If a social process is accelerating, why is it? Is it because of, say, learning? (E.g., a new technology: The more people use it, the more non-users see it, so the faster it spreads.) Or is it because there are game-theoretic reasons for it? The latter is obviously the case with a holiness spiral.
A holiness spiral is when a group of people try to outdo each other in expressions of ideological piety. Other terms are signaling spiral (because people are competitively signaling their faith), purity spiral (I’m ideologically pure!), and Left Singularity. The last term is due to the fact that the current holiness spiral in the western world is a leftist phenomenon.
A key part of such a spiral is that one attacks people to one’s right, but not to one’s left. Indeed, participants are expected to attack those to their right as an expression of piety. The driving dynamic is that it makes sense to say, “That guy’s not holy enough! Attack him!” but it does not make sense to say, “That guy’s too holy! Attack him!”
As far as I know, Jim of blog.jim.com came up with the concept of a holiness spiral/ left-wing singularity, and if he didn’t, he’s certainly doing more with the concept than anyone else. (See e.g. here: http://blog.jim.com/war/recap-on-the-left-singularity/)
As noted, the current holiness spiral is a leftist one. An example of the leftist acceleration:
• The time from gay marriage first being mentioned, to the moment leftists started calling opponents of gay marriage “bigots,” was about 15 years.
• The time from the start of Transvestite Lib to the moment leftists called a man who refused to kiss a tranny a “bigot” was about 3 years.
The process was well articulated by whatever asshole leftist came up with the slogan pas d’ennemis à gauche: “No enemy to the left.” (It started in Revolutionary France; see e.g. http://www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=0701-whitehead and was, unsurprisingly, important in Soviet Russia: https://infogalactic.com/info/Alexander_Kerensky)
That established the dynamic. It would have happened anyway, but this slogan certainly accelerated it. It explicitly created the incentive to attack people to one’s right only, thus created the incentive for every leftist to try to get to the left of— to out-holy— every other leftist.
There’s only one way that ends. If everyone is rushing to get to the left of everyone else, obviously there will be acceleration to the left, which will never stop until it hits the most extreme possible situation: Genocide or an attempt at genocide that starts a civil war.
We are not at overt civil war yet, but we have entered the start of it. Consider our political situation right now: We are obviously living in Chapter One of every history book about a civil war ever written.
The Game Theory
The central problem of a holiness spiral is that the advantage is relative. That is, what determines whether the mob attacks you is not your absolute position, but your position relative to everyone else. That’s what creates the incentive for the perpetual leftward movement and the acceleration of that movement.
Importantly, when the participants in the holiness spiral realize they’re in a holiness spiral the problem becomes worse, not better. There are two key moments in a holiness spiral. The first is when is when a typical participant in the spiral notices that the movement to the left is accelerating. The second key moment is when a typical participant not only notices that the movement left is accelerating, but realizes that everyone else must also be noticing that. Then he starts thinking game-theoretically:
If some holiness spiral participant, call him Fred, notices the rapid leftward movement, then he has an incentive to move leftward too, to stay in the middle of the group. In fact, to be safe, he has an incentive to move left a little faster than he expects other people to move. That will leave him a margin for error, so that at worst, he stays in the middle, and at best, he’s a little to the left of the average, so he’s somewhat more holy than average.
But eventually Fred thinks: “Hmm, but presumably a lot of people are thinking the same way I just did. So they’ll also try to move more rapidly to the left.” For example, if the average belief is that the movement will be 10 miles per hour, then everyone actually has an incentive to move at, say, 12 miles per hour. That way there’s a margin for error, and at worst you outpace the average person a little to the left, which is always safe. (Being to the right isn’t safe.)
Note the logic here. For everyone to expect movement of X miles per hour is actually not a Nash Equilibrium, because if everyone believed that, then they wouldn’t behave that way; they’d move faster. Thus we have a proof by contradiction: Assume everyone expects movement of X mph. Then they have incentive to actually move at X+2 mph. Thus the acceleration.
But of course, it’s even worse than that. Because once Fred thinks game-theoretically, drawing the conclusions I’ve just drawn, he realizes that everybody else is, or will soon start, thinking that way too. So Fred’s incentive is to move leftward at 14 mph. That is, suppose everyone at first anticipates movement of 10 mph. Then their reasoning process tells each individual he’d better move at 12 mph. But it occurs to him that other people might also reason this out and move at 12 mph, so he thinks, “Hmm, actually I’d better move at 14 mph.” And so on.
Plainly this process has no sane limit.
This is why Jim notes that a holiness spiral cannot last forever; it must be forcibly stopped either by civil war, someone seriously stepping on the brakes with hardcore punishments for trying to out-holy everyone else, or until everybody goes as extreme as possible. The most extreme possible position is that everyone who’s a sinner must be tortured to death immediately, and indeed, that is where these things often end up. E.g., various Communist states’ purges in the 20th century.
Killing a Spiral
There are other possibilities, of course. For example, if I correctly recall the history of the Salem Witch Trials: At some point the Salem Witch Persecutions simply became too extreme, with everybody at risk because anyone could accuse anyone else of being a witch, and no one was safe. And it became obvious that some innocent people were being executed, when people standing on the gallows refused to confess and recant, and went to their deaths instead. So the thing was stopped, apparently by a sudden public agreement that the entire thing was BS and had Gone Too Far. Everyone just woke up and said, “What the fuck were we thinking?” Or the incentive to speak up became overwhelming, since you were likely to be accused of being a witch and sentenced to death even if you remained silent.
It would be good to try to push things in that direction, the Salem direction. The most obvious example is to make it clear to white people that this is tending toward the most holy thing of all, as leftists currently define holiness, which is torturing all white people to death. They won’t succeed, but the civil war they’ll force upon us will certainly create an astoundingly large pile of bodies. ’Twere best avoided. Getting white people to see where this is headed is one way to increase the number of people pushing back. And most of the western world is still white. Important: Spreading the idea of the holiness spiral increases the incentive for those participating in it to move leftward faster, but it increases the incentive for everyone else to resist.
The reason that participants in a spiral participate in it, beyond a certain point, is that they perceive it (correctly or not) to be their safest option. As more people oppose the HS, it becomes safer to exit the HS. That’s crucial.
It is, in fact, one reason the left tries to prevent people from realizing that there is widespread opposition to left-wing ideas. They know that a preference cascade can ruin their entire plan.
PREFERENCE CASCADE is indeed a kind of equal and opposite dynamic to a holiness spiral. It’s an important part of our conceptual and practical toolkit as we try to fight the HS.
A preference cascade can occur in an environment of widespread preference falsification, which is when everyone lies about their preferences. It could be because you’d damn well better lie – e.g., in 1940 in the USSR, you’d better say that Stalin is wonderful, or else. Or it could be just because you don’t want to say things that you’re afraid will make you unpopular, perceived as foolish, etc. A preference cascade is when enough people say, “The orthodoxy is bullshit!” and that can encourage others to join in, etc., until the orthodoxy is destroyed.
Such a cascade is exemplified by the little boy shouting, “Hey! The Emperor’s not wearing any clothes!” This can lead to other people – it doesn’t have to be everyone at first – saying, “Yeah, that’s true, he’s not wearing any clothes!” Then more people chime in, and so on, until the explicit consensus has converged to the truth, that the Emperor has no clothes.
Note though that there are always evil people who actually enjoy attacking others; indeed that’s who starts a spiral in the first place. So just pointing and laughing at leftists, even after the preference cascade, may not be enough. It is very plausible (Jim again) that some sort of firm incentive will be necessary to robustly discourage continued participation in holiness signaling.