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).

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

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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).

[Read more…]

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.

The “Normalization” of Russia’s Demographics

This is the first of my promised Last Three Posts on DR. It’s been a bit more than a year since my last update on Russia’s demographic turnaround, and believe it or not, the cause of this was more than just laziness and lack of time on my part. A different question started bugging me:

Is there really a point to it?

Nobody concerns himself overmuch with the United Kingdom’s birth rate, and its portents for the economic and geopolitical destiny of that land. Well, some actually do, but said concern is of the Eurabia, not the Children of Men, variety. In contrast, the image of Russia formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union was one of a desolate wasteland where women voted with their wombs against its continued existence. This might have once had some elements of truth to it, but surely this view is increasingly fantastic now that Russia’s crude birth rate, at 13.2/1,000 in 2013 – and slated to rise even higher this year – is the highest bar none in Europe. It is also, as of 2012, higher than that of the US. The only developed countries where birth rates remain higher than Russia’s are Australia, New Zealand, and Iceland.

A major cause of this is that Russia still has a relatively high number of women in their childbearing years, even though this indicator began to drop precipitously from around 2010, when the effects of the post-Soviet fertility collapse started making themselves felt. This is an inescapable structural legacy that will be making itself felt in the form of downwards pressure on crude birth rates until well into the 2030s. This is where a concept known as the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) comes in. The TFR measures the expected number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime, and is calculated by summing up age-specific fertility rates in a single year. Its advantage is that it is independent of the population’s age structure. After plunging to a low of 1.16 children per woman in 1999 – a “lowest-low” fertility rate that was once theorized by some demographers to be irreversible – it has since climbed to 1.71 in 2013, and on the trends observed this year until August, will rise further to the mid-to-high 1.7s in 2014.

(And before you ask, no, it’s not all down to Muslims. Or even significantly so.)

fertility-rates-in-europe-2013

This map shows European TFRs as of 2013 (or 2012 in a few cases). In the late Soviet years, Russia was deep green, but plunged into the red and deep orange during the dislocations of the transition years. But it has now regained a greenish hue. A normal country, quite similar in its TFR to Finland or the Netherlands – countries not particularly known for being in a deep demographic abyss. And considerably better than the Christian Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Baltics, the Germanic lands, and East-Central Europe. It is, in fact, remarkable that the two countries considered to be Europe’s most politically “regressive” by the Brussels-Atlanticist elites – that is, Russia and Belarus – have come to possess Eastern Europe’s best TFR indicators, while star reformers such as Poland and the Balts wallow in the demographic doldrums. This must be a bitter pill to swallow for the ideologues who claimed demographic decline is a natural consequence of Putinism. Or it would be, if they ever bothered descending from their pulpits to look at actual statistics, but they don’t.

[Read more…]

The End of Da Russophile

putin-riding-bird

Flying away.

I feel the time has come to bid a dignified farewell to this blog that I have lovingly labored on for many a year.

Between the dopamine-fueled attractions of 140 character quickfire tweets, and the chronic lack of time for writing the far more detailed posts demanded as part and parcel of writing not one but two blogs in an era of accelerated historical change, I have come to the conclusion that continuing with Da Russophile is unrealistic. It’s pointless to go seven months without posting and still pretend you are blogging. With the failure to give Da Russophile a new lease of life by inviting in guest authors – exclusively due to my own lack of energy for such a reorganization – I believe it’s time to put the final capstone on what has hitherto been a major part of my intellectual life.

Commentators – on the whole, you’ve been absolutely great. You were indispensable in creating, feeding, and grooming this little critter for the seven glorious years of its existence. If not for your support and feedback, I’d have been done with Russia blogging within my first seven weeks. Thank you for all the time and mindpower you invested into the discussions here.

No doubt you will have many questions of me at this point. I will try to answer them as best I can.

Is the blog going to remain online?

Of course! I have spent far too much time on Da Russophile to just throw it all away, and far too many people appreciate having the old posts around for me to deprive them of it in good consciousness.

Moreover, I have spent the past two evenings compiling a comprehensive, thematically organized archive of all the better posts ever published on this blog: START HERE.

Will there be any new posts?

As a matter of fact, yes. About three. In the next few days, I will publish a much-requested Russia demographic update; a compilation of my Ukraine coverage as the conflict there moved from a standoff in the Crimea to war in the Donbass; and an overall “summing up” post dealing with how well (or poorly) Russia has performed since I first started started to challenge the Western consensus on Russia as a “weak,” “dying,” and “finished” country.

After that, Da Russophile will enter “archive mode.” There might be a few new posts, but only to inform anyone still following of major new updates, e.g. if I ever finally finish writing and publish Dark Lord of the Kremlin.

What’s the plan with Dark Lord, anyway?

It was just about 40% done, at least the first draft, but history began to move too fast this year for the pen to keep pace. Between this and real life demands, I feel that shelving it until the next round of Russia’s Presidential elections is the most prudent course of action.

What happened with the The Russian Spectrum, that site you had for English translations from the Russian media?

It was always only going to be sustainable if it could attract funding to support a sizable group of translators. Suffice to say, funding was not forthcoming despite my best efforts, and running it is beyond one person, even if he had the privilege to do it as a full-time hobby. Which I don’t.

Of course I have no intention of bringing to naught the labor of the amateur translators who extended their own time and energy to contribute to this project, so I have migrated all the posts at The Russian Spectrum to this blog together with their appropriate author attributions. These posts from The Russian Spectrum now constitute an eponymous “special series” within the general category of “Translations,” and a few dozen of the best translations are listed here.

Will you continue writing about Russia?

Yes, just not here.

I will continue blogging at my main website, AKarlin.comon the various topics that interest me: World history, transhumanism, evolutionary psychology, psychometrics, geopolitics, and… and… Russia.

And I will continue pursuing journalistic or even academic projects relating to Russia as opportunities arise. As I said, if there are major new developments on this front, I will post an update here as well as at the AKarlin blog and on my social media accounts.

Speaking of which… feel free to follow @akarlin88 on Twitter, and Subscribe to me on Facebook (nothing personal… but please don’t Friend me unless I know you).

Which Russia watchers should I follow now?

I will be brief, since too many suggestions can quickly become counterproductive.

1) Russia Resources – One of my key arguments has always been that statistics and opinion polls – constituting as they do massive aggregations of useful and generally reliable data – are far more useful for understanding social and political phenomena than the opinionated and fallible Bildungsphilister that you see quacking in the MSM. So you could do a lot worse than spending some time at Rosstat and the Levada Center. Ideally, they would be complemented by something like The Russian Spectrum, to give you a detailed insight into the state of public debate in Russia, but this was not to be.

2) Russia News – RT, RIA, Voice of Russia for the “official” Russian line. David Johnson at the JRL goes out of his way to make sure both sides of the story are represented in his news selections (so much so that he pissed off the folks at Buzzfeed). Finally, it is well worth checking out Charles Bausmann’s new project Russia Insider. Its style, for the most part, is more emotive than cerebral, but on the plus side, many of your favorite Russia pundits like Alexander Mercouris, Eric Kraus, and Patrick Armstrong are actively involved with it.

3) Russia Blogs – Leos Tomicek; Mark Chapman; Sean Guillory; Mark Adomanis; Andras Toth-Czifra; The Vineyard of the Saker; Slavyangrad; and, if you understand French, Alexandre Latsa. On the chance that you read Russian, I recommend Sergey Zhuravlev, Maxim Kononenko, Colonel Cassad.

4) Forums – Though I’d really like to recommend The Russia Debate, the forum that I created and Jose Moreira was kind enough to take over, it appears to be pretty much dead at this point. Feel free to try to revive it, if not… some good discussions can be had on /r/russia and /r/UkrainianConflict.

5) Russia Watchers – In today’s world of interconnected social media, news is fast moving from the realm of big vertical providers to a much more personalistic and horizontal level. On Twitter and/or Facebook, these people/accounts are well worth following: Alexander Mercouris, Graham Phillips, Eric Kraus, Jon Hellevig, Patrick Armstrong, Ben Aris, Mark Sleboda, Alexander Dugin, Vladimir Suchan, Mark Adomanis, Leos Tomicek, Sean Guillory, Dmitry Trenin, Jake Rudnitsky, Mark Schrad, Alec Luhn, Dmitry Linnik, Bryan McDonald, Gleb Bazov, Egor Prosvirnin, Maxim Kononenko, Natalia Antonova, Maxim Eristavi, Simon Ostrovsky, @southfronteng, @euromaidan, @noclador, @anti_maydan, @IndependentKrym, @UkrToday… and your own humble servant, @akarlin88. This is just a solid, #FF-style list to get you started and is in no way meant to be comprehensive; some of them are, for that matter, actively anti-Russian, on the logic that it’s well worth hearing what the “enemy” has to say in any case. The beauty of such an approach is that you can quickly start building your own information network.