Bitter Lemons: Southern California’s Avatar End Game – Synthetic Pretenders Part 13

This is the thirteenth installment in the Synthetic Pretenders series examining the proposed CaliforniaTrust Framework within the context of synthetic biology, eugenics, and the Spanish mission system. 

Part One: Scientific Management, Robo-Bees, and Digital Babies

Part Two: Apocalypse, Mind Files, and Interplanetary Promises

Part Three: The “Magic” of Radio-Eugenics and Holographic Twins

Part Four: Ritual Gaming and Berggruen’s Transformation of Humanity

Part Five: Elite Views on Automated Law and Vending Machine Democracy

Part Six: Reject Scientific Management, Celebrate “Weeds”

Part Seven: Computation Life and Industrial Design Erode the Boundaries of our Beingness

Part Eight: Market Alchemy and Illuminated “Well-being”

Part Nine: Photonic Workhouses and Behavioral Scrip

Part Ten: Magenta Dusk and the Royal Beacon of Decarbonization

Part Eleven: Pre-Crime Prediction for “Better” Humans

Part Twelve: Rocket Science and Zoology – Catalysts for Explosive Evolution

Ezra Seymour Gosney, a lawyer born in Kentucky, became involved in the cattle and sheep industry in Arizona and later in citrus production when he relocated his family to Pasadena in the 1920s. He owned one of the largest lemon groves in the state and was involved in numerous finance civic activities, including the California Boy Scouts, when he approached Harry Laughlin of the Eugenics Records Office at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island about establishing an office on the west coast to promote sterilization practices.

Source: E. S. Gosney, 1934

Source: Gosney Map, Human Betterment Foundation / Harry Laughlin.

Before the Human Betterment Foundation (HBF) officially launched, Paul Popenhoe was hired to conduct extensive field work in California and summarize the impact of the 6,000+ sterilizations that had taken place in the state following the enabling legislation that passed in 1909. Popenhoe was a horticulturalist researching avocado and date production who later became interested in human breeding. He wrote “Applied Eugenics” in 1918, a textbook that promoted the idea of segregated societies where “waste” humanity would do manual labor to create value on unimproved forestland as a means by which to offset the cost of their upkeep.

Source: Paul Popenhoe 1912 in India in Palm Date Research, “The Slippery Slope of Social Engineering: The Case of Paul Popenhoe 1915-1930”

This focus on sterilization coincided with intense anti-immigrant settlement during the 1920s and 30s. The Johnson Reed Act that was passed in 1924 implemented strict quotas, imposed a literacy test and tax, and excluded Asian immigrants other than Japanese and Filipinos, because the Philippines was an American colony at the time.

After Gosney’s death, the remaining assets of Human Betterment Foundation and his papers, were transferred to Caltech. The income from the Gosney Research Fund was to be used for “the promotion of the research of the biological basis of human qualities.” Of course today, Caltech offers graduate degrees in molecular biophysics, bioengineering, biochemistry, neural engineering, medical engineering, social and decision neuroscience (including economic theory and game theory and behavioral economics). I imagine there are many avenues for pursuing the engineering of certain qualities, though they are increasingly likely to be post-human.

Source: Caltech Archives Human Betterment Foundation Collection

Below are selections taken from the Human Betterment Foundation’s materials on the social benefits of sterilization. Remember, this was during a period of economic upheaval that caused grave distress for many families.

Chapter XII Sterilization for Eugenic Reasons

There remains, then, the principal field for sterilization; namely, the eugenic. Persons should be sterilized if it is to the interests of the commonwealth (or more broadly of the human race) that they bear no children, or no further children; and if it appears that sterilization is the most effective and satisfactory means of preventing such reproduction, more specifically, sterilization is justified 1) if mental disease and defect are a menace to the state 2) if they are perpetuated by heredity and 3 if sterilization seems to be the most effective means available for dealing with them, or with certain aspects of them.

Source: Sterilization for Human Betterment, 1929, page 116

The Problem Before American Citizens

The situation which has led all these commonwealths to adopt sterilization laws grows out of such facts as the following. Births among families habitually living on public charity are often 50% or higher than births among self-supporting families. The families that contribute children to the state homes for the feebleminded in California are multiplying about twice as rapidly as the rest of the population. The burden of taxation due to the mentally diseased and mentally defective is, at the same time, steadily mounting.

Source: Human Sterilization Today, Human Betterment Foundation, 1938, page 2

Eugenic Sterilization Is Not a Panacea

Sterilization is no panacea for these ills of mankind, but it is one of the many measures indispensable to any far-sighted and humanitarian program dealing with society’s tremendous burden of mental disease, deficiency, and dependency.

Source: Human Sterilization Today, Human Betterment Foundation, 1938, page 6

These quotes show that the foundation’s membership justified sterilization in part by saying families of feeble-minded people had too many children and were a drain on government assistance. These were among the wealthiest citizens of Pasadena, many of whom had made fortunes made in law, academia, and speculative real estate.

Source: Robert Millikan with Cosmic X-Ray Equipment 1935

While Robert Millikan was not a founder of HBF, he joined the board in 1937 and played a key role in securing Gosney’s papers and HBF’s funds for Caltech. Before coming to Pasadena in 1921, Millikan helped establish the physics department at the University of Chicago, where he pursued Nobel Prize-winning research into the charge of electrons. During WWI he served as vice-chair of the National Research Council and coordinated applied research for defense purposes. At Caltech he investigated cosmic radiation and served as board chair from 1921-46, turning the school into one of the foremost applied research institutions in the nation.

In the summer of 2020 concerns were once again raised about Millikan’s legacy with calls to remove his name from campus facilities. The Black Scientists and Engineers of Caltech issued a statement at the time, noting that of the 1,299 graduate students at the university, only 11 (.8%) were Black. This was not because there weren’t qualified PhD candidates, but rather that the school had chosen not to direct endowment support to the WAVE Fellows program for underrepresented communities.

Source: Paul Perigord, UCLA 1927

Paul Helie Perigord was another Caltech affiliate who served on the board of HBF. He taught European History there from 1919 to 1924. Born in France and a WWI veteran, he taught ethics at the University of Wisconsin and later French Literature at UCLA. Active in international diplomacy, he participated in League of Nations activities in the early 1920s, touring the country at the request of President Wilson. He was also president of the International Labor Office and served as a delegate to the United Nations after WWII. In retirement he relocated to Haiti where he established an English newspaper, the Port-Au-Prince Times.

Source: Hahn and Hahn LLC Website

Herbert Hahn and his brother Edwin, a Superior Court Judge, were lawyers and civic leaders in Pasadena. Herbert was a trustee at Caltech who managed the legal arrangements for donations to the university as well as handling multi-million-dollar government contracts. He was on the board of HBF, too.

Source: Albert Ruddock Trustee, Undated

Albert Ruddock came from a lumber family, served in the diplomatic corps in Berlin, Brussels, and Peking. In the 1920s he moved to California and got into the petroleum and banking sectors. He was a lifelong benefactor of Caltech and served on many community boards, including two Los Angeles hospitals. Ruddock was a member of many California social clubs, including the Bohemian Club in San Francisco where he died of a heart attack in 1970. He, too, was a member of HBF.

The Ruddock family acquired what they initially viewed as “worthless” copper mines in southeastern Utah in foreclosing proceedings. In the early 1950s the Atomic Energy Commission determined that lands held uranium deposits. They incorporated as the Cal Uranium Company and began removing ore in 1954. Albert’s son Merritt Ruddock helped manage the family’s mining investments and purchased Charlford Castle and extensive ranch holdings, now known as Cherokee Ranch, in Sedalia, CO in 1954. Following their divorce, Merritt’s ex-wife retained the house, modeled on a fifteenth-century Scottish castle. Mildred Montague Genevieve “Tweet” Kimball, an anglophile equestrian, hosted many distinguished guests including European royalty at the home. After WWII, Merritt worked for the CIA as an editor for the Central Reports Staff. He was a deputy to Frank Wisner who headed the OSS in southeastern Europe  based in Romania. After the war Wisner ran Operation Mockingbird, domestic Cold War propaganda, and Operation Bloodstone, relocation of Nazis into the United States for covert intelligence operations.

Source: William B. Munro, Caltech, Undated

William Bennett Munro was a Canadian who became a Constitutional scholar and professor and administrator at Harvard. In the 1920s he began to winter in Pasadena and Millikan arranged a salary for him to lecture on government at Caltech half time. He served on the University’s facilities and grounds committee for thirty years. He too was a member of the HBF board.

Source: Rufus von Kleinsmid 1958

Rufus Von KleinSmid co-founded the Human Betterment Society with Gosney. He was an education and psychology professor who led Arizona State University before moving on to the University of Southern California. As the fifth president of USC, he developed international relationships in the 1930s, including with Japan, and undertook a massive building campaign in the years after WWII.

Von KleinSmid advocated for sterilization of “defective” people and deprived Japanese American students who had attended USC before being placed in internment camps during the war of their transcripts. His name was removed from the school’s Center for International and Policy Affairs in 2020 after over a decade of intense advocacy by staff and students. In 1913 as the director of research at the Indiana Reformatory KleinSmid prepared a speech, “Eugenics and the State,” delivered before the Cincinnati Academy of Medicine.

Source: Eugenics and the State

The following quotes are taken from that speech:

“The average worth of the individual to the society is constantly lowered because of both the lack of productiveness among the worthy, and the fecundity of the defective.”

“It is fair to say that too much of the effort which these organizations (social workers) have put forth has done little more than to save to the state the defective classes, making it less and less likely that the rigors of climate and the prevalence of disease and other devastating conditions among which these people live may tend toward the survival of the fittest. We who are strong have borne the burdens of the weak, and the weak have repaid us by furnishing still greater burdens for us to bear.”

“Whatever steps may be taken to prevent the augmenting of the part of society’s membership which can never be other than a hindrance and a drag, must be taken with the consciousness that what is best for society must be acceptable to the individual.”

“It may not be practical nor wise to adopt the Greek plan of welcoming every babe in the world in the presence of an agent of the state, nor yet to expose on the mountainside those babes who furnish immediate evidence of their unfitness for life. On the other hand, there is little question that the physician here in reporting to the proper authorities the physical condition of newborn babes and in so far as continued observation is possible, the mental condition, can render and incalculable service to society.”

“Psychology is, as yet, a comparatively new science, but when the most searching observation and test will have been augmented and explained by anthropometric records, statistics in the field of heredity, experiments in paidology and pedagogy, and investigations in the fields of neurology, pathology and biochemistry, we shall have every reason to believe that the commonwealth will make no mistake in organizing its affairs and legislating its will upon the basis of the most scientific research that it can employ. Nay, more, it is wholly the privilege as well as the duty of the state to deny itself no opportunity or obligation that will assure its people life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in ever increasing abundance.” Rufus Bernhard Von KleinSmid 1913

The quotes above candidly reveal the disdain held by those who controlled the resources for those deemed less-than, degenerate, not pulling their own weight. Those condemning included newspapermen, real estate speculators, conservationists, medical doctors, a media broadcaster, agriculturalists, ministers, and a rabbi.

Source: Human Betterment Foundation Board Map

It is this mental construct that was adopted by the Nazis who murdered hundreds of thousands of children and adults under the T4Programme starting as early as 1939. Germany passed a law in 1933 that legalized sterilization of hundreds of thousands of people labeled physically or mentally impaired. This law was based on American precedent – the Buck vs Bell Supreme Court case of 1927 that legitimized forced government sterilization. The Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act of was based on model  legislation developed at the Cold Springs Harbor Eugenics Records Office by Harry Laughlin, a close associate of Ezra Gosney and Paul Popenhoe.

The systems of industrialized mass murder first used by the Nazis on the disabled were then scaled for deployment in forced labor prisons like Auschwitz-Birkenau. For a detailed look into the inter-generational impact of one woman’s murder after being institutionalized for a mental breakdown, see Andreas Heckler’s 2017 long-form essay for Disability Studies Quarterly, “Diagnoses That Matter: My Great Grandmother’s Murder as One Deemed ‘Unworthy of Living’ and Its Impact on Our Family.” The screenshot below is taken from that article. Emilie Rau fell into a depression after her husband, who had a harsh temper, was injured and became unable to support their family of four children. The institution into which her husband placed her severely limited visitation and would not release her to return home, stating that her condition was incurable. Her unwillingness to work led to her being of over 10,000 people identified for euthanasia in the gas chambers of Hadamar, “house of shutters,” in the first years of the war.

Source: Emilie Rau With Her Husband and Two Eldest Children 1915


Source: American Soldiers Uncover Medical Mass Murder at Hadamar, The National WWII Museum New Orleans

The following selection is from the 2020 East Tennessee University graduate thesis of Cameron Williams, “A Study of the United States’ Influence on German Eugenics:”

American eugenicists enjoyed a strong position in the international community and were admired by their European counterparts for their success in influencing legislation and gaining extensive financial support for the American eugenics’ movement. The German racial hygiene movement, in fact, followed developments in the United States closely. During the First World War the Society for Racial hygiene began to distribute a public flyer extolling the “dedication with which Americans sponsor research in the field of racial hygiene and with which they translate theoretical knowledge into practical.” The previously mentioned flyer was in reference to a donation of several million dollars by a widow of a railway magnate in support of Cold Spring Harbor. Also mentioned was the foundation established in 1915 following a eugenics conference held in Battle Creek, Michigan, which provided over three-hundred thousand dollars for conferences and exhibitions in the field of eugenics. The flyer also claimed that even American farmers believed that racial hygiene was the most important question of the century. It praised the funding of state commissions that attempted to awaken the nation to a eugenic centered consciousness. It applauded the control of immigration through legislation as well as laws in twelve states that regarded the prevention of procreation of “inferior families”.56 The Society for Racial Hygiene concluded that Americans recognized the “critical importance” of race improvement and were eager to adopt measures to further this goal.

If you try on the lens that the latter half of the twentieth century, and now the twenty-first, has largely been about using manufactured scarcity, military R&D, radiological exposure, re-engineered food, and poisoned ecosystems to advance the Oliver Reiser-Julius Stulman-Ervin Laszlo-Fritz Kunz World Brain agenda, you can see how the pre-WWII ethos of eugenics in the United States and abroad, wrapped in social progressivism, effectively set the stage for much of what has followed.

Frederick Winslow Taylor could only dream of a future where flesh-bound, fallible humans were replaced by programmed avatars functioning with supreme efficiency, never getting tired, never asserting their own ideas, never asking for a raise. The video below is a site visit I made last summer to the SEPTA bus depot, which was the site of Midvale Steel where Taylor refined his principles in scientific management while working on Naval contracts for the Spanish American War. I read from John Trudell’s 1980 incredibly moving and prescient speech “We Are Power.”

The eugenicist Von KleinSmid, USC administrator and Human Betterment Foundation member, oversaw the creation of the first film studies program in the nation. Cecille B. DeMille funded the photography classes and teaching partnerships with many early actors and directors in 1929. Fast forward seventy-five years, and we get the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, a testing laboratory for the creation of synthetic people.

USC ICT was birthed from a 1996 collaboration of the Hollywood special effects industry and defense interests hosted by the National Research Council and chaired by Mike Zyda. In 1986, Zyda, a computer science professor at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterrey, founded a special research group, NPSNET, to develop gaming simulation technology for the military including virtual world building and America’s Army Game. Other participants included Gilman Louie who would go on to found Niantic and Alexander Singer, Star Trek producer who created a short film to demonstrate augmented cognition.

Source: Modeling and Simulation: Linking Entertainment and Defense, Mike Zyda 1996

Reflecting on my “Digital Babies” piece, what more perverse “solution” could engineers’ minds come up with than extinguishing the materiality of living tissue and re-rendering it in efficient computational formats? Nanotechnology is central to such an effort, and it was launched at Caltech. Richard Feynman introduced the concept of nanotechnology to the world with he “Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” lecture given in December 1959 in Pasadena to the American Physical Society.

Feynman taught at Caltech from 1950 to 1988, winning the Nobel Prize in 1965 for discoveries in quantum electrodynamics relating to how subatomic particles interact with light. In 2018 there was a celebration of his life on what would have been his 100th birthday coordinated by the following divisions of the university involved in carrying forward his research: Caltech Institute for Quantum Information and Matter; Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics (Burke was a financial advisor to Sherman Fairchild a major shareholder in IBM who increased his fortune from inventions in avionic photography and semiconductors); Kavli Nanoscience Institute (operating since 2003 and developed origami DNA in 2006); and the Nanoscale Systems Initiative established in 2004 with a $25 million gift from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Gordon created Moore’s Law, was co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, and Betty was an employee of the Ford Foundation.

Perhaps in the age of Huxley’s high-tech eugenics, water-based beings will be deemed too bulky for “interplanetary” (“inter-dimensional”) travel. Some days it feels like natural humans (and all other watery beings) are Pasadena’s plump, juicy citrus of the 1960s facing off against TANG. Suck out the water, crystallize vitality, toss in a few chemical additives, and store on a shelf for future use. Seriously, let’s not do this. I don’t want to go to “Mars” that badly.

Source: NCR Archive Grocery Store Checkout, Dayton 1979

The images below are from a military publication extolling USC ICT’s accomplishments over two decades including twenty-seven patents and sixty-five prototype programs like BraveMind and UrbanSim.




Source: USC ICT 20 Years of Military Excellence

The gamified Society 5.0 and cyborg avatar capitalism pitched in Tokyo in December of 2019 originated in multi-national networks of electrical engineers, digital artists, and animatronic roboticists funded from bottomless defense contracts, tried out in amusement park rides and feature films. The people who work in these arenas are tasked with delivering ruthless anti-life efficiencies. Make it a game; spackle Star Wars “hero’s journey” branding over the rough edges; and wrap it in an aura of novelty and exclusivity. Then people will beat a path to your door to boost their children into a Flat Stanley world run by military psychologists dialing up custom realities with internet of everything quantum supercomputers.

Given that many of the eugenics programs centered mental and physical deficiencies that impacted the abilities of adults to participate in economically productive work, it’s not much of a stretch to envision a future where AI synthetic therapists pull panopticon data on individuals deemed at-risk of falling out of compliance with the consensus reality, assign them mental health diagnoses, and issue treatment orders for ICT reprogramming or containment. We can only hope there are no Hadamars this time around.

Our nation’s eugenics history has not disappeared. Some of the most sinister tendencies had gone underground. Some of them have been rebranded in socially acceptable terms. The fact that we rarely teach youth contextualized history means velvet glove brutality can hide in plain sight in the land of movie stars and militarized digital “magic.”

It is my contention before society acquiesces to incorporating biology and thought forms into cyber-physical systems, we must have a better understanding of the ways in which scientific management principles have been used over the past century to dehumanize and degrade labor. Against a backdrop of eugenics, are we willing to disrespect the bodies birthed by our mothers and trade them for cyborg puppet avatars with holographic capabilities?

Is that really the world we are leaving for the children, so California’s modern day eugenicists can bring Julian Huxley’s plans to fruition?