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ISF Editor's Letter - 2022
+ Our 3 most read pieces and a couple of underappreciated podcasts
Dear ISF readers,
This my first end-of-year letter as ISF’s founding and lead editor. Of course, many of those words might lead you to think we hadn’t just set up shop. It was only in October that we properly got this show on the road (that is, as a collective of data-driven writers).
Yet in the last two months, we’ve already had great success. Obvious highlights include becoming a Substack Featured Publication one day after our Relaunch Week in mid-October, and my own article on a genius basic income being effusively discussed in theWashington Post by Adrian Wooldridge, who called ISF ‘an intriguing Substack’. But you’ve seen nothing yet!
2023 is going to be a very special year. We will be welcoming regular columnists to the ISF Substack, releasing high-production short films on our main YouTube channel about fascinating people who are rarely spotlighted, and attracting high-quality guests on the ISF Podcast. There is much more, but it shall remain top secret for now.
ISF’s goal is to do something different in the “heterodox” space. We want to focus on the social science and philosophy of the future. By which I mean, we’re not interested in ephemeral ideas and problems that will likely be solved or forgotten in a decade or less. Our perspective is long-term. That’s why, for example, much of our focus is on genetics.
If we have an editorial line, it’s rather simple: we believe that our species’ astonishing technological progress is undeniable, important, and too often overlooked. Mark from Peep Show is a solid advocate for this position:
Watch the brilliant 38-second diatribe here:
As a data-driven publication, we are interested in trend lines, not headlines. I recently Tweeted a handful of stories from 2022 that illustrate the reverence we all should have for the smartest people in the world and the remarkable — but far-from-perfect — aquarium we all get to swim in:
On that note, we also believe that much of the West is undoubtedly in a cultural malaise, if not decline. That’s hard to contest when you read modern fiction, laugh at modern art, despair at modern music, or hold your vomit at most modern architecture. Of course, the talent to overturn these things is likely still there, dormant and waiting for Spring.
In this regard, we are not simply another “anti-Woke” publication pretending Drag Queen Story Hour is the Fall of Constantinople. No, ISF is an anti-bad-ideas-wherever-we-find-them publication — as cringeworthy as that may sound, it’s hard to find other words.
Richard Hanania did a much better job of outlining this position in his own end-of-year reflections, where he discussed why he had become more left-wing on social issues and berated low-IQ conservatives for their ‘hostility to progress’ and individual liberty. He writes:
In sum, it’s becoming clearer that neither of our major coalitions comes close to representing what I believe. Identifying with the “Right” or “Left” at this point would force me to accept a lot that is indefensible, but at the very least categories like “social liberal”, “anti-woke”, and “economic conservative” seem useful to talk clearly about political and social topics given the extent to which positions on various issues under each of those umbrellas tend to be correlated with one another.
What’s more, we do not believe that culture and technology are non-overlapping magisteria. Things can quickly become so bad culturally that a country’s technological sophistication or natural resources offer no bulwark against demagoguery and institutional collapse.
Hence our motto: Ideas for a future worth wanting.
That future is a common sense one only true radicals would disagree with, say green anarchists or Jihadists. We want technology that enables us to protect our planet, cure disease, and colonise the galaxy. And we want proud, non-self-flagellating cultures that seriously appreciate how rare, beautiful, and, indeed, imperfect Western civilisation in particular is.
If an idea is important in this regard and if there’s a good chance it’s true, we’re interested in publishing it. Take, for example, the winner of our inaugural ISF Essay Competition, where we asked people to argue for and against a controversial opinion they may or may not hold. The winning essay was on the possible benefits of simulated child porn, those benefits being deterring paedophiles from committing child sexual abuse, catching more paedophiles, and reducing the demand for real child porn.
Several people whom I greatly respect (and who had said plenty of controversial things themselves) told me not to publish this piece. Why? Because of optics. “Stay away from anything with the words, ‘child porn’! ”, wrote one. Another brilliant writer told me that ISF should avoid getting a reputation as mere controversialists, writing:
It's very easy for our enemies to say "--- gave an award to an article defending child porn," and people don't have a lot of patience to listen to our rebuttal about how it's not real child porn, and actually we want to protect children, or whatever.
I have no doubt they are right about the “optics”. The mere words ‘child porn’ are enough to give me quite the ick response. But if anybody read the actual piece, all they would find is a data-driven discussion about the population and individual effects of pornography, informed by the most mainstream of studies and heavily caveated (as per the Competition’s guidelines) at every corner. This isn’t to say I know, as a layman, whether the article is correct, but if Psychology Today, Scientific American, and mainstream journals publish similar content, ISF cannot turn it down.
Not least because if it is correct, children’s lives and safety depend on such debate. To those who would stifle that debate by slandering a publication, thereby endangering children, I say fuck you. I doubt paedophilia and pornography are issues we will return to any time soon (unless, of course, someone wanted to write a rebuttal), but ISF will not be cowed into self-censorship because a group of low-decoupling morons cannot discuss controversy with the same dispassionate analysis that they apply to buying toothpaste.
It will be an odd year if several of the articles we publish in 2023 are not equally as “controversial” (by mainstream normie standards). So let me end by stating the obvious: we may well publish articles about topics like group differences in socially important traits, dysgenics, and migration, but we do not have a dog in the fight. We only want to know what is true, something academia cares less and less about. We will always welcome dialogue.
If you think that’s worth the price of a couple of coffees per month, please consider supporting our unique publication for just $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year. Paid supporters get access to our 3 special podcast questions, early podcast access, narrated articles, and much more is coming down the pipeline. On January 2nd, they will have access to a special filmed conversation between Charles Murray and Helmuth Nyborg:
Thank you for your support this year.
Happy New Year & see you in the next one.