Thursday, December 6, 2018

Fourteen Hot Takes on Gender and Sex

Flaming hot takes on sex and gender. Random musings really. Some are serious. Some less so. Some contradict one another. Read at your own risk.

1. Of Course Sex is Real


What are we to make of the modern idea that gender is entirely a social construct? I have read many books on this subject of late and it is striking how little examined this idea is. Take it seriously for a moment. How is it that hundreds of human societies across thousands of years all independently created patriarchal monogamy-based social systems? How is it that thousands of other animal species, including our closest primate relatives, all have significant gender differences in behavior due to evolution? Why would nature just skip humans when it comes to engineering biological gender differences? Why would every human civilization create 'sexist' societies if there is no biological cause or motivation? Even more hilarious, there are those on the far left who argue that even sex is a social construct. A penis only exists because society believes it so, apparently.

Our ancestors and children have always understood some basic realities: Of course sex is real. Of course sex largely determines gender. Of course gender influences behavior and roles in society. Let us stop fearing what follows from these truths.

2. Two Versions of Feminism


For a long time I considered myself a feminist. Then I started reading more and came to see how divorced from reality the movement has become. The contemporary third (or fourth? or fifth?) wave of feminism is degenerate, dysgenic, and cultural cancer. However there is a version of feminism that I can still support. The first wave feminists did not believe in gender equality; they did not argue that men and women were the same. Instead they argued that the female sex had unique needs that were not properly represented by a male-dominated government. Precisely because men and women are different it is important for government to listen to both sexes and ensure society meets their needs. This is the polar opposite of modern egalitarian feminism which assumes bigotry as the only reason 50% of tech company CEO's aren't women. Sex-aware feminism is in step with reality and can be a force for good. Egalitarian modern feminism is premised upon fictions and will continue to cause social unrest and contempt between the sexes everywhere it is practiced.

3. Why PUA is stupid


Pickup artistry is essentially haggling - psyching out or wearing down women so that they have sex with you against their better instincts. I deliberately use the term 'better instincts' too, because casual sex is not good for women. PUA is distinct from seduction or courtship, which are about creating attraction over the long-term, not just getting the lady to drop her panties for one night. The skill itself seems worthless to me over the long term. It doesn't get you a loyal wife or family or anything meaningful. Rather it gets you a lot of drama with bitter women. PUA is all about simulating status to make women think you are worthy. Better to invest that time into developing real skills and gaining real status. Better to be the genuine article than some slick talker. Think of it this way: Would you rather be the guy with the coupon book burning hours haggling with a salesman, or the guy who rolls up, points to what he wants, cuts a check, and then leaves in a matter of minutes?

Furthermore PUA creates more promiscuity, which is bad for society. It makes zero sense that PUA's complain about women being sluts and then go around banging random women to score points. Roosh, a notorious PUA guru, figured at least this much out, eventually becoming a neoreactionary traditionalist type. A lot of PUA's I think end up where he is eventually. His journey is the other side of the coin for the "roastie" late 30's single girl who wasted her youth banging alpha men and now wants to settle down. PUA philosophy creates millions of women like this. If we want healthy gender relations and a society comprised of strong families, we must repudiate both feminist sexual liberation and PUA-style notch-collecting. It takes two to tango.

4. On Infidelity and Polygyny


I ran an informal Twitter poll the other day to determine which sex cares more about sexual fidelity. The results were not very conclusive. I predicted that women would care less because they have certainty of parentage. As long as the father has good genes and provides resources, they won't worry too much about him getting some action on the side. In popular culture we see this reflected in how much more harshly we judge women who cheat.

Consider the film Lost in Translation. In one scene, Bob, Bill Murray's character, very casually (and somewhat unintentionally) cheats on his wife. The consequence is a brief awkward lunch with his friend Charlotte. She forgives him quickly, and so do we the audience. We have a bit more context than Charlotte too. For example, we see that when Bob wakes up in the morning with the lounge singer, he grimaces. He thinks to himself, "What the fuck did I do last night??" We the audience see this, but Charlotte does not. From her perspective Bob may have gone out of his way to cheat. Bob may do this sort of thing all the time. Yet still she forgives him. Now imagine instead Charlotte had cheated. Even with her distracted vaguely negligent husband, we would not have felt sympathy for her. It would have ruined her character.

Why are we cool with Bob cheating but not Charlotte? I think part of it, subconsciously, is the understanding that Bob is a high status man. He's a wealthy successful actor. He's earned it. Of course he has women throwing themselves at him. How can we expect him to be faithful? Societies have long accepted that men of means will use their resources to score some extra tail. In fact I would even go so far as to say that there are ethical ways of practicing polygyny. There is a eugenic benefit to society in allowing high status men (presumably with good genes) to procreate with multiple women provided they can support their offspring.


5. Why is the Man the Head?


Conservatives who believe strongly in gender roles often say that men and women are different but equal in worth. Christians also say this, however the more traditionalist ones will also argue that the man must be the head of the household. It is the husband that gets the last word and the wife must submit to him. If husband and wife are of equal worth, why is the man the head?

Studying evolution gave me an answer - one premised on an uncomfortable biological reality. Consider an average woman and an average man. They are alone together. If they were to fight to the death, 9 times out of 10 the man would win. If the man wished to rape the woman, 9 times out of 10 he could because he is likely bigger, stronger, faster, and more aggressive. Men as a class have an implicit physical authority over women as a class. If a woman lives in a home with a man - if a woman is merely alone with a man - she is implicitly under his authority. This is how we evolved for millions of years and it deeply informs our values.

Men have to be more publicly accountable than women. When we see a begging family out on the street, it is the father we blame, just as Ras Al Ghul blamed Bruce Wayne's father for the death of his parents. When it's time to fight a war, check a bump in the night, or be the last to get in a lifeboat it is men that are called to step up and be accountable. This doesn't change when a man starts a family. Marriage constitutes the ultimate in accountability for a man. He now has to be accountable for himself, a wife, and any children they produce. By contrast for a woman marriage constitutes the ultimate vulnerability. She must live under the same roof as a man not related to her, take his name, become impregnated by him, bear and rear his children, and ultimately submit to his authority. The feminists are right when they say that marriage constitutes female subjugation. That's the point.

6. Strong Female Characters



Why do men create Strong Female Characters?

I think it's because they like to imagine a beautiful woman who shares their masculine values - strength, competence, assertiveness, stoicism, etc. They demonstrate these values through action - killing tons of bad guys. It helps if they are also drop dead gorgeous, as beauty connotes power for women. With their revealing outfits these women are both sexually alluring to men while also appealing to masculine values. I think it's fine for men to enjoy such characters but it is important to keep aware of the line between fiction and reality. Most women are not like this and the ones that are would make terrible girlfriends.

7. Female Fantasy


The female sexual fantasy is a powerful high status man who only has eyes for her. Consider some of the examples in the picture. All are men of power - men who have authority over other men in some way. This power is alluring to a woman because it improves the likelihood of her offspring's survival should she mate with such a man. What makes it fantasy is the degree of supplicating the men all engage in to try to win over their one perfect woman.

Spiderman and Superman are superheroes - gods among men - who suffer from severe oneitis. In Pretty Woman and Sex and the City you have wealthy men choosing to wife up and give legal control of their finances to a literal street-walking whore and a bitter washed up 50-something slut respectively. 50 Shades of Grey is more of the same with some additional cartoonish details. No man finds these fantasies appealing - this notion that if I as a man make it to the 99th percentile of status (superhero, billionaire, etc.) I might be able to marry a prostitute, an over the hill party girl, or a snarky feminist girl next door type. But women find them appealing precisely because the women are not especially deserving. The women are not exceptionally talented, smart, kind, or even beautiful (though 1990 Julia Roberts is bae). The fantasy works because average women can feel like they too have a chance of their knight in shining armor coming and sweeping them off their feet. So long as it is understood as fantasy it's not a big deal. The problem starts when society starts telling women that they are entitled to such men in the real world.

 8. Critique of Family Alpha advice



I recently discovered an interesting right of center men's blog called The Family Alpha. The blog offers a lot of advice to married men for keeping your marriage strong. Much of it is good. The focus is on personal accountability, staying fit, being a good provider, and using game to keep your wife attracted to you. The last point is where I take some issue. At several points the writer outright states or implies that the wife's choices are entirely the man's responsibility. The solution to every marital problem is just "be more alpha / awesome" and the woman will adjust naturally.

The problem with this advice is that it assumes women have zero agency. A wife's behavior is not 100% a function of the man's actions. Women have free will just as men do. The advice, "just be awesome and she'll change her tune," is not bad advice, but it is incomplete. Because the thing is, she might not change her tune. Furthermore, the advice relies solely on implicit leadership, when in reality sometimes explicit leadership is necessary. Headship sometimes requires explicitly calling out bad behavior and correcting your wife. It is uncomfortable and must be done thoughtfully, but it is at times necessary. Men are better suited to explicit leadership (larger, stronger, deeper voices, etc) while women are better at implicit leadership. The women's marriage advice book Fascinating Womanhood exemplifies this as it teaches women to improve their relationships through changing their own behavior, not usurping their husband's authority.

Men should try to remain attractive to their wives. Be assertive, stay in shape, hold down a good job, be the family's rock - all of this is great. It doesn't guarantee a successful marriage or content wife. She may have deeper issues. She may need more direct guidance or instruction. Headship sometimes must be direct and unambiguous. Wives too need to be held accountable for their choices. Wise husbands demonstrate both explicit and implicit leadership, leading by word and example.

9. Whore, Escort, Sugar Baby, Mistress, Concubine, Wifey


What is the difference between these types of women? I argue it is the degree to which sexual intercourse is the core priority of the relationship. For example with a wife I'd argue that sex is about 25% of the relationship. The other 75% is made up of other priorities such as emotional support, motherhood, etc.

Whore: 100% -- Fucking is all that matters
Escort: 80% -- May see more than once. Looks and personality matter.
Sugar Baby: 65% -- Need to get along well. Some emotional support too.
Mistress: 50% -- Like a girlfriend at this point. Need real intimacy.
Concubine: 35% -- May bear children. Sex is no longer main priority.
Wife: 25% -- Family and other issues come first.

10. Scoring App for Men and Women



What is your marriage market value?

I had the idea the other day of creating an app that scores men and women. You input lots of details about yourself and it outputs a score. What would make it controversial is that it would be honest and score men and women differently. For example, women's scores would go down a lot faster as they got older and men's scores would be influenced a lot more by annual income. The app would also factor in things like sexual history, number of current children, debt, and other relevant attributes. Once users have their score, they can try to match up with partners who have a similar score. The app would help people be realistic about their prospects. The two tricky technical challenges are 1. Accurately scoring people's looks and 2. Getting honest answers from people. Otherwise the actual software is quite simple to write. Hit me up if you're interested in helping build or market it. Could be fun.

11. Masculinity, Femininity, and Gender Roles


Which of these two seems more powerful?

Not long ago the trailer for the movie Captain Marvel came out. Predictably some feminists complained about it, but for an interesting reason. They complained that Samuel L Jackson got to talk more in the trailer than Captain Marvel herself. Some argued this was simply because he is more famous. However I think there is another more basic reason: Women's voices don't carry as much authority as men's. It's why the movie trailer voice guy is always a guy. We don't find women as intimidating as men. It's one of the reasons both men and women prefer male bosses. In the state of nature, authority was all about physical dominance. Women don't have this so we feel less secure with a female manager or leader. The one thing women can use to be intimidating is their sexuality. It's why female super heroes wear revealing outfits. It's why female fighting game characters have big boobs. Greater sexual potency makes them seem stronger.

Feminine strength and sexuality are based on vulnerability. Pregnancy, therefore, is the ultimate state of femininity. It is the time when a woman is at her most vulnerable. Thus a nude pregnant woman appears even more feminine because she seems more vulnerable still. This doesn't apply to men. For them it is the opposite. Masculinity is about accountability. Men seem more masculine when they look ready to be accountable - equipped for action with armor and tools. A naked man just seems silly. It's no surprise women don't spend nearly as much effort trying to see naked men as men do trying to see naked women. But consider again the picture of the man and nude woman above. Both the man and the woman are very powerful but in different ways. Western society makes it easy to understand the man's power but difficult to appreciate the woman's.

12. On Women Voting


First of all, I am skeptical of democracy generally, however that discussion is its own essay. I think that if a society is to have a properly functioning democracy, the most important principle is a coupling of authority and responsibility. No one should vote without the ability to be physically accountable for their vote. Voting is an act of political violence. Voting dictates which citizens get guns pointed at them by the government and which foreigners get drone strikes for breakfast. Any individual who is unwilling or incapable of putting on a uniform, picking up a rifle, marching over to their neighbor's house, and pointing a gun at them, should not be voting. To allow people to instigate violence in their name without risk to themselves is a moral hazard.

This is the core argument against women voting. They are simply not capable of being as accountable for political violence as men. If women's votes lead to migrant invasion or terrorist attacks or nuclear war, do we expect women to meet that violence in kind? Of course not. They'll be off cowering in FEMA shelters with the children as they should. A proper society would never give them such authority to begin with. It is akin to making a young child responsible for the family budget. A proper democracy would only allow people to vote after they registered for some form of national service that made them eligible for a draft. They should also have to undergo some basic training, meet a fitness standard, and pass a civics test.

You need not have a blanket ban on women, however far fewer would meet this standard than men. To give them some political voice I also support the idea of family votes. I think a family vote should be weighted equal to the number of members. So for a married couple with three kids, the man could vote for the family and it would be worth 5 votes. The logic here is that people with kids are more invested in the future of society. They make better voters because they have skin in the game.

13. All Sex with Japanese Women is Nonconsensual


A friend of mine, let's call him Jack, was talking to me the other day about his experiences dating Japanese women. He complained of the unusual sex culture, noting that whenever he and a Japanese woman began having sex, the woman would say, yamete ("stop!") or "no" or something suggesting that she did not want sex. But the thing is, whenever Jack would actually stop, the woman would get annoyed and tell him to continue. "It's like they want me to rape them or something," Jack lamented. Well, there's a reason for that.

In less developed parts of the world such as central Asia and Africa, there is a tradition known as bride kidnapping. The way it works is that when a couple has spent some time courting and is preparing to marry, the man will pretend to kidnap the woman by grabbing her off the street and taking her home. In some places this is done even when there is no relationship; a man will just grab a random woman, take her home, and keep her captive for a day or two. In those cases where the woman does not know the man, she may or may not be raped, however from the community's perspective it doesn't matter. The mere fact that she was kept in the man's house will cause everyone to assume that the two had sex, and since she is no longer a virgin, no self-respecting man will marry her. She has no choice but to marry her abductor.

So what does this have to do with Jack's issue? Consider the motive for bride kidnapping. It is done to allow women to maintain their innocence. Men evolved to prioritize virginity and purity in women because it increases the likelihood that their offspring will be legitimate. Women, therefore, do not want to ever appear too eager. When an offer for sex or marriage comes along, they must say no. Bride kidnapping takes the choice out of their hands and lets the husband (and wider community) know that she stayed virtuous to the end. The same logic applies to Japanese women (and it isn't only Japanese women that do this) who say, "no" and "stop" during sex. Japanese men are attracted to purity (this is why lolicon is so popular). They don't want a slutty experienced over-eager woman. They want a woman who is untouched. Thus women in Japan during sex tend to act as though sex is being forced upon them. Many women around the world eroticize the lack of consent - the feeling of being taken by a powerful man. Evolution may be to blame for this as well.

14. Patriarchy is our Only Hope


In the long run human civilization probably won't last. Either slowly or quickly we will likely destroy ourselves. Survivors will regress to the harshest forms of patriarchy just to stay alive. Technological singularity is another possibility, but the probability of it happening is low, the time frame is longer than people think, and if it happens, we will no longer be dealing with human beings anyway.

So how do we continue to live as homo sapiens sustainably into the future? Consider this: Most people think that modern societies have closed the gap of gender differences thanks to technology. The advent of guns for example is said to have reduced the importance of the size difference between men and women. However, in reality, the opposite is true. Modern civilization is even more gender divided than in the past. Sure, we have guns now, but who owns most of them? Who invents, maintains, and learns how to use them? Modern civilization is delicate. Its infrastructure requires vast expertise distributed across millions of minds. Sewer systems, deep sea internet cables, nuclear power plants, etc. Which gender disproportionately possesses this expertise?

People worry that AI is going to wipe out a lot of jobs. This is true but it will be gradual and it will not wipe out the need for expertise. One job it can't wipe out is 'Mom'. Since women disproportionately do a lot of the service sector jobs most easily replaced by algorithms, it seems logical that encouraging more women to stay home with their families is a good method for reaping the benefits of automation without disrupting society too much. This to me seems far better than something like UBI, which I think is less sustainable and far more socially radical. Women staying home with the kids is a part of recent historical memory and in line with our species' evolution. Assuming we don't destroy ourselves, this sort of retro-futuristic approach seems best.

I don't think we need to go to the extreme of coverture wherein women are legally the property of their husbands and male relatives (unless of course cultures elect to go that route - consent of the governed and all that). I think if we work iteratively we can maintain individual rights and enough flexibility that women will basically be free to do all of the same things as men. In a society that embraces evolved gender roles and liberty, we would likely end up with a kind of soft patriarchy - a culture that accepts gender norms and tolerates noncomformist individuals. A good example of this is modern Japan's attitude toward homosexuality. There is a strong heterosexual norm that encourages family formation, but gay people are free from persecution. Society benefits from their productivity and creativity without normalizing their lifestyle. A similar approach is suitable for gender relations. Maintain gender roles as a standard but allow for variance - a minority of career focused women and domestic men.

Who knows? It may not be so bad.


Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Pants and the Skirt: Review of Fascinating Womanhood



Helen Andelin’s book Fascinating Womanhood is founded on one basic premise: Men and women are fundamentally different. Its argument for traditional marriage is quite simple: Femininity catalyzes masculinity, and in a relationship, this is a woman's best way to win her man's devotion.

Yet Fascinating Womanhood is not simply a relationship advice book. It is also a book about society and humanity. Andelin argues strongly for gender roles – the “Pants” and the “Skirt” you might call them. She opposes feminist notions of gender equality and the idea that the sexes are wholly fungible. Her priority, above all else, is the strength of families and the well-being of children. To this end she passionately believes a society that devalues the Skirt is both immoral and doomed to fail.

Is she right in her basic premise of male and female psychological sex differences?  There is still much debate, but increasingly the science is coming down heavily on her side. Numerous studies of evolution, psychology, and brain development strongly evidence what our ancestors and children have always known: Boys and girls are different. The idea that men and women naturally differ in their thinking and behavior was not controversial for most of human history. Perhaps then it is unsurprising that more free, wealthy, and progressive societies often exhibit greater gender differences.



Andelin runs with her gender thesis and starts by discussing the nature of men. She talks about hierarchies and competitiveness. She talks about the need for respect and meaningful work. She argues that most boys and men are good, hardworking individuals that want to start families with a woman they can cherish. There are some broad statements in this section that will not ring true for everyone however there is still a lot of good insight.  The struggles of young boys in today’s education system (girls are outperforming them at all levels) bolster Andelin’s point about the unique psychological needs of men.

This is one of the book's strengths. More than most modern social science books Fascinating Womanhood shows tremendous compassion for men. In our current #MeToo era it has become fashionable to think the worst of men. The media gleefully characterizes them as misogynistic patriarchal oppressors who are to have their livelihoods destroyed over a bawdy joke or a bad date. Andelin’s voice is a breath of fresh air. She recognizes that most men, like most women, are well-intentioned, decent people.

The discussion of female nature is similarly measured if overly broad. Andelin very clearly defines femininity and feminine qualities and explains how men find them fascinating. She encourages wives to be a source of joy and comfort in their husband's lives. She endorses biblical gender roles with the man as the leader in the home. While she encourages wives to be submissive and obedient, she also stresses the importance of open communication and respectfully disagreeing with husbands when necessary. Most men I think would agree with the basic idea that femininity is attractive while disagreeing with some specific suggestions. Andelin's advice to "act childish" to diffuse arguments, for example, may not work for everyone.

Fascinating Womanhood is a surprisingly empowering book for women. Ms. Andelin does not believe women in flawed relationships are hapless victims. Instead she tells women to take ownership of their own behavior. She tells them to work to rebuild trust with their husbands. She tells women that through their own actions and the force of their own will, they can reform their marriages. Controversially, she suggests this even in cases of infidelity or abuse (though she acknowledges that divorce is acceptable in situations where one partner may be a danger to the other or the children).

It’s an interesting contrast with other politically right of center marriage advice. Among the Christian complementarian movement as well as among the “red pill manosphere,” the basic advice on marriage is this: If the wife is unhappy, it is the husband’s fault for not being sufficiently godly / alpha / manly whatever. The premise is that the wife’s behavior is wholly a function of her husband. Fascinating Womanhood begs to differ. While a husband and wife may not have entirely equal responsibility in all things, Andelin firmly believes that women can be responsible for the state of their marriages.

While placing a great deal of responsibility at the feet of women, Andelin is also compassionate and empathetic toward women and their unique natures. Fascinating Womanhood delights in relaying the joys of being a housewife and mother. The book talks about feminine dress, manner, housework, cooking, child-rearing, interior design, socializing, volunteer work, and all manner of traditionally feminine interests. It makes for a good sales pitch for people skeptical of the traditional lifestyle. The book also uses a lot of testimonials, literary allusions, and biblical references to bolster its points. It adds color and persuasiveness, particularly for serious Christians.


Selling the importance of the Skirt to a society that is all about the Pants is no easy feat. Contemporary western cultures tend to look down on women who stay home. Being at home to prioritize your family - your children and husband - apparently makes you a slave. True freedom can only be found in paying strangers to raise your kids and helping some corporation earn billions in profits instead of serving your loved ones. Andelin’s writing is at its strongest when she questions this value system.

One area where I think she went a little off the rails was with regard to sex. Andelin encourages women to have sex regularly with their husbands, but also tells them to say “no,” regularly lest their husbands become sex fiends. She spends several pages explaining how to properly reject a husband's sexual advances. Contradicting her exhaustive biblical arguments for being obedient and respecting the husband's decisions, Andelin even tells women to unilaterally destroy their husband's naughty magazines since pornography is “filth.”

Andelin’s attitude toward sex is not biblical. Both the husband and wife are supposed to freely give of themselves to their partner. In other words, neither the wife nor the husband should reject their partner's advances but for a very strong reason. (medical issue, house on fire, etc.) I also find it odd that Andelin encourages women to respond to even infidelity and physical abuse with submissiveness to win over a bad husband, but draws the line at hubby's Playboy stash.


This issue aside, Fascinating Womanhood is still an excellent manual on traditional marriage based on strict gender roles. It is a useful read both for unmarried women seeking such a relationship and married people looking to revive their romance. It is not, of course, for everyone. There are many people who genuinely prefer more egalitarian arrangements. I'd argue that even for such folks the book is worth a look as it will help them reflect on their own values and understand how much of the rest of the world lives. I also endorse the broader message of the book as it celebrates the art of homemaking and family nurturing.

Healthy civilizations value both the Pants and the Skirt. Andelin’s book is a love letter to the importance of the Skirt in human society. It is a reminder of the crucial non-material values of home and family. It is a reminder that human beings often do their most important work for society when they are not receiving a paycheck for it. Would that modern feminists remember this instead of clutching their pearls over the number of female CEO’s. Andelin’s Fascinating Womanhood insists that men and women work best together when we recognize our differing natures and seek to complement each other’s strengths. She may well be onto something.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Migration from Google

I have been gradually migrating away from all Google services over the last several weeks.

Why?

Lots of reasons. I'll narrow it down to three core ones:

1. I no longer feel comfortable allowing so much of my personal data to be mined for advertising purposes no matter what company does it.

2. I no longer trust Google to act ethically with respect to their technology. This trust was broken gradually over the last several years.

3. I believe Google is having a bad effect on our wider culture in numerous ways.

So in this post I am just going to go over what alternative solutions I use for various Google products.

Google Search


 Alternative: DuckDuckGo and Bing

Google Search is still a great search engine. Much of the web is optimized for being easily found by Google Search. Unfortunately, recent events have shown Google's hostility to heterodox ideas and their comfort with both censorship and search result manipulation for political purposes. Thankfully there are many other search engines. I use DuckDuckGo by default and sometimes Bing. The latter I find is almost as good as Google while the former has better privacy guarantees. In a pinch, I'll use Google, but never while signed into a Google account.

Google Chrome


Alternative: Firefox

This was an easy one since I already use Firefox. I occasionally used Chromium when I needed a second browser. I also used Chrome from time to time with Google Hangouts since they are largely broken on Firefox. With the recent change forcing browser sign in when logging into a Google account, I can no longer justify using Chrome at all. Firefox has long covered all of my browser addon needs and works great on Linux, Android, and Windows. I have Opera and incognito Chromium hanging around for those, "can't be Firefox!" edge cases.

Gmail

Alternative: Protonmail

Switching emails is always annoying. It isn't hard to set up a new address, rather it's migrating all of your logins and getting your contacts aware of the change. I did some research and decided to set up a business account with Protonmail. It's fairly cheap and easy to use. It has strong encryption and other privacy guarantees. It's also based in Switzerland, which is reassuring for various reasons. The downside is that the user experience is not as nice as Gmail. Mail search isn't as good (can't search email body text) and the UI is not as intuitive. If you really just want to get away from Google but don't care as much about privacy, there are other email services that are nicer to use. I like protonmail a lot but there are definite tradeoffs.

Google Drive
 

Alternative: Sync

There are a lot of reasons why I would never trust Google for personal file storage. That they scan your files for advertising isn't even my biggest concern. I switched to Sync because it not only works well across several platforms but also incorporates a zero knowledge privacy guarantee (this means that even employees of Sync cannot read your files). What's more it is a Canadian company, which means less worry about crappy American data privacy laws and mass collection from US government agencies. Sync also is great for securely sharing files as it includes password protected links and other tools in its admin console. If your priority is ease of use, Dropbox is also pretty great, particularly if you need to use a variety of devices. For me, their history of breaches and their weaker privacy guarantees disqualified them.

Google Authenticator
 
Alternative: Authy

Google Authenticator is a super useful app for MFA. Instead of dealing with a yubikey or SMS messages, you just use generated codes to add a layer of security to your accounts. There isn't any obvious privacy or security issue with using Authenticator (that I know of, anyway); I just personally did not want to rely on a Google product. I switched to Authy and was pleasantly surprised to discover that its Android app was much better than Google Authenticator. Excellent UI and super easy to migrate.

 Google Music
Alternative: Poweramp, Spotify, Amazon MP3 store, CDs

My main source of music is physical CD's. I rip them into FLAC files for archival purposes. I then convert those FLACs into mp3s and put them on my phone. I also buy mp3's from online stores like Amazon. For obscure stuff that I can't buy legitimately, in a pinch, I'll download from YouTube or some other mp3 site. I have accounts with streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, but mainly I use them to discover new stuff. So yeah, maybe I'm weird, but Google Play music just doesn't suit me. Like many other services it focuses on streaming even when you buy songs. You need to download a separate program to download all of your songs to desktop. I used it with my Android phone just because I was too lazy to look up a decent player. After experimenting with a few I really got into Poweramp. It's a good simple music player but it also has TONS of features. It works fine for streaming music from my huge mp3 collection in my Sync account. I'm still exploring alternatives though. My music collection is huge and a mess.

Google Maps
Alternative: Maps.me

This one also wasn't too hard to replace. Google Maps frankly isn't that great on Android. It's slow, buggy, and the directions are frequently just plain wrong. I switched to Maps.me to find a few offices in downtown Tokyo and was happy to find it quite easy to use and responsive. There are also lots of other map and directions apps out there so this is a pretty easy one.


Google Hangouts



Hangouts is tricky to replace completely. It involves many use cases. For one, I have to use Hangouts for work meetings. I have long-lived hangout chats with people which I uses for just quick texts. Also for YouTube I use hangouts to do livestreams with other people. For just messaging friends and family, I now use a combination of Telegram, Signal, and occasionally WhatsApp. It is hard to consolidate to one when other people are accustomed to a specific app. For longer term group chats I use Slack and Riot. I don't love Slack but I get invited to a lot of workspaces so I just have to deal for now. For meetings I use Zoom for business and Discord for hobbies. The latter has decent group voice chat support but not great. Overall, this has been one of the thorniest to get away from but I'm making progress.

 Blogger




Alternative: WordPress or Medium

This one isn't done yet obviously. I intend to migrate to a new domain on a self-hosted WordPress site in the near future. I'm also considering Medium. Need to do some more research on it. I have an account for a side project but I'm not sure I want to trust Medium for my main personal blog. Blogger is tough to leave. I have been a fan for years because of its simplicity. However this is one switch where I'm genuinely excited to explore alternatives.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Six Levels of Political Awareness

Feel free to call this, "Wokeness" levels if you prefer.

Oblivious


The politically oblivious do not know and do not care about contemporary politics. Obviously this applies to children, but many adults are also politically oblivious. It may be that they are dumb, or they may be entrenched in a unique lifestyle (monks, artists, etc). Often extraordinarily talented people are politically oblivious because they are singularly focused on some other craft. Due to their lack of investment, these people are actually not easily manipulated by the media. Many don't bother to vote or follow news at all. Still, they pay taxes, and unless they are part of some revolutionary underground, the politically oblivious tacitly sanction their government's actions. Tyrannical governments thrive by maintaining a large class of politically oblivious people.

Identity


It is important to understand that most people do not arrive at their political views through a process of reason. They do not study individual issues and rigorously seek out facts to support their stances. The human brain is far better at post-decision rationalization than pure reasoning. For this reason, most people's political views are largely a function of their perceived identity group membership. "I am black, therefore..." "I am Jewish, therefore..." "I am a Hispanic New Yorker, therefore..."

The term, "Identity Politics," has become something of a whipping boy for both radical centrist and left / right ideologue types. Nevertheless it is by far the most common level of political awareness around the world. When you look at how people vote in Africa, South America, Asia, Europe - in most cases people prioritize their local tribal affiliations and identity over specific parties. Often there is a one to one mapping of parties and tribes / identity groups. Even in liberal "individualist" western countries, people vote largely in blocs. Blacks who vote republican are called race traitors. Immigrants tend to vote for whichever politicians will keep the borders open and offer the most handouts. It isn't about ideas or even party, but tribe. That's how humans evolved and that's how we largely still are.

Partisan


Partisans are tribalists that have abstracted one step higher. Instead of relying on a specific group identity to dictate their values, they enlist a political party as a proxy. This is necessary in more developed democracies where parties are not as explicitly tied to specific tribes. It is also more effective for enacting real political change. Simply put, you just get more done by supporting and defending democrats than, say, millenial women, even if you are a member of the latter demographic. Political parties are the practical agents of government change. Because of the scope of government in developed societies, political parties have many layers of bureaucracy and often suffer a great deal of bloat and corruption. What's more, political parties rarely hold to the same set of ideas and policies for longer than a single election cycle. Their ideology constantly changes. Consider how democrats have pushed left on social issues and healthcare.

As a result of political parties' constantly evolving views and corruption, to be maximally effective, the partisan must be a hypocrite. If he tries to honestly hold to a particular ideology or any sort of principles he soon finds that his party is no more moral than any other. He must prioritize 'realpolitik' - that is, he has to focus on winning elections and recruiting more people into the party. The best partisans are masters of rhetoric, logical fallacy, 'whataboutism', deflection, straw manning, etc. Paul Begala is a great example - a true blue partisan hack that knows how to tie his opponents in knots.

Ideological


The ideologue has abstracted yet another level higher than the partisan. They are not loyal to a political party but rather to a set of ideas. They believe in an, "ism" - capitalism, conservatism, progressivism, socialism, Catholicism, etc. Unlike the partisan who uses ideology to empower their party, ideologues support parties to implement their ideology. People often become ideologues gradually from their experiences in their identity groups and exposure to specific media. When they are willing to acknowledge the problems within their demographic community and/or preferred political party, they have made the transition to becoming an ideologue. Ann Coulter is a good example - she is a consistent paleoconservative who joyfully attacks republicans when they undermine her agenda.

There are a few challenges that ideologues must mentally resolve. Firstly, ideologies vary a great deal in their coherence. For example, socialism is far more well-defined than conservatism.What's more, not all ideologies have are equally viable. Some ideologies are farcical in their distance from reality and human nature. Finally, ideologies are not static; they evolve over time. What was known as 'liberalism' 50 years ago is completely different from what it is today. For these three reasons, maintaining a consistent ideology is very difficult.

Conceptual


Certain thinkers prioritize truth over specific ideas. They avoid dogmatism. Their priority is not, "liberalism," or "libertarianism," or any particular set of defined policies. Rather their priority is a set of values and their relationship to reality. For example, they value family, high fertility, and stable communities, so they then try to determine which ideas best support these things. Or perhaps their highest value is personal autonomy, so they support whichever ideologies maximize it. They may be socialist, capitalist, communist, liberal, traditionalist, or some combination. What matters is not the, "ism" but rather the human values and reality. Jordan Peterson is a good contemporary example. He is sort of a mix of traditionalism, classical liberalism, Christianity, and individualism. More consistent adherents of any of those ideologies would find fault with many of Peterson's views. Conceptual thinkers like Peterson don't worry about being labeled, "capitalist," or "socialist," or "liberal."

I refer to this as the 'conceptual' level because it is the first level that requires a proper understanding of concepts. Ideologues strictly speaking do not need to precisely define terms like, "free speech," or "individual rights," "human nature." Conservatives, socialists, and liberals all claim to understand these things, yet when pressed to define them their answers are often contradictory. At the conceptual level, all of these abstractions must be clearly defined in a consistent and coherent fashion. Contradictions must be resolved. Reality always takes precedence. The result is that unlike ideologues, conceptual thinkers are not utopians. Ideologues tend to believe that, if their ideology is properly implemented, it will lead to a kind of paradise. Conceptual thinkers, with their focus on values, recognize that there are no perfect solutions - only tradeoffs based on what we value.

Philosophical


The philosopher digs at the most fundamental questions of human existence. They take nothing for granted - not even a set of values. They do not simply wonder, "What is good?" but also, "What is?" Where the conceptual thinker wishes to know what is true, the philosopher starts by asking how to know what is true. They have to establish a basic metaphysics and epistemology - what is the nature of reality and how do we know anything? From there they try to define a set of ethics and from that, politics. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are all classical examples, but Ayn Rand is a fine modern example. Her philosophical system, objectivism, which I consider deeply flawed, to its credit attempted to start at the very root. It begins with certain axioms about reality, reason, and human nature, and from there derives its values and ideology.

All of us, in our quiet moments before falling asleep each night, have flashes of philosophical insight. We wonder about the nature of the universe, about the afterlife, god, and the fate of the world. What separates the philosopher from others is that this level of reflection is constant. It informs all of their actions and ideas. They are not content to idly speculate about fundamental questions; they invest a great deal of time into actually finding answers. They read voraciously, study ancient thinkers, and never stop questioning their own values.

Final Thoughts

While I think intelligence correlates with people's position on this hierarchy, I don't think it is necessarily a very strong correlation. There are a lot of very intelligent people who are singularly focused and don't care about politics. Many brilliant scientists, artists, mathematicians, would fall at level 1 or 2. Similarly there are many people of average intelligence who end up high level of political understanding because of their interest in politics and debate. There are many YouTubers, for example, who are not terribly deep thinkers but clearly have evolved beyond the ideologue stage simply from being in touch with many communities on social media.

In practice most people do not fit squarely into one of these six categories. Rather they are a mix of a few. From my own experience I would conjecture that a typical adult of 50th percentile intelligence, is primarily at level 2 with a good mix of levels 3 and 4 and possibly traces of 5. Educated people around the 75th percentile are primarily ideologues that leverage partisanship and identity politics when useful. 95th percentile and up, you get more stage 5 and 6 as these are people who tend to enjoy thinking deeply about abstract ideas.

Because of this population breakdown, successful politicians rarely worry much about stages 4, 5, and 6. Instead they focus on identity since it tends to be the easiest to target with emotional appeals. News media is similar. CNN, Fox News, the New York Times - they tend to be both partisan and identity-focused. At these levels it is easier to appeal to tribal affiliation without worrying about intellectual consistency.

As for my own evolution, I would say that these days I am squarely at level 5. I was an ideologue in college and a partisan in high school. I read a lot of philosophy so perhaps when I am older I'll be at level 6. Hard to say. I have a lot of other priorities these days.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Random Thoughts VII

Book Review: Dune by Frank Herbert


Dune is among my top five favorite science fiction books. I re-read it recently and decided to go through the extended universe books written by Herbert's son. Here's a quick summary for the uninitiated: Son of royalty goes on an adventure in a mystical desert planet discovering the secret of a powerful drug known as spice melange while battling an intergalactic conspiracy. It is a classic tale of Planetary Fiction and very much a "hero's journey" as the teenage protagonist Paul gradually discovers his latent powers. What makes it so good is the vividness of the world - the touches of color regarding the Freman, the desert, the worms, the space guild, etc. It's just all so dang cool. The blending of mythology, religion, and science is superb. If you have heard of it but never bothered to give it a read, you're in for a treat.

Grade: A+

The Essence of Masculinity and Femininity



I'm going to take a shot at concisely defining these terms:

The essence of masculinity is Accountability and the essence of femininity is Vulnerability. This is most easily understood by considering the differences in reproductive organs (or even differences in gametes if you want to go even deeper). The male's is assertive, penetrating, colonizing, possessive. The female's is yielding, passive, nurturing, waiting to be claimed. The essence of being a man is being responsible - for oneself, for one's family, for one's community, for one's nation. It is about looking at the state of one's life and one's surroundings and saying, "This is on me."

The other biological differences - men's greater strength, size, speed, spatial intelligence - grant him a natural physical authority over women. Thus men have greater agency and women are more objectified. By contrast, nature imposes a different obligation on women - one of submissive endurance derived from the burden of creating life. In the state of nature childbirth is a harrowing experience that many women do not survive. Unlike men, nature forces women to confront death to fulfill their biological destiny. It is what gives women inherent value and is why traditionally only men have to undergo initiation rights in a society - to prove their capacity to be responsible. Both masculine accountability and feminine vulnerability demand strength but also cooperation and acceptance of differing roles and authority.

On Traditionalism



Even though I believe in preserving cultural traditions I don't consider myself a "Traditionalist." To me traditionalism is not much better than libertarianism. Both are philosophies that avoid the question of values. Libertarians avoid it by saying, "everyone do whatever as long as there is no force." Traditionalists say, "just do what people have always done." Neither stops and asks, "Well what exactly is good in the first place?" Some traditions, like marriage, are great. Others, like female genital mutilation, not so much. We need some standard of value for deciding which traditions are good and which should be abolished. I also think we should err on the side of preserving traditions generally for two reasons.

1. A thing only becomes a tradition if its practitioners survive for a long time. This makes a tradition a good heuristic for identifying positive cultural practices that aid in a society's thriving.

2. Even if a tradition is negative (honor killing) or wrong (belief that the sun revolves around the Earth) the very fact that everyone in a community abides by the tradition makes it powerful. It helps bind a group of people together enabling a high trust society where people can work cooperatively and achieve longer range goals. This is, by the way, one of the better arguments for religion.

Game Review: Spiderman PS4


Played through this over the last few days. I had fun. It's the best Spiderman game to come along in a while and is a must have for fans of the character. Spiderman PS4 gets three big things right: Traversal around Manhattan using web swinging is fun as heck, the graphics are really really good, and with so many different suits, gadgets, side missions, and collectibles, there is plenty to do. What keeps it from being a truly great superhero game like Arkham City is the lackluster story, bad pacing, some unpolished gameplay elements, lack of replay value, and some poor design and characterization choices. While I liked the setup with an older Peter Parker in a universe not riding the MCU's coattails, I did not like being forced to play as MJ and Miles nor did the plot really keep me interested. There's a good foundation here at least and a strong ending. Tighter gameplay (more intricate web swinging please) and some new content could make this into a long-lasting franchise.

Grade: B


How Far We'll Go


It is interesting how we take the future for granted. What if we never make it to some Star Trek type of future society? Some say that we will not make it because our societies are too dumb and we are likely to destroy ourselves. However what if the technology necessary to create such societies is simply impossible? What are the limits to how far we can go as a species? In my view, there are three limits: 1. The human brain's capacity for understanding and possibly extending its own abilities. 2. The cultural contexts in which all innovation occurs (some societies will stifle innovation, for example). 3. The physical laws of the universe. Some technologies (teleportation, FTL travel, etc.) may simply be impossible no matter how clever we are. I don't think we have come close to reaching limit 3 though. Limits 1 and 2 are the only ones we can control to some extent, so we must focus our efforts there.

The Stupidity of Horseshoe Theory



Horseshoe political theory is so strange to me because it is so obviously stupid and wrong. Who honestly believes that right wing Christian fundamentalist has a lot in common with a member of AntiFa? Who would honestly argue that the Christian has more in common with the AntiFa member than a moderate republican? It doesn't bear even the slightest bit of scrutiny. The only thing that right and left wing extremists have in common is extremism, but then this is like saying that the North Pole is similar to the Equator because both have extreme temperatures. Why do smart people buy into horseshoe theory? What does this belief accomplish? Political hipsterdom I would guess - the ability to take a superior, independent-seeming pose that lets you dismiss both the left and right while seeming reasonable and objective. Horseshoe theory serves the ego of its adherents, not reality.

Book Review: Zero to One by Peter Thiel


I read this back in August. A friend said it had good advice for creating a successful startup. While I wouldn't call it essential for anyone starting a business, it is a good read. Thiel is clearly a brilliant and successful entrepreneur with a lot of unique observations. His discussion of the green energy industry I found particularly cogent. He epitomizes a lot of "startupisms" - not trusting people in suits, working super long hours, living and breathing for your business, open offices, believing in innovation as an end in itself, etc. I no longer agree with a lot of that stuff and ironically this ideology puts him more in lockstep with Silicon Valley than he'd like to admit. Still, there is a lot of wisdom here if you don't think of it as a recipe for success book. His advice will help make success more likely by getting you to ask the right questions. In this regard, the chapter on secrets is really good. What is it that you know that most other people don't? This is something all entrepreneurs should ask themselves.

Grade: B

Why Transgenderism Destroys Feminism


Imagine if, during the era of slavery, blacks could simply choose to identify as white. Imagine if they could just tell the plantation owner, "I feel like a white person deep down, so you have to respect that and treat me the same as a 100% white person." It would dismantle the entire system of slavery overnight. Feminism, similarly, is premised on an oppressor / oppressed dynamic. In order for it to work, it must be immutable; you can't have people switching from one to the other whenever they feel like it. You also cannot argue that men and women are equal but also fundamentally different in such a way that a person can be born in the wrong body. "Separate but equal" doesn't work for human sex differences. Either there are deep, inherent differences between men and women (the transgender argument) or all of those differences are cultural and readily engineered away by progressive social policy (the feminist argument). Both things simply cannot be true simultaneously.

Vetting a Potential Spouse: Advice for Trad Women


Because of my matchmaking site I have interacted with a number of "trad" women online. "Red Pill" women face unique challenges when looking for a partner because there are increasingly fewer men seeking traditional relationships. Furthermore there are a lot of cads who would seek to take advantage of women who are virginal, attractive, and submissive. So I asked myself, if I had a daughter like this, what sort of advice would I give her for choosing a man? I narrowed it down to six points:

1. Do not have sex before marriage. This will scare off 99% of the cads.
2. Ensure he has a good work history, good job, and good prospects. (past, present, and future)
3. Discuss your specific expectations for married life. Maybe even write them down.
4. Encourage leadership. Ask his permission for lots of things. See how he handles power.
5. Gauge how highly you think of him. Would you trust his judgment over your own for something important?
6. See how he interacts with his family, service people, and children.

Battlefield 5


Battlefield V garnered some controversy for its early trailer emphasizing female soldiers in WW2. Why exactly is this a problem? Let's start by dispensing with the whole, "it's just a video game lol why do you care?" argument from pettiness. Since there were indeed some female fighters during WW2, it isn't technically an example of replacement, which I would also oppose. Instead the issue is more subtle. Implying that women fought in WW2, "just like men," is a form of historical appropriation that degrades the unique and vastly disproportionate sacrifices made by men. Imagine if someone were to make a movie about the history of blues and jazz music, but focus largely on white people. We wouldn't say, "well hey, there were some white musicians that helped establish the art form." No, we would recognize the dishonesty of such a portrayal.

The same applies with putting women on the front lines of WW2. It is not about historical accuracy. That is a red herring.  Rather it is about envy. It is about not allowing men any uniquely masculine pride for their sacrifices defending their homelands. It's an effective strategy because it feels petty to point it out. Men don't envy women's unique roles in society. They have no interest in colonizing female spaces - they're not interested in getting nail salons to play sports games or getting romantic comedies to have action scenes so that they'll be more welcoming to men. Women, however, do envy men. The cause of that envy happens to be a point on which I agree with feminists: Modern societies are deeply misogynistic. They have contempt for womanhood, nurturing, family, and feminine virtues. Where I disagree with feminists is in their solution, which is to encourage women to become like men. This is like attempting to fight Islamophobia by encouraging Muslims to become Christian.

I'll also add that women served their nations in many ways during WW2. Given that there are already a million video games about shooting people, would that some company would employ some creativity and make a WW2 game with female protagonists that isn't focused on combat. Could be interesting.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Elaboration on Multiculturalism



A while ago I tweeted this:

https://twitter.com/renegadetensai/status/1030943125093724160

It was in response to a thread by Huffington Post Asian Voices editor Kimberly Yam. In the thread she detailed the many indignities she suffered growing up in America. She talks about "not wanting to be Chinese," because people made fun of the way her father talked and made racially insensitive jokes. She talks about how she hardened herself to fit in but then rediscovered her Chinese identity in college and came to greatly appreciate her heritage once she found a clique of Asian friends as a young woman. It's one of those cheesy emotional self-congratulatory Twitter threads meant to bypass the intellect and appeal to emotion, somewhat evocative of the classic liberal professor copypasta.

I reacted to it by pointing out that her thread is a powerful argument against multiculturalism. I will elaborate a bit on what I meant.

The essence of Yam's post is this: The melting pot is bullshit. She tried to assimilate and adapt, and absolutely hated it. She rejected her identity and was miserable. It wasn't until she discovered her ethnic tribe as a young adult that she felt whole as a person. In other words, she endorses the alt-right position on white identitarianism.

This sentiment has become common and it contradicts the most common defense of mass immigration. On the one hand Americans are told not to worry about immigrants because they will assimilate. Then on the other hand Americans are lectured about how racist they are for not understanding the norms and nuances of immigrant cultures. So, "don't worry, the immigrants will assimilate," but also, "you're racist if you actually expect them to do so."

This is precisely why Japan does not want to accept too many Chinese immigrants, why China doesn't want many African immigrants, and why any sensible country carefully limits the number of foreigners it imports. They don't want ghettos of disaffected foreigners complaining that the majority culture doesn't cater enough to minorities. Multiculturalism inevitably creates endless tribal tension. Even in western countries that bend over backwards to be inclusive and make a god of diversity, those foreigners will be loathe to abandon their ethnic tribal loyalties. It is a fundamental part of their self-concept and identity. Unless they are strongly self-motivated to assimilate into the new culture, it cannot be taken for granted that they will.

Numerous other Chinese kids went through Yam's experiences. Many of them responded by fully embracing their American identity. They love grilled cheese, don't speak a word of Chinese, love movies with all white casts, and maybe even vote republican. They are Americans through and through, not hyphenated malcontents.

However it is important not to dismiss Yam's feelings. They represent the default given our species' evolved tribal nature. Taken seriously, the only way for someone like Yam to grow up without resentment would be for all of the other white kids she grew up with to abandon their own ethnic identity. In order for those white kids to feel that there was nothing unusual about Yam's father's accent, or Yam's racial appearance, or the behavior of Asian tourists, those white American kids would have to have no unique majority identity of their own to which to compare their experiences.

This is precisely the goal of progressvism - the deconstruction and replacement of traditional white European American identity with a void to be filled by every other ethnic gang and their various demands. Yam's piece implies that this is the only thing that would have made her happy.

Are we at all surprised the vast majority of Americans wish to greatly restrict legal immigration as well as illegal?