Everyone here should grapple with Evils and Designs, by JC Bennett.  Its I, Pencil the horror story.   And also a commentary on the Word of Wisdom.

The key insight here is hyperstimulus plus impersonal leaderless systems.


If you’re a food scientist at Frito-Lay, your job is to make Doritos as broadly & intensely enjoyable as possible (subject to a handful of constraints – more on that later), & the closer you get to directly manipulating the brain’s reward systems – the closer you get to a high-potency opiate – the more successful you will be.

And everything is Doritos.

I met a guy on my mission who bragged to us that he had logged 12,000 hours in World of Warcraft. This was late 2008, & we did the math – it amounted to roughly 8 hours a day, seven days a week, since the release date of the game four years prior.

This guy had a job, a pretty wife, & a baby girl. He balanced the job & his WoW habit with methamphetamine, & his teeth were a row of black nubs. If I could have prevailed upon him to quit one of those things, I would have picked the video games.


Surely you’ve noticed that the people “ruling” you don’t feel or seem much like rulers, even as they ostensibly have greater power to observe & manage behavior, & enforce compliance, than any ruling class in human history. If anything their behavior feels much more predictable, much more constrained, than ours is.

Please do not comment here until you’ve read the whole thing.

We have met the paperclip maximizer, and it is us.

My Comments

He’s on to something though I wouldn’t take it too far.  Clearly there are evil people out there.  Good people too.

The dynamics he describes exist but he simplifies them to make his point clearer in the article.  Frito Lay isn’t even maximized to produce Doritos, not entirely.  There are also non-human systems internal to the company, office politics married to bureaucracy and group think, that lead it in inexplicable directions.  And non-human systems external to the company like woke politics that do the same.  The systems are evil but also insane.

A natural question for a Christian who discovers some evil but insane systems that no human is in charge of is whether there are non-human entities in charge.   My view is yes and no.  It would be a huge mistake to think the fallen aren’t evil and real and involved with more than just individual temptation.  It would also be a mistake–this is my own view, others may differ– to attribute to them supernatural levels of intelligence and competence and coordination.  The key meta insight of the Screwtape Letters is that hell is itself the ultimate in evil, insane, leaderless systems.

Whereas heaven is the opposite.  ‘Because God says so’ is the most reassuring thing you could possibly hear–it means a Person made the decision.  Consider Jesus Christ, the ultimate in real human personality!


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