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


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 
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Last year, I resumed my New Year’s tradition of posting annual predictions.

I recently analyzed the success rate of those predictions for 2016, the year when meme magic became real.

Here are my predictions for 2017:

Predictions – World

World Affairs & Conflicts

  • No major conflict (>50 deaths) in East Asia/SE Asia that involves China and/or the US: 95%.
  • US will not get involved in any new major war with death toll of > 50 US soldiers: 80%.
  • No major conflict (>50 deaths), except Donbass, in the former Soviet space: 90%.
    • The big one here is Armenia vs. Azerbaijan, but because reasons, the likelihood of a new flareup is now considerably lower than last year.
  • Oil prices are higher than $60: 50%.
  • China’s GDP grows by 6%+: 50%.
  • China will have more top 500 supercomputers than the US throughout 2017: 70%.
  • There are fewer European migrant arrivals by sea than in 2016: 80%.
  • Venezuela does not undergo sovereign default: 80%.
  • Israel will not get in a large-scale war (i.e. >50 Israeli deaths) with any Arab state: 90%.
  • North Korea’s government will survive the year without large civil war/revolt (>100 deaths): 95%.
  • No new global temperature record: 90%.
    • If only because it will be hard to beat 2016. That said, I expect shipping in the Arctic to continue booming.
  • Radical life extension will not be developed: 99%.
  • Superintelligence will not be developed: 99%.
  • No further large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in Middle East/North African countries not already so afflicted: 70%.
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in USA: 95%.
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in China: 99%.
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions (>100 deaths) in Russia: 95%.
  • No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in any EU country (>100 deaths): 90%.

Syrian Civil War

  • cant-mossad-the-assad Bashar Assad will remain President of Syria: 95%.
  • IS no longer in control of Raqqa: 50%.
  • IS no longer in control of Palmyra: 80%.
  • IS no longer in control of Mosul: 95%.
  • IS still controls some territory in Iraq and/or Syria: 90%.
  • Syria still controls Aleppo: 80%.
    • The first danger is a Turkish stab in the back, in which its proxies turn hostile and, in effect, encircle Aleppo between al-Bab and Idlib (though I don’t view that as being likely). The second danger remains the banal fact that most of the SAA is no good, especially its garrison units. I don’t fully exclude the possibility of the rebels seizing the city back once the elite units are sent off somewhere else.
  • Syria still controls Deir ez-Zor airport: 90%.
  • Idlib is still under rebel control: 70%.
    • That province has the lowest polled support for Assad of any in Syria, and that number has correlated very well with the difficulties the Syrian state has had in reimposing its authority there.
  • US/Allies will NOT impose no fly zone over Syria: 95%.
  • Turkey will not “backstab” Russia and the Syrian government: 90%.
  • The Syrian Civil War is still ongoing: 95%.
  • Russian intervention in the Syrian Civil War is scaled down relative to today in a year’s time: 70%.

War in Donbass

  • War in Donbass doesn’t reignite: 80%.
    • Incidentally, and quite ironically, Trump’s election may well have made Ukraine’s position safer (that at least is also the opinion of Igor Strelkov). Were HRC to bloody Putin’s nose in Syria with a no fly zone, three guesses as to who the object of a “short victorious war” to restore Putin’s reputation might have been. With Trump, Syria as a source of escalation is removed.
    • The Ukrainians also now have far fewer reasons to heat things up, because its a safe bet that Trump won’t be interested in pulling their chestnuts out of the fire.
  • No “Putinsliv”/abandonment of Russian support for DNR/LNR, with Ukraine recapturing Donetsk and Lugansk: 99%.
  • Mariupol still under Ukraine control: 90%.
  • Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, and Kharkov all still under central Ukrainian control: 95%.
    • Kolomoysky has been defanged as a regional attractor, but Odessa remains a potential powderkeg. I think Ukraine will pull through – as I’ve always noted, Right Sector thugs count for more on the streets than protesting pensioners.
  • Poroshenko remains in power: 90%.
  • The Ukraine does not undergo sovereign default: 90%.
    • The next key date is January 2017 when the Commercial Court in the UK rules on the status of Russia’s $3 billion loan to Ukraine.
  • The Ukrainian economy shows GDP growth: 80%.
    • If only because there is very little room for it to fall any further, with GDP per capita only 70% that of the UkSSR in 1989.


  • Putin remains Russian President: 95%.
  • Putin announces entry into Presidential race for his second (fourth in total) term: 90%.
  • GDP grows by 2%+: 50%.
  • Putin’s approval rating according to Levada doesn’t dip below 70% during the year: 50%.
  • Russians have a more positive view of the US than of the EU as of the last Levada poll in that year: 60%.
  • There will not be any substantial anti-government protests (>10,000): 90%.
    • Trump isn’t interested, and the Europeans don’t have as much money.
  • Natural population growth: 70%.
  • Total population growth: 95%.
  • The Crimea remains Russian: 99%.

United States

  • rex-predictionTrump remains US President: 95%.
  • Rex Tillerson becomes and remains Secretary of State: 80%.
    • Had already predicted his rise at PredictIt well before Trump made it public (see right).
  • Hillary Clinton does not get prosecuted: 90%.
  • US economy grows by 3%+: 50%.
  • US relaxes or removes Russia sanctions: 50%.
    • Trump might support that, but Congress surely won’t.
  • The Alt Right acrimoniously splits into Trumpists and anti-Trumpists: 70%.
    • This prediction actually dates back to May 2016.
    • Incidentally, this is yet another fascinating Putin/Trump parallel – Putin’s Solovyev/Starikov are Trump’s Milo/Cernovich, while the ethnats have at best a “mixed” relationship with them.
  • The “Ferguson Effect” reverses or at least stabilizes (homicides in major urban areas peak off): 60%.
  • Freedom House lowers United States Freedom Rating: 50%.
    • For instance, lowers “Civil Rights” category from 1 to 2, because they are too triggered by Trump.
  • There will be fewer campus disinvitations “from the Left”: 70%.


  • François Fillon becomes French President: 70%.
  • Marine Le Pen will not be French President: 80%.
    • Yes, to be sure, last year’s events made fools of mainstream analysts, but the fact remains that the French political system is very tough for nationalists. Trump wouldn’t have won in that format either.
  • Merkel remains German Chancellor: 70%.
  • Frauke Petry will not be German Chancellor: 90%.
    • Based on opinion polls, I just don’t see how it’s possible.
  • No country leaves the Eurozone: 95%.
  • Article 50 is invoked in the UK: 90%.
  • No second Scottish referendum is called: 80%.
  • Scotland remains in the UK: 95%.
  • No Islamic terrorist attack in Europe causing more than 100 deaths: 70%.
  • The EU relaxes or removes Russia sanctions: 60%.
    • The Mediterraneans don’t care and are getting increasingly restive.


  • The Unz Review has fewer viewers than in 2016: 70%.
    • Would be great to be wrong, but it’ll be hard to beat the (last) Current Year.
  • Mount & Blade: Bannerlord released: 95%.
  • GRRM publishes Winds of Winter: 80%.

Predictions – The AK

  • I will still be in Russia: 95%.
  • I will make my hajj to Crimea: 50%.
  • I will continue blogging: 95%.
  • I will write a record amount of blog posts (172+): 70%.
    • I should imminently have a lot more free time so my productivity should increase.
  • There will be more comments than in 2016: 80%.
  • There will be more visits and views than in 2016: 80%.
  • I will create a Russian language blog and write more than 10 posts for it: 60%.
  • I will write 30+ book reviews: 50%.
  • I will write 5+ game reviews: 50%.
  • I will write fewer than 5 movie reviews: 80%.
  • I will author or coathor a paper: 90%.
    • An S Factor analysis of Russia is forthcoming.
  • I will author or coathor two papers: 70%.
  • I will not author or coauthor more than two papers: 80%.
  • I will finish writing at least one book: 70%.
  • I will publish that book by Dec 31, 2017: 50%.
  • I will not be banned or shadowbanned on Twitter or Facebook: 90%.
    • Of course it helps that I barely use them nowadays.
  • I will finally get a RationalWiki “hagiography” ala JayMan or hbdchick: 50%.


Lazy Glossophiliac and E. Harding contributed their own predictions.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Prediction, Rationality 
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In the spirit of #SkinInTheGame, Taleb’s idea that pundits should at least stake their reputations on the strength of their knowledge, last year I made some predictions about what has come to be known as The Current Year.

Like Scott Alexander, I am calibrating my predictions by comparing the percentage of predictions I got right at each probability level versus their probability (e.g., for predictions at the 70% confidence level, perfect calibration would represent getting 7/10 of them correct). Predictions with a probability rating of less than 50% are converted to their inverse.

Correct predictions are left as is, while wrong predictions are crossed out.



(1) The Syrian government will control a larger proportion of territory in a year’s time relative to today: 80%. Gains in Latakia and the capture of Aleppo, but ironically, pushed back further in Palmyra than at the same period last year. Though the strategic value of Aleppo cancels out Palmyra tenfold, in technical terms this is still a failed prediction. My main area of uncertainty was regarding Turkish or Western intervention against Assad. In truth, the sadder and more banal reality is that outside a few elite units the SAA remains mostly worthless.

(2) A majority of these happen: (a) SAA liberates Deir Hafir; (b) Palmyra; (c) All of Latakia; (d) Links up with the Nubl pocket; (e) Maintains hold on Deir ez-Zor airport. 80%. Deir Hafir is still under Islamic State, while small bits of Latakia are still controlled by the rebels. The Nubl pocket was linked up with, and Deir ez-Zor airport is still under Syrian control. Though recently recaptured, Palmyra was still liberated, so this is technically a correct prediction.

(3) Assad will remain President of Syria: 90%. YES.

(4) The Iraqi government will control a larger proportion of territory in a year’s time relative to today: 90%. YES.

(5) Islamic State will continue to lose ground in its heartlands and might end the year controlling little more than its capitals, but its overseas franchises – most notably in Libya – will expand further: 50%. Has been all but excised from Libya.

(6) The Houthis gain ground in Yemen: 60%. Comparing the maps between Dec 2015 and today, the Houthis seem to have lost ground, although very marginally. I should probably stop making predictions about wars and places I know very little about.

(7) The War in Donbass reignites: 30%. INVERSE 70% it doesn’t: YES.

(8) Mariupol ends the year in DNR hands: 10%. INVERSE 90% it doesn’t: YES.

(9) “Putinsliv” aka Putin abandons support for DNR/LNR and Ukraine recaptures them: 5%. INVERSE 95% Putinsliv doesn’t happen: YES. That said, nobody really expected this apart from the more zrada-anticipating Russian nationalists.

(10) A new conflict in the former Soviet space: 20%. INVERSE 80% no conflict: YES. Actually I outright said the most likely place for that would be Armenia vs. Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, and it came to pass, though not at a large enough scale to quality as a conflict.


(1) Politics – The Russian Duma elections are slated for September 2016. United Russia will comfortably take a majority of the seats: 95%. YES. UR took 343/450 = 76% of the seats (I predicted 80%).

(2) Politics – Electoral falsifications will be less than in the 2011 Duma elections: 70%. YES. There was much more than I expected – I was expecting the introduction of a partial FTPT system to greatly reduce this problem – but fewer than in 2011 nonetheless.

(3) Economics – The recession will end in 2016: 80%. YES. Multiple indicators suggest this has indeed happened in the second half of the year, so I am willing to call this as a win.

(4) Economics – There will be overall positive GDP growth in 2016: 60%. Nope.

(5) Ukraine – The recession will end in 2016: 70%. YES. Ultimately, its so depressed that there’s hardly any room to fall further.

(6) Ukraine – The Poroshenko regime remains in power: 80%. YES.

(7) Demographics – Russia will see natural population growth: 40%. INVERSE 60% there will be no natural growth. I was wrong – according to preliminary figures, the Russian population increased by 18K to November, relative to 24K in the same period last year. The population also almost always grows in December.

(8) Demographics – Russia will see population growth: 95%. YES.

(9) Demographics – Life expectancy will increase: 80%. The mortality rate continues falling, a modest 1.3%, and the population isn’t getting any younger, so that’s a YES. It will probably be around 72 years in 2016, just as I predicted.

(10) Demographics – TFR will increase: 50%. This is currently very hard to assess. The number of births fell by 1.7%, but its well known that the number of women in their childbearing years is still falling, so overall the two effects will have almost perfectly canceled out. Therefore I am not yet in a position to rate this prediction. The total TFR for 2016 will certainly be in the TFR = 1.75-1.8 range, just as in the past two years.


(1) US/Allies will impose no fly zone (i.e. attack Assad) over Syria: 10%. INVERSE 90% will not. YES.

(2) US will not get involved in any new major war with death toll of > 100 US soldiers: 90%. YES.

(3) An Islamic terrorist attack in Europe causing more than 100 deaths: 30%. INVERSE 70% there will not be. YES. The Nice attacks killed 86 people.

(4) Brexit: 10%. INVERSE 90% no Brexit. Well that’s a fail, though at least I did up it to more than 50% a week before the referendum.

(5) The Euro is here to stay: 90%. YES.

(6) China will not go into recession or have a hard landing: 90%. YES.

(7) End of Western sanctions against Russia: 10%. INVERSE 90% sanctions remain. YES.

(8) Israel will not get in a large-scale war (i.e. >100 Israeli deaths) with any Arab state: 90%. YES.

(9) North Korea’s government will survive the year without large civil war/revolt: 95%. YES.

(10) Oil prices will NOT end the year below $40: 70%. YES. WTI Crude is currently at $53, which is about what I expected. Note that many analysts were predicting $20 oil.

(11) Will be hottest year on record thus far: 80%. YES. Absolutely, and by a large margin. The Arctic is in absolute meltdown.

(12) No further large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in Middle East/North African countries not already so afflicted: 70%. YES.

(13) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in USA: 99%. YES.

(14) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in China: 99%. YES.

(15) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in Russia: 95%. YES.

(16) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in any EU country: 90%. YES.

(17) China tops 2016 Olympics Gold medals table: 40%. INVERSE 60% it will not. YES.

(18) Germany will win UEFA Euro 2016: 30%. INVERSE 70% it will not. YES.

(19) Russia will predictably disappoint at UEFA Euro 2016 and will get knocked out at the group stage: 50%. YES. “… But Russia fans are regularly schooled on the dangers of abandoning pessimism” – indeed!

(20) Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is released: 80%. The Turk disappoints. It’s my solitaire goddamit, get a move on!


(1) Donald Trump will secure the Republican nomination : 40%. INVERSE 60% Trump won’t get it.

(2) Hillary Clinton will secure the Democratic nomination : 90%. YES.

(3) Hillary Clinton becomes US President: 70%. Do note that I raised my assessment to 50% by June 2016 in a discussion with Razib Khan, and to 60-70% by September 2016 (no Internet record of it but ask Mike Johnson or Scott Jackisch), but then my nerve failed at the last moment (even though my final prediction of a 291-247 HRC win in the Electoral Collage was closer than that of most analysts, and I even got Michigan right). I may not be the God-Emperor’s psyker like the brilliant Scott Adams but being wrong was never sweeter.

(4) The US enters recession: 20%. INVERSE 80% no recession. YES.

(5) Peak SJW?: No percentage due to inability to measure. My impression is that “peak SJW” has indeed passed, at least for now. Do you agree?


(1) I will write a record amount of blog posts: 70%. 127 to 130 last year.

(2) I will author or coathor an academic paper: 60%. Currently collaborating on an S factor analysis of Russia with Emil Kirkegaard

(3) I will finish writing at least one book: 30%. INVERSE 70% no books. YES.

(4) I will finally heed the advice of my detractors and fuck off back to Russia: 90%. YES.

(5) I will end up being underconfident on these predictions: 50%. Seems evenly calibrated. But the New Year is arriving in 15 minutes, so I don’t have time to calculate the exact calibration, so most fortuitously my two responses at the 50% confidence level remain exactly 50% correct. Wasn’t a great idea to have three questions at this confidence level!!


Here is my calibration graph:


I got really unlucky on my 60% confidence level predictions.

Here is what happens where all the 60% and 70% confidence predictions are combined into one 65% confidence level:


Not to blow my own horn, but this is some impressive calibration.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Geopolitics, Prediction, Rationality 
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It’s just a bit ironic that the figurehead of a movement (best known to the general public as the author of the world’s most popular Harry Potter fanfic) that emphasizes “politics is the mindkiller” has lapsed into all-out Putin-Trump Derangement Syndrome and fake news generation.


Not entirely unexpected, though – Arthur Chu, an SJW activist and onetime Yudkowsky disciple, famously admitted to “mindkilling” himself on a “regular basis” because that is what “you have to do to be a feminist anti-racist progressive.” I suppose going hardcore like that might marginally increase your messaging effectiveness by reducing internal cognitive dissonance, but at the cost of… well, 98% of people regarding you as an unhinged loon.

Which makes it all the more difficult for people to take you seriously on the actually serious matters like the AI alignment problem (that is, people outside the LW/EA bubble).

Anyhow, the background: Vladimir Bukovsky, a Russian “dissident” who lives in Britain, and the “hero” of the NYT article cited by Yudkowsky, was found to have child pornography on his computer in 2015. He has since been charged by the Crown Prosecution Service with possession. On his part, Bukovsky has insisted that he was framed. (Incidentally, this was an explanation that The Unz Review’s John Derbyshire was curiously eager to buy into. I suppose boy fiddlin’ might be a kebab pervasion when practiced by Asian grooming gangs, but it is also a hallowed tradition of the English upper class, and hey, dey culcha has to be respected).

Quite why the Russian intelligence services would want to set up an irrelevant has-been whom nobody outside a 100m radius of Echo of Moscow HQ even knows exists must remain a mystery. Though one can only admire their dedication – apparently, there were thousands of images, downloaded over a 15 year period. Putin must have started the operation almost as soon as he first became President!

In short, we have come to the point – at least amongst a certain “rationalist” segment of American society – where maintaining “traditional” stances on child pornography is now tantamount to being a Putler shill.

One is tempted to assume that this is the usual shitlibbery at work. But still, there are other curious coincidences. Like, why would Yudkowsky start kvetching about this now of all times? Surely it can’t have anything to do with certain pizza-related rumors that have begun to circle and gain media attention on the altsphere this past month.

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This month the SF Bay Area based rationality organization LessWrong has released the latest survey of its members, or rather of its “diaspora,” since the site itself has gone mostly dormant with many of their members now congregating at Scott Alexander’s blog and Yudkowsky’s various offshoots).

Although some critics disparage Less Wrong as a clique of depressed autists – a stereotype considerably affirmed by its own surveys – it also hosts a concentration of highly motivated and intelligent people, many of whom are involved in cutting edge pursuits (artificial intelligence, transhumanism, effective altruism) and, one suspects, will on average achieve more and contribute more to technological and scientific progress than even the typical person of a similar IQ. As such, that makes LWs an interesting object of sociological study.

Less Wrong Demographics 2016: International

Taking into account only people who gave concrete answers to the question of nationality, 54% of LWs listed their primary country as the United States, while fully three quarters belonged to the Anglosphere (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand). The biggest non-Anglo communities were in Germany, Russia, Poland, France, Sweden, and Israel.

Below are all the countries which hosted more than 1% of the global LW community as gauged by the 2016 survey.

Country Share of Global LW Population
United States 54.1%
United Kingdom 7.8%
Canada 6.0%
Australia 5.9%
Germany 3.5%
Russia 2.3%
Poland 1.7%
France 1.4%
Sweden 1.3%
Israel 1.2%
Netherlands 1.1%
Denmark 1.1%
New Zealand 1.1%
India 1.1%
Finland 1.0%
Others 9.6%

In per capita terms, as you might have guessed, this is in ethnic terms a primarily Anglo, Judaic, and Nordic community. It has a modest presence in East-Central Europe, which begins to fade as you go into Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Latin America, and vanishes almost entirely in high IQ East Asia (even in rich, developed countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan which all have strong contacts with the SF Bay Area, the epicenter of the global LW community).


In geographic terms, the Hajnal Line can as usual be discerned but it is shifted substantially east into Eastern Europe. Possibly this is because many LWs have a programming background, and Eastern Europe has no shortage of good programmers.

Less Wrong Demographics 2016: United States

Considering only the US, non-Hispanic Whites are substantially overrepresented relative to their share of the US population, while Hispanics and especially Blacks are very much underrepresented.

LessWrong Race (USA, 2016) %share %USpopulation Overrepresentation
White (non-Hispanic) 87.3% 62.1% 1.41
Middle Eastern 0.6% 2.5% 0.22
Hispanic 2.3% 16.9% 0.14
Black 0.4% 12.6% 0.03
Asian (Indian subcontinent) 1.9% 1.3% 1.52
Asian (East Asian) 3.5% 4.3% 0.81
Other 4.1% 9.1% 0.45

East Asians are underrepresented, though they converge with (non Jewish) Whites when Fillipinos – of whom there are almost as many as Chinese in the US – are removed from the East Asian category. However, considering that Less Wrong has its epicenter in the SF Bay Area, which is now a quarter Asian, and it becomes fair to say that relative to the population that Less Wrong typically draws upon – technically inclined, high IQ, Californian, SF Bay Area – and the East Asian underrepresentation becomes very, very substantial (though it is impossible to quantify this precisely since this survey had no information on where precisely in the US respodents came from).

In so doing, this underrepresentation provides yet another hint towards alternative explanations for the “bamboo ceiling” that have nothing to do with structural oppression and more to do with things like whether you have the curiosity to browse through Yudkowsky’s sequences in your free time.

LessWrong Race (USA, 2016) %share %USpopulation Overrepresentation
White (non-Hispanic) 76.7% 62.1% 1.23
Middle Eastern 0.3% 2.5% 0.13
Hispanic 1.9% 16.9% 0.11
Black 0.4% 12.6% 0.03
Asian (Indian subcontinent) 1.9% 1.3% 1.52
Asian (East Asian) 3.5% 4.3% 0.81
Jews 11.9% 2.0% 5.97
Other 3.3% 9.1% 0.37

When the figures are adjusted to count people who identify as Jews as a separate ethnicity, that dramatically lowers White overrepresentation and basically converges Middle Easterners with Hispanics. Asians from the Indian subcontinent overtake them, though not when adjusted for their greater demographic presence (not to mention intelligence and presence in the tech world) in the SF Bay Area.


Meanwhile, the Jews themselves come to account for a larger share of the Less Wrong population than all the other non-White minorities combined.


There are six times as many Jews in Less Wrong as their share of the US population. Apart from their off cited intelligence, there are also relatively more Jews in the SF Bay Area than the average for the US, at around 3% of the population. Furthermore, considering that both of the most prominent “gurus” of Less Wrong, Eliezer Yudkowsky and Scott Alexander, are Jews, this is perhaps not all that surprising.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Jews, Rationality, San Francisco 
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Last month there was an interview with Eliezer Yudkowsky, the rationalist philosopher and successful Harry Potter fanfic writer who heads the world’s foremost research outfit dedicated to figuring out ways in which a future runaway computer superintelligence could be made to refrain from murdering us all.

It’s really pretty interestingl. It contains a nice explication of Bayes, what Eliezer would do if he were to be World Dictator, his thoughts on the Singularity, justification of immortality, and thoughts on how to balance mosquito nets against the risk of genocidal Skynet from an Effective Altruism perspective.

That said, the reason I am making a separate post for this is that here at last Yudkowsky gives a more more or less concrete definition of what conditions a superintelligence “explosion” would have to satisfy in order to be considered as such:

Suppose we get to the point where there’s an AI smart enough to do the same kind of work that humans do in making the AI smarter; it can tweak itself, it can do computer science, it can invent new algorithms. It can self-improve. What happens after that — does it become even smarter, see even more improvements, and rapidly gain capability up to some very high limit? Or does nothing much exciting happen?

It could be that, (A), self-improvements of size δ tend to make the AI sufficiently smarter that it can go back and find new potential self-improvements of size k ⋅ δ and that k is greater than one, and this continues for a sufficiently extended regime that there’s a rapid cascade of self-improvements leading up to superintelligence; what I. J. Good called the intelligence explosion. Or it could be that, (B), k is less than one or that all regimes like this are small and don’t lead up to superintelligence, or that superintelligence is impossible, and you get a fizzle instead of an explosion. Which is true, A or B? If you actually built an AI at some particular level of intelligence and it actually tried to do that, something would actually happen out there in the empirical real world, and that event would be determined by background facts about the landscape of algorithms and attainable improvements.

You can’t get solid information about that event by psychoanalyzing people. It’s exactly the sort of thing that Bayes’s Theorem tells us is the equivalent of trying to run a car without fuel. Some people will be escapist regardless of the true values on the hidden variables of computer science, so observing some people being escapist isn’t strong evidence, even if it might make you feel like you want to disaffiliate with a belief or something.

Psychoanalyzing people might not be so useful, but trying to understand the relationship between cognitive capacity and technological progress is another matter.

I am fairly sure that k<1 for the banal reason that more advanced technologies need exponentially more and more cognitive capacity – intelligence, IQ – to develop. Critically, there is no reason this wouldn’t apply to cognitive-enhancing technologies themselves. In fact, it would be extremely strange – and extremely dangerous, admittedly – if this consistent pattern in the history of science ceased to hold. (In other words, this is merely an extension of Apollo’s Ascent theory. Technological progress invariably gets harder as you climb up the tech tree, which works against sustained runaway dynamics).

Any putative superintelligence, to continue making breakthoughs at an increasing rate, would have to not only solve ever harder problems as part of the process of constantly upgrading itself but to also create and/or “enslave” an exponentially increasing amount of computing power and task it to the near exclusive goal of improving itself and prevent rival superintelligences from copying its advances in what will surely be a far more integrated noosphere by 2050 or 2100 or if/whenever this scenario happens. I just don’t find it very plausible our malevolent superintelligence will be able to fulfill all of those conditions. Though admittedly, if this theory is wrong, then there will be nobody left to point it out anyway.

• Category: Science • Tags: Apollo's Ascent, Rationality, Superintelligence 
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I like predictions. Part of that is related to my passion for quantifying everything, but another is philosophical, and borne of my antipathy towards charlatanism (I am extremely sympathetic to N.N. Taleb on this issue). In 2005, U.C. Berkeley psychologist Philip Tetlock published a study on expert fallibility spanning 18 years, 284 experts and 82,361 forecasts on economics and politics. Their average forecast was worse than if they had simply assigned equal probabilities to every outcome. Journalists and professors, undergrads and PhD’s, left-wingers and right-wingers – all were about equally (in)accurate. One group in particular stood out for its poor performance. They were the experts with the biggest reputations – the ones always being sought out by the media for sound bytes – making predictions on their own areas of professional interest. To add the incarnadine cherry to the meringue and cream pie, those on-demand experts were also the ones most confident in their own predictive prowess!


Though xkcd is far too kind to the sociologists.

Now to be sure there are areas, especially the exact sciences, where real experts do exist – that is, experts as in experts who are consistently right. Nobody will hire a physicist who doesn’t understand differential equations. Charlatans are quickly identified. But this is far harder in the social and political sciences, where leading “experts” generally can and do avoid making any falsifiable predictions (not that it matters much since even even those who do make big mistakes, far from being called to account for it, are instead made Ambassadors to Russia). This is a sad if perhaps inevitable state of affairs. After all, good mathematicians merely blow up manifolds. “Good” economists blow up economies. “Good” political scientists might blow up the world.

In any case, now that I am in the habit of regular blogging again – recall that I took a long break in 2014 before I moved to Unz one year ago – I have decided to resurrect my longtime New Year’s tradition of making predictions about the coming year and thus resume my minimal contribution to making the punditry at least somewhat answerable to reality. The one difference from previous years is that I will also now be adopting Slate Star Codex’s method of calibration.


(1) The Syrian government will control a larger proportion of territory in a year’s time relative to today: 80%.

My guesstimate two months ago that the RuAF will be able to swing the balance of military power across multiple local theaters from stalemate to one favoring the SAA appears to be correct. In the most significant development, Kweiris AFB and its environs have been liberated; with the YPG now in control of Tishrin Dam, the Islamic State in the north may now be in danger of being completely cut off. Advances are being made in Daraa, Hama and Homs, and around Aleppo. Rebel offensives are now almost uniformly unsuccessful. Of course large-scale Western or even Turkish intervention against Assad can still change everything.

(2) A majority of these happen: (a) SAA liberates Deir Hafir; (b) Palmyra; (c) All of Latakia; (d) Links up with the Nubl pocket; (e) Maintains hold on Deir ez-Zor airport. 80%.

(3) Assad will remain President of Syria: 90%.

Even in the event that there is a new round of elections, Assad is easily the most popular personality in Syria. This is proved in opinion poll after opinion poll. He wouldn’t even have to falsify anything. If there was ever going to be an internal coup, it would have already happened. Short of a freak death/assassination, or open Western aggression (which Russia preempted this year with its intervention), he is likely secure as never before during this war.

(4) The Iraqi government will control a larger proportion of territory in a year’s time relative to today: 90%.

(5) Islamic State will continue to lose ground in its heartlands and might end the year controlling little more than its capitals, but its overseas franchises – most notably in Libya – will expand further: 50%.

That said I think its “extinction” (in Syria/Iraq) will have to wait a couple more years. Note that there are two separate conditions in this prediction.

(6) The Houthis gain ground in Yemen: 60%.

Not by any means knowledgeable on this subject, but Saudi military performance appears to be atrocious – traditional Arab military incompetence and with no asabiya to compensate.

(7) The War in Donbass reignites: 30%.

In particular I can imagine the Poroshenko regime doing this to draw attention away from Ukraine’s continuing economic collapse (with default on the horizon) and approval ratings that are now even lower than Yanukovych’s in 2013.

(8) Mariupol ends the year in DNR hands: 10%.

Will obviously be lower than the risk of the War in Donbass reigniting. Is the next logical target, but might be preempted by a Minsk III. Also Rinat Akhmetov might well object as he did last time.

(9) “Putinsliv” aka Putin abandons support for DNR/LNR and Ukraine recaptures them: 5%.

I have always been skeptical of this popular theory amongst the more “enthusiastic” Russian nationalists. But Prosvirnin and Co. could conceivably turn out to be right.

(10) A new conflict in the former Soviet space: 20%.

These do tend to creep up every few years. The most obvious (but largely unknown) focal point is Armenia vs. Azerbaijan, and tensions have drastically crept up this year. If Aliev wants to regain Nagorno-Karabakh, now would not be the worst time to go about it.


(1) Politics – The Russian Duma elections are slated for September 2016. United Russia will comfortably take a majority of the seats: 95%.

United Russia is consistently polling ~45%, which rises to ~70% when people who reply N/A or say they’re not going to vote are excluded. This is unlikely to change much for the worse because the recession will likely be easing up by the time elections come up (see below). In between Orban- and Yanukovych-style election rules changes, this will translate to probably around 80% of the seats in the next Duma on current trends (up from 64% today).

(2) Politics – Electoral falsifications will be less than in the 2011 Duma elections: 70%.

When they were quite substantial (about +7% to United Russia). With the election rules changes, there will be less need of that to guarantee a Putinist majority. There are ways of approximating this so this is a valid prediction. The currently high approval ratings of Putin and patriotic fever in any case make a repeat of the Bolotnaya protests of 2011-12 highly unlikely. Khodorkovsky will remain disappointed.

(2) Economics – The recession will end in 2016: 80%.

As I argued in this article, the Russian recession of 2014 is best viewed as a Volcker-type shock, as opposed to being the result of any deeper underlying problem in competitiveness or political economy. Actually for a variety of reasons I expect the Russian economy to grow unusually strongly in the 2016-2020 period, but that is for another post. I should stress that the great bulk of the decline has to do with the collapse in oil prices and has had little to do with the sanctions (about 10% to be precise).

(4) Economics – There will be overall positive GDP growth in 2016: 60%.

These are the projections of various international financial organizations such as the World Bank and in this case I see no particular cause to take issue with them. That said, the IMF predicts -0.6%.

(5) Ukraine – The recession will end in 2016: 70%.

The Ukraine is an economic disaster zone. Literally. Automobile sales have returned to the levels of 196 9 (fifty years ago in the hypermilitarized “sovok” economy). Almost as much housing is being constructed in Russia’s Krasnodar Kray – population 5 million – as in all of Ukraine – population 40 million. But a consequence of all this is that it really is difficult to see how it could possible go much lower. After all, Ukraine still has respectable levels of human capital, and should peace prevail and should it maintain solvency (and the IMF has given every indication it will stretch the rules to ensure that it does) a resumption in growth from its very low base seems likely.

(6) Ukraine – The Poroshenko regime remains in power: 80%.

There is a very good chance that Yatsenyuk will go but I see no obvious reasons why Poroshenko will not survive 2016 as well as the pro-Western orientation of the Ukrainian state. His approval ratings might be in the gutter, but unlike Yanukovych, he has bloodied hoodlums to ensure his rule, and the acquiescence of the capital. (In contrast Kiev turned on Yanukovych even though opinion polls indicated that as of February 2014 more Ukrainians disapproved of the Maidan than approved of it). More importantly, he has the support of the US in his battle with the oligarchs. The oligarchs turned against Yanukovych because they didn’t want to run the risks of having their assets in the West frozen. To the contrary, Joe Biden is now in no uncertain terms demanding that Igor Kolomoysky – the biggest oligarch who opposes Poroshenko – step in line (which he does). (Incidentally, I am in communication with a very well informed geopolitical analyst who thinks that Ukraine’s pro-Western orientation will NOT survive 2016. My own sympathies regardless, I am betting against him.)

(7) Demographics – Russia will see natural population growth: 40%.

As it has in 2013, 2014, and almost certainly in 2015 (December statistics forthcoming). Incidentally, predicting Russia’s demographic recovery in the first place – I have been doing this since 2008, back when it was a marginal view amongst both professional demographers and the general Western and even Russian punditry – has been the crowning success of my predictive career. That said, a number of demographic realities now intrude on this positive picture. The Russian TFR (total fertility rate) now appears to have essentially stabilized at 1.7-1.8 children per woman, but the number of women in their childbearing age is now (and has been for the past 5 years) declining precipitiously as the “lost generation” of the 1990s reaches their peak fertility years. Assuming deaths remain broadly steady – rising life expectancy balanced against the secular aging of the population – it will now be a close call between deaths and births. (Not that a plus or minus sign at the beginning of a number measured in the tens of thousands out of a population of 145 million is all that significant except symbolically).

Incidentally, apologies for the strong focus on demographics. Its been an obsession of mine since I began blogging (mostly because all the Kremlinologists were getting the most basic facts wrong).

(8) Demographics – Russia will see population growth: 95%.

This is a no brainer. Immigration has always been strongly positive and will easily cancel any possible small decline in natural population growth. Predicted population increase of about half a million.

(9) Demographics – Life expectancy will increase: 80%.

I was right that the cut in alcohol excise taxes only had a very marginal effect on mortality this year (in fact improements continued after adjusting for Crimea), and with this now accounted for, I fully expect to see life expectancy to rise substantially in 2016. I expect Russia’s life expectancy to be around 72 years in 2016.

(10) Demographics – TFR will increase: 50%.

Far less certain because the traditional driver of TFR increases in Russia in the past decade has been the abrogation of 1990s-era birth postponement. This process will gradually draw to an end, while the full impact of the 2014 recession will be making itself felt. Of course due to the age structure of the natural population, even a constant TFR will result in a decrease in births of almost 3%. So that is highly likely (80%?). I expect Russia’s TFR to be around 1.8 children per woman in 2016.


(1) US/Allies will impose no fly zone (i.e. attack Assad) over Syria: 10%.

Real possibility in 2013-2014, appears to have faded with Russia’s intervention. Scuffles with Turkey regardless.

(2) US will not get involved in any new major war with death toll of > 100 US soldiers: 90%.

Borrowed from Scott Alexander.

(3) An Islamic terrorist attack in Europe causing more than 100 deaths: 30%.

Although the concern about them is highly understandable, it should be noted that in the past ~decade there were only two such instances – Spain in 2004, and France in 2015. So there’s likely a less than 50% chance of that happening in any one year, regardless of the current increase in tensions.

(4) Brexit: 10%.

Even assuming the referendum is held this year and not in 2017, both polls and bookies still show a large margin for the UK to remain in the EU.

(5) The Euro is here to stay: 90%.

And the EU too. Take issue with Leonid Bershidsky as you will, but for the most part I agree with his conclusions – at least for next year.

(6) China will not go into recession or have a hard landing: 90%.

Happy to take an easy win from the predicted-ten-of-the-past-zero-Chinese-recessions crowd.

(7) End of Western sanctions against Russia: 10%.

Not gonna happen. But they’re not all that significant and they don’t seem to be all that stringently enforced.

(8) Israel will not get in a large-scale war (i.e. >100 Israeli deaths) with any Arab state: 90%.

Borrowed from Scott Alexander. Agreed.

(9) North Korea’s government will survive the year without large civil war/revolt: 95%.

Borrowed from Scott Alexander.

(10) Oil prices will NOT end the year below $40: 70%.

I am highly skeptical about people claiming oil prices will tumble down to $20. When the electronic herd unanimously veers in one direction, it is time to stop and ponder. The equilibrium inflation-adjusted price of oil in the 1945-1973 period was around $20, which suggested that this was the marginal cost of producing an extra barrel of oil during that period back when nobody had even heard of M. King Hubbert. His projections of “peak oil” might have been invalidated by technological innovation – especially the exploitation of shale oil – yet even so, the decline of the easiest to access oil in the four decades since means that it is highly implausible that the longterm equilibrium price of oil is still at $20. EROEI will have gone down in the intervening years. Short of a new global recession (unlikely – see below), I do not see any big further declines in the oil price.

(11) Will be hottest year on record thus far: 80%.

Happy to take an easy win from the ever diminishing global-warming-denial crowd. Likely that 2016 will be even hotter than record setting 2015.

(12) No further large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in Middle East/North African countries not already so afflicted: 70%.

I.e., Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, etc. Excludes developments in Syria, Iraq, and Libya.

(13) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in USA: 99%.

(14) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in China: 99%.

(15) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in Russia: 95%.

(16) No large scale civil wars/revolts/revolutions in any EU country: 90%.

(17) China tops 2016 Olympics Gold medals table: 40%.

It has been going up and up over the years. Don’t see this as a particularly illogical prediction. Russia will plummet due to its disbarment from athletic competitions in 2016 Rio Olympics.

(18) Germany will win UEFA Euro 2016: 30%.

The German team continues going from strength to strength. Nobody else is even close. That said, football is unpredictable.

(19) Russia will predictably disappoint at UEFA Euro 2016 and will get knocked out at the group stage: 50%.

England, Russia, Wales, Slovakia. Second place should be a breeze, but Russia fans are regularly schooled on the dangers of abandoning pessimism.

(20) Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is released: 80%.

I am dying to play that game. Hopefully with the Oculus Rift.


(1) Donald Trump will secure the Republican nomination : 40%.

While the Trump Who Cannot be Stumped might be by far the highest polling candidate, the establishment bigwigs really hate him, and so the bookies give the edge to Rubio. Now for the record I give Trump higher figures than the bookies, and not (hopefully) because of my personal sympathies/biases but because due to my experience of Russia watching, I am currently observing some uncanny parallels between the media campaign against him and against Putin. The Western MSM has gone head over heels trying to deny the popularity of Putin in Russia, and now appears to be doing the exact same with Trump (which incidentally might partly explain why Putin and Trump have banded together in a mutual admiration society). But when you deny an overly obvious thing people tend to just get angry and mistrustful of the Lugenpress (“lying media”) in general, an effect which will massively help Trump. Even so, the deck is stacked against him – unlike Trump, Putin was initially appointed to high office – so I think it is more likely than not that he will fail to become US President or even secure the Republican nomination.

(2) Hillary Clinton will secure the Democratic nomination : 90%.

(3) Hillary Clinton becomes US President: 70%.

Like it or not the Democrats appear to remain poised to hold on to the Presidency, short of a major recession beginning right about now…

(4) The US enters recession: 20%.

But I don’t see that happening for reasons I have already expounded upon.

(5) Peak SJW? I don’t really see how you can go about quantifying that – through Google Trends? – but 2015 has clearly been the year of the Social Justice Warrior. But in between the spectacle of the Pink Guards shouting down genteel university professors and the wave of violent crime that #BLM has ushered in thanks to their vilification campaign against the police, 2016 might see the reaction against it – now mostly confined to pepe- and anime-themed avatars on the Internet – increasingly move into the mainstream.

Establishment attack dogs such as George Will (another charlatan) claim that Trump winning the nomination will destroy the GOP, but frankly I think the risks of that happening are higher if the elites conspire to deny it to him. He would then be in a position to directly challenge the GOP by running as an independent and indeed has indicated he might do just that. A large percentage – possibly a majority – of the Republican rank and file will follow him and allow him to create a genuine third political force purged of neocons and cuckservatives. I put the independent chances of this happening at: 20%.

That said, a caveat is that I do not expect any longterm changes. American Millenials are SJWs. And they will be ruling the country in 20-30 years time. Pray for radical life extension so the old fogies can balance them out!


(1) I will write a record amount of blog posts: 70%.

This is rather likely even if I do say so myself. I have much better productivity systems in place today relative to start-2014, when I had several other RL commitments besides (one of which basically forced me to take a 2 month break during the summer). I only have to do marginally better this year to surpass my all time record in 2012 and 2013. So long as Unz doesn’t fire me, and there isn’t any big personal crisis-related emergency, I fully expect this to happen. Consequently, I also expect record amounts of comments, visitors, visits, etc.



(2) I will author or coathor an academic paper: 60%.

I have been putting it off but its hopefully more likely than not this year. The two potential topics are Russian demography (by myself) and the structure of Russian IQ (collaborator).

(3) I will finish writing at least one book: 30%.

This refers primarily to Apollo’s Ascent, though I have a few ideas for sci-fi books twirling about in my head too (problem is that I am very bad at coming up with interesting plots). I really wish it was higher but I know myself better than to indulge in too much optimism. That said, this is one prediction I really hope to fail at.

(4) I will finally heed the advice of my detractors and fuck off back to Russia: 90%.

It’s been years since I was last there and I intend to make a potentially very lengthy visit.

(5) I will end up being underconfident on these predictions: 50%.

Borrowed from Scott Alexander. Predictions <50% will be converted to their inverse for calibration evaluation in one year’s time. There are 50 predictions in total so that allows for a fairly comprehensive analysis.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Geopolitics, Prediction, Rationality 
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Effective altruism (EA) is the fairly simple idea that in charitable giving as in financial investment, you should aim to put your money where it would do the most good – be it earning the highest returns, or helping the maximum number of people. It is a laudable enough goal, though the ideas behind it are hardly new or revolutionary – I recall Jeffrey Sachs touting the superiority of anti-malarial nets over other higher-profile forms of development aid on cost-effectiveness merits back in the mid-2000s, well before “effective altruism” was on anyone’s radar. And I agree with the approach in principle. How could anyone not? Because the core of EA is just helping people live better, richer, healthier lives in clever and cost-effective ways, e.g. anti-malarial nets over dams, $40 trichiasis operations over $40,000 guide-dogs for the blind, machine intelligence research to ensure our future robot overlords don’t kill us all, and – open borders.

Wait, what? Here is where we come to some “problematic” aspects of EA. On paper, it is all about being rationalist. In practice, it is composed of people. What kind of people? EA demographics overlap a lot with that of LessWrong, which has carried out detailed censuses of its members – only 2% of them describe themselves as conservatives, while another 2% describe themselves as neoreactionary (where else would you get that kind of breakdown?), while the other 95% are mostly liberals, libertarians, social democrats, and anarchists of various stripes. They are composed primarily of upper-middle class Americans more compelled to engage in passive aggressive status signalling than to reliably carry rationalism through to its logical conclusions, no matter how unpalatable they might be liberal sensibilities. A few are just outright sperglord level autists.

effective-altruism-immigration A good litmus test for this hypothesis would be to see their attitudes on the current immigration engulfing Europe. The LessWrong boards are almost dead, and as far as I can see all the most intensive discussions are occuring on Facebook. A Sailerite Ctrl-F on EA’s biggest Facebook group shows 33 results for “refugee” and 22 results for “migra” just this past September.

Even if we were not all evil racists who don’t want any filthy foreigners aroun… or, merely accept the validity of discounting the welfare of outside groups relative to that of our own countrymen, there would still be some very legitimate arguments against open borders fundamentalism even from a pure EA perspective.

Here are some of the obvious ones:

  • As anyone with eyes to see has noticed, and as even the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has admitted in a recent report, the overwhelming majority of the current migrant wave into European is composed of young adult males. Not women or children, who are typically the biggest war victims.
  • Of which only half are from Syria.
  • Will in general be people who can afford the ~$10,000 needed for the Mediteranean route in the first place, or the ~$5,000 route to Norway via Murmansk so it’s not clear how much in the way of cash and other material aid they really need in the first place.
  • So we are really talking about maximizing utility, so wouldn’t it be more logical to make this more targetted and efficient by importing a few million of the most destitute people in say the D.R. Congo as opposed to Syria or Iraq, which however wartorn they might be are still far more prosperous than most of Sub-Saharan Africa?
  • But where precisely do you stop? 640 million people want to emigrate around the world, most of them from the Third World to the First.
  • Will First World countries composed overwhelmingly of Third Worlders continue to remain First World? More importantly from an EA perspective, would they retain the ability to substantively help the teeming multitudes of the Third World, or even hold conferences on topics such as “effective altruism”? The answer to this question might seem obvious to Unz Review readers, but will likely only confuse and bewilder many self-styled rationalists and EA’ers, many of whom are cognitive and racial blank slatists (this includes their high prophet Eliezer Yudkowsky if his magnum opus HPMOR is anything to go by).

And some of the less so obvious ones:


Ocean Front Suites for $2,500 in city center of Dar es Salaam.

  • One dollar of spending money goes about five times further in poor countries than it does in First World countries due to purchasing power differences. (And that’s without considering the “extras” in the form of extra policing, language courses, welfare spending, etc. that First World nations would have to provide in order to pay for all the new vibrant diversity). If conditions in Syria are so utterly unacceptable that young males have no choice but to emigrate, surely it would be more effectively altruistic to encourage them to settle elsewhere in the Third World – say, why not a relatively stable and Islamic but poor country, like Tanzania, Senegal, or Bangladesh? The $10,000 they pay the Italian or Greek mafias to smuggle them into Europe would probably be enough to buy a nice house there!
  • European EA’ers could even subsidize them with a few $1,000s for the first few years to help them settle in their new homelands and encourage them to stay put. A Syrian doctor or engineer would be a great boon to a typical $1,000-$2,000 GDP per capita African country, where there are very few such specialists in the first place. In a European country, there are no substantive shortages of high IQ specialists, and your Syrian doctor or engineer would be just as likely to end up as a taxi driver (or would it be Uber now?) as to make relevant use of whatever professional qualifications he might have. There are 4 physicians per 1,000 people in Germany, compared to 1.5 in Syria and just 0.4 in Bangladesh, 0.1 in Senegal, and 0.0 in Tanzania. Having a Syrian doctor be a taxi driver in Germany is a bad skills misallocation on the global level, one that easily incurs an opportunity cost in the $10,000s, and it should elicit howls of outrage from any truly rationalist EA’er.
  • Or how about at least channeling some of this money to the few million real refugees stuck in drab refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey? Those people at least won’t be throwing food away like the desperate starving illegals at Calais:

  • When a Syrian migrates to Germany or Sweden, he effectively triples his carbon dioxide emissions. When he migrates to the US, he almost doubles it again. If we are talking about an Eritrean instead, the increase is more on the order of a hundredfold. Exploding populations in the First World means carbon dioxide emissions increasing much more rapidly than if it had taken place in a relatively poor country like Syria, let alone in the most destitute countries like Eritrea. More carbon dioxide emissions means more rapid global warming which in turns means even greater challenges to increasing prosperity in the countries of the Global South. AGW is a topic typically beloved of by progressives, but for some reason they don’t tend to mention it much in the context of immigration debates.
  • How about just stop funding Islamist crazies and support Assad, who according to opinion polls enjoys the most legitimacy of any political force in Syria? That would be not just the EA’iest but also literally the easiest low-effort, high-impact action of them all.
  • Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen, since the people opposing this are considerably more powerful than the Left’s anti-immigration racist bogeymen and most rationalists appear to have lapped up their propaganda as readily as most other Westerners.

Now some of the comments on immigration in the Effective Altruism Facebook discussion group are within the rationalist spirit of EA and are intelligent and relevant even if they fail to challenge the broader “open borders” dogma. (I see no reason to blank out names since this is a public group).

refugees-effective-altruism Others however are just your typical status signalling do-gooders and moralistic exhibitionists.


Ines Ve sounds like a nice enough if naive person. Let’s hope she doesn’t get too disabused of her notions, like this fellow did:

And predictably you have the SJWs, down to the non-ironic use of “problematic” in casual conversation. I can’t even!


Highly authoritarian and typically of only fairly modest intelligence, they are the death of any mildly interesting or intellectual movement that embraces them. I would not bet much on EA’s future.

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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.