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I have long wanted to make a “pilgrimage” to Borovsk, home to the museum-apartment of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, one of the three major thinkers – along with Nikolay Fyodorov and Vladimir Vernadsky – who could be said to be the fathers of Russian Cosmism, which is the precursor to modern transhumanism.

Fortunately, to reach Borovsk, the easiest way is to take a train to the nearby “science city” (наукоград) of Obninsk, which also happens to be the residence town of our very own Egor Kholmogorov, a Russian conservative-nationalist philosopher whose work regularly appears on The Unz Review. My traveling companion Fluctuarius Argenteus (the translator of most of Kholmogorov’s output) and I would like to express our thanks to Egor and his wife for taking the day off to show us all around Obninsk and Borovsk.

Egor Kholmogorov contemplates the meaning and future of Russia in the orchard next to the Tsiolkovsky Museum.

Donate to him: https://akarlin.com/donations-kholmogorov/

***

Obninsk

During the Soviet era, Obninsk was a science city (наукоград) that was given its status in 1956. It specialized in the nuclear industry, hosting the world’s first civilian NPP from 1954. In subsequent years, many other hi-tech enterprises sprouted up. I can’t say it is the most postcard picturesque city, though there are a number of cute “sciency” monuments scattered about the place and some nice avant-garde architecture. However, it is not in a state of decay thanks to its still active heavy industry, and unlike most small regional towns of its profile – especially those close to Moscow’s gravity well – its population has actually edged slightly upwards since the Soviet collapse.

The park by the railway station, which is currently being renovated, features a large stele with a diagram of the atom (which happens to also be on the flag of Obninsk).

Monument to the Pioneers of Nuclear Energy.

This cutaway of a К-14 nuclear submarine doubles as a Monument to the Pioneers of the Nuclear Submarine Fleet.

***

This building in the 1920s avant-garde style served as a Spanish language school for the children of Spanish Republican politicians in exile from their defeat in the Spanish Civil War through to the start of World War II.

The Physics Energy Technicum was a major center of nuclear energy research in the USSR and formed the nucleus around which the Soviet city grew. Though, as one might guess from its facade, the days when it produced serious research are long gone.

The entrance to the site that hosted the world’s first NPP.

This building used to belong to a late Imperial Russian factory owner and philanthropist called Margarita Morozova. Like most such objects, it was nationalized in 1917, and became more famous as the Western Front HQ for Zhukov during 1942. It later became a retreat for the town’s nuclear scientists.

It was passed down to the local (краеведческий) museum in 2015 and is currently closed for restoration.

***

City Museum

The main city museum is appropriately located in the brutalist-futurist building above.

It has four main galls focusing, respectively, on its early history and the peasantry; on the pre-Revolutionary nobility; on the main era of its construction and World War II; and on its modern industry.

***

Neolithic to Imperial Age

The first human settlements in this area appeared 7,000 years ago. This was the region of the (Finno-Ugric) Dyakovo culture, which merged with that of the expanding Vyatich tribe of the Slavs around 1000 AD.

Russian hornbooks of the late 19-early 20C.

One of the more curious objects is a 17th century wood and leather chair from Spain, which somehow found its way to the Obninsk area during the Imperial era.

***

Early USSR

This hall focuses on the likbez (eradication of illiteracy campaign), World War II, and the immediate postwar period.

The text on the blackboard says “We are not slaves, slaves we are not”, a popular phrase from the first Soviet hornbook. It is amusing they would feel the need to affirm that.

Incidentally, the likbez campaign was a failure. It is very hard to impart literacy to adults, and largely a waste of resources to try to do so (resources that could be spent educating children instead).

One section in particular focused on the “free schooling” project in the 1920s run by Stanislav Shatsky (who died in 1934, a few years before he could be repressed). The early USSR saw vigorous if often ill-founded educational experimentation.

Another section covered the aforementioned Spanish school for children of Republican politicians. This topic is a major source of interest for Fluctuarius Argenteus for professional reasons.

***

Later USSR

This section of the hall deals with the towns post-Stalin history, which saw the city of Obninsk growing to its present size.

Pravda report on the launch of the first civilian nuclear power plant in the USSR on June 27, 1954.

Model of the first NPP.

Throughout the museum, there are reconstructions of the rooms of normal people, as well as higher functionaries and scientists. This one belongs to Nikolay Timofeev-Ressovsky, a Soviet biologist who was persecuted by the Lysenkoists.

Timofeev-Ressovsky meeting with Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

(This photo is available at full resolution in case people want to read these rather interesting texts about the politicization of science in the post-Stalin USSR).

***

Top Right: Atheist Lectorium for Youth: The Religion Modernity, 1985/86.

***

Icebreakers, polar bears, etc.

***

Exhibition

The final hall is devoted to temporary exhibitions.

***

Borovsk

Borovsk is a small town (population: 12,000) about 20 km distant from Obninsk. Originally part of the Principality of Ryazan during the medieval era, it passed to Moscow during the 14th century.

It is an out of the way place that was passed over during the railway construction era, so its population has never risen substantially above its Imperial era level; it had 9,000 people in 1857, and the same number in 1913.

Borovsk is also famous for having multiple wall paintings by famed local graffiti artist Vladimir Ovchinnikov.

***

Intercession of the Theotokos Church

Wooden church from the late 16-early 17C, on the site of a former men’s monastery.

***

There is a restaurant nearby offering cheap, healthy food with large portions featuring a stunning view of the surroundings.

Monument to Saint Pafnuty of Borovsk, who was the mentor of Joseph of Volokolamsk, who would become one of the key figures in Russian monasticism.

***

Museum-Room of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

Why is Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) important?

  • One of the founders of modern rocketry, laying the theoretical basis for space exploration.
  • Inventor of the all-metal dirigible.
  • One of the key figures in Russian cosmism (later, transhumanism), calling for biological immortality and space exploration.
  • As (slightly mis)quoted in the Civilization video games: “Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever.
  • All round polymath (“I am a pure autodidact: I take everything from the mathematicians, geometrists, and mechanics… almost everything from the natural philosophers… and a lot from the philosophers“).

Anyhow, just read the Wiki.

I also believe that he may have uncovered the “Goldilocks Zone” concept in 1925, almost three decades before its official “invention” in the West in 1953, and he likewise appears to have articulated the Fermi Paradox in advance of most others.

Tsiolkovsky at the Vyatka Male Gymnasium (1871), far left/top.

Tsiolkovsky spent the years 1890-1902 as a school teacher in Borovsk, marrying and starting a family in the house that now serves as the museum. (Above photo is enlarged if you want to read all the quotes).

Autism Lv. 80: “I viewed marriage only in practical terms: Already, by the age of 16, I was theoretically done with all the absurdities of religion… On the wedding day, I bought a lathe from my neighbor and cut glass for electric machines.”

As one might expect, the people of Borovsk thought he was a bit of a eccentric who was a bit too obsessed with his trinkets.

Nonetheless, he did make friends with the local intellectuals during this period, as well as leading scientists in Saint-Petersburg (including Dmitry Mendeleev), who promoted his ideas amongst the Empire’s scientific and technical societies.

Borovsk is where Tsiolkovsky developed his design for an all-metal dirigible (see top, image is enlarged).

How Tsiolkovsky’s desk and workshop in Borovsk may have looked like.

Note the design on the chair; does it remind you of something? Some logo? 🙂

Tsiolkovsky moved to Kaluga with his family in 1892, where he taught until 1921. This is where he developed his most notable ideas about rocketry and space exploration, most notably in the 1903 article “Exploration of Outer Space by Means of Rocket Devices.”

Tsiolkovsky at the Kaluga Women’s Diocesan School (far right) in 1914, now “School №.9” in Kaluga. Despite his quite open irreligiosity, he had no problems finding work with ROC-affiliated educational institutions.

Tsiolkovsky giving one of his students a “5” (highest possible mark).

Scenes from other schools where Tsiolkovsky taught.

Tsiolkovsky continued teaching after the Revolution, although the Civil War period was one of hardship for him (as for many others). The above letter is his letter of resignation from teaching duties in October 1921.

Note an interesting detail: He now calls himself a “school worker” (школьный работник), or “shkrab” (шкраб) for short. This was the politically correct way to refer to refer to schoolteachers (formerly учитель) from September 30, 1918 which also saw the abolition of grades, admissions exams, etc., which along with other “culturally Marxist” policies was only later reversed under Stalin.

His financial situation easened the following month, when he was assigned a lifelong pension by the Soviet government for his contributions to science.

That said, it must be noted that Tsiolkovsky was not an opponent of the Soviet regime, believing that his ideas were more respected and likely to be realized under them than under the old order.

Tsiolkovsky and family, Kaluga, May 1932.

In total, he produced seven children, of whom six survived to adulthood. However, two sons committed suicide in their youth, while another two died in 1919 and 1922 from bronchitis and tuberculosis, respectively. So only two daughters lived out “full” lives.

Road leading away from the Tsiolkovsky Museum.

***

Borovsk Monastery of St. Paphnutius

The men’s monastery of Saint Pafnuty of Borovsk (1444), where Joseph of Volokolamsk (Ivan Sanin) took the tonsure in 1459. He became hegumen after Pafnuty’s death in 1477, but eventually left to form his own monastery in Volokolamsk when the brothers took exception to his attempts to impose rigid discipline.

It was captured and burned by the Poles in 1610, and burned again by the French in 1812. However, as usual, the biggest long-term damage was inflicted under the Soviets, who seized it in 1923 and turned it into a prison. It later became an agricultural college, and then part of the Borovsk local museum, before being returned to the ROC in 1991.

Based and redpilled: “Handing out alms to gypsies at the entrance to the monastery is not blessed.

Constructed in 1460 on the place of the original wooden church, the Nativity Cathedral features rich though degraded art from the icon painters Mitrofan and Dionisy. They still requires extensive restoration work.

***

Bell tower with attached refectory.

***

Church of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker

This is a picturesque early 19C church in the village of Rusinovo just outside Borovsk. It was closed in the 1930s, like almost all churches, and brought into a state of disrepair.

What was left of it after German shelling and Soviet era neglect was returned to ROC in 1998, and it has since been restored.

However, the main reason to stop by – it’s on the road to Obninsk anyway – is to admire the gorgeous views. There is also a cafeteria, though it’s only open until 5pm.

***

 

The past weekend saw the ninth Geek Picnic. This is an annual Russian science/sci-fi festival where technologists and futurists come together to hear lectures presentations, see tech exhibits, and do other futuristic things.

I decided to come to this one to see what’s it’s all about. Some of you may have followed my Twitter thread on it – now available as a blog post, updated and expanded.

Appropriately, it was near the Sparrow Hills metro station, a charmingly archeofuturist construction of glass columns surrounded by forested park, looking out on the Luzhniki stadium and skyscrapers from one direction, the occult-like HQ of the Russian Academy of Sciences from the other.

Sponsored by the LDPR? 🙂

Entrance to the Geek Picnic.

The Geek Picnic itself is separated into a few separate areas, including the food court, the Main Stage (for star guests and musical performances), Geek Kids (self-explanatory), the Picnic area (games, books, cosplay), and the Campus area (which features topical lecture tents and exhibits, such as Artificial Intelligence, Outer Space, (Im)mortality, GameDev, and Neurospot.

This year’s main theme was radical life extension.

The Chinese company Unitree Robotics presented their household robot Laikaguo. It’s nowhere near as impressive as the spry specimens offered up by Boston Dynamics, but the difference is that they will actually be within range of household budgets.

The Unitree designer Xing Wang said that he expects household robots to become to the 2020s what smartphones were to the past decade.

Cosplayers.

This was the pavilion devoted to “old school games.”

Incidentally, Moscow also has a cafe + museum of Soviet arcade machines, which I wrote about here.

Prince of Persia brings back memories. My best time on that was 29 mins.

Stellarc is a transhumanist artist who is into body modification performances.

“Nick Land unpublished texts can be seen on the right” – Momino.

His shtick is all kinds of “creepy and uncanny” artistic experiments. One of his performances involved him getting suspended naked by hooks attached onto the flesh on his back. Other performances explore bodily autonomy, in which people connected to him via the Internet get to control his arm for a few days, while his head is strapped into a VR helmet that feeds him the visual experiences of another man half a world away during that same period of time.

But he is most famous for growing an ear on his arm, which anybody in the world can listen into.

Glory to the Haemonculi!

A girl with hair styled in the colors of the Russian state imperial flag.

Anti-ageing researcher Aubrey de Grey was this year’s star guest. He made his standard speech about his core philosophy – namely, that since understanding the mechanics of ageing to the extent where we can prevent it from happening is too hard…

… we should concentrate – for now – on coming up with ways on how to clean up the seven types of damage to the body that our metabolism produces.

I will not repeat what he said in much detail – it was a standard talk, and you can find much more information about SENS online.

Here are the more interesting things I noticed:

(1) Aubrey’s public speaking has improved tremendously since when I last met him at a Transhuman Visions conference in 2014. Good on him.

(2) He says he likes coming to Russia. Apparently, he doesn’t get asked as many stupid questions here.

(3) Most importantly, he has very good news to report on the anti-ageing front. Aubrey now puts what I understand to be Robust Human Rejuvenation at 15-17 years from now, which would translate to 2034-46 (previous estimate this February was 2037). For context, he only became bold enough to start putting out probability estimates last year.

(4) Why the confidence? Because there is a growing avalanche of money going into this sphere, with new companies sprouting up every week (investors don’t tend to bet on moonshots). Moreover, all seven strategies (for engineered negligible senescence) are now under mouse experimentation or will be so by the following year. There is also now a plan to enable human clinical trials of genuine rejuvenation biotech by 2021 (“Project 21”).

I told Aubrey it might be a good idea to carry out an expert survey amongst gerontologists on when Robust Mouse/Human Rejuvenation will happen (like AI researchers have done on AGI). I pointed out while many gerontologists don’t want to publicly associate with his “out there” ideas, this may not hold true in the context of an anonymous poll (e.g. you don’t see many AI experts talking about machine superintelligence, but expert polls show the median projection for that to happen to be around 2050). Having an expert poll showing significant expert acceptance of the legitimacy of the SENS approach would help shake off his reputation as a “maverick” operating outside the scientific consensus.

Hopefully he might give this some consideration.

My transhumanist acquaintance Alexey Turchin, whom I first met way back in my Hipsterfornia days, made a speech on “Digital Immortality: How to Collection Information In Such a Way That a Future AI Will Be Able to Resurrect Us.

Unfortunately, his lecture coincided with Aubrey’s, so between him and Aubrey I had to choose the latter.

Yandex rep Anton Slesarev: Driverless taxis in Moscow in 3-4 years.

This is corporate PR so I suppose take it with a grain of salt, but he says Yandex is one of the global leaders in this sphere and in the world’s top 3-5. In fairness, that’s not hard to believe.

I got a biography of Richard Feynman for asking the best question.

There was an nVidia demo showing off their latest VR environment, which you can interact with through a pair of remote controllers that correlate to your arms in the simulation.

Very cool.

Very SWPL.

(Performance by the “Desert Planet” bank).

“Tesla Show” rated at 5 million volts, with drone thrown in for good measure.

Day 2. Began with a talk on CRISPR. Unfortunately, the speaker wasn’t great, and there were numerous technical programs with the equipment.

Book prize was selection was based, though… Pinker’s The Blank Slate (only translated into Russian last year), and even Wade’s Our Troublesome Inheritance.

Danila Medvedev, head of the Russian Transhumanist Movement, talked about the modern history of what had begun as Russian cosmism more than a century ago now.

Incidentally, he said he believes that augmenting IQ should be an even higher priority than radical life extension. I happen to strongly agree.

Andrey Borisenko, Russian cosmonaut.

Borisenko is positive about the prospects of the Russian space program, despite much larger economies of the US and China. “Their GDP might be five timer larger, but we can do the same things five times cheaper.”

It’s worth noting that Geek Picnic is very heavily corporate endorsed. Just a short sample of companies that had a heavy presence:

  • Volkswagen displayed their cars
  • Norilsk Nickel had their pavilion too, also with VR displays (but low quality)
  • Tele2
  • Vkontakte
  • Yandex
  • Russian news organizations: RIA, RT, Kommersant, Komsomolskaya Pravda
  • nVidia
  • Strongbow cider

Final lecture I went to was Alexander Tyshkovsky, a bioinformatician and presenter at a YouTube science channel.

Mouse Biodiversity (MBD): If I understood this right (will try to confirm), only 20% of mouse breeds actually showed longevity improvements from calorie restricted diet.

Interesting takes:

(1) Tyshkovsky is less upbeat than De Grey; thinks next 15 years will merely see visibly effective longevity supplements, but not Robust Human Rejuvenation. But suspects people now in their 20s will live to immortality.

(2) Also said there is little experimental longevity science in Russia since feeding the mice with special supplements daily is expensive. However, much of this is now bioinformatics, and mainly only needs computers, so Russia can still compete.

***

Incidentally, I also met the executive director of KrioRus here. As I said, this event attracts all sorts of interesting people like moths to a flame. So if things work out, I might be able to personally report on Russia’s Alcor before the end of this month.

 

Both futurist progressives and right-wing obscurantists (such as Dreher and Dugin) often regard transgenderism as a subset of transhumanism.

This gets it 100% backwards.

At current tech levels, gender reassignment surgery is just glorified mutilation. Transhumanism is about human augmentation, not incapacitation.

You don’t augment yourself in any way whatsoever by transitioning towards an ersatz version of the other sex. You become infertile and develop many hormonal and psychological problems. Actively pushing people into it, especially children, as seems to be increasingly happening in many Western countries, is evil.

Most techs that might be considered to be transhumanist are currently prospective, if not speculative. That said, things such as pacemakers and contact lenses should quality. Maybe even spectacles – the Renaissance Italian invention that allowed many scholars to effectively double their working lives. After all, affixing a thin screen of chemically and thermally processed sand in front of your eyes isn’t entirely natural.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Transgenderism, Transhumanism 

All the cool biopunk stuff seems to be happening in China these days: Chinese scientists have put human brain genes in monkeys—and yes, they may be smarter

Here is the paper in question:

Shi, Lei, Xin Luo, Jin Jiang, Yongchang Chen, Cirong Liu, Ting Hu, Min Li, et al. 2019. “Transgenic Rhesus Monkeys Carrying the Human MCPH1 Gene Copies Show Human-like Neoteny of Brain Development.National Science Review, March. https://doi.org/10.1093/nsr/nwz043.

Brain size and cognitive skills are the most dramatically changed traits in humans during evolution, and yet the genetic mechanisms underlying these human-specific changes remain elusive. Here, we successfully generated 11 transgenic rhesus monkeys (8 first-generation and 3 second-generation) carrying human copies of MCPH1, an important gene for brain development and brain evolution. Brain image and tissue section analyses indicated an altered pattern of neural cell differentiation, resulting in a delayed neuronal maturation and neural fiber myelination of the transgenic monkeys, similar to the known evolutionary change of developmental delay (neoteny) in humans. Further brain transcriptome and tissue section analyses of major developmental stages showed a marked human-like expression delay of neuron-differentiation and synaptic signaling genes, providing a molecular explanation to the observed brain developmental delay of the transgenic monkeys. More importantly, the transgenic monkeys exhibited better short-term memory and shorter reaction time compared to the wild type controls in the delayed matching to sample task. The presented data represents the first attempt to experimentally interrogate the genetic basis of human brain origin using a transgenic monkey model, and it values the use of nonhuman primates in understanding human unique traits.

I strongly support this, we need to uplift the animals.

Intelligence is almost always adaptative. There are almost no conceivable ethical downsides to this.

There are questions on how we will support support these animals.

Well, if animals are uplifted, they could become as intelligent as humans. For instance, chimps would only need around 7-8 S.D.’s worth more of IQ to be competitive with humans. This would allow them to compete in the market economy.

To be sure, they will fall behind if we upgrade humans too – as we should – but the economy will become much more productive, allowing uplifted animals to be subsidized even as we use what we learned from uplifting them to further upgrade ourselves.

Conceivably, some animals may become even more intelligent than humans, e.g. elephants due to their high cranial capacity.

I am in general in favor of such biosingularity scenarios for a couple of reasons.

1. They seem safer than machine intelligence singularities (e.g. they are not as “fast”, and we can be pretty sure that we won’t accidentally scrub consciousness through genetic augmentations – unlike the case of mind loading).

2. It would certainly appear to be superior to dysgenic-technological slideback, which is the default future if there is no intelligence exposion this century (i.e. the Age of Malthusian Industrialism).

If it’s going to happen anywhere, it is going to happen in China. Judeo-Christians and SJWs are not going to allow it in the West.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Animal IQ, China, Intelligence, Transhumanism 

nesterov-political-compass

Sacred Digital:

Preliminary results for survey based on Nesterov’s (@esoterikwa) alternative political compass + attitudes towards Transhumanism vs. Conservationism. Noticed a couple of interesting patterns.

Traditionalists don’t seem to value individual Right to Exit, which is essential for Patchwork, and prefer Iron Curtain. Biodeterminist accelerationists seem to be more progressive on social issues than one might expect. Left-transhumanists tend to underestimate dangers of AI.

Predictions: Most transhumanists will group in their main sequence. SSC rationalists will group in the center-left on universalist axis, up the technocapital axis. Neochina of fascistic transhumanists will arrive from red triangle grouping to the purple pentagon.

It is based on this old video by up and coming Russian vlogger Kirill Nesterov.

 
• Tags: Humor, Politics, Transhumanism 

moscow-deus-ex

Pursuant to the discussions at the last big thread, I am making a quick post with my assessments of how realistic various “transhumanist” spheres of technology are.

***

Automation

Has been, is, and will continue to happen – and will affect lower-IQ occupations sooner. Since it takes IQ to design and maintain the robots, this will further privilege cognitively gifted nations (see Our Biorealistic Future). Inequality will also soar. Eventually, some kind of universal basic income will be probably be necessary to avoid a cyberpunk dystopia. Well, we are sort of drifting there anyway, but at least a dystopia without the widespread poverty.

***

bostrom-iq-gainRadical IQ Augmentation

This involves several methods:

  • Embryo selection for IQ: Razib Khan/Charles Murray estimate: 3-5 years (in 2016). Of course regulatory requirements will probably take a long-ass time to get sorted out (e.g., the infamous FDA), so add another 5-10 years. Though this will probably be much quicker in “offshore” style areas with fewer regulations. Calculations of possible IQ gains from a 2014 paper by Carl Shulman and Nick Bostrom (current practice is to select from 10 embryos). See gwern on practical costs/benefits for individuals.
  • Embryo editing for IQ (e.g. via GWAS/CRISPR): For instance, this Twitter user (a prominent psychometrician IRL) points out the method is unreliable and produces a lot of errors – big problem since there’s hundreds of genes affecting intelligence! OTOH, CRISPR is improving fast. Mike Johnson, who has studied the trends although doesn’t work in the field, in 2015 predicted that a “dedicated billionaire with scant regard for legalistic regulations could start genetically “spellchecking” their offspring within 5-7 years.”

Using widespread embryo selection for intelligence, a nation where this is widely implemented can go from the level of West Virginia to Massachusetts, or Southern Italy to Northern Italy, within 1-2 generations – nice, but not immediately transformational. This is not the case with CRISPR/GWAS-enabled IQ augmentation; if this starts around 2030, we can have the first augmented generations growing up by 2050, and beginning to transform society from 2060. Due to the “smart fraction” effect, this will have a substantial impact even if 1-2% of the population reproduces does this. Obviously, barring other game-changing scenarios such as superintelligence, the first countries to implement this will gain an ultra-competitive advantage.

Even though this isn’t often discussed in transhumanist circles, this is the topic that personally excites me the most, because it is the one technological sphere that is both already visible on the horizon, and will have transformational ramifications.

Incidentally, the commenter Alexander Turok has recently finished (and advertised on the comments to this blog) a book that looks at the ramifications of genetic selection for IQ along the lines of Hanson’s Age of Em.

***

Superintelligence

According to a paper by Sandberg, median estimate time for the emergence of ems (emulated minds) is 2059; the age of ems will very likely lead to superintelligence within a couple of years anyway. Median prediction for the emergence of “high level machine intelligence” according to various groups of AI experts clusters around 2040-50. This remains in line with Ray Kurzweil’s classic 2045 prediction in The Singularity Is Near.

It is quite impossible to definitively judge the validity of these forecasts, though FWIW I am skeptical about hard take takeoff scenarios (see 1, 2, 3).

With respect to ems, my main concern is that of the “unconscious zombie”. The planetary (and possibly galactic) extinction of consciousness would appear to represent an epochal loss in value – indeed, one indistinguishable from full-scale extinction. I would second Mike Johnson in his belief that it would be very much advisable to solve the consciousness problem before allowing mind uploads to go ahead.

The dangers of superintelligence are well-known. Once we start to approach those technological milestones, it may be prudent to create a UNATCO-style global organization for AI control until, to borrow from Trump, we “can figure out what the hell is going on.”

***

picus-network-deus-ex

Biomechatronics

So basically Deus Ex-style neural augments. I (or rather, Bostrom) explained why meaningful brain-machine interfaces will be very hard to implement.

However, if it was to be decided by a global singleton that machine superintelligence is too risky (or if the problem proves too hard in general), then one can certainly see these technologies getting developed in coming centuries, perhaps during the Age of Malthusian Industrialism.

***

Radical Life Extension

I think this will be a lot harder than Radical IQ Augmentation for a very simple reason.

The natural “range” of human intelligence spans about 7 standard deviations to either side of the Greenwich mean of 100 that prevails in the developed world, of which perhaps 5 can be realized via GWAS plus gene editing. Even today, differences of a few points in average IQ between various regions and countries can already have striking effects on socio-economic development; now imagine that some regions start converging to mean IQs of 175, and you already have a transformation deeper than anything since the Industrial Revolution, if not the appearance of agriculture.

In contrast, the oldest humans only live to 125 years or so. A society where the average person lives to 110 will not be radically different from a society where he or she lives to 85 (the longest-lived societies today). Much deeper, perhaps trans-species genetic tinkering (e.g. drawing from whales or naked mole rats) will be required, and/or a much deeper understanding of ageing pathways or at least how to keep them repaired, as in Aubrey de Grey’s SENS program. Aubrey believes we will achieve mouse rejuvenation by the early-mid 2020s, but as he himself pointed out in his book Ending Aging, mouse models are not obviously extensible to human ones.

life-extension-mice

In a 2017 Reddit AMA, breaking a long tradition of not giving any quantitative predictions, Aubrey de Grey estimated that a 25 year old man has an 80% chance of reaching “longevity escape velocity.” So perhaps call this around 2050?

***

doom-2016-11Space Colonies

I don’t see this panning out for economic reasons; maintaining a base on the open ocean or Antarctica is trivial relative to a Mars base or a Venusian cloud city, to say nothing of the stupendous challenges involved in interstellar exploration.

If we really want to make self-sustaining space colonies at least theoretically feasible – that is, to satisfy Musk’s vision of a second home away from home to increase the chances of humanity’s survival if some unprecedented disaster was to wipe out life on Earth – then we need radical measures. First, we need to send the atomophobes to concentration camps, as Thorfinnsson energetically recommends. Then we need to start work on nuclear pulse propulsion – the only feasible method of sending huge masses of material into space with technology that has been available since the 1960s.

But I don’t see this happening, and frankly I don’t see anything really exciting happening in space on timescales shorter than centuries. The only potentially profitable business enterprise seems to be in mining asteroids for minerals that are extremely rare on our own planet.

***

Other Techs

Seasteading – sorry to disappoint the libertarians, but I don’t see the economics of this ever working out.

Artificial Wombs should be feasible in a decade. Probably not going to be widely implemented for social/legal reasons.

Cryptocurrency will continue growing in prominence, but I do not see them ever having transformational effects. Reasons why.

Nuclear Fusion is always 20-50 years away. I assume this will remain the case.

Nanotechnology, in Drexler’s sense of self-assembling nanites, remains a pipe dream so far as I know (happily, same goes for the “grey goo” extinction scenario).

***

Concluding Thoughts

I support virtually all of these initiatives, though with some strong reservations on ems/superintelligence.

First, because they’re really cool.

Second, because if they can happen, they will happen anyway, and national obscurantists (typically leftists or religious fundamentalists) dragging back progress will only doom their own countries to irrelevancy.

And it is then the ultra-competitive countries that did follow through on them that will set the rules anyway: “Victory needs no explanation, defeat allows none.

Third, because if there is are no great breakthroughs, the Frito Effect will carry the world into a dysgenic miasma of technological stagnation that will last for many centuries, until the new Malthusian conditions recreate elite intelligences. There will be a lot of suffering for no discernible gain.

PS. Before the usual sovoks come crawling out of the woodwork telling me to crawl back to Silicon Valley, I would like to point out that transhumanism was of course invented in the Russian Empire.

 

A couple of memes that you can only find in the most autistically glorious corners of /pol/.

virgin-primitivist-vs-chad-transhuman

If we view history as an evolutionary competition between societies and ideas, it seems obvious that primitivism would be the most self-defeating – and consequently, self-refuting – ideology on the planet. While transhumanism is accelerationism maxed, the most competitive and adaptive ideology.

virgin-transhuman-vs-chad-overman

Thing is, both of them are transhumanist. It’s just that the Half Life stalker is the sort of transhumanism you’d get when your society is run by bugmen. Whereas the overman belongs to the Gold caste of the Red Rising trilogy, a product of a technologically stagnant archaeo-futurist space empire. More aesthetically pleasing than the bugman, to be sure, but either would be crushed by the Chad transhumanist.

 
• Tags: Humor, Meme, Transhumanism 

PAPER REVIEW

***

partridge-artificial-wombs

Abstract:

Here we report the development of a system that incorporates a pumpless oxygenator circuit connected to the fetus of a lamb via an umbilical cord interface that is maintained within a closed ‘amniotic fluid’ circuit that closely reproduces the environment of the womb. We show that fetal lambs that are developmentally equivalent to the extreme premature human infant can be physiologically supported in this extra-uterine device for up to 4 weeks. Lambs on support maintain stable haemodynamics, have normal blood gas and oxygenation parameters and maintain patency of the fetal circulation. With appropriate nutritional support, lambs on the system demonstrate normal somatic growth, lung maturation and brain growth and myelination.

This is really cool.

twitter-artificial-wombs I have been advocating this technology since I started blogging in 2008.

The immediate benefits, which the authors cite, are a reduction in infant mortality caused by extreme prematurity. This is good, though not that big of a deal, since it is very low in First World countries anyway, while poorer countries will probably not be able to afford the technology anyway.

The real promise is in its eugenic potential.

It is common knowledge that the well-educated reproduce less than the poorly educated, and that has resulted in decades of dysgenic decline throughout the developed world. This dysgenic effect has overtaken the Flynn effect. One of the reasons the well-educated, and especially well-educated women, have few or zero children is because it is bad for their career prospects. There are also some women who are just uncomfortable with the idea of pregnancy and childbirth.

There are essentially just a few solutions to this problem:

(1) Do nothing, deny heritability of IQ. Import Afro-Muslims to breed the next generation of doctors and engineers.

(2) Do nothing, hope for a literal deus ex machina solution, such as Musk’s neural lace or superintelligence.

(3) The Alt Right solution: Send the women back to the kitchen.

Ethical considerations aside, there’s also the matter of practicality – you’d have to be really hardcore at enforcing your “White Sharia” to make any substantive difference. Even most conservative Muslim societies, where female labor participation is very low, have seen plummeting fertility rates. And, needless to say, it does nothing about the dysgenic aspect of modern fertility patterns, which are a significantly bigger problem than falling fertility rates anyway.

(4) Develop artificial wombs.

This is a good idea from all sorts of ideological perspectives.

Everyone: Immediate higher fertility rates in the countries that develop them, especially amongst well-educated women. This might cancel out dysgenic decline at a single stroke.

Liberals: Alternate option for women who don’t want to undergo pregnancy/childbirth for whatever reason. No more market for surrogate mothers – an end to a particularly icky form of Third World exploitation.

Libertarians: People with the means to pay – that is, millionaires and especially billionaires – will no longer be bounded in their reproductive capacity by the biology of their female partner or by the culture of their society (generally, no polygamy). Since wealth is moderately correlated with IQ, this will be eugenic. That said, this might strike some as dystopian. Maybe one could start taxing additional artificial womb-grown offspring past the first five or ten? Then you’d get “offshore hatcheries.” Okay, I suppose that’s even more dystopian.

Zensunnis: I suppose cultures that really dislike women can just gradually start making do without them by replacing them with the equivalent of Axlotl tanks. Conversely, (almost) all female “Amazonian” societies will also become possible. Let’s make sci-fi tropes real.

Futurists: Combining artificial wombs with CRISPR gene-editing for IQ on a mass scale pretty much directly leads to a biosingularity.

As I pointed out, a biosingularity may be preferable to one born of machine superintelligence because it bypasses the AI alignment problem and doesn’t risk the end of conscious experience.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Fertility, Paper Review, Transhumanism 

PAPER REVIEW

Tang, Lichun et al. 2017
CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing in human zygotes using Cas9 protein


Abstract:

Previous works using human tripronuclear zygotes suggested that the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)/Cas9 system could be a tool in correcting disease-causing mutations. However, whether this system was applicable in normal human (dual pronuclear, 2PN) zygotes was unclear. Here we demonstrate that CRISPR/Cas9 is also effective as a gene-editing tool in human 2PN zygotes. By injection of Cas9 protein complexed with the appropriate sgRNAs and homology donors into one-cell human embryos, we demonstrated efficient homologous recombination-mediated correction of point mutations in HBB and G6PD. However, our results also reveal limitations of this correction procedure and highlight the need for further research.

Gwern Branwen’s comments:

Even nicer: another human-embryo CRISPR paper. Some old 2015 work – results: no off-target mutations and efficiencies of 20/50/100% for various edits. (As I predicted, the older papers, Liang et al 2015 / Kang et al 2016 / Komor et al 2016, were not state of the art and would be improved on considerably.)

Back in February 2015, qualia researcher Mike Johnson predicted that dedicated billionaire with scant regard for legalistic regulations could start genetically “spellchecking” their offspring within 5-7 years.

But if anything, he might have overestimated the timeframe.

tang-2017-crispr-cas9

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Crispr, Genetic Load, Paper Review, Transhumanism 

Organized by IEET and Brighter Brains (Hank Pellissier).

I’ll be participating in one or perhaps two of them.

My positions, briefly:

  • Immigration/Open Borders – Opposed, and not even just from an HBD/”waycist” perspective. See Immigration and Effective Altruism.
  • UBI – For it, and not even just from an automation perspective. See The Ethnic Politics of Basic Income.
  • Singularity 2045 – I am with techno-NRx “consensus” (Anissimov, Konkvistador, etc) that 2045 is extremely optimistic, if for different reasons. Mostly it is just an extension of the logic of the theory of Apollo’s Ascent. Kurzweil is wrong because progress in technology isn’t primarily driven by the stock of existing technology but by aggregate mindpower, which is increasing but not very quickly (and might start reversing altogether sooner or later once the Idiocracy Effect overtakes the Flynn Effect). We also have no idea what the cognitive threshold is for developing superintelligence. Perhaps it’s beyond homo sapiens capabilities altogether.

***

IEET link: Transhuman Debate in SF East Bay, co-sponsored by IEET – speakers needed

You can get tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/transhuman-debate-tickets-20728825475

***

Transhuman Debate in SF East Bay, co-sponsored by IEET – speakers needed

Posted: Jan 11, 2016

IEET is co-sponsoring a “Transhuman Debate” event in Oakland, California, on February 6, 2016, at Humanist Hall.

The debate is titled “Argue 4 Tomorrow.” It will feature three “Oxford Style” Transhumanist Team Debates on these three topics:

IMMIGRATION & BORDERS

BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE

WILL THE SINGULARITY ARRIVE BEFORE OR AFTER 2045?

Each debate will be one hour long.
The first third will be presentation of their POV by the debate team,
the second part will open-ended dispute and persuasion between the two teams,
and the final section will have the audience leaping into the fray.

The event is co-sponsored by Brighter Brains Institute. Anatoly Karlin proposed the debate concept.

We’re looking for additional Debate Team members. If interested please contact [email protected]

At the present time the debate teams include:

Randal Koene (IEET Advisory Board member)
Nicole Sallak Anderson (IEET Advisory Board)
Ted Peters (Author)
Anatoly Karlin (blogger for Unz.com)
Scott Jackish (IEET contributor)
Anya Petrova (Infinity Gap)
Andrés Gómez Emilsson (IEET Contributor)
Mike Johnson (East Bay Futurists)
Lauren Barghout (speaker at Johns Hopkins University)
Jay Cornell (co-author of Transcendence
Hank Pellissier (IEET Managing Director)
Dan Faggella (IEET Advisory Board) – tentative

Tickets will be available at EventBrite soon

 
HBD, Hive Minds, and H+

Today is the publication date of Hive Mind, a book by economist Garett Jones on the intimate relationship between average national IQs and national success, first and foremost in the field of economics.

I do intend to read and review it ASAP, but first some preliminary comments.

This is a topic I have been writing about since I started blogging in 2008 (and indeed well before I came across Steve Sailer or even HBD) and as it so happens, I have long been intending to write a similar sort of book myself – tentatively titled Apollo’s Ascent – but one that focuses more on the historical aspect of the relationship between psychometrics and development:

My basic thesis is that the rate of technological progress, as well as its geographical pattern, is highly dependent on the absolute numbers of literate high IQ people.

To make use of the intense interest that will inevitably flare up around these topics in the next few days – not to mention that rather more self-interested reason of confirming originality on the off chance that any of Garett Jones’ ideas happen to substantively overlap with mine – I have decided to informally lay out the theoretical basis for Apollo’s Ascent right now.

1. Nous

Assume that the intellectual output of an average IQ (=100, S.D.=15) young adult Briton in the year 2000 – as good an encapsulation of the “Greenwich mean” of intelligence as any – is equivalent to one nous (1 ν).

This can be used to calculate the aggregate mindpower (M) in a country.

Since sufficiently differing degrees of intelligence can translate into qualitative differences – for instance, no amount of 55 IQ people will be able to solve a calculus problem – we also need to be able to denote mindpower that is above some threshold of intelligence. So in this post, the aggregate mindpower of a country that is above 130 will be written as M(+2.0), i.e. that aggregate mindpower that is two standard deviations above the Greenwich mean.

2. Intelligence and Industrial Economies

There is a wealth of evidence implying an exponential relationship between average IQ and income and wealth in the United States.

human-capital-and-gdp-per-capita-world

Click to enlarge.

There is likewise a wealth of evidence – from Lynn, Rindermann, La Griffe du Lion, your humble servant, etc. – that shows an exponential relationship between levels of average national IQ and GDP per capita (PPP adjusted). When you throw out countries with a legacy of Communism and the ruinous central planning they practiced (China, the Ex-USSR and Eastern Europe, etc), and countries benefitting disproportionately from a resource windfall (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, etc), there is an amazing R2=0.84 correlation between performance in the PISA international standardized student tests and GDP (PPP) per capita. (In sociology, anything about R2=0.3 is a good result).

The reasons for this might be the case are quite intuitive. At the most basic level, intelligent people can get things done better and more quickly. In sufficiently dull societies, certain things can’t get done at all. To loosely borrow an example from Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms, assume a relatively simple widget that requires ten manufacturing steps that have to be done just right to make it commercially viable. Say an 85 IQ laborer has a failure rate of 5% for any one step, while a 100 IQ laborer has a failure rate of 1%. This does not sound like that big or cardinal of a difference. But repeated ten times, some 40% of the duller worker’s production ends up being a dud, compared to only 10% of the brighter worker’s. Consequently, one is competitive on the global markets, whereas the other is not (if labor costs are equal; hence, of course, they are not).

Now imagine said widget is an automobile, with hundreds of thousands of components. Or an aircraft carrier, or a spaceship. Or a complex surgery operation.

More technical way of looking at this: Consider the GDP equation, Y = A * K^α * L^(1-α), in which K is capital, L is labour, α is a constant that usually equals about 0.3, and A is total factor productivity. It follows that the only way to grow per capita output in the longterm is to raise productivity. Productivity in turn is a function of technology and how effectively it is utilized and that in turn depends critically on things like human capital. Without an adequate IQ base, you cannot accumulate much in the way of human capital.

There are at least two further ways in which brighter societies improve their relative fortunes over and above what might merely be implied by their mere productivity advantage at any technological level.

robot-density

Source: Swiss Miss.

First, capital gets drawn to more productive countries, until the point at which its marginal productivity equalizes with that of less productive countries, with their MUCH LOWER levels of capital intensity. First World economies like Germany, Japan, and the US are extremely capital intensive. It is probably not an accident that Japan, Korea, and Taiwan – some of the very brightest countries on international IQ comparisons – also have by far the world’s highest concentrations of industrial robots per worker (and China is fast catching up). Since economic output is a function not only of pure productivity but also of capital (though subject to diminishing returns) this provides a big further boost to rich countries above the levels implied by their raw productivity. And as the age of automation approaches, these trends will only intensify.

Second, countries with higher IQs also tend to be better governed, and to effectively provide social amenities such as adequate nutrition and education to their populations. Not only does it further raise their national IQs, but it also means that it is easier to make longterm investments there and to use their existing human capital to its full potential.

All this implies that different levels of intelligence have varying economic values on the global market. At this stage I am not so much interested in establishing it with exactitude as illustrating the general pattern, which goes something like this:

  • Average IQ = 70 – Per capita GDP of ~\$4,000 in the more optimally governed countries of this class, such as Ghana (note however that many countries in this class are not yet fully done with their Malthusian transitions, which will depress their per capita output somewhat – see below).
  • Average IQ = 85 – Per capita GDP of ~\$16,000 in the more optimally governed countries of this class, such as Brazil.
  • Average IQ = 100 Per capita GDP of ~45,000 in the more optimally governed countries of this class, or approximately the level of core EU/US/Japan.
  • Average IQ = 107 – Per capita GDP of potentially \$80,000, as in Singapore (and it doesn’t seem to have even finished growing rapidly yet). Similar figures for elite/financial EU cities (e.g. Frankfurt, Milan) and US cities (e.g. San Francisco, Seattle, Boston).
  • Average IQ = 115 – Largely a theoretical construct, but that might be the sort of average IQ you’d get in, say, Inner London – the center of the global investment banking industry. The GDP per capita there is a cool \$152,000.

Countries with bigger than normal “smart fractions” (the US, India, Israel) tend to have a bigger GDP per capita than what could be assumed from just from their average national IQ. This stands to reason because a group of people equally split between 85 IQers and 115 IQers will have higher cognitive potential than a room composed of an equivalent number of 100 IQers. Countries with high average IQs but smaller than normal S.D.’s, such as Finland, have a slightly smaller GDP per capita that what you might expect just from average national IQs.

These numbers add up, so a reasonable relationship equilibrium GDP (assuming no big shocks, good policies, etc) and the structure and size of national IQ would be:

Equilibrium GDP of a country exponent (IQ) * the IQ distribution (usually a bell curve shaped Gaussian) * population size * the technological level

Which can be simplified to:

Y ≈ c*M*T

… where M is aggregate mindpower (see above), T is the technology level, and c is a constant denoting the general regulatory/business climate (close to 1 in many well run capitalist states, <0.5 under central planning, etc).

To what extent if any would this model apply to pre-industrial economies?

3. Intelligence and Malthusian Economies

sfd

Source: A Farewell to Alms

Very little. The problem with Malthusian economies is that, as per the old man himself, population increases geometrically while crop yields increase linearly; before long, the increasing population eats up all the surpluses and reaches a sordid equilibrium in which births equal deaths (since there were a lot of births, that means a lot of deaths).

Under such conditions, even though technology might grow slowly from century to century, it is generally expressed not in increasing per capita consumption, but in rising population densities. And over centennial timescales, the effects of this (meager) technological growth can be easily swamped by changes in social structure, biome productivity, and climatic fluctuations (e.g. 17th C France = pre Black Death France in terms of population, because it was Little Ice Age vs. Medieval Warm Period), or unexpected improvements in agricultural productivity e.g. from the importation of new crops (e.g. the coming of sweet potatoes to China which enabled it to double its population over the previous record even though it was in outright social regress for a substantial fraction of this time).

All this makes tallying the rate of technological advance based on population density highly problematic. Therefore it has to be measured primarily in terms of eminent figures, inventions, and great works.

sdfds

Distribution of significant figures across time and place. Source: Human Accomplishment.

The social scientist Charles Murray in Human Accomplishment has suggested a plausible and objective way of doing it, based on tallying the eminence of historical figures in culture and the sciences as measured by their prevalence in big reference works. Societies that are at any one time intensively pushing the technological frontiers outwards are likely to be generating plenty of “Great People,” to borrow a term from the Civilization strategy games.

To what extent does the model used for economic success apply to technology?

4. Intelligence and Technology Before 1800

A narrow intellectual elite is responsible for 99%+ of new scientific discoveries. This implies that unlike the case with an economy at large, where peasants and truck drivers make real contributions, you need to have a certain (high) threshold level of IQ to materially contribute to technological and scientific progress today.

The Anne Roe study of very eminent scientists in 1952 – almost Nobel worthy, but not quite – found that they averaged a verbal IQ of 166, a spatial IQ of 137, and a math IQ of 154. Adjusted modestly down – because the Flynn Effect has only had a very modest impact on non-rule dependent domains like verbal IQ – and you get an average verbal IQ of maybe 160 (in Greenwich terms). These were the sorts of elite people pushing progress in science 50 years ago.

To really understand 1950s era math and physics, I guesstimate that you would need an IQ of ~130+, i.e. your typical STEM grad student or Ivy League undergrad. This suggests that there is a 2 S.D. difference between the typical intellectual level needed to master something as opposed to making fundamental new discoveries in it.

Moreover, progress becomes steadily harder over time; disciplines splinter (see the disappearance of polymath “Renaissance men”), and eventually, discoveries become increasingly unattainable to sole individuals (see the steady growth in numbers of paper coauthors and shared Nobel Prizes in the 20th century). In other words, these IQ discovery thresholds are themselves a function of the technological level. To make progress up the tech tree, you need to first climb up there.

An extreme example today would be the work 0f Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki. At least Grigory Perelman’s proof of the Poincare Conjecture was eventually confirmed by other mathematicians after a lag of several years. But Mochizuki is so far ahead of everyone else in his particular field of Inter-universal Teichmüller theory that nobody any longer quite knows whether he is a universal genius or a lunatic.

In math, I would guesstimate roughly the following set of thresholds:

Mastery Discovery
Intuit Pythagoras Theorem (Ancient Egypt) 90 120
Prove Pythagoras Theorem (Early Ancient Greece) 100 130
Renaissance Math (~1550) 110 140
Differential Calculus (~1650+) 120 150
Mid-20th Century Math (1950s) 130 160
Prove Poincare Conjecture (2003) 140 170
Inter-universal Teichmüller theory (?) 150 180

This all suggests that countries which attain new records in aggregate elite mindpower relative to their predecessors can very quickly generate vast reams of new scientific discoveries and technological achievements.

Moreover, this elite mindpower has to be literate. Because a human brain can only store so much information, societies without literacy are unable to move forwards much beyond Neolithic levels, their IQ levels regardless.

As such, a tentative equation for estimating a historical society’s capacity to generate scientific and technological growth would look something like this:

Technological growth c * M(>threshold IQ for new discovery) * literacy rate

or:

ΔT c * M(>discovery-threshold) * l

in which only that part of the aggregate mindpower that is above the threshold is considered; c is a constant that illustrates a society’s propensity for generating technological growth in the first place and can encompass social and cultural factors, such as no big wars, no totalitarian regimes, creativity, etc. as well as technological increases that can have a (generally marginal) effect on scientific productivity, like reading glasses in Renaissance Italy (well covered by David Landes), and the Internet in recent decades; and the literacy rate l is an estimate of the percentage of the cognitive elites that are literate (it can be expected to generally be a function of the overall literacy rate and to always be much higher).

Is it possible to estimate historical M and literacy with any degree of rigor?

dfgdf

Source: Gregory Clark.

I think so. In regards to literacy, this is an extensive area of research, with some good estimates for Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire (see Ancient Literacy by William Harris) and much better estimates for Europe after 1500 based on techniques like age heaping and book production records.

One critical consideration is that not all writing systems are equally suited for the spread of functional literacy. For instance, China was historically one of the most schooled societies, but its literacy tended to be domain specific, the classic example being “fish literacy” – a fishmonger’s son who knew the characters for different fish, but had no hope of adeptly employing his very limited literacy for making scientific advances, or even reading “self-help” pamphlets on how to be more effective in his profession (such as were becoming prevalent in England as early as the 17th century). The Chinese writing system, whether it arose from QWERTY reasons or even genetic reasons – and which became prevalent throughout East Asia – surely hampered the creative potential of East Asians.

Estimating average national IQs historically – from which M can be derived in conjunction with historical population sizes, of which we now generally have fairly good ideas about – is far more tricky and speculative, but not totally hopeless, because nowadays we know the main factors behind national differences in IQ.

Some of the most important ones include:

  • Cold Winters Theory – Northern peoples developed higher IQs (see Lynn, Rushton).
  • Agriculture – Societies that developed agriculture got a huge boost to their IQs (as well as higher S.D.s).
  • Inbreeding – Can be estimated from rates of consanguineous marriage, runs of homozygosity, and predominant family types (nuclear? communitarian?), which in turn can be established from cultural and literary evidence.
  • Eugenics – In advanced agricultural societies, where social relations come to be dominated by markets. See Greg Clark on England, and Ron Unz on China.
  • Nutrition – Obviously plays a HUGE role in the Flynn Effect. Can be proxied by body measurements, and fortunately there is a whole field of study devoted to precisely this: Auxology. Burials, conscription records, etc. all provide a wealth of evidence.
  • Parasite Load – Most severe in low-lying, swampy areas like West Africa and the Ganges Delta.
byzantine-empire-intellectual-capacity

This old comment of mine to a post by Sailer is a demonstration of the sort of reasoning I tend to employ in Apollo’s Ascent.

All this means that educated guesses at the historic IQs of various societies are now perfectly feasible, if subject to a high degree of uncertainty. In fact, I have already done many such estimates while planning out Apollo’s Ascent. I will not release these figures at this time because they are highly preliminary, and lacking space to further elucidate my methods, I do not want discussions in the comments to latch on to some one figure or another and make a big deal out of it. Let us save this for later.

But in broad terms – and very happily for my thesis – these relations DO tend to hold historically.

Classical Greece was almost certainly the first society to attain something resembling craftsman level literacy rates (~10%). Ancient Greeks were also unusually tall (indicating good nutrition, for a preindustrial society), lived in stem/authoritarian family systems, and actively bred out during their period of greatness. They produced the greatest scientific and cultural explosion up to that date anywhere in the world, but evidently didn’t have quite the demographic weight – there were no more than 10 million Greeks scattered across the Mediterranean at peak – to sustain it.

In 15th century Europe, literacy once again begun soaring in Italy, to beyond Roman levels, and – surely helped by the good nutrition levels following the Black Death – helped usher in the Renaissance. In the 17th century, the center of gravity shifted towards Anglo-Germanic Europe in the wake of the Reformation with its obsession with literacy, and would stay there ever after.

As regards other civilizations…

The Islamic Golden Age was eventually cut short more by the increasing inbreeding than by the severe but ultimately temporary shock from the Mongol invasions. India was too depressed by the caste system and by parasitic load to ever be a first rate intellectual power, although the caste system also ensured a stream of occasional geniuses, especially in the more abstract areas like math and philosophy. China and Japan might have had an innate IQ advantage over Europeans – albeit one that was quite modest in the most critical area, verbal IQ – but they were too severely hampered by labour-heavy agricultural systems and a very ineffective writing system.

In contrast, The Europeans, fed on meat and mead, had some of the best nutrition and lowest parasitic load indicators amongst any advanced civilization, and even as rising population pressure began to impinge on those advantages by the 17th-18th centuries, they had already burst far ahead in literacy, and intellectual predominance was now theirs to lose.

5. Intelligence and Technology under Industrialism

After 1800, the world globalized intellectually. This was totally unprecedented. There had certainly been preludes to it, e.g. in the Jesuit missions to Qing China. But these were very much exceptional cases. Even in the 18th century, for instance, European and Japanese mathematicians worked on (and solved) many of the same problems independently.

sdfsd

Source: Human Accomplishment.

But in the following two centuries, this picture of independent intellectual traditions – shining most brightly in Europe by at least an order of magnitude, to be sure, but still diverse on the global level – was to be homogenized. European science became the only science that mattered, as laggard civilizations throughout the rest of the world were to soon discover to their sorrow in the form of percussion rifles and ironclad warships. And by “Europe,” that mostly meant the “Hajnal” core of the continent: France, Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and Northern Italy.

And what had previously been but a big gap became an awning chasm.

(1) In the 19th century, the populations of European countries grew, and the advanced ones attained universal literacy or as good as made no difference. Aggregate mindpower (M) exploded, and kept well ahead of the advancing threshold IQ needed to make new discoveries.

(2) From 1890-1970, there was a second revolution, in nutrition and epidemiology – average heights increased by 10cm+, and the prevalence of debilitating infectitious diseases was reduced to almost zero – that raised IQ by as much as a standard deviation across the industrialized world. The chasm widened further.

(3) During this period, the straggling civilizations – far from making any novel contributions of their own – devoted most of their meager intellectual resources to merely coming to grips with Western developments.

This was as true – and consequential – in culture and social sciences as it was in science and technology; the Russian philosopher Nikolay Trubetzkoy described this traumatic process very eloquently in The Struggle Between Europe and Mankind. What was true even for “semi-peripheral” Russia was doubly true for China.

In science and technology, once the rest of the world had come to terms with Western dominance and the new era of the nation-state, the focus was on catchup, not innovation.This is because for developing countries, it is much more useful in terms of marginal returns to invest their cognitive energies into copying, stealing, and/or adapting existing technology to catch up to the West than to develop unique technology of their own. Arguments about, say, China’s supposed lack of ability to innovate are completely besides the point. At this stage of its development, even now, copying is much easier than creating!

This means that at this stage of global history, a country’s contribution to technological growth isn’t only a matter of the size of its smart fractions above the technological discovery IQ threshold. (This remains unchanged: E.g., note that a country like Germany remains MUCH more innovative per capita than, say, Greece, even though their aveage national IQs differ by a mere 5 points or so. Why? Because since we’re looking only at the far right tails of the bell curve, even minor differences in averages translate to big differences in innovation-generating smart fractions).

It also relates closely to its level of development. Countries that are far away from the technological frontier today are better served by using their research dollars and cognitive elites to catch up as opposed to inventing new stuff. This is confirmed by real life evidence: A very big percentage of world spending on fundamental research since WW2 has been carried out in the US. It was low in the USSR, and negligible in countries like Japan until recently. Or in China today.

Bearing this in mind, the technological growth equation today (and since 1800, more or less) – now due to its global character better described as innovation potential – would be better approximated by something like this:

Innovation potential ≈ c * M(>threshold IQ for new discovery) * literacy rate * (GDP/GDP[potential])^x

or:

I c * M(>discovery-threshold) * l * (Y/Y[P])^x

in which the first three terms are as before (though literacy = 100% virtually everywhere now), and potential GDP is the GDP this country would obtain were its technological endowment to be increased to the maximum level possible as dictated by its cognitive profile. The “x” is a further constant that is bigger than 1 to reflect the idea that catchup only ceases to be the most useful strategy once a country has come very close to convergence or has completely converged.

Japan has won a third of all its Nobel Prizes before 2000; another third in the 2000s; and the last third in the 2010s. Its scientific achievements, in other words, are finally beginning to catch up with its famously high IQ levels. Why did it take so long?

Somebody like JayMan would say its because the Japanese are clannish or something like that. Other psychometrists like Kenya Kura would notice that perhaps they are far less creative than Westerners (this I think has a measure of truth to it). But the main “purely IQ” reasons are pretty much good enough by themselves:

  • The Nobel Prize is typically recognized with a ~25-30 year lag nowadays.
  • It is taking ever longer amounts of time to work up to a Nobel Prize because ever greater amounts of information and methods have to be mastered before original creative work can begin. (This is one consequence of the rising threshold discovery IQ frontier).
  • Critically, Japan in the 1950s was still something of a Third World country, with the attended insults upon average IQ. It is entirely possible that elderly Japanese are duller than their American counterparts, and perhaps even many Europeans of that age, meaning smaller smart fractions from the Nobel Prize winning age groups.

Japan only became an unambiguously developed country in the 1970s.

And it just so happens that precisely 40 years after this did it begin to see a big and still accelerating increase in the numbers of Nobel Prizes accruing to it!

Extending this to South Korea and Taiwan, both of which lagged around 20 years behind Japan, we can only expect to see an explosion in Nobel Prizes for them from the 2020s, regardless of how wildly their teenagers currently top out the PISA rankings.

Extending this to China, which lags around 20 years behind South Korea, and we can expect to see it start gobbling up Nobel Prizes by 2040, or maybe 2050, considering the ongoing widening of the time gap between discovery and recognition. However, due to its massive population – ten times as large as Japan’s – once China does emerge as a major scientific leader, it will do so in a very big way that will rival or even displace the US from its current position of absolute primacy.

As of 2014, China already publishes almost as many scientific papers per year as does the US, and has an outright lead in major STEM fields such as Math, Physics, Chemistry, and Computer Science. (Though to be sure, their quality is much lower, and a significant fraction of them are outright “catching up” or “adaption” style papers with no new findings).

If we assume that x=1, and that c is equal for both China and the US, then it implies that both countries currently have broadly equal innovation potential. But of course c is not quite equal between them – it is lower for China, because its system is obviously less conductive to scientific research than the American – and x is higher than 1, so in practice China’s innovation potential is still considerably lower than that of the US (maybe a quarter or a third). Nonetheless, as China continues to convege, c is going to trend towards the US level, and the GDP gap is going to narrow; plus it may also be able to eke out some further increases in its national average IQ from the current ~103 (as proxied by PISA in 2009) to South Korea’s level of ~107 as it becomes a truly First World country.

And by mid-century it will likely translate into a strong challenge to American scientific preeminence.

6. Future Consequences

The entry of China onto the world intellectual stage (if the model above is more or less correct) will be portentuous, but ultimately it will in its effects on aggregate mindpower be nowhere near the magnitude in global terms of the expansion in the numbers of literate, mostly European high IQ people from 1450 to 1900, nor the vast rise in First World IQ levels from 1890-1970 due to the Flynn Effect.

Moreover, even this may be counteracted by the dysgenic effects already making themselves felt in the US and Western Europe due to Idiocracy-resembling breeding patterns and 80 IQ Third World immigration.

And no need for pesky implants!

Radically raise IQ. And no need for pesky neural implants!

A lot of the techno-optimistic rhetoric you encounter around transhumanist circles is founded on the idea that observed exponential trends in technology – most concisely encapsulated by Moore’s Law – are somehow self-sustaining, though the precise reasons why never seem to be clearly explained. But non-IT technological growth peaked in the 1950s-70s, and has declined since; and as a matter of fact, Moore’s Law has also ground to a halt in the past 2 years. Will we be rescued by a new paradigm? Maybe. But new paradigms take mindpower to generate, and the rate of increase in global mindpower has almost certainly peaked. This is not a good omen.

Speaking of the technological singularity, it is entirely possible that the mindpower discovery threshold for constructing a superintelligence is in fact far higher than we currently have or are likely to ever have short of a global eugenics program (and so Nick Bostrom can sleep in peace).

On the other hand, there are two technologies that combined may decisively tip the balance: CRISPR-Cas9, and the discovery of the genes for general intelligence. Their maturation and potential mating may become feasible as early as 2025.

While there are very good reasons – e.g., on the basis of animal breeding experiments – for doubting Steve Hsu’s claims that genetically corrected designer babies will have IQs beyond that of any living human today, increases on the order of 4-5 S.D.’s are entirely possible. If even a small fraction of a major country like China adopts it – say, 10% of the population – then that will in two decades start to produce an explosion in aggregate global elite mindpower that will soon come to rival or even eclipse the Renaissance or the Enlightenment in the size and scope of their effects on the world.

The global balance of power would be shifted beyond recognition, and truly transformational – indeed, transhuman – possibilities will genuinely open up.

 

robert-stark Robert Stark is a journalist who specializes in interviewing various interesting figures from the Alt fringes. So you could I suppose view him as The Unz Review but on radio.

This is my second interview with him. Here is a link to the first.

Robert Stark interviews Anatoly Karlin.

Topics were my standard fare:

Basically, stuff that you’ve probably heard here before.

That said, we did veer into two fairly idiosyncratic tangents.

(1) The Alt Right should embrace Transhumanism

Yes, I know, they are sort of dorky and even SJWish at times. But technology has ideological load, as Michael Anissimov put it (in an article I can’t find), and it just so happens that transhuman techs are perfectly in line with Alt Right, NRx, Identitarian, and even White Nationalist agendas.

  • Raising IQs via genetic editing will arrest the dysgenic trends increasingly affected all peoples on the planet. Degenerating into a global idiocracy serves absolutely no-one’s interest: Not of Europeans, nor Asians, nor Africans.
  • Automation will (hopefully) redistribute resources from the NAM-pandering welfare systems of today to something more fair and equitable. It will also probably help even the gap between indigenous and immigrant fertility rates in Europe and the US.
  • Radical life extension will help preserve White majorities in Europe. The reason that they are declining isn’t just a matter of birth rates, but also of death rates; Europeans are simply much older than your typical immigrant “youth.” Plummeting mortality and morbidity rates – apart from their general desirability – will from an ethnic perspective overwhelmingly benefit Whites and help Europeans maintain majorities in their historic homelands.

Ultimately, this is the future, and ideologies that fail to grapple and engage with it will fall by the wayside.

(2) The Alt Left needs to become a thing

I completely agree with Robert Lindsay on this.

Do you think I should start an Alternative Left movement? People are calling me the Alternative Left. Alternative Left would be something like:

Economically Leftist or liberal (left on economics)
Socially Conservative or at least sane (right on social issues)

It would be something like a leftwing mirror of the Alternative Right.

Do you think it would go over? I am really getting sick of this Left/Right bullshit. Everyone has to decide if they are “conservative” or “liberal.” What bullshit. What if you are a little of both?

Just because I don’t want to engage in SJW faggotry – the sort of ideology that Lenin would have called an infantile disorder, and which Friedrich Engels correctly identified as serving the reaction – doesn’t necessarily mean I want to lick oligarch ass either.

There is no left or right, only nationalists and globalists.” – Marine Le Pen

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Alt Left, Alt Right, Ideology, Interviews, SJWs, Transhumanism 

mike-johnson-iq-talk

Founded by eight NASA scientists, the Rainbow Mansion is a kind of academic coop, where you have to demonstrate you’re working on something interesting to get a rental agreement. The building itself is true to its name, a mansion spacious within, and surrounded by lush gardens without. Every week they host a group dinner, followed by a speech from an invited guest. This week’s guest was Mike Johnson, a philosopher and transhumanist who is currently working on a treatise that could lay the groundwork for a mathematical model of pain/pleasure.

His talk, however, wasn’t about that, but about another topic and interest of his – genetic typos, the possibility of “correcting” them, and the profound effects that might have on human intelligence and capability if widely implemented.

Genetic editing tools are already coming online that would work for already existing organisms: CRISPR, whole-chromosome DNA synthesis, viral vectors (adenoviri), etc. What can we edit? We could try to maximize for some trait using the GWAS approach (e.g. as BGI is trying to do with IQ). We could go for transgenic bioengineering, you know, the Spiderman/Resident Evil-type stuff. But that’s pretty hard. Just fixing our own broken genes is much easier and could potentially generate tremendous payoffs in increased health, intelligence, and longevity.

We all have varying amounts of “broken genes,” the genetic equivalent of spelling errors. Of those errors that have an effect, the vast majority are bad; as Mike pointed out, if you were to open up a computer program and edit code at random, you are far more likely to ruin or degrade the program than improve it. There are several different definitions and estimates of the numbers of these errors: 100 semi-unique Loss of Function mutations (MacArthur 2012), 1,000 minor IQ-decreasing variants (Hsu 2014), 300 health-decreasing mutations (Leroi 2005).

Broken genes have a broadly linear additive effect on general fitness, which is well approximate by IQ. Stephen Hsu’s research indicates that people have an average of 1000 broken genes, with 30-40 mutations contributing to a stunning -1SD drop in intelligence. In essence, it’s not so much that there are genes for intelligence, as there are genes for stupidity. Fix all of them, and theoretically, you might get IQs never before observed on this planet. As Greg Cochran memorably put it:

What would a spelling-checked person, one with no genetic typos, be like? Since no such person has ever existed, we have to speculate. I figure that kind of guy would win the decathlon, steal your shirt and your girl – and you still couldn’t help liking him.

Here is a list of (optimistic) estimates for other traits that Mike collated from various sources.

genetic-spell-checking-benefits

While Mike, understandably, did not go into this in his talk, one more important point has to be mentioned: There is also an explicit HBD angle to the theory of genetic load.

Studies show significantly more Loss of Function mutations amongst Africans than Europeans or East Asians, which would tie in not only to well-known psychometric data but Satoshi Kanazawa’s theories on the relatively low atttractiveness of Black women (specifically female beauty, like g, appears to be a good proxy for overall fitness). Cochran ascribes it to heat. I am not so sure. Peak wet bulb temperatures are actually higher today in the Ganges delta and interior China than most of Africa, which has some really cool (temperature-wise) places like the Ethiopians highlands and the Great Rift region. This might not have been quite the case during the Ice Age, of course, but still, 10,000 years is a long time to adjust to a new equilibrium.

Another possible determinant of genetic load is male parental age. Offspring genetic load and paternal (though not maternal) age are positively correlated. Paternal age in traditional societies can differ substantially according to their particular family system. For instance, within the Hajnal Line encompassing most of Western Europe, characterized by nuclear families, average paternal age was considerably higher than amongst say the neighboring Poles and Russians. What specific family system is highly prevalent in the traditional global South, especially in Africa? Polygamy. This implies one dude monopolizing a lot of the chicks. What would he be like? Big, bad, bold – naturally. But he’d also have a reputation, and he’d probably be someone who can spit smooth game. Both the latter require some time to build up. So he would probably be considerably older than fathers elsewhere in the world who entered into monogamous marriages. But this is just a theory, it would be great to actually get concrete anthropological data on average paternal age in traditional Africa.

Though I’m taking steps to remedy this, I am not sufficiently well versed in genetics as to offer a valid judgment on the plausibility of Cochran’s and Hsu’s mutational load theory of IQ. Still, it does appear to have a great deal of face validity to it, though I remain skeptical of whether spellchecking can truly create “superhumans,” as opposed to just some very healthy and athletic 145-175 IQ types with a life expectancy of maybe 105 years. Surely at some point basic biological limits will be hit, and there will be diminishing returns?

Still, the potential for improvement are immense, and eventually, it will be possible to apply them to grown adults as opposed to just embryos. Even raising the global IQ by one SD will basically solve India’s and Africa’s development problems, while making the two odd billions of Europeans, Americans, and Chinese as innovative per capita as the world’s 20 million Ashkenazi Jews. Near instant technological singularity! When asked to give an estimate, Mike Johnson said that this “spellchecking” technology will become available in 5-7 years for billionaires who wish to have a designer baby and are unconstrained by any regulatory restrictions.

There’ll inevitably be a lot of hand-wringing about this, lots of soul searching and moral queasiness, and no doubt some attempts at restriction, but it’s hard to stop a moving train. As Mike said, the Chinese and East Asians in general don’t share these concerns; if they can safely have a more intelligent child, well, why on earth not? It is telling that the global focal point for research on the genetics of IQ, which Steve Hsu is incidentally heavily involved with, is the Beijing Genomics Institute. Regardless of their reasons or justifications, those who refuse to get on this train will simply be left behind.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Crispr, Family, Genetic Load, Transhumanism 

RosieTheRoboteerThis conference is organized by brain health and IQ researcher Hank Pellissier, and its aim is to bring all kinds of quirky and visionary folks – “Biohackers, Neuro-Optimists, Extreme Futurists, Philosophers, Immortalist Artists, Steal-the-Singularitarians” – together in one place and have them give speeches and interact with each other and the interested public.

One of the lecturers is going to be Aubrey de Grey, the guy who almost singlehandedly transformed radical life extension into a “respectable” area of research, so it’s shaping up to be a Must-Not-Miss event for NorCal futurists.

Also in attendance will be Zoltan Istvan, bestselling author of The Transhumanist Wager, and Rich Lee, the famous biohacker and grinder. The latter will bring a clutch of fellow grinders and switch-blade surgeons with him to perform various modification procedures on the braver and more visionary among us.

Your humble servant will also be speaking. The preliminary title of my speech is “Cliodynamics: Moving Psychohistory from Science Fiction to Science.” Other conference speakers include RU Sirius, Rachel Haywire, Randal A. Koene, Apneet Jolly, Scott Jackisch, Shannon Friedman, Hank Pellissier, Roen Horn, and Maitreya One.

Time/Location: February 1, 2014 (Saturday) from 9:30am-9:30pm at the Firehouse, Fort Mason, 2 Marina Blvd., in San Francisco.

Buy Tickets:

Tickets are on sale from November 1-30 for \$35. Only 100 tickets are available due to limited seating. In December tickets will cost \$40 (if they’re still available). In January they’ll cost \$45, with \$49 the at-the-door price.

To obtain a ticket, PayPal \$35 to account # [email protected] – include your name. You will quickly receive a receipt that you can print out as your ticket, and your name will be added to the guest list.

Below is a photo gallery of everyone on the lecture list and some further details:

Extras & Freebies:

  • SPECIAL PERKS – FREE PIRACETAM & CREATINE (limited amount) + BULLETPROOF COFFEE [TM] AVAILABLE + UPGRADED CHOCOLATE
  • RICH LEE PROMISES RFID IMPLANTS AVAILABLE for stoic volunteers + he’s bringing his HALLUCINATION MACHINE (“A clutch of Grinders and switch-blade surgeons will be in attendance to perform various modification procedures. Whether it is physical, mental, or emotional, we promise this presentation will leave everyone with some kind of scar!”)
  • HANK PELLISSIER will encourage the mob to select policy for a “NEURO-OPTIMAL UTOPIA” – heated disagreements guaranteed
  • NEW GUEST – FROM HARLEM – MAITREYA ONE will rap his transhumanist Hip Hop songs
  • Brain Healthy “ketogenic” food will be available at the conference – avocados, hardboiled eggs, walnuts, olives, coconut oil, etc. Biohack and QS research will be featured on display tables, alongside transhumanist t-shirts.

Additional Questions: Contact brighterbrainsinstitute AT gmail DOT com (3 volunteers with technical skills are needed, if you can help with sound and visual equipment).

Sponsors: The Bulletproof Executive (aka IT businessman/biohacker Dave Asprey, he of the Bulletproof Coffee mentioned above) is the lead sponsor. Brighter Brains Institute and East Bay Futurists are co-sponsors.

 
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.