quotes ranting

The four drives

I am currently reading The Consolation of Philosophy [] by Boethius. And listening along to the Tolkien Professor’s [] Mythgard Academy podcast [] of their discussion.

In book two of Consolation, there is a discussion of what drives humans:

Some believe the highest good is being rich without want, so they toil to gain an abundance of wealth. Others think the good is winning the best reputation, so they seek the respect of their fellow citizens by obtaining honors. There are those who locate the highest good in the highest power. They want either to be rulers themselves or to ally themselves with those who are. To others the good seems to be the greatest fame, so they rush to spread their glorious name abroad by works of war or peace. But the largest portion measure the fruit of the good by sensual pleasure and joy. They suppose the happiest man abandons himself to pleasure. There are also those who confuse ends and means, like those who desire riches for the sake of power and pleasures, or who seek power for the sake of money or fame.

Boethius, from The Consolation of Philosophy, book 2, prose 2

This reminded me of something that a history teacher once said to me, and my whole class. I’m wondering now if they go the idea from Boethius, they never explained where it came from, and I think we were all too shocked to ask for more details. No doubt this is paraphrasing, as it was decades ago, and maybe it’s been refined over many retellings, but this is the essence of what they said:

Money, power, prestige and sex, are the four drive of the human race. Once basic needs are met, it is the desire to possess these four things that has shaped history.

History teacher who shall remain anonymous

If you have hung out with me for any significant length of time over the last three decades or so you have hear that, over coffee or beer or stronger. It has suck with me, I wonder if anyone else in the class remembers it?

Boethius actually lists five drives: wealth, reputation, power, fame and sensual pleasure, but it’s close enough. Reputation is as much of a function of the others as a goal itself. I wonder if my teacher had ever read Consolation?

Can you boil history down to money, power, prestige and sex? Probably not. But there are a lot of incidents in history, large and small, that are driven by these things. Wars over natural resources often boil down to money. Hunger for power has driven many a king, emperor or chancellor to conquest. Prestige? That’s a bit harder. But sex driving “history” is as old as the Trojan War.

There was actually a corollary to the four drives. It’s probably offensive, and it’s definitely sexist, and I debated even adding it here, since the internet never forgets and people will assume the worst about you. But for most of human history sexism was the default, and while no doubt this is a Reductio ad absurdum, it puts an interesting spin on the whole statement. Anyway, the corollary, added later by another friend is:

If you are a man; money, power and prestige are how you get sex. If you are a woman; sex is how you get money, power and prestige.

I told you it was sexist.

quotes ranting

Feed the Algorithms…

You have no free speech — not because someone might ban your account, but because there’s a vast incentive structure in place that constantly channels your speech in certain directions. And unlike overt censorship, it’s not a policy that could ever be changed, but a pure function of the connectivity of the internet itself.

Sam Kriss, from The Internet is Made of Demons [], published on Damage

The Internet is Made of Demons is a fun article from a few weeks ago, published on It’s a roundabout review of The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, A Philosophy, A Warning by E. H. Smith. The review starts with this argument that Social Media is brainwashing us all, like some Pavlovian demon conditioning us to salivate over likes, shares and retweets, training our thoughts and actions. We are all being trained by the demons of the internet to please the almighty algorithms. Everyone is a content creator, not a person talking to other people, but a person talking at other people to generate views and sell ads.

No doubt. We all want people to value our creations. To validate our existence, to inflate our self-esteem. Why else would anyone post things on the internet?

The internet exploded, in large part, while I was in college as a way to connect with people IRL, a tool to enhance social contact not replace it. Applications like ICQ, AIM and many more allowed us to communicate when we were apart. Free campus internet allowed us to leave the messenger running when we were away from the dorm, in an era largely before people had laptops or cellphones. Napster was a tool to download music to play in your dorm for your IRL friends. But over the past two decades the internet has not just crept into more and more aspects of our daily life, it has replaced them. And for too many people this has lead to less real social activity.

[The Internet] simulates the experience of being among people

I can relate to this. There are so many “friends” on my social media that I am not really in touch with —setting aside people who “friend” or “follow” every person they ever meet or hear about, I’m talking about people I know or, at least, knew. The fact that I see their posts, that I know what is going on in their life, or at least that part of their life that they choose to share; I know people get married, go on holiday, have kids. Or, maybe, I see their comments on things others have posted, and I know their politics or, preferably, their sense of humor. It feels like I am “in touch” with these people. But, I’m not, not really. I haven’t seen most of these people in years —or in decades— I have no real connection to them. Just a simulation of a connection. And this model of social media seems to be fading as it evolves from conversations to one-way self-advertisement.

Part of this, this feeling that I’m informed by not connected is that many, if not most, of the people on my social media live in other countries; the US, Japan, Sweden, England, Italy, Australia… I’m very bad about maintaining actual contact in real life, in IRL. I don’t call and I don’t even text or email people. I tied to get better at it, I set some reminders to reach out to a few people who live overseas… And I kept finding myself saying “I should call/text so-and-so today.” But always at the wrong time and I was too tired to do it or just forgot it later.

I can barely keep in contact with people who are physically nearby. My work colleagues or ex-work colleagues who live here in Singapore, we go out regularly when we are in the same company, but then when they leave it become more and more seldom… Some of these people are “friends-of-convenience,” meaning we would not naturally be friends outside of the shared experience of work… but others are people I think would be friends regardless of work —true friends. I was better at it during the height of the COVID lockdowns, I would randomly call groups of people for “virtual coffee” sessions to replace the in person coffee breaks at the office. I don’t even do that any more… I’m too lazy. Should start again.

I do have to admit that I have been able to use social media to create moments of serendipity that would not have happened without it: three times I have been in foreign countries for work or holiday and found out, via social media, that someone from my past was also there and we have been able to meet up. This would not have happened without social media.

But moving out, this sort of replacing IRL interaction with simulated online interaction is not the real point of the review. The review is more concerned that the form of “communication” we have through the internet is destroying our empathy, our humanity to each other:

As more and more of your social life takes place online, you’re training yourself to believe that other people are not really people, and you have no duty towards them whatsoever. 

The reviewer cites stats that younger, more internet native generations show reduced empathy when tested. I can’t agree or argue with this, I don’t have enough young or IRL friends to judge it. But I don’t disbelieve it.

From there the review goes a off the rails, talking about books on demonology and medieval cryptography. Seemingly to make a point that the internet is a natural evolution of our need to communicate widely with others across distance claiming “telecommunications” is as old as humanity. I told you it was fun. But I think the key points are those at the beginning about simulating social connection and causing us all to focus on feeding the algorithms rather than helping to deepen friendships.

quotes ranting

Life after Dobbs

In the day after the Dobbs ruling was formally published, POLITICO ran an article full of statements from various thinkers on the potential impact of Dobbs. POLITICO is a very left leaning site, but there are some quotes from pro-life people. The opinions range from bleak “there will be civil war” (from an opinion that reads as a hypothetical future paralleling the the next 10 years with the 10 years leading up to the US Civil War) to hopeful (opinions which to me sound extremely naïve, fairy tale ending, wishful thinking, in the afterglow of victory.)

What I fear most is that the rollback of Roe will confirm for younger Americans, those who don’t remember the ’60s or ’70s, that this meanness, small-mindedness and flat-out oppressiveness is what American politics is fundamentally all about — and that movements for collective good are on the fringe, a pipe dream. With this view they will not assume, as I did, that good change is a hard fight but in a democracy is inevitable. They won’t fundamentally see this country as a democracy. And that’s chilling.

Erin Aubry Kaplan

I can hardly remember a time when that was not the way of it. I expect everyone things “it used to be better” not really understanding how it was before they were old enough to remember but I do see the straight line from the 1990’s to today. Bob Dole and his Rush Limbaugh hypnotized legions.

Litmus tests overwhelm reason, and rage drowns out prudence.

Charles Sykes

That just sounds like the status quo. Single issue voting, pushed by single issue, money rich lobbying groups.

What happens when states such as Louisiana treat the decision to obtain an abortion as a criminal homicide. Like many other states, Louisiana allows a bystander to “use force or violence or to kill” if they “reasonably believe” it necessary to protect a person. Such “defense of others” provisions in criminal codes, on their face, would allow someone to use force — even deadly force — to stop a woman crossing state lines to secure an abortion. That is, it would be perfectly lawful to draw a firearm on a woman traveling outside the state to get medical care.

Aziz Huq

That’s from a law professor. And given that anti-abortion and pro-gun Venn diagram is just a circle… Totally plausible. Gives the lie to the “pro-life” label. They don’t care about life. They care about abortion, they have been whipped into a rabid frenzy by a fanatical few who’s focus is —was now— on overturning Roe. “Pro-life” would imply they would be fighting for other things, like abolition of the death penalty.

On the “pro-life” side. I have to admit I read their statements and I feel like “wow” these people are crazy… but they worked hard over decades and they got what they wanted. It’s more scary crazy than funny crazy.

Many of these young people can’t imagine a world in which abortion is illegal. But this disregard for human life and family has been a wrecking ball to our society. Easy access to abortion has fostered a culture of people who have lost respect for the dignity of their own lives and the lives of those around them.

Kristan Hawkins

This is the most self-propagandizing (that’s a word?) sounding one to me. Moving on, this one is less crazy sounding, more thought out and also a bit depressing. Basically arguing that the battle lines were drawn long ago and nothing will change just because the Supreme Court actually overturned Roe:

Abortion, like guns, has been at the center of our culture war debates for decades. The data suggest that voters who were going to be motivated by those issues — for or against — have already been voting and have already sorted themselves into their respective parties. It’s hard to see how a Supreme Court decision will change that’s

Sarah Isgur

And this guy just sounds delusional… I can’t imagine American’s learning to “talk to each other” about divergent political issues. My opinion of the average American is much to low, we have fallen too far, too many people bought into their own tribes political propaganda about the other side, about all-or-nothing positions.

[W]ithout Roe and Casey, over the next 10 years, the American people will be forced to talk to one another, reason together and learn that their political opponents are not enemies, but people of good will who are trying to care rightly for those they love.

O. Charter Snead

And Finally:

Abortion opponents will not be appeased until abortion is entirely eliminated from our country, and they will without a doubt force this onto the entire nation should they ever gain full control of all three chambers of government.

Robin Marty

That sounds about right, overturning Roe was always just one step. Now they need to get it outlawed everywhere, state-by-state if they can’t get a national ban. As several of the writes note, the next logical step is a “Fetal Personhood” ruling or amendment.

quotes ranting

The Double Barrel Lock-and-Pop Maneuver

Continuing my long staining penchant for NSFW posts and making fun of science studying the sex lives of bugs [], I came across this post [] while catching up on Slashdot:

When a male cockroach wants to mate with a female cockroach very much, he will scoot his butt toward her, open his wings and offer her a homemade meal — sugars and fats squished out of his tergal gland. As the lovely lady nibbles, the male locks onto her with one penis while another penis delivers a sperm package. If everything goes smoothly, a roach’s romp can last around 90 minutes.

Cockroach Reproduction had taken a Strange Turn [] published by the New York Times

90 minutes? That would give pigs a run for their money []… though the “roach’s romp” might include more then just the climax. But it goes on:

[C]ockroach saliva is capable of rapidly breaking down complex sugars, like those found in the male’s courtship offering, and turning them into simple sugars, such as glucose. So when one of these glucose-averse females takes a bite of the male’s nuptial gift, it literally turns bitter in her mouth, and she bolts before he can complete the double barrel lock-and-pop maneuver.

I new a guy once in college who’s girlfriend would relate to these glucose adverse roach ladies. She once told the guy she would “rather he stab her and fuck the hole than have him cum in her mouth.” The lack of blowjobs in their sex life was the only thing he was unhappy about it their relationship. Needless to say that relationship did not last too much longer.


Dysfunction in America

The outsize power wielded by the court in 2022 derives from a political system that struggles to strike compromises. Lining up a majority in the House, 60 votes in the Senate (to override a filibuster) and a presidential signature is too hard. It is easier for politicians to fundraise off controversy rather than solve problems. Time and again on the thorniest questions—carbon-dioxide emissions, gay marriage, guns, abortion—Congress has failed to reflect public opinion.

From How to save the Supreme Court [] published by The Economist, May 7th 2022

How could congress reflect public option? No one who is willing to compromise can get elected, anyone in congress who does compromise is likely to get voted out by rabid extremist voters or big-money donors; no one serves because it’s a duty, politics is a career these days, re-election, not conviction, is the point of every vote. So congress is impotent on any topic that might stir controversy. Delivering to you rabid extremists base that votes in primaries means all or nothing, usually nothing because the 50/50 national split means no one can overcome the filibuster so you can only deliver by subterfuge: stacking the court or governing via presidential decree.

Rather than actually debating, discussing and designing solutions to the problems that plague the US congress is busy with twiddle their thumb no action, all talk softball games like investigating UFOs [].

The system is broken. It’s supposed to be self healing but we seem to have broken that too. We found a way to incentivize our leaders to spend their time demonizing these that disagree with them and running for the extremes. We’ve made democracy in to a zero-sum game; all or nothing, I win you lose, my way or the highway. No more let’s find a solution we can all agree on, rising tides float all boats, compromise for progress.

I’d say it was time to have a top-to-bottom review of the system, some sort of new constitutional convention, or citizens committee, to review and clean up all the cruft that has built up in almost 250 years, to rebalance the system and find a way to make it work better… in fact this would be a great initiative for that upcoming anniversary. But we would just elect the same self-serving, all-or-nothing extremists blow hards and without a shared sense of purpose and people willing to discuss and compromise for the greater good the in-power party would just use the opportunity to fuck the world and get it’s pet desires all-or-nothing style.

Maybe a simple change like ranked choice voting would allow people to be elected who actually reflected the views of the majority or felt they could compromise. But it’s hard to imagine elected officials who know how to game the current system change the rules in any way that might disfavor them.

In short; I don’t see how the people and their elected representatives can fix the problem that plague the US government today, because the people and their elected representatives, are the problem.