6 min read

Thoughts On Kevin Kelly's List Of Heresies

Kevin Kelly has a list of heresies on his website (he does not necessarily agree with all of them). I've presented them below along with my thoughts on each.

1. Aliens are already here.

I'm skeptical of the recent (last couple of years) push to mainstream views about aliens and UFOs. Seems far more likely to me that such sightings are some combination of sensor errors, military projects, and pre-conditioning the population to accept higher levels of R&D funding for aerospace projects.

2. Robot/AI soldiers are preferable to human soldiers.

In the abstract sure, but what happens when one adversary starts losing so they decide to attack the humans who are operating the robots? Boyd had it right: people, ideas, machines, in that order. War can't be analyzed purely at the technical level.

3. Polygamy and polyandry should be legal.

Polygamy is destabilizing at a societal level unless there is a large imbalance in the number of men and women, which is only transitory, never permanent. If men cannot find mates they will create problems for society and also have no incentive to support the existing society in the event that an existential threat occurs. Plus, most women don't want to share their husband with other women. Widespread polyandry will never occur except through coercion because men want to know their children are their own.

4. The amount of taxes each person pays should be public.

This would probably be pro-social. Might lead to an increase in crime against the wealthy, but that's more a reflection of the state of society than a condemnation of this proposal itself.

5. War is not inevitable; it can be eliminated.

Not going to happen without sci-fi scenarios coming true, and even then probably not. War is only avoided when one country is obviously more dominant than all others in its sphere of influence and that is never a permanent situation.

6. Cannibalism is okay.

Hard to find a logical argument against it (the aesthetic/intuitive arguments are obvious). Don't think that means we should start encouraging it.

7. Euthanasia should be encouraged.

I'm in favor of this.

8. The US Civil War was a mistake. The Confederate South should have been allowed to secede, and the rest of the Union would be better off today.

I believe this. I doubt it would make a huge difference today since I think civilizations follow cycles and the US would be experiencing many of the same trends today regardless of its size or composition.

9. Flossing doesn’t matter.

No opinion. I floss. It takes less than 1 minute per day. Low downside, potentially moderate upside.

10. DNA sequences of each individual should be public information, just like faces, birth dates, etc.

Faces, birth dates, etc. aren't public information though. This one is mistaking a trend (increasing surveillance of the population) for something good in-and-of itself.

11. The nuclear bombs dropped on Japan were unneeded, wrong.

I disagree, but if you want to condemn the nuclear bombs you should logically also condemn the firebombing of Japanese and German cities.

12. The microbiome in your guts influences your IQ.

Probably not true. In any case the effect is dwarfed by who your parents are.

13. Universal basic income generates wealth.

How much UBI? At a certain point this is obviously false. Could be true for some amounts, but the evidence is very limited in either direction so people's opinion on this tells you more about their ideology than anything else.

14. Pre-crime tracking and deterrence is feasible.

Yes, but it looks like racial profiling, so won't be acceptable. It also will have an extremely high false positive rate.

15. There should be a Super Olympics that allows all enhancements and no gender distinctions.

Yes, I've thought for a while the ban on PEDs is dumb, since it just adds a metagame on top of sports that revolves around what teams/countries/players can best circumvent doping measures.

16. It is impossible for humans to eradicate all human life on this planet.


17. Vitamin pills are quackery.

Some like iron supplementation for women seem to work. For most vitamins this is probably true. Some like Vitamin-D are borderline but the research is pretty low-quality. Like with flossing, low downside (contingent on good quality control), possibly moderate upside.

18. Oil is not a fossil life fuel but a geological product.

Interesting theory. Worth exploring. Have heard variants of this before but nothing convincing.

19. Death is a disease that can be cured.

Depends how you define “disease”.

20. Eating animals should be outlawed and illegal.

Incompatible with number 6. This one isn't really a heresy, more like an opinion some people want to force on other people.

21. Government funding of science and tech pays off.

Yes. Interestingly the major wins have come from investment in technology related to war.

22. Global government is good.

No evidence for this theory. The attempts at global government have a bad track record. All empires have had substantial variations in laws across the different cultures they administer because of the challenges of homogenizing laws across different peoples.

23. Psychedelics should be paid for by insurance.

I think what this is getting at is the idea that psychedelics are a useful treatment for various mental illnesses. There's some evidence for that. I'm skeptical though, since the people I know who use psychedelics seem more likely to have mental health problems than the average person I know. Maybe they'd have even more problems if they weren't using psychedelics, who knows. There seems to be a non-trivial chance of psychedelics breaking your brain so any benefits need to be weighed against that. Given the number of people who took psychedelics in the 60s and 70s the effect is obviously not that strong either way.

24. Your weight is a public health concern.

Yes, and obesity is a national security risk.

25. BBQ is carcinogenic.

Probably true, too bad it tastes so good.

26. Altruism is natural and the default of humankind.

Yes, but we no longer live in the default society.

27. No one born on Mars will live to reproduce on Mars.

Probably true. Still worth trying though.

28. All plastics should be banned from being manufactured.

I'd support this for single-use plastics. Plastic has some good material properties that aren't readily found in other materials. Silly to give that up just to maintain ideological purity.

29. There should be a Human Right of Migration on this planet; you may live where ever you want if you follow local laws.

The idea of “human rights” is fundamentally misguided. Human rights don't exist outside of states.

30. GMO food is better for you.

Compared to what?

31. Neanderthals were smarter than humans.

We can't even agree if some groups of humans are smarter than other other groups, so good luck on settling this question. Groups with higher neanderthal admixture do appear to have higher IQs, but this could just mean that the high IQ genes in neanderthals were selected for in human-neanderthal offspring, it doesn't necessarily mean that the neanderthals themselves were smarter.

32. Nuclear waste is manageable.


33. California or Texas should secede from the US.

I would like to see this happen since I think it is good to have more political variety. I doubt California can exist in anything approximating its current state without the federal government though. Texas has a better chance of making it as an independent country. However, I don't think the circumstances are right yet for this to occur. America will have to decline a bit more first.

34. We should have a single global currency, maybe on blockchain.

I don't see the advantage here yet.

35. There was a civilization on Earth hundreds of millions of years ago, but geological forces have eliminated all evidence of it.

I hope this is true, but I doubt it.

36. ESP and telepathy are real.

I think this has been explored and nothing convincing found so far, but no harm in continuing to investigate this if people want to (it's a more interesting use of time than watching TV).

37. There is no great extinction event happening on Earth right now.

Would like to understand the argument here better.

38. Human clones are natural and fine — just serial twins.

No opinion.

39. Obesity is contagious.

Memetically or biologically? I think there is some truth to this.

40. Animals like being in modern zoos.

Young people like cities, so I find this plausible.

41. Billionaire wealth should not be permitted.

I would like to know what this looks like in practice.

42. Social media reduces extremism.

Not sure how you would determine this.

43. Religious belief is on its way out. Believers of major religions will become a small minority.

Yes. No current religion is tenable in the modern world, but the religious impulse is probably innate and not going anywhere. There is the potential for some sort of surrogate religion to hijack the mental structures that are involved in religious belief.

44. All cryptocurrencies should be state-run.


45. National service (including peace and non-military) should be mandatory for all citizens without exceptions, including the handicapped.

Not a bad idea, but the devil is in the details.

46. There will be a global population implosion soon.

Probably already started and likely to accelerate.

47. Evolution has a direction.

I agree to some extent.