Summer Fundraiser 2013, Day 5
I am beginning to see the wisdom of the Baron’s choice of Time, or the Amplitude of Time, as the theme of this quarter’s bleg. So much has happened to us since our last time in the Spring. Daily life has been so crowded with dramas and disconnects that it feels like much more than a few months since we last appeared, tin cup in hand. Come to think of it, some readers thought so too, and began to send in donations, thinking they’d missed the summer fundraiser.
And it’s not just our personal lives on the edge in those intervening months since that fundraiser. The waves of scandals, corruptions, malfeasance and cynicism coming out of our political class, our banksters, and our media echo-chambers were arriving at such a fast and furious rate (to coin a phrase), that we all began to burn out… and the smell of those many scorched souls is still with us. You can take only so many shocks before you begin to resemble those lab rats who’ve been zapped once too often. Perhaps that’s the point? Overload the public conversation so that we are finally mute? I wonder.
In the final analysis, what keeps us fully human and attuned to one another is our willingness to keep talking to each other in good faith. Even when I have neither the strength nor focus to write a post, I can still correspond; I can still leave occasional scattershot comments here and there and receive thoughtful responses in return. What I’ve learned more deeply than I knew before the advent of our blog is the great value of simple conversation. In some fashion this permits a return (in an unexpected way) to previous generations’ customs of long twilight discussions on the back porch. Except now it would be on the deck, in far more comfortable chairs. Like the old days, though, there is still an ebb and flow; many times a thread is dropped only to be picked up again later as someone appears with new information.
So what you will read below is like that. You will be reading part of a shared time, a conversation between two people who have never met but have sometimes “spoken” via the written word. The 19th century with amenities?
This particular exchange between the Baron and the commenter wildiris took place recently, at some point well after the Baron posted Outsmarting Ourselves. That essay was his reflection on the shameful firing of Jason Richwine by the Heritage Foundation. What this non-profit organization did reflects the extent to which even ostensibly conservative groups have become contaminated with the virus of cultural Marxism; what showed most obviously was their fear of guilt by association.
Whether or not this defenestration was due to Heritage’s recent appointment of a politician as their executive director is anyone’s guess. No matter how you view it, though, forcing Mr. Richwine out is a permanent stain on the institutional history of Heritage. They were not seen to act from principle so much as from a hasty and embarrassed expediency. As the Baron said in another context, “justice was not seen to be done”.
If I remember correctly, we first met wildiris on another blog, long before Gates of Vienna was in existence. The three of us were frequently in a comment section, though it’s been so long now — nine years at least — that I no longer remember what was said. What I do recall was the liveliness of those who met there to read and discuss. And yes, I did tend to go on too long; isn’t it good to know some things never change?
After we opened the Gates, wildiris showed up — to my immense pleasure we had an old friend come to visit. (There were other old friends also, but most of them drifted away or confine themselves to emails in these parlous times.) Of course back then I was sure the nic indicated wildiris was a woman. What manly man calls himself after a flower?? Well, a logger does. He simply admired those short-stemmed flowers growing in open woody areas where he lived — and perhaps logged? We used to have them here, too, in our woods, so it was another bond we had.
My point in sharing The Conversation with you is that it could only have occurred with the passage of time and with a variety of exchanges which allowed them to know one another sufficiently to share their ideas more fully. That takes trust and respect.
I hope you find this process as interesting as I did. Sometimes it’s enlightening to be simply a bystander here. We’ll begin with wildiris’ email some weeks after the post closed.
Good Morning Baron,
I’ve been thinking a lot about your post from a few weeks ago, “Outsmarting Ourselves.” It brings up, yet again, that question, “Why do smart people do dumb things?”
For me personally, I think this is the most important question that a forum such as Gates of Vienna can contemplate. I really, truly believe that the answer to this question will also be the answer to what is failing about Western society and in due course also give the answer as to how to change things for the better.
I know I probably come across as a tinfoil-hat thinker sometimes, but my hope is that someday I’ll say something, perhaps just by accident, that will trigger some new way of thinking on your part, that in turn will show you the path to your answer.
So here goes… As you know I spend a lot of time thinking about artificial intelligence and machine learning. In the field of AI, some of the big-ticket items of debate are concepts such as consciousness, intelligence and sense-of-self. While there is no consensus as to how these different concepts should be defined and delineated, there does seem to be awareness that they are not independent of each other, but rather form a hierarchy: starting with the lowest, which is life itself, then consciousness, then intelligence, then sense-of-self, and then finally, language and learning.
The important thing to note is that in this hierarchy, sense-of-self trumps intelligence. And it doesn’t take more than a few moments thought to see no end of examples as to why this is true. The English upper-class disdain for the EDL, for example. In fact, the need to acquire a sense-of-self can be so overpowering it will lead an individual, living in an Islamic culture for example, to become a suicide bomber in his effort to attain it.
Intelligence, by itself, is only a force multiplier for the virtues and vices that form a person’s sense-of-self. So maybe our inquiries should be focused on this thing we call our sense-of-self rather than on intelligence, since, clearly intelligence by itself doesn’t seem to correlate positively with anything going on in the world today.
Yes, I think you’re onto something with your “sense-of-self” idea. The same thing would apply to that French kid who got beat up on the bus by enrichers, but would rather endure that than be “racist”. Or the Norwegian intellectual (who argued with Fjordman) who would rather die in a terror attack on an airplane than have passengers profiled, which he considers “discrimination”. This is a deeply entrenched fundamental meme that has suicidal consequences, individually and for a culture.
Intelligence that is significantly above the mean (2 standard deviations, maybe?) may have as little selective value as intelligence that far below the mean. Heck, that’s what formed the mean in the first place, after all. And the most evil and destructive individuals in recent history had high intelligence levels. Lenin and Hitler in particular come to mind.
I keep asking the question “why do smart people do stupid things?” to try to rattle the cages of people such as the “race realists”, who are preoccupied to the point of obsession with race and intelligence. There is no objective evidence that the lesser intelligence of Arabs or Bangladeshis has had a negative selective impact on their collective genome; quite the contrary. White people, in contrast, are in the process of very intelligently destroying their own genetic group.
I think IQ may be flawed as a metric. It may be that we need additional metrics that analyze other aspects of what the mind does. For me, the most compelling examples of this are certain car mechanics I have known in my life. These guys probably scored at or below the mean in IQ, maybe sixty points less than my own. Yet they could do things with engines that were wondrous to behold. I used to watch them in awe; it seemed miraculous to someone like me, who could never do anything whatsoever with mechanical devices. These fellows just had the knack for it; they fell into a line of work for which they had the aptitude.
I’m sure there are other examples that could be cited — music, or dealing with animals, or being skilled working with wood.
IQ measures something meaningful but limited. It has to do with the traits and skills that served to form complex social structures and create industrial society. Since we are now past the stage of designing the Great Machine (a.k.a. “The World Mind”), and only need to maintain it and let it run our lives, a high IQ seems contraindicated for the bulk of the population. That’s what the current selective process is telling us.
However, after the Collapse comes, the game will change again, and other selective pressures will be brought to bear. So who knows?
For a long time now I’ve wondered about the validity of my own thoughts on this matter, but you see it too.
You’re correct in assuming that an intelligent system would never voluntarily terminate its own existence, i.e. commit suicide. This is the “dumb” in your question, WDSPDDTs? But when dealing with human populations, what are the intelligent systems that are operative; the individuals that form a population or the meme sets that form that population’s collective sense of self?
What allowed it all to make sense to me, at any rate, was the realization that Darwinian selection is still going on within human populations, but for us, this selection process is no longer occurring at the genetic level but at the memetic level. It is the meme sets that are fighting for survival and refuse to terminate themselves; even if it means that the meme set’s host dies as a result.
I had an exchange in the comment section of “Outsmarting Ourselves” with someone who never did get this simple point.
I think what you are seeing is a variation on the parable of the drunk who lost his keys in the dark, but looks for them under the lamppost, because that’s where the light is. IQ and race are things we can see, measure and have a language to talk about. But none of these conditions holds for the concept of sense-of-self. So even though the problem with Western society is one clearly related to individual sense-of-self, we talk about IQ and race instead, because “that’s where the light is.”
Darwinian selection is the result of two processes, first survival then reproduction. A society may have a low survivability rate but make up for that by having lots of babies and still go on to be a “Darwinian” winner. Conversely, the Shakers might have all been above average in IQ, but where is that society now?
IQ tests might be the best metric we have for gauging individual intelligence, but your IQ score is not your intelligence. Jim Flynn commented last year on his own “Flynn Effect”: that is, the apparent rise over the last century in the average IQ by three points per decade. His answer in short was that we’re not getting smarter; we’re just getting better at taking IQ tests.
There is a base level of intelligence we are given at birth by our heredity. My guess is that this base level is related to the density of neural connections that will form in our brain. But given that base level, we can still grow it somewhat or shrink it by a lot, depending on our upbringing and our choices. In my opinion, as long as someone’s base intelligence falls within a standard deviation of the mean for the population they live in, they will function just fine in that society. Hence the reason the variance of the IQ bell curve is what it is.
My years as a logger showed me countless examples of this. I’ve worked with so many men who academically barely made it out of high school, but when you look at the complicated tasks they perform and watch their thinking processes as they solve problems, it becomes clear that they must be well above average in intelligence. I’ve seen it said about Charlie Taylor, that his genius flowed out his hands. If you don’t know this man’s story, it’s well worth the look.
I’ve never thought about it this way before, but you’re correct. Unfortunately, this pattern only lasts until the John Galts who keep the system running decide to walk away; then it all falls apart.
Yes, I generally agree with you on all these points. Ever since I started writing, I’ve talked about evolution and natural selection as processes that apply to all complex information systems at all levels. This is, of course, not original with me — linguistic psychologists (or whatever they call their discipline) were talking about it vis-à-vis language long before the internet was invented.
Unfortunately, Western Civilization seems determined to exterminate both its genome and its memes. When the Muslims get through with us, not much will be left of our main memes, or even our meme-space. The very structure of our thought-processes will be extirpated and replaced with Koranic thinking.
It’s depressing if I think about it too much.
When the John Galts walk away (or die off), there’s no predicting what will happen. There is no historical precedent for what is happening right now. All we can say for certain is that it will of necessity be very different.
I have no argument with either gentleman here. What they say is pertinent to what we see all around us. But the shredding of our cultural fabric appears to be speeding up as cultural Marxism teaches our children it’s better to be dead than rude. Maybe the dissolution of our bonds is an inescapable consequence of our technology. Henry Ford himself saw the social dangers of cars in the hands of young people.
What seems to get lost in our idolatry of all the gee-whiz communication gadgets is our sense of civility. When liberty becomes “freedom from” then liberty itself became disordered and justice is eschewed in favor of an amoral pragmatism. The only problem with unmoored pragmatism is the sharp edges of its double-sided nature.
Anonymity permits cruelty, always a risk beyond a certain number of people gathered in one place. Freud claimed the city permitted civilization to develop, but it also permitted urban nature red in tooth and claw. Individuals unmoored from their families, families unconnected from their clans — it begins to get dangerous out there. Thus we are seeing the circle back to gated communities, for instance the demand by some communities which share a boundary with Detroit that their city fathers build high walls and require I.D. cards for residents.
Let’s see if we can kill socialism before it kills us. It doesn’t require great intelligence, just wily, strategic thinking. Do you think we have enough time? I do.
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