Friday, August 28, 2015

Risks and Solutions - We need competence

We need to love competence!

Next weekend I will post one of my major Resource Blogs -- a list of online sites that deal with the future.  From iO9 and the Long Now all the way to the CIA... places where you can reassure yourself that at least some members of your species have prefrontal lobes and are using those "lamps on the brow" to peer ahead. At least a little. You are invited to suggest your own contributions to the list, below, under comments.

Today, our first item is simple kvelling over what might be a highlight this autumn. The new trailer for "The Martian..." I'm actually starting to believe (more hope) that Hollywood didn't screw this up. Indeed, is there a market for "competence porn"? Or stories that let folks get high off imagining someone doing cool stuff right?  Rather than just your standard faire -- revenge epics against absurd villains?

== Existential Risks ==

Wow! An Ebola vaccine has shown 100% efficacy in individuals, according to results from an interim analysis. The aim is to “enclose” any new cases by vaccinating those who have contacted a victim plus the rings of contact surrounding them, and so on. 

Will machines get too smart? See The Real Reason Elon Musk Is Worried About Killer Robots.  An interesting article laying out the rationale for what the Future of Life Institutes call for a moratorium on “offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.” Supported by Elon and Stephen Hawking and others, the summons to serious discussion merits sober and direct consideration. The Future of Life Institute will explore possible failure modes re Artificial Intelligence.  (Indeed, I believe I have the cogent and persuasive argument that can get any truly advanced AI system to back off from any simplistic "kill all humans" or turn-everything-into-intelligent goo scenarios.) But again, yay Elon. We need a society that looks ahead.

In fact I have some very unusual takes on AI... for another time.

While we’re discussing existential threats … See an interesting look back at one of the first-ever widely televised debates, and one that transfixed the U.S. with matters of science, as Edward Teller and Linus Pauling confronted each other over war, peace, and atmospheric nuclear testing.

It's Not Climate Change: It's Everything Change: In an extensive essay, Margaret Atwood creates scenarios for our looming future: First, despite all those fallout shelters built in suburban backyards during the Cold War, we haven’t yet blown ourselves up with nuclear bombs. Second, thanks to Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book on pesticides, Silent Spring, not all the birds were killed by DDT in the fifties and sixties. And, third, we managed to stop the lethal hole in the protective ozone layer that was being caused by the chlorofluorocarbons in refrigerants and spray cans, thus keeping ourselves from being radiated to death. As we head towards the third decade of the twenty-first century, it’s hopeful to bear in mind that we don’t always act in our own worst interests.”

It just goes on and on. The denialist cult covering their eyes and ears as "Science Confirms 2014 Was Hottest Yet Recorded, On Land And Sea." But nothing compared to what's predicted for next year's "Godzilla El Nino."  And those who (like Fox and Ted Cruz) use the previous record shattering year - 1998 - as a convenient baseline are cheaters.  Yes, you... no, that liar to your left over there.  Yes, you know who I mean.

Meanwhile, XPrize maven and friend-of-brin Peter Diamandis awarded a prize money of 2 million dollars from the Ocean Health Xprize to a team from Montana which discovered a way to reliably measure the pH (power of Hydrogen, meaning the measure of acidic or basic level in a substance) of the sea in a cost-efficient manner. Though it is already the most-blatant effect of atmospheric carbon pollution.

Oh, but they shout "squirrel!" pointing elsewhere whenever you mention Ocean Acidification, blatantly caused by human generated CO2. But we had it wrong, boys 'n girls. The war on science was not waged in order to delay serious negotiations over climate change.  No. Climate denialism was concocted as an excuse to wage war on science.

== Seeking solutions ==

Three Ways the World's Power Mix is About to Change: I told you so.  Over and over again: “Big changes are afoot for the energy sector in the next 25 years. Coal and gas are headed out and solar and wind are rushing to take their place on a multi-trillion dollar investment bonanza, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance that scopes out the power generating landscape through 2040. The main reason for the big shift in power generation is not likely to be because of a grand climate agreementnational polices or carbon pricing scheme, though. Instead, it comes down to cold, hard cash with renewables offering more power-generating bang for the buck than fossil fuels," reports this article in Scientific American.

Solar power project costs have fallen a whopping 59 percent since 2009 while onshore wind costs have fallen 11.5 percent over that time.”

And curses be upon those who deliberately (and successfully) delayed this inevitable shift. It could have been a decade earlier, but for the coal and petro lords using Goebbels-level propaganda to rile up fools against science and joint action that might benefit our children.  We will all pay the price.  And those of you who fell for that self-serving propaganda-racket, shame on you.  Come back to the light.

Looking ahead... How did the CIA do in its year 2000 forecast for 2015?   Pretty good, in fact. By coincidence, I am consulting and writing for Microsoft’s major effort to develop new prediction methodologies.  

== An Innovation Deficit? ==

Is a New Industrial Revolution Coming...a so-called "Industrial Internet, Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things," driven by rapid advances in remote sensors, robotics, additive manufacturing, big data, smart grids, smart cities, and automated transportation? 

Will we continue to see exponential changes in technology? Here's Ray Kurzweil on the "Law of Accelerating Returns," which states that "fundamental measures of information technology follow predictable and exponential trajectories." And the bible of that optimistic clade... Peter Diamandis's Abundance.

But it won't happen by itself. For smooth sailing into the future....we need investment in ambitious technologies. Even as overseas competitors are increasing their investment in basic research, the U.S. federal government research investment is declining — from just under 10 percent in 1968 to less than 4 percent in 2015 — in critical fields such as cybersecurity, infectious disease, plant biology, and Alzheimer’s are threatening an “innovation deficit.” 

Let there be no doubt. Those who have done this, as part of their War on Science, are bona fide traitors and enemies of America and of the Great Experiment. There is no way that anyone can even call that an exaggeration.

== Increasing Data Speeds ==

A key element is our speed of communication. See this global compilation of broadband download speeds worldwide -- where the U.S. ranks below Iceland, Latvia, Denmark, Bulgaria and Belgium.

Will we be able to boost bandwidth tenfold? Experts say that recent advances in LED technology have made it possible to modulate the LED light more rapidly, opening the possibility of using light for wireless transmission in a “free space” optical communication system. The technology could be integrated with existing WiFi systems to reduce bandwidth problems in crowded locations, such as airport terminals or coffee shops.
IBM claims a major advance in quantum computing that could soon lead to cracking all old encryptions.  (Um, I told you so.  Twenty years ago, even before The Transparent Society.  But you cypher-transcendentalist-mystic guys pay… no… attention... to... reality.)

Italian researchers have created a microscopic device that can supposedly fit onto a silicon chip and produce entangled photons. The researchers paired a silicon wafer with what’s known as a ring resonator — a closed loop that photons enter on one side via a laser beam. They emerge entangled on the other side, where they are captured, opening the possibility of making entangled pairs a normal part of our existing electronic systems.

Another way to increase data speeds: Polarization – (I was once an expert, publishing papers on the theory) – appears to come in“shapes” that go beyond the distribution-sets of linear or circular polarization sorting.  Not only that, but these shapes can be imposed upon a coherent beam and used to expand the amount of information it can carry. “Vector modes are spatial modes that have spatially inhomogeneous states of polarization, such as radial and azimuthal polarization. In this work, the spatially inhomogeneous states of polarization of vector modes are used to increase the transmission data rate of free-space optical communication via mode division multiplexing.” Ow!  I understood all that... but now my head hurts!  Wow.  

Old fashioned life-saving... Blood donors in Sweden get a text message whenever their blood saves someone's life. Not that I needed that -- after my 80th donation. (I just received my commemorative Ten Gallon hat from the blood bank!) Still it might be nice if they did that here.

Finally, in the age-old argument among Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau... at a Skeptics conference, Dawkins spoke of humans’ anomalous “lust to be nice.” I agree sort of.  But it is conditional and contingent.  See my speech on otherness at the Smithsonian. 


duncan cairncross said...

Blood donors

I used to be a regular blood donor but when I lived in the USA they refused my blood because I used to live in the UK

New Zealander did the same
All because of Maggie Thatcher's mad cow disease
(As part of her "streamlining of regulations" they removed requirements about cooking animal products fed to cows - and we got "Mad Cow Disease")

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,
That was a very good video that you gave on the Smithsonian website. There are so many species on Earth that are trapped just under the glass ceiling and the question is why have they not become as successful as we are? For the terrestrial animals I think the reason why is because of ourselves, Homo sapiens sapiens. A million years ago there were several species of hominids living together but now there is only us. It looks like our ancestors eliminated them by out-competing them and/or killing them till none were left. There can be only one at the top of the food chain so we are the ones who set the glass ceiling by not allowing any competitors to survive whether they be Neanderthals, Denisovans or Homo erectus. The genocide going on of chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas is just a continuation of what we did before. I hope that we will break this habit and allow other animals to evolve and I certainly hope that an alien civilization would not look on us as competitors either. Uplifting other species would be a fantastic project but I believe that we will start by uplifting ourselves to higher intelligence first.

Alex Tolley said...

IBM claims a major advance in quantum computing that could soon lead to cracking all old encryptions. (Um, I told you so. Twenty years ago, even before The Transparent Society. But you cypher-transcendentalist-mystic guys pay… no… attention... to... reality.)

As I said before high resolution eyes were evolved, that hiding by staying still would be futile. But you non-Darwinian life mystics pay… no… attention... to... reality.

@Duncam - same thing with me. I cannot donate blood. One would think that by now they would know that the danger has passed. (Unless my memory loss is really due to vCJD) ;)


OP: "U.S. federal government research investment is declining — from just under 10 percent in 1968 to less than 4 percent in 2015"


"U.S. R&D/GDP Ratio

Economists often use the ratio of R&D expenditures to GDP to examine R&D in the context of a nation's overall economy. This ratio reflects the intensity of R&D activity in relation to other economic activity and is often interpreted as a relative measure of a nation's commitment to R&D.

Since 1953, the first year for which national R&D data are available, U.S. R&D expenditures as a percentage of GDP have ranged from a minimum of 1.36 percent (in 1953) to a maximum of 2.87 percent (in 1964) (figure 4-5 figure). From 1994 to 2001, R&D outpaced growth of the general economy and the R&D/GDP ratio rose close to its historic high. It is estimated that the amount of R&D performed in the United States equaled 2.71 percent of the United States GDP in 2001 and 2.64 percent in 2002.[8]

Most of the growth over time in the R&D/GDP ratio can be attributed to steady increases in non-Federal R&D spending.[9] Nonfederally financed R&D, the majority of which is company financed, increased from 0.63 percent of GDP in 1953 to an estimated 1.90 percent of GDP in 2002 (down from a high of 2.02 percent of GDP in 2000). The increase in nonfederally financed R&D as a percentage of GDP illustrated in figure 4-5 figure corresponds to an upward trend in R&D and technology intensive activities in the U.S. economy.

Historically, most of the peaks and valleys in the R&D/GDP ratio can be attributed to changing priorities in Federal R&D spending. The initial drop in the R&D/GDP ratio from its peak in 1964 largely reflects Federal cutbacks in defense and space R&D programs. Gains in energy R&D activities between 1975 and 1979 resulted in a relative stabilization of the ratio. Beginning in the late 1980s, cuts in defense-related R&D kept Federal R&D spending from keeping pace with GDP growth, whereas growth in non-Federal sources of R&D spending generally kept pace with or exceeded GDP growth. (See the discussion of defense-related R&D in the next section.)"

source: U.S. and International Research and Development: Funds and Technology Linkages

From the same paper a chart on feberal and private R&D: Historical R&D funding. As can be seen, while federal R&D has declined, this is made up by private R&D, leaving the total R&D/GDP relatively flat. Obviously teh goals are different, but it makes sense that conservatives would want to privatize R&D for ideological reasons, which is different from claining they are "anti-science" generally. A more accurate assertion is that they are anti-science in certain areas, e.g. climate change, and religious voters preferences against some biological research. federal science has been criticized by scientists too, most notably about NIH funding which is accused of becoming very risk averse.

I would certainly like to see more blue sky rearch by the government.

Alex Tolley said...

Re: the Law of Accelerating Returns

And we would be able to travel close to the speed of light if that applied to propulsion technology.

Most technological growth shows S-curves in development from inception to maturity. Successive S-curves can maintain apparent exponential growth for longer, but not indefinitely.

Alex Tolley said...

AI in autonomous weapons. PK Dick wrote about this in his short story "Second Variety", adapted to film with "Screamers".

locumranch said...

It is the height of stupidity to assume steady-state tendencies in matters of dynamic equilibrium, yet we do so with fantastic impunity, thoughtlessly, every time we discuss an imagined 'normal', production 'peaks', climate changes, socioeconomic 'trends' and the 'better angels of our nature', especially when the term 'change' is defined by difference, variation, deviation and transformation.

The time has come to accept that there is no such thing as 'normal': There is no 'normal' climate, no 'normal' amount of atmospheric CO2, no 'normal' for oil production and (or) consumption, no 'normal' for pelagic fishery populations, no 'normal' for buffalo herds, no 'normal' for GDP and no 'normal' for the artifice of human society.

'Normal' is not all it's cracked up to be. Neither is 'ideality', nor is 'competency'. They are all (false; impermanent) steady state assumptions that we just made up.

Normality is the pornography of the time-fixed.


Jumper said...

I have a strong suspicion that old cryptography keys are already toast, using some odd combination of number theory breakthroughs and certain equipment I won't name. The only "proof" is in some obscure papers you can't find unless you know what to look for.

Alex Tolley said...

@locum - your characterization is wrong. Take a simple example - the stock market. It is unpredictable, with the prices set by equilibria determined by buyers and sellers, but you can determine "normal" by guidelines of various financial ratios (e.g. PE, Price to book, etc). If there was no normal weather, there would be no normal climate either, yet that is demonstrably wrong as we can describe different climate types that have long term stability. We can use statistics and models to describe systems, including those exhibiting dynamic equilibria.

David Brin said...

AT starts in his now-normal snarky irrelevance… then veers into R&D ratios, providing a REALLY GOOD snippet and observation on the rise & fall of investments in our future.

The rise of corporate R&D (1) is very near term and product focused and does not create seed corn, as farther-horizon federally funded research does, and…

…(2) prove that Karl Marx, while a bright observer, was also really dumb at times. His entire scenario of eventually being able to do without the services of bourgeois capitalists depends upon the assumption that society must build a certain level of capital stock, infrastructure, factories by capitalists stealing and investing labor value from workers. Once they have “completed capital formation,” there’s no further need for capitalists. The Prols take over and no one’s labor value gets stolen anymore to invest in factories and such.

We now know this to be insane. In a modern society, productive capital must be retooled at an ever-faster pace! There is no end to the need for an entrepreneurial caste… though it can be tamed, kept honest and regulated for fairness to workers and the environment and to keep market competition flat-open-fair.

In fact, the current Chinese “communist” party openly admits that Lenin’s Great Error was not keeping to his original plan of allowing Russian capitalists a role in the early Soviet economy, according to Marxist theory, but killing them all and hoping capital formation could be done by State Committee. That proved disastrous and the Chinese now rationalize that they are fully unleashing their capitalists to perform their historical-economic role. Indeed, they factor in the need for rapid re-tooling and allowing capitalists to be incentivized by wealth.

Alas, this rationalization fails on many levels. First, most of the “privately owned” Chinese companies are in fact state enterprises which are subsidized and never have to earn a profit. Second, so much of it is based upon predatory theft of IP from Inventing Nations. Some of this is to be expected — America was a major IP thief in the 19th century! But the rapaciously insatiable approach that is now the entire basis of their inflated system risks (a) killing the goose that lays golden eggs, (b) eats away at your moral underpinnings, and (c) devastates any chance of creating an autonomously fecund local inventing caste.

David Brin said...

Also worth noting. The stats clearly show that federal R&D went up during Clinton and down under Bush and (despite GOP congressional opposition) up under Obama. And under Bush some R&D was diverted into useless areas, robbing energy research funds from solar and putting them into "hydrogen" and into ethanol.

Alex Tolley said...

The idea that corporate R&D is short term product development, whilst federal science funding is for seed corn is a gross simplification.

Much science funding generates marginal knowledge and will not create ROI. Some federal science funding may or may not be seed corn generating, e.g. some very expensive big-science projects. R&D from the DoE may indeed be product focused and short term in nature.

Conversely, whilst corporate R&D is mostly focused on ROI, Bell Labs was notably doing seed corn R&D. IBM, HP, even Intel are doing R&D on ideas on the horizon. Big Pha5rma does R&D for a range of investment horizons, including basic discovery science. They also fund research at different investment horizons.

As industry needs a positive R&D ROI, a case can be made that this research overall has higher economic payoff than government research, thus better improving the general welfare. The relative growth between industry research and government research is indicative of this over the long term.

Countries playing economic catchup grow faster than those at the most advanced stage, and this behooves them to be free-riders on advanced country science research, rather than do their own. Secret research programs therefore have to be protected from international spying if it is to benefit the research country alone.

For space cadets hoping for a solar system wide economic system large enough to launch star ships, it is almost a given that private R&D will likely dwarf government spending in the far future, even if the balance on spending for true speculative science" remains in the government domain where it is most useful as a public good. But the general welfare will most likely remain mostly improved as a result of private R&D with and ROI focus.

Alex Tolley said...

"First, most of the “privately owned” Chinese companies are in fact state enterprises which are subsidized and never have to earn a profit. Second, so much of it is based upon predatory theft of IP from Inventing Nations. Some of this is to be expected — America was a major IP thief in the 19th century! But the rapaciously insatiable approach that is now the entire basis of their inflated system risks (a) killing the goose that lays golden eggs, (b) eats away at your moral underpinnings, and (c) devastates any chance of creating an autonomously fecund local inventing caste."

Patents by country

While the US remains a patent leader, note that:

1. foreign origin patents now exceed those of domestic origin.
2. Japan, that was historically a copy cat country now has US patents that are on a par with domestic ones, on a per capita basis.
3. China, with relatively few US patents is exhibiting high growth over the last decade - 10x patent creation.

As China is now graduating many more engineers than the US, and has (currently) a faster growing economy, it is likely that Chinese originated patents will continue to grow rapidly. They may even exceed domestically originated patents at some point in the future.

Of course the quality of patents matters as much as quantity, and it is well known that the USPTO grants almost any patent application and lets the courts decide their validity. (This is due to the incentive structure at the USPTO).

Acacia H. said...

Reposting from a FB post I made. Just because I know we'll be hearing this argument here, probably from Locu, and it does relate about government funding of R&D because what the government funds in R&D is things businesses often overlook or don't consider economical.


Recently I saw a comment that said "The point is [Social Security is] not "Yours" that you're getting back. It's someone else's it's a rolling mugging." and "Social Security is an intergenerational transfer of wealth, from younger working people to older retirees. It always has been, and will remain so as long as it lasts."

Let's consider that for a moment. When you put money in the bank, the money you get back is not yours. It is money that was taken from someone else, at a higher interest rate than what the bank gives you for your money. So it is a transfer of wealth from a borrower to you, with the bank taking a significant share.

When you buy stocks and get dividends, the money you are getting is not yours. Those dividends are money the business is paying for your initial investment... but it is not your money. You lost your money the moment you bought the stocks.

Now, I know what the person above will say: "Those other cases are voluntary. Social Security is involuntary theft from the government." Except... bank accounts aren't really voluntary. Try living without one. People do. They use predatory lenders who cash their paychecks and other checks and take a chunk of that pay. And even in that case, they are using a financial service... because people are no longer provided a paycheck in cash.

Even if you go to the bank where the check was written, often that bank will refuse to cash the check that is from their bank unless you either have a bank account or pay a transaction fee. I know. I ran into this. I protested, I pointed out the idiocy of their policy, they REFUSED to back down. Because they had me over a barrel. Except that I have a bank account elsewhere, went to that bank, and cashed their check so screw TD Bank.

People have put money into Social Security. It is as much their money as the money they put into their banking accounts and the money they earn from their investments. Claiming otherwise is to cast aside the very foundations of our capitalistic system. And that capitalism includes Social Security.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

I have got to wonder if ornery, nitpicking refusal to face the obvious is contagious.

Paul SB said...

Remember Heinlein's short story, "The Year of the Jackpot"?

Paul451 said...

From the last thread, since we seem to be back there:

Alfred Differ,
"What I'm doing is behaving in an immoral manner. [...] What we have in this case is immoral behavior in the market. The solution isn't to broaden the definition of 'coercion', but to employ new terms like 'inhuman' and 'what kind of monster are you?' "

Like most genuine libertarians, you're facing in the wrong direction, hectoring the wrong side.

Anti-social bullies hiding behind libertarian rhetoric have used "lack of coercion", defined in the narrowest negative sense (physical violence), as the sole measure of "freedom of choice" in the broadest possible sense, and by extension, the only allowed measure of injustice. (Not to mention the sole measure of a "healthy market".)

They are not doing so to make the terms clearer. So forgive us for not going along with our enemy's strategy.

If that causes confusion with the <0.5% of the population who tried to narrowly define the term to mean something completely worthless for 99% of discussions on social policy and injustice, too bad. Your solution is not to try to cordon off the word "coerce" from the rest of society, but to employ new terms for more narrowly defined physical violence and the clear threat of physical violence. Might I suggest "physical violence and the clear threat of physical violence"? It's got a beat and you can dance to it.

Paul451 said...

This is illustrated by Robert's comment. (No, not by Robert's comment... oh you know what I mean.)

"Coercion" is defined by his FB arguer as "obeying the law". But then "coercion" is then redefined as the only possible measure of social injustice.

By playing that game, the arguer makes the choice between "closing a loophole in the SSTF to capture leaking income" or "betraying a promise to workers and compelling (but not "coercing", oh no sirree!) your grandparents to work until they die" a predefined one, in the opposite direction that any sane society would take, using any sane definition of "social injustice".

As I said, Alfred, if you want to demand definitional purity, you're facing in the wrong direction. We aren't the ones playing games with terminology, we're trying to defend against it. You don't need to tell us that narrowly defined "coercion" isn't the only form of evil, you need to tell them.

Turn around occasionally.

Paul451 said...

"There are so many species on Earth that are trapped just under the glass ceiling and the question is why have they not become as successful as we are? For the terrestrial animals I think the reason why is because of ourselves, Homo sapiens sapiens. A million years ago"

Okay, so you've explained the last 1m years.

Now explain the previous hundred million or so.

"One would think that by now they would know that the danger has passed."

The problem is that the bulk of blood donations tend to come from a small number of repeating donors. And blood recipients, whose lives were saved, tend to feel obligated to start donating.

So any infectious agent will tend to be amplified in the blood banks over time.

(Someone more creative than me should write a story based on that.)

With vCJD, we wouldn't know if that occurred until we dissected the brains of enough dementia patients to see the trend. By that time, most of the blood bank will be infected, and a scary proportion of the population.

Having gone through this with HIV and hepatitis, the precautionary principle seems reasonable.

Tacitus said...

I have been thinking on AT's point regards the total "amount" of research being done and the changing mix of public funded vs corporate funded efforts. Thanks for that btw, it raises a good area for discussion.

My first thought on this was that perhaps it was similar to how things went in the Great Age of Exploration. Some efforts were pure governmental. Lewis and Clark to give an example from the very end of the era. Lots were public-private ventures. The Crown gives its blessings and perhaps Queen Isabella donates a few baubles, but mostly it was entrepreneurs hoping that something valuable would turn up and that they would get in on ground floor. The spectrum of privatization goes further over, out to where charters get written for quasi governments like the East India Company. Lots of good and bad there, here in the Colonies we tend to lean towards the bad view but perhaps our commentators from other continents have opinions...

Even things that at first glance look like the triumph of pure science at the service of human (or at least in this case British) progress are mixed. Consider John Harrison and his solution for calculating longitude. Great benefit to Britain and to the world. Surely in the National Interest. Done in response to an Act of Parliament offering a ridiculously large cash prize for attaining it. Would a consortium of Oxford Dons done a better job? A faster one?

My inclinations run towards DARPA challenges with handsome rewards. But I doubt that the mad inventors that we hope are out there in restless intellectual ferment care who writes the checks. And if we as a society have somebody looking closely at the legal fine print (restless madsters being very bad at that sort of thing), maybe we should't care that much either?


Jumper said...

Property implies coercion. One might say property "is" coercion. Not to put words in a libertarian's mouth, but government use of physical force, or the use of force to suspend individual enforcement of assault by property owners in defense of that property (owner shoots, kills thief, police disallow revenge killing by thief's family) is the only use of coercion a libertarian wants. Unfortunately, tort law is not always as simple as a snatch-and-grab theft.
I suspect what libertarians, and populists often, want, is simplicity. However, simplicity may not be compatible with the complex systems which lead to greater and greater rewards per unit input. Perhaps to gain simplicity, and be rid of vexing complexity in regulation, we must also lose efficiency. This would explain certain types who think all civilization simply must retreat and collapse back to some simpler era, regardless of the mass misery this would cause on a large scale.

locumranch said...

As many of you appear unfamiliar with the concept of a dictionary, we will revisit the term 'normal' for educational purposes:

normal (adj)
1. usual; regular; common; typical; average;
2. constituting a standard as established by nature, convention, conformity, or group psychology;
4. (Biology) a control group (of laboratory animals) maintained in a natural state for the express purpose of comparison;
5. (Mathematics) geometry another word for perpendicular.

It therefore follows that the concept of 'normal' is an arbitrary (and/or mathematical) construct, often being a matter of convention, subjective impression or random chance, meaning that there can be neither 'normal' weather nor climate, assuming that both are subject to change, than there can be a 'normal' 68 F temperature setting in the 'average' air-conditioned office building.

Of course, we can CHOOSE to describe different climate types in terms of stability, variability, duration and desirability,just as we can try to use statistics and mathematical models to describe complex & dynamic systems in terms of the simple & static, but this approach presumes baseline invariance and steady state dynamics as the (new) 'normal', meaning that it also presupposes that dynamism (change) is 'abnormal' and (therefore) undesirable.

It's as if science has been high-jacked by thousands of Mr. Mackeys: "Ummm, Change is BAD, mmmkay? The Climate should always stay the SAME, mmmkay? Which means that Climate Change is BAD".

So tell us again about 'normal': Is it an arbitrary reference point? Is it 'bad'? Is it 'good'? Incurious minds want to know !!!

Stay tuned for a discussion of "competence" --- Or, perhaps, our host could tell us what he thinks it means?

Acacia H. said...

One thing I've noticed the anarchists refuse to acknowledge is that it is an ivory tower utopia that fails to consider human nature.

They argue that if you eliminate government and have an educated populace that everyone would cooperate nicely and play along and that a well armed society is a polite one. I point out that in an anarchy, a dozen people can show up, all armed, kill you, and take your property. They insist this won't happen. I point out that other people will band together under a charismatic leader and form a dictatorship which would destroy the anarchy and create an autocracy. They plug their ears and call me a fascist while chanting "nonononono"

I tell them that gold has no real value and that it is as much a currency based on faith as any paper currency. I tell them that the Bitcoin is an illusion and that its value is based on people saying it has value. They insist otherwise, blind to the fact they are crafting illusions out of delusions and daydreams.

I fully admit I'm a cynic. But my eyes are open and I see their claims are empty and devoid of substance. Which probably explains my comments toward you and your surliness, Dr. Brin. I'm busy popping balloons. Yours is just much more resistant. ;)

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

And Locum fails to differentiate between norms and normal.

Climatic norms have been in place for over 10,000 years with gradual changes caused by natural phenomena. Humanity upset that cart and is forcing change on a wide and rapid scale. And we are at a tipping point. Soon it will be too late to stop massive change, which will not be for the better.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Call it "global warming" unless you are willing to be Frank Luntz's mouthpiece. This may shock you, but climate is pretty stable on the human scale of time, that is, the last 7,000 years, a period where much increase in human systems occurred. Volcanoes cause fairly short term changes, unless they are megavolcanoes. Continental drift and massive comet strikes are the biggies.
We're all familiar with your angst related to the "value judgment thing" but here's a start on why humans will face a lot more negatives than positives under a hotter climate. You actually know most of this but have blinders on deliberately.

Alex Tolley said...

@locum - since blood temperature and pressure changes too, I assume that, as a physician you no longer tell your patients that their BP readings are normal/high/low, or that their temperature is high and indicates a fever?

I can't even imagine how you practice medicine based on not accepting normal as anything but a subjective and imprecise term.

Alex Tolley said...

@Jumper - don't forget solar sunspot cycles. The Maunder Minimum being contemporaneous with the "Little Ice Age". Just look at paintings of England during that time - the weather was much harsher than it has been in my lifetime.

David Brin said...

Actually, Robert, I have no beef with your cynical balloon-poppings. All of the examples you mentioned deserve popping. It's just that cynicism can be just as much of a disease as zealotry. Some things do deserve (guarded and contingent) fervor.

Jonathan S. said...

And what else was going on in the world at the time, Alex? Two data points do not a matrix make.

Logically, it's akin to observing that most criminals drank milk as children and concluding that childhood consumption of milk leads to criminal activity - you're examining two data points in a vacuum, assuming that one necessarily leads to the other, and drawing conclusions which may or may not be justified.

locumranch said...

Methinks that I am the only person here (besides JS) who bothers to differentiate between means, averages, norms, normals & normal ranges:

When I started medicine 30 years ago, we discussed blood pressure (and respiratory rate, pulse, body temperature, physical criteria, laboratory values, etc) in terms of a normal range, low-normal to high-normal, based on an empirically-derived continuum of findings which represented (+/-) 1 SD from a population-specific mean (or average). Of course, this was before the concept of a medical mean, 'norm' or 'normal' gained prescriptive, proscriptive & moral authority.

Back then, a 'normal BP' was thought to be the Mean BP (120/80 for adult males), aka 'any asymptomatic blood pressure of less than or equal to 150mm (systolic) over 90mm (diastolic)' & no blood pressure was thought to be 'too low' if asymptomatic, a definition of 'normal' that has been gradually replaced by that of the 'Ideal BP' [the 'norm' being currently defined as 'below-mean' (less than 120/80), pre-hypertension beginning at the mean (ranging from 120/80 to 139/89), moderate (stage 1) HTN being the range of 140/89 to 159/99 and severe (stage 2) HTN being a BP greater or equal to 160/100], meaning that an empirically-derived Mean BP has been transformed into a Moral Prescription in the hopes that an artificially-lowered (below-mean) Ideal BP will translate into lower all-cause cardiovascular morbidity & mortality.

So my questions for all you Climate Change Cultists out there are this:

(1) How has the 'Normal Temperature RANGE' of our climate CHANGED over the last 50 years ?; and,

(2) How has the 'Oceanic pH RANGE' changed over the same time period ?

Norms & Normal Values derived from Means & Averages do NOT necessarily reflect Data Point Distribution; and Norms & Normal Values derived from Ideals, Should Of's & Ought To's prove nothing much at all.


Synonyms for 'competency' include 'ability', 'appropriateness' and 'adequacy', for in troubling times like these, some claim, 'We Need Adequacy' more than ever.

Jumper said...

No one serious "forgets" solar anomalies, or cycles either, Alex. The so-called "little ice age" and "medieval warm period" are both quite small deviations compared to today's warming. The fact that London froze has as much to do with bridge removal in the Thames as this, and effects were not extreme globally. As far as weather events worldwide compared to the past, help provide some data.

Alex Tolley said...

@Jumper - it was you that mentioned volcanoes, which have a trivial effect in both time and space. Sunspots have a global effect.

The Maunder Minimum had a large impact on UK temperatures as can be seen in this graph.

The UK Met office graph shows that the temperature decline over the UK during this period is a great as changes due to GW to date.

Please do not take the above to imply in any way that I do not think that AGW is a serious, human induced problem, only that sunspots have had a deep impact on English climate that is both objective, has been depicted by the arts and should not be dismissed.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass, while you are right that Homo Sapiens was probably to main cause of extinction for its cousin hominids… those cousins had already burst through the glass ceiling, spectacularly and to a degree never seen on Earth. So that first leap is still an incredible mystery. ..

…as is the next leap, just as huge, in homo sap’s abilities beyond that. Indeed, that second leap is my biggest explanation for the fermi paradox. See it discussed by me here:

Acacia H. said...

One thing that people who harp about the Maunder Minimum fail to account for is something else that was happening at that time: the massive dieoff of Native Americans in North and South America from introduction of smallpox and other diseases. Without people to cut down trees and the like, there was significant growth of forests in that period of time, which sucked a bit of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. And for that matter, depopulation of Eurasia as well. And of course there was volcanic activity that tossed ash into the sky. There are multiple factors that caused the Little Ice Age. The lack of sunspots was not a major factor in this.

Rob H.

daddyoyo said...

Dead link on the neoteny article, David. Did you mean ?

Acacia H. said...

And you know me, Dr. Brin. I'm an optimistic cynic. Or perhaps a cynical optimist. Not quite sure which. Cynicism is but a tool, as is optimism. What matters is not to stop moving, because when you do, you will have difficulty starting up again.

Rob H.

Alex Tolley said...


"The explanation for the Little Ice Age must thus lie
in other natural causes, whether associated with exter-
nal forces, or internal noise in the climate system. The
injection of sunlight-reflecting sulfate aerosols by explo-
sive volcanic eruptions, for example, may be responsible
for some of the cooling of the early and mid 19th century,
in particular (see Lean et al. , 1995; Mann et al. , 1998).
A prominent example is the 1815 eruption of Tambora
in Indonesia that is typically blamed for the year with-
out a summer. While parts of eastern North America and
Europe experienced notable cooling, the observation that
other regions, including the western US and the Middle
East, appear, in fact, to have been warmer than usual is
consistent with a hypothesized relationship between vol-
canic forcing of climate and the response of the North
Atlantic Oscillation. The longer-term variations, and in par-
ticular cooler temperatures during the 17th century and
warmer temperatures during the 18th century were likely
to have been related to a concomitant increase in solar
output by the Sun by approximately 0.25% following the
Maunder Minimum of the 17th century
(Lean et al. , 1995;
Mann et al. , 1998) (see Maunder Minimum , Volume 1).
Finally, changes in the ocean circulation (e.g., the Gulf
Stream) of the North Atlantic, and associated impacts
on North Atlantic storm tracks, may have emphasized
temperature changes in Europe. The relative influences
of these various external and internal factors on climate
change during past centuries are an area of active climate

source: "The Little Ice Age", Michael Mann

Jumper said...

Think nothing of it, Alex, you hit a hot button of mine and I responded without sufficient recall of your good reputation as a thinker.
As for volcanoes, they can be (gulp!) any size and affect weather/climate for short or longer times. I read somewhere that if the dust doesn't reach 50,000 feet - 15 km they don't do much, relatively speaking.

Acacia H. said...

Do you really want me to pull out a dozen plus articles which have stated that the reduced level of sunspots was not the primary driving force behind the cooling?

But here. Wikipedia has a write-up on the volcanic activity of the time period, along with a more recent volcanic eruption that caused a "Year without a Summer" and provides a link between volcanic activity and colder temperatures:

Throughout the Little Ice Age, the world experienced heightened volcanic activity.[72] When a volcano erupts, its ash reaches high into the atmosphere and can spread to cover the whole earth. This ash cloud blocks out some of the incoming solar radiation, leading to worldwide cooling that can last up to two years after an eruption. Also emitted by eruptions is sulfur in the form of sulfur dioxide gas. When this gas reaches the stratosphere, it turns into sulfuric acid particles, which reflect the sun's rays, further reducing the amount of radiation reaching Earth's surface.

A recent study found that an especially massive tropical volcanic eruption in 1258, possibly of Mount Rinjani, followed by three smaller eruptions in 1268, 1275, and 1284 that did not allow the climate to recover, may have caused the initial cooling, and that the 1452–53 eruption of Kuwae in Vanuatu triggered a second pulse of cooling.[6][14] The cold summers can be maintained by sea-ice/ocean feedbacks long after volcanic aerosols are removed.

Other volcanoes that erupted during the era and may have contributed to the cooling include Billy Mitchell (ca. 1580), Huaynaputina (1600), Mount Parker (1641), Long Island (Papua New Guinea) (ca. 1660), and Laki (1783).[20]

The 1815 eruption of Tambora in Indonesia blanketed the atmosphere with ash; the following year, 1816, came to be known as the Year Without a Summer, when frost and snow were reported in June and July in both New England and Northern Europe.

But if you don't like Wikipedia, here's a news article on research concerning this:
A study at the University of Colorado analysed sediment cores, vegetation and ice, and revealed that four massive tropical volcanic eruptions between 1275 and 1300AD triggered the period of cooling.

Scientist Gifford collects vegetation samples on Baffin Island. The scientists analysed sediment, vegetation and ice samples to make their conclusions

The scientists also used powerful computer climate modelling to confirm their results.
‘This is the first time anyone has clearly identified the specific onset of the cold times marking the start of the Little Ice Age,’ says lead author Gifford Miller of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

‘We also have provided an understandable climate feedback system that explains how this cold period could be sustained for a long period of time.'

'If the climate system is hit again and again by cold conditions over a relatively short period -in this case, from volcanic eruptions - there appears to be a cumulative cooling effect.’

A chromolithograph Chrismas card from 1865 showing the frozen Thames: Scientists now believe that the prolonged period of cooling was caused by four tropical volcanic eruptions
‘Our simulations showed that the volcanic eruptions may have had a profound cooling effect,’ says NCAR scientist Bette Otto-Bliesner

‘Our simulations showed that the volcanic eruptions may have had a profound cooling effect,’ says NCAR scientist Bette Otto-Bliesner, a co-author of the study

Read more:

Rob H.

Jumper said...

I don't see the hominid leap as a major hurdle given hands and bipedalism. Give me a rat or squirrel that develops a bipedal gait, and a million years, and I'll give you some impressive humanoid parallel evolution. Add a supply of easy protein...

duncan cairncross said...

Evolution of inteligence

Steven J Gould talked about evolution "not having a goal" and he was right

But time goes on and the left hand side of the braininess (no brains) stays the same but the right hand side seems to keep increasing
This may be simply die to the lack of a "zero bound" on one side but as a brain is a significant metabolic load more brains seems to have a survival advantage

Back in the time of the dinosaurs the herbivores made do with less brains than a modern cow and the carnivores also had less brain (correcting for body size)than a lion or a wolf

I suspect a "Hominid Leap" was much more unlikely then
But the obverse of that is that it should become more likely the longer you wait and the "brainier" the top herbivores and predators become

Jumper said...

Maybe the important driver of big brains is memory, not logic? Is logic a piggyback?

Tony Fisk said...

The Little Ice Age followed on as contrast to the Medieval Warming Period, which is now thought to be the result of the North Atlantic Oscillation getting stuck in a feedback loop. Which lead to the questions: 'what caused it to get locked?', and what caused it to break out?'.

re. intelligence: consider dinosaur's descendants: birds. Also small brained, yet capable of quite intricate manipulation and reasoning. Brain development has taken a separate path to mammals. I don't know when Wernicke's area is thought to have originated, but I think the non-braininess of dinosaurs is a bit of a 'canard'.

Jumper said...

The example of birds makes me think logic is not a piggyback, at least not the way I was thinking.

Alex Tolley said...

@Rob. Looking at more recent papers in Nature and PNAS, I concede that the volcanism theory seems to better explain the LIA than solar cycles.

Alex Tolley said...

One theory of brain evolution is that it increases the ability to predict the future which is useful for planning. If pattern matching is a big part of that, recall of memorized patterns is going to be an important driver. It would be interesting to know if the same applies to cephalopod brains.

sociotard said...

Has anybody else tried the animated sitcom "Rick and Morty"? Of course the humor is often crass, but I've been consistently impressed by how high concept some of their science fiction is, especially in the second season.

Joel said...

Gerrymandering: #FAIL

Lowering the Bar (a legal site)

A majority of registered voters living in the district must approve, but if there aren't any registered voters in the district, then only the property owners get to vote...

...except they missed one voter...

Anonymous said...

I love haring about advances in Quantum Entanglement. Even if it he effect proves to be limited by Cosmic Speed Limit, it will be an advance in communication technology that will make the Internet look like smoke signals. And if, Einstein forbid, that Quantum Entangled Telecommunication is truly instantaneous? Fcuk, that is just plain time travel! But just limited to 'c' such tech would provide limitless bandwidth with zero infrastructure. Suck on that Time-Warner!
My long term goals include migrating my consciousness to a matrix of clone bodies with entangled neurons. All these wonderful advances in quantum technology just brings me closer to my 4th dimensional ideal.


Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451: I’m aware of the anti-social bullies you describe. They are the folks who don’t take the ‘peace’ part of the platform seriously. It’s all about them, their property, and their rights. However, the problem isn’t that they limit the definition for freedom as I do. The problem is they cheat in the markets in ways that have nothing to do with coercion. Add on to that their very limited (physical violence) definition and you can see the manner in which they are cheating. They are trying to define what is and isn’t moral for a much larger segment of society. If they persuade us to support them in this lunacy, there is no coercion, but they’ve tried and failed more than once. They try to alter the market rules and meta-rules and create another form of cheating since those rules should also be decided by consensus.

The negative definition of liberty doesn’t stop at physical violence. If I do ANYTHING that effectively prevents you from acting upon your own knowledge to use mine instead, I have coerced you. If I act in a manner that makes your knowledge rather useless, though, that isn’t coercion but might qualify as immoral if enough people agree it is. It boils down to whether you can act on what you know and NOT on whether what you know is effective toward your goals. If you thinking panning for gold is a good idea for your next Hawaiian vacation and I block you at the airport gate, I’ve coerced you and your neighbors will agree. If I buy up all the tickets on every transport going there so there are none for you, I have NOT coerced you, but many of your neighbors might support you when you complain about my behavior. One is coercion. The other is not. Both are immoral, but for different reasons. The first is related to enslavement. The second is related to gluttony. It’s worth thinking about the difference.

Alfred Differ said...

@jumper: Property implies a social consensus that recognizes property lines along with what constitutes moral behavior regarding those lines and what is to be done to those who disagree. Coercion is the obvious threat levelled at those who do not comply, but it is managed coercion regulated by market (remember the other markets besides commerce) meta-rules and not the free-form variety of vigilantes. It might be government managed, privately managed, or entirely extra-legal, but it is still part of the meta-rule consensus that is rarely ever written down as legislation.

A lot of libertarians focus on the government version of coercion because they feel they live among people who have reached at statist consensus. In their depictions, it is usually government holding a gun to their heads. Your depiction regarding the thief needs a small correction as a result. What they want disallowed is the government acting on behalf of the thief’s family. You are pretty close, though, when you describe their desire for simplicity, though they will usually describe it as non-arbitrary.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

If you thinking panning for gold is a good idea for your next Hawaiian vacation and I block you at the airport gate, I’ve coerced you and your neighbors will agree. If I buy up all the tickets on every transport going there so there are none for you, I have NOT coerced you, but many of your neighbors might support you when you complain about my behavior. One is coercion. The other is not.

I still think you're missing the role of intent in your above example. If, for your own reasons, it behooved you to corner the market on tickets to Hawaii (say to re-sell them at 1000% markup to oil shieks), then you're giving me a hard time, but not engaging in coercion. However, if you are explicitly trying to force me to do something of your bidding, and as one method of firing a shot across my bow, you use your financial power to make it impossible for me to buy a ticket, either as blackmail against my refusal or as revenge for my refusal, then you are engaging in coercion.

LarryHart said...

It wouldn't be this time of year without my lamenting the end of the six consecutive months with fewer-than-seven letters in their (American English) names, and the start of the six consecutive months with seven-or-more letters in the name.


LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

A lot of libertarians focus on the government version of coercion because they feel they live among people who have reached at statist consensus. In their depictions, it is usually government holding a gun to their heads. Your depiction regarding the thief needs a small correction as a result. What they want disallowed is the government acting on behalf of the thief’s family.

The part that I don't get is that the same self-professed Libertarians who insist that any action against a trespasser is justified because he's violated their property will in the same breath assert that I have no case against the industrial polluter up the road no matter what that polluter is doing to (the air and water on) my property.

Alfred Differ said...

Memory is analogy and analogy is occasionally logic.
I'm pretty sure we get logic by piggyback.

I'm using Hofstadter's broader meaning for 'analogy' and not the stricter A:B | C:D variety. Think of a banana and all sorts of other concepts will pop into your head. They are 'drawn there' by analogy.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: I’m in full agreement with you regarding intent. If I intended to block your use of your knowledge by cornering the market, I would be guilty of coercion. If I had some other intent, I would not be guilty of coercion, but might be guilty of some other kind of immoral behavior. Obviously it can be difficult to discover someone’s intent. It might actually be impossible since the ‘person’ buying all those tickets might be a slew of other market participants, a market event causing a shortage of those tickets enabling unintentional cornering, or… well… construct your own fantasy narrative.

Maybe we are arguing past one another? I suspect so when it comes to the moral components of what we believe. Bad people do bad things and I suspect we would mostly agree there. Where I’m being careful, though, is to limit the term ‘freedom’ to its negative definition while freely using other terms to handle other bad behaviors. Your polluter up the road is certainly behaving badly, but are they intending to coerce you? Unlikely. They just want to be free to use their property and that’s what the libertarian/propertarian will defend. Unfortunately, they are still behaving in an immoral manner and most of us will support you. Only the fools support a property owner’s so-called right to do harm to others (intentional or unintentional) through the use of their property. Our code of ethics forms a large part of the meta-rules that govern here. Going against them tempts people to oil guillotines.

Unknown said...

@sociotard, Rick and Morty is a great show, on par with Futurama, Venture Brothers, or even the Hitchhiker's Guide (radio).

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Maybe we are arguing past one another?

Or just splitting hairs? I get the sense we're in somewhat of agreement and arguing over the differences. I don't mind.

Your polluter up the road is certainly behaving badly, but are they intending to coerce you? Unlikely. They just want to be free to use their property and that’s what the libertarian/propertarian will defend.

This is a separate argument from the one I was making about freedom and coercion. What I fail to understand about most current-day libertarians (and I really mean I don't understand) is that while duh the polluter up the road wants to be free to use his property, the fact is that he is also harming my property. And liberarians will use "property rights" to defend his property rights against my property rights.

It's not just a question of "He's behaving badly, but property rights trump everything else." I'm arguing that my property rights should be as important as his property rights. And yet somehow, I still can't win. Why?

Going against them tempts people to oil guillotines.

I once did a four page comic that opened with my own death by guillotine on page 1. I even sent Dr Brin a copy. As far as pain and suffering go, well, if I was going to die an unnatural death, I think the guillotine would be my first choice. But that's just me.

David Brin said...

A lot of solid think-talk here about coercion and yes, I can group think-talk. And yet, in the end, I must be practical. Markets and science and justice all failed across human history because those who attain power have flourished and gained reproductive advantage by cheating. Generally via feudalism but ingenious folks will find a way, almost anywhere, any time.

“Coercion" is an epithet used to distract from the more general term — cheating … of which coercion is one subset. Indeed, one reason we have government is to apply some coercion to reduce all types of cheating, so that markets, democracy, science, courts, sports and the Internet can create the enlightenment innovation of positive sum competition… competition that maximizes productive outputs in products, services, policies, factual truth, justice, fun and freedom… while minimizing blood on the floor.

The tagedy of current “hate all govt and ONLY govt!” cant is that it plays into the hands of cheaters. It is subsidized and pushed by shills working for the New Oligarchs. Government is inherently dangerous but it is being watched. Meanwhile it is our main tool for keeping Other Elites accountable.

It is adoration of property that is insane. Libertarians who are reminded that the word they should defend is COMPETITION… and that property is often its enemy… sometimes blink in sudden awakening that they’ve been had. I have seen it happen.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,
Thank you for the links you gave and I read it with very much interest. It is a lot to digest and requires careful reading and thought which is why I will have to post my reply later. I can say one thing though. My wife 38 years ago put me through a courtship ritual that cost me a lot of money and covered three continents that frankly exhausted me leaving me incapable of straying not unlike a Bird of Paradise or a mandrill.

Paul451 said...

"There are so many species on Earth that are trapped just under the glass ceiling and the question is why have they not become as successful as we are? For the terrestrial animals I think the reason why is because of ourselves, Homo sapiens sapiens. A million years ago"

Okay, so you've explained the last 1m years.

Now explain the previous hundred million or so.

- Paul451,
Jeez, give me a break. It will take me some time to come up with a plausible explanation for the other 100 million years but I will get to it.

Alex Tolley said...

"Libertarians who are reminded that the word they should defend is COMPETITION"

Since government does not provide services and goods in a competitive state, that would lead you to dislike those government agencies too. More important is to understand that competition is one way to drive towards the most efficient use of resources. Other methods can be applied to government run monopolies to improve efficiency.

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

More important is to understand that competition is one way to drive towards the most efficient use of resources. Other methods can be applied to government run monopolies to improve efficiency.

So other methods for can compete with existing methods for running government monopolies, and the more efficient methods can win the competition?

How is that different from what you said?

David Brin said...

Deuxglass my fiancee made me jump from an airplane at 10,000 feet (I begged and whimpered till she said "okay you can have a parachute."

I took her entirely around the world, arriving back in LA a year (to the day) after we left. At which point we got married. So my experience is almost a case study for what you described!

matthew said...

My main problem with Libertarian thought is that I believe experiences, not property, are paramountly important. A human can have no possessions, even not possessing themselves, and still be rich.
Libertarian thought is not. It is greed masquerading as philosophy. It is the aggrandizement of the physical at the expense of the spiritual, the emotional, and the power of memory.
Less possessions, more experiences.

Jumper said...

I'm still puzzled about the difference between a "privatized" government and a, um, government. I'm not sure there really exists an "opt out" zone anywhere. Maybe, to be trite, Somalia or Afghanistan.

Jumper said...

Here's what an actual sane scientist (William Connolley) who has a conservative outlook sums up on global warming (written in 2010 with updates in parentheses). Of course in the U.S. he's seen as some sort of demon. Good grief.

Alex Tolley said...

@LarryHart. I think of competition as more than one agency competing for customers and returns on resources used. This makes sense for businesses. Government could compete with private business, e.g. education, but essentially that is privatizing a public good or service. What I am talking about is maintaining a single agency to manage a public service, but using other methods than than competing for returns to increase efficiency. One simple example is that salaries for managers often depend on the number of people they manage, so that tends to bloat human capital used. A different reward incentive could change that behavior. However that may not be enough, because competition tends to throw up more innovation which forces changes, while changing your own behaviors often is a weaker way to innovate. What I don't want to see is public services privatized in the name of efficiency, which rarely turns out to be the case. Incentives have to be worked out carefully, or you can end up like the UK where welfare payments were capriciously denied in order to meet poorly designed incentives that rewarded offices with low payments, or the US where agencies like courts are just raising fees that have no relationship to costs for providing the service.

Alex Tolley said...

@Jumper "I'm still puzzled about the difference between a "privatized" government and a, um, government."

An example. In Britain many services used to be run by the government and paid for out of taxes and fees, e.g. healthcare. the trains, water, electricity, post office. Britain aggressively denationalized during the Thatcher era, selling these services to the private sector. Now the trains and tracks are owned many different companies, the water supplies are just private monopolies, and the Royal Mail will become privatized. Despite moaning about the state of government services, I see very little improvement in services that have been privatized, just large increases in prices, which is what you expect from am unconstrained monopoly.

Governments can act to provide public goods and services, while businesses need to make these goods and services private, which changes the distribution characteristics and breaks the concept of a public good or service.

The US has started to privatize the military by hiring mercenaries, e.g. mercenaries from the group that used to be called Blackwater. History is replete with examples why relying on mercenaries is a not a good idea. We are nowhere close that that yet, but the trend is there unless it is constrained now.

Alex Tolley said...

@Jumper - Stoat's piece is quite good, but I think he is getting confused about point 4. On the one hand he doesn't want an experiment on changing fuels, yet on the other he is for a carbon tax that will have that impact. Given that the points 1 to 3 are correct, business as usual will just worsen the situation, so we do need to do something. What that something is should be debated. Personally I am still with the side that says don't engage in geo-engineering, as the consequences are unpredictable. Modifying the energy and fuel economy is going to be much more predictable, and the longer time we have to do that, the better to adjust, rather than leave it to the last moment and have to plump for a very rapid transition.

Alfred Differ said...

Yes… Coercion is cheating. It’s one of the oldest types of cheating. It is one of the most measurable too. The reason I focus on it isn’t to restrict attention to it, but to point out that people who use the positive definition of freedom are confusing the issue enough to make it hard to punish. They are effectively requiring those who detect it to rely upon arbitrary rules when we can do much better. It is an epithet for a small but vocal group of people. For the rest of us it is a point to make to help clarify the battleground. If one acts to prevent me from using MY information in MY decisions, one is guilty of coercion. Avoid that and it isn’t coercion, but might be something else in the cheating superset.

Where the zealots who focus too much on coercion are leading cannot work. Our social traditions demonstrate we ARE willing to coerce to prevent certain behaviors, so their utopia would require us to be something other than the humans we are. Where the liberals lead, though, is achievable. The key difference is the requirement for a super-majority before coercive rules are tolerated. Most of the best ones have voluntary support levels well over 90%. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not cheat. They are moral traditions with threats of coercion for those who fail to comply. The most important thing about them, though, is they evolve. That makes them emergent order that can only be discovered and not designed. The zealots would reject our human inclination to adopt order. The liberals would not.

It is worth getting the definition for freedom right because it helps point out the distinction between the liberals and the zealots. It is the difference between sanity and insanity. Draw this line carefully and it becomes more apparent who among us is an ally of this civilization and who is an enemy.

Alfred Differ said...

@Alex Tolley: There are occasions where the government provides services in competition with the market. I’m very wary of such arrangements and ultra-suspicious of the civil servants and major players in those sectors. I’ve seen too often arrangements made that benefit the top players, benefit the bureaucracy, and shut out disruptive entrepreneurs. Cheating takes many forms, but this kind of collusion is hard to detect and even harder to address. Too many voters benefit from the arrangements, so the rules get bent in support of arbitrariness.

Where have I seen this? Teaching/training of a segment of the adult population that is typically served by a junior college in the US is a start. I’ve also seen it in projects I’ve worked in aerospace. In both situations, major market participants didn’t want to face the young entrepreneurs. Erecting larger barriers to entry was made easier by talking to people who could write the regulations.

Alfred Differ said...

@matthew: Libertarians will probably just argue that experience is another kind of property. As long as you remain free to use your experience in your decisions, they won’t have an issue with your perspective. You’d be using the negative definition that way, so ‘no problemo.’

Jumper said...

I read Connolley as believing the market will work as it's presumed (expected) to do if there is a carbon tax. Cap and trade seems a poor substitute to me as well.

Gator said...

This seems relevant to talk about public vs. private R&D:

"The iPhone, Mazzucato pointed out, is held up as a classic example of world-changing innovation coming from business.

Yet every feature of the iPhone was created, originally, by multi-decade government-funded research..."

The idea that private R&D spending can be equated with public in terms of long term impact probably ended with the end of Bell Labs.

duncan cairncross said...

I read Connolley's blog
Re – Global warming problem

4. (This will be a problem and we ought to do something about it)

(a) conducting a giant geophysical experiment with the only defence of “we don’t know what might happen” is really stupidly dangerous

(b) “conducting a giant experiment with the global fuel / financial system isn’t a great idea either”

Interesting blog but balancing (a) and (b) is kind of stupid it’s like comparing an ocean liner with a child’s toy yacht

The worlds weather and ecosystem is not the same as a 100 year old human construct

Alex Tolley said...

A carbon tax will work better than cap-and-Trade and is the preferred approach for economists. However, the impact depends on where you set the tax. A steep tax will quickly push renewables into the lowest cost energy producers and disrupt oil and coal, and even gas. A low tax will not change the economics much. Even with oil prices fluctuating between 40 and $100 bbl, we don't see much impact on fossil fuel use, so a tax of $50/bbl may not have much impact. A tax of $150 would definitely have an impact and would be forcefully resisted.

I think the impact of renewables is greater than we are given to believe based on the push back from fossil energy suppliers and electric utilities. Arguments denigrating solar (e.g. it doesn't shine at night) and wind (kills birds) are increasingly bogus as data and new technologies becomes available.

Alex Tolley said...

"Interesting blog but balancing (a) and (b) is kind of stupid it’s like comparing an ocean liner with a child’s toy yacht"


LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

Despite moaning about the state of government services, I see very little improvement in services that have been privatized, just large increases in prices, which is what you expect from am unconstrained monopoly.

Government and private industry have very different "mission statements". Government agencies should be judged and rewarded based upon how well they manage public resources and provide public services, not by how much of a profit they can produce. Privatization essentially turns a public service agency into an extractor of wealth, which, to use a Dave Sim-ism, "is a kind of reverse alchemy, turning gold into lead."

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. I'm not so sure the alchemy analogy works. When a service is privatized, there is indeed someone who profits, but that person is also shackled by their own greed to perform a service others voluntarily purchase. When a base motive is used to trap someone to do a good thing, isn't that precious?

David Brin said...

A tax of $.05 /bbl will be "fiercely resisted

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred "but that person is also shackled by their own greed to perform a service others voluntarily purchase."

Voluntary? You mean like water supply or sewage disposal?

Alex Tolley said...

"A tax of $.05 /bbl will be "fiercely resisted"". That is just a 1/8th of a cent per gallon. If that would be resisted, we would be royally screwed. They would be far smarter to accept that tax and claim they were being "good citizens", while laughing all the way to the bank. :)

TheMadLibrarian said...

If Hollywood can persuade Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson to promote The Martian, maybe there's hope they haven't utterly Frankensteined the book:

duncan cairncross said...

The argument is that private companies are more efficient because they have to “compete”
But that doesn’t really apply to privatised services

What is more relevant than private/public is the size of the organisation

There are two opposing effects

(1) Efficiency of scale
When I worked for Cummins we could sell a 6 litre, 300hp Turbo diesel engine to Chrysler for $2,000 because they bought 500 a day
The development and manufacturing set-up costs were over $500 Million
Imagine what a computer would be like if the parts were all made by small organizations

(2) The Iron Law of Bureaucracy
States that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:
First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization.
Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.
Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself.
Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law also states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

So bigger organisations are helped by the “Economies of Scale”
And hindered by the “Iron Law”

“Economies of Scale” is not an open ended relationship the advantages tail off above a certain level
Even below that they tend to go up in steps so a small increase in numbers does not always lead to a reduction in cost

The “Iron Law” is an open ended hindrance – the bigger the organisation the more it applies and the more senior people devoted to themselves and not to the goals of the organisation there are

The conclusion that we should draw from this is that there is an optimum size for an organisation
And that this size will vary depending on what the organisation does
A mass manufacturing organisation does need to be quite large,
An organisation that simply shuffles “paper” can be a lot smaller

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

We are both case studies of how our genes manipulate our behavior to their own ends. For me at the time I felt this overwhelming need to form a family with this woman who by the way is still my wife. Through some mysterious mechanism my mind perceived that she would be a very good genetic match and therefore worked on my emotions to bring it about by making me deeply in love. It seems my genes knew what they were doing because our two kids (girls) are both smarter and have more drive than either of us and both have attained scholastic achievements similar to yours Dr. Brin. I often wonder how my mind decided that she would be the best match. Which subtle clues did it pick up and how many were physical and how many were behavioral?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Heh. I'm not so sure the alchemy analogy works. When a service is privatized, there is indeed someone who profits, but that person is also shackled by their own greed to perform a service others voluntarily purchase. When a base motive is used to trap someone to do a good thing, isn't that precious?

Well, your last sentence perfectly describes the positive aspect of capitalism. And I think it is appropriate in the realm of producing and distributing goods and services which the private individual or organization creates themselves.

I think it is less appropriate in the realm of administration of the public commons, or that of adjudication of grievances between individuals. Profit is not aligned with good service in those areas--in fact they are often opposed. Do you really want your police department or your firemen or your food inspectors to have statement "maximizing profit for themselves" as their mission statement?

Alex Tolley said...

@LarryHart " Do you really want your police department or your firemen or your food inspectors to have statement "maximizing profit for themselves" as their mission statement?"

While a rhetorical question, we know it happens through corruption. Paid off inspectors, police departments shaking down teh public and seizing property. So far the fire departments have been relatively corruption free, except in so far as they have a very generous retirement plan that starts in middle age. Corruption is in effect reducing efficiency by extracting greater returns for teh same outpur. A better question is that given human greed, how do we keep corrupt practices to a bare minimum?

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred. From the last thread on coercion. If you have been following the story of the Kentucky clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licenses for religious freedom reasons. At this point she is refusing to follow a court order and will be in contempt of court. Is this coercive behavior or just immoral in your opinion. I personally find it coercive as she is effectively forcing her beliefs on others to conform.

As this is an elected position, it will be interesting in the town elects another religious zealot to try to force a showdown with the law, or elects an person who will faithfully follow the law in her duties.

Alex Tolley said...

From the last thread. I mentioned that Us legislators supporting the NSA would be hurting US businesses. Today we have a report in the Guardian that Microsoft is fighting the authorities that want to get access to data in the cloud from servers located in foreign countries. At this point most parties concede that the law supports the government's case. Amicus briefs have been filed by other tech companies as well as the EFF.

Not mentioned is why this is being fought by Nicrosoft. Th reason is that US law will mean that Microsoft will be violating EU privacy laws. This will get them in hot water with the EU and will also damage their business with EU customers as they can no longer trust their privacy is protected. So the US will shoot itself in the foot by damaging the successful tech business in the name of "security" and "law enforcement".

The obvious solution for Microsoft in the future is to follow Apple's lead and have strong encryption that they do not hold the keys to. I think DB would argue (has argued?) that this is futile as all cryptography can be broken and all stored data hacked. I prefer to see this as an arms race in technology and legal systems that must preserve privacy in the face of inevitable transparency. The consequences are not just in the domain of privacy and security, but business in the face of conflicting jurisdictions over customers. As we have seen with Blackberry, Facebook and Twitter, acceding to foreign rules for market access is usual practice. Now we are seeing who has jurisdiction over information where location and ownership are different. How it plays out will be very important.

Alex Tolley said...

@DB This NIAC proposal looks very interesting: Comet Hitchhiker: Harvesting Kinetic Energy from Small Bodies to Enable Fast and Low-Cost Deep Space Exploration

Can you comment on the issues of comet and asteroid structure on the viability of harpooning them firmly?

Alfred Differ said...

@Alex Tolley: Are you telling me you don’t get your water delivered to your home in bottles? 8)

Seriously, though, I see no reason why both of those have to be city or county owned utilities. I have no issue with them if they are, but privatization works in those niches as long as the people have a choice of competing offers. When a city displaces their monopoly with a contracted, but private one I don’t see that as an improvement. Wherever creation of a private monopoly occurs, we should be immediately suspicious and look for collusion between private bidders and government and the rule changes that discourage competition. David has it right that fair competition has to be the guiding vision. Anything less should require a super majority agreement within the community impacted because someone’s freedom is being constrained. Someone is suffering a positive definition limitation.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: I would much prefer my police force to “maximize their profit” than I would have them “serve and protect.” In the sense V.Vinge described, I would contract with the for-profit police agency much as I would a security company. They would be privately responsible for trying to protect me from bad guys AND for trying to detect when I become non-compliant with known laws and regulations. Obviously, because they’d work for ME, they wouldn’t arrest me when I was non-compliant. They would point out my behavior and work out a plan for correcting it with me so I would not come to the attention of other police contractors who would arrest me.

I’m more of a classical liberal than I am the libertarian Vinge describes, so I’m not enamored with making a big change to the social contract relating to community policing. Still… I’m tempted to consider his vision as potentially better than what we have now. I really don’t like the idea of having to watch the police so carefully with millions of cameras to stop them from murdering our citizens. I really, REALLY don’t like the idea of having to watch them with suspicion when they interact with my autistic son just in case they expect him to comply with their verbal orders. He won’t if they are even moderately angry. I want a police force that understands who they work for, but not one that shrouds their work in the illusion of ‘serving.’ I know all too well the servants run the household when the master isn’t paying attention.

Alfred Differ said...

@Alex Tolley: As far as I can tell, the Kentucky clerk is not coercing anyone. They are complaining that the Court is coercing them. I disagree, though. The job function they are paid to perform (voluntarily) requires the issuance of licenses according to established rules. The Court is attempting to enforce those rules. The clerk has the option of complying or not accepting payment for the work they aren’t performing.

I don’t see the Court’s or the clerk’s actions as immoral. I see it as a battle over the definition of the job being performed. The clerk doesn’t own the job, so they are in the wrong and must adapt or step aside. The fact that it is an elected position doesn’t change that until The People write the job description in such a way that the clerk has to comply. That would require a fight between The People and The Court, right? Constitutional Amendments would be in order. Until then, the clerk is in the wrong.

Alfred Differ said...

Strong encryption wouldn’t be entirely futile. What it would do is change the costs involved by those who want access to data. They might still demand it, but a quality security team can make it expensive to crack. The bigger corps could potentially do this, but it wouldn’t be smart to assume they can or do.

Alex Tolley said...

Water supplies, sewage and even power are generally considered natural monopolies as the duplication of pipes and wires is inefficient, water particularly so. Privatization is almost invariably going to be a monopoly. The UK rail system, although having different companies manage the rolling stock, still tend to monopolize a particular line too (although I think there is some competition on some routes, although I would call this as more likely a cartel).

Private fire and police is not a good idea as the public good is lost. Suppose your neighbor decides to free ride on the fire service. Do the firemen put out the neighbors blaze to save your house, or watch it burn down setting your house alight too? We do see private police (security) in closed communities, but it is unclear to me that we don't have the same problem as with fire departments. For example is a neighbors house is robbed, but they haven't paid, then the robbery goes uninvestigated allowing the thief to stay at large to prey on you later. Once you privatize, the issue of the common good is lost as well as the issue of free ridership (which is one reason why the ACA has a requirement for everyone to contribute).

Interesting take on the county clerk. Do you not see this as a similar issue as Jim Crow laws? I'm reminded of Rand Paul's views on civil rights in this regard - that businesses should be free to discriminate as they please, even local monopolies like government services.

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred "Strong encryption wouldn’t be entirely futile. What it would do is change the costs involved by those who want access to data. They might still demand it, but a quality security team can make it expensive to crack. The bigger corps could potentially do this, but it wouldn’t be smart to assume they can or do."

I agree. Without pretty good encryption, we couldn't make internet payments securely and prevent the bad guys from stealing our data. It can still be done in various ways - keylogging malware, phishing, etc, but that costs.

While quantum computing is supposed to break encryption easily, it still costs to get those machines and quantum entanglement could make those attempts moot by protecting intercepted content.

It is really an arms race with costs to dissuade peeking, and that includes are so-called protector class.

Alfred Differ said...

@Alex Tolley: Water, sewage, and power are GENERALLY considered natural monopolies, but that doesn't mean the people who make the arguments are correct. We can reasonably debate this. I used to work for CAISO, so I know part of the debate regarding power. Monopoly is not necessary. What the wholesale electricity market in California needs is some cooperation regarding management of the transmission system and they get that through a state chartered, non-profit corporation. CAISO and its rules represent just one way to do it, though. The PJM folks take a different approach that delves into the distribution market too. I suspect that an honest debate would uncover some interesting opportunities to introduce fair completion in the other utilities too.

Regarding police and fire, I'll refrain from debating with you. You obviously haven't been exposed to libertarian thought regarding how it could be done. The free rider problem is solvable through civil action. Only the zealots have a problem with this because of their reluctance to accept any form of coercion. A free rider would face potentially coercive action from their neighbors.

I get Rand Paul's argument, and agree with him to some extent, but I don't believe for a moment that it could work in the market. A business that discriminates is cheating, so while I'd prefer the government not be allowed to coerce them, I'll bow to the will of a super-majority when they demand it. Personally, I'm inclined to let the market decide their fate, but when a super-majority determines their behavior to be immoral, the guillotine has arrived on their doorstep to deliver personal service.

Regarding the clerk, though, on a personal level I think their belief system is highly immoral. I would vote to impeach them on the spot for failing to obey a court order. Those two are not connected, though. I expect elected officials to behave with integrity. That means they resign if they feel they can no longer perform their duty as it is defined. A lowly clerk is NOT to oppose a higher court. Only governors and legislatures get to do that.

Alfred Differ said...

I'm working through David's Transparent Society book again to make up for my earlier partial reading. The bitter fruit story at the beginning was kinda fun. What I'm doing at the end of each chapter is writing up my objections. They are a list of things that translate roughly as "Oh Really?! What about this!". I'll keep a list to see which ones he knocks out in later chapters. My list already has stuff regarding strong encryption and an rough guess to the chapter numbers where I expect him to try to demolish my objection. Should be fun.

For now, though, I'm supporting the argument that the private sector can win the encryption arms race with government, but individual customers would be stupid to rely upon their forces delivering them to a future where they are unscathed. Everyone is going to have strong encryption AND cameras, so accountability rules will have to involve both.

Alex Tolley said...

@Deuxglass " I often wonder how my mind decided that she would be the best match."

I think it was your wife, not you, who made the choice, given what you have said. This is usually the case as the woman has to bear the children from the desired mate. This is pretty basic Darwinian sex selection.

As regards your children, congratulations on their achievements. However bear in mind intelligence tends to be mean reverting. If it wasn't, selection might well produce very widely divergent populations with intelligence in a short time. This applies to most traits with multiple genes, so beautiful actors don't necessarily have beautiful kids, or performers with children able to perform well in the parents' skill. It will work with simple traits, so that blue eyed parents will have blue eyed children. Therefore it may be as much luck rather than genes or environment that impacted the outstanding outcome.

Alfred Differ said...

Ahem... back on the topic of the post, I should thank blood donors. I had to be topped off twice a couple years ago and wouldn't be here today without their generosity. Muchos gracias!

As for all the other competence that has kept me alive, there is no way to thank everyone. The best I know how to do is defend and improve the civilization that makes it possible for them to do all that.

duncan cairncross said...

This idea that you can use a single distribution network to supply users from different companies is one of the stupidest ideas EVER

It has been tried for water/sewage/gas/electricity/telephone in many many countries

The results have been uniformly bad for the consumer and good for well connected sharks

A triumph for those who think the world should work one way and are willing to inconvenience (or worse) everybody in order to MAKE it work that way

David Brin said...



LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I want a police force that understands who they work for, but not one that shrouds their work in the illusion of ‘serving.’ I know all too well the servants run the household when the master isn’t paying attention.

Y'know, I'm not averse to trying out a different method of policing, but the idea of private police forces working for individuals against each other seems awfully third-world to me. I understand I'm probably not correctly interpreting what you have in mind, but it sounds more "permanent state of war" than "society" to me.

But that's a bit separate from the question of profit motive as the mission statement for civil servants. On the "Cerebus" list that I used to frequent, I had arguments with a devotee of Ayn Rand who insisted that you could trust someone who was only interested in lining his own pockets moreso than someone who wanted to be heloful. I would ask him things like whether he would prefer his doctor to perscribe medicines based upon "whatever makes me (the doctor) the most profit" rather than whatever is most helpful to the patient, and he insisted that he would. I don't know if you're coming from the same place as that, but if so, my response is a variation on a quote from the author of that self-same Cerebus comic: "The part of my brain that understands the argument can't convince the part of my brain that disagrees with it that it has a point."

David Brin said...


Deuxglass said...

Alex Tolley,

I disagree with you. I had a choice of alternative mates just as she had too but we chose each other. It is a two-way street and even it is loop-sided in favor of the woman, the man does have a choice.

As to brains I believe that intelligence comes from many more elements that beauty. Beauty depends a certain symmetry and shape of the face where intelligence comes from how the brain is organized and the interconnections within and therefore has more factors involved. You might even say that the beauty evolved as a way to fool men into mating with not-especially-intelligent women. You might call it plan B.
You say that intelligence reverts to the mean but you didn’t say by which mechanism. How many intelligent men have you known that marry beautiful but average intelligent women? I have known many and they wonder why their kids are of average intelligence. It’s because their criteria was beauty and ability in bed over smarts. In general beautiful women do not target handsome men but much prefer an intelligent, successful men. On the other hand intelligent women target intelligent men but they have to face rude competition from beautiful women. This is complicated by the fact that many men feel threatened by an intelligent spouse and therefore feel better with a pretty yet average intelligence woman for psychological reasons. Fortunately my two girls are married to men who have the same level as theirs so I have expectations that their kids will be intelligent too.

Alex Tolley said...


Contrary to popular belief, two parents of higher IQ will not necessarily produce offspring of equal or higher intelligence. In fact, according to the concept of regression toward the mean, parents whose IQ is at either extreme are more likely to produce offspring with IQ closer to the mean (or average)[15]


Deuxglass said...

Alex Tolley
I was under the impression that you had studied the question but citing a Wikipedia article as a reference is rather lame. You should be reading the actual studies. Let me give you a few serious ones to start with. ( is the original study)
There is even a study on chimpanzees and inherited intelligence. Guess what? Smart chimpanzees have smart chimpanzee kids.
Having smart parents does not guarantee smart kids but it does increase the chance that they will be intelligent too even if the genetic component is only 50% as some studies claim. Obviously at some time in our prehistory there was enormous selection towards intelligence over muscle. The most intelligent survived and reproduced eventually resulting in us. This came from mate selection, from the right tail of the bell curve. Therefore our brains must have clues to look for during the mating ritual in order to choose the best match. Humans are still evolving and in my opinion and intelligence in a potential mate is still one of the top attractions once you get out of the adolescence stage.

Deuxglass said...

Alex Tolley

I forgot to give you the reference of the chimpanzee article. here it is:

siska said...
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