Charlie Stross on the "soft genocide" of eugenics-tainted, alt-right climate dystopia

Originally published at:


Reads like a plot synopsis of Claire North’s new novel 84k…


Seems legit.

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I don’t want it to be true, but it seems not just completely plausible but very likely, given what’s already happening. And how the hell do you stop something like that, once it starts? You’d likely not even know it was going on right around you.


Right now, the alt-right are also climate deniers; but climate denial has a short half-life – its undeniability will only grow, as the world gets more uninhabitable.

We have people, a century and a half after the fact, who think the Confederacy was a wonderful Lost Cause.
We have people, with more than a century of solid scientific evidence, who think evolution is false.
To say climate denial has a short half-life underestimates the ability of deniers to deny.

Sure, they’ll take steps, after the fact, to accommodate the “weather” and they’ll apply for flood insurance when their house is under water. But to admit, 50-100 years later, that Obama was actually correct? No way. The accretion of Liberal tears is way too important to ever engage in critical reasoning.


It’s a hard question, and it will take a lot of different answers coming together to pull us out of this death spiral, but my opinion is that the first step is to get the workers at all these big tech companies (mostly out west, although 2 of the top 7 companies are now Chinese (all are tech!)) to see the social cost of what they’re doing, and hopefully convince many that the thing to do is: take their amassed fortune; move back to somewhere that normal people still live; start volunteering for a local nonprofit or do something else that offers genuine fulfillment now rather than the vague “better future” they’ve supposedly been working for (but really just making themselves–and, especially, certain others–vastly richer).


There is an attitude - “I’m just an engineer, I don’t think about how it’s being used” that needs to change. But I don’t know that helps, entirely. The people working on these systems won’t necessarily know what they’re going to be a part of, how they’ll be used, what the sum of the parts will be. Once put into place, policy changes can radically alter their function, too. That’s part of what makes this so likely - the parts could be innocuous, so there’s at least plausible deniability built into the system - no one is really responsible for the horrors of the whole. It could come about as a bunch of disconnected programs that each “get tough” on [criminals/illegal immigrants/“welfare cheats”/uninsured/unemployed/unconventional families/insert group here] and collectively end up killing people. The technologies could be basic database handling technologies, only weaponized by policy (and only fatal because of multiple policies).
It’d be like the UK’s Windrush scandal writ large - the government decided to throw out certain old documents; they decided to get “tough” on illegal immigrants, and required documentation to prove people had a right to live there; they make the documentation requirements extremely extensive; legal citizens of the UK suddenly find that they suddenly need documentation or risk being treated as illegal aliens; the only documentation the government accepts are the ones they threw out; citizens suddenly cannot work, receive pensions and those undergoing vital medical treatment suddenly find they no longer have access to it; people die.


I have a number of tripwire developments I keep an eye out for in various sectors to let me know when it will be worth the extreme hassle of pulling up stakes in the U.S. One of them is definitely a critical mass of American conservatives saying “Anthropogenic global warming is a real problem! We have to do something”, because the sum total of “something” is bound to be horrible and not good for my personal health and well-being.

In 50-100 years (heck, with the average American’s attention span and education and the effects of social media I’ll say 25 years) they’ll simply re-write history so that it was conservatives trying to raise the alarm while Obama did nothing. At least 30% of Americans will buy that BS, and that’s all they’ll need.


I think they’ll just keep to their tenet that “Nothing Can Be (Could Have Been) Done”. The Evangelicals (like VP Pence and EPAA Pruitt) have an amazing fatalism regarding the biosphere. We can blow a hole in the ozone layer with CFCs, make numerous craters in Earth with nuclear bombs, and render extinct thousands of species, but somehow they still adhere to this idea that man is “powerless” to be the cause of any real change to the Earth. (To think we can change the Earth, places man over God, which is apparently impolite.) At the same time, they claim to adhere to a Good Steward doctrine, where being a good steward of the Earth effectively means doing whatever you (or your corporate entity) want to do on Earth while Christian.

Since nothing could have been done to begin with, they’ll portray themselves as the heroes who interceded before those officious, commerce-hating Democrats enacted costly, unnecessary, and futile measures. (Also provides a good reason to keep doing nothing in this future setting: as oil reserves dwindle, their value will skyrocket, ensuring these resources must continue to be exploited and monetized.)

And in any case, they’ll say, who can really prove the weather we are experiencing now is the result of what happened in the last 100 years? If its hotter this year, it will be cooler next year.


Someone remind me where the Butlerian Jihad fits into all of this…? Or… wait… are we still… in the game?


While at the same time insisting that God gave man Dominion over the earth.

Evangelicalism is immune to cognitive dissonance.


I’m a Stross (Laundry-Files) fan, but I think it behooves us not to forget that eugenics has traditionally been just as (or more) associated with progressive politics as with the right in Anglophone countries. See here, for example:

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Don’t be silly. The private for profit prison industry has no use for dead prisoners. They need them alive to soak in all that cash.

No, they’re prefer to keep them in an induced coma, fed through tubes, and requiring the barest of oversight. And best of all since they spent their sentence unconscious, that could hardly count as “good behavior” at their parole hearing, so it can be denied every time, at least until they contact an expensive terminal illness whereas they’d be let go for “compassionate” reasons.

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No, in the UK at least apparently prisoners are going to be how we solve the massive shortage of people prepared to pick fruit for low enough wages to keep the middleclasses from rioting.

There is to be a speech at some point today by our Justice Secretary, David Gaucke, on reform of prison rehabilitation (allegedly more training for prisoners which is good) and more early day release on licence so they can work outside of prison.

Apparently they’re also thinking of giving an exemption/holiday for national insurance contributions for people who employ prisoners.

Any of that sound familiar to US readers?

ETA: And yes, here it is:

We also recognise the argument in favour of financial incentives and will balance this
against wider government objectives. We will consider how to take forward a national
insurance contributions holiday alongside wider work on employer obligations and

The fact is, prisons have the potential to provide many loyal and hard-working recruits.
Some employers see that, but others still need to change their thinking. The dynamics of
the labour market should focus the minds of employers. We have a thriving jobs market
and demand for workers in some sectors is very high. Leaving the European Union is also
likely to have an impact on the workforce in sectors such as catering, construction and

These are among the first-priority sectors for the New Futures Network. By forging closer
relationships between employers and prisons and by expanding the use of workplace
ROTL, prisoners will get a foot through the door to sectors like these and employers will
able to fill short-term skills gaps whilst developing potential permanent employees for the
longer term.


Similarly, the prison estate retains commercial horticulture work in over 30 prisons
across the country, so many prisoners already have skills useful for horticultural work.
The core work for commercial horticulture in the estate is the production of salad crops
using polythene tunnels or greenhouses, vegetables in open ground, annual bedding
plants or nursery stock production. This also provides scope for win-win partnerships
with employers in the sector, starting with ROTL placements, which may contribute to
filling skills gaps for employers, whilst contributing to prisoners’ rehabilitation into

Fucking orwellian corporate drone-speak. Win-win partnerships my arse.

Although it’s not all bad. Apparently prisoners are going to be recruited straight into the civil service.

It’s hard not to see that as being - “If you can’t get a job as an ex-con, you can at least work for the job centre telling other people they have to do more to try and get a job or their benefits will be cut. Your valuable experience in not giving a toss about other human beings is a positive benefit. You could also work for HMRC where your experience in drug running and smuggling mobile phones into prison, etc. will be extremely welcome.”


I forget, were the robots right? I seem to recall that being the whole point, that ultimately humanity was unworthy of rule, in that traditional split between the ability to claim power, and the ability to use it properly.

I’m not a Dune guy, but I like McNelly’s version of the backstory:

The name we use for the period implies an answer to the question: If we call those events “The Butlerian Jihad,” we side with the historians who define as “great” those individuals who move the mass of humankind in a new direction; if we use the term “The Great Revolt,” we ally ourselves with those who see “leaders” as simply the front rank of a humanity moving in the direction the masses determine.
— The Dune Encyclopedia

In this version, the Jihad is named for Jehanne Butler. Trained as both a priestess and a Bene Gesserit on the planet Komos, Jehanne marries Thet’r Butler late in life. Due to her Bene Gesserit training, a pregnant Jehanne is in contact with her developing fetus and knows the state of its health and development. After waking from the anesthesia given during delivery, she is shocked to be told that the fetus had been malformed and the infant therapeutically aborted. She later discovers through investigation that her child had in fact been healthy, but that the hospital director, the first self-programming computer on the planet, had been secretly carrying out a policy of unjustified abortions.

This discovery triggers further investigation into the extent to which such machines had been controlling society and altering the emotional and intellectual characteristics of planetary populations over a course of centuries. During the course of these investigations, the chief priestess of Komos, Urania, interrogates one of the chief computer engineers, Doctor G. Demlen. She observes that he is an arrogant and unrepentant man, and she is shocked to witness his pride in his machines. Urania tells him that his work violates the fundamental principles of respect for human life and is an offense to the worship of the Goddess.

At the mention of the Goddess, Demlen exploded in a fit of acid and honest outrage, and in his fury, after suggesting that there was more worth reverence in one of his machines than in the worship of ‘a supposed “goddess” invented by a clutch of bucolic bumpkins on a pigsty of a planet,’ Demlen turned to the icon of Kubebe as if to spit on it. Before he could commit the act, Urania had killed him with her ceremonial knife." That moment of sacrilege was the beginning of the Jihad. The priestesses of the planet met that night, and the next day, the Jihad began to be preached to the faithful of Komos, against “the thinking machines and all who find their gods within them.”

The Dune Encyclopedia version was later declared non-canonical by the Herbert estate.

This is a story that’s getting at issues that feel very current and important. The Herbert version, Legends of Dune, sounds like it’s just a sort of medieval style Terminator.

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