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The Malthusian Mind Virus
The Monetary Wars Part VII
"Whatever we expect with confidence becomes our own self-fulfilling prophecy." -Brian Tracy
Early during the summer of 1985, shortly before my eighth birthday, I picked a book off the family bookshelf. I don't recall the author or title (maybe a reader here knows?), but it was a book about practical meditation. The author included anecdotes about professional athletes, including Jack Nicklaus, and how so many of the greats practiced positive visualization en route to achieving success.
A few miles from our home was a Putt-Putt mini-golf and arcade center. On Saturdays, for five dollars, I got a hotdog, a soda, and could play as many rounds of 18 holes as I liked. I'd be there for hours, sometimes playing the same hole over and over to find the right angle or point on a rail to swing at, or working to control stroke impact. On other days, I would sit in my room, or on the ground outside, and imagine the process of putting a dimpled ball into a hole. Repeat, repeat. I would often remind myself to smile and to feel pleasant feelings. Repeat, repeat. By the end of the summer, I aced almost half the holes each round.
During the last weekend before school started back, I entered an adult Putt-Putt tournament and finished fifth. The lowest three scorers received trophies. My older brother, Chad, and the boy he played the round with, finished first and third, while second and fourth place went to two adults who were referred to as "professionals" (whatever that means in mini golf). After the event, my brother laughingly explained how he and his golfing partner cheated, giving themselves whatever scores they needed to remain in front. I got pretty angry. I really wanted a trophy---not just because I earned it, but because I wanted to tell my friends the story of how I learned to beat nearly all the adults at the game in a few weeks. I desperately wanted everyone to understand how it worked, but stories like that coming from an eight-year-old just don't sound as good without the proof.
But I convinced myself. I came to believe strongly in the method of positive visualization, applying it to most everything I found valuable enough to spend time on. That included studying mathematics, which I would usually do without a book or a pencil. You would have a hard time convincing me that imagining what success looks like while in a relaxed state, whether the result of repetitive motions or thoughts or controlled emotions of experienced success, fails to substantially enhance outcomes. And personal expectations, too.
"Fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thinking that there is something to be avoided manifests something to avoid." -Vironika Tugaleva
Just as positive mental patterns and feedback loops (habits) can lead to healthy human growth and resolution of problems, the mind can be seeded with ideas, habits, and unresolved tensions that disrupt mental health.
In his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins explored concepts of evolution not centered around individuals. As the name of the book implies, Dawkins explored a game-theoretic view about how shared genes correlate to cooperative strategy. In that work, Dawkins also introduced the concept of the 'meme'. Where a gene can be described as a unit of biological evolution, a meme is a unit of cultural evolution. The controversial idea of the meme and its implications gradually grew into the field of memetics, which has been made practical as something like the science of going viral.
Dawkins grew further controversial when he described religions as Viruses of the Mind in a 1991 essay. The idea spread quickly in academic circles.
Without going deep on the topic (perhaps I will another time), I disagree with such a characterization of faith, or religion, or belief as a mind virus (Dawkins has revised his views substantially in the interim). To be extremely brief, I would point out that Christianity outlasted the Roman Empire because it provided people with an expansive social trust network that worked against the contagious corruption and oppression that characterized the Roman Empire as it degraded from its peak. Trust networks ease or revert the collectively suboptimal payouts of prisoners' dilemmas. But I greatly appreciate the notion of the mind virus. Because mind viruses, I believe, are certainly real.
To say that something is real, we first need a definition.
A mind virus is an idea, or related set of ideas, that inhabits vulnerable minds, creates conflict in the mind (for a period of time until resolution), and can spread from that mind to other minds.
The "resolution" criterion is implicit. When somebody fully frames and understands an idea, it stops poking around in the hierarchy of conscious-to-subconscious ideas taking up the brain's analog of CPU cycles. Unresolved, the mind virus weighs on the mind, draining attention resources, thus harming the host.
Sometime in 2018, I joined Bret Weinstein's monthly discussion circle, The Coalition of the Reasonable. One of the discussions frustrated me because it centered around a debate between himself and Dawkins that some of the participants had witnessed, but I hadn't. It might have been this one:
Bret was excited about the discussion, and spoke more rapidly than usual, so it was the one time in a dozen conversations when it was particularly hard for me to get a toehold on the primary focus of the conversation. So, I did what I often do in those situations, and chose to focus on one part of the conversation that I didn't need a background in the conversation to think about. Bret brought up the distinction between vertical and horizontal transmission of cultural lessons/ideas/memes. In particular, he posited that vertical transmission of cultural values (from parents to children, whether based in religion or otherwise) seems to be healthier than horizontal transmission.
That notion felt immediately intuitive to me (discounting possible counterexamples based on the fitness of the parent/guide), and I've thought a lot about it since. In particular, right around that time, I was also often thinking and reading about the roots of the negative effects of fatherlessness. Boys in particular are at a heightened risk of failing at (or giving into) school, or growing violent without the protective emotional involvement of a paternal role model. In the language of terrain theory, we might say that deficiency of parental support is at the root of much or most mental illness. If the mind can be said to have an immune system, it comes at least partially from the thought patterns (observed through behavior) of adults demonstrating or sharing their own resolutions of complex or challenging ideas. And, of course, that happens best in a loving home where everyone can let down their mental and emotional defenses. If the analogy holds, mind viruses don't generally take root to cause serious illness in children with healthy adult guidance (perhaps aside from exceptions involving brain injuries or rare conditions like Fragile X syndrome).
If it feels as though the structure of modern society has moved horizontally, allowing mind viruses to thrive among weakened mental immune systems. The traditional structures of family, community, and religion have been largely replaced with school, social media, and television. The vertical transmission of values (from people whose earned wisdom has become apparent over time) has thus been largely replaced with the horizontal transmission of culture (which can include most anything imaginable, healthy or otherwise, where the "otherwise" category is far larger). Perhaps this took place because culture is an easier system to game. It's also a better playing field for the kunlangeta and other bullies.
Do you ever get the feeling that the Big Tech/Big Media union understands all this, and in a scary kind of way? Or misunderstands it in an even scarier kind of way?
I won't claim to have laid out anything like a full explanation of mind viruses. Do your own research. But I wanted the concept of the mind virus to be introduced before talking about the one that I think matters most right now. It matters most because it seems to best infect the educated classes.
The Malthusian Mind Virus
"Population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every 25 years or increases in a geometric ratio." -Thomas Malthus
Fact Check: Population doubling over 25 years requires a lognoralized 2.81% growth rate. This rate is exceeded by fewer than 20 nations in the world (out of over 200), and has been in decline since roughly 1971 (ahem), when it wasn't much over 2% in the first place.
But population growth is secondary to the mistakes of Malthusians which have become codified into conventional wisdom through a mind virus with a pernicious educational vector. More than two centuries ago, Malthus wrote about how the world's farmland was insufficient to feed the growing population, which was slightly over a billion humans at the time. Clearly he was wrong on that account.
What Malthus failed to understand is the way that technological growth increases resource capacity, by definition. Given the state of economic and financial education, it is no wonder that such a mistake could survive and thrive through the decades.
To be fair, if we go deep, we can note that civilizations that are subsets of the human species have collapsed due to resource bottlenecks. Sure, the Mayan society may have collapsed due to drought, but certainly humans thrived broadly since. The advent of general capitalism (positive economic feedback loops and broader trade, improved education, and technological exchange) made that easier. We should, as a species, be highly aware of our potential resource bottlenecks, and manage them intentionally while the economic incentives of scarcity bait great inventive minds to architect solutions.
Before we go too far, let's take a look at what I'll call The Great Flattening of economic growth that baits the mind into susceptibility to the Malthusian mind virus, even if we have not yet defined it. The Great Flattening is the decline in the world's GDP growth rate over the past 50 years. From World Bank:
However, this drop in GDP growth fails to take into account all of the following:
The growth of economies outside of control and measurement of fiscal authorities,
The roles of centralized authorities in malinvestment in technologies designed to consolidate power,
The role of intellectual property law in preventing vast amounts of investment in the growth and spread of technology, which in turn drives economic growth, and
The role of money printing, which has taken place off the books in far greater quantities than even most people know.
I will write more about these topics in the future as they are important and I have no plans to Epstein myself any time soon.
The Corporate Pseudo-Malthusians and The Malthusian Mandarins
Let's lay down some more definitions:
The Malthusian mind virus is the pseudo-economic belief in the impending economic-driven doom of humanity.
The Malthusian Mandarins are the educated class put in charge of most of the world's most important societal institutions, who are infected by the Malthusian mind virus.
The Corporate Pseudo-Malthusians are the corporate Mandarins who deliberately seed the Malthusian mind virus for their own cynical and sociopathic ends, whether or not sickened by the Malthusian mind virus themselves.
Clearly there is a lot to unpack already, but some of that will have to wait for another article or few. New RTE readers are encouraged to read backlinks for greater detail.
Here is where we are:
The power of the kunlangeta depends on a hierarchy of sociopaths and narcissists, including the corporate pseudo-Malthusians.
The entitled corporate pseudo-Malthusians intentionally spread the Malthusian mind virus to the other Mandarins.
The result is a world in which institutional leadership believes that the collapse of the dollar (it's coming) results in global economic collapse, dooming the planet (meaning the hierarchy they run). Trained into blindness regarding the roots of The Great Flattening, the Malthusian Mandarins never shake the mind virus. Their distorted perception congeals into mass psychosis. This in turn leaves them viciously blaming the underclasses, whom they self-train to abuse, and looking for ways to replace them with centralized automated technologies that result in actual GDP collapse.
Meanwhile, they flap their gums about masks they don't wear outside of television appearance, and climate change. Since 1971, carbon emissions have increased a mere 20% after taking a recent downturn, while electricity production has tripled.
And while I'll save a deep dive on the topic for another time (I'm ~1,000 pages behind in pandemic exposition, so adding another few thousand isn't in the cards), we might note that the large-scale production of carbon seems to strangely supplant nearly all other public discourse on pollutions and other externalities on which the profits of the corporate pseudo-Malthusians depend. This is a recipe for not solving a thousand problems while over-focusing on just one.
If you're searching for more evidence, read through a history of those promoting Malthusian viewpoints. The Malthusian mind virus goes hand-in-hand with some ugly aspects of society. Somehow, the expectation of doom encourages something like a fight-or-flight response among the educated class who don't understand how to engineer their escape from the corporate hierarchy of the kunlangeta. Michael Shermer noted in a Scientific American article in 2016,
On the negative side of the ledger are the policies derived from the belief in the inevitability of a Malthusian collapse. “The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race,” Malthus gloomily predicted. His scenario influenced policy makers to embrace social Darwinism and eugenics, resulting in draconian measures to restrict particular populations' family size, including forced sterilizations.
The Malthusians see those they govern not as the byproduct of their own failed policies and systems, but as something like useless eaters. This is summed up in An Essay on the Principle of Population:
The lower classes of people in Europe may at some future period be much better instructed than they are at present; they may be taught to employ the little spare time they have in many better ways than at the ale-house; they may live under better and more equal laws than they have ever hitherto done, perhaps, in any country; and I even conceive it possible, though not probable that they may have more leisure; but it is not in the nature of things that they can be awarded such a quantity of money or subsistence as will allow them all to marry early, in the full confidence that they shall be able to provide with ease for a numerous Family.
Even though the Malthusian Mandarins have increasingly taken charge of now-failing institutions throughout The Great Flattening, their self-anointed superiority confers entitlement to judge everyone else---and dictate their life choices. They are blinded to the technological roots of The Great Flattening because looking on it would shatter the narcissistic religion they've mimetically constructed in their own image.
Mind Viruses and Natural Immunity
"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." -Viktor Frankl
Thirty-eight years ago today, before the light of dawn bathed the facility in which he worked, lieutenant colonel Stanislav Petrov of the Soviet Air Defence Forces observed signals from the Soviet Union's ballistic missile early-warning system. Horns blared and lights flashed on a console telling Petrov that the reliability of the signal was high. One after another, launches were detected---coming from the United States. According to protocol, Petrov's job was to phone the signal in on a direct line to top military commanders who could then launch a counter strike. The stakes could scarcely have been higher---a massive nuclear war between the world's superpowers.
Petrov claims that he froze up in the moment, but he did take the step of consulting analysts who did not see signs of missile launches. Perhaps somewhere in his mind he recognized the mutual incentives of two powerful nations not to engage in the high risk of mutual annihilation, and thus took extra stock in the analysts over the computers. Whatever did happen, his deliberate inaction may have saved millions or even hundreds of millions of lives.
There is something amazing about the human mind. No matter the training, brainwashing, and expectations, those who choose to use it have an astonishing way of recognizing a deeper sense of reality when it comes to matters more significant than their immediate station. Petrov was reprimanded for his decision to hold back from nuclear war, but he was celebrated after the technologically and economically centralized Soviet Union finally collapsed.