Tag Archives: futurism

Afghanistan in 2050: The Long Type of Time

The American victory in Afghanistan would be short lived, owing to the efforts of the progressives. The stable, secure, and democratic Afghanistan inaugurated by President Obama was soon undermined by activists to his left. The Karzai government was unable to acquire the weapon systems that it needed to defend itself, and was soon swept away in all but name. To this day, the Afghanistan War is a lesson of the hollowness of military victory when the enemy has already infiltrated the nation’s capital.
The Story of the United States, 1776-2026, Beck Academic Books.

American imperialism ran aground in Afghanistan, like it ran aground in Vietnam two generations before. Attempts by the globo-capitalists in the Obama Administration to subjugate the Afghan people quickly backfired, as popular movements swept across the countryside. Of course, given Afghanistan’s unique history, many of these movements garbed themselves in the robe of the religion that is native to the region. The enormous might of the military-industrial complex was once again unable to overcome the will of the people– both American and Afghani — for peace.
The American People: Triumphs and Tragedies, the Yearly Kos Press.

The Shanghai Economic Friendship Association was first formed as the Shanghai Five in 1996, as a way for China build friendships with our neighbors. The group was renamed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization after Uzbekistan joined, though Uzbekistan would not be the last new member! Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan also soon wished to join, and the Shanghai Economic Friendship Association was born. The SEFA is now an “economic, monetary, and political union,” in which all members work together to harmonize their economics while avoiding conflict or misunderstandings. Peace-keepers from SEFA have proven critical for the prevention of conflict in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and other countries.
Asia: A Political Geography, Peking University Press.

“…we stayed a long, long time
to see you
to meet you
to see you
at last.”
– Sufjan Stevens, In the Devil’s Territory

There are several types of time. There is a short time, where events will begin after some action. In a short time, a man might buy a lottery ticket, and discovery that he is now rich. There is a medium time, where events will begin after a series of actions. A might cut up our credit cards, as a solution to his lottery addiction that will last a medium-amount of time, until he changes his mind and applies for new cards. There is a long time, in which a man’s medium time patterns keep repeating until something fundamentally changes. And there is a long, long time, after which it feels like the world has ended.

It is human nature to want all good things to being in a short time, and for bad things not till happen until a long, long time. In general, a more intelligent man will think more about what is good for a long time than a medium time, and a less intelligent man will think about what is good for a short time than a medium time.

The four types of time are relevant to understanding security. A battle can be won in a short time. Military solutions are short time solutions. Elections can be won in a medium time. Political solutions are medium time solutions. Wealth is built over a long time. Economic processes are long time processes. And the terrain changes of a long, long time. (There is human terrain and physical terrain, the former being more important than the latter.)

The four types of time can be understood through the xGW framework. In the xGW framework, violence is understood through one of six gradients. A 0GW conflict is a genocide, a war of people against people. A 1GW conflict is the the creation of a trained and armed class of fights. A 2GW conflict introduces capital as a substitute of labor, whether in the form of arrows or cannons. In a 3GW conflict the goal is no longer to destroy the enemy, but merely to disrupt his operations through formless fast transients. 4GW narrowly targets violence so that for most of the struggle the conflict is a political campaign aimed at splintering the opposition. 5GW focuses death even more closely, perhaps only on one individual, and may never be noticed at all.

The six gradients of conflict map onto the four types of time. 1GW, 2GW, and 3GW, falling within the traditional understanding of war, are clearly tactics made for winning in the short time. 4GW, falling within the traditional understanding of politics, is obviously a tactic meant for winning in the medium time. 5GW, as a method for silently creating social realities to force an enemy into doing as you wish, is naturally an economics-based approach. The gradients of war then circle around, as 0GW, a brute-force method of changing the human terrain, is a way of speeding of a change that normally would take a long-long time into a short-term solution.

This roundtable asks what Afghanistan will be like in 2050, forty years after these posts are written. Forty years is the difference between 1945 (when Emperor Hirohito of Japan surrendered to the Allies) and 1985 (three years before Emperor Hirohito would stop going to the Yasukuni Shrine, where some Japanese war-criminals are interred). Forty years is the difference between 1959 (two years after Deng Xiaoping was named being named General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party ) and 1989 (when Deng Xiaoping ordered the crack-down against pro-democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square). Forty years is the difference between 1944, Menachem Begin’s declaration of revolt against Britain, and 1984, the year after Begin left office as the Prime Minister of Israel.

In other words, forty years is no long, long time at all.

Neither is forty years a short time, though. A problem that lasts forty years is too long to be solved by the military. And neither is it a medium time. A problem that lasts forty years is too long to be solved even by the politicians.

Forty years is definitely a long type of time. Forty years is ruled not by armies or politics or geography, but by economics. Therefore, in order to understand Afghanistan in 2050, we can dispose of wars and politics. Battles will be won and lost, deals will be made and broken. Unless there is unusually brilliant or unusually atrocious individuals in power, the results of these things even out over time. Likewise, we cannot expect any meaningful change to the terrain in only 40 years. The Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains will still be there, and the people will still be Muslim.

The physical and human terrain of Afghanistan mean that the largest industries in Afghanistan will be natural resource extraction. This will be true for a long time, whether the optimistic projections of specific surveys come true or not. The physical and human terrain of Afghanistan’s neighbors mean that the largest market for Afghanistan’s extractive industries in China. This will also be true for a long time. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan are too small, Iran is an extractive supporter itself, and India is separated from Pakistan by inhospitable terrain — the Hindu Kush mountains and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

We will wait a long time to see Afghanistan in 2050. Fortunately, we already know the important outline of Afghanistan in 2050: in will be a natural resource exporting satellite of China. To the extent that U.S. strategy accounts for this fact, there will be less mayhem. To the extent it does not, there will be more. But absent unusually good or unusually atrocious leadership, this outcome is inevitable.

The Long Type of Time is part of the Afghanistan 2050 Roundtable. Be sure to also read The Exit Strategy Fantasy and Looking Back from 2050.

Peace? or the Constitution?

Our judges, leaders, law-makers, and war-fighters swear to protect the Constitution. Others argue it is inconvenient to do so, and the police should be transformed into a quasi-legal militia force to fight “actual criminals” (as opposed to what? de jure criminals?)

I do not worry too much about over-aggressive cops as a public menace. Where I live, the actual criminals are menace enough…

I am sympathetic to this argument. The Constitution is not a suicide pact, even if we industrialize death to defend it. Deep in our violent creed is the conviction that there are some things so dear, we expect others to die for it, if not ourselves.

While Dr. Henry Gates is clearly a Hero of the Constitution for standing up to the rogue (and armed!) Sgt. Crowley, others insist that Crowley is a Hero of the Peace for standing up to a rude (and impatient!) home owner.

So given our Constitution or Peace for our war-fighters what do we choose? All but pacifists, it seems, would choose the Constitution. Given our Constitution or Peace from “real criminals” what do we choose? Many choose Peace.

To get to the answer to this dilemma, of course, we need to go through the horns.

We need to stop criminals from ever being born in the first place.

That’s coming.

We had a President opposed to manipulating life before it was formed. That’s over.

We will have Peace and we will have our Constitution.

We will have new generations better than any in history.

We will live in a world, radically artificial twice over.

We haven’t begun to see what it will hold.

Problems, Tyrannical and Transcendent

In response to a lamentation on Florida provided to me by Michael:

The difference between optimism and pessimism, is, I think, whether one takes the following line from the Communist Manifesto:

The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigor in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former exoduses of nations and crusades.

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind

as glorious or not.

I don’t like places with too many people, so that Florida will pay for faster-than-sustainable growth with lower-than-otherwise growth does not concern me too much.

Every problem we now have, with the exception of the high cost of labor, will fade into nothingness.

The one remaining problem will only get worse.

The New Core sets the New Rules, on Designer Babies

Today’s food for thought:

Many discussions on designer babies — that form of eugnics which operates by selecting attributes for the next generation of your biological family — seem to assume that the culture and moral compass of the United States and Europe will matter much. America and Europe are comfortable, labor-poor, capital-rich societies, and can rely on a large and generous government to protect them. Economic growth and welfare policies mean that few Americans or Europeans will ever know true poverty, and while the poor are effectively punished in numerous ways (such as having to live with a violent underlcass), these concerns are politely ignored and the poor are criticized for raising them.

The rising countries of the New Core are not so lucky. Things which are matter of convenience for us are matters of survival for them. Terrorism, high energy prices, and similar things inconvenience us but threaten to relegate rising nations like India and China back into poverty and neglect.

So India and China are hungry. They are changing the game. And that applies to designer babies, too.

In America, we take education for granted to such an extent that only rare politicians like George Bush and Ted Kennedy take the political heat for trying to fix it. We do not have the National Exams of China, or the Indian Institutes of Technology, that aggressively weed out all but the best students. In the United States, for most students, the difference between attending a school in the top 5, top 10, and top 50 is pretty negligible — your success will largely be a result of your ability and effort. A 2% of 10% better chance of gtting a good grade or doing well in high school simply isn’t a concern of parents in Europe or the United States.

Those things do matter is in India and China.

So when genetic screening for positive traits hits the $10,000 range, expect a large Indian and Chinese middle class to begin selecting for socially desirable traits, such as dilligence, future-orientation, intelligence, height, fair skin, and so on.

All this chatter about Gattaca won’t matter much. One might as well have tried to turn back the Industrialization of the United States by citing “And did those feet in ancient time.”

Hungry nations care about success for more than sentimentality.

Sentimentality may a drug for the rich and the poor, but not those among the poor who desire to be rich.

Stem Cell Therapy

I’ve previously talked up the promise of gene therapy, especially in my posts “Clearing the Ghettos” and “Better Behavior Through Chemistry.” Gene therapy in general uses retroviruses that infect a person’s cells and change their DNA — hopefully to something better! But stem cells provide another avenue for the betterment of man…

Gene Expression: Metamorphosis
In discussions of nature vs. nurture a common assumption is that if it is in the genes then we can’t fix it. Or we can only change it by eugenics or bioengineering babies. I wish to suggest a different approach.

The following links provide background:

Essentially all tissues turn-over with time. Some tissues such as the gut lining are replaced every three days, other tissues such as bone and fat are replaced over decades. (Proven by tracking green florescent cell markers over time.) In the adult brain, neurons are seldom replaced but new neurons are continually produced and some repair occurs. I believe it will eventually be shown that all tissues contain stem cells that have the potential to rebuild that tissue. Pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells from bone marrow can, with the proper differentiation signals, produce every cell type in the body. Stem cells make up less than 1/10,000 of the cells in tissue. (Adipose tissue may have a higher frequency of stem cells. Satellite cells in muscle tissue may also be relatively common. I welcome correction if I’m wrong about other tissue types.) If scientists could replace that small stem cell fraction and increase the rate of cell turn-over then eventually most of the body cells would become the new type.

Each day a few hundred stem cells in the bone marrow mobilize, circulate in the blood, and either migrate to specific tissue sites, resettle into other bone marrow niches, or die. (This has been observed in mice by florescent labeling of transplanted stem cells.) By injecting a few thousand stem cells each day, a person’s original bone marrow stem cells could be gradually replaced. The process would be accelerated if stem cell mobilizing drugs were used. Or if the old stem cells were selectively targeted for destruction.

By itself, transplants using young stem cells don’t significantly repair damage or rejuvenate tissue. Proper signals are needed to mobilize the stem cells to the desired site, to cause the stem cells to divide, to cause the stem cells to differentiate into the right cells, and to cause those cells to integrate into the existing tissue. This is what happens when our body successfully heals a wound. For rejuvenation scientists also need to kill senescent cells and remodel the extracellular matrix. This isn’t easy but significant progress is being made.

Imagine that in ten years the technology existed to completely replace the stem cells in one mouse with stem cells from a different mouse. And that the tissue turn-over rate was increased so that most of the mouse body cells derived from the second mouse. How much remodeling of body and brain would occur? Some body structures would have been largely fixed during development but much would change due to the new cell DNA. Potentially, a sick or dull mouse could be made healthy or smart by such a full body stem cell makeover.

The great failure of the Progressives is that they were not able to make people better. They wanted to, and tried, but failed. The environmental manipulations they worked through — from more liberal schools, more liberal government institutions, and more liberal tax welfare policies — changed the incentives of people, but did not change human nature. The did not reform the criminals, and the progressive movement in its entirety probably ended up increasing crime.

Imagine if one day we can give a criminal (a murderer, a rapist, a sexual predator, a thug) gene or stem-cell therapy, to make them a better person. Imagine if we can use these techniques to help them see the errors of their ways, they will chose better options.

That’s a future worth creating.


I had an eye-opening conversation about yellow flight the other day. I bring it up because the main points of the conversation are echoed in Half Sigma prescription for lower materialism:

Half Sigma: Declining population part II: the relative nature of wealth
There may be a lot of educated white people who wouldn’t mind living in a cheap neighborhood if their neighbors were other educated white people with a similar mindset, but the reality is that living in a cheap neighborhood means living with uneducated minorities with anti-social behaviors.

The post also makes me think about gene therapy and gene counseling on the group-level. My previous posts have only emphasized that parents will have the freedom to select the next generation, and that prisoners may one day be cured of their anti-social traits through altering their DNA. However,, it’s also clear that such procedures create positive externalities — public goods — for those around the patients. A student who is brighter and more studious because of genetic counseling has a positive impact on his peers, who are likely to be brighter and more studious in turn. Likewise, a man who no longer is predisposed to crime will likely cause his neighborhood to be less criminal than it otherwise be!

The flipside is also true. Those who are dull and lazy, or those who are violent and criminal, hurt those around them. The importance of fixing broken windows to reduce crime has long been known. Cities will violate landowner’s property rights in order to create an environment that leads to greater economic success and less crime. If gene therapy and gene counseling continue to be legal, to what extent can be extent cities to violate the genetic autonomy of the individual in order to secure peace and economic success?

Our strange fixation on race (where the subject is continually interesting, but most “new dialogs” are actually awful) compounds the problem. If most people in need of such services belong to politically correct minorities, does this make government action less likely (because more such minorities will have their individual rights violated) or more likely (because those minority communities stand the most to gain by improving the population)?

The same questions can be asked on a larger scale, too. As the Responsibility to Protect gains teeth, under what circumstances is the international community entitled to engage on widespread genetic manipulation of a population? What if infecting the pygmie population with a certain retrovirus would raise their IQ 15 points? What if infecting certain Congolese populations with a retrovirus would make pygmie flesh taste awful?

We can ignore these questions, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be answered. The concepts of white flight and yellow flight speak to current examples of changing community equilibria. Our attempts to counteract white flight to the suburbs have backfired, badly. The rise of genetics merely expands these problems and opportunities to new dimensions.

On the Improvement of the Population

Two related stories, Slashdot‘s “Where To Draw the Line With Embryo Selection?” and Scientific Blogging‘s “Analyzing The Homicide Trend In Young Men” together evoke questions about the future of eugenics (improvement in the genetics of a population) and dysgenics (degradation of the genetics of a population) in the future.

Clearly we’re rapidly approaching adoption of relatively painless choice-based selection when it comes to the future generation. If parents really are concerned their kid will be unacceptably lazy, unacceptably dull, unacceptably slow, etc., they will be able to ‘load the dice’ by selecting embryos that offer the best hope in the desired dimensions. If we ban the procedure in the west, there’s no reason to think it won’t become a booming industry in China, in India, in Thailand, in Mexico, or in other countries already popular for medical tourism.

However, it’s likely there will be government controls anyway. Consider the thugs who commit crimes and cause other troubles. There’s nothing theoretically to stop them from selecting children that are more vicious, more hostile, and more anti-social than would otherwise be the case. To stop this, the government will ban these procedures. Though the underclass is as free as the rest of the population to seek medical tourism abroad, what did Voltaire say about freedom? Something like, In France, the law prevents both the rich and the poor from sleeping under a bridge at night!.

So we probably will have a de facto eugenics policy, where those who look to improve their kids are able to afford to do so, while those not able to are not able to afford the procedure.