Quickie Post — Fatherless Young Men and the Larger Societal Consequences

Conor on his first river trip, at the oars

Twitter pal and real-life friend, Joe Biello, posted an absolutely stunning video, by Good Kid Productions that every sentient human on the planet, who has any interest in us having a prosperous future, needs to watch. It is THAT good. It covers in-depth the August 2020 shooting of Jacob Blake, an African-American male whose arrest started the Kenosha riots, as well as fueled the Black Lives Matter movement. It demolishes the myth of Jacob Blake as some victim of white supremacist policing, while casting light on the other, downstream-cascade actors in the Kenosha riots, namely Kyle Rittenhouse, Joseph Rosenbaum, and Anthony Huber. Blake headlines the story as a fatherless man, whose father left his mother while she was still pregnant, to start another family with a woman he had impregnated. The hidden story behind Jacob Blake’s arrest was that he had sexually assaulted the mother of his own child that day, and was attempting to kidnap all her kids by piling them into her car. Which is why she called 911, that started the tragic series of events that day.

Here’s the piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzAMjU14z4w

Apparently, you have to watch it on YouTube. The title is: The Broken Boys of Kenosha: Jacob Blake, Kyle Rittenhouse, and the Lies We Still Live By.

The one thing the victims all had in common were they were fatherless men, and makes the compelling case that the real root of all the actors’ dysfunction was the lack of a father in their lives. Of course, one can’t do a randomized control trial for this kind of thing. But I encourage everyone to watch it. It is THAT good.

Not surprisingly, the one documented psychopath in the mix — Joseph Rosenbaum, who had literally just left the mental institution CARRYING HIS DISCHARGE BAG after a suicide attempt earlier that day — that showed up at the protest, was severely sexually molested by his stepfather, who ended up spending time in prison for his crimes. The other victim, Anthony Huber, was an unwanted child, abandoned by his father, who found some refuge in the skateboarding community in Kenosha. He had spent most of his adolescence and young adult life in correctional facilities. Now Huber’s father is attempting to sue the city of Kenosha for wrongful death and his loss. Mind-boggling. Once again, in Structural-Memetic-land, what we’re seeing behind this particular situation is the development of a Disqualifying Narrative — a story so far out of the stretch of most folks’ comprehension, it literally beggars belief. Unfortunately, it’s only outside of contemporary narratives such as White Supremacy and Police Violence against African-American men, can one get close to understanding the root cause of the trauma.

And Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17 year old ostensible White Supremacist? His father is an unemployed alcoholic, who punches his mother in the stomach when Kyle is 4, causing the couple to divorce.

The other primary point of the video is how our understanding of the Jacob Blake situation got scrambled. It is an exemplar of this post — how psychopaths use well-worn mental models (in this case, racism and white supremacy) to distort the truth and gain power and control. I am at a loss on how to move the needle on this at a large scale. But at least now, I’ve plotted the dynamic.

What’s my view on this? I can’t really give a ton of personal details, but I’ll tell you when I left my marriage and my two kids’ mother when they were 8 and 10, I operated in some kind of fog that the narratives I had been fed were true — that my kids would be fine, as long as I wrote the check. That turned out to be profoundly not true, and what followed was a long conflict to get custody of my sons, which I did. What was amazing about that fight, though, was how profoundly all the institutions I had to deal with were against contact between a father and his kids. It was summed up in one session with one of my sons counselor, who told me “this whole town thinks you’re crazy. Everyone knows that after a divorce, a successful man like yourself leaves those kids behind and goes and starts a new family with another woman.” They couldn’t understand at all why I fought.

I know I’m leaving out a lot of story, and that is just the way it must be. My two sons, whom I got full custody of at something like 14 and 12 (I forget, to be honest) have gone on to be two of the most successful humans on the planet. I hung in there, and I’m glad (and grateful) I did. But if the system can continually kick someone as crazy-persistent as me in the face, a white male with the power and privilege of both societal status, and one of the best educations available — as Utah Phillips might say of my position, armed to the teeth with the weapons of privilege — what are the outcomes for more average, or disenfranchised populations?

From my perch as an engineering professor, having educated literally thousands of young men (and women) , I can tell you from interacting with them that fatherless children is another civilization-ending crisis. It is hard to grok how many of kids I’ve talked in the same situational boat. And while the outcomes for all are not nearly as radical as those involved in the Blake/Rittenhouse situation, when anyone asks me “so what do you do for a living?” I tell them succinctly — “I raise kids.” Young women too.

We might start at least addressing the problem publicly. While we still can.

P.S. A final footnote — this is supposed to be a Quickie Post! — the mainstream media coverage clips shown will make you never believe any of the media figures ever again. What is the most interesting aspect of this? How NONE of them have ever apologized, nor fixed their original depiction of events. The mind reels. All of you waiting for Tony Fauci to say he’s sorry — you might consider this case.

And yeah — I know you expect me to say this, but the linked posts in this post are solid work. You should read them if you really want to understand how the mainstream media works. Do remember that I am usually critical of my own writing, but the upside is if I say the ideas are good, they are at least worth considering.

Quickie Post — The Memetic Death of Mastodon

Nice, healthy elephants — not extinct. In the Greater Kruger Park, 2009

There’s tons to write about Twitter and Elon’s recent takeover, and I’m attempting to get through a longer, memetic war post on Elon, Trump, and agents like Paul Krugman. But this is ripe, as it were. Will Twitter collapse and everyone move to Mastodon, or actually, one of the other alternate platforms, like Parler or TruthSocial?

Never say never, of course. But the odds of everyone fleeing Twitter and moving to Mastodon, because of the created furor over Musk not driving the algorithms toward supporting the Legalistic/Absolutistic v-Meme, which is inherently institution-supporting, is pretty low. Everyone on the ostensible Left loves to underestimate Elon, partially because he represents publicly as a flawed human, while at the same time being the richest man in the world. This scrambles the status-driven circuits of the pundit class. But if you know anything about any of his companies (I have worked with SpaceX) his success is actually due to the fact that he operates them in a Performance/Goal-Driven (Orange) v-Meme, while possessing awesome reflective Guiding Principles insight on how all of it works. I highly recommend various Elon videos on the design process to my design class, primarily because he has the best advice (bar none) on how to accelerate the process of successful performance-driven design.

For those wondering what that might be, it’s basically SpaceX is more than happy to blow rockets up, learning all the way along the path toward rapid iteration. If you don’t believe me, then watch the video below.

People in Legalistic/Absolutistic v-Meme structures (like the current version of NASA) cannot learn enough about new systems because they refuse to push them at appropriate times to failure. And no — I’m not talking about when humans are aboard. But you don’t have to look far (about as far as the most recent Artemis program) to see that a status-driven organization that cannot tolerate failure just can’t learn and explore enough in the design space to push the envelope in space flight. We don’t only learn from failures, of course. But failures matter in broadening the envelope of the possible, as well as potentially illuminating Black Swans that show up out of nowhere.

But back to Twitter and Mastodon. From all outward appearances, Twitter was a bloated piece of Silicon Valley agitprop, a place heavily laden with status-driven thinking. It really hit its stride at the beginning of the Trump era, when no-reputation journalists and academics found they could gain some kind of a reputation through Twitter’s infamous ‘Blue Check’ verification process. I’m on Twitter, and the hassle of getting said Blue Check just seemed like a big pain in the ass (I am notorious, however, in not caring much about status.)

As I wrote in this piece, journalism (and the academy) has been adrift for a while. And its current mode has been cemented through learning that the path to status-driven heaven (actually perdition) is having access to famous people, and repeating whatever the most famous authorities would want them to repeat. You look at the embarrassing doubling-down of the journalistic and academic castes on the whole COVID lab leak fiasco, and I’m floored. It’s not that it’s 100% that COVID came from the Wuhan lab (I’m pretty sure it did) — it’s just the people the journalists and academics ended up defending, like the China’s CCP, as well as our own CDC, are so obviously off the rails when it comes to anything having to do with promoting agency of individuals, or any Enlightenment values. The CCP is competing with North Korea for the most oppressive state in the world when it comes to civil rights. Yet I’ve seen reporters from Nature, the pre-eminent scientific journal in the world (well, formerly) defend the CCP, even though the most conservative (not political, but truly conservative) viewpoint on the whole lab leak fiasco is that the affair is unsettled. The mind reels. Talk about memetic alignment.

At any rate, this sub-class has been seeing favorable algorithmic treatment on Twitter, which has turned Twitter into what John Robb calls the ‘network swarm’. And through its lack of grounding, coupled with the Ukrainian crisis, and its hatred of Trump’s anti-elitism, driven the world to the edge of a nuclear exchange. I could march through the whole list of issues that the current version of Progressivism has doubled down on (they’re even going in big on castrating young children in the name of reducing childhood depression) but I think it would just make me ill.

Twitter, though, likely due to its longevity and expansive user base, has resisted an overt takeover by the Progressive class, though one could argue only weakly. That has led to the binning of Left/Right opinion due to power law/Pareto dynamics. And with the ascension of the Biden claque, a group largely kidnapping an old man with obvious dementia, to use as a power token, their psychopaths, facilitated by the COVID pandemic, were making large inroads on collapsing the US, at any rate, into a true Authoritarian state. Musk derailed their plans (sometimes it helps to have $215B in your pocket) through Twitter’s purchase.

And almost immediately, that entire group were quickly threatening to leave Twitter because of so-called immoderate moderation. It’s all ridiculous — anything resembling real results of gross algorithmic change would at least taken a couple of months to show up. My feed, which is really Space Alien v-Meme stuff, changed nary at all. So it’s impossible to believe that somehow anything REAL happened.

But lower v-Meme systems exhibit radical bifurcation/switching behavior. And once the switch was thrown, the class of Twitter Progressive Illiterati were all threatening to leave for Mastodon, the ostensible champion of Truth, Justice and the well-moderated content Holy Grail.

Now it’s time to consider a.) the actual behavior of Twitter Illiterati, Robb’s Network Swarm, and what fuels their dynamic, and b.) what might happen if the group of journalists move to Mastodon.

Regarding a.) — it’s highly unlikely that most of the journalists will move off Twitter. Twitter is really great in providing both an echo chamber for journalists and academics that were previously unconnected (confession — I got on Twitter to reach out to people outside my own academic web.) What happened when they found each other is what happens in any memetic system where you actually create a place for Birds of a Memetic Feather to flock together. They, well, flocked. And having i.) a place where status is constantly being reinforced, and ii.) where they feel like they found their ‘Tribe’ and felt safe — something they could never delude themselves with if they went out into the Real World, they started enacting on their obliviousness and confessing their deepest intrinsic biases to each other. How anyone can believe anything, after reading many of their Twitter feed (there are notable amazing exceptions, BTW) these people write as anything other than an op-ed column is beyond me.

And on the darker side, Twitter also fed/feeds their intrinsic narcissism. This is a bad thing. If you are basically a Maoist, or anyone to the Right of that, you can find some sense of belonging on Twitter. The problem with that connection is it is not remotely grounding in others’ more diverse experience, or grounded to anything in reality. You really can form an empathy bubble on Twitter. And worse, it will be reinforced in 280 character Tweets (Authority-driven knowledge structure) over and over. It’s a potent, collapsing feedback loop, and really explains how even in the end of the pandemic, none of them will apologize for anything. It also puts their personal growth in suspended animation, and reinforces the mental age of the Authoritarian/Legalistic v-Meme, which centers around 16 years of age. If you wonder why this entire caste acts like teenagers, it’s because, well, they’re trapped in some kind of self-fulfilling suspended animation where teenage behavior is constantly reinforced. Mean Girls indeed.

Things were made worse by the pandemic, which gave a moral sense of purpose to ordering take-out and quite literally e-mailing it in. The ‘laptop class’ as pal Jay Bhattacharya, professor at Stanford in public health calls them, really are just that. And humans have to be remind of physical reality in some form or another, or it all turns into one big LARPing exercise.

Regarding what happens if they migrate to Mastodon, and they actually do it, nothing good will come out of that either. First off, it’s extremely unlikely, for the reasons above. And there is the base-level Survival v-Meme fact that the platform is new and simply can’t be very good. The construction of the Twitter platform, like it or not, has refined lots of parts of it so that it is extremely reliable, and works well. That cannot be true of any of the Twitter migration paths (Mastodon, Parler, etc.) because refinement, especially in dealing with things at scale, is HARD. Ask any computer scientist. Low probability events pop up and must be dealt with. But in order to really get at low probability events, they have to occur. And that means lots of cycles/Tweets/whatever to ferret them out.

Secondly, though, if a platform establishes itself already in a relationally destructive v-Meme box, as Mastodon has had to do, it then ends up with other Pareto/power law anomalies in the information stream. All those comments (whatever they call them at Mastodon) are run through relatively strident algorithms about ‘disinformation’ or some such icks. They can’t be very evolved. And to top that off, if you’re stuck in the Legalistic v-Meme (at least on the surface) there’s simply no knowledge structure that can handle event probability. Someone raises their hand and screams that disinformation got through, instead of understanding there’s a law of statistics involved, ANOTHER rule has to be created. Populations and actual information diversity really don’t exist in their minds. They have an anecdote, the anecdote proves the rule, and as such, Mastodon has to come up with something because they have PROOF. This was an amazing quote/Tweet that just popped up today. Purity tests beget more purity tests.

This also gets reinforced by the set beliefs of the journalistic and academic castes about how AI works (or actually, really doesn’t work.) Current SOTA machine learning is really just fuzzy linear (or meta-linear) interpolation. And to make the extremes happy (trust me that Mastodon will at least initially attract its share of High Conflict psychopaths — it’s inherent in the social structure of the thing) you’ll see opinions on a whole raft of issues converge to a Singularity relatively rapidly. Well, assuming the platform holds up. This geometric/Pareto distribution thing is real, whether anyone outside a small group of us can understand it. Not good. So you end up with the largest amount of people with extreme views on the edge of the distribution. That’s the bottom line.

And then things will get boring. Boring is bad. Boring means your core empathy-disordered folks are simply not entertained. And boring means that the inherent narcissism that runs a base layer in social media also goes away. That means clicks go down. And the Network Swarm moves back to Twitter, though in an attenuated form.

Emergently, the Network Swarm realizes this. Which is why they’re/it is hollering so loud to give them their Twitter back. They can’t vocalize, nor describe this. But you as well can’t describe most of how your body works, nor anticipate much besides being hungry or having to go pee. There really is so much we don’t know about emergent behavior of social networks.

Interestingly enough, the conservative/Right social media, mostly existing in the Authority-driven space, actually has more opportunity for thought diversity (not to be confused with the whole DEI mess) than the liberals. The problem is that since it is even more fragmented, you might end up with some more empathetic, personal perspectives than the Left might put forward. But lots of these folks will be utterly bonkers, as actual Authority shifts back and forth to whoever can tell the best story. Which then puts you down in the Tribal v-Meme, and the land of myth. Short version — more diversity and different ideas. More crazy.

Will Twitter survive? The best somewhat-contemporary author, that I enjoy as a childish pleasure, is Michael Moorcock, who describes the universal fight as one not between good and evil, but Law and Chaos. To the extent that society captures that conflict (and that really is profoundly enhanced in the dynamic by free speech) and learns something from it, we can move forward. Twitter might yet do that.

Will Mastodon survive? To end with some kind of analogy, mastodons require a great Ice Age in order to survive. And as things warm up, with the memetic dynamics described above, it is looking like a warming trend. I’m betting on its extinction, or at a minimum, a placeholder at the polar caps of the meme-sphere of planetary debate.

Vampire Colonies, AB2098, Transhumanism, and Life in The Matrix

Adventure doesn’t come cheap. Smoking clove cigarettes in West Papua

The hillbilly in me wants to use the phrase “In all my lived, born days, I ain’t never seen nuthin’ like this…” Such is the furor approaching the mid-term 2022 elections. Life appears, pretty much, to go on like it always has outside the Matrix. But inside the Matrix, which is really only plumbed through watching the various factions of dark and light (dependent on your own view of the world, of course) on Twitter, have turned the volume up to 11. Elon Musk closed the deal on Twitter. And lotsa voices on the ‘general Left’ came unglued. I particularly do not like the tags of Left and Right, because they are inherently topical. I prefer instead the more difficult dichotomy of pro/con scaffolded independent agency, and relational creation/disruption, as it’s a more incisive viewpoint.

But I digress. Several linked items showed up in The Matrix in the last couple of weeks. First and foremost has to be AB2098, the California State medical disinformation bill. It basically says doctors can be punished for spreading disinformation if their view on treatment is reported to authorities (political, institutional authorities) as going against the current zeitgeist.

And if there needs to be a rough, albeit somewhat fuzzy dividing lines between recommended treatments in this day and age, it also falls out along memetic lines. The owners of institutional control (and proponents of AB2098) are very much into boundary violation (unwilling uptake of vaccines, for example) and coercive behavior, such as forced masking, while the voices against are far more about high agency treatments, like immune system boosting (more Vitamin D) and cross-over treatments like Ivermectin.

The problem with bills like AB2098 is they advanced a stated goal using a virtuous shield – disinformation, which is keyed supposedly to people’s core health and well-being, but is in reality about a problem that Authoritarians everywhere are all about. Authoritarians do not want disruption of information flow from the top of the power structure. The meta-problem, which is why the medical community is so prone to this type of memetic shift, is that physicians are already socially structured in tightly siloed, non-holistic organizations, and prone to the uptake of this kind of meta-pattern already. Look at how many licensing tests they already have to take.

But it’s even worse than that. What AB2098 really does is subsume the medical community inside the knowledge structure extant to the political structure. And outside influences not only will not be welcomed. Doctors breaking the rules of what the politicians say will be thrown out of the whole shebang. Think about the sunk cost of an entire medical education, and you’ll understand both their concerns, and their cowardice. If you need some examples, consider this. From COVID vaccines to saturated fat, don’t expect any doctor to warn you about the side effects of either vaccine boosters or statins. It ain’t gonna happen. Orthodoxy in treatment isn’t now just the rule. It’s the law.

What that does from an informatics/memetics perspective, though, is shut down innovation inside medicine everywhere. Established kingdoms/medical schools, with their own pathologies, may innovate incrementally on various treatments. But it really throws a wrench inside the innovative practice of physicians meta-identifying different treatments, with similar cellular mechanisms, and then running experiments or trials. Drug companies, already enmeshed with medical schools for a variety of reasons, will indeed be allowed to develop NEW drugs, as they have deep controlling mechanisms inside the Colleges of Medicine anyway. But innovation through cross-paradigmatic, or heaven forbid, trans-paradigmatic concerns, is basically done. At least in California. The upshot of this is that a field, already mired in treating symptoms and not root causes, will be even more hamstrung. Example — doctors continue to demand a drug to stop obesity, while ruling out large-scale dietary changes from mechanisms like the keto or Low-Carb/High Fat (LCHF) diets. And that means, even if the pill works against obesity, people will continue to eat toxic diets that potentially compromise their mental functions. Now you’re going to be skinny with Alzheimers.

But there are other insidious side-effects (or rather, global overarching effects) of AB2098. These involve demonstrating patterns for the capture of institutions across society, and particularly other professional communities, by what I call “vampire colonies.” What is a vampire colony? Let’s take a little segue.

I’ve written pretty extensively on this blog about my thoughts on psychopaths — how they act and interact in the various v-Meme structures that human communities are built on as they evolve. It’s quite easy to say something like “psychopaths are abnormalities in how social systems operate,” and few would argue.

The reality is considerably more complex. In low v-Meme, Tribal/Magical systems psychopaths are part of the homeostasis of these systems. How? Basically, if you don’t have enough of those crazy-ass Bear Warriors, when the neighboring tribe comes over and attempts to kill all the men, and capture the women, they get to do it.

The unpleasant side-truth in all this is that while psychopathy may be an essential part of the bottom v-Memes describing the human condition, how we ensure, from an EMERGENT perspective at those same v-Meme levels, that our subgroup has enough of them, is through sexual abuse. Simon Baron-Cohen writes extensively about the phenomenon, and I’ll leave you to find his work, instead of bogging this blog post down with something I’ve already covered. You need trauma applied across the society, at an appropriate scale, with actually appropriate healing rituals to ensure enough people have their boundaries torn down, and statistically enough being built back up, in order to see stability of the given tribal social structure. It’s not a bug, folks. It’s an emergent feature. Think about that the next time you hear folks arguing solely in the positive for ‘rites of passage.’ Like everything humans participate in, it’s a mixed bag.

As we move out of the Tribal/Magical v-Meme, and into the Authoritarian/Legalistic v-Meme, there are also transitions AND variations in what we see as far as relational formation AMONG psychopaths. Ideally, healthy Legalistic systems have stable social structures, well-grounded to reality, that provide the rule and algorithm sets for larger and more dense populations, that allow for that scale-up in population density such features also demand. And those institutions have a small, but critical number of individuals capable of speaking against the groupthink that naturally flows from these same social structures.

But what happens if there is an imbalance in homeostasis, or an ossification in those institutions? Then the psychopaths reach a critical mass and start taking over. And that’s a bad thing. I call these social structures ‘Vampire Colonies’, in that now their intention is not toward relational harmony and dedication to the well-being of larger populations, with some manageable level of healthy disruption. What we actually see is organizations now reinforcing other psychopaths, which inevitably means CREATING more of these same brain wiring types.

And once this happens, where the psychopath balance is thrown out of whack, we see a larger metastatic growth of these organizations. And since they ARE psychopathic (because of self-similar replication of value sets) they want to create more of the same. And once they have outgrown the natural feedback control mechanisms of a given society (math majors out there can think of this as eigenvalue sign reversal from negative to positive – some kind of parameter shift driving a bifurcation) they want to control everything and everyone.

There is simply no better example than what happened to the epidemiological and virology communities during the pandemic. When people are afraid they’re going to die, and they are under stress, their social structures are basically compromised. And when the psychopaths sweep in, with their fundamental collapsed egocentricism, it’s anyone’s bet what might happen. Look at the behavior of teachers’ unions, and pediatricians’ organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics. How could either of these organizations advocate so consistently against child well-being? Yet they consistently did, and still do. Mask up, little three-year-old. And take your 8-mouse-tested booster shot.

From an emergent perspective, it’s no surprise that psychopathic vampire colonies would focus on today’s youth. First off, youth are the easiest to recruit in creating more of the same (once again, see Baron-Cohen’s work on Empathy 0 +/-) . And secondly, if they are transitioned into the community far earlier, they are capable of much great relational disruption over the course of their lifetime, in that their memetic development can be frozen at an earlier v-meme (so they’re less likely to question the BS) and they have that many more years to become more sophisticated — picking up more and insidious techniques to both establish control, and hide their tracks. One need only look to the modified Authoritarian culture in China, developed over 2000+ years, to see the increase in both sophistication and proliferation of the v-Meme.

Now enter Stage Right the issue over trans kids. For those that get tired of my long-winded, technical analyses (you DO have my sympathies) below is an op-ed I wrote back in April on the whole trans-kids issue.

Grabbing the Ground Wire
Chuck Pezeshki, Reality-Based Lefty   April 6, 2022
 
Since the mainstream media has long operated on the principle that every issue we focus on either has to a.) terrify the bejesus out of us, or b.) only be relevant for a week in the news cycle until the irrelevance and shaming effect wears off, it’s no surprise that this week, it’s the issue of ‘trans kids’.
 
The Democrats have decided to run on a lucky shamrock of issues for the fall, somehow convinced in their activist wing that these are winners.  These are currently COVID paranoia, including masking toddlers, denying parents a voice in their kids’ education, starting a nuclear war with Russia, a.k.a. “standing up to Putin,” for a country Americans can’t even find on a map, and last but not least “trans kids” – the right of the population in their developmental years to take radical hormones, in anticipation of genital mutilation.  
 
It’s the last one that’s crested the media wave.  It’s so tone deaf as to even boggle the definition of tone deaf.  And if you oppose any of it, you’re a “hater.”  Well, sign me up, folks.  If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught me, it’s open season on those of us protecting children from political agendas, be it masks on speech-delayed kids, or kids suffering from depression from not fitting in.  Read some of the nonsense op-eds written by the Cowardly Codgers against me.
 
Let’s also get this straight. I’m all about adult bodily autonomy.  If, as an adult, you want to experience gender reassignment surgery, and the doctors say “yes”, then by all means.  But that kind of nonsense stops with children.  Having taught at least 3000 young folks over the course of my career, I can tell you that the adult mind, capable of even making such a choice, doesn’t start to emerge until 22, and really doesn’t consolidate until around 25.  Until 22, the students in my care, more than any knowledge in mechanical engineering, need raising.  And I do.
 
When you try to gauge the numbers of how many kids are really afflicted by some form of gender dysphoria, in my experience, I’ve only had a couple.  This is not some headlining problem in how society functions. Of course, bullying is bad.  But bullying is bad regardless of age, or gender. 
 
That means something else is going on.  The radical Left is really attempting to grab the ground wires of society and prevent people from possessing their own minds.  When you’re down at the level of denying people the ability to even assess, without a biologist and a pants-down inspection (as well as blood work) the basics of whom they’re dealing with, you’ve got another agenda – mostly in line with submitting to your betters.
 
This kind of deviant conditioning doesn’t build a liberal, egalitarian society. It’s master/slave. And trust me – if you’re reading this column in Pullman or Moscow, you’re not on the short list for joining the elite class.  
 
When you attempt to hijack language, especially in the name of arbitrary fairness, you’re a psychopath. And it’s time to call BS on it.  There are exceptions and extenuating circumstances for every condition.  But there’s also the raw truth.  If you feel it’s OK for Lia Thomas to call himself a female while dancing around naked in the women’s locker room with an erection, I’ve got some swampland in Florida you might be interested in.  
 
And as far as kids – especially everyone else’s kids – leave ‘em alone.  You’re at some level free to do whatever you want to your own.  But kids have a fundamental right to be raised, and be confused, on their own timetable.  Stop grabbing some fringe issue and using that as a cudgel to keep people silent.
 
Let’s get back to things that matter – the business destruction that occurred during the pandemic, inflation and gas prices, and the burgeoning mental health crisis in our young people.  The rest of it should be relegated to the bottom of Page 6.  
 
 

The trans kid issue is especially interesting in that it preys on the double whammy of depressed children, who are also likely being raised by a narcissistic parent. The way to understand this kind of child abuse (sometimes known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, or Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another – FSIA) is to understand the narcissistic parent as a spider — slowly poisoning and paralyzing their young, in the context of nurturing. Supposedly this disorder is more common among women than men, but I tend to think that empathy disorders such as this, while they manifest with different techniques due to gender, are more evenly spread across both. (It could be that women get away with it more often than men because the gender stereotype of women is the selfless caregiver, and so attracts less scrutiny. But it’s just hard to know.)

So let’s walk down a potential causal path toward more trans kids. First, you have decreasing social connection in society at large. This weakens normal individuals, while potentially offering new sources of energy to the relational disruptors, because if they get off on others’ victimhood, things are already going their way. Depressed people are far easier to group and control than healthy, happy people.

Add a social contagion that attacks these disenfranchised people, and whose power is also being boosted by campaigns by billionaires, that the narcissistic parents naturally gravitate towards. Tag on an extended, quantum-level morality in the already heavily fragmented relational landscape, that’s already creating more mental illness due to isolation and the dismantling of historic, scaffolding institutions, like the family, church, and anything with a historical basis. People in general, and especially children, profoundly need behavioral codes at all levels of the v-Meme ladder, regardless of the progression of social evolution. Take those away, as well as any avenue for grounding validity (more colloquially known as getting in touch with reality.) Trans advocates are very big on ‘you get to define your gender’ for good reason. None of this holds up to any viable external reality, and so has to be insulated from potential grounding.

But we’re not done. Add in a big dose of actual, physical health dysregulation due to diet. Metabolic syndrome, likely a root of much of the increase in trans-receptive individuals, dysregulates estrogen production due to fatty liver disease, or pre-fatty liver disease.

Then place this in a false-historical context as part of something strongly resonant with people in general — the struggle for civil rights, so you can use these kids as a weapon. Communicate across social media, that through the destruction of geography, allows the targets (and the psychopaths) to network to form critical memetic mass, even when there is no physically adjacent emotional support.

And then — the final coup de grace — change the law (or create laws like AB2098) to force the natural societal immune system into compliance with the chaos.

It’s no wonder the vampire colonies come running.

One of the big questions that is often asked is this: Why are the architects of this shift in the structure of The Matrix doing it? The answer is simple. They are doing it without empathy, or sense of consequence for their actions that exist in their pursuit of power and control. How can they do this to children? The answer is unpleasant — as the Joker in The Dark Knight says “I just DO things.”

The deeper problem with all of this is that it is emergent in the dynamics, and propagated by unknowing provocateurs that simply cannot care, or are dissociative from the immediate, personal misery they are causing. They’re in the Matrix as well. Societal forces have produced most of the situation above, and I’ve written in the past that much of this is due to increased population and transience of that population, decline of incomes, increased social isolation, and the bill coming due regarding dietary dysregulation, that anyone with half a brain can see when they go out into public. None of this knits a society more tightly together. And when coupled with a profound lack of emphasis, or even awareness, of what personal development and maturity actually means (when was the last time you heard a public figure talk about a definition of courage in a historical context that makes sense) , it creates a population vulnerable to kidnapping by groups of psychopaths. Psychopaths have a seemingly preternatural, but actually emergent sense of taking advantage of all of this. The psychopaths grab that ground wire through the standard methods of corruption of language, because that’s just what they do. And the larger community allows it because it believes that there must be some surface-level ‘reason’ behind all this, because most people build coherence among themselves at the top level due to their own level of development. Top level information is the stuff of most of our narratives, and is easily exchanged. But it’s also information that is easily corrupted. And so they project that belief, or mode of thinking, or as I call it, memetic processing on the people causing the chaos. But it’s not even close to reality. Because there really IS no reality to it.

But it’s a great tool for societal disruption and devolution, which is what relational disruptors emergently live for. What could be better for societal disruption than imposing the notion that castration and mutilation of children is for their own good? THat’s another double-whammy of both physical harm AND sexual abuse. Now we’re talking. Especially in a post-pandemic world, where we’re already self-identified with tribes supporting or denying with that insidious empathy-destroying mechanism, the face mask? It’s the closest we can get to turning ourselves into different species. Instant identification.

At some level, I’ve argued (probably because I create them) for a far better understanding of how societal dynamics create ebbs and flows in personal development, and truly different multiple perspectives. We don’t really have these, outside a couple of theorists, like myself. But this is truly an existential crisis. Maybe we’ll get off the dime and get with it.

And finally — is this about societal collapse? You betcha. That’s why we’ve got to wake up and start minding the multiple stores involved with all of this. Denial because of colloquial beliefs about the human species, projected from our own, egocentric biases, ain’t gonna cut it.

P.S. for those interested in psychopathic extreme warriors, there’s no better example than Audie Murphy — a true American hero. A nuanced case and worthy of reflection. Once you understand the dynamic described above, you’ll really start to get why war is hell. And why, at some level in the darkness of the human soul, it persists.

COVID Measures and Information Fractal Cascades

Bad to the Bone

One thing that I have indeed discussed from a trans-paradigmatic perspective quite a bit, but probably not enough on the top level where most people’s brains live, is why you can’t give in to people functioning as if they can control an aerosolized respiratory virus. The people arguing for control, after a couple of waves have passed, that still remain, won’t be able to give it up. And if they’re humored in any way, it just makes them feel agitated — and want to do more to feed the fears in their heads through constraints of others. If one Corsi box, doesn’t have a big enough effect, then surely two would be better. If one mask doesn’t matter, then add another! Hand sanitizer every time you enter a new room! And before long, you’ve got everyone in positive pressure air suits. For them, it’s a completely logical outcome for where they’re at. New input? Apply some appropriate modification of the algorithm to whatever’s on the system boundary.

In particular, for the epidemiology/public health crowd, how this works is driven by beliefs and algorithmic processes emerging out of the Legalistic/Absolutistic v-Meme. This is for the rigid hierarchy/rule-following class, and its excesses have been well illustrated down through history. And always end up in terrible tortures for purity from its adherents. As well as anyone else in the neighborhood.

These interventions take the shape of a what I call a memetic cascade. Such a cascade is usually fractal in nature, where those propagating the nonsense start out at a large scale, then progressively move to smaller and smaller scales, both temporal and spatial. When you’re attempting to get control over a system you simply can’t physically control, no measure becomes too extreme. If it’s spatial scales we’re after for our cascade, we may start out banning large gatherings. But when something far more powerful (and tribal) shows up, like a National Baseball League championship game, then the global isolation policy falls apart. If the Legalistic/Absolutistic v-Meme folks are in charge, this then moves into ‘everyone has to wear masks’ to ‘everyone has to wear N95 masks’ to ‘everyone must spray hand sanitizer on their hands AND wear the mask’ to ‘no food will be sold because we don’t want folks to remove their masks’ (which is now a creep into the temporal space.) And on and on. People who have OCD, and especially OCPD rapidly come into their own, because they’re the only ones that have been thinking creatively about how to do this — following their passion — on smaller and smaller scales. There’s no better example of this, which interestingly dates pre-pandemic, as Sheldon Cooper, on the TV series ‘The Big Bang Theory’. It was funny pre-pandemic, to watch Sheldon run the cast around his pathologies, that borderlined on abuse. It’s less funny now when the Sheldons of the world have been in charge, and are using every moralism in the book to avoid giving up their belief system.

Any of the v-Memes taken to the extreme end up in severe pathologies, of course. That’s how you get whole societies doing things like sacrificing people on a daily basis to make the sun come up. And they all have their priestly caste to help out, programmed with whatever the appropriate informatics are for the society. In our world, they’re the legalistic hierarchies that make our institutional structures. We’ve gotten a ringside seat on how they fail, and refuse to apologize. Why would they? They still believe they’re right. Reversing any of this would involve reversing their entire worldview, on ALL scales. It would literally break their brains. Once you’re programmed to see the world a certain way, the line of thinking is not going to change by the outside world suggesting a different organizational postulate. Or (my favorite one) appealing to their professional training. All y’all are giving FAR too much credit to what people ostensibly learn in school.

The most extreme cases of this type of pathology have been on display in Los Angeles, with the reign of terror and error of Barbara Ferrer, LA County Director of Public Health. Despite overwhelming evidence that none of the nonsense works, and even having an adjacent control for population dynamics in Orange County, she continues to double down every chance where she is not driven down into her own personal Survival v-Meme. Masking everyone outside and inside? No problems. People completely resist, and that won’t work? Masking everyone inside? No problem. Until we finally arrive at masking 2 year olds, because they’re the only people without a strong enough political advocacy group that can affect the LA Board of Supervisors to stop the BS.

There’s simply not much that can be done with such people, of course. But folks on the outside need to realize they are attempting to penetrate a closed information system that the various proponents occupy. And that closed information system has extremely hardened boundaries. Once that happens, the only thing you really can do is get rid of them, or at a minimum, never let them have authority over others again. Their brains work on beliefs, and the processing of any inputs through the algorithm in their brains, no matter what the scale of the information, is going to go through a very rigid belief system. When you add in the hardening of self-inflicted trauma through all this (death is around every corner!) any data-driven change, or measured probabilistic risk has no circuits in their head with which they can process. Think of the system boundary around their decision making apparatus as a membrane with only an affinity for what they already know. Call it confirmation bias if you must, but it’s really more profound than that. Any really new information would be considered a memetic virus itself, and these folks have been inoculated against reason. It would disrupt the homeostasis of their entire system. And information systems, like all systems, work to maintain their own homeostasis.

And once the crazies are in charge, they aren’t going to easily let go. Their extreme behavior enables those outside their inner sanctum, over time, to mythologize and sacralize the craziness. Do a study sometimes of the Catholic holy orders if you need reinforcement from this idea, or other various Hindu orders. They’re in every culture, so get off whatever racial/ethnic high horse you might be on. People are people, with the same biological brain, and once a population gets to be a certain size that can support a certain non-productive percentage, these things just pop up. They are emergent. And inevitably, the society also locks these people up in monasteries. See a pattern here?

And we’re in The Matrix. Which mean severe dismantling and handicapping of Public Health and the epidemiological communities have to be pursued. Because those in those organizations couldn’t literally give a damn if all this is making the rest of us crazy. The circumstance has finally allowed them to finally establish some level of personal homeostasis. They knew they were right all along.

PS — I’ve been having some interesting thoughts about how the habituation circuit in people’s heads that display this type of behavior somehow is broken. It’s like whatever they’re afraid of is stuck in some kind of positive feedback loop, and is continually refreshed as a threat in their mind, instead of having them lose interest as time marches on. That would imply it would further ingratiate into their sense of self, and make it basically impossible to break. It would likely be explained through some of the recent work using psychedelics to treat trauma. Basically, the various psychedelics induce momentary extreme neuroplasticity that allows them to reformulate their thinking.

I don’t think it’s one-size-fits-all, though, and know that this positive feedback loop is an issue with psychopaths. They simply can’t stop carving up whoever’s hanging on the meat hook (a la ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘) regardless of how much the person hanging is screaming. In fact, it provides even more stimulus, instead of what one might expect would be a standard revulsion reaction. I just don’t know enough about the actual neurobiology to give a blow-by-blow. But the surface level pathology is easy enough to witness.

China, COVID-Zero, and the Guarantees of Authoritarian States

Confluence of the Salmon and Snake Rivers from the air

One of the more pathologically fascinating things to watch, as the COVID pandemic winds down for the rest of the world, but is in full swing in China, is to watch the various riot/panic videos as the forces of the CCP implement various instantaneous quarantines on the ground. I’ve discussed this before in this piece — that at some level, the more extreme measures are political moves against certain memetic factions in the larger Chinese landscape. Which should come as no surprise. If you don’t think the government bureaucrats are jealous of the wealth being generated in Shanghai, think again. The video below is from an IKEA in Shanghai, where a child was found to be exposed, and the security staff immediately attempted to trap the population inside the store. At this point in the pandemic, the population is having far less of it than in earlier days.

At some level, I’m limited in the videos I can post, because of fear of them vanishing. The ones from major news sources are more likely to be here a year from now. But the really wild ones are on my Twitter feed. People are getting fed up.

But the government is still doubling down. Here’s a video of barricades going up in Shenzhen, which is China’s version of Silicon Valley (and having been there, it really is.)

I suppose if you were going to get stuck in a store, an IKEA might not be the worst option. Dibs on the bed!

But why would China persist in this? That’s the real question. And why would a population of 1.4B people go along? The answer is, as always, in the v-Memes.

Even with the reforms initiated under Deng Xiaoping, China remains largely an Authoritarian society, with extensive legalism applied to major sectors. The civil service exams originated likely over 1000 years ago. And while at the time, the innovations that occurred in the Tang and Song Dynasty were profound at the time, they also had the effect of freezing the culture. For 1000 years! I’ve written a couple of pieces on this, that are really relevant concerning the U.S.’s cultural freezing around the issue of race. Parallels are there — but are worthy of a post of its own.

Authoritarian societies can persist only if they, like every government, follow a social contract based on a given population’s aggregate level of development. China is no different. And for the last 35 years, China has been lurching into the future, dangling improvements in quality of life in front of the population, while maintaining the baseline promise of any Authoritarian regime — utter safety for the majority of the population. China has it relatively easy as far as population homogeneity — some 90% of the populace is Han Chinese. Those that are not occupy an ambiguous circumstance that ranges from ‘OK’ (a lot of the small ethnic minorities, isolated in various spots across China, but still following the party line) to ‘Awful’ (the situation in Xinjiang Province with the Uyghurs is appalling and approaches full scale enslavement.)

China’s governmental elite, in the CCP, have managed to walk a thin line between rewarding the majority population for obedience and personal sacrifice with increased material prosperity, while maintaining almost total information control over much of the country. To the extent that there are real problems that might fuel unrest (like environmental issues) the government then even creates GONGOs (gov’t organized NGOs) to release pressure. You can protest. Just sign up at your local government office.

But COVID has radically rewritten the script. As I discuss in this piece, I believe that COVID was an accidentally released bioweapon (its release was NOT deliberate – but rather a system failure in a weapons development trajectory) from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. China’s racial homogeneity offered an angle that its bioweapons designers took to heart. Through extensive genome research, my hypothesis is that China was not able to engineer a virus that would deliberately target, say, white people, or brown people. Pandemic history curves basically bear this out. But they could create a virus that would not affect East Asians, or rather, affect them less. Looking at population spread and infection curves have convinced me that this is a worthy hypothesis.

The problem with all bioweapons, however, is they are nigh on impossible to control once they’ve escaped. And once escaped, they will continue to mutate. If one looks at the original strand of SARS-COV2, it was likely successfully contained inside a virally naive population in Wuhan, especially considering that there may have been residual immunity in the Asian populace from the SARS version from 2003.

But the problem with engineering a virus is what I call the ‘sharp knife/dull knife’ problem. Any particular specificity one puts into a virus, like a sharp knife, will erode over time. That is fundamental entropy at work. And then you end up with a virus that anyone, including the native population that might have had some a priori protection from, can get infected with. And once infected, even with extreme measures, the viral cat is out of the proverbial bag. You then are facing a disease that you created, without the lack of affinity that was originally programmed into it. And your population, especially if you’ve been disrupting normal civic life for a couple of years, are now profoundly virally naive, with weakened immune systems.

It is now this bed that China and the CCP, having created it, must now lay in. And it’s worse than that. As embodying a preeminent narcissistic authoritarianism with 2500 years of history behind it, trust me that the CCP has convinced everyone (like Zero COVID activists) everywhere that their lack of the disease was a direct result of a eugenic and cultural superiority.

So when you promise, especially in regards to safety concerns, AND you’ve actively undermined any validity grounding on the issue, you better deliver. Or you compromise the entire idea that the current emperor, Xi Jinping, actually has the Mandate of Heaven. I’m not an expert in Chinese history, though I’ve read quite a bit. But believe me when I tell you that the Mandate, unlike the Western, genetic version, is allowed to pass to other houses.

That’s what has the CCP fired up, especially in the run-up to the CCP’s big meeting, the 20th Communist Party Congress, on who should be the new emperor. Xi is running on being granted a third term, which is basically against the rules. But Xi is devious in a way that only a country with 2500 years of history in mastering deception can be. All this was in the bag until COVID came along. But here we are.

And China, like many of our modern states, is facing major economic misalignment from the usual suspects — real estate, banks, and building disruptions from COVID Zero policies that have disrupted supply chains across China and the rest of the world. China has built much of its recent economic success on importation and partnership of foreign talent into its factories. But COVID Zero has shut that down. To get into China now is a two-week quarantine, followed by an additional week if one moves out of the gateway city to another part of the country. No American engineer I know wants to sit in a Chinese military hotel, being served food behind a locked door, for three weeks. Having slept in those hotels, with their rock-hard beds, I can tell you it’s a non-starter.

So what do you do, if you’re the CCP, and especially if you sit on the Central Committee of the CCP, who extremely likely knows the whole backstory (as do our various organs, like Fauci/NIAID and the CIA)? You double down. Because you now know that you’re in Nazi High Command territory, where when the Big Lie comes due, your head will roll. Forget about Grandma. People in China love their kitty-cats too, and no one wants to be the one that tells the general public they murdered their pet for a failed governmental strategy. (Note — I am not inserting easily found Youtube videos on this because it is so upsetting.)

If there’s a meaningful analogy behind today’s high tech., hyper-efficiency economies, it’s something near and dear to my heart — a spinning piece of machinery in the 100K RPM range (some aircraft component rotors spin that fast.) When such a piece of equipment becomes unbalanced, it rapidly, and unpredictably shakes itself to death. There is so much inertial energy stored in such a piece, that when balance is lost, it shakes itself apart. China is looking at exactly this problem. There is no way that COVID can be restrained from mutating. And with a virally naive population of enormous extent, there’s also no way it can prevent it from spreading. Large economies — especially manufacturing systems –are highly socialized, peer-to-peer systems. So China will have a choice to make. Roll back the veil on the Big Lie, which is the linchpin of its reinforced Authoritarian promise to its people, aka Mandate from Heaven, or watch its developed manufacturing capacity move offshore to Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

That places the inevitable grounding validity of Mother Nature against the bullshit spread for the last 2.5 years by the CCP. And Nature bats last.

PS – there’s some actual good news in this post — and it’s about the potential for creating bio-super-weapons. Not bloody likely. The epidemiological/bio-engineering physics are fundamentally against this. My super-bright son actually told me this after playing the various viral simulation games over and over. “Spread vs. lethality, Pops.” Remember that the next time someone tells you about engineered super-weapons.

Masks, Memetic Devolution, and the Price Our Young People Will Pay

Araras (blue macaws) Pantanal, Brazil

One thing we have yet to reckon with, simply because not enough time has passed, is the cost and the trends that masking and social isolation has cost larger society, and in particular, our young people. You don’t have to look far to see the educational toll of remote learning. Who honestly believes that an 8 year old can stare at an iPad all day in a coercive fashion and absorb anything?

While there are tons of articles now coming out about this subject (Google away!) I’ll tell you some observations from my own perspective. Having a 22 and a 24 year old myself, as well as teaching F2F for almost all of the pandemic, the cost will be significant. Young people indeed are resilient — I’ve seen some pretty amazing snap-back in my classes as far as general affect and mood. But the deeper problem I’ve witnessed is that students in my 18-22 year old cohort, regardless of how they feel, are looking at a future with huge social capital debt. I emerged from both undergrad and graduate school with large networks of people who were deeply loyal to me, and with whom I still stay in touch with today. My own kids profoundly do not have this. And even in my classes, though there is a natural tendency for students to congregate in small groups of 4-6 individuals, there is little cross-talk. Even the students in classes are coming out with far fewer connections than pre-COVID.

Why does that matter? I’ve found that the large benefit to a university education is the social network you emerge with. As time (and life) march on, we tend to draw down that social capital account with profound, long-term friendships that simply aren’t able to be created later in life. I think part of this is developmental — there’s some kind of sweet spot in emotional bonding that occurs between 16-24 that one just doesn’t see in later years. And I know my own sons will be suffering that deficit, even though that by conventional benchmarks they’ve been very successful, for the rest of their lives. Case in point — even my picture at the top of this post is of a couple of large macaws, it was taken with dear old friend Pedro Litsek in Brazil in 2006. I still correspond with Pedro, and plan on visiting him in a year or two. But for my sons, there is nothing but a void.

Masking has driven this social isolation more than any one factor. I say this from the perspective of a professor running a highly interactive classroom environment across three masked semesters. Students simply didn’t step out of their immediate, familiar work groups to talk to other students. Even me, who masters students’ names in the first week, couldn’t hang on to those names, nor read various students’ affects.

While masking was widely mandated, all the effects I talk about in this piece were manifested. It’s very different in a mandated mask environment than our current situation. When everyone is masked, then you have a combination of trauma, with an assortment of pathologies, as well as broad-scale degradation across everyone’s development. And while it slowly makes the more healthy crazy, it really bolsters the various social phobia pathologies for those that crave them, or are imbued with the fear that they will die if they get COVID. None of this good.

But it IS interesting. Where we started with a broad-based developmental loss, fundamentally emergent in nature (the mandates were obviously deliberately championed in some cases, but also reactive in others) when the mask mandates were dropped, the larger emergent effects also had to start dying down. I was sitting in Sea-Tac airport not too long ago, and the fact that 10% of the population was still masked might have been a bit irritating, it was nothing like my own aggravation and induced paranoia of that time a year ago, nursing a beer at the bar so I wouldn’t have to mix with the larger population and be accused of NOT wearing a mask.

What that means is that now masking is almost complete badging of the different memetic tribes. If you want to find out who the true believers are, or who is most affected, well, they’re wearing a mask. I hesitate to generalize that there are more Asians wearing masks (I can almost hear some of those Asian moms of my students badgering them to mask up) but outside the obvious American cultural alignments, there are more young people in that social capital-deprived cohort wearing masks. Healthy young people, many who likely have already had COVID, are still masked up. And likely because they have lost the social opportunity to develop the skills to build that social capital in the first place. Masks have become a ‘safe space’. But worse — before, you couldn’t identify your neighbors’ politics without some level of engagement. And that engagement might lead to an independent empathetic connection that might transcend the tribal forces extant in larger society. Now you know which of your neighbors to avoid — or hate.

I’m still speaking out against masking, mainly because I fear deeply (which might be my own PTSD) that there will be a resurgence of demand for all the ineffective NPIs when cold season actually hits in North America, for our young, and youngest people — those least affected by COVID. This will be a tragedy. One can only lose so many developmental years before one’s life course is irremediably altered. Whole Western countries (like Germany) still are demanding rigid and worthless protocols. And that doesn’t even get close to the Zero COVID panic in Asia. As I type this, my wife is sitting in quarantine in a Taiwanese hotel room. They’re demanding seven days of isolation before she can be released. And it is enforced with cell phone tracking.

And even that’s nothing compared to the terror the CCP is inflicting across China with regards to COVID. You don’t have to look far to see the terror of people fleeing from being locked in a building if someone has a positive COVID tests. And it’s no consolation to see a nation as large as China literally tear itself apart for a scourge they likely created and released. There will be large-scale consequences.

What’s the short take? During the pandemic, with masking, we saw both the effects of trauma, and broad-scale devolutionary effects across populations, dependent on the v-Meme stage that people occupied, as well as large scale social capital depletion as people were turned against each other. Now, we’re witnessing the end-game. Only the afflicted and the psychopathic are masking, or enforcing it. Psychopaths exist in their natural state in Tribal/Magical v-Meme social organizations, and manifest a function of rabidly and ferociously attacking those outside their masked tribe.

I’ll close with this letter written by one of my older-aged critics to a column I wrote in my local paper, The Moscow-Pullman Daily News, as a testament to their mental state. COVID has been particularly hard on the elderly — those that have refused to grow and develop during their lives (mostly men, at least in the US) had to spend 2.5 years fermenting in a collapsed egocentric state of paranoia of instant death. It has not aged well.

Ah, life in The Matrix.

Unanswered COVID Questions

Ovenbird — Pantanal, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

I haven’t been writing much on the blog lately — too many issues are so easily misconstrued, and there’s only so much hassle, after fighting the COVID fight, that I’ve had the belly for.

When it comes to COVID, though, as we OUGHT to be winding down the pandemic, there are still questions that I think are so basic, yet unanswered, that need to be addressed. I DON’T have answers — that’s the point. But it’s time for all of us to start asking these questions. Otherwise, we’ll get drug back into the whole pointless NPI craziness by the current administration, whose lackeys desperately want to do this to all of us again. I’ve already covered the memetic reasons why they’d want to do this to us. So this behavior will, in the end, just be emergent. And hit is in between the eyes.

So, here goes.

  1. Why is there no explanation for COVID other than viral transmission from one person to another?

This makes absolutely no sense to me — when a population is virally naive, I can understand that interpersonal transmission is the primary mode of catching the virus. But this seems increasingly unlikely as time goes on. Viruses live in viral reservoirs in our pets, and our own systems, and are somehow seasonally triggered. Additionally, if you look at the other primary coronaviruses that cause cold, I refuse to believe that one person originates the common cold each year, and then everyone else just catches it through initial exponential spread.

2. We’ve gone through a series of mutations of COVID, each given some name, and called a variant. These variants move through a given population for some 4-6 week period. We never have an explanation of how the virus is mutating, and how that causes symptoms to vary. The COVID virus I had at the beginning of all this does not have the same symptoms as the latest Omicron variant. Is the virology community so clueless as to not have any suggestive story on how this is working? Or is the press the problem — they simply can’t understand what the scientists are telling them?

3. Why is there basically no discussion of the CIA’s role in understanding the potential lab leak from the Wuhan lab? I have my own theories — but how can our whole group of journalists believe, especially in the context of weaponization, that the CIA has had no monitoring, or role in current events? Is the journalistic community that incurious?

4. Maybe I’m just missing this, but is there a chart anywhere where the symptoms of the different variants are tabulated?

5. Why is there no discussion, or even a rough guess, of the ratio of effect of all the various pieces of the immunity puzzle on whether one is susceptible to getting COVID? I have friends who have never had COVID claiming ‘Long COVID’ symptoms, which, of course, I’m not particularly receptive to. But nonetheless, here we are 2.5 years into this, and we have no “rule of thumb” about populations and their vulnerability. Could they have had a mild symptomatic case of COVID, but been vulnerable to downstream effects?

These are the immediate ones that come to mind. I may come back and add some more to this post.

Using Principles of Empathetic Evolution in Fundraising

Troublemaker Rapids, S. Fork American River

I’ve been preparing some materials on understanding Spiral Dynamics and empathy in fundraising lately, directed at my junior faculty, and have decided to post them occasionally on my blog. Of course, if anyone’s interested, I’m available to consult.

Here you go! This stuff is worth its weight in gold. Which may not mean much, because, well, they’re just electrons!

Donor Identification – A Working Theory

Chuck Pezeshki, Professor, School of MME, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-2920

People give money to universities for all sorts of things.  But what people will give money to, in the context of their donation pattern, varies wildly.  There are many factors, and as with all things, the why of how people give will be at some intersection of some state.  

But there are some ways to understand how all this works.  And it is useful to have some model on that whyas you go out there in the industrial world.

The short version of why people give is that people will give for external factors – remember that we are asking money from companies, and inherently, if those individuals are giving corporate money, those factors are part.  But they also give for internal factors – ways that they can find meaning in life. 

Here’s the thing – those things that people find meaning in are largely social interactions – either with their own selves, or other people.  It’s up to you to figure out those places in life/developmental stages and present your request in that light.  Let’s dig in!

Value Sets/v-Memes

All people (you included) are run by your brain and how it is programmed.  And while we may believe we are very much in charge of our conscious brain, the hard, unpopular reality is that we are not.  Our subconscious programming will create our perspective and how we receive data from the outside world, as well as shape our actions. 

That subconscious programming can be summarized into an aggregate of a canonical sets of values.  These were named “V-Memes” by Don Beck, and my scholarly work has expanded on how these work.  These v-Memes dictate how we view social interactions, and how we structure relationships, which is obviously key in asking people for money.  No one person is just one v-Meme – they are a combination, though there is usually one dominant.

These v-Memes are:

Survival – “I’m giving this money because if I don’t, I’ll be harmed/die.”  Almost no donors to universities function at this level.

Tribal – “I’m giving this money because I remember my college years, and they were the best times of my life.  Go Cougs!”  Lots of people return to the university and initially give for this reason, though other v-Memes will inherently come into play.  All Super-Cougars (people that will give the university no matter what we do) are fiercely tribal.  

Authority-Driven – Many people in the donor pool are driven by status – they want to give to WSU, but also want others to know about it.  Though this is not typically a capstone project donor, they are out there. Someone who is authority-driven often wants to give to either a high-status project that we label, or want their name on something.  Universities function largely on status, and status is often inherently irrational. Why do you need that LV bag anyway?  So this “makes sense” to people in the university, and these alternatives are often trotted forward.  These types of people also tend to give to a static cause.  An example might be a building, or a scholarship – something that will not change over time, and is not keyed so much into a student experience.

Legalistic/Absolutistic – People who are institutionally oriented fall into this v-Meme.  They are giving largely for the continuity of the institution, and are less concerned about having their name appear on a building.  They may still give, for example, to a building fund, or something that will add to institutional strength.  

A point of reflection.  Donors who are dominated by the v-Memes above are mostly institutional donors.  They are not the ones particularly oriented toward individual student experience, though, if suggested, they can be motivated by it.  The v-Memes above also describe other institutional motivations – more toward providing benefit back to the institution doing the giving.  Examples might be an HR benefit, or good publicity.  These are also donors who likely do not focus on student development as a driving factor in their philosophy.

Let’s keep going!

Performance/Goal-based – Now we’re getting into the prime capstone giving categories.  People in this v-Meme believe that students having an experience where they learn business skills, build something, or otherwise learn how to collaborate with other students, is extremely valuable.  These are people who don’t care about getting their name on a building, and it is no incentive.  In fact, people in this v-Meme often negatively view people asking for money for those types of things!  They are interested in students building agency to think for themselves, succeed in the job market, and live successful lives.  They are dynamicgivers, more than happy to give money for short duration projects.  They also will be very interested in measurable outputs (all capstone projects have a deliverable as part of this) and often want to participate in some fashion.  Capstone mentors almost always have a large part of this v-Meme in their v-MemeNA.  “Students have to learn to get work done!” is a compelling argument to this group.

Communitarian – While some people may think this v-Meme describes “people wanting to give students a hug”, the Communitarian v-Meme is a bit more complex than that.  Communitarians are very much into identifying students, and student development as an individual/small group giving opportunity.  A successful pitch to them will involve you displaying knowledge that shows you can accurately identify targeted individuals.  While some diversity giving falls into this category, it will be met with skeptical glances if you have no real experience yourself with a given diversity community.  It’s important to remember, especially now in our overheated polis, that more people are asking more questions than ever before about what we’re doing.  It is important for you to be able to answer them.  Communitarians will definitely identify with team-based projects, and will want to participate in a meaningful fashion.  Most people do not evolve to this point until the age of 35 (of course there are exceptions) and are coming back to the university for more profound connection.  They didn’t get enough out of football, or the Cougar Nation, and are looking to make a deeper difference in this world.

People as communitarians will often have ideas on how the class should be taught.  You should listen to them, always.  The key to reaching them is to appeal to their desire for an authentic experience, which they will basically instantly recognize. 

Point of reflection – the two v-Memes above function relationally very differently than the lower four.  The lower four may be impressed by your status (a Distinguished Professor!) The last two far more by your individual program and attempts to build student agency.  The lower four v-Memes are very much low empathy and low connection with individuals.  The higher two will recognize and value attempts to build connection between all stakeholders in the process.  

There’s obviously a lot more going on here regarding relational dynamics, but this is a good start.

The final two v-Memes you will rarely see, but you can cultivate.  These two depend on reflective process and self-awareness, and are useful in discussions with people engaged with making your process better, as well as evolving their own perspective.  They’re included more for completeness.

Global Systemic – Global systemic v-Meme thinking sees the value in assembling the various pieces from each of the lower v-Memes in order to generate a comprehensive solution for the challenge, in our case, of helping students transition into the workplace.  They may see both the need for authority-driven advice, as well as good rules, while supporting a donation so students can actually build a given project inside the context of a structured community.  This v-Meme will also accept limitations in knowledge and uncertainty. In fact, if you act like you know it all, they’ll immediately see you as a fraud!  Humility is key here, as well as discussing experiments and positive/negative outcomes.  

Global Holistic – Global holistic thinkers are truly rare.  It’s not enough to be worried about large problems, like global warming or racism.  They will be interested in exposing students to larger global issues, and will often write The Big Check if you can show a given project will deliver the kind of experience that will truly broaden student horizons.  

The key element here is that people will address directly what they don’t know, and expect you to present the background that you can, at least, make a dent in a given issue in student enlightenment.  They absolutely will not line up behind standard political categories of Left/Right, and if you do, you’ll disqualify yourself.  

There are more and more of these donors out there, especially in the Pacific NW, and we are poorly serving them.  Lots of these people will have a ton of international travel and work experience in their portfolio, and it is important, when appealing to them, that you clearly delineate what you know and what you don’t.  They are often looking for a shared journey, even if they don’t accompany students physically on it.  When presenting to them, you have to understand your own authentic self, as they will form a model of you from their own experiences, which are likely larger than yours.  

That’s a lot.  I hope all of you re-read this at least three times.  The next thing I’ll send out will be understanding how these different v-Memes come into conflict.  It’s important for you to understand them, as well as how they apply to yourself.  Conflict isn’t always disqualifying in the donor relationship – but a lack of self-knowledge PLUS conflict certainly is.  

You can get a head start by reading this piece.  I guarantee it’s one of my best pieces of thinking.    

Why Fauci and Walensky will never apologize

Braden on his first big cross-country driving trip — Tonopah, NV

For someone who prides themselves on being grounded in all sorts of paths of life, when it comes to theory, I, like many professors, have a bit of a problem living in my own head. How that manifests is that somehow I assume that everyone is fully conversant with what I write, and will be bored if I explain something over that I’ve already covered on the blog, or that you ought to be able to reason toward from the first principles I’ve written about. I think at some level it’s the academic hammer beating on the side of my head for the production of novelty.

This is, of course, ridiculous. I can’t even remember everything I’ve written.

With that in mind, I thought I might explain, in compact form, why the various experts during the COVID pandemic, who have advocated for all sorts of extreme positions like lockdown, masking children, forced vaccinations, etc., will never apologize for their actions, as well as why it would never occur to them to apologize. That’s just not what they do. It’s not in the social physics.

To start, one has to understand that the main folks driving our COVID response can be roughly partitioned in a couple of ways. From a disciplinary perspective, it would be epidemiology and medical doctors. From an organizational perspective, it would be federal and state agencies like the CDC, as well their upstream suppliers of all sorts of information in the university system. Though experts from a vast array of academic institutions have participated in the COVID melee, the heaviest hitters always come from the most famous and highest status schools, with the largest programs. This matters in terms of attracting media attention (no one’s going to quote an aerospace engineering professor from a second-tier land grant institution, no matter how insightful) when they can get someone on the line from Harvard or Johns Hopkins.

It’s also no surprise that inside the medical community, the most vociferous advocates for all the various power-and-control interventions are emergency room physicians. Yes, there are others. But there is likely no other group as traumatized-as-a-norm as ER docs. So it should be no surprise that they are statistically likely to support any and all power-and-control measures — precisely because their own lives are so chronically out of control.

Even people who are on the opposite side of the Zero COVID crowd are more likely to engage in what is called schismogenesis — the creation of identity through division. You only need to spend a day on Twitter to see that most of the COVID Zero takedown crowd will find the most obtuse of the COVID Zero crowd and literally beat that dead horse. It IS entertaining, but what it also does is keep debate inside mental models that people are inherently comfortable with. Though it can shed light to solution pathways, it usually doesn’t, and well meaning people end up in the trap of repeating the message of the people they’re fighting far more than actually advancing their own worldview.

Which then says something about the way they think. They were authority-driven, but now they’re shocked that the authorities have betrayed them. I think that for many, they’ve become more rational in the process — that’s the result of Survival-based grounding validity. The tragedy of the various COVID Zero positions have destroyed their lives, or altered their children’s development. And now they’re reconstituting their worldview with new data that they likely just ignored before. That’s OK — just realize that whenever there’s a dance going on, it usually involves multiple parties.

What that also means is that people are still in closed informational systems — the difference between the ones in the institutions arguing for COVID Zero policies, and the critics on the outside, is that the critics have one ground wire that has forced them to change their minds. The stories I’ve read on Twitter about mothers with special needs kids are a great example. You might want to believe that masking your kid will prevent them from getting COVID –so absolutely nonsensical when you consider that a six-year-old has more in common with a baby orangutan than a 40-year-old person. Just try to keep a mask on a baby orangutan!

But it turns into a horrific daily event if your child is severely autistic, or has a hearing disorder. You can’t deny reality, because reality is the child that you love screaming at the top of their lungs at you while you attempt to get them ready for day care. You’ll stop believing in masks right away, because you’ll just get overwhelmed by the insanity of all of it. It’s as Survival V-meme a moment as any one of us is likely to have.

The key point here is that sub-institutions inside bureaucracies are inherently ungrounded. What that means is that information is contained inside closed structures. And dependent on the culture of that institution, they will be more or less rigid. And as we’ve seen, it’s mostly “more”.

So we have a series of social structures running the COVID Zero side of the debate that are basically Authoritarian/Legalistic. And basically all of them have heavy penalties with disagreeing with the decrees that issue from the top of the hierarchical stack. Disagreeing quite literally means getting cast out. Look at the fate of the various FDA commissioners that quit in disagreement over various points in the vaccine efficacy debate. I’m not quite sure what happens, employment wise, but quitting is unlikely in the current milieu to open up lots of interesting employment opportunities.

What it does do, though, is, to use the vernacular, show that said individual is not a “team player”. The general public thinks that being “right” ought to be what is prized out of an organization ostensibly dedicated to public health, which should have some connection to reality. Actual truth, or “Right” implies a complex knowledge structure, blending laboratory and real-world experiments and experiences that aspires to a higher truth.

But nothing could be less desirable to an institutional rigid hierarchy. This kind of nuanced truth will inherently make the people in charge appear stupid, or at a minimum, unworthy of the kind of devotion they expect inside their shop. And here is the key point — such an individual who figures something out that goes outside the accepted wisdom disturbs the institutional homeostasis – the desire of a given institution to self-regulate both the presented knowledge and the knowledge structures, as well as the social structure of the organization. If the top dude or dudette, and there is no better example of both than Tony Fauci at NIAID/NIH and Rochelle Walensky at the CDC, has staked themselves to a particular piece of knowledge-as-reality (like masks work against viral transmission) then if the organization is authoritarian enough (and obviously, both NIH and the CDC are) scientists inside those organizations going against those pronouncements must be eliminated. And they will be — as these types of organizations have all sorts of institutions-inside-institutions that function like our own immune systems to devour anyone presenting profoundly different memetic knowledge.

It’s why such organizations are great at refining knowledge while totally sucking at changing their minds or self-correcting.

What is also wild was that such organizations like the CDC and WHO had long-term established bodies of knowledge on how to handle pandemics. Masks, for example, were known to produce no positive outcomes before this all started. But now one can see how the memetics of a moment of crisis were utilized to throw that baby out with the bathwater.

This is a complex thought — so you may have to read it over.

All institutions, regardless of their social structure (even rigid hierarchies) have some potential to get at absolute truth. But if you’re stuck in that rigid hierarchy, the way you will end up covering the solution space will be an endless fractal cascade, down to smaller and smaller refinements. You’re not going to come in and just dump what you know — unless, of course, it IS a crisis.

And what will happen in that crisis? Organizations will have their own moment of extreme neuroplasticity (masks didn’t work, but now masks work!) in order to hold on to their position of authority in a society. And what they will reconstitute as their guiding knowledge must inherently map to the v-memes/value sets that compose the social structure — especially in the short term. That evolved complexity of prior solutions just gets flushed down the toilet.

What that means is inside an organization like the CDC, obviously run by people with OCD and extreme social phobias, who are organized in a rigid hierarchy, will grab whatever strategies on the outside that reinforce power and control — like lockdowns, social distancing and masks — regardless of their researched history. The brains of the people in that organization will have no natural affinity for the complexity of the long, historical narrative. In a crisis, that narrative is the first thing to go.

And what comes after will be what is immediately accessible to the brains in those organizations. And it’s not some complex, nuanced narrative. The new, freshly generated narratives come about emergently in the absence of the rational process we believe these organizations should follow. But if the pandemic chaos hasn’t been enough to convince you that rational process DOES NOT underlay these organizations, you’re beyond my reach.

And worse, the implicit safeguards inherent in creation of policy also get thrown out. These organizations (and really — all federal agencies) are set up with seemingly endless rule-making processes, that demand public input, outside review and so on, before a regulation is enacted. NEPA is a great example. There’s an emergent reason for all this — legalistic agencies really don’t produce rational people. But they do produce algorithmic rule followers. And those algorithms at once bound these organizations, while at the same time remove any self-development that would cause the majority of folks working in those agencies to think for themselves.

It’s not called GroupThink for nothing. My friend and fellow activist, Al Espinosa, a fish biologist with the US Forest Service for most of his career, characterized the bureaucrats he had to deal with while protecting fish habitat from logging inside the agency. Lap Dogs, Displacement Specialists, True Believers and more. The names are more than descriptive enough.

While inside any institution, there is emergent forcing of social physics inside a given organization to maintain that institutional homeostasis, it’s also important to understand that there are very likely individuals at the top of any given institution that know when a given policy, like masking, isn’t working. Masking is especially easy because the level of complexity to understand how it doesn’t work in stopping viral spread is relatively low. The basic grounding, easily observable — masks leak, they can’t stop aerosols, RCTs fail, and population curves between masked and unmasked populations with similar demographics are undifferentiated — are really obvious enough. So you can be sure that at least SOME of the leadership knows this.

But now, especially at this point in the pandemic, it’s that you run into what I call the “Nazi High Command” problem. This is not necessarily to insinuate the various powers-that-be are Nazis, nor are equivalent (though I think there is an argument to be made about responsibility for human rights violations by the principals). Nor is it to go full Godwin’s Law either. It’s just that the extreme situation generated by Nazi behavior during WWII is very useful in understanding system dynamics, as a limiting case, precisely because the behavior was so depraved and out there.

By 1943, the Nazi High Command had figured out the war was likely lost. Allies had, for better or worse from a military perspective, landed on Sicily. It was becoming obvious that there would also be an attack from Britain through France. The Eastern front had deteriorated. So the conscious leadership KNEW they were cooked.

But instead of working through a peace process, in spite of a few Hitler assassination attempts, they doubled down on the war. Why? Because the top of the leadership pyramid knew if they lost, they would hang. And there was another fact. The Nazi High Command would, of course, be held accountable for all the different war crimes in combat that occurred during the war. But even worse, they were hiding a bigger secret — the Final Solution and the methodical extermination of the Jewish and Slavic people.

This layered issue, though obviously of lesser magnitude (let’s make this perfectly clear!) has similar potential in the current situation. Not only might leadership be held accountable for the tragedy of public policy regarding lockdowns and other harms during the past two years. But more importantly, they might also face the music for the origination of the pandemic itself. We know enough that Tony Fauci and others have historically supported Gain of Function research on viruses. We have the whole Peter Daszak debacle with Shi Zhengli, the Bat Lady, at the Wuhan lab. And regardless whether you regard me filling in the blanks regarding bioweapons in this piece, or you care to read the excellent Vanity Fair article here, there is a ton of evidence of layered wrongdoing that maybe insisting that children wear cloth masks is the least of their sins. When you cap it off with the fact that masks themselves communicate Tribal-v-Meme memetic information, it’s no surprise that people like Walensky will return again and again to that well. We’re going to badge all of you so you cannot question what we’re doing. And the nonbelievers will sort themselves automatically into the other pile.

This memetic defense is particularly fascinating in the context of the notion of a Disqualifying Narrative that I’ve written about here. Disqualifying narratives inherently divide a larger social system (in this case, the USA) through a hard boundary or series of boundaries that other views can’t penetrate. No matter how supported with data, they simply won’t be considered by the “other side” — or the larger polis. In my piece on bioweapons, I posited what many may find a disqualifying narrative — that China, facilitated by the US and the CIA — were/are crafting racially-based bioweapons as a response to U.S. hegemony in all other aspects of military competition. Here’s the wild thing, though. If history is any illuminator, the odds are that any story I can create through connecting various paradigms is likely less bizarre than what actually happened. One person’s imagination and knowledge pool simply cannot keep up with the vast numbers of interactions inside and between self-interested, insulated transnational bureaucracies.

That’s why we end up with conspiracy theories. The thing to remember is not that the outcomes of the various conspiracy theories are necessarily wrong (though they often are.) It’s that the outcomes of the actual systems in question emergently rise out of those social systems interacting at multiple levels. And precisely because these are complex systems, the outcomes are typically outside the guessing game of even a very astute observer.

And you only have to look at the Daszak proposal to see how imagination is immediately stretched. Who would have thought it was a good idea to spray SARS-COV2 viruses on bats in caves in Yunnan province? Yet here we are.

I could go on. But let’s recap.

  1. Institutions are inherently filled with people interested in maintaining institutional homeostasis of their systems. Stability is what bureaucracies provide, and people who cannot provide that stability, and disrupt that homeostasis are rejected.
  2. Leaders of such institutions may be self-aware, and actually conscious of outcomes they are either advocating for or propagating. But those acts of advocacy must intersect with the same needs of institutional homeostasis, or that leader will be expelled.
  3. People in such bureaucracies will inherently move up to leadership positions inasmuch they promote institutional homeostasis.
  4. Larger apologia of wrongdoing simply doesn’t fit into any of the social physics of these types of institutions, unless the institution is in danger of collapse from outside forces. Truth telling only happens as an end game. And even then, most of the players will not only deny, but often advocate for historic policies. That is exactly why Adolph Eichmann had no problem in making sure the trains ran on time to the death camps.
  5. Nazi High Command problems occur when there are two levels of understanding of institutional action and strategy. When leaders are forced at one level of accountability to confront the possibility that confessing at that level will necessarily lead to exposure of even worse sins, even if they are self-aware and making data-based decisions, they won’t give in.
  6. These types of scenarios occur over and over in history. For those that are interested, read up on Watergate, or the Challenger disaster.

It’s really just the same old institutional shit. It’s the way they roll. And apologies only come after the external forces are so powerful that they basically steamroll the institution committing the sins. Because of the actual Nazi High Command problem, Arthur “Bomber” Harris, of RAF Bomber command fame, burned down virtually every city in Germany with nighttime incendiary bombs, and was, at the time, considered to be a war criminal himself by Winston Churchill himself.

Something to think about! But don’t hold your breath for that apology. It ain’t coming. It’s not in the structural memetics.

And the memetics never lie — because they’re the information physics you’re up against.

Transhumanism and Empathy Development

Scene from the 2019 Coeur D’Alene Tribe Pow-Wow

I’ve thought a lot about what might happen to our species if we could live, if not forever, but for a longer time than we currently live. I’m not the only person, of course — this question has likely been covered by serious philosophers (I don’t honestly know who) but certainly by writers I’ve read. Time Enough for Love, by Robert Heinlein, devotes about 1000 pages to it, in amalgamated short story form. And one could argue it’s a major theme of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings as well, where the entire elven race lives essentially without death from old age. Do note that Tolkien is very clear about death — he calls it the gift from God to Men, though chronically misinterpreted by those selfsame humans.

Time Enough for Love centers on the adventures of the main character, Lazarus Long, who is sent periodically into the rejuvenation machines of his time, while skittering about other places with time travel. Long also has as his various companions various sexually uninhibited women — that certainly might make a man want to live longer — but in the end, Long confronts the deep existential crisis of depressive boredom and has no desire to be rejuvenated. He has crossed between the poles, and there is no mystery. As apt a metaphor as the challenge of immortality as any. Having done everything, he lives in frustrating boredom with others that have not, and it wears. While not quite Lazarus Long’s age, there are many days I can relate.

Various stage theorists, though, might argue that if we just had a bit longer on the planet, we might further evolve and become truly wise, deep beings. But if I’m to judge on the old people I know, only a minuscule number even approach the bar. I was lucky enough to be friends with Stewart Brandborg, ED of the Wilderness Society, who helped lay the foundation for the Wilderness Act, as well as ANILCA, the Alaskan National Interest Land Conservation Act. Brandborg was as ebullient a human as has ever lived, and by the time he passed (his wife, another wonderful human, passed first) he was still a handful to his more normal children. I remember the last time I saw him, just a year before the end, and he still remembered me. He is one of the few people who have died that I honestly miss.

A true pair

But age as a barometer of wisdom and empathy? Not so sure about that. I remember my earlier searches around that paradigm from my years as a lifeguard at 16. There was a family with visiting children from Jackson, Wyoming, living in a West that I could hardly dream of, with a grandmother who would bring her grandchildren to Dreamland Pool every day. I was tight with the little girl, Shannon, who at seven would hang off the back of the lifeguard chair (I had my own entourage of seven-year-olds at the time.) And I would sit with grandma on a bench at the shallow end of the pool. One day, I asked grandma a simple question. “With all the suffering in the world, what is the one thing we might do to help at least fix some of it?”

She responded “Kill all the N****,” she matter-of-factly said. “Those people cause nothing but problems.” So much for age bringing enlightenment.

I don’t really want to put words into the various stage theorists’ mouths (Kegan, Piaget and such) but even though I am a fan of much of their work — it is ALL crippled by the lack of social evolution inside the context of worldview — it’s also not quite clear that we walk up the various ladders into a larger space anyway. There’s no reason to think extending out the timeline would change that factor. So what would that mean?

Fellow traveler Ugo Bardi sent me a paper today on that topic. Titled Will Life Extension Affect Our Social Judgments? Evidence That the Possibility of Indefinite Life Extension Increases Harshness Toward Social Transgressors, , the paper posits that as we get older, we get meaner and more Legalistic/Absolutistic toward others inside our in-group. The methodology is profoundly suspect. The authors base their results on giving surveys to college students — standard Psych 101 fare — and then essentially reading chicken entrails to come to appropriate p-test conclusions.

But maybe I’m being too harsh, and it’s not as stupid as it seems. If you look around the world, the cultural code reinforcement contingent is inevitably grandmas. This was as true for the Taliban — grandmas are the foremost enforcers of the Taliban’s strictures on women– (read Anand Gopal’s AMAZING book) as it was on the last river trip I was on. And I’ve yet to find a culture where the majority of old people are more open-minded. In fact, if you are, the people you’re likely to memetically identify with are younger than you. And they have an entirely different set of cultural references than you do. You may match them, v-Meme-wise. But you’re still not likely to get the joke. Or know how to elegantly program the latest electronic device. And you just end up alone, isolated from your age-appropriate cohort as well as the younger people that really have to get on with their lives.

Ugo highlighted this section (putting aside methodological questions) and I think it is likely spot-on. ILE means ‘indefinite life extensions’…

” these findings suggest that a world approach-
ing ILE may be one in which individuals would be harsh toward those in their
social circle who violate social norms, and societies’ criminal justice systems
would become harsher toward those judged to be law-breakers in order to fulfill
the protective, deterrent, and retributive functions those systems serve. This may
be especially troubling consequence, given that people with greater power and
influence would likely be the first to have access to ILE technologies”

Now we can start getting into the memetics of such a circumstance. What the authors are saying is that rigidity would create behavioral narrowing, an increase in sophistication, and a loss of agency. And worse — you’d see a new, toxic form of what we’ve observed during COVID — Elite Risk Minimization — where policies are created to protect elites, and the messaging is then skewed, weaponized, and refined by psychopaths.

How humans might spend their time mentally evolving is really constrained to the two axis plot I’ve discussed before, charting Sophistication vs. Evolution of knowledge structures.

Sophistication vs. Evolution

We might take that time to become more deeply wise — there’s no question about that. Time and experience are amazing teachers. But that also posits that by the time we’ve reach advanced age, we’re already started on the path of more powerful metacognition, recognizing what we don’t know, and being better listeners, and being more data-driven.

It’s also likely that we’d just become more self-centered. And the big problem with that is now the memetics of our elders might come into direct conflict with the small handful of people attempting to create change. I discuss this kind of memetic conflict in this piece. No one knows what might actually happen if we fix our telomeres. There’s no question that our diets full of sugar are quite literally rotting our brains. But maybe, damn the lengthy telomeres, the more reinforcement of relational patterns, if they weren’t already started down the path of enlightenment, would just make us a more crafty, sinister version of our younger selves. And likely just as fast as we were – because we fixed that neurophysical problem. There’s a reason behind David Mamet’s humorous old saw, “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.” You haven’t really become more expansive. You just have more case studies on how to win.

I see this in my own progression in the Industrial Design Clinic as a professor/manager. When it’s game on, the students can’t even come close, and I work on mindful deference. They just can’t think of as many downstream paths as I can.

I like this quote from Seneca quite a lot:

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”

What might happen if the Ray Kurzweil’s of the world get their way? I can see some of the billionaires like Elon Musk thinking in terms of advances in trans humanism as some way to become an interstellar species. But there are fundamental problems in our neurobiology, with attachment, habituation/boredom, and so on that also set timescales in our lives. I loved raising my boys, but not quite sure I’d be up for it again.

There are some successful paradigms that we might follow if we all figure out how to live 120-140 years that would make us all much happier. I really like this interview by Morley Safer about the Abkhazians, who claim to be in that age range, and preach the virtues of sex, wine, red meat and smoking.

But the odds that we’d up with a truly Second Tier cohort of aged, sharp rulers, that would shepherd our society through whatever turmoil showed up? There’s just not much evidence for it. Even Max Planck, one of my personal heroes, said “Science advances one funeral at a time.” Would we make it to the point of wisdom where we would work on developing everyone for greater empathetic development? Or would we get stuck in a thousand year spell? It’s impossible to tell. But we haven’t done such a great job with the more evolutionary concepts in this blog up to this point.