agri-mindset   12

The First Men in the Moon | West Hunter
But what about the future? One generally assumes that space colonists, assuming that there ever are any, will be picked individuals, somewhat like existing astronauts – the best out of hordes of applicants. They’ll be smarter than average, healthier than average, saner than average – and not by just a little.

Since all these traits are significantly heritable, some highly so, we have to expect that their descendants will be different – different above the neck. They’d likely be, on average, smarter than any existing ethnic group. If a Lunar colony really took off, early colonists might account for a disproportionate fraction of the population (just as Puritans do in the US), and the Loonies might continue to have inordinate amounts of the right stuff indefinitely. They’d notice: we’d notice. We’d worry about the Lunar Peril. They’d sneer at deluded groundlings, and talk about the menace from Earth.
Depends on your level of technical expertise. 2 million years ago, settlement of the Eurasian temperate zone was bleeding-edge technology – but it got easier. We can certainly settle the Solar system with near-term technology, if we choose to. And you’re forgetting one of the big payoffs: gafia.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

What if some ideology or political tradition did? what could they do? What problems could they solve, what capabilities would they have?

Various past societies knew a few things along these lines. They knew that there were significant physical and behavioral differences between the sexes, which is forbidden knowledge in modern academia. Some knew that close inbreeding had negative consequences, which knowledge is on its way to the forbidden zone as I speak. Some cultures with wide enough geographical experience had realistic notions of average cognitive differences between populations. Some people had a rough idea about regression to the mean [ in dynasties], and the Ottomans came up with a highly unpleasant solution – the law of fratricide. The Romans, during the Principate, dealt with the same problem through imperial adoption. The Chinese exam system is in part aimed at the same problem.


At least some past societies avoided the social patterns leading to the nasty dysgenic trends we are experiencing today, but for the most part that is due to the anthropic principle: if they’d done something else you wouldn’t be reading this. Also to between-group competition: if you fuck your self up when others don’t, you may be well be replaced. Which is still the case.

If you were designing an ideology from scratch you could make use of all of these facts – not that thinking about genetics and selection hands you the solution to every problem, but you’d have more strings to your bow. And, off the top of your head, you’d understand certain trends that are behind the mountains of Estcarp, for our current ruling classes : invisible and unthinkable, That Which Must Not Be Named. .
“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.
And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

It might be worth making a reasonably comprehensive of the facts and preferences that a good liberal is supposed to embrace and seem to believe. You would have to be fairly quick about it, before it changes. Then you could evaluate about the social impact of having more of them.

Rise and Fall:
Every society selects for something: generally it looks as if the direction of selection pressue is more or less an accident. Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this. I mean, they would have known how, if they’d wanted to, just as they knew how to select for destriers, coursers, and palfreys. It was still possible to know such things in the Middle Ages, because Harvard did not yet exist.

A rising empire needs quality human capital, which implies that at minimum that budding imperial society must not have been strongly dysgenic. At least not in the beginning. But winning changes many things, possibly including selective pressures. Imagine an empire with substantial urbanization, one in which talented guys routinely end up living in cities – cities that were demographic sinks. That might change things. Or try to imagine an empire in which survival challenges are greatly reduced, at least for elites, so that people have nothing to keep their minds off their minds and up worshiping Magna Mater. Imagine that an empire that conquers a rival with interesting local pathogens and brings some of them home. Or one that uses up a lot of its manpower conquering less-talented subjects and importing masses of those losers into the imperial heartland.

If any of those scenarios happened valid, they might eventually result in imperial decline – decline due to decreased biological capital.

Right now this is speculation. If we knew enough about the GWAS hits for intelligence, and had enough ancient DNA, we might be able to observe that rise and fall, just as we see dysgenic trends in contemporary populations. But that won’t happen for a long time. Say, a year.

“Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this.”

Maybe the Chinese imperial examination could effectively have been a selection for intelligence.
Nope. I’ve modelled it: the fraction of winners is far too small to have much effect, while there were likely fitness costs from the arduous preparation. Moreover, there’s a recent
paper [Detecting polygenic adaptation in admixture graphs] that looks for indications of when selection for IQ hit northeast Asia: quite a while ago. Obvious though, since Japan has similar scores without ever having had that kind of examination system.

decline of British Empire and utility of different components:
Once upon a time, India was a money maker for the British, mainly because they appropriate Bengali tax revenue, rather than trade. The rest of the Empire was not worth much: it didn’t materially boost British per-capita income or military potential. Silesia was worth more to Germany, conferred more war-making power, than Africa was to Britain.
If you get even a little local opposition, a colony won’t pay for itself. I seem to remember that there was some, in Palestine.
Angels from on high paid for the Boer War.

You know, someone in the 50’s asked for the numbers – how much various colonies cost and how much they paid.

Turned out that no one had ever asked. The Colonial Office had no idea.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
There can only be one! | West Hunter
Dynasties decay.   The founder generally has a lot on the ball – tough, a natural leader, and canny campaigner – but his son is unlikely to be so exceptional.  Partly this is a manifestation of regression to the mean, and partly because his mother was probably chosen for something other than her talents as a warlord. By the fourth or fifth generation, it can be hard to believe that the useless poet on the throne is truly a member of the Golden Family.

This decay is a fundamental historical fact – an inevitable consequence of  biology and primogeniture.  It’s one of the important weaknesses of dynastic rule. The Ottomans, however, found a way around it for some centuries – the law of fratricide.  Upon the death of the Sultan, all of his sons were theoretically eligible for the succession (not just the oldest).  Since the Sultan had a harem, there were a lot of them. Whoever first seized power then had all his brothers and half-brothers executed by ritual strangulation. Incompetents didn’t win out in this struggle.
Dynastic decline through regression seems meaning you go from a guy like Stalin to an imperfect copy of Stalin that’s more like the average person (less competent but lacking in other traits that make Stalin, Stalin). Might not always totally all be “bad” for most people’s status, depending on the Great Man’s balance of competence to traits in a ruler that you don’t really want, but which helped them to seize power anyway.

Speculation, but might inbreeding be a way to hang on to more of the founder’s right stuff?

Thereby why constitutional monarchy and similar arrangements might tend to emerge in more outbreeding populations, because the successors to the big Mafia that runs the state and all the little Mafias that run everything else down from there tend to retain less ancestral competence and less ancestral desire for domination and status, so alternative arrangements are found.
list of evaluations for presidents+
"Competence, of course, is not the same thing as acting in the best interests of the common people. But it is absolutely essential for the continuation of a royal lineage or dynasty."
If everyone in a country was absolutely obsessed with the idea that the human pinkie finger was a symbol of a leader’s connection to god and was required for him to be a good ruler, this whole problem would be solved. The oldest brother could simply have his younger siblings’ pinkie fingers cut off, and let them live.

This would mean that ruling families would be much more free to have big families and expand their power even more.
The Byzantines did something similar with deposed emperors: the disfigured were ineligible for the role of God’s regent, or whatever the emperors were theologically. So, off with the nose! Justinian II ruined this humane custom by by wearing a silver nose after his restoration, à la the Lee Marvin character in Cat Ballou.
Here is my take on a solid alternative to democracy in the West: adoptive monarchy. We are acquainted with the Five Good Emperors of Rome. Before an Emperor died, he would adopt his most capable, wise and just subordinate as his son, who would become Emperor after his adoptive father died. The Roman Empire was perhaps at its most stable and prosperous point duribg this time period, and Edward Gibbon esteemed it as the high point of human history up through the time he was writing his tomes about Roman history, at least for the common Roman citizen.

If the American electorate continues to decline, ever falling into idiocy, factionalism and dementia, then I think it might be prudent to put adoptive monarchy into play, and have our monarchs rule the country in the spirit of the Constitution while temporarily holding it in suspension. The monarchs would have 40 to 80 years to pursue enlightened demographic policies, which would ensure that the American people would be ready for democratic rule again. There of course would be a Congress and courts. Both of these branches of government would at first be impotent, but would gradually regain their former power and prestige. At some point, the monarchy would be abolished, with an elected president regaining command of the executive branch, having about as much power as, say, Eisenhower did.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Breeding the breeder's equation - Gene Expression
- interesting fact about normal distribution: when thresholding Gaussian r.v. X ~ N(0, σ^2) at X > 0, the new mean μ_s satisfies μ_s = pdf(X,t)/(1-cdf(X,t)) σ^2
- follows from direct calculation (any deeper reason?)
- note (using Taylor/asymptotic expansion of complementary error function) that this is Θ(t) as t -> 0 or ∞ (w/ different constants)
- for X ~ N(0, 1), can calculate 0 = cdf(X, t)μ_<t + (1-cdf(X, t))μ_>t => μ_<t = -pdf(X, t)/cdf(X, t)
- this declines quickly w/ t (like e^{-t^2/2}). as t -> 0, it goes like -sqrt(2/pi) + higher-order terms ~ -0.8.

Average of a tail of a normal distribution:

Truncated normal distribution:
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Building momentum | West Hunter
When people started farming, at first they were not biologically different from their immediate hunter-gatherer ancestors. Eventually they would be different: better adapted to the new diet, the increased crowding, the psychological demands of a very different way of life – but that took at least some time. After they were adapted to farming, the tendency towards farmers expanding, rather than the idea of farming being transmitted, would increase: the biological edge shows up. But at first, before much adaptation, idea transmission might have more competitive with demography. I throw this out as a possible partial explanation of the pattern we are seeing: first the idea of farming spreading through core populations in the Middle East (possibly combined with independent invention or stimulus diffusion), while a little later those core populations themselves begin spreading outward. In fact, on the ball really got rolling, those populations should have been adapting to expansion itself, just like cane toads.

Surfing the Wave:
Cane toads, to general dismay, have been spreading rapidly in Australia. And in the course of that spread, they have evolved. This is particularly true at the front of the wave of toads. Those leading-edge toads have longer legs, are more active at night, and have higher reproductive rates.

Something similar has happened in Quebec, where a few thousand French colonists grew more than a thousandfold over three centuries. A research team led by Damian Labuda, Helene Vezina, and Laurent Excoffier (lead author, Claudia Moreau) found that people living near the wavefront contributed significantly more ancestry to the modern Quebec population than those from the central regions. Moreover, fitness was heritable on that wavefront – so life-history traits measurably evolved during the Quebec expansion. Just as they have in cane toads.


The paper is also notable in that we see Laurent Excoffier saying that there has been noticeable recent evolutionary change in a human population – a change that has not occurred in all human populations. I had gotten the impression that he really did not like that kind of conclusion, which is too bad for him, because such change is ubiquitous. Maybe we’ll hear more such results from him: once you accept it, the dark side is with you forever.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
First-Mover Advantage | West Hunter
Increasingly, it looks as if the hunter-gatherers who lived in Europe at the end of the ice age have been largely replaced. Judging from all those U5 mtdna results from ancient skeletons, I’d say that the hunters don’t account for more than 10% of the ancestry of modern Europeans. It looks as if something similar happened in the Bantu expansion: modern Africans are mostly not descended from the hunter-gatherers who lived in those same places a few thousand years ago. The same could be said for south-east Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Farmers spread, more than knowledge of farming.

In part, this may be explained by a kind of first-mover advantage. If a population has already farmed for a couple of thousand years, they should already be more adapted to that ecological niche: in terms of metabolism, immune system, and psychology. So if a few boatloads of Anatolian farmers land in a hunter-gatherer Italy, they will be better at farming than the locals _can_ be. They will be less prone to alcoholism, will have more resistance to crowd diseases, will be better at living a relatively boring way of life. Their population will grow faster than that of the local hunters, even if the hunters are trying agriculture. Extrapolate that trend for a few centuries and they dominate.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Faster than Fisher | West Hunter
There’s a simple model of the spread of an advantageous allele:  You take σ, the typical  distance people move in one generation, and s,  the selective advantage: the advantageous allele spreads as a nonlinear wave at speed  σ * √(2s).  The problem is, that’s slow.   Suppose that s = 0.10 (a large advantage), σ = 10 kilometers, and a generation time of 30 years: the allele would take almost 7,000 years to expand out 1000 kilometers.


This big expansion didn’t just happen from peasants marrying the girl next door: it required migrations and conquests. This one looks as if it rode with the Indo-European expansion: I’ll bet it started out in a group that had domesticated only horses.

The same processes, migration and conquest, must explain the wide distribution of many geographically widespread selective sweeps and partial sweeps. They were adaptive, all right, but expanded much faster than possible from purely local diffusion. We already have reason to think that SLC24A5 was carried to Europe by Middle Eastern farmers; the same is probably true for the haplotype that carries the high-activity ergothioniene transporter and the 35delG connexin-26/GJB2 deafness mutation. The Indo-Europeans probably introduced the T-13910 LCT mutation and the delta-F508 cystic fibrosis mutation, so we should see delta-F508 in northwest India and Pakistan – and we do !
To entertain a (possibly mistaken) physical analogy, it sounds like you’re suggested a sort genetic convection through space, as opposed to conduction. I.e. Entire masses of folks, carrying a new selected variant, are displacing others – as opposed to the slow gene flow process of “girl-next-door.” Is that about right? (Hopefully I haven’t revealed my ignorance of basic thermodynamics here…)

Has there been any attempt to estimate sigma from these time periods?

Genetic Convection:
People are sometimes interested in estimating the point of origin of a sweeping allele: this is probably effectively impossible even if diffusion were the only spread mechanism, since the selective advantage might well vary in both time and space. But that’s ok, since population movements – genetic convection – are real and very important. This means that the difficulties in estimating the origin of a Fisher wave are totally insignificant, compared to the difficulties of estimating the effects of past colonizations, conquests and Völkerwanderungs. So when Yuval Itan and Mark Thomas estimated that 13,910 T LCT allele originated in central Europe, in the early Neolithic, they didn’t just go wrong because of failing to notice that the same allele is fairly common in northern India: no, their whole notion was unsound in the first place. We’re talking turbulence on steroids. Hari Seldon couldn’t figure this one out from the existing geographic distribution.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Diamond on domestication | West Hunter
Jared Diamond, in discussing animal domestication, claims that the local availability of species with the right qualities for domestication was key, rather than anything special about the biology or culture of the humans living there. In some cases that may be true: there aren’t many large mammals left in Australia, and they’re all marsupials anyway. Stupid marsupials. He claims that since Africans and Amerindians were happy to adopt Eurasian domesticated animals when they became available, it must be that that suitable local animals just didn’t exist. But that’s a non sequitur: making use of an already-domesticated species is not at all the same thing as the original act of domestication. That’s like equating using a cell phone with inventing one. He also says that people have had only mixed success in recent domestication attempts – but the big problem there is that a newly domesticated species doesn’t just have to be good, it has to be better than already-existing domestic animals.


In fact, in my mind the real question is not why various peoples didn’t domesticate animals that we know were domesticable, but rather how anyone ever managed to domesticate the aurochs. At least twice. Imagine a longhorn on roids: they were big and aggressive, favorites in the Roman arena.

Let me throw out an idea originated by an old friend, Ivy Smith. Consider mice, cats, and toxoplasma. Toxoplasma is a protozoan with a two stage life cycle: one in an intermediate host (mice and rats, among others) and a definitive host (some feline). Toxoplasma only reproduces sexually in the definitive host, and it ‘wants’ to end up there. It manipulates the behavior of the intermediate host in ways that increase the probability of transmission to the definitive host. For one thing, it makes mice like the smell of cat urine, which elicits fear in uninfected mice. In fact, it seems that toxoplasma-infected mice are sexually excited by cat urine. How weird – a parasite rechanneling sexual interest…

The idea is that at least some individual aurochs were not as hostile and fearful of humans as they ought to have been, because they were being manipulated by some parasite. The parasite might have caused a general reduction of fear or aggression without infecting or aiming at humans – or, maybe, humans really were the definitive host, and the parasite knew exactly what it was doing. The beef tape worm – which we originally acquired from lions or hyenas back in Africa a couple of million years ago – might have gained from making infected bovines quiet, passive, maybe even overly friendly in the presence of humans. This would have made domestication a hell of a lot easier.

Parenthetically, such host manipulation may play a really important ecological role. For all we know, if canids and felids had to rely purely on their own abilities, they’d starve.

The beef tape worm may not have made it through Beringia. More generally, there were probably no parasites in the Americas that had some large mammal as intermediate host and Amerindians as the traditional definite host. Amerindians simply hadn’t been there very long. Domesticating bison may have too hard for unaided humans, back in the day.
Every technique is in competition with rival techniques. This inhibits the development of new techniques, even if they have high potential in the long run. To succeed, they have to beat out existing techniques in the short run.

For example, there are potential advantages for superconducting electronics for computing, but CMOS keeps improving. It’s a moving target: it’s not enough to be good, or interesting, you have to be better. Soon, not in 50 years. This is particularly difficult considering the enormous amount of resources currently invested in improving semiconductor computing technology.

In the same way, one successful domestication tends to inhibit other domestications. Several crops were domesticated in the eastern United States, but with the advent of maize and beans, most were abandoned. Maybe if those Amerindians had continued to selectively breed sumpweed for a few thousand years, it would have been competitive: but nobody is that crazy. Pretty crazy, but not that crazy.
In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that all human groups have equal mental capabilities – except for the inhabitants of New Guinea, who are clearly smarter than the human norm.

If this is the case, there’s money to be made. Good performance in a lot of high-paying jobs requires intelligence above some fairly high threshold. Such people are scarce [outside of New Guinea], and that means that their labor is expensive. The fraction of individuals above a high threshold increases dramatically with a higher mean, and since people in PNG don’t have high incomes, there is a fantastic arbitrage opportunity here. You could locate some of the many geniuses that must exist in PNG, rapidly and inexpensively teach them high-tech skills (which they would learn easily, since they’re geniuses, natch), apply for H1B visas, and them resell them to the highest Silicon Valley bidder. This wouldn’t last, of course – these guys would not stay peons forever. They’d be generating their own start-ups in a few years, founding hedge funds, dominating the Vegas poker tournaments, etc. Some, less materialistic, would become grandmasters, win Fields medals, or write seminal books about the attractions of cannibalism. Still, you could make a lot of money in the short run, and if you were careful to build good relationships with your employees, they might let you in on the ground floor of an IPO later.

Poul Anderson, always a visionary, foresaw this. A character in one his books put it thusly:” I am a racist – a dedicated, fanatical racist – who maintains, and can scientifically prove, that his own race is inferior. The only true humans on earth, my friends, the main line of evolution, the masters of the future, are the lordly Melanesians. ”

Of course that character was feigning insanity, but still.
PNG = Papua New Guinea

final review:
Guns, Germs, and Steel revisited:
He never says he was willing to wave the point, so how do you know that?

Next, europeans and Chinese ( northeast Asians) test smarter than anyone else. Noticeably so. And they act it, more or less. kinda sorta. More complicated mistakes.
lower genetic diversity in Amerindians+possibility that fast mutating viruses might adapt to their host and hit relatives harder
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november 2016 by nhaliday

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