You Know It When You See It

Or perhaps more pertinently, feel it.

I’ve described myself as a neoreactionary without fully appreciating what neoreaction precisely is. But as I continue to read about Reaction (see The Shipwrecked Mind) it makes more and more sense. And it becomes obvious that this where my own mind is at.

Of course we have Nick Land as a figurehead, with his always interesting posts, to help point the way. There are plenty of great introductions out there. But the movement is clearly gaining mainstream prominence, with Tyler Cowen commenting on it recently. The world is getting progressively weirder, and the Cathedral have begun to notice in the year of our Lord, 2016.

For me personally the following summations have really struck home that, yes, I am a neoreactionary:
Ross Douthat:

But while reactionary thought is prone to real wickedness, it also contains real insights. (As, for the record, does Slavoj Zizek — I think.) Reactionary assumptions about human nature — the intractability of tribe and culture, the fragility of order, the evils that come in with capital-P Progress, the inevitable return of hierarchy, the ease of intellectual and aesthetic decline, the poverty of modern substitutes for family and patria and religion — are not always vindicated. But sometimes? Yes, sometimes. Often? Maybe even often.

Bloody Shovel:

Why are we reactionaries? Because modernity sucks. In what way? Well, let’s count the ways:

1. Women are unpleasant, men are unmanly

2. Foreigners everywhere

3. Dysgenics

4. Corruption

5. Aesthetic taste has collapsed

But if Reactionary thought is tied to the past, that we’ve all made a great mistake, how does that connect with futurism? Simply because it must. You cannot ignore scientific and technological progress, and you must bend it to what is traditionally human. We are all no more than interacting parts, ones and zeroes. Everything is reducible to this, but we can build on what we have to begin with.

Of the various branches that neoreaction contains, I am not of the religious persuasion, only partially of nationalistic thinking and uncomfortable with embracing the capitalist argument.

Essentially, we need revised versions of democracy and capitalism, not the degenerate forms they’ve undertaken in the name of plutocracy.

It seems to me, and many of us, that the plutocrats aren’t fighting to expand human wealth. They are fighting to become an endogamic caste lording over the mongrel masses.

In this sense Left-inclined people actually align with neoreactionary thought. You can be anti-globalist for other reasons than being ‘racist’ and ‘anti-immigrant’. Globalism is pushed by the elites – with the facade of tolerance – in order to gain ever more wealth and power. We all want to live.

If anything, neoreaction is the habit of being wary. And you can’t fault that.

Why Go Vegan?

It’s been joyous to finally find some in the rational community who take veganism seriously. Yes, Scott from SSC has talked about it in the past and makes the case for ‘meat-eating vegetarians’ but I find his arguments ridiculously weak, not helped by the fact that he clearly never really tried very hard.

I tried being a vegetarian for several years and it was horrible and I ended up subsisting almost entirely on bread and Quorn and I don’t want to go back there.

 

One reason I’m not a vegetarian is that I really really hate vegetables.

A pretty tepid point of view, but not as ambivalent as people who just don’t care about animal suffering and death. It seems that rationalists a) have pet charities and causes and b) think that giving money is more important than actions. There is really no argument against being vegan AND giving to charity. Well, OK, there is if you are allergic to nuts and beans or something, but then you’re technically just a waste of resources anyway so let’s just be rid of you altogether.

So it’s not that the argument against veganism is very strong, it’s that people’s preferences are more important than those of animals. This ranges from the above preference of other altruistic pursuits and a lack of convenience, to animal ethicists who advocate for better conditions, but still eat meat because they’ve made it acceptable in their heads. Yes I am talking about this very special person. As I’ve said before, people from all sides of politics want to revert to a ‘simpler time’. But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world set for veganism, a technological future that can support humanity’s needs without killing animals directly for food. To deny this is the height of both hubris and naivety.

That is why I think veganism ties in very well with the current political movements of the right, as well as that of accelerationism. Progressives often make lip-service to vegetarianism – which is a weak middle-ground anyway – and base their choice on emotion. The strongest argument for veganism is not emotion and hand-wringing; the strongest argument is that because we can do a good deed, we must. We must move forward, we must embrace our future, because only by doing that can we possibly better ourselves. Carnism (the opposite of veganism) is also an invisible system, one based on consumerism and perpetuated by governments and corporations the world over. Veganism is also tied to secularism, as religion places man above animals, and indeed ‘holocaust’ originally referred to mass animal sacrifice. This has been a religious practice from the start, and like our animal ethicist above, if you place ceremony and regulation on top of something inherently wrong, it makes a-OK. Cognitive dissonance is alive and well. No joke, I have seen Tweets by farmers where they take a photo of an animal about to be slaughtered and literally give thanks for their life, as if this is somehow meant to absolve their sins.

Veganism is simply a no-brainer, but that does not mean I don’t question it. I am still reading a number of texts and thoughts that try to breakdown where a logical human should stand, and a lot of that involves how we view subjective suffering.

EDIT: I said veganism is secular, but it seems it’s also in the Bible. Genesis 1:29 ‘Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’ Guess mankind really did screw up.

Embrace the Future

I’m quite new to the whole blogosphere, particularly the realm of NRx and the Altright (and boy, do they love to blog). But I have latched on to a number of thinkers: Ran Prieur, Scott Alexander, Nick Land, Sister Y and, probably the most interesting, Robin Hanson. Now, they all have different opinions and methods, but the one thing they all have in common is that they are constantly thinking about the future. Whether that is exit or evolution, they share a variety of views that may or may not come to pass. Robin is most interesting because he’s now written a whole damn book backed up by Science.

To me, there is one thing that binds us all, Left and Right and everything in between. That one thing is both simultaneously mass delusion and a lack of hope. On the one hand you have doomers who predict a catastrophic end to humanity. Often these folks will be more libertarian, pro-gun and emphasise liberty. On the other hand you have a lot of Regressives on the Left who hand-wring about technology and the future (or as one particular heretic calls it, ‘moralism and modernism’), and call for a reversion to pastoral living. At the end of the day they believe the same thing, lying to themselves en-masse that there is no future. The Right cling to their guns and force everyone out; the Left want to bring everyone into the fold and sing about Niceness. The differing means to the same end can be argued over, but at the end of the day most people are simply scared of the future.

And that’s it, simple fear. The thinkers and writers I mentioned above are beyond that primal state of fear. They embrace it or encourage it, whatever form it takes: accelerationism or transhumanism or any other future one can envision. It’s time to face up to it and try to deal with it, not pine over a utopian reversion or some power-fantasy. Both the Left and the Right fail when they lie to themselves.

Every Planet We Reach is Dead #1

Somewhere, distant. Two specks close-in like mating bugs, one a luminescent dominatrix, the other a silent receiver. Their rings are immobile, frozen before the life-giving connection. The receiver is clearly older, its batteries long dormant. A single ring surrounds the engine, a giant, bulbous antiquity. The incoming arrival is long and slender, two rings at either end, one contracted and waiting. New and old will unite.

In the distance spins Vega, sputtering and spurting its gases, waves of radiation washing the vicinity in random bursts. So it has been for millennia. It has not seen life for a long time, but then, what does it care? There is no old or new, just forever and perhaps an end. At its core it rumbles.

***

Suspended in the Bulb, Joan Lewis sweats despite the cold. She doesn’t notice. A dozen displays surround her, move into her vision when needed. A stream of information bounces within her retina, half visual and half fed into her mind. The ship’s computer, Junko, works diligently to keep her completely up-to-date. Drugs surge through Joan’s veins, heightening her reaction times and thought processes, overclocking her body. Her hands rush around like erratic moons, and her facial expressions do the rest. Her feet are locked in on the pilot’s platform as the embodiment of Junko rotates and twists to suit her needs. Joan is suspended in symbiosis with the ship.

Behind her is the captain, observing, but also stepping in to bring up information when needed. His eyes dart back to Joan and a smirk breaks out as he watches her, watches her dance. Her work is better than his ever was. His body suit is warm, but he has his face free to feel the cold of the Bulb. Past the screens and the frenetic Joan is space. Endless space. Just creeping into the peripheral is Vega burning its blue-white brightness. The eagle has landed, Rigel thinks.

Rigel notices Joan focus, stiffen up, and her movements become longer and attuned. The time has come. He’s watched her do this a hundred times in the sims, but it’s always impressive, more so now that it’s for real. He can make out the other ship now, the Indomitable, as they come perpendicular to it. Slotting it between the two rings of Junko. Junko has come knocking to discover what conquered the unconquerable.

‘How does the airlock look?’ Rigel says to Joan. She doesn’t look up, instead shooting off a data byte in his direction. He brings up the info.

The Indomitable is intact, no holes or damage. Except for the airlock. Signs of expulsion are evident, pipes drifting lazily out of the opening like an anemone. There are scars where heavy objects would have struck as they were jettisoned. An error or on purpose? Rigel can’t see anything that tells him one way or the other. If the hulk had been ripped open it’s going to make boarding difficult.

‘I can still make it, the lock gates aren’t incompatible with ours. I’m going in.’

Rigel throws down the scans.

Joan’s movements speed up, red lights flashing as she goes too far one way, then the other. On the hull spurts of gas pop at random, guiding them invisibly. Then a moment of silence, the warning lights cease.

‘Could be a bump,’ says Joan right before she makes contact.

In the gravity-less Bulb it isn’t an issue as the ship shudders around them. In another instant the ship is rigid again, with an additional appendage. In an instant they are one vessel, the Indomitable now a cancerous growth to be healed.

‘Easy,’ says Joan, ‘now comes the really fun part.’

She disengages from the various wires and inputs, pushes off towards Rigel. She glides towards him, her eyes locked on his and intent on only one thing. Rigel catches her as she comes close, and she latches on to him.

‘We’ve got an hour before the rest of the crew wake up,’ Joan says, a mischievous smile springing to her face. ‘And I’m all worked up.’

Rigel grins. She grabs his hand and pushes off back down towards the tunnel and the bunks. He loves it when she takes control.

***

Slowly but surely the crew awakens. Joan watches them in the corner of her eye, a distraction while she comes down off the cocktail of amphetamines and sex. Their bodies shake as they are reanimated, blood pumping back through empty veins and stirring organs. The worst part is the full-body pins-and-needles sensation, thinks Joan. Thankfully it only takes a few hours before the body is back to full capacity.

She stretches up, bones cracking for the first time in decades. Rigel lies in bed, his eyes glazed over as he flicks through pre-boarding checks.

‘Come, play a game with me,’ she says. He comes back to reality. ‘We’ve got a little time.’

She sits down at the table, bringing a game of chess up. The pieces materialise and she chooses white. Rigel saunters over, his skin suit crawling over him. The ship is still cold from the aeons.

‘I’ll probably be rusty, even if you give my AI a handicap,’ he says, coughing and easing himself into the seat.

‘It’s not about winning, dear,’ Joan says, even though a competitive glint is etched into her eyes. They begin, rapidly at first before slowing into a rhythm.

‘Ah, you’ve got a response to everything I throw out, says Rigel. ‘Never mind being two steps ahead, you’re at least five. For such a mirrored game it becomes asymmetrical so quickly.’

‘No different to anything else in nature or humanity. There’s an equal and opposite reaction for everything, you only have to be ready for it.’

Rigel grunts in amusement.

‘I just need to think outside the box then, beat you back with randomness.’

‘I’m plenty used to randomness, too.’

The AIs they were using would throw out multiple moves per turn, a thousand calculations a second. Junko watches from a distance, mostly disapproving of all moves chosen by both parties.

‘Have you ever played vanilla chess?’

Joan looks up. ‘No, I haven’t actually. No point.’

‘I have. It’s remarkable the patterns a computer chooses over a human. For one thing, humans like repetition, familiarity. But it’s all a simulation, no? It’s the same principle as docking this ship, just a tad more complicated in the types of calculations that Junko has to come up with. That right Junk?’

The lights dim in response.

‘Such a quiet thing. Sometimes I wonder what Junk thinks about in the downtime.’

‘What downtime? Me, I wonder if the AI can distinguish between a game and real life, or if both have equal weighting.’

‘Either way, they offer us the best possible result. We just have the courage to take it. Check.’

‘Such the inspiration, Rigel. But we’re all pieces in the larger game. Us in particular. Moved to the farthest reaches of known space on the back of some vague hope.’

‘Sometimes I don’t mind being manipulated. We’ve got the chance to change the future of humanity after all.’ He gives out a grim chuckle.

‘You know as well as I know the only reason we’re here is that it’s better than home. And that it gives the only people worth a shit a slight chance of a good time.’

‘Hey, I think you’re worth a shit. That’s why I brought you with me.’

‘Don’t kid yourself, I came because you’re useless without me.’

He laughs at that.

‘By the way, checkmate.’ Joan leans back, satisfied.

‘Well fuck me, that came from nowhere.’

‘Don’t mind if I do.’

‘Do what?’

‘Fuck you.’

Part Two

Black vs Green

“But deceleration is for pansies. We’re headed for the stars.”
Peter Watts

There are two types of people in the world: blacks and greens. Well, maybe three if you count people who don’t care, but if you press someone they will come down on one side or the other. This is a much more important distinction that Republican vs Democrat (or insert own country version), Left vs Right, SJW vs MRA, or any other political division. This is about the very future of humanity.

Essentially, blacks are future-facing and greens want to go back in time. Blacks are not necessarily about growth for growth’s sake, but always want to progress, whereas greens figure life is plenty fine on Earth so are content to leave things as they are. Some examples of blacks include Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos (all hail), venture capitalists seeking to privately fund a new space race. Examples of greens include… a lot of progressives, actually. For all their vision of progressive ideals, futurism is detestable to them, probably because future growth depends quite heavily on a neoliberal, libertarian mechanism. There’s something amiss when you decry the waste of worrying about an AI disaster while at the same time insisting that governments act on climate change.

Let’s get something straight: the people who are prominent futurists are very smart people. Very smart people who are almost always right are also putting their money on Trump, but do you think progressives listen to them? Their response is purely emotional: ‘I would feel awful if he won, therefore he can’t.’ Similarly, there is a weird blind spot for greens who refuse to see change. Humanity manages to change itself pretty much every generation or so, and given a Moore’s Law type potential for exponential growth, things are going to change very rapidly this century. You can easily arrive at this conclusion by doing what Bryan Caplan does: look at long term averages and spurn the latest hyperbole. What’s the long term average? Growth. What’s hyperbole? That world peace is possible (ha). It’s quite easy to see that living in a simulation is hyperbole, but is it? Long term averages point to rapid growth in computing power, therefore, eventually, a perfectly realised simulation is feasibly possible. I mean, if we are in a simulation, it could be running in the year 3000 for all we know, and if you think the year 3000 will share any resemblance to today you need serious medical attention. Saying that Trump will start World War 3 and literally build a wall along the border is hyperbole – there is no precedent for that beyond his words. Ah, but what about the black swan! Black swans are events that occur from nowhere, without notice. We’ve all noticed Trump, and therefore him starting World War 3 would not be a black swan event. Basically, the more likely you think something is to happen, the less likely it is to occur. Bryan’s thinking is called the ‘outside view’ not because it has an outside chance, but because the most likely thing is the one thing that no one else thinks of.

I can point out two people on Twitter who are avowed greens, @annegalloway and @Elmo_Keep. The former studies the ethics of killing animals. That is to say, the ethics around murdering animals for food, not whether the actual act of killing is ethical in and of itself. A foregone conclusion for her. She’s done pretty well for herself: an academic who espouses the return to pastoral ways and living off the land who… has managed to land a ‘research’ role living on a farm with animals. The life of an academic, eh? Who said researchers were impartial. She is vehemently in favour of eating eggs, milk and meat, but is against anything modernist or futurist. The idea that we are congregating towards cities (and that cities can support a vegan lifestyle) is basically her worst nightmare because we will lose our connection to nature. This is inherently green. We must remain as close to our ancestors as possible, no matter the benefits of technology. Elmo wrote a fantastic piece about going to Mars, but her fear of technology does go quite deep. I think its mostly grounded in a Leftist ideology of being anti-patriarchy and anti-capitalist, which would make sense, given how male and rich Silicon Valley is. She knows a lot about tech, but the satire is a bit too full of fear. As with everything, life will go down the middle, and the hyperbole of her writing is grating to say the least. I think she is much less of a green than Anne, but they are both interesting studies in the green ideology.

The battle between black and green is what will shape our immediate political future. How do I know? Because, looking at history, there has always been backlash against technology, the Luddites being a famous example. People fear change, no matter how much they talk about wanting it. Don’t get too excited about the future, and don’t be too fearful. If you see someone in either camp, they’re probably trying to make a buck.