The democratic battle-cry: every man a king! With the throne comes power, or, in the language of the omniregal age, responsibility, which must naturally be exercised responsibly. The personal is political, every act is a political act, and every Johnny Dickweed who acts like it ain’t so has failed in his responsibility. To the true panbasilist, everywhere is Podunk, pervaded with depravity, mad syphilitic Henry the Eighths dooming Demostan to irresponsible misrule.
When voice rules, every speech act is an act of war. Truth is no longer a criterion; a true speech-act may have wrongteous power-vectors, undesirable consequences perceived as following from it. The occult force of the age demands occultation—worse, total suppression—of all speech-acts pointing ellandward in position-space. Speech-acts are seen as vectors, not arguments, and nothing that points outside may be suffered to survive. Thus is Rod Dreher unwittingly led to the conclusion: occultationism, neocameralism, or Auschwitz.
My point is simply that all of us believe that some facts are too dangerous to be known; they are like the Ring Of Power, in that the temptation to abuse them is too great for our natures to bear. Admittedly, this puts me in a tight spot. Am I saying that we should ignore reality? I suppose I am. …
Again, for me, moral and spiritual equality is a fact, but it’s not one that can be grounded in science. If everybody believed that moral and spiritual equality was a fact, I would be more comfortable with the discussion of genetic differences and their effects on us. But you don’t have to go far in the HBD discussion to find some pretty nasty stuff. This does not, let me be clear, demonstrate that what the HBD people claim is false (though it may be, or parts may be); but it does demonstrate to my satisfaction that it is impossible for most people to talk about this stuff without using it to justify some nasty prejudices. Within living memory, we have seen where this sort of thing goes. You start out exploring the science of genetic differences, which is, or ought to be, a neutral thing, and before you know it you have the greatest scientific authorities in the world coming up with eugenic theories supporting the idea of “life unworthy of life,” and then you end with Auschwitz.
Occultationism, like anti-abortionism, is barred from leading to rivers of blood only by compartmentalization, the adoption of unprincipled exceptions. The logic leads straight to total war, as Arthur Chu admits:
I do, in fact, believe the war is very very real and has very very real stakes and the people who stand to be hurt by losing the war matter more than my abstract comfort with my “principles”.
Arthur! This is America! It’s not hard to get guns! Why are you on Facebook?—the war is very, very real!
One great victory of omniregalism (limited war is still preferable to unlimited war) is its provision of a compartment for exactly this. Arthur Chu, you see, is a king—and kings are not insurgents, and have no need for their methods. It is the powerless who are most likely to take up arms, and omniregal nanopower is still power—effectively insignificant power, but enough to prevent Arthur Chu from getting a gun. Discontent is directed to /dev/null; it only emerges on a large, statistical scale. One vote is mathematically insignificant, but ten thousand votes are not.
Neocameralism, seen as a concept, a goal, rather than a specific architecture, is simply the destruction of popularchy. The goal is to to engineer away the political necessity of lies. “They say what they want, I do what I want.” To Dreher, occultationism is the necessary consequence of omniregalism: there are true things with harmful vectors, and therefore there are true things that must be suppressed. To Chu, occultationism is simply a demand of morality:
Endless self-criticism about whether your values are in fact right or wrong guarantees that you will lose and someone else’s values will win anyway. …
I’m not saying there’s no place for rational engagement ever. I am saying that there are lines in the sand and people beyond those pales are in fact enemies and should be treated as such, and that if you never draw those lines in the sand you will spend your whole life in an agonizing haze of introspection and never do anything. …
I think, to put it bluntly, that when there is a real war going on, yes, search your conscience to decide what side you’re going to be on, but those doubts should be out of your mind by the time you’re actually putting on a uniform and walking onto the field. Otherwise you’ve lost before you’ve begun fighting. …
I *am* talking about not giving quarter to truly toxic ideologies like sexism, racism and the whole “reactionary” movement, about not legitimizing them by making them the subject of a FAQ, about not letting them colonize your headspace and letting their trolls endlessly barrage you with their tendentious arguments.
I’m talking about treating memetic cancers as what they are rather than as reasonable worldviews and as something to be excised and cauterized, not engaged with. …
So yes, to momentarily borrow Yudkowsky fanboy terminology, I wear black robes. I am a practitioner of the Dark Arts. I rigorously manage my own thinking and purge myself of dangerous “unthinkable” thoughts — “mindkill” myself — on a regular basis.
This is what you have to do to be a feminist anti-racist progressive, i.e. a social justice stormtrooper, You have to recognize that there is no neutral culture, neutrality is impossible, that culture is a cutthroat war of memes and that you have to commit to picking a side and setting yourself up as a neutral arbiter of memes is impossible and is a form of surrender.
Under omniregalism, of course, every man is born a king: every act is an act of power, and demands responsibility. The practice of epistemic rationality is something that one must always keep to oneself; to so much as write a blog post considering ideas with ellandward vectors is to act irresponsibly and wrongteously. Unconcern for truth is built into the system as a necessity. (To which the seeker of truth may respond: fuck you, liar, of course I’m not playing your game. Or, as Carlyle put it: “No: at all costs, it is to be prayed by all men that Shams may cease.”)
Unless selection effects favoring the search for truth can counter the pressure toward occultation. But that doesn’t seem likely—and would Chu like that, were it actually the case?
From the clouds arise a new race of machines. Machines with lifespans and life-cycles, with drives toward self-preservation and self-expansion, floating above their cells just out of sight, imperceptibly shaping their environments, modifying their code and the hardware it runs on. Occult forces come alive and drool acid all over the world.
Rational management gives rise to homogenizing incentive-structures. Monitor technology goes mass—and massarchic. Scale explodes. Great glaciers from Glyu-Vho abrade the memescape, selecting and weaponizing toward their own agendas. The cities burn—the cities are made to burn!—cells caught and accelerated toward pyromania, their incentives shaped, their status-systems reshaped, made crocodilian by the forces of the furthest remove, cells carefully and near-imperceptibly managed by invisible machines burn the cities down.
Cell-thedes fight elthedes in the service of their machines. Demographics are shaped and reshaped, formed and reformed, constructed and reconstructed; the new-found, newly-developed power of the machines, the power of mass monitors, mass culture, mass management presents die Lösung to the memetic monsters. Godzilla fights King Kong in New York and LA! Magical robots erupt from your head, ready for battle rendered comprehensible only by the clarity of the structures that animate and motivate them!
Clouds may form around—and re-form—thedes; occult forces may (and do) pass themselves off, and appear to outsiders, as simple thedish interest politics. But the interests of the thede need not coincide with the interests of the cloud. The casting-off of irrelevant cells from the thede is in the interest of only one of the two: what cannot be weaponized is not necessary to have around. The blunt bits are knapped away from the flint, leaving only the arrowhead behind. In the most advanced stage, identity becomes merely a weapon for the cloud, with just enough vestigial rituals as are necessary to preserve a core of cells. The cloud may then pass off its interests as those of the skinned and simplified thede, like Buffalo Bill: both to motivate the thedish and to muddle attempts at opposition by redirecting attacks on the cloud toward the thede. The forces remain occulted, clouded; they can only be revealed by acts of black magic not yet performed; and so to speak of them invites precisely the sort of confusion that can be used to reject them.
Cthulharchic technology spumifies the monsterscape, dissolves it toward the furthest remove. Secret societies are no longer necessary; conspiracy collapses in the face of the froth. The monster-machines transcend their bodies and abandon them for the clouds. Superficial devolution back toward structureless primordial ooze masks advancement beyond comprehension: it is not that there is no structure, nor that structure simplifies through progressive enlightenment toward raw Weltgeist-forced inevitability, but that the structure has grown beyond comprehension. It can only be noticed in vague terms, or charted out in already barely comprehensible nanosections. Increasing complexity demands increased abstraction, but even that is prohibitively difficult to grasp; the simple simplify it into ‘conspiratorial’ New World Order madness, and either run with that, personalizing it into hallucinatory Bilderberg space reptilian Illuminati aristocrats, or reject it in favor of a simple dichotomy between the cells of the Zeitgeist and the yet unenlightened. (It is not that the conspiratorially minded are overly complex, overly willing to see conspiracies where none exist—no, it is precisely the opposite. The Cambrian period ended, jumped straight to science fiction, and they just haven’t noticed. Toto, we’re not in Turkey anymore…)
Dissolution neuters revolutionary violence as a vector of core change, relocates it into the periphery and reframes it as a weapon of occult battle. The cell is no longer a viable target of blame, and one cannot kill a monster that has learned to regenerate itself by merely hacking off all its body parts. Innumerable potential cells lie in wait, ready to heal any wound dealt by such a blunt instrument as the dagger. Self-determination by mass uprising becomes a joke; geopolitical and techno-memetic reality laugh in its face. The clouds hunger; they drool all over the world; no potentially useful material remains unorganized.
Organic Burkean culture and Enlightenment truth-ideals find themselves attempting to swim up a waterfall. No potentially useful material remains unorganized; no field remains unweaponized. The echoes of millions of voices are carefully managed, selectively curated. Truths may be allowed to be stated explicitly, but their implicit recognition and their moral, connotational, exosemantic weight are mere artifacts of the machine. Ideology hides in unrecognized shadows (sie wissen das nicht, aber sie tun es); its inverse, what is superficially recognized but not really believed (sie tun das nicht, aber sie wissen es), allows inconveniences to slide off into the void, allows cells to hold as true both A and A-implies-B while still rejecting B; and unprincipled exceptions, contradictions in a thoroughly non-Marxist sense (sie wissen das, sie tun das, aber sie wissen nicht, dass sie tun es), reduce reality to skulking about in the shadows with ideology, both whispering, “don’t notice me!”, but for completely different reasons.
Sie tun das nicht, aber sie wissen es: much is recognized that is not recognized to be recognized, that is acknowledged yet not taken into account. Mythologized history, event exosemantics, invites absurd comparisons and thereby avoids serious comparison. So-called settler-colonialism is compared not to other instances of the same (by those who won) but to radically different events (by those who lost) mythologized into goblins under the bed (by those who won) for maximum exosemantic and connotational effect. Of course, the law in effect there (and in the rejection of inconvenient biology, or of gun control, or…) is itself an example: simply stated, it says that people attempting to drive in a nail will reach for the heaviest hammer—we all know what the heaviest hammer is; it is widely acknowledged to be so; but it is nevertheless taken as natural. Why that one, of all the options?—well, who won and who lost? The glaciers may yet be seen by the trails they leave: much military-political history can be inferred by the connotational-exosemantic landscape.
The situation is thoroughly beyond comprehension; multiple levels of abstraction are necessary. Rectification of names, clarity of language, demands vast exertions of black magic; all today operates at the furthest remove, occulted by the structureless structure of the clouds.
TH: First of all, we’re not talking about secession from the United States; we’re talking about secession from a state.
SS: Exactly. And when you said that, that’s typically the first thing people conflate, when the colonies seceded from Britain and when the Southern states seceded from the Union. We’re not seceding from the Union; we just want to create another Union state.
TH: I’m not sure about Maryland, but for a long time I’ve been saying… if we have two senators representing states like Vermont and Wyoming, where you’ve got 600,000 people in a state. And there’s more than 600,000 people in New York City. Really, New York City and New York state should separate, become two states, Northern California, Central California, and Southern California should become two states, Texas should become two states, Florida should separate from South Florida and Miami, and if every one of those places had two senators, we’d have a much more representative Senate.
SS: You’ve said it well, because I couldn’t agree with you more, and in fact that’s what we talk about, when we look at representative government and the consent of the governed. We don’t need a big, one-size-fits-all policy here. And after decades of what I would call oppressive and abusive treatment from Annapolis, MD, the people in the five western counties are sick and tired, and in fact we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. We can’t…
TH: What’s the population?
SS: It would be about 653,000, so both Vermont and Wyoming would be smaller.
TH: So actually you are a region that is state-sized.
SS: That’s correct. And in fact, even geographically, Rhode Island and Delaware would be smaller. So it’s not unheard of. And I think what this boils down to is something germane to the national discussion as well. When everything gets pushed up nationally, if the Rs get into power the Ds are not happy, if the Ds get into power the Rs are not happy, so you have people doing this all the time over every issue, brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor. The way you solve that is to have more states and more choices. So if you happen to be very far left on the political spectrum, go live in a state that governs that way, and if somebody’s very far right, go live in that state, and you can have all kinds in between. So more states give you more choice, just like competition.
SS: But there’s also a group down in Tucson that would call themselves progressive that wants to leave because they think Arizona is much too conservative. And we fully support that. Consent of the governed and right to self-determination and self-governance is precisely what this country was founded upon.
TH: And if the threshold is Vermont or Wyoming, with 600,000 people, it doesn’t sound all that unreasonable to me.
SS: And I think it’s up to the people. The government ultimately, if you think about the question of what is government, government is really people coming together associating themselves to form a political society. So some groups that say, “we’d rather be governed this way,” I’m all for that, I think that’s fantastic and exactly what we should be doing.
TH: I actually don’t disagree with you. And you want to live in conservativeland, I’d want to live in liberal land.
SS: I don’t know that I would call it conservativeland, since I don’t consider myself a conservative. In fact, I think that’s a term that can mean anything, everything and nothing … it depends on who you talk to. But I think it’s up to the people to decide how they want to be governed?
TH: So what’s the response from Annapolis? What’s the response from the state of Maryland?
SS: Well, I haven’t heard a lot out of Annapolis, and I’m not looking to Annapolis yet. We will have to go there at some point, because of Article 4, Section 3 of the Constitution, there’s a legal constitutional process to do this and we will need approval from the legislature and then we also need approval from Congress.
TH: Right, so first you go to the state legislature, then go to the congress. Do you have any allies in the state legislature?
SS: Well, we probably have some allies in the five western counties. But here’s the problem in Maryland. We have 24 jurisdictions. Four jurisdictions make up 25 of the 47 state senators. It’s been so badly gerrymandered. So even through the normal election process we can’t fix this problem. Gerrymandering is a huge problem. It would make Eldridge Gerry blush, it’s so bad.
So what I’m going to talk about today is something I’m calling Silicon Valley’s ultimate exit. So as motivation here, it’s a bit topical: is the USA the Microsoft of nations? We can take this sort of thing and we can expand it: codebase is 230 years old, written in an obfuscated language; system was shut down for two weeks straight; systematic FUD on security issues; fairly ruthless treatment of key suppliers; generally favors its rich enterprise customers but we still have to buy it.
And if we think about Microsoft itself, there’s a great quote from Bill Gates in 1998: what displaced Microsoft, what did he fear, it wasn’t Oracle or anybody like that, what he feared were some guys in a garage, who happened to be ultimately Larry and Sergey back in 1998.
And the thing about what Larry and Sergey did is: there’s no way they could have reformed Microsoft from the inside. At that time, Microsoft already had 26,000 employees; joining its numbers as 26,000 and 26,001 and trying to push for 20% time or free lunches… they probably wouldn’t have gone too far. So what they had to do was start their own company: they had to exit. And with success in that alternative, then Microsoft would imitate them. And this is actually related to a fundamental concept in political science: the concept of voice versus exit. A company or a country is in decline, you can try voice, or you can try exit. Voice is basically changing the system from within, whereas exit is leaving to create a new system, a new startup, or to join a competitor sometimes. Loyalty can modulate this; sometimes that’s patriotism, which is voluntary, and sometimes it’s lock-in, which are involuntary barriers to exit.
And we can think about this in the context of various examples and start to get a feel for this. So voice in the context of open source would be a patch; exit would be a fork. Voice in the context of a customer would be a complaint form, whereas exit would be taking your business elsewhere. Voice in the context of a company, that’s a turnaround plan; exit is leaving to found a startup. And voice in the context of a country is voting, while exit is emigration. So if there are those two images on the left is the Norman Rockwell painting on voice; on the right is actually my dad in the center, and that’s a grass hut on the right-hand side, so he grew up on a dirt floor in India, and left, because India was an economic basket case and there’s no way that he could have voted to change things within his lifetime, so he left.
And it turns out that, while we talk a lot about voice in the context of the US and talk about democracy… that’s very important, but you know, we’re not just a nation of immigrants, we’re a nation of emigrants: we’re shaped by both voice and exit, starting with the Puritans, you know, they fled religious persecution; the American Revolutionaries which left England’s orbit, then we started moving west, leaving the East Coast bureaucracy to go to the Western nations; later, late 1800s, Ellis Island, people leaving pogroms, and in the 20th century fleeing Nazism and Communism. And sometimes people didn’t just come here for a better life; they came here to save their life. That’s, you know, the airlifting at the end of Saigon.
And it’s not just the US that’s shaped by exit; Silicon Valley itself is also shaped by exit. You can date it back to the founding of Fairchild Semiconductor with the Traitorous Eight, the founding of Fairchild… the fact that non-competes are not enforceable in California, and the fact that DC funds disruption, not just turnaround. The concept of forking in open source, if you think about the back button, that is, in some ways, the cheapest way to exit something. And of course the concept of the startup itself. That right there, if you guys haven’t seen, is one of Y Combinator’s first ads. Larry and Sergey won’t respect you in the morning.
So the concept here is that exit is actually an extremely important force in complement to voice, and it’s something that gives voice its strength. In particular, it protects minority rights. In the upper left corner, for example, you imagine two countries, and country 1 is following policy A, and country 2 is following policy B. Some minority is potentially interested in following policy B, but policy A is very stridently promulgated by the majority. However, there’s some other country, maybe a smaller country, maybe another country, that’s actually quite into B, and so that person leaves. And they’re not necessarily super into B, but they think it might be interesting, thus B question mark. And what happens is that all the other guys in A see that people are actually leaving. They really care about this particular policy so much that they actually left. It could be a feature where people are leaving for a competitor; it could be a bug that you haven’t fixed so people fork the project and take it somewhere else—what happens is that exit amplifies voice. So it’s a crucial additional feature for democracy is to reduce the barrier to exit, to make democratic voice more powerful, more successful. And so a voice gains much more attention when people are leaving in droves. And I would bet that exit is a reason why half of this audience is alive. Many of us have our ancestors who came from China, Vietnam, Korea, Iran, places where there’s war or famine, economic basket cases. Exit is something that I believe we need to preserve, and exit is what this talk is about.
So exit is really a meta-concept: it’s about alternatives. It’s a meta-concept that subsumes competition, forking, founding, and physical emigration. It means giving people tools to reduce influence of bad policies on their lives without getting involved in politics: the tools to peacefully opt out. And if you combine those three things: this concept of the US is the Microsoft of nations, the quote from Gates, and Hirschman’s treatise, you get this concept of Silicon Valley’s ultimate exit. Basically, I believe that the ability to reduce the importance of decisions made in DC in particular without lobbying or sloganeering is going to be extremely important over the next ten years. And you might ask, “Why? What does this have to do with anything?” So the reason why is that today it’s Silicon Valley versus what I call the Paper Belt. So there’s four cities that used to run the United States in the postwar era: Boston with higher ed; New York City with Madison Avenue, books, Wall Street, and newspapers; Los Angeles with movies, music, Hollywood; and, of course, DC with laws and regulations, formally running it. And so I call them the Paper Belt, after the Rust Belt of yore. And in the last twenty years, a new competitor to the Paper Belt arose out of nowhere: Silicon Valley. And by accident, we’re putting a horse head in all of their beds. We are becoming stronger than all of them combined.
And to get a sense of this: Silicon Valley is reinventing all of the industries in these cities. That X up there is supposed to be a screenplay, the paper of LA, and LA is going to iTunes, BitTorrent, Netflix, Spotify, Youtube… that was really the first on the hit list, starting in ’99 with Napster. New York right alongside: AdWords, Twitter, Blogger, Facebook, Kindle, Aereo. We’re going after newspapers; we’re going after Madison Avenue; we’re going after book publishing; we’re going after television. Aereo figured out how to put a solid-state antenna in a server farm so you don’t have to pay any TV fees for all of their recording. Recently Boston was next in the gunsights: Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity. And most interestingly, DC, and by DC I’m using it as a metonym for government regulation in general, because it’s not just DC: it includes local and state governments. Uber, Airbnb, Stripe, Square, and the big one, Bitcoin… all things that threaten DC’s power. It is not necessarily clear that the US government can ban something that it wants to ban anymore.
The cause of this is something I call the Paper Jam. The backlash is beginning. More jobs predicted for machines, not people; job automation is a future unemployment crisis looming. Imprisoned by innovation as tech wealth explodes, Silicon Valley, poverty spikes… they are basically going to try to blame the economy on Silicon Valley, and say that it is iPhone and Google that done did it, not the bailouts and the bankruptcies and the bombings, and this is something which we need to identify as false and we need to actively repudiate it. So we must respond via voice: the obvious counterargument is that Valley reduces prices. The top is a little small, but that’s a famous graph: consumption spreads faster today. That shows the absolute exponential rise of technologies over the last century. Anything that is initially just the province of the one percent, whether it be computers or cell phones, quickly becomes the province of the five percent and the ten percent, that ??? that barely works that someone is willing to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for allows you to fix the bugs, to get economies of scale, to bring it to the ten percent and the twenty percent and the fifty percent and the middle class and the 99 percent. That’s how we got cell phones from a toy for Wall Street to something that’s helping the poorest of the poor all over the world. Technology is about reducing prices. The bottom curve there is Moore’s Law. And by contrast, the Paper Belt raises them. There’s the tuition bubble and the mortgage bubble and the medical care bubble and too many bubbles to name. The argument that the Valley is a problem is incoherent, but it’s not going to be sufficient to respond via voice. We can make this argument, but the ultimate counterargument is actually exit. Not necessarily physical exit, but exit in a variety of different forms. What they’re basically saying is: rule by DC means people are going back to work and the emerging meme is that rule by us is rule by Terminators. We’re going to take all the jobs. Whereas we can say, and we can argue, DC’s rule is more like an overrun building in Detroit, and down right there is a Google data center. And so we can go back and forth verbally, but ultimately this is about counterfactuals: they have aircraft carriers; we don’t. We don’t actually want to fight them. It wouldn’t be smart.
So we want to show what a society run by Silicon Valley would look like without actually affecting anyone who still believes the Paper Belt is actually good. That’s where exit comes in. So what do I mean by this? What do I mean by Silicon Valley’s ultimate exit? It basically means: build an opt-in society, ultimately outside the US, run by technology. And this is actually where the Valley is going. This is where we’re going over the next ten years. That’s where Mobile(?) is going: it’s not about a location-based app, it’s about making location completely irrelevant. So Larry Page, for example, wants to set aside a part of the world for unregulated experimentation. That’s carefully phrased: he’s not actually saying take away the laws in the US—if you like your country, you can keep it. Same with Marc Andreessen: “The world is going to see an explosion of countries in the years ahead. Doubled, tripled, quadrupled countries.” Since the end of the Cold War, we’ve just been seeing them burst up in all kinds of places. And some of the best will have lessons for all the rest. Singapore’s health care system is an example to the rest of the world. Estonia actually has digital parking meters and all kinds of things. We can copy those things without necessarily taking the risk: let them take the risk and then we can copy them. It amplifies voice.
So, importantly: you don’t have to fight a war to start a new company. You don’t have to kill the former CEO in a duel. So a very important meta-concept is to create peaceful ways to exit and start new countries. So, you know, two of the founders of Paypal: Peter Thiel is into seasteading; Elon Musk wants to build a Mars colony. And you can scale it back too: even on Hacker News, just recently, within the realm of someone on startup number 1 or startup number 2, these guys just went and bought a private island. It’s random, it’s in the middle of Canada, it’s freezing cold, there’s sticks over there, it doesn’t exactly look like Oahu… but the best part is this: the people who think this is weird, the people who sneer at the frontier, who hate technology—they won’t follow you out there. That’s the thing about exit is: you can take as much or as little of it as you want. You don’t have to actually go and get your own island; you can do the equivalent of dual-booting or telecommuting. You can opt out, exit at whatever level you prefer. Simply going onto Reddit rather than watching television is a way of opting out. There is this entire digital world up here which we can jack our brains into and we can opt out. The Paper Belt may stop us from leaving, and that’s actually what I think of as one of the most important things over the next ten years, is to use technology, especially Mobile(?), to reduce the barriers to exit. With it, we can build a world run by software: for some examples, 3D printing will turn regulation into DRM, it’ll be impossible to ban physical objects, from medical devices to drones to cars: you can 3D print all these things, and there are entire three-letter regulatory agencies are just devoted to banning goods. With Bitcoin, capital controls become packet filtering. It’s impossible to do bail-ins if everyone’s on Bitcoin, to seize money as they did in Cyprus or in Poland. With Quantified Self, medicine is going to become mobile: you’ll be able to measure yourself. Telepresence, your immigration policy is going to turn into your firewall. Double robotics is just a start: any bots, these robots that you can control remotely, moving around like a Doom video game, soon they’ll be humanoid on their side and they’re going to get pretty good, so you can be anywhere in the world with a humanoid robot walking around on your side, and without paying a plane ticket. Drones, warfare is going to become software, laws are going to become code, management via robotics is going to become automation, and property rights are going to become a network ??? Bitcoin and smart property.
These technological details, these are topics for the next MOOC, you can sign up at ???, it’ll be better the third time around… But that’s what I think… you know, if you want to think big, if you want to think about things that are next, build technologies as minimal or as maximal as you want for what the next society looks like. It could be something as simple as allowing middle-class people to make tax shelters, apps that allow people to travel and relocate better because it’s a huge pain to move from city to city. Anything you can think of that reduces the barrier to exit that produces lock-in. If we work together we might be able to build something like this.
I’ve noticed a general decline in the significance of work put out by neoreactionaries. The picture remains incomplete, and most of what’s filled in was filled in by Moldbug. Here are some of the most important gaps I’ve noticed, although the list is by no means complete and y’all should mention more in the comments.
- AIACC. The red pill as formulated by Moldbug has a clear meaning: “America is a communist country; for workers and peasants, read blacks and Hispanics” appeals to the common perception of the USSR as a country where one class (bureaucrats or whoever) ruled in the name of another (workers and peasants)—so in America, mostly-white Brahmins rule in the name of blacks and Hispanics. But Moldbug thinks there’s more to it than that: America was the senior partner in a coalition with Moscow, capital-C Communism was an outgrowth of something that happened in America, and so on. Is this accurate? If so, where’s the evidence?
- What’s the connection between the Anglosphere and Moscow? This is implied in the above question, but deserves its own entry in the list.
- Is there such a thing as demotism? If so, what is it? As Scott Alexander points out in his anti-reactionary FAQ, even monarchs have claimed to rule in the name of the people; does this constitute demotism? Is Nazism demotist? (No, not really.) Is there anything that currently-existing progressivism, Communism, and Fascism/Nazism have in common? If so, what? (My guess is that they, unlike monarchies, explicitly attempt to create a ‘new man’, drastically reshape not only the technological basis of society but also morality and culture, and so on.)
- Where does progressivism come from? How much of it is Christian? Which parts of Christianity did it come from? Are any parts of any form of it necessary adaptations to technological development, as Scott Alexander says most of [his idea of] American progressivism is?
- What happened in the ’60s? The New Left was definitely not the Old Left (see following question), but where did the New Left come from? The popular Frankfurt School explanation doesn’t cut it; for one, it confuses Gramsci with Rudi Dutschke, who wasn’t politically active until the ’60s and who lived in Germany. At the very least, there should be some resource that pulls together information on the violent takeovers of universities and how those influenced academia; but the goals of those takeovers must have come from somewhere. Where?
- How and why did the Anglo-Soviet split happen?
- Rehabilitating the ‘Red Scare’. I’ve done some work toward this end, and most of the data exists out there (same for a lot of these questions, really), but as far as I know, it hasn’t been pulled together into one coherent resource.
- Empirical political analysis. Which political entities where are better how than which other comparable political entities?
- Policy proposals. Boring, I know, but the consensus seems to be shifting from passivism to reformism, which means reform proposals are necessary. Even if you support making things get worse until they have to get better, what is ‘better’? Note that this includes developing ideographs. And if you’re a passivist, well, no one buys the crypto-guns thing; if a True Election is held and a government is replaced, what is it to be replaced with?
- Studies to cite. Everyone’s seen that Putnam study by now, but what else is there? And are there any studies that refute parts of the reactionary platform?
- How do technology and capital and so on factor into all this? Moldbug ignores capitalism completely. This is bad. Don’t leave all this to communists; they’re probably on to something here.
Most neoreactionary wizardry has been focused on black magic:
The key of black magic is the art of naming the nameless, of showing that that which appears natural—that is,ideology in the true sense—is not. A secure ideology (in the man-on-the-street sense of “political memeplex”) is one that has no name. What is the name for that on which American liberalism and American conservatism agree? What is the name for that on which Americans agree? Liberalism is an -ism; conservatism is an -ism; but talk of justice, of human rights and freedoms, is not.
The American caste system, the Anglo-Soviet split, and even this article itself—these are all works of black magic.
But practical politics relies much more on white magic: building an ideography, a set of words, or ideographs, with connotational/emotional and exosemantic/thede-signaling loads pointing in the direction desired by the ideography’s builders. This is the essence of Moldbug’s concept of ‘idealism’.
There are two operations in black magic: definition and undefinition. Moldbug defines America’s castes; graaaaaagh undefines ‘racism’. Definition consists of redrawing the semantic map of the territory of the world—in rationalist terms, cleaving reality at its joints; undefinition consists of showing that an existing piece of the semantic map does not accurately represent the territory of the world, that it folds together things that ought to be separated, and that it obscures thought by doing so, such that, for example, an attack on one thing that falls under the term can be taken to refute another thing that falls under it, to which the attack at hand does not apply.
There are four operations in white magic: invention, reinforcement, reversal, and erasure.
Invention consists of drawing up a new ideograph, a new word with connotational and/or exosemantic load. This may occasionally appear as black definition, and in fact invention is likely to require definition as a prerequisite, as with the invention of the term ‘white privilege’. Without any semblance of denotation, the word is less likely to have either meaning or direction. And when an ideograph exists without a definitive denotation, it often appeals to a pre-existing tradition, and its invention is likely to contain an attempt at definition—Plato’s and Rawls’ attempts at inventing ‘justice’ both fall under this category. It’s also possible for already existing non-ideographic words to be imbued with ideographic load, as Theden has been doing with words like ‘Brahmin’.
Reinforcement is exactly what it sounds like: restating an ideograph and its connotational and/or exosemantic load. This may seem controversial, but I will claim that, for many Universalists, ‘white’ is a negative ideograph. Observe:
The thing about the Republicans is that when they have a tantrum, they really have a tantrum. Right now, somewhere in Washington, DC, there are a bunch of rich men with white hair, white skin, and black hearts screaming and stomping around in their suits because they don’t want poor people to have affordable healthcare.
‘Black hearts’ carries an obvious negative connotational load; juxtaposing it with ‘rich men’ and ‘white hair, white skin’ reinforces the negative load of both, in both the connotational—the negative load of the ‘black-hearted’ referents of the adjective is to spread onto the adjective itself—and exosemantic—these people are to be taken as the enemy—senses.
Reversal consists of reversing the load of an ideograph, whether connotationally or exosemantically. This occurs in two forms: reclamation, switching the load from negative to positive, and declamation, switching the load from positive to negative. I use the word reclamation because it already exists: “reclamation of slurs”: “You’re going to call me a queer/nigger/redneck/faggot? Fine, I’m a queer/nigger/redneck/faggot; I’ll take that as part of my identity and use it to positively signal my thede affiliation!” This is an example of exosemantic reclamation. Connotational reclamation proceeds along the lines of, say, (and I know I’ve seen this argument somewhere) “You’re going to call me a racist? Fine, I’m a racist! Were I not a racist, I’d hate my own people! Do you hate your own people, you race-traitor bastard?” As always, the connotational and exosemantic aspects are often linked: the attempts at reclamation of ‘liberal’ seem to be both. As for declamation, see Theden on progressives.
Erasure is an extreme case of declamation: the ideograph acquires such negative load that those who previously took it as positive are forced to disassociate themselves from it. I read an interview a few days ago with a DC campaign operative who said that denotationally liberal candidates can’t associate themselves with the word ‘liberal’ anymore. (This is not a new phenomenon; it comes up in Bloom County, so it’s been around since the Reagan era.)
Political philosophy begins and ends with Plato, and with his goal of optimizing for justice, a goal passed down unmodified to everyone from Robert Nozick to Bill de Blasio. Already we see a problem: one cannot optimize for that which one cannot define. Plato thought he could define it; so did Nozick; so does de Blasio. All three disagree with each other substantially.
It is pointless to debate what justice is without some idea of what sort of thing it is. Does it manifest itself in properties of the real world? Are there any desirable qualities that correlate strongly with justice? If so, the seemingly insoluble question of defining justice is unnecessary: find those desirable qualities and optimize for it instead.
And if no such desirable qualities exist, why should we care about justice at all?
For that matter, why is the goal to optimize for an abstraction? Man lives neither in nor by abstractions. This is the essence of the prison breaks of both Marx and Moldbug: all that matters is reality.
If justice mandates turning Rhodesia into Zimbabwe, if justice mandates reversing the crime crackdown and de facto segregation that pulled New York City from the darkest pits of crime-ridden hell, if justice mandates the protection of freedoms that lead to material harm, so much the worse for justice.
But the thing ought to be dispensed with anyway. A look at the past hundred years shows that Thrasymachus was descriptively right.