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Why no depiction of Hitler is evil enough

Robin Hanson thinks it the result of a signaling spiral, "wherein people strive to show how moral they are by thinking... even more lowly of standard exemplars of bad..." Certainly possible, and plausible.

But there is an alternative explanation: Hitler is the Devil — for Protestant atheists (secular progressives, in the cladistics of Mencius Moldbug). And why Hitler, of all the terrible people who could be elevated to Devil? (Note Hanson's theory does not explain this.)

The theory of Protestant atheism has more explanatory traction here. Democracy and industrialism are arguably the two major dimensions of Modernity, and Modernity is a bargain with the actual Devil. Hitler is perhaps the purest, the least alloyed product of industrialism and democracy, before Modernity evolved its outer armor involving several layers of confusion and obfuscation. Hitler may be a uniquely dramatic embodiment of everything that is wrong with Modernity, but there is no way to say so without endorsing an essentially Christian eschatology. The problem is that people don't want to be Christian; it's pretty much mutually-exclusive with cosmopolitan success via symbol-manipulating careers. However, they still want to say that bad things are bad, and that some things are so bad that they're... really bad. So they must, ultimately, generate a symbol of the Devil. That is, they must eventually believe in the existence of the Devil. And what symbol will they converge on, if not the explicitly theological one that's been on offer for ages? Well, whatever is too much themselves, whatever dramatizes their own bargain too clearly.

Urbit and Exit with Urbit Engineer Ted Blackman

Ted Blackman is a senior engineer at Urbit, the mysterious tech startup founded by Curtis Yarvin, aka Mencius Moldbug. Ted kindly answered all my questions, and he dealt very graciously with my efforts to politicize everything. Ted is outside so be warned, there is some background noise. If you would really value better audio engineering please tell me as I decide how to allocate effort across the Other Life ecosystem...

This conversation was first recorded as a livestream on Youtube. Big thanks to all the financial contributors who help to keep this running. You can also download this episode.

Bear Traps

It is very clever how Moldbug chooses extra-provocative phrases and examples—for instance, extended reflections on the successful infrastructure projects of the Third Reich. He likes to purposefully trip social justice trip-wires, as if he's a literal Nazi naïvely unaware that certain rhetorical choices are way beyond problematicHe's playing a two-level game. Any calm, half-intelligent person with the patience to hear him out will see he has no interest in white supremacy or Naziism, but anyone at all inclined to outrage will be so quickly overwhelmed with the smell of evil that they'll turn away. These latter individuals will be rendered either speechless and therefore innocuous, or they will be launched into expressing something somewhere (always a win for any project of public communication). The only people who won't be scandalized by such ridiculously bad "optics" across such long texts will be, by definition, above-average in discernment and conscientiousness.

Compare this devilish rhetorical strategy to all of the public intellectuals today who seek to criticize overly sensitive outrage tripwires, such as the Intellectual Dark Web clique. These folks dedicate the utmost care and attention to not tripping the trip-wires they are criticizing: such souls continue to be surprised and saddened when they realize they've accidentally tripped one, probably because its threshold was turned down a notch since they last checked. Go directly to jail. Do not collect $200 for your impeccable commitment to not breaking any rules whatsoever. Contemporary, mainstream public intellectual life is like a large forest with so many open bear traps scattered everywhere, that you can't tip-toe around one without hitting another.

People such as Moldbug — and Nick Land, too — seem to grasp the underlying, actually operative rule of what is and is not acceptable to express: 'thou shall not approach what is unacceptable.' Intuiting the long-run equilibrium of such a rule, and realizing that for any seriously thinking person it would be worse than death, they choose to run, jump, and do a big ol' somersault right into the center of the biggest bear traps they can find. It turns out these bear traps have a weird design flaw, in which they fail to kill large bipeds who land on them with sufficient force.

Ideology, Intelligence, and Capital with Nick Land

Nick Land is a British philosopher living in Shanghai. Nick is one of the main figures in the school of thought known as accelerationism. He is currently writing a book about the philosophical implications of Bitcoin. We talked about accelerationism, cybernetics, ideology, the evolution of Nick’s perspective, Deleuze and Guattari, emancipation and dehumanization, artificial intelligence, capitalism, Moldbug, mathematics and the significance of zero, religion, blockchain/Bitcoin, Kantianism, synthetic time, and more.

We recorded this online, over two sessions. We did have some unavoidable connection problems, so you'll notice some imperfections such as clicking sounds throughout. We did the best we could; big thanks to those who helped with the editing.

A full-text transcript with timestamps is now available at Vast Abrupt.

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