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(New Yorker, 01/28/08)

Sunday,  02/03/08  12:50 PM

 

"stalking"
(click to enlarge)

 

 

brain dump

Sunday,  02/03/08  12:53 PM

Sorry but I just have to do this; here is a dump of all the brain / IQ / Unnatural Selection -related posts I've been saving over the past year.  It is all interesting stuff and by putting it here I won't lose it.  (And by posting it I can clean it out of SharpReader!)  I find this sort of stuff massively interesting, but I feel the need to point out that I don't necessarily agree with everything I link.  I link, you decide.  Onward...

  • Eric Raymond: Out Like Flynn.  "Renowned pychometrician Charles Murray has given us, in The Inequality Taboo, a concise summary of the most current science on group differences in IQ and other measures of capability.  Most of it is not surprising to anybody who has been following the actual science rather than press accounts severely distorted by the demands of political correctness.  There is some new information here, however, and perhaps the most interesting bit is that turns out to be much less to the Flynn effect than meets the eye."
  • Eric Raymond: People getting brighter, culture getting dimmer.  "To sum up, we're brighter than we used to be, but lazier. We have more capacity, but we use less of it."  I disagree with this, we are not brighter than we used to be; just better educated.
  • Paul Graham: Inequality and Risk.  "So let's be clear what reducing economic inequality means. It is identical with taking money from the rich."  Exactly.  I think Paul is batting nearly 1.000 when it comes to these essays.
  • London Times: Yes, genes can be selfish.  Steven Pinker honors Richard Dawkins on the 30th anniversary of the Selfish Gene, one of my favorite books and I daresay one of the most important books ever written; the meme that ideas can evolve was started here (as was the term "meme"!).  [ via GNXP ]
  • Doonesbury skewers creationism.  I love it.  Here's another.  "Situational science is about respecting both sides of a scientific argument, not just the one supported by facts."  Wonderful.
  • Eric Raymond: The Rape Exception.  "If all human life is sacred, why is the child of rape an exception? It’s not like any fetus chooses to have a rapist as its father. Pro-lifers say all fetal life is sacred, but they don’t follow through as they would if they actually believed that. So they must actually believe something else."  Everyone understands abortion is a matter of expediency.  It is uncomfortable, but there it is.
  • Randall Parker: More single women using sperm donors.  "Most women will have better DNA choices from donor sperm than from the best man each can manage to find to marry."  This is the reason some species evolved harems.  Fascinating.
  • Orlando Patterson: A Poverty of the Mind.  "Nor have studies explained why, if someone cannot get a job, he turns to crime and drug abuse. One does not imply the other....  To hold someone responsible for his behavior is not to exclude any recognition of the environmental factors that may have induced the problematic behavior in the first place."  [ via Ann Althouse ]
  • Panda's Thumb: Beard Chromodynamics.  "The evolution of altruism, a behaviour that benefits others at one’s own fitness expense, poses a Darwinian paradox."  A great discussion of the possible genetic basis for altruism.  Generally when something appears to contradict Darwinism, it is later found to do the opposite.  (The phrase “green beard” was invented by Richard Dawkins as an example of an inherited visual display that would indicate that its possessor also possessed a genetic disposition for altruism, and thus could be trusted.)
  • Philip Greenspan: dumb towns getting dumber, smart towns getting smarter?  Yes.
  • Victor David Hanson: Assimilation is the real debate.  "There is still a solution to the immigration problem: It involves supporting any practice that leads to the assimilation of legal Mexican immigrants into the American mainstream - and opposing everything that does not."  This applies equally to the Muslim immigrants in Western Europe.  [ via LGF ]
  • A realtime population counter.  Based on statistics, shows the birth and death rates of each county.
  • Mark White: Longer life in the USA.  "This decline in death rates was so big it offset the increase in population, so the number of total deaths actually dropped."  Even thought more people than ever are being born, it is no longer true that more than ever are dying.  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Scott Adams deserves his own section; during 2006 he published a number of fascinating posts:

  • Scott Adams: four billion losers.  "Q: How do you explain to yourself that 4 billion people (minimum) believe different from you?  A: God lets 4 billion people worship delusions because he thinks free will is important."  Sharp as a knife.
  • Scott Adams: education and religion.  "My puzzlement is over the question of how the true religious people interpret the fact that the smartest and most educated people in the world are, on average, far less religious."  Of course the same cognitive dissonance that enables people to be religious would enable them to ignore such facts.
  • Scott Adams: IQ and religion.  "Even if the Global Association of God Believers funded the studies and found (hypothetically) that only morons believed in God, it’s unlikely that you would ever see those studies published. The only way a study showing low IQ to be correlated with religion is ever going to get published is if there is a good load of atheists all the way from the researchers to the publisher."  Yep, so much for truth.
  • Scott Adams: relativity.  "Let’s imagine for the sake of my new theory that people are always rational within their own reality. It only seems as if they are not because we all live in our own bubble of reality, with our own rules of what makes sense."  This makes perfect sense to me :)
  • Scott Adams: rational evil.  "I used to think America needed to change its foreign policy if it had any hope of ending terrorism...  there is a complete disconnect between reality and what terrorists believe. They think God gave them specific real estate, that a horse can fly, there are virgins waiting for them in heaven, and Jews orchestrated the 9-11 attacks. There’s no reason to believe that reality intrudes on their decisions. Tweaking reality would be a waste of time."  I agree with his definition of the problem, but not his fatalism; we can change terrorists' reality through the use of force.

Continuing, more or less chronologically:

  • Matthew Baldwin: In praise of loopholes.  "We have discovered the greatest loophole of all: Evolution has tried to coerce us into procreation by attaching great pleasure to the act of mating, and we've figured out how to couple up and get the goods while ignoring the 'intent' of sex."  There is a lot more to this - please click through and read the whole thing.
  • London Times: Cameras set racial poser on car crime.  So traffic cameras are apparently guilty of racial profiling :)
  • Glenn Reynolds in WSJ: The Parent Trap.  "Children used to provide cheap labor and retirement security, all in one. Now they're pretty much all cost and no return, from a financial perspective."  This logic applies mainly to the rich; the poor just keep having kids.  And the rich are smarter than the poor, so that means...
  • American Scientist: Smart as we can get?  "The tendency for intelligence scores to rise appears to have ended in some places. Indeed, it seems that some countries are experiencing a Flynn effect with a reversed sign."  This is what I was afraid of... Unnatural Selection is real.  [ via GNXP: The end is nigh... for the Flynn Effect ]
  • Randall Parker: Better educated more willing to design babies.  "Reproductive biotech will widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots as smarter people arrange to make their kids have even higher IQs."  Of course; as much as technology benefits the have-nots, it benefits the haves more...
  • Blogosphere legend Steven Den Beste posts on 9/11/06: The Disunited States of America.  "We all vowed never again. Some of us vowed that we would do whatever it took to make sure that the terrorists didn't strike us again. Others vowed that they would do whatever it took to make America stop doing all the evil things that had inspired the attack in the first place."  The comments are interesting, too...
  • Richard Dawkins [video]: Queerer than we Suppose.  "...the true nature of the universe eludes us, because the human mind evolved to understand the "middle-sized" world we can observe..."  [ via Liron Shapira ]

The problem in a nutshell:

  • Randall Parker: Industrial nations increase incentives for babies.  "Faced with graying populations and the need for more younger workers to pay taxes to support growing retired populations many industrial nations are adopting pro-natal policies." Oh, joy.  Of course nobody asks "whose babies?"  Well actually Randall does: "What I'd like to know: what is the native French fertility rate and what is the Muslim fertility rate? The French need babies that'll grow up to be smart, highly skilled, and work in occupations with high pay and hence big tax revenue boosters."  We all know the answer, although it is an uncomfortable truth.
  • Paul Graham: Mind the Gap.  "Like chess or painting or writing novels, making money is a very specialized skill. But for some reason we treat this skill differently. No one complains when a few people surpass all the rest at playing chess or writing novels, but when a few people make more money than the rest, we get editorials saying this is wrong."  Well, there is one other thing like that, and it is related; when a few people appear smarter than the rest, that's wrong too.
  • London Times: We're about as smart as we're going to getQuoting James Flynn.  Unfortunately he tries to sugar coat this: "Far from indicating that now we really are getting dumber, this may suggest that certain of our cognitive functions have reached - or nearly reached - the upper limits of what they will ever achieve."  I don't see the difference between intelligence and 'the upper limits of your cognitive functions', do you?  Basically, we are getting dumber.  [ via GNXP: Flynn on the Flynn effect ]
  • Move from James Flynn: Beyond the Flynn Effect.  An interesting discussion, but you can feel him laboring to deemphasize the importance of IQ; revealing his own discomfort with all the evidence to the contrary.
  • Clive Thompson: Me and my big dwarf nose.  "Why is racism considered bad in the real world -- but part of the fun in online games?"  Yeah, why?
  • Randall Parker: Do we need more babies or higher producing babies?  "I'm about to propose something that might not become politically doable by Western countries (though the more pragmatic Chinese might pick up on it): Restrict reproduction to allow only the creation of wealth creators."  Well there; someone said it.  Don't hold your breath on any action in this direction, but at least we can talk about it.

Let me wrap up with some typically great posts on Gene Expression (aka GNXP), one of my favorite blogs, where anything can be debated rationally (and often is):

  • Alex B on GNXP: IQ -> Academic Achievement.  "Take home message: While general cognitive ability and academic achievement are not isomorphic, the former is necessary for the latter, while the converse is not necessarily true."  More evidence, if any were needed, that IQ measures something real, and is a useful predictor of performance.
  • SustaSe on GNXP: Validity of National IQ.  The data are pretty compelling; check it out.
  • SustaSe on GNXP: Improved assessment of National IQ.  More on the same subject...  underlying this is the assumption fact that there is variation between National IQs...  (that same uncomfortable truth)
  • Razib on GNXP: Behavioral economics and IQ.  The implications of IQ carried to the logic conclusion.

I hope you find this stuff as interesting and as worthy of debate and analysis as I do; as always your comments are welcomed: just email me at ole@pacbell.net...

 

Sunday,  02/03/08  07:54 PM

Tom Petty at halftime of the Super BowlCan I just say Tom Petty was excellent at halftime?  I can?  Cool, because I thought he was.  I love the trend of having good old rock bands performing at halftime shows; last year's Super Bowl featured Prince, and the year before we had the Stones...  (And just recently ZZTop rocked the Orange Bowl.)  Much better than lousy hip-hop [c]rap.  Or wardrobe malfunctions.

The game itself began as a yawner, but ended up having a pretty exciting final quarter.  In fact the last five minutes were excellent; you had the young gun (Eli Manning) leading the upstart underdogs (Giants) to a last minute touchdown, and then the old veteran (Tom Brady) responding with the undefeated juggernaut (Patriots), but coming up short.  Great stuff.  Oh, and Shirley's tacos were pretty great, too :)

BTW as far as ads; the worst was the Audi ad with the radiator in the bed, a la the Godfather.  The R8 is one awesome car, why not show a minute of it climbing Pike's Peak, accompanied by the roar of its engine?  That would sell way more cars than something dumb that didn't work [and even if it did would insult people].

It's Groundhog Day!  Punxsutawney Phil predicts more winter.  So be it.  I cannot hear "Groundhog Day" without hearing Sonny and Cher singing "I got you babe".  And smiling :)

5:59 - it's Groundhog day!Jamie Zawinsky must have been bored yesterday; he figured out in laborious detail that Bill Murray's character lived in Groundhog day for at least four years.  Seems worth it to end up with Andie MacDowell.  My own view however is that the pacing item would be learning to play the piano that well, which would take rather longer than four years.

The pundits continue to weight in on the Microsoft / Yahoo combination: Fake Steve describes Monkey Boy's three-legged race.  "It's like taking the two guys who finished second and third in a 100-yard dash and tying their legs together and asking for a rematch, believing that now they'll run faster."  A quote which allegedly came from Steve Ballmer (Monkey Boy) himself.

Henry Blodget has a similar view: Why the Yahoo-Microsoft deal will be a disaster.

And Geoffrey Moore called this a long time ago: Competing for Market Share - Maybe.  "In categories where purchases are frequent and switching costs are low, making sacrifices to gain market share is a fool’s errand. There is no way to recoup your investment downstream since each new round of purchases reopens the bidding to all comers."  That would seem to describe the online ad market perfectly.

My own view is that it won't happen; either the DOJ will intervene, or the deal will fall apart during negotiations.  But it will hurt both companies anyway; valuable talent is already leaving Yahoo and MSN.

There's a new programming language out there: Arc.  It is a dialect of Lisp.  "Arc is designed above all for exploratory programming: the kind where you decide what to write by writing it. A good medium for exploratory programming is one that makes programs brief and malleable, so that's what we've aimed for. This is a medium for sketching software."  I would normally ignore such a thing, but the author of Arc is Paul Graham.  He describes some of the key virtues and wants us to take the Arc challenge.

The key virtue of Arc is that it enables programs to be made shorter.  This makes them easier to write and debug, and exposes the logic enabling easier iteration and enhancement.  Interesting.  Of course performance will be a problem - it always is, with Lisp derivatives - but for many applications that might not matter.

That's an interesting segue to a great post I had saved: Why Windows is less secure than Linux.  The two diagrams at right represent system call trace maps; the upper one is Apache on Linux, and the lower one is IIS on Windows.  You can see at a glance that Linux is simpler and more organized, and hence easier to debug and secure.

System call trace map: Apache on Linux
Apache on Linux
(click to enlarge)

System call trace map: IIS on Windows
IIS on Windows
(click to enlarge)

 
 

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