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Admittedly, I haven't read about the problem of sex since '90s but back then the argument against the naive "sex is good because it allows all the good genes to get into a single organism" was that that made sense from the point of view of the species, but not necessarily from the point of view of the individual -- while the natural selection works on the individual level.

In particular, when a female has a choice to reproduce either sexually or via parthenogenesis, in the former case she loses 50% of the fitness (because half of her genes get recombined out). Thus, the advantages of the sexual reproduction must outweight this huge drop in fitness. Even worse, it must outweight it quickly. "Your progeny is going to be better off after 100 generations" is not going to work, because when your fitness drops by 50% you'll die out in few generations.

Anyway, if the newer research found a solution to this problem, it would be interesting to hear about it.

This is aimed at those who can't make an informed opinion themselves. (And most of us can't. Even a scientist can't often make an informed opinion about a result from a different discipline.) What it means is: "Trust the official scientific institutions. However broken they may be you are still better off trusting them than trusting the alternative sources of information."

This is related to an idea I keep stressing here, which is that people rarely have consistent meta-level principles. Instead, they’ll endorse the meta-level principle that supports their object-level beliefs at any given moment. The example I keep giving is how when the federal government was anti-gay, conservatives talked about the pressing need for federal intervention and liberals insisted on states’ rights; when the federal government became pro-gay, liberals talked about the pressing need for federal intervention and conservatives insisted on states’ rights.


One encounters that kind of thing all the time, e.g. people trying to change the constitution to cause particular object-level changes.

But on the other hand, it feels like a useful political tool: Whoever is willing to sacrifice their object-level goals can achieve their meta-level goals instead. And given that meta-level changes are likely to have more profound long-term impact, it may be worth it.

Elaborating the above example, if you are anti-gay, but pro-state all you have to do is to wait until pro-gay people support strengthening the states at the expense of the federal government. At that point you can join forces with them and give more power to the states. I'll hurt your object anti-gay agenda, but you achieve your meta-level agenda which will keep paying off in 20 or 50 years when the gay issue is probably no longer salient enough to care.

Hard to say, but one problem I see is that strong regional identity that powers the political processes in federations cannot be created by fiat. If you turn a centralized country to federation by passing such law it would continue to work as a centralized country. Maybe in 100-200 years regional identity, regional elites, specific regional interests would emerge, but it won't be tomorrow. Same, although maybe in a lesser extent, I think, applies to already federated countries and "making them even more federated".

Interesting. I've never heard about that. Any tips about where to read some more about that?

Let's go even further. Assuming the above model, the system can be improved by treating each successful referendum as a system failure. A postmortem should be written a submitted for public discussion:

  • If majority was in favour, why wasn't the law changed before in the first place?
  • Why haven't the counterproposal succeeded?
  • Why haven't the initiants retracted the initiative?
  • What should be done so that a similar failure doesn't happen again?

There's yet one more dynamic: Initiative proposes X. Government is, like, this is just crazy. The initiators: Do change the law to include Y (a watered down version of X) and we'll retract the initiative.

Looking at it from that point of view, the referendum can be thought of not as a way for "the people" to decide, but rather a lever, a credible threat, to change the law without having to go via the standard representative system (joining a party, becoming an MP, etc.)

In Switzerland there's a lot of discussion about changing this or that part of the political system, but I've never seen someone advocating for getting rid of referenda. There's something about the concept that people tend to like, irrespective of whether it works well or not.

I still think the “old guard” problem is real, and we’d have to come up with new mechanisms to address it. (Perhaps influential positions would institute a mandatory retirement age of 350.)

I was thinking about this the other day, but from a slightly different perspective. Consider trust in the society. If a country goes through a civil war, or maybe a period of a state collapse, the people are - based on their experience - less trusting of strangers and maybe even willing to take advantage of a defenseless stranger. The prospects for cooperation (and therefore societal progress) are not great. One is likely to see clique formation, tribal thinking, corruption.

Now, new generation doesn't have the civil war experience (or a street gang experience, or whatever). It is generally more trusting. They are able to cooperate on a higher level, but the old generation is distrustful, considers the youngsters to be dangerously naive and throws a wrench into the machine. And the longer the average length of life is, the slower the process of moving away from zero-sum games to positive-sum games becomes.

The interesting observations are:

  1. Solutions like "retire at 350" are not going to work - you can't retire a person from the society.
  2. The "old guard" problem could be, in theory, solved if the old generation would learn to change their mind, to adjust to the changed conditions on the ground. However, I am not sure how realistic is the unlearning the civil war experience, unlearning of not trusting the people around you.
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