There are lots of toxic ideas that haven’t been implemented solely because I have kept my own counsel – the dark forces that would have enthusiastically welcomed them could never have thought of them by themselves.

This is the only reason that the Wall Street Journal isn’t already campaigning to turn Social Security into a tontine.

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74 Responses to Imagination

  1. pyrrhus says:

    When Social Security is eventually wound up, payors and recipients will discover that Federal employees and other politically favored indigents have already eaten the entire residue…A tontine would be far too honest for either the Government or Wall Street….

  2. maciano says:

    Come on, just write them down under an alias.

    • MEH 0910 says:

      I don’t think it’s that Greg doesn’t want the toxic ideas attached to his name. It’s that he doesn’t want the ideas out there period, so that the bastards can’t use them.

  3. King George III says:

    If they’re all as deceptively brilliant as Social Security as a tontine, then for the love of God please continue to keep them to yourself.

  4. roger erickson says:

    If Wall St. lobbyists can turn one US gov policy into a tontine, they may well try to turn the entire appropriations process, and therefore the government itself, and thereby public initiative itself, into a tontine. It won’t work, but it may well briefly occur.

    Have you ever heard of any other aspect of Public Initiative that is asked to do the illogical, that is, denominate itself ahead of time? That’s like taxing innovation, to fund return on coordination … it’s just illogical enough to distract the weak minded. A currency creator has to disseminate credit vouchers first (coins or currency) before it can tax some of them back. And if a currency creator (issuer) taxes back all it creates, then currency supply lags populationXactivity growth, and coordination is stifled merely by making it cumbersome to denominate transactions. Distributed record-keeping is NOT a difficult topic. It can be done with anything from tally sticks to physical currency to spreadsheets run in cell phones. Right-sizing a necessarily growing currency supply is a trivial task, if people are allowed to discuss it logically.

    This issue of understanding fiat currency operations is pretty much a taboo in our culture, irrationally imposed by the efforts of a very active banking lobby, since triggering the American Revolution.

    Don’t talk about the money!

    That bank-lobby promoted taboo is a conundrum to be solved by anthropologists, not economists, who are, for the most part, just pandering ideologues. They don’t even grasp the aggregate consequences of their individual actions.

    FICA taxes, the tax that never needed to exist

    Medicare too.



    Compared to physics, chemistry & biology, currency management is laughably trivial. The difficulty is a social, not a practical limitation.

    There have been 3 great periods of taboo formation & reaction, all promoted by banking lobbies.

    1) Revolutionary War (& aftermath; the war was won but the money battle betrayed)

    2) Civil War (& aftermath; over the Greenback Dollar; banks demanded that professors teaching “money matters” be fired from universities, like the Kochs & others are doing today)

    3) 1932 New Deal (and the long, slow battle to roll it back; culminating in renaming SocSec policy a “Trust Fund”, and then rescinding Glass-Steagall)

    Social taboos include agreements to momentarily avoid dangerously divisive topics. Taboos last only until they collapse often enough – gracefully or violently – to not be reborn. Then they’re replaced by other taboos. This taboo about public currency has intertwined components of credit, currency & criminology, but it’s past time for change. We have bigger issues to face.

  5. bob sykes says:

    Nearly all working class people and most middle class people literally cannot save for retirement. The situation is made worse by the disappearance of defined pensions and the bankruptcy of many industrial pensions. Therefore, Social Security will continue, its benefits will likely increase, and the range of people covered will expand. The same will happen with Medicare and Medicaid. The alternative is to have a large majority of elderly people and working class people living in abject poverty. That way leads to armed revolution.

    This will, of course, require substantial increases in FICA taxes. At first, FICA will expand to cover all income, including capital gains. Later the rates will rise.

  6. roger erickson says:

    No, it will NOT require increases in FICA taxes. Read Gulick’s 1938 memo. FICA taxes were never required in the 1st place, and will HAVE TO DECREASE (or just go away), not increase.

    No public policy REQUIRES fiat taxes. We do not tax ourselves to get fiat.

    We tax to deprecate various behaviors, and to help manage inflation rates. No more, no less.
    Heck, please read Beardsley Ruml’s 1946 essay too.

  7. dearieme says:

    I assume that medicaid and medicare could continue if only the politicians were to crush the gangsters who dominate the American medical and medical insurance trades, and introduced some approximation to medical free markets. Or, as can alternative, some approximation to the French or Singaporean systems.

  8. dearieme says:

    Oh, on toxic ideas: I’ve certainly thought of some much more intelligent ways to commit effective terrorist crimes, and I have no intention of discussing them in public.

    • gcochran9 says:

      My secret scary ideas are scarier than yours.

      • dearieme says:

        It’s scary to think that that might well be true.

      • Tommy says:

        Have you been thinking about population-selective germ warfare and the like again, Greg? I’m sure it’s entirely possible, but you must banish the thought: it’s just not very nice. 😉

        Scarier than that even?

      • I sure would like to hear a few of your evil ideas. Come on, you are among friends. Besides there are few things that can make you die with a bigger smile on your face than to know you were a successful mad scientist.

        Open the box and let the demons out.

        • dearieme says:

          “If you open that Pandora’s Box, you never know what Trojan ‘orses will jump out.”

          Ernest Bevin 1881-1951

          • Seriously if someone as competent as Cochran was given a minuscule budget he could let lose on humanity some mosquito borne terrors that would make the tropics a population sink. Just with random evolution we are presented with new improved nasty bugs every decade. And that is just one example, the man isn’t joking about having knowledge that should never be explained to evil doers.

            • Tommy says:

              If he cannot tell us his evil ideas, perhaps he can at least tell us the domains where they dwell? Biology, economics, computer science, physics, chemistry, psychology, politics? Where does the sinister tend to reside in your mind, Greg?

          • iffen says:

            Pandora has been such a slut for so many years with opening up that box of hers.

    • ziel says:

      If 9/11 was a 10 on the terrorist scale, Orlando is at most a 2, and San Bernardino a 1. I can think of so many ways to commits 5, 6,7 level terrorist attacks, particularly assuming you don’t survive it, that I wonder if maybe “the terrorists” aren’t particularly inspired, are exceptionally stupid and unimaginitive, or perhaps have some (surprising) standards that inhibit them from acting.

  9. Greying Wanderer says:

    off-topic and probably obvious but only just occurred to me

    if male and female variance is different wouldn’t that be a factor in regression to the mean?

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      still off-topic

      if above correct then two pops A and B, diff outcomes if male A and female B vs male B and female A?

      (south America?)

  10. Yudi says:

    Did Brexit spur this post?

  11. j says:

    You are not the type of person who can keep secrets. Better do what others did: they wrote copious notes and secret diaries, and burned them when they felt that their last hour was coming. Or asked a friend to do it for them. You could even improve on the method: attach a self-destruction mechanism to you computer, actuated automatically if you don’t sign in after 48 hours.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Judging from various clearances I have had in the past, I had no special problem with keeping secrets. My only complaint was the the secrets I was read into (public now) were just not that impressive. “special access” was more like “special class”, if you ask me.

      Probably I was spoiled by reading about the Manhattan and Bronx projects, the breaking of Enigma and JN-25, etc. in WWII, it really was the case that high-level people knew important and interesting things that outsiders did not.

      Today, at least in the US, not knowing certain facts is a prerequisite for almost all high government positions. I suppose you could know and hide it, but all it takes is a single slip-up, and over a career it would be difficult to sustain.

      • spottedtoad says:

        I have a low-level security clearance, which has given me roughly zero juicy pieces of information. On the other hand, the temptation to yell out unallowable pieces of information that are well within the public domain at various times is much stronger.

        The only way in which a security clearance occasionally provides things worth knowing is when you see the research reports before they get edited down to the socially acceptable items. Here’s a relatively innocent example: there was a nationally representative survey of low-income pregnant women and new mothers that was published not long ago; the final executive summary mentioned that roughly 10 percent had been the victim of domestic violence; an earlier draft noted that roughly 20 percent had mentioned committing domestic violence.

        • spottedtoad says:

          FWIW, I’m not breaking any obligations by divulging that- the latter statistic (about how many of the women had beaten their husband/boyfriend) was still published, it was just buried in some table in some appendix. The funny thing is I think the more you work on this stuff, the more you are supposed to forget the things that don’t make it into the executive summary. So even people who spend their whole lives working with, say, test score data by race, can avoid knowing what they’re not supposed to know.

          • gcochran9 says:

            I think that for the most part, ignorance is a reasonable default explanation of damn near everything. But not noticing something as obvious as the nose on Jimmy Durante’s face for an entire working life focused on that very topic- gee, I would want to check that out further. Surely some combination of sodium pentothal, waterboarding, starvation, sleep deprivation inflicted by playing the Beastie Boys, and Scarlett Johansson could get us closer to the truth.

            • spottedtoad says:

              A relevant fact from Jimmy Durante’s Wikipedia page: “A scene in which a police officer stopped Durante’s character—who was leading a live elephant across the stage—to ask, “What are you doing with that elephant?”, followed by Durante’s reply, “What elephant?”, was a regular show-stopper.”

            • iffen says:

              I wouldn’t mind a little sleep deprivation inflicted by Scarlett Johansson.

  12. cargocultist says:

    In a perfect market profits go to zero. The only solution is private company warfare (sabotage) or corrupting governments better than your competitors. Even in an imperfect market sabotage makes microeconomic sense by the way. Like e.g. blowing up oil pipelines and causing industrial disasters.
    If an oil market party learned how to store huge amounts of oil (it’s possible) they could induce tremendous shocks in the price of oil, knocking out other market players inc. whole countries. Call Goldman Sachs for the capital investment.
    You don’t need chemical syntheses to make awfully powerful explosives. I’ll stop here.
    Race mixing may actually be harmful; blacks geniuses don’t have more white admixture, suggesting non-additive harmful genetic interactions if the white-black average IQ- difference suggested by other research is real to begin with.
    Renewable energy intermittency is terrible so they want a supergrid; such a grid is very sensitive to large effect sabotage by state and non-state actors.
    You don’t need a very smart “AI” to sabotage the web; just malware with machine learning ability. An AI-defense is much harder (like ballistic missiles vs. ABM).
    Killing machines can be scaled down tremendously. You don’t need a Carnot-type gun and kinetic effect projectiles for knocking out “soft targets”
    False flag terrorism is very easy for state and non-state actors. E.g. Russia could easily ignite a civil war in Europe.
    Creating antibiotic resistant “superbugs” is trivial; you don’t need something sophisticated to do the job. Just bugs, all the available antibiotics and large numbers of containers.

    Don’t try any of these at home!

    • cargocultist says:

      I added numbering from 1-10 but these were removed after posting.

    • le homme de pomme says:

      ” You don’t need a very smart “AI” to sabotage the web; just malware with machine learning ability. An AI-defense is much harder (like ballistic missiles vs. ABM).”

      I’m an AI researcher. Can you clarify what you mean by Machine Learning malware? Like an example?

      Like a spambot that could get around spam filters?

      • cargocultist says:

        I’m not an expert. But what I really meant was manipulating human behavior by manipulating information (e.g. rankings) on the web. A spam filter has a lot of data to work with and I don’t know how it would match up against an offensive “spear fishing” AI.

        What I’m thinking about is a guerilla type AI engaging with ranking algorithms, human psychology and social network viral dynamics. I.e. one smart enough not to put its resources toward attacking digital versions of the Maginot Line head on.

    • melendwyr says:

      “Creating antibiotic resistant “superbugs” is trivial; you don’t need something sophisticated to do the job. Just bugs, all the available antibiotics and large numbers of containers.”
      And you’ll end up with something optimized to live in a container. It’d be a lot more practical to pressure microbe populations to produce resistance, then try to transfer that resistance to virulent disease microbes. Sure, it won’t work for complex polygenetic traits, but with luck you won’t get those.

      • cargocultist says:

        That is precisely what I meant. The transfer step was meant to be implied by the phrase “large numbers of containers.”

      • Tom Bri says:

        Or just swab the floors of any hospital. They are already there. Not much effort needed to find super-resistant bugs. I wash my hands a hundred times a day at work, gown and glove, wipe constantly with bleach-soaked tissues, wash people down with chlorhexadine prior to any procedure etc.

  13. Doug Jones says:

    Shouldn’t we be just a little concerned about private companies developing the technology to eventually push asteroids around? They say it’s all about space mining and the Final Frontier, but I can think of other possibilities.

    • Frank says:

      But, if there are 100 companies all looking at the same asteroids to harvest, then someone will definitely notice if one of them starts moving straight for the earth, and they should all have some kind of technology to move it around. Most likely they would be interested in pushing asteroids targeted by competing companies into the middle of nowhere.

  14. Rom J says:

    If anyone were actually looking for the gay germ, couldn’t they just test the upper class at Oxbridge?

    How is it that from every topic from the Cambridge 5 to the Bloomsbury group to classical history (eg Runciman* and his adviser Bury) we find a homosexual clique at one of these schools?

    It’s so absurdly common that the twice-married Christopher Hitchens could both claim to be a womanizing rake and casually discuss his homosexual dalliances at boarding school/oxford. His friend Martin Amis could also claim that he was a 100% straight womanizer who also fantasized about his pal Hitchens. That put them on the extreme end of heterosexuality in a certain milieu.

    3%? Not at England’s best schools!

    *even Wikipedia describes Runciman thusly: “In his personal life, Runciman was an old-fashioned English eccentric.” Old-fashioned, indeed. How deep does this go? Newton was a “virgin”, right? How many “old-fashioned eccentrics” do they have over there?

  15. TWS says:

    Convince people to quit using the most effective anti-mosquito disease preventative over nebulous and false ‘ecological concerns’. Convince people that the cheapest and most reliable sources of electricity are toxic to people dangerous and likely to melt the earth’s core actually. There are literally hundreds of bad ideas that make life awful for people in general perhaps control over the mass media would help sway the masses.

  16. anon says:

    I know the passwords of many Australian celebrities. I got them from an Internet company I worked at that didn’t hash users’ passwords. I am planning to do something with these. Something political, nothing violent. It would be pretty funny if Karl Stefanovic started tweeting pepes.

  17. Charles Pollor says:

    There is nothing new under the sun. Every evil scheme you can think of has already been thunk by someone else plus some. The question is why hasn’t something truly catastrophic happened? Most people aren’t evil. The stupid evil ones get caught. The smart evil ones make money and use that money to satisfy their evil desires. Things will start to get ugly when the smart evil ones are somehow locked out of making money.

  18. JayMan says:

    I know curiosity is a thing, but, to various commenters, I’m very content with not knowing Dr. Cochran’s potentially dangerous ideas for the sake of the greater good.

  19. MEH 0910 says:

    OT: Read this in a piece by Crazy Fred Reed posted over at the Unz Review:

    “Jews were smart, most people figured, not necessarily liking it. I wondered why without great interest. Genetic determinists of course cooked up evolutionary explanations involving undiscovered genes acted upon by unquantifiable selective pressures to produce assumed results not correlatable with the pressures. Business as usual.”

    • Toddy Cat says:

      Fred is a sharp and funny guy, but when it comes to genetics and stats, he has a kind of determined, intentional Yahooism; he doesn’t know a damned thing about them, and he’s proud of it. Fred is an entertainer and provocateur, not any kind of serious analyst of any sort; of course, to be fair, he doesn’t really pretend to be.

  20. Paul says:

    Speaking of toxic ideas: last week I saw Geoffrey Miller at HBES give an excellent theoretical talk on sexually transmitted organisms’ potential effects on human sexuality. Nothing that would surprise Greg and most of us, but welcome nevertheless.

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