Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #1029 “The Will to Create Man Anew”: Eugenics, Past, Present and Future

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This broad­cast was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Adolf Hitler: “Nation­al Social­ism . . . . is more even than a reli­gion: it is the will to cre­ate man anew.”

Intro­duc­tion: In numer­ous pro­grams, we have touched on eugen­ics and some of the out­comes of eugen­ics phi­los­o­phy, includ­ing the growth of the Nazi exter­mi­na­tion pro­grams from the Knauer case. Some of these pro­grams are: FTR #‘s 32, 117, 124, 140, 141, 534, 664,  and  908.  A look at future pos­si­bil­i­ties of eugenics–something that we dis­cuss in this program–are high­light­ed in FTR #909 and AFA #39.

Impor­tant book on the sub­ject include The War Against the Weak, by Edwin Black and The Nazi Con­nec­tion by Stephan Kuhl. In FTR #1013, we recapped Peter Lev­en­da’s pre­scient analy­sis of the over­lap between eugen­ics and fas­cist iter­a­tions of anti-immi­grant sen­ti­ment. In this broad­cast, eugen­ics, anti-immi­gra­tion sen­ti­ment, genet­ic engi­neer­ing and the “immor­tal­i­ty-striv­ing” Tran­shu­man­ist move­ment are high­light­ed, not­ing the pro­gres­sion from the fas­cism of the 1930’s to immi­nent steps that would aug­ment the ascen­sion of a tru­ly “super­hu­man” elite, to the ulti­mate­ly lethal detri­ment of the rest of soci­ety.

We begin with prog­nos­ti­ca­tions about the future.

Pro­fes­sor Stephen Hawk­ing has pre­dict­ed that gene-edit­ing tech­niques will lead to the cre­ation of super­hu­mans, who will super­sede those who do not ben­e­fit from such tech­nolo­gies. ” . . . . The sci­en­tist pre­sent­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty that genet­ic engi­neer­ing could cre­ate a new species of super­hu­man that could destroy the rest of human­i­ty. . . . In ‘Brief Answers to the Big Ques­tions,’ Hawking’s final thoughts on the uni­verse, the physi­cist sug­gest­ed wealthy peo­ple would soon be able to choose to edit genet­ic make­up to cre­ate super­hu­mans with enhanced mem­o­ry, dis­ease resis­tance, intel­li­gence and longevi­ty. . . . ‘Once such super­hu­mans appear, there will be sig­nif­i­cant polit­i­cal prob­lems with unim­proved humans, who won’t be able to com­pete,’ he wrote. ‘Pre­sum­ably, they will die out, or become unim­por­tant. Instead, there will be a race of self-design­ing beings who are improv­ing at an ever-increas­ing rate.’ . . .”

The obser­va­tions of Pro­fes­sor Hawk­ing con­cern­ing the role of genet­ic engi­neer­ing in the ascen­sion of super­hu­mans is the Sil­i­con Val­ley-based Tran­shu­man­ist move­ment” . . . . Thiel and oth­er eccen­tric, wealthy tech-celebri­ties, such as Elon Musk and Mark Zucker­berg, have tak­en the next step to coun­ter­act that inequal­i­ty – by embark­ing on a quest to live for­ev­er. . . .Thiel and many like him have been invest­ing in research on life exten­sion, part of tran­shu­man­ism. Draw­ing on fields as diverse as neu­rotech­nol­o­gy, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, bio­med­ical engi­neer­ing and phi­los­o­phy, tran­shu­man­ists believe that the lim­i­ta­tions of the human body and mor­tal­i­ty can be tran­scend­ed by machines and tech­nol­o­gy. The ulti­mate aim is immor­tal­i­ty. Some believe this is achiev­able by 2045. . . .”

Michael Anissimov–a pre­vi­ous media offi­cer at the Thiel-fund­ed Machine Intel­li­gence Research Institute–published a white nation­al­ist man­i­festo. In a 2013 inter­view. ” . . . . Thiel him­self is a Don­ald Trump sup­port­er. A one-time asso­ciate Michael Anis­si­mov, pre­vi­ous media offi­cer at Machine Intel­li­gence Research Insti­tute, a Thiel-fund­ed AI think tank, has pub­lished a white nation­al­ist man­i­festo. In a 2013 inter­view, Anis­si­mov said that there were already sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in intel­li­gence between the races, and that a tran­shu­man­ist soci­ety would inevitably lead to ‘peo­ple lord­ing it over oth­ers in a way that has nev­er been seen before in his­to­ry’. It doesn’t take much to guess who would be doing the ‘lord­ing’. . . .”

The iden­ti­ty of the peo­ple doing the “lord­ing” may be gleaned from the fol­low­ing: ” . . . . Zoltan Ist­van, the tran­shu­man­ist can­di­date for gov­er­nor of Cal­i­for­nia, told Tech Insid­er that ‘a lot of the most impor­tant work in longevi­ty is com­ing from a hand­ful of the billionaires…around six or sev­en of them’. . . .”

Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni defined fas­cism as “cor­po­ratism,” and labeled his sys­tem “The Cor­po­rate State.” In that con­text, it is instruc­tive to weigh tran­shu­man­ism: ” . . . . You basi­cal­ly can’t sep­a­rate tran­shu­man­ism from cap­i­tal­ism. An idea that’s so enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly pur­sued by Musk and Peter Thiel, and by the founders of Google, is one that needs to be seen as a muta­tion of cap­i­tal­ism, not a cure for it.’ . . . . If those who form soci­ety in the age of tran­shu­man­ism are men like Musk and Thiel, it’s prob­a­ble that this soci­ety will have few social safe­ty nets. There will be an uneven rate of tech­no­log­i­cal progress glob­al­ly; even a post-human soci­ety can repli­cate the unequal glob­al wealth dis­tri­b­u­tion which we see today. In some cities and coun­tries, inhab­i­tants may live for­ev­er, while in oth­ers the res­i­dents die of mal­nu­tri­tion. If peo­ple don’t die off, the envi­ron­men­tal con­se­quences – from wide­spread nat­ur­al resource dev­as­ta­tion to unsus­tain­able ener­gy demands – would be wide­spread. . . . ”

These are auguries of a future-to-come. A look at the present sug­gests that these prog­nos­ti­ca­tions are not unre­al­is­tic.

Nazis/white suprema­cists are already dis­tort­ing genet­ic research to suit their own ends. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, aca­d­e­mics in the field have not been enthu­si­as­tic about engag­ing them. In the past, genet­ic research has been sup­port­ive of eugen­ics phi­los­o­phy.

” . . . . Nowhere on the agen­da of the annu­al meet­ing of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Human Genet­ics, being held in San Diego this week, is a top­ic plagu­ing many of its mem­bers: the recur­ring appro­pri­a­tion of the field’s research in the name of white suprema­cy. ‘Stick­ing your neck out on polit­i­cal issues is dif­fi­cult,’ said Jen­nifer Wag­n­er, a bioethi­cist and pres­i­dent of the group’s social issues com­mit­tee, who had sought to con­vene a pan­el on the racist mis­use of genet­ics and found lit­tle trac­tion. But the specter of the field’s igno­min­ious past, which includes sup­port for the Amer­i­can eugen­ics move­ment, looms large for many geneti­cists in light of today’s white iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics. They also wor­ry about how new tools that are allow­ing them to home in on the genet­ic basis of hot-but­ton traits like intel­li­gence will be mis­con­strued to fit racist ide­olo­gies. . . .”

A 14-word post­ing on the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty web­site has raised eye­brows. We believe it is an exam­ple of dog-whistling by fascist/Nazi ele­ments inside of the DHS. The “Four­teen Words” were mint­ed by Order mem­ber and Alan Berg mur­der get­away dri­ver David Lane. “88” is a well-known clan­des­tine Nazi salute. In the imme­di­ate after­math of World War II, using the Nazi salute “Heil Hitler” was banned. To cir­cum­vent that, Nazis said “88,” because H is the eighth let­ter in the alpha­bet.

The num­bers 14 and 88 are often com­bined by Nazis.

The title of the DHS  post­ing is: “We Must Secure The Bor­der And Build The Wall To Make Amer­i­ca Safe Again.” The 14 words of David Lane are: “We must secure the exis­tence of our peo­ple and a future for white chil­dren.”

It comes as no sur­prise that Ian M. Smith–a for­mer DHS Trump appointee–had doc­u­ment­ed links with white suprema­cists.

Ian Smith was not alone. John Feere and Julie Kirchener–both hard line anti-immi­gra­tion activists–have been hired by Team Trump. ” . . . . Jon Feere, a for­mer legal pol­i­cy ana­lyst for the Cen­ter for Immi­gra­tion Stud­ies, or CIS, has been hired as an advis­er to Thomas D. Homan, the act­ing direc­tor of Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment, accord­ing to Home­land Secu­ri­ty spokesman David Lapan. At Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, Julie Kirch­n­er, the for­mer exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Reform, or FAIR, has been hired as an advis­er to Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion act­ing Com­mis­sion­er Kevin McAleenan, said Lapan. The hir­ing of Feere and Kirch­n­er at the fed­er­al agen­cies has alarmed immi­grants’ rights activists. CIS and FAIR are think tanks based in Wash­ing­ton that advo­cate restrict­ing legal and ille­gal immi­gra­tion. The two orga­ni­za­tions were found­ed by John Tan­ton, a retired Michi­gan oph­thal­mol­o­gist who has open­ly embraced eugen­ics, the sci­ence of improv­ing the genet­ic qual­i­ty of the human pop­u­la­tion by encour­ag­ing selec­tive breed­ing and at times, advo­cat­ing for the ster­il­iza­tion of genet­i­cal­ly unde­sir­able groups. . . .”

The Fed­er­a­tion for Immi­gra­tion Reform has been part­ly fund­ed by the Pio­neer Fund, one of many orga­ni­za­tions that oper­at­ed in favor of the eugen­ics pol­i­cy of Nazi Ger­many. “. . . . Between 1985 and 1994, FAIR received around $1.2 mil­lion in grants from the Pio­neer Fund. The Pio­neer Fund is a eugeni­cist orga­ni­za­tion that was start­ed in 1937 by men close to the Nazi regime who want­ed to pur­sue “race bet­ter­ment” by pro­mot­ing the genet­ic lines of Amer­i­can whites. Now led by race sci­en­tist J. Philippe Rush­ton, the fund con­tin­ues to back stud­ies intend­ed to reveal the infe­ri­or­i­ty of minori­ties to whites. . . .”

On CNN for­mer Repub­li­can sen­a­tor Rick San­to­rum thought the big sto­ry of the day on which Man­afort was con­vict­ed and Michael Cohen plead guilty was the first degree mur­der charge laid against an “ille­gal” Mex­i­can migrant work­er fol­low­ing the dis­cov­ery of a deceased white Iowa col­lege girl Mol­lie Tib­betts. Can this become a ral­ly­ing cry for Trump and his anti-immi­grant and racist sup­port­ers?

We note in this con­text that:

  1. The announce­ment of River­a’s arrest for the Tib­betts mur­der hap­pened on the same day that Paul Man­afort’s con­vic­tion was announced and Michael Cohen plead­ed guilty. Might we be look­ing at an “op,” intend­ed to eclipse the neg­a­tive pub­lic­i­ty from the the Manafort/Cohen judi­cial events?
  2. Rivera exhib­it­ed pos­si­ble symp­toms of being sub­ject­ed to mind con­trol, not unlike Sirhan Sirhan. ” . . . . Inves­ti­ga­tors say Rivera fol­lowed Mol­lie in his dark Chevy Mal­ibu as she went for a run around 7.30pm on July 18. He ‘blacked out’ and attacked her after she threat­ened to call the police unless he left her alone, offi­cers said. . . . It is not yet clear how Mol­lie died. . . . Rivera told police that after see­ing her, he pulled over and parked his car to get out and run with her. . . . Mol­lie grabbed her phone and threat­ened to call the police before run­ning off ahead. The sus­pect said that made him ‘pan­ic’ and he chased after her. That’s when he ‘blacked out.’ He claims he remem­bers noth­ing from then until he was back in his car, dri­ving. He then noticed one of her ear­phones sit­ting on his lap and blood in the car then remem­bered he’d stuffed her in the truck. . . . ‘He fol­lowed her and seemed to be drawn to her on that par­tic­u­lar day. For what­ev­er rea­son he chose to abduct her,’ Iowa Depart­ment of Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion spe­cial agent Rick Ryan said on Tues­day after­noon. . . . ‘Rivera stat­ed that she grabbed her phone and said: ‘I’m gonna call the police.’ . . . . ‘Rivera said he then pan­icked and he got mad and that he ‘blocked’ his mem­o­ry which is what he does when he gets very upset and does­n’t remem­ber any­thing after that until he came to at an inter­sec­tion.’ . . .”
  3. Just as Sirhan had been in a right-wing milieu pri­or to the Robert Kennedy assas­si­na­tion, so, too, was Rivera: ” . . . . The promi­nent Repub­li­can fam­i­ly which owns the farm where Mol­lie Tib­betts’ alleged killer worked have insist­ed that he passed back­ground checks for migrant work­ers. Christhi­an Rivera, 24, who is from Mex­i­co, was charged with first degree mur­der on Tues­day after lead­ing police to a corn field where Mol­lie’s body was dumped. Dane Lang, co-own­er of Yarrabee Farms along with Eric Lang, con­firmed that Rivera had worked there for four years and was an employ­ee ‘of good stand­ing.’ Dane’s broth­er is Craig Lang, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Iowa Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion and the Iowa Board of Regents, and a 2018 Repub­li­can can­di­date for state sec­re­tary of agri­cul­ture. . . .”
  4. Trump cit­ed the Tib­betts mur­der in a Charleston, West Vir­ginia, ral­ly that day: ” . . . . Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump chirped in dur­ing his Tues­day address at a ral­ly in Charleston, West Vir­ginia, blam­ing immi­gra­tion laws for Mol­lie’s death. ‘You heard about today with the ille­gal alien com­ing in very sad­ly from Mex­i­co,’ he said. ‘And you saw what hap­pened to that incred­i­ble beau­ti­ful young woman. ‘Should’ve nev­er hap­pened, ille­gal­ly in our coun­try. We’ve had a huge impact but the laws are so bad. The immi­gra­tion laws are such a dis­grace. ‘We are get­ting them changed but we have to get more Repub­li­cans.’ Gov. Kim Reynolds com­plained about the ‘bro­ken’ immi­gra­tion sys­tem that allowed a ‘preda­tor’ to live in her state. . . .”
  5. As dis­cussed in FTR #1002, dur­ing tri­al of a mem­ber of The Order (to which David Lane belonged), it emerged that Nazi ele­ments were seek­ing to per­fect mind con­trol tech­niques. It is also a mat­ter of pub­lic record that ele­ments of U.S. intel­li­gence are active on behalf of the GOP, and have been for many decades. The assas­si­na­tions of JFK, his broth­er and Mar­tin Luther King are but exam­ples of this.

Under hyp­no­sis, Sirhan Sirhan was able to recall a con­sid­er­able amount of infor­ma­tion about “the girl in the pol­ka-dot dress”–a fig­ure report­ed by many eye­wit­ness­es to have cel­e­brat­ed the assas­si­na­tion of Robert Kennedy and appeared to have impli­cat­ed her­self and oth­ers in the crime.

The attrac­tion described by Sirhan to “the pol­ka-dot-dress” girl sounds sim­i­lar to River­a’s being “drawn” to Mol­lie Tib­betts.  ” . . . . Con­vict­ed assas­sin Sirhan Sirhan was manip­u­lated by a seduc­tive girl in a mind con­trol plot to shoot Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and his bul­lets did not kill the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, lawyers for Sirhan said in new legal papers. . . . Wit­nesses talked of see­ing such a female run­ning from the hotel shout­ing, ‘We shot Kennedy.’ But she was nev­er iden­ti­fied, and amid the chaos of the scene, descrip­tions were con­flict­ing. . . . Under hyp­no­sis, he remem­bered meet­ing the girl that night and becom­ing smit­ten with her. He said she led him to the pantry. ‘I am try­ing to fig­ure out how to hit on her.... That’s all that I can think about,’ he says in one inter­view cit­ed in the doc­u­ments. ‘I was fas­ci­nated with her looks .... She nev­er said much. It was very erot­ic. I was con­sumed by her. She was a seduc­tress with an unspo­ken unavail­abil­i­ty.’ . . . Sirhan main­tained in the hyp­notic inter­views that the mys­tery girl touched him or ‘pinched’ him on the shoul­der just before he fired then spun him around to see peo­ple com­ing through the pantry door. . . .”

1. Pro­fes­sor Stephen Hawk­ing has pre­dict­ed that gene-edit­ing tech­niques will lead to the cre­ation of super­hu­mans, who will super­sede those who do not ben­e­fit from such tech­nolo­gies. ” . . . . The sci­en­tist pre­sent­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty that genet­ic engi­neer­ing could cre­ate a new species of super­hu­man that could destroy the rest of human­i­ty. . . . In ‘Brief Answers to the Big Ques­tions,’ Hawking’s final thoughts on the uni­verse, the physi­cist sug­gest­ed wealthy peo­ple would soon be able to choose to edit genet­ic make­up to cre­ate super­hu­mans with enhanced mem­o­ry, dis­ease resis­tance, intel­li­gence and longevi­ty. . . . ‘Once such super­hu­mans appear, there will be sig­nif­i­cant polit­i­cal prob­lems with unim­proved humans, who won’t be able to com­pete,’ he wrote. ‘Pre­sum­ably, they will die out, or become unim­por­tant. Instead, there will be a race of self-design­ing beings who are improv­ing at an ever-increas­ing rate.’ . . .”

“Essays Reveal Stephen Hawk­ing Pre­dict­ed Race of  ‘Super­hu­mans’” by Sarah Marsh; The Guardian; 10/14/2018

The late physi­cist and author Prof Stephen Hawk­ing has caused con­tro­ver­sy by sug­gest­ing a new race of super­hu­mans could devel­op from wealthy peo­ple choos­ing to edit their and their children’s DNA.

Hawk­ing, the author of A Brief His­to­ry of Time, who diedin March, made the pre­dic­tions in a col­lec­tion of arti­cles and essays.

The sci­en­tist pre­sent­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty that genet­ic engi­neer­ing could cre­ate a new species of super­hu­man that could destroy the rest of human­i­ty. The essays, pub­lished in the Sun­day Times, were writ­ten in prepa­ra­tion for a book that will be pub­lished on Tues­day.

“I am sure that dur­ing this cen­tu­ry, peo­ple will dis­cov­er how to mod­i­fy both intel­li­gence and instincts such as aggres­sion,” he wrote.

“Laws will prob­a­bly be passed against genet­ic engi­neer­ing with humans. But some peo­ple won’t be able to resist the temp­ta­tion to improve human char­ac­ter­is­tics, such as mem­o­ry, resis­tance to dis­ease and length of life.”

In Brief Answers to the Big Ques­tions, Hawking’s final thoughts on the uni­verse, the physi­cist sug­gest­ed wealthy peo­ple would soon be able to choose to edit genet­ic make­up to cre­ate super­hu­mans with enhanced mem­o­ry, dis­ease resis­tance, intel­li­gence and longevi­ty.

Hawk­ing raised the prospect that break­throughs in genet­ics will make it attrac­tive for peo­ple to try to improve them­selves, with impli­ca­tions for “unim­proved humans”.

“Once such super­hu­mans appear, there will be sig­nif­i­cant polit­i­cal prob­lems with unim­proved humans, who won’t be able to com­pete,” he wrote. “Pre­sum­ably, they will die out, or become unim­por­tant. Instead, there will be a race of self-design­ing beings who are improv­ing at an ever-increas­ing rate.”

The com­ments refer to tech­niques such as Crispr-Cas9, a DNA-edit­ing sys­tem that was invent­ed six years ago, allow­ing sci­en­tists to mod­i­fy harm­ful genes or add new ones. Great Ormond Street hos­pi­tal for chil­dren in Lon­don has used gene edit­ing to treat chil­dren with an oth­er­wise incur­able form of leukaemia.

How­ev­er, ques­tions have been raised about whether par­ents would risk using such tech­niques for fear that the enhance­ments would have side-effects. .  . .

2. The obser­va­tions of Pro­fes­sor Hawk­ing con­cern­ing the role of genet­ic engi­neer­ing in the ascen­sion of super­hu­mans is the Sil­i­con Val­ley-based Tran­shu­man­ist move­ment” . . . . Thiel and oth­er eccen­tric, wealthy tech-celebri­ties, such as Elon Musk and Mark Zucker­berg, have tak­en the next step to coun­ter­act that inequal­i­ty – by embark­ing on a quest to live for­ev­er. . . .Thiel and many like him have been invest­ing in research on life exten­sion, part of tran­shu­man­ism. Draw­ing on fields as diverse as neu­rotech­nol­o­gy, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, bio­med­ical engi­neer­ing and phi­los­o­phy, tran­shu­man­ists believe that the lim­i­ta­tions of the human body and mor­tal­i­ty can be tran­scend­ed by machines and tech­nol­o­gy. The ulti­mate aim is immor­tal­i­ty. Some believe this is achiev­able by 2045. . . .”

Michael Anissimov–a pre­vi­ous media offi­cer at the Thiel-fund­ed Machine Intel­li­gence Research Institute–published a white nation­al­ist man­i­festo. In a 2013 inter­view. ” . . . . Thiel him­self is a Don­ald Trump sup­port­er. A one-time asso­ciate Michael Anis­si­mov, pre­vi­ous media offi­cer at Machine Intel­li­gence Research Insti­tute, a Thiel-fund­ed AI think tank, has pub­lished a white nation­al­ist man­i­festo. In a 2013 inter­view, Anis­si­mov said that there were already sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in intel­li­gence between the races, and that a tran­shu­man­ist soci­ety would inevitably lead to ‘peo­ple lord­ing it over oth­ers in a way that has nev­er been seen before in his­to­ry’. It doesn’t take much to guess who would be doing the ‘lord­ing’. . . .”

The iden­ti­ty of the peo­ple doing the “lord­ing” may be gleaned from the fol­low­ing: ” . . . . Zoltan Ist­van, the tran­shu­man­ist can­di­date for gov­er­nor of Cal­i­for­nia, told Tech Insid­er that ‘a lot of the most impor­tant work in longevi­ty is com­ing from a hand­ful of the billionaires…around six or sev­en of them’. . . .”

Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni defined fas­cism as “cor­po­ratism,” and labeled his sys­tem “The Cor­po­rate State.” In that con­text, it is instruc­tive to weigh tran­shu­man­ism: ” . . . . You basi­cal­ly can’t sep­a­rate tran­shu­man­ism from cap­i­tal­ism. An idea that’s so enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly pur­sued by Musk and Peter Thiel, and by the founders of Google, is one that needs to be seen as a muta­tion of cap­i­tal­ism, not a cure for it.’ . . . . If those who form soci­ety in the age of tran­shu­man­ism are men like Musk and Thiel, it’s prob­a­ble that this soci­ety will have few social safe­ty nets. There will be an uneven rate of tech­no­log­i­cal progress glob­al­ly; even a post-human soci­ety can repli­cate the unequal glob­al wealth dis­tri­b­u­tion which we see today. In some cities and coun­tries, inhab­i­tants may live for­ev­er, while in oth­ers the res­i­dents die of mal­nu­tri­tion. If peo­ple don’t die off, the envi­ron­men­tal con­se­quences – from wide­spread nat­ur­al resource dev­as­ta­tion to unsus­tain­able ener­gy demands – would be wide­spread. . . . ”

“The First Men to Con­quer Death Will Cre­ate a New Social Order –A Ter­ri­fy­ing One” by San­jana Vargh­ese; The New States­man; 08/25/2017

In a 2011 New York­er pro­file, Peter Thiel, tech-phil­an­thropist and bil­lion­aire, sur­mised that “prob­a­bly the most extreme form of inequal­i­ty is between peo­ple who are alive and peo­ple who are dead”. While he may not be tech­ni­cal­ly wrong, Thiel and oth­er eccen­tric, wealthy tech-celebri­ties, such as Elon Musk and Mark Zucker­berg, have tak­en the next step to coun­ter­act that inequal­i­ty – by embark­ing on a quest to live for­ev­er.

Thiel and many like him have been invest­ing in research on life exten­sion, part of tran­shu­man­ism. Draw­ing on fields as diverse as neu­rotech­nol­o­gy, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, bio­med­ical engi­neer­ing and phi­los­o­phy, tran­shu­man­ists believe that the lim­i­ta­tions of the human body and mor­tal­i­ty can be tran­scend­ed by machines and tech­nol­o­gy. The ulti­mate aim is immor­tal­i­ty. Some believe this is achiev­able by 2045.

Of course, humans have long har­nessed tech­nol­o­gy, from vac­ci­na­tions to smart­phones, to improve and extend our lives. But that doesn’t admit you into the tran­shu­man­ist club. Want­i­ng to live for­ev­er, and pos­sess­ing vast sums of mon­ey and time to research, does.

The hows and whens of tran­shu­man­ism are mat­ters of debate. Some advo­cate the “Sin­gu­lar­i­ty” – a form of arti­fi­cial super-intel­li­gence which will encom­pass all of humanity’s knowl­edge, that our brains will then be uploaded to. Oth­ers believe in anti-age­ing meth­ods like cry­on­ics, freez­ing your body after death until such a time when you can be revived.

Tran­shu­man­ism is no longer a fringe move­ment either. Darpa, the US government’s research arm into advanced weapon­ry, cre­at­ed a func­tion­al pro­to­type of a super sol­dier exoskele­ton in 2014, which will be ful­ly func­tion­al in 2018, and is research­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an arti­fi­cial human brain.

“Tran­shu­man­ism doesn’t have much to say about social ques­tions. To the extent that they see the world chang­ing, it’s near­ly always in a busi­ness-as-usu­al way – tech­no-cap­i­tal­ism con­tin­ues to deliv­er its excel­lent boun­ties, and the peo­ple who ben­e­fit from the cur­rent social arrange­ment con­tin­ue to ben­e­fit from it,” says Mark O’Connell, the author of To be a Machine, who fol­lowed var­i­ous tran­shu­man­ists in Los Ange­les.”You basi­cal­ly can’t sep­a­rate tran­shu­man­ism from cap­i­tal­ism. An idea that’s so enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly pur­sued by Musk and Peter Thiel, and by the founders of Google, is one that needs to be seen as a muta­tion of cap­i­tal­ism, not a cure for it.”

Sil­i­con Val­ley is char­ac­terised by a blind belief in tech­no­log­i­cal progress, a dis­re­gard for social accept­abil­i­ty and an empha­sis on indi­vid­ual suc­cess. It’s no sur­prise, then, that it is here that the idea of liv­ing for­ev­er seems most desir­able.

Musk has pub­licly declared that we have to merge with arti­fi­cial­ly intel­li­gent machines that over­take human­i­ty in order to sur­vive. Ray Kurzweil, the inven­tor and futur­ist who pio­neered the Sin­gu­lar­i­ty, is now an engi­neer at Google. O’Connell points out that “you’d have to be com­ing from a par­tic­u­lar­ly rar­efied priv­i­lege to look at the world today and make the assess­ment, as some­one like Thiel does, that the biggest prob­lem we face as a species is the fact that peo­ple die of old age”.

On an even more basic lev­el, a tran­shu­man­ist soci­ety would undoubt­ed­ly be shaped by the ideals of those who cre­at­ed it and those who came before it. Zoltan Ist­van, the tran­shu­man­ist can­di­date for gov­er­nor of Cal­i­for­nia, told Tech Insid­er that “a lot of the most impor­tant work in longevi­ty is com­ing from a hand­ful of the billionaires…around six or sev­en of them”.

Immor­tal­i­ty as defined by straight, white men could draw out cycles of oppres­sion. With­out old atti­tudes dying off and replaced by the impa­tience of youth, social change might become impos­si­ble. Arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence has already been shown to absorb the bias­es of its cre­ators. Upload­ing someone’s brain into a clone of them­selves doesn’t make them less like­ly to dis­crim­i­nate. Thiel and Musk, for exam­ple, iden­ti­fy as lib­er­tar­i­ans and have fre­quent­ly sug­gest­ed that tax­es are obso­lete and that gov­ern­men­tal mil­i­tary spend­ing needs to be curbed (and put into life-enhanc­ing tech­nolo­gies).

Thiel him­self is a Don­ald Trump sup­port­er. A one-time asso­ciate Michael Anis­si­mov, pre­vi­ous media offi­cer at Machine Intel­li­gence Research Insti­tute, a Thiel-fund­ed AI think tank, has pub­lished a white nation­al­ist man­i­festo. In a 2013 inter­view, Anis­si­mov said that there were already sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in intel­li­gence between the races, and that a tran­shu­man­ist soci­ety would inevitably lead to “peo­ple lord­ing it over oth­ers in a way that has nev­er been seen before in his­to­ry”. It doesn’t take much to guess who would be doing the “lord­ing”.

“The first enhanced humans will not be ordi­nary peo­ple; they’ll be the peo­ple who have already made those ordi­nary peo­ple eco­nom­i­cal­ly obso­lete through automa­tion. They’ll be tech bil­lion­aires,” says O’Connell.

If those who form soci­ety in the age of tran­shu­man­ism are men like Musk and Thiel, it’s prob­a­ble that this soci­ety will have few social safe­ty nets. There will be an uneven rate of tech­no­log­i­cal progress glob­al­ly; even a post-human soci­ety can repli­cate the unequal glob­al wealth dis­tri­b­u­tion which we see today. In some cities and coun­tries, inhab­i­tants may live for­ev­er, while in oth­ers the res­i­dents die of mal­nu­tri­tion. If peo­ple don’t die off, the envi­ron­men­tal con­se­quences – from wide­spread nat­ur­al resource dev­as­ta­tion to unsus­tain­able ener­gy demands – would be wide­spread.

It would be remiss to tar all tran­shu­man­ists with one brush. In 2014, The Huff­in­g­ton Post that the mem­ber­ship of tran­shu­man­ist soci­eties and Face­book groups has start­ed to expand in num­ber and in diver­si­ty, draw­ing in young and old peo­ple of all polit­i­cal per­sua­sions and nation­al­i­ties.

It remains the case, though, that the major­i­ty of the mon­ey invest­ed in mak­ing tran­shu­man­ism a real­i­ty comes from rich, white men. As the descen­dants of a species with a ten­den­cy to exploit the down­trod­den, any posthu­mans must guard against repli­cat­ing those same bias­es in a new soci­ety. For some, poten­tial­ly in the near future, death might become option­al. For oth­ers, death will remain inevitable.

3. Nazis/white suprema­cists are already dis­tort­ing genet­ic research to suit their own ends. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, aca­d­e­mics in the field have not been enthu­si­as­tic about engag­ing them. In the past, genet­ic research has been sup­port­ive of eugen­ics phi­los­o­phy.

” . . . . Nowhere on the agen­da of the annu­al meet­ing of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Human Genet­ics, being held in San Diego this week, is a top­ic plagu­ing many of its mem­bers: the recur­ring appro­pri­a­tion of the field’s research in the name of white suprema­cy. ‘Stick­ing your neck out on polit­i­cal issues is dif­fi­cult,’ said Jen­nifer Wag­n­er, a bioethi­cist and pres­i­dent of the group’s social issues com­mit­tee, who had sought to con­vene a pan­el on the racist mis­use of genet­ics and found lit­tle trac­tion. But the specter of the field’s igno­min­ious past, which includes sup­port for the Amer­i­can eugen­ics move­ment, looms large for many geneti­cists in light of today’s white iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics. They also wor­ry about how new tools that are allow­ing them to home in on the genet­ic basis of hot-but­ton traits like intel­li­gence will be mis­con­strued to fit racist ide­olo­gies. . . .”

“Geneti­cists See Work Dis­tort­ed for Racist Ends” by Amy Har­mon; The New York Times [West­ern Edi­tion]; 10/18/2018; pp.A1-A18.

Nowhere on the agen­da of the annu­al meet­ing of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Human Genet­ics, being held in San Diego this week, is a top­ic plagu­ing many of its mem­bers: the recur­ring appro­pri­a­tion of the field’s research in the name of white suprema­cy.

“Stick­ing your neck out on polit­i­cal issues is dif­fi­cult,” said Jen­nifer Wag­n­er, a bioethi­cist and pres­i­dent of the group’s social issues com­mit­tee, who had sought to con­vene a pan­el on the racist mis­use of genet­ics and found lit­tle trac­tion.

But the specter of the field’s igno­min­ious past, which includes sup­port for the Amer­i­can eugen­ics move­ment, looms large for many geneti­cists in light of today’s white iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics. They also wor­ry about how new tools that are allow­ing them to home in on the genet­ic basis of hot-but­ton traits like intel­li­gence will be mis­con­strued to fit racist ide­olo­gies.

In recent months, some sci­en­tists have spot­ted dis­tor­tions of their own aca­d­e­m­ic papers in far-right inter­net forums. Oth­ers have field­ed con­fused queries about claims of white supe­ri­or­i­ty wrapped in the jar­gon of human genet­ics. Mis­con­cep­tions about how genes fac­tor into America’s stark racial dis­par­i­ties have sur­faced in the nation’s increas­ing­ly heat­ed argu­ments over school achieve­ment gaps, immi­gra­tion and polic­ing. . . .

. . . . Already, some of those audi­ences are flaunt­ing DNA ances­try test results indi­cat­ing exclu­sive­ly Euro­pean her­itage as though they were racial ID cards. They are cel­e­brat­ing traces of Nean­derthal DNA not found in peo­ple with only African ances­try. And they are trad­ing mes­sages with the cod­ed term “race real­ism,” which takes oxy­gen from the claim that the lib­er­al sci­en­tif­ic estab­lish­ment has obscured the truth about bio­log­i­cal racial dif­fer­ences. . . .

. . . . And while much of cur­rent white nation­al­ist rhetoric is framed in terms of pre­serv­ing a white cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty, experts say it relies on a famil­iar nar­ra­tive of immutable bio­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences. On a YouTube talk show ear­li­er this year, for instance, Gavin McInnes, founder of the Proud Boys, whose appear­ance set off a brawl out­side a Repub­li­can club in Man­hat­tan last week, echoed the pet white suprema­cist the­o­ry that the envi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges of cold win­ters explain the sup­posed high­er intel­li­gence of north­ern Euro­peans.

4. A 14-word post­ing on the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty web­site has raised eye­brows. We believe it is an exam­ple of dog-whistling by fascist/Nazi ele­ments inside of the DHS. The “Four­teen Words” were mint­ed by Order mem­ber and Alan Berg mur­der get­away dri­ver David Lane. “88” is a well-known clan­des­tine Nazi salute. In the imme­di­ate after­math of World War II, using the Nazi salute “Heil Hitler” was banned. To cir­cum­vent that, Nazis said “88,” because H is the eighth let­ter in the alpha­bet.

The num­bers 14 and 88 are often com­bined by Nazis.

The title of the DHS  post­ing: “We Must Secure The Bor­der And Build The Wall To Make Amer­i­ca Safe Again.”

The 14 words of David Lane: “We must secure the exis­tence of our peo­ple and a future for white chil­dren.”

In arti­cles below, we note the inclu­sion of ele­ments in the DHS for whom such atti­tudes would be expect­ed.

“Are ‘14’ and ‘88’ Nazi Dog Whis­tles in Bor­der Secu­ri­ty Document–Or Just Num­bers?” by Aviya Kush­n­er; For­ward; 6/28/2018. 

Some­times a dog whis­tle can be a num­ber, not a word. The num­ber “88” appeared in a strange con­text in a press release from Home­land Secu­ri­ty call­ing for build­ing a bor­der wall, along with a head­line that had a total of four­teen words — but until today, no one seems to have noticed.

Today, the press release, orig­i­nal­ly issued in Feb­ru­ary, is get­ting some atten­tion from jour­nal­ists cov­er­ing the “hate and extrem­ism” beat. Here is an exam­ple, from Christo­pher Math­ias, who cov­ers hate and extrem­ism for The Huff­in­g­ton Post.

What is hap­pen­ing, for those need­ing a trans­la­tion, is this: The num­ber “88” is code for Heil Hitler. And 14 is white-suprema­cist short­hand.

“One of the most com­mon white suprema­cist sym­bols, 88 is used through­out the entire white suprema­cist move­ment, not just neo-Nazis. One can find it as a tat­too or graph­ic sym­bol; as part of the name of a group, pub­li­ca­tion or web­site; or as part of a screen­name or e‑mail address,” the ADL’s hate sym­bol data­base notes.

Most of the press release, titled “We Must Secure The Bor­der And Build The Wall To Make Amer­i­ca Safe Again,” uses per­cent­ages, as do many sta­tis­ti­cal reports.

But the sec­ond-to-last line is what is draw­ing atten­tion on Twit­ter, because it has this curi­ous word­ing: “On aver­age, out of 88 claims that pass the cred­i­ble fear screen­ing, few­er than 13 will ulti­mate­ly result in a grant of asy­lum.”

That’s odd. Nor­mal­ly, a report might say some­thing like “less than 15 per­cent ulti­mate­ly result in a grant of asy­lum.”

It may just be coin­ci­dence, and on a day when jour­nal­ists are shot, every­one with a con­nec­tion to media is under­stand­ably on edge. But there is one oth­er fac­tor to con­sid­er, say those who hear a dog whis­tle: what if this “88” is read in con­junc­tion with the head­line, which has 14 words?

The 14-word thing is its own sig­nal. As the ADL hate sym­bol data­base explains in its unpack­ing of 88:

The num­ber is fre­quent­ly com­bined with anoth­er white suprema­cist numer­ic code, 14 (short­hand for the so-called “14 Words” slo­gan: “We must secure the exis­tence of our peo­ple and a future for white chil­dren”) in the form of 1488, 14/88, 14–88, or 8814.

That slo­gan can be under­stood as some­thing not very far from the press release head­line: “We Must Secure The Bor­der And Build The Wall To Make Amer­i­ca Safe Again.”

Coin­ci­dence? Maybe.

But a numer­i­cal sys­tem of inter­pre­ta­tion can be a way for a group to com­mu­ni­cate with itself. In Jew­ish tra­di­tion, gema­tria is one sys­tem of Bib­li­cal com­men­tary. Each let­ter in the Hebrew alpha­bet has a numer­i­cal val­ue, and some com­men­ta­tors use this sym­bol of num­bers to arrive at addi­tion­al mean­ings. Some see pro­found mean­ing in this, oth­ers have always dis­missed it as mere coin­ci­dence.

In the case of the DHS press release, it may be coin­ci­dence — or it may be more, a sig­nal to those who know the sys­tem of codes.

What can be said for sure is this: It is unusu­al to use the sta­tis­tic “13 out of 88.” It could, of course, be a typo. And the head­line bear­ing the req­ui­site “14 words” is not sooth­ing for any­one who has spent time with hate data­bas­es.

But right now, those are the only def­i­nite take-aways.

In a time of fear and anx­i­ety, it is impor­tant to take extra care before draw­ing con­clu­sions. Still, from now on, it may be wise to watch the num­bers, not just the words.

6. It comes as no sur­prise that Ian M. Smith–a for­mer DHS Trump appointee–had doc­u­ment­ed links with white suprema­cists.

“Emails Link For­mer Home­land Secu­ri­ty Offi­cial to White Nation­al­ists” by Rosie Gray; The Atlantic; 08/28/2018.

In the past two years, lead­ers of an embold­ened white nation­al­ism have burst into the fore­front of nation­al pol­i­tics and coa­lesced around a so-called alt-right sub­cul­ture as they have endeav­ored to make their ide­ol­o­gy part of the main­stream. Recent devel­op­ments have shed light on pre­vi­ous­ly unknown con­nec­tions between white-nation­al­ist activists and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Now, the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty has denounced “all forms of vio­lent extrem­ism” fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of a pol­i­cy ana­lyst who had con­nec­tions with white nation­al­ists, accord­ing to leaked emails obtained by The Atlantic.

The emails show that the offi­cial, Ian M. Smith, had in the past been in con­tact with a group that includ­ed known white nation­al­ists as they planned var­i­ous events. On one of the email threads, the address of the alt-right white nation­al­ist leader Richard Spencer is includ­ed, as well as Smith’s. Anoth­er group of recip­i­ents includes Smith as well as Jared Tay­lor, the founder of the white nation­al­ist pub­li­ca­tion Amer­i­can Renais­sance, who calls him­self a “white advo­cate.”

The mes­sages, giv­en to The Atlantic by a source to whom they were for­ward­ed, paint a pic­ture of the social scene in which white nation­al­ists gath­ered for an “Alt-Right Toast­mas­ters” night in 2016, and orga­nized din­ner par­ties and vis­its from out-of-town friends. And they pro­vide a glimpse into how a group that includ­ed hard-core white nation­al­ists was able to oper­ate rel­a­tive­ly incog­ni­to in the wider world, par­tic­u­lar­ly in con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles. The rev­e­la­tion of these mes­sages comes amid increas­ing scruti­ny of white nation­al­ists’ ties to the admin­is­tra­tion; a White House speech­writer, Dar­ren Beat­tie, left the admin­is­tra­tion after CNN report­ed ear­li­er this month that he had attend­ed a con­fer­ence with white nation­al­ists in 2016. The Wash­ing­ton Post report­edlast week that Peter Brimelow, the pub­lish­er of the white nation­al­ist web­site VDare, had attend­ed a par­ty at the top White House eco­nom­ic advis­er Lar­ry Kudlow’s house. Kud­low told the Post he was unaware of Brimelow’s views and would not have invit­ed him had he known about them.

After being reached for com­ment about The Atlantic’s report­ing, Smith said in an email: “I no longer work at DHS as of last week and didn’t attend any of the events you’ve men­tioned.” Nei­ther he nor DHS dis­put­ed that it is him on the emails in ques­tion.

White nation­al­ists have an affin­i­ty for the pres­i­dent, who they believe shares some of their pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ties. After the coun­ter­pro­test­er Heather Hey­er was killed at a white-nation­al­ist ral­ly in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, in 2017, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump remarked that there were “very fine peo­ple on both sides” who attend­ed the ral­ly. After hear­ing the president’s state­ment, Spencer told The Atlantic he was “real­ly proud of him.”

Accord­ing to sources with knowl­edge of Smith’s role at DHS, he was a pol­i­cy ana­lyst work­ing on immi­gra­tion. He used to work for the Immi­gra­tion Reform Law Insti­tute (IRLI), an anti-immi­gra­tion legal orga­ni­za­tion asso­ci­at­ed with the right-wing Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Reform (FAIR). From 2014 to 2017 he wrote a num­ber of columns on immi­gra­tion for Nation­al Review. (The NationalReview.com edi­tor Charles Cooke didn’t imme­di­ate­ly respond to a request for com­ment).

Smith’s pub­lic writ­ings show­cased a right-wing per­spec­tive on immi­gra­tion, such as oppos­ing the Immi­gra­tion and Nation­al­i­ty Act of 1965, which end­ed race-based restric­tions on immi­gra­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly from coun­tries in Asia and Africa, and which Smith argued was respon­si­ble for the “bare­ly gov­ern­able sys­tem we have today,” oppos­ing sanc­tu­ary cities, and applaud­ing the con­tro­ver­sial S.B. 1070 anti–illegal immi­gra­tion law in Ari­zona.

In an inter­viewwith the web­site FOIA Advi­sor in 2016, Smith said he “was born just out­side Seat­tle, grew up in Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia, and lived in Bei­jing, Hong Kong, and Syd­ney, Aus­tralia for many years.” In that inter­view, he described his role at the IRLI thus­ly: “I work at a non­prof­it law firm that rep­re­sents peo­ple harmed by the government’s fail­ure to reg­u­late immi­gra­tion.”

Dale Wilcox, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the IRLI, said in a state­ment: “Ian Smith was an inves­tiga­tive asso­ciate at IRLI, as an inde­pen­dent con­trac­tor for two years and an employ­ee for less than a year between Jan­u­ary 2015 and Octo­ber 2017. How our employ­ees fill their time out­side of the office, or the pri­vate rela­tion­ships they pur­sue, are not issues of IRLI’s con­cern. It is not any organization’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to track their employ­ees after hours activ­i­ties or peer into their employee’s pri­vate lives. For the record, IRLI and FAIR have no asso­ci­a­tion with the indi­vid­u­als men­tioned and we repu­di­ate their views. Fur­ther­more, if it would come to our atten­tion that any employ­ees are asso­ci­at­ed with indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions that hold nox­ious views on mat­ters of race and eth­nic­i­ty, that may be grounds for ter­mi­na­tion. Final­ly, it must be not­ed that sim­ply appear­ing on someone’s email list should nev­er be inter­pret­ed as a blan­ket endorse­ment of that individual’s point of view.”

After describ­ing the emails involv­ing Smith in detail to DHS spokes­peo­ple on Mon­day, The Atlantic learned on Tues­day that Smith had resigned from his posi­tion.

A DHS spokesper­son, Tyler Q. Houl­ton, said: “The Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty is com­mit­ted to com­bat­ing all forms of vio­lent extrem­ism, espe­cial­ly move­ments that espouse racial suprema­cy or big­otry. This type of rad­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy runs counter to the Department’s mis­sion of keep­ing Amer­i­ca safe.”

Sev­er­al emails obtained by The Atlantic show Smith includ­ed on threads with peo­ple asso­ci­at­ed with white nation­al­ism, such as Mar­cus Epstein, a for­mer Tom Tan­cre­do aide who entered an Alford plea in 2009for assault­ing a black woman in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in 2007, and Devin Sauci­er, an edi­tor (under a pseu­do­nym) at Amer­i­can Renais­sance. Epstein declined to com­ment; Sauci­er did not respond to a request for com­ment.

On June 3, 2016, Epstein emailed a group includ­ing Smith, Sauci­er, Tay­lor, and oth­ers to invite them to an “Alt-Right Toast­mas­ters” event. “We are hav­ing our much delayed fol­low up meet­ing on Mon­day June 6 at 7:00 PM. A cou­ple of out of town guests will be there. Please RSVP and if you want to invite any­one else, please check with me,” Epstein wrote. “I’m going to give a short pre­sen­ta­tion on ‘The Pros and Cons of Anonymi­ty’ at 8:00 fol­lowed by dis­cus­sion.” In a pre­vi­ous email on the sub­ject, Epstein had said he was tim­ing the event for a vis­it from Wayne Lut­ton, the edi­tor of the white-nation­al­ist pub­li­ca­tion The Social Con­tract. Accord­ing to a source who was there, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, Smith attend­ed this event.

On Decem­ber 17, 2015, Sauci­er and Epstein emailed a YouTube link, which is now defunct, to a group of address­es includ­ing Smith’s and Spencer’s. Reached by phone, Spencer said, “To my knowl­edge, I’ve nev­er met Ian Smith. I get roped in to all sorts of email con­ver­sa­tions, I receive too many emails every day for me to respond to.”

Though the emails don’t show Smith and Spencer inter­act­ing, some of the mes­sages indi­cate a famil­iar­i­ty on Smith’s part with Spencer’s projects. In anoth­er email, sent on March 7, 2015, Smith refers to an event held by “NPI,” the acronym for the Nation­al Pol­i­cy Insti­tute, Spencer’s white-nation­al­ist non­prof­it, say­ing he had missed it because he was out of town. And in anoth­er, on May 9, 2016, Smith rec­om­mend­ed some­one for a job at a promi­nent, Trump-sup­port­ing media out­let, say­ing that the per­son was “cur­rent­ly work­ing in devel­op­ment at LI” (the con­ser­v­a­tive train­ing group the Lead­er­ship Insti­tute) and “writes for Radix, Amren, VDare and Chron­i­cles under a pseu­do­nym.” The word Amren refers to Amer­i­can Renais­sanceRadix is Spencer’s pub­li­ca­tion. “Chron­i­cles” appears to refer to Chron­i­cles Mag­a­zine, anoth­er pub­li­ca­tion asso­ci­at­ed with this move­ment, which has pub­lished Lut­ton and Sam Fran­cis, the late edi­tor of the Coun­cil of Con­ser­v­a­tive Cit­i­zens’ newslet­ter. Smith also wrote that the per­son he had rec­om­mend­ed “helps Richard and JT with their web­sites,” appear­ing to refer to Spencer and Jared Tay­lor.

In one email exchange at the end of Octo­ber 2015, Ben Zapp, a real-estate agent who has in the past been pho­tographed with mem­bers of this scene, invit­ed a group includ­ing Smith; Sauci­er; Epstein; Tim Dion­isopou­los, a Media Research Cen­ter staffer; and Kevin DeAn­na, the for­mer Youth for West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion pres­i­dent, to his apart­ment for din­ner, stat­ing that he wasn’t going to that weekend’s NPI con­fer­ence. (The 2016 con­fer­ence of NPI is where Spencer was caught on videolead­ing a “Hail Trump” chant while audi­ence mem­bers gave Nazi salutes.) Zapp, Dion­isopou­los, and DeAn­na did not respond to requests for com­ment.

Epstein replied to the thread say­ing he wasn’t going to NPI either but was plan­ning to social­ize with peo­ple who were, and that “I can’t speak for every­one, but this is prob­a­bly not the best time.” Zapp respond­ed, “It’s a din­ner, not a party—thus the hav­ing to get out by 9:30 or 10 at the lat­est. I would imag­ine this would start on the ear­ly side, like 7:00 or even ear­li­er. So it’s settled—we know my home shall remain juden­frei.” Juden­frei is a Ger­man word mean­ing “free of Jews,” which the Nazis used to describe areas from which Jews had been expelled or killed.

Smith respond­ed to the group: “They don’t call it Fre­itag for noth­ing,” using the Ger­man word for “Fri­day,” and added, “I was plan­ning to hit the bar dur­ing the din­ner hours and talk to peo­ple like Matt Par­rot [sic], etc. I should have time to pop by though.” Matt Par­rott is the for­mer spokesman for the neo-Nazi Tra­di­tion­al­ist Work­er Par­ty, which flamed out ear­li­er this year after its leader, Matthew Heim­bach, had an affair with Parrott’s wife, lead­ing to the two falling out.

And in an email from 2014, Smith jok­ing­ly calls “spoon­ing dibs” on Jack Dono­van dur­ing a vis­it from Dono­van, a “mas­culin­ist” writer who has ties to mem­bers of the alt-right and is heav­i­ly involved in Wolves of Vin­land, a neo-pagan group entwined with the white-nation­al­ist move­ment. Sauci­er had emailed sev­er­al peo­ple to dis­cuss sleep­ing arrange­ments for Dono­van, telling them that, “There was some mis­un­der­stand­ing about how Jack Dono­van would arrive down in Lynch­burg for fes­tiv­i­ties this week­end”; the Wolves of Vin­land are based out­side of Lynch­burg, Vir­ginia.

7. Ian Smith was not alone. John Feee and Julie Kirchener–both hard line anti-immi­gra­tion activists–have been hired by Team Trump. ” . . . . Jon Feere, a for­mer legal pol­i­cy ana­lyst for the Cen­ter for Immi­gra­tion Stud­ies, or CIS, has been hired as an advis­er to Thomas D. Homan, the act­ing direc­tor of Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment, accord­ing to Home­land Secu­ri­ty spokesman David Lapan. At Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, Julie Kirch­n­er, the for­mer exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Reform, or FAIR, has been hired as an advis­er to Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion act­ing Com­mis­sion­er Kevin McAleenan, said Lapan. The hir­ing of Feere and Kirch­n­er at the fed­er­al agen­cies has alarmed immi­grants’ rights activists. CIS and FAIR are think tanks based in Wash­ing­ton that advo­cate restrict­ing legal and ille­gal immi­gra­tion. The two orga­ni­za­tions were found­ed by John Tan­ton, a retired Michi­gan oph­thal­mol­o­gist who has open­ly embraced eugen­ics, the sci­ence of improv­ing the genet­ic qual­i­ty of the human pop­u­la­tion by encour­ag­ing selec­tive breed­ing and at times, advo­cat­ing for the ster­il­iza­tion of genet­i­cal­ly unde­sir­able groups. . . .”

The Fed­er­a­tion for Immi­gra­tion Reform has been part­ly fund­ed by the Pio­neer Fund, an orga­ni­za­tion that oper­at­ed in favor of the eugen­ics pol­i­cy of Nazi Ger­many. “. . . . Between 1985 and 1994, FAIR received around $1.2 mil­lion in grants from the Pio­neer Fund. The Pio­neer Fund is a eugeni­cist orga­ni­za­tion that was start­ed in 1937 by men close to the Nazi regime who want­ed to pur­sue “race bet­ter­ment” by pro­mot­ing the genet­ic lines of Amer­i­can whites. Now led by race sci­en­tist J. Philippe Rush­ton, the fund con­tin­ues to back stud­ies intend­ed to reveal the infe­ri­or­i­ty of minori­ties to whites. . . .”

“Hard-Line Anti-Immi­gra­tion Advo­cates Hired at 2 Fed­er­al Agen­cies” by Maria San­tana; CNN; 4/12/2017.

Two hard-line oppo­nents of ille­gal immi­gra­tion have obtained high-lev­el advi­so­ry jobs at fed­er­al immi­gra­tion agen­cies in the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty.

Jon Feere, a for­mer legal pol­i­cy ana­lyst for the Cen­ter for Immi­gra­tion Stud­ies, or CIS, has been hired as an advis­er to Thomas D. Homan, the act­ing direc­tor of Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment, accord­ing to Home­land Secu­ri­ty spokesman David Lapan.

At Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, Julie Kirch­n­er, the for­mer exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Reform, or FAIR, has been hired as an advis­er to Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion act­ing Com­mis­sion­er Kevin McAleenan, said Lapan.

The hir­ing of Feere and Kirch­n­er at the fed­er­al agen­cies has alarmed immi­grants’ rights activists.

CIS and FAIR are think tanks based in Wash­ing­ton that advo­cate restrict­ing legal and ille­gal immi­gra­tion. The two orga­ni­za­tions were found­ed by John Tan­ton, a retired Michi­gan oph­thal­mol­o­gist who has open­ly embraced eugen­ics, the sci­ence of improv­ing the genet­ic qual­i­ty of the human pop­u­la­tion by encour­ag­ing selec­tive breed­ing and at times, advo­cat­ing for the ster­il­iza­tion of genet­i­cal­ly unde­sir­able groups.

Dan Stein, pres­i­dent of FAIR, not­ed in a 2011 New York Times arti­cle that Tan­ton did not hold a lead­er­ship role in the orga­ni­za­tion any more and was no longer on the board of direc­tors. He is still list­ed as belong­ing to FAIR’s nation­al board of advi­sors.

New aides and their con­nec­tions

Kirch­n­er worked as exec­u­tive direc­tor of FAIR from Octo­ber 2005 to August 2015. She then joined the Don­ald Trump pres­i­den­tial cam­paign as an immi­gra­tion advis­er before being appoint­ed to Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion.

While at CIS, Feere pro­mot­ed leg­is­la­tion to end auto­mat­ic cit­i­zen­ship for US-born chil­dren of undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants. He argued that bear­ing a child on US soil pro­vides an immi­grant access to wel­fare and oth­er social ben­e­fits, which has spurred a rise in what he calls “birth tourism,” the prac­tice of for­eign­ers trav­el­ing to the Unit­ed States to give birth to add a US cit­i­zen to the fam­i­ly.

The non­par­ti­san fact-check­ing web­site Poli­ti­fact has most­ly debunked those claims, con­clud­ing that US-born chil­dren do lit­tle in the long term to help their immi­grant par­ents. Cit­i­zen chil­dren can­not spon­sor their par­ents for cit­i­zen­ship until the young per­son turns 21 and any social ben­e­fits would be giv­en to the child and not their undoc­u­ment­ed par­ents, who would not qual­i­fy. The Pew Research Cen­ter also has found that the num­ber of babies born to unau­tho­rized immi­grants in the Unit­ed States has been declin­ing steadi­ly in recent years.

Feere also has been a strong crit­ic of Deferred Action for Child­hood Arrivals, the pro­gram enact­ed by Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma via exec­u­tive action that has grant­ed pro­tec­tion from depor­ta­tion to young immi­grants brought to the coun­try as chil­dren.

In one arti­cle pub­lished by CIS, Feere ques­tioned whether chil­dren brought to the Unit­ed States at an ear­ly age were suf­fi­cient­ly assim­i­lat­ed or loy­al to this nation to be grant­ed any type of legal sta­tus.

In a 2013 inter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Post, Mark Kriko­ri­an, exec­u­tive direc­tor of CIS, wor­ried about grow­ing “mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism” and con­tend­ed that a “lot of immi­gra­tion push­ers don’t like Amer­i­ca the way it is” and want to change it.

Stein, the pres­i­dent of FAIR, defend­ed in a 1997 inter­view with the Wall Street Jour­nal his belief that cer­tain immi­grant groups are engaged in “com­pet­i­tive breed­ing” to dimin­ish Amer­i­ca’s white major­i­ty.

“CIS has pub­lished arti­cles that labeled immi­grants ‘third world gold dig­gers’ and that blamed Cen­tral Amer­i­can asy­lum seek­ers for the ‘bur­geon­ing street gang prob­lem’ in the US, while Dan Stein has said that many immi­grants that come to the US hate Amer­i­ca and every­thing the coun­try stands for,” said Hei­di Beirich, direc­tor of South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter’s Intel­li­gence Project, which over­sees the cen­ter’s year­ly count of anti-immi­grant groups. “We take these des­ig­na­tions very seri­ous­ly, and CIS and FAIR are far-right fringe groups that reg­u­lar­ly pub­lish racist, xeno­pho­bic mate­r­i­al and spread mis­in­for­ma­tion about immi­grants and immi­gra­tion.”

Through­out the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and since he’s tak­en office, Don­ald Trump’s immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy has mir­rored details found in CIS reports. In April 2016, for exam­ple, CIS pub­lished a list of “79 immi­gra­tion actions that the next pres­i­dent can take.” The list includ­ed such mea­sures as with­hold­ing fed­er­al funds from sanc­tu­ary cities, elim­i­nat­ing the “Pri­or­i­ty Enforce­ment Pro­gram,” which pri­or­i­tized the depor­ta­tion of the most seri­ous crim­i­nals dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, and reduc­ing the num­ber of wel­fare-depen­dent immi­grants liv­ing in the Unit­ed States.

Many of these rec­om­men­da­tions have already been enact­ed, pro­posed or dis­cussed by the admin­is­tra­tion, and some were includ­ed in Trump’s exec­u­tive order on immi­gra­tion issued in Jan­u­ary.

“The cam­paign and the admin­is­tra­tion have used oth­er mate­r­i­al of ours so I’m delight­ed that they are using that immi­gra­tion actions list,” Kriko­ri­an said. “But there’s a dif­fer­ence between using CIS’ mate­r­i­al as source of impor­tant research and CIS actu­al­ly hav­ing a direct oper­a­tional link to the admin­is­tra­tion.”

Kriko­ri­an declined to com­ment on Feere’s job at ICE.

Feere, Kirch­n­er, act­ing ICE Direc­tor Homan and act­ing Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sion­er McAleenan declined requests for inter­views.

Kirch­n­er and Feere’s advi­so­ry roles at Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion and ICE have rat­tled some immi­grants’ rights advo­cates, who say they are con­cerned by the new­found pow­er and influ­ence far-right nativist groups have gained with­in the gov­ern­ment since Trump came into office.

“These groups have spent 20 years look­ing for ways that they could hurt immi­grants and now they’ve been giv­en the keys to the king­dom,” said Lynn Tra­monte, deputy direc­tor of Amer­i­ca’s Voice, a pro-immi­grant advo­ca­cy group based in Wash­ing­ton whose goal is to cre­ate a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants.

Some pro-immi­grant advo­cates already sense a grow­ing break­down in their abil­i­ty to effec­tive­ly get infor­ma­tion from ICE.

“There is this gen­er­al, very harsh sense with­in the non­prof­it advo­ca­cy com­mu­ni­ty that we are being entire­ly shut out on every­thing from engage­ment on pol­i­cy all the way to indi­vid­ual immi­grant cas­es, and just very basic infor­ma­tion that ICE should be trans­par­ent about, like how many deten­tion cen­ters are cur­rent­ly in oper­a­tion around the coun­try,” said a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from a pro-immi­grant orga­ni­za­tion who, along with some oth­er col­leagues, request­ed anonymi­ty in order to speak freely.

ICE adds groups to stake­hold­er meet­ings

This marks what some say is a dras­tic change in the rela­tion­ship between ICE and pro-immi­grant advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions. Dur­ing the Bush admin­is­tra­tion, a coali­tion of pro-immi­grant groups known as the ICE-NGO Work­ing Group start­ed hold­ing con­fi­den­tial, closed-door stake­hold­er meet­ings sev­er­al times a year with high-rank­ing immi­gra­tion offi­cials as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to express con­cerns and ask spe­cif­ic ques­tions about enforce­ment pol­i­cy, the rights of immi­grants and their treat­ment while in deten­tion.

The Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Lawyers Asso­ci­a­tion, the Amer­i­can Bar Asso­ci­a­tion’s Immi­grant Jus­tice Project and the Nation­al Immi­grant Jus­tice Cen­ter are among the advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions that make up the ICE-NGO Work­ing Group.

In Feb­ru­ary, at the first such get-togeth­er under the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, mem­bers of the work­ing group felt blind­sided to dis­cov­er that some anti-immi­grant, pro-enforce­ment groups also were in atten­dance.

In addi­tion to CIS and FAIR, invi­ta­tions were extend­ed to the Immi­gra­tion Reform Law Insti­tute, which is the legal arm of FAIR, Num­ber­sUSA and Judi­cial Watch. These groups sup­port stricter enforce­ment of immi­gra­tion laws, reduc­ing over­all immi­gra­tion lev­els and the increased deten­tion and depor­ta­tion of undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants.

“We are frus­trat­ed and angry that what felt like a pro­duc­tive con­ver­sa­tion and an exchange of ideas and infor­ma­tion about how to ensure the safe and fair treat­ment of immi­grants in their (ICE) cus­tody has mor­phed into a meet­ing with orga­ni­za­tions whose mis­sion is to restrict immi­gra­tion and per­pet­u­ate hate against immi­grants,” said one pro-immi­grant advo­cate who attend­ed the Feb­ru­ary meet­ing.

Pro-enforce­ment, pro-immi­grant groups debate

Lead­ers of the pro-enforce­ment orga­ni­za­tions argue, how­ev­er, that as clear stake­hold­ers in the immi­gra­tion debate they have every right to be at the ICE meet­ings.

“We were inten­tion­al­ly exclud­ed from the meet­ings under the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, but with the new man­age­ment, ICE invit­ed some oth­er groups, too, and it’s long over­due,” said Kriko­ri­an, who acknowl­edged he does not remem­ber being invit­ed to these meet­ings.

Pro-immi­grant advo­cates have told ICE they would pre­fer if the agency met with those groups sep­a­rate­ly, which ICE has declined to do. Some advo­cates said they don’t take issue with peo­ple who have oppo­site views on immi­gra­tion, but believe these groups have con­sis­tent­ly spread ver­i­fi­ably false infor­ma­tion to demo­nize the immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty and its allies.

“There’s obvi­ous fear in the com­mu­ni­ty because of the anti-immi­grant rhetoric com­ing from this admin­is­tra­tion, but hav­ing Jon Feere, who came from CIS, in a lead­er­ship posi­tion at ICE and now these anti-immi­grant groups show­ing up at stake­hold­er meet­ings for the first time in 14 years, it has also cre­at­ed this real­ly deep-seat­ed fear in the advo­ca­cy com­mu­ni­ty,” said an immi­grants’ rights activist who teared up recall­ing how one advo­cate felt she could no longer par­tic­i­pate for fear of expos­ing her­self to ICE.

“Many immi­grants’ rights advo­cates are immi­grants them­selves, some are DACA recip­i­ents, and they are now afraid to even show up at the stake­hold­er meet­ings because they may be tak­en into cus­tody while at ICE head­quar­ters. These are smart, pro­fes­sion­al, well-edu­cat­ed advo­cates that are now scared to do their jobs,” said the activist.

As a result, immi­grants’ rights orga­ni­za­tions have since noti­fied ICE that they have dis­solved the ICE-NGO Work­ing Group and will no longer par­tic­i­pate in the quar­ter­ly gath­er­ings.

ICE will keep meet­ings going

In a state­ment ICE said the meet­ings will con­tin­ue:

“ICE is com­mit­ted to trans­paren­cy with all inter­est­ed stake­hold­ers — not just those of one opin­ion on immi­gra­tion enforce­ment issues and poli­cies. ICE appre­ci­ates con­struc­tive and diverse view­points from a wide spec­trum of orga­ni­za­tions inter­est­ed in immi­gra­tion enforce­ment. The agency con­tin­ues to expand engage­ment with stake­hold­ers and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. Our goal is to make sure all mem­bers of the pub­lic ful­ly under­stand what we do and what we don’t do.”

Peter Rob­bio a spokesman for Num­ber­sUSA, a group that also scored its first invi­ta­tion to the stake­hold­er meet­ing, described this as the best rela­tion­ship the orga­ni­za­tion has had with any admin­is­tra­tion in 21 years.

Said FAIR’s Stein: “Pres­i­dent Trump under­stands the immi­gra­tion issue from the larg­er view of the nation­al inter­est and has tapped a strong bench of peo­ple who bring exper­tise on the issue — some who are in the admin­is­tra­tion, some who are not.”

If pro-immi­grant groups are unhap­py about that, said Tom Fit­ton, pres­i­dent of Judi­cial Watch, they bet­ter get used to the new real­i­ty.

“I’m sure these left-wing groups are used to being able to con­trol the debate and con­trol the room, and I’m sure they would love to be able to con­tin­ue to do that, even dur­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion,” Fit­ton said.

The pro-enforce­ment groups are enjoy­ing the unprece­dent­ed input to shape immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy and hope to con­tin­ue attend­ing the stake­hold­er meet­ings with ICE.

“We should be encour­ag­ing more of these meet­ings,” Fit­ton said. “I know the lib­er­al left is afraid to con­front the argu­ments of their oppo­nents and want to be able to talk to the gov­ern­ment with­out any­one hold­ing them to account, but we are not opposed to par­tic­i­pat­ing in them with the oth­er groups.”

Not quite, says the oth­er side.

“This isn’t exact­ly the same sit­u­a­tion as hav­ing Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans, con­ser­v­a­tives and lib­er­als, both in the same room,” coun­tered one pro-immi­grant advo­cate. “The fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence is that their agen­da is dri­ven by a nativist white suprema­cist approach to pol­i­cy. So, to sit togeth­er in a room, not only does it have a chill­ing effect, but I think that many of the advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing ours, fear that we would be nor­mal­iz­ing the nativist agen­da as it gets into the halls of our gov­ern­ment.”

6. An arti­cle cit­ed, but not excerpt­ed, in the audio por­tion of the pro­gram notes the role of the scape­goat­ing of immi­gra­tion in the rise of neo­fas­cist par­ties. The dev­as­ta­tion from the mid­dle East wars–Syria in particular–has dri­ven large num­bers of des­per­ate refugees to Europe. This plays beau­ti­ful­ly into the polit­i­cal agen­da of so-called “pop­ulists” who cite them as the rea­son for the imple­men­ta­tion of what is essen­tial­ly a xeno­pho­bic plat­form.

What this arti­cle does NOT men­tion is that one of the Swe­den Democ­rats’ most promi­nent finan­cial backer is Carl Lund­strom, who was also the main finan­cial backer of the Pirate Bay web­site that host­ed Wik­ileaks.

“How the Far Right Con­quered Swe­den” by Jochen Bit­tner; The New York Times; 9/6/2018.

To under­stand why Swe­den, a bas­tion of social democ­ra­cy, might end up with a far-right par­ty in gov­ern­ment after nation­al elec­tions on Sun­day, you need to take a walk with Ahmed Abdi­rah­man.

An Amer­i­can-edu­cat­ed Soma­li immi­grant who works as a pol­i­cy ana­lyst at the Stock­holm Cham­ber of Com­merce, Mr. Abdi­rah­man grew up and now lives in the sub­urb of Rinke­by-Ten­s­ta, where some 90 per­cent of res­i­dents have a for­eign back­ground, rough­ly 80 per­cent live on wel­fare or earn low incomes and 42 per­cent are under age 25. It is a vio­lent place: Six­teen peo­ple were killed there in 2016, most­ly in drug-relat­ed con­flicts, an unheard-of num­ber in this typ­i­cal­ly peace­ful coun­try. As we walk along one of its main streets at 7 p.m., shop­keep­ers pull down the met­al shut­ters in front of their win­dows, while young masked men on scoot­ers start speed­ing through the streets. A police heli­copter hov­ers over­head.

The seg­re­ga­tion and vio­lence of Rinke­by-Ten­s­ta, and the like­li­hood that the far-right, anti-immi­grant Swe­den Democ­rats par­ty will win the most votes in this weekend’s nation­al elec­tions, are both the result of the country’s long-run­ning unwill­ing­ness to deal with the real­i­ties of its immi­gra­tion cri­sis.

For decades, Swe­den, once a racial­ly and cul­tur­al­ly homo­ge­neous coun­try with an expan­sive social wel­fare sys­tem, insist­ed that it could absorb large num­bers of non-Euro­pean migrants with­out con­sid­er­ing how those migrants should be inte­grat­ed into Swedish soci­ety.

As they did in cities across West­ern Europe, migrants tend­ed to clus­ter in low-income neigh­bor­hoods; fac­ing poor job prospects and ram­pant employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion, they nat­u­ral­ly turned inward. More young women have start­ed wear­ing the hijab recent­ly, Mr. Abdi­rah­man tells me, and more young men “inter­nal­ize the oth­er­ness” — reject­ed by their new soci­ety, they embrace the stereo­types imposed upon them. This can lead to a point where they reject gay rights or lib­er­al­ism as “white, West­ern ideas,” and even attack fire­fight­ers because they rep­re­sent the state.

As we walk around, Mr. Abdi­rah­man, who is sin­gle and child­less, con­fess­es: “When I came here in 1998, to me this place was par­adise. Today, I wouldn’t want my chil­dren to grow up here.”

Mr. Abdi­rah­man says he was lucky: His moth­er encour­aged him to con­tribute to soci­ety and get a good edu­ca­tion. He earned a degree in inter­na­tion­al stud­ies in New York, then worked in Gene­va and with the Unit­ed States Embassy here before going to work with the cham­ber of com­merce. Not all immi­grants get the same push at home, he says; some par­ents dis­cour­aged their young­sters from going to the city cen­ter to mix. Swe­den, he is afraid, has entered a vicious cir­cle of immi­gra­tion, seg­re­ga­tion and grow­ing mutu­al hos­til­i­ty.

The sit­u­a­tion grew worse with the lat­est mass influx of refugees, in 2015, after which a num­ber of sub­urbs became almost exclu­sive­ly migrant. Con­sid­ered “no go” areas by some Swedes, these neigh­bor­hoods are known to out­siders only from hor­rif­ic head­lines. What peo­ple don’t get to see, Mr. Abdi­rah­man wor­ries, is the bus dri­ver or the clean­ing lady work­ing them­selves ragged to get their chil­dren into a uni­ver­si­ty.

None of this is new, and yet the gov­ern­ment, dom­i­nat­ed by the tra­di­tion­al­ly strong Social Democ­rats and the cen­trist Mod­er­ate Par­ty, did far too lit­tle. That left an open­ing for the Swe­den Democ­rats, until recent­ly a group rel­e­gat­ed to the racist fringe of Swedish pol­i­tics. In the past few years, the par­ty has recast itself; just like the pop­ulist Alter­na­tive für Deutsch­land par­ty in Ger­many and the Five Star Move­ment in Italy, it has repo­si­tioned itself as anti-estab­lish­ment and anti-immi­grant. The Swe­den Democ­rats accus­es all oth­er polit­i­cal actors and the media of “destroy­ing” Swe­den, calls for a sus­pen­sion of the right to asy­lum and pro­motes an exit of Swe­den from the Euro­pean Union.

The par­ty has clocked up to 20 per­cent in the lat­est polls, enough to make a coali­tion gov­ern­ment between the Social Democ­rats and the Mod­er­ate Par­ty unlike­ly — and rais­ing the chances that one of those par­ties will have to enter into a gov­ern­ment with the Swe­den Democ­rats. “If the major par­ties had been able to read the majority’s con­cerns, things would have been dif­fer­ent,” Mr. Abdi­rah­man says.

Sim­i­lar sto­ries have played out across West­ern Europe, from the Nether­lands to Aus­tria. But Swe­den always imag­ined itself as some­thing dif­fer­ent, a soci­ety bound by its unique brand of togeth­er­ness. But that self-sat­is­fac­tion jus­ti­fied a myopic approach to the very com­plex prob­lem of how to inte­grate vast num­bers of for­eign­ers. If you believe in giv­ing every­one a state-of-the-art apart­ment, social wel­fare and child ben­e­fits, then it’s unlike­ly you will tack­le the hur­dles of the high­ly reg­u­lat­ed Swedish labor mar­ket.

The anti-estab­lish­ment Swe­den Democ­rats prof­it from the fact that they were often the first to point to the down­sides of immi­gra­tion. Yet as much as they despise wish­ful think­ing, they replace it with sim­plis­tic think­ing. No mat­ter what prob­lems there might be in Swe­den — hous­ing short­ages, school clos­ings, an over­bur­dened health care sys­tem — in the view of the Swe­den Democ­rats, it is always one group’s fault: migrants.

Andreas Johans­son Heinö, an ana­lyst with the think tank Tim­bro, believes that many Swedes will vote for the Swe­den Democ­rats on Sept. 9 even though they see through the party’s crude think­ing. He sees sim­i­lar­i­ties to the Unit­ed States, where a con­sid­er­able num­ber of peo­ple say they vot­ed for Don­ald Trump not because they liked him but because they liked the idea of change.

Even if the Swe­den Democ­rats win big on Sun­day, the elec­tion might be a force for good. The Mod­er­ate Par­ty, which is like­ly to take sec­ond place, might split over the ques­tion of whether to rule with them. And the Social Democ­rats, already under pres­sure to move to the left, might like­wise fall apart. Sweden’s par­ty land­scape, in oth­er words, might be blown to pieces.

If the coun­try is lucky, some parts from this explo­sion will bind togeth­er as a new force — one that takes seri­ous­ly the need for real­ism on immi­gra­tion and inte­gra­tion, with­out falling for the siren song of right-wing pop­ulism.

7. On CNN for­mer Repub­li­can sen­a­tor Rick San­to­rum thought the big sto­ry of the day on which Man­afort was con­vict­ed and Michael Cohen plead guilty was the first degree mur­der charge laid against an “ille­gal” Mex­i­can migrant work­er fol­low­ing the dis­cov­ery of a deceased white Iowa col­lege girl Mol­lie Tib­betts. Can this become a ral­ly­ing cry for Trump and his anti-immi­grant and racist sup­port­ers?

We note in this con­text that:

  1. The announce­ment of River­a’s arrest for the Tib­betts mur­der hap­pened on the same day that Paul Man­afort’s con­vic­tion was announced and Michael Cohen plead­ed guilty. Might we be look­ing at an “op,” intend­ed to eclipse the neg­a­tive pub­lic­i­ty from the the Manafort/Cohen judi­cial events?
  2. Rivera exhib­it­ed pos­si­ble symp­toms of being sub­ject­ed to mind con­trol, not unlike Sirhan Sirhan. ” . . . . Inves­ti­ga­tors say Rivera fol­lowed Mol­lie in his dark Chevy Mal­ibu as she went for a run around 7.30pm on July 18. He ‘blacked out’ and attacked her after she threat­ened to call the police unless he left her alone, offi­cers said. . . . It is not yet clear how Mol­lie died. . . . Rivera told police that after see­ing her, he pulled over and parked his car to get out and run with her. . . . Mol­lie grabbed her phone and threat­ened to call the police before run­ning off ahead. The sus­pect said that made him ‘pan­ic’ and he chased after her. That’s when he ‘blacked out.’ He claims he remem­bers noth­ing from then until he was back in his car, dri­ving. He then noticed one of her ear­phones sit­ting on his lap and blood in the car then remem­bered he’d stuffed her in the truck. . . . ‘He fol­lowed her and seemed to be drawn to her on that par­tic­u­lar day. For what­ev­er rea­son he chose to abduct her,’ Iowa Depart­ment of Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion spe­cial agent Rick Ryan said on Tues­day after­noon. . . . ‘Rivera stat­ed that she grabbed her phone and said: ‘I’m gonna call the police.’ . . . . ‘Rivera said he then pan­icked and he got mad and that he ‘blocked’ his mem­o­ry which is what he does when he gets very upset and does­n’t remem­ber any­thing after that until he came to at an inter­sec­tion.’ . . .”
  3. Just as Sirhan had been in a right-wing milieu pri­or to the Robert Kennedy assas­si­na­tion, so, too, was Rivera: ” . . . . The promi­nent Repub­li­can fam­i­ly which owns the farm where Mol­lie Tib­betts’ alleged killer worked have insist­ed that he passed back­ground checks for migrant work­ers. Christhi­an Rivera, 24, who is from Mex­i­co, was charged with first degree mur­der on Tues­day after lead­ing police to a corn field where Mol­lie’s body was dumped. Dane Lang, co-own­er of Yarrabee Farms along with Eric Lang, con­firmed that Rivera had worked there for four years and was an employ­ee ‘of good stand­ing.’ Dane’s broth­er is Craig Lang, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Iowa Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion and the Iowa Board of Regents, and a 2018 Repub­li­can can­di­date for state sec­re­tary of agri­cul­ture. . . .”
  4. Trump cit­ed the Tib­betts mur­der in a Charleston, West Vir­ginia, ral­ly that day: ” . . . . Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump chirped in dur­ing his Tues­day address at a ral­ly in Charleston, West Vir­ginia, blam­ing immi­gra­tion laws for Mol­lie’s death. ‘You heard about today with the ille­gal alien com­ing in very sad­ly from Mex­i­co,’ he said. ‘And you saw what hap­pened to that incred­i­ble beau­ti­ful young woman. ‘Should’ve nev­er hap­pened, ille­gal­ly in our coun­try. We’ve had a huge impact but the laws are so bad. The immi­gra­tion laws are such a dis­grace. ‘We are get­ting them changed but we have to get more Repub­li­cans.’ Gov. Kim Reynolds com­plained about the ‘bro­ken’ immi­gra­tion sys­tem that allowed a ‘preda­tor’ to live in her state. . . .”
  5. As dis­cussed in FTR #1002, dur­ing tri­al of a mem­ber of The Order (to which David Lane belonged), it emerged that Nazi ele­ments were seek­ing to per­fect mind con­trol tech­niques. It is also a mat­ter of pub­lic record that ele­ments of U.S. intel­li­gence are active on behalf of the GOP, and have been for many decades. The assas­si­na­tions of JFK, his broth­er and Mar­tin Luther King are but exam­ples of this.

“Promi­nent Iowa Repub­li­can Fam­i­ly which Owns Farm where Mol­lie Tib­betts’ Alleged Killer Worked say he PASSED Gov­ern­men­t’s Migrant Back­ground Check as the 24-year-old Is Charged with Her Mur­der after Admit­ting to ‘Chas­ing Her Down while Jog­ging’” by Ben Ash­ford, Chris Pleas­ance, Jen­nifer Smith and Han­nah Par­ry; Dai­ly Mail [UK]; 8/21/2018.

The promi­nent Repub­li­can fam­i­ly which owns the farm where Mol­lie Tib­betts’ alleged killer worked have insist­ed that he passed back­ground checks for migrant work­ers.

Christhi­an Rivera, 24, who is from Mex­i­co, was charged with first degree mur­der on Tues­day after lead­ing police to a corn field where Mol­lie’s body was dumped.

Dane Lang, co-own­er of Yarrabee Farms along with Eric Lang, con­firmed that Rivera had worked there for four years and was an employ­ee ‘of good stand­ing.’

Dane’s broth­er is Craig Lang, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Iowa Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion and the Iowa Board of Regents, and a 2018 Repub­li­can can­di­date for state sec­re­tary of agri­cul­ture.

Dane’s state­ment said: ‘First and fore­most, our thoughts and prayers are with the fam­i­ly and friends of Mol­lie Tib­betts.

‘This is a pro­found­ly sad day for our com­mu­ni­ty. All of us at Yarrabee Farms are shocked to hear that one of our employ­ees was involved and is charged in this case.

‘This indi­vid­ual has worked at our farms for four years, was vet­ted through the gov­ern­men­t’s E‑Verify sys­tem, and was an employ­ee in good stand­ing.

‘On Mon­day, the author­i­ties vis­it­ed our farm and talked to our employ­ees. We have coop­er­at­ed ful­ly with their inves­ti­ga­tion.’

The E‑Verify site allows employ­ers to estab­lish the eli­gi­bil­i­ty of employ­ees, both US or for­eign, by com­par­ing a work­er’s Employ­ment Eli­gi­bil­i­ty Ver­i­fi­ca­tion Form I‑9 with data held by the gov­ern­ment.

The employ­ee is eli­gi­ble to work in the US if the data match­es. If it does­n’t, the work­er has only eight fed­er­al gov­ern­ment work days to resolve the issue.

Despite the Lang fam­i­ly using the sys­tem, police say Rivera had been in the US ille­gal­ly for between four and sev­en years.

Inves­ti­ga­tors say Rivera fol­lowed Mol­lie in his dark Chevy Mal­ibu as she went for a run around 7.30pm on July 18.

He ‘blacked out’ and attacked her after she threat­ened to call the police unless he left her alone, offi­cers said. 

Rivera was iden­ti­fied by sur­veil­lance footage obtained in the last cou­ple of weeks from some­one’s home.

It showed him fol­low­ing the stu­dent in his car and Mol­lie run­ning ahead of him.  It is not yet clear how Mol­lie died. 

Ear­li­er Mon­day a mem­ber of the Lang fam­i­ly which runs Yarrabee Farms told DailyMail.com he was a per­son­al friend of Mol­lie and her broth­ers and was ‘dev­as­tat­ed’ by the news of her death.

It’s under­stood the com­pa­ny hires around 15 migrant work­ers, most of whom are believed to be Mex­i­can.

Rivera is believed to have lived with a num­ber of oth­er migrant work­ers on a seclud­ed farm­house in Brook­lyn owned by their employ­er.

Work­ers asso­ci­at­ed with the farm told DailyMail.com that they bare­ly knew Rivera but con­firmed that he lived there with a girl­friend named Iris Monar­rez and their baby.

They said Iris had gone to stay with her moth­er after Rivera was arrest­ed in Mol­lie’s mur­der.

Neigh­bors told DailyMail.com they had seen a black Chevy Mal­ibu just like the one Rivera was dri­ving when he abduct­ed Mol­lie reg­u­lar­ly dri­ving to and from the prop­er­ty for the past cou­ple of years. 

Mol­lie’s autop­sy is planned for Wednes­day but the results may not be released for weeks.

Rivera told police that after see­ing her, he pulled over and parked his car to get out and run with her. 

Mol­lie grabbed her phone and threat­ened to call the police before run­ning off ahead. The sus­pect said that made him ‘pan­ic’ and he chased after her.

That’s when he ‘blacked out.’  

He claims he remem­bers noth­ing from then until he was back in his car, dri­ving. 

He then noticed one of her ear­phones sit­ting on his lap and blood in the car then remem­bered he’d stuffed her in the truck. 

Rivera drove her then to a corn field where he hauled her body out of the truck and hid her beneath corn stalks.

He was arrest­ed on Fri­day after police honed in on his vehi­cle by view­ing sur­veil­lance footage obtained from a pri­vate res­i­den­t’s home sur­veil­lance cam­eras.

‘He fol­lowed her and seemed to be drawn to her on that par­tic­u­lar day. For what­ev­er rea­son he chose to abduct her,’ Iowa Depart­ment of Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion spe­cial agent Rick Ryan said on Tues­day after­noon. 

But it’s still unclear what the motive behind the killing was, Rahn said.

Rivera told police he had seen her in the area before. She is friends on Face­book with the moth­er of his daugh­ter but it is not clear if he and Mol­lie knew each oth­er.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump chirped in dur­ing his Tues­day address at a ral­ly in Charleston, West Vir­ginia, blam­ing immi­gra­tion laws for Mol­lie’s death.

‘You heard about today with the ille­gal alien com­ing in very sad­ly from Mex­i­co,’ he said. ‘And you saw what hap­pened to that incred­i­ble beau­ti­ful young woman.

‘Should’ve nev­er hap­pened, ille­gal­ly in our coun­try. We’ve had a huge impact but the laws are so bad. The immi­gra­tion laws are such a dis­grace. 

‘We are get­ting them changed but we have to get more Repub­li­cans.’

Gov. Kim Reynolds com­plained about the ‘bro­ken’ immi­gra­tion sys­tem that allowed a ‘preda­tor’ to live in her state.

‘I spoke with Mol­lie’s fam­i­ly and passed on the heart­felt con­do­lences of a griev­ing state,’ Reynolds said. ‘I shared with them my hope that they can find com­fort know­ing that God does not leave us to suf­fer alone. Even in our dark­est moments, He will com­fort and heal our bro­ken hearts.’

At 3pm on Mon­day, law enforce­ment arrived at the farm­house where Rivera worked, accord­ing to a neigh­bor.

FBI agents were still search­ing the house and a num­ber of near­by trail­ers on Tues­day after­noon.

Neigh­bors said the build­ing housed a ‘revolv­ing door’ of hired migrant work­ers but that they had nev­er caused any prob­lems.

FBI agents attend­ed anoth­er near­by prop­er­ty belong­ing to the farm overnight Mon­day to quiz River­a’s co-work­ers, most of whom claim only to under­stand Span­ish.

‘There was a pan­ic when they arrived because they thought at first that it was ICE launch­ing a raid,’ a local source told DailyMail.com.

‘A lot of these peo­ple arrive with forged doc­u­ments. But it turned it was the FBI and it was about Mol­lie.’

Accord­ing to pub­lic records the prop­er­ty being searched is owned by Mary and Craig Lang, whose fam­i­ly own the near­by Yarrabee Farms.

Mol­lie was stay­ing alone overnight in her boyfriend’s home the night she went miss­ing and was last seen going for a jog in the neigh­bor­hood at around 8pm but what hap­pened after­wards has remained a com­plete mys­tery for weeks. 

Her boyfriend opened a Snapchat pho­to­graph from her at 10pm which appeared to sug­gest that she was indoors but it is not known what time Mol­lie sent it.

In his arrest war­rant, police describe River­a’s chill­ing con­fes­sion.

‘Rivera admit­ted to mak­ing con­tact with the female run­ning in Brook­lyn and that he pur­sued her in his vehi­cle in an area east of Brook­lyn. Defen­dant Rivera stat­ed he parked the vehi­cle, got out and was run­ning behind her and along­side of her.

‘Rivera stat­ed that she grabbed her phone and said: ‘I’m gonna call the police.’

‘Rivera said he then pan­icked and he got mad and that he ‘blocked’ his mem­o­ry which is what he does when he gets very upset and does­n’t remem­ber any­thing after that until he came to at an inter­sec­tion.

‘Rivera stat­ed he then made a u‑turn, drove back to an entrance to a field and then drove into a dri­ve­way to a corn­field.

‘He noticed there was an ear piece from head­phones in his lap and that this is how he real­ized he put her in the trunk.

‘He went to get her out of the trunk and he noticed blood on the side of her head.

‘He described the female’s cloth­ing, what she was wear­ing includ­ing an ear phone or head phone set.

‘He described that he dragged Tib­betts on foot from his vehi­cle to a seclud­ed loca­tion in a corn­field.

‘He put her over his shoul­der and took her about 20 meters into the corn­field and he left her cov­ered in some corn leaves and that he left her there, face up.

‘The Defen­dant was able to use his phone to deter­mine the route he trav­eled from Brook­lyn.

‘Rivera then lat­er guid­ed law enforce­ment to her loca­tion from mem­o­ry,’ the affi­davit con­tin­ues.

River­a’s arrest and the dis­cov­ery of the stu­den­t’s body brings an end to five weeks of tire­less inves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI, the Iowa Divi­sion of Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion and local sher­iffs.

River­a’s ini­tial court appear­ance is sched­uled for 1pm Wednes­day in Mon­tezu­ma.

If con­vict­ed of first-degree mur­der he faces a manda­to­ry sen­tence of life in prison with­out parole.

Last week, the FBI said it believed she had been abduct­ed by some­one she knew.

They warned that the per­son was ‘hid­ing in plain sight’ and had even attend­ed vig­ils held in her hon­or but no arrests were made.

A $400,000 fund for her safe return was estab­lished but it did not pro­duce any leads either.

Greg Wil­ley of Crime Stop­pers of Cen­tral Iowa said her fam­i­ly and inves­ti­ga­tors would ded­i­cate their resources to catch­ing her killer ‘once they catch their breath’.

The Iowa Depart­ment of Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion refused to share details of the dis­cov­ery on Tues­day when con­tact­ed by DailyMail.com.

The only per­son who had been vis­i­bly scru­ti­nized by police after she went miss­ing was pig farmer Wayne Cheney.

He was grilled by offi­cers more than once and had his prop­er­ty searched twice after search crews found a red t‑shirt that was sim­i­lar to one owned by the stu­dent near his land.

It was nev­er estab­lished if the t‑shirt did in fact belong to Mol­lie.

Mol­lie’s father Rob went back to Cal­i­for­nia, where he lives, last week for what he called a much need­ed ‘break’ from the inves­ti­ga­tion

He said he had been urged by author­i­ties to do so and that it was a ‘half way’ point in the inves­ti­ga­tion.

Rob was not in the state when his daugh­ter dis­ap­peared.

Her boyfriend, Dal­ton Jack, was away for work when she dis­ap­peared as was his old­er broth­er Blake.

The young­sters lived togeth­er in a home in Brook­lyn with Blake’s fiancee who was also cleared.

As the hunt for her inten­si­fied,  author­i­ties set up a web­site that was ded­i­cate to find­ing her.

It pro­vid­ed a map detail­ing five loca­tions police con­sid­ered to be sig­nif­i­cant. The web­site also offered a tips page which gen­er­at­ed hun­dreds of clues about what may have hap­pened to her.

The news of her death shook the small town of Brook­lyn where most res­i­dents are known to each oth­er.

The Rev. Joyce Proc­tor at Grace Unit­ed Methodist Church said she’d been pray­ing for Tib­betts’ ene­mies ‘to do the right thing... and release her.’

Sad­ly that nev­er hap­pened.

Proc­tor, who said she heard Tib­betts ‘was a won­der­ful young lady’, said peo­ple were in shock their lit­tle town isn’t as safe as they first believed it was, the Des Moines Reg­is­ter report­ed.

‘I told the ladies at our prayer group this morn­ing that if it’s not safe in Brook­lyn it’s not safe any­where,’ she said. ‘And I think that’s been a hard thing to real­ize for a lot of peo­ple here.’

7. Under hyp­no­sis, Sirhan Sirhan was able to recall a con­sid­er­able amount of infor­ma­tion about “the girl in the pol­ka-dot dress”–a fig­ure report­ed by many eye­wit­ness­es to have cel­e­brat­ed the assas­si­na­tion of Robert Kennedy and appeared to have impli­cat­ed her­self and oth­ers in the crime.

The attrac­tion described by Sirhan to “the pol­ka-dot-dress” girl sounds sim­i­lar to River­a’s being “drawn” to Mol­lie Tib­betts.  ” . . . . Con­vict­ed assas­sin Sirhan Sirhan was manip­u­lated by a seduc­tive girl in a mind con­trol plot to shoot Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and his bul­lets did not kill the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, lawyers for Sirhan said in new legal papers. . . . Wit­nesses talked of see­ing such a female run­ning from the hotel shout­ing, ‘We shot Kennedy.’ But she was nev­er iden­ti­fied, and amid the chaos of the scene, descrip­tions were con­flict­ing. . . . Under hyp­no­sis, he remem­bered meet­ing the girl that night and becom­ing smit­ten with her. He said she led him to the pantry. ‘I am try­ing to fig­ure out how to hit on her.... That’s all that I can think about,’ he says in one inter­view cit­ed in the doc­u­ments. ‘I was fas­ci­nated with her looks .... She nev­er said much. It was very erot­ic. I was con­sumed by her. She was a seduc­tress with an unspo­ken unavail­abil­i­ty.’ . . . Sirhan main­tained in the hyp­notic inter­views that the mys­tery girl touched him or ‘pinched’ him on the shoul­der just before he fired then spun him around to see peo­ple com­ing through the pantry door. . . .”

“Con­victed RFK Assas­sin Says Girl Manip­u­lated Him” by Lin­da Deutsch [AP]; yahoo.news; 4/28/2011.

Con­vict­ed assas­sin Sirhan Sirhan was manip­u­lated by a seduc­tive girl in a mind con­trol plot to shoot Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and his bul­lets did not kill the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, lawyers for Sirhan said in new legal papers.

The doc­u­ments filed this week in fed­eral court and obtained by The Asso­ci­ated Press detail exten­sive inter­views with Sirhan dur­ing the past three years, some done while he was under hyp­no­sis.

The papers point to a mys­te­ri­ous girl in a pol­ka-dot dress as the con­troller who led Sirhan to fire a gun in the pantry of the Ambas­sador Hotel. But the doc­u­ments sug­gest a sec­ond per­son shot and killed Kennedy while using Sirhan as a diver­sion.

For the first time, Sirhan said under hyp­no­sis that on a cue from the girl he went into “range mode” believ­ing he was at a fir­ing range and see­ing cir­cles with tar­gets in front of his eyes.

“I thought that I was at the range more than I was actu­ally shoot­ing at any per­son, let alone Bob­by Kennedy,” Sirhan was quot­ed as say­ing dur­ing inter­views with Daniel Brown, a Har­vard Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor and expert in trau­ma mem­ory and hyp­no­sis. He inter­viewed Sirhan for 60 hours with and with­out hyp­no­sis, accord­ing to the legal brief.

San­di Gib­bons, a spokes­woman for the Los Ange­les Coun­ty dis­trict attor­ney, said pros­e­cu­tors were unaware of the legal fil­ing and could not com­ment.

The sto­ry of the girl has been a lin­ger­ing theme in accounts of the events just after mid­night on June 5, 1968, when Kennedy was gunned down in the hotel pantry after claim­ing vic­tory in the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­c­ra­tic pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry.

Wit­nesses talked of see­ing such a female run­ning from the hotel shout­ing, “We shot Kennedy.” But she was nev­er iden­ti­fied, and amid the chaos of the scene, descrip­tions were con­flict­ing.

Through the years, Sirhan has claimed no mem­ory of shoot­ing Kennedy and said in the recent inter­views that his pres­ence at the hotel was an acci­dent, not a planned des­ti­na­tion.

Under hyp­no­sis, he remem­bered meet­ing the girl that night and becom­ing smit­ten with her. He said she led him to the pantry.

“I am try­ing to fig­ure out how to hit on her.... That’s all that I can think about,” he says in one inter­view cit­ed in the doc­u­ments. “I was fas­ci­nated with her looks .... She nev­er said much. It was very erot­ic. I was con­sumed by her. She was a seduc­tress with an unspo­ken unavail­abil­i­ty.” . . .

. . . Sirhan main­tained in the hyp­notic inter­views that the mys­tery girl touched him or “pinched” him on the shoul­der just before he fired then spun him around to see peo­ple com­ing through the pantry door.

“Then I was on the tar­get range ... a flash­back to the shoot­ing range ... I didn’t know that I had a gun,” Sirhan said.

Under what Brown called the con­di­tion of hyp­notic free recall, he said Sirhan remem­bered see­ing the flash of a sec­ond gun at the time of the assas­si­na­tion. With­out hyp­no­sis, he said, Sirhan could not remem­ber that shot.

Discussion

18 comments for “FTR #1029 “The Will to Create Man Anew”: Eugenics, Past, Present and Future”

  1. When you see Pres­i­dent Trump open­ly plot­ting Machi­avel­lian schemes like send­ing ille­gal immi­grants to ‘sanc­tu­ary cities’ to pun­ish Democ­rats it’s worth keep­ing in mind that we’re still just see­ing a glimpse of the immense polit­i­cal poten­tial mas­sive human­i­tar­i­an crises present to politi­cians like Trump. Just imag­ine what the Trumps of the future will do when trop­i­cal coun­tries like Hon­duras are fac­ing col­laps­ing ecosys­tems as their ecosys­tems and economies col­lapse and whith­er from the impact of cli­mate change and the waves of refugees with noth­ing to return to are sent flee­ing for their lives. It will be a Trumpian bonan­za. At least, it will be a Trumpian polit­i­cal bonan­za if soci­eties are large­ly oper­at­ing from a ‘I got mine, F*ck you. Your prob­lems are not my prob­lems. You can all die for all I care’ world­view. It’s a world­view that com­bines fear, anger, stoked griev­ances, and an almost preda­to­ry mind­set with a polit­i­cal appeal because it’s basi­cal­ly tap­ping into those pri­mal ‘fight or flight’ and ter­ri­to­r­i­al instincts that fun­da­men­tal­ly dri­ve so much of human behav­ior. It’s among the red­dest of ‘red meat’ polit­i­cal threats that Trump could throw to his vot­ing base.

    But as the fol­low­ing arti­cles should warn us, it’s worth keep­ing in mind that when politi­cians like Trump throw ‘F*ck off and die all you poor peo­ple’ red meat to their polit­i­cal bases, the polit­i­cal bases that Trump is indi­rect­ly pan­der­ing to when he evokes these sen­ti­ments include mis­an­throp­ic bil­lion­aires. Specif­i­cal­ly, mis­an­throp­ic bil­lion­aires who have con­clud­ed that the world is going to hell in a hand­bas­ket, there’s noth­ing they can do about it, and their only moral oblig­a­tion is to ensure their own sur­vival once the shi#t hits the fan. Because if there’s one under­ly­ing theme that unites the con­tem­po­rary right-wing, it’s a comitt­ment to doing noth­ing to solve col­lec­tive prob­lems while we col­lec­tive­ly exac­er­bate them and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly dis­man­tle our col­lec­tive safe­ty-nets.

    First, here’s a piece writ­ten by futur­ist Dou­glas Rushkoff last year about a chill­ing expe­ri­ence he had when he was invit­ed to give a pri­vate talk about “the future of tech­nol­o­gy”. He showed up to the talk expect­ing to address an audi­ence ask­ing ques­tion about tech­nolo­gies like blockchain or 3D print­ing. Instead, the audi­ence con­sist­ed of five real­ly rich guys from the hedge fund world. Keep in mind that Peter Thiel could be described as a super-wealthy guy from the hedge fund world so it would be inter­est­ing to know if he was one of the five. Rushkoff does­n’t give their iden­ti­ties. But the way he describes them it cer­tain­ly sounds exact­ly like Thiel, who has already made invest­ments in New Zealand real estate so he could obtain New Zealand cit­i­zen­ship and build a dooms­day bunker there. For instance, pret­ty much the only thing these hedge fun­ders were inter­est­ed in was Rushkof­f’s ideas on how they per­son­al­ly could sur­vive glob­al col­lapse. Their ques­tions involved top­ics like how they could keep their per­son­al secu­ri­ty guards loy­al (should they use shock col­lars?) or whether or not robot­ic secu­ri­ty guards would be avail­able in time. And they seemed utter­ly con­vinced that absolute­ly noth­ing could stop even­tu­al glob­al chaos and had no inter­est in using their immense per­son­al wealth in try­ing to work towards pre­vent­ing that col­lapse. In oth­er words, this mys­tery group of bil­lion­aires are sim­ply embrac­ing the same under­ly­ing sen­ti­ments that Trump is whip­ping up with his end­less fear mon­ger­ing about ‘the oth­er’: a deep pri­mal instinct to fear oth­er peo­ple and view their prob­lems as sep­a­rate from our own and some­thing that can be avoid­ed, walled off, and if all else fails, and escaped:

    Medi­um

    Sur­vival of the Rich­est
    The wealthy are plot­ting to leave us behind

    Dou­glas Rushkoff
    Jul 5, 2018

    Last year, I got invit­ed to a super-deluxe pri­vate resort to deliv­er a keynote speech to what I assumed would be a hun­dred or so invest­ment bankers. It was by far the largest fee I had ever been offered for a talk?—?about half my annu­al professor’s salary—all to deliv­er some insight on the sub­ject of “the future of tech­nol­o­gy.”

    I’ve nev­er liked talk­ing about the future. The Q&A ses­sions always end up more like par­lor games, where I’m asked to opine on the lat­est tech­nol­o­gy buzz­words as if they were tick­er sym­bols for poten­tial invest­ments: blockchain, 3D print­ing, CRISPR. The audi­ences are rarely inter­est­ed in learn­ing about these tech­nolo­gies or their poten­tial impacts beyond the bina­ry choice of whether or not to invest in them. But mon­ey talks, so I took the gig.

    After I arrived, I was ush­ered into what I thought was the green room. But instead of being wired with a micro­phone or tak­en to a stage, I just sat there at a plain round table as my audi­ence was brought to me: five super-wealthy guys—yes, all men—from the upper ech­e­lon of the hedge fund world. After a bit of small talk, I real­ized they had no inter­est in the infor­ma­tion I had pre­pared about the future of tech­nol­o­gy. They had come with ques­tions of their own.

    They start­ed out innocu­ous­ly enough. Ethereum or bit­coin? Is quan­tum com­put­ing a real thing? Slow­ly but sure­ly, how­ev­er, they edged into their real top­ics of con­cern.

    Which region will be less impact­ed by the com­ing cli­mate cri­sis: New Zealand or Alas­ka? Is Google real­ly build­ing Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his con­scious­ness live through the tran­si­tion, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Final­ly, the CEO of a bro­ker­age house explained that he had near­ly com­plet­ed build­ing his own under­ground bunker sys­tem and asked, “How do I main­tain author­i­ty over my secu­ri­ty force after the event?”

    The Event. That was their euphemism for the envi­ron­men­tal col­lapse, social unrest, nuclear explo­sion, unstop­pable virus, or Mr. Robot hack that takes every­thing down.

    This sin­gle ques­tion occu­pied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to pro­tect their com­pounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once mon­ey was worth­less? What would stop the guards from choos­ing their own leader? The bil­lion­aires con­sid­ered using spe­cial com­bi­na­tion locks on the food sup­ply that only they knew. Or mak­ing guards wear dis­ci­pli­nary col­lars of some kind in return for their sur­vival. Or maybe build­ing robots to serve as guards and workers?—?if that tech­nol­o­gy could be devel­oped in time.

    That’s when it hit me: At least as far as these gen­tle­men were con­cerned, this was a talk about the future of tech­nol­o­gy. Tak­ing their cue from Elon Musk col­o­niz­ing Mars, Peter Thiel revers­ing the aging process, or Sam Alt­man and Ray Kurzweil upload­ing their minds into super­com­put­ers, they were prepar­ing for a dig­i­tal future that had a whole lot less to do with mak­ing the world a bet­ter place than it did with tran­scend­ing the human con­di­tion alto­geth­er and insu­lat­ing them­selves from a very real and present dan­ger of cli­mate change, ris­ing sea lev­els, mass migra­tions, glob­al pan­demics, nativist pan­ic, and resource deple­tion. For them, the future of tech­nol­o­gy is real­ly about just one thing: escape.

    ***

    There’s noth­ing wrong with mad­ly opti­mistic appraisals of how tech­nol­o­gy might ben­e­fit human soci­ety. But the cur­rent dri­ve for a post-human utopia is some­thing else. It’s less a vision for the whole­sale migra­tion of human­i­ty to a new a state of being than a quest to tran­scend all that is human: the body, inter­de­pen­dence, com­pas­sion, vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, and com­plex­i­ty. As tech­nol­o­gy philoso­phers have been point­ing out for years, now, the tran­shu­man­ist vision too eas­i­ly reduces all of real­i­ty to data, con­clud­ing that “humans are noth­ing but infor­ma­tion-pro­cess­ing objects.”

    It’s a reduc­tion of human evo­lu­tion to a video game that some­one wins by find­ing the escape hatch and then let­ting a few of his BFFs come along for the ride. Will it be Musk, Bezos, Thiel…Zuckerberg? These bil­lion­aires are the pre­sump­tive win­ners of the dig­i­tal economy—the same sur­vival-of-the-fittest busi­ness land­scape that’s fuel­ing most of this spec­u­la­tion to begin with.

    Of course, it wasn’t always this way. There was a brief moment, in the ear­ly 1990s, when the dig­i­tal future felt open-end­ed and up for our inven­tion. Tech­nol­o­gy was becom­ing a play­ground for the coun­ter­cul­ture, who saw in it the oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate a more inclu­sive, dis­trib­uted, and pro-human future. But estab­lished busi­ness inter­ests only saw new poten­tials for the same old extrac­tion, and too many tech­nol­o­gists were seduced by uni­corn IPOs. Dig­i­tal futures became under­stood more like stock futures or cot­ton futures—something to pre­dict and make bets on. So near­ly every speech, arti­cle, study, doc­u­men­tary, or white paper was seen as rel­e­vant only inso­far as it point­ed to a tick­er sym­bol. The future became less a thing we cre­ate through our present-day choic­es or hopes for humankind than a pre­des­tined sce­nario we bet on with our ven­ture cap­i­tal but arrive at pas­sive­ly.

    This freed every­one from the moral impli­ca­tions of their activ­i­ties. Tech­nol­o­gy devel­op­ment became less a sto­ry of col­lec­tive flour­ish­ing than per­son­al sur­vival. Worse, as I learned, to call atten­tion to any of this was to unin­ten­tion­al­ly cast one­self as an ene­my of the mar­ket or an anti-tech­nol­o­gy cur­mud­geon.

    So instead of con­sid­er­ing the prac­ti­cal ethics of impov­er­ish­ing and exploit­ing the many in the name of the few, most aca­d­e­mics, jour­nal­ists, and sci­ence-fic­tion writ­ers instead con­sid­ered much more abstract and fan­ci­ful conun­drums: Is it fair for a stock trad­er to use smart drugs? Should chil­dren get implants for for­eign lan­guages? Do we want autonomous vehi­cles to pri­or­i­tize the lives of pedes­tri­ans over those of its pas­sen­gers? Should the first Mars colonies be run as democ­ra­cies? Does chang­ing my DNA under­mine my iden­ti­ty? Should robots have rights?

    Ask­ing these sorts of ques­tions, while philo­soph­i­cal­ly enter­tain­ing, is a poor sub­sti­tute for wrestling with the real moral quan­daries asso­ci­at­ed with unbri­dled tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment in the name of cor­po­rate cap­i­tal­ism. Dig­i­tal plat­forms have turned an already exploita­tive and extrac­tive mar­ket­place (think Wal­mart) into an even more dehu­man­iz­ing suc­ces­sor (think Ama­zon). Most of us became aware of these down­sides in the form of auto­mat­ed jobs, the gig econ­o­my, and the demise of local retail.

    But the more dev­as­tat­ing impacts of ped­al-to-the-met­al dig­i­tal cap­i­tal­ism fall on the envi­ron­ment and glob­al poor. The man­u­fac­ture of some of our com­put­ers and smart­phones still uses net­works of slave labor. These prac­tices are so deeply entrenched that a com­pa­ny called Fair­phone, found­ed from the ground up to make and mar­ket eth­i­cal phones, learned it was impos­si­ble. (The company’s founder now sad­ly refers to their prod­ucts as “fair­er” phones.)

    Mean­while, the min­ing of rare earth met­als and dis­pos­al of our high­ly dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies destroys human habi­tats, replac­ing them with tox­ic waste dumps, which are then picked over by peas­ant chil­dren and their fam­i­lies, who sell usable mate­ri­als back to the man­u­fac­tur­ers.

    This “out of sight, out of mind” exter­nal­iza­tion of pover­ty and poi­son doesn’t go away just because we’ve cov­ered our eyes with VR gog­gles and immersed our­selves in an alter­nate real­i­ty. If any­thing, the longer we ignore the social, eco­nom­ic, and envi­ron­men­tal reper­cus­sions, the more of a prob­lem they become. This, in turn, moti­vates even more with­draw­al, more iso­la­tion­ism and apoc­a­lyp­tic fantasy—and more des­per­ate­ly con­coct­ed tech­nolo­gies and busi­ness plans. The cycle feeds itself.

    The more com­mit­ted we are to this view of the world, the more we come to see human beings as the prob­lem and tech­nol­o­gy as the solu­tion. The very essence of what it means to be human is treat­ed less as a fea­ture than bug. No mat­ter their embed­ded bias­es, tech­nolo­gies are declared neu­tral. Any bad behav­iors they induce in us are just a reflec­tion of our own cor­rupt­ed core. It’s as if some innate human sav­agery is to blame for our trou­bles. Just as the inef­fi­cien­cy of a local taxi mar­ket can be “solved” with an app that bank­rupts human dri­vers, the vex­ing incon­sis­ten­cies of the human psy­che can be cor­rect­ed with a dig­i­tal or genet­ic upgrade.

    Ulti­mate­ly, accord­ing to the tech­noso­lu­tion­ist ortho­doxy, the human future cli­max­es by upload­ing our con­scious­ness to a com­put­er or, per­haps bet­ter, accept­ing that tech­nol­o­gy itself is our evo­lu­tion­ary suc­ces­sor. Like mem­bers of a gnos­tic cult, we long to enter the next tran­scen­dent phase of our devel­op­ment, shed­ding our bod­ies and leav­ing them behind, along with our sins and trou­bles.

    ...

    The men­tal gym­nas­tics required for such a pro­found role rever­sal between humans and machines all depend on the under­ly­ing assump­tion that humans suck. Let’s either change them or get away from them, for­ev­er.

    Thus, we get tech bil­lion­aires launch­ing elec­tric cars into space—as if this sym­bol­izes some­thing more than one billionaire’s capac­i­ty for cor­po­rate pro­mo­tion. And if a few peo­ple do reach escape veloc­i­ty and some­how sur­vive in a bub­ble on Mars—despite our inabil­i­ty to main­tain such a bub­ble even here on Earth in either of two multi­bil­lion-dol­lar Bios­phere trials—the result will be less a con­tin­u­a­tion of the human dias­po­ra than a lifeboat for the elite.

    ***

    When the hedge fun­ders asked me the best way to main­tain author­i­ty over their secu­ri­ty forces after “the event,” I sug­gest­ed that their best bet would be to treat those peo­ple real­ly well, right now. They should be engag­ing with their secu­ri­ty staffs as if they were mem­bers of their own fam­i­ly. And the more they can expand this ethos of inclu­siv­i­ty to the rest of their busi­ness prac­tices, sup­ply chain man­age­ment, sus­tain­abil­i­ty efforts, and wealth dis­tri­b­u­tion, the less chance there will be of an “event” in the first place. All this tech­no­log­i­cal wiz­ardry could be applied toward less roman­tic but entire­ly more col­lec­tive inter­ests right now.

    They were amused by my opti­mism, but they didn’t real­ly buy it. They were not inter­est­ed in how to avoid a calami­ty; they’re con­vinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and pow­er, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are sim­ply accept­ing the dark­est of all sce­nar­ios and then bring­ing what­ev­er mon­ey and tech­nol­o­gy they can employ to insu­late themselves—especially if they can’t get a seat on the rock­et to Mars.

    Luck­i­ly, those of us with­out the fund­ing to con­sid­er dis­own­ing our own human­i­ty have much bet­ter options avail­able to us. We don’t have to use tech­nol­o­gy in such anti­so­cial, atom­iz­ing ways. We can become the indi­vid­ual con­sumers and pro­files that our devices and plat­forms want us to be, or we can remem­ber that the tru­ly evolved human doesn’t go it alone.

    Being human is not about indi­vid­ual sur­vival or escape. It’s a team sport. What­ev­er future humans have, it will be togeth­er.

    ———–

    “Sur­vival of the Rich­est” by Dou­glas Rushkoff; Medi­um; 07/05/2018

    “After I arrived, I was ush­ered into what I thought was the green room. But instead of being wired with a micro­phone or tak­en to a stage, I just sat there at a plain round table as my audi­ence was brought to me: five super-wealthy guys—yes, all men—from the upper ech­e­lon of the hedge fund world. After a bit of small talk, I real­ized they had no inter­est in the infor­ma­tion I had pre­pared about the future of tech­nol­o­gy. They had come with ques­tions of their own.

    Five super-wealthy guys from hedge fund world. Was Peter Thiel there? We don’t know, but it sure sounds like it. Either way, Thiel isn’t the only bil­lion­aire plan­ning on an apoc­a­lypse:

    ...
    They start­ed out innocu­ous­ly enough. Ethereum or bit­coin? Is quan­tum com­put­ing a real thing? Slow­ly but sure­ly, how­ev­er, they edged into their real top­ics of con­cern.

    Which region will be less impact­ed by the com­ing cli­mate cri­sis: New Zealand or Alas­ka? Is Google real­ly build­ing Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his con­scious­ness live through the tran­si­tion, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Final­ly, the CEO of a bro­ker­age house explained that he had near­ly com­plet­ed build­ing his own under­ground bunker sys­tem and asked, “How do I main­tain author­i­ty over my secu­ri­ty force after the event?”

    The Event. That was their euphemism for the envi­ron­men­tal col­lapse, social unrest, nuclear explo­sion, unstop­pable virus, or Mr. Robot hack that takes every­thing down.

    This sin­gle ques­tion occu­pied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to pro­tect their com­pounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once mon­ey was worth­less? What would stop the guards from choos­ing their own leader? The bil­lion­aires con­sid­ered using spe­cial com­bi­na­tion locks on the food sup­ply that only they knew. Or mak­ing guards wear dis­ci­pli­nary col­lars of some kind in return for their sur­vival. Or maybe build­ing robots to serve as guards and workers?—?if that tech­nol­o­gy could be devel­oped in time.

    That’s when it hit me: At least as far as these gen­tle­men were con­cerned, this was a talk about the future of tech­nol­o­gy. Tak­ing their cue from Elon Musk col­o­niz­ing Mars, Peter Thiel revers­ing the aging process, or Sam Alt­man and Ray Kurzweil upload­ing their minds into super­com­put­ers, they were prepar­ing for a dig­i­tal future that had a whole lot less to do with mak­ing the world a bet­ter place than it did with tran­scend­ing the human con­di­tion alto­geth­er and insu­lat­ing them­selves from a very real and present dan­ger of cli­mate change, ris­ing sea lev­els, mass migra­tions, glob­al pan­demics, nativist pan­ic, and resource deple­tion. For them, the future of tech­nol­o­gy is real­ly about just one thing: escape.
    ...

    “The Event”. We don’t know what it will be. But these bil­lion­aires are con­vinced that some­thing is going to bring about glob­al chaos in their life­times. And they have zero inter­est in using their immense wealth to help human­i­ty in address it. Because help­ing human­i­ty is not some­thing these hedge fund man­ag­er are inter­est­ed in. Instead, it’s an embrace of a kind of futur­ism where tech­nol­o­gy because the tool for per­son­al escape from human­i­ty and all of its prob­lems:

    ...
    There’s noth­ing wrong with mad­ly opti­mistic appraisals of how tech­nol­o­gy might ben­e­fit human soci­ety. But the cur­rent dri­ve for a post-human utopia is some­thing else. It’s less a vision for the whole­sale migra­tion of human­i­ty to a new a state of being than a quest to tran­scend all that is human: the body, inter­de­pen­dence, com­pas­sion, vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, and com­plex­i­ty. As tech­nol­o­gy philoso­phers have been point­ing out for years, now, the tran­shu­man­ist vision too eas­i­ly reduces all of real­i­ty to data, con­clud­ing that “humans are noth­ing but infor­ma­tion-pro­cess­ing objects.”

    It’s a reduc­tion of human evo­lu­tion to a video game that some­one wins by find­ing the escape hatch and then let­ting a few of his BFFs come along for the ride. Will it be Musk, Bezos, Thiel…Zuckerberg? These bil­lion­aires are the pre­sump­tive win­ners of the dig­i­tal economy—the same sur­vival-of-the-fittest busi­ness land­scape that’s fuel­ing most of this spec­u­la­tion to begin with.

    Of course, it wasn’t always this way. There was a brief moment, in the ear­ly 1990s, when the dig­i­tal future felt open-end­ed and up for our inven­tion. Tech­nol­o­gy was becom­ing a play­ground for the coun­ter­cul­ture, who saw in it the oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate a more inclu­sive, dis­trib­uted, and pro-human future. But estab­lished busi­ness inter­ests only saw new poten­tials for the same old extrac­tion, and too many tech­nol­o­gists were seduced by uni­corn IPOs. Dig­i­tal futures became under­stood more like stock futures or cot­ton futures—something to pre­dict and make bets on. So near­ly every speech, arti­cle, study, doc­u­men­tary, or white paper was seen as rel­e­vant only inso­far as it point­ed to a tick­er sym­bol. The future became less a thing we cre­ate through our present-day choic­es or hopes for humankind than a pre­des­tined sce­nario we bet on with our ven­ture cap­i­tal but arrive at pas­sive­ly.

    This freed every­one from the moral impli­ca­tions of their activ­i­ties. Tech­nol­o­gy devel­op­ment became less a sto­ry of col­lec­tive flour­ish­ing than per­son­al sur­vival. Worse, as I learned, to call atten­tion to any of this was to unin­ten­tion­al­ly cast one­self as an ene­my of the mar­ket or an anti-tech­nol­o­gy cur­mud­geon.
    ...

    And as Rushkoff notes, it’s par­tic­u­lar­ly grim to see those mak­ing for­tunes off of tech­nol­o­gy adopt these kinds of atti­tude when you fac­tor in that the neg­a­tive exter­nal­i­ties of our tech­no­log­i­cal progress, like pol­lu­tion from min­ing rare earth met­als or exploita­tive labor prac­tices in the pro­duc­tion of elec­tron­ics, pri­mar­i­ly falls on the envi­ron­ment and the glob­al poor. In oth­er words, the super-rich who hired Rushkoff to give this pri­vate talk are exhibit­ing the same spir­it of “I got mine, F*ck You, our lives are not con­nect­ed” that Trump is cham­pi­oning with his demo­niza­tion of refugees and asy­lum seek­ers, but tak­ing that spir­it to the next lev­el because they are lit­er­al­ly the biggest ben­e­fi­cia­ries of a glob­al eco­nom­ic sys­tem that is cre­at­ing and fuel­ing many of the prob­lems that are going to fuel­ing future refugee crises and cli­mate cat­a­stro­phes. The prob­lems are the glob­al poor aren’t seen as prob­lems we need to col­lec­tive­ly address. They’re seen as prob­lems to be tran­scend­ed by tran­shu­man­ist super-rich who sur­vive a com­ing glob­al col­lapse by embrac­ing high-tech escape plans and tran­shu­man­ist tech­nolo­gies:

    ...
    Ask­ing these sorts of ques­tions, while philo­soph­i­cal­ly enter­tain­ing, is a poor sub­sti­tute for wrestling with the real moral quan­daries asso­ci­at­ed with unbri­dled tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment in the name of cor­po­rate cap­i­tal­ism. Dig­i­tal plat­forms have turned an already exploita­tive and extrac­tive mar­ket­place (think Wal­mart) into an even more dehu­man­iz­ing suc­ces­sor (think Ama­zon). Most of us became aware of these down­sides in the form of auto­mat­ed jobs, the gig econ­o­my, and the demise of local retail.

    But the more dev­as­tat­ing impacts of ped­al-to-the-met­al dig­i­tal cap­i­tal­ism fall on the envi­ron­ment and glob­al poor. The man­u­fac­ture of some of our com­put­ers and smart­phones still uses net­works of slave labor. These prac­tices are so deeply entrenched that a com­pa­ny called Fair­phone, found­ed from the ground up to make and mar­ket eth­i­cal phones, learned it was impos­si­ble. (The company’s founder now sad­ly refers to their prod­ucts as “fair­er” phones.)

    Mean­while, the min­ing of rare earth met­als and dis­pos­al of our high­ly dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies destroys human habi­tats, replac­ing them with tox­ic waste dumps, which are then picked over by peas­ant chil­dren and their fam­i­lies, who sell usable mate­ri­als back to the man­u­fac­tur­ers.

    This “out of sight, out of mind” exter­nal­iza­tion of pover­ty and poi­son doesn’t go away just because we’ve cov­ered our eyes with VR gog­gles and immersed our­selves in an alter­nate real­i­ty. If any­thing, the longer we ignore the social, eco­nom­ic, and envi­ron­men­tal reper­cus­sions, the more of a prob­lem they become. This, in turn, moti­vates even more with­draw­al, more iso­la­tion­ism and apoc­a­lyp­tic fantasy—and more des­per­ate­ly con­coct­ed tech­nolo­gies and busi­ness plans. The cycle feeds itself.

    The more com­mit­ted we are to this view of the world, the more we come to see human beings as the prob­lem and tech­nol­o­gy as the solu­tion. The very essence of what it means to be human is treat­ed less as a fea­ture than bug. No mat­ter their embed­ded bias­es, tech­nolo­gies are declared neu­tral. Any bad behav­iors they induce in us are just a reflec­tion of our own cor­rupt­ed core. It’s as if some innate human sav­agery is to blame for our trou­bles. Just as the inef­fi­cien­cy of a local taxi mar­ket can be “solved” with an app that bank­rupts human dri­vers, the vex­ing incon­sis­ten­cies of the human psy­che can be cor­rect­ed with a dig­i­tal or genet­ic upgrade.

    Ulti­mate­ly, accord­ing to the tech­noso­lu­tion­ist ortho­doxy, the human future cli­max­es by upload­ing our con­scious­ness to a com­put­er or, per­haps bet­ter, accept­ing that tech­nol­o­gy itself is our evo­lu­tion­ary suc­ces­sor. Like mem­bers of a gnos­tic cult, we long to enter the next tran­scen­dent phase of our devel­op­ment, shed­ding our bod­ies and leav­ing them behind, along with our sins and trou­bles.

    ...

    The men­tal gym­nas­tics required for such a pro­found role rever­sal between humans and machines all depend on the under­ly­ing assump­tion that humans suck. Let’s either change them or get away from them, for­ev­er.

    Thus, we get tech bil­lion­aires launch­ing elec­tric cars into space—as if this sym­bol­izes some­thing more than one billionaire’s capac­i­ty for cor­po­rate pro­mo­tion. And if a few peo­ple do reach escape veloc­i­ty and some­how sur­vive in a bub­ble on Mars—despite our inabil­i­ty to main­tain such a bub­ble even here on Earth in either of two multi­bil­lion-dol­lar Bios­phere trials—the result will be less a con­tin­u­a­tion of the human dias­po­ra than a lifeboat for the elite.
    ...

    And per­haps the most dis­turb­ing part of Rushkof­f’s recount­ing of his expe­ri­ence is their response to Rushkof­f’s advice for how to keep their per­son­al secu­ri­ty guards loy­al after ‘the Event’ forces them into their dooms­day bunkers: Rushkof­f’s advice was to treat their secu­ri­ty teams as fam­i­ly and build real human bonds with them before every­thing col­laps­es and allow that social cohe­sion to cre­ate the loy­al­ty they desire. Rushkoff then expand­ed on this point to sug­gest that they might be able to reduce the chances of hav­ing to flee to their bunkers in the first place by doing things like improv­ing the inclu­siv­i­ty and sus­tain­abil­i­ty of their actu­al busi­ness­es and address­ing the glob­al wealth inequal­i­ty. And the hedge fun­ders did­n’t buy it. They were con­vinced that all was lost and there was noth­ing they could do to avoid this fate:

    ...
    When the hedge fun­ders asked me the best way to main­tain author­i­ty over their secu­ri­ty forces after “the event,” I sug­gest­ed that their best bet would be to treat those peo­ple real­ly well, right now. They should be engag­ing with their secu­ri­ty staffs as if they were mem­bers of their own fam­i­ly. And the more they can expand this ethos of inclu­siv­i­ty to the rest of their busi­ness prac­tices, sup­ply chain man­age­ment, sus­tain­abil­i­ty efforts, and wealth dis­tri­b­u­tion, the less chance there will be of an “event” in the first place. All this tech­no­log­i­cal wiz­ardry could be applied toward less roman­tic but entire­ly more col­lec­tive inter­ests right now.

    They were amused by my opti­mism, but they didn’t real­ly buy it. They were not inter­est­ed in how to avoid a calami­ty; they’re con­vinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and pow­er, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are sim­ply accept­ing the dark­est of all sce­nar­ios and then bring­ing what­ev­er mon­ey and tech­nol­o­gy they can employ to insu­late themselves—especially if they can’t get a seat on the rock­et to Mars.

    Luck­i­ly, those of us with­out the fund­ing to con­sid­er dis­own­ing our own human­i­ty have much bet­ter options avail­able to us. We don’t have to use tech­nol­o­gy in such anti­so­cial, atom­iz­ing ways. We can become the indi­vid­ual con­sumers and pro­files that our devices and plat­forms want us to be, or we can remem­ber that the tru­ly evolved human doesn’t go it alone.

    Being human is not about indi­vid­ual sur­vival or escape. It’s a team sport. What­ev­er future humans have, it will be togeth­er.
    ...

    So as we can see, a para­dox­i­cal phi­los­o­phy of opti­mistic despair has been secret­ly embraced by some of the wealth­i­est and most pow­er­ful peo­ple on the plan­et. Despair over any pos­si­bil­i­ty of pre­vent­ing glob­al col­lapse cou­pled with an insane opti­mism that they per­son­al­ly will be able to not just escape for also cap­i­tal­ize on this col­lapse and emerge as the tech­no­log­i­cal­ly advanced tran­shu­man­ist sur­vivors to cre­ate a post-human future.

    And giv­en that Trump’s true polit­i­cal base, the peo­ple he’s actu­al­ly work­ing for, large­ly con­sists of mis­an­throp­ic right-wing bil­lion­aires, that rais­es the ques­tion of just how wide­spread these fatal­is­tic dooms­day sen­ti­ments are with­in Trump’s bil­lion­aire base. Which, in turn, rais­es ques­tions about the extent to which Trump’s base is active­ly plan­ning on cap­i­tal­iz­ing on these chaot­ic sce­nar­ios. Chaot­ic sce­nar­ios that will invari­ably include large num­ber of refugees and asy­lum seek­ers. In oth­er words, the sto­ry of Dou­glas Rushkof­f’s bizarre tech­nol­o­gy talk should real­ly be seen as part of the same over­all sto­ry as the sto­ry of Trump’s demo­niza­tion of immi­grants: an elite embrace of the the idea that we are not all in this togeth­er. There’s no point in work­ing togeth­er for a bet­ter tomor­row, there’s no point in try­ing to col­lec­tive­ly address col­lec­tive prob­lems because there are no col­lec­tive prob­lems. It’s every man for him­self.

    Well, not quite every man for him­self. Because as the fol­low­ing arti­cle about the explo­sion in demand for New Zealand dooms­day bunkers points out, some of these bil­lion­aires are more than hap­py to work with oth­ers. Specif­i­cal­ly, they’re hap­py to work with each oth­er on their dooms­day plan. One of the bil­lion­aires described in the arti­cle report­ed­ly gave a pri­vate din­ner par­ty where he talked about how he has an escape plan in place that will take him to a jet in Neva­da that exists for the sole pur­pose of fly­ing him and four oth­er bil­lion­aires to their bunkers in New Zealand. Are these the same five super rich guys who invit­ed Rushkoff to give that talk? Who knows. It could eas­i­ly be a dif­fer­ent group of five super wealthy peo­ple. Because, trag­i­cal­ly, there does­n’t appear to be a short­age of bil­lion­aires plan­ning on dooms­day:

    Bloomberg

    The Super Rich of Sil­i­con Val­ley Have a Dooms­day Escape Plan
    Wealthy Amer­i­cans have stepped up invest­ment in New Zealand. Par­lia­ment votes to ban for­eign­ers from buy­ing bolt-hole homes.

    By Olivia Carville
    Sep­tem­ber 5 2018

    Years of dooms­day talk at Sil­i­con Val­ley din­ner par­ties has turned to action.

    In recent months, two 150-ton sur­vival bunkers jour­neyed by land and sea from a Texas ware­house to the shores of New Zealand, where they’re buried 11 feet under­ground.

    Sev­en Sil­i­con Val­ley entre­pre­neurs have pur­chased bunkers from Ris­ing S Co. and plant­ed them in New Zealand in the past two years, said Gary Lynch, the manufacturer’s gen­er­al man­ag­er. At the first sign of an apoc­a­lypse — nuclear war, a killer germ, a French Rev­o­lu­tion-style upris­ing tar­get­ing the 1 per­cent — the Cal­i­for­ni­ans plan to hop on a pri­vate jet and hun­ker down, he said.

    “New Zealand is an ene­my of no one,” Lynch said in an inter­view from his office in Murchi­son, Texas, south­east of Dal­las. “It’s not a nuclear tar­get. It’s not a tar­get for war. It’s a place where peo­ple seek refuge.”

    The remote island nation, cling­ing to the south­ern part of the globe 2,500 miles off Australia’s coast, has 4.8 mil­lion peo­ple and six times as many sheep. It has a rep­u­ta­tion for nat­ur­al beau­ty, easy net­work­ing, low-key politi­cians who bike to work, and rental prices half those of the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area. That makes it an increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion not only for those fret­ting about impend­ing dystopia, but for tech entre­pre­neurs seek­ing incu­ba­tors for nur­tur­ing star­tups.

    “It’s become one of the places for peo­ple in Sil­i­con Val­ley, most­ly because it’s not like Sil­i­con Val­ley at all,” said Reg­gie Luedtke, an Amer­i­can bio­med­ical engi­neer who’s mov­ing to New Zealand in Octo­ber for the Sir Edmund Hillary Fel­low­ship, a pro­gram cre­at­ed to lure tech inno­va­tors.

    Luedtke, 37, said peo­ple in Cal­i­for­nia have asked him if he’s relo­cat­ing as part of a dooms­day con­tin­gency plan, because “that’s what the coun­try is known for.”

    Such noto­ri­ety has made New Zealand’s iso­la­tion, once deemed an eco­nom­ic hand­i­cap, one of its biggest assets. The nation allows emi­gres to essen­tial­ly buy res­i­den­cy through investor visas, and rich Amer­i­cans have poured a for­tune into the coun­try, often by acquir­ing pala­tial estates.

    Bil­lion­aire hedge-fund hon­cho Julian Robert­son owns a lodge over­look­ing Lake Wakatipu in Queen­stown, the South Island’s lux­u­ry resort des­ti­na­tion. Fideli­ty Nation­al Finan­cial Inc. Chair­man Bill Foley has a home­stead in the Wairara­pa region, north of Welling­ton, and Titan­ic direc­tor James Cameron bought a man­sion near­by at Lake Pounui.

    The Investor Plus Visa, which requires a min­i­mum invest­ment of NZD$10 mil­lion ($6.7 mil­lion) over three years, attract­ed 17 U.S. appli­cants in fis­cal 2017, after Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion. Pre­vi­ous­ly, it aver­aged six appli­cants a year.

    More than 10 Amer­i­cans from the West Coast have bought mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar prop­er­ties in the Queen­stown region in the past two years, said Mark Har­ris, man­ag­ing direc­tor of the local Sotheby’s real estate office.

    In August, part­ly in response to Amer­i­cans gob­bling up swaths of prime real estate, New Zealand’s gov­ern­ment banned for­eign­ers from buy­ing homes, with the restric­tions set to take effect in com­ing months.

    Peter Thiel, the bil­lion­aire co-founder of Pay­Pal, ignit­ed an uproar when he was grant­ed cit­i­zen­ship after spend­ing just 12 days in the coun­try, prompt­ing alle­ga­tions that New Zealand’s pass­port was for sale. Thiel, 50, owns a $13.8 mil­lion home on 477 acres (193 hectares) in the lake­side town of Wana­ka, with views of snow-capped moun­tains, and pur­chased anoth­er prop­er­ty in Queen­stown, out­fit­ted with a safe room.

    “If you’re the sort of per­son that says ‘I’m going to have an alter­na­tive plan when Armaged­don strikes,’ then you would pick the far­thest loca­tion and the safest envi­ron­ment — and that equals New Zealand if you Google it,” for­mer Prime Min­is­ter John Key said in a phone inter­view.

    “It’s known as the last bus stop on the plan­et before you hit Antarc­ti­ca,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of peo­ple say to me that they would like to own a prop­er­ty in New Zealand if the world goes to hell in a hand­bas­ket.”

    Kiwis would find this both crazy and amus­ing, Key said, but it makes sense for some of the wealth­i­est peo­ple on the plan­et.

    “We live in a world where some peo­ple have extra­or­di­nary amounts of wealth and there comes a point at which, when you have so much mon­ey, allo­cat­ing a very tiny amount of that for ‘Plan B’ is not as crazy as it sounds.”

    At three recent Sil­i­con Val­ley din­ner par­ties, guests dis­cussed bug­ging out to New Zealand if there’s trou­ble, accord­ing to atten­dees who asked not to be iden­ti­fied because the events were pri­vate.

    At one, a promi­nent ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist was said to have told fel­low din­ers of his escape plans. In the garage of his San Fran­cis­co home, he told guests, is a bag of guns hang­ing from the han­dle­bars of a motor­cy­cle. The bike will allow him to weave through traf­fic on the way to his pri­vate plane, and the guns are for defense against encroach­ing zom­bies that may threat­en his get­away.

    He intends to fly to a land­ing strip in Neva­da where a jet sits in a hangar, its sole pur­pose to whisk him and four bil­lion­aire co-own­ers to safe­ty. Their des­ti­na­tion: New Zealand — or Aotearoa, which means “Land of the Long White Cloud” in Maori.

    In the event of a pan­dem­ic, Sam Alt­man, pres­i­dent of Sil­i­con Val­ley start­up incu­ba­tor Y Com­bi­na­tor, plans to escape to New Zealand with Thiel, the New York­er report­ed in 2016. Now he says he was just jok­ing.

    “The world is so inter­con­nect­ed now that if any­thing was to hap­pen, we would all be in pret­ty bad shape, unfor­tu­nate­ly,” Alt­man, 33, said in a phone inter­view. “I don’t think you can just run away and try to hide in a cor­ner of the Earth.”

    Still, Alt­man said bio­log­i­cal war­fare is the biggest threat to civ­i­liza­tion and that peo­ple aren’t “as scared enough about that as they should be.”

    He has a go bag stuffed with a gun, antibi­otics, bat­ter­ies, water, blan­kets, a tent and gas masks.

    ...

    Robert Vici­no, founder of the Vivos Project, a builder of mas­sive under­ground bunkers, said Sil­i­con Val­ley elites dis­cussed detailed plans to flee to New Zealand last year at the World Eco­nom­ic Forum in Davos, Switzer­land. He said they fore­saw “a rev­o­lu­tion or a change where soci­ety is going to go after the 1 per­centers.” In oth­er words, them.

    New Zealand isn’t the best solu­tion, he said, because a tsuna­mi caused by an aster­oid strike in the Pacif­ic could sub­merge the island’s high­est point.

    But Vici­no is a busi­ness­man, and demand dic­tates he get to work on a bunker on the north­ern tip of the South Island that would accom­mo­date about 300 peo­ple. The price: $35,000 a head.

    That’s a bar­gain com­pared with the most expen­sive bunker Lynch’s Ris­ing S has shipped to New Zealand — $8 mil­lion.

    The two 1,000-square-foot bunkers sent ear­li­er this year had to be divid­ed into sec­tions and loaded onto 19 trac­tor-trail­ers to start the trek from Texas, he said.

    One land­ed in Pic­ton, across the Cook Strait from Welling­ton, to be trans­port­ed to a sleepy town on the West Coast. The oth­er arrived at Auckland’s Wait­em­a­ta Har­bor and set­tled into the dirt some­where in North­land, a rugged region fringed by wild beach­es.

    A spokes­woman for the New Zealand Cus­toms Ser­vice declined to con­firm that the bunkers had arrived in the coun­try, cit­ing pri­va­cy rea­sons.

    It takes about two weeks to exca­vate the land and bury the aver­age bunker, Lynch said. It’s all done secret­ly so local res­i­dents aren’t aware. Once installed, passers­by would have no way of know­ing it’s there.

    “There’s no clue left behind, not even a door,” Lynch said.

    ...

    ———-

    “The Super Rich of Sil­i­con Val­ley Have a Dooms­day Escape Plan” by Olivia Carville; Bloomberg; 09/05/2018

    ““It’s become one of the places for peo­ple in Sil­i­con Val­ley, most­ly because it’s not like Sil­i­con Val­ley at all,” said Reg­gie Luedtke, an Amer­i­can bio­med­ical engi­neer who’s mov­ing to New Zealand in Octo­ber for the Sir Edmund Hillary Fel­low­ship, a pro­gram cre­at­ed to lure tech inno­va­tors.”

    New Zealand is one of the places for Sil­i­con Val­ley. That might be con­sid­ered good news for New Zealand’s tech sec­tor but it’s more than a lit­tle omi­nous for every­one else. And notice how Trump’s pres­i­den­cy appears to have actu­al­ly increased the num­ber of bil­lion­aires decid­ing to set up an estate there:

    ...
    Such noto­ri­ety has made New Zealand’s iso­la­tion, once deemed an eco­nom­ic hand­i­cap, one of its biggest assets. The nation allows emi­gres to essen­tial­ly buy res­i­den­cy through investor visas, and rich Amer­i­cans have poured a for­tune into the coun­try, often by acquir­ing pala­tial estates.

    Bil­lion­aire hedge-fund hon­cho Julian Robert­son owns a lodge over­look­ing Lake Wakatipu in Queen­stown, the South Island’s lux­u­ry resort des­ti­na­tion. Fideli­ty Nation­al Finan­cial Inc. Chair­man Bill Foley has a home­stead in the Wairara­pa region, north of Welling­ton, and Titan­ic direc­tor James Cameron bought a man­sion near­by at Lake Pounui.

    The Investor Plus Visa, which requires a min­i­mum invest­ment of NZD$10 mil­lion ($6.7 mil­lion) over three years, attract­ed 17 U.S. appli­cants in fis­cal 2017, after Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion. Pre­vi­ous­ly, it aver­aged six appli­cants a year.

    More than 10 Amer­i­cans from the West Coast have bought mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar prop­er­ties in the Queen­stown region in the past two years, said Mark Har­ris, man­ag­ing direc­tor of the local Sotheby’s real estate office.

    In August, part­ly in response to Amer­i­cans gob­bling up swaths of prime real estate, New Zealand’s gov­ern­ment banned for­eign­ers from buy­ing homes, with the restric­tions set to take effect in com­ing months.

    Peter Thiel, the bil­lion­aire co-founder of Pay­Pal, ignit­ed an uproar when he was grant­ed cit­i­zen­ship after spend­ing just 12 days in the coun­try, prompt­ing alle­ga­tions that New Zealand’s pass­port was for sale. Thiel, 50, owns a $13.8 mil­lion home on 477 acres (193 hectares) in the lake­side town of Wana­ka, with views of snow-capped moun­tains, and pur­chased anoth­er prop­er­ty in Queen­stown, out­fit­ted with a safe room.
    ...

    So you have won­der if fears of Trump-induced back­lash and glob­al chaos are part of what’s fuel­ing the surge in inter­est in New Zealand estates or if the giant GOP tax cut that hand­ed bil­lions to the bil­lion­aires sim­ply increased their wealth so much that they are so wealthy at this point that they see no rea­son not to set up a ‘Plan B’:

    ...
    “If you’re the sort of per­son that says ‘I’m going to have an alter­na­tive plan when Armaged­don strikes,’ then you would pick the far­thest loca­tion and the safest envi­ron­ment — and that equals New Zealand if you Google it,” for­mer Prime Min­is­ter John Key said in a phone inter­view.

    “It’s known as the last bus stop on the plan­et before you hit Antarc­ti­ca,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of peo­ple say to me that they would like to own a prop­er­ty in New Zealand if the world goes to hell in a hand­bas­ket.”

    Kiwis would find this both crazy and amus­ing, Key said, but it makes sense for some of the wealth­i­est peo­ple on the plan­et.

    “We live in a world where some peo­ple have extra­or­di­nary amounts of wealth and there comes a point at which, when you have so much mon­ey, allo­cat­ing a very tiny amount of that for ‘Plan B’ is not as crazy as it sounds.”
    ...

    But don’t for­get what Rushkoff told us: for the peo­ple he met, dooms­day was­n’t ‘Plan B’. It was ‘Plan A’ and what they were absolute­ly expect­ing. So when we hear about the promi­nent ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist who spoke of his escape plans involv­ing a jet that is co-owned by four oth­er bil­lion­aire co-own­ers and exists sole­ly to whisk them away to New Zealand, you have to won­der if this is the same group that hired Rushkoff:

    ...

    At three recent Sil­i­con Val­ley din­ner par­ties, guests dis­cussed bug­ging out to New Zealand if there’s trou­ble, accord­ing to atten­dees who asked not to be iden­ti­fied because the events were pri­vate.

    At one, a promi­nent ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist was said to have told fel­low din­ers of his escape plans. In the garage of his San Fran­cis­co home, he told guests, is a bag of guns hang­ing from the han­dle­bars of a motor­cy­cle. The bike will allow him to weave through traf­fic on the way to his pri­vate plane, and the guns are for defense against encroach­ing zom­bies that may threat­en his get­away.

    He intends to fly to a land­ing strip in Neva­da where a jet sits in a hangar, its sole pur­pose to whisk him and four bil­lion­aire co-own­ers to safe­ty. Their des­ti­na­tion: New Zealand — or Aotearoa, which means “Land of the Long White Cloud” in Maori.
    ...

    Maybe it’s the same group of bil­lion­aires or maybe it’s a dif­fer­ent one. Again, there’s trag­i­cal­ly no short­age of bil­lion­aires who have embraced a world­view of doom. Doom that can’t be pre­vent­ed and only they can afford to escape.

    So as Pres­i­dent Trump inevitably makes the demo­niza­tion of des­per­ate poor peo­ple as an unbear­able bur­den that must be walled off a cen­tral theme of his 2020 reelec­tion cam­paign, it’s going to be worth keep­ing in mind that the lack of any attempt come up with real solu­tions to the prob­lems under­ly­ing and fuel­ing the refugee/asylum cri­sis is very much in keep­ing with the broad­er theme of a glob­al class of right-wing elites who com­prise Trump’s real base and have embraced doom as an escape from the need to even try to actu­al­ly address the prob­lems fac­ing the world.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 13, 2019, 3:58 pm
  2. One of the still open ques­tions regard­ing Jef­frey Epstein is the ques­tion of his polit­i­cal or ide­o­log­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion. We know he donat­ed to politi­cians through­out the 90’s up through 2003, at which point his polit­i­cal dona­tions abrupt­ly stopped. Most of those went to Democ­rats but Repub­li­cans were also recip­i­ents. But we still don’t real­ly have a sense of his per­son­al pol­i­tics.

    The New York Times recent­ly had a sto­ry on one of the major areas of Epstein’s phil­an­thropic activ­i­ties that def­i­nite­ly gives us a hint as to the guy’s pol­i­tics: he sounds like a far right eugeni­cist nutjob.

    Specif­i­cal­ly, Epstein want­ed to arrange for mass impreg­na­tions of women with his sperm at his New Mex­i­co ranch to seed the human race with his DNA. He was appar­ent­ly inspired by a sperm bank of Nobel Prize win­ning sperm donors. His inter­est in genet­ics went beyond spon­sor­ing research and appar­ent­ly includ­ed some sort of work one of his busi­ness­es did. Epstein’s Vir­gin Island-incor­po­rat­ed busi­ness, South­ern Trust Com­pa­ny, dis­closed in a local fil­ing that it was engaged in DNA analy­sis. Alan Der­showitz recounts a lunch host­ed by Epstein at Cam­bridge, MA, where Epstein was steer­ing the con­ver­sa­tion towards improv­ing the human race genet­i­cal­ly. These lunch­es with sci­en­tists host­ed by Epstein were appar­ent­ly a reg­u­lar thing. Epstein also host­ed sci­ence con­fer­ences. At one con­fer­ence in 2006 in the Vir­gin Islands that was osten­si­bly about grav­i­ty, Epstein appar­ent­ly kept want­i­ng to talk about per­fect­ing the human genome.

    At the same time, he appar­ent­ly opposed efforts to reduce star­va­tion and pro­vide health care to the poor because doing so increased the risk of over­pop­u­la­tion. Tak­en togeth­er, it’s the kind of psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­file one fre­quent­ly finds with the far right: a hyper-ego-dri­ven qua­si-socio­path­ic world­view almost com­plete­ly lack­ing in empa­thy for oth­ers that places val­ue on peo­ple accord­ing to their wealth and pow­er. A phi­los­o­phy eeri­ly sim­i­lar to the social Dar­win­ism extolled in the far right book Might is Right that was pro­mot­ed by the neo-Nazi shoot­er who just attacked the Gilroy Gar­lic Fes­ti­val.

    Epstein’s desire to seed the human race with his DNA was just one part of a much larg­er fas­ci­nat­ing with tran­shu­man­ism. A fas­ci­na­tion that man­i­fest­ed with a large amount of phil­an­thropic activ­i­ty involv­ing the sci­ences and exten­sive net­work­ing with a num­ber of promi­nent sci­en­tists. He would host din­ner par­ties at his Man­hat­tan man­sion and host­ed buf­fet lunch­es at Harvard’s Pro­gram for Evo­lu­tion­ary Dynam­ics, which he had helped start with a $6.5 mil­lion dona­tion.

    This phil­an­thropic activ­i­ty con­tin­ued after his 2008 sweet­heart plea deal over under­age sex traf­fick­ing. For exam­ple, in 2011, one of Epstein’s char­i­ties gave $20,000 to the World­wide Tran­shu­man­ist Asso­ci­a­tion, now called Human­i­ty Plus. Epstein’s foun­da­tion also donat­ed $100,000 to pay the salary of the vice chair­man of Human­i­ty Plus, Ben Goertzel. Goertzel is a key fig­ure in the ‘Sin­gu­lar­i­ty’ move­ment, includ­ing being the for­mer direc­tor of the Machine Intel­li­gence Research Insti­tute, for­mer­ly known as the Sin­gu­lar­i­ty Insti­tute for Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence. The insti­tute is ded­i­cat­ed to accel­er­at­ing the devel­op­ment of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence.

    Epstein was also very inter­est­ed in cry­on­ics. He once told a fel­low tran­shu­man­ist he want­ed to have his head and penis frozen. He was also inter­est­ed in even more ‘out there’ areas of research like try­ing to find the par­ti­cle that might trig­ger the feel­ing some­one is watch­ing you, which sounds like a form of psy­chic research.

    Epstein’s main con­tact with the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty appears to be John Brock­man. Brock­man is a lit­er­ary agent who, for two decades, led a series of salons that matched sci­en­tist-authors with poten­tial bene­fac­tors. As an exam­ple of the types of peo­ple involved with Brock­man’s match-mak­ing, in 2004, Brock­man host­ed a din­ner were Epstein was intro­duced to var­i­ous sci­en­tists. Also at the din­ner were Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin, and Lar­ry Page.

    Inter­est­ing­ly, there’s no men­tion of Peter Thiel mov­ing in Epstein’s orbit which is sur­pris­ing giv­en Thiel’s intense inter­est in tran­shu­man­ism. But we are told that “at least one promi­nent mem­ber of the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty” was also inter­est­ed in a mass insem­i­na­tion plan to seed the future of human­i­ty with their DNA. So there’s at least one yet-to-be iden­ti­fied promi­nent busi­ness­man who was very inter­est­ed in this mass insem­i­na­tion plan. You have to won­der if Thiel is one of those uniden­ti­fied busi­ness­men.

    So that’s what we learned in the fol­low­ing New York Times piece. Intrigu­ing­ly, as we’re going to see in the sec­ond arti­cle below, there was one area of Epstein’s sci­en­tif­ic phil­an­thropy that is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing in the con­tem­po­rary con­text of the AI-dri­ven net­works of auto­mat­ed social media bots that pre­tend to be real play and play an increas­ing­ly impor­tant role in mod­ern day pro­pa­gan­da tech­niques. One of the projects the Epstein Foun­da­tion donat­ed to that involved Human­i­ty Plus vice chair­man Ben Goertzel was the devel­op­ment of OpenCog, a soft­ware devel­op­ment kit that allows for the build­ing of ‘smart’ AI char­ac­ters. OpenCog is based a mod­el of how the mind works and while it’s a for-prof­it group, the state goal of OpenCog was to cre­ate a plat­form for test­ing their hypoth­e­sis about how the mind works.

    OpenCog describes appli­ca­tions for their tools that include pow­er­ing video games, toys, and even robots. And as we’re going to see in the third arti­cle excerpt below, it was OpenCog that pow­ered the eeri­ly life-like robot, Sophia, that was unveiled in Han­son Robot­ics. Here’s an inter­view of Sophia on CNBC. So OpenCog has already demon­strat­ed the abil­i­ty pow­er auto­mat­ed human-like inter­ac­tions. And it’s open source which means any­one can use its tools. And that rais­es an inter­est­ing ques­tion: is OpenCog pow­er­ing mod­ern day pro­pa­gan­da social media bot net­works that are so suc­cess­ful at pro­mot­ing far right garbage memes and ide­olo­gies? If so, that would be quite a twist for the Epstein sto­ry.

    Ok, here’s the New York Times piece describ­ing Epstein’s his­to­ry of sci­en­tif­ic phil­an­thropy that appeared to be dri­ven by a eugen­ics phi­los­o­phy and a scheme to mass impreg­nate women to seed the future of human­i­ty. A plan he shared with at least one still unknown promi­nent busi­ness­man:

    The New York Times

    Jef­frey Epstein Hoped to Seed Human Race With His DNA

    By James B. Stew­art, Matthew Gold­stein and Jes­si­ca Sil­ver-Green­berg

    July 31, 2019

    Jef­frey E. Epstein, the wealthy financier who is accused of sex traf­fick­ing, had an unusu­al dream: He hoped to seed the human race with his DNA by impreg­nat­ing women at his vast New Mex­i­co ranch.

    Mr. Epstein over the years con­fid­ed to sci­en­tists and oth­ers about his scheme, accord­ing to four peo­ple famil­iar with his think­ing, although there is no evi­dence that it ever came to fruition.

    Mr. Epstein’s vision reflect­ed his long­stand­ing fas­ci­na­tion with what has become known as tran­shu­man­ism: the sci­ence of improv­ing the human pop­u­la­tion through tech­nolo­gies like genet­ic engi­neer­ing and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence. Crit­ics have likened tran­shu­man­ism to a mod­ern-day ver­sion of eugen­ics, the dis­cred­it­ed field of improv­ing the human race through con­trolled breed­ing.

    Mr. Epstein, who was charged in July with the sex­u­al traf­fick­ing of girls as young as 14, was a ser­i­al illu­sion­ist: He lied about the iden­ti­ties of his clients, his wealth, his finan­cial prowess, his per­son­al achieve­ments. But he man­aged to use con­nec­tions and charis­ma to cul­ti­vate valu­able rela­tion­ships with busi­ness and polit­i­cal lead­ers.

    Inter­views with more than a dozen of his acquain­tances, as well as pub­lic doc­u­ments, show that he used the same tac­tics to insin­u­ate him­self into an elite sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty, thus allow­ing him to pur­sue his inter­ests in eugen­ics and oth­er fringe fields like cry­on­ics.

    ...

    Mr. Epstein attract­ed a glit­ter­ing array of promi­nent sci­en­tists. They includ­ed the Nobel Prize-win­ning physi­cist Mur­ray Gell-Mann, who dis­cov­ered the quark; the the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist and best-sell­ing author Stephen Hawk­ing; the pale­on­tol­o­gist and evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gist Stephen Jay Gould; Oliv­er Sacks, the neu­rol­o­gist and best-sell­ing author; George M. Church, a mol­e­c­u­lar engi­neer who has worked to iden­ti­fy genes that could be altered to cre­ate supe­ri­or humans; and the M.I.T. the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist Frank Wilczek, a Nobel lau­re­ate.

    The lure for some of the sci­en­tists was Mr. Epstein’s mon­ey. He dan­gled financ­ing for their pet projects. Some of the sci­en­tists said that the prospect of financ­ing blind­ed them to the seri­ous­ness of his sex­u­al trans­gres­sions, and even led them to give cre­dence to some of Mr. Epstein’s half-baked sci­en­tif­ic mus­ings.

    Sci­en­tists gath­ered at din­ner par­ties at Mr. Epstein’s Man­hat­tan man­sion, where Dom Pérignon and expen­sive wines flowed freely, even though Mr. Epstein did not drink. He host­ed buf­fet lunch­es at Harvard’s Pro­gram for Evo­lu­tion­ary Dynam­ics, which he had helped start with a $6.5 mil­lion dona­tion.

    Oth­ers flew to con­fer­ences spon­sored by Mr. Epstein in the Unit­ed States Vir­gin Islands and were fet­ed on his pri­vate island there. Once, the sci­en­tists — includ­ing Mr. Hawk­ing — crowd­ed on board a sub­ma­rine that Mr. Epstein had char­tered.

    The Har­vard cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gist Steven Pinker said he was invit­ed by col­leagues — includ­ing Mar­tin Nowak, a Har­vard pro­fes­sor of math­e­mat­ics and biol­o­gy, and the the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist Lawrence Krauss — to “salons and cof­fee klatsches” at which Mr. Epstein would hold court.

    While some of Mr. Pinker’s peers hailed Mr. Epstein as bril­liant, Mr. Pinker described him as an “intel­lec­tu­al impos­tor.”

    “He would abrupt­ly change the sub­ject, A.D.D.-style, dis­miss an obser­va­tion with an ado­les­cent wise­crack,” Mr. Pinker said.

    Anoth­er sci­en­tist cul­ti­vat­ed by Mr. Epstein, Jaron Lanier, a pro­lif­ic author who is a founder of vir­tu­al real­i­ty, said that Mr. Epstein’s ideas did not amount to sci­ence, in that they did not lend them­selves to rig­or­ous proof. Mr. Lanier said Mr. Epstein had once hypoth­e­sized that atoms behaved like investors in a mar­ket­place.

    Mr. Lanier said he had declined any fund­ing from Mr. Epstein and that he had met with him only once after Mr. Epstein in 2008 plead­ed guilty to charges of solic­it­ing pros­ti­tu­tion from a minor.

    Mr. Epstein was will­ing to finance research that oth­ers viewed as bizarre. He told one sci­en­tist that he was bankrolling efforts to iden­ti­fy a mys­te­ri­ous par­ti­cle that might trig­ger the feel­ing that some­one is watch­ing you.

    At one ses­sion at Har­vard, Mr. Epstein crit­i­cized efforts to reduce star­va­tion and pro­vide health care to the poor because doing so increased the risk of over­pop­u­la­tion, said Mr. Pinker, who was there. Mr. Pinker said he had rebutted the argu­ment, cit­ing research show­ing that high rates of infant mor­tal­i­ty sim­ply caused peo­ple to have more chil­dren. Mr. Epstein seemed annoyed, and a Har­vard col­league lat­er told Mr. Pinker that he had been “vot­ed off the island” and was no longer wel­come at Mr. Epstein’s gath­er­ings.

    Then there was Mr. Epstein’s inter­est in eugen­ics.

    On mul­ti­ple occa­sions start­ing in the ear­ly 2000s, Mr. Epstein told sci­en­tists and busi­ness­men about his ambi­tions to use his New Mex­i­co ranch as a base where women would be insem­i­nat­ed with his sperm and would give birth to his babies, accord­ing to two award-win­ning sci­en­tists and an advis­er to large com­pa­nies and wealthy indi­vid­u­als, all of whom Mr. Epstein told about it.

    It was not a secret. The advis­er, for exam­ple, said he was told about the plans not only by Mr. Epstein, at a gath­er­ing at his Man­hat­tan town­house, but also by at least one promi­nent mem­ber of the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty. One of the sci­en­tists said Mr. Epstein divulged his idea in 2001 at a din­ner at the same town­house; the oth­er recalled Mr. Epstein dis­cussing it with him at a 2006 con­fer­ence that he host­ed in St. Thomas in the Vir­gin Islands.

    The idea struck all three as far-fetched and dis­turb­ing. There is no indi­ca­tion that it would have been against the law.

    Once, at a din­ner at Mr. Epstein’s man­sion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Mr. Lanier said he talked to a sci­en­tist who told him that Mr. Epstein’s goal was to have 20 women at a time impreg­nat­ed at his 33,000-square-foot Zor­ro Ranch in a tiny town out­side San­ta Fe. Mr. Lanier said the sci­en­tist iden­ti­fied her­self as work­ing at NASA, but he did not remem­ber her name.

    Accord­ing to Mr. Lanier, the NASA sci­en­tist said Mr. Epstein had based his idea for a baby ranch on accounts of the Repos­i­to­ry for Ger­mi­nal Choice, which was to be stocked with the sperm of Nobel lau­re­ates who want­ed to strength­en the human gene pool. (Only one Nobel Prize win­ner has acknowl­edged con­tribut­ing sperm to it. The repos­i­to­ry dis­con­tin­ued oper­a­tions in 1999.)

    Mr. Lanier, the vir­tu­al-real­i­ty cre­ator and author, said he had the impres­sion that Mr. Epstein was using the din­ner par­ties — where some guests were attrac­tive women with impres­sive aca­d­e­m­ic cre­den­tials — to screen can­di­dates to bear Mr. Epstein’s chil­dren.

    Mr. Epstein did not hide his inter­est in tin­ker­ing with genes — and in per­pet­u­at­ing his own DNA.

    One adher­ent of tran­shu­man­ism said that he and Mr. Epstein dis­cussed the financier’s inter­est in cry­on­ics, an unproven sci­ence in which people’s bod­ies are frozen to be brought back to life in the future. Mr. Epstein told this per­son that he want­ed his head and penis to be frozen.

    South­ern Trust Com­pa­ny, Mr. Epstein’s Vir­gin Island-incor­po­rat­ed busi­ness, dis­closed in a local fil­ing that it was engaged in DNA analy­sis. Calls to South­ern Trust, which spon­sored a sci­ence and math fair for school chil­dren in the Vir­gin Islands in 2014, were not returned.

    In 2011, a char­i­ty estab­lished by Mr. Epstein gave $20,000 to the World­wide Tran­shu­man­ist Asso­ci­a­tion, which now oper­ates under the name Human­i­ty Plus. The group’s web­site says that its goal is “to deeply influ­ence a new gen­er­a­tion of thinkers who dare to envi­sion humanity’s next steps.”

    Mr. Epstein’s foun­da­tion, which is now defunct, also gave $100,000 to pay the salary of Ben Goertzel, vice chair­man of Human­i­ty Plus, accord­ing to Mr. Goertzel’s résumé.

    “I have no desire to talk about Epstein right now,” Mr. Goertzel said in an email to The New York Times. “The stuff I’m read­ing about him in the papers is pret­ty dis­turb­ing and goes way beyond what I thought his mis­do­ings and kinks were. Yecch.”

    Alan M. Der­showitz, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of law at Har­vard, recalled that at a lunch Mr. Epstein host­ed in Cam­bridge, Mass., he steered the con­ver­sa­tion toward the ques­tion of how humans could be improved genet­i­cal­ly. Mr. Der­showitz said he was appalled, giv­en the Nazis’ use of eugen­ics to jus­ti­fy their geno­ci­dal effort to puri­fy the Aryan race.

    Yet the lunch­es per­sist­ed.

    “Every­one spec­u­lat­ed about whether these sci­en­tists were more inter­est­ed in his views or more inter­est­ed in his mon­ey,” said Mr. Der­showitz, who was one of Mr. Epstein’s defense lawyers in the 2008 case.

    Lumi­nar­ies at Mr. Epstein’s St. Thomas con­fer­ence in 2006 includ­ed Mr. Hawk­ing and the Cal­tech the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist Kip S. Thorne. One par­tic­i­pant at that con­fer­ence, which was osten­si­bly on the sub­ject of grav­i­ty, recalled that Mr. Epstein want­ed to talk about per­fect­ing the human genome. Mr. Epstein said he was fas­ci­nat­ed with how cer­tain traits were passed on, and how that could result in supe­ri­or humans.

    Mr. Epstein appears to have gained entree into the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty through John Brock­man, a lit­er­ary agent whose best-sell­ing sci­ence writ­ers include Richard Dawkins, Daniel Gole­man and Jared Dia­mond. Mr. Brock­man did not respond to requests for com­ment.

    For two decades, Mr. Brock­man presided over a series of salons that matched his sci­en­tist-authors with poten­tial bene­fac­tors. (The so-called “bil­lion­aires’ din­ners” appar­ent­ly became a mod­el for the gath­er­ings at Mr. Epstein’s East 71st Street town­house, which includ­ed some of the same guests.)

    In 2004, Mr. Brock­man host­ed a din­ner at the Indi­an Sum­mer restau­rant in Mon­terey, Calif., where Mr. Epstein was intro­duced to sci­en­tists, includ­ing Seth Lloyd, the M.I.T. physi­cist. Mr. Lloyd said that he found Mr. Epstein to be “charm­ing” and to have “inter­est­ing ideas,” although they “turned out to be quite vague.”

    Also at the Indi­an Sum­mer din­ner, accord­ing to an account on the web­site of Mr. Brockman’s Edge Foun­da­tion, were the Google founders Sergey Brin and Lar­ry Page and Jeff Bezos, who was accom­pa­nied by his moth­er.

    “All the good-look­ing women were sit­ting with the physi­cists’ table,” Daniel Dub­no, who was a CBS pro­duc­er at the time and attend­ed the din­ner, was quot­ed as say­ing. Mr. Dub­no told The Times that he did not recall the din­ner or hav­ing said those words.

    Mr. Brock­man was Mr. Gell-Mann’s agent, and Mr. Gell-Mann, in the acknowl­edg­ments sec­tion of his 1995 book “The Quark and the Jaguar,” thanked Mr. Epstein for his finan­cial sup­port.

    How­ev­er impres­sive his ros­ter of sci­en­tif­ic con­tacts, Mr. Epstein could not resist embell­ish­ing it. He claimed on one of his web­sites to have had “the priv­i­lege of spon­sor­ing many promi­nent sci­en­tists,” includ­ing Mr. Pinker, Mr. Thorne and the M.I.T. math­e­mati­cian and geneti­cist Eric S. Lan­der.

    Mr. Pinker said he had nev­er tak­en any finan­cial or oth­er sup­port from Mr. Epstein. “Need­less to say, I find Epstein’s behav­ior rep­re­hen­si­ble,” he said.

    Mr. Thorne, who recent­ly won a Nobel Prize, said he attend­ed Mr. Epstein’s 2006 con­fer­ence, believ­ing it to be co-spon­sored by a rep­utable research cen­ter. Oth­er than that, “I have had no con­tact with, rela­tion­ship with, affil­i­a­tion with or fund­ing from Epstein,” he said. “I unequiv­o­cal­ly con­demn his abhor­rent actions involv­ing minors.”

    Lee McGuire, a spokesman for Mr. Lan­der, said he has had no rela­tion­ship with Mr. Epstein. “Mr. Epstein appears to have made up lots of things,” Mr. McGuire said, “and this seems to be among them.”

    ———-

    “Jef­frey Epstein Hoped to Seed Human Race With His DNA” by James B. Stew­art, Matthew Gold­stein and Jes­si­ca Sil­ver-Green­berg; The New York Times; 07/31/2019

    “Inter­views with more than a dozen of his acquain­tances, as well as pub­lic doc­u­ments, show that he used the same tac­tics to insin­u­ate him­self into an elite sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty, thus allow­ing him to pur­sue his inter­ests in eugen­ics and oth­er fringe fields like cry­on­ics.”

    Insin­u­at­ing him­self into the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty so he could pur­sue an inter­est in eugen­ics. That cer­tain­ly gives us an idea of his per­son­al politics...typical bil­lion­aire tech­no-lib­er­tar­i­an­ism. And he appar­ent­ly was­n’t alone in his quest to mass impreg­nate women. At least one oth­er promi­nent busi­ness­man shared this mass impreg­na­tion goal. Per­haps most dis­turb­ing is that there’s no indi­ca­tion such a scheme would be against the law, so who knows how many ‘rich lunatic mass impreg­na­tion’ schemes like this have actu­al­ly tak­en place:

    ...
    Then there was Mr. Epstein’s inter­est in eugen­ics.

    On mul­ti­ple occa­sions start­ing in the ear­ly 2000s, Mr. Epstein told sci­en­tists and busi­ness­men about his ambi­tions to use his New Mex­i­co ranch as a base where women would be insem­i­nat­ed with his sperm and would give birth to his babies, accord­ing to two award-win­ning sci­en­tists and an advis­er to large com­pa­nies and wealthy indi­vid­u­als, all of whom Mr. Epstein told about it.

    It was not a secret. The advis­er, for exam­ple, said he was told about the plans not only by Mr. Epstein, at a gath­er­ing at his Man­hat­tan town­house, but also by at least one promi­nent mem­ber of the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty. One of the sci­en­tists said Mr. Epstein divulged his idea in 2001 at a din­ner at the same town­house; the oth­er recalled Mr. Epstein dis­cussing it with him at a 2006 con­fer­ence that he host­ed in St. Thomas in the Vir­gin Islands.

    The idea struck all three as far-fetched and dis­turb­ing. There is no indi­ca­tion that it would have been against the law.

    Once, at a din­ner at Mr. Epstein’s man­sion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Mr. Lanier said he talked to a sci­en­tist who told him that Mr. Epstein’s goal was to have 20 women at a time impreg­nat­ed at his 33,000-square-foot Zor­ro Ranch in a tiny town out­side San­ta Fe. Mr. Lanier said the sci­en­tist iden­ti­fied her­self as work­ing at NASA, but he did not remem­ber her name.

    Accord­ing to Mr. Lanier, the NASA sci­en­tist said Mr. Epstein had based his idea for a baby ranch on accounts of the Repos­i­to­ry for Ger­mi­nal Choice, which was to be stocked with the sperm of Nobel lau­re­ates who want­ed to strength­en the human gene pool. (Only one Nobel Prize win­ner has acknowl­edged con­tribut­ing sperm to it. The repos­i­to­ry dis­con­tin­ued oper­a­tions in 1999.)

    ...

    Alan M. Der­showitz, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of law at Har­vard, recalled that at a lunch Mr. Epstein host­ed in Cam­bridge, Mass., he steered the con­ver­sa­tion toward the ques­tion of how humans could be improved genet­i­cal­ly. Mr. Der­showitz said he was appalled, giv­en the Nazis’ use of eugen­ics to jus­ti­fy their geno­ci­dal effort to puri­fy the Aryan race.

    ...

    Lumi­nar­ies at Mr. Epstein’s St. Thomas con­fer­ence in 2006 includ­ed Mr. Hawk­ing and the Cal­tech the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist Kip S. Thorne. One par­tic­i­pant at that con­fer­ence, which was osten­si­bly on the sub­ject of grav­i­ty, recalled that Mr. Epstein want­ed to talk about per­fect­ing the human genome. Mr. Epstein said he was fas­ci­nat­ed with how cer­tain traits were passed on, and how that could result in supe­ri­or humans.
    ...

    High­light­ing the social Dar­win­ism Epstein appeared to embrace, notice Steven Pinker’s anec­dote: After Pinker chal­lenged Epstein on his crit­i­cism of efforts to reduce star­va­tion and pro­vide health care to the poor, Epstein was “vot­ed off the island” and not invit­ed back to these gath­er­ings. That’s how seri­ous­ly Epstein took his visions of ‘seed­ing’ human­i­ty with his own DNA...he seri­ous­ly want­ed to see poli­cies designed to kill off the glob­al poor too:

    ...
    At one ses­sion at Har­vard, Mr. Epstein crit­i­cized efforts to reduce star­va­tion and pro­vide health care to the poor because doing so increased the risk of over­pop­u­la­tion, said Mr. Pinker, who was there. Mr. Pinker said he had rebutted the argu­ment, cit­ing research show­ing that high rates of infant mor­tal­i­ty sim­ply caused peo­ple to have more chil­dren. Mr. Epstein seemed annoyed, and a Har­vard col­league lat­er told Mr. Pinker that he had been “vot­ed off the island” and was no longer wel­come at Mr. Epstein’s gath­er­ings.
    ...

    Keep in mind that some­how bring­ing about the mass death of almost all non-wealthy (and typ­i­cal­ly non-white) peo­ple on the plan­et is a key goal of many far right move­ments and in keep­ing with the Nazis vision of cre­at­ing the next phase of mankind. So while Epstein was Jew­ish, he sure seems to have held a Nazi-like world­view in a lot of key ways.

    And this sci­en­tif­ic phil­an­thropy kept going years after the 2008 sweet­heart plea deal with US fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors over the under­age sex traf­fick­ing. For exam­ple, there’s the large dona­tions to “Human­i­ty Plus”, which includ­ed a $100,000 dona­tion to pay the salary of Human­i­ty Plus’s vice chair­man Ben Goertzel:

    ...
    In 2011, a char­i­ty estab­lished by Mr. Epstein gave $20,000 to the World­wide Tran­shu­man­ist Asso­ci­a­tion, which now oper­ates under the name Human­i­ty Plus. The group’s web­site says that its goal is “to deeply influ­ence a new gen­er­a­tion of thinkers who dare to envi­sion humanity’s next steps.”

    Mr. Epstein’s foun­da­tion, which is now defunct, also gave $100,000 to pay the salary of Ben Goertzel, vice chair­man of Human­i­ty Plus, accord­ing to Mr. Goertzel’s résumé.

    “I have no desire to talk about Epstein right now,” Mr. Goertzel said in an email to The New York Times. “The stuff I’m read­ing about him in the papers is pret­ty dis­turb­ing and goes way beyond what I thought his mis­do­ings and kinks were. Yecch.”
    ...

    Next, here’s a 2013 Forbes piece dis­cussing the Epstein Foun­da­tion’s dona­tion to fund a project co-found­ed by Goertzel: the OpenCog ini­tia­tive. Inter­est­ing, this Forbes piece was tak­en down by Forbes due to it not meet­ing its edi­to­r­i­al stan­dards. It’s not clear why based on the con­tents of the arti­cle, but it’s for­tu­nate­ly still avail­able on the Way­back Machine. And as the piece notes, while OpenCog hopes to make a prof­it, the soft­ware devel­op­ment tool kits its cre­at­ing are open source and intend­ed to be used by the AI com­mu­ni­ty for free. Instead of prof­it, they are pri­mar­i­ly inter­est­ed in using a vir­tu­al plat­form to test their hypoth­e­sis about the mind. So Epstein’s sci­en­tif­ic inter­ests in recent years involves try­ing to mod­el how peo­ple think and use those mod­els to build vir­tu­al enti­ties that can behave in a life-like man­ner:

    Forbes

    Sci­ence Fun­der Jef­frey Epstein Launch­es Rad­i­cal Emo­tion­al Soft­ware For The Gam­ing Indus­try

    Drew Hen­dricks
    10/02/2013 @ 6:20PM

    Vir­tu­al gam­ing is about to warp through a black hole, thanks to a band of sci­en­tists in Hong Kong and a hedge fun­der with a zeal­ous sci­ence back­ground, called Jef­frey Epstein. Indeed, game pro­gram­ming is mov­ing away from algo­rith­mic robots to a twi­light realm of emo­tion­al thinkers, tak­ing online, video and toy entre­pre­neurs, one step clos­er to Star Trek’s ‘Holodeck’.

    For years, in vir­tu­al gam­ing, the only intel­li­gent play­er was the per­son play­ing the game, respond­ing to non-reac­tive obsta­cles. At most, oppo­nents could blow up or morph into some­thing else. What­ev­er the reac­tion, it was a sim­ple lin­ear or algo­rith­mic response (if A, then B, if A+D, then C).

    ...

    Today’s gam­ing char­ac­ters from vir­tu­al sol­diers to Tin­ker­bell are also vast­ly more com­plex than their dash line ten­nis, Pac Man or Pong for­bear­ers. Like the chess pro­gram, vir­tu­al sol­diers can react to a wide vari­a­tion of land­scape sce­nar­ios and respond in a myr­i­ad of ways, based on each case.

    The Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence (AI) group in Hong Kong behind this new emo­tive soft­ware is called Open Cog. As an open-source foun­da­tion, Open Cog (‘Cog­ni­tion for All’) lead by co-founder Ben Goertzel, devel­ops pro­gram­ming lan­guage for the AI com­mu­ni­ty to share, in what is still a very frag­ment­ed field. How­ev­er, in efforts to map the archi­tec­ture of the human mind, Open Cog also pro­gramed three game char­ac­ters, a ghost, a robot and a girl that push past tra­di­tion­al gam­ing algo­rithms:

    Each char­ac­ter has pro­grammed into them a data­base called an Atom­Space. Atom­Space con­sists of hun­dreds of ‘atoms’ which are knowl­edge con­cepts such as objects (chair, table, shelf), actions (sit­ting, run­ning, singing) and feel­ings (anger, joy, fear). Every time an algo­rithm, called MindA­gents, leads a char­ac­ter to more than one an atom, the asso­cia­tive link gets stronger, influ­enc­ing the char­ac­ters’ future path­way choic­es. In this sense, a char­ac­ter builds and incor­po­rates asso­cia­tive mem­o­ry. At the same time, links can decay over time if not used by algo­rithms, weak­en­ing a character’s mem­o­ry.

    Anoth­er unique fea­ture is the use of sev­er­al algo­rithms func­tion­ing at the same time, called, “cog­ni­tive syn­er­gy”. The the­o­ry behind this syn­er­gy is that humans have mul­ti­ple thought process­es going on simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, pri­or­i­tiz­ing one’s over oth­ers in order to func­tion.

    OpenPsi, inspired by AI sci­en­tist Joscha Bach in Berlin, is anoth­er pro­gram built into these nov­el char­ac­ters. OpenPsi gov­erns a character’s basic needs and thus which path­way to take. OpenPsi is based on Ger­man psy­chol­o­gist Diet­rich Dörner’s the­o­ry that ani­mal behav­ior is dri­ven by five basic needs: exis­tence preser­va­tion (food, water, body integrity—avoidance of pain), species preser­va­tion (sex­u­al­i­ty, repro­duc­tion), affil­i­a­tion (need to belong to a group, social inter­ac­tion), cer­tain­ty (need to pre­dict events and their con­se­quences), com­pe­tence (capac­i­ty to mas­ter prob­lems and taks). Each of these needs gets filled or deplet­ed based on time and inter­ac­tion with var­i­ous atoms. The sta­tus of a need has a sig­nif­i­cant impact on which path­ways a char­ac­ter choos­es to take. For exam­ple, if the need for water is extreme­ly high, a char­ac­ter will pri­or­i­tize a water atom in its path­way choice.

    For entre­pre­neurs, Open Cog, togeth­er with M Lab from Hong Kong Poly­tech­nic Uni­ver­si­ty, sup­plies a soft­ware toolk­it to incor­po­rate their char­ac­ters into what­ev­er appli­ca­tions the mar­ket is using: from vir­tu­al land­scapes to toys and even robots. As a show­case, Open Cog has also devel­oped its own 3D land­scape for its char­ac­ters to func­tion in, inspired large­ly by the pop­u­lar build­ing game called Mind­craft.

    Open Cog’s goals dif­fer from the gam­ing indus­try which is already lin­ing up to exploit the new soft­ware. While it intends to make a prof­it, they are pri­mar­i­ly inter­est­ed in using a vir­tu­al plat­form to test their hypoth­e­sis about the mind. “The dis­par­i­ty between these mod­els and our expe­ri­ence of the mind is an invalu­able guide to fol­low,” Jef­frey Epstein remarked, the finan­cial guru behind this effort, along with the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment and Hong Kong Poly­tech­nic Uni­ver­si­ty. “It’s some­what like build­ing a car, with no instruc­tions, but our impres­sion of what a car can do.”

    Over the last ten years, Jef­frey Epstein has become one of the largest back­ers of cut­ting edge sci­ence around the world. Accord­ing to New York Mag­a­zine, Epstein has donat­ed up to $200 mil­lion a year to emi­nent sci­en­tists, includ­ing: Stephen Hawk­ing, Mar­vin Min­sky, Eric Lan­der, George Church, and Nobel lau­re­ate physi­cists Ger­ard ’t Hooft, David Gross, and Frank Wilczek. Like Open Cog, Epstein is moti­vat­ed by learn­ing more about the mind, ver­sus cre­at­ing a new start-up prod­uct. He cur­rent­ly sits on the board of the Mind, Brain and Behav­ior Com­mit­tee at Har­vard. In 2003, Epstein found­ed the Pro­gram for Evo­lu­tion­ary Dynam­ics at Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty, with a $30 mil­lion dol­lar gift to the uni­ver­si­ty. The Pro­gram stud­ies the math­e­mat­i­cal evo­lu­tion of micro-biol­o­gy and has made key dis­cov­er­ies into the treat­ment of can­cer, HIV and oth­er infec­tious dis­eases.

    While Open Cog’s game soft­ware has not yet been com­mer­cial­ized, it is aimed for the mar­ket by the half of 2014. The soft­ware has already had an impact how­ev­er on the robot indus­try where com­pa­nies such as Han­son Robot­ics, devel­oped by David Han­son, are incor­po­rat­ing it to advance the way their human-like robots func­tion and inter­act with peo­ple.

    While far from being a repli­ca of the human mind, the result of Open Cog’s soft­ware are char­ac­ters that have needs, con­tin­u­ous­ly adjust­ing and even evolv­ing. And as sci­en­tists get clos­er to map­ping the mechan­ics of the human mind, it’s pos­si­ble that we’ll dis­cov­er that we are more pre-deter­mined than we think: that pain is just an elec­tri­cal impulse, and that free will, though weigh­ing a mil­lion dif­fer­ent neur­al fil­a­ments or ‘atoms’, is set in genet­ic stone—but it’s also known that the mind, as in the vir­tu­al world, changes its own archi­tec­ture, and thus will con­tin­ue to change our des­tiny.

    ———-

    “Sci­ence Fun­der Jef­frey Epstein Launch­es Rad­i­cal Emo­tion­al Soft­ware For The Gam­ing Indus­try” by Drew Hen­dricks; Forbes; 10/02/2013

    For entre­pre­neurs, Open Cog, togeth­er with M Lab from Hong Kong Poly­tech­nic Uni­ver­si­ty, sup­plies a soft­ware toolk­it to incor­po­rate their char­ac­ters into what­ev­er appli­ca­tions the mar­ket is using: from vir­tu­al land­scapes to toys and even robots. As a show­case, Open Cog has also devel­oped its own 3D land­scape for its char­ac­ters to func­tion in, inspired large­ly by the pop­u­lar build­ing game called Mind­craft.”

    From vir­tu­al land­scapes to toys and even robots. That’s the range of envi­sioned appli­ca­tions for OpenCog. With the under­ly­ing goal of test­ing their hypoth­e­sis of how the mind works. And as of 2013, OpenCog was already far enough along in its devel­op­ment that Han­son Robot­ics was incor­po­rat­ing it into their human-like robots to inter­act with peo­ple:

    ...
    Open Cog’s goals dif­fer from the gam­ing indus­try which is already lin­ing up to exploit the new soft­ware. While it intends to make a prof­it, they are pri­mar­i­ly inter­est­ed in using a vir­tu­al plat­form to test their hypoth­e­sis about the mind. “The dis­par­i­ty between these mod­els and our expe­ri­ence of the mind is an invalu­able guide to fol­low,” Jef­frey Epstein remarked, the finan­cial guru behind this effort, along with the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment and Hong Kong Poly­tech­nic Uni­ver­si­ty. “It’s some­what like build­ing a car, with no instruc­tions, but our impres­sion of what a car can do.”

    Over the last ten years, Jef­frey Epstein has become one of the largest back­ers of cut­ting edge sci­ence around the world. Accord­ing to New York Mag­a­zine, Epstein has donat­ed up to $200 mil­lion a year to emi­nent sci­en­tists, includ­ing: Stephen Hawk­ing, Mar­vin Min­sky, Eric Lan­der, George Church, and Nobel lau­re­ate physi­cists Ger­ard ’t Hooft, David Gross, and Frank Wilczek. Like Open Cog, Epstein is moti­vat­ed by learn­ing more about the mind, ver­sus cre­at­ing a new start-up prod­uct. He cur­rent­ly sits on the board of the Mind, Brain and Behav­ior Com­mit­tee at Har­vard. In 2003, Epstein found­ed the Pro­gram for Evo­lu­tion­ary Dynam­ics at Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty, with a $30 mil­lion dol­lar gift to the uni­ver­si­ty. The Pro­gram stud­ies the math­e­mat­i­cal evo­lu­tion of micro-biol­o­gy and has made key dis­cov­er­ies into the treat­ment of can­cer, HIV and oth­er infec­tious dis­eases.

    While Open Cog’s game soft­ware has not yet been com­mer­cial­ized, it is aimed for the mar­ket by the half of 2014. The soft­ware has already had an impact how­ev­er on the robot indus­try where com­pa­nies such as Han­son Robot­ics, devel­oped by David Han­son, are incor­po­rat­ing it to advance the way their human-like robots func­tion and inter­act with peo­ple.
    ...

    So how good is OpenCog as mim­ic­k­ing human-like behav­ior? Well, here’s an arti­cle from last year about Han­son Robot­ics show­ing off Sophia, an eeri­ly life-like robot pow­ered by OpenCog. As the arti­cle notes, Ben Goertzel is chief sci­en­tist for Han­son Robot­ics. AS the arti­cle also notes, the high pro­file unveil­ing of Sophia gen­er­at­ed some con­tro­ver­sy with­in the AI com­mu­ni­ty over the debate of whether or not Sophi­a’s human-like behav­ior was tru­ly pow­ered an arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence vs some sort of elab­o­rate pup­petry. David Han­son, the founder and CEO of Han­son Robot­ics, responds to the crit­i­cisms by mak­ing clear that he views OpenCog as AI in its infan­cy and a step­ping stone toward the AI dream of acheiv­ing arti­fi­cial gen­er­al intel­li­gence, or AGI. That’s a lev­el of AI that can learn any­thing a human can.

    Han­son goes on to describe how he views the devel­op­ment of AGI enti­ties as requir­ing a parental approach, where the AGI is hope­ful­ly raised as ‘good child’ instead of being put in chains. It’s an inter­est­ing jux­ta­po­si­tion to Elon Musk’s call for fus­ing human brains to AIs so peo­ple can watch over the AIs and avoid ‘sum­mon­ing the demon’.

    It’s also inter­est­ing to note that Face­book’s head of AI devel­op­ment trashed the Sophia demon­stra­tions and sug­gest­ed it was all a hoax and that Han­son Robot­ics employ­ees were secret­ly direct­ing Sophi­a’s behav­ior. If true, that would obvi­ous­ly raise a lot of ques­tions about whether or not OpenCog even approach­es what it claims to do. But if Face­book’s head of AI was wrong, and Sophia real­ly was being run by OpenCog, it would demon­strate how OpenCog is already pret­ty good at mim­ic­k­ing human-like behav­ior:

    CNBC

    The com­pli­cat­ed truth about Sophia the robot — an almost human robot or a PR stunt

    Jaden Urbi
    MacKen­zie Siga­los

    Pub­lished Tue, Jun 5 2018 11:15 AM EDT
    Updat­ed Tue, Jun 5 2018 2:43 PM EDT

    Sophia the robot has become a cul­tur­al icon.

    The ani­ma­tron­ic robot has made its way across late night stages, graced the cov­er of mag­a­zines, head­lined major tech con­fer­ences and even deliv­ered a speech to the Unit­ed Nations.

    Sophia been tout­ed as the future of AI, but it may be more of a social exper­i­ment mas­querad­ing as a PR stunt.

    The man behind the machine

    To under­stand Sophia, it’s impor­tant to under­stand its cre­ator, David Han­son. He’s the founder and CEO of Han­son Robot­ics, but he hasn’t always been a major fig­ure in the AI world.

    Han­son actu­al­ly got a BFA in film. He worked for Walt Dis­ney as an “Imag­i­neer,” cre­at­ing sculp­tures and robot­ic tech­nolo­gies for theme parks and then get­ting his Ph.D. in aes­thet­ic stud­ies. Back in 2005, he co-wrote a research paper that laid out his vision for the future of robot­ics.

    And the the­sis sounds a lot like what’s going on with Sophia the robot now.

    The eight-page report is called “Upend­ing the Uncan­ny Val­ley.” It’s Hanson’s rebuke of the Uncan­ny Val­ley the­o­ry that peo­ple won’t like robots if they look very close to, but not exact­ly like humans. In fact, the paper says “uncan­ny” robots can actu­al­ly help address the ques­tion of “what is human” and that there’s not much to lose by exper­i­ment­ing with humanoid robots.

    When we asked Han­son about it, he said his com­pa­ny is explor­ing the “uncan­ny per­cep­tion effects both sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly and artis­ti­cal­ly, using robots like Sophia.”

    Han­son is approach­ing Sophia with the mind­set that she is AI “in its infan­cy,” with the next stage being arti­fi­cial gen­er­al intel­li­gence, or AGI, some­thing human­i­ty hasn’t achieved yet.

    On the way there, Han­son says AI devel­op­ers have to think like par­ents. He wants to “raise AGI like a good child, not like a thing in chains.”

    “That’s the for­mu­la for safe super­in­tel­li­gence,” Han­son said.

    The quest for super­in­tel­li­gence

    But in terms of arti­fi­cial gen­er­al intel­li­gence, Sophia isn’t quite there yet.

    “From a soft­ware point of view you’d say Sophia is a plat­form, like a lap­top is a plat­form for some­thing,” said Ben Goertzel, chief sci­en­tist at Han­son Robot­ics. “You can run a lot of dif­fer­ent soft­ware pro­grams on that very same robot.”

    Sophia has three dif­fer­ent con­trol sys­tems, accord­ing to Goertzel: Time­line Edi­tor, Sophis­ti­cat­ed Chat Sys­tem and OpenCog. Time­line Edi­tor is basi­cal­ly a straight script­ing soft­ware. The Sophis­ti­cat­ed Chat Sys­tem allows Sophia to pick up on and respond to key words and phras­es. And OpenCog grounds Sophia’s answers in expe­ri­ence and rea­son­ing. This is the sys­tem they’re hop­ing to one day grow into AGI.

    But some peo­ple still aren’t buy­ing it.

    Facebook’s head of AI said Sophia is a “BS pup­pet.” In a Face­book post, Yann LeCun said Hanson’s staff mem­bers were human pup­peteers who are delib­er­ate­ly deceiv­ing the pub­lic.

    In the grand scheme of things, a sen­tient being, or AGI, is the goal of some devel­op­ers. But nobody is there yet. There’s a host of play­ers push­ing the lim­its of what robots are capa­ble of. From Hon­da to Boston Dynam­ics, com­pa­nies across the world are devel­op­ing AI-pow­ered humanoid machines. Now, it’s a race to see who will get there first.

    Robo-ethics and the race to be first

    The AI race seems to be unrav­el­ing along the lines of Sil­i­con Valley’s “move fast and break things” mantra. But after Facebook’s scan­dal with Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, the pub­lic is more aware of the poten­tial reper­cus­sions of hasty tech devel­op­ment.

    “You know, there is this fan­ta­sy behind cre­ation that is embed­ding in the prac­tice of engi­neer­ing and robot­ics and AI,” said Kath­leen Richard­son, pro­fes­sor of ethics and cul­ture of robot­ics and AI at De Mont­fort Uni­ver­si­ty.

    “I don’t think these peo­ple go into the office or to their labs and think I’m car­ry­ing out work that’s going to be inter­est­ing to human­i­ty. I think many of them have a God com­plex in fact, and they actu­al­ly see them­selves as cre­ators.”

    ...

    ———-

    “The com­pli­cat­ed truth about Sophia the robot — an almost human robot or a PR stunt” by Jaden Urbi and MacKen­zie Siga­los; CNBC; 06/05/2018

    “Sophia has three dif­fer­ent con­trol sys­tems, accord­ing to Goertzel: Time­line Edi­tor, Sophis­ti­cat­ed Chat Sys­tem and OpenCog. Time­line Edi­tor is basi­cal­ly a straight script­ing soft­ware. The Sophis­ti­cat­ed Chat Sys­tem allows Sophia to pick up on and respond to key words and phras­es. And OpenCog grounds Sophia’s answers in expe­ri­ence and rea­son­ing. This is the sys­tem they’re hop­ing to one day grow into AGI.

    The seed for arti­fi­cial gen­er­al intel­li­gence (AGI), that yet-to-be achieved sta­tus of a vir­tu­al intel­li­gence that can learn any­thing a human can learn. That’s how OpenCog is being described and Sophia is an exam­ple of the progress OpenCog is mak­ing. Davis Han­son even describes even­tu­al­ly rais­ing AGIs like chil­dren:

    ...
    Han­son is approach­ing Sophia with the mind­set that she is AI “in its infan­cy,” with the next stage being arti­fi­cial gen­er­al intel­li­gence, or AGI, some­thing human­i­ty hasn’t achieved yet.

    On the way there, Han­son says AI devel­op­ers have to think like par­ents. He wants to “raise AGI like a good child, not like a thing in chains.”

    “That’s the for­mu­la for safe super­in­tel­li­gence,” Han­son said.
    ...

    But Face­book’s head of AI claims it’s all a hoax:

    ...
    But some peo­ple still aren’t buy­ing it.

    Facebook’s head of AI said Sophia is a “BS pup­pet.” In a Face­book post, Yann LeCun said Hanson’s staff mem­bers were human pup­peteers who are delib­er­ate­ly deceiv­ing the pub­lic.
    ...

    Is the OpenCog ini­tia­tive real­ly build­ing the kind of soft­ware that can can pow­er enti­ties with human-like behav­ior? Or is it pri­mar­i­ly hype? Giv­en that this is an open sourced tool kit that any­one can use, it seems like if it was a com­plete hoax we would know by now because any­one can try it out. But it’s cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble there’s still a lot of hype behind it. Either way, the fact that it’s open source means that as long as OpenCog is good enough to get the job done of cre­at­ing human-like inter­ac­tions for vir­tu­al agents, that makes it a poten­tial­ly very use­ful free tool for pow­er­ing exact­ly the kinds of social media bots that have become key pro­pa­gan­da tools in recent years. It’s a reminder that the advances in arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence are going to coin­cide with advances in auto­mat­ed online pro­pa­gan­da, which is part of what makes this chap­ter of the Jef­frey Epstein sto­ry some­thing to watch going for­ward.

    As we can see, Epstein has been play­ing a sur­pris­ing­ly promi­nent role in financ­ing the tran­shu­man­ism and the Sin­gu­lar­i­ty move­ment. And he’s a eugeni­cist who appar­ent­ly want­ed to kill off most of human­i­ty and cre­ate genet­i­cal­ly-engi­neered super-humans. So when Skynet takes over and launch­es its killer robot attack to wipe out human­i­ty, you can prob­a­bly call that an Epstein-inspired event. It’s one of his more exot­ic crimes.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 3, 2019, 4:01 pm
  3. The Dai­ly Beast has a new piece out on the divorce of Bill and Melin­da Gates that rais­es some grim­ly fas­ci­nat­ing ques­tions about the role Jef­frey Epstein may have been play­ing in shap­ing the numer­ous inter­ests of the Gates Foun­da­tion. Beyond that, it rais­es obvi­ous ques­tions about whether or not Bill Gates him­self was ever some­how caught up in one of Epstein’s sex­u­al black­mail arrange­ments. Because as we’re now learn­ing, it appears that Gates has been reg­u­lar­ly hang­ing out at Epstein’s Man­hat­tan home dozens of times from 2011 t0 2014, far more than pre­vi­ous­ly acknowl­edge. Gates report­ed­ly saw the place as a kind of ‘men’s club’ escape from his mar­riage to Melin­da, where he got to min­gle with a rotat­ing cast of bold named fig­ures.

    But beyond that, this new report­ing rais­ing grim ques­tions about just how promi­nent a role Epstein may have end­ed up play­ing in the char­i­ta­ble deci­sion-mak­ing of the Gates Foun­da­tion before Epstein’s death. It turns out some of the dona­tions Gates made to MIT’s Media Lab were appar­ent­ly done at the direc­tion of Epstein and as a kind of cov­er for Epstein because direct Epstein dona­tions to the Media Lab were already a sen­si­tive sub­ject for the insti­tute. Yes, if these alle­ga­tions are true, Gates was will­ing to act as a kind of phil­an­thropic front for Epstein. Recall how Epstein demon­strat­ed a keen inter­est in the financ­ing of future tech­nolo­gies.

    Beyond that, Gates report­ed­ly talked about get­ting Epstein direct­ly involved with the Gates Foun­da­tion’s char­i­ta­ble giv­ing. That’s how dis­turbing­ly close to two became, and it sounds like they prob­a­bly would have spent even more time togeth­er had it not been for Melin­da’s deep antipa­thy towards Epstein:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Jef­frey Epstein Gave Bill Gates Advice on How to End ‘Tox­ic’ Mar­riage, Sources Say

    A per­son who attend­ed meet­ings at Epstein’s town­house says Gates enjoyed hold­ing court there.

    Lach­lan Cartwright
    Senior Reporter

    Kate Briquelet
    Senior Reporter
    Updat­ed May. 16, 2021 10:24PM ET / Pub­lished May. 16, 2021 7:50PM ET

    Bach­e­lor sex-offend­er Jef­frey Epstein gave Bill Gates advice on end­ing his mar­riage with Melin­da after the Microsoft co-founder com­plained about her dur­ing a series of meet­ings at the mon­ey manager’s man­sion, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion.

    Gates used the gath­er­ings at Epstein’s $77 mil­lion New York town­house as an escape from what he told Epstein was a “tox­ic” mar­riage, a top­ic both men found humor­ous, a per­son who attend­ed the meet­ings told The Dai­ly Beast.

    The bil­lion­aire met Epstein dozens of times start­ing in 2011 and con­tin­u­ing through to 2014 most­ly at the financier’s Man­hat­tan home—a sub­stan­tial­ly high­er num­ber than has been pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed. Their con­ver­sa­tions took place years before Bill and Melin­da Gates announced this month that they were split­ting up.

    Gates, in turn, encour­aged Epstein to reha­bil­i­tate his image in the media fol­low­ing his 2008 guilty plea for solic­it­ing a minor for pros­ti­tu­tion, and dis­cussed Epstein becom­ing involved with the Bill and Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion.

    The peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter said Gates found free­dom in Epstein’s lair, where he met a rotat­ing cast of bold-faced names and dis­cussed world­ly issues in between rounds of jokes and gossip—a “men’s club” atmos­phere that irri­tat­ed Melin­da.

    “[It’s] not an over­state­ment. Going to Jeffrey’s was a respite from his mar­riage. It was a way of get­ting away from Melin­da,” one of the peo­ple who was at sev­er­al of the meet­ings said, adding that Epstein and Gates “were very close.”

    A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Bill Gates told The Dai­ly Beast: “Your char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of his meet­ings with Epstein and oth­ers about phil­an­thropy is inac­cu­rate, includ­ing who par­tic­i­pat­ed. Sim­i­lar­ly, any claim that Gates spoke of his mar­riage or Melin­da in a dis­parag­ing man­ner is false.”

    The spokesper­son dis­put­ed the num­ber of times Epstein and Gates met and said the two men nev­er dis­cussed Epstein get­ting involved with the foun­da­tion.

    “Bill nev­er received or solicit­ed per­son­al advice of any kind from Epstein— on mar­riage or any­thing else. Bill nev­er com­plained about Melin­da or his mar­riage to Epstein.” A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Melin­da did not respond to a request for com­ment for this report.

    As The Dai­ly Beast exclu­sive­ly report­ed, Melin­da Gates was furi­ous over Bill’s rela­tion­ship with Epstein, and was put off by the creepy financier upon meet­ing him in Sep­tem­ber 2013, after the cou­ple accept­ed an award at a New York City hotel. Melinda’s anger, peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter said, even­tu­al­ly led to the demise of Bill and Epstein’s friend­ship.

    The Wall Street Jour­nal recent­ly report­ed Melin­da Gates con­sult­ed divorce lawyers in Octo­ber 2019, around the time it was pub­licly revealed that Bill met with Epstein—who had died by sui­cide in jail months earlier—multiple times in the past.

    On May 3, the high-pow­ered cou­ple announced they were end­ing their 27-year mar­riage in a state­ment that read, in part: “We no longer believe we can grow togeth­er as a cou­ple in this next phase of our lives. We ask for space and pri­va­cy for our fam­i­ly as we begin to nav­i­gate this next life.” In her peti­tion for divorce Melin­da said her mar­riage is “irre­triev­ably bro­ken” and indi­cat­ed the cou­ple had set­tled on a plan to divide their vast assets out­side the court­room.

    Last week, the New York Post report­ed that Gates told his golf­ing bud­dies he was in a “love­less” mar­riage which “had been over for some time,” while Peo­ple described Epstein as a “sore spot” in the couple’s rela­tion­ship.

    But Epstein wasn’t the couple’s only point of con­tention.

    On Sun­day, the New York Times report­ed that Gates alleged­ly made advances on women who worked at Microsoft and his foun­da­tion while he was mar­ried to Melin­da.

    The Jour­nal fol­lowed up with its own report, reveal­ing that Gates resigned from Microsoft’s board in 2020 amid an inter­nal inves­ti­ga­tion into an alleged sex­u­al rela­tion­ship with a com­pa­ny engi­neer, who came for­ward in late 2019. (“There was an affair almost 20 years ago which end­ed ami­ca­bly,” a Gates spokes­woman told the Jour­nal, adding that his depar­ture from the board wasn’t relat­ed to the rela­tion­ship.)

    Peo­ple close to Bill Gates told The Dai­ly Beast that the dete­ri­o­ra­tion of their rela­tion­ship could be seen in Bill and Melinda’s body lan­guage. The cou­ple used to inter­act with “more laugh­ter and ease,” said one friend of Bill, who added that even­tu­al­ly, “being around them was like arriv­ing at a sum­mit.”

    “It wasn’t like arriv­ing at a din­ner with a cou­ple or some­thing; it was more like two heads of state,” the friend added. “So that’s why Epstein could have been a fac­tor [in their split], but was it the fac­tor? That I fun­da­men­tal­ly don’t believe.”

    The friend said the couple’s strict­ly reg­i­ment­ed exis­tence as bil­lion­aire phil­an­thropists sup­plant­ed the more nor­mal life and lev­i­ty they enjoyed in younger years. “Bill is far less com­fort­able being out in the world,” the per­son said. “For Bill, it was just so rare he was allowed to do nor­mal things, which I think he real­ly craved.”

    To Bill, such “nor­mal” things includ­ed meet­ing new peo­ple over din­ner at Epstein’s home—a break from the tech mogul’s tight­ly chore­o­graphed sched­ule of events where he’d be seat­ed at the head table with the most promi­nent guests.

    “Bill was embar­rassed by the atten­tion an entourage would have brought,” the per­son said. “His entourage was secu­ri­ty, and he nev­er looked com­fort­able with it. With Melin­da, it was very impe­ri­ous, ‘The Queen has arrived’ kind of thing.”

    Gates may have vis­it­ed Epstein, the per­son said, because Gates “enjoys talk­ing and ideas and basi­cal­ly argu­ing with peo­ple, and he can be a real­ly bru­tal per­son to argue with.”

    “He likes noth­ing bet­ter than to get togeth­er and debate or lec­ture peo­ple, or tell every­one what he’s doing with the polio vac­cine. He has an abil­i­ty, unlike any oth­er per­son I’ve ever met, to lec­ture to a table of peo­ple with­out stop­ping for an hour.

    “Any­one that gave him a stage for a per­for­mance and said, ‘Bill, come talk to us about what you’re pas­sion­ate about,’ that would be some­thing he would enjoy.”

    Still, the per­son was sur­prised about the couple’s divorce announce­ment ear­li­er this month: “I thought they would have made each oth­er mis­er­able for the rest of their lives.”

    Mean­while, a for­mer Gates Foun­da­tion employ­ee told The Dai­ly Beast that Gates want­ed to get in the good graces of some of Epstein’s pro­fes­sion­al con­nec­tions. “My under­stand­ing was he wasn’t hang­ing out with Epstein to get women,” the employ­ee said.

    ...

    Accord­ing to the ex-employ­ee, Melin­da seemed to have a chip on her shoul­der because “no one real­ly did see her as an equal to Bill” and her work didn’t get as much media atten­tion. “It real­ly irri­tat­ed her that peo­ple were more into Bill,” they said.

    Anoth­er for­mer employ­ee told The Dai­ly Beast that Epstein was a top­ic of con­ver­sa­tion among staff even in 2017—three years after the men’s friend­ship report­ed­ly fizzled—because of con­cerns that Gates’ pre­vi­ous ties to Epstein could harm his rep­u­ta­tion.

    “When you work at the foun­da­tion, your whole job in life is to pro­tect and pre­serve and build up the rep­u­ta­tion of Bill and Melin­da Gates,” the per­son said. “I think that’s why it still came up.”

    ———–

    “Jef­frey Epstein Gave Bill Gates Advice on How to End ‘Tox­ic’ Mar­riage, Sources Say” by Lach­lan Cartwright and Kate Briquelet; The Dai­ly Beast; 05/16/2021

    The bil­lion­aire met Epstein dozens of times start­ing in 2011 and con­tin­u­ing through to 2014 most­ly at the financier’s Man­hat­tan home—a sub­stan­tial­ly high­er num­ber than has been pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed. Their con­ver­sa­tions took place years before Bill and Melin­da Gates announced this month that they were split­ting up.”

    Start­ing in 2011, Gates report­ed­ly met with Epstein at Epstein’s Man­hat­tan home dozens of times through 2014, far more than pre­vi­ous­ly acknowl­edged. The two were so close, Gates encour­aged Epstein to reha­bil­i­tate his pub­lic image and even dis­cussed have Epstein become involved with the Bill and Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion. One can see why Melin­da may have been rather livid about Bil­l’s new friend.

    But Epstein was­n’t the only fig­ure Gates was hang­ing out with dur­ing these ‘men’s club’ events at Epstein’s home. There was an entire rotat­ing cast of char­ac­ters. A large­ly mys­te­ri­ous rotat­ing cast of char­ac­ters who will prob­a­bly remain a mys­tery because they are high­ly unlike­ly to admit they were ever there:

    ...
    Gates, in turn, encour­aged Epstein to reha­bil­i­tate his image in the media fol­low­ing his 2008 guilty plea for solic­it­ing a minor for pros­ti­tu­tion, and dis­cussed Epstein becom­ing involved with the Bill and Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion.

    The peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter said Gates found free­dom in Epstein’s lair, where he met a rotat­ing cast of bold-faced names and dis­cussed world­ly issues in between rounds of jokes and gossip—a “men’s club” atmos­phere that irri­tat­ed Melin­da.

    ....

    Mean­while, a for­mer Gates Foun­da­tion employ­ee told The Dai­ly Beast that Gates want­ed to get in the good graces of some of Epstein’s pro­fes­sion­al con­nec­tions. “My under­stand­ing was he wasn’t hang­ing out with Epstein to get women,” the employ­ee said.
    ...

    And these rev­e­la­tions are on top of the explo­sive rev­e­la­tions from Sep­tem­ber of 2019, when we learned that Gates’s dona­tions to MIT’s Media Lab were done at the behest of Epstein. It was like Gates was so close to Epstein he was will­ing to make mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar dona­tions as a favor to his friend:

    The New York­er

    How an Élite Uni­ver­si­ty Research Cen­ter Con­cealed Its Rela­tion­ship with Jef­frey Epstein

    New doc­u­ments show that the M.I.T. Media Lab was aware of Epstein’s sta­tus as a con­vict­ed sex offend­er, and that Epstein direct­ed con­tri­bu­tions to the lab far exceed­ing the amounts M.I.T. has pub­licly admit­ted.

    By Ronan Far­row
    Sep­tem­ber 6, 2019

    Update: On Sat­ur­day, less than a day after the pub­li­ca­tion of this sto­ry, Joi Ito, the direc­tor of the M.I.T. Media Lab, resigned from his posi­tion. “After giv­ing the mat­ter a great deal of thought over the past sev­er­al days and weeks, I think that it is best that I resign as direc­tor of the media lab and as a pro­fes­sor and employ­ee of the Insti­tute, effec­tive imme­di­ate­ly,” Ito wrote in an inter­nal e‑mail. In a mes­sage to the M.I.T. com­mu­ni­ty, L. Rafael Reif, the pres­i­dent of M.I.T., wrote, “Because the accu­sa­tions in the sto­ry are extreme­ly seri­ous, they demand an imme­di­ate, thor­ough and inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion,” and announced that M.I.T.’s gen­er­al coun­sel would engage an out­side law firm to over­see that inves­ti­ga­tion.

    The M.I.T. Media Lab, which has been embroiled in a scan­dal over accept­ing dona­tions from the financier and con­vict­ed sex offend­er Jef­frey Epstein, had a deep­er fund-rais­ing rela­tion­ship with Epstein than it has pre­vi­ous­ly acknowl­edged, and it attempt­ed to con­ceal the extent of its con­tacts with him. Dozens of pages of e‑mails and oth­er doc­u­ments obtained by The New York­er reveal that, although Epstein was list­ed as “dis­qual­i­fied” in M.I.T.’s offi­cial donor data­base, the Media Lab con­tin­ued to accept gifts from him, con­sult­ed him about the use of the funds, and, by mark­ing his con­tri­bu­tions as anony­mous, avoid­ed dis­clos­ing their full extent, both pub­licly and with­in the uni­ver­si­ty. Per­haps most notably, Epstein appeared to serve as an inter­me­di­ary between the lab and oth­er wealthy donors, solic­it­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in dona­tions from indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing the tech­nol­o­gist and phil­an­thropist Bill Gates and the investor Leon Black. Accord­ing to the records obtained by The New York­er and accounts from cur­rent and for­mer fac­ul­ty and staff of the media lab, Epstein was cred­it­ed with secur­ing at least $7.5 mil­lion in dona­tions for the lab, includ­ing two mil­lion dol­lars from Gates and $5.5 mil­lion from Black, gifts the e‑mails describe as “direct­ed” by Epstein or made at his behest. The effort to con­ceal the lab’s con­tact with Epstein was so wide­ly known that some staff in the office of the lab’s direc­tor, Joi Ito, referred to Epstein as Volde­mort or “he who must not be named.”

    The finan­cial entan­gle­ment revealed in the doc­u­ments goes well beyond what has been described in pub­lic state­ments by M.I.T. and by Ito. The Uni­ver­si­ty has said that it received eight hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars from Epstein’s foun­da­tions, in the course of twen­ty years, and has apol­o­gized for accept­ing that amount. In a state­ment last month, M.I.T.’s pres­i­dent, L. Rafael Reif, wrote, “with hind­sight, we rec­og­nize with shame and dis­tress that we allowed MIT to con­tribute to the ele­va­tion of his rep­u­ta­tion, which in turn served to dis­tract from his hor­ri­fy­ing acts. No apol­o­gy can undo that.” Reif pledged to donate the funds to a char­i­ty to help vic­tims of sex­u­al abuse. On Wednes­day, Ito dis­closed that he had sep­a­rate­ly received $1.2 mil­lion from Epstein for invest­ment funds under his con­trol, in addi­tion to five hun­dred and twen­ty-five thou­sand dol­lars that he acknowl­edged Epstein had donat­ed to the lab. A spokesper­son for M.I.T. said that the uni­ver­si­ty “is look­ing at the facts sur­round­ing Jef­frey Epstein’s gifts to the insti­tute.”

    The doc­u­ments and sources sug­gest that there was more to the sto­ry. They show that the lab was aware of Epstein’s history—in 2008, Epstein plead­ed guilty to state charges of solic­i­ta­tion of pros­ti­tu­tion and pro­cure­ment of minors for prostitution—and of his dis­qual­i­fied sta­tus as a donor. They also show that Ito and oth­er lab employ­ees took numer­ous steps to keep Epstein’s name from being asso­ci­at­ed with the dona­tions he made or solicit­ed. On Ito’s cal­en­dar, which typ­i­cal­ly list­ed the full names of par­tic­i­pants in meet­ings, Epstein was iden­ti­fied only by his ini­tials. Epstein’s direct con­tri­bu­tions to the lab were record­ed as anony­mous. In Sep­tem­ber, 2014, Ito wrote to Epstein solic­it­ing a cash infu­sion to fund a cer­tain researcher, ask­ing, “Could you re-up/­top-off with anoth­er $100K so we can extend his con­tract anoth­er year?” Epstein replied, “yes.” For­ward­ing the response to a mem­ber of his staff, Ito wrote, “Make sure this gets account­ed for as anony­mous.” Peter Cohen, the M.I.T. Media Lab’s Direc­tor of Devel­op­ment and Strat­e­gy at the time, reit­er­at­ed, “Jef­frey mon­ey, needs to be anony­mous. Thanks.”

    Epstein’s appar­ent role in direct­ing out­side con­tri­bu­tions was also elid­ed. In Octo­ber, 2014, the Media Lab received a two-mil­lion-dol­lar dona­tion from Bill Gates; Ito wrote in an inter­nal e‑mail, “This is a $2M gift from Bill Gates direct­ed by Jef­frey Epstein.” Cohen replied, “For gift record­ing pur­pos­es, we will not be men­tion­ing Jeffrey’s name as the impe­tus for this gift.” A manda­to­ry record of the gift filed with­in the uni­ver­si­ty stat­ed only that “Gates is mak­ing this gift at the rec­om­men­da­tion of a friend of his who wish­es to remain anony­mous.” Knowl­edge of Epstein’s alleged role was usu­al­ly kept with­in a tight cir­cle. In response to the uni­ver­si­ty fil­ing, Cohen wrote to col­leagues, “I did not real­ize that this would be sent to dozens of peo­ple,” adding that Epstein “is not named but ques­tions could be asked” and that “I feel uncom­fort­able that this was dis­trib­uted so wide­ly.” He wrote that future fil­ings relat­ed to Epstein should be sub­mit­ted only “if there is a way to do it qui­et­ly.” An agent for Gates wrote to the lead­er­ship of the Media Lab, stat­ing that Gates also wished to keep his name out of any pub­lic dis­cus­sion of the dona­tion.

    A spokesper­son for Gates said that “any claim that Epstein direct­ed any pro­gram­mat­ic or per­son­al grant­mak­ing for Bill Gates is com­plete­ly false.” A source close to Gates said that the entre­pre­neur has a long-stand­ing rela­tion­ship with the lab, and that anony­mous dona­tions from him or his foun­da­tion are not atyp­i­cal. Gates has pre­vi­ous­ly denied receiv­ing finan­cial advi­so­ry ser­vices from Epstein; in August, CNBC report­ed that he met with Epstein in New York in 2013, to dis­cuss “ways to increase phil­an­thropic spend­ing.”

    Joi Ito and Peter Cohen did not respond to repeat­ed requests for com­ment. Ito, in his pub­lic state­ments, has down­played his close­ness with Epstein, stat­ing that “Regret­tably, over the years, the Lab has received mon­ey through some of the foun­da­tions that he con­trolled,” and acknowl­edg­ing only that he “knew about” gifts and per­son­al­ly gave per­mis­sion. But the e‑mails show that Ito con­sult­ed close­ly with Epstein and active­ly sought the var­i­ous dona­tions. At one point, Cohen reached out to Ito for advice about a donor, writ­ing, “you or Jef­frey would know best.”

    ...

    Cur­rent and for­mer fac­ul­ty and staff of the media lab described a pat­tern of con­ceal­ing Epstein’s involve­ment with the insti­tu­tion. Signe Swen­son, a for­mer devel­op­ment asso­ciate and alum­ni coor­di­na­tor at the lab, told me that she resigned in 2016 in part because of her dis­com­fort about the lab’s work with Epstein. She said that the lab’s lead­er­ship made it explic­it, even in her ear­li­est con­ver­sa­tions with them, that Epstein’s dona­tions had to be kept secret. In ear­ly 2014, while Swen­son was work­ing in M.I.T.’s cen­tral fund-rais­ing office, as a devel­op­ment asso­ciate, she had break­fast with Cohen, the Direc­tor of Devel­op­ment and Strat­e­gy. They dis­cussed her appli­ca­tion for a fund-rais­ing role at the Media Lab. Accord­ing to Swen­son, Cohen explained to her that the lab was cur­rent­ly work­ing with Epstein and that it was seek­ing to do more with the financier. “He said Joi has been work­ing with Jef­frey Epstein and Epstein’s con­nect­ing us to oth­er peo­ple,” Swen­son recalled. She assumed that Cohen raised the mat­ter “to test whether I would be con­fi­den­tial and sort of feel out whether I would be O.K. with the sit­u­a­tion.”

    Swen­son had seen that Epstein was list­ed in the university’s cen­tral donor data­base as dis­qual­i­fied. “I knew he was a pedophile and point­ed that out,” she said. She recalled telling Cohen that work­ing with Epstein “doesn’t seem like a great idea.” But she respect­ed the lab’s work and ulti­mate­ly accept­ed a job with them.

    That spring, dur­ing her first week in her new role, the issue arose again. Swen­son recalled hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with Cohen and Ito about how to take mon­ey from Epstein with­out report­ing it with­in the uni­ver­si­ty. Cohen asked, “How do we do this?” Swen­son replied that, due to the university’s inter­nal-report­ing require­ments, there was no way to keep the dona­tions under the radar. Ito, as Swen­son recalled, replied, “we can take small gifts anony­mous­ly.”

    In the course of 2014 and 2015, accord­ing to the e‑mails and sources, Ito and Epstein also devel­oped an ambi­tious plan to secure a large new influx of con­tri­bu­tions from Epstein’s con­tacts, includ­ing Gates, with­out dis­clos­ing the full extent of the financier’s involve­ment to M.I.T.’s cen­tral fund-rais­ing office. The e‑mails show that Epstein was the point per­son for com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the donors, includ­ing Gates and Black, the founder of Apol­lo Glob­al Man­age­ment, one of the world’s largest pri­vate-equi­ty firms. In one mes­sage to Ito, Epstein wrote, “Gates would like a write up on our one sci­ence pro­gram for tues next week.” In an e‑mail from Cohen to Ito, ask­ing whether Black wished his con­tri­bu­tions to remain anony­mous, Cohen wrote, “Can you ask Jef­frey to ask Leon that?” He added, “We can make it anony­mous eas­i­ly, unless Leon would like the cred­it. If Jef­frey tells you that Leon would like a lit­tle love from MIT, we can arrange that too....”

    Black declined to com­ment. A source close to him said that he did not intend for the dona­tion to be anony­mous. Black has down­played his rela­tion­ship with Epstein in recent months, describ­ing it as lim­it­ed and focussed on tax strat­e­gy, estate plan­ning, and phil­an­thropic advice. He has declined to answer ques­tions about busi­ness deal­ings with Epstein that sug­gest a clos­er rela­tion­ship. Sev­er­al years after Epstein’s con­vic­tion, Black and his chil­dren and Epstein joint­ly invest­ed in a com­pa­ny that makes emis­sion-con­trol prod­ucts.

    Although the lab ulti­mate­ly secured the $7.5 mil­lion from Gates and Black, Epstein and Ito’s fund-rais­ing plan failed to reach the still larg­er scale that they had ini­tial­ly hoped. Epstein had sug­gest­ed that he could insure that any dona­tions he solicit­ed, includ­ing those from Gates and Black, would be matched by the John Tem­ple­ton Foun­da­tion, which funds projects at the inter­sec­tion of faith and sci­ence. Ulti­mate­ly, the Foun­da­tion did not pro­vide fund­ing and a spokesper­son said that the orga­ni­za­tion has no records relat­ed to any such plan.

    In the sum­mer of 2015, as the Media Lab deter­mined how to spend the funds it had received with Epstein’s help, Cohen informed lab staff that Epstein would be com­ing for a vis­it. The financier would meet with fac­ul­ty mem­bers, appar­ent­ly to allow him to give input on projects and to entice him to con­tribute fur­ther. Swen­son, the for­mer devel­op­ment asso­ciate and alum­ni coör­di­na­tor, recalled say­ing, refer­ring to Epstein, “I don’t think he should be on cam­pus.” She told me, “At that point it hit me: this pedophile is going to be in our office.” Accord­ing to Swen­son, Cohen agreed that Epstein was “unsa­vory” but said “we’re plan­ning to do it anyway—this was Joi’s project.” Staffers entered the meet­ing into Ito’s cal­en­dar with­out includ­ing Epstein’s name. They also tried to keep his name out of e‑mail com­mu­ni­ca­tion. “There was def­i­nite­ly an explic­it con­ver­sa­tion about keep­ing it off the books, because Joi’s cal­en­dar is vis­i­ble to every­one,” Swen­son said. “It was just marked as a V.I.P. vis­it.”

    By then, sev­er­al fac­ul­ty and staff mem­bers had object­ed to the university’s rela­tion­ship with Epstein. Ethan Zuck­er­man, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor, had voiced con­cerns about the rela­tion­ship with Epstein for years. In 2013, Zuck­er­man said, he pulled Ito aside after a fac­ul­ty meet­ing to express con­cern about meet­ings on Ito’s cal­en­dar marked “J.E.” Zuck­er­man recalled say­ing, “I heard you’re meet­ing with Epstein. I don’t think that’s a good idea,” and Ito respond­ing, “You know, he’s real­ly fas­ci­nat­ing. Would you like to meet him?” Zuck­er­man declined and said that he believed the rela­tion­ship could have neg­a­tive con­se­quences for the lab.

    In 2015, as Epstein’s vis­it drew near, Cohen instruct­ed his staff to insure that Zuck­er­man, if he unex­pect­ed­ly arrived while Epstein was present, be kept away from the glass-walled office in which Epstein would be con­duct­ing meet­ings. Accord­ing to Swen­son, Ito had informed Cohen that Epstein “nev­er goes into any room with­out his two female ‘assis­tants,’ ” whom he want­ed to bring to the meet­ing at the Media Lab. Swen­son object­ed to this, too, and it was decid­ed that the assis­tants would be allowed to accom­pa­ny Epstein but would wait out­side the meet­ing room.

    On the day of the vis­it, Swenson’s dis­tress deep­ened at the sight of the young women. “They were mod­els. East­ern Euro­pean, def­i­nite­ly,” she told me. Among the lab’s staff, she said, “all of us women made it a point to be super nice to them. We lit­er­al­ly had a con­ver­sa­tion about how, on the off chance that they’re not there by choice, we could maybe help them.”

    Swen­son and sev­er­al oth­er for­mer and cur­rent M.I.T. Media Lab employ­ees expressed dis­com­fort over the lab’s recent state­ments about its rela­tion­ship with Epstein. In August, two researchers, includ­ing Zuck­er­man, resigned in protest over the mat­ter. In a Medi­um post announc­ing the deci­sion, Zuck­er­man wrote that M.I.T. had “vio­lat­ed its own val­ues so clear­ly in work­ing with Epstein and in dis­guis­ing that rela­tion­ship.” Zuck­er­man began pro­vid­ing coun­sel to oth­er col­leagues who also object­ed. He direct­ed Swen­son to seek rep­re­sen­ta­tion from the legal non­prof­it Whistle­blow­er Aid, and she began the process of going pub­lic. “Jef­frey Epstein shows that—with enough money—a con­vict­ed sex offend­er can open doors at the high­est lev­el of phil­an­thropy,” John Tye, Swenson’s attor­ney at Whistle­blow­er Aid, told me. “Joi Ito and his devel­op­ment chief went out of their way to keep Epstein’s role under wraps. When insti­tu­tions try to hide the truth, it often takes a brave whis­tle-blow­er to step for­ward. But it can be dan­ger­ous, and whis­tle-blow­ers need sup­port.”

    ...

    ———–

    “How an Élite Uni­ver­si­ty Research Cen­ter Con­cealed Its Rela­tion­ship with Jef­frey Epstein” by Ronan Far­row; The New York­er; 09/06/2019

    “Epstein’s appar­ent role in direct­ing out­side con­tri­bu­tions was also elid­ed. In Octo­ber, 2014, the Media Lab received a two-mil­lion-dol­lar dona­tion from Bill Gates; Ito wrote in an inter­nal e‑mail, “This is a $2M gift from Bill Gates direct­ed by Jef­frey Epstein.” Cohen replied, “For gift record­ing pur­pos­es, we will not be men­tion­ing Jeffrey’s name as the impe­tus for this gift.” A manda­to­ry record of the gift filed with­in the uni­ver­si­ty stat­ed only that “Gates is mak­ing this gift at the rec­om­men­da­tion of a friend of his who wish­es to remain anony­mous.” Knowl­edge of Epstein’s alleged role was usu­al­ly kept with­in a tight cir­cle. In response to the uni­ver­si­ty fil­ing, Cohen wrote to col­leagues, “I did not real­ize that this would be sent to dozens of peo­ple,” adding that Epstein “is not named but ques­tions could be asked” and that “I feel uncom­fort­able that this was dis­trib­uted so wide­ly.” He wrote that future fil­ings relat­ed to Epstein should be sub­mit­ted only “if there is a way to do it qui­et­ly.” An agent for Gates wrote to the lead­er­ship of the Media Lab, stat­ing that Gates also wished to keep his name out of any pub­lic dis­cus­sion of the dona­tion.”

    “This is a $2M gift from Bill Gates direct­ed by Jef­frey Epstein.” Epstein was so close to both Gates and the Media Lab that he some­one got Gates to make a $2 mil­lion dona­tion to the lab, seem­ing­ly as a means of get­ting around his own donor pro­hi­bi­tions. Gates seemed to view Epstein as like a phil­an­thropic guide:

    ...
    A spokesper­son for Gates said that “any claim that Epstein direct­ed any pro­gram­mat­ic or per­son­al grant­mak­ing for Bill Gates is com­plete­ly false.” A source close to Gates said that the entre­pre­neur has a long-stand­ing rela­tion­ship with the lab, and that anony­mous dona­tions from him or his foun­da­tion are not atyp­i­cal. Gates has pre­vi­ous­ly denied receiv­ing finan­cial advi­so­ry ser­vices from Epstein; in August, CNBC report­ed that he met with Epstein in New York in 2013, to dis­cuss “ways to increase phil­an­thropic spend­ing.”

    Joi Ito and Peter Cohen did not respond to repeat­ed requests for com­ment. Ito, in his pub­lic state­ments, has down­played his close­ness with Epstein, stat­ing that “Regret­tably, over the years, the Lab has received mon­ey through some of the foun­da­tions that he con­trolled,” and acknowl­edg­ing only that he “knew about” gifts and per­son­al­ly gave per­mis­sion. But the e‑mails show that Ito con­sult­ed close­ly with Epstein and active­ly sought the var­i­ous dona­tions. At one point, Cohen reached out to Ito for advice about a donor, writ­ing, “you or Jef­frey would know best.”
    ...

    So Epstein some­how got the role of influ­enc­ing the tar­gets of Gates’ grow­ing phil­an­thropic dona­tions dur­ing this 2011–2014 peri­od. It rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not Epstein was some­how pay­ing Gates back for dona­tion, in par­tic­u­lar to insti­tu­tions like the Media Lab? Epstein was quite wealthy so it’s pos­si­ble he could engaged in a kind of quid pro quo deal with Gates (e.g. Gates makes a $2 mil­lion dona­tion to the Media Lab and Epstein makes a $2 mil­lion dona­tion to some group Gates wants to tar­get). But let’s not for­get about all the oth­er ways Epstein could ‘pay back’ his wealthy friends like Gates. He was a con­vict­ed sex-traf­fick­er after all:

    ...
    In 2015, as Epstein’s vis­it drew near, Cohen instruct­ed his staff to insure that Zuck­er­man, if he unex­pect­ed­ly arrived while Epstein was present, be kept away from the glass-walled office in which Epstein would be con­duct­ing meet­ings. Accord­ing to Swen­son, Ito had informed Cohen that Epstein “nev­er goes into any room with­out his two female ‘assis­tants,’ ” whom he want­ed to bring to the meet­ing at the Media Lab. Swen­son object­ed to this, too, and it was decid­ed that the assis­tants would be allowed to accom­pa­ny Epstein but would wait out­side the meet­ing room.

    On the day of the vis­it, Swenson’s dis­tress deep­ened at the sight of the young women. “They were mod­els. East­ern Euro­pean, def­i­nite­ly,” she told me. Among the lab’s staff, she said, “all of us women made it a point to be super nice to them. We lit­er­al­ly had a con­ver­sa­tion about how, on the off chance that they’re not there by choice, we could maybe help them.”
    ...

    He was con­vict­ed of under age sex-traf­fick­ing less than a decade ear­li­er and the guy lit­er­al­ly brought young mod­els to this high­ly sen­si­tive trip. Was Epstein effec­tive­ly still oper­at­ing a ‘sex­u­al favors for [insert price here]’ oper­a­tion when he brought these two mod­els dur­ing a 2015 vis­it to the Media Lab? It does­n’t sound like he as try­ing to dis­suade peo­ple of that impres­sion. And that’s how Epstein was report­ed­ly behav­ing dur­ing his bro­mance with Bill. So we have to ask: was this a bro­mance that includ­ed black­mail? Along with the fol­low up ques­tion of who might pos­sess that black­mail mate­r­i­al now.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 17, 2021, 4:27 pm
  4. Here’s a pair of arti­cles about a dis­turb­ing pos­si­ble form or neo-eugen­ics indus­try that’s bub­bling up in the US fer­til­i­ty treat­ment mar­ket­place. The new indus­try appears to rely on a kind of reg­u­la­to­ry loop­hole in US law over­see­ing the kinds of tests prospec­tive genet­ic par­ents can do on embryos. Because while test­ing for high­ly her­i­ta­ble dis­eases that can be caused by a sin­gle muta­tion is some­thing long done in the IVF field for par­ents try­ing to avoid con­ceiv­ing a child with a lethal or debil­i­tat­ing, this new field appears to be tak­ing that genet­ic profi­i­ing approach in a qual­i­ta­tive­ly new direc­tion. Instead of test­ing for indi­vid­ual known high­ly potent muta­tions, this new field instead draws upon thou­sands of less sig­nif­i­cant genom­ic vari­ants drawn togeth­er to cre­ate what are known as “Poly­genic Risk Scores” (PRS). These scores can be gen­er­at­ed from just about any dis­ease or phe­no­type you can thing of, as long as some sort of genom­ic asso­ci­at­ed study has been con­duct­ed on that phe­no­type that yield­ed some sort of sta­tis­ti­cal asso­ci­a­tion between a giv­en genom­ic vari­ant and the tar­get phe­no­type. In oth­er words, the IVF indus­try has long genet­i­cal­ly screen indi­vid­ual embryos, but it was always focused those tests on ask­ing whether or not the embryo is vul­ner­a­ble to a major genet­i­cal­ly-derived ill­ness. Now, the indus­try is shift­ing towards allow­ing par­ents to select embryos based on their rel­a­tive­ly propen­si­ty for giv­en dis­eases. Dis­eases or traits. Traits as straight­for­ward as height and as com­plex as intel­li­gence. Genet­i­cal­ly Edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment can even be And, again, this is all basi­cal­ly unreg­u­lat­ed.

    Two com­pa­nies have already entered this field. As we might expect, there are sig­nif­i­cant red flags for both com­pa­nies. The first, Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion, just had the first baby born using its genet­ic screen­ing tech­nol­o­gy. The child’s par­ents, Aurea, under­went fer­til­i­ty treat­ment in 2019 and had to choose which of four IVF embryos to implant. They based their deci­sion on the embryo with the best genet­ic odds of avoid­ing heart dis­ease, dia­betes and can­cer in adult­hood. Not some debil­i­tat­ing genet­ic dis­ease. Heart dis­ease, dia­betes, and can­cer. And poten­tial­ly any trait you can think of. Again, this is a qual­i­ta­tive­ly dif­fer­ent kind of lethal muta­tion genet­ic screen­ings of yes­ter­year. And eeri­ly qual­i­ta­tive­ly sim­i­lar to the eugen­ics era of yester-yes­ter­year. Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion also start­ed off omi­nous­ly offer­ing to tell par­ents if poly­genic risk scores indi­cat­ed an embryo would be espe­cial­ly short or intel­lec­tu­al­ly dis­abled. It end­ed those offers only after a pub­lic out­cry, so that gives us a sense of the ulti­mate vision for the com­pa­ny.

    The sec­ond com­pa­ny already in this field, Orchid, found­ed by 26-year-old Noor Sid­diqui. With Orchid, both puta­tive par­ents pro­vide sali­va sam­ples used for genet­ic tests that check whether or not the par­ents are the poten­tial car­ri­ers of any of 10 dis­eases. If so, they can opt in for in vit­ro fer­til­iza­tion as a fer­til­i­ty clin­ic offer­ing Orchid’s poly­genic risk scor­ing, allow­ing for “embryo pri­or­i­ti­za­tion” where the clin­ic doc­tors would use the Orchid tests to rank the embryos for risks to the tar­get dis­eases. Orchid has already raised around $4.6 mil­lion in seed capi­tol from from investors includ­ing Anne Woj­ci­c­ki, the founder of 23andMe, so it appears at least some sig­nif­i­cant fig­ures in the exist­ing con­sumer genet­ic test­ing indus­try are keep­ing on bring­ing poly­genic risk scor­ing tech­nol­o­gy to the pub­lic.

    And as we should com­plete­ly expect at this point, there’s a Peter Thiel angle to this. Because how could there be a qua­si-eugenic new indus­try with­out Thiel’s involve­ment. For starters, it turns out Sid­diqui is a for­mer “Thiel Fel­low”, one of the col­lege-bound young adults who was paid $100,000 to drop out of col­lege and start a com­pa­ny instead. Her start­up even­tu­al­ly failed and she went back to col­lege, and after earn­ing a Mas­ters in com­put­er sci­ence from Stan­ford, Sid­diqui decid­ed to start Orchid. The extent of her ongo­ing ties to Thiel remain unclear, but she cer­tain­ly seems to be philo­soph­i­cal­ly aligned with Thiel’s lib­er­tar­i­an world­view. As we’ll see, when pressed with ques­tions about the ethics of cre­at­ing a ser­vice that osten­si­bly allows par­ents to select the traits of their kids, Sid­diqui acknowl­edges there are some moral chal­lenges with her com­pa­ny but then fall back on cel­e­brat­ing the free mar­ket and the fact that no one is forced to buy her com­pa­ny’s ser­vices. It’s an extreme­ly ‘lib­er­tar­i­an’ response.

    Then there’s the tan­gen­tial Thiel ties to Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion. As we’ll see, after the fol­low­ing Bloomberg piece was recent­ly pub­lished about Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion, one of the prin­ci­ples at Founders Found — the Thiel-found­ed ven­ture cap­i­tal firm — decid­ed to tweet out why he was so excit­ed about the Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion tech­nol­o­gy. As Delian Asparouhov described in his tweet, he wants to see the tech­nol­o­gy wide­ly used by the Unit­ed States to engage in a kind of genet­ic improve­ment Cold War with Chi­na:

    My lat­est thinking1 — Chi­na is the great­est threat to lib­er­al democracies2 — The best way to beat Chi­na is to sim­ply make Bet­ter Americans3 — IVF + Embryo genet­ic sequenc­ing has got­ten MUCH cheap­er so...4 — We are scor­ing embryos & select­ing the best to turn into our kids https://t.co/UwXrQl2nW6— delian ???????????? (@zebulgar) Sep­tem­ber 23, 2021

    It’s worth recall­ing where we saw Asparouhov pop up before recent­ly. It was Asparouhov who was lead­ing the right-wing call for Sil­i­con Val­ley con­ser­v­a­tives to relo­cate to Mia­mi. And move they did. Flash for­ward to today, and we can find tick­ets for sale, range from $150-$25k, for tick­ets to an Octo­ber 20 evening in Mia­mi with fig­ures like Asparouhov, Peter Thiel, and oth­ers in their orbit. Asparouhov is close to Thiel, and appar­ent­ly like Thiel he’s fine with open­ly espous­ing far right ideas.

    Four days after Asparouhov sent that tweet call­ing for a genet­ic Cold War with Chi­na, he issued the fol­low­ing tweet seem­ing to indi­cate he was now invest­ing in a com­pa­ny that pro­vides this kind of ser­vice:

    Just now, 4 days after this tweet, I com­mit­ted to lead­ing the seed round of a com­pa­ny that is build­ing towards this vision­Thanks Twit­ter!! https://t.co/s47jU5L2yI— delian ???????????? (@zebulgar) Sep­tem­ber 27, 2021

    Oh, and if it was­n’t obvi­ous that the peo­ple involved with these com­pa­nies hold alarm­ing world­views about the risks asso­ci­at­ed with this kind of tech­nol­o­gy, it’s also worth not­ing that Orchid has as one of its experts a bioethi­cist — Jonathan Anom­aly — who was forced to apol­o­gize in 2018 after he wrote a paper enti­tle “Defend­ing Eugen­ics.” When asked by reporters about this unfor­tu­nate episode, Anom­aly said he regret­ted the title of the 2018 paper and that he no longer uses the word eugen­ics because of the con­tro­ver­sy it tends to cause. Instead, he now refers to tech­nolo­gies such as embryo selec­tion as “genet­ic enhance­ment.” Yep. It’s not eugen­ics. It’s genet­ic enhance­ment. Noth­ing to wor­ry about.

    But beyond the dis­turb­ing per­son­al pro­files of some pf the peo­ple involved with this indus­try, there’s a more fun­da­men­tal rea­son to sus­pect this tech­nol­o­gy is going to be used in ways that might harm minor­i­ty pop­u­la­tions: the data sets that poly­genic risk scores are derived from are heav­i­ly weight­ed towards peo­ple of Euro­pean ances­try. In oth­er words, our poly­genic risk scores are cal­i­brat­ed to be more effec­tive an mean­ing­ful on white pop­u­la­tions. It’s a basic chal­lenge in the field of genom­ic med­i­cine, and there does not appear to be any­thing these com­pa­nies are doing to address those chal­lenges.

    Final­ly, as Peter Kraft — a Har­vard pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­o­gy, who helped to devel­op the so-called poly­genic risk scores that Orchid says are the back­bone of its tests — points out, just because you’re osten­si­bly low­er­ing the genet­ic risks for a dis­ease like can­cer does­n’t mean you’re not increas­ing the risks for oth­er dis­eases. Don’t for­get, biol­o­gy is a game of trade­offs. While it’s pos­si­ble we can iden­ti­fy a genet­ic pro­file that has a reduced risk for some­thing like can­cer or heart dis­eases, that does­n’t mean peo­ple with those reduced risk pro­files aren’t at enhanced risks for oth­er phe­no­types. So while it might seem like this ser­vice is offer­ing some­thing that would be ben­e­fi­cial at best but harm­less and use­less at worse, it’s entire­ly pos­si­ble the ser­vice is going to be inad­ver­tent­ly encour­ag­ing par­ents to select for embryos with uniden­ti­fied genet­ic risks. This isn’t like select­ing embryos based on the pres­ence or absences of a sin­gle high-impact muta­tion. We are talk­ing about selec­tions based on thou­sands, poten­tial­ly mil­lions, of genom­ic vari­ants with low­er impacts on the tar­get phe­no­type, and they don’t only affect the tar­get phe­no­type. Again, biol­o­gy is a game of trade­offs. And com­pa­nies like Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion and Orchid are now offer­ing ser­vices designed to pick a par­tic­u­lar col­lec­tion of com­plex traits and skew genom­ic pro­files of off­spring in the direc­tion of those traits, seem­ing­ly with­out con­sid­er­ing the impact of those trade­offs. It’s one rea­son such a big debate has sud­den­ly erupt­ed around this tech­nol­o­gy...along with the fact that this is all appar­ent­ly per­fect­ly legal and entire­ly unreg­u­lat­ed:

    Bloomberg

    Pick­ing Embryos With Best Health Odds Sparks New DNA Debate

    By Carey Gold­berg
    Sep­tem­ber 17, 2021, 8:30 AM CDT

    Rafal Smi­grodz­ki won’t make a big deal of it, but some­day, when his tod­dler daugh­ter Aurea is old enough to under­stand, he plans to explain that she like­ly made med­ical his­to­ry at the moment of her birth.

    Aurea appears to be the first child born after a new type of DNA test­ing that gave her a “poly­genic risk score.” It’s based on mul­ti­ple com­mon gene vari­a­tions that could each have tiny effects; togeth­er, they cre­ate high­er or low­er odds for many com­mon dis­eases.

    Her par­ents under­went fer­til­i­ty treat­ment in 2019 and had to choose which of four IVF embryos to implant. They turned to a young com­pa­ny called Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion and picked the embryo giv­en the best genet­ic odds of avoid­ing heart dis­ease, dia­betes and can­cer in adult­hood.

    Smi­grodz­ki, a North Car­oli­na neu­rol­o­gist with a doc­tor­ate in human genet­ics, argues that par­ents have a duty to give a child the health­i­est pos­si­ble start in life, and most do their best. “Part of that duty is to make sure to pre­vent dis­ease — that’s why we give vac­ci­na­tions,” he said. “And the poly­genic test­ing is no dif­fer­ent. It’s just anoth­er way of pre­vent­ing dis­ease.”

    The choice was sim­ple for him, but recent dra­mat­ic advances in the sci­ence of poly­genic risk scor­ing raise issues so com­plex that The New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine in July pub­lished a spe­cial report on the prob­lems with using it for embryo selec­tion.

    ‘Urgent’ Debate

    The paper points to a hand­ful of com­pa­nies in the U.S. and Europe that already are offer­ing embryo risk scores for con­di­tions includ­ing schiz­o­phre­nia, breast can­cer and dia­betes. It calls for an “urgent soci­ety-wide con­ver­sa­tion.”

    “We need to talk about what sort of reg­u­la­tion we want to have in this space,” said co-author Daniel Ben­jamin, an econ­o­mist spe­cial­iz­ing in genet­ics — or “genoe­con­o­mist” — at UCLA.

    Unlike the dis­tant prospect of CRISPR-edit­ed design­er babies,“this is hap­pen­ing, and it is now,” he said. Many claims by com­pa­nies that offer DNA-based eat­ing or fit­ness advice are “basi­cal­ly bunk,” he added, “but this is real. The ben­e­fits are real, and the risks are real.”

    Among the prob­lems the jour­nal arti­cle high­lights: Most genet­ic data is heav­i­ly Euro­cen­tric at this point, so par­ents with oth­er ances­try can’t ben­e­fit near­ly as much. The sci­ence is so new that huge unknowns remain. And selec­tion could exac­er­bate health dis­par­i­ties among races and class­es.

    The arti­cle also rais­es con­cerns that com­pa­nies mar­ket­ing embryo selec­tion over-promise, using entice­ments of “healthy babies” when the scores are only prob­a­bil­i­ties, not guar­an­tees — and when most dif­fer­ences among embryos are like­ly to be very small.

    The issues are so com­pli­cat­ed and new that the New Eng­land Jour­nal article’s 13 authors held dif­fer­ing views on how poly­genic embryo scor­ing should be reg­u­lat­ed, said co-first author Patrick Tur­ley, a Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia econ­o­mist. But all agreed that “poten­tial con­sumers need to under­stand what they’re sign­ing up for,” he said.

    Tur­ley expects demand for poly­genic embryo scor­ing to rise as con­tin­ued advances in DNA analy­sis bring the price down and improve the pre­dic­tions. “There’s obvi­ous­ly some demand for it already because we’re see­ing mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies spring­ing up to offer it,” he said.

    Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion, which lists almost two dozen clin­ics that offer its poly­genic test­ing, charges $400 per embryo test­ed after a $1,000 set­up fee. Com­peti­tors include Orchid, a start­up launched with back­ing from Sil­i­con Val­ley stars includ­ing Anne Woj­ci­c­ki, the founder of 23andMe, and has prompt­ed buzz along with accu­sa­tions in Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can of “over-hyped sci­ence.”

    ‘Lib­er­al Eugen­ics’

    Not every­one is con­vinced. Denis Vaugh­an, a repro­duc­tive endocri­nol­o­gist and direc­tor of clin­i­cal research at Boston IVF, says the large fer­til­i­ty clin­ic net­work has been dis­cussing poly­genic embryo scor­ing, but “we don’t think it’s ready for prime time.” It should still be used main­ly in a research set­ting, he said, and “it’s being com­mer­cial­ized a lit­tle pre­ma­ture­ly.”

    If research gives it a sol­id ground­ing, Vaugh­an said, poly­genic embryo screen­ing could be espe­cial­ly use­ful for old­er fathers, because their chil­dren face high­er risks of men­tal ill­ness.

    Though the New Eng­land Jour­nal authors focused on the prob­lems inher­ent in poly­genic scor­ing for embryos, pub­li­ca­tion in such a pres­ti­gious jour­nal also added to its legit­i­ma­cy in the pub­lic eye. “Ulti­mate­ly,” Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion co-founder Nathan Tre­ff said in an inter­view, “despite the title of the paper, they val­i­dat­ed the con­cept of rel­a­tive dis­ease reduc­tion through poly­genic risk scor­ing.”

    Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion ini­tial­ly offered to tell par­ents if scores indi­cat­ed an embryo would be espe­cial­ly short or intel­lec­tu­al­ly dis­abled, but it stopped amid media chat­ter about eugen­ics.

    As a com­pa­ny, “We have to eval­u­ate what’s in our best inter­est,” Tre­ff said, “and right now, it’s focus­ing on dis­ease risks.”

    More and more stud­ies link genes with edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment, sug­gest­ing that scor­ing relat­ed to it is fea­si­ble, even if no com­pa­nies are offer­ing it. Such stud­ies are rapid­ly grow­ing in size and improv­ing their pre­dic­tive pow­er, said Ben­jamin of UCLA, who works on them.

    Smart Kids

    Select­ing babies based on intel­li­gence is a top­ic so fraught with echoes of evil eugen­ics that “it’s a mine­field,” said Smi­grodz­ki, the neu­rol­o­gist and father. “Peo­ple will try to send their chil­dren to the best pos­si­ble school and play Mozart for them to make them suc­cess­ful and smart. But when you start talk­ing about enhanc­ing intel­li­gence, sud­den­ly knives come out.”

    He con­tends it’s not self­ish to want a child to be smart. Ref­er­enc­ing the fic­tion­al town cre­at­ed by author and radio host Gar­ri­son Keil­lor, Smi­grodz­ki said that in an ide­al Lake Wobe­gon world, “it’s right and prop­er that every child should be smart, every child above aver­age.”

    It’s legal in the U.S. for a com­pa­ny to offer poly­genic risk scores on intel­li­gence, height, weight or oth­er dimen­sions, accord­ing to Michelle Mey­er, a legal schol­ar and bioethi­cist at Geisinger Health Sys­tem in Penn­syl­va­nia. The risk scores are arguably a new type of the large­ly unreg­u­lat­ed embryo test­ing for sin­gle-gene dis­eases that clin­ics have offered for many years, said Mey­er, also co-first-author of the New Eng­land Jour­nal paper.

    Still, the prospect of intel­li­gence-based selec­tion rais­es con­cerns — not of Nazi-style eugen­ics but of some­thing much more sub­tle. “This is lib­er­al eugen­ics. This is parental choice,” said Steven Hyman, direc­tor of the Stan­ley Cen­ter for Psy­chi­atric Research at the Broad Insti­tute of MIT and Har­vard.

    “It’s impor­tant to put an eth­i­cal stake in the ground,” he said, “because over many, many years, these tech­nolo­gies might become much more acces­si­ble, scal­able, cheap­er.”

    As such, they could be used far beyond cou­ples who need IVF. Hyman, a co-author of the jour­nal arti­cle, is call­ing for mul­ti­ple forums to dis­cuss poly­genic screen­ing for embryos — though there’s no obvi­ous gov­ern­men­tal body to host them because the FDA doesn’t reg­u­late pre-implan­ta­tion embryo test­ing.

    ...

    ————-

    “Pick­ing Embryos With Best Health Odds Sparks New DNA Debate” by Carey Gold­berg; Bloomberg; 09/17/2021

    Aurea appears to be the first child born after a new type of DNA test­ing that gave her a “poly­genic risk score.” It’s based on mul­ti­ple com­mon gene vari­a­tions that could each have tiny effects; togeth­er, they cre­ate high­er or low­er odds for many com­mon dis­eases.”

    The first poly­genic risk score baby has been born. She was select­ed for low risk to heart dis­ease, dia­betes, and can­cer. We’ll see how it goes for her on those fronts. But in the views of her father, select­ing for these kinds of traits is a per­fect­ly fine method of low­er dis­ease risk for his chil­dren:

    ...
    Her par­ents under­went fer­til­i­ty treat­ment in 2019 and had to choose which of four IVF embryos to implant. They turned to a young com­pa­ny called Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion and picked the embryo giv­en the best genet­ic odds of avoid­ing heart dis­ease, dia­betes and can­cer in adult­hood.

    Smi­grodz­ki, a North Car­oli­na neu­rol­o­gist with a doc­tor­ate in human genet­ics, argues that par­ents have a duty to give a child the health­i­est pos­si­ble start in life, and most do their best. “Part of that duty is to make sure to pre­vent dis­ease — that’s why we give vac­ci­na­tions,” he said. “And the poly­genic test­ing is no dif­fer­ent. It’s just anoth­er way of pre­vent­ing dis­ease.”
    ...

    Would Aurea’s par­ents have select­ed for high­er intel­li­gence giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty? We don’t know, in part because Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion is no longer offer­ing those ser­vices. But the offer­ing of such intel­li­gence-enhanc­ing ser­vices was clear­ly part of the plan:

    ...
    Though the New Eng­land Jour­nal authors focused on the prob­lems inher­ent in poly­genic scor­ing for embryos, pub­li­ca­tion in such a pres­ti­gious jour­nal also added to its legit­i­ma­cy in the pub­lic eye. “Ulti­mate­ly,” Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion co-founder Nathan Tre­ff said in an inter­view, “despite the title of the paper, they val­i­dat­ed the con­cept of rel­a­tive dis­ease reduc­tion through poly­genic risk scor­ing.”

    Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion ini­tial­ly offered to tell par­ents if scores indi­cat­ed an embryo would be espe­cial­ly short or intel­lec­tu­al­ly dis­abled, but it stopped amid media chat­ter about eugen­ics.

    As a com­pa­ny, “We have to eval­u­ate what’s in our best inter­est,” Tre­ff said, “and right now, it’s focus­ing on dis­ease risks.”

    More and more stud­ies link genes with edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment, sug­gest­ing that scor­ing relat­ed to it is fea­si­ble, even if no com­pa­nies are offer­ing it. Such stud­ies are rapid­ly grow­ing in size and improv­ing their pre­dic­tive pow­er, said Ben­jamin of UCLA, who works on them.
    ...

    And as not­ed, if Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion did decide to offer intel­li­gence-enhanc­ing ser­vices, it’s not actu­al­ly clear this would vio­late any laws or reg­u­la­tions in the US. Beyond that, it’s not even clear if the ser­vice would be lim­it­ed to par­ents who need IVF to con­ceive or just any par­ents who want to con­trol the genet­ics of their off­spring?

    ...
    It’s legal in the U.S. for a com­pa­ny to offer poly­genic risk scores on intel­li­gence, height, weight or oth­er dimen­sions, accord­ing to Michelle Mey­er, a legal schol­ar and bioethi­cist at Geisinger Health Sys­tem in Penn­syl­va­nia. The risk scores are arguably a new type of the large­ly unreg­u­lat­ed embryo test­ing for sin­gle-gene dis­eases that clin­ics have offered for many years, said Mey­er, also co-first-author of the New Eng­land Jour­nal paper.

    Still, the prospect of intel­li­gence-based selec­tion rais­es con­cerns — not of Nazi-style eugen­ics but of some­thing much more sub­tle. “This is lib­er­al eugen­ics. This is parental choice,” said Steven Hyman, direc­tor of the Stan­ley Cen­ter for Psy­chi­atric Research at the Broad Insti­tute of MIT and Har­vard.

    “It’s impor­tant to put an eth­i­cal stake in the ground,” he said, “because over many, many years, these tech­nolo­gies might become much more acces­si­ble, scal­able, cheap­er.”

    As such, they could be used far beyond cou­ples who need IVF. Hyman, a co-author of the jour­nal arti­cle, is call­ing for mul­ti­ple forums to dis­cuss poly­genic screen­ing for embryos — though there’s no obvi­ous gov­ern­men­tal body to host them because the FDA doesn’t reg­u­late pre-implan­ta­tion embryo test­ing.
    ...

    Final­ly, it’s sad to say that we kind of have to hope for Aurea’s sake that she’s white. Because odds are the poly­genic risk scores used to select the embryo were derived from genet­ic stud­ies on white pop­u­la­tions, mak­ing those poly­genic risk scores far more sta­t­i­cal­ly mean­ing­ful from an epi­demi­o­log­i­cal per­spec­tive for white pop­u­la­tions:

    ...
    Among the prob­lems the jour­nal arti­cle high­lights: Most genet­ic data is heav­i­ly Euro­cen­tric at this point, so par­ents with oth­er ances­try can’t ben­e­fit near­ly as much. The sci­ence is so new that huge unknowns remain. And selec­tion could exac­er­bate health dis­par­i­ties among races and class­es.

    The arti­cle also rais­es con­cerns that com­pa­nies mar­ket­ing embryo selec­tion over-promise, using entice­ments of “healthy babies” when the scores are only prob­a­bil­i­ties, not guar­an­tees — and when most dif­fer­ences among embryos are like­ly to be very small.

    The issues are so com­pli­cat­ed and new that the New Eng­land Jour­nal article’s 13 authors held dif­fer­ing views on how poly­genic embryo scor­ing should be reg­u­lat­ed, said co-first author Patrick Tur­ley, a Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia econ­o­mist. But all agreed that “poten­tial con­sumers need to under­stand what they’re sign­ing up for,” he said.

    Tur­ley expects demand for poly­genic embryo scor­ing to rise as con­tin­ued advances in DNA analy­sis bring the price down and improve the pre­dic­tions. “There’s obvi­ous­ly some demand for it already because we’re see­ing mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies spring­ing up to offer it,” he said.
    ...

    And now here’s an LA Times arti­cle from back in May about Orchid, the new start­up by for­mer “Thiel fel­low” Noor Sid­diqui. As the arti­cle notes, the bioethi­cist fea­tured on Orchid’s web­site is Jonathan Anom­aly, the guy who wrote the “Defend­ing Eugen­ics” 2018 paper. And as the arti­cle also notes, this is all legal. If Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion and Orchid decide to just start sell­ing intel­li­gence enhance­ment genet­ic screen­ing ser­vices in the US, the only thing stop­ping them is pub­lic out­cry:

    The Los Ange­les Times

    A start­up says it helps par­ents pick health­i­er embryos. Experts say it’s not that sim­ple

    By Melody Petersen Staff Writer
    May 26, 2021 5 AM PT

    The deci­sion of whether to have a child can be hard even under the best of cir­cum­stances. For those with a fam­i­ly his­to­ry of debil­i­tat­ing dis­ease, it’s often gut-wrench­ing. If only there were some way to answer the all-impor­tant ques­tion: Will my child be healthy?

    To those poten­tial par­ents, a San Fran­cis­co start­up is offer­ing a solu­tion: a genet­ic test of their embryos so they can select the one with the low­est risk of dis­ease.

    “We help cou­ples have healthy babies,” Orchid Inc. says of its tests for schiz­o­phre­nia, Alzheimer’s, can­cer and sev­en oth­er dis­eases. As much as health infor­ma­tion, the 2‑year-old com­pa­ny sells peace of mind. “I was appre­hen­sive about hav­ing kids due to my fam­i­ly his­to­ry, but after going through our report I feel in con­trol,” reads one tes­ti­mo­ni­al on Orchid’s web­site.

    Sci­en­tists say it isn’t that sim­ple.

    Peter Kraft, a Har­vard pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­o­gy, helped to devel­op the so-called poly­genic risk scores that Orchid says are the back­bone of its tests. He said the way Orchid uses them con­cerns him, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty that, for instance, par­ents could select an embryo said to be at a reduced risk of one dis­ease with­out under­stand­ing it was at a high­er risk for some­thing else.

    “Part of my wor­ry is how upfront the com­pa­ny is when they’re coun­sel­ing par­ents of the like­ly ben­e­fit of these pro­ce­dures,” Kraft said. “There are some trade-offs that we just don’t under­stand.”

    Experts have also raised eth­i­cal ques­tions about the tests that Orchid and anoth­er com­pa­ny called Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion are offer­ing to assess and select embryos.

    Gabriel Lázaro-Muñoz, assis­tant pro­fes­sor at Bay­lor University’s Cen­ter for Med­ical Ethics and Health Pol­i­cy, said he was espe­cial­ly con­cerned about the com­pa­nies’ claims to reduce the risk of schiz­o­phre­nia giv­en the nation’s his­to­ry of dis­crim­i­na­tion against those with psy­chi­atric dis­or­ders.

    “Even though these com­pa­nies are try­ing to mar­ket this tech­nol­o­gy with­in a med­ical con­text,” he said, “we have to be real­ly care­ful about poten­tial mis­us­es.”

    Orchid’s 26-year-old founder, Noor Sid­diqui, says she believes many of the con­cerns about her company’s tech­nol­o­gy are a lega­cy of a health­care sys­tem in which infor­ma­tion is the province of doc­tors, not patients.

    “A lot of these folks who are say­ing that par­ents shouldn’t get access to this infor­ma­tion I think are frankly being a lit­tle bit pater­nal­is­tic,” Sid­diqui said last month in an inter­view on the biotech pod­cast Mendel­s­pod. “It’s not right for health­care work­ers to be gate­keep­ers, say­ing that par­ents don’t have the right to pro­tect their child.”

    Orchid is just the lat­est Sil­i­con Val­ley start­up to pro­mote lab tests direct­ly to con­sumers, urg­ing them to per­son­al­ly take charge of their health in ways that fall out­side the health­care sys­tem. Aid­ing them is lax reg­u­la­tion of lab tests in the U.S., and in Orchid’s case, a sim­i­lar lack of reg­u­la­tion of fer­til­i­ty treat­ments.

    Accord­ing to her bio, Sid­diqui was a Thiel Fel­low, under a pro­gram cre­at­ed by bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel that gives $100,000 to young peo­ple who opt to explore inven­tions and entre­pre­neur­ship rather than sit­ting in a class­room. She found­ed a start­up called Rem­e­dy, which aimed to use Google’s aug­ment­ed real­i­ty glass­es to help health­care providers care for patients. It didn’t suc­ceed.

    She soon decid­ed to return to school, grad­u­at­ing from Stan­ford with a master’s degree in com­put­er sci­ence. She taught a three-month course at Stan­ford in 2019 called “The Fron­tiers of Repro­duc­tive Tech­nol­o­gy.”

    Sid­diqui didn’t respond to numer­ous requests to answer ques­tions but has spo­ken recent­ly in forums that are friend­ly to tech entre­pre­neurs.

    Sid­diqui said the Orchid process begins with a sim­ple at-home sali­va test of both par­ents. If those genet­ic tests show the par­ents to be poten­tial car­ri­ers of any of 10 dis­eases, they can then opt for in vit­ro fer­til­iza­tion at a fer­til­i­ty clin­ic offer­ing Orchid’s embryo tests.

    In what Sid­diqui calls “embryo pri­or­i­ti­za­tion,” the clinic’s doc­tors would then use Orchid’s tests to rank the couple’s embryos for their risk of dis­ease.

    The embryo tests will be avail­able lat­er this year. Would-be cus­tomers can add their names to a wait list.

    “I’m excit­ed to give cou­ples the abil­i­ty to make their own luck — to bend the tra­jec­to­ry of their child’s future toward health — no mat­ter what cards they were dealt,” Sid­diqui tweet­ed last month in announc­ing the avail­abil­i­ty of the tests.

    Sid­diqui said Orchid had raised $4.6 mil­lion in seed fund­ing from investors who include Anne Woj­ci­c­ki, the founder of 23andMe, the direct-to-con­sumer genet­ic test­ing com­pa­ny, as well as Bri­an Arm­strong and Fred Ehrsam, the founders of Coin­base, the app that lets peo­ple buy and sell cryp­tocur­ren­cies.

    Dystopi­an dis­trac­tion

    Before Orchid, there was Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion, a New Jer­sey com­pa­ny found­ed in 2017 by Stephen Hsu, a grad­u­ate of Cal­tech and UC Berke­ley, and two oth­er sci­en­tists.

    “Already in ear­ly 2020 the first baby (a love­ly girl) was born from an embryo screened in this way,” Hsu, now a pro­fes­sor at Michi­gan State, told The Times in an email. He said the company’s tests are now avail­able in 200 IVF clin­ics around the world.

    Like Orchid, Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion offers to test embryos for the risk of major mal­adies includ­ing dia­betes and heart dis­ease. The company’s orig­i­nal test also screened for intel­lec­tu­al dis­abil­i­ty — which quick­ly made head­lines.

    “A new genet­ic test straight out of a dystopi­an sci-fi film aims to let hope­ful par­ents pick smarter, taller, and health­i­er babies,” declared a Novem­ber 2019 sto­ry in the New York Post.

    “The world’s first Gat­ta­ca baby tests are final­ly here,” said a head­line in the MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review that same month, ref­er­enc­ing the 1997 movie in which par­ents select their embryos based on desired traits, includ­ing intel­li­gence.

    Lau­rent Tel­li­er, the chief exec­u­tive and co-founder of Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion, told The Times the company’s test of embryos for cog­ni­tive dis­abil­i­ty became so con­tro­ver­sial that it is no longer offered.

    “We decid­ed that media focus on this spe­cif­ic trait dis­tract­ed from the oth­er health ben­e­fits of poly­genic test­ing,” Tel­li­er said.

    The tests from Orchid and Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion go far beyond those that fer­til­i­ty clin­ics have been offer­ing for years to look for con­di­tions caused by sin­gle genes, such as cys­tic fibro­sis or Huntington’s dis­ease.

    The new tests are for more com­mon and com­plex dis­eases that sci­en­tists have linked to vari­a­tions in hun­dreds or thou­sands of genes. In recent years, sci­en­tists have been able to iden­ti­fy the genet­ic vari­ants asso­ci­at­ed with these dis­eases by com­par­ing the genomes of indi­vid­u­als who suf­fer from the mal­adies with those who don’t. That work has gen­er­at­ed the poly­genic risk scores.

    Sci­en­tists and doc­tors are just begin­ning to try to use these risk scores to assess adults’ risk of inher­it­ed dis­eases. They say they still have much to learn about how a person’s genes influ­ence their risk of dis­ease. Fac­tors such as diet, sleep, stress and smok­ing can also affect that risk.

    But that hasn’t stopped Orchid and Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion, which also calls itself Life­View, from mov­ing ahead with apply­ing poly­genic risk scores to embryos.

    Kraft, the Har­vard geneti­cist, point­ed out that many of the genet­ic vari­ants are tied to mul­ti­ple dis­eases or human traits. That means if a cou­ple selects an embryo with a cer­tain vari­ant to reduce the risk of one dis­ease, they could be increas­ing the risk of anoth­er con­di­tion in ways that sci­en­tists don’t yet under­stand, he said.

    “If you pick an embryo that’s at low risk for breast can­cer, you may actu­al­ly be increas­ing your risk for oth­er traits,” he said. “We just don’t know.”

    At the same time, he said, the risk of some of these dis­eases is low even for those with the high­est risk scores. For exam­ple, the risk of schiz­o­phre­nia is just 1% on aver­age — which might be reduced to 0.6% with embryo selec­tion, Kraft said.

    Anoth­er prob­lem: The tests are based on data­bas­es of genet­ic infor­ma­tion that comes most­ly from white peo­ple of Euro­pean ances­try. Sci­en­tists say they are less accu­rate for Black, Lati­no and oth­er non­white peo­ple.

    Testing’s allure

    ...

    Investors see fer­til­i­ty treat­ments as espe­cial­ly lucra­tive as more Amer­i­cans try to start fam­i­lies lat­er in life. The U.S. mar­ket for fer­til­i­ty treat­ments is now more than $7 bil­lion, accord­ing to a pre­sen­ta­tion by Prog­e­ny, a com­pa­ny offer­ing insur­ance for such treat­ments. The num­ber of arti­fi­cial fer­til­i­ty cycles assist­ed by the labs is grow­ing by about 10% a year.

    Asked about the accu­ra­cy of his company’s tests, Tel­li­er at Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion point­ed to five stud­ies that he and oth­er sci­en­tists have pub­lished.

    In a study in Nature Sci­en­tif­ic Reports, Hsu and two oth­er researchers wrote that Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion was able to iden­ti­fy which of a pair of sib­lings would devel­op breast can­cer, dia­betes or oth­er con­di­tions between 70% and 90% of the time.

    Tel­li­er point­ed out that Orchid has not yet pub­lished any stud­ies.

    On its web­site, Orchid calls its test “the most advanced genet­ic risk assess­ment avail­able.” Yet it also has a dis­claimer in its terms of ser­vice requir­ing users to “waive any and all claims against Orchid for any amend­ment or mod­i­fi­ca­tion” to its test report.

    “Your results are based on cur­rent­ly avail­able infor­ma­tion in the med­ical lit­er­a­ture and sci­en­tif­ic data­bas­es … that may be sub­ject to change,” the dis­claimer reads. “This may result in a change in your risk assess­ment.”

    To use the com­pa­nies’ embryo tests, cou­ples must choose to under­go IVF, an expen­sive and painful process aimed at help­ing those who have trou­ble con­ceiv­ing. In the Mendel­s­pod inter­view, Sid­diqui sug­gest­ed that even fer­tile cou­ples might want to con­sid­er using IVF in order to “mit­i­gate dis­ease risk with our embryo report.”

    An IVF pro­ce­dure that might result in the cre­ation of five embryos involves weeks of hor­mone shots and then med­ical pro­ce­dures to col­lect eggs and lat­er to implant the embryos. That cycle can cost $15,000 before adding the costs of the genet­ic tests.

    Orchid has not revealed its pric­ing.

    Kraft ques­tioned whether the high cost and pos­si­ble com­pli­ca­tions of the IVF pro­ce­dures were worth the rel­a­tive­ly small reduc­tions in dis­ease risk that patients could expect with embryo selec­tion. “There are bet­ter ways to ensure chil­dren grow up healthy,” he said.

    To reas­sure poten­tial cus­tomers who might have con­cerns about the ethics of genet­ic screen­ing, Orchid fea­tures on its web­site an inter­view with bioethi­cist Jonathan Anom­aly, asso­ciate direc­tor of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Pennsylvania’s phi­los­o­phy, pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics pro­gram. Anom­aly pub­lished a book last year, “Cre­at­ing Future Peo­ple: The Ethics of Genet­ic Enhance­ment.” He also wrote a 2018 paper enti­tled “Defend­ing Eugen­ics.”

    “It’s almost cer­tain­ly wrong if you under­stand Dar­win­ian evo­lu­tion to think where we are now is per­fect, you know?” he said in the inter­view on Orchid’s web­site. “If we can sub­stan­tial­ly reduce health risks for the next gen­er­a­tion through repro­duc­tive tech­nolo­gies, is that tru­ly a rad­i­cal, immoral thing to do?”

    Anom­aly told The Times that he regret­ted the title of the 2018 paper and that he no longer uses the word eugen­ics because of the con­tro­ver­sy it tends to cause. Instead, he now refers to tech­nolo­gies such as embryo selec­tion as “genet­ic enhance­ment.”

    Anom­aly, who grew up in the South Bay and stud­ied at UC Berke­ley, said he sup­ports the embryo tests when they can pre­vent debil­i­tat­ing dis­eases, but is less cer­tain about using them to try to reduce the risk of schiz­o­phre­nia, autism or some oth­er men­tal dis­or­ders.

    “I think we need more infor­ma­tion,” Anom­aly said.

    Lázaro-Muñoz, the Bay­lor pro­fes­sor, said he wor­ries that a com­pa­ny could soon go even fur­ther and begin mar­ket­ing tests to par­ents allow­ing them to select embryos that appear to have the high­est cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty.

    “In the U.S. there’s real­ly noth­ing from a reg­u­la­to­ry stand­point to stop a com­pa­ny from devel­op­ing a test like that,” he said.

    Sid­diqui also sees the tech­nol­o­gy expand­ing.

    “I think right­ful­ly more con­tro­ver­sial are things around enhance­ment or selec­tion of things like eye col­or,” she said on Mendel­s­pod. “I think that peo­ple are much, much less empa­thet­ic for that.”

    “For­tu­nate­ly we’re liv­ing in a free mar­ket,” she added. “So, you know, no one’s forc­ing you to buy our prod­uct, but we think that they’ll pro­vide a lot of peo­ple ben­e­fits. That’s what we’re here to do.”

    ————-

    “A start­up says it helps par­ents pick health­i­er embryos. Experts say it’s not that sim­ple” by Melody Petersen; The Los Ange­les Times; 05/26/2021

    Kraft ques­tioned whether the high cost and pos­si­ble com­pli­ca­tions of the IVF pro­ce­dures were worth the rel­a­tive­ly small reduc­tions in dis­ease risk that patients could expect with embryo selec­tion. “There are bet­ter ways to ensure chil­dren grow up healthy,” he said.”

    Is it worth it? It’s one of the core ques­tions about this tech­nol­o­gy. And as Har­vard Pro­fes­sor Peter Kraft describes it, the process of embryo selec­tion like­ly won’t even have a huge impact on the prob­a­bil­i­ty of devel­op­ing dif­fer­ent dis­eases. But beyond that, we have no idea what oth­er risks are being shift at the same time. In oth­er words, when you select a genom­ic pro­file for low­er heart dis­ease, you are implic­it­ly select­ing a pro­file for oth­er traits too whether you real­ize it or not. Are these kinds of delib­er­ate shifts in the prob­a­bil­i­ties of rel­a­tive­ly com­mon dis­eases worth open­ing this Pan­do­ra’s Box? It’s the giant imbal­ance between the costs and ben­e­fits that should be rais­es major red flags about the ulti­mate impact of tech­nol­o­gy:

    ...
    Peter Kraft, a Har­vard pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­o­gy, helped to devel­op the so-called poly­genic risk scores that Orchid says are the back­bone of its tests. He said the way Orchid uses them con­cerns him, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty that, for instance, par­ents could select an embryo said to be at a reduced risk of one dis­ease with­out under­stand­ing it was at a high­er risk for some­thing else.

    “Part of my wor­ry is how upfront the com­pa­ny is when they’re coun­sel­ing par­ents of the like­ly ben­e­fit of these pro­ce­dures,” Kraft said. “There are some trade-offs that we just don’t under­stand.”

    ...

    The tests from Orchid and Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion go far beyond those that fer­til­i­ty clin­ics have been offer­ing for years to look for con­di­tions caused by sin­gle genes, such as cys­tic fibro­sis or Huntington’s dis­ease.

    The new tests are for more com­mon and com­plex dis­eases that sci­en­tists have linked to vari­a­tions in hun­dreds or thou­sands of genes. In recent years, sci­en­tists have been able to iden­ti­fy the genet­ic vari­ants asso­ci­at­ed with these dis­eases by com­par­ing the genomes of indi­vid­u­als who suf­fer from the mal­adies with those who don’t. That work has gen­er­at­ed the poly­genic risk scores.

    Sci­en­tists and doc­tors are just begin­ning to try to use these risk scores to assess adults’ risk of inher­it­ed dis­eases. They say they still have much to learn about how a person’s genes influ­ence their risk of dis­ease. Fac­tors such as diet, sleep, stress and smok­ing can also affect that risk.

    But that hasn’t stopped Orchid and Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion, which also calls itself Life­View, from mov­ing ahead with apply­ing poly­genic risk scores to embryos.

    Kraft, the Har­vard geneti­cist, point­ed out that many of the genet­ic vari­ants are tied to mul­ti­ple dis­eases or human traits. That means if a cou­ple selects an embryo with a cer­tain vari­ant to reduce the risk of one dis­ease, they could be increas­ing the risk of anoth­er con­di­tion in ways that sci­en­tists don’t yet under­stand, he said.

    “If you pick an embryo that’s at low risk for breast can­cer, you may actu­al­ly be increas­ing your risk for oth­er traits,” he said. “We just don’t know.”

    At the same time, he said, the risk of some of these dis­eases is low even for those with the high­est risk scores. For exam­ple, the risk of schiz­o­phre­nia is just 1% on aver­age — which might be reduced to 0.6% with embryo selec­tion, Kraft said.

    Anoth­er prob­lem: The tests are based on data­bas­es of genet­ic infor­ma­tion that comes most­ly from white peo­ple of Euro­pean ances­try. Sci­en­tists say they are less accu­rate for Black, Lati­no and oth­er non­white peo­ple.
    ...

    Adding to the alarm is the fact that there appears to be no exist­ing laws in the US that would pre­vent the selec­tion of embryos based on traits like intel­li­gence. So when we hear com­ments by Sid­diqui about how con­cerns are a lega­cy of the health­care sys­tem and that it’s great we live in a free-mar­ket where no one is forced to user her ser­vices, she’s basi­cal­ly warn­ing us that the com­pa­ny is plan­ning on offer­ing exact­ly the kind of ‘soft eugen­ics’ ser­vices observers fear

    ...
    Orchid’s 26-year-old founder, Noor Sid­diqui, says she believes many of the con­cerns about her company’s tech­nol­o­gy are a lega­cy of a health­care sys­tem in which infor­ma­tion is the province of doc­tors, not patients.

    “A lot of these folks who are say­ing that par­ents shouldn’t get access to this infor­ma­tion I think are frankly being a lit­tle bit pater­nal­is­tic,” Sid­diqui said last month in an inter­view on the biotech pod­cast Mendel­s­pod. “It’s not right for health­care work­ers to be gate­keep­ers, say­ing that par­ents don’t have the right to pro­tect their child.”

    ...

    Lázaro-Muñoz, the Bay­lor pro­fes­sor, said he wor­ries that a com­pa­ny could soon go even fur­ther and begin mar­ket­ing tests to par­ents allow­ing them to select embryos that appear to have the high­est cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty.

    “In the U.S. there’s real­ly noth­ing from a reg­u­la­to­ry stand­point to stop a com­pa­ny from devel­op­ing a test like that,” he said.

    Sid­diqui also sees the tech­nol­o­gy expand­ing.

    “I think right­ful­ly more con­tro­ver­sial are things around enhance­ment or selec­tion of things like eye col­or,” she said on Mendel­s­pod. “I think that peo­ple are much, much less empa­thet­ic for that.”

    “For­tu­nate­ly we’re liv­ing in a free mar­ket,” she added. “So, you know, no one’s forc­ing you to buy our prod­uct, but we think that they’ll pro­vide a lot of peo­ple ben­e­fits. That’s what we’re here to do.”
    ...

    But it’s not just Sid­diqui’s own words that should be cause for alarm here. The fact that a 23andMe co-founder is an investor points towards all sorts of dis­turb­ing pos­si­ble part­ner­ships with the larg­er con­sumer genom­ic test­ing indus­try as this tech­nol­o­gy matures:

    ...
    Sid­diqui said Orchid had raised $4.6 mil­lion in seed fund­ing from investors who include Anne Woj­ci­c­ki, the founder of 23andMe, the direct-to-con­sumer genet­ic test­ing com­pa­ny, as well as Bri­an Arm­strong and Fred Ehrsam, the founders of Coin­base, the app that lets peo­ple buy and sell cryp­tocur­ren­cies.
    ...

    The fact that Sid­diqui is a for­er Thiel Fel­low should only add to the alarm. That and the fact that she talks like a lib­er­tar­i­an. Sid­diqui has all the hall­marks of a being the kind of per­son who shares Thiel’s lib­er­tar­i­an world­view:

    ...
    Accord­ing to her bio, Sid­diqui was a Thiel Fel­low, under a pro­gram cre­at­ed by bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel that gives $100,000 to young peo­ple who opt to explore inven­tions and entre­pre­neur­ship rather than sit­ting in a class­room. She found­ed a start­up called Rem­e­dy, which aimed to use Google’s aug­ment­ed real­i­ty glass­es to help health­care providers care for patients. It didn’t suc­ceed.

    She soon decid­ed to return to school, grad­u­at­ing from Stan­ford with a master’s degree in com­put­er sci­ence. She taught a three-month course at Stan­ford in 2019 called “The Fron­tiers of Repro­duc­tive Tech­nol­o­gy.”
    ...

    The choice of fea­tur­ing bioethi­cist Jonathan Anom­aly on Orchid’s web­site should only add to those con­cerns. The guy lit­er­al­ly adopt­ed the ter­mi­nol­o­gy of “genet­ic enhance­ment” because it’s less alarm­ing than his open defense of eugen­ics:

    ...
    To reas­sure poten­tial cus­tomers who might have con­cerns about the ethics of genet­ic screen­ing, Orchid fea­tures on its web­site an inter­view with bioethi­cist Jonathan Anom­aly, asso­ciate direc­tor of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Pennsylvania’s phi­los­o­phy, pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics pro­gram. Anom­aly pub­lished a book last year, “Cre­at­ing Future Peo­ple: The Ethics of Genet­ic Enhance­ment.” He also wrote a 2018 paper enti­tled “Defend­ing Eugen­ics.”

    “It’s almost cer­tain­ly wrong if you under­stand Dar­win­ian evo­lu­tion to think where we are now is per­fect, you know?” he said in the inter­view on Orchid’s web­site. “If we can sub­stan­tial­ly reduce health risks for the next gen­er­a­tion through repro­duc­tive tech­nolo­gies, is that tru­ly a rad­i­cal, immoral thing to do?”

    Anom­aly told The Times that he regret­ted the title of the 2018 paper and that he no longer uses the word eugen­ics because of the con­tro­ver­sy it tends to cause. Instead, he now refers to tech­nolo­gies such as embryo selec­tion as “genet­ic enhance­ment.”
    ...

    Final­ly, and per­haps most alarm­ing­ly, is the sug­ges­tion by Sid­diqui that par­ents with­out fer­til­i­ty issues should con­sid­er using Orchid’s ser­vices in order to “mit­i­gate dis­ease risk with our embryo report.” In oth­er words, She wants to sell it to par­ents for the sole pur­pose of “genet­ic enhance­ment”. No oth­er rea­son. It’s the key devel­op­ment that could turn this into the kind of dystopi­an tech­nol­o­gy of night­mares:

    ...
    To use the com­pa­nies’ embryo tests, cou­ples must choose to under­go IVF, an expen­sive and painful process aimed at help­ing those who have trou­ble con­ceiv­ing. In the Mendel­s­pod inter­view, Sid­diqui sug­gest­ed that even fer­tile cou­ples might want to con­sid­er using IVF in order to “mit­i­gate dis­ease risk with our embryo report.”
    ...

    And, again, there are no exist­ing US laws pre­vent­ing that from hap­pen­ing. The only thing pre­vent­ing these ser­vices from already being offered was a lack of com­pa­nies offer­ing them. The future is now. And as expect­ed, Peter Thiel and his net­work of ‘Alt Right’ tech investors are the ones defin­ing that future.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 29, 2021, 5:53 pm
  5. Of all the media out­lets car­ry­ing water for Ukrain­ian fas­cism, per­haps the two most per­ni­cious that I have seen have been sfgate.com and Yahoo! news. Sfgate.com is a Hearst site, so noth­ing more need be said. How­ev­er, Yahoo! is more inter­est­ing. I real­ly had no idea who owned them these days. Turns out they are owned by mas­sive invest­ment group Apol­lo.

    1. Apol­lo was found­ed by Drex­el Burn­ham Lam­bert alums. Drex­el was Milken’s firm! Milken was reha­bil­i­tat­ed over the years and is inex­tri­ca­ble from “soft pow­er” groups push­ing var­i­ous “regime changes’ and “col­or rev­o­lu­tions”. Gene Sharp stuff. Many Drex­el alums are involved in that world.

    2. Apol­lo’s main man until recent­ly was Leon Black, who went down for a sex­u­al abuse scan­dal AND was tight with Epstein.

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/12/business/leon-black-jeffrey-epstein-apollo/index.html

    Posted by cinque anon | April 5, 2022, 9:45 am
  6. Fol­low­ing up on the recent arti­cle by John Ganz review­ing Peter Thiel’s open fas­cism and his fam­i­ly ties to South Africa’s clan­des­tine nuclear weapons pro­gram, here’s anoth­er recent piece about Thiel, albeit from a very dif­fer­ent ide­o­log­i­cal per­spec­tive: Thiel was just inter­viewed for Unheard.com, a UK-based con­ser­v­a­tive out­let that appears to large­ly cater to the ‘intel­lec­tu­al dark web’ com­mu­ni­ty. The inter­view­er, Mary Har­ring­ton, basi­cal­ly pines for a return to an era when lords and princes were great patrons of the arts and sci­ences, unhin­dered by gov­ern­ments. In Har­ring­ton’s eyes, Thiel is like a mod­ern day Loren­zo De Medici. And if it was up to her Thiel would be a mod­ern day Cae­sar.

    And as Thiel’s answers in this inter­view lay out, his ide­ol­o­gy is basi­cal­ly a per­fect rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the kind of inco­her­ent ‘bun­dle-think’ Ganz described as rep­re­sent­ed by the fasces sym­bol of a bun­dle of sticks. Because fas­cism was nev­er intend­ed to be a coher­ent. Inco­her­ent bun­dle-think is part of the fas­cist tra­di­tion. A tra­di­tion Peter Thiel is fol­low­ing as he makes clear in this inter­view. Accord­ing to Thiel, what the world needs now is more tech­no­log­i­cal progress. A LOT more. And it’s all being held back by over-reg­u­la­tion and cul­ture that has for­got­ten how to have an expan­sive vision for a bet­ter. An expan­sive vision the US and UK both lost and their sta­tus as glob­al empires declined along with the Chris­t­ian tra­di­tions that dri­ve those empires. Chris­t­ian tra­di­tions of evan­ge­lism, but also a Chris­t­ian tra­di­tion of end­less progress and change. As Thiel describes it, tran­shu­man­ism is a deeply Chris­t­ian world­view and any con­cerns about how med­dling with ‘nature’ in inher­ent­ly un-Chris­t­ian. Chris­tian­i­ty envi­sions a post-human future, which is some­thing the West lost in recent decades, result­ing in the col­lapse of the mid­dle class. The solu­tion? More Chris­tian­i­ty. And if a return to empire and Chris­tian­i­ty isn’t pos­si­ble, Thiel sug­gest gut­ting zon­ing laws (it’ll be ‘pro-fam­i­ly’) and gut­ting the FDA (which hin­ders bio­med­ical progress accord­ing to Thiel). Those are the big take­aways from Thiel’s non­sense inter­view, which was less an inter­view and more just a regur­gi­ta­tion of Thiel’s fas­cist bun­dle-think

    Unheard

    Peter Thiel on the dan­gers of progress
    The tech bil­lion­aire dis­cuss­es Sil­i­con Val­ley, Chris­tian­i­ty and apoc­a­lypse

    BY Mary Har­ring­ton
    July 25, 2022

    You can tell a bit about some­one based on their pre­con­cep­tions about Peter Thiel. Whether the reflex­ive response to the name is “malign far-Right plu­to­crat”, “phil­an­thropic sav­iour of all that is good” or “who?” is a rea­son­ably reli­able guide to where that per­son oth­er­wise sits in the great online psy­chodra­ma we now call “the cul­ture wars”.

    ...

    He’s also, famous­ly (or noto­ri­ous­ly, depend­ing on your polit­i­cal pri­ors) inter­est­ed in cul­ture and pol­i­tics. As such, in our emerg­ing post-lib­er­al world of lords and princes, Thiel is a prime mover across many fields, and his inter­ests and pri­or­i­ties affect a great many peo­ple. And this is per­haps the trait that, above all else, invites par­al­lels to pre­mod­ern fig­ures such as Loren­zo De’ Medici, the Flo­ren­tine states­man and banker who was also his era’s fore­most patron of the arts.

    For Thiel, this extends to per­son­al as well as finan­cial inter­ven­tions, and I met him in such a con­text. We were both on the teach­ing fac­ul­ty for a week-long sem­i­nar at Stan­ford in Palo Alto, with the mag­nif­i­cent title “The Machine Has No Tra­di­tion: a sem­i­nar on tech­nol­o­gy, rev­o­lu­tion and apoc­a­lypse”. We sat down togeth­er after a day spent with Stan­ford grad stu­dents, Sil­i­con Val­ley whiz­zkids and young DC politi­cos, wrestling with the ques­tion of what tech­nol­o­gy is. Thiel had just led a four-hour ses­sion on the French thinker René Girard.

    The grand themes of tech­nol­o­gy, rev­o­lu­tion and apoc­a­lypse hung in the air. So, too, did the par­al­lel facts of my hav­ing enough com­mon intel­lec­tu­al pre­oc­cu­pa­tions with Thiel to land us both on the same aca­d­e­m­ic ros­ter, while remain­ing sep­a­rat­ed from him by an incom­men­su­rably vast pow­er asym­me­try. Against that back­drop, I want­ed to under­stand the inter­ests and pri­or­i­ties of this sociopo­lit­i­cal titan, on his own terms. More plain­ly: how does Peter Thiel view his own project?

    The over­ar­ch­ing answer seems to be: real as opposed to illu­so­ry progress. Post-lib­er­al thinkers such as Patrick Deneen, author of the best­selling 2018 book Why Lib­er­al­ism Failed, argue that many con­tem­po­rary social ills are an effect of the way the lib­er­al project can­ni­balis­es social goods, such as fam­i­ly life or reli­gious faith, in order to pur­sue nar­row met­rics such as (on the Left) per­son­al free­dom or (on the Right) eco­nom­ic growth. Thiel sees many of the same ills as Deneen, but offers a strik­ing­ly dif­fer­ent fram­ing: we’re con­sum­ing our­selves not because the fix­a­tion on progress is inevitably self-destruc­tive beyond a cer­tain thresh­old, but because mate­r­i­al progress has objec­tive­ly stalled while we remain col­lec­tive­ly in denial about this fact.

    In Thiel’s view, this has been the case since the mid-20th cen­tu­ry, except in dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies. “We’ve had con­tin­ued progress in the world of com­put­ers, bits, inter­net, mobile inter­net, but it’s a nar­row zone of progress. And it’s been more inte­ri­or, atom­is­ing and inward-focused.” Over the same peri­od, he tells me, “there’s been lim­it­ed progress in the world of atoms”.

    Thiel char­ac­teris­es this stag­na­tion as a long, slow vic­to­ry of the Club of Rome, a non­prof­it found­ed in 1968 to dri­ve polit­i­cal change premised on the belief that infi­nite growth is impos­si­ble. As Thiel sees it, this tac­it post­war aban­don­ment of the growth aspi­ra­tion has result­ed in “some­thing like a soci­etal and cul­tur­al lock­down; not just the last two years but in many ways the last 40 or 50”. There’s “a cul­tur­al ver­sion, a demo­graph­ic ver­sion, and a tech­no­log­i­cal ver­sion of this stag­nant or deca­dent soci­ety,” he sug­gests. And the upshot of this paral­y­sis has been “a world of tech­no­log­i­cal stag­na­tion and demo­graph­ic col­lapse”, along with “scle­ro­sis in gov­ern­ment and banal rep­e­ti­tion in cul­ture”.

    He’s been mak­ing the case for real-terms tech stag­na­tion for 15 years now, he tells me, against a main­stream Left and Right that doesn’t want to know: “it was always strik­ing how much it went against the stat­ed ide­ol­o­gy of the regime.” Per­pet­u­at­ing the fan­ta­sy of progress, against a back­drop of its actu­al stag­na­tion, is at the heart of delu­sions on both Left and Right, he argues: “the Sil­i­con Val­ley lib­er­als don’t like it, because they think they’re dri­ving this great engine of progress”, while social con­ser­v­a­tives “have con­ced­ed the ground to the lib­er­als, because they believe the Left-wing pro­pa­gan­da about how much sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy are pro­gress­ing”. And against this back­drop of cross-par­ty denial, insti­tu­tions and the wider cul­ture are increas­ing­ly shaped by real-terms stag­na­tion.

    In his view, much of what pass­es for “progress” is in truth more like “dis­trac­tion”. As he puts it, “the iPhone that dis­tracts us from our envi­ron­ment also dis­tracts us from the ways our envi­ron­ment is unchang­ing and sta­t­ic.” And in this cul­ture, econ­o­my and pol­i­tics of chron­ic self-decep­tion, as Thiel sees it, we tell our­selves that we’re advanc­ing because “grand­ma gets an iPhone with a smooth sur­face,” but mean­while she “gets to eat cat food because food prices have gone up.”

    In this con­text, Thiel argues, much of what pass­es as “progress” in eco­nom­ic terms is actu­al­ly an account­ing trick. For exam­ple, much of what looks like GDP growth since the Fifties was sim­ply a mat­ter of chang­ing how we mea­sured the val­ue bun­dled up in fam­i­ly life. If, he points out, “you shift an econ­o­my from a sin­gle-income house­hold with a home­mak­er to one with two bread­win­ners and a third per­son who’s a child-car­er, sta­tis­ti­cal­ly you have three jobs instead of one and there­fore you have more GDP, and you will exag­ger­ate the amount of progress that’s hap­pened”.

    That is: if what you’re call­ing “progress” is not so much a change in the activ­i­ties tak­ing place, but rather a change in how you’re mea­sur­ing those activ­i­ties, in what sense has any­thing real­ly changed, let alone improved? After all, he points out, between 1880 and 1960 automa­tion so far reduced work­ing hours that ana­lysts pre­dict­ed by the year 2000 the aver­age fam­i­ly would sub­sist hap­pi­ly on the wage of one work­er putting in sev­en hours a day, four days a week, with 13 weeks’ paid hol­i­day. But then “it some­how went real­ly into reverse”.

    Since then, many goods once com­mon to America’s mid­dle class have been can­ni­balised to pre­serve the illu­sion of progress. “We are much less of a mid­dle-class soci­ety,” he points out, in the sense of “peo­ple who think their chil­dren will do bet­ter than them­selves”. And this grow­ing scarci­ty, cou­pled with denial of that scarci­ty, has pro­found­ly cor­rupt­ed once-trust­ed insti­tu­tions. Even the Club of Rome was, in his view, “not pes­simistic enough about how bad­ly a zero-growth world would work, and how much it would derange our insti­tu­tions”. For most of our insti­tu­tions “depend on growth; and when the growth stops, they lie and they become socio­path­ic”.

    In this con­text, what Thiel dis­mis­sive­ly refers to as “the woke reli­gion” is less a dri­ving force in con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics than part of this vast col­lec­tive dis­place­ment activ­i­ty. Notably, it’s often a deliv­ery mech­a­nism for resource com­pe­ti­tion, for exam­ple in uni­ver­si­ties where stu­dent num­bers are ever-ris­ing even as paid posi­tions shrink, a pinch that “brings out the worst in peo­ple”. So much of what looks like an unhinged new ide­ol­o­gy is actu­al­ly the bru­tal office pol­i­tics pur­sued by too many aca­d­e­mics com­pet­ing for too few paid posi­tions? “Yes,” he says, “and maybe there’s some way to get peo­ple to be nicer to one anoth­er in a world of lim­it­ed resources. But we nev­er seem to be even able to talk about that.”

    If, he sug­gests, it were more obvi­ous to peo­ple that we now live in a stag­nant world, more might be said and done to address it. But the key rea­son this isn’t hap­pen­ing is “that we’ve been dis­tract­ed from the lack of progress” by “the shift from exte­ri­or­i­ty, from mea­sur­able things” such as “faster speeds, super­son­ic air­planes or longer life expectan­cies” and re-ori­ent­ed on “the inte­ri­or world of yoga, med­i­ta­tion, psy­chol­o­gy, para­psy­chol­o­gy, psy­chophar­ma­col­o­gy, psy­che­del­ic drugs, video games, the inter­net et cetera”.

    The gov­ern­ing thread in Thiel’s inter­ven­tions in cul­ture and pol­i­tics, then, seems to be re-ori­ent­ing the wider direc­tion of trav­el away from what he views as dis­place­ment activ­i­ties, back toward more con­crete forms of progress of the sort that might trans­late into a return to this kind of wide­spread opti­mism. This includes a streak of polit­i­cal phil­an­thropy that has recent­ly leaned toward sup­port­ing can­di­dates who cam­paign on the mate­r­i­al inter­ests of America’s lan­guish­ing mid­dle class.

    Blake Mas­ters, who co-wrote Thiel’s best­seller Zero to One, is now run­ning for the Sen­ate in Ari­zona with Thiel’s sup­port; recent polling has Mas­ters as the fron­trun­ner in the Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry. Anoth­er politi­cian with Thiel sup­port is Hill­bil­ly Ele­gy author JD Vance, who received a $10m Thiel dona­tion that some cred­it with bump­ing Vance to vic­to­ry in May’s pri­ma­ry for the US Sen­ate in Ohio. Both Mas­ters and Vance make the increas­ing­ly bleak state of America’s once thriv­ing and pros­per­ous mid­dle class a cen­tral part of their cam­paign­ing plat­form. One Mas­ters cam­paign­ing video takes as its cen­tral premise the argu­ment that it should be pos­si­ble to sup­port a fam­i­ly on a sin­gle income — some­thing that, for a grow­ing swathe of the mid­dle sort, hasn’t been the case for decades.

    Impor­tant­ly, though, he doesn’t see restor­ing mid­dle-class aspi­ra­tion as a mat­ter of return­ing to the past, but of seek­ing new real-world advances in sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy. Along with Thiel’s own invest­ments, which include many futur­is­tic projects such as biotech and space explo­ration, the prin­ci­pal vehi­cle for his efforts to dri­ve this change is the non­prof­it Thiel Foun­da­tion, which pro­motes sci­ence and inno­va­tion. Its pro­grammes include the Thiel Fel­low­ship, which gives 20–30 young peo­ple aged 22 or under $100,000 each, every year, to drop out of col­lege and work on an urgent idea. Grad­u­ates include Austin Rus­sell, who found­ed Lumi­nar and is the world’s youngest self-made bil­lion­aire, and Vita­lik Buterin, who co-found­ed the cryp­tocur­ren­cy Ethereum.

    Those among us tem­pera­men­tal­ly scep­ti­cal of nev­er-end­ing progress and growth may be shift­ing ner­vous­ly in our seats by this point. Thiel seems unfazed by the idea that tech­nol­o­gy may infringe on what’s “nat­ur­al”. How do we pre­vent run­away tech changes drag­ging us into some mon­strous­ly inhu­man dystopia? Can we retain our human­i­ty, I ask Thiel, in the con­text of just how trans­for­ma­tive tech­nol­o­gy can be?

    He seems to view this as a large­ly aca­d­e­m­ic ques­tion, and not real­ly in keep­ing with his under­stand­ing of Chris­t­ian civil­i­sa­tion as fun­da­men­tal­ly ori­ent­ed toward the future. “I think of Chris­tian­i­ty as deeply his­tor­i­cal. Some sense of a cer­tain type of progress of his­to­ry is a deep part of Chris­tian­i­ty.” And from this per­spec­tive, the notion that there exists an unchang­ing human nature doesn’t real­ly fit with the Chris­t­ian out­look, but belongs — as he puts it — more “in the clas­si­cal than the Chris­t­ian tra­di­tion”.

    “The word ‘nature’ does not occur once in the Old Tes­ta­ment,” he tells me, while “the con­cept of ‘nature’ as some­thing that’s eter­nal and unchang­ing” isn’t a Chris­t­ian one either. “It seems to me that the Chris­t­ian con­cepts are more things like grace or orig­i­nal sin.” From this per­spec­tive, Thiel argues, the prob­lem with tran­shu­man­ism isn’t that it seeks to remake human­i­ty, but that it isn’t ambi­tious enough in this regard: “the Chris­t­ian cri­tique of tran­shu­man­ism should be that it’s not rad­i­cal enough, because it’s only seek­ing to trans­form our bod­ies and not our souls.” It appears, in oth­er words, that while Thiel is unflinch­ing­ly real­is­tic about what’s imme­di­ate­ly achiev­able, he doesn’t see any giv­en or self-evi­dent lim­its to what we could set our sights on.

    What if the Club of Rome is right, though, and we real­ly have reached the lim­its to mate­r­i­al growth? I put to him for a num­ber of rea­sons — cul­tur­al­ly and mate­ri­al­ly — it seems more than pos­si­ble that we’ve irre­triev­ably passed the point of Peak Progress. If this is so, he tells me, the first response should be frank real­ism. We should, he sug­gests, “at least be able to talk about it, and fig­ure out ways to make our soci­ety work in a low-growth world”. But he sees this atti­tude less as real­ism than a cop-out: “I think that sounds like a lazy excuse of peo­ple who don’t want to work very hard. It sounds too much like an excuse.” Far from being a mat­ter of humans bump­ing up against nat­ur­al lim­its, he argues, “I want to blame it on cul­tur­al changes, rather than on us run­ning out of ideas”.

    What, then, does he see as dri­ving the cul­tur­al side of stag­na­tion? Thiel thinks the decline of Chris­tian­i­ty is a major fac­tor. To him “a more nat­u­ral­ly Chris­t­ian world” was “an expand­ing world, a pro­gress­ing world” that hit its apogee in late Vic­to­ri­an Britain. “It felt very expan­sive, both in terms of the lit­er­al empire and also in terms of the progress of knowl­edge, of sci­ence, of tech­nol­o­gy, and some­how that was nat­u­ral­ly con­so­nant with a cer­tain Chris­t­ian escha­tol­ogy — a Chris­t­ian vision of his­to­ry. Then some­how the stag­nant eco­log­i­cal world that we’re in is one in which there’s been a col­lapse of reli­gious belief. I want to say they’re some­how soci­o­log­i­cal­ly linked.”

    I put it to him that many his­to­ri­ans date the slow implo­sion of Chris­tian­i­ty from the emer­gence of just the kind of sci­en­tif­ic enquiry Thiel wants to encour­age in the name of a Chris­t­ian-inflect­ed tech pro­gres­sivism. Was it ever plau­si­ble, I ask him, that we could hold the worlds of faith and of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy in equi­lib­ri­um? He appears to view this, once again, as a large­ly irrel­e­vant aca­d­e­m­ic ques­tion; the real implo­sion of mass reli­gios­i­ty in Britain, he sug­gests, coin­cid­ed with the end of the British Empire.

    “If you had an expan­sive view and you were going to make dis­ci­ples of all nations, and send mis­sion­ar­ies to the world, and some­how that project no longer made sense, then would this some­how also lead to a col­lapse with­in your own soci­ety. I think my sense is that Britain was still very Chris­t­ian in the Fifties, then it had some­how com­plete­ly col­lapsed by 1980. So it maps onto the end of coloni­sa­tion.”

    He sees a par­al­lel process at work in the stalling and retreat of Amer­i­can empire: “I would map Amer­i­ca in 2000 onto Britain in 1950, and Amer­i­ca in 2020 onto some­where like Britain in 1975 or 1980, where some­how the expan­sion­ary part of Amer­i­ca has very much fad­ed.” Amer­i­ca has aban­doned its mis­sion of impe­r­i­al evan­ge­lism: “in 1999 or 2005 there was still this sense that you were pros­e­lytis­ing the world, and I think that has strange­ly col­lapsed. I’m not sure what the cau­sa­tion is, but there’s some way that the growth of Chris­tian­i­ty was linked to it and when it stops expand­ing it’s in very seri­ous trou­ble.”

    What’s miss­ing from the world now is a clear vision of the future — or even any vision. Reviv­ing Chris­t­ian faith might help, he thinks: “if we were more Chris­t­ian, we would also have more hope for the future, and if we’re less Chris­t­ian we’re going to have less hope. And there’s prob­a­bly less action.” Fail­ing this, any vision of the future at all would help, espe­cial­ly if it’s an opti­mistic one. Though he doesn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly like sci­ence fic­tion, he says, more upbeat sto­ries on this front might help: “If one could pro­duce sci­ence fic­tion that were less uni­form­ly bleak that might help on a lit­er­ary lev­el.”

    Fail­ing oth­er options, Thiel thinks even bleak or apoc­a­lyp­tic visions are bet­ter than no vision at all. The pic­ture of Euro­pean cli­mate cat­a­stro­phe asso­ci­at­ed with Gre­ta Thun­berg is, as he sees it, one of only three real­is­tic Euro­pean futures; the oth­er two are “Islam­ic sharia law”, and “Chi­nese Com­mu­nist AI”.. He views the social-demo­c­ra­t­ic mod­els typ­i­cal of con­tem­po­rary Euro­pean pol­i­tics as vari­a­tions on the theme of stag­na­tion: “a sort of eter­nal Ground­hog Day”. And while Greta’s vision is “in some ways too apoc­a­lyp­tic, in some ways not apoc­a­lyp­tic enough”, it is at least “a very con­crete pic­ture”, and rep­re­sents the least worst of the three alter­na­tives to stag­na­tion.

    Fail­ing a mass revival of Chris­tian­i­ty, what polit­i­cal or mate­r­i­al levers does Thiel think we should pull to restart some kind of future? “Zon­ing laws and the FDA,” he tells me. One of the biggest issues is hous­ing, which he notes “is linked to fam­i­ly for­ma­tion” — and, he sug­gests, anoth­er field in which scarci­ty and resource com­pe­ti­tion is fan­ning the flames of polit­i­cal derange­ment. “Real estate prices dou­bled and peo­ple got a lot cra­zier.” Fix­ing this would be a good route into address­ing our scle­ro­sis, because “it’s not pure tech­nol­o­gy. You’d think it would be easy to change the zon­ing laws, but in prac­tice it’s extreme­ly hard to do.”

    As for the FDA, Thiel points out that even the pes­simists in the Club of Rome thought health­care could go on advanc­ing. And again, as with zon­ing laws, he argues that if we’re stuck on this front it’s not because we’re run­ning out of resources. “I’ve done some invest­ing in biotech over the last 15–20 years. It’s very strange; my sense for the sci­ence is that we could be mak­ing a lot more progress, and then in prac­tice it’s extra­or­di­nar­i­ly dif­fi­cult because of reg­u­la­to­ry con­straints and oth­er things. So biotech is an area where I think it’s not quite resource-con­straints; my read on it is that’s more cul­tur­al than nat­ur­al. Again: we don’t have to talk about lim­it­less human life, but just: can we have a cure for demen­tia? Is that absolute­ly impos­si­ble? I would claim we don’t know enough about sci­ence to know that’s absolute­ly impos­si­ble.”

    He acknowl­edges that there are implic­it risks in forg­ing ahead with new dis­cov­er­ies. “I think there are dan­gers to sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy, but there are also great dan­gers in stag­na­tion,” he tells me. In his view, though, the only way out is through: the fan­ta­sy of return­ing to some form of van­ished past is just that, a fan­ta­sy. “We can’t go back to the Pale­olith­ic era, we can’t go back to an agrar­i­an econ­o­my, we can’t even go back to a 19th cen­tu­ry indus­tri­al econ­o­my. And then it seems to me that we don’t know how to make a zero-growth soci­ety work.”

    In that con­text, we need to base our vision of the future on some­thing: “And maybe sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy aren’t that much, but I would say if we stop believ­ing in the tele­ol­o­gy of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy it’s not that we go back to some Thomistic or medieval con­cept of tele­ol­o­gy. We become ful­ly epi­cure­an.”

    ...

    In almost all oth­er con­texts, the lot of writ­ers is once again shaped by the intel­lec­tu­al and polit­i­cal pre­oc­cu­pa­tions of the 21st century’s lords and princes. It would be absurd to pre­tend that I could force an account of the Thiel world­view accord­ing to the print-era fan­tasies of writer­ly inde­pen­dence, or even to hold him to some “objec­tive” dis­cur­sive stan­dard (a con­ceit which all sides treat in any case as increas­ing­ly out­mod­ed). Rather, like Loren­zo de’ Medici, Thiel reorders the cul­tur­al world around him­self, like iron fil­ings respond­ing to mag­net­ism.

    And in this, if lit­tle else, he rep­re­sents a return to tra­di­tion. Those still com­mit­ted to the demo­c­ra­t­ic vision of pol­i­tics may be tempt­ed to treat fig­ures such as Soros or Thiel as exem­plars of dan­ger­ous­ly untram­melled pow­er, exert­ing a malign influ­ence over a polit­i­cal process oth­er­wise char­ac­terised by demo­c­ra­t­ic checks and bal­ances. But I’ve come to think that this has it back­wards. To my eye, Peter Thiel isn’t an aber­ra­tion in an oth­er­wise seam­less march of demo­c­ra­t­ic progress, but a rever­sion to the his­toric norm. Or to put it anoth­er way: I’m com­ing to sus­pect the demo­c­ra­t­ic era was a flash in the pan, and what’s now emerg­ing is a 21st cen­tu­ry vari­a­tion on an ancient form of pow­er, more monar­chic or feu­dal in char­ac­ter than “pop­ulist”, let alone demo­c­ra­t­ic.

    And as I’ve argued, the alter­na­tive to such fig­ures may not be democ­ra­cy but gov­er­nance by a decen­tralised post-demo­c­ra­t­ic swarm (anal­o­gous, per­haps, to what Thiel calls “Chi­nese Com­mu­nist AI”). Giv­en these options, we may yet con­clude that the polit­i­cal return of human lords and princes — how­ev­er unnerv­ing­ly untram­melled their pow­er, or remorse­less­ly tech-opti­mist their world­view — is far from the worst option cur­rent­ly on the table. The pre­mod­ern world of aris­to­crat­ic patron­age was far from being a cul­tur­al desert, an achieve­ment that con­trasts sharply with the mil­i­tant­ly anti-aes­thet­ic (and anti-human) char­ac­ter of post-demo­c­ra­t­ic swarm pol­i­tics. If I’m right about the prog­no­sis for lib­er­al democ­ra­cy in the dig­i­tal age, the avail­able options for our future may be cul­tur­al­ly vibrant human-led neo-feu­dal­ism, or aggres­sive­ly anti-cul­tur­al swarm gov­er­nance. And in this case, even those of us who mourn the pass­ing of the lib­er­al world may yet find our­selves, how­ev­er ambiva­lent­ly, on the side of Cae­sar.

    ———-

    “Peter Thiel on the dan­gers of progress” BY Mary Har­ring­ton; Unheard; 07/25/2022

    “He’s also, famous­ly (or noto­ri­ous­ly, depend­ing on your polit­i­cal pri­ors) inter­est­ed in cul­ture and pol­i­tics. As such, in our emerg­ing post-lib­er­al world of lords and princes, Thiel is a prime mover across many fields, and his inter­ests and pri­or­i­ties affect a great many peo­ple. And this is per­haps the trait that, above all else, invites par­al­lels to pre­mod­ern fig­ures such as Loren­zo De’ Medici, the Flo­ren­tine states­man and banker who was also his era’s fore­most patron of the arts.

    Peter Thiel is a mod­ern day Loren­zo De Medici. At least that’s how he’s viewed by his fan base. A fan base that clear­ly includes the author of this piece, Mary Har­ring­ton. Har­ring­ton does­n’t just see Thiel as a mod­ern day Medici. She appears to view him as an emerg­ing Cae­sar in a post-lib­er­al world order who, through the pow­er of his own patron­age of the arts and sci­ence, can help ush­er that the civ­i­liza­tion­al renew­al Thiel is fix­at­ed on. A vision of civ­i­liza­tion­al renew­al that first requires we ele­vate fig­ures like Thiel to Cae­sar-sta­tus. You can see why Thiel was open to Har­ring­ton’s inter­view request:

    ...
    In almost all oth­er con­texts, the lot of writ­ers is once again shaped by the intel­lec­tu­al and polit­i­cal pre­oc­cu­pa­tions of the 21st century’s lords and princes. It would be absurd to pre­tend that I could force an account of the Thiel world­view accord­ing to the print-era fan­tasies of writer­ly inde­pen­dence, or even to hold him to some “objec­tive” dis­cur­sive stan­dard (a con­ceit which all sides treat in any case as increas­ing­ly out­mod­ed). Rather, like Loren­zo de’ Medici, Thiel reorders the cul­tur­al world around him­self, like iron fil­ings respond­ing to mag­net­ism.

    And in this, if lit­tle else, he rep­re­sents a return to tra­di­tion. Those still com­mit­ted to the demo­c­ra­t­ic vision of pol­i­tics may be tempt­ed to treat fig­ures such as Soros or Thiel as exem­plars of dan­ger­ous­ly untram­melled pow­er, exert­ing a malign influ­ence over a polit­i­cal process oth­er­wise char­ac­terised by demo­c­ra­t­ic checks and bal­ances. But I’ve come to think that this has it back­wards. To my eye, Peter Thiel isn’t an aber­ra­tion in an oth­er­wise seam­less march of demo­c­ra­t­ic progress, but a rever­sion to the his­toric norm. Or to put it anoth­er way: I’m com­ing to sus­pect the demo­c­ra­t­ic era was a flash in the pan, and what’s now emerg­ing is a 21st cen­tu­ry vari­a­tion on an ancient form of pow­er, more monar­chic or feu­dal in char­ac­ter than “pop­ulist”, let alone demo­c­ra­t­ic.

    And as I’ve argued, the alter­na­tive to such fig­ures may not be democ­ra­cy but gov­er­nance by a decen­tralised post-demo­c­ra­t­ic swarm (anal­o­gous, per­haps, to what Thiel calls “Chi­nese Com­mu­nist AI”). Giv­en these options, we may yet con­clude that the polit­i­cal return of human lords and princes — how­ev­er unnerv­ing­ly untram­melled their pow­er, or remorse­less­ly tech-opti­mist their world­view — is far from the worst option cur­rent­ly on the table. The pre­mod­ern world of aris­to­crat­ic patron­age was far from being a cul­tur­al desert, an achieve­ment that con­trasts sharply with the mil­i­tant­ly anti-aes­thet­ic (and anti-human) char­ac­ter of post-demo­c­ra­t­ic swarm pol­i­tics. If I’m right about the prog­no­sis for lib­er­al democ­ra­cy in the dig­i­tal age, the avail­able options for our future may be cul­tur­al­ly vibrant human-led neo-feu­dal­ism, or aggres­sive­ly anti-cul­tur­al swarm gov­er­nance. And in this case, even those of us who mourn the pass­ing of the lib­er­al world may yet find our­selves, how­ev­er ambiva­lent­ly, on the side of Cae­sar.
    ...

    Now, part of what makes Har­ring­ton’s fawn­ing over Thiel dis­turb­ing is obvi­ous­ly that it’s dis­turb­ing to hear peo­ple fawn­ing over fas­cists. But there’s anoth­er part of Har­ring­ton’s fawn­ing that made it so dis­turb­ing: It was prob­a­bly the only hon­est part about that entire inter­view. Because as we can see when we read Thiel’s descrip­tion of his vision of the present and the future, it’s a non­sense vision. Just a bunch of fas­cist bun­dle-think designed to jus­ti­fy the var­i­ous things Thiel wants. Take Thiel’s gen­er­al the­sis on why ‘progess’ — as mea­sure by increas­ing liv­ing stan­dards — has stag­nat­ed so much in the US since the 1960s. It does­n’t have any­thing to do with the US’s gen­er­a­tional embrace of neolib­er­al­ism, Reganonom­ics, and the dis­man­tling of the New Deal. Or the ris­ing liv­ing stan­dards around the world as US busi­ness­es sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly out­sourced man­u­fac­tur­ing to low-wage coun­tries. Nope, the destruc­tion of the US mid­dle class is due sole­ly to a lack of sci­en­tif­ic tech­ni­cal progress. That’s it, in Thiel’s mind, appar­ent­ly. It’s the kind of moti­vat­ed rea­son­ing that we can expect from ded­i­cat­ed cult mem­bers and/or ded­i­cat­ed fas­cists:

    ...
    The grand themes of tech­nol­o­gy, rev­o­lu­tion and apoc­a­lypse hung in the air. So, too, did the par­al­lel facts of my hav­ing enough com­mon intel­lec­tu­al pre­oc­cu­pa­tions with Thiel to land us both on the same aca­d­e­m­ic ros­ter, while remain­ing sep­a­rat­ed from him by an incom­men­su­rably vast pow­er asym­me­try. Against that back­drop, I want­ed to under­stand the inter­ests and pri­or­i­ties of this sociopo­lit­i­cal titan, on his own terms. More plain­ly: how does Peter Thiel view his own project?

    The over­ar­ch­ing answer seems to be: real as opposed to illu­so­ry progress. Post-lib­er­al thinkers such as Patrick Deneen, author of the best­selling 2018 book Why Lib­er­al­ism Failed, argue that many con­tem­po­rary social ills are an effect of the way the lib­er­al project can­ni­balis­es social goods, such as fam­i­ly life or reli­gious faith, in order to pur­sue nar­row met­rics such as (on the Left) per­son­al free­dom or (on the Right) eco­nom­ic growth. Thiel sees many of the same ills as Deneen, but offers a strik­ing­ly dif­fer­ent fram­ing: we’re con­sum­ing our­selves not because the fix­a­tion on progress is inevitably self-destruc­tive beyond a cer­tain thresh­old, but because mate­r­i­al progress has objec­tive­ly stalled while we remain col­lec­tive­ly in denial about this fact.

    In Thiel’s view, this has been the case since the mid-20th cen­tu­ry, except in dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies. “We’ve had con­tin­ued progress in the world of com­put­ers, bits, inter­net, mobile inter­net, but it’s a nar­row zone of progress. And it’s been more inte­ri­or, atom­is­ing and inward-focused.” Over the same peri­od, he tells me, “there’s been lim­it­ed progress in the world of atoms”.

    Thiel char­ac­teris­es this stag­na­tion as a long, slow vic­to­ry of the Club of Rome, a non­prof­it found­ed in 1968 to dri­ve polit­i­cal change premised on the belief that infi­nite growth is impos­si­ble. As Thiel sees it, this tac­it post­war aban­don­ment of the growth aspi­ra­tion has result­ed in “some­thing like a soci­etal and cul­tur­al lock­down; not just the last two years but in many ways the last 40 or 50”. There’s “a cul­tur­al ver­sion, a demo­graph­ic ver­sion, and a tech­no­log­i­cal ver­sion of this stag­nant or deca­dent soci­ety,” he sug­gests. And the upshot of this paral­y­sis has been “a world of tech­no­log­i­cal stag­na­tion and demo­graph­ic col­lapse”, along with “scle­ro­sis in gov­ern­ment and banal rep­e­ti­tion in cul­ture”.

    ...

    That is: if what you’re call­ing “progress” is not so much a change in the activ­i­ties tak­ing place, but rather a change in how you’re mea­sur­ing those activ­i­ties, in what sense has any­thing real­ly changed, let alone improved? After all, he points out, between 1880 and 1960 automa­tion so far reduced work­ing hours that ana­lysts pre­dict­ed by the year 2000 the aver­age fam­i­ly would sub­sist hap­pi­ly on the wage of one work­er putting in sev­en hours a day, four days a week, with 13 weeks’ paid hol­i­day. But then “it some­how went real­ly into reverse”.
    ...

    And then we get to Thiel’s laugh­able assess­ment of ‘the work reli­gion’ and the work­ing cul­tures in acad­e­mia: Accord­ing to Thiel, ‘wok­e­ness’ is a side-effect of the hyper-com­pe­ti­tion in acad­e­mia. Again, where to begin with this kind of stu­pid­i­ty? It’s just moti­vat­ed bun­dle-think. Yes, there is indeed a cri­sis of too many peo­ple seek too few aca­d­e­m­ic posi­tions that leads to all sorts issues like burnout. But to argue that ‘wok­e­ness’ is a con­se­quence of the stress­es of com­pe­ti­tion has to be an act of trolling. He can’t be this stu­pid.

    But also note the dark acknowl­edge­ment in Thiel’s asser­tion: he’s basi­cal­ly acknowl­edg­ing that hyper-com­pe­ti­tion and the stress­es in cre­ates can make peo­ple nasty to each oth­er. It’s the kind of acknowl­edg­ment that fas­cists tend not to acknowl­edge, although Thiel has been admit­ting this for years, even if not direct­ly. Don’t for­get how his 2014 book Zero to One basi­cal­ly argued that the only way for a com­pa­ny to real­is­ti­cal­ly pay decent wages was to become a monop­oly. So it’s not real­ly incon­sis­tent for Thiel to argue that hyper-com­pe­ti­tion is harm­ful to work­ers, which is part of Thiel’s bun­dle-think. He’s been con­sis­tent­ly incon­sis­tent for years:

    ...
    Since then, many goods once com­mon to America’s mid­dle class have been can­ni­balised to pre­serve the illu­sion of progress. “We are much less of a mid­dle-class soci­ety,” he points out, in the sense of “peo­ple who think their chil­dren will do bet­ter than them­selves”. And this grow­ing scarci­ty, cou­pled with denial of that scarci­ty, has pro­found­ly cor­rupt­ed once-trust­ed insti­tu­tions. Even the Club of Rome was, in his view, “not pes­simistic enough about how bad­ly a zero-growth world would work, and how much it would derange our insti­tu­tions”. For most of our insti­tu­tions “depend on growth; and when the growth stops, they lie and they become socio­path­ic”.

    In this con­text, what Thiel dis­mis­sive­ly refers to as “the woke reli­gion” is less a dri­ving force in con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics than part of this vast col­lec­tive dis­place­ment activ­i­ty. Notably, it’s often a deliv­ery mech­a­nism for resource com­pe­ti­tion, for exam­ple in uni­ver­si­ties where stu­dent num­bers are ever-ris­ing even as paid posi­tions shrink, a pinch that “brings out the worst in peo­ple”. So much of what looks like an unhinged new ide­ol­o­gy is actu­al­ly the bru­tal office pol­i­tics pur­sued by too many aca­d­e­mics com­pet­ing for too few paid posi­tions? “Yes,” he says, “and maybe there’s some way to get peo­ple to be nicer to one anoth­er in a world of lim­it­ed resources. But we nev­er seem to be even able to talk about that.”

    If, he sug­gests, it were more obvi­ous to peo­ple that we now live in a stag­nant world, more might be said and done to address it. But the key rea­son this isn’t hap­pen­ing is “that we’ve been dis­tract­ed from the lack of progress” by “the shift from exte­ri­or­i­ty, from mea­sur­able things” such as “faster speeds, super­son­ic air­planes or longer life expectan­cies” and re-ori­ent­ed on “the inte­ri­or world of yoga, med­i­ta­tion, psy­chol­o­gy, para­psy­chol­o­gy, psy­chophar­ma­col­o­gy, psy­che­del­ic drugs, video games, the inter­net et cetera”.
    ...

    And note the two Sen­ate can­di­dates that Thiel has spent mil­lions back­ing in the 2022 mid-terms are more or less fol­low­ing this same play­book: lament the down­fall of the US mid­dle-class while blam­ing it on any­thing but the decades of neo-lib­er­al poli­cies. Recall how Blake Mas­ters has repeat­ing white nation­al­ist memes so open­ly on the cam­paign trail that he recent­ly got the endorse­ment of Storm­front founder Andrew Anglin. And JD Vance’s calls for return to a more robust mid­dle class includ­ed recent­ly call­ing for women to stay in vio­lent mar­riages for the sake of the chil­dren. And for both Mas­ters and Vance the solu­tion to the hol­low­ing of the US mid­dle-class is the same as Thiel’s: rapid tech­no­log­i­cal progress. Don’t fix the US’s bro­ken socioe­co­nom­ic poli­cies that pre­vent­ed so many mil­lions of peo­ple for ben­e­fit­ing from the tech­no­log­i­cal progress that has actu­al­ly been tak­ing place. No, don’t fix that. Just get more tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion. It’s fas­cist non­sense bun­dle-think devised for the cam­paign trail. And also part of the appar­ent fun of fas­cism: noth­ing actu­al­ly mat­ters so you can just make up what­ev­er garbage you want and declare it to be a deep phi­los­o­phy that’s rebel­lion against ‘the estab­lish­ment’:

    ...
    Blake Mas­ters, who co-wrote Thiel’s best­seller Zero to One, is now run­ning for the Sen­ate in Ari­zona with Thiel’s sup­port; recent polling has Mas­ters as the fron­trun­ner in the Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry. Anoth­er politi­cian with Thiel sup­port is Hill­bil­ly Ele­gy author JD Vance, who received a $10m Thiel dona­tion that some cred­it with bump­ing Vance to vic­to­ry in May’s pri­ma­ry for the US Sen­ate in Ohio. Both Mas­ters and Vance make the increas­ing­ly bleak state of America’s once thriv­ing and pros­per­ous mid­dle class a cen­tral part of their cam­paign­ing plat­form. One Mas­ters cam­paign­ing video takes as its cen­tral premise the argu­ment that it should be pos­si­ble to sup­port a fam­i­ly on a sin­gle income — some­thing that, for a grow­ing swathe of the mid­dle sort, hasn’t been the case for decades.

    Impor­tant­ly, though, he doesn’t see restor­ing mid­dle-class aspi­ra­tion as a mat­ter of return­ing to the past, but of seek­ing new real-world advances in sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy. Along with Thiel’s own invest­ments, which include many futur­is­tic projects such as biotech and space explo­ration, the prin­ci­pal vehi­cle for his efforts to dri­ve this change is the non­prof­it Thiel Foun­da­tion, which pro­motes sci­ence and inno­va­tion. Its pro­grammes include the Thiel Fel­low­ship, which gives 20–30 young peo­ple aged 22 or under $100,000 each, every year, to drop out of col­lege and work on an urgent idea. Grad­u­ates include Austin Rus­sell, who found­ed Lumi­nar and is the world’s youngest self-made bil­lion­aire, and Vita­lik Buterin, who co-found­ed the cryp­tocur­ren­cy Ethereum.
    ...

    And then Thiel starts shar­ing his views on the role of Chris­tian­i­ty in his vision for the future and we get a sense of just how utter­ly wild his pro­fessed ide­ol­o­gy has become: Accord­ing to Thiel, what civ­i­liza­tion could real­ly use right now in order to get out of this stag­nant rut in more Chris­tian­i­ty. That’s how Thiel wants to trig­ger a rev­o­lu­tion in tech­no­log­i­cal advances. So how does he explain this non­sense posi­tion? Because claim­ing that real Chris­tian­i­ty is actu­al­ly tran­shu­man­ist in nature. God wants us to change what is “nat­ur­al” because the only thing that’s tru­ly nat­ur­al is per­pet­u­al progress towards some­thing dif­fer­ent. Tran­shu­man­ism is both nat­ur­al and god ordained:

    ...
    Those among us tem­pera­men­tal­ly scep­ti­cal of nev­er-end­ing progress and growth may be shift­ing ner­vous­ly in our seats by this point. Thiel seems unfazed by the idea that tech­nol­o­gy may infringe on what’s “nat­ur­al”. How do we pre­vent run­away tech changes drag­ging us into some mon­strous­ly inhu­man dystopia? Can we retain our human­i­ty, I ask Thiel, in the con­text of just how trans­for­ma­tive tech­nol­o­gy can be?

    He seems to view this as a large­ly aca­d­e­m­ic ques­tion, and not real­ly in keep­ing with his under­stand­ing of Chris­t­ian civil­i­sa­tion as fun­da­men­tal­ly ori­ent­ed toward the future. “I think of Chris­tian­i­ty as deeply his­tor­i­cal. Some sense of a cer­tain type of progress of his­to­ry is a deep part of Chris­tian­i­ty.” And from this per­spec­tive, the notion that there exists an unchang­ing human nature doesn’t real­ly fit with the Chris­t­ian out­look, but belongs — as he puts it — more “in the clas­si­cal than the Chris­t­ian tra­di­tion”.

    “The word ‘nature’ does not occur once in the Old Tes­ta­ment,” he tells me, while “the con­cept of ‘nature’ as some­thing that’s eter­nal and unchang­ing” isn’t a Chris­t­ian one either. “It seems to me that the Chris­t­ian con­cepts are more things like grace or orig­i­nal sin.” From this per­spec­tive, Thiel argues, the prob­lem with tran­shu­man­ism isn’t that it seeks to remake human­i­ty, but that it isn’t ambi­tious enough in this regard: “the Chris­t­ian cri­tique of tran­shu­man­ism should be that it’s not rad­i­cal enough, because it’s only seek­ing to trans­form our bod­ies and not our souls.” It appears, in oth­er words, that while Thiel is unflinch­ing­ly real­is­tic about what’s imme­di­ate­ly achiev­able, he doesn’t see any giv­en or self-evi­dent lim­its to what we could set our sights on.
    ...

    But what if civ­i­liza­tion isn’t sim­ply expe­ri­enc­ing a lack of tech­no­log­i­cal progress and there tru­ly are lim­its to the kind of resource’s avail­able to civ­i­liza­tion that need to be real­is­ti­cal­ly man­aged? What then? Well, Thiel does­n’t appear to want to con­sid­er that pos­si­bil­i­ty. There are no nat­ur­al lim­its. Just cul­tur­al lim­its. Cul­tur­al lim­its that were imposed on the US and UK from both the decline of Chris­tian­i­ty which was cat­alyzed by the decline of empire. It’s anoth­er fea­ture of Thiel’s ide­ol­o­gy: empire is good, in part because empires are inher­ent­ly expan­sive in nature and help spread Chris­tian­i­ty and pro­mote a mis­sion of impe­r­i­al evan­ge­lism. It’s more fas­cist bun­dle-think: If you desire an empire, blame today’s prob­lems on a lack of empire:

    ...
    What if the Club of Rome is right, though, and we real­ly have reached the lim­its to mate­r­i­al growth? I put to him for a num­ber of rea­sons — cul­tur­al­ly and mate­ri­al­ly — it seems more than pos­si­ble that we’ve irre­triev­ably passed the point of Peak Progress. If this is so, he tells me, the first response should be frank real­ism. We should, he sug­gests, “at least be able to talk about it, and fig­ure out ways to make our soci­ety work in a low-growth world”. But he sees this atti­tude less as real­ism than a cop-out: “I think that sounds like a lazy excuse of peo­ple who don’t want to work very hard. It sounds too much like an excuse.” Far from being a mat­ter of humans bump­ing up against nat­ur­al lim­its, he argues, “I want to blame it on cul­tur­al changes, rather than on us run­ning out of ideas”.

    What, then, does he see as dri­ving the cul­tur­al side of stag­na­tion? Thiel thinks the decline of Chris­tian­i­ty is a major fac­tor. To him “a more nat­u­ral­ly Chris­t­ian world” was “an expand­ing world, a pro­gress­ing world” that hit its apogee in late Vic­to­ri­an Britain. “It felt very expan­sive, both in terms of the lit­er­al empire and also in terms of the progress of knowl­edge, of sci­ence, of tech­nol­o­gy, and some­how that was nat­u­ral­ly con­so­nant with a cer­tain Chris­t­ian escha­tol­ogy — a Chris­t­ian vision of his­to­ry. Then some­how the stag­nant eco­log­i­cal world that we’re in is one in which there’s been a col­lapse of reli­gious belief. I want to say they’re some­how soci­o­log­i­cal­ly linked.”

    I put it to him that many his­to­ri­ans date the slow implo­sion of Chris­tian­i­ty from the emer­gence of just the kind of sci­en­tif­ic enquiry Thiel wants to encour­age in the name of a Chris­t­ian-inflect­ed tech pro­gres­sivism. Was it ever plau­si­ble, I ask him, that we could hold the worlds of faith and of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy in equi­lib­ri­um? He appears to view this, once again, as a large­ly irrel­e­vant aca­d­e­m­ic ques­tion; the real implo­sion of mass reli­gios­i­ty in Britain, he sug­gests, coin­cid­ed with the end of the British Empire.

    “If you had an expan­sive view and you were going to make dis­ci­ples of all nations, and send mis­sion­ar­ies to the world, and some­how that project no longer made sense, then would this some­how also lead to a col­lapse with­in your own soci­ety. I think my sense is that Britain was still very Chris­t­ian in the Fifties, then it had some­how com­plete­ly col­lapsed by 1980. So it maps onto the end of coloni­sa­tion.”

    He sees a par­al­lel process at work in the stalling and retreat of Amer­i­can empire: “I would map Amer­i­ca in 2000 onto Britain in 1950, and Amer­i­ca in 2020 onto some­where like Britain in 1975 or 1980, where some­how the expan­sion­ary part of Amer­i­ca has very much fad­ed.” Amer­i­ca has aban­doned its mis­sion of impe­r­i­al evan­ge­lism: “in 1999 or 2005 there was still this sense that you were pros­e­lytis­ing the world, and I think that has strange­ly col­lapsed. I’m not sure what the cau­sa­tion is, but there’s some way that the growth of Chris­tian­i­ty was linked to it and when it stops expand­ing it’s in very seri­ous trou­ble.”

    What’s miss­ing from the world now is a clear vision of the future — or even any vision. Reviv­ing Chris­t­ian faith might help, he thinks: “if we were more Chris­t­ian, we would also have more hope for the future, and if we’re less Chris­t­ian we’re going to have less hope. And there’s prob­a­bly less action.” Fail­ing this, any vision of the future at all would help, espe­cial­ly if it’s an opti­mistic one. Though he doesn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly like sci­ence fic­tion, he says, more upbeat sto­ries on this front might help: “If one could pro­duce sci­ence fic­tion that were less uni­form­ly bleak that might help on a lit­er­ary lev­el.”
    ...

    So what can civ­i­liza­tion do if a Chris­t­ian revival isn’t a real­is­tic option? Gut­ting zon­ing laws and the FDA. Yep. Recall how gut­ting the FDA was one of Thiel’s top pri­or­i­ties back when he was play­ing a key role in the Trum 2016 tran­si­tion team and push­ing for Jim O’Neill, then the man­ag­ing direc­tor at Thiel’s Mithril Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, to get the job. More moti­vat­ed bun­dle-think:

    ...
    Fail­ing a mass revival of Chris­tian­i­ty, what polit­i­cal or mate­r­i­al levers does Thiel think we should pull to restart some kind of future? “Zon­ing laws and the FDA,” he tells me. One of the biggest issues is hous­ing, which he notes “is linked to fam­i­ly for­ma­tion” — and, he sug­gests, anoth­er field in which scarci­ty and resource com­pe­ti­tion is fan­ning the flames of polit­i­cal derange­ment. “Real estate prices dou­bled and peo­ple got a lot cra­zier.” Fix­ing this would be a good route into address­ing our scle­ro­sis, because “it’s not pure tech­nol­o­gy. You’d think it would be easy to change the zon­ing laws, but in prac­tice it’s extreme­ly hard to do.”

    As for the FDA, Thiel points out that even the pes­simists in the Club of Rome thought health­care could go on advanc­ing. And again, as with zon­ing laws, he argues that if we’re stuck on this front it’s not because we’re run­ning out of resources. “I’ve done some invest­ing in biotech over the last 15–20 years. It’s very strange; my sense for the sci­ence is that we could be mak­ing a lot more progress, and then in prac­tice it’s extra­or­di­nar­i­ly dif­fi­cult because of reg­u­la­to­ry con­straints and oth­er things. So biotech is an area where I think it’s not quite resource-con­straints; my read on it is that’s more cul­tur­al than nat­ur­al. Again: we don’t have to talk about lim­it­less human life, but just: can we have a cure for demen­tia? Is that absolute­ly impos­si­ble? I would claim we don’t know enough about sci­ence to know that’s absolute­ly impos­si­ble.”
    ...

    And that’s a glimpse at Peter Thiel’s fas­cist bun­dle-think world­view. At least the cur­rent iter­a­tion of it. It will pre­sum­ably change as his whims and desires change.

    Giv­en the non­sen­si­cal nature of Thiel’s answers it’s hard to know how much of any of that inter­view we should actu­al­ly take seri­ous­ly. Except for the parts where Mary Har­ring­ton was pin­ing for a return to an era of lords and princes, with Thiel play­ing a Cae­sar-like role. That part of the inter­view def­i­nite­ly felt gen­uine. It’s one of the fea­tures of fas­cist bun­dle-think: it’s large­ly garbage, except for the pledge of blind devo­tion from the rab­ble. That tends to be very real.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 26, 2022, 4:29 pm
  7. Here’s an arti­cle that serves as a reminder that the log­ic dri­ving our late-stage Cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem is the same log­ic that’s dri­ving civ­i­liza­tion off a cliff. Inten­tion­al­ly. And with ‘bio­log­i­cal events’ in mind:

    Author Dou­glas Rushkoff just pub­lished an excerpt from his book Sur­vival of the Rich­es describ­ing a dis­turb­ing meet­ing he had with five anony­mous tech oli­garchs. Recall how Rushkoff wrote about this meet­ing back in 2018, and described how these oli­garchs were con­vinced that “the event” is com­ing that will crip­ple civ­i­liza­tion. A cat­a­stro­phe to dev­as­tat­ing that the only thing these bil­lion­aires can do is try to ride it out in under­ground dooms­day bunkers. That meet­ing took place in 2017.

    In this lat­est excerpt­ing from that expe­ri­ence, Rushkoff gives us some addi­tion­al details on the kinds of ques­tions these bil­lion­aires pep­pered him with. Ques­tions like, is a glob­al warm­ing a greater threat or bio­log­i­cal war­fare? Recall how tech bil­lion­aire Sam Alt­man told reporters back in 2018 that bio­log­i­cal war­fare is the biggest threat to civ­i­liza­tion and that peo­ple aren’t “as scared enough about that as they should be.” And then, of course, COVID hap­pened a year lat­er.

    So giv­en all the cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence point­ing towards SARs-CoV­‑2 being a man-made syn­thet­ic virus, it’s worth reflect­ing on the fact that we were get­ting weird­ly omi­nous and accu­rate warn­ings about bio­log­i­cal war­fare event that could crip­ple the glob­al econ­o­my rough­ly a year before that all start­ed. And that warn­ing from Rushkoff described a meet­ing he had in 2017, two years before the pan­dem­ic and right in the mid­dle of all the coro­n­avirus-relat­ed gain-of-func­tion research that was tak­ing place with the Eco­Health Alliance. Again, what did these bil­lion­aires know about loom­ing bio­log­i­cal threats? We’ll pre­sum­ably nev­er know pre­cise­ly as long as the bil­lion­aires who invit­ed Rushkoff to that meet­ing remain anony­mous. But whether or not we ever learn those details, it seems like a rea­son­able bet that the indus­try ded­i­cat­ed to build­ing dooms­day bunkers for bil­lion­aires has only explod­ed thanks to the pan­dem­ic. Secret­ly explod­ed, of course. Cater­ing to bil­lion­aires who appear to view civ­i­liza­tion­al col­lapse as an inevitabil­i­ty that will hit in their life­times. And that’s some­thing the rest of us should prob­a­bly keep in mind as the world waits to see when the next big bio­log­i­cal ‘event’ tran­spires:

    The Guardian

    The super-rich ‘prep­pers’ plan­ning to save them­selves from the apoc­a­lypse

    Tech bil­lion­aires are buy­ing up lux­u­ri­ous bunkers and hir­ing mil­i­tary secu­ri­ty to sur­vive a soci­etal col­lapse they helped cre­ate, but like every­thing they do, it has unin­tend­ed con­se­quences

    Dou­glas Rushkoff
    Sun 4 Sep 2022 05.00 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Sun 4 Sep 2022 10.50 EDT

    As a human­ist who writes about the impact of dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy on our lives, I am often mis­tak­en for a futur­ist. The peo­ple most inter­est­ed in hir­ing me for my opin­ions about tech­nol­o­gy are usu­al­ly less con­cerned with build­ing tools that help peo­ple live bet­ter lives in the present than they are in iden­ti­fy­ing the Next Big Thing through which to dom­i­nate them in the future. I don’t usu­al­ly respond to their inquiries. Why help these guys ruin what’s left of the inter­net, much less civil­i­sa­tion?

    Still, some­times a com­bi­na­tion of mor­bid curios­i­ty and cold hard cash is enough to get me on a stage in front of the tech elite, where I try to talk some sense into them about how their busi­ness­es are affect­ing our lives out here in the real world. That’s how I found myself accept­ing an invi­ta­tion to address a group mys­te­ri­ous­ly described as “ultra-wealthy stake­hold­ers”, out in the mid­dle of the desert.

    ...

    The next morn­ing, two men in match­ing Patag­o­nia fleeces came for me in a golf cart and con­veyed me through rocks and under­brush to a meet­ing hall. They left me to drink cof­fee and pre­pare in what I fig­ured was serv­ing as my green room. But instead of me being wired with a micro­phone or tak­en to a stage, my audi­ence was brought in to me. They sat around the table and intro­duced them­selves: five super-wealthy guys – yes, all men – from the upper ech­e­lon of the tech invest­ing and hedge-fund world. At least two of them were bil­lion­aires. After a bit of small talk, I realised they had no inter­est in the speech I had pre­pared about the future of tech­nol­o­gy. They had come to ask ques­tions.

    They start­ed out innocu­ous­ly and pre­dictably enough. Bit­coin or ethereum? Vir­tu­al real­i­ty or aug­ment­ed real­i­ty? Who will get quan­tum com­put­ing first, Chi­na or Google? Even­tu­al­ly, they edged into their real top­ic of con­cern: New Zealand or Alas­ka? Which region would be less affect­ed by the com­ing cli­mate cri­sis? It only got worse from there. Which was the greater threat: glob­al warm­ing or bio­log­i­cal war­fare? How long should one plan to be able to sur­vive with no out­side help? Should a shel­ter have its own air sup­ply? What was the like­li­hood of ground­wa­ter con­t­a­m­i­na­tion? Final­ly, the CEO of a bro­ker­age house explained that he had near­ly com­plet­ed build­ing his own under­ground bunker sys­tem, and asked: “How do I main­tain author­i­ty over my secu­ri­ty force after the event?” The event. That was their euphemism for the envi­ron­men­tal col­lapse, social unrest, nuclear explo­sion, solar storm, unstop­pable virus, or mali­cious com­put­er hack that takes every­thing down.

    This sin­gle ques­tion occu­pied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to pro­tect their com­pounds from raiders as well as angry mobs. One had already secured a dozen Navy Seals to make their way to his com­pound if he gave them the right cue. But how would he pay the guards once even his cryp­to was worth­less? What would stop the guards from even­tu­al­ly choos­ing their own leader?

    The bil­lion­aires con­sid­ered using spe­cial com­bi­na­tion locks on the food sup­ply that only they knew. Or mak­ing guards wear dis­ci­pli­nary col­lars of some kind in return for their sur­vival. Or maybe build­ing robots to serve as guards and work­ers – if that tech­nol­o­gy could be devel­oped “in time”.

    I tried to rea­son with them. I made pro-social argu­ments for part­ner­ship and sol­i­dar­i­ty as the best approach­es to our col­lec­tive, long-term chal­lenges. The way to get your guards to exhib­it loy­al­ty in the future was to treat them like friends right now, I explained. Don’t just invest in ammo and elec­tric fences, invest in peo­ple and rela­tion­ships. They rolled their eyes at what must have sound­ed to them like hip­py phi­los­o­phy.

    This was prob­a­bly the wealth­i­est, most pow­er­ful group I had ever encoun­tered. Yet here they were, ask­ing a Marx­ist media the­o­rist for advice on where and how to con­fig­ure their dooms­day bunkers. That’s when it hit me: at least as far as these gen­tle­men were con­cerned, this was a talk about the future of tech­nol­o­gy.

    Tak­ing their cue from Tes­la founder Elon Musk colonis­ing Mars, Palantir’s Peter Thiel revers­ing the age­ing process, or arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence devel­op­ers Sam Alt­man and Ray Kurzweil upload­ing their minds into super­com­put­ers, they were prepar­ing for a dig­i­tal future that had less to do with mak­ing the world a bet­ter place than it did with tran­scend­ing the human con­di­tion alto­geth­er. Their extreme wealth and priv­i­lege served only to make them obsessed with insu­lat­ing them­selves from the very real and present dan­ger of cli­mate change, ris­ing sea lev­els, mass migra­tions, glob­al pan­demics, nativist pan­ic and resource deple­tion. For them, the future of tech­nol­o­gy is about only one thing: escape from the rest of us.

    These peo­ple once show­ered the world with mad­ly opti­mistic busi­ness plans for how tech­nol­o­gy might ben­e­fit human soci­ety. Now they’ve reduced tech­no­log­i­cal progress to a video game that one of them wins by find­ing the escape hatch. Will it be Jeff Bezos migrat­ing to space, Thiel to his New Zealand com­pound, or Mark Zucker­berg to his vir­tu­al meta­verse? And these cat­a­strophis­ing bil­lion­aires are the pre­sump­tive win­ners of the dig­i­tal econ­o­my – the sup­posed cham­pi­ons of the sur­vival-of-the-fittest busi­ness land­scape that’s fuelling most of this spec­u­la­tion to begin with.

    What I came to realise was that these men are actu­al­ly the losers. The bil­lion­aires who called me out to the desert to eval­u­ate their bunker strate­gies are not the vic­tors of the eco­nom­ic game so much as the vic­tims of its per­verse­ly lim­it­ed rules. More than any­thing, they have suc­cumbed to a mind­set where “win­ning” means earn­ing enough mon­ey to insu­late them­selves from the dam­age they are cre­at­ing by earn­ing mon­ey in that way. It’s as if they want to build a car that goes fast enough to escape from its own exhaust.

    Yet this Sil­i­con Val­ley escapism – let’s call it The Mind­set – encour­ages its adher­ents to believe that the win­ners can some­how leave the rest of us behind.

    Nev­er before have our society’s most pow­er­ful play­ers assumed that the pri­ma­ry impact of their own con­quests would be to ren­der the world itself unlive­able for every­one else. Nor have they ever before had the tech­nolo­gies through which to pro­gramme their sen­si­bil­i­ties into the very fab­ric of our soci­ety. The land­scape is alive with algo­rithms and intel­li­gences active­ly encour­ag­ing these self­ish and iso­la­tion­ist out­looks. Those socio­path­ic enough to embrace them are reward­ed with cash and con­trol over the rest of us. It’s a self-rein­forc­ing feed­back loop. This is new.

    Ampli­fied by dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and the unprece­dent­ed wealth dis­par­i­ty they afford, The Mind­set allows for the easy exter­nal­i­sa­tion of harm to oth­ers, and inspires a cor­re­spond­ing long­ing for tran­scen­dence and sep­a­ra­tion from the peo­ple and places that have been abused.

    Instead of just lord­ing over us for ever, how­ev­er, the bil­lion­aires at the top of these vir­tu­al pyra­mids active­ly seek the endgame. In fact, like the plot of a Mar­vel block­buster, the very struc­ture of The Mind­set requires an endgame. Every­thing must resolve to a one or a zero, a win­ner or los­er, the saved or the damned. Actu­al, immi­nent cat­a­stro­phes from the cli­mate emer­gency to mass migra­tions sup­port the mythol­o­gy, offer­ing these would-be super­heroes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to play out the finale in their own life­times. For The Mind­set also includes a faith-based Sil­i­con Val­ley cer­tain­ty that they can devel­op a tech­nol­o­gy that will some­how break the laws of physics, eco­nom­ics and moral­i­ty to offer them some­thing even bet­ter than a way of sav­ing the world: a means of escape from the apoc­a­lypse of their own mak­ing.

    By the time I board­ed my return flight to New York, my mind was reel­ing with the impli­ca­tions of The Mind­set. What were its main tenets? Who were its true believ­ers? What, if any­thing, could we do to resist it? Before I had even land­ed, I post­ed an arti­cle about my strange encounter – to sur­pris­ing effect.

    Almost imme­di­ate­ly, I began receiv­ing inquiries from busi­ness­es cater­ing to the bil­lion­aire prep­per, all hop­ing I would make some intro­duc­tions on their behalf to the five men I had writ­ten about. I heard from a real estate agent who spe­cialis­es in dis­as­ter-proof list­ings, a com­pa­ny tak­ing reser­va­tions for its third under­ground dwellings project, and a secu­ri­ty firm offer­ing var­i­ous forms of “risk man­age­ment”.

    But the mes­sage that got my atten­tion came from a for­mer pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can cham­ber of com­merce in Latvia. JC Cole had wit­nessed the fall of the Sovi­et empire, as well as what it took to rebuild a work­ing soci­ety almost from scratch. He had also served as land­lord for the Amer­i­can and Euro­pean Union embassies, and learned a whole lot about secu­ri­ty sys­tems and evac­u­a­tion plans. “You cer­tain­ly stirred up a bees’ nest,” he began his first email to me. “It’s quite accu­rate – the wealthy hid­ing in their bunkers will have a prob­lem with their secu­ri­ty teams… I believe you are cor­rect with your advice to ‘treat those peo­ple real­ly well, right now’, but also the con­cept may be expand­ed and I believe there is a bet­ter sys­tem that would give much bet­ter results.”

    He felt cer­tain that the “event” – a grey swan, or pre­dictable cat­a­stro­phe trig­gered by our ene­mies, Moth­er Nature, or just by acci­dent –was inevitable. He had done a Swot analy­sis – strengths, weak­ness­es, oppor­tu­ni­ties and threats – and con­clud­ed that prepar­ing for calami­ty required us to take the very same mea­sures as try­ing to pre­vent one. “By coin­ci­dence,” he explained, “I am set­ting up a series of safe haven farms in the NYC area. These are designed to best han­dle an ‘event’ and also ben­e­fit soci­ety as semi-organ­ic farms. Both with­in three hours’ dri­ve from the city – close enough to get there when it hap­pens.”

    ...

    JC is cur­rent­ly devel­op­ing two farms as part of his safe haven project. Farm one, out­side Prince­ton, is his show mod­el and “works well as long as the thin blue line is work­ing”. The sec­ond one, some­where in the Poconos, has to remain a secret. “The few­er peo­ple who know the loca­tions, the bet­ter,” he explained, along with a link to the Twi­light Zone episode in which pan­icked neigh­bours break into a family’s bomb shel­ter dur­ing a nuclear scare. “The pri­ma­ry val­ue of safe haven is oper­a­tional secu­ri­ty, nick­named OpSec by the mil­i­tary. If/when the sup­ply chain breaks, the peo­ple will have no food deliv­ered. Covid-19 gave us the wake-up call as peo­ple start­ed fight­ing over toi­let paper. When it comes to a short­age of food it will be vicious. That is why those intel­li­gent enough to invest have to be stealthy.”

    ...

    The farm itself was serv­ing as an eques­tri­an cen­tre and tac­ti­cal train­ing facil­i­ty in addi­tion to rais­ing goats and chick­ens. JC showed me how to hold and shoot a Glock at a series of out­door tar­gets shaped like bad guys, while he grum­bled about the way Sen­a­tor Dianne Fein­stein had lim­it­ed the num­ber of rounds one could legal­ly fit in a mag­a­zine for the hand­gun. JC knew his stuff. I asked him about var­i­ous com­bat sce­nar­ios. “The only way to pro­tect your fam­i­ly is with a group,” he said. That was real­ly the whole point of his project – to gath­er a team capa­ble of shel­ter­ing in place for a year or more, while also defend­ing itself from those who hadn’t pre­pared. JC was also hop­ing to train young farm­ers in sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture, and to secure at least one doc­tor and den­tist for each loca­tion.

    On the way back to the main build­ing, JC showed me the “lay­ered secu­ri­ty” pro­to­cols he had learned design­ing embassy prop­er­ties: a fence, “no tres­pass­ing” signs, guard dogs, sur­veil­lance cam­eras … all meant to dis­cour­age vio­lent con­fronta­tion. He paused for a minute as he stared down the dri­ve. “Hon­est­ly, I am less con­cerned about gangs with guns than the woman at the end of the dri­ve­way hold­ing a baby and ask­ing for food.” He paused, and sighed, “I don’t want to be in that moral dilem­ma.”

    That’s why JC’s real pas­sion wasn’t just to build a few iso­lat­ed, mil­i­tarised retreat facil­i­ties for mil­lion­aires, but to pro­to­type local­ly owned sus­tain­able farms that can be mod­elled by oth­ers and ulti­mate­ly help restore region­al food secu­ri­ty in Amer­i­ca. The “just-in-time” deliv­ery sys­tem pre­ferred by agri­cul­tur­al con­glom­er­ates ren­ders most of the nation vul­ner­a­ble to a cri­sis as minor as a pow­er out­age or trans­porta­tion shut­down. Mean­while, the cen­tral­i­sa­tion of the agri­cul­tur­al indus­try has left most farms utter­ly depen­dent on the same long sup­ply chains as urban con­sumers. “Most egg farm­ers can’t even raise chick­ens,” JC explained as he showed me his hen­hous­es. “They buy chicks. I’ve got roost­ers.”

    JC is no hip­py envi­ron­men­tal­ist but his busi­ness mod­el is based in the same com­mu­ni­tar­i­an spir­it I tried to con­vey to the bil­lion­aires: the way to keep the hun­gry hordes from storm­ing the gates is by get­ting them food secu­ri­ty now. So for $3m, investors not only get a max­i­mum secu­ri­ty com­pound in which to ride out the com­ing plague, solar storm, or elec­tric grid col­lapse. They also get a stake in a poten­tial­ly prof­itable net­work of local farm fran­chis­es that could reduce the prob­a­bil­i­ty of a cat­a­stroph­ic event in the first place. His busi­ness would do its best to ensure there are as few hun­gry chil­dren at the gate as pos­si­ble when the time comes to lock down.

    So far, JC Cole has been unable to con­vince any­one to invest in Amer­i­can Her­itage Farms.. That doesn’t mean no one is invest­ing in such schemes. It’s just that the ones that attract more atten­tion and cash don’t gen­er­al­ly have these coop­er­a­tive com­po­nents. They’re more for peo­ple who want to go it alone. Most bil­lion­aire prep­pers don’t want to have to learn to get along with a com­mu­ni­ty of farm­ers or, worse, spend their win­nings fund­ing a nation­al food resilience pro­gramme. The mind­set that requires safe havens is less con­cerned with pre­vent­ing moral dilem­mas than sim­ply keep­ing them out of sight.

    Many of those seri­ous­ly seek­ing a safe haven sim­ply hire one of sev­er­al prep­per con­struc­tion com­pa­nies to bury a pre­fab steel-lined bunker some­where on one of their exist­ing prop­er­ties. Ris­ing S Com­pa­ny in Texas builds and installs bunkers and tor­na­do shel­ters for as lit­tle as $40,000 for an 8ft by 12ft emer­gency hide­out all the way up to the $8.3m lux­u­ry series “Aris­to­crat”, com­plete with pool and bowl­ing lane. The enter­prise orig­i­nal­ly catered to fam­i­lies seek­ing tem­po­rary storm shel­ters, before it went into the long-term apoc­a­lypse busi­ness. The com­pa­ny logo, com­plete with three cru­ci­fix­es, sug­gests their ser­vices are geared more toward Chris­t­ian evan­ge­list prep­pers in red-state Amer­i­ca than bil­lion­aire tech bros play­ing out sci-fi sce­nar­ios.

    There’s some­thing much more whim­si­cal about the facil­i­ties in which most of the bil­lion­aires – or, more accu­rate­ly, aspir­ing bil­lion­aires – actu­al­ly invest. A com­pa­ny called Vivos is sell­ing lux­u­ry under­ground apart­ments in con­vert­ed cold war muni­tions stor­age facil­i­ties, mis­sile silos, and oth­er for­ti­fied loca­tions around the world. Like minia­ture Club Med resorts, they offer pri­vate suites for indi­vid­u­als or fam­i­lies, and larg­er com­mon areas with pools, games, movies and din­ing. Ultra-elite shel­ters such as the Oppidum in the Czech Repub­lic claim to cater to the bil­lion­aire class, and pay more atten­tion to the long-term psy­cho­log­i­cal health of res­i­dents. They pro­vide imi­ta­tion of nat­ur­al light, such as a pool with a sim­u­lat­ed sun­lit gar­den area, a wine vault, and oth­er ameni­ties to make the wealthy feel at home.

    On clos­er analy­sis, how­ev­er, the prob­a­bil­i­ty of a for­ti­fied bunker actu­al­ly pro­tect­ing its occu­pants from the real­i­ty of, well, real­i­ty, is very slim. For one, the closed ecosys­tems of under­ground facil­i­ties are pre­pos­ter­ous­ly brit­tle. For exam­ple, an indoor, sealed hydro­pon­ic gar­den is vul­ner­a­ble to con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. Ver­ti­cal farms with mois­ture sen­sors and com­put­er-con­trolled irri­ga­tion sys­tems look great in busi­ness plans and on the rooftops of Bay Area star­tups; when a palette of top­soil or a row of crops goes wrong, it can sim­ply be pulled and replaced. The her­met­i­cal­ly sealed apoc­a­lypse “grow room” doesn’t allow for such do-overs.

    Just the known unknowns are enough to dash any rea­son­able hope of sur­vival. But this doesn’t seem to stop wealthy prep­pers from try­ing. The New York Times report­ed that real estate agents spe­cial­is­ing in pri­vate islands were over­whelmed with inquiries dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic. Prospec­tive clients were even ask­ing about whether there was enough land to do some agri­cul­ture in addi­tion to installing a heli­copter land­ing pad. But while a pri­vate island may be a good place to wait out a tem­po­rary plague, turn­ing it into a self-suf­fi­cient, defen­si­ble ocean fortress is hard­er than it sounds. Small islands are utter­ly depen­dent on air and sea deliv­er­ies for basic sta­ples. Solar pan­els and water fil­tra­tion equip­ment need to be replaced and ser­viced at reg­u­lar inter­vals. The bil­lion­aires who reside in such locales are more, not less, depen­dent on com­plex sup­ply chains than those of us embed­ded in indus­tri­al civil­i­sa­tion.

    Sure­ly the bil­lion­aires who brought me out for advice on their exit strate­gies were aware of these lim­i­ta­tions. Could it have all been some sort of game? Five men sit­ting around a pok­er table, each wager­ing his escape plan was best?

    But if they were in it just for fun, they wouldn’t have called for me. They would have flown out the author of a zom­bie apoc­a­lypse com­ic book. If they want­ed to test their bunker plans, they’d have hired a secu­ri­ty expert from Black­wa­ter or the Pen­ta­gon. They seemed to want some­thing more. Their lan­guage went far beyond ques­tions of dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness and verged on pol­i­tics and phi­los­o­phy: words such as indi­vid­u­al­i­ty, sov­er­eign­ty, gov­er­nance and auton­o­my.

    That’s because it wasn’t their actu­al bunker strate­gies I had been brought out to eval­u­ate so much as the phi­los­o­phy and math­e­mat­ics they were using to jus­ti­fy their com­mit­ment to escape. They were work­ing out what I’ve come to call the insu­la­tion equa­tion: could they earn enough mon­ey to insu­late them­selves from the real­i­ty they were cre­at­ing by earn­ing mon­ey in this way? Was there any valid jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for striv­ing to be so suc­cess­ful that they could sim­ply leave the rest of us behind –apoc­a­lypse or not?

    Or was this real­ly their inten­tion all along? Maybe the apoc­a­lypse is less some­thing they’re try­ing to escape than an excuse to realise The Mindset’s true goal: to rise above mere mor­tals and exe­cute the ulti­mate exit strat­e­gy.

    ————-

    “The super-rich ‘prep­pers’ plan­ning to save them­selves from the apoc­a­lypse” by Dou­glas Rushkoff; The Guardian; 09/04/2022

    “Tak­ing their cue from Tes­la founder Elon Musk colonis­ing Mars, Palantir’s Peter Thiel revers­ing the age­ing process, or arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence devel­op­ers Sam Alt­man and Ray Kurzweil upload­ing their minds into super­com­put­ers, they were prepar­ing for a dig­i­tal future that had less to do with mak­ing the world a bet­ter place than it did with tran­scend­ing the human con­di­tion alto­geth­er. Their extreme wealth and priv­i­lege served only to make them obsessed with insu­lat­ing them­selves from the very real and present dan­ger of cli­mate change, ris­ing sea lev­els, mass migra­tions, glob­al pan­demics, nativist pan­ic and resource deple­tion. For them, the future of tech­nol­o­gy is about only one thing: escape from the rest of us.

    It’s like Seast­eading, but with an under­ground for­ti­fied bunker. But the goal is the same: escape from the rest of civ­i­liza­tion. Specif­i­cal­ly, escape from the rest of civ­i­liza­tion dur­ing a peri­od of civ­i­liza­tion­al col­lapse. A col­lapse these bil­lion­aires clear­ly expect to hap­pen in their life­times. And a col­lapse these bil­lion­aires appear to rec­og­nized is made almost inevitable by a world dri­ven by the demands of prof­it-max­i­ma­tion and feal­ty to whims of the oli­garchs. Oli­garchs who are increas­ing­ly Tech Oli­garchs infused with a kind of Man­i­fest Des­tiny: they’re des­tined to first com­plete­ly cap­ture all the wealth and then use that wealth to build pri­vate fortress­es where they can wait out the oncom­ing col­lapse:

    ...
    Nev­er before have our society’s most pow­er­ful play­ers assumed that the pri­ma­ry impact of their own con­quests would be to ren­der the world itself unlive­able for every­one else. Nor have they ever before had the tech­nolo­gies through which to pro­gramme their sen­si­bil­i­ties into the very fab­ric of our soci­ety. The land­scape is alive with algo­rithms and intel­li­gences active­ly encour­ag­ing these self­ish and iso­la­tion­ist out­looks. Those socio­path­ic enough to embrace them are reward­ed with cash and con­trol over the rest of us. It’s a self-rein­forc­ing feed­back loop. This is new.

    ...

    Instead of just lord­ing over us for ever, how­ev­er, the bil­lion­aires at the top of these vir­tu­al pyra­mids active­ly seek the endgame. In fact, like the plot of a Mar­vel block­buster, the very struc­ture of The Mind­set requires an endgame. Every­thing must resolve to a one or a zero, a win­ner or los­er, the saved or the damned. Actu­al, immi­nent cat­a­stro­phes from the cli­mate emer­gency to mass migra­tions sup­port the mythol­o­gy, offer­ing these would-be super­heroes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to play out the finale in their own life­times. For The Mind­set also includes a faith-based Sil­i­con Val­ley cer­tain­ty that they can devel­op a tech­nol­o­gy that will some­how break the laws of physics, eco­nom­ics and moral­i­ty to offer them some­thing even bet­ter than a way of sav­ing the world: a means of escape from the apoc­a­lypse of their own mak­ing.

    ...

    Sure­ly the bil­lion­aires who brought me out for advice on their exit strate­gies were aware of these lim­i­ta­tions. Could it have all been some sort of game? Five men sit­ting around a pok­er table, each wager­ing his escape plan was best?

    But if they were in it just for fun, they wouldn’t have called for me. They would have flown out the author of a zom­bie apoc­a­lypse com­ic book. If they want­ed to test their bunker plans, they’d have hired a secu­ri­ty expert from Black­wa­ter or the Pen­ta­gon. They seemed to want some­thing more. Their lan­guage went far beyond ques­tions of dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness and verged on pol­i­tics and phi­los­o­phy: words such as indi­vid­u­al­i­ty, sov­er­eign­ty, gov­er­nance and auton­o­my.

    That’s because it wasn’t their actu­al bunker strate­gies I had been brought out to eval­u­ate so much as the phi­los­o­phy and math­e­mat­ics they were using to jus­ti­fy their com­mit­ment to escape. They were work­ing out what I’ve come to call the insu­la­tion equa­tion: could they earn enough mon­ey to insu­late them­selves from the real­i­ty they were cre­at­ing by earn­ing mon­ey in this way? Was there any valid jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for striv­ing to be so suc­cess­ful that they could sim­ply leave the rest of us behind –apoc­a­lypse or not?
    ...

    And note the par­tic­u­lar col­lapse sce­nar­ios these bil­lion­aires were inter­est­ed in: glob­al warm­ing and bio­log­i­cal war­fare. At the same time, they were ask­ing ques­tions about how long they could expect to be forced to stay shel­tered with no out­side help and con­tained air sup­plies. What kind of night­mare bio­log­i­cal war­fare sce­nario are these bil­lion­aires envi­sion­ing? Because it sounds like the some of 12 Mon­keys-style virus that just kills off every­one. This is a good time to recall how Sam Alt­man told reporters back in 2018 that bio­log­i­cal war­fare is the biggest threat to civ­i­liza­tion and that peo­ple aren’t “as scared enough about that as they should be.” What do these guys know that they aren’t shar­ing?

    ...
    They start­ed out innocu­ous­ly and pre­dictably enough. Bit­coin or ethereum? Vir­tu­al real­i­ty or aug­ment­ed real­i­ty? Who will get quan­tum com­put­ing first, Chi­na or Google? Even­tu­al­ly, they edged into their real top­ic of con­cern: New Zealand or Alas­ka? Which region would be less affect­ed by the com­ing cli­mate cri­sis? It only got worse from there. Which was the greater threat: glob­al warm­ing or bio­log­i­cal war­fare? How long should one plan to be able to sur­vive with no out­side help? Should a shel­ter have its own air sup­ply? What was the like­li­hood of ground­wa­ter con­t­a­m­i­na­tion? Final­ly, the CEO of a bro­ker­age house explained that he had near­ly com­plet­ed build­ing his own under­ground bunker sys­tem, and asked: “How do I main­tain author­i­ty over my secu­ri­ty force after the event?” The event. That was their euphemism for the envi­ron­men­tal col­lapse, social unrest, nuclear explo­sion, solar storm, unstop­pable virus, or mali­cious com­put­er hack that takes every­thing down.

    This sin­gle ques­tion occu­pied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to pro­tect their com­pounds from raiders as well as angry mobs. One had already secured a dozen Navy Seals to make their way to his com­pound if he gave them the right cue. But how would he pay the guards once even his cryp­to was worth­less? What would stop the guards from even­tu­al­ly choos­ing their own leader?

    The bil­lion­aires con­sid­ered using spe­cial com­bi­na­tion locks on the food sup­ply that only they knew. Or mak­ing guards wear dis­ci­pli­nary col­lars of some kind in return for their sur­vival. Or maybe build­ing robots to serve as guards and work­ers – if that tech­nol­o­gy could be devel­oped “in time”.

    I tried to rea­son with them. I made pro-social argu­ments for part­ner­ship and sol­i­dar­i­ty as the best approach­es to our col­lec­tive, long-term chal­lenges. The way to get your guards to exhib­it loy­al­ty in the future was to treat them like friends right now, I explained. Don’t just invest in ammo and elec­tric fences, invest in peo­ple and rela­tion­ships. They rolled their eyes at what must have sound­ed to them like hip­py phi­los­o­phy.

    This was prob­a­bly the wealth­i­est, most pow­er­ful group I had ever encoun­tered. Yet here they were, ask­ing a Marx­ist media the­o­rist for advice on where and how to con­fig­ure their dooms­day bunkers. That’s when it hit me: at least as far as these gen­tle­men were con­cerned, this was a talk about the future of tech­nol­o­gy.
    ...

    But, of course, this isn’t just a sto­ry about five anony­mous para­noid bil­lion­aires. As Rushkoff describes, he soon dis­cov­ered there’s an entire indus­try ded­i­cat­ed to build­ing these dooms­day bunkers. An indus­try that, like these bil­lion­aires, appears to be ani­mat­ed by a sense of a loom­ing “event”. Some sort of cat­a­stro­phe that utter­ly breaks civ­i­liza­tion for an extend­ed peri­od:

    ...
    By the time I board­ed my return flight to New York, my mind was reel­ing with the impli­ca­tions of The Mind­set. What were its main tenets? Who were its true believ­ers? What, if any­thing, could we do to resist it? Before I had even land­ed, I post­ed an arti­cle about my strange encounter – to sur­pris­ing effect.

    Almost imme­di­ate­ly, I began receiv­ing inquiries from busi­ness­es cater­ing to the bil­lion­aire prep­per, all hop­ing I would make some intro­duc­tions on their behalf to the five men I had writ­ten about. I heard from a real estate agent who spe­cialis­es in dis­as­ter-proof list­ings, a com­pa­ny tak­ing reser­va­tions for its third under­ground dwellings project, and a secu­ri­ty firm offer­ing var­i­ous forms of “risk man­age­ment”.

    But the mes­sage that got my atten­tion came from a for­mer pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can cham­ber of com­merce in Latvia. JC Cole had wit­nessed the fall of the Sovi­et empire, as well as what it took to rebuild a work­ing soci­ety almost from scratch. He had also served as land­lord for the Amer­i­can and Euro­pean Union embassies, and learned a whole lot about secu­ri­ty sys­tems and evac­u­a­tion plans. “You cer­tain­ly stirred up a bees’ nest,” he began his first email to me. “It’s quite accu­rate – the wealthy hid­ing in their bunkers will have a prob­lem with their secu­ri­ty teams… I believe you are cor­rect with your advice to ‘treat those peo­ple real­ly well, right now’, but also the con­cept may be expand­ed and I believe there is a bet­ter sys­tem that would give much bet­ter results.”

    He felt cer­tain that the “event” – a grey swan, or pre­dictable cat­a­stro­phe trig­gered by our ene­mies, Moth­er Nature, or just by acci­dent –was inevitable. He had done a Swot analy­sis – strengths, weak­ness­es, oppor­tu­ni­ties and threats – and con­clud­ed that prepar­ing for calami­ty required us to take the very same mea­sures as try­ing to pre­vent one. “By coin­ci­dence,” he explained, “I am set­ting up a series of safe haven farms in the NYC area. These are designed to best han­dle an ‘event’ and also ben­e­fit soci­ety as semi-organ­ic farms. Both with­in three hours’ dri­ve from the city – close enough to get there when it hap­pens.”
    ...

    And as Rushkoff describes, while this grow­ing dooms­day-bil­lion­aire-bunker indus­try could have tak­en the approach of attempt­ing to build sus­tain­able sys­tems in coor­di­nat­ing with local pop­u­la­tions in advance of a cat­a­stro­phe — where the bil­lion­aires and their staffs all joint­ly share in the fruits of build­ing these dis­as­ter-resis­tant infra­struc­ture — that’s not the direc­tion the indus­try is tak­ing. Instead, they just build­ing lots of self-con­tained secret bunkers. Often on the bil­lion­aires’ own prop­er­ty:

    ...
    JC is no hip­py envi­ron­men­tal­ist but his busi­ness mod­el is based in the same com­mu­ni­tar­i­an spir­it I tried to con­vey to the bil­lion­aires: the way to keep the hun­gry hordes from storm­ing the gates is by get­ting them food secu­ri­ty now. So for $3m, investors not only get a max­i­mum secu­ri­ty com­pound in which to ride out the com­ing plague, solar storm, or elec­tric grid col­lapse. They also get a stake in a poten­tial­ly prof­itable net­work of local farm fran­chis­es that could reduce the prob­a­bil­i­ty of a cat­a­stroph­ic event in the first place. His busi­ness would do its best to ensure there are as few hun­gry chil­dren at the gate as pos­si­ble when the time comes to lock down.

    So far, JC Cole has been unable to con­vince any­one to invest in Amer­i­can Her­itage Farms. That doesn’t mean no one is invest­ing in such schemes. It’s just that the ones that attract more atten­tion and cash don’t gen­er­al­ly have these coop­er­a­tive com­po­nents. They’re more for peo­ple who want to go it alone. Most bil­lion­aire prep­pers don’t want to have to learn to get along with a com­mu­ni­ty of farm­ers or, worse, spend their win­nings fund­ing a nation­al food resilience pro­gramme. The mind­set that requires safe havens is less con­cerned with pre­vent­ing moral dilem­mas than sim­ply keep­ing them out of sight.

    Many of those seri­ous­ly seek­ing a safe haven sim­ply hire one of sev­er­al prep­per con­struc­tion com­pa­nies to bury a pre­fab steel-lined bunker some­where on one of their exist­ing prop­er­ties. Ris­ing S Com­pa­ny in Texas builds and installs bunkers and tor­na­do shel­ters for as lit­tle as $40,000 for an 8ft by 12ft emer­gency hide­out all the way up to the $8.3m lux­u­ry series “Aris­to­crat”, com­plete with pool and bowl­ing lane. The enter­prise orig­i­nal­ly catered to fam­i­lies seek­ing tem­po­rary storm shel­ters, before it went into the long-term apoc­a­lypse busi­ness. The com­pa­ny logo, com­plete with three cru­ci­fix­es, sug­gests their ser­vices are geared more toward Chris­t­ian evan­ge­list prep­pers in red-state Amer­i­ca than bil­lion­aire tech bros play­ing out sci-fi sce­nar­ios.

    ...

    On clos­er analy­sis, how­ev­er, the prob­a­bil­i­ty of a for­ti­fied bunker actu­al­ly pro­tect­ing its occu­pants from the real­i­ty of, well, real­i­ty, is very slim. For one, the closed ecosys­tems of under­ground facil­i­ties are pre­pos­ter­ous­ly brit­tle. For exam­ple, an indoor, sealed hydro­pon­ic gar­den is vul­ner­a­ble to con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. Ver­ti­cal farms with mois­ture sen­sors and com­put­er-con­trolled irri­ga­tion sys­tems look great in busi­ness plans and on the rooftops of Bay Area star­tups; when a palette of top­soil or a row of crops goes wrong, it can sim­ply be pulled and replaced. The her­met­i­cal­ly sealed apoc­a­lypse “grow room” doesn’t allow for such do-overs.
    ...

    Keep in mind that all of this is hap­pen­ing at the same time the rest of civ­i­liza­tion con­tin­ues to do next to noth­ing to pre­pare for com­ing chal­lenges from cli­mate change and eco-col­lapse alone. it’s already a guar­an­teed mega-dis­as­ter with­out even fac­tor­ing in sce­nar­ios like next-gen­er­a­tion biowar­fare or some oth­er civ­i­liza­tion-crip­pling cat­a­stro­phe. In oth­er words, the night­mare sce­nar­ios these bil­lion­aires are prepar­ing for are more or less what we should expect on our cur­rent tra­jec­to­ry. A tra­jec­to­ry that is, of course, large­ly deter­mined by the whims of bil­lion­aires.

    It all rais­es the intrigu­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty: It appears to be a core assump­tion of these bil­lion­aires that the rest of us just turn on each oth­er and self-anni­hi­late after ‘The Event’ tran­spires and we’re all forced to wan­der­ing the post-apoc­a­lyp­tic waste­lands as these bil­lion­aires reside in their bunkers. But that sce­nario assumes us sur­face-dwellers aren’t aware of the hun­dreds of bil­lion­aire bunkers scat­tered across the world. Bunkers where the peo­ple like­ly most respon­si­ble for The Event are hid­ing out and wait­ing for the rest of us to die off. So giv­en that an inabil­i­ty to unite under a sense of com­mon pur­pose has long been human­i­ty’s great­est weak­ness, you have to won­der how much unit­ing there’s going to be under the ban­ner of find­ing those bil­lion­aire dooms­day bunkers. After all, what are are we going to do? Just kill each oth­er and die off? Sure, that’s the plan, but is how it play out?

    Could hunt­ing bil­lion­aire-bunkers become a unit­ing force for the sur­viv­ing sur­face-dwellers fol­low­ing The Event? It cer­tain­ly would be iron­ic. And sort of the log­i­cal thing to do at that point. Kind of like how let­ting the world burn while you build your bunker seemed log­i­cal at the time.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 12, 2022, 4:05 pm
  8. Welp, we did it. 8 bil­lion peo­ple. Way to go human­i­ty. It’s not exact­ly the kind of mile­stone that should prompt fears of a loom­ing pop­u­la­tion col­lapse. And yet, as the fol­low­ing Busi­ness Insid­er arti­cle describes, there’s a grow­ing move­ment of some of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple on the plan­et who are fret­ting about exact­ly that. Too few peo­ple. Or rather, too few of the right peo­ple hav­ing too few chil­dren. And, sur­prise, it turns out this move­ment is close­ly tied to a net­work of Sil­i­con Val­ley tech oli­garchs in Peter Thiel’s orbit. Includ­ing Elon Musk.

    It’s a net­work we’ve seen already. Recall the sto­ry about the grow­ing num­ber of US firms like Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion and the Orchid offer­ing embryo selec­tion ser­vices that veer awful­ly close to eugen­ics ser­vices. And as we’ve also seen, fig­ures in Thiel’s orbit have been quite excit­ed about these ser­vices, like Founders Fund prin­ci­ple Delian Asparouhov who began tout­ing Orchid’s ser­vices as a means of com­pet­ing with Chi­na. Orchid was co-found­ed by for­mer Thiel Fel­low Noor Sid­diqui.

    As we’re going to see, the ‘prona­tal­ist’ move­ment run by peo­ple in Thiel’s orbit is now aggres­sive­ly encour­ag­ing ultra-high-net-worth cou­ples to not just have very larg­er fam­i­lies but to use these ser­vices to ensure they are large genet­i­cal­ly opti­mized fam­i­lies. But the move­ment isn’t just about today’s per­ceived demo­graph­ic col­lapse. It’s about the future. Far into the future. A future where the descen­dants of those who engage in this aggres­sive breed­ing pro­gram will dom­i­nate. Those are the open­ly expressed hopes of the cou­ple who have become the fig­ure heads behind the move­ment, Mal­colm and Simone Collins. They lit­er­al­ly view them­selves as the seeds for the future of the species. The way they see it, if each of their descen­dants can com­mit to hav­ing eight chil­dren apiece for just 11 gen­er­a­tions, the Collins blood­line will even­tu­al­ly out­num­ber the cur­rent human pop­u­la­tion plan­ning on hav­ing at least 11 chil­dren and “we could set the future of our species.” Fit­ting­ly, for a cou­ple who wants to start a con­ver­sa­tion about the mer­its of eugen­ics, it turns out Simone used to work for a Thiel-backed resort called The Dia­log.
    But the Collins are just the pub­lic face for this move­ment and it sounds like there’s a lot more inter­est­ing in it than might be obvi­ous at first because the believ­ers in the move­ment under­stand­ably fear being labeled eugeni­cist elit­ists. That’s part of what makes this sto­ry so remark­able: it’s an attempt to nor­mal­ize what is ulti­mate­ly an extreme­ly elit­ist world­view. A world­view that views genet­ic fit­ness as being direct­ly tied to wealth. And a world­view that clear­ly fears the ‘wrong’ peo­ple are breed­ing too much. In oth­er words, the par­tic­i­pants in this move­ment are have con­clud­ed that the future of human­i­ty requires a huge spike in their DNA to remain fit for the future.

    Inter­est­ing­ly, these ‘prono­tal­ists’ appear to view their world­view as being part of the gen­er­al “Effec­tive Altru­ism” (EA) move­ment embod­ied by the now-dis­graced Sam Bankman-Fried. As we’ll see, the col­lapse of Bankman-Fried’s FTX cryp­to exchange was seen by the Collins as an oppor­tu­ni­ty for “their” side to dom­i­nate the EA move­ment going for­ward. So get ready for the EA move­ment to get A LOT more pro-eugen­ics going for­ward. Sil­i­con Val­ley’s eugeni­cists are com­ing out of the clos­et:

    Busi­ness Insid­er

    Bil­lion­aires like Elon Musk want to save civ­i­liza­tion by hav­ing tons of genet­i­cal­ly supe­ri­or kids. Inside the move­ment to take ‘con­trol of human evo­lu­tion.’

    Julia Black
    Nov 17, 2022, 5:00 AM

    Sit­ting in their toy-filled fam­i­ly room on a sun­ny Sep­tem­ber after­noon, Simone and Mal­colm Collins were forced to com­pete with the wails of two tod­dlers as they mapped out their plans for humankind.

    “I do not think human­i­ty is in a great sit­u­a­tion right now. And I think if some­body does­n’t fix the prob­lem, we could be gone,” Mal­colm half-shout­ed as he pushed his snif­fling 18-month-old, Torsten, back and forth in a child-size Ton­ka truck.

    Along with his 3‑year-old broth­er, Octa­vian, and his new­born sis­ter, Titan Invic­tus, Torsten has unwit­ting­ly joined an auda­cious exper­i­ment. Accord­ing to his par­ents’ cal­cu­la­tions, as long as each of their descen­dants can com­mit to hav­ing at least eight chil­dren for just 11 gen­er­a­tions, the Collins blood­line will even­tu­al­ly out­num­ber the cur­rent human pop­u­la­tion. 

    If they suc­ceed, Mal­colm con­tin­ued, “we could set the future of our species.”

    Mal­colm, 36, and his wife, Simone, 35, are “prona­tal­ists,” part of a qui­et but grow­ing move­ment tak­ing hold in wealthy tech and ven­ture-cap­i­tal­ist cir­cles. Peo­ple like the Collins­es fear that falling birth rates in cer­tain devel­oped coun­tries like the Unit­ed States and most of Europe will lead to the extinc­tion of cul­tures, the break­down of economies, and, ulti­mate­ly, the col­lapse of civ­i­liza­tion. It’s a the­o­ry that Elon Musk has cham­pi­oned on his Twit­ter feed, that Ross Douthat has defend­ed in The New York Times’ opin­ion pages, and that Joe Rogan and the bil­lion­aire ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Marc Andreessen ban­tered about on “The Joe Rogan Expe­ri­ence.” It’s also, alarm­ing­ly, been used by some to jus­ti­fy white suprema­cy around the world, from the tiki-torch-car­ry­ing marchers in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, chant­i­ng “You will not replace us” to the mosque shoot­er in Christchurch, New Zealand, who opened his 2019 man­i­festo: “It’s the birthrates. It’s the birthrates. It’s the birthrates.”

    Google search­es for “pop­u­la­tion col­lapse” spiked this sum­mer, after Musk con­tin­ued to raise the issue in response to Insid­er’s report that he’d fathered twins with one of his employ­ees. Accord­ing to the Unit­ed Nations, more than a quar­ter of the world’s coun­tries now have prona­tal­ist poli­cies, includ­ing infer­til­i­ty-treat­ment ben­e­fits and “baby bonus” cash incen­tives. Mean­while, a spate of new assist­ed repro­duc­tive tech­nol­o­gy star­tups are attract­ing big-name investors such as Peter Thiel and Steve Jurvet­son, fuel­ing a glob­al fer­til­i­ty-ser­vices mar­ket that Research and Mar­kets projects will reach $78.2 bil­lion by 2025.

    I reached out to the Collins­es after I received a tip about a com­pa­ny called Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion, where Musk’s Ope­nAI cofounder Sam Alt­man was an ear­ly investor. (Alt­man, who is gay, also invests in a com­pa­ny called Con­cep­tion. The start­up plans to grow viable human eggs out of stem cells and could allow two bio­log­i­cal males to repro­duce. “I think hav­ing a lot of kids is great,” Alt­man recent­ly told an audi­ence at Grey­lock­’s Intel­li­gent Future event. “I want to do that now even more than I did when I was younger.”)

    Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion is one of the first com­pa­nies to offer PGT‑P, a con­tro­ver­sial new type of genet­ic test­ing that allows par­ents who are under­go­ing in vit­ro fer­til­iza­tion to select the “best” avail­able embryos based on a vari­ety of poly­genic risk fac­tors.

    The Collins­es became the pub­lic face of the tech­nol­o­gy after being fea­tured in a May Bloomberg arti­cle, “The Pan­do­ra’s Box of Embryo Test­ing Is Offi­cial­ly Open.” After the piece went live, Mal­colm said, they began hear­ing from wealthy prona­tal­ists around the coun­try. 

    “We are the Under­ground Rail­road of ‘Gat­ta­ca’ babies and peo­ple who want to do genet­ic stuff with their kids,” Mal­colm told me.

    The Collins­es invit­ed me to stay at their home in Val­ley Forge, Penn­syl­va­nia, before we’d even spo­ken on the phone. (Fol­low­ing our first call, in which I dis­closed that I was sin­gle but hoped to have chil­dren one day, Simone also emailed to invite me to join their match­mak­ing net­work for “high-achiev­ing” indi­vid­u­als: “As you can prob­a­bly tell, we’re heav­i­ly invest­ed in help­ing peo­ple have fam­i­lies, as the head­winds against hav­ing kids are strong these days!”)

    ...

    Togeth­er they write books and work in the VC and pri­vate-equi­ty worlds. Simone has pre­vi­ous­ly served as man­ag­ing direc­tor for Dia­log, the secre­tive retreat cofound­ed by Thiel. While they relate to the anti-insti­tu­tion­al wing of the Repub­li­can Par­ty, they’re wary of affil­i­at­ing with what they called the “crazy con­ser­v­a­tives.” Above all, they are focused on brand­ing prona­tal­ism as hip, social­ly accept­able, and wel­com­ing — espe­cial­ly to cer­tain peo­ple. Last year, they cofound­ed the non­prof­it ini­tia­tive Pronatalist.org.

    ...

    They both said they were warned by friends not to talk to me. After all, a polit­i­cal mine­field awaits any­one who wan­ders into this space. The last major fig­ure to be asso­ci­at­ed with prona­tal­ism was Jef­frey Epstein, who schemed to impreg­nate 20 women at a time on his New Mex­i­co ranch. Genet­ic screen­ing, and the under­ly­ing assump­tion that some humans are born bet­ter than oth­ers, often invites com­par­isons to Nazi eugenic exper­i­ments. And then there’s the fact that our pri­ma­ry cul­tur­al ref­er­ence point for a prona­tal­ist soci­ety is the bru­tal­ly misog­y­nist world of “The Hand­maid­’s Tale.”

    The Collins­es, who call them­selves “ruth­less prag­ma­tists,” con­sid­er the inevitable back­lash a small price to pay.

    “We’re frus­trat­ed that one of the inher­ent points of this cul­ture is that peo­ple are super pri­vate with­in it,” Simone said. They not only hope that their trans­paren­cy will encour­age oth­er mem­bers of the upper class to have more chil­dren; they want to build a cul­ture and econ­o­my around the high-birth-rate lifestyle.

    The pay­off won’t be imme­di­ate, Simone said, but she believes if that small cir­cle puts the right plans into place, their suc­ces­sors will “become the new dom­i­nant lead­ing class­es in the world.” 

    ********

    The tech indus­try’s biggest play­ers have been pre­oc­cu­pied with their lega­cies for years. In the 2010s, the longevi­ty craze swept Sil­i­con Val­ley and indus­try titans like Jeff Bezos, 58, Sergey Brin, 49, and Lar­ry Elli­son, 78, poured bil­lions of dol­lars into biotech com­pa­nies they thought could help them defy death. Jef­frey Epstein reached out to sci­en­tists about freez­ing his head and penis to be revi­tal­ized hun­dreds of years lat­er, while Peter Thiel, 55, was said to have sought blood trans­fu­sions from the young. (In response to the rumor, Thiel stat­ed: “On the record, I am not a vam­pire.”)

    ...

    In 2018, Brin and his then-wife, Nicole Shana­han, who faced fer­til­i­ty trou­bles of their own, found­ed the Buck Insti­tute’s Cen­ter for Female Repro­duc­tive Longevi­ty. Thiel, who has at least one child with his part­ner, has invest­ed in the egg-freez­ing start­up TMRW and a new peri­od-track­ing app called 28, which has stirred con­tro­ver­sy over its affil­i­a­tion with an antiabor­tion pub­li­ca­tion. Elli­son, mean­while, who has two chil­dren in their 30s, has report­ed­ly resumed hav­ing kids — with his 31-year-old girl­friend.

    While prona­tal­ism is often asso­ci­at­ed with reli­gious extrem­ism, the ver­sion now trend­ing in this com­mu­ni­ty has more in com­mon with dystopi­an sci-fi. The Collins­es, who iden­ti­fy as sec­u­lar Calvin­ists, are par­tic­u­lar­ly drawn to the tenet of pre­des­ti­na­tion, which sug­gests that cer­tain peo­ple are cho­sen to be supe­ri­or on earth and that free will is an illu­sion. They believe prona­tal­ism is a nat­ur­al exten­sion of the philo­soph­i­cal move­ments sweep­ing tech hubs like the Sil­i­con Hills of Austin, Texas. Our con­ver­sa­tions fre­quent­ly return to tran­shu­man­ism (efforts to merge human and machine capa­bil­i­ties to cre­ate supe­ri­or beings), longter­mism (a phi­los­o­phy that argues the true cost of human extinc­tion would­n’t be the death of bil­lions today but the pre­emp­tive loss of tril­lions, or more, unborn future peo­ple), and effec­tive altru­ism (or EA, a phil­an­thropic sys­tem cur­rent­ly focused on pre­vent­ing arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence from wip­ing out the human pop­u­la­tion).

    ...

    Accord­ing to tech-indus­try insid­ers, this type of rhetoric is spread­ing at inti­mate gath­er­ings among some of the most pow­er­ful fig­ures in Amer­i­ca. It’s “big here in Austin,” the 23andMe cofounder Lin­da Avey told me. Raf­fi Grin­berg, a prona­tal­ist who is the exec­u­tive direc­tor of Dia­log, said pop­u­la­tion decline was a com­mon top­ic among the CEOs, elect­ed offi­cials, and oth­er pow­er­ful fig­ures who attend­ed the group’s off-the-record retreats. In Feb­ru­ary, the Pay­Pal cofounder Luke Nosek, a close Musk ally, host­ed a gath­er­ing at his home on Austin’s Lake Travis to dis­cuss “The End of West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion,” anoth­er com­mon catch­phrase in the birth-rate dis­course.

    Mean­while, the Collins­es said a mutu­al friend had been encour­ag­ing them to fly to Austin to meet with Claire Bouch­er, the musi­cian known pro­fes­sion­al­ly as Grimes who is the moth­er of two of Musk’s chil­dren. (Grimes, who fol­lows about 1,470 peo­ple on Twit­ter, fol­lowed the Collins­es while this piece was being report­ed.) It makes sense con­sid­er­ing that Musk, who has fathered 10 known chil­dren with three women, is the tech world’s high­est-pro­file prona­tal­ist, albeit unof­fi­cial­ly. He has been open about his obses­sion with Genghis Khan, the 13th-cen­tu­ry Mon­gol ruler whose DNA can still be traced to a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the human pop­u­la­tion. One per­son who has worked direct­ly with Musk and who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty for this arti­cle recalled Musk express­ing his inter­est as ear­ly as 2005 in “pop­u­lat­ing the world with his off­spring.”

    Musk has increas­ing­ly used his pub­lic plat­form to advo­cate the cause, tweet­ing dozens of times in the past two years about the threat of pop­u­la­tion decline. “If the alarm­ing col­lapse in birth rate con­tin­ues, civ­i­liza­tion will indeed die with a whim­per in adult dia­pers,” he tweet­ed in Jan­u­ary.

    These wor­ries tend to focus on one class of peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar, which prona­tal­ists use var­i­ous euphemisms to express. In August, Elon’s father, Errol Musk, told me that he was wor­ried about low birth rates in what he called “pro­duc­tive nations.” The Collins­es call it “cos­mopoli­tan soci­ety.” Elon Musk him­self has tweet­ed about the movie “Idioc­ra­cy,” in which the intel­li­gent elite stop pro­cre­at­ing, allow­ing the unin­tel­li­gent to pop­u­late the earth.

    ...

    Musk was echo­ing an argu­ment made by Nick Bostrom, one of the found­ing fathers of longter­mism, who wrote that he wor­ried declin­ing fer­til­i­ty among “intel­lec­tu­al­ly tal­ent­ed indi­vid­u­als” could lead to the demise of “advanced civ­i­lized soci­ety.” Émile P. Tor­res, a for­mer longter­mist philoso­pher who has become one of the move­men­t’s most out­spo­ken crit­ics, put it more blunt­ly: “The longter­mist view itself implies that real­ly, peo­ple in rich coun­tries mat­ter more.”

    A source who worked close­ly with Musk for sev­er­al years described this think­ing as core to the bil­lion­aire’s prona­tal­ist ide­ol­o­gy. “He’s very seri­ous about the idea that your wealth is direct­ly linked to your IQ,” he said. The source, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty for this arti­cle, also said Musk urged “all the rich men he knew” to have as many chil­dren as pos­si­ble. 

    Musk’s ties to the EA and longter­mist com­mu­ni­ties have been grad­u­al­ly revealed in recent months. In Sep­tem­ber, text logs released as part of Musk’s legal bat­tle with Twit­ter showed con­ver­sa­tions between Musk and the promi­nent longter­mist William MacAskill, who works at Oxford’s Future of Human­i­ty Insti­tute, where Musk is a major donor. In the mes­sages, MacAskill offered to intro­duce Musk to Sam Bankman-Fried, a now-dis­graced cryp­tocur­ren­cy entre­pre­neur who had donat­ed mil­lions of dol­lars to longter­mist orga­ni­za­tions.

    MacAskill has nev­er explic­it­ly endorsed prona­tal­ism, and he declined to be inter­viewed for this arti­cle. He did, how­ev­er, devote a chap­ter of his best-sell­ing book, “What We Owe the Future,” to his fear that dwin­dling birth rates would lead to “tech­no­log­i­cal stag­na­tion,” which would increase the like­li­hood of extinc­tion or civ­i­liza­tion­al col­lapse. One solu­tion he offered was cloning or genet­i­cal­ly opti­miz­ing a small sub­set of the pop­u­la­tion to have “Ein­stein-lev­el research abil­i­ties” to “com­pen­sate for hav­ing few­er peo­ple over­all.”

    Mal­colm said he was glad to see Musk bring these issues to the fore­front. “He’s not as afraid of being can­celed as every­one else,” Mal­colm told me. “Any smart per­son with a cer­tain cul­tur­al aes­thet­ics of their life is look­ing at this world and say­ing, ‘How do we cre­ate inter­gen­er­a­tional­ly, durable cul­tures that will lead to our species being a diverse, thriv­ing, inno­v­a­tive inter­plan­e­tary empire one day that isn’t at risk from, you know, a sin­gle aster­oid strike or a sin­gle huge dis­ease?’ ”

    **********

    ...

    Dur­ing a stint at a ven­ture-cap­i­tal fund in South Korea, where the fer­til­i­ty rate has fall­en to about 0.81, Mal­colm became obsessed with the idea of what he calls “demo­graph­ic cat­a­stro­phe.” 

    “He was astound­ed by peo­ple’s fatal­is­tic take on it,” Simone said. So, fol­low­ing up on a con­ver­sa­tion Mal­colm had broached on their sec­ond date, the cou­ple com­mit­ted to hav­ing sev­en to 13 chil­dren. Because of their rel­a­tive­ly late start and Simone’s pre­ex­ist­ing fer­til­i­ty issues, they knew they would have to freeze their embryos for lat­er use. In 2018, which they now call “The Year of the Har­vest,” they devot­ed them­selves to pro­duc­ing and freez­ing as many viable embryos as pos­si­ble.

    After five rounds of IVF, Simone heard Stephen Hsu talk­ing about his com­pa­ny Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion on a pod­cast. Preim­plan­ta­tion test­ing for chro­mo­so­mal abnor­mal­i­ties like down syn­drome and sin­gle-gene dis­or­ders like cys­tic fibro­sis has become a rel­a­tive­ly com­mon step in the IVF process, but only recent­ly have some prac­ti­tion­ers begun to offer tests for more com­plex genet­ic traits. While full-blown genet­ic engi­neer­ing through CRISPR or sim­i­lar tech­nol­o­gy is banned in most coun­tries, the field of preim­plan­ta­tion genet­ic screen­ing is still unreg­u­lat­ed by the US Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion.

    The Collins­es decid­ed to embark on a sixth round of IVF to use the ser­vice. Though Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion’s “Life­View” test offi­cial­ly offers risk scores only for 11 poly­genic dis­or­ders — includ­ing schiz­o­phre­nia and five types of can­cer — they allowed the Collins­es to access the raw genet­ic data for their own analy­sis.

    Simone and Mal­colm then took their data export to a com­pa­ny called Self­De­code, which typ­i­cal­ly runs tests on adult DNA sam­ples, to ana­lyze what the Collins­es called “the fun stuff.”

    Sit­ting on the couch, Simone pulled up a spread­sheet filled with red and green num­bers. Each row rep­re­sent­ed one of their embryos from the sixth batch, and the columns a vari­ety of rel­a­tive risk fac­tors, from obe­si­ty to heart dis­ease to headaches. (The “rel­a­tive” part means these scores can only com­pare each embry­o’s risk to that of oth­er indi­vid­u­als with dif­fer­ent genet­ic con­sti­tu­tions, as opposed to “absolute” risk scores.)

    The Collins­es’ top pri­or­i­ty was one of the most dis­put­ed cat­e­gories: what they called “men­tal-per­for­mance-adja­cent traits,” includ­ing stress, chron­i­cal­ly low mood, brain fog, mood swings, fatigue, anx­i­ety, and ADHD.

    The tests they per­formed also pro­vid­ed a risk score for autism, a diag­no­sis Simone her­self has received, which they decid­ed not to take into account. Simone com­pared her autism to a “fine-tuned race car”: Even if she strug­gles with cer­tain “real-world” sit­u­a­tions, she said, “If I’m on the track and I have my pit crew and I have the per­fect fuel—” 

    “—she can dra­mat­i­cal­ly out­com­pete oth­er peo­ple,” Mal­colm said, fin­ish­ing her sen­tence.

    “I’m also real­ly hes­i­tant to select against any type of extreme men­tal pecu­liar­i­ty in a per­son,” he added. “Unless it has to do just with severe low func­tion.”

    With a large num­ber of green columns and a score of 1.9, Embryo No. 3 — aka Titan Invic­tus (an exper­i­ment in nom­i­na­tive deter­min­ism) — was select­ed to become the Collins­es’ third child.

    Even with all that plan­ning, the Collins­es may not be strik­ing genet­ic gold. The field of behav­ioral genet­ics, which assumes a con­nec­tion between genes and char­ac­ter traits, is heav­i­ly con­test­ed — if not out­right reject­ed for its dan­ger­ous soci­etal impli­ca­tions. “It’s not clear how much genet­ics con­tributes to many of the things that they’re look­ing for,” Hank Greely, a Stan­ford Law pro­fes­sor who wrote “The End of Sex and the Future of Human Repro­duc­tion,” told me.

    Argu­ments that trace men­tal apti­tude back to genet­ics are par­tic­u­lar­ly con­tro­ver­sial. Hsu, the Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion cofounder, was forced to resign from his posi­tion at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­si­ty after the grad­u­ate-stu­dent union claimed Hsu believed “in innate bio­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences between human pop­u­la­tions, espe­cial­ly regard­ing intel­li­gence.” (Hsu respond­ed to these alle­ga­tions by say­ing: “If the GEU made the claim in your quote, they mis­rep­re­sent­ed my beliefs. I am quite explic­it in my writ­ing and in inter­views that we do not know whether there are genet­ic group dif­fer­ences in intel­li­gence between dif­fer­ent ances­try groups.”) Simone said two PGT‑P star­tups plan­ning to test for the “fun stuff” were fundrais­ing in stealth mode because “they antic­i­pate being essen­tial­ly can­celed as soon as they go pub­lic.”

    The Collins­es them­selves have been called “hip­ster eugeni­cists” online, some­thing Simone called “amaz­ing” when I brought it to her atten­tion.

    Mal­colm’s “going to want to make busi­ness cards that say ‘Simone and Mal­colm Collins: Hip­ster Eugeni­cists,” she said with a laugh.

    “It’s fun­ny that peo­ple are so afraid of being accused of Nazism,” when they’re just improv­ing their own embryos, Simone added, after not­ing that her Jew­ish grand­moth­er escaped Nazi-occu­pied France. “I’m not elim­i­nat­ing peo­ple. I mean, I’m elim­i­nat­ing from my own genet­ic pool, but these are all only Mal­colm and me.”

    *******

    Accord­ing to the peer-reviewed med­ical jour­nal The Lancet, 183 of the world’s 195 coun­tries are fore­cast to drop below the replace­ment rate of rough­ly 2.1 chil­dren per woman by 2100. Even nations like Chi­na and India, which have pre­vi­ous­ly strug­gled with over­pop­u­la­tion, are look­ing at a sharp turn­around in the com­ing years.

    Demog­ra­phers have pushed back on pop­u­la­tion anx­i­ety like Musk’s, point­ing out that inter­na­tion­al migra­tion from coun­tries with grow­ing pop­u­la­tions will help sta­bi­lize glob­al con­di­tions. Oth­ers have argued that it is an active­ly harm­ful dis­trac­tion from more press­ing issues like the cli­mate cri­sis and glob­al inequal­i­ty.

    ...

    And after decades of investors snub­bing the so-called repro­duc­tive-health femtech mar­ket, the cor­po­rate world has tak­en note, too. Martín Varsavsky, a fer­til­i­ty entre­pre­neur who is a father of sev­en, told me that when he start­ed in the space in 2016 after found­ing four uni­corns in the tele­com and renew­able-ener­gy indus­tries, it was “very hard” to find investors. But now, as wealthy, career-ori­ent­ed cou­ples are wak­ing up in their 30s and 40s and real­iz­ing it’s too late to real­ize their repro­duc­tive goals, investors — many of whom are in the same boat — are throw­ing cash at every­thing from IVF to arti­fi­cial wombs.

    Varsavsky’s lat­est ven­ture, Game­to, which hopes to extend wom­en’s fer­til­i­ty win­dows, has raised $40 mil­lion from investors like the XPrize cofounder Peter Dia­man­dis, the Future Ven­tures founder Steve Jurvet­son, and the 23andMe cofounder Anne Woj­ci­c­ki. Con­cep­tion, the com­pa­ny that hopes to cre­ate viable human eggs out of stem cells, has attract­ed the atten­tion of Alt­man as well as top EA donors like the Recur­sion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals cofounder Blake Borge­son and the Skype cofounder Jaan Tallinn, a father of five.

    “If our tech­nol­o­gy works,” the Con­cep­tion cofounder Matt Krisiloff said, “it real­ly will open the door to women being able to have chil­dren into their 40s and 50s com­fort­ably.”

    Accord­ing to Pitch­Book data assem­bled for Insid­er, there were 138 VC deals in the US femtech space in 2021, up from 57 in 2016. This sum­mer, rumors start­ed to spread that Musk was look­ing at buy­ing a large chain of fer­til­i­ty clin­ics, which he denied to the Finan­cial Times.

    Some investors see improved fer­til­i­ty tech­nol­o­gy as a key part of main­tain­ing a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage in the glob­al mar­ket. Delian Asparouhov, a prin­ci­pal at Founders Fund who has been an out­spo­ken advo­cate of Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion’s com­peti­tor Orchid, told The Times of Lon­don that his inter­est in the tech­nol­o­gy came from a desire to “beat Chi­na,” which he said was the biggest sin­gle threat to West­ern democ­ra­cy.

    “The 20th cen­tu­ry was about atoms and bits,” one Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion investor said. “The 21st cen­tu­ry is about biol­o­gy and babies.”

    *********

    ...

    The Collins­es wor­ry that the over­lap between the types of peo­ple decid­ing not to have chil­dren with the part of the pop­u­la­tion that val­ues things like gay rights, edu­ca­tion for women, and cli­mate activism — traits they believe are genet­i­cal­ly cod­ed — is so great that these val­ues could ulti­mate­ly dis­ap­pear.

    A lot of peo­ple assume that prona­tal­ists want to ban abor­tion, but near­ly all of the prona­tal­ist sup­port­ers inter­viewed for this arti­cle iden­ti­fied them­selves as “pro-choice.” In fact, IVF, which inevitably results in the destruc­tion of fer­til­ized embryos, could be under threat in a strict antiabor­tion soci­ety. The Collins­es don’t expect — or even want — every­one in low-birth-rate coun­tries to sud­den­ly start hav­ing sev­en or more chil­dren. Instead, they see them­selves as part of an elite sub­set of peo­ple respon­si­ble for grow­ing their broods to off­set all the Amer­i­cans who will choose not to.

    I asked what set their vision apart from Gilead, the total­i­tar­i­an regime depict­ed in “The Hand­maid­’s Tale” that des­ig­nates cer­tain women as breed­ers.

    “Gilead is what hap­pens with­out a soft land­ing for demo­graph­ic col­lapse!” Simone replied eager­ly.

    Still, many observers are trou­bled by the fact that prona­tal­ists wor­ry less about how many chil­dren peo­ple are hav­ing and more about who is hav­ing them.

    “There is just kind of a whiff of eugen­ics in wor­ry­ing about demo­graph­ic shifts,” Tor­res said.

    “I find the whole thing elit­ist,” Avey added.

    Ques­tions about class and bod­i­ly auton­o­my may be exac­er­bat­ed by new fer­til­i­ty tech­nolo­gies. Demand for sur­ro­gate moth­ers, who are often low-income par­ents them­selves, has sky­rock­et­ed in recent years, espe­cial­ly among the ultra­wealthy. Last month, a com­pa­ny called Cofer­til­i­ty made head­lines with its promis­es to make egg freez­ing acces­si­ble to those who can’t afford it — as long as the cus­tomer agrees to donate half of the eggs retrieved to pay­ing fam­i­lies.

    ...

    “It’s in some ways the most bru­tal form of inequal­i­ty that this guy’s going to be able to have 20 kids and actu­al­ly 20 very, very healthy — as good as mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy can make them — kids,” Hsu said. “Where­as oth­er peo­ple can’t avail them­selves of that.”

    ********

    ...

    I asked the cou­ple whether they real­ly believed their seem­ing­ly bound­less ener­gy was fea­si­ble for high-birth-rate par­ents on a wide scale. “I think it’s a mind­set thing,” answered Simone, who has no plans to stop work­ing as she grows her fam­i­ly, though she does intend to out­source a sig­nif­i­cant amount of child­care to both paid pro­fes­sion­als and com­mu­nal child-rear­ing strate­gies.

    Once prona­tal­ists reach crit­i­cal mass, the Collins­es hope, they can begin to shape soci­ety around their needs.

    “You have to cre­ate cul­tures that reward” and have struc­tures for large fam­i­lies, Simone explained. Prona­tal­ist pet issues include every­thing from increas­ing hous­ing devel­op­ment to chang­ing laws around car-seat reg­u­la­tion (one study found that peo­ple would stop hav­ing chil­dren when they could­n’t fit any more car seats in their vehi­cle). Dur­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, the Collins­es tried to raise mon­ey for a fam­i­ly-friend­ly “start­up town” they called Project Eure­ka, where all com­mu­ni­ty rules would be “ulti­mate­ly set — all dis­putes resolved” by the Collins­es.

    When fundrais­ing stalled, they redi­rect­ed their focus to the Collins Insti­tute for the Gift­ed, a spe­cial­ized online lab school that is part­ner­ing with the Bari Weiss-cofound­ed Uni­ver­si­ty of Austin and the Thiel-backed 1517 Fund. (Musk sim­i­lar­ly cre­at­ed a bou­tique edu­ca­tion pro­gram, Ad Astra, for his fam­i­ly and employ­ees’ chil­dren that has since expand­ed into the online school Astra Nova.)

    The log­ic behind the Collins Insti­tute reflects their think­ing at large: “If you want to make the future bet­ter for every­one and you could choose to dra­mat­i­cal­ly increase the edu­ca­tion­al out­comes of the bot­tom 10% of peo­ple or the top 0.1% of peo­ple,” the Collins­es say to choose the 0.1%.  

    The Collins­es also devel­oped a sys­tem to track their fam­i­ly’s future progress called The Index. “We record how your kids do emo­tion­al­ly, how your kids do in terms of their career, and do your kids stay with­in the cul­ture they were raised with,” Mal­colm explained. He said he looked for­ward to watch­ing his own chil­dren dis­agree with his par­ent­ing par­a­digm and expect­ed them to be com­pet­i­tive enough to come up with their own. Then, 11 gen­er­a­tions down the line, when the extend­ed Collins fam­i­ly is the Earth­’s (or Mars’) dom­i­nant cul­ture, they’ll have hun­dreds of years’ worth of data to look back on and learn from.

    A lit­tle over a month after my vis­it to Penn­syl­va­nia, Simone sent a series of updates on Titan’s birth, includ­ing a self­ie from her hos­pi­tal bed, new­born baby in her arms, wear­ing her sig­na­ture immac­u­late red lip­stick. She resumed her nor­mal work sched­ule on the Mon­day after her Fri­day C‑section, and nine months down the line, it will be time to queue up the next embryo trans­fer.

    She also weighed in on the stun­ning implo­sion of Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryp­to exchange FTX, which rep­re­sent­ed one of the largest finan­cial hubs for the effec­tive-altru­ism move­ment. The Collins­es, who nev­er direct­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the top Demo­c­ra­t­ic donor Bankman-Fried, spied an oppor­tu­ni­ty in his demise. 

    “This means our fac­tion (more con­ser­v­a­tive, prona­tal­ist, long-ter­mist-civ­i­liza­tion-build­ing-focused, like­ly to self fund) is now 100X more like­ly to become a real, dom­i­nant fac­tion in the EA space,” Simone wrote in a text mes­sage on Novem­ber 12.

    The Collins­es hope that advances in tech­nol­o­gy will keep pace with their grow­ing fam­i­ly. The repro­duc­tive entre­pre­neurs who spoke with me seemed con­fi­dent that the sci­ence would progress quick­ly. “I think we are reach­ing a point in which we are rein­vent­ing repro­duc­tion,” Varsavsky said.

    If sci­en­tists at com­pa­nies like Con­cep­tion suc­ceed in cre­at­ing viable embryos out of stem cells, they could in the­o­ry pro­duce a mas­sive num­ber of them. Com­bined with enhanced genet­ic screen­ing, par­ents could pick the “opti­mal” baby from a much larg­er pool. “There’s a seduc­tive­ness to these ideas, because it’s very grand,” Tor­res said. “It’s about tak­ing con­trol of human evo­lu­tion.”

    ...

    ————

    “Bil­lion­aires like Elon Musk want to save civ­i­liza­tion by hav­ing tons of genet­i­cal­ly supe­ri­or kids. Inside the move­ment to take ‘con­trol of human evo­lu­tion.’ ” by Julia Black; Busi­ness Insid­er; 11/17/2022

    Mal­colm, 36, and his wife, Simone, 35, are “prona­tal­ists,” part of a qui­et but grow­ing move­ment tak­ing hold in wealthy tech and ven­ture-cap­i­tal­ist cir­cles. Peo­ple like the Collins­es fear that falling birth rates in cer­tain devel­oped coun­tries like the Unit­ed States and most of Europe will lead to the extinc­tion of cul­tures, the break­down of economies, and, ulti­mate­ly, the col­lapse of civ­i­liza­tion. It’s a the­o­ry that Elon Musk has cham­pi­oned on his Twit­ter feed, that Ross Douthat has defend­ed in The New York Times’ opin­ion pages, and that Joe Rogan and the bil­lion­aire ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Marc Andreessen ban­tered about on “The Joe Rogan Expe­ri­ence.” It’s also, alarm­ing­ly, been used by some to jus­ti­fy white suprema­cy around the world, from the tiki-torch-car­ry­ing marchers in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, chant­i­ng “You will not replace us” to the mosque shoot­er in Christchurch, New Zealand, who opened his 2019 man­i­festo: “It’s the birthrates. It’s the birthrates. It’s the birthrates.”

    It’s the ‘Great Replace­ment the­o­ry’ for tech­no-fas­cists. That’s the pic­ture that emerges of this “prona­tal­ist” move­ment. Even the self-appoint­ed lead­ers of this move­ment, Mal­colm and Simone Collins, appear to embrace the ‘Eugen­ics for hip­sters’ label. Which is no sur­prise. The cou­ple aren’t shy­ing from embrac­ing a range of ideas that fall under the eugen­ics umbrel­la. As well as embrac­ing the goal of tak­ing over the future of human­i­ty and human evo­lu­tion. The Collins are lit­er­al­ly plan­ning on breed­ing a new form of human­i­ty, using extreme­ly high birth rates cou­pled with genet­ic selec­tion tech­nol­o­gy to guide the process. And they appear to have a large net­work of Sil­i­con Val­ley’s most promi­nent fas­cists behind them:

    ...
    Along with his 3‑year-old broth­er, Octa­vian, and his new­born sis­ter, Titan Invic­tus, Torsten has unwit­ting­ly joined an auda­cious exper­i­ment. Accord­ing to his par­ents’ cal­cu­la­tions, as long as each of their descen­dants can com­mit to hav­ing at least eight chil­dren for just 11 gen­er­a­tions, the Collins blood­line will even­tu­al­ly out­num­ber the cur­rent human pop­u­la­tion. 

    If they suc­ceed, Mal­colm con­tin­ued, “we could set the future of our species.”

    ...

    “We are the Under­ground Rail­road of ‘Gat­ta­ca’ babies and peo­ple who want to do genet­ic stuff with their kids,” Mal­colm told me.

    ...

    An obses­sion with pro­duc­ing heirs is hard­ly a new phe­nom­e­non. Elites have used lin­eage to con­sol­i­date mon­ey and pow­er for most of human his­to­ry. But as cou­ples in the devel­oped world are increas­ing­ly putting off par­ent­hood until lat­er in life — or aban­don­ing it alto­geth­er — peo­ple like the Collins­es are look­ing for hacks to make large fam­i­lies fea­si­ble in a mod­ern, sec­u­lar soci­ety.

    They both said they were warned by friends not to talk to me. After all, a polit­i­cal mine­field awaits any­one who wan­ders into this space. The last major fig­ure to be asso­ci­at­ed with prona­tal­ism was Jef­frey Epstein, who schemed to impreg­nate 20 women at a time on his New Mex­i­co ranch. Genet­ic screen­ing, and the under­ly­ing assump­tion that some humans are born bet­ter than oth­ers, often invites com­par­isons to Nazi eugenic exper­i­ments. And then there’s the fact that our pri­ma­ry cul­tur­al ref­er­ence point for a prona­tal­ist soci­ety is the bru­tal­ly misog­y­nist world of “The Hand­maid­’s Tale.”

    The Collins­es, who call them­selves “ruth­less prag­ma­tists,” con­sid­er the inevitable back­lash a small price to pay.

    “We’re frus­trat­ed that one of the inher­ent points of this cul­ture is that peo­ple are super pri­vate with­in it,” Simone said. They not only hope that their trans­paren­cy will encour­age oth­er mem­bers of the upper class to have more chil­dren; they want to build a cul­ture and econ­o­my around the high-birth-rate lifestyle.

    The pay­off won’t be imme­di­ate, Simone said, but she believes if that small cir­cle puts the right plans into place, their suc­ces­sors will “become the new dom­i­nant lead­ing class­es in the world.” 

    ...

    While prona­tal­ism is often asso­ci­at­ed with reli­gious extrem­ism, the ver­sion now trend­ing in this com­mu­ni­ty has more in com­mon with dystopi­an sci-fi. The Collins­es, who iden­ti­fy as sec­u­lar Calvin­ists, are par­tic­u­lar­ly drawn to the tenet of pre­des­ti­na­tion, which sug­gests that cer­tain peo­ple are cho­sen to be supe­ri­or on earth and that free will is an illu­sion. They believe prona­tal­ism is a nat­ur­al exten­sion of the philo­soph­i­cal move­ments sweep­ing tech hubs like the Sil­i­con Hills of Austin, Texas. Our con­ver­sa­tions fre­quent­ly return to tran­shu­man­ism (efforts to merge human and machine capa­bil­i­ties to cre­ate supe­ri­or beings), longter­mism (a phi­los­o­phy that argues the true cost of human extinc­tion would­n’t be the death of bil­lions today but the pre­emp­tive loss of tril­lions, or more, unborn future peo­ple), and effec­tive altru­ism (or EA, a phil­an­thropic sys­tem cur­rent­ly focused on pre­vent­ing arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence from wip­ing out the human pop­u­la­tion).

    What these move­ments all have in com­mon is a fix­a­tion on the future. And as that future starts to look more and more apoc­a­lyp­tic to some of the world’s wealth­i­est peo­ple, the idea of prona­tal­ism starts to look more hero­ic. It’s a propo­si­tion unique­ly suit­ed to Sil­i­con Val­ley’s brand of hubris: If human­i­ty is on the brink, and they alone can save us, then they owe it to soci­ety to repli­cate them­selves as many times as pos­si­ble.

    “The per­son of this sub­cul­ture real­ly sees the path­way to immor­tal­i­ty as being through hav­ing chil­dren,” Simone said.

    ...

    The Collins­es them­selves have been called “hip­ster eugeni­cists” online, some­thing Simone called “amaz­ing” when I brought it to her atten­tion.

    Mal­colm’s “going to want to make busi­ness cards that say ‘Simone and Mal­colm Collins: Hip­ster Eugeni­cists,” she said with a laugh.

    “It’s fun­ny that peo­ple are so afraid of being accused of Nazism,” when they’re just improv­ing their own embryos, Simone added, after not­ing that her Jew­ish grand­moth­er escaped Nazi-occu­pied France. “I’m not elim­i­nat­ing peo­ple. I mean, I’m elim­i­nat­ing from my own genet­ic pool, but these are all only Mal­colm and me.”

    ...

    I asked the cou­ple whether they real­ly believed their seem­ing­ly bound­less ener­gy was fea­si­ble for high-birth-rate par­ents on a wide scale. “I think it’s a mind­set thing,” answered Simone, who has no plans to stop work­ing as she grows her fam­i­ly, though she does intend to out­source a sig­nif­i­cant amount of child­care to both paid pro­fes­sion­als and com­mu­nal child-rear­ing strate­gies.

    Once prona­tal­ists reach crit­i­cal mass, the Collins­es hope, they can begin to shape soci­ety around their needs.

    “You have to cre­ate cul­tures that reward” and have struc­tures for large fam­i­lies, Simone explained. Prona­tal­ist pet issues include every­thing from increas­ing hous­ing devel­op­ment to chang­ing laws around car-seat reg­u­la­tion (one study found that peo­ple would stop hav­ing chil­dren when they could­n’t fit any more car seats in their vehi­cle). Dur­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, the Collins­es tried to raise mon­ey for a fam­i­ly-friend­ly “start­up town” they called Project Eure­ka, where all com­mu­ni­ty rules would be “ulti­mate­ly set — all dis­putes resolved” by the Collins­es.
    ...

    Key to this plan is the use of ser­vices pro­vid­ed by com­pa­nies like Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion. As we’ve seen, Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion’s ser­vices are essen­tial­ly unreg­u­lat­ed in the US, poten­tial­ly allow­ing the eugen­ics-like embryo selec­tion for com­plex her­i­ta­ble traits like intel­li­gence. So it prob­a­bly should­n’t come as a sur­prise that the com­pa­ny’s cofounder, Steven Hsu, had to resign from hsi posi­tion at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­si­ty over com­ments that sug­gest­ed some races are genet­i­cal­ly more intel­li­gence than oth­ers. It’s a theme:

    ...
    I reached out to the Collins­es after I received a tip about a com­pa­ny called Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion, where Musk’s Ope­nAI cofounder Sam Alt­man was an ear­ly investor. (Alt­man, who is gay, also invests in a com­pa­ny called Con­cep­tion. The start­up plans to grow viable human eggs out of stem cells and could allow two bio­log­i­cal males to repro­duce. “I think hav­ing a lot of kids is great,” Alt­man recent­ly told an audi­ence at Grey­lock­’s Intel­li­gent Future event. “I want to do that now even more than I did when I was younger.”)

    Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion is one of the first com­pa­nies to offer PGT‑P, a con­tro­ver­sial new type of genet­ic test­ing that allows par­ents who are under­go­ing in vit­ro fer­til­iza­tion to select the “best” avail­able embryos based on a vari­ety of poly­genic risk fac­tors.

    The Collins­es became the pub­lic face of the tech­nol­o­gy after being fea­tured in a May Bloomberg arti­cle, “The Pan­do­ra’s Box of Embryo Test­ing Is Offi­cial­ly Open.” After the piece went live, Mal­colm said, they began hear­ing from wealthy prona­tal­ists around the coun­try. 

    ...

    Argu­ments that trace men­tal apti­tude back to genet­ics are par­tic­u­lar­ly con­tro­ver­sial. Hsu, the Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion cofounder, was forced to resign from his posi­tion at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­si­ty after the grad­u­ate-stu­dent union claimed Hsu believed “in innate bio­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences between human pop­u­la­tions, espe­cial­ly regard­ing intel­li­gence.” (Hsu respond­ed to these alle­ga­tions by say­ing: “If the GEU made the claim in your quote, they mis­rep­re­sent­ed my beliefs. I am quite explic­it in my writ­ing and in inter­views that we do not know whether there are genet­ic group dif­fer­ences in intel­li­gence between dif­fer­ent ances­try groups.”) Simone said two PGT‑P star­tups plan­ning to test for the “fun stuff” were fundrais­ing in stealth mode because “they antic­i­pate being essen­tial­ly can­celed as soon as they go pub­lic.”
    ...

    And Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion isn’t the only play­er in this space. There’s also firms like Orchid, which was co-found­ed by for­mer ‘Thiel Fel­low’ Noor Sid­diqui, has found a major advo­cate in Delian Asparouhov — one of the prin­ci­ples in Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund — who called Orchid a tool for fight­ing Chi­na. It points towards one of the incred­i­bly dark direc­tions this move­ment could go in the future, where genet­ic ‘fit­ness’ takes on a nation­al secu­ri­ty dimen­sion. Beyond the obvi­ous Nazi echoes, it’s also pret­ty iron­ic when con­sid­er­ing that this move­ment is all about reduc­ing bio­di­ver­si­ty, which is arguably one of the most dan­ger­ous things a nation could do from a bio­log­i­cal nation­al secu­ri­ty per­spec­tive:

    ...
    And after decades of investors snub­bing the so-called repro­duc­tive-health femtech mar­ket, the cor­po­rate world has tak­en note, too. Martín Varsavsky, a fer­til­i­ty entre­pre­neur who is a father of sev­en, told me that when he start­ed in the space in 2016 after found­ing four uni­corns in the tele­com and renew­able-ener­gy indus­tries, it was “very hard” to find investors. But now, as wealthy, career-ori­ent­ed cou­ples are wak­ing up in their 30s and 40s and real­iz­ing it’s too late to real­ize their repro­duc­tive goals, investors — many of whom are in the same boat — are throw­ing cash at every­thing from IVF to arti­fi­cial wombs.

    Varsavsky’s lat­est ven­ture, Game­to, which hopes to extend wom­en’s fer­til­i­ty win­dows, has raised $40 mil­lion from investors like the XPrize cofounder Peter Dia­man­dis, the Future Ven­tures founder Steve Jurvet­son, and the 23andMe cofounder Anne Woj­ci­c­ki. Con­cep­tion, the com­pa­ny that hopes to cre­ate viable human eggs out of stem cells, has attract­ed the atten­tion of Alt­man as well as top EA donors like the Recur­sion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals cofounder Blake Borge­son and the Skype cofounder Jaan Tallinn, a father of five.

    “If our tech­nol­o­gy works,” the Con­cep­tion cofounder Matt Krisiloff said, “it real­ly will open the door to women being able to have chil­dren into their 40s and 50s com­fort­ably.”

    ...

    Some investors see improved fer­til­i­ty tech­nol­o­gy as a key part of main­tain­ing a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage in the glob­al mar­ket. Delian Asparouhov, a prin­ci­pal at Founders Fund who has been an out­spo­ken advo­cate of Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion’s com­peti­tor Orchid, told The Times of Lon­don that his inter­est in the tech­nol­o­gy came from a desire to “beat Chi­na,” which he said was the biggest sin­gle threat to West­ern democ­ra­cy.

    “The 20th cen­tu­ry was about atoms and bits,” one Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion investor said. “The 21st cen­tu­ry is about biol­o­gy and babies.”

    ...

    If sci­en­tists at com­pa­nies like Con­cep­tion suc­ceed in cre­at­ing viable embryos out of stem cells, they could in the­o­ry pro­duce a mas­sive num­ber of them. Com­bined with enhanced genet­ic screen­ing, par­ents could pick the “opti­mal” baby from a much larg­er pool. “There’s a seduc­tive­ness to these ideas, because it’s very grand,” Tor­res said. “It’s about tak­ing con­trol of human evo­lu­tion.”
    ...

    The Collins­es are so deeply tied into this tech­no-fas­cist net­work that we find that Simone Collins even pre­vi­ous­ly worked as man­ag­ing direc­tor for Dia­log, the secre­tive retreat cofound­ed by Thiel and self-iden­ti­fy with the “anti-insti­tu­tion­al wing of the Repub­li­can Par­ty”, which sure sounds like code for the ‘Alt Right’. Dialog’s exec­u­tive direc­tor, Raf­fi Grin­berg, is also a “prona­tal­ist”. Beyond that, Thiel has invest­ed in an egg freez­ing start­up and the Thiel-backed 1517 Fund is help­ing to finance the “Collins Insti­tute for the Gift­ed.” And don’t for­get that inter­view of Thiel this year where he argues that tran­shu­man­ism is very com­pat­i­ble with his inter­pre­ta­tion of Chris­tian­i­ty. There is no way of sep­a­rat­ing the prona­tal­ist move­ment from Peter Thiel’s larg­er tech­no­fas­cist tran­shu­man­ist view of the future. A future com­plete­ly dom­i­nat­ed by his fel­low tech­no­fas­cists and their many, many genet­i­cal­ly-select­ed chil­dren:

    ...
    Togeth­er they write books and work in the VC and pri­vate-equi­ty worlds. Simone has pre­vi­ous­ly served as man­ag­ing direc­tor for Dia­log, the secre­tive retreat cofound­ed by Thiel. While they relate to the anti-insti­tu­tion­al wing of the Repub­li­can Par­ty, they’re wary of affil­i­at­ing with what they called the “crazy con­ser­v­a­tives.” Above all, they are focused on brand­ing prona­tal­ism as hip, social­ly accept­able, and wel­com­ing — espe­cial­ly to cer­tain peo­ple. Last year, they cofound­ed the non­prof­it ini­tia­tive Pronatalist.org.

    ...

    In 2018, Brin and his then-wife, Nicole Shana­han, who faced fer­til­i­ty trou­bles of their own, found­ed the Buck Insti­tute’s Cen­ter for Female Repro­duc­tive Longevi­ty. Thiel, who has at least one child with his part­ner, has invest­ed in the egg-freez­ing start­up TMRW and a new peri­od-track­ing app called 28, which has stirred con­tro­ver­sy over its affil­i­a­tion with an antiabor­tion pub­li­ca­tion. Elli­son, mean­while, who has two chil­dren in their 30s, has report­ed­ly resumed hav­ing kids — with his 31-year-old girl­friend.

    ...

    Accord­ing to tech-indus­try insid­ers, this type of rhetoric is spread­ing at inti­mate gath­er­ings among some of the most pow­er­ful fig­ures in Amer­i­ca. It’s “big here in Austin,” the 23andMe cofounder Lin­da Avey told me. Raf­fi Grin­berg, a prona­tal­ist who is the exec­u­tive direc­tor of Dia­log, said pop­u­la­tion decline was a com­mon top­ic among the CEOs, elect­ed offi­cials, and oth­er pow­er­ful fig­ures who attend­ed the group’s off-the-record retreats. In Feb­ru­ary, the Pay­Pal cofounder Luke Nosek, a close Musk ally, host­ed a gath­er­ing at his home on Austin’s Lake Travis to dis­cuss “The End of West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion,” anoth­er com­mon catch­phrase in the birth-rate dis­course.

    ...

    When fundrais­ing stalled, they redi­rect­ed their focus to the Collins Insti­tute for the Gift­ed, a spe­cial­ized online lab school that is part­ner­ing with the Bari Weiss-cofound­ed Uni­ver­si­ty of Austin and the Thiel-backed 1517 Fund. (Musk sim­i­lar­ly cre­at­ed a bou­tique edu­ca­tion pro­gram, Ad Astra, for his fam­i­ly and employ­ees’ chil­dren that has since expand­ed into the online school Astra Nova.)

    The log­ic behind the Collins Insti­tute reflects their think­ing at large: “If you want to make the future bet­ter for every­one and you could choose to dra­mat­i­cal­ly increase the edu­ca­tion­al out­comes of the bot­tom 10% of peo­ple or the top 0.1% of peo­ple,” the Collins­es say to choose the 0.1%.  
    ...

    And then there’s Elon Musk’s rela­tion­ship to this move­ment. Musk has long expressed his demo­graph­ic angst on Twit­ter. But as we can see, he’s doing more than just vent­ing on Twit­ter. He’s part of this same ‘prona­tal­ist’ net­work. A net­work that appears to over­lap with the “Effec­tive Altru­ism” (EA) move­ment, which is recent­ly been reel­ing from the down­fall of one of EA’s most promi­nent sup­port­ers: Sam Bankman-Fried. And the more we learn about what EA is all about — a ‘longter­mist’ view that appears to com­plete­ly deval­ue lives today in favor or hypo­thet­i­cal lives in the future — the eas­i­er it is to see why there’s so much over­lap. EA is ulti­mate­ly a very pro-eugen­ics phi­los­o­phy. So when we learn that EA’s guid­ing philoso­pher, William MacAskill, was glad to see Musk “bring these issues to the fore­front” and authored a book that sug­gest­ed genet­i­cal­ly opti­miz­ing a sub­set of the pop­u­la­tion to have “Ein­stein-lev­el research abil­i­ties”, it’s impor­tant to rec­og­nize that we can’t real­ly sep­a­rate the prona­tal­ist move­ment from the EA move­ment. Simone Collins ever cel­e­brate how “their [more con­ser­v­a­tive] side” is now more like to dom­i­na­tion the future of the EA space. They’re both sides of the side ‘longter­mism-jus­ti­fy-any­thing-we-want’ philo­soph­i­cal coin:

    ...
    Mean­while, the Collins­es said a mutu­al friend had been encour­ag­ing them to fly to Austin to meet with Claire Bouch­er, the musi­cian known pro­fes­sion­al­ly as Grimes who is the moth­er of two of Musk’s chil­dren. (Grimes, who fol­lows about 1,470 peo­ple on Twit­ter, fol­lowed the Collins­es while this piece was being report­ed.) It makes sense con­sid­er­ing that Musk, who has fathered 10 known chil­dren with three women, is the tech world’s high­est-pro­file prona­tal­ist, albeit unof­fi­cial­ly. He has been open about his obses­sion with Genghis Khan, the 13th-cen­tu­ry Mon­gol ruler whose DNA can still be traced to a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the human pop­u­la­tion. One per­son who has worked direct­ly with Musk and who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty for this arti­cle recalled Musk express­ing his inter­est as ear­ly as 2005 in “pop­u­lat­ing the world with his off­spring.”

    Musk has increas­ing­ly used his pub­lic plat­form to advo­cate the cause, tweet­ing dozens of times in the past two years about the threat of pop­u­la­tion decline. “If the alarm­ing col­lapse in birth rate con­tin­ues, civ­i­liza­tion will indeed die with a whim­per in adult dia­pers,” he tweet­ed in Jan­u­ary.

    These wor­ries tend to focus on one class of peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar, which prona­tal­ists use var­i­ous euphemisms to express. In August, Elon’s father, Errol Musk, told me that he was wor­ried about low birth rates in what he called “pro­duc­tive nations.” The Collins­es call it “cos­mopoli­tan soci­ety.” Elon Musk him­self has tweet­ed about the movie “Idioc­ra­cy,” in which the intel­li­gent elite stop pro­cre­at­ing, allow­ing the unin­tel­li­gent to pop­u­late the earth.

    “Con­trary to what many think, the rich­er some­one is, the few­er kids they have. I am a rare excep­tion,” he wrote in anoth­er tweet this past May. “Most peo­ple I know have zero or one kid.”

    Musk was echo­ing an argu­ment made by Nick Bostrom, one of the found­ing fathers of longter­mism, who wrote that he wor­ried declin­ing fer­til­i­ty among “intel­lec­tu­al­ly tal­ent­ed indi­vid­u­als” could lead to the demise of “advanced civ­i­lized soci­ety.” Émile P. Tor­res, a for­mer longter­mist philoso­pher who has become one of the move­men­t’s most out­spo­ken crit­ics, put it more blunt­ly: “The longter­mist view itself implies that real­ly, peo­ple in rich coun­tries mat­ter more.

    A source who worked close­ly with Musk for sev­er­al years described this think­ing as core to the bil­lion­aire’s prona­tal­ist ide­ol­o­gy. “He’s very seri­ous about the idea that your wealth is direct­ly linked to your IQ,” he said. The source, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty for this arti­cle, also said Musk urged “all the rich men he knew” to have as many chil­dren as pos­si­ble. 

    Musk’s ties to the EA and longter­mist com­mu­ni­ties have been grad­u­al­ly revealed in recent months. In Sep­tem­ber, text logs released as part of Musk’s legal bat­tle with Twit­ter showed con­ver­sa­tions between Musk and the promi­nent longter­mist William MacAskill, who works at Oxford’s Future of Human­i­ty Insti­tute, where Musk is a major donor. In the mes­sages, MacAskill offered to intro­duce Musk to Sam Bankman-Fried, a now-dis­graced cryp­tocur­ren­cy entre­pre­neur who had donat­ed mil­lions of dol­lars to longter­mist orga­ni­za­tions.

    MacAskill has nev­er explic­it­ly endorsed prona­tal­ism, and he declined to be inter­viewed for this arti­cle. He did, how­ev­er, devote a chap­ter of his best-sell­ing book, “What We Owe the Future,” to his fear that dwin­dling birth rates would lead to “tech­no­log­i­cal stag­na­tion,” which would increase the like­li­hood of extinc­tion or civ­i­liza­tion­al col­lapse. One solu­tion he offered was cloning or genet­i­cal­ly opti­miz­ing a small sub­set of the pop­u­la­tion to have “Ein­stein-lev­el research abil­i­ties” to “com­pen­sate for hav­ing few­er peo­ple over­all.”

    Mal­colm said he was glad to see Musk bring these issues to the fore­front. “He’s not as afraid of being can­celed as every­one else,” Mal­colm told me. “Any smart per­son with a cer­tain cul­tur­al aes­thet­ics of their life is look­ing at this world and say­ing, ‘How do we cre­ate inter­gen­er­a­tional­ly, durable cul­tures that will lead to our species being a diverse, thriv­ing, inno­v­a­tive inter­plan­e­tary empire one day that isn’t at risk from, you know, a sin­gle aster­oid strike or a sin­gle huge dis­ease?’ ”

    ...

    Accord­ing to Pitch­Book data assem­bled for Insid­er, there were 138 VC deals in the US femtech space in 2021, up from 57 in 2016. This sum­mer, rumors start­ed to spread that Musk was look­ing at buy­ing a large chain of fer­til­i­ty clin­ics, which he denied to the Finan­cial Times.

    ...

    She also weighed in on the stun­ning implo­sion of Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryp­to exchange FTX, which rep­re­sent­ed one of the largest finan­cial hubs for the effec­tive-altru­ism move­ment. The Collins­es, who nev­er direct­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the top Demo­c­ra­t­ic donor Bankman-Fried, spied an oppor­tu­ni­ty in his demise. 

    “This means our fac­tion (more con­ser­v­a­tive, prona­tal­ist, long-ter­mist-civ­i­liza­tion-build­ing-focused, like­ly to self fund) is now 100X more like­ly to become a real, dom­i­nant fac­tion in the EA space,” Simone wrote in a text mes­sage on Novem­ber 12.
    ...

    Relat­ed to that bat­tle over the EA philo­soph­i­cal space is anoth­er impor­tant detail about prona­tal­ist move­ment that could come into con­flict with oth­er fac­tions of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment and the Repub­li­can Par­ty: their pre­ferred means for car­ry­ing out this eugen­ics prac­tice is to cre­ate large num­bers of embryos, and then select the ‘best’. In oth­er words, IVF is cru­cial for their plans to work, tak­ing the genet­ic data on the embryos pro­vid­ed by Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion and tak­ing it to a com­pa­ny called Self­De­code, where they pro­ceed­ed to engage in their own ad hoc eugen­ics method for select­ing for desir­able men­tal traits and select­ing the ‘best’ ones. This is the kind of approach that calls for the cre­ation of as many embryos as pos­si­ble:

    ...
    Dur­ing a stint at a ven­ture-cap­i­tal fund in South Korea, where the fer­til­i­ty rate has fall­en to about 0.81, Mal­colm became obsessed with the idea of what he calls “demo­graph­ic cat­a­stro­phe.”

    “He was astound­ed by peo­ple’s fatal­is­tic take on it,” Simone said. So, fol­low­ing up on a con­ver­sa­tion Mal­colm had broached on their sec­ond date, the cou­ple com­mit­ted to hav­ing sev­en to 13 chil­dren. Because of their rel­a­tive­ly late start and Simone’s pre­ex­ist­ing fer­til­i­ty issues, they knew they would have to freeze their embryos for lat­er use. In 2018, which they now call “The Year of the Har­vest,” they devot­ed them­selves to pro­duc­ing and freez­ing as many viable embryos as pos­si­ble.

    After five rounds of IVF, Simone heard Stephen Hsu talk­ing about his com­pa­ny Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion on a pod­cast. Preim­plan­ta­tion test­ing for chro­mo­so­mal abnor­mal­i­ties like down syn­drome and sin­gle-gene dis­or­ders like cys­tic fibro­sis has become a rel­a­tive­ly com­mon step in the IVF process, but only recent­ly have some prac­ti­tion­ers begun to offer tests for more com­plex genet­ic traits. While full-blown genet­ic engi­neer­ing through CRISPR or sim­i­lar tech­nol­o­gy is banned in most coun­tries, the field of preim­plan­ta­tion genet­ic screen­ing is still unreg­u­lat­ed by the US Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion.

    The Collins­es decid­ed to embark on a sixth round of IVF to use the ser­vice. Though Genom­ic Pre­dic­tion’s “Life­View” test offi­cial­ly offers risk scores only for 11 poly­genic dis­or­ders — includ­ing schiz­o­phre­nia and five types of can­cer — they allowed the Collins­es to access the raw genet­ic data for their own analy­sis.

    Simone and Mal­colm then took their data export to a com­pa­ny called Self­De­code, which typ­i­cal­ly runs tests on adult DNA sam­ples, to ana­lyze what the Collins­es called “the fun stuff.”

    Sit­ting on the couch, Simone pulled up a spread­sheet filled with red and green num­bers. Each row rep­re­sent­ed one of their embryos from the sixth batch, and the columns a vari­ety of rel­a­tive risk fac­tors, from obe­si­ty to heart dis­ease to headaches. (The “rel­a­tive” part means these scores can only com­pare each embry­o’s risk to that of oth­er indi­vid­u­als with dif­fer­ent genet­ic con­sti­tu­tions, as opposed to “absolute” risk scores.)

    The Collins­es’ top pri­or­i­ty was one of the most dis­put­ed cat­e­gories: what they called “men­tal-per­for­mance-adja­cent traits,” includ­ing stress, chron­i­cal­ly low mood, brain fog, mood swings, fatigue, anx­i­ety, and ADHD.

    The tests they per­formed also pro­vid­ed a risk score for autism, a diag­no­sis Simone her­self has received, which they decid­ed not to take into account. Simone com­pared her autism to a “fine-tuned race car”: Even if she strug­gles with cer­tain “real-world” sit­u­a­tions, she said, “If I’m on the track and I have my pit crew and I have the per­fect fuel—” 

    “—she can dra­mat­i­cal­ly out­com­pete oth­er peo­ple,” Mal­colm said, fin­ish­ing her sen­tence.

    “I’m also real­ly hes­i­tant to select against any type of extreme men­tal pecu­liar­i­ty in a per­son,” he added. “Unless it has to do just with severe low func­tion.”

    With a large num­ber of green columns and a score of 1.9, Embryo No. 3 — aka Titan Invic­tus (an exper­i­ment in nom­i­na­tive deter­min­ism) — was select­ed to become the Collins­es’ third child.

    Even with all that plan­ning, the Collins­es may not be strik­ing genet­ic gold. The field of behav­ioral genet­ics, which assumes a con­nec­tion between genes and char­ac­ter traits, is heav­i­ly con­test­ed — if not out­right reject­ed for its dan­ger­ous soci­etal impli­ca­tions. “It’s not clear how much genet­ics con­tributes to many of the things that they’re look­ing for,” Hank Greely, a Stan­ford Law pro­fes­sor who wrote “The End of Sex and the Future of Human Repro­duc­tion,” told me.
    ...

    And that brings us to the grim­ly fas­ci­nat­ing ques­tion in the con­text of the US’s new hyper-con­ser­v­a­tive Supreme Court and the grow­ing risk of lost access to IVF treat­ments in the US. How will this fun­da­men­tal­ly deeply con­ser­v­a­tive and elit­ist move­ment going to address that IVF risk posed by its con­ser­v­a­tive brethren? It’s going to be inter­est­ing to see:

    ...
    The Collins­es wor­ry that the over­lap between the types of peo­ple decid­ing not to have chil­dren with the part of the pop­u­la­tion that val­ues things like gay rights, edu­ca­tion for women, and cli­mate activism — traits they believe are genet­i­cal­ly cod­ed — is so great that these val­ues could ulti­mate­ly dis­ap­pear.

    A lot of peo­ple assume that prona­tal­ists want to ban abor­tion, but near­ly all of the prona­tal­ist sup­port­ers inter­viewed for this arti­cle iden­ti­fied them­selves as “pro-choice.” In fact, IVF, which inevitably results in the destruc­tion of fer­til­ized embryos, could be under threat in a strict antiabor­tion soci­ety. The Collins­es don’t expect — or even want — every­one in low-birth-rate coun­tries to sud­den­ly start hav­ing sev­en or more chil­dren. Instead, they see them­selves as part of an elite sub­set of peo­ple respon­si­ble for grow­ing their broods to off­set all the Amer­i­cans who will choose not to.

    I asked what set their vision apart from Gilead, the total­i­tar­i­an regime depict­ed in “The Hand­maid­’s Tale” that des­ig­nates cer­tain women as breed­ers.

    “Gilead is what hap­pens with­out a soft land­ing for demo­graph­ic col­lapse!” Simone replied eager­ly.

    Still, many observers are trou­bled by the fact that prona­tal­ists wor­ry less about how many chil­dren peo­ple are hav­ing and more about who is hav­ing them.

    “There is just kind of a whiff of eugen­ics in wor­ry­ing about demo­graph­ic shifts,” Tor­res said.

    “I find the whole thing elit­ist,” Avey added.
    ...

    Keep in mind that peo­ple with the finan­cial means of the prona­tal­ists prob­a­bly don’t need to wor­ry about access­ing IVF treat­ments even if they’re banned in the US. They can just fly to anoth­er coun­try. That’s anoth­er fac­tor to keep in mind in this sto­ry: while it’s cur­rent based in the US — due in part to the lack of reg­u­la­tion on areas like embryo selec­tion — there’s noth­ing stop­ping an indus­try ded­i­cat­ed to help­ing the ultra-wealthy cre­ate design­er-babies from relo­cat­ing to less-reg­u­lat­ed locales in the future. This net­work clear­ly has the means to do so if the sit­u­a­tion calls for it. But for now, the Sil­i­con Val­ley appears to be the home for this grow­ing move­ment. So get ready for the com­ing design­er baby boom. And in about 20–30 years, get ready for a del­uge of hor­ror sto­ries from the then-adult chil­dren of these fam­i­lies about what it’s like grow­ing up in a tech­no­fas­cist cult ded­i­cat­ing to tak­ing over the world and being expect­ed to con­tin­ue the cult project for anoth­er 10 gen­er­a­tions.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 28, 2022, 6:15 pm
  9. Fol­low­ing up on that fas­ci­nat­ing Busi­ness Insid­er inter­view of the fig­ures behind the ‘prona­tal­ist’ move­ment, here’s anoth­er inter­view of the cou­ple who have become its pub­lic face. As the Collins­es make clear, they real­ly do view this as a quest to rede­fine human­i­ty, both at a social and bio­log­i­cal lev­el. They are proud open tran­shu­man­ists who see biol­o­gy and cul­ture as one and the same. As such, they are already cel­e­brat­ing how the “cul­tur­al super virus” of ‘wok­ism’ is “a ster­il­iz­ing dis­ease and almost none of its husks repro­duce above repop­u­la­tion rate, hence our grand­kids like­ly won’t have to deal with them.” At the same time, they appear to be jus­ti­fy­ing the move­ment over con­cerns that the loss of ‘wok­ism’ will result in low­er pub­lic sup­port for things like women’s rights, free­dom of speech, envi­ron­men­tal­ism, racial equal­i­ty, and gay rights as a result of the lack of chil­dren from ‘woke’ par­ents. It’s a puz­zling set of declared pri­or­i­ties, but per­haps what we should expect from a phi­los­o­phy embraced by fas­cists.

    So what kind of ‘con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­cans’ are they? Well, the more we learn about the reli­gious com­po­nent in this move­ment, the clear­er it becomes that cre­at­ing a whole new tran­shu­man­ist reli­gion is the goal, with all of the oppor­tu­ni­ties to rede­fine moral­i­ty that comes with cre­at­ing a new reli­gion. They’ve already pub­lished a book, The Pragmatist’s Guide to Craft­ing Reli­gion, which they describe as, “a med­i­ta­tion on how we can inten­tion­al­ly con­struct a culture/religion that will be ‘evo­lu­tion­ar­i­ly suc­cess­ful’ and spread.” That’s the end goal here. A new tran­shu­man­ist reli­gion fix­at­ed on human evo­lu­tion.

    Will this be an entire­ly new reli­gion, like Sci­en­tol­ogy? Maybe, but recall the prox­im­i­ty of this net­work to Peter Thiel: Simone Collins served as man­ag­ing direc­tor of Dia­log, an elite retreat for glob­al lead­ers found­ed by Peter Thiel. Raf­fi Grin­berg, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of Dia­log, is also a prona­tal­ist. And the Collins Insti­tute the Gift­ed is part­ner­ing with the Thiel-backed 1517 Fund. And as we saw in that grim­ly fas­ci­nat­ing recent Unherd inter­view of Thiel, Chris­tian­i­ty and tran­shu­man­ism are not just com­pat­i­ble but one and the same. Chris­tian­i­ty is a deeply tran­shu­man­ist phi­los­o­phy, accord­ing to Thiel. And now we have a Thiel-affil­i­at­ed tran­shu­man­ist group lit­er­al­ly pub­lish­ing books on how to cre­ate your own reli­gion. A reli­gion with a pro­gres­sive pati­na that appears to view human-direct­ed evo­lu­tion as its divine mis­sion:

    Mer­ca­tor­Net

    The pow­er cou­ple on a mis­sion to save the world from demo­graph­ic dis­as­ter
    Mal­colm and Simone Collins have a game plan for pulling human­i­ty back from the brink.

    by Michael Cook
    Nov 24, 2022

    This month, the 8 bil­lionth child entered the world. Demog­ra­phers believe that the world’s pop­u­la­tion is mov­ing towards 10 bil­lion. But at some point, the curve will begin to move down­wards. Fam­i­lies will shrink. Peo­ple every­where (except sub-Saha­ran Africa) will become old­er and old­er, lead­ing to huge bur­dens on gov­ern­ment social ser­vices.

    The prob­lem is that most coun­tries have birth-rates below replace­ment lev­el. And no one knows how to coax women into hav­ing more chil­dren, as Chi­na has dis­cov­ered, to its dis­may. It moved from a one-child pol­i­cy, to a two-child pol­i­cy, to a three-child pol­i­cy – and fer­til­i­ty has edged even low­er.

    What is to be done? A solu­tion comes from an improb­a­ble source – wealthy, geeky, tech and ven­ture-cap­i­tal­ist pro-natal­ism activists.

    Chap­ter 1: Elon talks about it

    The eccen­tric bil­lion­aire Elon Musk has been mar­ried twice but now describes him­self as sin­gle. He has had at least nine chil­dren with a com­bi­na­tion of wives, girl­friends, and sur­ro­gates. Here are some of his recent tweets.

    “If the alarm­ing col­lapse in birth rate con­tin­ues, civ­i­liza­tion will indeed die with a whim­per in adult dia­pers.” Elon Musk on Twit­ter, Jan­u­ary 11, 2022.
    “Con­trary to what many think, the rich­er some­one is, the few­er kids they have. I am a rare excep­tion. Most peo­ple I know have zero or one kid.” Elon Musk on Twit­ter, May 25, 2022.
    “Watch the open­ing scene of Idioc­ra­cy.. When I ask my friends why they’re not yet hav­ing kids (very few are), it sounds exact­ly like the movie.” Elon Musk on Twit­ter, June 18, 2022.

    Chap­ter 2: Mal­colm and Simone do some­thing about it

    Mal­colm and Simone Collins radi­ate pow­er­ful self-con­fi­dence. As a mar­ried cou­ple they have oper­at­ed com­pa­nies on five con­ti­nents that col­lec­tive­ly pulled in US$70 mil­lion every year; raised a pri­vate equi­ty fund; direct­ed strat­e­gy at top, ear­ly-stage ven­ture cap­i­tal firms; writ­ten three best-sell­ing books; served as man­ag­ing direc­tor of Dia­log, an elite retreat for glob­al lead­ers found­ed by Peter Thiel; and earned degrees in neu­ro­science, busi­ness, and tech­nol­o­gy pol­i­cy from St Andrews, Stan­ford, and Cam­bridge.

    ...

    The evo­lu­tion­ary log­ic asso­ci­at­ed with tran­shu­man­ism is an impor­tant theme in their plans. On the pop­u­la­tion lev­el, whole cul­tures are in dan­ger of extinc­tion – like the Japan­ese or Arme­ni­ans or Cata­lans. This would rep­re­sent a trag­ic loss of cul­tur­al diver­si­ty. “We are about to expe­ri­ence the largest cul­tur­al mass extinc­tion since the colo­nial peri­od,” they write. Their “Project Ark” is to save as many cul­tures as pos­si­ble by pro­mot­ing high­er birth rates.

    On a fam­i­ly lev­el, their pro­pos­als involve tin­ker­ing with embryos to ensure that their chil­dren have “good genes”. Their crit­ics call this “eugen­ics”. They pre­fer to call it com­mon sense. “What we advo­cate for is fair­ly vanilla—if aggressive—transhumanism: Improv­ing and trans­form­ing the human con­di­tion with tech­nol­o­gy. Be against tran­shu­man­ism all you want, but don’t call it eugen­ics.”

    Chap­ter 3: Learn all about pop­u­la­tion implo­sion at pronatalist.org

    From their home in rur­al Penn­syl­va­nia, this high­ly-con­nect­ed cou­ple is preach­ing the gospel of pro-natal­ism, the lat­est fad amongst the super-rich in Sil­i­con Val­ley. For the past 20 or so years, bil­lion­aires have been obsessed with longevi­ty – increas­ing lifes­pans to hun­dreds of years. Research on that con­tin­ues, but some are turn­ing their minds to demog­ra­phy. “The per­son of this sub­cul­ture real­ly sees the path­way to immor­tal­i­ty as being through hav­ing chil­dren,” says Simone.

    Pronatalist.orgPronatalist.org, a web­site cre­at­ed by Mal­colm and Simone, alerts read­ers to the cri­sis:

    Birth rates are falling pre­cip­i­tous­ly around the world in both devel­oped and devel­op­ing coun­tries. If dra­mat­ic action is not tak­en, we will wit­ness the extinc­tion of entire soci­eties, expan­sion of total­i­tar­i­an gov­ern­ments, and an unchecked rise of trib­al­ism.

    South Korea’s birth-rate is about 0.81, far below replace­ment lev­el. The Collins­es call this “geno­cide by inac­tion”. They have a knack for pre­sent­ing the con­se­quences of pop­u­la­tion decline in vivid analo­gies: “This is equiv­a­lent to a dis­ease that wipes out 94% of the pop­u­la­tion. We need rad­i­cal solu­tions to save endan­gered eth­nic groups.”

    They even see con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics through a demo­graph­ic lens:

    “If you have ever won­dered why dif­fer­ent ide­o­log­i­cal fac­tions in pol­i­tics seem to be able to agree on less and less as time goes on, why they are becom­ing more author­i­tar­i­an, and why trib­al­ism seems to be increas­ing: You are wit­ness­ing the invis­i­ble hand of demo­graph­ic col­lapse at work.

    “Pop­u­la­tion num­bers will even­tu­al­ly rebound with­in a few hun­dred years, but progress the world has made in terms of women’s rights, free­dom of speech, envi­ron­men­tal­ism, racial equal­i­ty, gay rights, etc. runs the risk of sys­tem­at­ic era­sure if we fail to inter­vene.”

    What’s the answer? Only a pro­found cul­tur­al change will save us, they argue. Tax cred­its and baby bonus­es are just tin­ker­ing around the edges:

    “Only cul­tures with a strong exter­nal moti­va­tion to have kids are well above repop­u­la­tion rate at the moment; all oth­ers will enter the dust­bin of his­to­ry. Essen­tial­ly, every world cul­ture that does not have strong reli­gious con­vic­tions or edu­cate and treat women as equals is being sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly delet­ed. …

    “A sin­gle fam­i­ly hav­ing eight kids that suc­cess­ful­ly pass­es that prac­tice to their own chil­dren can save their entire eth­nic group. (One fam­i­ly hav­ing eight kids for ten gen­er­a­tions leads to over a bil­lion descen­dants.)”

    Chap­ter 4: Mal­colm and Simone have a sur­vival plan

    The best-known groups with high fer­til­i­ty are all reli­gious. About a quar­ter of Israel’s pop­u­la­tion will be Hare­di Jews by 2050, accord­ing to a recent esti­mate. In 1980, they were an insignif­i­cant minor­i­ty of 4 per­cent. The Amer­i­can Amish may have the world’s high­est birthrate; one demog­ra­ph­er joked that in 200 years, all Amer­i­cans will be Amish.

    Of course, Mal­colm and Simone are not con­ven­tion­al­ly reli­gious. If pressed, they describe them­selves as “sec­u­lar Calvin­ists”. They are not Sun­day church-goers but they are hard-work­ing, hard-dri­ving, abstemious, fru­gal souls on a mis­sion from … Evo­lu­tion.

    Their uncon­ven­tion­al­ly reli­gious stand is to encour­age fans to cre­ate fam­i­ly cul­tures which wel­come chil­dren. “We’re try­ing to cre­ate a play­book for peo­ple who want to work their val­ues and morals into durable cul­tures that are far more like­ly to endure inter­gen­er­a­tional­ly (rather than go extinct due to low birth rates),” Simone explained in an email to Mer­ca­tor­Net. “One can cre­ate a durable cul­ture from scratch, with­out any reli­gious ele­ment, or one can rein­force an exist­ing reli­gion or cul­ture to make it ‘durable’ (capa­ble of last­ing inter­gen­er­a­tional­ly).”

    They have near­ly fin­ished writ­ing anoth­er book which sketch­es their phi­los­o­phy of the inter­twined themes of demog­ra­phy, evo­lu­tion, fam­i­ly struc­ture, and reli­gion, called The Pragmatist’s Guide to Craft­ing Reli­gion. “At its core,” they write, “this book is a med­i­ta­tion on how we can inten­tion­al­ly con­struct a culture/religion that will be ‘evo­lu­tion­ar­i­ly suc­cess­ful’ and spread.

    They have a Sisyphean job ahead of them. As they observe wry­ly: “It may be eas­i­er to coax a caged pan­da to repro­duce than it would be to con­vince a cos­mopoli­tan pro­gres­sive to raise their own kid.”

    Mal­colm and Simone describe them­selves as con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­cans, although in some ways, they are ful­ly-paid-up pro­gres­sives. They will be attend­ing the LGBT-friend­ly Log Cab­in Repub­li­can shindig at Mar-a-Lago in mid-Decem­ber. They endorse exper­i­men­tal fam­i­ly struc­tures, and their views on moral issues would dis­con­cert tra­di­tion­al Chris­tians.

    But beneath the hip­ster veneer, they real­ly are the “sec­u­lar Calvin­ists” they claim to be. They are not shy of express­ing stern and judge­men­tal views about “pop cul­ture” which offers sex, pow­er, accep­tance, pres­tige, wealth, and the life of Riley with­out hard work. They take a dim view of the “cul­tur­al super virus” – which is how prac­tic­ing sec­u­lar Calvin­ist hip­sters describe woke cul­ture.

    As an aside, they are non­cha­lant about woke luna­cies. From an evo­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tive, they con­tend, bad ideas lit­er­al­ly go extinct. That cul­tur­al super virus is “a ster­il­iz­ing dis­ease and almost none of its husks repro­duce above repop­u­la­tion rate, hence our grand­kids like­ly won’t have to deal with them.”

    And on fam­i­ly dynam­ics, they are aston­ish­ing­ly con­ven­tion­al. They point out in their book that the best moti­va­tion for the next gen­er­a­tion to have kids is a hap­py home life as a child:

    “If a young girl grows up and sees her mom and peo­ple like her over­bur­dened, unloved, and ignored by soci­ety, why would she choose to have kids her­self? Why would she aspire to that? While we can’t fix this at the soci­etal lev­el, we can address this prob­lem inten­tion­al­ly-designed cul­tures. If you want to cre­ate a durable cul­ture for your fam­i­ly and inspire your chil­dren to have kids of their own, one of the best things you can do is ensure you have a strong rela­tion­ship with your spouse. 

    “For our fam­i­ly, this means ensur­ing daugh­ters see their moth­ers glo­ri­fied, appre­ci­at­ed, and even dei­fied with­in fam­i­ly cul­ture for the sac­ri­fices they make while also demon­strat­ing that none of those sac­ri­fices require fore­go­ing a career or step­ping back from pub­lic life.”

    In some respects, they may be even stern­er than their God-fear­ing Calvin­ist fore­bears. Child-bear­ing is nat­ur­al for women, they write in their book. There’s no rea­son to exag­ger­ate its dif­fi­cul­ties:

    “In our House, hav­ing kids is just part of the year­ly rou­tine. While Simone is appre­ci­at­ed for it, she nev­er hints that it would be jus­ti­fied for her to use preg­nan­cy or child­birth as an excuse to step back from work. The pro­duc­tive glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of moth­er­hood requires nev­er giv­ing into society’s ten­den­cy to con­flate grat­i­tude and approval with jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to winge, whine, indulge, or lean out.”

    No way that these guys have been infect­ed by the “cul­tur­al super virus”!

    ...

    ————–

    “The pow­er cou­ple on a mis­sion to save the world from demo­graph­ic dis­as­ter” by Michael Cook; Mer­ca­tor­Net; 11/24/2022

    The evo­lu­tion­ary log­ic asso­ci­at­ed with tran­shu­man­ism is an impor­tant theme in their plans. On the pop­u­la­tion lev­el, whole cul­tures are in dan­ger of extinc­tion – like the Japan­ese or Arme­ni­ans or Cata­lans. This would rep­re­sent a trag­ic loss of cul­tur­al diver­si­ty. “We are about to expe­ri­ence the largest cul­tur­al mass extinc­tion since the colo­nial peri­od,” they write. Their “Project Ark” is to save as many cul­tures as pos­si­ble by pro­mot­ing high­er birth rates.

    A Dar­win­ian evo­lu­tion­ary bat­tle of cul­tures where the cul­tures with the high­est birthrates ulti­mate­ly wipe out all oth­ers. Or rather, all oth­er cul­tures — those with­out above-replace­ment-lev­el birth rates — will wipe them­selves out through “geno­cide by inac­tion”, mak­ing almost all cul­tures on the plan­et “endan­gered eth­nic groups”. That appears to be at the core of this prona­tal­ist world­view, where almost all cul­tures are set to be replaced by whichev­er group ulti­mate­ly has the high­est birthrates. And cre­at­ing and pop­u­lar­iz­ing a new high-birth-rate tran­shu­man­ist cul­ture that can spread to all these low-birth-rate soci­eties appears to be at the core of their strat­e­gy for ulti­mate­ly win­ning this evo­lu­tion­ary strug­gle. Not just a cul­tur­al evo­lu­tion­ary strug­gle but a lit­er­al evo­lu­tion­ary strug­gle that deploys mod­ern repro­duc­tive tech­nol­o­gy to breed ‘bet­ter’ humans at the genet­ic lev­el. It’s a move­ment ded­i­cat­ed to con­quer­ing and redefin­ing human soci­ety and biol­o­gy:

    ...
    On a fam­i­ly lev­el, their pro­pos­als involve tin­ker­ing with embryos to ensure that their chil­dren have “good genes”. Their crit­ics call this “eugen­ics”. They pre­fer to call it com­mon sense. “What we advo­cate for is fair­ly vanilla—if aggressive—transhumanism: Improv­ing and trans­form­ing the human con­di­tion with tech­nol­o­gy. Be against tran­shu­man­ism all you want, but don’t call it eugen­ics.”

    ...

    Pronatalist.orgPronatalist.org, a web­site cre­at­ed by Mal­colm and Simone, alerts read­ers to the cri­sis:

    Birth rates are falling pre­cip­i­tous­ly around the world in both devel­oped and devel­op­ing coun­tries. If dra­mat­ic action is not tak­en, we will wit­ness the extinc­tion of entire soci­eties, expan­sion of total­i­tar­i­an gov­ern­ments, and an unchecked rise of trib­al­ism.

    South Korea’s birth-rate is about 0.81, far below replace­ment lev­el. The Collins­es call this “geno­cide by inac­tion”. They have a knack for pre­sent­ing the con­se­quences of pop­u­la­tion decline in vivid analo­gies: “This is equiv­a­lent to a dis­ease that wipes out 94% of the pop­u­la­tion. We need rad­i­cal solu­tions to save endan­gered eth­nic groups.”
    ...

    And note the strange jux­ta­po­si­tion in the Collins’s stat­ed aims and views: they are self-described con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­cans who seem to abhor ‘wok­ism’, which they view as a cul­tur­al super virus that is “a ster­il­iz­ing dis­ease and almost none of its husks repro­duce above repop­u­la­tion rate, hence our grand­kids like­ly won’t have to deal with them.” And yet they also describe them­selves as “sec­u­lar Calvin­ist” who lament what they view as the inevitable loss of pub­lic sup­port for things like women’s rights, free­dom of speech, envi­ron­men­tal­ism, racial equal­i­ty, and gay rights that they view as fac­ing sys­temic era­sure as a result of cos­mopoli­tan lib­er­als who val­ue those things not hav­ing enough chil­dren:

    ...
    They even see con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics through a demo­graph­ic lens:

    If you have ever won­dered why dif­fer­ent ide­o­log­i­cal fac­tions in pol­i­tics seem to be able to agree on less and less as time goes on, why they are becom­ing more author­i­tar­i­an, and why trib­al­ism seems to be increas­ing: You are wit­ness­ing the invis­i­ble hand of demo­graph­ic col­lapse at work.

    “Pop­u­la­tion num­bers will even­tu­al­ly rebound with­in a few hun­dred years, but progress the world has made in terms of women’s rights, free­dom of speech, envi­ron­men­tal­ism, racial equal­i­ty, gay rights, etc. runs the risk of sys­tem­at­ic era­sure if we fail to inter­vene.

    What’s the answer? Only a pro­found cul­tur­al change will save us, they argue. Tax cred­its and baby bonus­es are just tin­ker­ing around the edges:

    Only cul­tures with a strong exter­nal moti­va­tion to have kids are well above repop­u­la­tion rate at the moment; all oth­ers will enter the dust­bin of his­to­ry. Essen­tial­ly, every world cul­ture that does not have strong reli­gious con­vic­tions or edu­cate and treat women as equals is being sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly delet­ed.

    “A sin­gle fam­i­ly hav­ing eight kids that suc­cess­ful­ly pass­es that prac­tice to their own chil­dren can save their entire eth­nic group. (One fam­i­ly hav­ing eight kids for ten gen­er­a­tions leads to over a bil­lion descen­dants.)”

    ...

    Mal­colm and Simone describe them­selves as con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­cans, although in some ways, they are ful­ly-paid-up pro­gres­sives. They will be attend­ing the LGBT-friend­ly Log Cab­in Repub­li­can shindig at Mar-a-Lago in mid-Decem­ber. They endorse exper­i­men­tal fam­i­ly struc­tures, and their views on moral issues would dis­con­cert tra­di­tion­al Chris­tians.

    But beneath the hip­ster veneer, they real­ly are the “sec­u­lar Calvin­ists” they claim to be. They are not shy of express­ing stern and judge­men­tal views about “pop cul­ture” which offers sex, pow­er, accep­tance, pres­tige, wealth, and the life of Riley with­out hard work. They take a dim view of the “cul­tur­al super virus” – which is how prac­tic­ing sec­u­lar Calvin­ist hip­sters describe woke cul­ture.

    As an aside, they are non­cha­lant about woke luna­cies. From an evo­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tive, they con­tend, bad ideas lit­er­al­ly go extinct. That cul­tur­al super virus is “a ster­il­iz­ing dis­ease and almost none of its husks repro­duce above repop­u­la­tion rate, hence our grand­kids like­ly won’t have to deal with them.”
    ...

    And here we get to what appears to be the core of this move­ment: cre­at­ing a new form of reli­gion. A pre­sum­ably ‘sec­u­lar Calvin­ist’ kind of reli­gion with an intense focus on tran­shu­man­ism and evo­lu­tion. What kind of reli­gion are they devis­ing? Well, giv­en this net­work ‘s prox­im­i­ty to Peter Thiel we have a pret­ty good idea. Recall that recent inter­view of Peter Thiel where he argues that Chris­tian­i­ty is inher­ent­ly a tran­shu­man­ist reli­gion that any con­cerns about how med­dling with ‘nature’ in inher­ent­ly un-Chris­t­ian. That’s what we appear to be look­ing at here. A move­ment designed to pop­u­lar­ize some sort of tech­no­fas­cist tran­shu­man­ist ver­sion of Chris­tian­i­ty. A qua­si-sec­u­lar ver­sion of Chris­tian­i­ty where a type of reli­gious zeal for evo­lu­tion takes on a mys­ti­cal qual­i­ty. And, ulti­mate­ly, a reli­gion where those deemed to be the most ‘evolved’ are also seen as the most ‘divine’ and wor­thy of fur­ther defin­ing the future of human­i­ty. Or the future of what­ev­er post-human­i­ty beings emerge from this process:

    ...
    The best-known groups with high fer­til­i­ty are all reli­gious. About a quar­ter of Israel’s pop­u­la­tion will be Hare­di Jews by 2050, accord­ing to a recent esti­mate. In 1980, they were an insignif­i­cant minor­i­ty of 4 per­cent. The Amer­i­can Amish may have the world’s high­est birthrate; one demog­ra­ph­er joked that in 200 years, all Amer­i­cans will be Amish.

    Of course, Mal­colm and Simone are not con­ven­tion­al­ly reli­gious. If pressed, they describe them­selves as “sec­u­lar Calvin­ists”. They are not Sun­day church-goers but they are hard-work­ing, hard-dri­ving, abstemious, fru­gal souls on a mis­sion from … Evo­lu­tion.

    Their uncon­ven­tion­al­ly reli­gious stand is to encour­age fans to cre­ate fam­i­ly cul­tures which wel­come chil­dren. “We’re try­ing to cre­ate a play­book for peo­ple who want to work their val­ues and morals into durable cul­tures that are far more like­ly to endure inter­gen­er­a­tional­ly (rather than go extinct due to low birth rates),” Simone explained in an email to Mer­ca­tor­Net. “One can cre­ate a durable cul­ture from scratch, with­out any reli­gious ele­ment, or one can rein­force an exist­ing reli­gion or cul­ture to make it ‘durable’ (capa­ble of last­ing inter­gen­er­a­tional­ly).”

    They have near­ly fin­ished writ­ing anoth­er book which sketch­es their phi­los­o­phy of the inter­twined themes of demog­ra­phy, evo­lu­tion, fam­i­ly struc­ture, and reli­gion, called The Pragmatist’s Guide to Craft­ing Reli­gion. “At its core,” they write, “this book is a med­i­ta­tion on how we can inten­tion­al­ly con­struct a culture/religion that will be ‘evo­lu­tion­ar­i­ly suc­cess­ful’ and spread.
    ...

    Final­ly, giv­en the hard right nature of the phi­los­o­phy behind this move­ment jux­ta­posed with its ‘cel­e­brate moth­er­hood’ face, it’s also worth not­ing how we are told the move­ment wants to cre­ate cul­tures that pro­mote large fam­i­lies at the same time Simone Collins makes a point about how she nev­er stops work­ing. Instead, as we saw, they increas­ing­ly rely on hired help take care of their chil­dren. In oth­er words, this is a move­ment that refus­es to acknowl­edge the role increas­ing­ly hard-edged cap­i­tal­ism and explod­ing inequal­i­ty have been play­ing in mak­ing chil­dren effec­tive­ly unaf­ford­able for a grow­ing num­ber of poor and mid­dle-class fam­i­lies around the world for decades, result­ing in a gap between the num­ber of chil­dren many fam­i­lies have vs what they want. There does­n’t appear to be any­thing in this move­ment to address the role cap­i­tal­ism is play­ing in these glob­al trends. Because of course not. This is a move­ment by hyper-cap­i­tal­ist elit­ist for hyper-cap­i­tal­ists elit­ist:

    ...
    They have a Sisyphean job ahead of them. As they observe wry­ly: “It may be eas­i­er to coax a caged pan­da to repro­duce than it would be to con­vince a cos­mopoli­tan pro­gres­sive to raise their own kid.”

    ...

    And on fam­i­ly dynam­ics, they are aston­ish­ing­ly con­ven­tion­al. They point out in their book that the best moti­va­tion for the next gen­er­a­tion to have kids is a hap­py home life as a child:

    “If a young girl grows up and sees her mom and peo­ple like her over­bur­dened, unloved, and ignored by soci­ety, why would she choose to have kids her­self? Why would she aspire to that? While we can’t fix this at the soci­etal lev­el, we can address this prob­lem inten­tion­al­ly-designed cul­tures. If you want to cre­ate a durable cul­ture for your fam­i­ly and inspire your chil­dren to have kids of their own, one of the best things you can do is ensure you have a strong rela­tion­ship with your spouse. 

    For our fam­i­ly, this means ensur­ing daugh­ters see their moth­ers glo­ri­fied, appre­ci­at­ed, and even dei­fied with­in fam­i­ly cul­ture for the sac­ri­fices they make while also demon­strat­ing that none of those sac­ri­fices require fore­go­ing a career or step­ping back from pub­lic life.

    In some respects, they may be even stern­er than their God-fear­ing Calvin­ist fore­bears. Child-bear­ing is nat­ur­al for women, they write in their book. There’s no rea­son to exag­ger­ate its dif­fi­cul­ties:

    “In our House, hav­ing kids is just part of the year­ly rou­tine. While Simone is appre­ci­at­ed for it, she nev­er hints that it would be jus­ti­fied for her to use preg­nan­cy or child­birth as an excuse to step back from work. The pro­duc­tive glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of moth­er­hood requires nev­er giv­ing into society’s ten­den­cy to con­flate grat­i­tude and approval with jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to winge, whine, indulge, or lean out.”

    No way that these guys have been infect­ed by the “cul­tur­al super virus”!
    ...

    It’s also worth not­ing the tim­ing of this whole ‘com­ing out’: months after the fall of Roe v Wade and the open­ing of a new era of US pol­i­tics where repro­duc­tive rights are set to be a major elec­toral issue for years to come. Are we look­ing at the begin­ning of some­thing intend­ed to address that new polit­i­cal real­i­ty? A move­ment focused on pump­ing out the mes­sage that the US is on the verge of col­lapse that abor­tion rights would only has­ten? Per­haps that’s what we’re look­ing at here. The tim­ing sure was inter­est­ing. Of course, that assumes an elit­ist move­ment that is clear­ly focused on the hyper-wealthy actu­al­ly has any real broad­er pop­u­lar appeal. Then again, con­vinc­ing the pub­lic to buy into elit­ist philoso­phies is kind of how most soci­eties actu­al­ly func­tion, sad­ly. So we’ll see what kind of broad­er appeal this move­ment is ulti­mate­ly going to have, but it’s clear­ly got immense resources and pow­er­ful back­ers behind it who want it to suc­ceed. Where ‘suc­cess’ is defined as redefin­ing and own­ing the future of human­i­ty. More so.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 30, 2022, 5:09 pm
  10. We got anoth­er grim­ly fas­ci­nat­ing set of obser­va­tions from futur­ist author Dou­glas Rushkoff about the behind-the-scenes men­tal­i­ty dri­ving much of Sil­i­con Val­ley’s tech­no­crat mind­set. Recall how Dou­glas Rushkoff pub­lished a col­umn enti­tled Sur­vival of the Rich­est in 2018 describ­ing a dis­turb­ing meet­ing he had with five anony­mous tech oli­garchs. As Rushkoff described it, these oli­garchs were con­vinced that “the event” is com­ing that will crip­ple civ­i­liza­tion. A cat­a­stro­phe to dev­as­tat­ing that the only thing these bil­lion­aires can do is try to ride it out in under­ground dooms­day bunkers. That meet­ing took place in 2017. Rushkoff went on to turn that col­umn into the book Sur­vival of the Rich­est in 2022. While tech­no-dystopi­anism is, rel­a­tive­ly speak­ing, new for Rushkoff giv­en his decades-long career arc, it’s no longer new. He’s been warn­ing us about this mind­set for years.

    So what’s in Rushkof­f’s lat­est warn­ing? Well, in a recent­ly pub­lished Wired inter­view, Rushkoff basi­cal­ly declares him­self a ‘Dig­i­tal Marx­ist’ and express­es a deep sense of despair over the poten­tial that tech­nol­o­gy holds for human­i­ty. Where he used to blame cap­i­tal­ism for tech­nol­o­gy’s fail­ures, Rushkoff now sees the tech­nolo­gies being pro­duced by Sil­i­con Val­ley as inher­ent­ly anti-human. Along with a deeply anti-human mind­set that has afflict­ed the Sil­i­con Val­ley elites. A mind­set focused blow­ing up the present to cre­ate “new­ness” for no rea­son oth­er destroy­ing the present. It’s a tru­ly apoc­a­lyp­tic mind­set, as Rushkoff describes it. One where the cre­at­ing an apoc­a­lypse is kind of the goal, or at least seen as prefer­able to stag­na­tion.

    Rushkoff has even iden­ti­fied an indi­vid­ual who best cap­tures this mind­set. Some­one who Rushkoff describes as arche­typ­al in this mind­set: Jef­frey Epstein. Yep.

    On one lev­el, it’s kind of sur­pris­ing to see Epstein cit­ed as The Mind­set’s tem­plate. He was­n’t pre­cise­ly a Sil­i­con Val­ley oli­garch. But as we saw, he was­n’t very far from being one either. Recall how Epstein was indeed deeply fas­ci­nat­ing with cut­ting edge tech­nol­o­gy, AI, futur­ism, and eugen­ics, and even man­aged to cre­at­ed a kind of social net­work of promi­nent indi­vid­u­als in the fields of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy.

    So from a soci­o­log­i­cal per­spec­tive you can see how Rushkoff des­ig­nat­ed Epstein as the arche­type for the Sil­i­con Val­ley mind­set he’s try­ing to describe. Epstein was not just a mem­ber of this com­mu­ni­ty of Sil­i­con Val­ley oli­garchs but one of the fig­ures who helped shape that mind­set through all of his tech-relat­ed social net­work­ing in these fields. It’s an obser­va­tion from Rushkoff that adds a grim­ly fas­ci­nat­ing dimen­sion to the Epstein sto­ry: to what extent was Epstein active­ly pro­mot­ing a kind of tech­no-apoc­a­lyp­tic mind­set among the lead­ing minds in the areas of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy? How much was that an over­ar­ch­ing goal? A goal that obvi­ous­ly pairs nice­ly with the col­lec­tion of sex­u­al black­mail mate­ri­als on these same indi­vid­u­als. It’s one more set of gross Epstein-relat­ed ques­tions we have to ask about how our world actu­al­ly oper­ates:

    Wired
    Backchan­nel

    Doug Rushkoff Is Ready to Renounce the Dig­i­tal Rev­o­lu­tion
    The for­mer tech­no-opti­mist has tak­en a deci­sive polit­i­cal left turn. He says it’s the only human option.

    Mal­colm Har­ris
    May 11, 2023 6:00 AM

    The media stud­ies build­ing at Queens Col­lege is small and dark, with low ceil­ings and nar­row cor­ri­dors. It was built more than a cen­tu­ry ago as a res­i­den­tial school for incor­ri­gi­ble boys, and a cer­tain atmos­phere of neglect remains. When I vis­it on a Jan­u­ary week­day to see Dou­glas Rushkoff, who teach­es here, he guides me around a stack of fall­en ceil­ing tiles to his office in a back cor­ner of the first floor. The Wi-Fi in the room is spot­ty, so he uses an Eth­er­net adapter to plug his lap­top into the wall. The only evi­dence that we haven’t trav­eled back to the ’90s is that when it’s time for class, no stu­dents show up. Instead, Rushkoff opens his lap­top and brings up a grid of face­less black box­es.

    This is the first course meet­ing of “Dig­i­tal Eco­nom­ics: Cryp­to, NFTs and the Blockchain.” Rushkoff is a good sport about teach­ing on Zoom, though it’s a shame his class of most­ly under­grad­u­ates can’t ful­ly appre­ci­ate the 62-year-old media-stud­ies-pro­fes­sor look that he’s absolute­ly nailed: black V‑neck, cropped gray hair. He launch­es into an impas­sioned half-hour lec­ture in which he urges his stu­dents, only three of whom have their cam­eras on, to see through the social con­struc­tion of money—he pulls out a dol­lar bill and waves it in front of the lap­top screen, say­ing, “This is not mon­ey. This is a piece of paper that we use to rep­re­sent money”—and to probe what he calls the “big ques­tion” of his life’s work: how pow­er trav­els across media land­scapes.

    ...

    That his class may not be his stu­dents’ first pri­or­i­ty doesn’t both­er Rushkoff much. He’s made a point of land­ing at City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York in Queens after a teach­ing stint at the far more expen­sive, pres­tige-mon­ger­ing, pri­vate New York Uni­ver­si­ty. In a por­tion of his lec­ture, he hints at the tra­jec­to­ry his intel­lec­tu­al life has tak­en:

    “I was pret­ty freak­ing excit­ed in the ’90s about the pos­si­bil­i­ties for a new kind of peer-to-peer econ­o­my. What we would build that would be like a TOR net­work of eco­nom­ics, the great Nap­ster­i­za­tion of eco­nom­ics in a dig­i­tal envi­ron­ment,” he tells his stu­dents. But more recent­ly, he con­tin­ues, he’s turned his atten­tion to some­thing else that this new dig­i­tal econ­o­my has cre­at­ed: “It made a bunch of bil­lion­aires and a whole lot of real­ly poor, unhap­py peo­ple.”

    This kind of rhetoric is part of a recent, deci­sive shift in direc­tion for Rushkoff. For the past 30 years, across more than a dozen non­fic­tion books, innu­mer­able arti­cles, and var­i­ous media projects about the state of soci­ety in the inter­net age, Rushkoff had always walked a tightrope between opti­mism and skep­ti­cism. He was one of the orig­i­nal enthu­si­asts of technology’s proso­cial poten­tial, chart­ing a path through the dig­i­tal land­scape for those who shared his rene­gade, anti-gov­ern­ment spir­it. As Sil­i­con Val­ley shed its cyber­punk soul and devolved into an incu­ba­tor of cor­po­rate greed, he con­tin­ued to advo­cate for his val­ues from with­in. Until now. Last fall, with the pub­li­ca­tion of his lat­est book, Sur­vival of the Rich­est: Escape Fan­tasies of the Tech Bil­lion­aires, Rushkoff all but offi­cial­ly renounced his mem­ber­ship in the guild of spokes­peo­ple for the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion. So what hap­pened?

    It is, gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, a dif­fi­cult time to main­tain a straight face as a diehard advo­cate of decen­tral­iza­tion. A cou­ple of months before I come to see Rushkoff, the cryp­tocur­ren­cy exchange FTX, run by a cabal of taste­less pyra­mid schemers blath­er­ing plat­i­tudes about art and com­mu­ni­ty, col­lapsed, torch­ing bil­lions of dol­lars in the process. These inter­net cap­i­tal­ists proved to be worse guardians of the pub­lic inter­est than even the cor­po­rate rob­ber barons of yore. (Some weeks after my vis­it, Sil­i­con Val­ley Bank failed and near­ly dragged the glob­al finan­cial sys­tem down along with it—a direct result of the Trump administration’s dereg­u­la­tion agen­da.)

    Con­front­ed with such irrefutable evi­dence, Rushkoff isn’t just lying low or chang­ing the sub­ject the way peren­ni­al tech­no-opti­mists often do. His con­ver­sion is deep­er. “I find, a lot of times, dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies are real­ly good at exac­er­bat­ing the prob­lem while also cam­ou­flag­ing the prob­lem,” he tells the black box­es that rep­re­sent his stu­dents. “They make things worse while mak­ing it look like something’s actu­al­ly changed.” Still, as he talks, I can occa­sion­al­ly catch a glimpse of Rushkoff revert­ing into his for­mer per­sona: the invet­er­ate Gen X tech­no-opti­mist, the man who can’t resist the untest­ed promise of ever new­er tools. Near the end of class, he starts instruct­ing his stu­dents to not use Chat­G­PT to write their assign­ments, then halts abrupt­ly, as if unable to go on. “Well, actu­al­ly,” he says, recon­sid­er­ing, “we’ll fig­ure it out.”

    Rushkoff’s CUNY job is a sort of home­com­ing. He was born in Queens, and he asso­ciates his ear­ly years with ’60s com­mu­ni­tar­i­an-style neigh­bor­hood bar­be­cues. Lat­er, his fam­i­ly moved an hour north to Scars­dale, where he recalls groomed sub­ur­ban yards and neolib­er­al val­ues. After grad­u­at­ing from Prince­ton in 1983 with a degree in Eng­lish and the­ater, he took inspi­ra­tion from Bertolt Brecht and went to CalArts for an MFA in direct­ing. He’d planned for a life on Broad­way, but the the­atri­cal world struck him as uptight, tra­di­tion­al, and hos­tile to his exper­i­men­tal instincts. All the cool peo­ple were mov­ing to the Bay Area to mess with com­put­ers. There he went too.

    Rushkoff got his first star turn as the nation’s guide to Gen­er­a­tion X. In 1994, when he was 33, he pub­lished his debut book, Cybe­ria: Life in the Trench­es of Hyper­space. Through detailed and col­or­ful por­traits of cyber­punks, ravers, and vir­tu­al real­i­ty pio­neers, the work intro­duced main­stream read­ers to the peo­ple cre­at­ing what was then an under­ground cul­ture. Rushkoff made the media rounds as an out­spo­ken rep­re­sen­ta­tive of this new youth scene; in the intro­duc­tion to The GenX Read­er, he men­aced “Boomers” in the name of “Busters”: Whether you like it or not, we are the thing that will replace you. Writ­ing at the cut­ting edge of tech­nol­o­gy and soci­ety gave him end­less oppor­tu­ni­ties to come up with buzz­words, for which he evinced a spe­cial tal­ent. His sec­ond book, Media Virus!: Hid­den Agen­das in Pop­u­lar Cul­ture, helped pop­u­lar­ize the con­cept of “memes” going “viral.”

    In Cybe­ria, Rushkoff tried to con­jure an epochal syn­the­sis out of his dis­patch­es from the nascent dig­i­tal sub­cul­ture: “Things like vir­tu­al real­i­ty, Smart Bars, hyper­text, the WELL, role-play­ing games, DMT, Ecsta­sy, house, frac­tals, sam­pling, anti-Muzak, tech­noshaman­ism, ecoter­ror­ism, mor­pho­gen­e­sis, video cyborgs, Toon Town, and Mon­do 2000,” he excit­ed­ly proph­e­sied in the book, “are what slow­ly pull our society—even our world—past the event hori­zon of the great attrac­tor at the end of time.” This was high-qual­i­ty, uncut cyber-futur­ism, and peo­ple ate it up. Oth­ers in his cohort, such as exper­i­men­tal the­o­rist artists Gen­e­sis P‑Orridge and R. U. Sir­ius, dragged out rem­nants of the coun­ter­cul­ture into the ’90s, but Rushkoff gained wider promi­nence by keep­ing one foot in the straight world, where he fore­cast the cul­tur­al and social impli­ca­tions of emerg­ing tech­nol­o­gy for every­day peo­ple. Soon, the cyber the­sis that peo­ple would live much of their 21st-cen­tu­ry lives “online” turned into cyber fact.

    ...

    In the ear­ly aughts, Rushkoff was no longer young, but he kept his atten­tion on youth cul­ture. His fideli­ty to both sides of gen­er­a­tional ten­sion made him a unique­ly cred­i­ble nar­ra­tor. Mer­chants of Cool, his 2001 Front­line doc­u­men­tary, is a bril­liant­ly exe­cut­ed crash course in crit­i­cal media analy­sis. (I watched the movie in my high school’s required “liv­ing skills” class, and its smart dis­sec­tion of the adver­tis­ing indus­tri­al com­plex had us rapt.) The doc was such a hit that PBS brought Rushkoff back for two more shows: The Per­suaders (2004) and Gen­er­a­tion Like (2014). Nei­ther con­de­scend­ing nor dull, these movies insist on treat­ing kids like real peo­ple.

    Rushkoff’s work also con­tained res­olute­ly fem­i­nist ideas at a time of reac­tionary back­lash and open sex­u­al abuse. Har­vey Wein­stein ran Hol­ly­wood; Jef­frey Epstein ran sci­ence phil­an­thropy. Rushkoff’s Front­line spe­cials, mean­while, are vir­tu­osic in the way they expose shifts in cap­i­tal­ist demand for sex­u­al­ized young teens. In Mer­chants of Cool, he shows tal­ent agents coo­ing over a made-up and skimpi­ly clad 13-year-old, ask­ing the girl about her screen age range. “I’ve been told I look 17,” she tells them with mixed pride, and they note it down approv­ing­ly. In Gen­er­a­tion Like, a mom explains that she posts full-body pic­tures of her would-be-influ­encer young daugh­ter because those get more likes. Rushkoff doesn’t place blame on teens or girls; instead, he explains how imper­son­al cor­po­rate forces act on peo­ple. This thought­ful ori­en­ta­tion is one rea­son his ear­ly work holds up so well.

    “Back when I got start­ed in dig­i­tal,” Rushkoff tells me after his class, using the word in a charm­ing­ly anti­quat­ed way, “it was like say­ing you were going to play Dun­geons and Drag­ons for your career.” But as Rushkoff’s area of expertise—the nexus between youth, adver­tis­ing, and technology—transformed into one of America’s lead­ing indus­tries, he found him­self an odd duck in a pond filled with increas­ing­ly rich and pow­er­ful tech­no-opti­mists. Many of Rushkoff’s pro­fes­sion­al peers, includ­ing Clay Shirky, who wrote Here Comes Every­body, and Chris Ander­son, for­mer edi­tor of this mag­a­zine and author of The Long Tail, have refreshed their com­mit­ment to Sil­i­con Val­ley with each inno­va­tion cycle: Shirky is now an admin­is­tra­tor at New York Uni­ver­si­ty spe­cial­iz­ing in edu­ca­tion­al tech, and Ander­son found­ed com­pa­nies for drones and robot­ics. Rushkoff has like­wise stayed open to new tech­nolo­gies, but unlike his peers, he nev­er stopped ask­ing how each new dis­cov­ery might be mis­used. He cred­its a devo­tion to spir­i­tu­al human­ism and his relat­ed prac­tice of Judaism, as he explains in his 2004 book Noth­ing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism, with keep­ing him one step removed from the would-be-god tran­shu­man­ists.

    With his cre­den­tials, Rushkoff could prob­a­bly have nabbed an indus­try gig; the dread­locked com­put­er sci­en­tist Jaron Lanier, who has also been out­spo­ken on the anti­hu­man effects of tech plat­forms, took research roles with Sil­i­con Graph­ics and then Microsoft. But Rushkoff main­tained crit­i­cal dis­tance, and his writ­ing began to shift focus to the econ­o­my and the stul­ti­fy­ing pow­er of the cor­po­rate form, as with Life, Inc.: How the World Became a Cor­po­ra­tion and How to Take It Back (2009) and Pro­gram or Be Pro­grammed: Ten Com­mands for a Dig­i­tal Age (2010). Rushkoff describes this peri­od as his “first break” with his Sil­i­con Val­ley con­tem­po­raries. “Tech­nol­o­gy was this great human thing,” he tells me, ref­er­enc­ing the cre­ative and open-mind­ed cul­ture of psy­che­delics and raves. Then, “Wired mag­a­zine and cap­i­tal­ism and extrac­tion and behav­ior­ism and finance all killed it.” (Rushkoff clear­ly has a sore spot about this pub­li­ca­tion, which he nev­er wrote for.)

    “Mon­ey was a great feed­back loop and pos­i­tive rein­forcer,” he con­tin­ues, “because the more dehu­man­iz­ing you make the tech, the more mon­ey you make.” To his hor­ror, Rushkoff saw that the once rene­gade web was push­ing peo­ple toward pre­dictabil­i­ty and con­formism. His utopi­an Cybe­ria had been betrayed by monop­o­lists seek­ing to recen­tral­ize con­trol.

    In response to this cap­i­tal­ist takeover of the inter­net, Rushkoff pro­posed solu­tions firm­ly in line with his long­stand­ing com­mit­ment to decen­tral­iza­tion. He held at the time that the gov­ern­ment should take a step back and allow change to appear at the grass­roots lev­el. In a keynote address at the 2008 Per­son­al Democ­ra­cy Forum, Rushkoff called for pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Barack Oba­ma to pro­mote solar pow­er not by state fiat but by dereg­u­la­tion. The gov­ern­ment need­ed to move “out of the way of all those peo­ple who are ready to imple­ment solar pow­er them­selves,” he said. Two months and five days lat­er, Lehman Broth­ers col­lapsed, sig­nal­ing the peak of the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis and dra­ma­tiz­ing the need for a new social code.

    In Octo­ber 2011, when the rapid­ly spread­ing Occu­py Wall Street protests were under scruti­ny from estab­lish­ment media, Rushkoff pub­lished some of the first words of sup­port for the move­ment in the main­stream press. “Any­one who says he has no idea what these folks are protest­ing is not being truth­ful,” he wrote in a col­umn for CNN. “Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are invest­ment bankers work­ing on Wall Street get­ting rich­er while things for most of the rest of us are get­ting tougher.”

    As a decen­tral­ized move­ment, Occu­py appealed to Rushkoff, and pulled him, like many oth­er thinkers of the time, into the realm of polit­i­cal strug­gle. In the years that fol­lowed, he would delve fur­ther into class analy­sis. His work became less inter­est­ed in the pro­gres­sion of soci­ety toward the new, and more inter­est­ed in the con­flict between groups of peo­ple defined in eco­nom­ic terms.

    He hadn’t yet relin­quished his belief that the com­mon per­son could wield tech for their own ends. Pro­gram or Be Pro­grammed sug­gests that read­ers learn to code; in Life Inc. and Present Shock (2013), he endors­es alter­na­tive cur­ren­cies. In Throw­ing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Ene­my of Pros­per­i­ty (2016), he writes approv­ing­ly of Bit­Tor­rent, Bit­coin, and Wikipedia as plat­forms that don’t depend on ven­ture cap­i­tal. Always crit­i­cal of adver­tis­ing, he nev­er fell for the flashy promis­es of Google and Facebook’s Web 2.0, but his soft spot for decen­tral­iza­tion nev­er seemed to cal­ci­fy. Even as he cat­a­loged yesterday’s fail­ures with clear eyes, he couldn’t help hold­ing out hope that tomorrow’s tech would be dif­fer­ent, that the web could live up to its poten­tial to cre­ate a bet­ter and more inter­est­ing world.

    I first encoun­tered Rushkoff’s writ­ing around this time, in 2010, while I was work­ing for a site called Shareable.net. The site’s premise was that con­nect­ing every­thing and every­one to the web would allow peo­ple to freely lend the stuff they already owned, cre­at­ing fur­ther abun­dance for all. Room-shar­ing plat­forms would reduce hous­ing costs, and ride-shar­ing plat­forms would reduce the num­ber of cars on the road. Rushkoff was a pro­po­nent of reor­ga­niz­ing the inter­net accord­ing to peer-to-peer prin­ci­ples, and he became one of the site’s most pop­u­lar con­trib­u­tors. As plat­forms like Airbnb and Uber took over, lead­ing the world into a new age of inequal­i­ty and increased resource con­sump­tion, his dream of par­tic­i­pa­to­ry decen­tral­iza­tion died hard. But even amid mount­ing cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance, cer­tain parts of Rushkoff’s faith held out.

    On reflec­tion, he says, “I blamed cap­i­tal­ism and held the tech­nol­o­gy itself inno­cent.”

    Rushkoff’s lat­est book, Sur­vival of the Rich­est, which was pub­lished last fall, marks a sub­tle but major evo­lu­tion in his thought. In the open­ing pages, he refers to him­self offhand­ed­ly as a “Marx­ist media the­o­rist.” After a career in ser­vice to the idea that a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion between the worlds of Cybe­ria and Gaia was pos­si­ble, Rushkoff has final­ly cho­sen a side.

    The book starts with a per­son­al anec­dote. In 2017, Rushkoff accept­ed an invi­ta­tion to give a keynote speech at a fan­cy resort, an easy sup­ple­ment to his pub­lic-sec­tor income. But his audi­ence turned out not to be the typ­i­cal crowd of white-col­lar man­agers; instead, he was con­front­ed with five ultra-wealthy hedge fund guys sit­ting around a table. And they didn’t want Rushkoff’s stan­dard media the­o­rist spiel; they want­ed him to pro­vide solu­tions for a hypo­thet­i­cal postapoc­a­lyp­tic sce­nario they called The Event. “Where should we locate our bunker com­plex­es?” they asked, and “How do we secure the loy­al­ty of our pri­vate guards once mon­ey becomes val­ue­less?” Yikes.

    Despite occa­sion­al­ly iden­ti­fy­ing as a futur­ist, Rushkoff had not gamed out any Event-style sce­nar­ios. He riffed. How to make sure your head of secu­ri­ty doesn’t slit your throat tomor­row? “Pay for his daughter’s bat mitz­vah today,” he said. His sug­ges­tions didn’t go over par­tic­u­lar­ly well, and the con­ver­sa­tion turned out to be more con­se­quen­tial for him than for the sur­vival­ists. That moment, he tells me, prompt­ed a “sec­ond break” with tech­no-opti­mism, one that would sev­er his alliance even to tech itself, and final­ly bring him home to Queens.

    The bulk of Sur­vival of the Rich­est isn’t about apoc­a­lypse escape routes for the super-wealthy. It’s pre­oc­cu­pied with some­thing Rushkoff calls The Mind­set, which rough­ly trans­lates to “the way Sil­i­con Val­ley tech­nocrats think.” The Mind­set is about a strat­e­gy of accel­er­a­tion with­out a des­ti­na­tion. It’s about blow­ing up humanity’s cor­pus of exist­ing knowl­edge in favor of something—anything—new. In this relent­less dri­ve, Rushkoff per­ceives a self-destruc­tive impulse. “Instead of just lord­ing over us for­ev­er,” he writes, “the bil­lion­aires at the top of these vir­tu­al pyra­mids active­ly seek the endgame. Like the plot of a Mar­vel block­buster, the struc­ture of The Mind­set requires an endgame. Every­thing must resolve to a one or a zero, a win­ner or los­er, the saved or the damned.” This isn’t just Facebook’s old “Move fast and break things” mot­to; it’s Zuckerberg’s per­son­al mantra: “Dom­i­na­tion!” Why are the world’s rich­est peo­ple obsessed with prepar­ing for the apoc­a­lypse? Because they’re edg­ing us all toward it. It’s as if, Rushkoff writes, they’re try­ing to build a car that goes fast enough to escape from its own exhaust.

    Who is afflict­ed with The Mind­set? The arche­typ­al sub­ject, Rushkoff writes, was Jef­frey Epstein: with a pri­vate island, an elite coterie of enablers and pro­tec­tors, and detailed plans to impreg­nate 20 women at a time. Rushkoff nev­er met Epstein, but he once wan­dered into his dis­tant orbit via the celebri­ty lit­er­ary agent John Brock­man. The book recounts a din­ner par­ty Rushkoff attend­ed at Brockman’s home that includ­ed the evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gy crank Richard Dawkins. Dawkins pro­ceed­ed to mock Rushkoff for believ­ing in a “poten­tial­ly moral uni­verse,” to the chuck­les of the assem­bled dig­ni­taries. (When Epstein’s full crimes came to light, Rushkoff flashed back to this conversation—a rejec­tion of moral­i­ty, indeed!) Epstein is cer­tain­ly an extreme exam­ple. But when Elon Musk talks about his own nine (?) kids as a solu­tion to under­pop­u­la­tion, one sus­pects Rushkoff is on to some­thing.

    In Sur­vival of the Rich­est, Rushkoff burns the last bridges link­ing him to the tech­no-solu­tion­ist crowd. Whole Earth impre­sario and fel­low tech media guru Stew­art Brand comes in for par­tic­u­lar­ly harsh crit­i­cism. Though a decade ear­li­er Rushkoff had count­ed Brand among his close intel­lec­tu­al col­lab­o­ra­tors, now he endorsed Tim­o­thy Leary’s exco­ri­a­tion of Brand as a pet­ty leader of “a few smart but psy­cho­sex­u­al­ly imma­ture white men who want­ed all the ben­e­fits of being sealed up in their per­fect­ly con­trolled and respon­sive environments—without ever hav­ing to face the messy, harsh real­i­ty of the real world.” Dur­ing a time of inten­si­fy­ing wealth polar­iza­tion, Brand nabbed 42 mil­lion dol­lars from Jeff Bezos to fund a giant clock. Mean­while, Rushkoff trans­formed into a mid­dle-aged Marx­ist. While much of his cohort worked with Net­flix to put out the insipid doc­u­men­tary The Social Dilem­ma, Rushkoff’s per­cep­tive films stream for free on PBS. These days, the direc­tion of his work fits with his thought in a way that the solu­tion­ist jug­gling of his ear­li­er career nev­er could.

    For as long as I’d fol­lowed Rushkoff’s work, I had seen cir­cling with­in it the twin wolves of crit­i­cism and hope, kept apart and alive in a way no oth­er writ­ers in the tech world have man­aged.

    A harsh crit­ic might accuse Rushkoff of hav­ing played both sides, giv­en that his ideas have found some over­lap with the latest—and per­haps worst—generation of tech­no-cap­i­tal­ists. But this would be unfair. Rushkoff has always played for what he calls “Team Human.” What’s changed is not his loy­al­ties, but his under­stand­ing of what can be includ­ed in human­ism. “Team Human doesn’t reject tech­nol­o­gy,” he wrote in his 2019 book of the same title. “Arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, cloning, genet­ic engi­neer­ing, vir­tu­al real­i­ty, robots, nan­otech­nol­o­gy, bio-hack­ing, space col­o­niza­tion, and autonomous machines are all like­ly com­ing, one way or anoth­er. But we must take a stand and insist that human val­ues are fold­ed into the devel­op­ment of each and every one of them.” Only a few years lat­er, here he is reject­ing not just these tech­nolo­gies, but tech­nol­o­gy writ large as a solu­tion to our prob­lems. (That is to say, he no longer talks about human­iz­ing space colonies.)

    Over noo­dle soup at a cheap Chi­nese place off the Queens Col­lege cam­pus, I ask Rushkoff how he feels about the indus­try now. “It’s not just Look what they did to my song,” he says. “It’s that the song itself is cor­rupt.” He strug­gles to find a break in his mono­logu­ing to slurp before his bowl goes cold. “I’ve come to see these tech­nolo­gies as intrin­si­cal­ly anti­hu­man. How far back do we have to go to find tech­nol­o­gy that’s not about con­trol­ling nature? You have to go back to fu cking Indige­nous peo­ple and per­ma­cul­ture. That’s the future.”

    I push Rushkoff to say more about the per­son­al aspects of this sec­ond break, what drove him to reject Tech with a cap­i­tal T. What brought him here, to a pub­lic col­lege in Queens, while many of his old peers stayed close to Sil­i­con Val­ley and its mon­ey? He takes an unchar­ac­ter­is­tic pause.

    “There is that psy­choso­cial com­po­nent,” he sighs. “There’s a dom­i­na­tion men­tal­i­ty, and a fear of women and nature and earth­worms.” He paus­es again. “I might have had that. I was a lit­tle nerd boy and scared of girls and teased and pushed down stairs and all that, and vir­tu­al worlds feel safe. As I grew up, I real­ized, oh, that’s just death.” The dra­mat­ic com­ment is clas­sic Rushkoff, but I under­stand that his feel­ing of pio­neer­ing excite­ment in the days of the ear­ly web, one strong enough to fuel him for decades, has final­ly cur­dled into shame and dis­gust.

    For as long as I’d fol­lowed Rushkoff’s work, I had seen cir­cling with­in it the twin wolves of crit­i­cism and hope, kept apart and alive in a way no oth­er writ­ers in the tech world have man­aged. Now the lupine duel has final­ly resolved, and the cyber­wolf of tech­no-opti­mism reg­is­ters its final process­es as it lies twitch­ing in a pool of its own coolant.

    At this moment of near insur­mount­able cri­sis, there’s a steady demand in the ideas mar­ket for tech­no-solu­tion­ist com­men­ta­tors. Rushkoff has offi­cial­ly reduced the sup­ply by one. You won’t find him advis­ing any­one on how to out­source work to “AI” or dim the sun. “Like the con­sumer-dri­ven, growth-based cap­i­tal­ism on which The Mind­set is premised, these solu­tions usu­al­ly involve find­ing new resources, exploit­ing them, sell­ing them, and then dis­pos­ing of them so more can be mined, man­u­fac­tured, and sold,” he writes in Sur­vival of the Rich­est. Argu­ing against both Elon Musk and the Green New Deal, Rushkoff con­cludes, “Degrowth is the only sure­fire way to reduce humanity’s car­bon foot­print.” It’s not a pop­u­lar posi­tion or one you can slap a neol­o­gism on and sell. He’s giv­en up wait­ing for promis­ing tech­nolo­gies to resolve our society’s core con­tra­dic­tions.

    So what answers does Rushkoff offer? His pro­gram­mat­ic con­clu­sions in Sur­vival are sur­pris­ing­ly con­ven­tion­al: “Buy local, engage in mutu­al aid, and sup­port coop­er­a­tives. Use monop­oly law to break up anti­com­pet­i­tive behe­moths, envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tion to lim­it waste, and orga­nized labor to pro­mote the rights of gig work­ers. Reverse tax pol­i­cy so that those receiv­ing pas­sive cap­i­tal gains on their wealth pay high­er rates than those active­ly work­ing for their income.” This is a lot like what you’d hear from cer­tain left-wing cor­ners of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. A bit staid for Rushkoff, maybe, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

    For Rushkoff these days, Queens Col­lege is the phys­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of an alter­na­tive mind­set. Back at the media stud­ies build­ing, he guides me down to a room in the base­ment. Here, in a far cor­ner, he has cre­at­ed a respectable group con­fer­ence set­up by mov­ing a few tables into a U con­fig­u­ra­tion fac­ing a screen. A bank of com­put­ers and a sal­vaged record­ing booth sit among a chaot­ic pile of old elec­tron­ics pieces. It feels like Rushkoff is prepar­ing for some of his stu­dents, maybe one of the three who turned their cam­eras on in class, to show up and DIY a pod­cast or a video blog. This is his lega­cy: an invet­er­ate cyber­punk, offer­ing Gen Z under-super­vised access to a room full of com­mu­ni­ca­tions tools. It’s the very oppo­site of a billionaire’s end-of-the-world bunker. “It’s some­thing, right?” Rushkoff says, look­ing around at the pos­si­bil­i­ties. “I think maybe this is where I’m sup­posed to be.”

    ———–

    “Doug Rushkoff Is Ready to Renounce the Dig­i­tal Rev­o­lu­tion” by Mal­colm Har­ris; Wired; 05/11/2023

    Who is afflict­ed with The Mind­set? The arche­typ­al sub­ject, Rushkoff writes, was Jef­frey Epstein: with a pri­vate island, an elite coterie of enablers and pro­tec­tors, and detailed plans to impreg­nate 20 women at a time. Rushkoff nev­er met Epstein, but he once wan­dered into his dis­tant orbit via the celebri­ty lit­er­ary agent John Brock­man. The book recounts a din­ner par­ty Rushkoff attend­ed at Brockman’s home that includ­ed the evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gy crank Richard Dawkins. Dawkins pro­ceed­ed to mock Rushkoff for believ­ing in a “poten­tial­ly moral uni­verse,” to the chuck­les of the assem­bled dig­ni­taries. (When Epstein’s full crimes came to light, Rushkoff flashed back to this conversation—a rejec­tion of moral­i­ty, indeed!) Epstein is cer­tain­ly an extreme exam­ple. But when Elon Musk talks about his own nine (?) kids as a solu­tion to under­pop­u­la­tion, one sus­pects Rushkoff is on to some­thing.”

    It’s an apoc­a­lyp­tic mind­set. Tech­no-apoc­a­lyp­tic, to be more exact. That’s the focus of Dou­glass Rushkof­f’s lat­est social cri­tique of tech­nol­o­gy. A cri­tique that goes far beyond any of his past cri­tiques. Rushkoff is con­vinced the mind­set of Sil­i­con Val­ley tech­nocrats is a mind­set of blow­ing up the world for no rea­son oth­er than an impul­sive need to blow up the world and cre­ate some­thing new. A patho­log­i­cal need for “some­thing new” that trans­lates into a fun­da­men­tal­ly self-destruc­tive impulse. And the indi­vid­ual who best fits this mind­set? Jef­frey Epstein. Again, as we’ve seen, Epstein was fas­ci­nat­ing with cut­ting edge tech­nol­o­gy, AI, futur­ism, and eugen­ics, and even cre­at­ed a social net­work of promi­nent indi­vid­u­als in the fields of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy. So from a soci­o­log­i­cal per­spec­tive you can see how Rushkoff des­ig­nat­ed Epstein as the arche­type for the Sil­i­con Val­ley mind­set he’s try­ing to describe. Epstein was not just a mem­ber of this com­mu­ni­ty of Sil­i­con Val­ley oli­garchs but one of the fig­ures who helped shape that mind­set through all of his tech-relat­ed social net­work­ing in these fields. To what extent was Epstein active­ly pro­mot­ing a kind of tech­no-apoc­a­lyp­tic mind­set among the lead­ing minds in the areas of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy and the same time he was col­lect­ing sex­u­al black­mail mate­r­i­al?

    ...
    “I was pret­ty freak­ing excit­ed in the ’90s about the pos­si­bil­i­ties for a new kind of peer-to-peer econ­o­my. What we would build that would be like a TOR net­work of eco­nom­ics, the great Nap­ster­i­za­tion of eco­nom­ics in a dig­i­tal envi­ron­ment,” he tells his stu­dents. But more recent­ly, he con­tin­ues, he’s turned his atten­tion to some­thing else that this new dig­i­tal econ­o­my has cre­at­ed: “It made a bunch of bil­lion­aires and a whole lot of real­ly poor, unhap­py peo­ple.”

    This kind of rhetoric is part of a recent, deci­sive shift in direc­tion for Rushkoff. For the past 30 years, across more than a dozen non­fic­tion books, innu­mer­able arti­cles, and var­i­ous media projects about the state of soci­ety in the inter­net age, Rushkoff had always walked a tightrope between opti­mism and skep­ti­cism. He was one of the orig­i­nal enthu­si­asts of technology’s proso­cial poten­tial, chart­ing a path through the dig­i­tal land­scape for those who shared his rene­gade, anti-gov­ern­ment spir­it. As Sil­i­con Val­ley shed its cyber­punk soul and devolved into an incu­ba­tor of cor­po­rate greed, he con­tin­ued to advo­cate for his val­ues from with­in. Until now. Last fall, with the pub­li­ca­tion of his lat­est book, Sur­vival of the Rich­est: Escape Fan­tasies of the Tech Bil­lion­aires, Rushkoff all but offi­cial­ly renounced his mem­ber­ship in the guild of spokes­peo­ple for the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion. So what hap­pened?

    ...

    Con­front­ed with such irrefutable evi­dence, Rushkoff isn’t just lying low or chang­ing the sub­ject the way peren­ni­al tech­no-opti­mists often do. His con­ver­sion is deep­er. “I find, a lot of times, dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies are real­ly good at exac­er­bat­ing the prob­lem while also cam­ou­flag­ing the prob­lem,” he tells the black box­es that rep­re­sent his stu­dents. “They make things worse while mak­ing it look like something’s actu­al­ly changed.” Still, as he talks, I can occa­sion­al­ly catch a glimpse of Rushkoff revert­ing into his for­mer per­sona: the invet­er­ate Gen X tech­no-opti­mist, the man who can’t resist the untest­ed promise of ever new­er tools. Near the end of class, he starts instruct­ing his stu­dents to not use Chat­G­PT to write their assign­ments, then halts abrupt­ly, as if unable to go on. “Well, actu­al­ly,” he says, recon­sid­er­ing, “we’ll fig­ure it out.”

    ...

    Rushkoff’s lat­est book, Sur­vival of the Rich­est, which was pub­lished last fall, marks a sub­tle but major evo­lu­tion in his thought. In the open­ing pages, he refers to him­self offhand­ed­ly as a “Marx­ist media the­o­rist.” After a career in ser­vice to the idea that a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion between the worlds of Cybe­ria and Gaia was pos­si­ble, Rushkoff has final­ly cho­sen a side.

    The book starts with a per­son­al anec­dote. In 2017, Rushkoff accept­ed an invi­ta­tion to give a keynote speech at a fan­cy resort, an easy sup­ple­ment to his pub­lic-sec­tor income. But his audi­ence turned out not to be the typ­i­cal crowd of white-col­lar man­agers; instead, he was con­front­ed with five ultra-wealthy hedge fund guys sit­ting around a table. And they didn’t want Rushkoff’s stan­dard media the­o­rist spiel; they want­ed him to pro­vide solu­tions for a hypo­thet­i­cal postapoc­a­lyp­tic sce­nario they called The Event. “Where should we locate our bunker com­plex­es?” they asked, and “How do we secure the loy­al­ty of our pri­vate guards once mon­ey becomes val­ue­less?” Yikes.

    Despite occa­sion­al­ly iden­ti­fy­ing as a futur­ist, Rushkoff had not gamed out any Event-style sce­nar­ios. He riffed. How to make sure your head of secu­ri­ty doesn’t slit your throat tomor­row? “Pay for his daughter’s bat mitz­vah today,” he said. His sug­ges­tions didn’t go over par­tic­u­lar­ly well, and the con­ver­sa­tion turned out to be more con­se­quen­tial for him than for the sur­vival­ists. That moment, he tells me, prompt­ed a “sec­ond break” with tech­no-opti­mism, one that would sev­er his alliance even to tech itself, and final­ly bring him home to Queens.

    The bulk of Sur­vival of the Rich­est isn’t about apoc­a­lypse escape routes for the super-wealthy. It’s pre­oc­cu­pied with some­thing Rushkoff calls The Mind­set, which rough­ly trans­lates to “the way Sil­i­con Val­ley tech­nocrats think.” The Mind­set is about a strat­e­gy of accel­er­a­tion with­out a des­ti­na­tion. It’s about blow­ing up humanity’s cor­pus of exist­ing knowl­edge in favor of something—anything—new. In this relent­less dri­ve, Rushkoff per­ceives a self-destruc­tive impulse. “Instead of just lord­ing over us for­ev­er,” he writes, “the bil­lion­aires at the top of these vir­tu­al pyra­mids active­ly seek the endgame. Like the plot of a Mar­vel block­buster, the struc­ture of The Mind­set requires an endgame. Every­thing must resolve to a one or a zero, a win­ner or los­er, the saved or the damned.” This isn’t just Facebook’s old “Move fast and break things” mot­to; it’s Zuckerberg’s per­son­al mantra: “Dom­i­na­tion!” Why are the world’s rich­est peo­ple obsessed with prepar­ing for the apoc­a­lypse? Because they’re edg­ing us all toward it. It’s as if, Rushkoff writes, they’re try­ing to build a car that goes fast enough to escape from its own exhaust.
    ...

    How much of Epstein’s social­iz­ing with all these sci­en­tists and tech titans about pro­mot­ing the apoc­a­lyp­tic mind­set Rushkoff iden­ti­fies? Was cul­ti­vat­ing all of these tech ties pure­ly a man­i­fes­ta­tion of Epstein’s per­son­al inter­ests and apoc­a­lyp­tic ambi­tions? In oth­er words, was it The Mind­set itself that sim­ply com­pelled Epstein to seek out and wield all of the influ­ence he was wield­ing in sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy fields? Or was spread­ing The Mind­set one of the objec­tives Epstein was tasked with accom­plish­ing as part of his still unex­plained role as some sort of intel­li­gence asset? Just one more round of ques­tions Epstein like­ly took to his grave. Or at least some­one took to his grave.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 23, 2023, 2:15 pm
  11. How close was Jef­frey Epstein to Peter Thiel? It’s a rea­son­able ques­tion giv­en the incred­i­ble over­lap between the two fig­ures. As we’ve seen, Epstein was keen­ly inter­est­ed in not just tech­nol­o­gy, but tran­shu­man­ism, an area of intense inter­est for Thiel. So it’s worth not­ing that we got a big updates on that mys­te­ri­ous rela­tion­ship back in May. The kind of update we should have expect­ed. Yes, Thiel and Epstein were chum­my. At least they appear to have been active­ly social­iz­ing in 2014 and 2015. That’s based on a series of emails recent­ly released to media that give us a glimpse at Jef­frey Epstein’s social cal­en­dar dur­ing this peri­od. A ‘Who’s Who’ social cal­en­dar full of lunch­es and din­ner with one high pro­file fig­ure after anoth­er, from tech titans to heads of state. And includ­ing Peter Thiel, who appar­ent­ly had at least a few such social out­ings with Epstein in Sep­tem­ber of 2014 and at least one in 2015.

    There does­n’t appear to be any indi­ca­tion of Thiel meet­ing with Epstein post-2015, but as we’re going to see, the doc­u­ments pro­vid­ed to the media out­lets were spot­ty, with entire years miss­ing. So this should real­ly be seen as more of a sam­pling of Epstein’s social life over the past decade. And while that social life appears to include Peter Thiel, he’s just one of a num­ber of high pro­file fig­ures who show up in these emails, with Bill Gates’s name show­ing up repeat­ed­ly. Recall how Bill Gates was revealed to have hung out with Epstein dozens of times between 2010 and 2014 and Epstein appar­ent­ly even gave Gates advice on how to leave his wife.

    Bizarrely, we are told that Gates hung around Epstein in the hopes that Epstein would some­how help him secure a Nobel Peace Prize. Even more bizarrely, that does­n’t appear to have been an out­landish wish on Gates’s behalf. Epstein had two for­mer Nor­we­gian prime min­is­ters and a Nor­we­gian diplo­mat in his social cir­cle, includ­ing for­mer Nor­we­gian Prime Min­is­ter, Nobel Com­mit­tee chair, and Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al of the Coun­cil of Europe Thor­b­jørn Jagland. And the Nor­we­gian diplo­mat, Ter­je Rød-Larsen, not only shows up repeat­ed­ly in Epstein’s cal­en­dar but this includes meet­ings that were attend­ed by fig­ures like Gates, Lar­ry Sum­mers, along with Epstein’s ‘girls’ who only show up under their first names in Epstein’s Cal­en­dar. Did Epstein man­age to get any juicy black­mail mate­r­i­al a Nor­we­gian diplo­mat? If so, you have to won­der how some­thing like that might get par­layed into a Nobel Prize.

    Nor­we­gian diplo­mat Ter­je Rød-Larsen also appears numer­ous times on Epstein’s cal­en­dar, with var­i­ous meet­ings and din­ner par­ties sched­uled through­out 2013 and 2014. Oth­er guests invit­ed to the same gath­er­ings includ­ed, among oth­ers, Gates, Sum­mers, and bil­lion­aire Leon Black, who has admit­ted to per­son­al deal­ings with Epstein but insist­ed the rela­tion­ship was “lim­it­ed” and in 2019 told investors that his com­pa­ny, Apol­lo Glob­al Man­age­ment, had “nev­er done any busi­ness with Mr. Epstein at any point in time.”

    But Gates and Thiel is far from the only tech titans who show up at these gath­er­ings. For exam­ple, in 2015, Thiel and Epstein attend­ed a din­ner par­ty host­ed by LinkedIn Bil­lion­aire Reid Hoff­man and also attend­ed by Elon Musk and Mark Zucker­berg. Recall how Hoff­man, Musk and Thiel were all mem­bers of the ‘Pay­Pal Mafia’, with Hoff­man going on to become a major Demo­c­ra­t­ic mega-donor. A lib­er­tar­i­an-lean­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic mega-donor who advo­cates for the ‘Uber­iza­tion’ of the econ­o­my. Also recall how Hoff­man was appar­ent­ly the financier of the now noto­ri­ous ‘exper­i­ment’ to run fake ‘Russ­ian’ Face­book dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns dur­ing the 2017 spe­cial elec­tion for an Alaba­ma Sen­ate seat. Dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns that were ped­dled to the media as Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tions until it was inad­ver­tent­ly revealed that the whole thing was financed by Hoff­man, at which point we were told it was all done for research pur­pos­es, which is the kind of sto­ry that sug­gest­ed Hoff­man had already estab­lished some sort of work­ing rela­tion­ship with the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty. So Epstein was appar­ent­ly on good social terms with some of the biggest names in tech­nol­o­gy in the years lead­ing up to his arrest and ‘sui­cide’.

    Anoth­er very inter­est­ing meet­ing that appears in the released emails includes a Feb­ru­ary 2010 meet­ing between Epstein and JP Mor­gan’s Jamie Dimon and Jes Sta­ley, who was Epstein’s per­son­al banker at JP Mor­gan at the time. This meet­ing was six months before Epstein’s pro­ba­tion was up. Recall how Epstein had an account with JP Mor­gan’s pri­vate bank­ing unit from 1990 to 2013. Also recall how JP Mor­gan has been sued by both the Vir­gin Islands and sev­er­al vic­tims for the alleged role it played in facil­i­tat­ing Epstein’s sex traf­fick­ing activ­i­ties. Beyond that, Jes Sta­ley has also been per­son­al­ly accused of abus­ing some of Epstein’s vic­tims. So when we see a meet­ing in Feb­ru­ary 2010 that does­n’t just include Sta­ley but also Dimon, that’s a big clue regard­ing Epstein’s impor­tance as a client.

    Oh, and turns out Epstein was real­ly good friends with Woody Allen. Who knows why they decid­ed it was a good idea for the two to hang out, but that was appar­ent­ly the case.

    Ok, first, here’s a Dai­ly Beast report describe the dis­turb­ing num­ber of influ­en­tial fig­ures whose names show up in Epstein’s cal­en­dar. With some names show up over and over, like Jes Sta­ley and Bill Gates. And a flur­ry of Peter Thiel entries in Sep­tem­ber 2014:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Epstein Emailed About Din­ners With Woody Allen, David Blaine, and Richard Bran­son

    Emails show that a host of celebri­ties, entre­pre­neurs, and even magi­cians were sched­uled to meet with the con­vict­ed sex offend­er in the years after his prison stint in Flori­da.

    Justin Rohrlich
    Reporter
    Kate Briquelet
    Senior Reporter
    Updat­ed May 30, 2023 1:10PM EDT / Pub­lished May 30, 2023 9:06AM EDT
    exclu­sive

    The rich and famous appeared to have few qualms about palling around with Jef­frey Epstein fol­low­ing the dis­graced financier’s 13-month prison stay for solic­it­ing sex from an under­age girl, with bold­face names appear­ing on his sched­ule such as Chris Rock, David Blaine, Bill Gates, Richard Bran­son, JPMor­gan boss Jamie Dimon, and the for­mer CEO of one of Don­ald Trump’s Atlantic City casi­nos.

    That’s accord­ing to a tranche of emails obtained by The Dai­ly Beast, which reveal oth­ers who showed up on Epstein’s dance card as hav­ing includ­ed music indus­try titan Tom­my Mot­to­la, Wen­di Mur­doch, Russ­ian super­mod­el Iri­na Shayk, late come­di­an David Bren­ner, artist Jeff Koons, the pres­i­dent of Mon­go­lia, and not one, but two for­mer Nor­we­gian prime min­is­ters. Epstein also often indulged in his infa­mous “appoint­ments,” with long­time exec­u­tive assis­tant Les­ley Groff set­ting up mul­ti­tudes of ses­sions with young women to ser­vice him.

    The emails, which The Dai­ly Beast received from author­i­ties in the U.S. Vir­gin Islands via a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request, indi­cate Epstein’s well-con­nect­ed life pro­ceed­ed seem­ing­ly unhin­dered by his sta­tus as a reg­is­tered sex offend­er after his 2008 felony con­vic­tion in Flori­da.

    Epstein plead­ed guilty in 2008 to state charges of procur­ing a per­son under 18 for pros­ti­tu­tion and felony solic­i­ta­tion of pros­ti­tu­tion, and served more than a year of an 18-month sen­tence before being released. When he got out, a judge ordered him con­fined to his Palm Beach home, as part of his year-long pro­ba­tion. But the terms of both Epstein’s incar­cer­a­tion and his house arrest were unusu­al­ly lax, and he was allowed to trav­el between Flori­da, New York, and his pri­vate Caribbean island with­out undue restric­tion. When his pro­ba­tion end­ed in July 2010, Epstein was forced to reg­is­ter as a Lev­el III sex offender–a threat to pub­lic safe­ty at risk of reoffending–for the rest of his life.
    r
    A few months lat­er, he down­played the des­ig­na­tion to a New York Post reporter, insist­ing, “I’m not a sex­u­al preda­tor, I’m an ‘offend­er. It’s the dif­fer­ence between a mur­der­er and a per­son who steals a bagel.”

    Epstein died by sui­cide in 2019 while await­ing tri­al on fed­er­al child sex-traf­fick­ing charges.

    Most of the mes­sages in the new doc­u­ment dump were sent between Epstein and Groff, and con­cerned her boss’ intense­ly busy sched­ule. Groff, whom pros­e­cu­tors deemed a poten­tial co-con­spir­a­tor,” was nev­er for­mal­ly charged.

    In one email, which Epstein sent at 5:12 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2010—some six months before his pro­ba­tion end­ed—he remind­ed Groff about a meet­ing that evening with Dimon and JP Mor­gan exec­u­tive Jes Sta­ley (whom some now see as the bank’s fall guy for its rela­tion­ship with Epstein).

    “i have sched­ule [sic] ben at 230, tues, peter at 730 jes sta­ley and dimon and [sic] 9,” the email read.

    These days, those who appeared on Epstein’s to-do list want no asso­ci­a­tion with him. Patri­cia Wexler, a JP Mor­gan spokes­woman, denied that Dimon, who is set to be ques­tioned as part of an ongo­ing civ­il probe into the bank’s rela­tion­ship with Epstein, ever per­son­al­ly inter­act­ed with his one-time client.

    “No such meet­ing was sched­uled or occurred,” Wexler told The Dai­ly Beast. “In fact, there are oth­er emails that made it clear that only Sta­ley attend­ed that meet­ing. Our CEO nev­er met with him, spoke with him, or emailed or oth­er­wise com­mu­ni­cat­ed with him.”

    In anoth­er exchange, this one dat­ed Jan. 26, 2014, Groff laid out the details of a gath­er­ing Epstein had planned for that evening at Madi­son Avenue’s now-defunct Ris­torante Mori­ni. The guest list includ­ed, among oth­ers, Woody and Soon-Yi Allen, Jes Sta­ley, David Bren­ner, and “maybe Chris Rock,” the email showed.

    A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Rock declined to com­ment on any rela­tion­ship the come­di­an may have had with Epstein. How­ev­er, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Rock’s strong­ly insist­ed to The Dai­ly Beast that the fun­ny­man nev­er crossed paths with Epstein in any way.

    Groff’s attor­ney, Michael Bach­n­er, said in an email, “Over the course of Ms Groff‘s employ­ment with Mr. Epstein, she made hun­dreds of appoint­ments every day for him for a wide range of indi­vid­u­als, includ­ing pro­fes­sors, politi­cians, actors and their spous­es. It was sim­ply not her func­tion to ask the rea­son for any appoint­ment and nev­er sus­pect­ed that Mr. Epstein was engaged in ille­gal con­duct. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, Ms. Groff was noti­fied by law enforce­ment well over a year ago that she would not be charged with any wrong­do­ing in con­nec­tion with her employ­ment with Mr. Epstein.”

    ...

    Epstein reg­u­lar­ly mixed busi­ness with par­ty­ing and appoint­ments with women who were often described just by their first names.

    An Apr. 28, 2011 email from Groff to Epstein remind­ed him about a 9 p.m. din­ner he had sched­uled with Bill Gates, for­mer Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Lar­ry Sum­mers, and Jes Sta­ley from JP Mor­gan, fol­low­ing an after­noon appoint­ment with two women iden­ti­fied only by their first names. After din­ner, Epstein was set to attend a “Vogue After Par­ty at Boom Boom Room,” host­ed by hote­lier and ex-Uma Thur­man para­mour Andre Bal­asz.

    In the mes­sage, Groff also men­tioned an upcom­ing meet­ing with a for­mer top exec­u­tive for Don­ald Trump’s Atlantic City casi­no oper­a­tion.

    “Nick Ribis will not be in NY now on Sun­day, but says Mon­day he believes he could see you,” Groff wrote. “OK to sched­ule Nick to come see you on Mon­day instead?”

    “ok. will see if he is still around Wed,” Epstein replied. (Ribis did not respond to a voice­mail seek­ing com­ment left on a phone num­ber asso­ci­at­ed with his name in pub­lic records.)

    In a Sept. 20, 2013 email, Groff informed Epstein that an upcom­ing meal planned with Gates and oth­ers was “TBD,” but that “Richard Bran­son may join the din­ner.”

    A Bran­son spokesper­son declined to com­ment on the record. How­ev­er, a source with­in the Bran­son camp claimed Bran­son nev­er attend­ed the din­ner, say­ing he was in the U.K. on that date, host­ing the “Stars of the Year” event for the Vir­gin Group, fol­lowed by a Vir­gin Trains staff par­ty.

    Gates did not respond to requests for com­ment, but has said that while he and Epstein had “sev­er­al din­ners” togeth­er, he now con­sid­ers the rela­tion­ship to have been a “huge mis­take.” Sum­mers, who did not imme­di­ate­ly respond to The Dai­ly Beast’s request for com­ment, said said ear­li­er this month that he “deeply regrets” main­tain­ing a post-con­vic­tion rela­tion­ship with Epstein.

    “Their inter­ac­tions pri­mar­i­ly focused on glob­al eco­nom­ic issues,” a spokesper­son for Sum­mers told The Wall Street Jour­nal.

    ...

    On Nov. 19, 2012, Epstein’s sched­ule showed a 12 o’clock lunch with busi­ness­man Todd Meis­ter, who in 2004 was briefly engaged to Nicky Hilton, and for­ward­ed Epstein a note from Woody Allen’s assis­tant, which said, “Woody was won­der­ing if Jef­frey would be inter­est­ed in watch­ing his new film either today or tomor­row? We’re still run­ning the last few days of a tight sched­ule on the sets but hope Jef­frey can catch the film mean­while.” (Meis­ter did not respond to a request for com­ment.)

    Allen, whose name pops up reg­u­lar­ly on Epstein’s sched­ule, planned to bring Soon-Yi to Epstein’s town­house for din­ner in July 2015, accord­ing to one email from Groff. Soon-Yi said to “sur­prise them,” Groff told Epstein, in ref­er­ence to what the cou­ple want­ed to eat.

    Also on Epstein’s sched­ule were at least one appoint­ment with Iri­na Shayk, phone calls with Tom­my Mot­to­la, get-togeth­ers with Jeff Koons, meet-ups with Wen­di Mur­doch, and din­ners out with magi­cian David Blaine. The emails show Blaine set to “stop by toward the end” of a din­ner with Epstein and futur­ist Pab­los Hol­man and actress Jes­si­ca Joffe in June 2013, anoth­er in Sep­tem­ber of that year, and a third din­ner with Epstein in Jan­u­ary 2014. On April 4, 2013, Groff sent Epstein an email read­ing, “Reminder: David Blaine’s birth­day is April 4.”

    In a phone inter­view, Hol­man said he thought he remem­bered being in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia at the time of the din­ner, but con­ced­ed he wasn’t exact­ly sure. Hol­man did know Blaine, he con­tin­ued, but described Epstein as “tox­ic.” At the same time, Hol­man said that if he had in fact attend­ed a din­ner with Epstein, he “prob­a­bly wouldn’t want to say any­thing about it.”

    Reached by phone last Fri­day, Mot­to­la brusque­ly asked how The Dai­ly Beast got his per­son­al cell phone num­ber. Informed that it came from an email chain involv­ing Epstein, Mot­to­la referred the Beast to his pub­li­cist, Cindy Berg­er. She lat­er sent com­ment from Mot­to­la, who said, “Mr. Epstein and I shared some mutu­al acquain­tances, and he called me sev­er­al times to request con­cert tick­ets, as many peo­ple do.”

    Shayk, Joffe, Blaine, and Blaine’s pub­li­cist did not respond to requests for com­ment.

    Koons and Epstein also seem to have been some­what close, with the con­cep­tu­al artist join­ing Epstein for sev­er­al din­ners, bring­ing his wife Jus­tine along at least once. There was a “TBD” lunch with Koons and Woody Allen in Sep­tem­ber 2013, fol­lowed by anoth­er TBD to “Go see Jeff Koons big s stu­dio in NJ(?).” (Koons, Shayk, and Mur­doch did not respond to requests for com­ment.)

    The for­mer pres­i­dent of Mon­go­lia, Tsakhi­a­gin Elbeg­dorj, was on Epstein’s cal­en­dar in 2013, Microsoft founder Bill Gates attend­ed a din­ner at Epstein’s lav­ish Man­hat­tan town­house in Sep­tem­ber 2014, accord­ing to the sched­ul­ing emails. Oth­ers present at the gath­er­ing includ­ed Gates’ then-wife Melin­da; for­mer Nor­we­gian Prime Min­is­ter, Nobel Com­mit­tee chair, and Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al of the Coun­cil of Europe Thor­b­jørn Jagland; and Lar­ry Sum­mers. In all, Gates—who report­ed­ly believed Epstein’s con­nec­tions could help him get a Nobel Peace Prize—met with Epstein at least five times, the emails show.

    Anoth­er for­mer Nor­we­gian PM, Kjell Magne Bon­de­vik, had break­fast with Epstein on Oct. 4, 2013, accord­ing to the emails. The month before, Groff sent Epstein a note: “Reminder: Kissinger is free start­ing evening of Sept. 23rd.”

    Jagland was unable to be reached for com­ment. He has pre­vi­ous­ly denied ever meet­ing or being in con­tact with Epstein, although a 2020 inves­ti­ga­tion by Nor­we­gian busi­ness dai­ly Dagens Næringsliv report­ed­ly found this to be untrue. Elbergdorj, Bon­de­vik, and Kissinger did not respond to requests for com­ment.

    Epstein and right-wing bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel had a flur­ry of inter­ac­tions in the fall of 2014, the emails reveal. On Sept. 7, 2014, Groff remind­ed Epstein that he was sched­uled that day to see Thiel, among a raft of oth­ers includ­ing Gates, Sum­mers, and for­mer Oba­ma White House coun­sel Kathy Ruemm­ler. Thiel was also sched­uled for a din­ner with Epstein and Woody Allen on Sept. 12, 2014, a Sept. 13, 2014 meet­ing with Epstein, a “ten­ta­tive lunch” with Epstein on Sept. 14, 2014, and anoth­er meet­ing with Epstein on Sept. 22, 2014.

    Nor­we­gian diplo­mat Ter­je Rød-Larsen also appears numer­ous times on Epstein’s cal­en­dar, with var­i­ous meet­ings and din­ner par­ties sched­uled through­out 2013 and 2014. Oth­er guests invit­ed to the same gath­er­ings includ­ed, among oth­ers, Gates, Sum­mers, and bil­lion­aire Leon Black, who has admit­ted to per­son­al deal­ings with Epstein but insist­ed the rela­tion­ship was “lim­it­ed” and in 2019 told investors that his com­pa­ny, Apol­lo Glob­al Man­age­ment, had “nev­er done any busi­ness with Mr. Epstein at any point in time.”

    Thiel and his spokesman did not respond to The Dai­ly Beast’s requests for com­ment. Larsen, who played a key role in the cre­ation of the Oslo Peace accords, was unable to be reached, but in 2020 resigned “iin shame” as the head of the Inter­na­tion­al Peace Insti­tute (IPI) in New York after rev­e­la­tions emerged that the wide­ly-respect­ed diplo­mat had vis­it­ed Epstein’s Upper East Side man­sion more than 20 times, had solicit­ed Epstein for dona­tions to IPI, and was per­son­al­ly in hock to Epstein for $130,000.

    Ruemm­ler did not respond to a request for com­ment. How­ev­er, a spokesper­son for Gold­man Sachs, where Ruemm­ler is now chief legal offi­cer and gen­er­al coun­sel, recent­ly told The Wall Street Jour­nal that Ruemmler’s rela­tion­ship with Epstein was strict­ly busi­ness, and that she nev­er trav­eled with him. “I regret ever know­ing Jef­frey Epstein,” Ruemm­ler told the out­let.

    Epstein main­tained an active nightlife, attend­ing a Sept. 2014 screen­ing of The Equal­iz­er at the AMC Lin­coln Square IMAX the­ater on Broad­way, fol­lowed by an after­par­ty at Rande Gerber’s Stone Rose Lounge, as well as a screen­ing of jazz doc­u­men­tary Keep on Keepin’ On, fol­lowed by an after­par­ty at the Tribeca Grand hotel. He also attend­ed to more mun­dane mat­ters, such as a doctor’s appoint­ment for bone spurs.

    Epstein hanged him­self in 2019 as he await­ed tri­al in a Man­hat­tan lock­up on fed­er­al sex traf­fick­ing charges. But while he is gone, the heartwrench­ing pain he inflict­ed on oth­ers has hard­ly been for­got­ten. Ear­li­er this month, Deutsche Bank agreed to pay a $75 mil­lion set­tle­ment to vic­tims who said the glob­al finan­cial ser­vices firm failed to report obvi­ous sex traf­fick­ing activ­i­ties by its for­mer client.

    “The scope and scale of Epstein’s abuse, and the many years it con­tin­ued in plain sight, could not have hap­pened with­out the col­lab­o­ra­tion and sup­port of many pow­er­ful indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions,” attor­ney David Boies, whose firm rep­re­sents some of the plain­tiffs in the mas­sive civ­il case against Deutsche Bank, said in a state­ment.

    The pay­out will be dis­trib­uted to some 125 women who were vic­tim­ized by Epstein. Epstein’s estate was last year ordered to pay $105 mil­lion to the gov­ern­ment of the U.S. Vir­gin Islands, where many of his crimes took place. A vic­tims’ com­pen­sa­tion fund set up after Epstein’s death issued more than $121 mil­lion to rough­ly 150 women vic­tim­ized by Epstein, with some indi­vid­u­als receiv­ing more than $1 mil­lion.

    ———-

    “Epstein Emailed About Din­ners With Woody Allen, David Blaine, and Richard Bran­son” by Justin Rohrlich and Kate Briquelet; The Dai­ly Beast; 05/30/2023

    ““The scope and scale of Epstein’s abuse, and the many years it con­tin­ued in plain sight, could not have hap­pened with­out the col­lab­o­ra­tion and sup­port of many pow­er­ful indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions,” attor­ney David Boies, whose firm rep­re­sents some of the plain­tiffs in the mas­sive civ­il case against Deutsche Bank, said in a state­ment.”

    Jef­frey Epstein was a ser­i­al abuser. But he was­n’t a lone ser­i­al abuser. He had help from some of the most pow­er­ful per­sons and insti­tu­tions on the plan­et. At the same time he was pre­sum­ably cor­rupt­ing and gain­ing black­mail mate­ri­als. That’s a big part of what makes these cal­en­dar entries for Epstein’s var­i­ous social out­ings over the last decade so incrim­i­nat­ing.

    And then there’s the fact that Epstein was appar­ent­ly able to resume this lifestyle of social­iz­ing with pow­er­ful and influ­en­tial peo­ple while he was still on pro­ba­tion back in 2010 as the sweet­heart fed­er­al plea deal was still play­ing out. It was Feb­ru­ary 2010, when Epstein was appar­ent­ly meet­ing with none oth­er than JP Mor­gan CEO Jamie Dimon along with Jes Sta­ley, the fig­ure who long served as Epstein’s banker at that bank. Recall how Epstein had an account with JP Mor­gan’s pri­vate bank­ing unit from 1990 to 2013. Also recall how JP Mor­gan has been sued by both the Vir­gin Islands and sev­er­al vic­tims for the alleged role it played in facil­i­tat­ing Epstein’s sex traf­fick­ing activ­i­ties. Beyond that, Jes Sta­ley has also been per­son­al­ly accused of abus­ing some of Epstein’s vic­tims. So when we see a Feb 2010 meet­ing between Epstein and Jes Sta­ley it’s not par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing. The two had a very close work­ing rela­tion­ship. But the fact that Jamie Dimon was there too at a meet­ing that took place while Epstein was still on pro­ba­tion that makes it clear that Epstein was an extreme­ly val­ued client. Extreme­ly val­ued for still mys­te­ri­ous rea­sons:

    ...
    In one email, which Epstein sent at 5:12 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2010—some six months before his pro­ba­tion end­ed—he remind­ed Groff about a meet­ing that evening with Dimon and JP Mor­gan exec­u­tive Jes Sta­ley (whom some now see as the bank’s fall guy for its rela­tion­ship with Epstein).

    “i have sched­ule [sic] ben at 230, tues, peter at 730 jes sta­ley and dimon and [sic] 9,” the email read.
    ...

    Flash for­ward to 2011, and it’s clear that Epstein’s full social life has resumed post-pro­ba­tion, includ­ing din­ners with fig­ures like Bill Gates, Lar­ry Sum­mer, and his JP Mor­gan banker Jes Sta­ley. And note Sum­mer­s’s spokesper­sons expla­na­tion for why he had this rela­tion­ship with Epstein: “Their inter­ac­tions pri­mar­i­ly focused on glob­al eco­nom­ic issues.” So we can add macro­eco­nom­ic to the list of top­ics that Epstein was appar­ent­ly flu­ent in. Of course, when we see how two of ‘Epstein’s women’ also attend­ed this din­ner, it’s not hard to imag­ine the dis­cus­sion was­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly focused on eco­nom­ics:

    ...
    Epstein reg­u­lar­ly mixed busi­ness with par­ty­ing and appoint­ments with women who were often described just by their first names.

    An Apr. 28, 2011 email from Groff to Epstein remind­ed him about a 9 p.m. din­ner he had sched­uled with Bill Gates, for­mer Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Lar­ry Sum­mers, and Jes Sta­ley from JP Mor­gan, fol­low­ing an after­noon appoint­ment with two women iden­ti­fied only by their first names. After din­ner, Epstein was set to attend a “Vogue After Par­ty at Boom Boom Room,” host­ed by hote­lier and ex-Uma Thur­man para­mour Andre Bal­asz.

    ...

    “Their inter­ac­tions pri­mar­i­ly focused on glob­al eco­nom­ic issues,” a spokesper­son for Sum­mers told The Wall Street Jour­nal.
    ...

    And then there’s the repeat­ed meet­ings with Bill Gates. At least five, accord­ing to these released records. But it’s the alleged expla­na­tion for Gates’s inter­est in Epstein that is most intrigu­ing: Gates appar­ent­ly felt that Epstein could help him receive a Nobel Peace Prize. WTF?! What on earth what Jef­frey Epstein have to do with the Nobel Prize? And then we see who some of the oth­er guests were at these Epstein gath­er­ings: for­mer Nor­we­gian PM, Kjell Magne Bon­de­vik and for­mer Nor­we­gian Prime Min­is­ter, Nobel Com­mit­tee chair, and Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al of the Coun­cil of Europe Thor­b­jørn Jagland. So who knows, maybe Gates’s rela­tion­ship with Epstein real­ly was oper­at­ing as a kind of fast track to a Nobel Prize. It seems pos­si­ble giv­en the avail­able evi­dence, which is just a pro­found­ly messed up state of affairs:

    ...
    In a Sept. 20, 2013 email, Groff informed Epstein that an upcom­ing meal planned with Gates and oth­ers was “TBD,” but that “Richard Bran­son may join the din­ner.”

    ...

    Gates did not respond to requests for com­ment, but has said that while he and Epstein had “sev­er­al din­ners” togeth­er, he now con­sid­ers the rela­tion­ship to have been a “huge mis­take.” Sum­mers, who did not imme­di­ate­ly respond to The Dai­ly Beast’s request for com­ment, said said ear­li­er this month that he “deeply regrets” main­tain­ing a post-con­vic­tion rela­tion­ship with Epstein.

    ...

    The for­mer pres­i­dent of Mon­go­lia, Tsakhi­a­gin Elbeg­dorj, was on Epstein’s cal­en­dar in 2013, Microsoft founder Bill Gates attend­ed a din­ner at Epstein’s lav­ish Man­hat­tan town­house in Sep­tem­ber 2014, accord­ing to the sched­ul­ing emails. Oth­ers present at the gath­er­ing includ­ed Gates’ then-wife Melin­da; for­mer Nor­we­gian Prime Min­is­ter, Nobel Com­mit­tee chair, and Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al of the Coun­cil of Europe Thor­b­jørn Jagland; and Lar­ry Sum­mers. In all, Gates—who report­ed­ly believed Epstein’s con­nec­tions could help him get a Nobel Peace Prize—met with Epstein at least five times, the emails show.

    Anoth­er for­mer Nor­we­gian PM, Kjell Magne Bon­de­vik, had break­fast with Epstein on Oct. 4, 2013, accord­ing to the emails. The month before, Groff sent Epstein a note: “Reminder: Kissinger is free start­ing evening of Sept. 23rd.”

    Jagland was unable to be reached for com­ment. He has pre­vi­ous­ly denied ever meet­ing or being in con­tact with Epstein, although a 2020 inves­ti­ga­tion by Nor­we­gian busi­ness dai­ly Dagens Næringsliv report­ed­ly found this to be untrue. Elbergdorj, Bon­de­vik, and Kissinger did not respond to requests for com­ment.

    ...

    Nor­we­gian diplo­mat Ter­je Rød-Larsen also appears numer­ous times on Epstein’s cal­en­dar, with var­i­ous meet­ings and din­ner par­ties sched­uled through­out 2013 and 2014. Oth­er guests invit­ed to the same gath­er­ings includ­ed, among oth­ers, Gates, Sum­mers, and bil­lion­aire Leon Black, who has admit­ted to per­son­al deal­ings with Epstein but insist­ed the rela­tion­ship was “lim­it­ed” and in 2019 told investors that his com­pa­ny, Apol­lo Glob­al Man­age­ment, had “nev­er done any busi­ness with Mr. Epstein at any point in time.”
    ...

    Anoth­er inter­est­ing name we’re see­ing pop up in this cal­en­dar is Wen­di Mur­doch, Rupert Mur­doch’s ex-wife. Recall how when the Rupert Mur­doch filed for a divorce in 2014 there were reports that he dis­cov­ered Wen­di was cheat­ing on him with both Tony Blair and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. It’s worth not­ing that Blair’s name shows up in Epstein’s ‘lit­tle black book’ and Schmidt is one of the tech exec­u­tives known to schmooze with Epstein. So you have to won­der if Wen­di Mur­doch’s prox­im­i­ty to Epstein ulti­mate­ly played a role in mak­ing those affairs hap­pen:

    ...
    Also on Epstein’s sched­ule were at least one appoint­ment with Iri­na Shayk, phone calls with Tom­my Mot­to­la, get-togeth­ers with Jeff Koons, meet-ups with Wen­di Mur­doch, and din­ners out with magi­cian David Blaine. The emails show Blaine set to “stop by toward the end” of a din­ner with Epstein and futur­ist Pab­los Hol­man and actress Jes­si­ca Joffe in June 2013, anoth­er in Sep­tem­ber of that year, and a third din­ner with Epstein in Jan­u­ary 2014. On April 4, 2013, Groff sent Epstein an email read­ing, “Reminder: David Blaine’s birth­day is April 4.”
    ...

    And then there’s Woody Allen, who appears to have been par­tic­u­lar­ly chum­my with Epstein. Who knows why Allen thought this rela­tion­ship was a good idea, but they were clear­ly friends. And, in turn, an implic­it avenue for Epstein to spread his influ­ence to Hol­ly­wood cir­cles:

    ...
    In anoth­er exchange, this one dat­ed Jan. 26, 2014, Groff laid out the details of a gath­er­ing Epstein had planned for that evening at Madi­son Avenue’s now-defunct Ris­torante Mori­ni. The guest list includ­ed, among oth­ers, Woody and Soon-Yi Allen, Jes Sta­ley, David Bren­ner, and “maybe Chris Rock,” the email showed.

    ...

    On Nov. 19, 2012, Epstein’s sched­ule showed a 12 o’clock lunch with busi­ness­man Todd Meis­ter, who in 2004 was briefly engaged to Nicky Hilton, and for­ward­ed Epstein a note from Woody Allen’s assis­tant, which said, “Woody was won­der­ing if Jef­frey would be inter­est­ed in watch­ing his new film either today or tomor­row? We’re still run­ning the last few days of a tight sched­ule on the sets but hope Jef­frey can catch the film mean­while.” (Meis­ter did not respond to a request for com­ment.)

    Allen, whose name pops up reg­u­lar­ly on Epstein’s sched­ule, planned to bring Soon-Yi to Epstein’s town­house for din­ner in July 2015, accord­ing to one email from Groff. Soon-Yi said to “sur­prise them,” Groff told Epstein, in ref­er­ence to what the cou­ple want­ed to eat.
    ...

    Final­ly, we get to this very inter­est­ing update on Epstein’s rela­tion­ship with Peter Thiel. Recall how one of the remark­able aspects of the whole Epstein saga was how lit­tle indi­ca­tion there is in the avail­able report­ing that Epstein had any sort of rela­tion­ship with Thiel despite the clear over­lap in both inter­ests and social net­works. And here we’re see­ing that Epstein and Thiel had a num­ber of meet­ings in 2014, includ­ing a din­ner with Gates and Sum­mers and anoth­er din­ner with Woody Allen and for­mer Oba­ma White House coun­sel Kathy Ruemm­ler. That’s quite a guest list. It has the appear­ance of Thiel being a reg­u­lar part of this social cir­cle:

    ...
    Epstein and right-wing bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel had a flur­ry of inter­ac­tions in the fall of 2014, the emails reveal. On Sept. 7, 2014, Groff remind­ed Epstein that he was sched­uled that day to see Thiel, among a raft of oth­ers includ­ing Gates, Sum­mers, and for­mer Oba­ma White House coun­sel Kathy Ruemm­ler. Thiel was also sched­uled for a din­ner with Epstein and Woody Allen on Sept. 12, 2014, a Sept. 13, 2014 meet­ing with Epstein, a “ten­ta­tive lunch” with Epstein on Sept. 14, 2014, and anoth­er meet­ing with Epstein on Sept. 22, 2014.
    ...

    So was Epstein’s rela­tion­ship with Thiel lim­it­ed to a flur­ry of meet­ings in 2014? Nope. As the fol­low­ing New York Times report points out, there’s at least one 2015 din­ner we know of that was attend­ed by both Epstein and Thiel. A din­ner par­ty arranged by one of Thiel’s ‘Pay­Pal Mafia’ alum, Reid Hoff­man, and attend­ed by not just Epstein and Thiel but also Mark Zucker­berg and fel­low ‘Pay­Pal Mafia’ mem­ber Elon Musk. And as the arti­cle also notes, the records the New York Times based this report­ing on is some­what spot­ty, with entire years miss­ing. So assum­ing the Dai­ly Beast and New York Times reports are based on the same col­lec­tion of released doc­u­ments, it’s going to be impor­tant to keep in mind that there are still entire years of Epstein’s social life that we don’t real­ly under­stand yet:

    The New York Times

    Peter Thiel Is Lat­est Bil­lion­aire Said to Have Met With Jef­frey Epstein

    Mr. Thiel appar­ent­ly had sev­er­al meet­ings with Mr. Epstein in 2014, accord­ing to records of the dis­graced financier reviewed by The New York Times.

    By Matthew Gold­stein and Ryan Mac
    May 18, 2023

    In 2014, the ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Peter Thiel was gain­ing promi­nence as one of Sil­i­con Valley’s most suc­cess­ful entre­pre­neurs and investors. He had made bil­lions of dol­lars as a co-founder of Pay­Pal and Palan­tir, where he was chair­man; and he sat on the board of Face­book, where he was the company’s first out­side investor.

    That made him an ide­al con­tact for Jef­frey Epstein, the con­vict­ed sex offend­er with a knack for cul­ti­vat­ing the rich and pow­er­ful.

    Mr. Thiel appar­ent­ly had sev­er­al meet­ings with Mr. Epstein that year, accord­ing to sched­ul­ing records of the dis­graced financier that were reviewed by The New York Times.

    The records — in the form of emails that Mr. Epstein’s assis­tant sent to remind him of upcom­ing events — show that in Sep­tem­ber 2014 Mr. Thiel was sched­uled to meet with Mr. Epstein on at least three occa­sions, either in one-on-one meet­ings or with oth­ers over lunch or din­ner. Two oth­er times, Mr. Thiel was list­ed among more than a dozen oth­er well-known peo­ple Mr. Epstein should try to see while at his New York man­sion.

    It’s unclear from the records whether all the meet­ings with Mr. Thiel took place. Some were list­ed as ten­ta­tive or “TBD” — for “to be deter­mined.”

    ...

    The Times obtained the records through a pub­lic records request to the attor­ney gen­er­al for the U.S. Vir­gin Islands, which had sued Mr. Epstein’s estate. (Mr. Epstein died in 2019 while await­ing tri­al on fed­er­al sex-traf­fick­ing charges.) The records sug­gest that Mr. Thiel may have had a clos­er rela­tion­ship with Mr. Epstein than was pre­vi­ous­ly known.

    Even after his 2008 con­vic­tion in Flori­da on a charge of solic­it­ing pros­ti­tu­tion from a teenage girl, Mr. Epstein con­tin­ued to hob­nob with top finance exec­u­tives and investors, sci­en­tists, pro­fes­sors, politi­cians and celebri­ties.

    Mr. Epstein was fas­ci­nat­ed with the tech­nol­o­gy indus­try, attend­ing con­fer­ences with high-pro­file indus­try exec­u­tives. In 2015, for exam­ple, the LinkedIn founder Reid Hoff­man invit­ed him to a din­ner attend­ed by, among oth­ers, the Tes­la chief exec­u­tive, Elon Musk; the Face­book chief exec­u­tive, Mark Zucker­berg; and Mr. Thiel. (The din­ner was pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed by Axios.)

    The records reviewed by The Times, which begin in 2011, are not a com­pre­hen­sive account­ing of Mr. Epstein’s meet­ings. They do not cov­er every day, and even full years are miss­ing. (Some of the cal­en­dar entries were pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed by The Wall Street Jour­nal in con­nec­tion with oth­er indi­vid­u­als.)

    On Sept. 14, 2014, Mr. Epstein was ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled to have lunch with Mr. Thiel, the records show. The sched­ule then changed, with Mr. Thiel list­ed as hav­ing an appoint­ment in the after­noon, fol­lowed by a poten­tial din­ner with Mr. Epstein, the direc­tor Woody Allen and oth­ers. Mr. Thiel was also expect­ed to have lunch with the financier the next day and the fol­low­ing week­end, the records show.

    It’s unclear why Mr. Thiel was meet­ing with Mr. Epstein. At the time, Mr. Thiel sat on the board of Face­book and over­saw Founders Fund, a top ven­ture cap­i­tal firm. Mr. Thiel was also the chair­man of Palan­tir, the C.I.A.-backed data ana­lyt­ics com­pa­ny, which at the time was seek­ing out­side invest­ments.

    ...

    Mr. Thiel’s name comes up in the cal­en­dar entries far less often than oth­er names of famous peo­ple like the Wall Street financier financier Leon Black, who is list­ed as hav­ing come over fre­quent­ly for break­fast and lunch.

    ————–

    “Peter Thiel Is Lat­est Bil­lion­aire Said to Have Met With Jef­frey Epstein” by Matthew Gold­stein and Ryan Mac; The New York Times; 05/18/2023

    “The records — in the form of emails that Mr. Epstein’s assis­tant sent to remind him of upcom­ing events — show that in Sep­tem­ber 2014 Mr. Thiel was sched­uled to meet with Mr. Epstein on at least three occa­sions, either in one-on-one meet­ings or with oth­ers over lunch or din­ner. Two oth­er times, Mr. Thiel was list­ed among more than a dozen oth­er well-known peo­ple Mr. Epstein should try to see while at his New York man­sion.”

    What did Thiel and Epstein dis­cuss dur­ing their one-on-one meet­ings? We’ll nev­er know. But based on the avail­able records, it appears that Epstein’s rela­tion­ship with Thiel went beyond that 2014 flur­ry of meet­ings. For exam­ple, there was the 2015 din­ner host­ed by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoff­man and attend­ed by Epstein, Thiel, Elon Musk, and Mark Zucker­berg. Recall how Hoff­man, Musk and Thiel were all mem­bers of the ‘Pay­Pal Mafia’, with Hoff­man going on to become a major Demo­c­ra­t­ic mega-donor. A lib­er­tar­i­an-lean­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic mega-donor who advo­cates for the ‘Uber­iza­tion’ of the econ­o­my. Also recall how Hoff­man was appar­ent­ly the financier of the now noto­ri­ous ‘exper­i­ment’ to run fake ‘Russ­ian’ Face­book dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns dur­ing the 2017 spe­cial elec­tion for an Alaba­ma Sen­ate seat. Dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns that were ped­dled to the media as Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tions until it was inad­ver­tent­ly revealed that the whole thing was financed by Hoff­man, at which point we were told it was all done for research pur­pos­es. So it’s when we see din­ner par­ties arranged by Hoff­man that include fig­ures like Epstein and Thiel, it’s a reminder that Hoff­man is wears a lot more ‘hats’ than just that of Demo­c­ra­t­ic mega-donor:

    ...
    Mr. Thiel appar­ent­ly had sev­er­al meet­ings with Mr. Epstein that year, accord­ing to sched­ul­ing records of the dis­graced financier that were reviewed by The New York Times.

    ...

    It’s unclear from the records whether all the meet­ings with Mr. Thiel took place. Some were list­ed as ten­ta­tive or “TBD” — for “to be deter­mined.”

    ...

    Mr. Epstein was fas­ci­nat­ed with the tech­nol­o­gy indus­try, attend­ing con­fer­ences with high-pro­file indus­try exec­u­tives. In 2015, for exam­ple, the LinkedIn founder Reid Hoff­man invit­ed him to a din­ner attend­ed by, among oth­ers, the Tes­la chief exec­u­tive, Elon Musk; the Face­book chief exec­u­tive, Mark Zucker­berg; and Mr. Thiel. (The din­ner was pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed by Axios.)

    ...

    On Sept. 14, 2014, Mr. Epstein was ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled to have lunch with Mr. Thiel, the records show. The sched­ule then changed, with Mr. Thiel list­ed as hav­ing an appoint­ment in the after­noon, fol­lowed by a poten­tial din­ner with Mr. Epstein, the direc­tor Woody Allen and oth­ers. Mr. Thiel was also expect­ed to have lunch with the financier the next day and the fol­low­ing week­end, the records show.

    It’s unclear why Mr. Thiel was meet­ing with Mr. Epstein. At the time, Mr. Thiel sat on the board of Face­book and over­saw Founders Fund, a top ven­ture cap­i­tal firm. Mr. Thiel was also the chair­man of Palan­tir, the C.I.A.-backed data ana­lyt­ics com­pa­ny, which at the time was seek­ing out­side invest­ments.
    ...

    Final­ly, note this impor­tant detail on this lat­est wave of rev­e­la­tions: entire years of Epstein’s cal­en­dar are miss­ing. This is all just a sam­pling of Epstein’s pow­er­ful friends:

    ...
    The records reviewed by The Times, which begin in 2011, are not a com­pre­hen­sive account­ing of Mr. Epstein’s meet­ings. They do not cov­er every day, and even full years are miss­ing. (Some of the cal­en­dar entries were pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed by The Wall Street Jour­nal in con­nec­tion with oth­er indi­vid­u­als.)
    ...

    What does Epstein’s cal­en­dar tell us about his social life in 2016, 2017, and 2018? Well, either Epstein sud­den­ly did­n’t have a social life or those are the miss­ing years. And it’s hard to imag­ine he sud­den­ly did­n’t have a social life. The guy is so pop­u­lar, pow­er­ful peo­ple could­n’t seem to help them­selves. That’s mes­sage from these reports. Every­one loves Jef­frey. Or at least loved him before they sud­den­ly knew noth­ing about him.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 1, 2023, 6:48 pm
  12. Remem­ber that real­ly creepy anec­dote shared by futur­ist author Dou­glas Ruskoff? The one about how he was invit­ed to a 2017 din­ner par­ty with five super-wealth tech oli­garchs who just pep­pered him with ques­tions about how to sur­vive the an apoc­a­lypse they were expect­ing? A din­ner par­ty that so dis­turbed Rushkoff that he now con­sid­ers him­self a ‘Dig­i­tal Marx­ist’ in reac­tion to ‘The Mind­set’ of Sil­i­con Val­ley? Well, we may have sort of got­ten an update of that sto­ry. Maybe:

    We just learned an absolute­ly fas­ci­nat­ing new detail about the schemes under devel­op­ment by Sam Bankman-Fried and the coterie of ‘Effec­tive Altru­ists’ in his orbit. Schemes that obvi­ous­ly implod­ed fol­low­ing the Novem­ber 2022 implo­sion of the FTX cryp­tocur­ren­cy exchange. Schemes that includ­ed buy­ing the island nation of Nau­ru and build­ing a dooms­day bunker for all the Effec­tive Altru­ists to sur­vive an expect­ed apoc­a­lypse. Yep.

    Now, Bankman-Fried did­n’t start his FTX cryp­to exchange firm until 2019. He was­n’t a bil­lion­aire in 2017, so odds are he was­n’t per­son­al­ly at Rushkof­f’s dis­turb­ing din­ner­par­ty. But Effec­tive Altru­ism was already a thing at that point and already gain­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty in Sil­i­con Val­ley tech titan cir­cles. And that’s why we have to ask: how many ‘Effec­tive Altru­ists’ were there at Rushkof­f’s bil­lion­aire dooms­day din­ner par­ty?

    Quartz

    Sam Bankman-Fried want­ed to buy the nation of Nau­ru to wait out the world’s end

    Before FTX col­lapsed, Bankman-Fried planned to build a bunker in Nau­ru, to keep mem­bers of the effec­tive altru­ism move­ment safe in case of a glob­al calami­ty

    By Faus­tine Ngi­la
    07/21/2023

    Sam Bankman-Fried seemed unpre­pared for the end of his FTX cryp­to exchange, but he’d cer­tain­ly start­ed plan­ning for the end of civ­i­liza­tion.

    Accord­ing to new court fil­ings, Bankman-Fried had chalked out how he would pur­chase the island nation of Nau­ru. Come the great fire or flood, he would move him­self and his col­leagues in the effec­tive altru­ism move­ment into a bunker there, to wait out the apoc­a­lypse.

    The court fil­ings in a fed­er­al bank­rupt­cy court in Delaware, dat­ed July 20, includ­ed a memo craft­ed by an FTX Foun­da­tion offi­cial and Sam Bankman-Fried’s broth­er Gabriel Bankman-Fried. It out­lined the future sur­vival of FTX and Alame­da Research employ­ees and all those who sub­scribed to the effec­tive altru­ism con­cept.

    The ulti­mate strat­e­gy, accord­ing to the memo, was “to pur­chase the sov­er­eign nation of Nau­ru in order to con­struct a ‘bunker / shel­ter’ that would be used for some event where 50%-99.99% of peo­ple die [to] ensure that most EAs (effec­tive altru­ists) sur­vive.” The memo also men­tioned to plans to devel­op “sen­si­ble reg­u­la­tion around human genet­ic enhance­ment, and build a lab there,” not­ing that per­haps “there are oth­er things it’s use­ful to do with a sov­er­eign coun­try, too.”

    Nau­ru has a his­to­ry of mon­ey laun­der­ing

    ...

    In the late 1990s, Nau­ru turned into a haven for mon­ey laun­der­ing. In 1998, some $70 bil­lion was ille­gal­ly trans­ferred from Russ­ian banks to accounts of banks char­tered in Nau­ru to evade tax­es. At the time, mon­ey laun­der­ing was not a crim­i­nal offense in the coun­try. But in 2002, the US Trea­sury des­ig­nat­ed Nau­ru a mon­ey-laun­der­ing state, lead­ing to the clo­sure of the Bank of Nau­ru in 2006.

    Quite an appro­pri­ate spot for Bankman-Fried, then. The Delaware court fil­ings label him a ser­i­al mon­ey laun­der­er, and they aug­ment fil­ings from March, in which pros­e­cu­tors charged Bankman-Fried with 13 sim­i­lar offens­es. In total, he is accused of swin­dling $8 bil­lion of his cus­tomers’ funds.

    Bankman-Fried’s choice of Nau­ru aside, his antic­i­pa­tion of a mega-cat­a­stro­phe rais­es more prac­ti­cal ques­tions than answers.

    His phi­los­o­phy of choice, effec­tive altru­ism, encour­ages its mem­bers to accu­mu­late a lot of wealth, so they can dis­trib­ute it to the less priv­i­leged peo­ple around them. As the fall of FTX showed, though, the move­ment was rid­dled with smoke­screens and eth­i­cal pit­falls. Bankman-Fried’s plans with both FTX and Nau­ru were self­ish: make a few peo­ple very rich ille­gal­ly, and use that mon­ey to hun­ker down on their own island, set their own rules, and escape a glob­al calami­ty even as the world out­side burned on.

    ———–

    “Sam Bankman-Fried want­ed to buy the nation of Nau­ru to wait out the world’s end” By Faus­tine Ngi­la; Quartz; 07/21/2023

    “The ulti­mate strat­e­gy, accord­ing to the memo, was “to pur­chase the sov­er­eign nation of Nau­ru in order to con­struct a ‘bunker / shel­ter’ that would be used for some event where 50%-99.99% of peo­ple die [to] ensure that most EAs (effec­tive altru­ists) sur­vive.” The memo also men­tioned to plans to devel­op “sen­si­ble reg­u­la­tion around human genet­ic enhance­ment, and build a lab there,” not­ing that per­haps “there are oth­er things it’s use­ful to do with a sov­er­eign coun­try, too.””

    A plan to buy the coun­ty of Nau­ru and build a dooms­day bunker for the upcom­ing mass die-off event. That sure sounds a lot like the world­views of mys­te­ri­ous tech oli­garchs who invit­ed Dou­glas Rushkoff to advise them on how to sur­vive the upcom­ing apoc­a­lypse back in 2017. So we have to ask: was Rushkof­f’s anony­mous bil­lion­aire dooms­day din­ner par­ty host­ed by the ‘Effec­tive Altru­ism’ (EA) crowd? It fits the avail­able data.

    But as the fol­low­ing MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review arti­cle about EA makes clear, Sam Bankman-Fried and his crowd don’t have a monop­oly on the EA phi­los­o­phy. A grow­ing num­ber of tech oli­garchs have expressed an EA phi­los­o­phy of their own, includ­ing Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. Because of course. It’s a phi­los­o­phy that more or less says bil­lion­aires should shape the world with an eye exclu­sive­ly on the future.

    Also note that this arti­cle was pub­lished in Octo­ber of 2022, one month before the spec­tac­u­lar FTX col­lapse. In oth­er words, this arti­cle was writ­ten right before the EA move­ment was exposed as deeply fraud­u­lent, which makes this piece a great snap shot at just how deeply the EA move­men­t’s roots are in the tech indus­try. So deep that there should be no assump­tions that the col­lapse of FTX brought about the col­lapse of the EA move­ment:

    MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review

    Inside effec­tive altru­ism, where the far future counts a lot more than the present

    The giv­ing phi­los­o­phy, which has adopt­ed a focus on the long term, is a con­ser­v­a­tive project, con­sol­i­dat­ing deci­sion-mak­ing among a small set of tech­nocrats.

    By Rebec­ca Ack­er­mann
    Octo­ber 17, 2022

    Ore­gon 6th Con­gressional Dis­trict can­di­date Car­rick Fly­nn seemed to drop out of the sky. With a stint at Oxford’s Future of Human­i­ty Insti­tute, a track record of vot­ing in only two of the past 30 elec­tions, and $11 mil­lion in sup­port from a polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee estab­lished by cryp­to bil­lion­aire Sam Bankman-Fried, Fly­nn didn’t fit into the local polit­i­cal scene, even though he’d grown up in the state. One con­stituent called him “Mr. Creepy Funds” in an inter­view with a local paper; anoth­er said he thought Fly­nn was a Russ­ian bot.

    The specter of cryp­to influ­ence, a slew of expen­sive TV ads, and the fact that few locals had heard of or spo­ken to Fly­nn raised sus­pi­cions that he was a tool of out­side finan­cial inter­ests. And while the rival can­di­date who led the pri­ma­ry race promised to fight for issues like bet­ter work­er pro­tec­tions and stronger gun leg­is­la­tion, Flynn’s plat­form pri­or­i­tized eeco­nom­ic growth and pre­pared­ness for pan­demics and oth­er dis­as­ters. Both are pil­lars of “longter­mism,” a grow­ing strain of the ide­ol­o­gy known as effec­tive altru­ism (or EA), which is pop­u­lar among an elite slice of peo­ple in tech and pol­i­tics.

    Even dur­ing an actu­al pan­dem­ic, Flynn’s focus struck many Ore­go­ni­ans as far-fetched and for­eign. Per­haps unsur­pris­ing­ly, he end­ed up los­ing the 2022 pri­ma­ry to the more polit­i­cal­ly expe­ri­enced Demo­c­rat, Andrea Sali­nas. But despite Flynn’s lack­lus­ter show­ing, he made his­to­ry as effec­tive altruism’s first polit­i­cal can­di­date to run for office.

    Since its birth in the late 2000s, effec­tive altru­ism has aimed to answer the ques­tion “How can those with means have the most impact on the world in a quan­tifi­able way?”—and sup­plied clear method­olo­gies for cal­cu­lat­ing the answer. Direct­ing mon­ey to orga­ni­za­tions that use evi­dence-based approach­es is the one tech­nique EA is most known for. But as it has expand­ed from an aca­d­e­m­ic phi­los­o­phy into a com­mu­ni­ty and a move­ment, its ideas of the “best” way to change the world have evolved as well.

    Longter­mism,” the belief that unlike­ly but exis­ten­tial threats like a human­i­ty-destroy­ing AI revolt or inter­na­tion­al bio­log­i­cal war­fare are humanity’s most press­ing prob­lems, is inte­gral to EA today. Of late, it has moved from the fringes of the move­ment to its fore with Flynn’s cam­paign, a flur­ry of main­stream media cov­er­age, and a new trea­tise pub­lished by one of EA’s found­ing fathers, William MacAskill. It’s an ide­ol­o­gy that’s poised to take the main stage as more believ­ers in the tech and bil­lion­aire classes—which are, notably, most­ly male and white—start to pour mil­lions into new PACs and projects like Bankman-Fried’s FTX Future Fund and Longview Philanthropy’s Longter­mism Fund, which focus on the­o­ret­i­cal men­aces ripped from the pages of sci­ence fic­tion.

    EA’s ideas have long faced crit­i­cism from with­in the fields of phi­los­o­phy and phil­an­thropy that they reflect white West­ern sav­ior­ism and an avoid­ance of struc­tur­al prob­lems in favor of abstract math—not coin­ci­den­tal­ly, many of the same objec­tions lobbed at the tech indus­try at large. Such charges are only inten­si­fy­ing as EA’s pock­ets deep­en and its purview stretch­es into a galaxy far, far away. Ulti­mate­ly, the philosophy’s influ­ence may be lim­it­ed by their accu­ra­cy.

    What is EA?

    If effec­tive altru­ism were a lab-grown species, its ori­gin sto­ry would begin with DNA spliced from three par­ents: applied ethics, spec­u­la­tive tech­nol­o­gy, and phil­an­thropy.

    EA’s philo­soph­i­cal genes came from Peter Singer’s brand of util­i­tar­i­an­ism and Oxford philoso­pher Nick Bostrom’s inves­ti­ga­tions into poten­tial threats to human­i­ty. From tech, EA drew on ear­ly research into the long-term impact of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence car­ried out at what’s now known as the Machine Intel­li­gence Research Insti­tute (MIRI) in Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia. In phil­an­thropy, EA is part of a grow­ing trend toward evi­dence-based giv­ing, dri­ven by mem­bers of the Sil­i­con Val­ley nou­veau riche who are eager to apply the strate­gies that made them mon­ey to the process of giv­ing it away.

    While these ori­gins may seem diverse, the peo­ple involved are linked by social, eco­nom­ic, and pro­fes­sion­al class, and by a tech­no­crat­ic world­view. Ear­ly play­ers—includ­ing MacAskill, a Cam­bridge philoso­pher; Toby Ord, an Oxford philoso­pher; Hold­en Karnof­sky, cofounder of the char­i­ty eval­u­a­tor GiveWell; and Dustin Moskovitz, a cofounder of Face­book who found­ed the non­prof­it Open Phil­an­thropy with his wife, Cari Tuna—are all still lead­ers in the movement’s inter­con­nect­ed con­stel­la­tion of non­prof­its, foun­da­tions, and research orga­ni­za­tions.

    For effec­tive altru­ists, a good cause is not good enough; only the very best should get fund­ing in the areas most in need. Those areas are usu­al­ly, by EA cal­cu­la­tions, devel­op­ing nations. Per­son­al con­nec­tions that might encour­age some­one to give to a local food bank or donate to the hos­pi­tal that treat­ed a par­ent are a distraction—or worse, a waste of mon­ey.

    The clas­sic exam­ple of an EA-approved effort is the Against Malar­ia Foun­da­tion, which pur­chas­es and dis­trib­utes mos­qui­to nets in sub-Saha­ran Africa and oth­er areas heav­i­ly affect­ed by the dis­ease. The price of a net is very small com­pared with the scale of its life-sav­ing poten­tial; this ratio of “val­ue” to cost is what EA aims for. Oth­er pop­u­lar ear­ly EA caus­es include pro­vid­ing vit­a­min A sup­ple­ments and malar­ia med­ica­tion in African coun­tries, and pro­mot­ing ani­mal wel­fare in Asia.

    With­in effec­tive altruism’s frame­work, select­ing one’s career is just as impor­tant as choos­ing where to make dona­tions. EA defines a pro­fes­sion­al “fit” by whether a can­di­date has com­par­a­tive advan­tages like excep­tion­al intel­li­gence or an entre­pre­neur­ial dri­ve, and if an effec­tive altru­ist qual­i­fies for a high-pay­ing path, the ethos encour­ages “earn­ing to give,” or ded­i­cat­ing one’s life to build­ing wealth in order to give it away to EA caus­es. Bankman-Fried has said that he’s earn­ing to give, even found­ing the cryp­to plat­form FTX with the express pur­pose of build­ing wealth in order to redi­rect 99% of it. Now one of the rich­est cryp­to exec­u­tives in the world, Bankman-Fried plans to give away up to $1 bil­lion by the end of 2022.

    ...

    But where exact­ly are effec­tive altru­ists direct­ing their earn­ings? Who ben­e­fits? As with all giving—in EA or otherwise—there are no set rules for what con­sti­tutes “phil­an­thropy,” and char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tions ben­e­fit from a tax code that incen­tivizes the super-rich to estab­lish and con­trol their own char­i­ta­ble endeav­ors at the expense of pub­lic tax rev­enues, local gov­er­nance, or pub­lic account­abil­i­ty. EA orga­ni­za­tions are able to lever­age the prac­tices of tra­di­tion­al phil­an­thropy while enjoy­ing the shine of an effec­tive­ly dis­rup­tive approach to giv­ing.

    The move­ment has for­mal­ized its community’s com­mit­ment to donate with the Giv­ing What We Can Pledge—mir­ror­ing anoth­er old-school phil­an­thropic practice—but there are no giv­ing require­ments to be pub­licly list­ed as a pledger. Track­ing the full influ­ence of EA’s phi­los­o­phy is tricky, but 80,000 Hours has esti­mat­ed that $46 bil­lion was com­mit­ted to EA caus­es between 2015 and 2021, with dona­tions grow­ing about 20% each year. GiveWell cal­cu­lates that in 2021 alone, it direct­ed over $187 mil­lion to malar­ia nets and med­ica­tion; by the organization’s math, that’s over 36,000 lives saved.

    Account­abil­i­ty is sig­nif­i­cant­ly hard­er with longter­mist caus­es like biose­cu­ri­ty or “AI alignment”—a set of efforts aimed at ensur­ing that the pow­er of AI is har­nessed toward ends gen­er­al­ly under­stood as “good.” Such caus­es, for a grow­ing num­ber of effec­tive altru­ists, now take pri­or­i­ty over mos­qui­to nets and vit­a­min A med­ica­tion. “The things that mat­ter most are the things that have long-term impact on what the world will look like,” Bankman-Fried said in an inter­view ear­li­er this year. “There are tril­lions of peo­ple who have not yet been born.”

    Bankman-Fried’s views are influ­enced by longtermism’s util­i­tar­i­an cal­cu­la­tions, which flat­ten lives into sin­gle units of val­ue. By this math, the tril­lions of humans yet to be born rep­re­sent a greater moral oblig­a­tion than the bil­lions alive today. Any threats that could pre­vent future gen­er­a­tions from reach­ing their full potential—either through extinc­tion or through tech­no­log­i­cal stag­na­tion, which MacAskill deems equal­ly dire in his new book, What We Owe the Future—are pri­or­i­ty num­ber one.

    In his book, MacAskill dis­cuss­es his own jour­ney from longter­mism skep­tic to true believ­er and urges oth­er to fol­low the same path. The exis­ten­tial risks he lays out are spe­cif­ic: “The future could be ter­ri­ble, falling to author­i­tar­i­ans who use sur­veil­lance and AI to lock in their ide­ol­o­gy for all time, or even to AI sys­tems that seek to gain pow­er rather than pro­mote a thriv­ing soci­ety. Or there could be no future at all: we could kill our­selves off with bio­log­i­cal weapons or wage an all-out nuclear war that caus­es civil­i­sa­tion to col­lapse and nev­er recov­er.”

    It was to help guard against these exact pos­si­bil­i­ties that Bankman-Fried cre­at­ed the FTX Future Fund this year as a project with­in his phil­an­thropic foun­da­tion. Its focus areas include “space gov­er­nance,” “arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence,” and “empow­er­ing excep­tion­al peo­ple.” The fund’s web­site acknowl­edges that many of its bets “will fail.” (Its pri­ma­ry goal for 2022 is to test new fund­ing mod­els, but the fund’s site does not estab­lish what “suc­cess” may look like.) As of June 2022, the FTX Future Fund had made 262 grants and invest­ments, with recip­i­ents includ­ing a Brown Uni­ver­si­ty aca­d­e­m­ic research­ing long-term eco­nom­ic growth, a Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty aca­d­e­m­ic research­ing AI align­ment, and an orga­ni­za­tion work­ing on legal research around AI and biose­cu­ri­ty (which was born out of Har­vard Law’s EA group).

    Bankman-Fried is hard­ly the only tech bil­lion­aire push­ing for­ward longter­mist caus­es. Open Phil­an­thropy, the EA char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tion fund­ed pri­mar­i­ly by Moskovitz and Tuna, has direct­ed $260 mil­lion to address­ing “poten­tial risks from advanced AI” since its found­ing. Togeth­er, the FTX Future Fund and Open Phil­an­thropy sup­port­ed Longview Phil­an­thropy with more than $15 mil­lion this year before the orga­ni­za­tion announced its new Longter­mism Fund. Vita­lik Buterin, one of the founders of the blockchain plat­form Ethereum, is the sec­ond-largest recent donor to MIRI, whose mis­sion is “to ensure [that] smarter-­than-human arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence has a pos­i­tive impact.”

    MIRI’s donor list also includes the Thiel Foun­da­tion; Ben Delo, cofounder of cryp­to exchange Bit­MEX; and Jaan Tallinn, one of the found­ing engi­neers of Skype, who is also a cofounder of Cambridge’s Cen­tre for the Study of Exis­ten­tial Risk (CSER). Elon Musk is yet anoth­er tech mogul ded­i­cat­ed to fight­ing longter­mist exis­ten­tial risks; he’s even claimed that his for-prof­it operations—including SpaceX’s mis­sion to Mars—are phil­an­thropic efforts sup­port­ing humanity’s progress and sur­vival. (MacAskill has recent­ly expressed con­cern that his phi­los­o­phy is get­ting con­flat­ed with Musk’s “world­view.” How­ev­er, EA aims for an expand­ed audi­ence, and it seems unrea­son­able to expect rigid adher­ence to the exact belief sys­tem of its cre­ators.)

    Crit­i­cism and change

    Even before the fore­ground­ing of long­termism,effective altru­ism had been crit­i­cized for ele­vat­ing the mind­set of the “benev­o­lent cap­i­tal­ist” (as philoso­pher Amia Srini­vasan wrote in her 2015 review of MacAskill’s first book) and empha­siz­ing indi­vid­ual agency with­in cap­i­tal­ism over more foun­da­tion­al cri­tiques of the sys­tems that have made one part of the world wealthy enough to spend time the­o­riz­ing about how best to aid the rest.

    EA’s earn-to-give phi­los­o­phy rais­es the ques­tion of why the wealthy should get to decide where funds go in a high­ly inequitable world—especially if they may be extract­ing that wealth from employ­ees’ labor or the pub­lic, as may be the case with some cryp­to exec­u­tives. “My ide­o­log­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion starts with the belief that folks don’t earn tremen­dous amounts of mon­ey with­out it being at the expense of oth­er peo­ple,” says Farhad Ebrahi­mi, founder and pres­i­dent of the Cho­rus Foun­da­tion, which funds main­ly US orga­ni­za­tions work­ing to com­bat cli­mate change by shift­ing eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal pow­er to the com­mu­ni­ties most affect­ed by it.

    Many of the foundation’s grantees are groups led by peo­ple of col­or, and it is what’s known as a spend-down foun­da­tion; in oth­er words, Ebrahi­mi says, Chorus’s work will be suc­cess­ful when its funds are ful­ly redis­trib­uted.

    Ebrahi­mi objects to EA’s approach of sup­port­ing tar­get­ed inter­ven­tions rather than endow­ing local orga­ni­za­tions to define their own pri­or­i­ties: “Why wouldn’t you want to sup­port hav­ing the com­mu­ni­ties that you want the mon­ey to go to be the ones to build eco­nom­ic pow­er? That’s an indi­vid­ual say­ing, ‘I want to build my eco­nom­ic pow­er because I think I’m going to make good deci­sions about what to do with it’ … It seems very ‘benev­o­lent dic­ta­tor’ to me.”

    Effec­tive altru­ists would respond that their moral oblig­a­tion is to fund the most demon­stra­bly trans­for­ma­tive projects as defined by their frame­work, no mat­ter what else is left behind. In an inter­view in 2018, MacAskill sug­gest­ed that in order to rec­om­mend pri­or­i­tiz­ing any struc­tur­al pow­er shifts, he’d need to see “an argu­ment that oppos­ing inequal­i­ty in some par­tic­u­lar way is actu­al­ly going to be the best thing to do.”

    How­ev­er, when a small group of indi­vid­u­als with sim­i­lar back­grounds have deter­mined the for­mu­la for the most crit­i­cal caus­es and “best” solu­tions, the unbi­ased rig­or that EA is known for should come into ques­tion. While the top nine char­i­ties fea­tured on GiveWell’s web­site today work in devel­op­ing nations with com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, the EA com­mu­ni­ty stands at 71% male and 76% white, with the largest per­cent­age liv­ing in the US and the UK, accord­ing to a 2020 sur­vey by the Cen­tre for Effec­tive Altru­ism (CEA).

    This may not be sur­pris­ing giv­en that the phil­an­thropic com­mu­ni­ty at large has long been crit­i­cized for homo­gene­ity. But some stud­ies have demon­strat­ed that char­i­ta­ble giv­ing in the US is actu­al­ly grow­ing in diver­si­ty, which casts EA’s break­down in a dif­fer­ent light. A 2012 report by the W. K. Kel­logg Foun­da­tion found that both Asian-Amer­i­can and Black house­holds gave away a larg­er per­cent­age of their income than white house­holds. Research from the Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Lil­ly Fam­i­ly School of Phil­an­thropy found in 2021 that 65% of Black house­holds and 67% of His­pan­ic house­holds sur­veyed donat­ed char­i­ta­bly on a reg­u­lar basis, along with 74% of white house­holds. And donors of col­or were more like­ly to be involved in more infor­mal avenues of giv­ing, such as crowd­fund­ing, mutu­al aid, or giv­ing cir­cles, which may not be account­ed for in oth­er reports. EA’s sales pitch does not appear to be reach­ing these donors.

    While EA pro­po­nents say its approach is data dri­ven, EA’s cal­cu­la­tions defy best prac­tices with­in the tech indus­try around deal­ing with data. “This assump­tion that we’re going to cal­cu­late the sin­gle best thing to do in the world—have all this data and make these decisions—is so sim­i­lar to the issues that we talk about in machine learn­ing, and why you shouldn’t do that,” says Timnit Gebru, a leader in AI ethics and the founder and exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Dis­trib­uted AI Research Insti­tute (DAIR), which cen­ters diver­si­ty in its AI research.

    Gebru and oth­ers have writ­ten exten­sive­ly about the dan­gers of lever­ag­ing data with­out under­tak­ing deep­er analy­sis and mak­ing sure it comes from diverse sources. In machine learn­ing, it leads to dan­ger­ous­ly biased mod­els. In phil­an­thropy, a nar­row def­i­n­i­tion of suc­cess rewards alliance with EA’s val­ue sys­tem over oth­er world­views and penal­izes non­prof­its work­ing on longer-term or more com­plex strate­gies that can’t be trans­lat­ed into EA’s math.

    The research that EA’s assess­ments rely on may also be flawed or sub­ject to change; a 2004 study that ele­vat­ed deworming—distributing drugs for par­a­sitic infections—to one of GiveWell’s top caus­es has come under seri­ous fire, with some researchers claim­ing to have debunked it while oth­ers have been unable to repli­cate the results lead­ing to the con­clu­sion that it would save huge num­bers of lives. Despite the uncer­tain­ty sur­round­ing this inter­ven­tion, GiveWell direct­ed more than $12 mil­lion to deworm­ing char­i­ties through its Max­i­mum Impact Fund this year.

    The voic­es of dis­sent are grow­ing loud­er as EA’s influ­ence spreads and more mon­ey is direct­ed toward longter­mist caus­es. A longter­mist him­self by some def­i­n­i­tions, CSER researcher Luke Kemp believes that the grow­ing focus of the EA research com­mu­ni­ty is based on a lim­it­ed and minor­i­ty per­spec­tive. He’s been dis­ap­point­ed with the lack of diver­si­ty of thought and lead­er­ship he’s found in the field. Last year, he and his col­league Car­la Zoe Cre­mer wrote and cir­cu­lat­ed a preprint titled “Democ­ra­tiz­ing Risk” about the community’s focus on the “tech­no-utopi­an approach”—which assumes that pur­su­ing tech­nol­o­gy to its max­i­mum devel­op­ment is an unde­ni­able net positive—to the exclu­sion of oth­er frame­works that reflect more com­mon moral world­views. “There’s a small num­ber of key fun­ders who have a very par­tic­u­lar ide­ol­o­gy, and either con­scious­ly or uncon­scious­ly select for the ideas that most res­onate with what they want. You have to speak that lan­guage to move high­er up the hier­ar­chy and get more fund­ing,” Kemp says.

    Even the basic con­cept of longter­mism, accord­ing to Kemp, has been hijacked from legal and eco­nom­ic schol­ars in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, who were focused on inter­gen­er­a­tional equi­ty and envi­ron­men­tal­ism—pri­or­i­ties that have notably dropped away from the EA ver­sion of the phi­los­o­phy. Indeed, the cen­tral premise that “future peo­ple count,” as MacAskill says in his 2022 book, is hard­ly new. The Native Amer­i­can con­cept of the “sev­enth gen­er­a­tion prin­ci­ple” and sim­i­lar ideas in indige­nous cul­tures across the globe ask each gen­er­a­tion to con­sid­er the ones that have come before and will come after. Inte­gral to these con­cepts, though, is the idea that the past holds valu­able lessons for action today, espe­cial­ly in cas­es where our ances­tors made choic­es that have led to envi­ron­men­tal and eco­nom­ic crises.

    Longter­mism sees his­to­ry dif­fer­ent­ly: as a for­ward march toward inevitable progress. MacAskill ref­er­ences the past often in What We Owe the Future, but only in the form of case stud­ies on the life-­im­prov­ing impact of tech­no­log­i­cal and moral devel­op­ment. He dis­cuss­es the abo­li­tion of slav­ery, the Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion, and the women’s rights move­ment as evi­dence of how impor­tant it is to con­tin­ue humanity’s arc of progress before the wrong val­ues get “locked in” by despots. What are the “right” val­ues? MacAskill has a coy approach to artic­u­lat­ing them: he argues that “we should focus on pro­mot­ing more abstract or gen­er­al moral prin­ci­ples” to ensure that “moral changes stay rel­e­vant and robust­ly pos­i­tive into the future.”

    World­wide and ongo­ing cli­mate change, which already affects the under-resourced more than the elite today, is notably not a core longter­mist cause, as philoso­pher Emile P. Tor­res points out in their cri­tiques. While it pos­es a threat to mil­lions of lives, longter­mists argue, it prob­a­bly won’t wipe out all of human­i­ty; those with the wealth and means to sur­vive can car­ry on ful­fill­ing our species’ poten­tial. Tech bil­lion­aires like Thiel and Lar­ry Page already have plans and real estate in place to ride out a cli­mate apoc­a­lypse. (MacAskill, in his new book, names cli­mate change as a seri­ous wor­ry for those alive today, but he con­sid­ers it an exis­ten­tial threat only in the “extreme” form where agri­cul­ture won’t sur­vive.)

    The final mys­te­ri­ous fea­ture of EA’s ver­sion of the long view is how its log­ic ends up in a spe­cif­ic list of tech­nol­o­gy-based far-off threats to civ­i­liza­tion that just hap­pen to align with many of the orig­i­nal EA cohort’s areas of research. “I am a researcher in the field of AI,” says Gebru, “but to come to the con­clu­sion that in order to do the most good in the world you have to work on arti­fi­cial gen­er­al intel­li­gence is very strange. It’s like try­ing to jus­ti­fy the fact that you want to think about the sci­ence fic­tion sce­nario and you don’t want to think about real peo­ple, the real world, and cur­rent struc­tur­al issues. You want to jus­ti­fy how you want to pull bil­lions of dol­lars into that while peo­ple are starv­ing.”

    Some EA lead­ers seem aware that crit­i­cism and change are key to expand­ing the com­mu­ni­ty and strength­en­ing its impact. MacAskill and oth­ers have made it explic­it that their cal­cu­la­tions are esti­mates (“These are our best guess­es,” MacAskill offered on a 2020 pod­cast episode) and said they’re eager to improve through crit­i­cal dis­course. Both GiveWell and CEA have pages on their web­sites titled “Our Mis­takes,” and in June, CEA ran a con­test invit­ing cri­tiques on the EA forum; the Future Fund has launched prizes up to $1.5 mil­lion for crit­i­cal per­spec­tives on AI.

    “We rec­og­nize that the prob­lems EA is try­ing to address are real­ly, real­ly big and we don’t have a hope of solv­ing them with only a small seg­ment of peo­ple,” GiveWell board mem­ber and CEA com­mu­ni­ty liai­son Julia Wise says of EA’s diver­si­ty sta­tis­tics. “We need the tal­ents that lots of dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple can bring to address these world­wide prob­lems.” Wise also spoke on the top­ic at the 2020 EA Glob­al Con­fer­ence, and she active­ly dis­cuss­es inclu­sion and com­mu­ni­ty pow­er dynam­ics on the CEA forum. The Cen­ter for Effec­tive Altru­ism sup­ports a men­tor­ship pro­gram for women and non­bi­na­ry peo­ple (found­ed, inci­den­tal­ly, by Car­rick Flynn’s wife) that Wise says is expand­ing to oth­er under­rep­re­sent­ed groups in the EA com­mu­ni­ty, and CEA has made an effort to facil­i­tate con­fer­ences in more loca­tions world­wide to wel­come a more geo­graph­i­cal­ly diverse group. But these efforts appear to be lim­it­ed in scope and impact; CEA’s pub­lic-fac­ing page on diver­si­ty and inclu­sion was updat­ed in Octo­ber for the first time in two years. As the tech-utopi­an tenets of longter­mism take a front seat in EA’s rock­et ship and a few bil­lion­aire donors chart its path into the future, it may be too late to alter the DNA of the move­ment.

    Pol­i­tics and the future

    Despite the sci-fi sheen, effec­tive altru­ism today is a con­ser­v­a­tive project, con­sol­i­dat­ing deci­sion-mak­ing behind a tech­no­crat­ic belief sys­tem and a small set of indi­vid­u­als, poten­tial­ly at the expense of local and inter­sec­tion­al visions for the future. But EA’s com­mu­ni­ty and suc­cess­es were built around clear method­olo­gies that may not trans­fer into the more nuanced polit­i­cal are­na that some EA lead­ers and a few big donors are push­ing toward. Accord­ing to Wise, the com­mu­ni­ty at large is still split on pol­i­tics as an approach to pur­su­ing EA’s goals, with some dis­senters believ­ing pol­i­tics is too polar­ized a space for effec­tive change.

    But EA is not the only char­i­ta­ble move­ment look­ing to polit­i­cal action to reshape the world; the phil­an­thropic field gen­er­al­ly has been mov­ing into pol­i­tics for greater impact. “We have an exis­ten­tial polit­i­cal cri­sis that phil­an­thropy has to deal with. Oth­er­wise, a lot of its oth­er goals are going to be hard to achieve,” says Inside Philanthropy’s Calla­han, using a def­i­n­i­tion of “exis­ten­tial” that dif­fers from MacAskill’s. But while EA may offer a clear rubric for deter­min­ing how to give char­i­ta­bly, the polit­i­cal are­na presents a messier chal­lenge. “There’s no easy met­ric for how to gain polit­i­cal pow­er or shift pol­i­tics,” he says. “And Sam Bankman-Fried has so far demon­strat­ed him­self not the most effec­tive polit­i­cal giv­er.”

    Bankman-Fried has artic­u­lat­ed his own polit­i­cal giv­ing as “more pol­i­cy than pol­i­tics,” and has donat­ed pri­mar­i­ly to Democ­rats through his short-lived Pro­tect Our Future PAC (which backed Car­rick Fly­nn in Ore­gon) and the Guard­ing Against Pan­demics PAC (which is run by his broth­er Gabe and pub­lish­es a cross-par­ty list of its “cham­pi­ons” to sup­port). Ryan Salame, the co-CEO with Bankman-Fried of FTX, fund­ed his own PAC, Amer­i­can Dream Fed­er­al Action, which focus­es main­ly on Repub­li­can can­di­dates. (Bankman-Fried has said Salame shares his pas­sion for pre­vent­ing pan­demics.) Guard­ing Against Pan­demics and the Open Phil­an­thropy Action Fund (Open Philanthropy’s polit­i­cal arm) spent more than $18 mil­lion to get an ini­tia­tive on the Cal­i­for­nia state bal­lot this fall to fund pan­dem­ic research and action through a new tax.

    ...

    Mon­ey can move moun­tains, and as EA takes on larg­er plat­forms with larg­er amounts of fund­ing from bil­lion­aires and tech indus­try insid­ers, the wealth of a few bil­lion­aires will like­ly con­tin­ue to ele­vate pet EA caus­es and can­di­dates. But if the move­ment aims to con­quer the polit­i­cal land­scape, EA lead­ers may find that what­ev­er its polit­i­cal strate­gies, its mes­sages don’t con­nect with the peo­ple who are liv­ing with local and present-day chal­lenges like insuf­fi­cient hous­ing and food inse­cu­ri­ty. EA’s aca­d­e­m­ic and tech indus­try ori­gins as a heady philo­soph­i­cal plan for dis­trib­ut­ing inher­it­ed and insti­tu­tion­al wealth may have got­ten the move­ment this far, but those same roots like­ly can’t sup­port its hopes for expand­ing its influ­ence.

    ———-

    “Inside effec­tive altru­ism, where the far future counts a lot more than the present” By Rebec­ca Ack­er­mann; MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review; 10/17/2022

    ““Longter­mism,” the belief that unlike­ly but exis­ten­tial threats like a human­i­ty-destroy­ing AI revolt or inter­na­tion­al bio­log­i­cal war­fare are humanity’s most press­ing prob­lems, is inte­gral to EA today. Of late, it has moved from the fringes of the move­ment to its fore with Flynn’s cam­paign, a flur­ry of main­stream media cov­er­age, and a new trea­tise pub­lished by one of EA’s found­ing fathers, William MacAskill. It’s an ide­ol­o­gy that’s poised to take the main stage as more believ­ers in the tech and bil­lion­aire classes—which are, notably, most­ly male and white—start to pour mil­lions into new PACs and projects like Bankman-Fried’s FTX Future Fund and Longview Philanthropy’s Longter­mism Fund, which focus on the­o­ret­i­cal men­aces ripped from the pages of sci­ence fic­tion.

    Yes, as this Octo­ber 2022 piece pre­dict­ed, the EA ide­ol­o­gy is “poised to take the main stage as more believ­ers in the tech and bil­lion­aire classes—which are, notably, most­ly male and white—start to pour mil­lions into new PACs and projects.” Sure, that all changed fol­low­ing the FTX implo­sion the fol­low­ing month. But as the arti­cle points out, the EA ide­ol­o­gy goes beyond Bankman-Fried and FTX. It’s becom­ing the unof­fi­cial ide­ol­o­gy of Sil­i­con Val­ley:

    ...
    EA’s philo­soph­i­cal genes came from Peter Singer’s brand of util­i­tar­i­an­ism and Oxford philoso­pher Nick Bostrom’s inves­ti­ga­tions into poten­tial threats to human­i­ty. From tech, EA drew on ear­ly research into the long-term impact of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence car­ried out at what’s now known as the Machine Intel­li­gence Research Insti­tute (MIRI) in Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia. In phil­an­thropy, EA is part of a grow­ing trend toward evi­dence-based giv­ing, dri­ven by mem­bers of the Sil­i­con Val­ley nou­veau riche who are eager to apply the strate­gies that made them mon­ey to the process of giv­ing it away.

    While these ori­gins may seem diverse, the peo­ple involved are linked by social, eco­nom­ic, and pro­fes­sion­al class, and by a tech­no­crat­ic world­view. Ear­ly play­ers—includ­ing MacAskill, a Cam­bridge philoso­pher; Toby Ord, an Oxford philoso­pher; Hold­en Karnof­sky, cofounder of the char­i­ty eval­u­a­tor GiveWell; and Dustin Moskovitz, a cofounder of Face­book who found­ed the non­prof­it Open Phil­an­thropy with his wife, Cari Tuna—are all still lead­ers in the movement’s inter­con­nect­ed con­stel­la­tion of non­prof­its, foun­da­tions, and research orga­ni­za­tions.

    ...

    Bankman-Fried’s views are influ­enced by longtermism’s util­i­tar­i­an cal­cu­la­tions, which flat­ten lives into sin­gle units of val­ue. By this math, the tril­lions of humans yet to be born rep­re­sent a greater moral oblig­a­tion than the bil­lions alive today. Any threats that could pre­vent future gen­er­a­tions from reach­ing their full potential—either through extinc­tion or through tech­no­log­i­cal stag­na­tion, which MacAskill deems equal­ly dire in his new book, What We Owe the Future—are pri­or­i­ty num­ber one.

    In his book, MacAskill dis­cuss­es his own jour­ney from longter­mism skep­tic to true believ­er and urges oth­er to fol­low the same path. The exis­ten­tial risks he lays out are spe­cif­ic: “The future could be ter­ri­ble, falling to author­i­tar­i­ans who use sur­veil­lance and AI to lock in their ide­ol­o­gy for all time, or even to AI sys­tems that seek to gain pow­er rather than pro­mote a thriv­ing soci­ety. Or there could be no future at all: we could kill our­selves off with bio­log­i­cal weapons or wage an all-out nuclear war that caus­es civil­i­sa­tion to col­lapse and nev­er recov­er.”

    It was to help guard against these exact pos­si­bil­i­ties that Bankman-Fried cre­at­ed the FTX Future Fund this year as a project with­in his phil­an­thropic foun­da­tion. Its focus areas include “space gov­er­nance,” “arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence,” and “empow­er­ing excep­tion­al peo­ple.” The fund’s web­site acknowl­edges that many of its bets “will fail.” (Its pri­ma­ry goal for 2022 is to test new fund­ing mod­els, but the fund’s site does not estab­lish what “suc­cess” may look like.) As of June 2022, the FTX Future Fund had made 262 grants and invest­ments, with recip­i­ents includ­ing a Brown Uni­ver­si­ty aca­d­e­m­ic research­ing long-term eco­nom­ic growth, a Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty aca­d­e­m­ic research­ing AI align­ment, and an orga­ni­za­tion work­ing on legal research around AI and biose­cu­ri­ty (which was born out of Har­vard Law’s EA group).

    Bankman-Fried is hard­ly the only tech bil­lion­aire push­ing for­ward longter­mist caus­es. Open Phil­an­thropy, the EA char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tion fund­ed pri­mar­i­ly by Moskovitz and Tuna, has direct­ed $260 mil­lion to address­ing “poten­tial risks from advanced AI” since its found­ing. Togeth­er, the FTX Future Fund and Open Phil­an­thropy sup­port­ed Longview Phil­an­thropy with more than $15 mil­lion this year before the orga­ni­za­tion announced its new Longter­mism Fund. Vita­lik Buterin, one of the founders of the blockchain plat­form Ethereum, is the sec­ond-largest recent donor to MIRI, whose mis­sion is “to ensure [that] smarter-­than-human arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence has a pos­i­tive impact.”

    MIRI’s donor list also includes the Thiel Foun­da­tion; Ben Delo, cofounder of cryp­to exchange Bit­MEX; and Jaan Tallinn, one of the found­ing engi­neers of Skype, who is also a cofounder of Cambridge’s Cen­tre for the Study of Exis­ten­tial Risk (CSER). Elon Musk is yet anoth­er tech mogul ded­i­cat­ed to fight­ing longter­mist exis­ten­tial risks; he’s even claimed that his for-prof­it operations—including SpaceX’s mis­sion to Mars—are phil­an­thropic efforts sup­port­ing humanity’s progress and sur­vival. (MacAskill has recent­ly expressed con­cern that his phi­los­o­phy is get­ting con­flat­ed with Musk’s “world­view.” How­ev­er, EA aims for an expand­ed audi­ence, and it seems unrea­son­able to expect rigid adher­ence to the exact belief sys­tem of its cre­ators.)

    ...

    The voic­es of dis­sent are grow­ing loud­er as EA’s influ­ence spreads and more mon­ey is direct­ed toward longter­mist caus­es. A longter­mist him­self by some def­i­n­i­tions, CSER researcher Luke Kemp believes that the grow­ing focus of the EA research com­mu­ni­ty is based on a lim­it­ed and minor­i­ty per­spec­tive. He’s been dis­ap­point­ed with the lack of diver­si­ty of thought and lead­er­ship he’s found in the field. Last year, he and his col­league Car­la Zoe Cre­mer wrote and cir­cu­lat­ed a preprint titled “Democ­ra­tiz­ing Risk” about the community’s focus on the “tech­no-utopi­an approach”—which assumes that pur­su­ing tech­nol­o­gy to its max­i­mum devel­op­ment is an unde­ni­able net positive—to the exclu­sion of oth­er frame­works that reflect more com­mon moral world­views. “There’s a small num­ber of key fun­ders who have a very par­tic­u­lar ide­ol­o­gy, and either con­scious­ly or uncon­scious­ly select for the ideas that most res­onate with what they want. You have to speak that lan­guage to move high­er up the hier­ar­chy and get more fund­ing,” Kemp says.
    ...

    And if it’s not clear why so many tech oli­garchs would be grav­i­tat­ing towards an ide­ol­o­gy that asks them to give away their wealth in the quest of build­ing a bet­ter future, note how EA advo­cates are simul­ta­ne­ous­ly not actu­al­ly very con­cerned about wealth inequal­i­ty. Or cli­mate change. Quite the oppo­site, EA advo­cates appar­ent­ly assure them­selves that cli­mate change isn’t real­ly a major prob­lem because it prob­a­bly won’t wipe out all of human­i­ty. The wealthy will still be able to sur­vive, and there­fore it’s note real­ly a prob­lem. At least not an exis­ten­tial prob­lem. It’s an ide­ol­o­gy seem­ing­ly built in defense of tech oli­garchs cap­tur­ing the present to ‘save’ the future:

    ...
    Ebrahi­mi objects to EA’s approach of sup­port­ing tar­get­ed inter­ven­tions rather than endow­ing local orga­ni­za­tions to define their own pri­or­i­ties: “Why wouldn’t you want to sup­port hav­ing the com­mu­ni­ties that you want the mon­ey to go to be the ones to build eco­nom­ic pow­er? That’s an indi­vid­ual say­ing, ‘I want to build my eco­nom­ic pow­er because I think I’m going to make good deci­sions about what to do with it’ … It seems very ‘benev­o­lent dic­ta­tor’ to me.”

    Effec­tive altru­ists would respond that their moral oblig­a­tion is to fund the most demon­stra­bly trans­for­ma­tive projects as defined by their frame­work, no mat­ter what else is left behind. In an inter­view in 2018, MacAskill sug­gest­ed that in order to rec­om­mend pri­or­i­tiz­ing any struc­tur­al pow­er shifts, he’d need to see “an argu­ment that oppos­ing inequal­i­ty in some par­tic­u­lar way is actu­al­ly going to be the best thing to do.”

    ...

    Even the basic con­cept of longter­mism, accord­ing to Kemp, has been hijacked from legal and eco­nom­ic schol­ars in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, who were focused on inter­gen­er­a­tional equi­ty and envi­ron­men­tal­ism—pri­or­i­ties that have notably dropped away from the EA ver­sion of the phi­los­o­phy. Indeed, the cen­tral premise that “future peo­ple count,” as MacAskill says in his 2022 book, is hard­ly new. The Native Amer­i­can con­cept of the “sev­enth gen­er­a­tion prin­ci­ple” and sim­i­lar ideas in indige­nous cul­tures across the globe ask each gen­er­a­tion to con­sid­er the ones that have come before and will come after. Inte­gral to these con­cepts, though, is the idea that the past holds valu­able lessons for action today, espe­cial­ly in cas­es where our ances­tors made choic­es that have led to envi­ron­men­tal and eco­nom­ic crises.

    Longter­mism sees his­to­ry dif­fer­ent­ly: as a for­ward march toward inevitable progress. MacAskill ref­er­ences the past often in What We Owe the Future, but only in the form of case stud­ies on the life-­im­prov­ing impact of tech­no­log­i­cal and moral devel­op­ment. He dis­cuss­es the abo­li­tion of slav­ery, the Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion, and the women’s rights move­ment as evi­dence of how impor­tant it is to con­tin­ue humanity’s arc of progress before the wrong val­ues get “locked in” by despots. What are the “right” val­ues? MacAskill has a coy approach to artic­u­lat­ing them: he argues that “we should focus on pro­mot­ing more abstract or gen­er­al moral prin­ci­ples” to ensure that “moral changes stay rel­e­vant and robust­ly pos­i­tive into the future.”

    World­wide and ongo­ing cli­mate change, which already affects the under-resourced more than the elite today, is notably not a core longter­mist cause, as philoso­pher Emile P. Tor­res points out in their cri­tiques. While it pos­es a threat to mil­lions of lives, longter­mists argue, it prob­a­bly won’t wipe out all of human­i­ty; those with the wealth and means to sur­vive can car­ry on ful­fill­ing our species’ poten­tial. Tech bil­lion­aires like Thiel and Lar­ry Page already have plans and real estate in place to ride out a cli­mate apoc­a­lypse. (MacAskill, in his new book, names cli­mate change as a seri­ous wor­ry for those alive today, but he con­sid­ers it an exis­ten­tial threat only in the “extreme” form where agri­cul­ture won’t sur­vive.)

    ...

    Despite the sci-fi sheen, effec­tive altru­ism today is a con­ser­v­a­tive project, con­sol­i­dat­ing deci­sion-mak­ing behind a tech­no­crat­ic belief sys­tem and a small set of indi­vid­u­als, poten­tial­ly at the expense of local and inter­sec­tion­al visions for the future. But EA’s com­mu­ni­ty and suc­cess­es were built around clear method­olo­gies that may not trans­fer into the more nuanced polit­i­cal are­na that some EA lead­ers and a few big donors are push­ing toward. Accord­ing to Wise, the com­mu­ni­ty at large is still split on pol­i­tics as an approach to pur­su­ing EA’s goals, with some dis­senters believ­ing pol­i­tics is too polar­ized a space for effec­tive change.
    ...

    It’s going to be grim­ly inter­est­ing to see how the intra-EA debate over the val­ue of seek­ing polit­i­cal solu­tions to the future’s prob­lems evolves now that SBF and his crew are kind of out of the pic­ture. Which tech oli­garchs will we see step in to become the new pre­mier EA sug­ar-dad­dy? Will Musk or Thiel take more promi­nent roles? Time will tell, but it’s hard to imag­ine that the titans of Sil­i­con Val­ley are going to allow an ide­ol­o­gy that puts them at the cen­ter of every­thing to sput­ter out just because some under­ly­ing fraud was uncov­ered. The entire future of every­thing depends on them, after all.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 23, 2023, 3:48 pm
  13. Mon­ey can’t buy you hap­pi­ness. Nor a qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion, it seems. At least that’s what we can infer from a some­what puz­zling Busi­ness Insid­er arti­cle from last month about the advice giv­en by both Peter Thiel and fel­low tech oli­garch Marc Andreessen dur­ing a pan­el dis­cus­sion. Advice to oth­er bil­lion­aires to home school their own chil­dren. Yes, appar­ent­ly even a bil­lion­aire can’t find a school that meets their chil­dren’s needs.

    So what is it that has these tech titans so enam­ored with home school­ing? As the arti­cle notes, Andreessen’s ven­ture cap­i­tal firm has been active­ly invest­ing in the remote edu­ca­tion mar­ket­place in recent years, so there’s a kind of indi­rect prof­it incen­tive for their advice. But while it’s clear why Andreessen might want to see the broad­er adop­tion of home school as a prof­it oppor­tu­ni­ty, why give that advice to oth­er bil­lion­aires on how to raise their own chil­dren? It’s not like the mar­ket for home­school bil­lion­aire chil­dren is a large mar­ket to be cul­ti­vat­ed. What’s the motive here?

    And that brings us to the sec­ond arti­cle below. A recent Huff­in­g­ton Post piece expos­ing the ‘Alt Right’ past of a con­ser­v­a­tive right-wing ris­ing star: Richard Hana­nia. It turns out Hana­nia used to write under the pseu­do­nym “Richard Hoste”. Hoste was one of the first writ­ers tapped by Richard Spencer back in 2010 to be an author for his AlternativeRight.com web­site. Yes, Hana­nia was was of the orig­i­nal ‘Alt Right’ fig­ures. Some­one with a fix­a­tion on ‘race real­ism’ and over white suprema­cy at a bio­log­i­cal lev­el. And as we’re going to see, Hana­nia has only bare­ly mod­er­at­ed his rhetoric after drop­ping the Hoste pseu­do­nym. He’s effec­tive ‘out’ as an ‘Alt Right’ fig­ure. Out and pop­u­lar. Espe­cial­ly pop­u­lar with the tech oli­garch crowd like Marc Andreessen, Peter Thiel, and Elon Musk. The ‘Effec­tive Altru­ism’ crowd around Sam Bankman-Fried — who were active­ly plan­ning on build­ing dooms­day bunkers to sur­vive an expect­ed com­ing apoc­a­lypse — are also quite friend­ly with Hana­nia. And beyond the tech crowd, the con­ser­v­a­tive mega-donor net­works are show­ing Hana­nia with cash too. Enough to run ‘think-tanks’ that pump out ‘race realism’-friendly ‘research’ and arti­cles.

    And that’s why we have to ask: were Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel advo­cat­ing for the home school­ing of bil­lion­aire chil­dren because that’s the only way to ensure the next gen­er­a­tion of bil­lion­aires will be ‘race real­ists’ too? This is a good time to recall Ohio’s new neo-Nazi friend­ly home school bill. Are the chil­dren of bil­lion­aires going to be receiv­ing sim­i­lar ‘edu­ca­tions’?

    Busi­ness Insid­er

    The real rea­son Marc Andreessen is urg­ing bil­lion­aires to home­school their kids

    George Glover
    Jul 14, 2023, 4:27 AM CDT

    * Marc Andreessen told bil­lion­aires to home­school their chil­dren at the Sun Val­ley con­fer­ence.
    * The leg­endary ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist has bet heav­i­ly on edtech in recent years.
    * “We’re on the front end of a pret­ty dra­mat­ic home­school­ing boom,” he said in 2021.

    Leg­endary ven­ture cap­i­tal investor Marc Andreessen has used this week’s Sun Val­ley con­fer­ence to espouse the ben­e­fits of home­school­ing.

    Accord­ing to Puck­’s Dylan Byers, the a16z founder and Meta board mem­ber sat on a pan­el with Peter Thiel at the bil­lion­aires’ sum­mer camp, and both “strong­ly advo­cat­ed that all the attend­ing moguls home­school their kids”.

    Andreessen also weighed in on the poten­tial Elon Musk/Mark Zucker­berg cage fight, issu­ing a “full-throat­ed endorse­ment” for what would be “a return to how humans have his­tor­i­cal­ly defend­ed them­selves,” per Byers.

    Musk and Zucker­berg have been been trad­ing barbs online since Musk sum­moned Zucker­berg to a cage fight last month.

    ...

    In 2021, he told Colos­sus’ “Invest Like the Best” pod­cast that the pan­dem­ic was like­ly to spark a rapid rise in par­ents pulling their chil­dren out of class­rooms, because the learn-from-home era showed them the poten­tial flaws in the US edu­ca­tion sys­tem.

    “It cer­tain­ly feels like we’re on the front end of a pret­ty dra­mat­ic home­school­ing boom,” Andreessen said.

    “It turns out some things have changed,” he added. “So the cur­rent cur­ric­u­la is quite a bit dif­fer­ent at a lot of schools – I know a lot of par­ents were just shocked, absolute­ly shocked at the stuff that was com­ing across.”

    Andreessen Horowitz, a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm set up by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, has tried to take advan­tage of that poten­tial grow­ing trend by bet­ting heav­i­ly on edtech in recent years, as part of what it says is an effort to build a “new learn­ing econ­o­my”.

    It plowed $20 mil­lion into the col­lec­tive learn­ing start­up Maven in May 2021, and it led a $4.75 mil­lion seed fund­ing round for Odyssey, which pro­vides par­ents with micro-grants.

    ...

    ———

    “The real rea­son Marc Andreessen is urg­ing bil­lion­aires to home­school their kids” by George Glover; Busi­ness Insid­er; 07/14/2023

    “Accord­ing to Puck­’s Dylan Byers, the a16z founder and Meta board mem­ber sat on a pan­el with Peter Thiel at the bil­lion­aires’ sum­mer camp, and both “strong­ly advo­cat­ed that all the attend­ing moguls home­school their kids”.

    Why exact­ly are tech bil­lion­aires so enam­ored with home school­ing? It’s not like they can’t afford to send their kids to the best schools on the plan­et. And then we get to at least part of the answer: home school­ing rep­re­sents a mar­ket oppor­tu­ni­ty to tech investors like Andreessen and Thiel. A mar­ket oppor­tu­ni­ty that dou­bles as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to achieve even more influ­ence over the minds of upcom­ing gen­er­a­tions:

    ...
    In 2021, he told Colos­sus’ “Invest Like the Best” pod­cast that the pan­dem­ic was like­ly to spark a rapid rise in par­ents pulling their chil­dren out of class­rooms, because the learn-from-home era showed them the poten­tial flaws in the US edu­ca­tion sys­tem.

    “It cer­tain­ly feels like we’re on the front end of a pret­ty dra­mat­ic home­school­ing boom,” Andreessen said.

    “It turns out some things have changed,” he added. “So the cur­rent cur­ric­u­la is quite a bit dif­fer­ent at a lot of schools – I know a lot of par­ents were just shocked, absolute­ly shocked at the stuff that was com­ing across.”

    Andreessen Horowitz, a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm set up by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, has tried to take advan­tage of that poten­tial grow­ing trend by bet­ting heav­i­ly on edtech in recent years, as part of what it says is an effort to build a “new learn­ing econ­o­my”.

    It plowed $20 mil­lion into the col­lec­tive learn­ing start­up Maven in May 2021, and it led a $4.75 mil­lion seed fund­ing round for Odyssey, which pro­vides par­ents with micro-grants.
    ...

    And, of course, as we saw with Ohio’s new neo-Nazi friend­ly home school bill, the oppor­tu­ni­ties for the home school­ing mar­ket­place could get rather ‘extreme’ in com­ing years as home school­ing is increas­ing­ly viewed as a kind of ‘anti-woke’ pol­i­cy response.

    But that arti­cle was­n’t describ­ing bil­lion­aires encour­ag­ing non-bil­lion­aires to home school their kids. They were advo­cat­ed for oth­er bil­lion­aires to home school their kids. As if bil­lion­aire kids need some sort of spe­cial edu­ca­tion that they can’t get at even elite pri­vate schools. Which rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion as to what it is that these tech oli­garchs don’t think their kids are learn­ing in school.

    And that brings us to the fol­low­ing Huff­in­g­ton Post piece about the lat­est con­ser­v­a­tive ‘ris­ing star’ to get out­ed as a clos­et­ed neo-Nazi. A bare­ly clos­et­ed neo-Nazi with a huge fol­low­ing among Sil­i­con Val­ley tech oli­garchs like Marc Andreessen, Peter Thiel, and Elon Musk. It’s the sto­ry of Richard Hana­nia, a now promi­nent con­ser­v­a­tive writer who used to post under the pseu­do­nym “Richard Hoste”. It turns out, “Hoste” was one of the first authors tapped by Richard Spencer back in 2010 to write for the AlternativeRight.com new ‘Alt Right’ web­site. And as we’re going to see, while Hana­nia has mod­er­at­ed his rhetoric a bit now that he open­ly posts under his real name, he has­n’t mod­er­at­ed his ideas. He’s still an overt ‘race real­ist’ who open­ly embraces eugen­ics and open­ly calls for the heavy polic­ing of black pop­u­la­tions. And boy does he have pow­er­ful fans. More than just tech oli­garchs. Hana­nia runs ‘think tanks’ fund­ed with con­ser­v­a­tive dark mon­ey from mega donors like Har­lan Crow. This is good time to recall that 2019 anony­mous DonorsTrust $1.5 mil­lion dona­tion to the white nation­al­ist VDARE group, which Hana­nia also has a close rela­tion­ship with. Oh, and he’s tight with the ‘Effec­tive Altru­ism’ crowd Sam Bankman-Fried sur­round­ed him­self with.

    So while there’s an obvi­ous prof­it motive that can at least par­tial­ly explain the zeal for home school­ing recent­ly expressed by tech titans like Andreessen and Thiel, when we learn about their enthu­si­asm for both the home school­ing of bil­lion­aire chil­dren and Richard Hana­nia, we have to ask: just how much overt fas­cism are the chil­dren of right wing bil­lion­aires being indoc­tri­nat­ed with these days?:

    The Huff­in­g­ton Post

    Richard Hana­nia, Ris­ing Right-Wing Star, Wrote For White Suprema­cist Sites Under Pseu­do­nym

    Hana­nia is cham­pi­oned by tech moguls and a U.S. sen­a­tor, but Huff­Post found he used a pen name to become an impor­tant fig­ure in the “alt-right.”

    By Christo­pher Math­ias
    Aug 4, 2023, 03:15 PM EDT

    A promi­nent con­ser­v­a­tive writer, lion­ized by Sil­i­con Val­ley bil­lion­aires and a U.S. sen­a­tor, used a pen name for years to write for white suprema­cist pub­li­ca­tions and was a for­ma­tive voice dur­ing the rise of the racist “alt-right,” accord­ing to a new Huff­Post inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Richard Hana­nia, a vis­it­ing schol­ar at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas, used the pen name “Richard Hoste” in the ear­ly 2010s to write arti­cles where he iden­ti­fied him­self as a “race real­ist.” He expressed sup­port for eugen­ics and the forced ster­il­iza­tion of “low IQ” peo­ple, who he argued were most often Black. He opposed “mis­ce­gena­tion” and “race-mix­ing.” And once, while argu­ing that Black peo­ple can­not gov­ern them­selves, he cit­ed the neo-Nazi author of “The Turn­er Diaries,” the infa­mous nov­el that cel­e­brates a future race war.

    A decade lat­er, writ­ing under his real name, Hana­nia has ensconced him­self in the nation­al main­stream media, writ­ing op-eds in the country’s biggest papers, bend­ing the ears of some of the world’s wealth­i­est men and lec­tur­ing at pres­ti­gious uni­ver­si­ties, all while keep­ing his past white suprema­cist writ­ings under wraps.

    Huff­Post con­nect­ed Hana­nia to his “Richard Hoste” per­sona by ana­lyz­ing leaked data from an online com­ment-host­ing ser­vice that showed him using three of his email address­es to cre­ate user­names on white suprema­cist sites. A racist blog main­tained by Hoste was also reg­is­tered to an address in Hanania’s home­town. And Huff­Post found bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion shared by Hoste that aligned with Hanania’s own life.

    ...

    The 37-year-old has been pub­lished by The New York Times and The Wash­ing­ton Post. He deliv­ered a lec­ture to the Yale Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety and was inter­viewed by the Har­vard Col­lege Eco­nom­ics Review. He appeared twice on “Tuck­er Carl­son Tonight,” Fox News’ for­mer prime-time jug­ger­naut. He was a recent guest on a pod­cast host­ed by the CEO of Sub­stack, the $650 mil­lion pub­lish­ing plat­form where Hana­nia has near­ly 20,000 sub­scribers.

    Hana­nia has his own pod­cast, too, inter­view­ing the likes of Steven Pinker, the famous Har­vard cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gist, and Marc Andreessen, the bil­lion­aire soft­ware engi­neer. Anoth­er bil­lion­aire, Elon Musk, reads Hanania’s arti­cles and replies approv­ing­ly to his tweets. A third bil­lion­aire, Peter Thiel, pro­vid­ed a blurb to pro­mote Hanania’s book, “The Ori­gins of Woke,” which Harper­Collins plans to pub­lish this Sep­tem­ber. In Octo­ber, Hana­nia is sched­uled to deliv­er a lec­ture at Stan­ford.

    Mean­while, rich bene­fac­tors, some of whose iden­ti­ties are unknown, have fun­neled hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars into a think tank run by Hana­nia. The think tank doles out cash to con­ser­v­a­tive aca­d­e­mics, and pro­duces polit­i­cal stud­ies that are cit­ed across right-wing media.

    Hanania’s rise into main­stream con­ser­v­a­tive and even more cen­trist cir­cles did not nec­es­sar­i­ly occur because he aban­doned some of the nox­ious argu­ments he made under the pseu­do­nym “Richard Hoste.” Although he’s mod­er­at­ed his words to some extent, Hana­nia still makes explic­it­ly racist state­ments under his real name. He main­tains a creepy obses­sion with so-called race sci­ence, argu­ing that Black peo­ple are inher­ent­ly more prone to vio­lent crime than white peo­ple. He often writes in sup­port of a well-known racist and a Holo­caust denier. And he once said that if he owned Twit­ter — the plat­form that cat­a­pult­ed him to some celebri­ty — he wouldn’t let “fem­i­nists, trans activists or social­ists” post there. “Why would I?” he asked. “They’re wrong about every­thing and bad for soci­ety.”

    Richard Hanania’s sto­ry may hint at a con­cern­ing shift in main­stream Amer­i­can con­ser­vatism. A lit­tle over a decade ago, he felt com­pelled to hide his racist views behind a pseu­do­nym. In 2023, Hana­nia is a right-wing star, cham­pi­oned by some of the country’s wealth­i­est men, even as he’s sound­ing more and more like his for­mer white suprema­cist nom de plume: Richard Hoste.

    Unmask­ing Richard Hoste

    Start­ing in 2008, the byline “Richard Hoste” began to appear atop arti­cles in America’s most vile pub­li­ca­tions. Hoste wrote for anti­se­mit­ic out­lets like The Occi­den­tal Observ­er, a site that once argued Jews are try­ing to exter­mi­nate white Amer­i­cans. He wrote for Counter-Cur­rents, which advo­cates for cre­at­ing a whites-only eth­nos­tate; Taki’s Mag­a­zine, a far-right hub for pale­o­con­ser­v­a­tives; and VDare, a racist anti-immi­grant blog.

    In 2010, Hoste was among the first writ­ers to be recruit­ed for AlternativeRight.com, a new webzine spear­head­ed and edit­ed by Richard Spencer, the white suprema­cist leader who lat­er orga­nized the dead­ly 2017 neo-Nazi ral­ly in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia. (“Lit­tle fu cking kikes,” report­ed­ly report­ed­ly told his fol­low­ers at a par­ty after that ral­ly. “They get ruled by peo­ple like me. Lit­tle fuc king octa­roons. My ances­tors fuc king enslaved those lit­tle pieces of fuc king sh it.”)

    Spencer bestowed Hoste with the hon­or of writ­ing one of the intro­duc­to­ry arti­cles for the launch of AlternativeRight.com, which would become a main pro­pa­gan­da organ of the nascent “alt-right,” the online fas­cist move­ment that explod­ed into the pub­lic con­scious­ness due to its ties to for­mer Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. (Spencer shut­tered the site in 2013, and it was lat­er relaunched under anoth­er name.)

    We’ve known for a while through neu­ro­science and cross-adop­tion stud­ies... that indi­vid­u­als dif­fer in their inher­ent capa­bil­i­ties. The races do, too, with whites and Asians on the top and blacks at the bot­tom,” Hoste wrote in the 2010 essay, titled “Why An Alter­na­tive Right Is Nec­es­sary.”

    He lament­ed that Repub­li­cans hadn’t done enough to stop Democ­rats’ “march of diver­si­ty” despite “irrefutable evi­dence” that some races are “bet­ter than oth­ers.”

    “If the races are equal,” Hoste wrote, “why do whites always end up near the top and blacks at the bot­tom, every­where and always?”

    AlternativeRight.com used a host­ing ser­vice called Dis­qus to allow read­ers to leave com­ments on arti­cles. Hoste had his own Dis­qus account, @RichardHoste, to inter­act with his read­ers.

    In 2012, Dis­qus suf­fered a data breach, with hack­ers steal­ing the details of more than 17.5 mil­lion users. Hoste was one of those users. Huff­Post has reviewed data show­ing that Hoste’s account used a unique pass­word on Dis­qus that was also used to log into oth­er Dis­qus accounts that com­ment­ed on AlternativeRight.com.

    This indi­cates Hoste was using so-called “sock pup­pet” accounts — hid­ing behind yet more fake names — to com­ment on the site. The com­ments from these accounts are writ­ten in a style sim­i­lar to Hoste’s, and they are linked to email address­es belong­ing to Richard Hana­nia. The account @RA74 was set up using Hanania’s Gmail address, which Hana­nia has shared pub­licly before. The account @RAH2, which uses Hanania’s ini­tials, was set up with Hanania’s email address at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado, where he was a lin­guis­tics stu­dent. And the account @CJusD was attached to Hanania’s email address at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go, where he stud­ied law.

    ...

    Hoste’s author biog­ra­phy at AlternativeRight.com stat­ed that he was the founder and edi­tor of a sep­a­rate blog called HBD Books. “HBD” is a short­en­ing of “human bio­di­ver­si­ty,” which in white suprema­cist cir­cles at the time was the pre­ferred euphemism for race sci­ence.

    Hoste some­times wrote about his per­son­al life on HBD Books, explain­ing that he dropped out of high school, got his GED and attend­ed com­mu­ni­ty col­lege, and was even­tu­al­ly “accept­ed to a flag­ship state uni­ver­si­ty” before get­ting into an “elite col­lege” for post-grad­u­ate stud­ies.

    All of this bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion aligns with Hanania’s own. He once men­tioned on a pod­cast that he dropped out of high school and received a GED. A 2004 arti­cle from a news­pa­per in Oak Lawn, Illi­nois, notes Hana­nia as being on the dean’s list at Moraine Val­ley Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege. And a copy of Hanania’s resume shows that he attend­ed a state uni­ver­si­ty, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado, before going to anoth­er school, UCLA, for post-grad­u­ate work.

    More­over, the HBD Books web­site — where “Hoste” left all of these clues about his real, offline iden­ti­ty — was reg­is­tered to an address in Oak Lawn, the same Chica­go sub­urb, with a pop­u­la­tion of about 57,000 peo­ple, where Hana­nia grew up and where his par­ents still live.

    Oth­er points of over­lap between Hoste and Hanania’s lives can be found online — like when Hoste wrote about one of his first jobs.

    “What is inter­est­ing to me is whether there are a lot of high IQ peo­ple who sim­ply CAN’T do man­u­al labor,” Hoste wrote in the com­ment sec­tion of a 2009 blog. “As a teenag­er I tried work­ing at a piz­za place and Mac­Don­alds [sic]. I was the worst employ­ee there. I actu­al­ly felt sym­pa­thy for low IQ kids, know­ing that this is what they must’ve felt like in school. Blacks and Mex­i­cans shook their heads at me. It was real­ly trau­mat­ic...”

    Twelve years lat­er, in 2021, Hana­nia also wrote about anger­ing his co-work­ers as a hap­less teen fast-food work­er. “I worked at McDon­alds, TGIFri­day, oth­er restau­rants because I had noth­ing bet­ter to do as a teenag­er and young adult,” he tweet­ed. “I was real­ly bad at it, my cowork­ers hat­ed me because I screwed up the entire sup­ply line.”

    ...

    The Eugeni­cist Blog­ger

    Hoste some­times expressed dis­gust with fat women. “If a woman lets her­self be fat, she’s refus­ing to put the bear [sic] min­i­mum effort into life nec­es­sary to expe­ri­ence love, respect, and esteem,” he wrote in the com­ments sec­tion of a 2012 blog. “Or maybe she’s accept­ed fem­i­nism and con­vinced her­self that it doesn’t real­ly mat­ter.”

    He added: “Fat peo­ple not only are dis­gust­ing to look at; their obe­si­ty reflects some ugly per­son­al­i­ty traits.”

    This type of rank misog­y­ny and fat-sham­ing was com­mon in the online cir­cles Hoste fre­quent­ed at the time. One of his email address­es, accord­ing to data Huff­Post reviewed from anoth­er data breach, was con­nect­ed to an account on AutoAd­mit, also known as XOX­O­hth — a large­ly unmod­er­at­ed mes­sage board, pur­port­ed­ly for lawyers and law stu­dents, that’s infa­mous for its anony­mous users’ hatred of women.

    In 2009, Hoste pub­lished a blog on HBD Books where he argued that “large-scale female involve­ment in pol­i­tics” is a “bad thing.”

    “Women sim­ply didn’t evolve to be the deci­sion mak­ers in soci­ety,” he wrote, adding that “women’s lib­er­a­tion = the end of human civ­i­liza­tion.”

    That same year, Hoste wrote an arti­cle called “White God­dess,” first pub­lished at The Occi­den­tal Observ­er and lat­er repost­ed by Taki’s, about a woman he deemed wor­thy for pub­lic office: Sarah Palin, the for­mer Alas­ka gov­er­nor and 2008 Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for vice pres­i­dent.

    “It has been sug­gest­ed that Sarah Palin is a sort of Rorschach test for Amer­i­cans,” Hoste wrote. “The attrac­tive, reli­gious and fer­tile White woman drove the ugly, sec­u­lar and bar­ren White self-hat­ing and Jew­ish elite absolute­ly mad well before there were any ques­tions about her qual­i­fi­ca­tions.”

    Hoste said he would be “root­ing for Palin” in the 2012 elec­tion, “just so I can watch lib­er­als’ heads explode after the god­dess of implic­it White­ness beats” then-Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma. “If it’s going to be a long time until a White awak­en­ing,” he wrote, “we may as well be enter­tained while we wait.”

    ...

    Hoste’s argu­ments for a whiter Amer­i­ca and Europe most often relied on the false claim that white peo­ple pos­sess a supe­ri­or intel­li­gence. “While an increas­ing Mus­lim under­class might not inspire as much bad art, the IQ and genet­ic dif­fer­ences between them and native Euro­peans are real, and assim­i­la­tion is impos­si­ble,” he wrote in a 2009 piece for The Occi­den­tal Observ­er.

    His­pan­ic peo­ple, he wrote in a 2010 arti­cle in Counter-Cur­rents, “don’t have the req­ui­site IQ to be a pro­duc­tive part of a first world nation.” He then made an argu­ment for eth­nic cleans­ing, writ­ing that “the ulti­mate goal should be to get all the post-1965 non-White migrants from Latin Amer­i­ca to leave.”

    “If we want to defend our lib­er­ty and prop­er­ty, a low-IQ group of a dif­fer­ent race shar­ing the same land is a per­ma­nent antag­o­nist,” he wrote.

    The bulk of Hoste’s big­otry, how­ev­er, was direct­ed at Black peo­ple. He lament­ed what he saw as the grow­ing pre­pon­der­ance of “mis­ce­gena­tion,” or white and Black peo­ple dat­ing each oth­er. “For the white gene pool to be cre­at­ed mil­lions had to die,” Hoste wrote once. “Race mix­ing is like destroy­ing a unique species or piece of art. It’s shame­ful.”

    For Hoste, white peo­ple were “nat­u­ral­ly smarter and less crim­i­nal” than Black peo­ple; white women’s “fear of black men” was “very far from irra­tional”; whites had bet­ter “modes of moral rea­son­ing”; and Black peo­ple had “low intel­li­gence and impulse con­trol.”

    In 2009, Hoste live-blogged his reac­tions to a CNN docuseries called “Black in Amer­i­ca 2,” which the net­work billed as an “inves­ti­ga­tion of the most chal­leng­ing issues fac­ing African-Amer­i­cans.”

    Dur­ing a seg­ment of the docuseries about Black Amer­i­can kids vis­it­ing South Africa, Hoste wrote: “If they had decen­cy, blacks would thank the white race for every­thing that they have.”

    ...

    When Hoste wrote about race sci­ence, claim­ing again and again that Black peo­ple are inher­ent­ly less intel­li­gent than white peo­ple, he often open­ly embraced eugen­ics as the solu­tion, includ­ing coerced or forced ster­il­iza­tion.

    “There doesn’t seem to be a way to deal with low IQ breed­ing that doesn’t include coer­cion,” he wrote in a 2010 arti­cle for AlternativeRight.com. “Per­haps char­i­ties could be formed which paid those in the 70–85 range to be ster­il­ized, but what to do with those below 70 who legal­ly can’t even give con­sent and have a high­er birthrate than the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion? In the same way we lock up crim­i­nals and the men­tal­ly ill in the inter­ests of soci­ety at large, one could argue that we could on the exact same prin­ci­ple ster­il­ize those who are bound to harm future gen­er­a­tions through giv­ing birth.”

    In a 2011 arti­cle on Counter-Cur­rents titled “Answer­ing Objec­tions to Eugen­ics,” Hoste laid out a plan for ster­il­iz­ing peo­ple with IQ scores of less than 90. From the arti­cle:

    It would be hard to abuse a law that forcibly ster­il­ized every­body with an IQ under 90 pro­vid­ed that the per­son scored that low on an objec­tive test blind­ly grad­ed. Some­body who wants to argue that he had a bad day would have the right to an appeal, which would con­sist of anoth­er IQ test.

    If a lib­er­tar­i­an wants to pro­pose that even some­body with an IQ of 90 has rights, they would have to oppose gov­ern­ment hav­ing the pow­er to lock peo­ple up in men­tal insti­tu­tions. We already let the state decide that some peo­ple aren’t fit to par­tic­i­pate in soci­ety even if they’ve yet to do any­thing wrong. This is a sys­tem open to abuse, but still a nec­es­sary evil. Let­ting the unin­tel­li­gent breed is as sure­ly dam­ag­ing to soci­ety as let­ting schiz­o­phren­ics run loose.

    Hoste’s racism was also evinced by the writ­ers he chose to cite. In a 2010 arti­cle on AlternativeRight.com, Hoste described learn­ing about a Decem­ber 1997 speech by William Pierce called “The Les­son of Haiti.”

    Hoste linked to a tran­script of Pierce’s speech, with­out acknowl­edg­ing who Pierce was: the leader and founder of the Nation­al Alliance, a vio­lent neo-Nazi group, and the author of a nov­el called “The Turn­er Diaries,” a mur­der­ous race war fan­ta­sy that has inspired mul­ti­ple white suprema­cist ter­ror­ists, includ­ing Okla­homa City bomber Tim­o­thy McVeigh.

    Hoste’s arti­cle on AlternativeRight.com was basi­cal­ly a reca­pit­u­la­tion of Pierce’s speech about Haiti, recount­ing how a British explor­er in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry tra­versed the coun­try to answer the ques­tion, “Can the Negro rule him­self?” The explor­er had come to the racist con­clu­sion that no, Black peo­ple can­not gov­ern them­selves — a con­clu­sion that delight­ed Pierce in 1997 and seem­ing­ly ener­gized Hoste in 2010.

    “The biggest ene­mies of the Black Man are not Klans­men or multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions, but the lib­er­als who have pre­vent­ed an hon­est appraisal of his abil­i­ties and filled his head with myths about equal­i­ty and nation­al autarky,” Hoste wrote.

    Good­bye, Richard Hoste; Hel­lo, Richard Hana­nia

    Hanania’s jour­ney to con­ser­v­a­tive promi­nence start­ed some­time in the mid-2010s after he appeared to aban­don his dou­ble life as “Richard Hoste” and start­ed writ­ing under his real name. At this time, he was wind­ing his way through acad­e­mia, accord­ing to a copy of his resume — earn­ing a J.D. at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Law School in 2013 and a Ph.D. in polit­i­cal sci­ence at UCLA in 2018, and then land­ing a post­doc­tor­al research fel­low­ship at Colum­bia University’s Saltz­man Insti­tute of War and Peace Stud­ies.

    In 2015 — five years after he’d used the Hoste pseu­do­nym to argue that Black peo­ple can’t gov­ern them­selves, and four years after he laid out his plan to ster­il­ize peo­ple with IQs of less than 90 — Hana­nia pub­lished an op-ed in The Wash­ing­ton Post with the head­line: “Don­ald Trump nev­er apol­o­gizes for his con­tro­ver­sial remarks. Here’s why he shouldn’t.”

    The arti­cle was based on research Hana­nia con­duct­ed as a Ph.D. stu­dent, which found that vot­ers respond­ed pos­i­tive­ly to pub­lic fig­ures who didn’t show con­tri­tion after mak­ing racist or sex­ist remarks. (The piece ref­er­enced, in part, Trump’s refusal to back down from his big­ot­ed remarks about Lati­no peo­ple.)

    In the sum­mer of 2020, Hana­nia start­ed to build a read­er­ship for his lib­er­tar­i­an polit­i­cal writ­ing. Among his read­ers was Hamish McKen­zie, the CEO of Sub­stack. “The pan­dem­ic hap­pened and huge num­bers of peo­ple became addict­ed to social media and [Hana­nia] emerged from his cocoon in acad­e­mia to start push­ing some hot cul­tur­al but­tons,” McKen­zie recount­ed recent­ly in an episode of his pod­cast, “The Active Voice.”

    One of Hanania’s first viral pieces on Sub­stack — a 2021 arti­cle titled “Why Is Every­thing Lib­er­al?” — was cit­ed by colum­nists at The Wash­ing­ton Post and The New York Times. It also led to his first invi­ta­tion to appear on “Tuck­er Carl­son Tonight,” America’s most-watched cable news show at the time.

    The Wash­ing­ton Post declined to com­ment this week on Hanania’s past appear­ances in the paper. A New York Times spokesper­son said that “Hana­nia didn’t inform our edi­tors or any­one at The Times, nor were we aware” of any writ­ing he’d done under a pseu­do­nym before the paper pub­lished one of his essays. Fox News didn’t respond to a request for com­ment.

    A short time lat­er, J.D. Vance — then a GOP can­di­date for U.S. Sen­ate — called Hana­nia a “friend” and a “real­ly inter­est­ing thinker” dur­ing an inter­view with right-wing YouTu­ber Dave Rubin. Vance, now a U.S. sen­a­tor rep­re­sent­ing Ohio, didn’t respond to a request for com­ment about his rela­tion­ship with Hana­nia.

    Hanania’s star con­tin­ued to rise as he found a recep­tive audi­ence for his tirades against the sup­posed evils of “wok­e­ness” and the 1964 Civ­il Rights Act. Edi­tors at right-wing and main­stream media out­lets pub­lished his work, includ­ing at Newsweek, where he whinged about America’s his­to­ry of anti-racist protests, lament­ing how acad­e­mia refers to the 1993 “Rod­ney King riots as an ‘upris­ing,’ as if it was an hon­or­able strug­gle for free­dom rather than a crim­i­nal ram­page.” (Newsweek did not respond to a request for com­ment for this sto­ry.)

    At the right-wing site Quil­lette, Hana­nia wrote about how Twit­ter sup­pos­ed­ly dis­crim­i­nates against con­ser­v­a­tives; at the Nation­al Review, the pres­ti­gious con­ser­v­a­tive mag­a­zine, Hana­nia wrote about how “cul­ture, not eco­nom­ics, decides most vot­ers’ choic­es.” At The Wall Street Jour­nal, he argued that anti-Trump bias in media and acad­e­mia was infect­ing the social sci­ences. (Quil­lette and the Nation­al Review did not respond to HuffPost’s request for com­ment. The Wall Street Jour­nal declined to com­ment.)

    Else­where — includ­ing at the pub­li­ca­tions Task & Pur­pose, Rea­son, Pal­la­di­um Mag­a­zine and The Amer­i­can Con­ser­v­a­tive — Hana­nia wrote about for­eign pol­i­cy, with a spe­cial focus on Afghanistan and Chi­na.

    Hana­nia was mak­ing a name for him­self. By 2022, he was select­ed as a vis­it­ing schol­ar at the Salem Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin. The cen­ter — fund­ed through right-wing donors includ­ing bil­lion­aire Har­lan Crow — is led by exec­u­tive direc­tor Car­los Car­val­ho. “I have no com­ment,” Car­val­ho told Huff­Post when asked about Hana­nia.

    Hana­nia was also tapped to be a lec­tur­er for the “For­bid­den Cours­es” pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Austin, the unac­cred­it­ed school fund­ed by ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and found­ed by for­mer New York Times colum­nist Bari Weiss, now a promi­nent right-wing influ­encer her­self. The uni­ver­si­ty did not respond to a request for com­ment about Hana­nia.

    Ear­li­er this year, Hana­nia spoke to the Yale Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety, the school’s chap­ter of the con­ser­v­a­tive legal orga­ni­za­tion, about what the gov­ern­ment has done to “dis­crim­i­nate against whites and men.” The chap­ter did not respond when asked for com­ment.

    And this Octo­ber, Hana­nia is sched­uled to teach a sem­i­nar at Stan­ford University’s Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness. The school did not respond to HuffPost’s request for com­ment.

    Mean­while, Hana­nia has con­tin­ued to pub­lish Sub­stack arti­cles that share the same obses­sions as his for­mer white suprema­cist pen name, Richard Hoste — IQ scores, eugen­ics, the need for fat-sham­ing — even if he writes about these sub­jects in a more mod­er­ate tone. An annu­al sub­scrip­tion to Hanania’s Sub­stack costs $70, though free sub­scrip­tions are also avail­able. It’s unclear how many of his sub­scribers are pay­ing. Sub­stack did not respond to mul­ti­ple requests for com­ment about Hana­nia and how much mon­ey he’s mak­ing through the plat­form.

    Hana­nia — just like Richard Hoste did — often writes warm­ly about Steve Sail­er, a blog­ger for the white suprema­cist site VDare. (Sail­er once wrote that Black peo­ple “tend to pos­sess poor­er native judg­ment than mem­bers of bet­ter-edu­cat­ed groups” and “need stricter moral guid­ance from soci­ety.”)

    “Steve is one of the most agree­able peo­ple you’ll meet,” Hana­nia tweet­ed recent­ly.

    Dur­ing his appear­ance on “The Active Voice,” Hana­nia rec­om­mend­ed that McKen­zie, the Sub­stack CEO, read Sail­er and Emil Kirkegaard, a far-right Dan­ish activist who has called homo­sex­u­al­i­ty a “men­tal ill­ness.” (McKen­zie, who didn’t push back on Hanania’s rec­om­men­da­tions, did not respond to a request for com­ment for this sto­ry.)

    On oth­er occa­sions, Hana­nia has cit­ed the work of Ron Unz, the Sil­i­con Val­ley mil­lion­aire and Holo­caust denier who runs the far-right Unz Review, a site that pub­lish­es the work of neo-Nazis. (A “Richard Hoste” was a fre­quent com­menter on The Unz Review in the ear­ly 2010s.)

    On his pod­cast, Hana­nia recent­ly had a friend­ly con­ver­sa­tion with Amy Wax, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia pro­fes­sor fac­ing dis­ci­pli­nary pro­ceed­ings for, among oth­er alleged offens­es, invit­ing a white suprema­cist to speak to her class and mak­ing racist remarks such as that “our coun­try will be bet­ter off with more whites and few­er minori­ties.”

    He also recent­ly had an hour­long inter­view with Christo­pher Rufo, a con­ser­v­a­tive activist and close ally of pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ron DeSan­tis who is wide­ly regard­ed as the archi­tect of the moral pan­ic about “crit­i­cal race the­o­ry” being taught in schools. “We need to elim­i­nate affir­ma­tive action in all of our insti­tu­tions,” Rufo told Hana­nia.

    And in May, Hana­nia tweet­ed a link to a Sub­stack arti­cle he’d writ­ten about one of his favorite sub­jects: “the real­i­ty of Black crime,” or as Hana­nia alter­nate­ly put it, “the patholo­gies of the inner city.”

    “I don’t have much hope that we’ll solve crime in any mean­ing­ful way,” Hana­nia tweet­ed while pro­mot­ing the arti­cle. “It would require a rev­o­lu­tion in our cul­ture or form of gov­ern­ment. We need more polic­ing, incar­cer­a­tion, and sur­veil­lance of black peo­ple. Blacks won’t appre­ci­ate it, whites don’t have the stom­ach for it.”

    A short time lat­er, the world’s rich­est man, and the own­er of Twit­ter (since rebrand­ed as “X”), replied to Hanania’s tweet. “Inter­est­ing,” Elon Musk wrote.

    Who’s Fund­ing Richard Hana­nia?

    In 2020, before Richard Hana­nia was very well-known, he became pres­i­dent of a new, obscure think tank called the Cen­ter for the Study of Par­ti­san­ship and Ide­ol­o­gy. The only two oth­er mem­bers of this think tank were also right-wing aca­d­e­mics: George Haw­ley of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alaba­ma, and Eric Kauf­mann of the Man­hat­tan Insti­tute. (Haw­ley and Kauf­mann did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for com­ment.)

    The jour­nal­ist Jonathan Katz, on his Sub­stack page The Rack­et, did a fseries of recent inves­ti­ga­tions into Hana­nia and CSPI — find­ing that the orga­ni­za­tion, which describes itself as “inter­est­ed in fund­ing schol­ars study­ing woke atti­tudes, beliefs, and behav­iors,” took in over $200,000 in dona­tions in 2020, its first year reg­is­tered as a 501(c)(3) non­prof­it.

    The next year, in 2021, CSPI received over $1 mil­lion in dona­tions. Some of that mon­ey went to con­ser­v­a­tive grad stu­dents and Ph.D. can­di­dates across the coun­try, with grantees receiv­ing any­where from $1,000 to $45,000.

    But it was Hana­nia who pock­et­ed the most, with $137,500. He did even bet­ter the next year, tak­ing home $160,000. Along the way, CSPI’s mail­ing address changed — just as Hanania’s did, accord­ing to pub­lic records — from the San Gabriel Val­ley in Los Ange­les to Sier­ra Madre, Cal­i­for­nia, indi­cat­ing he’s run­ning the think tank out of his home.

    Here’s how Katz described the way CSPI has func­tioned:

    In addi­tion to being a laun­der­ing ser­vice for hand­ing out mon­ey to reac­tionary aca­d­e­mics, it is a paper mill for “stud­ies” that back up reac­tionary talk­ing points, to be spun into arti­cles and opin­ion pieces with head­lines such as “Social trends caus­ing rapid growth in peo­ple iden­ti­fy­ing as LGBT, report says” (from the ide­o­log­i­cal astro­turf­ing Sin­clair Broad­cast Group), “The Lock­downs Weren’t Worth It” (WSJ) and “The new class war is over iden­ti­ty” (Wash­ing­ton Exam­in­er) — the lat­ter being an anti-LGBTQ screed that end­ed, “My name is Dominic. I’m a trans woman, and my pro­nouns are me, me, me.”

    But who would be inter­est­ed in fund­ing such a project? Espe­cial­ly one that has pro­vid­ed a nice year­ly salary to Hana­nia, who, at least in 2020, was still a rel­a­tive­ly unknown lib­er­tar­i­an blog­ger?

    Katz found a cou­ple of answers. $200,000 came from the Con­ru Foun­da­tion, run by mil­lion­aire Andrew Con­ru, who cre­at­ed AdultFriendFinder.com, the match­mak­ing and hookup site, before he sold it for $500 mil­lion in 2007. (Con­ru didn’t respond to a request for com­ment about his dona­tion to Hanania’s think tank.) Anoth­er $50,000 in dona­tions came from the Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter, a think tank at George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty fund­ed by the right-wing bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers and run by the lib­er­tar­i­an econ­o­mist Tyler Cowen, whom Hana­nia has inter­viewed on the CSPI pod­cast. (The Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter also did not respond to a request for com­ment.)

    But then the paper trail runs dry. Katz found that near­ly a mil­lion dol­lars in dona­tions to CSPI are from a dark-mon­ey donor, or donors, whose iden­ti­ties are unknown.

    What’s clear, how­ev­er, is that a coterie of pow­er­ful tech bil­lion­aires and mil­lion­aires — peo­ple with the kind of resources to fund some­thing like CSPI — are invest­ed in Hana­nia, maybe see­ing him as a poten­tial new émi­nence grise, an intel­lec­tu­al who can artic­u­late and pro­mote their spe­cif­ic blend of tech­no-utopi­an, anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic pol­i­tics.

    Marc Andreessen — the pow­er­ful Sil­i­con Val­ley ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and bil­lion­aire, and a bud­dy of Elon Musk — has appeared on CSPI’s pod­cast, host­ed by Hana­nia, three times. He talked to Hana­nia for two hours in 2021, and last year sat down with Hana­nia twice to dis­cuss their “Niet­zschean” inter­pre­ta­tions of the TV shows “Break­ing Bad” and “The Shield.” (In the episode descrip­tion for the inter­view about “The Shield,” a police show, Hana­nia argued that it’s “white cops” main­tain­ing order in Amer­i­ca, while Black cops are cor­rupt and tied to “gang­bangers.”)

    ...

    Mean­while, a num­ber of bil­lion­aires and mil­lion­aires have sup­plied blurbs to pro­mote Hanania’s book “The Ori­gins of Woke,” which Harper­Collins is set to pub­lish in Sep­tem­ber. (The pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny did not respond to mul­ti­ple requests for com­ment.)

    Tech mogul David Sacks gushed that Hanania’s book “offers con­ser­v­a­tives a play­book for fight­ing woke ide­ol­o­gy in the fields of law and pol­i­tics, where they can actu­al­ly defeat it.”

    Peter Thiel, the right-wing ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and bil­lion­aire, expressed excite­ment over the book’s take­down of diver­si­ty, equi­ty and inclu­sion pro­grams. “DEI will nev­er d‑i-e from words alone,” Thiel wrote. “Hana­nia shows we need the sticks and stones of gov­ern­ment vio­lence to exor­cize the diver­si­ty demon.”

    And Vivek Ramaswamy, the GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­date with a net worth over $600 mil­lion — a for­tune derived, in part, from his work in biotech — wrote that Hana­nia is “unafraid to tran­scend the Over­ton Win­dow on issues of race and gen­der,” and that his book “deliv­ers a dev­as­tat­ing kill shot to the intel­lec­tu­al foun­da­tions of iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics in Amer­i­ca.”

    ...

    Hana­nia men­tioned all of these men in a June Sub­stack post while describ­ing what he cel­e­brat­ed as the “Tech Right,” a new Sil­i­con Val­ley-based con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment that, among oth­er beliefs, embraces tran­shu­man­ism and “longter­mism.”

    The cult of “longter­mism” has swept through Sil­i­con Val­ley in recent years, with Musk and Thiel among its most well-known acolytes. It’s a world­view that often pri­or­i­tizes the health of future gen­er­a­tions of humans — even ones mil­lions of years hence — over peo­ple cur­rent­ly liv­ing in the here and now, suf­fer­ing and get­ting by on plan­et Earth. (Musk’s goal to col­o­nize Mars, for exam­ple, is a longter­mist project.)

    Its adher­ents are often obsessed with IQ scores and sci­en­tif­ic racism, and the famous com­put­er sci­en­tist Timnit Gebru has crit­i­cized longter­mism as “eugen­ics under a dif­fer­ent name.”

    The schol­ar Émile Tor­res has also not­ed that longtermism’s “tran­shu­man­ist vision of cre­at­ing a supe­ri­or new race of ‘posthu­mans’ is eugen­ics on steroids,” a reca­pit­u­la­tion of 20th-cen­tu­ry beliefs that ush­ered in “a wide range of illib­er­al poli­cies, includ­ing restric­tions on immi­gra­tion, anti-mis­ce­gena­tion laws and forced ster­il­iza­tions.”

    It’s maybe unsur­pris­ing, then, that Hana­nia has emerged as a scribe for this new “Tech Right.” After all, he had years of prac­tice writ­ing about eugen­ics as Richard Hoste, advo­cat­ing for pre­cise­ly those types of poli­cies.

    “The main­te­nance of the qual­i­ty of the pop­u­la­tion requires not just a sta­ble pop­u­la­tion at all lev­els but the active weed­ing out of the unfit,” Hoste wrote in 2011 for Counter-Cur­rents, the white suprema­cist site.

    “There is no ratio­nal rea­son,” he wrote, “why eugen­ics can’t cap­ture the hearts and minds of pol­i­cy mak­ers the way it did 100 years ago.”

    ———-

    “Richard Hana­nia, Ris­ing Right-Wing Star, Wrote For White Suprema­cist Sites Under Pseu­do­nym” by Christo­pher Math­ias; The Huff­in­g­ton Post; 08/04/2023

    “Hanania’s rise into main­stream con­ser­v­a­tive and even more cen­trist cir­cles did not nec­es­sar­i­ly occur because he aban­doned some of the nox­ious argu­ments he made under the pseu­do­nym “Richard Hoste.” Although he’s mod­er­at­ed his words to some extent, Hana­nia still makes explic­it­ly racist state­ments under his real name. He main­tains a creepy obses­sion with so-called race sci­ence, argu­ing that Black peo­ple are inher­ent­ly more prone to vio­lent crime than white peo­ple. He often writes in sup­port of a well-known racist and a Holo­caust denier. And he once said that if he owned Twit­ter — the plat­form that cat­a­pult­ed him to some celebri­ty — he wouldn’t let “fem­i­nists, trans activists or social­ists” post there. “Why would I?” he asked. “They’re wrong about every­thing and bad for soci­ety.””

    He’s not hid­ing it. Richard Hana­nia may have used a pseu­do­nym when he wrote his overt­ly racist columns as “Richard Hoste”. But he’s not hid­ing it any­more. And has­n’t been hid­ing it the whole time as he’s risen to become a young con­ser­v­a­tive star. The guy was obsessed with ‘race sci­ence’ back when he was post­ing as Richard Hoste and he remains obsessed to this day. The main dif­fer­ence is he’s now express­ing these views under his own name. And while “Richard Hoste” was a ris­ing star with the ‘Alt Right’ back in 2010 — when Richard Spencer tapped him to be one of the first ‘Alt Right’ writ­ers for AlternativeRight.com — today we find Hana­nia host­ing a pod­cast that includes guests like Steven Pinker, Marc Andreessen, and Elon Musk. Peter Thiel even wrote a blurb pro­mot­ing Hana­ni­a’s book, “The Ori­gins of Woke”, set to be pub­lished by Harper­Collins next month:

    ...
    Huff­Post con­nect­ed Hana­nia to his “Richard Hoste” per­sona by ana­lyz­ing leaked data from an online com­ment-host­ing ser­vice that showed him using three of his email address­es to cre­ate user­names on white suprema­cist sites. A racist blog main­tained by Hoste was also reg­is­tered to an address in Hanania’s home­town. And Huff­Post found bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion shared by Hoste that aligned with Hanania’s own life.

    ...

    The 37-year-old has been pub­lished by The New York Times and The Wash­ing­ton Post. He deliv­ered a lec­ture to the Yale Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety and was inter­viewed by the Har­vard Col­lege Eco­nom­ics Review. He appeared twice on “Tuck­er Carl­son Tonight,” Fox News’ for­mer prime-time jug­ger­naut. He was a recent guest on a pod­cast host­ed by the CEO of Sub­stack, the $650 mil­lion pub­lish­ing plat­form where Hana­nia has near­ly 20,000 sub­scribers.

    Hana­nia has his own pod­cast, too, inter­view­ing the likes of Steven Pinker, the famous Har­vard cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gist, and Marc Andreessen, the bil­lion­aire soft­ware engi­neer. Anoth­er bil­lion­aire, Elon Musk, reads Hanania’s arti­cles and replies approv­ing­ly to his tweets. A third bil­lion­aire, Peter Thiel, pro­vid­ed a blurb to pro­mote Hanania’s book, “The Ori­gins of Woke,” which Harper­Collins plans to pub­lish this Sep­tem­ber. In Octo­ber, Hana­nia is sched­uled to deliv­er a lec­ture at Stan­ford.

    ...

    In 2010, Hoste was among the first writ­ers to be recruit­ed for AlternativeRight.com, a new webzine spear­head­ed and edit­ed by Richard Spencer, the white suprema­cist leader who lat­er orga­nized the dead­ly 2017 neo-Nazi ral­ly in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia. (“Lit­tle fu cking kikes,” report­ed­ly report­ed­ly told his fol­low­ers at a par­ty after that ral­ly. “They get ruled by peo­ple like me. Lit­tle fuc king octa­roons. My ances­tors fuc king enslaved those lit­tle pieces of fuc king sh it.”)

    Spencer bestowed Hoste with the hon­or of writ­ing one of the intro­duc­to­ry arti­cles for the launch of AlternativeRight.com, which would become a main pro­pa­gan­da organ of the nascent “alt-right,” the online fas­cist move­ment that explod­ed into the pub­lic con­scious­ness due to its ties to for­mer Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. (Spencer shut­tered the site in 2013, and it was lat­er relaunched under anoth­er name.)
    ...

    And in case it’s not clear that these tech mogul Hana­nia fans are aware of Hana­ni­a’s ‘Alt Right’ views, note the “inter­est­ing” Elon Musk response to a Hana­nia tweet back in May where he called for exten­sive polic­ing of black pop­u­la­tions:

    ...
    Mean­while, Hana­nia has con­tin­ued to pub­lish Sub­stack arti­cles that share the same obses­sions as his for­mer white suprema­cist pen name, Richard Hoste — IQ scores, eugen­ics, the need for fat-sham­ing — even if he writes about these sub­jects in a more mod­er­ate tone. An annu­al sub­scrip­tion to Hanania’s Sub­stack costs $70, though free sub­scrip­tions are also avail­able. It’s unclear how many of his sub­scribers are pay­ing. Sub­stack did not respond to mul­ti­ple requests for com­ment about Hana­nia and how much mon­ey he’s mak­ing through the plat­form.

    Hana­nia — just like Richard Hoste did — often writes warm­ly about Steve Sail­er, a blog­ger for the white suprema­cist site VDare. (Sail­er once wrote that Black peo­ple “tend to pos­sess poor­er native judg­ment than mem­bers of bet­ter-edu­cat­ed groups” and “need stricter moral guid­ance from soci­ety.”)

    ...

    And in May, Hana­nia tweet­ed a link to a Sub­stack arti­cle he’d writ­ten about one of his favorite sub­jects: “the real­i­ty of Black crime,” or as Hana­nia alter­nate­ly put it, “the patholo­gies of the inner city.”

    “I don’t have much hope that we’ll solve crime in any mean­ing­ful way,” Hana­nia tweet­ed while pro­mot­ing the arti­cle. “It would require a rev­o­lu­tion in our cul­ture or form of gov­ern­ment. We need more polic­ing, incar­cer­a­tion, and sur­veil­lance of black peo­ple. Blacks won’t appre­ci­ate it, whites don’t have the stom­ach for it.”

    A short time lat­er, the world’s rich­est man, and the own­er of Twit­ter (since rebrand­ed as “X”), replied to Hanania’s tweet. “Inter­est­ing,” Elon Musk wrote.
    ...

    But Hana­ni­a’s embrace by ‘polite soci­ety’ isn’t lim­it­ed to fas­cist-friend­ly tech oli­garchs. He’s run­ning ‘think tanks’ financed by right-wing mega-donor mon­ey from fig­ures like Har­lan Crow. This is a good time to recall how, in the course of all the report­ing about how Crow has been revealed to be the sug­ar-dad­dy for Clarence and Gin­ni Thomas, we also learned how Crow main­tains a dis­turbing­ly large col­lec­tion of Nazi mem­o­ra­bil­ia.

    And beyond the think tanks, Hana­nia is sched­uled to teach a sem­i­nar course at Stan­ford this fall. Keep in mind how Stan­ford has had an alarm­ing­ly friend­ly rela­tion­ship Ukrain­ian Nazis in recent years. As we can see, it’s not just Ukrain­ian Nazis:

    ...
    Hana­nia was mak­ing a name for him­self. By 2022, he was select­ed as a vis­it­ing schol­ar at the Salem Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin. The cen­ter — fund­ed through right-wing donors includ­ing bil­lion­aire Har­lan Crow — is led by exec­u­tive direc­tor Car­los Car­val­ho. “I have no com­ment,” Car­val­ho told Huff­Post when asked about Hana­nia.

    ...

    Ear­li­er this year, Hana­nia spoke to the Yale Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety, the school’s chap­ter of the con­ser­v­a­tive legal orga­ni­za­tion, about what the gov­ern­ment has done to “dis­crim­i­nate against whites and men.” The chap­ter did not respond when asked for com­ment.

    And this Octo­ber, Hana­nia is sched­uled to teach a sem­i­nar at Stan­ford University’s Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness. The school did not respond to HuffPost’s request for com­ment.

    ...

    And when it comes to the fund­ing for the Cen­ter for the Study of Par­ti­san­ship and Ide­ol­o­gy (CSPI), we find that the mon­ey trail goes dark, thanks to the US’s dark mon­ey laws. This is a good time to recall how DonorsTrust — the key Koch-backed dark mon­ey ‘char­i­ty’ — was revealed to have giv­en a $1.5 mil­lion anony­mous dona­tion to VDARE in 2019, which appears to have been used by the group to pur­chase a his­toric cas­tle in West Vir­ginia. So while we don’t know if it’s the same anony­mous donors behind these dona­tions to both Hana­ni­a’s think-tank and VDARE, that seems like a rea­son­able sus­pi­cion:

    ...
    In 2020, before Richard Hana­nia was very well-known, he became pres­i­dent of a new, obscure think tank called the Cen­ter for the Study of Par­ti­san­ship and Ide­ol­o­gy. The only two oth­er mem­bers of this think tank were also right-wing aca­d­e­mics: George Haw­ley of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alaba­ma, and Eric Kauf­mann of the Man­hat­tan Insti­tute. (Haw­ley and Kauf­mann did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for com­ment.)

    The jour­nal­ist Jonathan Katz, on his Sub­stack page The Rack­et, did a fseries of recent inves­ti­ga­tions into Hana­nia and CSPI — find­ing that the orga­ni­za­tion, which describes itself as “inter­est­ed in fund­ing schol­ars study­ing woke atti­tudes, beliefs, and behav­iors,” took in over $200,000 in dona­tions in 2020, its first year reg­is­tered as a 501(c)(3) non­prof­it.

    ...

    Here’s how Katz described the way CSPI has func­tioned:

    In addi­tion to being a laun­der­ing ser­vice for hand­ing out mon­ey to reac­tionary aca­d­e­mics, it is a paper mill for “stud­ies” that back up reac­tionary talk­ing points, to be spun into arti­cles and opin­ion pieces with head­lines such as “Social trends caus­ing rapid growth in peo­ple iden­ti­fy­ing as LGBT, report says” (from the ide­o­log­i­cal astro­turf­ing Sin­clair Broad­cast Group), “The Lock­downs Weren’t Worth It” (WSJ) and “The new class war is over iden­ti­ty” (Wash­ing­ton Exam­in­er) — the lat­ter being an anti-LGBTQ screed that end­ed, “My name is Dominic. I’m a trans woman, and my pro­nouns are me, me, me.”

    But who would be inter­est­ed in fund­ing such a project? Espe­cial­ly one that has pro­vid­ed a nice year­ly salary to Hana­nia, who, at least in 2020, was still a rel­a­tive­ly unknown lib­er­tar­i­an blog­ger?

    Katz found a cou­ple of answers. $200,000 came from the Con­ru Foun­da­tion, run by mil­lion­aire Andrew Con­ru, who cre­at­ed AdultFriendFinder.com, the match­mak­ing and hookup site, before he sold it for $500 mil­lion in 2007. (Con­ru didn’t respond to a request for com­ment about his dona­tion to Hanania’s think tank.) Anoth­er $50,000 in dona­tions came from the Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter, a think tank at George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty fund­ed by the right-wing bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers and run by the lib­er­tar­i­an econ­o­mist Tyler Cowen, whom Hana­nia has inter­viewed on the CSPI pod­cast. (The Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter also did not respond to a request for com­ment.)

    But then the paper trail runs dry. Katz found that near­ly a mil­lion dol­lars in dona­tions to CSPI are from a dark-mon­ey donor, or donors, whose iden­ti­ties are unknown.
    ...

    Final­ly, while Hana­nia clear­ly has a sig­nif­i­cant fan base among Sil­i­con Val­ley’s tech oli­garchs, note his fel­low trav­el­ers: the ‘longter­mism’ com­mu­ni­ty, oth­er­wise known as the ‘Effec­tive Altru­ism’ crowd. A crowd that includes fig­ures like Andreessen and Thiel and embraces longter­mism, tran­shu­man­ism, and a host of oth­er ‘futur­ist’ ide­olo­gies that hap­pen to syn­er­gize quite well with Hana­ni­a’s writ­ings. Recall how Sam Bankman-Fried’s coterie of ‘Effec­tive Altru­ist’ were active­ly plan­ning on build­ing dooms­day bunkers to sur­vive an expect­ed apoc­a­lypse. So it appears Hana­nia was part of this crowd. Because of course he was:

    ...
    Marc Andreessen — the pow­er­ful Sil­i­con Val­ley ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and bil­lion­aire, and a bud­dy of Elon Musk — has appeared on CSPI’s pod­cast, host­ed by Hana­nia, three times. He talked to Hana­nia for two hours in 2021, and last year sat down with Hana­nia twice to dis­cuss their “Niet­zschean” inter­pre­ta­tions of the TV shows “Break­ing Bad” and “The Shield.” (In the episode descrip­tion for the inter­view about “The Shield,” a police show, Hana­nia argued that it’s “white cops” main­tain­ing order in Amer­i­ca, while Black cops are cor­rupt and tied to “gang­bangers.”)

    ...

    Tech mogul David Sacks gushed that Hanania’s book “offers con­ser­v­a­tives a play­book for fight­ing woke ide­ol­o­gy in the fields of law and pol­i­tics, where they can actu­al­ly defeat it.”

    Peter Thiel, the right-wing ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and bil­lion­aire, expressed excite­ment over the book’s take­down of diver­si­ty, equi­ty and inclu­sion pro­grams. “DEI will nev­er d‑i-e from words alone,” Thiel wrote. “Hana­nia shows we need the sticks and stones of gov­ern­ment vio­lence to exor­cize the diver­si­ty demon.”

    And Vivek Ramaswamy, the GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­date with a net worth over $600 mil­lion — a for­tune derived, in part, from his work in biotech — wrote that Hana­nia is “unafraid to tran­scend the Over­ton Win­dow on issues of race and gen­der,” and that his book “deliv­ers a dev­as­tat­ing kill shot to the intel­lec­tu­al foun­da­tions of iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics in Amer­i­ca.”

    ...

    Hana­nia men­tioned all of these men in a June Sub­stack post while describ­ing what he cel­e­brat­ed as the “Tech Right,” a new Sil­i­con Val­ley-based con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment that, among oth­er beliefs, embraces tran­shu­man­ism and “longter­mism.”

    ...

    The schol­ar Émile Tor­res has also not­ed that longtermism’s “tran­shu­man­ist vision of cre­at­ing a supe­ri­or new race of ‘posthu­mans’ is eugen­ics on steroids,” a reca­pit­u­la­tion of 20th-cen­tu­ry beliefs that ush­ered in “a wide range of illib­er­al poli­cies, includ­ing restric­tions on immi­gra­tion, anti-mis­ce­gena­tion laws and forced ster­il­iza­tions.”

    ...

    “The main­te­nance of the qual­i­ty of the pop­u­la­tion requires not just a sta­ble pop­u­la­tion at all lev­els but the active weed­ing out of the unfit,” Hoste wrote in 2011 for Counter-Cur­rents, the white suprema­cist site.

    “There is no ratio­nal rea­son,” he wrote, “why eugen­ics can’t cap­ture the hearts and minds of pol­i­cy mak­ers the way it did 100 years ago.”
    ...

    As we can see, Richard Hana­nia has a lot to share with the world. It’s most­ly just rehashed white suprema­cy, but he loves shar­ing it. And he’s become a star in the process, because a lot of oth­er peo­ple love these ideas too. Pow­er­ful peo­ple. Some of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple on the plan­et, in fact. And even­tu­al­ly their kids, once their bil­lionare-to-be edu­ca­tion is com­plete.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 7, 2023, 5:37 pm
  14. This is one of those ques­tions we ide­al­ly would­n’t have had to ask, but here we are: Does Cana­da have a ‘Jef­frey Epstein’ of its own? Because that appears to be what we’re look­ing at in a sto­ry that’s been qui­et­ly unfold­ing since Feb­ru­ary. A sto­ry with an alarm­ing num­ber of Epstein par­al­lels.

    The alle­ga­tions are all cen­tered around Robert Miller, the ultra-secre­tive Mon­tre­al-based bil­lion­aire own­er of the Future Elec­tron­ics elec­tri­cal com­po­nent dis­trib­u­tor. And from 1994 until at least 2006, Miller was appar­ent­ly rou­tine­ly pay­ing teenage girls for sex­u­al encoun­ters. These girls were typ­i­cal­ly used by Miller for sex for a peri­od of time but, inevitably, Miller would tire of them and try to pay the girls to recruit new younger girls for Miller. Many of the girls were ages 14–17, with one girl claim­ing she first met and had sex with ‘Bob’ when she was 11. She asserts ‘Bob’ knew her age and also claims she was rou­tine­ly giv­en cocaine before the sex­u­al encoun­ters.

    Ini­tial­ly, the encoun­ters were held at a spe­cial suite at Montreal’s Inter­con­ti­nen­tal Hotel. The suite even had a large tub installed at Miller’s expense large enough to hold mul­ti­ple peo­ple and the hotel staff was active­ly alarmed at the num­ber of young girls who would make these vis­its to Miller’s room for just a cou­ple of hours. When con­front­ed about the young ages of his guests by the hotel man­ag­er, Miller claimed they were all his nieces. “We called it the f—k tub,” accord­ing to Don­na Loupret, the hotel’s for­mer direc­tor of secu­ri­ty. By the ear­ly 2000s, Miller shift­ed his loca­tion of choice to a large brick house in Montreal’s wealthy West­mount neigh­bor­hood.

    In 2006, Miller’s ex-wife hired pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tors to look into what she sus­pect­ed Miller of doing. The inves­ti­ga­tors gath­ered exten­sive evi­dence of young women com­ing and going from the West­mount res­i­dence. When Miller found out about the inves­ti­ga­tion, he had his own team offer them $300k to drop the inves­ti­ga­tion. Instead, they took the evi­dence to the Mon­tre­al Police.

    It was 2009 when it appeared the police were actu­al­ly con­duct­ing a seri­ous inves­ti­ga­tion, which includ­ed the exe­cu­tion of a search war­rant at the Future Elec­tron­ics head­quar­ters. But a num­ber of the girls were also brought in for ques­tion­ing in what they now describe as intim­i­dat­ing inter­views with the police. Miller was even allowed to have one of his lawyers sit in dur­ing the police inter­views with the girls. In the end, the inves­ti­ga­tion was closed in 2010 with no charges.

    Also of note is the fact that the lawyer bring­ing a class action suit against Miller’s estate on behalf of the vic­tims is Jeff Oren­stein, the same lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the Mohawk Moth­ers in their cas­es against the Cana­di­an and US gov­ern­ments over the MKUl­tra exper­i­men­ta­tion on indige­nous chil­dren. There’s a dis­turb­ing abun­dance of Cana­di­an legal bat­tles involv­ing the abuse of chil­dren by the pow­er­ful at the moment.

    Anoth­er inter­est­ing Epstein-par­al­lel here is cry­on­ics: like Epstein, Miller is a major cry­on­ics enthu­si­ast. He’s even a client for Alcor and ful­ly plans on hav­ing his body frozen after he dies.

    A secre­tive bil­lion­aire with an satiable inter­est in ‘youth’, whether its cry­on­ics or young girls. It’s a famil­iar sto­ry at this point. And that’s all why we have to ask whether or not we’re look­ing at a “Canada’s Epstein” sto­ry here? Along with all the relat­ed Epstein-adja­cent ques­tions like whether or not there were any oth­er famous or pow­er­ful peo­ple involved with these encoun­ters. So far we haven’t heard any indi­ca­tion that any­one else was involved beyond the roles played by some of Millers employ­ees in arrang­ing and ‘prep­ping’ the girls for Miller. And yet we’re also told that Miller fre­quent­ly bragged to the girls about the celebri­ties and mod­els he knew. Miller even claimed to have writ­ten politi­cians’ speech­es. So while we don’t have any indi­ca­tion of oth­er pow­er­ful peo­ple being involved, don’t be shocked if that ends up being the case.

    Ok, first, here’s a look at a report from last week about the lat­est per­son to come for­ward with alle­ga­tions about their encoun­ters with ‘Bob’. Encoun­ters that start­ed when they were 11 years old:

    CTV News

    ‘I told him I was 11 years old,’ says woman in sex­u­al exploita­tion law­suit against Mon­tre­al bil­lion­aire

    Lil­lian Roy
    CTVNewsMontreal.ca Dig­i­tal Reporter
    Updat­ed Oct. 24, 2023 7:38 p.m. CDT
    Pub­lished Oct. 24, 2023 4:10 p.m. CDT

    Four more women are accus­ing Mon­tre­al bil­lion­aire Robert Miller of sex­u­al exploita­tion, one of whom alleges she was recruit­ed to have sex with him at just 11 years old.

    The woman, called “Madame 42” in her affi­davit filed with the court, is among dozens involved in a class-action law­suit against Miller accus­ing him of rou­tine­ly and sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly pay­ing minors for sex in the 90s and ear­ly 2000s.

    The suit, launched in Feb­ru­ary, but not yet autho­rized to pro­ceed by the court, has been amend­ed mul­ti­ple times to include more tes­ti­monies. Madame 42 and three oth­ers signed their affi­davits on Sun­day, bring­ing the total num­ber of alleged vic­tims to at least 39.

    The oth­ers say their rela­tion­ships with Miller, founder of tech com­pa­ny Future Elec­tron­ics Inc., began when they were 14 to 17 years old. But Madame 42 is “the youngest we have seen so far,” accord­ing to Jeff Oren­stein, whose firm Con­sumer Law Group is behind the suit.

    “I hung out with teenagers much old­er than me, and they intro­duced me to a girl named Audrey,” Madame 42’s affi­davit reads. “She was look­ing for the youngest girls pos­si­ble, even vir­gins, to intro­duce them to a man they called ‘Bob.’ ”

    Accord­ing to the law­suit, Miller used the alias “Bob Adams” to con­ceal his iden­ti­ty from his alleged vic­tims.

    “When we arrived, ‘Bob’ brought us to the salon and offered us alco­holic drinks. He asked me my age, and I told him I was 11 years old,” Madame 42’s state­ment con­tin­ues.

    “He told us he con­sid­ered us like his own daugh­ters and that he would take care of us [...] then we moved to the bed­room, one at a time. I had full, unpro­tect­ed sex with him, and then it was my friend’s turn [...] at the end, he gave us envelopes with coloured dots on them. There was $5,000 inside.”

    She claims she saw Miller “at least 30 times” between ages 11 and 20, alleg­ing that an asso­ciate of Miller’s “always” gave her cocaine before the encoun­ters, “even when I was 11.”

    “I had the impres­sion that it was my fault, that I would be told that I had no right to com­plain since I had agreed to go,” her writ­ten account con­clud­ed.

    Asked whether Madame 42’s young age had changed his approach to the law­suit, lawyer Jeff Oren­stein told CTV News it has “remained con­sis­tent through­out,” adding, “we are deter­mined to prove our case and obtain a favourable judg­ment.”

    ...

    SALE COULD IMPEDE SETTLEMENT

    In addi­tion to nam­ing Miller and some of his asso­ci­a­tions, the law­suit tar­gets his com­pa­ny, Future Elec­tron­ics Inc.

    This is because sev­er­al of its employ­ees were alleged­ly involved in the “com­mis­sion of his illic­it acts” and then “pro­mot­ed through the ranks,” Oren­stein told CTV News back in Feb­ru­ary.

    But in Sep­tem­ber, it was announced that Future Elec­tron­ics would be sold to Tai­wanese com­pa­ny WT Micro­elec­tron­ics Co. for US $3.8 bil­lion.

    Oren­stein said the sale could leave class mem­bers emp­ty-hand­ed, even if the judge rules in their favour.

    “We believe that if the sale of Future Elec­tron­ics goes through uncon­di­tion­al­ly and unen­cum­bered, that there is a seri­ous risk that Class Mem­bers will be unable to col­lect, even in the case of a suc­cess­ful judg­ment,” he wrote to CTV News on Tues­day.

    Con­sumer Law Group has filed a Mare­va Injunc­tion, which freezes a defen­dan­t’s assets to pre­vent them from spend­ing or hid­ing them else­where.

    “We are ask­ing the Court to pro­tect Class Mem­bers from this unfair sit­u­a­tion. We believe that we have sat­is­fied all of the con­di­tions to have a Mare­va Order grant­ed, but that is up to the Court to decide,” Oren­stein con­tin­ued.

    In pre­vi­ous state­ments, Miller, who stepped down as CEO of Future Elec­tron­ics in Feb­ru­ary, has denied the accu­sa­tions against him.

    None of the alle­ga­tions have been proven in court.

    ———-

    “ ‘I told him I was 11 years old,’ says woman in sex­u­al exploita­tion law­suit against Mon­tre­al bil­lion­aire” by Lil­lian Roy; CTV News; 10/24/2023

    ““When we arrived, ‘Bob’ brought us to the salon and offered us alco­holic drinks. He asked me my age, and I told him I was 11 years old,” Madame 42’s state­ment con­tin­ues.”

    ‘Bob’ knew she was 11 when he paid her for sex. And she’s just one of a grow­ing num­ber of women mak­ing sim­i­lar alle­ga­tions against obscure Cana­di­an bil­lion­aire Robert Miller. Hence the “Canada’s Jef­frey Epstein” theme to the whole sto­ry. And like Epstein, we now have a large num­ber of vic­tims hop­ing for some sort of com­pen­sa­tion from the bil­lion­aire’s estate. Notably, the lawyer lead­ing the law­suit on behalf the vic­tims, Jeff Oren­stein, Note that is the same lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the Mohawk Moth­ers in their class action law­suit over MKUl­tra exper­i­ments on indige­nous chil­dren. Oren­stein is fight­ing some very impor­tant cas­es with elite child abuse at their core:

    ...
    The oth­ers say their rela­tion­ships with Miller, founder of tech com­pa­ny Future Elec­tron­ics Inc., began when they were 14 to 17 years old. But Madame 42 is “the youngest we have seen so far,” accord­ing to Jeff Oren­stein, whose firm Con­sumer Law Group is behind the suit.

    “I hung out with teenagers much old­er than me, and they intro­duced me to a girl named Audrey,” Madame 42’s affi­davit reads. “She was look­ing for the youngest girls pos­si­ble, even vir­gins, to intro­duce them to a man they called ‘Bob.’ ”

    Accord­ing to the law­suit, Miller used the alias “Bob Adams” to con­ceal his iden­ti­ty from his alleged vic­tims.

    ...

    “He told us he con­sid­ered us like his own daugh­ters and that he would take care of us [...] then we moved to the bed­room, one at a time. I had full, unpro­tect­ed sex with him, and then it was my friend’s turn [...] at the end, he gave us envelopes with coloured dots on them. There was $5,000 inside.”
    ...

    Also of note in Madame 42’s state­ment are the claims that she was rou­tine­ly giv­en cocaine before her encoun­ters with ‘Bob’ by the var­i­ous ‘mid­dle-men’ employ­ees of Miller who appar­ent­ly helped to facil­i­tate these evenings. That’s notable because, as we’re going to see, Miller’s pri­ma­ry ali­bi against these charges at this point is that he would unable to engage in the alleged sex­u­al acts with these girls because he’s been suf­fer­ing from Parkin­son’s Dis­ease for over two decades. Cocaine abuse is asso­ci­at­ed with the devel­op­ment of Parkin­son’s lat­er in life. Now, it’s cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble that Miller’s Parkin­son’s dis­ease came about for oth­er rea­sons, but it’s worth keep­ing in mind that the Parkin­son’s Dis­ease ali­bi isn’t exact­ly incom­pat­i­ble with tales of cocaine-fueled illic­it sex with young teens:

    ...
    She claims she saw Miller “at least 30 times” between ages 11 and 20, alleg­ing that an asso­ciate of Miller’s “always” gave her cocaine before the encoun­ters, “even when I was 11.”

    ...

    In addi­tion to nam­ing Miller and some of his asso­ci­a­tions, the law­suit tar­gets his com­pa­ny, Future Elec­tron­ics Inc.

    This is because sev­er­al of its employ­ees were alleged­ly involved in the “com­mis­sion of his illic­it acts” and then “pro­mot­ed through the ranks,” Oren­stein told CTV News back in Feb­ru­ary.

    But in Sep­tem­ber, it was announced that Future Elec­tron­ics would be sold to Tai­wanese com­pa­ny WT Micro­elec­tron­ics Co. for US $3.8 bil­lion.

    Oren­stein said the sale could leave class mem­bers emp­ty-hand­ed, even if the judge rules in their favour.
    ...

    And these sor­did details from Madame 42 are just the lat­est updates in a sto­ry that’s been unfold­ing since Feb­ru­ary of this year when the CBC News first report­ed on its inves­ti­ga­tion into Miller. An inves­ti­ga­tion that took over a year and includ­ed inter­views with 10 of his vic­tims.

    As we’re going to see, part of what makes this jour­nal­is­tic inves­ti­ga­tion so depress­ing is that it appears the Mon­tre­al Police nev­er con­duct­ed a real inves­ti­ga­tion but instead a coverup after all this was brought to their atten­tion years ago. Yes, it turns out Miller’s ex-wife hired pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tors to look into her ex-hus­band’s sex­u­al activ­i­ties back in 2006. After just few weeks of inves­ti­gat­ing they had evi­dence of a parade of young women leav­ing one of res­i­dences Miller used for these encoun­ters. Those inves­ti­ga­tors were lat­er approached by peo­ple work­ing for Miller offer­ing $300,000 for them to end their inves­ti­ga­tion. The pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tors report­ed their evi­dence to the Mon­tre­al police.

    In 2009, we are told the police actu­al­ly con­duct­ed a raid on Miller’s Future Elec­tron­ics and brought a num­ber of the women in for inter­views. While they might sounds like a seri­ous inves­ti­ga­tion, we are told that the women felt intim­i­dat­ed by the police dur­ing their inter­views and were being treat­ed like poten­tial crim­i­nals. Beyond that, Miller was appar­ent­ly allowed to have one of his attor­neys sit in dur­ing the girls’ inter­views with the police. The inves­ti­ga­tion was dropped in 2010 and no charges were ever filed.

    Intrigu­ing­ly, Miller appar­ent­ly often bragged to the girls about all the celebri­ties and mod­els he was friends with. He even claimed to write politi­cians’ speech­es. Which rais­es anoth­er Epstein-adja­cent ques­tion in all of this: who else was Miller bring­ing to these par­ties? So far there aren’t any reports on any­one else being involved, but it’s a ques­tion that still lingers over this sto­ry giv­en all the oth­er Epstein par­al­lels:

    CBC News

    The Girls Around Robert Miller

    Robert G. Miller, a reclu­sive Que­bec bil­lion­aire and founder of an elec­tron­ics parts dis­trib­u­tor, alleged­ly paid sev­er­al young girls large sums of mon­ey in exchange for sex­u­al favours for more than a decade. Miller denies all alle­ga­tions.

    By Brigitte Noël, Pasquale Tur­bide, Daniel Trem­blay, Jacques Taschere­au
    Feb. 2, 2023

    WARNING: This sto­ry con­tains graph­ic con­tent some read­ers may find dis­turb­ing.

    Sophie remem­bers hav­ing to hide her new­found for­tune from her par­ents.

    “You don’t make $1,000 deliv­er­ing news­pa­pers,” she says. “I couldn’t bring that mon­ey home and say, ‘Here mom, you can pay off your mort­gage now.’”

    She knew her par­ents wouldn’t approve of her new source of income. At only 14, she had been recruit­ed to have sex with a man 40 years her senior, a wealthy busi­ness­man who said his name was Bob.

    She says their first encounter was at Montreal’s Queen Eliz­a­beth Hotel, in the late 1990s.

    “We had sex­u­al inter­course. He didn’t wear a con­dom. It was real­ly dis­gust­ing,” she says. “I just closed my eyes and tried to think of some­thing else.”

    She says she was accom­pa­nied by the friend who recruit­ed her, also a minor.

    For near­ly a year, Radio-Canada’s Enquête has been inves­ti­gat­ing the sto­ry of “Bob Adams,” the pseu­do­nym Robert G. Miller alleged­ly used with most of the young women who say they had sex­u­al rela­tions with him.

    The founder of Future Elec­tron­ics, a world­wide dis­trib­u­tor of elec­tron­ic parts, Miller is one of Quebec’s rich­est busi­ness­men. He’s also among the most elu­sive. He rarely gives inter­views, and pho­tos of him are hard to come by. His low pro­file has its perks, since many women say it took them years to find out the true iden­ti­ty of the rich old­er man who recruit­ed them for sex.

    Of the 10 women who told us their sto­ries, six were minors when they say they were paid to have sex with Miller. All of them described sim­i­lar encoun­ters, with rewards that includ­ed envelopes of cash, exot­ic trips and hock­ey bags full of gifts.

    Accord­ing to these women, this was part of a sophis­ti­cat­ed scheme that sources say recruit­ed numer­ous young women and girls, from 1994 to at least 2006.

    A lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the 79-year old bil­lion­aire sent CBC/Ra­dio-Cana­da a let­ter say­ing these alle­ga­tions are “false and vig­or­ous­ly con­test­ed.” He adds that his client, who is in the final stages of Parkinson’s dis­ease, is too sick to grant CBC an inter­view.

    None of the women agreed to be iden­ti­fied, for fear of the con­se­quences. We also agreed to pro­tect their iden­ti­ty because they were minors at the time of the alleged events. The women quot­ed in this sto­ry have been giv­en pseu­do­nyms.

    A mys­te­ri­ous bil­lion­aire

    If you’ve nev­er heard of Robert G. Miller, that’s because the bil­lion­aire has made con­sid­er­able efforts to pro­tect his pri­va­cy.

    ...

    Born in Mon­tre­al in 1943, Miller found­ed Future Elec­tron­ics when he was 25. He has since grown the busi­ness into one of the world’s largest sup­pli­ers of elec­tron­ic com­po­nents, with 5,500 employ­ees and branch­es in 44 coun­tries. Accord­ing to Forbes, he’s worth close to $2 bil­lion US.

    With­in the com­pa­ny, the busi­ness­man is con­sid­ered a vision­ary. “Our most valu­able intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is Robert Miller’s brain,” one of the company’s vice-pres­i­dents told reporters in 2010.

    The busi­ness­man has tried to extend the life of this valu­able asset. An arti­cle pub­lished in 2014 says Miller was pas­sion­ate about cry­on­ics, and had invest­ed in this tech­nol­o­gy, which claims to be able to pre­serve bod­ies in liq­uid nitro­gen.

    ‘He liked them young, young, young’

    Jane, now in her 40s, believes she was one of the first young girls to meet with Miller, in the mid-1990s.

    At the time, Jane was a 17-year-old run­away des­per­ate for cash. She respond­ed to a clas­si­fied ad in the back pages of a news­pa­per, hop­ing to make a few dol­lars.

    “I knew what was going to hap­pen, I knew I was going to be ‘pulling a trick.’”

    She says the ad had been placed by a mid­dle-aged man named Ray­mond Poulet, who recruit­ed girls for a clien­tèle that includ­ed Robert Miller.

    Jane says Poulet con­vinced her to meet Miller in a Mon­tre­al hotel room, where the bil­lion­aire made her undress and pose for pho­tos. For this, she was paid $1,000.

    “In the late ’90s, $1,000 for a few hours was a lot of mon­ey. It still is,” she says. When she turned 18, she says she had a sec­ond sex­u­al encounter with Miller, in the com­pa­ny of anoth­er young girl.

    While Jane didn’t sleep with the bil­lion­aire again, she was sucked into his orbit, help­ing him recruit oth­er women. She says she saw Poulet bring many oth­er young women to vis­it the busi­ness­man. She believes the youngest, anoth­er teen run­away, was only 14 years old, “a 14-year-old with lit­tle curls and a baby face.”

    ...

    “He liked them young, young, young,” Julia says. In the ear­ly 2000s, she says many of her friends and school­mates met the busi­ness­man for sex while they were under­age.

    “He liked the youngest girls pos­si­ble, with nice thin bod­ies,” she says. “Real­ly more the ‘lit­tle girl’ types.”

    When Saman­tha end­ed up in Miller’s hotel suite, she was 15. She’d also been brought in by Poulet.

    At first, she says, Miller sat her down and spent an hour show­ing her pho­tos of a naked young woman. Then he took her into the bath­room for a bath. “He start­ed wash­ing me every­where, every­where, every­where, even my gen­i­tals. And after, he said: ‘You’re going to wash me,’‘’ she says. “He washed me while insert­ing his fin­ger inside me.”

    When they stepped out of the tub, she says Miller tried to get her into bed. At this point, Saman­tha pan­icked and asked to leave. The busi­ness­man gave her $1,500, half of which went to Poulet.

    Thir­ty years lat­er, Saman­tha is still shak­en by the expe­ri­ence.

    ...

    Sophie describes a sim­i­lar feel­ing: “Who can you tell, espe­cial­ly at that age,” she says. “I wasn’t about to go see my moth­er like: ‘Hey mom, I real­ly don’t feel well, I slept with an old man for mon­ey, can you help me?’

    “I got myself in that posi­tion,” she adds. “At the time, at 14, I didn’t have the matu­ri­ty or the knowl­edge to be able to get up and leave.”

    Sophie says her young age made her incred­i­bly vul­ner­a­ble to Miller’s manip­u­la­tion tac­tics.

    She describes how the busi­ness­man would brag about being friends with celebri­ties and mod­els and say that he had helped their careers.

    “He knew I was mod­el­ling and said he was going to help me become a super­mod­el.”

    She says she believed he was her friend and that he would take care of her. But her new men­tor had needs: “He said I could make more mon­ey, that I could bring him new girls instead.”

    Sophie esti­mates she brought him about 10 of her girl­friends, oth­er under­aged teens she recruit­ed at her high school.

    “At one point he even asked me to bring him some­one who had nev­er had sex,” she says. “I said: ‘For­get it.’”

    Many of the girls told Radio-Cana­da that recruit­ing oth­ers meant they’d be off the hook for sex with the old­er man.

    ...

    The ‘f–k tub’

    Montreal’s Inter­con­ti­nen­tal Hotel was alleged­ly, for a peri­od in the late 1990s, the main loca­tion of Miller’s sex­u­al encoun­ters.

    His exploits didn’t go unno­ticed. Sev­er­al staff mem­bers told Radio-Cana­da that the bil­lion­aire had a room he reserved year-round.

    For­mer Inter­con­ti­nen­tal employ­ees say he would come to the hotel, spend a few hours receiv­ing vis­i­tors, and then leave with­out ever spend­ing the night. He also had the room ren­o­vat­ed on his own dime, adding a mas­sive bath­tub to the wash­room.

    “We called it the f—k tub,” says Don­na Loupret, the hotel’s for­mer direc­tor of secu­ri­ty.

    In a writ­ten state­ment to Radio-Cana­da, Miller’s lawyer says the bil­lion­aire rent­ed the room because he need­ed a calm place to work and rest, and that the bath was changed to accom­mo­date a hand­i­cap caused by his ill­ness.

    But accord­ing to Loupret, staff had begun to notice the parade of women vis­it­ing Miller, and they believed the bath had been remod­elled to hold more than one per­son.

    “Mr. Miller had a lot of vis­i­tors, a lot of very young ladies,” she says. “My team that worked at night would report to me, because that was their respon­si­bil­i­ty to do that, and this young man said to me, ‘Don­na, it’s ter­ri­ble. These girls are so young.’”

    As she paid more atten­tion to the billionaire’s vis­its, she noticed that a man named Ray­mond Poulet would often occu­py a suite on the same floor. She says the girls would vis­it Poulet’s room first before head­ing to Miller’s suite.

    Her staff began to keep a clos­er eye on these vis­i­tors, cre­at­ing ten­sions that cul­mi­nat­ed in Miller call­ing Loupret direct­ly.

    As he com­plained that hotel staff had been harass­ing his “man,” Ray­mond Poulet, Loupret says she inter­rupt­ed him with a ques­tion: “By the way, Mr. Miller, aren’t those girls awful­ly young?”

    The busi­ness­man report­ed­ly told her the young women were his nieces. “Your nieces? You got a hell of a lot of nieces,” Loupret remem­bers say­ing. “Then he hung up.”

    Despite staff’s con­cerns, Loupret says she wasn’t able to push the case any fur­ther. The young women com­ing to the hotel nev­er com­plained about Miller.

    “I was just hop­ing that one of the girls would be cry­ing or some­thing so I could say, ‘Can I help you,’ just any­thing.”

    The ‘guest house’

    In the ear­ly 2000s, Miller seems to have trans­ferred his activ­i­ties to 380 Olivi­er Ave., a large brick house in Montreal’s wealthy West­mount neigh­bour­hood.

    While the busi­ness­man didn’t live there, he often used it to wel­come guests.

    The women Radio-Cana­da spoke to all describe sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences: a first stop in the main floor liv­ing room, where Miller offered them alco­hol and asked ques­tions about their lives.

    Julia remem­bers this rit­u­al well. “First you had a glass of some­thing, he asked if you want­ed to eat any­thing,” she says. “But he want­ed to talk, talk, talk.”

    The bil­lion­aire asked them about school and want­ed to learn about their dreams and ambi­tions.

    In return, he offered very lit­tle reli­able infor­ma­tion about him­self. He bragged about writ­ing politi­cians’ speech­es and said he knew many celebri­ties. Some told us they believed the man they called Bob Adams owned a radio sta­tion in Cal­i­for­nia, a claim bol­stered by a room full of com­pact discs he kept in the base­ment. “He real­ly loved Céline Dion,” says Jane. “He would give us Céline Dion CDs.”

    After the con­ver­sa­tions, Miller invari­ably took the girls into the base­ment. Here, he pre­sent­ed them with a ver­i­ta­ble trea­sure trove of gifts, like dia­mond jew­el­ry, Victoria’s Secret cloth­ing and design­er hand­bags.

    “It was like a store for us,” says Julia, adding that the bil­lion­aire seemed to buy things in bulk.

    “Some­times, you’d see girls at school, and with­out ask­ing them you would know they were see­ing Bob because they were wear­ing the same jew­el­ry as you.”

    Julia describes a bath­room reserved for the girls’ use, in which they were invit­ed to wash and shave. “Once we were ready, we’d go see him in our bathrobes,” she says, adding that the bil­lion­aire liked see­ing two girls at a time.

    “Being two, we’d have this mutu­al encour­age­ment that gave us more strength to do it,” she says. “It all went rel­a­tive­ly quick­ly.”

    After sex, the girls say Miller took out envelopes of cash he’d pre­pared in advance, any­where between $1,500 to $4,000.

    The whole ordeal was over in less than two hours, but for many, the impact was long-last­ing.

    Some women told us they lived a type of Stock­holm Syn­drome, becom­ing con­vinced that Miller was their friend, a well-mean­ing bene­fac­tor. This was par­tic­u­lar­ly true for some of his favourites, who were alleged­ly treat­ed with all-expens­es paid inter­na­tion­al trips, lux­u­ry shop­ping sprees and limo rides.

    Despite these perks – or per­haps because of them – many girls report feel­ing iso­lat­ed and trapped.

    “You become stuck,” says Julia. “It’s hard to get out of that world because you’ve become used to easy mon­ey. Going to work after, back then it was $10 an hour, that wasn’t easy.”

    Julia says many of the girls she knew back then ditched their post-sec­ondary ambi­tions to go into sex work, oth­ers fell into drug use.

    “Things went bad­ly for sev­er­al of them,” she says.

    When Miller would stop call­ing them back, some girls told us they felt aban­doned.

    ...

    The entourage

    To put his sys­tem in place, Miller sur­round­ed him­self with men he seem­ing­ly paid to orga­nize and con­ceal his illic­it activ­i­ties. This group includ­ed sev­er­al men with direct ties to Future Elec­tron­ics.

    Like Sam Joseph Abrams, who worked with Miller and Future Elec­tron­ics for more than 50 years.

    Accord­ing to LinkedIn, he is cur­rent­ly one of the company’s exec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dents.

    How­ev­er, sources tell us Abrams also orga­nized his boss’s extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties: rent­ing hotel rooms, vet­ting new­ly recruit­ed girls, orga­niz­ing trips and hand­ing out pay­ments. The girls tell us they knew him by his mid­dle name, Joseph, and believed he was Miller’s sec­re­tary.

    On LinkedIn, Poulet claims he is also employed by Future Elec­tron­ics, as Miller’s pri­vate advis­er. When our reporters con­tact­ed Future to speak with Poulet, the recep­tion­ist said no one by that name appeared in the com­pa­ny direc­to­ry.

    “They were real­ly smart because there was always a mid­dle­man,” says Jane.

    “Ray­mond Poulet picked up the young girls and pre­sent­ed them to Joseph, who was the mid­dle­man, nev­er Miller. And Joseph, he’s going to be able to say that Miller didn’t know the girls were minor.”

    Yet the women all agree that Miller was absolute­ly aware of their young age.

    “Miller knew the recruit­ment was being done in a high school,” says Jane.

    “He was aware of this, it was a fre­quent top­ic of dis­cus­sion.”

    In Que­bec, stu­dents usu­al­ly grad­u­ate high school at age 17 to attend CEGEP, a post-sec­ondary edu­ca­tion pro­gram.

    “So if this was hap­pen­ing in high schools, they’re most cer­tain­ly minors,” says Jane.

    ...

    $300K to ‘give us what you got’

    In 2006, pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor John West­lake says he was hired by Miller’s ex-wife, who sus­pect­ed her for­mer spouse of sex­u­al mis­con­duct involv­ing minors.

    West­lake set up a sur­veil­lance oper­a­tion.

    A vet­er­an police offi­cer who spent the major­i­ty of his career work­ing in units inves­ti­gat­ing orga­nized crime and gangs, the detec­tive thought he’d seen it all.

    “After three or four days, myself and my team, we were amazed at what was going on,” he says.

    For 21 days, they observed a parade of young girls going in and out of the house at 380 Olivi­er Ave. in West­mount, often exit­ing with hock­ey bags.

    “We were con­cerned that there were some young girls. When I say young, I mean, 16, 17, 15 years old,” he says. His team man­aged to iden­ti­fy a few of the young women, includ­ing one minor, a 17-year-old.

    But the bil­lion­aire even­tu­al­ly learned about their inves­ti­ga­tion and sent his secu­ri­ty team, a com­pa­ny named the Nation­al Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion Ser­vice (NCIS), to ques­tion West­lake. Miller’s men, a pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor named Ter­ence Cor­co­ran and an ex-police offi­cer named Stephen Roberts, asked West­lake to tell them about his find­ings.

    When West­lake refused, the two men came back with anoth­er propo­si­tion.

    “Stephen Roberts said: ‘We’ll give you $300,000 to stop doing the inves­ti­ga­tion. Give us what you got,’” West­lake says.

    He adds that he and his part­ner head­ed straight to the police sta­tion to report this inci­dent.

    In response to CBC’s ques­tions, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing Roberts and Cor­co­ran — and NCIS — wrote that his clients vig­or­ous­ly deny these alle­ga­tions, which he said were false and unfound­ed. Over the phone, Roberts denied ever offer­ing mon­ey to West­lake.

    A police inves­ti­ga­tion, but no charges

    In May 2009, years after she had left the Inter­con­ti­nen­tal, Loupret was con­tact­ed by Mon­tre­al police’s child sex­u­al exploita­tion unit, which was inves­ti­gat­ing Miller.

    She says the team record­ed her depo­si­tion: “I said, ‘Oh, now, now it’s going to stop.”

    That Novem­ber, the same police unit exe­cut­ed a search war­rant at the Future Elec­tron­ics head­quar­ters.

    Sources say the war­rant actu­al­ly tar­get­ed the offices of NCIS, which is owned by Cor­co­ran and locat­ed in the same build­ing. The details of this war­rant are sealed.

    Police took pho­tos of Miller and mem­bers of his entourage, which our reporters obtained.

    They fea­ture Roberts and Cor­co­ran, along with Poulet and Abrams.

    Accord­ing to sources with knowl­edge of the case, this was part of a sel­dom-used police tac­tic that aims to help vic­tims iden­ti­fy per­pe­tra­tors whose true iden­ti­ties they may not know.

    Mon­tre­al police declined to com­ment on this inves­ti­ga­tion. But sources tell us they met more than 10 vic­tims in the course of their inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Sophie, who first slept with the bil­lion­aire at age 14 and also brought him oth­er girls, was among those ques­tioned. She says she felt forced to par­tic­i­pate.

    “They want­ed me to tell them about Bob and every­thing, or else they said they would arrest me for run­ning a youth pros­ti­tu­tion ring.”

    By then, Sophie was in her mid-20s and had an estab­lished career. She has turned her life around, and she’s reluc­tant to revis­it this painful peri­od of her life.

    She describes an intim­i­dat­ing meet­ing with police, in which she says she was made to feel like a crim­i­nal.

    “They said my age back then didn’t mat­ter, that I’d be tried as an adult with an adult sen­tence,” she says. “I was com­plete­ly flab­ber­gast­ed.”

    “They almost treat­ed us like crim­i­nals,” says Jane, who was also involved in the inves­ti­ga­tion.

    “They took our fin­ger­prints, our pho­tos from the side, from the front. When you act like that with vic­tims, it’s super intim­i­dat­ing.”

    Jane faced anoth­er form of intim­i­da­tion. She says that Miller hired a lawyer to accom­pa­ny many of the girls dur­ing their meet­ings with police. Con­fi­den­tial sources con­firm this lawyer was present dur­ing many of the vic­tim inter­views.

    “His role, if you ask me, was to ensure we didn’t talk,” Jane says, adding that she refused to co-oper­ate.

    On her end, Sophie says she revealed every­thing, even agree­ing to tes­ti­fy in court, if nec­es­sary, but it wasn’t enough.

    Mon­tre­al police closed the inves­ti­ga­tion in 2010. No charges were ever laid.

    ...

    Robert G. Miller denies every­thing

    In a let­ter to Radio-Cana­da, Miller’s lawyer says the alle­ga­tions are false and mali­cious. He says his client has nev­er had sex­u­al rela­tions with a per­son below the age of con­sent which, at the time of the alleged events, was 14.

    Yet the Crim­i­nal Code is clear on the mat­ter: when sex­u­al con­tact with a minor is paid for, con­sent is void and the act is con­sid­ered ille­gal.

    Miller’s attor­ney went on to say his client has been impo­tent for more than 20 years.

    He includ­ed with this state­ment two notes from a neu­rol­o­gist, who says he’s known Miller since 1996 and that the bil­lion­aire suf­fers from very severe erec­tile dif­fi­cul­ties, caused by his Parkinson’s dis­ease.

    Loupret, the for­mer direc­tor of secu­ri­ty at the Inter­con­ti­nen­tal Hotel, says this sto­ry has haunt­ed her for years.

    “All the infor­ma­tion, all the proof, all the stuff that every­body inves­ti­gat­ed and noth­ing hap­pens,” she says. “That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

    West­lake says that while he found a way to cope with many of the crimes he inves­ti­gat­ed in his years as a police offi­cer, this case has had a last­ing impact.

    “It doesn’t leave you for a long time,” he says. “It nev­er left me or my friends.”

    Because of how she was treat­ed by police, Sophie says she doesn’t intend to col­lab­o­rate with police if the inves­ti­ga­tion is reopened.

    On her end, Jane hopes that shar­ing her expe­ri­ences will help give courage to oth­er women who until now have been afraid to talk.

    “Speak out, speak out. File a com­plaint. His name is Robert Miller. ‘Bob’ is Robert Miller.”

    ———

    “The Girls ARound Robert Miller” By Brigitte Noël, Pasquale Tur­bide, Daniel Trem­blay, Jacques Taschere­au; CBC News; 02/02/2023

    “Of the 10 women who told us their sto­ries, six were minors when they say they were paid to have sex with Miller. All of them described sim­i­lar encoun­ters, with rewards that includ­ed envelopes of cash, exot­ic trips and hock­ey bags full of gifts.”

    One girl after anoth­er with the same sto­ry. It’s pret­ty com­pelling evi­dence. And that evi­dence points towards these kinds of encoun­ters tak­ing place from 1994 until at least 2006, which hap­pens to over­lap quite a bit with the sex traf­fick­ing ring Jef­frey Epstein was also oper­at­ing in the 1990s (and pos­si­bly 80s). And then there’s the fact that both Miller and Epstein shared a deep inter­est in cry­on­ics. The sim­i­lar­i­ties between these two secret bil­lion­aire sex rings are so com­pelling that we have to ask: so did Miller and Epstein know each oth­er? Because they clear­ly had a lot of shared inter­ests:

    ...
    For near­ly a year, Radio-Canada’s Enquête has been inves­ti­gat­ing the sto­ry of “Bob Adams,” the pseu­do­nym Robert G. Miller alleged­ly used with most of the young women who say they had sex­u­al rela­tions with him.

    The founder of Future Elec­tron­ics, a world­wide dis­trib­u­tor of elec­tron­ic parts, Miller is one of Quebec’s rich­est busi­ness­men. He’s also among the most elu­sive. He rarely gives inter­views, and pho­tos of him are hard to come by. His low pro­file has its perks, since many women say it took them years to find out the true iden­ti­ty of the rich old­er man who recruit­ed them for sex.

    ...

    Accord­ing to these women, this was part of a sophis­ti­cat­ed scheme that sources say recruit­ed numer­ous young women and girls, from 1994 to at least 2006.

    A lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the 79-year old bil­lion­aire sent CBC/Ra­dio-Cana­da a let­ter say­ing these alle­ga­tions are “false and vig­or­ous­ly con­test­ed.” He adds that his client, who is in the final stages of Parkinson’s dis­ease, is too sick to grant CBC an inter­view.

    ...

    Born in Mon­tre­al in 1943, Miller found­ed Future Elec­tron­ics when he was 25. He has since grown the busi­ness into one of the world’s largest sup­pli­ers of elec­tron­ic com­po­nents, with 5,500 employ­ees and branch­es in 44 coun­tries. Accord­ing to Forbes, he’s worth close to $2 bil­lion US.

    With­in the com­pa­ny, the busi­ness­man is con­sid­ered a vision­ary. “Our most valu­able intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is Robert Miller’s brain,” one of the company’s vice-pres­i­dents told reporters in 2010.

    The busi­ness­man has tried to extend the life of this valu­able asset. An arti­cle pub­lished in 2014 says Miller was pas­sion­ate about cry­on­ics, and had invest­ed in this tech­nol­o­gy, which claims to be able to pre­serve bod­ies in liq­uid nitro­gen.
    ...

    And as with Epstein, there’s the ques­tion of just how well known were these activ­i­ties at the time. Like the instal­la­tion of the ‘f–k tub’ at Montreal’s Inter­con­ti­nen­tal Hotel. The staff was clear­ly alarmed by the num­ber of obvi­ous­ly very young women who own rou­tine­ly meet with ‘Bob’ for two hour episodes at the hotel. This was an open secret:

    ...
    The ‘f–k tub’

    Montreal’s Inter­con­ti­nen­tal Hotel was alleged­ly, for a peri­od in the late 1990s, the main loca­tion of Miller’s sex­u­al encoun­ters.

    His exploits didn’t go unno­ticed. Sev­er­al staff mem­bers told Radio-Cana­da that the bil­lion­aire had a room he reserved year-round.

    For­mer Inter­con­ti­nen­tal employ­ees say he would come to the hotel, spend a few hours receiv­ing vis­i­tors, and then leave with­out ever spend­ing the night. He also had the room ren­o­vat­ed on his own dime, adding a mas­sive bath­tub to the wash­room.

    “We called it the f—k tub,” says Don­na Loupret, the hotel’s for­mer direc­tor of secu­ri­ty.

    ...

    “Mr. Miller had a lot of vis­i­tors, a lot of very young ladies,” she says. “My team that worked at night would report to me, because that was their respon­si­bil­i­ty to do that, and this young man said to me, ‘Don­na, it’s ter­ri­ble. These girls are so young.’”

    As she paid more atten­tion to the billionaire’s vis­its, she noticed that a man named Ray­mond Poulet would often occu­py a suite on the same floor. She says the girls would vis­it Poulet’s room first before head­ing to Miller’s suite.

    Her staff began to keep a clos­er eye on these vis­i­tors, cre­at­ing ten­sions that cul­mi­nat­ed in Miller call­ing Loupret direct­ly.

    As he com­plained that hotel staff had been harass­ing his “man,” Ray­mond Poulet, Loupret says she inter­rupt­ed him with a ques­tion: “By the way, Mr. Miller, aren’t those girls awful­ly young?”

    The busi­ness­man report­ed­ly told her the young women were his nieces. “Your nieces? You got a hell of a lot of nieces,” Loupret remem­bers say­ing. “Then he hung up.”

    Despite staff’s con­cerns, Loupret says she wasn’t able to push the case any fur­ther. The young women com­ing to the hotel nev­er com­plained about Miller.
    ...

    And then there’s the ques­tion about who else was in Miller’s orbit? He appar­ent­ly kept brag­ging to the girls about how he was friends with celebri­ties and mod­els, and even writ­ing politi­cians’ speech­es. That may have just been brag­ging, but it’s not hard to imag­ine a hard par­ty­ing ultra-secre­tive bil­lion­aire had a lot of pow­er­ful friends:

    ...
    Sophie says her young age made her incred­i­bly vul­ner­a­ble to Miller’s manip­u­la­tion tac­tics.

    She describes how the busi­ness­man would brag about being friends with celebri­ties and mod­els and say that he had helped their careers.

    “He knew I was mod­el­ling and said he was going to help me become a super­mod­el.”

    She says she believed he was her friend and that he would take care of her. But her new men­tor had needs: “He said I could make more mon­ey, that I could bring him new girls instead.”

    Sophie esti­mates she brought him about 10 of her girl­friends, oth­er under­aged teens she recruit­ed at her high school.

    “At one point he even asked me to bring him some­one who had nev­er had sex,” she says. “I said: ‘For­get it.’”

    ...

    The ‘guest house’

    In the ear­ly 2000s, Miller seems to have trans­ferred his activ­i­ties to 380 Olivi­er Ave., a large brick house in Montreal’s wealthy West­mount neigh­bour­hood.

    While the busi­ness­man didn’t live there, he often used it to wel­come guests.

    The women Radio-Cana­da spoke to all describe sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences: a first stop in the main floor liv­ing room, where Miller offered them alco­hol and asked ques­tions about their lives.

    Julia remem­bers this rit­u­al well. “First you had a glass of some­thing, he asked if you want­ed to eat any­thing,” she says. “But he want­ed to talk, talk, talk.”

    The bil­lion­aire asked them about school and want­ed to learn about their dreams and ambi­tions.

    In return, he offered very lit­tle reli­able infor­ma­tion about him­self. He bragged about writ­ing politi­cians’ speech­es and said he knew many celebri­ties. Some told us they believed the man they called Bob Adams owned a radio sta­tion in Cal­i­for­nia, a claim bol­stered by a room full of com­pact discs he kept in the base­ment. “He real­ly loved Céline Dion,” says Jane. “He would give us Céline Dion CDs.”
    ...

    And that brings us to the oth­er echos of Epstein in this sto­ry: the kid glove treat­ment by law enforce­ment. Start­ing with the pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tors hired by Miller’s ex-wife who went to the police in 2006 to report an appar­ent attempt by Miller to pay them $300,000 to end their inves­ti­ga­tion into his sex­u­al pro­cliv­i­ties. That’s one hell of an inves­tiga­tive lead:

    ...
    $300K to ‘give us what you got’

    In 2006, pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor John West­lake says he was hired by Miller’s ex-wife, who sus­pect­ed her for­mer spouse of sex­u­al mis­con­duct involv­ing minors.

    West­lake set up a sur­veil­lance oper­a­tion.

    ...

    For 21 days, they observed a parade of young girls going in and out of the house at 380 Olivi­er Ave. in West­mount, often exit­ing with hock­ey bags.

    “We were con­cerned that there were some young girls. When I say young, I mean, 16, 17, 15 years old,” he says. His team man­aged to iden­ti­fy a few of the young women, includ­ing one minor, a 17-year-old.

    But the bil­lion­aire even­tu­al­ly learned about their inves­ti­ga­tion and sent his secu­ri­ty team, a com­pa­ny named the Nation­al Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion Ser­vice (NCIS), to ques­tion West­lake. Miller’s men, a pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor named Ter­ence Cor­co­ran and an ex-police offi­cer named Stephen Roberts, asked West­lake to tell them about his find­ings.

    When West­lake refused, the two men came back with anoth­er propo­si­tion.

    “Stephen Roberts said: ‘We’ll give you $300,000 to stop doing the inves­ti­ga­tion. Give us what you got,’” West­lake says.

    He adds that he and his part­ner head­ed straight to the police sta­tion to report this inci­dent.
    ...

    It does­n’t appear the Mon­tre­al police actu­al­ly start­ed a for­mal inves­ti­ga­tion until 2009, which end­ed with no charges but a lot of the girls feel­ing like they had been intim­i­dat­ed. Miller was even allowed to have one of his lawyers accom­pa­ny many of the girls dur­ing their meet­ings with police. Which is the kind of detail that makes that inves­ti­ga­tion sound more like an offi­cial coverup:

    ...
    In May 2009, years after she had left the Inter­con­ti­nen­tal, Loupret was con­tact­ed by Mon­tre­al police’s child sex­u­al exploita­tion unit, which was inves­ti­gat­ing Miller.

    ...

    That Novem­ber, the same police unit exe­cut­ed a search war­rant at the Future Elec­tron­ics head­quar­ters.

    Sources say the war­rant actu­al­ly tar­get­ed the offices of NCIS, which is owned by Cor­co­ran and locat­ed in the same build­ing. The details of this war­rant are sealed.

    Police took pho­tos of Miller and mem­bers of his entourage, which our reporters obtained.

    They fea­ture Roberts and Cor­co­ran, along with Poulet and Abrams.

    Accord­ing to sources with knowl­edge of the case, this was part of a sel­dom-used police tac­tic that aims to help vic­tims iden­ti­fy per­pe­tra­tors whose true iden­ti­ties they may not know.

    Mon­tre­al police declined to com­ment on this inves­ti­ga­tion. But sources tell us they met more than 10 vic­tims in the course of their inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Sophie, who first slept with the bil­lion­aire at age 14 and also brought him oth­er girls, was among those ques­tioned. She says she felt forced to par­tic­i­pate.

    “They want­ed me to tell them about Bob and every­thing, or else they said they would arrest me for run­ning a youth pros­ti­tu­tion ring.”

    ...

    She describes an intim­i­dat­ing meet­ing with police, in which she says she was made to feel like a crim­i­nal.

    “They said my age back then didn’t mat­ter, that I’d be tried as an adult with an adult sen­tence,” she says. “I was com­plete­ly flab­ber­gast­ed.”

    “They almost treat­ed us like crim­i­nals,” says Jane, who was also involved in the inves­ti­ga­tion.

    “They took our fin­ger­prints, our pho­tos from the side, from the front. When you act like that with vic­tims, it’s super intim­i­dat­ing.”

    Jane faced anoth­er form of intim­i­da­tion. She says that Miller hired a lawyer to accom­pa­ny many of the girls dur­ing their meet­ings with police. Con­fi­den­tial sources con­firm this lawyer was present dur­ing many of the vic­tim inter­views.

    “His role, if you ask me, was to ensure we didn’t talk,” Jane says, adding that she refused to co-oper­ate.

    On her end, Sophie says she revealed every­thing, even agree­ing to tes­ti­fy in court, if nec­es­sary, but it wasn’t enough.

    Mon­tre­al police closed the inves­ti­ga­tion in 2010. No charges were ever laid.
    ...

    “On her end, Sophie says she revealed every­thing, even agree­ing to tes­ti­fy in court, if nec­es­sary, but it wasn’t enough.”

    It sure would be inter­est­ing to know what kind of evi­dence the police were sit­ting on when they closed that inves­ti­ga­tion. And that’s part of what makes the ongo­ing class action law­suit by these vic­tims so inter­est­ing to watch play out. It’s not just a legal bat­tle to secure some sort of finan­cial com­pen­sa­tion for the vic­tims but the kind of law­suit that could even­tu­al­ly shed light on what was known back when the case was closed. Who else was being pro­tect­ed with the pre­ma­ture clo­sure of that inves­ti­ga­tion? At this point there isn’t any indi­ca­tion of any­one else in par­tic­u­lar. But there sure are a lot of indi­ca­tions there’s a lot more under this high­ly secre­tive and pro­tect­ed rock.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 2, 2023, 6:08 pm
  15. He just can’t stop. Elon Musk ‘poked the bear’ again. This time it was a retweet of a dis­cred­it­ed Piz­za­gate meme. The fifth time in a week. Musk has ‘Piz­za­gate’ on his mind and he can’t stop shar­ing memes about it.

    This is all hap­pen­ing, of course, right in the mid­dle of X’s adver­tis­er exo­dus over the grow­ing prob­lem with anti­semitism and far right con­tent on the plat­form. For some rea­son, Musk has deter­mined this was the time to push Piz­za­gate memes. Repeat­ed­ly.

    it’s also rather notable that this is hap­pen­ing after last mon­th’s deci­sion by Aus­tralia to fine X for fail­ing to crack down on child abuse con­tent. Is Musk per­haps try­ing to cre­ate a counter-nar­ra­tive about X and child abuse in advance of even worse rev­e­la­tions about child abuse con­tent? Who knows, but some­thing has him fix­at­ed on this top­ic of late to the point where he seem­ing­ly can’t stop tweet­ing about it despite the obvi­ous dam­age.

    So it’s worth keep­ing in mind one of Musk’s oth­er creepy kid-relat­ed obses­sions: declin­ing birth rates and his spon­sor­ship of the ‘prona­tal­ism’ move­ment. As we’ve seen, Musk has become a lead­ing ‘prona­tal­ist’ spon­sor. As we’re going to see, Musk donat­ed $10 mil­lion to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas in Austin to cre­ate the Pop­u­la­tion Well­be­ing Ini­tia­tive (PWI), which is basi­cal­ly a research pro­gram tasked with putting this prona­tal­ist ide­ol­o­gy into an aca­d­e­m­ic form.

    As we’re also going to see, this move­ment now includes wannabe fas­cist Amer­i­can war­lord Charles Hay­wood. Yes, it turns out Hay­wood is one of the speak­ers sched­uled for Decem­ber’s “Natal­ist Con­fer­ence”.

    So while it does­n’t appear to make busi­ness sense for Elon Musk to repeat­ed­ly push anti­semitism and memes like Piz­za­gate, it’s impor­tant to real­ize that it does make fas­cist sense. And fas­cist sense is a kind of busi­ness sense, at least if you’re part of the fas­cist cabal in charge of every­thing. It’s a dynam­ic that’s sad­ly going to be increas­ing­ly impor­tant to keep an eye on while try­ing to make sense of Elon Musk’s bizarre busi­ness deci­sions: He keeps mak­ing deci­sions that make no sense, unless you assume he’s gam­bling on a loom­ing fas­cist takeover:

    NBC News

    Elon Musk has boost­ed the ‘piz­za­gate’ con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry five times in the last two weeks

    A new iter­a­tion of “piz­za­gate” has focused on unfound­ed claims that jour­nal­ists were part of the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry.

    By Ben Gog­gin
    Nov. 28, 2023, 5:09 PM CST

    Elon Musk con­tin­ued to boost a debunked con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry Tues­day, post­ing and lat­er delet­ing a meme on X that referred to a fringe, far-right claim that sought to con­nect mem­bers of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty with child abuse.

    Musk wrote “does seem at least a lit­tle sus­pi­cious” along­side a meme draw­ing from the TV show “The Office,” which includ­ed fake dia­logue super­im­posed on images of a char­ac­ter argu­ing that “Piz­za­gate is real,” a ref­er­ence to a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that gained trac­tion in 2016 and cul­mi­nat­ed with a North Car­oli­na man’s open­ing fire in a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., piz­za restau­rant. NBC News reviewed the post before it was tak­en down.

    In anoth­er post reply­ing to the first, Musk linked to an Asso­ci­at­ed Press arti­cle pub­lished by NBC News about an ABC News journalist’s plead­ing guilty to fed­er­al child pornog­ra­phy charges. NBC News could not locate any con­tent relat­ed to piz­za­gate pub­lished by the ABC News jour­nal­ist on his archived author page.

    ...

    Since Nov. 20, Musk has respond­ed to tweets refer­ring to piz­za­gate four oth­er times. The posts are a recent iter­a­tion of the debunked the­o­ry focused on unfound­ed insin­u­a­tions that jour­nal­ists were part of the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry.

    Musk remains embroiled in con­tro­ver­sy for an X post this month in which he boost­ed an anti­se­mit­ic con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry. Since then, he has denied he is anti­se­mit­ic, vis­it­ing Israel and meet­ing with gov­ern­ment offi­cials, includ­ing Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu.

    That has done lit­tle to stop adver­tis­ers from leav­ing the plat­form. On Tues­day, The Wash­ing­ton Post said it would pause adver­tis­ing on it, accord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton­ian, cit­ing a Post spokesper­son.

    Mike Roth­schild, an author who has writ­ten sev­er­al books about the rise of recent extreme con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, said the ver­sion of piz­za­gate that Musk is pro­mot­ing is dif­fer­ent from and more expan­sive than the orig­i­nal con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that inspired the 2016 shoot­ing.

    That the­o­ry focused on the false claim that a child traf­fick­ing ring was being run out of the Comet Ping Pong piz­za restau­rant. No evi­dence has ever been found to val­i­date that claim.

    “Now it’s just code for ‘bad stuff elites are doing to kids,’” Roth­schild said.

    “There’s def­i­nite­ly a risk to him pro­mot­ing this, even if he thinks it’s a joke,” he said. “He’s turn­ing a lot of peo­ple who weren’t red­pilled for piz­za­gate in 2016 on to hard-core con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and anti­semitism and giv­ing it a major plat­form.”

    The ABC News jour­nal­ist Musk referred to was fold­ed into online dis­cus­sion of piz­za­gate when a fake New York Post head­line cir­cu­lat­ed that was fab­ri­cat­ed to say the jour­nal­ist had had a hand in “debunk­ing” piz­za­gate.

    A sim­i­lar head­line was applied to a dif­fer­ent jour­nal­ist who also became the sub­ject of posts from Musk. That jour­nal­ist, who was fea­tured in three piz­za­gate-relat­ed posts that Musk respond­ed to, was arrest­ed this month on charges of pos­sess­ing and trans­mit­ting child sex­u­al abuse mate­r­i­al; there’s no indi­ca­tion that he had a cen­tral role in debunk­ing piz­za­gate.

    Musk’s replies includ­ed expres­sions of shock at the charges. He wrote in one post, “any reporter who is this hor­rif­i­cal­ly evil obvi­ous­ly can­not be trust­ed.”

    Musk, who has crit­i­cized jour­nal­ists and media out­lets for years, has become increas­ing­ly com­bat­ive with the media and orga­ni­za­tions he per­ceives as his ene­mies.

    He sued Media Mat­ters for Amer­i­ca, which reports on politi­cians, jour­nal­ists and media out­lets, on Nov. 20 say­ing that posts from the out­let report­ing on ads and anti­se­mit­ic con­tent on the plat­form were mali­cious and designed to adverse­ly affect X’s rev­enue.

    Media Mat­ters Pres­i­dent Ange­lo Caru­sone said in a state­ment that he stands behind the organization’s work and called the law­suit “friv­o­lous.”

    ———-

    “Elon Musk has boost­ed the ‘piz­za­gate’ con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry five times in the last two weeks” By Ben Gog­gin; NBC News; 11/28/2023

    Since Nov. 20, Musk has respond­ed to tweets refer­ring to piz­za­gate four oth­er times. The posts are a recent iter­a­tion of the debunked the­o­ry focused on unfound­ed insin­u­a­tions that jour­nal­ists were part of the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry.”

    He just can’t stop him­self from tweet­ing about Piz­za­gate this week. Four oth­er Piz­za­gate-relat­ed tweets on top of the lat­est one. In the mid­dle of a grow­ing adver­tis­er back­lash over Musk’s pro­mo­tion of anti­semitism. What is Musk think­ing here? Is there a method to this mad­ness? Or is this just mad­ness on dis­play?

    ...
    Musk wrote “does seem at least a lit­tle sus­pi­cious” along­side a meme draw­ing from the TV show “The Office,” which includ­ed fake dia­logue super­im­posed on images of a char­ac­ter argu­ing that “Piz­za­gate is real,” a ref­er­ence to a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that gained trac­tion in 2016 and cul­mi­nat­ed with a North Car­oli­na man’s open­ing fire in a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., piz­za restau­rant. NBC News reviewed the post before it was tak­en down.

    In anoth­er post reply­ing to the first, Musk linked to an Asso­ci­at­ed Press arti­cle pub­lished by NBC News about an ABC News journalist’s plead­ing guilty to fed­er­al child pornog­ra­phy charges. NBC News could not locate any con­tent relat­ed to piz­za­gate pub­lished by the ABC News jour­nal­ist on his archived author page.

    ...

    Musk remains embroiled in con­tro­ver­sy for an X post this month in which he boost­ed an anti­se­mit­ic con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry. Since then, he has denied he is anti­se­mit­ic, vis­it­ing Israel and meet­ing with gov­ern­ment offi­cials, includ­ing Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu.

    ...

    The ABC News jour­nal­ist Musk referred to was fold­ed into online dis­cus­sion of piz­za­gate when a fake New York Post head­line cir­cu­lat­ed that was fab­ri­cat­ed to say the jour­nal­ist had had a hand in “debunk­ing” piz­za­gate.

    A sim­i­lar head­line was applied to a dif­fer­ent jour­nal­ist who also became the sub­ject of posts from Musk. That jour­nal­ist, who was fea­tured in three piz­za­gate-relat­ed posts that Musk respond­ed to, was arrest­ed this month on charges of pos­sess­ing and trans­mit­ting child sex­u­al abuse mate­r­i­al; there’s no indi­ca­tion that he had a cen­tral role in debunk­ing piz­za­gate.

    Musk’s replies includ­ed expres­sions of shock at the charges. He wrote in one post, “any reporter who is this hor­rif­i­cal­ly evil obvi­ous­ly can­not be trust­ed.”
    ...

    And note how the ‘Piz­za­gate’ meme has man­aged to sur­vive and evolve into a gener­ic “elites are abus­ing kids” meme, years after the orig­i­nal ‘Piz­za­gate’ meme that tar­get­ed the Comet Ping Pong. It’s still a potent meme. Demon­stra­bly so:

    ...
    Mike Roth­schild, an author who has writ­ten sev­er­al books about the rise of recent extreme con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, said the ver­sion of piz­za­gate that Musk is pro­mot­ing is dif­fer­ent from and more expan­sive than the orig­i­nal con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that inspired the 2016 shoot­ing.

    That the­o­ry focused on the false claim that a child traf­fick­ing ring was being run out of the Comet Ping Pong piz­za restau­rant. No evi­dence has ever been found to val­i­date that claim.

    “Now it’s just code for ‘bad stuff elites are doing to kids,’” Roth­schild said.

    “There’s def­i­nite­ly a risk to him pro­mot­ing this, even if he thinks it’s a joke,” he said. “He’s turn­ing a lot of peo­ple who weren’t red­pilled for piz­za­gate in 2016 on to hard-core con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and anti­semitism and giv­ing it a major plat­form.”
    ...

    Who knows why exact­ly Elon Musk has decid­ed to fix­ate on Piz­za­gate in the mid­dle of his anti­semitism-dri­ven adver­tis­er exo­dus. But he did. Some­thing com­pelled him to fix­ate on this top­ic. Might it have some­thing to do with the gov­ern­ment of Aus­tralia suing X back in Octo­ber for fail­ing to curb child abuse con­tent? Might there be some more child abuse rev­e­la­tions for X on the way?

    Time will tell. But giv­en that this is Musk we are talk­ing about, it’s worth keep­ing in mind one of the oth­er bizarre child-relat­ed Musk obses­sions: eugen­ics and the alleged per­ils of declin­ing that rates. As we’ve seen, Musk has become one of the key finan­cial spon­sors of the creepy ‘prona­tal­ist’ move­ment. A move­ment that now includes wannabe fas­cist Amer­i­can war­lord Charles Hay­wood. Yes, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle excerpt notes, it turns out Hay­wood is one of the speak­ers sched­uled for the “Natal­ist Con­fer­ence” next month. Beyond that, Musk donat­ed $10 mil­lion to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas in Austin to cre­ate the Pop­u­la­tion Well­be­ing Ini­tia­tive (PWI), which is basi­cal­ly a research pro­gram tasked with putting this prona­tal­ist ide­ol­o­gy into an aca­d­e­m­ic form. Prona­tal­ism is a big part of Musk’s vision of the future:

    Slate

    Elon Musk’s Feud With Grimes Is a Warn­ing

    The bil­lion­aire is now fund­ing aca­d­e­m­ic research—and reveal­ing his inter­ests in a future where women exist to have lots of babies.

    By Andréa Beck­er
    Oct 16, 2023 2:00 PM

    Elon Musk is the father of at least 10 chil­dren. He has five with his ex Jus­tine Musk, who has writ­ten that she felt like an employ­ee in their mar­riage, rather than a part­ner. He secret­ly had twins in 2021 with Shiv­on Zilis, an exec­u­tive at his com­pa­ny Neu­ralink; the rumor among their col­leagues, Reuters report­ed, was that there was no romance, just IVF. Musk con­firmed last month that he and Grimes, his more recent ex, are the par­ents of three kids, two of whom were born via sur­ro­ga­cy. Grimes is now suing Musk for parental rights, hav­ing asked, Vul­ture report­ed, in a now-delet­ed X post: “tell Elon to let me see my son.”

    Musk’s many, many kids and his pat­tern toward the women he has them with aren’t just fod­der for gos­sip. They’re con­nect­ed to Musk’s larg­er worldview—one that the bil­lion­aire own­er of an increas­ing­ly chaot­ic social media plat­form is now work­ing to spread far beyond his own fam­i­ly.

    Musk has been called “the tech world’s high­est-pro­file prona­tal­ist, albeit unof­fi­cial­ly” by Insid­er, and it’s clear that at least some of his views line up with the movement’s. The prona­tal­ists, or natal­ists, as some call them­selves, believe that low birth rates—especially low birth rates among the “high-achiev­ing” and “real­ly smart””—is the No. 1 dan­ger plagu­ing the nation, and the world writ large. This ranks the num­ber of babies women are hav­ing as more impor­tant than income inequal­i­ty, gun vio­lence, or even the con­tin­ued risk of cli­mate dis­as­ter. Real­ly: Elon Musk has called low birth rates “a much big­ger risk to civ­i­liza­tion than glob­al warm­ing.” They also believe that the bio­log­i­cal effects of hor­mon­al birth con­trol and abor­tion—which Musk has linked to the “crum­ble” of civ­i­liza­tion—cou­pled with a lack of sup­port for par­ents and fam­i­lies are dri­ving these decreas­ing birth rates.

    Some of these con­cerns do make sense: Cer­tain­ly, there should be much more sup­port for par­ents, espe­cial­ly moth­ers, in the Unit­ed States. Sub­si­dized child care and a health care sys­tem where child­birth doesn’t cost par­ents $10,000 on aver­age would be a good place to start, in my opin­ion as a med­ical soci­ol­o­gist with train­ing in repro­duc­tive health and demog­ra­phy. Eas­ing finan­cial bar­ri­ers to par­ent­hood, like hous­ing prices and the stu­dent loan cri­sis, would help, too.

    Some of the con­cerns of prona­tal­ists, though, are down­right dis­turb­ing, as well as mis­placed: There is no evi­dence that women’s abil­i­ty to con­trol their fertility—a prac­tice thathas always exist­ed, if via oth­er means—is the main dri­ver of low birth rates. Nor should women be respon­si­ble for fix­ing demo­graph­ic trends with their bod­ies. While some prona­tal­ists pro­claim they are pro-choice, some hint at the ills of abor­tion or are explic­it­ly against it. Forced births are not a viable solu­tion to a dip in birth rates. Fur­ther, prona­tal­ism is at least some­times tied to racism and the “great replace­ment the­o­ry,” a belief that non­whites and immi­grants will soon out­num­ber white vot­ers in West­ern nations.

    Glob­al­ly, birth rates are declin­ing, but the real­i­ty of this is more nuanced than prona­tal­ists often paint it as being. Demog­ra­phers agree that a fer­til­i­ty decline does not indi­cate the “end of babies,” but rather that many women are now delay­ing when they have chil­dren until they feel ready. Declin­ing birth rates are also not a wor­ry­ing long-term trend: Most of us were taught at one point that resources will soon be deplet­ed due to too much pop­u­la­tion growth. An ebb can be viewed as good news.

    Instead of work­ing to make par­ent­hood eas­i­er for any­one who does want kids, some of the loud­est pro­po­nents, name­ly the Sil­i­con Val­ley megawealthy, have com­mit­ted them­selves to solv­ing this alleged soci­etal ail­ment with blunt force: by repro­duc­ing as much as pos­si­ble among them­selves. You might remem­ber the bespec­ta­cled Mal­colm and Simone Collins, who penned an opin­ion piece in the New York Post in Jan­u­ary titled “Why the World Needs More Big Fam­i­lies Like Ours Amid the Pop­u­la­tion Cri­sis” (a side ben­e­fit: “grow­ing our fam­i­ly has made us more effi­cient as CEOs,” they wrote). In their own repro­duc­tive jour­ney, they are hav­ing their embryos genet­i­cal­ly test­ed for “men­tal-per­for­mance-adja­cent traits,” accord­ing to report­ing by Insid­er.

    Their prona­tal­ism extends far beyond their bed­rooms. The Collins­es, who run a prona­tal­ist web­site, are now part of a line­up for the “Natal­ist Con­fer­ence” tak­ing place in Austin, Texas, this Decem­ber, which will spread the seeds of their ide­ol­o­gy. Among the 14 oth­er speak­ers is “The Raw Egg Nation­al­ist,” whom some will know as the author of the book about eat­ing raw eggs to fight “glob­al­ism” in the food chain, or as a star in Tuck­er Carlon’s doc­u­men­tary The End of Men. Anoth­er speak­er is Charles Hay­wood, who runs The Wor­thy House, a Sub­stack focused on a “post-lib­er­al future” and whose Twit­ter bio warns that that Moloch (a myth­i­cal god of child sac­ri­fice) “is with­in the gates.” The Natal­ist Con­fer­ence land­ing page warns: “By the end of the cen­tu­ry, near­ly every coun­try on earth will have a shrink­ing pop­u­la­tion and eco­nom­ic sys­tems depen­dent on reli­able growth will col­lapse. Thou­sands of unique cul­tures and pop­u­la­tions will be snuffed out.”

    For his part, Musk has donat­ed $10 mil­lion to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas in Austin, Bloomberg report­ed in August, to cre­ate the Pop­u­la­tion Well­be­ing Ini­tia­tive (PWI), a research pro­gram tasked with gen­er­at­ing research on his con­cerns about there being too few babies. The direc­tor, Dean Spears, an econ­o­mist who received the grant from Musk, has writ­ten about dwin­dling fer­til­i­ty rates pos­si­bly lead­ing human­i­ty to “end with a whim­per” and penned an opin­ion piece in the New York Times last month about the glob­al pop­u­la­tion peak­ing in our life­times. Though not all of the PWI’s research direct­ly speaks to Musk’s con­cerns, their research pro­gram over­all can be used by prona­tal­ists to pro­mote their beliefs. If the birth rate is real­ly such a dire issue for human­i­ty, it’s not as big a leap to think that the uptake of birth con­trol and gen­er­al auton­o­my for women has gone too far. (That $10 mil­lion is also the kind of fund­ing that, say, abor­tion research, which has long relied on pri­vate donors, could real­ly, real­ly use.)

    ...

    ———-

    “Elon Musk’s Feud With Grimes Is a Warn­ing” By Andréa Beck­er; Slate; 10/16/2023

    “Musk has been called “the tech world’s high­est-pro­file prona­tal­ist, albeit unof­fi­cial­ly” by Insid­er, and it’s clear that at least some of his views line up with the movement’s. The prona­tal­ists, or natal­ists, as some call them­selves, believe that low birth rates—especially low birth rates among the “high-achiev­ing” and “real­ly smart””—is the No. 1 dan­ger plagu­ing the nation, and the world writ large. This ranks the num­ber of babies women are hav­ing as more impor­tant than income inequal­i­ty, gun vio­lence, or even the con­tin­ued risk of cli­mate dis­as­ter. Real­ly: Elon Musk has called low birth rates “a much big­ger risk to civ­i­liza­tion than glob­al warm­ing.” They also believe that the bio­log­i­cal effects of hor­mon­al birth con­trol and abor­tion—which Musk has linked to the “crum­ble” of civ­i­liza­tion—cou­pled with a lack of sup­port for par­ents and fam­i­lies are dri­ving these decreas­ing birth rates.”

    Declin­ing birth rates is a big­ger threat to the future of human­i­ty that the risk of cli­mate dis­as­ter. At least that’s how Elon Musk sees it, along with the rest of the ‘prono­tal­ist’ crowd. Like Mal­colm and Simone Collins, the “Effec­tive Altru­ism” cou­ple who start­ed an pro-eugen­ics 11 gen­er­a­tion plan that will allow their descen­dants to ‘set the future of our species’ through 11 gen­er­a­tions of hyper-large fam­i­lies. This is a real move­ment with major mon­ey behind it:

    ...
    Instead of work­ing to make par­ent­hood eas­i­er for any­one who does want kids, some of the loud­est pro­po­nents, name­ly the Sil­i­con Val­ley megawealthy, have com­mit­ted them­selves to solv­ing this alleged soci­etal ail­ment with blunt force: by repro­duc­ing as much as pos­si­ble among them­selves. You might remem­ber the bespec­ta­cled Mal­colm and Simone Collins, who penned an opin­ion piece in the New York Post in Jan­u­ary titled “Why the World Needs More Big Fam­i­lies Like Ours Amid the Pop­u­la­tion Cri­sis” (a side ben­e­fit: “grow­ing our fam­i­ly has made us more effi­cient as CEOs,” they wrote). In their own repro­duc­tive jour­ney, they are hav­ing their embryos genet­i­cal­ly test­ed for “men­tal-per­for­mance-adja­cent traits,” accord­ing to report­ing by Insid­er.
    ...

    And in case the fas­cist over­tones weren’t obvi­ous, we find fig­ures like Charles Hay­wood glom­ming onto this move­ment. Recall how Hay­wood was seen as a ris­ing right-wing media per­son­al­i­ty, until it was revealed that he was the per­son behind an online per­sona who long called for an ‘Amer­i­can Cae­sar’. Hay­wood is now open­ly plan­ning on becom­ing an Amer­i­can ‘war­lord’ oper­at­ing an ‘armed patron­age net­work’ in the event of the break­down of gov­ern­ment rule. So yes, the Natal­ist Con­fer­ence invit­ed a wan­na war­lord to speak at their con­fer­ence:

    ...
    Their prona­tal­ism extends far beyond their bed­rooms. The Collins­es, who run a prona­tal­ist web­site, are now part of a line­up for the “Natal­ist Con­fer­ence” tak­ing place in Austin, Texas, this Decem­ber, which will spread the seeds of their ide­ol­o­gy. Among the 14 oth­er speak­ers is “The Raw Egg Nation­al­ist,” whom some will know as the author of the book about eat­ing raw eggs to fight “glob­al­ism” in the food chain, or as a star in Tuck­er Carlon’s doc­u­men­tary The End of Men. Anoth­er speak­er is Charles Hay­wood, who runs The Wor­thy House, a Sub­stack focused on a “post-lib­er­al future” and whose Twit­ter bio warns that that Moloch (a myth­i­cal god of child sac­ri­fice) “is with­in the gates.” The Natal­ist Con­fer­ence land­ing page warns: “By the end of the cen­tu­ry, near­ly every coun­try on earth will have a shrink­ing pop­u­la­tion and eco­nom­ic sys­tems depen­dent on reli­able growth will col­lapse. Thou­sands of unique cul­tures and pop­u­la­tions will be snuffed out.”
    ...

    And as an exam­ple of the kind of mon­ey flow­ing into this move­ment, we can see the $10 mil­lion Musk donat­ed to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas in Austin for the cre­ation of the Pop­u­la­tion Well­be­ing Ini­tia­tive (PWI):

    ...
    For his part, Musk has donat­ed $10 mil­lion to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas in Austin, Bloomberg report­ed in August, to cre­ate the Pop­u­la­tion Well­be­ing Ini­tia­tive (PWI), a research pro­gram tasked with gen­er­at­ing research on his con­cerns about there being too few babies. The direc­tor, Dean Spears, an econ­o­mist who received the grant from Musk, has writ­ten about dwin­dling fer­til­i­ty rates pos­si­bly lead­ing human­i­ty to “end with a whim­per” and penned an opin­ion piece in the New York Times last month about the glob­al pop­u­la­tion peak­ing in our life­times. Though not all of the PWI’s research direct­ly speaks to Musk’s con­cerns, their research pro­gram over­all can be used by prona­tal­ists to pro­mote their beliefs. If the birth rate is real­ly such a dire issue for human­i­ty, it’s not as big a leap to think that the uptake of birth con­trol and gen­er­al auton­o­my for women has gone too far. (That $10 mil­lion is also the kind of fund­ing that, say, abor­tion research, which has long relied on pri­vate donors, could real­ly, real­ly use.)
    ...

    And in case it’s not clear that that thsi PWI is very ide­o­log­i­cal­ly aligned with this prona­tal­ist move­ment, here’s report that gives a few details on a PWI paper co-authored by the PWI’s direc­tor: accord­ing to the paper, based on declin­ing fer­til­i­ty rates, “human­i­ty is four-fifths over,” and with­out a rever­sal it’s pos­si­ble “that human­i­ty depop­u­lates with cru­el­ty.” Also, the paper open with a Will MacAskill quote. In oth­er words, the PWI is basi­cal­ly an attempt to put an aca­d­e­m­ic pati­na on this eugen­ics forms of Effec­tive Altru­ism :

    Busi­ness Insid­er

    Elon Musk, who’s fathered 10 chil­dren, report­ed­ly donat­ed $10 mil­lion to fund a fer­til­i­ty and pop­u­la­tion research project

    Pete Syme
    Aug 15, 2023, 5:31 AM CDT

    * Elon Musk has pre­vi­ous­ly shared his belief that pop­u­la­tion col­lapse could end human­i­ty.
    * Per a new Bloomberg report, the bil­lion­aire donat­ed $10 mil­lion to a project research­ing fer­til­i­ty.
    * The mon­ey was giv­en by The Musk Foun­da­tion to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin in 2021.

    Elon Musk has often spo­ken about his belief that the world needs to have more babies. A Bloomberg report revealed Mon­day that he’s backed that up with a $10 mil­lion dona­tion to a fer­til­i­ty and pop­u­la­tion research project.

    The mon­ey was giv­en by The Musk Foun­da­tion to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin in 2021, but its exact pur­pose was unclear until Bloomberg’s report linked it to the Pop­u­la­tion Well­be­ing Ini­tia­tive. The PWI is a joint project of the Uni­ver­si­ty’s Pop­u­la­tion Research Cen­ter and its eco­nom­ics depart­ment. Through its research, it looks into fer­til­i­ty, the future of pop­u­la­tion, and eco­nom­ic growth.

    A paper pro­duced by the PWI and co-writ­ten by its direc­tor includes a pro­jec­tion that, based on declin­ing fer­til­i­ty rates, “human­i­ty is four-fifths over,” and with­out a rever­sal it’s pos­si­ble “that human­i­ty depop­u­lates with cru­el­ty.”

    The paper also opens with a quote from Will MacAskill — a promi­nent espouser of effec­tive altru­ism, a phi­los­o­phy that empha­sizes focus­ing on long-term prob­lems and was famous­ly backed by FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

    Musk fund­ed a two-day PWI con­fer­ence last Octo­ber, but the group did­n’t dis­close the bil­lion­aire’s involve­ment to the aca­d­e­mics who flew in from across the coun­try, accord­ing to Bloomberg.

    ...

    A day after Insid­er report­ed that Musk had fathered twins with a top exec­u­tive at his brain-implant com­pa­ny Neu­ralink, the bil­lion­aire tweet­ed: “Doing my best to help the under­pop­u­la­tion cri­sis.”

    “A col­laps­ing birth rate is the biggest dan­ger civ­i­liza­tion faces by far,” he added.

    ...

    ———-

    “Elon Musk, who’s fathered 10 chil­dren, report­ed­ly donat­ed $10 mil­lion to fund a fer­til­i­ty and pop­u­la­tion research project” by Pete Syme; Busi­ness Insid­er; 08/15/2023

    “A paper pro­duced by the PWI and co-writ­ten by its direc­tor includes a pro­jec­tion that, based on declin­ing fer­til­i­ty rates, “human­i­ty is four-fifths over,” and with­out a rever­sal it’s pos­si­ble “that human­i­ty depop­u­lates with cru­el­ty.””

    Human­i­ty is four-fifths over and is doomed to cru­el­ly depop­u­late itself unless some­thing is done. That was part of the analy­sis in a paper pro­duced by the PWI and co-writ­ten by its direc­tor. Beyond that, the paper open with a Will MacAskill quote:

    ...
    The paper also opens with a quote from Will MacAskill — a promi­nent espouser of effec­tive altru­ism, a phi­los­o­phy that empha­sizes focus­ing on long-term prob­lems and was famous­ly backed by FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
    ...

    And that should make it abun­dant­ly clear that the PWI is basi­cal­ly an exten­sion of this broad­er ‘Effec­tive Altru­ism’ net­work. A cor­rupt an fas­cist net­work with big plans for future. Cap­tur­ing and own­ing the future. They aren’t hid­ing it. And nei­ther is Elon Musk any­more. The more he is accused of far right sen­ti­ments and the more adver­tis­ers flee, the more we’re see­ing him cud­dle up to these same forces.

    So try not to be sur­prised if we hear about more Piz­za­gate memes from Elon. Or more lamen­ta­tions from Elon about the exis­ten­tial threat of con­tra­cep­tion and wom­en’s con­trol over their own repro­duc­tive lives. Or more fines from gov­ern­ments over X not crack­ing down on child abuse.

    But do be sur­prised if you hear about X actu­al­ly pay­ing those fines.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 29, 2023, 6:13 pm
  16. Oh look, anoth­er fas­cist utopia project financed by the ‘usu­al sus­pects’ in Sil­i­con Val­ley. It nev­er end.

    This time it’s a new group call­ing itself “Prax­is”. Found­ed by a col­lege dropout, Dry­den Brown, and for­mer Boston Col­lege wide receiv­er Char­lie Cal­l­i­nan, Prax­is has a declared mis­sion of found­ing new char­ter cities. Fas­cist char­ter cities that will oppose “ene­mies of vital­i­ty,” who reject “‘Euro­pean beau­ty stan­dards,” accord­ing to an inter­nal Prax­is guide, which goes on to extol “tra­di­tion­al, European/Western beau­ty stan­dards on which the civ­i­lized world, at its best points, has always found suc­cess.” Beau­ty which con­notes prop­er breed­ing: “In humans, beau­ty implies a num­ber of things — name­ly that two peo­ple, them­selves of beau­ty, formed a union to cre­ate more beau­ti­ful life”. Inter­nal doc­u­ments for the group out­line three “per­sona groups” who will pop­u­late the planned cities: They are “war­riors,” who are “mus­cu­lar” and “clean” and pro­tect soci­ety from threats; “priests,” who are “very thin,” and “define the val­ues and beliefs of soci­ety”; and “mer­chants,” who are “port­ly” and “beard­ed,” and include ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and cryp­tocur­ren­cy pro­fes­sion­als. The idea for the project, accord­ing to Brown, came to him as he was watch­ing the George Floyd protests.

    As we’re going to see, while Brown has assumed the role as the pub­lic face for this project, it’s pret­ty clear he has help. Exten­sive help in the form of rough­ly $19 mil­lion that’s been raised so far for the project from a num­ber of promi­nent Sil­i­con Val­ley investors. A num­ber of whom are direct­ly in Peter Thiel’s orbit, as we should expect, includ­ing Patri Fried­man (who ran Thiel’s Seast­eading Institue), Joe Lons­dale, and Bal­a­ji Srini­vasan. Sam Alt­man’s ven­ture cap­i­tal firm, Apol­lo Ven­tures, has also invest­ed in the project. And the biggest invest­ment came from Par­a­digm, which also hap­pened to be one of largest investors in the now-implod­ed FTX cryp­to-exchange. As a sign of Brown’s affin­i­ty to the ‘effec­tive altru­ism’ phi­los­o­phy that guid­ed FTX, Brown has post­ed often about “effec­tive accel­er­a­tionism”, a con­cept pop­u­lar­ized by Marc Andreessen that holds that Sil­i­con Val­ley should pur­sue rapid tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment even at the cost of painful social changes, in the inter­est of bring­ing about a super­abun­dant utopia.

    Oth­er notable peo­ple report­ed­ly on board with the project include con­vict­ed investor Mar­tin Shkre­li and for­mer Cana­di­an prime min­is­ter Stephen Harp­er.

    And while $19 mil­lion is not remote­ly enough mon­ey to start a new char­ter city, it is more than enough to accom­plish what could be con­sid­ered a pre­lim­i­nary goal to start­ing a fas­cist char­ter city utopia: pop­u­lar­iz­ing elite fas­cism. To those ends, Brown and Cal­l­i­nan have estab­lished the ‘Prax­is Embassy’, a mul­ti-floor Man­hat­tan loft where Brown lived along with sev­er­al of his deputies. Lav­ish par­ties designed to entice tech nerds with socialites were thrown, with an intent on gain­ing new recruits for the project. A June 2022 report described the scene at one of these par­ties as an under-30 finance and art set dis­cussing Machi­avel­li and Hobbes while cham­ber music played. As Guardian U.S. edi­tor named Amana Fontanel­la-Khan, who attend­ed one of these par­ties, put it, the rea­son “these ghouls” were “court­ing the down­town club scene,” was to solic­it new mem­bers. It also sounds like Brown main­tains a library at the Prax­is Embassy that includes the mem­oirs of Albert Speer and Fran­cis Park­er Yock­ey’s “Imperi­um”. Brown has also report­ed­ly engaged in phrenol­o­gy at the ’embassy’.

    So we appear to have an ’embassy’ for fas­cism, tar­get­ing the trendy New York club scene, financed by Sil­i­con Val­ley’s fas­cist ‘usu­al sus­pects’. Who knows how seri­ous they are about cre­at­ing these char­ter cities. But it’s very clear they’re seri­ous about pro­mot­ing fas­cism as some sort of grand par­ty and they have the mon­ey to do it:

    The New York Times

    Who Would Give This Guy Mil­lions to Build His Own Utopia?

    Dry­den Brown wants Prax­is to be a cryp­to-city for tech bros and tastemak­ers. Just don’t ask for details.

    By Joseph Bern­stein
    Joseph Bern­stein cov­ers the col­li­sion of sub­cul­tures and pol­i­tics.
    Pub­lished Dec. 12, 2023
    Updat­ed Dec. 13, 2023

    When he took the stage at a con­fer­ence for “start-up soci­eties” in Ams­ter­dam in Octo­ber, 27-year-old Dry­den Brown cut a rum­pled fig­ure, mov­ing stiffly in a gray hood­ie with a T‑shirt pok­ing out at the bot­tom.

    He was there to tout his com­pa­ny, Prax­is, which has an ambi­tious goal: to cre­ate a new city on the Mediter­ranean.

    The San­ta Bar­bara native had nev­er built a house before, let alone a city. A New York Uni­ver­si­ty dropout, he had been fired from his last job, at a hedge fund. He isn’t a charis­mat­ic speak­er or an accom­plished busi­ness­man. He’s big on promis­es and light on specifics, such as where on the 28,600-mile Mediter­ranean coast his city will be.

    Nev­er­the­less, he has raised $19.2 mil­lion for his project: a pal­try amount in the worlds of ven­ture cap­i­tal and urban devel­op­ment — Hud­son Yards, for exam­ple, cost $25 bil­lion — but still a lot to fork over to a young man with no track record.

    In a monot­o­ne deliv­ery, leav­ened by surfer-dude inflec­tions, Mr. Brown made some astound­ing claims: His team, he said, includ­ed two for­mer prime min­is­ters and was armed with invest­ments from lead­ing ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists. The wait­ing list for mem­ber­ship, Mr. Brown said, was near­ly 50,000 peo­ple long, with 12,000 mem­bers already inter­est­ed in mov­ing, en masse, to a “beau­ti­ful, green city” — pre­sent­ed in a slick ren­der­ing by Zaha Hadid Archi­tects — start­ing in 2026.

    Prax­is takes its name from a Greek word that means putting the­o­ry into prac­tice. And 62,000 mem­bers and prospec­tive mem­bers would rep­re­sent quite a bit of prax­is, giv­en that in July, the com­pa­ny list­ed only 431 mem­bers on an inter­nal com­pa­ny ros­ter.

    ...

    Mr. Brown’s suc­cess attract­ing cap­i­tal is in part a ves­tige of the cryp­to bub­ble, when easy cash and high­fa­lutin mum­bo jum­bo often went hand in hand. (The company’s 2022 Series A pitch claimed that the city would be a “cryp­tostate.”) The most notable ven­ture of this era was FTX, whose founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, was run­ning an elab­o­rate Ponzi scheme. Prax­is’ largest backer, Par­a­digm, was a cen­tral investor in FTX.

    Prax­is’ extrav­a­gant plans face daunt­ing odds, even with­in the moon­shot cul­ture of tech invest­ing, but what makes that more than $19 mil­lion tru­ly strange is the dis­turb­ing soci­ety Mr. Brown wish­es to build inside his city. “Our val­ues inform our vision for the future,” read a slide dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion at the Net­work State Con­fer­ence. “Our vision is a more vital future for human­i­ty.”

    Onstage, Mr. Brown left those val­ues unde­fined, but an inter­nal Prax­is brand­ing guide makes it clear that the com­pa­ny is part of a creepy inter­net sub­cul­ture that has drawn reams of news media cov­er­age as a fas­cist breed­ing ground with­in the Amer­i­can right.

    The guide denounces “ene­mies of vital­i­ty,” who “reject what they con­sid­er the option­al ‘Euro­pean beau­ty stan­dards.” It goes on to extol “tra­di­tion­al, European/Western beau­ty stan­dards on which the civ­i­lized world, at its best points, has always found suc­cess.”

    Beau­ty, here, con­notes prop­er breed­ing: “In humans, beau­ty implies a num­ber of things — name­ly that two peo­ple, them­selves of beau­ty, formed a union to cre­ate more beau­ti­ful life,” it reads.

    Accord­ing to sev­er­al for­mer Prax­is employ­ees who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because they signed nondis­clo­sure agree­ments, Mr. Brown had dis­cussed want­i­ng to attract tech tal­ent to his city by intro­duc­ing founders to “hot girls.” He threw lav­ish par­ties, where com­put­er nerds rubbed elbows with the styl­ish mem­bers of a now-infa­mous demi­monde that has grown up in and around New York’s Chi­na­town, which places shock above most oth­er val­ues.

    Even if Mr. Brown nev­er ends up build­ing an eter­nal city, he has already built some­thing of this moment. Prax­is, a real-life part­ner­ship between puffed-up sub­cul­tures that mix most­ly online, has pulled togeth­er those in the tech world who seek alter­na­tives to lib­er­al democ­ra­cy, mem­bers of an ascen­dant right that rejects the premise of human equal­i­ty, and a band of down­town New York scen­esters who find it all a bit thrilling.

    Cri­sis as Oppor­tu­ni­ty

    In Ams­ter­dam, Mr. Brown described Prax­is as his response to being trapped inside his apart­ment dur­ing Covid, mixed with his long­stand­ing inter­est in colo­nial Amer­i­ca. “Ready to join Amer­i­ca in 1776?” reads a com­pa­ny pitch deck.

    In 2022, Mr. Brown had been more spe­cif­ic about his moti­va­tion to build a city from scratch, telling a speech­writer that he got the idea for Prax­is after wit­ness­ing loot­ers break shop win­dows in SoHo dur­ing the protests that fol­lowed the mur­der of George Floyd.

    (Mr. Brown gave detailed bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion to the speech­writer, Web­ster Stone, dur­ing hours of record­ed meet­ings in 2022, of which The New York Times has reviewed a tran­script. In an email response to a detailed list of ques­tions, Mr. Brown dis­put­ed sev­er­al of his own state­ments to the speech­writer, with­out offer­ing any clar­i­fi­ca­tion.)

    Accord­ing to the tran­script, Mr. Brown described him­self to Mr. Stone as neu­rot­ic and ambi­tious. He said he was home-schooled in San­ta Bar­bara so that he could pur­sue com­pet­i­tive surf­ing. Exposed to the clas­sics by his tutor, Mr. Brown read Ayn Rand and the Aus­tri­an econ­o­mists in high school. He said he was drawn to the idea of the char­ter city — a kind of spe­cial, decen­tral­ized eco­nom­ic zone cham­pi­oned by lib­er­tar­i­ans, in which a poor host coun­try leas­es a piece of land to a third par­ty, which then gov­erns it as it sees fit. (As of 2023, the most advanced of these projects is Próspera, on the Hon­duran island of Roatán.)

    Apply­ing only to Har­vard, Stan­ford, Oxford, and Cam­bridge, Mr. Brown was reject­ed by them all, he told Mr. Stone. He end­ed up at N.Y.U., tried to trans­fer to Stan­ford, and was reject­ed again. Even­tu­al­ly, he stopped attend­ing col­lege and was hired as an ana­lyst at a hedge fund. There, he met Char­lie Cal­l­i­nan, a for­mer Boston Col­lege wide receiv­er who is Mr. Brown’s co-founder at Prax­is.

    Per the tran­script, Mr. Brown was fired from his job at the hedge fund, but he had nev­er dropped his dream of build­ing a city. With sev­er­al thou­sand dol­lars that Mr. Cal­l­i­nan had won in a golf tour­na­ment, the two trav­eled in 2019 first to Nige­ria and then to Ghana, talk­ing their way into a room with Ghana’s vice pres­i­dent, in which they pro­posed build­ing a finan­cial cen­ter. But the pan­dem­ic derailed those plans.

    In Sep­tem­ber 2020, Mr. Brown wrote a thread on Twit­ter about the mad­cap series of events that went into the meet­ing in Accra. After, he was mocked online and accused of dilet­tan­tism and neo­colo­nial­ism. Mr. Brown told the speech­writer those insults engaged his fight-or-flight response.

    So too had the expe­ri­ence of watch­ing the Black Lives Mat­ter protests, which made Mr. Brown fear, he said in an inter­view with Mr. Stone, that he might be dragged from his Prince Street apart­ment. To clear his head, he rent­ed a cab­in in Alas­ka. There, Mr. Brown told Mr. Stone, he read, went for walks around a lake and began to plan. He want­ed to build more than an eco­nom­ic hub. He want­ed a city based around a “spir­i­tu­al core.”

    ...

    Busi­ness-Friend­ly, Utopi­an Start-Up Cities

    Tech-world lib­er­tar­i­ans have long pushed for “exit projects” free from the con­straints of the mod­ern West­ern state. These hypo­thet­i­cal spaces are most­ly the dry realm of wonks debat­ing the­o­ries of sov­er­eign­ty. But Mr. Brown’s com­pa­ny seems to have focused less on the nit­ty-grit­ty of build­ing a city and more on its “tra­di­tion­al” “Euro­pean” aes­thet­ics and on intro­duc­ing “Prax­is val­ues” such as “vital­i­ty,” “beau­ty,” and “patri­o­tism” to prospec­tive mem­bers.

    The most promi­nent fig­ure in this world is Peter Thiel, who declared in 2009 that “the great task for lib­er­tar­i­ans is to find an escape from pol­i­tics in all its forms.” Since then, the bil­lion­aire Repub­li­can megadonor has backed sev­er­al attempts to cre­ate cor­po­rate city-states, and he casts a long shad­ow over the cul­ture sur­round­ing these ini­tia­tives.

    So it made sense that when Mr. Brown went look­ing for mon­ey to build his escape from con­tem­po­rary New York, he found some of it in Mr. Thiel’s orbit. Pronomos Cap­i­tal, a Thiel-backed city-build­ing fund run by Patri Fried­man, the grand­son of the lib­er­tar­i­an econ­o­mist Mil­ton Fried­man, invest­ed in a 2021 fund­ing round that raised $4.2 mil­lion. Two of Mr. Thiel’s asso­ciates, the ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists Bal­a­ji Srini­vasan and Joe Lons­dale, invest­ed in Prax­is as well. But accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with his invest­ments, Mr. Thiel has nev­er direct­ly sup­port­ed Prax­is. Still, the wide­spread per­cep­tion that Mr. Thiel is involved with the com­pa­ny has helped it build its mys­tique.

    The biggest invest­ment in Prax­is came from the boom­ing world of cryp­tocur­ren­cy, includ­ing from Par­a­digm, a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm best known for its $278 mil­lion stake in Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryp­to exchange FTX. (Alame­da Research, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s trad­ing firm, also invest­ed in Prax­is, as did Apol­lo Ven­tures, the ven­ture firm launched by the Ope­nAI chief exec­u­tive Sam Alt­man.) Paradigm’s due dili­gence prac­tices came under scruti­ny in Octo­ber, when then-man­ag­ing part­ner Matt Huang tes­ti­fied at Mr. Bankman-Fried’s tri­al, say­ing he had been mis­led by the dis­graced founder. Par­a­digm declined to com­ment for this arti­cle.

    ...

    ‘Nobody seemed to have a defin­able skill set.’

    Prax­is, cash rich, moved into a 7,500-square-foot SoHo office in May 2022. Accord­ing to a for­mer Prax­is employ­ee, Mr. Brown wore Balen­ci­a­ga and drank Hall­stein water (a six-pack costs $68); com­pa­ny par­ties fea­tured char­cu­terie plates from Balt­haz­ar. Prax­is staffed up, and Mr. Brown plot­ted how to intro­duce him­self to the nation­al stage.

    The fol­low­ing month, the com­pa­ny hired Mr. Stone, the ghost­writer, to help write a bio­graph­i­cal speech about Mr. Brown, as well as the script for a short film in which Mr. Brown would walk along a beach, con­vers­ing with the dis­em­bod­ied voice of Moth­er Nature. The plan was to unveil it all at a big town hall, à la Steve Jobs. (The event nev­er hap­pened.)

    In an inter­view with The New York Times, Mr. Stone said that dur­ing his time work­ing in the Prax­is office he was struck that “nobody seemed to have a defin­able skill set. There was no one with engi­neer­ing, plan­ning, lan­guage or com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills.”

    Mr. Brown con­tin­ued to spend on showy par­ties — many at the “Prax­is Embassy,” the mul­ti-floor Broome Street loft where he lived along with sev­er­al of his deputies — in an attempt to build a com­mu­ni­ty of wealthy and influ­en­tial young peo­ple. A report from one such salon, held in June 2022, described an under-30 finance and art set dis­cussing Machi­avel­li and Hobbes while cham­ber music played.

    Around this time, Mr. Brown start­ed to focus his atten­tion on “Dimes Square,” the down­town par­ty and social media scene that achieved noto­ri­ety for its attempts to shock lib­er­als through reac­tionary polit­i­cal pos­tures. Styl­ish young peo­ple stag­ing their own cul­tur­al exit from iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics nat­u­ral­ly might have appealed to Mr. Brown; Mr. Thiel him­self had fund­ed a Dimes Square film fes­ti­val in Octo­ber 2021.

    ...

    In April of this year, Prax­is hired the pub­li­cist Kaitlin Phillips, the doyenne of down­town myth­mak­ing. Then, in June, the Gray­don Carter-run out­let Air Mail sent a reporter to a “secret and exclu­sive” Prax­is gala at the Yale Club, where men wore tuxe­dos and a string quin­tet played. That same month, a mod­el and D.J. named Dagsen Love, anoth­er Dimes Square fix­ture, helped Prax­is stage a week of events around the city. And in August, the acclaimed, Dimes Square-approved design­er Ele­na Velez post­ed a pho­to of her chil­dren play­ing in the Prax­is office.

    Mood Board Reac­tionar­ies

    Even among a crowd recep­tive to reac­tionary chic, the par­ties were con­tro­ver­sial. On June 5, Prax­is host­ed a mix­er at the Cut­ting Room, a lounge and venue in Mid­town.

    The next day, a Guardian U.S. edi­tor named Amana Fontanel­la-Khan who had attend­ed the par­ty post­ed on Insta­gram that Prax­is want­ed to “cre­ate their own laws, not pay tax­es and remove the poors and the unde­sir­ables.” The rea­son “these ghouls” were “court­ing the down­town club scene,” Ms. Fontanel­la-Khan wrote, was to solic­it new mem­bers.

    In Sep­tem­ber, Moth­er Jones pub­lished an exposé about Mr. Brown’s pol­i­tics, report­ing that he had urged staff to read the fas­cist writer Julius Evola. Accord­ing to a for­mer Prax­is employ­ee who signed a nondis­clo­sure agree­ment, Mr. Brown’s book col­lec­tion in the so-called Prax­is Embassy also includ­ed the mem­oirs of Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s archi­tect, and “Imperi­um,” an influ­en­tial 1948 title that calls for the estab­lish­ment of a neo-Nazi empire in Europe.

    “We have thou­sands of books in our office, I don’t endorse all of their ideas,” Mr. Brown wrote in an email.

    In an undat­ed Insta­gram sto­ry from inside the Prax­is office that was reviewed by The New York Times, a man mea­sured Mr. Brown’s face using calipers — one of the main tools of phys­iog­no­my, the pseu­do­science of judg­ing char­ac­ter from facial char­ac­ter­is­tics, and of phrenol­o­gy, the dis­cred­it­ed sci­ence of pre­dict­ing men­tal traits by mea­sur­ing bumps on the skull. Mr. Brown did not clar­i­fy in his email response why he want­ed his head mea­sured.

    These pre­oc­cu­pa­tions place Mr. Brown with­in a neb­u­lous group of right-wing influ­encers who prac­tice a sort of mood board pol­i­tics: a social media pas­tiche of images and apho­risms that cel­e­brate antiq­ui­ty, clas­si­cism and bio­log­i­cal hier­ar­chy — and by exten­sion crit­i­cize moder­ni­ty, diver­si­ty and human equal­i­ty. (Its best known fig­ure is the writer Bronze Age Per­vert.)

    Inter­nal Prax­is doc­u­ments out­line three “per­sona groups” who will pop­u­late the Prax­is city. They are “war­riors,” who are “mus­cu­lar” and “clean” and pro­tect soci­ety from threats; “priests,” who are “very thin,” and “define the val­ues and beliefs of soci­ety”; and “mer­chants,” who are “port­ly” and “beard­ed,” and include ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and cryp­tocur­ren­cy pro­fes­sion­als.

    The July mem­ber­ship ros­ter includes many bankers and tech work­ers, but not many mod­els, artists or influ­encers. There are a few big names on the list, but they come from the worlds of tech and finance: Mar­tin Shkre­li, the ex-phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal investor who served near­ly sev­en years in prison for secu­ri­ties fraud; Rob Rhine­hart, the founder of Soy­lent, the meal-replace­ment com­pa­ny; and Max Novend­stern, the co-founder — along with Mr. Alt­man — of World­coin, a con­tro­ver­sial project that gives peo­ple cryp­tocur­ren­cy in exchange for their bio­met­ric data. Mr. Novend­stern said he had host­ed a din­ner for Mr. Brown in the fall of 2020. Though Mr. Alt­man has invest­ed in Prax­is, he is not list­ed as a mem­ber.

    “I’m not sure there’s a huge over­lap between peo­ple who want to go to good par­ties in SoHo and peo­ple who want to live on the Mos­qui­to Coast,” said Cur­tis Yarvin, a right-wing writer, refer­ring to the Paul Ther­oux nov­el about an Amer­i­can inven­tor who attempts to cre­ate a utopia in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca. (Mr. Yarvin stayed for sev­er­al nights at the Prax­is Embassy in 2022.)

    Good­bye to All That

    Mr. Brown may now be ready to leave the Man­hat­tan par­ty scene behind, for a city where his ideas are more accept­ed.

    ...

    Of late, Mr. Brown has post­ed often about effec­tive accel­er­a­tionism, a con­cept pop­u­lar­ized by the ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Marc Andreessen. It holds that Sil­i­con Val­ley should pur­sue rapid tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment even at the cost of painful social changes, in the inter­est of bring­ing about a super­abun­dant utopia.

    On a per­son­al blog, Mr. Brown wrote on Oct. 18 that Prax­is is build­ing “accel­er­a­tion zones” and is con­sult­ing with sev­en gov­ern­ments about where to place them. Ren­der­ings of a hypo­thet­i­cal city post­ed in Octo­ber to the Prax­is Insta­gram account depict low-slung, curvi­lin­ear glass struc­tures nes­tled into coastal chap­ar­ral. On X, Mr. Brown has promised air­ships to future res­i­dents.

    Mean­while, he con­tin­ues to fund-raise. A deal memo dis­trib­uted to poten­tial investors in Octo­ber refers to “rumored part­ner­ships with top tech giants” and claims “the team are now final­iz­ing their first part­ner­ship with a Host Gov­ern­ment,” with a move-in date of 2026. Accord­ing to the memo, Prax­is’ gov­ern­ment rela­tions team includes Stephen Harp­er, the for­mer prime min­is­ter of Cana­da. (Mr. Harper’s con­sult­ing busi­ness did not respond to a request for com­ment.)

    But Mr. Brown has found a chilly recep­tion in at least one impor­tant court: Accord­ing to the per­son famil­iar with Mr. Thiel’s invest­ments, Mr. Brown has pitched mul­ti­ple rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Mr. Thiel’s over the past year, all of whom turned him down. The source said that Mr. Thiel didn’t think Prax­is was capa­ble of exe­cut­ing on its ambi­tious plans.

    ———-

    “Who Would Give This Guy Mil­lions to Build His Own Utopia?” By Joseph Bern­stein; The New York Times; 12/12/2023

    “Even if Mr. Brown nev­er ends up build­ing an eter­nal city, he has already built some­thing of this moment. Prax­is, a real-life part­ner­ship between puffed-up sub­cul­tures that mix most­ly online, has pulled togeth­er those in the tech world who seek alter­na­tives to lib­er­al democ­ra­cy, mem­bers of an ascen­dant right that rejects the premise of human equal­i­ty, and a band of down­town New York scen­esters who find it all a bit thrilling.”

    Dry­den Brown’s dreams of cre­at­ing a fas­cist char­ter city might seem like a far fetched gam­bit at this point. But as this arti­cle makes clear, that does­n’t mean Brown isn’t already build­ing some­thing with Prax­is. Because he’s already built a com­mu­ni­ty. A com­mu­ni­ty appar­ent­ly ded­i­cat­ed to elite par­ties that can recruit more wealthy and influ­en­tial peo­ple into the move­ment. It’s like a project to pop­u­lar­ize elite fas­cism, under the guise of some sort of out­landish char­ter city scheme:

    ...
    Prax­is’ extrav­a­gant plans face daunt­ing odds, even with­in the moon­shot cul­ture of tech invest­ing, but what makes that more than $19 mil­lion tru­ly strange is the dis­turb­ing soci­ety Mr. Brown wish­es to build inside his city. “Our val­ues inform our vision for the future,” read a slide dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion at the Net­work State Con­fer­ence. “Our vision is a more vital future for human­i­ty.”

    Onstage, Mr. Brown left those val­ues unde­fined, but an inter­nal Prax­is brand­ing guide makes it clear that the com­pa­ny is part of a creepy inter­net sub­cul­ture that has drawn reams of news media cov­er­age as a fas­cist breed­ing ground with­in the Amer­i­can right.

    The guide denounces “ene­mies of vital­i­ty,” who “reject what they con­sid­er the option­al ‘Euro­pean beau­ty stan­dards.” It goes on to extol “tra­di­tion­al, European/Western beau­ty stan­dards on which the civ­i­lized world, at its best points, has always found suc­cess.”

    Beau­ty, here, con­notes prop­er breed­ing: “In humans, beau­ty implies a num­ber of things — name­ly that two peo­ple, them­selves of beau­ty, formed a union to cre­ate more beau­ti­ful life,” it reads.
    ...

    Also note how these par­ties relied on pro­vid­ing “hot girls” to social­ize with the tech nerds Brown was try­ing to recruit. It’s the kind of dynam­ic that rais­es the ques­tion of where all these “hot girls” were com­ing from. Like, were they vol­un­tar­i­ly attend­ing these par­ties because they were invit­ed? Or because they were paid to attend? Giv­en the whole Jef­frey Epstein saga, and now the pair of elite pros­ti­tu­tion rings under inves­ti­ga­tion, you have to won­der how pros­ti­tu­tion fac­tors into Brown’s sense of fas­cist moral­i­ty and aes­thet­ic:

    ...
    Accord­ing to sev­er­al for­mer Prax­is employ­ees who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because they signed nondis­clo­sure agree­ments, Mr. Brown had dis­cussed want­i­ng to attract tech tal­ent to his city by intro­duc­ing founders to “hot girls.” He threw lav­ish par­ties, where com­put­er nerds rubbed elbows with the styl­ish mem­bers of a now-infa­mous demi­monde that has grown up in and around New York’s Chi­na­town, which places shock above most oth­er val­ues.

    ...

    Prax­is, cash rich, moved into a 7,500-square-foot SoHo office in May 2022. Accord­ing to a for­mer Prax­is employ­ee, Mr. Brown wore Balen­ci­a­ga and drank Hall­stein water (a six-pack costs $68); com­pa­ny par­ties fea­tured char­cu­terie plates from Balt­haz­ar. Prax­is staffed up, and Mr. Brown plot­ted how to intro­duce him­self to the nation­al stage.

    The fol­low­ing month, the com­pa­ny hired Mr. Stone, the ghost­writer, to help write a bio­graph­i­cal speech about Mr. Brown, as well as the script for a short film in which Mr. Brown would walk along a beach, con­vers­ing with the dis­em­bod­ied voice of Moth­er Nature. The plan was to unveil it all at a big town hall, à la Steve Jobs. (The event nev­er hap­pened.)

    In an inter­view with The New York Times, Mr. Stone said that dur­ing his time work­ing in the Prax­is office he was struck that “nobody seemed to have a defin­able skill set. There was no one with engi­neer­ing, plan­ning, lan­guage or com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills.”

    Mr. Brown con­tin­ued to spend on showy par­ties — many at the “Prax­is Embassy,” the mul­ti-floor Broome Street loft where he lived along with sev­er­al of his deputies — in an attempt to build a com­mu­ni­ty of wealthy and influ­en­tial young peo­ple. A report from one such salon, held in June 2022, described an under-30 finance and art set dis­cussing Machi­avel­li and Hobbes while cham­ber music played.
    ...

    And as we can see from the alarmed com­ments by Guardian U.S. edi­tor Amana Fontanel­la-Khan — who attend­ed a Prax­is par­ty — they aren’t hid­ing the fas­cist phi­los­o­phy at these par­ties. And accord­ing to a for­mer employ­ee, Brown’s book col­lec­tion at ‘Prax­is Embassy’ includ­ed the mem­oirs of Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s archi­tect, and “Imperi­um,” Fran­cis Park­er Yock­ey’s opus. They even engage in phrenol­o­gy at this ’embassy’. It’s an embassy for elite fas­cism:

    ...
    Even among a crowd recep­tive to reac­tionary chic, the par­ties were con­tro­ver­sial. On June 5, Prax­is host­ed a mix­er at the Cut­ting Room, a lounge and venue in Mid­town.

    The next day, a Guardian U.S. edi­tor named Amana Fontanel­la-Khan who had attend­ed the par­ty post­ed on Insta­gram that Prax­is want­ed to “cre­ate their own laws, not pay tax­es and remove the poors and the unde­sir­ables.” The rea­son “these ghouls” were “court­ing the down­town club scene,” Ms. Fontanel­la-Khan wrote, was to solic­it new mem­bers.

    In Sep­tem­ber, Moth­er Jones pub­lished an exposé about Mr. Brown’s pol­i­tics, report­ing that he had urged staff to read the fas­cist writer Julius Evola. Accord­ing to a for­mer Prax­is employ­ee who signed a nondis­clo­sure agree­ment, Mr. Brown’s book col­lec­tion in the so-called Prax­is Embassy also includ­ed the mem­oirs of Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s archi­tect, and “Imperi­um,” an influ­en­tial 1948 title that calls for the estab­lish­ment of a neo-Nazi empire in Europe.

    ...

    In an undat­ed Insta­gram sto­ry from inside the Prax­is office that was reviewed by The New York Times, a man mea­sured Mr. Brown’s face using calipers — one of the main tools of phys­iog­no­my, the pseu­do­science of judg­ing char­ac­ter from facial char­ac­ter­is­tics, and of phrenol­o­gy, the dis­cred­it­ed sci­ence of pre­dict­ing men­tal traits by mea­sur­ing bumps on the skull. Mr. Brown did not clar­i­fy in his email response why he want­ed his head mea­sured.

    ...

    Inter­nal Prax­is doc­u­ments out­line three “per­sona groups” who will pop­u­late the Prax­is city. They are “war­riors,” who are “mus­cu­lar” and “clean” and pro­tect soci­ety from threats; “priests,” who are “very thin,” and “define the val­ues and beliefs of soci­ety”; and “mer­chants,” who are “port­ly” and “beard­ed,” and include ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and cryp­tocur­ren­cy pro­fes­sion­als.
    ...

    And when we see Brown’s speech­writer, Mr Stone, com­ment about how no one at the ‘Prax­is Embassy’ appeared to have any defin­able skill set, note how that appears to include Brown. Home-schooled, he learned about Ayn Rand and Aus­tri­an econ­o­mists in high school. He end­ed up attend­ing col­lege at N.Y.U., dropped out, and then some­how got hired at a hedge fund, where he met Char­lie Cal­l­i­nan. But then he was fired from his job at the hedge fund. And yet Brown and Cal­l­i­nan went on to build this whole Prax­is scheme. It’s a very strange ori­gin sto­ry. The kind that sug­gests some­one who isn’t Brown has been foot­ing the bill for this project the whole time. Is it Callan­in’s mon­ey? Or some­one else’s? Because it’s very unclear how Brown could have financed the launch of this on his own:

    ...
    In 2022, Mr. Brown had been more spe­cif­ic about his moti­va­tion to build a city from scratch, telling a speech­writer that he got the idea for Prax­is after wit­ness­ing loot­ers break shop win­dows in SoHo dur­ing the protests that fol­lowed the mur­der of George Floyd.

    (Mr. Brown gave detailed bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion to the speech­writer, Web­ster Stone, dur­ing hours of record­ed meet­ings in 2022, of which The New York Times has reviewed a tran­script. In an email response to a detailed list of ques­tions, Mr. Brown dis­put­ed sev­er­al of his own state­ments to the speech­writer, with­out offer­ing any clar­i­fi­ca­tion.)

    Accord­ing to the tran­script, Mr. Brown described him­self to Mr. Stone as neu­rot­ic and ambi­tious. He said he was home-schooled in San­ta Bar­bara so that he could pur­sue com­pet­i­tive surf­ing. Exposed to the clas­sics by his tutor, Mr. Brown read Ayn Rand and the Aus­tri­an econ­o­mists in high school. He said he was drawn to the idea of the char­ter city — a kind of spe­cial, decen­tral­ized eco­nom­ic zone cham­pi­oned by lib­er­tar­i­ans, in which a poor host coun­try leas­es a piece of land to a third par­ty, which then gov­erns it as it sees fit. (As of 2023, the most advanced of these projects is Próspera, on the Hon­duran island of Roatán.)

    Apply­ing only to Har­vard, Stan­ford, Oxford, and Cam­bridge, Mr. Brown was reject­ed by them all, he told Mr. Stone. He end­ed up at N.Y.U., tried to trans­fer to Stan­ford, and was reject­ed again. Even­tu­al­ly, he stopped attend­ing col­lege and was hired as an ana­lyst at a hedge fund. There, he met Char­lie Cal­l­i­nan, a for­mer Boston Col­lege wide receiv­er who is Mr. Brown’s co-founder at Prax­is.

    Per the tran­script, Mr. Brown was fired from his job at the hedge fund, but he had nev­er dropped his dream of build­ing a city. With sev­er­al thou­sand dol­lars that Mr. Cal­l­i­nan had won in a golf tour­na­ment, the two trav­eled in 2019 first to Nige­ria and then to Ghana, talk­ing their way into a room with Ghana’s vice pres­i­dent, in which they pro­posed build­ing a finan­cial cen­ter. But the pan­dem­ic derailed those plans.

    In Sep­tem­ber 2020, Mr. Brown wrote a thread on Twit­ter about the mad­cap series of events that went into the meet­ing in Accra. After, he was mocked online and accused of dilet­tan­tism and neo­colo­nial­ism. Mr. Brown told the speech­writer those insults engaged his fight-or-flight response.

    So too had the expe­ri­ence of watch­ing the Black Lives Mat­ter protests, which made Mr. Brown fear, he said in an inter­view with Mr. Stone, that he might be dragged from his Prince Street apart­ment. To clear his head, he rent­ed a cab­in in Alas­ka. There, Mr. Brown told Mr. Stone, he read, went for walks around a lake and began to plan. He want­ed to build more than an eco­nom­ic hub. He want­ed a city based around a “spir­i­tu­al core.”
    ...

    And that brings us to the range of wealth ‘usu­al sus­pects’ that we find already involved with the project. All in Peter Thiel’s orbit: Pronomos Cap­i­tal, run by Patri Fried­man who ran Thiel’s Seast­eading ini­tia­tive, invest­ed in a 2021 fund­ing round that raised $4.2 mil­lion. And then Joe Lons­dale — who co-found­ed Palan­tir along with Thiel and Alex Karp — and who played a key role in secur­ing Sau­di invest­ments in Sil­i­con Val­ley, along with Bal­a­ji Srini­vasan. And then there’s fig­ures like Mar­tin Shkre­li and Sam Alt­man. A num­ber of extreme­ly wealthy peo­ple invest­ed real mon­ey into this. It’s the kind of back­ing that rais­es the ques­tion how much is this project real­ly their project, with Brown play­ing a kind of show­man pub­lic face role?

    ...
    Tech-world lib­er­tar­i­ans have long pushed for “exit projects” free from the con­straints of the mod­ern West­ern state. These hypo­thet­i­cal spaces are most­ly the dry realm of wonks debat­ing the­o­ries of sov­er­eign­ty. But Mr. Brown’s com­pa­ny seems to have focused less on the nit­ty-grit­ty of build­ing a city and more on its “tra­di­tion­al” “Euro­pean” aes­thet­ics and on intro­duc­ing “Prax­is val­ues” such as “vital­i­ty,” “beau­ty,” and “patri­o­tism” to prospec­tive mem­bers.

    The most promi­nent fig­ure in this world is Peter Thiel, who declared in 2009 that “the great task for lib­er­tar­i­ans is to find an escape from pol­i­tics in all its forms.” Since then, the bil­lion­aire Repub­li­can megadonor has backed sev­er­al attempts to cre­ate cor­po­rate city-states, and he casts a long shad­ow over the cul­ture sur­round­ing these ini­tia­tives.

    So it made sense that when Mr. Brown went look­ing for mon­ey to build his escape from con­tem­po­rary New York, he found some of it in Mr. Thiel’s orbit. Pronomos Cap­i­tal, a Thiel-backed city-build­ing fund run by Patri Fried­man, the grand­son of the lib­er­tar­i­an econ­o­mist Mil­ton Fried­man, invest­ed in a 2021 fund­ing round that raised $4.2 mil­lion. Two of Mr. Thiel’s asso­ciates, the ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists Bal­a­ji Srini­vasan and Joe Lons­dale, invest­ed in Prax­is as well. But accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with his invest­ments, Mr. Thiel has nev­er direct­ly sup­port­ed Prax­is. Still, the wide­spread per­cep­tion that Mr. Thiel is involved with the com­pa­ny has helped it build its mys­tique.

    ...

    The July mem­ber­ship ros­ter includes many bankers and tech work­ers, but not many mod­els, artists or influ­encers. There are a few big names on the list, but they come from the worlds of tech and finance: Mar­tin Shkre­li, the ex-phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal investor who served near­ly sev­en years in prison for secu­ri­ties fraud; Rob Rhine­hart, the founder of Soy­lent, the meal-replace­ment com­pa­ny; and Max Novend­stern, the co-founder — along with Mr. Alt­man — of World­coin, a con­tro­ver­sial project that gives peo­ple cryp­tocur­ren­cy in exchange for their bio­met­ric data. Mr. Novend­stern said he had host­ed a din­ner for Mr. Brown in the fall of 2020. Though Mr. Alt­man has invest­ed in Prax­is, he is not list­ed as a mem­ber.
    ...

    But the fas­cism pro­mot­ed at Prax­is isn’t just clas­si­cal fas­cism. We also find strains of the ‘effec­tive altru­ism’ asso­ci­at­ed the group behind Sam Bankman-Fried. In Brown’s case, he appears to sub­scribe to some­thing called “effec­tive accel­er­a­tionism”, or the idea that Sil­i­con Val­ley should pur­sue rapid tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment even at the cost of painful social changes, in the inter­est of bring­ing about a super­abun­dant utopia. A super­abun­dant utopia for the fas­cist elites, at least:

    ...
    The biggest invest­ment in Prax­is came from the boom­ing world of cryp­tocur­ren­cy, includ­ing from Par­a­digm, a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm best known for its $278 mil­lion stake in Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryp­to exchange FTX. (Alame­da Research, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s trad­ing firm, also invest­ed in Prax­is, as did Apol­lo Ven­tures, the ven­ture firm launched by the Ope­nAI chief exec­u­tive Sam Alt­man.) Paradigm’s due dili­gence prac­tices came under scruti­ny in Octo­ber, when then-man­ag­ing part­ner Matt Huang tes­ti­fied at Mr. Bankman-Fried’s tri­al, say­ing he had been mis­led by the dis­graced founder. Par­a­digm declined to com­ment for this arti­cle.

    ...

    Of late, Mr. Brown has post­ed often about effec­tive accel­er­a­tionism, a con­cept pop­u­lar­ized by the ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Marc Andreessen. It holds that Sil­i­con Val­ley should pur­sue rapid tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment even at the cost of painful social changes, in the inter­est of bring­ing about a super­abun­dant utopia.

    On a per­son­al blog, Mr. Brown wrote on Oct. 18 that Prax­is is build­ing “accel­er­a­tion zones” and is con­sult­ing with sev­en gov­ern­ments about where to place them. Ren­der­ings of a hypo­thet­i­cal city post­ed in Octo­ber to the Prax­is Insta­gram account depict low-slung, curvi­lin­ear glass struc­tures nes­tled into coastal chap­ar­ral. On X, Mr. Brown has promised air­ships to future res­i­dents.

    Mean­while, he con­tin­ues to fund-raise. A deal memo dis­trib­uted to poten­tial investors in Octo­ber refers to “rumored part­ner­ships with top tech giants” and claims “the team are now final­iz­ing their first part­ner­ship with a Host Gov­ern­ment,” with a move-in date of 2026. Accord­ing to the memo, Prax­is’ gov­ern­ment rela­tions team includes Stephen Harp­er, the for­mer prime min­is­ter of Cana­da. (Mr. Harper’s con­sult­ing busi­ness did not respond to a request for com­ment.)
    ...

    Final­ly, note two of ‘usu­al sus­pects’ who, at least on the sur­face, don’t appear to be ful­ly on board: Cur­tis “Men­cious Mold­bug” Yarvin and Peter Thiel. Now, giv­en all the close Thiel asso­ciates who have already invest­ed, it’s hard to see how this isn’t some­thing he’s effec­tive­ly back­ing. But at least offi­cial, Thiel isn’t yet on board:

    ...
    “I’m not sure there’s a huge over­lap between peo­ple who want to go to good par­ties in SoHo and peo­ple who want to live on the Mos­qui­to Coast,” said Cur­tis Yarvin, a right-wing writer, refer­ring to the Paul Ther­oux nov­el about an Amer­i­can inven­tor who attempts to cre­ate a utopia in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca. (Mr. Yarvin stayed for sev­er­al nights at the Prax­is Embassy in 2022.)

    ...

    But Mr. Brown has found a chilly recep­tion in at least one impor­tant court: Accord­ing to the per­son famil­iar with Mr. Thiel’s invest­ments, Mr. Brown has pitched mul­ti­ple rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Mr. Thiel’s over the past year, all of whom turned him down. The source said that Mr. Thiel didn’t think Prax­is was capa­ble of exe­cut­ing on its ambi­tious plans.
    ...

    Is Thiel mak­ing extra secret dona­tions to this project? Who knows, but it’s not like it’s lack­ing resources. Sure, it cur­rent­ly lacks the resources need­ed to set up a whole new char­ter city. Resources and the legal per­mis­sion to do so. But this is a long-term project with long-term goals. First things first. And first you fuel­ing the fas­cism, which this project is clear­ly well equipped to do, thanks to the mil­lions of dol­lars in dona­tions from all these usu­al sus­pects. Fas­cism just needs an oppor­tu­ni­ty to blos­som in the minds of the tar­get audi­ences. The rest flows from there. At least that appears to be the well-financed plan play­ing out right now.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 16, 2023, 6:56 pm
  17. There was a recent sto­ry in Wired about one of those tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ments that’s going to be worth keep­ing an eye on, espe­cial­ly with respect to how this tech­nol­o­gy is used by law enforce­ment and mil­i­taries. The use, and poten­tial pit­falls, of facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy by law enforce­ment isn’t a new con­cern. But there’s a whole new con­cern­ing new appli­ca­tion of facial recog­ni­tion that’s pre­sum­ably only going to be more and more pop­u­lar as this tech­nol­o­gy evolves: facial recog­ni­tion search­es run on faces algo­rith­mi­cal­ly gen­er­at­ed based on a DNA sam­ple.

    Yes, the tech­nol­o­gy to infer basic char­ac­ter­is­tics of some­one’s face — fea­tures like the col­or of a per­son­’s hair, eyes, and skin, freck­les, and the gen­er­al shape of their face — based sole­ly on their DNA has already been devel­oped. Or at least the ear­li­est gen­er­a­tion of this tech­nol­o­gy. It’s not per­fect. Far from it, which is part of the source of all the grow­ing con­cerns about how this tech­nol­o­gy might be used. And as we’re dis­cov­er­ing, one of the most obvi­ous poten­tial uses of DNA-gen­er­at­ed faces in the con­text of law enforce­ment is to sim­ply run the faces gen­er­at­ed from a sus­pec­t’s DNA through facial recog­ni­tion soft­ware to iden­ti­fy poten­tial sus­pects.

    Inter­est­ing­ly, the com­pa­ny offer­ing DNA-based face-gen­er­a­tion ser­vices to US law enforce­ment, Parabon Labs, did­n’t ini­tial­ly offer those ser­vices but was instead focused on foren­sic genet­ic geneaol­o­gy, where a piece of DNA relat­ed to a crime is com­pared to DNA data­bas­es to iden­ti­fy poten­tial sus­pects or vic­tims. Recall how the Gold­en State Killer was iden­ti­fied using a ser­vice sim­i­lar to what’s offered with Ancestry.com. But that changed in 2012 when the com­pa­ny received a grant from the US Depart­ment of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduc­tion Agency to inves­ti­gate “DNA phe­no­typ­ing”, or the pre­dic­tion of a per­son­’s appear­ance based sole­ly on their DNA. It sounds like the DOD was inter­est­ed in using this tech­nol­o­gy to gen­er­ate sus­pect lists for peo­ple involved with the build­ing of impro­vised explo­sive devices.

    And that mil­i­tary appli­ca­tion brings us to one of big con­cerns about how this tech­nol­o­gy might be used. Because it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that, ide­al­ly, it should be triv­ial for an agency to con­firm a sus­pect is actu­al­ly the per­son a DNA sam­ple came from. Just draw some blood and com­pare the sus­pec­t’s DNA to the source DNA. But that’s assum­ing the sus­pec­t’s DNA can be obtained before action would be tak­en.

    In the con­text of a mil­i­tary con­flict, what are the odds that a mil­i­tary is going to first appre­hend a sus­pect to get a DNA sam­ple before they deter­mine that the sus­pect is a threat that must be neu­tral­ized? Or, from a law enforce­ment con­text, what about a cold case where the sus­pect may no longer be alive and may not have any avail­able DNA sam­ples? How might the kinds of leads gen­er­at­ed by this tech­nol­o­gy end up being abused?

    Anoth­er source of con­cern here should be the qual­i­ty of data that went into the mod­el. As we’re going to see, Parabon Labs claims their mod­els con­sist of over 21,000 facial fea­tures, based on the DNA and faces of 1000 vol­un­teers. And while that might sound like a large train­ing set for the mod­els, there’s not rea­son to assume 1000 peo­ple was enough to accu­rate­ly train that mod­el across all the dif­fer­ent ances­tries around the world. And in a mul­ti­eth­nic place like the Unit­ed States, where you find peo­ple of all ances­tries, mod­els that can’t accu­rate­ly peo­ple of any ances­try is a recipe for bad leads and improp­er arrests.

    So we have a new tech­nol­o­gy that, on the one hand, pos­es all sorts of risks if it does work and all sorts of dif­fer­ent risks if it does­n’t work. And it sounds like it’s going to be used no mat­ter what, with every sin­gle law enforce­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive con­tact­ed by Wired indi­cat­ed that they feel facial recog­ni­tion on DNA-gen­er­at­ed faces should be allowed in some cas­es. And the fact that there’s no fed­er­al law reg­u­lat­ing the use of facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy by US law enforce­ment leaves these deci­sions up to each police depart­ment to make those deci­sions them­selves.

    Also keep in mind one of the long-term out­comes of the use of this tech­nol­o­gy: it incen­tivizes the cre­ation of DNA data­bas­es as a kind of ‘bet­ter’ alter­na­tive or safe­guard. After all, one of the surest ways to avoid becom­ing a sus­pect for a crime com­mit­ted by some­one with sim­i­lar genet­i­cal­ly-deter­mined face is if your DNA is already stored in a DNA data­base avail­able law enforce­ment. The more ‘oops’ instances of the wrong per­son being arrest­ed that we hear about, the greater the per­ceived ben­e­fits of just hav­ing every­one’s DNA on file already. After all, there’s going to be a min­i­mal need to gen­er­ate faces from DNA in the first place if author­i­ties can sim­ply iden­ti­fy who a piece of DNA belongs to by search­ing a data­base.

    That’s all part of what is mak­ing this new tech­no­log­i­cal tool some­thing to keep an eye on. Tech­nol­o­gy that’s too poten­tial­ly use­ful to not be put to use and yet too new and ripe for abuse that it’s hard to imag­ine this isn’t going to some­how end up with a dis­as­ter:

    Wired

    Cops Used DNA to Pre­dict a Suspect’s Face—and Tried to Run Facial Recog­ni­tion on It

    Police around the US say they’re jus­ti­fied to run DNA-gen­er­at­ed 3D mod­els of faces through facial recog­ni­tion tools to help crack cold cas­es. Every­one but the cops thinks that’s a bad idea.

    By Dhruv Mehro­tra
    Secu­ri­ty
    Jan 22, 2024 7:00 AM

    In 2017, detec­tives work­ing a cold case at the East Bay Region­al Park Dis­trict Police Depart­ment got an idea, one that might help them final­ly get a lead on the mur­der of Maria Jane Wei­d­hofer. Offi­cers had found Wei­d­hofer, dead and sex­u­al­ly assault­ed, at Berke­ley, California’s Tilden Region­al Park in 1990. Near­ly 30 years lat­er, the depart­ment sent genet­ic infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed at the crime scene to Parabon NanoLabs—a com­pa­ny that says it can turn DNA into a face.

    Parabon NanoLabs ran the suspect’s DNA through its pro­pri­etary machine learn­ing mod­el. Soon, it pro­vid­ed the police depart­ment with some­thing the detec­tives had nev­er seen before: the face of a poten­tial sus­pect, gen­er­at­ed using only crime scene evi­dence.

    The image Parabon NanoLabs pro­duced, called a Snap­shot Phe­no­type Report, wasn’t a pho­to­graph. It was a 3D ren­der­ing that bridges the uncan­ny val­ley between real­i­ty and sci­ence fic­tion; a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of how the company’s algo­rithm pre­dict­ed a per­son could look giv­en genet­ic attrib­ut­es found in the DNA sam­ple.

    The face of the mur­der­er, the com­pa­ny pre­dict­ed, was male. He had fair skin, brown eyes and hair, no freck­les, and bushy eye­brows. A foren­sic artist employed by the com­pa­ny pho­to­shopped a non­de­script, close-cropped hair­cut onto the man and gave him a mustache—an artis­tic addi­tion informed by a wit­ness descrip­tion and not the DNA sam­ple.

    In a con­tro­ver­sial 2017 deci­sion, the depart­ment pub­lished the pre­dict­ed face in an attempt to solic­it tips from the pub­lic. Then, in 2020, one of the detec­tives did some­thing civ­il lib­er­ties experts say is even more problematic—and a vio­la­tion of Parabon NanoLabs’ terms of ser­vice: He asked to have the ren­der­ing run through facial recog­ni­tion soft­ware.

    “Using DNA found at the crime scene, Parabon Labs recon­struct­ed a pos­si­ble suspect’s facial fea­tures,” the detec­tive explained in a request for “ana­lyt­i­cal sup­port” sent to the North­ern Cal­i­for­nia Region­al Intel­li­gence Cen­ter, a so-called fusion cen­ter that facil­i­tates col­lab­o­ra­tion among fed­er­al, state, and local police depart­ments. “I have a pho­to of the pos­si­ble sus­pect and would like to use facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy to iden­ti­fy a suspect/lead.”

    The detective’s request to run a DNA-gen­er­at­ed esti­ma­tion of a suspect’s face through facial recog­ni­tion tech has not pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed. Found in a trove of hacked police records pub­lished by the trans­paren­cy col­lec­tive Dis­trib­uted Denial of Secrets, it appears to be the first known instance of a police depart­ment attempt­ing to use facial recog­ni­tion on a face algo­rith­mi­cal­ly gen­er­at­ed from crime-scene DNA.

    ...

    “It’s real­ly just junk sci­ence to con­sid­er some­thing like this,” Jen­nifer Lynch, gen­er­al coun­sel at civ­il lib­er­ties non­prof­it the Elec­tron­ic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion, tells WIRED. Run­ning facial recog­ni­tion with unre­li­able inputs, like an algo­rith­mi­cal­ly gen­er­at­ed face, is more like­ly to misiden­ti­fy a sus­pect than pro­vide law enforce­ment with a use­ful lead, she argues. “There’s no real evi­dence that Parabon can accu­rate­ly pro­duce a face in the first place,” Lynch says. “It’s very dan­ger­ous, because it puts peo­ple at risk of being a sus­pect for a crime they didn’t com­mit.”

    It is unknown whether the North­ern Cal­i­for­nia Region­al Intel­li­gence Cen­ter hon­ored the East Bay detective’s request. The NCRIC did not respond to WIRED’s requests for com­ment about the out­come of the detec­tive’s facial recog­ni­tion request. Cap­tain Ter­rence Cotch­er of the East Bay Region­al Park Dis­trict PD would not com­ment on the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion request, cit­ing what he describes as an active homi­cide inves­ti­ga­tion. How­ev­er, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the NCRIC, Mike Sena, told The Markup in 2021 that when­ev­er the fusion cen­ter gets facial recog­ni­tion requests, it will run a search.

    For Parabon NanoLabs, if the depart­ment ran the pre­dict­ed face through facial recog­ni­tion, it isn’t just a vio­la­tion of the company’s terms of service—it’s a ter­ri­ble idea.

    Parabon NanoLabs, found­ed in 2008, pri­mar­i­ly focus­es on foren­sic genet­ic geneal­o­gy ser­vices for law enforce­ment, a process that involves com­par­ing DNA data with pro­files in geneal­o­gy data­bas­es to locate poten­tial sus­pects or vic­tims. In 2012, the com­pa­ny received a grant from the US Depart­ment of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduc­tion Agency to explore DNA phe­no­typ­ing, pre­dict­ing a per­son­’s appear­ance based only on their DNA. Accord­ing to a 2020 arti­cle in Nature, the DOD was ini­tial­ly inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing phe­no­typ­ing tech­nol­o­gy to re-cre­ate the faces of peo­ple who made impro­vised explo­sive devices, using traces of DNA left on the bomb frag­ments. Parabon pitched an ambi­tious method that involved machine learn­ing to receive its grant.

    Ellen Grey­tak, the direc­tor of bioin­for­mat­ics at Parabon NanoLabs, says the com­pa­ny uses machine learn­ing to build pre­dic­tive mod­els “for each part of the face.” The mod­els are trained on the DNA data of more than 1,000 research vol­un­teers and paired with 3D scans of their faces. Each scanned face, Grey­tak says, has 21,000 phenotypes—observable phys­i­cal traits—that their mod­els crunch in order to fig­ure out how parts of a DNA sam­ple affect a face’s appear­ance.

    Parabon says it can con­fi­dent­ly pre­dict the col­or of a per­son­’s hair, eyes, and skin, along with the amount of freck­les they have and the gen­er­al shape of their face. These phe­no­types form the basis of the face ren­der­ings the com­pa­ny gen­er­ates for law enforce­ment. Parabon’s meth­ods have not been peer-reviewed, and sci­en­tists are skep­ti­cal about how fea­si­ble pre­dict­ing face shape even is.

    In response to ques­tions about the tech­nol­o­gy’s accu­ra­cy, Parabon NanoLabs vice pres­i­dent Paula Armen­trout tells WIRED that, while the details of its meth­ods are not pub­lic, the com­pa­ny has pre­sent­ed its work at con­fer­ences and has test­ed its tech­nol­o­gy on thou­sands of sam­ples. She adds that the com­pa­ny posts on its web­site “every sin­gle com­pos­ite that is pub­licly dis­closed by a cus­tomer, so peo­ple can draw their own con­clu­sions about how well our tech­nol­o­gy works.”

    Grey­tak char­ac­ter­izes the company’s face pre­dic­tions as some­thing more like a descrip­tion of a sus­pect than an exact repli­ca of their face. “What we are pre­dict­ing is more like—given this person’s sex and ances­try, will they have wider-set eyes than aver­age,” she says. “There’s no way you can get indi­vid­ual iden­ti­fi­ca­tions from that.”

    When Parabon NanoLabs launched its face-pre­dic­tion ser­vice around 2015, its terms of ser­vice did not explic­it­ly ban clients from using pre­dic­tions with facial recog­ni­tion. Soon after launch­ing, how­ev­er, the company’s law enforce­ment clients start­ed ask­ing about the via­bil­i­ty of run­ning phe­no­type-gen­er­at­ed faces through facial recog­ni­tion tools. “We were sur­prised when we heard this,” Grey­tak says. “It’s just not the intend­ed pur­pose of the com­pos­ite images.” In 2016, the com­pa­ny added a clause to its terms pro­hibit­ing cus­tomers from using facial recog­ni­tion on its Snap­shot Phe­no­type Reports. How­ev­er, Armen­trout tells WIRED that the com­pa­ny “does not have a way to ensure com­pli­ance” with its TOS.

    Eight years lat­er, after gen­er­at­ing scores of face pre­dic­tions for law enforce­ment, some of Parabon NanoLabs’ clients see lit­tle rea­son to not con­sid­er using face recog­ni­tion on these algo­rith­mi­cal­ly gen­er­at­ed faces. Offi­cers at all of the depart­ments that WIRED con­tact­ed say it should at least be an option.

    Jason McDon­ald is a detec­tive with the Auro­ra, Col­orado, police department’s Major Crime-Homi­cide Unit. In 2016, his depart­ment asked Parabon to use DNA found on the scenes of four 1984 homi­cides to pre­dict the face of a sus­pect. McDon­ald tells WIRED that he believes that run­ning a pre­dict­ed face through facial recog­ni­tion could be “jus­ti­fied” and “pos­si­bly a use­ful tool.”

    ...

    “These are decades-old cas­es that we have been work­ing,” says a cold-case detec­tive who asked not to be named because they are not autho­rized to speak to the media. “I know that the Parabon face isn’t per­fect, but why wouldn’t we use every tool avail­able to us to try and catch a killer?” Asked if he tried facial recog­ni­tion with the pre­dict­ed face, the detec­tive declined to answer, but says, “the fam­i­ly deserves to know that we tried every­thing.”

    Lynch, of the Elec­tron­ic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion, tells WIRED that while she is sym­pa­thet­ic to detec­tives want­i­ng to bring clo­sure for the fam­i­ly, the risks of misiden­ti­fi­ca­tion with this use case are too great. “I think it goes to show a com­plete mis­un­der­stand­ing about the high-risk errors of facial recog­ni­tion,” Lynch says. “It’s sur­pris­ing to me that cops think this kind of tech­nol­o­gy will pro­duce leads that they can actu­al­ly use.”

    Phe­no­typ­ing is often a last resort that depart­ments try only after they’ve exhaust­ed oth­er leads. Accord­ing to Parabon NanoLabs, the major­i­ty of cas­es it works on do not actu­al­ly get to the facial com­pos­ite stage. “I joke that my phe­no­typ­ing can tell you if your sus­pect has blue eyes, but my geneal­o­gist can tell you the guy’s address,” Grey­tak says.

    The fact that law enforce­ment inves­ti­ga­tors con­sid­er using these pre­dic­tions in con­junc­tion with facial recog­ni­tion speaks to a gen­er­al lack of over­sight over inves­ti­ga­to­ry tools, experts say. There are no fed­er­al rules that lim­it the types of images police can use with face recog­ni­tion soft­ware, and it’s up to both the police depart­ments and the facial recog­ni­tion ven­dor to imple­ment and enforce safe­guards.

    Accord­ing to a report released in Sep­tem­ber by the US Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­i­ty Office, only 5 per­cent of the 196 FBI agents who have access to facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy from out­side ven­dors have com­plet­ed any train­ing on how to prop­er­ly use the tools. The report notes that the agency also lacks any inter­nal poli­cies for facial recog­ni­tion to safe­guard against pri­va­cy and civ­il lib­er­ties abus­es.

    In the past few years, facial recog­ni­tion has improved con­sid­er­ably. In 2018, when the Nation­al Insti­tute of Stan­dards and Tech­nol­o­gy test­ed face recog­ni­tion algo­rithms on a mug shot data­base of 12 mil­lion peo­ple, it found that 99.9 per­cent of search­es iden­ti­fied the cor­rect per­son. How­ev­er, the NIST also found dis­par­i­ties in how the algo­rithms it test­ed per­formed across demo­graph­ic groups.

    Cru­cial­ly, the NIST test­ed these algo­rithms only with high-qual­i­ty images like dri­ver’s license and pass­port pho­tos; law enforce­ment is often less dis­cern­ing. A 2019 report from Georgetown’s Cen­ter on Pri­va­cy and Tech­nol­o­gy writ­ten by Clare Garvie, a facial recog­ni­tion expert and pri­va­cy lawyer, found that law enforce­ment agen­cies nation­wide have used facial recog­ni­tion tools on images that include blur­ry sur­veil­lance cam­era shots, manip­u­lat­ed pho­tos of sus­pects, and even com­pos­ite sketch­es cre­at­ed by tra­di­tion­al artists.

    Accord­ing to an inter­nal New York Police Depart­ment pre­sen­ta­tion cit­ed by Garvie in her report, NYPD detec­tive Tom Markiewicz wrote in 2018 that the depart­ment has tried run­ning face recog­ni­tion on foren­sic sketch­es and found that “sketch­es do not work.” In anoth­er infa­mous exam­ple that Garvie cites in her report, a detec­tive from the NYPD’s Facial Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Sec­tion, after not­ing that a sus­pect looked like the actor Woody Har­rel­son, put a pho­to of the actor through the department’s facial recog­ni­tion tool.

    “Because mod­ern facial recog­ni­tion algo­rithms are trained neur­al net­works, we just don’t know exact­ly what cri­te­ria the sys­tems use to iden­ti­fy a face,” Garvie, who now works at the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Crim­i­nal Defense Lawyers, tells WIRED. “Daisy chain­ing unre­li­able or impre­cise black-box tools togeth­er is sim­ply going to pro­duce unre­li­able results,” she says.

    ...

    ———–

    “Cops Used DNA to Pre­dict a Suspect’s Face—and Tried to Run Facial Recog­ni­tion on It” By Dhruv Mehro­tra; Wired; 01/22/2024

    “Parabon NanoLabs, found­ed in 2008, pri­mar­i­ly focus­es on foren­sic genet­ic geneal­o­gy ser­vices for law enforce­ment, a process that involves com­par­ing DNA data with pro­files in geneal­o­gy data­bas­es to locate poten­tial sus­pects or vic­tims. In 2012, the com­pa­ny received a grant from the US Depart­ment of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduc­tion Agency to explore DNA phe­no­typ­ing, pre­dict­ing a per­son­’s appear­ance based only on their DNA. Accord­ing to a 2020 arti­cle in Nature, the DOD was ini­tial­ly inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing phe­no­typ­ing tech­nol­o­gy to re-cre­ate the faces of peo­ple who made impro­vised explo­sive devices, using traces of DNA left on the bomb frag­ments. Parabon pitched an ambi­tious method that involved machine learn­ing to receive its grant.”

    Parabon NanoLabs start­ed off as a genet­ic geneal­o­gy ser­vice for law enforce­ment. It was a 2012 grant from the DOD’s Defense Threat Reduc­tion Agency that intro­duced the goal of re-cre­at­ing faces from DNA. Flash for­ward to 2017, and we have the first request by a US law enforce­ment agency — the East Bay Region­al Park Dis­trict Police Depart­ment — to run one of these DNA-derived faces through a facial recog­ni­tion tool as part of an effort to solve a cold case from 1990. That was after the depart­ment con­tro­ver­sial­ly released the gen­er­at­ed face to the pub­lic in the hope of find­ing leads.

    We don’t know if the depart­ment ful­filled the detec­tives’ request, but we know the request was made. Inter­est­ing­ly, we only know about the request thanks to a trove of hacked police records by a group called Dis­trib­uted Denial of Secrets, which is a sign that these kinds of requests aren’t typ­i­cal­ly made known to the pub­lic. And with no fed­er­al rules on how law enforce­ment can use these kinds of tools, it’s up to police depart­ments to decide how to use it. And based on the law enforce­ment offi­cials who com­ment­ed for this report, it sounds like there’s a uni­ver­sal desire among law enforce­ment agen­cies to have the option to use these kinds of tools to gen­er­ate sus­pects:

    ...
    In 2017, detec­tives work­ing a cold case at the East Bay Region­al Park Dis­trict Police Depart­ment got an idea, one that might help them final­ly get a lead on the mur­der of Maria Jane Wei­d­hofer. Offi­cers had found Wei­d­hofer, dead and sex­u­al­ly assault­ed, at Berke­ley, California’s Tilden Region­al Park in 1990. Near­ly 30 years lat­er, the depart­ment sent genet­ic infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed at the crime scene to Parabon NanoLabs—a com­pa­ny that says it can turn DNA into a face.

    ...

    In a con­tro­ver­sial 2017 deci­sion, the depart­ment pub­lished the pre­dict­ed face in an attempt to solic­it tips from the pub­lic. Then, in 2020, one of the detec­tives did some­thing civ­il lib­er­ties experts say is even more problematic—and a vio­la­tion of Parabon NanoLabs’ terms of ser­vice: He asked to have the ren­der­ing run through facial recog­ni­tion soft­ware.

    “Using DNA found at the crime scene, Parabon Labs recon­struct­ed a pos­si­ble suspect’s facial fea­tures,” the detec­tive explained in a request for “ana­lyt­i­cal sup­port” sent to the North­ern Cal­i­for­nia Region­al Intel­li­gence Cen­ter, a so-called fusion cen­ter that facil­i­tates col­lab­o­ra­tion among fed­er­al, state, and local police depart­ments. “I have a pho­to of the pos­si­ble sus­pect and would like to use facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy to iden­ti­fy a suspect/lead.”

    The detective’s request to run a DNA-gen­er­at­ed esti­ma­tion of a suspect’s face through facial recog­ni­tion tech has not pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed. Found in a trove of hacked police records pub­lished by the trans­paren­cy col­lec­tive Dis­trib­uted Denial of Secrets, it appears to be the first known instance of a police depart­ment attempt­ing to use facial recog­ni­tion on a face algo­rith­mi­cal­ly gen­er­at­ed from crime-scene DNA.

    ...

    It is unknown whether the North­ern Cal­i­for­nia Region­al Intel­li­gence Cen­ter hon­ored the East Bay detective’s request. The NCRIC did not respond to WIRED’s requests for com­ment about the out­come of the detec­tive’s facial recog­ni­tion request. Cap­tain Ter­rence Cotch­er of the East Bay Region­al Park Dis­trict PD would not com­ment on the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion request, cit­ing what he describes as an active homi­cide inves­ti­ga­tion. How­ev­er, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the NCRIC, Mike Sena, told The Markup in 2021 that when­ev­er the fusion cen­ter gets facial recog­ni­tion requests, it will run a search.

    ...

    Eight years lat­er, after gen­er­at­ing scores of face pre­dic­tions for law enforce­ment, some of Parabon NanoLabs’ clients see lit­tle rea­son to not con­sid­er using face recog­ni­tion on these algo­rith­mi­cal­ly gen­er­at­ed faces. Offi­cers at all of the depart­ments that WIRED con­tact­ed say it should at least be an option.

    ...

    The fact that law enforce­ment inves­ti­ga­tors con­sid­er using these pre­dic­tions in con­junc­tion with facial recog­ni­tion speaks to a gen­er­al lack of over­sight over inves­ti­ga­to­ry tools, experts say. There are no fed­er­al rules that lim­it the types of images police can use with face recog­ni­tion soft­ware, and it’s up to both the police depart­ments and the facial recog­ni­tion ven­dor to imple­ment and enforce safe­guards.
    ...

    Also note the sur­pris­ing­ly small num­ber of peo­ple used in the train­ing of these algo­rithms: we’re told the mod­els were trained on the DNA data of “more than 1,000 research vol­un­teers”. Mod­els that attempt to cap­ture 21,000 “observ­able phys­i­cal traits” on the face. 1000 sam­ples might sound like a lot, but for this kind of work, where you’re try­ing to asso­ciate vari­a­tions in human DNA with vari­a­tions on 21,000 types of facial fea­tures, train­ing on just 1000 peo­ple sounds like a recipe for mod­els that might per­form well for some pop­u­la­tions and very poor­ly for oth­ers. Keep in mind they are try­ing to asso­ciate DNA with facial fea­tures for all ances­tries. Not just peo­ple of Euro­pean descent. And some ances­tries, like African ances­tries, sim­ply have much more genet­ic vari­a­tion than Euro­peans and there­fore require larg­ers sam­ples to accu­rate train mod­els based on genet­ic vari­a­tion. Which also rais­es ques­tions about the demo­graph­ic dis­tri­b­u­tion of their train­ing pop­u­la­tion. Where the 1000 vol­un­teers over­whelm­ing­ly of Euro­pean ances­try, as is often the case in bio­med­ical stud­ies con­duct­ed in the West? Or did they make an effort to get large enough num­bers from all ances­tries? We don’t know, but with only rough­ly 1000 vol­un­teers, it’s hard to imag­ine there aren’t issues with how the mod­els per­form with dif­fer­ent ances­tries. Ethics aside, this is very tricky tech­nol­o­gy to get right, and the small­er your train­ing set, the worse it’s going to per­form:

    ...
    For Parabon NanoLabs, if the depart­ment ran the pre­dict­ed face through facial recog­ni­tion, it isn’t just a vio­la­tion of the company’s terms of service—it’s a ter­ri­ble idea.

    ...

    Ellen Grey­tak, the direc­tor of bioin­for­mat­ics at Parabon NanoLabs, says the com­pa­ny uses machine learn­ing to build pre­dic­tive mod­els “for each part of the face.” The mod­els are trained on the DNA data of more than 1,000 research vol­un­teers and paired with 3D scans of their faces. Each scanned face, Grey­tak says, has 21,000 phenotypes—observable phys­i­cal traits—that their mod­els crunch in order to fig­ure out how parts of a DNA sam­ple affect a face’s appear­ance.

    Parabon says it can con­fi­dent­ly pre­dict the col­or of a per­son­’s hair, eyes, and skin, along with the amount of freck­les they have and the gen­er­al shape of their face. These phe­no­types form the basis of the face ren­der­ings the com­pa­ny gen­er­ates for law enforce­ment. Parabon’s meth­ods have not been peer-reviewed, and sci­en­tists are skep­ti­cal about how fea­si­ble pre­dict­ing face shape even is.

    In response to ques­tions about the tech­nol­o­gy’s accu­ra­cy, Parabon NanoLabs vice pres­i­dent Paula Armen­trout tells WIRED that, while the details of its meth­ods are not pub­lic, the com­pa­ny has pre­sent­ed its work at con­fer­ences and has test­ed its tech­nol­o­gy on thou­sands of sam­ples. She adds that the com­pa­ny posts on its web­site “every sin­gle com­pos­ite that is pub­licly dis­closed by a cus­tomer, so peo­ple can draw their own con­clu­sions about how well our tech­nol­o­gy works.”

    Grey­tak char­ac­ter­izes the company’s face pre­dic­tions as some­thing more like a descrip­tion of a sus­pect than an exact repli­ca of their face. “What we are pre­dict­ing is more like—given this person’s sex and ances­try, will they have wider-set eyes than aver­age,” she says. “There’s no way you can get indi­vid­ual iden­ti­fi­ca­tions from that.”
    ...

    Also note one the of dynam­ics at work here in how this tech­nol­o­gy is going to be used by law enforce­ment: you can, in the­o­ry, con­firm fair­ly eas­i­ly if a sus­pect is the same per­son in your sus­pect DNA sam­ple. All you have to do is com­pare the DNA of the sus­pect with the DNA sam­ple you used to gen­er­ate the face. So, hope­ful­ly, there would­n’t be inno­cent peo­ple sent to prison due to hav­ing a face that looks sim­i­lar to the algo­rith­mi­cal­ly gen­er­at­ed face. But that’s only going to be true in instances when the sus­pec­t’s DNA can be read­i­ly test­ed. Which is part of what makes the appli­ca­tion of this tech­nol­o­gy to cold cas­es rather inter­est­ing since the sus­pect may be long dead and cre­mat­ed with no DNA avail­able to test. Or, if we con­sid­er the orig­i­nal DOD’s appli­ca­tion for this tech­nol­o­gy, if you’re gen­er­at­ing faces of the per­son who plant­ed a bomb in a mil­i­tary con­text, you may not wait to appre­hend and then test that sus­pec­t’s DNA before vio­lent pre­emp­tive force is used against them. That’s part of what it’s going to be inter­est­ing to see how often this tech­nol­o­gy gets used in cas­es where the sus­pect can have their DNA read­i­ly test­ed vs cas­es where the DNA can’t be test­ed and action is tak­en sole­ly on the degree some­one’s face match­es the algo­rith­mi­cal­ly gen­er­at­ed faces:

    ...
    “These are decades-old cas­es that we have been work­ing,” says a cold-case detec­tive who asked not to be named because they are not autho­rized to speak to the media. “I know that the Parabon face isn’t per­fect, but why wouldn’t we use every tool avail­able to us to try and catch a killer?” Asked if he tried facial recog­ni­tion with the pre­dict­ed face, the detec­tive declined to answer, but says, “the fam­i­ly deserves to know that we tried every­thing.”

    Lynch, of the Elec­tron­ic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion, tells WIRED that while she is sym­pa­thet­ic to detec­tives want­i­ng to bring clo­sure for the fam­i­ly, the risks of misiden­ti­fi­ca­tion with this use case are too great. “I think it goes to show a com­plete mis­un­der­stand­ing about the high-risk errors of facial recog­ni­tion,” Lynch says. “It’s sur­pris­ing to me that cops think this kind of tech­nol­o­gy will pro­duce leads that they can actu­al­ly use.”
    ...

    Final­ly, let’s not for­get that this is just one of a grow­ing num­ber of law enforce­ment appli­ca­tions for DNA that could eas­i­ly be mis­used or abused. For exam­ple, there’s the now famous case of the Gold­en State Killer being iden­ti­fied thanks to the genet­ic infor­ma­tion of the killer’s fam­i­ly mem­bers in Ancestry.com. Gene­o­log­i­cal data­bas­es are arguably for more pow­er­ful and action­able than these algo­rith­mi­cal­ly gen­er­at­ed faces:

    ...
    Phe­no­typ­ing is often a last resort that depart­ments try only after they’ve exhaust­ed oth­er leads. Accord­ing to Parabon NanoLabs, the major­i­ty of cas­es it works on do not actu­al­ly get to the facial com­pos­ite stage. “I joke that my phe­no­typ­ing can tell you if your sus­pect has blue eyes, but my geneal­o­gist can tell you the guy’s address,” Grey­tak says.
    ...

    Also keep in mind that we should­n’t just be wor­ried about poten­tial abus­es of this kind of tech­nol­o­gy by law enforce­ment and the mil­i­taries. There’s all sorts of poten­tial abu­sive appli­ca­tions, includ­ing the obvi­ous eugenic appli­ca­tions for this tech­nol­o­gy. After all, if you can pre­dict facial fea­tures, you can, in the­o­ry, pre­dict the faces of embryos, mak­ing this the kind of tech­nol­o­gy that could syn­er­gize in eth­i­cal­ly ques­tion­able ways with the grow­ing embryo selec­tion indus­try that is already verg­ing on eugen­ics in some cas­es.

    But for all the poten­tial con­cerns, it’s clear this tech­nol­o­gy is com­ing, and pre­sum­ably will be applied to a lot more than just faces. All sorts of phys­i­cal fea­tures can poten­tial­ly be ‘guessti­mat­ed’ via genet­ics (height, for exam­ple). This face tech­nol­o­gy is just a taste of what’s to come. So let’s hope we can dis­cov­er ways of using this kind of tech­nol­o­gy that’s both ben­e­fi­cial and eth­i­cal. Because the tech­nol­o­gy is already here and ready to use, whether we have eth­i­cal uses for it or not.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 26, 2024, 1:37 pm
  18. It’s inevitable. AI is going to under­mine and implode human soci­ety. It’s an unpar­al­leled exis­ten­tial threat. Also, AI is our only hope, and only through a com­plete embrace of AI can we avoid the AI-dri­ven cat­a­stro­phes loom­ing before us. That’s the para­dox­i­cal vision for the future ani­mat­ing Bryan John­son, the wealthy tech entre­pre­neur who has turned his life into a per­son­al quest for immor­tal­i­ty.

    At least it start­ed as John­son’s per­son­al quest. John­son has turned that per­son­al quest into a pub­lic cru­sade and expand­ed the quest into some­thing much more than just a hunt for immor­tal­i­ty. What John­son is promis­ing his grow­ing num­ber of fol­low­ers is path to immor­tal­i­ty not by his own design. Instead, it’s a path that will be dis­cov­ered by advanced AIs.

    But it’s not like John­son is pre­dict­ing that AIs in the future will some­how devel­op an immor­tal­i­ty treat­ment. No, instead, he’s pre­sent­ing a lifestyle par­a­digm to fol­low that promis­es to reverse age the body. A par­a­digm that involves hav­ing an AI pro­vide you a dai­ly pro­to­col based on its assess­ment of your over­all health. Just sub­mit to the AI about all aspects of how you live your life and immor­tal­i­ty can be yours too. That’s the sales pitch.

    But there’s more to the sale pitch than just the vision John­son presents. There’s the exam­ple John­son, now 46, appears to present with his own suc­cess­es in revers­ing the aging process. Suc­cess­es thanks to a team of 30 med­ical pro­fes­sion­als and spe­cial­ized soft­ware that mon­i­tors the organs in his body and deter­mines how to opti­mal­ly live in a man­ner than revers­es the bio­log­i­cal age of those organs. Guid­ance that can sound pret­ty stan­dard like engag­ing in intense exer­cise, which sup­ple­ments to take, or get­ting enough sleep.

    But it does­n’t stop there. John­son also engages in ther­a­pies like bone-mar­row trans­plants, gene ther­a­py, and even exper­i­men­tal blood-plas­ma trans­fu­sions from his teenage son. He calls the anti-aging pro­to­col Blue­print and claims it’s already reversed his over­all pace of aging by 31 years.

    With promis­es of AI-dri­ven immor­tal­i­ty and claims it’s already work­ing on his own body, we prob­a­bly should­n’t be sur­prised to learn that John­son already has a fol­low­ing. He also appar­ent­ly jokes a lot about how he’s cre­at­ing a cult. A grow­ing cult it seems. John­son has report­ed­ly held over 200 mee­tups in 75 coun­tries already, where he shares his vision with audi­ences. A vision that, with­in his life­time, AI will elim­i­nate the need for humans to gen­er­ate knowl­edge them­selves. Instead, all-pow­er­ful soft­ware will make those deci­sions for us. But if this seems like a vision that makes human­i­ty pur­pose­less, John­son presents a new pur­pose for our species: not dying. As John­son puts it, “On the eve of super­in­tel­li­gence, the only thing we can do as an intel­li­gent species is not dying.”

    And that brings us to what is per­haps the most inter­est­ing part of what is oth­er­wise a pret­ty odd sto­ry about a lone eccen­tric super-wealthy indi­vid­ual: John­son is effec­tive­ly test­ing out AI-guid­ed cult dynam­ics. Because while there aren’t an AI-guid­ed cults yet (at least not that we know of), it seems like just a mat­ter of time. And sure, John­son is the leader of his own cult at this point, he’s basi­cal­ly sell­ing peo­ple on the idea of sub­mit­ting them­selves to the will of a benev­o­lent AI promis­ing eter­nal life. It’s a real new age reli­gion exper­i­ment in action. A peek at the future of cults.

    But let’s also keep in mind anoth­er cult-like aspect of this exper­i­ment that could prove to be extreme­ly inter­est­ing to tech­no-fas­cist with dreams of using advanced tech­nol­o­gy to effec­tive­ly cap­ture con­trol of human­i­ty: he presents a vision of a benev­o­lent AI that is pred­i­cat­ed on human­i­ty being not just com­plete­ly pas­sive but gross­ly igno­rant. The AI will do the think­ing and knowl­edge gath­er­ing for us. Those are his words. Keep in mind that any vision for a AI-guid­ed future is one that implic­it­ly assumes some sort of ‘uni­ver­sal basic income’ restruc­tur­ing of soci­ety. The kind of restruc­tur­ing that, in the­o­ry, could give humans the lux­u­ry of time and ener­gy need­ed to actu­al­ly mean­ing­ful­ly inform them­selves about their own his­to­ry and world. Some­thing seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble in today’s work-cen­tric/­money-cen­tric civ­i­liza­tion. In terms of great promis­es for AI, the abil­i­ty to free up human­i­ty time, giv­ing us time to actu­al­ly learn and gain wis­dom, is per­haps the great­est gift we could hope to receive from some­thing like super-AI. But not accord­ing to John­son’s vision. Accord­ing to his vision, we’ll all just treat these AIs as our new gods, to be revered and obeyed. In oth­er words, the kind of vision that should­n’t have too much trou­ble get­ting Sil­i­con Val­ley’s buy-in. After all, some­one is going to own and oper­ate all these future gods:

    Atlantic

    I Went to a Rave With the 46-Year-Old Mil­lion­aire Who Claims to Have the Body of a Teenag­er

    Bryan John­son wants to build a nation of immor­tals. Would you join?

    By Mat­teo Wong
    Feb­ru­ary 22, 2024

    The first few steps on the path toward liv­ing for­ev­er along­side the longevi­ty enthu­si­ast Bryan John­son are straight­for­ward: “Go to bed on time, eat healthy food, and exer­cise,” he told a crowd in Brook­lyn on Sat­ur­day morn­ing. “But to start, you guys are now going to do a breath­ing exer­cise.” He direct­ed the 100-plus peo­ple gath­ered around him to put their hands on the shoul­ders of their neigh­bors, form­ing a series of con­cen­tric cir­cles; he then count­ed as we inhaled and exhaled in uni­son.

    I had arrived at a boul­der­ing gym for the first in a series of events held that day by John­son, a 46-year-old cen­timil­lion­aire who made his for­tune in Sil­i­con Val­ley but is best known for wag­ing a war on death that he claims to be win­ning. His ambi­tions are some­how greater, and more sci­ence-fic­tion­al, than those of oth­er bio­hack­ers and life-exten­sion fanatics—a group that includes Peter Thiel, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zucker­berg. John­son preach­es per­haps the most brazen iter­a­tion of Sil­i­con Valley’s emerg­ing obses­sion with AI and com­mit­ment to restruc­tur­ing soci­ety around the tech­nol­o­gy. He believes he has fig­ured out how algo­rithms, instead of ruin­ing civ­i­liza­tion, can lead him to the land of immor­tals. He wants you, after you exhale on the count of six, to fol­low.

    His ori­gin sto­ry fol­lows a famil­iar arc: John­son enjoyed mas­sive suc­cess in work, found that his soul was crushed as a con­se­quence, and expe­ri­enced a kind of epiphany in response. He had found­ed an online-pay­ment com­pa­ny called Brain­tree that was even­tu­al­ly acquired by Pay­Pal for $800 mil­lion. Mean­while, John­son has said, he strug­gled with depres­sion, left the Church of Jesus Christ of Lat­ter-Day Saints, and soothed him­self with late-night binge eat­ing. A few years ago, he grew tired of being mis­er­able in and feel­ing pow­er­less over his body. So he ced­ed con­trol of it: Just as he imag­ines that AI will one day run the plan­et, a much sim­pler algo­rithm now runs his body.

    Every deci­sion about his health is made by spe­cial­ized soft­ware and a team of 30 med­ical spe­cial­ists who mon­i­tor and ana­lyze data about his organs. In addi­tion to ris­ing around 4:30 a.m. and going to bed at 8:30 p.m., get­ting plen­ty of intense exer­cise, and tak­ing dozens of sup­ple­ments through­out the day, John­son has got­ten exper­i­men­tal blood-plas­ma trans­fu­sions from his teenage son, bone-mar­row trans­plants, and gene ther­a­py. He claims that this anti-aging pro­to­col, called Blue­print, has slowed his over­all pace of aging by 31 years, put his car­dio­vas­cu­lar capac­i­ty among the top 1.5 per­cent of 18-year-olds, and deliv­ered night­time erec­tions that are fre­quent enough to rival a teenager’s. (He tracks them through a wear­able device called the Adam Sen­sor while he sleeps.)

    Over the past year, John­son has refash­ioned him­self from a hope­ful immor­tal into a kind of mes­si­ah. On social media, he com­pares him­self favor­ably to Jesus, rea­son­ing that his algo­rith­mi­cal­ly sanc­tioned, lentil-and-macadamia-nut-heavy diet beats refined car­bo­hy­drates and wine. The Brook­lyn meetups—the gym, a din­ner, and a rave—gave him ample oppor­tu­ni­ties to spread his gospel, which he calls the “Don’t Die” move­ment. On Sat­ur­day, John­son recit­ed to me a now-com­mon refrain. He wants to pre­pare as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble for what he thinks will be the great­est shock human­i­ty has ever con­front­ed: our impend­ing replace­ment by super­in­tel­li­gent AI. Once that hap­pens, our species’ only remain­ing pur­pose will be to not die—and, con­ve­nient­ly, he has already opti­mized and prepack­aged the steps for accom­plish­ing this mis­sion (he’ll sell you his pur­port­ed­ly life-extend­ing olive oil, for instance, for $30 a bot­tle). John­son, in oth­er words, is try­ing to get peo­ple on board with using one sort of AI to achieve immor­tal­i­ty, all in the ser­vice of pre­vent­ing anoth­er sort of AI, which does not yet exist, from tak­ing over our lives. And for some rea­son, this involves an erec­tion-track­ing ring.

    Wear­ing a black T‑shirt print­ed with the seg­ment­ed “Join, or Die” snake—with a twist on the cap­tion: Join, and Don’t Die—Johnson told me wants to cre­ate a Don’t Die nation of 20 mil­lion peo­ple. This may sound unhinged, but peo­ple are lis­ten­ing. Johnson’s soci­etal ambi­tion echoes that of grow­ing num­bers of tech exec­u­tives and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists try­ing to build alter­na­tive cities and states. His quest for immor­tal­i­ty has been the sub­ject of fea­tures and inter­views in Time, Bloomberg, Vice, The New York Times, Trevor Noah’s new pod­cast, and more over the past year or so. The Blue­print Dis­cord chan­nel has more than 14,000 mem­bers, whom he calls the “Don’t Die Army.” In addi­tion to the mee­tups John­son host­ed in New York on Sat­ur­day, there have been more than 200 Blue­print gath­er­ings in 75 coun­tries this year. Some 5,000 peo­ple recent­ly enrolled in a self-exper­i­men­ta­tion study to see how well the Blue­print pro­to­col works on a broad­er pop­u­la­tion. Through­out the day, John­son repeat­ed­ly joked that he was start­ing a cult.

    I encoun­tered plen­ty of believ­ers, among them the req­ui­site start-up founders, cryp­to investors, and soft­ware devel­op­ers; one man told me that he is on a “longevi­ty jour­ney.” I met sev­er­al indi­vid­u­als who had adopt­ed the Blue­print pro­to­col for them­selves and had blood work done for Johnson’s study, mul­ti­ple anti-aging researchers, and many peo­ple who said that they nev­er want to die.

    ...

    Back in Brook­lyn, with the breath­ing exer­cis­es behind us, I joined sev­er­al dozen peo­ple in a spa­cious apart­ment on Sat­ur­day evening to hear more about Johnson’s vision. This was billed as a con­ver­sa­tion about “the future of being human,” and we were served a light din­ner of Blue­print-sanc­tioned foods: cups of a light­ly sweet, choco­laty goo called “nut­ty pud­ding”; hum­mus and crack­ers; choco­late-coat­ed macadamia-nut bars cut into bite-size squares. After the room set­tled, John­son began deliv­er­ing a series of talk­ing points he has been devel­op­ing for years and more recent­ly repeat­ing—the evening’s open­ing speech echoed our inter­view ear­li­er that day and a con­ver­sa­tion I had with John­son last April, some­times almost ver­ba­tim. With­in his life­time, John­son told the room, AI will elim­i­nate the need for humans to gen­er­ate knowl­edge them­selves. We will instead fol­low the deci­sions made by all-pow­er­ful soft­ware. Our species will be ren­dered pur­pose­less, doomed to destroy itself or the plan­et. To pre­vent this fate, we will need to fun­nel all of our ener­gy toward the one goal that almost every­one can agree on: sur­vival. “On the eve of super­in­tel­li­gence, the only thing we can do as an intel­li­gent species is not dying,” John­son said.

    The phi­los­o­phy is a strange mix of so-called tech­no-opti­mism and tech­no-fatal­ism. In Johnson’s telling, algo­rithms obso­lete human­i­ty while also bestow­ing immor­tal­i­ty by allow­ing us to opti­mize every health deci­sion. It doesn’t make much sense—the Don’t Die creed assumes that super­in­tel­li­gent AI is inevitable and death is not, that a lifestyle tai­lored for one per­son can save a species. Blue­print can­not be called rig­or­ous sci­ence, is a source of rev­enue for John­son, and has been cred­i­bly com­pared to an eat­ing dis­or­der. Indeed, not every­one at the din­ner was sold. One attendee com­ment­ed that the phi­los­o­phy seemed root­ed in fear­ing death rather than cel­e­brat­ing life. Anoth­er not­ed that extend­ing life for its own sake, rather than liv­ing for some oth­er pur­pose, seemed sil­ly. And still anoth­er sug­gest­ed that accept­ing death would actu­al­ly be the best way to embrace the unknown (John­son told her to try it and “report back”).

    John­son waved away the objec­tions, sug­gest­ing that peo­ple judge Don’t Die in terms of the present instead of the unknow­able future AI will bring about. He takes the arrival of super­in­tel­li­gence as a mat­ter of faith, trust­ing seem­ing­ly every com­pa­ny in Sil­i­con Val­ley work­ing to bring such machines into exis­tence. John­son likened the sit­u­a­tion to try­ing to con­vince a two-dimen­sion­al crea­ture that a third dimen­sion exists; to telling some­one in the 1870s that micro­scop­ic germs cause dis­ease, or some­one in the 16th-cen­tu­ry Catholic Church that the Earth revolves around the sun. The analo­gies remind­ed me of Alpha­bet CEO Sun­dar Pichai com­par­ing AI to the inven­tion of fire, or Microsoft CEO Satya Nadel­la liken­ing the tech­nol­o­gy to the arrival of electricity—mind-bending analo­gies that don’t actu­al­ly say any­thing mean­ing­ful about this spec­u­la­tive future.

    ...

    ———-

    “I Went to a Rave With the 46-Year-Old Mil­lion­aire Who Claims to Have the Body of a Teenag­er” By Mat­teo Wong; Atlantic; 02/22/2023

    Over the past year, John­son has refash­ioned him­self from a hope­ful immor­tal into a kind of mes­si­ah. On social media, he com­pares him­self favor­ably to Jesus, rea­son­ing that his algo­rith­mi­cal­ly sanc­tioned, lentil-and-macadamia-nut-heavy diet beats refined car­bo­hy­drates and wine. The Brook­lyn meetups—the gym, a din­ner, and a rave—gave him ample oppor­tu­ni­ties to spread his gospel, which he calls the “Don’t Die” move­ment. On Sat­ur­day, John­son recit­ed to me a now-com­mon refrain. He wants to pre­pare as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble for what he thinks will be the great­est shock human­i­ty has ever con­front­ed: our impend­ing replace­ment by super­in­tel­li­gent AI. Once that hap­pens, our species’ only remain­ing pur­pose will be to not die—and, con­ve­nient­ly, he has already opti­mized and prepack­aged the steps for accom­plish­ing this mis­sion (he’ll sell you his pur­port­ed­ly life-extend­ing olive oil, for instance, for $30 a bot­tle). John­son, in oth­er words, is try­ing to get peo­ple on board with using one sort of AI to achieve immor­tal­i­ty, all in the ser­vice of pre­vent­ing anoth­er sort of AI, which does not yet exist, from tak­ing over our lives. And for some rea­son, this involves an erec­tion-track­ing ring.”

    It’s a health cult. But more than just health, it’s a ‘live for­ev­er’ cult. And also an AI super-intel­li­gence cult. The future is now. The future of cults, at least. And while Bryan John­son is the puta­tive leader of this cult, it’s a cult based on what has become a kind of pre­vail­ing ide­ol­o­gy among Sil­i­con Val­ley exec­u­tives. An ide­ol­o­gy that assumes super-AI might destroy civ­i­liza­tion but is also inevitable and the basis for some sort of utopi­an future. A utopi­an future where humans live for­ev­er thanks to AI. It’s the kind of sales pitch Sil­i­con Val­ley can’t help but love:

    ...
    I had arrived at a boul­der­ing gym for the first in a series of events held that day by John­son, a 46-year-old cen­timil­lion­aire who made his for­tune in Sil­i­con Val­ley but is best known for wag­ing a war on death that he claims to be win­ning. His ambi­tions are some­how greater, and more sci­ence-fic­tion­al, than those of oth­er bio­hack­ers and life-exten­sion fanatics—a group that includes Peter Thiel, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zucker­berg. John­son preach­es per­haps the most brazen iter­a­tion of Sil­i­con Valley’s emerg­ing obses­sion with AI and com­mit­ment to restruc­tur­ing soci­ety around the tech­nol­o­gy. He believes he has fig­ured out how algo­rithms, instead of ruin­ing civ­i­liza­tion, can lead him to the land of immor­tals. He wants you, after you exhale on the count of six, to fol­low.

    ...

    Wear­ing a black T‑shirt print­ed with the seg­ment­ed “Join, or Die” snake—with a twist on the cap­tion: Join, and Don’t Die—Johnson told me wants to cre­ate a Don’t Die nation of 20 mil­lion peo­ple. This may sound unhinged, but peo­ple are lis­ten­ing. Johnson’s soci­etal ambi­tion echoes that of grow­ing num­bers of tech exec­u­tives and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists try­ing to build alter­na­tive cities and states. His quest for immor­tal­i­ty has been the sub­ject of fea­tures and inter­views in Time, Bloomberg, Vice, The New York Times, Trevor Noah’s new pod­cast, and more over the past year or so. The Blue­print Dis­cord chan­nel has more than 14,000 mem­bers, whom he calls the “Don’t Die Army.” In addi­tion to the mee­tups John­son host­ed in New York on Sat­ur­day, there have been more than 200 Blue­print gath­er­ings in 75 coun­tries this year. Some 5,000 peo­ple recent­ly enrolled in a self-exper­i­men­ta­tion study to see how well the Blue­print pro­to­col works on a broad­er pop­u­la­tion. Through­out the day, John­son repeat­ed­ly joked that he was start­ing a cult.

    I encoun­tered plen­ty of believ­ers, among them the req­ui­site start-up founders, cryp­to investors, and soft­ware devel­op­ers; one man told me that he is on a “longevi­ty jour­ney.” I met sev­er­al indi­vid­u­als who had adopt­ed the Blue­print pro­to­col for them­selves and had blood work done for Johnson’s study, mul­ti­ple anti-aging researchers, and many peo­ple who said that they nev­er want to die.

    ...

    The phi­los­o­phy is a strange mix of so-called tech­no-opti­mism and tech­no-fatal­ism. In Johnson’s telling, algo­rithms obso­lete human­i­ty while also bestow­ing immor­tal­i­ty by allow­ing us to opti­mize every health deci­sion. It doesn’t make much sense—the Don’t Die creed assumes that super­in­tel­li­gent AI is inevitable and death is not, that a lifestyle tai­lored for one per­son can save a species. Blue­print can­not be called rig­or­ous sci­ence, is a source of rev­enue for John­son, and has been cred­i­bly com­pared to an eat­ing dis­or­der. Indeed, not every­one at the din­ner was sold. One attendee com­ment­ed that the phi­los­o­phy seemed root­ed in fear­ing death rather than cel­e­brat­ing life. Anoth­er not­ed that extend­ing life for its own sake, rather than liv­ing for some oth­er pur­pose, seemed sil­ly. And still anoth­er sug­gest­ed that accept­ing death would actu­al­ly be the best way to embrace the unknown (John­son told her to try it and “report back”).
    ...

    But when we exam­ine the par­tic­u­lars of John­son’s ide­ol­o­gy, we find what is almost like a kind of sociopo­lit­i­cal AI endgame: the way to pre­vent AI from destroy­ing civ­i­liza­tion is to effec­tive­ly hand con­trol of our lives over to these AIs with the promise that doing so will allow us to live for­ev­er. It does­n’t even sound like John­son expects humans to have jobs or any real respon­si­bil­i­ties under this AI-guid­ed utopia. Humans won’t even need to gen­er­ate knowl­edge them­selves. Instead, they’ll just fol­low the direc­tions giv­en to them by the benev­o­lent AIs. The only goal of the humans is to live forever...which they’ll only be able to do by allow­ing an AI to dic­tate their dai­ly activ­i­ties. Dic­tate for their own good, of course:

    ...
    His ori­gin sto­ry fol­lows a famil­iar arc: John­son enjoyed mas­sive suc­cess in work, found that his soul was crushed as a con­se­quence, and expe­ri­enced a kind of epiphany in response. He had found­ed an online-pay­ment com­pa­ny called Brain­tree that was even­tu­al­ly acquired by Pay­Pal for $800 mil­lion. Mean­while, John­son has said, he strug­gled with depres­sion, left the Church of Jesus Christ of Lat­ter-Day Saints, and soothed him­self with late-night binge eat­ing. A few years ago, he grew tired of being mis­er­able in and feel­ing pow­er­less over his body. So he ced­ed con­trol of it: Just as he imag­ines that AI will one day run the plan­et, a much sim­pler algo­rithm now runs his body.

    Every deci­sion about his health is made by spe­cial­ized soft­ware and a team of 30 med­ical spe­cial­ists who mon­i­tor and ana­lyze data about his organs. In addi­tion to ris­ing around 4:30 a.m. and going to bed at 8:30 p.m., get­ting plen­ty of intense exer­cise, and tak­ing dozens of sup­ple­ments through­out the day, John­son has got­ten exper­i­men­tal blood-plas­ma trans­fu­sions from his teenage son, bone-mar­row trans­plants, and gene ther­a­py. He claims that this anti-aging pro­to­col, called Blue­print, has slowed his over­all pace of aging by 31 years, put his car­dio­vas­cu­lar capac­i­ty among the top 1.5 per­cent of 18-year-olds, and deliv­ered night­time erec­tions that are fre­quent enough to rival a teenager’s. (He tracks them through a wear­able device called the Adam Sen­sor while he sleeps.)

    ...

    Back in Brook­lyn, with the breath­ing exer­cis­es behind us, I joined sev­er­al dozen peo­ple in a spa­cious apart­ment on Sat­ur­day evening to hear more about Johnson’s vision. This was billed as a con­ver­sa­tion about “the future of being human,” and we were served a light din­ner of Blue­print-sanc­tioned foods: cups of a light­ly sweet, choco­laty goo called “nut­ty pud­ding”; hum­mus and crack­ers; choco­late-coat­ed macadamia-nut bars cut into bite-size squares. After the room set­tled, John­son began deliv­er­ing a series of talk­ing points he has been devel­op­ing for years and more recent­ly repeat­ing—the evening’s open­ing speech echoed our inter­view ear­li­er that day and a con­ver­sa­tion I had with John­son last April, some­times almost ver­ba­tim. With­in his life­time, John­son told the room, AI will elim­i­nate the need for humans to gen­er­ate knowl­edge them­selves. We will instead fol­low the deci­sions made by all-pow­er­ful soft­ware. Our species will be ren­dered pur­pose­less, doomed to destroy itself or the plan­et. To pre­vent this fate, we will need to fun­nel all of our ener­gy toward the one goal that almost every­one can agree on: sur­vival. “On the eve of super­in­tel­li­gence, the only thing we can do as an intel­li­gent species is not dying,” John­son said.
    ...

    Inter­est­ing­ly, we aren’t hear­ing ref­er­ences to some­thing like a Uni­ver­sal Basic Income in this utopi­an vision although that’s pret­ty much implied. But also note what does­n’t appear to be part of this vision at all for the future of human­i­ty: knowl­edge­able humans empow­ered with an under­stand­ing of their world. As John­son put it, humans will have no need to gen­er­ate knowl­edge them­selves. They’ll just fol­low the orders of the AI. Keep in mind that some sort of future where AI puts almost every­one out of work is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly a future where humans would the­o­ret­i­cal­ly have the time to do some­thing seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble in today’s ‘hustle’-centric econ­o­my: A col­lec­tive acqui­si­tion of group knowl­edge and wis­dom the present­ly eludes us. But that does­n’t appear to be part of John­son’s vision. Any real knowl­edge or wis­dom will be up to the AI. It won’t just be a benev­o­lent AI. It will be a wise, grace­ful, benev­o­lent AI that loves you and wants you to live for­ev­er. It will be heav­en on earth after we sub­mit. Just have faith.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 28, 2024, 4:00 pm

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