This is an ideology gaining in popularity amongst tech billionaires that the world is inevitably heading toward a collapse, and that instead of trying to prevent that collapse, we should rip off the band aid as fast as possible so we can get to the better world on the other side. While there’s a cold logic to it, it’s a dangerous philosophy that ignores the incalculable human suffering that such a collapse would create.
What if I told you that billionaires are actually trying to destroy the world?
Have you ever seen some of the decisions that the rich and powerful make and think to yourself, “What are they thinking, are they trying to make everything worse?”
Actually… yeah, kinda.
But why? Why would anybody want to bring on the collapse of society? Well, there is a kind of logic to it.
Let’s say you have colon cancer. You’ve got a tumor. One way or another, you’re going to need surgery. It’s going to be painful, it’s going to be scarring, it’s going to suck. But you have to do it.
Would you rather do it early when the problem is small? Or wait until it gets huge and the surgery becomes life-threatening? I mean, early obviously, that’s why they push so hard for colonoscopies.
Well, some people believe, for reasons we’ll get into, that a societal collapse is coming, that it’s inevitable, that our current path is unsustainable, and if it’s going to happen anyway… might as well do it as early and fast as possible.
Believing of course that a better world is on the other side, a world where we can fix the mistakes we inherited, and remake it in our own image.
This belief system, or philosophy, whatever you want to call it, is called Accelerationism. And… it’s a whole thing.
It’s a strange political philosophy because it’s being embraced by the extremes on both sides. It’s like you can go so far right you end up going left again and vice versa, this is where the two extremes meet.
So since we’re about to head into yet another most important election year ever, I thought I would take a deep dive into Accelerationism. Who’s behind it, where it comes from, and why it’s the worst kind of doomsday prophecy. The self-fulfilling kind.
So before I jump into this, I just want to say, this isn’t a political channel, I generally try to keep my political views out of my videos, though it does pop up every once in a while. I know because I hear about it.
And for the most part this isn’t going to be a political video, it’s really more about society and the future and where things are going, but there are definitely political elements to it
So if you’re the type of person whose comments explode into all caps at the mere acknowledgement of an idea that you don’t agree with, I suggest you take an aspirin. I hear they may help prevent strokes.
All right. here we go.
Despite the “ism” in the name, accelerationism isn’t so much a movement as a concept. A concept that can be applied to any political leanings, hence the fact that it’s been embraced by both ends of the political spectrum.
If left is blue and right is red, then accelerationism is Magnum
The basic gist, like I said in the beginning, is that if a system is doomed to fail, accelerating that system will help it fail faster.
Exactly how you do that will vary with the system, but the goal is the same: accelerate the system to the point it can no longer sustain itself, and watch it collapse.
The term itself is fairly new but this concept has been around for a long time. One early example we can point to is none other than Karl Marx.
In the same year The Communist Manifesto debuted, he released a set of statements that might be surprising today because they were very pro-capitalism and free trade.
But they make a bit more sense next to his belief that capitalism, “pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.” In other words, by favoring free trade, he was hastening the revolution.
He advocated accelerationism long before it had a name. He targeted capitalism, as do many modern accelerationists but the same concept has been applied to all kinds of societal systems, including racism, sexism, and woke-ism, to name but a few.
One could make the argument that there’s a kind of technological accelerationism inherent in the talk around the singularity from people like Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk and Sam Altman. The idea that the singularity is coming, that superintelligent AI is inevitable and the better option is to help it come about so that we can shape what it’s going to become.
And whatever problems arise from it, we need to start working now to innovate our way out of them.
So far this might not sound too crazy. Wait for it.
But stepping back,
But stepping back, the actual term “accelerationism” has been attributed to a 2008 blog post by Critical Theory Professor Benjamin Noys.
In the post, he cited Marx and some of his own, earlier writings. Though he did later admit that he may have accidentally gotten it from someone else.
There’s a fantasy novel called Lords of Light from 1967 that uses the term, that was written by Roger Zelazny. Though, he used it in a much different way, in the book it’s more about accelerating human development to a more higher-level, god-like status. And the “accelerationists” in the book are working to make that happen.
Noys admits that he read that book and that maybe the term kinda wedged itself into his subconscious. Who knows. It happens.
By the way, if the name “Lords of Light sounds familiar, you might be thinking of the movie Argo. That was the one where Ben Affleck played a CIA guy who used a fake movie as a cover to rescue US diplomats from Iran. Well the fake movie was called Argo, and it was a real script that was an adaptation of the book Lords of Light. So now you know that.
So it was Benjamin Noys who gave the idea a name, but it was English philosopher Nick Land who took the name and ran with it. It was an idea he’d been working on for decades but just didn’t have a name for it. Now he did.
It was Land who made the Karl Marx connection I mentioned earlier in his article *A Quick and Dirty Guide to Accelerationism*. He also named Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari as members of the same group.
Nietzsche needs no introduction, but I’ll take a moment to explain the other two.
Deleuze was a French philosopher, and Guattari was a French psychoanalyst. In a 1972 book, they published a book together where they introduced the concept of *deterritorialization.*
This is the opposite of territorialization, which refers to restraints that keep a system in check. Deterritorialization means removing those restraints. You can see why Nick Land drew a line from deterritorialization to accelerationism.
Could we cram more syllables into these words, jeebus.
In the 1990s, Land was part of a group that was founded at Warwick University called the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, or the CCRU, which sounds like some kind of evil organization from a Terminator movie or something. That might have been on purpose.
They fancied themselves a collective of “renegade academics” who came together in part “to undermine the cheery utopianism” of the time, according to one of the group’s co-founders, Sadie Plant. They published numerous articles, held in-person conferences, and reportedly did a lot of drugs.
Is that not everybody’s college experience in the 90’s? No?
Another influential member, Mark Fisher, started blogging under the name k-punk. He attracted a following, and eventually co-wrote a manifesto that became a foundational document of leftwing accelerationism, or Lx.
It’s Nick Land’s writings that are considered as foundational to rightwing accelerationism, or Rx.
Both sides envision a post-capitalist future and a technological singularity. Lx is concerned with producing a more equal, more just world after the revolution. And they believe technology is the key to improving the human condition.
Which isn’t really far off of the original meaning from Lords of Light if you think about it.
Nick Land, meanwhile, has gone further to the right. Since 2013, he’s been associated with the far-right neoreaction movement. Also known as NRx.
NRx was spun out of the blog of software engineer Curtis Yarvin, also known as Mencius Moldbug. They’re anti-democracy and pro-authoritarian, to the point that some NRxers criticized Donald Trump for failing to declare himself king.
Yes, the collapse of western civilization, brought to you by k-punk and Menscius Moldbug.
So, obviously these are some dangerous ideas we’re walking into here but it helps to keep in mind, these people all think that by doing this they’re getting us closer to a better world. And that’s based on the idea of the four turnings.
(hold up the Fourth Turning book) I’ve been reading this book lately. Not for this video, I’ve had it for a while and I’m about halfway through it right now but I think I can speak somewhat coherently about it. It’s called The Fourth Turning Is Here, it’s written by Neil Howe, and it’s a follow-up to a previous book from 1997 called The Fourth Turning by Howe and the late historian William Strauss.
Now… seeing me hold this book up is causing every single one of you to have one of three reactions right now…
This is a polarizing book. To some people, this is gospel, to others, it’s garbage on par with the writings of Nostradamus. But to those who are unfamiliar, the basic gist goes like this…
The theory of the four turnings, which is also called Strauss-Howe Generational Theory, basically makes the argument that civilization is cyclical, that it operates in cycles.
This mostly applies to western civilizations but very specifically to the United States.
These cycles last for about 80-90 years, roughly the length of a long human lifespan, and they named these cycles “saeculum,” which is an old Roman word that had a similar meaning.
Each of these cycles is made up of what they call four “turnings,” kind-of like seasons of a civilization. And they named those seasons, the High, Awakening, Unraveling, and Crisis. And each of these last around 20 or 30 years.
It works like this…
Each saeculum is defined by a major crisis point – a world-changing event that upturns established institutions and usually punctuated by a massive war; a “total war” in their parlance. This is the last turning in a saeculum so they call this the fourth turning. Most proponents of this theory consider World War 2 to be the most recent crisis era.
Following the crisis is the high period. The first turning of a new saeculum. This is when peace returns and society is on an upswing. It’s an optimistic era. Social cohesion is high, community involvement is strong, and a collective vision for the future is widely shared. In the US, the post-war years of the 50s and early 60’s were our most recent high period, which is why its often romanticized as the good old days. When people say they want to… make things great again… this is the time period they’re often thinking about.
The second turning is called the Awakening. This is when the strict social conformity of the high period starts to wane and people search for more individual autonomy, often through spirituality and cultural rebellion. Whereas the crisis years are marked by political upheaval, the Awakeneing years are marked by cultural upheaval. This is analogous to the consciousness revolution of the hippies in the 60s and 70s.
The third turning is the Unraveling period. This is basically the opposite of the High period, where collective energy is at its lowest point and individualism is at its height. This is marked by a lack of trust in government and institutions. As a result, inequality begins to grow and divisions form in society. Divisions that eventually lead back to a crisis period, bringing a close to the saeculum and the cycle starts all over again.
Now, the reason this works, and the reason they call it “generational theory” is because each generation is raised and shaped by the “turning” they’re brought up in, and as they get older, they seek to change the world away from the values that were imposed on them when they were young, you know, everybody wants to undo all the problems they inherit.
There’s an idea or saying I’ve heard – I don’t think it’s from this book – but it’s like, the generation that goes to war sees the horror of war and sets out to never do that again. Their children grow up hearing about the terrible things their parents went through, and often see firsthand the scars that they carry with them, so they avoid war as they get older. But it’s the grandkids that then come along and of course they want to rebel against their parents and begin to romanticize the purpose and the “greatness” of their grandparent’s generation. And war and conflict become attractive again.
Anyway, according to the theory, these different generations fit into different archetypes based on the turning they were brought up in. Those archetypes are Prophets, Nomads, Heroes and Artists. And as time progresses through the different turnings, each generational archetype has a different role to play.
And I think at this point I’m gonna step back from this a little bit because it gets very granular and detailed and, frankly, exhausting I mean there’s two very thick books that break all this down. But I think you get the point.
But just to bring this home, they consider World War II to be the most recent crisis point, 80 years before that was the Civil War, about 85 years before that was the Revolutionary War, 75 or 80 years before that was the Glorious Revolution in England. And it keeps going but proponents of this theory have tracked it back to the 1400s.
And for those keeping count, World War 2 was the last crisis, so 80 years after that would be… Um… Now.
Clearly this is where the theory breaks down because in no way are we experiencing any kind of societal crisis right now.
So look, I get why this is interesting and compelling. I do have my criticisms of it. I’ll get to that later…
But it’s this kind of thinking that fuels accelerationist ideas. If there is this great wheel of time on which a crisis is inevitably followed by a great high period, I can see why it’s temping to rip off the band-aid and get it over with.
Everybody wants to get high…
It’s especially appealing if you’re in a position of privilege and power, be it financial, political or otherwise, and you know that you not only have the means to survive the crisis, but can shape what comes after it.
It’s kind-of like a belief in a secular rapture.
But these kinds of ideas, where the ends justify the means, the end being the promise of a better world, has been used to justify horrific acts from the beginning of time.
On May 14th, 2022, a man walked into the Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, and opened fire, killing 10 people and injuring three.
The killer, whose name I won’t broadcast because fuck that guy, not only livestreamed the massacre on Twitch, but had written a manifesto explaining his actions. By the way, I feel compelled to point out that he later pled not guilty in court. After, you know, livestreaming himself doing it and writing a manifesto about it.
Serious question, has anything good ever come from a manifesto? I can’t think of anything.
Anyway, one line from this particular manifesto read: “stability and comfort are the enemies of revolutionary change. Therefore we must destabilize and discomfort society wherever possible.” The heading for that section? “destabilization and accelerationism: tactics for victory”.
This quote by the way was copied from another manifesto, written by the guy who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019.
Hell, many people point to Charles Manson as an early accelerationist.
Manson and his followers thought that a race war was inevitable, and figured the best way to come out on top was to help get it started.
To do this, they murdered at least nine people, including the actress Sharon Tate. They thought the grisly scenes would incite fear in white people, who would blame black men for the crimes, and declare war against the entire race.
But before you start thinking they were crazy, they actually thought the whites would lose the war and be eliminated. All of them except the Manson family of course because they were prepared for it, and then Charles Manson would be able to rule over all the black people because obviously, they wouldn’t be able to rule over themselves… (a beat) Okay yeah, they were crazy. And racist. They were crazy racist.
Not to be out done in the crazy racist department, accelerationist language has been adopted by a lot of neo-nazi groups in recent years and a number of them have been arrested for stockpiling weapons and explosives as well as commiting and planning violent crimes.
I’ll put a couple of links from places like the West Point Combatting Terrorism Center and the Foreign Policy Research Institute that talk about the specific groups and the threats they pose… It’s sobering.
When it comes down to it, accelerationism and the four turnings theory are just another justification that terrible people are using to do terrible things.
And like everything else, it’s on a spectrum, from people who probably have good intentions, wanting to reduce the amount of suffering a crisis would cause, to madmen who just want to watch the world burn.
I mean the whole four turnings thing, it’s not necessarily evil on the surface, some of it kinda makes sense even. But like I said before, I have my criticisms.
I think a lot of it is they saw a pattern over the last century or so and then just looked for evidence that fit their theory going back in time… but they kinda leave out things that don’t fit their model.
Like, World War 1 is kinda just skipped over as a minor war, which, I don’t agree with that at all, I think it might have been more consequential than World War 2.
Far more people died in World War 2 but World War 1 ended the monarchical system in Europe and Asia – six monarchies fell around the time of World War 1, monarchies that had gone back hundreds of years.
Including the Russian monarchy, which brought in the Soviet Union and communism, an entirely new economic model that we would be competing with for the next 80 years. You could call that the Russian saeculum if you want.
In fact there’s a compelling argument that World War 2 was just a reverberation from World War 1, because a lot of it was based on grievances from the first war. It was a massive reverberation but still, it kind-of finished the job.
Plus generational theory in general is kinda overblown to me. I mean yeah, people born in various time periods are going to have shared experiences that shape them in similar ways but to say, “you’re a millennial so you’re like this” or “you’re a Gen-Xer so you’re like this…” After a while it basically turns into zodiac signs.
And it has been heavily criticized by some historians as being closer to astrology or prognostication and for, like I said, leaving out things that don’t fit the theory.
But you can’t deny that it does feel like we are in a crisis point in history right now, and reading this does feel kinda validating, in a scary way. But my hot take is that it’s not so solid that we should, you know, destroy civilization over it.
And I’ll be honest with you guys, I have a lot of anxiety about the coming years. I do think things are going to get worse before they get better. We’re extremely divided right now, and I don’t know how we get out of it without something historically awful happening.
Like seriously, how big would an event have to be to get everyone in the United States to put down their grievances and come together to fix it? I can’t think of anything. And that is kinda terrifying.
Whatever that thing might be, I’m pretty sure the answer is not to accelerate it.
All I can say is history is going to do what history does. And all we can do is take care of each other. I don’t know, call me naive if you want, but to me, that’s how we create a better world.