Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Bifurcated Breeding and the Fate of the World

By Glenn Campbell

In an opinion piece in today's New York Times ("The Cost of Relativism"), David Brooks discusses the growing divergence between the college-educated and the non-college-educated in America. An excerpt...

The article goes on to discuss the things the author feels must be done to reverse this disturbing trend.

But what if it isn't reversible? What if this is the permanent fate of America and the world? Maybe there are now two breeding stocks: the Upper Class that breeds only with the Upper Class, and the Lower Class that breeds only with the Lower Class. It isn't fashionable to talk about Upper and Lower classes in America, but that doesn't change what is happening. If you have ever had a chance to dwell among the unwashed proletariat, as I have, you realize how intractable their dysfunction can be and how it goes on and on, generation after generation. No government program can keep up, because they won't stop having babies.

It is unfair to judge people based on their educational attainment. It is not education or lack thereof that is causing this division. Lack of education is more a symptom of household instability, which reflects, in turn, many generations of self-reinforcing dysfunction. You won't fix these families just by giving them better access to college. I contend, in fact, that you can't fix them at all. The underlying problem is that the dysfunctional classes breed so quickly and haphazardly that social services are always stretched to the breaking point.

The organized Upper Classes, living in nice suburbs or cushy countries like Norway, breed more deliberately and cautiously. They tend to choose their mates wisely from members of their own strata. College professors breed with other college professors, are more likely mate for duration of child rearing and tend to limit their breeding to the few children they can responsibly care for.

To simplify things: You have dumb people mating with dumb people and producing large numbers of offspring they can't care for, and you have smart people breeding with smart people, producing only as many offspring as they can responsibly raise. Over time, this has to lead to a splitting of lineages. The lower classes become more and more chaotic, while the upper classes become more organized and insulated from the lower classes.

I have just invented a name for this process: "bifurcated breeding." As the Times piece points out, many graphs show a "scissors" phenomenon where the two groups diverge in just about everything. Unless some miraculous social policies reverse this trend, the groups will grow further and further apart until you have two distinct classes not unlike the traditionally separated classes of old, the Brahmans and peasants.

As long as there have been large civilizations on Earth, mankind has had a bifurcated breeding system. The leadership class of kings and gentry bred only with each other, sometimes going to other countries for mates within the same class. It was unthinkable for the nobles to mate with commoners for most of human history. It was only in the 20th Century that modern societies began to think of themselves as classless. I contend that this apparent classlessness is only a short window in history and that it is rapidly disintegrating before our eyes.

This growing division essentially means the smart get smarter while the dumb get dumber. Meanwhile, the population of smart people remains relatively constant, while the dumb classes expand rapidly in size. There is no appetite in any democratic country for any kind of government mandated birth control program. Having a child—or ten—is perceived as an inalienable right. Given this privilege and no outside control like predators or disease, the undisciplined and chaotic are always going to out-breed the disciplined and deliberate.

And then they vote! The growing numbers of the undisciplined mean that their representatives increasingly come to control government. Dumb voters tend to prefer populous leaders at the extreme right and left of the political spectrum. Either they are voting to cut off all social services to people like themselves (the arch-conservative agenda) or voting to nationalize everything and destroy the capitalist structures that keep society alive (the arch-liberal agenda). Undisciplined voters make undisciplined choices, and their huge numbers mean that the disciplined and rational voters in the middle of the road are overwhelmed at the polls.

No one in the Western world seems eager to abandon democracy, and for good reason. The alternatives always seem to turn out worse. But you still have a growing crisis within democracy itself: dumber and dumber voters consistently voting against their own best interests. I am not trying to offer solutions like the Times author. I don't think effective solutions can be deliberately instituted by any government because it is too big a problem for government to handle and in the end you have ever dumber voters calling the shots.

Things were different throughout most of human history. While breeding was bifurcated, it was the upper classes that were the more prodigious breeders. They had better access to resources, so more of their children survived. In the lower classes, dumb people bred with dumb people, but getting too dumb had a way of killing people off. Today the opposite is true: the lower classes are now the major breeders. Universal health care assures that nearly every child survives, so the haphazard breeders are obviously going to produce more than the disciplined ones even without the resources to safely raise them.

Bifurcated breeding is a phenomenon of both Nature and Nurture. It is foolish to believe that dumb people mating with dumb people isn't going to draw down their stock. You breed a dumb dog with a dumb dog, and you are more likely to get a dumb dog than a smart one. At the same time, you have deteriorating social conditions—violence, drug abuse and instability passed down from generation to generation. No matter what a child's innate talents are, little be achieved in an environment of chaos.

Meanwhile, the organized classes sequester themselves in isolated suburbs that the chaotic classes can't easily reach. This isn't deliberate segregation, but everyone wants to live in a better, safer neighborhood if they can. Every wants to find a mate who is more like them. Over time, this is naturally going to lead to greater practical segregation of gifted from the ungifted. It is not segregation based on race or ethnicity, per se, but on discipline and talent, whether innate or trained. In the modern world, unlike the ancient one, talented members of the lower classes now have the opportunity to rise into the upper classes and be accepted on an equal footing with anyone who was born there. Unfortunately, as they are doing this, they are further depleting the genetic and cultural stock of the lower classes.

What happens when someone in Nigeria shows extraordinary talent, say in music or science? Of course they move out of Nigeria to someplace like Germany or America where their talents can be better used. This further depletes Nigeria of talent, be it genetic or learned, and Nigeria becomes more and more ungovernable. This same sort of brain drain is happening within countries. The best and brightest move out of chaotic or deprived environments as soon as they can, leaving those neighborhoods even more chaotic and deprived.

Is there any hope for humanity? Sure! You still have smart people breeding with smart people on protected islands away from the chaos. These people will continue to lead humanity in science and the arts. They will man the starships of the future and go out into the cosmos as Earth's representatives. Democracy aside, humanity is largely defined and propelled forward by its organized intellectual elite, not its seething masses.

The main risk is the growing time bomb the seething masses represent. If they control democracy, then some dangerous leaders are bound to emerge (and already have). Give these leader control of the nuclear button or any other environmental bomb and they could very well destroy the world.

And the suffering of the seething masses never ends. As the world population grows from 7 billion to who knows how many billion, things are going to break. The organized classes will seal themselves in protective bubbles as chaos swirls around them. More and more of the world will become like Nigeria. The population will keep growing and growing, mostly among the chaotic classes, until something happens to stop it.

What will that something be? I have no idea. I only know that it probably won't be a democratic something. It won't be a conscious decision by world leaders to follow a disciplined plan, because world leaders have never agreed on anything of that scope and never will. World population growth will be stopped only by a great catastrophe, or perhaps a series of them. Pressures will build until something breaks. Bureaucrats in western nations may try to head it off, but what power do they have when the rest of the world is growing uncontrollably and their own voters are working against reason?

What solution am I offering? None, really. You and I don't have the power to change the world any more than we can change the course of the stars. We can protect ourselves and perhaps our neighborhood and cast our one vote against the legions of idiots, but in the global scale, you and I are powerless. We can observe, record and analyse, but we can't tell someone in a chaotic environment to stop having babies. If you have a workable plan for population control, I'd like to hear it, but you can bet that the very people most damaged by uncontrolled breeding are exactly those who will vote against any such controls.

The dumb people have God on their side, and God told them to "go forth and multiply."

Friday, January 16, 2015

As If You Had Only a Year to Live

By Glenn Campbell

My alter-ego the @BadDalaiLama just tweeted:
This is a variation of the old adage, "Life each day as though it were your last." I'm just extending the timeframe a bit. Living solely for today tends to be hedonistic. What can any of us accomplish in a day? You can make others around you a little happier, but that's about it. Living for the day neglects the most important human skill: planning ahead.

But if you plan too far ahead, you tend to get lost. If your main goals are 5, 10 or 20 years down the line, it is easy to put things off. Timeframes beyond a year don't convey much urgency. You figure that even if this year is a waste, you have plenty of time to make up for it later, and this attitude goes on year after year.  If your goals are too far ahead, is easy to lose sight of how fragile and temporary life is and how quickly it is already slipping away.

If you are always planning for a one-year lifespan, you may be pleasantly surprised to see it extended, but the satisfaction of "a life well lived" shouldn't depend on having more time. You can have tentative backup plans for 5, 10 and 20 years, should they come to pass, but a single year, looking forward from today, should be your primary focus.

Longer term plans are notoriously unreliable. Many a 10-year plan has been mucked up by unforeseen circumstances, and even if it isn't, your life a decade hence is never quite what you thought it would be, so it is best to keep the planning period short. One year seems like a good compromise between prudently planning ahead and over-planning what you cannot realistically foresee.

A lot of things change when you have only a year to live instead of decades. All of those 365 days become more valuable. The urgency of everything you do is sharpened and enhanced, leading to many changes in strategy.

You have to work with the resources you have. Resources are the skills, time, money and other construction supplies available for your projects. Over the course of a year, you can't count on having more of them, so you have to carefully manage what little you have.

The most valuable of these resources is time, so you've got to stop wasting it right now! Your time should only be used for things that are worthy of a person with only a year left on Earth. You know what I'm talking about. As soon as you sit down in front of the TV, you have broken a rule. You have unconscionably wasted time when you have so little of it left.

One year is arbitrary, of course, but five years would make you lazy. In a practical sense, if a project can't be completed in a year—or at least safely turned over to someone else within a year—maybe it isn't one you should engage in. If a novel takes you five years to write, there's always a chance you will die before it is done and the whole thing will be worthless. A project completed within a year is a little safer.

It is fine to engage with others in open-ended projects lasting more than a year—like the long-term survival of humanity—but your personal contribution shouldn't be essential beyond that time. If it is, you may be doing others a disservice, because when you do step away they won't be able to get along without you. Your job on Earth is not to make yourself indispensable. Your job is to plan for your own demise, so that other can take over when you are gone. Either you wrap up each project on your own, or you give others easy handles to continue it for you.

Your goals over the near year have to be modest. You can't expect to save the world in that time. Frankly, you can't expect to save the world even in 100 years, but a shorter schedule helps you dispense with that delusion more easily. You can't say, "Someday, I'll become a billionaire and then I'll do great things." On a one-year schedule, you can only expect to do relatively simple things with the resources you have.

What matters at the end of your life is what you leave behind. There is a record of your presence in the systems you have built. If you built a house, the house will stand long after you are gone. You just want to build something more meaningful than that.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you what you should build. That's the $64,000 question. I'm only saying that working on one-year timeframe—as though you had a year to live—is better than kicking the can down the road and pretending you have forever.