Sunday, July 23, 2023

Those who would be kings - Part 1. 'Neo-Monarchists’ and others who demand we drop what works, in favor or what always failed

This is not a polite essay - a two-parter offering new (and some older) insights into a world oligarchic putsch that endangers us all... and no-less the self-deceiving oligarchs, themselves. But we'll start with some of the lunatic shills they have subsidized or hired to push obsolete, dangerous notions.

Wiser heads advise that I just ignore a particular cabal of erudite fools, spewing ingrate insanity like frothy scum across a polluted beach. Alas, the ‘neo-monarchists’ are back! Now attracting real support from would-be kings. And since few others appear to be confronting them head-on, it's up to me, alack.

 Most recently I raged at them back in November of 2013 and again in February of 2022

== Know-Nothings get away with spewing nonsense ==

It should surprise no one that modern conservatism has migrated away from the ‘c-word’ that used to be one of their icons… competition… giving lip service to Adam Smith... 

... resuming instead the movement's older fealty to inherited privilege – drifting from Smith back to Edmund Burke, extolling 6000 years of rule by kings. 

Even the name of Friedrich Hayek is seldom spoken aloud anymore, by today’s 'conservative’ writers and pundits, since Hayek called for competition that is flat, fair, open, transparent, creative and maximally inviting to the widest range of potential participants. And we can't have any of that now, can we? 

Alas, no liberal pundit or politician ever points out this hypocrisy, or that the U.S. Founders and the original Tea Party rebelled primarily against cheater oligarchy. Moreover, anyone who actually reads Adam Smith knows that - were he alive today – Smith would be a flaming Democrat.

That hypocrisy spans the entirety of today’s conservatism, with one exception, that I’m about to describe. Members of this extremum are no longer hypocrites! 

That's because neo-monarchists openly despise Adam Smith. They espouse completing the antipodal migration of conservatism, from once-upon-a-time extolling competition, all the way to openly justifying its utter suppression. 

From Smith, past Burke all the way to Louis XIV.

(Note that there are many (perhaps 1%) on the left who rage against 'The Enlightenment' and every concept that led to their own knowledge, comforts and freedoms. But I do not deem them anywhere near as smart or as dangerous as the traitors on the other side. And hence... another time.)

== It’s baaaack!   Sycophancy for feudalism ==

I recall when ‘neo-monarchist’ jibberers like “Mencius Moldbug” – the nom-de-spume of a Mr. Curtis Yarvin – only flitted along the extreme right ankle of science fiction fandom, as mutated Ayn-Randian nuisances, bugging me and other sci fi authors on Internet fora. 

Now, subsidized by the likes of Peter Thiel, they are subjects of big-time profiles, like this one on Tablet, that feigns faux ‘balance’ while implying that Moldbug offers some bona fide, red-pill style Truths. But don’t be fooled by any semblance of an evenhanded tone. This article, by Tablet essayist Jacob Siegel, pushes the incredible, oligarchy-subsidized notion of taking Moldbug and his ilk seriously. 

“Whether you like it or not, Yarvin is the philosopher of, at the very least, our near future.”

Oh, what malarkey! In their denunciations of democracy, Moldbug/Yarvin and ilk rave assertions about human nature and history that are blatantly and diametrically opposite to fact. For example that:

 “…all organizations, big or small, public or private, military or civilian, are managed best when managed by a single executive….” 

…a stunningly counterfactual claim over which I have long offered wager stakes. An assertion-incantation that only breathes air because so many of our contemporary fellow citizens (e.g. Mr. Siegel) know next-to nothing about human history. (Tell it to the single-executive idiots who trashed Sears, Xerox and Kodak by enforcing their whims.) 

Indeed, when confronted by how spectacularly more-successful America and the West have been, by any range of metrics, across the last 200 years - especially the last 80 - than all other human times and societies combined – success that transpired and accelerated in direct proportion to how much more democratic, inclusive and transparently accountable we became – Yarvin and cohorts are reduced to chanting: 

“Yeah? Well, it won’t last. It can’t!”

And it may not. I’ve always held that the rare enlightenment experiments – less than a dozen across all human annals – always had steep odds stacked against them. Vastly more common, spanning all continents and 6,000+ years, were societies that - soon after achieving agriculture - became narrow pyramids of inherited privilege and raw male power. 

(We’re all descended from the harems of such kings, lords and priests. Indeed, incel, harem-envy is revealed, the moment you scrape any of these neo-feudalists.) 

Still, despite those harsh odds, a few oases of light have glimmered across the darkness. Periclean Athens, for example, was so vastly more creative, resilient, dynamic and fun – even in its crude, brutish form – that it terrified all surrounding kingdoms and oligarchies - (especially crude/vile/overrated Sparta) - who dropped all their bickering to join forces against the First Democracy, pouncing finally upon mistakes that we now know to have been inevitable.  

Similar oligarch-swarms crushed da Vinci’s brilliant Florentine Republic and came within a hair’s breadth of doing so, again, to renaissance Amsterdam, the seed that survived, then blossomed into all we know. Still, plagues of harem-seeking parasites have tried to destabilize our 300 year experiment every generation, ever since.

As if conceding a valid point, Mr. Siegel slyly grants Yarvin/Moldbug credence he never earned: 

“Philosophers and politicians like Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, to name only three among countless figures, including many on the left, have been outspoken in their warnings about democracy’s perils.” 

Sure, a factually correct sentence. Except that Mr. Siegel portrays as a bug what’s actually a feature! All of those thinkers… plus Franklin and Thomas Paine and Lincoln and FDR and Marshall and many others, criticized democracy’s faults in order to keep doing it better! In the same fashion that, should the American Experiment survive today’s insane treason of Murdochian Trumpism, we may enact transparency reforms that stymie similar failure modes, in future. (Forcing reflexive oligarchy cabals to innovate new attacks, of course.)

Oh, this cult is predictable and has historical odds in its favor, as well as Darwinian drivers like male reproductive drives and fantasies. But if you truly want to wallow in justifications for betraying our renaissance and democracy, you can do much better than these fools. The case for rulership by inherently superior demigods is made far more entertainingly and unctuously in the sly, slow-poison dramas penned by a bona fide genius (and traitor to everything that was ever good to him) named Orson Scott Card. But Scott's treacherously brilliant, anti-democracy propaganda is not today’s topic. 

So yes, do give Mr. Siegel’s article a look, if only to see how far fellows like Peter Thiel are now willing to go, subsidizing this lunacy in order to sabotage the great Enlightenment Experiment that made them, and resume instead history’s dismally unsapient calamity called feudalism. 

While there, have a look at the art-illustration, portraying Yarvin/Moldbug as Machiavelli! Like depicting the denizen of a padded cell as actual Napoleon. Uh huh. You wish.

When you’re done, come back here for a very simple and devastating refutation. Go on. I’ll wait.

While you’re at it, see also a fawning profile of Thiel’s eagerly dyspeptic (and trivially refuted) incantations that ‘liberalism has failed,’ while wallowing in its protection and myriad benefits. I so hope the author of this piece misinterprets almost everything, in almost every paragraph because… wow, the mighty sure can fall a long way. There are meme-poisons that burn away IQ.

Oh, and here's a late note that I'll come back to, another time: see this actual Swiss company that exemplifies and self-satirizes the desperate denialism of human males with unaccountable power and way too much money -- offering palatially opulent underground bunker systems for the uber-oligarch sociopaths in the aristo-prepper movement! Would-be lords who - rather than help the civilization that was good to them - are flocking to masturbatory fantasies about world domination after everything crashes down in "The Event." 

(Never pondering that the 100 million nerds on this globe - against whom they wage open war - are the very folks who know cyber, bio, nano, nuclear stuff... and thousands know the exact location and schematics of every bunker.)

I've consulted - along with Douglas Rushkoff - with a few of these folks and oh! Their smug delusions aren't even bad sci fi. But more on that in Part 2.

== The core and absolutely devastating reason oligarchy sucks ==

Back already? Well, okay. Where were we? Oh yes. 

Normally, when refuting vile lies, you’d build a series of increasingly cogent points, arriving at the best and most decisive one last. In this case, I lack time or interest in spending more’n an hour on morons. Anyway, I’ve dissected neo-monarchism before, here… and here. 

Hence, I’ll both start and finish with just one most-devastating rebuttal, based on the core essential fact about human nature.

We are all inherently delusional.

The more intensely you believe something, the more willingly you should check it out, now and then. Hence we know the only truly effective antidote to delusion that has ever been discovered is... 

The criticism of others. 

Criticism even—especially— by your enemies.

Oh, that’s not to say you’re doomed always to be wrong! For one thing, science has provided many self-check tools that reduce rates and levels of delusion, applying experimental and experiential honesty to enhance the central catechism that made science so successful. A pair of simple sentences spoken not just by scientists, but by any person with an ounce of decency or maturity.

“I might be wrong. Let’s find out.”

That wisdom was excruciatingly hard to come by! Especially since human beings hate criticism. In fact, your reflex, when criticized, is likely the very same as your enemy’s. You’ll try to shut your critic down. Evasion, distraction, shouting, logical fallacies, backstabbing gossip… all the way to threats and lawsuits…. To varying degrees, we’ve all wriggled and squirmed to evade searing reproach of our illusions.

Only now imagine you are a king. One with the power to order death to critics, at a whim?

Look at what I just did. I explained nearly all of human history! That horrible, wretched litany of delusions and mistakes spanning nearly all continents and at least a sixty centuries, during which every king, autocrat, high priest, paramount chief, baron, or lord could declare his favorite delusions to be Truth. Law. Policy. Many of them insane notions, or dumb, or calamitous… 

…or even good ideas that might have been muchly improved, if poked-at by discomforting critical commentary.

The nearly universal result? Wretched generations of calamity-stricken human beings paid the price of kingly hallucination and critic-suppression. Until, at last, something better came along…

…the constitutional/democratic equivalent of “anybody might be wrong.” 

Freedom of speech. 

Freedom for the many – in autonomy and confidence – to criticize the mistakes of even the mighty… though at a price!

The price of being criticized, yourself.

And that’s it. That is the foremost answer (among many) to these jabbering neo-monarchists. Not only are the rare, underdog enlightenments vastly more successful by every metric of human accomplishment, compared to all other societies combined. 

They achieve all that by unleashing competitive reciprocal accountability, which is the very opposite of rule-by-single-executive.

Inarguably better results, achieved by an unassailably better (much less lobotomized) method. A method that only works under conditions of general transparency. When light flows, even upon those at the top.

 Especially upon them.

Alas, there is a price. Only, it is not the one they jabber about.

... and I'll get to it in Part 2.


Tim H. said...

They know no other way to measure their worth but who they can dominate. Farm animals can do that, we should aspire to more than that.

Tony Fisk said...

Aiee! The hyperbole: it burns! Well, you clearly have a bit to get off your chest, David, and I don't begrudge you that. People openly avowing 'slavery good!' can do things to the blood pressure.

We’re all descended from the harems of such kings, lords and priests
Well, the sneaky fuckers might have a thing or two to say about that (not to mention the ladies!)

This struggle for male dominance is often ascribed to selfish genes. That explains oligarchs, but Dawkins himself points out that selfish gene theory has to be able to explain emergent behaviour like cooperation, and he does think that evolutionary theory can be applied to more systems than genetics. Like cosmology. And sociology.

It must be topical, one of Massimo's recent (and always interesting) tweets describe the courtship display of the blue tanager, which invokes the support of a cohort of lesser males to do the bulk of the work for him. It's apparently the only bird to do so, although I felt obliged to point out that similar behaviour is observed in the orange cockwomble...

As a sort of aside, I've been watching an excellent documentary on the Dark Emu debate (On ABC iview. you will need to set up a free account). The main critic of Pascoe's work to date has been anthropologist Dr Peter Sutton, who insists Australian aborigines were nothing other than hunter-gatherers. He doesn't appear to consider that a derogatory term, and he may have a few valid points about what actually constitutes 'agriculture' and whether that's what aborigines practiced, but I have to say his attitude sends some clear signals about his biases. In particular, one scene where he actually asks Pascoe what's so great about sophistication? The sophistry is rich: aborigines aren't sophisticated. Pascoe is an aborigine (ie he has some aboriginal ancestry), therefore we can conclude his scholarship is unsophisticated and 'untutored'. (does this chain of reasoning remind you of anyone?)
Needless to say, this was a hare to set the local neo-monarchists running.
Pascoe, by contrast, appears willing to admit he's got some bits wrong.

PS the IAU now officially recognises 'Ginan' as a name for Epsilon Crucis (it's a Wardaman word for 'dilly bag' and, in that sky lore, contains songs of knowledge)

PPS Partly because my sister-in-law was in the choir, we went to the premier of a new oratorio created by a geneticist who felt that the wonderful musical traditions of Mahler and Handel shouldn't be the exclusive preserve of religion. We enjoyed it. Worth tracking down if it ever gets published.

Paradoctor said...

Monarchists point out that democracies are run by fools. That is true, for democracies are run by people, and people are fools. But they conveniently forget to add that, for the same reason, monarchies are also run by fools. So that argument has no force.

Some have proposed theocracy, which in theory is rule by a higher being, and in practice is rule by theologians, who are people, and therefore fools. Some have proposed technocracy: rule by computer. But who reads and implements the all-wise computer's reports? Foolish people.

This species is foolish! This suggest a solution to the Fermi Paradox; namely, that there is no intelligent life anywhere in the universe, including planet Earth. If you doubt this, then consider Earth's radio output. It reveals evidence that there is some technological life on Earth; but closer inspection fails to reveal evidence that there is any intelligent life on Earth.

Paradoctor said...

In my previous post, I said that some have proposed rule by computer. So far, that's been in science fiction, and usually as a refutational thought experiment. But I suspect that some will propose rule-by-computer in earnest.

Howard Brazee said...

Your point about rejecting criticism is why Putin surrounded himself with yes-men who told him how easy conquering Ukraine would be. Trump surrounded himself with yes-men.

But so many people demand that everything is accounted by powerful men (or God & Satan). The idea that things can happen without such leadership, or that people like themselves can make things happen scares them.

Heroes and villains are needed.

scidata said...

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead

Darrell E said...

Tony Fisk said...

"This struggle for male dominance is often ascribed to selfish genes. That explains oligarchs, but Dawkins himself points out that selfish gene theory has to be able to explain emergent behaviour like cooperation, and he does think that evolutionary theory can be applied to more systems than genetics. Like cosmology. And sociology."

I'm not sure how figurative you may have been there, so this may be off point, but I figured I'd comment anyway.

The metaphor "The Selfish Gene" did not have any connection to human behavior, at least not directly. It doesn't have anything to do with selfishness or cooperation, or any traits, of organisms. Again, not directly.

Dawkins chose that unfortunate metaphor for the title of his book as a figurative label for the scientific idea that genes are the unit of selection. That's it. That natural selection operates at the level of genes, not at the level of organisms or groups of organisms. Therefore, figuratively speaking, genes could be said to be selfish in that they don't "care" about the organisms that are their vessels, they only "care" about propagating themselves. Of course in order for a given gene to propagate better than other genes they need to confer an advantage of some sort to the organisms that they inhabit.

An observation in support of the gene-centric view that I still find fascinating is how old many genes are. Genes are far longer lived than species. Many different experiments have taken a version (an allele) of a regulatory gene from one animal and inserted it into another organism in place of that organism's version of the same gene, and the process it regulated worked nearly normally. Again, many such experiments and in organisms as distantly related as skates and chickens, with LCA's hundreds of millions of years in the past. There are genes that all vertebrates share that are still so similar in all vertebrates that they are readily identifiable.

There are critics of the idea that genes are the unit of selection (I'm practicing my Classic British Understatement there.) However, it is by far the most successful selection model in evolutionary biology. The door is still open of course and it is possible that one day it will be shown that selection operates at more than one level, which wouldn't really be surprising because reality is really messy, but it seems extremely unlikely that the gene-centric view will ever be shown to be invalid. Gene-centric models work really well and have stood up against all efforts for quite awhile.


On that last, it seems pretty likely to be true. At base evolution is simply the inexorable working out of the consequences of physical law, the regular patterns of reality that we've identified. The same as any other scientific theory. Different fields of study and the theories they devise are focused at different phenomena and or at different levels. The Modern TOE is focused on biology, a fairly high level. At base it is an observation that the patterns of our reality, the playing out of what we call physical laws, results in certain outcomes and not in others. That's a good simplistic explanation of what the filter of natural selection is.

Darrell E said...

In support of Dr. Brin's point in this article, there are so many examples that demonstrate how people working together can produce amazing results despite all the varied flaws of individual humans. And there is a common aspect in nearly all such examples. That common aspect is creating institutions (groups) that are structured and have processes and rules that are designed / have evolved to account for all the many human failure modes.

Such as the institution that the US Navy has built to ensure safety and readiness, that Ilithi Dragon described here awhile back.

Such as the institution that NASA built to get a man to the Moon, and that managed to fly so many successful Space Shuttle missions even though STS was just about impossibly difficult to do that with. This example is doubly good because it also demonstrates what happens when the institution fails badly enough to allow those human failings to cause tragedy.

Or how an army of soldiers always beats an army of warriors.

And of course the most obvious example is modern science. But there are tons more.

len said...

Every time these feudalists poke their heads out of the dork enlightenment wank dungeon, I am reminded of the essay that made me see Libertarianism for what it is:

Granted, the Mises cult is a subset, but its takeover of the party and subsequent bending of the knee to the orange guy was as easily predictable as the orange guy's first coup attempt.

Anyone who believes in "natural elites" is himself a groveling submissive. That essay makes it explicit, framing the economists and other "intellectuals" of their cause as being subservient to the oligarchs that patronize them. Apparently, the only true measure of a man is his ability to accumulate wealth (a virtue inexplicably denied to the subjects of their antisemitic conspiracy theories).

They're all driven by envy and shame, even those who are insanely wealthy like Musk and Thiel, because they can't buy the respect they believe they are owed. The existence of status hierarchies other than their own is an affront, because any egalitarian or meritocratic ethos emphasizes, by its absence, the submissive posture of all those in their feudalistic hierarchy.

They may hate fundamentalist Islam, but they resemble it more than any other extant ideology. Gilead is already in their hearts. Atwood invented a sterility plague not to make it plausible, but silence your denial of its plausibility.

Darrell E said...

For some reason when I read "Atwood", my mind saw Die Antwoord.

Maybe I should see a therapist.

Alfred Differ said...


Thank you for pointing out that essay. I got through the first three paragraphs kinda nodding my head (begrudgingly), but the fourth one made me dizzy with the way the author jumped through so many assertions to turn 'natural authority' to 'inherited authority'.

I don't know that all the Mises caucus folks are like that, but enough of them are that I can't be a member. There ARE differences between us that get respected by some causing a 'natural' elite effect to take place, but the ONLY way I've seen that be heritable comes from the fact that such persons as adults understand that their children need those same skills. That means they are more likely to put the work into educating* their children in them AND arrange a best they can for marriages between such families. That's natural but NOT inheritable.

* I think the biggest effect of the GI Bill is how it built a fish ladder of sorts to deal with a cost dam to higher education. Education is still expensive, but with more of our fathers possessing the human capital needed to advance, they found ways to ensure their children did too. I AM such a child.

Larry Hart said...


They're all driven by envy and shame, even those who are insanely wealthy like Musk and Thiel, because they can't buy the respect they believe they are owed.

Paul Krugman used to write about this during the Obama years, rhetorically asking why Wall Street in general and Jamie Dimon in particular so vehemently detested President Obama when they were actually doing better under him than they had in 2008. The answer seemed to be that Obama didn't give them the deference they felt they deserved. Or in Krugman's idiom, "He looked at them funny."

They may hate fundamentalist Islam, but they resemble it more than any other extant ideology. Gilead is already in their hearts. Atwood invented a sterility plague not to make it plausible, but silence your denial of its plausibility.

If there was one thing the traditional jingoistic conservatives and the Trump sociopaths had in common, it was that they hated Muslims, and "Sharia Law" has been a bogyman for a decade or two. But now that they've noticed that fundamentalist Muslims are against "woke", that is apparently changing as quickly as "We've always been at war with Eastasia."

A.F. Rey said...

Thiel characterises this stagnation as a long, slow victory of the Club of Rome, a nonprofit founded in 1968 to drive political change premised on the belief that infinite growth is impossible. (From the linked articled.)

Gee, did we need the Club of Rome to state the obvious? I thought that Malthus had shown that it was true over 200 years ago.

Although technology has postponed the inevitable overwhelming of natural resources by quite a few decades, eventually growth will inevitably exceed available resources. Anyone who understands exponentials can calculate it--just find how many times more resources are needed at a modest 2 percent annual growth rate for 2,000 years? If that doesn't blow your socks off, do it for 4,000 years. Or 10,000 years. Then compare it to the estimated number of atoms in our solar system. :)

If we couldn't sustain 10,000 years of continuous growth, how can anyone doubt we can't sustain it infinitely? Only a person with blind faith could brush away the math.

If Thiel denies even this simple, obvious fact, how can we trust his analysis of more complex problems? ;)

Robert said...

If Thiel denies even this simple, obvious fact, how can we trust his analysis of more complex problems? ;)

I think I've posted this before, but it doesn't really get old:

Alfred Differ said...

A.F. Rey,

Although technology has postponed the inevitable overwhelming of natural resources by quite a few decades, eventually growth will inevitably exceed available resources.

No… and I've never seen an argument supporting this assertion that wasn't garbage.

The errors people commit constructing the argument cover a range of possibilities, but the biggest secular ones are as follows.

1. What we want will remain essentially the same over time. (This is demonstrably false.)
2. The resource recipes used to construct what we want will remain essentially the same over time. (Also false.)
3. That we are growing exponentially. (Unlikely)

The first one should be obvious, but is usually countered with statements about what we need that don't change. Food, air, water, etc. It's still not true, though, because food is grown on land that we need to put to agricultural uses, right? How much land? The more we learn, the less of that we need to produce the thing we actually need. If we get to sustainable techniques for what we truly need the related resources can be subtracted from your concerns as long as our population isn't growing beyond those resources. That sector won't count as growth.

The second one should also be obvious because tech advances have made many of our recipes more efficient. The more important point, though, is that as recipes change so do our wants. We wind up meeting needs in different ways as well. Our nomadic HG ancestors needed a lot of land to roam largely because their recipes for sustaining themselves were inefficient. Ours aren't… and along the way we've discovered the needs associated with creating and maintaining those recipes.


The third one is subtle for those without a strong mathematics background.

Expand the exponential function e(x) as a power series and you get terms like (x^n)/n! For large n those terms get small because the factorial grows much faster than the polynomial numerator.

The problem here is that you can lop off a lot of higher order terms and have a difficult time distinguishing between an actual exponential and the short series approximation for it until you get to high values of x. In our resource limits case the variable x is actually time, so that means it takes a while to realize the difference between exponential and polynomial growth.

Change the limits argument to one examining polynomial growth, though, and you get a radical shift. Polynomial growth is susceptible to us expanding our resource pool (expand to space), improving our recipes (we do this already), and altering what we want (conservationists do this in an effective way).


I'm with you if your argument paraphrases as "We can't keep doing what we are doing", but only to a point. Part of what we are doing is actually on the path to a bright future. We need to keep doing that part while we stop doing some of the dumber things we do.

There is another important infinite series you might want to ponder for its relevance. It's the geometric series with terms like ar^n. If |r|<1 it converges to a/(1-r). It's not a matter of whether we can keep growing. It's a matter of HOW we grow. What is our |r|?

What we have to avoid is the harmonic series, though it will take a long time realize if we are on that path.

David Brin said...

Tony demurred vs : “We’re all descended from the harems of such kings, lords and priests
Well, the sneaky fuckers might have a thing or two to say about that (not to mention the ladies!)”

I didn’t say entirely. Read it again. 8% of the Chinese male population has G Khan’s Y chromosome and that was ONE king along 4000 years of Chinese history. Sure, the sneaks had descendants. Some of them and those traits carried, too. Tell me which type a strong guy with many swordsmen at his side would choose to be.

Your refusal to even glance at how male reproductive strategies affect the social patterns of ALL mammalian species… and birds etc, is kind ‘o blind, alas. Yes, there is a flip side… female choice which often leads to male trait exaggeration - gaudy feaths and such. So? they are cojoined parts of the same cycle. And in humans the top effect has been pyarmidal societies topped by feudalism.

Moreover, ignoring that HURTS the cause of escaping that trap. Which is what the enlightenment is all about.

Likewise I know little about Dark Emu but your interpretation certainly sound preset by moral positioning. “Pascoe is an aborigine (ie he has some aboriginal ancestry), therefore we can conclude his scholarship is unsophisticated and 'untutored'. (does this chain of reasoning remind you of anyone?” The personal insult sounds to me like YOUR reflex and I doubt it would anything but outrage the person you are accusing.

Paradoctor does something similar with “Monarchists point out that democracies are run by fools. That is true, for democracies are run by people, and people are fools. But they conveniently forget to add that, for the same reason, monarchies are also run by fools. So that argument has no force.”

In fact, feudal lords and kings justified their rule in part by the pragmatic fact that it was likely default best for any primitive nation/land to be ruled by men who had fully myelinated brains from havintg never starved and knowing stuf like literacy. Also those men were taller, stronger and LOOKED like nobler beings. The prejudice LOOKED to be correct. And when society had very little surplus, that was likely as good a method as anything else, even better. (as MARX said!)

That changed (as MARX said!) when greater surplus enabled the.beginnings of a bourgeoisie… and so on.

MY point in this posting is that even back then, the lords’ top priority was to crush criticism, the only antidote to error. So even if they were more-qualified in a way, their rule still sucked!

“This species is foolish! This suggest a solution to the Fermi Paradox; namely, that there is no intelligent life anywhere in the universe, including planet Earth. If you doubt this, then consider Earth's radio output. It reveals evidence that there is some technological life on Earth; but closer inspection fails to reveal evidence that there is any intelligent life on Earth.”

Everything in that paragraph - while questioning and laudable in criticism - is likely to be completely wrong. The near universality of male repro competition likely means that it likely spans most metazoan life in the galaxy and hence most sapent races NEVER escape feudalism and that is my #2 Fermi theory.

We have proved we CAN (rarely) escape it. And hence we may be the first star voyagers. A LOT may be at stake in saving this enlightenment.

HB: “Heroes and villains are needed.” Please get and read: VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood -

scidata: that Mean quot is right AS A START. But then we must convince fellow citizens to support the shift. Agai, see VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood -

Darrel E gets post of the day.

A.F. Rey said...

While everything you say sounds reasonable, Alfred, but I don't think it takes away from my point about Peter Thiel.

Because he characterized "stagnation ... premised on the belief that infinite growth is impossible."

Now it depends on how one characterizes "growth." I assumed it was the simple equation of (1 + p)^n, where p is the annual percentage of growth (p=0.02 in my example), and n is the number of years. When applying this to any reasonable (detectable) value of p, by time you get to n=2,000 you have a huge number, as you well know. And at n=10,000... whoa-boy! :)

And as n-> infinity, you rapidly approach infinity.

Now, if you redefine what "growth" means, you can certainly curtail or side-step this problem, but then you also have to define your redefinition. Something that Theil did not appear to address in his interview, and I am not sure he has addressed at all.

I'm not saying we have to stop such growth now. We are finding further resources we can use (albeit not without a price), but it mathematically certain that it cannot go on forever. Any growth that requires resources will eventually run out of those resources. Because even in our (almost) infinite universe, there simply is a limit to resources.

duncan cairncross said...

Its unusual but I 100% agree with your reply to A F Rey

David Brin said...

I meant MEAD quote... !

David Brin said...

It is our job to both technologically and socially redefine 'growth.'

Slim Moldie said...

Halfway though this post I started thinking about "The Emperor's New Clothes."

Out of curiosity, 5 second look up (via Wikipedia) on the origins of the latter: "Andersen's tale is based on a 1335 story from the Libro de los ejemplos... In the source tale, a king is hoodwinked by weavers who claim to make a suit of clothes invisible to any man not the son of his presumed father; whereas Andersen altered the source tale [clothes are invisible to the stupid and incompetent] to direct the focus on courtly pride and intellectual vanity rather than adulterous paternity."

scidata said...

It's fun to take the 'growth' question right to the end. A year or two ago, I mentioned the idea (not mine) of sending robots to nearby stars that would build fusion engines in orbit, and propel them back towards the home world to greatly defer heat death by making a local cheat on universal entropy, thus buying a few million more years to think of some other escape. Now that's raging against the dying of the light.

Sort of reminds me of the Drumpf quote where he said global warming is good because it creates more beach front property.
(It does exactly the opposite)

Larry Hart said...


Sort of reminds me of the Drumpf quote where he said global warming is good because it creates more beach front property.
(It does exactly the opposite)

He probably meant in Russia.

duncan cairncross said...

It is our job to both technologically and socially redefine 'growth.'

A thousand times YES

Larry Hart said...

I thought Marvel Comics had already trademarked the letter "X"*

And, as of yesterday, Musk's boondoggle of a social media platform has officially been renamed "X."

* as in X-Men

Tony Fisk said...

Sorry if I've taken a while to respond to criticisms. Been busy, and the 17 hour time difference doesn't help with prompt feedback.


@DarrellE thanks for the comments. I am aware that Dawkins selfish gene theory emphasises that competition for survival occurs at the genetic rather than the individual level. That is, in part, what caused me to respond to David's harem remark.

The point about Genghis Khan's profligacy has cropped up a few times, with varying percentages of the Chinese population descended from him listed. From Wikipedia, the 8% figure David uses here comes from a 2003 study of an X-haploid group in NE China and Uzbekhistan. Another study suggests 24% of Mongols share it. However, it is an open question as to whether it arose with Genghis, or whether he shared it with the rest of the Mongol population of the time. (It is worth noting that the further back you can trace ancestry to a particular individual, the more likely it is that everyone else can too. This is a function of genetics rather than machismo: you see it in any species).

Which leaves genealogical records, and the sneaks.
Semi-personal anecdote: my father-in-law was a microbiologist who had some involvement with determining the genetic basis of blood typings. A side note to this was the revelation about the number of patrolineages that... weren't. I don't actually know how large the fraction was, but it was much bigger than expected, and that's one reason why I keep raising the sneak strategy, and the Mongol milkmen.

I'm certainly not trying to undermine David's point about male reproductive strategies leading to untenable social structures that may be a major contender for the Big Filter. The harem remark is a brief point made on the way to a bigger conclusion. Unfortunately, its brevity snags at me. It suggests to me that male dominated cultures are inevitable because of harems. But, sure, that may be just me and my moral setting.

As to the other point, David chided me with:

Likewise I know little about Dark Emu but your interpretation certainly sound preset by moral positioning.

On reflection, I have to admit there's a certain grain of truth to that. Sutton is a respected anthropologist who's had a long association with aboriginal peoples of the Northern Territory. My potted version of the logic that I thought guided him was insulting, and certainly not how I'd present in person.

Yes, I was originally triggered by misinterpreting his opening "Everyone else is wrong and I'm right" remarks* as referring to himself rather than a projection onto Pascoe (although it's a strawmanning which seems to me like a moral preset by Sutton: Pascoe has never struck me as having that attitude). I did get why Sutton objected to the use of the word 'agriculture', even though he couldn't really think of a better one ('hunter-gatherer plus' was not his finest moment, he admits) . Nevertheless, I found his overall attitude to Pascoe's work condescending, and his reasons for dismissing it outright unconvincing. Another anthropologist, Margot Neale, put it a lot more pungently, but that's a turf war to keep out of.

*Sutton comes in at about the 30 min mark. I did wonder if I'd heard him right at the time. I hadn't. Turns out you do have to listen hard and it helps to turn the captions on.

Tony Fisk said...

@Larry I gather Musk has something of a fixation with 'X'.

Tony Fisk said...

It is our job to both technologically and socially redefine 'growth.'

Indeed. This was the underlying theme of a story I submitted to this year's Climate 2200 competition. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but they did insist on 3000+ words. We'll see what transpires. (I am realistic... I think)

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

I gather Musk has something of a fixation with 'X'.

From the same article linked above:

He even tried to name his kid "X" (full name: X AE A-XII) before the state of California stepped in and said that name wasn't legal.

David Brin said...

Larry Hart said...
I thought Marvel Comics had already trademarked the letter "X"*

Google's "X" organization is maybe 15+ years old. Innovated Project Loon - balloons that can catch crosswinds to go anywhere carrying internet to disaster zones... and my other amazing things.

I really don't know what to make of this latest... thing. Perhaps he can connect Twitter to Tesla by callying it "S3XY".

Tony: "It suggests to me that male dominated cultures are inevitable because of harems. But, sure, that may be just me and my moral setting."

While I agree with your overal 'moral setting,' I fret that reflexes often (VERY often) harm the ability of our own side to adaptively adjust arguments in an unbiased way. It's one reason I wrote Polemical Judo.

Criminy, can you see how you insist on a mental image of 'harems' at its extremum? Across 10,000 years, the tendency of strong males to take other men's women and wheat probably followed a power law with very few sultan seraglios but millions of chieftains and local landlords with 2 or 3 wives. And where do you think you -as a poor serf- would WANT your pretty daughter to go and always have food (she could slip you some) and healthy kids?


The hunter-gatherer-plus theories have several levels. They will be boosted foremost by the OTHERNESS reflexes that I've discussed for 30 years, demanding that the non-ortho-nonwestern be extolled and praised. And while often exaggerated-dishonest, that reflex is at least in the right direction.

OTOH I am intrigued by the assertion - with some evidence - that aboriginal peoples had developed a gradual/incremental oral wisdom of 'tending' nature similar to European traditional practices of forest coppicing and commons grazing, perhaps even at a more sophisticated level of ecological insight for an environment teetering on the verge of desert aridity.

locumranch said...

Much like those who deny the statistical prevalence of sexual dimorphism & the two genders, those who deny the reality of genetic inheritance (aka 'natural elitism' and 'inherited privilege') are the worst type of science deniers.

A burro does not become a race horse by eating the same diet, the melanin-deficient do not acquire dark complexions by listening to rap music and the mere presence of 'a fully myelinated brain' cannot & does not transform a dullard into a super genius.

To achieve genetic fixation, differentiation (in all its forms) requires generations of selective breeding, as does the intrinsically irrational pursuit of equality, standardization and sameness.

It's a contradiction that Dr. Brin owes his lively wit, above-average intelligence and his very existence to the very same genetic mechanisms (feudalism, selective breeding & harems) that he claims to despise.

It's actually definitional, insomuch as a contradiction is an assertion of Propositional Logic that is false in all situations; that is, it is false for all possible values of its variables.


To accuse all those **cabalists** who lurk over at 'The Tablet' of being aspiring tyrants, secret kings, oligarchic monsters and neo-monarchists, it bears a more than passing resemblance to an unpleasant Mel Gibson meme. Do you understand what I am saying?

And, btw, thanks for the Curtis Yarvin reference as he seems pretty based & logical for a reformed commie bastard, while his description of the current state of Israel as a conflict between oligarchy (which calls itself “democracy”) and democracy (which the oligarchy calls “autocracy" is damn near breath-taking.

Tony Fisk said...

Ah! Now when you present it as a power rule, I am much more able to accept male dominance as a social driver. (I did accept it intellectually, but my gut was a bit hung up on Genghis. Terrible allusion, sorry.)

Interesting you mention the otherness reflex. At one point of the documentary, Pascoe says he thought people were ready for what Dark Emu had to say (nine years after first publication, it still sells well). Which isn't to say it's all true, of course. As Carl Sagan put it: strong claims require strong evidence. However, it's turned a spotlight on aboriginal archaeology, and has revealed some more surprises. Like a site in SW Queensland where, for three thousand years at least, it appears the Mithaka people were working rocks into millstones, and trading them with other tribes. Permanent dwellings, too. Very plus.

OTOH I am intrigued by the assertion - with some evidence - that aboriginal peoples had developed a gradual/incremental oral wisdom of 'tending' nature ... perhaps even at a more sophisticated level of ecological insight for an environment teetering on the verge of desert aridity.

Firestick management is a very detailed practice of controlled burning that encouraged game to come and feed on new growth, ensured areas didn't become overgrown, and led to a mosaic of habitats that encouraged a wide diversity of life. This was a major tool in care of the land, and I would hypothesise that, through its development and use over time, indigenous people came to be a keystone species prior to European settlement: bushfires became increasingly severe across country as the original inhabitants were removed from it. Following the cataclysms of 2019-20, it's being looked into once more.

I'll leave off with mention of the First Knowledges series recently put out by the Australian National Museum. They're slim volumes giving introductions to topics like songlines, architecture, land management, plant usage, astronomy, and law.

Lena said...

I was doing a googoo search, trying to see if someone else had a quote similar to the apocryphal Tom Jefferson about did dent as patriotism and came across an interesting article the relationships between criticism of country, thinking styles, and cognitive abilities. I thought it might be a good thing to share, given the subject matter of this post.


Alfred Differ said...

A.F. Rey,

Regarding Thiel, I agree. I didn't mention him because I honestly try to avoid consuming any oxygen thinking about what he believes is true about humanity. I don't think it's worth it.


Your equation (1+p)^n is an exponential in the limit. What I'm objecting to is DEFINING growth as exponential. People use that term very loosely and I find it challenging not to roll my eyes. Growth need not be exponential. It need not be compounded even, but ours obviously is right now.

Consider plant growth. The leap out of the ground from seeds with terrific speed, right? For a brief time, one might examine one and think it grows exponentially, but of course it can't. Its resources are limited. Its recipes for resource usage are fixed in its genetics. HOW those recipes get used isn't genetically fixed, but what they are is.

Plant growth varies by plant type, environment, resources, and who knows what else. One thing that does not vary their growth rate, though, is their ability to talk each other into things like we do. They can adapt their recipes through genetic changes, adopting symbiotes, and who knows what else. They can also deep throttle existing recipes through whatever their equivalent to epigenetics is.

What they can't do is negotiate as a collection of minds able to innovate, coax, choose between preferences, and trade. We can, so the last thing we should assume is a simple shape for our growth function let alone an exponential one.

Obviously, exponential growth doesn't go on forever… but that's not what we are doing.

Pick a different growth function and you get a very different conclusion. Even the harmonic series (known to be divergent) takes a VERY long time to become a problem. Primate species don't usually live long enough for it to be an issue.

Tim H. said...

Freefall ( continues to explain aspects of human society, currently dealing with labor & management finding safe passage between economic contraction & bankruptcy. Economic contraction can be quite good for those at the apex of the economy, but applies stress to everyone else, making fringe ideas and sociopaths behavior attractive. A high price for the chosen of Mammon achieving heaven on earth.

Tim H. said...

Pardon me, forgot to thoroughly check for auto(in)correct shenanigans, that should be "".

Darrell E said...


Thanks for linking to that study. Quite interesting. Their assumptions and their conclusions are exactly what I would expect, in other words it all sounds obvious, but of course the actual hard work of trying to show that your ideas have some correspondence with reality is necessary.

One thing that struck me as quite funny, "Glorification is positively linked to trust in one's intuitions." That's a very polite way of putting it.

David Brin said...

Thanks Tony. Good stuff and interesting!

I KNEW poor locum would become a Moldbug/Yarvin fan! That counterfactual cult of insane ingrate/incels is a perfect fit. You’re welcome, sir!

This time, though his buildup is aimed toward insane yammers, his 1st 3 paragraphs were cogently true statements in isolation… till in para 4 he does what his jabbering mind always does – asserting/attributing to me strawman beliefs that are utter lies.

That insanity is perhaps not his fault as a delusional being. But the discourtesy of ALWAYS ignoring our protests about lie-strawmanning - never addressing those complaints with either supporting evidence or honorable retraction - is a deliberate choice that can only be based upon one thing. Vile character.

Oh, BTW, I have always – like any reasonable person - maintained that nature and nurture are clearly roughly equal. Nazis focused solely on one and the Leninists solely on the other, leading to monstrous crimes.

Our enlightenment has been about enhancing opportunities for individuals to maximally reify and not waste whatever talents they have, through opportunities and education, but also good character and hard work. It has been 6000 years of cheaters who kept that process horrifically inefficient.

Locum knows this and his is just a potty-brained liar… and I don’t care which “N” is responsible for his condition. Kinda tragic, though, since clearly his reading and speech centers are okay.

Huh! Kinda like a chat-GPT system that was trained on bullshit!.

scidata said...

This took me decades of crawling out of religious muck to figure out:

Evolution has no learning/direction/goal/destiny.
It's a brutally simple algorithm:
1) Try everything
2) Replicate what survives
3) Repeat
Although there's no real learning, there is a primitive, concatenative memory chain (DNA). Evolution explains life's vast diversity and complexity, including the constant re-appearance of both idiots and geniuses.

DP said...

The Great Martian War 1913-1917 Full Documentary

Brilliant faux documentary about the Martian invasion of Victorian Europe using black and white photos and film along with "interviews" with old veterans and military "historians".

World War I trench warfare, biplanes and early tanks vs. Martian tripods with heat rays.

Very cool.

David Brin said...

scidta step #1 has a few constraints built into the cells and genome. But essentially yes.

DP thanks for that cool link! See also this way cool collection I got to be part of.


NEWS!! (??)

“The First Room-Temperature Ambient-Pressure Superconductor.” ??? Maybe its real this time. The paper has a lot of data with different measurement techniques, so maybe it is. South Korean authors.

Darrell E said...

If accurate, and if it can be produced on an industrial scale, this could be very big.

reason said...

A.F. Rey - I think it goes without saying that if ownership of (the limited) resources continues to concentrate, then the problem of resource dependent growth because even more quickly critical.

reason said...

oops - becomes not because.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

But the discourtesy of ALWAYS ignoring our protests about lie-strawmanning - never addressing those complaints with either supporting evidence or honorable retraction - is a deliberate choice that can only be based upon one thing. Vile character.

I think that's true, but for a different reason than you mean. I'm coming to the belief that "locumranch", the pseudonym, is indeed a character in the theatrical sense. It's akin to Archie Bunker, or Frank Burns, or Donald Trump. The actual human doing the posting may not always think the same way that the fictional character does, but the nature of the character is that is always angry with a grievance, and it always has to attribute the worst possible interpretation to anything anyone else says. To do anything else--to admit error or soften a position or acknowledge common ground--would be to break character. And that particular writer is determined not to do so.

Tony Fisk said...

Massimo had a gif accompanying the superconductor story that purportedly shows the room temperature material exhibiting the Meissner Effect. (Sorry, you will need a twitter account to see it.)
... although not quite: it doesn't become fully airborne. That may not be significant. It may just be how the magnetic field is shaped (been a long time since I did any solid state physics), but I am cautious.

Tony Fisk said...

I think the dude was initially attracted here by the contrarian label, and takes it as an excuse to disagree about everything (cue the Monty Python argument sketch). He's always been very literally (or should that be 'lexicographically'?) minded, and uses word definitions to build a logical base for strawmanning and then launching off into any direction he chooses.

I ignore him.

Unknown said...

"Economic contraction can be quite good for those at the apex of the economy,"

Up to a point. I'm reminded of some Japanese sailors left adrift after the sinking of the aircraft carrier Hiryu north of Midway Island. There were, if IIRC, eight ratings and a chief petty officer. The officer took charge of the rations box and hogged almost all the sweets and beer. The ratings told their American captors/rescuers that if the boat had been adrift much longer, the rescue team would have found only eight ratings, because the CPO would have unfortunately fallen overboard.


Robert said...

I ignore him.

locumranch? Been skipping his posts for years. Textbook example of sea lioning.

Alan Brooks said...

This would be comparable to appointing Jeff Dahmer in charge at the FSIS:

Tony Fisk said...

"Economic contraction can be quite good for those at the apex of the economy,"
... The ratings told their American captors/rescuers that if the boat had been adrift much longer, the rescue team would have found only eight ratings, because the [ration hoarding] Chief Petty Officer would have unfortunately fallen overboard.

Demonstrating that the apex of a pyramid is a petit, petty place.

Alfred Differ said...

I suspect it is diamagnetism, but we shall know soon enough. I looked easy enough to check in other labs and the hype will drive the detractors.


1) Try a few things
2) Replicate imperfectly what survives (more than once/generation)
3) Repeat
4) Deliver an occasional black swan event

Tony Fisk said...

@alfred you do realise it's black swans all the way down around here, right?

duncan cairncross said...

Re Locumbranch's comment about the evolution of intelligence

The Hierarchical/Harem structure is relatively new - only the last 6,000 years or so

Our intelligence evolved BEFORE then - in a period where a "Big Man" who tried to become too big would get a bad case of arrows

It was only after agriculture that the Hierarchical/Harem structure became possible

Larry Hart said...

presented without further comment

But capitalism has finally run out of gas. In his forthcoming book, "Techno Feudalism: What Killed Capitalism", Yanis Varoufakis proposes that capitalism has died – but it wasn't replaced by socialism. Rather, capitalism has given way to feudalism
The first capitalists hated rent. They wanted to replace the "passive income" that landowners got from taxing their serfs' harvest with active income from enclosing those lands and grazing sheep in order to get wool to feed to the new textile mills. They wanted active income – and lots of it.

Capitalist philosophers railed against rent. The "free market" of Adam Smith wasn't a market that was free from regulation – it was a market free from rents. The reason Smith railed against monopolists is because he (correctly) understood that once a monopoly emerged, it would become a chokepoint through which a rentier could cream off the profits he considered the capitalist's due

Tacitus said...

I've taken enough of a look at the Martian War video to realize I need to save it for a viewing with cold beer in hand.

Fun fact. A few years ago I got to volunteer on a salvage dig in Belgium. A housing development was being built on a site that had been fought over almost every day from 1914 to 1918. Excavated mass graves and lots of live WWI ordnance.

Historical side note. There is ample evidence that the Red Baron flew over the spot in 1918 and that a certain Corporal Hitler was one of only 2 survivors of the 6 message carriers who were involved when the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division threw themselves into the line here on Halloween 1918. This was Der Kindermort, the "slaughter of the Innocents". Rather a shame one more Innocent did not survive in place of Adolph.....


Tacitus said...

oops typo. Halloween 1914.


Larry Hart said...

Is it good news that the north Atlantic drift will shut off and instigate a new ice age before the internet of things can turn us all into serfs?

If my lifespan had more of a future than it does, I'd be more depressed.

scidata said...

Re: Martian War

Thanks DP. Fun to see some Canadian heroic SF :)
I gave my prized H.G. Wells 1st edition of "A Short History of the World" to my youngest son on his birthday. My daughter-in-law quickly seized it. She's a set engineer on later Star Trek series. She does ship interiors, and often asks me if they feel like the 'old' stuff - ouch. These tales need to be passed down like heirlooms.

@Larry Hart
I worry far more about our kids being serfs than us.

Robert said...

A rather interesting article relating to one of David's rants…

The Athenian historian Thucydides once remarked that Sparta was so lacking in impressive temples or monuments that future generations who found the place deserted would struggle to believe it had ever been a great power. But even without physical monuments, the memory of Sparta is very much alive in the modern United States. In popular culture, Spartans star in film and feature as the protagonists of several of the largest video game franchises. The Spartan brand is used to promote obstacle races, fitness equipment, and firearms. Sparta has also become a political rallying cry, including by members of the extreme right who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Sparta is gone, but the glorification of Sparta—Spartaganda, as it were—is alive and well.

Even more concerning is the U.S. military’s love of all things Spartan. The U.S. Army, of course, has a Spartan Brigade (Motto: “Sparta Lives”) as well as a Task Force Spartan and Spartan Warrior exercises, while the Marine Corps conducts Spartan Trident littoral exercises—an odd choice given that the Spartans were famously very poor at littoral operations. Beyond this sort of official nomenclature, unofficial media regularly invites comparisons between U.S. service personnel and the Spartans as well.

Relating to Varoufakis' book, I wonder if he's using the wrong model. Do the oligarchs want serfs, or do they want helots?

Sparta’s military mediocrity seems inexplicable given the city-state’s popular reputation as a highly militarized society, but modern scholarship has shown that this, too, is mostly a mirage. The agoge, Sparta’s rearing system for citizen boys, frequently represented in popular culture as akin to an intense military bootcamp, in fact included no arms training or military drills and was primarily designed to instill obedience and conformity rather than skill at arms or tactics. In order to instill that obedience, the older boys were encouraged to police the younger boys with violence, with the result that even in adulthood Spartan citizens were liable to settle disputes with their fists, a tendency that predictably made them poor diplomats.

Darrell E said...

Alfred Differ,

I'm skeptical too, but the more I look the more I think this could be a real thing. As you say, it could be diamagnetism, but that looks like a pretty strong reaction for diamagnetism and I'd expect competent researchers to specifically rule that out. Unless this is a fraud.

But given that they have laid all of their cards on the table and the material is easy to replicate and easy to test, fraud doesn't seem to be plausible. Also, from what I've seen so far all of these researchers have solid reputations.

Could they simply be mistaken? Sure. As you say we should know more pretty quickly because of how easy it is to verify. And of course, even if legit the devil is in the details and it may still prove to be impractical for industrial scale application. But their video demonstrating the Meisner effect is pretty convincing.

Darrell E said...

On the valorization of a Sparta that never was, and given the current political climate, I wonder what these all-things-Spartan glorifiers would think of the battle of Leuctra if they knew about it? In that battle (371 BC) the Spartans got their asses kicked by a smaller army fielded by upstart Thebes. The key elements that broke the Spartan army were a new tactic, the oblique order of attack, and an elite Theban military unit, The Sacred Band, comprised entirely of homosexual couples.

The Sacred Band ended Sparta's domination in that era, starting with The Battle of Leuctra. In other words a bunch of gay guys beat up the manly-men of Sparta and kept them down for decades. The Sacred Band was key to Thebes rise to dominance, which they maintained until Alexander's father, Philip, annihilated the Sacred Band in 338 during his campaign to unite the Greek city states.

Unknown said...


Just to be clear, and not to dis the Sacred Band, the Spartan army was also well staffed with manly gay guys. It was kind of an Attic thing.

Bret Devereaux has an excellent series about the Spartan Myth and the rather vile Spartan reality at his Unmitigated Pedantry site, titled This.Isn't.Sparta.


Larry Hart said...


Isn't the key part of the description, "and an elite Theban military unit, The Sacred Band, comprised entirely of homosexual couples." ? From what I remember learning, it wasn't just that the unit was made up of homosexual men. It was that, because each man had a partner who was also part of the fighting unit, they would have more incentive not to lose.

Unknown said...


I fully agree re: Sacred Band. My concern is that the reality of Spartan homosexuality goes mostly unnoticed by the modern valorizers of Sparta - the bloody awful movie '300' has the Spartan King taunt the Athenians as 'boy-lovers', which has a rather pot/kettle overtone.

As an aside - the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae could take their stand because a Greek naval force just offshore, whose key elements were Athenian, blocked the Persians from simply bypassing the Spartan heroes and landing an army behind them. The naval fight was as fierce as the land one, and the Athenians did not withdraw their ships until the Spartans had been outflanked and destroyed.


Darrell E said...


Of course, but folks these days that revere the Spartan mythos don't know that homosexuality was not frowned upon, at least for the dominant partner, in Sparta or the entire region in ancient times.

Larry Hart said...


the bloody awful movie '300' has the Spartan King taunt the Athenians as 'boy-lovers', which has a rather pot/kettle overtone.

Frank Miller received criticism for that line in the letter column of the comic. He responded that "boy-lover" wasn't meant as an anti-gay slur, but an anti-pedophile slur. Spartan homosexuals weren't boy-lovers, you see. They were man-lovers.

For what it's worth.

Larry Hart said...


...the bloody awful movie '300'

I've mentioned this before, but I enjoyed the graphic novel for what it was when it was published in the year 2000.

I tried watching the movie in...2006, I believe...and even though the movie was close to a shot-by-shot remake of the comic, I couldn't stand watching it, and had to turn off the DVD before I even finished. The difference? Despite the fact that Christianity doesn't appear until 500 years after the action, and Islam another 600+ after that, it was obvious knowing Miller's post-9/11 politics, that the Spartans, i.e., Greeks, i.e., Europeans were intended as stand-ins for western Christians, and that the Persians, i.e. Iranians, were meant as stand-ins for Muslim terrorists. The story didn't change between 2000 and 2006, but the theme became a rah-rah for the Iraq War.

Larry Hart said...

As a rational being, I actually want the Wisconsin Supreme Court to strike this ridiculousness down, but as a Democrat tired of getting steamrolled by Republicans, I'm kinda glad the governor pulled this:

Another (slightly weird) issue that will come before the state Supreme Court is a result of the governor's power to veto parts of bills. A bill that came to the desk of Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) earlier this year increased spending on education per pupil by $325. The original text read in part:

"For the limit for the 2023-24 school year and the 2024-25 school year, add $325 to the result"

Evers struck out some individual characters, including numbers and a hyphen (shown in red [bold] below):

"For the limit for the 2023-24 school year and the 2024-25 school year, add $325 to the result

The final text of this line then read:

"For the limit for 2023-2425, add $325 to the result"

The result was a bill that will increase school funding every year for the next 402 years, something that Evers, a former teacher, was pleased to sign. Republicans called foul, although state law does allow the governor to veto any portion of a bill that he wants to. Needless to say, this is going to end up in the state Supreme Court as well. (

locumranch said...

SciData beautifully summarizes the brutally simple (error-generating) algorithm that is the evolutionary process in a manner that directly contradicts the progressive delusion of both human predestination and 'perfectibility'.

Duncan_C asserts that the Hierarchical/Harem structure is relatively new - only the last 6,000 years or so, providing neither data nor reference, in direct contradiction to SciData's eloquent description of the evolutionary process (above).

Dr. Brin actively engages in 'redefinition', an intrinsically Orwellian practice that allows one to redefine recession as 'growth', failure as success, up as down, and disagreement as misrepresentation.

It was NOT 'straw-manning', then, when I point out that the human being (in general) has been the primary beneficiary of all those unpleasant, despicable, irrational & immoral evolutionary mechanisms that Dr. Brin wishes to eliminate.

Furthermore, I assert the following:

(1) That the imperfectly evolved human being is NOT perfectible;

(2) That there are those who confuse trial & error with forward PROGRESS; and

(3) That there has never been & never will be an ideal human society devoid of inequality, greed, hierarchy, harems & feudalism.


There's a brutal & self-limiting evolutionary logic to the promotion of homosexuality among historical warrior castes. With the redirection of the reproductive impulse, the human male displays repetitive compulsion, increased aggressiveness & decreased self-interest, leading to Freud's "Todestrieb". This makes a superior warrior in the short term but results in plummeting reproduction & genetic self-deletion in the long term.

David Brin said...

NASA and DARPA announced they awarded Lockheed Martin and BWX Technologies to build and develop a nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) engine. An NTR achieves high thrust similar to in-space chemical propulsion but is two to three times more efficient. We helped develop some precursor techs at NASA’s Innovative & Advanced Concepts program – (NIAC) – but at half a $billion, this looks to be getting ready for prime time. NASA and DARPA are looking at a launch target of late 2025 or early 2026.
Duncan it’s actually more complicated than “The Hierarchical/Harem structure is relatively new - only the last 6,000 years or so Our intelligence evolved BEFORE then - in a period where a "Big Man" who tried to become too big would get a bad case of arrows”
1. As I relate in EXISTENCE, the Big Mutation may have been 60,000 y ago or so, letting us REPROGRAM our mental sets via language and culture. Leading to kicking Neanderthal butt (they kicked ours back to Africa around 125,000ya)… and then revising tool sets and thoughts many times since.
2. The Y chromosome bottleneck of about 8000 ya was very, very ‘harem-y”. Yes that coincided with agriculture, not cities. see
Tacitus, interesting.
Scidata, give your daughter in law my ‘canonical’ graphic novel about the inventor of the Transporter – Forgiveness,
My own riff about how spectacularly overrated Sparta is in myth. They never, ever, ever matched what Athenian bakers and poets and fishermen achieved at Marathon and Salamis. See

LH the one enjoyable thing about “300” was the lavishly absurd homo-erotic battle prancing by Leonidas and the Spear-poking Dance Company.

Again, the crazy man strings words together, feigning sapience while having no relation, whatsoever, to anything I ever said or believed, just his masturbatory fantasies. Poor locum. Ever more I wonder if he is some body’s chat GPT experiment, with a psycho training set. zzzz

Tacitus said...


Yes, that 400 year nonsense by Governor Evers was crappy leadership. And I say that while generally approving of the job he's done in office. He's not running again and is probably getting a bit fed up with all the nonsense he has to deal with.


Larry Hart said...


In a snarky way, Governor Evers's stunt displays why I am against the very idea of a line-item veto. Bills are generally arrived at by horse-trading: I'll vote for your expenditure (or cut) in return for you voting for mine. If the governor (or president) gets to sign only the parts of the bill that his party prioritizes, then the opposition votes which helped pass the thing were acquired by fraud.

What Evers did is a ridiculous example, and because of that, it makes my point. The executive should get to sign or veto the bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill which lands on his desk. He should not get to do the legislature's job of altering the bill.

scidata said...

Dr. Brin: NASA and DARPA

I watched a good YouTube vid touring Comic Con SD, which showed the NASA booth - nice to see amongst all the cosplay stuff that just confuses and even frightens me a little. And I often tell my daughter-in-law that I read the works of the only SF author left on the planet who seems to 'get' Asimov. She doesn't hang out with ST writers much. Thanks for the "Forgiveness" link.

Robert said...

As a rational being, I actually want the Wisconsin Supreme Court to strike this ridiculousness down, but as a Democrat tired of getting steamrolled by Republicans, I'm kinda glad the governor pulled this

This kinds of veto seems to have been part of Wisconsin politics for a century, done by both parties. The governor used to be able to delete letters within words and spaces between words — basically any character they wanted, as long as the result made sense. They could also do the same to numbers, changing amounts. These powers were somewhat limited by Democrats to the current system, over Republican opposition (who insisted that the governor needed those powers to properly execute their office).

History here, with case citations:

In a nutshell, the Republicans were perfectly fine when it was their governor rewriting bills that passed a Democratic legislature. And it was Democrats who reined in what used to be more extensive powers.

Tony Fisk said...

The WWI v Martians film came out a while back. It was very cleverly done.

The Wi Govs little act of snarkiness reminds me of an amusing incident during the Abbott Government.*

A Parliamentary sitting period had just ended, and MPs were heading back to their electorates, when the opposition did a double-take on Hansard and realised that the speaker** had neglected to *formally* close Parliament. So they checked to see who was still around and found that, at that time, they formed a majority!

So they continued to sit, reading and passing legislation.

The scenes of Government MPs frantically getting in touch with as many MPs as they could so they could race back into the Lower House was keystone cops level hilarious!

(For the record, although they read a couple of contentious items, the opposition didn't actually pass anything of note. They were just stirring the possum.)

* who was considered appalling. Until we got Morrison!
** The decidedly partisan Bronwyn Bishop***, who was in the habit of gagging debate in favour of her party so often she had it coming.
*** not to be confused with the much more respected Julie Bishop, who quit the party when the blokes decided, after Turnbull, that Morrison was the go.

Tony Fisk said...

...perhaps a more jiu-jitsu example of local rule bending comes from the Gillard Government, who *just* squeaked in over Abbott in 2012 with the help of three independents.
However, losing a member to the Speaker's chair was going to leave the Government with no majority.
Instead, Gillard selected a member of the Opposition. This was Peter Slipper, a somewhat disreputable fellow who was facing police investigations, but who had no love for Abbott.
The resulting ramshackle arrangement worked out surprisingly well.

Alfred Differ said...

Darrell E,

I don't think it is fraud. Well... I don't know anything about the researchers, so the truth is I have no opinion about it being fraud. Innocent until proven guilty, but I usually won't presume innocence either.

Desire to achieve a result CAN overpower our competence in a field. It's well worth remembering that. For this particular achievement, though, they probably feel the risk is worth it in case they are first.


Lab errors do happen. For example, the recent "neutrinos faster than light" result is very likely to evaporate. A lab error was found that could account for the result, so it's time to fix it and check again. On the flip side, though, the solar neutrino guys were right and had to put up with 30 years of theorists telling them they must have screwed up in the lab. Lab errors do happen, but so do other kinds of errors.

Fortunately, everyone seems motivated to try to reproduce this... or fail to reproduce this. THAT is science!

Tony Fisk,

Yup. My favorite stop at the Santa Barbara Zoo involves the black swans. It really should have been obvious. Those birds BEHAVE like swans. [I get pictures of them on every visit.]

Still... it's easier to say "Black Swan" than describe the events like Taleb did. Authors invent language as much as they use it. For example, everyone here has a special non-dictionary extension for the meaning of "uplift" because of a certain author. Same goes for "ditto." 8)

Alan Brooks said...

But if they won a war, the warrior castes had plenty of women to grab; they could switch from gay to straight.
*A war is just if you’re the winner*

Unknown said...


I think the gay/straight thing is a social construct in that in the absence of social strictures, some guys just aren't particular.

There's a central Asian proverb I remember reading about suggesting that a man (i.e., warrior) should choose a woman for progeny, a boy for companionship, and a sheep...

Al the Great kind of meshed two of his needs by having his life partner and himself marry Persian royal sisters - the closest he could come to having children with his lover. Kind of romantic. Pity how that ended...


P.S. I do remember reading in a (Stephen Gould?) essay about the reaction back in England when explorers in Fourex (sorry, Australia) reported and sent home black swans. Then there was the platypus, which was (iirc) straight up labeled a hoax.

Alan Brooks said...

Loc is the most educated fool in Christendom. What did he mean by “self-limiting” in his last paragraph? That some gay warriors would die without descendants? Did they worry about such when they were in military hospitals—or on their deathbeds?
Or did he mean “self-limiting” for a military caste? Surely he did. Yet that would be military caste-limiting rather than self-limiting.

If loc were a med school instructor, I wouldn’t mind being a student of his. But if he taught sociology, no. Wouldn’t learn much from him except in a negative sense.

Howard Brazee said...

Being gay or straight isn't always 100% one or the other. And if an ancient Greek wanted children, he knew what he needed to do. Or she.

Alan Brooks said...

And how many children today derived from sperm donors who are—or were—gay? (Maybe loc is gay, and his boyfriend is an Israeli progressive. I know of more improbable realities than that. We’ve all seen just about everything.)

scidata said...

Alan Brooks: But if he taught sociology, no.

This is why I'm such a fan of John Kemeny, the key member of the secondary 'school' that came out of Alamos, and co-inventor of BASIC. He is the closest thing to a real Hari Seldon that ever was (that I know of). Most psychologists are easy to dismiss, computational* psychology and psychohistory aren't.

"The only reason psychology students don't have to do more and harder mathematics than physics students is because the mathematicians haven't yet discovered ways of dealing with problems as hard as those in psychology."
- John Kemeny

* I use the term computational because it has elements of mathematics and even *cough* statistics, and was born in a time when theory was pretty much the only tool they had. Perhaps Asimov was poised to bridge that gap, we'll never know. FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH delved into some of this. I can only solder :)

scidata said...

"a real Hari Seldon"

There are wisps of hints about Laplace, but those are even pre-Frankenstein, and too mystical for me to chase down.

Tony Fisk said...

@alfred It just amuses me that a term meant to refer to an unpredictable event is locally quite the reverse.

@pappenheimer that would be Nicolas Baudin, who Flinders met in Encounter Bay while trying to circumnavigate Australia. Baudin had a knack for keeping native animals alive, which is how Empress Josephine got her hands on some 'unpredictable events'. The meeting was quite cordial, given that England and France were at war at the time.

Napoleonic wars aside, there was something of a nautical space race going on between England and France in the late eighteenth - early nineteenth century. They were forever bumping into each other, starting a few days after the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay. A lot of Southern Australian coastal landmarks have French names. It wouldn't have required too much spin on the dice for Australia to have ended up a French colony. I doubt the locals would have been consulted then, either.

Amusingly, Prachett's 'Lost Continent' might still have been referred to as 'Fourex', although with a radically different take on the meaning! Former PM Gough Whitlam once had an audience in stitches when he recounted the attempts of Castlemaine brewers to export XXXX beer internationally. It hit a snag with France, where the brand name was already very popular... as a condom.
It added an entirely new meaning to the advertising jingles!

Tim H. said...

Tony Fisk, funny you mention obsolete uses now "XXX", my SO and I once enjoyed a pleasant meal at the "XXX Family Restaurant" in West Lafayette Indiana, whose name predated the use of X in pornography by several decades. AIUI, "X" on an item for sale once indicated the price was a cowboy's monthly wage, so an illiterate cowboy would know how long they'd need to save to get a new hat.

Robert said...

There's a central Asian proverb I remember reading about suggesting that a man (i.e., warrior) should choose a woman for progeny, a boy for companionship, and a sheep...

I heard that one attributed to a Greek philosopher. Usually Socrates, Aristotle, or Plato, those being the only Greek pholosophers most people know.

Given how many "Chinese proverbs" my Chinese friends have never heard of, I'm quite leery about attributions…

Alan Brooks said...

I’m not saying loc is mistaken, can’t prove it; am saying he doesn’t convincingly back up what he writes.
Without knowing him well, it appears his knowledge of medicine is matched only by his lack of comprehension regarding certain other matters.

But if he were to write that people conflate expediency with virtue, I’d agree.

Alfred Differ said...

Alan Brooks,

That some gay warriors would die without descendants?

That's likely what he meant. The idea is that gay men don't propagate genetically.

I think it misses the point, though. Courage on the battlefield was seen as a virtue and NOT just by other men. That wouldn't make much sense if the character trait was truly maladaptive. It's a blunt fact of male life that close encounters with mortality make it almost impossible not to get it up right after. Even if the danger was to a companion, that's often enough.


I don't buy into the notion that locumranch is an actor or anything other than what he appears to be. I'm 98% certain he's straight, has kids, and a number of scars from an ugly divorce where he lost parental rights but retained financial obligations. Things haven't worked out the way he imagined in his life and are probably still heading in a worse direction.

I'm 80% certain that his inability to see that his jabs are off-target is due to his mental pain which he likely denies. We are to blame… not him.

Tony Fisk,

It just amuses me that a term meant to refer to an unpredictable event is locally quite the reverse.

About what I'd expect from a land where marsupials won out. Your spiders aren't so cute and fuzzy, so you can keep them. 8)

Fun fact… in an alt.universe my father moved our family to Australia after he retired from the USAF. In this universe my parents looked into it in the mid-70's, but we wound up in Vegas instead which kept California schools just within my reach. In an alt.universe, this astronomy nut kid has already seen the Magellenic Clouds and the star closest to us besides the Sun… but not me. They never rise above the horizon here.

David Brin said...

WHY haven't we seen the "we fell in love" letters Trump bragged about getting from N Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, apparently recovered from DT in 2022? US property. Woodward published some excerpts (see link in comments) that show how easy it is to manipulate a loveless soul desperate for flattery.

David Brin said...

Tony, the Dutch had first claim on Australia from several landings. But the part nearest their super rich East Indies colonies was just nasty jungle, so they ignored it. The British suddenly wanted the place because the USA had ended their penal colony in Georgia.

Susan Watson said...

More proof of autocratic failure:
A study of lights at night suggests dictators lie about economic growth. Satellite data hints at the scale of their deception. Sep 29th 2022

Dr Brin- Thank you for observing that even limited Democracy is “vastly more creative, resilient, dynamic and fun” than autocracy.

The foundational truth of Capitalism is that people free to exercise their own talents for their own profit are more productive than those forced to follow the dictates of someone else.

Leadership is different from command. Enterprises coordinating efforts of many people also work better when there is a shared understanding of goals and widespread buy-in to the common cause. This requires leadership that persuades, even inspires the many to most effectively apply their energies and talents to tactical choices before each. Disempowering those on the front line is bad leadership.

Even the American military gains it’s battlefield superiority by ceding implementation of the goal to non-coms and junior officers on site. It is the failing Russian hierarchical model that pauses to pass battlefield decisions to less involved distant senior officers.

In China millions starved because Mao had the bright idea of planting rice seedlings closer together to improve yeild; The plants failed to mature, strangling each other for resources as actual rice farmers had long understood they would. But nobody was going to correct the dear leader.

Hierarchies are simply less efficient at timely feedback than models of distributed decision-making. If dictatorship was more efficient than democracy then North Korea would have a higher standard of living than South Korea. If autocracy worked better for everyone than distributed decision making, East Germany would have subsumed West Germany on merger. It wasn’t and they didn’t.

David Brin said...

Susan W thanks. Though always remember the other side of the coin. Truly competitive capitalism, as prescribed by Adam Smith:

1. always prone to attempts at cheating, especially by either inheritance brats or those who won the previous cycles. Markets only produce the miracle when they are flat/fair/transparent and regulated to advantage new entrants.

2. ... maximizes the number of skilled, confident competitors. For 6000 years feudal societies WASTED TALENT by enforcing class status on underprivileged children. There are forms of socialism that SERVE market competition! e.g. ensuring that every child gets nutrition/education and a fair shot.

Lena said...


Quite glad you liked the article. That's why I bring them up.

"One thing that struck me as quite funny, "Glorification is positively linked to trust in one's intuitions." That's a very polite way of putting it."
- Of course intuitions are largely forged in a socio-cultural context. That's why the intuitions of urban and rural people often seem so intractable. Scale matters, and it can affect people in ways they are entirely unaware of. One, relatively obvious, issue is that rural people are simply exposed to fewer members of their species, so they are much less likely to see how different people can be and still be good people. Urban settings tend to attract more people, and more variety of people. That exposure to difference doesn't guarantee open-mindedness (plenty of Trump-worshipping fascists in lefty loony southern California), but makes it far more likely. In some ways that makes urban fascists even more insecure than rural fascists. They know they are surrounded by people who don't want to tolerate their intolerance, whereas rural fascists feel at home surrounded by like-minded people.

I just finished rereading a book that Dr. Brin recommended here several years back, about the epidemic of anxiety-related disorders in the US, called "Born Anxious." It made me think back to those MRI studies that show hyperactivity in the amygdalae (fear/anger structures) in the brains of conservatives. I always assumed that they got that way because they bought into the constant bombardment of fear-mongering tactics of politicians, but maybe there is an alternative explanation. Conservative people tend to value traditional parenting methods, which are basically dictatorial. The "man" of the family is the king and his rule is the law, and anyone who disobeys gets a beating. Likely a whole lot of children who grow up under those conditions end up with Stress Dysregulation, where methylation markers switch cortisol genes on and shut off the genes responsible for shutting off the stress hormones. This makes people who are commonly paranoid, chock full of unresolved anger issues, and/or constantly terrified, like Harry Harlowe's motherless monkeys. So perhaps it is the parenting that is actually causal, and the fear-mongering propaganda just reinforces the damage.

This brought to my mind another thought, though I'm sure I will be labelled heretical by millions for it. If a child is taught to love Jesus with threats of eternal torture in Hell, then grows up to love Jesus and be a perfectly conforming member of the congregation, how is this any different from Stockholm Syndrome?



Lena said...

Susan Watson,

It looks like Dr. Brin beat me to this one. I was going to ask that you not conflate democracy with capitalism. They are not the same thing, and I'm not sure they are even compatible, since Capitalism tends to operate in a mode of dictatorial hierarchy, which is kind of the opposite of democratic values. Market economies, more generally, are quite prone to collapse, as per Dr. Brin's/Adam Smith's first point. It may be that what they call a Coordinated Market Economy has some potential for longevity, but American-style, kill-or-be-killed, every-man-for-himself Capitalism is so contrary to human nature I doubt it will survive another century.


duncan cairncross said...

Even America is not 100% capitalist
Capitalism works very well for some things and is crap at others

A sensible society has capitalism in its toolbox - along with public ownership and other tools

Lena said...

Hi Duncan,

How's life on the North island?

100% in agreement. These days I hear a whole lot of people bashing capitalism on the one hand, and a whole lot of others declaring it to be God's Chosen Economy. Obviously both sides are wrong. But since humans tend to think in boxes instead of individuals, the tendency is for societies to swing way too far one way, then way too far the other.

Another thing that has to be said, here, is that most people don't seem to know what the word actually means. They think it means free market, while the actual capitalists do everything in their power to monopolize the market and take everyone else's freedom away. It might help if they looked up the word "capital." Likewise socialism and communism.


Howard Brazee said...

No country is 100% capitalist.

I will note that capitalism and free enterprise are not the same. And when a CEO of a corporation is not in the control of the owners, that isn't capitalism.

duncan cairncross said...


I live done near the bottom of South Island - AKA "The Mainland"

Saying that I have been in the UK for the last month - flying back home on Monday

Lena said...

Hi Duncan,

My brain! I thought you were north of Aukland, but my mixed up memory pathways are probably confusing you for someone else. Happy sailing!


Lena said...


While technically the owners - meaning everyone who owns stock in a corporation, are in charge, and CEOs get fired at times, in practice CEOs have so much power, and these days so much money, that they can come very close to tyrants, while the stockholders are largely oblivious to what the CEO is up to.

If you have the time, check out "The Drunkard's Walk" by Leonard Mlodinow. It's filled with stories of CEOs who start out as "bold risk-takers" only to be let go a few years later when their plans don't pan out, and are relabeled "reckless." The ironic thing is that the actions of as CEO turn out to have very little impact on the effectiveness of the company, but the business world treats them like superheroes. The book goes far to disillusion people of the myth that individual success has much to do with effort, intelligence, and skill. Even education correlates with income at a meager 0.40 - better than the success of economists, stock brokers, and CEOs (and sommeliers, who for some reason have been well studied).


Lena said...

Forgot the link:


Lena said...

Awhile back I mentioned a book that I had not finished reading (The End of Gender by Debra Soh), and I wanted to say a little bit about it now I'm done with it. Overall I was happy with it, though I have several quibbles with it. Later I decided to try to run a hypothesis of mine by the author, so I went to her web site to look for contact information. The site was set up so you could only contact her if you want to hire her as a guest speaker or expert witness, or if you donate money to her cause. That rubbed me the wrong way immediately. Then I started to look at what was on her site. For someone who claims to be on the progressive end, she has been interviewed by a lot of figures in the fascist media sphere, the likes of Ben Shapiro and Joe Rogan (twice). It looks like she's gone from being an honest researcher to The Dark Side, chased away by the wokies.

Since our faux rancher brought up the right-wing obsession with sexual orientation, I thought maybe I could drop it in here and see what Brin's Posse thinks. I've run it by people who know the statistics better than I do, and they thought it was worth exploring. So in reference to gay hoplites and the fact that genders are different in different cultures: I suspect that sexual orientation is probably normally distributed in the human species. What brought me to that conclusion is the idea that sexual attraction isn't a simple binary. People are attracted to many things about other people - voices, shoulders, necks, feet, ears, eyes are tops, and probably hundreds of things that influence people in very subtle ways. If each one by itself has an allele that might incline one to be attracted to one sex or another, then most people are going to have a random mix of these drives, with smaller percentages who are strongly attracted to the same sex and equal numbers strongly attracted to the opposite. I've run this idea by people who had more statistics than me, and they thought it was a hypothesis worth looking into. There's also the matter of functionality. I don't want to go the way of Pangloss, but it seems to me that, for a social species that forms tribes that often come into conflict with each other, if you have an instinct to see members of your own sex as something other than just competitors, you would be slightly less inclined to kill them. This would help explain why there is so much bisexual behavior in social animals, like flocking birds and pod-dwelling dolphins, but not in solitary hunters like cats and bears. What do you think?


Tony Fisk said...

@david ah yes. Hartog in 1616 (and later the English pirate, Dampier in 1688). The North West Australian Coast is not a nasty jungle, but a hot, dry scrubby place. Just as nasty to Europeans. (Lovecraft's 'Shadow Out of Time' has a wonderfully anachronistic account of the protagonist taking passage on a paddle steamer up the Fortescue River, which is dry most of the time. Cracking yarn otherwise)

Of course, there's Abel Tasman in the 1640s as well. And legend tells of an old mahogany Portuguese vessel buried in the sands near Warrnambool in SW Victoria.

But they were all trumped by a couple of Zheng He's vice-admirals in the 1300s.

And, 60,000+ years before that...!

David Brin said...

Not sure WHY Zheng He would have ventured down that way. But maybe.

PSB: The whole gender/sex matter is colored by:

1. mass dimorphism among humans leads to a modest 'harem size' of 1.3. About the scale that chiefs in known tribes had a 2nd wife. So, later expansions of that number happened after size mattered less than weapons.

2, As shown here - Human females show far more signs of PHYSICAL sexual selection, being far more profoundly changed in appearance from the Ape baseline than males are. That means a LOT! Yet no one (but me) talks about the blatant fact that women with beards find it hard to reproduce. This implies a severe shift in choice-power, which is consistent with #1.

3. And yet human females are able to flamboyantly enjoy sex. This seems to imply retention of reward-choice. (In that paper I posit two-way selection may have led to many human traits, including runaway brains.)

4. Males may prefer fecund females, but are known to f anything that moves. But after the arrival of kings and such, there were often many who had no mating options and this drive would turn elsehwere.

5. Having said that, let's posit that males are dangerous, smelly, dangerous, hairy and dangerous. Very few males or females wish to be grabbed by one without deliberated choice. Some kinds of homophobia (some) are understandable in that context. You double check if gay guys seek to run a cub scout pack, no more or less than than you want to validate heteros
seeking to mentor a pack of girl scouts. Not kneejerk, just a second look.

6. In homophobic societies, males (and females) would 'mask' their main activities under a marriage. See THE CATCHER WAS A SPY. Removing that incentive for subterfuge has had a side effect that fewer gay folk are reproducing. That is starting to change with M-M + F-F partnerships. A reasonable solution in about a dozen ways.

There's more, but I am already hoping nver to be quoted out of context

Unknown said...

"The Catcher Was A Spy"

Yep, Moe Berg - White Sox catcher on the diamond, OSS agent in the off season. Must be missing something, though...did he have to hide his orientation as well as his second career? That's new to me.


P.S. Ah, the movie implied he was gay, but there's nothing to substantiate it...(shrugs) OK, then. Your main point is reasonable.

P.P.S. Re: Zheng He/Cheng Ho, his ships had the ability to visit the Great South Land, but not sure about the why. Nothing to trade for at the time and no local cities to visit and overawe. Any archeological evidence?

David Brin said...

The movie suggested he was bi and conflicted about his loyalties. The scenes where he ALMOST murders Heisenberg are amazing.

Tony Fisk said...

Digging a bit more into the Zheng He down under theory. It stems from a claim made in 2002 (by an ex-submariner called Gavin Menzies) that two of Zheng He's vice-admirals, Hong Bou and Zhou Man, investigated the East and West coasts, over several months in 1422, looking for minerals.

It would certainly have been within their capabilities, but hard evidence that they actually did so is singularly lacking. Especially since Zheng He's records were subsequently destroyed.

So let's walk that one back.

(In digging, I found this idea has been around for a long time. Even people like Flinders and Cook were quite open to the possibility the Chinese had explored Australia before them.)

Glohr said...

Peter Turchin, whose prior work has been mentioned here several times over the years, has been making the rounds promoting his latest book, End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration. He does interesting and thought provoking interviews.

scidata said...

Turchin is a cliodynamics type. I have great respect for such, they're almost in the Asimovian school, but most are afraid of the term 'psychohistory', and petrified of the label 'psychohistorian'. Understandable.

Larry Hart said...


petrified of the label 'psychohistorian'. Understandable.

To the uninitiated, the term most likely comes off as implying "psycho historian", i.e., a historian who is crazy.

Likewise, a psychotherapist might be understandably wary of the way this was once painted on an office door of very little width:


scidata said...

@Larry Hart
Spilt coffee. Paul Krugman was very brave to admit that he aspired to be a psychohistorian.

David Brin said...



Vara La Fey said...

Paradoctor: "In my previous post, I said that some have proposed rule by computer. So far, that's been in science fiction, and usually as a refutational thought experiment. But I suspect that some will propose rule-by-computer in earnest."

It was less than a week ago when I saw somebody do exactly that. Now I wish I'd saved the post. While it was a mere Youtube commenter who said it, most YT comments are ideas - or motivations for accepting them - which have percolated through the general culture.

The human proclivity for wanting to be ruled has boggled my mind since I was probably 10 years old. I'm 60 now.