We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day – truth about science

We are so far down the slippery slope of “having not been allowed to speak the truth about science because it must be subsumed to ideology” that re-entry into any sort of objective assessment is going to be incredibly jarring.

The foundations of modern technocracy are invalid and if your stock in trade has, for decades, perhaps centuries, lain in deriving authority and influence from peddling uncriticizable frameworks to induce others (and perhaps yourself) to inhabit hallucinations. this return to reality poses grave threat to currently ascendant political & ideological power bases.

This, of course, dovetails right into the heart of the omnipresent octopus of the government industrial censorship complex, the other group deeply insistent on getting to be the one who decides what’s true and what may be spoken. it too fears unmoderated content perhaps above all else as unfettered facts are technocratic kryptonite.

El Gato Malo

Ten years ago, Brian Mickelthwait predicted the response to Covid-19

Ten years and ten days ago, the sadly missed Brian Micklethwait wrote this: “What if there is a real collective disaster?”

Brian quoted this article by Paul Murphy which said that the response of governments and the scientific establishment to what they saw as the global warming crisis had “destroyed the credibility of all involved” and “greatly weakened the world’s ability to recognize and respond to a real threat should one now materialize.”

Brian added,

An unfree society may be great at imposing immediate unanimity, but what if what it immediately imposes unanimously is panic and indecision? (Think Stalin when Hitler attacked the USSR in 1941.) And what if it then imposes a wrong decision about what needs to be done? A collectivity that is hastily assembled by freer and more independent persons is just as likely to act in a timely manner, and is far more likely to have a proper argument about what must be done, and hence to arrive at a better decision about that.

Besides which, what is often needed in a crisis is not so much collective action, but rather individual action for the benefit of the collective. That is a very different thing, and clearly a society which cultivates individuality will prepare individuals far better for such heroism than will societies where everyone is in the habit only of doing as they are told.

“An unfree society may be great at imposing immediate unanimity, but what if what it immediately imposes unanimously is panic and indecision?” There could scarcely be a better description of the response of the UK and the Western world as a whole to Covid-19. Masks are useless! Cancel that, masks are compulsory! Herd immunity! Cancel that, vaccines are compulsory! Lockdown! Cancel that, ‘Eat Out to Help Out’, er, cancel that, back to lockdown!

Climate fatigue

This article about “climate fatigue” by Francesco Grillo is one of the better arguments I have seen in the Guardian on the topic: “Climate fatigue isn’t a sign that Europeans are in denial – it’s a sign of their fear”. It starts very much in the usual fashion:

The first step is to recognise that climate fatigue in Europe has little to do with Europeans being less concerned about the impact of volatile climate systems. Indeed, people feel the effects directly and terrifyingly as the continent is increasingly battered by heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods.

I am suspicious of that claim that the decline in European popular support for climate measures “has little to do with” many Europeans ceasing to believe in the seriousness of the claimed coming catastrophe. It has lots to do with it, obviously. If the people of Europe still held the same level of belief in the imminence and severity of CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) as they did five years back, their support for drastic measures to head off this disaster would also be at the same level as it was then. They don’t and it isn’t. Their increased scepticism is justified. A great many predictions of doom have failed to come to pass. Click on the word “CAGW” to see relevant past posts by me and others on this blog going back more than two decades. I will restate my own opinion: that anthropogenic global warming probably is occurring but at nothing like the apocalyptic level claimed. Angela Merkel would have been better off saying, “Wir schaffen das” about climate change.

However honesty compels me to say that some of the decline in belief is motivated by people finally having twigged that the bill for Net Zero will not ultimately be paid by the infinitely absorbent corporations and governments of legend, but by them. When people drop a luxury belief because it ceases to be a luxury they can afford, they do advance towards reason, but not by means of reason. Sometimes that’s the best we can hope for. It’s not like the prophets of doom are immune from motivated reasoning themselves. The point is that Europeans have realised, correctly, that if we actually do all that the Greens want us to do, it will impoverish us. If we do a quarter of what the Greens want us to do, it will impoverish us. That would be bad, even from – or especially from – the point of view of people worried about climate change. Impoverished societies cease to care about the environment.

This is why I said that Mr Grillo’s article is one of the better ones I have read in the Guardian. They are not usually so honest about the cost:

But people are also terrified of what they believe will be the cost to individuals of the required energy transition. According to the consulting firm McKinsey, the global transition to net zero will require additional investments in fixed assets of $3.5tn a year until 2050. That’s about a quarter of all the tax raised worldwide. There is still no convincing mechanism for financing this in ways that reassure families, individuals, small firms and farmers that they are not going to be bankrupted. Increasingly, ordinary citizens know that many of them will have to foot crippling bills for such things as renovating homes to make them comply with energy efficiency rules.


… in a country such as Italy, more than half of existing homes need to be adapted to the new standards. Italian families would have to pay out about €500bn over the next decade, an average of €40,000 per affected household, according to a study done for the Vision thinktank I am affiliated to. No wonder many families, impoverished by years of economic stagnation and more recent inflation, view the green deal not as a transition to a more just model of distributed energy production, but as a waking nightmare.

Samizdata quote of the day – the collapse of adolescent mental health

“The sudden switch from play-based childhood to phone-based childhood is—we believe—the leading candidate for being the major cause of the international collapse of adolescent mental health.”

Zach Rausch & Jon Haidt.

I never expected an honest lockdown reckoning

“Since apologies are now required. Challenging any consensus is fundamentally important to good science – especially that of an unproven intervention such as lockdown. The onus should have been on those proposing such a radical new policy to justify it, not the reverse. Sweden is the elephant in the room. A nation of relatively similar wealth and standing to us, it largely avoided lockdowns yet has emerged with impressively low excess deaths. Should the inquiry not be asking how? Anders Tegnell, the architect of their successful strategy, should have been a priority witness.”

– Prof Karol Sikora is a consultant oncologist. Daily Telegraph (£)

When the pandemic petered out and lockdowns were – with some reluctance from the powers-that-be – abandoned, there was some speculation about how there needed to be “a reckoning” over the damage done, that we should examine the Swedish case, and re-visit the Great Barrington Declaration’s arguments. But I feared at the time that this was unlikely to happen, at least for some time with the present political establishment. Simple reputation protection is part of it. Also, it appears the large majority of the public in countries such as the UK supported lockdowns. Maybe too many voters did not want to face the full, ugly fact that what had been done was a massive mistake, on a par with entering a war. In this day and age – and I suspect it has been like this since forever – soul searching and honest reflection is not encouraged. Parts of the media probably thought the same about lockdowns and in far too few cases has there been much reflection. You can almost detect a certain awkwardness. I mean, at any social gathering I have been at, among journalists and suchlike, the folly of lockdowns never comes up unless I raise it (I try not to make a habit of it, mind), and if I ever do, I get that “oh, look at that oddball” stare, or desire to shift the conversation to something less controversial.

On the Conservative and Labour sides, and across the public sector, most were invested into lockdowns; already, when I saw journalists have a go at the Boris Johnson government, for example, it was usually that it did not lock down hard enough and early enough. The whole “meta-context” was about repression, speed and duration of lockdown, and the need to throw the full apparatus of the State at it. The idea that ordinary members of the public were already acting to socially distance back in February and early March of 2020, that various methods, freely embraced, might have made a difference (I am not a doctor, so usual disclaimers), were ignored. Not just ignored, but as we saw over the GBD crowd, mocked and scorned.

It became clear to me that there is a clear overlap between the lockdowners, as I call them, and much of today’s Green movement. It was hard for me to ignore an almost pleasurable embrace of lockdowns by the Greens. I mean, we’d stopped most people flying! Look at how clear the canals of Venice are, daaaahling. The Net Zero phenomenon, whatever else it is, is about using the coercive power of the State to force people to change how they behave in ways they will find restrictive and unpleasant for some sort of supposed provable collective goal. The lockdowns were a trial run, in a way, for the sort of repressive measures that such Green activists seek. In one story, an academic suggested that lockdowns were actually a sort of “liberation”.

Clearly, it is possible to be alarmed by all this even if you are, for example, concerned about viruses, possibly cooked up in a lab, or Man-made global temperature increases. These are matters of empirical science. Just because freedom-loving individuals don’t like lockdowns or restrictions on fossil fuels doesn’t mean these fears are unfounded. (The correct approach is to accept the best evidence available without rushing to junk freedom.) But it surely does suggest that in so many cases, top-down responses to this or that threat need to be questioned more. To go back to the quote at the top of this article, there is a need for a burden of proof to sit with those who want to slam measures on the public, not the other way around. And there needs to be more willingness to embrace the solutions and tools to which a free, entrepreneurial society give rise to.

Samizdata quote of the day – if heat pumps and EVs were better they’d sell themselves

Thanks to the cult ideology of Net Zero some governments, including our own, have started trying to destroy the entire basis of human brilliance and ingenuity in a way that has no parallel other than in totalitarian states.

If electric cars represented an overall improvement on internal combustion engine (ICE) cars by being collectively better to drive, cheaper to buy and run, at least as easy to ‘refuel’, had longer (or even equivalent) ranges, used less energy, lasted longer, had better resale value, were less environmentally damaging through being easier to make, using less metals and were easier to recycle, they’d sell themselves. Those are all minimum standards the Government could have set, but hasn’t.

Guy de la Bédoyère

Samizdata quote of the day – the Fusion of Technology and Law

But this is not all that the Energy Bill 2023 does, and here we come to a fresher development in the relationship between law and the state. Importantly, Brownsword has recently been suggesting that we are rapidly advancing into the next iteration of law – Law 3.0 – in which law becomes essentially self-executing through technology and, indeed, the very exercise of subjecting human conduct to rules becomes subsumed by technological management. Here, the creation of rules itself will become seen as archaic, with technology providing us with better – more efficient, more rational, more effective – forms of justice than those available to the flawed system of law which we currently respect. The end result (the apotheosis of Law 3.0, as it were), will be the merging of technology with law, such that the requirement for rules to exist will disappear and human conduct will be more or less entirely managed by technology.

David McGrogan

Samizdata quote of the day – friends don’t let friends PUG

Call of Duty (CoD), a video game series published by Activision, has jumped into the murky waters of AI-powered censorship after revealing a new partnership with AI voice moderation tool Modulate ToxMod. This will be built-in to the newest CoD game, Modern Warfare 3, which will be released on November 10th this year. Currently, it is being trailed on Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Warzone. It will be used for flagging ‘foul-mouthed’ players and identifying hate speech, racial or homophobic language, misogyny and any ‘misgendering’. Players do not have the option to prevent the AI listening in.

Jack Watson

The last bit is not strictly true. The way you can prevent the AI listening is simply not use the in-game voice coms at all. Instead use third party voice apps such as Skype, Team Speak, or whatever. This is easily doable if a team is made up of people who already know each other, known as a ‘premade’.

The opposite of a premade is called a PUG (“pick up group”), i.e. a team of random strangers in a multiplayer online game who meet via an in-game match maker system. Typically a premade is vastly more effective than a PUG & usually wins games far more often for reason that should be obvious.

“The UK’s Online Safety Bill, an idea too stupid to notice it’s dead”

The Register’s Rupert Goodwins is right to describe the Bill as “stupid” but, I regret to say, probably mistaken in describing it as “dead”. It has long since passed the Commons. Its progress through the Lords is almost complete. But a few more sharp thrusts like this one might yet kill the beast:

The British state is a world class incompetent at protecting its own data. In the past couple of weeks alone, we have seen the hacking of the Electoral Commission, the state body in charge of elections, the mass exposure of birth, marriage and death data, and the bulk release of confidential personnel information of a number of police forces, most notably the Police Service Northern Ireland. This was immediately picked up by terrorists who like killing police. It doesn’t get worse than that.

This same state is, of course, the one demanding that to “protect children,” it should get access to whatever encrypted citizen communication it likes via the Online Safety Bill, which is now rumored to be going through British Parliament in October. This is akin to giving an alcoholic uncle the keys to every booze shop in town to “protect children”: you will find Uncle in a drunken coma with the doors wide open and the stock disappearing by the vanload.

Understanding Turkish geopolitics

Highly recommended…

Dropped to a ten-rupee jezail

A scrimmage in a Border Station —
A canter down some dark defile —
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail —
The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

I thought of Kipling’s poem Arithmetic on the Frontier when I saw this picture:

“Russian navy ship appears to be heavily damaged in Ukrainian sea drone attack”Sky News.

Here and now, I am glad to see an expensive defeat inflicted upon one of Putin’s warships at little cost to the Ukrainians. But the new arithmetic of war will not always give results that I like.

How AI makes dogfighting drones unbeatable

A very interesting chat about the rapid development of military AI…