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The Limits of Human Scale


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#41 PRCD: Death (and Taxes)

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 09:37 PM

I read this post today and thought of scale:
http://alfin2100.blo...es-provide.html

Several other things then came to mind.  First, why are small ethnically-homogenous European countries like Switzerland and the Netherlands having their own scale problems?  Why are their democracies failing to protect them from being invaded by Musselman hordes?  

Secondly, how is de-scaling around cities the answer when cities are the most ethnically-diverse, (and thus, lowest-trust), areas to be found nowadays?

#42 Do You Read Sutter CandH44

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 10:36 PM

View PostPRCalDude, on 23 August 2010 - 09:37 PM, said:

Several other things then came to mind.  First, why are small ethnically-homogenous European countries like Switzerland and the Netherlands having their own scale problems?  Why are their democracies failing to protect them from being invaded by Musselman hordes?

:facepalm:

You know damn well why.  Who's going to tell anyone otherwise?

#43 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 12:24 AM

He (or the article he is quoting) seems aware of the issues of scale but is mildly deluded...the city will be the focal point of collapse and dysfunction, not the new center of the universe.  Well it will be the center, in a sense--the ground zero of psychic disease.  Look at the major American cities--New York, LA, Chicago.  They are epicenters of corruption and collapse.  Maybe FP looks forward to a world in which we all live like serfs in a Bloomberg New York, putting up with the petty encroachments of its lordly mayor.

#44 Bonerjit

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 05:02 PM

"As egg producers consolidate, problems of just one company can be far-reaching"

http://www.washingto...2305118_pf.html

Quote

The largest egg recall in U.S. history comes at a point of great consolidation in the egg industry, when a shrinking number of companies produce most of the eggs found on grocery shelves and a defect in one operation can jeopardize a significant segment of the marketplace.

[...]

"I don't think people have any idea when they see all these brand names in the stores that so many are coming from the same place," said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, a food safety organization. "It raises the stakes -- if one company is doing something wrong, it affects a lot of food."


#45 Pangur Springs Exults and Kills

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 07:32 PM

Sure, but this problem can be avoided if people learned to COOK THEIR f**kING EGGS instead of eating them undercooked.

*puts raw eggs in blender, chugs the mix*

#46 PRCD: Death (and Taxes)

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 08:37 PM

View PostBonerjit, on 24 August 2010 - 05:02 PM, said:

"As egg producers consolidate, problems of just one company can be far-reaching"

http://www.washingto...2305118_pf.html

Quote

The largest egg recall in U.S. history comes at a point of great consolidation in the egg industry, when a shrinking number of companies produce most of the eggs found on grocery shelves and a defect in one operation can jeopardize a significant segment of the marketplace.

[...]

"I don't think people have any idea when they see all these brand names in the stores that so many are coming from the same place," said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, a food safety organization. "It raises the stakes -- if one company is doing something wrong, it affects a lot of food."

This is another John Robb theme - our system is consolidating to the point that it has become very brittle.  Small perturbations can lead to large disruptions.

On Michael Pollan's documantary "Food, Inc," they showed a beef processing factory that basically somehow washed ground beef in ammonia to kill the E. Coli in it before it is made into patties and shipped to the fast food industry.  It now has 70% of the fast food beef product market.  The company was called "Beef Products Incorporated" and it had this elaborate rube goldberg process to remove a bacterium that doesn't naturally survive in a cow's intestinal tract on its normal grass diet.  

I couldn't tell you if food poisonings have been going up or down since the growth of this agribusiness conglomerates, but it is certainly a hell of a lot more complicated to process food now and our food supply has a lot less diversity when you consider the fact that most of the food people eat comes from a few staple crops (soy and corn).  Also, the agribusiness conglomerates own the patents on the seeds used to grow these staple crops, and if you grow them yourself they come after you.

:hardship:

#47 PRCD: Death (and Taxes)

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 08:40 PM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 24 August 2010 - 12:24 AM, said:

He (or the article he is quoting) seems aware of the issues of scale but is mildly deluded...the city will be the focal point of collapse and dysfunction, not the new center of the universe.  Well it will be the center, in a sense--the ground zero of psychic disease.  Look at the major American cities--New York, LA, Chicago.  They are epicenters of corruption and collapse.  Maybe FP looks forward to a world in which we all live like serfs in a Bloomberg New York, putting up with the petty encroachments of its lordly mayor.

When I think of the future of US cities, I think of BRazilian cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero - violent crime plagued places where the rich spend enormous sums on their security and drive bullet proof cars.

There's a show on the military channel that shows foreign weapons.  One they showed was a tank the Brazilian cops use to drive through the favelas. Diversity is strength :bush:

#48 Mr. Kurtz

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Posted 25 August 2010 - 09:28 PM

A comment from Steve Sailer's, "iSteve Blog"

Quote

Steve wrote, "it's better for your career to assert that everything's very, very complicated, and only an expert like yourself could possibly begin to grasp the complexities of it all?"

This is an excellent point. In the U.S. we are paying a very heavy "elite tax" for overcomplicated legal, medical, government, and education systems. But people are starting to drop out.

People are dropping out by "ghettoizing" themselves. They get a bill from a lawyer, they don't pay it. Medical bills? Don't pay them. They work in jobs that pay mainly in cash, don't own real estate, and make themselves judgment-proof.

I also note that the elite, expert media is dying. In ghetto world, people get their news through Facebook.

This ghettoization trend will continue and it will put a serious dent in the revenues of expert-run institutions.

Bingo.

Edited by Snake Handler, 25 August 2010 - 09:30 PM.


#49 PRCD: Death (and Taxes)

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Posted 25 August 2010 - 09:36 PM

If you have money and credit anyways, that makes perfect sense.

Next up: attacking people with savings.  

Anyone know anything about opening offshore accounts?  My broker wasn't very helpful.  

I do think it's a good idea to have a side cash business whether or not you're employed as long as you're not dealing in huge sums of money.

#50 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 03:07 AM

Sailer's latest article on iSteve touches on the subject of stress and population density.  He quotes from Nature News:

Nature News said:

Using functional brain imaging, a group led by Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg of the University of Heidelberg's Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, showed that specific brain structures in people from the city and the countryside respond differently to social stress (see pages 452 and 498). Stress is a major factor in precipitating psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

...Meyer-Lindenberg works on risk mechanisms in schizophrenia, and previously focused on the role of genes. But although a dozen or so genes have been linked to the disorder, "even the most powerful of these genes conveys only a 20% increased risk", he says. Yet schizophrenia is twice as common in those who are city-born and raised as in those from the countryside, and the bigger the city, the higher the risk (see 'Dose response?').
http://isteve.blogsp...izophrenia.html

Sailer seems to pooh-pooh the idea that a generalized cause like "stress" can account for different rates of mental illness (i.e. he must not be reading MPC).  He remarks:

Steve Sailer said:

Fourth, if city life correlates with schizophrenia, why stress instead of infection as a potential cause? Disease burden was such a problem for city dwellers until quite recently that, for example, sub-Saharan Africa had very few cities. People in Africa had to live spread out in small villages or they'd get sick and die.
Of course population density could very well increase infection rates since infection loves company.  One could even come up with a Greg Cochran-esque explanaton that some form of communicable brain illness is responsible for the elevated stress.  But the simpler, Occamian explanation is that being crushed in with a few other million people who all compete for an increasingly select position at the trough makes people more anxious and more vulnerable to stress-related illness.

Plus I think the inability of Africans to summon up the level of civilization required to combat diseases (among other things) might be the case in his example.

#51 Dr. Gay Hitler

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 04:05 AM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 29 June 2011 - 03:07 AM, said:

infection loves company.


:gay: And how!

(shitposting in the serious forum)

#52 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 07:43 AM

Sailer also makes this curious error:

Steve Sailer said:

Third, it's not at all clear to me that we stress out more over stuff that wasn't around during the evolutionary past. Lots of people stress out over snakes and spiders, but people seem to get fairly used to, say, driving 75 mph on the Ventura Freeway.
Sailer evidently doesn't keep in touch with any older relatives.  A few of mine completely stress out over traffic in Dallas, which has nothing on California freeways.  Then there is having to drive in inclement weather, which shaves the margin of error even further; the end result is a traffic system that tends to work well only when nothing goes wrong.  As soon as someone makes a mistake, you've got a backup for several miles.  Sitting in traffic on your way to work isn't stressful?  I can't count how many mornings I used to arrive at the office with my thoughts completely thrown off track by how much longer it took me to get to work that day (in one case a 45 minute commute stretched out to two and a half hours--again, that's nothing compared to LA's fragile traffic network).

Do people really spend a lot of time stressing out over snakes and spiders, vs. what kind of computer to buy, how soon the HVAC company will get out to replace the air conditioner, what is going on with the cable reception, how much are they going to jack up my property taxes this year, is the department getting outsourced, etc?  Compared to just 30 years ago (when there were a whole lot more capable white people running things) I would say the level of stress we're subjected to has skyrocketed.

Consider this sadly common experience:

> Please tell me which area you need assistance with. If you're having trouble with your Internet, say "Technical Support". If you're--

"Technical Support"

> I'm sorry, I couldn't understand that. If you're having trouble with your Internet, say "Technical--"

"TECHNICAL SUPPORT"

> It sounds like you have a question about your bill. Is that correct?

"No!"

> I'm sorry, I'm having trouble understanding. Please choose one of the following--

"Representative!"

> I'm sorry, I couldn't understand that.

...

:clint:

#53 BB: Full-Time Zionist

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 10:52 AM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 29 June 2011 - 07:43 AM, said:

Sailer also makes this curious error:

Steve Sailer said:

Third, it's not at all clear to me that we stress out more over stuff that wasn't around during the evolutionary past. Lots of people stress out over snakes and spiders, but people seem to get fairly used to, say, driving 75 mph on the Ventura Freeway.
Sailer evidently doesn't keep in touch with any older relatives....

Do people really spend a lot of time stressing out over snakes and spiders, vs. what kind of computer to buy, how soon the HVAC company will get out to replace the air conditioner, what is going on with the cable reception, how much are they going to jack up my property taxes this year, is the department getting outsourced, etc?  Compared to just 30 years ago (when there were a whole lot more capable white people running things) I would say the level of stress we're subjected to has skyrocketed.

My parents are shocked by and terrified of driving in America. I don't think their old Dacia could even get to 90 km/h on a flat with a tailwind. (For that matter, I'm terrified of driving on two-lane switchbacks climbing the meridianal Carpathians, or of Roman/Athenian-style Bucharest kamikaze traffic where you just casually park on the sidewalk. But my fears are rational.)

As it happens, I know a lot of well-to-do elderly people. In classical music, there are lots of old people who are reliable donors for arts events because they inherited money and they "want to give back," etc. They constantly talk about how overwhelmed they are by modern life. It's clearly not a money issue.

It's downright weird for me to meet people with bulging bank accounts who are frightened of modern life nonetheless. But their society has vanished out from under them. In the old days, you'd call customer service and talk to a live white person. Now you get a machine or a bindi. You'd go and do your errands in person. Now, corporations would prefer that you interact with them purely through the web. And then there's the fear.

I suppose many people here recall this famous section from Saul Bellow (linking to summary to avoid 888) -

Quote

In Poland, France, England, students, young gentlemen of his time, had been unacquainted with kitchens. Now he did things that cooks and maids had once done. He did them with a certain priestly stiffness. Acknowledgment of social descent...

[Sammler reports a black pickpocket operating openly on a city bus. The New York police insolently inform him they that they haven't got a man to watch the bus.]

[Later, the pickpocket, having graduated to robbery, is openly going through an old man's wallet. He looks up and sees that Sammler has been watching. Sammler quietly gets off the bus and leaves. The thief accosts him in the lobby of his building, silently presses him against the wall from behind, and eloquently warns him off thus:]

He was directed, silently, to look downward. The black man had opened his fly and taken out his penis. It was displayed to Sammler with great oval testicles, a large tan-and-purple uncircumcised thing -- a tube, a snake; metallic hairs bristled at the thick base and the tip curled beyond the supporting, demonstrating hand, suggesting the fleshly mobility of an elephant's trunk, though the skin was somewhat iridescent rather than thick or rough.

One feels a kind of distant, Olympian pity for wealthy old crocks who voted D all their lives and whose hearts earnestly, honestly bled for the suffering of the vibrantly diverse. Now their society has gone to pieces and they hear the wolves at night. Every so often, a granddaughter is raped in Haiti or robbed in Baltimore; a grandson moves far away for his corporate job and never calls; the streets get a little narrower, a little meaner; there start to be neighborhoods where one doesn't go. It was a nice country they had, once.

#54 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 05:42 AM

Not totally on topic, but this article from Charles Hugh Smith has an interesting perspective on marginal returns of complexity actually being the catalyst of economic collapse.  

http://www.oftwomind...liance6-11.html

Quote

In his book Collapse of Complex Societies, anthropologist Joseph Tainter identified two causes of economic collapse: investments in social complexity yield diminishing marginal returns, and energy subsidies, i.e. cheap, abundant energy, decline. In my terminology, the dynamic he describes is one in which the cost structure of a society continues rising due to “the ratchet effect” but the gains from the added expenses are increasingly marginal.

At some point the additional costs, usually justified as the “solution” to the marginal returns problem, become counterproductive and actually drain the system of resilience as dissent and adaptability (“variation is information”) are suppressed. This feeds systemic instability: on the surface, all seems stable, but beneath the surface, the potential for a stick/slip destabilization grows unnoticed.


#55 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 11:39 AM

Tainter is on my wish list, I've got the gist of his argument but I want to read the details

#56 Tragic Jewlatto

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 09:28 AM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 05 July 2011 - 11:39 AM, said:

Tainter is on my wish list, I've got the gist of his argument but I want to read the details

I'm in the same situation, but based on my limited understanding, it strikes me that Tainter's concept of social complexity may be the human scale you refer to which must be limited to prevent collapse.

The problem is thus: A society increases social complexity to solve problems, and gains some benefit thereby.  But at some point, the marginal return on investment declines to the point of going negative.  Then, as noted in the Charles Hugh Smith review, the institutions which generate this complexity transition from problem solving to self-preservation (this phenomenon is studied in the dismal science under the name "Public Choice Theory" and makes a great deal of intuitive sense, at the very least).  We thus find ourselves in a society with excess social complexity - that is, wildly out of scale - but the institutions which provide this excess have no interest in rolling themselves back.

This would also explain the paradox of capitalism, to wit, that free markets are such powerful engines for economic growth, and yet, capitalism seems to inevitably result in large corporations doing significant societal damage.  If one accepts that - to corrupt Clarke's third law - any sufficiently advanced business is indistinguishable from government, then clearly large companies become part of the network of corrosive complexity, working right alongside governmental organizations to raise the standard of misery (Exhibit A: The Economic Crisis, the bailouts, and the aftermath).

The primacy of social complexity is also compelling, because it seems to hold intuitive explanatory power beyond simpler metrics such as population density.  Surely we can envision two demographically and geographically identical societies, and yet imagine that the latter has ten times the social complexity of the former and likely suffers for it.

If all this is true, then three questions present: How do we measure social complexity?  How do we know how much is best?  And how do we ensure that optimal level?  The answers are, to my mind at least, not obvious.  I agree with the four points of reform you previously proposed; surely smaller, homogenous societies that actively throttle complexity would be better, and if the franchise was restricted to upstanding societal stakeholders, we might well expect a better result.  But isn't that exactly what the first 1.5 centuries of America were?  Lamentably, it appears not to have been much of a safeguard.

(I have a poorly-formulated idea that the subjugation of women may turn out to be astoundingly important to the human richness of civilization.  Necessary, but not sufficient, as the Muslim example indicates - but necessary nonetheless.)

#57 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 10:21 AM

Good points.  I have not finished Tainter's book yet, but in the beginning he talks about a lot of different societal collapses, including societies that were not particularly large scale--however "scale" is relative to technology and social structure (a tribal society exceeds its scale--and thus needs to either change, divide, or collapse--at a relatively low population density and geographic expanse).

#58 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 10:34 AM

View Postniggerfaggot, on 23 November 2011 - 09:28 AM, said:

If all this is true, then three questions present: How do we measure social complexity?  How do we know how much is best?  And how do we ensure that optimal level?  The answers are, to my mind at least, not obvious.  I agree with the four points of reform you previously proposed; surely smaller, homogenous societies that actively throttle complexity would be better, and if the franchise was restricted to upstanding societal stakeholders, we might well expect a better result.  But isn't that exactly what the first 1.5 centuries of America were?  Lamentably, it appears not to have been much of a safeguard.
We can only hope that a better understanding of social collapse (through the work of Calhoun, Tainter, et al) informs decision-making.  We do have an advantage over past societies in that our understanding of history (while imperfect) is far more advanced, with the caveat that ideology can erase the insights of the most meticulously gathered historical record.

It may be an inherent human limitation for man's reach to "always exceed his grasp"--it may be impossible for societies to limit themselves because the language of growth and prosperity is so intoxicating.  Knowing what we know now, we can only hope that some development of these ideas occurs in sociology and politics, and that awareness of the problems of complexity find a communicator who can stir the public.  Otherwise, as you say, no matter how we structure society, all those efforts will inevitably be undone.

#59 Kevin Wall

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 11:58 AM

good points 'niggerfaggot'

#60 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 09:07 PM

View Postniggerfaggot, on 23 November 2011 - 09:28 AM, said:

The problem is thus: A society increases social complexity to solve problems, and gains some benefit thereby.  But at some point, the marginal return on investment declines to the point of going negative.  Then, as noted in the Charles Hugh Smith review, the institutions which generate this complexity transition from problem solving to self-preservation (this phenomenon is studied in the dismal science under the name "Public Choice Theory" and makes a great deal of intuitive sense, at the very least).  We thus find ourselves in a society with excess social complexity - that is, wildly out of scale - but the institutions which provide this excess have no interest in rolling themselves back.

This would also explain the paradox of capitalism, to wit, that free markets are such powerful engines for economic growth, and yet, capitalism seems to inevitably result in large corporations doing significant societal damage.  If one accepts that - to corrupt Clarke's third law - any sufficiently advanced business is indistinguishable from government, then clearly large companies become part of the network of corrosive complexity, working right alongside governmental organizations to raise the standard of misery (Exhibit A: The Economic Crisis, the bailouts, and the aftermath).

Capitalism has no such paradox, large companies whose marginal returns on complexity (barring a monopoly environment, one of the reasons we have antitrust laws) inhibit their balance sheet go out of business and make the way for companies who can make better use of their resources.  The only way this is inhibited is by government support, usually through collaborations, uncompetitive contracts, and/or bribes, giving them favorable terms which foster their inefficiencies and make them subject to the same problems as ensconced government agencies.  One may argue that capitalism inevitably harbors the scale necessary to foster uncompetitive public/private sector hybrid goals that are ultimately parasitic to the people, but it would seem any Constitution that's prepared enough to put safeguards in place to prevent such an action would completely bypass the problems you're talking about.  But then it becomes less of a criticism of capitalism itself and more of a necessary guideline to build a society around to foster it.

To be fair, even government was not designed to be static forever, the founders understood that revolution was a necessary part of any civilized society.  The Constitutional framework was simply set up to make it a more peaceful revolution than a civil war every 50 years or so, by means of making government heads subject to popular vote.  If you'll notice, the systemic problems in government built up over the last 30 years are a direct result of gentlemens' agreements between competing parties:  NAFTA, credit easement, lax immigration, formation of huge federal agencies, etc.  A little conflict now is necessary to prevent a big one later.


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