more on transhumanism

Some more thoughts on transhumanism.

I’ve already expressed my view that an increase in the number of high IQ people would be a disadvantage to society. The manipulation of human genetics could pose other dangers also.

Intelligence appears to be a quality that is controlled not by a handful of genes but by huge numbers. If you want to create transhumans with incredibly high intelligence you’re going to have to manipulate thousands of genes.

The problem with this is that if you manipulate thousands of genes then how can you be sure that intelligence is the only thing you’re going to be changing? Human behaviour is incredibly complex. If you fiddle around with genes that alter the workings of the mind then you might end up with some unanticipated and very unpleasant behavioural changes.

You might end up with people with very high IQs and major psychological and behavioural problems. A high IQ person with severe psychological issues might be more of a liability than an asset to society. We have no way of knowing exactly what form such psychological disturbances might take.

It’s unfortunate that many people seem to be inclined to ignore such risks. These risks are entirely unpredictable and unquantifiable. Rather than being a magical shortcut to power and prosperity it might be more like playing Russian roulette.

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socialist realism reconsidered

Alexander Deineka, The Expanse, 1944

Socialist realism was the officially approved painting style in the Soviet Union from around the time that Stalin came to power. It was very much a reaction what was seen (quite correctly) as the decadent and degenerate modernist art of the West.

It was a direct challenge to the orthodoxy of the western art establishment. Socialist realism was optimistic and wholesome when everybody in the western art establishment knew that art was supposed to be pessimistic and was supposed to celebrate ugliness, squalor and depravity. So socialist realism was the subject of anger and ridicule among western art critics.

When we think of socialist realism we think of the propaganda paintings and posters. We think of heroic portraits of Stalin, inspiring scenes in tractor factories, brave Red Army soldiers fighting evil fascists. There was this side of it, no question of it. But there was a bit more to it than that. Socialist realism was also intended to be art for ordinary people. Art that ordinary people would understand, and like.

The very idea of art that ordinary people would understand and enjoy was of course anathema to western artistic elites. And here we get down to the nitty-gritty. Socialist realism was consciously anti-elite art.

Yuri Pimenov (1903–1977),  Wedding in Tomorrow Street, 1962

Western elites consider that art belongs to them. The notion that the average person has the right to hold an opinion on the subject of art is deeply offensive to western elites.

Being art for ordinary people socialist realism can tend towards sentimentality. But then if you look at the tastes of ordinary people everywhere you’ll find that they do tend towards sentimentality.

Socialist realism upsets western intellectual and artistic elites for other reasons. It challenges assumptions about the purpose of art. For more than a hundred years it has been an article of faith that art is and must be political. That of course means that art must reflect the political views of the elites.

In the west the intellectual/artistic elites identify as left-wing (and back in the 1930s and 40s they really were left-wing). You might think they would therefore admire the art of a country that actually had a socialist government that promoted an avowedly left-wing style of art (socialist realism) but in fact they hated socialist realism because it was the wrong kind of left-wing art.

Western art critics and theorists wanted revolutionary art that would undermine the culture and destroy society. The Soviet Union on the other hand had already had its revolution. What the Soviets wanted was art that would promote stability and social cohesion. In fact what the Soviets wanted looked to left-wing western arty types like reactionary art, or even (horror of horrors) fascist art. So, amusingly, the western left violently disliked the art of the communist world that they so admired in every other way.

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Nikolay Bondarenko (1914-2000), Sport bold and beautiful, 1963

This all raises interesting questions about the purpose of art. Should art be political? Is political art automatically good art (as the western art establishment believes) or is political art automatically bad art (as many traditionalists believe)? Should art make people angry, disturbed and miserable (as the western art establishment believes), or should art make people joyful and optimistic (a belief shared by traditionalists and the Soviets)? Should art celebrate ugliness and degeneracy (as the western art establishment believes) or should it celebrate beauty and health (a belief also shared by traditionalists and the Soviets)?

Of course one could ask whether art even has a purpose. In the late 19th century art started to become a substitute for religion. I’m not sure that this was a good idea. There had always been religious art but that was art that served religion rather than seeking to supplant it.

In any case I don’t think Soviet art was all that bad. In fact there’s quite a lot of socialist realist art that I rather like. I wouldn’t describe it as one of my favourite art movements but it was certainly preferable to most western modernist and postmodernist art.

Although I know a bit about 19th century Russian art I must confess to my complete ignorance of the artists of the Soviet period. The paintings included in this post just happened to be paintings I found on the web that appeal to me. I have no idea if all these artists identified as socialist realists, or whether they were generally regarded as belonging to that school.

IQ fetishism and transhumanism

There’s much concern at the moment that some Chinese scientist may have already created the first genetically modified human babies.

Much of the hand-wringing concerns the possibility that China will use this technology to breed lots of high-IQ babies, this giving China an immense economic advantage over all its competitors.

This seems to me to be a bit unlikely. The Chinese already have tens of millions of very high IQ people. Why would they need, or want, more?

This comes back to the IQ fetishism that I find to be so amusing. The idea that the more high IQ people a nation has the more powerful that nation will become. This really is nonsense. You actually need only a very very small number of high IQ people. If you have more high IQ people than you need you will have major social problems. You will end up with lots of very smart people chasing a fairly small number of suitable jobs. The ones who miss out will become angry and disillusioned. They are likely to gravitate toward political extremism. You will have more SJW/globalist political activists expressing their frustrations at their own uselessness by lashing out at society.

This is what has already happened in the West as we have expanded university education far beyond our actual needs. We have already created a massive entirely unnecessary pool of university-educated intellectuals who serve no useful purpose whatsoever.

It’s not really all that likely that any of the major developed nations is suffering from a shortage of high IQ people.

If a nation did want to gain a significant advantage by manipulating the genetic attributes of its population IQ might not be the attribute to choose. A smarter population is likely to cause more headaches. But how about a more docile population? A population not just indoctrinated into docility, by genetically engineered into passive obedience. Ot perhaps it might be useful to have some segments of the population more docile, and others more aggressive? Changes in behavioural traits that could be hardwired into the population’s generic code might be attractive not just to nations like China but also to the large corporations that control the West, and to the western elites that serve those corporations.

So personally I’d be more worried about behavioural modifications than the creation of super-high IQ nations.

what the military is really for

It’s obvious that something strange is happening to the militaries of western nations. Combat efficiency is no longer considered to  be important. What matters is political correctness. What matters is diversity, and having equal representation for women, homosexuals and transgenders.

This seems odd at first. Surely it’s obvious that an army of women and homosexuals is not going to be the slightest bit of use against a real enemy? And in order to get women into combat units it’s going to be necessary to lower standards of physical fitness to such extreme degrees that even the men are going to be increasingly recruited from the less fit. So eventually your entire army is going to be of very poor quality.

It seems odd until you ask yourself the question – what is the military actually for? The West has no actual enemies in the sense of hostile nation states with formidable conventional military forces. The enemies that the media tries to get us worried about our illusory enemies. The Russians just want to be left alone. They have their own problems to deal with. The Chinese have no interest in anything outside their own backyard and their backyard is a long long way from any western nation. There are no other countries possessing military establishments that could possibly be a threat to the West.

The military and political establishments in the West are well aware of this. But there is one enemy that they are genuinely worried about. And that’s the enemy within. They are worried about the prospect of large-scale civil unrest as citizens increasingly lose enthusiasm for the globalist and social justice agendas. They are worried that civil unrest could escalate to riots, or even worse. The enemy they fear is their own people. They fear a repetition of 1968 in France, they fear the troubles that brought down the French Fourth Republic, they fear a repeat of the anti-Vietnam War protests, they fear a revival of anti-globalisation violence. They fear that their own people will, when pushed too far, turn against them.

That means they need a military that they can rely on absolutely. A military that is fiercely loyal to the regime. That means a military filled with women, minorities, homosexuals, trannies etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s a military of unfit overweight misfits, as long as those misfits can be relied upon to shoot down their own people if the government tells them to do so. An army of white heterosexual men might not obey such orders. The political and military establishment are confident that the new diverse army will obey such orders. An army of misfits will be loyal because they have no choice. They are entirely dependent on the government. They will pull the trigger on their own people.

There is another fear. What if civil unrest breaks out and elements within the military decide to throw in their lot with the dissidents and stage a coup? That’s a real possibility if you have a military with pride and esprit de corps, a military composed of men who believe in duty and sacrifice. The answer to that is to ensure that the entire officer corps is composed of reliable people. Female officers and homosexual officers – these people are of little use in the military but they’re even less useful in the real world. Their careers are all they have. They will be loyal.

The modern army does not have to be tough enough to take on professional battle-hardened troops. It just needs to be politically reliable to shoot Deplorables should that become necessary.

pop culture time capsules, The F.B.I. (1965)

I have a great fondness for the pop culture of the past. This includes vintage television which is in fact one of the great loves.

Once you become red-pilled though you find that vintage pop culture can be a little disturbing. For one thing, you can’t avoid noticing the propaganda. And the liberal propaganda was always there in television, going right back to the 50s.

At times watching old TV shows can also be an oddly melancholic experience. That’s what I’m finding at the moment with The F.B.I., or more specifically with the first season of that series. The F.B.I. was an immensely popular series which aired from 1965 to 1974. It’s the fact that the first season originated in 1965 that gives it a real poignancy. 1965 was a very very pivotal year. Everything was about to change. Pop culture can offer us a fascinating window into the past and can sometimes be more illuminating than official history.

The 1965 season of The F.B.I. shows us an America that is peaceful, prosperous, united and confident. What’s interesting is that this is a crime series, so it actually has an agenda to show us the darker side of society. Which it does. It makes no attempt to deny that problems exist. However the overwhelming feeling that the show conveys is that these problems are entirely manageable. They are challenges that can be, and will be, met and overcome.

There’s the challenge of organised crime but the Bureau is already giving that top priority. There’s communist subversion but in this series the communists are mostly paid agents of foreign governments and mostly they’re involved in sabotage. In those happy days of 1965 no-one had considered the possibility that society might be much more effectively undermined by subversives taking control of the education system and the media. Erskine, the older of the two F.B.I. agents featured in the series, actually wants his daughter to stay in college rather than get married. It’s difficult to think of a more wrong-headed notion but in 1965 college still seemed like a good idea.

Drugs are mentioned but are seen as purely a law enforcement problem and as another challenge that can be met. Vietnam gets mentioned in passing but there’s no sense that it’s going to prove to be an historical watershed. The horrors of feminism and militant LGBT activism weren’t even on the horizon. Pornography was seen as a threat but a threat that could be largely eliminated by vigorous law enforcement. The idea that within a few years a policy of complete surrender on this subject would be adopted and the country flooded with pornography would have been considered crazy talk in 1965.

There’s one episode in which a cab driver decides to become an F.B.I. informant. I don’t mean that he’s a reluctant witness who is persuaded to come forward. He volunteers to be an active informant, seeking out information to pass on to the Bureau. And he does this because he thinks it’s his duty as a citizen. Even two or three years later I don’t think such a decision could have been presented in such an unironic way. In fact that’s one of the notable things about the 1965 season of The F.B.I. – it is totally lacking in irony. Which I think is wonderful.

America in 1965 is not exactly portrayed as being complacent, merely very confident. Democracy seemed to be working. The political and economic system as a whole seemed to be delivering the goods. Technological progress appeared to be limitless and entirely a good thing.

By 1974, when this series ended its run, the society depicted in the first season had pretty much ceased to exist. And it was a disaster that, apparently, was entirely unexpected.

The series is politically incorrect, and often delightfully so, but in those innocent times no-one knew that political correctness was going to become a thing. The F.B.I. is extremely good but watching it  really is desperately sad at times.

Orwell reconsidered

I’ve been reading a collection of George Orwell’s essays and it’s been a slightly disturbing experience. If you’re accustomed to thinking of Orwell as a remarkably prescient and perceptive writer with a knack for penetrating to the heart of the matter it can even be a shocking experience.

The truth is that Orwell did not have quite the brilliant mind that w’ve been led to believe. He was quite good at pointing out the fallacies in other people’s thinking but he was prone to making exactly the same mistakes himself. He points out that most people believe atrocity stories when the atrocities are allegedly carried out by people of whom they disapprove, and tend to disbelieve atrocity stories when those atrocities are alleged to have been committed by people of whom they approve. This is true and it’s very important. And then in the same essay he assures us that we should believe all the stories of Fascist atrocities in the Spanish Civil War because, after all, the Fascists are bad people. They’re people of whom Orwell disapproves.

Orwell had a knack for being wrong, or at least for being partly right but mostly wrong. He believed that the first year of the war had conclusively demonstrated the failure of capitalism. Britain could not hope to survive unless it adopted full-scale socialism. Without socialism Orwell was convinced that defeat was inevitable. He was of course partly correct. Britain (and the United States) did adopt a form of War Socialism, and it is quite likely that victory would have been impossible otherwise. What Orwell failed to anticipate was that once the war was won the ruling class would reinstate capitalism. He also failed to anticipate the way in which the working class would be bought off with the expansion of the welfare state which eliminated any desire on the part of the working class for the kind of full-scale socialism that Orwell craved.

Let’s be quite clear about this. For all his opposition to national socialism and Soviet communism Orwell was most certainly not a moderate leftist. He was a hardcore socialist. Orwell’s vision of the ideal future was pretty much full-on communism. On the other hand Orwell seemed to disapprove of all the established leftist groupings. He despised the Labour Party. He despised the English communists. He particularly loathed what he called the pansy left. He talks about a kind of democratic socialism which really is pure fantasy. The kind of socialism that Orwell wanted was never going to be brought about by the ballot box. Orwell’s beliefs were doubtless since but hopelessly unrealistic.

Orwell also suffered from a crippling case of colonial guilt. He had been, briefly, a colonial policeman in Burma. It was a career for which he was ludicrously unsuited and it turned him into a rabid but somewhat irrational anti-imperialist. He was convinced that Britain’s prosperity was based entirely on the exploitation of the huddled masses of India and Britain’s other colonial outposts.

All of this of course just shows that Orwell was human and was as much a prey to intellectual prejudices and emotional misjudgments as anyone else. His belief in socialism doesn’t bother me but it does seem to me that his ideas as to how it could be implemented were hopelessly naïve. His dislike of imperialism also doesn’t bother me although he does take it to an unrealistic extreme. The European colonial empires may have been a disastrous mistake but to see them as having not even the slightest positive element is I think going too far.

Orwell had a somewhat unique perspective. Intellectual circles in Britain in the 30s and 40s were fairly overwhelmingly dominated by leftism but Orwell was a kind of contrarian communist who managed to remain entirely independent of all the established leftist groupings. For this reason alone his essays are worth reading.

The First World War and the death of empires

It is now exactly a hundred years since the guns stopped firing in the First World War. I don’t propose to discuss the rights and wrongs of the war since there is little to be said on that subject that hasn’t already been said.

I do want to take about one of the most evil of all the evil results of the war.

The war destroyed four great empires – the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. I’m sure that none of those empires could have been described as perfect but they were all significantly better than what replaced them.

The destruction of the German Empire led to the chaos of the Weimar Republic and then to Hitler.

The destruction of the Russian Empire paved the way for the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917. The Russian Empire was autocratic and authoritarian certainly but it was not especially brutal. It was also an empire that was booming. Contrary to popularly held views the collapse of the Tsarist empire was by no means inevitable. In fact in 1914 there was every reason to think that it had a bright future in front of it. The war brought Lenin to power. Without the war Lenin would have lived out his days as just another failed revolutionary in exile. He would hardly have qualified even as a footnote to history.

The destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire led to some extraordinarily ill-advised territorial reorganisations which were always going to end up leading to further war.

And most of the horrors that have been visited upon the Middle East in the last century can be said to be due to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The First World War changed everything and remarkably it changed almost everything in extraordinarily disastrous ways. It’s difficult to think of a single good thing that came out of that war.

That’s the trouble with wars. They set in motion events that are entirely unpredictable and are often the exact opposite of the result that had been hoped for. What they destroy can never be rebuilt. They kindle a fatal desire for political and social experimentation. They encourage the entirely pernicious desire to change things.

Most wars would have been better not fought. That applies particularly strongly to the First World War.