Sunday, July 31, 2016

Wells Cathedral from the Bishop's Palace

We took a walk in the sunshine yesterday afternoon to the Bishop's Palace.




The wasp-Calgacus speaks

I mentioned that wasps had taken up occupancy in the stone wall backing our garden, to the great peril of anyone putting out washing (that would be Clare).

Here's a close up from yesterday.

Grand Central Wasp Station

The Internet says you have to use powder, not spray. The insects coat themselves and then transfer it into the nest. Putting copious piles of powder at the entrance is best done at dusk, once the wasps have retired for the night.

I was checking at intervals during the evening: the wretched creatures were active until it was quite dark so it was quarter to ten before I was able to dress up as a wasp-ninja.

Please don't SWAT me!

That's the Nippon ant powder you see before you (it also explicitly targets wasp nests for the scoffers). I used the 'red torchlight' app on my phone to illuminate the nest entrance - white light gets them excited. In fact there was barely a wasp in sight as I sprayed and sprayed the powder into the entrance and onto adjacent landing sites.

I even had the hose set up nearby to provide a water-spray defence if I had been attacked by a swarm.

Preparedness is often called luck - I was lucky last night.


"... they make a wasteland, they call it peace"

This morning, there are a couple of corpses in the white snow and not a trace of wasp activity.

As Kinnock might have said, "We have our garden back."

Friday, July 29, 2016

We have wasps ...

Red circle marks the nest entrance

Just noticed the cloud of wasps leaving and entering their new concourse.

In the abstract we love wasps - their intelligence and keenness to eat garden pests. But in this position they make putting the washing out a major hazard, plus they're way too close to the kitchen.

So it's down to the hardware shop tomorrow to buy some Wasp Powder, and tomorrow evening at dusk I will be out there - overdressed - ready to apply.

In case of anaphylactic shock, this may in fact be my last post.

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The saga continues ...

The Collapse of Western Civilization (cont.)

The Economist proclaims today that it's no longer Left vs Right, but Open vs. Closed.




Political commentators embellish the idea of the insurgent masses rising against liberal elites across the globe. Hello Brexit, Ms Le Pen, Mr Trump, .. .

And Peter Turchin has a new book out soon: "Ages of Discord" (September 2016 and not yet on Amazon).
"By 2010 it became clear to me that the structural-demographic theory (SDT) generalizes very well. Essentially, it’s about complex large-scale societies that can be represented as a population - elitesstate system.

"Agrarian versus industrial distinction is important but doesn’t affect the basic logic of the model. In the United States we have common people, or the 99%, the elites (the 1%), and the state, just like in the Roman Empire. Yes, the Romans did not have smartphones, but the power relations in complex human societies are surprisingly durable.

"It also became clear that the answer to the question, “And where are we?” is: in the pre-crisis phase of the secular cycle. Thus, when in 2010 Nature asked me to comment on the coming decade, I wrote “Political instability may be a contributor in the coming decade.” Six years down the road, I am afraid to say, my gloomy forecast is developing right on schedule."
On the strength of this, I decided to read his earlier book (on the rise and fall of agrarian societies) and it arrived this morning.


Here is what Turchin says about his new book:
"Analysis of historical states shows that in complex, large-scale human societies long periods of relative equity, prosperity, and internal peace are succeeded by protracted periods of inequity, increasing misery, and political instability.

"These crisis periods—“Ages of Discord”—tend to share characteristic features, experienced by many societies in different historical eras. In fact, America today has much in common with the Antebellum America of the 1850s and with Ancien Régime France on the eve of the French Revolution, to give just two examples.

"Can it really be true that our time of troubles is not so new, and that it arises because of similar underlying reasons? Ages of Discord marshals a cohesive theory and detailed historical data to show that this is, indeed, the case.

"The book takes the reader on a roller-coaster journey through American history: from the Era of Good Feelings of the 1820s to our first Age of Discord, which culminated in the American Civil War, to the post-war prosperity and, finally, to our present, second Age of Discord."
Naturally, the book will end with good advice. Equally naturally, it will be ignored.

Hillary Clinton: INTJ. Bill Clinton: ENFP

From "Hillary Clinton: Misunderstood INTJ".

Good article. American political culture doesn't like introverts and is distrustful of ideas. That's the I and the N then.

Analytical thinking rather than emotional feeling doesn't go down too well in a political persona, especially in a woman. So that would be the T.

Three strikes and INTJ Hillary has problems.

Oh, and that J can make you look rather rigid and bossy.

---

Bill Clinton's ENFP is almost the perfect politician type - we could debate whether the N should be an S to really get down with the Main Street folk, but a strong strain of idealism stands you in good stead in the Democratic Party.

---

There isn't the slightest doubt that Donald Trump is an archetypal ESTP.

The best theory we have of mental conditions is that they are the extreme ends of certain personality types. Thus INTJs veer off towards autism (AS) while ESTPs incline to ASPD and psychopathy.

Which flavour of politics will American voters prefer? Autistic or antisocial?

---

In the UK we seem to like, or in any event tolerate, introverts. Thus Theresa May (ISTJ) squares up against Jeremy Corbyn (INTP).

ISTJs are conventional, traditional and do sweat the small stuff; INTPs (full disclosure: I am one) come across as dreamy, idealistic, head-in-the-clouds .. and ineffectual.

Who says Myers-Briggs isn't telling you something useful?

Westonbirt Arboretum

Westonbirt Arboretum yesterday lunchtime was a picture of gloom. Intermittent showers, that incessant light rain which soaks by degrees, descended upon grim-faced mothers surrounded by gaggles of their newly broken-up kiddies.

No-one looked like they were enjoying themselves.

We abandoned, but returned later after it brightened up.

Clare on the steps of the Elevated Platform

The Elevated Platform

Clare and your author on the Observation Platform

The Walkway leading to the Elevated Platform

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A view of Wells in late July

It was sunny-ish this afternoon and Clare dragged me out for a walk.

I was already an hour at the gym this morning and figured I was done with exercise for the day. Remarks were made about troglodytes and caves until I was finally shamed out.

Got this picture though (click on image to make larger).



Wells Cathedral and Glastonbury Tor from the top of Beryl Lane



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Memo to the Interior Minister



Dear Minister,

Following the latest Islamic-inspired atrocity, you asked for a list of security policy options.

Let us start with the obvious: there are no good security policy options.

Suppose we have twenty million Muslims in Europe with relatively free movement, and suppose only one in a thousand (0.1%) presents a risk of active violence, then that's still twenty thousand very dangerous young men (yes, they do seem to be mostly young men).
  1. In some cases we know who they are, but more often than not, we don't.
  2. Even if we're suspicious, at present we don't have powers to detain them.
  3. The population of 'bad guys' is subject to continual immigration churn.
Here are your options:

1. Deport all the Muslims and reinstate border controls

There are historical precedents: expulsion of the Jews in the Middle-Ages, Stalin's population transfers in the first half of the twentieth century.

Still, so much hardship would be caused to the 99.9% of non-terrorist Muslims that public opinion would never support such a policy. Plus it seems logistically impossible - where would they go?

2. Intern all the bad guys we know about

Illegal at present but perhaps that could be fixed. It would remove some of the potential bad guys but recall we know only a fraction of the potential perpetrators. Plus various Middle-East organisations such as ISIS could always infiltrate clean skins.

There's the injustice factor too. Just because we think someone's potentially bad, doesn't mean we're right. Think Guantanamo Bay.

And remember the old adage: remove one, create one. These guys are big into 'never forgive, never forget'.

3. Guard the schools, churches, synagogues, sports stadiums, ...

Yes, there's the problem. Too many targets, not enough guards, and the bad guys just choose a category we didn't get around to guarding. You can't stop the car driven into a random crowd.

4. Vastly increased spy and surveillance network

The population has been brought up on civil liberties scares but this, at least, has some potential. With considerably more resources poured into informer networks, plus more CCTV and surveillance automation we can massively up our 'prevented in advance' statistics. But some will always get through, and you will not get credit for the potential atrocities we were able to prevent.

5. Stop bombing Middle-East Muslims

It's been a political dogma that terrorist attacks in our country are completely decoupled from our own armed actions in Muslim countries. But you know that's rubbish.

If we stop offensive actions and leave the Middle-East to stew in its own Cauldron of Hell, then arguably we become less visible as a target. However, even if we call it a day, other European countries would need to as well. Whatever our problems in seeing ourselves as a 'United Europe', our Muslim attackers don't really differentiate amongst the 'Crusader nations'.

In any event, if we stopped dropping bombs on them the pace of their attacks on us would undoubtedly slacken but they would hardly cease, since our whole culture is an abomination to them. So this option is by no means a panacea.

The alternative is the old Roman one: go in with overwhelming force and annihilate them. This would work against state-sponsored terrorism, but unfortunately turning the desert sands to glass works less well against religious zealotry.

We would caution against following the Trump line on that one.

5. Just Keep Calm and Carry On

Yes, Minister. We are well aware that this is your de facto policy and that you see no alternative. You were even unwise enough to say so in public.

You have privately stated many times that Islamic terrorism does not pose an existential threat to our country and you are surely correct in this.

It does, however, pose an existential threat to your continuing in office - arguably of equal importance in your thinking.

---

In conclusion, and taking everything in the present conjuncture into account, we would recommend option 4: a massive increase in resources to the security services and a transition to a much more authoritarian role for the state.

If you would be so kind as to take the political flak, Minister, we'll get right on with spending the money.

Yours in confidence.

The Joint Security Committee.

"What Is Orthodox Marxism?"



I first wrestled with "History and Class Consciousness" in my early twenties; it remains my favourite book of Marxist theory.

Georg Lukács was
"... a Hungarian Marxist philosopher, aesthetician, literary historian, and critic. He was one of the founders of Western Marxism, an interpretive tradition that departed from the Marxist ideological orthodoxy of the USSR. He developed the theory of reification, and contributed to Marxist theory with developments of Karl Marx's theory of class consciousness. He was also the philosopher of Leninism. He ideologically developed and organised Lenin's pragmatic revolutionary practices into the formal philosophy of vanguard-party revolution.

"As a literary critic Lukács was especially influential, because of his theoretical developments of realism and of the novel as a literary genre. In 1919, he was the Hungarian Minister of Culture of the government of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic (March–August 1919).

"Lukács has been described as the preeminent Marxist intellectual of the Stalinist era, though assessing his legacy can be difficult as Lukács seemed to both support Stalinism as the embodiment of Marxist thought, and yet also champion a return to pre-Stalinist Marxism."
This morning I re-read "What Is Orthodox Marxism?", the first essay in the collection - and marvelled at the abstraction, erudition and sophistication of Lukács's thought.

It's slightly jolting to be reminded of just how conceptually deep Marxist theory actually is - not that you would know it from most professed 'Marxists'.

I considered writing a summary but found another blogger who had done the job already - and much more diligently.

One feels that criticising Lukács without having immersed oneself in decades of study of the Western Marxism tradition would be like an arts journalist debating General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory with Stephen Hawking as a self-presumed equal (although that's happened).

The aforementioned blogger, Phil Burton-Cartledge, had a go but I was none too convinced.

Look, I buy into all this totality stuff, I like dialectical materialism and can accept that 'the proletariat is at one and the same time the subject and object of its own knowledge'. But once we've done all that, destroyed capitalism and removed capitalist reification and alienation, what next?

Lukács sees the full liberation of mankind.

For me, on a bad day, it's dramatically relaxed selection.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sympathetic Magic




The EU: when Asabiyyah goes wrong

"The World Values Survey (WVS) is a global research project that explores people’s values and beliefs, how they change over time and what social and political impact they have. It is carried out by a worldwide network of social scientists who, since 1981, have conducted representative national surveys in almost 100 countries."



According to the Wikipedia article, the survey is carried out through questionnaires, and the results can be usefully compressed to the two-dimensional representation shown above, which repays some study (click on the image to make it larger).

The labelling of the two axes is less than clear: I suspect that:
  • the horizontal axis measures clan/group conformity - individualism
  • the vertical axis is capturing religiosity - secularism.

Decide for yourself: here is what the article says:
"Traditional values emphasize the importance of religion, parent-child ties, deference to authority and traditional family values. People who embrace these values also reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia and suicide. These societies have high levels of national pride and a nationalistic outlook.

"Secular-rational values have the opposite preferences to the traditional values. These societies place less emphasis on religion, traditional family values and authority. Divorce, abortion, euthanasia and suicide are seen as relatively acceptable.

"Survival values place emphasis on economic and physical security. It is linked with a relatively ethnocentric outlook and low levels of trust and tolerance.

"Self-expression values give high priority to environmental protection, growing tolerance of foreigners, gays and lesbians and gender equality, and rising demands for participation in decision-making in economic and political life."
This would be quite interesting in itself, but Peter Turchin's recent post applies it to the evolution of the European Union. First he notes:
"As I have said on numerous occasions (in this blog and in my other writings), it is hard to get people to cooperate, especially in large social groups. Successful cooperation requires that people share values and institutions. Values tell us why we want to cooperate: what is the public good that we collectively want to produce? Norms and institutions tell us how we are going to organize cooperation. Mismatched values and institutions may doom a cooperative effort even before it has a chance to get going.

"In my opinion, the expansion from the original six nations (Benelux, France, Germany, and Italy – I will refer to them as the “core” EU nations) to the current 28 was a big, big mistake. We can use the data collected by the World Values Survey (WVS) to visualize just how bad this mistake was."
Here is his key insight:
" I am interested to look at this mapping from a different point of view. Accordingly, I color-coded all countries into the following categories:

  • Core (red): the original 6 countries of the EEC

  • EU (brown): the other 22 members of the European Union

  • Europe (green): two Western European countries that are not in the EU

  • Candidate (yellow): current candidates for the EU

  • World (grey): rest of the world (country names omitted for clutter).

"Note: the reason Italy* has an asterix is because, for some reason, it was not included in the sixth wave, so I used its values from the fifth wave data."
And below is what it looks like, recall the countries and their positions use sixth wave data (except for Italy) - as in the image above:


Click on image to make larger

Dr Turchin continues,
"The pattern is so striking it almost doesn’t require commentary, but let’s spell it out anyway. The original six (“Core Europe”) group together very closely. There are only two other countries that are part of the same cluster, Austria and Switzerland.

"Remarkably, the modern territories of both of these countries were encompassed by the boundaries of the Carolingian empire (see Is this the Beginning of the End for the European Union?). It looks like the “ghost” of Charlemagne’s empire has more influence on today’s cultural values than such later distinctions as Catholicism versus Protestantism.

"The current 28 members of the European Union, on the other hand, don’t cluster at all. On the contrary, they span three-quarters of world variation in values. Only African-Islamic countries and central America end up outside the ellipse that encompasses all 28 EU members."
You can see where Turkey is. And as for the absence of 'African-Islamic countries', the EU is doing its best to resolve that particular anomaly even as we speak.

If only they had understood Asabiyyah as well as the British Foreign Office, back in the days when it could still do realpolitik.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Brexit and the English working class

Marginal Revolution links to John Lanchester's unfailingly-erudite essay on what Brexit tells us of the state of England.

Here is how it ends:
" An early sign of policy direction was George Osborne’s announcement that he wanted to cut corporation tax to 15 per cent to show that post-Brexit Britain is ‘open for business’. Osborne has gone; the policy probably hasn’t.

"The business press has been full of speculation that the government will backtrack on its plans to crack down on non-domiciled tax status for ultra-wealthy foreigners. The need for revenues makes it important not to drive non-doms out of the country, one City lawyer told the FT. ‘We need a friendly regime.’ There will be plenty more where that came from.

None of this is what working-class voters had in mind when they opted for Leave. If it’s combined with the policy every business interest in the UK wants – the Norwegian option, in which we contribute to the EU and accept free movement of labour, i.e. immigration, as part of the price – it will be a profound betrayal of much of the Leave vote.

"If we do anything else, we will be inflicting severe economic damage on ourselves, and following a policy which most of the electorate (48 per cent Remain, plus economically liberal Leavers) think is wrong. So the likeliest outcome, I’d have thought, is a betrayal of the white working class. They should be used to it by now."
While Lanchester's observations are spot on and his diagnosis has the ring of truth, his remedies are vitiated by familiar self-deceptions.

  • Lanchester's EU is the one conceived through the lens of its own liberal self-conception ('Europa!') rather than the brutal reality of an institutionally-flimsy carapace concealing a shaky set of strategic alliances between the major continental powers and their hangers-on;

  • Lanchester blindly accepts the comforting trope that all immigration is equal when rated for social capital. In truth, if you replace some millions of unborn northern Europeans by an equivalent number of middle-easterners, you do not get a revitalised northern European society; you get an internal middle-eastern colony.

The soon-to-be-betrayed working class had already figured this out, in their non-intellectualized observation of the world we live in, and voted accordingly.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Our ancestors were not like us


At some level this is obvious; we're so much more squeamish. No more public executions, mass-spectacle bear-baiting or routine Game of Thrones-style interpersonal violence.

At least not in the enlightened west.

Greg Clark's "Genetically Capitalist?", which I cited in passing in an earlier post, has something to say about all this:

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"In the Malthusian era on average every woman could have only two surviving offspring. But these two had to be selected by some mechanism from the average of 5 children each woman had in the pre-industrial era.

"And as long as mothers and fathers varied in their characteristics this survival process favored some types of individuals over others. The Darwinian struggle that has shaped human nature did not end with the Neolithic Revolution, but continued indeed right up to 1800. " (p. 16).
---
" Genetically modern English males are 50-100% Anglo-Saxon, despite the fact that Anglo-Saxon migrants to England in the fifth century AD are now believed to have constituted no more than 0.5% to 10% of the population.

"Thus economic orientation had a dynamic of its own in the static Malthusian economy. Middle class values, and economic orientation, were most likely being spread through reproductive advantage across all sections of stable agrarian societies. " (p. 35).
---
"What were societies like at the dawn of the settled agrarian era with the Neolithic Revolution of c. 8,000 BC?

"Based on observation of modern forager and shifting cultivation societies we expect that the early agriculturalists were impulsive, violent, innumerate, illiterate, and lazy. Ethnographies of such groups emphasize high rates of time preference, high levels of interpersonal violence, and low work inputs.

"Abstract reasoning abilities were limited. " (p. 53).
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Before agriculture and pastoralism, all of hunter-gatherer humanity was like this; it was civilisation that made us genetically-modern (see, for example, the last paragraph here).

The late Henry Harpending summarised and extended Clark's ideas in this instructive post which extended the analysis to the collapse of the Roman Empire and some contemporary events.

---

It's an interesting idea of Peter Frost's (the Roman Empire link above) that by the fifth century the Pax Romana had altered the genetic distribution of its citizens making them over-welcoming to the Barbarians, militarily incompetent, and .. Christian.

The paper doesn't do the selection-rate maths. It's interesting to consider whether we can get enough data - I have in mind an exercise something like the (in)famous 'Amish Quotient'.

What we really need is whole-genome sequencing of representative samples of Roman Citizens and contemporary Barbarians.

That, plus a decoding map identifying those prosocial alleles underpinning 'human domestication'.

It will come.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Will Google immanentize the eschaton?

You don't know how long I have wanted  to have that in a title.

From the Wikipedia article:
"In political theory and theology, to immanentize the eschaton means trying to bring about the eschaton (the final, heaven-like stage of history) in the immanent world.

"It has been used by conservative critics as a pejorative reference to certain utopian projects, such as socialism, communism, and transhumanism. In all these contexts it means "trying to make that which belongs to the afterlife happen here and now (on Earth)" or "trying to create heaven here on Earth."

"Theologically the belief is akin to Postmillennialism as reflected in the Social Gospel of the 1880-1930 era ... "
Parenthetically, the article continues with one of my favourite sentences:
"The problem of an eidos in history, hence, arises only when a Christian transcendental fulfillment becomes immanentized. Such an immanentist hypostasis of the eschaton, however, is a theoretical fallacy."
Me neither.

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There is a science-fiction joke:
"A group of computer geniuses get together to build the world's largest, most powerful thinking machine. They program it with the latest heuristic software so it can learn, then feed into it the total sum of mankind's knowledge from every source-historical, scientific, technical, literary, mythical, religious, occult. Then, at the great unveiling, the group leader feeds the computer its first question:

"Is there a God?"

"There is now," the computer replies."
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  • Wherever I am, Google knows and can pinpoint my location on Google Maps as well as offering useful hints as to what's nearby.

  • Google knows what's in my diary ('Calendar') and reads my emails for additional insights to my life events.

  • Google Now helpfully reminds me where my car is parked when I'm away from home, and delivers me news which it knows I'll find interesting.

  • I share my photos and videos with Google via Photos, and it helpfully groups them by people and places. It knows my friends and family network.

  • Google Now knows our sports interests and keeps me in touch with the cricket (for Clare) and the cycling (for both of us).

If I was ill (touch wood, etc) I suspect Google would monitor progress and suggest remedies.

It's strange how benevolent this machine-intelligence feels, as in Richard Brautigan's famous poem which ends: "all watched over by machines of loving grace."
The eschaton, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
'Thanks be to Google,' and pray we won't regret it.

So we were in Brittany the summer of 1982


... or was it 1983?

In any event, Alex looks around three and I look like Peter Sarstedt.

Five advantages of a dead cat



  1. The carpets are so much cleaner; hoovering is a doddle.
  2. Doors can be closed at will without consequences.
  3. Less greasy meat-pieces strewn around the floor; fewer flies.
  4. Can go on trips without making arrangements.
  5. Ripped furniture, clothes and skin a thing of the past.

You know, we should have had this idea years ago ...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hestercombe Gardens

Yesterday a visit - in temperatures in excess of 30 degrees - to Hestercombe Gardens, just north of Taunton. This is not the National Trust nor English Heritage and it cost us £22. They are forgiven when you appreciate how much work has gone into the restoration of this fifty acre Georgian Landscape Garden.

In essence: Hestercombe resembles a compact, homely version of Stourhead. Click on any of the images to make them larger.

Your author fronting the Pear Pond

The Great Cascade - Clare was being chatted up by some bloke
in a hut while I was diverted taking this shot.

The Pergola at the bottom of the Formal Gardens

Part of the Formal Gardens

Clare reviews the Formal Gardens

Hestercombe House

The Formal Gardens

A view of the House and Formal Gardens

The Daisy Steps - the garden entrance from Reception

Parking is good, and there's free WiFi in the pleasant cafe.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Human Dodos: the FAQs

If you read "Human Dodos", here are the Frequently Asked Questions.

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1. Do liberals and libertarians really not feel four of the six moral dimensions?

The moral dimensions are quantitative traits. Plainly it's possible to elicit patriotism in a liberal, or disgust in a libertarian. We're talking about settings dialled up or down, not binary switches.

2. How do the moral dimensions fit with personality?

It's hard to find papers comparing psychology's five-factor model with MFT's six moral dimensions. I can only refer you to papers comparing liberals and conservatives (but not libertarians) which find:
"Evidence showing that the Big Five personality traits (conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to new experiences, extraversion and emotional stability) are correlated with political orientation. Specifically, liberals tend to score higher on experiential openness while conservatives tend to be strongly conscientious. Other evidence links politeness with conservatism and empathy with liberalism."
3. Did liberalism evolve?

Like most psychological traits, the moral dimensions are probably around 50% heritable - that is, around 50% of differences between people can be mapped down to (additive) genetic factors. The other half is labelled 'environmental' but that covers a multitude of factors including imprecision in testing as well as differential life experiences.

Most likely there have always been people who were more trusting and generally empathic to strangers. The Bible says "Blessed are the peacemakers", as if they were a scarce and unpopular resource, as doubtless they were in a clannish, herding honour culture.

4. Why is liberalism useful?

Liberalism is not that useful in a clannish environment - it marks you down as a victim and would tend to get selected against. However, with the birth of multi-ethnic countries/empires it becomes important to replace intergroup antagonisms with a generalised empathy underwritten by the uniformly and impartially applied rule of law.

This requires a fictive equality between citizens, which has to override negative responses to subgroup 'alien customs' and 'repulsive practices'.

Religion (with all its ingroup-outgroup faults) has historically provided the necessary all-encompassing ideology, but today in the west we have something even better - liberalism.

Cultivating selective blindness to individual and group differences is critical for elites to succeed in their unifying mission (they additionally require the intelligence to develop and apply laws, and to rule successfully). Liberals really are both nicer and smarter.

Henry Harpending observes.
"Gregory Clark, an economist at UC Davis, posted an essay several years ago titled Genetically Capitalist? in which he proposed that the stable social environment and institutions of Medieval England selected for a new kind of human who was less prone to violence, had an affinity for work, had low time preference, and was individualistic in several ways."
Greg Clark's work suggested that differential fertility amongst the ruling elite in England (and by extension Europe) resulted in the 'trickle down' of elite allele-frequencies, resulting in the gradual 'domestication' of the European population. This is just another way of capturing the increased prevalence of liberal, empathic values in the west.

So don't expect to see western norms in other world populations with different historical trajectories. The jury is still out as to whether the 'western genotype' actually improves long-term population fitness or not. As usual, look around and observe.

5. Is there something better than liberalism?

Many things are worse.
  • Inter-group pogroms; 
  • identifying groups with the excesses of their worst members; 
  • discrimination by ethnic group membership rather than individual performance.
Some things would be better.
  • Recognising that as a matter of fact, ethnic groups differ significantly on many psychological as well as physical traits and adjusting priors accordingly; 
  • not wasting time, money and invective on trying to attain impossible equal outcomes; 
  • public policy based on reality rather than wishful thinking.

Don't hold your breath. We live in a society composed of many different groups differentially ranked by wealth, intelligence, obesity, propensity to violence and so on. All these traits have some genetic component.

Any group publicly identified by policymakers as low on one of these morally-charged ranking scales is going to vociferously object, and the defence "It's true, here's the evidence" won't be worth a can of beans (as Scott Adams points out).

It's interesting that, as far as I can see, the only way to successfully run a modern capitalist democracy is on the basis of liberal self-deception. Seems the glue of 'religious' authority can't, in the end, be avoided.

And that's why Rod Liddle will stay in his box and not rule the world.

She bought her vote

I have just registered Clare as a Labour Supporter - cost £25 - so she can vote in the Labour Party leadership election in September.

Last time round, we both paid our £3 although we voted in different ways. Clare will be consistent and vote again for Jeremy Corbyn: for Matthew Parris, it's always about the gays; for Clare it's always about the nukes.

The anti-Trident activist demonstrating a re-entering ballistic missile

I contemplated the anti-Corbyn candidates. One is someone who I could imagine running an SME with reasonable competence; the other is a snake-oil-selling weasel.

I've saved myself £25.

Why is there no talent in the Labour Party leadership? Because it has no vision, no mission and smart, capable, ambitious people do not join pointless organisations.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The sand sculptures

Today we were at the Sand Sculpture Festival at Weston Super Mare (25th March - 9th October 2016). Clicking on any of the pictures will usually make them larger.

Clare points to 'Egyptian Archaeology'

Piglets!

Roadworks

David Bowie

Rabbit in a Hat (Clare's favourite)

Click on image to make larger

To Bee - my favourite

Click on image to make larger

A view of the Weston sea-front

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It wasn't all art appreciation: we also took the opportunity to court sunburn.

I rapidly dress down to summer building worker; Clare is more the Maghreb

Nope: too hot already

Brean Down from the beach: the mist is boiling off the sea

It was 28 degrees as we drove home late this afternoon. Like our holiday in Portugal but without the brisk, chill wind.

As to the sea temperature, who can tell? It's Weston - the sea is a distant legend told to puzzled, disbelieving children.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Human Dodos

Before reading on, you should take a look at this introductory post first.

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In the beginning, all human groups were necessarily clannish.
"We are social creatures surviving only in groups, but there is no celestial police force guarding each one of us. If we don't stick with our kin, some other group will make us toast (in the baleful meaning of that phrase)."
Trouble is, a society based on xenophobic clans doesn't scale. As Dr Fukuyama wrote:
"... state-building requires overcoming the strong bonds of kin. States were recurrently prone to being colonized by their officials’ nepotism (favouring their relations), dynasticism (seeking to have their offspring inherit their office), tribalism, and clannishness."
Typically it was a combination of war and religion which broke the power of the clans. Given gene-culture coevolution, the people who got to run countries and empires evolved different moral and psychological characteristics than those of a Genghis Khan style warlord - or of the smallfolk.

Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory gives us the clue, as Wikipedia explains.

From the Wikipedia article

According to Haidt and his co-workers, there are six moral foundations which underlie human moral behaviour:
  1. Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm.
  2. Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating.
  3. Liberty: the loathing of tyranny; opposite of oppression.
  4. Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal.
  5. Authority or respect: obeying tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion.
  6. Sanctity or purity: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions; opposite of degradation.
Not everyone exhibits moral feelings equally along all six axes. The differences are most stark in political terms: conservatives do indeed seem to feel all six moral emotions; liberals by contrast tend to feel primarily the moral senses of care and fairness, while libertarians tend to be motivated by fairness and liberty (and not to be much bothered by the other four dimensions).

Why is this? Wikipedia explains:
"Researchers postulate that the six moral foundations arose as solutions to problems common in the ancestral hunter-gatherer environment, in particular inter-tribal and intra-tribal conflict. The three foundations unique to conservatives (Loyalty, Authority, Sanctity) bind groups together for greater strength in inter-tribal competition; the other three foundations balance those tendencies with concern for individuals within the group.

"With reduced sensitivity to the groupish moral foundations, progressives tend to promote a more universalist morality. In attempting to show which moral matrix is "correct", progressives and libertarians may argue that the six moral foundations arose in a now non-existent tribal environment, and their evolution lags behind modern conditions, with larger-scale cities, countries, and supranational unions.

"Conservatives may counter that human beings remain cognitively designed for life in groups whose size does not exceed Dunbar's number, and that it is wishful thinking to expect group competition and conflict to disappear in the foreseeable future ... ."
As I observed in the introductory post,
"In the west we are so socialised into an atomised mode of life, mediated only by the nuclear family, that we see kin-groups (clans and gangs) as profoundly primitive and 'other'. But our way of life depends upon the integrity of a strong state exerting 'just power' through depersonalised laws. And a lot of conscious inhibition of retributive impulses.

"Erode that state, or let it collapse, and the only individualists left will be dead individualists."
Liberal thinking is the ideology of the privileged individualist, autonomous lifestyle choices guaranteed by the abstract power of the state. The Social Justice Warriors (the vanguard of liberalism) are the shock troops of the war for ever more benign laws, equalising people and outcomes alike.

Who could disagree? What could possibly go wrong?

In its own terms, liberalism is the progressive destination of all mankind - in this it has the same cultural dynamic as Marxism.

By definition, to be a less liberal polity is to be a more benighted one with a moral duty to be superseded.

But ...

The premise of liberalism is that, in all essentials, everyone is the same. There are no systemic human differences of personality, intelligence, motivation or even moral sense. In the liberal target-environment we never have any serious differences of opinion because everyone is so prosocial; all apparent conflicts can and will be settled by discussion in a spirit of goodwill.

Good luck with that!

A moment's cursory reflection upon the world and life experience will render you, the reader, open-mouthed in astonishment that anyone could ever believe such naive nonsense.

Because of this profoundly wrong theory of human nature, liberal thinking (so useful for running complex multi-ethnic empires when times are good) lets you down so badly when the problems start to multiply.

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Things were really good for the dodos for a while: they grew fat in an environment of plenty with no natural predators.



The dodo is a variant of the dove. Game theory tells us that when a society composed purely of doves meets a predator, the doves are toast.

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Human Dodos FAQs


'The natural state of humanity is clannishness'

This note is a lemma to another post, 'Human Dodos', but you need to read this first.




Francis Fukuyama did a great service by reminding us that in the beginning, humankind was necessarily clannish. We are social creatures surviving only in groups, but there is no celestial police force guarding each one of us. If we don't stick with our kin, some other group will make us toast (in the baleful meaning of that phrase).

This argument was developed in the excellent "The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution" - I quote from this review (my emphasis):
"The Origins begins at the beginning with human evolution. This is no mere prolegomena. Fukuyama deserves credit for emphasizing that we are political animals and that evolved human nature is a basic influence on politics. Gathering evidence from a variety of sources – studies of chimpanzees as well as reports from the political life of hunting and gathering bands – Fukuyama proposes that humans have four key natural dispositions most relevant to politics. We evolved to be nepotistic, most inclined to cooperate with kin. We evolved to be religious; we evolved to be norm-followers; and we evolved to seek status or recognition.

"A particularly illuminating element of the book is how these evolved dispositions have continued to be influential. Nepotism, or kin selection, as expressed in strong tribal or clan lineages, is a continuing theme in the book as the nemesis of the modern state. If tribalism is strong, as today in Afghanistan or the Sunni Triangle of Iraq, modern states cannot flourish.

"The importance of religion as an influence on political development is another theme throughout. It was from religion, Fukuyama argues, that the rule of law arose.

"The key role of norms and institutions provides the subject-matter of the book: political institutions. Fukuyama regards the desire for status or recognition as the main source of change in history, and he engages in a running dispute through the book with rationalist or rational-choice explanations. Though Fukuyama uses a bio-historical and bio-political approach, he is by no means a ‘biological determinist’. Biology he treats as probability not determination.

"After briefly describing the transition from foraging to agriculture and then the development from bands to tribes to chiefdoms to states, Fukuyama turns to his main concerns: (i) the origins of the modern state – in ancient China; (ii) the origins of the rule of law in the realms of powerful religions: India, Islam, and Christendom, but not China; and (iii) the origins of accountability in the assemblies of medieval Europe, especially the English parliament.

...

"Fukuyama makes the useful point that state-building requires overcoming the strong bonds of kin. States were recurrently prone to being colonized by their officials’ nepotism (favouring their relations), dynasticism (seeking to have their offspring inherit their office), tribalism, and clannishness.

"One method of bypassing kinship was to recruit military slaves. This was a common ploy in Islam and resulted in such bodies as the Ottoman Janissaries. Another was to rely on eunuchs, who were biologically prevented from founding their own mini-dynasties within the apparatus of the state. A third was to recruit officials on the basis of competence or merit. This, Fukuyama argues, was China’s main innovation.

"Europe was unusual: before state-building got underway, the Church had already weakened extended lineages (except in peripheral areas, such as Highland Scotland with its clans) with its ban on cousin-marriage. The bonds of extended lineages had already diminished prior to European state-building."
In the west we are so socialised into an atomised mode of life, mediated only by the nuclear family, that we see kin-groups (clans and gangs) as profoundly primitive and 'other'. But our way of life depends upon the integrity of a strong state exerting 'just power' through depersonalised laws. And a lot of conscious inhibition of retributive impulses.

Erode that state, or let it collapse, and the only individualists left will be dead individualists.

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Now continue to Human Dodos.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

'Democracy' means we're always right



Late last night the BBC (and Fox News) predicted the success of the coup attempt in Turkey. They were rather happy about it, to be honest. The army was defending secularism against an increasingly authoritarian, Islamic-inclined President.

Yes, that would President Erdoğan. A leader elected largely by the pious, rural smallfolk. Thank God for the military, always ready to defend democracy against the small people.

We have been here more often than not. The anti-Islamic coup in Algeria in 1991 (that turned out well); the soviet tanks in Hungary (1956) and later in Czechoslovakia, in 1969.

Somehow, as Brecht observed, it's always elites defending 'democracy' against the masses.

This morning, the Turkish coup had failed. The people en masse seemed to be defending the famously illiberal and authoritarian government.

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A note to plotters: a failed coup is one of the worst career moves you will ever make. Treason doth never prosper, etc. In subterranean cellars with thick walls, in Ankara and Istanbul, the pain machines will be running night and day.

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I remember a TV programme a while back, simulating the UK cabinet committee directing affairs as the Russians invade the Baltic states. Hostilities ramp up while the few liberal politicians at the table wring their hands in gathering anguish as things get nasty. Finally, the lead liberal - asked to authorise a nuclear strike - walks out in tears.

Someone observes: the liberals always seem to leave the room once the bullets start flying.

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It's rather shocking, but my first thought on the Nice tragedy (deluded idiot + lorry + crowds = carnage) was: 'This will strengthen Marine le Pen'.

People will be furious, and the pious abstractions they're getting from the French elite won't play well.

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Long-buried tensions are emerging across the world from China/East Asia to the Middle-East through Europe and America. The new imbalances of power are testing liberal post-nationalist, dovish ideas to destruction. The feared 'new populism' is more accurately gauged as peoples perceiving where their common interests lie, in a world where diverse interests are increasingly antagonistically expressed.

President Trump is looking more likely, while the disintegration of the utopian EU-project just lurched a step nearer.

A public blog? Or private - like a diary?

OK, so I had a wobble yesterday. Decided to make this blog private. Everyone who wasn't me saw a 'permission denied' note when they took a peek.

Rather quickly I got some private feedback :-(.

I had some reasons.

But then I reconsidered.

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Like most blogs, although most posts are hardly best-sellers, a few get a very large number of hits and seem to perform some kind of service. The 'popular posts' bar on the right gives a clue. Seems perverse to effectively delete these from the world.

Also, I just pay more attention to writing when I anticipate a public audience. If it's just for me, then you get things like "Onward to BT Infinity" - just a mundane catalogue of events. Not something I would die in a ditch for, in defence of literary integrity.

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So back again: risking self-doubt, riding self-accusations of narcissism and exhibitionism and striving for correct punctuation.

Enjoy.

Friday, July 15, 2016

To BT Infinity and beyond

The new BT router arrived today, the one with the VDSL interface, all set for BT Infinity fibre-optic VDSL to be turned on shortly. The device also works with the current ADSL and it's gotten easier these days to switch out an old router and replace with a new one, although there are more devices around the house than you might think which need to know the new SSID and be re-logged in.

Alex will inherit the now-redundant Netgear router.

I see we also have 5 GHz WiFi on the new router with an elevated data rate. Works with the android phone, tablet and the iPad; the PC I'm currently writing on, upstairs, has to subsist on the old disappointing 2.4 GHz and a vastly slower data link.

The fibre-connection turns on Monday.

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Putting together a personal yoga routine focused on strengthening the lower back muscles, a complement to gym exercises.

  1. Mountain
  2. Fold
  3. Mighty
  4. Dancer
  5. Cat
  6. Dog
  7. Locust
  8. Leg tilt
  9. Boat
  10. Plank


We shall see.

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Clare made a blackcurrant cake yesterday (together with some soda bread). The blackcurrants were from the tree bush in our garden and mysteriously sank to the bottom of the cake during the cooking.

In the baking the cake remained rather damp, which explains why Clare kept scampering back to the kitchen to 'give it another ten minutes'.

It was finally delivered to the table upside-down, so that the blackcurrants were on top; the rest looked, and tasted, like a sponge.

Delicious with ice cream. Yes, really.

Blog moves to 'Private' status

Today, as an experiment, I have changed the access permission on this blog to 'private', so now it functions as a personal diary. No more generic Internet access.

Why? I think I have contributed enough general blandness and banal prose to the public Internet.

There is so much out there! Unless you have niche expertise or well-connected influence you're just writing to a mirror. Enough narcissism!

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Bubble-think and the ultraleft

Peter Turchin has a phrase, the 'overproduction of elites'.
"Elite overproduction generally leads to more intra-elite competition that gradually undermines the spirit of cooperation, which is followed by ideological polarization and fragmentation of the political class. This happens because the more contenders there are, the more of them end up on the losing side. A large class of disgruntled elite-wannabes, often well-educated and highly capable, has been denied access to elite positions."
He writes:
"The youth cohort in Europe, those in their 20s and 30s, are the highest educated in the history of humanity – and there are not enough jobs that would use their skills. History shows that the overproduction of youth with education credentials is a sure sign of political turbulence to come."
Ed West (The Spectator blogdescribes what these elites believe:
"More widely, in political discourse and culture, warm, fluffy notions about human nature are favoured over depressive realism. From a very young age children are read books and shown films that teach the message that we are all basically good and just like us, and then the more intelligent ones are sent off to universities where conservatism has been frozen out."
It is sometimes thought that the chic-radicalism of the bien-pensant is politically represented by the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and the hard left. But this isn't really true: the Marxist left privately characterises bubble-think as petit-bourgeois, a utopian worldview in which everyone is 'nice' and there are no more victims. Petit-bourgeois utopians aren't known for letting the class structure of society trouble their righteous little heads.

Whatever Corbyn may himself believe (who knows?) the hard left supporting him are in no doubt that the way forward is not to manage or prettify capitalism but to destroy it, replacing it with a 'democratic, centrally-planned economy under the control of workers' councils'.

The Marxist position on the EU of the Capitalists is Brexit; the EU is to be replaced by a post-capitalist socialist Europe.

The Bubble  is firmly Remain, as they identify with their pan-European elite tribe (as Ross Douthat observed).

The Marxist left is a highly-ideological minority which for tactical reasons hides its differences with bubble-leftism. This has been the strategy for decades: the expectation is that as the crisis of capitalism develops, the faux-leftists will become amenable to Marxist ideas, swelling the ranks of the Revolutionary Party.

It seemed to work for Lenin, back in 1917.

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The non-Corbynistas in the PLP, what we used to call 'The Labour Party', are no less bubble-thinkers. The Tristram Hunts and Chuka Umunnas are not unfamiliar with Hampstead and Islington. It's just that they have a sense that managing a capitalist economy does impose some constraints over generalised niceness, equality of outcome and punching-up: decisions necessarily make enemies.

And what about the real proletarians, those millions of workers - mostly outside London - who really are working class and who recognise neither their identity nor their interests in Corbyn politics, or leftist or neo-Blairite bubble-think?

I suggest those Labour policy-makers not in thrall to bubble identity-politics might think a bit about a manifesto for them (here's an idea).

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Warrior, the Priest and the King

The roles required for effective governance: the warrior, the priest and the king.

  • The warrior is the enforcer, using charm, gifts and bludgeons to get stuff done
  • The priest is the strategist, directing the plays with divinely-inspired vision
  • The king exemplifies the unity and purpose of the community as a whole.

Many political failures result from getting these roles wrong; either by omitting one or more of them or misallocating power between them. Take Brexit (from an elite point of view):
David Cameron was the King, George Osborne was the Warrior (the Treasury frequently plays the role of enforcer) and people like Gove and Hilton were the Priests. But Osborne also played the strategist while Gove was used merely departmentally and Hilton bailed. The result was a fatal lack of coherent strategy and a sense of visionless coasting on the part of the Cameron administration.
Sometimes the Warrior is in the ascendant. When Margaret Thatcher came to power, the Establishment was beset by enemies: unruly trades unions, a rapacious EU bureaucracy, a stumbling economy. The Warrior demolished her opponents but couldn't progress to the role of King. Her endless search for further enemies brought about her downfall. Her successor, the emollient John Major, was a weak King.

You could tell a similar story about Winston Churchill.

In Myers-Briggs terms:

  • the King is a Guardian, most likely an ESTJ/ESFJ; 
  • the Warrior is often an Artisan ESTP .. or perhaps a righteous Idealist ENFJ; 
  • the priest is typically an intellectual Rational (NT).

The Labour Party

They have a diffident intellectual leader (Corbyn) failing to play the King; they have a far-left intellectual John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor, failing as an effective Enforcer; and no Priest with a widely-supported political programme. In short: leaderless, ineffectual and all over the place; a party in civil war.

The Tories

Faced with novel challenges post-Brexit, they need powerful people in all three roles. Gove would be a good candidate as the Priest, although his political ineptness would have to be supervised; the Warrior role is up for grabs and not really visible in this leadership election, while Theresa May is a psychological match for the King role.

The question for Theresa May is whether she's up for the mission, or sees herself instead as a trojan horse for the dominant Establishment Remain faction. In the latter case, there will be tears before bedtime.

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All of the above informs programme management as well. And business: COO, CMO, CEO.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Leave wins 421 seats across the UK, Remain just 229

A lot of chat, including here, about the prospects of weaselling out of the Brexit vote.

The referendum aggregated individual votes across the UK. But what if you group the votes by constituencies and see how each constituency would have voted?

BuzzFeedNews did it here (h/t: Marginal Revolution).
"To see how the country’s referendum vote could affect a general election, we’ve translated the referendum results (which in England, Scotland and Wales were counted by council area, not constituency) into results broken down by parliamentary seats.

"And when you do that, you get a radically different outcome. Instead of a close result, Leave win in a landslide.

"Although the referendum result was close nationally, Remain piled up many of its votes in a relatively small number of constituencies (London and Scotland being prime examples). As a result, the UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system would produce an extremely skewed result.

"In our projection, Leave would win 421 seats across the UK, while Remain would win just 229."


A solid sea of blue = Leave constituencies.

Yellow (Remain) indicates two things: the anti-English nationalist votes in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the northern part of Wales, plus the geography of the Elite Bubble in English/south Wales constituencies.

Most MPs won't be backing the coup, I suggest.

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Peter Turchin (Cliodynamics) has an interesting piece: "Brexit as Destructive Creation".
"Now, in the aftermath of the referendum, the main question is, what’s next? In the following I propose some answers suggested by the new discipline of Cultural Evolution and my research on historical dynamics (Cliodynamics).

"My proposal is quite radical. Rather than trying to fight the disintegrative trend, we should allow it to run its course, destroying the EU as it is now. But we need a European Union. Thus, what I hope will happen is another integrative project within Europe, one that will learn from the mistakes of the last one.

"In other words, the EU is dead; long live a new and better EU."
Read the whole thing.