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 Russian Reaction BlogTeasers

The reason I don’t write much about Russia’s demographics nowadays is that there isn’t much point to it.

Up until the early 2010s, the Western media was brimming with misinformation about the subject – what we now call #fakenews – so refuting it was both profitable and easy. Incredibly easy. You didn’t really have to do anything much more complicated than taking a few minutes to browse through Russia’s national statistics database, but apparently that was beyond the capabilities of most Russia journalists.

However, by now a critical number of Western pundits have apparently acquainted themselves with at least the Wikipedia article on Russia’s demographics. In the longterm, reality wins out, and so with a lag time of about a decade, references to Russia’s “plummeting population” and “sixth wave of emigration” have steadily petered out (the last major holdouts of Russia demographic doomerism was Barack Obama in this 2014 interview with The Economist, and Michael Rubin for Commentary in 2015,).

We can now finally say that the “Dying Bear” meme has fulfilled lived up to its own name.

***

Anyhow, preliminary demographic results for 2016 are in.

Births remained marginally ahead of deaths, both at around 12.9/1,000 people, though the usual ~300,000 annual net immigrants (almost half of them from Ukraine) will ensure that overall population growth remains decidedly positive.

russia-births-deaths-1946-2016

Births decreased by 2.6%. The full impact of the small 1990s cohort is now being felt, so this was always inevitable. Deaths also declined by 1.2%, despite the ongoing aging of the population. This pretty much completes what I termed The Russian Hexagon, the successor to the so-called “Russian Cross” in the early 1990s when the births and deaths graphs intersected; in the past decade, birth and death rates once again converged, but from the opposite direction, forming a sort of hexagon.

russia-tfr-1946-2016

The Total Fertility Rate seems to have stabilized at around 1.75 children per woman (inevitable question: How much without Muslims/ethnic minorities? Approximately 0.1 children less, based on completed fertility data from the 2010 Census).

This makes sense. As I pointed out almost a decade ago, Russian fertility preferences are similar to those of Scandinavians and the Anglosphere (~2.5 children per woman), and higher than that of Visegrad/The Med (~2.1 children) or the Teutonic world (1.7 children), so convergence to at least this level was always on the cards as soon as some semblance of economic stability and predictability was restored.

As I pointed out, this makes Russia’s fertility rates reasonably respectable by European standards; they are only noticeably higher in France, Ireland, the UK, and Sweden.

russia-life-expectancy-1946-2016

Life expectancy is now close to 72 years, which is the highest it has ever been in Russia’s history.

One way of looking at this is that mortality trends in Russia are basically tracking improvements in the ex-Soviet Baltics (and the City of Moscow) with a lag of ten years, so there is good reason to expect this trend will continue.

This is primarily linked to the big reduction in vodka bingeing during the past decade, which depressed Russian life expectancy by about a decade relative to what it “should be” based on its GDP per capita and healthcare system. This “alcoholization” began to soar from around 1965, and peaked in the 1990s and early 2000s. According to calculations by the demographer Alexander Nemtsov, something like a third of Russian mortality around 2005 could be attributed to it.

Blast from the Past

Incidentally, back in 2008, I created a demographic model for Russia, which enabled me to accurately predict a resumption in both total (2010) and natural (2013) population growth to the exact year.

In the scenario where TFR is set to a constant 1.75 children per woman, the “Medium” scenario of mortality improvements (which has best tracked Russia’s life expectancy trends to date), and about 300,000 annual immigrants, it predicted the following:

Medium (TFR=1.75 from 2010)The population grows from 2010, rising from 142mn to 148mn in 2025 and 156mn in 2050. The death rate troughs at 10.8 in 2034, before zooming in to 11.5 by 2050. The birth rate peaks at 13.6 by 2014, before plummeting to 9.7 in 2033, before recovering to 11.9 in 2046 and again falling, although less rapidly than before.

How does this stack up against reality? The birth rate reached a multi-year plateau at 13.3 children per woman during 2012-2015, when the decline in the numbers of women of childbearing age were exactly offset by rising total fertility rates. The mortality rate fell steadily throughout this period, just as predicted, though it is marginally higher as of 2016 (12.9/1,000) than in the Medium variant (12.6/1,000).

Overall, this is pretty close, and suggests that the model is fundamentally sound and thus so are its future population projections.

Of course it has to be adjusted upwards by 2.3 million to take into account Crimea, and any further (re)gatherings of rightful Russian clay.


 

As alcohol abuse fell, so did all of the other components of mortality, especially those most strongly associated with it, i.e. deaths from external causes:

russia-deaths-external-causes-1990-2016

… which includes homicides, suicides, deaths from transport accidents (despite soaring vehicle ownership), and, self-referentially, deaths from alcohol poisoning.

russia-mortality-alcohol-murder-suicide-1990-2016

Part of this reduction was due to cultural change, including the realities of life under capitalism (if you turn up to work drunk, you can be fired, unlike under socialism), part of it was due to economics (more diversity of choice), and part of it was thanks to specific Kremlin policies, such as steady increases in the excise tax on alcohol and restrictions on alcohol advertising.

Finally, the abortion rate continues to quietly decline. The ratio of abortions to births is now down to 40%, down from well more than 100% during the era from the post-Stalin legalization of abortion to the 1990s. This is still about 2-3x higher than in most of Western Europe and the US, but Russia is longer the absolute outlier it once was.

russia-abortion-rate-1957-2016

Just like the trends with fertility and mortality, this too can be considered a return to “demographic normality” after the Soviet aberration.

One important point: Conservative talking points to the contrary, there is no hard evidence that high abortion rates actually decrease fertility. Low abortion rates are good though for general health reasons and (depending on your religious views) for ethical ones but they have very little to do with demographic health per se.

Even though it completely bans abortions, Poland has one of Europe’s lowest fertility rates. For some reason Mark Steyn never did dwell on that…

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Demographics, Russia 

Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN since 2006, Vitaly Churkin’s finest hour was undoubtedly August 10, when he lambasted Western hypocrisy in supporting Georgian aggression against South Ossetia and the UN-mandated Russian peacekeepers stationed there:

Its military action had begun with tank and heavy artillery attacks on Russian peacekeepers, which had resulted in 12 deaths. The Russian Federation wondered whether the term “ethnic cleansing” could be used to describe Georgia’s actions. What other terms could be used when 30,000 of South Ossetia’s population of 100,000 had become refugees? Could it be described as genocide when 2,000 out of 100,000 people died?

How many civilians had to die before it was described as genocide? he asked. When others were lamenting the death of civilians in Georgia, why weren’t they worried about the attacks on villages in South Ossetia? How could the international community react when, despite all the international agreements — Russian peacekeepers were acting in South Ossetia in accordance with the agreement of 1992, signed by Georgia and South Ossetia -– Georgia directly targeted peacekeepers and civilians? Had Georgia expected peacekeepers to run away as they had in Srebrenica?

Back in 2008, Russia’s soft power instruments were much less developed than today. RT was just getting started up. Churkin’s clear and uncompromising statement of the Russian case amidst the Western propaganda of Russian aggression was a light in the darkness. This event, perhaps even more so than Putin’s Munich speech, marked the final onset of post-Soviet Russia’s disillusionment with the US and its ceaseless lies and betrayals. Putin himself put it very succinctly: “The very scale of this cynicism is astonishing — the attempt to turn white into black, black into white and to adeptly portray victims of aggression as aggressors and place the responsibility for the consequences of the aggression on the victims.

Churkin stoically soldiered on, laying out the Russian case on Libya, Syria, and Ukraine. This was not an unstressful job, considering the boorishness ideologues he had to do battle with (to take just one egregious example out of many, on convening an emergency session of the UN Security Council after the US bombed and killed 80 Syrian soldiers defending Deir ez-Zor, he was flat out informed by Obama’s flunky Samantha Power that she was “not interested” in what he had to say).

It’s possible that it was the stress that did his heart in at the age of 64. He had himself complained about it a few weeks before his death: “The profession of a diplomat has become much more hectic than it used to be in the past. It is stressful. Unfortunately, the world has not become more stable than it used to be.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, UN 

Cold Winters Theory applies to birds:

Last week during skiing holidays I saw a popular scientific program on animal intelligence in the evening, and they presented something like the Lynn-Miller-Rushton cold winter theory! Birds (chickadees) living in Alaska have bigger brains and are more intelligent than birds living in Kansas! This is an independent very valuable support for the cold winter theory on intelligence.

Links to the relevant papers in Emil Kirkegaard’s post.

In general, therefore, it seems best to focus on animals that tackle the cold winter problem head-on instead of avoiding it somehow (migrate, hibernate, or single-year lifespans). Among birds, the smartest birds are of the Corvidae family — in particular crows, ravens and magpies — and they generally don’t migrate in the winter. Of the non-Corvidae, I think the smartest birds are some of the parrot species. These also often don’t migrate.

As Lazy Glossophiliac points out, yet another bullseye for folk stereotypes: “Fascinating that Corvidae would be the smartest birds because stereotypically it’s ravens. Well, and owls.

Someone should do a meta-study of IQ or r/K-selection differences across the animal kingdom for suitable species – span many latitudes; don’t sidestep the cold winters problem; haven’t been artificially selected by humans – to ascertain whether CWT really is universal.

Step one: “Does someone know a good way to get habitat location information for a large number of species automatically? Preferably numeric information.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Animal IQ, Zoology 

ukraine-approval-of-nato

Gallup:

The proportion of residents of Ukraine — a potential NATO member state until a few years ago — who view NATO as a threat has increased in recent years after years of steady decline between 2008 and 2014. In 2014, after NATO sanctioned Russia after it annexed Crimea, Ukrainians for the first time were more likely to see NATO as protection (36%) than a threat (20%). However, the percentage viewing it as a threat shot back up to 35% in 2016 as the Ukrainian population has grown tired of the ongoing conflict between its military and Russian-backed separatists, as well as a poor economy and rising crime rates. Without a clear end in sight to the conflict, Ukrainians may be losing confidence in NATO’s ability to help them in this crisis.

It might be news to you that NATO was ever expected to help Ukraine with its… crisis, but for many svidomy Ukrainians it is a long-running delusion.

One way that vatniks like to make fun of svidomy is by referencing the TyaschaVDen’ meme (One Thousand Grivnas per Day), based on Poroshenko’s promise in 2014 to pay that amount to every contract soldier. Incidentally, it wasn’t fulfilled, and of course couldn’t be fulfilled; even at current exchange rates, that is $1,000 per month, whereas the Ukraine is now competing with Moldova for having Europe’s lowest average wage at around $200 per month.

That meme is noteable in that it perhaps best of all represents the cargo cultish attitudes of many svidomy Ukrainians towards the West in general. All they would have to do is sign up to the Religion of Reform, topple the Lenin statues, and proclaim their allegiance to the EU and NATO, and very soon they would all have their own TyaschaVDen’ (not to mention visa-free travel with the EU, with the ironic shorthand for that holy grail of Euromaidan, eternally just out of reach, having long become its own meme: Bezviz).

Unfortunately for the svidomy, reality isn’t biased in favor of cargo cults, so disillusionment is inevitable.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: NATO, Ukraine 

In my 2017 predictions, I wrote:

Russians have a more positive view of the US than of the EU as of the last Levada poll in that year: 60%.

Latest polls:

russia-approval-usa-eu

The gap is only 2 points now.

Republicans, at least are returning the favor.

us-approval-of-russia

The New Cold War might well be petering out in a premature end.

The Germans are far less happy with Trump, though.

german-approval-of-usa

Feel free to spy on their Chancellor to your heart’s content, but don’t you dare refuse to accept Infinity Moslems into your country.

 

PAPER REVIEW

Ritchie, Stuart – 2017 – Review of The Rationality Quotient by Stanovich et al.


marker

From Stuart Ritchie’s review of “The Rationality Quotient” by Keith Stanovich et al.:

But it was the reported correlation of the [Comprehensive Assessment of Rational Thinking] with IQ-type tests that was really unexpected, given the authors’ argument that they measure very different constructs. A cognitive composite—made up of tests of analogies, antonyms, and a word checklist (Table 13.11)—was found to have a correlation with the full-scale CART of 0.695. 0.695!

That’s the extent to which actual IQ tests typically load on the g factor and each other. One might even go so far as to propose that rationality is intelligence.

The notion that intelligent people are more prone to irrationality is a cognitive bias, though a very understandable one. The Newton who obsesses over the occult is just considerably more noticeable than some nutter ranting about the End Times.

Greg Cochran counters that Western intellectuals were more likely to fall for “destructive nonsense” than plumbers during the 20th century. I suspect that was more due to intellectuals not understanding plumbers, neither then nor now, rather than any failure of rationality per se. In everyday life, people tend to associate with people of similar intelligence, and have a social circle of about 150 friends and acquaintances.

And guess what? Communism works great within monasteries and universities.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Paper Review, Psychometrics, Rationality 

PAPER REVIEW

Whitley, Elise et al. – 2016 – Variations in cognitive abilities across the life course


marker

whitley-2016-age-sex-differences

New paper by Elise Whitley et al. on age and sex differences in IQ for n=~40,000 British sample.

  • Five tests: Word recall, verbal fluency, and subtraction (loading ~0.5 on g), and number sequence and numerical problem solving (loading ~0.7 on g).
  • Males score about 4 IQ points more on the derived g-factor of cognitive ability.
  • … though this result should be treated with caution on account of: (a) g having different structure across the sexes; (b) it is not an exception to a common problem in IQ and sex studies, namely, the undersampling of men with lower cognitive ability.
  • Better subjective health was associated with higher IQ.
  • The overall pattern across age was a plateau from the late teens to age 65, then a steep fall soon thereafter.

I would say that the ultimate and really the only reason we have mandatory retirement policies are cognitive ones.

EDIT: Emil Kirkegaard had a closer look at the results, including a nicer graph of the age/sex results:

My guess is that the intercept bias/invariance has to do with the composition of the battery. There were only 5 tests, and their breakdown was: 3 math, 1 verbal, 1 memory. Women had better memory but there was no difference in verbal fluency (this is a common finding despite what you have been told). So, the problem likely is that the g factor is colored because 60% of the tests were about math, and that men have an advantage on the math group factor.

kirkegaard-2016-uk-iq-study

 

Yet another tired meme of the Lamestream Media is biting the dust.

Tulsi Gabbard is a Democrat who is on good terms with Trump – indeed, she was once viewed as a feasible if highly unlikely candidate for Secretary of State. She has gone to Syria, talked with the people, and confirmed that the “moderate rebels” are anything but, and has since proceeded to castigate CNN on their fake news (her interviewer wasn’t happy about that).

Incidentally, as Alexander Mercouris points out, it is most curious that the most fervent proponents of that meme never seemed to want to spend much time with the objects of their veneration:

A key point to make about Tulsi Gabbard is that she has made these comments after actually visiting Syria, and going to places like Damascus and Aleppo.

As I have previously pointed out, since the end of the fighting in Aleppo, the city is now safe to visit by Western journalists, which is why Tulsi Gabbard has been able to go there, and has been able to speak to people there. By contrast the Western media, which throughout the autumn was full of lurid reports of atrocities supposedly committed in Aleppo during the fighting there by the Syrian army and the Russians, is staying away.

Here is Gabbard’s official statement:

“I return to Washington, DC with even greater resolve to end our illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government. I call upon Congress and the new Administration to answer the pleas of the Syrian people immediately and support the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. We must stop directly and indirectly supporting terrorists—directly by providing weapons, training and logistical support to rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS; and indirectly through Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey, who, in turn, support these terrorist groups. We must end our war to overthrow the Syrian government and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS.

“From Iraq to Libya and now in Syria, the U.S. has waged wars of regime change, each resulting in unimaginable suffering, devastating loss of life, and the strengthening of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

This jives with Trump’s inauguration promise: “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

Anyhow, stinging from their defeat in Aleppo, the rebels in the Idlib pocket have descended into something resembling a civil war in record time. The eastern front remains stable – Deir ez-Zor has continued to hold out, despite Islamic State throwing so many men from their Iraqi wilayats and matériel captured from Palmyra at it in the past couple of weeks.

As this new reality dawns, Western states are beginning to publicly accept Assad’s right to a political role in the future Syria.

 

beer-and-books

I was privileged to meet one of the columnists at The Unz Review. Feel free to guess who.

Ironically, we met up at Jean-Jacques cafe on Nikitsky Boulevard, the favorite watering hole of the rukopozhatnaya kreakl crowd (handshake-worthy/”respectable” “creative” hipsters). It’s a solid enough place, though – slightly pretentious French style lunch with wine for 1,000 rubles.

Finally got Twenty Years to the Great War, a massive tome on the late Tsarist industrialization by HSE professor Mikhail Davydov.

A taste of some of what it covers in the intro to an an interview with the author:

The development of Magnitogorsk? Planned by the State Council of the Russian Empire in 1915. The irrigation of Central Asia? Started in 1901, by 1912 there were working excavators… About the poverty of the people: In 1906-1913 credit cooperatives gave farmers loans totalling 2.5 billion rubles (equivalent to six naval modernization programs). In 1913, 30% of families in the country possessed savings books.

People lived considerably better than Soviet propaganda would later claim, and in fact many of the big “signature” Soviet modernization projects were first planned out and initiated in the waning days of the Empire (even including electrification).

But there’s really a lot more to it. One thousand pages, many of which are devoted to statistical tables. Looking forwards to reading it and reviewing it properly.

moscow-decoration

A mundane example of how Moscow has really been spruced up in the past couple of years.

Some more culinary notes, since we haven’t had those for a while:

nutria-burger

At around the time of the New Year, I tried out a nutria burger at the Krasnodar Bistro, thanks to a “recommendation” of sorts from The Guardian’s Shaun Walker (“Hot rat is so hot right now: Moscow falls for the rodent burger“).

It was entirely fine, a bit similar in texture to a beef patty, but with a distinctive flavor and a greasier texture. Not perhaps the best meat, but still, 2033 should be perfectly survivable.

The more relevant and encouraging sociological observation is that its one example of many in which Russia is developing its own culinary traditions as opposed to aping from abroad (nutria is particular to Russia’s Krasnodar region).

likuria-wine

Thanks to JL for the Likuria recommendation – I got a set of them. I thought the Blend and the Merlot were pretty good, but the Cabernet Sauvignon disappointed, and the Shiraz was very bad.

The Agora bastardo from Crimea remains my favorite dry Russian red, but frankly none of them are anything to write home about. For now at least its better to just get the European imports.

That said, the Abrau Durso champagnes, with the partial exception of their bruts, are surprisingly good and continue to gain on me.

I enjoyed Ararat cognac from Armenia, the standard product in this class here, but I am not a conoisseur of cognac, so my opinion isn’t worth much.

I am not exactly a big cheese fan, I don’t even buy it normally, but I do like to make Greek salad from time to time, and that means feta. I suspect it is directly on the sanctions list because I haven’t been able to find it in the usual supermarkets (though I haven’t bothered searching). The alternative here is a thing called bryndza, but it is most decidedly not feta; the Serbian bryndza I bought first is far closer to cheap standard cream cheeses. That said, the “classical” version is the one that’s at least very faintly reminscent of feta.

kharcho

As I explained in one of my earlier open threads, in my opinion Georgian cuisine is overrated (it’s only particularly interesting or “exotic” by Soviet standards).

That said, the one exception to that assessment – and its a real bigly one – is kharcho.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Moscow, Open Thread, Russia, The AK, Travel 

Steve Sailer recently pointed out that millennials are a lot shier about nudity than their parents and grandparents.

There are plenty of cultural explanations – less exposure to the military, more spacious accomodations, millennial whininess, etc. – but I get the impression that, as with Chinese underperformance in football, the inventor of HBD might have needlessly shied away from his own trademark framework.

Three big things to bear in mind:

  • Religiosity is heritable.
  • The religious have been having more surviving kids for more than a century.
  • Religiosity is also correlated with modesty and aversion to nudity.

Just take a look at a map of the world’s nudist resorts – both atheism and Germanic ancestry play roles at least comparable to that of the climate!

sexual-freedom-league-protest-1965

“Sexual Freedom League” protest in Berkeley, 1965. But of greater longterm relevance – what were their completed fertility rates? Berkeley has one of the lowest fertility rates in all California – lower than in crowded, uber-expensive SF. Berkeley student hippies??

In the culture wars of the past half century, many very good – or at least convincing – arguments have been brought in support of LGBT rights, personal sexual autonomy, and even atheism. Those arguments have objectively worked, at least in the sense that all of these positions have gained converts. In the case of homosexuality, we have gone from a situation where almost everyone regarded it as a criminal abnormality to one where a majority now supports gay marriage.

On the other hand, no particularly intelligent or influential voices have been arguing for the social justice virtues of nudity. With no countervailing cultural “push,” attitudes towards nudity are perhaps just going where they logically should, as the Germanic ancestry share of the US population declines, and those who remain become more religious (only genotypically, since Dawkins & Hitchens suppress their expression) with every generation.

As Sailer points out, the life of America’s biggest nudism promoter in sci-fi is rather illustrative:

Heinlein was an example of a socially liberal Old American with a German name who liked nudism. No kids.

Incidentally, this doesn’t appear to be an exclusively American development. Toplessness on French beaches has become rarer in the past decade.

brigitte-bardot

Brigitte Bardot, 1960s. She had one child. The French average is two.

More generally, one frequent observation is that the people at the front of social progressivism today, the SJWs, are puritans, in contrast to the 1960s hippies, who were libertines. Could this be the religious genes making themselves felt, even if in this very distorted form?

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Sex, Society 

Today has likewise seen the release of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index.

economist-democracy-index-2016

The US has been downgraded to a “flawed” democracy. The report is subtitled “Revenge of the Deplorables.”

Will Freedom House follow suit?

PS. To be fair, the scores were compiled before Trump’s victory. The US has been hovering around the border between what they call “full” and “flawed” democracy for a number of years now.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Democracy 

transparency-cpi-2016

Has been released.

It is basically a composite index of about a dozen subjective corruption ratings given out by various development organizations and more political NGOs (e.g. Freedom House).

Although it generally reflects reality, as in it correlates well with other, more objective measures of corruption, there are two major caveats:

(1) It is not necessarily accurate for any one particular country. You would be better off looking at things like Transparency International’s own Global Corruption Barometer surveys of everyday bribery, the World Bank’s enterprise surveys, and expert assessments (preferably blind) of national legislation such as the Global Integrity Index, the Open Budget Index, and the Revenue Watch Index. (I tried to combine some of them here).

(2) The people actually doing the ratings are employed by outfits such as the World Bank and democracy promotion NGOs. This means their perspectives are going to be ideologically loaded in predictable directions.

For instance, it’s pretty likely that despite the Maidan’s promises, Ukraine is still considerably more corrupt than Russia. Although Ukraine and Russia score an equally bad 29/100 according to the CPI, there are differences in their component scores [XLSX]. The World Economic Forum Executive Opinion Survey, which queries businesspeople who are more concerned with profits than politics, gives Russia 38/100 to Ukraine’s 27/100. The “political” NGOs, however, rate Ukraine higher; Freedom House gives it 33/100 to Russia’s 25/100.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Corruption 

Russian human rights lawyer Matthew Tszen speculates:

I suspect that the global Womens March was originally conceived of as a sort of victory parade to mark the inauguration of the first US female president (Hillary Clinton). And only the unexpected victory of Trump forced them to change not even so much its character, as its tone – from that of a festive victory, to a protest. This is evidenced by its own international character – for instance, the concept that “French women are celebrating the election of a woman to the US Presidency” makes sense, but the concept of “French women protesting against the election of President Trump” is practically meaningless. Not to mention the fact the the “protesters” aren’t really able to formulate what, exactly, they are protesting, and what their demands are. Some of their slogans, e.g. “pussy grabs back,” would have looked much more natural against the background of a Clinton victory.

I still think it was organized largely after the fact by a panicking Soros, but this is an interesting theory.

It would tie in well with my speculations that a great deal of fireworks – both literal and figurative – were painstakingly choreographed to go off on Hillary Clinton’s election, possibly including a serious purge of “fake news” instead of the decidedly slapstick affair we actually got.

I am getting the distinct impression that this is a very well planned information operation that was that was meant to kick into high gear upon Hillary Clinton’s election, perhaps in conjunction with the “Russia bombed The Last Hospital in Aleppo” meme to set up the groundwork for a showdown in Syria (there are hints that this is indeed what Hillary Clinton was planning upon assuming the Presidency).

I suppose we now don’t really have any choice but to continue speculating, at least until some new whistleblower comes along to leak the deep state’s secrets to Wikileaks. Still, that’s far preferable to having had them play out in reality.

 

reality

I noticed a very interesting trend in recent days.

Kenneth “Russians bombed the last hospital in Aleppo” Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch:

Julia “people who disagree with me are cattle” Ioffe, professional Soviet refugee and Ivanka Trump’s secret admirer:

The New York Times:

It’s like they’re all working from the same script: Nobody came out to support the Kremlin puppet Trump, while a true “march of the millions” came out against him.

There’s just one problem: It’s all #FAKENEWS.

fake-news

And it’s not like a new invention or anything. To the contrary, its been a staple of the color revolution handbook from the Arab world to Ukraine and Russia – which has now made its way to America.

For instance, back during the 2012 protests against the Kremlin, the single biggest demonstration was actually *in support of* Putin – the Anti-Orange Meeting at Poklonnaya Gora, February 4th.

But you’d have never learned that from the Western media:

Whereas the opposition’s 100,000+ attendance figures are mostly taken at face value, the same favour is rarely extended to pro-Kremlin ones, on the few occasions they are mentioned at all. For instance, the Anti-Orange Meeting on February 4 at Poklonnaya had a densely packed crowd about 200-300 meters wide, and stretching more than half a kilometer into the distance; according to calculations by the geodesic engineer Nikolai Pomeshchenko, there were around 80,000 people there. But the most quoted figure in the Western press was 20,000, which Patrick Armstrong tracked down to a single AP article which was shamelessly copied by outlets as diverse as The Guardian, FOX, and Salon. Does this photo look like 20,000 to you? Who are you going to believe, AP or your lying eyes? (But I guess that’s still marginally better than Le Parisien, which tried to pass off Poklonnaya as an anti-Putin rally).

In contrast, there is a distinct lack of any critical questioning of figures issued by the opposition. Again, let’s ask Pomeshchenko: Using spatio-mathematical methods, he estimated opposition protests of 60,000 on December 10 (at Bolotnaya), 56,000+ on December 24 (at Prospekt Sakharova), and 62,000 on February 4 (again, at Bolotnaya). They are intuitively reliable, being halfway between the estimates of the police and the opposition, both of which have a dog in the fight.

There are a variety of ways to “delegitimize” a globalist-disapproved politician using the crowd numbers game. The tried and true method is just understating attendance at meetings in his support, such as by emphasizing photos taken from unflattering angles, or early in the morning before the main mass of people had shown up. Meetings and protests against him should of course be amped up as much as possible (though within reason; you don’t want to be too blatant about it, especially now that you’ve so conveniently sown the “fake news” meme).

More “advanced” methods, which we might well see in the not too distance future, is to photograph concentrations of nearby buses or other mass transit vehicles as “proof” that the bad guy’s supporters, who are all brainwashed alcoholics anyway (substitute with “opiate addicts” for the Trump Edition), were all transported in on pain of losing their jobs. Extra points if this is projection of your own behavior!

eye-of-soros That the globalists would adopt the same dirty tricks against Trump, apart from demonstrating that they are really SEETHING MAD at this turn of events, also hints are something interesting.

And by “hints” I mean it has Soros’ grubby claws all over it.

Let’s have a Muslim feminist from the New York Times, someone far less deplorable than myself, flesh out this outrageous conspiracy theory:

The Guardian has touted the “Women’s March on Washington” as a “spontaneous” action for women’s rights. Another liberal media outlet, Vox, talks about the “huge, spontaneous groundswell” behind the march. On its website, organizers of the march are promoting their work as “a grassroots effort” with “independent” organizers. Even my local yoga studio, Beloved Yoga, is renting a bus and offering seats for $35. The march’s manifesto says magnificently, “The Rise of the Woman = The Rise of the Nation.”

It’s an idea that I, a liberal feminist, would embrace. But I know — and most of America knows — that the organizers of the march haven’t put into their manifesto: the march really isn’t a “women’s march.” It’s a march for women who are anti-Trump.

By my draft research, which I’m opening up for crowd-sourcing on GoogleDocs, Soros has funded, or has close relationships with, at least 56 of the march’s “partners,” including “key partners” Planned Parenthood, which opposes Trump’s anti-abortion policy, and the National Resource Defense Council, which opposes Trump’s environmental policies. The other Soros ties with “Women’s March” organizations include the partisan MoveOn.org (which was fiercely pro-Clinton), the National Action Network (which has a former executive director lauded by Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett as “a leader of tomorrow” as a march co-chair and another official as “the head of logistics”). Other Soros grantees who are “partners” in the march are the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. March organizers and the organizations identified here haven’t yet returned queries for comment.

It’s a very, very familiar script that has at long last made its way back to its original homeland.

 

Well I would certainly like him to stay, but for some reason he’s decided to start making things really hard for himself.

Having remained silent on Obama, the guy most responsible for sending him into exile, Snowden has chosen this moment of all moments to make good with the very Lügenpresse that once smeared him as a Russian chekist and support the Soros-funded #WomensMarch against Trump.

Russia provided asylum on the condition that he refrain from excessive political activism against the US, and this was under Obama. Why would this policy change under Trump of all people? There are several hypotheses:

(1) Attacking Trump is the cool thing to do now, and doing so might give Snowden a chance of claiming asylum in a European state. It is clear that Snowden has always felt unease about his Russia asylum and has ceaselessly – and all things considered, rather rudely – been trying to exchange it for asylum in some European or Latin American state.

(2) Snowden has good reason to believe that he will be part of an eventual pro quid pro deal with Trump, so anything he does now is irrelevant anyway. So he might as well give vent to his true feelings. I certainly don’t blame him for this. He has no reason to like Trump personally, who has implied he would like to see Snowden executed. More importantly, neither Putin nor Trump – authoritarian personalities with no time for “social justice” and who view the surveillance apparatus as a useful tool of the state – sync in the least with his liberal cypherpunk ideals.

And Snowden is an idealist above all else. And that is to his credit.

But unfortunately, the people who run Russia and the US (from both aisles) are not idealists, but hard-nosed realists. Getting Snowden back would be a diplomatic coup for Trump. And I’m sorry, Eddie, but much as Russians might like you – not, of course, for your principled idealism, but for dragging Obama through the dirt – but a deal that would guarantee the safety and security of their compatriots in the Donbass are worth more than one person.

That said, there’s one major disadvantage to Russia of extraditing Snowden: Whereas it previously had a good record of looking out for defectors – even the Yeltsin regime never extradited Western spies for the Soviet Union – future defectors would think twice about going to Russia if they believe they would be used as a bargaining chip whenever the political winds change.

As such, perhaps it would be best for everyone involved, including Snowden himself, to attempt to strike a deal in which he goes back to the US of his “own volition,” but Trump gets to show off his magnanimity by pardoning him soon after and stumping the more principled of his liberal critics, the ones who are genuinely committed to civil rights instead of thinking whatever Soros and the CIA tell them to.

The alternative would be Snowden becoming a cause celebre to the globalists, with their previous smearing of him as a Russian spy and (bipartisan) calls for his imprisonment and even execution being quietly swept under the carpet. Regardless of your own position on whether Snowden is a traitor or not, that is certainly not a scenario we would want.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Edward Snowden 

Alexander Dugin is continuously trouted out by the Western media as this gray cardinal of the Kremlin, who is the “brain”, the favorite philosopher, and even the Rasputin behind Putin and no doubt soon behind Trump as well.

The banal reality is that Dugin is, at least in relative terms, far better known in the West than he is in Russia.

Last month, a Russian website quantified the media presence of the country’s top politologists. Dugin placed a rather unremarkable 39th on that list.

I translated the names of the first ten people, as well as of the other notables on the list. Here is a sampling of Russian politologists people who are more influential than Dugin:

  • Alexander Prokhanov – Clearly the top Russian “hard nationalist.”
  • Mikhail Delyagin – An unorthodox economic and proponent of protectionism.
  • Evgeny Minchenko – One of the foremost analysts of Russian “clan politics.” A while back I translated one of his articles.
  • Stanislav Belkovsky – Very popular in the West as the originator behind the “Putin has $40 billion socked away” meme (since inflated to $70 billion and $200 billion). Even though Putler personally murders all his detractors, Belkovsky somehow continues to have a flourishing career.
  • Natalia Zubarevich – A liberal critic of the regime. I translated one of her articles.
  • Fedor Lukyanov – Editor in Chief of Russia in Foreign Affairs.
  • Lilya Shevtsova – The originator of the silovik takeover of the Russian state meme, who has the tendency to “agree with the United States and condemn her own country on every single issue on which they have disagreed.”
  • Gleb Pavlovsky – Infamous in the West as one of the foremost practitioners of “political technology,” though he has long since become more anti-Putin than pro-Putin.
  • Dmitry Zhuravlev – Entirely apolitical, but mentioning him as one of Russia’s best economics commentators.

And finally, we have:

  • 39. DUGIN – So influential and close to Putler he wasn’t allowed to hold onto his sociology professorship at Moscow State University. (Even though it’s not like sociology is even a real science, considering that the field is monopolized by SJW quacks in the West, so it should not have been difficult to justify keeping Dugin on).

And yet Dugin is the person we are to believe is the puppetmaster behind Trump’s puppetmaster.

Incidentally, in my opinion the deepest and most talented Russian nationalist politologist is Egor Kholmogorov, who is based, economically literate, and unlike most Russian (and European) nationalists even has an inkling of HBD understanding i.e. doesn’t think open borders with Central Asia is a great idea. I have translated two of his articles (here, here). However, there is no doubt that his influence is decidedly modest, and mainly survives by writing columns for second-tier media outlets. For context, he is only marginally less influential than Dugin, at 47th position.

***

место Политологи итог
1. Nikonov, Vyacheslav 8486
2. Markov, Sergey 6901
3. Makarkin, Alexey 5859
4. Orlov, Dmitry 5671
5. Kalachev, Konstantin 5474
6. Prokhanov, Alexander 5426
7. Delyagin, Mikhail 5350
8. Mukhin, Alexey 5299
9. Minchenko, Evgeny 4729
10. Vinogradov, Mikhail 4133
11. Belkovsky, Stanislav 3600
12. Симонов Константин 3583
13. Zubarevich, Natalya 3395
14. Костин Константин 3232
15. Lukyanov, Fedor 3220
16. Рар Александр 3164
17. Чеснаков Алексей 3163
18. Орешкин Дмитрий
3116
19. Shevtsova, Lilya 2782
20. Абзалов Дмитрий 2760
21. Михеев Сергей 2615
22. Мартынов Алексей 2405
23. Pavlovsky, Gleb 2348
24. Галлямов Аббас 2332
25. Миронов Николай 2230
26. Ремизов Михаил 2192
27. Морозов Александр 2152
28. Данилин Павел 2148
29. Бадовский Дмитрий 2105
30. Малашенко Алексей 2001
31. Кынев Александр 1859
32. Zhuravlev, Dmitry 1772
33. Гонтмахер Евгений 1761
34. Шульман Екатерина 1758
35. Жарихин Владимир 1739
36. Кузнецов Глеб 1608
37. Бунин Игорь 1565
38. Фадеев Валерий 1530
39. DUGIN, ALEXANDER 1453
40. Kurginyan, Sergey 1449
41. Матвейчев Олег 1260
42. Пожалов Александр 1250
43. Иноземцев Владислав 1225
44. Караганов Сергей 1225
45. Zlobin, Nikolay 1208
46. Туровский Ростислав 1204
47. Kholmogorov, Egor 1173
48. Куликов Дмитрий 1165
49. Бордачев Тимофей 1114
50. Межуев Борис 1112
51. Станкевич Сергей 1059
52. Становая Татьяна 1048
53. Зудин Алексей 1041
54. Trenin, Dmitry 1035
55. Нейжмаков Михаил 984
56. Третьяков Виталий 910
57. Добромелов Григорий 771
58. Колядин Андрей 737
59. Поляков Леонид 734
60. Макаренко Борис 725
61. Кагарлицкий Борис 671
62. Федоров Георгий 602
63. Тишков Валерий 598
64. Фетисов Дмитрий 589
65. Маркедонов Сергей 545
66. Жаров Максим 544
67. Смирнов Сергей 532
68. Lipman, Maria 502
69. Коновалов Александр 400
70. Солозобов Юрий 385
71. Дмитриев Михаил 372
72. Мигранян Андраник 351
73. Пионтковский Андрей 350
74. Минтусов Игорь 293
75. Kryshtanovskaya, Olga 247
76. Урнов Марк 191
77. Гаман-Голутвина Оксана 160
78. Игрунов Вячеслав 136
79. Мельвиль Андрей 124
80. Ципко Александр 98
81. Максимов Андрей 93
82. Шаравин Александр 71
83. Каспэ Святослав 64
84. Рябов Андрей 19
85. Кувалдин Виктор 11
 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Human Achievement, Nationalism, Russia 

trump-in-moscow

I watched the God Emperor’s ascension to the Golden Throne at a bar night for American expats in Moscow. The mood there was largely pro-Trumpist, though obviously there was a self-selection mechanism involved. Everyone disliked HRC, though there were a fair number of Bernouts.

I got into a discussion with a reasonably influential official from the Russian Foreign Ministry. As I expected, the mood there is reasonably optimistic. They seem to be assigning considerable weight to Trump’s past as a businessman, the assumption being that such a person would be easier to do deals with than the globalist ideologues who previously occupied the White House.

That said, once burnt, twice shy – and Russia was burned not just once, but thrice. Three times Russia made unilateral concessions to incoming US Presidents promising a reset in relations that ultimately went unreciprocated (the Foreign Ministry still has Hillary Clinton’s infamous reset button in its museum). The sanctions are simply not regarded as a very critical matter – the import substitution program is in full swing, and it is working – so there is absolutely no enthusiasm for making more of the unilateral concessions that Russia had gifted previous incoming US Presidents. A limited mutual reduction of nukes is considered an acceptable deal for a US commitment to curtail its interference in Ukraine, since the ongoing killings of Russians in the Donbass by the Maidanist regime is regarded as a legitimacy problem for the Russian government.

I got briefly interviewed by a French journalist doing a story on Moscow expat attitudes to Trump. Incidentally, the world of Moscow expats is a pretty small one – even though it was not a particularly big event, I nonetheless managed to meet half a dozen people whom I had corresponded with or at least seen on some comment thread or another during my now almost decade’s worth of “Russia watching.”

In other news, my latest podcast/interview with Robert Stark is out now.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Moscow, Open Thread, The AK, Trump 

PAPER REVIEW

Kong, Augustine et al. – 2016 – Selection against variants in the genome associated with educational attainment


marker

This paper makes the case that there has been a decline in the prevalence of genes increasing propensity for more education (POLY EDU) in Iceland from 1910-1975.

polyEDU-fertility

Here are some of the key points:

  • The main mechanism was greater age at first child, not total number of children (i.e. the clever are breeding more slowly).
  • As in many such studies, the effect is stronger for women.
  • One allele associated with more children and having them earlier also tags a haplotype associated with “reduced intercranial volume” and neuroticism: “… thus a striking case where a variant associated with a phenotype typically regarded as unfavorable could nonetheless be also associated with increased “ fitness” in the evolutionary sense.
  • The decrease in POLY EDU prevalence was faster earlier this century, but this is an artifact of the higher survival schedules of people with a higher propensity for education (i.e. tying in with the well known finding that higher IQ is associated with higher life expectancy). The decline from 1940 onwards becomes linear, and is a better measure of estimating the change of the average polygenic score over time.
  • It is estimated that is POLY EDU declining by 0.010 SUs per decade, but this rises to 0.028 SUs per decade because the measure captures only a fraction of the full genetic component of education attainment (POLY FULL).
  • The trends in POLY FULL are estimated to be causing a decline of 0.30 IQ points per decade.
  • The authors note that this has entirely canceled out and then some by the Flynn effect, but it could still have “a very substantial effect if the trend persists for centuries.”

Many other studies indicate that the FLynn effect has ended or gone into reverse across the developed world around the 2000s by the latest.

If it’s a permanent plateau, we could be seeing 3 IQ point declines per century. Extend that out for two or three centuries, add some more Third World immigration, and you get the 1 S.D. IQ decline that I posited for the Age of Malthusian Industrialism aka the business as usual scenario.

 

Here:

“Nuclear weapons should be completely prohibited and destroyed over time to make the world free of nuclear weapons,” Xi said, according to an official translation.

There’s just a few problems:

(1) In a world without MAD, China will eventually become an unrivalled military hegemon, by dint of its unrivalled industrial capacity.

(2) Of more immediate pertinence, does this include the couple thousand plus nuclear warheads that China might have tucked away in its 2,500km network of underground tunnels?

karber-chinese-nukes This was the theory proposed by Phillip Karber and his students in a 2011 study [big pdf], which analyzed Chinese fissile materials production and concluded that its nuclear arsenal was an order of magnitude bigger than claimed – perhaps 3,000 warheads.

There’s been a lot of criticism of Karber’s methodology, but its worth pointing out that around the same time, the former head of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, Viktor Yesin, came out with very similar figures. In a 2012 article for a Moscow military think-tank (pp. 25), Yesin posited China could have some 1,600-1,800 warheads.

This would be a pretty clever strategy on the part of the Chinese – quietly build up nuclear parity with the US and Russia, then strike up a progressive pose to build up stress cred with American leftists and “civilized” Yuropeans who will push for disarmament with gusto now that the Oval Office will be occupied by someone whom they view as a crazed General Ripper character.

This seems to be a concrete strategy the Chinese have adopted. They are now also talking a lot more about their love for renewable energy, their respect for small nation sovereignty, and about how Trump is a big fat ignorant idiot in general, all topics bound to resound well with the besuited latte-sipping IYI class of D.C., New York, and Brussels.

Most conveniently, the Americans might even take Russia along for the ride. Not only has nuclear disarmament traditionally focused around the Russia-US relationship, but Trump has also gone back on his old promise to upgrade the US nuclear arsenal, and is now linking the removal of Russia sanctions to nuclear downsizing.

A US with fewer or no nukes sees only a modest hit to its relative global power, at least in the medium-term, before the arrival of Chinese primacy.

But a Russia with far fewer or no nukes becomes a sidenote to world politics, and the Chinese threat to its Far East – currently entirely fictive – becomes quite germane.

I am by no means a Sinophobe, and as a country that practices realism, it is perfectly understandable for China to be doing what it is.

But it also has to be acknowledged that a world in which the US and Russia disarm while China potentially retains a huge, hidden nuclear complex will be a more dangerous and undesirable one. Now that China is beginning to stake out an “activist” position on this issue, it would be well warranted – before the beginning of any further serious talk about nuclear disarmament – to devote much more serious publicity and research to clarify whether Karber’s and Esin’s theories on the true size of China’s nuclear arsenal are, in fact, correct.

If it emerges that they do in fact have merit, then all future nuclear discussions must become a trilateral affair.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Nuclear Weapons 

Fundamentally solve the “intelligence problem,” and all other problems become trivial.

The problem is that this problem is a very hard one, and our native wit is unlikely to suffice. Moreover, because problems tend to get harder, not easier, as you advance up the technological ladder (Karlin, 2015), in a “business as usual” scenario with no substantial intelligence augmentation we will effectively only have a 100-200 year “window” to effect this breakthrough before global dysgenic fertility patterns rule it out entirely for a large part of the next millennium.

To avoid a period of prolonged technological and scientific stagnation, with its attendant risks of collapse, our global “hive mind” (or “noosphere”) will at a minimum have to sustain and preferably sustainably augment its own intelligence. The end goal is to create (or become) a machine, or network of machines, that recursively augment their own intelligence – “the last invention that man need ever make” (Good, 1965).

In light of this, there are five main distinct ways in which human (or posthuman) civilization could develop in the next millennium.

matrix-art

(1) Direct Technosingularity

kurzweil-singularity-is-near The development of artificial general intelligence (AGI), which should quickly bootstrap itself into a superintelligence – defined by Nick Bostrom as “any intellect that greatly exceeds the cognitive performance of humans in virtually all domains of interest” (Bostrom, 2014). Especially if this is a “hard” takeoff, the superintelligence will also likely become a singleton, an entity with global hegemony (Bostrom, 2006).

Many experts predict AGI could appear by the middle of the 21st century (Kurzweil, 2005; Müller & Bostrom, 2016). This should quickly auto-translate into a technological singularity, henceforth “technosingularity,” whose utilitarian value for humanity will depend on whether we manage to solve the AI alignment problem (i.e., whether we manage to figure out how to persuade the robots not to kill us all).

The technosingularity will creep up on us, and then radically transform absolutely everything, including the very possibility of any further meaningful prognostication – it will be “a throwing away of all the previous rules, perhaps in the blink of an eye, an exponential runaway beyond any hope of control” (Vinge, 1993). The “direct technosingularity” scenario is likely if AGI turns out to be relatively easy, as the futurist Ray Kurzweil and DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis believe.

(2) The Age of Em

The development of Whole Brain Emulation (WBE) could accelerate the technosingularity, if it is relatively easy and is developed before AGI. As the economist Robin Hanson argues in his book The Age of Em, untold quintillions of emulated human minds, or “ems,” running trillions of times faster than biological wetware, should be able to effect a transition to true superintelligence and the technosingularity within a couple of human years (Hanson, 2016). This assumes that em civilization does not self-destruct, and that AGI does not ultimately prove to be an intractable problem. A simple Monte Carlo simulation by Anders Sandberg hints that WBE might be achieved by the 2060s (Sandberg, 2014).

deus-ex-rbs

Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

(3) Biosingularity

We still haven’t come close to exhausting our biological and biomechatronic potential for intelligence augmentation. The level of biological complexity has increased hyperbolically since the appearance of life on Earth (Markov & Korotayev, 2007), so even if both WBE and AGI turn out to be very hard, it might still be perfectly possible for human civilization to continue eking out huge further increases in aggregate cognitive power. Enough, perhaps, to kickstart the technosingularity.

There are many possible paths to a biosingularity.

The simplest one is through demographics: The tried and tested method of population growth (Korotaev & Khaltourina, 2006). As “technocornucopians” like Julian Simon argue, more people equals more potential innovators. However, only a tiny “smart fraction” can meaningfully contribute to technological progress, and global dysgenic fertility patterns imply that its share of the world population is going to go down inexorably now that the FLynn effect of environmental IQ increases is petering out across the world, especially in the high IQ nations responsible for most technological progress in the first place (Dutton, Van Der Linden, & Lynn, 2016). In the longterm “business as usual” scenario, this will result in an Idiocracy incapable of any further technological progress and at permanent risk of a Malthusian population crash should average IQ fall below the level necessary to sustain technological civilization.

As such, dysgenic fertility will have to be countered by eugenic policies or technological interventions. The former are either too mild to make a cardinal difference, or too coercive to seriously advocate. This leaves us with the technological solutions, which in turn largely fall into two bins: Genomics and biomechatronics.

The simplest route, already on the cusp of technological feasibility, is embryo selection for IQ. This could result in gains of one standard deviation per generation, and an eventual increase of as much as 300 IQ points over baseline once all IQ-affecting alleles have been discovered and optimized for (Hsu, 2014; Shulman & Bostrom, 2014). That is perhaps overoptimistic, since it assumes that the effects will remain strictly additive and will not run into diminishing returns.

Even so, a world with a thousand or a million times as many John von Neumanns running about will be more civilized, far richer, and orders of magnitude more technologically dynamic than what we have now (just compare the differences in civility, prosperity, and social cohesion between regions in the same country separated by a mere half of a standard deviation in average IQ, such as Massachussetts and West Virginia). This hyperintelligent civilization’s chances of solving the WBE and/or AGI problem will be correspondingly much higher.

The problem is that getting to the promised land will take about a dozen generations, that is, at least 200-300 years. Do we really want to wait that long? We needn’t. Once technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 maturate, we can drastically accelerate the process and accomplish the same thing through direct gene editing. All this of course assumes that a concert of the world’s most powerful states doesn’t coordinate to vigorously clamp down on the new technologies.

Even so, we would still remain “bounded” by human biology. For instance, womb size and metabolic load are a crimper on brain size, and the specificities of our neural substrate places an ultimate ceiling even on “genetically corrected” human intellectual potential.

There are four potential ways to go beyond biology, presented below from “most realistic” to “most sci-fi”:

Neuropharmocology: Nootropics already exist, but they do not increase IQ by any significant amount and are unlikely to do so in the future (Bostrom, 2014).

Biomechatronics: The development of neural implants to augment human cognition beyond its peak biological potential. The first start-ups, based for now on treatment as opposed to enhancement, are beginning to appear, such as Kernel, where the futurist Randal Koene is the head scientist. This “cyborg” approach promises a more seamless, and likely safer, integration with ems and/or intelligent machines, whensoever they might appear – this is the reason why Elon Musk is a proponent of this approach. However, there’s a good chance that meaningful brain-machine interfaces will be very hard to implement (Bostrom, 2014).

Nanotechnology: Nanobots could potentially optimize neural pathways, or even create their own foglet-based neural nets.

Direct Biosingularity: If WBE and/or superintelligence prove to be very hard or intractable, or come with “minor” issues such as a lack of rigorous solutions to the AI alignment problem or the permanent loss of conscious experience (Johnson, 2016), then we might attempt a direct biosingularity – for instance, Nick Bostrom suggests the development of novel synthetic genes, and even more “exotic possibilities” such as vats full of complexly structured cortical tissue or “uplifted” transgenic animals, especially elephants or whales that can support very large brains (Bostrom, 2014). The terminal result of a true biosingularity could might be some kind of “ecotechnic singleton,” e.g. Stanisław Lem’s Solaris, a planet dominated by a globe-spanning sentient ocean.

Bounded by the speed of neuronal chemical reactions, it is safe to say that the biosingularity will be a much slower affair than The Age of Em or a superintelligence explosion, not to mention the technosingularity that would likely soon follow either of those two events. However, human civilization in this scenario might still eventually achieve the critical mass of cognitive power needed to solve WBE or AGI, thus setting off the chain reaction that leads to the technosingularity.

great-filter

(4) Eschaton

Nick Bostrom defined existential risk thus: “One where an adverse outcome would either annihilate Earth-originating intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.(Bostrom, 2002)

We can divide existential risks into four main bins: Geoplanetary; Anthropic; Technological; and Philosophical.

In any given decade, a gamma ray burst or even a very big asteroid could snuff us out in our earthly cradle. However, the background risk is both constant and extremely low, so it would be cosmically bad luck for a geoplanetary Götterdämmerung to do us in just as we are about to enter the posthuman era.

There are three big sources of “anthropic” existential risk: Nuclear war, climate change, and the exhaustion of high-EROEI energy sources.

Fears of atomic annihilation are understandable, but even a full-scale thermonuclear exchange between Russia and the US is survivable, and will not result in the collapse of industrial civilization ala A Canticle for Leibowitz or the Fallout video games, let alone human extinction (Kahn, 1960; Kearny, 1979). This was true during the Cold War and it is doubly true today, when nuclear weapons stocks are much lower. To be sure, some modest percentage of the world population will die, and a majority of the capital stock in the warring nations will be destroyed, but as Herman Kahn might have said, this is a tragic but nonetheless distinguishable outcome compared to a true “existential risk.”

Much the same can be said of anthropogenic climate change. While it would probably do more harm than good, at least in the medium-term (Stager, 2011), even the worst outcomes like a clathrate collapse will most likely not translate into James Lovelock’s apocalyptic visions of “breeding pairs” desperately eking out a hardscrabble survival in the Arctic. The only truly terminal outcome would be a runaway greenhouse effect that turns Earth into Venus, but there is simply nowhere near enough carbon on our planetary surface for that to happen.

As regards global energy supplies, while the end of high-density fossil fuels might somewhat reduce living standards relative to what they would have otherwise been, there is no evidence it would cause economic decline, let alone technological regression back to the Olduvai Gorge conditions as some of the most alarmist “doomers” have claimed. We still have a lot of fat to cut! Ultimately, the material culture even of an energy-starved country like Cuba compares very positively to those of 95% of all humans who have ever lived. Besides, there are still centuries’ worth of coal reserves left on the planet, and nuclear and solar power have been exploited to only a small fraction of their potential.

By far the biggest technological risk is malevolent AGI, so much so that entire research outfits such as MIRI have sprung up to work on it. However, it is so tightly coupled to the Technosingularity scenario that I will refrain from further commentary on it here.

This leaves mostly just the “philosophical,” or logically derived, existential risks. For instance, the computer simulation we are in might end (Bostrom, 2003) – perhaps because we are not interesting enough (if we fail to reach technosingularity), or for lack of hardware to simulate an intelligence explosion (if we do). Another disquieting possibility is implied by the foreboding silence all around as – as Enrico Fermi asked, “Where is everyone?” Perhaps we are truly alone. Or perhaps alien post-singularity civilizations stay silent for a good reason.

We began to blithely broadcast our presence to the void more than a century ago, so if there is indeed a “superpredator” civilization keeping watch over the galaxy, ready to swoop down at the first sign of a potential rival (e.g. for the simulation’s limited computing resources), then our doom may have already long been written onto the stars. However, unless they have figured out how to subvert the laws of physics, their response will be bounded by the speed of light. As such, the question of whether it takes us half a century or a millenium to solve the intelligence problem – and by extension, all other problems, including space colonization – assumes the most cardinal importance!

manyukhin-tower-of-sin

Vladimir Manyukhin, Tower of Sin.

(5) The Age of Malthusian Industrialism (or, “Business as Usual”)

The 21st century turns out to be a disappointment in all respects. We do not merge with the Machine God, nor do we descend back into the Olduvai Gorge by way of the Fury Road. Instead, we get to experience the true torture of seeing the conventional, mainstream forecasts of all the boring, besuited economists, businessmen, and sundry beigeocrats pan out.

Human genetic editing is banned by government edict around the world, to “protect human dignity” in the religious countries and “prevent inequality” in the religiously progressive ones. The 1% predictably flout these regulations at will, improving their progeny while keeping the rest of the human biomass down where they believe it belongs, but the elites do not have the demographic weight to compensate for plummeting average IQs as dysgenics decisively overtakes the FLynn Effect.

We discover that Kurzweil’s cake is a lie. Moore’s Law stalls, and the current buzz over deep learning turns into a permanent AI winter. Robin Hanson dies a disappointed man, though not before cryogenically freezing himself in the hope that he would be revived as an em. But Alcor goes bankrupt in 2145, and when it is discovered that somebody had embezzled the funds set aside for just such a contingency, nobody can be found to pay to keep those weird ice mummies around. They are perfunctorily tossed into a ditch, and whatever vestigial consciousness their frozen husks might have still possessed seeps and dissolves into the dirt along with their thawing lifeblood. A supermall is build on their bones around what is now an extremely crowded location in the Phoenix megapolis.

For the old concerns about graying populations and pensions are now ancient history. Because fertility preferences, like all aspects of personality, are heritable – and thus ultracompetitive in a world where the old Malthusian constraints have been relaxed – the “breeders” have long overtaken the “rearers” as a percentage of the population, and humanity is now in the midst of an epochal baby boom that will last centuries. Just as the human population rose tenfold from 1 billion in 1800 to 10 billion by 2100, so it will rise by yet another order of magnitude in the next two or three centuries. But this demographic expansion is highly dysgenic, so global average IQ falls by a standard deviation and technology stagnates. Sometime towards the middle of the millenium, the population will approach 100 billion souls and will soar past the carrying capacity of the global industrial economy.

Then things will get pretty awful.

But as they say, every problem contains the seed of its own solution. Gnon sets to winnowing the population, culling the sickly, the stupid, and the spendthrift. As the neoreactionary philosopher Nick Land notes, waxing Lovecraftian, “There is no machinery extant, or even rigorously imaginable, that can sustain a single iota of attained value outside the forges of Hell.”

In the harsh new world of Malthusian industrialism, Idiocracy starts giving way to A Farewell to Alms, the eugenic fertility patterns that undergirded IQ gains in Early Modern Britain and paved the way to the industrial revolution. A few more centuries of the most intelligent and hard-working having more surviving grandchildren, and we will be back to where we are now today, capable of having a second stab at solving the intelligence problem but able to draw from a vastly bigger population for the task.

Assuming that a Tyranid hive fleet hadn’t gobbled up Terra in the intervening millennium…

2061su-longing-for-home

2061.su, Longing for Home

The Forking Paths of the Third Millennium

In response to criticism that he was wasting his time on an unlikely scenario, Robin Hanson pointed out that even if there was just a 1% chance of The Age of Em coming about, studying it was well worth his while considering the sheer amount of future consciences and potential suffering at stake.

Although I can imagine some readers considering some of these scenarios as less likely than others, I think it’s fair to say that all of them are at least minimally plausible, and that most people would also assign a greater than 1% likelihood to a majority of them. As such, they are legitimate objects of serious consideration.

My own probability assessment is as follows:

(1) (a) Direct Technosingularity – 25%, if Kurzweil/MIRI/DeepMind are correct, with a probability peak around 2045, and most likely to be implemented via neural networks (Lin & Tegmark, 2016).

(2) The Age of Em – <1%, since we cannot obtain functional models even of 40 year old microchips from scanning them, to say nothing of biological organisms (Jonas & Kording, 2016)

(3) (a) Biosingularity to Technosingularity – 50%, since the genomics revolution is just getting started and governments are unlikely to either want to, let alone be successful at, rigorously suppressing it. And if AGI is harder than the optimists say, and will take considerably longer than mid-century to develop, then it’s a safe bet that IQ-augmented humans will come to play a critical role in eventually developing it. I would put the probability peak for a technosingularity from a biosingularity at around 2100.

(3) (b) Direct Biosingularity – 5%, if we decide that proceeding with AGI is too risky, or that consciousness both has cardinal inherent value and is only possible with a biological substrate.

(4) Eschaton – 10%, of which: (a) Philosophical existential risks – 5%; (b) Malevolent AGI – 1%; (c) Other existential risks, primarily technological ones: 4%.

(5) The Age of Malthusian Industrialism – 10%, with about even odds on whether we manage to launch the technosingularity the second time round.

There is a huge amount of literature on four of these five scenarios. The most famous book on the technosingularity is Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near, though you could make do with Vernor Vinge’s classic article The Coming Technological Singularity. Robin Hanson’s The Age of Em is the book on its subject. Some of the components of a potential biosingularity are already within our technological horizon – Stephen Hsu is worth following on this topic, though as regards biomechatronics, for now it remains more sci-fi than science (obligatory nod to the Deus Ex video game franchise). The popular literature on existential risks of all kinds is vast, with Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence being the definitional work on AGI risks. It is also well worth reading his many articles on philosophical existential risks.

Ironically, by far the biggest lacuna is with regards to the “business as usual” scenario. It’s as if the world’s futurist thinkers have been so consumed with the most exotic and “interesting” scenarios (e.g. superintelligence, ems, socio-economic collapse, etc.) that they have neglected to consider what will happen if we take all the standard economic and demographic projections for this century, apply our understanding of economics, psychometrics, technology, and evolutionary psychology to them, and stretch them out to their logical conclusions.

The resultant Age of Industrial Malthusianism is not only something that’s easier to imagine than many of the other scenarios, and by extension easier for modern people to connect with, but it is also something that is genuinely interesting in its own right. It is also very important to understand well. That is because it is by no means a “good scenario,” even if it is perhaps the most “natural” one, since it will eventually entail unimaginable amounts of suffering for untold billions a few centuries down the line, when the time comes to balance the Malthusian equation. We will also have to spend an extended amount of time under an elevated level of philosophical existential risk. This would be the price we will have to pay for state regulations that block the path to a biosingularity today.

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Bostrom, N. (2003). Are We Living in a Computer Simulation? The Philosophical Quarterly, 53(211), 243–255.

Bostrom, N. (2006). What is a Singleton. Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations, 5(2), 48–54.

Bostrom, N. (2014). Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. Oxford University Press.

Dutton, E., Van Der Linden, D., & Lynn, R. (2016). The negative Flynn Effect: A systematic literature review. Intelligence, 59, 163–169.

Good, I. J. (1965). Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine. In F. Alt & M. Ruminoff (Eds.), Advances in Computers, volume 6. Academic Press.

Hanson, R. (2016). The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth. Oxford University Press.

Hsu, S. D. H. (2014, August 14). On the genetic architecture of intelligence and other quantitative traits. arXiv [q-bio.GN]. Retrieved from http://arxiv.org/abs/1408.3421

Johnson, M. (2016). Principia Qualia: the executive summary. Open Theory. Retrieved from http://opentheory.net/2016/12/principia-qualia-executive-summary/

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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.