Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Transparency and the Wisdom of ... Us


Crowd-sourced crime solving.... Geez can anyone explain why I wasn't a consultant on this upcoming new show - Wisdom of the Crowd? (Though for sure, I'm looking forward to it.) 

Second question: why do so many previews give away almost the whole story?  I hope this one will be as good as Person of Interest was... only with an important difference. I hope that its core message is one that we actually need. A confidence-building notion that we -- all of us working together in the open -- are potentially very powerful.

Speaking of New Era crime solving... how about..

== “Pre-Crime at South by Southwest! ==

Are any of you members of the fantastic culture/arts/tech festival South by Southwest?  If you, you get to help choose some of the events through the “panel-picker” page. Naturally, I hope you’ll vote for one that I’m scheduled to be on: “Pre-Crime: It's Not Just Science Fiction Anymore.”  Here’s the writeup … and a link to vote.

In Philip K. Dick’s 1956 “The Minority Report,” murder was eradicated due to the “Pre-Crime Division,” which anticipated and prevented crime before it happened. Sixty years later, elements of pre-crime cybersecurity technology are already in place. But how do we toe the line between safety and Big Brother? This panel will discuss the history of predictive analytics, privacy implications of monitoring and how AI/machine learning will shape society in the future.”

== Should we fret about the cameras? ==

Back in the eighties, I witnessed video cameras sprouting like crocuses, all over Great Britain. The same thing happened in Paris, in the early nineties, and I began pondering the concepts that would later make their way into my book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? Since then, The U.S. has become just as dense with cameras overlooking almost every street  -- one area where Moore’s Law is still in full force, as the cams every year get smaller, faster, better, cheaper, more mobile and vastly more numerous.

Only there’s a crucial difference. In most U.S. cities, the vast majority of cameras are privately owned. There’s still surveillance! (And elsewhere I talk about how important it is to keep and enhance our “sousveillance” power to look back!) But most of the time, the authorities must knock on doors and ask: “may we please see your footage?”

In the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, every single person or business that was asked fell all over themselves to help! 

On the other hand, during the highly controversial Seattle “police riot” some years back, many companies and private citizens muttered: “Hell no, go get your court order.” That difference could be crucial, positively or negatively. But citizens -- sorry "subjects" -- in Britain don't have the choice. Same number of cams, but a very different society.

Oh, but now we see change afoot. In Detroit, Project Greenlight encourages businesses to put up city operated, standardized surveillance units. Companies that are part of Project Greenlight send live video to directly to Detroit police. Police can access them, monitoring them from the real time crime center at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters

Project Greenlight went into place in January 2016. According to city officials, a recent study shows the original eight Project Greenlight stations continue to see a nearly 40% reduction in violent crime. Project Greenlight was also the key to an arrest after a wild shoot out at a gas station in March 2016. Since then, it has expanded to more than 100 businesses and continues to grow.” reports local Detroit news.
Alas, as you might expect, they keep upping the ante.

“The city of Detroit and the Detroit Police Department are considering making Project Greenlight mandatory for any business that's open after 10 p.m. Police say it's helped to curb violent crime but the plan to make it mandatory is raising privacy concerns,” reports Ryan Ermanni. 

Is this trend inevitable?  Of course it is. The difference between the U.S. and Britain was temporary, after all.  Still, it is the habit that matters. We must maintain the habit of looking back.

== Open Science - Citizen Science  ==

I’ve been asked to comment on the rise of “open science,” a fascinating topic. There is an irony:

1. The one monotonic trend of the 20th Century was the professionalization of everything. This gave us spectacular benefits of both scale and specialization, but it could not be maintained because it is essentially zero-sum.  A skilled person must be one thing or else another.

2. Cracks began to appear in the late 20th as hobbies, pastimes, avocations began to burgeon in positive-sum ways. ("I can be several things - a professional in my day job and almost professional at one or more pastimes.") Today, amid a burgeoning Age of Amateurs, we see the worst rigidity of professional castes crumbling. Most sciences now have processes that welcome input and data collection and even analysis by
individual and affiliated amateur scientists, participating in well-organized mixed projects with professionals.

Moreover, this trend refutes all the hoary accusations that we are "decadent" or losing contact with older wisdom. There are more blacksmiths, sword-makers and hand looms today than at any point in 100 years. Heck, more horses!  While those who are critical of the modern era have (on average) tended toward obesity, many (perhaps most) of the supposedly decadent modernists engage in rising amounts of physical activity. Some of those activities -- like jumping our of airplanes with surfboards -- may be clinically crazy... but ain't it cool?

3. There is a dark side to the amateurism trend. Scurrilous forces in society are now waging propaganda war against all skilled, fact-using castes.The "war on science" is only the tip of the iceberg, as expertise itself is slurred.

So here's the irony.  We needed the reduction in guild categorization that was threatening to hamper progress. The Age of Amateurs and opening of fields, like science, to input from bright and earnest outsiders, will benefit civilization. This is a point that I raise in my book: "The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us ChooseBetween Privacy and Freedom?"

On the other hand, the 20th Century's professionalization of expertise was what brought us to this party. Waves of amateurs can augment skilled elites usefully, and challenge them beneficially! But it is pure suicide to denigrate every clade of people who know their fields and have spent their lives developing stunning levels of skill. Scientists, teachers, journalists, doctors, civil servants, law professionals, military officers... they can be mistaken, from time to time! And they always merit watching...

... but it is the critic who bears the burden of proof, when he says: "I read a couple of articles on a political site, and now I know more about this than folks who have spent their life gathering data and comparing competing models and understanding the field."

See more of my missives:



  

== Artificial intelligence ==

Get ready for the first robot empathy crisis: Generally a not-bad summary about my talk at the AI Conference in San Francisco, if oversimplifying in a number of ways..  The one glaring error is that I never said you should join a dozen NGOs to save the world for you for $50/month each! 

That's a lot for most people! 

What I said was that you can find a dozen organizations that will actively represent your interests in how the world can be improved, and set them to work doing what you think needs doing for $30 to $50 each per YEAR, annual membership dues.  That's a big difference!

Sure, lots of folks can and should give more.  But if you are a middle class person and not doing that much - that basic, minimal engagement - then you have no right to bitch about the state of the world.  See more about this in my article: Saving the world through Proxy Activism.

But go to the source, of course, of course. For this talk -- How Might Artificial Intelligence Come About? -- I squeezed the topics - if not the details - of my hourlong AI talk for IBM's World of Watson into half an hour.  Could only do that with a very elevated audience.

And finally... This essay makes a case that there is a difference between a “leaker” and a righteous “whistle blower.” Citing both James Comey and Reality Winner as recent examples, the author suggests a discrete difference that is actually (I assert) much more murky and part of a very broad spectrum.

165 comments:

Carl M. said...

War on science?

http://quillette.com/2017/08/07/google-memo-four-scientists-respond/

LarryHart said...

A quoted article in the main post:

In Philip K. Dick’s 1956 “The Minority Report,” murder was eradicated due to the “Pre-Crime Division,” which anticipated and prevented crime before it happened. Sixty years later, elements of pre-crime cybersecurity technology are already in place. But how do we toe the line between safety and Big Brother? ...


To me, the conundrum is this: It makes sense to prevent someone from committing crimes that haven't happened yet. It doesn't make sense to punish someone for crimes he hasn't committed yet. Since the measures taken by police for preventing crimes and punishing crimes are largely identical, something has to give.

Not to mention that the predictive ability can't possibly be 100% accurate (if it were, there'd be no point in trying to change the outcome preemptively), so there is a non-zero chance of penalizing innocents.

sociotard said...

I will say that leaking the transcripts of Donald Trump's calls with Mexico and Australia was inappropriate, as was publishing those leaks. They didn't show anything illegal, just buffoonery. That was not whistleblowing.

Berial said...

This is about all I have to say about the whole 'Google thing'. Read this guy's summation:

https://twitter.com/mcclure111/status/895071933666017280

A summation of the summation: "Maybe you disagree with this. Maybe you disagree with the 50-year judicial consensus concerning harassment in a workplace and U.S. employment law. Whatever. However, if whatever it is you're saying doesn't start with being aware that for the last 50 years American law and American corporations have worked a particular way, it's GIBBERISH. It isn't even wrong. It's just gibberish."

occam's comic said...

Class Warfare on the middle and working class?
You bet !
The Regan revolution and the last 30 years class warfare has completely changed how economic gains are distributed to the population.
See this chart
http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/08/chart-of-the-day-middle-class-incomes-vs-the-rich-1946-2014/

The oligarchs have been very successful in their class warfare.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@sociotard: David Frum made the point that presidents and other foreign, even perfectly reasonable ones, now have less confidence that their private conversations will remain so. That is a net negative: damage inflicted on the unwritten norms of our society.

However, so is having a president who makes decisions without the least understanding of the questions, as well as reducing the standing of the United States by having a president who is a buffoon. Ultimately the question of appropriateness is a political, not legal, question. Which makes those particular leaks not whistleblowing, as under the law whistleblowing must be a violation of a law, regulation, or rule. You can't even argue that it is a violation of the Presidential Oath: that oath only requires the President to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution to the best of his ability. One of the problems facing the United States is that his ability is not very great, and the 'buffoonery' is evidence thereof. [This is separate from his numerous alleged and potential violations of that oath, ranging from the Emoluments Clause to his violations of separation of powers to the possible placement of personal interests above national ones.]

Were such leaks of 'buffoonery' to be prosecuted, I would argue in favor of one of two solutions: either jury nullification or the monkey-trial solution of a $100 fine and time already served. The leaks were both illegal and in the clear public interest. That's an apt description of a lot of actions going on this year, to be honest.

@Dr. Brin: Two articles I'd like to bring your attention to / get your take on.

1) Clarence Thomas' Takeover

2) How America Lost Its Mind

The second is particularly apropos to the topic at hand, a long-form trace of the rise of irrationalism as an expression of liberty: the dark side of the Age of Amateurs that prefers emotion to reason and truthiness to truth.

Berial said...

@Catfish N. Cod

I'm only about a quarter through that Atlantic piece and am already thinking couldn't he have just summed up most of this with 4 words? "It's the Babyboomer's fault."

This piece is LONG.

Darrell E said...

sociotard,

My mind is not completely made up on this, but I think I disagree with you about the Trump phone call leaks. I think it is important that certain information be kept secret, at least for a time, but there is nothing in either of these leaked phone calls that warrants secrecy in my opinion. Rather I think what is on display in those phone calls is just the kind of things that should be available to anyone who cares to look. I think it is appropriate, important even, that the public see that their president is a thuggish buffoon.

For better or worse it has always been the case that the press are often the ones making the decision about whether or not possibly sensitive information should be made public. While they've made their fair share of bad decisions I nevertheless think it has been for the better.

Paul SB said...

From the previous thread (I'll get to this one later), locum said,

"Neither Paul_SB nor I have any use for this Ruston character: His so-called 'science' is awful, his rationalisations unreasonable & his conclusions laughable."

- In which case, why did he link to Ruston in the first place? Deliberate dishonesty, or the onset of some form of dementia? Darrell commented that his screeds seem to have been going downhill for the past year, and I would agree. The old boy might be advised to schedule an MRI or Neuropsychological exam. It illustrates on of the problems with being in a near-constant state of anger; chronic anger works just like chronic anxiety, it pumps more and more cortisol up to the brain, causing more receptors to grow in the amygdala, the structure that processes fear and anger. The result is that becomes more sensitive, more easily triggered. This turns into a rather nasty feedback loop.

Then loci pulls this one:
"Paul objects to Murray's findings because he rejects IQ as a valid measure of intelligence, even though he accepts IQ as a valid measure of intelligence in order to validate his acceptance of 'encephalisation quotient' theory. This is what I call hypocrisy."
- No. There is no relationship between IQ and EQ, except that the names sound similar. And I was talking about Begmann's Rule, which partially explains why some human ancestors had larger brains, and why that has nothing to do with actual intelligence differences. Dishonesty, or dementia? Obviously we can't diagnose someone over the internet, we can only guess. But we have seen some pretty blatant dishonesty from him for years.

LarryHart said...

@Berial,

Not exactly. The article mentions how the characteristic of believing alternative facts took off during the 1960s, but he traces the characteristic itself all the way back through North American history.

Paul SB said...

Viking (also from the past thread),

Stephen Jay Gould's book "The Mismeasure of Man" which came out in 1983 detailed how IQ scores misrepresent generalizations about intelligence within and between populations. After Hernnstein and Murray's book came out, he reissued it with a new forward that essentially said that "The Bell Curve" was simply more of the same BS that people have been doing since the Eugenics Movement. He even pointed out a passage in Hernnstein & Murray, in tiny type at the very end of the book in which they essentially admit that the statistics they were using might not actually mean what they said they mean. It was a long time ago, but as I remember one of the key criticisms revolved around a specific statistical method that would be incomprehensible to anyone who has not taken (and passed, of course) an advanced class in statistics. The whole point of examining these books was to consider how it is we can determine who is the credible source when they are arguing points that require specific skills we do not actually have. Obviously a majority of the public do not have those specific skills, and so their reactions tended to be more emotion-driven than rational. The Wall Street people loved it because it told them what they wanted to hear, while just about everyone else was angry and waved their fists over their obvious racism. But this doesn't actually resolve anything, and for those who are on the fence, the appearance of scientific support for racism could be convincing, since most people simply won't be able to see the flaws that invalidate their assertions.

If you are really interested, I would recommend actually reading the Gould book. But if you don't have a background in statistics, you aren't going to get chapters 2 and 3, where the key statistical argument is. It was a pretty hard slog for those of us who had only taken one stats class at the time, as I recall, and I'm not especially good at the math. However, the concepts themselves aren't too hard to grasp, but without the math you can only take it on faith, really.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@LarryHart:

The piece also blames the generations in power, the Greatest and particularly the Silent, for submitting and even channeling the irrationality, using it in ways that are now exploding as the inmates take over the asylum. To some degree, though, this phenomenon happens with each Great Awakening; the 21st Amendment was part of the cleanup of the overzealotry of the Temperance movement. [It's not a bad thing that America permanently came to drink less, but geez, did we have to have booze smuggling and Al Capone?] America has always had irrationality in its veins; the difference is that, excepting a few episodes like the Know-Nothings or Governor Long, irrationality has never dominated the government before. Now we are being partially ruled by conspiracy theory, the way many other countries have been through history. If you don't happen to subscribe to the belief system, it's very painful.

I think a fairly large chunk of Xer and Millennial politics over the next 40 years will consist of debating what rational corrections need to be made to the zealotry the Boomers subjected us all to. While we are partly shaped by all those beliefs, "get real" means something very different to my peers than it did to the Boomers.

@occam's: much more meaningful is the animation in the source page on NYTimes.com. It shows the progression 1980-2014, and it's a doozy. While the rich were getting richer 1980-2000, things didn't seem to really be all that bad; the overall gains were slightly lower for everyone else but it was an incremental thing. Around 2003, the bottom fell out; things improved briefly around 2009 but went right back in the stewpot.

Before 1980, the poor improved relative to everyone else: the economic gap was narrowing.
Between 1980 and 2000, everyone got approximately even gains all around, except for the 0.1% who got a fair bit more.
Since 2000, we have had a frankly regressive economy, where the more you have, the more you gain.

Or, put another way: the American Dream was put on pause in 1980, and has been MIA since 2003.

And they wonder why Bernie Sanders became popular....

LarryHart said...

Catfish N Cod:

Before 1980, the poor improved relative to everyone else: the economic gap was narrowing.
Between 1980 and 2000, everyone got approximately even gains all around, except for the 0.1% who got a fair bit more.
Since 2000, we have had a frankly regressive economy, where the more you have, the more you gain.


Yeah, I don't remember where I saw this, but I just recently read some article advising Democrats on how to connect with non-deplorable Trump voters. One of the items it mentioned was that they needed to realize that "Americans are interested in growing the pie, not just redistributing it."

And I thought, the pie has been growing quite well. The problem is it gets snarfed up just as quickly.

locumranch said...


Lovely. Assuming that criminal behaviour is subject to 'classification', I can't wait to see how David reconciles his Pre-Crime & Social Transparency positions with his concluding comments from the last thread which state that "NO PERSON SHOULD HAVE HER OR HIS OPPORTUNITIES PRE-RESTRICTED, BECAUSE OF REAL OR IMAGINED TRAITS OF SOME CLASSIFICATION TO WHICH SHE OR HE BELONGS. ESPECIALLY IF SHE OR HE HAD NO CHOICE IN THAT AFFILIATION". Then, we'll ask him to apply the term 'entrapment' to the resulting synthesis. It'll be a laugh-riot.


Best.
___
Paul_SB asserts that there is "There is no relationship between IQ and EQ", even though the term EQ is defined as "the ratio between actual brain mass and predicted brain mass for an animal of a given size (in order to) theorize approximate intelligence level or cognition of the species". Ergo, this is 'argument by assertion' as he & his pet EQ theory can't or won't define the term 'intelligence' in any quantifiably meaningful fashion, making either assertion impossible to prove or disprove.

LarryHart said...

locumranch in the previous thread:

Larry_H says that he prepares expectantly for the unpleasant outcomes. If so, I'd like to hear about his contingency plans & preparations: Has he stockpiled water, food & medicines in advance of shortages? Is he prepared to defend himself, his family & loved ones from incivility? Is he well armed? Does he possess basic medical training?


First, you show me your preparations for global warming. Because that's going to happen before your fall-of-civilization fantasy. Sure, I used to think about such things in the 1980s and again around Y2K, but it keeps not happening. So I don't see why I should use my resources to prepare for a limited survival in a post-apocalyptic world at war with my neighbors instead of putting them to better use in the here and now. Just as you see no need to prepare for increased floods and windstorms and droughts and pestilence brought on by global warming, because doing so would reduce your standard of living.


Or, does he intend, like Blanche Dubois, to rely on the 'kindness of strangers'?


The kindness of family, friends, and community. And if that's not forthcoming, then it's time for the guillotine.



Berial said...

Finished reading the Atlantic piece. I thought it way to long for what he wanted to say.

Sadly, I wasn't surprised to see the comments section there seems full of people ready to demonstrate just how incredibly smart they are, by telling everyone what the author was REALLY saying without actually reading the article themselves. (PS: Not very smart actually, guess they already decided what their reality is.)

Anonymous said...

@ Paul SB

If i were to distill the arguments from "The Bell Curve" into a few sentences, it would be this:

1. Population studies of various distinct social groups clearly do show there are differences in intelligence, and research shows that a significant fraction is nature.

2. If social policies are based on the assumption that differences in achievements between groups is all nurture, no nature, then these social policies are likely to be sub optimal.

Note that the message of the book is not to try and convince anybody about nature vs nurture. In a sense, the book is a meta analysis that aggregates data from many sources, and draws conclusion beyond those drawn by the original studies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta-analysis

The attacks on Murray beyond the slurs (racist, nazi, eugenicist etc) seems to be that his reasoning for being against racial preferences (color blind) are not logically supported.

I am considering reading "The Mismeasure of Man", hopefully I can find an electronic version for my Kindle.

Viking said...

Sorry, 12:43 PM was me, Viking

occam's comic said...

The IQ test was developed as a method for predicting future academic achievement. And it does a OK job at predicting future academic achievement.

And at least one type of intelligence is related to academic achievement but I think we all have encountered a person who is "book smart" but dumber than a box of rocks. ( at work we had this book smart guy, he had a MBA and Chemical Engineering degree, who thought it was a good idea to pour molten wax down the drain in order to get rid of it. The high school educated plumber who came in to fix the problem had a real belly laugh about our chemical engineers "intelligence".)

J.L.Mc said...

What would happen if people rebelled against brins hypothetical surveillance system?

Mark Gast said...

@JL

How are you going to rebel against omnipresent cameras? The only way I know of is by going where there are no cameras. Cameras are getting smaller, more plentiful and cheaper so good luck with that. I have no problem with surveillance as long as EVERYONE is subjected to it. This includes our fickle political representatives.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Sociotard wrote: "I will say that leaking the transcripts of Donald Trump's calls with Mexico and Australia was inappropriate..."

Not whistleblowing, since Trump wasn't actually breaking any laws. But in the public interest, since it demonstrates a dishonest and calculating president who is deliberately lying to the public while tossing winks to the "problems" he's promising the public he will solve.
So entirely appropriate.
This guy makes Cheney and Nixon look open and honest. Any leak about his personal comportment in office is appropriate.

Finn de Siecle said...

Re the Google flap, some have noted that what the ex-employee is accused of arguing (that the company should not be pushing to hire more women in programming) doesn't really match up with what his memo actually said (that in trying to hire more women, the company should use an approach that takes certain theories of gender differences into account). From The Atlantic: The most common error in coverage of the Google memo. It's also argued in other discussions of the case that Google explicitly encourages such in-house policy discussions, so its reaction in this one comes off (especially to those on the political right) as objecting to the employee's politics (e.g., "he offended the social justice advocates").

That said, I've worked for companies that supposedly encouraged input, and I never thought for one minute that I could bring up anything with a politically controversial odor and get away unscathed, so I have to wonder what was in this guy's head.

(And re Person of Interest, damn, I miss that show. At least they got the chance to craft a well-done ending.)

David Brin said...

JL, there are a couple of excellent stories about rebelling against universal transparency, in CHASING SHADOWS.

But then, if you can spot anyone who might be trying to harm you... including gossip or staring... then your rebellion means... what?

--
Carl M seems unaware that denying the War on Science has metastacized into a War on (almost) All Fact Users is like denying that Ph levels in the ocean have risen or that the Arctic is melting or that tobacco kills… a pure sign of political mania and or selling out for the luscious bribes long offered by the Kochs for defectors willing to kiss ass. The astonishing thing is not that there are shills such as the whores who he cites, but that they are so few, given the Koch bribes on-offer.

Also astonishing, of course, is Carl’s gullibility… but also… let me add… the fact that he does come back here, instead of diving into some echo chamber of Nuremberg style meme reinforcement. I may chide him relentlessly (e.g. for ignoring those 6000 years.) But I honor that last thing.

LarryHart, the absurdity of Minority Report was that the pre-crimers were punished FAR worse than if they had committed the act. That had one purpose, to drive the jeopardy plot. And I found it disappointing that Spielberg didn’t work harder to avoid it. Especially given that the rest of the story was fairly reasonable, depicting a future that had some creepy aspects, but that was a democracy, whose citizens were generally fearless.

Sociotard is right. Some leaks are wrong.

David Brin said...

Anonymous attempts to paraphrase “The Bell Curve” in a few sentences and it is not a horrifically bad attempt:

1. Population studies of various distinct social groups clearly do show there are differences in intelligence, and research shows that a significant fraction is nature.

2. If social policies are based on the assumption that differences in achievements between groups is all nurture, no nature, then these social policies are likely to be sub optimal.

Alas, though, anon utterly misses the point.

1. The “differences in averages” (DIA) that might be found in comparisons of bell curves have always diminished over time, with the application social resources to eliminate disadvantages, prejudices and discouragements. Given that blatant history, the only useful policy application of comparison of bell curves is to call attention to a likely need for investment.

(Yes, the rate of narrowing of DIAs may diminish, over time, settling on some “natural” DIA. So? Read on.)

2. It is clear that the top motive behind “The Bell Curve” and its zealots is racism, sexism and desperate need for confederate-style solace in symbolic superiority. Yes, some are attracted to the topic out of intellectual orneriness. The latter group should make strenuous efforts to distinguish themselves from the racists… as I describe legitimate climate skeptics distinguishing themselves from members of the insane denialist cult.

http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/climatechange2.html

3. The blatant fact of human individual diversity - plus 250 years of the American Experiment - show that it is both immoral and impractical to apply group stereotypes upon individuals in ways that restrict any individual’s right or ability to say “I am different from that average.”

It is #3 that proves the despicable core of the Bell Curve zealots. Even if observed differences in averages (DIA) did not decline with the application of resources and justice, there would be no justification for the racist-sexist-bigoted application of DIA upon any individual who is seeking to prove herself or himself.

Even if a person cannot parse the intellectual arguments I have made here, there is a basic conclusion: if that person seeks to restrict another person’s individual ambition, based upon membership in a classification like race or gender in which there was no choice, then that bigot is a nasty, degraded person who did voluntarily join a classification group, one we should all treat with great contempt.

Assholes.

Carl M. said...

David: chases squirrel, hurls insults and wonders why I take a break from the insanity.

BTW, the who sexes are equal law IS the result of a Confederate plot. Literally. It was tacked onto the Civil Rights Act by Dixiecrats in an attempt to kill the bill.

Yankees, of course, remain unrepentantly sexist. Just look at the demographics of MIT's physics department. Utterly horrifying!

http://web.mit.edu/physics/people/faculty/index.html

Carl M. said...

Here's a thought experiment for ye. Suppose a promising Silicon Valley startup decided to use chess ratings as a proxy for talent. Chess has utterly objective metrics. There is no judging.

Would this be fair?

Or would it be sexist?

Have a gander at the UT Dallas chess team while you contemplate your answers:
https://www.utdallas.edu/chess/chess-team/

(Kind of looks like Google...)

Jumper said...

Look at all the cameras. Look at all the people with guns. With scopes. Easy.

One more law of IQ tests: those who make up the tests always seem to do above average on them.

Paul SB said...

Carl,

Your chess supposition is just plain silly. Chess metrics might be objective, but in what was are they useful? In playing chess. That's pretty much it. The metrics that are useful for any particular profession are whatever qualifications make a person capable of doing that job. If that job happens to be playing chess, then that would be appropriate. For anything else, those metrics are arbitrary and meaningless. It would be like refusing to hire a programmer who has no legs because he is handicapped, then citing the number of laps a person can swim in a pool of a certain size over a certain amount of time as your hiring criteria. In other words, it's just a lame excuse for prejudice.

And as far as your claim to the unrepentant sexism of Yanks, you are grossly oversimplifying something that is complex and pervasive in state-level civilizations everywhere, hardly a Confederate/Yankee issue. You brought it up.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi
I have read the Bell Curve and Mismeasure (hard copy - don't know if there is a e-book)

the issue with using the data the way the Bell Curve does is that the IQ test is really only measuring a person's ability to do that specific IQ test
The linkage between "IQ" and actual intelligence is weak at best
- Any "innate" quality that can be significantly changed by a few hours training and practice is NOT very "innate"!!

If you think of it that way you will see that the Bell Curves findings of different averages are completely inevitable - a test designed by and for one culture will find that individuals from that culture will on average do better than individuals from another culture

And different races definitely have differences in their cultures even in the same country!

Here (NZ) we have the Maori - as a Scot I am now sympathetic to the English who could not seem to remember Scottish place names even when we found them easy to remember
The Maori place names are the same to me now - they are all too similar to each other so keeping them in your head is much more difficult than keeping Scottish - or even European place names

If an IQ test involved remembering place names then I would get an entirely different score with Maori place names or Scottish place names
An entirely non cultural IQ test is basically imposible

Paul SB said...

Viking,

Gould's book is available for Kindle. Here's the link:

https://www.amazon.com/Mismeasure-Man-Revised-Expanded-ebook/dp/B007Q6XN2S/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1502310564&sr=8-1&keywords=the+mismeasure+of+man

While Dr. Brin has argued the position well, I will add a couple details I remember from that discussion long ago in a classroom far, far away.
1. As Occam points out, I.Q. tests were not actually invented for the purpose of pigeonholing a person's intelligence with a permanent score. Anyone who actually works with IQ tests knows that the same student can get entirely different scores on the same test at two different times during the school year. One score would identify the kind as handicapped, the other as gifted. This is far from uncommon. Alfred Binet invented the test specifically to identify children who needed extra help in school. If IQ meant what most Americans think it means, then no amount of help would make a difference. And there isn't just one IQ test - they are calibrated by grade in school. They are absolutely meaningless outside of school. Then, of course, there's the Flynn Effect, which makes a mockery of the American understanding of IQ. The choice of name was unfortunate, because it allowed demagogues who had political agendas to easily fool people judge by appearances and aren't too interested in getting to the truth of matters.

2. When you look at the scores themselves, more often than not the difference in means between any two groups is less than one standard deviation. What that tells a competent statistician is that the two populations being compared are really one population that have been separated based on arbitrary criteria.

Both of these factors blow Hernnstein and Murray out of the water on scientific grounds, regardless of anyone's moral precepts. This is as it should be, any why people need to be better educated in scientific methodology and epistemology. I'm no fan of math, but I understand how powerful a tool statistics are, and how easy it is to manipulate people who do not understand statistics. There is another book I can recommend, written back in the 50s, called "How to Lie With Statistics." The Kindle edition is only six bucks and some change. Protect yourself from con artists.

https://www.amazon.com/How-Lie-Statistics-Darrell-Huff-ebook/dp/B00351DSX2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1502318700&sr=1-1&keywords=how+to+lie+with+statistics

Tim H. said...

Read "The Bell Curve" years ago, my main impression was how irrelevant it was to a working class person, better in the long run to take people on a case by case basis. My guess is that the authors were attempting a short cut to knowledge, rather than anything so gauche as what it's sometimes used as, "Known By The Company One Keeps" should be read more often than it is.

Paul SB said...

Locum, of course, is back to being ridiculous.

"Assuming that criminal behaviour is subject to 'classification', I can't wait to see how David reconciles his Pre-Crime & Social Transparency positions with his concluding comments from the last thread which state that "NO PERSON SHOULD HAVE HER OR HIS OPPORTUNITIES PRE-RESTRICTED, BECAUSE OF REAL OR IMAGINED TRAITS OF SOME CLASSIFICATION TO WHICH SHE OR HE BELONGS. ESPECIALLY IF SHE OR HE HAD NO CHOICE IN THAT AFFILIATION". "

So apparently now people are born criminals, right? Good luck proving that one! There are certain inherited mental illnesses that can lead to criminal behaviors that are essentially out of the individual's control - which is why they get treatment instead of imprisonment - but last I checked committing crimes is usually a done by choice, unlike the sex a person is born with, the nation in which they were born, the language they were taught, the melanin content of their skin, that sort of thing. More deliberate distortion. He would make a good preacher, if dementia doesn't get him first.

This little gem is a bit more complex:

"Paul_SB asserts that there is "There is no relationship between IQ and EQ", even though the term EQ is defined as "the ratio between actual brain mass and predicted brain mass for an animal of a given size (in order to) theorize approximate intelligence level or cognition of the species". Ergo, this is 'argument by assertion' as he & his pet EQ theory can't or won't define the term 'intelligence' in any quantifiably meaningful fashion, making either assertion impossible to prove or disprove."

If he bothered to look these up, he would know that there is, in fact, no connection between IQ and EQ (and if he read carefully he would have seen that it was the other Paul who brought in EQ, not me. I was talking Bergman's Rule, as I said in my last post - the density is astounding.)

Anyone can read my post above to Viking, or Duncan's good summation that we wrote about the same time, to see how IQ is not anything like an objective measure of intelligence. There really are no objective measures of intelligence, and I am doubtful there ever will be, because what we mean by intelligence covers so many disparate things, and what we recognize as intelligence changes over time. Another thing that should be glaringly obvious is that EQ is used to compare relative intelligence among different animal species. Good luck getting a giraffe to sharpen that #2 pencil and fill out that IQ test! If we can't objectively measure the intelligence of humans, how could measurement of the intelligence of other animals be on much sounder footing?

Here's a quick article on EQ, though there are many others.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/encephalization-quotient

I'll quote the only passage that mentions IQ:

"One problem that must temper any attempt to relate absolute or relative brain size to behavioral output is that individuals within a single species may have remarkably different behavioral capabilities but similar brain volumes. In humans, for example, performance on IQ tests differs substantially among individuals, demonstrating that brain size or neuron number is not sufficient to explain behavioral differences."

My best friend in high school had a big hat size, and he was damn proud that the IQ test he took in 6th Grade came out 145. In fact, he had a big head both literally and figuratively. While I had a smaller hat size, I never told him the score I got, because it would have infuriated his rather large ego. I beat him by 24 points, but I know better than to let my score on one single test go to my head. IQ simply doesn't mean what most Americans think it means. If I were as arrogant as locum I would be flaunting it and proclaiming that IQ really is an objective and permanent measure of intelligence.

Viking said...

Paul SB

"2. When you look at the scores themselves, more often than not the difference in means between any two groups is less than one standard deviation. What that tells a competent statistician is that the two populations being compared are really one population that have been separated based on arbitrary criteria."

I would be very surprised if any statisticians agreed to that statement.

Let me explore this in statistical terms.

Assume one population (A) has a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15.
Assume another population (B) has a mean of 115, and a standard deviation of 15.

+/- 1 standard deviation from the mean of a Gaussian distribution includes about 68% of the population.

If these distributions are Gaussian, the following statements are true:

Chance of picking a value above 115:
A=14%, B=50%

Chance of picking a value above 130:
A=2.5%, B=14%

Chance of picking a value above 145:
A=0.135%, B=2.5$%

Chance of picking a value above 160:
A=0.00317%, B=0.135%

If 2 distributions have a mean difference that is small compared to the standard deviation, the number of samples needed to determine which distribution you are sampling would increase.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Chess metrics might be objective, but in what was are they useful?

No. Carl has a point to make that can’t be dodged so easily. There are other examples of how companies hire that seem just as silly to me, but they are quite real. Some will only hire college graduates from a particular subset of colleges. It’s not that they are biases against other colleges, though. It’s just that it is less expensive for them to focus on certain ones and they get enough applicants to fill their needs. From their perspective, it is like saying I prefer Chinese and Italian food, so I’m not going to bother looking at French restaurants. Ever. Is it fair?

Chess rankings wouldn’t be so silly a proxy if you are trying to measure software development skills. The guy who leads the team I’m on uses a simple puzzle during every hiring interview. It’s not that you have to solve it in the allotted time. He wants to see how you think when you don’t know the answer. Any interviewee who panics probably wouldn’t do well under him. Development of chess skills requires that we methodically think through scenarios and apply and invent heuristics.

Don’t knock this example. I met my wife-to-be over a chess board. She knew that wasn’t her turf, so she turned it around on me and demanded we play Scrabble instead. After getting womped over two dozen times across several evenings, I finally began to figure out how to keep the score close on her. She NEVER backed off or made it easy on me, so I knew she had a strong intellect AND a spine. Both are necessary for anyone to put up with me for very long.

Alfred Differ said...

@Viking | What that tells a competent statistician is that the two populations being compared are really one population that have been separated based on arbitrary criteria."

Paul SB has a reasonable point when he said that, but he didn’t write the book chapter necessary to back it up. Seriously. It is reasonable.

Suppose you turn it around and start with one population and single criteria you measure for all of them. After you do that, arbitrarily divide the set in two roughly equal parts and measure the means for each. Chances are they will both be very close together, but there is a small chance that they won’t be. With these two sets, though, one could change the criteria and try another… and another… and another. Eventually, with enough searching, one WILL find a way to produce two means that are a little further apart. One might even get them far enough apart to think there is statistical significance. Is there, though? Remember that we started with one population.

There is a name for this statistical procedure and there are a whole lot of people doing it. The trouble we face with it is that it encourages us to reconsider our initial assumption of there being one population. Maybe there were two and we were just blind to it. If, instead, we START from the assumption there are two populations, the situation is much, much worse. We produce confirmation bias.

David Brin said...

What stunning BS, Carl! You utterly ignore every single thing that I say, then whine when I call you out? How about admitting the basics… that I read your missives and you utterly do not read mine. At best you skim in a hostile mind frame. You have lost all ambition to self-improve.

To specifics. There may be gender differences in the Distribution of Averages (DIA) and certainly chess inflates those. Women are among the best poker players because eye contact plays a role, whereas chess is about avoiding eye contact. Is chess then contrived to achieve a sexists end, if used as a job litmus? Not if the job in question requires FOCUS to an almost pathological degree, and zero social/team/ interaction, as in Vinge’s A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY.

But for almost any other job that involves a mix of symbol manipulation with actually dealing with people, then poker is better. Oh but there's a problem. Women would do well! So we can't have that example.

Likewise, Dean Kamen’s FIRST Robotics League manages to encourage teams with equal numbers in each gender. How? Actually try learning a thing! Opps. Sorry, Asking too much.

Btw. 6000 years, man. Who repressed competitive creativity and markets for 6000 years, Carl? Um?

——
Duncan, I portray Aotearoa in EARTH!

Paul451 said...

Re: The Trump calls.

The calls themselves showed only, as Sociotard says, buffoonery. That might be enough to justify release because, while not surprising about Trump, basic competence is a reasonable expectation of the President of the United States. But what's more important, IMO, is that they completely contradicted everything that the WH had said about them, so they were further evidence of Trump's continuous and reflexive lies.

--

occam's comic,
Re: Radical change in the distribution of economic growth.

As I've said before, over the period in question (1980+) the US economy doubled in size, but median income was flat. All that growth went to the upper incomes, exponentially with existing wealth. Prior to that period, median income grew roughly in sync with national growth. In effect, roughly half of the potential wealth of the majority of the nation has been stolen, year after year, for the last four decades, by a few thousand people at the very top. Surely that's reason enough to blunt a few guillotines?

(I always find it ironic when people like Alfred and Viking equate taxation with "theft" (or slavery in Viking's case), and yet when the majority of your own country has had half of their wealth stolen... nothing, not a word about it. To Viking, they are still the 47% with "no skin in the game", to Alfred they are "afraid" or "untrained" and hence it's their own fault.)

--

PaulSB,
Does it support your dementia theory that Loco got us confused across two separate threads, even though neither of us mentioned IQ?

"IQ is not anything like an objective measure of intelligence. There really are no objective measures of intelligence, and I am doubtful there ever will be, because what we mean by intelligence covers so many disparate things, and what we recognize as intelligence changes over time."

Even going back to the early creation of IQ-type tests, the early search for "g" (a general intelligence factor) quickly broke down into a belief in "kinds" or areas of intelligence. (Including the famous fluid vs crystal.) It's a bad area for pattern seekers, there's clearly... something... there, some correlation with the common sense of "intelligence", but the more you try to pin it down, the more elusive it becomes.

Paul451 said...

Me:" even though neither of us mentioned IQ?"

He's gonna be even more confused now that both of us have mentioned it.

Alfred Differ said...

Any hiring manager who used chess ratings would be sadly lost in the past if they weren’t aware that freestyle chess play demonstrates the value of avoiding single person/deep focus states. In a pure human team, each can dip into focus and then pull out to think heuristically and share the load. In a centaur team, it is even more obvious why one wants the machines to deal with the need for focus. In fully mixed team play (more than one human and more than one machine/algorithm), there really is no way to compete with them without becoming them.

This whole thing with the former Google employee strikes me as stupid. I would have been tempted to smack him upside the head on the way out the door. Whether the science in his memo was any good or not (it isn’t), the economics is plain dumb. One doesn’t need the person who does best at a particular task to be doing that task to maximize productivity on a team… or community… or nation. Real teams are complex tangles of talents and inclinations. No one knows how to maximize them. No one will until we produce a Vinge’an Transcendent. Until then, the people who are closest to a team are likely the ones who know the most.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451 | I have said a thing or two about it, but I’ve refrained due to a desire to avoid fighting with you. I like some of your positions and don’t want to leave you with the impression that I oppose you in every way. I’ll refrain from refraining this time, though, but only because you appear to be asking me to do it.

I always find it ironic when people like Alfred and Viking equate taxation with "theft" (or slavery in Viking's case), and yet when the majority of your own country has had half of their wealth stolen... nothing, not a word about it. To Viking, they are still the 47% with "no skin in the game", to Alfred they are "afraid" or "untrained" and hence it's their own fault.

This is mostly about a difference of perspective. I don’t think their wealth has been stolen, so there isn’t much to say about a non-existent crime. The economy did indeed double, but it also went more and more global. Wages earners had to compete in a larger market. That money you think went missing or stolen by the people at the top is MUCH too big to account for what the people at the top actually got.

The measure I use is ‘real income’. It divides out the exchange currency and calculates earnings based on the stuff we buy with our income. For example, as a college student I used to buy an occasional LP or 8-track to expand my music collection. Unless I went for the audiophile section, one of those generally cost me two hours of labor after taxes. IF I was still earning the same low wage now that I was making back then, how many could I buy? Total inflation between now and then is about 190%, but I should be calculating this backward. A $10 album in today’s dollars would be $3.42 in 1981 dollars. It works out to be about 1.5 LP’s because the price of music has dropped. That isn’t accounting for quality, though. What I can buy today in 2017 dollars is of vastly higher quality even before I go for audiophile sound quality. How many of us had to re-purchase Dark Side Of the Moon because we wore it out?

What I’m pointing out is that what you can buy with your flat income has grown considerably and is vastly better. THAT hasn’t been stolen by anyone. Look across a wider range of products than the one I listed and you’ll see we did more than double… and that there is no way for robber barons to steal it without destroying it. On top of that, it isn’t just us. It is happening across the world.

To make matters worse, the people at the top aren’t very good at staying up there. Compare various lists from Forbes year by year and see how many of the richest survive being on top of the heap. It’s not unusual for the richest to be there because their investments are NOT diversified. They tumble later when their particular market fashion fades. Some manage the trick of staying up there, but they’d probably be better off if they diversified like the rest of us mere mortals do… or should do.

locumranch said...


This self-contradictory assertion is typical of progressive newspeak:

First, to claim that 'it is both immoral and impractical to apply group stereotypes upon individuals in ways that restrict any individual’s right or ability to say “I am different from that average"' and, second, to apply the stereotypes of immorality, racism, sexism & bigotry to any group or individual who dares exercise their 'right or ability to say “I am different from that average"'.

Murray uses 'The Bell Curve' argument to exercise his David-given "right" to claim that "I (in-group included) am different from that average" -- and so he 'earns' the racist-sexist-bigot label from hypocritical progressives everywhere -- even though his rather poor argument is easily refutable by the LOGIC that Jumper & Duncan wield so admirably:

If the IQ proofs used by Murray are invalid, then it follows that his conclusions are also invalid.

Unfortunately, the average progressive appears incapable of logic. For example, if anyone argued that 'Poverty correlates with Crime' and 'Race correlates with Poverty' then the typical progressive would likely agree & launch into a tirade about institutional prejudice. BUT, if anyone dared argue that 'Crime correlates with Race', the typical progressive would become panicky, apoplectic & quick with hateful stereotyping.

Paul_SB does this in typical fashion, first by asserting that no one is 'born a criminal' & that criminality is a matter of 'choice', second by admitting that certain inherited conditions 'can lead to criminal behaviors that are essentially out of the individual's control', third by admitting that certain sex & racial characteristics are matters of birth, and fourth by stereotyping others as racist-sexist-bigots.

Our flibbertigibbet then proceeds to self-contradict on the topic of EQ, first by admitting that 'IQ is not anything like an objective measure of intelligence', second by admitting that 'There really are no objective measures of intelligence', third by doubling-down on the assertion that ' EQ is used to compare relative intelligence among different animal species', fourth by admitting the questionable utility of using EQ to compare interspecies intelligence, fifth by invoking his +145 IQ as proof of his intelligence & his assertions, and sixth by his ad hominem use of stereotyping.

Explaining, perhaps, why our society has become increasingly illogical, neurotic & unsane. Like Google.


Best
_____
By learning more & more about less & less, the Expert has become OVER-QUALIFIED in today's competitive job market. The term 'over-qualified' is a euphemism for 'unemployable'. Ergo, there is no 'War on Experts' as experts have merely priced themselves out of society (in general) & the job market (in particular), giving rise to the competitive Amateur. Why would anyone pay expert wages to a PhD when any old MS, BS or High School equivalency degree will do?

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451 | taxation as a form of theft

I’ve defended that position in the past as one of the local libertarians, but my actual position is more nuanced.

If I had a time machine and could go back to England during their civil wars, I’d be identified as a Leveler’s Leveler. I’m a radical leveler which is saying a lot consider how radical they appeared to be to their contemporaries. Social classes? Bah! Destroy them all. Many Americans would qualify as Levelers in that way, but I’m inclined to take it a step further.

We’ve enshrined ‘equality before the law’ in our culture and represented it as the blind-fold on Justice outside our courts. The whole point of ‘the rule of law’ is to remove the arbitrary whim of those who might decide to enforce rules. Who cares what the King thinks! The Law says I can criticize him.

I’m inclined to favor ‘equality of authority to obligate’ and that makes a mess of majoritarian rule whether it involves the power to tax, draft, or restrict. It’s complicated, though. One can write books about what it implies, but the nutshell version is that I’m inclined to disfavor asymmetries of authority. I might not oppose them outright, but I’d rather avoid them if possible.

Symmetric examples occur every day. When I order lunch at the deli, the owner and I are agreeing to an exchange, his food for my dollars. The moment the order is legitimately placed, we’ve obligated each other. If either of us can change the terms after the fact and force the other to comply, though, we have an asymmetry.

Taxation is heavily asymmetric. I might agree to many of the things purchased with my money, but it is MY money and I’m being forced by a majority vote involving representatives from gerrymandered districts. I’m not going to fight over it, but I AM going to call it out.

My position on abortion is entirely about equality of authority to obligate. I don’t feel I can legitimately dictate to a woman what she may do let alone ALL women in my community/state/nation. How I feel about the fetus is entirely orthogonal.

My position on capital punishment is also about this form of leveling. Can you predict it without me writing it?

Carl M. said...

Guys! Guys! Guys!

You are missing the point. I am not demanding you accept that chess rating would be the ideal metric. (It would, however, be better than many metrics in use.) I am simply asking "Is it a sexist metric?"

My point is that a company can have a metric that is objective and correlates with future work performance, but still has serious sex bias implications. From what I have read, Google has a reputation for putting people on the spot during a very high pressure interview process. Success at this process does correlate with performance, but it also weeds out many who could contribute to the company via other talents.

For example creative brilliance is very useful at a software company, but so is diligence in following requirements, listening carefully to customer feedback, adherence to code rules, writing good documentation, fixing nitnoids early, etc.

---
Here is the billion dollar question: did Google's high-pressure interview approach create a sex bias? I suspect so. But I am an unenlightened troglodyte of Southern gentry background and thus am capable of noticing differences between the sexes.

Was Google's sexism intentional? I doubt it. The founders probably recognized their own type of brilliance and looked for others like them.

Here is the ultimate irony: as an unenlightened troglodyte who overgeneralizes from personal experience, I could do a better job of recruiting a balanced effective workforce than is typical in Silicon Valley.

David Brin said...

CArl M that was much better. Well expressed.

And I still am waiting for you to notice that civilization is 6000 years old, and we held a series of revolutions against an ancient disease state that made 99.99% of all those times and climes a living hell.

Slim Moldie said...

Locum locum locum

"Unfortunately, the average progressive appears incapable of logic. For example, if anyone argued that 'Poverty correlates with Crime' and 'Race correlates with Poverty' then the typical progressive would likely agree & launch into a tirade about institutional prejudice. BUT, if anyone dared argue that 'Crime correlates with Race', the typical progressive would become panicky, apoplectic & quick with hateful stereotyping."

Dude, whatever the "typical progressive" means to you it doesn't mean the same to me. In my world the err.... typical progressive would condescendingly tell you that crime does correlate to race, but...correlation is not causation....and change the subject to their latest craft beer batch. Seriously, bro. Stats 101. I'm going to have to avoid eye contact.

Alfred Differ said...

@David | You really argue that civilization is 6000 years old? I can see how the Chinese one runs about 4500 years, but other claimants collapsed and are no more.

Our inclination to create them might go that far back, but I don't see how one can argue that the current one is that old. The Chinese civilization limped into the 20th century and paired up with a MUCH younger one after Mao was gone. That's how it looks to me.

6000 years ago we were in the middle of the Y-chromosome bottleneck catastrophe.

Alfred Differ said...

Locumranch's 'typical progressive' is the one portrayed on Fox.

nuff said

Slim Moldie said...

Dr. Brin, yesterday I was reading: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? - The Atlantic Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? - The Atlantic
...which is an interesting piece comparing generations without the typical bias of "our generation vs their's" and all that nostalgia bs...and I've been thinking about it in the context of AI.

According to the article "A recently leaked Facebook document indicated that the company had been touting to advertisers its ability to determine teens’ emotional state based on their on-site behavior, and even to pinpoint “moments when young people need a confidence boost.” Facebook acknowledged that the document was real, but denied that it offers “tools to target people based on their emotional state.”

My takeaway from that is that Facebook could have the ability to predict suicidal tendencies based on user behavior and actually do something about it--uh oh. PREVENTION? So stretching this premise on the lines of your future empath crisis via Disney-- nothing under the hood-- that you mentioned in your talk (linked above.) What if a Facebook or Snapchat starts getting an ethical nudge from the community to develop machine learning AI to "like" troubled user's posts or take it a step further and introduce manufactured "friend" bots? Social worker bots? Tricky ethical, legal, privacy ramifications as suicides again are more prevalent than homicides in teenagers. Do you see the pendulum swinging further toward more of a nanny state? I'm also curious if we might see neotenic changes.

locumranch said...


Dude, I mean Slim, I mean Dude, if you'd really condescend, avoid eye contact, call me 'bro' and shamefully exclude me, then you must be some kind of malignant 'ist'. Ouchy! Help! Microaggressions! Are you an Age-ist, Raze-ist, Cause-ist or Dude-ist? And did your 'bro' just assume my gender?

I found your Hate Speech totally offensive. I feel like totally threatened, unsafe, vulnerable & subject to discrimination. Like simultaneously, I demand my inclusion in your personal space while maintaining my right to exclude you from my personal space. My free speech demands your silence.

As a victim, I get to call you bad names like 'poopy head' but you got to treat me with respect. You owe me respect and I don't owe you anything in return. I also get special advantage because your privilege, my equality & 'fair-free-open'.

And I get to smash your stuff if you upset me. And you foot the bill. And I get free education, healthcare & other cool stuff. Because, you know, random rhetorical statement about correlation not being causation.


Best

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred

I would sort of agree that "civilization" with the power inequality and "feudal" structure is 6000 years old - but that is the oldest civilizations

When the Romans were first fighting the Germans they were fighting tribes or even "bands" with their egalitarian structures within 200 years they were fighting a German "State" with it's king and inequality

Most of Europe has only had "civilization" with it's inequality for less than 2000 years

That means that the pre-civilization egalitarian structure has actually had more like 70,000 years to demonstrate an appalling lack of progress


Carl M. said...

David, we are moving back to a historical norm for civilizations: semi-autonomous bureaucracy with an emperor at the top. The "fascist" school textbooks used to warn of such things. (Cyclical notions of history memes are as American as the Constitution.)

Congress ceded most of its lawmaking duties decades ago. Emperors [aka Presidents] routinely declare war without Congressional approval. The state governments are now vassals to the central bureaucracy.

Our Republic hasn't entirely disappeared. The bits that are left are significant and important. (Do keep in mind that the Roman republic also never entirely disappeared. The Senate continued to meet long after Augustus Caesar.)

The Founders knew history rather well. They knew that democracy doesn't scale very well.

(Those delightfully democratic welfare states in Scandinavia are hyper-local. LOCAL income taxes are astronomical there.)

---

Of course, the ancients didn't have computers for tallying empire-wide range votes, and widespread literacy has not been the human norm. So our experimental system may yet defy precedent. But there are troubling signs. Our current demagogue in chief is but one.

locumranch said...


Dude, I've been thinking about this whole 'civilisation is 6000 years old' thing & I have decided that it's totally bogus. Those who assert this factoid argue that 'civilisation' means proof of one of four things: (a) Literacy, (b) Urbanity, (c) Technology and (d) Legacy.

Sure, proof of (a) Literacy & (b) Urbanity only goes back to the beginning of the Jewish Calendar, but absence of proof is not proof of absence, meaning that literacy could have preceded Urbanity by thousands of years. Likewise, it is unclear how (b) Urbanity represents proof of civilisation when other species like African Meerkats & American Prairie dogs live in big cities too. (c) Technology is also a poor criteria as 3,3 MILLION year old stone tools have been unearthed on the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya. And (d) Legacy, which refers to the availability of discoverable artifacts, just means that certain societies produced more waste & garbage than others.

The earliest evidence of human cultivation now dates back 11,000 years, but some would argue that Farming Cultures don't represent 'civilisation' ' because it's common knowledge that all rural-dwelling farmers are diseased illiterate uncivil hillbillies.

This whole 'civilisation is 6000 years old' argument smacks of Cultural Relativism & discriminates against Earth Friendly Aboriginal cultures. Or, are you defining 'civilisation' in Race-specific terms?? I mean, like, check your privilege White Man.



Best

Carl M. said...

Here's some happy thoughts for you.

https://niskanencenter.org/blog/libertarians-conservatives-stop-opposing-welfare-state/

LarryHart said...

Mark Gast:

How are you going to rebel against omnipresent cameras? The only way I know of is by going where there are no cameras. Cameras are getting smaller, more plentiful and cheaper so good luck with that.


Rebelling wouldn't be about not being watched, but in changing the implications of being watched.

In the legal realm, I would push for laws which make abundantly clear that "If you peep into my bedroom and something I do there offends me, that's on you, not me." That one is not guilty of public displays of whatever if the only reason the displays are "public" is because the public is snooping.

In the social realm--and this would take longer to bring about--people would have to change their reaction to being watched. Instead of being embarrassed to be seen, we'd have to shift the social mores to cause embarrassment for peeping. This would not stop clever, secretive voyeurs from watching, but it would stop people from being able to use what they see against us. It would make it difficult to publicly broadcast embarrassing things you see someone else doing, because in that situation you would be the one incurring a social cost (for peeping).

Paul SB said...

Carl,

Your point about Google's interview process leading to unintentional sex bias is more to the mark, and worth discussion. I doubt anyone (except possibly locum, whose cognitive processes have gone so off the rails he is reduced to childish mockery) thinks that you were saying that chess scores would be an ideal test of suitability for a specific job. I was going to say to Alfred that his own example of his chess and scramble duels with his fiancé make the point that wisdom would have multiple tests, not just single criteria. But humans are in the bad habit of oversimplifying, and paying for it dearly, but rarely learning the lesson from it. What experience I have with MBAs is that they are pretty unreflective about such things, but I know there are smarter ones out there.

On the subject of unreflective stereotyping, though, this was a bit of a problem:

"...unenlightened troglodyte of Southern gentry background ..."
Here you seem to be doing the same thing locum does so consistently - projecting. Think, I mean really think, about your audience here. You're not talking to a bunch of lattte-sipping wet-behind-the-ears 20-something yuppies here. This kind of stereotyping is something most of us expressly against. Our host has made this point so many times that clinging to this is either mendacity or stupidity (obviously so in locum's case - but I doubt you want to be compared to the bottom of the barrel). None of us could care less if you were born and raised in the South, the North, Outer Mongolia or East Slobobia. The only thing that matters is what kind of person you - as an individual - are, and the arguments you make. If it helps any, my father was born and raised in rural Alabama, my mother in a small town in the north of Holland (the stereotypes there have the north end of the country a bit like American stereotypes of our Southern states, largely because of an ethnic group that is predominant in that area). I spent most of my larval years in a Western city that was small enough to barely qualify.

And I just realized I have an appointment to run to, so I'll get back later.

Carl M. said...

Paul, I bring up my southern gentry background because David has consistently fumed about a Confederate Conspiracy. The Practice Effect is all about the evils of local gentry vs. centralize monarchs.

I mention my personalized model of sex differences to be clear that they aren't rigorous science, and should not be made into general policy. That's the point of having a market -- including a market in work environments. (And yes, I depart from the libertarians in that I now strongly favor some active anti-trust measures. Bigly!)

I am passionate on this subject, as I see the workplace as the frontier of lifestyle upgrade. The remedy for hostile work environments is more work environments -- many more. One person's hostile environment is another person's playful/happy/meaningful work environment.

Suit and tie or casual? Prudish or Pirelli calendars? Humorous and intellectually stimulating or safe space? Let's have them all.

Google created an ultra-nerd playground. Surprise, surprise. It ended up male dominated...

Paul451 said...

It's weird how often those like Locum think they've independently discovered some great loophole in the idea of promoting tolerance, but no matter how often they are mocked for it, never understand that tolerance doesn't mean tolerating intolerance.

Paul451 said...

Alfred,
You have replied to my rants before, and I've rebutted your counter-arguments before. For example:

"The economy did indeed double, but it also went more and more global. Wages earners had to compete in a larger market."

A fairly standard trope, along with the "automation of jobs" argument, but neither holds up. Looking only at waged professions that neither compete with off-shore workers, nor can (yet) be automated, we've seen exactly the same wage paralysis or decline even though their industry as a whole has increased alongside GDP. The obvious example is road freight. You can't outsource truck drivers, and the jobs can't yet be automated, and yet wages for drivers, loaders, etc, have been largely frozen for nearly 40 years.

(Anticipating counter-arguments: No, the outsourcing of manufacturing to China has not reduced road freight levels and thus, through competition between existing companies, created a strict cap on wage growth. Mass of transported goods has increased in proportion with GDP growth. Value of transported goods has increased in proportion with GDP growth. And numbers of transport vehicles has increased in proportion with mass. The trucks don't care whether the goods come from US factories or US ports.)

"The measure I use is 'real income'. "

Jesus, Alfred, everyone uses "real" income. You haven't discovered something everyone else has missed. What you've missed is that the same result occurs no matter what the measure, because that same "real" value applies to the increase in wealth of those few who've seen their wealth increase. Half the wealth of the nation has been re-distributed upwards. It doesn't matter how you measure that wealth, paper dollars, "real dollars", potential-for-future-growth, access-to-markets, ability-to-benefit-from-future-technology, ergs or elephants... the entire 100% of US growth for the last 40 years has ended up in the hands of a tiny minority at the top.

And IMO, that will destabilise the US, that is destabilising the US. You think Trump is bad, Trump is simply the latest, the most extreme, effort of ordinary people casting around desperately trying to change the pattern of theft. Where will they people turn next when this one fails? It's not going to be less extreme, given the failure of people like you (well-off sane conservatives) and people like the Dem leadership (and major supporters) to even understand the problem let alone provide a viable alternative.

Do you hear the rumble of the tumbrels coming?

[cont.]

Paul451 said...

[cont.]

"What I'm pointing out is that what you can buy with your flat income has grown considerably "

An oft-repeated Fox News argument whenever income-inequality gains public attention, apparently created by "think tank" lobby groups working for the people who've benefited from the Great Theft: "If the poor can buy flat-screen TVs, then they aren't really poor."

But it doesn't change the fact that they'd be able to buy twice as much if the distribution patterns from 40 years ago had held. It doesn't change the fact that half their wealth has been stolen.

[I've also wondered if the apparent lack of technological progress outside of that driven by Moore's Law has been because the worlds biggest market is regressing into feudal income patterns. And while rapid technological development enables it also requires an increasing population entering into a given income level. When you paralyse that, you also greatly reduce the pace of technological development, due to diminishing returns of chasing markets down the economic ladder if that ladder is no longer lifting the value of the market (double your market size at the bottom, only increase revenue (not profits) by ten percent). Moore's Law has hidden that decline, but only to a degree.]

"Compare various lists from Forbes year by year and see how many of the richest survive being on top of the heap."

{sigh} Yet another Fox News trope. Seriously, Alfred, you can do better than regurgitate this crap. Measures of intergenerational mobility show that the US is near the bottom of the ladder amongst developed nations. The UK is very slightly worse, but nearly everyone else is better: Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany, Spain, even France.

You equate moving out of the Forbes list as "tumbling", as if that person ends up on the scrap heap. Instead it represents small amounts of shuffling within an economic class, showing nothing to do with social mobility more broadly. Which is why such measures are favoured by the Foxites. It creates a false impression, so of course it is used by liars. But what's your excuse?

The same problem occurs when you use any arbitrary wealth line for the bottom-of-the-top. Since population declines rapidly with increase in wealth, there are more people close to that arbitrary line than higher in the scale, hence many people will shuffle back and forth across any arbitrary wealth-line even with small changes in absolute wealth, artificially inflating the percentage of people entering or leaving that top range. Think of a pyramid, only much, much, much more exponential, the vast bulk of the mass is at the bottom, hence a slight subsidence of a few inches reduces the "percentage of the pyramid's mass above the ground" by a ridiculously large amount, even though the actual movement is trivial.

Paul451 said...

Slightly different subjects, so slightly separate comments,

Alfred,
Symmetric examples occur every day. When I order lunch at the deli, the owner and I are agreeing to an exchange, his food for my dollars."

There's no symmetry. The deli owner can do any number of things that reduce the quality (or even toxicity) of the food in a way that you can't quickly determine, and some which you can never determine. (There's a reason we all developed food safety and anti-substitution laws.) The asymmetry is inherent in the exchange, even when the customer and vendor are seen as nominally having the same "power".

But the greater the disparity of scale between the customer and vendor (which includes employee-as-vendor, employer-as-customer), the greater the opportunity for forcing the terms on the other party. It's inherent in the exchange, true symmetry is rare outside of trivial transactions; and most of our exchanges aren't even close.

"David | You really argue that civilization is 6000 years old?"

He's dating from the main city-builder era where hierarchies grew more obvious than the earlier village-builder era, not suggesting a single continuous culture. The "era of civilisation", not "a civilisation".

"6000 years ago we were in the middle of the Y-chromosome bottleneck catastrophe"

Isn't that David's point? We are the descendants of the harem-keepers.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

...never understand that tolerance doesn't mean tolerating intolerance.


Nor do they understand, no matter how many times it is pointed out, that identity-politics as in "My group deserves the same rights and privileges as everyone else" is not the same thing as identity-politics as in "My group deserves special rights and privileges denied to everybody else."

It's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing.

Paul451 said...

Duncan,
"That means that the pre-civilization egalitarian structure has actually had more like 70,000 years to demonstrate an appalling lack of progress"

David has hardly denounced civilisation itself.

Carl,
"David, we are moving back to a historical norm for civilizations"

How does that disagree with David's warnings on this blog over the past decade? The only difference is you only see "bureaucrats" rather than the dominance of oligarchic families.

[IMO, an equivalent of the modern bureaucrat in ancient times would be the scribes, not the mandarins and priests. Much, much lower on the class totem-pole; then as now.]

Treebeard said...

If 99.99% of civilizations have been a living hell, obviously civilization itself is the problem. Why are you so in love with something that is only non-hell .01% of the time? What was going on before 6000 years ago (i.e. most of human history) and why are we not trying to get back to that instead of preserving this hellish thing called civilization? How crazy do you have to be to believe that universal surveillance, AI, genetic engineering, etc. are the only way forward to utopia, rather than some new, probably terminal, iteration of hell-civilization?

There's a quote from Terence McKenna that seems relevant:

“History is ending because the dominator culture has led the human species into a blind alley, and as the inevitable chaostrophe approaches, people look for metaphors and answers. Every time a culture gets into trouble it casts itself back into the past looking for the last sane moment it ever knew. And the last sane moment we ever knew was on the plains of Africa 15,000 years ago rocked in the cradle of the Great Horned Mushroom Goddess before history, before standing armies, before slavery and property, before warfare and phonetic alphabets and monotheism, before, before, before. And this is where the future is taking us because the secret faith of the twentieth century is not modernism, the secret faith of the twentieth century is nostalgia for the archaic, nostalgia for the paleolithic, and that gives us body piercing, abstract expressionism, surrealism, jazz, rock-n-roll and catastrophe theory. The 20th century mind is nostalgic for the paradise that once existed on the mushroom dotted plains of Africa where the plant-human symbiosis occurred that pulled us out of the animal body and into the tool-using, culture-making, imagination-exploring creature that we are..." (Read the rest here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/9243.Terence_McKenna?page=2 )

Paul451 said...

From Carl's linked article: "Even for radical libertarians who think all redistribution is wrong, it shouldn't be too difficult to see that redistribution from poorer to richer is especially bad—and thus more morally urgent to target."

{sigh} This is pretty much all I'm saying to Alfred, but badly and stretched over so many paragraphs. And posts. And years.

locumranch said...


"Tolerance doesn't mean tolerating intolerance" [Paul451]

And so goes the progressive logic cascade of words meaning "the opposite":

Tolerating the other doesn't mean tolerating the unpleasant other; acknowledging fact doesn't mean acknowledging unpleasant fact; supporting free speech doesn't mean supporting unpleasant speech; encouraging the freedom to associate doesn't mean that the unpleasant are free to associate; inclusivity doesn't mean including every one but the exclusion of the unpleasant ones; respecting differences doesn't mean respecting unpleasant differences; and the meaning of 'unpleasant' & 'pleasant' are subjective value judgments unsupported by fact or science.

As Larry_H says, the problem with universal surveillance & the omnipresent camera isn't 'being seen', it's the expectation that 'being seen' entails inevitable value judgements by a subjective other who then has the power to punish or reward anything 'seen' (as in PERCEIVED) to be 'unpleasant' or 'pleasant', which is why the law must adopt strict MYOB principles & change in drastic ways in order to prevent Orwell's dystopia of an authoritarian boot stomping on a human face forever, insomuch as any attempt to distinguish between the Pleasant & Unpleasant are always arbitrary & subjective.


Best

Carl M. said...

Regarding civilization: I suspect many civilizations were quite pleasant when they started. Then population growth caught up.

I have read in multiple places over the years that wages went up after the Black Death. The ratio of labor/natural resources went up.

Adam Smith reported that wages were higher in the New World than in Britain because the land/labor ratio was so high. (And this probably why the natives were so well fed and good looking when the English started colonizing. The population was well below the carrying capacity of the local land and tech thanks to bugs brought by the Spaniards a century before.)

I have also read studies showing that the average people were better fed during the early Dark Ages than the Roman period that preceded it. Yes, civil engineering tech had diminished incredibly, but maybe the diminished population didn't need it. (Not so sure how good the studies were. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to verify or refute.)

And yes, even to this day the U.S. is pleasant in part because we are still so far from the land's carrying capacity. (Though some parts of the country are experiencing some stress in this regard, especially in terms of water supply.)

Paul451 said...

Loco still thinks that hatred of those who would cause harm to others is discomfort with "unpleasant" people, which explains his own unpopularity, because he's just so gosh-darned brave speaking truth to power.

Paul SB said...

Okay Carl, there's some stuff worth discussing here. I don't think our host would classify local gentry as any more evil than centralized monarchy - you've read what he has to say about Communism, which was really just old monarchy wine in new collectivist skins. We have a problem if you are equating a democratically-elected central government with monarchy. It isn't. If your side is outvoted it might seem to you that it is, if you are entirely self-absorbed. But the president - even the idiot currently on the throne - is not a monarch. He might think he is, but so far he hasn't accomplished too many of his stated objectives because our centralized democratic government has checks and balances that were intended to prevent a president from becoming a dictator - regardless of what party he belongs to.

The Confederate conspiracy thing seems a little more nuanced. Conspiracies don't tend to work very well when they get too big. No doubt there are small cadres of people who actually are conspiring, and many of them in the highest offices of the realm. Gerrymandering is a very real instance. But he is also making a cultural argument, against the values that would prop up the power of the old plantation lords - or their modern equivalent. The old Confederate plantation economy with the social order of obeisance to the masters is pretty anti-democratic. Saying that does not mean that he, I or anyone else has anything against people who were born and raised in a Southern state, or are disparaging your ancestors. It's the system, and the values that support that system, that members of a democracy are against.

On the issue of M/F differences, there is much that can be said that actually is scientifically valid. It would take a pretty long essay to go into all of it, though. One thing I will point out is that there is so much overlap between the sexes that with almost any trait you care to name that the differences in means are not very meaningful in practical terms. On average men are more visual (a trait that would matter in most kinds of engineering, but not much in software engineering) while women are on average more auditory. Does that mean that Mozart and Jimi Hendrix were women? I used to work with maps daily, and often had to help some of my female colleagues with them, but it was a female supervisor who taught me most of those skills in the first place.

This leads us to something very important you said about supporting anti-trust policies. When a business grows to be as large as Google, they can be as stupid as they like, do all sorts of awful things and remain in power simply because they hold so many of the strings of power. They won't last forever, but they can last long enough to do untold damage to the society in which the spawned, the society that feeds them in the form of customers, and the society which provides them with the workers that makes their business possible. By creating an ultra-nerd corporate culture with hiring practices that favor uber-nerds, they have created a systemic bias, as you point out. There is also a system bias in American culture, more so than actual biology, that channels young women away from nerdy pursuits. Google's hiring policies may not have been deliberately sexist, but they are de facto sexist. The Googlebomber's Manifesto does what most of these rants do in focusing on genetics (which as I pointed out before, a software engineer is hardly qualified to pontificate about). What he, locum and most of the rest do is take an artifact of our culture and claim that it is an unchangeable artifact of biology. This is deliberate sexism, rather than the presumably unintended consequence of a flawed hiring policy.

Paul SB said...

Treebeard's quote from McKenna reminded me of a line in Pratchett and Gaiman's "Good Omens" in which the Angel Azeraphael reflects on St. John of Patmos, saying that he was a nice enough fellow but was overly fond of certain kinds of mushrooms. I'm not sure why Treebeard thinks anyone should take McKenna especially seriously. We don't take potheads seriously when they advocate for medical marijuana legalization for the same reason we need not take seriously the opinions of a civilization that outlaws shrooms coming from a shroom abuser.

Having said that, there is a point in there. In fact, in one way he's pretty much in line with conventional anthropological thinking. Most people think that civilization is the coolest thing that preceded sliced bread, and the alternative is too horrible to even consider. More than a century of archaeology has shown that our hunter/gatherer past was virtual paradise compared to the early civilizations that first rose in both Old and New Worlds - unless you were one of the elites, for whom life was much better than the more egalitarian cultures that preceded civilization.

The horrors Dr. Brin speaks of regarding the last 6000 years are quite real. However, there aren't a lot of anthropologists or archaeologists who are fool enough to long for a return to the Mesolithic. The world can't support 7.25 billion people on Mesolithic technology or anything approaching the Mesolithic diet (forget the Paleo Diet, they got their facts wrong). The mass die-off that would be necessary to return us to a Mesolithic lifestyle, dropping the human population to below 10 million, is the stuff of Cold War nightmares. Besides, most of us like having medicine that works and the average lifespan that has been going up in the last few generations.

In some ways the revolutions of democracy and technology have allowed some of the better aspects of Mesolithic life to resurface in new forms. Modern machinery and weaponry has removed upper-body musculature from any real value beyond separating the morons out for imprisonment or consigning them to mail-ordering brides from more totalitarian nations. 20th - 21st Century science has proven that the twin emperors of racism and sexism are unclothed. Scientific medicine has turned a 50% child mortality rate into an 8% rate (lower in every other First World nation). There are a whole lot of things that are a whole lot better under a democratic and technologically advanced civilization that neither a Mesolithic pre-civilization nor the early, tyrannical civilizations of the past could supply to its people.

Paul SB said...

Our faux rancher is reduced to merely mocking and trying to appropriate others' phraseology in his feeble efforts to discredit people. Every one of his "logical" arguments has been picked apart and eviscerated, so he ignores his loses and looks for tiny details he might be able to distort to his advantage in someone else's posts. His efforts at turning tables only illustrates his reflex to project onto others his own faults. he has been shown to use straw men in virtually everything he writes, so he accuses others of straw manning. We have pointed out where he is making argument by assertion, so he turns that one around and makes the same accusation back. Now he has taken Larry's "opposite thing" and twisted that in his little mind to his own purposes.

The dementia hypothesis is at least more charitable than the alternative. He really should get his levels topped off.

In his latest missive he ignores the First Amendment and pretends that criminal is really merely unpleasant.

In the previous rant:

"The earliest evidence of human cultivation now dates back 11,000 years, but some would argue that Farming Cultures don't represent 'civilisation' ' because it's common knowledge that all rural-dwelling farmers are diseased illiterate uncivil hillbillies."

Clearly he never had an archaeology class. No one characterizes the rise of agriculture as the creation of illiterate hillbillies. Nor does it matter, because civilization rests on a foundation of agriculture, and the role of farmers in maintaining civilization is obvious. Unfortunately civilization has, until the rise of modern democracy, been predicated on social hierarchy and inequality. Until very recently the vast majority of people within any given civilization would have been farmers, but they were also the bottom of the social ladder (the situation was rather different in early China, though - there it was quite common for a tiny handful of farmers to become elites, lording it over the rest of the farmers). He also can't seem to see that if we could somehow go back to pre-civilization agriculture, it would lead to civilization within a few thousand years due to the rapid population growth facilitated by farming. he conflates the old, aristocratic high-brow use of the term "civilization" with its modern definition, and sees everything as a slander against "his people."

His post of 7:00 this morning will take more time to break down, but it was no better than his usual swill of pretending to know what other people think better than they themselves do. .

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

The mass die-off that would be necessary to return us to a Mesolithic lifestyle, dropping the human population to below 10 million, is the stuff of Cold War nightmares. Besides, most of us like having medicine that works and the average lifespan that has been going up in the last few generations.


Treebeard's rant, while not entirely off-base, reminds me of the rebellious population in Vonnegut's "Player Piano" who destroy the machines and then immediately embark upon the task of fixing them. Not "OMG, we were wrong to break them!" but "Hey, making stuff work is fun!"

The reason we don't go back to hunter/gathering pre-mechanistic society is similar to the reason I don't go back to being 16 and 17 years old, even though that was probably the best time of my life. Because we can't. Time and entropy don't work that way.

Paul SB said...

One loci gem:

"This self-contradictory assertion is typical of progressive newspeak:

First, to claim that 'it is both immoral and impractical to apply group stereotypes upon individuals in ways that restrict any individual’s right or ability to say “I am different from that average"' and, second, to apply the stereotypes of immorality, racism, sexism & bigotry to any group or individual who dares exercise their 'right or ability to say “I am different from that average"'."

This might make sense if Dr. Brin were doing what he is doing - stereotyping a group of people. To call one individual a bigot does not mean your are calling every member of whatever group that person claims to be a member of a bigot. If you want to make group that is specifically the subset of humanity that is bigoted, you would have a group that contains people from every part of the world and every walk of life. His preferred false dichotomy is his obsession with rural vs. urban people. Sure, there are urbanites who stereotype rural people, just as he stereotypes urbanites. I meet bigoted urbanites all the time. Even my mother's homeland, which is renowned for its tolerance, has its bigots. This lumping people into value categories based on arbitrary criteria just doesn't hold up to the facts.

Or how about:

"Unfortunately, the average progressive appears incapable of logic. For example, if anyone argued that 'Poverty correlates with Crime' and 'Race correlates with Poverty' then the typical progressive would likely agree & launch into a tirade about institutional prejudice. BUT, if anyone dared argue that 'Crime correlates with Race', the typical progressive would become panicky, apoplectic & quick with hateful stereotyping."

And he's so myopic that he doesn't even see that he is the one stereotyping here? One of the troubles with stereotyping is that you can always find someone, somewhere who fits the stereotype. But pointing to the behavior of one person and tarring everyone else with the same brush is not just reprehensible, it is factually incorrect. Every human is a unique individual, and even if they try to match their thoughts and behaviors to a stereotype they can't do it, because they are individual.

Maybe it's not dementia, it's paranoid schizophrenia. Here again:

"Paul_SB does this in typical fashion, first by asserting that no one is 'born a criminal' & that criminality is a matter of 'choice', second by admitting that certain inherited conditions 'can lead to criminal behaviors that are essentially out of the individual's control', third by admitting that certain sex & racial characteristics are matters of birth, and fourth by stereotyping others as racist-sexist-bigots."

The exception for mental health conditions to choice is carving out a necessary exception for circumstances beyond a person's control, not a contradiction. But he knows that, he's just deluded enough to think that the people here are as oblivious as whoever he associates with and will fall for it. His assertion that I am stereotyping "his people" as racist, sexist bigots was covered already. As an individual the shoe very clearly fits, but wouldn't say that it fits on everyone in his place of residence, immediate family or even social club. Not stereotyping means not prejudging people, but rather getting to know them first. We know locumranch.


Paul SB said...

Evisceration of a faux rancher, con.t,

"Our flibbertigibbet then proceeds to self-contradict on the topic of EQ, first by admitting that 'IQ is not anything like an objective measure of intelligence', second by admitting that 'There really are no objective measures of intelligence', third by doubling-down on the assertion that ' EQ is used to compare relative intelligence among different animal species', fourth by admitting the questionable utility of using EQ to compare interspecies intelligence, fifth by invoking his +145 IQ as proof of his intelligence & his assertions, and sixth by his ad hominem use of stereotyping."

Demonstrating that he either can't read or is a compulsive liar (I do find his resurrection of the term /flibbertgibbet/ amusing, it shows how threatened he feels). Those first two statements about objective measurements of intelligence are well supported, but how is defining a term doubling down on it? All I did was point to the fact that the concept of EQ does not rely on IQ for measurement. People who use this term know that it is problematic because intelligence can only be estimated. And for about the fourth time I was not the one who brought this term up, but he's so dense he continues to attribute this to me. Then there's the thing about my IQ. Here's what I actually said:

"I beat him by 24 points, but I know better than to let my score on one single test go to my head. IQ simply doesn't mean what most Americans think it means."

As they say, you be the judge...

And I don't think I need to go over his sixth point again

David Brin said...

Sure, I bandy “6000 years” as a vague metric. Written accounts go back about 4500 years. Israelite oral accounts purport to go back another 1500. Though an argument can be made that the Biblical flood story refers to a major trauma still within reach of oral tradition. The Black Sea deluge is a hypothesized catastrophic rise in the level of the Black Sea circa 5600 BC from waters from the Mediterranean Sea breaching a sill in the Bosphorus strait. 

But I base my use of 6000 on something simpler. That’s about as far back as you get fortified cities with walls and clear social stratification with something like a “palace” and “barracks.” Which implies the feudal structure I talk about.

But at least that question had merit, unlike Carl’s utter-absurd vapid armwave: “David, we are moving back to a historical norm for civilizations: semi-autonomous bureaucracy with an emperor at the top. The "fascist" school textbooks used to warn of such things. (Cyclical notions of history memes are as American as the Constitution.)”

David Brin said...

Carl asserted:
“David, we are moving back to a historical norm for civilizations: semi-autonomous bureaucracy with an emperor at the top."

What utter crock! Oh the writhing need to rationalize the “I hate only ‘government’! Because only government can oppress!” malarkey that is modern libertarian catechism!

Sure there were a few “bureaucrats” in most kingdoms, but that was not the method of control! It was divvying up estates among armed families, or “nobles.” You then had clans who took other mens’ women and wheat and gave them to favored sons, who grew up stronger, taller and better trained, so they could enforce both the king’s rules and their own inherited privileges.

In some cases it was “feudalism” in the strict, dictionary sense. In others it was a more general interpretation of the word, but still very much FEUDALISM! And that was how markets, entrepreneurship, enterprise and above all flat-fair competition were repressed for yes, 6000+ years.

Jesus, man. You think Asoka, Tokugawa, Hamurabi, Shaka, and all the rest ruled via “bureaucracy”???? They sent out armies of…. scribes to enforce their will? What stunning delusion.

Moreover you know that my description is correct. You know it, yet you dishonestly writhe to avoid contemplating the blatantly obvious.

David Brin said...

Then came:
“Congress ceded most of its lawmaking duties decades ago.”

Stop wailing false equivalence! The top priority of REPUBLICANS is to castrate negotiation, deliberation, law and governance. And yes, to leave everything in place that their parasite owners are used to.

Democrats deliberate and pass laws. You may hate that, but it only proves you a fool, sir. Libertarianism only moves forward when dems are in the legislature.

Deregulation does happen! The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) became captured eliminators of fair competition… and Congress abolished them! AT&T was broken up.  Or take Bill Clinton’s deregulation of the GPS system, freeing it for use by all, everywhere in the world. And the unleashing of the Internet — the greatest deregulation in history. Oh, and every one of those deregulations was done by democrats.

The complainers - Republicans - never deregulate a thing, when they get power, except Wall Street and Banking and resource extraction. (With well-known results.) Oh yes and gambling.

So can the false equivalence. In California we have a vigorous democracy with a lively, active legislature and (thank heavens) a firm/tough/wily governor who leans a bit conservative and prudent, to counter the worst liberal manias. That's exactly what we had for 2 years under Clinton and 2 years under Obama.

Sir, you are talking through your hat.

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

His assertion that I am stereotyping "his people" as racist, sexist bigots was covered already. As an individual the shoe very clearly fits, but wouldn't say that it fits on everyone in his place of residence, immediate family or even social club.


It's like when Hillary said that "half of" Donald Trump's supporters were in a basket of deplorables. The point of the rest of that rant was to say that we progressives could find common ground with the other Trump supporters--the ones who aren't deplorable. But the Trump supporters all immediately accused her of calling them deplorable, of tarring all Trump supporters with the deplorable brush. Then they went and made the term their own, wearing "Deplorables for Trump" t-shirts and the like.

If someone uses the word "deplorable" (or "bigoted" or whatever) and you perceive them to be describing you personally, maybe that's how you perceive yourself.

It's like that scene from the Woody Allen movie "Play it again, Sam" :

Diane Keaton: "Did you hear? Another Oakland woman was raped."

Woody Allen: "I was nowhere NEAR Oakland!"



David Brin said...

As for locum's sneer, well, he hurls anecdotes of rioting Berkeley protesters of sniveling campus social justice "safe space" snowflakes... and yes, they exist!

As anecdotes. A few thousand noisy-obnoxious dogmatic bullies scattered at a few hundred universities in a nation of 350 million, whose universities are the jewell of humanity and where these minor irritants are shrugged off like fleas.

All you have is anecdotes, man. You utterly depend on the Fox catechism that "all liberals are like this" and you know it's a lie of spectacularly insane proportions, You know this because your Fox hypnotists don't dare do a statistical appraisal of the actual numbers. Which would show that American liberals are mostly practical, loyal, reasonable, positive sum folks... the last heirs of that great American tradition, now that the entire right has gone stark, jibbering insane.

Assertions and anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, anecdotes, ...

... all you got. No wonder you hate all users of actual facts.

Slim Moldie said...

Locum, I did not just randomly say correlation is not causation. It was my only salient point...yet you responded by pointing at the squirrels!

Again, I quote you: "Unfortunately, the average progressive appears incapable of logic. For example, if anyone argued that 'Poverty correlates with Crime' and 'Race correlates with Poverty'..."

Let's pause there: I know you say correlate, although I don't know anyone who doesn't think that poverty is a causative factor in street crime. So in your setup, you're using correlation even though you could use causation or implication. It's a wee bit ambiguous. (Note, it's also unclear if you're including white collar crime as part of your definition of Crime.)

You continue: "BUT, if anyone dared argue that 'Crime correlates with Race', the typical progressive would become panicky, apoplectic & quick with hateful stereotyping."

You can't use syllogism to draw a valid conclusion when your premises are inconsistent. Are you using correlation interchangeably with causation? Are we talking about street crime, white collar crime, all crime?

My take on this scenario is that your motivation is to define an opponent and then obfuscate and bait your mark into a reaction that satisfies your preconceived stereotypes so you can rant and rave...

Which is exactly what you did with me except even that failed because when I took your bait and invited you as my bro to a hypothetical party with a bunch of chill average progressive dudes--including my friend Bob who is the most interesting man in the world--even though he doesn't make eye contact--you ruined it by metaphorically pooping in the swimming pool.

Instead of getting angry you might try stretching. "It's a Buddhist meditation technique, focuses your aggression. The monks used to do it before they went into battle" :)









Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jumper said...

If you're looking for a convenient point to declare when "civilization" began, maybe it was the point where obligations began to be written down or tallied on strings, clay beads or tablets, etc., as opposed to having debts and obligations known as general public knowledge. So I'd say 6000 is roughly a good estimate.

David Brin said...

Jumper that's a pretty solid correlation, thanks. Though mine re the archaeology of feudal domination suits my narrative pretty well. In fact some claim evidence for social stratification and lordship going back another few thousand.

Oh, and Carl? The whole and entire point is that status and ownership and domination were inherited. And hence allocated unfairly in ways that squelched competition.

And competition is the psychopathically avoided word in libertarianism today. The Kochs, Forbes Cato etc have spent maybe half a billion dollars suborning the movement to hate only "government" and never ever ever look at the word "competition" and who the destroyers of it were.

But I will repeat the word. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. Competition. and... Competition.

It is the greatest engine of human creativity and wealth generation and its only defenders, today, are... liberals.

Libertarians, who should have that word topmost on their altars, now frantically avoid it. They are wholly bought. And they do not deserve to even mention the words Adam Smith.

locumranch said...


Paul451 must absolutely hate reciprocity & equality if my words offend him as much as his words offend me because tit-for-tat reciprocity & equality is all I have ever proposed.

Paul451 applies subjective value judgments to all he sees: He sees & perceives my views as unpleasant, criminal & incorrect; he judges his in-group views as pleasant, correct & righteous; his subjective value judgements become de facto prejudices; and he uses these prejudices to rationalise & justify out-group hostility towards all that he perceives as unpleasant.

I have learned to do the same. I see & perceive the unpleasantness of his out-group views; I turn his own words & perceptions against him; I adopt his definitions as my definitions; and I say that my new definition of "Tolerance doesn't mean tolerating (his) intolerance".

And, the same goes for Equality in Identity Politics, insomuch as my new definition of Equality "doesn't mean offering equality to those individuals & groups that I perceive as unpleasant, criminal & incorrect", a new-to-me but rather old Western definition that has always been applied & used to strip away the freedoms & constitutional protections from the unpleasant, criminal & incorrect.

Plus I just realised why the left despises Trump so much: In their own words, they believe he "lacks restraint", meaning that they're afraid (terrified, even) that he may be 'free' to strike back & return the abuse (tit-for-tat) that they've been heaping on the right for generations, even though that would represent just desserts to those criminally unpleasant left-leaning buggers.


Best
_______

@Paul_SB: You do know that the term 'villain' (meaning criminal, convict, malefactor) comes from an older term (villein) meaning farmer, don't you, you urban bigot, you. But, you're right, I have been 'appropriating (your leftist) phraseology', it's a fait accompli, also very liberating not to be bound by objective fact, out-dated 'fair play' ethics or a defunct social contract any longer. Reality is now what we perceive it to be, just as being free means an anarchic 'lack of restraint' to some.

@David: Sorry to disappoint, but I'm fresh out of snails, yarns, anecdotes & puppy dog tales at present. And, just for the record, it was the left that repudiated 'fact' with all this Marxist gibberish about 'feelings', subjective perceptions, major minorities & the 'Superior Virtue of the Oppressed' fallacy.

@Slim: At least we understand each other. I understand 'correlation is not causation', yet you failed to apply it to the question at hand, making it rhetorical as you preferred beer bro consensus to incisive process. Bob I like.

@Jumper: Civilisation began with Cultivation, circa 9000 bce. Primitive Farming is labour-intensive, requiring cooperation, special skills, shared knowledge, ways to share knowledge, record keeping, permanent structures for food storage, the transport of water, construction science, measurement, basic mathematics, surveying techniques & the concept of property. Dependent on agriculture for food & infrastructure, urbanity came after, remaining dependent on agriculture to this very day.

David Brin said...

Back to blah blah de blah blah. Stop accusing us of traits you see in the mirror. Positive sum folks are not like you.

Jumper said...

Cultivation (which I think began even during itinerant nomadic stages of human life, with some planting done yearly prior to migration to hunting grounds, then small harvests taken upon return to wintering grounds.)took a while to lead to "cities" which is what I referred to. I was hinting at the invention of "money" but it began in a form few now would recognize, so I put it in the terms I did. Obligation itself went through a "phase change" when numbers grew. locum is correct to note, as I have always said, that agriculture led to civilization.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Paul SB
"Hunter gatherers as a virtual paradise"

With an enormous murder rate, - you can't move out of your immediate zone without being a "stranger" and likely to be killed

Your group could be exterminated at any time

And - ZERO progress

Nope does not sound like a system that I want to live under - even the worst "civilization" had lower rates of violence and at least some progress

Matt G said...

It looks like maybe the competent folks in the government are growing a thick skin to Trump's high variability

Zepp Jamieson said...

Doctor Brin used the word "Competition." a few times speaking to Jumper.

Agreed 100%. However, as you note in "Earth" (speaking of evolution, but it applies to human societies as well) the phrase should be "Competition AND COOPERATION." Blind competition results in granny on the ice floe politics. The two combined create mighty civilisations.

Libertarianism these days is just fascism wearing a new coat of paint. And fascism is the political arm of capitalism.

Alfred Differ said...

@David | It’s not the 6000 year number that stopped my train of thought when reading your post to Carl. It was this.

And I still am waiting for you to notice that civilization is 6000 years old…

Some of us libertarians are a tad OCD, so I read this literally as saying that our civilization is 6000 years old. It isn’t and this is important. I think the death of previous civilizations makes your arguments for what we must do to defend this one much, much stronger. The diseased attractor that holds them in stasis actually kills them… except for one. The Chinese civilization made it from antiquity to the modern era. If it hadn’t come up against an upstart from Europe, it would probably still be moving between its two attractors regarding power. Centralized vs Decentralized. The fact that they have two poles might be what kept it alive. All the others ossified and died.

The IDEA of ‘civilization’ is 6000 years old or more, so maybe that is what you actually meant. If so, I just read you too literally.

Carl M. said...

Competition... To some degree some very successful corporations make money by competing with the government.

For example both Paypal and Amazon are partially in the business of consumer protection. The wrath of Paypal falls more quickly than that the wrath of government to sellers who anger customers. Ditto for stores set up on Amazon. There, you have not only Amazon's enforcement rules but customer reviews as well.

Then there is the infamous Koch Industries. The Koch brothers multiplied their wealth by a factor of five thousand over a half century by setting up a rule-based internal market that has better rules and less friction than the system provided by the government that operates between businesses. The Kochs are more thanes than feudal lords. If our system of commercial law was made more efficient, then being a thane would be less profitable.

(I just started reading Charles Koch's more recent book. It feels ghostwritten, but still interesting so far.)

Paul SB said...

This is what locum has come to - mere childish name calling. He pretends to have the Gift of Immaculate Perception, to be able to divine what is in our hearts better than we can ourselves. Folks, this is what happens when we feed the trolls. He is no longer even an opponent to spar with, just a pathetic, petulant child man.

Back to your bridge with ye!

Zepp, Dr. Brin has made your point many times, but because he was raised in the Cold War and a Republican, I think he is hyper aware of a need to emphasize that he believes in some form of Capitalism to stave off accusations of being a damn pinko Commie any time he suggests that people should treat each other with basic decency and have equal legal rights.

And as Robert Sapolsky once said, cooperation is a neutral terms: sometimes it takes cooperation to raze a village.

Jumper, the relationship between agriculture and civilization is a little more complex. It's pretty obvious that civilization requires agriculture, but there were two very different paths followed by the Old and New World civilizations. In the Old World, sedentism preceded agriculture. Hunter/gatherers in the Middle East were forming villages for a thousand years before they started cultivating crops. In the New World the pattern was the opposite, nomadic bands of people sowed crops in fields but did little to tend them at first, traveling around the landscape and working their way back to the fields they had sown when the crops were ready for harvest.

Duncan, I have a meeting to go to tonight, but if I don't forget (no guarantees) I'll quote a very long passage from a very recent book at you. It's more complicated than that, and your certainty about the subject is a little bit misplaced.

Paul SB said...

Oh, I forgot one thing: I never said a word about villains, but to make something clear, the word /villein/ is one that any scholar of the Middle Ages should know.

villein
[vil-uh n, -eyn, vi-leyn]
a member of a class of partially free persons under the feudal system, who were serfs with respect to their lord but had the rights and privileges of freemen with respect to others.

Doesn't sound much like today's farmers. In literature of the time the word is commonly used the way we use the word /vulgar/ today, and that word comes from the Latin term /vulgate/. Late Latin vulgāta (editiō) popular (edition); vulgāta, feminine past participle of vulgāre to make common.

Nowadays the term is mainly used to refer to versions of the Bible in any other language than Latin, but in the days of the Empire it was mainly used to disparage the common people of the city.

David Brin said...

Zepp, as I say repeatedly... the only times that humans ever derived the actual creative-fecundity benefits of competition is when they first cooperated to set up rules and regulations.

Only regulated competition survives the fundamental human nature urge to CHEAT. Cheating wrecked every single flat-fair-open-competitive arena in every human generation, in which the mighty and owner-cliques and guys with swords took everything and crushed any potential competitors. This was reinforced, since those cheaters got more descendants... but civilization stagnated in stupidity.


Pericles talked the Athenians ito regulating cheating and they instantly terrified all neighbors with their creative power... but cheaters can innovate and new styles of cheating guided the democracy into self-destruction.

That is the story of 250 years of America, in which we have barely evaded falling into pits created for us by oligarchic cheaters. Reforms happened just in time and perhaps we will achieve that trick again.

Alas, no help will come from "Large-L" Libertarians, who have been bought and cozened and perverted by the very same owner-oligarchy that should be recognized as the ancient foe.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | That means that the pre-civilization egalitarian structure has actually had more like 70,000 years to demonstrate an appalling lack of progress

Could be, but I strongly suspect progress was happening anyway and we are using a modern perspective to judge it. It helps to remember that the entire human population didn’t number more than a few million back then. I don’t see how they could progress all that fast with so few people spread out and living off the land. I think it also helps to remember that we weren’t the only hominid on the planet back then either. Much of our modern progress requires a generally lower level of our inclination to be xenophobic. Would you feel as you do today if you had to compete for resources against another hominid?

Our ancestors deserve some credit, though. They managed to spread around the planet using what we consider to be low tech stuff that they had to invent from scratch and then propagate the knowledge for it all through the generations. That is no simple feat... especially for a critter with no external memory. No other animal does? Yah. We invented one of those too… and then many more variations on it. Migrating across the face of the world was a profound accomplishment if you think about it for a moment. Not many animals have done that, but we managed and even avoided speciating while we were at it.

LarryHart said...

Slim Moldie:

including my friend Bob who is the most interesting man in the world--even though he doesn't make eye contact--


Is that a liberal trait? When I was interviewing for a job last year, I kept being told that I had to do better at making eye contact. In close quarters, it feels really strange for me to do that, but apparently it's what normal people expect.

I've been practicing lately on beautiful women.


you ruined it by metaphorically pooping in the swimming pool.


Remember the Geico commercial. "If you're locumranch, you poop in the pool. It's what you do."

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Plus I just realised why the left despises Trump so much: In their own words, they believe he "lacks restraint", meaning that they're afraid (terrified, even) that he may be 'free' to strike back & return the abuse (tit-for-tat) that they've been heaping on the right for generations, even though that would represent just desserts to those criminally unpleasant left-leaning buggers.


Oh, go fuck yourself!

The right has been heaping abuse on liberals for my entire adult life. Your team just gets pissed off if we don't lie down and take it.

Thanks for the excuse I need to ignore your posts. It's been a long time coming.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

The IDEA of ‘civilization’ is 6000 years old or more, so maybe that is what you actually meant. If so, I just read you too literally.


I can't speak for our host, but I took him to mean the history of civilization.

Alfred Differ said...

Paul451 | I’m going to answer things in a different order than you wrote them and also recognize your link to Carl’s article.

The "era of civilisation", not "a civilisation".

Yes. I think I see that now. I was reading him too literally. I think he has a very powerful argument and defends it vigorously, so I glitched when I read his statement as suggesting otherwise. 8)

We are the descendants of the harem-keepers.

I suspect the harems came later and that David’s description for this is too simplistic. Food quality sucked in the early agricultural era and it decimated the life expectancy of those who left the nomadic life. It isn’t simple for a son born late to secure a mate if both his parents are already dead. Family is very, very important for all males who would survive to procreate. That is less true of women, hence the y-chromosome bottleneck. My suspicion is the harems arrived later after we had time to create the social institutions that undermined our natural egalitarian inclinations. Of course, I could be completely wrong. This isn’t my field of expertise.

There's no symmetry.

You are missing the point, but I’ll address yours first. The deli owner CAN do a number of things, but so can I. I might hand over counterfeit money. I might smile, make the deal, and then steal his recipes and compete with him. You are confusing symmetry of knowledge with symmetry of the authority to obligate. I have no expectations regarding knowledge symmetries, though I do prefer that people learn early and often and be wary of those who know more.

You then took the deli example and extended it toward employee relationships. I DO recognize the asymmetry there, but you know from what I’ve said elsewhere that I’m not inclined to grant such power to any who would employ me. As long as they can’t enslave me, I WILL walk away if things get too unequal for me to tolerate.

{Disparity driven asymmetry is} inherent in the exchange

No. It is present in the minds of the people engaging in the exchange. It is important to blame the actual moral agents who fail. If you and I were face-to-face and agreed to an exchange, I strongly suspect we could manage to make it symmetric in the sense of ‘authority to obligate’ if WE care to do so. I probably wouldn’t trade with you any other way.

redistribution from poorer to richer is especially bad

Yah. David calls that cheating since it probably involves captured government. I do too. My difference with you is that I’m not convinced that the wealth you think got stolen involves redistribution. From where I sit it looks more like a decision to lower the amount of redistribution from rich to poor. Remember that LBJ chose to pay for his social efforts without deferring them. That required redistribution. A choice to end that approach later (Reagan’s time) is NOT cheating. The way they SOLD that change in the plan was pure fraud in my not so humble opinion, but that’s a different thing.

David Brin said...

I'm all in favor of giving ancestors credit. Humans chipped and moved the Easter Island statues they prayed to for help after ruining their ecosystem. Humans "we" built the pyramids! We had many renaissances on the small scale of a polynesian navigation innovation here and a better plow there. And it was glacially slow, repressed by the conservatism of priests and the suspicions of inherited lords. And cheaters whose comfy position was always threatened by impudent innovating competitors.

Alfred Differ said...

Paul451 | Okay. On to the more contentious stuff where you appear to think I’m a fan of crap from Fox.

Looking only at waged professions that neither compete with off-shore workers, nor can (yet) be automated, we've seen exactly the same wage paralysis or decline even though their industry as a whole has increased alongside GDP.

Yup, but the competition is still there. I’ll give you a personal example. I currently work as a software engineer in a relatively protected niche. You can’t work where I work unless you are an American citizen with a long enough history for the feds to do a strong background check. I’m not competing with foreign labor, right? Wrong. I like to think I’m spiffy and irreplaceable, but the truth is my employer could bring in someone with apprentice-level skills and give them time to learn. Within a couple years, they could displace me in most of my day-to-day work. That fact has real consequences. Economists phrase this in terms of substitution and point out that it applies to most jobs. Humans are capable of learning what their employers need, therefore any wage premium enjoyed by a certain group of employees is more related to their employer’s reluctance to retrain someone new. My little protected niche DOES create a roughly 20% boost to my wage, but it also makes me vulnerable to renegotiating it every 3-5 years when contracts are won or lost. The way I compete with foreign labor, even though they can’t work here, is that others who could work here CAN be replaced by foreign labor. The connection is indirect.

A larger labor pool gives employers more options for substituting one of us for another. The way to defeat their advantage (since they own the jobs) involves us constructing heaps of human capital and threatening to substitute them instead. A labor agreement IS an exchange after all. We can force some symmetry if we wish whether we unionize or not.

I don’t need your China counter example. I agree that the need to transport goods has grown. Why haven’t the wages of truckers? Because more of us would become truckers if it moved up much. Economics is an exercise in frustration among substitution options.

Jesus, Alfred, everyone uses "real" income.

It doesn’t look to me like you are, but I’ll take your word for it. I believe you are mistaken regarding a number of other people here, though. They might get that one should correct for inflation, but might not realize the importance of removing the local currency from the mix all together.

What you've missed is that the same result occurs no matter what the measure, because that same "real" value applies to the increase in wealth of those few who've seen their wealth increase.

No. Almost every one of us is wealthier than we were 40 years ago in a ‘real’ sense. My savings are worthless if I’m stranded on a deserted island, right? Both wealth and income should be measured relative to what I can buy in the market. Econ 101. In this ‘real’ sense, almost all Americans can buy more now. They folks at the top can obviously buy a whole lot more.

... the entire 100% of US growth for the last 40 years has ended up in the hands of a tiny minority at the top

Simply not true if you know how to count it all.

[contd]

Alfred Differ said...

We had many renaissances on the small scale of a polynesian navigation innovation here and a better plow there.

We had a bazillion of them. I strongly suspect it is the small ones that are going to make us a viable space-faring civilization... or not if we fail to create them. The smallest of them requires a bazillion of us imagining them, testing them in fair markets, and reaping the rewards of our success or sufferings of our failures.

So, yah. I'm all for your flat, fair, free market approach. I'll tolerate mostly flat, mostly fair, and mostly free, though. 8)

Tony Fisk said...

This talk of post-apocalyptic civilisations and whether or not they're anything more than a nice place to visit makes this a good moment to offer an hour or two's simple entertainment with a cut-scene movie of the game "Horizon Zero Dawn".

Watch as young Aloy gambols around the ruins of a mighty civilisation, and the outskirts of the tribe her guardian's been cast out of. Wonder as she discovers and learns to use a long-discarded artefact. Thrill as she learns to hunt and evade robotic dinosaurs (cool CGI). Share her triumph as she undertakes the proving ceremony, to be accepted back into the Tribe, so she can finally ask about her origins.

Then it gets weird.

The pacing of these things is always a bit irregular, since much of the action sequences are the actual gameplay (excluded). For this reason, the showdowns are an anti-climax (Think of the script of a Shakespeare play where it just says "they fight"). Nevertheless, I found the plot and character(!) development very well done. Better than the Halo cut-scenes (which I also quite enjoyed.)

Carl M. said...

To answer a few threads in this discussion:

1. Regarding the asymmetry problem, see Richard Epstein's "Simple Rules for a Complex World." This book shows where the sparse legal axioms of Rothbard School libertarianism breaks down and gives a few more axioms to fill in the gaps. One deals with exactly the problem of asymmetric information.

2. Regarding harems: When human have lots warfare, you get a surplus of females. These become reward for successful warriors. The system self-perpetuates as polygamy encourages warfare. By the way, primitive war tended to be more brutal, as the only way to disarm the enemy was to either kill or enslave the males of fighting age. Expensive weaponry/professional soldiers make it possible to disarm without devastating. (The reported body counts in feudal Europe were low compared to ancient times. Was it differences in reporting? Christianity? Or the fact that you could disarm a knight by taking away his expensive armor?)

2b: One of the secrets of Greek and Roman success was outlawing polygamy. Made stable civil society easier.

3. Regarding cheating: the introduction in Charles Koch's book is heavy with complaints about cheating and celebrations of creative destruction. And keep in mind that the Tea Party movement began as complaints against the Wall St. bailouts.

4. Regarding creativity: Europe leaped in front of the rest of the world in large part because it had competition between governments which shared a similar culture. Entrepreneurs, inventors (and weapons designers) could shop their ideas between a wide assortment of kingdoms, duchies, and principalities. No single government could put the kibosh on an idea.

LarryHart said...

Carl M:

And keep in mind that the Tea Party movement began as complaints against the Wall St. bailouts.


Not really. At least, not in the way you make it sound. I live in Chicago, and I remember Rick Santelli. He wanted capitalists to protest against a homeowner bailout.


Five years ago on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, CNBC's Rick Santelli bellowed what would later become his most famous rant ever.

Which is saying something if you've ever watched CNBC, where Santelli has reigned as de facto ranter-in-chief since 1999.

"All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I'm going to start organizing," he screamed from the CME on February 19, 2009. It was time, Santelli said, for another Tea Party.
...
His infamous segment — in response to a minor homeowner bailout — is now credited with helping launch the Tea Party tidal wave that began during the early years of the Obama administration and ended up "shellacking" the Democrats in the 2010 midterms.


(emphasis mine)


http://archives.cjr.org/the_audit/rick_santelli_cnbcs_glenn_beck.php

[Rick] Santelli, who kicked off the Tea Party in 2009 with his rant about a minor proposed homeowner bailout, is edging into Glenn Beck territory here. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange is not quite the Bunker of Doom, and Santelli uses a whiteboard instead of a chalkboard, but he’s reporting from an alternate reality all the same.

(emphasis mine)

LarryHart said...

Oops, I missed copying the link for that first Rick Santelli story above.

This is it:
http://www.businessinsider.com/rick-santelli-tea-party-rant-2014-2

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr. Brin wrote: "Zepp, as I say repeatedly... the only times that humans ever derived the actual creative-fecundity benefits of competition is when they first cooperated to set up rules and regulations."

Indeed so, and I thought I made that point when I noted I first encountered it in "Earth". I was trying to, point out that you were the genesis for my thoughts on the matter, and apparently did not succeed.

David Brin said...

Zepp you did fine.


Carl makes a decent point about polygamy… though the greeks and romans simply demoted the extra wives to the rank of slaves.

To swallow Charles Koch’s declarations about cheating… from a master cheater… is proof of dogmatic delusion.

The Tea Party was a wholly-owned confederate rabble aimed at exploiting racism and hatred of intellectuals in order to get the confed-rabble mobilized to support a GOP political caste that was entirely, wholly and absolutely purely dedicated only to helping oligarchy. SHOW US the other Tea Party agenda items that actually passed?

See outcomes. Actual outcomes:
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/06/so-do-outcomes-matter-more-than-rhetoric.html

Paul SB said...

Duncan,

I just got home and I am about to slip into NaNaLand, so I don’t have time to type up that passage about h/gs I had in mind, and I might be pretty busy tomorrow, so I’m sure sure I’ll have time then. So let me at least describe some of what I know about early civilizations from my archaeological experience - it is what I specialized in, after all.

Early civilizations were no picnic by any stretch of the imagination. The skeletal data tell the story far better than anything else. When you look at human bones from a place like Mesopotamia you can always pick out the god-kings and their warriors, because their bones look like the bones of hunter/gatherers. That is, they look generally healthy, except for the embedded arrows and cut marks from bronze weapons. The average peasant farmer, by contrast, left bones that crumble when you touch them. Special techniques have to be used to get them out of the ground intact enough to be reliably analyzed. Often they are just powder.

The priests, kings and warriors often mad wit to their 40s or even 50s, but it is common to find cemeteries of peasants in which none lived much past 30. The bones of women have arthritic lesions on the knees and hands so severe you would think they were chained to their saddle querns from birth. And the carries! My God, the ridges on the long bones that show that they were a foot or two shorter than their genetics would have permitted tell a tale of life on the edge of starvation. Potassium:strontium ratios are so low that you would think they were fed hay all their lives. No, absolutely not. And I don’t give a rat’s ass what Pinker says. He suffers from the prejudice most civilized people have, which is to assume that the invention of agriculture was the most amazing thing in all of history and we were all so much better off when we lived on the farm. Bullshit. And the average city-dwelling commoners weren’t much better off than the farmers.

Paul SB said...

Duncan con.t,

Civilization did one thing - it created iron-clad hierarchy. It didn’t get a lot better in the Middle Ages or Renaissance, either. The histories don’t spend a lot of time describing the misery of the peasantry because that was just part of the air the chroniclers breathed. So what is worse, living in a society where you can eat and are fairly free, but there’s a chance that some member of your tribe might kill another once in a generation, or living with the certainty that you will be on the edge of starvation all of your short, miserable life in the veritable slave service of God and Country?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB

So on the one side we have the people who survive - have very few children - but are themselves in good health
But have a huge chance of being killed - not "once in a generation
but "My first husband was killed by my second husband then his brother (no 1) killed him and then ......
20% of ALL deaths by homicide!

And on the other side - larger families - worse physical condition but safer lives AND in most of history a steady progression - something new happening for the old ones to moan about

They are both hideous conditions by modern standards -

But I am missing the biggest reason we are not in those bands - they got wiped out!

Carl M. said...

David, if you are getting your information on the Koch Brothers from Think Progress and other lying Moonbats, you are attacking an imaginary villain. Seriously, you would get more traction for your better ideas by trying to have a hint of objectivity and engaging with the Koch organizations.

Unlike the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh/Confederate axis you get going on about, the Koch's actually listen to people across the aisle and make alliances where there is common interest. The actual Confederate libertarians down in Auburn hate the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers work with the ACLU when there is commonality of interest. There's a blurb on the back cover of the book I'm reading by the president of the United Negro College Fund. Doesn't seem very Confederate to me.

For example, you make an interesting point about Peak Phosphorus, and how we need to recycle the phosphates in sewage. Let's see, who has a degree in chemical engineering from MIT, and owns a business that includes agricultural chemicals, biofuels, cattle, and wastewater treatment...Charles Koch, that's who. Oh, and there is also a blurb by the founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market -- sometimes reputed to be an environmentalist.

Ditch the delusional conspiracy theories and try engaging the Kochs. You are likely to get more traction with them that with the Freedom Fest crowd.

The Moonbat media freaks out over the Kochs because they are muscling in on their territory. It's rather like Rush complaining about Bill Clinton stealing Republican ideas on welfare reform.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Carl M will doubtlessly dismiss Rolling Stone as "a moonbat librul rag" but the article referenced below uses known facts to demonstrate just how malign and corrosive to America the Kochs have actually been.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/inside-the-koch-brothers-toxic-empire-20140924

Carl M. said...

Zepp, the opening paragraph of the article contains two demonstrably false statements.

Try Mother Jones. They do actual reporting.
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/05/koch-brothers-family-history-sons-of-wichita/

Carl M. said...

Read about half of the Rolling in Shit article. The rage and self-righteousness oozes from every paragraph. The author even makes pacifism sound evil.

Sean Hannity sounds fair and balanced by comparison.

raito said...

Alfred Differ,

"No. Almost every one of us is wealthier than we were 40 years ago in a ‘real’ sense. My savings are worthless if I’m stranded on a deserted island, right? Both wealth and income should be measured relative to what I can buy in the market. Econ 101. In this ‘real’ sense, almost all Americans can buy more now. They folks at the top can obviously buy a whole lot more."

Utter garbage, at least locally and for my old circumstances. Those (nearly) 40 years back, minimum wage had increased to #3.35 locally. Now, it's $7.25. About 216% higher. You could rent a single bedroom for about $200. Now it's about $800. 400% higher. And locally, we're not even in any bubble. There's your market.

If I had my old sort of job, any gain would be completely sucked away, and more, by housing prices, if not food prices.

Carl M. said...

A couple more points about the RS screed.

1. Some of the accusations may well be true. But given the nature of the rant, I'd need to hunt down every reference, just as I would need to hunt down every reference in an accusation made by Alex Jones.

2. This passage made me extremely suspicious:

"But Charles was already falling under the sway of a charismatic radio personality named Robert LeFevre, founder of the Freedom School, a whites-only­ libertarian boot camp in the foothills above Colorado Springs, Colorado. LeFevre preached a form of anarchic capitalism in which the individual should be freed from almost all government power."

Whites only? Was this "only whites allowed" or "only whites showing up?" I have never heard of Robert LeFevre being a racist. Given how Robert Heinlein also fell under the sway of LeFevre, and Heinlein was militantly anti-racist, I'd need some serious documentation of this accusation. (The anarchism Heinlein toyed with in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" was inspired by LeFevre from what I have read.)

Jumper said...

Paul SB,
My truncated anthropology studies didn't inform me of sedentary hunter-gathererer life; it seems alien to me. More resources for me? I actually have a reason to ask; I'm in the midst of disciplining a new Win 10 laptop and it's rough. I'm just taking a sanity break but must soon get back to it.

Carl's right about Rolling Stone. They spin at 78. However, the Koch's have funded some unforgivable entities and are damned in my view. You know who they are. Mobsters always fund a few widows and orphans to gain some local loyalty.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Carl M: Empty assertion does nothing to convince me. If you want to get me to believe the opening paragraph has two demonstrably false statements, then you're going to have to do a little actual demonstrating. What do you deem false and why do you deem it so?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Robert LeFevre was an interesting character. I live in the Mount Shasta area, and he's part of local legend. He formed the Church of the I AM (still extant but as a deep purple new age thing) and was also a founder of the Silver Shirts, a neo-Nazi group modelled after the Black Shirts and deeply antipathetic to Blacks and Jews.
Despite that, I doubt his motivations were principally racist. He was more of a Randroid than a racist: he didn't hate people; he just didn't give a shit about them.

sociotard said...

My proposal for North Korea is radical and unpopular, but then so am I.

Do-Si-Do with China.

South Korea, Japan, and our other allies remain under our nuclear umbrella, but give a few of our South Korean bases to China, under treaty, with intelligence sharing.



I'm not even saying all the bases. Just the eight closest to the border.  I see this as wins all around.

China is happy because one less US base in East Asia is one less base in East Asia. Besides, they do $131 billion in trade with SK, compared with $2 billion with North Korea. They don't want NK to attack.

The US is happy because they're paying for fewer bases. Yay, peace dividend. Also, no war. The US doesn't have a big stomach for war. The US is a little sad to see its influence diminish a bit, but it still has many bases in the region, and again, even some still in South Korea. The US interest in the region is continued access to trade, and that will be maintained. The US talks a big game about an interest in human rights violations, but we sure are friends with China and the Philippines. We don't need to keep rattling sabers at NK over their violations.

North Korea is Conflicted.  On the one hand, for the first time in sixty years, they won't look south to see the guys that tried to wipe them off the map once. They'll see their Chinese allies. They can play up the "we chased 'em off" card. On the other hand, they need the US there for propaganda purposes.  The US is the bugaboo that keeps the people supporting the government.

South Korea  . . . I'm not sure. But it isn't a war, and that has to be good. Again, this would take lots of reassurance that we are still in their corner, if a little more distantly.

David Brin said...

Carl M, You are like a person with bone cancer who wraps an ace bandage to ease the immediate joint pain. Those who deem Donald Trump to be the disease are stunning fools. He is a symptom of something that’s been going on for a very long time, as cynical oligarchs spent billions to hijack both conservatism and libertarianism, turning them into hysterical, anti-fact, anti-maturity cults.

Your defense of the Kochs is hilarious! They host annual, secret meetings of the most invidious, relentless cheating lords anywhere on the planet. While Robert Mercer and Sheldon Adelson then forge forth to blatantly attack every single measure taken by the Greatest Generation to restrict oligarchic cheating…

…the Kochs then cater to the wishful thinking of utter fools, by murmuring a few “good cop” slogans. They toss a few coins at some noblesse oblige charities and offer nostrums about equal racial rights… while subsidizing horrific “institutes” that have concocted the war on science and against all fact-using professions.

Your gullibility is spectacular. Those secret pow-wows of the First Estate aren’t just smoking guns, they are nuclear mushroom clouds. I’ll “engage” the Kochs when they open up those meetings, and when they stop subsidizing the craziness that has consumed the clinically psychopathic American confederate right.

David Brin said...

Oh by the way, Carl, I know John Mackey. I’ve had dinner in his home. He seems to be sincere. He actually thinks that ending the Rooseveltean compact of the Greatest Generation will do us all good, though absolutely every single time that compact has been dismantled further (e.g destruction of unions and Supply Side gifts to the rentier-lord caste)… the outcome — actual measurable outcomes — were negative.

Absolutely every single time. Without a single exception. (Find one!) One. Find one Carl. One exception.

One.

Oh, and please tell us who suppressed freedom and competition and markets and creativity across 6000 years?

Here’s that word again: competition,competition,competition,competition,competition,competition,competition,competition,competition,competition.

Roll it around on the tongue. It may ring a bell. Your cult betrays it, at every single turn.

Carl M. said...

Zepp: I looked up Silver Shirts. According to Wikipedia, they were founded by William Dudley Pelley and headquartered in Asheville, NC. No mention of Lefevre. And no mention of the Silver Shirts on Lefevre's Wikipedia page.

David. I give up. You are delusional.

Jumper said...

I was wondering about that first paragraph too... Which was false demonstrably?

David Brin said...

Carl, I address the things you say... you answer none of my challenges. Not one, ever.

"David. I give up. You are delusional."

Sir, these things are testable. You make assertions that I shoot down with facts. I offer you assertions and challenges and you shout "squirrel!" pointing at something irrelevant, offstage. Oh, but I am delusional.

Show us the pro-competition actions that have been taken by the Republican-Libertarian alliance. Show us the DE regulations made by anyone other than democrats. Show us an enemy of freedom across 6000 years that compares with inherited owner-oligarchy.

Oh, but now let me turn around and HONR Carl Milsted! He hung around here, facing (somewhat) challenges instead of running off for a comfy echo chamber. If that's what he intends to do now, then let me bid you a respectful farewell. You are braver than most. We'll miss you.

Robert said...

A recent news event from outside the thread gave me an idea. I assume you've all heard of DTs (same initials as delirium tremens - appropriate!) outrageous "explanation" of the Russian expulsion of our diplomats. I think someone - maybe David's designated flatterer - should suggest to the Donald that, since the Russians have been so helpful with our budget, we should help them with theirs.

A minor correction - the clergy were the First Estate, and the nobility the Second. But we know which one David worries about more. With me, it's the clergy.

I wish the Kochs had remained LeFevre followers, if they ever were in the first place - a hell of a lot better than what they are now. Pity some fool decided LeFevre was a racist. And now for a plug for Radicals For Capitalism, by Brian Doherty. It would definitely help this discussion.


Bob Pfeiffer.

Paul SB said...

Okay, this is going to be very long, and probably a copyright violation, but sometimes it takes an essay where people stubbornly cling to wrong ideas that have been oft repeated.

Jumper, the passages I am quoting include mention of sedentary HGs. I first encountered them in an upper-division archaeology class, so it's no surprise you might not have heard of them. After spending hours getting this down, I'm a little tired, but if you get the book and look through its notes you can get to the original sources. There is a much older book, Mark Nathan Cohen's "The Food Crisis in Prehistory" that goes into both patterns, but it's from way back in 1979.

https://www.amazon.com/Food-Crisis-Prehistory-Overpopulation-Agriculture/dp/0300023510/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502482595&sr=8-1&keywords=the+food+crisis+in+prehistory

Paul SB said...

From "Behave" by Robert Sapolsky 2017, pages 316-326

What is known about hunter/gatherer (for sanity’s sake, henceforth, HG) violence?
Given that prehistoric HGs didn’t have lots of material possessions that have lasted for tens of thousands of years, they haven’t left much of an archaeological record. Insight into their minds and lifestyles comes from cave paintings dating from as much as forty thousand years. Though paintings around the world show humans hunting, hardly any unambiguously depict interhuman violence.
The paleontological record is even sparser. To date, there has been discovered one site of an HG massacre, dating back ten thousand years in Northern Kenya; this will be discussed later.
What to do with this void of information? One approach is comparative, inferring the nature of our distant ancestors by comparing them with extant nonhuman primates. Early versions of this were the writings of Konrad Lorenz and Robert Ardrey, who argued in his 1966 best seller, The Territorial Imperative that human origins are rooted in violent territoriality. The most influential modern incarnation comes from Richard Wrangham, particularly in his 1997 book (with Dale Petersen) Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence. For Wrangham chimps provide the clearest guide to the behavior of earliest humans, and the picture is a bloody one. He essentially leapfrogs HGs entirely: “So we come back to the Yanomamo. Do they suggest that chimpamzee violence is related to human war? They clearly do.” (Note that the Yanomamo are not HGs.) Wrangham summarizes his stance:

The mysterious history before history, the blank slate of knowledge about ourselves before Jericho, has licensed our collective imagination and authorized the creation of primitive Edens for some, forgotten matriarchies for others. It is good to dream, but a sober, waking rationality suggest that if we start with ancestors like chimpanzees and end up with modern humans building walls and fighting platforms, the 5-million-year-long trail that leads to our modern selves, along its full stretch, by a male aggression that structured our ancestors’ social lives and technology and minds.

It’s Hobbes al the way down, along with Keeley-esque contempt for pacification-of-the-past dreamers.

Paul SB said...

This view has been strongly criticized: (a) we’re neither chimps nor their descendants; they’ve been evolving at nearly the same pace as humans since our ancestral split. (b) Wrangham picks and chooses in his cross-species linkages; for example, he argues that the human evolutionary legacy of violence is rooted not only in our relationship to chimps but also in our nearly as close relationship with gorillas, who practice competitive infanticide. The problem is that, overall, gorillas display minimal aggression, something Wrangham ignores in linking human violence to gorillas. (c) As the most significant species cherry-picking, Wrangham pretty much ignores the bonobos, with their far lower levels of violence than chimps, female social dominance, and absence of hostile territoriality. Crucially, humans share as much of their genes with bonobos as with chimps, something unknown when Demonic Males was published (and, notably, Wrangham has softened his views).
For most in the field, insights into the behavior of our HG ancestors comes from study of contemporary HGs.
Once, the world of humans consisted of nothing but HGs; today the remnants of that world are in the few remaining pockets of peoples who live pure HG lives. These include the Hadza of northern Tanzania, Mbuti “Pygmies” in the Congo, Batwa in Rwanda, Gundinggwu of the Autralian outback, Andaman Islanders of India, Batak in the Philippines, Semang in Malaysia, and various Inuit cultures in northern Canada.
To start, it was once assumed that among HGs, women do the gathering while most of the calories are supplied by the men by hunting. In actuality, the majority of calories are provided by foraging; men spend lots of time talking about how awesome they were in the last hunt and how much awesomer they’ll be in the next – among the Hadza, maternal grandmothers supply more calories to families than do the Man The Hunter men.
The arc of human history is readily equated with an arc of progress, and key to the latter is the view that agriculture was the best thing humans ever invented; I’ll rant about that later. A cornerstone of the agriculture lobby is that primordial HGs were half starved. In reality, HGs typically work fewer hours for their daily bread than do traditional farmers and are longer-lived and healthier. In the words of anthropologist Marshall Sahlins, HGs were the original affluent society.
There are some demographic themes shared among contemporary HGs. Dogma used to be that HG bands had fairly stable group membership, producing considerable in-group relatedness. More recent work suggests less relatedness than thought, reflecting fluid fission/fusion groupings in nomadic HGs. The Hadza show one consequence of such fluidity, namely that particularly cooperative hunters find one another and work together. More on this in the next chapter.

Paul SB said...

What about our best and worst behaviors in contemporary HGs? Up until the 1970s, the clear answer was that HGS are peaceful, cooperative, and egalitarian. Interband fluidity serves as a safety valve for preventing individual violence (i.e. when people are at each other’s throats, someone moves to another group), and nomadicism is a safety valve preventing intergroup violence (i.e. instead of warring with the neighboring band, just hunt in a different valley than them).
The Standard-bearers for HG grooviness were the Kalahari !Kung. The title of an early monograph about them – Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’s 1959 The Harmless People – says it all. !Kung are to Yanomamo as Joan Baez is to Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols.
Naturally, this picture of the !Kung and HGs in general was ripe for revisionism. This occurred when field studies were sufficiently long term to document HGs killing one another, as summarized in an influential 1978 publication by Carol Ember of Yale. Basically, if you are observing a band of thirty people, it will take a long time to see that, on a per-capita basis, they have murder rates approximating Detroit’s (the standard comparison that is always made). Admitting that HGs were violent was seen as purging of sixties anthropological romanticism, a bracing slap in the face for anthropologists who had jettisoned objectivity in order to dance with the wolves.
By the time of Pinker’s synthesis, HG violence was established, and the percentage of their deaths attributed to warfare averaged around 15 percent, way more than in modern Western societies. Contemporary HG violence constitutes a big vote for the Hobbesian view of warfare and violence permeating all of human history.
Time for the criticisms:

• Mislabeling – some HGs cited by Pinker, Keeley and Bowles are, in fact, huner-horticulturalists.
• Many instances of supposed HG warfare, on closer inspection, were actually singular homicides.
• Some violent Great Plains HG cultures were untraditional in the sense of using something crucial that didn’t exist in the Pleistocene – domesticated horses ridden into battle.
• Like non-Western agriculturalists or pastoralists, contemporary HGs are not equivalent to our ancestors. Weapons invented in the last ten thousand years have been introduced through trade; most HG cultures have spent millennia being displaced by agriculturalists and pastoralists, pushed into ever-tougher, resource-sparse eco-systems.
• Once again, the cherry-picking issue, i.e., failure to cite cases of peaceful HGs.
• Most crucially, there is more than one type of HG. Nomadic HGs are the original brand, stretching back hundreds of thousands of years. But in addition to HG 2.0 equestrians, there are “complex HGs,” who are different – violent, not particularly egalitarian, and sedentary, particularly because they are sitting on a rich food source that they defend from outsiders. In other words, a transitional form from pure HGs. And many of the cultures cited by Ember, Keeley and Pinker are complex HGs. This difference is relevant to Nataruk, that northern Kenyan site of a ten-thousand-year-old massacre – skeletons of twenty-seven unburied people, killed by clubbing, stabbing, or stone projectiles. The victims were sedentary HGs, living alongside a shallow bay on Lake Turkana, prime beachfront property with easy fishing and plentiful game animals coming to the water to drink. Just the sort of real estate that someone else would try to muscle in on.

Paul SB said...

The most thoughtful and insightful analyses of HG violence come from Fry and Christopher Boehm of the University of Southern California. They paint a complex picture.
Fry has provided what I consider the cleanest assessment of warfare in such cultures. In a notable 2013 Science paper, he and Finnish anthropologist Patrick Söderburg reviewed all cases of lethal violence in the ethnographic literature in “pure” nomadic HGs (i.e., well-studied before extensive contact with outsiders and living in a stable ecosystem). The sample included 21 such groups from around the world. Fry and Söderburg observed what might be called warfare (defined by the fairly unstringent criterion of conflict producing multiple casualties) in only a minority of cultures. Not exactly widespread. This is probably the best approximation we’ll ever get about warfare in our HG ancestors. Nonetheless, these pure HGs are no tie-dyed pacifists; 86 percent of the cultures experienced lethal violence. What are their causes?
In his 2012 book Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism and Shame, Boehm also surveys the literature, using slightly less stringent criteria than Fry uses, producing a list of about fifty relatively “pure” nomadic HG cultures (heavily skewed toward Inuit groups from the Arctic). As expected, violence is mostly committed by men. Most common is killing related to women – two men fighting over a particular woman, or attempts to kidnap a woman from a neighboring group. Naturally there are men killing their wives, usually over accusations of adultery. There’s female infanticide and killings over accusations of witchcraft. There are occasional killings over garden-variety stealing of food or refusals to share food. And lots of revenge killings by relatives of someone killed.
Both Fry and Boehm report killings akin to capital punishment for severe norm violations. What norms do nomadic HGs value most? Fairness, indirect reciprocity, and avoidance of despotism.
Fairness. As noted, HGs pioneered human cooperative hunting and sharing among nonrelatives. This is most striking with meat. It’s typically shared by successful hunters with unsuccessful ones (and their families); individuals playing dominant roles in hunts don’t necessarily get much more meat than everybody else; crucially, the most successful hunter rarely decides how the meat is divided – instead this is typically done by a third party. There are fascinating hints about the antiquity of this. Big-game hunting by hominins 400,000 years ago has been documented; bones from animals butchered then show cut marks that are chaotic, overlapping at different angles, suggesting a free-for-all. But by 200,000 years ago the contemporary HG pattern is there – cut marks are evenly spaced and parallel, suggesting that single individuals butchered and dispensed the meat.
This does not mean that sharing is effortless for pure HGs. Boehm notes how, for example, the !Kung perpetually kvetch about being shortchanged on meat. It’s the background hum of social regulation.
Indirect Reciprocity. The next chapter discusses reciprocal altruism between pairs of individuals. Boehm emphasizes how nomadic HGs specialize, instead, in indirect reciprocity. Person A is altruistic to B; B’s social obligation now isn’t necessarily to be altruistic to A as paying the altruism forward to C. C pays it forward to D, etc… This stabilizing cooperation is ideal for big-game hunters, where two rules hold: (a) your hunts are usually unsuccessful; and (b) when they are successful, you typically have more meat than your family can consume, so you might as well share it around. As has been said, an HG’s best investment against future hunger is to put meat in other people’s stomachs now.

Paul SB said...

Avoidance of despotism. As also covered in the next chapter, there’s considerable evolutionary pressure for detecting cheating (when someone reneges on their half of a reciprocal relationship). For nomadic HGs, policing covert cheating is less of a concern than overt evidence of intimidation and powermongering. HGs are constantly on guard against bullies throwing their weight around.
HG societies spend lots of collective effort on enforcing fairness, indirect reciprocity and the avoidance of despotism. This is accomplished with that terrific norm-enforcement mechanism, gossip. HGs gossip endlessly, and as studied by Polly Wiessner of the University of Utah, it’s mostly about the usual: norm-violations by high-status individuals. People magazine around the campfire. Gossiping serves numerous purposes. It helps for reality testing (is it just me, or was he being a total jerk?), passing news (two guesses who got a foot cramp during the hairiest part of the hunt today), and building consensus (Something needs to be done about this guy). Gossip is the weapon of norm enforcement.
HG cultures take similar actions – collectively subjecting miscreants to criticism, shaming and mockery, ostracizing and shunning, refusing to share meat, nonlethal physical punishment, expulsion from the group, or, as a last resort, killing the person (either done by the whole group or by a designated executioner).
Boehm documents such judicial killings in nearly half the pure HG cultures. What transgressions merit them? Murder, attempts at grabbing power, use of malicious sorcery, refusal to share, betrayal of the group to outsiders, and of course breaking of sexual taboos. All typically punished this way after other interventions have failed repeatedly.

So, Hobbes or Rousseau? Well, a mixture of the two, I say unhelpfully. This lengthy section makes clear that you have to make some careful distinctions; (a) HGs versus other traditional ways of making a living; (b) nomadic HGs versus sedentary ones; (c) data sets that canvas an entire literature versus those that concentrate on extreme examples; (d) members of traditional societies killing one another versus members of traditional societies killed by gun-toting, land-grabbing outsiders; (e) chimps as our cousins versus chimps erroneously viewed as our ancestors; (f) chimps as our closest ancestors versus chimps and bonobos as our closest ancestors; (g) warfare versus homicide, where lots of the former can decrease the latter in the name of in-group cooperation; (h) contemporary HGs living in stable, resource-filled habitats with minimal interactions with the outside world versus contemporary HGs pushed into marginal habitats and interaction with non-HGs. Once you’ve done that, I think a pretty clear answer emerges. The HGs who peoled the earth for hundreds of thousands of years were probably no angels, being perfectly capable of murder. However, “war” – both in the sense that haunts our modern world and in the stripped-down sense that haunted our ancestors – seems to have been rare until most humans abandoned the nomadic HG lifestyle. Our history as a species has not been soaked in escalated conflict. And Ironically Keeley tacitly concludes the same – he estimates that 90 to 95 percent of societies engage in war. And whom does he note as the exceptions? Nomadic HGs.

Paul SB said...

Which brings us to agriculture. I won’t pull any punches – I think that its invention was one of the all-time human blunders, up there with New Coke and the Edsel. Agriculture makes people dependent on a few domesticated crops and animals instead of hundreds of wild food sources, creating vulnerability to droughts and blights and zoonotic diseases. Agriculture makes for sedentary living, leading humans to do something that no primate with a concern for hygiene and public heath would do, namely living in close proximity to their feces. Agriculture makes for surplus and thus almost inevitably the unequal distribution of surplus, generating socioeconomic status differences that dwarf anything that other primates cook up with their hierarchies. And from there it’s just a hop, skip and a jump until we’ve got Mr. McGregor persecuting Peter Rabbit and people incessantly singing “Oklahoma.”
Maybe this is a bit over the top. Nonetheless, I do think it’s reasonably clear that it wasn’t until humans began the massive transformation of life that came from domesticating teosinte and wild tubers, aurochs and einkorn, and of course wolves, that it became possible to let loose the dogs of war.

David Brin said...


Sorry Paul, but the following doesn’t work: “HGs typically work fewer hours for their daily bread than do traditional farmers and are longer-lived and healthier. In the words of anthropologist Marshall Sahlins, HGs were the original affluent society.”

When humans are affluent without birth control, populations rise. At which point hGs starve and the population goes back to top predator balance of very low numbers. Sure… much of the time it’s a good life, till a drought comes or an invading band. Then everyone you know dies. You are always one hunt away from hunger.

“What norms do nomadic HGs value most? Fairness, indirect reciprocity, and avoidance of despotism.”

I don’t swallow it. Human males are bullies and cheaters and the top six in a tribal band will repress the bottom six males and take all they’ve got, while the middle six help, in order to keep what they have.

“HG societies spend lots of collective effort on enforcing fairness, indirect reciprocity and the avoidance of despotism. “

Funny how the more we know about a society, the more this romantic image recedes into the past. Polynesians waged absolutely ceaseless war. And during peace, the despot kings ordered any male who smelled slightly bad or looked at him put to death.

Alfred Differ said...

Paul451 | Sorry. Life intervened yesterday. I’ll pick this up again now.

You think Trump is bad, Trump is simply the latest, the most extreme, effort of ordinary people casting around desperately trying to change the pattern of theft.

First of all, I’m not a conservative. Progressives might be tempted to lump me in with them, but I find some of their socially conservative ideals very repulsive and insulting. I’m deadly serious about favoring equality of authority to obligate. That means I can’t ally with them very often. At a technical level, I’m a classical liberal who finds it easier to ally with progressives than conservatives.

Second, Trump is a con man who appears to believe his own lies because he doesn’t seem to have any other intellectual choice. How would he explain himself to himself otherwise?

Third, I sincerely doubt you are correct about people desperate trying to change the pattern of theft. I’m being generous by not putting that in scare quotes. You and many others see it as a theft. Many others do not. What I see them disliking intensely is the rate of change happening TO them. Feeling victimized? Yah. So put a face and name to the cause and fight back, right? I sincerely doubt that the change happening to us has anyone we can directly blame. The numbers don’t add up. Sure… there are cheaters stealing from you, but not at the scale you think they are. Point out cheaters and there is a decent chance I’ll side with you. Blame an entire clade for the theft of 50% of recent economic growth and I’m more inclined to laugh/cry. No I say. You are creating scapegoats and might be one of the people who intensely dislike the changes that are happening. I feel for you, but not enough to protect you from the future.

Trumbrels? Nah. I’m one of the intellectuals who would get shot in a proletariat revolution. Tumbrels are for the aristocrats and priests.

"If the poor can buy flat-screen TVs, then they aren't really poor."

Heh. The idea of measuring absolute poverty predates Fox by a long way. It is old-school liberalism. Oddly enough, when conservatives conserve anything in a fiscal sense, they are often conserving liberal traditions. Perhaps you haven’t read up on our history?

But it doesn't change the fact that they'd be able to buy twice as much if the distribution patterns from 40 years ago had held. It doesn't change the fact that half their wealth has been stolen.

No. You are making an economic prediction here that can reasonably be challenged. It is NOT clear whether real incomes would have been twice as high had we continued the previous, pre-Reagan rich-to-poor redistribution plan. I was there. I remember stagflation. It is NOT clear that your alt.universe prediction is correct.

[cont’d again]

Paul SB said...

But you are talking about tribal people, not hunter/gatherers. They are not the same thing, and the conditions in which they live are not the same. If they have kings, they are not hunter/gatherers, and not representatives of 200,000 years of H. sapiens prehistory. Those Polynesians were chiefdoms, which are different from tribes, which are different from bands. Sapolsky isn't a Rouseauian. That should be clear from reading him. He actually know what he is talking about. It would be a bit ironic, after going on about the importance of recognizing experts instead of believing alternate facts, if you proceeded to simply dismiss one of those experts out of hand.

Duncan's 20% number is simply, factually wrong, and the reasons are right in there. When someone says, "it's complicated" it might be because, in fact, it's complicated. That's the danger when we step way out of our fields. We only see pieces of the picture that the specialists understand in much greater detail. But you are welcome to read all the references. They start on page 721 and go to page 773.

Alfred Differ said...

Paul451 | {sigh} Yet another Fox News trope.

Heh. Okay. I’ll give you that one. The version of it that doesn’t sound like it is coming from a Fox mouthpiece is at least essay length, so I took a short cut. However, there is some truth to the richest being where they are because they take a risky path in their investments. Lack of diversification creates some very flashy blips that we can love to hate.

I’m not asking you to love the people at the top, though. I’m challenging you to run the numbers yourself. Look at the underlying data your favorite economist is using. Look at the academic challenges they face from scholars. Ask yourself how solid the evidence is behind your otherwise morally upstanding position is. When the folks at Fox use the tumbling argument by looking at Forbes, there is a decent chance they are NOT looking at the underlying numbers and asking counter-factual questions. I am. I’ll listen to your reasoned arguments backed by numbers, but I’ll probably pass on the emotional junk. If it is any consolation, I do the same to the libertarians who are quite guilty of playing the victim card.

[I've also wondered if the apparent lack of technological progress outside of that driven by Moore's Law has been because the worlds biggest market is regressing into feudal income patterns. And while rapid technological development enables it also requires an increasing population entering into a given income level...]

This is probably more important than I can grasp right now. You lost me part way through. I glitched on ‘the apparent lack of technological progress outside of…’. From where I site, I’ve seen a HUGE amount of technological progress outside of IT. I’ve even helped to make some of it happen and learned a great deal about how such things are financed in the venture sense. If you can’t see this progress, perhaps that explains your fears. I’m guessing a blindness to what is happening could cause you to perceive things wildly different than I do, hence the ‘different species’ remark earlier.

Okay. It isn’t easy to track all the progress happening. You certainly won’t see it reported in the news. I missed it for a long time until I learned how entrepreneurial funding is acquired from people willing to risk money for rates of return that start at about 35%/year and climb to around 55%/year depending on the amount of risk you pose to them and their portfolios. It all boils down to whether one’s starry-eyed idea is solving someone’s business or consumer problem. For a tiny example, consider this tale. In a land long ago, one could buy sodas at fast-food places in three sizes: small, medium, and large. Each cup was different. Each lid was different. No mixing between them could be done. If one ran out of medium lids, the medium cups simply couldn’t be capped. Along came some nameless person (nameless simply because I don’t know who did it first) who changed the design of the cups so they could use the same lid. The larger ones were simply taller, but had the same area at the top. With that, only one lid type had to be purchased and that probably drove an economy of scale. More importantly, though, fast-food places could sell all size varieties with no hurdles. That drove more reliable sales by removing a logistic hurdle. See the business problem solved? See the non-technological progress? It’s very tiny and flew under the radar of most people, but when you learn how to raise money for start-ups, you begin to see these changes ALL AROUND YOU. Maybe the first place to do the lid change didn’t need external money, but among the bazillion other changes that have happened in my lifetime, some fraction of them did. The big changes are obvious to anyone not living under a rock. The small changes, though, required a similar process that goes largely unreported. Look around you.

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

Paul451 | (Pesky 4096 character limit)

I say 'look around you' because that is what free markets do for you. They enable an ecosystem approach to innovations. (Yes… ecosystems can be cheated, but they are also pretty damn good at dealing with usurpers.)

Suppose I have what I think is a spiffy idea that will solve someone's business problem. I think I can sell my idea to a number of business owners in a particular niche as a set products, services, and a few training classes, but I need cash to start the business. I shop the idea around and find someone who wants 80% of my company for the investment and he wants to cash out in 5 years. Okay. The ecosystem I operate in will determine whether my idea is a viable swimmer. If not, it dies and my investor loses. If I succeed moderately well, he cashes out IF I can find another money source and he gets whatever 80% of the company is worth. Otherwise, he probably takes control and sells off assets to cash out. Maybe. If I wildly succeed, I go back to him and see about further rounds of financing because we might be on to something that can solve other business problems.

Cheaters are the people who can alter the rules of the ecosystem to favor them. They include protectionists, leeches, and pretty much anyone who thinks the point of an economy is to create jobs for them to work or some other protected interest. (Economies serve markets by producing for consumers.)

Look around you and you might see business/consumer problems being solved. If you do, there is a decent chance there is an innovator behind the effort and investors behind them. All of that counts as progress whether it is technological or not. It counts IF it survives in a fair ecosystem, though. Cheaters should not be treated as agents of progress.

Viking said...

@Alfred Differ:
"Cheaters are the people who can alter the rules of the ecosystem to favor them."

This is a very excellent formulation. I would request a tiny modification:

Cheaters are those that can change rules retroactively, or make different rules for different market participants, and use that ability for malfeasance.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Paul SB
HG are much more violent because they can be - the invention of weapons that killed at a distance destroyed the massive advantage that a "strong man" had - which is why humans have less difference in size between the sexes
But this only worked by killing the ones that as Dr Brin says wanted to be the big men - and they had to have been killed or evolution would have driven a greater degree of sexual dimorphism

Jared Diamond's book goes into this in detail - and breaks down the different death rates - which went DOWN dramatically when we went to Tribes and Kings

Alfred
Those small changes were my bread and butter - thousands of small changes over a few years led to a doubling in output
BUT NONE of those changes came down from the executives (or entrepreneurs) they all came from the shop floor and the engineers
Who got bugger all benefit from the savings all of which went to the 0.01%

I'm retired now - but I pity the guys trying to do what I used to do - I would be amazed if they get half the cooperation and enthusiasm I used to get

You guys have probably already seen this - but if you haven't take a good long look

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/07/opinion/leonhardt-income-inequality.html?_r=2



Duncan Cairncross said...

Alfred
I am just reading "John Kenneth "Ken" Galbraith"

I must get hold of some more of his works - they are a bit turgid BUT he is very clear that

"Economies serve markets by producing for consumer" - is only PART of the function

Economies must/should do more than that - we can see that immediately - if that was true then we would have had none of the scientific or engineering progress since the 1850's

Alfred Differ said...

@raito | I hear you regarding housing prices. $3.35 fourty years ago is $14.02 today. A full-time job at $14 grosses about $28K/year or $2.3K/month. Any single room apartment above $700/month is going to put a renter near the edge of financial disaster. They’ll need significant savings to protect themselves from big ticket risks like buying new tires or other multi-hundred dollar purchases. From where exactly are those savings supposed to arrive? Credit cards are often used as a substitute, but they add costs and even more risks. So… I’m with you regarding housing prices.

That’s not the only thing we buy, though. Also, it’s not like we can’t see some of these things in advance. Time for another anecdote?


My parents bought a small Honda in 1976 with a loan for about $3600. I was 14 at the time and just learning about these things. I had a little paper delivery job making a pittance, but I didn’t have anything to spend it on. We lived on a US air base, so I was simply saving the money. It dawned on me one day I could loan it to my parents for less than the bank could and more than my savings account rate. I thought it was a genius idea. My mother didn’t. I learned that day that there were other things she was calculating that she hadn’t told me. Yah. I was a kid. I worked her, though, and eventually got her to use my money. What did she do with the savings to her? In hindsight it was predictable. I wound up it.

Housing prices have NOT followed the rosy trend I describe, but other things have and THOSE savings are being used to deal with housing for many of us. Economic choices are about resource prioritization and substitutions. I displaced the bank my parents used, but they simply put the money to another use. That is what we all do, so even in a zero-sum situation it matters. However, our economy has not been zero-sum over the last few decades. Not even close.

Look around and you’ll see where those savings are going. The amount of human capital being accumulated is been growing at a ferocious pace. That particular asset doesn’t show up in Piketty’s book and it is a glaring flaw in his work.

The ‘common man’ has been accumulating capital and deriving income from it. We are ALL capitalists.

Alfred Differ said...

@Viking | Cheaters are those that can change rules retroactively, or make different rules for different market participants, and use that ability for malfeasance.

I’m going to resist that change, but not because I think my version is universally useful. Changing rules retroactively is certainly a bad thing. That is essentially a breech of contract and an obvious asymmetry in the authority to obligate. Making different rules for different participants is pretty bad too, but not universally so. We might reasonably protect the ignorant from the sharks who swim in the waters near the beach.

The rules in an ecosystem that concern me are best thought of meta-rules of the market. No one in particular makes them because they are also an evolutionary feature in a meta-ecosystem. Humans are inclined to abstract at the drop of a hat and then go recursive in the blink of an eye. It’s what we do with our big brains in defining ourselves, so why not do more of it in defining our macro-selves? Equality of the authority to obligate is about the meta-ecosystem where we should all be equals. No one should be able to dictate if we can possibly manage it. Anyone who does is a cheater in that space and should be called out for it.

Paul SB said...

Um, Duncan? Did you actually read it? Please actually read it. I spent a lot of time typing all that up. And I've read Diamond, he's more than a little out of date, and his impression of human prehistory is biased by the time spent with New Guinea horticulturalists, who were not hunter/gatherers. It's not a trivial difference.And no, most of the time they could not get away with it. If you had read what I took the time to type out you would know that.

Go back and read it. It matters, because if we get this wrong and insist on clinging to Victorian notions we end up feeding the troglodytes a story they can take to the bank. Ask yourself what purpose it serves to ignore the facts so you can cling to this Biblical idea that humans are all naturally evil? It serves very useful political/economic purposes, but for people you wouldn't give the time of day to.

Viking said...

@Alfred Differ
"Making different rules for different participants is pretty bad too, but not universally so. We might reasonably protect the ignorant from the sharks who swim in the waters near the beach."

Are you proposing to limit what financial contracts people are legally able to enter into, based on their financial savvy? As someone who typically reads the fine print, I would welcome changes that reduced the number of signed pages required to close a mortgage.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | Those small changes were my bread and butter - thousands of small changes over a few years led to a doubling in output
BUT NONE of those changes came down from the executives (or entrepreneurs) they all came from the shop floor and the engineers
Who got bugger all benefit from the savings all of which went to the 0.01%


I believe you. I really do. The best I can offer is obviously useless. You should have left and then formed your own business to sell the ideas to them. I know. Utterly useless. You might have failed… but you might have succeeded. You chose the safer path and earned a wage for it. Most of us do.

That you created part of the bazillion changes doesn’t surprise me. I suspect that is the real value employers derive from employees. Sure. They get us to make widgets and that turns into sales revenue. In the modern era, though, they also get us involved in quality improvement drives. They HAVE to if other employers are doing it in order to stay competitive. So… you might think the benefits when to the top 0.01%, but I’ll point out that your paycheck continued in an ecological niche where some of your competitors didn’t do so well. I don’t have to know who they were. I’ll bet you already know and can list the carcasses strewn across that landscape.

Ultimately, though, the real beneficiaries aren’t you as the innovator or your 0.01% management folks. It is the rest of us who benefit from improved quality and the improvement that implies to our ‘real’ income. Act III is where the real value shows up, but the stage is so broad and list of actors so huge that many don’t even realize the play is still going on.


if that was true then we would have had none of the scientific or engineering progress since the 1850's

Doubtful. Be wary of any pre-1950 perspectives. The historical documentation they relied upon when earning their chops was pretty weak.

Alfred Differ said...

@Viking | Are you proposing to limit what financial contracts people are legally able to enter into, based on their financial savvy?

Unfortunately, yes. I really, really, really don't like the idea, but until a decent AI arrives enabling us, I am very concerned that the ignorant will mistake their losses as failures of the markets instead of personal failures to understand the risks they face. Since many of them can vote, failures in one market will translate into election 'market' consequences.

I'm one of the few people on Earth who reads EULA's that come with shrink-wrapped software. I consider it my obligation as a participant in an exchange. Some EULA claims are simply outrageous and I reject them to avoid certain risks. I even read license agreements at social media sites when setting up new accounts. Odd? Some of them are pretty amazing... in the bad sense. I doubt many bother with all this though. They have a different power to retaliate and it is one I'm disinclined to use.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Okay. I encountered Sapolsky's big book in the bookstore the other day. I'll buy it next time. 8)

Viking said...

@Alfred Differ:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HumancentiPad

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

It's a long book, but I think you'll enjoy it. You might have to take notes, though. I plan on doing it, but that's a reflection of my poor memory, as well as my recognition of how valuable it is. It's dense reading, but he has a lively writing style. Not much of it is about hunter/gatherers. You've read most of that already. But it has a unique structure that makes it very different from other works of its kind. I think you'll find it delicious!

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Which brings us to agriculture. I won’t pull any punches – I think that its invention was one of the all-time human blunders, up there with New Coke and the Edsel. Agriculture makes people dependent on a few domesticated crops and animals instead of hundreds of wild food sources,


I read a book in the late 1980s--it's title was simply "Entropy", and I don't recall the author's name now--whose central thesis was that "advances" like agriculture are steps backwards rather than steps forward, and that the impetus that drives such things is not choice but necessity--the old way becomes exhausted of resources and is no longer viable. The new replacement takes up the load, but less efficiently.

The other similar example that I remember was the change from wood-burning to coal-burning in the middle ages. That didn't happen because coal was "better", but because wood was used up. But while you can burn coal, you can't build your houses or your bridges out of it. And it's heavier to transport, which requires more work to build roads. And it's dirtier.

The one point I disagreed with the author on was that he evaluated different means strictly in terms of energy usage without regard to human suffering. Whether or not slavery is more energy efficient than industrialization, I think there is a positive benefit to relieving human beings from doing the work.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Cheaters are the people who can alter the rules of the ecosystem to favor them. They include protectionists, leeches, and pretty much anyone who thinks the point of an economy is to create jobs for them to work or some other protected interest. (Economies serve markets by producing for consumers.)


The point of an economy might not be to provide a living for human beings, but the point of a society does contain that. And societies (or maybe civilizations) alter the ecosystem to favor themselves all the time. It's kinda the whole point.

This is not an argument against you so much as a caution not to forget the distinction of whether human society exists to serve the economy or vice versa.

LarryHart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

I'm retired now - but I pity the guys trying to do what I used to do - I would be amazed if they get half the cooperation and enthusiasm I used to get.


I have no idea if you've read Kurt Vonnegut's "Player Piano", but if not, I would strongly recommend it. You'd probably "get it" in ways that took me 40 years to appreciate.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

You can't build witches out of coal, either... ;]

That book on entropy sounds like a bit of a throwback to the 50s or 60s, when the social sciences were in the throes of "physics envy." Anthropology had its gurus of energy and kilocalories in those days. There is a certain truth to that perspective, but like anything dealing with H. saps, it's more complicated than that. We don't have a clue how much more complicated it is, but like all good sciences, every generation fills in more of the details.

I would disagree that every new innovation represents a step backwards. Agriculture is an example of how something that increased efficiency - if you limit your measure of efficiency to measures of calories per acre - can actually be a huge step backwards for most of the species. A tiny handful of oligarchs did as well as their HG ancestors - better if you think in terms of relative social status - while the vast majority of people lived in veritable slavery. By that old paradigm the Industrial Revolution was a huge step backwards, but it ultimately led to the world we have today, where more than half the nations of the world are at least ostensibly democratic, child mortality has dropped to levels that were unseen since before agriculture began, life expectancies have been going up instead of remaining stubbornly below those of elephants and sperm whales, and we all have nifty digital watches.

David Brin said...

Wow Alfred, Paul, Viking etc.... very eloquent, these days. And I wish I could force Carl M to let Alfred take him drinking and see what a real libertarian adult is like.

onward
onward

raito said...

Alfred Differ,

"I hear you regarding housing prices. $3.35 fourty years ago is $14.02 today. A full-time job at $14 grosses about $28K/year or $2.3K/month."

You hear, but you do not comprehend. $3.35 40 years ago is only $14.02 if you go by whatever index you're using (inflation? CPI? something else?). $3.35 is $7.25 today if you look at it as the minimum wage. You aren't going to get $14.02 an hour for a minimum wage job.

So by your own argument, someone making minimum wage today is making >half< of what they made 40 years ago. Couple that with housing prices and your argument about wealth. at least for those making minimum wage goes out the window. It doesn't matter that you can get more for your dollar when you don't have a dollar.

My anecdote is that back then, I worked minimum wage jobs, primarily in restaurants. That kept me from starving. I never carried cash unless I was going to buy groceries or do my laundry. I managed to put myself through the local tech. school on that before going to the university (getting NO aid because I was saving that for the university), where my shiny student job paid $6.50. Good thing, too, because I needed to buy food and pay for school (since you couldn't indenture yourself forever to get an education back then. It also didn't help, as I was told, that I was a white guy who'd supported myself for 10 years).

I very much doubt I could have the same trajectory today. All the money would be going for rent. I can't find historical information on the tech. school's tuition, but the university has risen from $1500 a year 27 years ago to $10,488 today.

Paul451 said...

Loco still can't tell the difference between opposing people who harm others and opposing "unpleasant" people.

Presumably because, like many of his ilk (including his blessed Trump), he can't tell the difference between disagreeing with someone (or opposing what they do) and abusing or hurting them. Therefore if you disagree with him, or the modern Confederates, or Trump, then they are allowed to "reciprocate" with violence, degradation, rape, etc. Because that's "equal".

[Yes, rape. Not a reference to Trump's sexual assaults, but Locum's own prior defence of rape because women denied him his "right" to reproduce with them. He can't tell the difference between a woman not wanting to have sex with him and him raping that woman.]

David Brin said...

okay guys simmer down.

(Like I should too?)

onward

onward

Paul451 said...

The new post only has one comment, so I'll drop these here rather than bomb the new thread:

--

Me: There's no symmetry. [in your deli transaction example]"
Alfred: "You are missing the point, but I'll address yours first. The deli owner CAN do a number of things, but so can I. I might hand over counterfeit money. I might smile, make the deal, and then steal his recipes and compete with him."

Do you really think that starting a rival deli is as simple as food substitution or toxic food handling practices. Do you really not see that they have wildly asymmetrical effort requirements?

Likewise, with your repeated false-symmetry by claiming non-slavery precludes asymmetry in employee-employer relationships: Do you really believe that losing your job has the same effect on someone's life as having to hire someone has on his boss's life? Do you really not see the massive asymmetry of the effect of failing to achieve an agreement?

I've interviewed people for a job, I didn't find it a fun process, the "tyranny of choice" writ large. I've also been unemployed for long periods. They. Are. Not. The. Same. Not just in scale, they are not in the same category.

" {asymmetry} is present in the minds of the people engaging in the exchange."

Again your instinct to kick down.

Re: Truck driver wages and competition.
There's no need to address your attempt to explain how competition works (gee, thanks) because it fails to explain the obvious: Those wages did rise for 40 years, almost perfectly in sync with GDP growth, even though the wage-competition mechanism you invoke existed then as now.

"My difference with you is that I'm not convinced that the wealth you think got stolen involves redistribution. From where I sit it looks more like a decision to lower the amount of redistribution from rich to poor."

You're playing Locum's game, redefining words as if that changes the argument. Call it whatever you want, the growth rate of median income reflected GDP growth, then it stopped. After that, the "nation" got wealthier, but almost all the people in the nation no longer did. Why would you expect those people to continue to respect that nation, to continue to work for it, to refrain from destroying it?

Paul451 said...

[con't.]

Alfred,

Re: Wages vs buying power, since you won't let it go.
Improvements in QoL also occurred when growth in median income was matching GDP growth. If anything, it's slowed down over the last 40 years; drink caps or not. (And I speculated why. I think technology needs rising wealth in the masses as much as it enables it. Improving social changes are probably the same.)

(And again, changing the measure of "value" doesn't change the outcome, if the two groups' wealth are still measured using that value. "You've put on weight", "Not if you measure me in African elephants", "In African elephants, you've still put on weight." It doesn't matter whether you use dollars or ergs or Big Macs, the growth in buying power of the handful of hyper-rich has consumed the increase in buying power of the nation. You're trying to change the units on one side of the equation (median wages) but not the other (income of the rich.))

"where you appear to think I'm a fan of crap from Fox."

I was noting that you just repeated the standard tropes that have been crafted by the RW "think-tanks", which are the standard lines repeated by Foxites whenever an issue gets traction with the public, and the oligarchs start to hear the sound of guillotines being sharpened. "If the poor can afford flat screen TVs/smart-phones/etc, then they aren't really poor," is a particularly pathetic one they always bring up against inequality. It's beneath you to echo it.

Global competition as an explanation for lack of wage growth isn't generally a Fox one, but it is common with economists who shill for the oligarchs. It's more something you'd find in Forbes or The Eco. But it fails in two simple, obvious ways: 1) It ignores that GDP didn't stop growing, the nation got wealthier, in spite of or because of global competition. It's the people in the nation who didn't. And 2) this break in the connection between GDP and wages is a US phenomenon, not global, then "global competition" has no explanatory power. Median wages in Australia, Canada, etc, continue to match GDP growth. "Global" can't explain something that only happened in the US.

Example: The UK has seen rising inequality and has terrible intergenerational mobility, and yet: US median vs per-cap GDP compared to UK median vs per-cap GDP.

Paul451 said...

[cont.]

Alfred,
"Blame an entire clade for the theft of 50% of recent economic growth"

100% of the growth. Hence 50% of potential wealth that 90+% of your country could have today. Unless you think that 90+% of your country did nothing to deserve a fair share of that growth, they were robbed of everything they collectively worked for.

Re: Tumbrels.

I'm neither the Tree or the Loco, I don't crow about the US's fall as revenge, nor preen about how it will bring back the Big Men. I fear it. Almost all revolutions end worse off then they started. People are more likely to end up with a Cromwell, a Robespierre, a Hitler, or a Stalin, than a Washington or FDR. But revolutions still happen.

The chaos in US politics is people giving up holding on and starting to strike out. They tried Clinton to change things, they tried Obama, they've tried all the Republicans praising "job creators" and promising to bring justice to "those fatcats in Washington", and now they've tried Trump. The pattern is not towards a Roosevelt, let alone a George Washington. Wherever the people turn next, it ends badly for you, and thereafter the world.

Aside: You speak of me "running my numbers", but every single counter you offered was either blind assertion or personal anecdote. Every single one.

Jumper said...

I must note that protein production per acre has increased along with calories, with agriculture, especially with hydrocarbon exploitation by the moderns. A new energy path to ammonia will be needed soon.

Monday morning quarterbacking on the invention of agriculture may or may not be helpful.

It would be somehow ironic if the ultimate 'prepper' practice turns out to be husbanding the family sewage as fanatically as some treehuggers now recycle and compost. Imagine their yield on a corn crop!

Berial said...

@Paul451

I think you'd enjoy reading Mark Blyth. Here's a pretty good summation by the man himself here: (I haven't read his books yet.)

https://youtu.be/vSS4GCA__As?t=1m51s