30 November 2012

Could a "High Functioning Psychopath" Be Elected US President?

Psychopaths usually don’t want to commit themselves to a long course of study. They want to get results quick. So we could wonder – would they be attracted to politics? You can be a career politician without much preparation. And you can promise your consituents what they want to hear. And once in power, you have power over where large quantities of money goes – and some of that power can direct money to you. _Snakes in Suits
Psychopaths do not have to be serial killers. In fact, most of them have probably never killed anyone, and live lives that to an outside observer may seem rather normal. And some psychopaths function well enough to reach high levels of management in government, the private sector, and in other organisations such as labour unions and quasi-criminal groups -- some of which may not be particularly violent.

Psychopaths seem to have in abundance the very traits most desired by normal persons. The untroubled self-confidence of the psychopath seems almost like an impossible dream and is generally what "normal" people seek to acquire when they attend assertiveness training classes.

...Cleckley (Mask of Sanity PDF download) ... gives grounds for the view that psychopathy is quite common in the community at large. He has collected some cases of psychopaths who generally function normally in the community as businessmen, doctors, and even psychiatrists. Some researchers see criminal psychopathy - often referred to as anti-social personality disorder - as an extreme of a "normal" personality dimension (or dimensions). _Psychopath

It is possible to identify psychopaths, using a number of different tests and probes.
Hare and his colleagues continued this research to learn more about the brain's involvement in psychopathic behaviors. They used whole brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see if there were neurological manifestations of the way psychopaths process different types of words. When non-psychopaths processed negative emotional words (e.g., rape, death, cancer), activity in the limbic regions of the brain increased. For psychopaths there was little or no increased activity in these regions. Curiously, however, there was increased activity in other areas. In short, the emotional word does not have the same limbic implication for psychopaths that it does for normal people. _Studies in Psychopathy

It is often difficult to see past the mask of sanity which many psychopaths have learned to wear. Here are some things to look for to determine if someone is a psychopath:
...Psychopathy is characterized by such traits as

  • lack of remorse or empathy
  • shallow emotions
  • manipulativeness
  • lying
  • egocentricity
  • glibness
  • low frustration tolerance
  • episodic relationships
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • persistent violation of social norms
_Studies in Psychopathy
From the outside, a psychopath may not display all -- or even most -- of these traits. But the more you learn about such persons, the more of the traits they tend to reveal over time.

The high incidence of sociopathy in human society has a profound effect on the rest of us who must live on this planet, too, even those of us who have not been clinically traumatized. The individuals who constitute this 4 percent drain our relationships, our bank accounts, our accomplishments, our self-esteem, our very peace on earth. _The Psychopath
It would be bad enough to be working for someone like this. Imagine having them as your chief of police, or even president. Imagine being married to a psychopath, but being afraid to tell anyone.

If he really feels anything at all, they are emotions of only the shallowest kind. He does bizarre and self-destructive things because consequences that would fill the ordinary man with shame, self-loathing, and embarrassment simply do not affect the psychopath at all. What to others would be a disaster is to him merely a fleeting inconvenience.

...they can imitate feelings, but the only real feelings they seem to have - the thing that drives them and causes them to act out different dramas for effect - is a sort of "predatorial hunger" for what they want. That is to say, they "feel" need/want as love, and not having their needs/wants met is described as "not being loved" by them. What is more, this "need/want" perspective posits that only the "hunger" of the psychopath is valid, and anything and everything "out there," outside of the psychopath, is not real except insofar as it has the capability of being assimilated to the psychopath as a sort of "food." "Can it be used or can it provide something?" is the only issue about which the psychopath seems to be concerned. All else - all activity - is subsumed to this drive.

In short, the psychopath - and the narcissist to a lesser extent - is a predator. If we think about the interactions of predators with their prey in the animal kingdom, we can come to some idea of what is behind the "mask of sanity" of the psychopath. Just as an animal predator will adopt all kinds of stealthy functions in order to stalk their prey, cut them out of the herd, get close to them and reduce their resistance, so does the psychopath construct all kinds of elaborate camoflage composed of words and appearances - lies and manipulations - in order to "assimilate" their prey. _The Psychopath
A psychopath who wanted to be president of a country might without hesitation break many of the rules that ordinarily govern a campaign or an election. His own predatory need for power would provide him all the excuse he needed to violate any laws or customs standing in his way.

And if such a person had the support of the country's news media sure to give him a good public face, and the less public support of a solid and unscrupulous political machine willing to work behind the scenes to do whatever it takes -- he has a good chance of winning the prize.
It should be emphasized that psychopaths are interesting as all get out - even exciting! They exude a captivating energy that keeps their listeners on the edge of their seats...

...psychopaths DO have .... an ability to give their undivided attention to something that interests them intensely. Some clinicians have compared this to the concentration with which a predator stalks his prey. _The Psychopath
Much more information is available in the free PDF download of Hervey Cleckley's seminal work on psychopathy, The Mask of Sanity.

In many ways, a high functioning psychopath would be "made to order" as president for today's news media -- like an actor who is perfect for a role, from a particular point of view.

And as long as powerful interests felt as if they could get what they wanted from such a psychopathic president -- without being hurt themselves -- they might be prone to support such a person, regardless of the costs to others.

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Why are Blacks so Violent?

Statistically high rates of violence accompany population groups of African descent wherever they go. From the townships of South Africa to the ghettos of Detroit and Philadelphia to entire nations such as Haiti or Jamaica -- there is a close relationship between statistically high rates of violence and the high prevalence of persons of African descent.

Why are blacks so violent -- statistically -- wherever in the world they go? The answer to the question is as complex as the human genome -- and the close, complex interaction between the genome and the environment.

A few of the genetic pieces of the puzzle may slowly be falling into place. Take the so-called "warrior gene," for example. This variant is found in black males almost 10 X more frequently than in white males. This "warrior gene" is actually an abnormal "promoter" for the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene. This abnormal promoter has the effect of reducing the activity of monoamine oxidase enzyme, which results in more of the monoamine transmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine etc) in the brain -- leading to agitation, impulsiveness, and other dysfunctional behaviours.

We examine the effect of the 2R allele of MAOA on a range of antisocial outcomes. ► The 2R was related to arrest, incarceration, and lifetime antisocial behavior. ► These associations were only observable for African-American males. ► Only 0.1% of Caucasian males carried the 2-repeat allele. [ed: compared to about 10 times that proportion of African American males with the 2-repeat allele]_Source
It is important to understand is that there is not just one "violence gene" or "warrior gene" that can explain the high rates of violence seen among black populations. Multiple genes are involved, as well as multiple environmental interactions with the genes, arising from within the person himself, and from his environment.
A functional VNTR polymorphism in the promoter of the monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA-LPR) has previously been shown to be an important predictor of antisocial behavior in men. Testosterone analogues are known to interact with the MAOA promoter in vitro to influence gene transcription as well as in vivo to influence CSF levels of the MAO metabolite 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG) in human males. We examined the possible joint effects of testosterone (measured in CSF) and MAOA-LPR genotype on antisocial personality disorder and scores on the Brown–Goodwin Aggression scale in 95 unrelated male criminal alcoholics and 45 controls. The results confirm that MAOA genotype and CSF testosterone interact to predict antisocial behaviors. The MAOA/testosterone interaction also predicted low levels of CSF MHPG, which tentatively suggests the possibility that the interaction may be mediated by a direct effect on gene transcription. _Interaction of Testosterone w/ MAOA Promoter gene
There are many important subtleties to keep in mind. An abusive childhood, for example, is more likely to "activate" abnormal behaviours that may be potentiated by particular gene allele forms. The importance of environmental "provocations" should also be kept in mind.
We report an experiment, synthesizing work in psychology and behavioral economics, which demonstrates that aggression occurs with greater intensity and frequency as provocation is experimentally manipulated upwards, especially among low activity MAOA (MAOA-L) subjects. In this study, subjects paid to punish those they believed had taken money from them by administering varying amounts of unpleasantly hot (spicy) sauce to their opponent. There is some evidence of a main effect for genotype and some evidence for a gene by environment interaction, such that MAOA is less associated with the occurrence of aggression in a low provocation condition, but significantly predicts such behavior in a high provocation situation. _MAOA Predicts Aggression

Even between persons with similar genetic complements, there will likely be different levels of provocation required before violence is resorted to. Genetic variants can make a person more sensitive to stress, with a lower "violence threshold."

There are also cognitive factors involved, including fear of punishment, and the calculated probability of being caught and punished.

In addition, when a person thinks he has little to lose and more to gain, he is more likely to choose actions that may lead to violence. He is more likely to make such choices when he is relatively comfortable with the idea of violence, or when low levels of intelligence / executive function combine with high levels of impulsivity to block out the possible consequences of his choices.

Even with the limited evidence available so far, it is possible to hypothesise that high impulsivity -- at least partially due to genetic causes -- can combine with higher testosterone levels, lower IQ, poorer EF, and environmental provocations to lead to higher likelihoods of violent behaviour.

It is important to emphasise that when African American males are steeped in a culture of hatred toward persons of European or Asian descent from a very young age and throughout their lifetimes, that it is more likely that they will take violent action against such persons when given the opportunity to do so with minimal risk to themselves.

The Scribd document "MAOA Varies by Race" comes from a 2011 Comprehensive Psychiatry study which describes how the "more normal" variant of the MAOA promoter gene protects men of European descent from developing an antisocial personality -- despite being abused as a child. The study failed to demonstrate a similar protective effect for black boys and men.

Finally, the reason that the term "warrior gene" is a misnomer, is that a true warrior relies on a large number of skills -- including the ability to abstain from violence when it is not appropriate. The MAOA promoter gene variant described in studies above would not provide a battlefield warrior with any meaningful advantage -- and would likely prove disruptive to a disciplined warrior squad.

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Sex for Tuition in the UK: Is University Worth the Price?

Universities are charging more and more for a product that offers less and less benefit to students and graduates. An out of control expansion of university staff -- a bureaucratic bloat -- is forcing young people to use their bodies as trade goods, just to pay college expenses and pay off ruinous college loan debt.
[College coeds] are taking up pole dancing, escort work and prostitution to help fund their studies as the cost of higher education soars.

The work has been fuelled by an expansion of the lap dancing industry as well as increasing opportunities for anonymous sex work through the internet.

In some cases students are thought to be signing up to a website that connects students with businessmen seeking “discreet adventures” and prepared to pay them for varying levels of sexual intimacy.

Young women can reportedly earn up to £15,000 a year through this work to help fund their studies. _Telegraph

The four year recession (and counting) has closed off opportunites across much of the economy, but the sex industry is doing well. Some opportunites are available in this growing industry for young male students, but most of the available work is for young women.
Research by Teela Sanders and Kate Hardy, of the University of Leeds, found that a quarter of lap dancers had a degree whilst a third of the women they interviewed were using the job to fund new forms of training.

Much of the expansion over the decade was to do with the proliferation of lap dancing clubs. But the internet also threw up a new range of opportunities for anonymous sex work. _Independent
Universities have been allowed to expand staff, salaries, and benefits to the point that the cost to students seems rarely considered in planning sessions. It is as if the point of the university is to provide comfortable lifetime salary and benefits to staff, with affordable education being too far down on the list of university purposes to consider.

And when these students graduate, what will they find? A private sector that is so stricken by bureaucratic bloat and mission bloat of governments, that fewer and fewer productive opportunities in the private sector will be available. Fewer opportunity for jobs and for starting lucrative new businesses that create new jobs. All of this due to the explosion of government, government regulations, taxes, prohibitions, mandates, and more to come.

These bloated bureaucracies create a sense of entitlement, dependency, and a loss of competence in everyone and everything they touch. The destructive expansion of both universities and governments ought to be brought under control before such bureaucratic and often parasitic institutions destroy their host societies.

The only other viable alternative is to build a "shadow society" and a "shadow government." A society based upon communities of dangerous (mature, competent, skilled, independent) children.

And while prostitution would be entirely legal in such a society, no one would be forced to choose that occupation unless she truly wanted to. And while university would be available either free of charge, or at competitive rates, individuals would be judged for their competence -- not for the tonnage of letters after their names.

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29 November 2012

A Symbolic Gesture -- But Is It Art? And Why Is eBay Censoring Free Speech?

In a bizarre publicity stunt turned online censorship debate, eBay on Wednesday morning took down conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s auction of a Barack Obama bobblehead doused in beer serving as a stand-in for Beck’s own urine. _Mashable
If the amber liquid in which the US President is doused, happens to be beer -- then perhaps eBay is worried that it might fall into the hands of under-age drinkers? Would a 14 year old high school kid truly pay $11,000 for a jar full of cheap beer?
After Beck made “Obama in Pee Pee” on his program, he announced he would sell it online along with other original Beck artwork to raise money for charity. It was listed on eBay, where it reached a price of $11,000 in less than an hour. The item, however, was quickly removed. In an email sent by eBay to Beck, eBay said it does “not allow the sale of bodily waste,” despite Beck’s claim that the “urine” in the jar is actually beer. Beck was refunded his listing fee and told not to re-list the item. _Piss Poor Obama
It sounds as if eBay may have been co-opted by the PC Police, if they are willing to be so dishonestly disingenuous. This is likely to be merely the opening bell to the first round of a many-rounds fight -- which may well land in the US courts before it is finished.

eBay has just given Glenn Beck a very rich and powerful Christmas present.


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28 November 2012

Business in Russia etc.: A Worrisome Future On the BRICs?

Russia ranks 120th on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index. Despite promises of reform, Moscow has yet to transform its image, if not reality, as a corrupt Mafia state. It is some distance from being competitive with major economies in most industrial and service sectors. Capital flight more than doubled in 2011 to $84.2 billion (from $33.6 billion in 2010) and is projected to be some $50 billion in 2012. The current political environment has made it more difficult for small and medium businesses to thrive.

Still more worrisome looking to the future is Russia’s brain drain. Over 1.25 million people have left Russia in the past decade, and in a recent poll in Novaya Gazeta, 62.5 percent of 7,237 readers surveyed said they were considering leaving because of discontent with the economic and political regime. This is playing out against the backdrop of negative demographic trends and projections suggest that Russia’s population will shrink from its current 142 million to some 124 million by 2030. _National Interest
Instead of reforming, Putin's Russia appears to be digging itself more deeply into the role of authoritarian oil state, with close ties to dictators and tyrants, and a rapid shutting off of opportunity for the average Russian at home.

Six months after returning to power in the face of mounting opposition, Russian President Vladimir Putin is exercising his political capital—and doing so in imperial fashion. The most recent example: earlier this month, sitting at a small table in his ornate, oak-walled office in the Kremlin, Putin announced that Russia was creating the world’s largest publicly traded oil company. The goal: to restore the glory of Russia the only way Putin seems to know how—the raw acquisition of power. “He is trying to keep stability, as he sees it, with billions of dollars in oil,” said Evgeny Gontmakher, an analyst at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, a Moscow-based think tank. “I predict chaos.” _Anna Nemtsova
I have always seen Putin as something of a thug. But until recently, I considered him to be at least a bit shrewd. Lately he has been behaving like a total knucklehead.

As a result, the early promise that he displayed after the end of the tumultous Yeltsin years, seems to have faded away altogether.
More than 2.5 million people have left Russia during the past decade, sparking fears of a new brain-drain.

A third of Russia's young professionals are thinking of leaving the country, according to the Russian market research company ROMIR.

Many of them are making plans to go to countries whose economy is performing less well than Russia's. So why do they want to leave? _BBC
There is plenty of empty land in Russia, as ethnic Russians emigrate and as those who stay fail to procreate.

Meanwhile, China grows stronger -- building better ships, submarines, military jets, and drones & cruise missiles. The dragon watches and waits impatiently for an opening to seize the tempting riches of a rapidly depopulating Eastern Siberia.

China has its own problems with corrupt authoritarianism, of course. But China's corruption has not become as much of an obstacle to doing business, as Russia's corruption has been. Still, China is struggling with brain drains and capital flight, just like Russia.

Meanwhile, of the other BRICs, India is drowning in corruption. And with an average population IQ that is much lower than that of either Russia or China, India's ability to distribute its technological and economic progress through most of its population is quite limited. In addition, besides having to face a nuclear Pakistan and a nuclear China on its different borders, India is perpetually poised on the verge of a bloody religious civil war that could break out at any time.

Finally, Brazil will do well as long as commodities prices are flying high. Should China in particular slow its buying spree, the millstone of corruption around Brazil's neck is likely to show itself by a decline in the nation's economic numbers.

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27 November 2012

Universities: A New Class of "Robber Barons"

Universities Steal from the Poor and Give to the Sinecured and Connected

Modern universities are bloated monstrosities, monuments to bureaucratic greed and self-interest, at the expense of lower and lower-middle class students and families.
“I have no idea what these people do,” said Robinson, waving his hand across a row of offices, his voice rising. The 59-year-old professor of biomedical engineering is leading a faculty revolt against bureaucratic bloat at the public university in Indiana. In the past decade, the number of administrative employees jumped 54 percent, almost eight times the growth of tenured and tenure-track faculty.

...Administrative costs on college campuses are soaring, crowding out instruction at a time of skyrocketing tuition and $1 trillion in outstanding student loans... U.S. universities employed more than 230,000 administrators in 2009, up 60 percent from 1993, or 10 times the rate of growth of the tenured faculty, those with permanent positions and job security, according to U.S. Education Department data.

Spending on administration has been rising faster than funds for instruction and research... _Fat Cat University Staff
While the fat cat administrative staff are living very well, more and more members of the lower and lower middle classes are being caught in the debt trap -- sometimes for life. When poor students are forced to drop out of school with high tuition debts, their parents and grandparents can be sued to pay the debt -- which cannot be discharged by bankruptcy. The same thing can also happen when students actually graduate -- but with what are essentially worthless degrees.

It was not always this way. Tuition was once relatively affordable, and not so hard to pay off.
The total cost of my tuition over four years was less than $5,000. Measured another way, the payback period was about nine months’ gross salary at my first job. Viewed as an investment in equipment, getting an MIT education was, as they say, a no-brainer. If tuition costs had risen in line with inflation, that original $1,000 for a year’s tuition would now be $7,972, according to the CPI calculator on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

Today the actual tuition is $40,732 (not including room and board), so it’s pretty safe to say that everyday inflation hasn’t been the driving force behind the increase in college tuition. _DallasNews
Universities have grown to be a new class of robber barons, stealing from the poor and giving to the well off sinecured and connected bureaucrat. The degree to which university disbursements have become corrupt payoffs and set-asides is carefully papered over by vested interests. If students, parents, and grandparents had a better understanding of what their lives and finances were being ruined to pay for, the outrage would be difficult to contain.

The first thing that young people and their families need to understand is that not everyone should go to college. In general, only those with IQs of at least 110 points should get a 4 year degree. And for the rigorous degrees, an IQ of at least 115 is probably needed. The popular attempt to push everyone through college -- at all costs -- is a most significant part of this problem.

Even so, there is no reason for most degrees to be so ruinously expensive -- or for most degrees to be so absurdly worthless on the jobs market. But don't expect any good solutions from the US federal government, which is controlled by the Chicago Outfit. The Chicago Outfit is not known for its dedication to giving high value for payments received. The answers will have to come from other directions -- to the extent that the Chicago Outfit allows.

Salman Khan, founder of the free online Khan Academy, thinks that a quality education should be free. He believes that the only cost incurred by graduates should be the cost of certifying the retention and utility of the student's new knowledge and skills.

Online courses aim to change the educational landscape. In the US, more than one state governor has expressed a desire to see his state's university system devise a "$10,000 degree program" -- a no-frills way for students to get a 4 year degree without becoming indebted for life.

The devastation that has been caused by the university : government : financial complex is immense and in many ways, immeasurable. In this arena -- as in the 2007 / 2008 housing bubble and collapse -- the government is a central part of a problem that is causing much ongoing human hardship for its own people.

Fortunately, this is a problem which Dangerous Children do not have to suffer. By the time a Dangerous Child reaches the age of 18, he or she will have the skills to support themselves economically at least three different ways. At that point, they can either take college or leave it -- but if they take it, they will take it on their own terms.

If you have young children or are planning to have some, the gift of a dangerous childhood may be the most valuable gift you can give them. As for yourself: It is never too late to have a dangerous childhood. You may have to improvise a bit, but that will be good for your character. ;-)

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26 November 2012

What is a Person Worth?

Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa wants to make it clear that a person's worth cannot be defined by his intelligence:
In my book, The Intelligence Paradox, I attempt to break the equation of intelligence with human worth, by pointing out that intelligence (and intelligent people) may not be what you think. While more intelligent people can do many things better and more efficiently than less intelligent people, there are many things that they cannot, and intelligent people tend to fail at the most important things in life from a purely biological perspective. The list of what intelligent people are not good at may surprise you. Intelligent people are only good at doing things that are relatively new in the course of human evolution. They are not necessarily good at doing things that our ancestors have always done, like finding and keeping a mate, being a parent, and making friends. Intelligent people tend not to be good at doing things that are most important in life.

There is no question that intelligence is a positive trait, but then so are beauty, height, and health. Yet we don’t equate beauty, height, and health with human worth (although we do a little bit when it comes to beauty, by maintaining that people who are not physically attractive nonetheless have “inner beauty.” “Inner beauty” is to physical attractiveness what “multiple intelligences” are to intelligence.) We don’t necessarily think that beautiful, tall, or healthy people are better, more worthy humans than ugly, short, or unhealthy people. Nor do we claim that everyone is equally beautiful, equally tall, or equally healthy. But we seem to believe that more intelligent people are more worthy human beings. Or, conversely, because all humans ought to be equally worthy, they must all be equally intelligent. _Satoshi Kanazawa_via_HBDChick
Well, okay. Let's start with a more basic question, then. What is the worth of a human body?

The U.S. Bureau of Chemistry and Soils invested many a hard-earned tax dollar in calculating the chemical and mineral composition of the human body, which breaks down as follows:
  • 65% Oxygen
  • 18% Carbon
  • 10% Hydrogen
  • 3% Nitrogen
  • 1.5% Calcium
  • 1% Phosphorous
  • 0.35% Potassium
  • 0.25% Sulfur
  • 0.15% Sodium
  • 0.15% Chlorine
  • 0.05% Magnesium
  • 0.0004% Iron
  • 0.00004% Iodine
  • Additionally, it was discovered that our bodies contain trace quantities of fluorine, silicon, manganese, zinc, copper, aluminum, and arsenic. Together, all of the above amounts to less than one dollar!
    Our most valuable asset is our skin, which the Japanese invested their time and money in measuring. The method the Imperial State Institute for Nutrition at Tokyo developed for measuring the amount of a person's skin is to take a naked person, and to apply a strong, thin paper to every surface of his body. After the paper dries, they carefully remove it, cut it into small pieces, and painstakingly total the person's measurements. Cut and dried, the average person is the proud owner of fourteen to eighteen square feet of skin, with the variables in this figure being height, weight, and breast size. Basing the skin's value on the selling price of cowhide, which is approximately $.25 per square foot, the value of an average person's skin is about $3.50.

    (Let's neglect, for the time being, the sentimental value of a dead person's skin to his loved ones, after it has been processed by a very skilled taxidermist.)

    So we're talking about roughly $4.50, including the skin's leather value.

    But that would be the low ball estimate, and most people would not be satisfied with that. Even a well wasted crack whore can bring in more than that with just a few minutes' work.

    Several approaches to estimating the value of a human life have been taken by legal systems (PDF) for tort purposes, by insurance companies, by government agencies such as the US EPA, and by a number of other institutions and organisations.

    But let's take a step back and look at the question in more general and abstract terms:
    Most people would say that human life is a precious thing, and that taking it away from someone by force is a bad thing. Most would also say that an (non-human) animal's life is less valuable, and most (if they are pushed to consider it) would say that the value of a life is based on the intelligence of that creature. Intelligent creatures (like a dog, chimp or dolphin) are more valuable unintelligent creatures (like flies, cockroaches or earth-worms).

    This is gives us a clue about the the nature of humanity which makes it valuable - a human's intelligence, but it also raises uncomfortable questions. Are the lives of more intelligent humans worth more than non-intelligent humans? Is the life of a severely brain damaged human with apparently less intelligence than an ape less valuable than that ape?

    In fact it has more to do with empathy than with intelligence. People empathize with other people, they empathize with dogs (because they make good pets), with dolphins (because they always seem to be smiling), and with apes (because they are physically so much like us), but generally do not empathize highly with insects or worms. _Bovination
    This is getting closer to the truth, of course. Humans evaluate the worth of a particular human in much the same way that a collector might evaluate the worth of a stamp, a coin, or a work of art. There is a great deal of sentiment involved, both overt and covert.

    In general, we value particular humans for the amusement, pleasure, profit, entertainment value, service, or satisfaction that they contribute to our lives. The person's intelligence, cleverness, competence, attractiveness, health, executive function, level of respect in the community, loyalty, income, devotion, resilience, emotional depth, net financial worth, fitness, resourcefulness, fame, creativity, humour, and "connectedness" would all play a strong part in our valuation.

    Such a valuation is quite subjective. Someone closely related or connected to us would be valued more highly than a stranger. The closer the connection or relationship, the higher the value.

    So Kanazawa is correct to say that intelligence is not the measure of ultimate human worth. But then, no one ever really believed that it was.

    On the other hand, intelligence and the ability to be cognitively present in space and time at a high level of functioning, is generally valued highly in most persons, and for good reason. Intelligence is also coming to be valued more highly in populations, likewise for good reason.

    The difference in wealth and quality of life of the average Singaporean and the average Jamaican, would have much to do with the average intelligence level of the respective populations.

    In this case, Kanazawa is treating the concept of "intelligence" as something of a straw man -- which he really shouldn't do, given what he does for a living. But everybody wants to be liked by his peers. And for an honest and intelligent academic of integrity, that can be very difficult to achieve in these modern times.

    It would be impossible to achieve a consensus answer to the title question, "What is a person worth?" But every now and then it is a concept that should be examined honestly, outside of actuarial offices, bureaucracies, and courts of law.

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    Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities: 2012

    The cities are listed from least dangerous to most dangerous. But it is recommended that travelers exercise extreme caution in any cities that find themselves on such a list. You might note that St. Louis, Mo., USA, has fallen off this top ten list. Last year, St. Louis occupied the #3 spot.

    10. Caracas, Venezuela

    Caracas is a city torn apart by drug trafficking and an abundance of petty crimes. Robbery is commonplace even in broad daylight, and the police have very little control over criminal activity. Many locals blame the government who is apathetic to these issues, much more protection is needed for many cities in Venezuela because it’s geological position makes it a drug running haven.

    9. Mogadishu, Somalia

    The capitol of Somalia is still in turmoil and the outlook for 2012 is not bright. Civil war has torn apart the city (and the country) for two decades and political violence is very easily sparked. Accurate statistical data is almost impossible to obtain because of how belligerent local militias are, but it’s safe to say that Mogadishu is quite dangerous, an essentially lawless city with an abundance of bandits. A huge amount of it’s citizens abandoned the city three years ago leaving behind bombed out shells of buildings, but it remains as violent as ever.

    8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    While Rio de Janeiro has some fantastic beaches and beautiful landscapes, you should not be lulled into a false sense of security should you visit. There are many slum/shanty areas where about %20 of the population lives in economic turmoil, and this struggle has given way to an ongoing conflict between drug traffickers and the local police force. Tourists and travelers are advised to stay away from the mountainous regions and poor areas of the city, especially at night. The police are there to protect you, but be aware that bribery is commonplace with them and that you may need some money to get out of a bind.

    7. Grozny, Chechnya, Russia

    In the mid 1990′s a very destructive conflict began between Chechnya and Russia. Grozny was left in shambles after a barrage of shells, missiles, and dynamite tore the city asunder- there were thousands dead and the toll on the city was massive. While the fighting apparently ended in 2006, it remains a very dangerous place full of crime both organized and petty. It’s especially dangerous for western tourists because of high kidnapping rates.

    6. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

    The drug cartels in Mexico show no signs of slowing down their business, and Ciudad Juarez is one of the worst affected areas. The drug trafficking groups in Mexico are notoriously violent and stop at absolutely nothing to move their product, they have control over the region and can do pretty much whatever they want. This city has been called one of the most violent places in the world outside of war zones, and the police force is known to be corrupt. The blame for this violence is often attributed to the Mexican government, but others blame the ongoing American war on drugs that facilitates the illegal drug trade.

    5. Bogota, Colombia

    Bogota’s main problem lies in the drug trade and extremist political groups rebelling against the Colombian government, but fortunately there have been some improvements since the 90′s. The north side of the city is absolutely more safe that the southern regions, it’s advisable to stay in this area and no to wander past the city limits. Bogota is a great tourist destination with lots to see, just be careful and don’t stray too far from safe areas.

    4. Baghdad, Iraq

    Baghdad suffers from a very unstable political climate with many different factions destroying the city in their own way. The infrastructure has been torn apart by bombings and the streets are filled with unpredictable violence. The invasion by the United States in 2003 further escalated violence in the city and it has been a hostile place ever since. A lack of organization and infrastructure further exacerbate tension among Iraqis.

    3. Guatemala City, Guatemala

    Guatemala as a whole is riddled with crime because of a corrupt government and police force who are not at all equipped to deal with the abundance of criminal activity. The capitol has it the worst, the huge gap between the rich and poor is brought into stark contrast and robbery and violence are commonplace. It’s a shame because it’s such a beautiful city and country, but the corruption runs too deep for the streets to be safe.

    2. San Pedro Sula, Honduras

    This city in Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world and is considered even more dangerous than areas of Iraq and Afghanistan. Robbery is a rampant problem and almost everyone must carry a weapon of some sort for protection. Even minor disputes are often settled with violence and walking the streets requires extreme caution. Tourists are especially warned, anyone appearing to be a foreigner are specific targets for criminals.

    1. Cape Town, South Africa

    While Cape Town is a huge tourist attraction and a big city full of things to do, it also has extremely high crime rates and walking down the wrong street at the wrong time can put you in harms way. The disparity between socioeconomic classes is a major factor for criminal activity, and robbery is extremely common. Tourists are advised to do their research and stay in a relatively safe part of the city, don’t walk around unless the streets are well-lit with plenty of people out and be extra careful if you have to use an ATM.

    If you depend upon politically correct sources of information in making your travel plans, you are apt to find yourself in a very difficult situation sooner or later. Accidentally ending up in the wrong neighborhood can be a fatal mistake.

    Reject the politically correct skankstream. Build a portfolio of sources of information that expose the world to you in all its stark darkness and light. You will save yourself a good deal of trouble.

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    Food Production Becoming Better Investment than Oil

    Demand for food is growing faster than demand for oil. As human industries grow more sophisticated, they learn to do more with less oil. But as human societies grow more sophisticated and more urbanised, they demand more food -- and of a better quality and a wider variety.

    China's demand for food is expected to grow particularly quickly, as the population urbanises, and China experiences more and more difficulty with decreasing quality of water and soil.
    "In 10 years," Gua said, "China will be importing 50 mmt of corn. In fact, less than 10 years." China currently imports no corn.

    This rapid increase in buying the world's grain despite the cost is due, Gua said, to China's economic growth in the past 30 years, more people moving from rural areas to urban, and government policy to assure there is plenty of food to feed its 1.3 billion people.

    As urban areas expand, more tillable acres are lost to crop production.

    ...As the middle class gets more prosperous, more meat is sought in Chinese diets, he said. _China's Growing Food Demand
    With higher meat consumption, more animal feed is required. Most of that increased supply will come from overseas, particularly Brazil and the US.
    The US continues to be a good bet for food production, due to its excellent farmland, advanced farming practises, good climate, good transportation infrastructure, and generally reasonable government policies.
    A lot of factors need to be addressed when assessing a purchase of farmland around the world. We see U.S. farmland as the best opportunity for investors as it has some of the best soil in the world, the perfect climate for fertile crops, the adequate infrastructure for transporting grain, and a government that supports its farmers and property rights. _US Farmland
    As Chinese farmland is lost to urban growth and development (as well as to toxic industrial products dumped into the soil), and as more farmers move into cities for work, China will have to cultivate more foreign food suppliers. Besides Brazil, China is also looking toward Africa as a future producer of food for China.

    Currently, Africa accounts for just 3% of global agricultural trade, with South Africa and Côte d'Ivoire together accounting for a third of the entire continent’s exports. But if the world wants to feed itself then it needs Africa to emerge as an agricultural powerhouse. _ZeroHedge
    But there are serious problems with developing African infrastructure of any kind, including food production.
    local farmers are skeptical when foreigners come to their country. Farmers react quite emotional and do not want to sell land that they got from their ancestors. It’s hard to understand how important land is to most of the population. Many fear that if they sell out their land the country will be driven back to the colonial days of the past. _Farming in Africa
    In Brazil, most of the farmland is owned by just a relative few large landowners -- 2/3 of the land is owned by 3% of landowners. It is much easier for China to make deals with these "land oligarchs" of Brazil, than with the many small farmers and holders of Africa.
    China is at a huge disadvantage as it accounts for 20% of the world’s population, but only 7% of arable land. Compare that with Brazil which has the reverse of those ratios.

    ...we would expect the big gainers of a meaningful rise in food prices in real terms to be Brazil, the US and Canada, while Japan, South Korea and the UK would face challenges... China’s surplus has turned to deficit. What will happen if the Chinese middle class swells as it is expected to? And that’s the rub; what we have been used to in terms of food’s importance is set to change. How food moves around the world is likely to change, and the flow of currency around the world will also likely be impacted. _ZeroHedge

    Modern high production agricultural requires plenty of oil, fertiliser, sophisticated farmers, high quality transportation infrastructure, and ready industrial support. While Africa may possess 60% of the world's uncultivated land, its land is not all of the best quality, and Africa's support infrastructure leaves a great deal to be desired. Africa cannot even feed herself on her own.

    Europe has good infrastructure and sophisticated farmers, but not as much high quality farm area as it once had. Russia and the Ukraine suffer from inferior infrastructure and a more sluggish industrial support -- as does much of Asia and South America.

    Canada and the US -- as well as parts of Latin America -- stand to benefit the most from a global boom in demand for agricultural products. But Europe is still well positioned as a premier processor of food, beverages, and food products.

    The best US farmland is likely to be bid up in price, over time.

    Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to start with an inferior soil, and develop it over time so that it acquires superior fertility.

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    25 November 2012

    Wealthy Mexicans Flee to US to Escape Crime & Kidnappers

    It is not safe to live in Mexico, if you have something that someone else wants. In 2011, there were six kidnappings per day in Mexico. The Mexican drug war is an ongoing national tragedy, with over 12,000 dead last year. Mass executions occur regularly. Sometimes the bodies are found, but often people simply disappear.

    It is difficult to blame those who have the means to escape, for doing so.
    ...powerful drug cartels, assisted by corrupt government officials, have generated mayhem, in many cases pushing the elite out. These migrants call themselves the faces of the country’s collateral damage, tracing their arrival to extortions, kidnappings and killings that have pushed Mexico into a wave of insecurity since 2006 or before.

    This month, the nongovernmental National Citizens Observatory group released figures showing that crime-related deaths had increased 84 percent since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderón sent the military and federal police forces to attack organized crime, beginning with his home state of Michoacán. Overall, an estimated 60,000 people have been killed since then...

    ...The newspaper Milenio, using declassified documents obtained through Mexico’s freedom-of-information law, estimated that more than 24,000 people have gone missing since 2006... overall homicides and extortions continue to increase this year, according to the report and its director, Ricardo Sepulveda.

    “The truth is we haven’t seen a reduction in crimes in general, and those are the ones that most affect the security of the country,” he said. _DallasNews
    The US government allows foreign nationals to buy permanent US residency status, through something called an EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa. By investing at least $500,000__ in a new business venture in the US, a foreign national can qualify for permanent US residency.
    The result is an exodus, with echoes of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, which pushed tens of thousands of Mexicans to settle throughout the southwestern U.S. The new arrivals are investing in places such as San Diego, El Paso, San Antonio and, increasingly, Dallas, creating jobs throughout North Texas...

    ...Some of the new arrivals make lifelong decisions on the spot. A tire executive from San Luis Potosí, who had been followed by shady men for days, stepped on the gas one afternoon and didn’t stop until he crossed into Texas. He now lives in Dallas. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he continues to cross the border, attending to business and keeping a low profile.

    ... Leticia Sañudo sits outside her establishment — La Paloma Taquería — next to the Neiman Marcus department store at NorthPark Center and marvels at her good fortune. She left behind a life of privilege in Mexico City, traded everything she knew to come to Dallas with her three boys. And things couldn’t be better....

    ...Sañudo isn’t sure she’ll ever return to Mexico. In 2005, she feared being kidnapped and saw no future for her boys. Through a friend she met Ramírez and offered to invest in some of his eight taco restaurants. She took her savings and bought into Ramírez’s La Paloma Taquería. She is helping create jobs and introducing authentic tacos to Dallas’ upper echelons who shop next door. _DallasNews

    Top 10 Kidnapping Countries

    1. Afghanistan
    2. Somalia
    3. Iraq
    4. Nigeria
    5. Pakistan
    6. Yemen
    7. Venezuela
    8. Mexico
    9. Haiti
    10. Colombia

    Note in the article linked above that Mexican kidnappings are officially understated, and that Mexico could easily rank at the top of the list instead of #8.

    The numbers for all of the third world countries above are likely to be understated, given the turbulent nature of the societies, the rampant corruption and incompetence in security forces, and the general "cheapness" of human life across the regions involved.


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    Youth Violence: Black Thugs to Eco-Fascists -- Don't Blame Conformity

    From ethnic flash mobs to organised political mobs, to religious rape and violence, to more traditional violent delinquents and gang-bangers, youth and young adult violence has become a permanent fixture in cities across the modern world.

    Is most of this violence a result of the influence of conformity and peer pressure on impressionable youth, or are violent participants more cognitively committed to the violence than is commonly thought? Australian researchers suggest the latter:
    Milgram's 'Obedience to Authority' research is widely believed to show that people blindly conform to the instructions of an authority figure, and Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) is commonly understood to show that people will take on abusive roles uncritically.

    However, Professor Haslam, from the University of Queensland, argues that tyranny does not result from blind conformity to rules and roles. Rather, it is a creative act of followership, resulting from identifying with authorities who represent vicious acts as virtuous.

    .... people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe—typically under the influence of those in authority—that what they are doing is right," Professor Haslam explained. Professor Reicher, of the University of St Andrews, added that it is not that they were blind to the evil they were perpetrating, but rather that they knew what they were doing, and believed it to be right. _MXP
    Professors Haslam and Reicher have performed prison experiments of their own, and discovered a much more complex layering of actions and motivations on the part of participants than most sociologists appear willing to admit -- based upon how the Milgram research continues to be interpreted.

    Haslam and Reicher suggest that youth and young adults have already largely decided that violence is justified "in the cause" even before they participate in the looting, rapes, and other violent assaults. The youth have already been indoctrinated into an acceptance of violent behaviour by education, family, community, peers, and popular music and media.

    In Palestine and Gaza, for example, Arab youth are indoctrinated by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, etc. in undying hatred against Jews and Israel -- from the cradle and throughout childhood and youth. For a Palestinian youth to take up arms against Israelis and Jews is instinctive after a certain amount of this.

    In many black and minority communities across North America, Oceania, Europe, and beyond, the hated ones -- the targets of lifelong indoctrination into hatred by families and local communities -- are the whites, the Koreans, the ethnic Chinese, or any other group that experiences a greater degree of success or perceived acceptance than the particular minority community.

    But perhaps a greater problem than ethnic violence -- even within multi-cultural societies -- is the problem of the widespread political and social indoctrination of children and youth inside government schools. Not only are children taught that modern productive economic systems are the root of global warming catastrophe and all types of other eco-doom, they are also isolated from serious responsibility and prevented from acquiring practical skills and competencies which would allow them to succeed in a modern economic system.

    This flood of indoctrinated psychological neotenates and lifelong incompetents is dumped onto the jobs market -- often hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and with no meaningful skills, competencies, or developed talents. It should be no surprise that besides escaping in drugs, alcohol, and meaningless social interaction and entertainment, that some of them are attracted to violent leftist and green activist organisations.

    As new communications technologies develop, coordinating "spontaneous" mass violence and mass crime becomes easier, and within the reach of larger numbers of youth and young adults.

    An ongoing evolution of flash mobs

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    When Exploding Debt Meets Collapsing Demography

    Most developed nations have become trapped in a hopeless situation. Their populations are ageing rapidly -- reducing their tax and investment base -- while the government's size and level of debt are exploding out of control. There is no easy answer.
    Financial Times

    The 1982-1999 bull market was driven by the post-war baby boom, which resulted in a bulge in the numbers of working-age adults and the core savings group. That has ominous implications. Facing current trends in birth rates and rising life expectancy, a growing body of economic research suggests that the rates of stockmarket growth enjoyed by investors during the 1980s and 1990s are gone for at least a generation - and possibly forever.

    But another factor was at work, too: demography. The 1982-1999 bull market was driven by the post-war baby boom, which resulted in a bulge in the numbers of working-age adults. Those adults are now retiring, having spent too much time working and not enough time procreating.

    Falling birth rates and rising life expectancy have left the industrialised world with a demographic profile very different from that of the 1950s. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that sharply ageing populations will weigh on both economic growth and asset values for years, if not decades to come. _FT
    Japan demonstrates the phenomenon most clearly, but most of Europe is following close behind. South Korea also has low birthrates and is experiencing societal ageing.
    If one wanted to look at asset values in the industrialised economy most representative of population ageing, that would be Japan. It has sharply declining fertility rates, net immigration of virtually zero and the longest-lived population of any large economy. Its stock market peaked in the late 1980s – at about the time the size of its working age population did – and has atrophied ever since. _FT
    Japan has very restrictive immigration policies, and is attempting to replace as much of its vanishing workforce as possible using robot labour and other types of automation. Europe has attempted to immigrate its way out of its looming disaster of debt and demography -- but has not been able to find sufficient high quality and culturally assimilable immigrants to replace the vanishing Europeans.

    The Anglosphere -- the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland etc. -- present a mixed picture, but are following on the same general path as Europe and Japan, complicated mainly by very mixed patterns of immigration.

    The FT article quoted above looks mainly at the affect of ageing on investment and asset classes. In reality, the problems faced by rapidly ageing societies with the additional burden of deeply indebted and bloated national governments, go far beyond problems of investment.

    Not only does the productive workforce population shrink in an ageing population, but the military age population likewise shrivels away. The numbers of creative and inventive people will diminish even more quickly -- since the contemporary pattern is for the most intelligent and ambitious men and women to remain childless, or to have perhaps one trophy child.

    It is not entirely a coincidence that a catastrophic ramp-up of public debt is occurring in most of these countries at the same time as these societies age and lose their ability to pay back the debt. But the results of the coexisting destructive trends will be much worse for having occurred contemporaneously.

    There is nothing that anyone can do for these societies as a whole. But if one is particularly attached to one small piece of one of these countries, there are preventive steps that one might take to make his community more resilient to the challenges that are coming.

    In subsequent postings, we will look at some thoughts on why some communities commit to the idea of a future, while other communities have difficulty looking past a very narrow and limited view of the present.


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    24 November 2012

    Charts of US Government Debt & Doom: Descent and Reaction

    The US Government has been growing rapidly for well over 60 years. National debt has grown rapidly along with the size and power of government agencies. The embedded presentation below provides a graphical representation of many of these changes, and suggests some implications of this trend for the future.

    50 Charts From Marc Faber

    Most citizens may submit to an overbearing government, but others -- who worked hard, sacrificed, and saved all their lives only to see governments confiscate and diminish their assets -- may consider other actions and reactions.

    The recent popularity of "secession from the union" petitions in the US demonstrate that some citizens are unhappy with the growth of government power & debt, and the consequent curtailment of individual rights and opportunity.

    Another reaction to the recent explosion in government arrogance toward productive citizens, is the movement to acquire personal weapons and other survival tools and materials.

    Several weeks ago, there was much excitement over the demonstrated ability to "print" a gun -- actually the receiver of a firearm -- with a 3D printer. But it has been possible for individuals to make their own firearms for several centuries. And with modern machine shops, it has become much easier. And in the US, it is also legal.
    Dmitri Harris runs the Ares Armor store, along with his buddies, some Marine Corps infantry veterans. The shop is busy because more people are finding out about the chance to build your own gun without having to go through any registration or government signups of any kind.

    It is possible because of the Gun Control Act of 1968. It reads, "an unlicensed individual may make a firearm," but also says it has to be for personal use and cannot be for sale or distribution.

    ...Team 10 purchased a piece of aluminum and watched as it was turned into a receiver for an AR-15. It can take four or five hours to do this, depending on how busy the shop is. Inside that machine shop is a computer-controlled milling machine that cuts out the aluminum.

    What Team 10 ended up with was a receiver that can have parts added to it, such as the trigger, the barrel, the stock and the magazine. Team 10 fired the AR-15 at a nearby range when the receiver was finished and it worked just fine.

    ... _Untraceable Firearms

    Not all the economic news for the US is bad. Several state and local governments are benefiting enormously from the boom in shale oil & gas -- and the boom's secondary benefits within US industry. US President Obama probably owes part of his re-selection to the shale booms in Ohio and Pennsylvania -- although many inside of Obama's administration would have gleefully shut down shale fracking and its economic benefits if they were given a free hand. Watch them very closely.

    The economic effects of Obamacare were cleverly deferred until after the Obama Outfit's re-selection. But now, US employment is likely to take a severe hit from the many provisions of the Obama - Pelosi - Reid health care plan from hell. And that is just the beginning of the economic problems that will be exacerbated by the progressive enforcement of Obama era policies.

    Without an amazing level of organisation, the Obama Outfit -- comprising organised labour, organised community actists, organised academics, organised news media, organised faux environmentalists, organised vote "handlers" ( and of course elements of organised crime ;-) etc. -- Obama would be hiring a moving van in the near future.

    There is nothing preventing US citizens from organising themselves. While government possesses a monopoly on the organised use of force, the US Constitution has provisions for the private use of force for self defense etc.

    But organisation is far more useful for other things than the use of force. In fact, as new technologies are developed which will allow citizens to make many of the things they need to survive at home -- cheaply and with little effort -- the need to support an oppressive and deeply indebted government will appear less and less necessary to growing numbers of citizens.

    Organising to provide for the needs of one's family and community -- apart from official government -- is the type of organisation which US citizens should be contemplating, very seriously.

    Not all citizens possess the aptitudes or competencies for working along those lines, of course. But that has always been the case. 10% of people at the most, do 90% of the work at the least. In some areas it seems closer to 5% / 95%.

    The smart fraction -- better known as the competent fraction -- is incredibly important to the present, and to the future. Perhaps it is time for the competent fraction to learn how to be truly dangerous, in a peaceful but efficacious way.

    It is never too late to have a dangerous childhood.


    Heiner Rindermann's paper on the impact of smart fractions on social development (PDF)

    Steve Sailer's analysis of Rindermann's paper

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    In a Future of Megacities, Most of Earth Will be Wild

    Projections for the year 2050 predict that most of the 8 billion people on the planet will live in megacities, with populations over 30 million. And these megacity clusters will form a network made up of smaller cities over 1 million in population. But these incredibly dense clusters will weave through a countryside that is emptying. It is already common to find entire villages in China, India, and South America abandoned by its inhabitants who fled to the swelling cities, leaving behind a few old folks, or often, no one at all.

    This is the pattern on Earth. Extremely dense and vast populations in a network of megacities connected to each other with nerves of roads and wires, woven over an empty landscape of wild land, marginal pastures, and lightly populated farms. _Technium

    Most of us are familiar with life in cities. Bigger cities will mean bigger problems supplying larger populations with necessary goods and services. For the most part we in the developed world can anticipate and plan for these problems. Taking care of large numbers of people will be a lot of work, but for the places most of us will live, it can be done.

    What about other places, where skills, aptitudes, and competencies are not as well supplied?
    OVER a third of Africa's 1 billion inhabitants currently live in urban areas, but by 2030 that proportion will have risen to a half. According to a recent report from UN-HABITAT, the United Nations agency for human settlements, the population of some cities is set to swell by up to 85% in the next 15 years. The most populous city in 2010, Cairo, will grow by 23% to 13.5m people.
    By 2025, however, it will have been overtaken by both Lagos (15.8m) and Kinshasa (15m). Food and water shortages, poor infrastructure and a lack of housing are among the problems faced by governments during such rapid urbanisation.

    People move to the city for work, education, opportunity, convenient services and shopping, night life, technology, anonymity, and the company of other people. The trend is well established in the developed world where it continues. The trend is accelerating in the undeveloped world, where most of the Earth's new human population is being born.

    As population density inside the megacity grows, the countryside becomes correspondingly depopulated. Wilderness will return to displace former human habitation. Wild animal populations will return to the new wilds.

    It is easy to imagine the rise of largely automated farms, ranches, and dairies across the developed world. Energy efficient robot tractors, harvesters, animal tenders, milkers, and more, will be supervised by small numbers of human overseers and maintenance techs, who make sure the products are cleanly and properly prepared for transport to the cities.

    Other than during periods of war and short-term natural disasters, most people in developed countries have not suffered prolonged hunger for centuries. The technologists of North America, Europe, East Asia, and Oceania will devise ways of producing food for their cities and megacities, even as the countryside depopulates.

    But what of the people of the third world, who have little history of society-scale problem-solving and large scale technological innovation? Will the teeming megacities of the future third world become hungry slum-prisons, infested with diseases and parasites? Who will stay behind in the countryside to work and feed the hungry cities?

    And when almost all of the people have finally been herded into the cities, becoming dependent upon "society" for city services -- food, water, sanitation, health care, child care, education, entertainment etc. -- who will be responsible for the well-being of all of these people? Once they lose the ability to take care of themselves?

    In multicultural settings, where different peoples with thousand-year grievances exist in large numbers side by side, just a few rumours flying about could set the whole thing off.

    A few days without food and water can turn such places into charnel houses. Or more quickly, substances introduced into a common food or water supply on a large scale could have similar effects. Putting all of your eggs in one basket can leave your supply of eggs somewhat vulnerable.

    The rise of megacities may be good for the land and the wildlife of the planet. Its effect on the people is likely to be mixed.

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    23 November 2012

    Sandy Island, R.I.P.: Global Warming Takes Another Victim

    Chalk up another devastating loss to global warming: Sandy Island is no more. How can I tell Mrs. Fin, Valerie, and the kids that we will have to cancel our yearly holidays to our favourite island paradise?

    When interviewed at Google Maps HQ, section chief Shiv Mgumbo was flabbergasted.

    "Just last week I was looking at extremely clear satellite images of Sandy Island, and now they tell me that it is no longer there?

    How can people still deny global warming, when we see it happening before our very eyes? This is the very reason why we at Google support the development of wind and solar power. This is a true carbon disaster!"

    It was Australian scientists who discovered the loss of the much beloved island. At first, they could not believe that it was gone:
    “We were out in the Eastern Coral Sea, conducting a scientific research expedition, and when we were approaching the area of [Sandy Island],” Seton told the BBC. “We saw that our scientific maps showed there was an island there and yet the navigation charts on board the vessel showed that we had a water depth of 1,400 metres.

    “The world is a constantly changing place, the Google spokesman told AFP, “and keeping on top of these changes is a never-ending endeavour.”

    Of course, the island isn’t just on Google Maps, it has appeared on a large number of charts since at least 2000. _ Island R.I.P
    But no more. Now, Sandy Island lies beneath 1,400 metres of saltwater, lost to all those who loved it.

    So remember, boys and girls: The next time someone tells you that global warming isn't real, just remind them of the sad tale of Sandy Island. And tell them that their home town may be next.

    For global warming does not only cause catastrophic rises in sea level -- such as the 1,400 metre rise above Sandy Island. It also causes unprecedented storms, floods, droughts, sexually transmitted diseases, earthquakes, and alterations in the planetary magnetic field. This is not a dress rehearsal, this is real!

    Just tell them that. And when you have the time, observe a moment of silence for Sandy Island and the lost millions who once lived at over 1,400 metres higher altitude than their final resting place.

    As for the Fin family, I suppose we'll have to settle for Bora Bora this year. C'est la vie.

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