? He has perhaps these reasoned arguments for not wanting a deal with the EU, but here are hundreds of thousands of people on the streets, he has to deal with them somehow. What do you think is the best move?

AK: I think he’s got to seek [a diplomatic way] out, there is no going back now. If he does go back, then he is also going to disappoint his system’s supporters, who support his current course and he is obviously not going to get back the support of those who are protesting. Another thing we have to bear in mind is that even the Orange Revolution in 2004 was not made by the street, it was made by a court judgment which ruled that the elections were illegitimate and called for new elections.

RT:The EU agreement could still be revisited later. Why did the opposition choose violent protests instead of having more dialogue about the pros and cons of integration with the EU?

AK: I think because, first of all, slogans work better than decent arguments about the economics, which frankly don’t interest too many people. Secondly, it appears to be basically that Eastern Ukrainians support the Party of Regions – they are more politically apathetic in general, whereas Central Ukrainians and Western Ukrainians are willing to go out, protest and make their voices heard. The opposition really has the sense to go out and galvanize people.

RT:Who do you think stands to benefit from this unrest? Is there more to these protests than just a trade deal?

AK: I don’t think anybody stands to benefit. First of all, although these protests went off peacefully, today [Sunday] they went into the other direction, we had those hilarious scenes of the bulldozer trying to plow into the police forces guarding government buildings in Kiev and Molotov cocktails being thrown at police, and although this makes good TV footage, there is also going to be a lot of people who are staying at their homes, who are witnessing this, who will be turned off by this violence.

I don’t think this will benefit the opposition in the long term, once tempers cool down. Another winter is coming, it’s getting colder, people aren’t willing to stand out in the cold to protest during January. It’s obviously not doing any good for Ukrainian economy either because it’s in a poorly enough state as it is, there’s debt repayments coming up and it would really be in its favor of Ukraine to focus more on technocratic economic side as opposed to these political games.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

“Transhuman Visions” Conference @SF, Feb 1, 2014

RosieTheRoboteerThis conference is organized by brain health and IQ researcher Hank Pellissier, and its aim is to bring all kinds of quirky and visionary folks – “Biohackers, Neuro-Optimists, Extreme Futurists, Philosophers, Immortalist Artists, Steal-the-Singularitarians” – together in one place and have them give speeches and interact with each other and the interested public.

One of the lecturers is going to be Aubrey de Grey, the guy who almost singlehandedly transformed radical life extension into a “respectable” area of research, so it’s shaping up to be a Must-Not-Miss event for NorCal futurists.

Also in attendance will be Zoltan Istvan, bestselling author of The Transhumanist Wager, and Rich Lee, the famous biohacker and grinder. The latter will bring a clutch of fellow grinders and switch-blade surgeons with him to perform various modification procedures on the braver and more visionary among us.

Your humble servant will also be speaking. The preliminary title of my speech is “Cliodynamics: Moving Psychohistory from Science Fiction to Science.” Other conference speakers include RU Sirius, Rachel Haywire, Randal A. Koene, Apneet Jolly, Scott Jackisch, Shannon Friedman, Hank Pellissier, Roen Horn, and Maitreya One.

Time/Location: February 1, 2014 (Saturday) from 9:30am-9:30pm at the Firehouse, Fort Mason, 2 Marina Blvd., in San Francisco.

Buy Tickets:

Tickets are on sale from November 1-30 for $35. Only 100 tickets are available due to limited seating. In December tickets will cost $40 (if they’re still available). In January they’ll cost $45, with $49 the at-the-door price.

To obtain a ticket, PayPal $35 to account # [email protected] – include your name. You will quickly receive a receipt that you can print out as your ticket, and your name will be added to the guest list.

Below is a photo gallery of everyone on the lecture list and some further details:

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A Meeting with Hank Pellissier

This Sunday I had the pleasure of meeting up with Hank Pellissier, who used to work for the IEET, a futurist/transhumanist institute, and is now a blogger-journalist and amateur researcher at the Brighter Brains blog.

2013-09-15 16-59-15 - meeting with Hank Pellissier

As one may glean from the title of that blog, his current area of major interest lies in IQ and how you can bolster (or deflate) it. His most recent book is 225 Ways to Elevate or Injure IQ, the product of four years of research consisting of trawling through and summarizing the existing academic literature on the topic. In the meetup, he expounded upon his work.

Much of it was commonsense, or otherwise of no surprise to people who take an active interest in the topic. Some it was also of doubtful validity, with correlations not always being substantiated by a solid case for causation. But some of it was also new, counter-intuitive, even surprising. Certainly all this material is well worth publicizing and pushing into the public debate because quite apart from the intrinsic individual benefits of higher IQ’s it also leads to more efficient economies, higher technological growth, lower crime rates, etc.

Here is a list of most of these 225 IQ factors from Pellisier’s website. Below is a rough classification and brief discussion of some of the most important and interesting points from his research.

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The World Russia Forum 2013

This June I had the pleasure of once again attending and speaking at the World Russia Forum. The event now happens twice a year, in Washington DC and Moscow, and is intended to draw together Russian and American experts, academics, journalists, and policy-makers in an effort to improve relations between these two nations. An account of it, and the subsequent reception at the Russian Embassy to mark Russia Day, follows below:

1 - me in DC

It was raining with near monsoonal intensity when I disembarked off the train*. I have no complaints; these downpours dispel the sultry oppressiveness inherent to a city originally built on swampland, so far as I was concerned the more rain the merrier.

2 - al jazeera bus

The Qataris sure know how to get their message out!

3 - hotel gathering

Four of the WRF’s speakers in the hotel dining room. From left to right: Pamela (Patrick’s wife); Martin Sieff; Patrick Armstrong; William Dunkerley; your humble servant.

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Roundup of Russia Stuff

I’m writing this from an Internet café in Seattle, so I’ll be brief.

(1) Congratulations to SWSPires – the winner of the promised $25 Amazon gift certificate for participating in The Russia Debate during its first month! Incidentally, he was only the sixth member to be drawn by lot from the members pool; it’s just that the others had no posts (as of yet) to their names. And to be in the running, you needed to have made at least one post, in addition to registering.

(2) If you are a Russia expert (or just curious), please feel free to join the 2013 World Russia Forum in Washington DC this June 11th. It will be located at The Russian Cultural Center:

1825 Phelps Place Northwest
Washington, DC 20008

The theme for this year will be “the role of NGOs, Public Diplomacy, and Media in formulating the agenda for US – Russia political, educational and cultural cooperation.” That is, soft power, which we’ve discussed here of late. The Russian Spectrum ties in with this well and will be the main focus of my representation.

(3) Speaking of The Russian Spectrum – I’m on a “working holiday” of sorts, so I will not be doing any translations until I return on June 25.

I’m now quite happy with the site as it exists and functions, and I’m sure its “base” is now firm enough to support significant scaling up. That is not, however, within the capabilities of one person. It needs at least one more editor and regular contributors for it to start offering something resembling comprehensive coverage, from all slivers of the spectrum. And for that it needs financing.

That is going to be my priority orientation for the next weeks and months.

Should I Give Up Already?

From a Freedom House publication:

quoted-by-freedom-house

Of Rats and Men

This is a (very preliminary) prologue to a sci-fi novel I’ve been thinking of writing for some time. It’s called 100 YEARS TO VICTORY, but obviously liable to change. My sole question is: Would you continue reading the rest of this book?

It’s been nearly a decade since I built my first cage.

It was an exceedingly small cage. Physically, and literally, it was about the size of a large computer, though its inhabitants were none the wiser to the fact. To them, it would have appeared as a world entire, a world of rolling plains and giant trees and gentle hummocks in which they could make their burrows. That world wasn’t particularly big either. It didn’t have to be. Not when it hosted consciousnesses that were conditioned by evolution to a home range of less than 50 meters in radius. As far as a rat was concerned, the neighboring hill might as well be a foreign country, and its denizens – instinctual enemies, to be exterminated so that its own clan could survive and propagate.

And so the years passed, passing into decades, and centuries. There evolved subtle differences between rats in different locales: The rats in the ice-bound north, for instance, developed white fur and epicanthic folds to protect against snowblind, while males in the torrid south acquired rich manes to attract females. Many thousands of rat generations appeared and disappeared in the blink of a human eye. Arbitrary eons of blood and breeding, and the profound indifference of a Mother Nature that canceled them out over any long enough period of time.

Then I said, “Let there be grain.” Stalks of wheat sprouted out at the bed of one valley. A moment-millennium later, rice appeared in a second valley, and was followed by flowerings of millet, maize, and sourghum in yet other places.

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All The Books I’ve Read, Running Through My Head. This Is Not Enough.

Over the past week I’ve completed one of my most significant projects, though I’m not megalomaniac enough to think it will present much interest to other people.

It’s a list of all the books I’ve ever read.

Well, not all of them, of course. That’s unrealistic. Since completing it, I’ve remembered a couple more. But I almost certainly got more than half, and perhaps as many as 75% of the real total. And forgetting a quarter or a third of them isn’t a great tragedy anyway, since me reckons that if you can’t recall reading a book, chances are it wasn’t worth your time in the first place.

Some interesting things have emerged out of this exercise. For instance, almost 40% of the books I’ve read have been sci-fi, fantasy, or speculative. Even so, they unfortunately don’t include Philip K. Dick, Stanislaw Lem, and the Strugatsky brothers. My familiarity with the classics, especially in Russian, are extremely patchy. Self-help and self-improvement books total almost 10%, of which 2% are about poker. Here are the detailed stats:

English Russian Total
Non-Fiction 103 4 107 33.9%
Literature 54 5 59 18.7%
Fantasy & Sci-Fi 118 3 121 38.3%
Self-Improvement 29 0 29 9.2%
Total 304 12 316
96.2% 3.8%

Here is the same data, but by total page numbers:

English Russian Total
Non-Fiction 45,442 936 46,378 36.4%
Literature 15,544 2,000 17,544 13.8%
Fantasy & Sci-Fi 52,108 1,021 53,129 41.7%
Self-Improvement 10,311 0 10,311 8.1%
Total 123,405 3,957 127,362
96.9% 3.1%

I highly recommend everyone do something similar. It’s easy (Excel and Google suffice), and though it will take some time – two days, in my case – it will pay off by bringing back good reading memories that would otherwise indefinitely remain dormant, as well as provide an incentive to start systemically writing book reviews. If you can’t write a review about a book you’ve read, chances are the time you spent reading it was wasted. But by writing a review of a book, you decant and internalize the best of what it had to offer.

It will also enable you to make some useful macro-generalizations. For instance, this exercise really drove home the point that my classics base is very weak. Many giants of literature are missing entirely. This is something I can start working on remedying. Another advantage is that you can make some observations about what types of books make an impression, and what types don’t. For instance, I observed that the books that tended to garner 5 stars were usually shorter than others in the same series or broader category. I guess brevity really is the soul of wit.

Samuel Moncada, Venezuela’s Ambassador In London, Personally Responds To Emails

Not sure you can say that of many national ambassadors! This is what I wrote to this email for expressing condolences on Chavez’s passing:

After a heroic battle with cancer, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías has shuffled off this mortal coil, but his dream will endure forever and continue giving hope unto the hearts of men and women all over the world. In his dream, nations can triumph over comprador elites, even when the latter are backed by international plutocrats and the world’s greatest superpower. It is the dream of 21 century socialism, which has resoundingly proven that social justice, better living standards, and democracy are not trade-offs, but complementary to each other. It is the dream of a Venezuela and a Latin America that is democratic, socially cohesive, independent, and sovereign. Salutations to the late Comandante, in the firm conviction that Venezuela will find worthy successors to continue pursuing the Bolivarian dream.

Here is his response:

Dear Anatoly,

Thank you very much for your kind message.

During this difficult time for us as Venezuelans, your words were greatly appreciated.

In spite of Chavez’s absence, we will always carry with us his example, perhaps the most important of which was his true dedication and constant perseverance to realise his dreams of independence, sovereignty, justice and solidarity.

Thanks again for your support.

Samuel Moncada, Ambassador.

Incidentally, Mr. Moncada has an impressive academic pedigree, with a PhD in history from Oxford University. Just goes to show that the claims that Venezuela has no meritocracy and all the prestigious political/diplomatic jobs go to chavista cronies are probably false or at least very exaggerated.

Another thing to note is that Samuel Moncada also writes for The Guardian. This article is particularly interesting – apparently he was almost arrested by the CIA-backed coup plotters in 2002. (Many in his apartment block were not so lucky). I try to keep from empty moralizing, but sometimes it’s really sickening how the same people who crow the loudest about Chavez’s “rollback” of democracy studiously ignore – and perhaps privately lament the failure of – the comprador elites’ attempt to unseat a democratically and legitimately elected President.