Inception politics

I have noticed a similar pattern in the emotional content of  progressive entitlement politics and consumerist complaints. In both cases, there is a sense that an institution has failed to fulfill the [citizen|consumer’s] heartfelt wishes. And in both cases, the person fails to notice that however honestly his wishes are felt, they were originally suggested by the institution. This is reminiscent of the movie Inception.

Inception, of course,  refers not to the dream within a dream, but the deliberate subconscious suggestion of an idea to someone, who then takes the idea as his own – blackhat cryptomnesia. Here are some examples of; more certainly exist:

  • Some believe that advertisements ought to include more more minorities. But why?How did we end up in a situation where ad representation ought to matter to minorities?
  • An article asks, should feminists wear makeup? But why should feminists need an article to decide whether to feel good about makeup?
  • Have microtransactions ruined gaming? But if microtransactions are the result of a free market, are you willing to make a principled anti-market argument that amounts to more than whining? And once you are anti-market, why do you deserve good games?
  • Our moral intuitions fail at super-Dunbar scales. Therefore, according to effective altruists, moral intuitions should be ignored as needed, replaced by utilitarian formalization. But without your intuitions, what would utilitarianism be formalizing?
  • A little bit of behavioral economics can show that our stated preferences do not match our revealed preferences. Institutions take advantage of this by appearing to fulfill the former while actually fulfilling the latter. When a consumer looks behind the curtain, the illusion breaks: “Oh no, Google collects my personal data! I feel violated, but now that I really know what I want, I choose to use DuckDuckGo instead.” … But without Google’s intrusiveness, would a good enough search engine exist to prime you to the demand  for good search engines?
  • “Throwaway culture sucks”, says the luddite who buys technology that is 5 years out of date – but always 5 years out of date, and modernizing at the same pace as the same pace as the technology he hates.

So on, and so forth.

From a business standpoint, entitlement is about managing expectations. Consumers need to demand better goods, but only good enough at a level that the business can supply. If the golden goose allows itself to be spotted, it gets eaten.

From a progressive standpoint, political inception is simply the mechanism of progress. Revealed preferences are false consciousness: stated preferences are real preferences. Suggestions of sexual and racial liberation are valid – nay, they are not strong enough! For a progressive who is sufficiently communist, it ought to concern him how closely this entitlement towards authentic desires resembles consumerism. But this level of awareness tends not to be reached.

Why does “inception politics” occur? On a grand scale, it is simply memetics. Institutions persist because they create a demand that they later fulfill. On a proximate scale, I believe it originates in a misunderstanding of technology (more generally, the relation between means and ends). This deserves its own post, but in short, people are instrumentalists when they ought to be substantivists:



(As I have previously stated, Moldbug’s Strong Antisingularity Hypothesis deserves serious attention.)

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On Gnon and Evolution

Nyan Sandwich wrote a post on Gnon, and Hurlock wrote a response. Looking forward to Nyan Sandwich’s response. In the meantime, my response to Hurlock’s response.

First, I want to contest the equation of evolution with advancement of any sort, or the idea that modernity is hindering evolution. Evolution has three components: reproduction, mutation, and selection. Any process with these components can be rightfully called evolution. Now, it is true that this combination has, over the past 3.5 billion years, created systems with increased complexity, from self-replicating organic macromolecules to humans. And that the domain of evolution, as a process grounded in physics, has increased. But this increase is an incidental characteristic of evolution, not intrinsic to it. Abiogenesis means that life now exists when it once did not, so as long as life exists, we are in a net positive. But this “advancement”, this increase in complexity, is subject to a global speed limit — the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Beneath any hope of “sustainability” or self-preservation of life is the dirty little secret of heat death. Negentropic stability that of a well-fed flame, not that of Platonic existence.

NRx/DE, in its empirical mode, notices a eugenic trend of humanity within the last century or so, hidden (encouraged?) by technical progress. Is this a failure of evolution, a lack of evolution? I don’t think so. Recall my definition of evolution: reproduction, mutation, and selection. If evolution selects for lack of intelligence, that is not evolution being “wrong”. Not even in the context of evolution having selected, in general, for intelligence, for 3.499999 billion years before then. It is simply a misalignment between the desired outcome and that which evolution selects. Evolution is in one sense tautological – if gene x persists and gene y does not, x is being selected for by evolution, period. Nyan notes a major (pre-)historical example of “bad” evolution, agriculture:

Agricultural Civilization won not because it was “better” in our sense, but because 100 malnourished toothless peasants with sticks beats one of even the healthiest and best trained tribal warriors.

(Perhaps there is a parallel to be drawn between the effects of agriculture and modern technology? Do any of you read Land’s pre-Neoreactionary material, or is that too contenental for NRx? I get the feeling I’m gonna have to pursue this line of thought myself, wade into the strange waters of media studies, Baudrillard, and Marxists.)

Hurlock is correct in saying “When you neglect the laws of evolution and indeed the laws of Gnon, it will lead to your own demise.” However, a forgetting of evolution should not be conflated with a lack or reversal of evolution.

Where does this leave humans? Perhaps Nyan overextends in proposing a “bottling” of techno-commercialism. I am not familiar with Austrian Economics (next on my reading list), and Nyan has a follow-up in plan, but I think Hurlock is right to caution against non-catallactic mechanisms. We all agree that humanity must align itself with Gnon, but not on how, or what it means to do so. My understanding: while Gnon is universal and absolute, the local maxima is pushes a particular thing towards is contingent on what it is pushing. Evolution is a relationship between a particular thing and the global Law. That different things are affected differently, does not invalidate the law. Land’s teleoplexy is not a rejection of natural law, but a recognition that dynamical attractors can be themselves attracted: a second order teleology. Whatever leads to an alignment of human values with gnon, top-down or spontaneous, should be pursued. The hard work, as Nyan notes, is enumerating these things. To the extent we can shift the attractors, do so. To the extent we can modify our values, do so as well.

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Dunbar’s Fraction: staying upstream of social technology

Edit 2: Some cleanup in progress since Nick B Steves linked here. Much appreciated! And my screenname is just “laofmoonster”, please

Dunbar’s number, somewhere between 100 and 300, demarcates the upper bound of meaningful social relationships one can have. It is an artifact of our tribal monkey past. Modern social life is far more decentralized, requiring cognitive workarounds. One’s “tribe” is shifting and non-transitive. To extend our social sphere beyond Dunbar’s number requires social technology, which abstracts relationships as to not require our full attention. I define social technology very broadly, to include anything from religion, to law, to Facebook, to Nydwracu’s exosemantic gang signs.

Like any abstraction layer, social technology has tradeoffs. The broader the abstraction, the more contorts our cognitive toolkit that was originally used for face-to-face communication. Unlike socially agnostic technology (such as general purpose computer hardware) that it builds on, social technology (social software?) is specifically optimized in relation human behavior. (“Optimized”, not in a moral sense, but in a functional sense. The Spenglerian Machine may ultimately consume us, but that is a topic to be expanded at another time…)

Social technology is necessary, but not to be taken for granted. To use another computing analogy, it’s great that a jQuery code monkey doesn’t need to dereference pointers or to call malloc(). But once in a while, he should still look underneath the hood. Muck around with C once in a while, try to make and catch a memory leak with Valgrind.

Right now, the progressives control social technology. Upworthy is a great example of an unholy alliance of memetics and progressivism. Obama used Big Data. Taken in sum, we know progressive social technology as the Cathedral. But in Europe, the democratically elected far Right is building its own psychomachine. If they gain power, to what extent do we join them? While my sympathies lie with them, I believe that that if neoreaction is to be an analytic rather than action-based movement (and the recent internal conflict seems to be pushing it in that direction), it must be upstream of social technology.

There are lapsed progressives who can take reaction piecemeal while still maintaining leftism, like Scott Alexander or Jayman. Somehow, Moldbug had the opposite effect on me: I accept the big picture of Neoreaction, despite still holding my own unorthodoxies/unorthopraxies (find my Tumblrs, or better yet, don’t. it’s too late to change my screename). Moldbug’s Red Pill lobotomizes progressivism at the source. Instead of starting with an object-level attack of progressivism a-la of anti-racism, feminism, communism, etc., he goes upstream, straight to the root of Americanism itself.

When you work downstream of social technology, the battle is half lost. When creating the game is part of the game, merely playing the game is a severe handicap. Escaping this requires you to recognize the rules of the game first. Conservatives are very bad at this, which is why they keep losing. Entryism  (by the game controller) is a feature of popularity contests, not a bug.

How do we get upstream? One technique I hinted at regards Dunbar’s number:

In a small blogosphere, readers can ascribe specific beliefs with specific bloggers. In terms of written communication, this is about as close to direct interaction as is possible. You can interact with them in good faith, and keep track of both the idea and the person. This belief-believer correspondence breaks down with larger numbers. The good news is, you can unilaterally (un)subscribe to someone’s blog/twitter to maintain your optimal follow count.

Social technology is intrinsically adversarial to an individual, in some form or another. For example, representative democracy performs lossy compression on the electorate’s beliefs to select a delegate. Some loss is random, but much of it is not, and that’s where the tragedy of the commons comes into play.

Because modern people have no single tribe, but many tribes, Dunbar’s number must be appropriately cut. Let’s say that 10% of your life is spent in NRx, and Dunbar’s number is 200. Your Dunbar Fraction for NRx is 20. This doesn’t mean you can’t interact with more than 20 NRxys, just that your most productive interactions will be limited to 20 people. It also does not mean that NRx can only be 20 people. Relations are not transitive, and different people can unilaterally decide their own preferences. It does mean that anything created downstream of “core” NRx, the handful of essential thinkers, will need to be supported by its own social technology, shielded from Cathedralite social technology. (hopefully something more substantial than Twitter or Reddit). Group projects like Theden, Social Matter, The Hestia Society, and yes, the Idaho project, are a great start.


Edit: Prior art from Bryce and Nyan Sandwich.

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Brahmin quotes from "The Metaphysical Club"

I just finished reading The Metaphysical Club, which traces the intellectual history of the middle third of American history. It begins with Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., who coined the term “Boston Brahmin” in 1860 to describe the New England intellectual elite. A doctor, writer, and Harvard graduate, Holmes belonged to that class:

[Holmes] was unabashedly provincial. His chief ambition was to represent the Boston view in all things.[…] On the other hand, he regarded the Boston point of view as pretty much the only point of view worth representing. He considered Boston “the thinking centre of the continent, and therefore of the planet.” […] He was an enemy of Calvinism (which had been his father’s region) and a rationalist, but his faith in good breeding was nearly atavistic, and he saw no reason to challenge the premises of a social dispensation that had, over the course of two centuries, contrived to produce a man as genial and accomplished as himself. (p. 7)

The book is fascinating in its own right, the first third especially so for those interested in the crypto-Protestant explanation of progressivism. Some more choice quotes:

Unitarianism, to which Harvard College essentially converted following the appointment of Henry Ware as Hollis Professor of Divinity in 1805, was a creed founded on a belief in the innate moral goodness of the individual (in reaction to Calvinism, which was a creed founded on a belief in the innate moral depravity of the individual). It was in many ways a religion that led its followers naturally to oppose slavery.[…] But many Harvard professors were Unitarians of a different stripe. They were social conservatives. They believed in law and order and the sanctity of property. (p.8)

On Henry James Sr., theologian best known as the father of William James:

[Henry James] considered Catholicism a superstition, and the Catholic church “a mere scabies upon the life of the nations.” He equated true spirituality with Protestants, which he regarded as fundamentally a movement for the democratizing of religion. He regarded democracy, by the same token, as the political equivalent of Protestantism. (p. 87)

AIAcC? More like HIAcC (Harvard is a christian college):

One of the things that had held back scientific education in American colleges […] was the dominance of theology in the curriculum, which obliged scholars in every field to align their work with Christian orthodoxy. Theology was the academic trump card. Agassiz insisted on the independence of scientific inquiry from religious beliefs–and for that matter, from political and economic beliefs as well. He did not attend church himself, but he was an outspoken deist, and that was evidence enough of religious commitment for a Unitarian institution like Harvard. It allowed Agassiz to secularize scientific research without completely alienating the ministers. (p. 100)

On race:

It was a distinctly Bostonian view of race–revulsion at the racism of others (p. 134)

On English individualism and English exceptionalism:

Buckle called Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations “probably the most important book that has ever been written,” and announced the burden of all his researches to be that “the great enemy of civilization, is the protective spirit; by which I mean the notion that society cannot prosper, unless the affairs of life are watched over and protected at nearly every turn by the state and the church.” (The failure of the French and Germans to grasp this truth, he explained, was a reason for the superiority of British civilization) (p. 194, emphasis mine)

Some more quotes on Brahmins from the web. The first, on intra-white competition. (I plan to really play up the fratricide trope on this blog)

In Boston, the Brahmins fought fiercely to close immigrants out. While they may have prided themselves on being the champions of abolitionism, they did not actually want black Americans, or any other non-Brahmin group, encroaching on their power or society.

On moral responsibility:

“There is, however, in New England, an aristocracy, if you choose to call it so, which has a greater character of permanence. It has grown to be a caste—not in any odious sense—but, by the repetition of the same influences, generation after generation, it has acquired a distinct organization and physiognomy….” This series of articles collectively became the novel Elsie Venner, published in 1861. 

The object of Elsie Venner was, “an attempt to illustrate the doctrine of inherited moral responsibility for other people’s misbehavior. (emphasis mine)” In broad terms, this was an intentional contradiction of certain theological (Calvinist) beliefs such as pre-destination. An unintended consequence of describing a New England Caste of strict progeny, educational, religious, and business practices, was to later make the Brahmin families appear quite elitist.

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After criticizing the existence of /r/DarkEnlightenment, I convinced myself to start a blog. I still haven’t settled on what topics to focus on. Consider this post a first order approximation. I would be pressed to call myself a neoreactionary in terms of values, although my interest certainly overlap with it. Knowledge tends to converge; values less so. If you accept HBD, especially so because I’m not White.

Neoreaction, being a particularly Anglophone phenomenon, is subject to the exceptional characteristics of that group. I would go as far as to call Moldbug’s original project an English ideological civil war, attempting to rehabilitate one strand of Anglo-Saxon identity against another, while taking Anglo-Saxon-ness for granted. Its grievances against progressivism is a family affair. This is why he (rightly) singles out the White post-Protestant Brahmins, rather than the non-White Helots or Dalits. Rivalry is generated through the narcissism of small differences. It is also why his critique of America’s role in WWII do not come with an exoneration of Nazi Germany.

Progressivism is a form of Americanism, and Americanism originates from WASPs*, who take the trend of Western European Whiteness (as described by HBDChick) to its furthest extent. Confronting this reality creates an uncomfortable mental tension, which in other reactionary spheres is often dissipated by Blaming the Jew. (The extent of Jewish participation in the Cathedral has been well covered, so I will not rehash it.) White Nationalism denies its own heritage. As Nick Land notes:

(2) White Nationalism finds itself stymied at every turn by universalism,
pathological altruism, ethno-masochism — all that yucky white stuff. If only you could do White Nationalism without white people, it would sweep the planet. (Try not to understand this, I know you don’t want to.)


(3) All White people need is an identitarian religion. Is that not approximately the same as saying: a counter-factual history?

To formulate this irony on a more general level, linear history means that the present state of being is formed through a vector in time. The vector is more foundational than a point on the vector. Any identity formation that attempts to reverse or stop the vector that brought the subject into being is prima facie special pleading. The burden of proof is on the white tribalist, the primitivist, etc. to show that they are not merely providing an unprincipled exception against the arrow of time. I am basically offering a “reverse slippery slope” argument here.

The response of primitivists like accountt1234 is to reject the vector altogether, no exception needed (his participation in social media is acknowledged as a personal flaw) (EDIT: don’t wanna put words in his mouth). Neoreaction’s response has generally been to distinguish between technological progress and social “progress”. I am not so confident this can be done. Moldbug provides a weak antisingularity hypothesis 
and a strong antisingularity hypothesis, the latter of which deserves more attention:

Let’s call this the “weak Antisingularity hypothesis” – the idea that technical progress and social progress are uncorrelated, and may even run in opposite directions.
The weak Antisingularity hypothesis doesn’t mean the Singularity won’t happen. What it means is that technical progress has overcome the declining trends in Western society. Perhaps in the absence of the Industrial Revolution, the experience of late Antiquity would have been revisited, and Uzbek horsemen would be cantering across the ruins of Paris. But we do have the steam engines, the SUVs and HDTVs, and we will have the Singularity. Exponential technical acceleration has broken the savage cycle of history.

Unfortunately, there’s also a “strong Antisingularity hypothesis.” The strong Antisingularity hypothesis suggests that the coincidence of technical progress and social decay is not, in fact, a coincidence. It’s actually a case of cause and effect.

It’s very easy for technical progress to cause social decay. Evolution designed humans to compete in a variety of brutally selective environments. When robots – or Helots – do all the work, why bother? We can just sit on the couch, play XBox 360, smoke green bud and masturbate frantically. Idiocracy beckons.

If technical progress actually causes social and political decay, Mike Judge is an optimist. What happens when the Singularity really approaches, but it’s not quite here yet? When the curve of technology is almost vertical, but not yet infinite? “Damn, yo.”

What the strong Antisingularity hypothesis suggests is that we haven’t escaped the cyclical pattern at all. We are just in an unprecedentedly steep upcycle. The Uzbeks may yet water their horses in the Seine – if there are any Uzbeks left. Or horses, for that matter.

My current solution, not entirely thought out, is some sort of inhumanism which acknowledges that the scale of singularity outstrips humanity, and does not attempt to smuggle in our present human values to the possibilities of the future. Fleshing this idea out will probably involve reading Land’s pre-Neoreactionary work, and related work. Starting right now with Reza Negarestani’s The Labor of the Inhuman:

Inhumanism is the extended practical elaboration of humanism; it is born out of a diligent commitment to the project of enlightened humanism. As a universal wave that erases the self-portrait of man drawn in sand, inhumanism is a vector of revision. It relentlessly revises what it means to be human by removing its supposed evident characteristics and preserving certain invariances. At the same time, inhumanism registers itself as a demand for construction, to define what it means to be human by treating human as a constructible hypothesis, a space of navigation and intervention.

* I realize I am leaving out Catholics in this formulation of the conflict. While there are many Catholics in and around Neoreaction, their participation seems to me more like convergent evolution than shared origin.

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