New year reading material

Meat catastrophe

I try to look at things from both sides. Historically pessimistic predictions have generally been wrong, because they underestimated the power of human innovation. I try to look at innovation, at the power that human beings have to solve old problems in new ways. Nonetheless, if I’m really honest, I can’t quite escape the conclusion that things are starting to look pretty awfully bleak all around us. Let’s look at just one aspect today, just for my own entertainment.

Two months ago, the Guardian published an article detailing the enormous reduction in global meat consumption that’s necessary if we want to keep global climate change beneath 2.0 degree Celsius. To keep global temperature increase beneath two degree Celsius, average global pork consumption will have to go down by ninety percent, egg consumption has to go down by fifty percent and beef consumption has to be slashed by three quarters. All of this needs to happen by 2050. So, that gives us roughly thirty years, to deploy lab-grown meat worldwide, or usher in a vegetarian revolution. Neither seems very likely.

Let’s look at it this way: I can buy Quorn in the supermarket, a mycoprotein meat substitute grown in a manner similar to lab-grown meat. It costs 17.79 euro per kilogram. If I want to buy ground meat, I’ll be paying 5.10 euro per kilogram. It’s clear that mycoprotein can’t economically compete with actual meat. How is synthetic meat, a process vastly more complex that mycoprotein, going to economically compete with actual meat? I think this will be very difficult. Keep in mind that we’re not even looking at actual beef yet, we’re looking at ground meat which is a composite of different animals mashed together into an unrecognizable pulp. At this point, we haven’t yet looked at what we’ll be doing about eggs. Beef production is the most inefficient form of protein conversion we have. In contrast, chickens are rather efficient at protein conversion, converting roughly three amino acids of plants into one amino acid of human food.

Or not so catastrophic after all

I’ve argued in the past that I don´t consider the IPCC´s worst case scenario (RCP 8.5) very likely, due to geological constraints. This paper on the subject may be worth skimming through.

My prediction for 2100 (pulled out of my arse): 3.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial, 3 degree of which are due to human forcing, 0.5 degree due to positive feedback. The world population will be around two billion, the 1% will have a life expectancy of around 120, the rest of us around 40.

Gambling for pros

[Trigger warning: Boring talk about money]

Bitcoin Satoshi´s Vision is a fork of Bitcoin Cash, which is a fork of Bitcoin. My prediction for Bitcoin Satoshi´s Vision is that it will end up suffering the same fate as all the other failed attempts to improve Bitcoin. It´s currently valued at 1.5 billion dollar. Since a few days, it´s now possible to short-sell Satoshi´s Vision on Bitfinex. Here´s a daring prediction: I can earn easy money by short-selling these new digital tulip bulbs. The main risk any short-seller in a speculative bubble faces is being right before sufficient people have figured out you´re right. I´m right, but it remains to be seen whether other people figure this out soon enough for me to profit.

Investing for pros

Augur is a prediction market, that uses Ethereum to resolve bets. The obvious problem is as following: If you bet that Donald Trump will be reelected as president in 2020, but Ethereum has dropped by 90% in value in the meantime, that´s a Pyrrhic victory. The easiest solution would be integration with a stablecoin. Now you can just bet with your digital dollar equivalents, your only loss would be the opportunity cost.

So, the most likely candidate for a stablecoin to be integrated into Augur is Dai. Dai works as following: There´s a coin called Maker, used to govern the protocol. You can lock up Ethereum (soon other currencies too), to receive Dai in return. This is de facto a form of decentralized leverage, with the coin you´re locking up serving as collateral.

Let´s imagine Augur integrates Dai. Augur is now more useful, so the coin should rise in value. The MakerDao system has shown that it has functional utility, so its valuation would grow too. Keep in mind that we´re still in a bear market for crypto, that might be about to end soon. The same analysts who predicted the plunge in value of Bitcoin predicted that coins with functional utility would start rising in value, once the bearmarket hits its bottom around early 2019. We might finally be seeing a bottom in Proof of Research coins too, although the lack of progress in their development and marketing has been disappointing for me.

Why would anyone want a decentralized prediction market? To start with, this allows people to engage in insider trading. Any kind of financial product can be generated on a well functioning decentralized prediction market. Finally, although Augur might have built in safety mechanisms to avoid the creation of assassination markets, this phenomenon will inevitably pop up in the future.

The forgotten psychedelic

Everyone uses LSD for microdosing, nobody uses Mescaline. Here you´ll find everything you need to know about microdosing mescaline. Microdosing mescaline specifically seems to be extremely useful to enhance creativity.

High testosterone fucks up your life

We can measure how much testosterone someone was exposed to before birth, by looking at the ratio between their index finger and their ring finger. A low ratio, meaning a small index finger and a long ring finger, means you were exposed to a lot of testosterone and have a manly brain. A high ratio means you´re committed to diversity with her exposed to less testosterone before birth and have a less masculine brain.  There´s also a difference between ethnic groups, in the exact direction you´re expecting.

The society we live in generally selects for less manly men. Men with low ratios perform worse academically. Faculty staff at universities tend to have a female digit ratio on average. The main advantage you have as a man if you have a low ratio is that you´re more fertile and more attractive looking. Other than that, hypermasculinity primarily carries disadvantages. You´re less socially competent, less empathic, more likely to be autistic and more likely to get in trouble.

Balancing selection

If you have schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder, depression, anorexia nervosa or substance abuse problems, you´ll have less children than the average person. However, do your siblings make up for it? In case of depression and substance abuse problems, they do. The question that remains is, why do the genes that cause depression and substance abuse have a selective advantage? My suggestion would be that depression and substance abuse are a product of an unfulfilled desire to seek out belonging. If you don´t have that desire, you end up with less of a desire for children.

How the Trump family started out

The Trump family´s wealth began to accumulate when Donald´s paternal grandfather set up brothels in Seattle. He also made a sizeable profit, by staking a claim to a plot of land during a gold rush. He was one of few people during the gold rush to make money. How did he make money? By facilitating the gold rush. He had a restaurant where they made food out of dead overworked horses, a brothel for the young men to visit and he offered gambling and other hustles too.

Frederick died at age 49, leaving his wife with the responsibility of taking over the business. She expanded the business, her son stepped in as a teenager and they started building an actual fortune. In 1954, Donald´s dad was investigated for profiteering, the legal term for what amounts to massively inflating his costs to scam the Federal Housing Administration. Donald Trump likes to present himself as a self-made man, but in reality, it´s now clear that Donald and his dad set up a series of deals to bail out Donald´s failing business endeavors, thereby avoiding inheritance taxes that would otherwise have decimated the family fortune.

The Trump family doesn´t just illustrate the myth of meritocracy, it also illustrates the myth of the protestant work ethic. The path to wealth is not hard work. It´s seeking out legally and morally dubious business activities, where only the most shameless and ruthless people are willing to lurk. The Trump family joined the American upper class through the kind of business activities the upper class doesn´t want to have their names associated with. This isn´t unique of course, it´s how aristocracies have historically always swelled their ranks. Do something sleazy, build up a fortune and spend the next few generations donating money to charities until your family name is respected. Hard work is not a path to power and riches.

The acceptance dogma

Interesting essay about the tendency of people to pretend that autism is a normal part of human variety, even though it became epidemic over a period of just a few years. ¨Improved diagnosis¨ is the biggest politically correct myth out there about autism. Autistic children are 28 times more likely to attempt suicide, the tendency in our society to deny the severity of the disease seems borderline criminal to me.

My belief is that autism is an autoimmune condition, caused by something that has changed in our environment. I don’t claim to know what it is, but it seems to me that the link to vaccination hasn’t been debunked and deserves serious consideration. Let’s put it this way: If autism is an autoimmune condition, the habit of injecting chemicals into our body meant to provoke an artificially aggravated immune response should be considered a prime suspect.

Wasn’t the link to autism debunked? The problem is that studies compare groups of people who take vaccines with groups who don’t take vaccines. What kind of parents will be hesitant to give their children the MMR vaccine? Parents who have reason to fear their child might develop autism. This is the healthy user effect, most studies haven’t taken this problem into consideration. In fact, if the studies are flawed due to the healthy user effect, we would expect to see the MMR vaccine associated with a statistically significant reduced risk of autism, which is exactly what some of these studies show, while making no effort to explain how that’s possible.

Antibodies have been found against the brain in autism and therapies against such antibodies result in elimination of many of the symptoms of autism. Every Reddit nerd who blindly parrots every other Reddit nerd knows about Dr Wakefield and his research that has been retracted. However, how many of them know about V. K. Singh’s research?

Your job is going to suck

Here’s an article full of gems, about jobs in the year 2030:

A 2013 report by the Federal Reserve found that just 27 percent of college graduates worked in a job that actually matched what they studied in college.

So why again am I required to spend four years of my life in college if I don’t want to deliver mail or flip burgers for the rest of my life?

The problem isn’t necessarily a lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs at universities around the country, but the fact that students studying non-tech centric subjects will need the skills that are currently being taught almost exclusively to STEM-focused students.

Congrats kids, you’ll be a STEM nerd, whether you want to be or not.

Music

I´m not sticking to any theme or genre today for music, I find myself going in circles on the Internet a lot, because I end up in a self-referential bubble. It´s more useful if I manage to expose other people to stuff that´s entirely new for them.

Previous music dumps: Here and here.

A long time ago, Ulver produced an entire album dedicated to putting William Blake´s Marriage of Heaven and Hell to music. Generally speaking, when you set out in art to produce something over the top ambitious, you´ll find yourself having providence on your side. I´m sharing just one song here, you can look up the rest for yourself.

Do you remember that scene in The Shining where Jack Torrance walks through a 20´s style haunted ballroom? Well, essentially all of the Caretaker´s music is inspired by this scene. I´m sharing my favorite album from Kirby here.

This is some classical cold wave from 1981. What I like about it is that it´s filled with raw passion. There was a second big wave of cold wave music that peaked around five years ago. The best project that came forth out of it was Linea Aspera. I managed to see them live once and I was absolutely starstruck (I have a weak spot for pale androgynous goth girls), but the two artists apparently didn´t get along very well, so the project met a premature demise.

A witch house classic, just because I feel like it. The video is a bunch of excerpts from a movie about the real life story of a Berlin teenage prostitute addicted to heroin in the 1980´s. It´s my favorite video to a witch house song. Keep in mind that witch house is a genre primarily meant to subvert, alienate and unnerve. Here´s something you never knew: You can generally tell witch house apart due to its syncopated drums. The drum patterns in witch house are designed in a manner that makes it sound as if drumbeats occur at the moments you least expect them. The absence of rhythm becomes a rhythm of its own. If you wonder why the music sounds unnerving and alienating, it´s not just timbre of the synths or the distorted voices, it´s largely the syncopated drums that screw with your mind. To me it is essentially surrealism applied to music.

Doom and gloom on video

A video tour through Detroit´s worst neighborhoods. The guy has more videos up too, including a few recorded at night, when people hang out outside.

To any of the normies reading along, I´m not even going to explain why someone might like watching a guy videotape his local KMart being dismantled for twenty minutes. I don´t ask you to explain why you go to the cinema with your friends to watch the fourteenth reboot of superbatspiderwoman part thirtythree either.

The Grinch

This post on Reddit from four years ago pops up in my head every december. It got me thinking: There´s a lot you can deduce from Dutch culture that we want to dress up as black slaves rather than as otherwordly demons. Yep, we´re calvinist merchants. We stripped Christianity of its heathen heritage and made wealth a symptom of God´s approval, so we stripped Saint Nicholas of his demonic helper and gave him chattel slaves instead.

What does it mean, when Saint Nicholas has an overweight American cousin who lives in a shopping mall and has an antagonist known as the Grinch, whose main characteristic is his dislike of the holiday? To me it reeks of insecurity. The Dutch Saint Nicholas is a dementing elderly man who is about to die in a slave revolt, but Santa seems to be suffering teenage angst. I think the Grinch is a symptom of American insecurity over their relatively recent origin as a people.

Make no mistake, I like Santa. I think he should stick to visiting America however. It´s rarely a good idea to sever traditions from their roots and to transplant them elsewhere. The shopping mall is not the center of European communities. There´s a charming article about American Santas here that illustrates to me the American nature of Santa Claus. Santa is a product of a cultural melting pot and one of his responsibilities is to be as inoffensive as possible, in a society rife with ethnic tensions. His white beard symbolizes his status as a benign patriarch, his obesity a necessary characteristic that dispels any interpretation as a potential threat. He originates from the North Pole and so he is devoid of any ethnic chauvinism, as a citizen of the world.

Life extension in reach

Senolytics are substances that work to remove your aging cells. By now there is no genuine doubt left that this dramatically increases the life expectancy of lab animals. Recently it became clear that regular naturally occurring substances can also serve as senolytics. The evidence suggests that Fisetin in doses of 500 milligram per day for five days in a row, would flush out a large amount of senescent cells from a human body. In lab animals, Fisetin massively increases life expectancy. This is still highly experimental, no trials in humans have been done, but this is a field that´s moving incredibly rapidly. You can buy enough Fisetin for such an experiment on Amazon, for just thirty dollar. These are interesting times we live in.

1 Comment

  1. “Historically pessimistic predictions have generally been wrong, because they underestimated the power of human innovation.”

    There have been a lot of optimistic predictions that were wrong as well, so aren’t you just singling out the pessimistic ones?

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