I’m not the epitome of productivity. Sometimes I like to vape some kush, set myself some sleepy tea, lay on the couch with a blanket and then I look at videos like this:
You can tell that the person who created this has to be very clever and creative. But take a look at this video and you’ll notice it’s two hours long. It had 50,000 people take at least a cursory glance at it. But now I’m going to ask you to take a look at this guy’s channel. What you’re going to find is that there are hundreds upon hundreds of parks like this. Very smart and creative nerds are pouring vast amounts of time into making theme parks that perhaps a few thousand people will ever really see, if they’re lucky. Do me a favor and check out a few of the videos that appeal to you. If I didn’t know better I would think AI just generates these videos on the fly, as there are so many of them.
After you’ve done this, I would ask you, to compare what you’ve seen to the real world. In the real world, the skyline of New York City is produced by guys like Donald Trump. Theme parks are similarly being built by people of questionable competence and intelligence. Now take a look at how this Dutch town kind of accidentally ended up with the world’s ugliest cinema:
You would think that people can figure out this ruins the look of the whole inner city area. Once you’ve approved something like this, you’re stuck with it for decades. For all practical purposes, they’ve ruined the city for tourism. And yet, something like this, this grey box atrocity, managed to get approved.
So I feel like asking you: Why do you think this sort of stuff happens? My theory is that modern society has inadvertently created the conditions for selection against competence. Someone who really likes building rollercoasters and has a real passion for it isn’t going to spend four years as an engineering student, apply as a junior engineer at a company that builds rollercoasters and then climb up the ranks until he himself gets to design the rollercoaster. No, he’s going to play rollercoaster tycoon and get bad grades in college.
Who ends up actually designing the rollercoasters in our society? Someone who thinks this is a way to earn a lot of money, or perhaps someone motivated by the thought of introducing himself at parties as a “rollercoaster designer”, or someone who got the job because he has an uncle in the business, etc.
Take a look again at the city centre of Hulst in the picture above. Imagine we take ten autistic NEETs who spend their days building theme parks and we force them to sit together and arrive at a design for a cinema. Even though they might have very contrasting visions, I’m convinced it wouldn’t look remotely as bad as this. So why didn’t ten autistic NEETs design the cinema together? Because they’re drawn to the hyperstimuli of video games like flies are to lights.
Essentially, the whole college to internship to junior level whatever pipeline is a giant selection against any sort of competence or passion. It’s a big mystery that frustrates a lot of “trads” on the Internet: How our urban landscape is becoming dominated by buildings that the vast majority of the population considers hideous, but happen to be popular with architects.
There are multiple factors that play a role in this phenomenon. Brutalism is popular with architects, because it allows them to distinguish themselves from previous generations of architects. It’s also popular because it requires relatively few specialized craftsmen, it lends itself to rapid mass production by poorly skilled construction workers. But equally important, the sort of people who would be able to design something more beautiful never end up as architects, nor do they end up as the sort of people who decide which architect gets the job: Such people end up designing theme parks that get a two hour video viewed by 5,000 people.
Essentially physical reality itself is being abandoned, it’s turning into a ghetto due to a brain drain towards the Internet. In cyberspace, everyone can produce just about anything they want, as there are no consequences for failure, only for success. Your YouTube channel doesn’t take off? Then you’re like this guy who has spent years of his life reviewing theme parks for 600 dollar of Patreonbux a month. For every Pewdiepie there are a thousand guys like this and for every guy like this, there are a dozen more who don’t even get this far and just leave fossils behind on the Internet.
Similarly, for the guys building these parks, there’s no risk that the amusement park ride burns down and kills a dozen people, with a government official having to resign because he let an autistic NEET set up his own amusement park where normies were immolated by the flames while hanging upside down due to a design flaw.
We don’t really get nightclubs anymore that burn down and kill hundreds of people, or shopping malls that collapse in on themselves, because we make sure that we put up plenty of red tape everywhere to prevent people from building such doomed projects. But we don’t really get excellence anymore either as a result. The Romans built the Pantheon and we look at it and admire it today, but they would also build shitty amphitheaters that collapsed and killed tens of thousands. The extremely bad stuff of the past is no longer around for us to see, the excellence was preserved. And yet, today we’re building neither extremely bad nor excellent stuff: We’re building mediocrities, projects without a vision.
With the factors at work today, I can quite comfortably say that anything that looks like one of these Internet autists building one of his projects in the real world, is a scam. A proper vaccine against SARS-COV-2? The people who could do that live in cyberspace now. You get companies like Theranos, Wirecard and Tesla instead. People who can build something new aren’t going to get through the hurdles, nor is the value of what they’re aiming to build going to be recognized.
Elon Musk could be doing all sorts of stuff with his fortune that has an actual chance of succeeding. He’s not going to, because he’s a scammer and it doesn’t matter whether the stuff he’s doing succeeds: It matters that dumb people will throw money at it. “Terraform Mars” has more appeal to the general public than “reforest Scotland to draw down carbon” or “restore the North Sea oyster reef” or “draw down carbon with seaweed plantations” or “mine olivine in Iceland”.
All those projects would mean more for the world than a bunch of subsidized luxury vehicles nobody wants to buy, or a rocket that sends some people into space. I think it’s still physically possible to reverse climate change. The photosynthetic efficiency of algae and duckweed are extremely high. We can grow these plants at rapid speed to draw down large amounts of carbon. I don’t think it’s culturally possible however.
The good news is that the sort of stuff that would actually help us avoid billions of deaths from a collapse of our planetary life support systems this century is going to be built. The tragedy is that it’s going to be built by autists inside video games, whose Youtube videos will get 5,000 views.