A Great Filter You Won't See Anyone But Me Bring Up (For Reasons That Will Become Obvious Presently)

Some benighted folks have noticed a rather strange coincidence involving JFK’s “New Frontier” creating a phony frontier with the Apollo Program:

JFK also published “A Nation of Immigrants”, which elided the very existence of “A Nation of Settlers” by equating “Settlers” with “Immigrants”, but the resulting immigration flood was anything but phony. It started in earnest with his brother Ted Kennedy’s 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, violating the consent of more than 90% of The Nation of Settlers for decades and is still violating more than a supermajority despite significantly replacing The Nation of Settlers with The Nation of Immigrants.


Some of us really really really, at an inchoate if not instinctive level, wanted to escape this flood with O’Neill colonies, but were prevented from doing so.

Oh, but that’s OK because, as the neocons like Bill Kristol like to tell us, The Nation of Settlers has outlived its usefulness and the Nation of Immigrants will do it all better.

Except for one thing:

Immigrants aren’t settlers and space settlement isn’t space immigration.

Space Settlers don’t arrive “Penniless at Ellis Island”.

So What In The Hell Was Humanity Thinking?

Take a look at this picture:


Harvard’s recent experiment in the evolution of antibiotic resistance graphically shows evolution in action. The frontier of bacteria culture is progressively mutant – to adapt to each new combination of antibiotics. This is common to all life, of course. You can even eliminate the antibiotics and the bacteria, themselves, will evolve the equivalent of antibiotics – but in the reverse of the Harvard experiment.

Here’s how:

The frontier culture won’t have to adapt (it’s all just endless agar nutrient out there) but the bacteria at the origin has to start competing with other bacteria for the remaining nutrients. We’ll call the frontier the shallow culture and the origin culture the deep culture. The deep culture evolves to reproduce in the presence of other bacteria and disappearing food.

If that triggers in your mind an image of cannibalism, you’re right: The deep culture evolves ways of eating other bacteria since that’s where the nutrients are. They secrete waste products which, to them, are benign (think about San Francisco and India). However, those waste products digest other bacteria. Suddenly you have a new, naturally evolved, gradient of “antibiotics” except they are more powerful the deeper into the culture you go: The opposite of the Harvard experiment.

Recalling that this kind of gradient from deep culture to shallow culture is inherent to the way life itself evolves, let’s consider what happens when a species develops the catastrophically rapid form of evolution called “memes” or culture in the anthropology sense. For one thing, the shallow culture is most likely to develop technology that deals with differing natural environments and the deep culture most likely to develop the technology that deals with increasingly competitive populated, or artificial environments, like Ellis Island and New York City.

What this means is that before the shallow culture can become space-faring, it has already gone through a scientific revolution and provided transportation technology orders of magnitude beyond its natural locomotion. This all-but instantaneously mixes the deep and shallow cultures.

Recall that the deep culture has the ability to essentially “digest” the shallow culture, but not vis-versa.

Conclusion: This has wiped out every technological civilization prior to it becoming interstellar.

PS: I seriously doubt Philip Roth ever considered this angle when writing his alternative history involving President Charles Lindbergh, despite Lindbergh’s warning in “Aviation, Geography and Race”.


For those unfamiliar with Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, here is my review from 2006. As to my remark therein about the U.S. electorate being disinclined to elect “outsiders” to the presidency, this was ten years Before.


One question is the degree of separation required to avoid admixture of the deep and shallow cultures. This plays a major part in Travis Corcoran’s Aristillus novels, the first two of the planned four volumes were back-to-back winners of the Prometheus Award and the first independently published books to be so honoured.

It is natural to expect exemplars of the shallow culture to self-select for the frontier, wherever it is to be found and however difficult and expensive it is to get there. So the question becomes, can the deep culture digest the shallow culture before it escapes in sufficient numbers to be self-sustaining and, if it can escape, what degree of separation is required to keep it from being infiltrated and digested by the deep culture.

Assuming no new physics and interstellar travel is limited to no more than 0.2 c, interstellar is probably sufficient distance, but what degree of separation might be possible within the solar system? O’Neill colonies in cislunar space are almost certainly too close, as are lunar settlements as in Aristillus, but what about Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson’s trans-globalist Mars trilogy is largely about this) or those famously independent Belters in their torch ships?

Another possibility is that AGI achieves a “foom” take-off and renders biological life impotent and obsolete and, having digested all of human history and run trillions of simulations, comes to the conclusion that collectivism always ends badly and that only pure agoric solutions are viable on a large scale and long term. So the machines don’t take over, but rather just remake the solar system as hospitable to themselves and then leave each other and everybody else alone.


Thanks. Those are now on my reading list after I finish the “Delta-v” series by Daniel Suarez – novels John Robb suggests regarding what I suppose I should call “The Third Space Settlement Summer”*.

This kind of self-selection is the theme of what might be called the “individualism genre” from “Atlas Shrugged” and “Camp 38” – both involving the establishment of terrestrial barriers to in-migration by “collectivists”. But both are concerned more with a “The meek shall inherit the Earth” ethos – in the sense that individuals are “meek” compared to collectives – than they are with “…and the rest of us will settle space.” In both narratives, only an extraordinarily wealthy landed elite descended from The Nation of Settlers possess the resources and character to achieve the required isolation. “Camp 38” is far more intellectually honest, which is why I favor that narrative.

Yes. My enthusiasm for O’Neill’s vision was mainly reactive panic to the cultural traumas of the 1970s rather than pro-active. However, he did include in that vision extraordinarily large solar reflectors that would permit extraordinary isolation.

I’ve often wondered what it was that Musk (clearly from a settler/shallow culture) experienced in South Africa that so scared the b’jesus out of him that he wanted to bypass cis-lunar O’Neill colonies and go straight for Mars. Your observation may provide a clue, although one has to wonder why he’s not a Belter.

When I visited South Africa and Zimbabwe circa 2000 – at the height of the slaughter of shallow culture settlers – I was horrified by what I saw among them: Naked dissociative states which I took to have been produced by being abandoned by the world to Hellish persecution. Musk most certainly experienced the nascent signs of this.

Given the intransigence of the machine learning community toward algorithmic information as information criterion for causal model selection, combined with the incentives to lock in place the kinds of memes that are increasingly threatening to digest the West and impose dissociative states in the shallow culture peoples, I’m decreasingly confident that the machines will be capable of such critical thought. In consequence I’m increasingly interested in the Camp 38 approach.

*The First Space Settlement Summer was pre-Apollo Program era – and was largely the province of the golden age of science fiction. The Second Space Settlement Summer was post-“High Frontier” and pretty much ended once I discovered (circa 1992) that NASA was going to thumb its nose at The Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990. The Third Space Settlement Summer took off once the DotCon bubble shook enough capital loose from Wall Street to permit guys like Musk and Bezos to capture some new forms of economic rent to revive visions from the First and Second summers.

PS: Regarding Lindbergh’s “Des Moines Speech” which you cite in your review of “The Plot Against America” – my father was a member of a Quaker meeting in Beech Iowa, probably walking distance to Des Moines – and had a deferment not only on that basis but also an agricultural deferment. However, he told me that the message he actually got from Lindbergh’s speech was that the US needed an Air Force – and that’s why he enlisted to become a crew chief repairing the B24s flying out of England. Lindbergh had emphasized that Germany was so far ahead of the US in air power that it would be virtually suicidal for the US to challenge Germany. Gotta’ wonder if Lindbergh didn’t realize he was waving a Red Cape at the Nation of Settlers!


There’s a number of evolved behaviors of ‘settlers’ for rewarding symbiotes and shedding parasites:

When the trees produce smaller crops for a few consecutive years, they are in effect keeping the populations of these animals in check. But during a mast year, the trees produce more food than the animals can possibly eat.

This abundance causes a boom in populations of small mammals like mice. More importantly, it guarantees some will be left over to survive and grow into new trees. Mast years have a major evolutionary advantage for the tree.

The same behavior is also present in humans: many religions prescribe both an annual and a weekly religious fast. When there’s consistency across cultures and religions about a certain pattern of behavior, I pay attention. There’s been a number of benefits to fasting: changes to the immune system, metabolism and many others.

The ‘meek will inherit the Earth’ can even be seen as a societal fast. If you don’t have much, not much can be taken away from you. A couple of years ago, I was in Rome, and on a Sunday morning, I decided to go for a mass. It ended up being one of the most interesting experiences. The sermon instructed how ‘meek’ isn’t ‘weak’, quite the opposite. The meek are strong against people, but weak against god.

A good decade ago I realized that our society is infested with parasites. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is basically about how producers in a society sometimes need to stop producing and engage in some de-growth by going on a strike.

This made me turn off the standard career advancement track into a societal ‘fast’. Maybe the best thing for Western society might be to slow down, get some rest, purify itself, shed itself of the parasites, so it can re-emerge. This can be as simple as adopting religious values of modesty and family.


Where do we see this in the history of civilizational cycles?


Perhaps in the preservation of knowledge in the monastic communities in medieval Europe? “Progress”, however defined, may have slowed to a crawl, but the manuscripts were preserved so (some of) the knowledge would be there when people were ready to use it once again.

Something along these lines is discussed in flaky-con Rod Dreher’s 2017 book The Benedict Option. Thomas Cahilll makes the case for Ireland’s preserving the inheritance of antiquity in his 1995 book How the Irish Saved Civilization.


With a centennial cycle, the simple thing to do is to let the crisis run its way, and re-emerge once the bottom has been hit:

A millennial cycle would involve monastic communities, scriptures, or an exodus.


As long as we’re floating narratives for these cycles, there’s W.D. Hamilton’s “The Innate Social Aptitudes of Man” wherein he posits Western Civilization has a cycle of approximately 800 years:

The incursions of barbaric pastoralists seem to do civilizations less harm in the long run than one might expect. Indeed, two dark ages and renaissances in Europe suggest a recurring pattern in which a renaissance follows an incursion by about 800 years. It may even be suggested that certain genes or traditions of pastoralists revitalize the conquered people with an ingredient of progress which tends to die out in a large panmictic population for the reasons already discussed. I have in mind altruism itself, or the part of the altruism which is perhaps better described as self-sacrificial daring. By the time of the renaissance it may be that the mixing of genes and cultures (or of cultures alone if these are the only vehicles, which I doubt) has continued long enough to bring the old mercantile thoughtfulness and the infused daring into conjunction in a few individuals who then find courage for all kinds of inventive innovation against the resistance of established thought and practice. Often, however, the cost in fitness of such altruism and sublimated pugnacity to the individuals concerned is by no means metaphorical, and the benefits to fitness, such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator [emphasis – JAB] must be slight indeed. Thus civilization probably slowly reduces its altruism of all kinds, including the kinds needed for cultural creativity (see also Eshel 1972).

I emphasize genetic correlation structure because virtually all narratives that currently reside within The Overton Window elide genetic correlation structures for the obvious reason that the very idea that humanity take responsibility for what their artificial selection regimes “culture” has become the very epitome of evil in the moral zeitgeist. On the other hand, it seems to me that there is no more general and objective definition of “The Moral Animal” than one which possesses the cognitive capacity to take responsibility to culture that which is “meek”, not before the forces of artificial constructs like “civilization”, but rather before those natural constructs upon which humanity itself rests – constructs which predate civilization by orders of magnitude.

It seems to me the core of the decay is precisely the notion that civilization is natural selection – and the reason we have so many “narratives” that elide our responsibility to future generations is so that those currently in power can cope with their failure to act responsibly.


As we’re treated to African American Media Saturation 24/7 plus relentless pounding The Nation of Settlers as “white supremacists”, a Rasmussen poll shows nearly half of the black population does not agree with the statement “It’s okay to be white.”

This triggered the normally left-centrist Scott Adams, to basically tell white people to “just get the **** away from black people – because there’s no fixing this.”

To be clear, Scott Adams is saying that white people should not live in “black neighborhoods” – whatever that phrase means to various people. Moreover, he’s fed up with black “leaders” that focus on issues other than “education” since, in his opinion, education is all that really needs fixing.

Here’s the problem with that “clarification”: Not only is the phrase “black neighborhoods” ambiguous, but how many people does it take to make a neighborhood unlivable – especially if they are viewed as “George Floyd”, hence someone who the police should be particularly careful to treat with kid gloves lest tens of billions of dollars of riot damage ensue as well as hundreds of lives sacrificed due to rising murder rates (as happened after the BLM riots)?

The way I read this rather stunning posture taken by Scott Adams is illustrated by something I witnessed while walking between buildings on the HP campus circa 2000:

An H-1b kid from India, who I had invited into my apartment previously, was riding his bicycle as a car passed him with its windows down. In the car was a black guy and a blond white guy. The black guy let out a banshee WHOOOOO!!! at the kid.

While the kid from India was in my apartment, he said that he came to the US to “F white girls”.

The way this kind of thing plays out in historic terms is as follows:

An intermediate culture gets caught in a squeeze play between a deeper and a shallower culture, providing a terminal euphoria for the shallower culture that ultimately ends with the deeper culture consuming the shallower culture. In this case the deeper culture is African (Bantu) and the shallower culture is the California blond guy in the car with the African. The Indian kid, who came here to digest the shallower culture didn’t realize what he was getting himself into. This is happening to a lot of the Indians who, like many of the south and eastern European immigrants to the US, have essentially been shnockered into instinctively feeling that by digesting the WASP elite, their overclass status would be assured. The working class settler culture could then be mopped up at leisure.

Scott Adams is basically identified with the Indian overclass that took over Silicon Valley – but he’s shallower culture than them so he’s out in front taking bullets.

BTW: I consciously set out to get LDS Republican Representative, Ron Packard to team up with the Black Congressional Caucus Chair Ron Dellums in getting The Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990 signed into law. Packard helped get one of Dellums’s constituents a contract – otherwise we might not have been able to pull off the “squeeze play” we did.


Having finished Suarez’s “Critical Mass” I’m now most of the way through Corcoran’s first and am having some emotional difficulty reading it. After developing an allergy to politics with the “success” of the LSPA of 1990 (in seeing the intent of the law violated and our coalition being powerless to stop it), I only very reluctantly reentered the political fray with Ron Paul’s candidacies. When Ron Paul sacrificed his political viability for the high purpose of violating the most fundamental principles of individual liberty and the foundation of civilization, twice, it took quite a bit to get me back. Trump’s “Mexican Rapist Speech” managed to do it since Trump obviously decided to, in the words of Ann Coulter “Pick up the $1000 bill lying on the ground” with the immigration issue.

While I’m acutely aware that developing an entire ecosystem from the ground up entails careful consideration of what constitutes “natural rights”, I’m afraid Corcoran is going to try to resurrect a corpse that should remain dead: The “anarcho-capitalist philosophy” about immigration that I’ve been hearing ever since I attended Libertarian Party meetings in San Diego with La Raza and “Catholic” activists in the 1980s. There is so much potential for such nuance that it would be tragic if someone with his obvious writing talent used the exceptional conditions of artificial ecosystem creation as merely a polemical device in service of such a bad ideology. That he wrote it after the tragedy of Ron Paul and at least in part responding to the election of Trump, really has me slogging through the rest for whatever value there might be hiding in there.


Interesting. I have mixed feelings about it, too, for similar reasons. Finished book one. Haven’t started book two, and not sure I will. I am very much enjoying Travis’ Escape the City guidebooks, though.


I don’t recall much of a polemic about immigration in the Aristillus novels. The Moon, as a frontier society, had open borders in the sense that anybody who could build an antigravity ship and get there was free to do so (or to try, and possibly die in the attempt), but once on the ground (or regolith) they were on their own to make a living in the new world. Certainly there were no entitlements or preferences, and if certain communities tended to keep to themselves and their ways, well so do communities on the Earth.

There is some description of how property rights work, which is expanded upon in the novella Staking a Claim, set in the early years of Aristillus and the origin story of the settlement’s gold-based currency. It deals with how property rights are obtained and problems such as claim-jumping dealt with.

There’s a big difference in immigration to a pioneer society where self-sufficiency and cooperation in the correct mixture are prerequisites for survival and gate-crashing a developed society and living off the confiscated earnings of others. The main conflict in the Aristillus story so far is the “compassionate, developed” societies of the old world trying to loot the wealth of those who have escaped its shackles and prospered.


Agreed, which is why I brought up Roth’s alternative history in this context. Israel’s nationalism, for example, is far healthier due precisely to this fact. Healthy nationhood does require an intimate cultural relationship to nature.

I’ve just started on the second book this morning and am hoping to see some of the nuances more carefully explored. Indeed, it begins with Jefferson’s appeal to “nature and nature’s God” as the source of natural rights which, as I said earlier, can get really interesting when we’re dealing with artificial ecosystems.

The things that rather triggered me in the first book weren’t just the immigration but rather the framing – which went beyond mere importation of pioneers expanding the base of technological civilization. One example is when talking about the loss of Los Angeles as a territory, he went to the trouble of talking about “taco vendors” in LA being in some sense patriotic and then having another character set up a strawman with a contemptible comment about “turning our security over to taco vendors”. This kind of exchange seems almost designed to get Hollywood funding for a movie – which may be his intent. If so, that’s forgivable as it would be lightyears above anything we’re seeing out of that open sewer pit. However, that sewer pit deep-sixed Idiocracy’s distribution despite Judge’s attempts to appease them with standard tropes about working class white heterosexual idiots breeding like rats, etc. It doesn’t work out well in practice. Another example was the exchange with a “Mormon” during which the Mormons had initiated violence and then offered what I considered inadequate defense of protecting children of their community from cultural contamination. I know these debates have been raging in the anarchocapitalist world for decades if not going back to the Enlightenment and beyond, but again, I’d have appreciated a more respectful treatment of people who are interested in what the Greeks called “demes” as regions of cultural experimentation free from contamination.


Having finished Causes of Separation: Aristillus, Book 2, I’ve been giving more thought to the secluded community problem in the context of very high speed transport enabled by, for example, fusion energy. What distance is required to be a month away? It seems 0.2 c is feasible with that kind of energy source assuming you are relying on Boston Dynamics “troops” to take the Gs.

However, that’s when I vaguely remembered O’Neill writing about habitats a few times the distance to Pluto and how much mass would be required for gathering solar energy at that distance.

The thing about such enormous distances is that the difficulty of infrared target identification goes up at least as the square (solid angle subtended by a detector). Then there is the drop off in IR intensity that is also inverse square.

Perhaps a counter to that seclusion strategy would be to convert the the moon or even inner planets into sensors and send them out sort of like surveillance state iPhones scattered throughout the volume to monitor things. So let’s say you process the Moon into iPhones at 1kg a piece at 10% lunar mass utilization efficiency and scatter them into a space that ends at the Oort Cloud. Mine gas planets for light elements to fuse. In that scenario you end up with about 2e15km^3 per iPhone which is about 60,000km radius for each iPhone to surveil – or about a quarter the distance to the Moon. It’s not a wildly outlandish possibility given how hungry our parasites are – but would take a while. It might be enough time to get out of the general region of the solar system. Moreover, it seems likely that well before they can pull off such a feat, they’ll be consumed by hyperparasites that, themselves, can’t really deal with converting things like the Moon into iPhones except in a cargo cult version of the iPhone. I mean the iPhone factories surrounding the Moon will be forfeit in payment of “reparations” for some nastiness or other done to the hyperparasites by the parasites.