60 Comments
May 12Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

I'm beginning to realize that instead of trying to achieve self-understanding through popular self-help and psychology books, what I really needed was insight into the autistic brain :) I'd never drawn the dots between feeling alienated and being skeptical of established institutions and accumulated knowledge. Or that my strong resistance to trying to become a lawyer may be due to "lower price elasticity", as opposed to a neurotypical reluctance to become a corporate sellout. This probably wasn't the intention of your post, but thanks for synthesising some of these very interesting insights.

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Thanks!

Yeah I agree, that's why I value the Internet, as an autistic myself. I think we can be productive when we set our minds to it, we just need to create the right conditions for ourselves.

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What purpose is "just" serving in your closing? 😱

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May 12Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

So, in turn, your post here just helped me realize something about my own resistance to becoming a lawyer too. Possibly not your own intention either but thanks!

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May 13·edited May 13Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

That was one of the least surprising things from her post. But it's something that I was very disappointed by all the same. Just because something is anti-institutional doesn't mean it's correct and I'd say more often than not, the opposite is true. I've also learned to not confuse how logical an argument sounds with how correct it is; there have been many cases where someone makes a very logical argument and for it to be wrong and their opponent, who often is worse at making arguments and resorts to moral grandstanding, represents the side that is more correct.

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oh I do not think they are always correct, and I make that clear in my article -- indeed, they are very often wrong

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May 13·edited May 13

I'll also add that I think overreliance on logicking represents a form of midwittery - oftentimes, the person making the extremely poor arguments based on regurgitation of established talking points ends up being correct based on things that the overly logical person misses, such as empirical data (as you mentioned in your piece - just as some more examples, the gender wage gap where the low-info feminists ended up being correct that there is a wage gap - even controlling for all relevant factors there is a gap, and those factors themselves are influenced by sexism, or the debate over the minimum wage) or mostly-reliable heuristics that aren't logically sound but is true in most cases (especially true with determining which people to trust - progressives play "guilt by association" to determine who to deem as bad, but that is actually reliable most of the time actually! Figures who surround themselves with a particular type of person tend to become more like that type of person over time.).

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It's quite funny that you think that the gender pay gap is true.

Have you either worked with women or what?

If you look at actually comparable situations, like say liberal doctors, they make the same exact amount of money, provided the investment into the work (time, focus, etc).

If I were allowed to behave like women at work, I would GLADLY take the potential pay cut (perceived, never actually real).

Nowadays there is a lot of chatter about men refusing to work, because they have been offered the same salary as women for a lot more actual work.

But I guess it is still men getting paid too much relative to women or something like that. /s

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May 13Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

Yeah, I mean, I just thought some people would be biologically wired to be suspicious of the status quo, since that helps society on the whole. I didn’t think that outlook could be the direct consequence of autistic alienation, though that makes a lot of sense now. And, yeah, it took me awhile to be comfortable relying on accumulated knowledge and institutions which I don’t fully understand or know how to justify. Made many mistakes, thinking I knew better. Ultimately, our emotions and intuitions carry millions of years of evolutionary wisdom, and as much as I’d like to think they are unrigorous and unthinking, logical reasoning itself has issues, like missing out on the big picture since logic can only bring isolated parts into view.

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May 13Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

Heuristics developed for a reason and sometimes speed at reasonable accuracy is better than slowness at perfect accuracy. The most prominent example I can think of is how the #Resistance progressives were correct about the Intellectual Dark Web and its future very early on. They did that by adopting heuristics that are reasonably accurate, such as judging them based on who their fans were, who they associated with (“a man is judged by the company he keeps” is a good aphorism for a reason), and by listening to how much they complained about our sense-making institutions. While none of what they said was logically rigorous, they were ultimately correct faster than the ones who only realized when the IDW figures started spewing conspiracy theories in 2020, and that counts for a lot. I’ve learned from them in the past couple of years and I think my judgment has improved because of it.

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Who did you learn from?

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May 13·edited May 13

Pro-establishment “#Resistance” progressives online and in media. Their claim, made all the way back in 2018 or so, that figures in or adjacent to the IDW, who claimed that they were not pro-Trump and were "disaffected liberals" upset with identity politics on the left, were ultimately were serving the right and acting on their behalf ended up being very prescient. Their argument was that while those figures may espouse positions like being pro-gay marriage or pro-higher taxes on the rich, those issues are no longer the salient issues on which one’s political affiliation would depend upon. The salient issues now concern your stances on social justice progressivism, and you can become effectively right-wing even with left-wing political beliefs if your focus is primarily on opposing social justice progressivism. This ended up being almost entirely correct, as many of these figures ended up endorsing Trump by 2020 and have become increasingly indistinguishable from MAGA. One clue that they used to determine that they would head in this direction was that the people they talked to, went on podcast with, etc. are all people like themselves or right-wing populist types - while that is not strict, rigorous evidence that they would head down that path, it's a pretty damn good indicator.

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May 12Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

"Among these strengths I count their propensity to question mainstream cultural norms: precisely what one needs in order to challenge the Monoculture"

Given my situation I think of challenges to the healthcare establishment, most notably during COVID; in Jan and Feb 2020, randoms on Twitter like Balaji were far more right than the healthcare establishment mainstream, since Twitter randoms were warning about the potential for a pandemic while public health authorities were downplaying that risk. Neurodivergent types were calling for masking when the mainstream health authorities were still (wrongly) saying masking is ineffective.

In the U.S., the FDA's slowness to approve vaccination was wrong, and led to thousands if not hundreds of thousands of extra deaths. While outsiders called for challenge trials, the FDA refused to approve them.

After mass vaccination, much of the mainstream wanted to continue policies like closing schools, which was also wrong. "Vax and relax" was the right way to go, and relatively few mainstream types got this right.

Today the FDA continues to slow treatments for fatal diseases, like the cancer I have, leading to (again) thousands if not millions of premature deaths: https://jakeseliger.com/2024/01/29/the-dead-and-dying-at-the-gates-of-oncology-clinical-trials/. I first read about ideas related to the FDA's malfeasance in Marginal Revolution, not anticipating that they'd become so germane to my own life.

While the rest of the culture plays various kinds of follow-the-leader (one can see this in the left- and right-wing reactions to e.g. COVID, or vaccines more generally), a lot of the neurodivergent people are trying to figure out what's actually true.

"it’s probably no wonder that rationalism comes with a certain skepticism of established institutions — with the good and bad that this entails"

One intellectual danger some people indulge in goes something like this: 1. public health / the FDA are wrong about some things, so therefore 2. anything public health / the FDA / the medical establishment argues for is wrong. It's important to avoid becoming a default contrarian or nihilist: http://jakeseliger.com/2024/01/11/on-not-being-a-radical-medicine-skeptic-and-the-dangers-of-doctor-by-internet. I've gotten a fair number of comments and emails from people who like what I've said about the FDA and therefore think that special diets or supplements will cure cancer, when data do not in fact support that.

"rationalism has to be understood as a movement of autistics disaffected with existing institutions who care a lot and generate content"

Almost all of that content is written, too, which probably reduces its virality in an oral-video age.

"I know Robin Hanson thinks the Internet (or anything for that matter) won’t save us from our low fertility promoting Monoculture"

The failure to allow more housing construction through zoning restrictions indicates that we are collectively not even remotely serious about fertility. If we can't even do the low-hanging fruit then the stuff with more trade-offs is way out of bounds.

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May 12Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

Many great points! 👍

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Regarding the “diamondoid bacteria” thing: this just sounds like a new spin on Eric Drexler’s grey goo hypothesis. And on your point about aesthetics, and how the Yud/Hanson axis exhibits little of it: I think this is absolutely correct, and it seems to be a real blind spot for so-called rationalists. It’s very hard for an idea to gain currency and traction in the normal world if its presentation fails to consider aesthetics. Martin Luther King, Jr achieved what he did in part due to an uncanny sense for aural aesthetics.

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Oh Interesting. Wdym by aural aesthetics?

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I guess he means that MLK had a very charismatic way of speaking. And beyond this was able to package his ideas, which were in reality quite radical and unpopular, in a package that was appealing to enough normie Americans to become successful.

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Yes, exactly.

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Aesthetics can significantly impact the appeal and influence of ideas, even in rationalist circles. Martin Luther King Jr.'s effective oratory exemplified this. His speeches combined logical argumentation with poetic language, cadence, and rhythm, which gave his ideas a compelling aura and connected deeply with listeners. Rationalist thought often emphasizes logic and utility, but overlooking aesthetics might limit the reach and persuasiveness of their ideas. By integrating both rational substance and appealing presentation, ideas can gain broader acceptance and inspire more people.

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The combination of emotional appeal *plus* rational argument can be very powerful for persuasion.

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An interesting example of the emotional appeal plus rational argument strategy of persuasion appears in 'The Farm by Lough Gur', which is the story of a family in Ireland in the mid-1900s. One of the daughters, Bessie, was a fierce advocate for Irish independence and wanted Revenge on the English. She even told her mother that SHE would be a traitor if she stood up for the English.

The parents became concerned, whether because they were afraid Bessie would get in trouble with the authorities or just because they feared the toxic effect of her anger on her soul...or just did not agree...is not clear.

First, the mother asked her other daughter to read to Bessie from Charles Lamb’s writings about the sufferings of chimney sweeps and other children. She then pointed out that these suffering children were not Irish…they were English....thereby humanizing a group that Bessie had seen as generically evil.

xThen, Uncle Richard, who was a priest, was asked to talk with Bessie. He took a less-emotional and more strictly-logical tack with her. Responding to her desire for Revenge, he asked: supposing young Tim Healy came to the door and demanded revenge…because the O’Brien’s in the Middle Ages blinded their conquered foes, Father Richard and Mr John O’Brien must have their eyes whipped out today! What would you say to that?”

He also asked Bessie’s to describe her utopian vision of an independent Ireland,.....it would have a king and queen and any number of princes and princesses, and most of all, no rents or taxes. And an army, and a navy, and the railroads, and the theaters…Uncle Richard asked where we would get the money for all that.

“Wouldn’t England keep us up?”

“She’ll likely deny herself that pleasure”

Richard then went on to sketch a more-realistic picture of Irish independence, what it would look like and how it could be achieved.

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This reminds me of Rux's gender polarization piece; in order to appeal to a wider audience, you'll need both "longhouse" and "gooncave" messengers. Liberalism/progressivism, for example, has a lot of longhouse messengers, but very few if any gooncave messengers (the most prominent one I can think of is Destiny, who is a streamer, and is not known to anyone not very online). MAGA-ism has the opposite problem. In both cases, the problem is largely because the aesthetic is downstream of its values. But being able to appeal to different sorts of people can go a long way indeed. I'd like to see more longhouse aesthetic in spaces which prioritize correctness and truth.

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Interesting observations. I think this makes sense. It seems like we can generalize this: in order to convince anyone of your views the aesthetics of your argument have to be congruent with your interlocutor.

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How do you improve the aesthetics of logic without diluting it? Rationalism in its extreme form would seem incompatible with aesthetics which is art in its most rarefied form. It says a lot that in all the years the rationalist movement has existed, it hasn't scioned a progeny with the right aesthetic sensibility to take its exciting cause beyond the limiting confines of pure and cold logic.

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I think you're conflating aesthetics-as-philosophical topic with a more conventional notion of appearance. While appearance has something to do with aesthetics, the aesthetics to which I am referring here deals more with qualitative aspects of how an argument is presented to people who might not be willing to hear the argument. The reference I made in an earlier comment to Martin Luther King, Jr., was intentional: his manner of speaking was such that one couldn't help but listen to his argument, in spite of whatever reservations one might have about them.

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Would you include empathy and compassion as well among the gifts of MLK and perhaps another critical blind spot?

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There is A LOT that Humans could learn from the civil rights movement, but it didn't even get attention during the BLM phenomenon.

I am not super confident Humans are going to even try to figure a way out of the various catastrophes in the making we've "logicked" our way into. It was a decent run I guess. 🤷‍♀️

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May 12Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

I observed that politicians & political candidates almost never interact with people on Twitter. (The exception I have seen is not an American politician but rather is the President of El Salvador!) Yet businesspeople like Elon Musk and Bill Ackman and many others, who are at least as busy in their day jobs, interact all the time. As do some scientists and other scholars.

Maybe a difference in personalities & motivations?...or just that politicians have become accustomed to outsourcing their communications to various 'consultants'.

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Interesting observation!

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Politics is pure fakery, Elon and others are only engaged in partial fakery.

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This is just excellent

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Thank you that's such high praise from a writing connoisseur

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At first I read that as 'a writing commissar', and was worried that the censorship movement had taken a big step forward in the last couple of days.

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I think Hanson's fears are overblown. Having people in contact with each other is good for cultural innovation, and as you say the internet facilitates this. What's bad is political/institutional repression such that innovation is squashed. E.g. as many have written, Europe was one cultural space (among the elites) in the early modern period, but was politically fragmented, so people like Columbus, John Calvin or Thomas Hobbes had other places to try/flee to if their ideas were rejected in one. Unlike in China where for example, Zheng He's voyages depended on the whims of one emperor.

I don't really see any possibility any time soon that on a global basis any hegemon is going to rise that could prevent innovation. In fact we're seeing the opposite trend, political and ideological fragmentation on a global scale. While it's true that aesthetically, in say architecture and the interior design of coffee shops, the world seems to be homogenising, these things aren't ultimately that important.

Sure, in the 19th century France many local cultures were homogenised away via the 'peasants into Frenchmen' process, but did that lead to cultural decay in France itself in this period? No.

I also wrote about this recently on the idea of 'the universal culture', which I don't think is really that universal at all.

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Yeah good point re Europe and political fragmentation. I think the Internet enables the same thing.

I think robin thinks lack of innovation will ultimately come from low fertility

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Yeah maybe but it seems to me that low fertility is more an economic structure thing. It's not really as if China and Finland really share a culture beyond that of industrial modernity. And indeed the most significant high fertility subcultures (e.g. Haredi Jews and perhaps an emergent wing of rationalism) rely on international communication.

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"rely on international communication." to maintain a closed community, which simply put them back in time compared to the city folk, which now includes most country folk otherwise -- (BTW the current linkage between high birthrates and some religiously shut-in communities has more to do with being shut in than in being religious )

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It's not really an economic structure thing unless you say that having both people work in a household is the root of the problem. And then you open a whole can of worms, because women, completely refuse to mate with males that don't work and would be willing to just keep the household. I have seen this be functional in gay relationship and that's pretty much it (it works precisely because of the major difference).

China's economy is nothing like Finland or any western European countries; but they have clearly modelled a lot of "modern" behavior on those cultures.

Those cultures themselves are heavily influenced by US culture that is dominating a lot of the world with major cultural exports (Hollywood and other best-sellers type of works, in pretty much any type of art you can think of).

It is clearly a culture problem, with a very dominant player, that is spreading everything good or bad about its culture, everywhere.

And the actual reason, this is not only reproduced but also embraced in those countries is because the US is extremely successful economically and it looks like if they imitate that behavior, they will find the same success.

This is something we will all do, conscientiously or not: imitate the very successful peoples in hopes that the same type of success will come our way too.

But in reality, the US has been "stealing" the world, thanks in part to their enormous army complex, in part created for the Second World War; it's not all bad but it clearly leads to problems.

Low fertility is absolutely a cultural thing and has nothing to do with economics. All the countries concerned were making a lot more children with a way worse economy at many points so it's not like there is no historical precedent debunking that viewpoint.

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> good for cultural innovation

Language changes, and that could be considered "cultural innovation", but there doesn't seem to be much selection in favor of anything, more what a geneticist would consider random drift. Hanson is concerned with cultural maladaptation https://www.overcomingbias.com/p/i-fear-maladaptive-culture and what reason is there to think we will see adaptive selection any time soon?

> In fact we're seeing the opposite trend, political and ideological fragmentation on a global scale.

Not that much political fragmentation. South Sudan seceded from Sudan relatively recently, but for the most part post-colonial African statements have roughly kept colonial-era borders rather than fragmenting. The EU is also the opposite of political fragmentation (though there was also Brexit recently). I fear Tyler Cowen is right that improved communication technology leads to political centralization.

As for ideology, Francis Fukuyama said that with the collapse of the USSR we are at the end of history (in Hegelian terms), which has so far borne out. I think if one extends the timescale far enough out something else will challenge/displace liberal democratic capitalism, but nothing in the foreseeable future.

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We're not seeing political fragmentation as in national borders changing, I meant in terms of ideology. I don't think the end of history is bearing out. In terms of economics then yes it is, but not in terms of political culture. Many countries are less Western politically then they were 20 years ago. Russia, India, Israel, Turkey, Hungary.

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I don't think any of those countries have really transformed over that time period. Russia is even still run by the same guy.

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TikTok is a massive innovation in communication, phenomenology, and many other things. And our masters are going to either it, for "narratives".

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Is there anything quality in terms of information on tiktok? My impression (as a non-user) is it's just entertainment.

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Lots of good philosophy, lots of very valuable insight into the psyches of various subcultures, it is endless.

Anyone who says things like "TikTok is X" and leave sit at that is suffering from Allism Spectrum Disorder, or is engaged in conscious deceit (ie: our politicians & competing media platforms).

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*neuter it.

FFS the substack app is a POS.

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May 21Liked by Ruxandra Teslo

I first read about the Rationalist personality type in David Keirsey's "Please Understand Me" back in 1987 which looked at Carl Jung's breakdown of the four main temperaments, including the NT (Intuitive Thinker) that perfectly described the scientists and programmers and, what we called us back then, nerds. (Yes, this is also where the much maligned "Myers-Briggs" originally derived from). The NT's drive for competency, ability to see and develop future technological and other systemic developments long before anyone else, and disregard for traditional authority were described in detail by Jung and Keirsey. In the fulcrum of technological advancement, they have become more prominent and therefore more visible in society, in some ways surpassing the long celebrated Artisan (SP) type that had taken much of the spotlight for most of history due to the premium value put on their superior athletic, artistic and yes, social abilities.

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Now write a complementary article on how so many narcissists sail through the glass ceiling with no more skills more than love-bombing the hierarchy above them, while then denigrating those below, if not crushing them, and how we fail to police them....

for some discussion of narcissism versus monotropic special project of the self, and how they might be confused see https://whyweshould.substack.com/p/the-sky-pool

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Alternatively, high IQ individuals come up with high quality ideas, and those ideas convince other high IQ people in power, with little activism and bottom-up bullying needed like in the woke case.

Did Newton's Laws of Physics gain wide acceptance because a crowd of autistic people cared more about it than the normies, or because it was true?

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I would agree with that. But one question remains: how many high IQ people are in a position of power. Because from what I can get, the various social structure we have created have the terrible tendency to chase/shutdown high IQ behavior and instead reward "hard work" by people who are better at working the social ladder than doing really useful work.

You can see that this type of problem is to be found even at a company like Google who is supposed to be innovative/efficient and paradise for the weird nerd.

I think the meritocratic culture has pretty much died down everywhere in favor of a socialized political game; and while you are technically true, I don't think this is applicable anymore.

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One of the social dynamics that has been created by the internet is balkanisation – there is a more absolute separation now than there used to be between cultural enclaves that, if they did not share overlapping space, had common interconnective tissue orienting them in somewhat common ways. That interconnective tissue is now much less in abundance, and is generally moribund where it still exists. This creates an issue for the rationalists, compounded by your (accurate) description of them as people who possess inherent virtues by dint of which they find it hard to relate to normies – that is, that they have fewer arenas by which to impress what is valuable in their culture upon the Monoculture. You cannot overwrite another culture’s work unless you can understand it and dispute it with both effect and a measure of diplomacy, and unless you have enough attack surface to work with. Normies don’t consider a lot of rationalist doctrine with warmth – nothing new there if read against a history of attempted changes of doctrine – but if rationalists can’t prove to Monoculturists that rationalism promises more in the latter’s interests than the Monoculture does, the benevolent defeat of the latter seems fanciful.

I don’t think, as a result, a clash, and a victory for the rationalists, is inevitable, though some of the historical harbingers of rationalism’s heirness-apparent (high energy movement, high-if-(probably-over-)specialised-intelligence, high agency, some collectivisation and an improving standard of organisation, plays well in the market) are there. As great as those assets are, you need a lot more to shift a paradigm. The more likely outcome, things being as they are, is that rationalism and Monoculture stay in separation from each other within a much wider general space and the Monoculture continues its smooth decline unaware of or indifferent to the interesting activity of this small, energetic outlying sect over its shoulder.

I would also be sceptical of the power of rationalists to “transcend common cognitive biases.” They certainly deserve credit for transcending what you describe as Monocultural cognitive biases but rationalists are, after all, a culture – those particularly wedded to that culture are as enthral to their own common cognitive biases as Monoculturists are to theirs.

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Lovely article. Fully relate to it as a fellow person on the autism spectrum.

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I am not autistic. But "weird nerd" I can say fits me. At a certain point, all of us are weird nerds.

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There are many mainstream cults preceding Rationalism, from Freemasons to Transcendentalists, Blavatskyists

Culture’s been multipolar all along maybe.

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you should spend some time looking at Outsider Art to support some of your thinking, eg Gregory Blackstock for one. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Blackstock

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> I know Robin Hanson thinks the Internet (or anything for that matter) won’t save us from our low fertility promoting Monoculture. However, I’d like to remind him that his worries about low birth rates have been propagated mostly online and would have probably been next to impossible to voice otherwise.

That doesn't rebut him at all. What would actually rebut him is if fertility rose up. Or if the internet resulted in people speaking a language other than English, following a distinctive religion, obviously distinguishing themselves from mainstream culture... basically the things that the Amish & ultra-orthodox Jews do.

> I’ll remind everyone that Europe was very Christian for centuries…

And during that time paganism/folk religions were common in other parts of the world. Those are dying out, as part of the rise of global monoculture.

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Musk and Grimes met because they told the same rationalist joke on twitter. So its impact extends to the sometimes-richest man as well.

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