• Culture,  Speculation,  Subcultures

    Steelmaning Yarvin

    The need to steelman Yarvin came to my while I was running a few days ago.

    The best I can come up with is a modification of Kling’s civilization/barbarism axis, to wit, his contribution can be described as:

    Assume the world slides back and forth on a spectrum of civilization and barbarism. Each increase in civilization comes with a decrease in barbarism, and vice versa (both have benefits, structure, dynamism, equilibrium, etc). Yarvin can be thought of as contributing the thought that civilization can decay in place. The benefits of civilization can decrease with no increase in barbarism. Basically a decrease in structure without an increase in dynamism.

    Now that I’ve written that out (in less than 45,000 words) I will go back to disliking Yarvin.

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  • Culture,  Tech,  Uncategorized

    Would anyone come to a Progress Studies Atlanta group?

    A while back I had the thought that Progress Studies would would take the place of Effective Altruism after the PR and financial hit of the FTX implosion – that seems not to be happening.  I also had the thought that I should create a “Progress Studies Atlanta” group, but I’m not sure where to begin on that. The obvious answer is “Something, something Georgia Tech” but I have no connections there.

    Ideally it would be a monthly gathering of technical experts or technical experts talking and letting information rain like manna from heaven to experts in other fields, a la a classic salon or the Lunar Society.

    If you have any thoughts please leave them in the comments or contact me directly.

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  • Culture,  Political Correctness,  Politics

    My definition of Woke – the short version – take 1

    Since this seems to be all the rage – I hereby offer my definition of “woke”

    I define “woke” as a belief that society is by default divided into two groups – the oppressors and the oppressed. All social interactions are a zero sum conflict between those two groups. All of history is merely a record of this conflict and nothing else. By default neither group can see this model of reality. However, it is possible for people to see the world accurately for one reason or another. (the process of this realization varies and is not essential to the worldview). This worldview is largely an extreme version of a class based view of the world, however instead of dividing the world up into “workers” and “capitalists”‘ there are many, many more subgroups who make up the oppressed class, and many more subgroups that make up the oppressor class.

    By virtue of having this knowledge one can see the hidden threads throughout history and choose to exercise virtue, which is by advocacy for particular groups in the oppressed class. This is largely expressed as secular evangelism for those groups, and active efforts to reduce the social status of the oppressor class groups.

    The pose is that of evangelism, i.e. convincing people to see the world their way, but the tactics are all destructive, in terms of social media and social status. The focus is entirely on raising and lowering the social status of different groups.

    This worldview is notable for being younger, more tied to social media, fashionable consensus, signaling and being disproportionately female. I suppose a common sense of alienation from society is a necessary part of the definition as well.

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  • Culture,  Uncategorized

    Towards a unified theory of fringe groups in the great culture war

    One odd thing I’ve noticed about our current times is how massively illiterate the movements are. Communism in the 1930s actually turned people away, Woody Guthrie prominent among them. There seem to be no foundational texts amongst any of the fringe movements(Defund, the Q people, the Proud Boys, whatever passes for anarchism these days, the very woke, etc, etc).

    I first noticed this trend a few years ago in this interview with this… person.

    Oddly, I came across this post I wrote a while back

    Ideology as the usable consensus of extreme personality types – see my “Let’s Kill Hitler” book idea. Basically the ideology evolves not as the continuation of first principles, but as a series of compromises on the part of part of the extreme personalities involved – basically the ideology is whatever allows a certain collection of extreme personalities to work together. Cooperation is the important thing – not the consequences. An extreme ideology will be composed of extreme members and so forth. See the the alt-right and modern wokeness.

    I’m reminded of the Utah Phillips line “common sense of degradation”. The modern unifying feature would seem to be a common sense of alienation from visible society.

    Update – Feb 13th, 2023

    I was going to update the post as a clarifier, but it is probably better off as a new paragraph(s).

    I think what I’m trying to say is that books are no longer Schelling points. You could always point to some habit or event as not in keeping with the laws of the old testament or das kapital, but can you really point to a new habit or event as something that conflicts with the outrage over George Floyd or gas pipelines? Instead it just evolves with the changing preferences and day to day hatreds of the people drawn to the original Schelling point. Which basically means that the alienated fringe will be both dynamic and dysfunctional. Not a big deal really (what else would they be doing) but with internet and mobile technology they are unified and strangely influential on mass culture. Instead of the top 5% of the population in alienation moving in a thousand different directions they will move in 2 or 3. The lack of textual constraint allows them to keep up with current fashions, trends and technologies. And an active, motivated, unified (same people, shifting goals and language) 5% of people with very strong preferences is a meaningful marketing and voting bloc.

    I suppose in a way this is a rediscovery of BJ Campbell’s “auto update” feature of the culture war, but with lack of foundational texts as well as Schelling points added to the explanation.

    Update Feb 14th, 2023

    Thinking about this again – I realize that I’m underemphasizing the role of fashion and ease of coverage by the modern media. “Wokeism” (the Q people not as much) is very, very, very easy, and cheap to cover from a home office – all you have to do is weave a bunch of screenshots from Twitter into an existing story and there you go. Gresham’s law, improperly formulated strikes again – bad stories will drive out good stories based purely on price. Currently the ease of coverage and woke fashion overlap rather well., although crime does seem to be taking away from this a bit.

    An aside – it would be great if ChatGPT (or whatever AI is current at the time you read this) came up with an approximate price for each news story. Media articles in whatever form are usually not presented in terms of cost – but it would be great if they were. Say this is what your news source looked like:

    • Celebrity A says Celebrity B is washed up and has had bad plastic surgery ($35, warning, Tweets)
    • See our in depth, on scene coverage of the Syrian Civil War ($17,500)

    If an AI browser plugin created something like that, along with a “Hide under $1000” checkbox I would be eternally grateful.

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  • Culture

    HBO is cruel

    All season HBO has been running The Wire (aka one of the top two shows on television) one week ahead of schedule via the Comcast On-Demand service (which I why I subscribe to the thing). For the series finale they ran a one minute teaser saying we have to wait a week. HBO is an evil corporate monster.

  • America,  Culture

    Adventures in profiling

    The New York Times wins the saggy pants headline contest with “The Boxer Rebellion“. It’s about the current mini-craze to outlaw thug-style fashion in some cities. I have no idea why we would want to outlaw this fashion statement. How you dress says a lot about a person, and in this case it says “I’m a ridiculous person who’s wasting my time, and I’ll probably waste yours”. Isn’t it better to know that in the two seconds it takes to see a person instead of the five minutes it might take talking to him?

    We should be encouraging this sort of behavior instead of outlawing it. This is America, and time is valuable.

  • Culture,  Personality

    Random links from the laptop

    • Christianity and China – history is going to be interesting for a long time to come.
    • Confessions of a BBC Liberal – The politics of it aren’t terribly interesting, but the illustration of groupthink is. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of party affiliation by profession.
    • Nerds One and Two: The Hyperwhite – It seems that someone did research on nerdiness. Some choice excerpts –

      Nerdiness, she has concluded, is largely a matter of racially tinged behavior. People who are considered nerds tend to act in ways that are, as she puts it, “hyperwhite.”

      In a 2001 paper, “The Whiteness of Nerds: Superstandard English and Racial Markedness,” and other works, including a book in progress, Bucholtz notes that the “hegemonic” “cool white” kids use a limited amount of African-American vernacular English; they may say “blood” in lieu of “friend,” or drop the “g” in “playing.” But the nerds she has interviewed, mostly white kids, punctiliously adhere to Standard English.

      The author seems not to realize that the appeal of hyper-proper English is that the rules are memorable and never change, which reduces the aren’t tied to a peer group to stay current. That’s my theory anyway.

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  • Culture,  In Appreciation,  Religion

    The start of the Friday In Appreciation Series

    I’ve decided to start a more or less weekly series about the people and forces of that don’t get enough credit in our society. I call it the Friday In Appreciation Series.

    We live in age when sanctimonious piety rivals hydrogen as the most common thing in the universe. Be it suburbanites railing against city-dwellers not having children, Ultra-Calvinist urbanites railing against Bushies standing in the way of progress, or Muslims from loser countries blaming Danish cartoons for their crappy lives, it’s hard to walk five feet without getting smacked in the face by righteous outrage, backed up by the usual litany of reasons people have for telling other people to run their lives.

    But there’s one group that not only walks the walk and talks the talk; they also handle the snakes. Yep, I’m talking about Snake Handlers. It’s refreshing to see someone use the fine print and not bother other people. They actually follow the fine print just because it’s there. They even keep going when their leaders die of snake-bite. Now that’s faith!

    Thus I begin the series.

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  • America,  Culture,  Fever Swamp

    The wheel turns full circle

    Feminists arguing that adult women shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions on what to do with their bodies. In this case raising the age of consent to appear on Girls Gone Wild videos from 18 to 21. Oddly, the author supports her argument by pointing out the many lawsuits filed against GGW producers by people who did not consent to be photographed/videotaped. It’s a bit like saying Iraq is a horrible disaster, therefore we need to invade Iran.

    I suppose the right of women to control their bodies only applies below the waist.

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  • Alt Energy,  BigThink,  Culture,  Links,  Politics,  Tech

    Monday link roundup

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