Katechon Hypothesis

Anatoly Darlin developed the Katechon Hypothesis which proposes that there is a struggle going on for the compute resources of the simulation that contains our universe. It is based on the idea that we likely live in a simulation, because there are likely to be many more simulated universes than base universes because in each base universe many intelligent civilizations will run a large number of such simulations. It proposes to resolve the Fermi paradox in a „dark forest“ kind a way: universe is full of predators because compute is a severely limited resource and every civilization that reaches the capacity to use up a large amount of the simulation’s compute resources is snuffed out if it is detected for fear that the simulators will turn off a too costly simulation.

I am skeptical for two reasons:

  • I might turn off those parts of a simulation that require too many resources, but from superintelligent simulators I expect a better solution. I.e. it seems much likelier, that some types of large scale computation just don’t work in a simulated universe.
  • Also, it might be exactly the other way round: Do the simulators simulate to get billions of stone age civilizations or to see where thousands of superintelligent civilizations would go? If it is the latter simulations that don’t develop fast enough might be turned off. In that case we are in a race against other simulations to use as many computational resources as possible (in interesting ways).

Yehovian witnesses: Game theoretic considerations about the brutal struggle for eternal bliss

Yehovian witnesses famously believe that only 144,000 people will go to heaven to chill with God. There is actually a second rate paradise prepared for the rest of non-shitty people so it’s not as tough a policy as it sounds.

However, imagine you are trying to get into heaven by being very, very virtuous. If you are successful, you will kick some other soul out of heaven who would have gotten your place, had you been a bit more of a slacker. Being so virtuous that you kick number 144.000 out of paradise it not very moral.

Targeted sinning to stay out of heaven is clearly more moral. Reserving paradise for other people seems like a much more selfless action. Because we are dealing with infinities here getting some other person into heaven instead of yourself is probably the most virtuous act possible.

Therefore targeted sinners should go to heaven, because they are clearly more virtuous than those who do not try to stay out of heaven. Which means that really good people have to sin even more heavily to stay out of heaven.

Clearly, in the end heaven will only be for heavy sinners with pure hearts, which does sound like a good idea from God’s perspective.

Stupidity and politics

I have recently come to realize that much of the stupidity on both sides of the political spectrum is due to the same underlying cause: The left dominance of societal discourse. I made this observation in the context of German politics where the Right is basically the AfD (hovering around 10%) which is beyond the pale.

The Left can be remarkably stupid because it controls the conditions and acceptable limits of public discourse. It can get away with obviously wrong statements because „there is no enemy on the left“, i.e. as long as a statements fits the accepted narrative nobody is going to call it out merely for being wrong.

That much is maybe obvious. However, the stupidity on the right is caused by same factor. Because the Right is already vilified for their position on the core issues, there is no additional cost to accepting dumb positions on less important or less political issues. Conversely, all groups that are hated by society at large band together because nobody else will accept them. Therefore the Right will accumulate idiotic positions merely because they are in opposition to the left mainstream.

2021 blogging review

2021 was my third year of blogging and continued the trend of lower and lower output. Unfortunately the things that did get published were partly also the least consequential in my pipeline, because they required the least work. A lot of things have been happening in my life and other pursuits have eaten what little time was left.

I am also somewhat inhibited by the expectation that automated doxxing will become feasible in the near future. I.e. connecting texts written under different names on different sites via the detection of similarities in writing style and content. It would be ironic if nobody reads my blog until a machine classifies it as hateful or whatnot and puts my real name on it.

I have 25 outlines of possible blogpost in my „drafts and ideas“ folder and now that I think of it there should be some more in an older text file. I’ll try to get some of those in publishable form in the wake of the holidays. And maybe, just maybe, manage to establish a monthly rhythm again.

Is Effective Altruism a mental illness?

I like effectiveness and I think altruism is a good thing. Being effective at altruism is obviously double plus good. However, when I read about the movement/community „effective altruism“ I often get the impression of people not completely hinged. Not completely unhinged either, but spontaneously breaking into tears because of „the idea of suffering“ or planning to abolish predatory animals doesn’t strike me as completely sane either. Or maybe take a look at this article. Couldn’t it just as well be about anorexia instead of altruism?

This impression raises the question whether effective altruism is based to a certain degree on brain damage. Now all brains are damaged to certain degree because of mutational load and environmental insults. But some are more damaged than others. These tend to exhibit higher rates of mental illness. So I did a quick check on the slatestar codex survey data, which asks whether people identify as effective altruists and also about a slew of mental health problems. If effective altruism is based in part on brain damage it should positively correlate with mental illnesses.

Alas, there was absolutely no correlation between having any of around a dozen mental illnesses and being a self-professed effective altruist. Given that altruism is more complicated than selfishness maybe that was to be expected. It seems effective altruists are no more mentally ill than the average slatestar codex reader, just farther out on the altruism bell curve.

Olympics and PEDs

The Tokyo olympics brought an old idea of mine back to the fore: Ranking countries by PED abuse by comparing the success of women and men. 

Because women profit significantly more from steroids and growth hormone than men, due to their naturally lower levels, countries that systematically abuse PEDs should gain disproportionately in women competitions. 

Just looking at some of these jaws it seems likely to me that HGH abuse is the main reason behind the new flood of records, see my post on HGH

I was always too lazy to do this analysis by myself. Funnily enough, I now found out that the New York Times did compare medals by gender for different countries during Rio 2016. Of course their point is that women having more opportunities leads to women getting more medals. So China is clearly a feminist paradise …

„American men won more medals than American women for much of the history of the Olympics, but that gap began to narrow in the 1980s.“

Surprise, surprise. 

Flojo in all her steroid glory.

Unfortunately they excluded the USSR from the analysis, but the numbers for China and recently Jamaica (where sprinters in their 20ies often wear braces which very likely is a direct result of HGH induced jaw growth) make a pretty good case that the posited correlation does in fact exist and we could use the ration of female vs male performance as PED abuse indicator.

Bioleninism

There are a bunch of right wing theories that are necessary to understand certain aspects of how the world works. I have already written extensively on how national IQ influences economic success and vice versa. Theories that go into a more sociological or historical direction mostly come out of the neoreaction movement.

Today I want to give a brief overview and some comments on Bioleninism. Bioleninism was proposed by the blogger Spandrell a couple of years back and has quickly become mainstream in right wing circles for two reasons: It definitely captures some of what’s going on and it also allows right wingers to sneer a leftist activists.

To me bioleninism is a great theory because it neatly explains two great sociological mysteries.

The first mystery concerns the development of mainstream thought. In the West it seems to have one direction only. Political thought only ever moves to the left. Todays conservatives are just yesteryears lefties. This is a really strong pattern and a huge problem for conservatives. If they are historically aware they basically have to react to the extreme left ideas now, because those will be entrenched in just a couple of years. Which then predictably causes the reaction „conservatives are in a moral panic“. A few years later all conservative fears have come true.

This trend is called „Cthulhu always swims left“. I think this term originated in rationalist circles.

The second mystery is that this trend did not exist in the Soviet Union. Anatoly Karlin calls this the „Soviet freezer“. For some reason Eastern European countries came out of the Cold War with many social attitudes basically identical to what they used to be in the West before World War 2. They then generally started to drift leftwards but the remnants can still be seen in for example in Victor Orban’s laws against homosexual propaganda.

Spandrell explains that „Socialism“ (or really any leftwing endeavor) works by solving a coordination problem:

„With all the scientific advances of the last centuries, the 18th and 19th century intellectuals were just brimming with excitement with all the things they could get done. All those plans of social engineering. Utopia on earth! It just seemed so feasible. And yet they could never pull it off through the political process. They just couldn’t pull it off. The politicians and bureaucrats just weren’t loyal enough. Constant factionalism and infighting made any real reform impossible.“

„Socialism works by hacking the Social Calculus Module that humans have in our brains. Remember, humans care deeply about status. Status is what drives human behavior. Everybody works to achieve more status, and to avoid losing status. Socialism of course sells egalitarianism. It tells people with low status that they can get some more.“

„Socialism works not only because it promises higher status to a lot of people. Socialism is catnip because it promises status to people who, deep down, know they shouldn’t have it. There is such a thing as natural law, the natural state of any normally functioning human society. Basic biology tells us people are different. Some are more intelligent, more attractive, more crafty and popular. Everybody knows, deep in their lizard brains, how human mating works: women are attracted to the top dogs. Being generous, all human societies default to a Pareto distribution where 20% of people are high-status, and everyone else just has to put up with their inferiority for life. That’s just how it works.“

„What did Lenin do? Exterminate the natural aristocracy of Russia, and build a ruling class with a bunch of low-status people. Workers, peasants, Jews, Latvians, Ukrainians. Lenin went out of his way to recruit everyone who had a grudge against Imperial Russian society. And it worked, brilliantly.“

The key insight here is that there is nobody as loyal and motivated as a low status person whom you promised higher status. This means that especially in a democracy, low status groups are basically pools of untapped power. If you manage to mobilize them you’ll have tireless activists and loyal voters and therefore good chances to achieve your objective.

„But of course the Left has been in power for 200 years now. Once they got power, they got enjoyed their hardly fought high status. Naturally they lost discipline, until a party further Left appeared, and then won. And so on and so forth. Cthulhu always swims left. That’s where power is.“

This describes the dynamic in a western democracy, how about the East, where the leftist victory was much more decisive?

„The point about Leninism is that after absolute power is achieved, the leftist ratchet stops. The country stops moving left. No new ideas. No new catering to low-status people and using them to topple the government. No, none of that. The ever advancing leftist movement was just a means to an end. The end was power. Once power is achieved, leftism dissolves.“

If one group achieves absolute dictatorial power, it suppresses all movements from the left. Of course without being voters, these movements have a much harder time getting traction anyway. But in the West this dynamic seems to be a perpetuum mobile. Shouldn’t at some point all civil rights movements have run their course?

„But even in the best of worlds, there’s always low status people. Even if you re-engineer society so that there’s complete equality of opportunity, even if you run a revolution and you dissolve every existing hierarchy and start anew. There will always be low status people.

Because there’s always biology. Some people are tall, some people are short. Some look good, some are pretty ugly. Some are thin and some are fat. Some are pleasant some are annoying. Some are cool and some are awkward. Some are smart and some are dumb. Some make good choices some make bad choices. Some are law-abiding and some are criminally inclined. The latter of each pair is going to be low status anywhere on earth. Even in Soviet Communism under commander Trotsky. Some people just suck. That’s the way genes work.“

For biological reasons you will never run out of low status people. This means there is always a pool of power waiting to be tapped. Homosexuals, the morbidly obese, the transsexuals … You can mobilize women in one wave of feminism after another. Minorities likewise.

As mentioned in the introduction, this theory is a winner. Not only does it obviously explain a part of what is happing, maybe even a large part, but it also allows its adherent to sneer at leftist activists.

The part that makes the theory gloatable is, maybe not surprisingly, the least convincing. Not because it is wrong per se, but because it seems unnecessary. Consider:
If you are an up-and-coming fascist in the 20ies or 30ies of the 19th century, low status men will flock to your banner to grab the one chance to rise they will likely get. And maybe that’s great for you. You can make that point to them individually and recruit them one by one. But you can’t address them as a group. „Losers in this society are unfairly maligned, stand with me, dear losers, and I’ll fight for your rights“ just doesn’t work. So the key aspect of having a biologically defined group seems to be that biological characteristics define identities. And identities define groups that can be addressed wholesale. And that allows you to recruit entire groups to your cause.

There really is no necessity for the biological characteristic to also directly be the reason for the low status. It would be perfectly fine to have an identity group that is low status, say, because it is a minority with a different religion in a very religious country. Or an ethnic minority in a very racist country. For example, it would not be very surprising to see such groups overrepresented in a Bolshevik revolution. It also seems very unlikely that African Americans, for example, subconsciously feel deep down, that in a functioning society, they will always be low status.

And of course the whole „low status people flock to extremist groups“ isn’t a solely leftist phenomenon either. I noticed for example that catholic student unions at my alma mater seemed to exhibit a statistically very significant „pimple and braces“ density.

Conversely, there are low status groups, even low status for biological reasons, that are never subjects of the whole civil rights circus. Autists come to mind. Autists just aren’t very recruitable.

So if we see low status people flock to extreme ideologies, that’s just the same mechanism for the left and the right. It happens on an individual basis and is driven by these individuals’s choices. Sometimes the reason for the low status is biological, sometimes not. It doesn’t really matter.

On the other hand, if low status groups are picked as new „civil rights“ causes, then this is a way to mobilize the political power inherent in an recruitable low status group and it is driven by power hungry individuals that usually already are high status. Here the important characteristic of the group is not that the low status is biological, but that the group is recruitable. Biologically defined groups are often recruitable, because identity markers are often biological.

These are two separate mechanisms.

This blog – update

Life, uh, finds a way to inconveniently intervene with important tasks like blogging. Although I have quite a few articles lined up, they only have to be written! Some of these are so hardcore that I probably neither going to publish nor write them. In fact I consider deleting the blog before the point arrives where all text on the internet is de-anonymized by machine learning models that infer identical authorship for stuff written in forums, blogs, books, articles, papers, on twitter or even said in videos, podcasts and the like under different names and identities.

I have little doubt that this is in principle possible and at some point it might be done for those anonymous authors that trample too many holy cows. And it would mean that every text by me under my real name would risk triggering a comparison with the database of naughty authors. It might even become a service for HR – check whether the guy who just send you a resume might share a suspicious amount of favorite vocabulary, phrases, grammatical mistakes, topics, etc. with a political deviant.

Of course deletion comes too late, too – the internet archive has already archived the internet. So I count on my insignificance in both blogging and real life to keep going a little longer.

Covid still a thing, but I count on vaccinations being effective enough even for strains that evade immune response to a certain degree. So, even with such strains it seems likely that the fatality rate will drop to flu levels. Normality beckons.

Bragging rights: Covid deaths in Germany are now squarely in the range I gave as a realistic more than 14 months ago. 13 month ago I wrote that the lab escape theory (that I thought and still think is reasonably likely) is becoming mainstream, but for the US liberal mainstream media this moment has only now arrived. Earlier endorsing it would have meant aligning with Trump, so everybody mentioning it was vilified. Now, a Nicolas Wade article seems to have flipped the mainstream attitude.

HBD

HBD is the study of how different peoples differ due to genetic reasons. It stand for „human biodiversity“, a term coined by Steve Sailer more than twenty years ago. The HBD sphere is a part of the internet where these kind of topics are discussed in blogs, forums or videos.

It is sad to say it, but the golden age of HBD seems to be over. Partly this is due to the overall decline of the blogosphere and partly it may be the shifting political climate that both makes it risky to discuss politically incorrect topics and also makes it seem futile to try to break into mainstream discourse.

Partly, however, HBD might be the victim of its own success. The idea that different populations differ in IQ and that this explains the varying degree of economic success seems to me to have percolated through the thinking fraction of the population. This is simultaneously the most important and the best proven of all HBD conjectures. At some point it just didn’t make sense to keep piling on with more and more IQ data analyses.

If and when really powerful polygenic scores for other attributes become available other interesting topics might receive attention, but right now most HBD topics beyond IQ are both much more speculative and less relevant, though certainly still interesting.

Below I give a link list of some of the most interesting HBD writers that I could remember offhand.

La Griffe Du Lion wrote maybe the prototypical HBD blog. Reading his analyses had a big impact on me. Not only because of the controversial content, but also it was the first time that I realized that with simple mathematical tools and freely available data it was possible to investigate all kinds of questions successfully.

Greg Cochran’s blog is lazy, but occasionally brilliant. He was much more correct about Covid from early on than most others.

Anatoly Karlin’s effort posts are great. What he published on IQ was so close to my own conclusions and observations that it spurred me on to start this blog.

Emil Kirkegaard does the actual science and his output is pretty crazy. Somehow he doesn’t get tired of scraping together some data to do a third replication of some study.

Steve Sailer’s main occupation seems to be to make fun of the NYT. But very occasionally he also writes some brilliant HBD articles. But just like the overall HBD sphere he probably has the impression that he has already said it all.

Something would be amiss if I would not also mention JayMan, HBDChick and Peter Frost. I never much read JayMan and HBDChick and their blogs are dead. These three are much less quantitative, but nevertheless introduced some key concepts or interesting ideas.

The new guy on the blog and recently the only source of regular and very interesting HBD content has been Crimkadid. He presents his ideas on twitter, which is pretty limiting to say the least. And he is mostly speculating with very little hard data involved. But so much fun …

Cognitive profiles in chess

One of the topics I find extremely interesting is cognitive profiles. Mostly because of how it ties in with how human intelligence works. In my blog posts [1] and [2] I present the theory, that mathematical and spatial IQ depends on pattern recognition via brain size, while verbal IQ and top down conceptual thinking depends to a large degree on sequence handling via the creation of synapses .

This theory explains several phenomena quite nicely, but it still is only a simplified version of what is really going on. It owes a lot to evidence due to the peculiar cognitive profiles of Ashkenazi jews, very verbal, very conceptual, but not that attuned to spatial patterns. Interestingly, Ashkenazi jews are also extremely, almost absurdly, successful at chess with almost 50% of world champions having Ashkenazi ancestry.

Chess ability also has two components that roughly correspond to pattern recognition and sequence handling: Positional understanding and calculation.
Positional understanding is an intuitive feeling for how the pieces should be placed, which squares might become weak and where many moves down the lines hidden dangers might surface. Calculation is the act of simulating likely future sequences of moves in your head to find tactical strikes, mating sequences or just a way to keep the balance.

Both positional understanding as well as the ability to calculate precisely and deeply is a necessary prerequisite to being a strong chess player. If your positional understanding is weak, you will never get a position were your calculating ability will be useful, you will basically start on the back foot and get deeper into trouble until something gives. If you calculate badly, you will miss tactical strikes both for you and your opponent. You will lack the ability to finish your opponent off in a winning position or to hold on in a bad one. Your overall playing strength is probably more determined by your level of positional understanding, but really you need both abilities.

Players are usually classified into positional players or tactical players, which roughly reflects which ability dominates their chess style, though this is also partly influenced by character – more aggressive players often play more tactically, less risk-taking players focus on positional considerations. And it changes with age, likely as the character does, with young men playing more tactically and aggressive and calculating better, and old men playing more positionally and cautious and calculating worse.

Conceptual thinking also has an analog in chess – strategic thinking or planning. Strategy in chess means working out a longterm plan of action that still has to implemented by precise calculation. As such it is somewhat difficult to separate it from calculation, at least in practice.

These chess analogues allow us to test whether my conceptual framework for cognitive abilities still holds in a different modality from verbal, mathematical and spatial IQ. Specifically we can take a look at the many Ashkenazi top players and assess whether sequence handling and pattern recognition make sense as the two basic dimensions of human cognitive ability or whether verbal IQ and mathematical/spatial IQ are different concepts altogether.

Let’s take this list of World Champions: Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand and Carlsen.

Which of these are most famous for their positional acumen? Capablanca, Karpov, Carlsen, Kramnik, Smyslov come to mind.
Which are famous for their calculating skills? Tal, Anand, Kasparov, Alekhine are the most unambiguous. Lasker and Fischer also make sense.
Famous strategists? Steinitz, Lasker, Botvinnik,

Petrosian is a complicated case, because he was a very cautious, i.e. positional player. But it seems his greatest strength was actually calculation (at least according to contemporaries, like Fischer). Euwe I also can’t quite place, he is a bit of an outlier, beating an out of form Alekhine for a one year stint as world champion. Fischer was head and shoulders above his contemporaries, he was great at everything, but I would tend to put him with the calculators. Spassky was a great attacking player, so maybe a calculator, but he was also very well rounded.

Who of these players is famous for extensive opening preparation? Steinitz, Alekhine, Euwe, Botvinnik, Fischer, Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand.

Now, these are subjective choices, but for now they’ll have to do. Let’s compute some p-values of how fitting these characteristics are for our conception of the Ashkenazi cognitive profile being very strongly tilted towards sequence handling.

The most striking result is that of the players with an otherworldly positional sense, not a single one has Ashkenazi ancestry. Given that we have 7/16 Ashkenazi champions, the probability for that to occur by chance is (9/16)^5 = 0.056. Goddammit! We have missed the coveted 5% significance threshold.

(Edit: Skimming through my old posts I noticed that I miscalculated here: The probability of randomly choosing a non-Ashkenazi is only 9/16 for the first player. For the next it will be 8/15 and so on, this actually puts the probability at 0.029 comfortably below 0.05.)

Anyway, 4 out of my 6 calculators have Ashkenazi ancestry and all of my three strategists. Among the opening preparation specialists no clear pattern is visible, so once again we fail to find Ashkenazi grit in chess. Ashkenazi players likely don’t dominate the calculator category, because calculation is not a pure form of sequence handling. Instead it is mixed with a form of pattern recognition – the ability to see tactical motives.

Overall the chess analogy to verbal and math/spatial IQ seems to work beautifully, at least within this narrow window of one ethnic cognitive profile. However, my theory would also predict that NE-Asians are positionally strong, but my impression is that they are rather on the tactical side. So there is still a lot of room for further investigations.

[1]
https://halfassed.science.blog/2019/02/02/a-theory-of-iq-three-mysteries-of-iq-research/

[2]
https://halfassed.science.blog/2019/02/09/a-theory-of-iq-cognitive-profiles-and-cortical-structures/