Equality

Equality comes in different forms: the debate between “equality of opportunity” and “equality of outcomes” is well known and defines, to some extent, different political stances within the naive humanist framework. Roughly speaking, centrists care more about equality of opportunity, leftists care more about equality of outcomes.

Equality of opportunity is otherwise known as fairness. Equality of outcomes is otherwise known as equity, and sometimes thought of as a classless society – or at least a society without poverty. I’d be remiss not to post this infamous image contrasting fairness (which they here call equality) and equity.

If you’re curious, here’s a blog post that discusses in more detail what’s wrong with this image (towards the end).

There is a third conception of equality, which is not prescriptive but descriptive: equality of ability, which is otherwise known as the blank slate theory of human nature. This theory is wrong, and one could argue this conclusion was always staring us in the face, but modern biology really did hammer down the last nail in the coffin: defending the blank slate theory of human nature in the current year requires a considerable amount of both ignorance and self-deception. Lucky for us, neither of those qualities is in short supply.

Here’s the important part: if the blank slate theory of human nature was true, implementing equality of opportunity would produce equality of outcomes, bar some random, negligible variation. It is, however, false, which means implementing equality of opportunity comes at the cost of equality of outcomes. Conversely, implementing equality of outcomes comes at the cost of equality of opportunity.

This is a big source of cognitive dissonance for most humanists, because the evidence of human inequality of ability (both at the group level and at the individual level) has now become very hard to deny. It is everywhere, readily available and easy to understand.

At this point, we have a choice to make: sanity, fairness, equity. Pick two and only two.

If you’re reading this, your choice is quite obvious, and it should be obvious as well that most people aren’t making the same one.

Designed culture

An intellectual basis for culture: geometry under every stroke of the brush

Culture is mostly made up of myriad little things you do without thinking about them. Why did you make coffee instead of tea? Why do you speak English rather than Italian? Why do you count in base 10 rather than base 20? You might pause and think about these things, but most of the time they happen on autopilot. Basic preferences and deeply ingrained social norms are more than simple habits. Most of them were never consciously learned and consciously transmitted, and insofar as it was a deliberate process, alternatives were never considered.

The usual analogy with genes works well on this memetic soup, because most of it is transmitted from parents to children:

  • Most of the existing variation is neutral with regards to the ability of a person to reproduce, and thus it is susceptible to memetic drift. This explains a lot of the seemingly random variation in some aspects of culture. 
  • Random change is more likely to be negative than positive, even though in this case not all change is random.
  • Negative change is progressively weeded out by natural selection, although other routes of transmission can allow memes to be transmitted even as they impede the ability of their host to reproduce.

Actually, they are most comparable to symbiotic bacteria. Many bacteria are good for us and live in our bodies. They are transmitted from parents to children, and so the information they carry along can be thought of almost as a part of our genome, since our reproductive interests and theirs are almost aligned.

Some bacteria are parasitic, and while immune systems and evolved ‘behaviors’ (like fever, coughing, sneezing) in their hosts do create a selective pressure making them less harmful over time, they can never become completely harmless to us unless they become symbiotic bacteria – and the tickets on that train are sold out. Their metabolism requires energy to sustain itself, and that energy has to come from somewhere. Even if it was possible for parasitic bacteria not to generate any immune reaction or visible symptoms in a host (it’s not), it would still need to consume sugar, break down fats or do something of the sort to survive, thus taking away energy from the host or its symbiotic bacteria. Of course, our hypothetical asymptomatic, immuno-neutral parasite would quickly kill any compatible host, since being able to gorge itself on energy sources with no repercussions would allow it to multiply so quickly it would burn through its supply in no time.

Memes are competing for real estate in the information space of our minds. Unlike bacteria in a body, they cannot proliferate (create identical copies of themselves) in a single mind. For a meme to reproduce, it requires a fresh mind, and there is a huge amount of available space for a variety of different memes in a human mind. Even though the prime real estate of conscious knowledge is getting crowded, there are still backwater second-tier fields to be acquired for cheap in people’s subconscious, and if you can’t find a free slot to occupy, you can always steal land from some old meme down there. It’s not like the place is all that civilized.

This metaphor has more than run its course. My points are: most of what we call culture is memes that are lodged into our subconscious. Some of them got there because they are passed on in families, and those are mostly beneficial because the memetic load is regularly trimmed (directly) by the process of natural selection, like the DNA of symbiotic bacteria. Some of them got there because we were exposed to them outside of the family sphere, and those are only modified indirectly by natural selection creating resistant hosts, which in turn selects for less harmful versions of the memes – same way the immune system creates a selective pressure for parasitic bacteria. This process takes longer, and a parasitic meme can never be made completely harmless because just like a bacterium needs energy, a meme needs a slot in your mind. In other words, even a relatively harmless fashion is probably taking the place of a useful tradition.

I’ll briefly explain the fashion vs. tradition dichotomy: all memetic systems tend to evolve over time, but they have different selective pressures depending on their main mode of transmission. Roughly speaking, there are two modes of transmission that create significant differences in how ideologies evolve: adult-to-adult or adult-to-(biological)-children. 

Adult-to-adult transmission is what is called a fashion: over time, it will acquire characteristics that make it better able to infect and spread in a human mind, because variants that plug better into the human psyche tend to “reproduce” better and become more common. Given enough time, a successful fashion will seamlessly acquire a victimhood narrative, a villain narrative, aesthetics, enraging memes, persuasive rhetoric, etc. In principle, a fashion doesn’t have to harm its host to exist, but in practice it often does, because it is beneficial for a fashion to be able to “take over” the host and make them spend time and energy promoting it. In this regard, a fashion behaves a lot like a transmissible disease, which is why I did compare them to parasitic bacteria. 

Adult-to-children transmission is what is called a tradition. The characteristics a tradition acquire over time also make it good at infecting minds, but in addition to that, it tends to favour high fertility in its hosts. A tradition is better able to spread if its hosts have lots of children, since it is mostly transmitted from parents to their kids. Hence, traditions evolve more slowly as they are being passed down through generations, but they win out in the long run (in a stable environment) because they do not destroy their hosts: their ‘interests’ are, to some extent, aligned with the genetic interests of their hosts, and so they are not progressively weeded out by their hosts evolving psychological immunity. They tend to acquire fertility-promoting traits such as: homophobia, sexual contracts (marriage), valuing children, resistance to change. 

More on fashions and traditions can be found on the blog The Wayward Axolotl whose author came up with the dichotomy. 

I’m not saying you should replace all your memes with those of the oldest tradition you can find. For one thing, it doesn’t work like that: traditions are handed over to you by your parents. If you acquire one as an adult, to you it is a fashion. Moreover, all traditions start as fashions, and virtually any fashion can potentially become a tradition if it ends up being transmitted from parents to kids. This essay is about engineering culture, i.e. how to create fashions for our community that can seamlessly turn into traditions, and help us along the way.

That brings us back to the original topic. As I said, not all cultural change is random: many memes and memetic systems (ideologies) were created intentionally, to various ends. Mohammed did not understand memetics, but he certainly intended to create a religion, or at least a movement. So, unlike the genome, a lot of our culture is designed (not necessarily with the intent of increasing survivability or fertility) and the history of memetics is far from being a strictly evolutionary process. Evolution is non-random selection repeatedly operating on random mutation. Memetic evolution is non-random selection (of a different type) repeatedly operating on semi-random mutations. 

Designing culture is both useful and risky. You need to do it with a clear goal in mind and a solid theory of how the cultural elements you implement will bring about the effects you want.

So what is our collective goal? The first one should be maintaining the existence of the community. What are the immediate instrumental goals to that end? Encouraging loyalty, survivability and fertility in members. 

I’ll go over each one of these instrumental goals, and suggest easy to implement cultural elements to support them, adapted from real-life examples. I’ll use the ones I know best: LDS, muslims, catholics, Chinese syncretism. 

I also want to emphasize that this is about setting up seemingly arbitrary traditions and then forgetting about them in day-to-day life, while still harnessing their benefits. For example, having a culture where people are consciously prepping is a desirable thing, but that isn’t what I’m after here: I want a culture that naturally prepares people, even those of them who aren’t aware of it. 

This is about cultural capital, rather than intellectual capital. 

Loyalty: a meme to an end

The guiding principle for fostering loyalty should be: no self-sacrifice for the collective, or as little as possible. People are loyal to a group when it is easy to be loyal, or beneficial in the long run. In a minority group, too many restrictions either push people away, or make them unable to compete with mainstream society. Both of those outcomes are counterproductive. 

However, loyalty is by definition a self-imposed restriction. Loyal people, given the choice, will decide not to jump ships. They will decide that their interests are aligned with those of their community. In an endogamous community, they will decide not to outmarry. (unless the relationship is sanctified by the community, and there needs to be cases where this is so) They will decide to hire people from their community. In an intellectual movement, they will decide to voice their disagreements privately rather than publically. Some of those choices involve passing up opportunities for the sake of the collective, in other words self-sacrifice. The riddle we need to solve is the following: how to make loyalty profitable for individuals? 

You can increase the cost of jumping ships. People naturally don’t like ‘apostates’ and think of them as turncoats. In order to reinforce that effect, you can shame apostates by calling them short-term thinking idiots, and using a tailor-made, scary-sounding set of vocabulary to refer to them. For example, you could call apostates “kinless”. You could refer to lineages leaving the community as “diluting” into mainstream society. For this to work on someone, it requires most of their social circle to be part of the community, so it’s going to be hard to implement in the beginning, but in the long run social pressure is what works best. 

Another way to make changing allegiances more costly is to have habits and practices that set you apart from mainstream society: clothing, dietary habits, taboos are the most common ones. Since the individual feels “normal” in their own community and “weird” in mainstream society, this makes the community into a low pressure chamber that prevents outwards flow. 

Worth mentioning: having a very high level of trust and cooperation within the community naturally increases the cost of leaving, since by doing so an individual forfeits access to that privileged network, for them as well as their offspring.

You can minimise the cost of loyalty. For example, it is more common for a community to impose (passive) restrictions rather than (active) habits. Eating fish every friday is a harder habit to maintain than not eating pork, since you have to go out of your way to buy fish every friday, while you can just not pick pork at the supermarket. Many successful communities have simple dietary restrictions that are not difficult to maintain in day-to-day life, but basic enough that they have the desired effect of creating a rift between the community and mainstream society. The mormons achieve that with restrictions on coffee and tea (and alcohol, but unlike hot beverages this isn’t easy to implement), muslims and jews with a taboo on eating pork. 

As mentioned before, even the most basic, defining rule of an endogamous community (no outmarriage) needs to have special cases. This is important for two reasons: you don’t want to pass up opportunities to recruit exceptional individuals from mainstream society, and it makes the perceived future cost of loyalty lower: even with very high standards for outsiders, leaving a small opening for the possibility of outmarrying means that your potential pool of ‘applicants’ is everyone rather than a small subset of the population. 

Generally speaking, having a tight-knit community makes being loyal easy. If each generation is socialized together through collective homeschooling and other activities, individuals will never have to make hard, costly choices for the sake of loyalty. People marry, hire or break bread with people they know in the first place. 

You can compensate for the cost of being loyal. You don’t want to compensate simply by giving more status to loyal people, or you risk ending up in a situation where people sacrifice themselves for the sake of the collective out of virtue signalling. You want to give them real advantages: a business owner who shows loyalty by hiring people from the community should be rewarded with customers. An individual who chooses to marry within the community should be rewarded with opportunities and preferential cooperation. In other words, harness our natural tendency to signal virtue by allowing people to do it through supporting loyal members of the community. 

Survivability: all prepped up and ready to go

Over a long enough period of time, say three generations, difficult times are almost guaranteed to come up. Survivability doesn’t seem very important to most of us right now, and indeed a long period of abundance like the one we’ve had can make any community forget the value of being prepared. Even though you were born in a peaceful and wealthy era, it is likely that your own kids, or grandkids, will not. Short of the community being very well prepared, they will know extreme poverty, die of avoidable sickness, or serve as cannon fodder in a war. 

We need to have cultural habits and practices that make us into “natural preppers” even as we forget the hard times during times of abundance. I’ll go through the main risks we’d benefit from being prepared for: aggression, exodus, famine, malnutrition, poverty, disease, accidents, power cuts, helplessness. 

Aggression: let’s get this one out of the way. You need a culture that promotes physical fitness, and the way it naturally happens in communities is through playing games, or in other words collective sports. I know this is a tough sell in what is initially going to be an intellectual group, but the only way to get most people in a community to reliably exercise without thinking about it twice is to make a particular team sport into “our thing”. 

Might seem like a detail, but besides being fit, you need relatively short hair and contacts rather than glasses, at least for men. Whatever it is we define as a traditional look (there can be more than one), it should therefore include these. 

Finally, having a couple weapons and ammo in a safe is a good idea. Having dozens of guns and going to the range every weekend has diminishing returns: it is by and large a waste of time and money, but having a gun in the house and going to the range once a year or so to make sure you still know how to use it will come in handy, if not to you then to one of your descendants. This can be promoted with sayings and proverbs like “a chest of grain and a bag of lead” (patent pending).

Exodus: being able to quickly skedaddle from a certain area is often the best line of defense. I have two suggestions for cultural traits that can achieve this result: 

  • Like in traditional jewish communities, having a reserve of small valuables makes you able to pack up and leave quickly, and still land on your feet. People in general already like small, shiny bits of rock, so it is an easy to encourage tendency, and it makes for a nice birthday present for your partner anyways.
  • Having traditions that involve visiting each other a few times a year and sleeping over will naturally make people better equipped to take care of refugees from the community should the need arise. Plus, think of all those sweet social gains. 

Famine: hands down the community that preps best for this eventuality is the LDS. They have, for “religious reasons”, one to three months worth of rice under the bed, at all times. This is incredibly cheap to set up, and will save many a mormon’s life in the future, so I think we should take note.
A small, easy improvement is adding a few bags of dried beans to this. Rice + beans or lentils is a complete protein, and all are very cheap. 

Malnutrition: most communities have a few staple foods that they recognize as theirs. This is a good opportunity to sneak in nutrients in order to prevent commonly found nutritional deficiencies, both modern and ancient (since those could come back). For instance: 

  • A fish-only meal, say once a week, can prevent both iodine deficiency and vitamin d deficiency. 
  • Having a fruity drink like cider or juice instead of beer or coke as a common beverage can provide vitamin c. 

Poverty: although they have a lot of kids, trad catholics rarely become destitute, because they are just not all that frivolous. I’ll go over some of the things they do:

  • they eat out all the time, but not in restaurants: rather, they tend to go to each other’s houses. That way, money that would otherwise be wasted is instead invested in a form of food based gift economy. 
  • they frown upon egregious displays of wealth, and don’t like to brag about money, unless it’s money well spent. (like buying a house)
  • parents often pay for their kids’ mortgage down payment, so those don’t have to spend a decade paying rent before being able to buy a house. 
  • they’re overrepresented in careers that don’t require long studies like the military or the farming sector. 

Disease: no handshakes and no hugs/kisses outside of close family members is a no-brainer, makes it harder for disease to spread in the community. 

Foods that are often the cause of sickness or poisoning (like mushrooms, or oysters) can be natural candidates for dietary restrictions. 

Accidents: short of having extreme restrictions (like not using cars), this is probably the hardest category to prepare for. There is only one thing I can think of that could be easily implemented: rules for buying or building a house. For instance: the building should be made of stone (not wood), and should be more than 7 meters (20-25 feet) above water level. Common sense stuff, really, but defining the characteristics of a traditional home in that way might come in handy. 

Power cuts: if you want to be indirectly prepared for power cuts, the best way to do it is to have a week every year when you don’t use technology (except for emergencies). This could be justified as a commemoration of some important event, and be an important moment in the social life of the community. 

As a byproduct of this, people will have alternatives on hand for cooking (gas stove), for staying clean without hot water (like a washcloth), for heating (many options) etc.  

Helplessness: having practical knowledge and skills is invaluable in times of crisis. You want to give higher status to tradespeople, and to encourage individuals to pursue those careers. 

Trades are a reliable source of employment/income, and generally don’t require long studies. Tradesmen can also set up their own businesses once they know the market well enough. 

Not everyone is fit to learn a trade, of course, but this needs to be a valid, high status option within the community. 

Fertility: the mainspring of the great machine

So you want a culture that supports high fertility in members, without losing sight of the reasons why we’re creating it in the first place. So we need to keep the following points in mind: 

  • We can’t rely on dumb women. We want a community with foresight, which is to say we need smart people, which is to say we need smart women. 
  • We can’t rely on a pre-modern agricultural lifestyle, because that doesn’t solve the problem of population collapse in the face of energy/resources scarcity. 
  • We can’t rely on parasitism, because exploiting the rest of society to prop up our own fertility rates can only end up with our demise or that of the host society (and thus indirectly ours). Acting like a cancer on society is short-term optimisation, not long-term planning. 
  • We can’t rely on individuals being smart and willful enough to understand explicitly why high fertility is inevitable, and act on it. We should encourage this kind of explicit understanding, but we can’t expect it to be enough to support a high fertility culture in and of itself. 

I’ve talked about this a bit in my Rational feminism article. Most of what can be done to encourage high fertility, has to do with women’s culture and status: a community of smart women living in abundance will tend to value intellectual, economic and artistic endeavours over housework. The best way to painlessly solve this problem is to build a culture around it: make housework unnecessary, make having kids high status, make it possible for mothers to pursue intellectual, economic and artistic endeavours as much as possible. 

I’m not going to repeat everything here, but I’ll mention a few other things existing communities do to increase fertility, knowingly or not. 

Contraception

This is a tough one: you want to discourage people from using contraception, but you don’t want to make into a religious taboo, since you can’t have EPC (Eugenic Population Control) without contraception.

This might be a bit hard to justify, but you could have a rule against using passive contraception like the birth control pill or an intrauterine device (IUD). This type of contraception is different from active contraception like condoms in that you take it or put it on in a calm, long-term thinking moment, and don’t have to think about it at the moment of sex. 

By contrast, you have to actively put on a condom every time you have sex, which is more cumbersome. It also makes the decision to have a child easier and more “in the moment”, as opposed to waiting a week or so for fertility to come back after being on the pill, or getting a doctor’s appointment to take off an IUD. 

Creating a dichotomy between regular contraception (between bodies) and “invasive” contraception (within bodies) can achieve that. It’s not a complete solution, but it’s a start. 

Early marriages

Chinese internet shitposters casually describe unmarried women over the age of 27 as “leftover women”. No one thinks this is a nice or polite thing to say, but it does have the effect of pressuring women into marrying before becoming too old. 

This is easy enough to copy, and can be cranked up: you could have a culture where the optimal age to marry is during your studies (20-24), then right after, then if you’re not married by 28 you’re considered a “leftover woman”. 

You can also support earlier pregnancies with the same kind of derogatory terms. If you don’t have your first kid or pregnancy within two years of getting married, you’re in a “sterile marriage”. 

Conclusion

This post feels like a constellation of unrelated ideas, and to an extent that’s what it is. Some of the things I proposed are unrealistic, but most of them come from existing, real life examples, so I don’t think they’re that much of a stretch. 

This is about designing a culture with a particular purpose in mind, which to my knowledge is uncharted territory. Cultural traits that rely on social pressure/shaming and status truly kick in when the community is already quite big, but cultural habits and holidays can be implemented from the get go, so there is no need to wait. In my next post on this topic, I will propose actual cultural habits and holidays we can adopt, with no social cost since it can all be passed off as family traditions. 

Freedom of speech as a social norm

In its original form, freedom of speech isn’t a law, or an explicit principle. Freedom of speech is a naturally emerging social norm. It is a courtesy people tied by kinship or friendship extend to one another, and it arises whenever the social cost of “turning in” your family for the sake of upholding societal taboos is higher than the cost incurred through tolerating their apostasy. 

Therefore, freedom of speech as a social norm emerges when the cost of apostasy is low, or when the clannishness of a population is high (family ties are seen as sacred and more important than other societal taboos), or both. 

It looks like places where family ties are weak (high individualism), but the cost of apostasy is even lower, are able to enshrine freedom of speech as a principle and tolerate dissent even in the public sphere, but they also cave in very quickly if the cost of apostasy rises, either due to external influences or cultural shifts. 

By contrast, freedom of speech seems to be more resilient in places where it emerges as a social norm because loyalty to your family is more important than loyalty to society’s sacred cows. However, in those places, freedom of speech rarely makes it into law, and if it does there is no will to enforce it. I would argue that China is this kind of society. In the course of the XXth century, efforts by the government to break down family ties made freedom of speech as a social norm all but disappear, but it sprung up again as family ties thickened back between the nineties and now. 

This type of freedom of speech allows for collective rationality at the local level, but it can impair it at a higher level, so although it is more resilient, it is also sub-optimal. 

Preventing the emergence of freedom of speech as a social norm requires either a very dogmatic population (some islamic countries provide examples of that, and so does the left) or for an agent, usually the state, to break down family ties and seed distrust as well as increase the cost of apostasy – North Korea is a modern example of this.

A secondary goal made first

In august 2015, I stopped being dogmatic. I remember what it felt like when one key part of my belief system gave way. I was very emotional, going back and forth in my mind, trying to think of a single shred of evidence that would have allowed me to discard the conclusion I was so painfully in the process of accepting – but confirmation bias was already setting in, and thinking back on past experiences had the opposite effect, making me realise more and more how blind I’d been, how all the evidence had been right in front of my eyes all this time and how I was just able to push it aside and rationalise it, afraid even to go and peek behind the curtain where my doubts were accumulating. I knew my sense of identity was at stake and I was unwilling to look, for fear that I might find something I didn’t like. When I found it, I knew that the whole house of cards could collapse very quickly, and sure enough, collapse it did. 

Adopting a more realistic worldview left me with a hole where my sense of purpose had once been. A dogmatic individual usually doesn’t have that problem, since the great principles that are promoted by the ideology usually take precedence over any personal, long-term, abstract goal, which is what a purpose actually is. 

I spent a fair bit of time with this nagging hole eating away at me. I inquired into most intuitive answers. Knowledge? Ill-defined. Truth? A means to an end. Justice? Self-contradictory. Happiness? Out of reach by definition. For a time, I embraced a form of absurdism that I had to tweak a bit because I didn’t believe in objective free will. It seemed to work. 

But I still cared. Cliche as it may sound, I still had a deep sense of yearning for something bigger than myself, and I could reject it temporarily but I knew that desire would eventually overcome me. You cannot spend your life in contemplation. You cannot help but care about things, and if you’re anything like me, you cannot help but care about the big picture, or that existential angst wouldn’t even exist in the first place. I did not know what my purpose was, but I knew I had a deep desire for purpose, and that desire was eventually going to take over. 

By then, I was already one year into my deconversion, and that’s when I started to dig into the implications of evolution and memetics for ideologies. I’m not going to expand on that here. It was a fruitful inquiry in and of itself, but it also had implications for my quest for purpose. 

You see, I cared about the big picture, which is to say I cared about society, civilization and all that. I didn’t know what my personal goal was, but I knew it had to do with society, and I knew it had to be doable. A goal that is impossible to realize is either a fantasy, or an excuse. I did not know exactly what made a goal doable, but a safe guess was that it shouldn’t contradict any of the known laws of physics or biology.

In other words, I knew that at some point I would have a big picture goal, and I knew that this would require many secondary goals, only one of which was predictable: reproduction. Because without it, any grand scale purpose that I could choose for myself would be self-defeating. 

In my purposeless world, the only purpose I could identify with any clarity was reproduction, because it didn’t matter too much what my actual purpose was, reproduction would have to follow it closely. Thus, I defined reproduction as my only knowable purpose, and almost without me noticing, it started to inform my worldview, and to generate secondary goals regarding society and civilization – in a strange, circular way that I had not anticipated. 

Thinking some more on it, I came to realize that even if I was able to define my purpose at some point, I’d still be able to change my mind later on, which means that I could never be absolutely certain of it. But I could be certain that reproduction would always be on the radar, even if I did change my mind. In that way, reproduction was not only an inevitable secondary purpose, but a reliable one. 

If you have any desire about the world, then reproduction is your first knowable purpose. It isn’t the only one, since there are other emergent instrumental goals that always arise no matter what the terminal goal, but it is the most important, and the first one I’ve found.

Differential fertility

Improving the stock without making our numbers dwindle.

Ultimately, if we intend to bring in people who have reproduction as one of their core values, there is no way around the community having a higher fertility rate than that of the general population. If we don’t, then an individual who values their own reproduction is simply better off not being a part of the community. 

We also want to preserve and if possible improve the quality of our gene pool, which requires implementing eugenics. Problem is, our stock is made up of high-quality people who value passing on their genes. The parental permit cannot be implemented in such a population, because then people whose reproduction we try to limit will just leave (and rightly so) as they cannot be coerced into staying. Of course, if you’ve got a very large community, you might just take the hit. After all, the ones that are likely to leave are unlikely to be the best of us – but they are likely to be quite good when compared to the general population.

For our purposes, though, the question is irrelevant: a large community will take generations to build. A small community is what we’ll be working on for the foreseeable future, and it means we can’t afford to implement something that depresses fertility in individual members. But here’s the thing: we might not need to.  

https://www.unz.com/akarlin/mormon-fertility-might-be-eugenic/

I know, terrible chart. Doesn’t even say which year the data is from, but a quick google search will turn up numerous sources showing that mormons are one of the only groups in the US where higher education and income actually does correlate with higher fertility. 

A few years back, this and a number of other facts about mormons made me very interested in that particular group. I was working at a fast-food joint in Rennes at the time, and there happened to be an LDS chapel right across the road. I’d often take the bus to work and would overhear american missionaries in two-piece suits discussing their hectic schedule, their meetings with potential converts or some obscure point of french grammar from a religious text. 

At some point I approached the elders (that’s how missionaries are called) and went on to having fascinating discussions with them over the course of several meetings. I went to half a dozen of their sunday morning gatherings and was invited to have dinner and conversation in several mormon families in Rennes, opening myself up to a world I didn’t suspect existed. 

Although there is no rule against politely questioning the elders over questions of faith, I was careful not to rock the boat too much, and generally tried to behave as a good guest. Over the course of a few months, I paid close attention to how they were organized, and how their culture operated (with no ill intent whatsoever towards my hosts, I should say) and even ended up visiting their newly opened temple near Paris. Temples are usually closed to non-members of the church, but they made an exception right before the construction was finished.

Anyways, back on topic. The reason why very high fertility communities tend to generate that eugenic effect is very simple: when everyone is trying to have as many kids as possible, the higher income families are able to afford more, all else being equal. By simple virtue of creating such a community, where people (as always) compete for status and having a large family is the ultimate source of status, you’ve already implemented the hands-off, mormon-style approach to eugenics, without laying a finger. I call that differential fertility, and the best thing about it is that is arises naturally in the right conditions. 

Is it possible to improve on this? Maybe. Communal child care, encouraging women to work from home, all of that could accentuate the mormon effect, since it would make high-IQ women contribute more to the wealth of their household, without compromising their fertility rates. Also, generally speaking, a community made up of biological realists will probably differ from the general population in their attitude towards direct eugenics, and I’d imagine would be quite keen on embryo screening / embryo selection. 

Is it necessary and practical to bother with adding other eugenic feedback loops in the community while it is in development? 

As long as we have very high fertility, having strong eugenic feedback loops is not necessary, and as long as our total numbers are small, it isn’t practical. Soft eugenics are probably worth it (basic things like having very low tolerance for criminality, or having a culture that places high value on being smart and in good health) but you don’t want to overdo it in the beginning.

If we manage to impose the parental permit policy on mainstream society, won’t they converge with us over generations? 

Yes, although if that happens then the endogamous community will be big enough that we probably can have a different parental permit to maintain our edge if we wish to do so. 

Are there ways to optimize the fertility of exceptional people in our community? 

Organised sperm or eggs donations are the most straightforward way to do that – it could be done outside of the community or even within it if someone turns out to be sterile and is willing to accept raising someone else’s kids.

Trust and the first generation problem

The way this whole entreprise holds up is through cooperation: people stay in it, and participate in it, because they get something out of it. That’s the idea, anyways. 

Cooperation arises when is it useful, and when trust is established. Establishing trust can be done on a local level through regular interaction in a small community, and on a larger scale through punishments and rewards. 

What are punishments and rewards? They are crude tools: emotional stimuli used for banning or promoting certain kinds of behaviour. As already discussed, as a nascent community, we cannot and should not use violence. The punishments other successful communities use are shaming (status hit) and shunning (taking away cooperation), and those are sufficient because communities can rely on the state for enforcing basic things like the ban on interpersonal violence. That is important: in a modern western state, the existence of a police force and judiciary system means we can have a high level of trust for non-impulsive people. We can already trust each other rather well not to settle problems with violence, or not to steal each other’s credit card numbers. 

The kind of trust we need to enforce (through shaming and shunning) in a large-scale community is similar to that of a large cousinhood. You want people in your community to be safe to approach with business ideas, honorable in dealings, honest about their intentions, clear about their personal values. Existing communities achieve this with the following rules: 

  • Omertà / taboo on snitching. 
  • Personal honor / promises are made in front of witnesses. (or God)
  • Common values (religion)

The way we can achieve this in our community is similar. We can have an omertà culture, it arises naturally in small communities and scales up nicely. It doesn’t need to be as intense as that of the sicilian mafia to work, but we shouldn’t be too open about it. We can have a cultural practice of making sparingly used honor-binding promises in front of witnesses. This kind of oral contract is very effective for agreements that don’t require a written contract. We can select people on the basis of common values (reproduction and sustainability, which can be derived from one another anyways), and teach those to the next generation – not as a religion, but as a cultural package and a way of life, a bit like nationalism or humanism. Ours can be a lot better than either of those, since it will not break down easily upon examination – and indeed examination of it can be encouraged.  

As a side note, shaming is a bottom-up process that is done by individuals, while shunning is more top-down since it requires a uniform response. Both should be used sparingly. You don’t want to have too many shaming-enforced rules, lest nobody knows exactly what they are and the culture spirals into a shaming-based status competition. You don’t want to shun too many people, lest they create their own community with an adversarial mindset towards the existing one. 

The first generation problem

The most significant benefits of being a part of a community in modern society are as follows: 

  • Job-finding
  • Recruitment
  • Tontines / collective investment schemes
  • Mate-finding
  • Child care assistance
  • Positive social pressure (self-improvement)
  • Social security

Therein lies the problem: all of these things require a fully set up community. The first generation will not benefit much from it. The second generation might benefit some, but not fully. Point is, there is a gap to bridge in the meanwhile, and for however long it takes to get the ball rolling, we need to be clear that this is something we’re building for our descendants to take advantage of – not ourselves. 

It’s worth mentioning that because the first generation will not immediately benefit from this, building the community should be a secondary pursuit for individual members. The most important thing for the first generation is to get their individual act together: skills, work, family, property. For one thing, because someone who can’t do that is effectively self-destructing no matter how worthy the cause, but also because it’s hardly possible to engage in fruitful cooperation if you’ve got nothing to bring to the table. 

This means the community will have to be bootstrapped on a more flimsy basis at the beginning. Cooperative work, such as joint publishing, joint investment, can be a good basis, and so can be community building at the extended family level, as long as it happens without reducing requirements for joining: values, understanding of the project, willingness to be a part of it. 

Rational feminism

Science fiction aside, creating a lasting endogamous community requires positive birthrates. That means the community must be made up of roughly equal numbers of men and women. Why is this a problem? Well, going around looking for people who “fit the bill” of what we want the community to look like is all but guaranteed to turn up many more men than women. 

I am not in favor of imposing many arbitrary criteria on initial membership, but it seems obvious that joining should require a thorough understanding of the theory behind the project, being reasonably functional, being motivated to be a part of it, and having reproduction as one of your core values. While those are merely the criteria it would be difficult to do without, they still exclude a vast majority of men, and virtually all women. 

How to solve this?

One way to go about it is to only accept people who already have a partner and/or children. While that seemingly solves the problem, it does so at the cost of women’s adhesion to the project. It means that women will mostly join because their husband does, and thus be ancillary members with no real attachment to the group. If we want this to be an endogamous community, women need to be full members. So, although this is one way of solving the parity question, it is unstable and suboptimal. 

The preferable alternative is to convince women to join. How to do so?

The whole project is based on the premise that members need to be individually incentivized for it to work. Women, like men, need to get a better deal out of being part of the project than they are getting in modern society. This is difficult because as long as you adhere to a standard hedonistic worldview, modern society appears to be an excellent deal for women: get a basic job and you can have a jolly good time, with many rights and few responsibilities. (this is true of men except for the fact that more of them question hedonism) For a person to join, they need to assess that being a part of it is preferable to being outside of it. I see three ways of helping them make that assessment: 

  • giving them a better deal. 
  • helping them realize how bad the deal they’re currently getting actually is.
  • questioning their value system.  

I’ll treat those three approaches separately, but I believe we should do all of them. 

Giving women a better deal

The reactionary idea that, because there once existed in the west a more (intellectually and reproductively) fertile culture than the one we have now, we should simply try and turn back the clock on social attitudes despite all that has changed between then and now, is delusional. The reason why gender roles emerged the way they did in agricultural societies is because they worked: a man working the fields while his wife tended to children and did housework was a competitive unit that could reproduce successfully. If we want to have high fertility rates, it is pretty clear that we cannot just do what everyone else is doing in the west, but simply emulating what went on in the past is also inadequate, because the environment has changed. 

Actually, there is one way you could do that: by re-creating the old environment. That’s the way Amish and Mennonites communities make it work. A 19th century farmer lifestyle allows them to successfully copy and paste the family structure of then. Interestingly, when the population approaches the carrying capacity of the environment, another agrarian family structure becomes more competitive: the so-called communitarian family that separately emerged in China, Russia and central Italy. Both parents work the fields while grandparents take care of the children. Grandma does most of the housework and grandpa acts as a head of clan. 

Either of those options defeats the initial goal of maintaining modernity, so it’s not really what I was going for. What is needed is a family structure that allows for high fertility in modernity, while being sustainable – thus also excluding the parasitic models of hasidic jews in Israel or muslims in Europe. If we take the traditional western european family structure as a starting point, what changes in the environment relevant to the family structure, have happened in the 20th century? Well, to name just a few: 

  • Household appliances have made most housework obsolete, except maybe for cooking.
  • Work is more intellectual, thus women’s productivity in the workforce is closer (not equal in aggregate, but closer, and equal in many domains) to that of men than it used to be. 
  • Work being more intellectual, people live and work to a slightly older age.

Lastly, in the current environment, what are the best predictors of high fertility in women?

  • Being an at-home woman whose husband is the breadwinner.
  • Regular religious practice (i.e. being a part of a community that places high status on having a lot of children)
  • Early marriage / little educational achievement.

We also need to keep in mind that the nature of the community we want to create dictates that women in it be smart and capable. Smart and capable people generally want intellectually challenging tasks, status, and a certain amount of respect for their individual agency. What system could be as appealing to those types of women as possible, and allow for high fertility?

The key is gender roles. Household appliances have freed up women from a lot of the tasks that used to be theirs traditionally. Simply diverting that time and energy towards the free market is not a good solution, because it depresses fertility: career women need to study until their late 20s, and after that their work takes up so much of their time that they have to make a choice between having kids and pursuing their other goals. Our status-seeking nature dictates that in those conditions, other goals will be prioritized. 

(but wait, I hear you cry: many women are lazy wastes of carbon with too much free time of their hands. Well, I don’t care about those. I’m talking about intelligent and driven women, in other words high-agency people who can break out of their conditioning)

Since not tapping that potential is also suboptimal, “neo-traditional” gender roles need to be defined. There are many useful tasks that women could do for the household, that would give them intellectual satisfaction and social status, while allowing them to work from home: online translation, online teaching, household finances, daycare, coding, counselling, investing. Working from home is appealing to many women, and it is good for their fertility rates. Therefore, we need to make “working from home” into a tradition for women in our community. 

Since early marriages are good for fertility rates, we should pair people when they are younger, and before they begin their studies – allowing them to plan their life as a household, not as solitary souls. This requires arranged marriages, which is a practice that comes with a host of other benefits, but also some tensions. I’m not going to expand on this here, but there are ways to reduce the constraints that arranged marriages place on young couples. 

Since people live longer and work is more intellectual, there should be traditional roles for grandparents. Helping out with the kids could be one of these tasks, as it is already the case in many parts of the world. 

Since being a part of a community that places high status on having kids is a deciding factor, we also need to have that. The way you make having many kids high status is by expressing admiration for people who do, especially women. The way you create a sense of community and belonging is through regular interaction. The tried and true way that religious congregations do it is sunday morning gatherings. It doesn’t have to be exactly that, but it’s a good start. 

Since all of this requires housework to be mostly a thing of the past, we should make work-replacing household appliances a fundamental part of married life. Those key appliances are: washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, robot vacuum cleaner, air purifier, water softener. 

At the root of women’s rejection of traditional gender roles is a problem of status: housework is low-status work. The family structure I’m proposing solves this: most housework can be automatized, women can pursue varied, interesting and high-status activities from the comfort of their home. As a community, we can easily organize daycare and (up to a point) schooling with the help of grandparents. 

Besides this, some aspects of the community’s culture will be attractive to both men and women. Without going in too much detail, a culture is defined by its rituals and its aesthetics, and that appeals to many people regardless of gender. Do not underestimate the value of larpy decorum such as seals, symbols, holidays, sacred books, architecture and heirlooms. Those are not just the cherry on top of a strong identity – more often than not, they make up the bulk of it. Another cultural aspect that is valuable in and of itself is promoting a work ethic, the pursuit of fundamental knowledge and physical fitness. If realized, such a culture will as a natural byproduct increase the “market value” of its men. 

All those points I’ve mentioned directly and indirectly improve the deal that women are getting out of being a part of this culture. 

The terrible deal women are currently getting

Let’s have a hard look at the current predicament of women. Any predisposition a woman has towards being smart, hardworking, brave or even slightly eccentric, is rewarded with extinction pure and simple. Most of the personality traits modern women consider to be valuable, are fast disappearing. The female phenotype is turning into its own boogeyman.

In males, the environment that we created for ourselves selects for behaviour that is collectively self-destructive. In females, the behaviour that is selected for is one of conformity, stupidity and helplessness. If no effort is made to change course, the woman of the future will have extremely low agency, because low agency women have a much higher fertility rate than high agency women. We are in an environment where smart women who do well in their studies and work hard to achieve their own goals, are being replaced at wartime rates by devout and submissive women who can’t pass the mirror test.

This is a bleak picture of what is likely to happen to womankind, but it’s also very apparent and easy to demonstrate. Most women who are able to understand it would find it undesirable, but the worst thing about it is that there is little they can do as individuals – your character is your character. Even among women who realize what’s at stake, few would be able to emulate the behaviour of those women who are replacing them, and fewer still would see that as a success in turning the tides.

You are in a competition for existence with grotesque creatures who can’t understand anything you value, in an environment they are much better adapted to than you are, with an inescapable social and legal pressure to give away your time and energy for the purpose of subsidizing their proliferation. As a consolation, you get a buffet of acceptable boogeymen to blame and hate for what’s wrong in the world. That’s the deal women collectively get in modern society.

If only there was an alternative. 

The non-hedonistic woman: questioning the modern outlook on family

Changing someone’s value system takes a long time. For most people, it can’t even be done. One of the few tools that can help us is emotional manipulation, but in this case it is useless. 

To be perfectly clear, I am not opposed to (a degree of) emotional manipulation when it is used to bypass irrational reactions to an inconvenient truth, because in that case it works. Emotional manipulation consists of appealing to someone’s values to ease them into seeing your side of a question. If that side is compatible with their values, and better supported by evidence, an honest person should change their mind. That works well for a truth question (is or is not). For a value question (ought or ought not), emotional manipulation consists of pitting someone’s values against one another, so that some of them take precedence over the others. It works within the scope of their existing values, and in fact that is exactly how most cults and ideologies plug into people’s value system and modify it. 

However, this is no good to us, because we’re not trying to make small adjustments to the mainstream value system: hedonism. We’re trying to pull the rug from under it, and hopefully replace it with something better. You can’t appeal to someone’s value system if your goal is to change it completely. As an individual, the only thing you can really do is laying your case bare and hoping they are convinced by their own reason.

At this point I’m not going to go through the whole process of how to do that: I outlined some ideas in my “Fixing receptive leftists” post, and I will expand on it later.  

  • Exposing and discarding hedonism is a difficult process, but not a complicated one. Hedonism is self-defeating. 
  • Leading people towards nihilism is easy.
  • Helping people along the way out is not easy. It is different for everyone, and probably depends a lot on individual character. 

Emotional manipulation doesn’t work very well, but as an individual you can try and avoid generating strong emotional reactions through: politeness, respect, and one-on-one discussions. Mostly.

As a collective, there are other ways to create the right conditions for promoting a different value system. 

  • You can “demonstrate” your value system in action, so it will be harder to strawman. 
  • You can make family / having kids high status in the community. The way to do that is to show your values: express praise for people who have kids, and subtle disdain for people who don’t. Note that the idea isn’t to manipulate people into having kids so that they get the praise (although that could happen), but rather to normalize your value system and put some of the “burden of proof” on the hedonists.
  • Conversely, you can shame excessive consumerism and hedonism. Same idea. 

That is all for now. I don’t have a suitable conclusion, but I want to stress that this isn’t about men manipulating women for their own benefit. It is about finding a common ground and a mutually beneficial recipe for maintaining our existence in modernity. To an extent, persuasion is manipulation, there is no escaping that – but if there is a common interest to be found (and in this case there is), persuasion doesn’t have to be detrimental to its ‘target’. 

Easter Island Unincorporated Association

The theoretical foundations have been laid out for a while. We now need to move on to the engineering part of the project.

If we ever hope to collectively act onto the world, then we need to be a society: a cooperative group complete with a power structure.

Both cooperation and a power structure require for a society to have a degree of authority over its members, but since using violence is neither practical (due to competition with a preexisting state) nor desirable (reduces loyalty, scares off people, risks going overboard), it should rely on incentives instead.

What incentives work?

Financial incentives can be good, although they should always be a mean to an end. If they become an end in and of themselves, then what you have is a corporation like any other. Also, financial incentives can strengthen loyalty, but they cannot be the only incentive since those types of advantages are easily provided by competitors. We don’t want people to be loyal the way they are loyal to their employer.

Nuptial incentives (finding good mates) can be excellent, since good mates are hard to come by in modern society. 

Childcare incentives (help with raising a family) can be pretty good too, since middle class (and above) people do not benefit from the modern welfare state, and would therefore benefit from being part of an organization that helped with this. Besides daycare, this may include collective home schooling, since schooling in the modern west is mediocre.

Status incentives are tricky, because there is a finite amount of status to be had within the organization. It can however be useful to inflate among members the sentiment of belonging to an elite, by emphasizing the difference between members (us) and “commoners” (them), i.e. giving members high status at the expense of the general population. This isn’t inherently viable (you don’t get anywhere with just that, as evidenced by most online communities) but it can help strengthen the other points. With regard to status within the organization: since only a minority of people can benefit from it, it should be used as a band-aid to ensure the loyalty of people who don’t benefit too much from other incentives – those who otherwise tend to give more than they take. This is not a desirable situation though (it’s fickle and potentially dysgenic), so other incentives should be prioritized. 

Security can be an incentive, but this approach is neutered by the modern state since interpersonal violence is rare and you can buy insurance to limit risks. However, the very real risk of full societal breakdown due to population pressure can be emphasized to make security into a viable incentive again. 

With that in mind, the Easter Island society might initially take the form of an unaffiliated association (a de facto, undeclared association), essentially a collusion of various businesses and non-profit organizations with a common power structure. It should also be organized in local “nodes” since long-distance cooperation on economic, childcare and  nuptial questions is, generally speaking, impractical.

Individual, immediate action should therefore take the following form: create a family, accumulate some wealth and then create or hijack what will become the incentive-producing wheels of the organization: businesses, non-profits, religious congregations… always in your own long-term interest, and with the side goal of being able to provide the incentives I’ve discussed above: wealth, mates, childcare, status, security.

Specific examples:

  • a local business can provide financial incentives (providing jobs and money) for the organisation, while the business gets access to a pool of trustworthy, above average employees.
  • a non-profit can provide quality education for children or daycare, and the owner of the non-profit is paid for their services (on top of getting the quality education for their kids too)
  • a (pseudo) religious congregation can provide quality high-status mates for members and their descendants, which is always mutually beneficial. It can also provide status and security to a greater degree than businesses or non-profits.

Now, about that last example. It doesn’t have to be a religious congregation, but that’s the form it usually takes when it arises naturally. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good, and the best (safest) way to design a congregational structure is to take inspiration from existing ones, even though it needs to be different in several important ways: based on realism/empiricism, no “heaven on earth” narrative, no glorification of self-sacrifice. 

Terminal and instrumental goals

A society is an agent, so it will have terminal goals and instrumental goals. 

The terminal goal needs not be more complicated than “Sustainability” and “potential for change” (because unending stasis is sustainable but not desirable). We could go on and on about this but ultimately we will end up with an assumption, and that assumption is that we want the human experiment to go on for a little while before the heat death of the universe puts an end to our shenanigans. So that’s one way of going about this: accepting that the foundation is arbitrary.

However, this particular set of goals doesn’t have to be arbitrary. It can be justified.

No matter what the terminal goal is, it will generate instrumental goals. Some of these instrumental goals are called convergent, meaning they always arise, regardless of your terminal goal. There are four of those: self-preservation, resources accumulation, goal preservation and self-improvement. They would arise if your terminal goal was creating a galactic empire, but also if you wanted to turn the whole universe into ostrich steak, travel to another dimension or study anteaters forever.

So if you define the terminal goal as “x”, you can infer the following:

  • Self-preservation: the organization needs to protect its existence. Since we have finite resources, self-preservation requires sustainability. Since we are lifeforms (in a way, thinking machines that have to regularly pop in and out of existence), self-preservation requires replacement level fertility. Since we share some commonalities (air, water, minerals, sunlight) with the whole of humanity, self-preservation requires a common government. 
  • Resources accumulation: increased knowledge and means allow for more freedom to act, i.e. more agency, which serves the terminal goal. 
  • Goal preservation: cannot apply without a specified terminal goal, so if we keep calling it “x”, we can’t derive goal preservation directly from it. However, it applies to both self-preservation and resources accumulation: those goals need to be resistant to change, because any change to those goals is self-defeating with regard to a terminal goal, no matter what it is. 
  • Self-improvement: the potential for positive change with regard to the terminal goal. If we keep that terminal goal as “x”, we don’t know what a positive change is (“positive” needs to be defined with a known value) but we can know that we need to keep a potential for change. No matter what our terminal goal is, stasis is undesirable because it is almost always suboptimal. 

It’s worth mentioning that those instrumental goals with regard to the terminal goal, are also all instrumental goals with regard to each other, so they are self-reinforcing.

Members

It is inevitable that members should have a few predefined qualities and beliefs. We need to be tolerant of dissent in some regards (free speech enables collective rationality), but not on key points that would either prevent the organisation from getting off the ground, or from maintaining its existence. Dissent with regard to terminal goals is also not acceptable. To a limited (and practical) extent, we need conformity. The way to do this are, in chronological order, 1) sorting, 2) education and 3) selection.

What are the necessary qualities and beliefs, and why?

  • It is necessary to accept the goals I have outlined, either as fundamental assumptions, or as convergent instrumental goals. A common objective is a basis for cooperation.
  • It is necessary to be intelligent and rational enough to be able to demonstrate understanding of those goals and of their basic implications (such as eugenic reproduction control). Rationality also requires being able to break out of self-advocacy to some extent. Being exceptionally smart is not necessary, but there is a cutoff.
  • It is necessary to put words into actions. This can’t simply be a mental exercise or a way to inflate people’s egos on the internet without any real-world consequences, and that’s all we’re going to get unless we ask of members that they demonstrate commitment through action.
  • It is necessary for members to personally benefit from staying within the organisation, so that everyone knows where everyone’s loyalty and commitment ultimately comes from, thus allowing for cooperation through something that is a little bit like trust, but better. Since our most promising incentives are mate-finding and childcare help, one possible policy is to only have parents of two (or more) as full members.This also helps with sustainability, as parents have a personal stake in bringing about a future for their kids that doesn’t include any large-scale extinction event.

Fixing receptive leftists

The memetic system that we call leftism affects different individuals to various degrees and in various ways (eg. economic leftism vs. social leftism). Leftists are a lot more rational than we tend to give them credit for. Like liberals, they believe in all the basic principles of naive humanism, but unlike them, they tend to think a lot about its implications, and to act on them in an effort to be consistent. For instance, liberals believe that “reducing suffering is good” and then go on with their lives thinking they are nice people for believing that, whereas a lot of leftists will see that this requires adopting a vegan lifestyle (animals can suffer, so if “reducing suffering is good”, we should not eat or exploit them).

Of course, not all of them are worth the trouble. Most leftists really are know-nothing, dogmatic wastes of carbon. However, I will argue that there is out there a category of leftists with some useful traits, and those traits leave them open-minded enough that it is possible to help them wake up from their dogmatic slumbers. 

Here are the traits:

  • thinks reason/science is on their side, and values truth
  • tries to act on their beliefs, values self-consistency
  • needs a system to organize their worldview (marxism, standpoint theory etc.)
  • has an open attitude to conversation (no anger when questioned politely) either as a personality trait or because they like/respect you enough to grant you that privilege
  • often has at least one non-standard leftist opinion in order to prove to themselves that they are independent-minded
  • not too “far gone” in real life. It’s fine if they have insane opinions, but someone who’s already ruined their own life because of ideology will have a much harder time questioning their value system, for a variety of reasons: sunk cost fallacy, self-advocacy, unwillingness to pay a short-term social cost for changing their mind, and more. 

Why do I care at all? There are a number of reasons. Some of them are friends and relatives. Some of them are young and could still change the course of their lives. Some of them are older but have kids of their own. But mostly because rational people are a scarce resource and the left captures a lot of them through early exposure to propaganda and confirmation bias. 

I should also mention, as an additional caveat, that those ideological types with a potential for change do exist on the right, but they are much more uncommon. Smart people are more attracted to left wing ideas – usually for the worse since leftism, in addition to being damaging to society, tends to destroy its host. Right-wing ideological movements are damaging to society in the long run, but not to the same extent to their own members. 

What is my stated objective? Finding a way to make those receptive leftists question their assumptions and reject the leftist memetic system. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but I will be satisfied if I manage to convince them of the following key points: 

  • individual abilities and characteristics are largely determined at birth
  • individuals are selfish by nature / altruism is self-defeating
  • traditions will always arise and some of their characteristics are inevitable
  • sex realism and race realism

How do I go about this?

  1. Leave an escape route for their pride: leftists think they are smart people, and to some extent they are. It’s necessary to handle their ego carefully. One of the biggest hurdles standing in the way of a rational argument that would lead them to question their assumptions is that it’s going to make them feel pretty silly. They need to be told it’s not their fault if they were wrong, and that just because you know something they don’t doesn’t mean you’re smarter than them. Examples: “I used to believe the same thing”, “we get told again and again that x is true by the media”, “most experts fall into this trap as well”, “it’s a black swan kind of thing”, “altruism is intuitive because people pretend to be altruistic all the time”. It can also help to give them someone else to blame for their mistakes, but it cannot be an ethnic minority because it’s such a hot button that it’s almost guaranteed to have a counterproductive effect: you can use journalists, politicians, rich people, christians, baby boomers or any demographic they already don’t like, if you have to point at something – doesn’t matter. Lastly, when they say something like “yeah, that part is obvious”, it’s a cope and that’s where you tell them “really? that wasn’t obvious to me at all and it took me time to understand” in order to make them feel smart. 
  1. Leave an escape route for their goodness: you cannot convince someone that humans are selfish by pointing at contradictions between their words and actions, because you’re going to kick off their defensive reflexes. They will virtue signal super hard and/or justify their actions with everything they have, and since you cannot read their mind they can always pretend they have noble motives for everything, and then the only way to defend your position is to tell them they are either lying to themselves or lying to you, and that will completely derail the conversation. The way to go is to make a systemic argument (which is why this only works on relatively smart leftists) about how altruism cannot evolve and all of our emotions are ultimately linked to reproduction and its ancillary goals of survival, sex, etc. and it follows from this that whatever impression we have that we are the good guys is necessarily just part of a simulation run by our brains to make us good at reproducing. If they feel attacked, you can divert the “evilness” towards abstract concepts by saying stuff like “we are only selfish because nature made us selfish” or “humans are not evil per se, but evolution is an evil process according to human standards”. You can also tell them that they are kind of an exception, someone who has very strong moral intuitions, eg. “you probably have a much stronger sense of justice than average, as evidenced by your political beliefs” – and then you go “evolution gave you that sense of justice for your benefit, and if you’re using it for someone else’s, you are selecting against it”.
  1. Say it with regret in your voice: if you let them think you’re satisfied about stuff like race realism or the inevitability of traditionalism, that’s going to make you look like a bad person (and ideologues never listen to the villains of their narrative). When you’re getting into emotionally loaded questions, you have to act like you’re sorry or even shocked by your own conclusion. It’s silly, but it helps because of the emotions it generates: instead of you attacking them and them feeling attacked, you will both feel aghast at your common discovery. 
  1. Don’t push their buttons too much. You need to be a bit familiar with the left and avoid saying stuff that will remind them of their memes. Bring them onto uncharted territory. Instead of telling them blacks are not as smart as whites and have lower average impulse control, tell them jews have a bunch of recent mutations that give them a very high average verbal IQ. Better yet, you can get them to agree about the heritability of IQ and personality traits without mentioning race at all (twin studies and such), and then ask them “I know how this sounds, but doesn’t this imply that differences between countries or regions necessarily have *gasp* a genetic component?” Shock and awe follow. When you explain that some aspects of traditionalism are inevitable because, say, women at home have more kids than working women, immediately take a proactive approach by saying “maybe that’s something that we can’t avoid, but maybe we can think of ways to make it humane and allow for some individual freedom – because if we let it arise naturally, that’s going to look something like islamic fundamentalism”. That way, you put yourself in the position of a “feminist” reluctantly accepting the truth and working with it, and they won’t get as triggered as if you were to tell them “there are limits to what we can do” without making any suggestions. 
  1. Use what they care about. If you want them to agree that environmental destruction, dysgenics and runaway population growth are bad because they will put an end to modernity, use what they already care about. If they have a family, it’s pretty easy because they have invested a lot in the future. Some people also care about the galactic empire that we’re going to kickstart any day now. A lot of women care about not going back to the premodern days where you’d shut up, get beaten, have 8 kids and see only two of them reach adulthood (I know some of that is a leftist meme but that is what we’re working with)
  1. Give them the basics, and use it to dilute the more controversial stuff. A lot of the notions they need to get familiar with are not controversial at all. Tragedies of the commons, the bayesian trap, happiness and feelings in modernity, self-deception, demographic transition theory being wrong, memetics etc. All of that can be used to space out the things that are more difficult to accept. 
  1. Use evolutionary theory as much as possible because they already profess a belief in evolution, and the left has a bunch of memes that make them really dislike and despise people who don’t accept evolution (creationists) so they will not discard evolutionary theory even if you show them how it negates some of their core assumptions – lest they become “them”. That means evolution is a very good starting point. Basically, belief in evolution is sacred so it can be used to attack other sacred ideas. 
  1. Use environmentalism. An environmental catastrophe can bring an end to civilization just like dysgenics and runaway population growth can, and environmentalism can also be used to illustrate concepts like tragedies of the commons. As an added bonus, this is already a topic dear to the left and it will make them agree with you easily on a lot of things, which will help when time comes to bring up the controversial parts.
  1. Allow for reciprocity. Try and make this a two-way conversation, allow them to teach you something or tell you their anecdotes, and refer to their contributions whenever possible to show them you listened, so that they won’t get too much of an impression that you’re trying to preach to them. 

These are the main points, but another important thing is to start from basic concepts and build up from that. This is going to be different for each individual, so you need to know them well enough to be able to adapt to them. Make a list (but don’t show it to them). Not all receptive leftists are the same, some are already pretty scientifically literate and will only need a couple of hours of conversation to get the gist. Some of them will take weeks, or months.

Some of the tactics I’ve mentioned are intellectually dishonest, but they serve only to circumvent emotional responses. Once the leftist has conceded the main points and got over it emotionally (give it some time), they are no longer necessary. Remember that you’re not trying to hurt them or give yourself an ego boost. You’re doing it because you care about them in the long term. This won’t work on complete strangers. 

I’ve been trying this on a few of my friends and relatives with good results so far, but there is now some work to be done in clarifying the details – and of course, most people are not going to come to you afterwards and tell you “wow I was wrong, you were right” but you can infer from their attitudes and words that you’ve had an impact, even if they’re not over the social taboos enough to speak up yet. Truthfully, they may never be, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try. 

Breakaway

The breakaway project: a proposition for saving scientific & industrial civilization. 

Primary trends

There are trends that need to be reversed if we are to maintain modernity, science, technology and industrial civilization. Let’s call those primary trends. 

  • Dysgenics.
  • Runaway population growth.
  • Quality dilution. 
  • Tradition crisis. (humanism, etc.) 

The answer to these problems is what I call the breakaway project, and it is as follows: 

  1. Dysgenics and Runaway population growth can be solved by Eugenic Population Control. (EPC) There are several ways to go about it, but the parental permit seems to be the most convenient. Everything has been already said so I’m not going to expand on this here. 
  1. Quality dilution, the fact that exceptional individuals tend to have unremarkable offspring after a few generations, due to admixture. This can be countered by creating an endogamous community of exceptional individuals, thus enjoying the benefits of a strong founder effect and increasing the likelihood of producing exceptionally gifted individuals. In the beginning we should probably aim for a high birthrate, and then stabilize it once our position is secure. 
  1. The Tradition crisis can be countered by creating a new tradition (for the endogamous community) that is adapted to modernity, includes the necessary elements to reject harmful fashions, and favors acceptance of the other points (eugenic population control and quality conservation, as well as many other points). It will need to be presented either as an old-but-secret tradition or as a variation on a previously existing tradition, such as christianity. I will argue that even very bright individuals benefit from being born in a strong culture with its own traditions and customs. The justification for the existence of this culture can be rational, but the culture itself should be psychologically seductive, aesthetic and include some self-advocacy. 

Secondary trends

This creates new problems to be countered, let’s call those secondary trends:

  • Wanton individual differentiation.
  • Consanguinity and genetic bottlenecking. 
  • Parasitism, values clashes and competition with outsiders (especially in the west).
  • Inner tension between community and individuals.
  1. Wanton individual differentiation is what happens in any large or small group where ideas are discussed. People start to identify through their differences, and this is a huge problem when trying to create and transmit a memetic package, especially when considering the fact that bright people tend to differentiate on ideological lines. For example, when two people discuss an issue, there is often one who identifies as the optimistic one and the other as the pessimistic one, and this will be very stable over time. Not only will it interfere with any persuasion attempt, it can also create undesirable social roles. This can be partially countered by rituals but the best way to prevent this is larping. By giving a recurrent role to play to individuals, we focus the differentiation towards those areas that are harmless to the continuity of the project. This is what I call Controlled social differentiation. It can be done, for instance, by creating lineages within the community, who have their own trades, arts and techniques. It can also be done by encouraging people to identify with a pre-existing character, using the barnum effect. Let’s imagine that in a given pair of two individuals, it is a tradition that one plays Von Neumann and one plays Feynman. They will differentiate through their character and approach, which is fine, but not in their valuing of the truth and questioning of deeply held assumptions. Really, anything that allows people to have a strong personal identity that does not fall on the intellectual axes we want to keep stable, is fine. 
    To be clear, I’m not proposing that we use this to prevent rational inquiry, but to prevent some social “roles” from arising within a group, such as “the nihilist” or “the fanatic”. It’s not impossible for someone who’s not a nihilist to deeply ponder nihilism, or even to defend it, but controlled social differentiation should prevent them from adopting the label, explicitly or not. 
    Putting this into practice requires, for instance, dividing the community into small groups, and within each of these groups, attributing an archetype to individuals. That’s a bit like astrology but it could be based on something more down-to-earth, like an ancestor or an animal. 
    Imagine if the community were to naturally split into two groups: one group identifies as polite, and one as not. Over time, this could degenerate into one group identifying as the lofty intellectuals and one as the meatheads, which is bad in both directions. If, instead, the polite group was given the “formal” identity and the other group the “informal” identity, they could then differentiate on non-vital lines, such as the amount of swear words they use, manners, clothes etc. but still both produce fit and strong, deep thinkers. With a different style. 
  1. Consanguinity and genetic bottlenecking can be countered by having a large enough endogamous community and (for consanguinity) culturally forbidding first-cousin marriage. A country like Iceland went fine for centuries with very low outside admixture and a population oscillating between 40 000 and 60 000 people, but it started with a much lower population. A few thousand people should be more than enough, and we don’t even need that many to start with since new people can be added over time until we reach the right amount. Some islands have had much lower populations than Iceland, of course, but it is a conclusive example since it is a western, high-iq population that does not have much consanguinity problems. 
    It should always be possible to allow for the controlled addition of new blood in the endogamic population, when some highly desirable trait is identified among the outsiders, such as resistance to a particular disease. Depending on the available technology, it may be possible to address this with gene editing. 
    To increase the initial amount of potentially useful traits to be selected on in the community, it may be justified to have a small admixture from every ethnicity, even from the ones that are, generally speaking, undesirable. 
  1. Regarding our relationship with outsiders, parasitism could be a problem for two reasons. On the one hand, very bright individuals have always been rare and distrusted, which is consistent with them being primarily adapted to a strategic niche of parasitic behavior. On the other hand, communities that adapt to modernity by separating from the mainstream tend to fall into that niche, like the examples of hasidic Jews in Israel or Pakistanis in England show. Therefore, there needs to be cultural resistance to parasitic behavior within the community as well as outside the community, to a lesser extent. In the long run, parasitic behavior within an endogamous community is shooting yourself in the foot, for obvious reasons. What is less obvious is that parasitizing outsiders isn’t a very good long-term strategy either because it exacerbates their hostility and creates a selective pressure to make them distrustful and hateful of the endogamous community. Being a parasitic community is short-term optimization, not a long-term solution. 
    Values clashes with outsiders are difficult to prevent because western society has a strong cultural aversion to endogamous communities, especially those communities that try to take control of sectors of the economy, or public institutions. One possibility is to be secretive as far as the breakaway project is concerned, and to prevent outsider investigation by any means necessary. 
    Direct competition with outsiders can be avoided if they don’t realize our existence, or don’t consider us a threat. In the long run, eugenic population control should help us fare much better than them in times of scarcity as well as in times of abundance. The endogamous community will be much healthier, much smarter and much stronger than them so there is no reason to fear competition. 
  1. The inner tension between the community’s “interests” and the individuals’ interest is one that is met by every community. It is solved through culture, rituals and banishment of individuals who cannot accept the culture – thus making the community more in sync with its culture every generation. In order to reduce as much as possible the tension between individual and collective, we should always go with the softest effective solution when presented with a choice. For instance, it is preferable to have a one-child policy for people who do not have the parental permit instead of a zero-child policy or a forced sterilization policy. It’s also preferable for the breakaway nation to have small geographical pockets where the next generation is socialized within the community so that endogamy happens mostly naturally and doesn’t have to be forced on people too much.  

Tertiary trends

These finally create the tertiary trends:

  • echo chambering
  • community splits
  • emerging power structures
  • defection
  1. Echo chambering can be countered by encouraging a deeper understanding of the endogamous community’s culture and why it is the way it is, and more generally encouraging scientific inquiry. I don’t believe this will be much of a problem, even under Controlled social differentiation, because it is in the nature of intelligent people to question assumptions. 
  1. The size of the project can cause community splits. This should be addressed with culture (splitting bad and not in our interests) and by creating cooperation. Armed with controlled social differentiation and a tradition of working things out rather than camping on our positions, the only thing that can cause true community splits is emerging power structures. These should generally be discouraged, and since they emerge from status seeking, a split is unlikely to happen as long as the competition for status is mostly focused on reproduction and in-group cooperation (doing good works for the community). 
  1. Also caused by the size of the project, we need a mechanism to address defection and for this I only have a few ideas. The threat of no longer having access to in-group cooperation is a form of incentive. Shunning is another possibility, although it could cause tension between the collective and the individual because of family ties. There needs to be more drastic measures in case of betrayal. 
    Simply leaving the community should be allowed, a bit like in Amish communities.
    Generally speaking, as long as it is in the interest of individuals to stay within the community, they will stay with few exceptions, so we should focus on building a very strong network for providing advantages to members. Advantages could be good mates, job opportunities, inherited wealth, etc. 
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