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Progress marches on

Science has shown that everything, everywhere, is always getting better in every way, which is why I’m so disappointed by this anti-scientific providence denialism:

And if you look up from your smartphone, progress becomes harder to see. The physical world of the city — the glow of electric-powered lights, the rumble of automobiles, the roar of airplanes overhead and subways below — is a product of late-19th-century and early-20th-century invention. [The Atlantic]

Sure, and the moral world of the city — the stench of urine, the crunch of crack vials, the occasional nursery school shootout — is a product of “late-19th-century and early-20th-century” philanthropy, sociology, and public policy, the results of which should now be apparent even to galaxy-brain Steven Pinker:

An epidemic of car burglaries in San Francisco over the last few years has led one Democratic lawmaker to propose plugging a loophole in state law that allows some break-ins to go unpunished, but the Legislature has balked at prosecutors’ requests to make obtaining convictions easier. [Los Angeles Times]

Admin announcement

This is just an administrative announcement. My hosting service has been making it bizarrely difficult to renew and upgrade the Park, so this blog may be temporarily unavailable starting tonight or tomorrow.

If the blog is unavailable, please check back later. If it is still unavailable on, say, Monday, please look for updates at my old WordPress site or at Radish, neither of which is affected by these shenanigans.

(Park content is all backed up, so no worries there: if I end up back on WordPress, I’ll just restore the content there.)

Edit (Sunday): the Park will be fine.

I take rather a dim view of “artificial intelligence” as a field: 10 percent potentially viable, 10 percent crackpot, and 80 percent hype seems like a fair breakdown. No, voice recognition is not artificial intelligence; no, industrial automation is not artificial intelligence; no, a data analysis tool is not artificial intelligence.

Not only do we not have artificial intelligence, my friends, it seems increasingly unlikely that we will ever get artificial intelligence. There are a few reasons for this, and I’ll be covering some of them in this series. First: human resources.

To solve a hard problem, hire the best people and put them to work on it. So who are we hiring to solve our hard problem? Meet the class of 2018 at OpenAI:

Our first class of OpenAI Scholars is underway, and you can now follow along as this group of experienced software developers becomes machine learning practitioners. We had over 700 applicants for the 8 OpenAI Scholars slots and reviewed each application on a standardized list of criteria for maximal fairness.

The scholars are, in order: a woman, a black woman, a woman, an American Indian woman, a black man, another black man, a black woman, and a woman.

I guess our mighty pool of over seven hundred applicants didn’t include any white or Asian men. Maybe they’re not interested in artificial intelligence. Oh, wait, no: they’ve been formally excluded from the program, open exclusively to “individuals from underrepresented groups.” And why not? After all:

Diversity is core to AI having a positive effect on the world — it’s necessary to ensure the advanced AI systems in the future are built to benefit everyone.

Diversity is core; diversity is necessary! So if you’re a young white man, or even a young Asian man, be advised: your services won’t be needed here. Like Thomas Edison, Sir Isaac Newton, William Shockley, and Archimedes, you lack diversity.

(That said, I’m sure the eight software developers they got are all lovely people and work hard at what they do, so no insult to them is intended.)

Indeed, according to the “AI Now Institute,” taken seriously by some, artificial intelligence as an industry “is facing a ‘diversity crisis’” (The Verge, 2019). Battle stations! “Women and people of color are deeply underrepresented,” presumably relative to their share of the total hominid population, and “the result is a workforce frequently driven by white and male perspectives.” (A workforce driven by perspectives!) Quite simply, artificial intelligence is “too white and too male.” Paging the People’s Front of Judea: what have whites and males ever done for us?

Yes, for too long, artificial intelligence “has suffered from a lack of diversity.” But “the future of AI research is in Africa,” and the future is now, at least according to Technology Review (2019). “Africa,” you see, “might offer a context with which AI can return to its original promise.” (A continent offers a context, and with that context, artificial intelligence can return to its own promise.) And what is that promise? “Creating technology that tackles pressing global challenges like hunger, poverty, and disease,” all of which are actually caused by decolonialization.

This piece leans rather heavily on the quoted opinions of one “Moustapha Cisse, the director of Google AI Ghana” (who I’m sure is a lovely person, etc.).

“The main resource for doing research is talented people, and you will find more talent in Africa than anywhere else,” says Cisse, pointing to the disproportionately young population.

You will find proportionally less talent in Africa than anywhere else, says Richard Lynn, pointing to racial differences in cognitive ability — but that would be racist.

As a friendly reminder, if you would like to help the Park renew and update its web hosting, you may do so here. Regardless, in one form or another, the Park will continue, with more content coming up. Thank you to all of our sponsors.

Vintage content

(Why do I still read the news?) I see in the New York Post (June 18 2019):

A black parolee arrested for raping and bashing a white woman on the roof of his Bronx apartment building allegedly told a witness that she “deserved” the brutal attack because of slavery, according to court papers.

“She was a white girl. She deserved it because us minorities have been through slavery,” Temar Bishop, 23, allegedly said to someone who witnessed the bloodied 20-year-old woman after the assaults, according to a criminal complaint.

“This is what they used to do to us. This is what they did to us during slavery. They used to beat us and whip us.”

[…]

Bishop allegedly punched her repeatedly before raping her, then continued his assault — kicking and punching her in the head and body until she fell unconscious, cops said.

A couple of things to say here. First of all, I don’t like to put this sort of thing on my blog anymore. Obviously, it’s real, it’s out there, and you can get your fill if that’s your thing. Also obviously, I’m making an exception this time: see below.

Second of all, I’m pretty sure that I’m on record predicting exactly this kind of horseshit back in 2011.

Third of all, this is such a classic, such a vintage Unamusement Park story that it seems like an appropriate occasion to look back, very briefly, on how I’ve changed over the past eight years. And the truth is, I may have changed a bit — I squat a lot more, I have a bit less hair — but I haven’t changed that much when it comes to the basic principles, crazed though they may be, that underly the Park.

Therefore, I reaffirm these principles:

That I continue to hope, in all seriousness, that the peoples of this wonderful world will get along just as well as they are able, with a minimum of mayhem.

That I continue to believe that the best way to achieve the aforementioned goal — shall we call it racial harmony? — is by and through the truth, and not (what is more popular) some infernal combination of lies, nonsense, and wishful thinking.

That I continue to disavow the practice of blaming every little thing that goes wrong on white people, past, present, and future. Not racial harmony, but quite other than racial harmony, a racial cacophony, if you will, lies in that direction.

Finally, that whoever will speak the truth as he sees it, can continue to count himself a friend of the Park; and whoever will neither speak his truth nor suffer the rest of us apes and clowns to speak ours, is forever an enemy of the Park, and liable to be mauled by a fierce kitty if he shows his face around here!

All right, is that clear now? Good. Then we can begin again.

As a friendly reminder, if you would like to help the Park renew and update its web hosting, you may do so here. Regardless, in one form or another, the Park will continue, with more content coming up. Thank you to all of our sponsors.

The other day I was treated to — a depressingly common sight in this foul year of our Lord — some NPC, some blue-check drone, some Inner Party apparatchik on a MacBook dunking gleefully on yet another dead white male for being — wait for it — you’re never going to guess — a “racist”. My stars. Who could imagine.

In this case (no, I won’t link the NPC, no one needs to see that), dunking on one Edward A. Ross (1866–1951), an American sociologist. So, in revenge, I have downloaded a pile of Edward A. Ross’ books and articles, and have been enjoying his uncommon good sense. Thank you, Comrade, for your reading suggestion! Thank you, book-burner; grubby, uncultured geek; rootless economic unit.

Anyway, Ross is the man who coined “race suicide” back in 1901, in an article called “The Causes of Race Superiority,” which is well worth reading today:

For a case like this I can find no words so apt as “race suicide.” There is no bloodshed, no violence, no assault of the race that waxes upon the race that wanes. The higher race quietly and unmurmuringly eliminates itself rather than endure individually the bitter competition it has failed to ward off from itself by collective action. The working classes gradually delay marriage and restrict the size of the family as the opportunities hitherto reserved for their children are eagerly snapped up by the numerous progeny of the foreigner. The prudent, self-respecting natives first cease to expand, and then, as the struggle for existence grows sterner and the outlook for their children darker, they fail even to recruit their own numbers.

So I want to look at some more Ross material later this week. Also — and I really hate to do this, which is why I have been procrastinating on it — if you can send a couple of bucks to help with web hosting fees, I do need to renew the Park and update its hosting. In exchange! There will be more posts this summer.

There may even be a Radish — yes, one of those legendary beasts.

“The Closing of the American Mind” (1987) by the late Allan Bloom is by no means a bad book. In fact, it’s a really good one. Especially for its time. Certainly there are fewer Allan Blooms in the groves of academe today. Still, I found myself wishing he’d look a little closer at the biological roots of the civilization he cherishes. Yes, somewhat predictably, my diagnosis is: not racist enough.

This is what jumped out at me from his introduction, “Our Virtue.” Bloom writes:

In its early days almost all the significant leaders [of the civil rights movement], in spite of tactical and temperamental differences, relied on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They could charge whites not only with the most monstrous injustices but also with contradicting their own most sacred principles. The blacks were the true Americans in demanding the equality that belongs to them as human beings by natural and political right.

The problem with blacks as “the true Americans” is: I don’t need to imagine a country with American institutions and constitutions and sacred principles up to the gills — and an African population. That country already exists. It’s called Liberia.

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.

C. S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books”

One time I recommended a book to a feminist. Yes, I know, in retrospect a huge mistake. Actually, we don’t mind feminists, here at Unamusement Park; in general, we find them interesting and amusing, and this one was no exception.

The book was In Defense of Women by H. L. Mencken, and it was published in 1918. “Why, a book from 1918!” she exclaimed, soiling herself fore and aft (I’m paraphrasing). “Why not recommend a book from — the 1500s! you enormous dunce?” As you may have guessed, she was being facetious, and incidentally providing another excellent example of the opposite of everything I believe.

I actually would read a book about men and women written in the 1500s: I think you could learn something from it. Believe it or not, in the sixteenth century there existed both men and women, who did most of the same things men and women do today. The Taming of the Shrew was written in the sixteenth century.

Anyway, the point is not to defend what for many in the present time is apparently a weird and frightening habit: the deliberate, premeditated reading of old books. Instead, I wanted to say a few words about the practical aspects of it.

How to find them

You can find old books in a number of places. The public libraries are full of them, but you have to put them back when you’re done (and librarians are not nearly as sexy as you’ve been led to believe). University libraries, too: for God’s sake, don’t enroll, but you can just walk in and read for a while. Used book stores, chain book stores, Amazon and the Apple store (which I understand are branching out into other products as well): all of them jam-packed with books, many of them old.

Most of my books are PDF files. I get them from the Internet Archive and Google Books, from the Liberty Fund and the Mises Institute (not only for libertarians), from Scribd (which takes a subscription), from HathiTrust (which works best from campus), from the Unz Review (in theory — not sure I’ve ever actually done it), and from more obscure and specialized sources (like American Deception).

If you think of anywhere else to find old books, please leave a comment.

How to store them

A paper book is traditionally stored upon a shelf; a digital book is perhaps best stored in a directory. My own library directory is organized by author like this:

  • Carlyle, Thomas
    • “French Revolution, The”
      • 1837 – London – 3 volumes – 1st Edition
        • Volume 1 – “The Bastille”
        • Volume 2 – “The Constitution”
          • [the files for this volume]
        • Volume 3 – “The Guillotine”
      • 1842 – London – 3 volumes – 2nd Edition
        • [the volumes of this edition]
      • [more editions of The French Revolution]
    • “Latter-Day Pamphlets”
      • 1850 – London – 1st Edition
      • 1855 – Boston
        • [the files for this edition]
      • [more editions of Latter-Day Pamphlets]
    • [more documents by Thomas Carlyle]
  • Chamberlin, William Henry
    • [his documents]
  • [more authors]

And so on. That way, it’s easy to find any specific book I have in mind, and it’s easy to just browse around and look for something to read. (Incidentally, the text file you see above contains my notes on the corresponding PDF file: see below.)

How to manage them

If you want to store more than basic information about your books, or if you want to automate the process of managing your library, then you need a program. I wrote a command-line tool that does everything I want in 15 milliseconds or less:

  • browse and search by author, title, topic, etc.
  • organize my directories
  • remember what I’ve read and what I’m reading
  • keep track of where all my PDF files came from originally
  • export my reading lists (for when I recommend books to other people)
  • manage the commentary files (my notes) for all of my books
  • and so on and so forth

I used to manage my library with a certain other program — I won’t name it here. Suffice it to say, it does not meet my needs. (Feel free to skip this rant.)

For example, instead of organizing my library directory with documents, editions, and volumes, it simply stores — documents. So, if I happen to own two editions of Thomas Carlyle’s History of Friedrich II of Prussia (which I do), let’s say a 10-volume edition published in London in 1873 and a 13-volume edition published in Leipzig in 1858–1865, then a certain other program will create 23 separate folders under “Thomas Carlyle” (not “Carlyle, Thomas”), two of them titled “History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Volume 1” — and I think you see the problem here.

For another example, that other program does not offer any way of adding little notes to books as I read them, and then storing all of those notes in special commentary files in such a way that I can later, for instance, search all notes on all documents (or all documents about Prussia, etc.), for references to “silly kittens” or some other typical search query. This feature is important to me.

Also, that other program is slow to load, slow to run, and frankly somewhat unstable (it crashes), probably because it’s bogged down with all sorts of features that are quite useless to me, like downloading cover art. I happen to know the cover art for the History of Friedrich II of Prussia (1858–1865, Leipzig, 13 volumes): it’s red, and I think it may be leather. But you can’t download leather.

How to read them (a note on notes)

If you’ve never read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler, I highly recommend it. I do want to add a suggestion of my own. Try it, and see if you like it:

When I read a book for the first time, I add a little note (a very little one), with a page and paragraph number, every time I find something particularly interesting. Then, after a few days, I go back to the book, read through all my little notes, look at the corresponding text in the book, and expand the note into either an excerpt (a direct quote) or some sort of commentary on the text. I don’t do it the first time through the book, because I would lose the author’s train of thought.

I started doing this after I found myself thinking about this one really excellent passage in that book by that guy, I think I read it in Amsterdam — and I think you see the problem here. I needed notes. And instead of reading every book twice, adding notes the second time, I just add very short notes the first time, and then re-read “from the notes.” This proved a satisfactory solution.

Anyway, if anyone is at all interested, this month I am going to post some examples of how I’ve annotated various old books, with the annotations serving as a sort of running commentary, critique, and review all in one.

Go read a book!

A murder and a suicide

Police in Germany arrest a 17-year-old “Afghan migrant” for the rape and murder by drowning of a 19-year-old medical student, Maria Ladenburger, in Freiburg [1]. The victim “reportedly worked in her spare time helping out in refugee homes.” The girl’s father, a prominent official with the European Union, used his daughter’s funeral to solicit donations for even more third-world “refugees” [2].

As usual, I turned to my old books for some perspective — with less than usual success, I’m afraid. Lately, I’ve begun to wonder if the Europe of the present is actually incomprehensible to Europe past, rather as the latter seems to be to the former. Is the verdict of history then “not guilty by reason of insanity”?

In the end, I could only dredge up the terrifying Revilo P. Oliver. “Six years ago,” he wrote in Christianity and the Survival of the West (1973), “I asked the one crucial question: Have we, the men of the West, lost the will to live?”

Nothing, certainly, has happened since then to suggest a negative answer. To be sure, after some sensationally flagitious outrage to our race, a considerable number of men, invariably the least “educated,” mutter angrily among themselves; and in a city of almost two million some fifty men and women may boldly assemble to voice their protest, thus embarrassing the vast majority of Aryans, who hasten to assure the world that their heads are so stuffed with mush that they love their Enemies and hope for nothing better than the privilege of being spat-on and kicked some more. And if the outrage is widely reported, the computers will whirr more loudly as they churn out appeals to patriotic suckers, and the travelling salesmen will drive harder as they rush from chapter-meeting to chapter-meeting to meet a temporarily increased demand for patriotic paregoric to soothe nervous stomachs. Nowhere can one discern the slightest indication that in the great majority of our people the racial instinct of self-preservation has not been lost.

The question remains unanswered, however, for we cannot yet determine whether the instinct has been extinguished or is merely in abeyance while our people are in a kind of cataleptic trance from which they may be roused by physical suffering and acute privation when the time comes, as it assuredly will in a few years. In the meantime the question remains open, although our fragmentary data point to an affirmative answer — to the loss of the will to live. The laws of biological processes, like the law of gravitation, are constant and unalterable; they cannot be evaded by magic or oratory or whimpering; and it would be supremely silly to expostulate with a people that is not biologically fit to survive.

Too harsh? Perhaps, but then again:

Our situation is desperate, and we can afford no illusions, no retreat into a land of dreams. Now, more than ever, optimism is cowardice.

We are born into this time, and there is no escape from it save in death. If the courage of our ancestors was not entombed with them, if their ability to meet desperate perils with clear-sighted resolution was transmitted to their heirs, if their will to live is not extinct in us, our race and our civilization may yet survive.

Sources

  1. Rob Virtue, Allan Hall and Monika Pallenberg: “Daughter of top EU official raped and murdered in Germany — Afghan migrant admits killing” in Daily Express (2016)
  2. “Todesanzeige von getöteter Studentin: Marias Familie bat um Spenden — auch für Flüchtlinge” in Bild (2016)

Sarah Zhang alerts us to a scientific crisis in The Atlantic [1] (just the place): racialists, particularly “white nationalists,” are “serious about understanding genetics.” Their “obsession with racial purity is easily channeled, apparently, into an obsession with genetics,” for “even seemingly benign genetics research can reinforce a belief that different races are essentially different.” Disturbing stuff!

Of course, it would be even more disturbing the other way round: seriously studying human genetics, then developing a belief in essential race differences…

Perhaps Ms. Zhang will refute this nutty obsession with “National Characters”:

I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences. On the other hand, the most rude and barbarous of the Whites, such as the ancient Germans, the present Tartars, have still something eminent about them, in their valour, form of government, or some other particular. Such a uniform and constant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction between these breeds of men. Not to mention our colonies, there are Negro slaves dispersed all over Europe, of whom none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity; though low people, without education, will start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every profession. In Jamaica, indeed, they talk of one Negro as a man of parts and learning; but it is likely he is admired for slender accomplishments, like a parrot who speaks a few words plainly.

David Hume: Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary (1742)

Sources

  1. Sarah Zhang: “Will the Alt-Right Promote a New Kind of Racist Genetics?” in The Atlantic (2016)

Academic freedom

George Ciccariello-Maher is an assistant professor at Drexel University who describes himself as “radical political theorist” and “an actual communist” [1]. On Christmas Eve, 2016, Professor Ciccariello-Maher publicly called for “white genocide,” i.e., the extermination of white people. “To clarify,” he added, singling out a real-life example of a white genocide (see here), “when the whites were massacred during the Haitian revolution, that was a good thing indeed” [2].

After several people complained about Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s call to murder all of the white people, Drexel University issued a brief statement [3]:

While the University recognizes the right of its faculty to freely express their thoughts and opinions in public debate, Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s comments are utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing, and do not in any way reflect the values of the University.

Professor Ciccariello-Maher promptly issued his own statement, calling the university’s response “worrying” [4]. When he called for white genocide, he was only exercising his “right to free expression” (a right communists deny). Besides, he didn’t mean it: the message was “satirical,” because white genocide is an “imaginary concept,” notwithstanding his own real-life example. On the other hand, when other people — excuse me, when “white supremacists” — expressed opposition to his call for white genocide, that was “harassment,” not “free speech” at all. Indeed, to accuse the professor of having written what he wrote amounts to “a coordinated smear campaign.” Meanwhile, the university, by freely expressing its own opinion, “sends a chilling message,” “sets a frightening precedent,” and “encourages harassment.” It all goes to show that “white supremacy is on the rise, and we must fight it by any means” — including white genocide, like in Haiti, which is imaginary. This freedom of speech is a remarkably subtle thing.

In that fight, universities will need to choose whether they are on the side of free expression and academic debate, or on the side of the racist mob.

To clarify, the “racist mob,” under this interpretation, is made up of all the people who don’t want to carry out a “white genocide” on Christmas. Just to be clear.

To communist college professors who call for white genocide and hide behind talk of academic debate, I have little or nothing to say; to people who exercise empathy and reason, I would like to address a few words about free speech.

If the lucid John Stuart Mill was a great proponent of liberty, his lesser-known colleague James Fitzjames Stephen was an equally great proponent of coercion:

It seems to me that to publish opinions upon morals, politics, and religion is an act as important as any which any man can possibly do; that to attack opinions on which the framework of society rests is a proceeding which both is and ought to be dangerous. I do not say that it ought not to be done in many cases, but it should be done sword in hand, and a man who does it has no more right to be surprised at being fiercely resisted than a soldier who attacks a breach. Mr. Mill’s whole charge against social intolerance is that it makes timid people afraid to express unpopular opinions. An old ballad tells how a man, losing his way on a hill-side, strayed into a chamber full of enchanted knights, each lying motionless in complete armour, with his war-horse standing motionless beside him. On a rock lay a sword and a horn, and the intruder was told that if he wanted to lead the army, he must choose between them. He chose the horn and blew a loud blast, upon which the knights and their horses vanished in a whirlwind and their visitor was blown back into common life, these words sounding after him on the wind:

Cursed be the coward that ever he was born

Who did not draw the sword before he blew the horn.

No man has a right to give the signal for such a battle by blowing the horn, unless he has first drawn the sword and knows how to make his hands guard his head with it. Then let him blow as loud and long as he likes, and if his tune is worth hearing he will not want followers. Till a man has carefully formed his opinions on these subjects, thought them out, assured himself of their value, and decided to take the risk of proclaiming them, the strong probability is that they are not much worth having. Speculation on government, morals, and religion is a matter of vital practical importance, and not mere food for curiosity. Curiosity, no doubt, is generally the motive which leads a man to study them; but, till he has formed opinions on them for which he is prepared to fight, there is no hardship in his being compelled by social intolerance to keep them to himself and to those who sympathise with him. It should never be forgotten that opinions have a moral side to them. The opinions of a bad and a good man, the opinions of an honest and a dishonest man, upon these subjects are very unlikely to be the same.

James Fitzjames Stephen: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1874)

Sources

  1. Lee Stranahan: “The Far-Left Ideas that Motivate ‘White Genocide’ Professor” in Breitbart (2016)
  2. Ian Simpson: “Pennsylvania professor under fire for ‘white genocide’ tweet” in Reuters (2016)
  3. Drexel University: “Response to Professor George Ciccariello-Maher’s Tweet” (2016)
  4. Scott Jaschik: “Drexel Condemns Professor’s Tweet” in Inside Higher Ed (2016)

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