Aug 13, 2023Liked by R.W. Richey

You say you default to skepticism regarding predictions of the future, but doesn’t belief in religion (and eschatology in particular) involve setting aside skepticism about a certain set of predictions? Or are you just saying that you are skeptical of predictions other than the ones you have chosen to believe?

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I would distinguish between predictions and warnings. When Turchin says that civil unrest will begin in 2020, that's a prediction. When I say modernity has not eliminated the possibility of civil unrest that's a warning. If you think you've eliminated a bad thing you're probably wrong. And in fact the two are kind of the opposite.

When Pinker says I think we have outgrown war, that's a prediction. When I say "I don't think we have outgrown war, I think the period Pinker is looking at is too short to reach that conclusion", then I am disagreeing with his prediction. And yes I am also kind of making a prediction that there will be another war, but with this form of prediction there's always the subtext of "Even if I'm wrong, it's best to prepare as if you think I'm right."

Overall I'm mostly attempting to point out potential black swans, and also describe the general nature of the system. "History is messy and bad things are going to continue to happen". Rather than predicting any specific calamity.

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Aug 14, 2023Liked by R.W. Richey

I think it’s a useful distinction to make between a specific prediction and just saying things are messy. I also think there’s a very important difference btw the Turchin predictions and the Pinker prediction. Turchin is looking for an old cycle and saying that the cycle will continue. Pinker is looking for reasons to believe an old cycle will not continue. Turchins analysis requires making some comparisons. For example, what does elite mean? Ways of identifying Roman elites might be different from identifying American elites. So how can you count them and decide whether there are too many elites? Putting them in the same ‘elite’ category requires an analogy that ignores a lot of differences. Pinker can argue that those (or other) differences are so salient the cycle is broken. Maybe citing Black swans is like saying that there really isn’t any cycle to begin with and so there is no cycle to break. Bad stuff just happens for reasons that are too complicated to make any meaningful predictions about.

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