Civics for the 21st Century: Throwing out the Compass

It’s become trendy on both the “left” and the “right” to point out that the Left-Right political scale is obsolete. Rejoice! Society has finally woken up to the fact that the public debate is all too often predicated on a reductionist and stultifying abstraction dating all the way back to the French Revolution.

Part of this so-called awakening is the result of left-wing media and academic elites trying to rebrand themselves, now that the jig is up and all of the socialist experiments have failed. Part of it is delusions from the dissident right and Bilderberg neoliberals. And part of it may be a legitimate political realignment as we start to see political parties with bizarre mixes of far-left and far-right platforms.

Unfortunately, pundits writing about this resort to equally reductionist rhetoric. It’s really authoritarian vs. libertarian, you see; or nationalism vs. globalism or pro-white vs. anti-white. It’s always some new binary to replace the old binary, often cribbed from the awful political compass that turned so many previously-reliable conservatives into cucks social liberals.

fellowliberals

(Aspiring demagogues, take note: if you want to amass the largest possible following, pick something that roughly half of all people disagree on and then become absolutely fanatical about one side or the other. The late 21st century will be punctuated by a major world war between the Bitcoinites and the Monerians.)

If any of these new paradigms were useful as more than divide-and-conquer rhetorical devices, then in practice we shouldn’t be able to distinguish National Socialism from National Capitalism, or Monarchy from Communist dictatorship. Obviously, any model suffering from this deficiency of nuance is hilariously incompetent. There have been some attempts at better ones, but any model that considers Hoppean libertarianism to be equivalent to Neo-Conservatism probably needs some work – although they deserve credit for trying.

Let’s attempt an improvement, based on a realistic examination of existing ideologies.

Civics 201: The Sequel

A useful model of anything (civics included) should provide enough variables to describe the whole system, without adding anything that’s unnecessary or redundant. All of the factors below vary independently; for any combination representing an “ideology”, we can find a relatively large group of people who agree with all but one.

Obviously we could add an infinite number of other factors such as the “soy-meat axis” or the “lifting-not lifting axis”, but this list isn’t arbitrary. It’s intended for sober analysis, not entertainment. Each measure is both (a) not dependent on any other measure, and (b) important enough for civilizations to have gone to war over.

If you’re looking for an easy good-vs-evil, heroes-vs-villains solution, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you’re interested in understanding the nuances of political philosophy and why existing low-fi tools are so very bad at it, this will help.

The 9 Dimensions

Each of these will be described in more detail farther down; this is a quick overview and reference for looking up later:

  1. Commons vs. Private Property
  2. Uniformity vs. Diversity
  3. Hierarchy vs. Egalitarianism
  4. Naturalism vs. Constructionism
  5. Authority vs. Consensus
  6. Coercion vs. Voluntarism
  7. Expansionism vs. Protectionism
  8. Militarism vs. Pacifism
  9. Identity vs. Ideology

If any seem redundant or confusing, read on to find out why they’re included.

1. Commons vs. Private Property

The single most important “question” in politics is still the EQ – the Economic Question. Who owns what, and what does that ownership imply?

At one extreme, we have communal ownership (commons): no one may claim any exclusive control over any property, including their own person. At the other extreme, everything is private property; there can be no “public spaces” or state-owned land, and whomever owns some property can do what they please with it, subject to the constraints of the local laws and compacts.

This is what most people mean when they talk about left vs. right, but it is neither the authentic original definition nor is it a universally-accepted definition. It’s just one question – albeit a very important one – that we try to answer about how society should run. Most western countries today, despite claiming to be “capitalist”, confiscate more than 50% of private wealth for use and/or redistribution by the state, which makes them center-commons or center-“left”.

2. Uniformity vs. Diversity

We could alternatively call this Homogeneity vs. Heterogeneity, or Social Trust vs. Social Inclusion. Is it better to have groups (including nations or civilizations) whose members are mostly very similar to each other, or should we prefer or even demand high demographic variation?

At one extreme, all clearly-identifiable groups must be physically segregated from each other to avoid conflict. At the other extreme, it is never acceptable to segregate (or “discriminate”) based on group membership. Note that “group” can be anything; sex or race are obvious examples but segregation may also be related to body type, religion, birthplace, income class, promiscuity, etc. The trend toward hyperinclusion in the 21st-century is clear (fat-positivity, interfaith churches, Hart-Cellar, means-tested benefits, anti-“slut shaming”, etc.).

Position on this axis determines Nationalism vs. Globalism. It is no coincidence that the same multinational institutions obsessed with Diversity & Inclusion are also pushing for open borders. These ideas are one and the same; if all segregation is evil, and borders are a form of segregation, then borders are evil and must be abolished.

3. Hierarchy vs. Egalitarianism

Hierarchy is commonly and incorrectly associated with authoritarianism or state power, but these ideas are independent. Authority and government can be organized in a hierarchical fashion, but so can many other things including wealth, infrastructure, and even information. Likewise, authority does not require hierarchy; a project team may have several Subject-Matter Experts who have the final say in various areas (either by fiat or by mutual agreement), but all are considered to occupy the same position in the hierarchy.

Without resorting to the neologism cholarchy, the ideological concept most clearly positioned against hierarchy is egalitarianism, which has as its precept the idea that all people within society, or any other group, have equal stature and deserve equal treatment. Egalitarianism can be applied to individuals and also groups; in the latter case it is generally called relativism (i.e. all forms of culture, morality, intellect, etc. are of equal value). At the extreme, we have equalism or “equity egalitarianism” – that is, a near-total fixation on statistical disparities and how to resolve them, without any consideration given to the idea that said disparities might be inevitable or even good.

Hierarchies can be natural or man-made. If the idea of a sexual dominance hierarchy offends you, or you’re annoyed by your employer having too many layers of management (regardless of how they manage), or you think Trello is weird and confusing and would rather just dump all your ideas into Notepad, then you lean toward egalitarianism (or cholarchy).

A concrete, easily-observable example of the divide is in religion. Most religions are hierarchical, putting one God at the top and perhaps lesser holy or divine entities above mortal humans. Deeply religious people, having been fully immersed in a spiritual hierarchy, are generally comfortable with a moral and cultural hierarchy as well. Atheists are inherently relativistic (all religions are equally wrong/bad), and correspondingly less tolerant of other types of hierarchy, often gravitating toward moral and cultural relativism.

4. Naturalism vs. Constructionism

Arguably the biggest rift in politics is also the biggest rift in academia: Is there a natural order, and if so, to what extent does it influence our choices and outcomes? In laymen’s terms, this is Nature vs. Nurture.

The edges of this are essentialism (or “genetic determinism”) on the naturalist side, and critical theory or “blank-slate theory” on the social-constructionist side. Politically speaking, a naturalist believes that society should be organized based on the patterns we observe, whereas a constructionist believes that social organization creates the patterns and should therefore reflect our best ideals.

Very few people believe in the extremes, i.e. that we are genetically programmed automatons with no free will, or that there is no such thing as a heritable trait. However, parts of the modern “left” movement are very close to the constructionist extreme, e.g. believing that IQ tests are merely a reflection of cultural bias.

Constructionism is different from egalitarianism or relativism. An egalitarian might believe that men and women are equally qualified to do most activities despite their biological and psychological differences, or at least deserve an equal “opportunity” to do them. A constructionist would instead assert that there are no biological or psychological differences, and any differences that appear to emerge are the result of current social structures.

5. Authority vs. Consensus

Authoritarianism and libertarianism are not opposites, because authority and liberty are not answers to the same question. Liberty is a state of being, whereas authority is a method of resolving disputes. The correct opposite of authority is consensus.

In an authority-based system, disputes between individuals are resolved by a designated authority (who may or may not be involved in the dispute) having the final say. In a consensus-based system, everybody must agree; competition and dissent are seen as threats to the social order, and if a compromise (preferred resolution) is not possible then generally one of the individuals must be manipulated, ostracized, or cast out in order to maintain the consensus.

Authority does not necessarily imply totalitarian micromanagement. Common Law is a system of authority but is also entirely reactive. Authority is also neither inherently coercive nor hierarchical; another form of authority is arbitration, in which both sides of a dispute voluntarily and temporarily agree to submit to the decision of a third party. More generally, children tend to accept adults, especially their parents, as authority figures because it is in their nature to do so.

As systems of governance, monarchy and dictatorship are both authoritarian; direct democracy is consensus-based and representative democracy (or republicanism) is somewhere in between.

6. Coercion vs. Voluntarism

What is the individual’s relationship with authority, and can an individual be compelled by force to transact with another individual?

A perfectly ideal voluntary system would require ideal cooperative actors who never defect. Real-world systems will always involve some coercion, even if it is not by a state actor or legitimate authority (e.g. mob rule). Typically, coercion is used to prevent more severe and undesirable forms of coercion. In other words: Law Enforcement protects property and contracts.

Some systems seek to minimize coercion, while others have a much greater tolerance for it. This is often referred to as “moral policing”. Indecency laws, eugenics programs, and anti-trust and anti-gouging regulations are all obvious examples of coercion above and beyond the basic level required to protect voluntary transactions.

Voluntarism is not consensus, and coercion is not authority. Coercing another individual does not require them to recognize your authority as legitimate, only to view you as a potential threat (they may try to take revenge later). Voluntarism does not require consensus between two individuals, because either individual is free to refuse the transaction regardless of what the other desires.

A simple litmus test for coercion-affinity would be: is it acceptable for a parent to use any amount of physical violence or verbal abuse (including spanking or yelling) to discipline a misbehaving child? Many “small-government” types would say yes, which likely indicates they are not opposed to coercion as a principle, but are only concerned with who gets to use it and when.

7. Expansionism vs. Protectionism

One very important trait of an ideology is its survival strategy – whether it is primarily protectionist (inward-looking, focused on stability) or expansionist (outward-looking, seeks to convert others to its principles).

Expansionism on a national scale is imperialism, which can have several forms: military, treaty, cultural, etc. It does not necessarily seek to abolish national identity or borders, but does seek to impose its ideas on others. Protectionism on a national scale might take the form of trade protections, speech/content regulations, defensive weapons or nuclear deterrence.

The Roman Empire and Ottoman Empire were both violently expansionist; the Christian religion is (mostly) peacefully expansionist. American black nationalism has historically been violently protectionist, and Judaism is (mostly) peacefully protectionist. These examples merely serve to illustrate how the axis is independent of militarism, nationalism, etc.

8. Militarism vs. Pacifism

Human history has unarguably been extremely violent. A militarist believes that some (and perhaps all) social problems can only be resolved through violence, and that all other forms of dispute resolution (such as voting) are merely proxies for violence. Pacifists believe that there is a peaceful resolution to every dispute, that violence is never necessary and therefore the threat of violence does not need to be implicit in any enforcement mechanism.

Pacifists believe that “soft power” exists. Militarists do not. This is one of the primary drivers of foreign and domestic law-and-order policy. Canada, the USA and Israel all have similar systems of government, but Canada is pacifistic (strict gun control), the USA is somewhat militaristic (second amendment), and Israel is highly militaristic (all citizens must be trained in the use of weapons).

Militarism does not necessarily imply conquest or interventionism; that is only the case when combined with an expansionist tendency. Given tendencies toward uniformity and protectionism, we end up simply with a militaristic nation-state (i.e. defensive/retaliatory violence).

9. Identity vs. Ideology

This is a new but important axis that has emerged in many different regions of the political spectrum. Can ideology be the basis for identity, or does identity always determine ideology?

What we call “identity politics” (i.e. based on race, ethnicity, gender, etc.) has been a bedrock of the American progressive movement for a long time. Many still lament the fact that the Democratic party “pushes” identity politics. Others – especially the Alt-Right – believe that identity politics are simply the inevitable result of our demographics, and can never be trumped by ideology.

If we consider the influence on nationalism, for example: an identitarian would lean toward ethnic nationalism, whereas an ideologue would choose civic nationalism.

A more interesting example of ideology-first philosophy is religion. Both the Jewish and Christian religions have survived for thousands of years, largely unchanged in their core beliefs, and have large numbers of adherents who consider their religion to be their principal identity. Islam, on the other hand, has a long track record of sectarian violence, and secular civic nationalism has largely failed. It is possible that ideology can only form the basis of identity when other aspects of identity (e.g. race) are already homogeneous, but this remains an open question for debate, and where you fall on this axis has very significant implications for which political movements you might be attracted to today.

Wrapping Up

While 9 dimensions might be somewhat hard to internalize – and definitely hard to plot – the definitions of “left” and “right” in political discourse are so skewed by now that we really need a better system.

There’s a fairly plausible hypothesis that each dimension has an affinity with a particular personality facet, of which there are 10 – five main categories and two facets in each. However, this would be hard to prove without a large study, and at this point it’s best to avoid making such claims without evidence.

Instead, we’ll stick to the descriptive. Expect a follow-up post mapping the various dimensions to well-known political ideologies, which will cover the subject matter of a few heated debates over recent weeks.

P.S. This taxonomy is a work in progress. I’ve “tested” it on several different well-known ideologies and it appears to be both useful and self-consistent. If you spot any obvious inconsistencies, or if I’ve missed some crucial axis that has a profound effect on social organization, let me know in the comments.

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What Would Honesty in Politics Look Like?

Over the past few decades, American politicians have told so many lies that their entire platforms are now effectively nothing but lies. I sometimes like to imagine what it would be like if “truth-in-advertising” laws required political parties had to write their platforms honestly. I think it would look something like this:

Democrats

Hello there! We hate you. Like, really really hate you. It doesn’t matter, because you’re going to vote for us anyway, because we’ll promise you lots of free shit and nobody can resist free shit. Don’t ask us where it comes from, we’re not some evil right-wing economists, we just know that you have a right to have it.

Race and gender relations are one of our top priorities, which means we have to keep them as tense and miserable as possible so that we can continue to be elected on that platform. We vow to constantly shriek about the plight of black Americans while simultaneously doing everything we can to keep their families separated and living just above the poverty line, because poor people seriously love free shit.

We also care deeply about income inequality and lament the disappearance of the middle class that mysteriously disappeared while we were sending trillions of dollars to Wall Street. It’s a total mystery what happened to the middle class, but one solution we have is to bring in a lot of migrants from the countries that Republicans keep bombing, because we hear they’re super-smart and massively productive, and if they’re not, then we’ll just offer them some free shit to keep them happy.

We’ll never rest until there’s true equality in America. If that means everyone living in mud huts, defecating in the streets and standing in ration lines, well, that’s a price we’re willing to pay from our highly secure and air-conditioned DC offices and gated communities. That’s how committed we are to fixing inequality.

By the way, if you don’t support us, it means you’re a racist sexist homophobic transphobic islamophobic bigot.

Republicans

You can trust us, because we’re nothing like those race-baiting, gender-baiting, socialistic Democrats. We believe in equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Specifically, we believe that everyone should have an equal opportunity to become the indentured servant of one of the billionaires who contributes to our campaigns.

As Republicans, we believe that it’s real jobs, and not government programs, that drive the economy. Cheap jobs. If you’re unhappy with your wage, don’t worry, we’ll just bring in another few million third-world immigrants on lottery visas who will do the job for you and then send their paychecks back home to enrich their totalitarian governments at your expense.

We believe very strongly in the ancient adage si vis pacem, para bellum, which means: “if you want peace, make up some bullshit story about human rights abuses and then bomb the fuck out of every country that even whispers about self-determination.” Trust us on this; we have a lot of Foreign Policy experience, which you know is a very sophisticated and nuanced topic because we call it “Foreign Policy” instead of “waving our dicks around”.

Don’t put your faith in those incompetent Democrats. Technically, we don’t know how to do anything either, but that’s OK, you’ll vote for us anyway in the hope that we won’t do anything. You’ve already given up any optimism that we might try to reverse any left-wing policies or cultural shifts, which is good, because we’re terrified that people will say mean things about us if we do, so we won’t. We’ll basically do nothing and that’s what you really want.

By the way, if you don’t support us, it means you’re pro-Terrorism.

Libertarians

So, like, the biggest problem with America right now is drug prohibition. It’s totally the root of every other problem. All those people in prison? If it weren’t for the drug war, they’d totally be, like, really creative and productive and hard-working citizens.

And weed has all these great medicinal qualities. It will totally help patients and generate tax revenue. Like a dozen states are already doing it, but Johnny Law still says it’s illegal in all the others. It’s total BS, man, and the drug war is a failure and we should stop right now. That is the most important issue of our age and we vow to keep bringing it up it over and over again.

Borders and armies are just, like, state-sponsored terrorism or something. They use those tools to oppress you. If you could just free your mind, you’d realize that none of these things are necessary for peace or stability. If you just let everybody be free, they will totally self-organize and compete fairly on the market. We know that’s true because we asked the other libertarians we hang out with exclusively and they all agreed.

Don’t worry about demographics, dude. We promise you, once these people learn the gospel of libertarianism, they’ll never turn back. We just need more awareness of our platform, and for the Democrats and Republicans to stop busting our party members for drug trafficking. Not cool, man.

By the way, if you don’t support us, you’re violating the NAP.

Swarm Intelligence, Emergent Behavior

A curious quirk of contemporary discourse is the resolute refusal to reason about ourselves in the same way we reason about other animals, despite the fact that humans are – for all practical purposes – highly advanced animals.

Natural scientists have spent many years documenting the mechanics of swarms in various animal species:

  • Bird flocking appears to require an extreme level of coordination, but in practice it is simply an outcome of individual birds following a few very simple rules for motion. Schooling fish move in a similar way. This is considered an emergent behavior – an accidental collective behavior that is not conscious or deliberate on behalf of individuals.
  • Foraging ants tend to go off in completely random directions, but leave invisible chemical trails (pheromones) that are further reinforced when food is detected/transported. This can be thought of as swarm intelligence – creatures without much individual intelligence solving complex problems by each solving a tiny part of that problem, using some form of communication and social organization to ensure a reasonable division of labor.

You’ll never hear humans described in terms of emergent behavior or swarm intelligence (well, almost never), despite the fact that all of our individual brains could be described as exactly this type of system: 100 billion neurons each without any real smarts of its own, all firing according to simple rules to create the impression of “intelligence”. It is as if the idea of a swarm is somehow beneath us as a species, or perhaps an honest and in-depth study would reveal some unpleasant truths about the so-called “wisdom of crowds”.

My guess as to why this topic doesn’t come up much in human biology: the results would be hard to understand. Flocking and foraging are complex behaviors for birds and ants, but still appear simplistic to our massively-evolved human brains. However, a human swarm intelligence necessarily implies something much more intelligent than any individual human, and we can’t understand higher intelligence.

Emergent behaviors among groups of humans surely exist, and yet we struggle to see the pattern. We only seem to become aware of their existence through the proxy of easy-to-measure collective outcomes: income, crime, voting, health. As per today’s fashion, we paper over these inexplicable collective differences as being rooted entirely in geography or family history. Some of that is probably true; we adapt to our environment, and epigenetics can transfer some adaptations to descendants. Clearly the equation is more complex, given that these conditions persist after decades of deliberate screwing with the geographical and socioeconomic equation.

It’s also become fashionable to describe ideologies (including religion) as a kind of “mind virus” that infects individuals and spreads to entire groups and societies, more popularly described by the term memetics. However, given what we know of swarm intelligence and emergent behavior, we should consider the alternative: perhaps these fashionable thinkers are reversing cause and effect.

Perhaps ideas, memes, and culture are not independent entities, even in the abstract. Perhaps these constructs are simply the outcome of certain groups under certain conditions. Perhaps these transcendent properties are simply the emergent behavior of groups. Perhaps memes do not transmit culture, but are simply an expression of culture. Perhaps the Great Meme War is just real-life emergent gameplay.

I’m not going to set out to prove my hypothesis. I don’t have a massive research team or several years to conduct experiments. Should you choose to consider it, however, the hypothesis has a lot of explanatory power. It enables us to make useful distinctions between individual behavior and group behavior. There may even be some mathematical law that predicts a likelihood of certain behaviors emerging based on the number of members of a particular group, with additional second-order effects from extremely large groups.

There could be consequences for social groups and working groups, in terms of both their total size and their distribution. It might demonstrate some unintended negative consequences for dense urban development, immigration, diversity programs, and even social media organization.

Hm… probably best not to investigate, then. We can’t afford to have unpleasant facts disturbing the order imposed by our new state religion.

Equality vs. Equity: Who Cares?

I’ve been hearing this comparison from mainstream conservatives and classical liberals who are trying to come to grips with the radical egalitarianism of the neo-Marxist left. Often it involves a cringe-worthy meme, which I will not post on principle, but suffice it to say, it involves crates and third-world children.

Anyway, the argument from the center-left and center-right goes something like this:

What you’re advocating for isn’t actually equality, which is liberal; it’s equity, which is Marxist.

And the argument from the Cultural Marxists goes something like this:

What we’re advocating for isn’t actually equality, which is liberal; it’s equity, which is Progressive.

Notice the problem here? So-called moderates have accepted the framing of postmodernists, which is that of course equality is a beautiful and sacred value to hold above all others, but it’s just so hard to achieve, and really the best we can do is aggressively root out and prosecute those thought-criminals known as racists and sexists, but maybe it’s not good for society if you call everyone a racist, and please don’t call us racist, we can find some kind of compromise.

When liberals and conservatives accept this framing, neo-Marxists always win. It’s no different from the arguments I used to have 10 years ago, where I naively and smugly pronounced that equality of opportunity is not the same as equality of outcome. I thought I’d made some powerful and provocative point, but actually persuaded no one. As I quietly drifted out of politics to concentrate on my career, I came back years later to find progressives arguing over whether equality of opportunity is merely insufficient or if it is a totally incoherent idea.

And while sane liberals such as Sargon of Akkad, whom I truly consider to be a modern-day cultural hero, try to present the same arguments I presented a decade ago, I’m forced to conclude that Dylan at Vox is actually correct – or at least, his argument is more persuasive. Equality before the law is not equal opportunity. Even if we deny everything we know about genetics, different individuals still come from different families, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. They really don’t have equal opportunity, and since liberals are predisposed to ignore intergenerational effects (e.g. the economic incentive to work hard and save money so your kids can have more opportunities than you did), they are easily manipulated into supporting more authoritarian equity programs.

If you’re reading this, and you’re a trad-liberal, and are wondering how to inoculate yourself against the virulent progressive strain of equalism… sorry, I can’t help you. But to anyone who considers themselves right of center, it’s very important that you learn to reject the Marxist framing and apply your own.

The neo-Marxist narrative:

Historically-marginalized groups can never achieve the same outcomes as historically-privileged groups by simply receiving equal treatment, because they start from a major disadvantage. Therefore we must do everything we can to elevate such people until all disparities disappear.

The conservative narrative (bad argument):

It isn’t possible to eliminate all disparities, and trying to do so makes things worse because it creates perverse incentives. Unequal outcomes are the result of free choice, and individual liberties and free markets produce the highest rate of good outcomes.

The correct, historically-aware narrative:

Inequality on a massive scale is absolutely necessary for civilization to function at all. Almost all major advances by humanity are because of a tiny number – less than a thousandth of a percent – of people who ever lived. They succeed in free societies because they are talented, not privileged. It is completely unacceptable to risk destroying their life’s work in the name of “equality”. If not for equalists, we might already have cured cancer and started colonizing other galaxies.

I’m sure there are better rhetoricians out there than I am, who can come up with sharper language than I have. The takeaway here is that human ability, regardless of how you measure it, has a Pareto distribution, and that any equality/equity policies designed to collapse that distribution will necessarily collapse all human development. In a group of 10,000 people, if you lose the top 1% of performers, you lose 50% of your total output. You do not want that to happen. Not even once.

Equality is therefore anti-progress, and anti-civilization. There is absolutely no reason to get caught up in a debate over equality vs. equity, or equal opportunity vs. equal outcome, because all of the above are incoherent and destructive.

So start owning it, rightists. Equality is the fever dream of an emotional child, not a useful model for social organization or governance. You won’t persuade postmodernists because they never actually cared about equality in the first place (only power politics), but they tend to back away slowly after realizing there’s no emotional lever to manipulate, and you might be able to snap a few low-level conservatives out of their hypnotic trance.

The 6 Levels of Conservative

To the untrained eye, there appears lately to be a lot of divisions within the political right wing. As New York progressives stare slack-jawed and Clintonites build laughably simplistic models, it’s become apparent to me that the divisions are not factional, but evolutionary. Like a classic role-playing game, each ideological “tier” represents a level-up that unlocks new abilities: new ways to think and reason about today’s economic and social ills, new defenses against the ideological indoctrination of the left and new techniques for going on the rhetorical offensive.

This isn’t a hierarchy. It’s not a way of saying that every Lv5 is a better person than any Lv2. It’s not a measure of overall intelligence, or authoritarianism, or even the precise location on the political compass. If anything, level-advancement brings heightened awareness of the irrelevancy of the left-right axis, at least anywhere to the right of classical liberalism. It’s a personal evolution, with each individual having their own unique set of attributes, ideas and tactics.

In other words, if you see yourself on Lv1 or Lv2, that’s not intended as a strike against your self-worth; only a sign that your political philosophy has some room to grow. Also: You do not level up by simply knowing about the different levels. You have to feel it on an instinctual level and be able to articulate it clearly, and that means fighting some (verbal) battles against average and midwit SJWs and neoliberals, not just the dumb shitlibs you see ranting on social media and in spin class. Trash mobs don’t give good experience or loot.

Level 1: Trad-Con, Neocon, Classical Liberal

Attributes:

  • Vague sense of unease that our freedoms are slipping away.
  • Desire to preserve some or most aspects of our current culture and lifestyle.
  • Belief in the value of dialogue and compromise. “We can work this out.”
  • Faith in the integrity and self-correcting nature of our public institutions.
  • Forward-looking, short-term. “Here we are; how can we slow things down?”

Abilities:

  • 🛡 Parry (negates half of incoming DMG)
  • ✨ Provoke (temporarily focus enemy attacks on you)
  • 💊 Sacrifice (HP goes to 0, allies are partially healed)
  • 👣 Run away

Level 2: Fiscal Conservative, Constitutionalist

Attributes:

  • Comprehension of how incentives drive behavior.
  • Desire to maximize human flourishing.
  • Disgust of Marxism, dislike of socialism and big-government programs.
  • Faith in the self-correcting nature of competition and constitutional democracy.
  • Forward-looking, medium-term. “Can we correct the incentive structure?”

Abilities:

  • ⚔️ Economic Argument (low DMG)
  • ✨ Call out Hypocrisy (enemy loses turn; no effect on bosses or SJWs)
  • ✨ Appeal to Profits (banish enemies; must be on Unconverged Business terrain)
  • ⚔️ Cite Legal Precedent (moderate DMG; no effect on lawyers or ferals)
  • 👣 Ragequit (low AoE DMG; lose 90% of HP)

Level 3: Libertarian, Objectivist, Originalist

Attributes:

  • Understanding of opportunity cost, time preference, and economic calculation.
  • Desire to maximize individual liberty.
  • Distrust of all coercive monopolism, including cronyism/regulatory capture.
  • Faith in the self-correcting nature of Sovereign Individuals.
  • Backward-looking, short-term. Rejection of “living constitution”, expansionism.

Abilities:

  • ⚔️ Non-Aggression Argument (moderate DMG, weak against Communists)
  • ✨ Confuse (enemy loses multiple turns, may attack other enemies)
  • ✨ Support Legal Marijuana (temporarily focus enemy attacks on others)
  • 🛡 Sperg Out (ally+enemy attacks negated for 1 turn; useful for recovering)
  • 🏳️ Vote Libertarian (10% chance of 1 enemy dying of laughter)

Level 4: Anarcho-Capitalist, Civic/Economic Nationalist, Alt-Lite

Attributes:

  • Recognition that the State is not and will never be a benevolent force.
  • Desire to minimize conflict through private property and/or shared values.
  • Invalidation of all State property, or 100% allocation to defense, law and order.
  • Awareness that nothing is self-correcting and physical removal may be required.
  • Backward-looking, medium-term. Rejection of egalitarianism, mass migration.

Abilities:

  • ⚔️ Rhetorical Argument (moderate-high DMG, lowers enemy DEF)
  • ✨ Intimidate (20% chance enemy leaves the battle, no effect on bosses)
  • 💊 Rally (allies recover HP, gain temporary ATK boost)
  • 💣 Dank Meme (random AoE DMG, 0.2x to 4x modifier)

Level 5: Neoreactionary, Paleocon

Attributes:

  • Recognition that politics is downstream from culture; democracy as a means of conflict-resolution is a beautiful lie.
  • Desire to completely eliminate left-wing institutions, values, and entryism.
  • Repudiation of compromise between right and left (the center cannot hold).
  • Realization that western traditions protected us, and we have still not matured.
  • Backward-looking, long-term. Rejection of federalism, imperialism, etc.

Abilities:

  • 💣 History Bomb (high AoE DMG, enemies may flee)
  • 💣 Troll (all enemies, moderate DMG, may become Triggered or Confused)
  • ✨ Reframe Narrative (raise ATK for all allies, lower ATK for all enemies)

Level 6: Ethnonationalist, Alt-Capitalist, Alt-Right

Attributes:

  • Knowledge of how heritable traits influence intelligence, behavior, and culture.
  • Desire to preserve western civilization above all other concerns.
  • Willingness to use any tactic or tool of the left (including the State) against it.
  • Acceptance that western tradition can only survive with western demographics.
  • Cyclical viewpoint (“either voluntary or violent change is historically inevitable”)

Abilities:

  • ⚔️ Genetic Argument (high DMG, high chance of stun, may hurt self/allies)
  • 🛡 High Ground Defense (temporary immunity from most attacks)
  • 🐸 Induce Paranoia (enemies see Hitlers everywhere, attack random targets)

In Closing…

Note how I don’t make explicit mention of any level’s ideal vision of society. This is about degrees of awareness, and persuasion techniques that one is able and willing to use. You can be a race realist, and still wish for a NAP-based solution. You can be anti-egalitarian and still hope that, some day, as Iain M. Banks imagined, people might legitimately be able to change their fundamental nature with technology. You can hyper-optimistically predict, as I do, that if we can make our species more intelligent, we’ll be able to come up with even better solutions that none of us can conceive of today.

That said, if you like western society exactly the way it is today and don’t want to see anything rolled back, then you’re either a neoliberal/progressive or not very good at this game. You might want to try an easier game, like pattycake or moving to Canada.

How to Manage Any Problem–in 5 Easy Steps!

So, you’ve just been appointed manager of a high-performing tech team. Congratulations! You are on the fast track to career success.

One of the most important skills you’ll learn as a manager is what to do when your team discovers a major issue that threatens to miss deadlines, lose customers, or Leave Money on the Table. You may be tempted into thinking, “wow, we are in a real pickle now, but I don’t understand the system or have any special skills, so I’d better hope my team can come up with a solution!” Of course, you and I both know better than that. It is completely WRONG for reasons that probably exist!

Fortunately, this is actually a very easy situation to deal with, using a scientifically proven 5-step process that is 100% guaranteed. It is actually an iterative process based loosely on the “OODA loop” popular in military strategy, which stands for: Obscure, Oversimplify, Distract, Aggravate. Here is the patented process adapted for business managers.

Step 1: Ignore the Problem

Let’s be honest, you spend 7.2 hours a day in meetings, and must use those precious breaks in between meetings to refill your coffee mug and not listen to Status Updates that you request. You don’t have time to actually read your email. All but the most incompetent managers can perform this step naturally and without effort.

But wait. You aren’t just any manager. You are a high-powered, high-efficiency, Hands-On Manager. You want to Demonstrate Value. It is not enough to simply passively ignore your email. You might see a stray subject line and become curious enough to click on it. So it is very important that you actively, militantly ignore any and all emails relating to the problem, to avoid accidentally becoming informed of any of the technical details.

While you are doing this, your team has likely already found the root cause, identified possible solutions, and estimated how long they will take to implement. Do not allow this to divert you from your primary goal of remaining completely and totally oblivious to the problem.

Step 2: Wait for an External Complaint

Sometimes you will be lucky enough to have a real, actual Customer Complaint from a real customer who, despite your crack Customer Care team’s best efforts, somehow navigated successfully through the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Voice Navigation telephone game and was able to speak to your one on-duty Human Representative. But this is not very likely. A much more reliable source of complaints is Higher-Ups, such as your Boss and your Boss’s Boss and so on, all the way up to the CEO.

If all of these people hate your product, which is often the case, you can entice them into trying it out again with the prospect of an Exciting New Feature. Yes, you’ll say, I know you hated it before, but we added a new feature! You must try it! Keep at it and eventually they will complain to you about the broken thing that your team has now been working on for 7 weeks.

Now you are in a New Situation. The problem is the same, the solutions are the same, the estimates are the same, but now you have the special sauce called Visibility, which you can transmute into Urgency using the power of Concern. As in: “I am Concerned that the CEO has started to notice that you are being productive without me, and therefore it is Urgent that I provide evidence of me doing Actual Work.”

Step 3: Call a Meeting

Both your Higher-Ups and your Minions understand intuitively that Meetings Solve Every Problem. Need to track progress? Have a Status Meeting. Need to communicate with the person who sits 2 feet away? Hold a Sync Meeting. Need to remind everyone that you are an Effective Can-Do Manager? Have a Review Meeting. Meetings are the ketchup of office work. There is nothing that they don’t make better, not even double chocolate donuts.

After several weeks of working on this exact problem, some of your subordinates may have gotten the crazy idea into their heads that they might be able to solve the problem on their own. Ha HA! Those jokers. What you need is a Discussion, so send out that invitation. For optimal results, send it out on the same day as the meeting itself, preferably no more than 2 hours in advance, and mark it as “important”.

DO NOT, under any circumstances, include an agenda or any summary of what you plan to discuss! This might allow some participants to prepare in advance, which might result in the mythical “Short Meeting” or “Early Ending”, which would leave you confused and unable to function between the end of the Discussion Meeting and your next meeting. Keep the subject line short and simple: “Discuss <PROBLEM>”

Step 4: Demand Easy Answers

Start the meeting by reviewing the short and incomprehensible report provided by the Customer, Higher-Ups, or other External Complaint. Ask your most senior members for an Explanation of the issue. At this point, some managers like to reject the Explanation and provide their own Alternate Explanation based on Clogged Pipes, Cosmic Rays, or Demonic Possession. You can adjust this to your preferences. Your version will be proven wrong, but the objective here is not to demonstrate knowledge, only to extend the duration of the meeting.

Once your team reaffirms the root cause and explains the solutions they are looking into, begin to make subtle suggestions that their solutions are ineffective, too complicated, or too time-consuming. For example: “I am worried that by the time this solution is implemented, everyone will have forgotten my contribution in the form of Taking Sixty Minutes out of your Day by having this meeting.”

Be creative with your criticism. Make sure to say prioritize and urgency a lot. Also try using synonyms like Triage and Stack Rank. If the meeting is progressing too quickly, ask the team to “deprioritize” some tasks that all of the other tasks obviously depend on, then watch as hilarity ensues. But most importantly, you’ll want to express deep concern that the solution could Take Too Long. Continue hammering the point, until the meeting is over, that there must surely be a Faster Way or an Easier Way and that if only Someone Other Than You could be a little more creative or clever, it could be done in 1/10th of the estimated time.

Step 5: Hover Over Team Members

You may have time to do this in-between meetings. However, in this one and only instance, you may have to cancel an existing meeting in order to perform this task.

Your mission is to Help the various people on your team until they give you a clear sign that they Understand and Appreciate Your Help, such as by saying “thank you” or killing themselves by jumping out a window or, for first-floor offices, drowning themselves in a restroom stall.

There are many techniques for doing this and it all comes down to your personal style. However, my personal favorite is the Helicopter Technique, wherein you pop up out of nowhere, run around from person to person looking very Concerned and Sympathetic, and eventually decide to sit next to the one who appears to be concentrating the hardest. I like to follow the Helicopter Technique with the Furious Tapping Technique, wherein I move the mouse and click things at an estimated rate of 28 times for second, periodically remarking on things I see on the screen, such as: “Hmm, is that thing over there supposed to do that?” or: “Does it bother you that I was picking my nose before I took hold of your pointing device?”

Eventually, after a few days of hovering, your team will start to become unproductive and stressed. Your work is now done, and you can resume your normal regimen of meetings or better yet, take a vacation.

Congratulations!

You have successfully Demonstrated Value in a time of Crisis while under Extreme Pressure. Top executives will have noted your Proactive Approach and Leading By Example. Keep it up, and you might soon be Director or even Vice President!

I hope this guide helps jumpstart your career in management. Good luck, and remember: Your team needs you!

We Can’t Understand Higher Intelligence

I’m always amused when I see someone pronounce on social media that they’ve “solved” the problem of artificial superintelligence, or insist that they have a 100% ACCURATE! prediction of where it will lead, often used as flimsy pretext to justify some awful idea like Universal Basic Income. This, despite the fact that some of the brightest minds alive today have been working on the Friendly AI problem for over a decade and still aren’t even confident in their predictions, let alone their solutions.

Too much has already been written on why we should or shouldn’t be worried about ASI. If you’re unfamiliar with the debate, there’s a good summary and great infographic at Future of Life. I won’t rehash that here. Instead, I want to explain why there are so many terrible ideas and predictions floating around the “I F***ING LOVE SCIENCE!” crowd (i.e. not scientists and certainly not AI researchers). And indeed, how this very same problem applies to human intelligence and infects every aspect of social and political thinking.

A good starting point is the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The least-able are most likely to overestimate their ability. Even those who know they are below average tend to be way off in their estimation of how far below average they are, and cannot even conceive of the different levels of mastery. Ironically, knowing about Dunning-Kruger does not make one immune to it, leading to some embarrassingly cringey articles from self-important journalists. (I’m sure that conservative writers have done this too, I just… can’t seem to find any.)

Dunning-Kruger explains why, as a middling chess player, I can predict who will win in a game between amateurs, but have no clue what’s going to happen next in a grandmaster game. It also explains why many new business owners have very high turnover; they’re still learning the trade and can’t tell good from bad, and have to use a trial-and-error approach to hiring. Rating systems address this; in chess, it’s completely objective, and on Yelp it’s very subjective but still a decent predictor of outcome. With intelligence, the objective rating is IQ.

Despite appearances, I’m not an IQ-ist. I have never asked anyone for their IQ, nor told anyone mine without having explicitly been asked. You don’t need to be smart to be successful, or even to master a particular trade. IQ is not a reliable individual predictor of life outcomes. At an aggregate level, however, it informs us of certain social outcomes. A phenomenon called assortative mating explains why successful relationships tend to involve partners of similar IQ, which itself explains why marriage is for the rich. It also explains why high-IQ nations have more economic output than low-IQ nations. A lot of people know this, but what they do not realize is that the relationship between average IQ and collective outcome is not linear, it’s exponential.

The exponential relationship is important. We measure IQ on a bell curve, but the measurement itself is more like a decibel of sound than, say, a degree on a thermometer. Various high-IQ societies have each done their own analyses, concluding that an approximate 5-point increase is equivalent to double the actual intellectual performance (i.e. problem-solving speed). So, on average, a 150-IQ individual can solve problems about 60 times faster than a 120-IQ individual, and more than 1000 times faster than a typical 100-IQ individual.

Those numbers are insane to think about. Try to imagine driving your car, on the same roads you’ve always driven on, but at 3000 mph. Or 50,000 mph. It’s all just a blur at that point, and the 3000 mph blur doesn’t feel much different from the 50,000 mph blur; either way you’d probably crash instantly. An X-15 pilot could relate to 3000 mph in the wide-open skies, but navigating ground traffic over short distances at that speed would still be inconceivable.

But now imagine that you can drive at a normal speed of 50 mph, and everyone else around you is limited to 1 mph. A few thoughts might cross your mind:

  • Your commute time would be way shorter than everyone else’s.
  • Being stuck behind a 1 mph vehicle would drive you crazy.
  • Anyone else going much faster than 1 mph would stand out. A lot.
  • You still wouldn’t be able to see a car going by at 3000 mph.

It’s not too difficult to imagine other people being slower than you – either physically or intellectually. You won’t really understand or empathize with their experience, but you can interact with them, and you can predict their behavior. However, none of us – not even the smartest of us – are capable of even imagining higher intelligence than our own, because if we could, then we’d be more intelligent ourselves. We can imagine the outcomes of being super-smart, like having a dozen Ph.Ds and starting 50 wildly successful companies, but not the actual process of getting from here to there.

The exponential relationship between ability and outcome is described by a Pareto distribution or power law:

ability-achievement2

Ability can be intelligence, or anything you can observe or measure. These distributions pop up everywhere, by the way, as the fabled “80/20 rule”, although in reality it’s often more like 90/10, or even 99/1. It all depends on how far right the x-axis goes. In the above example, more than 4-5 standard deviations above average ability is literally off the chart for achievement. Not every field of human endeavor will have this exact scale, but almost all have this general shape.

If you equate “achievement” to “wealth”, and you imagine (incorrectly) that the amount of wealth in the world is fixed, then this graph looks terrifying. However, if achievement represents the production of wealth (or other resources), all of history starts to make sense. The poorest family in America today lives better than the richest kings and aristocrats of Europe in the middle ages, and it’s all because of the achievements of a very small number of inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, military generals, and so on.

As historical figures, we hold prodigies like Rembrandt and Edison in high respect, even reverence. They advanced civilization by leaps and bounds. Yet today, the trend seems to be fear and jealousy, as though these “1 percenters” are vampires feeding off us plebs. The reality is, if I, not Steve Jobs, had been the CEO of Apple, you wouldn’t have your iPhone, and Apple probably wouldn’t exist anymore. If you, not Lincoln, had been president during the Civil War, America wouldn’t be a single country. These outcomes required unique individuals.

Maybe the resentment was always there, and just omitted in the history books. Either way, the more heterogeneous a group, the more resentment you seem to get. Every identifiable subgroup seems to be equally hypocritical, believing that the lower-achieving subgroups simply don’t have the same ambition or ability (which is mostly true), but at the same time deluding themselves into believing that higher-achieving groups got there by cheating. This is essentially the basis for all collectivism and identitarian beliefs, which are best described as weaponized intellectual laziness rather than coherent ideologies.

An artificial superintelligence would be way past the edge of today’s Pareto distribution. The ASIs would become responsible for nearly all “human” achievement, unless we could keep up via genetic enhancement and technological augmentation. If we lag behind, then we would all become insignificant underachievers compared to the intellectual and creative marvels produced by the supers.

What I wonder is: are we ready? Assuming, hypothetically, that ASI is Friendly, are we emotionally and intellectually mature enough to deal with a social class over and above the current billionaires? Machines that we can’t even begin to understand, but are nevertheless responsible for managing vast amounts of resources and producing almost all of the new goods and employment opportunities? I’m not really worried about superintelligence destroying jobs or culture, because that’s not what actually happens when you add super-producers to a society. What I wonder about is whether we would be able to accept the new reality, or whether humans would collectively become so bitter that they’d immediately try to destroy it.

Futurists believe that ASI will save us and deliver a post-scarcity economy. I’m not sure if we could handle it. My hunch is, the only way we’ll be able to truly advance beyond General AI is by improving ourselves, not our machines.