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]

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Warhammer edition)

“When even Warhammer nerds leave the battlefield, isn’t it time the anti-woke mob laid down their arms?”, writes Jasper Jackson in the Guardian Observer. Mr Jackson starts by introducing himself as a Warhammer player. I shall likewise declare my interest by introducing myself as a former payer of mighty sums to buy Warhammer kits for a member of my family. I was aware enough of the game to smugly chide the Observer sub-editors for failing to distinguish between Warhammer 40K and proper Warhammer. (I was promptly de-smugged by the discovery that someone has gone and changed the Eldar into Aeldari without telling me. What brought that on, then, an attack of elite T’au copyright lawyers?)

I digress. Mr Jackson continues,

But in recent weeks the sprawling Warhammer fandom has been enveloped in a dramatic controversy – or at least you would think so, from some news headlines.

“It’s Wokehammer! Games Workshop engulfed in gender row with fans after it said Warhammer squadron that was previously thought of as men-only has ‘always had females’,” screamed one MailOnline headline. What had prompted these claims of outrage was Games Workshop introducing a new female character into one of its science fantasy games, Warhammer 40,000. The character in question was part of a group of genetically engineered warriors called Custodes, which had, so far, not had any women models in it – but, according to Games Workshop, had always been included in the weighty narrative “lore” of the game.

The Mail had seen a number of tweets complaining about it, such as one from a games designer saying that Games Workshop was “‘gender flipping’ characters for ‘woke points’”. This was portrayed as a widespread backlash from fans. But, as a fan who frequently browses message boards for tips on playing and painting, or to look at interesting bits of background dug up by people who have bothered to read the many books published about the various Warhammer universes, my experience has been quite different.

If you actually look at the online spaces where fans of the games discuss the hobby they love, most don’t seem very bothered.

I commend the Mr Jasper’s eschewal of sensationalism. But as a pitch for an Observer piece, “most don’t seem very bothered” has its limitations. Eight paragraphs to learn that Reddit slumbers. What, I started to wonder, is this article for? In the ninth paragraph, I found out:

But where once those getting angry about changes bringing greater inclusivity might have been the overwhelming majority, this time they seem at best a vocal minority. That this is the mood on Reddit is even more surprising, given that the social network was once one of the primary breeding grounds for Gamergate, the toxic online movement of 2014-15 that spewed hate towards women with the temerity to create, play, enjoy and critique video games.

Despite not being a Warhammerer myself, I do have an alternative hypothesis to offer Mr Jackson as to why Gamergate exploded and Custogate fizzled: it is that people react differently to things that are different.

BONUS OVERNIGHT MUSINGS: The reason why the Warhammer community finds the retconning of the Custodes order to include females to be, at most1, slightly annoying in a “Put a chick in it and make her gay” kind of way, is that “Custodian Calladyce Taurovalia Kesh” is just one new character in a sprawling fictional ‘verse. Warhammer clearly were jumping on a bandwagon in the Orwellian way that they intoned “Since the first of the Ten Thousand were created there have always been female Custodians” despite never having previously mentioned this in the 37 years since the game was released. In addition, as someone quoted in the Daily Mail article suggested, the Sisters of Battle have a right to feel slighted2, especially given their feminist origin story: the order was created to circumvent a rule that the Ecclesiarchy was not permitted to maintain any “men under arms”. But in the end, allowing for the two nitpicks I mentioned, Warhammer’s adverts offering the Calladyce product line for sale would get four stars on eBay for the honesty of their product description.

In contrast, the whole point about Gamergate was industry-wide dishonesty in product descriptions. Jasper Jackson, who seems a nice Guardian-reading boy, thinks Gamergate was about male gamers hating female gamers, and also thinks, not entirely logically, that male gamers who hate female gamers would also hate female fictional characters appearing in their games. With those assumptions it would make sense to be pleasantly surprised that the number of woman-hating male gamers had gone down since 2014-15. The problem with that line of thought is that conclusions drawn from wrong assumptions are worthless. This summary of Gamergate given by commenter “bobby b” in 2017 was rightly praised as being far more accurate than anything you’ll find on Wikipedia:

I still get a chuckle out of how it all started – one guy who, discovering that his game-designer girlfriend was spreading her charms widely, wrote a long blog post about it, letting out the secret that her paramours were writers in the game-critique industry who were giving games high ratings for factors unrelated to the actual games (wink wink).

And then he got piled on by people defending her right to lie to him and sleep around because she was a poor repressed woman, and then they got piled on by guys saying, no, she’s a whore and so are these game critics, and then the SJW types decided all gamer-guys were nerdy neanderthals who hated women, and the fun began.

1 Or not annoying at all. In the comments below, “Agammamon” puts forth a satisfying in-universe justification for the existence of female Custodes.

2It is not wise to slight a member of the Adepta Sororitas.

“You know what, forget it.” Another small business closes in San Francisco.

“Beloved San Francisco burger joint will close after 40 years after wheelchair user sued over obstacles that stopped him entering, with owners saying they’re too poor to build a ramp”, the Daily Mail reports.

A beloved San Francisco burger joint has closed its doors after a wheelchair user sued the restaurant over a ‘high threshold’ that prevented him from entering.

After 38 years of operation, the Great American Hamburger & Pie Co.’s Post in Richmond, California, bid farewell to its longtime customers on Thursday, with the lawsuit being the final blow.

‘Two harsh years of COVID, high food inflation, and a recent ADA compliance lawsuit have taken a toll on our small family business,’ owners George and Helen Koliavas announced the closure.

COVID, high food inflation and a ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance lawsuit: the last five years in America illustrated in three snapshots. Change the name of the disability “rights” law, and the same story could be told a thousand times for small businesses in the UK and the EU. The article continues,

A paraplegic man filed suit against the Koliavas and their landlord in January after encountering a ‘high threshold’ on two visits to the burger joint last year.

On both occasions, the threshold blocked his wheelchair from entering the restaurant, prompting him to hire an ‘accessibility expert’ to conduct an informal investigation.

According to the lawsuit, the expert found a lack of wheelchair access throughout the space.

‘It’s frustrating, and you get to a point where you say, ‘You know what, forget it,” said George.

When I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged many years ago, I could see why people admired the book, but the portrait of Mr Thompson’s America never quite gelled with me. Perhaps I needed to see America led by a man such as Joe Biden.

Samizdata quote of the day – Met Office uses junk

At the very least, given the scientific importance of the CET, the Met Office could at least move the stations to more suitable nearby locations away from the disqualifying heat corruptions.

But if adding near-junk figures to the collection is not bad enough, the investigative science writer Paul Homewood last year discovered considerable tampering in 2022 with the recent CET record. He initially found that in version one, the summer of 1995 had been 0.1°C warmer than 2018. In version 2, the two years swapped places with 1995 cooled by 0.07°C and 2018 warmed by 0.13°C. Alerted to these changes, Homewood then analysed the full record from version 1 to 2, and the graph below shows what he found.

Chris Morrison

Seth MacFarlane: An Apology

Dear Mr MacFarlane,

In general, I am a fan of “The Orville” the soft science fiction series of which you are the creator and star. The other day I watched Episode 5 of Season 2, “All the World is Birthday Cake”. During the course of my viewing I said some things about your work as the writer of that episode that I now regret.

I said that the crew of the Orville had no cause to sneer at the inhabitants of Regor 2 for their unscientific beliefs, given that their own protocol for First Contact with an alien species seemed to be to sashay in to the welcome banquet and start quaffing, without having done the five minutes of research necessary to find out the basic organising principle of the aliens’ society. As this reviewer said, despite possessing advanced computers and translators and all that, the crew “blindly go in, interfere in their culture and cause animosity between the Orville and a first contact species”. Not just animosity towards the Orville, either, the Regorian species is now hostile to the entire Union.

I also said that there was no way that two supposedly elite officers of the Planetary Union like Bortus and Kelly Grayson could be so stupendously foolish as to try to escape from that prison camp where they were being held. What on Earth or off it were they trying to achieve? Where did they think they would go? Both of them were visibly aliens, the only two aliens on the planet! How did they think being outside the camp would improve their situation? Surely they would have known that by far their best chance of freedom was to sit tight and wait for Captain Mercer to get them freed by diplomatic means or by the use of the Orville’s superior technology. And after all that gushing about what a joy it was to welcome a new species to galactic society, Grayson and Bortus straight-up murdering a bunch of prison guards came as a bit of a surprise. Yes, they had been unjustly imprisoned and treated badly, but (I asked sarcastically) would Mr MacFarlane recommend that Americans unjustly imprisoned in foreign jails today should grab a gun off a guard and start shooting to kill? Bang goes the last chance of ever persuading the Regorians to reconsider their rejection of contact. The Regorians were perfectly justified in sentencing Bortus and Grayson to death. In fact they should have gone ahead and executed them both even after the “new star” appeared, to save the Union the trouble.

Mr MacFarlane, I admit with shame that I insulted your skills as a scriptwriter. I made remarks to the effect that it was completely implausible that people who were depicted as having gone through a rigorous selection process to get the positions they occupied could be so lacking in forethought, so stupendously arrogant, so utterly stupid.

I humbly apologise and withdraw that untrue statement. In that respect your script was entirely plausible. Elite people at the top of their profession really can be that stupid.

Take those highly educated, highly paid software engineers working for Google, for instance. The “most powerful company in the world” created and launched an AI called “Gemini” that would produce images of people in response to text requests. Imagine the ingenuity that goes into creating such a marvel. But because they are woke, Google told Gemini to make sure that the people it portrayed were anything other than white males. All that concentrated intelligence, and they still didn’t see what would inevitably happen next… → Continue reading: Seth MacFarlane: An Apology

A New Beginning Begins Anew

This is, well, epic: Every Epic Quest.

As you know, the lore demands that every Samizdata post has a political point hidden in it somewhere.

Your quest is to find it.

Hugone awry

I felt old reading this article by Adam Morgan of Esquire magazine. For a while some thirty years ago, the terms “Worldcon” and “Hugo” were part of my daily life. What happened to them?

Inside the Censorship Scandal That Rocked Sci-Fi and Fantasy’s Biggest Awards

That evening in Chengdu, in a massive auditorium shaped like the belly of a whale, Dave McCarty—a middle-aged software engineer for an Illinois trucking company and lifelong sci-fi fan who was chosen by the convention’s leaders to oversee last year’s Hugo Awards—walked onstage to thundering applause. Within the WorldCon community, he’s nicknamed the “Hugo Pope” for serving on so many awards committees over the years.

“With the help of fans from all over the world, including many fans here in China participating for the very first time, we identified a ballot of 114 deserving finalists,” McCarty said behind a podium, wearing a black tux over a white waistcoat and bow tie. “We then asked the community to rank those choices as they saw fit.”

But that’s not what happened. Something had gone horribly wrong.

Three months later, the truth came out when McCarty shared the Hugo nominating statistics on Facebook: Someone had stolen nominations from The Sandman legend Neil Gaiman, Babel author R. F. Kuang, Iron Widow novelist Xiran Jay Zhao, and fan writer Paul Weimer. All four of them earned enough votes to be finalists—and therefore eventually winners—but for unknown reasons, someone had secretly marked their works as “ineligible” after the first rounds of voting.

Among sci-fi and fantasy fans, the uproar was immediate and intense. Had government officials in the host country censored the finalists? Did the awards committee make a colossal mistake when tallying the votes, then try to cover it up? Or did something even stranger occur?

Samizdata quote of the day – from anti-authoritarian to bootlicker

The sad thing is that the character of the Doctor used to represent a distinctively British kind of amateur anti-authoritarianism. He took on the might of the Daleks with the equivalent of a screwdriver and a well-worn scarf. Now he surrenders to the pronoun police without so much as a quibble.

Malcolm Clark

A film explaining the monetary system, from The Cobden Centre

The good folk at The Cobden Centre have put together a very good documentary to explain how the fiat money system works, and has some suggestions as to what to do about it. At the instigation of the Sage of Kettering, (full disclosure, his cousin made it), here it is.

I have watched it and it is very good. Ex Nihilo: The Truth about Money. My only quibble is that it repeatedly refers to banks creating money out of thin air, but there is some substance to ‘thin air’, which, after all, can sustain respiration and hold up aircraft.

We think we are living at the dawn of the age of AI. What if it is already sunset?

“Research finds ChatGPT & Bard headed for ‘Model Collapse'”, writes Ilkhan Ozsevim in AI Magazine:

A recent research paper titled, ‘The Curse of Recursion: Training on Generated Data Makes Models Forget’ finds that use of model-generated content in training causes irreversible defects in the resulting models, where tails of the original content distribution disappear.

The Wall Street Journal covered the same topic, but it is behind a paywall and I have not read it: “AI Junk Is Starting to Pollute the Internet”.

They feed Large Language Models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT vast amounts of data on what humans have written on the internet. They learn so well that soon AI-generated output is all over the internet. The ever-hungry LLMs eat that, and reproduce it, and what comes out is less and less like human thought.

Here is a foretaste of one possible future from Euronews: “AI-generated ‘Heidi’ trailer goes viral and is the stuff of nightmares” – even if I do have a suspicion that to place a video so perfectly in the uncanny valley of AI-generated content still requires a human hand.

Seeing as it is May 4th…

“End ‘colonial’ approach to space exploration, scientists urge”

Genuine Guardian headline.

Humans boldly going into space should echo the guiding principle of Captain Kirk’s Star Trek crew by resisting the urge to interfere, researchers have said, stressing a need to end a colonial approach to exploration.

As a Trekkie (watched The Tholian Web again last night), a libertarian, and a convinced anti-speciesist, I would gladly join with these brave scientists to demand an end to the colonial oppression of our fellow sapient beings… but before we end it, is there not a small logical barrier that we need to cross first?

Nasa has made no secret of its desire to mine the moon for metals, with China also keen to extract lunar resources – a situation that has been called a new space race.

But Dr Pamela Conrad of the Carnegie Institution of Science said the focus should shift away from seeking to exploit discoveries.

Indeed it should. What about the intelligent aliens bleeping piteously for release from the human yoke?

Oh.

OK, then, alien animals. Tell me how they are oppressed so I can send them thoughts of solidarity across the light years…

“Regardless of who or what is out there, that attitude of exploration being almost synonymous with exploitation gives one a different perspective as you approach to the task,” she said.

Regardless? FFS, lady, give me something to work with here. This is the Guardian, it doesn’t have to be much. I’d have been satisfied with some oppressed alien fungi, but “regardless”, as in “regardless of whether there is any victim whatsoever”, does not hack it.

→ Continue reading: “End ‘colonial’ approach to space exploration, scientists urge”

Jordan Peterson interviews Alex Epstein, author of “Fossil Future”

I urge people, when they get the time, to give this interview of Alex Epstein a view. Epstein is the author of “Fossil Future”, an absolutely brilliant explanation of the case for Man’s use of substances such as coal, oil and gas, and he does so within a context of a pro-human philosophy that has human flourishing, and its rightness, at its base. In other words, he argues that it is not the job of Man to submit to any kind of “Higher Order” of nature – other than to of course understand the laws of nature and the scientific humility that requires – but to master it, thrive and be happy. (Nature to be commanded, must be obeyed, etc.) This cuts against much of the underlying view of many Greens, who argue that nature is intrinsically benevolent (in fact it is red in tooth and claw, and often very unpleasant). And Greens will further argue, such as Bill McKibben, that Man, despite being from the Earth, is somehow anti-natural. I think McKibben even described humans as akin to a disease (his language seems to imply it, such as here), but you don’t hear him saying that about other creatures or species. Man has a nature: he must think, project forward with imagination, to speculate on what is possible, to experiment, learn and transmit knowledge. That’s natural if you are a human. So Epstein has done the heavy lifting of getting into the very guts of what is wrong with the Green worldview, and given a radically different perspective.

Far too often, those who criticise Green ideology dismiss it as “religion” and leave it at that. But many people are religious, and argue that without it, there’s no compass or chart to steer by. So is dismissing Greenery as religion much of a knock-down? After all, it is easy to see when many of the established religions in the West have fallen into decreptitude (with some exceptions) how the vacuum has sucked in enthusiasm for Gaia, and all the rest of it. And some of it has taken a more nihilistic, Man-hating form.

What I like about Epstein is that he understands that only a full-throated, proud assertion of human flourishing and achievement, grounded in reason and empirical evidence, not revelation, is the answer to much of where the Green movement is coming from. Sure, we can point to the absurdities of Net Zero, the hypocrisies of Hollywood activists on Learjets going to Davos, but that is a sideshow to the core issue.

Anyway, give this interview a view. Jordan Peterson does good interviews; I actually prefer them to his monologues, although maybe that is because his Kermit The Frog weepy Canadian voice starts to grate after a while.