A Daunting Historical Cycle Threatens Human Ingenuity
Humans rely on their minds to solve the inevitable problems that arise in the course of their existence in the universe. But as we grow more clever, human existence grows trickier:
“The world we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them.” — Albert Einstein
In order to keep solving our increasingly complex problems, our minds need to get better at problem solving. Our very existence depends upon it. Until recently, advanced societies have been both lucky and good, when it comes to problem solving. The brilliant and optimistic view of the human future expressed by economist Julian Simon in his book Ultimate Resource II, is a testament to human problem-solving. More optimism
Now the Bad News
Certainly time will be on our side as long as evolution is on our side. For hundreds of thousands of years, people have been getting smarter in order to survive the challenges of a harsh existence. But apparently that very harshness and challenge was necessary to keep humans on the positive side of the historical cycle. Because we really don’t want to be on the negative side of that cycle:
In the period before the onset of demographic transition, when fertility rates were positively associated with income levels, Malthusian pressure gave an evolutionary advantage to individuals whose characteristics were positively correlated with child quality and hence higher IQ, increasing in such a way the frequency of underlying genes in the population. As the fraction of individuals of higher quality increased, technological progress intensified. Positive feedback between technological progress and the level of education reinforced the growth process, setting the stage for an industrial revolution that facilitated an endogenous take-off from the Malthusian trap. The population density rose and with it social and political friction, especially important at the top of the social pyramid. Thus, from a certain turning point of history, the well-to-do have fewer children than the poor. Once the economic environment improves sufficiently, the evolutionary pressure weakens, and on the basis of spreading egalitarian ideology and general suffrage the quantity of people gains dominance over quality. At present, we have already reached the phase of global human capital deterioration as the necessary prerequisite for a global collapse by which the overpopulated earth will decimate a species with an average IQ, still too mediocre to understand its own evolution and steer its course. __ The Population Cycle Drives Human History — from a Eugenic Phase into a Dysgenic Phase and Collapse
German geneticist and historian Volkmar Weiss has constructed a compelling theory of cyclic historical determinism far more convincing than Karl Marx’ more famous and influential theory of historical determinism. [The book-length version of Weiss’ theory.]
In a nutshell: As long as intelligent people continue to have sufficient numbers of intelligent children, an advanced society can continue to develop sophisticated problem-solving techniques using science, technology, and sound policy. But when intelligent people stop having sufficient numbers of intelligent children, the society falls into an unstoppable spiral of collapse which cannot be reversed by well-meaning leaders or citizens. Democratic societies become overwhelmed by large numbers of urbanized, socially and economically dependent — but voting — citizens, who lack the wherewithal to solve their own problems, much less those of the larger society.
As laid out by Weiss in his publications, the theory makes a great deal of sense.
Today, we seem to be falling into an age of cultural rot and chaos, with most of our cultural institutions taken over by nonsensical voices of excremental decay. Can any modern leader fight a society-wide battle and win against the relentless waves of Dysgenics combined with free-falling cultural decline?
No. And that is the point that Weiss makes. If you are in a public position you cannot talk about the genetic foundations that advanced societies rest upon for their existence — you cannot even think about such things!
The video below mentions some of the things that today’s most daring politician has thought about and talked about over a long period of time. He brings up important ideas that few other political participants deigned to notice, and never dared to put into policy. But the deeper game discussed by Volkmar Weiss is not a game that any politician can play in our world.
Using video clips over a time span of 37 years, Trump repeatedly describes to media personalities (including Oprah Winfrey) the need for a strong US president to come along and reverse a course of economic decline that the country was falling into. Over those 37 years, Trump’s message remained clear and consistent. Few other candidates for US president can claim the same consistency or clarity — particularly not Joe Biden, who is lucky to remember his current wife’s name.
Trump’s long struggle against American decline involves a fight against bad economic policy, bad foreign policy, and a fight against corrupt interests at the highest levels of US government and US (and global) society. Perhaps those are battles that Trump might win, given enough time. But a fight against a seemingly inexorable cycle of dysgenic decline is something distinctly different, which no modern politician can even mention in public — much less raise in the form of a policy proposal.
Volkmar Weiss acknowledges the futility of trying to fight against these underlying forces using the pitiful tools of politics:
Politics is nothing more than the foam on the waves. Politicians believe themselves to be the drivers of history, but they themselves are driven ones and try to regulate something that regulates itself alone (Flynn, 2001). As individuals, some may achieve an understanding of what is happening, but in mass societies they lack the power and ability to thwart the statistical laws of history.
… The Great Chaos does not mean the apocalypse. In the cataclysms, the large and highly specialized animals always disappeared; the smaller and unassuming species survived. The question is actually only whether after the Great Chaos a new Dark Age will last for a long time in which a large part of our civilization is lost or whether a sufficient number of capable engineers will survive. Anyone who predicts that the earth will have only 2 billion inhabitants at the end of this century, contrary to the expected maximum of 9 or 10 billion around 2040, does not want to be confirmed—but rather hopes to be proven wrong.
For anyone who takes the time to examine the arguments in the links above, it will be clear that no politician in existence can solve this problem. Just a simple glimpse at the dysfunction on the streets of Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, New York City, Chicago — and perhaps your home town — will tell you that something has gone very badly wrong, which neither Joe Biden/Kamala Harris nor Donald Trump/Mike Pence will be able to solve to everyone’s satisfaction. The superficial schism between socialist anarchy and traditionalist order and prosperity is only a smokescreen covering a far deeper, more substantial, and more ominously dynamic struggle.
Even the best politics can only partially mitigate the harm that this age of chaos is bringing in its wake. But partial mitigation is preferable to the extreme exacerbation which the worst politics will inevitably bring.
The link between genes and intelligence is accepted implicitly by most thoughtful people, even by those who react angrily in public to the very idea of the heritability of intelligence. Similarly, evidence is strong for the heritability of “executive functions” of the brain — which are equally important to life success as general intelligence. Personality traits are also highly heritable. A good upbringing and education may compensate for some deficits, but in this day and age don’t count on it. Cultural decline plays just as much a role in Weiss’ negative cycle as dysgenic decline.
More on genes and intelligence:
500 genes linked to intelligence — original study
Brief description of above study:
More than 500 genes linked to intelligence have been identified in the largest study of its kind, carried out by the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh, and Harvard University.
Scientists compared variation in DNA in more than 240,000 people from around the world, to discover which genes are associated with intelligence.
They identified 538 genes that play a role in intellectual ability and found 187 regions in the human genome that are linked to thinking skills.
Scientists say the study sheds new light on the biological building blocks of people’s differences in intelligence. __ https://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/2018/03/genes-intelligence.page
So that’s the good news and the bad news. Depending upon the society, human populations contain many clever minds. But the ratio of clever to not-clever minds is in decline. When do societies reach the point that they can no longer maintain their critical infrastructures? Consider the recent transition of Zimbabwe, and the ongoing transition of South Africa. Then consider what is happening in the no-go zones of cities in France, Sweden, the US, Brazil, and many other “modern” societies.
When Weiss suggests that Earth may only have 2 billion people at the end of this century, he may be proven overly optimistic. And even in the middle of a great collapse, expect clever humans to devise large numbers of ingenious devices and processes, in specific areas where sufficient numbers of clever (and strong) people still survive.
A Funnier Look at the Coming Idiocracy
For a bit of comic relief, stream the entire movie at archive.org. Yes, it is rather stupid. But a lot less stupid than real world street fare these days.