Social outcomes are substantially determined at birth

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

Gregory Clark’s latest (pre-print) paper, For Whom the Bell Curve Tolls, argues that a lineage of 400,000 English individuals 1750-2020 shows genetics determines most social outcomes:

It is generally assumed that the elements that define social status — occupational status, educational attainment, wealth, and even health — are transmitted across generations in important ways by the family environment. Above we show that the patterns of correlation of social status attributes in an extended lineage of 402,000 people in England are mainly those that would be predicted by simple additive genetic inheritance of social status in the presence of highly assortative mating around status genetics. Parent-child correlations for a trait equal those of siblings, and the patterns of correlation of relatives of different degrees of genetic affinity is mainly consistent with that predicted by additive genetics. Further family size and birth order, elements that would significantly affect the family environment for children, have modest effects on adult outcomes. The underlying persistence of traits is such that people who have likely never interacted socially, such as second to fifth cousins, remain surprisingly strongly correlated in terms of occupational status and wealth. The patterns observed imply that marital sorting must be strong in terms of the underlying genetics.

If this interpretation is correct then aspirations that by appropriate social design, rates of social mobility can be substantially increased will prove futile. We have to be resigned to living in a world where social outcomes are substantially determined at birth. Personally I would argue that this should push us towards compressing differences in income and wealth that are the product of such inherited characteristics. The Nordic model of the good society looks a lot more attractive than the Texan one.

Wokeness is a made-up mystery religion that college-educated people invented so they could feel superior to you

Monday, March 1st, 2021

Trump stood against the upper class, Scott Alexander argues:

He might define them as: people who live in nice apartments in Manhattan or SF or DC and laugh under their breath if anybody comes from Akron or Tampa. Who eat Thai food and Ethiopian food and anything fusion, think they would gain 200 lbs if they ever stepped in a McDonalds, and won’t even speak the name Chick-Fil-A. Who usually go to Ivy League colleges, though Amherst or Berkeley is acceptable if absolutely necessary. Who conspicuously love Broadway (especially Hamilton), LGBT, education, “expertise”, mass transit, and foreign anything. They conspicuously hate NASCAR, wrestling, football, “fast food”, SUVs, FOX, guns, the South, evangelicals, and reality TV. Who would never get married before age 25 and have cutesy pins about how cats are better than children. Who get jobs in journalism, academia, government, consulting, or anything else with no time-card where you never have to use your hands. Who all have exactly the same political and aesthetic opinions on everything, and think the noblest and most important task imaginable is to gatekeep information in ways that force everyone else to share those opinions too.

He proposes a Republican platform centered around fighting classism:

War On College: As it currently exists, college is a scheme for laundering and perpetuating class advantage. You need to make the case that bogus degree requirements (eg someone without a college degree can’t be a sales manager at X big company, but somebody with any degree, even Art History or Literature, can) are blatantly classist.

War On Experts: Argue that you love and support legitimate experts, but that the Democrats have invented and propped up a fake concept of expertise as a way of making sure upper-class people who can game admissions to top colleges control the discourse.

War On The Upper-Class Media: This is your new term for “mainstream media”. Being against the “mainstream media” sounds kind of conspiratorial. Instead, you’re against the upper-class media, which gains its status by systematically excluding lower-class voices, and which exists mostly as a tool of the upper classes to mock and humiliate the lower class.

War On Wokeness: But now it’s because wokeness is a made-up mystery religion that college-educated people invented so they could feel superior to you.

Fight the war, but don’t get anyone killed

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

The losses at Bloody Ridge, Heartbreak, and elsewhere had some result, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

On 22 October the enemy offered to meet in full plenary session once again, and to accept the U.N. preferred site of Panmunjom for future discussions.

[...]

What the enemy wanted was to fix the armistice line irrevocably before the remainder of the agenda was solved. This, of course, would effectively relieve the Communist powers of any further military pressure while the negotiations continued; the United Nations Command could hardly launch an offensive for ground it had already agreed to relinquish.

It would enable the Communists, as Admiral Joy saw and mentioned, to talk forever if they chose, with freedom from the grinding pressure they had been experiencing at Bloody and Heartbreak ridges.

[...]

The limited attacks of the Eighth Army during August, September, and October 1951 had unquestionably improved its military stance, and had unquestionably inflicted deep wounds on the enemy forces.

But as Boatner said, “Everybody was sick to death of the casualties.”

Men die to make others free, or to protect their homeland. They do not willingly die for a piece of real estate ten thousand miles from home, which they know their government will eventually surrender. Nor do the generals appointed over them, nor the governments they elect, willingly spend them so.

[...]

Now field commanders writhed under a new restriction: Fight the war, but don’t get anyone killed. Such orders were never issued — but they were clearly understood.

[...]

The Communists had a great part of what they had wanted from the first hour they had requested peace talks. They had dissipated the danger of a U.N. march to the Yalu, or a disastrous defeat in the field.

[...]

At the end of thirty days the enemy was no nearer signing the armistice than he had been in July. He now felt free to delay as long as he pleased, and it was soon apparent he intended to do so, reaping whatever propaganda coups he could.

[...]

It was now, not openly, but in mess tents and private gatherings along the brooding lines of entrenchments, that some men began to say, “MacArthur was right.”

The United Nations did not want military victory

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

A new pattern, the one that would characterize most of the following hill battles, was being set on Heartbreak Ridge, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

On the disputed terrain, generally a small area, the fighting was hell itself. Artillery fire such as the world had never seen was massed against single hills, day after day. Because of the limitation of the fighting area, units were committed piecemeal, and the committed units were generally quickly cut to pieces, and replaced.

A few miles to either side of the disputed hill, the front lay quiet and brooding, without more than routine activity. And behind regimental headquarters, few men even knew there was a war on.

Action of this kind was contrary to all American military doctrine. The solution to success on Heartbreak, as later on Baldy, Pork Chop, Arrowhead, T-Bone, and a dozen others, would have been to hit the enemy elsewhere, knock him off balance in a dozen places, punch through.

But the United Nations Command had no authority to put massive pressure on the enemy along the whole line. They had no authority to reopen the wholesale fighting; the United Nations did not want military victory; they wanted truce.

And the enemy was perfectly willing to fight to the death over a small piece of ground, seemingly forever. The fought-over hills assumed propaganda and political values out of all proportion to their military worth.

Nobody knows where it comes from but it can’t be ignored

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

When I read a friend’s copy of Robert Heinlein’s Glory Road back in high school, only a couple things stuck with me: (1) dueling scars, and (2) methane-burning dragons. When I recently re-read it, it was chock-full of Heinlein-isms. Here’s what jumped out at me in the first few dozen pages:

It was an election year with the customary theme of anything you can do I can do better, to a background of beeping sputniks. I was twenty-one but couldn’t figure out which party to vote against.

I object to conscription the way a lobster objects to boiling water: it may be his finest hour but it’s not his choice.

Nevertheless I love my country. Yes, I do, despite propaganda all through school about how patriotism is obsolete. One of my great-grandfathers died at Gettysburg and my father made that long walk back from Inchon Reservoir, so I didn’t buy this new idea. I argued against it in class—until it got me a “D” in Social Studies, then I shut up and passed the course.

After you’ve spent years and years trying to knock the patriotism out of a boy, don’t expect him to cheer when he gets a notice reading: Greeting: You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States—

Sure, they had Hitler and the Depression ahead of them. But they didn’t know that. We had Khrushchev and the H-bomb and we certainly did know. But we were not a “Lost Generation.” We were worse; we were the “Safe Generation.”

Oh, we talked beatnik jive and dug cool sounds in stereo and disagreed with Playboy’s poll of jazz musicians just as earnestly as if it mattered. We read Salinger and Kerouac and used language that shocked our parents and dressed (sometimes) in beatnik fashion. But we didn’t think that bongo drums and a beard compared with money in the bank. We weren’t rebels. We were as conformist as army worms. “Security” was our unspoken watchword.

Short of a pregnant wife with well-to-do parents the greatest security lay in being 4-F. Punctured eardrums were good but an allergy was best. One of my neighbors had a terrible asthma that lasted till his twenty-sixth birthday. No fake—he was allergic to draft boards.

More than half of my generation were “unfit for military service.”

I was no better off financially as my uncle-in-law was supporting a first wife—under California law much like being an Alabama field hand before the Civil War.

Ever been in Southeast Asia? It makes Florida look like a desert. Wherever you step it squishes. Instead of tractors they use water buffaloes. The bushes are filled with insects and natives who shoot at you. It wasn’t a war—not even a “Police Action.” We were “Military Advisers.” But a Military Adviser who has been dead four days in that heat smells the same way a corpse does in a real war.

I was promoted to corporal. I was promoted seven times. To corporal.

Military policy is like cancer: Nobody knows where it comes from but it can’t be ignored.

In Asia every cab driver speaks enough English to take you to the Red Light district and to shops where you buy “bargains.” But he is never able to find your dock or boat landing.

Do you know how much tax a bachelor pays on $140,000 in the Land of the Brave and the Home of the Fee? $103,000, that’s what he pays.

I wouldn’t be “cheating” Uncle Sugar; the USA had no more moral claim on that money (if I won) than I had on the Holy Roman Empire. What had Uncle Sugar done for me? He had clobbered my father’s life with two wars, one of which we weren’t allowed to win—and thereby made it tough for me to get through college quite aside from what a father may be worth in spiritual intangibles to his son (I didn’t know, I never would know!)—then he had grabbed me out of college and had sent me to fight another unWar and damned near killed me and lost me my sweet girlish laughter.

About then I made a horrible discovery. I didn’t want to go back to school, win, lose, or draw. I no longer gave a damn about three-car garages and swimming pools, nor any other status symbol or “security.” There was no security in this world and only damn fools and mice thought there could be.

Somewhere back in the jungle I had shucked off all ambition of that sort. I had been shot at too many times and had lost interest in supermarkets and exurban subdivisions and tonight is the PTA supper don’t forget dear you promised.

They never quite understood why they were taken

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

The Judge Advocate General had ruled, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), that any man who had once held a commission, whether he had kept it active or not, could be legally recalled to fight in Korea:

And the Pentagon, when the Chinese poured across the Yalu, had made an incalculable error, one that would damage the Army Reserve Program for a decade. Never certain that a big war would not start any minute, the Pentagon called, not the officers and men in Table of Organization units, receiving pay and training, but the bulk of the inactive reservists, men who had received neither, and whose interest was less. The inactive individuals could be called up for fillers; the units were kept in reserve for a bigger war, which never came.

Most of the forty thousand Reserve officers recalled involuntarily and sent to Korea had never expected service short of all-out war. They never quite understood why they were taken, when hundreds of thousands of National Guardsmen and others, organized in units, were kept at home.

[...]

Hundreds of thousands of officers and men were sent as individual replacements. They arrived in their new divisions friendless and alone. Most of them never developed any feeling for a division in which they had not trained, in which they merely put in their time, until they could rotate out once more, again as individuals.

There have been few reunions of veterans of the Korean War.

And there was a final tragedy, affecting many of the recallees. Reserve officers, recalled from jobs and businesses for two years, on top of the loss of time during 1941–1945, often had no career to return to. Many elected to remain in the Army. But when Korea ended, and Washington, determined once again never to fight a ground war, shrank the Army back below a million men, the Army had no place for these men.

Thousands would have to return to civilian life, short of qualifying for pensions, to seek new jobs after the age of thirty-five or forty.

The social problems, of course, were not solved

Friday, February 19th, 2021

There had been continual difficulty with the all-Negro units sent into Korea, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

The problem is not one of race or color, but of a minority group, anywhere, which has had much of its essential pride as human beings stripped from it. The strongest urge of any minority group, Armenians, French-Canadians, or Untouchables, is to survive. They have no other effective way of fighting.

The old jokes about the military courage of certain minority groups has some basis in fact. Turks joke about the fighting ability of Turkish Christians. The indigenous Christians that Turks know are submerged, wily folk, sharp with money, slyly sticking together against the Moslem world, absolutely uninterested in going out to fight and die for the Turkish State. They see absolutely nothing to be gained by it — nor is there.

A diplomat from Istanbul, several centuries ago, remarked it was odd that Franks in the Western kingdoms were much more like Turks than like Christians. If this Turkish gentleman had visited the medieval ghettos, he might have begun to understand.

Jews in Eastern Europe often went to the gas chambers without a protest, without lifting a hand. The young men of the same human stock raised in Israel are among the toughest, hardiest folk in the world.

[...]

The Columbia professor, and others, discussed practical means of ending the Army’s trouble. They saw only one solution: desegregation.

In front of white men, the sociologists claimed, colored soldiers would feel an urge to prove themselves, and have a chance to develop pride they could never achieve in a segregated unit. They recommended one per squad, or two, no more — because the tendencies of the persecuted are to group together against the world.

[...]

And the United States Army’s combat problem with colored troops was largely ended. Filtered through the white units, they did well. Three weeks after its fiasco on Bloody Ridge, 3/9 performed with excellence.

The social problems, of course, were not solved. A solution to these can be anticipated only when all men look alike, hold the same views, or are so apathetic that it no longer matters.

The establishment media believes that it is the world’s noble and benevolent arbiter of truth

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Fredrik deBoer Describes the recent New York Times hit piece on Scott Alexander and his blog SlateStarCodex as an expression of a constant dynamic in media and the Times in particular:

[T]he establishment media believes that it is the world’s noble and benevolent arbiter of truth, and the kind of people who work for the Times are immensely disdainful of and actively hostile to anyone who seeks to inform or persuade the public who does not write for one of a dozen dusty legacy publications and who did not go to one of 20 or so elite colleges. Scott Alexander built up a large and immensely influential readership completely on his own, writing a blog that, whatever its faults, stepped far outside of the narrow and parochial currents that Very Serious Media refuses to leave. This was a threat, a challenge to people like Cade Metz who think that it is their divine right to be the ones to tell the story. So Metz set out to destroy Alexander, with the full backing of the official paper of crossword addicts and columns about bootstraps and dynamism. I’m sure a lot of ink has been spilled about this story, and more will come. Understand: Cade Metz wrote this story because he had to punish Alexander for writing an influential publication with no backing from the important people. Whatever anyone else says, that is the reality.

Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves and yet the country has run out of gasoline

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves and yet the country has run out of gasoline:

The socialist government has lost the capacity to extract oil from the ground or refine it into a usable form. The industry’s gradual deterioration was 18 years in the making, tracing back to then-President Hugo Chávez’s 2003 decision to fire the oil industry’s most experienced engineers in an act of petty political retribution.

The near-total collapse in the nation’s oil output in the ensuing years is a stark reminder that the most valuable commodity isn’t a natural resource, but the human expertise to put it to productive use.

[...]

“Drivers who operate gas-powered busses prefer to keep them parked so that they can suck out the gas and later resell it,” says Andrés, a public bus operator in Caracas, who asked that we only use his first name.

“[My] bus runs on diesel. It uses 16 [or] 17 gallons daily. Nowadays, we have to wait in a long line to fill up,” he said. “The gas stations even have national guards who ask for bribes before they’ll fill up the tank because the 40 liters that the government gives us isn’t enough.”

Andrés is allowed special access to fill up his tank because he provides an essential city service. But earning the equivalent of just $200 a month, he struggles to make ends meet. So he keeps his bus parked and extracts gas from the tank to resell on the black market, earning about $8 per gallon. To put that into perspective, the average Venezuelan subsists on less than $10 per day.

The little gas that is still available comes via periodic shipments from Iran. But the Venezuelan government doesn’t officially charge at most gas stations. It uses a quota system, so filling a tank can mean waiting in line for days.

David is a mechanic living in Caracas. These days he’s making a living by waiting in line to fill up his tank and then extracting the gas to resell on the black market.

“My business isn’t selling gas,” David says. “It is meeting the needs of my customers.”

“A lot of the clients from my repair shop are elderly people — people who can’t be standing in line for eight hours, or two days, or three days, or a week. I am the person who is sacrificing my time. Clearly, I have to charge for my time. We all have to make a living.”

What neither Korea nor America could furnish was leadership

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Washington had authorized MacArthur to arm and train hundreds of thousands more ROKs, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

Men — tough, patient, hill-padding Korean peasants — there were in plenty. Surplus weapons from the big war, food, and money to pay them, America could easily furnish.

What neither Korea nor America could furnish was leadership.

[...]

The politicians in primitive societies want no generals they cannot trust. They prefer a politically reliable man at the head of a division to a competent one who may happen to belong to the wrong family or team.

[...]

Frequently when the transport of a ROK division was vitally needed to haul ammunition at the front, the trucks were back in the interior carrying firewood for soldiers’ dependents, or on private hire to build the divisional welfare fund. Gasoline disappeared regularly into the civilian economy.

KMAG fought a losing battle against five thousand years of Oriental custom. Most of them, it must be admitted, developed a frustrated respect for the Chinese Reds who overnight destroyed the “silver bullets” tradition of the Chinese Army — the old situation when Chinese generals fought not with bullets of lead, but silver, meaning they could be bought — and who delivered supplies from Canton to Mukden, and from Mukden to Korea without pilfering, tampering, or diversion to private use according to sacred custom. But the Chinese Communists, puritan like all human revolutionists, had means not available to KMAG.

In the CCF it was very easy to have a man shot.

Always make it clear that you are acting out of the goodness of your own heart, not under pressure from the opposition

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

Commenter Dwarkesh proposes this hypothetical to Bryan Caplin:

If I’ve inherited control of a traumatized dictatorship, and I want to turn it into a capitalist liberal democracy, how should I go about reforming things without causing things to fall apart like they did in the Soviet Union or Iraq?

Caplin offers his best guess:

Consider it a recipe, not an endorsement.

Step 1: Purge known hard-liners en masse, without warning, Godfather style.

Step 2: Swiftly liberalize the economy and civil society from this position of strength, while unequivocally affirming your monopoly on political power.

Step 3: During the same period, open up your society to foreign business, tourism, media, NGOs, etc.

Step 4: Once you’ve had 4–6 years of strong economic growth and rising international prestige, slowly relax your monopoly on power. Always make it clear that you are acting out of the goodness of your own heart, not under pressure from the opposition.

Step 5: After 15–20 years, you’re ready for your first competitive national election. Put strong post-reform protection for your supporters into the constitution so they aren’t tempted to derail your plan.

The only thing that would not be limited were the casualties

Sunday, February 7th, 2021

For all practical purposes, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the Korean War ended when Ridgway offered to discuss truce terms:

Having eschewed the goal of victory, the United States had nothing further to gain from continued fighting. It had accomplished its original purpose in going into Korea, the salvation of the Taehan Minkuk.

The Communist World had gained no territory, wealth, or peoples — but by opposing American arms, by defying the United Nations, with some success, Red China had undoubtedly neared great-power status. Her prestige among Asian peoples, still smarting from Western humiliations, was enhanced, whatever moral questions were involved.

A nation that had been continually harassed and humiliated by all powers since 1840 had actually defied the world, and fought it to a standstill. It was this Asian feeling of solidarity with China that Americans found so hard to understand, as typified by the statement of one Captain Weh, of the Nationalist Chinese Army on Taiwan:

“We listened to the radio, and the Communists were defeating the Americans. All of us in this room were officers who had fought with the Generalissimo for many years. Most of us had fought the Communists all our adult lives. One officer had been captured and tortured by them. In a world the Communists won, there could be no place for any of us, or our families.

“It was very bad for us to have the Communists win. But we had very queer feelings, listening to the news of disaster in Korea. It was almost like a certain exaltation. I do not know how to explain it to you Americans.

“For our Colonel, who hated Communists with all his soul, kept saying: ‘The Americans are being beaten by Chinese. The Americans are being beaten by Chinese.’”

[...]

As long as China could hold a U.N. Army at bay, she stood to gain enormous prestige in Asia.

And because the United States Government took a certain naïveté and almost total lack of understanding of Asian Communism to the conference table, the Korean War, stalemated June 1951, would go on for two more years, and half as many men again as were maimed and killed in its first twelve months had yet to suffer and die.

[...]

An army in the field, in contact with the enemy, can remain idle only at its peril. Deterioration — of training, physical fitness, and morale — is immediate and progressive, despite the strongest command measures. The Frenchman who said that the one thing that cannot be done with bayonets is to sit on them spoke an eternal truth.

[...]

Their new orders seemed to read: Fight on, but don’t fight too hard. Don’t lose — but don’t win, either. Hold the line, while the diplomats muddle through.

[...]

But it was harder still for the riflemen and tankers and weapons squads dug in along the scarred, dirty hills. Now they knew less than ever why they dug their holes or why they died. Hoping for the war to end at any moment, they kept one eye on Kaesong or on Panmunjom. When they were ordered to defend a hill or to take one, they knew the action was a limited one, and they knew in their hearts, whatever brave words were said, that such action probably would not affect the outcome of the war at all.

No man likes to give up his life for an inconsequential reason, and there is no honor — only irony — to being the last man killed in a war.

[...]

As the talks droned on at Kaesong, the U.N. Command became more convinced the enemy was stalling. And U.N. commanders agreed that a little pressure, judiciously applied, might have wholesome effect. The decision was made in FECOM, but approved by Washington.

[...]

It was not an ambitious program, or an unreasonable one, in the situation. Policy was guided by restraint, and limited.

The only thing that would not be limited were the casualties.

When Communists cannot win by force, they are prepared to negotiate

Friday, February 5th, 2021

At the end of May 1951, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the CCF had proved they could not prevail in open warfare in the more maneuverable ground of southern and middle Korea:

But the U.N. Command had no burning desire to push and pursue them back into the horrendous terrain girdling the Yalu. Unless Manchuria could be interdicted, the CCF would fight here from a base of strength, while the U.N. would again be restricted and far from its sources of supply.

[...]

It was very clear to Soviet observers that the CCF could not win a decision in South Korea; they could not now even halt the slow, steady U.N. advance northward.

It was also clear that the continuing hot war in the Far East was jangling Western nerves and hastening the slow rearmament of Europe under NATO. The West obviously desired peace — but continued Communist intransigence could tend only to unite the Western allies in the long run.

When Communists cannot win by force, they are prepared to negotiate.

On 30 June 1951, General Ridgway, as U.N. Commander in Chief, radioed the commander of Communist Forces in Korea an offer to discuss an armistice:

It was a remarkable statement for an American commander, triumphant in the field, to make to an as yet unhumbled enemy. It occurred less than a decade after an American pronouncement of a goal of unconditional surrender of its enemies, but it revealed an aeon of diplomatic and political change in American thinking on the matter of war.

And here, on 30 June, a certain amount of love between the United States and the Taehan Minkuk ended. For the Republic of Korea saw no honor in the proposed cease-fire, which left its people ravaged and still divided.

[...]

Rhee, threatening again and again to block an armistice desired by most, became less and less a heroic old resistor of Communism and more and more a stubborn, opinionated old tyrant, determined to keep the West from getting what it wanted.

[...]

The United Nations Command, not caring to be technical, accepted Kaesong. It was to learn that Communists propose nothing, not even truce sites, without an eye to their own advantage.

[...]

From the American and U.N. point of view, the sole purpose of the meetings at Kaesong was to end the bloodshed, and to create some sort of machinery to supervise such an armistice. This done, an entirely separate body would sift the political and territorial questions posed by the Korean situation, in an atmosphere of peace.

Americans, even the knowledgeable Dean Acheson, had once again tried to separate peace and war into neat compartments, to their sorrow.

[...]

They [the American delegates] were soldiers, come to forge a military agreement to end the killing.

[...]

Several of these men [the Communist delegates] were graduates of Soviet universities, and not one was a fighting man.

All had held political posts, and with typical Communist deviousness, seemingly the junior man at the table in rank, Hsieh Fang, was the man who actually held the Communist cards.

Immediately, it became apparent that the Communist delegation intended not only to discuss the proposed cease-fire but everything up to and including the kitchen drain.

Immediately, they would not agree to an agenda. Immediately, they made sharp protest at Turner Joy’s use of the word “Communists” — there were no “Communists” in Kaesong, but only Inmun Gun and Chinese Volunteers; on the other hand, they used such terms as “that murderer Rhee” and “the puppet of Taiwan” quite freely.

They insisted that the 38th parallel must be the new line of demarcation, although the U.N. armies in most places stood well above it — and the parallel, as had been proved, was hardly a defensible line — and that unless the United Nations Command ceased actual hostilities in Korea at once they could not discuss the armistice. They at once refused demands to permit the International Red Cross to inspect North Korean POW camps.

And from the selection of the site at Kaesong — in Communist hands, yet still below the parallel, one of the few spots in Korea where this condition obtained — the forcing of U.N. negotiators to enter Communist territory displaying white flags, as if they were coming to surrender, to the seating of Admiral Joy in a chair substantially lower than Nam Il’s, the enemy showed that nothing was too small to be overlooked, if it accrued to his advantage.

[...]

The tragedy of the talks was that the Communists intended merely to transfer the war from the battlefield, where they were losing, to the conference table, where they might yet win something.

The United Nations’ desire for peace was genuine — almost frantic. Nothing else could have kept their negotiators, subjected to harassment, stinging insult, and interminable delay, at the green table after the first few sessions.

[...]

Washington was still not seeing clearly. No one dared guess that it would take 159 plenary sessions and more than two years of haggling to end the killing.

[...]

But time, above all, was what the Communist world needed in Korea in the summer of 1951.

Cyberpunk came true

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

Cyberpunk no longer feels like “the future”, Noahpinion suggests, because the cyberpunk writers of the 80s were just too good at predicting the future:

Much of the stuff they imagined is now just the stuff you see in the news.

In 2021, the Russian government hacked much of the U.S. government and many U.S. companies. Remotely piloted drones are defeating human forces on the battlefield. A whistleblower who exposed government electronic surveillance programs communicates from his foreign exile by telepresence robot. Artificial intelligences beat the best humans at the most complex board games and trade in financial markets. Information warfare and espionage are just standard tools of politics now. Animated singers are sex symbols. Militaries train in virtual reality. Online currencies are worth hundreds of billions of dollars and are used in shadowy underground economies and cybercrime. Computer interfaces are being implanted into pigs’ brains. A blind man can now see thanks to synthetic corneas.

All of these elements are recognizable as staples of 1980s and 1990s cyberpunk science fiction, or close relatives thereof. The cyberpunks anticipated the future of technology to an almost eerie degree.

A ruling system that prevents dissent and locks the world into stagnation and inevitable failure

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

Back in October, 2018, John Robb looked at an insurgency at the crossroads:

Trump’s open source #insurgency often appears unstoppable. All of the traditional methods of political opposition have proven unable to damage it for more than a few days (at most). However, in late October, we saw the outlines of a dynamic that suggests that may not be true for much longer.

[...]

In the last few weeks of October, we saw the following pattern:

An uptick in domestic terrorism connected to Trump’s #insurgency. The Florida Van Man Mail Bomber targeted vocal political opponents. The Kentucky Kroger Terrorist killed 2. The Pittsburgh Synagogue Terrorist killed 11.

To minimize the damage to the insurgency, Trump rapidly shifted the national conversation through something best termed a fast transient. In this case, the fast transient was a proposal to end birthright citizenship through Presidential edict. On cue, the insurgency and the resistance immediately began to battle over the proposal.

However, something new happened. Technology companies, from Facebook to Paypal to GoDaddy, took the opportunity to rapidly deplatform (physically disconnect) many of the people (Proud Boys, etc.) and companies (Gab, etc.) it deemed to be potentially violent.

This new dynamic may be the beginning of the end for the insurgency since it turns a strength of the insurgency into a debilitating weakness.

[...]

The big technology companies represent the third major force in this conflict — in addition to the insurgency and the resistance. Currently, their main source of power is in the physical dimension (attrition warfare). They have the ability to disconnect the insurgency at scale and they just demonstrated they are willing to do that. These violent attacks have provided the technology companies with the justification they need to enter this online war on the side of #resistance.

If this dynamic of violence continues, the global technology companies will join this online war. Here’s what this would mean:

The technology companies would begin to treat the language and the symbology of #insurgency as signs of online terrorism. This would give them the green light to ruthlessly censor it (within seconds of it being posted) and deplatform the people who post it. Moreover, this would be done at scale (tens of thousands a day if necessary) and at the level of individual conversations.

The social AIs being built at the major networks would inevitably end up oriented towards dampening the #insurgency. Slowly at first, but more aggressively as the AIs mature. This capability would likely become exportable, and provide a stealth means of redirecting countries like Brazil, the Philippines, Italy, etc. away from insurgent politics and towards corporate standards.

Efforts by the big technology companies to actively maintain social stability through social AIs, makes us extremely vulnerable to a long night. A world dominated by a system that through naive utopianism or through an aggressive takeover by populist leaders, narrows public thought down to a single, barren, ideological acceptable framework. A ruling system that prevents dissent and locks the world into stagnation and inevitable failure as it runs afoul of reality and human nature.