Forum Comments

Political Instability
In Politics
bolin
May 26, 2021
@fo2761 First of all, I finally watched the Zeihan video you posted in the OP. I found it pretty interesting. Taking his analysis at face value (which I have no problem doing, seeing as geopolitical analysis is how the guy makes his money), including the power of American shale, all of the things that make the US a superpower, and the weaknesses of the next biggest powers, it honestly reassures me that my "hopes" are some of the best case scenarios. I guess the one scenario I proposed where there are regional powers in the old US backed by other world powers is unlikely seeing as the world system would collapse without America (at least implied by Zeihan). Even so, if the US proceeds with relative stability, meets its energy "needs", and continues technological development, then I can only see a technocratic dystopia worse than what we have right now being the end result. While his foreign geopolitical analysis made sense and seems quite reasonable, I feel like it loses some predictive power since it did not consider other possible system stressors, namely environmental collapse or political instability at home. He did mention that shale will not last forever, so he does at least give some acknowledgement of peak oil stuff. So, the analysis presented in that presentation rests on two major assumptions which I think should detract from his confidence (i.e. (1) american internal stability and (2) a static biosphere in which geopolitics can play out). And as far as industrialization and agriculture goes, I know that the Russian liberation of the serfs was largely influenced by the newfound 'need' to industrialize after the Russian defeat in the Crimean war. The Empire wanted to industrialize to compete, but to industrialize it needed workers. Those workers came in large part from the massive underclass. So quite a few peasants became proles. Even so, Russia remained (might even remain) an agricultural power for a long time, even after the industrialization thrust of the 1860s/70s. But I agree with your general path. Tech makes industry possible; industry requires manpower and spatial centralization (at least in the early days); industry grows cities by drawing manpower from agriculture; agriculture weakens, knowledge is lost; tech makes mass agriculture possible; mass agriculture makes more money, demands more land; mass agro buys out the small landholders; more people move to cities; and so forth.
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Political Instability
In Politics
bolin
May 25, 2021
@fo2761 I think the population/food predicament rests largely on urbanism. Wiki says that the US achieved 50% urbanized population in the 1920s, and that around 80% of the US population is now urbanized. I myself am mostly a city slicker, though I have tried every avenue available to me to get a feel for rural life, though I have never come close to approaching self-sufficiency. I might have a slightly better idea what soil is supposed to look like, or how much water a seedling needs, but I will be starving when push comes to shove and there is no more food to scavenge. So, not only do most urbanites not know how to feed themselves, they also make up the majority of the population. And we cannot forget about anti-rural vitriol. And so long as country = conservative = bad, urbanites have a tendency to look down on the less technologically developed countryside (a phenomenon stretching back to at least urban Christians using "pagan" as a slur (it originally referred to rural folk, and rural folk converted later than the progressives in the city)). So there is yet another reason to disparage agriculture, even if very indirect. Of course, community gardens and personal urban gardens exist, but they certainly do not feed every city inhabitant and, at least in Pittsburgh, probably do not provide more food than a few meals total in a growing season. And yeah, there are ~320 million people officially in the US. 80% live in cities. Giving that many people the land and the know-how sufficient for self-sufficiency seems like a legal/political/logistic fantasy. That population is presently supported by petroleum or otherwise artificial fertilizers, gmo crops, industrial sized machines, global import logistics networks, and huge monoculture fields. It would take intense and successful permacultural homesteading programs for that many people to produce a sufficient amount of food on relatively small farm plots to support the present US population. It just does not seem realistic in any scenario. If there is a political collapse, I think an agricultural collapse is almost guaranteed, and if there is an agricultural collapse, there will be a population collapse without question.
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What is technology?
In FAQ
bolin
May 25, 2021
Like Nayla, I think Ellul provides some necessary insight. With an Ellulian emphasis on efficiency, I think it is more than possible to differentiate basic tools and methods (which exist among other animals) and technologies and techniques. Tools/methods are simple exploitations of known causal relationship (i.e. sharp stick in body kills thing) which is the product of empirical chance (if it works, it works, and if it is not broke, do not fix it); technologies/techniques are also exploited causal relationships, but the relationships were learned about as part of an epistemological pursuit of efficiency (understood as something like more effects with less energy). And modern technology in the Kaczynskian sense of technologies which are global instead of local in scope certainly fits snugly in here. Of course, both types of relationships are exploited for some reason/by some cause, and in the case of tools/methods, I think the reason necessarily must be something like instincts. A dog can learn that food often follows from looking sad next to an empty food bowl and this can be its method, but this certainly is not the most efficient way to get food from a human/technical standpoint and thus is not a technique. I also think that the will plays a large part in defining technology or else is the technology par excellence. What I mean by this: the will is negative in nature; it cannot generate energy or action by itself and instead inhibits natural energy flows/instincts, emotions, etc. Thus the will is inherently aimed against what is natural. Likewise, technologies can only ever manipulate what already exists (i.e. nature) to achieve some desired effect. But a technology would not or even could not be developed that is simply nature itself i.e. what would exist in the absence of technology. So the effect is always anti-natural. And thus the pursuit of efficiency is merely the pursuit of controlling/killing nature with as little energy required as possible--since the will has no energy of its own except as is required to suppress life. So the human will is the most efficient technology (thus the technology par excellence) insofar as it is the only technology which can completely control nature (i.e. human nature) with effectively zero energy on its part and was developed evolutionarily or otherwise in the pursuit of efficiency. Maybe that is too speculative, but I think there is something in this worth looking into
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Is morality subjective or objective?
In Philosophy
bolin
May 24, 2021
Lots of good stuff here and I am going to try and reply to the salient threads while stating my own view. First of all, as Nayla knows from our correspondence, I am closer to the relativist position than an objectivist one. However, my view is probably better characterized as moral nihilism, though even this is not quite right. The first part of my view is influenced by John Mackie's Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong wherein he defends a metaethical error theory. What "moral nihilism" would mean: a poor way of phrasing it would be to say that I do not think that any moral truths exist, subjective or objective. If the nazis thought that they "should" kill jews, they were wrong because no metaphysical obligation to kill jews exists; likewise, if someone thinks that slavery is "wrong", he is also wrong because there is no metaphysical judgment located within the fabric of reality which can turn "wrong" truth-apt. As Mackie puts it, objective value/goodness/obligations/moral laws would be quite queer things and would require a special mental faculty to process them from the world. Mackie also uses an argument from disagreement against objective morality, but I agree with you, Griffin, that disagreement is not sufficient for establishing non-objectivity. Surely even if two friends disagree over bill-splitting calculations there can still be an objective calculation equally splitting the bill. But the metaphysical status of these moral laws just makes no sense if they supposedly exist. There would have to be something--independent of human subjectivity--which could influence a human's actions whenever that human interacted with it. Now let's consider what moral statements are. There is some relationship between "good", "right", and "should", so I will assume for simplicity's sake that one "should" do what is "right" or "good" for one reason or another. These moral statements are captured by something like Kant's categorical imperative: "You should X". These statements are supposed to apply independently of one's subjectivity and are supposed to be obeyed in spite of one's subjectivity if the resulting action is to have "moral value". Objective morality would suggest there being something that makes these kinds of statements true, independent of human subjectivity. Mackie does not think that there is something like this (hence 'error theory'), but, unlike Mackie, I think that there actually is something like this, (though it is nonetheless unreal). Thus, the second part of my view derives from (Ludwig) Klages (whom I hate to keep shilling but the guy is just too large an influence on me at this point to allow not citing him). The something is Klages' Spirit. Spirit is Being and is the opposite/enemy of Life and Becoming. The action of Spirit within mankind is the Will, and the Will is only ever negative in character; it can only influence by parasiting off of one's vital energy/vitality (which, in this context at least, is equivalent with one's subjectivity) and either directs one's energy towards some aim, or works to suppress/extinguish the energy outright, which, in either case, amounts to the Will/Spirit waging war against one's life and subjectivity. For a quick rundown on the metaphysics, Life/Becoming for Klages implies a unity of body and mind (soul) while Being/Spirit is without either. Life is taken as reality, and only reality can be experienced. Spirit is unreal*, and, again, Spirit seeks to kill Life, which happens by separating Mind from Body. Now return to moral obligations. You are supposed to follow them despite your inclinations. But you are never going to be obligated to do something that you would have done in the absence of an obligation. It defeats the purpose of duty and moralizing to say someone should do what they were already subjectively inclined to do. Moral dictates thus mirror the negative nature of the Will; just as life is what would follow in the absence of willing, subjectivity is what would follow in the absence of morality. It is even silly to substantially separate "subjective" instances of willing (i.e. hypothetical imperatives) from "objective"/"categorical" imperatives because both require the Will to suppress the rest of one's vitality to achieve something that would not inherently follow from life. The difference is merely whether the object of will (which, in every case, must be not-Life) is abstracted from one's vital inclinations or is completely detached from them; in effect, however, they are identical. What is morality then? An institution or technology for controlling people that plays on psychological mechanisms. This is not a very original conclusion, of course, but I do not think it needs to be. The more a population is morally "progressed", the less vital they are, and the less vital they are, the more controlled they are, and the more controlled they are, the more exploitable they are. Does all of this mean I think we cannot have negative feelings about, say, female genital mutilation? Of course not. But I do not think we need to mutate our innate and vital repulsion of a practice into metaphysical facts about the world. I see no reason that our grounds for condemnation be anything over and above subjectivity. I am also willing to say that practitioners of FGM are as under the spell of Spirit as the person who defends objective morality. I do not think natural humans would instinctively mutilate their genitals nor the genitals of the people they love. There is something in their head telling them that they should do that. *(Yes, there is a problem with interaction just like Cartesians and other dualists face, but that is a problem with which I am willing to live for the time being).
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Political Instability
In Politics
bolin
May 24, 2021
I think there is a lot (if not too much) to process in making reasonable predictions regarding political developments, let alone American ones, over the next few decades. That being said, I think it is also fun to think about this stuff and maybe we can predict more than I give people credit for. First of all, I have never really followed popular politics, but even less so since Trump left office. I did not even know that the CDC was allowing businesses to permit "vaccinated" people not to wear masks until yesterday. Secondly, I want to say that I find modern technological democracy impossible to trust. I do not care how many time the votes were "counted", and I do not care who "won". Modern representative democracy (not just the American variety) itself seems to me to be one of the most effective psychological technologies ever developed which acts as a relatively controllable pressure-release valve and periodic surrogate activity. I simply have no reason to believe that the results of an election supposedly involving hundreds of millions of people accurately represent the votes or interests of people. There is no way to verify the results of an election except trusting the government--the very thing in question--or to count the votes myself which is (probably?) illegal and approaching physically impossible. There is too much proprietary technology in between the act of voting and the announcement of a "winner" for me to view the process as even possibly neutral. That aside, I am willing to agree with you that Trump's presidency was an indicator of anti-globalist sentiments (an indicator whose strength is up for debate, probably), and this is so whether or not he was actually elected, or selected by the owners of the democratic technology. Obviously he was not substantially anti-globalist, but did superficially embody that stance enough to supposedly beat out an established career politician. And I think that you are right that within the next 10 years the American political system will come under unsustainable pressure. The following proceeds on two assumptions: 1) there is no other ecological, economic, and or civilizational collapse 2) that Americans are not entirely impotent or domesticated/distracted by the technological system and will actually get off of their mobility scooters/4x4 trucks/starbucks seats and take action based on their beliefs. The fallout of the prior election (or prior two elections) demonstrate at least a superficial weakening of trust in the system and increasing polarization. At some point the losing side is going to take meaningful action to establish sovereignty against an unrepresentative system. I think a lot will depend on the character of the candidates running. Biden was a great move by the "left" side of the theater since he was 1) not Trump and 2) a career globalist and, by extension, technocrat. If either or both sides run a candidate further "left" or "right" than Trump or Biden in 2024, I do not see the system making it in its present form past that. If Dems run a moderate again and Trump returns and wins, I do not think there would be a break down in 2024 and this would push collapse to next election. If Trump or a right-moderate loses in 2024, I think the "conservatives" are more liable to flare up and cause substantial though not critical damage to the system, and, again, the collapse is postponed until 2028. In the case of a political collapse, I do not see how the U.S. could remain a "unified" political entity. By '24 and '28 there will be more talk about secession. If the Texas border stuff keeps up, I could see Texas seceding regardless of election results. Apparently California also likes to talk about secession, and I could see them pursuing that if a Trump or Trump-esque candidate wins in '24. Even if they do not do so before everyone else, the results of the elections will likely see blue or red states seceding from the Union. This will not lead to a clearly delineated civil war since almost all urban areas are blue and almost all rural areas are red. There may be a civil war, but it will be urban-rural in character instead of state-state. This state of affairs means that state borders will disintegrate, cities and industry will be decimated, and the economy will be entirely localized if not barter based. Some states might manage to reestablish their borders, and some states might manage to form new unions, but the collapse of the US will probably lead to a global war/power struggle resulting in either smaller local powers backed by stronger global powers (ex. a Western US based state backed by China and an Eastern one backed by the EU) or a total global economic if not technological collapse. If the former, the old US would not be reestablished because it would be silly for the new world powers to reincarnate an ex-world power; if the later, the technological infrastructure required to govern the continental US will either not exist or be unaffordable for the local competing powers. In the case of political case, local federal governments might exist to keep other local governments at bay, but I honestly do not see there being relatively stable local government for decades except in the least divided parts of the country (divided in all ways; racially, religiously, politically, etc). People on the ground would become much poorer, open to violence, but also more willing to establish communities and focus on the necessities of life, so I agree with your prediction of "a mostly agricultural, small scale production-community oriented society", except that agriculture is going to be hit very hard 1) because once modern logistics collapse, the monoculture fields dominating the US will either be left to rot and recover naturally or forcefully utilized leading to weak and sickly yield and 2) because the vast majority of Americans have no clue how to grow food, let alone enough to sustain themselves. These are my optimistic predictions or even hopes. I am not confident that the system will collapse naturally or, even if it did, that the resulting struggle would be severe enough to preclude a new, stronger, more centralized, and more technological system that places even more constraints on the people living in the present day US. I do not think permanent stagnation or regression is possible at this point in time, and, while that is what we are experiencing presently, something will give way. The options are violent collapse followed by permanent disunity, violent collapse followed by a new technocratic dystopian union, or a legal reformation into a technocratic dystopia accompanied by petty struggle. Of these, only the first seems desirable. Again, not a political scientist or theorist. This just expresses some theories that I have absorbed over the years online coupled with my understanding of technological progress.
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