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How backward is Russia compared to Europe and the United States and when will it catch up?

Below is a chart of the scientific output productivity of a number of important countries. Scientific output productivity refers to the number of scientific research papers published by a certain country divided by its population. A higher number indicates that the country is more “scientifically productive”, meaning that it is prosperous and advanced enough to have a large number of citizens busy doing scientific and scholarly research. In 2017, Russia’s scientific output per capita was 561. It published 80796 scientific papers and had a population of 143.9 million. Dividing the two numbers, we get 561, the number of scientific papers published by the country per million citizens. In 2008, Russia published 36419 papers. Ten years later its output had more than doubled, reflecting the fact it is investing heavily in science and has many more professors and researchers busy doing research at universities and research institutions. Still, its output per citizen is still below Iran, and it is almost half of Malaysia. Russia’s scientific output is almost exactly one third of the US, which stands at 1684 papers per million citizens.

The scientific output of the US peaked in 2014 and has only declined since. This is likely a trend that will continue. Russia, in the meantime, will likely continue growing barring a nuclear war, so that by 2028 it will likely reach South Korea’s output level, and soon after that of France (whose output is also declining). The forecast above assumes a 9.35% annual growth in scientific output for Russia, which is what its annual growth was between 2008 and 2017, so I am assuming a continuation of the same trend now since the Russian rulers appear to have finally realized the crucial importance of scientific research for national power and prestige and will likely continue investing  heavily in it.

We can expect the scientific output of the United States and Europe to stagnate and decline due to their aging native populations. Immigrants can help stave off some of the fall in output, but due to their generally lower educational attainment, it is unlikely that they will be able to undo the trend unless the countries only allow in highly educated immigrants.

Russia’s 2017 output was where Spain was in 1996 and where South Korea was 2003. We can expect Russia to reach European levels of scientific output by 2028.

Spain: It is interesting to note that Spain is today publishing more science per capita than either the United States or France, despite its population having a median age five years higher than that of the US and two years higher than that of France.

The United Kingdom: The UK’s scientific output is amazing. It publishes almost 1000 more papers per million citizens than many other European countries, reflecting an extremely well-funded and well-organized post-graduate system.

Below is a similar forecast done for Iran. If Iran continues at the rate of scientific output growth it had from 2008 to 2017, it will reach European output levels by 2028. I expect it to slow down its growth and to closely track that of Russia, perhaps being somewhere slightly below it by 2028.

Data from the United Nations and Scimago.

Malaysia has overtaken Japan in scientific research output per capita

Below is the graph from my previous post where I discovered that Malaysia has been producing more scientific research per citizen than Japan since 2016. This is very interesting because Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country. Japan has stagnated since 2006 due to its aging population and stagnant economy while Malaysia, thanks to having a sustainable population (thanks to sustainable fertility rates, thanks in large part to religious faith) continues to grow steadily. We can expect South Korea to slowly fall as it goes the way of Japan, so that Malaysia may actually become the top science-producing country (per capita) of Asia in the next two decades.

In 2017, Japan published 892 scientific papers per million citizens, while produced 936.

 

Data from the United Nations and Scimago.

Japan, South Korea and China’s scientific research output compared

As part of my series of posts comparing the scientific output per capita of different countries, in this post I will compare Japan, South Korea and China’s scientific output per capita, meaning the number of scientific research papers published per million citizens by each country. In the late 1990’s South Korea was going through industrialization but was greatly behind Japan. South Korea’s papers published per million citizens (PPMC) was 222.8 in 1996, compared to Japan’s 681, meaning that Japan was producing almost three times as much scientific research as South Korea. As South Korea industrialized, the gap between the two countries narrowed, so that South Korea actually overtook Japan in 2007. The sad story of Japan is that it has never been able to go significantly above its 2006 scientific output levels of 942 PPMC, perhaps due to its aging population (its median age is higher by 6 years today compared to South Korea’s), and perhaps due to its stagnant economy caused by the long-term effects of interest.

South Korea too appears to have entered the twilight zone in 2015 at a PPMC of 1523, we can probably safely assume that it will go through decades of slow decline from here on (unless immigration saves the day). China is slowly ramping up its scientific output, although it has yet to overtake South Korea’s scientific output per capita levels for the year 1999.

Adding Malaysia to the chart lead to something I hadn’t noticed before, Malaysia overtook Japan in scientific output per capita in 2016 (the green line):

Data from the United Nations and Scimago.

China’s scientific output per capita compared to Malaysia’s

As part of my series of posts comparing the scientific output per capita of different countries, in this post I will compare Malaysia and China. Malaysia is interesting for being the most industrialized Muslim-majority country in the world. It took China until 2001 to reach Malaysia’s scientific output per capita levels for 1996, meaning that China was five years behind Malaysia on this measure of scientific output. By 2005, the two countries were producing the same amount of scientific research per citizen. Then the gap started widening, so that it took until 2011 for China to reach Malaysia’s output levels for 2008. But even by 2017, China had not caught up to Malaysia’s 2009 output levels. Today Malaysia is producing almost three times as much scientific research per citizen than China is. I expect China to remain firmly 10 years or more behind Malaysia for the foreseeable future due to the time and energy costs of scaling scientific research output over the vast swaths of China, but China will likely ultimately catch up with Malaysia some day.

Note that China was producing 16 times as much scientific research as Malaysia in 2017, what we are comparing here is output per citizen, which tells us the entire country’s general state of development. Since China has highly undeveloped rural areas with hundreds of millions of citizens, those are going to seriously drag down its output per citizen until those areas are finally industrialized.

Data from the United Nations and Scimago.

South Korea and Malaysia’s scientific output growth compared

As part of my series of posts comparing the scientific output per capita of different countries, in this post I will compare South Korea and Malaysia. This is an interesting comparison because South Korea is one of the most recently industrialized parts of Asia, while Malaysia is the most industrialized Muslim-majority country in the world. In 1996, Malayisa was 11 years behind South Korea in scientific output per capita (how many scientific papers it published per million citizens). This scientific productivity gap narrowed to seven years between 2003 and 2005, then it started widening again, so that in 2017 it was more than 10 years. Now that South Korea’s output is declining, Malaysia might be expected to slowly catch up with it in the next decade.

Data from the United Nations and Scimago.

Malaysia and Iran’s scientific growth compared

In the previous posts I compared South Korea’s scientific output per capita with China’s, then with Iran’s. In this post, I will compare Iran and Malaysia, to see how far behind Iran is compared to Malaysia. It took Iran until 2003 to reach the same scientific output level as Malaysia had in 1996, meaning that it was 6 years behind. But by 2006 Iran had achieved parity with Malaysia, both countries were publishing the same amount of scientific research per capita. But the two countries started diverging in 2008, with Malaysia far outpacing Iran’s growth (perhaps due to the sanctions on Iran reducing its ability to fund research). It took Iran until 2014 to reach Malaysia’s level of 2010. As late as 2017, Iran had not reached Malaysia’s levels of 2011. Besides sanctions, another reason might be Iran’s much larger geographical size making scaling scientific research costlier in time and money, as is also the case in China.

Data from the United Nations and Scimago.

Comparing Iran’s scientific growth to South Korea’s

In the previous post I compared China’s scientific growth to South Korea’s. In this post I do the same for Iran. Iran’s gap with South Korea is narrower than China’s gap. In 2017 it was only 13 years behind South Korea when it came to scientific research output per capita. This gap might continue growing due to Iran being larger and more difficult to industrialize. But now that South Korea’s per-citizen scientific output is in decline, Iran (and China) have a good chance of catching up with it within the next decade.

Data from the United Nations and Scimago.

Comparing China’s scientific output to South Korea’s

It has been said that China is twenty years behind South Korea in development, and that South Korea is or was twenty years behind Japan. A measure of development that I like to use for comparing the development level of different countries is PPMC, which stands for Papers Published Per Million Citizens, referring to the number of scientific and scholarly papers a country publishes per a million citizens in a year. In 2017, that number was 1491 for South Korea while it was 349 for China, meaning that South Korea produced more than four times more scientific research per capita than China, which means that South Korea’s infrastructure, institutions and educational attainment on average are four times more advanced than China’s. The reason for this is that besides the fact that China started industrializing later than South Korea, China is a much larger country and requires far more investment and work to where South Korea is. China’s coastal cities likely already far outpace South Korea technologically, but China’s interior is going to be dragging down the country’s averages for decades to come.

Below we have South Korea’s scientific output per capita compared to China’s. It took China until 2009 to reach the same scientific output per capita as South Korea had in 1996, meaning that on this measure China was 13 years behind South Korea. This lag only increased with time, so that by 2014 the gap was 15 years. By 2018, the gap was 18 years because China’s output per capita hadn’t risen significantly.

It is natural for this gap to grow with time because due to China’s much larger size, it is going to take it far more time to raise the country’s scientific production compared to the much smaller South Korea. The good news for China is that this gap is probably not going to be getting much larger because South Korea’s output has started falling (likely due to an aging population, i.e. fewer young people available to become scientists and scholars) while China’s continues to rise.

Data from the United Nations and Scimago.

How Google and Bing promote Wahhabism on the Arab Internet

Wahhabism is an intolerant version of Islam followed by perhaps less than 1% of the world’s Muslims. Yet a Google search for almost any Islamic topic in Arabic brings up a deluge of Wahhabi sites. Below is the first page of the Google results for the question of whether Muslim women may wear pants. I had to go to the second and third pages to find a single representative of the remaining 99% of the world’s Muslims who do not follow Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia has poured billions (with the support of Western countries) into promoting this intolerant and violent version of Islam, maybe that explains the prominence of these websites.

I looked at Bing and things weren’t any better there.

How lenders contribute to decreasing native populations in industrialized nations: Housing prices, wages, interest and low fertility rates

The following chart from a BBC article (archived link) shows how home prices in the UK increased much faster than wages between 1975 and 2005.

If you ask “Why are wages not increasing fast as home prices?” you are asking the wrong question. What we are seeing above is a literal land grab enabled by what our ancestors called usury. Due to the way that the profits of finance always outrun the profits of the ordinary economy, the wealth of financiers (lenders) grows faster than the wealth of the rest of the economy. In order to reinvest their fast-accumulating wealth, they buy houses and rent them out. They become a major player in the house-buying market, and their fast-increasing wealth, which always outpaces wage growth, enables them to bid up home prices. What we see above is simply a reflection of how usury causes wealth to accumulate in the hands of the lenders. Below is a chart from an essay of mine that illustrates the way wealth accumulates in the hands of lenders over a 100-year period:

I can now state Hawramani’s law of home prices in usurious economies:

In an economy largely controlled by lenders, house prices do not reflect supply and demand, they reflect the increased accumulation of wealth in the hands of the lenders as they bid up home prices in their efforts to reinvest their ever-increasing wealth.

To put it another way, house prices track wealth inequality (wealth accumulation in the hands of the lenders) more than they track supply and demand.

The collapse in fertility rates in industrialized nations has a number of reasons and economics is an important part of it. In countries that have experienced heavy immigration the effects of low fertility rates have been masked since the population continues to be replenished by foreigners. But in countries like Portugal and Japan where immigration has been negligible, the effects are everywhere. Portugal’s population decreased by over 300,000 between 2009 and 2015, which is an important decrease for a small country. Japan’s population is expected to decrease by a third by 2065. Japan’s population peaked in 2010 at 128 million. Today it has a population of about 126.7 million, meaning that it lost 1.3 million during this period. The most visible effect of population decrease is the collapse of the countryside. Villages and small towns are abandoned as the shrinking population makes it economically unfeasible for businesses to provide basic services to them.

When fertility rates go below-replacement, it usually takes 30 years for the population to start falling. This delayed effect is one of the reasons why no industrialized society has come up with an intelligent way of addressing the problem.

People’s interest in marriage and reproduction is going to be rather low when housing is unaffordable. But lenders consider housing an important playground for their wealth, therefore they bid up house prices without concern for the way it reduces fertility. However, lenders also want big populations because bigger populations means more people to burden with debt and extract interest from, and because these people will have to buy the good and services they need from the corporations that are owned largely by these same lenders.

Lenders therefore seek two mutually exclusive things: They want to control the housing (and stock) markets, and they want large populations. They cause fertility rates to collapse by subjecting the population to economic conditions they dictate, in which things continually become more expensive, but they also demand continuous population increase since a growing population is essential for growing corporate profits and growing rents.

The solution, of course, is that they lobby for immigration. Immigrants may be less productive than the native population, but they will still need to pay rent, buy groceries and get into debt through credit cards, mortgages and student loans. Regardless of what an immigrant does, at the end of the day they will be putting money into the pockets of the lenders one way or another.

Today there are hundreds of millions of people who would jump at the chance of living in a Western country. But that number is going to fall dramatically as standards of living in their own countries improve, and as their population growth slows down due to the dramatic fall in fertility rates that is happening all over the place. But for the next few decades, there will likely be ample numbers of third-world people willing to replenish the collapsing populations of industrialized nations, but the pool is going to start to shrink at some point.

In summary:

  1. Finance (interest/usury) continually concentrates wealth in the hands of lenders.
  2. Lenders compete for assets, driving up home prices and making them unaffordable.
  3. Fertility rates drop as people avoid family formation to avoid the high costs of housing and other necessities.
  4. Population growth slows down and eventually comes to a stop.
  5. Lenders lobby for immigration to replenish the native population.

SSDs became 3.4 times faster in eight years, 15.5 GB/s read speeds by 2030

In November 2010, AnandTech reported about an SSD that was achieving 800 MB/second sequential read speeds:

In July 2018, AnandTech reports that 2700 MB/second SSD drives are available:

In this period of about 10 years, PCIe SSD speeds increased by a factor of 3.4, at least when it comes to sequential read speeds, which is an increase of about 16% per year. Projecting this trend forward, we get a sequential read speed of 15.5 GB/s in 2030 and 68 GB/s in 2040:

DDR3 RAM near the end of its lifetime had a maximum data rate of about 17 GB/s. So around 2030 PCIe SSDs will be just as fast as DDR3 RAM when it comes to sequential read speeds. However, DDR3 will still be much faster in terms of random read performance. Today’s best PCIe SSDs have a random read performance of about 100 MB/s, only 3.6% as fast as their sequential performance (100/2750). If that continues to be the case, then by 2030 the random read performance of these SSDs will be only 612 MB/s. Even by 2040, their random read performance will “only” be 2.47 GB/s, still very short of DDR3 RAM.

In fact, we will have to wait until 2053 to get PCIe SSDs that are as fast as DDR3 RAM’s last standard:

However, note that DDR3 as the beginning had a data rate of only 6.4 GB/s. SSD random reads will reach that speed somewhere around 2046.

As for DDR4, the maximum data rate is 25 GB/s, not that much more than DDR3’s latest data rate. If we extend the above forecast, we see that SSD random reads will reach that speed around 2056:

By that time new technologies may have made the difference between RAM and long-term storage obsolete, so that computers may only have one form of storage.

A Short Introduction to Usury: How to Make the Rich Richer, the Poor Poorer and Destroy the Middle Class

Download links: PDFePubMobi (Kindle)

In this short ebook I discuss the history of usury, how it works, its effects on society and how the system can be reformed. An important part of the discussion is how today automation leads to wealth inequality and wage slavery, and how through using a usury-free system and a wealth and speculation tax automation can turned into an investment that all of society benefits from.

I discuss how through avoiding usury and following a wealth tax inspired by Islam’s zakat basic income system communities can bypass the banks and corporations and revitalize their local economies. This is something that can be done by anyone right now, without any reference to the government.

The 1599 Geneva Bible Notes or Study Bible (Downloadable eBook Versions)

Page from a Geneva Bible dated 1599, but apparently (re?)printed a few decades later

Download links: PDF – Word – ePub – Mobi (kindle)

The text was sourced from Sacred Texts. It uses modern spelling and the quoted verses are apparently from the KJV (only the notes come from a Geneva commentary).

Michael Hoffman, in his Usury in Christendom: A Mortal Sin that Was and Now is Notmade a reference to the 1599 Geneva Bible Notes as a bible commentary that forbad usury. As someone who has been studying the problem of usury on and off for years, I was interested to find and download this bible commentary for my own reading. But I soon found out that the matter is not so simple and I was led on a wild goose chase to find the version Hoffman was referring to among the dozens of versions available online. The result of my research is in the introduction of the files.

Get it on Amazon.com

At any rate, as I mention in the introduction, it seems reasonably certain that notes are really by John Calvin and/or some of his followers. Whether the edition is more rightly to be called The 1599 Geneva Bible Notes, The 1599 Geneva Bible Translation Notes, or The 1599 Geneva Study Bible I am not sure, but I discuss them at length in the introduction. However, whether the anti-usury note on Luke 19:23 is really by the early Puritans or was added later I cannot say. The note says:

To the bankers and money changers. Usury or loaning money at interest is strictly forbidden by the Bible, (Exo_22:25-27; Deu_23:19-20). Even a rate as low as one per cent interest was disallowed, (Neh_5:11). This servant had already told two lies. First he said the master was an austere or harsh man. This is a lie for the Lord is merciful and gracious. Next he called his master a thief because he reaped where he did not sow. Finally the master said to him that why did you not add insult to injury and loan the money out at interest so you could call your master a «usurer» too! If the servant had done this, his master would have been responsible for his servant's actions and guilty of usury. (Ed.)

I cannot find any information on who this “Ed.”/editor is. A website that presents the 1587 Geneva Bible also has this note on Luke 19:23, complete with “Ed.” This might refer to the editors who came after John Calvin and updated his 1560 translation with their own improvements. It could also refer to a much later editor, but the presence of this note both in a purported 1587 edition and a 1599 edition supports the hypothesis that this note was added in the late 16th century and not later.

Hoffman’s citation actually goes to a secondary source, a book called The Eighth Commandment: Thou shalt not steal by Ted Weiland (available for free online here). It appears that Weiland may have simply copied the note on Luke 19:23 from one of the many Christian websites that present it, rather than from a manuscript or print edition.

A postmodern critique of postmodernism

The postmodern mode of critique is to try to “read between the lines” to discover what structure of power the text is supporting. A person who reads the Bible and sees in it support for a patriarchal society might actually be “reading patriarchy into the Bible” rather than “reading patriarchy out of the Bible”. Humans are often hopeless bags of prejudice who cannot touch a thing without distorting it. Postmodern critique aims to be a perspective on the world that sees what is really going on without it being part of the world itself.

In colloquial terms, postmodernists always ask “Where is the money?” when they read a text. Who are you supporting and empowering by thinking the thoughts you think and writing the things you write?

But this perspective can be turned on postmodernism itself. What structures of power are you supporting by deconstructing texts? There are tens of thousands of individuals whose careers, salaries and social positions are largely derived from marching through culture and parroting “Where is the money?” at every juncture. This itself is a structure of power; it is a new structure of power that is fed by seeking to undo other structures of power.

The postmodern critique of the world can only be taken seriously as long as we imagine it to be a disembodied perspective on the world, observing the world while being somehow detached from it. But this is nonsense. The postmodern worldview, based on asking “Where is the money?”, is merely a new structure of power that empowers some people at the expense of others. The only person who can truly perform a postmodern critique as postmodernists think it should be done is God, someone who can look at the world while detached from it. Postmodernists, being part of the world, are merely biased and prejudiced humans (as they claim everyone is) who merely repeat the rather banal question “Where is the money?” while deriving power from it.

Postmodernists are no different from another ideological group that asks “What structures of color does this text support?” in their critique of texts. Since there is no objective truth, since every perspective is subjective, the truths arrived at by this stupid question are just as valuable (or worthless) as the truths arrived at by postmodernists. If we posit a world ruled by color as its most important variable (as postmodernists posit power to be) (meaning that when humans reach certain conclusions about a text, it is merely due to their liking for certain color schemes as opposed to others, rather than because there is anything objective in the text), then we have every right to critique everything based on this variable and to go on to derive nice salaries from parroting the question “Where is the color scheme?”

I expect someone has made a similar critique decades ago.

Decolonization

The critique can be extended to the theory of decolonization, the postmodern idea that Western efforts to understand non-Western cultures and traditions are inherently flawed due to Western bias. There is a need for decolonization, for taking the narrative back from the colonizing Westerners. The problem is: based on what foundation do you decolonize? Decolonization theory is a Western invention created by a group of intellectuals who feed upon the structure power upheld by these postmodern theories. Their pretense that they are unbiased observers who are helped the rest of the world open its eyes to Western colonialism is just that, a pretense. They are merely a new breed of colonizers who have invented a new structure of power that allies them with non-Westerners, helped the postmodern power structure continue its process of weakening other power structures.

But to what end? If there is no objective truth then why should I let some rich and privileged academic tell me how to open my eyes? The rational assumption toward these people should be that they are cultural subversives who are merely attacking the present culture in their efforts to establish a new culture that gives them more power.

As someone who studies Islam, I am well aware of the many biases present within Western discourses about Islam. But rather than turning this into some Illuminati nonsense about how there is a Marxian “false consciousness” that we all live in, upheld and maintained by people whose power and prestige is coveted by postmodernist cultural subversives, I see the bias as a logical byproduct of human existence. Muslim discourses about the West are every bit as ignorant and biased as Western discourses about Muslims. There is not one big bad guy who also happens to be a white Christian man who is holding the ropes (postmodernists want you to think that, since such a man has been the object of the envy and hatred of Western cultural subversives since at least Marx’s time).

We are all bad guys in our desire to portray people dislike as worse than they really are and in our desire to portray people we like as better than they really are.

But the biggest bad guys are the ones who pretend that only they are outside human nature, only they are the ones who are aware of bias and try to escape it, only they have the best interests of the colonized in mind, and that all those opposed to them are evil. This pretense of angelic goodwill toward the oppressed enables them to create a new power structure that attacks every other power structure but that is itself immune from attack, because it pretends not to be a power structure.

Taking it to its conclusion

Taken to its logical conclusion, postmodernism nullifies itself. You cannot decolonize unless you have some standard to measure yourself by, but by definition you are a hopeless bag of prejudice, so every decolonizing effort is itself in support of some power structure. Unless you can prove that you are a disembodied intellect with zero desire and bias, every deconstruction and decolonizing effort you engage in is by definition an exertion of power; it is merely one power structure’s demand for power from other power structures.

Indonesia’s unlocked scientific potential?

The Scimago Journal & Country Rank is one of the things I look forward to most to seeing every year. The rankings show each country’s scientific output, a very important measure of a country’s present level of development and its speed of development. The biggest surprise in the 2017 rankings was from Indonesia, whose cited paper count jumped from 11,765 in 2016 to 18,683 in 2017:

Source: Scimago Journal & Country Rank

In 2016, Indonesia was number 45 on world rankings for scientific output. Thanks to the 2017 jump, in 2017 it was number 35.

Indonesia has been a great laggard in scientific output due to its lack of development. Its papers per million capita (PPMC) is 71 compared to Malaysia’s 925. Only 16 years before 2017, in 2002, Malaysia’s PPMC was 72, comparable to Indonesia today. If Indonesia follows the same development trajectory as Malaysia (the way South Korea followed Japan), by 2032 Indonesia will be one of the world’s top scientific powerhouses. Due to Indonesia’s vastness compared to Malaysia, their development will likely take longer; however, the availability of newer and cheaper technologies may speed development up so that they end up following Malaysia’s trajectory despite their handicaps.

If Indonesia ever catches up to Malaysia’s present level of scientific output, it would be publishing 241,000 papers per year, making it the world’s third largest science hub after the US and China.

Almost all of the world’s countries are seeing a great increase in scientific output, caused by adopting Western methods of scientific research and publishing. Pakistan’s output doubled between 2010 and 2017. Egypt did similarly. Iran publishes more papers per capita than Russia. I believe we are in for some very interesting times.

Ending technological servitude: On the need for tariffs on Internet companies (and others)

Aircraft engines for airliners are some of the world’s most advanced technological products. Only a few Western nations can make them. China founded the Aero Engine Corporation of China in 2016 with $7.5 billion in funding to put an end to its reliance on Western-made engines.

In my view the most important reason why protectionism is necessary, or at least one of the most important reasons, is the prevention of technological servitude. A simple example illustrates the point: Your country cannot be a pioneer in aerospace technologies if your country is not producing airplanes. If all of your airplanes come from China, the research and development will happen in China. By buying any technological product from overseas, you are subsidizing research and development pertaining to that product in that country.

Most of the world’s countries are presently in a position of technological servitude when it comes to the products offered by internet companies like Google and Facebook. Short-sighted politicians think that it is sufficient to tax these companies in order to ensure that they partake in the local economy on a balanced basis. This is nonsense. When Google sells hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ads in the Philippines, this helps subsidize research and development in California. The technology and know-how to serve ads, to analyze data, to run data centers and networking hubs, all of these involve extremely advanced skills and tens of thousands of skilled workers, and most of them are going to be in California. The Philippines, by letting Google operate in the country without tariffs, is literally paying cash to Google to train people and develop technologies and ecosystems in California that helps it continue to maintain its technological edge over the rest of the world.

There is no way for a Filipino company to compete with Google in a free market, because Google is vastly ahead both in technology and in economies of scale. Without tariffs, the rest of the world will be stuck in a position of permanent technological servitude, the United States will always be ahead; it will have the most advanced technologies AND it will have tens of thousand of highly trained engineers with years of experience in using and developing these technologies. The United States becomes the “brain of the world” where all the interesting things happen, and every other nation has to beg it for its high-tech products, which it can use to force them to comply with its foreign policy.

In order to help create a Filipino innovation ecosystem in Internet advertising, the country will have to place tariffs on every ad Google sells in the country, making it more expensive to advertise in the country using Google’s services. This will help Filipino companies grow, hiring more people, but most importantly slowly acquiring the technological knowledge to innovate.

Instead of tariffs, the Philippines could ask Google to open engineering centers in the country. While that will certainly help in some ways, only a very small portion of Google’s skill-set will be transferred to the locals in this way, because the services Google offers in the country will still greatly rely on US infrastructure. To properly implement this, the country will have to require Google to serve the Philippines’ market entirely from inside the country, through data centers and networking and engineering hubs all inside the Philippines. But this may not be doable, because Google will have to replicate all of its major teams and technologies for the Philippines’ market (such as its search product). If this is done, it would create tremendous value for the country, helping create thousands of “Google veterans” who can go on to launch other technology companies.

It is true that tariffs cause inefficiencies and require reinventing wheels already invented in other countries. It is extremely costly to develop a local aerospace industry in a developing country. Why not just buy all of your airplanes from the US or Europe? Because that puts you in a position of permanent technological servitude. You will always have to go begging when you need new airplanes, as Iran and Turkey have to do today. No self-respecting nation should allow the US or Europe to hold this club over their heads.

Today, Iran and China are the two countries that recognize these facts better than any other country. Iran produces most of its cars locally, an industry that accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP and employs 700,000 people. It is true that this industry leads to various inefficiencies and the need to reinvent the wheel that could be avoided by importing foreign cars and helping subsidize German and US automakers. But so what? Iran’s car industry helps provide jobs for thousands of scientists and researchers in materials, electronics and robotics.

To be a technological slave or a technologically independent nation

Developing countries have two choices: either to remain technological slaves of developed economies and be treated with the usual contempt these countries have for developing nations, or use tariffs to build local technological innovation ecosystems.

What the US and Europe want from developing nations is free markets that enables them to keep these nations in a position of permanent technological servitude. This achieves four very important goals:

  • Providing markets for US and European products
  • Helping subsidize the jobs of hundreds of thousands of scientists and researchers in the US and Europe who will go on to build the next generation of technological products
  • The ability to use the threat of withholding these products as enforcement tools for making these nations do your bidding
  • Helping ensure US and European military superiority over these nations, since by lacking a powerful technological-industrial base, developing nations will be forever begging the US and Europe for military technology (and will own airplanes and satellites with US/European back-doors and vulnerabilities built in that prevents them from being a threat)

The attitude of the US and Europe toward countries like Indonesia is “We would love for you to develop, but don’t you dare develop in a way that makes you our equal!”

President Trump is really upset about China’s Made in China 2025 initiative because it is designed with the exact goal of escaping technological servitude. Until recently it was easy to dismiss China as a backward copycat that couldn’t innovate. The US and Europe incessantly made fun of China for its technological servitude, while using every tool in their toolbox to ensure that China remained that way.  This is the default Western attitude toward the rest of the world. China eventually took notice and decided to hit the US/Europe where it hurts by working to be an equal.

The problem with an equal is that an equal can hurt you. The West does not want equals, it wants the whole world to be one big family with them as the big brothers holding clubs over everyone else’s heads.

China, Iran and to a lesser degree Russia seem to be making the right decisions for escaping technological servitude. It remains to be seen whether other countries can follow their example.

On the unreliability of the hadith narrations mentioning 73 Muslim sects, 72 of which are supposedly doomed to the Hellfire

There are a group of hadith narrations, not found in al-Bukhārī and Muslim, but found in various other collections, in which the Prophet Muhammad mentions that the Muslims will divide into 73 groups, 72 of which will enter the Hellfire, meaning that only one among these 73 groups will be saved. This one group is known as al-firqa al-nājiya (“the group that attains salvation”).

These narrations have unfortunately been a favorite polemical tool. Each group can claim to be al-firqa al-nājiya to imply that the members of every other group will enter the Hellfire:

But they tore themselves into sects; each party (self-righteously) happy with what they have.1

The truth of the matter is that these narrations are all likely corrupted or fabricated, and there is no authentic evidence whatsoever for the part that says “all of them will enter the Hellfire except one”.

The Kuwaiti Islamic scholar Dr. Ḥākim al-Muṭayrī (b. 1964, holds PhDs in Islamic studies from Birmingham University and University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco) has conducted a study (Arabic PDF – 3 MB) of all of the relevant hadith narrations regarding this issue. He mentions that Ibn Ḥazm rejected the narration, and that al-Shawkani considered the part that says “all of them are doomed save one” a fabrication. In the conclusion, he writes:

وعلى كل فكل طرق هذا الحديث مناكير وغرائب ضعيفة ومنكرة، وأحسنها حالا حديث أبي هريرة وهو حديث حسن، مع تساهل كبير في تحسينه لتفرد محمد بن عمرو به، وهو صدوق له أوهام خاصة في روايته عن أبي سلمة عن أبي هريرة، ولهذا كان القدماء يتقون حديثه كما قال يحيى بن معين.

All of the ṭuruq (the chains of narrators) of this hadith are objectionable and unauthentic. The best of them is the hadith of Abū Hurayra, which is a ḥasan hadith (i.e. not good enough to be considered authentic, but having an acceptable meaning and not clearly fabricated), provided that we extend it great latitude (i.e. lower our standards) for the fact of Muhammad bin ʿAmr being its only transmitter, who is known to be a truthful person who has awhām (plural of wahm, "confusion" or "delusion", meaning he gets confused and mixes up narrations), especially in his narrations from Abū Salama, from Abū Hurayra, and for this reason the early hadith scholars were cautious of his narrations, as Yaḥyā bin Maʿīn has mentioned.

Note that this best hadith that Dr. Muṭayrī refers to does not have the part that says “all of them will enter the Hellfire save one” (see page 24 of the PDF). The most we can learn from these narrations is that the Muslims will possibly divide into 73 sects (which could possibly be a randomly chosen number used to imply “a great many”, as is typical in Arabian usage).

In conclusion, there is no justification whatsoever for using these narrations to imply that Muslims from other groups will enter the Hellfire; anyone who says such a thing has uttered a falsehood, either out ignorance or dishonesty.

The Muslim World on the Eve of Europe’s Expansion by John J. Saunders

The Muslim World on the Eve of Europe’s Expansion (published in 1966), at only 136 pages, is a short and enjoyable history of the Muslim world in the early modern period, with interesting articles on the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal Empires, the Mamlukes, the Uzbeks, Islam in Southeast Asia and Africa, the remnants of the Mongols in Russia, the Indian Ocean trade and the naval struggle between the Ottomans and the Christian powers.

Many interesting scenes from history are presented in the book; the siege of Vienna by the Ottomans; celebrations in Rome on the fall of Granada, the last Muslim principality in Spain; an Italian traveler who performs the Hajj in 1503 disguised as a Muslim.

The book is a collection of excerpts from other works. Each section is introduced by the fair-minded and able British historian John J. Saunders. The book is recommended to anyone who wants to enjoy a lighthearted and non-politicized introduction to the state of the Islamic world during the rise of European power.

Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy [Short Book Review]

Professor Jonathan Brown’s Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy is one of the best English-language books about Islam written by a Muslim (he converted to Islam in 1997). While the book’s focus is on the issues surrounding the authenticity and interpretation of hadith, it provides a good general history of the development of Islam’s intellectual tradition.

The book will contain many eye-openers for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. While rising many questions, the book does not generally provide conclusive answers.

The issue of violence against women (as in verse 4:34) is covered in great detail, although no solution is reached (see my essay A New Interpretation of Wife-Beating in Verse 4:34 of the Quran for a potential solution). On the issue of the stoning of adulterers:

...and so strong was the sense of duty to avoid carrying them out that Cairo’s senior judge chose exile over agreeing to execute two adulterers.

While the Egyptian scholar Muhammad Abu Zahra is mentioned in the book, his important opposition to the punishment of stoning is not (perhaps Dr. Brown was not aware of it).

This book’s most important contribution, I hope, will be to encourage other Muslims to write works of similar quality; fairly balanced and supported by a great deal of evidence.

[Book Review] Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane by S. Frederick Starr

Lost Enlightenment is a highly readable overview of the history of the Persian-speaking cities of Central Asia, an area that gave Islamic civilization the majority of its great philosophers and thinkers (Jabir ibn Hayyan, al-Khwarizmi, al-Farabi, Avicenna, al-Biruni, al-Ghazali)  and many of its great scholars (such as the creators of five of the six “canonical” hadith collections: al-Bukhari, Muslim, al-Nasa’i, al-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawood, the exception being Ibn Majah who, a Persian like the rest, came from Qazvin in Western Iran).

While the book is a good source of information on Islamic civilization’s most advanced and intellectually productive area, it is marred by the writer’s secularist bias. It is often implicit in his writing that he believes the more religiously faithful a Muslim is, the less capable of rational and logical thought they are. He often spends many pages arguing that a particular thinker was actually secular and only paid lip service to Islam (Ibn Sina, Khayyam). As for the devout Muslim thinkers he covers, he often cannot hide his contempt and his belief in the person’s narrow-mindedness and falseness of conscience (as in the case of al-Ghazali).

Errors

Lost Enlightenment is also marred by various errors. The writer’s grasp of the workings of the Islamic religion and its intellectual tradition is amateurish at best (despite his merits as a historian). Starr is guilty of incredible statements like the following:

Going still further, a new governor named Nasr, ignoring the Quran’s demand that apostasy be punished by death, in 741 struck a deal with the Sogdians that abolished all punishments for those who had reverted to their former religions.

He also writes in another place:

But Ghazali branded both thinkers posthumously as heretics and therefore, according to the Quran, punishable by death.

And yet in another place:

Those who follow the philosophers were not merely heretics but, he averred apostates. The Quran quite clear states that apostates must be punished with death.

The Quran does not prescribe a punishment for apostasy anywhere in it! This is an elementary error that even an undergraduate student of Islamic studies should not make.

Starr attributes to the scientist Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi a “weighty commentary” on the Quran, confusing him with Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, who was born two centuries later.

Starr writes:

Quranic prohibitions against depicting the human form were frequently ignored...

The Quran has nothing to say on the depiction of the human form. These elementary errors about Islam’s chief scripture betray a serious ignorance of Islam as a religion, in contradistinction to the author’s wide knowledge of Central Asian history.

Starr mentions al-Hakim al-Nisaburi as a critic and challenger of al-Bukhari who caused him to be expelled from Naishapur. This means that al-Naisburi was able to go back to the time 60 years before his birth to harass al-Bukhari. It seems that Starr confused al-Naisaburi with al-Dhuhali, who fits Starr’s descriptions. Al-Hakim al-Naisaburi was actually a champion of al-Bukhari, critical to the canonization process of al-Bukhari’s hadith collection, as is covered in detail in Jonathan Brown’s The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim. This is all the more strange since Starr quotes Brown’s book multiple times in the pages dealing with al-Naisaburi.

Finally, some nitpicks: He says that Tus is 15 miles northeast of Nishapur. It is actually 43 miles away. He also writes:

Insurgents seized Basra on the Red Sea...

Basra is 700 miles away from the Red Sea.

In summary, Starr’s Lost Enlightenment is a good historical overview of the period it covers. Readers should be aware of its biases and should read books by other scholars to get a more accurate understanding of the topics covered.

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