Some people become fascinated by military history, others by technology. Philosophers find themselves fascinated by how civilizations decay because they know that however finds a way to avoid that process will create a long-lasting civilization that will become the future of humanity.
Most civilizations die young. Like people born with congenital diseases or doomed to die in battle, they rise to a level of promise and then seemingly vanish in the next stroke, not collapsing violently but fading away and leaving degraded versions of their old selves.
Does anyone think that the people wandering around the ruins of Athens and Rome today could have created those cities? No, these are the remnants: whatever population was there, mixed with foreigners, with the soul and intelligence sucked out of the group. Did the intelligent die off, and then the mixing happen, or the other way around? It does not matter; it is over for them.
Once upon a time we knew these areas as the foundation of civilization, but now we know them for a few dishes they prepare. We notice how much they resemble third world groups, like Turks and Arabs, who lived nearby back when their ancient forms were thriving. We see what happened.
Understanding the downfall of civilizations would be easy if that collapse hit the weakest candidates. No one is surprised when the kid who is always sick dies, or the class clown fails algebra. Everyone is surprised when the star quarterback and top student suddenly disappears and comes back as a frail, filthy wino, but that is what happens most commonly in human history.
Unlike most hypotheses in this regard, mine addresses the fact that human civilizations die of success. They become wealthy, and then they impose types of external control on themselves, which then changes their citizens psychologically and eventually, physically and then genetically. This method causes them to fade away slowly but surely.
Another compelling theory suggests that low infant mortality leads to accumulation of recessive traits and therefore lowered average intelligence:
Every new baby is likely to have one or two new spontaneous deleterious gene mutations – some lethal, some only mildly harmful and others in between – they may also inherit mutations from their parents.
…Through most of evolutionary history, most babies and children (probably a large majority of them) especially those with the worst genetic damage – have died before reproducing. Thus mutation load is filtered by differential child mortality rates with each generation.
…If it is correct that – up to about 1800 – in almost all situations almost all babies died (and maybe only the ‘fittest’ 15 percent or so survived – or the fittest thirty percent… the exact number makes little difference).
But since 1800, starting in England then incrementally spreading across the whole world with no exceptions, child mortality rates have got lower, and lower; the mutation filtering effect has got less and less complete – and the mutation load has got greater with each generation.
We can see this lowered average intelligence because the Victorians were smarter than we are, and since that time, the ability of people to think in the West has plummeted. Out in the world, most people are brick-stupid at any task other than that for which they are explicitly trained, and seem to be unable think or react in disasters.
This is the result of the accumulation of deleterious mutations that lower intelligence and other forms of fitness:
Using reaction time data, the decline in genotypic IQ is of-the-order of 1.5 IQ points per decade – that is about 15 points in a century – or one standard deviation.
…Differential fertility would lead to a decline in intelligence – let’s say – by a reduction in the proportion of high IQ genes in the population.
This happens mostly because since the Industrial Revolution almost-all children that are born will survive; so reproductive success becomes almost-purely a matter of fertility; and the most intelligent sectors of the population are the least fertile, and less fertile with each generation; until eventually (i.e. for the past several decades) the most intelligent people are sub-fertile, below two offspring per woman – so that the genes which make them most intelligent will decline with each generation – first declining as a proportion of the gene pool, and then declining in absolute prevalence.
In other words, successful civilizations make enough people survive such that those on the lower end of abilities, who are naturally more fertile, outbreed the intelligent and throw us into a death spiral.
Undoubtedly this is what we see in the world around us, where our leaders appear to be morons, the voters stupider, the public pundits deranged, even the CEOs blind to the obvious, and so on. We are crashing into third world status because we rewarded bad breeding and punished good.
Interestingly, this seems to come with wealth, because with wealth come cities and lowered infant mortality, causing inversion on the medical front as well:
As mortality rates from infectious diseases declined in the United States and Europe at the end of the nineteenth century, larger urban areas became more viable. Packed in cities, people swapped ideas, improved on one another’s inventions, and started successful businesses. Indeed, no country has ever grown wealthy without urbanizing first.
Better health brought other benefits, too. Lower child mortality meant a larger share of young working-age adults in the population. Once fewer children died of infectious diseases, parents generally had fewer of them, freeing up women to join the labor force and leaving more resources to educate the children they did have. The government measures taken to reduce the incidence of infectious disease, such as quarantining the sick, mandating vaccinations, and building sewers and safe water systems, set early precedents for other forms of social regulation, such as compulsory schooling and military service, and for public investments in roads, railways, and ports.
This combination of better health and broad social improvement was a recipe for prosperity. As the economist Robert Gordon has written, “The historic decline in infant mortality centered in the six-decade period of 1890–1950 is one of the most important single facts in the history of American economic growth.”
Unless a civilization is ready for the assault that wealth will bring, any type of success means a slow but sure doom for that civilization. When it becomes too easy for the stupid to survive, the stupid — who by definition are easier to produce than the intelligent — survive and take over with superior numbers.
They then create an economy of stupidity. Stupid people want products for the stupid; they also need champions who, like them, are stupid. Utter morons become incredibly wealthy simply because they understand their audience, and when it comes time to vote, it is always a slaughter; the imbeciles outvote the credible ten-to-one and elect another lying idiot salesman.
The West is dying of stupidity.
Driving through West Texas yesterday, I kept City-Data open on my phone. Whenever the car nosed its way into a new town or city, and myself and my companion had a chance to explore, we then checked the ethnic statistics.
Each town has its own feel, something that is hard to quantify but equally hard to deny. Some had a vibe of cheer, others of resigned hopeless, and some still, like Fort Stockton, exuded an air of utter futility and angry, grinding despair. If a runaway nuclear missile heads toward Washington and Superman swings it toward Fort Stockton instead, nothing of value will be lost. Even the residents of Fort Stockton would probably agree with that statement.
Perhaps the greatest contrast came through two towns, each of about ten thousand people, which were fifteen miles apart. One felt like a small city suburb: it had a number of stores and businesses, a few big chains, but generally, was tidy and people seemed content. Buildings were not new, but felt maintained. People were cheerful and friendly, open in their manner, and seemed to keep themselves busy with agenda of their own. The town felt purposeful, contented, and friendly. They drove respectfully, smiled at people they did not know, and seemed to interact widely with others.
Fifteen miles down the road the other town had buildings of the same era which had simply not been maintained at all, people drove with a combination of distraction and unwarranted aggression, and seemed oblivious of one another. From interactions in the grocery store, it was clear that they fell into cliques who were intolerant of each other. There were more big chains, but fewer of those businesses which spring organically out of the ground to meet local needs. People walked with their heads down and eyes averted, not really looking at each other, and did not invite interaction at all. The town felt dead-end.
The difference between those two towns was 2% of the population. The happy town was whiter; the grim town was more diverse. Heading to the local newspaper, which stuck old issues online, we could see the story of the decline. Big industry left both towns, in one because it went offshore and in another because unions strangled it. Cheerful town focused on another kind of diversity, mainly in expanding its economic base from one thing to many; moribund town doubled-down on what it had left, which was farming.
This meant that in cheerful town, there was no one big thing that everyone did which attracted quite as much diversity. Rather, it showed up and came in for its own reasons, but was relegated to its own neighborhoods, even if it meant almost 40% of the population was black, Mexican, and Indian. These people worked in the menial jobs of the town and, as the saying goes, “knew their place.” No one wanted a brown mayor because everyone knew that brown people were capable of repetitive labor only, just like no one in Europe wanted a peasant as a king, because serfs are good for turnip picking and not much else.
In grim town, the farmers won the power struggle. Farmers are a tough bunch because they tend to think like American conservatives: as long as their land and their crops are doing well, they really do not care about anything else. Social order? Culture? Unity? Those things do not make the corn grow, son, and it grinds their gears when the rest of the world does not just double down on hard work, Jesus, and the flag like the farmers do. Farmers, like American conservatives, are their own worst enemies and the source of their own continual defeat.
Victory for the farmers meant that it became the new industry in town. That, in turn, meant that anyone who showed up and hung out at the feed store could get hired for cash money on a daily basis. That, in turn, meant that third world labor came to their town and moved into the housing abandoned by people fleeing the rise of diversity in town; the farmers, who lived outside town, did not notice. Then most of the remaining white people fled to the other nearby town.
In cheerful town, diversity was still a problem. There were rotted neighborhoods which looked like Mexico, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, or ten thousand other third world places because they all look the same. Individualism is the guiding principle of the third world; people do only what they want to, and focus only on their own businesses, and they let everything that is shared fall apart. This is why the third world lacks functional institutions, public or private, and everyone is hampered by having to do everything themselves. Every person is an island, in the third world, or even in grim town.
The sheer stupidity of the situation is unimaginable. That anyone would, with history as a resource, choose to build a town on a single industry. Stupid herd thinking there. Or that they would choose democracy, or diversity, at all. One cannot have a functional brain and do that. These people however, do not have functional brains. Something made them fail, and now we are ruled by idiots to the advantage of idiots.
Perhaps this is the buildup of deleterious mutations; clearly that is happening, not just from infant mortality but because our paint-by-numbers society allows utter fools to get jobs, pay the bills, and reproduce where a sane society would invoke Darwin against them. We seem to delight in having lots of idiots, because that proves we are the most egalitarian monkeys in the jungle.
However, I think something more basic is at play: with wealth, we stop being reality based and become socially-based. That is, we become more concerned about making our neighbors like us, so that we can sell them stuff, than we do about getting to the actual truth of any situation as measured in reality. Social influences take over our society.
Conservatives walk into a trap on this one, as with many other things, because they then step up to try to preserve what once was, forgetting that the game has changed. The answer is not to try to force everyone to behave well, but to spin off those who are behaving badly. If we had thought clearly about colonialism, we would have soft exiled the defectives overseas.
This leaves us with a simple question, namely, how can a civilization survive its own wealth? Several options await our consideration:
In other words, we either have obedience to self, group, or some kind of external power. This ignores the most likely candidate, which is internal power, or that which is formed of strong organic bonds like those created by culture and heritage. A group working together to be itself, and be the best that it can be, shares something which transcends material self-interest or social self-interest. It finds unity with itself and the world in a sense of purpose within itself.
Only with a goal like that can we make sacrifices, including allowing the unfit to perish, that will preserve civilization. Otherwise, we think only of ourselves and our fears, and allow idiots to grow around us until they rise up, take over, and ruin everything, as recent history shows us yet again.