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Links 6/17: Silinks Is Golden

Did you know: JRR Tolkien’s great granddaughter, Ruth Tolkien, is the only blind person in the UK to be a competitive fencer. She is currently ranked the #186th best fencer in the country.

Alpha – an ambiguously-AI-automated alliterative account about abiogenesis. As an annotator already announced, “absolutely an amazing achievement”.

In response to my Silicon Valley reality check, Noah Smith looks for good critiques of Silicon Valley.

Sarah C is interested in a potential sepsis cure and pleads for you to consider helping a hospital fund a study. Outside my area of expertise, except to say that sepsis is really bad and curing it would be pretty great, plus I trust Sarah.

Neerav Kingsland: Ignoring Educational Productivity Is Immoral: “studies consistently find urban charter schools outperform traditional public schools while spending around 20% less per-pupil…what, as a society, could we do with this 20% extra funding that urban charter schools could save us?” I would love to see a debate between Neerav Kingsland and Freddie deBoer – I can host or otherwise try to make it happen if they agree.

Related – Wanted: A Charter High School That Starts Class At A Reasonable Hour

New front on the battle to prove that zero-calorie sodas must be bad in some way: does CO2 in carbonated beverages induce ghrelin release and increase food consumption?

According to Muslim legend, the Jews will try to hide behind trees to escape the Last Judgment, but the trees will shout “There is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!” – except for the Gharqad tree, which is apparently pro-Jew. This has led to all sorts of amazing conspiracy theories, like that Israel is planting a bunch of Gharqad trees to ensure hiding places for its citizens. And here’s a book about Hamas terrorists with an interesting passage on the Gharqad tree legend.

A paper claims that housing restrictions have “lowered aggregate US growth by more than 50% from 1964 to 2009″.

Explaining The Gender Gap In Crime: The Role Of Heart Rate. “A low resting heart rate is widely regarded as the best-replicated biological correlate of antisocial and criminal behavior” Apparently it might have to do with something general level of autonomic arousal being lower in (to be blunt about it) emotionless sociopaths?

The best Internet responses to Trump touching a glowing orb in Saudi Arabia.

I don’t have a source for this, but it looks right, and it’s a really cool way of presenting the data:

The mathematics of Girih tiles, a beautiful form of Islamic art which applied principles of Penrose tilings five hundred years before it was discovered in the West.

Vox tries its hand at an explainer about the Sam Harris / Charles Murray interview. Some criticism from Gene Expression, The Misrepresentation Of Genetic Science In The Vox Piece On Race And IQ. From Elan, The Cherry-Picked Science In Vox’s Charles Murray Article. From Sam Harris, an accusation that the article just blatantly lies about the contents of the publicly available podcast (one of the authors later apologizes for this, but Vox hasn’t changed the article). From Professor Emeritus Richard Haier, who called it a “junk science piece” and tried to write a counterpiece for Vox (they refused to publish it, but it’s now up on Quillette). And even from other Vox reporters who thought it was journalistically shoddy. As for me, I think the article was as good as it could be under the circumstances – while it does get some things wrong and is personally unfair to Murray, from a scientific point of view I’m just really glad that the piece admits that IQ is real, meaningful, and mostly hereditary. This was the main flashpoint of the original debate twenty-five years ago, it’s more important than the stuff on the achievement gap, and the piece gets it entirely right. I think this sort of shift from debating the very existence of intelligence to debating the details is important, very productive, and worth praising even when the details are kind of dubious. This should be read in the context of similar recent articles like NYMag’s Yes, There Is A Genetic Component To Intelligence and Nature’s Intelligence Research Should Not Be Held Back By Its Past.

AskHistorians: Did Roman legionnaires get PTSD? “For the Romans, people experiencing intrusive memories were said to be haunted by ghosts…those haunted by ghosts are constantly depicted showing many symptoms which would be familiar to the modern PTSD sufferer.”

Somehow I went through medical school without ever learning that going in hot tubs while pregnant can be a risk factor for birth defects.

Like a food blog, except it’s RPG rations for dwarves, elves, orcs, et cetera.

Highly educated people are more likely to get brain tumors. The article mentions the boring hypothesis that they just have better access to medical care (but then how come most other cancers are higher in the uneducated?), but also proposes the much more interesting hypothesis that “having more brain cells or greater brain activity somehow increases a person’s risk”.

Future of Humanity Institute in Oxford is looking for a research assistant for Toby Ord (founder of effective altruism, currently working on a book on existential risks). If you’re interested, check out the job details and contact info.

According to the Guinness Book Of World Records, the most fraudulent election in history was the 1927 Liberian presidential contest, in which incumbent Charles King received 234,000 votes despite there being only 15,000 registered voters.

The “moderate drinking increases lifespan” vs. “that’s obviously just a confounder based on only healthy people drinking” wars continue, with the latest volley being that fruit flies and chickens exposed to alcohol vapor live longer. I was previously on the “obviously just a confounder” side of the debate, but the animal studies sound pretty convincing.

Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, P.G. Wodehouse, G.K. Chesterton, and A. A. Milne all played on the same amateur cricket team. The team called themselves the Allahakbarries “[under] the mistaken belief that Allahu akbar meant ‘Heaven help us’ in Arabic.”

Heredity watch: Elon Musk’s maternal grandparents were well-known pilots and explorers, and Musk’s mother spent part of her childhood on various family expeditions in search of a lost city in the Kalahari Desert.

The best new blog I’ve come across recently is Sam[]zdat, which among other things has been reviewing various great books. Their Seeing Like A State review is admittedly better than mine, but I most appreciated The Meridian Of Her Greatness, based on a review of Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation. Go for the really incisive look at important ideas and social trends, stay for the writing style.

What lesson should we draw about Democrats’ prospects from the Republicans’ 7 point win in the Montana special election? (point, counterpoint).

The Less Wrong Wiki hosts a List of Rationalist Podcasts.

Behavioral Individuality In Clonal Fish Arises Despite Near-Identical Rearing Conditions. Worth interpreting in the context of my post Non-Shared Environment Doesn’t Just Mean Schools And Peers – even fish raised in exactly the same environments will show “non-shared environment” effects, probably because of something like embryogenetic randomness.

An easier way to read the Less Wrong Sequences online at readthesequences.com.

Mark Zuckerberg Calls For Universal Basic Income In His Harvard Commencement Speech. Sure, Silicon Valley people call for lots of things, but this seems especially important insofar as Zuckerberg seems like he’s positioning himself to run for President at some point.

An analysis showing Donald Trump’s speech patterns getting less fluent and more bizarre over the past few years – might he be suffering from mild age-related cognitive impairment? Also, given that this can be pretty subtle (cue joke about Trump) and affect emotional stability in complicated ways, should we be more worried about electing seventy-plus year old people to the presidency?

A sobering statistic on the difficulty of dialing back mass incarceration (incompletely sourced, but seems to check out): “if America only jailed murderers and rapists, it would still have more prisoners per capita than Western Europe”.

Measures Of Dogs’ Inhibitory Abilities Do Not Correlate Across Tasks. A lot of good cognition studies are being done on dogs these days; this one suggests that we don’t yet have a good general concept of “inhibition” that we can use to say that some animals (people?) have better self-control in general than others.

Big systematic review and meta-analysis: what actually helps lower-income students succeed? Read the paper or the Freddie deBoer blog post, which summarizes the results as “human beings”.

A more recent study on the evolutionary history of Ashkenazi genetic diseases (paper, popular article) claims that Tay-Sachs is probably the result of evolutionary selection, but that others (eg Gaucher, torsion dystonia, Fanconi anaemia, etc) aren’t, which would be a partial blow for Cochran et al’s selection theory. My guess is they just don’t have enough power to detect the effects – if this was all random drift, it would be vanishingly unlikely that so many of these diseases end up in the same pathways (eg lysosomal storage). [EDIT: I may be misunderstanding this; it may just mean there’s no net selection even though they’re diseases]

Related: a reader points out this paper on “The Social Construction Of Hungarian Genius”.

PNAS has a good (albeit kind of silly) article on claims that scientific progress has slowed.

This month in insane Twitter drama, for people who have previously made the good choice not to follow insane Twitter drama but want to walk back on it for some reason: will Sam Kriss publicly denounce Zionism? (1, 2, 3). What happens when Jeet Heer tweets “Bernie would have won”? Is Joan Walsh un-woke on Palestine? And apparently there is some kind of Joan Walsh/Katie Halper feud. I realize this sort of stuff seems petty, but it was really helpful in getting me to understand why everyone hates each other, and helped convince me that a lot of things I thought were silly arguments against straw men are actually important arguments against a large contingent of (depressingly) real people.

Parcel sorting facilities in China.

Noah Smith: The US has forgotten how to do infrastructure.

That story about how Gavrilio Princip failed to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand, then went to get a sandwich, then ran into the Archduke just outside the sandwich shop and assassinated him anyway? The Smithsonian says it’s probably false.

Did you know: the ancient Egyptian language of hieroglyphs and Pharaohs survived into modern times as the Coptic language and is still the liturgical language of Coptic churches today. Also, English words derived from Egyptian include “adobe” and “oasis”.

New study finds that growth mindset is not associated with scholastic aptitude in a large sample of university applicants. Particularly excited about this one because an author said that my blog posts about growth mindset inspired the study. I’m honored to have been able to help the progress of science!

Rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun wrote a 1952 sci-fi story about the colonization of Mars, in which the Martian government was led by a President called “the Elon”.

Internet payment processors and payment regulations are terrible and destroying the nootropics industry and probably a bunch of other industries I know less about, part 459401.

ABC News reported that a meat company’s product was disgusting low-quality “pink slime”, and people stopped buying from that meat company. Now the company is suing ABC for $5.7 billion in a lawsuit with the potential to have chilling effects on journalism in general.

I think the Byzantine Empire had the coolest-sounding titles of any civilization, including Grand Logothete and Megaduke.

A deadly fire in an apartment building in London gains an extra layer of horror in the context of this blog post by apartment residents predicting that there is definitely going to be a deadly fire there soon due to apartment management and local government incompetence.

Contra recent thinkpieces about how polls don’t work and psephology is a pseudoscience, on an aggregate level the probabilities from prediction markets have been impressively accurate.

Phone companies were ready to deploy cellular phones since the 1940s – the reason we didn’t get them until the ’80s was government regulators refusing to give them the spectrum space for political reasons.

There’s wide state-by-state variation on the legality of shooting Bigfoot, with Washington calling it a felony and Texas calling it acceptable given that it’s technically “an invasive species”. (h/t Tumblr)

A swarm of 20,000 bees recently descended upon Vox Media’s Manhattan offices, leading to articles like The Swarm Of Bees Outside Vox Media, Explained.

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1,007 Responses to Links 6/17: Silinks Is Golden

  1. lemmycaution415 says:

    “Neerav Kingsland: Ignoring Educational Productivity Is Immoral: “studies consistently find urban charter schools outperform traditional public schools while spending around 20% less per-pupil…what, as a society, could we do with this 20% extra funding that urban charter schools could save us?” I would love to see a debate between Neerav Kingsland and Freddie deBoer – I can host or otherwise try to make it happen if they agree.”

    studies don’t consistently find that urban charter schools outperform traditional public schools.

    they pay teachers less so they do spend 20% less per-pupil but I am OK with paying teachers.

    • they pay teachers less so they do spend 20% less per-pupil but I am OK with paying teachers

      My impression is that the public schools don’t have a long line of applicants for teaching positions. If charter schools can get teachers for lower salaries, that suggests that teaching at a charter school is enough more attractive than teaching at a public school that the charter schools can compete with lower salaries, in which case your assumption that they are saving money by making teachers worse off is mistaken.

      • Brad says:

        My impression is that the public schools don’t have a long line of applicants for teaching positions.

        Depends on what kind of teacher and where. If you want a job as a first grade teacher in Scarsdale, you’d better be related to someone on the school board. A high school mathematics teacher in the South Bronx is a different story.

      • lemmycaution415 says:

        Charters (and new schools in general) get younger teachers who are cheaper and are not as concerned about the good pensions and healthcare benefits that have been traditionally a big part of teacher compensation.

        Also, unions are good for workers and a big part of the “school reform” movement is to smash the teachers unions.

        • BBA says:

          Maybe I’m getting it confused with Teach For America in my head, but don’t charters also lack the teacher licensing/certification requirements that public schools have? I know private schools have virtually no requirements.

  2. grrath says:

    Can someone explain to me what exactly is the profound significance of IQ and why people believe that it has independent effects or meaning w.r.t. intelligence? If you really think about it, it’s existence is not really that surprising.
    Stating that a group of tests that were mostly designed to be similar to each other have correlated results seems to be a given to me. Adding that those tests are also correlated with levels of educational achievement in a system where those tests are mandatory prerequisites to being allowed into school is not remotely mindblowing or even interesting.
    What WOULD be interesting is if there was NO correlation, since that would mean that either the entire field of psychometry or education was totally worthless and we could save a couple million dollars by kicking the freeloaders out on their asses.
    The issue of heritability is also one of misunderstood science. It’s a population level statistic that depends entirely on the specific population in which it is measured. Mixing it with IQ is not likely to give meaningful results. What these theories are based on is a relative measure (heritability) of a relative measure (IQ, which is normalized to the population and therefore not absolute) of a relative concept (intelligence is just a specific basket of human behaviour).

    I also think that geneticists’ chafing under the idea that the liberal left doesn’t like these ideas requires a fair amount of ignorance about the history of certain strains of “science” and their relation to minority and marginalized populations. Are you really surprised that the left is accusing people like Murray of using esoteric science to make controversial assertions when that is exactly what he has admitted to doing?

    I think the issue here is; Science is hard. That’s why most people don’t do it and resign themselves to copy pasting graphs from papers that they don’t really understand to fit their preformed ideological base. Actual scientists like Murray can still get themselves into trouble by being overly excited and political over relatively mundane results so what hope does the layman have? Unless you have a robust background in research, it’s probably better to assume that most of your conclusions are not really going to take in the majority of the research and it’s limitations and to leave the bickering to the people who were actually willing to get PhD’s in the topic.

    • Nornagest says:

      Oh, this is bound to end well.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Stating that a group of tests that were mostly designed to be similar to each other have correlated results seems to be a given to me.

      Indeed, it would be. The interesting thing is that rather different tests also correlate, and that tests intended to measure different aspects of intelligence also correlate.

      The issue of heritability is also one of misunderstood science. It’s a population level statistic that depends entirely on the specific population in which it is measured. Mixing it with IQ is not likely to give meaningful results. What these theories are based on is a relative measure (heritability) of a relative measure (IQ, which is normalized to the population and therefore not absolute) of a relative concept (intelligence is just a specific basket of human behaviour).

      As far as I can tell this paragraph is merely white noise.

      Are you really surprised that the left is accusing people like Murray of using esoteric science to make controversial assertions when that is exactly what he has admitted to doing?

      Surprised? Not at all. But “esoteric” is not a word which disparages science. Quantum physics and general relativity are “esoteric” as well. They even made controversial assertions, though most had the happy quality of only being controversial to those who understand the subject.

      As for the last paragraph, I’m not really interested in a view of science as priesthood

      • grrath says:

        Indeed, it would be. The interesting thing is that rather different tests also correlate, and that tests intended to measure different aspects of intelligence also correlate.

        What “different” tests are we talking about. My reading of the literature suggests that most of these correlations are based on applying principles of abstract logic in some form or fashion. More fringe experiments like correlating criminality and other anti-social behaviour all have serious limitations and don’t seem to suggest that this is due to IQ in isolation.
        (Although I recall articles that stated that reaction time was correlated with IQ which is pretty compelling.) To give an example, I would not be surprised if 400 meter dash times were correlated with something seemingly unrelated as free throw percentage, especially when you take into account the general population. It doesn’t necessarily mean this correlation is particularly more useful than any other.

        What I’m trying to get at is: why is IQ or g the lynchpin on which we base cognition if it is just a broad correlation between a group of tests? Why are psychometrics attempting to reduce the granularity of measurements rather than specify how certain metrics interact with each other to produce functional differences.

        As far as I can tell this paragraph is merely white noise.

        Do you mind explaining why so I can clarify? I was trying to get at the fact that there is a lot more to be said about how these concepts relate to the real world than population level statistics.

        Surprised? Not at all. But “esoteric” is not a word which disparages science. Quantum physics and general relativity are “esoteric” as well. They even made controversial assertions, though most had the happy quality of only being controversial to those who understand the subject.

        As for the last paragraph, I’m not really interested in a view of science as priesthood

        I wouldn’t put you in my target audience then. That point was generally directed at people who seem to accuse people of being too blinded by ‘liberal bias’ or ‘political correctness’ to just accept the ‘facts.’ That seems to be a viewpoint that handwaves away both the limitations of this specific research and the history of scientific institutions but if you generally accept that people are going to find this kind of data problematic then I definitely agree that the science is what it is.

        Science should not so much be considered a priesthood but you should try to take into account science as it is actually practiced which is something that people rigorously trained in the discipline tend to be a little better about. It’s one thing to understand genetic research, another thing to be a geneticist and understand the limitation of your tools. It’s good to talk about research, even if someone is a layman, but its extremely unlikely to match the rigor of individuals in the field.

        I say all this to say, the layman discussion of most of this seems to be mostly back and forths with cherry-picked evidence to support certain external conclusions without much thought to the fact that the answer might literally be nobody really knows and we’re squabbling over unseen error bars. Most scientists would be totally fine saying: “it’s inconclusive, lets keep looking for more information.”

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          I agree and endorse your two posts.

          “Do you mind explaining why so I can clarify?”

          I think he was trying to diss you, but it seems to me, he’s the one who’s confused.

          My (admittedly Bulverist) take on HBD is:

          These guys don’t really understand genetics, or the brain, or factor analysis very deeply. Science is a priesthood, though, and getting a priest to bless how you want to feel anyways is a great thing!

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          I agree with and endorse your two posts. Especially this:

          “The issue of heritability is also one of misunderstood science. It’s a population level statistic that depends entirely on the specific population in which it is measured. Mixing it with IQ is not likely to give meaningful results. What these theories are based on is a relative measure (heritability) of a relative measure (IQ, which is normalized to the population and therefore not absolute) of a relative concept (intelligence is just a specific basket of human behaviour).”

          “As far as I can tell this paragraph is merely white noise.”

          My take on folks who, shall we say, are overly concerned with the brain and genetics, is they understand neither (nor factor analysis for that matter). But, despite protestations to the contrary, they want some sort of priestly respectability for how they wish to feel anyways.

          This is, admittedly, a bulverist hot take.

          I guess my view is: either do this type of science seriously or find a better hobby and leave this to the professionals.

        • Aapje says:

          @grrath

          What I’m trying to get at is: why is IQ or g the lynchpin on which we base cognition if it is just a broad correlation between a group of tests?

          Because it also correlates very strongly with a broad number of outcomes that we care about and therefor is highly predictive.

          I also think that geneticists’ chafing under the idea that the liberal left doesn’t like these ideas requires a fair amount of ignorance about the history of certain strains of “science” and their relation to minority and marginalized populations. Are you really surprised that the left is accusing people like Murray of using esoteric science to make controversial assertions when that is exactly what he has admitted to doing?

          So you don’t care about the truth, but instead you prefer to have ‘safe science.’

          The problem there is that “these ideas requires a fair amount of ignorance about the history of certain strains of “science”.” After all, Stalin did what you are demanding and the outcomes were not very safe.

          • grrath says:

            Because it also correlates very strongly with a broad number of outcomes that we care about and therefor is highly predictive.

            More correlation =! better. If anything, we lose specific information about performances in certain contexts in exchange for an easier, more digestible concept. I think how the brain performs verbal reasoning vs. nonverbal reasoning is much more important and informative than their correlation between each other. That’s not to say IQ isn’t a good concept but it just seems too broad to be useful and certainly no different than any other measurement.

            So you don’t care about the truth, but instead you prefer to have ‘safe science.’

            The problem there is that “these ideas requires a fair amount of ignorance about the history of certain strains of “science”.” After all, Stalin did what you are demanding and the outcomes were not very safe.

            My reading of Stalin w.r.t. to science is the exact opposite. His relationship with Lysenkoism and the vast overstatement of the results of Lysenko’s theories and concepts pretty much destroyed Russian science and agriculture. That was entirely based on manipulating data to fit ideology and necessity and people who disagreed with him were shunned for their politics rather than their science. Scientists urged people to take into account a variety of factors when developing these theories and were shunned for just being biased. Sound familiar?

            I’m not suggesting we ban any talk of IQ but rather we should take criticisms seriously especially considering the stakes. People aren’t raising these issues because they’re anti-science or anti-data. They’re doing exactly what scientists should be doing which is being skeptical, especially considering the history of these kind of ideas.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @grrath

            The problem is that you’re taking as the null hypothesis that every either person or ethnic/racial/haplo group is identical, with no justification for this. All of human history, no one has ever thought everyone is the same and nowhere else in the world do people think everyone is the same. Go ask a group of Japanese geneticists if Japanese people and Australian aborigines have the same intellectual capacity. Go ask Africans if they’re the same as whites or Jews. They’ll tell you no. How did you figure everyone is the same? Who told you this?

            It seems obvious on the face of it just from the different levels of development of different civilizations throughout history that people are different. If you want people to believe otherwise, I think the burden of proof should be on you to prove that people are the same either individually or have identical group distributions, or whatever the claim is you’re making.

            But when the only people in the entire world making this equivalence claim are western liberals, while proposing no research to back it up, and using the unfounded conclusion as the basis for political policy, I can only conclude their motivation is political, not scientific.

            If people really are the same, and it’s just environment that determines outcome, then prove it. Do the science and cram it down the throat of every racist for all time. It seems like this research should be the Holy Grail of leftism, but they don’t even want to discuss it, much less go looking for it.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “It seems obvious on the face of it just from the different levels of development of different civilizations throughout history that people are different.”

            Sure, people are different. That much is obvious. The trouble starts when you want to make it precise. If you want to quantify human differences _carefully_, rather than toss meaningless numbers around, you need to know a whole lot of stuff about lots of areas.

            If you want to propose a serious quantification strategy, the burden is on you to show it is sensible. Especially if you want to start going around making causal claims, or (even worse) making policy recommendations.

            Re: null hypotheses: the default presumption is most effects are not there, for any specific concrete effect you want to test. This is actually a fairly sensible presumption in practice.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Re: “development level” have you played CIV? Bad starts matter a lot.

            For example, Polynesians had no good access to iron. Still, they managed to find every habitable scrap of land in the Pacific in a migration wave that apparently lasted a reasonably short amount of time, and was finished a long time ago (deep BC), and build a working society in an environment that was effectively interstellar for them.

            But again, none of this is going to be convincing. You want to feel how you want to feel. This stuff is not composed of “updatable beliefs” for you.

          • Nornagest says:

            But again, none of this is going to be convincing. You want to feel how you want to feel. This stuff is not composed of “updatable beliefs” for you.

            Uncalled for.

          • Aapje says:

            @grrath

            That was entirely based on manipulating data to fit ideology and necessity and people who disagreed with him were shunned for their politics rather than their science. Scientists urged people to take into account a variety of factors when developing these theories and were shunned for just being biased. Sound familiar?

            Yes, Larry Summers was shunned by just asking for people to not automatically assume that men and women have equal capabilities in all domains (right kind of equality between the sexes may not be questioned).

            Murray Straus experienced how overwhelming evidence kept being denied, using various manipulations, because it is not politically acceptable that men are not more prone to engage in domestic violence than women (wrong kind of equality between the sexes may not be argued for).

            The issue is that nowadays this happens mostly by scientists/academics with your apparent bias, but due to the culture war, people are pretending that only their ideological enemies are doing this.

            If you look at Murray, the main thing he is asking for is for the possibility of racial IQ differences to be taken seriously. He is opposed by people who don’t want the possibility to examined at all. This makes the rest of your post quite disingenuous:

            I’m not suggesting we ban any talk of IQ but rather we should take criticisms seriously especially considering the stakes. People aren’t raising these issues because they’re anti-science or anti-data. They’re doing exactly what scientists should be doing which is being skeptical, especially considering the history of these kind of ideas.

            You seem to be living in an alternate reality where Murray is not regularly no-platformed and smeared with slurs, but instead, all his critics have actually read his book and are offering reasonable criticisms.

          • grrath says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            The problem is that you’re taking as the null hypothesis that every either person or ethnic/racial/haplo group is identical, with no justification for this. All of human history, no one has ever thought everyone is the same and nowhere else in the world do people think everyone is the same. Go ask a group of Japanese geneticists if Japanese people and Australian aborigines have the same intellectual capacity. Go ask Africans if they’re the same as whites or Jews. They’ll tell you no. How did you figure everyone is the same? Who told you this?

            I never said this. I actually completely agree with you. I don’t think everyone is the same or even have the same intellectual capacity. Broad grouping of people are likely to have different intellectual skills (although I don’t think something as broad or socially defined as race is a meaningful way of measuring this). I don’t know how you got that from what I wrote but I’ll just assume I wasn’t really clear.

            My actual null hypothesis is this:

            Regardless of correlations, without a well-defined causal mechanism linking IQ to intelligence as it occurs in the real world, IQ is totally useless to everyone but psychometrists.

            A weaker form would be:
            Regardless of correlations, without a well-defined causal mechanism linking IQ to intelligence as it occurs in the real world, IQ may be useful, but not anymore useful than literally any other metric for measuring societal advancement.

            For example:

            A high school teacher who wants to get her students into college knows (or should know) that she needs to increase their SAT scores, their in school grades, their extracurricular activities etc. and if she reads Murray their IQ scores. Considering the fact that most research suggests that IQ is the least manipulable, the least understood and the least direct of all her options and the options of the policy makers above her, what has she actually gained from this knowledge? Why would she try to use IQ rather than making her students do SAT prep until their eyes bleed and getting her metrics up? She could technically get more vacation time by not worrying about getting her low IQ students up to speed but she could probably do that already just by looking at their grades.

            @aapje

            I don’t agree with any of the things that happened to Murray and Friends. * Controversial opinions definitely shouldn’t be shunned, especially by academics. My original post did talk about both sides not taking this seriously. My only point was that “you only think race and IQ are connected because you’re a racist” and “you only think they aren’t because you’re a leftist/SJW/commie” are both ridiculous arguments and reading this thread and most laymen threads about this issue a lot of arguments fall into these two camps. W.r.t. to the real world, universities skew heavily liberal so we really shouldn’t be surprised that we see what we see.

            Again, this is not about censorship. This about actually trying to understand what people are trying to say.

            *Larry Summers said that shit at a diversity meeting while President of a major university. If you’re on the faculty of the sociology department and you go to a sociology conference and say something like “Maybe you guys can’t get funding because your IQ scores are lower than all the other scientists.” don’t be surprised if you get your pink slip. The statement did contain facts and the idea is plausible but part of being intelligent is reading and understanding your job description.

          • Aapje says:

            @grrath

            Currently, the assumption that there are no meaningful biological racial differences in IQ and no meaningful biological gender differences in aptitude/preferences/etc is used to jump to the conclusion that differences in outcomes must be due to environmental causes. Then people often jump to other conclusions: that these environmental causes always hurt one group and benefit the other, that the environmental cause is human behavior (discrimination), etc.

            Then a fairly large group of people use these conclusions to advocate for/implement explicitly discriminatory policies that they claim offset the level of discrimination that they claim exists.

            My interest in this is to get people to stop doing this, for various reasons. Those reasons include: it doesn’t appear to work. People are ignoring that because they believe it can’t not work, as they don’t see that their conclusions are based on unproven assumptions. Unfortunately, many people refuse to doubt unproven assumptions that sound plausible to them, so you actually have to prove them wrong, rather than merely demand that they prove they are right.

            Your example of the teacher teaching to IQ rather than SAT is not something that I advocate and it’s a false dichotomy anyway, since the SAT is very much an IQ test.

        • Murphy says:

          You appear to keep implying that the real geneticists share your opinion but my experience is the opposite.

          I am a bioinformatician. I process genetic data looking for mutations correlated with various diseases.

          Straightforward, true, not-controversial things are gradually being turned into “that which must not be named” because of people making a lot of noise about being offended.

          In my own institution I was given a heads up by a co-worker that a lecturer giving a lecture on genetics had recently got in trouble for mentioning to a class that “excessive consanguinity” in a population tends to cause bad things like more children with genetic diseases.( example: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/18/1-5-child-deaths-london-borough-caused-parents-related/ ) Unfortunately marrying close family members is a “cultural practice” in some societies making that now an unacceptable statement akin to “scientific racism” that led to complaints from The Sort Of People Who Make Complaints Like That.

          The topic came up because my co-worker was at the time re-making some of his slides for a lecture on the topic so as to dance around the issue avoiding making any direct statements about the practical real effects of having kids with close family members when your parents did the same thing and their parents did the same thing and their parents did the same thing.

          The Overton window on my whole field is gradually closing and shifting into the realm of simple self-deception. Genetics seems to be inherently inimical to their philosophy. They’re gaining political power steadily and I really would prefer to not see a modern replay of the politically-driven Lysenkoism farce.

          And you appear to be part of the crowd driving that farce.

          your “white noise” paragraph really is white noise, it’s the kind of fluffy meaningless statement that can be thrown at any hard statistics.

          Pretty much every criticism you make of IQ could also be made about height or any number of complex polygenic traits yet while it’s uncontroversial to say that basketball players tend to be tall and that tall people tend to have a strong advantage in basketball and that height is an advantage in many sports and unusually tall people tend to have tall children it’s suddenly crazy controversial talk if we say that physics professors tend to be smart, smart people tend to have an advantage getting jobs as professors and that smart people tend to birth smart children and that how generally mentally capable you are at a wide selection of tasks is reasonably quantifiable.

          Nobody complains about how someones height can vary slightly over the course of a day but IQ tests giving slightly different results depending on how someone’s feeling that day is pumped up to try to make it look like a big deal.

          because in the latter case it’s all [fluffy generic statements to imply that stats don’t really count.]

          • the practical real effects of having kids with close family members when your parents did the same thing and their parents did the same thing and their parents did the same thing.

            (at a tangent to the point of your comment)

            I’ve wondered about this. In the short term, having kids with a close relative makes it more likely that you will combine adverse recessives, producing an adverse result. But that should mean that adverse recessives, especially lethal ones, are being filtered out faster than they would be with more outcrosses. In the long run, is the result more adverse outcomes or fewer?

            Without doing any serious analysis, my guess would be that if no new adverse recessives are being produced via mutation, the long run result would be to reduce adverse outcomes, whereas if most adverse recessives are due to fairly recent mutations, it would increase them. Is that right? Do you know?

            At a further tangent, there are two different reasons why inbreeding would be related to ethnicity, religion, and the like. One is that if you have a small population and mating is mostly within it, you get inbreeding whether or not you want to–that’s the Amish pattern, with a small founding population making it worse. The other is that a culture might favor inbreeding–that’s the Arab Muslim pattern, where first cousin marriages are considered particularly desirable.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Height is in fact a one-dimensional parameter. Intelligence is not. A better analogy for intelligence in the context of basketball would be “basketball ability” (however you measure that). Some fairly famous basketball players are of the “small and fast” variety.

            In fact, sports ability is a great example here. How do you think moneyball types would react if you proposed a one-dimensional parameter “b” you invented via factor analysis that you say correlates with everything good in a basketball player, and that can be used to predict player performance?

            What institution do you work in (if you want to reveal that)?

            If you want to push back on folks who make it impossible to say that inbreeding is bad for you, all the power to you — all sensible people everywhere are behind you 100%.

          • baconbacon says:

            @ David Friedman

            I’ve wondered about this. In the short term, having kids with a close relative makes it more likely that you will combine adverse recessives, producing an adverse result. But that should mean that adverse recessives, especially lethal ones, are being filtered out faster than they would be with more outcrosses. In the long run, is the result more adverse outcomes or fewer?

            I think I understand your question, and meaning so here goes.

            Take an unrelated mother and father with uncorrelated negative recessive genes, and a related mother an father with correlated negative genes.

            In the unrelated there is a 50% chance of a child getting his mother’s recessive, and a 50% chance of his fathers and an X% chance that they overlap causing a problem (we will return to that later). ~25% of children will get both genes, ~50% will get one, and ~25% get neither.

            The related couple its the same basic math with 25% getting both genes, 50% one, and 25% neither.

            Now the question is how damaging is this mutation to fitness? If it is Tay-Sachs were fitness falls to zero, in the inbreeding family you get

            25% of kids no longer carry the gene, 50% of kids carry one copy and 25% have the fatal combination, which means the reproducing generation has 33% of people no longer carring the gene and 67% carry one copy. This generation inbreeds randomly.

            You end up with ~11% of the next generation with the fatal combo (0.67^2*0.25) and ~44.5 of the next generation carries and 44.5% has zero copies.

            The reduction will continue every generation, BUT it will always be a slower reduction than if there was intentional outgroup mating.

          • Murphy says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            yes, height is a 1 dimensional parameter>

            And yet if you want to be in the NBA and you’re under 6 foot tall there’s 5 NBA players in that band and most of the US population. If you’re 5’5 and dream of being an NBA player you literally have better odds of winning the lottery.

            If you’re over 7 foot tall and you don’t have some horrible health condition then you can basically walk right in. 17% of seven-foot-tall young men in America are in the NBA. If you’re over 7 foot you basically have to apply and you’re in.

            A single 1 dimensional parameter and yet if you walk a reasonably healthy 7 foot tall guy in the door and a reasonably healthy 5’5 tall guy in the door and you know they both had a dream of being in the NBA that single 1 dimensional parameter tells you which one has less than a 1 in a million chance of being in the NBA and which one has a near certainty.

            further that single 1 dimensional parameter is pretty much entirely genetically determined as far as we can tell (absent starvation or severe abuse or poisoning).

            There have been a tiny number of merely average height players in the NBA. That single parameter doesn’t cover literally everything. But if you dream of raising a kid to one day play in the NBA the most significant step you can take towards increasing the probability of achieving that goal is to find to tallest person you can who’s willing to be the other parent.

            And the NBA isn’t taking tall people for the sake of being tall, they want to win games, they’re using height as a proxy but it’s apparently a spectacularly good proxy.

            I prefer not to name my employer online since the net contains too many people who are keen to hunt down peoples employers and try to get them fired whenever they’re pissed about anything.

            @DavidFriedman

            I remember an argument along those lines from an old Heinlein book.

            Ok, simplifying a bit for easier number crunching, lets look at SNPs, pretty much the most common form of mutation, a single base being flipped.

            Every generation there’s about 112-160 novel mutations: ie, your kids carry about that many mutations that neither you nor your partner carry(though a fraction of the tissues in your testicles may carry a larger fraction of them).

            Most of those mutations will hit locations that don’t matter, I wrote a longer bit here but I cut it out in favor of simply saying : novel mutations are fairly common but mostly don’t matter if you’re not having kids with your close relatives.

            The other problem is that such intentional selection exerts it’s price in dead children. You’d need to do it for so long and throw so many infants on the sacrificial alter that I’m not sure you’d gain anything overall.

            Also we’re in modern times: Genetic counselling is a much better option or even filtering embryos to avoid ones carrying horrible diseases and doesn’t take a price in suffering children.

          • grrath says:

            In my own institution I was given a heads up by a co-worker that a lecturer giving a lecture on genetics had recently got in trouble for mentioning to a class that “excessive consanguinity” in a population tends to cause bad things like more children with genetic diseases.

            Yea and if he had inexplicably followed that up with a slide showing that Jewish people had the highest rate of Tay-Sachs, you would probably have some questions about his motives.

            Political correctness is dumb. Period. Whoever runs your school is definitely part of the problem.
            That being said, there’s a long history of people in authority saying that other people aren’t as good as them using technically plausible information. This has, whether you like it or not, shifted the burden of evidence a lot higher than even the most robust of statistics. What are the neuroscientists saying? We don’t even know how A brain converts sensory information to logical thoughts, let alone the functional difference between lower and higher IQ individuals. What are psychologists saying? Have they observed higher-IQ individuals having more pro-social or complex thoughts?

            Science is a big field. Graphs don’t tell you the whole story. There’s a lot more information to be gathered before creating grand, ideology supporting theories. Being challenged on that is just part of the process and the people doing it aren’t doing it because they’re just too sensitive for the “truth.”

            Pretty much every criticism you make of IQ could also be made about height or any number of complex polygenic traits yet while it’s uncontroversial to say that basketball players tend to be tall and that tall people tend to have a strong advantage in basketball and that height is an advantage in many sports and unusually tall people tend to have tall children it’s suddenly crazy controversial talk if we say that physics professors tend to be smart, smart people tend to have an advantage getting jobs as professors and that smart people tend to birth smart children and that how generally mentally capable you are at a wide selection of tasks is reasonably quantifiable.

            Yea, because nobody can readily ascertain what ‘smart’ even is. I don’t need a scientist to tell me that a person is tall. I can look with my eyes and readily agree. I can’t randomly test a person and score and IQ test for myself to know whether or not someone is actually smarter or dumber than everyone else. There’s going to be disagreement on the robustness of your test because a lot of people are going to have different value systems for intelligence and what tasks are important.

            If, on top of not being an easily understood, mechnically validated measure, your argument sounds kinda sorta what white supremacists or bigots in general are also saying, then don’t try to suggest that people who disagree with you are being “anti-science”. If you want to be taken more seriously, get more serious evidence.

          • Murphy says:

            @grrath

            Again the same old meaningless bullshit anti-science waffle.

            It never changes, it never improves, it’s just the same droning content-free bullshit again and again.

            “Oh it’s all so complex how dare anyone try because it makes me feel bad and offend me! hey, look, there’s some spaces we still don’t fully understand! that’s where everything supporting my position, my god or my magic lives! Also lets finish up with a vague threat that if anyone disagrees then they’re probably heretics/racists/sexists.”

            hundreds of years and it never changes. The same worthless bullshit repeated by the same kind of people again and again and again.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I think you shifted to attacking the person now.

            I saw this a lot in this thread. As soon as grrath tried to discuss what understanding intelligence, as embodied in the brain, would _actually entail_ people started to attack him right away, and his stuff as “meaningless,” or “white noise.” Why is that?

            It’s not meaningless at all.

            Since you love science so much, here is what the scientific process actually looks like in empirical fields. First you find an effect. Then you switch to follow up questions. What’s the mechanism for the effect, does this effect hold up in different populations, etc. Ultimately you try to learn enough to start having the types of precise mechanism discussions grrath was trying to have.

            You know what you don’t start doing? You don’t start immediately being a culture warrior, and leave follow up questions for later. If you think you see something, and rather than wait for confirmation/replication/expansion/usual science stuff that follows you shift to demagoguery about how you are JUST LIKE GALILEO, this is a good indication you weren’t really in it for the science at all. You were looking for a club.

            What grrath is trying to do is not suppression of science, but usual peer review.

          • Murphy says:

            because grrath isn’t actually talking about “understanding intelligence, as embodied in the brain”.

            When someone starts with the the “that’s a position I disagree with, it would be a pity if someone were to brand you a nazi, oh by the way,where do you happen to work” shit I stop bothering to pretend they’re acting in good faith.
            because they’re not.

            understanding intelligence, as embodied in the brain is itself an interesting subject that could make for an interesting debate with lots of potentially interesting talk about the cutting edge in neurology.

            What grrath is actually doing is balling all that up, throwing it over his shoulder and instead using it as white noise.

            like a child sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming “LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!, EVERYTHING IS SO COMPLEX THERE’S NO WAY ANY MEASUREMENT CAN COUNT LALALALA”

            It’s being used as white noise.

            You get the same thing when you argue with anti-vaxers, you point to solid numbers, you point to statistics and the stick their fingers in their ears and start declaring that biology is so complex that we can’t personally possible understand the full and complete effects of every single additive and every single metabolite! HENCE YOU CAN’T SAY THEY’RE SAFE!!!

            It’s the same bullshit. Different day. Appeal to complexity and appeal to ignorance.

            You can vainly try to interject with “But statistically there’s extremely strong correlations with..”

            And they’ll just spew back more worthless white noise because they’re not interested in things being true nor finding more-true positions.

            grrath is engaging in a pretty much textbook example of “How to discredit a report (without having to read it)”

            http://www.venchar.com/2004/02/how_to_discredi.html

          • grrath says:

            @murphy.

            Jeez I can’t imagine how you’ll feel when you put a paper up for peer review. Criticism of data is the most scientific you can possibly be. If that offends you, then you and sjws have more in common than you think.

            @aapje

            You can’t fight unproven assumptions with unproven assumptions. There are very good arguments for and against discriminatory policies. I personally am against them but I don’t think the people who think they are a good idea are totally misguided. I also do not see how IQ is a useful concept to support my argument since there are far too many questions remaining. Most models still leave a fair amount of room for environmental conditions and policy makers are always going to try and maximise their effects.

            It’s not nice to be called a racist, and liberals are wrong for doing that without evidence. It’s not nice to be called antiscience and IQ supporters are wrong for doing that. We need a middle ground.

            @ilya

            You’ve pretty much nailed all I was trying to say. Glad to know someone understood me.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Murphy, you think I was asking where you work as a threat? You mentioned crappy things at your institution, and I was curious. I work at Johns Hopkins, btw, and always sign my real name.

            I get vitriol from anonymous tough guys sometimes, but that’s the game.

            You sound pretty worked up.

          • grrath says:

            @murphy

            The entire anti-vaxx movement was started when a trained scientists used plausible correlations and mechanisms to suggest vaccines caused autism. The lack of critical thought and the belief that because a scientist did some “science” and discovered something interesting is a sign that something must be done is the first step to people making the wrong decisions.

            I don’t even understand what you’re arguing against. I’m not suggesting that IQ is total bullshit. I’m trying to qualify what we actually know

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Who do you mean? I thought that the anti-vax movement was started when a trained researcher fabricated 12 examples. Plausible mechanism, yes, but I don’t think the paper made much use of correlations. Unless you mean secular increase?

          • Aapje says:

            @grrath & others

            Imagine a door. Bob argues that the door is red. I look at the door and it seems green to me. I tell Bob. Then Bob argues that although he also sees green, the door is actually red, so we both must be color blind. So I devise a test and determine that neither of us is colorblind. Then Bob argues that there must be a color filter between us and the door. So then I devise a test to show that there is no color filter. Then Bob argues that God is manipulating our senses and instruments, so the door is actually red, but we can’t tell. When I accept that we can never disprove this possibility, Bob declares victory: ‘you can’t prove with absolute certainty that the door is green, so it must be red.’

            This is the typical way in which science deniers/people who are emotionally wedded to a claim, act. They don’t weigh the evidence objectively and adopt a conclusion that is most consistent with the data, but reject their opponents’ conclusion because it has gaps, while ignoring that their own conclusion has way bigger gaps (or has evidence that disproves it).

            As all scientific claims will have gaps in the evidence, you can reject any scientific theory this way and instead prefer a theory with much worse evidence, predictive power, etc.

            So I wish to warn you and others (also those of the right-wing persuasion) that you have to be careful to not simply demand that the other side keeps plugging the gaps. Intellectual honesty also demands that if you are not agnostic, but make a claim yourself, that you make a positive case that the evidence for your claim is actually better than the evidence for the other claims.

          • Aapje says:

            @grrath

            I don’t even understand what you’re arguing against. I’m not suggesting that IQ is total bullshit. I’m trying to qualify what we actually know

            We know that IQ is extremely predictive for many things we care about a great deal (like doing well in school, earning a better income, living longer/healthier, etc, etc).

            We know that races/ethnic groups differ genetically in ways that matter. For example, we can predict that Asians tend to be lactose intolerant far more often than Caucasians. This knowledge resulted in multinationals investing more money into dairy and dairy-like products that lactose intolerant people can digest. So this benefits Asians. Similarly, the knowledge that sub-Saharan black people tend to suffer from sickle cell disease far more often allows doctors to make better diagnoses, benefiting black people.

            We know that IQ is highly hereditary (0.7-0.8 for adults).

            We know that different races/ethnic groups have large group differences in IQ. We know that IQ is about equally extremely predictive for outcomes for all racial groups, so the tests don’t seem to have a racial bias.

            We know that the environment can depress IQ and that certain races that have a lower average IQ also have a worse average environment. So part of the gap might be environmental.

            We know that IQ’s can go up rather rapidly across generations (Flynn effect), again suggesting environment can play a role.

            However, we also have evidence that black people do worse even if they are adopted by white parents and other evidence that suggests that the environment doesn’t explain very much of the gap.

            With new genetic databanks, we may soon be able to correlate IQ to certain genes and determine if those genes more often present in certain races/ethnic groups. If so, that is very strong evidence of racial IQ differences.

            We see that a certain ideological group opposes research into this area, resulting in funding problems for this kind of research, scientists self-censoring, etc.

            We know that China is doing this research, so the cat is out of the bag anyway. With CRISPR, it might then be very easy to start engineering smarter babies and we know that countries like China have less moral objections to this kind of thing.

            By neutering our scientists and preferring ‘ought’ over ‘is’ in our research, we might end up a backwater when it comes to human genetics, where rich, mostly white Westerners end up going to China to get their superbabies, while poor Americans (disproportionately black) fall back even further.

            Is this a happy future for most progressives/lefties? Isn’t it better not to stick our head in the sand, but make choices based on reality, rather than choosing the ‘facts’ that we find morally preferable?

            PS. Note that the objections to racial IQ differences are frequently at the level where the scientific evidence is overwhelming, like the predictive power of IQ. This is why the charge of science-denialism is frequently leveled.

          • grrath says:

            As all scientific claims will have gaps in the evidence, you can reject any scientific theory this way and instead prefer a theory with much worse evidence, predictive power, etc.

            So I wish to warn you and others (also those of the right-wing persuasion) that you have to be careful to not simply demand that the other side keeps plugging the gaps. Intellectual honesty also demands that if you are not agnostic, but make a claim yourself, that you make a positive case that the evidence for your claim is actually better than the evidence for the other claims.

            So, you agree with me? This is all that I was trying to say. I am agnostic about race and IQ. Somehow I got lumped in with people who deny it’s very existence but that isn’t my position at all. It didn’t help that people thought my description of what it is was white noise because… I still don’t know why.

            It’s obvious that people who don’t think they’re ideological are being very ideological because they’ve put a fair amount of words in my mouth.

            My position is that, considering the evidence and the fact that I’m agnostic, I don’t think IQ is useful for the layman and should not drive or affect policy. It should also not be thought of as an absolute authority on intelligence because it was not designed to be one. If Murray wants to talk about this evidence he should be free to do so, and others are free to not listen and argue against it because it goes against their own observations and ideas about intellect.

            Can you point out to me where you don’t agree? Or what I’ve said that makes you believe that I’m trying to push for one side?

            If anything, I’m trying to get people to come into the middle and understand what it is they’re talking about. Science is not about absolutely right vs. absolutely wrong and evidence (no matter how statistically robust or weak) has to be weighed fairly against everything else.

            My use of meaningful might have been too strong. I was only referring to it being relatively low-yield for non-psychometrics because there isn’t much they can do differently.

          • Aapje says:

            @grrath

            Beliefs about IQ or if you prefer, ability, is already driving policy. This, despite the available (yet incomplete) evidence showing the opposite of what is argued to push through policies that would be unjust and counterproductive if they are wrong (and can even argued to be counterproductive even if they are right).

            You seem to think that Murray is evidence that the questions are being asked, but he actually did his research for a private research institution. It’s quite telling that there are no examples of researchers in general academia who are openly researching the same things. There is evidence that academia are increasingly politically monocultures, where dissidents are discriminated against when it comes to jobs & grants, feel silenced, etc.

            The logical result is that some research will not be done and the research that is done will frequently be performed in an ideologically motivated way, where certain explanations of the data are anathema, where the deck is stacked in advance to generate the ‘right’ outcome, where unpleasant outcomes are shelved, etc, etc.

            I find this worrisome and find it especially worrisome that the majority of the left seems to worry greatly about how their ideological opponents refuse to accept some scientific consensus (and call this anti-science); whilst I see very little concern for science itself being politicized, which is a far greater threat, IMO.

            If science is done well and lots of people reject it, at least those who are (somewhat) immune to the polarization can still find out the truth. If science itself is corrupted, then science has become useless for even the least partisan.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Can someone explain to me what exactly is the profound significance of IQ and why people believe that it has independent effects or meaning w.r.t. intelligence?

      Why it is real is an important topic. Whether any particular conclusion is surprising or “profound” is much less important than its truth. Many people say that you just can’t measure intelligence. They should consider it profound.

      If you really think about it, it’s existence is not really that surprising. Stating that a group of tests that were mostly designed to be similar to each other have correlated results seems to be a given to me.

      From your other comments, you seem to believe that intelligence is multifaceted. If it turns out to be dominated by a single factor, should your surprise count as profound? If the people who create intelligence tests were trying to produce a single number, it is not surprising that they produced a single number. They claim that they were trying to produce many numbers. Why don’t you believe them? I think that it is much more plausible that their failure to produce many numbers was due to incompetence than malice.

      But let us take IQ as a black box. Maybe better IQ researchers would produce a better box, with more numbers, rather than the 1-3 numbers we do get. Maybe that is a reason to become an IQ researcher, but short of that, what we have is IQ and the question is whether it is real and useful, not whether it is profound or the best battery of tests.

      Adding that those tests are also correlated with levels of educational achievement in a system where those tests are mandatory prerequisites to being allowed into school is not remotely mindblowing or even interesting.

      Sure, the current number is utterly unsurprising. When IQ tests first debuted, it was an interesting question of whether college was based on intelligence, education, or class. How do IQ tests compare to old by-hand approaches of identifying intelligent children? In any event, they’re a lot cheaper. The SAT was specifically created to find smart, less educated people and send them to college. It worked, and that’s probably a good thing. There are people who claim that college attendance today is wholly due to class. The correlation is the start of a rebuttal to them. But the important question is whether the SAT is a test of class.

      And we should be nervous about whether the correlation between IQ and income and other positive outcomes is mediated by education. But people do measure whether IQ predicts productivity.

      The issue of heritability is also one of misunderstood science. It’s a population level statistic that depends entirely on the specific population in which it is measured.

      You might as well say that correlation is a population level statistic. (Narrow sense) heritability is merely the correlation of the trait with genes. There are certainly problems with correlation, but would you describe it as “misunderstood science”? Would you say that it is not likely to “give meaningful results”?

      Mixing it with IQ is not likely to give meaningful results. What these theories are based on is a relative measure (heritability) of a relative measure (IQ, which is normalized to the population and therefore not absolute) of a relative concept (intelligence is just a specific basket of human behaviour).

      What’s wrong with relative measures? What’s wrong with normalization? Sometimes people make mistakes about IQ because of bad normalization, and maybe it would be better to use an absolute IQ scale. But so what?

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        “But so what?”

        I would like to suggest a custom called “honest bookkeeping”: whenever you make a statement based on analysis of data, please list somewhere all assumptions that went into that analysis.

        The last place in the long chain from paper to consumption by an internet reader (via university PR department, popular science article, etc.) this is often done is the scientific paper itself (and sometimes not even then). The point is, keeping the long list of assumptions around reminds us how contingent all statistical analysis is.

        People here seem to think there are isolated demands of rigor happening when it comes to IQ research. But really, I personally promise to lay off, if you just keep carrying the list around with every data-based claim. The list will speak for itself without me having to say anything.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          It looks like an isolated demand for rigor in that you don’t seem to make this demand of the many other data-based claim on this blog. Why not make that demand of half of the links on this links post? I do think it would usually be better if Scott linked to the original research, instead, but usually the problem is not weak analysis, but that the statement has been completely mangled.

          If you (like Cosma Shalizi) think that IQ matters and all these other topics don’t matter, it is perfectly reasonable to have different standards of engagement (not rigor), but if so, admit that. (But surely the questions of whether charter schools are equally effective and 20% cheaper does matter.) But if your goal is to communicate general points about analysis that happen to apply to IQ, perhaps it would be better to communicate them on a less charged topic.

          Anyhow, that doesn’t answer my question. Grrath seems to make a specific complaint, that the heritability of a normalized measure is “not likely to give meaningful results.” If it is a legitimate complaint, I’d like to know why. What good does it do me for you to stop making a legitimate complaint?

          Those particular points, that heritability is a correlation, a population statistic; and that IQ is normalized; those disclaimers are part of the definitions, written down in any reference work, eg, wikipedia. Does that count as “listing”?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Cosma called g a statistical myth (http://bactra.org/weblog/523.html). Did you mean he thinks that people being confused about g is important?

            Btw, I totally agree with Cosma’s conclusion and reasoning on g. Since I know a little bit of causal inference, all of this is, as Cosma says, “old news” to me.

            In my field it’s all about writing down assumptions carefully. I think statisticians should do this more in general, independently of “sensitive topics” like IQ and genetics.

            “Does that count as “listing”?”

            No. Listing is a psychological trick to try to exploit something like ?the availability heuristic? to get folks to treat statistical analysis at what I think is the appropriate level of tentativeness. People who understand this stuff don’t need this list. They already know.

            Re: your specific question, I think I should let grrath answer. I will say for myself you can talk about heritability of IQ all you want, as long as you put a list of assumptions you made (which will include normalizing IQ, and all the other things grrath worries about) at the end of your paper or blog post. With this list, people can decide for themselves how much to believe you.

            Narrow technical point, you said:

            “(Narrow sense) heritability is merely the correlation of the trait with genes.”

            That’s not what heritability means. Did you mean something else than heritability? What did you mean?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            This whole thread is about how you never spell out your complaints, and then it turns into a Socratic dialogue?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Hey, you said Cosma thinks IQ matters. Cosma actually thinks IQ is made up. You said heritability is one thing, but actually heritability is something completely different. I am fairly sure I am going to see Cosma in about 2-3 weeks, if you want I can ask him.

            I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and ask for clarification, but if you insist on being uncharitable, how about I just say that it seems to me you don’t know what you are talking about?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. If you think I’m too stupid or too deluded to understand any of this, then by all means give up on me. But if you think that listing the things grrath worries about will make people worry about them, it sure didn’t make me worry about them. Maybe that’s because I don’t know what I’m talking about, and you don’t care about getting through to me, but that should have been pretty clear, pretty early in the conversation.

            Added: that was somewhat mangled. Presumably there are some people who don’t know what they’re talking about that you do want to get through to. That’s the whole point of asking what you mean, what you’re concerned about.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            My view on intelligence and genetics: intelligence is very complicated and high dimensional. It’s also multi-factor when it comes to genetics (lots of little causes rather than a few big ones). It’s pretty clear intelligence is heavily influenced by genetics, since we are much smarter than chimps.

            These generalities seem pretty uncontroversial to me. If you want to do science or statistical modeling to try to make them precise, that’s absolutely fine with me — but just do it carefully, and list assumptions. Listing assumptions is honest — why wouldn’t you do it? I always ask this when I do peer review. And maybe actually do science/modeling rather than culture warrior posturing?

            Also maybe actually know what factor analysis does / how heritability is actually defined / etc. Whenever I see people stumble on actual technical details it really doesn’t give me a lot of faith in their project.

      • grrath says:

        They have produced other numbers, that’s my point. The subtests of IQ can themselves be used to determine certain aspects of intellectual capability. Not to mention the tests created by educators to ascertain the extent of an individual’s knowledge and understanding. Correlating all these tests together is pretty cool but it’s an invented statistical concept that doesn’t do much more than condense a large set of data.

        but so what?

        I don’t understand this part. Are you suggesting that critically analyzing the data is meaningless? You can’t use tools properly if you don’t understand their limitations and IQ has limitations that people are glossing over. You listed most of them in your comment but I don’t know why you don’t think that they’re important considerations.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Are you suggesting that critically analyzing the data is meaningless?

          Critically analyze the data, and I’ll get back to you.

          It’s a population level statistic that depends entirely on the specific population in which it is measured. Mixing it with IQ is not likely to give meaningful results.

          Is this a “critical analysis”? All I’m saying is that I have no idea what you mean by it. So I’m asking you: What does it mean?

          What these theories are based on is a relative measure (heritability) of a relative measure (IQ, which is normalized to the population and therefore not absolute) of a relative concept (intelligence is just a specific basket of human behaviour).

          Perhaps you are just saying that small problems compound? Sure, but do they actually add up to a big problem?

          • grrath says:

            It looks like an isolated demand for rigor in that you don’t seem to make this demand of the many other data-based claim on this blog. Why not make that demand of half of the links on this links post? I do think it would usually be better if Scott linked to the original research, instead, but usually the problem is not weak analysis, but that the statement has been completely mangled.

            I suppose I could challenge every article on here but that’s a bit unfair. If you want to substitute IQ with every other statistical link, you can, but it doesn’t change my point.

            So I’m asking you: What does it mean?
            Perhaps you are just saying that small problems compound? Sure, but do they actually add up to a big problem?

            A big problem for what? For IQ to be a measure, not particularly. For IQ to be claimed to be important for policy, then those are serious problems. I can’t literally calculate for you how much it affects validity but based on something like the Bradford Hill criteria
            to asses epidemiological causal references, theres not enough there.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            If you want to talk about causality, we can talk about causality, but that sure sounds like a different subject. Originally you said that the heritability of IQ was not meaningful. That sure doesn’t sound like a complaint that needs reference to causality.

            You keep changing the subject. Why won’t you say what you mean? Why did you put together two complaints in the same sentence? Do they interact? Or are you just saying that the problems added up?

            If I didn’t understand your original point, why introduce new topics? If I’m not worth your time, oh well, but why barrage me with new points?

  3. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    In lieu of finding a good place in the comments to talk about the Hugos, I’m starting fresh. I’m coming from the anti-puppy side pretty much.

    From my point of view, they had people, including some of their most notable members, who were willing to wreck the Hugos. They weren’t just trying to make room for themselves, they (eventually?) wanted all the prizes. And they wanted the Hugo to lose all of its prestige for everyone as it had lost prestige for them.

    Also, while setting up nominating ballots is within the rules, I see it as contrary to the spirit of the Hugos, which are about individual preferences. To whatever extent puppyish fiction was excluded, at least the un-puppy nominees were still mostly a matter of individual taste.

    As a general point about Correia, he wasn’t entitled to a Hugo just because his books sold well and a good many people like them. Many excellent writers never get a Hugo, or don’t get one for decades.

    I believe a lot of the problem on the puppy side was that they didn’t have excellent fiction to compete with. I’ve been reading sf since the 60s, including a lot of earlier golden age sf, and I’ve loved a lot of it. From what I could see of the puppies, they just didn’t have anything distinguished to offer.

    When I say distinguished, I don’t mean pretty good, I mean strikingly better than most of the field.

    • From my point of view, they had people, including some of their most notable members, who were willing to wreck the Hugos.

      You don’t think responding to them by a coordinated campaign to vote down everything nominated, which I gather was what happened–I’m getting all of this second and third hand from comments by both sides–qualifies as being willing to wreck?

      We need to get ESR into this thread–I’m pretty sure he was involved with strong views.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The No Award campaign was a defensive effort rather than an effort to wreck the Hugos. Having fewer Hugo awards for a year or two wouldn’t do as much damage to the award as would the award going to bad works, though I grant that if the awards mostly hadn’t been given for five or ten years it might have done a good bit of damage.

        As I recall, there were people on the puppy side who said they wanted to wreck the Hugos.

        The No Award campaign was directed at Beale’s nominations, as I recall, so it wasn’t against everything on the ballot, but it was pretty close.

        I grant (and I should remember) that the puppies were surprised that they got as many nominations as they did.

        I was interested at the time to see that counter-ballots were strongly discouraged by the anti-puppies, and I think that turned out to be the right move.

        How are the Dragon awards doing?

        • Deiseach says:

          Having fewer Hugo awards for a year or two wouldn’t do as much damage to the award as would the award going to bad works

          Nancy, I do respect your views, but tell me with a straight face that the 2014 short story winner was the best of its kind? The most I can say for it is (a) it would make a decent SF story if edited with a chainsaw and an old-school editor who would make the writer explain just what the heck is going on with the magic water and forget about settling childhood scores by presenting the narrator’s sister as a thundering bitch (b) thanks be to Klono it prevented “If I Weren’t Such A Drippy Wet Haddock’s Bathing Suit” – I mean “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” – from winning.

          There’s a couple things on the entire 2014 list I’d throw my eye over but there’s an awful lot that would have me going “Nah, think I’ll look up some of those dirt-cheap reprint anthologies of 50s skiffy on Amazon instead”.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Deiseach, I agree that “The Water that Falls on You from Nowhere” wasn’t worthy of a Hugo, but it was only one short story.

            I can’t say it was worse than Wright’s or Beale’s nominees (some of them in other years).

            John Schilling, I should check more carefully.

            The reason I weighed in on the puppy/anti-puppy issue was that it gets to me that it was portrayed as a situation where the puppies had reasonable complaints, but horrible people were insisting on ignoring them.

            Admittedly, there is no such thing as scientifically measuring how insulting an insult is, but there was plenty of nastiness coming from the rabids, and I think to some extent from the sads.

        • John Schilling says:

          The No Award campaign was a defensive effort rather than an effort to wreck the Hugos

          In roughly the sense that an honor killing is an attempt to defend rather than wreck a family, yes. But this…

          The No Award campaign was directed at Beale’s nominations, as I recall, so it wasn’t against everything on the ballot, but it was pretty close.

          This is simply false. “A Single Samurai”, Steve Diamond, was on the Sad Puppies list for 2016, but not on Beale’s Rabid Puppies list. It got a nomination, and was soundly No-Awarded.

          You cannot have recalled this “only against Beale” version of No-Award actually happening, because it provably didn’t. You may recall someone saying that “No Award” was selective, and you may not them have had reason to distrust them, but that person was a damn liar or a damn fool acting as proxy for a damn liar. “No Award” was pure scorched Earth directed against anything associated with any brand of puppy.

          If that’s the sort of defense these self-appointed guardians of the Hugo consider appropriate, then let the scorching continue until all of Worldcon is consumed by it.

        • The Nybbler says:

          “No Award” was an attempt by insiders to demonstrate exactly what Correia claimed: That the Hugos were by and for insiders. It succeeded (Correia’s response was, predictabley, “I told you so”). It also wrecked the Hugos (or exposed them definitively as a wreck). The only real winner was Vox Day.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            What did Vox Day win?

          • John Schilling says:

            His heart’s desire to Watch the World(con) Burn, I would guess. For sufficiently puny definitions of “burn”; no incarnation of the Joker would have been satisfied with such meager results.

          • The Nybbler says:

            What did Vox Day win?

            A pile of skulls. Or at least asterisks. The Hugos were wrecked, partially as a result of his efforts (but mostly as a result of the puppy-kicker antics); that’s what he wanted.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            What he got was making Chuck Tingle into a star, which is probably not what he had in mind.

          • Deiseach says:

            What he got was making Chuck Tingle into a star, which is probably not what he had in mind

            Probably the best thing that came out of it, absolutely hilarious, and Mr Tingle is still a more traditional-style SF writer* than much of the stuff being nominated on the anti-Puppy side 🙂

            *Seriously; the first page of Space Raptor Butt Invasion – I hasten to make clear this is as far as I’ve read! – is much more traditionally skiffy in set-up, tone, and characters than, say, The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere or that other dinosaur-themed story that I won’t name anymore

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Speaking of space dinosaurs, there was a sci-fi novel I read, oh maybe 15 years ago that for the life of me I cannot remember the name of, and perhaps one of you knows.

            The premise was one day multi-kilometer high rocket engines emerge from the Earth’s surface, obviously wrecking lots of things. In the exploration of ancient alien engineering the protagonists discover that dinosaurs in fact survived the extinction event, had developed an advanced civilization and taken refuge on one of the moons of Mars where they still exist today. After the heroes collect the dinosaurs, the planetary engines ignite and the entire planet earth is moved to another star system which is how the aliens foster galactic civilization.

            So basically the plot of Rendezvous with Rama but the aliens move the whole planet instead of just scooping up some passengers, and there’s space dinosaurs. One of the craziest books I’ve ever read that was actually published as a real novel and I have never been able to remember the name of it.

          • TerminusEst says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Cusp?

    • John Schilling says:

      If we’re going to talk about what “the Puppies” want, it’s important to note that there were at least two and probably three distinct groups of them.

      The original Larry Correia implementation of Sad Puppies, in 2013-2014, was per Correia mostly an attempt to investigate various hypotheses up to and including “The SJW contingent is rigging the vote count” by having fans from his blog insert a known number of votes for works that would otherwise get very few and see what happened. I don’t think he’d have turned down a win, but I also strongly doubt that he expected one. It was in any event a very small-scale activity that could not greatly disrupt the Hugos. And I believe he did properly report back that the votes counted by the Hugos matched the votes pledged by his fans closely enough to refute the fraud hypothesis. The echo chamber hypothesis remains credible.

      Note that for this purpose, it is appropriate to nominate a non-Hugo-worthy book, to avoid signal contamination.

      Post-Correia Sad Puppies were an attempt to counter the perceived echo chamber by a smaller but more focused effort to nominate works of the sort desired by the fans who felt themselves locked out. I do not believe that this group ever wanted “all the prizes” in any serious sense. The mechanics of the Hugos at that time meant that simple nomination slates could, if sufficiently popular, entirely lock out the opposition. When this happened to multiple categories in 2015, the Sad Puppies changed the mechanics of their slate to prevent it happening in 2016.

      The Rabid Puppies were a parallel effort by Vox Day to explicitly destroy the credibility of the Hugos by filling as much of the ballot as possible with works that only a Rabid (or very Sad) Puppy could love, and by provoking the SJW contingent to visible overreaction. Day tried to do this from within the Sad Puppy team when Correia left, and was told to take a hike. When the overlapping Sad/Rabid Puppy slates locked out multiple categories in 2015, he tried to do the exact same thing in 2016 – and failed because it was just the Rabid Puppies doing that.

      I am differently sympathetic to all three groups and goals, but they are three different things. Claiming that “the Puppies” did X or want Y is probably at least half wrong unless X and Y are very broadly defined – and I don’t think any broadly accurate categorization is going to be a terribly objectionable one.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I’m somewhat skeptical of the extent to which the later claimed goals of stat analysis were -primary- (rather than an added bonus claimed to be primary after the fact in a bit of sour grapes reasoning), and I was following the thing on both sides from the start, but aside from that I think John’s summation is entirely accurate.

      And Nancy, ChaosHorizon has done and continues to do a lot of very solid and transparent number crunching on various SFF awards (I recommend their blog in its entirety), and their analysis was that the “No Award” discipline and coordination was actually much tighter than the “sad puppies” bloc.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I didn’t say “No Award” wasn’t coordinated, I said it wasn’t an effort to wreck the Hugos.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        That explanation only holds water if the people voting no award sincerely believed that there were no works in the category that year that merited an award. Notably suggested by GRRM as his preferred criteria.

        However, he was making that point precisely because the dominant view at the time (and the trend displayed in the actual voting) was “No Award Any Work That Recieved Positive Mention By The Other Side Regardless Of Quality”, with quite a few prominent writers and editors stating things like

        “Gee, sure is too Bad Author X was nominated by the Puppies. Their book is awesome, and in another year I quite possibly would have voted for them. However, in order to suitably demonstrate that the Puppies MUST not be allowed to influence this process, we must vote No Award over ANY work they could support!”

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          And I didn’t say that “No Award” wasn’t political or in some cases unfair. I especially think Burnside’s “The Hot Equations” deserved a Hugo, and I voted for it, though I generally went with “No Award”.

          What I said was that “No Award” wasn’t an effort to wreck the Hugos.

          • engleberg says:

            @Nancy- ‘What I said was that “No Award” wasn’t an attempt to wreck the Hugos.’

            When I see Hugo Award Winner on a book printed in the last thirty years, I expect writing at the level of a Star Trek novelization, but, wait, D party talking points! Woo!

            Some few exceptions. Few. I don’t care if Vox Day wrecks today’s Hugos. They’ve burned that brand.

          • Nornagest says:

            Thirty years is way too long. Cyteen, Hyperion, A Fire Upon the Deep, Doomsday Book, The Diamond Age, all really good books, and that’s only the first ten years. I was comparatively less impressed with Speaker for the Dead, but it’s hardly a liberal mouthpiece. (Also less impressed with Green Mars, which kinda was. Haven’t read the other four.)

            Looking through the list of Hugos, I don’t start seeing nominations for books I’ve avoided for likely being too preachy until 2012.

          • random832 says:

            What I said was that “No Award” wasn’t an effort to wreck the Hugos.

            What definition of “wreck the Hugos” does not properly include this behavior? Are you relying on the fact that they only wrecked it for that year (and presumably committed to wrecking any future year until the puppies gave up)?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            They didn’t say they wanted to wreck the Hugos.

            They came up with a method which would allow some representation for ballots without letting ballots swamp the Hugos.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          I guess what I’m saying is that from my perspective, and I’ll admit that it may BE a matter of opinion, that behavior was in fact, if not in intention, damaging to the Hugos and to convention-going fandom in general.

          I can only speak for my personal reaction, of course, but as a right/libertarian-ish leaning fan of long standing who felt that the Sad Puppies were mucking up but had some valid points, I came away from 2015 with the message that My Kind were very much Persona Non Grata in the long-term and established circles of capital-F Fandom, and I altered my participation in social circles and plans to attend various conventions accordingly.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I regret that fandom has become less fun for you, and I hope I haven’t made matters worse.

            Is there anything you recommend? I’m looking forward to the third Torchship novel by Karl Gallegher. The series strikes me as capable of appealing to both puppies and anti-puppies.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            No, you haven’t made things worse, you have always conducted yourself well here and while I don’t entirely share your view of the whole affair that’s probably to be expected, and I’m capable of disagreeing with someone without feeling like they’re a threat ;). It’s more the “people like this have no place in the community we are building” rhetoric, which you have not engaged in.

            My tastes in SF are relatively broad, and I can tolerate a fair amount of little digs and asides that I think are transparent to some readers.

            So, what are your tastes?

            In space opera, my go-to recent/still publishing authors I don’t think enough people have read are Alastair Reynolds and Neal Asher.

            For what I’d term “Hugo Bait” (the sort of grand big idea fiction with very solid technical chops that -I- would nominate), after being pretty disappointed by Ada Palmer’s follow-up to Too Like The Lightning I am less willing to recommend that, but I’ll still recommend Peter Watts’ Blindsight, Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief and sequels, and Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit (I think this is actually in the running for 2017).

            And I’m out of time and have to run to work, but if you can elaborate on your tastes I’ll try and think up some more for when I get home.

    • John Schilling says:

      OK, no point in beating around the bush on this. I believe that the Hugo awards since 2010 have been characterized by actual bigotry, to an intolerable degree. And by “since 2010” I mean a clear break which coincides almost exactly with the timing of Racefail.

      In late 2015, approximately Peak Puppy, I tried to quantify the various claims regarding bias in the Hugos by picking twelve largely objective criteria by which any SF novel could be readily evaluated and which I suspected would correspond with a work’s “SJW appeal”. I do not consider this to be a perfect measure by any means, but it is one to which I could precommit without the possibility of cherrypicking and with little room for evaluation bias. Call the result a “Social Justice Index”, where the (purely theoretical) minimum score of -12 is Manly White Guy STEM Nerd Adventures in Space and +12 is a travelogue of the Feminist Socialist Womyn of Color Utopia. A sampling of race-neutral, gender-neutral, politically neutral science fiction with equal weighting on the science and the fiction should average to zero.

      I never had time to do a full and proper statistical analysis on this measurement, and that’s probably not going to change soon. I’m still greatly disturbed by what I did find.

      Counting every Hugo best novel nominee from 1959 to 2009, there’s a broad scatter at the individual level but also a steady trend from an average of -2.4 in the early years to -0.7 by the end. Linear fit, with standard deviation +/- 2.3. And the winners are evenly spread across this range, with the same trend. Nerdy white guy bias, because duh, but weak and getting better.

      2010, the first post-Racefail year, that goes to +1.7, and from then to present (but excluding the various Puppy nominees) a steady rise to +2.4. That’s a statistically significant one-year jump greater than the previous fifty years combined, and it’s not a fluke. And the winners, rather than being uniformly distributed, are in the top half of the distribution with a mean score of +3.3. Digging deeper, the three dominant factors contributing to the shift are the race and gender of the author, the explicitly stated political views (if any) of the author, and the race and gender of the protagonists. There are weaker content indicators that I will summarize as “no nerds allowed”.

      The past three years, the non-Puppy best-novel nominees consist of nine by women, one by a transgender person, and two by a nonwhite male. That’s it. That wasn’t acceptable when it was reversed in 1959-1962, and it shouldn’t be acceptable now. Looking at the detailed nomination statistics, it looks like without any Puppy influence Sad or Rabid we probably would have gotten either Kim Stanley Robinson or Neal Stephenson in 2016. One token white guy is still not acceptable.

      I believe that there is an echo chamber at work in the subset of fandom that sets the standard for Worldcon and the Hugos, that this echo chamber is properly characterized as a bunch of actual bigots, and that the result is a community that is more hostile to Nerdy White Guys now than it was to everybody else fifty years ago. I believe that it unlikely that novels I would like will ever again win the Hugo except by way of their authors passing a de facto race/gender/politics litmus test along the way. As a Nerdy White Guy, my decision to absent myself from fandom in 2008 is looking pretty good right now, and absent a credible plan to salvage Worldcon or the Hugos I see no reason to tolerate their current owners trading on a reputation they do not deserve.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        There’s more to say, but I think you’re mistaken about what maximum SJW sf looks like. However, making the changes I suggest will probably just make the effect on the Hugos look more extreme.

        “and +12 is a travelogue of the Feminist Socialist Womyn of Color Utopia”

        SJW doesn’t deal in utopias, or at least give me some examples if I’ve missed something. To my mind, one of the more tiresome things about SJW sf is the background assumption that oppression is roughly the same in all times and places.

        I’ve hit something of a limit on sf about misogyny– I don’t feel a strong need to read about people like me being hated. This may well have something to do with my having run into much less misogyny than a lot of women have, but still there it is.

        The other thing is that SJW sf has a strong tendency to be magical realism. Admittedly, this is a hard thing to define, but I think of it as fantasy with little worldbuilding.

        • The Nybbler says:

          SJW doesn’t deal in utopias, or at least give me some examples if I’ve missed something.

          I’d expect it to look like “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” only with PoC women and more preaching, but it probably doesn’t exist; hard to push a grievance philosophy with no grievances, and it’s tough to write utopia without being exceptionally boring.

        • John Schilling says:

          “and +12 is a travelogue of the Feminist Socialist Womyn of Color Utopia”

          SJW doesn’t deal in utopias, or at least give me some examples if I’ve missed something

          Ah, sorry if I was unclear. +12 would be the theoretical limit of my scoring system, which might be achieved by the hypothetical FSWoCU story but which has never been seen in nature. The record for actual Hugo winners is +5, for Le Guin’s “The Disposessed”, which is not any sort of utopia. At the other extreme, the record is -6 for “Starship Troopers”, “Ringworld”, and “Deepness in the Sky”. Include losing nominees and the range goes from -10 to +6. To hit -12, I’m not sure even the novel-within-a-novel from “Iron Dream” would qualify.

          I did score stories equally which had race/gender conflict as a major plot element and stories which had an explicit means of preventing race/gender conflict as a major part of the worldbuilding – either seemed a priori like the sort of thing social justice would favor in its fiction; if you and I would rather not have the heavy dose of misogyny but Team SJ would rather not have a comfortable utopia, that shouldn’t affect the evaluation either way.

          The other thing is that SJW sf has a strong tendency to be magical realism.

          Magical realism isn’t something I thought of including, but I did include STEM background for either the author or protagonist, and technological development as a major plot element, all of which would correlate by their absence with magical realism. But also with traditional fantasy. Those indicators are in any event weaker contributors to the observed shift, but not negligible.

          • Nornagest says:

            To hit -12, I’m not sure even the novel-within-a-novel from “Iron Dream” would qualify.

            “The Iron Dream” was basically an Animal Farm-style pastiche of the Nazi Party’s early history done as an Edgar Rice Burroughs plot, so I doubt it’d break -6 no matter how the details of your scale work. Too many concessions either to genre or to history.

            “Watch on the Rhine” might, though.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Watch on the Rhine” might, though.

            -9, but there are a couple of points that come from the story’s setting/worldbuilding and default to zero for contemporary Earth. Hmm, Michael Z. Williamson’s “The Weapon” might make -12, but I really don’t want to go back and revisit that one. Pournelle’s “The Mercenary”, ditto but slightly more rereadable.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          -6 for “Starship Troopers”

          Maybe I need to go re-read Starship Troopers again, but, that whole section early on talking about the government brainwashing the troops with images of aliens raping earth women with massive purple members … doesn’t seem maximally anti-SJW to me. I mostly got a “war is hell” vibe out of the whole book (long ago, admittedly).

          Perhaps I read from a post-Vietnam viewpoint, and Wikipedia’s summary seems to disagree with me, but Heinlein himself says it glorified the infantry (and presumably by that disparages the officer corps, as is long tradition).

          • John Schilling says:

            Starship Troopers … doesn’t seem maximally anti-SJW to me

            That would be why Starship Troopers only scores a -6 on a scale where “maximally anti-SJW” would be a -12. If the maximally anti-SJW book has ever been written (paging Vox Day…), it was never successfully nominated for a Hugo.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            I reread it a couple years back (admittedly after getting into an argument about how misogynistic/racist it was) and would describe it’s general vibe as “If war is hell why do people seem to enjoy it so much?”. Heinlein being Heinlein* tries to answer this question. This gets interpreted as “advocating Fascism/Militarism” which, to be fair, it sort of is, but if that’s all that someone takes away from the book I’d say it’s clear they weren’t paying attention.

            *The sort of man for whom the whys and what fors of how different social structures develop and spread are a personal hobby-horse.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Maybe I need to go re-read Starship Troopers again, but, that whole section early on talking about the government brainwashing the troops with images of aliens raping earth women with massive purple members …

            That was from The Forever War.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @John Schilling – “If the maximally anti-SJW book has ever been written (paging Vox Day…), it was never successfully nominated for a Hugo.”

            Never read any of Vox Day’s stuff, but I have read some Ringo. If there’s a book out there that could hit a -12, I’d bet on Ringo for the author.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Nah, Kratman by a mile. Even at his most offensive to that particular sector of values, Ringo is tame by comparison.

            Kratman self-identifies as an old fashioned American conservative, but my assessment of him is that he’s the only writer I’ve read to which the term “Fascist” could -actually- be fairly applied, based on the way he seems to feel about the ideas in the Legion Del Cid books.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I would say that the major reason ST isn’t maximally anti-SJW is Johnny’s modest level of achievement. The happy ending is that he becomes a lieutenant, (This is from memory.)

            He doesn’t achieve high rank or political power. He doesn’t defeat the Bugs.

            Also, pilots are women, and there’s at least some effort at portraying a society which isn’t culturally biased.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Perhaps I read from a post-Vietnam viewpoint, and Wikipedia’s summary seems to disagree with me, but Heinlein himself says it glorified the infantry (and presumably by that disparages the officer corps, as is long tradition).”

            No, if it’s military porn, it’s because it’s about a military where everyone is basically decent and competent.

            Since I’m not a military person myself, I’m might be missing some subtleties, but the tone is that the MI (Mobile Infantry) is great, but there’s not a lot of focus on anything else being inferior.

            The main thing I took away about the infantry is that no one else can hold territory, and my impression that this is correct.

          • John Schilling says:

            Fine distinctions in which branch or level of military service is being glorified are inherently subjective, so my scoring gives a flat -1 if the protagonist is a member of the armed forces during wartime for most of the story and the story isn’t a dystopia or parody.

            Where ST “fails” as a maximal anti-social-justice tract, by my preestablished rules:

            1. Johnny Rico is technically a Person of Color. I’d feel guilty counting that given how well Heinlein palms the card for most of the story, but then he’s also got women serving as combat pilots in 1960, so the technicality stays.

            2. He doesn’t express any political views of his own beyond (eventually) generic service-ethic patriotism, and the politics of the society he’s serving are already part of the score

            3. Most of the story is set on a generic Earth, rather than on the High Frontier, nor are any scientific or technological frontiers explored in a significant way.

            4. Published by the boringly generic G.P. Putnam’s rather than e.g. Analog, Baen, or any other publishing house with a reputation for White STEM Nerd Adventure Fiction.

            5. Another technicality, but Robert Heinlein never actually won the Robert Heinlein award, nor the Prometheus Award, both also strongly correlated with White STEM Nerd Adventure Fiction.

            It’s probably not possible to write a -12 or a +12 by design, because several of the points depend on (weighted) luck. Still, there’s lots of things Heinlein could have done to offend the cause or proponents of Social Justice and conspicuously didn’t.

      • One point nobody has mentioned … . The ability of a clique to control a genre partly depends on a small number of gate keepers, most of which can be controlled by the clique. The rise of self-publishing as a viable option means that that is decreasingly the case.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think there’s two problems and I don’t see how they’re going to be reconciled (not with the battle lines drawn up as currently):

        (a) Representation matters. I have managed to get this through my thick skull and broadly I agree that yes, if you’re a young black girl reading SF/F and seeing nobody like you between the covers of the book, it’s hard to feel included in the great embrace of fandom. So I do see why there are attempts to move it more towards “let’s have more women writers, POC writers, non-mainstream writers and characters and societies that are not 50s America in space”. Novels like this do not have to be bad or unappealing; I love Samuel Delany’s Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand, for instance, though I probably disagree with Delany on nearly (not quite all, but nearly) everything politically, the cause and course of sexual liberation, and so forth. But Delany can write damn well.

        Ursula LeGuin, too, is a good writer, though I was disappointed with the way she ended the last of the Earthsea books and the direction they took. Ah well, that’s what fanfiction is for! And she had the sense of humour and guts to write the Feminist Womyn Socialist Utopia story where it’s very definitely not one, in The New Atlantis. Again, I probably disagree with her about everything politically, but she’s an honest opponent and a good writer. And for nothing else, I have to be grateful to her for standing up for genre fiction (unlike the likes of Margaret Atwood, who much prefer to be classed on the literary fiction side of the matter and want to eat their cake and have it).

        (b) Trouble is, when pushing the non-mainstream representation, they’ve kind of gone to the opposite extreme where box-checking: non-white? yes! non-Western? even better! non-straight? oh we’re hitting the jackpot here! non-male? ah darn just as it was going so well but maybe we can let this one squeak through on the first three points? is more important than the actual content or form of the story.

        (I will die on the hill that “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” is a disgrace to the art of writing in general and not just SF/F, and all the people gushing about it being so poetic and so forth and so on had me shaking my head in disbelief about “did we read the same bit of damp blotting paper?”)

        SJW doesn’t deal in utopias, or at least give me some examples if I’ve missed something.

        I absolutely have to agree with Nancy Lebovitz there; China Miéville is probably a half-way decent writer but I find him unreadable because there’s just too much grimdark for the sake of it and wallowing in the misery (until the Socialist Utopia arrives and even there he’ll make it sound more like Orwell’s 1984).

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Mieville varies a lot– he’s written some books I can’t get into, and some (notably Perdido Street Station) that I can’t believe I liked, but Railsea is a ridiculous funhouse ride with no respect for the cube-square law and some intellectual bits and Un Lun Dun is full of puns and surrealism and as I recall has a tbbq tbireazrag happy ending.

        • Nornagest says:

          China Miéville is probably a half-way decent writer but I find him unreadable because there’s just too much grimdark for the sake of it and wallowing in the misery (until the Socialist Utopia arrives and even there he’ll make it sound more like Orwell’s 1984).

          Miéville is one of the most imaginative guys I’ve ever read and I really like his early stuff, though it is very heavy on the grimdark. The intrusive politics mar what would otherwise be first-rate fantasy — I can almost hear him snarling “fucking pigs” over his keyboard anytime the militia shows up in the Bas-Lag books — but I still think he’s an excellent writer.

          His later stuff is technically better, subtler about the politics if not really less political, and usually better on the high-concept front, but for some reason it lacks the lightning-in-a-bottle quality that Bas-Lag had for me.

    • Jaskologist says:

      As somebody right-aligned, but not at all involved in that community, this reminds me of Scott’s “free speech as commons” post.

      Moderate-left: “What you’re doing will destroy the commons!”

      Right: “The commons was destroyed when you let them lock the commoners out of it.”

  4. bintchaos says:

    I dont understand why I’m not allowed to defend myself.
    I never crit Dr Hsu on cognitive genomics or AI– he’s absolutely peerless.
    Only on conservative tendency.
    I think Very Interesting is a sock puppet of someone else, and only made this login to attack me.
    Not fair.

    • Deiseach says:

      bintchaos, you appear to have two principal poles to your thought.

      (1) Science is the answer, especially when it comes to understanding the workings of the brain and from that human consciousness and group psychology. If we understand this, we can devise methods to come up with solutions to social problems and overcome racism, greed, the whole mess of human imperfection. God(s) need not apply, we don’t need anything more than the physical and material explanations of empirical science.

      (2) Islam is the most memetically fit competitor in the world today; Muslim populations will make up a quarter of the world population and this percentage will only increase. Governments in those nations will not be secular democracies but some form of Islamic government. The West is going to be out-competed by this and will succumb, as its systems (secular democracy) are too weak and unappealing to the minds formed by the Qu’ran, which cannot be edited into a Western- and secularism-friendly version. Hence there will not be an “Islamic Reformation” and the future belongs to the religious – as long as that religion is Islam.

      Given these two principles, what is your solution? Do you see a clash between Faith and Science, except this time round Islam will not give in as easily as Christianity did? You criticise people with prominence in the public eye for not educating their base on climate change, healthcare and creationism, but why will someone in Indonesia, Southern Nigeria, or Turkey care about being educated on creationism, given that they believe in a strong version of this anyway? If the future is Muslim, what place does your complexity science and socio-physics have in a world where government is “rule by Allah”?

      You have a lot of sneering on your blog about the dumb red brains, but you have nothing except “liberal democracy is dead” on the other side. So what is going to be the result, in your opinion? Great, America gets a liberal supermajority in 2050 and that lasts forever, but by then there is a Muslim nation supermajority in the world as well and secular liberal democracy is dead in the water in those nations; the white West is now toothless and powerless and the brown peoples will take over.

      So what happens your world of science and educated liberal thought then?

      • Nornagest says:

        I often hear conservatives claiming that liberal thought is on board with science, skepticism, et al. unless and until it says something bad about Islam, but this is probably the first time I’ve actually seen it in the wild with this kind of clarity. It’s just too perfect a stereotype, like someone claiming that God gave us guns to shoot them commie [racial slur redacted] would be on the other side.

        It’s one of the things that made me think troll at first, though I’m not so sure about that now. But, Poe’s law.

        • I often hear conservatives claiming that liberal thought is on board with science, skepticism, et al. unless and until it says something bad about Islam

          I would have said “unless it implies the possibility of racial or gender differences that matter.” That’s surely a more central issue.

          • Nornagest says:

            More central to the real Left, but not necessarily the imaginary Left that lives inside conservatives’ heads.

            I’ve heard both versions, though.

        • Deiseach says:

          I genuinely want an answer off bintchaos, because if I take their blog seriously, they anticipate the collapse of democracy in even a pretended form in the Near and Middle East (including Turkey) while the USA will eventually with the help of science and education achieve a liberal majority of good blue-brain people (and so help me God, they really are banging on about red and blue brains).

          But this happy land of liberalism will be no damn good because it can’t stand up to Islam, which is going to be the dominant ideology of a significant and growing chunk of the global population. It can’t liberalise and democratise the Muslim countries and it can only get weaker by comparison.

          So what is the point, then? Or is there a point? They appear to be avoiding the inevitable conclusion to their theory of the future (which is in broad agreement with Kevin C.’s view of the decline of his people and their culture, but more pessimistic in that the victorious Left itself will then collapse and be overtaken by a resurgent and dominant Islam) and instead diverting themself with a project of cognitive science (I can’t even say “putting their eggs in the basket” of this new social engineering project because they don’t seem to think it will work on Islam).

          Though I am deriving some faint shreds of amusement from bintchaos’ determination that Real Science involves maths (but not, apparently, spelling and grammar and not littering every sentence with the academic equivalent of business buzzword acronyms) and things like biology and genetics are only Applied Science. Well, a common attitude, sez you.

          Ah, but bintchaos includes sociology – or at least, their version of it entitled “socio-physics” – as Real Hard Science because (I imagine) it includes statistics. Whereas geneticists have to preferentially select for polydactyly if they want to count past ten, I suppose? They have either invented or are attending some kind of course calling itself “socio-physics”; I wonder what real physicists’ opinion of this new field is? 🙂

          I know I’m only a poor ignorant former lab tech with an applied biology background and not a Real Scientist like someone doing sociology, but one word of advice: if you’re going to refer to Homo sapiens sapiens in the short form, it’s H. sapiens sapiens, not h. sapiens sapiens. The convention is to capitalise the initial of the genus part of the name, as in C. botulinum and S. aureus

          • Deiseach says:

            Well Lord God, and I thought I was being sarcastic when I thought to myself “so does socio-physics or social physics consider human interactions to be the people version of Brownian motion?”

            Looked up bintchaos’ textbook for the course they say they are taking (written by the founding father of the field!) and this is the start of the blurb:

            Do humans behave much like atoms? Sociophysics, which uses tools and concepts from the physics of disordered matter to describe some aspects of social and political behavior, answers in the affirmative.

            Remind me again, folks, of all the guys who are sure, sure they have a beat-the-market system because they’re Real Scientists who understand how systems work, and the stock market is only a system? 🙂

            (So if this is a textbook for a university course, binti is studying either at the University of Warsaw or Brigham Young University, from what I can make out with a quick Google).

            By the bye, the guy who wrote this book and is the founding father of the field, Serge Galam, apparently predicted Marine Le Pen would win the election.

            And they’re charging $209 for the ebook? binti, demand your money back!

            They’re also being a little bit naughty claiming Professor Galam is the founding father who invented sociophysics thirty years ago; according to this, it was a term coined in the 50s by an astrophysicist and engineer named Stewart at Princeton, building on work in the field of “social physics” which originated in the 19th century.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m disappointed that it’s not being called “psychohistory”, but maybe that doesn’t sound mathy enough. (And it probably doesn’t work, but that’s a given.)

            $209 is, unfortunately, pretty typical for textbooks, e- or otherwise. I remember being charged about that much once for a literal three-ring binder containing about four dozen photocopied pages; I wasn’t happy.

          • John Schilling says:

            Remind me again, folks, of all the guys who are sure, sure they have a beat-the-market system because they’re Real Scientists who understand how systems work, and the stock market is only a system? 🙂

            You mean these guys?

            (So if this is a textbook for a university course, binti is studying either at the University of [X] or [Y] University, from what I can make out with a quick Google).

            As amusing as that pair of images is, and as easy as bintchaos is making that brand of amusement, it’s also rather close to doxxing and probably oughtn’t be followed any further.

          • and so help me God, they really are banging on about red and blue brains

            A brief look at the blog left me wondering whether they were imagining that red tribe and blue tribe were separate breeding populations, and had been for many generations.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            $209 is, unfortunately, pretty typical for textbooks, e- or otherwise.

            I had a professor apologize to us for the price of his own book (it had just come out and he didn’t know yet how high it would be priced, when he made it a requirement for the course). He suggested we make photocopies ourselves.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Does anyone else think what Deiseach is doing here is inappropriate?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @HBC

            Which part? I agree with John regarding the localization/doxxing comment given Bintchaos’ previous statements, so Deiseach I’d suggest laying off the stuff that would contribute to localizing them.

            That said, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to raise the basic questions about the underlying science/research ideas, though the tone is starting to cross the line into mean-spirited, IMO.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Only with regards to the mentioning of the universities. That comes too close to doxxing, which I believe may be a mortal sin, but I’d have to check my catechism. Besides that bintchaos asked why he, a person self-professed to have extreme difficulty with empathy, when posting on a blog whose mission statement is intellectual charity, is getting negative reactions to his sweeping statements of the righteousness of his tribe and utter depravity of the opposing tribe. Deiseach is answering bint’s question.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m disappointed that it’s not being called “psychohistory”

            It absolutely should be, but I wonder if there is a faint suspicion someone might recognise the term? 🙂

            Agreed that I shouldn’t have added in the universities, but I was trying to figure out if this was a real academic course or one of those online “buy my series and become a genius” type things. Since the history of the field mentioned Princeton and Harvard, I was trying to see if they still ran courses on a subject named “socio physics” whether using the textbook or not. BYU and Warsaw were the only two that came up as currently running such courses, but I wasn’t trying to track down bintchaos as such. Apologies for that.

            I am trying to grapple with bintchaos’ thought rather than stick to making sarcastic and mocking comments. As far as I can make out, their views are broadly (1) conservatism as an ideology is a dead duck in the 21st century. Education makes you liberal, and a university degree is the only hope for everyone hoping to get a job in the automated future. Besides which, they are going full-on for some phenotypical “conservatives have big fear centres while liberals have big taking in new information centres in their brains, so there’s a genotypic and phenotypic difference between red and blue” theory – in sum, liberalism is going to win due to a confluence of various factors, including but not limited to red brains being dumber – yes, they quote an IQ 90 figure for ‘typically’ red occupations like the army and police (2) Islam is a strong memetic competitor that is going to wipe the floor with secular democracy. The global future is Muslim. Western conservatism can’t stand up to it, but neither can Western liberalism; the best they can achieve is that the rich Saudi playboys like the “whiskey! sexy!” part of “democracy! whiskey! sexy!” but have no truck with or need for the “democracy!” part. So two cultures are going to clash in the near to mid term, and clash hard, and Islam may well win. Ergo, we’re all buggered.

            Unless SCIENCE!!!, which they do not adequately explain as to how it’s going to overcome or liberalise Muslim nations with Islamic governments – it really is the “and then profit!” step in their argument, which isn’t even an argument, merely a collection of “hay guyz check dis out!” posts

            I am groping towards a vague synthesis of the hodge-podge of posts on their blog, which seems to lead to a hope that psychohistory socio-physics will save us all, as the theory of mind and mass social dynamics worked out there can be applied to nudge the dominant Islamic governments in places like Turkey onto a more liberal path (perhaps looking backwards to the glory days of the tolerant – or so it is presented as being – Abbasid Caliphate? In which case it’s back to the future with a vengeance, and in a fashion that makes conservative idylls of the Golden Ages past look mealy-mouthed by contrast!)

          • bintchaos says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            That is not what happened. Deiseach looked stupid on The Incoherence of the Philosophers and Ghazali, and she couldn’t attack Qays so she attacked me. And I’m a girl, and I dont know why you would want to spin that unless you are doing your own version of Fearless Girl with Deiseach in the starring role of bravely facing down the big bad bull(y) of liberal academia and scientific research.
            That aside, I am afraid. I have never seen that quantity or quality of raw unmitigated hatred on the internet or IRL. I take her implied threat of raising a lynch mob to doxx me very seriously. And the act would totally be rationalized into “she brought it on herself”, just like the HUGO awards deserved the Puppies trying to wreck the awards. The Ann Coulter defense. Interestingly Ann Coulter also said that muslims should evolve into christians or something like that.
            The whole “Ghazali would be a christian” spew was utterly irrational and quite nuts.
            So no, I dont want to be a SSC commenter anymore.
            ‘k thanx bye.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Deiseach
            One last thing…
            You obviously have read neither al-Ghazali or Isaac Azimov.
            Psychohistory is Hari Seldon, a scifi character.
            Social physics (an entirely different thing) is Dr. Alex Pentland, MIT media lab.
            Sociophysics is the application of mathematical rigor and properties of physics to large scale complex adaptive social systems.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            FWIW add mine to Trofim’s voice above.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Trofim @hlynkacg:

            That said, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to raise the basic questions about the underlying science/research ideas, though the tone is starting to cross the line into mean-spirited, IMO.

            How much is Deiseach actually raising basic questions?

            To me almost all of what she is doing here is substituting tone for argument.

            Consider:

            Well Lord God, and I thought I was being sarcastic when I thought to myself “so does socio-physics or social physics consider human interactions to be the people version of Brownian motion?”

            That’s not a critique or even a question, it’s just a spasmodic expression of what? disgust? superiority?

          • random832 says:

            @bintchaos

            Psychohistory is Hari Seldon, a scifi character.

            The fact that you believed that others did not recognize the reference is almost a perfect summary of your participation here.

            Their entire point people have been making by bringing it up is that “sociophysics”, as described, sounds more or less like it’s the same thing as “psychohistory” is in those works of science fiction, done by someone who thinks they invented a way to make it work in real life.

            (For my part, the Foundation series was the first Asimov I read.)

          • bintchaos says:

            @all
            yeah, that’s how you are going to spin it, but its not what happened.
            Deiseach looked stupid on Ghazali, and even though Qays corrected her much more than I did, she turned on me and attacked me vehemently.
            Deiseach has attacked me since day one.
            Blame the victim.
            Its only intellectual charity if its available to both sides.
            If its exclusively for one side than its just intellectual welfare.

          • Deiseach says:

            That’s not a critique or even a question, it’s just a spasmodic expression of what? disgust? superiority?

            Amazement that a stupid thought that crossed my mind was then repeated back to me in the blurb for the textbook bintchaos is touting as the great course that is in a field that is going to revolutionise human society and change all that we know as to how humans interact and co-operate.

            bintchaos: you came on here and started touting your ideas. Did you serioiusly expect no questioning or pushback when you were tra-la-laing about conservatism being dead in the water and the forthcoming triumph of liberalism, as well as doing an imitation of “an Arabic version of a weeaboo”?

            I still think you have not explained or resolved the contradiction between your invocation of al-Ghazali, who clearly supports a theistic version of creation, over the sniping you did about persons in the public eye not “educating their base” about creationism: explain, and as I said, not on the basis that the difference is that al-Ghazali is not a white Christian!

            If you are going to purvey thoughts like the following, you need to stand up and defend them, not expect us to fold like a cheap deckchair when you start flinging around “this is sexism! senior white males telling me off!” This is not the campus of Evergreen State College and having a foot-stamping tantrum about “subjective history informed by Dead White Guy Philosophy with a heavy gloss of anglo-saxon cultural chauvinism” impresses exactly no-one, not even those on your side of the political fence.

            What happens to Jefferson’s Noble Yeomen Farmers is the huge problem going forward. Academe is +90% liberal…the military is +90% conservative– these are evolved institutions. Academe selects for upper tail of IQ and g— military selects for obedience, loyalty and bravery– eg, entrance to the military is 90 IQ points. Explorers and soldiers. But going forward soldiers will be the first to have their jobs automated. Indeed, the non-college part of the american workforce will lose their jobs to the robots first as well.

            My theory…and we shall see if I can prove this in complexity science and socio-physics— is that red/blue brain biochemistry is a competitive/cooperative CAS dynamic that greatly benefited h. sapiens sapiens until very recently, when the relative fitness of the two phenotypes began to dis-equilibriate. The data science revolution is going to provide torrents of data on cognitive genomics. It will be hard to ignore.

            I think what is happening in the US right now isn’t really red/blue polarization, but a kind of psuedo-speciation [sic] based on brain biochemistry and genetic tendency.

            Deiseach looked stupid on Ghazali, and even though Qays corrected her much more than I did, she turned on me and attacked me vehemently.
            Deiseach has attacked me since day one.
            Blame the victim.

            As to why you think I’ve gone after you – well, you declared yourself to be an “Aspie positive” (back when you were claiming all manner of things). You should therefore be aware of the fixation on a new object of interest that people on the autism spectrum display, and you managed to attract my attention as my new object of interest.

            Infant, you have no idea what a real character attack is. If you think my prodding was such, you have led a sheltered life. I’d rather “look stupid” in my interpretation of an Islamic theologian who does not support your atheist materialist universe view of creation (or creationism) than be a – daughter of chaos?

            If all you can fall back on is “I’m a victim, halp halp I is bein’ oppressed”, then how on earth are you going to stand up to a thesis examination when you will be expected to stand over and rigorously defend what you are proposing (and that with a properly spelled and grammatically written printed out copy according to the recognised conventions, not your scatter of misspellings, text speak, and wilful ignoring of how biological naming conventions are used)? Do you really think “lol read Prof Galam, senior white guyz, its a Sinner v Sinner TFT” is going to cut it?

            Was the above harsh? Yes. I think you’re probably a bright child who has skated by on a broad but shallow knowledge of a scatter of subjects, accustomed to being praised and caressed by adults for your precocity, and you tried the same thing here. Unfortunately for you, old white guys (and gals) know and recognise and even have lived some of the things you are tossing about as cultural references, and can contradict you out of knowledge and experience of our own. You are not going to impress anyone on here by referring to yourself as a “hard-core sci-fi otaku” because we’ve read the Foundation trilogy and other works (possibly before you were even born), and explaining to us about Hari Seldon is teaching your grandmother to suck eggs.

            When you drop the affectations and communicate a point in a sensible manner, you do sound intelligent and worth engaging, even if you are still in your salad days. However, if you adopt a persona that causes you to interact with others in a flippant, shoulder-shrugging manner of “I am too cool for school”, you will be responded to in the same way.

            Try assuming that you need to lay out your argument in a coherent, cogent manner and provide more back-up than “Dr This One’s study” (because child, the problems with fMRI scans as used in neuroscience explanations of ‘we’ve found the part of the brain that makes you vote Republican’ have been discussed on here before) and “Professor That One’s book” – it’s called the argument from authority and does not stand on its own as sufficient grounds when arguing a case on here.

            You claim to be a university student; you have provided no approximation of your age, so that means I am assuming you are somewhere in your very early 20s (which would make me old enough to be your mother and why I can get away with the older person’s habit of calling the young “child”). There are people here who have completed courses of studies at a high level, who have academic careers of their own, or if not that, careers in many fields or interests they have nurtured and cultivated over time. Please try to imagine that this means we are not all 90 IQ red brains on here so your air of intellectual superiority and enlightening the masses comes across very badly.

          • Deiseach says:

            And I’m a girl

            So am I. What’s that got to do with the price of apples? I thought you were a liberal! Do you not believe in the equality of the sexes? Are you really retreating into “help, I am a poor defenceless damsel”? I’m a conservative, and my mother would turn in her grave if I pulled that and ran away crying from anyone.

            I take her implied threat of raising a lynch mob to doxx me very seriously.

            Okay, I’m appealing to a jury of my peers here. Did you think that was what I was doing? Is that how it read to you? If so (by a simple majority) then I’ll voluntarily absent myself from commenting on here at all for a period of time.

            For what it’s worth, I was not trying to doxx or threaten you. I don’t approve of such behaviour and what am I going to do, get a slavering horde of SSC commenters to write pained emails to your university about “we find some parts of her thesis unclear, can you influence her to go into more detail”? I don’t have a mob I can call up at a moment’s notice to harass someone, I can’t even get three people together to go out for Sunday lunch! If my attempt to figure out if “socio-physics” was an actual academic subject, by looking to see what if any universities offered it, made you feel threatened then I apologise because that was not my intent.

            That aside, I am afraid. I have never seen that quantity or quality of raw unmitigated hatred on the internet or IRL.

            Have you lived your life wrapped in cotton wool inside a matchbox under a glass case? How very quickly you have turned from ‘fearlessly confident in your own intellectual superiority because you are a blue brain and on the winning side of history’ to ‘eek oh no somebody three thousand miles away across an ocean is being mean to me on the Internet’.

            If I really frighten you, you must be very easily frightened. I had no idea you were that timid and I do apologise and no, that’s not sarcastic, if you’re that nervous and anxious then I had no idea and will endeavour to be sympathetic.

            I will remark that my notions of what counts as “this is a scary threat” may have been influenced by a job where my employer instructed me I should be ready and willing to be stabbed rather than hand over the contents of the till to a knife-wielding robber. Words on screen therefore don’t hold the same weight of apparent threat as “oh yes, you know all those armed robberies in the local area on the news? well this is what we want our staff to do – ” for me.

            The whole “Ghazali would be a christian” spew was utterly irrational and quite nuts.

            Which is not what I said. I said al-Ghazali believed in a creator God, and if brought forward into our times and had the “Science vs Religion” wars about ‘teaching evolution/creationism in school’ put before him, he would be on the side of Faith and “God made the universe, is the preserver and cause of its continuance, and directly intervenes as His will pleases”. I think it’s plain that al-Ghazali believed in Allah? Or that he can be said to have held that Faith was equal to, or indeed superior to, Human Reason in some questions? Can anyone direct me to where he says “yeah no Allah is only a metaphor”?

            Have some pride, girl, and stand up and make your points and develop your case. You seem to be linking three things, from what I can make out of your blog:

            (1) Conservatism is dead, it can’t adapt and is ill-fitted for the present and future situation. This means

            (2) The victory of Liberalism. Save that this is a Pyrrhic victory, as Islam is the new challenger, growing globally, and memetically immune to Liberalism’s values, which means disaster unless

            (3) The science, philosophy, practice of, or government by, socio-physics can save us, as by understanding the complex system of human interactions and social and cultural behaviours, this will permit us to mould, guide, shape and influence such. This is the only way we can channel the Islamic-influenced governments of the global (sometime to be) majority demographic into forms that will be compatible with Western values and allow some kind of survival of Liberalism.

            If I am misunderstanding you, then point out where and clear up the error. Tell me what it is that your course of study or theory or thesis is pointing at or aiming towards. This is your chance! Write your analysis of the modern state of society, the pitfalls, and the proposed solution to them!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @bintchaos says:

            And I’m a girl, and I dont know why you would want to spin that unless

            I apologize for misgendering you, but I don’t see how I was spinning anything. I actually initially wrote that post with “he or she” instead of “he,” etc, but it sounded awful so I used the standard English default of “he” for unknown genders. I also thought of using “xe” but then I was afraid people would think I was making some kind of anti-trans joke.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            What’s wrong with “they”?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “Does anyone else think what Deiseach is doing here is inappropriate?”

            Yup. There comes a point where people just need to let things go. Report if you want, but don’t keep escalating endlessly.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Deiseach

            Speaking as one member of your hypothetical jury, Deiseach: No, I did not see your post as threatening to Doxx or summon up an internet “lynch mob”.

            That said, I believe that we should take Bintchaos’ statements of how she feels as sincere, and so I would suggest that regardless of your intentions (which I don’t believe to be malicious), continuing to engage her in this or other threads is probably not going to be productive for at least the immediate future, if not longer.

            If she is at the point where she actually feels afraid, future posts from you directed towards her are going to get filtered in the minimally charitable way possible, and even attempting to switch to a softer and less confrontational tone is not going to work.

            So for now, at least, disengage and walk away.

            @Bintchaos

            I tried writing a few things here, but I going to hold off laying anything out in detail unless you actually want an attempt at constructive feedback and/or a third party opinion, beyond reiterating that I don’t think Deiseach was threatening you either explicitly or implicitly, and suggesting that you consider whether or not your self-described “empathy wall” may extent to making it more difficult to model someone like her and thus temper your anxiety a bit.

          • engleberg says:

            I’d say Deiseach is right. Though bintchaos is charmingly schoolgirlish.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @rlms

            What’s wrong with “they”?

            It’s plural. Cop out. I do wish there were gender-neutral singular pronouns in English, not only because of people who identify as a non-specific or uncommon gender, but also because “internet.” For instance, I have no idea what gender you are because “rlms” doesn’t contain any gendered clues.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            The singular they has a long and honourable history, and (like many other “problematic” grammatical constructions) is only considered unacceptable because pedantic 19th century grammarians didn’t like it. It’s a perfectly good way to talk about someone of unknown gender, and using it to refer to people who claim a non-binary gender is a fairly logical extension.

            PS: I’m male.

          • The singular they has a long and honourable history

            Does it take a singular or plural verb? Both sound seriously wrong, applied to a singular subject, to my ear.

  5. bintchaos says:

    @Nornagast

    ‘Round where I come from, we call that voting.


    ‘Round hyeerr, on the other side of the (apparently unscalable ) empathy wall, we call that dirty tricks.
    Think about it terms of payoff with the basic but useful iterated TfT.
    In the iterated TfT optimal strategy is Saint v Saint. But optimal game move is copy other player strategy.
    The Sad Puppies went Sinner v Saint. So the academy and voting members copied their strat.
    Now its a Sinner v Sinner TfT, and no one wins.
    The awards committee changed the rules so it can never happen again, and thousands of hardcore scifi otaku (like moi) will never give Correia a fair shot.
    gratz, conservatives.

    • The Sad Puppies went Sinner v Saint.

      If I correctly understand the claims of the two sides in the controversy, you are assuming the truth of one of them. The view of the Puppies, I believe, is that the other side had long ago defected, just in a less open and obvious way, coordinating both to push some books and authors and to suppress others.

      Perhaps someone who was actually involved, as I was not, can confirm or deny that interpretation of it.

      • random832 says:

        This does highlight an apparent inadequacy of IPD for real world scenarios – it cannot model cases where subtle, hidden defection is possible (or can even be alleged).

      • Deiseach says:

        A post from a Tor-published author. Some of the staff (or editors or what have you) at Tor came out with personal opinions, including allegations about writers published by their own publishing house and their readers who were on the Sad Puppy side as being – well, you can guess the kind of things they said.

        There was a lot of heat and not much light generated by both sides.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @Bintchaos – “So the academy and voting members copied their strat. Now its a Sinner v Sinner TfT, and no one wins.”

      No one winning is preferable to one side winning and the other losing. You may not think that’s how it was, but the other side thinks that pretty uniformly, and heavily prefer the current situation. At some point, you should ask yourself if maybe your understanding of the initial conditions are less than complete.

  6. onyomi says:

    The alpha thing is really impressive to me in that it doesn’t sound clumsy at all.

    Like Alpha Go (heh), this is one of those surprising cases in recent years where I can viscerally perceive why AI may be a concern in the future.

    In the last few years I have the impression that a threshold has been crossed where computers have gone from doing only rote, mechanical things better than humans and doing creative things in cute, weird ways, to computers at least having the potential to do some creative things better than humans, or at least in ways humans seemingly never would have thought of without the aid of computers (and maybe this also speaks to our cyborg future).

    Like, I can imagine someone coming up with this version of genesis without computer aid, but I would say they are a 1 in a million language talent, at least, and not just a talent, but like Alpha Go, a talent in a way I really don’t expect humans to be talented.

  7. Andrew Klaassen says:

    Behavioral Individuality In Clonal Fish Arises Despite Near-Identical Rearing Conditions. Worth interpreting in the context of my post Non-Shared Environment Doesn’t Just Mean Schools And Peers – even fish raised in exactly the same environments will show “non-shared environment” effects, probably because of something like embryogenetic randomness.

    Based on the fact that every study I’ve seen about behavioural variation in offspring finds that there’s a lot of it, I’m leaning toward the maternal bet-hedging hypothesis rather than the microenvironment hypothesis. The interest of a parent in having at least one offspring succeed no matter the future environment seems like it would have a larger selective impact than short-term influences on the embryo which don’t predict future environments.

    However, given that specific short-term influences on embryos have been found to have long-term behavioural impacts, and no mechanism for maternal bet-hedging has been found so far that I know of, I’m going out on a bit of a limb here.

  8. Well... says:

    Obviously, all SSC posts should be written alliteratively from now on.

  9. uncle stinky says:

    Reading about the delicious sounding ammonia doused pink slime I’m reminded of Jonathan Meades’ description of the average British sausage as “a condom full of abattoir slurry”. Mind you I believe an Australian term for them is mystery bags. Yum.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      “a condom full of abattoir slurry”

      there are phrases of crystalline perfection…

  10. albatross11 says:

    Various people have proposed that some questions of fact are “basilisks”–questions that must not be asked or answered or investigated openly[1], for fear of their social effects. How would we decide what qualifies as a basilisk in this sense?

    As an extreme example, suppose tomorrow some clever scientist works out a way to get weapons-grade uranium from ore in a cheap, easily-concealed, very hard-to-detect way that would be within the budget of any hobbyist. You might make a pretty good argument that the world would be better off without that information floating around.

    At another extreme, you can imagine various religious leaders getting together to demand an end to teaching of evolution and cosmology, since many fundamentalists think these ideas undermine their faith. I assume we can all agree here that it would be bad to see information about the theory of evolution suppressed.

    So what would be the properties that would make something a basilisk? What, if any, questions of fact or morality should simply be suppressed?

    [1] Or maybe things that may be known among the enlightened, but kept from the proles. Or maybe things that may be known to researchers but must be lied about in the popular press. I’m not 100% clear on the details of who’s permitted to know these things.

    • Randy M says:

      How would we decide what qualifies as a basilisk in this sense?

      Basilisks.

      That is, the existence of Basilisks are Basilisks. How does the rube take seriously your admonition to always believe the climate scientists when he knows the geneticists have been sanctioned to lie for the greater good?

    • The only context in which seems to me practical and desirable to conceal the truth is at the first step. The physicist who discovers a cheap and easy way of making atomic bombs doesn’t publish. Beyond that there are at least three serious problems:

      1. Once several people know something, it’s hard to keep the knowledge from spreading.
      2. If there is someone with the power to suppress true information, he is likely to use that power to suppress information that it is in his interest not be known.
      3. If there is a mechanism for suppressing information, people will realize it and rationally be suspicious of even true information.

      • meh says:

        Until a malicious physicist also discovers it, and we are caught off guard that this is something we need to defend against.

  11. Andrew Klaassen says:

    Somehow I went through medical school without ever learning that going in hot tubs while pregnant can be a risk factor for birth defects.

    What about getting pregnant in hot tubs?

    (And what about hot baths? Is it the heat, or the filth?)

  12. Phlinn says:

    Big systematic review and meta-analysis: what actually helps lower-income students succeed? Read the paper or the Freddie deBoer blog post, which summarizes the results as “human beings”.

    The blog post makes suggests that buying chromebooks for students is a waste. He fails to account for the relative cost. 1 full time teacher (let’s say 40k cost to the district for a new teacher) for one year gets you 80 chromebooks ($500 each), which will be good for multiple years. The chrome books might be more cost effective even if on an individual basis they aren’t.

  13. Besserwisser says:

    I’m always a bit skeptical about new studies explaining the gender gap in crime because the crime gap isn’t necessarily that big, it’s the sentencing gap that’s massive. If every part of the justice system is as discriminatory towards men as the ones we can reasonably study (sentencing and sentencing length), then men and women might be comitting the same numbers of crime but we just don’t punish the women (enough).

    • currentlyinthelab says:

      “Of the offenders for whom gender was known, 90.3 percent were males. (Based on Expanded Homicide Data Table 3.) “

      Its….rather significant. But a 9 to 1 ratio being big is subjective, I supppppose. Now speeding tickets and sentencing might be a different story.

      Can you put a number on what you mean by massive? One of the points in Superforecasting is that when possible, its smart to put a number on predictions and words so people know just what you *mean* by these words.

      Something feels really off about that resting heart rate thing tho.

      • albatross11 says:

        If women and men committed violent crime at equal rates, the world would look massively different than it does. That’s true w.r.t. arrest and incarceration statistics, but also a thousand other things observable in everyday life.

        If you imagine a world where half the murders were committed by women but 90% of the arrests/convictions were of men, that would be a world in which at least 40% of all people arrested or convicted for murder were being railroaded.

        • currentlyinthelab says:

          Yes, men and women commit violent crime at massively different rates, and that’s an inbuilt mental heuristic in both genders.

        • Besserwisser says:

          You’re assuming every murder case ends with a conviction. At least a third of cases don’t even get up to arrests. Then we have convictions but conviction rates seem to be closer to 100%, so I’ll give you that.

          Also, how exactly would this theoretical world, where prison populations don’t adequately describe crime statistics, differ from ours? People would try to get innocent men out of prison? We already have that.

          • soreff says:

            >You’re assuming every murder case ends with a conviction.

            Yup. Hypothetically, if women were just much better at hiding the
            bodies, the murder conviction rates could look as skewed as they
            are, but with the unknown murder victims just showing up in the
            missing persons statistics.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            soreff

            It might not be a matter of female murderers hiding the bodies, it might be a matter of using poison or some other subtle method.

            The body is right there, the murder is concealed.

          • Nornagest says:

            I haven’t read much about poison as a murder weapon, but if poison as a suicide method is anything to go by, it’s so hard to pull off with ordinary resources that it’s very unlikely to move the stats much. Particularly if we’re talking about undetectable poisons.

      • Besserwisser says:

        How do you think they got those numbers? When I say “every part of the justice system” I mean investigation, arrest, prosecution, sentencing and whatever else I forgot. The FBI didn’t correct for those numbers because they couldn’t. How do we know how many of those men were wrongly accused? How many cases where they didn’t go after the female offender? We simply can’t know for certain. What we do know is that women, when accused of the same crime as men, are a) less likely to be sentenced at all and b) receive much lower sentences if imprisoned. Other parts of the justice system acting vastly different from judges and jury takes a lot more to believe than the opposite.

        With all that said, I think the men do commit more crimes than women but it’s not as big a difference as people generally think. Certainly not 9:1.

        • currentlyinthelab says:

          I did not contradict that it appears to be the case that in multiple categories of crime, women do appear to receive more lenient sentences. That judgement appears to be somewhat supported by a variety of evidence.

          But that the male/female gap in terms of violent crime is very very high is also supported by the evidence, and appears to be a rather ubiquitous observation among societal and mammalian inter-species competition.

          Now, an interesting question from that is a bayesian probability calculation. Given that one is M-F, what is the probability that one commits a violent crime? With the knowledge that one has already committed a violent crime, what is the posterior probability that one again commits a violent crime, also given the gender information?

          Given thought that one of the apparent societal role of prison is to punish prisoners to act as a example for others to not commit offenses, would differences in the above numbers alter any sentencing? Or would any differences violate other societal principals, with potential mass-psychological effects?

          Hosts of questions to ask.

          • Besserwisser says:

            Part of the evidence supporting highly disproportionate amount of violent crime committed by men comes from a society with highly disproportionate sentencing of men. I mean, all of the evidence come from there but you see what I mean. What evidence do you have that wouldn’t be affected by police, judges, juries, attorneys and the general public being very lenient with female criminals?

          • Aapje says:

            Victim surveys ought to be least affected. The disparity between these and sentencing strongly suggests major bias in society, although that doesn’t have to be entirely due to bias in the legal system.

          • bbartlog says:

            Unfortunately the NCVS no longer seems at all interested in publishing any summary data about perpetrators. It’s possible that it’s still in the raw data, though … and if not you could at any rate go back to the data from earlier years to get a feel for how closely it matched the FBI’s UCR data from those years. My guess is that for crimes other than rape and domestic violence, you’d see a pretty close correspondence for serious violent crime.

          • Aapje says:

            ‘What we find for the crimes for which we have data is probably not true for the crimes for which we don’t have the data’

            Not the most persuasive claim. Not saying you’re wrong, just…

            My anecdotal experience and what the relative increase in female convicts shows, is that women have been acting more like men when it comes to crime. Stereotypes seem to be lagging (as they are wont to do).

    • Aapje says:

      @Besserwisser

      The data shows that at least some amateur crimes are fairly comparable, with the caveat that men are stronger. Men and women commit domestic violence (DV) at similar levels (with women actually committing more unidirectional DV), but men more often cause serious DV injuries. With rape we see that women do it a little less, but still pretty close.

      Professional crime seems to mostly be heavily male dominated, which makes sense since risky and/or high pay jobs are generally heavily male dominated.

      Stoicism seems to result in men reporting crimes a bit less than women, but only a 6% difference.

      I’ve also seen a lot of anecdotal data that men are strongly discouraged from reporting female on male rape and this matches the far greater gap that we see between victim surveys and police statistics, than for male on female rape.

      • Besserwisser says:

        Men are also disproportionately victims of crime which, together with other evidence, could point to existing gender differences being due to harsher living environments for men. But no, it’s my fucking heart rate that’s the problem*.

        * I don’t know if my heart rate is actually that low nor have I committed any crimes but I’m male so…

  14. onyomi says:

    Regarding presidential cognitive decline:

    I also recall this video comparing Bush Jr in a governor’s race to his speeches as president.

    At the time, I interpreted solely to mean that, when running for national office, especially in the GOP, somehow you have to talk to a lower common denominator and put on more of a folksy, “man of the people” demeanor. When voting for governor people want someone to make the trains run on time; when voting for president people want an emoter in chief. That, and running for, and being POTUS is probably incredibly tiring.

    But looking back on Bush and thinking about Trump now, I do think age-related cognitive decline may be part of it. I mean, if you compare a young Ron Paul to Ron Paul today, you find the same thing. Ron Paul today seems in very good health, mentally and physically, for an 80 year old. But he’s still an 80-year old. I think because the type of person to run for, and win the presidency tends to be a very energetic personality, it can be easy to forgot that a 70-year old POTUS is stil, well, a 70-year old person. And how many 70 year olds do you know as sharp and quick on their feet as they were when they were 40? I mean, some, maybe, but not most.

    Does this mean age should be more of a factor in choosing presidents? Not necessarily. While I don’t think really anyone should be doing the job at all, insofar as we must have a POTUS, I tend to think long experience with e.g. appointing good people and making decisions based on limited information is probably more important than thinking fast, though obviously if it becomes not thinking clearly, it’s a problem.

    • And how many 70 year olds do you know as sharp and quick on their feet as they were when they were 40? I mean, some, maybe, but not most.

      That’s a little tricky. As you age, there is a tendency to substitute crystallized intelligence (I figured out the answer to that question twenty years ago and still remember it) for fluid intelligence (figuring out the answer now). If you have to deal with novel questions, that makes you look less sharp. If you have to deal with questions that you have an inventory of smart answers to, it may make you look more sharp.

      Think of it as a rational trade off, presumably hard-wired into the genes, reflecting the increasing stock of already solved problems and the decreasing payoff period for new solutions.

      • onyomi says:

        This seems quite accurate based on my personal experience of older people, and also explains some stereotypes about older people: wise, having a wealth of experience, yet also apt to trot out the same story or argument again and again, sometimes down to the phrasing.

        So the trick for a politicians is to just make sure to have a lot of focus-group approved sound bites down pat before you get too old and you’re golden.

        Also, even based on my own relatively limited experience with aging (mid 30s), I find I am more likely to do things the same again and again as compared to my 20s: same shampoo, same tea, same workout, etc. (now I understand why every grandma I knew growing up wore the same perfume she’d worn since the 50s). I am, of course, aware I’m doing the same thing; I’m just more comfortable I know what works for me and also less interested in experimenting.

        In some ways this means being older is more relaxing, but one can see how old people become less creative than the young: the young really do tend to have a more restless, searching attitude.

        Somewhat related: if we manage to medically “fix” aging to one degree or another, such that the new life expectancy becomes say, 150, 200, 300, etc. I wonder to what extent we’ll find that 80-year olds were experiencing aging as opposed to 80-year olds were just experiencing the effects of having lived for 80 years. I imagine an even older society will probably be more conservative.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’ve wondered about what age (by contemporary notions) an anti-aging tech would tend to stabilize people at.

          Being physiologically 20 for 200 years is presumably a different thing than being physiologically 50 for 200 years.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Being physiologically 20 for 200 years is presumably a different thing than being physiologically 50 for 200 years.

            I’ll take either one! Sign me up yesterday.

            My assumption, though, is that extending the lifespan to 200 or more will require serious SENS tech, with a character something like “systematically clean up the dreck in all the cells”, which would probably mean physiologically 20 rather than 50. I have trouble imagining tech that could hold you at 50 indefinitely but could not revert you to 20. (I know you said 200 years, but I also can’t really imagine tech that could do that but that had 200 as a hard limit.)

          • I’ve been both 20 and 50, and the difference isn’t that great. I was past sixty, and with a metal plate in my skull, before I decided to quit SCA sword and shield fighting as too risky. If I could get back to fifty and stay there, I would be satisfied.

          • John Schilling says:

            I agree with David Friedman on this, at least from the male perspective. Whether my perspective is more or less credible for the absence of half a decade of gratuitous blunt trauma to the head I leave to the audience.

            Looking at the other half of the equation, though, 20-year-old female bodies are very good at making babies, and the 50-year-old variety very much less so. Also, 20-year-old female bodies are very often considered sexually attractive by men, and again the 50-year-old variety much less so.

            This would create a very interesting and potentially dangerous social dynamic if the world is populated by billions of fifty-something men with a century or two of accumulated wealth, a few hundred million financially struggling twenty-something women, and the same number of the opposite genders wondering where they fit in to the sexual and reproductive marketplace.

          • This would create a very interesting and potentially dangerous social dynamic

            The idea I’ve played with, as background for a story for someone else to write, is a world where one has substantial control over apparent physical age. So you have the hundred year old man who is pretending to be twenty so as to chase co-eds–and perhaps discovers he is no more successful at that project than he was the first time around. You have the very bright twenty year old, male or female, pretending to be a hundred so as to be taken seriously in whatever project he is engaged in–something that comes up a little with Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan early in the series. And other variants I haven’t thought of.

    • Matt M says:

      Ron Paul today seems in very good health, mentally and physically, for an 80 year old. But he’s still an 80-year old.

      As an aside, I attended an event where Ron was a guest speaker a few months ago, and the same event where he also spoke a year prior.

      In 2016 he struck me as lethargic, “low-energy,” and his speech was a bit rambling. I came away from it thinking “Wow, he’s definitely lost a step. It’s a good thing he got out of politics. He may not be around for much longer, I hope he can enjoy his time with his family.”

      Whereas in 2017, it was almost the opposite. He was energetic, enthusiastic, and his speech was much better structured and on point. Seemed like he was ready to run for office again.

      I guess my point is that people have good days and bad. I don’t trust the media to even TRY to control for that sort of thing when covering Trump, much less to actually do so accurately.

      • Aapje says:

        Cocaine.

      • Protagoras says:

        My experience with my mother’s Alzheimer’s was that she had good days and bad days. As it progressed, of course, the good days were steadily less frequent and and less good, but early on, although she was definitely having problems much of the time, she still had some days when she pretty much seemed to be her old self. So someone having a good day shouldn’t be taken as evidence that they don’t really have a problem. Though contra Aapje it also shouldn’t be taken as evidence that they’re using coke; pretty sure that wasn’t the explanation in my mother’s case.

        • Aapje says:

          @Protagoras

          When I make single sentence posts, that should be taken as strong evidence that I’m joking. I found the mental image of Ron Paul snorting coke quite funny, given his appearance.

          PS. I have the same experience with my neighbor, who has Alzheimer’s.

          • Protagoras says:

            I did think it was probably a joke. Although it’s a not uncommon stereotype that libertarians are Republicans who like to get high.

  15. Jaskologist says:

    Does the confluence of Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, P.G. Wodehouse, G.K. Chesterton, and A. A. Milne call out for an explanation along the same line as the Jewish Budapest nuclear scientists?

  16. Subb4k says:

    The prediction markets are not accurate. At least that’s not what the data you linked support.

    The vast majority of the data is on two-way races (or races where the odds of other candidates are so slim they’re effectively two-way), with the only exception being some of the Republican primaries (basically the ones before Rubio ropped the campaing + Ohio), and the general election in Utah. Because they count both predictions each time, the graph ends up roughly symmetric.

    So of course events predicted to happen in the 40-60 range are going to happen 50% of the time, because the complementary of every event in the set is also in the set. Now the fact that the 40-50 range happens roughly 45% of the time and the 50-60 range 55% is a good sign, but it’s hardly surprising.

    But let’s consider the graph overall, only instead of 10 data points we only count the 5 real ones. Yes, there is a clear correlation, but really what you see is two group of points and not much more. The probability of an event in the 0-20 range happening is somewhere around 7%, with some (although not that much) increase between 1-10 and 10-20. And then events in the 20-50 range happen roughly 40% of the time, with no clear pattern. The problem is made worse by the fact that the least accurate bucket (20-30) is also one of the most used ones (which the graph does not represent)

    So prediction markets can apparently separate somewhat very unlikely (or very likely) events from ones where it could go either way, although obviously that separation isn’t perfect. Glancing at the data, it doesn’t seem there are border probabilities that are “avoided” by the prediction market, so an event rated at a 20% probability of happening could be in either bucket, and you don’t know much about its real probability.
    One thing they’re pretty good at though is telling you which outcome is more likely (but not how likely). But that’s not supposed to be hard. If polling has any value at all, it’s to tell you who is more likely to win the race. You just don’t know how likely that is unless you look into the methodology and assumption and history. But just looking at the polls basically gives you the mu of the Gaussian without the sigma, and you can easily tell from that who is favored.

    Now I don’t have a good explanation as to why prediction markets are so bad at getting things that are not entirely obvious right. Maybe it’s full of people who bet on their team rather than actually think about it. Maybe the fees are so high that people who are good at predicting and could use them to win a lot of money don’t because they can use their skills to get a better ROI elsewhere. Or maybe it’s something else.

  17. P. George Stewart says:

    It seems to me that the best way to de-fang the potential negative political implications of genetic and race differences is to point out that we have equality before the law DESPITE differences like that.

    The myth of equal potential (with its corollaries, inequality as necessarily the result of “oppression” by systemic social structures, and equality of outcome as an ideal) really has to be put to bed, it’s caused no end of trouble – horrific death, mutilation, starvation, broken lives and boredom for millions of people.

    • Whether or not there are differences in average intelligence by race, there are large and easily observable differences by individuals. Despite which they all have the same legal rights, with some exceptions for extreme cases–much more extreme than anyone claims for average racial differences.

    • Progressive Reformation says:

      I’m Jewish and I actually do worry about that. My guess (and it is only a guess, though based on some personal observations) is that most leftist Jewish people worry about this in a vague way that they never quite express (even to themselves); they feel self-conscious about the high average Jewish IQ and preponderance of Jews among the super-high-IQ elite cliques. It is really hard to not notice how many bankers, tech tycoons, media personalities, media owners, and academics are Jewish; and yet one of the great unspoken rules of modern American society is that no one is allowed to notice this (the rule has to be unspoken, of course, because acknowledging the rule in itself violates it).

      But I don’t think concealing the black-white IQ gap is the correct answer. That’s just letting the steam build up before it all blows up; it might delay it, but in the end it’ll be much worse. And the new leftist trend of blaming and browbeating white people is not exactly making things better.

      I think things would be better if we affirmed that (a) this is a country for all, not just high-IQ people (the academically-dominated American left often behaves as though high IQ implies moral superiority – see Bill Maher’s “Stupidest State” clips), and (b) between-group IQ differences are real. The universities will inevitably have to lose a lot of power in this transition, which is why it will never happen until the pitchforks come out. And it doesn’t have to be angry gentile whites carrying the pitchforks either.

      Bottom line, I’m not an optimist.

      EDIT: I should clarify: I think pretty much the entire academic elite is at risk if a true ‘populist’ reaction occurs, not just Jews like myself. Perhaps my attitude is colored by the fact that I heard a lot of things about 1930s Europe when growing up; this stuff imprints itself into your imagination. But while others – Scott Aaronson, I’m looking at you – feared Trump for this kind of reason, I fear the opposite. I fear the attitude of “we just need to shut down their viewpoint harder“, as seen in the constant calls to not “normalize” Trump.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I’m Jewish and I actually do worry about that.

        Sure, lots of Jewish people do worry about that. (Me, I figure the cat’s kinda been out of the bag for a while). But it’s not the reason for the taboo on talking about the black-white gap. Not everything revolves around Jews.

        • Progressive Reformation says:

          I should have been more clear. I’m not implying that everything does revolve around Jews. There are other, larger reasons for the taboo. So I don’t agree with Steve that it is the “main” reason.

          But I don’t think it’s negligible either.

      • carvenvisage says:

        >It is really hard to not notice how many bankers, tech tycoons, media personalities, media owners, and academics are Jewish

        I think as a jew your jewdar might be much better than the average person. Apparently sam harris is jewish? TIL.

        • Progressive Reformation says:

          You’re probably right; but even without my specialized Jew-antennae I think it’d be hard to not notice eventually (it also helps that I spent my whole life in/around universities so I know quite a lot of academics, many of whom are Jewish). Didn’t know about Harris though. Chalk up another one, I suppose.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Biggest reason behind anti-IQ science hysteria: Jews worry if Americans can talk about white-black gap, they’ll notice Jewish-gentile gap

      Not one of Sailer’s more astute observations. If that were true, why would Scott ban the term aitch bee dee, then post articles about Hungarian Jewish IQ superiority? Anyway, vampires are afraid of crosses, not the Star of David.

    • Deiseach says:

      Vamphyre in the House

      Vamphyre?

      bintchaos, you are Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way and I claim my five pounds.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @dieseach – aw, just chill. They’re new. They’ll come around.

        • Deiseach says:

          I realise I am sounding rather “You kids get off my lawn!” but there’s a difference between if they’re actually 14 or they’re 23 and pretending to be 14 (they claim to be studying Esoteric Science at university so they must be in the early 20s).

          “Vampire” I don’t mind. “Wamphyr, vrykolakas, strigoi” or any of the local folkloric terms are acceptable.

          “Vampyre” is a foolish neologism, the same affectation as referring to “magick”.

          “Vam-fire” (for that is how “phyre” is pronounced) is meaningless.

  18. currentlyinthelab says:

    > Internet payment processors and payment regulations are terrible and destroying the nootropics industry and probably a bunch of other industries I know less about, part 459401.

    Heh. Yeah but, nootropics are all bull****. Who cares?


    An analysis showing Donald Trump’s speech patterns getting less fluent and more bizarre over the past few years – might he be suffering from mild age-related cognitive impairment? Also, given that this can be pretty subtle (cue joke about Trump) and affect emotional stability in complicated ways, should we be more worried about electing seventy-plus year old people to the presidency?”

    Might he be? You peak anywhere from 19 to 25, with some mental measures declining since age 14 or so. Post age 45, this decline notably speeds up.

  19. Bram Cohen says:

    Isn’t risk of cancer in general fairly linearly correlated with number of cells? Nothing mysterious about that.

    • Linvega says:

      Yes and no; The chance of a single cell going rogue scales fairly simply with number of cells and replication rate of cells. However, it gets more complicated from there; High replication rate for example also makes it easier to squash rogue cells before they have a practical effect. Also, the immune system usually can deal with a few rogue cells, there need to be a few more steps until it develops what we call cancer.
      An especially interesting fact is that bigger organism generally can survive small-scale cancer relatively well, and cancer is after a certain point at a very high risk to get cancer itself. So with higher size cancer can become less of a problem in general because it collapses on itself before it gets big enough to actually hurt the organism badly(any similarity to politics is incidental).

  20. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Did anyone take Scott’s suggestion and read the Sam[]zdat on Polanyi? I highly recommend it.

    tl;dr is that modernization destroys unquantifiable, illegible social value, which is why the numbers say even the poor are getting better off but the poor disagree.

    Polanyi wrote in the 40s, and Sam[]zdat suggests the process has been continuing since then.

    My question is, has the US actually lost unquantifiable social value since the ’70s? It kind of seems like we might have bottomed during the Industrial Revolution. And for that matter, Polanyi strikes me as idealizing the preindustrial era, whereas other sources suggest that the Fall had already happened by then and you need to go pre-agricultural to find the real good times.

    • Nornagest says:

      I don’t know if there was a previous bottom, and I’m not quite fully on board with the inexorable social decay theory, but I have noticed that whenever I start researching some modern issue that I’m less than happy with, nine times out of ten something really important to it happened in the early Seventies.

      Since the decade’s generally neglected by pop culture (at least compared to the Sixties or the Eighties), I don’t think this is an artifact.

    • Debug says:

      tl;dr is that modernization destroys unquantifiable, illegible social value, which is why the numbers say even the poor are getting better off but the poor disagree.

      I have a feeling that this is a feature not a bug. Although seeing like a state (thus far – I haven’t finished it) seems to make the case that much of what the state initially did was highly destructive in a number of unquantifiable ways, a point I haven’t seen discussed extensively is why this occurs. There are clear advantages for a state-like entity to be able to see and developing the ability to see with a high resolution wasn’t immediately feasible. In the evolution of a structure for “seeing” the world it is often difficult to “see” at the resolution of lower-level entities.

      Instead, the new structure develops a coarse way of seeing the world which enables it to compete with other entities trying to see the same world as it. This coarse way of seeing the world causes unnecessary harm (to the denizens of lower level worlds) due to the lack of precision in it’s vision but it couldn’t be any other way.

  21. saintjulien says:

    In response to the zero calorie carbonated drinks/water things – is there actually any proof that they are any good evidence that they are bad for you? I’ve stopped drinking regular sodas and am infrequently drinking diet cokes and so have a vested interest in finding this out.

  22. Alex Zavoluk says:

    I’m going to be super pedantic and point out that ranking for fencing is done separately by weapon (and sex), so she’s the 186th best female foil fencer.

  23. James Miller says:

    My wife will soon be giving an academic talk on ghosts and PTSD. Here is her abstract:

    The Haunted Battlefields of Classical Antiquity
    D. Felton (felton@classics.umass.edu)

    Given the immense physical and psychological trauma associated with military battles, we might not be surprised at the number of eerie events routinely reported during times of war. What might surprise us, however, is how many such reports come from ancient Greece and Rome, in both fictional and non-fictional accounts of war-devastated landscapes. Various uncanny phenomena seen by both soldiers and affected civilians include ghostly armies; reanimated corpses; portentous apparitions; and, considering the sky as part of the battle landscape, unidentified flying objects.

    For example, ghostly armies appear in Silius Italicus, Lucan, and Pausanias. The resurrected corpses of soldiers startle their comrades in Plato (Rep. 10.614-21), Lucan (Phar. 6.588-830), and Phlegon (Mir. 3.4-7). Apparitions appear to military leaders to warn or advise in moments of crisis, as with Aeneas (Aen. 2.771-94), Drusus (Suet. Claud. 1), and Julius Caesar (Suet. Iul. 32). Livy, Seneca, Josephus, et al. record instances of ghostly celestial armies and armaments, the latter including such phenomena as flaming spears and shields (Stothers).
    The Greeks and Romans interpreted many of these incidents as bad prodigies signifying the impending death of a commander or loss of the campaign/war. Others were rendered simply as mysterious, miraculous occurrences without specific significance, such as the sudden blindness of Epizelus (Hdt. 6.117). Ghostly soldiers were biaiothanatoi, restless spirits of those who had died by violence. Yet there was also skepticism in antiquity regarding such reports, and awareness that psychological stress coincided with increased report of prodigies (e.g. Livy 21.62.1). Modern work on PTSD and its neurological/psychological effects allows for interpretation of such phenomena as Epizelus’ blindness, but rather than trying to rationalize every such occurrence in ancient literature we can also recognize that uncanny incidents were also an authorial strategy for creating atmospheric dread in narratives of war.

  24. tscharf says:

    Vox responds to IQ critics:
    https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/6/15/15797120/race-black-white-iq-response-critics

    It’s more of the same.
    1. The environmental / genetic differences can’t be quantified
    2. The null model is it’s entirely environmental (don’t miss this unstated assumption)
    3. Here’s some evidence that environment plays a role.

    Conclusion: It’s immoral and wrong to say it has a genetic factor.

    Solid argument. Yawn. If I feed my child a bowl of lead paint every morning, environment will play a role. There is lots of evidence that controlled environment still results in IQ differences (but they dispute something in any mentioned study, therefore this data is entirely disregarded as zero information added).

    They did go from “no reason at all” to believe genetics plays a role to “no good evidence” which I suppose is an improvement. The best part is how they attempt to handle that their “no genetics” position is a distinct minority view in their field. Quite a rhetorical dance there. The choir will once again high five that genetics has been debunked and the socially acceptable answer will rule the day. Yeah science.

    Vox has a quite irritable habit of finding a group of “experts” that only present one side of an issue and inferring that there is only one side of an issue.

    • Urstoff says:

      The unstated assumption that if there’s no evidence that something is genetic therefore we are justified in believing it’s environmental has always puzzled me.

    • albatross11 says:

      The interesting thing here (and it appears in a *lot* of policy questions) is when lots of people want political or social factors to determine what priors we use in evaluating evidence. (Or equivalently, how much evidence is needed to be convincing.)

      Compare:

      a. It would be socially disruptive if the racial differences in IQ were substantially genetic, therefore we should start with very strong priors toward an entirely environmental explanation.

      b. It would be socially disruptive if fossil-fuel consumption were substantially changing the climate, therefore we should start with very strong priors toward human CO2 emissions having no climate impact.

      I don’t think either of these statements make much sense–I don’t think you can get smarter by introducing what you want the answer to be into your attempts to find out the answer to a question.

      • J Mann says:

        I don’t know that it’s even socially disruptive.

        Once you grant that the g difference exists and translates to real differences in work ability (to say nothing of criminality, etc.), then you’re already at the socially disruptive level.

        Whether the difference is genetic or environmental is primarily relevant to the policy implications.

        1) If it’s environmental, then it’s probably some combination of wealth, personal racism, and structural racism.* If so, then even though we haven’t licked the problem yet, we need more programs to address childhood inequality and racism at all levels.

        * A more troubling possibility would be minority culture, which is apparently Flynn’s hypothesis. If so, we need interventions to address toxic cultural issues.

        2) If it’s genetic, then the good news is that once we develop affordable genetic engineering, we can solve the problem by making that available, so assuming we’re all not grey goo in two generations, we have a solution in sight. The bad news is that many current social engineering programs are at best a waste of resources.

        • tscharf says:

          Flynn (yes that one): “The parenting is worse in black homes, even when you equate them for socio-economic status”

          https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/sep/27/james-flynn-race-iq-myths-does-your-family-make-you-smarter

          I don’t think that environmental theory is going to go over well with the usual suspects. For some people there is no other possible answer than white oppression. Certainly historic oppression offered no advantages, but the scale and effect size of the disadvantages is in question. Connecting the dots from racism to math standardized test scores is getting more difficult every year. They have been searching for a silver bullet environmental cause for decades and the gap hasn’t closed much.

        • Deiseach says:

          I don’t see why it can’t be both. If there’s a genetic component, then the environmental influence on that will have an effect. We need to know this, because interventions addressing environment only won’t make that great a difference – if we remove all adverse affects there will still remain a small but real difference and we won’t be able to handwave it away with “once we make sure there is no more lead paint”.

          Same way that if genetics don’t make a difference, then we can’t say that “a smart black child living in a slum with drug-addict single parent and no breakfast will have the same outcome as a smart white child with two parents who give them enrichment opportunities”.

          And if there is a genetic difference, then the environmental interventions will have to be tailored to that. There is no easy “one size fits all” solution, and burying our heads in the sand because “talking about population IQ genetics is racism!” will only make the problem worse. The proposed solutions won’t work, people will be as badly off as ever, and we’ll continue to insist ‘it’s structural racism keeping the minority population down’ long past the point where meaningful changes remain to be made re: social attitudes and structures.

          Equally, if it’s not genetic, then we have to seriously look at large-scale overhauls of society, and not in a piece-meal “Evergreen student protest demands” sense.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Yep, as I said on the subreddit recently, a big problem I have with arguments for genetic IQ uniformity is that a lot of them consist of just trying to cast a little doubt on arguments against it, and then relying on a very strong morally-based prior to do most of the heavy lifting.

  25. hadlowe says:

    On the Pink Slime link, my previous comment looks to be lost in moderation, probably due to the number of links.

    The plaintiff’s case allegations sound at least superficially similar to the Rolling Stone case – ABC wanted to tell a compelling story with hints of systemic corruption and looked for people who would say exactly what they were hoping to hear, relying on third-hand sourcing for some of the material without independent verification or disclosing how weak the sourcing was. The reporting was the TV equivalent of clickbait, “You’ll be shocked at what’s in your food!”

    There is no question that the report damaged the company – that was the purpose and it was effective. The major question is whether ABC’s misleading innuendo and strategic omissions crosses the line into false and defamatory. I disagree that the case would have a chilling effect on journalism. It might have a chilling effect on “hot take” narrative journalism, and I am leaning toward that being a positive outcome.

    Of all the pieces I found on the case, the Hollywood Reporter did the best work on it.

    • Deiseach says:

      Yeah, the whole “pink slime” moniker wasn’t an official title but someone one of the whistleblowers used*; for PR/shock value it’s great. “Mechanically recovered meat” isn’t as headline-grabbing or would make people go “yuck” in the same way.

      There’s a lot about food processing and processed foods that people don’t know, or don’t want to know – but this is how you get cheap food, after all – ‘use every part of the pig except the squeal’, as it was once said. “Dunking it in ammonia” sounds terrible, but when processing meat (especially when it’s not whole carcasses but things like minced beef and chicken), you need to meet stringent standards for bacterial reduction (so people don’t get sick of food poisoning) and chemicals are needed there. It’s a bit like saying “hospitals force sick patients to use chlorhexidine!” and ignoring that this is to treat and prevent the spread of things like MRSA (my father had to use Hibiscrub when he picked up a dose of MRSA from a hospital stay).

      There’s two sides to this: if the whistleblowers had legitimate concerns and these were proven, then the company was not defamed. But on the other hand, the TV station certainly didn’t dial down the sensationalism (they pretty much popularised the term “pink slime”) and it’s undeniable that the reporting had a very serious detrimental effect on the business. I’m also getting a whiff of internal USDA politics from the article linked (and the Wikipedia article on the whole affair) so I’m not sure if the company was simply unlucky enough to be caught in the middle between USDA employees saying “this should not be classed for human consumption” and the higher-up officials saying “it’s fine for use as filler to make pure beef go further for commercial products, why are you complaining?”

      *The term “pink slime”, a reference to the product’s “distinctive look”, was coined in 2002 by Zirnstein in an internal FSIS e-mail. Expressing concern that ammonia should be mentioned on the labels of packaged ground beef to which the treated trimmings are added, Zirnstein stated “I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling”. He later stated that his main concern was that connective tissue is not “meat”, and that ground beef to which the product had been added should not be called ground beef, since it is not nutritionally equivalent to regular ground beef.

      As to the chilling effect on the media, I’m not so concerned about that. Frankly, I believe the entire media – from those that consider themselves respectable, reliable, honest, newspapers (and other outlets) of record down to the tabloid fish-wrappers, clickbait purveyors and TV ratings-chasers – should all get a good dunking in an ice-bath. Yes, it is a matter of concern if the work of journalism is shackled by fear of being sued into oblivion, but on the other hand there have been plenty of cases where the media ditched all duties to be responsible and even-handed and went for the most ‘shock, horror’ headline-grabbing presentation of a story that they could.

      I’ll give two examples from my own country; one from our national radio and television broadcaster which has a public service remit. This was when the whole clerical sex abuse scandals were getting into high gear. A current affairs programme thought a juicy story had landed in its lap, replete with rape, colonialism, racism and naturally the Evil Catholic Church covering up another scandal. (Not alone were they acting out of public service and journalism motives, but there was/is an institutional leaning towards being on the socially liberal side of things, so a story attacking the formerly dominant Church was just the ticket. Media outlets are not 100% neutral).

      Well, they went full-out on the door-stepping and “when did you stop beating your wife raping your housekeeper?” angle and broadcast the resulting programme, then sat back and (I imagine) had visions of industry awards and public acclaim dancing in their head for their revelations.

      Even when the accused lawyered up and said he’d willingly take a paternity test to prove he wasn’t the alleged father, they still doubled down.

      Need I say their juicy story collapsed, with a retraction by the people making the allegations, once any kind of real investigation looked to be on the horizon? And having made a public splash of the whole affair in the most lurid form, the broadcaster then had to eat humble pie and pay hefty damages?

      The second example comes from my home town, again involves the backwash of the hysteria that accompanied the clerical abuse scandals, and again involved the media absolutely going to town to make a sensational story even more lurid, and again resulted in egg on faces and subsequent having to eat humble pie. Only this time, the lynch-mob atmosphere whipped up by the media coverage resulted in one of the accused (EDIT: incorrect,
      but this accused received a lesser sentence the other had died in the mean time) serving jail time (luckily it was only four days out of a life sentence), until she had to be released when the convictions were quashed (the accused was my former third class teacher so I didn’t believe the story when I heard it, not because ‘no, it’s impossible for that to have happened’ but because she had a temper and I could believe she’d slap or hit someone, but not rape. It just did not fit).

      (I’m also jaundiced about this because the “exclusive revelations” crime correspondent of one of the papers who basically knowingly wrote a fake story about the involvement of a convicted paedophile in the case is still going strong with a ‘reputable’ career as an expert on crime; the director of a rape crisis centre who pontificated on the sentencing still remained a go-to media source for quotes and expert opinion; the judge who declaimed about the ‘betrayal’ remained on the bench, etc.)

      So yeah, when the media can get people sent to jail because they like to make a big splash of a sensational story, I think a little cooling-off is just the thing.

  26. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    The sam[]zdat review of seeing like a state was good but IMO it misstepped by describing the immiseration resulting from central planning primarily as a psychological injury. That is certainly a component but fails to capture the practical consequences of destroying customary knowledge.

    (Warning: non-economist talking about economics.)

    The problem with increasing legibility is that while it increases the amount of centralized information available to bureaucrats, it does do by destroying a much greater amount of decentralized information available to society as a whole. Market prices condense that decentralized information and propagate it. In other words, Scott’s ‘metis’ is another way of restating the economic calculation problem.

    When local people build roads, they build them between the places they want to go and along the routes which are easiest to travel. A footpath becomes a dirt road and the dirt road is eventually paved but the shape of it has been fine-tuned over generational timescales. Those roads are hard to map but they’re good roads.

    When bureaucrats build roads, they build them in grids of straight lines. If the line goes through a mountain they dig a tunnel and if it goes over a crevasse they erect a bridge. The straightness of the line doesn’t bend for nature and it certainly doesn’t bend for the convenience of local people. So towns which the roads pass by are abandoned and traffic builds up.

    This also points towards a solution to the question of the ideal size of the state. Coase predicts that the size of a firm should be at equilibrium where transaction costs are equal to inefficiencies in central resource allocation. If we look at the state as a firm, then an ideal state would exist where the cost of bureaucratic inefficiency was equal to the cost of converting between different customary practices. Which is at least in theory a question which could be answered.

  27. arancaytar says:

    A swarm of 20,000 bees recently descended upon Vox Media’s Manhattan offices

    They probably got lost while looking for BuzzFeed.

  28. summerstay says:

    “Abiogenesis” was a strong contender for the title of the poem.
    If anyone wants to play with the technology I used to assist in writing it, I made a web app to create rhyming (rather than alliterative) pairs: http://73.172.60.168:8080/rhyme

  29. TheEternallyPerplexed says:

    And now everybody, relax and look at these tiles.

    On a large screen.

    Close up.

  30. GrishaTigger says:

    Regarding blind swordfighters, the legend in the Villabrille lineage of the Filipino martial arts is that the style’s founder was trained by, among others, the blind princess Josephina of the Pulahane tribe (in the southern Philippines). This might be purely legend. I don’t know of any historical proof. It’s just what I heard passed down through oral tradition among the people who trained me.

  31. guzey says:

    re 1940s cellular phones: if it was all FCC’s fault, why didn’t they appear in Europe earlier, then?

  32. Tibor says:

    Some people indeed seem to be made of straw and unfortunately they seem to be the loudest. Sometimes you can even see it here when a commenter presents his case in a way that other people suspect that it is an “agent provocateur”, a member of the red “tribe” who tries to make the blue tribe look bad or vice versa. But sometimes you encounter this even in your own team. I used to hang out at a libertarian (heavily “Austrian school” and Rothbard/Block-influenced which in my experience tends to be more straw on average than other libertarians) forum and there were people whose answer to everything was “STATE IS EVIL BECAUSE NATURAL RIGHTS!!!”. It is not as strawmanish as “libertarians are just greedy rich people who like to smoke pot”, but it is still extremely weak. And these sort of people also tended to be the most prolific at that forum.

    But I think one should ignore these strawmen anyway, despite them being real. These people are unlikely to be convinced by any reasonable argument and it is important to show their opponents that not everyone on the other side is a strawman. I find this attitude particularly common on the left. Sadly, a lot of very smart and educated people have no exposure to reasonable conservative or even libertarian arguments since they live in a left-wing bubble and equate the right-wing with Fox news (or equivalents in other countries) and liberals with “people who only care about paying less on taxes”). But in my experience a lot of them are receptive to such arguments. Perhaps not to a point of not being left-wing any more but often to a point of drifting somewhere towards Scott’s position or at least acknowledging that Scott-like “left-libertarianism” might be right. But they won’t be impressed by a libertarian who “destroys the left in 5 minutes” in a Youtube video where he talks about how Venezuela is a disaster and people who praise it are idiots because while there are people like that, it’s not going to change the views of anyone who isn’t a strawman (since such people won’t be so misguided anyway) and the strawmen are unlikely to be receptive to any arguments anyway. So even the strawmen exist, arguing against them serves no purpose other than cementing the idea that your tribe is oh so smart and the other is full of nobody but idiots.

  33. sohois says:

    i can’t say I’m surprised you appreciated the reading style of Sam[]zdat, my immediate thought upon reading one of the posts over there was that The Last Psychiatrist must have found a new place to blog at.

    Apparently I’m not the only one since the only comment was by an Anon wondering the same thing. It was this article, for reference: https://samzdat.com/2017/04/21/how-to-fail-fearless-girl-statue/

    edit: seems like Progressive Reformation gazumped me on this one. Should probably have refreshed the page before posting

    • Progressive Reformation says:

      It was pretty funny to see that you’d posted this practically at the same time as I posted mine. Jinks!

      At first I just thought it was a guy who had a similar writing style, hence the facetious speculation that they might be the love-child of SSC and TLP. Now I actually think they are The Last Psychiatrist. From this article we get (boldface mine):

      Cowen is right. What does the waiting presuppose? That one is “finding the right partner” rather than adapting to an imperfect one. That no one is “perfect for you” is not my point here – it’s that the implicit goal of such searching is to defend against change. “I want someone who loves me as I am” means that I am already good enough, I don’t have to change.

      Prelude to skyrocketing divorce rate as parable of narcissism, not “changing social values”. Narcissists have no values.

      So I’m pretty excited.

  34. Progressive Reformation says:

    Scott, I’m concerned. Having read this Sam[]zdat rant on the Fearless Girl, I strongly suggest you and The Last Psychiatrist get paternity tests (is TLP a man or a woman? eh, whatever). Do you have any hazy memories of chatting up TLP over rum and then waking up in a strange room? Am I the only one who’s seeing this?

    A man commissions a statue of a woman that is only ever reflective of the masculine symbols around it. The statue, moreover, is not of a woman, but of a girl. A girl adopting the characteristically “huffy, bratty, thinks-she’s-so-good” pose of a thousand locker room one-liners.

    Sounds like something out of a Henry Miller piece – don’t bother, Catherine Breillat already owns the rights. The scene would become a synechdoche for male gaze, it’d be the subject of three Butler essays. So what happened here? “They don’t know how to read it right.” I don’t buy that for one second. modern feminism is hyper aware of symbolism and sexist undercurrents. Throw a dart at TV Guide and google “[show] is sexist”. I bet you find a dissertation.

    So what happened? Did everyone just forget their ideology for a second? Was it the Russians?

    In all seriousness, thanks for the pointer to this stuff. It’s awesome.

    EMERGENCY EDIT: From later in that post:

    How was the girl sold to you? And I don’t mean how did The Man sell it to you, I mean how did you hear about it? A friend posted an article decrying it for corporate advertisement – that’s how we all heard about it. “Ooooh – sneaky campaign!” True, but not the issue. I don’t mean to be a dick here, but since when does Wall Street need your money, much less your approval? Yeah, your hourly is super important to them, I know, and you can tell because they chose to advertise to you. You, of course, wouldn’t let yourself be advertised to, you caught them (and isn’t the implication of those breathless exposes that you would’ve been, well, persuaded? Woooh – really dodged a bullet, without [writer’s] take on corporate feminism I almost became a J.P. Morgan quant). But still… there’s something… it’s that…

    If they’re advertising to you, then it means that they’re looking at you, right? They see you, Girl Power onesie and all. They almost got you this time, which means they wanted to. I don’t mean this as your standard “wants to be cared for/father figure/[Freudian murmur here]”, nor do I mean it entirely as “narcissism”. Fearless Girl is political, right? And this is “political”. If the Bull sees Fearless Girl, then she has power over it, so if “Wall Street” see you, then you …

    And from the TLP classic on the Dove Sketches Beauty Scam:

    You may feel your brain start trying to piece this together, but you should stop, there’s a twist: where did you see this ad? It wasn’t during an episode of The Mentalist on the assumption that you’re a 55 year old woman whose husband is “working late.” In fact… it’s not even playing anywhere. You didn’t stumble on it, you were sent to it, it was sent to you– it was selected for you to see. How did they know? Because if you’re watching it, it’s for you.

    Here you have an ad that was released into the Matrix, it is not selling a product but its own authority, and it is not targeting a physical demo, age/race/class, it is targeting something else that operates not on demography but virality. Are you susceptible? So while you are sure you most certainly don’t want an authority on beauty, the system decided that you, in fact, do very much want an authority on beauty. The question is, which of you is the rube?

    I’m calling it right now. TLP, you ARE THE FATHER!

    Emergency Edit #2: Dang it, somebody beat me to the punch in the comments on that post.

    • Jiro says:

      Imagine that you wanted to argue the exact opposite of what that blogpost says about Fearless Girl. Would you be able to do it, using similar rhetoric? If you’re any good at writing blogposts, I believe you could.

      The trick to that sort of analysis is that it isn’t a proof, it’s a just-so story. You can write a plausible-sounding story that explains Fearless Girl as signifying pretty much anything, subject only to people looking at your argument and saying “that’s ridiculous”.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        My take on Fearless Girl is “hubris.” Unfreeze the scene. Two seconds later, “Fearless Girl” is a red stain.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Don’t believe in fear
          Don’t believe in pain
          Don’t believe in anyone
          That you can’t tame

          Stupid girl
          All you had, you wasted

        • The Nybbler says:

          I consider it “futility”. Unfreeze the scene, the bull runs by, not trampling but rather swatting Fearless Girl with his tail for her impertinence.

        • Progressive Reformation says:

          Frankly, I just hate Fearless Girl because really, the Bull was its own piece of art. Make whatever artistic statement you like, but leave Britney other people’s art alone.

          Imagine I were to go to the Musee D’Orsay and set up a painting to the left of Whistler’s Mother so that, if you looked at the two together, Whistler’s Mother was staring at some dude’s exposed junk. That’s basically what Fearless Girl is doing.

          As to Jiro’s point, maybe. But it’s entertaining writing and has a point of view I wouldn’t have come up with on my own, and a lot of the psychological insights are probably true. So it’s very worthwhile reading for me.

          • Jiro says:

            Charging Bull was originally put up illegally as a piece of guerilla art.

            One of the consequences of being subversive is that you legitimize being subversive. If the next guy to be subversive chooses you as the target, you don’t really have much cause to complain. I have little sympathy when a piece of art changes the message of another piece of art that only got across its message in the first place by acting badly.

          • Deiseach says:

            If the next guy to be subversive chooses you as the target, you don’t really have much cause to complain

            Fair point, but Fearless Girl isn’t really subversive art; it’s a piece that was commissioned “by investment firm State Street Global Advisors (SSgA) as an advertisement for an index fund which comprises gender-diverse companies that have a higher percentage of women among their senior leadership. The plaque below the statue states, “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference,” with “SHE” being both a descriptive pronoun and the fund’s NASDAQ ticker symbol” and installed with the permission of the relevant authorities, all based on an advertising campaign “developed by advertising agency McCann New York”.

            So Fearless Girl really does have the Wall Street pedigree (and fits comfortably in with the values of such) that the Bull is supposed to have, which makes Elizabeth Warren and the rest who clambered all over the opportunity to pose with it for the sake of STRONG INDEPENDENT WIMMIN! a bit – shall we say, opportunistic? Willing to turn up at the opening of an envelope?

            It’s not this great feminist symbolic victory hoo-haa whatever it’s supposed to be, it’s fitting comfortably in with the system of capitalism that co-opts women as part of the mechanism of making profits without challenging the class and economic status quo, so Lizzie W. and her “I worked my way up from poverty to be a fighter for the marginalised!” image may not be sending the same message by posing with the Girl as she imagines (as pointed out here).

            Also, I’m in agreement with the general point: standing in front of a stampeding cow is not “fight like a girl”, unless by that you mean “be stupid”; anyone from the country or with any kind of exposure to a rural background knows if a cow (much less a bull) is running at you, you get the hell out of the way. The message of Fearless Girl, on the other hand, is “stand there like an idiot and get trampled” because a cow is not going to turn aside if you just look sternly at it:

            “The bottom line is that the time is long over when anyone should go into a field full of cattle and not realise the risk they are taking. All livestock are dangerous.”

          • Matt M says:

            D,

            Do you have a source for the stuff about it all being an advertising promo? I’ve heard that before (possibly from you, here?) and it just sounds SO ridiculous… like it HAS to be some sort of crazy right-wing conspiracy…. right? RIGHT?

          • Matt M says:

            It’s not this great feminist symbolic victory hoo-haa whatever it’s supposed to be, it’s fitting comfortably in with the system of capitalism that co-opts women as part of the mechanism of making profits without challenging the class and economic status quo, so Lizzie W. and her “I worked my way up from poverty to be a fighter for the marginalised!” image may not be sending the same message by posing with the Girl as she imagines (as pointed out here).

            And even if you’re right, I disagree with this completely. Art is all perception. It is what people think it is. To 99% of people, this thing looks like a brave and heroic feminine figure standing up to the very symbol of the evils of capitalist greed and excess in the middle of its holy cathedral. Therefore, that’s what it is.

            If a bunch of right-wingers start marching around wearing swastika armbands, would people respond by saying “LOL those idiots, they aren’t even sending the message they think they are, don’t they realize that symbol is really just the Bhuddist depiction of good luck and fertility?”

            No. That’s not the message they are sending, nor is it the message being received. And the same is true in this case.

            Fearless Girl is a symbol of feminist rebellion and defiance of capitalism. Whether it should be seen that way or not can be debated, but it IS seen that way.

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            @ Matt M, It’s not hard to find at all; I presume you can use Google. It’s one of the first things mentioned on Fearless Girl’s Wikipedia page.

            @ Jiro, I disagree. It being guerrilla art makes it legitimate for the authorities to remove it, which they did at first. But they added it back and now it is officially meant to be there.

            Since Arturo DiModica still owns the statue, I suggest an appropriate response to Fearless Girl (which he despises) is to turn the bull around 180 degrees, and back it up to be a foot or so from the Girl, so she’s staring directly at its nutsack.

            @ Deiseach, I agree with you. But the thing is that the symbology of Fearless Girl is backwards. Is academic progressivism more or less powerful than American capitalism? Surely American capitalism has more raw strength at its disposal, but this doesn’t capture the fact that academic progressivism is unified around a single political agenda. If we look at e.g. that Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner, we see American capitalism kowtowing to academic progressivism, and little of the other way around. The air in my apartment weighs more than I do, but because it’s diffuse and I am a single directed object, I can walk through it easily.

            So it’s actually academic progressivism which is the overdog, trampling over American culture. It’s the “fearlessness” of the hunter with the lion in his crosshairs. If they’d wanted it to be accurate, they’d have put up a matador. But that would go against their David-and-Goliath narrative, so suicidal little girl it is.

          • Montfort says:

            Since Arturo DiModica still owns the statue, I suggest an appropriate response to Fearless Girl (which he despises) is to turn the bull around 180 degrees, and back it up to be a foot or so from the Girl, so she’s staring directly at its nutsack.

            Another artist, Alex Gardega, had (appropriately, I felt) installed his own guerrilla art piece of a faux-bronze dog peeing right next to Fearless Girl, though of course it was removed soon after.

            Your plan has the benefit of being more sustainable, but I assume DiModica would have to convince the exhibitor (NYC) to rotate the bull. He does have some leverage, because he could always take it back. But if he just turns it around one night, I doubt there’d be anything besides that threat and whatever social pressure he can manage to keep them from turning it back around.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Progressive Reformation

            If we look at e.g. that Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner, we see American capitalism kowtowing to academic progressivism, and little of the other way around. The air in my apartment weighs more than I do, but because it’s diffuse and I am a single directed object, I can walk through it easily.

            I’d read it the other way around. “I can hire you to do your song and dance to sell my products” comes from a major position of power. That banks sponsor Pride and put rainbow flags up changes Pride more than it changes the banks. And it creates a huge incentive to talk less and less about fundamentally altering the class system or the economic setup.

          • Matt M says:

            I’d read it the other way around. “I can hire you to do your song and dance to sell my products” comes from a major position of power. That banks sponsor Pride and put rainbow flags up changes Pride more than it changes the banks. And it creates a huge incentive to talk less and less about fundamentally altering the class system or the economic setup.

            I’d like to believe that the wall street class came together and devised a plot, something like “Here’s what we do, so long as we give 100% support to all of their various social causes, they’ll consider us allies, and won’t think to cut our heads off over economic policy,” but that’s probably giving them too much credit.

          • Deiseach says:

            If we look at e.g. that Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner, we see American capitalism kowtowing to academic progressivism, and little of the other way around.

            I would disagree here, because it was Pepsi, which has tried to use the Pepsi generation slogan in its advertising to compete with Coca-Cola as the choice of the hip new young people from the 60s onwards.

            Yes, Pepsi got it wrong and were mocked for it, but the fact that they assumed they could take the visible features of the movement, slap their branding on it (all the careful blue colouration of the ad) and turn it into a ‘moment’ for their brand and product means that there really isn’t an actual threat there; Pepsi plainly perceived “antifa” and their ilk as a marketing opportunity with the achingly multi-culti lineup of “student protestors” in the ad (and I don’t think they were far wrong in their assessment of their target market as being more likely to reblog “hell yeah punch a Nazi!” memes than be out on the front lines of demos), they were just a little too blatant about it.

            Nobody seriously believed a multi-million dollar fizzy drinks company had suddenly developed a social conscience, which is why the ad fell flat on its face. And that, I think, means that it’s not capitalism kow-towing to progressivism, it’s capitalism seeing a buck to be made here and trying to co-opt progressivist symbolism.

            If polyamory ever makes it into wider social acceptance, we’ll be seeing Pepsi ads with Sally, Jill, Bert and Fareed all on their poly date supping Pepsis to beat the band – and not because Pepsi-Co has suddenly been converted to the rights of multiple relationships to be on a basis of legal equality with mono relationships 🙂

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            I doubt any of this is intentional. All just the result of people acting according to incentives, overall. It would be enheartening were this (or anything else) part of a conspiracy – would speak much higher of humanity’s ability to control things.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            standing in front of a stampeding cow is not “fight like a girl”, unless by that you mean “be stupid”; anyone from the country or with any kind of exposure to a rural background knows if a cow (much less a bull) is running at you, you get the hell out of the way.

            A suffragette (Emily Davison) got trampled when she ran in front of a horse at a race track, in 1913. So there would be some weird continuity, if a feminist would now do so with a bull.

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            To everyone replying to my Kendall Jenner point: yes, Pepsi did this because it thought it could make a buck by doing so. Still we have my point: companies pay homage to the dominant culture when they advertise, for obvious reasons; so, advertisements tend to strengthen whatever culture happens to have the most spending money in their estimation. Back in the 60s they ran ads like “Don’t let your man be bored by your cooking, buy our sauce”. Now they run this stuff (and then pull it when the dominant culture screams at them). Advertising shapes aspirations to some degree, sure; but it cannot really create aspirations out of nothing. It has to tap into an already-existing aspiration (“I wish I was cool like [insert cool person here]; I’ll buy Cool Guy Brand cigarettes”) which it then strengthens.

            In this way the Pepsi ad gives a strong indication of who the market research team at Pepsi thinks their market is; and though they misjudged the reaction to the ad, I trust that they understand something about these people, i.e. cultural markers, political orientation, etc.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Progressive Reformation

            Sure, but you have to differentiate between structural power (American capitalism) and social power (academic progressivism). At the end of the day, the financial elite are not, at all, beholden to the social justice crowd.

            Also, I think the social justice crowd is egged on by the financial elite in order to distract from any sort of threat that might come from the economically minded left. Occupy fizzled, but it was something. Hundreds of thousands of people mad about wealth inequality, or the gap between worker pay and CEO pay. After that the media companies owned by the financial elite started focusing intently on social justice. Now they’re all complaining about racial income inequality, and the gender pay gap. The dialogue went from “these evil CEOs are oppressing us!” to “why aren’t more of the evil oppressors women?”

            At the end of the day, the financial elite don’t really care about social issues. Rich people don’t have unplanned pregnancies, and if they do, abortion is always available if you have enough money, regardless of what the law says. Race doesn’t matter when you’re rich, the only color people care about is green.

            The media is corporate-left. They’re 100% behind Girl Power and yeah for gays! Just don’t talk about none of that “eat the rich” stuff. Just don’t confuse shameless pandering with actual power. The situation between the financial elite and academic progressivism is more like the relationship between the French court and the Catholic Church. “We give you legitimacy, you give us legitimacy and we keep the peasants in line.” Until they don’t.

      • Deiseach says:

        In this way the Pepsi ad gives a strong indication of who the market research team at Pepsi thinks their market is; and though they misjudged the reaction to the ad, I trust that they understand something about these people, i.e. cultural markers, political orientation, etc.

        It seems a large (?) yet unidentified segment of the Pepsi-drinking market are Mennonites, else this wouldn’t be deemed worth making a joke about; so much for market research identification! 🙂

      • Progressive Reformation says:

        Having read the link, I’m genuinely unsure of what you’re trying to tell me here. I’m not that good at thinking these things through, but I don’t see how any of that post relates to anything here.

        I will assume that at the very least the title “The Virtue of Silence” is meant to imply that I should have kept this observation of stylistic similarities to myself. If so, I apologize as I assume you have good reasons for wanting this; I confess that I really can’t see what those would be but I trust your judgment.

        And I suppose I am violating the Virtue of Silence by replying, but (a) I’m not even 100% sure this is what you’re trying to tell me, (b) this discussion is already here regardless of this reply, and (c) it’s hard not to reply to something like this!

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Progressive Reformation:
          The appropriate response here would be:

          Whoosh!

          But, since you didn’t catch Scott’s attempt at humor, you might miss mine as well, so …

          Scott is making a joke (that he is not going to talk about any love child he may or may not have had with The Last Psychiatrist.)

  35. liskantope says:

    With regard to the article about Trump’s decline in articulateness… I haven’t had a chance to read the article (I’m current caught in a time crunch and shouldn’t even be posting here), but I’m curious if Donald Trump was under pressure to express his views on nearly as many complex real-world issues on nearly so frequent a basis in the decades before he was campaigning for president.

    I feel that Trump’s level of articulateness is roughly where mine would be if I didn’t have the ample experience I’ve had teaching math (where I learned how to explain things precisely yet down-to-earth so people can follow) and were under constant demand to explain my views on technical matters in fields in which I had very little background and no expertise. I guess what I’m saying is that I blame Trump’s frequent inability to pontificate clearly on his lack of qualification for the job he’s in (both lack of background knowledge, and lack of experience in “teaching”) rather than any alleged mental decay.

    I also find it interesting that Sarah Palin, when going off script, was (is?) even more inarticulate than Trump, and I don’t remember hearing any speculation of dementia and mental unfitness on her part. A relatively reasonable instance of ageism, I guess, but still I think she is quite possibly a counterexample to “Anyone who talks that way must be mentally deteriorating!”

    • albatross11 says:

      I suspect one source of Trump’s inability to sound intelligent while discussing a bunch of complicated issues is that he hasn’t spent much time thinking about them. Trump’s clearly pretty bright and extremely verbally adept, but there’s no way to sound smart talking about a complicated topic when today is the first day you’ve ever given the matter ten minutes’ thought. Perhaps the thing I find most unnerving about a Trump presidency is the sense I have that there are huge and important areas of policy on which he’s making decisions, where he has never spent a single unbroken hour thinking hard about the matter.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        “Trump’s clearly pretty bright and extremely verbally adept.”

        Just find a sound clip of him talking, any sound clip at all (say from this year). He can’t finish a thought. There’s just .. nothing there.

        • albatross11 says:

          Perhaps you and I aren’t the target market–he seems to do quite well with a lot of Americans.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            Satisfying low demands is only quality of selling, not necessarily quality of product.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Is that how you define pretty bright?

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            A local competence. Not general intelligence, assuming you mean this with “bright”.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            The Incredible Hulk is a very popular superhero who converses via variations of “Hulk Smash.” Doing quite well with your base has very little to do with intelligence or verbal aptitude.

            Actually, if you want to use “popularity” as a metric, Trump is by far the least popular president in living memory across strata of American society. Look at any poll you want from any polling place you want, over the last few months.

            Trump is basically incoherent when he answers questions/converses with his own voice (rather than reading from a piece of paper or teleprompter).

        • bintchaos says:

          “Trump’s clearly pretty bright and extremely verbally adept.”


          Yeah, that is observably not true. Remember how low ability humans have a tendency to over-estimate their ability while high ability humans tend to under estimate theirs? quant. suff.
          And I’m sorry to bang on about this but its terrifying to me that hostile foreign entities like RU, China and KSA are able to so easily manipulate Trump to perform in their own interests by appeals to his vanity and venality.
          Most recently the Qatar disaster.

          The segment of the electorate that Trump does well with is termed the “low-information Republican base”. Naturally he is speaking to them in their own language– he’s the low-information president.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Does listening to Trump with a British accent change your opinion?

      • Jiro says:

        I suspect the main driver of this is the same as the main driver of all the other negative claims about Trump–the left doesn’t like Trump, and if you don’t like someone, you say uncomplimentary things about him. In the media, it gets dressed up in flowery language or a veneer of objectivity, but ultimately it’s the same as being on the playground calling someone a retard.

        There’s a reason we used to believe in the Goldwater Rule, and diagnosing dementia is not very far from diagnosing mental illness.

        (And the answer to “then why wasn’t that done to Sarah Palin?” is a combination of “well, they did do some of it”, “the exact insult that gets used against a particular outgroup member is random”, and gendered attacks.)

        • liskantope says:

          …“the exact insult that gets used against a particular outgroup member is random”…

          Well, I’m pretty sure it mainly has to do with Palin not being in her 70’s, although as you point out, gender is a factor as well.

      • It reminds of those people who bullshit their way into high paying technical jobs, and then can’t do them.

  36. registrationisdumb says:

    The carbonation thing strikes me as obviously false. I drink unflavored seltzer water on a regular basis (I realize I’m in the minority, as roughly 95% of the stock in my supermarket is of flavored seltzers and Lacroixes and what have you), and one thing I notice consistently is that when I have it on hand, I am far less likely to overeat or binge on sweets or junkfood. When I drink it, I feel more full and more satisfied than with regular water.

    When looking at the abstract, it does not seem to compare unflavored carbonated water to regular water, only “degassed” carbonated beverages to standard carbonated beverages, and uncarbonated tap water.

    Another major flaw is in the following:”
    Here, we show that rats consuming gaseous beverages over a period of around 1 year gain weight at a faster rate than controls on regular degassed carbonated beverage or tap water. This is due to elevated levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and thus greater food intake in rats drinking carbonated drinks compared to control rats.” which suggests that they only measured the weight gain in rats, but did not measure ghrelin or food intake directly.

    I think there are a few possibilities that the study may overlook:
    -increased Ghrelin levels do not directly lead to increased appetite or obesity. My only knowledge of this hormone is a quick glance at wikipedia, which seems to suggest that, but I have no experience or knowledge that would back this up.
    -There is a difference between flavored or sweetened carbonated beverages and nonflavored. I’d hypothesize (strong) that a major factor of weight gain is that carbonation improves the flavor of the drink, meaning that you drink more of it whether it is plain water or sugar or aspartame or what have you.
    -I’d also hypothesize (strong) that whether you drink it with a meal matters. I typically will drink seltzer when I’m at a desk, or after dinner, rather than directly before or during a meal. Typical consumption seems to be to get a giant coke with your big mac, which is the opposite. If the response is in fact hormonal, it may be that having a belly full of water is enough to counter the hormonal hunger response. But if the reason for weight gain is that carbonated drinks make the paired food hyperpalatable (which also seems likely to be a factor from personal experience,) it would follow that changing the time at which you drink a fizzy drink would matter.
    -A weak hypothesis: The overall acidity balance of your diet plays some role in weight control. Carbonated drinks are heavily acidic, and if that means you’re messing with your gut microbiome, or if you’re using carbonated drinks to balance out all that mayo you’re putting on your sandwich, that could cause problems.

    (Disclaimer: My background is in biomechanics and not biochemistry, so my knowledge of the individual processes involved here is tangential at best.)

    • Dog says:

      I took a look at the full text, and can clear up some details on what they were actually doing. You are right that they are testing regular soda, degassed regular soda, diet soda, and plain water, not carbonated water. Carbonated water seems like the obvious thing to test, and I’m not sure why they didn’t.

      However, part of the study involved killing some rats that were all on a normal diet, dissecting their stomachs into pieces, soaking the pieces in the 4 above liquids, than directly measuring the ghrelin secretion of the pieces. They found about triple the ghrelin levels with the carbonated sodas vs the degassed soda. I think this rules out considerations of hyperpalitability, at least as far as direct effects on the stomach. Interestingly, the diet soda induced somewhat more ghrelin release then the regular soda.

      I too am a drinker of plain carbonated water, but I haven’t noticed an impact on my appetite one way or another.

  37. cactus head says:

    >Like a food blog, except it’s RPG rations for dwarves, elves, orcs, et cetera.

    Conceptually similar: The manga Dungeon Meshi, featuring mouthwatering depictions of food made of monsters and plants that you find in a D&D style dungeon.

  38. soreff says:

    A sobering statistic on the difficulty of dialing back mass incarceration (incompletely sourced, but seems to check out): “if America only jailed murderers and rapists, it would still have more prisoners per capita than Western Europe”.

    begin_snark

    True enough – but consider how low the incarceration rate would be if America only punished,
    murderers and rapists, and solely with executions.

    end_snark

  39. bintchaos says:

    Just a word of warning, guys…

    “He can do all these things, yet he is not free. Nay, he is even more prisoner than the slave of the galley, than the madman in his cell. He cannot go where he lists, he who is not of nature has yet to obey some of nature’s laws, why we know not. He may not enter anywhere at the first, unless there be some one of the household who bid him to come, though afterwards he can come as he please. His power ceases, as does that of all evil things, at the coming of the day.”
    ― Bram Stoker, Dracula

    • The Nybbler says:

      Are you saying you’re a vampire?

      • bintchaos says:

        Not me.

        “The last I saw of Count Dracula was his kissing his hand to me, with a red light of triumph in his eyes, and with a smile that Judas in hell might be proud of.”
        ― Bram Stoker, Dracula

        • CatCube says:

          So you’re saying that Dracula is a vampire? I mean, it’s not exactly spoilers when the source material is over 120 years old.

    • engleberg says:

      ‘English was not van Helsing’s birth tongue.’

      Dracula.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Ok, Abe, but can we possibly skip the endless running around looking for boxes of dirt?

  40. Steve Sailer says:

    “Did you know: the ancient Egyptian language of hieroglyphs and Pharaohs survived into modern times as the Coptic language and is still the liturgical language of Coptic churches today.”

    That’s a big part of how Champollion deciphered hieroglyphics in the 19th Century. He had the priest of the Coptic Church in Paris teach him Coptic.

    • Deiseach says:

      I did know! And I also knew about liturgical Aramaic! 🙂

    • engleberg says:

      I’ve been reading The Dawning Moon of the Mind, Susan Morrow translating the pyramid of Unis. She got a Guggenheim to do it, since the previous translations were gibberish. She makes a good case that Unis was writing about yoga with astronomy metaphors, but as I read I keep thinking it could also be the Penthouse letter pyramid text: ‘Hi, I’m Unis, priest and king of sacred Egyptian wisdom, and this ruler’s got nine egyptian inches, but I always thought the hieroglyphs here were fake until one morning the sky-baboons boner poked open the hot, fertile crack of Dawn-‘

  41. Steve Sailer says:

    “Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, P.G. Wodehouse, G.K. Chesterton, and A. A. Milne all played on the same amateur cricket team.”

    Chesterton, with his detective Father Brown, comes in last of those six in the Created an Immortal Character or Story metric.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      They tried Chesterton at wicketkeeper, but he kept refusing to put down the wicket until he’d figured out why it had been put up in the first place.

  42. Douglas Knight says:

    Why do high schools start earlier than elementary schools? My impression is that they have to start at different times to share buses and drivers. But if they have to start at 7:30, 8:00, 8:30, why not start elementary school first, rather than high school? Some people say sports. But my impression is that prep schools, which care about sports more than public schools, tend to start later. The linked article implies that private schools have the same schedule as public schools, but I don’t think that’s true.

    • BBA says:

      They don’t want elementary schoolers waiting for the bus in the dark. They couldn’t care less about high schoolers.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Thanks, that’s a pretty plausible reason. I’m skeptical that it’s that pat, though.

      • JulieK says:

        But why not, instead of starting elementary at (e.g.) 9 am and high school at 8, start elementary at 9 and high school at 10?

        • John Schilling says:

          You have to start elementary school before both parents have left for work, else there’s a child-care gap when you can least afford it. That, plus not wanting six-year-olds standing out by the street at night, plus not wanting them dropped off at home alone before at least one parent is back waiting for them, I think pretty narrowly bounds the elementary-school day.

          • JulieK says:

            Right, so leave the elementary schedule unchanged, and have the high school start after the elementary rather than before.

    • rlms says:

      I think sports (/other activities) is right. High school days (including after-school activities) are longer, so they need to start earlier to avoid ending too late.

      Alternate theory: high school teachers need to do more work in evenings, so they care more about the end time being earlier.

    • Sivaas says:

      Possible reason: a school that starts earlier also gets out earlier, meaning more time without parental supervision (in a world where both parents work, and aren’t home by 2-3). High schoolers are safer to leave on their own.

    • Brad says:

      Just one data point, but the prep school I went to started at 9 AM for k-12. Winter sports were indoors and so it didn’t matter that it was dark. In the fall and spring it was still light enough to play outdoors at the end of the school day.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Our (public) school district started high school at 9 AM this past year (instead of the previous 7:30 AM)

      • Douglas Knight says:

        What did they do with elementary and middle school? Did high school leapfrog over them?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Roughly, elementary schools shifted from 9:00 to 7:45 (although a few shifted to 9:15), and middle schools stayed at 7:30 as before.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      So high schoolers can hold down a job after school? I’m not sure how common that is today (although it wasn’t unheard of at my fairly affluent high school), but there is inertia at play too.

  43. eighty-six twenty-three says:

    I’m sort of bothered by the practice of citing Twitter activity like it was news.

    Like — imagine that bozo you knew in high school. Kind of a loudmouth, usually wrong, and when someone pointed out he was wrong he’d get louder to compensate. Everyone knows someone like that, right? I’ll call him Chad.

    Now imagine you open the newspaper and it says “CHAD IS ANGRY ABOUT (STUPID THING)”.

    This is not news. Chad is one person out of three hundred million, and he’s always angry about Stupid Thing, and everyone sane has already made up their mind to ignore him.

    But sometimes my news feed says something like: LEFT WING TWITTER CELEBRATES SHOOTING OF REP SCALISE or: TWITTER GOES CRAZY ABOUT RUMORS ABOUT BEYONCE. And I just — I just think we should stop paying attention to Chad.

    (Scott’s post is not as bad, because he’s at least saying “this is evidence that some people think this way” which it at least sort of is.)

  44. Atlas says:

    And even from other Vox reporters who thought it was journalistically shoddy. As for me, I think the article was as good as it could be under the circumstances – while it does get some things wrong and is personally unfair to Murray, from a scientific point of view I’m just really glad that the piece admits that IQ is real, meaningful, and mostly hereditary. This was the main flashpoint of the original debate twenty-five years ago, it’s more important than the stuff on the achievement gap, and the piece gets it entirely right. I think this sort of shift from debating the very existence of intelligence to debating the details is important, very productive, and worth praising even when the details are kind of dubious.

    I also thought that the substance of the Vox article was quite good, though I disagreed with it in parts, but I took issue with it on some different grounds:

    1) What bothered me was less the content of the article itself and more the way that its headline and stylistic choices and the fact that the Vox editors refused to publish an evidence-based critique by another expert all served to create the impression that the point of view in the article is the consensus of experts, and those who disagree with it are basically crackpot pseudo-scientists. It’s like what Scott wrote about in “the Cowpox of Doubt”: I worry that the fact that liberals are more pro-science in some areas like climate change and evolution (ironically enough here) leads some of them to create a memeplex where their tribe is pro-science and anyone who disagrees with them is the epistemic equivalent of an anti-vaxxer or creationist. (See e.g. the Dylan Matthews tweet cited in one of the responses.) Like, you know how there are polls that show large numbers of Americans/Republicans holding some scientifically unsubstantiated view like AGW does not exist? Well, according to the WaPo’s summary of the 2016 GSS only 18% of Democrats and 26% of Republicans (!) believe that African-Americans are less intelligent than whites on average. The gap in mean IQ scores is uncontroversial; what experts like James Flynn disagree with Murray Jensen et al about is the roots of the gap. But apparently less than 20% of Democrats even realize that such a gap exists.

    2) While the article itself actually basically agrees with 80% of what it describes as Murray’s premises, I’m not sure that many people on the left cited it for that reason, or even really read and internalized it,as opposed to the “racist junk pseudo-science” headline. I’d like to get some more evidence about this, but when I searched Twitter dot com with relevant keywords I only saw defenders of Harris and Murray for whatever reason. (I don’t have an @, so I doubt that’s the problem.) One data point is that Freddie deBoer wrote an essay with the same basic IQ-realism but not muggle-realism argument, but claims to have gotten a lot of heat (he cites for example the blog Lawyers, Guns and Money) for it, whereas he saw the Vox article getting a lot of praise. (Note that Scott Lemieux, in my view one of the sharpest and most underrated writers on the left, described the takeaway from the Vox piece as being “Sam Harris is a yutz [about muggle realism.]”

    While I would advise taking any claims by deBoer about how unjustly persecuted he is on the internet with half the salt in the Pacific Ocean or so, it seems to me that the difference between the deBoer piece and the Vox article in style is:

    Deboer says that while, yes, he disagrees with hereditarians, the important thing is IQ realism.

    Vox says that hereditarians are peddling junk pseudo-science, although yes we will grudgingly admit that they’re not 100% wrong about all the claims they make about IQ. Also, have we mentioned that they’re dangerous pseudo-scientists?

    What a surprise that deBoer’s piece was (at least by his own account) trashed and Vox’s was praised by leftists.

    Look, I may be wrong about this, and if shown evidence to the contrary I’ll happily change my mind, but I just suspect that like 90% of the Vox dot com readers who saw/skimmed/read/shared the article did so to reach the conclusion “Charles Murray is wrong about [you know what].” As opposed to “yeah I disagree with Murray about hypothesized genetic differences, but that article really convinced me that IQ matters, is heritable and differs on average across ethnic groups.”

    Random note: Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias have expressed support for IQ realism in the past.

    • meh says:

      Well said.
      I think maybe people who already have a background on the subjects were able to pick up on points they were finally admitting, but I found it confusing. I couldn’t tell when they were agreeing with a point, or just formally describing Murray’s point so that they could disagree with it. All of the 80% agreement stuff is under a section titled “The flawed logic of the Murray argument…”

      Also, I have not read the Bell Curve. Does Murray say the differences are caused by genetics, or it is not definitely known? I have seen sources that claim different things, could someone who has read it clarify?

      • albatross11 says:

        Herrenstein and Murray say (w.r.t the cause of racial IQ differences):

        “If the reader is now convinced that either the genetic or environmental explanation has won out to the exclusion of the other, we have not done a sufficiently good job of presenting one side or the other. It seems highly likely to us that both genes and environment have something to do with racial differences. What might the mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not yet justify an estimate.”

        • HeelBearCub says:

          And then they go on to assume an estimate, by offering a(n at times implied) conclusion that the outcomes of black people are determined by hereditary IQ.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s been a few years since I’ve read the book, but I don’t recall that at all.

          • meh says:

            Is that different than saying it is genetic?

            The way I see it is either
            (1) people are blatantly ignoring that Murray is stating he is agnostic on the cause of the difference
            or
            (2) that statement is Murray’s Motte, and he otherwise acts under the assumption the difference is genetic

            Again, I haven’t read it, but would like to hear from people who have.

          • It’s been a few years since I’ve read the book, but I don’t recall that at all.

            I agree with HBC (partially). The Bell Curve is one of my favorite books, but they do prevaricate on this. On the more controversial subjects they do talk out of both sides of their mouths.

            Based on the totality of the chapter, I think this part is closest to the truth “It seems highly likely to us that both genes and environment have something to do with racial differences.” The “resolutely agnostic” part is to provide plausible deniability. But they are very clear that they are just guessing.

            The great part of the book are the many statistics proving that IQ has a close correspondence to many important traits. Yet it is the suppositions as above where the book is attacked the most. The people that claim the book is junk science then quote the non-scientific portions of the book and say they aren’t scientific, totally ignoring the fact that the authors would agree that those parts are not scientific.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            Based on the totality of the chapter, I think this part is closest to the truth “It seems highly likely to us that both genes and environment have something to do with racial differences.”

            It’s still a very weak claim, that is satisfied if 0.0000000000001% of the difference is genetic.

            It seems trivially true to me that groups have genetic differences, regardless of evolutionary pressure, as it will be different just by chance/random mutations. It seems strongly proven that genes can impact intelligence. So it seems very unlikely that two groups will have the exact same distribution of genes that impact intelligence.

            This would be equally true for the French vs the British, or Paris vs Nantes or one neighborhood in Paris vs another or people who live in one street vs the next street or…

          • Wrong Species says:

            It’s revealing that the Bell Curve critics can never quote a specific part of the book when discrediting it.

  45. Douglas Knight says:

    If I understand the genetics paper correctly, it is claiming that Ashkenazi diseases have zero net selection. But since we know that they are diseases, we know that they are under strong negative selection. So for the net selection to be zero, there must be some unaccounted for positive effect.

    But of course, we knew that already without any sequencing. You just can’t get diseases from a founder effect 1000 years ago. If Tay-Sachs carriers had no benefit, then the observed frequency must reflect every Ashkenazi being a carrier in 1600. (Also, there are two different Ashkenazi versions of Tay-Sachs!) I haven’t done the calculation for other diseases.

  46. npcarter says:

    Oh, for thirty seconds in an elevator with Elon Musk!

    (In case the drive to find lost cities in difficult environments is strongly heritable, I am about 90% sure I know where another one is, in considerable danger of being looted. The hard part would be getting the money to locate it safely and responsibly; going there to assess its condition in person would be comparatively easy. Alas, finding lost cities doesn’t seem like the kind of thing the Musk Foundation supports. Maybe it just doesn’t come up often enough to be a cause.)

    • Lee Wang says:

      Wow this sounds huge. Could you give more details? If you are not willing to give more public you can PM me. (Please state so in a comment, this is a throwaway)

      • npcarter says:

        I should preface this by saying, for what it’s worth, that I’m scraping by in the world of professional archaeology. I’m no one especially important in that world, but also not a random crank.

        I don’t want to say too much in this forum, for reasons of security. I can say that the place in question is an ancient Maya royal capital, and also that my reasons for thinking it is where I think it is come from remote sensing and from the ancient hieroglyphic record. If you’re curious, I can tell you in a PM about the evidence that led to that hypothesis, and about how it could be tested.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Is this the opening of a Call of Cthulhu scenario? Because trawling through comment threads to start your investigation into what happened to the lost Alexander Expedition actually sounds like a good opening.

          • Deiseach says:

            Is this the opening of a Call of Cthulhu scenario?

            I can never forget the dreadful summer of June 201_, the last time that my good friend Carter was ever to be heard of (in this world, at least – as for others, I fear to even contemplate the possibility, knowing what I now know).

            It all began with the seemingly well-favoured but, alas! later to be revealed as ill-starred, Alexander Expedition, which Carter and a group of like-minded scholars had conceived, planned, and put together in order to find a lost royal capital of the Maya.

            Backed by a patron of immense wealth whose success in applying the most cutting-edge of scientific and technological advances to the problems of modern civilisation, and whose restlessly inventive, curiously questing, forwardly-thinking mind dared to dream of yet further triumphs on worlds beyond our own globe, had earned a mixture of grudging respect, adulation, and envy from his peers and the public at large, the last time Carter and I communicated, his enthusiasm was irrepressible, his hopes high, his expectations unbounded.

            Little did we know! But how could we imagine, even in our wildest and most far-flung fancies, the terrible hidden truths and wisely-buried secrets that had been left to moulder beneath centuries of the brooding jungle’s encroachment, that damnable and damning knowledge that would be all too dearly bought in a mind-shattering moment of ultimate cosmic adumbration? If only that ancient hieroglyphic record, that cursed and mocking repository of unearthly wisdom, had remained lost, or if only Carter and his team had never broken its code and stumbled upon the tantalising hints that led them to their ultimate, unthinkable fate!

            But even so, would that have been enough to avert the malice of destiny? For hints and invitations, signals and behests, were disseminated through the psychic sphere from that lost and ancient city, slipping into the unguarded, seeking minds of those who sought to use the techniques of a bygone day and more primitive yet acute knowings of those who quest in the dreamlands and realms of the night paths which loop in tangles throughout time and space, forwards and back, for what is hidden to the waking, daylight senses. Indeed, “sensing” is precisely how Carter described it to me.

            🙂

          • hlynkacg says:

            I want to hear the rest of this story.

          • npcarter says:

            @Deiseach’s comment was so incredible that I almost hope the site has escaped detection so far because it’s inside “a bubble of localized spacetime curvature”: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1210.8144.pdf .

          • dndnrsn says:

            Term “non-Euclidian” banned; we now say “non-Alexandrian” instead.

          • John Schilling says:

            I want to hear the rest of this story.

            No, you really don’t. Here be there Basilisks.

        • grendelkhan says:

          You mean “remote sensing” as in satellite photos and UAVs, not as in this thing, right? This is setting off the usual scam detectors for me.

          • bean says:

            I’m pretty certain he does. Remote sensing in archeology has been a big deal for a couple of years now. Things like radar mapping being able to see through trees, or detecting differences in soil from long-ago cultivation.

          • npcarter says:

            I’m shocked that anyone would be skeptical of a rando on the internet making confident claims about lost Maya kingdoms unknown to Science!

            Seriously, though, yes, the hypothesis that Site X is in Location Y is based on some interesting things that some colleagues and I are doing, or have done, with Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data and GIS. Basically, the ancient Maya had to walk everywhere, so their bigger and more prosperous settlements tended to be at the confluences of low-cost pedestrian routes across the landscape. We arrived at that generalization by the following means: (1) we already knew the locations of most such settlements. (2) My colleagues, who are amazing and have access to some really powerful computers, produced a number of detailed maps of least-cost footpaths covering the whole Maya region. The maps measure “cost” in different ways, but they all agree well with one another. (3) Sure enough, biggish settlements tend to be at natural crossroads; natural crossroads in areas that have been archaeologically surveyed tend to have biggish settlements; and, where survey has been done, we don’t see many crossroads without substantial settlements, or many substantial settlements far from crossroads.

            At the same time, we have hieroglyphic evidence that Site X exists and is in a certain general area. But that area is much too large for anyone to just go poking around on the ground until they find it. Fortunately, there is a major confluence of natural travel routes in that area, which has not been archaeologically surveyed. The Maya name of the site helps narrow it down a little bit, because it refers to a kind of geological feature that is pretty rare in the region in question. Last but not least, someone reported seeing a major site right about where we think our Site X is, back in the 1960s.

            We think the place has a good chance of having escaped serious looting so far, because it’s really remote. However, the area is becoming increasingly dangerous, so we are preparing a funding application to carry out lidar imaging. If we’re right, the ruins will be readily visible once the data are processed. That information would help the proper authorities concentrate their efforts where they’ll do the most good, and also facilitate our hiking out to the place and checking out its condition.

          • bean says:

            @npcarter
            That sounds fascinating. Do you have links about this? (Remote sensing and GIS are hobbies of mine, although I haven’t done much since I got involved with the battleship.)

          • npcarter says:

            @bean – We’re writing up a related paper now. It deals with some other results of our analyses, about different, already-known sites. The main reason we did those analyses was to try to explain why the known sites are where they are, and why they prospered when they did historically. Then our data turned out to be relevant to the problem of the “lost city.” (I use the term ironically; by modern urban standards, this will probably turn out to be more like “a few small lost villages, one of which has a lost palace and some lost temples.”) Once we have the paper submitted, the lidar application will be the next step down a road that I assume leads to our getting swallowed up by the jungle.

  47. Moriwen says:

    Holy cow, Ms. Tolkien competes in sighted fencing competitions. Modified fencing for the blind is a thing, so I assumed at first she was taking part in that, but no. That is crazy impressive.

    • bintchaos says:

      Wow….its incredible– I’m blown away– does the article name her weapon?
      epèe, foil or sabre?
      nm I have to read it! tyvm for report!
      foil…just wow.

      • Aapje says:

        Wow….its incredible– I’m blown away– does the article name her weapon?

        Shotgun.

        • Loris says:

          She uses one of her great-grandfather’s swords, Narsil.
          It’s not as clumsy or random as a shotgun; an elegant weapon from a more civilized age.

          • Robin says:

            (removed my comment… reading it back, it seemed like mocking or belittling… never mind)

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      I think she’s “legally blind”.

      That is, she meets the legal criteria for being considered blind, but retains some seeing ability.

  48. romeostevens says:

    If nootropics work on you it’s most likely that you are sleep and choline deprived. Have an omlette and a nap.

  49. trebawa says:

    Source for the poverty graphic: The World Bank’s new Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals, which has lots of other cool graphics (I like the one showing the change in productivity of the world’s fisheries).

  50. youzicha says:

    Deadly fire, “It is no coincidence that the 98% is the same figure that is returned by the infamous Kim Jong-un of North Korea who claims mass popularity while reputedly enslaving the general population and starving the majority of his people to death.” Because nothing is ever a coincidence.

    • Yakimi says:

      I have to wonder if that sort of hyperbole contributed to their concerns being ignored. It’s the sort of erratic language you find in letters written by obsessives, monomaniacs, and the mentally unwell.

    • Aapje says:

      @youzicha

      It is very rare that decision making will satisfy 98% of the people, because people are generally a lot more diverse than that. So I do see such high percentages of support as a strong indicator that the voting is rigged one way or the other.

      • poignardazur says:

        Yeah. Then again, I’ve only seen one side on the story, as told by very angry people… but some of the stuff they talk about is pretty binary. Either the only alley that can allow firefighter access to the building is blocked by parking vehicles, or it’s not. And they took photos showing that it was.

        When people say again and again “There are billions of safety violations here, and the landlord is never around, there will be a fire at some point and people will die”, and then there is a fire and people die… yeah. That sucks.

  51. Dog says:

    Atmospheric CO2 levels started increasing at an accelerated rate about the same time the obesity epidemic took off. Given the linked research on carbonated beverages and ghrelin, can I now blame global warming for my extra pounds?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      See my discussion of this possibility in the second half of this article.

      • Dog says:

        Thanks for that. You’re right, it’s an appealing hypothesis and seemed almost too convenient. I am still curious about potential health effects of elevated CO2 levels, even if it’s not causing obesity. CO2 is definitely bioactive, but atmospheric concentrations are still fairly low in an absolute sense. There could potentially be a much bigger effect from people spending more time working indoors than from fossil fuel use. This is interesting for example: https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/15-10037/

  52. Razib says:

    “Those people” dont try to educate their base on creationism (in spite of being atheists) or climate science, or on the declining fitness parity of conservative ideology.

    less than 5% of my readers are creationists when i last asked them this (N=500). though i did talk a little bit about creationism before 2010…but it’s kind of boring. as for climate science, i’m not a climate scientist. i don’t see what i’m supposed to say that you couldn’t get from reading *the new york times* or whatever. nor do i talk about partisan politics much because i don’t have much to say on that issue that adds any value (clearly since like most i didn’t not anticipate and underestimated trump victory likelihoods).

    nor frankly talk much about IQ since i’m not a psychometrician. there is a reason i addressed specifically the *genetics* aspect of that VOX piece, because i can speak as a geneticist who knows a lot about that topic.

    i’m used to being lied about on the internet and in the media and expect it. a little disappointed that the same would happen on SSC.

    anyone can actually read my blog to get a sense of what i do talk about.

    also, my atheism is different from sam harris’. i am vocal about it i suppose as i state it matter of factly. but i don’t agree on a lot of points re: religion in comparison to sam (e.g., why it is ubiquitous, how dangerous it is, etc.).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      For anyone else who was confused by this, it’s a reply to this comment upthread.

      • Razib says:

        what does fitness parity of conservative ideology mean?

        • Nornagest says:

          From previous frustrating conversations with bintchaos, I think it means that conservative ideas are going to be less appealing to future demographics, because of increasing educational attainment, growing minority populations, and something something Trump.

          Flaws in this theory are left as an exercise to the reader.

          • Razib says:

            john derbyshire wrote a book titled *we are doomed* which is very pessimistic about conservatism. i am not so pessimistic about conservatism because i don’t think these categories will have much truck as we enter the post-liberal democratic era in this century.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Nornagast
            You forgot that most important part! jobs, jobs, jobs!
            jobs of the future– related to other posts here like the AI apocalypse.
            Are you going to debate that Trump is NOT extremely bad branding for the GOP going forward?

            @razib
            Ah yes…I used to read you at Unz.
            John Derbyshire…didnt he also write Ice People/Sun People?
            I think a lot of the protesting students just really hate Trump.
            Murray (even though an anti-trumper) is a reachable proxy that they can deny a platform to. In denying a platform to Murray, they are denying a platform to conservatism and the Head Republican (Trump).
            Murray is just a dreadful choice as a spokesperson exactly because he’s an old guy with lots of bad press– isnt there anyone better to carry the conservative standard into ideological battle?

          • bintchaos says:

            umm…did razib just call me a liar?

            i’m used to being lied about on the internet and in the media and expect it. a little disappointed that the same would happen on SSC


            I’m sorry, I was distracted by @Deiseach’s strawman army, but thats the truth.
            I started reading at Unz at the rise of the alt-right, a curious and fascinating emergent phenomenon.
            I just think the high-information segment of conservatism should work to inform the low-information segment…because under polarization the base wont accept anything from the other tribe– they are unreachable.
            Ditto for liberals of course.

        • Deiseach says:

          i’m used to being lied about on the internet and in the media and expect it. a little disappointed that the same would happen on SSC

          Please don’t take it personally; bintchaos was only using the flimsy excuse to gallop off on their hobbyhorse about conservatism (because, you see, all we conservatives on here are knuckle-dragging American backwoodsmen who probably chaw tobaccy and beat our continually-pregnant wives when we’re not snake handling at the tent revival and ironing our KKK robes whilst wistfully dreaming of the days when Confederate statues were still proudly standing in place, our tiny brains in our pin-heads consumed with envious rage at not even being permitted to stand outside, much less enter inside, the railings of the great, noble, world-renowned, influential and powerful liberal Hogwarts-universities – their coinage – even those of us not Protestant or Americans, or indeed possessed of wives). You could have been anyone in the world talking about anything at all from birdwatching to the price of tea in China, and they’ve have dragged in “yes, but you never condemned creationism and conservatism!”

          what does fitness parity of conservative ideology mean?

          It’s bintchaos’ King Charles’ Head. Don’t worry about it. They shoehorn it into everything. They like to represent themselves (whether they mean it seriously or whether they are trying to subtly troll) as one of the few, if not the only, left-aligned on here (the Wretched Hive Of Right-Wing Conservative Commenting Scum And Villainy).

          • bintchaos says:

            miracle dictu…a veritable army of strawmen with Deiseach as the Supreme Leader.
            Now I AM impressed!
            Just like the skeleton warriors sown with dragon’s teeth every one I strike down is instantly reconstituted!

          • Deiseach says:

            a veritable army of strawmen with Deiseach as the Supreme Leader

            *chew*

            *spit*

            *bitterly clings to rusty old shotgun as a well-worn to the point of shedding pages like leaves in autumn Bible peeks out from a pocket of my dungarees, already dog-eared to a particularly anti-gay part of Leviticus or wherever the shellfish argument arises*

            (That should cover the “God, guns and gays bitter clingers”, right?)

            Ah dunno nuthin’ ’bout no armies, but ah reckon y’all hev ’bout ten seconds to git offa mah land ‘lessn y’all want a taste of Ol’ Betsy here *pats stock of shotgun in a meaningful way*

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Ol’ Betsy

            Ol’ Bessie

          • bintchaos says:

            can we please go back a bit before the straw man apocalypse…

            i’m used to being lied about on the internet and in the media and expect it. a little disappointed that the same would happen on SSC


            Who has lied about Razib Khan at SSC? Is that an accusation of moi?
            Everybody gets lied about on the internet… my example of Murray is case in point– poor old charles murray is covered with a thick carapace of internet lies, slurs, innuendo and half-truths that he can never shed.
            That’s why he’s a terrible standard-bearer for conservatism.
            Another example is that before I started commenting here people in my social networks told me that Scott was a crypto-conservative and an “idiot”.
            Neither one of which is empirically true, as it turns out.

          • John Schilling says:

            Ol’ Bessie

            ?

            “Old Betsy” is the name of Daniel Boone’s rifle in Traditional Americana, and by derivation for Maureen Birnbaum’s sword. Not aware of any appropriate “Ol’ Bessie”.

          • Aapje says:

            @bintchaos

            my example of Murray is case in point– poor old charles murray is covered with a thick carapace of internet lies, slurs, innuendo and half-truths that he can never shed. That’s why he’s a terrible standard-bearer for conservatism.

            Even the most kind, reasonable and fair person will get smeared in a highly polarized environment.

            This idea that we just need to wait for this special person who will transcend all divisiveness and be hailed as the Messiah is a pipe dream as well as a dangerous narrative where groups refuse to engage with their vilified opponents.

            Jesus ‘turn the other cheek’ of Nazareth got tortured and killed. Ghandi got murdered. Martin Luther King was murdered.

            Nice people who fight the status quo get vilified just like the not so nice people who fight the status quo.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @John Schilling

            She (Old Betsy) was Davy Crockett’s first rifle.

            I imagine “Bessie” is from confusion with the musket, the Brown Bess.

          • Deiseach says:

            Nah, ol’ Bessie is mah twin sister-cousin-wife’s shootin’ iron. This here ‘un is ol’ Betsy, ah gots her from mah granpappy. Ol’ Bessie, she come from his brother, our other granpappy.

          • Nornagest says:

            …I was sure that was going to be a Tom Lehrer song.

          • Deiseach says:

            Nornagest, you may perhaps observe that I feel as though I am the Pa Connors (and his brother, Pa Connors) to bintchaos’ documentary presenter 🙂

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Ah dunno nuthin’ ’bout no armies, but ah reckon y’all hev ’bout ten seconds to git offa mah land ‘lessn y’all want a taste of Ol’ Betsy here *pats stock of shotgun in a meaningful way*

            To those who want to make this a reference to Daniel Boone’s gun, note that a) it’s not a rifle but a shotgun, and b) whomever is performing this attempt at simulated vernacular will not be pronouncing the T in Betsy.

    • Razib says:

      also, the second author of the VOX piece is a friend (we had dinner yesterday actually). i was offended in part because VOX editors/writers are promoting them as *experts* on genetics. they are behavior geneticists and psychologists. they didn’t have experience on race and genetics, though they did on IQ.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Did you talk about the article with them? My guess is that if you asked they would probably acknowledge that the article wasn’t 100% truthful.

        • Razib says:

          it was three authors. that’s the problem. also, it’s not a scientific article so people can misconstrue things. the biggest problem is that the headline was totally misleading and 75% of ppl aren’t going to read beyond that when they ‘cite’ it.

          • Aapje says:

            the biggest problem is that the headline was totally misleading

            Welcome to the Internet 🙂

  53. leoboiko says:

    The Gharqad tree sounds like an inverted Baldur’s mistletoe.

  54. Garffon says:

    About jail population : there is no mystery. The jail population per capita at any given time is proportional to :

    Number of criminals (per capita) x Average sentence length.

    For instance, for murder, the average sentence length seems to be ~24 years in the US (source) and ~10 years in France (source, Tableau 5). There are a lot of important details ; for instance, these are the sentences, not the effective length in prison (which is closer to 6 years in France). These statistics are pretty crude, and I’ve not vetted them, but the gap is impressive enough.

    • leoboiko says:

      Is there any evidence that longer prison sentences result in more safety for the average citizen?

      • HoustonEuler says:

        My understanding is that the key point is the age when the convict is released. But some people are truly hopeless and keep committing violent crime long after their 20s.

      • Aapje says:

        Analyses on 621 homicide offenders indicate that longer imprisonment systematically increases recidivism frequency, not recidivism speed.

        Study

    • HoustonEuler says:

      Once you correct sentence length for time served, the difference between the US and Europe is less dramatic (I think it’s 10 vs 5-7 in Europe). Also worth noting: our clearance rate for murder is lower.

      But anyway, the point of the tweet was to convey in somewhat crude terms that if you want the US to have an incarceration rate comparable to Western Europe, you’d have to enact policies a lot more unpopular and potentially dangerous than not jailing drug addicts or dealers. That you might have to lessen the sentences of murderers and rapists strengthens this point.

  55. Urstoff says:

    Do more highly educated people have more brain cells or greater brain activity? Since education is correlated with IQ, to people with higher IQs have more brain cells or greater brain activity?

      • Urstoff says:

        Can you give me a three sentence summary?

        • bintchaos says:

          I’ll try–
          but its a really good book —
          Dr Haier’s words:

          1.
          Three laws– 1) no story about the brain is simple 2) no one study is definitive 3)it takes many years to sort out conflicting/inconsistent findings and establish a compelling weight of evidence.
          2.
          Intelligence is 100% a biological phenomenon.


          (my words)
          3.
          We are right on the cusp of amazing discoveries that can benefit all of mankind.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Intelligence is 100% a biological phenomenon.

            In the context of scientific research, not philosophical treatments of dualism, that statement is meaningless, I believe.

          • rlms says:

            @HeelBearCub
            Not necessarily. It’s possible that people might display different levels of “intelligence” in e.g. different social contexts.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @rlms:
            And?

            How is that not still biological?

          • rlms says:

            “intelligence”: the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills
            “biological”: relating to biology or living organisms

            Suppose a person’s ability to e.g. solve equations varies depending on whether they are doing a test or trying to calculate how much money they are owed. Then their intelligence is varying, but not on a biological basis (the living organism the intelligence belongs to is the same in each case).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @rlms:
            The basis for that variation is still biological though, yes?

            We already have the concept of verbal and mathematical IQ, but that doesn’t seem to contravene the idea that intelligence is biological. (I think intelligence is more varied than just those modes, but that is a different conversation.)

            The measurement of IQ may not be completely accurate, but I don’t think bintchaos was going down that hole either.

          • rlms says:

            @HeelBearCub
            One link of the causal chain for the variation is biological (currently, given that we don’t have AI), but I don’t think it’s the most relevant one in the situation I describe. The parts of the person-environment system you can change to affect the intelligence in my example are non-biological. If you are saying that because a brain is involved at some point, the whole thing is biological, then I could argue that intelligence is 100% a physical phenomenon because all instances of it involve atoms.

            On the other hand, the claim that “intelligence is 100% a biological phenomenon” is meaningful if you are talking about the most relevant part in the causal chain. If the situations I describe exist, then it is meaningful and wrong, but I think it’s possible that they are very infrequent. If that’s the case, a person’s intelligence (ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills) is almost always context independent, i.e. biological, and the claim is meaningful and basically correct.

          • bintchaos says:

            Ummm…guys– the title of the book is the Neuroscience of Intelligence. Dr Haier delineates the history, state of the art, and projections into the future of IQ research– he covers all those topics, like the value and accuracy of psychometrics, reproducibility, sample size, etc.
            I think the book you are looking for is the maybe something on the philosophy and ethics of IQ research?

            I wish VOX would solicit a counter opinion piece from Dr. Haier…its decidedly un-liberal of them to refuse to publish the piece I read in Quillette… but I suppose they pander to their base for clicks like politicians pander for votes…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @rlms:

            The parts of the person-environment system you can change to affect the intelligence in my example are non-biological.

            We can, for instance, affect your ability to do verbal tasks by piping back your voice to you on a one second delay. This is also “non-biological”, but I don’t think it gets at what bintchaos is saying.

            @bintchaos:

            the Neuroscience of Intelligence

            As I said, unless you are contemplating dualism (the idea that the mind is a separate, non-biological construct) the biological underpinnings of intelligence are facilely true. So I’m not sure what you are trying to say when you say “intelligence is 100% biological phenomenon”.

            This is a separate question from things like: Under what circumstances are IQ tests an accurate measure of intelligence? Are their differing cognitive abilities which are not measured very well by an IQ test? How much do environmental factors like lead, nutrition, induced stress response, or social incentives play in the formation or measurement of intelligence? How inaccurate are individual perceptions of the relative intelligence of individuals? etc.

          • Deiseach says:

            Intelligence is 100% a biological phenomenon.

            This is insulting to intelligent rocks and gaseous cloud beings!

            So we need never fear Unfriendly AI, since not being biological, it can never be intelligent? Well, ladies and gentlemen, debate over, MIRI can disband and Nick Bostrom can go find something else to worry about 🙂

          • bintchaos says:

            @HeelBearcub
            Again, I didn’t say that, Dr Haier said it, its an exact quote from the book, and part of a 3 sentence summary of the content that I was asked for.
            All your questions are answered in the book…again, I suggest reading it if you are interested. Its not very long, not very expensive and really well written. Dr. Zimmer also recommended it on his list of 10 science books to read.
            @Deiseach
            why would Unfriendly AI necessarily be non-biological? Have you heard of the Embodiment Principle for Strong AI?
            AGAIN
            the title of the book is the NEUROSCIENCE of Intelligence

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So we need never fear Unfriendly AI, since not being biological, it can never be intelligent? Well, ladies and gentlemen, debate over, MIRI can disband and Nick Bostrom can go find something else to worry about

            Are you trying to contribute, or just trying to stir up the pot?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @bintchaos:

            Again, I didn’t say that, Dr Haier said it, its an exact quote from the book, and part of a 3 sentence summary of the content that I was asked for.

            And I’m trying to get you to expand on what that means, as it doesn’t seem to convey anything useful to me about the contents of the book. I am trying to understand why Haier (or you) think this is a useful statement to make in summary of the thesis of the book.

          • bintchaos says:

            @HeelBearcub
            well…I can tell you what it means to me. Around 2006-7 Eva Jablonka postulated the four dimensions of inheritance: genetic, epigenetic, symbolic and behavioral.
            So the idea is that humans also inherit their environment. So genes and epigenes are obviously biological, and gene expression (interaction of genes and environment) results in a biological phenotype. So there are documented cases where prayer or meditation gets expressed as biology too. So I guess that doesnt rule out supernatural “intelligence” or dualism or whatever– as long it could be detected in the phenotype– but I’m not exactly sure how that could be measured or even inferred… So Neuroscience of Intelligence means the phenotype, the gene expression of Intelligence to me.

          • Deiseach says:

            HeelBearCub, do you think bintchaos is arguing in good faith? I’m happy to stand back and leave you at it, but even on the best reading, a flat statement like “Intelligence is 100% a biological phenomenon” is not going to go unchallenged if we are seriously discussing is AI (a) likely to happen soon (b) likely to be a threat.

            If “intelligence” is biological, that a priori rules out any non-biological intelligence, and anything (we can’t even call it an entity if we accept this premise) that seems to be intelligent or acting in an intelligent way (e.g. our AI) is not, it’s just some brute-force Chinese Room with a whole heap of computational power that it’s not really doing anything meaningful or directed with.

            For the record, I don’t think bintchaos is serious in all their comments. Some of them are genuine attempts at communication, but some are meant as nothing more than provocations – to my reading, anyway. It may not strike you in the same way.

          • bintchaos says:

            And now we go direct to ad-hom…
            how many times do I have to go through this?
            I was asked to summarize the book in 3 lines– “Intelligence is 100% biological” is a direct quote from Dr Haier’s book– on the first page of the preface he says that is the viewpoint that suffuses THIS BOOK. Its his viewpoint.
            I agree with him, that is what HeelBearCub asked me, it fits my personal views on intelligence and heredity.
            heres more Dr Haier, maybe this will help

            “genetic or not, influenced by environment or not, the relevant biology TAKES PLACE IN THE BRAIN.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @bintchaos:
            As I said, I think Deiseach is stirring the pot.

            As to Haier, I think I understand what you/he meant by this at this point, but let me ask the following. Can I summarize that point as “Intelligence is very complex, and resists understanding, but this does not mean that it is mysterious and therefore inscrutable. We can study it and ultimately we will be able to understand how biological effects lead to intelligence”.

            @Deiseach:
            In the context of this discussion, AI is simply a red herring, a non sequitur. We are talking about intelligence as we currently experience here on earth, not intelligence that may be artificially created in the future.

          • bintchaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            “Intelligence is very complex, and resists understanding, but this does not mean that it is mysterious and therefore inscrutable. We can study it and ultimately we will be able to understand how biological effects lead to intelligence”.


            That is a really excellent summary– did you honestly craft all that from my poor impoverished 3 line summary?
            Still think you should read the book.
            So is @Deiseach permanently my implacable enemy or is this some sort of ritual hazing and witch testing that all new SCC commenters go though?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @bintchaos:
            Deiseach has her particular subjects that she gets very, very irritated about.

            And sometimes she is like Fender Tremolo in Jean Claude Van Damme’s “Cyborg”

            I like the misery!” (noise warning)

            ETA:
            Part of what is happening is that you are assuming too low a level of intellectual engagement on the part of your interlocutors.

            Regardless of how obvious you think something is, you have to do something like provide proof. Otherwise you will get continually buffeted by those asking for you to substantiate your claims.

          • Deiseach says:

            HeelBearCub, I personally do not believe in the Wicked Demon or Fairy Godmother AI models, but for those who are legitimately concerned that we are moving very rapidly towards creating a machine intelligence that will be a true intelligence – that it will be at human level – that it will recursively self-improve and surpass human intelligence – and that the time to worry about all this is now, not when it’s staring us in the face – then the question of “is intelligence inherently biological?” is extremely important.

            If it is, then we do not need to worry about “artificial intelligence”, since any intelligent machine will only have the semblance of intelligence and not true intelligence, therefore will always be under human control and guidance.

            If it’s not true, then we may have a problem.

            For what it’s worth, I think true intelligence probably is biological, but a flat statement of “An authority says this in his book” would not, I think, be acceptable to you as the last word on the topic needing no further development or discussion?

            But I have no interest in any boiling pots at the moment, I confine myself to being the looker-on as others engage with bintchaos.

  56. LHN says:

    The first question that occurs to me on the cellular phone thing is “what about everywhere else?” Among countries without our FCC, it looks like the first cellular systems only preceded us by four years at most (Japan in 1979, then multiple Scandinavian countries in 1981, then the first US system in 1983) with most following afterward.

    My impression is that most countries had more in the way of state-run phone and broadcast services rather than the regulated near-monopoly of US midcentury phone service and regulated oligopoly of broadcast. But the fact that cellular seems to have started to hit steam-engine time in the 1980s everywhere at least suggests that specific regulatory decisions in the US may not have been the primary factor preventing its development earlier.

    If mobile telephony had been visibly cheaper and higher-bandwidth elsewhere, that seems likely to have produced additional pressure (particularly from wealthy or corporate users on those mobile phone waiting lists) to reallocate spectrum away from TV broadcasters (as it eventually did, albeit much later).

  57. Anon. says:

    And yet Bahnik & Vranka do not cite you. In my culture this is considered a “dick move”.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      The standard is to only cite works whose results you directly use (although this gets really hazy when you want to refer to another study into something vaguely-related-seeming).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t see it that way – if I become interested in depression after hearing a TV program about it, do I have to cite that program in every article I publish about depression later?

  58. Christopher Hazell says:

    Haier:

    But they neglect that racists do not depend on science nor do they respond to it. I am not a moral philosopher but I believe we as researchers have an obligation to collect data and offer interpretations that are testable empirically and logically in the market place of ideas. This is how we progress. If we can change environments or genes to increase IQ in individuals, we have a moral obligation to do so because more intelligence is better than less.

    Emphasis mine.

    I think this is a pretty interesting paragraph, when contrasted with that Sam[]zdat review of “seeing like a state.”

    One thing I would like to see from intelligence researchers is pretty much any understanding of or concern with the history of the last several centuries. There are reasons, real, actual, compelling reasons, that people start to squirm in their seat when they hear a scientist say “If we can change environments or genes to increase IQ in individuals, we have a moral obligation to do so because more intelligence is better than less.”

    African Americans, for example, have a long history with our “moral obligation” to “change environments” for their benefit. Ask some of them how that turned out.

    For the most part, the intelligence researchers I read about seem to regard a sentence like “If we can change environments or genes to increase IQ in individuals, we have a moral obligation to do so because more intelligence is better than less.” as being so obviously, self-evidently true and uncomplicated, that they can’t even fathom what the complications might be.

    And if they can’t imagine or fathom the complications and ways such a program can go terribly wrong, I have no confidence in their ability to prevent it from going terribly wrong.

    • bintchaos says:

      Unless there is a totalitarian world order, someone, somewhere will create an enhanced human–
      Stephen Hawking

      You can’t suppress science, and the Chinese will do it anyway.

      • Christopher Hazell says:

        Okay, so, the other reason I’m not confident in the ability of intelligence researchers and their devotees to respond to actual social problems their research might cause:

        The fact that they read any criticism of their field as a call for utter suppression of the field.

        I can’t help but notice that when our host talks about AI threat, very few, if any, of the commenters here go “Oh, so you think we should just stop all AI research everywhere?” But when I say “There are risks in intelligence research that are worth facing head-on, rather than dismissing” several people go “Oh, so you want to try to stop all intelligence research everywhere?”

        Much like AI, the fact that genetic engineering and various intelligence boosting processes are likely to become more common and available over the next century is MORE reason to squarely confront and think about the dangers now, not a reason to ignore those dangers.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I can’t help but notice that when our host talks about AI threat, very few, if any, of the commenters here go “Oh, so you think we should just stop all AI research everywhere?”

          Because it’s been discussed, and everyone knows it’s impractical and also that he doesn’t want that (I think).

          On the other hand, a lot of people DO want intelligence research suppressed and throwing up vague and dire warnings about risk is a time-honored way of suppressing something. So the priors are different.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m thinking maybe the riots and death threats to people who published widely-read discussions of heritability of intelligence or racial differences in IQ probably felt, to a lot of researchers, like people trying to suppress the whole area.

          • I’m thinking maybe the riots and death threats to people who published widely-read discussions of heritability of intelligence or racial differences in IQ probably felt, to a lot of researchers, like people trying to suppress the whole area.

            Citations?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think he’s referring to the riot at Middlebury when Charles Murray tried to speak. I don’t think there have been too many riots over AI research (yet).

          • albatross11 says:

            Also Arthur Jensen and Edward O Wilson got riots and death threats in the past. (For awhile, I think Jensen basically had a cop assigned to him to protect him.) I think Linda Gottfriedson has had some less serious but still unpleasant fallout from her work in this area, as well.

            This blog post is an argument for suppressing the whole line of inquiry. He’s essentially making the argument that to even ask these questions is socially destructive and so should be forbidden. Nor is this unique to him.

            So I don’t think it’s crazy for scientists to feel like people are trying to suppress their area of research, when they’re getting death threats, riots, and prominent people arguing that their area of research should be suppressed.

    • AnarchyDice says:

      There was actually a really great post here about two months ago that talks about this problem, but from the perspective of the meta-point about outsiders not recognizing that there common criticism is already being acknowledged. https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/04/07/yes-we-have-noticed-the-skulls/

      So, while I can’t recall any specific treatises by muggle-realist scientists about noticing the skulls, I know plenty of other fields where people asking experts if they know about the skulls. The poor track record of outsiders knowing how well experts recognize their own skull-laden paths makes me unsure if this is a great way to criticize muggle realists.

      • Christopher Hazell says:

        Well, except our own host really doesn’t, as far as I can tell, seem to have noticed these particular skulls. Very few commenters here seem to have, either.

        Somebody who has noticed the skulls wouldn’t throw out a sentence like “If we can change environments or genes to increase IQ in individuals, we have a moral obligation to do so because more intelligence is better than less.” because that’s where all the skulls are. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and we’ve traveled that particular road to hell quite a few times in the recent past.

        Sure, perhaps there is some sophisticated thinking along these lines is going on in the intelligence research field. I would certainly be happy if you would point me towards it!

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I thought the skulls were more along the lines of “since we can come up with reasons including but not limited to scientific ones why group B is inferior to group A then we can feel justified eliminating or enslaving or generally not caring about group B.” I don’t think Hitler was interested in using scientific racism to improve Jews.

          • I thought the skulls were more along the lines of “since we can come up with reasons including but not limited to scientific ones why group B is inferior to group A then we can feel justified eliminating or enslaving or generally not caring about group B.”

            That doesn’t work logically and it doesn’t provide a good explanation of the history.

            Logically, if group B is inferior to group A on average, that does not justify eliminating or enslaving group B. To make such an argument you need to claim differences so great that almost all members of B are inferior to almost all members of A. That isn’t true (unless A are humans and B chimpanzees), so honest research won’t show it.

            Historically, we have lots of cases where slaves were from the same ethnic group as owners, lots of cases where some members of an ethnic group were slaves and others high status, even cases where some slaves were high status. So it doesn’t look as though the argument you sketched plays an important role in justifications of slavery, although no doubt it sometimes got used for the purpose.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            so honest research won’t show it.

            But we’re not talking about honest research, we’re talking about dishonest twisting of honest research. Isn’t that where the skulls are?

            Where are the skulls in intelligence research?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So it doesn’t look as though the argument you sketched plays an important role in justifications of slavery, although no doubt it sometimes got used for the purpose.

            The general case doesn’t apply, as we are talking about justifications for slavery (and other unequal treatments) in a world that is post-enlightenment. (Invalid) justifications are contextual.

            The question is, are their relevant skulls in our recent history, and I don’t think you are denying that there are. That the ancient Greeks or Romans or whomever kept slaves under a completely different understanding of right and wrong is largely irrelevant.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve heard that in the ancient world, it was considered morally normal for people to be enslaved for something like having the bad luck to be conquered.

            Fast forward to the enlightenment, when there was supposed to be some reason for treating theoretically equal people people very badly, and you get theories that some groups of people are so inferior that being enslaved is doing them a favor by civilizing them.

          • Aapje says:

            Dan Carlin claims that this may have been an improvement in morals, as this narrative excluded large numbers of people from being slaves.

            BTW. some people believe that 1 in 3 people in Italy were slaves during (part of) Roman times.

    • albatross11 says:

      Environmental interventions to raise IQ are commonplace and ongoing, and seem like a uniformly positive story. That’s adding supplements to food to get rid of deficiency diseases that lower IQ, widespread vaccination, public sanitation, and public assistance programs to make sure pregnant women and small children get enough to eat. Add in environmental regulations to decrease the number of poisons in the environment, banning lead paint and leaded gasoline, education that’s both free and mandatory, etc. Where is the nightmare scenario here, again?

      The nasty bit of history here w.r.t. genes is eugenics. And there were programs to sterilize people thought inferior, which were genuinely awful. (They also wouldn’t have worked to raise average IQ even given centuries to work with, given what they were doing.) So, let’s not give the state the power to forcibly sterilize people, even though we recognize that a lot of stuff is heritable.

      There were also the Nazis, who murdered a lot of people they considered inferior. If your claim is that to know the heritability of intelligence or to desire to increase it is to suddenly transform into Hitler, I think you need to provide a little more evidence.

      • Christopher Hazell says:

        “If your claim is that to know the heritability of intelligence or to desire to increase it is to suddenly transform into Hitler, I think you need to provide a little more evidence.”

        …I have a serious question, and I don’t really know how to phrase it so it doesn’t sound indignant or sarcastic or rhetorical, but here goes:

        Why would you think that was my claim?

        P.S. My actual claim is that there is a huge excluded middle between “Intelligence research will inevitably be used positively and help everybody!” and “Intelligence research automagically turns you into Hitler.”

        That reveiw of “Seeing like a state” goes into that middle quite a bit, much more eloquently than I could.

        • albatross11 says:

          Sorry, I guess I misread your intent. In fact, I’m still not too clear on what you’re trying to say.

          Clearly, if you make any statement of goals without qualifying it, you might be ignoring the dangers that exist in going too far toward achieving your goals. If you say “If we can change environments or genes to increase IQ in individuals, we have a moral obligation to do so because more intelligence is better than less.”, you can assume that implies forcible eugenics or making genetic supermen and raising them in a creche or some other weird awful thing. But more likely, the author was thinking in terms of the kind of interventions we’ve done successfully in the past, like getting everyone their shots and making sure pregnant women and small children aren’t malnourished.

          Now, my impression is that you believe that intelligence research and public knowledge of it are likely to lead to terrible things happening. Can you explain why? I know there were eugenics programs in many countries, and they were often quite nasty. (Though also generally quite limited in scope.) Is that what you’re worried will be forthcoming if intelligence research continues and is more widely known? Or is there some other downside you’re worried about?

    • bbartlog says:

      The removal of lead from gasoline was motivated in large part by its well-documented negative effects on intelligence. Not that lead poisoning doesn’t also cause other problems but the IQ drop is really a pretty big deal.
      And as it happens it had a somewhat disproportionate impact on black people.
      There were earlier environmental interventions which, while again not specifically targeted to help black people, had a large beneficial effect. Thinking of hookworm mitigation/eradication in the US, for example. Or iodized salt.
      Considering these examples, I’d argue that *if* we actually had some environmental intervention at hand to increase IQ, it would actually be evil not to use it. It’s only because we have already done all the obvious things, and we’re not sure whether our currently contemplated interventions would even be effective, that the question is even up for serious debate.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I know, for example, that they are still working on eradicating things like hookworm in black communities in NC (that were left off the expansion of city water).

    • Christopher Hazell says:

      Conrad Honcho

      I thought the skulls were more along the lines of “since we can come up with reasons including but not limited to scientific ones why group B is inferior to group A then we can feel justified eliminating or enslaving or generally not caring about group B.” I don’t think Hitler was interested in using scientific racism to improve Jews.

      No. Wrong. Very wrong. Well, okay, right, but a massively, dangerously incomplete picture.

      If I could sum up my argument in as few words as possible, it would be:

      Good intentions do not guarantee good outcomes.

      To expand it a little more:

      Efforts to improve the lot of a “less able” or “less intelligent” population often radically, catastrophically backfire. And, relatedly, often, hatred does not drive discriminatory practices; rather, discriminatory practices drive hatred.

      Further, I would argue that the humanities have found ways to explain how and why these good-natured interventions fail, and that it behooves us to internalize some of this knowledge, lest history repeat itself.

      How? Well, the lazy explanation I keep coming up with is this. You know how you and others keep going, “Hey, Hitler wasn’t interested in improving the Jews!” and maybe notice how I keep not bringing up Nazis, but instead bring up American chattel slavery? This is because chattel slavery was sold, and conceived of, as a means of improving Africans. Blacks are like children, and whites are like adults. This means that whites have a responsibility to steward blacks. To bring blacks to a civilized land, and channel them into the kind of work and life that their childlike minds are able to comprehend. We can no more give blacks complete freedom than we can give a baby complete freedom, to do so would be unutterably irresponsible.

      Many justifications for slavery read just like this, and it’s really very, very important to note that at no time does “I hate black people and want to hurt them!” enter into the argument. Slavery is not an excuse to hurt blacks or a base profit motive, it is a moral imperative that stems from our love for and concern for blacks.

      Similarly, the Soviet planners didn’t starve and immesserate a bunch of Hungarians because of their burning hatred for Hungarians.

      You simply cannot erase the risk of similar disasters by teaching people not to hate, because hatred was not the motivation in the first place.

      Ribbonfarm’s review of Seeing Like A State describes a certain kind of failure mode for well-intentioned interventions.

      Here is the recipe:

      Look at a complex and confusing reality, such as the social dynamics of an old city
      Fail to understand all the subtleties of how the complex reality works
      Attribute that failure to the irrationality of what you are looking at, rather than your own limitations
      Come up with an idealized blank-slate vision of what that reality ought to look like
      Argue that the relative simplicity and platonic orderliness of the vision represents rationality
      Use authoritarian power to impose that vision, by demolishing the old reality if necessary
      Watch your rational Utopia fail horribly

      The big mistake in this pattern of failure is projecting your subjective lack of comprehension onto the object you are looking at, as “irrationality.” We make this mistake because we are tempted by a desire for legibility.

      The Sam[]zdat review goes into greater detail on this question, as does Scott’s review. I’m sure the book itself is even more comprehensive.

      If you read Sam[]zdat’s review, or Orwell’s essay “Shooting an Elephant”, or Kipling’s poem “White Man’s Burden”, you’ll see the way this process of management is not the result of hatred, but one of the causes of hatred. You begin to hate the irrational savages who refuse to be managed by your schemes, no matter how carefully you explain and demonstrate that everything you are doing is for them. The frustration builds into a combination of resentment and disdain.

      These are not obscure processes; they have been well articulated by many, many writers.

      Here’s a simple failure mode I can see for intelligence research:

      “Smart people should be in charge of everything; this much is obvious. The only problem with that is that, until now, we just haven’t been able to identify smart people. Our new research allows us to do this, allowing us to create a true meritocracy. Hooray!

      Hmm, it seems like a lot of the less intelligent people are rebelling. Their inability to accept our sensible new rules demonstrates their lack of intelligence, and therefore, even more strongly then before, demonstrates the need for the smart people to have large amounts of control. Some repression will have to happen, but it’s for everybody’s own good, after all.”

      One of the catch-22s of this dynamic is that if managing people fails, that just shows that the people are so dysfunctional they need even more management. Black people and Native Americans have a lot of experience with this; there has been no time in our history in which they haven’t been heavily managed and controlled by the government, and yet the conclusion isn’t “Maybe stop managing so much and see what happoens?” But rather, “This just shows how intractable the problem is. Maybe we need to start giving them intelligence boosting drugs in the womb!” or “I guess this shows that even with expert management the problem is unsolvable, and we really ought to start realigning our society to deal with the fact that they’ll just always be on a lower tier than whites.”

      Why do I think that might happen? BECAUSE IT HAS HAPPENED CONSTANTLY THROUGHOUT THE LAST SEVERAL CENTURIES.

      This process happens from people all over the political spectrum and is not, I repeat, NOT motivated by outrageous hatred. Since it isn’t motivated by outrageous hatred, elimination of outrageous hatred will not stop it from repeating.

      And what I want is not for the government to halt all intelligence research, and it is certainly not for anybody to get beat up or worse for participating in such research.

      What I want is for somebody in the field, or even an interested third party, to be able to mirror this concern back to me. To say, “I can see how even eliminating prejudice does not mean that our policies will be beneficial or use intelligence research well.” or, hell, even, “I see what you are saying, but I disagree because…”

      What I get, though, is me saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and a large number of people going “Yeah, but this time we have good intentions so we won’t get to hell.”

      • albatross11 says:

        Christopher Hazell:

        The scenario you describe of intelligent people imposing more and more restrictive control on the less intelligent people is described as a very bad outcome we should try to avoid, at the end of _The Bell Curve_. They described your scenario with the term “The Custodial State.” Basically like a giant reservation for the low-IQ underclass. And they were absolutely clear that this was a really bad outcome that we needed to avoid.

        That’s at least one instance of someone close to this field not only noticing the skulls, but also trying to warn people about them and think how they can be avoided. (Murray later wrote a book advocating a UBI partly on the basis of this concern, and his more recent book _Coming Apart_ is about evidence of ongoing cognitive stratification and what it implies for the country’s future. He’s been *staring* at those skulls for decades, now, asking what can be done to avoid them.)

        Note that demanding that he stop talking about such divisive and disturbing stuff wouldn’t have helped *at all* in trying to avoid those particular skulls. If Herrenstein and Murray were right, cognitive stratification is what we’re guaranteed to get, more and more, with all that implies.

        • Randy M says:

          Ironically, this reminds me of the end state of increasing automation as described in the recently link short story Mana.

      • Efforts to improve the lot of a “less able” or “less intelligent” population often radically, catastrophically backfire.

        For one striking example, the treatment of Native American children by Canada, one of the world’s more civilized countries. The basic theory, as best I can tell, was that their problem was their culture, so the solution was to take them away from their families, ship them across the country ton institutions where they were forbidden to speak their own language, thus solving the problem in a single generation.

        • albatross11 says:

          It sure seems like the problem here is not trying to figure out the causes of observed differences, it’s giving some people vast power to play around with the lives of others, either for their own good or for the good of the larger society. That also applies to the nasty history of coercive eugenics in several countries, including the US.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Well, yes, this is why I reject rationality and embrace Catholicism: man becomes enamored of his own construction, disaster results. It’s just the story of the Tower of Babel.

        But I think you’re putting the cart before the horse with your slavery example. No one set out to “help” Africans with slavery. They set out to get slaves, and justified it later with “oh we’re helping them.”

        Better examples might be colonialism. But there’s a mixed bag there…some colonies came out better off. The Belgian Congo, well…Yes We’ve Noticed The Hands?

        • rlms says:

          “volcano death cults”
          How many of them were there?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Eh I edited that out because I couldn’t find the link I wanted. Kindly disregard.

        • albatross11 says:

          Imagine a world where nobody had ever come up with the idea that nonwhites were less smart or civilized than whites. In that world, what is the probability that whites who were making piles of money from their sugar and cotton plantations wouldn’t have come up with some entirely different justification for slavery? We didn’t start out with racial superiority theories and then somehow invent slavery and colonialism and ethnic cleansing and genocide to apply them. Instead, we[1] used slaves because it paid, and we colonized other lands because we were strong and they were weak, and we pushed natives off the land so we could take it because we were numerous and more technologically advanced than the natives (and they were susceptible to a lot of our diseases). And then we spun up some justifications for those things, applying God, society, science, the law, destiny, etc., as needed.

          [1] We meaning humankind; none of us here did any of those things.

          • Deiseach says:

            In that world, what is the probability that whites who were making piles of money from their sugar and cotton plantations wouldn’t have come up with some entirely different justification for slavery?

            Isn’t that how it started? The native indigenous inhabitants were deemed unsuited for the work as they kept rebelling or dying in captivity; the imported indentured white labourers kept succumbing to tropical diseases and besides, they were white too and eventually had to be set free at the end of their contracts; but black African labour was both physically inured to the conditions and survived better in captivity?

            And then after a few generations, especially when the Enlightenment swings around, it becomes “Well, the reason we keep slaves is because… (they’re natural inferiors)(slavery gives them a chance to come in contact with our superior civilisation)(the Bible says so) and not because we’re making loads of money off this”.

          • Christopher Hazell says:

            And then we spun up some justifications for those things, applying God, society, science, the law, destiny, etc., as needed.

            “As needed” is an interesting way of putting it. One ongoing question I have, in general, is what purpose justifications serve, particularly institutional or society-wide justifications.

            Or, actually, let me respond to this question:

            In that world, what is the probability that whites who were making piles of money from their sugar and cotton plantations wouldn’t have come up with some entirely different justification for slavery?

            With my own question: Why would they need to “come up with” a justification for slavery other than what you assert to be the actual justification? In the world you assert, what is to prevent the whites making piles of money on their sugar and cotton plantations from simply saying “Slavery makes us money and we have enough power to maintain it as an institution”?

            Even if we don’t know the exact answer to that question, I think you and I both agree that there was some kind of mental block preventing those white people, in that era, from directly expressing or conceiving of slavery in such a nakedly selfish way. For whatever reason, they (to use your word again!) needed a particular moral scaffolding, a justification other than selfishness.

            Here is a related thought: Why weren’t weak or economically destitute white people also exactly as subject to chattel slavery as black people? If the motive is simply profit, the racial angle doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. In other words, if you say, “Well, they wanted to have black slaves, so they came up with the idea that black people were inferior” you are ignoring a prior question, namely, “Why did they want black slaves in particular?” To answer with “Well, white people couldn’t be kept as chattel slaves” leads us to ask: Why not? Because white people as a group were stronger? Well, what led to the ideology that allowed Americans to conceive of “white” as a unified category, rather than stratifying whiteness into free and slave castes?

            I think it’s far too simplistic to say either “Well, somebody invented an ideology of black inferiority, and that naturally led to slavery” or, “Well, they wanted to have slaves, so naturally they invented an arbitrary reason to have slaves”. I believe the moral and economic reasoning of slavery fed into each other, as part of a complex series of positive feedback loops.

            Here’s something else: I’ve seen a lot of libertarians argue that racial discrimination would rapidly disappear in a free market, because it’s simply not profitable to arbitrarily exclude huge numbers of customers and laborers from your business. If we work under this logic, and under the logic that chattel slavery was itself mainly about profit, then it seems to me that anti-black racism should have rapidly disappeared from the US following the abolition of slavery. After all, once slavery was abolished, the profit motive for discrimination disappeared, and was in fact replaced with a new profit motive that demanded the rapid extinction of anti-black racism.

            And yet far from disappearing, it continued to fester. The idea of racial segregation remained very popular for a century or so after slavery was abolished, and still has its adherents here in the states even today. Even if the ideology of black inferiority was merely an invention to legitimize slavery, it somehow managed to significantly outlive that institution.

            To me that shows that the ideology did and does matter, that the form it takes can’t be dismissed by saying “Well, somebody would have invented something to justify slavery, so don’t worry about it.”

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I think you and I both agree that there was some kind of mental block preventing those white people, in that era, from directly expressing or conceiving of slavery in such a nakedly selfish way.

            yeah, it’s called cognitive dissonance

            a more convincing reason to tell yourself and others is probably helpful in this regard, but ultimately it’s all cognitive dissonance

            Here is a related thought: Why weren’t weak or economically destitute white people also exactly as subject to chattel slavery as black people?

            Here is a related thought: why weren’t poor black freedmen in the U.S. routinely enslaved?

            The bottom line is that slavery mostly came from countries who sold slaves. African countries were selling slaves. There’s also the Arab slave trade but I don’t think that’s relevant.

            I’ve seen a lot of libertarians argue that racial discrimination would rapidly disappear in a free market, because it’s simply not profitable to arbitrarily exclude huge numbers of customers and laborers from your business. If we work under this logic, and under the logic that chattel slavery was itself mainly about profit, then it seems to me that anti-black racism should have rapidly disappeared from the US following the abolition of slavery.

            The idea of racial segregation remained very popular for a century or so after slavery was abolished, and still has its adherents here in the states even today.

            So, two points: Firstly, was it popular among business owners? You seem to be conflating anti-black racism generally and segregation specifically as well. But I bet it wasn’t that popular among business owners.

            Secondly, a failure mode of the free market is cartels. And this is a classic example of cartelization: all business owners agree not to serve blacks (or whites, depending) and the government even enshrines it in law. But outside of this, it doesn’t last.

          • Matt M says:

            So, two points: Firstly, was it popular among business owners? You seem to be conflating anti-black racism generally and segregation specifically as well. But I bet it wasn’t that popular among business owners.

            IIRC, the infamous “Plessy v Ferguson” was about a rail line suing the state to try and overturn it’s segregation policy. Business wanted to integrate, because it was cheaper. The state said it was literally illegal to allow blacks to sit in the same cars as whites.

          • Loquat says:

            To answer with “Well, white people couldn’t be kept as chattel slaves” leads us to ask: Why not? Because white people as a group were stronger? Well, what led to the ideology that allowed Americans to conceive of “white” as a unified category, rather than stratifying whiteness into free and slave castes?

            Two points in response to this:

            1) If you wanted to get your hands on a large number of white slaves in the relevant time period, where were you going to get them? As far as I can tell, there wasn’t much white-on-white slavery going on in Europe at the time. The major exception seems to be Russia, which had legal slavery until 1723, but if you want people to do hard labor in the tropics equatorial Africans are probably a better choice than Russians. There was of course substantial usage of indentured servants from Britain, but those legally had to be freed after their term was up and since they were British citizens it seems likely the British government would have taken a dim view of any attempt to convert them into permanent slaves en masse.

            2) It’s also highly relevant that Europeans were mostly Christian, while the available Africans were mainly non-Christian; the idea that you weren’t allowed to keep a fellow Christian as a slave was sufficiently widespread in the early years that some state legislatures found it necessary to pass laws specifying that being baptized as a Christian would not make a slave free.

          • Christopher Hazell says:

            It’s hard for to tell if the three of you understand that you’re agreeing with me, so I’ll just say, yeah, Loquot, Matt M and AnonYEmous:

            Totally to everything you’re saying.

            I was answering a question Albatross11 asked, namely:

            Imagine a world where nobody had ever come up with the idea that nonwhites were less smart or civilized than whites. In that world, what is the probability that whites who were making piles of money from their sugar and cotton plantations wouldn’t have come up with some entirely different justification for slavery?

            And the answer to that, it seems to me, is that the probability is actually pretty high, or, more precisely, that the question is not quite formulated correctly.

            The racial and national politics of the times channeled the ideas people had about what kinds of slavery were possible or permissible. Despite the fact that the profit motive remains the same, those slavers were, in fact, not able to come up with a justification for enslaving their fellow Europeans.

            Of course slavery has a profit motive, but I don’t believe you can therefore say that all the other motives are secondary or irrelevant; they actually exert powerful influence on what we think of as “legitimate” or “illegitimate” means of generating profit.

            Let me go even further: The profitability of slavery will remain pretty consistent until automation replaces us. The less you can pay your workers, the more profits to keep for the company, right? And yet there is no powerful bloc of people arguing for the return of chattel, or any other kind of slavery. There would be huge amounts of money in it for very powerful people, and yet, in fact, today we do not see a constantly shifting set of justifications for such a practice, or, in fact, any attempt to justify it at all outside of a few crackpots.

            I can’t find a way to explain that without resorting to an ideology other than pure profit. The ideology of racial inferiority (As well as a number of other ideologies!) really did matter, really did do important work in creating a climate that allowed slavery, and in determining what form slavery took.

          • Despite the fact that the profit motive remains the same, those slavers were, in fact, not able to come up with a justification for enslaving their fellow Europeans.

            Galley slavery existed into the 18th century, as did penal slavery more generally.

            On the question of profitability … . My reading of the historical evidence is that galley slavery, invented in the Renaissance, was profitable, from the standpoint of the navies that employed galleys, other forms of penal slavery mostly were not. The historical evidence suggests that, once galley slavery, was invented, Mediterranean powers stopped executing able bodied male convicts and condemned them to the galleys instead. More generally, the literature on New World slavery suggests that slave labor was competitive with free labor only for gang labor crops such as cotton and sugar where the cost of guarding and monitoring was relatively low, not more generally. Galley slavery fits that pattern.

            During the American Revolution, when the English no longer had a convenient destination for transporting indentured servants, they tried penal slavery with the convicts in hulks on the Thames engaged in work on the river. They apparently found it to be a losing proposition.

            So far as transportation was concerned, the British crown had to subsidize it to make it workable–on average, the amount an indentured servant could be sold for was not enough to cover the full cost.

            On the other hand, I suspect that slavery would be profitable today, because productivity is much higher and the cost of feeding and guarding slaves isn’t.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Christopher Hazell, I agree with your general points.

            However, “If we work under this logic, and under the logic that chattel slavery was itself mainly about profit, then it seems to me that anti-black racism should have rapidly disappeared from the US following the abolition of slavery.”

            Slavery didn’t go away– it was brought back by imprisoning black men under grossly unjust laws like changing employment without permission (which I think could turn a job into de facto slavery) or not being employed, and then renting the prisoners out to white farmers and business owners.

            Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II

  59. poipoipoi says:

    So as for the housing thing, it’s not just a price thing. It’s a generational class thing.

    Price/Income in Dallas is 4. Rent/Income is 30% and used to be 23% before we banned building on a national level in 2006. (Not joking. Sub-Great Depression per-capita for a decade).

    So in Dallas, you pay a third in taxes, a quarter to rent, scrape together 80% (aka 20% down) over a decade or so (assuming you didn’t FHA a 3% down loan and pay PMI the first few years) and then go buy a nice little $200,000 house out in some suburb.

    And in NYC, it’s 8. Which like yeah no, that’s 3 years of after-tax income on the down, but is still doable in the long run, especially when wages are that high. I mean, we’re paying you an extra 30 or 40 grand a year for sticking around the Metro and that number only goes up when you start talking about people like computer programmers. And I’d rather be out 40% of $90K than 30% of $50K.

    The problem is that 75% of NYC is co-ops. Who want 150% down in liquidity.

    So if you want to buy your million-dollar condo because you got lucky at your last company and now you have a couple hundred grand in the bank, they won’t let you in.

    If you’re the wrong class, they won’t let you in.
    If you don’t have a rich uncle, they won’t let you in.
    If….

    So there’s no hope. Just a hereditary property-owning class controlling all access to the exclusive areas forever.

    And you can’t even get lucky enough to buy your way in.

    • baconbacon says:

      we banned building on a national level in 2006. (Not joking. Sub-Great Depression per-capita for a decade).

      Explanation + citation.

      • poipoipoi says:

        Housing starts fell off 80% between 2005 and 2008 in large part because of GSE scandals (Because 30-year mortgages are insane on their face, so you have to get government backing).

        http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/07/yes-virginia-our-housing-stock-is-now-way-way-below-trend.html

        And that’s from 2011.

        Somewhat better chart that puts it in population context is here:

        https://idiosyncraticwhisk.blogspot.com/2016/03/housing-part-126-homebuilding-and-rent.html

        • baconbacon says:

          I too can support any conclusion I want if you let me define (without explanation even) demand.

        • baconbacon says:

          Most proxies for demand used by Erdman and Delong are insufficient. Total population is of poor (at best) value. Even population growth is often misleading when it comes to housing, using “trends” in housing production without looking at the underlying demographics is an easy way to get the sign wrong.

          The first point is that a newborn doesn’t need their own house, they need a small room inside a house, the additional ‘demand’ for housing shows up 15-25 years after a population boom starts* in most cases. Population growth rates in the US bottomed out in the mid 80s at about half of what it was annually in 1960 and even less than that when compared to ’45-’59. A person expecting a housing bust in 2000 due to demographics had a good case going for them on this point.

          Secondly household’s have altered in profile dramatically over the years. The average household size fell from ~3.7 to ~2.6 between world war 2 and now. Basically that entire fall occurred between 1945 and 1990 and represents significant demand over that period. Comparing an era (1990-present) without such a boost to that era is going to throw off your calculations.

          Where the houses are built also matters. Gross household starts aren’t the same as net. If you are building a single family home in NYC you are probably tearing down an old single family home for the space. If you are building a single family home in Phoenix you are probably just building a new home (this goes for the general age of the stock as well, though what metric to use is complicated), not replacing an old home.

          What type of housing is in demand also screws things up a lot, if apartment living comes back in vogue for whatever reason then multifamily units are going to cover a lot of the single unit homes (and multifamily starts don’t tell us much unless we know their average size, and I don’t know if that information is readily available). If more people are going to college or living in communal situations (ie nursing homes) then single family starts are less telling.

          In short there were at least two major demographic headwinds against single family starts, and maybe 4-5, with none I know of (though my knowledge isn’t deep enough for that to mean a whole lot) pushing for a major construction boom.

          Delong’s graphs on single family starts are biased up by a major building boom during the 70s and 80s due to the baby boomers starting families of their own and smaller household size. Drawing a trend line through these two events and extrapolating leads him and Erdman to the conclusion that housing starts were only a little to high during the 2000s. The bubble, from the standpoint of housing starts/housing demand, probably started during the early to mid 90s.

          *an immigration boom would have a different profile, and lots of population booms are part native birth rates and part immigration, and a birth boom will change the profile of what types of housing are demanded.

          • baconbacon says:

            To continue:

            If you get the magnitude of the housing bubble wrong or the timing (or both) then you will draw incorrect conclusions about its cause and fallout. Let’s just say that the housing bubble caused ~3.5 million excess homes to be built and that Delong coincidentally wrote that post at the moment when the market adjustment had evened out the excesses of the boom. Delong’s conclusion is that since ~1 million extra units were built you should roughly see a bounce back in 2009 as building picks back up. He will then go looking for explanations for the elongated recession in the 2007-2010 time period. If instead the boom is cleared out in 2011 then he should be looking at what happened in 2009-2011 to explain the recession.

            The entire argument is built on a non rigorous definition of demand (it also often conflates price and cost, which aren’t close to the same thing for housing). Erdman is much (much, much, much) better than Delong on this (and basically every) axis, but if my description of the housing bubble is closer to reality than his it throws off the majority of his conclusions.

          • poipoipoi says:

            Hence why the first chart in that Erdmann link is:

            # of housing units per adult not in prison over 16 vs. median rent/median income ratios.

            A ratio that was in fact falling at every point since 1991 except for a small blip during the “Housing Bubble”.

            And rents were more or less following this, rising at the exact rate at which the supply of housing was falling.

            Unless you know something about household composition that I don’t (Read: That the single motherhood crisis is getting noticeably better, and thus reducing households/adult), that suggests that we’re missing 7 Million homes since 1991 and 5 Million since 2008.

            /Mind you, Erdmann agrees with you on the recession stuff. The recession should never have happened, just like the 2018 recession should never have happened.
            //Yeah, we’re about to have one, because the Fed’s fucking up in the exact same way they fucked up in 2006-8.

          • baconbacon says:

            A ratio that was in fact falling at every point since 1991 except for a small blip during the “Housing Bubble”.

            What? This description is a gross misrepresentation of the graph. The graph shows a peak ~1989, a decline from 0.57 units per capita to 0.56 per capita in 1993, then a rise back to 0.57 ~1999, before it falls from 2000->2003, then rises from 2004->2009, then falling from 2010 through 2015.

            Secondly look at the scales. the units/per person barely budges. Peak of ~0.57 units per person, and a trough of 0.54, a 5% change. The affordability index goes from ~0.23 to ~0.30, a 30% change. I guess housing demand is incredibly elastic, except for 1986 ->1989 when the ratio moved from 0.55 to 0.57 and affordability didn’t change, or from 1999-> 2000 where the ratio fell from 0.57 to 0.55 and affordability dropped by 1/2 as much as you would expect compared to the 2006-2008 -> 2015 fall.

            In fact the steepest decline in affordability came from 2007->2009, and the ratio increases slightly in this span. What is going on here???

            Oh, affordability is Rent/Income, and there was this recession that started in 2007 and eventually hit UE rates of >10%. What you see starting in 2007 is a decline in incomes leading to a decline in the housing stock and an increase in the rent/income ratio simultaneously, not a decline in stock leading to an increase in rent/income ratio that is posited.

            More to come…

          • baconbacon says:

            Continued from above…

            Now lets go back and look at the units/adult historically. Erdman has another post in 2016 where he graphs units /adult going back to 1965, and what do we see? We see that 1989 was an extreme peak up, with units/adult hovering ~0.51 for the 60s and 70s before pushing up to 0.57 in 1989. This presents an entirely different view of the current ratio of ~0.54,while it is now a 20 year low this ratio is basically average for the past 40 years.

            To get to the conclusion that 2008-2017 represents massive under building in the US you have to start from the assumption that 1989-2000 is definitively a healthy market. Once again the entire argument hinges on describing when the bubble* began, and what a healthy market would look like.

            I want to return to Delong’s argument where he used a “trend” to calculate how many units were over built, and how many missing. Take Erdman’s graph and look at the trend from 1975->1990, project it out and you are almost certainly going to come to the conclusion that there was a massive housing shortage starting in 1990 which is now 25 years old and without it we would have a unit/adult ratio of .70. Or start in 1965 and draw a trend line through the whole graph and 2007 looks a like a perfectly healthy year with wild overbuilding through 2000.

            * The term housing bubble is inaccurate, it was a financial bubble where risk was mis-priced. Housing was a portion of this, and house prices specifically were very important

          • baconbacon says:

            /Mind you, Erdmann agrees with you on the recession stuff. The recession should never have happened, just like the 2018 recession should never have happened.

            This is not my position at all, my position is that the 2008 recession happened because the 2000 and 1992 recessions weren’t large enough (or more accurately because there weren’t enough recessions from 1980-2008).

            //Yeah, we’re about to have one, because the Fed’s fucking up in the exact same way they fucked up in 2006-8.

            I can only assume you mean from a monetarist perspective who listens to people like Scott Sumner. There is no consistent narrative about the fed screwing up in 2006-2008 and it screwing up now using their preferred measures.

          • Aapje says:

            Isn’t the real reason for the repeated recessions that the central bank policy to deal with recessions is to increase the money supply, but that there is a lack of investment opportunity? So much of it just goes into a bubble. When that crashes, you get a new bubble and a new bubble, etc.

          • baconbacon says:

            Isn’t the real reason for the repeated recessions that the central bank policy to deal with recessions is to increase the money supply, but that there is a lack of investment opportunity? So much of it just goes into a bubble. When that crashes, you get a new bubble and a new bubble, etc.

            There appear to be recessions, and repeated recession, without a CB (the Federal Reserve was established after 1900, and pre 1900 there were definitely recessions in the US, though the cause, frequency and depth are not at all agreed upon). Recessions are almost certainly a feature of capitalism, and probably any dynamic economic system.

          • Aapje says:

            Sure, but one can presumably make them less frequent or even prevent them; or make them more frequent.

          • Sure, but one can presumably make them less frequent or even prevent them; or make them more frequent.

            That’s the usual theory for the function of the Fed. Evidence that it makes them less frequent is scarce, given that the worst depression in U.S. history occurred long after the Fed was established and was arguably in part due to its actions.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            You can make the same argument about the police. It was created to stop crime, yet crime rates became substantially worse in the 60’s. How could that happen if the police actually stop crime?

            One answer is that society changed. To get back to recessions: you’d expect bigger recessions in a more globalized/interconnected economy. It’s especially dangerous to then assume causation based on correlation, because if society is changing to make a problem worse, you’d expect people to react by taking countermeasures, which are not necessarily fully effective, especially at the beginning, as people are still learning. So then it can be true that the countermeasures are somewhat effective, yet that the worst problems happen after some countermeasures are taken.

            Another explanation is that the Fed is not actually working effectively. For one, it has economic prosperity as a goal now, which is very dangerous, as letting bubbles happen will enable economic prosperity in the short term. I also point you to the testimony by Alan Greenspan who admitted that he was wrong in his libertarian approach: “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organisations, specifically banks, is such that they were best capable of protecting shareholders and equity in the firms … I discovered a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works. I had been going for 40 years with considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”

            I would argue that the Western central banks have been either overregulating (by granting too many special privileges) or underregulating (by not preventing abuse of those privileges) or both.

            However, the actual efficacy of the central banks is as much a political as an economic question. If wise regulatory behavior can prevent or much reduce recessions, but humans prove incapable of this, that is different from a situation where no regulatory behavior can reduce and/or prevent recessions.

          • John Schilling says:

            You can make the same argument about the police. It was created to stop crime, yet crime rates became substantially worse in the 60’s. How could that happen if the police actually stop crime?

            One answer is that society changed.

            For example, it became enamored of the idea that ordinary people shouldn’t stop crime, shouldn’t try to be heroes, that’s what the police are for. Since most crime occurs when ordinary people are around and police aren’t, net crime-fighting ability of a society goes down when you add police.

            Or maybe not, but you’re arguing with the guy who literally wrote the book on alternate legal systems, so “how are the police not the best thing ever for stopping crime” might not have been the analogy to go for there :-)

          • Aapje says:

            @John Schilling

            My argument merely requires that policing works within a certain societal context. Whether or not alternative models work better is quite irrelevant.

          • You can make the same argument about the police. It was created to stop crime, yet crime rates became substantially worse in the 60’s. How could that happen if the police actually stop crime?

            The relevant comparison would be between crime rates in England before and after about 1830, with some attempt to control for other variables–the murder rate, for instance, seems to have been trending down long before that.

            One answer is that society changed. To get back to recessions: you’d expect bigger recessions in a more globalized/interconnected economy.

            If anything, I would expect the opposite. The bigger the economy, the smaller the effect of random events–law of large numbers. I don’t have an adequate theory of the business cycle and am doubtful anyone else does–I like to describe a macro course as a tour of a cemetery or a construction site–so can’t say anything more confident than that.

            But it may be worth noting that a recent chairman of the Fed, post Greenspan, confessed to the Fed’s responsibility for the Great Depression.

            It’s especially dangerous to then assume causation based on correlation, because if society is changing to make a problem worse, you’d expect people to react by taking countermeasures, which are not necessarily fully effective, especially at the beginning, as people are still learning.

            Do you have any reason to believe that is what was happening in the case of the creation of the Fed? The second most serious depression in U.S. history happened about eighty years before the Fed was created. The most serious, almost twenty years after.

            If wise regulatory behavior can prevent or much reduce recessions, but humans prove incapable of this, that is different from a situation where no regulatory behavior can reduce and/or prevent recessions.

            That’s the key point. I use the term “bureaucrat god” for an imaginary regulator who is benevolent, omniscient, and all powerful, able to make economic actors take whatever actions he orders them to (not all powerful in the sense of being able to create stuff out of nothing). It seems clear that an economy run by a bureaucrat god could improve on the outcome of a laissez-faire market–that’s the implication of the existence of market failure. But we don’t have any bureaucrat gods.

            In evaluating the unregulated alternative, we assume that economic actors are acting in their rational self-interest, not that they are acting to maximize social welfare. We should make the same assumptions in analyzing the regulatory alternative. If only wise regulatory behavior can produce benefits and there is no way of making regulatory behavior wise, then regulatory behavior cannot produce benefits. That’s the relevant issue.

            For details, see public choice theory.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Recessions are often not due to random events, but due to runaway spirals of behavior that is beneficial on the short term, but destructive long term.

            Generally, the people involved in the bad behavior hide it as much as possible, which is easier if a system is bigger and more interconnected.

          • Aapje says:

            Just look at hurricanes, they need large bodies of fairly warm water to develop out of storms. Similarly, destructive spirals can become bigger if there is a ‘warm’ and large economy to keep providing fuel.

          • @Aapje:

            I don’t think climate metaphors or a very useful way of doing economics. You need an actual theory. I cannot see any evidence that you have one (nor do I–I don’t do macro). Ideally a theory that has made nonobvious predictions in the past that mostly turned out to be true.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            My metaphors are not economics, they are meant as rhetorical devices, to make a point.

            I also haven’t explained my full theory here. Partial criticism of the current status quo also has value.

            The problem with making predictions is that the policies are still mostly the same, so you will get mostly the same as yesterday, which is an easy thing to predict, but which offers little evidence that my theory is right. If you live next to a pool of toxic waste and are already sick, my claim that the toxic waste is making you sick is not really proven if you are still sick tomorrow, if you stay near the pool. To properly test my theory, you have to move away from the pool (or clean it up), to see if this heals you (or expose a healthy person to the waste).

            To be a bit more complete, my specific claims are that:
            1. The main drivers of prosperity are technological advancement & more efficiency (for example, by free trade and well functioning markets)
            2. We are at such a high level of efficiency that only fairly minimal gains can still be made
            3. Many economists/politicians are completely fixated on increasing efficiency, where they have irrational expectations, ignoring that far higher gains can be made now by technological advancement
            4. A specific example of this irrationality is the mistaken assumption that we are in a post-WW 2 scenario, where there is insufficient production capacity to meet demand.
            5. Very obvious evidence that this belief is mistaken is the low demand for capital, visible in historically low interest rates.
            6. Artificially increasing the amount capital to even higher levels to achieve economic growth is thus not going to achieve the desired effect + will strongly incentivize fraudulent behavior, as honest capital investments are insufficiently available. The combination of low interest rates with low economic growth is known as stagflation.
            7. Fraudulent behavior often ‘works’ in the short term by producing fake growth/wealth, but is destructive in the long term, causing severe recessions. The fake growth deludes people into thinking that their destructive policies work.
            8. One way in which people try to increase efficiency is to weaken the position of employees, so they will be more flexible, work for less salary, etc. As the market is not production-limited, but consumer-limited, this just weakens demand (and increases the willingness for people to save, increasing the already too generous capital supply) and the marginal gains in efficiency are not worth the decrease in demand.
            9. So with the current policies, I predict mediocre growth, a substantial bubble collapsing every decade or so and permanent low interest rates. What I cannot predict is the exact size and effect of the bubbles, because this depends on how the fraud is perpetrated.

            My suggested fixes:
            A. Increase taxes on (larger) corporations in a way that cannot be easily evaded (or just end much of the tax evasion), strongly incentivizing investments in R&D (the higher the real taxes, the more incentive to not seek rent, but to invest in the company)*.
            B. Choose policies that increase the spending capability and willingness by consumers. This includes reducing the income & wealth disparity.
            C. Increase government investments in fundamental research and semi-applied research.
            D. Limit the money supply to more natural levels/don’t seek to boost the economy by increasing the money supply

            My predictions of my policies:
            I. Interest rates go up
            II. Fewer recessions/bubbles
            III. Slightly higher/similar long term economic growth at first (but with less variance)
            IV. Substantially more R&D investment and faster technological improvement.

            * Although you might want to do something smarter, where higher investment in R&D results in a lower tax rate, reducing the general disincentive of starting a company caused by higher corporate tax rates, but biased to companies that do not seek rent.

            PS. Note that the macro economists of various major institutions seem to be slowly coming around to my view, so I’m not even that heterodox.

          • baconbacon says:

            One answer is that society changed. To get back to recessions: you’d expect bigger recessions in a more globalized/interconnected economy.

            No this isn’t true for a lot of reasons. First the size of the economy engulfs small events. A house fire causes a depression for a family, but does basically nothing to the US GDP in aggregate. The larger and more interconnected everything is the smaller even major events are. Hurricane Katrina caused a depression on a scale the size of a city, but not on the size of the entire country.

            Secondly all the technology that allows for globalization at least theoretically allows for the correction of market issues much, much faster. If something is under or over priced it should be sorted out far faster in today’s world than a century ago.

          • 4. A specific example of this irrationality is the mistaken assumption that we are in a post-WW 2 scenario, where there is insufficient production capacity to meet demand.

            “Demand,” as economists use the term, is a function of price. So “insufficient production capacity to meet demand” doesn’t mean anything. Demand at what price? Isn’t it obvious that, for almost everyone, more consumption has positive value, often in quality rather than quantity–better medical care, tastier food, safer autos, … ?

            Going into details on your views would take a long time and more effort than I am willing to spend. I’m afraid my immediate response is that inventing economics for yourself works no better than inventing physics or statistics for yourself does, but is even more common.

            You do, however, to your credit, offer predictions:

            So with the current policies, I predict mediocre growth, a substantial bubble collapsing every decade or so and permanent low interest rates.

            How much do interest rates have to go up over the next decade or so for you to conclude that your theory is false? Real or nominal?

          • baconbacon says:

            Just look at hurricanes, they need large bodies of fairly warm water to develop out of storms. Similarly, destructive spirals can become bigger if there is a ‘warm’ and large economy to keep providing fuel.

            Recessions and hurricanes are not rated in the same way. A recession is judged vs the size of the economy it hits. The 2000 recession caused ~2.5 million job losses which is absolutely greater than the job losses in the panic of 1837, but no one considers that recession worse. “more energy to draw from” ignores that the fact that there is more energy to draw from means it is buffeting against a much more robust system.

          • Aapje says:

            @baconbacon

            Hurricanes tend to scale with the size and heat of the ocean. The former is pretty much fixed, but if oceans heat up due to climate change, we’d expect to see more damaging hurricanes. The point of the example was not that hurricane damage increases with the size of the country, but rather, that if you increase the things that fuels hurricanes, you get bigger hurricanes. Similarly, if you increase the things that fuels large scale fraud, you get bigger frauds.

            Your house fire example is bad, because you can at most point to a very weak link between the size of the country and the ‘size’ of arsonists or other causes of house fires (copycat behavior may scale a little with the number of fires happening within the same language space, but the effect is probably small). So there is no substantial network effect in house fires. There is a strong network effect in fraud, because (for example) when one bank is financially successful on the short term by defrauding people, market forces pushes other banks into the same behavior, when those banks are part of a shared economic and regulatory space. Investments are usually judged relative more to the best performing comparable investment, than to the average.

            You are correct that when a global economy has an enormous crisis, while a bunch of more isolated economies have multiple crises that are each smaller, the total effect of the isolated crises can be greater. However, I believe that this is unlikely if the countries have similar regulations before and after entering the global economy, given the network effects of system-wide fraud.

            Although it’s debatable whether countries that become part of the global economy give up shitty regulation for much better regulation and thereby reduce their risk profile. But then the effects will be very different per country. So then the argument may be that the American people have to accept a worse situation that harms them, but which benefits humanity overall, because Indians win more than Americans lose.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            So “insufficient production capacity to meet demand” doesn’t mean anything.

            Imagine that I burn down all shoe factories. Shoe prices will go up a huge amount. Sane capitalists will now rapidly start building new shoe factories, because a good ROI can be made by doing so. So after a while, you’d expect the shoe market to stabilize at very similar level of production to the pre-arson situation, where shoe prices are production costs + some margin, where that margin allows for an acceptable ROI. This level is the natural level of production for the circumstances.

            My claim is that in this period between my burning of the factories and the new factories being built, there is underproduction on the supply side, as a ROI opportunity that would normally be taken advantage of, are temporarily not. If you consider my phrasing to be confusing, I invite you to suggest better phrasing.

            Now, the natural level of production can change in various ways, like destruction of factories (like in war or due to accidents), changes in production costs, the introduction of new products that (partially) satisfy the demand that was previously filled by a different product, the cost/supply of capital, etc. In some of these circumstances, it is highly beneficial to increase the capital supply to the economy/lower the interest rates. AFAIK, everything I said so far is fairly noncontroversial economics. The point of contention is what the current circumstances are exactly: are we in a situation where it is highly beneficial to increase the capital supply? My claim is that many economists and even more so, politicians, have a tendency to just assume that this is the case, even though the evidence strongly suggests that it isn’t. My analysis is that a major reason for this is because it is fairly easy to increase the capital supply and people are making the fairly common mistake of confusing the tools they have for the tool that is (most) effective. ‘When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’

            In a recent discussion we had about carbon taxes, I remarked that you seem to be treating economic adaptation as instantaneous, which is a big mistake. I think that your thinking would improve a lot if you were to address this deficit.

            I’m afraid my immediate response is that inventing economics for yourself works no better than inventing physics or statistics for yourself does, but is even more common.

            I would prefer to place my trust in experts, but my experience is that they are too often full of it and that I can frequently do better without dedicating my life to the field (this isn’t just true for economics). I disagree with the claim that this involves reinventing economics, because IMO my beliefs are firmly grounded in non-controversial economic beliefs and my disagreements are mainly at the level where the evidence is relatively weak compared to human bias, so the latter will frequently overwhelm the former.

            I believe, but cannot prove that my biases are less than average and/or I’m better capable of taking them into consideration. Ultimately, the truth of this is only evident in the outcomes, as you correctly state. However, as you consider yourself unqualified and/or unwilling to spend the time to debate my claims in detail & these claims cannot be easily tested, I cannot simply provide the level of evidence that you desire. However, you have also not given any serious evidence of argument that I am wrong.

            How much do interest rates have to go up over the next decade or so for you to conclude that your theory is false? Real or nominal?

            I have to add a caveat, my prediction is based on the assumption that no major technological achievement will happen in that period. However, that is obviously a matter of chance. My desired policies are in part about improving those chances. However, it is certainly not implausible that robotics and/or AI will see a major breakthrough that will drastically disrupt the markets.

            Also, the bubbles will obviously drive up the interest rates, but primarily in the short term rates. So let me predict that (in the absence of a huge technological breakthrough) there is a 95% chance that the real 10 year US treasury rate will stay below 4% and 75% that it will stay below 3%. Let’s not be silly, so the interest rate has to be above that for a full quarter, so we’ll not count weird short term variance.

          • baconbacon says:

            Hurricanes tend to scale with the size and heat of the ocean. The former is pretty much fixed, but if oceans heat up due to climate change, we’d expect to see more damaging hurricanes.

            Hurricanes are not measured by the % of the heat drawn from the ocean.

            The point of the example was not that hurricane damage increases with the size of the country, but rather, that if you increase the things that fuels hurricanes, you get bigger hurricanes.

            Actually this isn’t a given. Hurricanes are not simply driven by the heat of the ocean, but (wild oversimplification) the heat gradient. Even then it still doesn’t follow that increasing the heat of the ocean will automatically lead to a stronger hurricane when measured against the total heat in the ocean and that is how recessions are measured. Yes a country with a 100 billion dollar economy will have larger nominal recessions than a country with a 1 billion dollar economy, but no one measures them in nominal terms, they use rates where the base size of the economy gives perspective to the size of the recession.

            There is a strong network effect in fraud, because (for example) when one bank is financially successful on the short term by defrauding people

            You have both assumed your conclusion without demonstrating it, and also assumed a game theory outcome without any thought. The opposite is actually true, if your competitors are engaged in fraud then the best profit move is to expose the fraud, not to engage in your own self destructive fraud (or even just short their companies so you profit when the fraud is exposed).

            You only get this scenario in game theory when you include collective ignorance of the long term outcomes or you subsidize and/or transfer the risk of the participants. Your hypothesis would implicate the federal reserve/fannie mae as the causes of the financial crisis, not potential cures.

          • Aapje says:

            @baconbacon

            The opposite is actually true, if your competitors are engaged in fraud then the best profit move is to expose the fraud

            This is only true if the regulators/government actually wants to stop the fraud and/or if the fraud is actually against the (then prevalent interpretation of the) rules, which is not a given. These major frauds are frequently initiated by first eliminating crucial rules and/or getting cozy with the regulators (who frequently are the ingroup of the fraudsters, while the people that are defrauded are the far/outgroup).

            You only have to look at how whistle blowers are usually treated to see that it’s usually not profitable to expose mass delusions/fraudulent subcultures. It tends to be far, far more self-destructive than playing along, as people often look far more kindly upon conformists than rabble rousers. If a huge number of people are involved in the fraud, it also becomes quite impractical to throw the book at everyone. The legal system is built to excise small numbers of bad people from functioning systems, but can’t deal very well with a totally corrupted system, because its methods would then end up burning it down, rather than reforming it. So society tends to let people away with crimes if enough people commit them.

            not to engage in your own self destructive fraud (or even just short their companies so you profit when the fraud is exposed).

            If you look at actual behavior during recent bubbles, you see that some people assume that they will manage to cash out just before the bubble explodes.

            Also, a very large percentage of the people who make the fraud work seem to be quite unaware that they are defrauding. This is partly because the fraudulent systems tend to be complex and there is often a substantial amount of plausible deniability and opaqueness.

            Also, people tend to abuse trust based systems. For example, during the housing bubble, mortgages were bundled and the risk of these bundles was misclassified by rating agencies who were trusted to accurately assess risk. So the initial lenders of the mortgages should have been and frequently were aware of the bad loans that they were making, but they passed on these risks to others who assumed that the rating agencies were accurately rating these mortgage-backed securities. By misrating these securities, the capital suppliers were convinced to accept interest rates way below what is generally considered reasonable for the actual risk profile. These lies about the risks broke the capital market, convincing capital suppliers to invest much more of their capital in these securities than they would have (and that they were even allowed to do), if the risk had been accurately assessed.

            In (libertarian) theory, the market should have self-corrected after the crisis, by no longer trusting the reputation of the ratings agencies. Of course, that is not what happened, because there were no major rating agencies that did what you suggest would have been most profitable: expose the fraud. As the financial system is built on ratings and the three major rating agencies have nearly complete control over the market, they got away with it.

            So, given that actual reality didn’t result in the outcome that you claim should have been the outcome based on your theory of rational market behaviors, this either suggests that your theory is wrong and/or your assumption that people will act rationally is mistaken.

          • baconbacon says:

            This is only true if the regulators/government actually wants to stop the fraud and/or if the fraud is actually against the (then prevalent interpretation of the) rules, which is not a given. These major frauds are frequently initiated by first eliminating crucial rules and/or getting cozy with the regulators (who frequently are the ingroup of the fraudsters, while the people that are defrauded are the far/outgroup).

            This isn’t a problem of the size of the economy though, it is a problem with the size of the regulators, and the Fed is one of those regulators!

            You only have to look at how whistle blowers are usually treated to see that it’s usually not profitable to expose mass delusions/fraudulent subcultures.

            You don’t have to be a whistle blower to profit, you just need an Ameritrade account.

            If you look at actual behavior during recent bubbles, you see that some people assume that they will manage to cash out just before the bubble explodes.

            And? Some people denied that it was even a bubble! Describing the motivations of “some” does not give you carte blanch to assuming the motivations of all. For a bubble to form with people thinking they can get out before it pops requires that every new investor be dumber than the previous investors.

            Also, people tend to abuse trust based systems. For example, during the housing bubble, mortgages were bundled and the risk of these bundles was misclassified by rating agencies who were trusted to accurately assess risk.

            A mistake isn’t abuse.

            So the initial lenders of the mortgages should have been and frequently were aware of the bad loans that they were making

            Subprime was a tiny amount of the problem. Prime mortgages were where most of the issues lay, and the issues that came up had nothing to do with fraud by the originating banks. The subprime crisis was an offshoot of the larger mis pricing of risk which existed because of the Fed/Fannie Mae.

          • random832 says:

            You don’t have to be a whistle blower to profit, you just need an Ameritrade account.

            Do you have any particular method in mind that doesn’t rely on accurately predicting when the crash will happen?

          • baconbacon says:

            Do you have any particular method in mind that doesn’t rely on accurately predicting when the crash will happen?

            There are many ways to play a crash without having to accurately predict when it will occur, HOWEVER if you have such information that a major bank is committing major fraud at the time that it is happening then you should definitely be able to time the crash far better than the market average. This would not violate the majority of forms the efficient market hypothesis takes.

  60. Douglas Knight says:

    Alcohol:

    What really convinces me that alcohol really works is that it has a specific effect. It decreases mortality from ischemic heart disease and increases it from all other causes. If you think that there is a confounder, you should argue that the confounder has the same risk profile.

    Also, there is a mechanism: alcohol is a blood thinner.

  61. Jiro says:

    “if America only jailed murderers and rapists, it would still have more prisoners per capita than Western Europe”.

    Those figures don’t seem to have been corrected for race.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Why would those figures need to be corrected for race? Even if race is causal, America has the racial profile it has, so dialing back mass incarceration will remain difficult as long as we have as many murderers and rapists as we have. Unless we stop jailing them, which seems unreasonable.

      • Randy M says:

        I believe it is the assumption that America should mirror western Europe that he is objecting to.

        • HoustonEuler says:

          Not sure if by “he” you meant the author of the tweet (me), but that’s correct.

      • Jiro says:

        Why would those figures need to be corrected for race?

        Because the implicit argument is that America is doing something bad that Western Europe is not doing. If the disparity is caused by race, this may not be true.

        • Virbie says:

          > Because the implicit argument is that America is doing something bad that Western Europe is not doing. If the disparity is caused by race, this may not be true.

          It’s not clear to me at all that that’s implicit. I took it as narrowly (and effectively) targeting the oft-held belief that America’s barbaric thirst for punitive incarceration was driving our high prison numbers. That’s entirely independent from proposing a specific cause for the gap between us and W Europe, which could include the racial one that you mention.

      • Z says:

        Look at homicide rates by country, then cross-reference demographics in the US, UK, Germany, France, Norway, etc.

        They should be corrected because comparing the US to western Europe is unfair when demographically the US does not mirror any western European country.

        If anything a fair comparison would be to look at the nationalities within the US, control for age (at least), and compare criminality with their nation of origin. That’s much more complicated, but avoids a Simpson’s Paradox.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Fine, but the US still compares unfavorably with Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania and Namibia.

      (To get into US territory you need to look to former slave/communist states, not just African states. The Caribbean is way up there, as is Russia).

  62. ParryHotter says:

    Regarding the infrastructure article, when I read it a few weeks ago, I was struck by how he missed something so obvious: greed. Is it so hard to imagine that companies are just charging governments and municipalities a fortune for infrastructure work, not because their costs are higher, or due to inefficiencies, or the headaches of unions, but simply because they know they can get away with it due to the various special interests at play in this realm?

    Or am I being too cynically naive?

    • Nornagest says:

      Greed is a constant. Actors always charge what the market can bear. If more rents are being extracted (and it sure seems like they are), then that’s because of a change in the market, not because actors are less virtuous now than they were in the past.

      The article attempts, and mostly fails, to find out what changes in the market those are.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      (I’ve never studied economics, please correct me.) I don’t see where rents could come from here – there is no sign of monopoly power. You could tell a story where the government gives sweetheart deals to favored companies, but isn’t this stuff done by blind bidding anyway?

      • Nornagest says:

        Rents can come from a lot of places, not just monopoly power. Asymmetric information, asymmetric access, barriers to entry, preexisting ownership of scarce resources, sending a guy named Guido around to break your competitors’ legs.

        But the point I was trying to make above is that saying “it’s rents” doesn’t help us much. Of course it’s rents. Steel and concrete aren’t much more expensive. Land and labor are, but not in proportion. So it’s rents, but the article gives no good argument for what they are, who they’re going to, or how they work.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      People say greed is the real cause when gas prices go up. But I never hear an analysis of why greed went up 4% on a random Tuesday, nor do I hear them being happy that greed is decreasing when gas prices go down.

      For the question why US infrastructure is so much more expensive than both other countries today and the US itself in the past, blaming greed also just moves the problem. Why is there so much more greed in the US than elsewhere, and also compared to the past?

      • poignardazur says:

        > nor do I hear them being happy that greed is decreasing when gas prices go down.

        Haha, exactly! I often have a feeling that people assigning moral corruption to unfavorable economic decisions (e.g.: prices going up, wages going down, DLCs, etc), were making a fundamental mistake and this comment nails it 😀

  63. John Schilling says:

    Sadly, I think only about half of those cool-sounding titles exist in-game in Crusader Kings II. But I am likely to wind up playing a Byzantine Emperor (or possibly Empress) in the next generation of my current and final campaign. That should open up all the honorary titles that aren’t easy to see from the outside; I’ll be sure to go through the list and award as many as I can before I disband the Empire. Definitely want a Caesar and a Megaduke.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Caesar is an option: http://www.ckiiwiki.com/Honorary_titles#Byzantine_titles
      I seemed to recall the Steward being called Logothete, but I was wrong. Sakellarios is still cool, though.

      No luck on Megaduke, either. Though IIRC (haven’t played since pre-Horse Lords), “superduke” was the fan term for a character with two duke titles. (Also, when playing ERE, having hereditary doux is/was Doing It Wrong – strategoi(sp?) are/were far superior)

      • John Schilling says:

        And Mystikos is much cooler as a title for the Spymaster than as a glorified secretary,

        I want to say that the game recognizes “Grand Duke”, which is a fair translation for Megaduke, in at least some multi-duchy contexts, but I can’t swear to it. Will definitely appoint a few strategoi just to say that I did, but I’m not sure it’s the best strategy. Have never played as the ERE before, and will probably dismantle and disband the Empire not long after claiming it, so it probably won’t come up.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Yeah, like I said, I haven’t played in a while, and PDX keeps stirring the meta. Could be viceroyalties got hit with a nerfhammer. I liked ’em better than hereditary vassals, personally. If a viceroy was incompetent or uppity it was relatively doable to transfer control to someone better without pissing off the whole empire.

          AIUI the Doing It Wrong method was to have mixed hereditary and viceroyal vassals, since they aren’t overly fond of each other – if you can do pure hereditary ERE it would probably work.

          Dismantling sounds pretty entertaining, too. If you do an AAR I’d read it 🙂

          • John Schilling says:

            AIUI the Doing It Wrong method was to have mixed hereditary and viceroyal vassals, since they aren’t overly fond of each other

            Exactly. And I’ve already got a perfectly good Sicilian Norman Empire based on an elective Emperor over hereditary Dukes, so I’d rather incorporate as much of the former ERE as I safely can into that structure than try to run two separate Empires with two distinct systems of government.

            Or three, because the HRE is also potentially vulnerable if I do this right. Depending on how much of the HRE and ERE I have to cut away to keep the rest stable, this is going to be one messed-up Europe by the time I’m finished.

    • cassander says:

      I really want to like crusader kings. And I keep giving it chances, but every time I do, the same result ensues. I start with great enthusiasm, then almost immediately start getting annoyed about how it doesn’t really represent any of the really interesting aspects of feudalism. It does nothing with legitimacy, with the multi-hattedness nature of multiple holdings, little with dynastic relations, little with the difficulty of raising armies, the value of money, and the only real centrifugal force is rebellion. The great feudalism game has not yet been made.

      • Protagoras says:

        Yeah, I’ve recently been reading Hume’s history of England, and also recently doing some CKII playing, and the combination of the two meant that in reading Hume I was constantly struck at how little of what he described could be modeled in CKII.

        • cassander says:

          Yeah, the contrast to EUIV is pretty striking. If you read early modern european history, you can often describe what’s going on in EUIV mechanics. But there’s nothing in CKII that even tries to model the Guelph/Ghibelline conflict, the investiture controversy, the rapid and repeated waxings and wanings of the the power of the kings of france, the politics of crusades, or anything else.

      • John Schilling says:

        The simplistic economic model, including its (lack of) military implications, is my biggest complaint about the current version. But I’m not sure what you mean by “does nothing with legitimacy”; it clearly recognizes and I think reasonably approximates the effects of the various flavors of illegitimate and dubiously-legitimate children. Likewise papal vs royal investiture. And post-Conclave at least it does have nobles and councils effectively clawing back power from Kings who aren’t both strong and careful.

        ETA: Agree with cassander that the all-or-nothing spoils distribution of the Crusades eliminates some interesting and important politics.

        • cassander says:

          By legitimacy, I meant legitimacy of title, not in inheritance. Aside from a few minor opinion modifiers, the game treats titles you’ve had for a week the same as ones you’ve held for hundreds of years, titles you usurp or invent the same as those granted by emperors.

          And yeah, the all or nothing war results are a travesty, as are the extremely limited options for getting involved in the wars of your vassals/leige. Kingdom wars should be all about getting vassals on board.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Yeah, I think strict pyramid feudalism is a conceit you kinda just have to roll with for CK’s broader mechanics to make any sense as a game. There is a length-of-reign opinion mod, and the way usurpation is coded, it’s much more of a formalization of one’s gains than initiating a coup.

            The balance between blobbing and anti-blobbing is very tricky. There’s a Sid Meier vid out there somewhere with essentially that “People don’t like to play waning periods”. When things start to go downhill, only a small subset of an already niche genre find it enjoyable to keep playing instead of starting over.

            And, y’know, at least the Crusade results aren’t the HOI4 peace conferences. It’d make more sense with a properly multiplayer game, but in-depth politics with an AI is currently not really plausible. Attempts frequently just lead to exploits.

          • cassander says:

            there are ways to make pyramid feudalism work more interestingly though. For example, when you go to war, you shouldn’t just get to raise vassal troops. Instead, you should get ways to call your vassals into war, like allies, and when you or they get those calls, there should be a range of options from full throated support to active opposition.

            Or with titles, not all titles should be equal. 1000 year old dukedoms should give more prestige than one created yesterday, and you should be able to build up the prestige of your titles by getting them recognized by figures like the pope or emperor, particularly if you’ve acquired it by dubious means.

            Basically, you need to make the game more about building consensus and less about murdering your inlaws.

          • John Schilling says:

            For example, when you go to war, you shouldn’t just get to raise vassal troops. Instead, you should get ways to call your vassals into war, like allies, and when you or they get those calls, there should be a range of options from full throated support to active opposition.

            Hmm. Examples of feudal vassals in the high middle ages openly rebelling against their lord because said lord waged a war the vassal didn’t support? Not saying it never happened, but examples don’t come immediately to mind.

            The “call your vassals as allies”, is I believe the current mechanic for pagan realms. For Christians and Moslems, vassals never officially refuse to support their lord’s wars, but the number of men they send passive-aggressively depends on their present opinion of said lord – and things like calling up their men for prolonged periods will adversely affect that opinion.

            Also, unless you have a high level of royal control, the council gets to vote on your hair-brained schemes for offensive wars, and any high-ranking nobles who aren’t on the council are going to be extremely upset about that in a no-troops-for-you kind of way.

          • Examples of feudal vassals in the high middle ages openly rebelling against their lord because said lord waged a war the vassal didn’t support?

            Not exactly rebelling, but when John told William Marshall to come with him to try to reconquer territory in France the Marshall refused on the grounds that he had resworn his Norman lands to the king of France with John’s permission, so was the French king’s man when on that side of the channel.

          • cassander says:

            Hmm. Examples of feudal vassals in the high middle ages openly rebelling against their lord because said lord waged a war the vassal didn’t support? Not saying it never happened, but examples don’t come immediately to mind.

            Well, one, I said it should be an option, not that it should happen every time, and two, that’s how Henry V basically conquered france, by getting the dukes of burgundy to side with him and not the kings of france. It’s also basically what happened every time HRE emperors spent too long south of the alps. And the number of times vassals didn’t outright rebel and were just strategically unhelpful? too many to count.

  64. Eltargrim says:

    The swarm of bees outside Vox made me double-take, given that we had the exact same thing happen in my city just now. Coincidence? Probably.

    • thepenforests says:

      Wow, I came in here planning to make a similar comment. Didn’t expect there to be any other Haligonians on SSC.

      • Eltargrim says:

        There are dozens of us! Dozens!

        …or maybe it’s just us two, I’ve never bothered to find out.

        • thepenforests says:

          I mean technically it might not even be that. I’m more of an ex-pat, really. But…ehh, close enough. And I’m hoping to move back soon.

  65. This weeks variation on there’s more than one country in the world, you know: why did nobody get cellphones in the forties?

    • baconbacon says:

      In 1945 how many countries in the world were rich enough and large enough to make it a worthwhile development project? Locking out the largest single potential market probably hinders development, no?

      • random832 says:

        What about bringing the device to market in one country with an eye to shaming other countries into moving on the regulation issues?

        • albatross11 says:

          The original cellphones were expensive and unwieldy toys for rich people. I’m skeptical that 1960s technology would have improved that much, even if the spectrum had been made available.

          • Exactly…the broadcast technology is only half the story..

          • baconbacon says:

            I’m skeptical that 1960s technology would have improved that much, even if the spectrum had been made available.

            This is why bureaucracies murder innovation, people put far to much weight on phrases like this. The future is unknowable, it has to be walked into to discover. If the US government had functionally made PCs illegal or unprofitable from 1950-1980 you would look back and say “well PCs weren’t ready for the mass market until the 80s anyway, so no big loss”, but this is wrong. You (and I and everyone) are functionally unable to predict what is necessary for technological change to sweep a country. It is unknowable if such a law would have pushed computing technology back 5, 10 or 50 years.

            However by eliminating spaces where ingenuity could generate massive gains it is almost certain that we have lost out on many advances… though it is impossible to know which.

        • baconbacon says:

          What about bringing the device to market in one country with an eye to shaming other countries into moving on the regulation issues?

          What about spending a few billion dollars connecting land lines across the US? If you are in the communications industry in the 40s and the single largest market just outlawed cell phones are you going to pour your money into cell phones or landlines?This decision might not be prohibitive on its own, but it heavily pushes technology in one direction.

      • tmk says:

        Large area is a negative for cellphone networks. It is much easier to cover a large population in a dense country. Low density does increase the value to the user a bit, if the rural area is actually covered, but not enough.

        As others have said, cell phones in the ’40s would hav been big, expensive car phones until the ’90s anyway. Digital electronics is what enabled cell phone mass adoption.

        • baconbacon says:

          Large area is a negative for cellphone networks. It is much easier to cover a large population in a dense country

          I wasn’t talking about large in a geographic sense, but large in a relative sense. The US has plenty of population dense areas you can cover and you don’t have to build nationwide service from day one. NYC is larger (population wise) and far denser than quite quite a few European countries.

          As others have said, cell phones in the ’40s would hav been big, expensive car phones until the ’90s anyway. Digital electronics is what enabled cell phone mass adoption.

          First this assumes that technology would have advanced the same with this different pathway opened up.

          Secondly, who cares? Lots of people would have loved to have big, expensive car phones during that time period. Instead we got some second (or 10th) best solution.

    • You need to look at British and German telecommunications expertise in the forties

      One thing the article doesn’t make clear is that early mobile communications meant car phones.

      The gear was even bigger than eighties handsets.

      So it was a toy of the rich. And backing TV was not exactly an insanely stupid choice in the sixties and seventies.

      • random832 says:

        It seems plausible that some portion of the size of the gear might be attributable to the amount of power required to communicate with a single central station per city.

        Some other portion might be attributable to the low frequencies.

        • And a huge chunk would be lack of miniaturisation in the sixties and seventies..the integrated circuit had barely been. Invented

          • Protagoras says:

            Yes, it seems overwhelmingly likely that this is really the main factor. It requires some now trivial electronics to handle the mobile phone doing things like connecting to the intended target and not generating conflicts with other phones, and in the mid 20th century those electronics would actually have been quite bulky and not at all trivial.

      • baconbacon says:

        So it was a toy of the rich.

        So were many medical advances, cars, computers, television, AC, refrigerators etc, when they were introduced.

        “just a toy of the rich” is frequently shorthand for “something amazing that we want to get to the public as soon as possible to increase the standard of living, and is an argument FOR not against.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          And also bicycles!

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Videos about weird but ridable bikes. There’s some overlap among the videos, but not that much.

            The first video is mostly bikes not for sale, but the later ones are mostly commercially available.

            I think the videos are at their best if you let yourself be surprised, but I’ll rot13 some descriptions in case you’d rather have some idea of the bikes.

            Fgenaqorrfg ovxrf, ovxrf onfrq ba rkrepvfr rdhvczrag (ryyvcgvpny, gernqzvyy), fubrf vafgrnq bs gverf, jbbq (sebz fvzcyr gb neg bowrpg), fznyy craal sneguvat, erirefr craal sneguvat, pbafgnag guvpxarff gevnathyne jurryf, ovxrf gung sbyq hc fhecevfvatyl fznyy, n snpr-sbejneq erphzonag ovxr gung ybbxf zber cenpgvpny guna gur hfhny ovxr, naq ba naq ba.

          • Aapje says:

            I went to a bicycle museum in The Netherlands and they had a lot of two seaters, frequently side by side. The reason was that these were primarily sold to rich people, who used it for touring and showing off.

            These were mostly popular in the period between the balance bicycle (the first type of bicycle) and the velocipede (a bicycle where the pedals are attached to the front wheel).

    • BBA says:

      Terminology matters. Mobile phones were in fact introduced to the US market in the 1940s, but they weren’t cellular phones – they couldn’t switch base stations mid-call, which limited their usefulness. As described in that article, MTS was cumbersome, requiring an operator to manually connect each call, but back then they didn’t have long-distance direct dialing on landlines either.

      Lack of radio bandwidth certainly didn’t help, but it’s not like AT&T was sitting around for 40 years with boxes full of DynaTACs (let alone iPhones) waiting for the FCC to grant their license, which the summary implies.

      Of course, Reason will blame the US government for anything. I can see them saying the FAA killed the Concorde and is the entire reason why we don’t have 2-hour transatlantic flights today.

    • bean says:

      Because the tech wasn’t there. The article, as others have pointed out, totally misses the difficulties inherent in making a cellular network, which is what makes the current system so revolutionary. As an example, the reason cell phones on planes were originally banned was to protect the cell network, not the planes. An analog cell at altitude basically violated the design assumptions, and tended to bounce between stations, knocking out other calls. This stuff is hard.
      They also seem to willfully distort ‘private use’, which, AIUI, was basically walkie-talkies with base stations. I don’t think they were switched, for one thing. The other important thing they miss is the Carterfone decision in 1968, which was about a device that attached a private radio to the phone system. Oddly enough, it’s best remembered today for laying the ground for things like answering machines, not for a bunch of people suddenly setting up their own radio relays into the phone system.
      (Also, it bears pointing out that Private Land Mobile Radio got started in 1927, well before even Reason claims that the idea for cell phones was around.)

  66. 75th says:

    My brain’s so big its cancer gets cancer

  67. meh says:

    “I’m just really glad that the piece admits that IQ is real, meaningful, and mostly hereditary.”

    My reading of the article does not see them whole heartedly accepting this. They are first presented under a headline ‘Flawed Logic’ and then attributed as ‘Murray’s premises’

    You’re really happy with this article?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Some quotes from the article:

      “Intelligence is meaningful. This principle comes closest to being universally accepted by scientific psychologists. Every clinical psychology program in the country trains students in IQ testing, tens of thousands of IQ tests are given in schools every year, and papers in mainstream scientific journals routinely include information about intelligence, even when IQ is not the main object of study. On a more basic level, who doesn’t notice that some people have larger vocabularies than others, can solve harder math problems or organize more complex projects? IQ tests reliably assess these individual differences. Moreover, people who do well on one kind of ability test also tend to do well on others, a phenomenon that is referred to as g, as in general intelligence.”

      “There is a vibrant ongoing debate about the biological reality of g, but intelligence tests can be meaningful and useful even if an essential inner g doesn’t exist at all. Good thinkers do well at lots of things, so a test that measures quality of thinking is a good predictor of life outcomes, including how well a person does in school, how well she performs in her job, even how long she lives.”

      “Intelligence is heritable. To say that intelligence is heritable means that, in general, people who are more similar genetically are also more similar in their IQ…Like the validity of intelligence testing, the heritability of intelligence is no longer scientifically contentious.”

      “Race differences in average IQ score. People who identify as black or Hispanic in the US and elsewhere on average obtain lower IQ scores than people who identify as white or Asian. That is simply a fact, and stating it plainly offers no support in itself for a biological interpretation of the difference.”

      I am happy about this because in the past I’ve seen people (especially the Voxes of the time) vigorously deny all of these points. Heck, they even discuss the “social construct” thing less badly than they could have.

      • meh says:

        Aren’t those quotes just an explanation of Murray’s view. The article says:
        “We, and many other scientific psychologists, believe the evidence supports a different view of intelligence, heritability, and race.”

        My reading is that a page or two down in the article, they are just explaining Murray’s points, how there is some consensus on those points, but that they disagree and there is also some support for their viewpoint. They do not seem to be accepting of the statements you quoted above, just stating them as Murray’s premises.

        The paragraph I wrote may sound like they are making reasonable arguments, but this article begin with “Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science… Sam Harris is the latest to fall for it”

        • Scott Alexander says:

          My interpretation is that those quotes are the authors (two of whom are pretty big-name IQ scholars) giving their own opinions.

          • meh says:

            Fair enough. I’m out of my expertise here to examine more specific points. It did feel to me as though as they led with ‘junk science’ but spent most of the article describing how most of Murray’s points were the consensus. I also find it laughable that Vox can say:

            “It is never a good thing to make poorly justified scientific claims”

            So I guess I can be happy that the article was not worse, but it still seems far from a desirable outcome.

    • albatross11 says:

      Far more people read the headline than the article. So the headline can be “let’s burn this hideous witch” and the body of the article can quietly point out that witchcraft doesn’t really have any power and nobody’s cow has actually been hexed.

      • Deiseach says:

        To quote GetReligion on who actually writes headlines:

        Every now and then, newspapers need to go out of their way to correct errors found in headlines, but not in stories.

        This would, for example, help news consumers understand that headlines – 99.9 percent of the time – are written by copy-desk editors who do not consult with the professionals who actually reported, wrote and edited the story in question.

        My first full-time job in journalism was working as a copy editor – laying out news pages, doing final edits and, yes, writing headlines. It’s hard work and you rarely have time to visit the newsroom for debates with reporters about the wording of headlines.

        • meh says:

          It’s well known editor’s make the headlines. But that doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands, and give passes all around. Whoever makes the title, it is an issue if most people are getting most of their content from the headline.

          • Deiseach says:

            But that doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands, and give passes all around.

            I agree (and things like the Rolling Stone story, where everyone involved wanted it to be true – or at least could be parsed as true – demonstrate this).

            But I would, in the past, have blamed reporters for letting misleading headlines go, so finding out that often reporters have no idea their carefully written and balanced story is going out with a headline saying “Witch hexes on rise – you may be at risk!” caused me to be a little more sympathetic to the persons of the press.

            If copy editors are sticking on attention-grabbing headlines, and if attention-grabbing headlines sell papers (or get page views), then it’s the business side of the media enterprise that needs to address this, and unfortunately I don’t think that “if it sells, keep doing it” is going to be discarded by the business side (which is primarily interested in how much advertising it can sell to generate revenue and not cluttering up the pages with all that reporting stuff).

          • meh says:

            But there are those enterprises where “if it sells, keep doing it” does not stop at the headline, and extends to content. Is the argument different in that case?

            Also, if reporters are given a pass at having no idea about the headlines, that does not give them an incentive to actually have an idea about what the headline will be.

        • albatross11 says:

          The thing is, way more people read headlines than read the stories, and way more people read the first couple paragraphs than continue to the end. So if you want to mislead people without lying to them, you imply the lie you want to tell in the headline and the first couple paragraphs of the story, and then bring up the full details that change the whole flavor of the story in the last couple paragraphs, preferably after the jump to A17.

          • meh says:

            Or you give a section header that says ‘Flawed Logic’, and a bullet list of 5 premises. Some paragraphs later say that you agree with 4 of the items, and only contest the last, because people are definitely not just reading the bullet list.

  68. Nornagest says:

    Noah Smith: The US has forgotten how to do infrastructure.

    Pretty handwavey. The first half of the article, explaining why infrastructure costs aren’t due to various things, is good, although I didn’t find the bit on environmental protections satisfying (“it’s hard to believe that countries such as France would be so willing to pave over their natural beauty and slaughter endangered species”… well, things that are hard to believe happen all the time, and the US has some of the strictest environmental laws in the world). It goes downhill after that. The kind of general mismanagement he describes isn’t an explanation, it’s a placeholder for a missing one.

    • The difference is that in France they have well trained bureaucrats who say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and can be asked about things ahead of times whereas in the US we save money on bureaucrats by just letting everybody sue every development project on environmental grounds and battle it out in the courts. That reduced the sticker price of environmental protection when the relevant law was being passed.

      • The Nybbler says:

        We have bureaucrats. But ours can only say “no” and “approved”. So they’re just another hurdle; you get an “approved” from the bureaucrats and you still have to deal with all the other potential vetoers.

      • poignardazur says:

        I honestly don’t know how good the French government’s bureaucracy is.

        But from the second/third hand accounts I’ve heard of it, it’s probably not orders of magnitude above American ones. For one thing, French state employees are extremely hard to fire (the closest equivalent being “promoted to work in an out-of-the-way post, usually overseas”), which means administrations can often end up playing Negative Asset Hot Potato (or so I’m told). And there’s a shit ton of paperwork for everything.

        Also, we have worker strikes all the damn time. Especially the train workers. Seriously, they organize strikes several times a year.

    • albatross11 says:

      The sensible argument here isn’t that *any* environmental protections mess up infrastructure, merely that *our specific* environmental protections mess up infrastructure, via allowing NIMBY-motivated lawsuits to delay infrastructure projects for decades.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      I’d like to see more comparisons between building on land that has already been zoned for a purpose versus building on bridges and stuff, and I’d like to see public vs private comparisons. If the US really has forgotten how to build, someone smart stands to make a lot of money…

    • switchnode says:

      Rather. He conflates a less cumbersome process with less intent, which is absurd.

      (I do wonder how fair it is to lay the blame for inefficient or overly restrictive regulation/regulatory process in general on environmental protections specifically, but I don’t have the information to venture an opinion on it. Missing explanation, indeed—I’d welcome any recommendations on the topic.)

  69. The Nybbler says:

    Noah Smith: The US has forgotten how to do infrastructure.

    In which he finds the largest part of his answer, and glibly slides right past it. The Washington Post article he links shows time to complete Environmental Impact Statement for large highway projects going from 2 years to 8 years since the 1970s. Before then, it was 0 years, because no such statement was required. And the statement itself is only the smallest part; because of various environmental rights of action, as soon as you announce a project, every environmental and NIMBY group in the area sues, and you’re held up as you deal with each of those suits.

    • poipoipoi says:

      My personal favorite: The new Bay Bridge, which they spent 11 years doing the paperwork on before spending 14 years actually building the thing.

      After the original bridge fell down in an earthquake.

      /My personal solution: Every EIR should, in the alternatives section, have a section called: “Well, if we don’t do this, they all move to Vegas and run the A/C 24/7 because it’s 112 degrees while living in their 3000 sq. ft. mansions and driving their SUV’s to work”.

      • cassander says:

        I prefer the southeast high speed rail corridor. Established during the first Bush administration, it has not yet finished its environmental impact studies. And the project consists mostly of upgrades to existing right of way.

        • tmk says:

          In cases like that I wonder if the issue is not lack of political will to complete the project. Actually building would cost money, canceling would be bad PR or embarrassing, so let it linger in the planning phase forever.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      (1) Not clear that environmental paperwork fully explains what is going wrong. If that were the limiting factor, we’d expect building to take a long time to get started, but to go fast once it’s begun. (2) But certainly environmental paperwork slows things down. Then the question is, is the problem too much paperwork, or is the US as bad at completing paperwork as it is at construction? (3) You point to a reason why the latter might be the case: the US administers via the courts when it should be administering via the executive. I’m 50% on this, if only because America’s litigiousness can be used to explain just about anything. What percentage of construction costs go to law firms?

      • Nornagest says:

        What percentage of construction costs go to law firms?

        This wouldn’t fully account for the expense, because chilling effects. If you drag your feet or overbuild on a project because you’re afraid of getting sued, you end up spending more money even if no one actually sues you.

      • christhenottopher says:

        If the environmental paperwork is also accompanied by higher environmental standards (which is theoretically the point of all this red tape), then this could also imply things like more high quality materials, more cautious construction practices, and more specialized labor all of which would raise costs in ways not reflected by administrative/direct legal costs. In addition this would also fit with overall longer construction times. Of course in that case we might be getting some benefits from the expense and we’re really asking for a cost-benefits analysis (I suspect current standards have likely overshot the ideal on environmental safety, but I can’t be sure without more looking into the differences in results from older vs newer practices).

  70. qwints says:

    Regarding urban charter schools, the most obvious issue with the claim are selection effects (more motivated students/students of more motivated parents go to charter schools, and charter schools can more easily exclude less motivated/more disruptive students). CREDO, who Kingsland is citing, claims to control for this using protocol they call the Virtual Control Record.

    Freddie DeBoer questioned the effectiveness of the control here and linked to a blog discussing another possible issue, survivorship bias (where CREDO is excluding bad charters that close) here.

    • AKL says:

      There is a natural experiment in Boston where charter school applications regularly outstrip supply, and students are awarded slots in a random lottery. Researchers examined longitudinal, individual student level data to compare lottery winners (who attended charters) with lottery losers (who attended public schools) and found [relatively] huge effects.

      Brookings has a very nice writeup.

      Edit:
      Boston seems nonrepresentative of the national charter school experience, however.

      • Virbie says:

        I don’t know much about what the topic, but in additional to what AKL said, the article mentions taht New Orleans expanded their charter schools to serve 95% of its schoolkids and sustained the quality.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @AKL:

        In marked contrast, we find that the effects of charters in the suburbs and rural areas of Massachusetts are not positive. Our lottery estimates indicate that students at these charter schools do the same or worse than their peers at traditional public schools

        The finding was specific to urban charter schools in MA, and not a general finding. (and they, as you say, also mention Ohio as a counter example). This would suggest we need to understand why certain charter schools have positive effect, and others neutral or negative. It doesn’t look like we can just say “accio charter” and predict any particular effect.

        • The Nybbler says:

          If Boston is anything like Philadelphia or New Jersey, it’s no surprise the charters did a lot better in the urban areas than suburbs. The difference wouldn’t be in the charters but in the schools they are drawing from; many urban schools aren’t doing much but warehousing students. If the effects of school are very non-linear — very high for the first increment in quality with diminishing returns after that — then it would be much harder for any school to make a large difference over all but the worst public schools.

        • AKL says:

          @HeelBearCub

          It doesn’t look like we can just say “accio charter” and predict any particular effect.

          Totally agree. IIRC the authors briefly discuss possible reasons for Boston’s atypical results vs. e.g. Ohio, but do not go in depth. Even supposing that Boston charters are “better” than public, non-charter alternatives, we can’t do more than hypothesize about the “why” at this point.

          I would be very interested in good research along those lines, especially research that attempted to disentangle situationally specific factors from practices that could be successfully “exported.”

    • Jaskologist says:

      The link is about the financial side of charter schools. In this case, selection effects are irrelevant.

      Let’s assume:
      1. Charter schools have the same effect academically as normal schools; any higher scores are simply a matter of getting better students.
      2. Charter schools are 20% cheaper.

      In this case, charter schools would still be a good idea just because they save money. If you can select off some portion of your top top students and educate them cheaper, you have freed up that money for other things.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        2. Charter schools are 20% cheaper.

        Only if that 20% cheaper is fully generalizable. It matters a great deal why the charter school is cheaper.

        • Matt M says:

          Why? So long as #1 is true and the results are held constant?

          Let’s say that charter schools ONLY work for bright, motivated students. Per Jask’s point, we could then move all the bright, motivated students to charter schools and save 20% on them, thus freeing up that extra 20% to be used to improve things for the less bright in the public schools.

          Obviously if the charter school model only works for some small subset of students that makes it less scalable, but I feel like “well this isn’t infinitely scalable” is hardly a reason to avoid doing something AT ALL…

          • albatross11 says:

            Probably anything non-horrible will work well for the top 20% of students. Filter out the top 1% of students, and you can probably educate them with Khan academy videos and workbooks and minimal supervision and do fine.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            There is more than one reason why, but let’s take one, which is a kind of adverse selection.

            If what Charter Schools do is simply pick off the kids who cost 20% less to educate (remember, students/families are self-selecting into the charter system before the lottery), then you don’t have any actual cost savings, you are just grouping the less expensive and more expensive kids and calling that cost savings. If you look at the cost of the whole system it might actually be rising!

            Imagine a very simple model wherein I buy two kinds of cookies, Oreos and Chips Ahoy. I buy the same number of Oreos and Chips Ahoy.

            If I calculate my per cookie cost it’s $0.10.

            Someone offers to sell my me Oreos for for $0.08 and I jump at it, but afterwards, my per cookie cost at the first supplies jumps to $0.13. It turns out that those Oreos were actually costing me $0.07 at the first supplier, but I did not realize it, because I thought I was buying undifferentiated “cookies”.

          • Matt M says:

            If what Charter Schools do is simply pick off the kids who cost 20% less to educate

            You are assuming the existing public schools are already educating these students for 20% less than average students. I’m a bit suspicious of that.

            Does a teacher spend less time grading the papers of smarter students? Does the school buy fewer fancy technological gizmos because the smart students don’t really need them? Maybe, but probably not to the full extent possible if you physically separated the smart students out and allowed the entire school to be specifically designed for the needs of a specific type of student.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @Matt M-
            I mostly agree with your broader point, but regarding:

            Does a teacher spend less time grading the papers of smarter students?

            Almost certainly. I’ve graded papers, and it’s at least an order of magnitude faster to confirm that an answer is correct than to puzzle through a wrong answer trying to determine just how wrong it is.

      • qwints says:

        I understand Kingsland’s argument is “charter schools can probably get better, or at least equal, results in low-income areas for 20% less cost” and that this implies we “as a society” should educate more students in public schools.

        That conclusion relies on the claim that charter schools produce “at least equal” results, which might not be the case even if they get higher test scores. That’s the point I was making. You can’t just assume away the possibility that charter schools might be worse for students.

        As HeelBearCub points out, the 20% cheaper figure may not scale. It also may not be the case that charter schools are truly 20% cheaper. It might be that charter schools are just avoiding expenses that are required to provide universal public education (Kingsland notes and adjusts for special education, but there could be others that charters would have to undergo if they took more students).

  71. gwern says:

    Big systematic review and meta-analysis: what actually helps lower-income students succeed? Read the paper or the Freddie deBoer blog post, which summarizes the results as “human beings”.

    My sides when a meta-analysis aggregates a bunch of small nulls and its only mention of small-study effects or publication bias is

    In addition to the analyses reported in this section, we evaluated publication bias for all studies and for tutoring studies separately, using funnel plots. There were indications of publication bias when we included all studies, but no clear indications for tutoring studies. All other components were evaluated in too few studies to be examined in this way.

    (There is always publication bias, and publication bias checks are low powered, so if your aggregate shows publication bias, all subtypes are biased.)

  72. flockoflambs says:

    Re: the Montana special election. I had responded to Jadagul here.

    Mostly the really important point to get out is that the Dem House nominee in 2016 got 40%. So looking at improvement in House election results, this is only a growth of 4%. Not very good when the prediction is “Democrats need a 4-6% swing to take the House in 2018.”

    More broadly, it goes to show that there are different data sets you can choose from. 538 chooses to look at change relative to Presidential performance, instead of relative to House performance. Largely because the House election data is very messy. But that’s still a choice, and the human level choices impact even what people consider “purely statistical analysis.”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Isn’t a growth of 4% pretty good when swing states are typically won by 1-2% margins?

      • flockoflambs says:

        Are we talking Presidential or House here? Because the House is much more biased against Democrats (partially due to gerrymandering, but also due to geographic concentration of Democrats) than the Electoral College is. Which is why 538 says Democrats need 4-6 points of swing away from the 2016 House results.

        It’s also less good given factors that won’t apply in the midterms: national focus on this race meant there should have been fundraising parity, whereas not every swing race in 2018 will get a national donor base involved in it. Plus the bodyslamming thing.

      • bintchaos says:

        4% would have delivered HRC the election in these battleground states.

        NOTE: non-Nate Silver data so i cant be steel-manned

        • flockoflambs says:

          But we would like to win the House in 2018.

          • bintchaos says:

            Could happen…
            its early times and Montana isnt exactly a bellwether– I think some recent “jungle primary” elections…Kansas, Georigia, California have shown an up to 8% flip in republican districts.
            Watch Georgia 6th for the Ossoff/Handel election later this month.

      • Lasagna says:

        There’s the danger of attaching too much importance to these numbers. This is a specific House race involving specific voters, in a special election, between two specific candidates. The voters cast their votes based on those facts, not based on national trends.

        Trying to use this race to guess how the House of Representatives is going to change in a year and a half seems pointless. If the Democrats had run an amazing candidate who clicked with his district’s voters, he’d have won. If what’s-his-name had clocked a mother of three and member of the PTA instead of a British journalist, he’d have lost.

        I feel like every time these conversations start, we enter “but the Democrats start with 246 electoral votes” territory. That was never true. They start with zero, just like the Republicans.

        A change from 40% to 44% of the vote for the Democrats in Montana just tells you that the Democrat lost (again). It doesn’t tell you how Pennsylvania is going to vote in 2018.

        • flockoflambs says:

          The approach of intellectual humility is totally true in this case. I wrote the post to point out the desperate overconfidence of the Vox piece, that was ignoring a lot of damning data, just to reassure its readers the next morning in the wake of a symbolic defeat.

          Given what we know, there is a decent chance Democrats might take the House in 2018 (which is absolutely needed because the Senate is out of reach due to which seats are up, to get real congressional investigations going and stop the pipeline of toxic legislation.) But it didn’t really get any more likely with a 7 point loss in Montana, and there’s enough reasons to be nervous that we shouldn’t be cheering ourselves up over this loss.

  73. J Mann says:

    Vox did update their point on Flynn. Originally, they wrote:

    Here, too briefly, are some facts to ponder — facts that Murray was not challenged to consider by Harris, who holds a PhD in neuroscience, although they are known to most experts in the field of intelligence.

    – The Flynn effect, named for the political scientist and IQ researcher James Flynn, is the term many scholars use to describe the remarkable rise in IQ found in many countries over time. There has been an 18-point gain in average IQ in the US from 1948 to 2002. One way to put that into perspective is to note that the IQ gap between black and white people today is only about half the gap between America as a whole now and America as a whole in 1948. Murray’s hand-waving about g does not make that extraordinary fact go away.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20170518144940/https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/5/18/15655638/charles-murray-race-iq-sam-harris-science-free-speech

    But over the next few days, Vox substituted the following:

    Here, too briefly, are some facts to ponder — facts that were insufficiently addressed in the podcast (or omitted entirely):

    – The Flynn effect, named for the political scientist and IQ researcher James Flynn, is the term many scholars use to describe the remarkable rise in IQ found in many countries over time. There has been an 18-point gain in average IQ in the US from 1948 to 2002. One way to put that into perspective is to note that the IQ gap between black and white people today is only about half the gap between America as a whole now and America as a whole in 1948. When asked about the Flynn effect by Harris, Murray responds with some hand-waving about g, a response that does not make the extraordinary fact of the Flynn effect go away.

    Clarification: This article has been read to say that Harris did not ask Murray about the “Flynn effect,” the increase in IQ scores over time. That wasn’t our intent. They did discuss the phenomenon. We meant to say that Harris didn’t challenge Murray enough on its implications, and Murray’s answers on it were inadequate. The passage has been revised.

    I thought Harris challenged Murray on the Flynn effect – I guess it’s up to the readers whether they’re convinced by Murray’s answer, but I wouldn’t call it “handwaving,” I would call it a disagreement.

    (My understanding is that Murray thinks that the Flynn effect doesn’t appear to be in the same areas of g where researchers have found intra-group differences and therefore is worthy of note but not particularly likely to cast light on the problem. The Vox authors aren’t clear why they think the Flynn effect is relevant to the question, which makes the disagreement hard to score.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks – I looked for that but somehow missed it. I’ve updated the post.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      The usual (strong) argument for why the Flynn effect is relevant goes:

      1: An unknown factor X has changed IQ substantially over a relatively short time.
      2: This factor may have worked differently on blacks and whites.
      3: Therefore it is possible that the IQ disparity and also achievement gap is caused by the Flynn effect

      The weaker and more annoying version involves assuming that 2 is obviously true and that it is caused by white people preventing blacks from getting access to X.

      I am all in favour of investigating the Flynn effect; either 2 and 3 is true and we can get a lot of smart black people or at worst we learn something new and interesting about how IQ change over a couple generations. I’m good with either.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Therefore it is possible that the IQ disparity and also achievement gap is caused by the Flynn effect

        I believe this gets it backwards.

        Given that the Flynn effect is larger than observed racial disparity, it strongly suggests that the observed racial disparity may not be hereditary at all, as it proves non-hereditary effects are strong enough on their own (and we know that the non-hereditary environment of blacks and whites has been quite different in aggregate).

        • albatross11 says:

          The Flynn effect shows that environmental (in a very broad sense) changes can shift raw scores on IQ tests by quite a bit, more even than the black/white IQ difference if you go back far enough. That demonstrates that the black/white IQ difference could plausibly be entirely environmental. And indeed, this is the same issue that comes up generally here–blacks and whites in the US live in different enough circumstances that it’s really going to be hard to untangle environmental or genetic effects.

          You can try to control for some of the environmental differences between blacks and whites to untangle this stuff. The most extreme version of that involves transracial adoption. My understanding is that there’s not a ton of data there, but the data that exists does show a substantial closing of the IQ gap. (But someone please tell me if I’m wrong.) I know that if you simply control for (or partition out) blacks from high socioeconomic status or income, you also narrow the gap but don’t eliminate it. That presumably captures some of the environmental differences, but not all of them.

          Actually, given the heritability of IQ and the lower fertility of more educated people in most first-world countries, the Flynn effect raises some serious questions, because what we’d *expect* to see is falling IQ scores (as fewer smart people reproduced than dumb people); instead, we see rising IQ scores.

          A critical question about the Flynn effect is whether it represents people actually getting smarter, or whether it represents something more like people being more generally savvy about paper-and-pencil tests and IQ-test-like questions.

          As an example of this, think of increasing average height over time. That’s a real increase–something physically changed and everyone got taller.

          Now, imagine giving everyone a test on a computer console in 1977 vs 2017. It’s quite plausible that the average performance on the tests would go up substantially in 2017, because by then, everyone is familiar enough with computers that they’re comfortable with the setup and the cognitive complexity of the test is really just what’s on the test. In 1977, maybe a substantial fraction of test-takers would be spending a lot of mental cycles trying to figure out how the heck to use this weird TV-looking thing with typewriter attached to answer these questions.

          I’ve read the claim that there are technical reasons to think that the Flynn effect is more like everyone getting better at taking the tests rather than everyone getting smarter, but I don’t really know enough to independently evaluate those arguments.

          • bbartlog says:

            The Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study showed only a small effect in terms of closing the gap. Indeed depending on how you want to parse the results you could argue that it shows no gap-closing effect at all (the adopted white cohort had average IQ 106 at age 17, the black cohort – those with two black biological parents – had IQ 89). There is also little support in the results for a negative effect from self-identifying as black or being culturally affected by stereotypes somehow. The half-black/half-white adoptees were intermediate in IQ score (99 at age 17), which is about what you’d expect from simple genetic effects but rather at variance with what we would get if the lower scores were a result of being culturally classified as black.
            Not a huge sample size though.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_Transracial_Adoption_Study

      • J Mann says:

        One problem is that Murray’s position is “we don’t yet know whether the observed disparity is environmental, genetic, or if a combination, what the combination is, but my personal guess is that it’s a combination.”

        Turkmenier, et al.’s position is “the current state of knowledge is such that Murray’s position is absurd and junk science.”

        If you accept the responses to Turkmenier that the