The most annoying tendency among a certain class of person (which I’ve fortunately not seen as much recently) is the notion that technology is somehow in and of itself a self-directing force. It’s mostly a libertarian tendency, but it’s also present within technology communities and within the hearts of some technocratic liberals.
This often comes with some bold predictions about the future of technological development, usually made by someone who both isn’t an engineer and has no relationship to the process of actual technical development or bringing novel technology to market.
Similarly, only professors can describe capitalism as a self-perpetuating engine, whereas people who actually need to go and do capitalism tend to regard it as a phenomenon describing the strenuous efforts of a small number of individuals. Setting up a company that generates profits is by no means a self-directing process. The company does not tell the executive what to do. The company is only a legal model of a real social structure made up of humans. Similarly, ‘capitalism’ is only a model of a general kind of behavior and not the behavior itself.
My position on singulatarianism is the same as N.N. Taleb’s position, which is to say that I think it’s prediction methods based on trend projection are invalid. Mandelbrot might be able to tell you more.
Similar is a notion that commerce alone can act as a unifying principle for a kingdom, republic, or other polity. While it may be critical, it’s not the sole factor that causes men to come together to form a durable society. The chief reason for this is that commercial activity is innately competitive.
In order to maintain social stability, you need to prevent merchant princes from physically killing each other to gain a market advantage. This is tougher to achieve than you might think, having lived in a country in which most commercial disputes are resolved peacefully or at least through legal conflict that never rises to overt violence.
Apart from pirate ships, the idea of a truly multicultural society has never existed. Rome may have contained people from many cultures, but the unifying culture was Roman and native to the Italian peninsula. America may be ‘multi-cultural’ today, but its leading culture is unmistakably English and Protestant. Attempting to plant the legal norms of the English into foreign soil results in failure in just about every case unless the ruling group of that foreign soil is also English. You can foist a constitution on Iraq, but you can’t make Iraqis behave as if they were Anglos.
Legal norms are impossible to separate from the people who follow those norms. If Americans can’t convince the residents of inner city Baltimore to respect property rights, writing a more efficient legal structure will not work. You can build a legal ‘machinery of freedom,’ but that machinery does not in and of itself compel compliance. When people are stripping the copper from that machine, it stops working.
Not Sufficient Alone, But a Competitive Necessity
Nonetheless, there are many key technologies that any polis needs to remain competitive in in order to maintain independence in the future. Due to regulation and sclerosis, the financially invalid United States is poised to fall behind in all of them. Here’s a selection:
- Nuclear defense technology. The US has pursued boondoggle laser-based systems for years instead of using nuclear countermeasures that would be politically incorrect but physically effective.
- Human enhancement. The US harasses geneticists, biologists, and bio-technologists, and others who would research methods for improving human capacities. Paranoia about cybernetics has also stalled development along these lines.
- Artificial intelligence. The US has been more free with this than most other countries, but any lead that exists is liable to slip.
- Nuclear power. Since the hippies conquered America, pursuing this line of development has been politically fraught.
- Space development. Space matters because it’s the ultimate high ground, granting superiority in a number of strategic situations. Asteroid mining also represents a transformative opportunity.
The issue with hopes to stall or ‘turn back the clock’ on technological development is that international politics is competitive.
If Vladimir Putin develops an inexpensive and effective defense against ballistic missiles, the relative position of Russia compared to the rest of the world would change for the better immediately. It would also mean that, without a counter-measure developed on a crash schedule (and even with one), the entire political balance of power would be upset in a moment.
To say that technical excellence can be sacrificed because it somehow saps the spiritual vitality of a people is like saying that steel is inferior to bronze.
While reliance on easy-to-use technology is often a weakening influence on individuals and groups, abandoning technology altogether is a worse choice.
Cortez exterminated the Aztecs with steel. While technology should not be pursued or adopted blindly, to forsake technical development (and the commerce that it must use for fuel) is to commit political suicide. Modern men tend to think that large-scale war has ceased to be a permanent factor since the development of nuclear weapons. Given history, this is likely to be a false assumption.
The issue with attempting to prioritize solely ‘military’ technical development is that commerce fuels conflict rather than the other way around. The unique, hidden knowledge uncovered by trade is irreplaceable.
Some voices around neoreaction may at times try to get away from the characterization of facile critics as being simultaneously atavistic and fixated upon what is sometimes frightening technological development.
It’s wrong to attempt to disown this characterization, because, properly understood, it’s correct. Neoreaction looks both backwards for anything that it can use to forge a winning future politics.
Voices ranging from Francis Fukuyama to the various liberals at the Baffler and elsewhere have declared research into the technology of human enhancement to be incompatible with democracy and egalitarian philosophy more widely. It’s not only impossible to research applied technology that might have in-egalitarian results, but even to run simple genetic testing companies like 23andme without harassment from the authorities.
The critics are correct: while it’s an American maxim that “God made man, and Sam Colt made man equal,” other technological developments are not so egalitarian in their implications.
If you can breed a human with bulletproof skin and a 160 IQ, a $500 handgun is not going to do much to him. If you can manufacture a $70 anti-air drone informed by an artificial intelligence of incredible capability, there’s not much that a Predator controlled by a sluggish human operator separated by a fragile satellite connection could do to protect itself. If you can blow up an F35 from outer space when it’s still on the landing strip, all that money that went into its development becomes useless.
Americans have grown so used to the technological lead provided by the ingenuity of their ancestors that they have forgotten what it might be like to meet an adversary that is superior on every level.
Getting to that point will be enormously challenging, and is not inevitable.
A conflict between a technologically inferior society and a superior one tends to end rapidly if the latter one does not restrain itself.
Part of what makes neoreaction interesting is that it often interprets past social arrangements as related to technological phenomena rather than merely examining past social arrangements as morality plays about the wickedness of our ancestors.
If sexual repression and patriarchy helps your empire develop the Gatling gun while the Zulus are hiding behind wooden shields, perhaps the social form that makes such a thing possible is even more important than its lower-order effects.
Liberals have stated loud and proud that they do not want to be part of a country that leads the world. They have stated loudly and without any alternate possible explanation that they will happily sacrifice competitive health for their mistaken ideology.
They don’t just oppose technological advancement: they oppose anything that might arrest our dysgenic trajectory.
They identify with the Zulus of history, and are very sorry for shooting so many of them so efficiently.
So, so sorry they are. Very sorry. Always saying sorry.
Sorry that we’re not sorry.
The thing to understand is that when a government has ceased to become a going concern, worrying about winning internal conflicts becomes much like trying to win inter-Zulu power struggles. If the American mainstream has elected to identify with the Zulu, let them share the fate of the Zulu, except perhaps with less honor and less demonstrated courage.
A future aristocracy is likely to be a cybernetic one, if we are able to maintain a level of civilization sufficient to support technological development. If civilization does not remain at a sufficient level to support technical development, then any society that emerges from the ashes will be similarly aristocratic.
Hardening the Trichotomy
Periodically, elements within the neoreactionary trichotomy tend to take pot-shots at others on opposing angles of the map. Most of the time, I try to stay out of it, mostly because I only like entering conflicts that I can win decisively, just as a personal quirk.
What I hope that this essay (and the previous one in this series targeted to the religious wing) gets across is that the different elements that make up a successful Western politics are all essential. There’s a tendency in man to look down upon all aspects of the human experience that he himself is not directly involved in. Appreciating the whole requires maintaining a perspective from a higher level.