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Wealth, Intellectualism, and Individualism, Part 7

Part 6

Nerd mannerisms and appropriations, especially in pop culture and on Instagram, where pretty women donning faux glasses post memes about social isolation, have become the ‘new normal’, and words like ‘normie’ have become pejorative.

Nowadays everyone wants to be the ‘smartest person in the room’, not the most outgoing or popular. But ironically, in being smart, you become popular, whether you seek the attention or not.

Autistic-like traits such as social awkwardness, dismissiveness, curtness and bluntness (as opposed to sugarcoating, sentimentalism, and extroversion) convey authenticity and credibility, versus being a shallow ‘normie’ or ‘people-pleaser’, leading to a boost in social status both online and offline, whereas decades ago these smart people were ignored or relegated to the lower echelons of the social hierarchy.

Fast-forward to today, from Silicon Valley to Wall St., to having the most subscribers and followers on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, and YouTube, and in terms of higher wages (for STEM jobs), surging real estate (in Silicon Valley), stratospheric Web 2.0 valuations, and a perpetually rising stock market, as well as approbation and cultural appropriation, it’s not a stretch to say nerds, or more specially, introverts, rule the world right now.

Due to STEM, his popular blog, and by being really smart, Scott Aaronson has far more status than the vast majority of ‘normies’ (except for, perhaps, some athletes and actors). Same for Tyler Cowen, an economist (which is close enough to STEM), whose Marginal Revolution blog is extremely popular, read by thousands of people every day. Yeah, Marginal Revolution is not a big as TMZ or ESPN, but 1,000-10,000 dedicated readers/fans is about 1,000-10,000 more than the typical ‘normie’, who has close to zero after excluding immediate fiends and family. Those are just a handful of examples of out many; more will be given later.

From Virtue Signaling and Status:

We all want to be perceived as smarter because smart people are among the most successful in society today as measured by wealth, wages, and social status. While famous athletes and other entertainers make a lot of money, no one seeks their counsel on anything substantive, whereas if you’re smart you are elevated to the status of an ‘oracle’, and your opinions on a wide-range of issues – be it global warming, economics, sociology, or history – are valued and sought.

Intellectuals, particularly in the most difficult of fields, have become America’s new priesthood or nobility, sought for answers and bestowed with high social status, and whether it’s the latest gizmo from Google, Amazon, or Tesla, or the latest particle discovery in the field of high-energy physics, their contributions are broadcast by the media to the world. From The Daily View [...]

Smart people are among the most important and respected people in the world. They have the most Karma on Reddit, the most points on sites like Stack Exchange, the highest reputation on forums, and most views on YouTube for technical, artsy, or philosophical subjects. They have the credentials – SAT scores and degrees – to lend their expertise in a variety of fields and are showered with accolades …

Smart people are displacing ‘old money’ on the Forbes 400 list, getting their Web 2.0 companies valued or acquired for billions of dollars, watching their stocks and real estate zoom into the stratosphere – even as real wages for most people haven’t budged. A meritocracy epitomized by Bay Area tech scene or the financial cognoscenti of Manhattan, where erudition, wealth, and the specter of all-knowing omnipotence is valued.

And from the Economist, Be nice to nerds:

“Be nice to nerds. Chances are you may end up working for them,” wrote Charles Sykes, author of the book “50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School”, first published in 2007. Today there are more reasons than ever to treat nerds with respect: never mind the fact that every company is clamouring to hire them, geeks are starting to shape markets for new products and services.

Behaviors that may seem repulsive and anti-social, paradoxically, draw people in as ‘nerds’ are sought for their expertise and sober objectivity in contrast to the mainstream media, which is full of hoaxes, sensationalism, inaccuracies, omissions, and biases. From Deconstructing a Viral Article:

As I show in the example of Warren Buffett, intellectualism, competence, and merit is what draws people in, not being extroverted. Every year, thousands of people flock to Omaha for Buffett’s annual shareholder meetings – not because Buffet is a people-pleaser, but because he is very competent and his insights are invaluable. Elon Musk, another example of someone who is extremely competent, had the most popular Reddit AMA ever. Richard Dawkins, who lately seems to have gotten into habit of offending the easily offended, also had an enormously popular AMA.

They (nerds, quants, wonks, experts) are providing the answers to life’s most intractable mysteries, from theories of the origin of the universe, to theories of biology, economics, and sociology – to try to explain why wealth inequality is so persistent or why some groups always underperform academically and economically despite despite billions of dollars of entitlement spending over many decades. Sugar-coated, politically correct explanations and ‘nice’ discourse has fallen short at explaining the world, and people demand answers, even if such answers aren’t wrapped in a pretty bow of political correctness.

A lengthy 1994 New Yorker profile of Bill Gates aptly applies to many smart millennials today, who disregard obsoleted social conventions and niceties for bluntness and disheveledness, in their ‘pursuit of the truth’:

“Bill just doesn’t think about clothes. And his hygiene is not good. And his glasses—how can he see out of them? But Bill’s attitude is: I’m in this pure mind state, and clothes and hygiene are last on the list.”


Gates is famously confrontational. If he strongly disagrees with what you’re saying, he is in the habit of blurting out, “That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard!” People tell stories of Gates spraying saliva into the face of some hapless employee as he yells, “This stuff isn’t hard! I could do this stuff in a weekend!”

Back in 1994, a less intelligent era dominated by shows like Friends, Baywatch, and 90210, social conventions were more important than they are now, making Gates’ behavior truly anomalous, but now it’s commonplace, almost expected, and (as mentioned earlier) conveys authenticity and honesty. In the 90′s the clubs were busting, but now everyone wants to stay at home, quiet, watching Netflix, being introspective, or posting pictures on Instagram. Nightclub attendance has plunged.

Or as summed-up by the brilliant Eric Winstein, creator of the online mathematics encyclopedia MathWorld:

Right now I think we’re in something of a ‘competence bubble’ of sorts, where competence is valued more than ever as measured by social prestige, wealth, and wages, with ‘social skills’ and ‘people skills’ being less important. This is also related our post-2008 results-orientated economy, whereby quantifiable results have become more important than agreeability, as part of the push by corporations towards greater productivity and efficiency. Smart people, because they tend to be more competent, are especially suited for America’s competitive economic and social environment that prizes quantifiable, individual results over ‘collectivist’ traits like social skills.

To be continued…

Our morally ambiguous times

Years ago in a philosophy class I posed the question of whether it was more virtuous to have never sinned or to have sinned and then reformed. The evidence suggests the latter, as redemption and America’s culture of authenticity have become increasingly intertwined. ‘Authenticity culture’ celebrates individualism, particularity intellectual endeavors (such as stock trading or winning math Olympiads). This is the opposite of politics, which is collectivist, dumbed-down, and elevates the ‘everyday man’.

It’s not uncommon for reformed prisoners to give motivational talks to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, who socioeconomically tend to be the complete opposite of the typical maximum-security prisoner, yet modern wisdom is that these two diametrically opposed groups can somehow mutually benefit from each other’s rapport. Other times the roles are reversed, with the entrepreneurs working directly with the prisoners:

Enter Defy. Defy’s mission is simple: “to transform the lives of business leaders and people with criminal histories through their collaboration along the entrepreneurial journey.” I received an invitation from Brad Feld and Mark Suster to join a group they were assembling for Defy; we were part of a group of CEOs, founders, and VCs who traveled to the prison to serve as judges for the pitch competition taking place that day.

Part of the appeal of ‘reform’ is how post-2008 American economy and society prizes quantifiable results (the ‘ends’) over the means (‘ethics’). The value or intrinsic worth of a person is measured by their intellectual, social, or financial status, with things like ‘morals’ and ‘ethics’, neither of which are as easy to quantify, pushed to the periphery. For example, financiers Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky, for which jail was a pit stop on the road to success, given their philanthropy are now forgiven and celebrated. Redemption becomes just another just another way to ‘cash out’ after the dubious venture has run its course.

Rather than going down the boring path of ‘strait and narrow’, many desire to to emulate those who became wealthy by taking shortcuts at the possible cost of ethics. And who can blame them: millions of people who ‘did the right thing’ only find themselves with poor job prospects, unpaid bills, and piles of student loan debt to show for it, and to add insult to injury, are snubbed or looked down upon by a culture and economy that sees these people are either invisible or victims of bad personal choices, not forces outside of their control.

In the past, America looked up to those of upstanding moral character but otherwise were kinda dull or were part of a group or team. Although the rugged individualistic characters portrayed by John Wayne and Clint Eastwood may be exception to this, such characters weren’t intellectual, relying on physical prowess more so intellectualism. America’s brand of individualism has a strong intellectual bent to it – think Edward Snowden or Julian Assange, in which the the ‘ends’ (liberating information) justified the ‘means’ (breaking the law). Rather than the ‘justice league’, it’s the rogue programmer who seeks justice. Or like Michael Burry, as documented in The Big Short, a smart person (a Randian hero of sorts) who in 2007 bet against the housing market (and the prevailing economic consensus) and became wealthy (combining wealth, intellectualism, and individualism…see it all ties together).

Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek situates the Randian hero in Rand’s fiction in the “standard masculine narrative” of the conflict between the exceptional, creative individual (the Master) and the undifferentiated conformist crowd…

Author Stephen Newman compares the Randian hero to the concept of the Übermensch created by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, saying that “the Randian hero is really Nietzsche’s superman in the guise of the entrepreneur”.[13]

In Less Than Zero, a 1985 novel by Bret Easton Ellis, disaffected, rich teenagers of Los Angeles drive around, do drugs, and party – except now it’s older people who are doing this, minus the drug and partying, permanently delaying adulthood to live lives of introspective excess.

A recent article about how smart people prefer to be alone, went viral and is relevant to America’s culture of individualism and the rise of ‘introversion culture’.

Smarter people can more easily adapt to their surroundings in the modern world, so they don’t need close relationships to help them with food and shelter, like our ancestors did. Or, in the modern equivalent, the Wi-Fi password and a spare phone charger.

From memes on Instagram that celebrate solitude and ‘being alone’ over socializing, to people choosing ‘hustling’ instead of the ’9-5′, it seems everyone is like this. For example, memes about choosing money over friends and socializing, frequently go viral:

One can argue we’re in an era of moral ambiguity…no one really knows what is right or wrong. Major pop culture productions like the hit HBO show Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, that blur the lines between criminality and everyday life, are a contributing factor or a symptom of this confusion. There is the contradiction between how culture promotes extreme sanctimoniousness, but also condones amorality, if not outright criminality, on the other.

Individualism vs. the State

From Social Matter The End Of Atomistic Individualism: A Theory On Who You Are

The purpose of this thought experiment is an attempt to formulate a new, sustainable, non-atomistic understanding of the concept of individualism. Modern individualism, as a product of the Enlightenment, has the function of isolating and alienating individuals from God, society, and eventually even from themselves. From Putnam’s Bowling Alone to the transgender movement, modernity loudly proclaims the inability of people to belong, even to themselves. It instead offers a vision of individualism, in which the person creates themselves in their own image, as if Adam were to form himself in the Garden.

Just as it is vain to think that a lump of clay will form itself into a man, so it is equally vain to think that an alienated, atomized person can create in themselves a personality out of the muck of consumerism and mass media. Modernity tells us that we can form our own personality with tattoos, body modification, consumerist consumption, and status objects like automobiles.

But Putnam is also a strong proponent of democracy. One can argue that atomic individualism, with is related to libertarism, is antithetical to democracy and the democratic process. Sometimes, I think we want it both ways: to oppose both individualism and democracy, but this may not be logically consistent. The answer , like many things, seems to lie somewhere in the middle. This could mean a community united by commonalities (such as culture), but without democracy, and individualism is also preserved. This is similar to the nation state concept:

The most obvious impact of the nation state, as compared to its non-national predecessors, is the creation of a uniform national culture, through state policy. The model of the nation state implies that its population constitutes a nation, united by a common descent, a common language and many forms of shared culture. When the implied unity was absent, the nation state often tried to create it. It promoted a uniform national language, through language policy. The creation of national systems of compulsory primary education and a relatively uniform curriculum in secondary schools, was the most effective instrument in the spread of the national languages. The schools also taught the national history, often in a propagandistic and mythologised version, and (especially during conflicts) some nation states still teach this kind of history.[20]

But I have also heard arguments that individualism is inextricably linked with liberalism and that individualism is an ‘enlightenment’ ideal. But a distinction must be made between enlightenment ideals, which are the antecedent to neo and classical varieties of liberalism, versus welfare liberal ideals (which is a more recent development). The former supports individualism, but also the possibility of unequal outcomes that may arise from it. The latter seeks conformity in the form of egalitarianism and equal outcomes (higher taxes, more social spending, wealth spreading, etc.) despite giving the outward appearance of supporting individualism. Marxist and other far-left variants of liberalism also oppose individualism, preferring the state to mandate ‘equal outcomes’ as well as individual subservience to the state.

But both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ seem to have a love-hate relationship with individualism. For the ‘left’, they like individualism as a way to rebel against the status quo, but the also oppose individualism if it leads to too much wealth inequality or what they perceive as oppression (such as ‘homophobia’ of a baker for not making a baking a ‘gay cake’); for the ‘right’, they like individualism in context of free markets, personal autonomy, and personal property, but oppose it because it may lead to the breakdown of communities, decline of organized religion, the separation of church and state, and increased ‘moral decay’.

The libertarian or minarchist position, which is somewhere in the middle, may be the most logically consistent in bridging this schism, that strikes a balance between individualism and cohesion. Minarchism is like a shopping mall, where stores exist as individual entities under the patronage of the mall, a symbiosis of sorts where both the mall and businesses benefit. Business pay the mall in exchange for the benefits the mall provides (such as security, infrastructure, and customers). Because it’s elective, businesses don’t have to join, but America’s tax system isn’t and individuals, businesses have to pay to fund services they don’t want or need.

And from Family and Individualism:

In any society, there is probably an optimal balance between individualism and collectivism. A society that is 100% atomized, by definition, is not a society. But history also shows that total conformity is no better. Those quirky people on the right side of the Bell Curve, with their idiosyncrasies, are needed for society to advance technologically, while everyone else goes about tending to civilization. If you go through Charles Murray’s database of human accomplishments, you’ll find virtually all accomplishments were made by smart people. Liberals value social justice and equality over quantifiable results. The left wants America to be a nation of takers, not creators.

Related: Individualism vs. Thede

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…


Adulting is now a ‘thing’:

Adulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.

Used in a sentence: Jane is adulting quite well today as she is on time for work promptly at 8am and appears well groomed

On social media, I’m seeing many references to ‘adulting’, and unlike the article above I have more optimistic take on the trend. IMHO, the neologism has less to do with immaturity and more to do with a change in mindset in response to difficult economic and social times, as a way of subtlety protesting how ‘being an adult’ or ‘fulfilling the traditional roles and responsibilities of an adult’ are becoming obsoleted in our ‘new economy’ and the ‘new era‘ of post-2008 society. ‘Anti-adulting’ could also be seen a way of rebelling against the conformity of politically correct norms, where ‘adult social skills’ and taking special care to not ‘offend people’ is more important than the pursuit of truth.

With the rise of MGTOW, millennials living with their parents longer, the rise of individualism, minimalism, and personal finance culture, many millennials are perhaps realizing that the ‘old rules’ of being an ‘adult’ don’t apply, due to the changing economy and other factors. Rather than starting families, which can be expensive and time-consuming, millennials would rather live with their parents and use the saved money to later become self-sufficient, getting rich by trading stocks, Bitcoin, buying a home, or learning high-paying skills like coding and physics, instead of making the landlord rich month after month to no end. Why waste time with relationships that go nowhere, ending in alimony and child support. Why get an unfulfilling, low-paying job that will likely not exist in a couple years. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on a worthless degree, with nothing but debt and bleak job prospects to show for it.

Millennials value authenticity and individualism, preferring endeavors that, perhaps, may not pay as much as being a cooperate cog but may be more enriching, allowing more personal freedom as the quote by Steve Pavlina (not a millennial) on why he doesn’t have a ‘regular job’, illustrates:

I maintain a flexible and self-reliant lifestyle centered on exploring personal growth. I haven’t had a job since 1992; being a corporate slave doesn’t interest me. I define my own objectives, choose my own projects, and work for the joy of working.

Going your own way, rejecting ‘adult conformity’, means no more office politics and vapid small talk.

Source http://adultingblog.com/

Boomers had four decades of post-WW2 prosperity serendipitously dropped on their lap, which they frittered with excess consumerism, with millennials fighting for the scraps of what is left in our increasingly competitive, winner-take-all economy. Boomers never had to compete with computers for jobs, had to contend with an economy so hellbent on productivity and efficiency, with a culture and economy that rewards quantifiable results and individualism over family and community, more than ever. The post-2008 economy is like an ‘Ayn Rand world’ in overdrive. Being an ‘adult’ means trying to emulate an economic and social ideal that no longer exists, as well as being a slave to political correctness or a corporate machine, and it’s understandable why millennials have turned sour of the concept, instead embracing the ‘Randian’ ideal of individualism over obsoleted collectivist ideals of family and community, because it’s the best way to adapt.

Post-2008 Themes

Lately there has been a plethora of these ‘how-world-is-changing’ type articles on social news sites, and they seem to do well, as measured by comments, interactions, and shares, so here is another one:

The Crisis of the Blue Model

Within a decade … between a third and a half of the current employees in finance will lose their jobs to … automation software. It began with the lower-paid clerks … It has moved on to research and analysis, as software … has become capable of parsing enormous data sets far more quickly and reliably than humans ever could. The next ‘tranche’ … will come from the employees who deal with clients: Soon, sophisticated interfaces will mean that clients no longer feel they need or even want to work through a human being.

The Luddite fallacy means that there will always be an abundance of jobs for all skill levels, despite advances in technology. Carriage mechanics become auto mechanics, who become rocket mechanics, etc. Whether or not it remains a fallacy is up to debate, but technology has yet to eliminate all jobs – far from it. However, instead of fewer jobs, the labor market distribution may become bimodal, with a ‘hollowing out’ of the middle.

The Year of Disillusion

Then came the inevitable crash. Home prices collapsed and well-paying white collar jobs disappeared. The brother-in-law who made $150,000 a year as a mortgage broker in 2007 was unemployed in 2009 and driving a FedEx truck in 2010–or doing nothing at all, as the labor force participation rate collapsed. …

But I think every year there is some ‘disillusion’. In the 2000′s it was about 911, Iraq, the dotcom bubble bursting, and in 2008, the financial meltdown. In the 90′s it was about Y2K, militia groups and domestic terrorism against abortion clinics and government buildings, Clinton’s ‘culture wars’, the Persian Gulf War, the first biotech revolution, and the beginning, maturation, and eventual euphoria of the world wide web.

Now it’s apps and social media, Iraq and Syria, on-demand services such as Netflix and Uber, the sharing and gig economy, spree shootings and domestic terrorism by Muslims instead of Christians, ‘outrage porn’ as the new culture wars, perpetually low interest rates, the crummy labor market that never seems to get better, a generation of graduates shackled by debt, and the ongoing debates over wealth inequality.

A major theme of post-2008 America is upheaval, or a re-shuffling to a new, more cut-throat ‘status quo’: jobs that were considered safe and good-paying no longer so, replaced by cheaper but more efficient ones; student loan debt rising, but job opportunities for many graduates falling; ;economic and technological abundance, but possible lack of fulfillment; too many applicants and too little hiring for many jobs; IQ being more important than ever (cognitive castes and Social Darwinism); millennials having to clean-up the mess the baby boomers left behind.

Another theme is the ‘inevitability of everything’, meaning that everything has become predictable up until the moment it happens. The stock market has continued to defy the predictions of collapse and doom and gloom, year after year, leaving the bears empty-handed, yearning for the crisis that will never come, as many seek ‘reset‘. The stock market will keep going up, reflecting the inevitably of the ‘status quo’ economy, that while it may suck for some – is persistent, so you may as well get used to it and adapt. Due to economic fundamentals and other factors, the bull market will likely continue.

Anomie and enniu are other themes, possibly related to the un-participatory nature of both the economy and society:

… what will happen instead is that the economic contributions of the most productive will be able to compensate for the least. The future is one where a decreasingly small percentage of individuals and corporations contribute to the bulk of economic output and activity – the Pareto Principle again, in which 20% contributes 80%, as shown below:

In the future, the curve will become steeper – possibly until a singularity is attained – one company to rule all- the Matrix? This could be the ‘other’ singularity, but instead of AI and computing power, it’s a company or economic entity.

Then you have the social component. Whether it’s the latest physics discovery making headlines, web 2.0 start-ups being worth billions seemingly overnight, Twitter wars, or social media and campus outrage, you have all this activity going on, but on the other hand most of us are on the outside ‘looking in’ rather than contributing or participating in any meaningful way to the debate. Social media platforms give us the illusion of influence and power, but for the vast majority of people it’s very limited, like screaming from the rooftop in a neighborhood where each home is spaced two miles apart. Social media and the celebritization of individualism may magnify this isolation.

Pre-2013, political discourse was dumb, and so was most internet content, too, with the hegemony of Buzzfeed-style ‘listicles’. Then, in 2013, a switch suddenly flicked: the assent of rationalism, long-form internet content, and centrism, all representing a smarter, more evolved form of online discourse and a rejection of ‘low information’, including pandering. This is also related to the post-2013 SJW-backlash and the rise of the ‘alt-right‘, as a challenger to ‘low-information’ mainstream conservatism. Rational liberals, to their credit, played a role in this backlash, denouncing certain aspects of ‘social justice’ once free speech began to be impugned by the more radical elements of the left. Preaching tolerance is hypocritical if you’re only tolerant of those who hold similar views.

In the comments of the Slate Star Codex Sub Reddit, someone bemoans how culture is dominated by a ‘priestly class’ that puts education on the top of the ‘status pedestal’. A retort is that college professors don’t dominate our culture any more than, say, Kim Kardashian.

The common thread here is individualism, a defining characteristic of post-2008 society. What Kim Kardashian and the professor have in common is that their domains are highly individualistic, and both are elevated in society based on individual merits: for the professor, it’s making discoveries, which is related to intellectual-based authenticity and is highly individualistic, and Kim Kardashian for being authentic in her socialite lifestyle, in not having to conform to ‘midstream’ beauty standards and conventional categories of fame (being a singer, actor, etc). Our culture of individualism prizes individual accomplishments (like a physics or math discovery), popularity (Instagram & Twitter followers), and merit (related to individual intellectual accomplishments), which tend to be harder and more exclusive and celebrated than collectivist ones. Religion is inherently collectivist, generally having low barriers to entry for salvation. Same for political parities, which tend to have low barriers to entry for participation. Neither spotlight the individual. But a degree in physics or math, while much harder to obtain than going to church, brings much more prestige to the individual than being a random churchgoer. Perhaps some are tired of the celebration of ‘self’ and wish to return to simpler, more collectivist times. As I discuss earlier, some individualism and intellectualism is need to for society to advance, and there is is probably an optimal balance between the two.

Maybe you can call this New Era the Renaissance of The Mind, one that deals with data and social currency, not mortar and easels.

Not Smart Enough to Succeed: IQ Inequality = Income Inequality

From the Atlantic: Total Inequality

Total Inequality is not merely income inequality (although it matters) nor merely wealth inequality (although that matters, too). Total Inequality would refer to the sum of the financial, psychological, and cultural disadvantages that come with poverty.

It’s not that the poverty causes psychological and cultural imbalance but rather the poverty is caused by it. Although it can be difficult to disentangle genes from environment, many traits, from intelligence to psychopathy, seem to have strong hereditary component:

So how did they get that way? Is it an innate biological condition, a result of social experience, or an interaction between these factors? Longitudinal studies have shown that the personality traits associated with psychopathy are highly stable over time. Early warning signs including “callous-unemotional traits” and antisocial behaviour can be identified in childhood and are highly predictive of future psychopathy. Large-scale twin studies have shown that these traits are highly heritable – identical twins, who share 100% of their genes, are much more similar to each other in this trait than fraternal twins, who share only 50% of their genes. In one study, over 80% of the variation in the callous-unemotional trait across the population was due to genetic differences. In contrast, the effect of a shared family environment was almost nil. Psychopathy seems to be a lifelong trait, or combination of traits, which are heavily influenced by genes and hardly at all by social upbringing.

Simple tests such as ‘marshmallow experiment’ can single out children who may be doomed to underachievement later in life due to ‘high time preference’. Lows IQs, which can be measured children as young as four years old, manifest as impulsiveness, slow learning speed, inability to make inferences (poor critical thinking skills), and poor risk/reward analysis, and these characteristics, while generally harmless in the coddled environment of a school or household, come back to bite in the harsh realities of the hyper-competitive ‘real world’ when these lifelines and artificial environments are severed.

However, college, which values intellectualism, competence, and individualism (result-orientated) over social skills (collectivist), is an exception to the incubator that is primary and secondary school…The world is becoming more like college-like (or maybe graduate school) and less like kindergarten. This means fewer employees getting paid to just ‘show up’ and now more emphasis on ‘value creation’, results, and productivity. Pre-2008 we were in a ‘mediocrity bubble’, with most jobs being the equivalent of finger painting or scribbling with crayons. There’s a joke that to get job at a General Motors (or Chrysler or Ford) plant, you only need to know how to operate a remote that has three options: ‘on’, ‘off’, and ‘jam’. There are stories of employees who would ‘punch in’, quietly exit to hit the bar for the rest of the day, and return at the end of the day to ‘punch out’. Is it any surprise these companies failed and overpaid, coddled union jobs are going away, with high-IQ jobs like coding doing better than ever.

In this new, college-as-reality economy, intellectual poverty is almost the same as literal poverty, and IQ disparity is almost becoming tantamount to wealth disparity, as I discuss in Paul Graham: Economic Inequality and The Refragmentation.

If income vs IQ correlations are any clue, all too often, a poverty of IQ points often entails poverty income-wise.

As the sun sets on union and manufacturing jobs, The harsh reality is that less intelligent people are (and will continue) to be relegated to service sector or gig jobs, which may not pay well but at least create more economic value for employers.

Although entrepreneurs in blue collar industries can do very well, entrepreneurship still requires a strong work ethic, which like intelligence tends to be biological and normally distributed, meaning that a low intelligence combined with low work ethic is a recipe for failure.

How about bad upbringings or racism? Even the birth lottery does not preclude meritocracy, as shown by The Bell Curve (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994):

The Bell Curve (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994) presented general readers an
update of the evidence for the hereditarian position along with several policy
recommendations and an original analysis of 11,878 youths (including 3,022
Blacks) from the 12-year National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. It found that
most 17-year-olds with high scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test,
regardless of ethnic background, went on to occupational success by their late 20s
and early 30s, whereas those with low scores were more inclined to welfare

But it’s also the meritocracy within the birth lottery; the two need not be mutually exclusive, and that’s the way I reconcile the birth lottery wit the meritocracy. Look at the Silicon Valley tech culture, which epitomizes the meritocracy, but is mostly restricted to high-IQ people. Lower IQ people also have their meritocracies within their own IQ caste.

A person who has a PHD in a STEM field but is unemployed has much more earnings power than a barista, even if the latter is employed and the former is not. The PHD has the luxury of being choosy, deferring immediate income in search of a lucrative 6-figure or better job, whereas less educated people have to constantly jump from one low-paying job to another, as the turnover rates tend to be high and the advancement opportunities low. The PHD (or any high-IQ) person can more readily acquire skills that pay well; less intelligent people will find adapting to an economy of automation and ‘low-paying’ service and gig jobs to be more difficult, as good-paying skills will be cognitively out of reach.

Generations ago, in some ways, standards were higher for men (having to start a family, get a good job, get married, serve in war, etc), but also lower in other ways, particularly intellectually. The college and high school completion rates were much lower, and students had much less homework and testing. If you were relatively unskilled, you could still get a good-paying job out of high school. You have to understand, basic abilities like writing cogent sentences were coveted skills back then, whereas today you have an endless supply of freelancers who can write passable prose for little money. And this is because of mass education, which has made these medium-IQ skills more common. This means that an IQ of 140, for example, while very high, is like having an IQ of 120 a generation ago. Likewise, an IQ of 100 today, which is average, is like having an IQ of 80 a generation ago. That’s why so many authors, rejected, are forced to go to Amazon due to the over-supply of literacy in America. It’s not that education is boosting IQ scores; instead, it allowing more people to live to their full cognitive potential, which has the side effect of devaluing average IQ. This means that average IQ people, in order to be competitive and make a decent living, will have to learn skills more suited for IQ >115 people, and this will prove difficult. Genius IQ is still valuable since it’s so rare, but the middle (85-115) is hurt the most due to saturation of skills that one paid well and were uncommon but no longer so.

The ‘UBI’ is a solution that often arises in these discussion, but a A UBI without preconditions (which no longer makes it ‘universal’) will just perpetuate the growing entitlement spending problem. May as well give it to people who are most likely to generate a positive ROI from the income, which is why I advocate the high-IQ basic income.

Family and Individualism

From The Right Stuff: Equalism is Retarded

It’s time we rejected equalism and feminism. It’s time we rejected the notion that the desires of individual men and women are more important than the interests of the family as a social unit.

Hmmm….but why do these have to be mutually exclusive ? Why can’t we believe in HBD and individualism,as we as rejecting egalitarianism and feminism, in a society where the best and the brightest can live to their fullest potential? Social Darwinism, which is more relevant than ever in today’s competitive, increasingly automated economy, is a good sorting mechanism for separating the winners from the losers. Individualism, where each can compete to the best of his ability, is better than collectivism where wealth from the most the the productive is spread to the least.

Feminism would die in a free market society, as feminists and social justice warriors provide no economic value and are dependent on taxpayer dollars in the form of grants, tuition,and welfare for subsistence.

Families are important, but are also taxing, both financially and emotionally. All too many men are stuck in miserable relationships. Even if MGTOW becomes much more popular than it already is, there will still be enough reproduction to keep the population from falling below its replacement rate. The projections are that the world population will swell to 9-15 billion humans by 2100.

In any society, there is probably an optimal balance between individualism and collectivism. A society that is 100% atomized, by definition, is not a society. But history also shows that total conformity is no better. Those quirky people on the right side of the Bell Curve, with their idiosyncrasies, are needed for society to advance technologically, while everyone else goes about tending to civilization. If you go through Charles Murray’s database of human accomplishments, you’ll find virtually all accomplishments were made by smart people. Liberals value social justice and equality over quantifiable results. The left wants America to be a nation of takers, not creators.

Related: Individualism vs. Thede