SIAI benefactor and VC Peter Thiel has an excellent article at National Review about the stagnating progress of science and technology, which he attributes to poorly-grounded political opposition, widespread scientific illiteracy, and overspecialized, insular scientific fields.  He warns that this stagnation will undermine the growth that past policies have relied on.

Noteworthy excerpts (bold added by me):

In relation to concerns expressed here about evaluating scientific field soundness:

When any given field takes half a lifetime of study to master, who can compare and contrast and properly weight the rate of progress in nanotechnology and cryptography and superstring theory and 610 other disciplines? Indeed, how do we even know whether the so-called scientists are not just lawmakers and politicians in disguise, as some conservatives suspect in fields as disparate as climate change, evolutionary biology, and embryonic-stem-cell research, and as I have come to suspect in almost all fields? [!!! -- SB]

Grave indictors:

Looking forward, we see far fewer blockbuster drugs in the pipeline — perhaps because of the intransigence of the FDA, perhaps because of the fecklessness of today’s biological scientists, and perhaps because of the incredible complexity of human biology. In the next three years, the large pharmaceutical companies will lose approximately one-third of their current revenue stream as patents expire, so, in a perverse yet understandable response, they have begun the wholesale liquidation of the research departments that have borne so little fruit in the last decade and a half. [...]

The single most important economic development in recent times has been the broad stagnation of real wages and incomes since 1973, the year when oil prices quadrupled. To a first approximation, the progress in computers and the failure in energy appear to have roughly canceled each other out. Like Alice in the Red Queen’s race, we (and our computers) have been forced to run faster and faster to stay in the same place.

Taken at face value, the economic numbers suggest that the notion of breathtaking and across-the-board progress is far from the mark. If one believes the economic data, then one must reject the optimism of the scientific establishment. Indeed, if one shares the widely held view that the U.S. government may have understated the true rate of inflation — perhaps by ignoring the runaway inflation in government itself, notably in education and health care (where much higher spending has yielded no improvement in the former and only modest improvement in the latter) — then one may be inclined to take gold prices seriously and conclude that real incomes have fared even worse than the official data indicate. [...]

College graduates did better, and high-school graduates did worse. But both became worse off in the years after 2000, especially when one includes the rapidly escalating costs of college.[...]

The current crisis of housing and financial leverage contains many hidden links to broader questions concerning long-term progress in science and technology. On one hand, the lack of easy progress makes leverage more dangerous, because when something goes wrong, macroeconomic growth cannot offer a salve; time will not cure liquidity or solvency problems in a world where little grows or improves with time.

HT: MarginalRevolution

Today a letter from Einstein would get lost in the White House mail room, and the Manhattan Project would not even get started;

Does he know that Einstein's letter was not mailed? Alexander Sachs was given the letter, setup a personal audience with the President and read it to him.

There are other instances where I am less certain he is wrong but this idea that our present culture is so much worse for scientific research than our culture in the earlier part of the century seems weakly supported to me.

Yes. To strengthen the point:

After Roosevelt got the Einstein letter, very little happened. The White House did not actually jump into action or start spending money. The thing was referred to a committee that moved very lethargically. Progress only picked up several years later, once the British, independently, had figured out that a bomb was practical, and had started making noise about it.

That's interesting, but I didn't know that. In any case, that detail doesn't matter because he was obviously being rhetorical - there are no studies showing the White House mail room has unusually high loss-rates. :)

It was rhetorical but he was still wrong - he seems to think science was taken more seriously at that time. It wasn't. Asr already pointed this out - but to add to it even before the "do nothing commission" was started the scientists wrote another letter to the President because he had taken no action on it at all after several months. Then he appointed a commission to do nothing for a good while longer. Then the bureaucracy got started on the org charts and Powerpoints. Er...you get the idea.

Einstein's world changing paper, "The electrodynamics of moving bodies" would not be publishable today. He was not an academic, his paper lacked citations, and so on and so forth.

In June of 1905, when he submitted "The electrodynamics of moving bodies", he had a PhD in physics and had already published several papers in the same journal. He didn't hold a university post, but he very much a member in good standing of the physics community. I don't see why somebody in an analogous post today would have trouble publishing papers.

The lack of citations is interesting, but I think you're reading too much into it. It shows that scientific publication norms have changed since 1905, but it's not as though Einstein would have been unable to add the appropriate references if the journal had expected it. You might equally well say "the paper couldn't be published today because it's in German, not English".

[See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientific_publications_by_Albert_Einstein and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein#Academic_career ]

Einstein's world changing paper, "The electrodynamics of moving bodies" would not be publishable today. He was not an academic, his paper lacked citations, and so on and so forth

In June of 1905, when he submitted "The electrodynamics of moving bodies", he had a PhD in physics and had already published several papers in the same journal

Many of which would also be unpublishable today.

it's not as though Einstein would have been unable to add the appropriate references if the journal had expected it.

The references are so that the editor knows where to send it for peer review and to reference the existing consensus to demonstrate orthodoxy.

Galileo ridiculed what we now call peer review as a team of carthorses.

The effect of peer review is to discover truth through authority, orthodoxy and consensus, without the slow, tedious, and inconvenient necessity of examining the world - and that is why "The Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" would today be unpublishable.

Given that productivity growth was slow for most of human history, it seems more appropriate to ask why it was so fast for a while. I keep thinking it may have been that manufacturing precision reached a point where we could drink a couple centuries of scientific milkshake.

In the middle of that sentence I was expecting a "low-hanging fruit" analogy, then you blindsided me with a milkshake.

That's not a good thing to be blindsided by.

I'm surprised that Thiel doesn't engage more directly the hypothesis that for the last century (or perhaps century and a half), the living standards in the Western world have been determined by the race between rapid technological progress and somewhat less rapid degradation in the quality of government. To me this hypothesis seems very plausible, even highly probable. Assuming it is true, the interesting question is whether the recent stagnation is due to technological progress slowing down, the quality of government deteriorating faster, or perhaps the quality of government reaching some low point at which even extremely rapid technological progress can't save the day.

Also, these two variables are by no means independent. At the very least, bad government creates perverse incentives that draw smart and entrepreneurial people away from pushing real technical progress and towards rent-seeking. And as another interesting question, could it actually be that technological progress somehow inherently exacerbates the trends towards bad government, thus planting the seeds of its own future doom? I can think of some scary hypotheses along these lines, although they are highly speculative.

I'm surprised that Thiel doesn't engage more directly the hypothesis that for the last century (or perhaps century and a half), the living standards in the Western world have been determined by the race between rapid technological progress and somewhat less rapid degradation in the quality of government.

I think this is intentional.

  • Your speech in Aspen last month argued that technological change was stagnating, especially in energy. What's the solution? Is it that progress in energy is more difficult than progress in, say, chip design, so we have to be more patient? Thiel: It goes back to the why-things-have-slowed-down question, which is the one that I've tried to avoid.

  • Unfairly tried to avoid? Thiel: I'm not sure it's unfair. Because as soon as you get to the "why" question, it gets much more controversial. It makes people lose sight of the what, which is the thing I want people to pay attention to. I think that if we could get people to agree that there's a really big problem in innovation, then we can have a constructive conversation on what to do about it. As soon as we fixate people on why there's been an innovation slowdown, if you're on the right you can blame environmentalism, if you're on the left you can blame Reagan and financial engineering. And we don't even get to the question of whether a slowdown has happened. That's why I'm somewhat resistant to going straight to the ideological or political question.

I think this is intentional.

I hadn't seen that interview before (link), thanks for the pointer. Yes, this does explain why Thiel's article reads like it's uncomfortably skirting around the issue.

Clearly, a proper justification for that claim would have to be given at enormous length, and it would have to involve all sorts of ideologically charged issues. But to try to put it in a nutshell, the government has been meddling in an ever increasing range of things, and this meddling is mostly guided by a mix of bureaucratic perverse incentives and straight-out ideological delusions, each operating in a frightful positive feedback loop with the other. (Mind you, this isn't a statement of some libertarian principle that government meddling is always bad, but purely a factual statement that destructive meddling has been increasing.) At the same time, even the basic and uncontroversial functions of government have been increasingly corrupted by these ever worsening perverse incentives and ideological delusions.

Or to put it another way, what we've been seeing for several generations is a move from government based on custom and precedent to an ideological bureaucratic state. The former was indeed bad in all sorts of ways, but at least it had a decent grip on reality in essential things, as long-standing customs and precedents usually do. The latter, however, is driven by ideology and bureaucratic incentives into constant and ever more severe clashes with reality.

I wouldn't call that first paragraph a degradation in quality. I'd call that too much government. I thought you meant politicians were getting dumber or more corrupt.

I don't understand the second paragraph.

I wouldn't call that first paragraph a degradation in quality. I'd call that too much government. I thought you meant politicians were getting dumber or more corrupt.

The point is that we're having too much (and increasingly more) bad government, this aside from the question of whether one accepts the libertarian principle that more government is always worse. As for politicians (in the sense of people running for elective offices), they are only one relatively small element within the government, and nowadays certainly not the most significant one.

I don't understand the second paragraph.

Try to imagine some real-life examples of getting things done in a straightforward, commonsensical, and customary way, where people's personal incentives and personal responsibilities are more or less aligned with the desired goal -- the way things are normally done in private life and well-run business. This may turn out to be inefficient, unfair, wasteful, irrational, etc. in many ways if scrutinized rigorously from an idealistic perspective, but it's still fundamentally sound and effective. Then try to imagine attempts to get things done by large faceless bureaucracies lacking any locus of personal responsibility, or by people driven by ideology that for them trumps reality whenever there is any conflict. (Or by some diabolical mixture of the two.)

Basically, my thesis is roughly that the way government works in the English-speaking world has been steadily drifting from the former to the latter way of doing things for a very long time. (Which then influences both the scope of things it attempts to do and the quality of work at whatever it undertakes.)

US tax revenues as a percentage of GDP have been fairly stable over the long term (IIRC), so if government's a problem it's not in the sense of government capturing all the resources. Regulation could be an issue.

The most recent big innovation in energy is fracking. Clearly this has experienced regulatory headwinds, and a pile of environmentalists are looking for rationalizations to stop it, but on the whole, looks to me like a reasonable rate of innovation in energy, which is in substantial part compensating for the exhaustion of hydrocarbon resources. Doubtless we could do better, but it is not obvious that to me that energy innovation is slower than would reasonably be expected in a mature field.

A good measure of innovation is new therapeutic molecular entities, because one can simply count them. By that measure, innovation in the west and Japan has slowed down drastically and alarmingly, though China and Taiwan are speeding up.

I observe ads by Singapore promising a more favorable regulatory environment for drug development. They don't have a drug research industry and are hoping for one. This suggests the existence of an unfavorable regulatory environment for drug development. It is clear that western development of new therapeutic molecular entities has slowed alarmingly.

Nobody engages the topic seriously besides perhaps a handful of bloggers on the internet. To talk about the topic intelligently requires rare traits. An extremely broad swath of knowledge about econ and history, and the ability to not be mind-killed by politics chief among them.

With regard to great achievements enable bad government, yes you find strains of this thought in most of the "cyclical" types of historical analysis, most famous being Spengler.

Nobody engages the topic seriously besides perhaps a handful of bloggers on the internet. To talk about the topic intelligently requires rare traits. An extremely broad swath of knowledge about econ and history, and the ability to not be mind-killed by politics chief among them.

It is a ridiculous world we live in.

It's not that surprising when you consider that the English-speaking societies have been getting increasingly ideologized for over a century. By this I mean both the increase in ideological uniformity and the tendency to see an increasingly narrow range of topics as non-ideological and thus freely debatable. From the official intellectual institutions, we still get interesting ideas about strictly technical topics that don't involve any ideological issues, but otherwise, these institutions are nowadays hostile to anything but conformist intellectual cant. So it's no wonder that insofar as some real intellectual life persists, it subsists only in obscure underground venues.

(The situation is in fact similar to the former Soviet Union, where the hard sciences worked reasonably well, but one would be foolish to look for much beyond official ideological cant from, say, historians or sociologists, and real intellectual life was happening underground. Of course, the ideological uniformity in the U.S.S.R. was enforced in much cruder and harsher ways, but the more subtle carrots and sticks that the present system offers to intellectuals are, if anything, only more effective.)

Actually, by some metrics the USSR's hard sciences did pretty abysmally also. See Hyena's remarks in this subthread here.

What I have in mind is not how successful the hard sciences were in the U.S.S.R., but that the environment for them was qualitatively and fundamentally different from softer fields, in which there was little ground (except perhaps for occasional highly specialized and abstruse topics) where one could discuss things freely without running into the rigid constraints of state ideology. Even if the output of Soviet math or physics was comparably poor, their mathematicians and physicists still had the freedom to do the same rigorous and sound math and physics as their Western colleagues, and many of them indeed did so, though perhaps there were fewer than could have been under a better system.

In contrast, it was outright impossible for a Soviet intellectual to discuss freely and publicly interesting and novel ideas about history, economics, political theory, etc., let alone more general ideas about humanity and human society that draw on all these fields. This would immediately run afoul of the all-pervasive official ideology and its points of disconnect with reality. My thesis is that the Western societies nowadays are in fact in a similar situation, although the ideological enforcement mechanisms are more complex, subtle, and non-obvious. (But they're nevertheless utterly effective in producing ideological uniformity among those whose opinion actually matters, even if the dissenters are typically just marginalized rather than jailed.)

My thesis is that the Western societies nowadays are in fact in a similar situation, although the ideological enforcement mechanisms are more complex, subtle, and non-obvious. (But they're nevertheless utterly effective in producing ideological uniformity among those whose opinion actually matters, even if the dissenters are typically just marginalized rather than jailed.)

Hmm, this is an interesting claim. Can you give concrete examples of fields where you think this is occurring and specific ideas that are being ignored by academia?

The point I'm trying to make is not that there are particular topics where the respectable opinion is so mendacious and delusional that they're impossible to discuss rationally in public, or even in any respectable company. (Although that is clearly true.) I am actually making a stronger claim.

Namely, some such topics exist in every human society, but their scope does vary a lot -- and if their scope is sufficiently wide, an upfront and rational public discussion of some very general and fundamental questions about government, society, and human affairs becomes impossible, since such a discussion would necessarily involve countering some of these established delusions and mendacity. My claim is that at some point during the last few generations, the English-speaking societies have in fact gone past that point. (This also applies to other Western societies, since there are no other ones whose intellectual institutions and traditions have maintained independent continuity through the 1914-1945 cataclysm.)

Again to use the Soviet analogy, imagine having a discussion about general and fundamental trends in modern history in which it would be an unimaginable heresy to open the question of whether the Russian Revolution in 1917 was perhaps not such a great and fortunate event after all, or that maybe Soviet socialism in fact wasn't such a great and liberating improvement on the Czarist government, or that (gasp!) workers are actually better off under capitalism. Clearly, it would be impossible to have a sensible discussion that maintains a solid grip on reality under such constraints, and the result would be a mere rehearsal in ideological cant. What I find is that the effective constraints on respectable public discourse nowadays are, for all practical purposes, equally suffocating -- although of course they are enforced by much less crude, explicit, and violent means, which rarely go beyond shunning and marginalization of dissenters.

(Also, here I don't have in mind just topics that are so incendiary that dissenting opinions are likely to raise firestorms of outrage and condemnation, but also other ones where the uniformity of respectable opinion is so well-entrenched and secure that someone opposing it will be affectionately and self-assuredly laughed off as an annoying but harmless crackpot, with comparably small repercussions.)

One obvious example is decolonization, which killed more people than the nazis. No postcolonial government was as good as the colonial government it replaced. Even the very worst colonial governments, for example the Congo, were followed by even worse postcolonial governments. In some cases, such as India, they very slowly got better over time. In other cases, like the Congo, they just keep on getting worse with no bottom in sight. They are back to eating each other in the Congo - of course they were back to eating each other as soon as the whites abandoned them, but the number of people being eaten is increasing.

Decolonization denial is arguably worse than holocaust denial - it killed more people, and continues to kill more people, but decolonization denial is mandatory, while holocaust denial is forbidden.

Here is a view of decolonization you will not get from Harvard

Then there is evolutionary psychology, which tells us that Archie Bunker was right about nearly everything,

For a thousand years before the mid nineteenth century, pretty much everyone agreed that equality between husbands and wives would destroy marriage and fatherhood. Then in the nineteenth century, they introduced marital equality. Observe the result.

Of course if he did so, he would be instavoted down into oblivion.

Whenever you make such comments, you are making it impossible for me to upvote you, because if you end up upvoted, that'll by itself show the falseness of your claim, and therefore it would be a post unworthy of an upvote.

I promise an upvote for your comment however, if you edit to remove this sentence, because the remaining points you make are very interesting and worthy of such. (edited to add: Now upvoted, as per promise.)

Now to the content-relevant bits:

One obvious example is decolonization, which killed more people than the nazis. No postcolonial government was as good as the colonial government it replaced.

You are making true claims as far as it goes, but I don't think you're seeing the bigger picture in regards to colonialism and decolonization both. For starters it's my impression that the primary stated objections to colonization are deontological ("They don't have the right to rule us/We don't have the right to rule them") as opposed to utilitarian ("We're better off without them"/"They're better off without us")

Now I'm not a deontologist, but I wouldn't mind calling myself a rule utilitarian. And what I see is that claiming the right to control another nation is still used by even Nazi-sympathisers to excuse Hitler's policies (The argument is "If Britain had the right to rule over the hundreds millions in India, why couldn't the Nazi be allowed to rule over Poland and Czechoslovakia"). It was also used by the Soviets and the Americans to excuse their own interference (in a different way).

In this manner, European colonialism served to justify both German and Japanese imperialism in the eyes of their citizens; thus contributing to World War II -- it possibly had an even more direct effect on World War I, which may have been motivated by a German desire to take some colonies. And conversely after European Colonialism was defeated, and the rule "We must not control other nations by force" firmly established, one gradually sees peace descend on the European continent itself, and eventually a decrease in the amount of interference that the Soviets and Americans applied on their own spheres of influence too (Eastern Europe and South America respectively).

In short: In a world where European colonialism still thrived, would we have seen the Eastern European communist governments collapse? European decolonization had a primarily positive effect on Europe, the way I see it. Perhaps some Africans would want to be controlled by Europe again, I don't see Europeans as willing to accept the offer though.

Lastly in your condemnation of decolonization, i'm not clear if you're truly arguing:
a) It was a wrong choice for the colonized people to seek independence
or
b) it was a wrong choice for the European nations to grant it to them

I think you'll find it hard to argue for (b) -- effectively that France should still be wasting lives and money fighting wars in Algeria and Vietnam, or that the UK should be trying to crush the Indians violently. It's easier to argue for (a) -- especially if you limit your argument to sub-Saharan Africa, where the borders were artificial, the national identity often nil, etc,etc.

For a thousand years before the mid nineteenth century, pretty much everyone agreed that equality between husbands and wives would destroy marriage and fatherhood.

Do you have a citation for that? It would surprise me to learn that such equality was even discussed about a thousand years ago.

And conversely after European Colonialism was defeated, and the rule "We must not control other nations by force" firmly established, one gradually sees peace descend on the European continent itself,

Are you sure that's not just war fatigue following the world wars? Notable is that Europe experienced another period of peace of comparable length in the 19th century following the Napoleonic wars and the congress of Vienna. This despite that period being the height of colonialism.

and a decrease in the amount of interference in the Soviet and American spheres of influence too (Eastern Europe and South America respectively).

You fail to explain why this is obviously a good thing.

You fail to explain why this is obviously a good thing.

I care to justify points that are challenged, not points that aren't challenged. Are you challenging the point -- by which I mean "are you prepared to argue the opposite"?

Well, I fail to see how more Western European intervention in Eastern Europe and the Soviet sphere more generally would not have improved the lives of the residents of that sphere.

Ah, I think I just confused you with a badly phrased statement. I meant a reduction of the Soviet and American interference in their own formerly solidly-controlled spheres (will edit ancestor comment to make it more clear).

Well the USSR had sufficient control over it's sphere that it didn't need to "interfere" per se despite the norm against colonialism.

As for the US, it could reasonably be argued that Latin America would be better off with more US interference for the same reason Africa was better off under colonialism.

Well the USSR had sufficient control over it's sphere that it didn't need to "interfere" per se despite the norm against colonialism.

I seem to recollect conventional Soviet invasions of obstreperous Soviet puppet states followed by massacres by Soviet troops and soviet secret police.

One can argue that western Europe is largely puppet states of the US state department, but the State Department employs more decorous methods that do not leave behind so many bloodstains.

Well the USSR had sufficient control over it's sphere that it didn't need to "interfere" per se despite the norm against colonialism.

In the 1950s Kruschev used Anglo-French intervention in Egypt as an excuse/justification for not withdrawing from Hungary.

The Soviet Invasion of Aghanistan was opposed by the entire postcolonial world, including post-colonial states like India and Pakistan. The Soviet defeat at Afghanistan then may have led directly to the "Sinatra doctrine" which enabled the whole of Eastern Europe falling away.

As for the US, it could reasonably be argued that Latin America would be better off with more US interference for the same reason Africa was better off under colonialism.

An interactive graph

Africa has fallen behind the rest of the world in a way that Latin America hasn't.

And what I see is that claiming the right to control another nation is still used by even Nazi-sympathisers to excuse Hitler's policies (The argument is "If Britain had the right to rule over the hundreds millions in India, why couldn't the Nazi be allowed to rule over Poland and Czechoslovakia").

That anti colonialism is objecting to "the right to control another nation" fails to describe the situation with Vietnam, Rhodesia and South Africa, where anti colonialism was used as justification to interfere with foreigners.

To describe anti colonialism as opposition to the right of one nation to control another is as misleading as describing PC speech controls as courtesy.

Anti imperialism is opposition to the right of one country to control another. Anti colonialism was typically the objection of the metropolitan elite to the colonial elite. Anti colonialism was those whose power and wealth derived from the capital, objecting to those whose power and wealth derived from the colonies

South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, were supposedly not anti colonialist enough and therefore needed to be ruled by adequately anti colonial outsiders (members of the North Vietnamese communist party who spent most of their lives in Moscow) for their own good. Rhodesia was not under attack from Rhodesian blacks.

The Indochinese wars were imperial wars more than they were anticolonialist wars, and the imperialist side (communist) was the anticolonialist side. The same is true of the wars against Rhodesia. Mugabe's powerbase was in London and the UN, not in Rhodesia, his powerbase was the traditional imperial powers.

The most celebrated anti colonial conflicts had imperialists fighting colonialism.

Many "anti colonial" conflicts seem to involve "anti colonialists" with connections to ruling class universities in the metropolitan country, fighting "colonialists" without such connection,Mugabe comes from London School of Economics: Bishop Muzorewa went to a no name US university. And so the world removed Muzorewa and installed Mugabe, murdering as many Rhodesian blacks as necessary to ensure the right "democratic" outcome.

That really does not look much like Rhodesian blacks ruling themselves.

I think you'll find it hard to argue for (b) -- effectively that France should still be wasting lives and money fighting wars in Algeria and Vietnam

France was fighting a colonial war in Vietnam? Surely the events that followed the French fleeing suggest that this was a war with the Soviet Union, not a war with France's Vietnamese subjects, that the anti colonialist side was also the imperialist side. And if you find those events unconvincing, the events that followed the Americans fleeing should have convinced you.

The war with Algeria was indeed a colonial war, with colonialists and imperialists on the same side, and anti colonialists and Islamists on the other side. Let us recall, however, how and why the French got into what is now Algeria in the first place.

Europe had, for several hundred years, suffered Islamic terrorism. Punitive raids against the terrorists, for example the American Barbary wars, failed to deter them. So the French occupied the lands from which the terrorists attacked the most, and settled those lands with non Muslim settlers.

Algeria was a message to Muslims: Attack Christians, lose your land. Very eleventh century, and as in the eleventh century, it worked.

This successfully ended Islamic terrorism. From 1830 to 1960, the west had no problem with Islamic terrorism. When the French fled Algeria in 1960, Islamic terrorism resumed.

Europeans are considerably worse off for forcing European settlers out of Algeria, just as Jews are considerably worse off for forcing Jewish settlers out of the Gaza strip.

that the UK should be trying to crush the Indians violently

The UK was trying to crush the Indians violently?

The Indian independence movement was as much sponsored by the LSE and other British elite universities as the Rhodesian "independence" movement. Ghandi was a mascot. India continued to stagnate in poverty and communal violence until it finally got leaders from less "anti colonialist" (but suspiciously imperial) sources.

Europe had, for several hundred years, suffered Islamic terrorism. Punitive raids against the terrorists, for example the American Barbary wars, failed to deter them.

The confluence of piracy and terrorism in contemporary Somalia has led a lot of people to conflate the two, but not every act of violence involving Muslims is terrorism. The motives of the Muslims in the Barbary Wars have little to do with the motives of Salifists.

This successfully ended Islamic terrorism. From 1830 to 1960, the west had no problem with Islamic terrorism.

But if you are going to insist on such an overbroad definition of terrorism, then your latter statement is false, false, false, false.

For a thousand years before the mid nineteenth century, pretty much everyone agreed that equality between husbands and wives would destroy marriage and fatherhood.

Do you have a citation for that? It would surprise me to learn that such equality was even discussed about a thousand years ago.

The status of women was not a government issue until the nineteenth century, but a private issue for families. In this sense, it was discussed, but not as a political question. Consider, for example the Paxton family quarrel over the right of daughters to choose their own husbands. The Paxtons tended to use their daughters as poker chips in the long struggle over the Falstoff inheritance, and the Bishop of Norwich was drawn into this drama to arbitrate between mother and daughter. While the Bishop correctly upheld the Christian doctrine of marriage by consent, he was arguably disturbed by the potential threat to the institution of marriage.

"The taming of the shrew" also addresses this issue, in this sense. Note that Petruchio has to tame Katherina without giving her the thrashing she so richly deserves, whereas Margaret could and did beat her daughter Margary in an manner alarming and scandalous, even though according to Christian doctrine (that marriage is by consent) Margary was completely in the right, and Margaret completely in the wrong.

The Paxtons tended to use their daughters as poker chips in the long struggle over the Falstoff inheritance, and the Bishop of Norwich was drawn into this drama to arbitrate between mother and daughter. While the Bishop correctly upheld the Christian doctrine of marriage by consent, he was arguably disturbed by the potential threat to the institution of marriage.

I've not been able to find the case you describe. Googling "Paxton" together with "Falstoff" just takes me back to your comment. "Paxton family" doesn't give me anything seemingly relevant either.

Anyway, I was hoping for something that would show me specifically that "For a thousand years before the mid nineteenth century, pretty much everyone agreed that equality between husbands and wives would destroy marriage and fatherhood.", as you claimed. Especially the destruction of "fatherhood" part.

There's been a lot of discussion in this thread about whether or not your examples are valid. But there seems to be a more substantial problem: Your primary example, of whether or not decolonization was a good thing or was handled well is extensively discussed in academia. Similarly, most of the people doing ev psych are tenured professors and the like. So whether or not the views expressed are accurate, the claim that they are ignored by academia seems to be false.

Now, moving on from that, let's look at your claims.

Then there is evolutionary psychology, which tells us that Archie Bunker was right about nearly everything,

Is this a statement about racial groups or a statement about gender relations? I can't quite tell which was intended. Note that ev psych doesn't really say that much that Archie Bunker would actually agree with. Is this intended for rhetorical effect? If so, can you please state this more explicitly.

For a thousand years before the mid nineteenth century, pretty much everyone agreed that equality between husbands and wives would destroy marriage and fatherhood. Then in the nineteenth century, they introduced marital equality. Observe the result.

The request for citations below for the first sentence has already been asked and hasn't been really answered. (I will note that the Talmud which is a series of texts known for debating almost everything about its own legal system has nothing at all saying that equality between the sexes would destroy marriage). But aside from that matter, there's really a pair of pretty easy explanations for the "breakdown" of marriage.

First, in many places, common law marriage (really sui juris marriage), which really wasn't much more than acknowledged long-term cohabitation, was considered marriage. As that became less acceptable in the 20th century, people who if they had lived a century before would have been considered married were no longer counted as married.

Second, lifespans went up. In the 19th century, many marriages ended at an early age with the death of a spouse. See here. This data isn't ideal for this purpose because they are calculating life-expectancy of everyone which means that the decline in infant mortality also comes through. But in general, life expectancy has gone up. Divorces have become more common as a means of ending marriage, but the actual length of the average marriage is not that different from what it was in the 19th century.

There is an argument that equality between males and females has also lead to higher divorce rates. And it probably helps that females can initiate divorce (something that was difficult to do in some places in previous centuries) . It also obviously didn't hurt matters that rising equality made it easier for women to live on their own, which made getting a divorce have fewer downsides. But the claim that equality in marriage itself led to a decline in marriage seems to be extremely weak to the point where the correlation so obviously doesn't imply causation that it is almost a textbook example of that problem.

Your primary example, of whether or not decolonization was a good thing or was handled well is extensively discussed in academia.

Really? Could you refer me to an academic paper that has a perspective on decolonization similar to the one sam presents? Near as I can tell "post-colonial studies" are all about blaming Europeans and their descendents for all the world's problems.

Another exercise, since I believe you're currently in academia your self, bring up the perspective on decolonization with fellow academics in a way that implies it has merit. Let me know if you still have an academic career by the time the resulting firestorm blows over.

Wikipedia on "Benign Colonialism":

[These views have support by some academics. Economic historian Niall Ferguson has argued that empires can be a good thing provided that they are "liberal empires". He cites the British Empire as being the only example of a "liberal empire" and argues that it maintained the rule of law, benign government, free trade and, with the abolition of slavery, free labour.[12] Historian Rudolf von Albertini agrees that, on balance, colonialism can be good. He argues that colonialism was a mechanism for modernisation in the colonies and imposed a peace by putting an end to tribal warfare.[13] Historians L.H Gann and Peter Duignan have also argued that Africa probably benefited from colonialism on balance. Although it had its faults, colonialism was probably "one of the most efficacious engines for cultural diffusion in world history".[14] These views, however, are controversial and are rejected by many who, on balance, see colonialism as bad. The economic historian D.K Fieldhouse has taken a kind of middle position, arguing that the effects of colonialism were actually limited and their main weakness wasn't in deliberate underdevelopment but in what it failed to do.[15] Niall Ferguson agrees with his last point, arguing that colonialism's main weaknesses were sins of omission.[12] Marxist historian Bill Warren has argued that whilst colonialism may be bad because it relies on force, he views it as being the genesis of Third World development.[6]

Strictly speaking these are arguments for colonialism as good, not for decolonization as bad (maybe these authors believe colonialism was a positive stage compared to the previous status quo, and decolonization is even better) but they do not seem to fit with your stereotype of academic views ("blaming Europeans and their descendents for all the world's problems.") I found this with a two-minute search; I suspect a more thorough one could find also perspectives sceptical of decolonization.

"Although it had it faults" -- eliding some pretty big details here. Note that India was exporting grain (for the benefit of the British military, mostly) while millions of people were dying in famines and related epidemics under the Raj.

Upvoted for the shocking but intriguingly plausible comparison of the disultility from decolonization to that of the Holocaust. In additon I would agree that social equality between the average man and the average woman does hurt the traditional insitutions of marriage and fatherhood.

Downvoted for style.

As far as I can tell, the only demographic sector of my society in which fatherhood can be said to be "destroyed", is specifically that sector that has been targeted by government policies that systematically place young adult men in prison for long terms — and largely for ideological, pseudoscientific reasons.

Drug laws should be considerably relaxed (I actually favour full legalization of basically everything) but there is pretty strong evidence however you splice it (or rather whichever of the oh top three or four most likley social groups you may have in mind) that they would still be incarcerated more. I'm willing to go for 10 to 1 odds that this would be so even in a perfectly fair (whatever that is) system.

Some people just commit more violent crime than others.

You mean the same one in which women beat out men on most socioeconomic indicators by a sometimes significant margin?

True naturally. But fatherhood has declined in other groups where there has been no rise in incarceration concurrently with the rise of female status.

I think this is because the average male stripped of social (patriarchal) status signaling or marked accomplishment feels intuitively less valuable to us than a female. The thoroughly average Joe is implicitly worth less as a human being to us than a thoroughly average Jane at least when it comes to sympathy with their suffering or desire to alleviate terrible socioeconomic circumstances. Men might be "worth more" according to our intuition when looking for exceptional traits however.

"The speedup in information technology contrasts dramatically with the slowdown everywhere else."

I think this is the key sentence in Thiel's article. The issue is then to what degree the application of information technology to the sciences can alleviate the problem. Interestingly, Kurzweil's thesis is essentially that he sees general speed-up as a product of the other sciences becoming information sciences, but he is clearly much more optimistic about the degree to which this is happening and has already happened.

FWIW, Thiel also makes an interesting connection between stagnation and the many recent speculative bubbles in "The Optimistic Thought Experiment".

This seems to be an interesting idea but seems to be off. A lot of historical bubbles have occurred. Many historical bubbles like the infamous Tulip bubble were by many metrics a lot larger than the modern bubbles.

A lot of bubbles over many centuries, perhaps, but without a data series how can one say it's off? After all, we've hit 2 acknowledged bubbles in as many decades (notice that I don't say 'centuries' or 'half-centuries'), and there are more controversial recent ones (commodity bubble with oil or gold? 'Green' stocks? China?) which would push the count up even higher.

I'm not sure that one per decade is unusually many. The US had a lot of bubbles in the 19th century -- canal bubbles, real estate bubbles, railroad bubbles, etc. In all these cases (as with today), there was a real innovation underneath, that bedazzled investors into funding instances of it that didn't make sense.