By the author of unsongbook.com

Book Review: Hive Mind

[Conflict of interest notice: Author Garett Jones sometimes reads this blog and is generally great.]

Garett Jones’ book Hive Mind is classic pop science writing: an intriguing hypothesis, a long parade of interesting studies presented as catchy anecdotes, and not too many follow-up questions.

Its subject (and subtitle) is “why your nation’s IQ matters more than your own”. The gap between rich and poor countries has proven surprisingly resilient, and conventional wisdom is finally getting its head around the idea that something more is going on than a couple of countries getting a head start and the rest of them needing a little time to catch up. Something more than just a temporary lack of capital must be separating the haves from the have-nots, and Jones thinks IQ must be part of the puzzle.

I like my science writing like I like my coffee – COVERED IN BEEEES!

He starts with what he calls “the paradox of IQ”. IQ doesn’t matter that much on a person-by-person basis. Sure, it’s correlated with measures of success like personal income, but only weakly. On the other hand, IQ is a very strong predictor of national success – a country’s average IQ score correlates very well with whether it’s industrialized, rich, First World, and all those nice things. Jones writes:

Looking at how individual student test scores predicted those students’ wages later in life, they found that individuals with higher test scores earned only slightly more than average within a given country, but nations with higher average test scores grew expcetionally fast. Here again is the paradox of IQ: standardized test scores – whether we call them IQ tests or math tests or something else – predict big national differences but only modest individual differences

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I’ll talk a little more about that claim in Part II of this review, but for now let’s take it seriously and assume causation. Why would IQ matter more for nations than for people?

Jones’ theory is that IQ is a measure of people’s ability to cooperate in prisoner’s dilemma style situations and seek non-zero-sum solutions. Countries where most people have high IQ will come up with mutually beneficial win-win institutions; those where most people have low IQ will be so busy taking advantage of each other and fighting over the pie that they’ll never build the institutions necessary for economic growth.

First he reviews research showing that IQ is closely linked to time preference; ie the higher your tested IQ the more likely you are to prefer a big payoff later to a smaller payoff now. For example, in a German experiment a few years ago, participants were offered 100 euros now or X euros in one year; every fifteen IQ points correponded to a €2.50 change in the value of X necessary for them to accept the latter, even after controlling for education, income, etc. The same thing seems to happen in real life, according to a great study that looked at a natural experiment in the US armed forces. When the military started downsizing after the Cold War, they offered enlisted personnel their choice of various different severance packages – some corresponded to a little money immediately, others to much more money over a longer period. Since the military keeps careful records of the IQ-at-time-of-recruitment of all of its personnel, this was a perfect real-world opportunity to see what happened. The results conformed to theory: IQ predicted tendency to take the longer-term but more lucrative package. There are about twenty studies confirming this result now. And there are also studies showing national IQ corresponds with that nation’s savings rate, and that individuals who are surrounded by patient frugal people will themselves act more patiently and frugally. If, as the old saying goes, building a good society is about “planting trees in whose shade you will never sit”, the people of high IQ nations have a big head start.

Second, he reviews the research from experimental game theory. A series of experiments performed in (of all places) a truck driving school investigated a Window Game. Two players are seated at a desk with a partition between them; there is a small window in the partition. Player A gets $5 and may pass as much of that as she wants through the window to Player B. Player B may then pass as much as she wants back through the window to Player A, after which the game ends. All money that passes through the window is tripled; eg if Player A passes the entire $5 through it becomes $15, and if Player B passes the $15 back it becomes $45 – making passing a lucrative strategy but one requiring lots of trust in the other player. I got briefly nerd-sniped trying to figure out the best (morally correct?) strategy here, but getting back to the point: players with high-IQ were more likely to pass money through the window. They were also more likely to reciprocate – ie repay good for good and bad for bad. In a Public Goods Game (each of N players starts with $10 and can put as much or as little as they like into a pot; afterwards the pot is tripled and redistributed to all players evenly, contributors and noncontributors alike), high-IQ players put more into the pot. They were also more likely to vote for rules penalizing noncontributors. They were also more likely to cooperate and more likely to play closer to traditional tit-for-tat on iterated prisoners’ dilemmas. The longer and more complicated the game, the more clearly a pattern emerged: having one high-IQ player was moderately good, but having all the players be high-IQ was amazing: they all caught on quickly, cooperated with one another, and built stable systems to enforce that cooperation. In a ten-round series run by Jones himself, games made entirely of high-IQ players had five times as much cooperation as average.

Not technically from the book, but nevertheless fascinating

Third, he reviews the so-called “O-ring theory of teams”, named after the spaceship part that malfunctioned during the Challenger explosion. The theory is: suppose that a spaceship requires a million different parts to work. This is more than just a million times harder than building a spaceship that requires one part to work. If you have a spaceship engineer who can build a part and be 99% sure she’s gotten it right, this is probably good enough for the one-part spaceship: a 99% success rate for a spaceship sounds pretty good. But if the spaceship uses a million parts and they all have to be perfect, your chances of success with a million such engineers is 0.99^1000000, aka zero. You had better find some better spaceship engineers! This gives high-IQ societies a big leg up when they’re working on complicated projects; a low-IQ society may have some high-IQ individuals who can do good work on their own, but including even a single low-IQ individual on a spaceship will screw it up big-time. This theory implies that people will end up segregated by ability. Imagine you have four spaceship engineers, two of whom are good (99% accuracy) and two of whom are mediocre (50% accuracy), and you want to build two two-part spaceships. If you pair up one good and one mediocre engineer on each, each of your spaceships will have a 0.99 * 0.50 = 49% chance of success, for a total of 0.98 projected successful spaceships. If you have the two good engineers work together on one ship, and the two mediocre ones work together on the other, you’ll have a 98% success rate on the first one and a 25% success rate on the second one, for a total of 1.23 projected successful spaceships. You’ve gained a quarter-spaceship just by segregating your engineers by ability. The more high-IQ people you have, the easier this is and the more you can devote your economy to complex things like million-part spaceships. The more low-IQ people you have, the harder this gets and the more your economy sticks to high-failure-tolerance but less lucrative products.

Finally, high-IQ people are smart (citation needed). They tend to know what policies are good and what policies are bad and vote for the good ones. Here Jones cites Bryan Caplan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter a lot, showing that voters aren’t very good at figuring out their own self-interest.

But he has a more positive spin: high-IQ voters do seem good at this. As a GMU economist, Jones’ measure for “are people voting rationally” is of course “how pro-free-market are they?”, and he finds that high IQ predicts pro-market attitudes pretty strongly and in fact better than years-of-education. In controlled experiments higher-IQ people were more likely to be able to admit that a test article contradicted their political bias, and in some countries (although not the US) high-IQ people are more likely to vote.

Then he ties all of this together into a kind of stationary-bandit framework, where government starts with selfish warlords who want to exploit the populace.


If you’re a high-IQ selfish warlord, and your oppressive ministers are likewise high-IQ, you have enough patience to realize that if you leave the capitalists alone to do their thing instead of confiscating their wealth immediately, in a couple of years they’ll have even more wealth you can confiscate. And if some kind of conflict comes up and threatens to lead to civil war, you are good at negotiating win-win solutions where everyone cooperates to increase the size of the pot. Jones lists a bunch of political situations that map to iterated prisoner’s dilemmas – for example, do both parties respect election results, or does the loser try to start a fight over it every time they’re forced out of government? Do bureaucracies try to run the country efficiently, or do they jockey for power against each other? Do military branches work together during operations, or does each one try to seize glory for its own leaders? If you have a high-IQ country, these problems have a way of just solving themselves – and sure enough, IQ scores correlate nicely with the Corruption Perceptions Index. And businesspeople know this, so they are happy to start complicated long-term projects in the countries with a history of tolerating such projects and not killing the golden-egg-laying geese.

Jones doesn’t go too deep into policy prescriptions, but he does mention two consequences of his theory. First, he’s a big fan of the Flynn Effect (secular trend of rising IQs) and thinks that countries ought to encourage this so that their national IQ gets higher and they can have more effective institutions – unfortunately, he doesn’t know what’s causing the Flynn Effect any more than anyone else does, so this sort of reads as “keep doing the thing we don’t know how we’re doing”. He does think that eliminating lead will help (did you know sub-Saharan Africa was the last region to ban leaded gasoline, all the way in 2006?) and he has the usual hopes for nutritional, educational and health interventions.

But of course the part everyone’s talking about is immigration. This is not a major focus of the book. Jones actually spends more time talking about all the benefits of immigration than anything else:

About a decade ago, dozens of American economists signed an open letter in support of more immigration. The letter touched on many points: that less-skilled immigrants appear to push down the wages of US born citizens little if at all, that immigration helps rich country economies in ways that don’t show up in official statistics, and that the biggest beneficiaries of less-skilled immigration are the immigrants themseles, whose lives are often transformed from a nightmares of dollar-a-day poverty to a realm of modest comfort, health and safety. The diplomatically crafted letter, circulated by the Independent Institute, was signed by economists on the left and the right. I’ve always been glad I signed this letter: it sums up the great promise of immigration…for people who care about ending the deepest poverty, migration should be at the top of the list of potential cures.

But he does devote about one-and-three-quarters pages to his concerns:

The economics of less-skilled immigration to richer, more productive countries are reasonably clear: life-changing good news for the immigrant with only fairly small effects one way or the other on so-called “native” less-skilled workers. That’s true when we look at the short run or when we look across towns and cities within the same country. And crucially, these studies hold politics aside and assume that less-skilled immigrants don’t have an effect on a high-skill nation’s government institutions. But if there’s something we’ve seen in previous chapters, or something we’ve seen in Bryan Caplan’s work on the link between voter education and voter beliefs, if there’s something we’ve seen in the cross-country studies that find that higher national average test scores tend to predict lower average levels of corruption and in the philosophical debates over epistocracy, it’s that good politics appears to depend on reasonably well-informed citizens. With this we come to a central tension of immigration among the currently less-skilled: the possible – I emphasize possible – effect on long-run institutions. Will less-skilled immigrants tend to vote for policies that will weaken the wealth-creating opportunities they’ve enjoyed? Or will less-skilled immigrants and their descendants instead build up high levels of human capital, perhaps raising the average information level of voters?

The whole paragraph has the feeling of somebody being dragged over a bed of hot coals, from the insistence on referring to unskilled immigrants as “currently less-skilled” and natives as “so-called native less-skilled workers” to the odd proposal at the end that maybe for some reason less-skilled workers will actually raise the average information level of voters, because who really knows? This book is emphatically not The Bell Curve. It’s a book about science which is deeply annoyed that it might have controversial political implications and tries to avoid them as carefully as possible, generally successfully.

II.

There were some parts of this book that I did not find convincing, or that at least left me with further questions.

First, Hive Mind‘s “central paradox” is why IQ has very little predictive power among individuals, but very high predictive power among nations. Jones’ answer is [long complicated theory of social cooperation]. Why not just “signal-to-noise ratio gets higher as sample size increases”?

Jones’ paradox was very similar to the question I asked in Beware Summary Statistics, except I was wondering not about nations, but about abstracted IQ deciles:

On a personal level, IQ has modest predictive power. But if you average out thousands of IQ 90 people, thousands of IQ 100 people, and thousands of IQ 110 people, the IQ-income relationship will become very clear. At this level of abstraction, it is no longer fair to describe it as “modest”.

That first block corresponds to people of about IQ 80, the last block to people of about IQ 120. As you move from 80 to 120, income practically quadruples. And this is within the United States, where we’ve got all sorts of minimum wage laws and so on likely to dampen the effects.

Or to give a more natural example – Jews have 10-15 points higher IQ than WASPs in America, and make about twice as much money. This happens even though most Jews do not solely interact with other Jews or make their own institutions – there are few opportunities for them to form a hive mind. Their individual IQ differences, once aggregated, seem to produce the strong effect.

There is much-larger between-country variance in income than between-individuals-in-country variance in income, but it doesn’t seem obvious to me that the percent of between-country variance explained by national IQ is larger than the percent of between-individuals-in-country explained by personal IQ once factors like personal job choice (I could have been an investment banker, but I would rather be an artist) that countries don’t have to deal with is abstracted out. If the amount-variance-explained between nations and between individuals were equal after adjusting for that factor, there would not be any need to posit hive mind-type effects.

[EDIT: Above heavily edited for clarity and correctness after originally being much weaker argument in same direction. See here. Some complicated discussion of this going on here, see especially Pseudoerasmus’ comments]

Although it may be that there’s a national effect stronger than the aggregated-individual effect, I feel like this is something Jones should have had to prove, rather than relying on a “look, it’s obvious!” based on unaggregated-individual numbers.

Second, fine. Let’s assume he proves to our satisfaction that the national IQ-income correlation is sufficiently stronger than individual ones to require explanation. Now we get to my biggest gripe with this entire book. How do we know the direction is IQ -> development rather than development -> IQ?!

Jones lays out exactly the set of assumptions that make reverse causation most plausible. He dedicates an entire chapter to the Flynn Effect, how he thinks it’s real, how he thinks it’s a big deal, without mentioning whether the gains might not be on g. Time and time again, Jones hammers how countries’ IQs increase as they develop further. Then he shows us a graph of IQ-development correlation and just assumes the causation is bidirectional. Well, why not just development -> IQ?

This isn’t just about me. I suspect Jones is right – though I’m not entirely sure of it – and sufficiently biased in favor of that position to be happy to follow it and see where it leads. I’m asking for anybody who reads this book without already being interested in IQ. Hive Mind is clearly pitched at a smart layperson audience, and any smart layperson who reads this book ought to have exactly that question, asked with exactly that many capital letters and explanation points. Any reader who doesn’t immediately stand on a chair and shout “Where is the evidence against reverse causation?” is not a reader that Garett Jones should want. But any reader who does that will not find an answer.


All I can say in his defense is that a good defense against this accusation would probably have to get very deep into the causes of IQ, exactly the subject Jones is carefully trying to avoid. I understand his reluctance to approach this subject and respect his strategic decision. All I can say is that it leaves a hole in his argument big enough to sail an oil tanker through.

[EDIT: Jones responds here]

Third, and this isn’t such a problem as the others but it left me curious – how do we go from the short, few-player games that make up most of the book’s experiments, to the multi-generation million-player games that make up real countries?

I have two concerns here. First, Jones says that:

The one study of which I’m aware that finds that higher-IQ individuals are more cruel and less cooperative is a study of a one-shot prisoners’ dilemma, something much like the true criminal’s prisoner’s dilemma. ..this is the only setting I know of in which high scorers are more brutal than low scorers…in a one-shot environment, if it’s either steal or be robbed, and if the players will never see each other again, then I’d expect higher-IQ individuals to figure out what setting they’re in and act shrewdly, not cruelly.

He returns to this theme a few times. High-IQ people don’t cooperate because they’re nicer (which, indeed, personality tests for niceness do not show). They cooperate because they’re smarter and so they know cooperation really is a better and more win-win way to do things.

This is 100% true in an iterated prisoners’ dilemma, but not necessarily true in a country. Suppose you’re a president with a four year term. You can either pillage the country as best you can and take whatever bribes you can get, or invest in genuinely building a better country for your descendents. Assuming you are merely the sort of shrewd cooperator who cooperates on iterated prisoners’ dilemmas but defects on one-shots, you’ll pillage the country – it probably has term limits and you only need to pillage once to get very rich.

Likewise, suppose you’re a mid-level bureaucrat in Washington, of the type that there are tens of thousands of. If you behave dishonorably, you can amass a small empire and make some money. If you behave honorably, then maybe America does very well as a country down the line, but that effect is aggregated over thousands of bureaucrats, so it’s not like you’re really growing the pot that much. Once again, if you are merely shrewd and not genuinely altruistic, you’ll defect.

Jones tries to take the easy way out on the deriving-ethical-behavior thing here, saying that ethical behavior really is the most self-serving option in the long-term, and all you need is people smart enough to realize it. To that I can only say: no it isn’t. In a game of two or three people where everyone sees everyone else’s results, your contribution may grow the pot enough to be worth the short-term losses from not defecting. In a game of thousands of bureaucrats or millions of citizens, not so much. There are ideas like TDT and superrationality that try to bridge this gap, but I think Jones tries to cross it without those ideas and is left floundering.

One more thing on this topic: maybe it was in the original studies and I just didn’t look deep enough, but I wonder how much of this is just understanding the game. The Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma is kind of complicated, and if you’re stupid you may not be able to grasp the logic behind why cooperation is sometimes the better option. If you explained everything very carefully to all participants, had them play a couple of games both ways so they got a feel for it, and had a Professor of Economics give a lecture on why cooperation was probably the best option, would high-IQ people still succeed more because of some innate cooperative tendency? Or would everyone else have figured out their secret and robbed them of their advantage?

People usually have a pretty good grasp of things that are going on in society. Jones compares marriage to a prisoner’s dilemma (where the optimal C-D outcome is “you cheat but your spouse stays faithful”). But people understand the terms of marriage, cultural evolution has had a long time to come up with beliefs and mores about marriage that even people too stupid to come up with them on their own follow, and some kind of complicated new game may not be the best analogue to the marriage problem.

III.

Jones ends the book with the following observation:

The best guess is that the cognitive skill of elites really does matter more than the nation’s average score. When it comes to institutional quality, Potrafke and I found that the cognitive skills of the top 5 percent did the better job of predicting property-rights friendly institutions, although the nation’s average score also did a reasonably good job as a predictor…for the time being it’s reasonable to start with the belief that a nation’s top performers matter more for the economy than a nation’s average performers.

Well, that’s interesting. All of this stuff about immigration and on how maybe we shouldn’t have open borders, and it turns out that as long as the top five percent are smart, everything is okay.

I would really like to see more on this. If America has higher IQ than Britain, but the members of Parliament have higher IQ than the members of Congress, which country will do better? What about a colonial nation where the administrators are from a nation that has a completely differnet IQ than the population? What about countries that have multiple mostly-segregated populations with different IQs? How much does the IQ of the government matter versus the IQ of the population itself?

(and now I wonder if Jones has read La Griffe on smart fractions [1, 2])

Come to think of it, doesn’t every nation have some pretty smart people at the highest echelons? Sub-Saharan Africa may be in the IQ doldrums, but we all know African economists, statesmen, etc whose work is top-notch. Doesn’t Jones’ call to raise national IQs with the Flynn Effect seem less pressing now? Haven’t the elites of Third World countries already probably been Flynn-ified, since they usually get good food, good medical care, and good education? Should we worry the Flynn Effect won’t help those countries further? Or should we hope that if we merely raise the IQ of a few people, that will be enough and we won’t have to have a mass nationwide campaign? (calling all CRISPR enthusiasts…)

Overall, I thought this book showcased some really neat results, had some good economics in it, and was very readable, but I didn’t come out of it feeling like its thesis was very proven.

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624 Responses to Book Review: Hive Mind

  1. notes says:

    I don’t think it would be as simple as staffing Parliament with high IQ individuals; the elites that he’s discussing have to be more diffuse than that.

    Neither China or India are renowned for their property-rights friendly institutions. Then again, in a normal distribution, if you’re looking far enough out on the tails (link courtesy of our host), having a larger population isn’t the answer.

    Still, that analysis is focused on people 5-6 standard deviations out. Does anyone think that Congress, or Parliament, or any other governing body you care to name, is staffed exclusively with people with IQs of 175+? Or even by a majority of 130+?

    And if we’re only looking 2-3 standard deviations out, and elite cognitive skills are what matters… why aren’t China and India outperforming? Or at the very least, performing similarly?

    Is that 5% number not wholly arbitrary? Maybe what he’s measuring is access to someone with good cognitive skills: sometimes, it’s enough to know whom to ask when a decision is hard. Sprinkle enough high-IQ individuals through the country, and maybe you get the results he’s finding — you’d certainly find the increased average he’s finding. How to test that, though?

    ETA: Well, the India/China difference is at least in part over different averages — China tests in at ~100, India at ~82. Over one SD difference in the averages. Still, India has a GDP per capita of ~$1500… so why does South Africa have one of ~$5000, with an average of 78? That factor of three difference isn’t so different from the factor of four Scott gives for income deciles in the US, but it’s in the wrong direction. (nb – SA GDP/c shows as ~$6,600 per World Bank, which only emphasizes the point).

    There’s some argument that India is itself the test case for’countries that have multiple mostly-segregated populations with different IQs’.

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    • Anonymous says:

      >Still, India has a GDP per capita of ~$1500… so why does South Africa have one of ~$5000, with an average of 78?

      For one thing, that IQ average is masking some differences in internal demographics – which may be especially relevant if the smart fraction theory is true.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Also South Africa is rapidly drifting towards some lower equilibrium from its peak around the end of the Apartheid.

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        • Wency says:

          South Africa is a natural resource driven economy and benefited heavily from the commodities resource boom:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000s_commodities_boom

          Its GDP per capita was flattish in the post-Apartheid years, then nearly doubled in the period from 2000-2005. Comparing its economic fortunes to those of India would be about as instructive as comparing India to, say, Qatar.

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          • Anonymous says:

            I rather meant the lack of maintenance of the infrastructure that makes a developed economy possible. The power plants are failing even now, because whoever administers them doesn’t appear to have a clue how to make them stop deteriorating due to age.

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          • Wency says:

            I’m sympathetic to the argument that some kind of deterioration is taking place, though I’d be curious if it is supported by any statistic that can be pointed to. So far, the lesson that appears in the economic statistics for South Africa (and many of its neighbors) is that the effect of global commodities prices on national income greatly outstrips any possible effect from competent vs. incompetent management.

            By extension, comparing economies with vastly different levels of natural resource endowment per capita is probably a bad idea if you want to learn anything about economic development besides the effect of natural resource endowments.

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    • Vaniver says:

      I don’t think it would be as simple as staffing Parliament with high IQ individuals; the elites that he’s discussing have to be more diffuse than that.

      Specifically, it’s the top 5%. That’s not the one-in-a-million political leadership, but enough to encompass everyone seriously involved in politics at all levels. (The federal government of the US, for example, employs about 1% of the population; all government levels employ about 17% of all US workers. Note the difference between “population” and “workers.”)

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  2. Anaxagoras says:

    Er, what does “This is more than just a million times harder than building a spaceship that requires one part to work.” mean? If there’s a 99% chance something will work, something a million times harder seems difficult to define except in the exponential way you do. After all, it can’t have a 1,000,000% chance of failure.

    Also, you observe that knowing how these iterated Prisoner’s Dilemmas work may be the source of the advantage, and that over time cultural mores will likely come to favor the socially optimal solutions even in cases where people can’t figure it out on their own. Do you think it’s possible that things like timeless decision theory are already embedded into social norms, in more easily graspable forms? If you found a persuasive argument that they were already followed to a large degree without people being aware of it, would that make you more confident that they are correct?

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    • aphyer says:

      You can interpret ‘harder’ in terms of ‘number of tries required’ (which you can imagine as a proxy for cost/time/resources spent building spaceships that explode until one works) — if a spaceship requires only one part to work, on average you expect it to take about 1.01 tries for you to build one, but if a spaceship requires a million parts it takes far more than 1.01 million tries.

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    • suntzuanime says:

      You can define it in terms of how many spaceship attempts you have to make before you get an expected value of one working spaceship. So a 1 part spaceship would need very slightly more than 1 attempt, and a one million part spaceship would need many orders of magnitude more than one million attempts.

      EDIT: yeah, what aphyer said

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      • John Schilling says:

        Mostly, we design our spaceships not to fail just because a part didn’t work. This makes the math you are trying to do, quite a bit harder, but the spaceships work a whole lot better.

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        • TrivialGravitas says:

          There’s some redundancies but there’s not a mass budget to make everything redundant. Components are tested for failure individually before assembly into subsystems, then the whole subsystem is tested, then if possible the whole vehicle.

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          • John Schilling says:

            We test the components, the subsystems, and the whole vehicle, and we try to make everything short of the primary structural elements multiply redundant. Exceptions to the latter rule have to be enumerated, justified, and consciously accepted as risk items. I do this for a living, you know.

            And as it turns out, the Challenger O-rings were redundant, with a primary and backup seal. Unfortunately both of the same design. Safety tip – what you really want, if you can possibly arrange it, is dissimilar redundancy. Two different ways to accomplish the same thing, or at least two different designs and manufacturers. Lots of people miss that part.

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        • RCF says:

          “we design our spaceships not to fail just because a part didn’t work”

          I find this to be an example of how the “don’t split infinitives” meme makes writing worse.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Why do you think “to not fail” would be better?

            It sounds the same or worse to me. In fact, I’m sure it’s worse.

            The first alternative is: not (to fail just because a part didn’t work). We are negating the suggestion that the spaceship fails just because a part didn’t work.

            The second alternative is: to (not fail just because a part didn’t work). The syntax suggests that the spaceship “not-fails”, i.e. succeeds, just because a part didn’t work. But obviously the spaceship doesn’t succeed because a part didn’t work.

            Obviously, the intended meaning of the second still can be grasped, but it doesn’t seem better.

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        • Daniel Speyer says:

          The math’s not that hard.

          If a space ship has 500k pairs of components such that at least one out of each pair must work for the ship to function, and each component has a 99% chance of working (uncorrelated), the ship’s chances are (1-.01^2)^500k=10^-22.

          Which means we need *more* redundancy. There isn’t weight for redundant components, but redundant design reviews, redundant preflight testing…

          Which means that in addition to being competent spaceship engineers, our staff need to understand this sort of process. And I suspect that to maintain that culture, you need all the staff to understand it.

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    • Peter Gerdes says:

      How about we just take it as a figure of speech as one should do when charitably interpreting someone’s speech.

      Million = The number of tasks being put together to accomplish some larger objective.

      harder = Level of resources and effort required / difficulty of the task … general suckage

      So it just means reducing the reliability of parts increases the difficulty of building a functioning rocket far more than one would expect. In other words the effect of reduced reliability in this case is much larger than it is in our usual endeavors where individual sub-tasks can be easily verified and retried if they fail (when I cook I don’t need to wait until the final product to tell if the individual ingredients are bad like most tasks)

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      • suntzuanime says:

        But it’s not a figure of speech, it’s a model. And it’s totally coherent, no charity required. If you “charitably” interpret it as a metaphor you won’t get the actual mathematical point that’s being made in the model, you’ll just see vague platitudes.

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    • Kiya says:

      aphyer’s explanation is good.

      Another way to mathematically interpret “1,000,000 times harder” is that while you can’t have a 1,000,000% chance of failure, you can have a (99/1,000,000)% chance of success. Choose whichever of the probabilities you can multiply/divide to yield a reasonable result.

      This is sometimes ambiguous; would “10 times harder” be 1/10 probability of success (9.9% success, 90.1% failure, equivalent to what aphyer’s method would give if I remember how to sum series) or 10x probability of failure (90% success, 10% failure)? But while aphyer’s formalization is mathematically nicer, I think mine is more likely to be what people mean when they say “n times harder/better/more likely”.

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  3. Douglas Knight says:

    participants were offered 100 euros now or X euros in one year; every fifteen IQ points correponded to a €2.50 change in the value of X necessary for them to accept the latter

    That sounds like a very small effect.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Doesn’t it kind of correspond to an interest rate? An interest rate of 2.5% versus 5% is a pretty big deal in the wild.

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      • Douglas Knight says:

        The paper Jones cites describes an earlier paper:

        They find that students with lower math scores are more likely to make impatient choices (e.g., preferring $0.79 today over $1.50 in one week)

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        • Error says:

          At those sizes, I’d take the $0.79 too; the additional $0.71 from waiting is worth less than the time it would take for me to come back to pick it up.

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          • Desertopa says:

            I participated in a discount rate study once, and there was no “go back in to pick it up” involved. They gave me a card they could deposit money onto, and deposited money onto it at the appointed time.

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          • Peter says:

            And you have to remember that you are supposed to get that money at a later time. Even if this is supposed to be done automatically you might still want to keep it in mind to see if they really do pay you at that later time. And if they don’t pay, how much hassle will it be to get the to pay? So the size of the payment would be very important to me.

            I would probably take $1 now instead of $2 a week later just so I don’t have to think about it any more. $2000 sounds better a week later. But if it was 1 or 2 millions I would have to carefully consider the chances that the entity might go bankruptcy before the later date or perhaps there are some small print in the contract that they will use to avoid paying me.

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        • dndnrsn says:

          Is there any particular reasons that these studies are done with such small amounts?

          On an intellectual level, the question is “money now or almost double the money in a week”. Phrased as an investment, that’s so good as to be unbelievable.

          But as Error notes, when the amounts are so small, you don’t need to be impatient and bad at math to conclude that the difference between carrying around some pocket change and being able to afford a chocolate bar next week is kind of underwhelming.

          Similarly, the difference between 100 now and 102.5, 105, etc in a year is kind of insignificant.

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          • ryan says:

            I am not a doctor, but my medical prognosis is the researchers conducting the studies are sorely lacking Scrooge McDuckian vaults full of liquid assets.

            Jokes aside, I think you’re making a really good point. Maybe Zuckerberg’s new charity wants to fund some upper class research.

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          • dndnrsn says:

            How often do they do these sort of tests with items of value rather than cash? Things can be purchased wholesale, so even if people are aware of their retail value it’s probably better for the budget than cash.

            If these psychology studies are being done with university students, just ask them “beer now or six-pack in a month”.

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          • weareastrangemonkey says:

            They have replicated a lot of experiments in much poorer countries where the real value of the money involved is large. For example, in the case of the Ultimatum game in Indonesia the amounts of money involved are three times the average monthly expenditure of a participant. It did not change the outcome of the game by as much as expected: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1465-7295.1999.tb01415.x/abstract

            I don’t know if this has been done with the experiments mentioned in Hive Mind.

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          • Jiro says:

            I’d think that someone in a third world country would have particularly good reasons for a high discount rate., because every day life is full of corruption and they probably all need money now.

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          • dndnrsn says:

            weareastrangemonkey:

            Thanks. It’s good to see some results that aren’t based on “random undergrads taking psych 101 being offered a few bucks”.

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      • Deiseach says:

        Some of this could indeed be “Stupid people are too impatient to wait for more money”. But some of it could be “How do I know in a year’s time these people will pay me the money?” or “I need the money now, because I have to pay rent or be evicted, so I’ll take the immediate payoff even though I know it would be better to wait” or “It is inconvenient for me to come back here in a year’s time because I’ll be on the other side of the country so I’ll take the money now”.

        How much is this “Smarter people know the ‘correct’ answer to the test question is to say: ‘I’ll wait’, even if they might have a personal preference to take ‘money now in the hand over a promise in a year’s time’, and they also know the ‘correct’ answer is to choose to wait longer”?

        I mean, if I had one of these tests, my own preference would be “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” but I also know enough about these tests to know “No, the ‘right’ answer is to say you’ll wait”, so that is the one I’d pick. That has nothing to do with me being smart and all to do with me knowing that picking “now” over “later” gets you labelled as impatient, impulsive, a loser, stupid, etc. from all those nice studies on children and marshmallows.

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        • John Schilling says:

          I hadn’t thought about it in quite those terms, but yes. Any test or survey like this, you’ll get three types of respondents:

          1 – People who will take at face value a claim that they will be paid €102.50 or whatever, next year. You know… morons.

          2 – People who will automatically apply a discount to such claims on the grounds that people offering them hopes and promises in exchange for cash money just might not be completely honest.

          3 – People who expect you will think highly of them, or will think highly of themselves, to the extent that you can accurately pretend to be one of the people in group 1.

          Trying to tease meaning out of the responses will require a finely-tuned assessment of the relative sizes of these groups. Good luck with that.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            Does anyone know if “correctly” applying discounting is ever used in IQ tests?

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          • Deiseach says:

            Isn’t that really the basis of most cons? “Friend, I can give you a much higher return than the market if you only invest with me and wait a year!”

            So you could say the type of people who would pick “If I wait a year I will get 102.50 dollars instead of 100 dollars” are also the types who fall for advance fee scams which explains why so many smart businesspeople fell for the story that yes, a lawyer representing a corrupt Nigerian ex-politician will indeed pay you a fat slice of the ill-gotten gains, even though he admits the guy made his money by defrauding and swindling his own people. (I was never able to find it in myself to sympathise with someone willing to take dirty money and then finding themselves the biter bit).

            “But those nice people in that study I participated in while I was at university did give me the whole dollar a week later instead of the seventy-nine cents straight away! So of course I believed this professional gentleman with the quaint use of English was on the level!” 🙂

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        • RCF says:

          “I need the money now, because I have to pay rent or be evicted, so I’ll take the immediate payoff even though I know it would be better to wait”

          That’s pretty much the definition of having a high discount rate.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            Is it?

            I mean, if you are evicted, the net cost to you is greater than than 2.50 you would get in a year. Hell, the utility value of moving next month rather than this month is greater than 2.50.

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          • RCF says:

            It’s not really clear what point you’re trying to make. Discount rate can be due to psychological issues, but it can also be due to a rational response to one’s financial situation. If you have student loans with an interest rate of 6%, then your discount rate is going to be at least 6%. If you have a start up that you’re convinced is going to have a ROI of 50%, then your discount rate is going to be at least 33%.

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          • I think the point is that sometimes people who have a high discount rate are portrayed as though it’s an internal aspect of them which is simply evidence that they have something wrong with them.

            If some of the people with high discount rates are reacting rationally, either because they have urgent uses for money or because they have good reason to expect that savings will get lost and/or contracts won’t be kept, then the high discount rate isn’t something wrong with the person. The interesting question might be whether there are people who adapt to their circumstances by adjusting their discount rates.

            Another angle (and which gets back to the hive mind) is that your rational choice of discount rate is affected by the discount rates of the people around you.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @RCF:

            What Nancy Lebovitz said.

            As an example, there was a “what is your rationality type” website linked here a few months ago, and when I took it, I was dinged for not applying discount consistently over the multiple examples.

            But of course the details of a scenario effect whether I believe the future outcome will occur. Discount rate shouldn’t be expected to be the same for different scenarios, and yet the website imposed such an expectation.

            That was the genesis of my question above about IQ tests and discount rates.

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        • Salem says:

          But lots of the people who took the money now, didn’t get round to cashing the cheque by the time they’d have gotten the money “later.” So your theory doesn’t fly.

          It’s hyperbolic discounting, lack of conscientiousness, and lack of self-control. I don’t blame genetics, though, I blame their upbringing. That kind of behaviour is probably the default state of mankind.

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      • Danny says:

        I’d presume X would have to be quite a lot higher than 2.5 though before anyone would take it?

        Everyone seems to have latched onto the numbers 102.50 and 105, but the actual switching points were much higher than that (a quarter of people switched at ~$150)
        http://ftp.iza.org/dp2735.pdf

        “the coefficients imply that a one standard deviation increase in cognitive ability leads an individual to switch about one row earlier, corresponding to a 9 percent decrease in the rate of return needed to induce the median individual to switch to preferring the delayed payment.”

        “For the median subject, who switches in row 11, the discount rate is in the interval from 25 to 27.5 percent, and the coefficients in columns (6) and (8) of Table 1 imply that a one standard deviation increase in performance on the symbol correspondence or word frequency test is associated with a 2.98 or 2.30 percentage point decrease in the annual discount rate, respectively.”

        “A one-standard deviation increase in the symbol correspondence test score (word ∞uency test score) is associated with a 1.5 (1.2) percentage point decrease in the discount rate.”

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        • Douglas Knight says:

          Thanks! I did indeed misread the article, at least when I made my second comment. But that is pretty much what I thought when I left my first comment. If the cost of trust is 25% and a standard deviation of IQ moves that number up or down by 2.5%, that sounds to me like a pretty small effect, that trust has little to do with IQ. IQ 85 requires €127.5, IQ 100 €125, IQ 115 €122.5. The 15% dumbest people require 10% more trust; 15% smartest people require 10% less trust.

          (I thought it said that there were only 4 grades, 102.5-110. If I had understood that the median number was 25, I would not have quoted the other article. The other article, with only a week’s delay, does suggest that this is mainly about trust and not temporal discount.)

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    • HeelBearCub says:

      To echo what a number of commentors have already pointed out, it seems like trust is a huge part of the equation. From a Bayesian perspective we could describe trust as “What it is my prior that a promised future payout will be made and I will utilize it”.

      I have ADD. I don’t even want a gift card. Put a deposit in my bank account or give me cash right now, thank you very much.

      But of course that is merely singular and anecdotal. But it strikes me that, the lower your IQ, the less confidence you will have in your ability to predict future events accurately. You may not even know that this is the source of your lack of trust in promised future events. You may simply think that people tend to screw you.

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      • RCF says:

        If they’re planning on screwing people over, why would they pay the money now either? This isn’t some random person asking you to give them 100 euros now in exchange for a promise to pay 100+x in a year (although it may be activating the neural modules relating to such a situation).

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        • HeelBearCub says:

          I said the actual mechanism was the fact that they aren’t good at predicting future events.

          So, when I take their money now, I don’t get screwed. When I think I will get the money later, I get “screwed” (because I am bad at predicting even though I don’t know it).

          (The fact that this might actually be true the lower your income, and therefore the income of your cohorts, which is also correlated with IQ, might also be a factor.)

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  4. B.B. says:

    Since Jones very wisely kept far away from race and IQ, it falls to us to figure out how that plays into his thesis. We know that Jews are 10-15 IQ points higher than the US average; they also earn about twice as much as the average American. We know that African-Americans are about 10-15 IQ points lower than the US average; they only earn about 66% as much as the average American.

    Robert A. Gordon criticized Herrnstein & Murray for under-estimating the role IQ plays in racial differences in outcomes because their individual-level analysis ignores how group differences magnify disparate outcomes due to greater assortative affiliation to populations with differing mean IQs.

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    • ryan says:

      I was watching some PBS special on this phenomena. Smallish towns grow in population to the point that it begins to make sense to have two high schools. One average IQ school splits into one high IQ and one low IQ school. Of course that’s not what PBS called the schools, but, you know, PBS.

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  5. Jiro says:

    All of this stuff about immigration and on how maybe we shouldn’t have open borders, and it turns out that as long as the top five percent are smart, everything is okay.

    This confuses correlation and causation. It’s like saying that if most people in the country have credit cards, the country will do well. It doesn’t follow you can make your country do well by giving everyone credit cards.

    It may also be the case that multiple factors affect whether a country has strong property rights, with the intelligence of the top 5% being one such factor. If you study only the intelligence you will see it correlated with property rights, but it may be that immigration comes with other factors that more than negate the effect of the intelligence factor.

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    • Svejk says:

      It would be interesting to investigate how the prospect of immigration might affect strategies employed during an iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma. A significant portion of the investment in strong institutions can be described as inter-generational wealth transfer to a society’s descendants; this model is often made explicit when calls for greater self-sacrifice are made (“reduce your carbon footprint to benefit your grandchildren”, “fight the Hun to secure your children’s freedoms”, or even simply “build a school rather than enjoy a property tax cut”). How might willingness to invest change if the beneficiaries of the sacrifice are not your or your neighbor’s children? Note that in diverse nations like the United States or Canada, this calculus does not necessarily have a racial or sectarian angle – perhaps smart people are very good at extending Hamilton’s rule through time, and even abstracting it to include ‘cultural’ kin and reciprocal entanglements, but might be less willing to extend it indefinitely.

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      • RCF says:

        “build a school rather than enjoy a property tax cut”

        It’s a bit simplistic to say that building a school constitutes a transfer of wealth to the next generation. A property tax cut would mean that people have more money to leave to their kids. This is why such arguments as “We should raise taxes so we won’t leave such a large national debt to our children” are problematic: if you want to leave more money your children, is handing your money over to the government now any better than leaving the money to your kids for them to give to the government later? The key issue is whether the discounted future value of the school is greater than its cost. Focusing on whether we’re willing to “sacrifice” is the wrong metric.

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        • Svejk says:

          That’s part of the point. Most sacrifices have at least some selfish component – I would expect immigration to affect the discount rate applied to certain public investments relative to private holdings.
          The effect may of course be trivial relative to other considerations. It’s just interesting to speculate in the context of a cooperation model where the agents can change.

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    • rose says:

      >All of this stuff about immigration and on how maybe we shouldn’t have open borders, and it turns out that as long as the top five percent are smart, everything is okay.

      One thing that is not okay is the political health of the country. When most of the populace does not want a policy, because it favors the top five percent for example (illegal cheap labor not so good for the citizen laboring classes), but the elite crams it down their throats, with both parties colluding against the will of the people, you have undermined your representative form of government. The result is the populace will turn to those who listen to them – a Trump, a Le Pen. this is not a positive development. REally high IQ people would be more respectful of the institutions that bind a society together in shared values.

      any successfully married person knows that insisting that you are right is the surest way to divorce.

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  6. IQ is mostly derived or inferred from sitting in a room and taking boring exams. Hypersocial people will probably not have their full range of potential intelligence reflected well in instruments devised by people who find sitting in a room and taking boring exams…not so boring. It would also affect project development that required solitude and focused concentration.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Jones devoted a chapter or two to debunking this, but I foolishly skipped over writing about it because I figured people here wouldn’t need it. IQ predicts success in various real-world occupations, correlates with things like height and life expectancy, and can be measured in all sorts of interesting ways like reaction time. It doesn’t necessarily have much to do with exams.

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      • onyomi says:

        And maybe ability to tolerate boredom is a predictor of success in modern society.

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      • Anon says:

        Segue, but what’s the deal with that height correlation? I’ve heard that multiple times before, but I’ve never seen the source of that result. Do we have knowledge of what that relationship entails?

        Is it:
        1. the relationship itself–call it a “rich get richer” effect–where people who get the life benefits of height also tend to get the life benefits of high IQ?

        2. some sort of developmental/stress effect (e.g., taller people have, on average, higher status and thus lower social risk, leading to lower stress, more robust development including IQ and health? (See, for instance, social judgment stress and chronic underperformance in things like stereotype threat research)

        (Bonus round for the diathesis/stress model: does height predict any class of psychopathology at all, net of IQ?)

        3. A outlier/third-variable issue–developmental disorders (more or less prominent) that both inhibit growth and cause some intellectual retardation? (e.g., Down’s syndrome tends to reduce height, though that might be too extreme an example)

        4. other kinds of external third-variables (poor nutrition, parasite load) (Though wasn’t this last one recently not supported?)

        5. Rich-Get-Richer 2.0 – traits are unlinked, but both traits are attractive and confer sexual selection power, so there tends to be some clustering over generations that can be found in the population (if so, do other attractiveness measures covary with IQ, too?)

        The direct explanation of a “pure” genetic height/bright relationship seems to me the least plausible on face. Why would bone growth plate structure and neurological configuration be genetically linked? So even if that’s indeed what it is, I’m really curious how well other explanations have been ruled out.

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        • Loquat says:

          Nutrition almost certainly plays a large role, even if other factors also contribute – it’s well known that poor nutrition leads to stunted growth, and it’s also known that lack of essential nutrients in childhood impairs brain development. Give a child an ample supply of all essential nutrients, and it’ll likely grow up on the high end of its range of genetic potential for both height and IQ.

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        • excess_kurtosis says:

          Most “good” things are (weakly) correlated with each other, and there’s some genetic covariance analysis looking at twin/sibling pairs that suggests the bulk of the link is genetic. There’s also decent evidence that the correlation isn’t explained by parental income/education from the Swedish conscription dataset.

          It’s also worth remembering that IQ is weakly correlated with other things, such as interviewer rated charm and attractiveness and facial symmetry.

          One explanation that has gotten more popular lately is the “mutational load” theory. The naive oversimplification is that you have an “ideal” human, and most mutations that happen are deleterious, and not just deleterious in one way, but in all kinds of ways. As you gradually accumulate more of these bad mutations, you degrade the quality of your overall system . So “overall number of bad mutations” is sort of a meta-factor that should be correlated with basically everything that there’s selective pressure on (height, strength, IQ, social skills, attractiveness, etc).

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          • Anon says:

            Thanks,

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Height_and_intelligence#Explanations_of_the_correlation

            Apparently this particular relationship is interesting enough that there’s a WP page specifically for it. That said, I don’t think it really gets to the point. For instance, depending on how its done, common genetic variance might not mean anything.

            If, for instance, #2 is true, taller people may have either lower stress from higher social power, or even more ability to explore due to a “halo effect” like phenomenon, and you might see an “IQ genetic effect” that is in fact ENTIRELY mediated by the effects of those genes on height.

            Also, as mentioned, observed genetic covariance could still be a result of sexual selection over time (though the cited Beauchamp article’s title implies they at least attempted to control for that).

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          • Jaskologist says:

            Given sexual reproduction, shouldn’t we expect positive traits to correlate? If I have lots of desirable traits, I should be able to get a mate with lots of desirable traits, and our kids will then have some combination of those traits. The traits need not have any deeper connection.

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          • I would expect that if the relationship between height and intelligence is at least partially a result of how people of various heights are treated, then the effect should be stronger for men. So far as I know, height is unambiguously favored for me (possibly up to some limit), while the situation for women is more complicated.

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          • Douglas Knight says:

            Where is the evidence that the bulk of the correlation is genetic? The wikipedia article linked by Anon cites two studies claiming that the correlation is 2:1 environmental to genetic.

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          • anon says:

            IIRC Scott had a post on his old livejournal about mutation loads and how genetic engineering to fix them could be a universally agreed upon way to improve the human condition for future generations. I’m interested if he still agrees with his stated position then that he’d trust the government to mitigate the worst effects of having an objective way to measure which human beings were better or worse than one another.

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        • Douglas Knight says:

          One elaboration of the mutational load theory is that a typical mutation degrades the ability to, say, extract vitamins from food. Thus the mutation causes poor nutrition, which in turn reduces both height and IQ. Despite there being virtually no dietary malnutrition in the populations under consideration.

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        • Linch says:

          “The direct explanation of a “pure” genetic height/bright relationship seems to me the least plausible on face. Why would bone growth plate structure and neurological configuration be genetically linked?” Hmm…is it plausible that taller people also have physically bigger brains, and that this correlates non-trivially with IQ?

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    • Steve Sailer says:

      IQ tests can also measure conscientiousness to some extent: are you willing to sit there and work hard on an exam, even though it’s boring and tiring? So some of the predictive power of IQ tests comes not just from measuring sheer intelligence, but because the tests also measure things like cooperativeness and stick-to-itiveness. Both intelligence and conscientiousness have real world consequences.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Intelligence may also lead to its possessor to realize that conscientiousness is a winning habit, and attempting to emulate it, even with a lack of innate predisposition for it.

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        • Ghatanathoah says:

          The opposite can happen as well. A highly conscientious person with little native intelligence can raise their IQ by diligently pursuing intellectual activities.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Does that actually work? If so, I would figure that intensive preps to IQ tests (with external motivators) would be highly effective.

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          • Science says:

            Do we have strong evidence that intensive preps to IQ tests aren’t highly effective?

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          • Anonymous says:

            Dunno. Intuitively, they’re not, because they’re normalized to put 100 in the middle of the distribution. If people game it, it gets rescaled. Further, the various tests that approximate IQ tests, given out in schools in the US, would very quickly become binary – either you get a perfect score, or you’re just too dumb.

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          • ryan says:

            @Science

            I don’t know exactly what you might mean by preps to IQ tests. However accurate results require a lack of preparation on the part of the test taker. So for example professionals won’t administer a second IQ test for at least a year after a first, otherwise the results will be skewed high. They also sign confidentiality agreements with the test making companies agreeing not to make any of the test questions or scoring methodology public.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @ryan:
            Can you share a link or back that up with some evidence?

            Because that would seem to me to blow the idea of IQ tests out of the water. A big chunk of what you are measuring would just be exposure to similar problems.

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          • science says:

            @Anonymous
            I don’t see why a test being preppable means that it will degrade into a binary. Nor do I see evidence that because a test is preppable everyone will prep for it. Even if perhaps they should were they acting fully rationally from the outside view.

            The mean drift is a good point, and may go part of the way to explaining the Flynn Effect.

            @ryan
            The intensive preps language came from anonymous. My question was mostly rhetorical as I’m under the same impression re: efficacy of prepping that you are.

            @HeelBearCub
            As long as no one was using IQ tests for anything they were fine. But once you change that they start to become less useful a la Goodhart’s law.

            I’m hard pressed to even conceive of a test that couldn’t be prepped for. What is out there that people don’t get better with after practice?

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @science:

            Isn’t it claimed that IQ tests are not tests of knowledge?

            Say there are lots of logic problems on IQ tests. Some portion of logic problems is being able to do logic, but some portion of success is just being familiar with logic problems in general. If IQ tests can’t correct for that, then they aren’t really measuring what they say they are measuring.

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          • Science says:

            They aren’t measuring g they are or perhaps better, were at a point in time, well correlated to g. I’m not optimistic that relationship will be stable over time. At least as to specific exam forms and probably as to entire families of exam forms. The more high stakes decisions that are based on them the faster I expect that relationship will degrade.

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          • ryan says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I don’t know where to find this information on the internet. My personal source is my mom who has a PhD in child psychology and has professionally administered IQ tests for about 35 years.

            You hit on kind of exactly the problem. An IQ test won’t properly measure g unless the tasks called for are different from what kids normally do. That’s why you end up with weird kinds of tests. How much time to normal 8 year olds spend imagining how 2-D objects would look if you folded them into 3-D for example? Or listening to a string of numbers and repeating them backwards?

            But to reiterate the test taker needs to be unprepared for the test to be a good measure of g. If some kid for whatever reason did spend a lot of time playing the repeat numbers backwards game then the score is going to overestimate g.

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          • Steve Sailer says:

            Trends in the 21st Century suggest that massive, years-long test prep is more effective than was previously imagined.

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          • Steve Sailer says:

            A real world example of test prepping for IQ tests occurred in New York City where the exclusive kindergartens (yes, in Manhattan and Brooklyn there are exclusive kindergartens) used for decades the Wechsler IQ test for children to sort four year old applicants. This worked fine for years, but then parents started hiring test prep consultants and a test prep industry emerged.

            This particular IQ test was always intended to be a diagnostic test to be used only by people with an honest interest in what it showed, not an interest in beating the test. So it lacked defenses against prepping, which became rampant. A few years ago it was dumped in favor of another test.

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          • Steve Sailer says:

            Looking at it from the glass-half-full-perspective, IQ tests and the like have worked fairly well for a century now, which is pretty amazing in the social sciences. As Steven Pinker recently pointed out, the Replicability Crisis in psychology affects IQ testing less than just about anything else in the field.

            On the other hand, the glass is part empty too. East Asians have been test prepping for at least 1400 years, and it’s becoming clearer that some East Asian massive test prep techniques really do move the needle on high stakes tests more than the kind of amateurish test prep that Western kids were doing in the 1960s.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @ryan @science:
            I think the implication is also that the further away the life experiences of the individual being tested are from the cohort which was used to norm the test, the less indicative of g the test will be.

            As a ludicrous example, suppose you develop an IQ test, and the cohort you use to develop the test is “isolated Amazonian tribes”. Now take that test and give it to the physics department at Cal-Berkeley. How badly will do then at correlating with g in Cal-Berkeley physics professors?

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          • science says:

            IQ has a lot of problems. The studies finding tight correlations to various things are fairly old and WEIRD, or depend for their result on findings that are fairly old and WEIRD. When you go to dig up those studies they aren’t always the best methodologically speak, partly because they are old. There’s even fuzziness around how IQ is defined, particularly when dealing with children. The purveyors of tests tend to use some pretty dubious statistical techniques (e.g. confidence intervals < 90%). And so on.

            However, if you look at things in a sort-of sociology of science fashion, where we are now is a background of disreputability for IQ based arguments due largely to distaste with some of the implications and a backlash movement trying to bring IQ back into the discussion. It is also relevant background that many but not all members of the backlash movement are obnoxious and have unrelated right wing views. So when you point out the fact that IQ has problems as science it looks a lot like you are just trying to maintain the intellectual blockade against it for PC reasons. Hence you get pissing matches rather than reasonable discussion even if the pissing matches are dressed up to sound like reasonable scientific discussion (kind of like the endless climate science debates).

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @science:
            OK, I get that.

            But isn’t it a perfectly valid, from a scientific point of view, to point out that trying to IQ test someone in a 3rd world country is going to run into exactly the sort of confounding I point out? Do we have people who are experts in both IQ testing and, say, Kenya, developing Kenyan specific IQ tests? Would that even be the right approach?

            I mean, if we can’t ask that around here and have it treated as a serious question …. I really have to wonder.

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          • science says:

            There are culture agnostic test forms out there. I haven’t read any of their validation studies, so I can’t give an informed opinion but the fact that we don’t just call them IQ tests makes me somewhat skeptical.

            Just to sum up in case my position isn’t clear: I don’t think that IQ and the studies based on them are completely worthless, but I think they need to be taken with a big grain of salt. It is most useful for the purpose it was designed for: clinical use in children not too far from the mean.

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      • Neurno says:

        An important point to consider is that there is high overlap in the cortical areas known to be important for both (e.g. Broadmann’s areas 9,10,11,47. For an example piece of evidence for 9 see this paper on DLPFC damage http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24405294 ). So, that reduces the need to concern oneself too much with precisely separately judging and tracking the two different traits: abstract problem solving and conscientiousness.

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      • ryan says:

        There are two ships passing in the evening here:

        – The character trait of being able to sit and take some boring exam for hours on end my be advantageous in society

        – Professional IQ testing (eg the WISC-V administered by someone with a psychology degree and a state license) needs to control for the fact that third grade kids don’t like to sit and take boring exams. So they they are designed to be highly interactive and not take very long. Most of the questions and answers are given verbally, and individual test sections don’t last more than 15 minutes or so.

        One more fun fact, all scores over 145-150 are practically the same because the WISC isn’t normed to differentiate g well at that high a level.

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    • JK says:

      In this meta-analysis, the correlation of IQ and extraversion was 0.02 (see table 3).

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    • I don’t think I can square your theory with how well IQ correlates with reaction speed.

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    • ryan says:

      Professional IQ testing is highly interactive with most of the questions and answers being verbal. Each section only lasts 15 minutes at most and the whole thing takes about an hour and a half. The test taker will also get to take a break in the middle to have something to drink and play with the cute doggie (if my mom happens to be giving the test).

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  7. Randy M says:

    “without any mention anything about whether the gains might not be on g. ”
    Probably should remove any and make mention “mentioning”

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  8. Wrong Species says:

    In the last open thread I mentioned that he briefly discusses how East Asian countries had high IQs before they got rich. But wouldn’t the best way to see if “development causes high IQ” is true is look at immigrants from poor countries? How does the IQ of poor immigrants from low IQ countries compare to their children?

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think moderate gains but not all the way up to the level of the host nation, but I’m not sure.

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      • They usually fully converge if they fully acculturate. The Irish, Italians, and Poles used to be in the same place Latinos are now but their IQs have long since converged with US standard. I’d be willing to bet that in 60 years the descendants of Mexican immigrants will be seen as “white” too and have the same IQs as other white people.

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        • Neanderthal From Mordor says:

          Richwine got watsoned for refuting convergence for Hispanics.

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          • ryan says:

            Richwine’s premise was that because people have similar last names we should expect the same effect when they immigrate to the country. I can’t imagine he’d miss the point if you asked him flat out if it made a difference whether a Mayan from Guatamala moves to California to pick tomatoes or a Spaniard from Monterrey moves to San Antonio to set up a branch of his family’s Audi dealership. For whatever reason though “Hispanic” is a group subject to research even though the people lumped together often have nothing to do with each other.

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        • Mark Atwood says:

          I’d be willing to bet that in 60 years the descendants of Mexican immigrants will be seen as “white” too

          It’s happening *now*.

          I’ve got current and past coworkers and neighbors who grew up speaking Spanish, or who’s parents or grandparents grew up speaking Spanish, and who were born south of the US border, who act, talk, dress… um.. [term redacted and replaced] “fully integrated”.

          My LTGF was born in LA county, grew up speaking Spanish, and over half her family is south of the border or in Florida. You would never ever guess from looking at her.

          I like pointing out and blowing people’s minds with the fact that the most favorite fictional US president is Hispanic

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Who is the most favorite fictional president?

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          • meyerkev248 says:

            President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho

            /Heck I’d vote for him. He seemed to be trying to do what he thought was right, and has all of Trump’s entertainment value besides.

            His state of the Union

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          • Nornagest says:

            He’s probably talking about the guy from “The West Wing”, played by Martin Sheen (who’s half Spanish, though Spaniards aren’t what most Americans think of when they hear “Hispanic”).

            If it came to a popularity contest I’m not sure if he’d beat the guys from “Independence Day” or “Air Force One”. Personally, I preferred the guy from “Metal Wolf Chaos”, but that’s kind of obscure and very silly.

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          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: Ah yes, the only President besides Richard Nixon to have a giant robot.

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          • Nornagest says:

            A giant robot covers a multitude of sins.

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          • excess_kurtosis says:

            This is the lazy CW, but it really doesn’t empirically bare out. If you look at administrative data (say, a Florida voter file), the percentage of people with hispanic surnames who identify as hispanic instead of white has been shrinking, not growing, over time. We’re generally seeing the strengthening of a pan-hispanic ethnic identity, not a weakening.

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          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >I like pointing out and blowing people’s minds with the fact that the most favorite fictional US president is Hispanic

            Bill Pullman isn’t hispanic

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          • Jaskologist says:

            @excess_kurtosis

            But how much of that is simply that the percentage of Hispanic-surnames who are recent immigrants has grown? The question is whether they assimilate over time. For that, you need to differentiate between 3rd-generation Hispanics and newcomers.

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          • excess_kurtosis says:

            In Florida for example, 18 year olds with hispanic surnames are much more likely to identify as white and not hispanic as 40 year olds, even though 18 year olds are much more likely to be native born citizens than 40 year olds.

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        • ryan says:

          There’s evidence that Irish and Italians had measurably lower IQs than WASPS before the post-WW2 generic white identity emerged?

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          • excess_kurtosis says:

            Stories of poor educational outcomes for Irish people in the 19th are pretty exagerated. If you look at census microdata from the 1870’s (available in an SDA style explorer, but not used nearly enough!), you’ll see that Irish literacy rates were roughly the same as the northern states they lived in and were much higher than the literacy rates of southerners at the time.

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        • Anonymous says:

          “I’d be willing to bet that in 60 years the descendants of Mexican immigrants will be seen as “white” too and have the same IQs as other white people.”

          Tinfoilhat Time! We know that the KGB ran, throughout the cold war, a PSYOPs program to inject communist ideas into US academia.
          US intelligence has always been top notch so it’s strange that they let them do this, so my guess is they didn’t and the result of the counter-PSYOPs is called identity politics: non-white is just code for poor, used to muddle the discussion enough to render it politically ineffective.

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          • Anonymous says:

            US intelligence has always been top notch so it’s strange that they let them do this, so my guess is they didn’t (…)

            Contra: What if they messed up? It’s not like the USG wasn’t infested with communists and communist-sympathizers. Further, the Soviets didn’t need to inject anything, merely support what was already there, per their subversion doctrine.

            My best guess is that the Soviets partly succeeded, but the SU and its funding for aligned movements in the US died in 1991, leaving the cancer to mutate and metastasize on its own.

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      • There is some convergence, but there is no IQ data that I know of. However, I’ve been trying to obtain the IQ data from the Danish military session test. So far they are very slow…

        PISA scores for second generation immigrants does increase relative to first. However, the usual studies ignores the country of origin composition of the groups, so it’s hard to say if some of this is due to composition change rather than gains per se. The same studies show gains in educational attainment. However, no gains from 2nd to 3rd generation in Danish data. Worse, 2nd generation is much more criminal than the first.

        One has to obtain country of origin x generation x outcomes data to properly examine the issue. I have not had that much success finding this data so far.

        Danish report: http://www.dst.dk/da/Statistik/Publikationer/VisPub?cid=20703 Danish is somewhat readable for English speakers with some good will and a little Google translate.

        For generational gains in PISA, see e.g. http://drjamesthompson.blogspot.dk/2015/09/migrant-competence.html

        In general, immigrant performance in host countries is strongly predictable from their host countries’ characteristics. See my various papers (http://emilkirkegaard.dk/), but the largest studies covering this are http://openpsych.net/ODP/2014/05/educational-attainment-income-use-of-social-benefits-crime-rate-and-the-general-socioeconomic-factor-among-71-immmigrant-groups-in-denmark/ and http://openpsych.net/ODP/2014/10/crime-income-educational-attainment-and-employment-among-immigrant-groups-in-norway-and-finland/

        While low-skill migrants may not “steal jobs” from natives as sometimes posited, they are a huge drain on national resources in welfare states. There are a ton of estimates about the cost of immigrants in Denmark, but they are almost all available only in Danish. An often cited number is in the order of 16 billion DKK a year, which is about 1% of Denmark’s GNI. It is surely an underestimate because it doesn’t take into account increased police costs, language schools, all kinds of local ghetto improvement projects and various extra money sometimes given to a cause.

        Economically, open borders cannot work with a welfare state. The result is the moving of less-productive persons into the host country and the resulting increased expenses until the welfare state collapses/is reduced to a non-welfare state. Open borders can work with a libertarian society (still costs to justice system however). Welfare states can only work with selective immigration. Caplan and Jones are presumably libertarians and so it is reasonable for them to advocate open borders.

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        • Jones is an opponent and critic of open borders. Isn’t that obvious from his debate with Caplan ?

          . An often cited number is in the order of 16 billion DKK a year, which is about 1% of Denmark’s GNI. It is surely an underestimate

          If immigrants are employed, then their wages minus welfare & other costs would still not include their total contribution to GDP. Employers capture a part of the immigrants’ marginal product. At the national level, wage share of GDP is 60-70% for most OECD countries. But this can vary dramatically up and down the income distribution.

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    • Neurno says:

      A really important confounding factor that I have yet to hear mentioned, even though I thought it was common knowledge, is that the key developmental window for later brain development is slightly pre-conception (men, remember to abstain from alcohol binge-drinking for a week or two before impregnating your mates! Healthy sperm count!) to early childhood. A good international measure of the health level of this age range is infant mortality.
      Guess who disproportionately lowered their child mortality measures in relation to GDP-increase a generation ago? Oh yeah, those East Asian countries we keep talking about. Their GDP stagnated in the latter half of the 20th century, but their child mortality plummeted rapidly.
      I’ve tried in the past to download data from GapMinder’s site to analyze this stuff for myself, but was so poorly formatted that I end up getting the same public data from other websites. Nevertheless, they’ve got great pre-made data visualization tools and videos on the subject.
      http://www.gapminder.org/videos/reducing-child-mortality-a-moral-and-environmental-imperative/

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  9. stillnotking says:

    Scott, I wish you’d stop teasing us and just spoil what the Flynn Effect actually is. We all know you’re a time traveler from 2270, okay? No need to be coy.

    At least tell us what year it finally got figured out.

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    • szopeno says:

      _I_ think the strong ammo came from the paper Soctt linked th last time (Protzko about fade-out effects). If Protzko is right, then he is providing very strong argument about IQ rising because environment is becoming more demanding. It’s like people may be varied genetically on their physical fitness; within a generation, there is a variation with strong genetical component. Between generations, if one generation had to constantly run, and second convieniently uses cars, “physical index” between them will vary, no?

      In other words, Protzko paper provides one cause explaining two effects. I don’t know why Protzko, or anyone, has not tied this to Flynn effect; I asked in other foras, and also I got no answers. Maybe I am totally wrong about this, or I am missing something? But for me this is so obvious…

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      • Anon. says:

        Why don’t you just talk to Protzko about it?

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      • pneumatik says:

        That makes a lot of sense to me. If you need constant challenge to stay mentally sharp, which is reasonable and seems supported by evidence, then a more intellectually challenging life will make you smarter.

        It fits with the Tyler Cowen argument that western society is very good at identifying smart people (for common definitions of smart) and paying them good money to do intellectually demanding work that benefits lots of people. I think the Bell Curve made a similar argument about identifying smart people and getting them into smart people jobs, too.

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        • excess_kurtosis says:

          The percentage of very smart people who go into zero or negative sum work is arguably very high (My job, which I won’t go into, is that I’m part of a multi-billion dollar conflict over a zero sum game), so I wouldn’t really agree with “work that benefits lots of people”. But the first half of the sentence is true.

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          • Anthony says:

            Your work will benefit lots of people, which is why they pay you to do it. It will also cost lots of people, but they don’t get to recover their costs. So societally, your work may be a net negative, but for *someone*, it’s worth a lot.

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        • I’ve been wondering whether the aggravating effort needed to get computers and such to work will actually help maintain people’s brains. It’s symbiosis, but not as we usually think about it.

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      • Mary says:

        Notice — from his charts — that the biggest effect is in similarities, which, fundamentally, tests how well you can get what answer a test maker would like.

        I’m willing to bet that saying both dogs and rabbits are carbon-based domesticated obligate aerobes would get you no points on similarity. Yet those are similarities.

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  10. Wrong Species says:

    One thing he never mentions is eugenics(probably for good reason). If raising IQ is really important for economic development there is a simple solution: pay the smart to have more kids. Assuming that having high IQ people is more important than getting rid of low IQ people, it’s more utilitarian plus you don’t have to worry about the ethical issues, not to the same extent anyways.

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    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Paying smart people to reproduce doesn’t work. We already had a thread about this.

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      • You can’t simply cut them a check, you have to do what Israel does, provide a full social support system for having kids.

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      • Anonymous says:

        That thread proves that monetary incentives to fertility that have been attempted so far didn’t work. IMHO they are just woefully inadequate.

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        • Anonymous says:

          I wouldn’t say that. The people who want to have children, can have almost an arbitrary amount of them, taking advantage of the various subsidies the western countries have attempted so far.

          For example, you can totally raise a family with one median income in Norway, getting $32000 per kid (spread out for 18 years) if you opt not to have daycare ($24000 if you do). And that’s in addition to public healthcare (there’s some own payment, but not that much). If the mother pretends to look for work, she can get dole for up to two years or so. There’s probably more benefits if you look.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Even with daycare having a child is at bare minimum equivalent to taking a part time job.

            If you already have a job would you take a second one that pays like shit ($2000 per year)? If you factor in clothes and food you almost certainly end up with a loss.

            Compare this to preindustrial societies: kids get “daycare” from the woman that would be around the house anyway, so they still only cost you food and clothes, and in just 6~7 years you have basically free labor!

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          • Anonymous says:

            Median salary in Norway is to the order of $2500/month. A 2 bedroom apartment in the capital is to the order of $1400/month (electricity, internet and water included). An adult can eat well (if not luxuriantly) for $350/month. Clothes aren’t really an issue, if you don’t need new threads every month, can easily fit into the food budget. Let’s throw in another $100 for miscellany, like public transport.

            If the husband works, and the wife stays home, that’s $200/month left for other things. The state gives $112/kid/month until they are 18 years old, and optionally $693/kid/month during their second year. This doesn’t look it makes supporting a kid or three a financial challenge…

            …unless you want expensive stuff, like a mortgaged house, a mountain cabin, a new car every few years, a new iphone every year, and a foreign vacation every summer. Then it is rightly impossible.

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          • This is a reply to the anon who doesn’t realize that preindustrial societies actually had “daycare” from the other women and girls who were around, and depending on the society, from some of the men as well. Individual mothers providing all care for their own children has never been as widespread as it was in postindustrial society, and that is a big factor in smaller family sizes.

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          • Wrong Species says:

            I think the perceived cost of raising a child is more important than the actual cost. Parents used to pop out kids and tell them to shut up and play outside. Now they feel the need to do all of these activities they think will help their kid get ahead in life and be happy.

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          • Psmith says:

            @Wrong Species, you’re in good company: http://www.npr.org/2011/04/22/135612560/selfish-reasons-for-parents-to-enjoy-having-kids
            http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/12/decadent_parent.html
            http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/12/kidophobia_deca.html

            Incidentally, I wonder why Caplan’s reputation among the Untouchables is primarily “boo, Open Borders!” rather than “yay, natalism (especially for college graduates)!”

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          • Anonymous says:

            Caplan is a natalist? Maybe that’s the problem – his fame is built on being the open-borders guy, not ancillary opinions he holds.

            Supposing that someone knew both aspects, while being a natalist himself, it’s still plausible that they might consider Caplan’s policies to be a net negative – because immigration puts the pressure off pro-natalism. If the factories get staffed regardless of fertility rate, then there’s no economic incentive to care about the fertility rate.

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        • Anonymous says:

          “This doesn’t look it makes supporting a kid or three a financial challenge…”

          You are not getting it. Making kid support free is not enough to get people to breed, you actually have to make it profitable in the medium-short term.
          In the early ‘900s in the mining towns of Sicily it was common to get a substantial loan from the mines owner that would be repaid by the indentured work of your child (as young as 6 years old), over a period of 3 to 5 years.
          Where’s the market for 6 years old slaves now?

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          • Anonymous says:

            I accept your point that nobody I’ve heard of gives enough to make kids an investment, rather than simply reducing costs. It may be true that providing enough of a cash incentive will yield actual increase in TFR – such an incentive is already in place, in the form of de-facto ponzi-scheme of elderly pensions, but which suffers from a gigantic free rider problem.

            I wonder what would happen if you denied pensions to the childless?

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Anonymouse
            “I wonder what would happen if you denied pensions to the childless?”

            Deny Social Security? — Not much would happen. People of child-bearing age don’t think SS will be around for their retirement, anyway. Are young people in private industry still expecting pensions?

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          • Anonymous says:

            “I wonder what would happen if you denied pensions to the childless?”

            It gets worse. Still Italy, about 15 years ago some policy changes were made that made hiring temporary low-skilled work very appealing, those contracts pay nothing towards social security and don’t pay more than they used to when they did pay towards social security, the people who are stuck permanently into this mode will have no social security.

            IIRC Italy has negative population growth, second only to japan, and unlike japan, we have lots of immigration.

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          • Anonymous says:

            That’s actually a solid argument that no practical amount of money will convince people who don’t want to breed to do so.

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          • John Schilling says:

            That’s actually a solid argument that no practical amount of money will convince people who don’t want to breed to do so.

            Right. The way to increase fertility is to go after the people who do want to breed (or breed more), but don’t think they can afford it.

            One obvious target would be women who would prefer to be stay-at-home mothers but have fallen into the two-income trap and can’t see an escape path.

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    • Having the government pay people for doing anything is always a fragile plan. Theoretically, high IQ people having high IQ children means a lot of economic productivity of their children, who make a lot of money. All you need to do is to precommit to channeling part of this to parents. Like getting a percentage of the tax paid by children.

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      • Anthony says:

        That sounds politically difficult. Perhaps increases in old-age pensions if your offspring pay more than average tax? That begins to sound like multi-generational multi-level marketing.

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        • Jaskologist says:

          We’re just adding epicycles. Here’s a simpler* solution: kill payments to people for being old, like Social Security. Make explicit that if you want to be supported after retirement, you better have kids and raise them well, save sufficient funds, or be prepared to through yourself at the mercy of somebody else’s kids.

          * not necessarily simpler from a political standpoint. But then, paying rich people (smart people will largely be rich people) to have kids isn’t going to fly well either, especially if you want to pay them at a level that actually incentivizes them.

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          • John Schilling says:

            The most efficient way for children to support their parents after retirement, is to have the retired parents move in with them. Which, quite conveniently, tends to happen about the time the grandchildren are going off to school or work, leaving a free room or two.

            And when you explain to tens of millions of middle-age, middle-class citizens that you’re changing the laws so their retired parents will have to move in with them, well, that’s going to shift tens of millions of votes to whichever party isn’t killing off Social Security or whatever. That’s probably the most popular part of the whole program, not having to have your parents move in with you.

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          • anonymous says:

            We want a richer society so the people living in it are happier. If your “solution” to create the conditions for more economic growth makes everyone miserable then it misses the whole point.

            Or to put it in other terms: the natalist philosophy is a ponzi scheme — no one is ever allowed to reap the rewards because everyone is perpetually supposed to be sacrificing for the future.

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          • Anonymous says:

            @anonymous

            Having kids is hardly as torturous as you make it sound.

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          • Jaskologist says:

            @John Schilling

            I don’t think it’s politically possible. I just think it would actually work, and the other plans won’t.

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          • Anonymous says:

            @Jaskologist

            What about a simple reform to pensions – make them contingent on having children who have reached age 18 (or even 25 if we keep the current credentialism treadmill)? One kid – half pension, two kids – full pension, three+ kids – one-and-a-half pension (or something to that effect). Adoption for the infertile would be considered an acceptable substitute.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Anonymous
            What about a simple reform to pensions – make them contingent on having children who have reached age 18 …. One kid – half pension, two kids – full pension, three+ kids – one-and-a-half pension

            What if the kids spend their lives on welfare (or in jail)?

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          • Anonymous says:

            In the case of jail, I would suggest phasing it out in favour of alternative sentences, like public corporal punishment, fines or hard labour, for crimes associated with high time orientation (or, hell any crimes that aren’t obviously a threat to public safety), so that people aren’t removed from society at the cost to said society.

            In the case of welfare, simply make welfare for your children come out of your pension fund in some way. Maybe every kid on welfare simply doesn’t count for your pension calculation that month? That way people would be incentivized to have a few extra, in case some turn out bums.

            (Yes, I realize abolishing pensions and welfare is much simpler and likely more efficient. This is a compromise solution to keep these sacred cows alive.)

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          • There are two requirements for being supported by your kids 1) they earn well 2) they give a shit about you.

            1) does not sound hard for intelligent people as it is mostly genetics and some good examples.

            2) is hard. How can you ensure or predict that? And what if it is genetic too? You end making intelligent people who don’t have a good relationship with their parents think twice about reproducing. Hm, maybe that is a feature, not a bug, but a tough one.

            So, you could make a law about 2). You end up with more high IQ kids, but it also means people who aren’t cool with their parents also reproduce, and maybe you don’t want that.

            But my real problem is that 2) is still begging. The Roman way was that a father had a LEGAL claim over his sons all through his life, even when they were adults. Surely that is more dignified than begging your kids?

            In later periods of history, property was very important for productivity, so basically dad kept the farm, the shop, as long as he lived and his children worked there as adults. This made basically an economic enforcement of the parent’s claims: their kids had to be their employees.

            Today, as property is less important in a knowledge economy, IMHO parents should have a truly legal claim on part of what their kids earn.

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          • @John Schilling

            >The most efficient way for children to support their parents after retirement, is to have the retired parents move in with them.

            Why should even their children move out, then? Why not at least one of them stay at home and marry while still in the parental home? The problem is that it is low-status. Really. You often cannot even find a GF if you don’t have your own place. Everybody thinks you are a child.

            Still, it would be both economically efficient and IMHO very nice, very “rooted” to have multiple generations reproduce inside the same house. I mean a real house, brick, stone, not these light houses made of wood and paper that Americans seem to like… if every generation adds to the house and beautifies it and enlarges it, you end up with a castle. Wouldn’t that be cool?

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Anonymous
            “Maybe every kid on welfare simply doesn’t count for your pension calculation that month? That way people would be incentivized to have a few extra, in case some turn out bums.”

            That’s negative incentivizing: the more kids you have, the more you stand to lose from your pension, which is a maybe anyway. The for sure is the current expense and opportunity cost of raising kids you don’t want.

            There’s a good elephant in the room that’s never mentioned in these discussions. To support aged parents, we won’t need more children: we’ll need more productive children working smarter. Concentrate education on the children people want to have. Let both parents have careers developing tools so that fewer children can support more elders.

            In the meantime, you can have the extra comforts you want now, from the work of those working parents, and from what you’re not spending on schools for those extra children.

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          • @anonymous

            >We want a richer society so the people living in it are happier.

            No, I don’t, I mostly focus on the collective survival of the ethnic groups I care about, with full identity and all that. The problem with your conception of happiness is that it is based on the satisfaction of desires and that really doesn’t work, just read some buddhism or whatever. Seriously, if there is one thing to learn from philosophy, psychology, religion, it is that getting what you want will not make you happy, this is the ur-mistake of liberalism, to focus on the satisfaction of individual desires and expect it to work well.

            Actual happiness, which is a far rarer and elusive thing, is far more complicated than just getting what you want. It requires a subduing of the will, repression of the will, partially, but not fully so, as life in the prison camp isn’t fun either. It is a complicated case of limiting, shaping yet not extinguishing the individual will.

            The closest thing to actual happiness or eudaimonia is to have the kind of pride that you discharged your duties well.

            This sounds ancient and very conservative. Well, I am. But it is closely related to a modern psychological problem: notice how most people’s problem is not that they don’t get what they want, but their life revolves about _feeling good about themselves_ so it is not about can I has X, but is it more about am I X?

            So even the modern liberal experience may suggest that to make people happy, you don’t just give them the stuff they want, but rather you make them feel good about themselves. This should not be a big surprise. In a pathological way, even SJWs are trying to do this, like making fat people feel beautiful, so good about themselves.

            Understanding this, a good time tested conservative way to feel good about yourself is to feel you discharged your duties well. A well deserved pride.

            While there are many potential ways to do that, contributing to your ethnic group, wider kin, multiplying and flourishing and preserving its culture and place in the world is a good enough set of duties. If you happen to be an American whitey this will sound very strange, but it does not sound that strange to the guys down the road with the Mexican flag in their car, nor in various other parts of the world – even in the more old fashioned European countries. After all, it is very biological, very instinctive, to commit yourself to the flourishing of your tribe.

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          • JBeshir says:

            This proposal is an excellent example of how focusing exclusively on one particular set of concerns leads to proposals which do extremely poorly on other concerns.

            In particular I’d highlight https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Subgoal_stomp where optimising for an instrumental value entirely displaces optimising for the terminal value and leads to very poor performance on it, as a decent description. Humans can do this too.

            You can definitely get very *simple* proposals by having this happen, though. Having problematic people die tends to contribute to simplicity, and “Kill all involved people” tends to be the simplest.

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          • Anonymous says:

            What exactly are you objecting to, JBeshir?

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          • JBeshir says:

            Well, the part where it’s bad to have people who fail to achieve relationship success, or whose children die, or whose children are estranged, or who for whatever other reason don’t have children or reach old age without family, starve to death and die homeless.

            The proposal to bring this back (it was the state of affairs prior to modern welfare) would create the instrumentally desired incentives, but it would also create suffering and death, which are bad things and presumably are what the incentive is in the end trying to avert.

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          • Anonymous says:

            The patient is dying, but he complains that the medicine is bitter.

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          • JBeshir says:

            Smarter people having children at slightly lower rates isn’t dying, and if it were there would be better approaches once you’re in the politically-unrealistic space like simply paying less smart people not to have children.

            In practice we’re probably only a generation or two at most from being able to do direct genetic filtering of potential children for desirable characteristics (identifying genes that increase IQ is hard, but it doesn’t look that hard and getting the data is getting cheaper and cheaper), at which point we have massively more powerful methods available.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Almost everyone in the west having sub-replacement fertility is dying. That the upper class is dying faster than everyone else is a minor problem by itself.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ TheDividualist:

            No, I don’t, I mostly focus on the collective survival of the ethnic groups I care about, with full identity and all that.

            Yes, you are a racist-collectivist.

            The problem with your conception of happiness is that it is based on the satisfaction of desires and that really doesn’t work, just read some buddhism or whatever. Seriously, if there is one thing to learn from philosophy, psychology, religion, it is that getting what you want will not make you happy, this is the ur-mistake of liberalism, to focus on the satisfaction of individual desires and expect it to work well.

            Yes, there is a basic divide between the ascetic-collectivist-stagnationist view of life and the worldly-individualist-dynamic view of life. The latter view does not say that you simply achieve what you temporarily want and then quit. It says that happiness is the result of the continual achievement of your goals, one after the other, with no end or limit.

            The latter view—the dynamic view—is the root of capitalism and material-scientific progress. The former view is the source of millennia of stagnation, poverty, and misery. Indeed, East Asian nations afflicted with Buddhism stand out precisely in being much more unhappy than countries of comparable wealth.

            Altruism, Christianity, and subjectivism have indeed done a number on the happiness of people in the West. But they are hardly going to improve by adopting the one type of moral philosophy that is even worse!

            Actual happiness, which is a far rarer and elusive thing, is far more complicated than just getting what you want. It requires a subduing of the will, repression of the will, partially, but not fully so, as life in the prison camp isn’t fun either. It is a complicated case of limiting, shaping yet not extinguishing the individual will.

            The closest thing to actual happiness or eudaimonia is to have the kind of pride that you discharged your duties well.

            Yes, happiness is more than just about having any random, contradictory whims and going out to try to fulfill them. One has to value goals that are mutually compatible, that are actually achievable, and that will actually result in happiness.

            But that’s not a matter of limiting the individual will. It’s a matter of asserting and strengthening the individual will over natural, automatic whims.

            And this is not at all compatible with a duty-based approach to ethics. For one, there are no such things as “duties”—there is no earthly or rational basis for them—and so one who attempts to fulfill them will inevitably run up against reality.

            But even if we set that aside, the fact is that duty is fundamentally opposed to happiness. At least Kant understood this. The whole point, especially with altruistic-collectivist duties, is that are you are supposed to pursue the duty even when it is against your happiness. The only “duty” which is not in conflict with your happiness is a “duty” that consists solely in the desire to maximize your individual happiness.

            Understanding this, a good time tested conservative way to feel good about yourself is to feel you discharged your duties well. A well deserved pride.

            There is no pride to be derived from discharging the “duties” of a false ethical system that exists in conflict with reality.

            And there is certainly no pride to be derived from placing some reified racial-ethic collective over the self and subjugating all of one’s actions to the service of it. Pride comes from a person’s recognition that he is worthy of happiness for his own sake, and has developed the virtues necessary in order to achieve it.

            The consequence of abasement before God or some collective is humility and self-doubt. “What am I, a mere individual, before this?” Which is precisely why the philosophers of Christianity considered pride the greatest sin and humility a virtue.

            While there are many potential ways to do that, contributing to your ethnic group, wider kin, multiplying and flourishing and preserving its culture and place in the world is a good enough set of duties. If you happen to be an American whitey this will sound very strange, but it does not sound that strange to the guys down the road with the Mexican flag in their car, nor in various other parts of the world – even in the more old fashioned European countries. After all, it is very biological, very instinctive, to commit yourself to the flourishing of your tribe.

            Yes, yes, racial-ethnic collectivism is very “biological” and “instinctive”. In other words, it’s an expression of apelike savagery.

            It is the “lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. […] Like every other form of collectivism, racism is a quest for the unearned. It is a quest for automatic knowledge—for an automatic evaluation of men’s characters that bypasses the responsibility of exercising rational or moral judgment—and, above all, a quest for an automatic self-esteem (or pseudo-self-esteem).”

            The desire to feel pride on account on one’s race or ethnicity—whether it is “la raza”, the white race, or a tribe of savages in the Amazon—is the ultimate confession of one’s own worthlessness as an individual. One knows that one has never and will never accomplish anything of value, and so one seeks to parasitize moral credit from the accomplishments of greater persons who happen to share the same origin. But this is, of course, impossible.

            In fact, the thing I find most bizarre is the spectacle of white racists who—while proclaiming that their race is superior—desire to emulate the collectivist primitivism of the allegedly lesser races. At least the vicious warring tribes of Africa and the Middle East have the supposed excuse of inferior mental capacity.

            I will close with the observation that it is simply absurd to suppose that selfless service to the “multiplying and flourishing” of one’s “ethnic group” and “wider kin” is the key to achieving personal happiness and flourishing. This is the common weakness of all philosophies that say the way to achieve happiness is to do something other than to rationally investigate and pursue the values that will promote one’s own life.

            But at least religion (even Buddhism) offers up the false promise that the suffering such a code inflicts will be repaid a thousand times in some supernatural realm. Racial collectivism doesn’t even have that. No one can live on through his race or kin. The reward for placing one’s race above oneself is misery and death. (It is, indeed, exactly the same as the demand of Marxism for people to sacrifice now so that others can enjoy communism in the future.)

            In the end, a man has to decide whether he wants to be an individualist and achieve his own happiness, or whether he wants to be a savage worshiping the good of the tribe. He can’t be both.

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          • anonymous says:

            The patient is dying but he complains that the medicine tastes bitter.

            The patient is fine. Natalism is a solution in desperate need of a problem. I suspect that at least some of the racism we see from many natalists isn’t ultimate but is rather adopted to help justify the critical importance of making babies.

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          • JBeshir says:

            @Anonymous (the one with a capital A)

            Immigration is covering for general sub-replacement problems in most Western countries, I think? Even with current selectivity of who gets to immigrate, the demand exists to compensate.

            Our economic demographic problems are some mix of going down to replacement rate rather than growing rapidly, and the fact that people living longer means a larger elderly population for any given fertility level, but especially with our GDP per capita in the West and huge surplus of resources, that’s hardly dying. It’s just getting a bit less rich.

            If you did want to block immigration (or increase selectivity to the point it could no longer bring us to replacement rate) that would be dying; society could work short term while top heavy in exchange for being a bit less rich in the same way it can work at replacement rate, but we would have a population decline over time. I could see that you’d want to increase general fertility then.

            If you did end up wanting to increase fertility, though, you’d go back to the complicated solutions, the economic incentives/disincentives, etc, because the simple solution wants to be avoided because it achieves its simplicity by not being concerned with downsides.

            The complicated approaches could also probably work better; the poor are the ones who can’t save for retirement well, and so are most motivated to have children by threat of lack of support. Whereas economic incentives can be manipulated to achieve whatever impact we want on whatever groups we want through manipulating tax rates/subsidies for various groups, and can be calculated to limit the penalty applied to any particular person to be reasonable, rather than a setup where some people are fine and others die.

            Motivating the rich by adding money is limited and expensive because of diminishing marginal returns, but that doesn’t apply if you look at taking money away.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Immigration is covering for general sub-replacement problems in most Western countries, I think? Even with current selectivity of who gets to immigrate, the demand exists to compensate.

            The patient is dying, but that’s fine, because there’s someone who’ll do his job for less lined up already.

            Per the rest of your post, I disagree. Simple solutions, particularly ones based on the natural inclinations and motivations of people, allowed to work in a decentralized fashion, tend to work best. My solution is market-based, your solution is central-planning-based. I expect these two to work approximately as well as a market economy and a planned economy, respectively.

            @anonymous

            The patient is fine.

            And so is the train?

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          • Anonymous says:

            @Vox Imperatoris

            Do you always defect?

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          • @JBeshir people who don’t have kids find it far easier to save up for retirement.

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          • @Vox Imperatorist

            >Yes, you are a racist-collectivist.

            Ethnicist, in the normal standard 19th century Euro nation-state way. “Whiteness” i.e. race matters only in places where ethnies mix too much i.e. America. Ethnic nationalism is more detailed, more zoomed in. And kin, relatives matter even more.

            BTW these are obviously status-laden words. Do you expect it to work on me or just feel the inner need to express contempt?

            >Yes, happiness is more than just about having any random, contradictory whims and going out to try to fulfill them. One has to value goals that are mutually compatible, that are actually achievable, and that will actually result in happiness.

            This is incredibly elitist, as in, maybe has a chance of working for people over IQ 120. Do you even HBD? This is simply unrealistic without major genetic engineering.

            The advantage of kinship collectivism, if you want to call it this way, that it works on any level. If you have enough IQ to support a football team, so you are able to understand basic us vs. them, you can base your life on cheering for your family, kin and ethny. This is why it is so widespread outside high-IQ whites.

            >It’s a matter of asserting and strengthening the individual will over natural, automatic whims.

            This sounds even more unrealistic – you not only need IQ for this but something like…. Stoic Training? Are you Stoic? At it sounds broadly Seneca-like. This is obviously very elitist. Seneca was the one of the richest guys in the Empire…

            >there is no earthly or rational basis for them

            Evolution? Kin selection? Tribalism? Why does one need a basis when one can simply have instinct? Are you not claiming these instincts don’t exist, I suppose?

            There is no rational basis for engaging in unreproductive sex either, but people instinctively enjoy it.

            >But even if we set that aside, the fact is that duty is fundamentally opposed to happiness. At least Kant understood this.

            That is why the whole modern rot began with Kant. Aristotle was a better alternative. If feeling good about yourself is at the very least part of happiness and that would be difficult to deny, discharging duties is at least one of the good ways to feel good about yourself. How many cases you saw when people enjoyed feeling smugly superior over others because they e.g. have kids or served in the military or donate to charity or whatever?

            >Pride comes from a person’s recognition that he is worthy of happiness for his own sake

            Where did you get this from? This sounds completely backwards. If I want to be charitable, maybe this philosophy is suitable for women, but a man is never worthy for anything for his own sake, only for what he can do. Sexual selection, sexual competition ensured it. This is more than obvious if you look at teenagers. Girls are worthy just for existing and being pretty. Boys must prove themselves, like in athletics, or playing music etc. in order to be noticed by the girls, nobody will date them just for their own sake. A man who does nothing worths absolutely nothing, this is simply a biological imperative, there is no evolutionary advantage in him impregnating anyone.

            >In other words, it’s an expression of apelike savagery. It is the “lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.

            Yes, of course. Humans are a species of animals. But focusing on race alone is a mistake, it is concentric circles: family, relatives, kin, tribe, ethnic group, nation, race. Focusing on race is a mistake because while that is real and not only a social construct, it is so distant a circle that it almost works like a social construct, I mean, racism very often works like an ideology, something abstract, you know, and I am not proposing anything abstract. It takes a lot of abstraction to make a Norwegian and an Italian feel brothers. It is not really natural. Precisely because it is about humans as animals, so too abstract things don’t work well. Actual relatives, family, kin are a far far more real. And ethnicity, with language and dialect and foods and all that is still more real. The problem is that you gotta be Euro or something similar to feel this, or maybe Japanese or some similar, because American whites have lost their close ethnic roots and then grasping to an abstract concept of whiteness is a bit miserable. They should identify as Scots-Irish or something similar, something more real. The same way how it is miserable when some guys in America call themselves “Asian” – why not call yourself Hmong or Han Chinese? This is too abstract. So this is not what I mean. It is 40% family 30% kin 20% ethny and 10% race. Got it? So basically the right way to do this IMHO is to be so focused on your family, relatives, kin, tribe, ethny that you have hardly any time to even notice your race.

            >Like every other form of collectivism, racism is a quest for the unearned. It is a quest for automatic knowledge—for an automatic evaluation of men’s characters that bypasses the responsibility of exercising rational or moral judgment—and, above all, a quest for an automatic self-esteem (or pseudo-self-esteem).”

            Again that is a different thing. I think I should stick to familialism and tribalism and ethnicism, because it seems race is used in a very different sense. This totally not what I mean. It is not about being proud of your skin color, that is indeed unearned. It is to be willing to die for your own version of Sparta, and that kind of glory IS earned, right?

            >In fact, the thing I find most bizarre is the spectacle of white racists who—while proclaiming that their race is superior—desire to emulate the collectivist primitivism of the allegedly lesser races.

            Yeah that sounds like that kind of abstract racism I dislike. It is real family, real kin, real ethny and simply loyalty, not a superiority complex. The whole framework you mean sounds too American to me, I don’t even understand it. Rather try to think of me within a framework like the Yugo Wars. It was not about superiority, it was about loyalty.

            >is the ultimate confession of one’s own worthlessness as an individual

            YES! Holy shit, it seems at least you are partially getting it. It seemed you are not getting it, because you focused on some kind abstract racism I always found silly and I focus on family, and kin, and tribe and close ethny. But this aspect sounds like you are at least getting this aspect right. Of course individuals are in themselves worthless. Individual women are worthy because they can give birth, so they get automatic worth by existing and being fertile, but individual men are worthy only so far what they achieve. For the family, for the tribe. Why else would they get the _privilege_ to reproduce their genes?

            What would make individuals worthy otherwise? I mean, worthy in whose eyes? Other people? Other people find other people worthy only to the extent of what they give to them, if they are individualists, or to the group, if they are collectivists.

            You sound like the proverbial Randian who altruistically invests time in convincing people selfishness is good 🙂 I mean, if you are an individualist, then you should only value other individuals to the extent of what they give to you, what their use is to you. An individualist who values all individuals is a contradiction. That makes you an universalistic altruist, not an individualist: a collectivist, whose tribe is the whole of humankind.

            This is not just you, this is how modern liberalism tends to work in general: individualism kind of counter-balanced by literal cosmopolitanism in the old Stoic sense: the whole cosmos of humankind as your tribe or polis, and being collectivist for all humans. The pre-modern solution is simply being collectivist for small to intermediate sized groups. (But you sound even more explicitly Stoic than most modern liberals.)

            BTW I chose this dividualist nickname to point to a level of existence that is below individualism, the divided self. But I think that is a story for a different day… just saying individualism is vulnerable for criticism both above and below, I am not an indivisible unit, nor are you, we all have conflicting sub-agents.

            I don’t know if it is a status game that you try to pin me in the same group as KKK types. If it is a status game, fuck you. If it is a honest misunderstanding, sort of try to think of me in a the movie “300” way, it is more about finding meaning in life through loyalty to your smaller group, rather than just being stupidly proud and feeling superior about your generic skin color. While race is real (HBD genetic clusters) it is a too broad circle to feel loyal to. Don’t be “Asian”, be Hmong, and so on, and so on.

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          • Anonymous says:

            ^^
            is =/= ought

            Maybe consider getting that tattooed somewhere so you can remind yourself as necessary.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ TheDividualist:

            [This ended up being too long, so I’m splitting it into two parts.]

            The problem with your whole ethical philosophy can be summed up in two words: “naturalistic fallacy.” (Ninja’d by Anonymous.)

            Do you expect it to work on me or just feel the inner need to express contempt?

            The latter. I do find your whole viewpoint revolting.

            This is incredibly elitist, as in, maybe has a chance of working for people over IQ 120. Do you even HBD? This is simply unrealistic without major genetic engineering.

            The advantage of kinship collectivism, if you want to call it this way, that it works on any level. If you have enough IQ to support a football team, so you are able to understand basic us vs. them, you can base your life on cheering for your family, kin and ethny. This is why it is so widespread outside high-IQ whites.

            I am happy to be “elitist” in this sense. Although I think you yourself are much more of an elitist. Really, I suppose there are two axes: your opinion of the competence of the common man, and your “solidarity” with him.

            You seem to think the common man is some kind of apelike savage. Yet for some inexplicable reason you want to go down into the jungle with him and play his little tribal games.

            My estimation of the actual ability of the common man is much higher. As a result, I don’t hate or despise him. But if I thought as little of him as you apparently do, then I would. I would have about as much “loyalty” or sympathy with him as I would to a tribe of shit-flinging monkeys.

            If the average man is too incompetent to live well, so much the worse for him. It’s unfortunate that I would be surrounded by such beasts, but their welfare is not my concern. Maybe we will have to have two codes of ethics: one for the real human beings and one for the subhumans you imagine most people to be. But I’m not a monkey trainer; I don’t have any interest in telling monkeys how to live.

            Evolution? Kin selection? Tribalism? Why does one need a basis when one can simply have instinct? Are you not claiming these instincts don’t exist, I suppose?

            There is no rational basis for engaging in unreproductive sex either, but people instinctively enjoy it.

            Naturalistic fallacy.

            The fact that you can explain a phenomenon as a product of evolution does not make it a human value. The “goal” of evolution is inclusive genetic fitness.

            The goal of a human being is not.

            There is a rational basis for engaging in unproductive sex (in the proper contexts): it is pleasurable, and people value pleasure as an important component of their long-term happiness and flourishing. If it were not pleasurable, or if pleasure were not good, then it would not be rational.

            What you seem to mean by saying it’s not “rational” is that it does not serve the purposes of evolution: it does not enhance inclusive genetic fitness. But inclusive genetic fitness is not a goal of mine.

            You seem to have taken the religious framework of universal teleology, substituted evolution for God, and have prostrated yourself before this idol. That’s what the naturalistic fallacy amounts to, really.

            That is why the whole modern rot began with Kant. Aristotle was a better alternative. If feeling good about yourself is at the very least part of happiness and that would be difficult to deny, discharging duties is at least one of the good ways to feel good about yourself. How many cases you saw when people enjoyed feeling smugly superior over others because they e.g. have kids or served in the military or donate to charity or whatever?

            Yes, I am very sympathetic to Aristotle. But Aristotle was an egoist, though he did have some unfortunate collectivist tendencies. He would never say that anyone ought to sacrifice himself to the community, worshiping “duty” over achieving happiness.

            And yes, people can feel pleasure at discharging duties. But if they are discharging “duties” that are false and baseless, they are fools. They are like the Stakhanovites who worked themselves to the bone for a chest full of medals proclaiming them heroes of socialist labor.

            The response to someone who is stuck-up over the fact that he has wasted his effort performing a useless “duty” is mockery and scorn. For instance, the smirks people get when they picture Mormons abstaining from coffee and tea.

            And if people value foolish things in contradiction to reality, sooner or later they’ll get their reward.

            Where did you get this from? This sounds completely backwards. If I want to be charitable, maybe this philosophy is suitable for women, but a man is never worthy for anything for his own sake, only for what he can do. Sexual selection, sexual competition ensured it. This is more than obvious if you look at teenagers. Girls are worthy just for existing and being pretty. Boys must prove themselves, like in athletics, or playing music etc. in order to be noticed by the girls, nobody will date them just for their own sake. A man who does nothing worths absolutely nothing, this is simply a biological imperative, there is no evolutionary advantage in him impregnating anyone.

            First of all, you seem to be interpreting “for his own sake” in an entirely different manner than I meant it. I don’t mean that he deserves to be happy regardless of his character and his actions. If he is evil, his proper estimation of himself will not be pride but humility: he will correctly recognize that he is not worthy of anything. If he’s bad enough, probably he should kill himself.

            What I meant by “for his own sake” is that he does not have to justify his actions in terms of their service to the community, the state, to God, or your idol of evolution. The achievement of his own happiness is the sole purpose and meaning of his life. He does not have to justify himself before anyone else; his only possible disloyalty is disloyalty to himself, to his own life and happiness. To quote Rand again (in the character of Gail Wynand, a tragic character who is this passage is about to commit suicide):

            “If it were true, that old legend about appearing before a supreme judge and naming one’s record, I would offer, with all my pride, not any act I committed, but one thing I have never done on this earth: that I never sought an outside sanction. I would stand and say: I am Gail Wynand, the man who has committed every crime except the foremost one: that of ascribing futility to the wonderful act of existence and seeking justification beyond myself. This is my pride: that now, thinking of the end, I do not cry like all the men of my age: but what was the use and the meaning? I was the use and meaning. I, Gail Wynand. That I lived and that I acted.”

            Second, your whole mindset revolves around the most absurdly juvenile second-handed obsession with the opinions of others. Did you graduate from middle school?

            It’s not to his society, to his elders, or to his sexual partners that a man (or woman) must prove himself. It’s to himself. If others are rational, they will share his estimation. If they are not, he will disdain their opinions. Since you brought up Aristotle:

            [A]t honours that are great and conferred by good men [the proud man] will be moderately pleased, thinking that he is coming by his own or even less than his own; for there can be no honour that is worthy of perfect virtue, yet he will at any rate accept it since they have nothing greater to bestow on him; but honour from casual people and on trifling grounds he will utterly despise, since it is not this that he deserves, and dishonour too, since in his case it cannot be just.

            […]

            He must also be open in his hate and in his love (for to conceal one’s feelings, i.e. to care less for truth than for what people will think, is a coward’s part), and must speak and act openly; for he is free of speech because he is contemptuous, and he is given to telling the truth, except when he speaks in irony to the vulgar. He must be unable to make his life revolve round another, unless it be a friend; for this is slavish, and for this reason all flatterers are servile and people lacking in self-respect are flatterers.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ TheDividualist:

            [Part two.]

            Moving on, you have a lot of verbiage I’m not going to quote about how it’s not really about loyalty to the race for you—that’s far too abstract. We really need to break things down even further than the race, so that one is loyal to his neighbors and kin, hardly having the time to even think of the nation or race.

            Yeah, that’s pretty much what I interpreted you as thinking. You’re against race-loyalty because it’s too intellectual. We need pure regression away from civilization into the jungle.

            Again that is a different thing. I think I should stick to familialism and tribalism and ethnicism, because it seems race is used in a very different sense. This totally not what I mean. It is not about being proud of your skin color, that is indeed unearned. It is to be willing to die for your own version of Sparta, and that kind of glory IS earned, right?

            It doesn’t make any difference whether the glory is supposed to be obtained merely from being a part of the collective or for dying for it.

            Being willing to die for your own version of Sparta is just stupid, if your “version of Sparta” is not actually ordered toward the fulfillment of your individual happiness. In that sense, yes, it can sometimes be better to die defending a value than to live without it—if that’s an accurate judgment, that life would not be worth living without it.

            To be willing to die for your kin, your tribe, and your ethnicity—as if these things were automatically valuable—is the mark of an idiotic brute. If your kin are good people whom you love because of the real values they provide, then you should fight for them. But they have no unearned claim on you of any sort.

            And in any case, the “glory” is not in the fact that you die, or even that you were willing to die. The fact that people die defending the good is always a tragedy. The aim ought to be to “make the other poor dumb son of a bitch die for his”.

            The ideal way a rational, productive civilization defends itself is not through being willing to sacrifice more, but by outhinking and outproducing the enemy. See: kamikazes vs. the atomic bomb.

            “Warrior virtues” are not something to be worshiped or inculcated beyond necessity. The virtues that ought to be encouraged as much as possible are the bourgeois virtues, the virtues that enable one to succeed in a rational, productive society wherein the relation between people is fundamentally cooperative.

            Yeah that sounds like that kind of abstract racism I dislike. It is real family, real kin, real ethny and simply loyalty, not a superiority complex. The whole framework you mean sounds too American to me, I don’t even understand it. Rather try to think of me within a framework like the Yugo Wars. It was not about superiority, it was about loyalty.

            Loyalty on what basis? What have the kin, the ethnicity, the tribe done to deserve one’s loyalty?

            The only loyalty here is the loyalty of one too stupid or close-minded to think for himself.

            YES! Holy shit, it seems at least you are partially getting it. It seemed you are not getting it, because you focused on some kind abstract racism I always found silly and I focus on family, and kin, and tribe and close ethny. But this aspect sounds like you are at least getting this aspect right. Of course individuals are in themselves worthless. Individual women are worthy because they can give birth, so they get automatic worth by existing and being fertile, but individual men are worthy only so far what they achieve. For the family, for the tribe. Why else would they get the _privilege_ to reproduce their genes?

            I’m just as opposed to concrete collectivism of family, kin, and “ethny” as I am to “abstract racism”.

            You are going back to the naturalistic fallacy and confusing two different meanings of “worth”.

            What makes individuals worth anything, in some kind of metaphysical God’s-eye sense? Nothing! Nobody is worth anything “from the point of view of the universe”. No individual—and also no society, kin group, race, or nation. The whole damn planet isn’t worth anything in that sense! The whole universe is worthless in that sense. Certainly the idol of evolution doesn’t make anyone worth anything.

            The only worth anyone or anything has is in the eyes of individuals. That is, in relation to their objective needs. Nothing has worth “in the eyes of society” because there is no such thing as society.

            What would make individuals worthy otherwise? I mean, worthy in whose eyes? Other people? Other people find other people worthy only to the extent of what they give to them, if they are individualists, or to the group, if they are collectivists.

            “Worth”, i.e. value, is agent-relative. That doesn’t mean it’s subjective in the sense that there are no standards. It means that there is no universal God’s-eye meaning of “worth” or value absolutely. There is only value to whom.

            Every individual’s own happiness is the ultimate value to himself. Any given person’s happiness is of course not the ultimate value to everyone else—or anyone else.

            So yes, your value to other people is based in what you can do for them. And their value to you is based in what they can do for you; your own obligation to the tribe is to the extent that the tribe continues to serve your interests.

            You sound like the proverbial Randian who altruistically invests time in convincing people selfishness is good 🙂 I mean, if you are an individualist, then you should only value other individuals to the extent of what they give to you, what their use is to you. An individualist who values all individuals is a contradiction. That makes you an universalistic altruist, not an individualist: a collectivist, whose tribe is the whole of humankind.

            I don’t claim to “value all individuals” as terminal values. I value other individuals only as instrumental values. Which is precisely why I am not a collectivist-altruist.

            I think people, perhaps because of altruism, have a tendency to vastly underestimate the instrumental value of other people to themselves. As some Christian writers have explained, “self-love” and “benevolence” are closely linked.

            Altruism posits implicitly that everyone’s interests are in conflict and tells them to sacrifice themselves to others. I don’t go around telling people to sacrifice others to themselves. I deny the conflict. That doesn’t mean your interests are identical with everyone else’s, but they are not fundamentally opposed; we can all “get along”.

            (If they weren’t, then sure, you should kill them before they kill you.)

            As for why I argue about it on the internet: I find it intellectually stimulating to have people to bounce ideas off of. It’s primarily for my own benefit, not yours.

            This is not just you, this is how modern liberalism tends to work in general: individualism kind of counter-balanced by literal cosmopolitanism in the old Stoic sense: the whole cosmos of humankind as your tribe or polis, and being collectivist for all humans. The pre-modern solution is simply being collectivist for small to intermediate sized groups. (But you sound even more explicitly Stoic than most modern liberals.)

            You have me entirely backwards. I don’t believe that we’re all one collective. I believe that we’re seven billion individuals.

            In a sense, though, I do have “cosmopolitan” sentiments. Precisely because I reject the arbitrary local collectives, I regard any person, regardless of his kin or tribe, as a potential source of values. This is capitalism; this is globalization; this is the breaking down of local barriers.

            I don’t know if it is a status game that you try to pin me in the same group as KKK types. If it is a status game, fuck you. If it is a honest misunderstanding, sort of try to think of me in a the movie “300” way, it is more about finding meaning in life through loyalty to your smaller group, rather than just being stupidly proud and feeling superior about your generic skin color. While race is real (HBD genetic clusters) it is a too broad circle to feel loyal to. Don’t be “Asian”, be Hmong, and so on, and so on.

            I suppose you aren’t a KKK-style racist. In a way, you’re worse. Your basic objection to it is that “white race” is far too much of an abstract intellectual concept for you.

            There’s no principled difference between feeling loyalty to the jungle tribe, to the German volk or to the international proletariat. They’re all wrong. They all share the same basic error of collectivism.

            I guess it’s somewhat good that you don’t think value-superiority somehow rubs off on you through being part of a race or kin group. But the idea that you should “earn” honor through subservience to it is not any better.

            As for status games, I do not concern myself thinking about status every waking moment of my life (as some people apparently do). Nor do I particularly care about my status vis-a-vis you in the “SSC community”. In general, I find the obsession with status here quite bizarre. It’s as if half the commenters have a strong inferiority complex.

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          • JBeshir says:

            @Anonymous (with the green icon and capital A)

            Okay, so the “patient” isn’t the country, its economic prosperity, or any individuals in it. It’s a particular ethnicity, and “dying” refers to it becoming statistically less frequent.

            I don’t care about that. My values principally focus on well-being of individuals. I do have mild preferences for some other things like, say, protecting diverse ecosystems in nature or the existence of advanced, cultured civilisation which I haven’t modeled well, but I don’t think I have any preferences at all over what parentage the next generation has except instrumentally.

            The evidence we have suggests that watching talent distribution and culture might be instrumentally important, but taken on their own, the current shifts in those don’t raise anything that isn’t better solved through other means. The former we’re going to be screwing with wildly in a couple of generations on the outside and is mostly an argument against open borders, which we already don’t have. The latter is not very concerning if you think Cthulhu is good at eating things. If you did want to do more, throwing people out to die should be a last resort, not a first, because dying is bad.

            Unfortunately I think even if deliberately acting to help your patient didn’t affect things I cared about directly, I’d have to oppose it on general “no using society to try to make one ethnicity/religion dominant over another” liberalism norms, because I think violating that would be bad for a lot of things I care about indirectly. So I don’t think we really have much common ground here to find.

            On the make-more-professionals-have-children thing, economic incentives may not be maximally market based because the incentive amount is government set instead of coming from complex social interactions, but they’re pretty market-based. And they can dial up and down as public view of a situation varies to react to effectiveness/need somewhat. Any difference that exists there isn’t worth the whole “people starving and dying” downside to the other plan.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous (with green diamonds):

            Do you always defect?

            In what context?

            One-shot prisoner’s dilemmas? I’ve never been part of a game-theory experiment, but yes I would.

            In some loose sense regarding my behavior in society? Like do I kill people and take their stuff? No. The rewards of cooperation are far greater.

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          • Anonymous says:

            This thread has gone kind onto a different track, but I’m moderately confused as to why John Schilling, Jaskologist et al were talking as though the possibilities are either Social Security exists, or people take care of their parents in old age. Isn’t it entirely possible for people to do the usual thing they do when they have some task they want done but don’t want to have to do themselves: work in a job they do want to do, and then pay other people to do the stuff they don’t want to do? Specifically, for people to save money in a private pension and pay for their retirement that way? Yes, there are a bunch of side issues like what about the poor and what about people who don’t save and all the rest of it. But the claim that, if not for Social Security, the inevitable outcome would be elderly parents all moving in with their adult kids, seems baseless to me.

            Also, presumably an ending of Social Security would involve something like paying people the proportion of the money they expect to receive relative to how much of their expected lifetime payment they have already made, rather than the money that’s been paid in just being thrown into a pit.

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          • Vox writes:

            “Like do I kill people and take their stuff? No. The rewards of cooperation are far greater.”

            If you were in a situation where the rewards of killing people and taking their stuff were greater than the rewards of cooperation, would you?

            This is, as you probably know, the old prudent predator problem. If the only reason to respect other people’s rights is that doing so is in your interest, then you should violate their rights when that is in your interest–and there is no way of showing that it never will be.

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          • John Schilling says:

            I did say that having elderly retirees move back in with their now-middle-aged children is the most efficient way of providing private care for them, not that it was the only way. But I do suspect that it’s probably the only way a typical middle-class family will be able to afford a middle-class lifestyle for the retired grandparents, if there’s no public assistance, pension, or savings.

            Consider this the inverse of the two-income-trap problem. And also ask why unemployed thirty-year-olds move back in with their parents, rather than having their parents send them checks big enough to subsidize their independent existence while leaving everyone in peace to pursue their own lives. There are substantial synergies to adding a non-working member to an existing household, that you don’t get if you insist on everyone living independently. Paying for a bedroom and a share of a bathroom and kitchen, rather than an entire house or apartment. Exploiting the unpaid labor of someone who can’t manage a full-time job but will be around most of the time to do useful odds and ends. Economies of scale in cooking one large meal.

            If you’re not going to do this, if you insist on living your own independent life and so you’re going to pay full market rates for the goods and services someone else needs to live their dependent life, that’s not something you pay for with the money left over from “working in a job you do want to do”, That means taking a second job, or a really ugly job like “Diesel generator repairman in North Dakota” for the extra pay. Or maybe condemning your dependents to poverty.

            Realistically, it means grandma and grandpa are moving in.

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          • Anonymous says:

            @John Schilling

            Note that living in a retirement home with a bunch of other retired people is a hell of a lot cheaper than living on your own, so it’s not exactly analogous to a thirty-year-old moving out rather than living with their parents.

            I’m not sure I understand what mechanism you are arguing makes retirement funded through Social Security affordable but retirement funded through private pensions not affordable. Is your claim that the middle classes and below are getting out of Social Security a lot more than they put in – so are financed by the very rich? If not, why does funneling part of your money through the government and then having them give it back to you make it enough to live on if it wouldn’t have been before?

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            If you were in a situation where the rewards of killing people and taking their stuff were greater than the rewards of cooperation, would you?

            If I really were in such a situation, then sure. But I don’t think those situations are as common as many people think.

            For one, there is the issue of moral character. As a result of the kind of habits I’ve developed, I have a strong aversion to hurting people. It would inflict a heavy mental cost on me.

            So if some sadistic billionaire came up to me and said “I’ll give you a million dollars if you torture this baby to death”, I wouldn’t take it. I don’t think I would be able to live happily with myself after that.

            On the other hand, if I found a briefcase with a million dollars belonging to Warren Buffet—and somehow I knew I could keep it without any legal consequences—yeah, I think I’d keep that money.

            Certainly, more severe situations are not impossible. War is the greatest example. It inevitably involves killing innocent people in one’s own defense. This includes not just civilians but also the (usually conscripted) soldiers. They don’t deserve to die. You can say whatever you want about who started it and who has the blame—but the fact is that they have an interest in living and you have an interest in killing them.

            This is, as you probably know, the old prudent predator problem. If the only reason to respect other people’s rights is that doing so is in your interest, then you should violate their rights when that is in your interest–and there is no way of showing that it never will be.

            Yeah, I’ve read and thought at lot about the “prudent predator” problem in Objectivist circles.

            I do consider myself an Objectivist, but I think there are two things that trip a lot of them up about this question.

            First, there is a tendency to adopt a weird kind of Kantianism where they say morality is about doing what is good for “man qua man”, where you’re supposed to act on principles that are generally good rather than looking at your specific case. That leads them into an unjustified absolutism about morality and rights—that there could never ever ever be a situation where two people’s interests conflict.

            (As Stephen, quoted below, said: “It may be a good general rule not to seek for more than 5 per cent in investments, but if it so happens that you can invest at 10 per cent with perfect safety, would not a man who refused to do so be a fool?”)

            Second, there is the idea that “survival”—rather than eudaimonia—is the ultimate value and standard of value. At first, I thought that was stupid. Then I read Tara Smith’s book and thought there might be something to it. But now I’m back to thinking it’s stupid, after all.

            In combination, both of these lead Objectivists to be absurd question-dodgers and hypothetical-fighters whenever you ask them “If it were in your interest to violate someone else’s rights, should you do it?” Their absolutism makes them say such situations are metaphysically impossible. Or if these situations were possible, ethics would somehow have nothing to say. (This is where the old “ethics is not for lifeboat situations” refrain comes in.) I think it is ridiculous to imagine a situation open to free choice where ethics has nothing to say; the only reason they say such a thing is to salvage a bad theory.

            Their “survivalism” then makes it impossible for them to say anything else—because then they’re immediately forced to say something absurd, like that you should torture 50 babies to death if it will aid your “survival”.

            He’s certainly not an Objectivist (though he is an egoist), but James Fitzjames Stephen has some great stuff on the “prudent predator problem”:

            A man who, upon the whole and having taken into account every relevant consideration, thinks it for his interest to do an act highly injurious to the world at large, no doubt would do it. But let us consider what would be the state of mind implied by the fact that he did take this view of his interest. A man who calmly and deliberately thinks that it is upon the whole his interest to commit an assassination which can never be discovered in order that he may inherit a fortune, shows, in the first place, that he has utterly rejected every form of the religious sanction; next, that he has no conscience and no self-respect; next, that he has no benevolence. His conduct affords no evidence as to his fear of legal punishment or popular indignation, inasmuch as by the supposition he is not exposed to them. He has thus no motive for abstaining from a crime which he has a motive for committing; but motive is only another name, a neutral instead of a eulogistic name, for obligation or tie. It would, therefore, be strictly accurate to say of such a man that he—from his [223] point of view and upon his principles—ought, or is under an obligation, or is bound by the only tie which attaches to him, to commit murder. But it is this very fact which explains the hatred and blame which the act would excite in the minds of utilitarians in general, and which justifies them in saying on all common occasions that men ought not to do wrong for their own advantage, because on all common occasions the word ‘ought’ refers not to the rules of conduct which abnormal individuals may recognize, but to those which are generally recognized by mankind. ‘You ought not to assassinate,’ means if you do assassinate God will damn you, man will hang you if he can catch you, and hate you if he cannot, and you yourself will hate yourself, and be pursued by remorse and self-contempt all the days of your life. If a man is under none of these obligations, if his state of mind is such that no one of these considerations forms a tie upon him, all that can be said is that it is exceedingly natural that the rest of the world should regard him as a public enemy to be knocked on the head like a mad dog if an opportunity offers, and that for the very reason that he is under no obligations, that he is bound by none of the ties which connect men with each other, that he ought to lie, and steal, and murder whenever his immediate interests prompt him to do so.

            To regard such a conclusion as immoral is to say that to analyse morality is to destroy it; that to enumerate its sanctions specifically is to take them away; that to say that a weight is upheld by four different ropes, and to own that if each of them were cut the weight would fall, is equivalent to cutting the ropes. No doubt, if all religion, all law, all benevolence, all conscience, all regard for popular opinion were taken away, there would be no assignable reason why men should do right rather than wrong; but the possibility which is implied in these ‘ifs’ is too remote to require practical attention.

            Now, I clearly don’t agree with Stephen on the “religious sanction”—and I agree that taking away the prospect of literal eternal damnation lowers the stakes of morality significantly—but his general points stand.

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          • John Schilling says:

            Note that living in a retirement home with a bunch of other retired people is a hell of a lot cheaper than living on your own

            Independent-living communities typically run $30,000/year or so,
            and assisted-living bumps that up to $40,000. It’s been a while since I was a starving grad student, but that seems a bit high. Maybe it makes a difference whether you can do the full range of household chores, walk or drive home with groceries, etc, or have to pay someone to do those things for you. Being old isn’t cheap.

            As for paying it all with private pensions and savings, sure. If you spend thirty years conscientiously saving for it, and don’t screw it up by e.g. putting everything into Enron stock. Most people haven’t spent the past thirty years doing that. If we make it the rule going forward, most people will – but only most, and that still leaves millions of old people starving to death.

            Nothing resembling modern Western civilization will actually tolerate that, so we’re back to either some sort of public old-age pension, or intense social pressure for millions of middle-class families to invite the grandparents to come live with them. And the ones who did spend thirty years living frugally while saving are going to feel like chumps and demand a cut of this largess for themselves.

            Given the choice between, “Support my parents’ retirement out of my own back pocket and likely in my own spare bedroom”, and “Restore something like Social Security, the government can print enough money to make it work, and they promise they’ll give it only to people who really deserve it like my parents do”, which do you think is going to happen?

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          • Anonymous says:

            @John Schilling

            Good point – I hadn’t considered the staff costs involved. On the other hand, an elderly person living with their kids will presumably be more costly than a thirty-year-old living with their parents.

            As I said, I can’t see how an ending of Social Security wouldn’t involve paying people back what they’ve already contributed.

            I’m not sure why you seem to think the available options, absent Social Security, are either that everyone saves for their retirement with a private pension, or that everyone lives at home. If this scenario of Social Security ending were to happen – I agree with you that it almost certainly won’t – then surely a more likely outcome would be that most people save for their retirement, and only the ones that don’t – the poor and the too-impulsive-to-save, which may or may not be the same group – move in with their kids?

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          • @Vox Imperatoris @anon

            Let’s simplify this. Everything you called apelike savagery is simply the human animal at its natural state. And yes, it does boil down to the is/ought problem, but naturalism isn’t always fallacious, only in extreme cases. But ultimately, where would you derive your values from, if not from reality/existence? One has to, ultimately, derive every ought from an is, because values cannot generated from no inputs, from the position of an empty universe or a Rawlsian type of idiotic empty-mind position.

            The key is teleology. The central mistake of the Enlightenment was the denial of teleology. That is why Hume, who was a typical anti-teleologist, invented this is/ought problem. This seems to be solved now .e.g. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~lormand/phil/teach/biology/readings/Perlman%20-%20The%20modern%20philosophical%20resurrection%20of%20teleology%20%28highlights%29.pdf

            With teleology, value means suitability for a purpose and purposes are existing facts. Everything else follows from it, really, it is possible to find the real purpose of humans on a fact based level. And it seems it is social cooperation for the purpose of social competition/fighting.

            If you prefer more futurist than archeo insights, like sci-fi, I recommend Pournelle’s Falkenberg-series and Larry Niven’s Man-Kzin Wars. Both are “getting it” on a very very basic level.

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          • Posing the question of what you should value implies that you have some sort of choice in the natter, and therefore don’t have to value whatever is offered to you as a default by nature.

            Trying to make values out of teloi or purposes runs into the problem that you end up with a bunch of instrumental/hypothetical values all in search of a terminal/categorical value.

            Subjective values aren’t contradictory to naturalism.

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          • @Vox

            “But they have no unearned claim on you of any sort”.

            Maybe, but it is not invariable a bad idea to do nice things for people who
            don’t necessarily owe you anything. It gets you in good standing with the tribe– who you may
            need to rely on later.

            “What have the kin, the ethnicity, the tribe done to deserve one’s loyalty?”

            Nuutured you while you were young, probably. Humans tend to go through periods of greater and lesser dependence
            on others, and have evolved systems of reciprocal assistance to deal with that. Modern technology hasn’t fundamentally changed
            that. It is still broadly in one’s rational interests to be a “good”, dutiful member of one’s tribe, even if
            that leads to short-term losses.

            Ayn Rand kind of disguises the point by distinguishing between productive people and moochers as if they
            were two subspecies, two permanent conditions. But productivity and dependence are much more like phases,
            in most cases.

            “The only “duty” which is not in conflict with your happiness is a “duty” that consists solely
            in the desire to maximize your individual happiness.”

            If you relentlessly maximise your individual happiness, you will be identified by your tribe as a
            defector, a free rider, a nasty person that they don’t want to associate with, which will not
            ultimately be to your benefit. The only alternative to egoism
            is not relentless self-sacrifice. A few people have advised an altrusim that extreme, but not many.
            Most people who are not egoists pursue a policy which is aimed at sacrificing *some* short term happiness
            for long term gains. Rand confuses the issue by not distinguishing between extreme and reasonable altruists.

            Objectivists and Libertarians sound unconvincing to the majority of people ,
            not because the average person is an insensate brute, a deluded altruist,
            or incapable of rational thought, but becasue the average person is highly
            sensitive to cheats and potential defectors. To Jo(e) Average, “I will pay no taxes and collect no welfare”
            sounds like “I will pay no taxes for now, while I am doing well, but if things go
            pear-shaped, I’ll be straight to the head of the dole queue”.

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          • Anonymous says:

            @TheAncientGeek

            It sounds like part of the argument you’re making is “you shouldn’t maximize your happiness by mindlessly doing whatever seems good at the time; much better is to take into consideration what long term costs your actions might have, and plan for maximum happiness in the future as well as the present”. To which I doubt either Rand or Vox Imperatoris would disagree.

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    • ryan says:

      Singapore tried that. Didn’t work. Though there’s definitely room to argue they didn’t pay *enough*.

      http://blog.moneysmart.sg/family/why-isnt-the-baby-bonus-working-singaporeans-share-their-gripes/

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    • Garrett says:

      Why not take the progressive approach and sterilize those who are several standard deviations below the mean? It could be done early in life, say, age 10, based both on the IQ of the parents as well as the actual tested IQ of the child. If the biological parents aren’t known, their IQ is counted as 0 for eval purposes.
      Tada! Progress!

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  11. orthonormal says:

    > the idea that something more is going on than a couple of studies getting a head start and the rest of them needing a little time to catch up

    Do you mean “societies” rather than “studies”?

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  12. Jake Argent says:

    I live in Turkey, which has an average IQ of 87 if I remember correctly.

    If you’ve read some news about our political situation, then you know we got a plunderer in charge who sold the nation’s assets to whomever and distributed the spoils to himself, his family and friends plus political allies.

    The majority of the populace not only fails to condemn this, but actively supports it by shitty reasons such as “but at least they are Muslim!”. (There exists a woman here who claims that she’s the “ass hair” of our great(!) minister… Informed electorate all right.)

    Top 5 percent might matter more economically, but the average would matter a lot more politically in a (pseudo-)democracy I’d wager.

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    • ryan says:

      My reactionary side took guilty pleasure seeing EU pressure to become more democratic (“stop with the coups every time someone more religious than a Unitarian wins the election”) somewhat ruining democracy in Turkey.

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  13. William O. B'Livion says:

    > Likewise, suppose you’re a mid-level bureaucrat in Washington, of the type that there are
    > tens of thousands of. If you behave dishonorably, you can amass a small empire and make
    > some money. If you behave honorably, then maybe America does very well as a country
    > down the line, but that effect is aggregated over thousands of bureaucrats, so it’s not like
    > you’re really growing the pot that much. Once again, if you are merely shrewd and not
    > genuinely altruistic, you’ll defect.

    Seen what’s been happening at the Veteran’s Administration recently? http://dailycaller.com/2015/12/06/va-refuses-to-terminate-employees-who-have-sex-in-office-high-on-cocaine-during-work/ for some links.

    Also the IRS, etc. etc.

    Or was that your point?

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    • pneumatik says:

      US Government bureaucrats are not perfect, but in my experience the senior ones are very focused on trying to accomplish whatever they believe their job is. Almost no career-climbers in government are in it for the money, they’re in it so that they can have influence to direct some part of the government to do the good work they think it needs to do in the way they think it should be done. They still fight over resources, but that’s because they think their department or whatever is under-resourced to do the very valid job it’s been assigned.

      It also may be that the incentives are not properly set up to keep employees from doing terrible things like this. The union has made it very difficult to fire federal employees, and it doesn’t help that the courts have ruled that once you have a government job it is your legal right to keep it. The net effect is that of the people who are empowered to fire people, most would consider it too much effort to fire people who misbehave. It’s easier to just put the terrible employee in a place where they can do minimal damage and move on with trying to actually do good government work. Remember that if they get rid of the employee they can’t easily re-allocate the employee’s salary to something else the way a private business could.

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      • anonymous says:

        ….this brief nuanced message from someone with real-life experience, is the kind of demythication (just add nuance to a blunt generality) that reminds you how much stake the right puts in insuring that thought-stopping memes like “government is bad” “liberals are evil” are never “unpacked”

        Wonder if people who raised themselves on science fiction fantasy aren’t especially susceptible to magical thinking.

        My readings of history show that groups like this one are always caught looking the other way.

        Later when you think back on those years you spent driveling on about liberals. How you had your eye off the ball. For what? You’ll have to remind yourself later how wired you are on hate now. At the time it seemed real. You were getting off on it. How could it have happened to you?
        The people who lived through it all know you were one of the useful idiots. Sometimes young children spit on you. Their parents have told them you were raised in finery and had every advantage , until ? and you’ve been dishonoring yourself ever since

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  14. Wrong Species says:

    A couple thoughts:

    His thoughts on immigration were not very convincing. If the o-ring theory can be applied to nations, then high IQ countries should be very exclusive of who they let it not only for selfish reasons but because it’s more utilitarian as a whole. I know he addresses that in the next chapter but it wasn’t a very convincing argument against iq exclusion.

    I think that the idea that top IQ is more important than the average IQ is probably true because of the US. We bring in a lot of high IQ people through immigration while also bring in a lot of low IQ people. While the national IQ isn’t notable among developed countries, our GDP per capita is one of the highest in the world.

    Whats the IQ of subsaharan elites anyways?

    I’m not convinced the government is that important to economic growth. Sure, there are cases like North Korea that can completely wreck their economy but once a country has a little bit of capitalism, it seems like they will catch up to their IQ potential. Look at China and Japan as countries that have very different governments but similar growth paths and compare how socialism in poor countries always seems to do terribly in poor countries compared to the rich ones.

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    • Steve Sailer says:

      American colleges work extremely hard to increase their test scores, and thus pass up opportunities to get larger.

      Top American universities are extraordinarily rich but they’ve been remarkably reluctant to expand the number of undergraduates they teach. For example, Stanford has something like an 8 square mile campus, but didn’t increase the size of its freshman class from roughly 1980-2010, even as the number of applications it received shot upwards. The result was to boost Stanford’s test scores even higher.

      Other elite colleges are similar. Most of the colleges that have expanded as fast as the national population are unprestigious ones like Arizona State and Florida International.

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    • multiheaded says:

      but once a country has a little bit of capitalism, it seems like they will catch up to their IQ potential

      Oh hi. Looking out the window… no. Definitely not.

      (yes, resource curse, sure. but still.)

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  15. Michael Watts says:

    If you explained everything very carefully to all participants, had them play a couple of games both ways so they got a feel for it, and had a Professor of Economics give a lecture on why cooperation was probably the best option, would high-IQ people still succeed more because of some innate cooperative tendency? Or would everyone else have figured out their secret and robbed them of their advantage?

    My intro-to-microeconomics course, which fulfilled a graduation requirement, required all the students to participate in little online games every couple of weeks (that is, one game every couple of weeks). Mostly they were about price-setting rather than contributing to a common good, but I think it’s reasonable to draw an analogy.

    Anyway, these games were described in the textbook along with the results that microeconomic theory specified should happen. Just reading the little vignettes accompanying the games, and doing what the book said you should do, was sufficient to place very highly. From this I conclude that no matter how much preparation you give to low-IQ people, they’re unlikely to get all that much benefit from it, especially if you give high-IQ people the same preparation.

    (a related idea: efforts to close the achievement gap by improving underperforming racial groups’ test scores are likely to founder when any successful approaches get adopted by higher-performing groups as well.)

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  16. For the causal direction question, IQ -> Development, or Development -> IQ. the obvious natural experiments would be countries with similar population genetics but external factors limiting their development. E.g. political divisions, natural disasters etc.

    For example East and West Germany would be an ideal test case.* They were a unified population at the same development level before they divided. The East German education system, generally lower standard of living and nutrition, lack of access of stimulating western media, etc etc. Would likely have had an affect on the national IQ, and you could probably still find that with people alive today who grew up in East Germany.

    This paper http://www.iapsych.com/iqmr/fe/LinkedDocuments/roivainen2012.pdf seems to pretty much confirm that hypothesis, with former East Germans being 6 IQ points lower than former West Germans.

    *[North and South Korea would be even better natural experiment, but I doubt you could get reliable figures on North Korean IQ. You could also look at areas which had natural disasters in the past.]

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    • szopeno says:

      East and West Germany are NOT the same genetically.

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      • Greg says:

        Correct. Germany is a multi-ethnic federation. A Bavarian is not at all like a Saxon.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Indeed. East Germans have a lot of Slavic admixture.

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      • Ahilan Nagendram says:

        Definitely not. Pop. gen. studies point towards a stronger Slavic signal in East German pops. Slavs in general underperform.

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        • Mark Atwood says:

          Slavs in general underperform.

          Really? My personal experience is that in the math club, chess club, go club, and in math classes, the handful of kids of Slavic decent routinely kicked every else’s ass. (Except the Go club, where the Chinese kids beat the Slav who beat everyone else.)

          There is a huge current reality of really top-notch software development done at development centers in Slavic countries. My experience reviewing and auditing code from those development centers is that my ears and eyes will be leaking blood by the time I’m done groking it, but the stuff works yo.

          There is a noticeable community of people of central and eastern European descent who do a lot of tech & software heavy lifting in the US technology cities and in the startup world.

          But then, my experience is just mine, and cannot be fully generalized. But still…

          … there really is a common understanding that Slavs underperform? `Cause I’ve never encountered it.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            It was in Mein Kampf, Mark!

            It can’t be wrong!

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          • Michael Watts says:

            There are a lot of high-profile high-achieving Slavs (and even a lot of low-profile high-achieving Slavs). But societies composed of Slavs don’t seem to be doing very well, which isn’t a terrible foundation for the statement “Slavs in general underperform”.

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          • Anonymous says:

            The Slavs are doing pretty well, actually, now that they cast off the burden of communism. They are shrugging also shrugging off the burden of euro-leftism as we speak, too!

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      • Daniel Kokotajlo says:

        They can’t be *that* different though.

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    • Anthony says:

      Jayman covered the Korea situation. Though apparently the main genetic cline in Korea is east-west, so there may be something still there.

      One person alive today who grew up in East Germany: Angela Merkel.

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    • excess_kurtosis says:

      The better natural experiment here is more direct: Countries that discover lots of oil suddenly get a ton of development and money. People have looked into this (Both looking at oil rich countries, and one particularly careful study looking at the local impact of the discovery of oil in Norway) and have generally found a positive development->IQ relationship, but a very small one relative to the size of the IQ->development relationship that we see cross-nationally.

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  17. “Meanwhile, Jones’ data gives the lowest-IQ nation in his set, South Africa, an average score of 72 and the highest, Japan, a score of 105. So our ranges are not very different. South Africa has a GDP per capita of about $5000 and Japan of about $30000, so there’s a factor-of-six difference. That’s not too much different from our factor-of-four difference that we’re seeing in the United States.

    I’m just not seeing this big paradox. South Africa seems to do about as well as we would expect if we abstracted over a large group of IQ 72 people and called it a country, and Japan likewise, even if those individuals weren’t all living together or governing each other or engaging one another in cooperative economic activity”

    I do think Jones might have explained the paradox better.

    The paradox is evident in this: the person with IQ 72 earns much much much more in a country with average IQ of 100 than in a country with average IQ of 72.

    Looked at from a different angle: the white male American with IQ-80 earning ~$40,000 at age 40-50 (from your histogram) is at around 92nd or 93rd percentile of the world income distribution, even though in IQ terms he is below the mean. (If world mean IQ = 90 is correct)

    Acemoglu famously began his book Why Nations Fail with the “Nogales paradox”: if you moved a resident of Nogales, Mexico just across the border to Nogales, Texas, you suddenly multiply his income many times even though nothing about the person changes. The difference is in the institutions (and the capital stock). The quality of institutions (and capital stock) depend at least in part on the national average IQ.

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    • Regarding reverse causation — I thought it was patent that Jones argues for a feedback loop between IQ and development. Development does lead to IQ gains, which would improve institutional quality, etc. and therefore lead to more development. The only thing he does not touch on is possible limits to the gains in developing countries.

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      • “Meanwhile, Jones’ data gives the lowest-IQ nation in his set, South Africa, an average score of 72 and the highest, Japan, a score of 105. So our ranges are not very different. South Africa has a GDP per capita of about $5000 and Japan of about $30000, so there’s a factor-of-six difference. That’s not too much different from our factor-of-four difference that we’re seeing in the United States.

        Of course you also chose a ~70ish country with one of the highest per capita incomes. If you had chosen a more typical 70ish country — then you’re talking about a factor of 10-20 difference with a typical 100ish country.

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      • If you compared the top & bottom deciles of the 160 countries in the Maddison project dataset, then for 2008 (the latest year with complete data) the ratio is >40 !!! (Of course >40 is for ratio of incomes not IQ but it would not be too different for ranking by IQ. The bottom 16 are composed of Sub-Saharan Africa + Haiti.) Tell me there’s no paradox in the between-country and within-country correlations between IQ and income.

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    • Troy says:

      The paradox is evident in this: the person with IQ 72 earns much much much more in a country with average IQ of 100 than in a country with average IQ of 72.

      Does a person with IQ 72 similarly earn much more in a part of a country with an average IQ of 100 than a part with an average IQ of 72? For example, how do U.S. states with different IQs compare?

      If it’s political institutions in particular that matter, then being part of a low-IQ community shouldn’t make so much of a difference in the same country. (Although it’s tricky inasmuch as the natural test cases, e.g., cities and states with high/low IQs will have some unique political institutions, namely the city and state ones.)

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      That’s not a paradox. The person with IQ 72 earns more in the nation with IQ 100 because it’s more developed. Nobody is denying that countries have different levels of wealth.The person with IQ 72 would also earn more if he moved to a rich oil emirate with IQ 70. Yes, wealth and IQ are correlated, but it’s clearly the wealth factor rather than the IQ factor that drives that gain.

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      • I don’t know the relevant data, but so far as theory is concerned, I would expect that someone with an IQ of 72 would do better in a place with an average IQ of 100 than a place with an average IQ of 70, for standard comparative advantage reasons. Having different relative costs makes possible gains from trade.

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      • That’s not a paradox. The person with IQ 72 earns more in the nation with IQ 100 because it’s more developed. Nobody is denying that countries have different levels of wealth.The person with IQ 72 would also earn more if he moved to a rich oil emirate with IQ 70. Yes, wealth and IQ are correlated, but it’s clearly the wealth factor rather than the IQ factor that drives that gain

        But now you’ve come to the point where you say there is no paradox because you have understood the underlying logic, without understanding why it is paradoxical. (All paradoxes are non-paradoxical once they are explained.)

        Except for the manna-from-heaven countries like Kuwait, IQ is an important determinant of national wealth. Of course by ‘wealth’ I mean capital stock — the accumulation of past investments. And what is one of the most important determinants of a country’s rate of investment? Quality of its institutions.

        And the correlation between income and IQ within countries is so much less than between countries BECAUSE of the capital stock differences !

        http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/12/08/book-review-hive-mind/#comment-279417

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  18. Peter Gerdes says:

    I’m also leery of the results connecting high IQ with patience and cooperation. I mean I’m sure the correlation here is genuine but here too I worry about the causal claim. For the argument to work it must be that holding fixed an individuals friends/environment/socioeconomic status/parent’s socioec stat raising IQ would non-trivially raise patience/causation.

    For a variety of reasons those with high IQ tend to occupy stable positions in society, have substantial reserves to draw upon and substantial forces (lawyers, cops, advocacy groups, building guards) buffering them from upheaval. They are also buffered from the erratic, insane and others with poor impulse control (regardless of how smart they are).

    It makes sense that those who have more precarious societal positions would (unconsciously? maybe even evolved disposition) apply a higher discount/distrust
    of future rewards and rudimentary attempts to control on socioeconomic status won’t cut it.

    Also, high IQ tends to isolate you from the kind of erratic, impatient, unstable etc.. people who make for unreliable cooperation partners (and further undermine stability). If the people in your world are more likely to collaborate for mutual gain it’s only rational you would be more likely to chance cooperation yourself.

    Not to mention the kind of work/problems faced by high IQ individuals frequently depends on patience and cooperation while individuals with lower socioeconomic status don’t benefit from this constant reinforcement.

    What we need is a test that controls for socioeconomic class when checking this claim. Indeed, given self-sorting based on IQ it will be almost impossible to disentangle the two hypothesizes…even Harvard students self-sort in confounding ways.

    Perhaps the only way forward is to compare similar societies that differ with respect to recent unrest/instability/social breakdown. If we find that the cooperation/patience bonus to IQ doesn’t shrink (enough) as social order breakdown (making the situation of high and low IQ individuals more similar) the causation goes as claimed.

    Hmm, I wonder what conflict does to people’s IQ scores themselves. Could be interesting re: Flynn

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    • Chalid says:

      I came here to post something along these lines.

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    • HeelBearCub says:

      @Gerdes:
      Aren’t you really making a network effect claim for IQ? Which is (roughly) Jones’ claim?

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    • excess_kurtosis says:

      “What we need is a test that controls for socioeconomic class when checking this claim”

      This research largely exists. Within horrible schools in poor neighborhoods, the kids with lower test scores are generally the ones who act up. Generally, tech firms like Amazon that have to hire poor people are starting to do routine g-screening to predict stuff like retention and shrinkage for exactly this reason.

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  19. Max says:

    It’s a book about science which is deeply annoyed that it might have controversial political implications and tries to avoid them as carefully as possible, generally successfully.

    So basically its not about science. Its about re-framing and double speaking science in politically correct way.

    I do wonder if he did study comparative study of Sweden today and 15 years ago. They have quite an influx of immigrant population, a lot of them more tribal and lower IQ. So far I only seen anecdotal and circumstantial evidence (such as raise in rape levels – but what is classified as rape and how accurate that statistics is questionable)

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    • Peter Gerdes says:

      No! Almost all science selects where to focus in part based on concerns of funding/offense/misperception.

      For instance, EVERY discussion (except maybe Dawkins, Singer and a few others) of either disability or abortion deliberately avoids poking the elephant in the room: there is an incredibly strong argument that we have a moral imperative to abort the disabled. You might say: that’s not science. True. But tallying up the average QALY loss a disability brings is science. Enumerating the tests that could be done if this was to become common practice and how effective they are is science. Lastly, even suggestive questions like: if poor timing (try again later) is an acceptable consideration for abortion why isn’t the higher expected life quality of a retry an even stronger consideration.

      Why bring this up? Because in both cases what we do is avoid making well supported inferences (not sure what re: IQ but they exist) so people can adopt the useful guise of neutrality/non-judgementality not to mention the practical benefit of avoiding all the disclaimers and caveats required to avoid being misinterpreted.

      The point is that these hot buttons excite people so they are unable to process other information. If every time it was necessary to improve women’s access to abortions or fight restrictive laws someone chimed in ‘definietely, think of the utility gain from aborting disabled fetuses’ nothing useful would get accomplished. Similarly, talking about either immigration or race here would drown out anything else he has to say.

      ————–

      Sigh, I do hope the abortion/disability hot button fades. I really see no difference (ok extra pain and months of discomfort for the woman) between choosing to carry a disabled fetus to term rather than abort and reconcieve (when possible) and administering poison or physical injury to a fetus. Same outcomes (assuming abortion not itself a substantial wrong) same choice same moral question. Yes, it bothers me the same way seeing people stand by and defend deliberate attempts to injure a fetus so as to produce a disabled child would

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      • Mary says:

        Tallying up the QALY loss to having your life cut off in utero is even easier.

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        • Neurno says:

          Yes it is! It’s none. No QALY loss. Because you are your mind, not your neurons. A fetus’ brain is not yet capable of sustaining consciousness because its neurons are in GABA-polarity-flipped connection forming mode. Not until the GABAergic neurons flip to their normal (inhibitory) polarity is the neocortex capable of sustaining consciousness. At the time of birth, the chloride ion content inside the neurons is switched from high to low. This causes the polarity of the GABAergic neurons to flip, and consciousness comes online for the first time.
          In rats it has been shown that suppression of the chloride ion concentration switch signals (such as the mother’s oxytocin) makes it harder for the switch to occur and makes the newborn mammal more likely to die of anoxia from failing to begin to breathe.
          In other words, your first breath of air corresponds closely to your first moment of consciousness, and thus the beginning of your existence as a sentient being (sapience develops later, obviously.) Why? Because the same mechanism underlies both: the initial booting-up of the brain due to the chloride-ion concentration change.

          Fascinatingly, this lack of consciousness does not mean that the brain is not yet learning. Thus, the human mind which boots up at birth has some pre-encoded associations already (such as the sound of the mother’s voice as heard through amniotic fluid.)

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          • Anonymous says:

            Killing a fetus might well avoid most of the problems associated with killing a thinking human with dreams and preferences, but I don’t see how it gets around the loss of QALYs – unless you are assuming that the fetus will later be replaced by another.

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          • Mary says:

            And if replacement serves, why limit it? As every totalitarian in history has argued, eliminating these lives will ensure a bright and glorious future for many more, thus increasing QALYS.

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          • Mary says:

            “No QALY loss. Because you are your mind, not your neurons. A fetus’ brain is not yet capable of sustaining consciousness ”

            Not only switching the goalposts, as Anonymous observed, but making an argument that obviously can be extended much further, because your brain is not capable of sustaining consciousness in deep sleep, and so your ability before and after are moot — you can be killed in your sleep with no loss of QALYS

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Mary

            Don’t the souls of unborn zygotes go straight to heaven?

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          • Anon says:

            Of course not houseboatonstyx, they still have original sin, and haven’t received baptism, so they go to hell.

            If Mary, mother of God, had been aborted though, she would have gone to heaven, being without original sin and all.

            Disclaimer: Actually atheist, so mostly snarky. Raised Catholic though.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Anon
            Of course not houseboatonstyx, they still have original sin, and haven’t received baptism, so they go to hell.

            Ah. Thus a case for baptizing all the Homunculi at once, slapdash, by injection, on condition that if the Homunculi do well, and come
            safe into the world after this, that each and every of them shall be baptized again –And provided, in the second place, That the thing can be done par le moyen d’une petite canulle, and sans faire aucune tort au pere.

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          • Irenist says:

            @houseboatonstyx:

            Don’t the souls of unborn zygotes go straight to heaven?

            Well, a few may have actually thought they went to Hell, while most Catholic theologians used to suppose unbaptized infants and fetuses went to Limbo, and now the Vatican isn’t sure if perhaps their fates aren’t somewhat higher, and discourages discussion of the Limbo question of “how low do they go?”.

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        • Neurno says:

          @Mary: Not only switching the goalposts, as Anonymous observed, but making an argument that obviously can be extended much further, because your brain is not capable of sustaining consciousness in deep sleep, and so your ability before and after are moot — you can be killed in your sleep with no loss of QALYS.

          I was hoping you’d bring up sleeping/unconscious people so I’d have an excuse to talk about my theories in those areas! This is a pretty topic-specific moral dilemma right now, but it has the potential to expand rapidly in the foreseeable future…
          So the difference here is between a brain that has never yet hosted a conscious mind, and a brain that has hosted a conscious mind. In the brain that has hosted a conscious mind, there is a previously existing mind that may come to exist again in that brain (in accordance with the probability that the person will ever wake up again. In this view, someone who is a ‘vegetable’ with no predicted chance of recovery also loses moral value.). Thus, you are effectively killing that extant mind which is attached to that body.
          If, on the other hand, the brain has never hosted a conscious mind, then there is no mind which is dependant on that brain which you would be depriving of it’s needed life-support system.
          Sleeping is different from deep anaesthesia. There is still a flickering partial presence of a mind in the case of sleep (relative to the depth of the sleep). Deep anaesthesia, which the pre-birth state is equivalent to, does not allow for this flicker of mind. So the mind is entirely halted, paused.
          The best analogy I can come up with at the moment is that of sabotaging an astronaut’s life support system. If you do so while the astronaut is in it, it is killing them. If you do so knowing that the astronaut will need it to survive in a few hours from now, you are still responsible for their death should it occur. If you are destroying a space suit that has never been used, that belongs to no one, and by so destroying you are ensuring it will never be used… Who is morally harmed by this? It is only the material cost of the space suit which is lost, not any harm done to a morally relevant being.

          The place into which this moral dilemma extends into the future is uploading. Hypothetically, consider the situation where at some point in the future uploading has been shown to be safe and effective way of transferring a conscious mind into digital form, but it requires that the physical brain be destroyed in the process (I predict this will be true for a long while before nondestructive uploading becomes possible). In this case, is it morally acceptable to chose to upload oneself? Given that you are asking for your brain to be destroyed, if you were your physical brain this would be a sort of suicide / self-murder. But, if we correctly acknowledge that the mind is the being, and safely transferring the mind intact means that no being has been lost, then noone is killed.
          Similarly, if you choose to make a digital backup of yourself once you are uploaded, this digital backup is not a moral being until it is run for the first time. Once it has begun running for the first time, taking it back offline again is murder if you intend to not let it come back online again.

          @Anonymous
          December 9, 2015 at 7:45 pm
          Killing a fetus might well avoid most of the problems associated with killing a thinking human with dreams and preferences, but I don’t see how it gets around the loss of QALYs – unless you are assuming that the fetus will later be replaced by another.

          My personal moral values do not include QALYs for potential but never-yet-extent minds, only for minds that do exist or have-existed-and-likely-will-resume-existing. Thus, I do not believe that all woman who have hit puberty are morally obligated to spend every possible moment of their child-bearing lives pregnant with as many babies as can be implanted in them with In Vitro Fertilization. It violates my moral instincts (and thus I have adjusted my moral philosophy, as do most people) to hold a worldview in which every woman must spend every year of her childbearing existence gestating a new batch of the maximum number of fetuses which can likely be birthed live (twelve? more?). Is that, may I ask, what you believe to be morally correct, or is it just what you thought that I believed?

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          • Mary says:

            “Thus, you are effectively killing that extant mind which is attached to that body.”

            Entirely hypothetical imputed value. Why should we value that “extant” mind, which, by your own scenario, does not exist at the time of the killing? It, indeed, seems contrived to fit in the cases you want but not those you don’t.

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          • Anonymous says:

            @Neurno

            My personal moral values do not include QALYs for potential but never-yet-extent minds, only for minds that do exist or have-existed-and-likely-will-resume-existing.

            Imagine there is some action you could take which would cause one currently existing person to stub their toe, and everyone born from today onwards to be blissfully happy. Should you take that action?

            I think it’s entirely possible to consider future humans less important than existing humans, while still considering them somewhat important. Think of it like an interest rate, but in utility rather than money.

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        • Max says:

          All this QALY bullshit talks make me annoyingly amused. What about mass genocides when using condoms ? What about all this matter which could potentially be turned into computronium – all precious time cycles wasted away not spent on calculating infinite paradises?

          This is all twisting pascal mugger to your own ends

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          • Neurno says:

            @Max: Yes, exactly. This is why it is no good at all to try to reason based on the presumed desires of minds that do not yet exist. Whatever moral calculation you prefer: deontological, contractual, utilitarian, whatever. It just doesn’t make sense to take into account non-existent-but-possible-people.

            If you go by virtue ethics, I would argue that it is silly and wrong to have a virtue of sneaking batches of fertilized human embryos into unwilling hosts and then trying to prevent those hosts from having abortions, in order to ‘save’ the ‘possible lives’ of humans-that-could-be-but-might-not-be-if-you-stand-idle. That behavior does not correspond to my conception of virtuous action, nor do I think it does for most people.

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      • anon says:

        Someone who genuinely thinks fetuses are people and values the sanctity of human life and so on isn’t going to be convinced based on QALYs that killing what they consider a baby is ok. Hell you don’t even have to think fetuses are people to be skeptical, it’s only an “incredibly strong argument” if you’re a consequentialist, which few people are.

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        • Neurno says:

          @ Anon:
          I believe you have misunderstood me. I am telling you that fetuses are not hosts to human minds (yet).
          I do value the continuance of the lives of human minds. I also value those human minds having interesting and pleasurable experiences.
          I do not morally value human bodies, or even brains, in so far as no human mind is affected by them.
          Abortion, to my mind, has only the moral impacts that are derived from the human minds experiencing it.

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          • anon says:

            No, I didn’t misunderstand you at all. You don’t think fetuses are people in a meaningful sense, other people do. These people are not obligated to endorse abortion based on any number of QALYs gained or lost, because the ethical systems they use to make decisions don’t consider QALYs a compelling reason to take a human life, which they hold as a sacred value.

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        • Neurno says:

          @ Anon: I disagree with your use of the word “think” here. I don’t “think” that fetuses are not people, I made a scientific argument for why they are not. I would be happy to have this scientifically refuted by empirical evidence if I am incorrect.
          However, my scientific statement is not equivalent to someone else “thinking” that fetuses are people. If you “think” a thing without empirical evidence to support it, and someone presents you with contradictory empirical evidence, you should investigate your beliefs. If you find in the course of your investigations that the belief you hold is incorrect, you should change that belief.
          If a person is not their mind, at what point is there a sensible definition for what a person is?
          I have worked in a lab where I was given living brain tumors freshly excised from a patient. My job was to carefully dissociate the tumor cells from each other, and grow them in a petri dish to study them. The goal was noble, to learn how to better stop cancer. But each of these cells, being a highly mutagenic cancer, had a slightly different genome. So I was growing hundreds of thousands of genetically distinct brain cells in the lab, and when we were done studying them, we destroyed them. Was each dead human cancer cell morally equivalent to the murder of a human being?
          If genetically unique human brain tissue doesn’t count as a human, what does?

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          • Mary says:

            “However, my scientific statement is not equivalent to someone else “thinking” that fetuses are people.”

            Except that we were taking issues not with your scientific statement but with your “thinking” that fetuses are not people, on grounds that would apply to you in your sleep.

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        • anon says:

          You haven’t made a “scientific argument” for anything, other than your inability to understand the views of people who disagree with you. Refusal to abort disabled fetuses isn’t based on a failure to count QALYs, it’s based an outright refusal to evaluate the future value of a life in consequentialist terms. I understand that in LW circles it’s common to consider the two one and the same, but in the real world you have to deal with the fact that non consequentialist ethical systems are not obviously wrong to most normal people, in fact they’re quite the opposite.

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          • Anonymous says:

            non consequentialist ethical systems are not obviously wrong to most normal people, in fact they’re quite the opposite.

            Indeed! A consequentialist among normal people is likely to be considered amoral and untrustworthy. (Assuming the normal understands consequentialism at all.)

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    • rose says:

      >what is classified as rape and how accurate that statistics is questionable)

      what is your source for this statement that the rise of rape in Sweden – approx. 1400% – is ‘questionable’.
      I tried a google search and the one article questioning it was devoid of hard facts, and seemed entirely political.

      here is an article by a Swedish woman on the rape epidemic by Moslem immigrants: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6865/sweden-anarchy

      and in the UK here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/10061217/Imams-promote-grooming-rings-Muslim-leader-claims.html

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    • Daniel Kokotajlo says:

      “So basically its not about science. Its about re-framing and double speaking science in politically correct way.”

      No! Avoiding controversial political implications is NOT unscientific. In fact I’d wager that it is one of the main drivers of scientific progress–if every scientific paper ended with a rousing call to action, we’d have two scientific communities (Red and Blue) instead of one.

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  20. Peter Gerdes says:

    Also I’m curious how confident we are about the effect of good government/society on the measurement of IQ.

    A more efficient/wealthier/etc.. society culls many more people from the general population through prisons, mental health institutions (or simply diagnoses that would get them kicked from study participants).

    Also wealthier societies are more cognoscente of IQ and those who feel they are on the low end of the curve will therefore be relatively more motivated to avoid such exams and those at the high end to seek them out. Indeed, in western countries the primary reason to submit to various kinds of IQ testing is job qualification (selecting..even in the army case…for those who have the skill being assessed) and the intellectual attraction of helping out with a scientific study (even more biasing). On the other hand the greater importance of such tests in the west means we are probably acculturated to take them more seriously than in other countries.

    Also, in poor countries war may very well strike unevenly perhaps increasing the odds of survival for those who stay put (possibly b/c of lack of talent).

    I wonder:

    Are these IQ tests in poor countries administered to government conscripts or others in databases you would prefer not to be on (tax collection, jury duty etc..). Or worse, the result of on the street meetings.

    How large is the effect from smart people leaving crappy places? Even without emigration in corrupt, inefficient and poor countries keeping unnoticed (and unavailable for IQ tests) may be the smart thing to do.

    Has any attempt been made to administer tests to individuals selected from birth records including convicts, the mentally ill and the homeless? If so was care taken to correct for the fact that high IQ individuals may be more likely to have cross a border since their birth.

    How much do IQ test averages change (in both the west and poor countries) in response to monetary incentives for performance? Are they just slacking elsewhere?

    Does shifting societies (moving back home/emigrating) have a substantial effect on IQ tests as people’s attitudes to IQ type tests shifts?

    Do these cross country differences change with the age of the test taker? Poor health and poor choice of substance to abuse can substantially erode IQ. Maybe we are testing the equivalent of our homeless vet (undoubtedly testing much lower than they did once) in these third world countries.

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  21. “did you know sub-Saharan Africa was the last region to ban leaded gasoline, all the way in 2006?”

    I didn’t know that. But my guess, given the poverty of sub-Saharan Africa, is that it probably burned less gasoline per square mile than other parts of the world, which would reduce the lead effect.

    A quick google for data does not seem to support that guess, however.

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    • Chalid says:

      I think it’s a bit more complicated than that, in that it depends on how urbanized the population is. A mile driven in a city causes more lead damage than a mile driven on a country road. (US urban crime dropping more than rural crime post-ban is another piece of evidence for the lead-crime theory.)

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      • Nornagest says:

        I’ve never been to sub-Saharan Africa, but I’ve been to some pretty impoverished parts of Asia, and they’re both heavily urbanized and incredibly congested. People in, say, Jakarta almost certainly drive fewer miles per year per capita than people in, say, LA, but the air quality is much worse and I’ll bet that has a lot to do with its millions of idling vehicles.

        It’s not the whole story, of course. Heating and cooking with coal is common there too, and a lot of those vehicles are autorickshaws with two-stroke motors that don’t burn fuel as efficiently or have exhaust systems as good as cars’ four-stroke engines do. But the vehicle density is still very high, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the same was true for Lagos or Mogadishu.

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        • John Schilling says:

          The biggest contributor to Indonesia’s air pollution is the “burn” part of slash-and-burn agriculture. In China, it’s burning coal and wood for heat. I am skeptical of the idling-cars theory; last month I visited Beijing and Seoul in the same week. Similar general climate, same season and similar weather, both cities gridlocked with the about the same mix of vehicles (mostly late-model Hyundais and Kias in both cities), but Seoul’s air was clean whereas in Beijing you pretty much had to chew before inhaling.

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          • Nornagest says:

            For what it’s worth, Jakarta smells of woodsmoke, Cebu City smells of charcoal, and Manila smells of gasoline. All three are bad but Cebu was probably the worst. Hong Kong (which is not by any means impoverished) mostly smelled of garbage when I was there, but its air was a lot cleaner than the other three, though still smoggy by American standards.

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          • Neurno says:

            By the way, that is a huge underutilized resource, the air pollution from slash-and-burn… The carbon that is released as carbon dioxide from the burning of crop waste can instead be partially sequestered by conversion into inorganic carbon via partial combustion (burning the crop waste only to charcoal instead of all the way to ash). Inorganic carbon is an excellent topsoil additive which increases crop yields, and will stay as part of the soil for a half-life of 50-150 years before being taken up into the cycle of organic life again. Thus, it is valuable as a destination for atmospheric carbon, and as a source for enriched topsoil.

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    • Steven says:

      “did you know sub-Saharan Africa was the last region to ban leaded gasoline, all the way in 2006?”

      It’s not actually true.
      Algeria, Iraq, and Yemen all continue to use leaded gasoline, as of January 2015.
      http://www.unep.org/Transport/new/PCFV/pdf/Maps_Matrices/world/lead/MapWorldLead_January2015.pdf

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  22. szopeno says:

    Nobody mentioned hdb chick and outbred vs inbred societies in a discussion about why some nations succeed and other do not? Strange.

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  23. Greg says:

    Speaking of correlations, IQ may be correlated with future time orientation, cooperation and possibly many other civilization sustaining traits, but this is more likely than not really just a correlation.

    The consequence is that you need multiple distinct civilization sustaining traits present in most of your people to actually sustain a high civilization. That’s quite politically incorrect, because a cluster of extreme values in multiple independent traits in a large population is… race.

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  24. Steve Sailer says:

    Just to put in a link to the super-stylized essays of La Griffe du Lion, which more than a few people have found hugely illuminating:

    http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/

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    • Neurno says:

      After Scott linked La Griffe in his review above, I went and read those two articles, and then a bunch more. I was hopeful at first that I might have found someone who thinks like me, but ultimately I was disappointed. He seems quite apt at making the accurate observation that some people are substantially less smart than others. What he lacks is any sensible idea about what to do next. He responds, not with empathy towards these people, not with an evident desire to help deliver them from their affliction, but rather cruel snide remarks about how we should be careful not to hire them for anything important, let them into college, etc.
      We can do better. Much better. Easily.
      Did anyone here notice the post I made in the last open thread (OT36: Nes Threadol Hayah Sham) in which I offered a hypothetical cure for mediocre intelligence?
      If not you can visit my SSC subthread blog at neurorationalist dot wordpress dot com to see my post without having to wade through a lot of discussion about gun policy, or just do an in-page search in the comments.
      I offered a hypothetical about a dangerous brain surgery which had an 80% chance of upgrading the recipient two standard deviations of intelligence, and a 20% chance of killing them. Obviously, such a surgery would not fix our situation, too many people would die.
      Here’s a brighter hypothetical for you… What if we had a treatment available now, cheaper to apply per person than a single dose of aspirin, which would have a disproportionately greater effect on those with lower intelligence. For those 1 SD or more below humanity’s norm, it would raise them an average of 1 SD. For those within +- 0.5 SD of the norm, it would raise them about 0.5 SD. For those higher, it would have a decreasing effect.
      Now, the downsides. First, the treatment is accompanied by a minor cold with some sneezing and coughing. Second, it only works on men. Third, it only works on a very specific part of men, their gametes. Ok, I lied, it doesn’t directly improve the intelligence of the men who receive it at all, it only affects their potential offspring.
      That’s it for downsides. No surgery, no significant risk of death or worsening of intelligence, and no effect on the brains of already extant humans. Just a shift in the next generation.
      What do you think, is it still worth applying the treatment even given these downsides?

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      • Jiro says:

        Having such a treatment will result in
        1) More intelligence in the next generation
        2) More gullibility in the next generation
        (unless people can legitimately have confidence in your claim that the treatment works; achieving this is actually really hard, since you can’t distinguish yourself from charlatans and people with ulterior motives)

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        • Neurno says:

          Ah, well, I forgot to mention that a necessary condition of the treatment being cheap is that it be applied to large populations indiscriminately and coercively… Genetic modification is a powerful and scary tool, with vast potential for both good and ill.

          For more info do an in-page search for a relevant comment by JBeshir in this comment thread.

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      • Princess Stargirl says:

        “What do you think, is it still worth applying the treatment even given these downsides?”

        I don’t see any non-trvial downsides. Without me “fighting the hypothetical.”

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        • Neurno says:

          I sort of figured you and thinkers like you wouldn’t see any problems, Princess Stargirl. I was assuming that others might. Perhaps there are men who would be upset that their children would have a handful of genes in their genome which the fathers did not supply. Perhaps women, upset by the fact that the child they bore would not truly have just the genes from her and her mate, but a tiny amount of ‘other’. It could be seen as violating a sense of integrity, to have the genome of one’s reproductive cells altered in that way.

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      • Dr Dealgood says:

        As the main guy who objected to the original hypothetical, my only quibble is that as you say in another subthread it “has to be” applied coercively. That doesn’t make a lot of sense and has problems I’ll get into in the third paragraph.

        The closest thing to what you’re looking for, i.e relatively cheap with few to no side effects and diminishing returns for smarter people, would be something that reduced genetic load. In essence, any time it found an allele suspected to reduce function relative to a hypothetical ideal genome it would swap that copy out for the ideal one. Ideally it would do the same for regulatory elements and other important non-coding regions too, since this already future science.

        There are two big issues with doing it that way. The first being that you’re essentially putting the whole genome under negative selection. That’s great for each individual but suicide for the species if everyone does it: without a few luddites you’ll never be able to adapt to a new environment. The second is that you’re creating a monoculture. That means that even though each individual will have near-perfect human health the population as a whole is much more vulnerable to disease: again, you need the luddites around in case some of them happen to have disease resistance.

        Of course both problems have an easy solution: don’t make everyone do it. That way the people who choose the procedure are materially better off, the preferences of the luddites are satisfied, and the species as a whole is safe. Win-win scenario.

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        • Neurno says:

          @Dr Dealgood:
          Yes, it would definitely be better overall to ask permission and only apply it to some, except that it makes things much more costly and difficult. Assume for this hypothetical that allowing anyone to ‘opt out’ necessarily causes the whole project to switch over into expensive mode, where only the quite wealthy can afford it. For the purposes of this thought experiment, let’s say ‘quite wealthy’ is the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population.
          In ‘cheap mode’ the treatment must be applied without anyone having knowledge of it, thus it is necessarily coercive. (not that they must hate it, just that they must be ignorant of it.)

          On the plus side, assume for the sake of this thought experiment that the specific concerns you raised about genetic homogeneity don’t apply to this treatment. The population would be only very slightly more uniform following treatment, not much. All alleles currently present in the gene pool would still be present, if perhaps in different ratios. There may or may not be novel genes not previously present in the genepool. Let’s not get too specific, I’m just trying to explore the cost-benefit and morality of different scenarios.

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          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Yes, it would definitely be better overall to ask permission and only apply it to some, except that it makes things much more costly and difficult.

            Why? That doesn’t really follow.

            Anyway, in the modified hypothetical then yeah there doesn’t seem to be a huge problem with rolling it out. If you remove all of the costs of a proposal then the cost-benefit analysis is necessarily one-sided in favor of it.

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        • Neurno says:

          Dear Dr Dealgood, Stargirl, and Nope:
          Since you’ve been so kind as to humor my rather vague and outre hypothetical questions, I wondering if I might pose a much more down-to-earth moral hypothetical.
          I have been wondering for some time about this particular concept. As neutrally as you can, please consider what you would write in your living will if given the option…
          Assume that there was a menu of 9 poorly tested and risky treatments, in a series of risk levels from probably fine (10% death) through each decile up to probably fatal (90% death). Because the treatments are largely untested, the risks are just estimates. The catch is this: the riskier treatments are more potent, with a chance of bringing you out of your otherwise probably incurable coma equal to the risk of death. So, if you survive the 90% fatality treatment, you have a 90% chance of waking up. If you survive the 10% fatality treatment, you only have a 10% chance of waking up. Which, if any, would you request in your living will and in what order?

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Neurno:
            Are you trying to get at something other than the math, here?

            There is a sequence that provides the greatest chance of recovery. (Intuitively, I think it’s lowest to highest risk, but I haven’t done the math), but as it is a toy problem, I don’t know that those results tell us much about morality.

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          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @HeelBearCub,

            All of his scenarios have been about tolerance for loss, this one is just the clearest.

            I’m operating on a very small amount of sleep so this might be wrong but the way I see it is this:

            You have three possible outcomes: Dead with probability P, Alive and Cured with probability P*(1-P), and No Change with the remaining probability 1-P-P*(1-P). In your expected value calculation those probabilities are objective facts, assuming you’re not too tired to do elementary statistics. The trick is that the value you assign to each state is subjective:

            Let’s say I’m a normal person, in that I feel a loss about twice as hard an equivalent gain. In that case, x = 1*P*(1-P) + -2*P + 0*[1-P-P*(1-P)]. With this function you can see that every option has negative expected value, but the least negative is Treatment 1.

            An ideal rational agent who puts equal weight on loss and gain is in a similar but less extreme position. The probability of being alive and cured is always going to be smaller than the probability of death, so Treatment 1 is still the least negative choice.

            And of course, if you take Neuro’s view of consciousness you can just eliminate the loss term entirely: in his view not being conscious is equivalent to being dead and to never having existed. In that case you’re just left with x = P*(1-P). All values are positive but the highest value, .25, occurs at Treatment 5.

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          • Neurno says:

            @Dr Dealgood:
            Beautifully analyzed, thank you!

            @HeelBearCub:
            The main philosophical/political point that I’m getting at with all three of my hypothetical scenarios is this:
            1. not all people have the same definition of life or the same valuation of loss. Mine is rational, but differs substantially from the norm, as Dr Dealgood so precisely pointed out.
            2. In reading my hypothetical scenarios I hoped that normal-values-possessing people would feel a sense of moral outrage, specifically from the aspect of my values-morality calculation being forced upon people who could be assumed to not share my values calculation.
            3. My conclusion is that the reverse situation, in which the values-calculation of mainstream society is being forced upon me (and those who feel as I do), is wrong in much the same way. I would like to be able to request that Treatment 5 be performed on my body in the case of an over-2-week coma. I cannot request this treatment because the normal-values calculation of my government says that all the treatments are a net loss, and therefore they are explicitly illegal in my country.

            Does this clarify my moral point, dear HeelBearCub?

            I have also been trying to make a second, more political, point with my first two hypothetical scenarios: We need more funding for counter-bioterrorism research and implementation!
            The sooner the better, because engineered viruses have the potential to be really scary and powerful.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Neurno:
            Are you saying you want treatment 5, and treatment 5 only, and none of the others?

            Are you saying you want to start with treatment 5 and not treatment 1?

            Or are you saying treatment 5 doesn’t exist (i.e. is not an option), and you would like it to?

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  25. Richard Metzler says:

    Does the book mention the possible effecs of emigration as well? It would seem that having a share of the smartest, most ambitious people move to richer countries imposes a brain drain that makes it harder for developing countries to escape the trap – unless a significant share of the emigrants return to their home countries eventually, with the knowledge and habits they formed in the rich societies.

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    • Steve Sailer says:

      It would be interesting to study the effects of emigration on Hawaii, a state that back in the 1960s was assumed to have a sensational economic future, but has underachieved in recent decades.

      It appears that smart and ambitious Hawaiians like Barack Obama and Bette Midler are much more likely to move to the mainland than their mainland counterparts are to move to Hawaii, at least before retirement. And that may explain in part the fading of Hawaii from the national conversation.

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      • DensityDuck says:

        There’s also the large reduction in overseas (Japanese) investment.

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      • Mark Atwood says:

        It has been explained to me by friends who are residents of Hawaii that the local state and muni government are… “corrupt” is *a* correct term. In short, if you are not properly related to the right people in the right families, you will not ever have a position of influence in the government, court, law enforcement, public education, public transit, public housing, or welfare administrations. And if you work for any of the support or contractor companies that provide goods and services to those state institutions, again, how high you can get promoted depends on your chains of relatedness.

        The “imperial occupier” doesn’t care, since it doesn’t erupt into violence, and making a big deal about how people with US citizenship of various non-white hues oppress other people with US citizenship of different and similar non-white hues, does not fit well with the current narratives of fighting oppression.

        I’ve visited various parts of Hawaii. It’s a beautiful place, and seeing the signs of neglect, slow decay, land that formally was thriving but now is fallow and ruined, cropland that has decayed into uselessness because nobody wants to spend the infinite political capital to get the paperwork to start utilizing it again, it makes one want to cry. It made me sad.

        As one indicator, I noticed rather large amounts of garbage and litter on the ground away from the tourist and park areas. Much of which had signs of having been there for a long time. Then I noticed the amount that the tourist city streetcleaners and the park service gather up every day. Then I started looking to see who was dropping it. It wasn’t the tourists (of every shade of skin), it wasn’t the military people, and it wasn’t the haole (even the poorer resident ones), it was the [redacted].

        That made me really sad.

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      • excess_kurtosis says:

        Hawaii consciously chose to restrict development and population growth in the 70’s. Steve Sailer probably wishes that Southern California had done the same thing.

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        • Anthony says:

          The populated parts of California (starting in the North) did choose to restrict development. This has inevitably lead to the really horrendous inequality we see in the Bay Area and LA.

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  26. Anonymous says:

    HOW DO WE KNOW THE DIRECTION IS IQ->DEVELOPMENT RATHER THAN DEVELOPMENT->IQ??!??!??!

    It probably comes to down to whether a developed society eliminates the unintelligent more than the intelligent from the genepool. If being stupid leads to not reproducing reliably, then intelligence will tend to rise. If being stupid leads to reproducing more reliably than being intelligent, then intelligence will tend to drop.

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  27. Steve Sailer says:

    Americans are increasingly segregating themselves by IQ. The root of Charles Murray’s book “Coming Apart” is that he grew up in Newton, Iowa, a very nice small town that remains the world headquarters for the sizable Maytag Corporation. In Murray’s day, the executives lived in Newton and sent their kids to the local public schools. Today, though, most of the Maytag executives live in the top suburb of Des Moines and reverse commute 35 miles to Newton to work.

    My impression is that on a national scale a handful of major metropolises such as the SF Bay Area, DC, NYC and maybe Boston and Austin are sucking up an increasing % of smart white people, while even Los Angeles and Chicago are at best treading water, and many smaller cities like Cincinnati and Milwaukee are taking a beating. There are a bunch of reasons for this, but one of them is just preference.

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  28. “something more is going on than a couple of studies getting a head start”

    Is this supposed to say “countries” instead of “studies?”

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    • Earthly Knight says:

      “predict big national differnces but only modest individual differences”
      “I’ve always been gla I signed this letter:”
      “With this we come to a centra tension of immigration among the currently less-skilled:”
      somethibng much like the true criminal’s prisoner’s dilmma. ..this is the only setting I know of in which high scorers are more brutal than low scorers…in a one-shot environment, if it;s either steal or be robbed,”

      With all the missing letters, starting to wonder whether there’s a cypher…

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  29. I can see that there are arguments here why IQ might influence nations more than individuals, and I’m supportive efforts to raise IQ (nutrition, education, whatever), but what I’m way about any assumption that IQ could be significant when actually compared to other causal factors involved in a country’s economic fortunes and development. If it was important, and assuming that IQ has an important heritable component, how could we explain the rapid (genetically speaking) rise and fall of many nations economic development in directions that defied IQ? Greece seemed pretty good at solving coordination problems in ancient times when it was uniting countless city-states to fight the much larger Persian army. Yet today, not so much. Likewise the middle east has seen extremely varied fortunes. The genetics may have changed a little, but not THAT much. Is it IQ levels or is it mostly political and cultural problems resulting in institutional failures to address security, fairness and fiscal responsibility?

    It seems to me that the primary path by which we could improve our nations’ economic fortunes is still the obvious one – good economic policy. If I was looking at immigration, I think I’d be thinking about a combination of security, cultural compatibility and humanitarian concerns/compassion rather than IQ level. You’re just not going to influence IQ levels enough to matter, given that its probably a very weak lever at best.

    I think it was a bit unfortunate to let the rationality/IQ -> property-rights friendly institutions claim go completely unquestioned – markets are awesomely useful but isn’t there a fairly strong case that mixed economies have consistently proven to provide the best outcomes in comparison to one extreme or the other? And even if we are neutral on that, I wasn’t aware that IQ correlated to pro-laissez-faire voting habits? Assuming any particular position on a long-contested political issue equates to rationality is an unreasonably strong claim – its silly to make out politics is that straight-forward. Perhaps I misinterpret property-rights friendly institutions to mean economic-right when it just means the government doesn’t rob people of their property, which would be much more reasonable.

    Otherwise I found this like most of Scott’s reviews – the first half made me feel like the book author had some points but hadn’t properly addressed certain issues, and then just as I was about to start attacking my keyboard to comment, I find that Scott has already considered the vast majority of my concerns and already written them up more eloquently than I could. Enjoyable read.

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    • Neurno says:

      Wow, another great comment. (For those here who haven’t yet checked out CitizensEarth’s blog, you totally should, it’s got some great ideas in it that could benefit from intelligent discussion.) You make an excellent point about society-wide policies, such as economic policy. I’d like to chime in with a historical example about my hobbyhorse, science.
      Are you familiar with the Golden Age of Arab Science? doi:
      10.1096/fj.06-0803ufm
      As in, that period of time from about 750-1258 C.E. when the Islamic states were the intellectual center of the Western world (East Asia off doing its own thing). Yeah, that time when any scientist who wanted to learn about the best science available travelled to the main cities of the Arabic-Muslim Empire, and tons of scientific progress was made by the arabic scientistics who took up the mantle of progress from the Greeks. What an amazing, and statistically disproportionately impressive time for science! Too bad it got the plug pulled on it when, around 1258 C.E., Islamic law shifted to strongly discourage new scientific innovation. Existing discoveries were still honored, but with scientific innovation stifled, the Golden Age of Science foundered. The mantle of science moved on. Ever since that time, those regions have consistently underperformed in science innovation. That is a social wound only beginning to heal to this day. Even now, many brilliant Arabic scientists go to other places (such as America, yay!) to study and innovate. If you love science, and are good at it, and have the capacity to go live in the part of the world where most of the other best scientists are… why not go? I know I would. Who cares about silly arbitrary things like ethnic background and national borders? Science seeks to transcend all that.
      If you, poor unenlightened being, do care about things like national borders and national economies, and comparative achievements in innovation, it would behoove you to make sure that your government does not repress scientific innovation. For the scientists will either stay, but not accomplish much, or leave to find freer intellectual waters, leaving your arbitrary nation-state bereft.

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      • William O. B'Livion says:

        What significant happened in 1258?

        See, Islam and/or Arabs had sort of “made their living” raiding, stealing, and taking slaves. In 1257 the Head Mongol got tired of them messing with his peeps, and decided to drop the Mongol Banner across most of Mesopotamia.

        By early Jan of 1258 the Mongol Hordes were at the gates of Baghdad.

        The Mongols offered people (cities, towns etc.) a choice, submit and pay taxes, or die.

        The dude running Baghdad, the Caliph, though he had failed to prepare for war, figured he could prevail anyway.

        He was wrong, and the Mongols made mountains of their heads.

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        • Susebron says:

          You’ve got the timeline wrong. As per the second link in my post below, the conquest of Persia began in 1219. The Mongols had been subjugating China, and the Khwarezmian Shah was paranoid they would come after him. He thought he could get the drop on them by inciting a war while they were still engaged in China.

          He was wrong, and the result was the death of tens of millions of people and the destruction of Persia, Iraq, and Syria as the centers of Islamic culture. Their population did not recover for around 700 or so years.

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      • Susebron says:

        There was not actually a decline in Islamic science after 1258. Plenty of discoveries were made after Al-Ghazali was dead, and in any case Ghazali was concerned more with opposing Aristotelian metaphysics (which is pretty uncontroversially wrong) than with opposing science and rationality. The general decline of the Islamic world was caused mostly by the Mongols going in and sacking cities, destroying kingdoms, and killing millions of people to the point where the population never really recovered.
        Here and here are a pair of relevant posts on /r/AskHistorians, which has high standards for what can be posted there.

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        • Neurno says:

          @Susebron:
          Thanks so much for the great sources! Fun reading and very informative, I highly recommend others following this comment thread to read them.
          I was quite incorrect in suggesting that a primary reason for the reduction in the rate of scientific accomplishments in the Middle East in the 1200s was due to a rise of a relatively anti-science branch of Islam. That is clearly a minor factor, if it is one at all.
          The entire (or almost entire) cause of the decline of science production rates in the region was Mongols. Most directly, by being on the receiving end of Ghengis Khan’s military genius (i.e. the destruction of the Khwarazmian Empire and then Baghdad in 1258). Less directly… well…
          Before reading Susebron’s great sources I would have said, “The decline of the Arab economy and scientific output began before 1258, and thus the Mongols just added (substantially!) to something else that was already happening.” Now I know that that would be incorrect. Because the decline of the Arab economy was due to… Mongols!
          The Arab economy at the time was heavily based on trade via land-route with China (Silk Road), and a trade economy is a fantastic for basis for science (exchange of ideas, funding for innovation to compete with trade partners). But then the Mongols crushed the eastern end of the Silk Road (see Susebron’s sources), and (I speculate) that the trade dried up, and (I speculate) the Arabic economy slowed as a result.
          So it was Mongols all the way down….

          (I apologize for my previous comment in which I spouted off about history as if I knew something, since I am clearly not very knowledgable about history. Please take my speculation on the subject with an appropriate helping of salt.)

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      • What change in Islamic law discouraged scientific innovation?

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      • rose says:

        an ‘amazing’ age of science? and pray, what were these incomparable advances? Newtonian physics? no. Galileo’s scientific method? no. uh, uh, uh…and if you limit it to actual Arab mathemeticians and astronomers, not the peoples they conquered, even less. this is all much exaggerated.

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        • Neurno says:

          I would say, amazing for the times. We all stand on the shoulders of giants. I would argue a big part of what enabled the scientific advances of the Persian empire was their seeking out of and translating scientific works from other times and places (e.g. Greek, Roman, Chinese) and assembling the translations along with their own works, into large libraries (in places like Spain, for instance, which later became key centers of learning). I think the Arabic advances in science in turn enabled the slow continued advances in Europe, up until critical mass of innovation in the Renaissance.
          My background is in biomedical science, which is why I linked an article about the biomedical advances made by the Arab states during that time. For lists of specific examples with citations, please go read the article. doi:
          10.1096/fj.06-0803ufm

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          • Rose says:

            I did a reading project last year on the history of science. One of the big boosts for European universities was the fall of Constantinople which to an influx of Greek Orthodox bearing texts.

            Also of interest is the role of the Islamic conquest destroying the Mediterranean trade routes through piracy and destroying the bread basket of North Africa through their goat based herding culture, which is credited by economic historians as major factor in European dark ages.

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      • Thanks for the compliment re my blog. It’s always nice to get positive feedback.

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  30. JDG1980 says:

    That first block corresponds to people of about IQ 80, the last block to people of about IQ 120. As you move from 80 to 120, income practically quadruples.

    I would be curious to know whether this correlation continues into higher IQs. My personal experience indicates that people with IQs significantly above 120 are much more likely to be non-neurotypical, which may cancel out some of the benefits. Also, it seems at least possible that people with extremely high IQs are more likely to be steered into relatively low-paying academic jobs, whereas those a tier lower will go into higher-paying industry or professional jobs.

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    • excess_kurtosis says:

      This really doesn’t seem to be true if you look at relatively unbiased samples of high IQ people (IE, American Presidential Scholars or the Terman study or the Swedish conscription sample). Most functional/charming very smart people self-segregate into their own track and end up in fields like elite business schools or management consulting or private equity, and so they tend not to exist on the radar of “nerdy” smart people (I’d consider myself in the latter category).

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  31. I’m just sayin’, everyone that confuses correlation with causation eventually ends up dead.

    This belongs in the same archive as “Everybody generalizes from one example. I know I do.”

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  32. Richard Metzler says:

    Regarding the direction of causality: it doesn’t have to be Development -> IQ OR IQ -> development, it’s probably both. We have a distaste for feedback cycles on a conceptual level, and it:s an uncomfortable thought that “an underdeveloped shithole populated and run by dimwits” is a self-stabilizing outcome just as plausible as “a wealthy, happy society populated by happy, smart people”, but keeping that possibility in mind can help focus tge resources to the measures that are the most helpful to break the cycle (like nutritional supplements to avoid cognitive deficiencies in undernourished children).

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  33. zluria says:

    Regarding the correlation vs causation issue:

    It seems that what you need is a controlled experiment where a bunch of high IQ people establish a country in a terrible location with little to no development, and see how they do. Luckily, there is such a country: Israel. Israel in the 50s was a hellhole – people were living in terrible conditions. Today Israel is a very developed country. This seems to support the book’s central thesis.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Australia and South Africa are two more cases backing up the book. South Africa manages to be a case for both IQ leading to development (colonial times), and development not leading to IQ (with respect to the natives) – at least not on human lifespan timescales. America is a case for the latter, given the plight of its black population.

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      • HeelBearCub says:

        I don’t think you can just hand wave the results of generations of legal suppression.

        Report comment

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          How many years after the end of the legal suppression can we stop whinging about it?

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          • Daniel Kokotajlo says:

            “How many years after the end of the legal suppression can we stop whinging about it?”

            Don’t call it “whinging,” that’s uncharitable and ugly.

            The answer depends on the type of legal suppression in question. We’d have to be economists & sociologists & historians to calculate it. It’s plausible to me that if there are still people alive who were legally suppressed, the effects of that suppression still remain. Moreover, extralegal suppression continued and continues after the legal suppression ended.

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          • Svejk says:

            ‘Whinging’? About apartheid?

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          • Nornagest says:

            Elsewhere in this thread there’s a link to a pretty good argument that modern-day Arabs and Persians are still feeling the effects of getting screwed by the Mongols in the 13th century. It would seem somewhat unreasonable for them to hold modern-day Mongolians accountable for e.g. Daesh, though.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            Holding the mongols “responsible” is different than recognizing that their actions had far reaching effects in both space and time. Honestly, the word “responsible” seems to be at risk of confusing facts and moral judgement, which may not be the most effective approach.

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        • I don’t think you can wave your hand and declare generations of legal suppression as meaningful past a given point, either.

          If you can, I’d love to hear it. We can hear you declare in advance what kind of oppression and for how long will produce a given effect, then we can compare it to various groups in various times and places and see how it compares to observed results.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Robert Liguori:
            Well, certainly it affected people who were alive then, many of whom are still alive now.

            And as far as proving “development doesn’t lead to IQ”, it’s demonstrable that the effects of increased development were not distributed evenly to the entire populace, race being a large determinant of whether and how the distribution occured. And for much of that, we can show direct or indirect government involvement, the afformentioned legal suppression. It’s a direct effect of the legal suppression to deny the fruits of development therefore it invalidates any attempt at a simple “National GDP therefore people don’t get smarter with development” argument.

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    • Richard Metzler says:

      That’s an interesting approach, but it fails to tease apart two aspects that are inevitably intertwined: the Jews who emigrated to Israel were not only unusally smart in biological terms, they also brought with them a lot of knowledge about business, technology and law. Would the state have developed as well if it had been founded by different, less-talented population emigrating from developed countries? Would that hypothetical population been as well-educated and experienced in running institutions? Is there a way to tell?
      Jared Diamond gives a different example: the British settlers of Australia were, to a large share, criminals – not exactly the cream of the crop. But they still did much better than the indigenous people, partly because they brought several thousands years worth of technological and institutional advances with them.

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      • What proportion of modern Australians are actually the descendants of the criminals? My understanding is that at some point Australia was opened up to non-criminal settlers, and so only a relatively small fraction of the modern Australian genome is actually “criminal”. But I could be wrong about this.

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      • Anthony says:

        Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Liberia did fairly well, at least for Americo-Liberians, until the natives ousted them in a coup. Also note that the founding population didn’t have that much direct experience with running American-style institutions, just observing them.

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      • Irenist says:

        the British settlers of Australia were, to a large share, criminals – not exactly the cream of the crop.

        Well, a few of those “criminals” were Irish nationalists and other political agitators, who might not be expected to have the same IQ, etc., as other “criminal” types. It’s a small and probably trivial caveat, but I thought I’d note it.

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    • jonathan says:

      Another way to test for reverse causality is to look for cases where variation in income is plausibly exogenous (unrelated to IQ), and test whether higher national income produced higher IQ.

      Another possibility is to look at whether IQ differences *predict* future development. For instance, look at matched country pairs in 1960 (with similar levels of development), and check whether the higher-IQ countries had greater subsequent growth.

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    • excess_kurtosis says:

      Or oil. Saudi Arabia has lots of oil and money and development for reasons that everybody can see have nothing to do with their people, but has *horrible* test scores and low IQ.

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  34. jonathan says:

    Typo in paragraph 2: “…something more is going on than a couple of studies [countries?] getting a head start…”

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  35. Blake Riley says:

    Also nerd-sniped to find the solution to the Window Game:

    The Nash bargaining solution is a strong candidate for The Morally Correct Answer in problems like these. Basically, it’s utilitarianism without a utility comparison problem. The NBS (along with the Kalai-Smorodinsky solution) says person A should pass all $5 though and person B should pass $8.33 of the $15 back, resulting in final payments of $25 and $6.66.

    If you’re feeling more egalitarian, person B should pass $5 of the $15 back, giving final payoffs of $15 and $10. That gives each person an equal $10 surplus over the disagreement point of A getting $5 and B getting nothing.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I can’t remember what you call the decision theory that Vladimir Nesov pulled out of the Counterfactual Mugging problem, but if you’re working with a sufficiently smart person, I think correct answer is to push 100% of the money through the window, and they will push 100% of it back to you.

      Proof: Suppose we are about to play this game and we don’t know which side of the window we’ll be on. If we precommit to playing your solution, on average we’ll end up with (25 + 6)/2 = $15.5. If we precommit to playing my solution, on average we’ll end up with (45)/2 = $22.5. So even if we are selfish, we will precommit to playing it this way, then stick to that commitment once it is revealed whether we are Player 1 or Player 2.

      Of course, this depends a lot upon both players realizing this and being trustworthy, but every solution depends on that kind of assumption.

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      • Anonymous says:

        What’s the incentive for a selfish person to stick to their precommitment?

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          What’s ever the incentive for a selfish person to stick to their precommittment?

          In some cases, the hope that the experiment is iterated. In some cases, reputation. In other cases, you (evolution/programmers/God) design people that way since you want your creations to do as well as possible.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Apologies – I had gotten the impression that the experiment was explicitly not iterated.

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          • Scott Alexander says:

            In some cases, “iterated” is really metaphorical – if I behave kindly to you now, then years from now somebody else following the same principles may behave kindly to me.

            How much people care about that/think about that factor is of course variable.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:

            And why should we believe the researcher when they say the game is not iterated?

            Hi IQ people are much more likely to understand that the researcher may be lying to them on that point. They have certainly read studies, and may even be aware that they could be asked to come back in for “another” study. Perhaps even with the same person.

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      • LRS says:

        The stipulation that the opponent is “sufficiently smart”is doing a lot of work if it’s getting the opponent to a place where they embrace this sort of heterodox decision theory, which does not enjoy the support of an established consensus of domain experts.

        I think an actor’s willingness to push back the entire $15 depends, at least in part, on how often he expects to be playing this magic window game. If I expect to be having this interaction frequently, I become more inclined to shove it all back, because I begin to consider the benefits of establishing a social norm that maximizes our use of this amazing magic window. The game need not be “iterated,” in the sense of being played over and over with the same players, for this to hold; it’s sufficient that the players expect to play it frequently in the future and expect that their behavior can contribute to the establishment of a norm.

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        • HeelBearCub says:

          @LRS:
          Or consider the possibility that you may be allowed to interact with your partner after the game is “finished”. How does the possibility of a $22.50 split sound?

          Or, what has more worth to you, the idea of having $15 or making someone’s day by handing them $45?

          And there is another confounder. $15 is worth a lot less to my college aged kid (who is financially stable in college due to our income), than it is to someone whose parents are poor.

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  36. Vaniver says:

    we all know African economists, statesmen, etc whose work is top-notch.

    As the saying goes, name three.

    (Specifically, ethnically sub-Saharan Africans; yes, Dawkins is Kenyan but that doesn’t count.)

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  37. Luke G. says:

    I want to make a case for a book for you to review in the future, Scott: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire.

    *At the end of your Infinite Jest review, I thought to myself, Scott should read and review Pale Fire if he likes Infinite Jest. And lo, the very first comment of the review suggested the same thing: http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/03/23/book-review-infinite-jest-alternate-title-look-at-me-i-read-infinite-jest/#comment-1863

    *Pale Fire is the funniest great postmodern book of the 20th century. It may even be the best 20th century novel written in English: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20th_Century%27s_Greatest_Hits:_100_English-Language_Books_of_Fiction

    *Pale Fire has several mysterious questions about its ending. There are several theories about who is who and what’s really real and who wrote what, and I think you’d enjoy the research and questions.

    *Nabokov is crazy for puns and palindromes.

    *”pada ata lane pad not ogo old wart alan ther tale feur far rant lant tal told”

    *Butterflies. There are a lot of butterflies. Okay, that’s all of Nabokov’s works, but yeah, butterflies.

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  38. Vaniver says:

    What about a colonial nation where the administrators are from a nation that has a completely differnet IQ than the population?

    South Africa is probably the canonical example here.

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    • Anthony says:

      Interestingly for Garett Jones’ thesis, the white population is more than 5%.

      Report comment

      • dndnrsn says:

        The South African white population under apartheid wasn’t solely occupied as rulers/administrators, though; there was/is a white lower class, working class, lower-middle class, etc.

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    • Irenist says:

      It’s a more complicated example, but one could kind of point to the Protestant Ascendancy in British-ruled Ireland, maybe? Irish IQ always showed up really crazy low on the old Lynn dataset, and English IQ not so much. (Indeed, what about the British Empire generally? Or European empires generally? Do we just not have the data? Or what?)

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      • Deiseach says:

        Irish IQ always showed up really crazy low on the old Lynn dataset

        As I’ve said before, I have my suspicions that results were heavily tilted due to Richard Lynn’s political sympathies.

        If you absolutely want to make out that the Irish are dumber than the English, okay. But on either side of the border? It just so happens that the people who stayed in the UK are within normal range but the ungrateful Paddies ten miles down the road who went off and formed their own republic are ten points lower?

        Mmmm-hmmmm, Mr “I’m a Professor Emeritus at the University of Ulster where funnily enough, it turns out there are more Taigs than good Ulster Protestant Britons these days”.

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  39. Mack says:

    I always thought that the studies trying to correlate income and IQ were missing something… I go to a university with an outstanding reputation, and many people there, including myself, don’t really care about having money. I mean, we all obviously hate college debt, but the average student wants to do something a little more meaningful than making millions for a Wall Street firm. These people (often) want to do something they consider meaningful, not just lucrative. I’d be interested to know if there is a study out there that correlates IQ and income while adjusting for desire for wealth, because my instinct is that there will be a higher correlation between income and IQ in the subset of the population that indicates a high desire for wealth.

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    • baconbacon says:

      There is a lot of fade out between what people say they want in college and what they actually choose out of college.

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    • Randy M says:

      It’s easy not to care about money when you live on debt and gifts, isn’t it?

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      • The Anonymouse says:

        but the average student wants to do something a little more meaningful than making millions for a Wall Street firm

        A disinclination from remunerative work does not make you noble; it only makes you poor and less effective.

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    • Irenist says:

      Yeah. Satisficing is a thing.

      The income data cuts out at IQ 120, but I know plenty of people at or above that IQ that just want a job that allows them to live comfortably, so they can focus their energy on their intellectual avocations. I’m a government employee with time to comment on SSC. I’d make more as an attorney at a (largish) law firm, but no SSC (and no time with family) for me. I imagine plenty of people here who are quite a bit more intelligent have chosen similar trade-offs.

      Now, the real question is whether an interest in trade-offs like that is entirely or mostly uncorrelated with IQ. If so, then all the IQ groups would have their own traders of money for time, (i.e., their own satisficers), and the effect would more or less wash out. I dunno.

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  40. LRS says:

    Come to think of it, doesn’t every nation have some pretty smart people at the highest echelons? Sub-Saharan Africa may be in the IQ doldrums, but we all know African economists, statesmen, etc whose work is top-notch.

    One possible response: for a normally distributed variable like we think IQ is, small variations in the mean can result in large variations in the number of individuals in the far tails. I recently saw this well-explained here, discussing how it can be possible that China, population more than a billion, is worse at soccer than Antigua, population much much lower. By a similar mechanism, could it be that the governing elite team of high-mean-IQ country would be stacked with 6-SD performers, while a country with even a slightly lower mean IQ would only be able to muster a squad of 3-SD performers?

    There’s still tension between this explanation and the rest of Jones’s hypothesis, which seems more concerned with the accumulated benefits of repeated random interactions with 107-IQ individuals as opposed to 93-IQ individuals. But maybe at the governing elite level, it really matters whether you have truly exceptional extreme outliers or mere very intelligent people.

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    • dndnrsn says:

      A bit of quick Googling suggests that 6sd above the norm is incredibly rare – certainly too rare for there to be enough for a country to have a governing elite made up of them. The governing elites of most Western countries are probably made up of people in the 2-3sd range.

      Quick Googling isn’t providing much sources for intelligence of contemporary executives, congresspeople, etc that isn’t fairly transparent “look at how dumb our political opponents are”. The only ruling elite of a Western country, past or present, I can think of where there’s IQ results not off some random website are the Nuremberg defendants (which of course leaves out the suicides) and they mostly were in the 120-130 range.* There have been estimates of various presidents** but they seem a little high to me, and a little too politically convenient.

      *https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_trials#Intelligence_tests_and_psychiatric_assessments
      **https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Presidential_IQ_hoax

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      • LRS says:

        6 and 3 were just numbers that I pulled out of the aether to illustrate. Replace them with 2.5 and 1.8 and the essence of the question remains. You’re certainly right that it would be difficult to obtain data to confirm.

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        • dndnrsn says:

          Ah, if those numbers were just by way of illustration, sure.

          Plus, as Vaniver noted, 5% isn’t just the ruling elite, either. I wouldn’t be surprised if a good chunk of the upper-middle class fit into 5% of a society – in the US, that’s something like 17 million people. So a society with a higher average in the top 5% wouldn’t just have smarter CEOs, legislators, generals, etc – it would also have smarter doctors, professors, police chiefs, and more people capable of performing competently in those jobs.

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      • science says:

        We expect there to be around 10 on the planet. Even if following the soccer example there are 1 billion people that come from groups with the mean shifted one sd to the right, we still only expect there to be around 300.

        On top of that there’s no way to identify such people. Not even in theory, much less practice. Even trying to distinguish between a 3 sd and a 4 sd IQ is a fool’s errand.

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      • Anthony says:

        Sailer has had some commentary about that – elected politicians can’t be too much smarter than their voters, because they won’t connect with them. U.S. Presidents seem to be in the range 115 – 130. Anyone much smarter than 130 is going to have trouble connecting to the great mass of the population, unless they’re really well versed in how the media works and how average people think (like Donald Trump). They’re more likely to serve as advisers or run departments than to hold elected office. Anyone much under 115 isn’t going to be competent enough to get elected from a large constituency.

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  41. JayMan says:

    ones’ theory is that IQ is a measure of people’s ability to cooperate in prisoner’s dilemma style situations and seek non-zero-sum solutions. Countries where most people have high IQ will come up with mutually beneficial win-win institutions; those where most people have low IQ will be so busy taking advantage of each other and fighting over the pie that they’ll never build the institutions necessary for economic growth.

    And as I have argued, that’s complete BS. IQ is roughly constant across NW Europe, NE Europe, and East Asia (indeed, it’s highest in East Asia). Yet we see those things primarily in NW Europe. Another factor is needed, and as I’ve said, that factor is clannishness:

    National Prosperity

    Clannishness – The Series: Zigzag Lightning in the Brain

    Jones doesn’t go too deep into policy prescriptions, but he does mention two consequences of his theory. First, he’s a big fan of the Flynn Effect (secular trend of rising IQs) and thinks that countries ought to encourage this so that their national IQ gets higher and they can have more effective institutions – unfortunately, he doesn’t know what’s causing the Flynn Effect any more than anyone else does, so this sort of reads as “keep doing the thing we don’t know how we’re doing”. He does think that eliminating lead will help (did you know sub-Saharan Africa was the last region to ban leaded gasoline, all the way in 2006?) and he has the usual hopes for nutritional, educational and health interventions.

    And here is once place where he falls down. There’s not much evidence that Flynn effects represent real increases in cognitive ability. I think it just means people are getting better at taking IQ tests (which means that IQ tests are less good at measuring cognitive ability).

    This book is emphatically not The Bell Curve. It’s a book about science which is deeply annoyed that it might have controversial political implications and tries to avoid them as carefully as possible, generally successfully.

    Do you think The Bell Curve was not? I can tell you already TBC was a far better piece of scholarship than this book.

    A work’s scientific integrity is not determined by whether it comes to palatable conclusions.

    First, Hive Mind‘s “central paradox” is why IQ has very little predictive power among individuals, but very high predictive power among nations. Jones’ answer is [long complicated theory of social cooperation]. Why not just “signal-to-noise ratio gets higher as sample size increases”?

    I’m just not seeing this big paradox. South Africa seems to do about as well as we would expect if we abstracted over a large group of IQ 72 people and called it a country, and Japan likewise, even if those individuals weren’t all living together or governing each other or engaging one another in cooperative economic activity.

    Exactly.

    The non-IQ factors that lead to success among individuals wash out in groups.

    This isn’t just about me. I suspect Jones is right – though I’m not entirely sure of it – and sufficiently biased in favor of that position to be happy to follow it and see where it leads.

    Jones lays out exactly the set of assumptions that make reverse causation most plausible. He dedicates an entire chapter to the Flynn Effect, how he thinks it’s real, how he thinks it’s a big deal, without mentioning whether the gains might not be on g. Time and time again, Jones hammers how countries’ IQs increase as they develop further. Then he shows us a graph of IQ-development correlation and just assumes the causation is the right way round.

    If you’re really interested, there are several pieces of evidence that can easily disprove the idea of reverse causation, some of which is seen here:

    (Probably too many links for me to put here, I’ll do it in separate comments.)

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  42. Scott Alexander says:

    A response to Garett Jones’ tweets, put here so I can have more than 140 characters:

    There are at least three possible explanations for the IQ-development correlation:

    1. IQ causes development only
    2. Development causes IQ only
    3. Both cause each other in a virtuous cycle

    If we grant what Jones says about the Flynn Effect, that eliminates (1) – ie it’s not just IQ to development. But that still leaves (2) and (3). The book seems to want (3), but I’m not seeing the work it would take to argue against (2). The reference to health and income is one example of a phenomenon where two things both cause each other, but there are many other examples of phenomena where X causes Y but Y does not also cause X. For example, wealth increases the number of yachts people have, but having more yachts does not increase wealth.

    I realize there’s an argument that the book itself is the argument for forward causation, but as I said before, it seems pretty weak. Once again, take the example of race, for now leaving genetic explanations out of the picture. African-Americans are poor and tend to have lower IQ. Jewish-Americans are wealthy and tend to have higher IQ. It’s pretty easy to make a reverse-causation argument here, since Jewish-Americans might use their wealth to give their children great nutrition and education. It’s harder to make an aggregate-level forward causation argument here, because it’s not the group itself designing the institutions under which they’re living, but the general American government which is mostly WASP types.

    So the argument “I have demonstrated some ways that IQ causes wealth through national institutions” doesn’t seem that strong, because IQ seems to cause wealth pretty well even without those national institutions. The mechanisms mentioned in the book could constitute evidence of this, or they could be just-so stories to explain a relationship caused by something else entirely. I didn’t think the book did the footwork necessary to separate out those possibilities.

    If we have empirical evidence that IQ causes wealth, then the appeals to game theory, epistocracy, etc seem like plausible explanations for that fact. If we haven’t previously established that IQ causes wealth at all, I’m not sure those appeals are strong enough to constitute good evidence that it does. See also JayMan’s post above about clannishness.

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    • baconbacon says:

      “It’s harder to make an aggregate-level forward causation argument here, because African-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and average WASP-Americans all work under very similar institutions and are often scattered around the country without most of their interaction being with other members of their social group.”

      This certainly wasn’t true for African Americans (unless you count “black people cant vote” as the same institution, which doesn’t seem right) for much of US history.

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      • Scott Alexander says:

        An amendment: it was not Jews and black people who were designing the institutions under which Jews and black people were living.

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        • baconbacon says:

          I think it is to narrow to only view institutions as “government institutions”(though I haven’t read the book so I don’t know if Jones does). I would say that blacks in the US faced more resistance to forming their own institutions than any other group in US history (Ok, natives #1).

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        • Vaniver says:

          I think you may find Jewish involvement in the Confederacy interesting.

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    • JayMan says:

      I realize there’s an argument that the book itself is the argument for forward causation, but as I said before, it seems pretty weak. Once again, take the example of race, for now leaving genetic explanations out of the picture.

      That makes life difficult, doesn’t it?

      African-Americans are poor and tend to have lower IQ. Jewish-Americans are wealthy and tend to have higher IQ. It’s pretty easy to make a reverse-causation argument here, since Jewish-Americans might use their wealth to give their children great nutrition and education.

      It would be, if the shared environment effect as found in behavioral genetic studies was found to be greater than zero.

      It’s harder to make an aggregate-level forward causation argument here, because African-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and average WASP-Americans all work under very similar institutions and are often scattered around the country without most of their interaction being with other members of their social group.

      If you omit genes, it would be indeed.

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      • Scott Alexander says:

        Garett wrote a book without any of these things. I’m trying to argue that the book does not make sense without these things, and his argument isn’t very good until he includes them or something else that covers for them.

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    • E. Harding says:

      Korea&Taiwan v. Greece&Cyprus*, the fact no Black-majority countries have went into the First World while independent, while four Asian countries (Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan) have, Chile’s PISA scores being way behind Russia’s, despite Chile having much superior institutions and no history of Communism, and the curious similarity of measured Laotian-American and Laotian Laotian IQ:
      http://humanvarieties.org/2014/07/31/hvgiq-laos/
      (Note: this does not apply to Vietnam or Cambodia, Vietnam being down by at least five points, while Cambodia apparently being down by two standard deviations):
      http://humanvarieties.org/2014/06/12/hvgiq-cambodia/
      http://humanvarieties.org/2014/06/19/hvgiq-vietnam/
      * Korean numeracy and literacy scores are better than Italian ones at all age levels, despite the fact Korea was poorer than Italy until 2014:

      http://www.oecd.org/site/piaac/country-specific-material.htm

      And, as JayMan helpfully cited for us, Arab scores in Israel, the UAE, and Qatar.

      Also, Vietnamese PISA scores. Vietnam has a similar GDP/capita as India (and a similar growth rate, as well), but much higher PISA scores, even when adjusted for selective testing.

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      • Neurno says:

        India and China are such large groups, with some noticeably differing subpopulations. I sure wish we could break down the larger nations into subgroups for answering these questions. At least PISA has a few cities broken out separately now (e.g. Hong Kong).

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        • I’ve wondered whether nations are necessarily the right unit to investigate. How about regions dominated by various ethnities/genetic groups? I suppose that if an ethnic/genetic region is divided by national borders, that’s something else to evaluate.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      (also a tweet reply)

      What I’m trying to get at – and I admit I don’t understand this very well, but – let’s say that we have some communist country where everyone is very equal – eg the richest person makes $51,000/year and the poorest person makes $49,000/year. And suppose in that country, salary depends entirely on IQ. Here we’d have an r of 1, an r^2 of 1, but in terms of raw multiples the best we could say is “high IQ people make 1.05x as much as low IQ people”, which doesn’t sound impressive at all.

      Somebody working off raw multiples could say that your IQ “doesn’t predict outcomes very well” in that society compared to how well it predicts outcomes on the national level (where high IQ countries have 20x the income as low IQ countries) but this wouldn’t really be true – IQ actually matters more for your outcome in this society, it’s just that the range of potential outcomes is constricted.

      I’m saying that looking at raw multiples of American incomes is constricted in that way. American wages are constricted by minimum wage laws, by the fact that everyone has to afford the cost of living in America or else starve, et cetera. So pointing to the raw multipliers doesn’t necessarily mean that IQ is a worse “predictor” within Americans than it is within nations.

      I realize it’s my fault and I started it and I’m sorry.

      What I’m trying to get at is that there’s a lot of noise in people – like whether a smart person who could have been an investment banker decides to become an artist instead – that isn’t there in nations, and unless we eliminate that noise by aggregating individuals somehow it’s not going to be a fair comparison. I agree that even after aggregation there is more variance among nations to explain than variance among people.

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      • Douglas Knight says:

        You should be using regression coefficients. Not normalized regression coefficients, but raw ones, the ones with units. Specifically, units of dollars per point of IQ (or maybe log dollars). Also, you should be using PPP. If you take all the people in a country and regress income on IQ and then bin them and regress again, the coefficient doesn’t change much. So don’t do any binning.

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      • Jayshit said somewhere in the bowels of this comments section: “The non-IQ factors that lead to success among individuals wash out in groups” — which makes no sense at all as an explanation of the cross-country correlation between IQ and GDP per capita.

        Let’s say all factors which determine individual incomes inside a given country are spelt out. You would still have an INTERCEPT. That is, after you’ve accounted for all the variation between individuals within a country, there is still a constant. The Y intercept. The Y-intercept can be interpreted as the minimum income that it is possible to earn inside a given country. (And that is NOT set by the minimum wage laws.) The intercept represents the “base income” that merely being a worker in that country gives you, no matter who you are or what traits or qualities you possess.

        Different countries have different intercepts. The Jones book is saying, essentially, *within countries*, the IQ-income correlation is 0.2 or what ever but it’s 0.7 or what ever *between countries* because the within-country INTERCEPTS are wildly different for different countries.

        Why are the intercepts so different ? Because of the massive differences in the size of the capital stock (‘wealth’) per worker between countries, which represents the accumulation of past investment. And why does capital stock per worker vary so much across countries ? One important determinant is the quality of national institutions, which the book argues is partly determined by mean national IQ. Another important determinant of investment rates is patience.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          The book’s claim is that (1) “higher test scores have a much stronger relationship with national economic performance than with individual economic performance”.

          This is a subtly different claim than (2) “the amount of money you have is more determined by your nation’s IQ than by your individual IQ”.

          In the world with the Communist country where income varied between 49000 and 51000, suppose there was another Communist country where income varied between 9000 and 11000, and all within-country variation was 100% IQ. The difference between countries was caused 50% by IQ and 50% by the first one striking oil. In this case, (1) would be false but (2) would be true.

          When you talk about the intercept, I think you’re talking about (2). I continue to be talking about (1).

          Suppose that in our own world 100% of within-national variation is caused by either IQ plus personal job choice factors. Meanwhile, across-national differences are caused 50% by IQ. Here both (1) and (2) would be true, but (1) would not imply any kind of hive mind factor.

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        • Saal says:

          “Jayshit said somewhere in the bowels of this comments section:”

          …was this really necessary? I get that it only violates 2 of the 3 (4 with “don’t annoy Scott”) SSC commenting rules, but c’mon.

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      • What I’m trying to get at – and I admit I don’t understand this very well, but – let’s say that we have some communist country where everyone is very equal – eg the richest person makes $51,000/year and the poorest person makes $49,000/year. And suppose in that country, salary depends entirely on IQ. Here we’d have an r of 1, an r^2 of 1, but in terms of raw multiples the best we could say is “high IQ people make 1.05x as much as low IQ people”, which doesn’t sound impressive at all.

        Somebody working off raw multiples could say that your IQ “doesn’t predict outcomes very well” in that society compared to how well it predicts outcomes on the national level (where high IQ countries have 20x the income as low IQ countries) but this wouldn’t really be true – IQ actually matters more for your outcome in this society, it’s just that the range of potential outcomes is constricted.

        But only because you’ve rigged the hypothetical so that the only thing which matters within a country is IQ, but non-IQ factors apparently still matter for between-country differences.

        I’m saying that looking at raw multiples of American incomes is constricted in that way. American wages are constricted by minimum wage laws, by the fact that everyone has to afford the cost of living in America or else starve, et cetera. So pointing to the raw multipliers doesn’t necessarily mean that IQ is a worse “predictor” within Americans than it is within nations.

        Wrong wrong wrong ! First, all the comparisons are PPP-adjusted, so the point about the cost of living is not relevant. Second, it’s not minimum wage laws which restrict the bottom end of the income range. (Do you really think hundreds of millions of people earn $1 per day because they are not covered by minimum wage laws?.)

        It is mean national IQ which restricts (‘constricts’) the bottom range of incomes. It’s the Y-intercept.

        What I’m trying to get at is that there’s a lot of noise in people – like whether a smart person who could have been an investment banker decides to become an artist instead – that isn’t there in nations, and unless we eliminate that noise by aggregating individuals somehow it’s not going to be a fair comparison.

        Your point about “aggregating individuals” is peculiar. The IQ-income correlation within countries of 0.2 is estimated from samples of individuals — an aggregation! So what’s the problem?

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          “But only because you’ve rigged the hypothetical so that the only thing which matters within a country is IQ, but non-IQ factors apparently still matter for between-country differences.”

          I’m rigging the hypothetical to show that even in a world where the only thing that matters within a country is IQ but non-IQ factors matter for between country differences, the raw multiples could be much higher for the between-country differences.

          “Your point about “aggregating individuals” is peculiar. The IQ-income correlation within countries of 0.2 is estimated from samples of individuals — an aggregation! So what’s the problem?”

          Suppose for example that there is an r = 1 correlation between individual IQ and income except insofar as some high-IQ people choose to take jobs that are fun rather than lucrative (like being an artist when they could be an investment banker). In this case, you would see a lower individual IQ-income correlation (because of this factor) and a higher national IQ-income correlation (because nations are aggregates of millions of people and there’s a constant ratio of bankers:artists at each IQ level), but the difference would have nothing to do with a hive mind effect.

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    • excess_kurtosis says:

      You might already be aware of this, but economists generally have used oil shocks/the discovery of oil to rule out reverse causality for this sort of thing.

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    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      To me 2) seems so implausible as to be the hypothesis demanding evidence. Too much economic growth and development over the last 200 years has been caused by technology, scientific research, not-committing-crime, and similar factors known to result from IQ for me to believe it’s irrelevant to growth.

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  43. JayMan says:

    On the reverse causality bit

    “Racial Reality” Provides My 150th Post

    Welcome Readers from Portugal!

    There is also the fact that IQ is predictive of success within families.

    Not to mention the admixture studies discussed over at Human Varieties:

    (Next comment)

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not saying it is reverse causality, I’m saying that without doing the legwork you’ve done, Jones has no right to rule that out.

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      • Anthony says:

        Jones doesn’t have to rule out reverse causation. There’s no logical reason that “national wealth boosts national IQ” and “national IQ boosts national wealth” can’t both be true. So really, all he has to do is show that some evidence for the second statement rules out reverse causation, and then you have a virtuous cycle.

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  44. Scott Alexander says:

    There was previously a big problem with the comment threading here and everything was confusing. I think I’ve contained/solved this. I had to delete some comments to do so, and I’m sorry. If you have a comment that doesn’t go where it should, please say so as a reply to this comment.

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  45. onyomi says:

    Looking at a list of national IQ scores, I see Singapore at the very top.

    http://www.photius.com/rankings/national_iq_scores_country_ranks.html

    And they also rank #3 in GDP per capita.

    This seems like an awfully big coincidence if the British happen to have colonized the one place in Southeast Asia where everyone was smarter than everyone else.

    Or else high national IQ is, at least to some extent, the result of prosperity and good institutions, not the cause of it.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Singapore is small enough that we also have to consider selective immigration and emigration.

      But the difference between Singapore and anywhere else East Asian and developed (Taiwan, Japan, South Korea) seems pretty low.

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      • baconbacon says:

        Has anyone published research on the Flynn effect in Japan since 1990?

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      • LRS says:

        Aren’t selective immigration and emigration driven, at least in part, by prosperity and good institutions? Or, another way, isn’t immigration one possible mechanism by which a country’s prosperity and good institutions can lead to an increase in its mean IQ?

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      • onyomi says:

        The average IQ of Hong Kong is 108, whereas the average IQ of China is just 100, and I’d bet even lower if we had figures for just Guangdong Province. The people of Hong Kong are overwhelmingly of the same genetic extraction as the people of Guangdong. So either being colonized by Great Britain makes you smart, or having good institutions makes you wealthy, which makes you do better on IQ tests. Now maybe you actually are getting smarter due to better nutrition or something, but I still think that good institutions is more important than good genetics; the only problem is that people with good genetics are more likely to establish good institutions, but if you can manage to be conquered and administered by people smarter than you, you will probably do better.

        So, I welcome our new alien/computer overlords, I guess. They would almost certainly be an improvement over human politicians.

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        • baconbacon says:

          This assumes there is no IQ selection going on in the in/out migration from China to Hong Kong during British rule.

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        • Vaniver says:

          Do you think the average IQ of the Bay Area is the same as the average IQ in California?

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          • Nornagest says:

            My first inclination is “hell no”, but after thinking about it for a few more minutes, I’m no longer so sure. San Francisco, San Jose, the Peninsula are probably higher but there’s more to the Bay Area than those regions — the average person in Richmond or Vallejo probably didn’t move there looking for a tech job.

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          • meyerkev248 says:

            The average person in Richmond or Vallejo probably didn’t move there though from Detroit to live a better life.

            They probably grew up there, and were born to a family that already lived there.

            So in-migration is full of people who can afford 20% YOY rent increases ($1670 to $2795 in 28 months. I’m debating moving to Seattle because it’s equivalent to a $60,000/year pre-tax pay raise in lower taxes and lower rents. And the weather is better.) and out-migration is full of people who can’t.

            /In practice…
            Parents live in Hillsborough, kid lives in Millbrae
            Parents live in San Mateo, kid lives in Walnut Creek.
            Parents live in San Mateo again, kid lives at home working 70-hour weeks at 2 jobs.
            College grad moves in from the Midwest, works at Google, and lives in… Oakland.

            //I know a couple blue collar people who moved out to CA, and moved back because it was too expensive and too hot (because CA weather is confined to a few stretches along the coast).

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    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      The British did colonize 1/4 of the planet.

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    • phantasmoon says:

      You do realise that 75% of the Singapore population is made up of Han Chinese, and that among Asians it’s the Chinese and Korean populations that have the highest IQ, right?

      The questions you should be asking are whether there’s a strong correlation between race and IQ in Asian countries; whether this effect is robust in countries where high-IQ races are minorities; why Singapore, which during the 60s was a Malaysian state, became an isolated country in which Malaysians are a minority; whether British colonization affected local demographics; and to what extent should we attribute the fact that Korea and Singapore have been 2 of only 4 or 5 “successful” dictatorships (measuring success only in an economic development sense) during the 20th century to racial makeup and IQ.

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    • Irenist says:

      @onyomi:

      As phantasmoon says, Singapore has a lot of Han Chinese.

      Now, as you say upthread, the average (mainland) Han IQ is 100.

      But I propose that Malaysian Han IQ != mainland Chinese Han IQ. My hunch is that Han Chinese in Malaysia experienced selection pressures as a “middleman minority” analogous to those experienced by the famously high IQ Ashkenazim. So in much the same way that Ashkenazi IQ != Sephardic IQ, I would assume that a city full of Malaysian Han Chinese is going to be more like a city full of Ashkenazim, whereas mainland Chinese cities (excluding, maybe, Hong Kong) would be sort of more like cities full of Sephardim or Mizrahim or whatever.

      I don’t have any really strong opinions on IQ/prosperity debates, FWIW. The topic is really complicated, and I haven’t dug into it very deeply, so I remain agnostic. But if I were tasked by some debate club or something with making the IQ -> Singaporean prosperity argument, this is the tack I’d take.

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  46. The Nybbler says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but application to the real world seems to have some serious confounders. For instance, if I believe money put into the pot is not tripled, but instead half of it is burned before redistribution (or in the game, returned to the experimenter), that changes my strategy entirely. Same as if I believe the money (even if augmented) will be returned roughly inversely proportionately to my contribution, or according to arbitrary criteria. It’s relatively easy for high IQ individuals to come up with optimal strategies when the properties of the game are known and agreed on, not so much when they are not.

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    • Murphy says:

      I have a feeling you have strong feelings about taxation etc.

      Though many of the same principles apply if you can make a fair business contract with someone without having to constantly spend resources on checking if the other might be defecting.

      There are a lot of positive-sum transactions in the real world and being able to recognize them and change your behavior accordingly is associated with high-IQ.

      If anything the complexity of the real world means that you have to be smarter to recognize when you have a positive-sum game in front of you.

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  47. I interviewed Garett Jones last week for my podcast. It was a very interesting discussion! Really made me want to read the book. I’ll post a link when I release the episode on Friday.

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  48. Jacobian says:

    Obvious question: if we care about specific traits like cooperation and time preference, why don’t we focus on them instead of IQ?

    It seems much easier to make kindergarteners play supervised iterated prisoner’s dilemmas until they all start cooperating by default than trying to increase IQ.

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    • Jaskologist says:

      Doing that would constrain us. Step 1 would be to dump no-fault divorce, so lower class people could actually commit to not defecting against each other later in life. Good luck with that proposal.

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      • onyomi says:

        I do think it is a good example of how smart people, not seeing the need for institutions designed by smart people to help less-smart people, abandon them for their own convenience, to the detriment of less-smart people.

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        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Why should the smart, competent people sacrifice their happiness for the sake of the stupid, incompetent people?

          Mind you, I am certainly not convinced that there is genuine conflict of interests here. I think the availability of no-fault divorce at least as likely to help stupid people by preventing them from being stuck in marriages which they foolishly entered into without adequate foresight.

          But if there is a conflict of interests, there is a conflict of interests. One thing is good for smart people; another is good for stupid people. Period. All they can do is fight about it, whether on the battlefield or in the ballot box.

          If there is some kind of compromise situation that’s best for both of them, it’s not really a conflict of interests.

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          • Michael Watts says:

            One thing is good for smart people; another is good for stupid people. Period. All they can do is fight about it, whether on the battlefield or in the ballot box.

            All they can do is fight about it?? The traditional solution to this was to have different systems for different people. Want a divorce? Earn enough money to buy off the local priest. You are ipso facto competent enough to make the decision to divorce.

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        • Anthony says:

          Smart people have mostly come back to that institution as they realized it does overall improve their happiness. Being divorced sucks. Having divorced parents sucks. And for most kids, having divorced parents sucks more than having parents who don’t like each other but stick together. (Even for abusive parents, there’s a good chance of being stuck with one abusive parent even if the other one goes away.)

          But less-smart people haven’t.

          (Edited to partly reply to Vox Imp.)

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          • Murphy says:

            ok, there seem to be some seriously deluded people in this conversation. I mean utterly out of touch with reality. I mean reality is over there and they’re off in the distance in the other direction.

            A great many smart, competent people get divorced. It’s not a sign of stupidity or incompetence for marriages to fail.

            Being divorced sucks but being unable to marry someone else you love because there was someone you loved years ago and married and eventually stopped loving is fucking awful. Being forced to be one legal entity with someone you might hate is beyond fucking awful.

            Are the people taking the divorce==incompetence looking at this from some kind of warped, deluded “if mommy and daddy were forced to stay together then they’d still love each other” standpoint? Because that’s not how reality works.

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          • JBeshir says:

            I think it’s as simple as “focusing on the concerns they think are neglected rather than considering all concerns” meaning that the downsides aren’t being evaluated.

            There is also a tendency to confuse “good, virtuous, high IQ people are more likely to have things work out than bad, low IQ people” with “good people are basically fine and problems are almost all on bad people”, even if “more likely” is a relatively small difference in rate.

            I think that does generate an “if you suffer as a result it’s your own fault anyway, and we don’t take suffering away from people whose own fault generated it” attitude that aids in the focus.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Murphy:

            Absolutely. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

            I was going along with their preconception for the hell of it, just to show that their argument fails even if it’s true that divorce is something only stupid and incompetent people do. But of course it isn’t.

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          • onyomi says:

            “A great many smart, competent people get divorced. It’s not a sign of stupidity or incompetence for marriages to fail.”

            I think Murphy and Vox are confused. No one said (certainly I never said) that only stupid people get divorced, or that divorce is a disaster for everyone, smart people included; to the contrary, the point was that, speaking very broadly, only smart people may be self-aware, forward-thinking, and mature enough to responsibly handle the ability to get divorced easily.

            We are saying that having the ability to get divorced easily is a system which works out relatively well for smart people, but less well for dumb people, who, presumably, being dumb, may not have the patience, the critical judgment, the financial and personal resources, etc. to make a good determination of when it is right to get divorced and when not, or to effectively raise children with only one parent.

            One may argue, as Anthony did, that having a strong cultural bias against divorce may even work out better for smart people as well–this seems plausible to me. But the original point Jaskologist and I were making is that dumb people may need strong marriage mores in a way smart people don’t: smart people, arguably, can handle the responsibility; dumb people, arguably (and, I think, demonstrably), can’t.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            I suppose I did mix up the two different threads arguing “high IQ people chose partners better and therefore don’t get divorced as often” vs. “high IQ people are better judges of when divorce is good and therefore ought to have more freedom in doing so”.

            But that’s really beside the main point. Which is: if stupid people can’t be trusted to decide when to divorce, how can they be trusted to decide when to marry? Why don’t we prohibit them from getting married in the first place?

            Or indeed why don’t we go whole-hog and just sterilize them? That seems to be where all this “encourage the relative fertility of the better stock” stuff is going.

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          • JBeshir says:

            I’d say that we shouldn’t do that because we went down that road before in history and it went very wrong (thinking of the early 20th century US stuff). The impulsive rejection of trying-to-try anything that’s too close an exact fit is probably correct, even if you are immune to public pressure.

            Similar to why we shouldn’t try to set up a single party state with a centralised administration of the economy/society and internal selection procedures to ensure everyone gets fed and no one is too poorly off and political pandering can’t interfere with reasoned administration; we have a fairly good idea that when you try-to-try that the incentives on people within your system work out badly. You end up putting absolute monsters in charge, and your ‘reasoned administration’ goes to hell. Or rather, brings hell to it.

            If genetics are a big deal, we should act accordingly, but we can afford to avoid getting close to systems which behaved badly in the past and should.

            (I think we can let the fact that we’re gaining terrifying understanding of genetic engineering deal with it. What exactly it is we’re going to use to deal with our terrifying understanding of genetic engineering is another problem.)

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          • onyomi says:

            In my mind, strong pressure to get married in the first place and strong pressure to stay married once you are married tend to be something of a package deal, historically, though obviously not of logical necessity.

            Of course, it’s possible that if we just focused on making it harder to get divorced, it might merely result in fewer people getting married in the first place; this might itself be an improvement over the status quo, as at least there would be a greater expectation that those who do get married actually mean it, and the weakened yet still present bias against having children before marriage might help prevent some people having children before they are in a committed relationship.

            But I think, in practice, like I said, putting a strong value on getting married in the first place and encouraging people to stay married tend to go together: after all, if marriage is a big deal in your society, you’re going to consider its dissolution a big deal as well.

            My point is that marriage, both entering into and dissolving of it, has become much less of a “big deal,” in recent decades, and that this may have had a disparately negative impact on dumb people and poor people relative to smart people and rich people (not saying all poor people are dumb or all rich people are smart, but a dumb, rich person might be able to hire tutors and nannies to help raise his/her kid after a divorce, while even a smart poor person might be forced to leave the kid on his own a lot more than ideal).

            In the black community today, for example, the problem seems to be less that everyone gets divorced, but that nobody gets married in the first place anymore. This has happened since LBJ and the Great Society destigmatized single motherhood, and arguably is a distinct and more severe problem than the rise of no-fault divorce, but I also think these things kind of go hand-in-hand: when dissolving a marriage is no big deal, so too is never getting married in the first place.

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          • Anthony says:

            Murphy, the deluded, out-of-touch person is you. Marriage is not only about the two people who got married; the whole point of marriage is to provide a stable home environment for kids. Once there are children in the equation, a marriage is no longer a business deal between two autonomous adults, and shouldn’t be treated as such.

            Most people who get divorced while they have kids these days do so for reasons which end up causing much more harm to the kids than it saves the parents. (Especially as many times net harm is caused to the parent not initiating the divorce.) The exemplary case of an abusive spouse is only a small fraction of divorces these days, and our culture and laws allowing easy divorce do far more harm than they relieve.

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        • Emily says:

          Smart, competent people have a stake in the outcomes of the stupid, incompetent people they share a country with. There are a lot more of them than of you and walling yourself off from them is extremely expensive.

          And, who knows – your kids might even wind up being some of those stupid, incompetent people.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            You aren’t threaded under my comment, but I get the impression you are replying to me.

            Sure, what you are arguing is that the harm suffered by the smart, competent people in not being able to get divorced is outweighed by the wonderful benefits they obtain from all the stupid people not being able to divorce. If you buy that, it’s an argument that there is no conflict of interests. Therefore, the smart people should support it for the same reason that you ought to pay a nickel to get a dime.

            This strikes me as very implausible—marriage is such a central part of one’s life that it’s hard to see how one’s own unhappy marriage could be counterbalanced by somewhat better outcomes for others. Unless no-fault divorce is literally going to lead to anarchy and the collapse of civilization. And even then…

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          • TD says:

            “Smart, competent people have a stake in the outcomes of the stupid, incompetent people they share a country with. There are a lot more of them than of you and walling yourself off from them is extremely expensive.”

            Well, until automated workers and armies are invented. Just sayin’.

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        • blacktrance says:

          Would being able to impulsively enter into a necessarily lifelong commitment be better for less-smart people?

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          • onyomi says:

            The thing is, knowing that you almost have to make a relationship work makes it much more likely that it will work. The idea that you need to find your perfect, special soulmate before you get married or that you should get divorced when you realize the person you thought was your super special soulmate actually isn’t, is, I think, a bit misguided. Most pairings, I think, could actually work out reasonably well if the participants were committed to making them do so and shared some core values (not all, of course, but probably a lot more than people think).

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          • Jaskologist says:

            Some years ago, Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist who studies happiness, found himself in an exchange with a reader of his bestselling book, Stumbling on Happiness. That book argues, in part, that we are tremendously good at finding ways to be happy with things we can’t change. (For example, people who have an accident that leaves them disabled report, after a period of adjustment, happiness levels not all that different from what they enjoyed before their accident.)

            Perhaps this is the difference between marriage and living together, suggested the reader. Marriage provides lock-in. Marriage isn’t just a way of signifying your love; it’s a way of creating that love.

            “I thought, that’s right!” Gilbert told me, “and I went home and proposed to the woman I had been living with for years.” Happily, he reported, his reader was right; he loves her even more now than he did before they got married.

            Also from Gilbert

            We know that the best predictor of human happiness is human relationships and the amount of time that people spend with family and friends.

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          • blacktrance says:

            onyomi:

            What does “work” mean? If you mean that it doesn’t dissolve and people have to be at least minimally civil to each other, that’s true, but that seems like a really low standard for marriages – you wouldn’t want to share your life with someone with whom your relationship is that minimal and distant. “Good enough” isn’t good enough – it takes a high of a level of compatibility to maintain good communication, caring, and trust even in an LTR, let alone a marriage.

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          • onyomi says:

            @Blacktrance,

            I’m not suggesting a return to arranged marriage or anything, though I do think the Indians are not entirely wrong in their belief that marriage is as much about finding someone who will be a good in-law/parent/informal business partner as it is about finding a great lover or even friend.

            I am saying, as Jaskologist describes, that we probably underestimate the degree to which a happy marriage (not just a tolerable one–I’m talking happy) derives in part from the social pressure to make the marriage happy.

            To consider the opposite extreme: consider movie star marriages and how rarely they seem to work. Yes, movie stars tend to be narcissistic drama queens, but that is, in no small part, because they can be and everyone will still love them all the same. Plus, I’ve heard of the same problem being common among the extremely wealthy, especially those with inherited wealth–the so-called trust fund babies.

            These people are often surprisingly unhappy precisely because they have too many choices. If a movie star gets divorced he/she already has a 1000 hot people waiting in the wings to sleep with them and make them feel better. If a trust fund baby doesn’t like his chosen career he can always switch since, after all, he doesn’t really need the job anyway.

            Ironic coming from a libertarian, I know–and I still defend the right of the individual not to be literally coerced into life decisions he/she doesn’t like (other than you know, don’t hurt other people or take their stuff)–but I also think that soft social pressure of various kinds can be integral in helping people find their place.

            Like I said, not advocating Indian-style arranged marriage– which is, in fact, the way most marriage worked for most of human history–but I’m also not sure that our current approach to marriage in the West is ideal either. My personal guess is that the right balance lies somewhere between “parents pick your partner and you can never get out of it” and “get married, eventually, if you find your super-special soulmate and feel like having a big party, but don’t worry, you can always get out of it easily if it doesn’t work out.”

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          • blacktrance says:

            The problem isn’t too many choices, but not understanding how to have relationships that consistently provide a lot of value for the people in them, partially because they’re insufficiently committed to each other. While it may seem that pressuring them to commit to an indissoluble relationship would solve at least that part, a commitment to maintain the form of the relationship isn’t a commitment to maintain its substance, which is both the important part and more difficult (and potentially impossible) for outsiders to enforce. You’ve probably heard stories of partners being emotionally “checked out” of a relationship while still formally being in one.

            If two people are sufficiently incompatible after marriage, or don’t trust each other, there may not be a way to fix it to make it a good marriage. Maybe you can enjoy each other’s company as you would a non-close friend’s, but when two people become mismatched, there’s nothing either of them can do to make it a good romantic relationship. And if you’re pressured into a situation in which you have to be with someone, whether you’re happy or not, that sounds like a nightmarish scenario.

            If anything, we still have too much conservatism and social pressure in the West.

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          • onyomi says:

            “If anything, we still have too much conservatism and social pressure in the West.”

            I mean… you can assert that, but how do you know that? And by what standard? Happiness? My sense is that 100 years ago people were, if anything, more well-adjusted than many Westerners today despite you know, polio, WWI…

            Also, since the West today is the most liberal in terms of what you’re talking about in all of human history… well, again, it seems you have a high bar to clear that not only is India today and most of recorded history wrong, but even we, who are at the opposite end of the spectrum have not yet gone far enough.

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          • onyomi says:

            “The problem isn’t too many choices, but not understanding how to have relationships that consistently provide a lot of value for the people in them…”

            So we don’t need traditional social institutions… all we need to do is teach dumb people to do something even smart people have trouble with.

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          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @blacktrance,

            Have you considered the possibility that you’re a bit too picky?

            Good enough is great because it’s stable. Even if your live-in girlfriend or wife isn’t the best girl you’ve been with, the knowledge that she’s yours and that’s not going to change anytime soon is incredibly liberating. And if the two of you put in the effort to smooth out the rough edges the relationship becomes a foundation to support you in all of your other endeavors.

            Your life is like a machine. Every moving part is a new source of friction, and you’re already going to see a lot of wear and tear as it is. Keep things as simple and clean as possible and you can avoid having it fail on you before it has accomplished its function.

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          • blacktrance says:

            onyomi:
            If you think that westerners a hundred years ago were better adjusted than they are now, there’s a large inferential distance between us. It seems obvious to me that all the social constraints are making people unhappy now, and that they were even worse back then.

            So we don’t need traditional social institutions… all we need to do is teach dumb people to do something even smart people have trouble with.

            It’s not a matter of smart or dumb, it’s a relatively simple skill or habit that can be learned, it’s just mostly absent as a message in both conservative and current mainstream Western culture. When smart people fail, it’s not because it’s cognitively challenging, but because doing it correctly hasn’t occurred to them. Maybe being the first to discover it is hard, but once someone knows it, others can learn from them without much difficulty.
            And there’s another alternative: not getting married to begin with, and not having children. It’s not particularly difficult, even for unintelligent people – but the excessively conservative social script is strongly against childfree.

            Dr Dealgood:
            The desirability of stability is situational – you wouldn’t want something to be stably bad. And it’s one thing to know that my partner isn’t going to leave, but another to know that they wouldn’t be able to (or find it difficult to) leave even if they don’t want to stay with me anymore. And to be stuck in the kind of stability where my primary relationship doesn’t have the right kind of deep connection and that seems to be permanent is a recipe for misery. And too many people unnecessarily put themselves in such situations – they’d be better off being picky.

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      • Alphaceph says:

        It would be interesting to allow people to sign up for different versions of marriage with different contracts.

        I’m personally a bit worried about how I’m going to handle marriage. On the one hand, I want to marry the person I love.

        On the other hand, marriage is (especially for men) a sucker’s contract which offers no legal upsides but a whole list of downsides. It’s essentially signing a piece of paper saying “I hereby give this woman the option to steal half my stuff and a fraction of my income in perpetuity if/when she dumps me”.

        I’m not really sure what to do, but I think I may choose to live with a life partner without marriage.

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        • onyomi says:

          Marriage has an upside for men: married men are perceived as safer bets for employment, promotion, etc. precisely because they are tied down and saddled with more responsibilities. They are seen as accountable, predictable, responsible, selfless relative to un-married men, and perhaps with good reason.

          I have seen studies claiming marriage and children both improve a man’s job prospects, while they hurt a woman’s. Don’t know how accurate, but this feels subjectively right. The stereotype, though it obviously doesn’t apply to all cases, is that a married man or a man with a new child will work harder to provide security for his family, while a married woman or a woman with a new child will subtly or not-so-subtly shift her priorities away from her career and towards her family.

          It may not be fair to those to whom it doesn’t apply, but in my personal experience, it applies frequently enough that I also can’t blame people for thinking this way.

          Far from seeing this as a reason to be outraged at the unfair treatment of women, however, I see this as evidence that men are not yet entirely uncompensated for sacrificing their freedom and vanity, while women are still marginally disadvantaged for trying to “have it all.”

          Men getting no respect and no compensation for personal sacrifice and women trying to “have it all” are both not very good for families, imo, so I’m kind of okay with this.

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          • Mark Atwood says:

            married men are perceived as safer bets for employment, promotion, etc.

            And thus, it’s now a well known trick for an adult single man to wear a gold ring to job interviews. I’ve known some who kept the conceit going for decades.

            Actually asking “are you married?” during job interviews is generally illegal in the US. Only HR knows what’s actually on your W2s and insurance forms, and even that is not proof one way or the other, and usually those are managed by an outsourced service company.

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        • Anonymous says:

          I shouldn’t worry too much about getting suckered by the marriage contract; at this point, thanks I suppose to ruthless pragmatism trumping the grand ritual, you are suckered even if you don’t bother:

          http://www.divorcenet.com/states/nationwide/palimony

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        • multiheaded says:

          So you’re telling me… you are sowing the reward of your beliefs and attitude?

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        • Irenist says:

          marriage is (especially for men) a sucker’s contract which offers no legal upsides but a whole list of downsides. It’s essentially signing a piece of paper saying “I hereby give this woman the option to steal half my stuff and a fraction of my income in perpetuity if/when she dumps me”.

          First, with marriage, you get to be married to your spouse. That’s pretty great.

          Second, if you are like most men contemplating marrying a woman, you will eventually post-nuptially discover to your surprise that marriage has in fact domesticated you, and that you are in fact a less shabby version of yourself than you were before your wife started civilizing you. (YMMV.) That is to say, for those of us straight guys with lousy interpersonal skills and irresponsible and improvident habits (i.e., us losers), this can be no small benefit. (Of course, if you’re not a loser like me, never mind.)

          Third, there are ways to reduce the legal hazards you describe. In my case, my wife and I are members of a religious denomination that almost always views divorce as wrongful. This allows us not to worry about the things you mentioned. I imagine that a non-religious SSC reader could duplicate some (perhaps not all) of these benefits through a combination of pre-nuptial contracts and being sure to marry someone who, like you, is REALLY committed to choosing couples counseling over divorce if things get bad. There are no guarantees in life, but one can guard against misfortune to an extent.

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          • Psmith says:

            “you will eventually post-nuptially discover to your surprise that marriage has in fact domesticated you, and that you are in fact a less shabby version of yourself than you were before your wife started civilizing you. (YMMV.) That is to say, for those of us straight guys with lousy interpersonal skills and irresponsible and improvident habits (i.e., us losers), this can be no small benefit.”

            Whence the stereotype of married men getting fat and sedentary and living in cargo shorts? (Although filthy bachelor stereotypes are also a thing, I guess. Insofar as I have a point, it’s just that there are opposing effects here–the squaring-away you describe pushing in one direction, complacency pushing in the other.).

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      • JBeshir says:

        Would you support permitting arbitrary contracts to contain life-long specific performance requirements, or just marriage?

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        • Anonymous says:

          There’s no good reason to prohibit these, if strict criteria for weeding out those who don’t mean it or don’t know what they’re getting into are in place (such the Catholic annulment and marital preparation course).

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          • JBeshir says:

            Not even if the contract amounts to selling yourself into slavery, by obligating yourself to work for someone indefinitely?

            This was a large part of the original motive for banning them, so it’s not that hypothetical.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Volenti non fit iniuria.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            Volenti non fit injuria.

            Which is not, of course, true in reality—that being precisely the reason why people are not permitted to sign slavery contracts or indeed make unconscionable contracts in general.

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          • Anonymous says:

            I had not taken you for a fundamentalist Christian, believing that a man’s life and body are not his to dispose as he wishes!

            Snarks aside, this is a question of whether one values freedom of contract more, or safety from consequences more. While in this case, as in any case, being wrong about the future leads to undesirable consequences, that shouldn’t be cause to go back on one’s freely-chosen obligations.

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        • Jaskologist says:

          Marriage is a life-long contract because this reflects the reality that raising children is a life-long commitment, and permanently ties you to your mate whether you like it or not. Marriage vows were thus designed to make this reality clear up-front, so it was clear what you were getting into.

          Most modern contracts (jobs, for example) do not reflect an intrinsic life-long commitment. In the case of those which do (say, signing up for the generation ship to colonize Ceta Alpha V), I think I would support the contract making this explicit.

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          • JBeshir says:

            That makes sense.

            I suppose another example of a special job would be the military- it isn’t obvious to me it needs to be a life-long commitment, but it does need to obligate specific performance without opportunity for quitting in a potentially open-ended manner. And it gets to make that explicit.

            You could enable it for these kind of things while reserving the ability to bar it in other cases.

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          • Murphy says:

            we’re not in the 18th century any more, we have lots of excess production capacity which allows far more flexibility in providing the resources for child-rearing.

            Also, life long?
            Children stop being children at 18

            So are you pushing for minimum term contracts or life-long-for-no-good-reason contracts?

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          • multiheaded says:

            Also, life long?
            Children stop being children at 18

            Jaskologist means that women’s role as breeders is a life-long commitment in his preferred society, of course. You aren’t stopping at 1-3 kids.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Murphy:

            Obviously, they want marriage without the possibility of divorce because that’s the answer written at the back of the book. The arguments are just a little game of trying to come up with a reason why this could be a sensible answer. Otherwise, they would have to conclude that the answer key contains a misprint.

            Moreover, your point that we aren’t living in the 18th century, with a very low level of productive capacity, is well-taken. It is also a very good point against the idea that we ought to or have to go back to having parents move in with their children when they get old (or TheDividualist‘s idea that fathers—of course fathers—ought to have a legal right to some of their children’s income)

            No, there’s a little thing called capitalism. And in this system, it is possible to save money while you’re working to pay for the housing an services you will need in retirement. Why, it might even be the case that in such a system, a couple could self-sufficiently provide for their retirement without having children at all!

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          • Jaskologist says:

            Good parents are involved in their children’s lives well after they gradate college. But even so, if one spouse forgoes the career track to take care of their kids, they are permanently crippling their ability to earn money, becoming dependent on the other spouse. Even if you kick your kids out at 60 and never speak to them again, the options open to you at that age will be heavily affected by the choices you made back in your 20s. Being able to plan ahead back when you were in your 20s is important.

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    • Murphy says:

      Part of the challenge is recognizing when you’re in a situation where cooperating yields rewards.

      You might also find that it’s hard to teach kids to accept deferred reward if at home they genuinely can’t trust mom/dad/siblings/neighbors when they promise future rewards.

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    • JBeshir says:

      In general, programmes to improve people’s cooperation, effectiveness, conscientiousness, employability, other desirable attributes have turned out to be surprisingly difficult to make work- many don’t show very much effect even short term, and the effect tends to rapidly diminish over time.

      For example, from SSC’s October links post we have a study that pre-K education, which is supposed to be building these kind of things, doesn’t seem to work. In that link post was a link to a Vox summary for convenience.

      The UK’s repeated efforts to establish work programmes to getting unemployed back into work are, at best, dubious in their effect. The last big push was generally thought to have failed, despite being on a “Payment by results” model wherein private sector entities can run training and are paid if they get people back into work more. Although it eventually improved to match earlier approaches while being cheaper, it fell far short of the cure for unemployment it was billed as.

      If you could successfully pull some deliberate training of traits off, it could easily give something on the order of 10,000% returns on investment, counting gains society-wide. Politicians love to promise these kind of things because it’s basically a free solution to problems. But there’s a continual failure to deliver, and it seems like pulling it off is much, much harder than it appears.

      Still worth working on, I think, but more an “repeatedly tried and repeated failed” area than an ignored one.

      Iodine supplementation, though, in places where people are deficient? That’s probably pretty easy to get some IQ gains from.

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  49. James James says:

    “Assuming you are merely the sort of shrewd cooperator who cooperates on iterated prisoners’ dilemmas but defects on one-shots, you’ll pillage the country – it probably has term limits and you only need to pillage once to get very rich.”

    People are adaptation-executors, not fitness maximisers.

    “All of this stuff about immigration and on how maybe we shouldn’t have open borders, and it turns out that as long as the top five percent are smart, everything is okay.”

    No, because of smart fraction theory. People reproduce, so the IQ of the top 5% depends on the average IQ. And the proportion of people above genius level increases rapidly with each 1 point increase in average IQ.

    “Come to think of it, doesn’t every nation have some pretty smart people at the highest echelons? Sub-Saharan Africa may be in the IQ doldrums, but we all know African economists, statesmen, etc whose work is top-notch”

    Not as many, and not many scientists, inventors.

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    • baconbacon says:

      “And the proportion of people above genius level increases rapidly with each 1 point increase in average IQ.”

      This is irrelevant unless you think immigration decreases the IQ of the existing population. If it simply pulls the mean down by changing the distribution then the total number of geniuses remains the same.

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      • James James says:

        You’re ignoring dynamic effects. What about interbreeding? What if the presence of the immigrant population depresses native fertility, by consuming a proportion of finite resources like land, or by tax transfer payments.

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        • In order for the immigrants to “consume” land they have to buy or rent it. Doing that makes the previous owner better off, not worse off. It’s true that if the immigrants bid up the price of land that makes previous residents who were renting worse off, but their loss is a transfer to the previous residents they were renting from.

          As long as we are only looking at market transactions, the “more people means less for each” argument is wrong. It only becomes legitimate when you are talking about involuntary transactions, such as burglary or tax and transfer.

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          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            In order for the immigrants to “consume” land they have to buy or rent it. Doing that makes the previous owner better off, not worse off. It’s true that if the immigrants bid up the price of land that makes previous residents who were renting worse off, but their loss is a transfer to the previous residents they were renting from.

            But that’s exactly the argument. Increased competition from immigrants benefits current landlords at the expense of current tenants.

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          • James James says:

            Dr Friedman, you ought to acquaint yourself with neo-Malthusianism by reading Gregory Clark’s “Farewell to Alms”. It’s one of the most important books published this century.

            If there’s a fixed amount of, say, tellurium in the world, then adding more people means there’s less tellurium per person.

            Mises recognised this with his point about optimum population. Beyond a certain point, it is possible for an increase in population to make the existing population worse off. This applies to both world population and to immigration. If natural resources are limiting factors, then immigration can make natives worse off.

            I would add a refinement to this point: whether adding another person makes existing people better or worse off depends on the IQ of the additional person.

            Of course there is plenty of land in the United States, but not plenty of land in the valuable locations. Steve Sailer recognises this with his point about affordable family formation.

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          • James James says:

            My best argument against low-IQ immigration is a simple evolutionary argument. High-IQ populations ceding territory to low-IQ populations is likely to cause a relative decrease in the high-IQ population and an increase in the low-IQ population. I would have thought this is obvious, but apparently it isn’t.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ James James
            “If there’s a fixed amount of, say, tellurium in the world, then adding more people means there’s less tellurium per person.”

            I think the other side’s answer is that there is an infinite amount of X in the planet, somewhere, and the unobtainable thing is the willingness to dig for it. IE we can continue living on capital forever.

            Actually, if one said ‘in the solar system’ and ‘the willingness to fly out and live there’, I’d say that was good enough to be going on with. (The faster the resource extractors escape our weedy, red in tooth and claw, life-teeming planet, the better; good luck and good riddance to them.)

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          • “If there’s a fixed amount of, say, tellurium in the world, then adding more people means there’s less tellurium per person. ”

            Yes. But babies don’t come into the world with a title deed to a per capita share of the world’s tellurium clutched in their fists. Nor do immigrants arrive at the dock with a per capita deed to the country’s tellurium.

            The question I am interested in here is whether additional people, whether produced by reproduction or immigration, make the existing people worse off. So far as resources that are private property are concerned they do not. If my children want some tellurium, they will have to buy it from an existing owner. That transaction does not make him worse off. Similarly for the immigrants.

            It’s possible that additional people will bring down the average income of the population, not by making the existing people worse off but by themselves having below average incomes. In the short run, that is quite likely for immigrants. But seeing that as a bad thing is a fallacy of composition. If the existing population is no worse off and the new immigrants are better off than they were before immigrating, even if less well off than the existing population, then nobody is worse off.

            The argument does not apply to involuntary transactions. If the new immigrants become muggers or go on welfare they can make the existing residents worse off. Similarly if they get their tellurium by stealing it or having the government give it to them. That’s an argument for what I gather is the current Czech policy–free immigration, but new immigrants don’t get welfare for a long time. It’s essentially the policy I argued for in _The Machinery of Freedom_ a very long time ago.

            I note, by the way, that insofar as I count as “the other side” Houseboat completely missed my argument, attributing to me instead an argument I did not and would not make.

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          • Anonymous says:

            @David Friedman

            I think that, as jaimeastorga2000 noted, the perceived problem is not of immigrants or babies making people in the nation economically worse off on average, but of them making property owners better off at the expense of making people who were relying on their labor as their source of income worse off. Part of this is probably opposition to inequality, but even beyond that I think this is one of those situations where economic value does not approximate utility very well, as presumably the workers will suffer a lot more disutility from this change than the property owners will gain in utility.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            I really don’t see the problem.

            Even if we’re Marxists and really don’t like that immigration makes the wealthy relatively better-off, it’s still good on net. Any decrease in native renter utility is more than offset by the increase in immigrant renter utility.

            The problem only arises if we’re national socialists who only care about the interests of the workers in one country. And even then, you can always tax the immigrants or tax the rich to pay for the terrible loss in native renter utility.

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          • Anonymous says:

            @Vox Imperatoris

            It might become a problem when you realize that, with this effect turned up to eleven, the outcome is the number of people growing to equal the maximum number of people that the resources can support – and all of them living at subsistence level. Whether that’s a good thing or not is something you’ll need to decide yourself.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            No, it only implies that the people who do not own any property live at subsistence. As long as someone owns some property, its value goes up as the population grows.

            That was David Friedman‘s point, I think.

            So the growth in population can only harm people by driving up the value of goods they were not entitled to in the first place. Which Friedman granted by saying “So far as resources that are private property are concerned they do not.”

            Now, of course, if they do adopt the plan of taxing the property owners to support the rest, then yes, everyone would be reduced to subsistence. But as long as we’re on the topic of compulsion and force, I might as well point out that it’s not necessary for everyone to live at subsistence if some people are taxed more or enslaved to support others.

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          • Anonymous says:

            @Vox Imperatoris

            Yes, of course this only applies to people who don’t own property – sorry, I should have made that part explicit.

            Those people might not be entitled to the resources they don’t own, but I think it is still very arguably a bad thing that they are not able to use trade to gain access them anymore because the resource they do own – their labor – has increased in supply to the point that it has almost no value.

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          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Even if we’re Marxists and really don’t like that immigration makes the wealthy relatively better-off, it’s still good on net. Any decrease in native renter utility is more than offset by the increase in immigrant renter utility.

            The problem only arises if we’re national socialists who only care about the interests of the workers in one country.

            Yes, because everyone who hasn’t decied to sacrifice their well-being on the altar of the signalling utility god is a Nazi.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            So where are you going with this?

            Yes, if population continues to grow faster than the economy, eventually the level of subsistence will be reached, at least for those who do not own property. That…would be bad, relative to the state where everyone is not at subsistence. On the other hand, all the new babies and/or immigrants are happy to alive at subsistence rather than dead. It’s hard to say what anyone should do about this.

            But this is all just a theoretical projection. I don’t think it will actually happen.

            Either humanity takes off and conquers the universe or we all get wiped out at some point (actually, the latter will happen even in the case of the former…). I don’t think “static equilibrium at subsistence” is in the cards.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ jaimeastorga2000:

            Yes, because everyone who hasn’t decied to sacrifice their well-being on the altar of the signalling utility god is a Nazi.

            Well, whose well-being are we talking about? I am not one of the people without a high school diploma who are realistically the only people who are likely to suffer on net from open immigration. It’s not only in my enlightened self-interest; it’s in my narrow, brutish self-interest too!

            Moreover, I think open immigration would be in the interest of the majority of Americans—especially of those most willing to embrace opportunity, change, and adaptation. For one, even those natives who have no other useful skills have one useful skill not shared by most potential immigrants: the ability to speak fluent English. Therefore, they will naturally tend to be chosen for supervisory positions.

            But sure, some minority might lose materially in the short run. I cannot understand, however, why their material interest ought to be preferred to that of the majority and of the immigrants. And even if a policy of restrictionism is in their material interest, I am not not at all convinced that it is to the good of their ultimate happiness, all things considered.

            As James Madison explained:

            I shall never be convinced that it is expedient, because I cannot conceive it to be just. There is no maxim in my opinion which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore more needs elucidation than the current one that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong. Taking the word “interest” as synonomous with “Ultimate happiness,” in which sense it is qualified with every necessary moral ingredient, the proposition is no doubt true. But taking it in the popular sense, as referring to immediate augmentation of property and wealth, nothing can be more false. In the latter sense it would be the interest of the majority in every community to despoil & enslave the minority of individuals; and in a federal community to make a similar sacrifice of the minority of the component States. In fact it is only reestablishing under another name and a more specious form, force as the measure of right.

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          • James James says:

            Me: “If there’s a fixed amount of, say, tellurium in the world, then adding more people means there’s less tellurium per person. ”

            David Friedman: “Yes… If my children want some tellurium, they will have to buy it from an existing owner. That transaction does not make him worse off.”

            You are wrong. If I am willing to buy some tellurium, that shows I would rather have the tellurium than the money. The transaction makes me better off. But this is an irrelevant comparison.

            My point is that in a world with more people, it costs me more money to buy the tellurium. In this respect, I am worse off in a world with more people. This talk of transactions is irrelevant. The point is simple: more people -> less tellurium per person -> each person worse off with regards to tellurium.

            Imagine the world population was half what it is. The oil price would be much lower. That means each person could consume more oil, thus being better off.

            Obviously there are diminishing returns to population. I benefit from a large enough population to contain people to go and dig the oil and the tellurium out of the ground, but eventually adding more people starts to make me worse off.

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          • James James says:

            “But babies don’t come into the world with a title deed to a per capita share of the world’s tellurium clutched in their fists.”

            As a libertarian, Dr Friedman fails to understand what is easily understood by the Land Value Taxers.

            Consider: Alice is born first, and claims all the land as her own. Bob is born second and has to rent land from Alice. This is a “voluntary” transaction”, and Bob is “made better off” because he would rather have the use of the land than the money.

            But this is irrelevant. Bob is worse off than he would be if Alice hadn’t manage to claim all land and charge Bob rent.

            Comparing a situation where Alice claims all the land and Bob doesn’t make the transaction, against a situation where Alice claims all the land and Bob does make the transaction, is not the relevant comparison. The relevant comparison is to compare a situation where Alice claims all the land, against a situation where Alice does not claim all the land.

            Now, Alice might have done things with the land before Bob was born which make him better off than in any counterfactual. Or she may not have done. Similarly, population increases may make me better off, or they may not.

            If the population is larger, tellurium will cost me more. I may still be willing to pay the cost (a “voluntary transaction which makes me better off”), but I am clearly worse off than I would be in a world where the population is smaller and tellurium costs me less.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Comparing a situation where Alice claims all the land and Bob doesn’t make the transaction, against a situation where Alice claims all the land and Bob does make the transaction, is not the relevant comparison. The relevant comparison is to compare a situation where Alice claims all the land, against a situation where Alice does not claim all the land.

            Why is that the relevant comparison?

            That is the very meaning of Friedman‘s point that everyone does not come into the world with a claim to an equal share of all the world’s resources. You’re arguing that they do.

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          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Yes. But babies don’t come into the world with a title deed to a per capita share of the world’s tellurium clutched in their fists. Nor do immigrants arrive at the dock with a per capita deed to the country’s tellurium.

            The question I am interested in here is whether additional people, whether produced by reproduction or immigration, make the existing people worse off. So far as resources that are private property are concerned they do not. If my children want some tellurium, they will have to buy it from an existing owner. That transaction does not make him worse off. Similarly for the immigrants.

            It’s possible that additional people will bring down the average income of the population, not by making the existing people worse off but by themselves having below average incomes. In the short run, that is quite likely for immigrants. But seeing that as a bad thing is a fallacy of composition. If the existing population is no worse off and the new immigrants are better off than they were before immigrating, even if less well off than the existing population, then nobody is worse off.

            Your model assumes that all the people already born / already in the country already own at least as much tellurium as is required for their basic needs, and they can freely trade any surplus tellerium to the immigrants / babies if the immigrants / babies offer something of greater value to them than their tellerium surplus; otherwise, if the immigrants / babies don’t offer them a mutually beneficent positive sum trade, they can simply refuse to trade and they are indeed no worse off.

            But in the real world, there is a small number who own a lot of tellerium, a moderate number who own just about enough tellerium for their own needs, and a very large number who don’t own any tellerium and are renting the tellerium they need for their day-to-day lives from the first two groups (mainly from the first one). When you add babies / immigrants to the population, they compete for tellerium, which makes tellerium more expensive, which benefits the groups that own tellerium at the expense of the group that doesn’t own any tellerium and now needs to rent it at higher rates.

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          • James James says:

            “That is the very meaning of Friedman‘s point that everyone does not come into the world with a claim to an equal share of all the world’s resources. You’re arguing that they do.”

            I’m making no moral claims about property at all. I’m just pointing out that it’s false to claim that all immigration makes everyone better off. As jaimeastorga2000 correctly says, increased population can make rent-collectors better off, and rent-payers worse off. Dr Friedman’s point, that the rent-payers can pay rent to rent-collectors in voluntary transactions, does not show what he claims it does.

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          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            @James James:

            If the population is larger, tellurium will cost me more. I may still be willing to pay the cost (a “voluntary transaction which makes me better off”), but I am clearly worse off than I would be in a world where the population is smaller and tellurium costs me less.

            But the person you’re buying tellurium from is better off by the same amount you are worse off. That’s a pecuniary externality.

            (OTOH it is possible that tellurium sellers have less marginal utility for money than tellurium buyers. This doesn’t seem particularly likely with literal tellurium but is very likely the case with e.g. low-end food.)

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          • James James says:

            You’re right, increased population will benefit rent-collectors and hurt rent-payers. But it is possible for it to be a net cost to “society” (by which I mean a welfare function which rates each person equally, rather than assigning the rent collector greater weight).

            Consider when rent collectors and rent payers are the same people: owner-occupiers; or peasants in a society without any lords; or hunter-gatherers.

            When the population increases beyond its optimum (in the Misean sense), everyone is worse off. As Clark says “the explanation for the very high living standards of Europeans in the years 1350-1600 was undoubtedly the arrival of the Black Death in 1347” which killed 30-50% of the population.

            Here’s a worked example: a country with 101 people and 110 units of land. The king owns all the land, occupies 10 units of land, and charges 50% rent. Each person (except the king) creates 1 unit of production and occupies 1 unit of land. So after rent, each citizen occupies 1 unit of land and consumes 0.5 units of production, and the king occupies 10 units of land and consumes 50 units of production.

            Average land occupation is 110/101=1.09 units, and average non-land consumption is 100/101=0.99 units.

            Now the population increases by 100 people. The king continues to consume 10 units of land. Productivity increases to 1.2 units of production per person (except the king). Each person occupies 0.5 units of land. After tax, each person consumes 0.6 units of production, and the king consumes 120 units.

            Average land occupation is 110/201=0.55 units, and average non-land consumption is 240/201 = 1.19 units. The average person is better off in terms of non-land consumption, but way worse off in terms of land consumption. It’s only by ignoring land and natural-resources consumption that one can portray this situation as an improvement.

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  50. Ahilan Nagendram says:

    There do seem to be countries in Africa where the seemingly higher cognitive ability of the elite leads to a better governed nation. I can think of Botswana being one example.

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    • With regard to intra-African variation, one anecdote.

      I was a graduate student in physics at Chicago in the late sixties. There may have been only one black fellow graduate student, and I’m pretty sure there was only one in the theory group, which was where the students who did best tended to end up.

      He was an Ibo.

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      • God Damn John Jay says:

        Confounder here, I can imagine a lot of foreign born students just want to get in, get a degree and get out (incentives include citizenship to first world countries, high ranking government posts) and may be unaware or don’t care about the subtle implications of the various fields of economics as compared to the effects of getting a prestigious sounding degree and getting out.

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  51. “Third, he reviews the so-called “O-ring theory of teams”, named after the spaceship part that malfunctioned during the Challenger explosion. ”

    Is that why IT department hire small numbers of smart people and make them work 10 hour days?

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  52. DensityDuck says:

    Quite a lot to unpack in this post. I’ll make multiple comments in case people want to discuss different topics separately.

    FIRST: The whole thing about “the best results obtain when all the high-IQ people work together, and none of the low-IQ people are involved” seems like a restatement (or a validation) of Ricardo’s Law of Comparative Advantage. If the highest productivity occurs when everyone puts 100% of their effort into the thing they’re best at doing, even if someone else is better at doing that particular thing, then why shouldn’t that apply to creative production as well as physical? Thinking about stuff is labor just like digging ditches.

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  53. onyomi says:

    India seems to produce more than its fair share of math geniuses, programmers, and doctors, yet they continue to have one of the most corrupt governments… what’s up with that?

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  54. DensityDuck says:

    SECOND, the predictive power of IQ. Maybe the issue here is the old decision-making bugbear of concentrated (benefits/costs) but diffuse (costs/benefits). As in, a high-IQ person who fucks up will see a big cost from it, which swamps the benefits of a lifetime of slightly-better decisions; but when you look at a group of high-IQ persons you see lots and lots of benefits from those slightly-better decisions but only a few fuckups (which are smoothed away by averaging).

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  55. DensityDuck says:

    THIRD, the notion of “maybe it’s not the average IQ of the citizens but the average IQ of the government”. Which, as with so many other rational-considerations-of-government, allows us to mathematically prove that the best form of government is a benevolent dictatorship :/

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  56. Alex Trouble says:

    Does the book ever consider variance of IQ, as opposed to mean?

    If you only care about the IQ of the elite, variance should be beneficial. If it’s also the case that there’s some minimum IQ below which you won’t cooperate/vote well, variance would help even more. Does that sound right?

    Also, all the talk of IQ reminded me of a question I had: what’s a cheap/easy way to estimate your own IQ to within about 5 points?

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      “what’s a cheap/easy way to estimate your own IQ to within about 5 points?”

      Google a table correlating SAT scores to IQ

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      • Urstoff says:

        What about GRE scores? Because the GRE and SAT are basically the same test, and I did way better on the GRE. Wait, maybe college really does improve thinking!

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        • Nornagest says:

          I suspect that, at least on the math portion, it’s testing patience and ability to double-check as much as native aptitude. Those correlate well with IQ but they’re a lot more trainable.

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      • excess_kurtosis says:

        Every SAT/GRE table I’ve ever seen is too generous relative to when I make one myself by looking at SAT published distributions among “College bound seniors” and norming to the GSS’s estimates for how smart college bound seniors are relative to the overall population.

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      • Alex Trouble says:

        That was actually the one idea I had before asking on here, but it seemed to be rather high (140+IQ for what seemed to me to be middling SAT scores). I guess I’ll have to do more research. Thanks.

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      • akaltynarchitectonica says:

        I’d be interested to see if the current increase in SAT specific prep classes and services daages this correlation.

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    • science says:

      what’s a cheap/easy way to estimate your own IQ to within about 5 points?

      There isn’t one. Even most professionally administered IQ test have a standard error of around 3 (i.e. 68% chance of +/- 3) at the mean and significantly less precision once you get a couple of standard deviations out. Any sort of less correlated test (LSAT, GMAT, etc.) is going to have significantly wider error bars than that.

      Your best bet is probably the mensa test ($40), but it is not the equivalent of a professionally administered IQ test.

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  57. It’s true Jones does not mention race or genetics. And it’s true he plays up the “IQ is depressed by environmental deprivation in poor countries” angle. And it’s true all of that is probably done for marketing purposes. We know from his Twitter feed that he’s pretty hereditarian and he is no fan of open borders. But it goes too far to say he makes his conclusions ‘palatable’. The conclusions are no more palatable than those of Lynn & Vanhanen, who along with almost everyone agree that IQ is environmentally depressed in the poorest countries.

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  58. gattsuru says:

    If you behave honorably, then maybe America does very well as a country down the line, but that effect is aggregated over thousands of bureaucrats, so it’s not like you’re really growing the pot that much. Once again, if you are merely shrewd and not genuinely altruistic, you’ll defect.

    This is probably further complicated by institutional age, albeit in a non-obvious way. A single bad actor in the United States, or United Kingdom, or another larger country with greater institutional inertia is far less capable of causing great harm than one in most smaller or younger countries, and everyone knows this. So a smart cooperative person in the developing world is not betting against 95% of his compatriots behaving, but instead less than five of his compatriots misbehaving.

    Come to think of it, doesn’t every nation have some pretty smart people at the highest echelons? Sub-Saharan Africa may be in the IQ doldrums, but we all know African economists, statesmen, etc whose work is top-notch. Doesn’t Jones’ call to raise national IQs with the Flynn Effect seem less pressing now? Haven’t the elites of Third World countries already probably been Flynn-ified, since they usually get good food, good medical care, and good education?

    I don’t think that’s the case. If you’re very rich and living in Uganda, you don’t have a bad quality of life, so to say — the beef is a little better than here, the chicken a little gamier, you can kinda learn to deal with the brownouts. But if you need surgery, you’re getting shipped out-of-country — and better hope that a ten-hour flight isn’t a serious problem. Anyone over the age of ten was raised in a society that had yet to ban leaded gasoline (and even today, the ban isn’t exactly well-enforced), and they’re still fighting with lead paint. Air pollution is, likewise, terrible and pretty non-discriminatory. Money can reduce the impact of crime, but not perfectly and often not well. Malaria is a serious issue, and even drinking the wrong type of bottled water risks dysentery, to the point where having had the disease multiple times isn’t uncommon even among the upper-middle class. And then you get to the complicated stuff.

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    • Neurno says:

      Yes, and thus you get a disproportionate emigration of the smart/wealthy/capable to other countries. Which is part of why, in the United States, I lived a life full of frequent interactions with many of the most brilliant scientists from places like sub-saharan Africa. They either come here to live (if they can swing it, and we sure ought to encourage this!) or to visit for international scientific conferences and then communicate regularly with the scientific communities here. Why? Because being a scientist (or other sort of innovator I presume, such as an inventor or an especially skillful business person) is way more fun and satisfying when surrounded by other like-minded people pursuing similar endeavors.

      The more such innovators you gather in one place, the stronger the lure is (to some degree). And if there are no others around, it can feel very lonely, and strongly encourage escape.

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  59. alaska3636 says:

    “How do we know the direction is IQ -> development rather than development -> IQ?!”

    In terms of reverse correlation, I was thinking the same thing. Mises writes in Theory and History:

    “To disprove this doctrine of an inherent tendency toward progress that operates automatically, as it were, there is no need to refer to those older civilizations in which periods of material improvement were followed by periods of material decay or by periods of standstill. There is no reason whatever to assume that a law of historical evolution operates necessarily toward the improvement of material conditions or that trends which prevailed in the recent past will go on in the future too. What is called economic progress is the effect of an accumulation of capital goods exceeding the increase in population. If this trend gives way to a standstill in the further accumulation of capital or to capital decumulation, there will no longer be progress in this sense of the term.

    “Everyone but the most bigoted socialists agrees that the unprecedented improvement in economic conditions which has occurred in the last two hundred years is an achievement of capitalism. It is, to say the least, premature to assume that the tendency toward progressive economic improvement will continue under a different economic organization of society.”

    What are the odds that the early culture developed in America as a result of environment and high-IQ leadership created a culture – in the minds of the parts of the population too stupid to understand it – which actually raised the standard expression of a range of possible IQs? Long question, sorry. My point is that what if IQ has a predetermined genetic range in a person which his environment, including the culture, acts on the expression of that IQ by either restricting it or augmenting it. In a population, the material gifts of early capital accumulation ought to show a Flynn effect in successive generations before, most likely, receding to the mean.

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  60. Deiseach says:

    South Africa seems to do about as well as we would expect if we abstracted over a large group of IQ 72 people and called it a country, and Japan likewise

    I would find this a lot more convincing if we were measuring from the same foundation: here is country A and country B with similar resources and governments and histories, and country A has lower average national IQ than country B and lo and behold, B is streaking ahead in being modern and developed and all the rest of it.

    But we’re not really comparing South Africa and Japan from the same starting point. I’m not going to dispute that national IQ has an effect, but we could say that Japan has benefited from its post-war occupation when the USA did its damnedest to turn it into a modern Westernised state (and of course the programme of Westernisation from the 19th century onwards when the native Japanese rulers saw that they needed to get modernised fast or else be colonised by Western powers).

    South Africa, on the other hand, has been extensively used as a source of resources for European powers in a way that was never possible in Japan. Japan never had the English and Dutch fighting wars of annexation on its soil.

    So this does sound interesting and I certainly think if you’re comparing like with like it probably has a lot to say, and I’ll reiterate that I’m not denying national IQ has influence on the level a country operates at, but something more than IQ simpliciter has to be at work.

    Take Japan once again; if Asian (speaking very broadly here) populations have higher IQs on average, then why was Japan considered a backwards nation ripe for Western exploitation? Or China? Why didn’t we see native Japanese fleets of trade ships sailing into American ports to make nice with the natives and take advantage of the superior technology of the visitors to swap for exotic goods? (Yes I’m aware of the deliberate policy of isolation pursued by the rulers, but part of that again was presumably fear of being overwhelmed by outside influences that were more advanced and could impose themselves by force against inferior resistance).

    Part of the Jesuit missions to China in the 16th century involved things like demonstrations of the telescope and clock-making. Western calendrical methods were demonstrated to be superior to Chinese ones.

    China was a cultured and advanced civilisation (indeed, several civilisations) of its own, with a native population of very varied ethnicities and presumably high national IQ. So, what was going on that progress apparently was stifled or retarded?

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    • E. Harding says:

      “So, what was going on that progress apparently was stifled or retarded?”

      -Misallocation of human resources? Lack of readily available coal? Poor institutions? Lack of significant political competition with outside powers? Wasn’t Columbus trying to find a route to the East? Wasn’t the East already in the East?

      Perhaps, if China were not so prone to unification as Europe, things would have been different in regards to technological development. But, given the East already being in the East, it’s unlikely this would have led to a Chinese Columbus. Didn’t the hundred schools of thought and the Southern Song technological success emerge during a period of political disunion?

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    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      “if Asian (speaking very broadly here) populations have higher IQs on average, then why was Japan considered a backwards nation ripe for Western exploitation? Or China? Why didn’t we see native Japanese fleets of trade ships sailing into American ports to make nice with the natives and take advantage of the superior technology of the visitors to swap for exotic goods?”

      China was doing that in the early Ming dynasty. Ever heard of Zheng He? They were also more technologically advanced than the Middle East or West. Somehow Chinese institutions got bungled such that Jesuits could bring printed manuals on how to improve things like metallurgy and ballistics to the last Ming emperors even though the West learned printing, magnetism and gunpowder from China.

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      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, if you could take a time machine to Song Dynasty Bianliang and William the Conqueror’s London, you’d probably leave with the impression that the Chinese were the more advanced civilization. Maybe even with late-Ming Suzhou and Shakespeare’s London.

        My personal, very libertarian theory is that China didn’t fully live up to its potential relative to Europe due to excessive political centralization. The many different city-states, princedoms, and fiefs, all further checked by the power of the papacy, imo, created more inter-governmental competition and therefore more freedom of movement, trade, etc.

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        • Alex Trouble says:

          That’s a corollary of the thesis of “The Rational Optimist.” The Ming dynasty closed off trade, reducing the capacity for specialization and making the country poorer.

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    • Irenist says:

      China was a cultured and advanced civilisation (indeed, several civilisations) of its own, with a native population of very varied ethnicities and presumably high national IQ. So, what was going on that progress apparently was stifled or retarded?

      The literature on the Needham Question (i.e., “Why didn’t China [or India, or the Dar al-Islam] outrun Western Europe in the race to scientific and industrial modernity?”) is vast, and the debate so far interminable. Everything from genetics to geopolitics (i.e., Jared Diamond’s proposal that Europe was like ancient Greece writ large, full of small, and thus competitive states separated by water and mountains; China was geographically easier to hold together as unified, and thus static empire) to religion (e.g., the Scholastics laid the intellectual groundwork for science, or the Protestant work ethic gave us capitalism, or various other theorists’ pet theories) has been ventured, but nothing has convinced.

      Upthread, Jayman suggests that the Chinese have been shaped by recent evolution to be genetically more inclined to be clannish than NW Europeans (us Irish excepted), and more given to holistic than abstract thought., and thus less likely to put aside familial economic competition (including studying the Confucian classics for the mandarinate exams) to sit around founding the Royal Society or whatever. So they would’ve wasted their high IQs in zero-sum competitions for family status or celibate contemplation of holistic stuff like Taoism or Buddhism or something, instead of sitting around like poor celibate AND abstract-minded Newton dreaming up modernity. Or something like that. FWIW.

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      • Deiseach says:

        Irenist, not everybody became a Buddhist monk. There were certainly plenty of spare people in secular society to advance science and technology. Why didn’t they?

        The short answer presumably is things like this but the longer answer means, I think, that you and I are broadly in agreement: there are other factors than merely “high national IQ” at work when talking about progress.

        Jared Diamond’s proposal that Europe was like ancient Greece writ large, full of small, and thus competitive states separated by water and mountains; China was geographically easier to hold together as unified, and thus static empire

        I very much disagree with that. “China” is a vast stretch of land with many ethnicities within it; this notion of a monolithic monolingual empire all ruled under one vast bureaucracy was never true until quite recently. China is like Germany in that many individual states were united into one kingdom. To say that Europe was individualistic and competitive and China was not is much mistaken. Look at the Warring States period, for one thing! And I have only the most cursory, shallow knowledge based mostly on fantasy literature, Judge Dee novels, and dipping my toe into translations of “Journey to the West” and “Dream of the Red Chambers”!

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  61. Deiseach says:

    the cognitive skills of the top 5 percent did the better job of predicting property-rights friendly institutions

    I’m supposed to be impressed by this? Smart Guy can figure out “Laissez-Faire Lenders” is more “property-rights friendly” than “Comrades Marxian Collective Credit Union”?

    How much of that is “good old Bob” affect? The top 5% are networked so they know if good old Bob is working in the new company or NGO then it’s likely to be “property-rights friendly” because Bob went to the same schools and worked in the same businesses and his grandfather and yours graduated from the same university class and so he’s not going to be mixed up with any crazy socialist outfit?

    I mean, it’s simply a coincidence there are so many Old Etonians in Cameron’s cabinet, isn’t it? Best men for the job, and all that!

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  62. Sigivald says:

    Suppose you’re a president with a four year term. You can either pillage the country as best you can and take whatever bribes you can get, or invest in genuinely building a better country for your descendents. Assuming you are merely the sort of shrewd cooperator who cooperates on iterated prisoners’ dilemmas but defects on one-shots, you’ll pillage the country – it probably has term limits and you only need to pillage once to get very rich.

    Sure, that’s plausible, in itself (see Jake Argent above re. Turkey, say).

    But at least in a Western, democratic state any severe pillaging (rather than just a wee bit of skimming) is likely to lead to the next government sending you to prison, or taking your wealth, or – in the worst cases, and moreso in the non-Western democratic cases – leading to a revolution that ends up with your entire family summarily shot.

    El Presidente isn’t as anonymous as two prisoners in cells being offered a deal; if he goes too far, beyond the normal bounds of corruption in his society, he’s likely to become a target, either for the Other Party, or for the Next Presidente.

    My point is that while it’s a one shot in the sense of “you’re not getting another term”, it’s not necessarily a one shot in that there’s lots of chance for either reprisals for looting or benefits for you or “your group” for cooperation.

    Which is why we don’t seem to see a lot of looting behavior from executives in the West; they care about their “legacy”, or their party, or their family’s long-term prospects enough that they’re engaged in a reciprocity exercise, not one where defection pays off.

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    • Arceris says:

      True, but:

      > Likewise, suppose you’re a mid-level bureaucrat in Washington, of the type that there are tens of thousands of. If you behave dishonorably, you can amass a small empire and make some money. If you behave honorably, then maybe America does very well as a country down the line, but that effect is aggregated over thousands of bureaucrats, so it’s not like you’re really growing the pot that much. Once again, if you are merely shrewd and not genuinely altruistic, you’ll defect.

      I think we do in fact see this… Think about the NSA for instance, or how the police use Civil Asset Forfeiture. I think when accountability becomes divorced, this become more and more apparent.

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  63. Is anyone interested in what it would take to add 5 or 10 IQ points to people with below-average IQ? It seems to me that if this is cheap and safe, it would make the world a much better place.

    Maybe it’s just LW, but my impression is that creating people smarter than anyone who exists now is the fascinating project while modest increases in the existing range is just too boring to think about.

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    • Anthony says:

      As I mentioned in previous posts, there are things which can be done in the “third world” for future generations – in many places iodine supplementation would provide immediate gains for children, though for most adults, it’s already too late. Other micronutrients may be helpful, though iodine is the big one. Harder, but definitely worthwhile, is making sure kids don’t get malnourished. It only takes a few months while growing up to cause permanent cognitive damage, and in many poor countries, the odds of any given child going through that at least once is fairly high.

      So it’s somewhat boring in that we already know what to do. It’s a solved problem. Except that it isn’t, quite.

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    • notes says:

      Modest increases are definitely worthwhile, but they’re also not that simple.

      Or rather, increases beyond those gained by removing identified decreases — lead, malnutrition, infectious diseases — are hard to pin down. Most of the IQ increasing interventions seem subject to fade-out: stop the environmental stimulation, and the gains vanish too. So do we treat it like exercise? Maybe, maybe not. Take Scott’s link on the ‘gold-standard’ brain training study from the last post — can’t even show that there was a benefit.

      About the only thing we’re pretty sure works as an increase is ‘pick smarter parents’, and that has implementation difficulties.

      Pretty much everyone is in favor of removing those identified IQ-impairing influences, though.

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    • stargirl says:

      There is still a shocking amount of lead in the environment. Many homes still have lead paint, the lead in the soil is not gone yet. The average concentration of lead in the blood in the USA is not that high but any non-trivial amount of lead is going to depress IQ somewhat. And some areas still have alot of lead. I am not sure it will be easy to add 5-10 points in developed nations.

      There are a number of efforts to raise IQ in the developing world. This is controversial but anti-parasite measure like de-worming may raise IQ significantly. And there is even an effective altruist group working to increase Iodine consumption in the developing world.

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    • Jaskologist says:

      Well, if we’re looking for the effects of IQ such as increased social trust, ability to cooperate, lower crime, better health, and longer life, then we do have a way to increase them: Religion.

      I’m going to take this opportunity to once again nag Scott to do a deep-dive on the various life effects of religiosity. I bet, if we could establish some reasonable baseline numbers (regular church attendance yielding X years of life, etc), somebody else who is good with numbers could probably translate that into equivalent IQ points.

      (Note: here I really am talking about religion overall, instead of just Christianity.)

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      • Samuel Skinner says:

        There is a problem of comparisons controls. As far as I’m aware we have Scandanavia and the communist states; most unreligious in other societies is less atheist and more unattached.

        tldr; crazy confounders.

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      • rose says:

        @jackologist: if we’re looking for the effects of IQ such as increased social trust, ability to cooperate, lower crime, better health, and longer life, then we do have a way to increase them: Religion.(Note: here I really am talking about religion overall, instead of just Christianity.)

        Jackologist, it sounds like you just tacked on that comment about religion overall to avoid appearing a cultural chauvinist for western civilization. Islam is synomymous with backwards societies, Christianity with science and constitutional government for a reason. one religion teaches mindless submission, the other teaches reading and debating first religious ideas, then all ideas. one teaches killing people who disagree, the other teaches converting. one teaches that studying the real world is against islam, the other established the first universities to study both religion and science, and that analyzing the natural world is to the glory of God. you can’t make blanket statements about ‘religion’ any more than about ‘government’ .

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        • Anon says:

          Ah, gotta love it when Jackologist of all people is being accused of being too PC.

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        • Winter Shaker says:

          you can’t make blanket statements about ‘religion’ any more than about ‘government’ .

          But you also can’t make blanket statements about ‘Christianity’, or indeed ‘Islam’ any more than about ‘government’. In both cases, there is no such thing; rather, there are a large number of Christianities, and a large number of Islams, where the more liberal (say, Sufi or Quaker) persuasions have sufficiently little in common with the more fundamentalist/hardcore ends of the spectrum (say, Salafists or Dominionists) that is is not really meaningful to lump the Quakers with the Dominionists and the liberal Sufis with the Salafists.

          If your conjecture is that at this point in history the uncompromising, anti-intellectual, pro-forced-conversion versions of Islam are more dominant within Islam-as-a-whole than their Christian equivalents are within Christianity-as-a-whole, I think a good case could be made for that.

          But I think that Jaskologist’s question is still valid: is having some sort of supernatural belief set, embedded in a set of behavioural norms in a norms-enforcing community, regardless of the specific contents of the supernatural claims, likely to increase or decrease average IQ in that community?

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          • Anon says:

            Note, Jackologist didn’t say religiosity increases IQ, he said it increases life outcomes correlated with IQ, like life expectancy. Like, maybe a 100 IQ religious individual lives as long and earns as much as a 105 IQ agnostic, or something.

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          • Winter Shaker says:

            Okay, good point. But I stand by my defence of Jaskologist’s ecumenicism 🙂

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        • Jackologist says:

          No, in this case I really do mean Religion. While most of the studies of the benefits are in a Western context, and therefore about Christians, it seems pretty clear to me that Religions in general serve to solve coordination problems and promote social trust. They don’t all do it in the same way or with the same effectiveness, and there may even be negative externalities, but all of the big ones serve this function, the need for which goes a long way towards explaining why religion is such a universal. If God did not exist, man would have to invent him anyway.

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    • joglio says:

      Pay those with low IQ’s not to reproduce.

      That’s the classic answer.

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    • JBeshir says:

      There’s some programmes working with governments to institute iodine supplementation where people might be deficient that GiveWell has examined and thinks look to be effective, and I think it looks like a very promising area.

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    • Iodine supplementation and getting rid of lead are good, but I was wondering about the transhumanist angle. If there’s a genetic difference, there might be a genetic or at least biochemical method for modest increases in the midrange.

      Also, I think people give up too easily on biochemical methods for improving the intelligence of adults who’ve taken damage.

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      • Psmith says:

        “Also, I think people give up too easily on biochemical methods for improving the intelligence of adults who’ve taken damage.”

        There seems to be some promising work with N-acetyl cysteine supplementation immediately after getting one’s bell rung: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23372680

        Combine that with increased awareness of low-grade concussions–would it make a difference? Probably not on a societal level, but it could make a substantial difference in individual lives, maybe.

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  64. Rhys Fenwick says:

    Possibly-important trivia: Melbourne has been ranked as the most liveable city in the world for several years running. The rating is based on healthcare, infrastructure etc- but much of that, in turn, may be linked to high cooperation rates.

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  65. rose says:

    I am having trouble with applying basic logic to these propositions. if IQ of the top 5% is the sole determinative factor, and is obviously consistent over decades if not centuries, how to you account for change?

    isn’t the wonderful US prosperity of the second half of the 20th century more to do with the lack of global competition after the destruction of Europe and much of Asia in WWII, more than a sudden burst of IQ here?

    how did the backward Scots suddenly become the brilliant administrators of the British empire – not from a chance in their genetics, but a change in their religion – their religious fervor led them to literacy, reading and interpreting the Bible for themselves, hence an incredible leap forward in functional intelligence, not in native IQ.

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    • Vaniver says:

      if IQ of the top 5% is the sole determinative factor

      There’s an important difference between “IQ is it, end of story” and “IQ is the most important factor” and “IQ is the underlying factor.”

      The first one isn’t true. Both of the second appear to be true. (That is, there are things like IQ and development / parasite burden that seem to play into each other, but IQ moves development / parasite burden more easily than development / parasite burden moves IQ.)

      isn’t the wonderful US prosperity of the second half of the 20th century more to do with the lack of global competition after the destruction of Europe and much of Asia in WWII, more than a sudden burst of IQ here?

      Note that for the global regression, this means the US will be above the trendline, and the rest will be below the trendline, and so the overall trend won’t necessarily be that off. There’s also selective immigration; if the US is the place to be, then intelligent people will move there. (And if there are multiple places contending for ‘the place to be,’ one expects that intelligent people will be more likely to pick the eventual winner.)

      how did the backward Scots suddenly become the brilliant administrators of the British empire

      The lowland Scots and highland Scots should be thought about separately.

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    • Murphy says:

      Because IQ is not purely genetic? The upper limits on IQ might be almost totally genetic but in many nations there has been a great deal of opportunity to increase actual IQ through mundane environmental factors, to get closer to the upper limits imposed by genetics.

      Better nutrition and plenty of vitamins and minerals, less childhood illnesses, better sanitation, less heavy metal poisoning, better education.

      Take a country with lots of problems, feed the children properly, take away the illnesses and pollution, give them a chance to learn from a young age and the next generation can be significantly smarter than their parents.

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  66. PGD says:

    Scott says, based on an NLSY bar chart:

    “On a personal level, IQ has modest predictive power. But if you average out thousands of IQ 90 people, thousands of IQ 100 people, and thousands of IQ 110 people, the IQ-income relationship will become very clear. At this level of abstraction, it is no longer fair to describe it as “modest”.”

    This is wrong. IQ has a modest impact on adult earnings generally, and this is true if you take thousands of people (in fact the studies that show it rely on big samples, including the NLSY). The problem is that IQ is very related to a bunch of other things, including family income and education level. Once you control for those things, the effect of IQ alone on income is modest.

    There are multiple problems with drawing conclusions from that NLSY bar chart. One is that it doesn’t control for other correlates of IQ. Another is that the NLSY actually does not measure childhood IQ for most respondents, but instead ASVAB (armed forces qualifying) scores measured in high school. (There are a few respondents with IQ test scores but the great majority have only ASVAB scores so almost certainly that bar chart was done using ASVAB scores). ASVAB is not IQ, and also by high school your ASVAB or indeed your IQ scores are already confounded with all kinds of background variables involving family back