American Exceptionalism

This post succinctly summarizes why the US stock market ha done so well compared to the rest of the world:

If the world is circling the drain, America is furthest from the drain, on the most outer ripple. Wherever the market falls more than a couple percent, the huge funds step in and keep buying the dips, as developed economies are awash with liquidity and US stock market and treasuries are still the best game in town in a world of uncertainty. The S&P 500 has gained 5% since Brexit:

Public and private pension funds and insurance companies are among the biggest holders of stocks and treasury bonds. That’s a huge part of the economy that is helping keep interest rates low and stock prices high.

Those who heeded the doom an gloom headlines about Brexit and sold their stocks at the bottom (the worst possible time), would have missed out on this huge rally.

A winning investment strategy since 2009 has been to short all markets excluding US, while going long the S&P 500 or the Nasdaq 100:

As shown above, foreign markets have markedly lagged the S&P 500 since 2011. The S&p 500 (blue) is up 85% since 2012 (and this does not include the generous 2% annual dividends). China (pink) is flat. Brazil (green) is down 48%. Turkey (purple) is down 19%.

This agrees with a thesis of this blog, which is that America is still exceptional (or at least compared to the rest of the world).

As I explain in Slow Economic Growth Not a Big Deal, America is leading the world in terms of intellectual output and inflation-adjusted GDP growth. There is a lot of evidence that not only is America not in decline, it’s running laps around the rest of the world.

America still best place to invest. Emerging markets, Europe, and Japan have too many problems, either too much volatility, slow growth, high inflation, corruption, or too much regulation, which hurts capitalism. Emerging markets are dependent on capital inflows in order to keep growing, resulting in lots of debt at very high yields. America also has a lot of debt. but the key distinction is that it can name its own price, resulting in very low yields on its debt. Foreign countries also suffer from cognitive outflow: all their best and bright (understandably) moving to America, which has much more opportunity for the best and the brightest from all over the world. Rich foreigners and their smart kids are coming to America, buying up real estate in the most expensive of locations, attending America’s most prestigious schools, and then working at some of the most lucrative, fastest-growing companies like Snapchat, Facebook, Palantir, Airbnb, Pinterest, and Google, and making millions in the process (from the real estate, stock options, and high wages). Only in America is that possible, not in Denmark, Japan, or Brazil.

America occupies 63 spots of the top 200 institutions of higher education in the world, followed by UK with only 34:

America also has 6 of the top 10 academic institutions:

Unfortunately, for better or worse, a lot of Americans also being left out, sitting on the sidelines as others make tons of money. Although wealth inequality has always existed, perhaps to add insult to injury, it seems like policy makers care more about appeasing both extremes (either the really poor immigrants or the cognitive and financial elite) than average Americans, who are pushed to periphery in terms of policy. This could explain the appeal of Trump, as part of a growing backlash against policy makers who seem too deferential to either extremes of the wealth spectrum and ignoring ‘average people’ in the middle.

Mason, in his post 10 THINGS MOST AMERICANS DON’T KNOW ABOUT AMERICA sums this up pretty well:

If you’re extremely talented or intelligent, the US is probably the best place in the world to live. The system is stacked heavily to allow people of talent and advantage to rise to the top quickly.

The problem with the US is that everyone thinks they are of talent and advantage. As John Steinbeck famously said, the problem with poor Americans is that “they don’t believe they’re poor, but rather temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” It’s this culture of self-delusion that allows America to continue to innovate and churn out new industry more than anyone else in the world. But this shared delusion also unfortunately keeps perpetuating large social inequalities and the quality of life for the average citizen lower than most other developed countries. It’s the price we pay to maintain our growth and economic dominance.

America may bee the land of opportunity for the best and brightest, but for far too many such exceptionalism is out of reach. One of the best, easiest ways for average Americans to take advantage of America’s economic dominance is to buy and hold the S&P 500.

Wealth, Intellectualism, and Individualism, Part 2 (the obsession with finance)

The second pillar is wealth. Francisco d’Anconia’s infamous speech from Atlas Shrugged is relevant:

“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

It seems like in recent years there has been a massive surge, especially online, in finance-related topics and discussion. Everyone is looking for ways to get wealthy, whether through stocks, trading, options, or making money online. But also, there are often huge, heated discussions about wealth management, financial planing, indexing, and the structure of the market itself, such as whether the stock market is rigged, manipulated, overvalued, or efficient. Money may not be the roof of all evil, but it is certainly the root of a lot of online discussions. Same for the surge in discussions about job loss and automation, post scarcity, basic income, and wealth equality, as part of the post-2008 ‘great debate‘ online about economics.

The wealth ‘boom’ and obsession with wealth didn’t really begin in earnest until 2013. Pre-2013 there was the OWS movement, and the the memory of the financial crisis was still fresh in the minds of millions of millennials, with much resentment towards Wall St. and bankers, as capitalism had ‘failed’ them. In addition, Obama had been reelected, and millennial voters were still optimistic that the ‘hope and change’ he promised in his first term could still be realized. Then, almost inexplicably, in 2013, along with the post-2013 SJW backlash, gamergate, and then, in 2015, with the Trump ‘surge’, there was a 180-degree change in mindset among millennials, from resisting capitalism and wealth creation to embracing it more than ever. With the S&P 500 up up 30% in 2013 alone (the greatest one-year gain since 1953), OWS a failure, and Obama’s ‘hope and change’ more of a myth than reality, millions of millennials suddenly realized that it’s better, more productive to emulate the rich and successful than resent them. Related to ‘individualism’ (in part 1), the cutthroat nature of the economy also played a role in this transition, as millennials realized that the competitive economic environment necessitated self-sufficiency for a future when there would be a smaller social safety net, instead of hoping for the government to bail them out. From: The Millennial Mindset – Individualism Over The Collective:

Even ‘selfie’ culture is an example of the ‘self’ being more important than the ‘collective’. Same for the rise of MGTOW and ‘mens’s rights’, both which emphasize individualism against politically correct social norms. Millennials understand that the economy is and will continue to become more competitive and that you cannot rely on the ‘collective’ – be it the government, friends, or family – to pull you up – you have to forge your own destiny, your own wealth, and your own success. Or in the words of James Altucher, ‘choose yourself’. The economy is forcing everyone to become ‘Objectivists‘.

And from What isn’t being taught in schools that should be?:

But also, millennials see their baby boomers parents (as well as the headlines since 2008 of people losing everything, of being unemployed) frittering cash on useless purchases, and other bad financial decisions. Millennials, who are surprisingly savvy about personal finance, value self-sufficiency and financial independence, but schools typically don’t teach personal finance – things as debt, mortgages vs. renting, taxes, budgeting, credit scores, index funds vs. individual stocks vs. bonds, credit cards, or even how to balance a checkbook. That’s where the dissatisfaction with today’s educational system comes from – that fact schools are not teaching these pertinent, actionable skills.

Personal finance, including budgeting, is very important to millennials, who value financial independence and self-sufficiency. Although many millennials are living at home with their parents longer, millennials value ‘financial independence’ over ‘location independence’ and are using the saved money to become self-sufficient, such as by buying a home or investing in the stock market, instead of pissing away money every month to the landlord. When they finally ‘leave the nest’, they will have a lot of money saved up. This also explains why millennials also like STEM so much: not only is it intellectually demanding (intellectualism), but it pays the most too:

To give an example of how finance is so important to millennials, a thread on Reddit about the simulated buy and hold returns of the S&P 500 over many intervals, went massively viral getting thousands of up-votes, hundreds comments, and two gilding of ‘Reddit Gold’ for the thread creator. Everyone wants to get richer.

A question on Quora, What are good ways to prepare my kids to become billionaires?, got over a hundred replies, with some replies getting hundreds of up-votes, signifying considerable interest in wealth creation.

As another example of the importance of wealth creation, a post on Hacker News about day trading also went hugely viral and generated hundreds of posts detailing individual experiences day trading, with some posts containing very detailed statistical analysis of day trading successes vs. failures. This ties into intellectualism, because success at day trading is an intellectual endeavor, with smarter people making more money than the less intelligent who trade and lose money, and with the stock market making new highs almost every week, there is an increased interest in investing but also day trading, as a way to make money quickly. Making thousands of dollars as a doctor or a lawyer? Snooze. Trading stocks? Hundred of replies and thousands of page views. The reason, again, has to do with intellectualism but also individualism, because in today’s difficult economy, where jobs are are being automated-away and inflation-adjusted wages are flat, necessitates that people find ways to generate income and become self-sufficient without being dependent on an employer.

Millennials are facing a future where social security may not exist, with lots of student loan debt that may never be paid off, on top a sucky job market that is not producing enough good-paying jobs, all the while inflation-adjusted wages are stagnant across many jobs and industries. Day trading is seen a one form of escape from employer bondage, with the added appeal of being intellectual and STEM-like (analyzing data, price patterns, charts, etc.), the latter is why it is so appealing to millennials and other smart people, who see the stock market as a form of ‘science’ that can be analyzed rigorously, like astrophysics. Professions like being a doctor or a lawyer seem to have lost their luster and have too much regulation and student loan debt involved, whereas day trading and finance is seen as a short-cut to wealth for those who are smart enough. Day trading also appeals to the Randian desire to become self-made and self-sufficient, to be distinguished and rewarded financially for one’s merits, and to ‘outwit’ the less-intelligent masses who also trade but fail. In fact, there is a character in Atlas Shrugged who is a genius and can predict the stock market.

But at the same time, an article about ‘being average‘ also went viral. This ties into post-2008 ‘authenticity culture’, of how it’s better to be authentically ‘true to yourself’, even if it means being average, than being deluded and afflicted by Dunning Kruger. Biological determinism again rears its head, with genes limiting the potential of people who aspire to more than their biology will allow. This is related to ‘share narratives’, as millions of people are seeking answers to existential questions like, ‘Can someone who is only average find meaning in life in an economy and culture that seems to rewards individual success and talent, and how so?’ Not everyone can be a day trading genius, a web 2.0 billionaire, or a top physicist or mathematician, so learning or coping with being ‘average’ is a useful skill.

Reddit communities /r/investing, /r/personalfinance, and /r/wallstbets have seen immense growth in the past few years, especially the latter, which caters to young day traders and option traders, many of whom consistently make a lot of money trading. It’s not too uncommon in these communities too see heated, highly technical debates about market efficiency, capital asset pricing models, commission structures, option pricing and other complicated topics, combining wealth and intellectualism. Unlike earlier decades, it’s not only finance professors and old economists who have an interest or knowledge in such topics – but now it’s every 20 and 30-something who is an expert on finance and is actively participating in these debates.

It’s just weird but also understandable in light of recent economic and cultural changes how people went from, in 2011 with OWS, protesting capitalism to now, in 2016, to not being able to get enough of it. A complete 180-degree change in mindset.

To be continued…

Heuristics for the Post-2008 World, Part 1

This advice given this in this article captures the ethos of post-2008 era – an era in which IQ, self-determination, intellectual expertise and knowledge are more important than ever, coinciding with the post-2008 decline/obsolescence of collectivism and liberalism, in general. Commentary is below.

1. Ignore 1-star and 5-star reviews of books, hotels and products. The 3-star reviews will answer all your questions.

This ties in with the post-2008 rise of expertism. The smartest reviewers tend to give more nuanced reviews, although 1-star reviews can still reflect a genuine criticism of a book.

2. When you’re a host, use that experience to learn how to be a better guest, and vice-versa.

3. If you want to be fit, become someone who doesn’t skip or reschedule workouts. Skipping workouts is always the beginning of the end.

As part of the post-2008 culture of self-determination, Red Pill culture and individualism, million of men are hitting the gym to lift heavy weights, posting pictures of it on Instagram.

This also explains why Trump is so popular, and how he bested more experienced, smarter candidates like Cruz. After an eight-year hiatus, voters want masculinity to return to the Oval Office, and Trump, unlike Obama who is perceived as a weak push-over, will command respect and authority among foreign leaders, even if they don’t agree with Trump policy-wise. This will give a Trump presidency increased negotiating power with regard to trade and foreign relations, and may even augur well for world peace because Trump will be perceived as more inclined to fight back if America’s interests are threatened. Even though Trump has made possibly disparaging comments about Mexico and China, the leaders of those countries, where masculinity is culturally considered more important than in America or Europe, can still respect Trump’s command of authority, whereas they see Obama, and rightfully so, as weak, effeminate, and malleable. The Saudis, for example, may not agree with Trump but they respect him nonetheless, much in the same way a cadet respects or is subordinate to his drill instructor. The same for George W. Bush, who forged friendships with the Saudis, despite obvious cultural and ethnic differences, because they both respected each other’s power and masculinity. The Saudis were also close with Reagan and George H. W. Bush, but they snubbed Obama and Clinton. The same for the Chinese…they respect Trump, but pretended to respect Obama. Just because foreign dignitaries seem to ‘like’ Obama doesn’t mean they actually respect him. Foreign leaders know they can walk all over Obama, but not Trump.

4. Learn keyboard shortcuts. If you don’t know what CTRL + Z does, your life is definitely harder than it has to be.

People getting smarter and more productive. But also the need or pressure – either self-inflicted or peer – to self-improve in order to keep up, which is a common theme in our competitive, results-orientated post-2008 era.

5. Become a stranger’s secret ally, even for a few minutes. Your perception of strangers in general will change.

6. Get over the myth that philosophy is boring — it has a history of changing lives. It’s only as boring as the person talking about it.

It’s like we’re on the same wavelength. I’m attuned to the new era. Learnedness in philosophy is useful because it signals above average critical thinking skills, which is helpful in an increasingly technological economy. Philosophy, because it requires the comprehension and synthesis of abstruse and arcane texts, requires an above-average IQ and hence it ranks high in the hierarchy of majors, garnering respect for people who major in it – especially in the post-2008 era, where intelligence is more important and revered than ever.

7. If you’re about to put down a boring a non-fiction book, skim the rest of it before you move on. Read the bits that still appeal to you.

Skim the book at B&N.

8. Ask yourself if you’ve become a relationship freeloader. Initiate the plans about half the time.

America has an entitlement spending problem because it’s burdened by a growing parasitic class, as well as surging healthcare spending for things such as end-of-life care and free emergency room care for the uninsured.

9. Notice how much you talk in your head, and experiment with listening to your surroundings instead. You can’t do both at the same time.

It would seem like INTP & INTJ people, who are introspective and independent, are wired for success in post-2008 economy, while social skills and extroversion are becoming less important and respected. As part of the post-2008 rise of the expert and nerd culture, being a socially awkward geek, as optimized by Raymond Babbitt in Rain Main and John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, exudes authenticity and competence, while being too chatty and outgoing signals possible incompetence and superficiality.

10. Reach out to people you know are shy. It’s hard for them to get involved in social things without somebody making a point of including them.

Same as #9

11. Learn the difference between something that makes you feel bad, and something that’s wrong. A thing can feel bad and be right, and it can feel good and be wrong.

TARP immediately comes to mind as something that made a lot of people mad but was the right thing to do, same for QE and other unpopular but economically auspicious programs. Democracy and the ‘will of the people’ should cede to the best policy as determined by experts. Sometimes the elite are wrong on cultural issues, but they are often right on economic issues and defense.

12. If you need to stop for any reason in a public place, move off to the side first.

If you must be an asshole, level it upon those who deserve it such as the parasitic class. Otherwise try to be courteous to a fault , exhibiting supranatural situational awareness even if social skills are not important. If you are an eccentric and or eminent mathematician who is too busy trying to solve the mysteries of the universe than to be bothered with the petty norms of social conduct, you may get a pass on this rule, in order to be logically consistent with #9.

13. Before you share an interesting “fact” on Facebook, take thirty seconds to Google it first, to see if you’re spreading made-up bullshit.

As part of the post-2008 rise of expertism, ignorance and being a poser (Dunning–Kruger effect) more than ever, is not tolerated, especially by the smartest generation. They, the smarties, have very little patience for your unfounded assumptions, superstitions, protestations and beliefs, deferring to the experts on the matters – but still skeptical of any form of zealotry and proselytization, nonetheless.

Most of news is just sensationalism anyway and can be safely ignored.

14. Clean things up right away, unless your messes tend to improve with age.

The post-2008 rise of self-actualization, self-determination (within the limitations imposed by biology) and individualism against the leftist forces of collectivism, political correctness, and egalitarianism.

To be continued…

‘Shared Narratives’ is not bi-partisanship

Over the past month or so, I’ve discussed ‘shared narratives’ – points of common agreement among smart people, that somewhat unexpectedly bring them together.

Is this the same as bi-partisanship? No. The far-right and the far-left (assuming the political spectrum is linear) are opposite to each other on many issues, but an example of a shared narrative is the rejection of ‘low information’ discourse.

Although it’s commonly agreed that ‘terrorism is bad’ or ‘the death of family members is bad’, these are more like truisms than ‘shared narratives’. They are so banal that they they cannot be used to forge any long-standing unity. Typically after a tragedy, such as 911, it’s not uncommon for both sides of the political aisle set aside their differences out of solidarity, but after a few weeks things typically return to how they were. On the other hand, shared narratives are long-standing.

Wealth, Intellectualism, and Individualism, Part 1

From Michael O. Church in response to Justine Tunney, Thanks for your insightful reply:

What is this war? What are the sides? To be honest, I see a lot of bitter conflict in our society, but I don’t see the coherence of a war. I don’t see “sides”. I see a dissolution into feudalism and extreme individualism. I see a society where selfishness has become a virtue, in which “neoliberalism” (which is not very new, and not liberal) goes unquestioned, and in which pointless division thrives.

Maybe he’s right but perhaps too pessimistic about individualism, which I see as a force against leftist collectivism, whether economically or socially, but this push to individualism may also may be disconcerting those who are unable to adapt and or morally object to America’s increasingly atomistic economic and social landscape.

‘Individualism’ is a major theme of this blog, as part of the ‘trinity’ of wealth, intellectualism, and individualism, defining ‘themes’ of post-2008 society. Our post-2008 economy is a more cutthroat one, where status, more than ever, is based on individualistic merit, not collectivism or connections. Also, whether it’s stock trading, real estate, or the obsession with finance, everyone is striving to get rich, and high-IQ entrepreneurs like Martin Shkreli and Elon Musk, who embody all of the trinity, are tantamount to ‘deities’ or ‘John Galts’ (or maybe Francisco d’Anconia) for our generation of otherwise agnostic or atheist millennials. Some could liken the post-2008 economy to an ‘Ayn Rand world’ in overdrive, with neoliberal/neoconservative economic and foreign policy thrown in, too, and this seems accurate given recent economic and social trends. Even George W. Bush, in 2004, famously coined the phrase ‘the ownership society’ to describe the increasing importance of personal ownership and individualism. [Although some on the ‘right’ call neoconservatives liberal Straussian Trotskyites, such labels fall apart upon closer scrutiny.] From the Atlas Society:

Objectivism is the philosophy of rational individualism founded by Ayn Rand (1905-1982). In novels such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged , Rand dramatized her ideal man, the producer who lives by his own effort and does not give or receive the undeserved, who honors achievement and rejects envy

Of course, Michael O. Church and I are not the first to make this observation. Tom Wolf, in an influential 1976 article in New York magazine, described the 70′s as the “‘Me’ Decade”, a ‘general new attitude of Americans in the 1970s, in the direction of atomized individualism and away from communitarianism, in clear contrast with social values prevalent in the United States during the 1960s.’ But perhaps the difference between then and now are how values have changed, from a society where individualism and success were only a part of a bigger picture, not the entire picture itself.

Recent examples of Individualism include the MGTOW movement, the ‘choose yourself’ paradigm as described by James Altucher, millennials trying to be self-sufficient financially, ‘selfie culture’ (Instagram and Snapchat), and ‘hustle culture’ (millennials trying to make money on their own terms, whether through stocks, real estate, and other means, bypassing the traditional 9-5 job route).

Individualism also means more accountability and personal personal responsibility, instead of ‘shared’ responsibility. In the pre-2008 world, millions of mediocre workers were overpaid to perform jobs that have since been automated, outsourced, or completely eliminated, as emphasis has shifted towards ‘value creation’, efficiency, and productivity. The rise of the ‘gig economy’ is an example of how individuals are being paid for the value they directly produce, instead of workers being overpaid and the collective (company and shareholders) footing the bill. In the past, the cost of mediocre employees (think the pointy-haired boss of Dilbert) was distributed among the productive, and no one noticed, allowing these mediocre employees to fly under the radar for many years. Then 2008 came, profits began to fall, and bosses began to ask, ‘Why are we paying all these people so much to do so little?’ The herd was thinned, and since 2009 and profits and stock prices have surged. And to add insult to injury, in spite of huge profits, many of the jobs eliminated in the recession never returned.

Worse still, remaining employees that have not been tapped by the icy finger of the ‘profits reaper’ find themselves at the mercy of perfidious employers, in an era where loyalty is gone and the supply labor vastly exceeds demand, giving employers decided upper-hand over employees, for many industries and jobs. And then there is the SJW digital lynch mob, ready to descend on anyone that they deemed ‘racist’, a word that has been redefined to mean not someone who acts on actual prejudice but merely observes biological differences or, ideologically, fails to subscribe to far-left liberalism.

Here is a video by Mike Cernovich interviewing James Altucher about ‘choosing yourself’:

Of course, a lot of people resist this ineluctable reality. ‘I want to keep my overpaid job,’ they insist. Unless you’re in the top 1-5% of talent and are irreplaceable, odds are your employer will eventually find someone or some way to perform your job for less money, rendering your job unnecessary.

From tinkerers, to writers, to entrepreneurs, some individualism is necessary for society to advance, but like most things there is an optimal balance between collectivism (community, clergy, schools, family) and individualism (innovation at the individual level, research-based academia, and entrepreneurship).

To be continued…

Neoliberalism

An article by Sam Bowman on neoliberalism went viral: I’m a neoliberal. Maybe you are too

Neoconservatives also support free trade, markets, and are consequentialist, unlike the far-right. They also tend to have a more optimistic outlook than either the far-left or the far-right.

Neocons are typically consequentialist, supporting policy such as 2008 the bank bailouts, which created the risk of moral hazard over the long-run (and went against the ethos of ‘free market capitalism’) and was very unpopular with a lot of people, but may have been necessary to stem the bleeding from the financial system and boost confidence so that the healthier parts of the economy would not be weighed-down by the ailing banking and housing sector.

Also, Sam Bowman is from the UK. The European-equivalent of ‘liberal’ tends to be more further to the ‘left’ than the US-equivalent. Bill Clinton, despite running as a democrat, favored deregulation, welfare reform, and was tough on crime.

In response to an earlier post, someone counters that liberals are optimistic:

Small correction: as a far-leftist, we actually believe we’re (ie: Marxists, anarchists, other radicals) the inheritors of the Enlightenment and its tradition of emancipation, understanding, and happiness through the systematic application of reason. We do not have a pessimistic view of human potential merely because we object to Whig history. The opposite! We object to Whig history because we look at the world and believe that we can progress much further than the present day.

Not all Marxists and far-leftists agree on everything. Some Marxists believe technology may render jobs obsolete, and that this is a good thing, whereas many on the far-left want ‘full employment’ (examples being the Works Progress Administration by FDR in the 1930′s and the Obama stimulus in 2009).

Karl Marx, in a section of his Grundrisse that came to be known as the “Fragment on Machines”,[22][23] argued that the transition to a post-capitalist society combined with advances in automation would allow for significant reductions in labor needed to produce necessary goods, eventually reaching a point where all people would have significant amounts of leisure time to pursue science, the arts, and creative activities; a state some commentators later labeled as “post-scarcity”.[24] Marx argued that capitalism—the dynamic of economic growth based on capital accumulation—depends on exploiting the surplus labor of workers, but a post-capitalist society would allow for…

Neoliberals, unlike welfare liberals, are more receptive to post-labor economics. Also, the inheritors of ‘The Enlightenment’ are today’s neoliberals and classical liberals, and maybe some libertarians. Like Same Bowman above, they are generally optimistic about human nature, and support free trade, free dissemination of ideas, technology, markets, and some social safety net. Now contrast that to the far-left of today, such as BLM, SJWs, Sanders, and, in 2011, OWS. BLM, for example, has a very negative view of human nature, believing that blacks are being systematically oppressed by so-called ‘institutional racism’, a view also shared by SJWs. Sanders, rather create wealth and celebrate individual success, wants to fan the flames of class warfare. SJWs oppose free speech and support censorship of ‘offensive’ ideas and individuals, going so far as even protesting liberal professors (or anyone whom they deem as ‘privileged’). The far-left also subscribes to the notion of the ‘noble savage’ and that modern civilization and technology are inherently racist and oppressive, preferring that the world revert to a simpler and more egalitarian state.

Maybe I’ll make a spreadsheet to show the similarities and differences between these and other ideologies

Philosophy as a STEM Subject

The acronym STEM, as everyone knows, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEM subjects are math-intensive, analytic, and generally require a high intelligence to understand all the rules and intricacies. By this definition, the umbrella of subjects that could be considered ‘STEM’ or STEM-like could be expanded to include finance, economics, and even philosophy…I’ll leave it to the reader to find a catchy acronym.

Finance, which includes both personal finance and accounting, requires math, although the math tends to be simple – mostly arithmetic and compounding. There are also data visualizations involved, and the organization and interpretation of arrays of information such as spreadsheets and financial statements.

Economics, beginning in the the 50′s with Solow’s Growth Model and then in the 70′s with the theory of Rational Expectations and efficient vs. behavioral markets, has become very mathematical. Differential equations are a necessity, along with complicated diagrams and processing and analyzing an abundance of data. For example, there is Robert Barro, who used econometric methods to analyze data; John Cochrane, who pioneered time-series economics. Then there’s Paul Samuelson, a famous economist who used a lot of math to formulate his economic theories, adding significant rigor to the field of economics; Milton Friedman of the Chicago School and possibly the most famous economist of the 20th second half of the century, who used mathematical methods in the modeling of rational agents; Buchanan and the Calculus of Consent; Ronald Coase and his theorem…all economists who applied mathematics to economics subjects such as public choice, behavioral economics, rational markets, and decision making. More recently, physicists Lee Smolin and Eric Weinstein have begun applying concepts of gauge theory to macroeconomics.

Quantitative fiance is the most difficult and math-intensive of all fields of finance and economics, requiring a study of multi-variable partial differential equations, real analysis, measure spaces, martingale theory, and probability theory.

Online, especially since 2013 with the rise of ‘STEM culture’, finance, economics, philosophy, and quantitative finance carry the same prestige as the ‘hard’ STEM subjects such as physics, computer science, and math. Offline, no one cares you’re are an econometrician, but online you’re royalty. But even history majors, lit majors, comparative literature, and anthropology majors are also respected – subjects that, in contrast to useless ‘fluff’ degrees, are rigorous and intellectually redeeming even if they don’t pay as well as STEM. Also, finance, economics, and philosophy majors have as high of SAT scores (a good proxy for IQ) as math, computer science, and physics majors.

Then there’s philosophy, which I proclaim to be a STEM subject. Most people when they think of philology, the names Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, and maybe Nietzsche, Hume, and Kant come to mind, not mathematicians. But modern math and science offers a way of reconciling, or at least shedding new light, on questions posed by philosophers centuries earlier. The work of Godel, Turing, and Cantor blur the lines between philosophy and mathematics. Not only has philosophy, like economics, has become more STEM-like in recent years, but online especially, over the past few years, I’ve also noticed an immense increase in interest in mathematical-philosophy.

Kant in his 1781 magnum opus Critique of Pure Reason argued there were limitations to knowledge beyond the empirical: ‘Kant’s arguments are designed to show the limitations of our knowledge. The Rationalists believed that we could possess metaphysical knowledge about God, souls, substance, and so forth; they believed such knowledge was transcendentally real. Kant argues, however, that we cannot have knowledge of the realm beyond the empirical.’

Fast-forward to the 20th century, when Godel and Church disproved Hilbert’s ‘Entscheidungs Problem‘, as described by Scott Aaronson, who himself often blurs the lines between philosophy and science, in his research on computer science and complexity-theory:

The Entscheidungsproblem was the dream, enunciated by David Hilbert in the 1920s, of designing a mechanical procedure to determine the truth or falsehood of any well-formed mathematical statement. According to the usual story, Hilbert’s dream was irrevocably destroyed by the workof Godel, Church, and Turing in the 1930s. First, the Incompleteness Theorem showed that no recursively-axiomatizable formal system can encode all and only the true mathematical statements. Second, Church’s and Turing’s results showed that, even if we settle for an incomplete system F,there is still no mechanical procedure to sort mathematical statements into the three categories “provable in F,” “disprovable in F,” and “undecidable in F.”

In layman’s terms, every proof of the consistency of arithmetic (specifically, Peano axioms) is incomplete (arithmetic cannot prove itself).

These proofs tenuously vindicates Kant’s ‘synthetic a priori’, that there there are limitations to what can be proved, and that abstractions and propositions (like ‘multiplication’ and ‘addition’) have no empirical antecedent (a priori knowledge) and are ‘synthetic’ not ‘analytic’.

Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ernst Zermelo, Alan Turing, Alfred Tarski, and Georg Cantor are other examples of mathematicians whose results had philosophical implications.

The P versus NP problem may is also relevant in understanding the limitations of what cam be proved under ‘reasonable’ conditions by a computer, specifically whether every problem whose solution can be quickly verified by a computer can also be quickly solved by a computer.

Related to existentialism, Robin Hanson’s Great Filter thought experiment could answer the Fermi Paradox, as to why alien life has not been observed despite the high probability that it should exist.

A significant area of philosophical inquiry involves the very concept of reality itself, whether reality is ‘real’ or ‘artificial’ (a computer simulation), the latter posited by Oxford Philosopher Nick Bostrom in his famous ‘Simulation Argument‘, which ‘proves’ there is a non-zero probability everyone is living in a simulation. In addition to the probabilistic argument, there is also the mathematics and logistics of creating the simulation itself, such as if enough resources exist for an advanced civilization to build a sufficiently powerful computer that can emulate the complexities of reality, or how such a computer or program would be created. Creationists argue that the structure of the universe is so fine-tuned (such as physical constants) that a ‘creator’ or ‘designer’ of sorts is involved, an argument that merges theology with neurology, biology, and physics.

Philosophy of mind – a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind and the brain (mind–body problem) – has reaches in computer science and artificial intelligence, specifically if a simulated mind is conscious, or if a sufficiency advanced artificial intelligence is a substitute for consciousness. Computational theory of mind is view that the human mind or the human brain (or both) is an information processing system and that thinking is a form of computing, a view endorsed by philosopher Daniel Dennett, who argues that artificial systems can have ‘intentionality’ and ‘understanding’. Philosopher John Searle, invoking a thought experiment he devised called the Chinese room, counters, arguing that while a computable mind may seem like it has ‘understanding’ to an outsider, it doesn’t. This is an example of how philosophy borrows from STEM subjects such as neurology and computer science.

Free will vs. determinism is an age-old philosophical debate that has attracted the attention of quantum physicists. If the universe is entirely deterministic, it may imply humans have no free will. Philosopher and cognitive scientist Sam Harriss rejects free will; Daniel Dennett endorses compatibilism, which mixes some free will with determinism. This also ties into quantum mechanics, in an article from Scientific American The Quantum Physics of Free Will:

More recently, quantum-gravity theorist and blogger Sabine Hossenfelder has offered some thoughts. In a 2012 paper, she suggests that there is a third way between determinism and randomness: what she calls “free-will functions,” whose outputs are fully determined but unpredictable. Only those who know the function know what will happen. This is distinct from deterministic chaos, in which the function is universally known but the initial conditions are imperfectly known.

There is also the ‘many worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics, to reconcile determinism and free will by postulating that every possible event or outcome resides in a discrete universe that doesn’t interact with other universes.

The demarcation problem, in the philosophy of science, is about how to distinguish between science and pseudoscience. Karl Popper argued that science, in contrast to pseudoscience, can be falsified. Russell’s teapot, is an analogy or thought experiment, coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims, rather than shifting the burden of disproof to others. It’s impossible for someone to disprove within reason (without checking every square inch of space) the existence of the teapot. This ties into string theory, because the concern is that it cannot be falsified by any existing technology or scientific method. String theory may ‘never be wrong’, since it can always be ‘modified’ when new evidence is introduced that challenges (such as the failure to discover supersymmetry) the theory. Concepts such as the ‘multiverse’ are also impossible to falsify. It doesn’t mean these concepts are not fruitful (in the mathematical sense) or possibly correct, but right now there are no ways to test them.

That’s enough examples. It’s obvious that philosophy has extended its tentacles to all STEM subjects. In many ways, STEM complements philosophy by filling gaps of knowledge, or by providing new perspectives or angles of inquiry on timeless questions.

Defining ‘Progress’

From Social Matter: When We Talk About Tradition, What Do We Really Mean?

This passage stood out and is a position I have argued awhile:

Yet, many mistakenly attribute the corruptions of the modern world to science and technology because of the close correlation that is thought to exist between the two. Because the rises of modernistic worldview and high technology occurred more or less contemporaneously, it is widely believed that the two necessitate each other

The one does not necessarily follow from the other, however. There is nothing about scientific knowledge that intrinsically demands, or even preponderantly suggests, the sort of atheistic rationalism that is widely considered to be coupled with it.

In NRx discussion and articles, often words like ‘progress’, ‘modernity’, and ‘progressivism’ are often thrown about, as unalloyed evil, but it seems like not much thought or care is taken in understanding what these words really mean.

‘Progress’ and ‘modernity’ are very broad. They can mean technological progress or modernity – cars replacing horses; computers replacing typewriters; antibiotics replacing blood-letting. It can also mean social ‘progress’ (suffrage, civil rights, democracy, etc.).

Modernity can means better architecture that is impervious to natural disasters…it’s not just about civil rights.

Technological progress should be isolated from ‘progress’ as in liberalism; the two need not be interchangeable, nor should technology be the antecedent of liberalism. The UAE, for example, embraces technology, with the total rejection of leftist ideals such as democracy and civil rights. Even in pre-1960′s America there were great titans of industry and science, who created economic value and enriched the world with their creations, but only decades later did political correctness really start to spiral out of control, and it still is.

grey enlightenment AUGUST 15, 2016 AT 8:41 PM
technological progress should be isolated from ‘progress’ as in liberalism; the two need not be interchangeable. The UAE for example combines technology with total rejection of leftist ideals such as democracy and .

From wiki:

Progressivism is a philosophy based on the idea of progress, which asserts that advancement in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to improve the human condition. Progressivism became highly significant during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, out of the belief that Europe was demonstrating that societies could progress in civility from barbaric conditions to civilization through strengthening the basis of empirical knowledge as the foundation of society

We can keep the science and economic development but reject the other stuff.

But a counter-argument is that technology may have a dysgenic effect, resulting in overpopulation and lower global IQ. But there’s where Exit comes into play.

Why HBD?

Even among the ‘alt right’, HBD remains a divided issue.

From Xenosystems:

Why is HBD so important? A lot of focus goes there. Is there a good reason besides making fun of deluded liberals? Some kind of non-obvious knowledge?

The specifics are fascinating for sure, if you’re into it, but that’s just like science in general…

The argument for HBD can be summarized as:

-Better policy (normative)
-Better understanding of the world (positive)
-Maximizing human potential (both)

HBD is important because a lot of money is wasted on policy that ignores the role of biology. HBD-based policy would save taxpayers money, but policy makers think it’s more important to not offend people than to confront the reality that, no, not everyone is equal or the same upon conception. For example, billions of dollars are spent on public schools that lump almost everyone together regardless of innate skill (that means that slow kids are often merged with the smarter ones); money wasted on special education while the gifted get far less funding; money wasted trying to futilely pull certain groups out of poverty despite the multi-decade persistence of achievement gaps; money wasted on college degrees as a form of ‘signaling’ because of ‘disparate impact’ litigation prevents the expanded use of IQ-testing for employers; also, money wasted on low and average-IQ young adults going to college, when they should not go but are prodded to anyway; billions of dollars annually spent on mass incarceration and welfare (although incarceration is necessary to protect society, HBD-based policy (such as eugenics and, related, mandatory birth control) may help, by raising national IQ and breaking the welfare-crime-poverty cycle); money wasted treating rare genetic diseases that significantly compromise quality and quantity of life, because policy makers believe ‘every life is worth saving’ at any cost. It’s estimated that 80% of healthcare is spent on the end-of-life care, or palliative care, for a total of about 5% of all patients. Instead of curing diseases, a lot of money is spent keeping people alive long after they stopped contributing economic value, or when the prognosis is already terminal.

Gene modification and embryo selection may, over many generations, boost national IQ, helping to eliminate or reducing persistent problems like crime and welfare spending, while accelerating economic growth and technological innovation. Costly, incurable diseases may be eliminated at the embryonic level through genetic engineering. Obesity, which costs $147 billion annually, may be eliminated by genetically modifying metabolism, by altering the neurology that controls satiety and hunger, or by modifying certain bacteria in the gut. The implications are enormous, and to squander these possibilities will possibly make America less competitive compared to countries like China that don’t have trepidation over HBD. It’s even a potential national security issue.

Overall, Incorporating HBD into policy, both at the national and local level, may make everything better, more efficient, and save taxpayer money.

Another objection:

I know it is heresy to say this in these parts, but HBD really is fallacious epic-level nonsense, a pseudoscience. Different people are different obviously, but anyone that claims that morbidly obese homosexual junkie`s lifestyle does not affect his life expectancy should not be taken seriously (it does not take bogus twin studies to conclude that).

Most proponents of HBD don’t entirely discard the role of environment, and it’s a common misconception that HBD ignores environment. But twin studies show a strong hereditary component to intelligence and obesity. That means when people with similar genetic makeup are raised apart, their genes still, in most instances, override their different environments. This applies to multitude of diseases that seem to have a hereditary component: susceptibility of cardiovascular disease, stroke, liver disease, lung cancer (both in smokers and non-smokers), etc.

There are numerous classical twin studies in obesity, and the average heritability (i.e., proportion of inter-individual difference in a trait explicable by genetic variability) reported consistently in these studies on the order of 40–75% (8,11,12).

Source: Human Obesity: A Heritable Neurobehavioral Disorder That Is Highly Sensitive to Environmental Conditions

But also, biology affects how people respond to their environments. A person who metabolizes food slowly or has insufficient leptin production, may be vulnerable to obesity in an environment that has a lot of high-calorie food.

But HBD is also about improving understanding about the implications of traits such as IQ, and correcting the many persistent misconceptions about IQ (such as that IQ is not important, that IQ doesn’t measure anything important, that IQ tests are wrong and or are culturally biased, that high-IQ people are unethical or not creative, and other persistent falsehoods). It’s also about debunking attempts to create ‘substitutes’ for IQ, such as Howard Gardner’s flawed Multiple Intelligences ‘theory’. Thus HBD is not just about biology but also about education, choosing empirical evidence over wishful thinking and political correctness, and making the general public better-informed about these issues.

A common criticism is that HBD focuses too much on IQ, that there are other facets of humanity than intelligence. This may be a valid criticism, but IQ is very important as a ‘sorting mechanism’ for who succeeds of fails in modern society, and looking at things like wealth inequality, entitlement spending, achievement gaps, and crime, from an HBD-perspective can shed new light on these issues.

For example, HBD can explain why the gender gap is so persistent in the sciences, or why the wage gap exists. For example, studies have shown that women have less variance in IQ, meaning that there are fewer superior-IQ scores among women despite men and women having roughly the same average IQ. Attempts by policy makers to try to narrow ‘gender gaps’ may be futile due to limitations imposed by biology.

IQ explains wealth of nations: why some nations stay poor and others advance technologically and economically. IQ explains why Silicon Valley is so successful but Detroit isn’t.

IQ explains, contrary to Gladwell, why some never succeeded or attain ‘mastery’, no matter how many hours of practice they may accumulate, or why some seem innately better than others despite practicing less. Knowing your IQ can help set realistic expectations.

IQ can explain the persistent gap in wealth and achievement not just among nations but races, too.

IQ is not a trait that exists in a vacuum…it’s linked to other things like job performance, morality, and temperament. Although the trope of the ‘evil genius’ or ‘psychopathic serial killer’ is common in pop culture, death row inmates have below-average intelligence.

IQ can explains why ‘good-intentioned’ attempts by policy makers to ‘re-educate’ the workforce in response to technological unemployment may fail, again due to limitations imposed by biology.

The folly of the leftist intelligentsia is their belief that the rest of the world can (or should) become like them, and in doing so problems like technological unemployment will go away. A poster on r/slatestarcodex who goes by ‘Guomindang’ articulates the flaws of this reasoning better than I do:

The people being made useless by technology are not the same people who can find employment mastering the Foucaldian hermeneutics of transgender Chicano poetry to deconstruct the performative ontology of white heteronormativity. Technology is a rising tide of water in a room full of people who are only as tall as their IQ, and the mastery of scholastic nonsense can only benefit those farthest from the water line. I do think of it as an employment program, but perpetuated to employ and reward people of a certain political tendency. Societies, too, have long benefited from the stability of keeping restless intellects occupied with producing harmless scholastic nonsense, although this safety valve does sometimes falter.

I think the much larger government employment program for the increasing mass of useless people is what Moldbug calls Solution D-1. We just don’t perceive it as a government employment program because the employment occurs in the nominally private sector of the economy.

Then there is the ethno-nationalist argument against HBD, which is that a hierarchy by IQ possibly puts Christian Whites behind Ashkenazi Jews and East Asians. Even if this is true, the list of achievements and inventions by Whites should be enough to assuage these fears. IQ and creativity are linked, but perhaps Whites have slightly more creativity as a substitute for less IQ than Asians. But not to make this into a political post, America, which is predominantly a Christian nation, does risk losing its dominance in the event of runaway leftism, as we are seeing with EU.

Although epigenetics (the left’s version of HBD) plays a role in cancer development and various genomic imprinting disorders, there is no evidence epigenetics plays a greater role in IQ than genes.

Some of this possibly veers into ‘political incorrectness’, but a reality-based approach is superior to willful ignorance. The latter means going around in circles, repeating the same platitudes over and over, with no meaningful progress or understanding ever being made; the former leads to solutions and understanding. Ignorance dominates discourse, for fear of the consequences of noticing inconvenient truths, as we saw with Larry Summers in 2005, James Watson, and many other leading science and public figures who were ‘tarred and feathered’ for blasphemy against the leftist ‘blank slate’ orthodoxy.

Politico, Politica

The 2016 election news cycle can be likened to a broken record attached to one off those antique megaphones, that blares the same outrage over and over, in a loop. We’re supposed to get worked-up about whether Trump or Hillary will win. The genius (or perhaps travesty) of the system are its multiple layers of redundancy that keep it self-sustaining and indestructible, no matter the outcome. You could put a wind-up doll in the Oval Office, or, as in the case of Obama, an empty suit with an earpiece and a teleprompter, and power is still conserved – but it’s not concentrated. Instead, it’s dispersed.

That’s not to say I’m agnostic about the outcome – I want Trump to win – but let’s keep our expectations realistic. In the case of Trump, congress is not like a boardroom. The odds that much will change are slim, and it will take years to get stuff through. Perhaps there will some form of immigration reform, but, again, these things take years, especially if it’s challenged by the courts.

Right now, Hillary’s health has become a concern. If elected, there’s a reasonable likelihood she may not survive office or may become incapacitated, and this makes her VP choice especially important. But for some reason, I don’t take as much delight in making fun of her as I did with Obama in 2008 and 2012, or Sanders in 2015. It seems like everyone on the ‘left’ (or at least everyone online) hates her, so her winning balkanizes and weakens the resolve of the left. Even if she wins, it’s still better than Sanders, who is much further to the left. One can make the libertarian argument that because Hillary is so rotten and avaricious, that in her effort to gain power she’ll leave everyone alone, focusing only on self-preservation and her own personal material gain (the opposite of the meddlesome do-gooder). Or that she is so inept and feeble (both mentally and physically) that she won’t do much.