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The Arithmetics of Anthropophagy

Back when the greenielefties were last predicting Global Cooling (which is indeed going to happen now, not then), they were also predicting overpopulation and global famine (instead population grew and global nutrition improved drastically). That was the time when they inspired that movie, Soylent Green, starring Edward G. Robinson. If you haven't seen it, here's the spoiler: Soylent Green is People! And that's how they feed the whole population every Tuesday.

Of course, as with all the greenieleftie scares, it does not compute. How can they possibly achieve a 1/14 energetic yield with this racket? Half a day's ration once every week -- you can't sustain that recycling unless you get 1/14th of the total energy you put in a man out of digesting him. Bloody unlikely. Considering a human can have an average of say 50kg of edible meat (order of magnitude), at 4 Cal/g, that's 2e5 Cal usable by eating a person. With a 2000 Cal/day diet (order of magnitude), that's just 100 day of feeding. Which is one hundredth of the lifespan of a 28-year old adult. While there's room for plenty of profit in such an operation, a simple calculation shows that anthropophagy can never sustainably be a statistically meaningful part of your average man's ordinary diet. Once again, he who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense. (Exercise for the reader: look at the arithmetics of another greenieleftie theme of the movie, the disappearance of nature and forest.)

Of course, as the Toltecs and Aztecs demonstrated, in an age where physical strength matters, a minority can use anthropophagy on a large scale to gain a nutritional advantage over the surrounding underfed majority. Anthropophagy can certainly be fun, and I've read of old cannibals regretting the taste of roasted baby hands. Indeed if your army is too backwards to establish slavery, to what better use to put your vanquished enemies (at least the males)? Anthropophagy can also be a factor in political bonding; it was notably used by Mao's commissars as a test to distinguish between those ready to literally "eat the rich" and those to be eaten next or sent to the laogai. And anthropophagy has been known as an emergency technique to save the lives of quite a few people stranded in a group without access to other food. Or to damn the soul of an enemy. Finally I admit I cannot dismiss the retirement plan once offered to old women by Tierra del Fuego indians, as reported by Darwin. Goddess bless the greenieleftie mandated return to the simple natural life! But beware: done ritually and systematically, anthropophagy can be a vector of diseases. In any case, there has never been and can never be such a thing as anthropophagy as a common source of nutrients for the common man. The myth of anthropophagy as such only demonstrates the fears and obsessions of those who propagate it, and their first thought in times of direness. Speak of people with twisted minds. I know who I don't want to live next to when the shit hits the fan.

When people in the average bring more to civilization than they take away, there cannot be problem with overpopulation, or with funding education and retirement — people are indeed an asset. When people are all in all more consumptive than productive, then they are a liability indeed, surviving by spending away the capital accumulated by better men; their society is going down the drain and none of the proposed statist remedies can help, whether fostering reproduction or non-reproduction, immigration or emigration, early retirement or euthanasia. Actually, State intervention is usually the one cause that puts society on such a bad slope. And when society collapses, anthropophagy is a poor way to slow down this collapse if it does at all; actually, inasmuch as it would imply murder and/or deception (which as Heinlein noted it needn't necessarily, but which it does in the greenieleftie boogeymen) anthropophagy is rather a sign of the collapse accelerating than slowing down. As Julian Simon wrote, The Ultimate Resource is the creativity of free humans. And the Ultimate Waste is precisely the destruction of this freedom and creativity by ecologists and other Statists.

Comments

(Anonymous)

Crowd behaviour is the root cause of wasting creativity

> the creativity of free humans. And the Ultimate Waste is
> precisely the destruction of this freedom and creativity
> by ecologists and other Statists.
>

In my concrete, personal experience, it's not "ecologists" or "statists" which are responsible of the destruction of freedom and creativity.

I can give you a very clear example of this: I work in an university (I do software), and I'm quite skilled in my domain (believe it or not, but even if you don't, it doesn't matter, the phenomenon I describe is very real).

I recently started to look for a job outside the university, and I discovered that it is extremely hard to get one, although I could learn quickly most of the skills required in job advertisements.

But it is precisely the problem: the companies writing these jobs ads are not interested in people able to learn, nor in creative people: what they want is people which can work on day one, and do not raise problems later.

Just to give you a simple example: I did operating-systems related research during ten years, I was involved in several long-running, complex projects. But still, HR people do not hire me for any Java job.

To state it otherwise: my (very founded) point of view is that as soon as you have experience in software engineering, learning a new language is just a matter of syntax, for the principle of algorithmics are everywhere the same. And as far APIs are concerned, there are plenty of documentation available for that: why asking years of experience in the practice of only an API ? This is so ridiculous.

This clearly demonstrates how badly the software engineering practices are flawed in the industry (by the way, it's not only my opinion, several times, I met practicioners which told me stories about that, and about all the incredible cost, in the long run, which stems out of the fact that IT people know less and less how to program).

Where are the "ecologists" and the "Statists" in this story ? I don't see them.

What I see is big companies like Microsoft and Sun, which pushed very hard the (flawed) idea of taylorizing programming, and in the end, what we get is the widely spread belief that software engineering amounts to cut & pasting code from a library, plus writing some glue. And for the first implementation of a not-too-big software, it works. Of course, given such clueless practices, the costs are skyrocketing as soon as you need even a small amount of software reuse. But these costs are sparse, they are like a kind of pollution, you can't see them before it's way too late.

What I see is universities surrendering their duties, for rather than teaching students programming the hard (and real) way, they do things like training their students in projects where they spend 85% of their time doing things like UML modeling, discussing, devising extremely complex (unimplementable) architectures, etc. And in the end, only 15% of the time is devoted to coding + test, with absolutely zero incremental development (which, along with the ability to devise terse, evolveable designs, is in fact the hardest part).

What I see is students having no experience of hacking, often they don't even know what a pointer is, they have no clue about how e.g. a memory allocator works.

"Ecologists" ? "Statists" ?

Sorry, I don't see this.

What I see is a collective laziness which has been created on purpose by some big (for-profit) organizations, and later tolerated because of the cowardize of some other (academic) organizations, which deemed it convenient.

As a result of that, it's very clear that the reason why I was interested in computers in the first place, i.e., the creativity, the openness to newcomers, etc., it's clear that these things have been put under attack.

And why ? Because it's the short-term interest of all the players involved. Because this way, they don't need to think anymore, because this way, they don't need to face the fear of insecurity.

All these are very common phenomenons, and we should focus on those rather than fighting this outdated ideological fight between two largely imaginary foes.

For during all the time spent doing that, the real problems cannot be addressed, they are not even considered !

(Anonymous)

Request for comment

Hi Fare,

This was a very entertaining blog post, but you know as well as anyone that these are errors of calculation that could occur in any ideology. Economic conservatives have certain made many errors of their own, and these are no more telling with regard to the fundamental validity of their philosophical framework, than the correspond "greenie-lefty" ones would be.

Which brings me to my request. I challenge you to apply your personally trademarked style of libertarian analysis to the current economic crisis we are in. It is my understanding that a system with no regulation, a pure free-market system, would fail to facilitate the smooth and continued operation of commerce and the infrastructure that we depend on. In a situation like the current one, if the banks were not bailed out, then there would be no more financial market. As I understand it, this would mean that no lines of credit could exist, and the only way that a business could operate would be to save up money as capital before applying to make profits.

While in practice I am a Democrat, I think my ideals lean more toward minimal-government forms of socialism, such as a confederacy system of cooperatives. I am not a Marxist, but I use the word socialist to refer to "intentional government". I believe that market-driven government without regulation is not government at all, it is surrendering our human impulse to intentionally and collectively shape our future (handing our power over to blind and unintelligent market forces). I believe and hope that we may someday have a granular computational form of distributed government, but currency is not that system. That system however would be a currency that would deserve the label of socialism, as it would reflect intentional control as opposed to a blind "invisible hand".

Rob
eyes black and white

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