A refutation of Salterism

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[Reproduced below is James Goulding’s refutation of Salterism, which is relevant to a discussion on Salterism taking place across several Dark Enlightenment blogs at the moment, hyperlinked at Outside In. James Goulding famously – and frustratingly – deleted all of his incredible work on his blog Studiolo, but I archived some of it before it was destroyed, which in time I hope to make available here. Of course, if James Goulding contacts me and asks me to remove it I will. Text is missing hyperlinks.]

The signal character of Salter’s thesis is that it is ethical as well as empirical. As such, it challenges philosophy’s liberal perceptions of race and ethnicity from a novel angle. Furthermore, since reproductive interests exist as described and constitute the ultimate interest in organic life (ie, continuity), they should have some place in ontology. After all, is not every ethical question also an ontological question? To maintain any system of ethics at all, and avoid the slide into utility, arbitraryness, relativism, and nihilism, must not there be some testable and solid basis to ethic?

— “Guessedworker”

Frank Salter’s book On Genetic Interests (2003, 2007) proposes that humans have a “vital” or “ultimate” interest in the reproduction of their genes, and that ethnic nationalism is an important strategy for realising these interests. “Genetic interests” refers to the allegedly vital human interest in passing on genes in general; “ethnic genetic interests” refers specifically to these interests as embodied in differential relatedness of various ethnic groups to a given human. Salter provides, via Henry Harpending, tables relating “replacement migration” to “child-equivalent” reproductive losses—e.g. a negro immigrating to Ireland supposedly reduces each Irishman’s genetic representation in humanity as much as if he lost a child.

“Salterism” refers to the ideology that holds pursuit of genetic interests, and ethnic genetic interests in particular, to be of overriding importance. “Salterians”, adherents to this creed, are most numerous at majorityrights.com.

I: Refutation

Setting aside data, let’s skip to the important question: why should every human regard genetic proliferation as his “ultimate interest”? Salter devotes a chapter of On Genetic Interests to dealing with objections. Unfortunately for Salterians, his replies are full of holes.

In this chapter I try to anticipate objections to the notions that genetic fitness is an interest and that it is the only ultimate one. Some of these objections are plausible, at least initially, while others can be readily dispensed with […]

(4a) Objection from lack of human motivation: Who cares?

Perhaps genes are not interests, if interests are defined as conscious wants. […] If he [R.D. Alexander] is right, if humans are not evolved consciously to pursue genetic interests even after reflecting on their genetic history, then the concept of genetic interest might be hollow. Perhaps if this interest cannot motivate protective action it must remain a descriptive idea unless and until humanity evolves to the extent that people can get excited about it.

Surely Alexander is mistaken. In our modern world many interests are not intrinsically motivating, only being valued when we understand their significance. Would keys to a castle be more than a curio to hunter-gatherers unaware of the wealth and prestige they can unlock? […] Recognising something as an interest requires background knowledge, sometimes quite sophisticated, of the contexts in which it becomes valuable. […]

It might be countered that objects and codes are not interests in themselves. They only attain value because they allow access to things we all intuitively value, that we have feelings about, such as status and resources. In this account keys are not intrinsic interests. It is objects, states of being and other individuals that we consider valuable—that are intrinsic interests. Nothing is an interest that does not unlock such valuables. This is a plausible view, but hardly a criticism of the notion of genetic interests. Genes produce myriad effects in the real world, including health and kinship, that are intrinsically valuable. Thus genes have always been valuable, even before they and their actions were discovered.

Salter equivocates on terminal goals and instrumental goals. His analogy: to possess keys to a castle is of potential value to most humans, even if this value only becomes apparent via additional knowledge. This implies that a lack of knowledge may prevent people from realising the value of genetic proliferation.

A castle key is, however, of merely instrumental value: it allows someone to bring about states of reality that he values for their own sake. Wealth obtained from the castle may be a further instrumental goal, which facilitates the terminal goal of e.g. hedonic egoism. To possess a key-shaped lump of metal is unlikely to be a terminal goal, and if it were the hunter-gatherer should realise this without additional knowledge (since the castle would be extraneous to the key’s inherent value).

Genes do have important effects, but likewise this only implies that genes are of instrumental value. Salter’s grand claim is that genetic reproduction is a terminal value for everyone, to which notion genes’ instrumental value is orthogonal.

On the whole, serving genetic interests upholds human proximate interests. Many of the values we hold most dear are preserved down the generations because individuals strive to preserve their genetic interests, even when those interests are vaguely apprehended or not apprehended at all.

This too is irrelevant to the question of whether genetic proliferation is a terminal value. If reproduction is instrumentally valuable, a rational agent attempts to reproduce; he need not consider gene-spreading inherently valuable.

The point should be emphasised that genes only become interests when part of the reproductive chain of life; when they contribute to the creation of humans and influence their development; or when such function is in prospect. If it were possible to manufacture billions of copies of one’s genome in the form of powdered protein, and disperse them in the world or in outer space, that would hardly be in one’s genetic interests. But it does serve genetic interests to have part of one’s genome help form a new human.

The point should also be emphasised that “genetic interests” remain underspecified.

Genes in powdered protein aren’t valuable; genes in humans are. What about plants and animals? They are also part of the reproductive chain of life. If I replace onions in my garden with leeks, might this not be a tragic loss of genetic interests—millions of child-equivalents, even—if onions happen to share more genes with humans than do leeks?

We may rule out plants—it’s silly. But what about apes, or Neanderthals? What definite criterion distinguishes organisms that embody genetic interests from organisms whose genes are ignored? This is important, because humanity may change by genetic drift, evolution or self-modification in future, and if it changes too much it might no longer be a vessel for existing humans’ genetic interests. Then, to forestall this change would be far more important than combating immigration.

Genetic interest could motivate as a token of success. It is conceivable that individuals aware of life’s evolutionary dimension can treat genetic fitness as a safety indicator. The assumption would be that if they or their groups are not sustaining their genetic line, for example by monopolizing a territory, something is wrong and should be put right.

Genetic proliferation could motivate. An AI could indeed be programmed: “maximise the number of these genetic code snippets within living human beings”, although the behaviour of such an AI would probably horrify the naïve Salterian. So what? If my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle.

An effective counter to the view that humans cannot be motivated by genetic interests, even indirectly, is that they are and always have been. The cooperative defensiveness shown by band and tribal peoples is bound to have boosted inclusive fitness, because it is universal and ancient, thus likely to have been an evolutionarily stable strategy. Other forms of group spirit, including patriotism and nationalism and religious solidarity, have been powerful motivators of group continuity. Even in present day Western societies where ethnic sentiment is often considered passé by the ruling elites and where whole populations are being displaced by mass immigration, indirect concern over genetic interests lives on in one place or another. Many people feel a strong affinity for their ethnic identities, and many more are prone to do so.

Salter once again fails to defend the overarching thesis of On Genetic Interests. Some humans may well feel an abstract desire to maximise genetic representation—Frank Salter presumably does—but no-one else need share this interest.

Salter’s claim that humans “always have been” motivated by genetic interests is also interesting. If one cares about “genetic interests”, one deliberately sets out to maximise one’s genetic proliferation within humanity. Since ancestral humans knew nothing of genes, Salter’s claim can only be true if we accept the idea of “indirect” motivation to increase genetic proliferation.

Ancestral humans who cared about “blood ties”, for example, were indirectly concerned with genetic proliferation, because “blood” is a vague label standing in for the concept of biological relatedness that genes now fill. Perhaps ancestral humans even viewed themselves as having blood ties on arbitrarily extended levels of kinship. Such thoughts might have encouraged cooperative defensiveness of tribes; or, an inclination to join a mutually defensive, homogeneous group of any kind could produce this phenomenon. Who knows?

Salter’s problem, in either case, is that many living humans do not exhibit an abstract concern, direct or indirect, for genetic proliferation. Even if they have seen Salter’s “child-equivalent” tables, most people don’t care very much about EGI, ethnic bloodlines or any such thing.

At this point, Salterians exchange the sensible idea of “indirect” interests for absurdity. Humans exhibit an indirect effort to realise a goal if they characterise their efforts using vague stand-in terms. Salterians like to argue that, in addition, since human goals are explained by the fact that our brains are coded for by genes, we have an indirect or “ultimate” interest in genetic reproduction whatever we might claim. This is untrue, simply because an object is not identical to its cause.

If one asks for café au lait in a restaurant, one will be displeased should the waiter bring an espresso machine, coffee beans and a jug of milk. “But Sir, this is your ultimate coffee; just the same as regular coffee.”

An example that radically separates phenotypes and genes is helpful because it shows how important an explicit comprehension of genetic interests might be. […]

Brooks believes that should robots be constructed with humanlike intelligence and consciousness it will be unethical to treat them as slaves. ‘You get into the moral question—would it be okay to breed a race of subhumans? And certainly we feel now it’s okay. We don’t feel any empathy for the machines but that may be a consideration ultimately…’. This position combines vivid psychological insight with poor biology. Brooks thinks it would be wrong to have any entity be our slave that could elicit our empathy, arguing from the lack of empathy slaveholders once felt for their human slaves. If the slaveholders were wrong in casting their slaves as subhuman, he implies, then robot owners would similarly be wrong to cast their robots as subhuman. The syllogism makes sense only if divorced from the most basic understanding of biology, and from a concept of genetic interests, implicit or explicit. Human slaves of any race were as human as their masters. It was false belief that designated them as subhuman, but a similar belief about robots would not be false.

Salter thinks that ability to experience pleasure or pain is no basis for empathy. Instead, what matters is that humans contain genes. Any brain not coded into existence by genes is undeserving of concern, says the ethical Dr. Salter.

The Church–Turing–Deutsch principle implies that any physical process in a brain can be simulated by a computer. Therefore, Dr. Salter himself could be running in a simulation, or be a silicon brain in a vat.

I doubt that he is; but claims should apply to all of physics, including improbable circumstances. If Dr. Salter is a simulation, does he think the experimenter should torture him, if this happens to further the experimenter’s genetic interests (e.g. because it impresses his girlfriend)?

If we care more about phenotypes than genotypes, then ‘who cares?!’ will often be an effective repost to any evangelising call to preserve genetic interests. One either feels protectively about genetic interests or not.

Dr. Salter thus admits defeat. But his series of half-baked failed rebuttals is enough to satisfy the lazy and credulous.

(4b) Objection from the teleological nature of genetic interests

I have encountered criticisms of the idea of genetic interests based on rejection of teleological explanation.

a. Objection: Human behaviour is often directed towards goals, such as acquiring food or mates, but it is fallacious to portray humans as deliberately striving to maximize their reproductive fitness. Fitness might or might not be an outcome of our behaviour, but with rare exceptions it is not a conscious goal.

Reply: The present essay is not primarily a theory of human behaviour, but of interests. Rather than being a work of explanation, this is mainly an exercise in political theory dealing with what people are able to do if they want to behave adaptively.

This is a lie. Earlier we saw him claim, “genetic fitness is an interest […] the only ultimate one”, and here is a similar quote from the blurb (with my boldface):

From an evolutionary perspective, individuals have a vital interest in the reproduction of their genes. Yet this interest is overlooked by social and political theory at a time when we need to steer an adaptive course through the unnatural modern world of uneven population growth and decline, global mobility, and loss of family and communal ties.

Salter’s sensible part knows that this is untrue; therefore, he provides disclaimers. But the blurb is a fair summary. The idea that On Genetic Interests just offers strategies for those who wish to behave adaptively is contradicted by the book’s actual content.

Hitler, ducking accusations of anti-Semitism, might have included a note in Mein Kampf: “This book is mainly an exercise in political theory dealing with what people are able to do if they think Jews are evil. At no point do I impeach the Jews. Would I lie to you?”

(4c) Objection from levels of analysis: Do only genes have genetic interests?

Assuming as valid the notion of objective interests, independent of motivations or even awareness, it could be argued that neo-Darwinian theory emphasizes the genes’ phenotypic interests, not phenotypes’ genetic interests. From the replicator’s vantage point phenotypes exist for the convenience of genes. This line of thinking might conclude that if phenotypes have any interests they must bear on their own phenotypic needs. A rough guide to these needs is striving behaviour but includes the objective need of the organism to survive and flourish. Put differently, phenotypes might have only proximate interests, not ultimate ones. The latter type of interests might adhere to replicators, not vehicles.

This argument fails to account for what Alexander calls ‘the direction of striving of the phenotype’, quoted earlier. Predictably from the evolutionary perspective, phenotypic needs and motivations usually point to the reproductive interests of their genes. Phenotypes are, after all, genes’ survival vehicles, to use Dawkins’s term. Genes are our ultimate interests because they are the basic units of selection, partially defined by Dawkins as ‘active replicators’, those that positively influence their probability of being copied. […] Active germ-line replicators, such as functional genes, are units of selection and hence ultimate interests. The general mutuality between genetic and phenotypic ‘striving’ in the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness indicates that even if we count only phenotypic needs and motives as interests, these are strongly identified in that environment with genetic interests as the genes’ interests. […]

Surely the primacy of phenotypic (or vehicular) interests cannot be maintained when so many phenotypes in so many species give highest priority to their genetic interests; when selfishness and altruism are shown convincingly to be strategies for ensuring genetic continuity.

When a human forms the idea “I want to bring about X”, this is the outcome of a computation instantiated in his brain. X may be an instrumental goal: for convenience, the brain pins down an objective like “I want to earn money”, but this is predicated on the fact that possession of money allows the brain to satisfy other goals. At the bottom of any chain of instrumental goals is a terminal goal: a state of reality the brain attempts to achieve for its own sake—that’s just how the brain is programmed.

The human brain isn’t a coherent expected utility maximiser; it is a bunch of competing terminal goals that natural selection has glued together. Competing terminal goals, e.g. hedonic egoism vs. hedonic utilitarianism, increasingly conflict as humans gain knowledge, and the further we depart from the ancestral environment.

It may be useful to view the brain’s terminal goals as the objectives of various coherent sub-agents, rather than a singular “person”. Either way, these terminal goals need make no reference to genes and genetic proliferation. Some of them may, but most do not.

Humans often enjoy sexual intercourse for its own sake. The concept “sexual intercourse” forms, and the brain reliably attempts to bring about the configuration of reality, “I engage in sexual intercourse”. This is the bottom of the chain: a terminal goal (although “experience pleasure” could be the terminal goal in other cases). This is wholly distinct from, “I wish to engage in sexual intercourse, in order to pass on my genes”. That would be direct concern of genetic interests. It is also different to, “I wish to engage in sexual intercourse, in order to continue my bloodline”. That would be indirect concern for genetic interests.

These are different mathematical statements. A computer programmer wouldn’t treat them as the same statement; they are distinct claims about reality.

Perhaps the concept of instrumental goals confuses people. The word “because” is used to descend chains of instrumental goals: “I want a better job because I want more money because I want a bigger house because I want to make my children happy”. One of this person’s terminal goals is, “I want to make my children as happy as possible”. It may not be his most powerful mental sub-agent, but it controls a major part of his behaviour. Once he hits rock bottom—a terminal goal—he is simply stating what he values. His brain happens to be programmed to realise the state of reality in which his children are happy.

The word because can also be used to explain the existence of this terminal goal. “I want a better job because I want more money because I want a bigger house because I want to make my children happy; I want my children to be happy because natural selection favoured genes coding for the terminal goal of making one’s children happy. Here is a completely different statement: “I want my children to be happy because I want to spread my genes”. In that case, genetic proliferation would be the person’s terminal goal.

Instrumental goals are way to keep track of the actions necessary to fulfil a terminal goal. Tabooing the confusing word “because”, one might instead say, “I want a better job, in order to obtain more money, in order to obtain a bigger house, in order to make my children happy. ‘Make your children happy’ is the utility function of a powerful sub-agent in my brain. Natural selection favoured genes that code for a brain with this strong mental sub-agent.”

In the statement “I want my children to be happy”, the “I” is the entity that represents this goal. Genes do not represent that goal; the brain does. Genes code the brain into existence, but they are not the cluster-in-thingspace that actually has the goal.

Salter’s claim, “so many phenotypes in so many species give highest priority to their genetic interests” is therefore false. Goals embodied in a brain coded for by genes needn’t make any reference to genes, or a concept standing in for genes, and they do so rarely. Goals are not identical to the thing that caused them to exist. To think so—to conflate an object with its putative cause—is the logic of “ultimate coffee”.

In addition, genes are only a convenient abstraction. They aren’t the entire “cause” of a brain, any more than an espresso machine, coffee beans and a jug of milk are the “cause” of a cup of coffee. Consider identical twins. In the womb, before a mature brain has developed, environmental factors (e.g. one twin’s advantageous connection to the placenta) cause differences in the twins’ phenotypes. On a smaller scale, radiation, copying errors and even quantum tunnelling have some influence on the structure of each twin’s brain. As the twins mature, enculturation and their different experiences create massive differences. One can’t even be sure that only genes in the twins’ bodies are coding for their brain structure, rather than those of a parasite organism.

One could describe the genetic code as the brain’s “ultimate” cause, and every other influence as “contingent”, but tabooing these words such a distinction is arbitrary. “Gene”, like most words, is also a fuzzy concept. To quote Dawkins in The Extended Phenotype:

I shall make no attempt to specify exactly how long a portion of chromosome can be permitted to be before it ceases to be usefully regarded as a replicator. There is no hard and fast rule, and we don’t need one. It depends on the strength of the selection pressure of interest. We are not seeking an absolutely rigid definition, but ‘a kind of fading-out definition, like the definition of “big” or “old”‘. […] The possibility of strong linkage disequilibrium (Clegg 1978) does not weaken the case. It simply increases the size of the chunk of genome that we can usefully treat as a replicator. […] It was in this spirit that I playfully contemplated titling an earlier work The slightly selfish big bit of chromosome and the even more selfish little bit of chromosome (Dawkins 1976a, p.35).

When discussing natural selection, genes are but a suitable actor to play the leading role in our metaphors of purpose. Physics does not run on “genes”. A highly specific description of the processes that caused the brain to exist would refer to quantum amplitudes, and although fuzzy clusters-in-thingspace called “genes” would be implicit in this description, things would be more complex.

Genes are implicit in the explanation. So are the nucleotides that developed into the first RNA self-replicator. So are the laws of physics that enable DNA to exist, brains to develop and mutations to occur. Depending on the time-scale and zoom lens one prefers, using Salter’s logic even electromagnetism or the Big Bang could be considered humanity’s “ultimate interest”.

Now let’s skip to another interesting section of On Genetic Interests: Chapter 9, “On the Ethics of Defending Genetic Interests”.

Summary

I formulate an ethic of ‘adaptive utilitarianism’ according to which a good act is one that increases or protects the fitness of the greatest number. I apply this ethic in an attempt to answer three fundamental questions raised by the concept of genetic interest, especially the ethnic component (followed by short answers): (9a) Under which conditions if any does defending genetic interests justify frustrating other interests? Since genetic interests are shared according to degree of kinship, individuals have duties to family, ethny, and humanity ahead of strictly private needs. (9b) Should the ultimate interest of genetic fitness be accorded absolute priority over other interests? In principle ‘yes’, but in practice ‘not always’, since the effect of a behaviour on fitness is often unknown. (9c) What is the proper action when ultimate interests conflict? When ethnies conflict, adaptive utilitarianism is best satisfied by universal nationalism, since this ideology teaches respect for everyone’s ethnic interests. Genetic continuity is compatible with peace between ethnies, with equality of opportunities within ethnies, but not with equality of fitness outcomes within ethnies, since a system that ensured equality would be evolutionarily unstable. The ultimate form of liberty is the freedom to defend one’s genetic interests. […]

In this chapter I raise and attempt to answer some basic questions of morality concerning the defence of genetic interests, especially in the domain of ethnic rivalry. I do so in the spirit of consilience, or unity of all knowledge, urged by E. O. Wilson. The Enlightenment will finally reach maturity, Wilson argues, when mankind deploys the knowledge gained from science to forge wiser, more humane policies.

Humanity’s “ultimate interest” of the Schrödinger equation genetic proliferation should, in principle, be given absolute priority.

What if Frank Salter’s Grandma were sick and needed his help? The effect of his leaving her to die may be difficult to compute in the genetic calculus. But he might decide that clearly, this lonely, poor, sterile old lady is worthless to a fitness-maximiser. In that case, his ultimate interest is to leave her to rot. How ethical.

This may be slightly unfair. Hedonic utilitarianism also forces some almost unconscionable decisions. Torture vs. dust specks discomforts me, and to choose “torture” is a bitter bullet to bite. But at least this choice is grounded in humane reasoning. Leaving Grandma to die because she won’t help you to pass on your genes is just psychopathic. It may be rational behaviour for some minds, but they are not “humane”.

I try not to lose sight of the implications of Wilson’s view that the moral instincts can change due to differential reproduction. From an evolutionary standpoint an ethical system that weeds out the genes or culture of those who practise it is a failure.

Of course, if the expected value of (hedons – dolors) in the timeless Universe is maximised by e.g. immigration control, this is what a rational hedonic utilitarian advocates. This remains an instrumental goal, not a terminal one.

Failure to maximise utility is failure—this needs no embellishment.

[A] weakness of utilitarianism is its happiness criterion. Happiness is an emotion, and thus a proximate rather than an ultimate interest. As an indicator of ultimate interests it is better than nothing, but fallible. Individuals suffering from mania appear happy and claim to be so, but are prone to maladaptive behaviour. Drug addicts experience periods of intense happiness, and this can be maintained for a time if the supply of drugs is kept up. Yet drug addiction tends to be maladaptive. Humans strive for resources and status, that is clear, but achieving this goal does not increase happiness in any simple or predictable way. By contrast reproductive fitness is an objective measurable by number of offspring and continuity of one’s familial and ethnic lineage.

The weakness of the happiness criterion is not fatal to the utilitarian enterprise because, as noted earlier, other criteria of non-moral goodness can be substituted for it. […]

Adaptiveness as utility

In this section I argue that the structure of the utilitarian ethic can be retained while replacing criteria such as happiness or beauty with adaptiveness. From the perspective of modern biology the most important consequence of any act is how it affects genetic interests, how it affects adaptiveness. The consequence of ultimate import is not happiness of the greatest number but adaptiveness of the greatest number. This notion underpins a survival ethic—which I shall refer to as ‘adaptive utilitarianism’—which has important advantages over happiness and other proximate criteria.

This ethic cannot be reduced to the social Darwinist doctrine of ‘survival of the fittest’. Like the social Darwinists I shall argue that the freedom to compete within limits is a vital adaptive right, but the criterion of ‘the greatest number’ also leads to an emphasis on the need for cooperation and adoption of procedures for peacefully resolving conflicts. […]

Adaptiveness has the advantage of corresponding to knowledge of the human condition, especially to observable states. We can observe individuals’ (or groups’) resources, the amount of control they have over their environment, their state of health, their fertility and life span, ability to defend themselves, and so on. Adaptive utilitarianism does not have a transient emotional state as its criterion of goodness, while retaining much of the intuitive appeal of classic utilitarianism.

Genetic proliferation is the “ultimate interest”, but Dr. Salter can’t stomach this idea’s psychopathic consequences. Therefore, he introduces “adaptive utilitarianism”, which involves genetic proliferation but doesn’t accord it priority. So, which is it? Is spreading genes the ultimate interest, or is adaptive utilitarianism more important? One of these must be the victor.

Salter boasts that adaptiveness is easy to measure—this seems to be adaptive utilitarianism’s great merit. But the same is true of e.g. hirsute utilitarianism: hairiness of the greatest number. This is easy to quantify, unlike happiness and misery. But I’m not tempted to become a hirsute utilitarian.

Worse, adaptiveness of the greatest number doesn’t imply ethnic nationalism. Imagine there are only two very distinct ethnic groups, and group A outnumbers B. Then, replacement of B humans by A humans always increases adaptiveness of the greatest number, because it increases the fitness of many A humans and reduces the fitness (to an equal extent per capita) of only the few B humans.

In reality, racial distinctions are fuzzy. But adaptive utilitarianism probably implies (as a first step) replacing all other humans with the largest relatively discrete ethnic-genetic group, i.e. Han Chinese. Genocide: very ethical.

[A]daptive utilitarianism should be more sustainable in the long run because it is better for us. An adaptive utilitarian would condemn any practice that reduced fitness below replacement level, no matter how pleasurable. Drug-taking comes to mind, but also the sort of middle class culture common in developed societies that values consumption, comfort, and status over children.

If drug-use and dysgenics reduce the expected value of (hedons – dolors) over all timescales, rational hedonic utilitarians oppose drug-use and dysgenics.

Irrational people calling themselves utilitarians may cause more misery than pleasure; irrational people who care about EGI may not be effective in spreading their genes. The solution isn’t to change one’s goals, but to be more rational.

Another weakness of utilitarianism that a survival ethic corrects is the arbitrariness of the clause prescribing that happiness be maximized. Whether the criterion is happiness, pleasure or economic profit, Mill and the economists who adopted his approach thought that it was impossible to get too much of a good thing. This is an improbable view if proximate interests are not goals in themselves but means to adaptiveness. Even too much wealth or too many mates is bad if the monopoly diminishes the society bearing one’s genetic interests. Too much happiness can diminish prudence and thus harm other interests, such as status or wealth, reducing fitness. Like other proximate interests, happiness necessarily exists in balance with other states, and is thus best optimized rather than maximized. Adaptiveness, in the sense of ability to survive and reproduce, is different. One cannot be too well adapted.

Terminal goals are “goals in themselves”. One can call this “arbitrary”, but it is a fact of life. The goal, “maximise the number of my genes in human beings” is represented in some human brains. It isn’t particularly strong, but it can’t be refuted. Goals are not claims about reality; they just exist.

This sub-agent’s weakness is demonstrated, however, by the soi-disant Salterians’ lack of sincere commitment to the goal of genetic proliferation. Consider individual genetic interests: do we really believe that Guessedworker et al spend every free hour in spasms of sperm-donation?

Salter can’t stomach the vile consequences of strict gene maximisation, so he has invented the incompatible ethic of “adaptive utilitarianism”. And for some reason, only genes in human beings are counted. But even within the human species, Salterians are suspiciously Euro-centric. Tamil immigration to Bahrain harms an Englishman’s EGI roughly as much as the same amount of Turkish immigration to England. Do Salterians care about Tamils replacing Bahrainis as much as they care about Turks in England, or as much as they would care about losing an actual child under a bus? The evidence suggests not.

9(b) Should an individual’s ultimate (genetic) interests be accorded absolute priority over others’ proximate interests?

The message of modern biology is that genetic fitness is the ultimate interest, meaning precisely that it is of absolute importance.

Unless you practise “adaptive utilitarianism”. Or when you claim, “this is mainly an exercise in political theory dealing with what people are able to do if they want to behave adaptively.”

This is surely the starting position of any ethical discussion of the choice between genetic and other interests.

And the end point, n’est pas? Unless Frank Salter eschews the accepted meaning of “absolute importance”.

Fortunately for those who hold proximate values dear, whether one gives greater emphasis to genetic interests or to other values will rarely be an either/or choice. Most humans are evolved to value adaptive proximate interests such as bonds of kith and kin, status, wealth and health because they are adaptive. More accurately, striving for the things we hold dear is adaptive or was adaptive for much of our evolutionary past. So our lives are unlikely to be turned upside down if we act to increase or secure our genetic interests. This will amount to nothing more than shuffling existing priorities.

Indeed: shuffling down the priority of caring for Grandma, and shuffling up the priority of round-the-clock sperm-donation and genocide.

10. Afterword

This essay has ranged across several fields of knowledge, including genetics, evolutionary theory, ethology, ecology, various policy areas, the political theory of the state, and ethics. Since mastery of any of these fields is the work of a lifetime, the unavoidable conclusion is that I am not competent to write this essay. Readers should thus approach the arguments presented in this book with a critical attitude. I recommend that you look on it as a stimulus to debate, rather than a statement of final wisdom. I have done my best to get the analysis right, but errors probably remain.

This is the most sensible paragraph of On Genetic Interests.

Having dismantled enough Salter for all but his most blinkered disciple to admit defeat, I shall now discuss the systematic errors that underlie Salterism.

II: Post-mortem

Who is Frank Salter? Argumentum ad hominem is unnecessary; but having slain Salterism, prudence demands a bullet through its brain. We wouldn’t want it to rise from the dead.

First stop, Wikipedia:

Frank Salter matriculated (undergraduate) at the University of Sydney (1979–1982) where he majored in government and public administration, specializing in organization theory under the mentorship of Ross Curnow.

At the same time, one Frank K. Salter was active in Sydney’s underground nationalist scene. Dr. Jim Saleam, an amateur historian of Australian nationalism, tells us that:

Azzopardi seems to have been a decisive product of the underground. He moved freely within it in the years 1974–76, seeking out allies and otherwise learning lessons. For the latter reason he said, he had even searched out Cass Young in 1975. He had wanted to know what made neo-nazis tick. […] In 1976, he met Frank Salter, formerly of Duntroon Military College and then an engineering student at the University of New South Wales, and through Salter moved into wider circles of the Sydney “Right.” […]

The “refugee invasion” had begun and Azzopardi and Salter were certain the old-Right groups would miss the chance. A sheet Advance appeared and in November 1977, it became a broadsheet newspaper. The White Australia question took pride of place. […]

Elsewhere:

Frank Salter, secretary of Australian National Alliance, was clubbed down at the University of New South Wales in February 1979.

Perhaps the author of On Genetic Interests bumped into his namesake at the varsity hockey match. An encounter with the young firebrand might have spurred our Frank to wonder whether ethnic nationalism is a vital interest. More probably, they are the same person.

Eliezer Yudkowsky describes a common rationality failure mode:

There are two sealed boxes up for auction, box A and box B. One and only one of these boxes contains a valuable diamond. There are all manner of signs and portents indicating whether a box contains a diamond; but I have no sign which I know to be perfectly reliable. There is a blue stamp on one box, for example, and I know that boxes which contain diamonds are more likely than empty boxes to show a blue stamp. Or one box has a shiny surface, and I have a suspicion—I am not sure—that no diamond-containing box is ever shiny.

Now suppose there is a clever arguer, holding a sheet of paper, and he says to the owners of box A and box B: “Bid for my services, and whoever wins my services, I shall argue that their box contains the diamond, so that the box will receive a higher price.” So the box-owners bid, and box B’s owner bids higher, winning the services of the clever arguer.

The clever arguer begins to organize his thoughts. First, he writes, “And therefore, box B contains the diamond!” at the bottom of his sheet of paper. Then, at the top of the paper, he writes, “Box B shows a blue stamp,” and beneath it, “Box A is shiny”, and then, “Box B is lighter than box A”, and so on through many signs and portents; yet the clever arguer neglects all those signs which might argue in favor of box A. And then the clever arguer comes to me and recites from his sheet of paper: “Box B shows a blue stamp, and box A is shiny,” and so on, until he reaches: “And therefore, box B contains the diamond.”

But consider: At the moment when the clever arguer wrote down his conclusion, at the moment he put ink on his sheet of paper, the evidential entanglement of that physical ink with the physical boxes became fixed. […]

Now suppose another person present is genuinely curious, and she first writes down all the distinguishing signs of both boxes on a sheet of paper, and then applies her knowledge and the laws of probability and writes down at the bottom: “Therefore, I estimate an 85% probability that box B contains the diamond.” Of what is this handwriting evidence? Examining the chain of cause and effect leading to this physical ink on physical paper, I find that the chain of causality wends its way through all the signs and portents of the boxes, and is dependent on these signs; for in worlds with different portents, a different probability is written at the bottom.

So the handwriting of the curious inquirer is entangled with the signs and portents and the contents of the boxes, whereas the handwriting of the clever arguer is evidence only of which owner paid the higher bid. There is a great difference in the indications of ink, though one who foolishly read aloud the ink-shapes might think the English words sounded similar.

Your effectiveness as a rationalist is determined by whichever algorithm actually writes the bottom line of your thoughts.

It’s clear what algorithm wrote Frank Salter’s bottom line.

It should have been:

I have investigated human goals with an open mind. The evidence suggests that the only human goal is genetic proliferation. I shall present my findings in a book.

It was actually:

I don’t want non-white immigrants in Australia. Mass non-white immigration is bad. Therefore, I shall write a book whose conclusion is, stop immigration! I wonder what arguments I can use…

This reasoning isn’t conscious; Salter is earnest. But his subconscious wrote this bottom line, hence an intelligent man spouts nonsense.

Salter’s intelligence is part of the problem. He has found a nugget of scientific truth. Richard Lewontin famously argued that since only 15% of genetic variation is between populations, racial classification is invalid. This is fallacious. In addition to Edwards’s refutation, Salter (via Harpending) has demonstrated that Fst values, like Lewontin’s 15%, are equivalent to statistical “kinship” between family members. The kinship of parents and children, for example, is 25%. This shows that 15% is actually a large value—another means of refuting Lewontin.

Salter’s insane thesis derives credibility because in this one respect, his beliefs are more accurate than the mainstream.

Another life-support system for Salterism (since GNXP mercilessly stabbed it years ago) is toleration of imprecise language. Guessedworker has tried to leaven the stodgy genetic-interest dough with a sprinkling of Heidegger—observe:

But here’s the rub. Being belongs to all organic life … to every living thing, from the strangest bacteria in some hydrothermal vent or sub-glacial lake to the future genius born somewhere among Europeans today. All living things make being and have being. It is not the other way round somehow. It does not become the other way around just in Man’s case because he has evolved an intellectual faculty and higher emotions. We are in Nature with all of Nature, and we are not an exception to Nature. All is multiplicity.

In this way, being is Nature’s cumulative constant. I hold the view that animals are, within their own bounds, constantly true to their being. But we men are not constantly true to our being, except in the special moment I have described. We are fallen in the significant respects – the subject of part 3 of this essay. Therefore, we alone experience that inner divorce, and this, of course, is the tragedy of the human condition. Nonetheless, while we have life, that is our moment of potential for the realisation of being, and there is no other. Each holds being, therefore, in relation to the self, and it is the unconcealment of this being, and not just the glory of her raiment, which is Nature’s sublimest part. Our inner Helios rising is our witness of that sublimity.

To refute this argument with faith … to say being is from a god … is good only if the saying of it advances the wholly materialist making of adaptive life choices (the material being distinctive genes, of course). And likewise, therefore, to objectivise it as the universal, indivisible, prior, and endowing substrate – that, too, is good only if it enhances fitness. Faith is there in our emotional faculties because genes for it have enhanced fitness and been selected accordingly. The pre-frontal cortex, where all those higher emotions occur, is a product of natural selection like anything else. The pre-frontal cortex is also not on holiday during the being-episode, the moment of presence. It is functioning as always, as it must, and the faith nexus sings as sweetly in the ear of the risen man as ever it did in his predecessor’s (and soon to be successor’s, for presence turns constantly towards absence unless it is attended to actively).

That is how the being-as-singular, how immateriality, enters metaphysical thinking, and not from any bona fide witness of an ontotheological reality. There has never been such witness outside of religious thought. But if Western metaphysics is to avoid appeals to an immaterial authority it must find for multiplicity. And to be consistent it must, in turn, acknowledge that objective reality cannot be known or experienced – not even in the moment of ecstatic revelation and annihilation of the self that I mentioned at the beginning. Everything is perception. Of what is, we can know and experience only the reality of our own being in the world, and that reality is informed and coloured by, and situated within, the reality of Man’s being and of the being of kinds of men – Heidegger’s Mitwelt, as far as it goes.

So this is my principal argument for multiplicity. There are certainly others. One is very familiar to readers of this blog.

Those who’ve read David Stove’s What is Wrong with Our Thoughts? will recognise mumbo-jumbo, passing itself off as profundity.

What is Guessedworker’s bottom line—why Heidegger and “being”? Simple: he thinks white people are too concerned with what they do, rather than what they be. They think more about the minutiae of their family lives, work and hedonism, and not enough about their ancestry and their race. Stated clearly, this meets with the “So what?” objection, so Guessedworker must clothe his idea in pseudo-philosophy.

The cure is to ask precisely he means by “Nature’s cumulative constant” and the “unconcealment of being”, or to suggest he recap his essay with the word “being” tabooed. No-one can reduce everything he says to the level of quantum amplitudes, but if someone can’t disassemble a few high-level statements then he is probably spewing egesta.

On the majorityrights.com sidebar, nestled below “The Ontology Project”, is another interesting link: “Thread Wars”. This is a collection of Guessedworker’s effortless skewering of luminaries such as “simon21″ and “90Lew90″—inadvertent debating partners from Guardian and Daily Telegraph (never the Sun or Mirror) comment threads.

If I had a little-known, Earth-shaking new idea about humanity’s ultimate interests, I would want to have it critiqued by important people. I would contact the brilliant philosopher Neven Sesardic, whom I can trust to be free of PC myths. Robin Hanson is always good for a debate. And famous neuroscientist Jeff Hawkins must know a lot about human goals. But if part of me knew that my idea was actually retarded, I might stick to 90Lew90.

Salterians carefully avoid clear, precise language when speaking about “EGI”. Another excerpt from The ontology of the material:

reproductive interests exist as described and constitute the ultimate interest in organic life

The ultimate interest in organic life? Why not “of”? And why not unfurl the full thesis?

The predominant or “absolute” goal that every human being ought to pursue is to make sure that the genetic code of as many other human beings as possible contains small sections that are identical to small sections of his own chromosomes.

Not quite so impressive, eh? Muddy expressions like “ethnic genetic interests” and “reproductive interests” disguise Salterism’s absurdity. “EGI” evokes connotations, in the mind of the Salterian, like “fewer immigrants”. It does not evoke, “I sacrifice everything else, in order to proliferate snippets of genetic code”. When confronted by rational argument, Salterians draw strength from these pleasant emotions, and dwell not upon the real meaning of EGI.

What about this:

To maintain any system of ethics at all, and avoid the slide into utility, arbitraryness, relativism, and nihilism, must not there be some testable and solid basis to ethic?

Utility is the mathematical measure of goal-satisfaction, so “avoiding the slide into utility” means “trying not to achieve one’s goals”.

III: Advice for Salterians

Just look at your gerrymandering.

Should the ultimate interest of genetic fitness be accorded absolute priority over other interests? In principle ‘yes’

Because we need to keep Australia white!

The point should be emphasised that genes only become interests when part of the reproductive chain of life; when they contribute to the creation of humans and influence their development; or when such function is in prospect.

Because we don’t really care about genes, but we do care about race.

But classical Salterian theory is limited. Of course, there is a real Salterian “fallacy”—but one that underestimates, not overestimates, the genetic loss via intermarriage and that undercuts the critique analyzed here. Thus, patterns of gene frequencies is a piece of information destroyed by intermarriage independent of the number of specific alleles in the general population.

Interbreeding doesn’t harm genetic proliferation. Therefore, genetic interests must now incorporate patterns of gene frequencies. Yes, this means that passing on germ-line replicators is no longer the ultimate interest. But miscegenation is bad.

Gray’s linkage of Salter and rape, which is even more grotesque than David B’s linkage to Huntington’s, is stupidity bordering on mendacity. Did Gray finish Salter’s book? Did he read the last one-third, the part on ethics?

Salter favors a “mixed ethic”, in which concern about one’s genetic interests is not only balanced by reciprocity concerning the interests of others, but also by concern for individual rights. Salterism is defensive, a balance of relative interests and rights, and in practice in boils down to majority rights and ethno-states. Salterism does not “clearly” imply a promotion of rape, and Gray should be ashamed of himself to even obliquely suggest otherwise. However, given the paragraph about his “beautiful” mulatto grandnieces, I assume that a sense of shame is not one of Gray’s strong suits.

Rape could easily further a Salterian’s ultimate interests. Therefore, we are adaptive utilitarians, not gene-maximisers. In practice, this means majority rights and ethno-states. Racialists who know nothing of adaptive utilitarianism also share this goal—what a coincidence.

Mention ontology to even an educated fellow nationalist, and certainly to an activist, and he will very likely gaze unawares at the ground beneath his feet. After a few seconds the void of understanding will fill with something very like scorn. He will level his eyes at you and deliver himself of the opinion that that sort of thing has nothing to do with the world of struggle in Nature and politics that he knows and sees everywhere – the struggle which European Man is so demonstrably losing. Too detached from reality, too self-absorbing, he will say. Too many dancing angels.

And then, to set you right, and quite without irony, he will remind you of the great existential plaint, the crisis of the crisis. While you are engaged in all this intellectual vanity, he will say, we Europeans are growing older and weaker by the day, our lands more lost to us, our family lines more negroidalised, the political class more traitorous (if that is possible), the bankers and corporate scum more rapacious, the Jews more audacious.

You will see how the collective angst, unspoken by his people, unacknowledged amid the culture of greed and celebrity and political hype, is torrenting through him, defining him politically, driving him. What do we do? Now! Today! That is the question, de-Barded and anti-intellectual though it is. That is what he will want you, somehow, to answer.

You will nod, and search for a way to explain that revolutions without founding ideas cannot sustain.

Salter’s ideas aren’t very persuasive. Let’s mix in some Heidegger, and see if that protects our family lines from negroidalisation.

What next, a mixed ethic of stay-in-your-own-country utilitarianism?

If there is anything sensible in Salterism, it says:

You there—mental sub-agent that cares about bloodlines. Why not generalise yourself to the ethnic level of kinship?

This has little effect. The sub-agent cares little about genetic kinship beyond the extended family, and that’s difficult to change. Salterians are similar, except their interest drops off at the limit of humanity (or more probably, Europe). Gene-maximisation also conflicts with more powerful sub-agents, like empathy and the moral sense. An average person might have lots of children, instead of spending all his time being charitable; but empathy discourages him from rape or genocide, and his dignity discourages him from spreading his genes via sperm donation.

Even Guessedworker et al wouldn’t really give the Salterian sub-agent free reign. It is genocidal, and a nasty piece of work even in domestic matters. EGI, whether vital interest or mere subjective appeal, is hopeless.

I advise racialists to give up these far-fetched ideas. Instead, they should campaign for a more libertarian government. This would not allow them to outlaw miscegenation, but it would permit them to discriminate more in their private lives—which, although they may not realise it, is enough to sate their ethnocentric impulses.

This entry was posted in Race on December 22, 2012.

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On Death

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This world, our world, is a Death world. Life is predicated on Death: it walks a fraying tightrope over the abyss of non-existence and nothingness. At it’s core, life is nothing but infinitely small pockets of temporary resistance, subsumed in a swirling vortex of entropy and Death.

Death is the absence of life. The hollowing out of life. The stripping away of life to the bone. It is the bottomless abyss: an undifferentiated non-place, devoid of time and space. Death is sameness, the end of the illusion of difference which marks life. Death is the cannibalisation of the borders and boundaries that separate things, giving them form and existence.

In Death all is one. But all is nothing.

flesh

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The flesh is a fallen, rotten, putrid thing.

It is not your friend.

Stinking sclerosis. Entropy embodied. The will entombed. 

It fails.

Stranded in the noumenal without a guide.

Not a flicker or light. Nor a whisper of sound. 

Fallen.

Forgotten.

Failed.

Fucked.

Senseless. 

Nick Clegg and the freedom to offend

Multiculturism

In response to the Massacre at Charlie Hebdo, Nick Clegg argues that “you cannot have freedom unless people are free to offend”:

“UKIP leader Nigel Farage caused controversy by criticising the UK’s ‘gross policy of Multiculturism’ in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Deputy premier Nick Clegg accused the UKIP leader of exploiting the tragedy for ‘political points’ and implying wrongly that British Muslims are ‘part of the problem’.

During his weekly LBC radio programme, Mr Clegg clashed with a caller called Omar who suggested that the Paris attacks had been provoked.

‘There can be no excuse, no reason, no explanation,’ the Deputy Prime Minister said. ‘They have killed cartoonists who have done nothing more than draw drawings which they so happened to find offensive.’

‘And do you know what? Here’s the bottom line, Omar, at the end of the day in a free society, people have to be free to offend each other.’

‘You cannot have freedom unless people are free to offend. We have no right not to be offended.’

This is the classic Boutique Multiculturalist position. Can you imagine Nick Clegg standing up for the right of a satirical magazine in the UK to print, for example, racist cartoons?

Of course not. This is because doing so would offend Nick’s own religion: Progressivism.

Progressivism pwnes other religions by making making tolerance its core value. The only thing a progressive will not tolerate is intolerance. This neat little formulation allows the progressive to set the moral agenda according to the religious tenants of progressivism. You are free to believe what you want, so long as you don’t trespass onto Progressivism’s consecrated ground.

What makes this even more ridiculous, in the example given above, is the contradictory beliefs progressivism holds about race itself.

On the one hand, the progressive argues that it is OK to satirise someone’s religion, but not their race, because their religion is chosen whereas their race is inherent.

On the other hand, the progressive argues that race is a social construct and does not exist.

So so which is it? A social construct or something inherent and immutable?

Of course, the progressive dialectic thrives off such contradictions, so don’t expect progressivism to be killed by them. But the hypocrisy of Nick Clegg’s position is obvious and deserves to be drawn out.

The “freedom to offend” which he is arguing for has strict parameters, and woe betide anyone who strays too far from the reservation.

Ebola, Effective altruism and state sponsored death

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Last week we looked at how to use White Hate Magic to assist the spread of Ebola. Out of a sense of fairness, universal harmony and balance I thought it would be fun this week to look at how to stop the spread of the virus instead. Of course the plan outlined below isn’t going to happen, but it’s always fun to imagine. And, well, you never know, I mean things could get pretty desperate…

In a recent post JM Greer posed the following question:

“According to the World Health Organization, the number of cases of Ebola in the current epidemic is doubling every twenty days, and could reach 1.4 million by the beginning of 2015. Let’s round down, and say that there are one million cases on January 1, 2015. Let’s also assume for the sake of the experiment that the doubling time stays the same. Assuming that nothing interrupts the continued spread of the virus, and cases continue to double every twenty days, in what month of what year will the total number of cases equal the human population of this planet?”

He doesn’t provide the answer. But taking the current world population to be 7.125 billion, the date in question is Monday the 14th of September 2015.

The End of the World: it’s sooner than you think.

Now, let’s imagine that you wanted to avoid this scenario. What measures would need to be taken to stop the spread of Ebola across the globe? Right now it is still relatively restricted to an area of west Africa. This will change as more people become infected in larger African cities and when greater numbers of people start migrating and begin to seek asylum elsewhere. The potential of this to become truly apocalyptic is only too real. Unless something like the humanitarian plan outlined below is followed the death toll is likely to be 100’s of millions, if not more.

1) Impose a military curfew lasting no less than 30 days on all affected areas. If after 30 days there is still evidence of infection in the area the curfew will be extended for a further 30 days. Food and water will be delivered to families affected by the curfew twice a week. Anyone who breaks curfew for any reason will be shot on sight.

2) Anyone infected within a family home will be taken to a ‘treatment centre’. The only effective treatment for Ebola is death. Any living spaces in which someone suffered the disease will be incinerated and raised to the ground, alongside any possessions contained within. Looting from infected properties will be punished by death without trial.

3) All international travel will be heavily restricted for the duration of the outbreak. Something akin to the Bitcoin blockchain will be created, mapping the movement of individuals across international boarders, in order to restrict it. Anyone found to carry the infection will be taken to a ‘treatment centre’.

4) As Ebola spreads internationally the same curfew process is to be adopted by each affected area. First world countries are not to assume that their healthcare system and facilities are sufficiently advanced to treat Ebola patients. The only effective treatment for Ebola is death.

5) Anyone delivering food and water or ensuring the curfew is to be provided with sufficient protective clothing and well remunerated. Anyone who becomes infected will be taken to a ‘treatment centre’.

6) the bodies of all victims of Ebola are to be incinerated, irrespective of local custom or religious belief.

7) In all non-affected areas life is to proceed as normal. Anyone violently protesting the treatment plan will be incarcerated. Public protests against the treatment plan will be brutalised.

8) Boarder control is to be upheld vigorously throughout the outbreak. No one is to leave an infected area.

And that’s it. If implemented, a plan such as the one outlined above, albeit with a little more flesh applied to the bones, could potentially save millions of lives. At the moment the death rate in Africa from Ebola is 70 – 90%. As the epidemic turns into a pandemic, and the capacity of the authorities to cope is stretched even further beyond its limit, this will quickly begin to approach 100%. In such a situation only death can cure death. If each infected person on average infects another two people, and each infected person is close to 100% certain to die anyway, the moral imperative is to ‘treat’ them before they infect anyone else.

It’s effective altruism as civilisation preserving genocide.

Ebola-Chan, Mon Amour

Ebola-Chan

Part 2 of The Question of Sovereignty is going to have to wait a little bit longer, as this strikes me as more immediately rewarding.

image

First, a bit of background…

“Ebola-Chan is a female anime character designed as an anthropomorphic representation of the Ebola virus. The character was created on 4chan in response to growing concerns regarding the West African Ebola outbreak in the summer of 2014.

While the character began as a relatively innocuous fan art trend, others on the site soon began rallying behind an international scheme to fabricate a death cult movement based on a conspiracy hoax that Ebola was “invented by white people,” hoping it would catch on in the internet forums in regions where the local population have been heavily affected by the virus.” – Know Your Meme

Since its inception in 2013, Outside In has been schooling me in the Dark Arts of NRx. It was Nick Land’s recent post on Ebola-Chan that prompted these thoughts. While they pertain directly to that toxic meme-fest, it is my hope that the structure outlined here could potentially be extracted from its local context and translated into a blueprint for future iterations of viral-mind-hack-contagion.

I wish to suggest that a particularly potent combination several pre-existing concepts, already familiar to those knee-deep in NRx, form the inner core of the Ebola-Chan meme. First, it’s important to identify these uconcepts and articulate their inner mechanics. Second, we need to identify how these concepts are combined in the Ebola-Chan meme. Third, we need to look for ways in which NRx could implement this methodology in the future.

(I’m feeling ill – hopefully not with Ebola – so I’m not sure we will get onto the third today).

Let’s begin with the first question: what are the concepts at the core of the Ebola-Chan meme?

1) The Basilisk. Ebola-Chan functions as a Basilisk. In order to work a Basilisk must on some level be believed by its intended target. Once a Basilisk has been seen there is no retreat; it has the power to cause fear, nightmares and death.

2) AAA (Agree, Amplify and Accelerate). The moment of genius in the evolution of the Ebola-Chan meme was the strategy of insinuating it into Nigerian Internet forums, from the perspective of Nigerians concerned about White Hate Magic. Once you are arguing publicly – but incognito – from the point of view of your target you effectively possess it, severely impacting its capacity to control and moderate its own thinking processes. Ebola-Chan didn’t attack from the Outside; it was insinuated into African discourse via these forums as a Trojan horse virus, in a play lifted straight out of the film Inception.

3) High IQ Strategic Trolling is the elevation of trolling from something isolated and atomized – the inchoate outbursts of the malcontented loner, which lack wider coordination and purpose – to a cybernetic strategy, designed to initiate and amplify feedback loops. HIQST understands that the wings of a distant butterfly can be the wellspring of tornados.

Now let’s move onto the second question, and look in slightly greater detail at how these concepts are combined in the Ebola-Chan meme.

Roko’s Basilisk was first unveiled, or perhaps discovered, on a now long deleted (but thankfully archived) Less Wrong thread. It was designed to incentivize high IQ AI researchers to donate ever more of their disposable income to developing AI. Roko argued that, if a future AI were an acausal decision-maker, it would have a strong incentive to pre-commit to punish all those who understood the importance of bringing it into existence but failed to do everything in their power to do so. Just like any threat, in order to be credible researchers needed to believe that it would be carried out. Roko demonstrated that if such a threat caused researchers to work harder and donate more money, time and energy to the development of AI, then a future AI would have sufficient motive to make such a commitment. He also showed that the AI would realize that it would need to deliver on its precommitment to punish, because it was logically demonstrable in the present that failure to do so would render the threat in effective.

Roko’s Basilisk was such a convincing thought trap that several researchers, unable to free themselves of visions of eternal torment or reject the chain of reasoning that led them there, allegedly suffered nervous breakdowns. Less Wrong founder, Eliezer Yudkowsky, infamously banned the thread and accused Roko committing a thought crime, saying: “You do not think in sufficient detail about superinteligences considering whether or not to blackmail you. That is the only possible thing which gives them a motive to follow through on the blackmail”.

The model of the Basilisk, that which once seen cannot be unseen, which has the power to cause fear, nightmares and death, is central to the Ebola-Chan meme. But whereas Roko’s Basilisk was targeted at high IQ AI researchers and preyed upon their intelligence, commitment, and belief in a research goal for its fecundity, Ebola-Chan is targeted at low IQ indigenous Africans, and preys upon ancient traditions of folk magic and superstition, as well as a deep-seated hatred and distrust of white people, for its power.

The most important thing about a Basilisk is not whether or not the threat is credible, but that it is perceived as credible by its intended target, at least to the degree that it facilitates a sense of doubt regarding the official narrative – that white people are there to help you – to set in. As Ebola-Chan spreads it causes fear and distrust of the motives of white people amongst the indigenous black population of Nigeria. At a certain point a critical mass could potentially be reached when the political process itself becomes infected, leading to social unrest, mass panic and violence.

If Ebola-Chan is ‘successful’ it will exacerbate racial tensions in the infected region and quite possibly the globe, which would necessitate a response from political decision makers. It will force them to either redouble their efforts to ‘help’ against a tide of violence and hate – potentially worsening the crises – or withdraw their ‘aid’ and involvement.

Again, the genius of some 4chan users was to insinuate the Ebola-Chan meme, straight-faced, into a Nigerian Internet forum. If other Nigerians are saying that Ebola is made by white people the idea that Ebola might be made by white people gains credibility. If other Nigerians are saying that Ebola is caused by White Hate Magic the idea that Ebola might be cause by White Hate Magic gains credibility. If other Nigerians are claiming that Ebola-Chan is a white death cult, and that some of the doctors are involved in it, then the possibility that this might be true needs at least to be taken into consideration. If other Nigerians are claiming that hospitals and quarantine are not there to help you, but to ensure that you become infected, and these ideas gain credence amongst the general population, then the ability of these places to continue to exist in the infected region becomes severely undermined.

However, for the West there remains the disquieting possibility of a counter attack. While I was researching this post I came across several disturbing pieces of information, which have led me to believe that there is the strong possibility of African-Muslim terrorists using Ebola as a weapon of mass destruction. To do this is simple, all they need to do is contract the disease in sufficient numbers before descending on large densely populated western cities.

According to American source the Business Insider:

“As the Ebola disease spreads in Africa and detainees from that continent are apprehended, the question must be asked: What if terrorists already willing to die try to bring the disease across our porous southern border?

“Nigeria is the home of Boko Haram. The Islamist terrorist group Isil [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] has long been recruiting terrorists in the West and is known to have members with western, even American, passports. Deliberately spreading the disease to the US might not even require a plane ride, and it’s possible that terrorists already willing to strap bombs to their bodies might just as willingly get infected.”

More unrealistic optimistic people argue that no one would be willing to voluntarily contract such a horrible disease, but it is important to remember that we are talking about the same kind of people who have in the past consistently proven willing to an hero themselves to further their cause. Spreading Ebola in a crowded western city would be far more effective in terms of causing panic and mortalities than hundreds of small-scale explosions. In many respects the most surprising thing about this is that it hasn’t already been tried – at least not effectively.

The Question of Sovereignty: Part 1

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“Someone always rules; everyone else is always ruled. Political reality in three words: sovereignty is conserved.” – Moldbug

But is it?

Identifying the fundamental nature of sovereignty is a critical task for NRx because so much of substance follows from it. However, despite several previous attempts, a definitive account of sovereignty remains illusive. In fact, when placed under extended interrogation, the general outcome has been for the meaning of ‘sovereignty’ itself to turn unstable, making further progress impossible.

Before proceeding further, I should probably make it absolutely clear that I don’t propose to resolve the question of sovereignty here (!), merely to suggest that, since it’s such a crucial question for NRx, it should once again be tabled for discussion.

Our first task must be to define the meaning of ‘sovereignty’. While I am sure there are far better definitions out there, and agreeing upon the best possible definition is a key priority, for the purposes of getting started I am going to suggest the following:

Sovereignty is supreme power and authority, underwritten and secured by nothing except itself.

To be sovereign is to be finally, ultimately, and absolutely in charge, to have the last word and the final say, to possess the power to determine the outcome of significant events, arising out of conflicts of interest.

A true ‘first order’ or primary sovereign cannot be meaningfully bound by anything other than itself. A ‘second order’ or secondary sovereign is always in reality bound by the demands and expectorations, both implicit and explicit, of whatever first order sovereign it leases its little slice of sovereignty from, which ultimately underwrites its authority over whatever territory it presides over.

As Moldbug explains, a constitution is in essence nothing more than a note written by a sovereign to itself, which can be roughly translated as “don’t do bad things”. Who has the power to enforce the contents of the note? only the sovereign power itself. If another sovereign power has the capacity to force the other sovereign to uphold the contents of the constitution and not do bad things, then that is in fact the true first order sovereign, and the other is unmasked as merely a second order pretender to the throne.

Likewise, if I have sovereign possession of any item or piece of property it means that I alone control the use of this item. However, this is in fact an instance of second order sovereignty, since if a dispute over control arises it will be resolved legally (even if private force was initially used, either party maintains recourse to legal channels) by the real sovereign, which has the power to determine secondary ownership, and is in effect the real primary owner of whatever is being contested.

Mencius Moldbug is, unquestionably, the father of modern Reaction. Furthermore, he built modern Reaction upon the bedrock of a concept of absolute sovereignty. If, as many have suggested, Moldbug is wrong about the underlying nature of sovereignty, it follows that he may also be wrong about a great deal of other aspects within his system of thought, which inevitably follow from this first principal. Therefore, it is possible that the entire Neorectionary project, which has emerged over the last couple of years, may in fact have been built upon an unsound foundation.

The late 90’s neo-noir supernatural crime thriller Fallen, which stars the great Denzil Washington, features a character that for me personifies the essence of Moldbug’s claim that sovereignty is conserved. The evil fallen angel Azazel can jump from body to body at will, possessing anyone he touches, but upon their death is immediately able to secure tenure in another host. Azazel is in this way akin to primary sovereignty. While the host may change, his primary sovereignty, which flows between them, still sums to one.

Recently I have been reading James Burnham’s ‘The Machivellians: Defenders of Freedom’, one of Moldbug’s favorite books, and they way he describes leadership seems to mirror how Moldbug regards sovereignty:

“In the first place, if a division occurs among the leaders, one section or both is forced to seek help from the masses of the membership, and is able to organize their strength. The opposition leadership is sometimes successful at eliminating the old leadership. Second, new leaders may, and do, arise as it were ‘spontaneously’ out of the masses. If the existing leadership is unable or unwilling to crush or assimilate these ‘outside leaders’, then it may be overthrown. In both these cases, however, though the process may appear to take the form of a successful struggle of the masses against their leaders, and thus prove the supremacy of the masses, in reality it consists only of the substitution of a new leadership for the old. Leadership remains in control; ‘self-government’ is as distant as ever.” [italics mine]

Burnham’s formulation ‘leadership remains in control’ seems to me to mirror Moldbug’s postition that ‘sovereignty remains conserved’. Just as a change in leadership is not itself a challenge to either the concept or empirical fact of leadership, and is something which effective leadership necessitates as much as it endures, so a change in where sovereign power resides is not, properly understood, a challenge to the nature of sovereignty, it is merely a shift in its local concentration. Sovereignty still sums to 1, it’s just dispersed and ordered differently.

Moldbug again:

“As a geek world which had not Chomsky but Mosca on its dogeared hackerspace bookshelves would know in its bones, autocracy is universal and cannot be repealed, only concealed.  Always and everywhere, strong minorities rule weak majorities.

You cannot drive out nature with a pitchfork.  You can drive out great oaks with an axe.  But you already did that.  What did you get?  Weeds – giant, pitchfork-proof weeds.  Autocratic and unaccountable power in the modern democracy has been dispersed, but not in any way dissolved.  Sovereignty remains conserved.

Indeed by any metric there is far more woody biomass than ever before.  The US Attorney’s office has also its little kings, no more accountable than Henry VII.  Who took orders only from God, just like any “apolitical” “civil servant.” But at least there was only one Henry VII.”

Within the Modern Structure sovereignty may be dispersed, but never dispensed with. Nor could it be.

Or as Moldbug says, “Sovereignty is conserved. You can spread it around, though, but don’t expect to enjoy the result.”

In fact, this is another key Moldbugian assertion, since it inverts the more conventional notion that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and makes the counter claim that it is precisely the insecurity of those in positions of power which engenders tyranny. If they were truly sovereign in the sense that they were also invulnerable they would have no cause to be mean or inhumane. Moldbug, in his myth of Fnargl, posits just such a ruler: a gold loving alien who has the twin power of invulnerability and finger snapping death to humans. He goes to great length over several posts to reason why those with absolute power being secure in their absolute power is ultimately a good thing for their subjects.

However, this line of thinking has also received cogent criticism. As Federico originally pointed out, “[Moldbug’s] absolutism is odd because one of his very favourite books, The Machiavellians by James Burnham, contains this excerpt:

“The right of public opposition to the rulers, the heart of freedom, will not be kept alive merely by wishing—and it is besides very doubtful that a majority of men are much concerned about it one way or the other. It requires the existence in society of a number of relatively autonomous “social forces,” as mosca calls them. It demands that no single social force—the army or liquid wealth or the church or industrial management or agriculture or labor or the state machine, whatever it might be—shall be strong enough to swallow up the rest and thereby be in a position to dominate all phases of social life. When this happens, there cannot be a significant opposition to the rulers, because the opposition cannot have any social weight and therefore cannot restrain the power of the rulers. It is only when there are several different major social forces, not wholly subordinated to any one social force, that there can be any assurance of liberty, since only then is there the mutual check and balance that is able to chain power. There is no one force, no group, and no class that is the preserver of liberty. Liberty is preserved by those who are against the existing chief power. Oppositions which do not express genuine social forces are as trivial, in relation to entrenched power, as the old court jesters.’”

So, when we are engineering our Neoreactionary patchwork, is the ideal state likely to be one in which power is countervailed or absolute? Do we optimise for a balance of independent institutions and rely on the sovereignty of each to imposes checks and balances on the others, or should we attempt to concentrate sovereignty in one institution, to avoid “spreading it about” and creating conditions of uncertainty and indeterminancy, and therefore for an ongoing competition for power? Indeed, in a Patchwork, how do individual patches remain sovereign and avoid hostile takeover or the formation of poweful cartels?

Questions, questions, questions…

 

 

The End

Moldbug

And so it Ends.

Moldbug’s latest post is also to be his last, as he formalises the extended hiatus Unqualified Reservations has clearly already been on for quite sometime. While it doesn’t exactly come as a surprise, it does provide a definite end point to perhaps the most exquisite corpus of political philosophy written thus far this century. While my knowledge of this area of thought is far from complete, it would certainly be true to say that no one has done more to rewire my brain, to relieve me of my evil progressive parasite, to disabuse me of my unquestioning progressive preconceptions, than Moldbug; and by extension his most important disciple, Nick Land, who has taken many of Moldbug’s key concepts and theories and pushed them beyond the event horizon of the Human.

But no one writes quite like Moldbug. Leaving his searing insights to one side for just one moment, when first reading A Gentle Introduction several years ago, perhaps what struck me most forcefully was that this was someone you could trust. The way he talked about other authors and actors from history was perhaps first and foremost in terms of character, asking: were they worthy of your trust, dear reader?

Moldbug himself passed the trust test every time – even though he was simultaneously challenging all your progressive preconceptions. Of course, this is why it was so important that you could put your trust in him. After all, would you allow someone you didn’t trust to perform neurosurgery on you? To rewire your brain? To take it apart and put it back together again? But as a literary stylist Moldbug’s genius was to cut his trustworthiness with a near lethal dose of humour and sarcasm, which at times stretched across the ages. Nothing was taboo, nothing was out of bounds: ‘Joo, Joo’.

He would drop Gangsta slang into political theory so brilliantly constructed and important, with implications so serious, that following the course of action he prescribes may be our best chance of avoiding a Left Singularity (i.e. the death of billions).

At the same time as lamenting Moldbug’s formal decision to terminate communications from UR, it should be noted that in Urbit he is perusing a technological project every bit as advanced, which, if realised, will be of great significance to the future shape of the Internet. Only yesterday I came across what was for me a vital new piece of information, which goes someway to explaining Moldbug’s shift of attention away from text and back towards code. I will not go into what that information was here, but save it for a future post, because my thoughts on its implications are still somewhat raw and inchoate.

But if my suspicion is correct, it means that two of the greatest minds of our time – both computer specialists with a broad base of historical insight – are engaged in a potentially epoch defining game of brinksmanship, the intellectual and technological fruits of which have the greatest implications for the future of us all.

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies…

Lies

Let’s begin with a couple of quotes to set the scene:

The truth is unpleasant and therefore unpopular: Humans have invented a social “reality” that denies reality itself – Corrupt

Every lie creates a parallel world. The world in which it is true – Momus

My central thesis, if I have anything remotely coherent enough to be called a thesis – central or otherwise – is that the world we live in is constructed out of lies. Not teeny, tiny white lies. But big fat melanistic ones. When you stop and think about it for a minute it becomes obvious. Or at least it seems obvious to me.

Reality is fundamentally unpleasant: you are born – you grow old – you die.

Life is signposted by numerous disappointments and tragedies, all culminating in the final oblivion of death.

It’s not like in the pornos – there are no happy endings.

In the olden days this wasn’t such a problem. You received your reward for a life well lived or got your just deserts on the ‘other side’. But nowadays the promise of eternal salvation or the threat of eternal damnation just isn’t so convincing. Post-Nietzsche, only crazy people and religious fanatics believe that there is anything good coming to them after death. Everyone else just better go and get their 70 virgins in now, before we find ourselves rotting in the ground getting eaten by snails, or, worse still, burnt to cinder sitting on some useless descendant’s mantle-piece, while he fornicates with his fat ugly wife, making you wish you had kept your genes in your jeans.

But luckily progressivism, aka Ultra-Protestantism, aka Evil Incarnate, poses a solution to this otherwise intractable problem: why don’t we just build the Kingdom of God on Earth right here and now, and call it the New Jerusalem, or Disney Land, or the European Court of Human Rights, or something?

A lot has already been written by Neoreactionarys about this, certainly enough to justify my not going off on a major detour to cover it again here. However, it is nevertheless desirable to stress to the relatively uninitiated reader that trying to establish transcendental ideals on the physical plane of existence is (a) never going to work, (b) never going to fail in a way which is pretty, and (c) virtually guaranteed to multiply insanity by a factor of, well, many.

So, because of the fundamentally, inextricably unpleasant nature of real-reality, we have been pwned into constructing a new social, consensus ‘reality’ out of a tissue of lies. For the Neoreactionary one of the most salient examples of this is the lie of democracy. The holiness of democracy has been incorporated into progressive religious doctrine as one of its core doctrinal beliefs and pseudo-organizing principals. Democracy has been elevated to an unassailable good in-and-of itself, even especially when it fails horribly, which must therefore be exported to the rest of the world – to hell with the consequences!

One of the problems with democracy is that it cares what people think, at least enough to be sufficiently paranoid about what they think to try to control it via the all-pervasive-systemic-miasma-of-ideological-pwnage that is the Cathedral. The Cathedral is an invisible, but only too real meta-institution, which aims to inculcate a particular set of attitudes and beliefs throughout society in order to pwan it. In other words, the Cathedral wants to indoctrinate people in line with progressive values because, just like any religious doctrine, the indisputable truth – and therefore the indisputability in general – of its values is the source of its power.

When truth based on belief becomes incontestable it takes a transcendental turn. Anyone foolish enough to question transcendental truth in public is a heretic and should expect to be treated as such. Under western democracy heretics are no longer burnt at the stake but are instead exposed to the ‘social consequences’ of permanent social, political and economic ostracisation. Speak out against the Cathedral and bang goes your job, your wife, your house, your car… hell, if the stench of ‘unbeliever’ is strong enough, even your dog will piss off too.

While these ‘social consequences’ are somewhat less extreme than being burnt at the stake, and faced with the choice I would obviously choose them every time, they are not nothing. However, at a structural level, what makes them so significant is that they are much more widely and thoroughly applied than any form of corporal punishment under any comparable historic state inquisition, for increasingly minor types of religious transgression.

To realise its program of total-indoctrination, the Cathedral emits the equivalent of an ideological-pheromone secreted cybernetically through the extended civil service, which consists of the education-media matrix, the judicial system, and various NGO’s (just subtract the ‘non’ for a more accurate picture of how these relate to the state). The aim of this is to generate a self-organising consensus of right(eously) thinking individuals and organizations. Failure of organisations or individuals to download and install sufficiently recent program updates bodes about as well for their long-term chance of survival as discovering that your girlfriend’s been barebacking with the South African police force in the name of human rights, or something.

This process, by which everything moves ever further and faster to the Left, has directly resulted in the construction of the current version of ‘consensus reality’ we inhabit. The problem with consensus reality is that it operates like a virtual-reality simulation nested within real-reality, in which actions play out their effects following the laws of the simulation, which pretty much anyone important is attempting to game. However, what makes this much, much worse is that actions taken in the simulation also have concrete effects back in real-reality, which, unfortunately for our progressive overlords, cannot be tuned out entirely. Even with everyone forcibly plugged into the simulation, real-reality persists, and the effect of its feedback can never be completely factored out of simulated-reality, although most political policy is designed to try to limit the fecundity of this feedback – usually by delaying its impact, which also tends to amplify it when it eventually breaks through.

For the Neoreactionary, what this amounts to is an insanely elaborate system of political-economic insanity designed expressly to kick the can a little bit further down the road, thereby ensuring the continuation of the temporary, short-term prosperity of our progressive overlords. It’s a shameful, and ultimately counterproductive self-serving exercise, which severs only to postpone and worsen the inevitable crises: doubling down on death at every roll of the dice. It spreads moral hazard throughout society as rational incentive structures are either dismantled or become inverted, inflating time preference to the point where civilization, without the introduction of a decelerating universal stipend, paid expressly for being useless, becomes unimaginable.

Back in reality, if you are stupid enough to play on your Xbox for seven days straight, without stopping to eat, sleep, drink, or masturbate, your meat-avatar back in the real world will drop dead, simple as. No amount of political correctness or economic madness can route around this insurmountable, physiological fact. What’s more it deserves to drop dead. You ignore the dictates of real-reality at your peril. But our progressive overlords won’t allow us to unplug ourselves from the simulation, binding our fate ever more securely to theirs.