nhaliday + review   324

Choose the best - Slant
I've noticed I fairly often agree w/ the rankings from this (at least when they show up in my search results). more accurate than I would've expected
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5 weeks ago by nhaliday
The Future of Mathematics? [video] | Hacker News
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20909404
Kevin Buzzard (the Lean guy)

- general reflection on proof asssistants/theorem provers
- Kevin Hale's formal abstracts project, etc
- thinks of available theorem provers, Lean is "[the only one currently available that may be capable of formalizing all of mathematics eventually]" (goes into more detail right at the end, eg, quotient types)
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5 weeks ago by nhaliday
What do executives do, anyway? - apenwarr
To paraphrase the book, the job of an executive is: to define and enforce culture and values for their whole organization, and to ratify good decisions.

That's all.

Not to decide. Not to break ties. Not to set strategy. Not to be the expert on every, or any topic. Just to sit in the room while the right people make good decisions in alignment with their values. And if they do, to endorse it. And if they don't, to send them back to try again.

There's even an algorithm for this.
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7 weeks ago by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : How Idealists Aid Cheaters
I’ve been reading the book Moral Mazes for the last few months; it is excellent, but also depressing, which is why it takes so long to read. It makes a strong case, through many detailed examples, that in typical business organizations, norms are actually enforced far less than members pretend. The typical level of checking is in fact far too little to effectively enforce common norms, such as against self-dealing, bribery, accounting lies, fair evaluation of employees, and treating similar customers differently. Combining this data with other things I know, I’m convinced that this applies not only in business, but in human behavior more generally.

We often argue about this key parameter of how hard or necessary it is to enforce norms. Cynics tend to say that it is hard and necessary, while idealists tend to say that it is easy and unnecessary. This data suggests that cynics tend more to be right, even as idealists tend to win our social arguments.

One reason idealists tend to win arguments is that they impugn the character and motives of cynics. They suggest that cynics can more easily see opportunities for cheating because cynics in fact intend to and do cheat more, or that cynics are losers who seek to make excuses for their failures, by blaming the cheating of others. Idealists also tend to say what while other groups may have norm enforcement problems, our group is better, which suggests that cynics are disloyal to our group.

Norm enforcement is expensive, but worth it if we have good social norms, that discourage harmful behaviors. Yet if we under-estimate how hard norms are to enforce, we won’t check enough, and cheaters will get away with cheating, canceling much of the benefit of the norm. People who privately know this fact will gain by cheating often, as they know they can get away with it. Conversely, people who trust norm enforcement to work will be cheated on, and lose.

When confronted with data, idealists often argue, successfully, that it is good if people tend to overestimate the effectiveness of norm enforcement, as this will make them obey norms more, to everyone’s benefit. They give this as a reason to teach this overestimate in schools and in our standard public speeches. And so that is what societies tend to do. Which benefits those who, even if they give lip service to this claim in public, are privately selfish enough to know it is a lie, and are willing to cheat on the larger pool of gullible victims that this policy creates.

That is, idealists aid cheaters.
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10 weeks ago by nhaliday
[Tutorial] A way to Practice Competitive Programming : From Rating 1000 to 2400+ - Codeforces
this guy really didn't take that long to reach red..., as of today he's done 20 contests in 2y to my 44 contests in 7y (w/ a long break)...>_>

tho he has 3 times as many submissions as me. maybe he does a lot of virtual rounds?

some snippets from the PDF guide linked:
1400-1900:
To be rating 1900, skills as follows are needed:
- You know and can use major algorithms like these:
Brute force DP DFS BFS Dijkstra
Binary Indexed Tree nCr, nPr Mod inverse Bitmasks Binary Search
- You can code faster (For example, 5 minutes for R1100 problems, 10 minutes for
R1400 problems)

If you are not good at fast-coding and fast-debugging, you should solve AtCoder problems. Actually, and statistically, many Japanese are good at fast-coding relatively while not so good at solving difficult problems. I think that’s because of AtCoder.

I recommend to solve problem C and D in AtCoder Beginner Contest. On average, if you can solve problem C of AtCoder Beginner Contest within 10 minutes and problem D within 20 minutes, you are Div1 in FastCodingForces :)

...

Interestingly, typical problems are concentrated in Div2-only round problems. If you are not good at Div2-only round, it is likely that you are not good at using typical algorithms, especially 10 algorithms that are written above.

If you can use some typical problem but not good at solving more than R1500 in Codeforces, you should begin TopCoder. This type of practice is effective for people who are good at Div.2 only round but not good at Div.1+Div.2 combined or Div.1+Div.2 separated round.

Sometimes, especially in Div1+Div2 round, some problems need mathematical concepts or thinking. Since there are a lot of problems which uses them (and also light-implementation!) in TopCoder, you should solve TopCoder problems.

I recommend to solve Div1Easy of recent 100 SRMs. But some problems are really difficult, (e.g. even red-ranked coder could not solve) so before you solve, you should check how many percent of people did solve this problem. You can use https://competitiveprogramming.info/ to know some informations.

1900-2200:
To be rating 2200, skills as follows are needed:
- You know and can use 10 algorithms which I stated in pp.11 and segment trees
(including lazy propagations)
- You can solve problems very fast: For example, 5 mins for R1100, 10 mins for
R1500, 15 mins for R1800, 40 mins for R2000.
- You have decent skills for mathematical-thinking or considering problems
- Strong mental which can think about the solution more than 1 hours, and don’t give up even if you are below average in Div1 in the middle of the contest

This is only my way to practice, but I did many virtual contests when I was rating 2000. In this page, virtual contest does not mean “Virtual Participation” in Codeforces. It means choosing 4 or 5 problems which the difficulty is near your rating (For example, if you are rating 2000, choose R2000 problems in Codeforces) and solve them within 2 hours. You can use https://vjudge.net/. In this website, you can make virtual contests from problems on many online judges. (e.g. AtCoder, Codeforces, Hackerrank, Codechef, POJ, ...)

If you cannot solve problem within the virtual contests and could not be able to find the solution during the contest, you should read editorial. Google it. (e.g. If you want to know editorial of Codeforces Round #556 (Div. 1), search “Codeforces Round #556 editorial” in google) There is one more important thing to gain rating in Codeforces. To solve problem fast, you should equip some coding library (or template code). For example, I think that equipping segment tree libraries, lazy segment tree libraries, modint library, FFT library, geometry library, etc. is very effective.

2200 to 2400:
Rating 2200 and 2400 is actually very different ...

To be rating 2400, skills as follows are needed:
- You should have skills that stated in previous section (rating 2200)
- You should solve difficult problems which are only solved by less than 100 people in Div1 contests

...

At first, there are a lot of educational problems in AtCoder. I recommend you should solve problem E and F (especially 700-900 points problem in AtCoder) of AtCoder Regular Contest, especially ARC058-ARC090. Though old AtCoder Regular Contests are balanced for “considering” and “typical”, but sadly, AtCoder Grand Contest and recent AtCoder Regular Contest problems are actually too biased for considering I think, so I don’t recommend if your goal is gain rating in Codeforces. (Though if you want to gain rating more than 2600, you should solve problems from AtCoder Grand Contest)

For me, actually, after solving AtCoder Regular Contests, my average performance in CF virtual contest increased from 2100 to 2300 (I could not reach 2400 because start was early)

If you cannot solve problems, I recommend to give up and read editorial as follows:
Point value 600 700 800 900 1000-
CF rating R2000 R2200 R2400 R2600 R2800
Time to editorial 40 min 50 min 60 min 70 min 80 min

If you solve AtCoder educational problems, your skills of competitive programming will be increased. But there is one more problem. Without practical skills, you rating won’t increase. So, you should do 50+ virtual participations (especially Div.1) in Codeforces. In virtual participation, you can learn how to compete as a purple/orange-ranked coder (e.g. strategy) and how to use skills in Codeforces contests that you learned in AtCoder. I strongly recommend to read editorial of all problems except too difficult one (e.g. Less than 30 people solved in contest) after the virtual contest. I also recommend to write reflections about strategy, learns and improvements after reading editorial on notebooks after the contests/virtual.

In addition, about once a week, I recommend you to make time to think about much difficult problem (e.g. R2800 in Codeforces) for couple of hours. If you could not reach the solution after thinking couple of hours, I recommend you to read editorial because you can learn a lot. Solving high-level problems may give you chance to gain over 100 rating in a single contest, but also can give you chance to solve easier problems faster.
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august 2019 by nhaliday
Sage: Open Source Mathematics Software: You don't really think that Sage has failed, do you?
> P.S. You don't _really_ think that Sage has failed, do you?

After almost exactly 10 years of working on the Sage project, I absolutely do think it has failed to accomplish the stated goal of the mission statement: "Create a viable free open source alternative to Magma, Maple, Mathematica and Matlab.".     When it was only a few years into the project, it was really hard to evaluate progress against such a lofty mission statement.  However, after 10 years, it's clear to me that not only have we not got there, we are not going to ever get there before I retire.   And that's definitely a failure.   
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july 2019 by nhaliday
The Scholar's Stage: Book Notes—Strategy: A History
https://twitter.com/Scholars_Stage/status/1151681120787816448
https://archive.is/Bp5eu
Freedman's book is something of a shadow history of Western intellectual thought between 1850 and 2010. Marx, Tolstoy, Foucault, game theorists, economists, business law--it is all in there.

Thus the thoughts prompted by this book have surprisingly little to do with war.
Instead I am left with questions about the long-term trajectory of Western thought. Specifically:

*Has America really dominated Western intellectual life in the post 45 world as much as English speakers seem to think it has?
*Has the professionalization/credential-iization of Western intellectual life helped or harmed our ability to understand society?
*Will we ever recover from the 1960s?
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july 2019 by nhaliday
Which of Haskell and OCaml is more practical? For example, in which aspect will each play a key role? - Quora
- Tikhon Jelvis,

Haskell.

This is a question I'm particularly well-placed to answer because I've spent quite a bit of time with both Haskell and OCaml, seeing both in the real world (including working at Jane Street for a bit). I've also seen the languages in academic settings and know many people at startups using both languages. This gives me a good perspective on both languages, with a fairly similar amount of experience in the two (admittedly biased towards Haskell).

And so, based on my own experience rather than the languages' reputations, I can confidently say it's Haskell.

Parallelism and Concurrency

...

Libraries

...

Typeclasses vs Modules

...

In some sense, OCaml modules are better behaved and founded on a sounder theory than Haskell typeclasses, which have some serious drawbacks. However, the fact that typeclasses can be reliably inferred whereas modules have to be explicitly used all the time more than makes up for this. Moreover, extensions to the typeclass system enable much of the power provided by OCaml modules.

...

Of course, OCaml has some advantages of its own as well. It has a performance profile that's much easier to predict. The module system is awesome and often missed in Haskell. Polymorphic variants can be very useful for neatly representing certain situations, and don't have an obvious Haskell analog.

While both languages have a reasonable C FFI, OCaml's seems a bit simpler. It's hard for me to say this with any certainty because I've only used the OCaml FFI myself, but it was quite easy to use—a hard bar for Haskell's to clear. One really nice use of modules in OCaml is to pass around values directly from C as abstract types, which can help avoid extra marshalling/unmarshalling; that seemed very nice in OCaml.

However, overall, I still think Haskell is the more practical choice. Apart from the reasoning above, I simply have my own observations: my Haskell code tends to be clearer, simpler and shorter than my OCaml code. I'm also more productive in Haskell. Part of this is certainly a matter of having more Haskell experience, but the delta is limited especially as I'm working at my third OCaml company. (Of course, the first two were just internships.)

Both Haskell and OCaml are uniquivocally superb options—miles ahead of any other languages I know. While I do prefer Haskell, I'd choose either one in a pinch.

--
I've looked at F# a bit, but it feels like it makes too many tradeoffs to be on .NET. You lose the module system, which is probably OCaml's best feature, in return for an unfortunate, nominally typed OOP layer.

I'm also not invested in .NET at all: if anything, I'd prefer to avoid it in favor of simplicity. I exclusively use Linux and, from the outside, Mono doesn't look as good as it could be. I'm also far more likely to interoperate with a C library than a .NET library.

If I had some additional reason to use .NET, I'd definitely go for F#, but right now I don't.

https://www.reddit.com/r/haskell/comments/3huexy/what_are_haskellers_critiques_of_f_and_ocaml/
https://www.reddit.com/r/haskell/comments/3huexy/what_are_haskellers_critiques_of_f_and_ocaml/cub5mmb/
Thinking about it now, it boils down to a single word: expressiveness. When I'm writing OCaml, I feel more constrained than when I'm writing Haskell. And that's important: unlike so many others, what first attracted me to Haskell was expressiveness, not safety. It's easier for me to write code that looks how I want it to look in Haskell. The upper bound on code quality is higher.

...

Perhaps it all boils down to OCaml and its community feeling more "worse is better" than Haskell, something I highly disfavor.

...

Laziness or, more strictly, non-strictness is big. A controversial start, perhaps, but I stand by it. Unlike some, I do not see non-strictness as a design mistake but as a leap in abstraction. Perhaps a leap before its time, but a leap nonetheless. Haskell lets me program without constantly keeping the code's order in my head. Sure, it's not perfect and sometimes performance issues jar the illusion, but they are the exception not the norm. Coming from imperative languages where order is omnipresent (I can't even imagine not thinking about execution order as I write an imperative program!) it's incredibly liberating, even accounting for the weird issues and jinks I'd never see in a strict language.

This is what I imagine life felt like with the first garbage collectors: they may have been slow and awkward, the abstraction might have leaked here and there, but, for all that, it was an incredible advance. You didn't have to constantly think about memory allocation any more. It took a lot of effort to get where we are now and garbage collectors still aren't perfect and don't fit everywhere, but it's hard to imagine the world without them. Non-strictness feels like it has the same potential, without anywhere near the work garbage collection saw put into it.

...

The other big thing that stands out are typeclasses. OCaml might catch up on this front with implicit modules or it might not (Scala implicits are, by many reports, awkward at best—ask Edward Kmett about it, not me) but, as it stands, not having them is a major shortcoming. Not having inference is a bigger deal than it seems: it makes all sorts of idioms we take for granted in Haskell awkward in OCaml which means that people simply don't use them. Haskell's typeclasses, for all their shortcomings (some of which I find rather annoying), are incredibly expressive.

In Haskell, it's trivial to create your own numeric type and operators work as expected. In OCaml, while you can write code that's polymorphic over numeric types, people simply don't. Why not? Because you'd have to explicitly convert your literals and because you'd have to explicitly open a module with your operators—good luck using multiple numeric types in a single block of code! This means that everyone uses the default types: (63/31-bit) ints and doubles. If that doesn't scream "worse is better", I don't know what does.

...

There's more. Haskell's effect management, brought up elsewhere in this thread, is a big boon. It makes changing things more comfortable and makes informal reasoning much easier. Haskell is the only language where I consistently leave code I visit better than I found it. Even if I hadn't worked on the project in years. My Haskell code has better longevity than my OCaml code, much less other languages.

http://blog.ezyang.com/2011/02/ocaml-gotchas/
One observation about purity and randomness: I think one of the things people frequently find annoying in Haskell is the fact that randomness involves mutation of state, and thus be wrapped in a monad. This makes building probabilistic data structures a little clunkier, since you can no longer expose pure interfaces. OCaml is not pure, and as such you can query the random number generator whenever you want.

However, I think Haskell may get the last laugh in certain circumstances. In particular, if you are using a random number generator in order to generate random test cases for your code, you need to be able to reproduce a particular set of random tests. Usually, this is done by providing a seed which you can then feed back to the testing script, for deterministic behavior. But because OCaml's random number generator manipulates global state, it's very easy to accidentally break determinism by asking for a random number for something unrelated. You can work around it by manually bracketing the global state, but explicitly handling the randomness state means providing determinism is much more natural.
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june 2019 by nhaliday
Why is reverse debugging rarely used? - Software Engineering Stack Exchange
(time travel)

For one, running in debug mode with recording on is very expensive compared to even normal debug mode; it also consumes a lot more memory.

It is easier to decrease the granularity from line level to function call level. For example, the standard debugger in eclipse allows you to "drop to frame," which is essentially a jump back to the start of the function with a reset of all the parameters (nothing done on the heap is reverted, and finally blocks are not executed, so it is not a true reverse debugger; be careful about that).

Note that this has been available for several years now and works hand in hand with hot-code replacement.
--
As mentioned already, performance is key e.g. with gdb's reversible debugging, running something like gzip sees a slowdown of 50,000x compared to running natively. There are commercial alternatives however: I work for Undo undo.io, and our UndoDB product does the same but with a slowdown of less than 2x. There are other commercial reversible debuggers available too.

https://undo.io
Based on GDB, UndoDB supports source-level debugging for applications written in any language supported by GDB, including C/C++, Rust and Ada.
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may 2019 by nhaliday
"Humankind is unique in its incapacity to learn from experience" | New Humanist
Your new book claims atheism is a “closed system of thought”. Why so?
--
Because atheists of a certain kind imagine that by rejecting monotheistic beliefs they step out of a monotheistic way of thinking. Actually, they have inherited all of its rigidities and assumptions. Namely, the idea that there is a universal history; that there is something like a collective human agent; or a universal way of life. These are all Christian ideals. Christianity itself is also a much more complex belief system than most contemporary atheists allow for. But then most of these atheists know very little about the history of religion.

Particularly, you argue, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. What is your disagreement with them?
--
They treat religion as a kind of intellectual error; something only the crudest of Enlightenment thinkers believed. Not every human being has a religious sensibility, but pretty much all human cultures do. Neither Dawkins or Harris are interesting enough to discuss this at length.

Dawkins is really not worth discussing or engaging with at all. He is an ideologue of Darwinism and knows very little about religion, treating it as a kind of a priori notion, rather than the complex social, and anthropological set of ideas which religion usually entails. Harris is partially interesting, in that he talks about how all human values can be derived from science. But I object strongly to that idea.

...

You are hugely critical of modern liberalism: what is your main problem with the ideology?
--
That it’s immune to empirical evidence. It’s a form of dogmatic faith. If you are a monotheist it makes sense – I myself am not saying it’s true or right – to say that there is only one way of life for all of humankind. And so you should try and convert the rest of humanity to that faith.

But if you are not a monotheist, and you claim to be an atheist, it makes no sense to claim that there is only one way of life. There may be some good and bad ways of living. And there may be some forms of barbarism, where human societies cannot flourish for very long. But there is no reason for thinking that there is only one way of life: the ones that liberal societies practice.

Why the liberal West is a Christian creation: https://www.newstatesman.com/dominion-making-western-mind-tom-holland-review
Christianity is dismissed as a fairy tale but its assumptions underpin the modern secular world.
- John Gray

Secular liberals dismiss Christianity as a fairy tale, but their values and their view of history remain essentially Christian. The Christian story tells of the son of God being put to death on a cross. In the Roman world, this was the fate of criminals and those who challenged imperial power. Christianity brought with it a moral revolution. The powerless came to be seen as God’s children, and therefore deserving of respect as much as the highest in society. History was a drama of sin and redemption in which God – acting through his son – was on the side of the weak.

Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind
Tom Holland
Little, Brown & Co, 624pp, £25

The Origin of the Secular Species: https://kirkcenter.org/reviews/the-origin-of-the-secular-species/
Reviewed by Ben Sixsmith

A great strength of Holland’s book is how it takes the reader back to when Christianity was not institutional and traditional but new and revolutionary. “[Corinth] had a long tradition of hosting eccentrics,” Holland writes in one wry passage:

> Back in the time of Alexander, the philosopher Diogenes had notoriously proclaimed his contempt for the norms of society by living in a large jar and masturbating in public. Paul, though, demanded a far more total recalibration of their most basic assumptions.

Christianity came not with a triumphant warrior wielding his sword, but with a traveling carpenter nailed to a cross; it came not with God as a distant and unimaginable force but with God as man, walking among his followers; it came not with promises of tribal dominance but with the hope of salvation across classes and races.

...

This may sound more pragmatic than liberal but it does reflect a strange, for the time, confidence in the power of education to shape the beliefs of the common man. Holland is keen to emphasize these progressive elements of history that he argues, with some justice, have helped to shape the modern world. Charity became enshrined in legislation, for example, as being able to access the necessities of life became “in a formulation increasingly deployed by canon lawyers” a human “right.”

...

This is, I think, a simplification of Galatians 3:28 that makes it more subversive than it actually is. Adolescents and octogenarians are equally eligible for salvation, in the Christian faith, but that does not mean that they have equal earthly functions.

Holland’s stylistic talents add a great deal to the book. His portraits of Boniface, Luther, and Calvin are vivid, evocative, and free of romanticization or its opposite. Some of his accounts of episodes in religious history are a little superficial—he could have read Helen Andrews for a more complicated portrait of Bartolomé de las Casas, for example—but a sweeping historical narrative without superficial aspects would be like an orchard with no bruising on the fruit. It is only natural.

...

We have to look not just at what survives of Christianity but what has been lost. I agree with Holland that the natural sciences can be aligned with Christian belief, but the predominant explanatory power of secular authorities has inarguably weakened the faith. The abandonment of metaphysics, on which Christian scholarship was founded, was another grievous blow. Finally, the elevation of choice to the highest principles of culture indulges worldly desire over religious adherence. Christianity, in Holland’s book, is a genetic relic.

Still, the tension of Dominion is a haunting one: the tension, that is, between the revolutionary and conservative implications of the Christian faith. On the British right, we—and especially those of us who are not believers—sometimes like to think of Christianity in a mild Scrutonian sense, as a source of wonder, beauty, and social cohesion. What hums throughout Dominion, though, is the intense evangelical spirit of the faith. The most impressive person in the book is St. Paul, striding between cities full of spiritual vigor. Why? Because it was God’s will. And because, as Jean Danielou wrote in his striking little book Prayer as a Political Problem:

> Christ has come to save all that has been made. Redemption is concerned with all creation …

This is not to claim that true Christians are fanatical. Paul himself, as Holland writes, was something of a realist. But the desire to spread the faith is essential to it—the animated evidence of its truth.
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october 2018 by nhaliday
Lateralization of brain function - Wikipedia
Language
Language functions such as grammar, vocabulary and literal meaning are typically lateralized to the left hemisphere, especially in right handed individuals.[3] While language production is left-lateralized in up to 90% of right-handers, it is more bilateral, or even right-lateralized, in approximately 50% of left-handers.[4]

Broca's area and Wernicke's area, two areas associated with the production of speech, are located in the left cerebral hemisphere for about 95% of right-handers, but about 70% of left-handers.[5]:69

Auditory and visual processing
The processing of visual and auditory stimuli, spatial manipulation, facial perception, and artistic ability are represented bilaterally.[4] Numerical estimation, comparison and online calculation depend on bilateral parietal regions[6][7] while exact calculation and fact retrieval are associated with left parietal regions, perhaps due to their ties to linguistic processing.[6][7]

...

Depression is linked with a hyperactive right hemisphere, with evidence of selective involvement in "processing negative emotions, pessimistic thoughts and unconstructive thinking styles", as well as vigilance, arousal and self-reflection, and a relatively hypoactive left hemisphere, "specifically involved in processing pleasurable experiences" and "relatively more involved in decision-making processes".

Chaos and Order; the right and left hemispheres: https://orthosphere.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/chaos-and-order-the-right-and-left-hemispheres/
In The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist writes that a creature like a bird needs two types of consciousness simultaneously. It needs to be able to focus on something specific, such as pecking at food, while it also needs to keep an eye out for predators which requires a more general awareness of environment.

These are quite different activities. The Left Hemisphere (LH) is adapted for a narrow focus. The Right Hemisphere (RH) for the broad. The brains of human beings have the same division of function.

The LH governs the right side of the body, the RH, the left side. With birds, the left eye (RH) looks for predators, the right eye (LH) focuses on food and specifics. Since danger can take many forms and is unpredictable, the RH has to be very open-minded.

The LH is for narrow focus, the explicit, the familiar, the literal, tools, mechanism/machines and the man-made. The broad focus of the RH is necessarily more vague and intuitive and handles the anomalous, novel, metaphorical, the living and organic. The LH is high resolution but narrow, the RH low resolution but broad.

The LH exhibits unrealistic optimism and self-belief. The RH has a tendency towards depression and is much more realistic about a person’s own abilities. LH has trouble following narratives because it has a poor sense of “wholes.” In art it favors flatness, abstract and conceptual art, black and white rather than color, simple geometric shapes and multiple perspectives all shoved together, e.g., cubism. Particularly RH paintings emphasize vistas with great depth of field and thus space and time,[1] emotion, figurative painting and scenes related to the life world. In music, LH likes simple, repetitive rhythms. The RH favors melody, harmony and complex rhythms.

...

Schizophrenia is a disease of extreme LH emphasis. Since empathy is RH and the ability to notice emotional nuance facially, vocally and bodily expressed, schizophrenics tend to be paranoid and are often convinced that the real people they know have been replaced by robotic imposters. This is at least partly because they lose the ability to intuit what other people are thinking and feeling – hence they seem robotic and suspicious.

Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West as well as McGilchrist characterize the West as awash in phenomena associated with an extreme LH emphasis. Spengler argues that Western civilization was originally much more RH (to use McGilchrist’s categories) and that all its most significant artistic (in the broadest sense) achievements were triumphs of RH accentuation.

The RH is where novel experiences and the anomalous are processed and where mathematical, and other, problems are solved. The RH is involved with the natural, the unfamiliar, the unique, emotions, the embodied, music, humor, understanding intonation and emotional nuance of speech, the metaphorical, nuance, and social relations. It has very little speech, but the RH is necessary for processing all the nonlinguistic aspects of speaking, including body language. Understanding what someone means by vocal inflection and facial expressions is an intuitive RH process rather than explicit.

...

RH is very much the center of lived experience; of the life world with all its depth and richness. The RH is “the master” from the title of McGilchrist’s book. The LH ought to be no more than the emissary; the valued servant of the RH. However, in the last few centuries, the LH, which has tyrannical tendencies, has tried to become the master. The LH is where the ego is predominantly located. In split brain patients where the LH and the RH are surgically divided (this is done sometimes in the case of epileptic patients) one hand will sometimes fight with the other. In one man’s case, one hand would reach out to hug his wife while the other pushed her away. One hand reached for one shirt, the other another shirt. Or a patient will be driving a car and one hand will try to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction. In these cases, the “naughty” hand is usually the left hand (RH), while the patient tends to identify herself with the right hand governed by the LH. The two hemispheres have quite different personalities.

The connection between LH and ego can also be seen in the fact that the LH is competitive, contentious, and agonistic. It wants to win. It is the part of you that hates to lose arguments.

Using the metaphor of Chaos and Order, the RH deals with Chaos – the unknown, the unfamiliar, the implicit, the emotional, the dark, danger, mystery. The LH is connected with Order – the known, the familiar, the rule-driven, the explicit, and light of day. Learning something means to take something unfamiliar and making it familiar. Since the RH deals with the novel, it is the problem-solving part. Once understood, the results are dealt with by the LH. When learning a new piece on the piano, the RH is involved. Once mastered, the result becomes a LH affair. The muscle memory developed by repetition is processed by the LH. If errors are made, the activity returns to the RH to figure out what went wrong; the activity is repeated until the correct muscle memory is developed in which case it becomes part of the familiar LH.

Science is an attempt to find Order. It would not be necessary if people lived in an entirely orderly, explicit, known world. The lived context of science implies Chaos. Theories are reductive and simplifying and help to pick out salient features of a phenomenon. They are always partial truths, though some are more partial than others. The alternative to a certain level of reductionism or partialness would be to simply reproduce the world which of course would be both impossible and unproductive. The test for whether a theory is sufficiently non-partial is whether it is fit for purpose and whether it contributes to human flourishing.

...

Analytic philosophers pride themselves on trying to do away with vagueness. To do so, they tend to jettison context which cannot be brought into fine focus. However, in order to understand things and discern their meaning, it is necessary to have the big picture, the overview, as well as the details. There is no point in having details if the subject does not know what they are details of. Such philosophers also tend to leave themselves out of the picture even when what they are thinking about has reflexive implications. John Locke, for instance, tried to banish the RH from reality. All phenomena having to do with subjective experience he deemed unreal and once remarked about metaphors, a RH phenomenon, that they are “perfect cheats.” Analytic philosophers tend to check the logic of the words on the page and not to think about what those words might say about them. The trick is for them to recognize that they and their theories, which exist in minds, are part of reality too.

The RH test for whether someone actually believes something can be found by examining his actions. If he finds that he must regard his own actions as free, and, in order to get along with other people, must also attribute free will to them and treat them as free agents, then he effectively believes in free will – no matter his LH theoretical commitments.

...

We do not know the origin of life. We do not know how or even if consciousness can emerge from matter. We do not know the nature of 96% of the matter of the universe. Clearly all these things exist. They can provide the subject matter of theories but they continue to exist as theorizing ceases or theories change. Not knowing how something is possible is irrelevant to its actual existence. An inability to explain something is ultimately neither here nor there.

If thought begins and ends with the LH, then thinking has no content – content being provided by experience (RH), and skepticism and nihilism ensue. The LH spins its wheels self-referentially, never referring back to experience. Theory assumes such primacy that it will simply outlaw experiences and data inconsistent with it; a profoundly wrong-headed approach.

...

Gödel’s Theorem proves that not everything true can be proven to be true. This means there is an ineradicable role for faith, hope and intuition in every moderately complex human intellectual endeavor. There is no one set of consistent axioms from which all other truths can be derived.

Alan Turing’s proof of the halting problem proves that there is no effective procedure for finding effective procedures. Without a mechanical decision procedure, (LH), when it comes to … [more]
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september 2018 by nhaliday
Who We Are | West Hunter
I’m going to review David Reich’s new book, Who We Are and How We Got Here. Extensively: in a sense I’ve already been doing this for a long time. Probably there will be a podcast. The GoFundMe link is here. You can also send money via Paypal (Use the donate button), or bitcoins to 1Jv4cu1wETM5Xs9unjKbDbCrRF2mrjWXr5. In-kind donations, such as orichalcum or mithril, are always appreciated.

This is the book about the application of ancient DNA to prehistory and history.

height difference between northern and southern europeans: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/who-we-are-1/
mixing, genocide of males, etc.: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/who-we-are-2-purity-of-essence/
rapid change in polygenic traits (appearance by Kevin Mitchell and funny jab at Brad Delong ("regmonkey")): https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/rapid-change-in-polygenic-traits/
schiz, bipolar, and IQ: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/rapid-change-in-polygenic-traits/#comment-105605
Dan Graur being dumb: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/the-usual-suspects/
prediction of neanderthal mixture and why: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/03/who-we-are-3-neanderthals/
New Guineans tried to use Denisovan admixture to avoid UN sanctions (by "not being human"): https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/who-we-are-4-denisovans/
also some commentary on decline of Out-of-Africa, including:
"Homo Naledi, a small-brained homonin identified from recently discovered fossils in South Africa, appears to have hung around way later that you’d expect (up to 200,000 years ago, maybe later) than would be the case if modern humans had occupied that area back then. To be blunt, we would have eaten them."

Live Not By Lies: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/live-not-by-lies/
Next he slams people that suspect that upcoming genetic genetic analysis will, in most cases, confirm traditional stereotypes about race – the way the world actually looks.

The people Reich dumps on are saying perfectly reasonable things. He criticizes Henry Harpending for saying that he’d never seen an African with a hobby. Of course, Henry had actually spent time in Africa, and that’s what he’d seen. The implication is that people in Malthusian farming societies – which Africa was not – were selected to want to work, even where there was no immediate necessity to do so. Thus hobbies, something like a gerbil running in an exercise wheel.

He criticized Nicholas Wade, for saying that different races have different dispositions. Wade’s book wasn’t very good, but of course personality varies by race: Darwin certainly thought so. You can see differences at birth. Cover a baby’s nose with a cloth: Chinese and Navajo babies quietly breathe through their mouth, European and African babies fuss and fight.

Then he attacks Watson, for asking when Reich was going to look at Jewish genetics – the kind that has led to greater-than-average intelligence. Watson was undoubtedly trying to get a rise out of Reich, but it’s a perfectly reasonable question. Ashkenazi Jews are smarter than the average bear and everybody knows it. Selection is the only possible explanation, and the conditions in the Middle ages – white-collar job specialization and a high degree of endogamy, were just what the doctor ordered.

Watson’s a prick, but he’s a great prick, and what he said was correct. Henry was a prince among men, and Nick Wade is a decent guy as well. Reich is totally out of line here: he’s being a dick.

Now Reich may be trying to burnish his anti-racist credentials, which surely need some renewal after having pointing out that race as colloquially used is pretty reasonable, there’s no reason pops can’t be different, people that said otherwise ( like Lewontin, Gould, Montagu, etc. ) were lying, Aryans conquered Europe and India, while we’re tied to the train tracks with scary genetic results coming straight at us. I don’t care: he’s being a weasel, slandering the dead and abusing the obnoxious old genius who laid the foundations of his field. Reich will also get old someday: perhaps he too will someday lose track of all the nonsense he’s supposed to say, or just stop caring. Maybe he already has… I’m pretty sure that Reich does not like lying – which is why he wrote this section of the book (not at all logically necessary for his exposition of the ancient DNA work) but the required complex juggling of lies and truth required to get past the demented gatekeepers of our society may not be his forte. It has been said that if it was discovered that someone in the business was secretly an android, David Reich would be the prime suspect. No Talleyrand he.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/who-we-are-6-the-americas/
The population that accounts for the vast majority of Native American ancestry, which we will call Amerinds, came into existence somewhere in northern Asia. It was formed from a mix of Ancient North Eurasians and a population related to the Han Chinese – about 40% ANE and 60% proto-Chinese. Is looks as if most of the paternal ancestry was from the ANE, while almost all of the maternal ancestry was from the proto-Han. [Aryan-Transpacific ?!?] This formation story – ANE boys, East-end girls – is similar to the formation story for the Indo-Europeans.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/who-we-are-7-africa/
In some ways, on some questions, learning more from genetics has left us less certain. At this point we really don’t know where anatomically humans originated. Greater genetic variety in sub-Saharan African has been traditionally considered a sign that AMH originated there, but it possible that we originated elsewhere, perhaps in North Africa or the Middle East, and gained extra genetic variation when we moved into sub-Saharan Africa and mixed with various archaic groups that already existed. One consideration is that finding recent archaic admixture in a population may well be a sign that modern humans didn’t arise in that region ( like language substrates) – which makes South Africa and West Africa look less likely. The long-continued existence of homo naledi in South Africa suggests that modern humans may not have been there for all that long – if we had co-existed with homo naledi, they probably wouldn’t lasted long. The oldest known skull that is (probably) AMh was recently found in Morocco, while modern humans remains, already known from about 100,000 years ago in Israel, have recently been found in northern Saudi Arabia.

While work by Nick Patterson suggests that modern humans were formed by a fusion between two long-isolated populations, a bit less than half a million years ago.

So: genomics had made recent history Africa pretty clear. Bantu agriculuralists expanded and replaced hunter-gatherers, farmers and herders from the Middle East settled North Africa, Egypt and northeaat Africa, while Nilotic herdsmen expanded south from the Sudan. There are traces of earlier patterns and peoples, but today, only traces. As for questions back further in time, such as the origins of modern humans – we thought we knew, and now we know we don’t. But that’s progress.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/reichs-journey/
David Reich’s professional path must have shaped his perspective on the social sciences. Look at the record. He starts his professional career examining the role of genetics in the elevated prostate cancer risk seen in African-American men. Various social-science fruitcakes oppose him even looking at the question of ancestry ( African vs European). But they were wrong: certain African-origin alleles explain the increased risk. Anthropologists (and human geneticists) were sure (based on nothing) that modern humans hadn’t interbred with Neanderthals – but of course that happened. Anthropologists and archaeologists knew that Gustaf Kossina couldn’t have been right when he said that widespread material culture corresponded to widespread ethnic groups, and that migration was the primary explanation for changes in the archaeological record – but he was right. They knew that the Indo-European languages just couldn’t have been imposed by fire and sword – but Reich’s work proved them wrong. Lots of people – the usual suspects plus Hindu nationalists – were sure that the AIT ( Aryan Invasion Theory) was wrong, but it looks pretty good today.

Some sociologists believed that caste in India was somehow imposed or significantly intensified by the British – but it turns out that most jatis have been almost perfectly endogamous for two thousand years or more…

It may be that Reich doesn’t take these guys too seriously anymore. Why should he?

varnas, jatis, aryan invastion theory: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/22/who-we-are-8-india/

europe and EEF+WHG+ANE: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/05/01/who-we-are-9-europe/

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/03/book-review-david-reich-human-genes-reveal-history/
The massive mixture events that occurred in the recent past to give rise to Europeans and South Asians, to name just two groups, were likely “male mediated.” That’s another way of saying that men on the move took local women as brides or concubines. In the New World there are many examples of this, whether it be among African Americans, where most European ancestry seems to come through men, or in Latin America, where conquistadores famously took local women as paramours. Both of these examples are disquieting, and hint at the deep structural roots of patriarchal inequality and social subjugation that form the backdrop for the emergence of many modern peoples.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Charade | West Hunter
I was watching Charade the other day, not for the first time, and was noticing that the action scenes with Cary Grant (human fly, and fighting George Kennedy) really weren’t very convincing.  Age. But think what it would be like today: we’d see Audrey Hepburn kicking the living shit out of Kennedy, probably cutting his throat with his own claw – while still being utterly adorable.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/shtrafbats/
Was thinking about how there are far too many reviewers, and far too few movies worth reviewing. It might be fun to review the movies that should have been made, instead. Someone ought to make a movie about the life of Konstantin Rokossovsky – an officer arrested and tortured by Stalin (ended up with denailed fingers and steel teeth) who became one of the top Soviet generals. The story would be focused on his command of 16th Army in the final defense of Moscow – an army group composed entirely of penal battalions. The Legion of the Damned.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/shtrafbats/#comment-103767
There hasn’t been a good Gulag Archipelago movie, has there?

One historical movie that I’d really like to see would be about the defense of Malta by the Knights of St. John. That or the defense of Vienna. Either one would be very “timely”, which is a word many reviewers seem to misuse quite laughably these days.
--
My oldest son made the same suggestion – The Great Siege

Siege of Vienna – Drawing of the Dark?

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/shtrafbats/#comment-103846
The Conquest of New Spain.
--
Only Cortez was fully awake. Him and von Neumann.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Super Goethe | by Ferdinand Mount | The New York Review of Books
Goethe: Life as a Work of Art
by Rüdiger Safranski, translated from the German by David Dollenmayer
Liveright, 651 pp., $35.00
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Lynn Margulis | West Hunter
Margulis went on to theorize that symbiotic relationships between organisms are the dominant driving force of evolution. There certainly are important examples of this: as far as I know, every complex organism that digests cellulose manages it thru a symbiosis with various prokaryotes. Many organisms with a restricted diet have symbiotic bacteria that provide essential nutrients – aphids, for example. Tall fescue, a popular turf grass on golf courses, carries an endosymbiotic fungus. And so on, and on on.

She went on to oppose neodarwinism, particularly rejecting inter-organismal competition (and population genetics itself). From Wiki: [ She also believed that proponents of the standard theory “wallow in their zoological, capitalistic, competitive, cost-benefit interpretation of Darwin – having mistaken him… Neo-Darwinism, which insists on [the slow accrual of mutations by gene-level natural selection], is in a complete funk.”[8] ‘

...

You might think that Lynn Margulis is an example of someone that could think outside the box because she’d never even been able to find it in the first place – but that’s more true of autistic types [like Dirac or Turing], which I doubt she was in any way. I’d say that some traditional prejudices [dislike of capitalism and individual competition], combined with the sort of general looniness that leaves one open to unconventional ideas, drove her in a direction that bore fruit, more or less by coincidence. A successful creative scientist does not have to be right about everything, or indeed about much of anything: they need to contribute at least one new, true, and interesting thing.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/lynn-margulis/#comment-98174
“A successful creative scientist does not have to be right about everything, or indeed about much of anything: they need to contribute at least one new, true, and interesting thing.” Yes – it’s like old bands. As long as they have just one song in heavy rotation on the classic rock stations, they can tour endlessly – it doesn’t matter that they have only one or even no original members performing. A scientific example of this phenomena is Kary Mullins. He’ll always have PCR, even if a glowing raccoon did greet him with the words, “Good evening, Doctor.”

Nobel Savage: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v21/n13/steven-shapin/nobel-savage
Dancing Naked in the Mind Field by Kary Mullis

jet fuel can't melt steel beams: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/lynn-margulis/#comment-98201
You have to understand a subject extremely well to make arguments why something couldn’t have happened. The easiest cases involve some purported explanation violating a conservation law of physics: that wasn’t the case here.

Do I think you’re a hotshot, deeply knowledgeable about structural engineering, properties of materials, using computer models, etc? A priori, pretty unlikely. What are the odds that you know as much simple mechanics as I do? a priori, still pretty unlikely. Most likely, you’re talking through your hat.

Next, the conspiracy itself is unlikely: quite a few people would be involved – unlikely that none of them would talk. It’s not that easy to find people that would go along with such a thing, believe it or not. The Communists were pretty good at conspiracy, but people defected, people talked: not just Whittaker Chambers, not just Igor Gouzenko.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Review of Yuval Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/928472237052649472
https://archive.is/MPO5Q
Yuval Harari's prominent book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind gets a thorough and well deserved fisking by C.R. Hallpike.

For Harari the great innovation that separated us from the apes was what he calls the Cognitive Revolution, around 70,000 years ago when we started migrating out of Africa, which he thinks gave us the same sort of modern minds that we have now. 'At the individual level, ancient foragers were the most knowledgeable and skilful people in history...Survival in that area required superb mental abilities from everyone' (55), and 'The people who carved the Stadel lion-man some 30,000 years ago had the same physical, emotional, and intellectual abilities we have' (44). Not surprisingly, then, 'We'd be able to explain to them everything we know - from the adventures of Alice in Wonderland to the paradoxes of quantum physics - and they could teach us how their people view the world' (23).

It's a sweet idea, and something like this imagined meeting actually took place a few years ago between the linguist Daniel Everett and the Piraha foragers of the Amazon in Peru (Everett 2008). But far from being able to discuss quantum theory with them, he found that the Piraha couldn't even count, and had no numbers of any kind, They could teach Everett how they saw the world, which was entirely confined to the immediate experience of the here-and-now, with no interest in past or future, or really in anything that could not be seen or touched. They had no myths or stories, so Alice in Wonderland would have fallen rather flat as well.

...

Summing up the book as a whole, one has often had to point out how surprisingly little he seems to have read on quite a number of essential topics. It would be fair to say that whenever his facts are broadly correct they are not new, and whenever he tries to strike out on his own he often gets things wrong, sometimes seriously. So we should not judge Sapiens as a serious contribution to knowledge but as 'infotainment', a publishing event to titillate its readers by a wild intellectual ride across the landscape of history, dotted with sensational displays of speculation, and ending with blood-curdling predictions about human destiny. By these criteria it is a most successful book.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Brush Up Your Aeschylus
For most of its 100-year heyday, Greek tragedy's preference for the stylized, the abstract and the formal over anything we might think of as naturalistic was reflected both in the circumstances of its production (which, with elaborate masks and costumes and rigidly formalized music and dances, seems to have been a cross between Noh and grand opera) and in the dense, allusive, often hieratic formal language that the tragedians employed, one that fully exploited the considerable suppleness of ancient Greek. Needless to say, this language has posed problems for translators, who usually have to choose between conveying the literal meaning of the Greek -- crucial to understanding tragedy's intellectual and moral themes -- and its considerable poetic allure.

David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, the classicist translators who edited the University of Chicago Press series, which for the past two generations has been the standard American translation, generally opted for clarity of sense -- no doubt in reaction to the flowery, high (and highfalutin) diction that notoriously characterized earlier translations, none more so than the widely consulted Loeb Library translations. (''How camest thou to Earth's prophetic navel?'' the Loeb's Medea inquires of someone returning from Delphi.) The Chicago translations, with their crisp, straightforward and dignified English, manage on the whole to convey the meaning, if not always the varied styles, of the originals.

It is primarily in reaction to cautious translations like Chicago's that the University of Pennsylvania Press has begun its own ambitious new project: the reinterpretation of all the extant Greek drama -- both tragedy and comedy -- not by classics scholars but by contemporary poets, many of whom don't know any Greek at all and achieved their translations by consulting earlier English versions. According to the series' co-editor, David R. Slavitt, its aim is to freshen up the plays, providing the general public with translations that are ''performable, faithful to the texture . . . and the moment on stage, rather than the individual sequence of adjectives.'' Yet even if you accept these versions as interpretations rather than straight translations, as Slavitt invites us to do (ignoring the fact that the Penn versions are presented as ''translations'' that are ''loyal to the Greek originals'' and will become ''the standard for decades to come''), this new series is a disappointment thus far. Six of the projected 12 volumes are now available, and they are extremely uneven, providing neither the intellectual satisfactions of the original nor, it must be said, the compensatory pleasures of really distinguished English poetry. Indeed, the strained and unconvincing efforts at novelty that are this series' distinguishing characteristic suggest that the real goal here was, in the words of the press's director, Eric Halpern, ''to create a publishing event.''
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Where Has Progress Got Us? - NYTimes.com
THE TRUE AND ONLY HEAVEN Progress and Its Critics. By Christopher Lasch. 591 pp. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. $25.

reviewed by William Julius Wilson

Lower-middle-class culture, Mr. Lasch argues, reflects an emphasis on the family, the church and the neighborhood. A community's continuity is valued more highly than individual advancement, social solidarity is favored over social mobility and the maintenance of existing ways takes precedent over mainstream ideals of success. Parents want their children to succeed in life, but they also want them to be considerate of their elders, to willingly bear their responsibilities and to show courage under adversity. "More concerned with honor than with worldly ambition, they have less interest in the future than do upper-middle-class parents, who try to equip their children with the qualities required for competitive advancement."

Mr. Lasch acknowledges the provincialism and narrowness of lower-middle-class culture, and he does not deny that "it has produced racism, nativism, anti-intellectualism, and all the other evils so often cited by liberal critics." But, he maintains, in their zeal to condemn such objectionable traits, liberals have failed to see the valuable features of petty-bourgeois culture -- what he calls moral realism, skepticism about progress, respect for limits and understanding that everything has its price.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
The Complacent Intellectual Class | David V. Johnson
I WOULD LIKE TO COIN A PHRASE, the complacent intellectual class, to describe the overwhelming number of pundits, thought leaders, and policy wonks who accept, welcome, or even enforce slovenly scholarship. These people might, in the abstract, like research that maintains the highest standards, they might even consider themselves academics or bona fide researchers, when in fact they have lost the capacity of maintaining even the most basic standards of rigor.

I am motivated to do so after reading Tyler Cowen’s new book The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. I propose the term with some trepidation. Cowen—a George Mason University economist, libertarian theorist, and “legendary blogger” (to quote the book’s inset)—is often a smart commentator who puts his finger on a lot of interesting social phenomena, introduces novel ideas, and proves worth reading from time to time.

But books are different from blog posts and op-eds. And this book fails so glaringly that it makes me despair for this country’s literary culture and intellectual life in general. So let me use Cowen’s latest venture to illustrate what we should all demand from the work of our intellectual class, lest our nation continue to vegetate in the pretend-thinking of #AspenIdeas pseudo-academia.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
The Function of Reason | Edge.org
https://www.edge.org/conversation/hugo_mercier-the-argumentative-theory

How Social Is Reason?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/08/how-social-is-reason.html

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/02/open-thread-732017/
Reading The Enigma of Reason. Pretty good so far. Not incredibly surprising to me so far. To be clear, their argument is somewhat orthogonal to the whole ‘rationality’ debate you may be familiar with from Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s work (e.g., see Heuristics and Biases).

One of the major problems in analysis is that rationality, reflection and ratiocination, are slow and error prone. To get a sense of that, just read ancient Greek science. Eratosthenes may have calculated to within 1% of the true circumference of the world, but Aristotle’s speculations on the nature of reproduction were rather off.

You may be as clever as Eratosthenes, but most people are not. But you probably accept that the world is round and 24,901 miles around. If you are not American you probably are vague on miles anyway. But you know what the social consensus is, and you accept it because it seems reasonable.

One of the points in cultural evolution work is that a lot of the time rather than relying on your own intuition and or reason, it is far more effective and cognitively cheaper to follow social norms of your ingroup. I only bring this up because unfortunately many pathologies of our political and intellectual world today are not really pathologies. That is, they’re not bugs, but features.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/23/open-thread-07232017/
Finished The Enigma of Reason. The basic thesis that reasoning is a way to convince people after you’ve already come to a conclusion, that is, rationalization, was already one I shared. That makes sense since one of the coauthors, Dan Sperber, has been influential in the “naturalistic” school of anthropology. If you’ve read books like In Gods We Trust The Enigma of Reason goes fast. But it is important to note that the cognitive anthropology perspective is useful in things besides religion. I’m thinking in particular of politics.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/30/the-delusion-of-reasons-empire/
My point here is that many of our beliefs are arrived at in an intuitive manner, and we find reasons to justify those beliefs. One of the core insights you’ll get from The Enigma of Reason is that rationalization isn’t that big of a misfire or abuse of our capacities. It’s probably just a natural outcome for what and how we use reason in our natural ecology.

Mercier and Sperber contrast their “interactionist” model of what reason is for with an “intellectualist: model. The intellecutalist model is rather straightforward. It is one where individual reasoning capacities exist so that one may make correct inferences about the world around us, often using methods that mimic those in abstract elucidated systems such as formal logic or Bayesian reasoning. When reasoning doesn’t work right, it’s because people aren’t using it for it’s right reasons. It can be entirely solitary because the tools don’t rely on social input or opinion.

The interactionist model holds that reasoning exists because it is a method of persuasion within social contexts. It is important here to note that the authors do not believe that reasoning is simply a tool for winning debates. That is, increasing your status in a social game. Rather, their overall thesis seems to be in alignment with the idea that cognition of reasoning properly understood is a social process. In this vein they offer evidence of how juries may be superior to judges, and the general examples you find in the “wisdom of the crowds” literature. Overall the authors make a strong case for the importance of diversity of good-faith viewpoints, because they believe that the truth on the whole tends to win out in dialogic formats (that is, if there is a truth; they are rather unclear and muddy about normative disagreements and how those can be resolved).

The major issues tend to crop up when reasoning is used outside of its proper context. One of the literature examples, which you are surely familiar with, in The Enigma of Reason is a psychological experiment where there are two conditions, and the researchers vary the conditions and note wide differences in behavior. In particular, the experiment where psychologists put subjects into a room where someone out of view is screaming for help. When they are alone, they quite often go to see what is wrong immediately. In contrast, when there is a confederate of the psychologists in the room who ignores the screaming, people also tend to ignore the screaming.

The researchers know the cause of the change in behavior. It’s the introduction of the confederate and that person’s behavior. But the subjects when interviewed give a wide range of plausible and possible answers. In other words, they are rationalizing their behavior when called to justify it in some way. This is entirely unexpected, we all know that people are very good at coming up with answers to explain their behavior (often in the best light possible). But that doesn’t mean they truly understanding their internal reasons, which seem to be more about intuition.

But much of The Enigma of Reason also recounts how bad people are at coming up with coherent and well thought out rationalizations. That is, their “reasons” tend to be ad hoc and weak. We’re not very good at formal logic or even simple syllogistic reasoning. The explanation for this seems to be two-fold.

...

At this point we need to address the elephant in the room: some humans seem extremely good at reasoning in a classical sense. I’m talking about individuals such as Blaise Pascal, Carl Friedrich Gauss, and John von Neumann. Early on in The Enigma of Reason the authors point out the power of reason by alluding to Eratosthenes’s calculation of the circumference of the earth, which was only off by one percent. Myself, I would have mentioned Archimedes, who I suspect was a genius on the same level as the ones mentioned above.

Mercier and Sperber state near the end of the book that math in particular is special and a powerful way to reason. We all know this. In math the axioms are clear, and agreed upon. And one can inspect the chain of propositions in a very transparent manner. Mathematics has guard-rails for any human who attempts to engage in reasoning. By reducing the ability of humans to enter into unforced errors math is the ideal avenue for solitary individual reasoning. But it is exceptional.

Second, though it is not discussed in The Enigma of Reason there does seem to be variation in general and domain specific intelligence within the human population. People who flourish in mathematics usually have high general intelligences, but they also often exhibit a tendency to be able to engage in high levels of visual-spatial conceptualization.

One the whole the more intelligent you are the better you are able to reason. But that does not mean that those with high intelligence are immune from the traps of motivated reasoning or faulty logic. Mercier and Sperber give many examples. There are two. Linus Pauling was indisputably brilliant, but by the end of his life he was consistently pushing Vitamin C quackery (in part through a very selective interpretation of the scientific literature).* They also point out that much of Isaac Newton’s prodigious intellectual output turns out to have been focused on alchemy and esoteric exegesis which is totally impenetrable. Newton undoubtedly had a first class mind, but if the domain it was applied to was garbage, then the output was also garbage.

...

Overall, the take-homes are:

Reasoning exists to persuade in a group context through dialogue, not individual ratiocination.
Reasoning can give rise to storytelling when prompted, even if the reasons have no relationship to the underlying causality.
Motivated reasoning emerges because we are not skeptical of the reasons we proffer, but highly skeptical of reasons which refute our own.
The “wisdom of the crowds” is not just a curious phenomenon, but one of the primary reasons that humans have become more socially complex and our brains have larger.
Ultimately, if you want to argue someone out of their beliefs…well, good luck with that. But you should read The Enigma of Reason to understand the best strategies (many of them are common sense, and I’ve come to them independently simply through 15 years of having to engage with people of diverse viewpoints).

* R. A. Fisher, who was one of the pioneers of both evolutionary genetics and statistics, famously did not believe there was a connection between smoking and cancer. He himself smoked a pipe regularly.

** From what we know about Blaise Pascal and Isaac Newton, their personalities were such that they’d probably be killed or expelled from a hunter-gatherer band.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Conservation of Coercion - American Affairs Journal
The two faces of the Kapauku Papuans, and the way their anarchist-friendly political order rested on a deeply illiberal social order, neatly express how Technology and the End of Authority, by the Cato Institute scholar Jason Kuznicki, is both an interesting and a maddening book. Kuznicki states that he was inspired to write the book when he wondered why so many classical political philosophers, despite their disagreements over a vast number of topics, nevertheless all believed the nature and proper role of the state was the most important question concerning the proper organization of human affairs. Even libertarian and anarchist political theorists obsess about states, filling books with discussions of when and why we ought to reject them as illegitimate. The nature of their opposition implicitly concedes that the state, its value and purpose, is the central question for us to grapple with.

In contrast, Kuznicki invites us, if not to ignore the state, then at least to banish it from the forefront of our thinking. He asks us to consider states as just one tool among many that human societies have deployed to solve various sorts of problems. The state is neither God nor the Devil, but something pragmatic and unromantic—like a sewage system, or a town dump. Yes, we want it to function smoothly lest the place start to stink, but good taste demands that we not focus obsessively on its operation. Statecraft, like sanitation engineering, is a dirty job that somebody has to do, but unlike sanitation engineering it should also be a mildly embarrassing one. The notion that political means are a locus of the good, or that the state is imbued with the highest purposes of society, is as ridiculous as the notion that a city exists for its sewers rather than vice versa. So, Kuznicki suggests, we should treat anybody attempting to derive the correct or legitimate purposes of the state with the same skepticism with which we would view somebody waxing philosophical about a trash compactor. The real center of society, the topics worth debating and pondering, are all the other institutions—like markets, churches, sports teams, scientific schools, and families—whose existence the correct operation of the state supports.

...

The second implication of Kuznicki’s statecraft-as-engineering is that any determination about the proper role and behavior of government must remain unsettled not only by historical and cultural context, but also by the ambient level of technology. Kuznicki explores this at some length. He does not mean to make the common argument that the particular set of technologies deployed within a society can be more or less conducive to particular forms of government—as mass democracy might be encouraged by technologies of communication and travel, or as centralized autocracy might tend to arise in societies relying on large-scale irrigation for intensive agriculture. Rather, if the state is a tool for solving an array of otherwise intractable social problems, Kuznicki surmises, a newly discovered technological solution to such a problem could remove it from the state’s set of concerns—perhaps permanently.

...

What are the qualities of a society which make it more or less likely to be able to solve these dilemmas as they come up? Social scientists call societies that support commitment and enforcement mechanisms sufficient to overcome such dilemmas “high trust.” Some sources of social trust are mundane: for instance, it seems to make a big difference for a society to simply have a high enough median wealth that someone isn’t liable to be ruined if he or she takes a gamble on trusting a stranger and ends up getting cheated. Others are fuzzier: shared participation in churches, clubs, and social organizations can also significantly increase the degree of solidarity and trust in a community. Thinkers from Tocqueville to Robert Nisbet have pointed out the ways in which the ascendant state makes war upon and seeks to displace the “little platoons” of civil society. It is not well appreciated today that the reverse is also true: a “thick” culture rooted in shared norms and shared history can make the state less necessary by helping to raise the ambient level of social trust above whatever threshold makes it possible for citizens to organize and discipline themselves without state compulsion.

...

The story of the diamontaires ends with the whole system, private courts and all, falling apart following an influx of non-Hasidic actors into the New York diamond industry. But lack of trust and solidarity aren’t just problems if we want private courts. Yes, a very high degree of social trust can help to replace or displace state institutions, but any amount of trust tends to make governments more efficient and less corrupt. It isn’t a coincidence that many of the most successful governments on earth, whether efficient and well-run welfare states on the Scandinavian model or free-market havens boasting low taxes and few regulations, have been small, tight-knit, often culturally and linguistically homogeneous. Conversely, history’s most successful multiethnic polities have tended to be empires or confederations with a very high degree of provincial or local autonomy. Government is not a problem that scales gracefully: certainly not with number of citizens, but perhaps also not with number of constituent cultures. Those who love cosmopolitanism (among whom I count myself) talk a great deal about the incidental benefits it brings, and a great deal less about its drawbacks. I and other cosmopolitans love to exalt the dynamism that comes from diversity and the way it can help a society avoid falling into complacency. We are less willing to discuss the tiny invisible tax on everything and everybody that reduced social trust imposes, and the ways in which that will tend to make a nation more sclerotic.

In the absence of trust, every private commercial or social interaction becomes just a little bit more expensive, a little bit less efficient, and a little bit less likely to happen at all. Individuals are more cautious in their dealings with strangers, businesses are less likely to extend credit, everybody is a little more uncertain about the future, and people adjust their investment decisions accordingly. Individuals and businesses spend more money on bike locks, security systems, and real estate they perceive to be “safe,” rather than on the consumption or investment they would otherwise prefer. Critics of capitalism frequently observe that a liberal economic order depends upon, and sometimes cannibalizes, precapitalist sources of loyalty and affection. What if the same is true of political freedom more generally?

Some might object that even to consider such a thing is to give in to the forces of bigotry. But the whole point of taking a flinty-eyed engineer’s approach to state-building is that we don’t have to like the constraints we are working with, we just have to deal with them. The human preference for “people like us”—whether that means coreligionists or people who share our musical tastes, and whether we choose to frame it as bigotry or as game-theoretic rationality—is a stubborn, resilient reality. Perhaps in the future some advanced genetic engineering or psychological conditioning will change that. For now we need to recognize and deal with the fact that if we wish to have cosmopolitanism, we need to justify it on robust philosophical grounds, with full awareness of the costs as well as the benefits that it brings to bear on every member of society.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Muscle, steam and combustion
Vaclav Smil’s Energy and Civilization is a monumental history of how humanity has harnessed muscle, steam and combustion to build palaces and skyscrapers, light the night and land on the Moon. Want to learn about the number of labourers needed to build Egypt’s pyramids of Giza, or US inventor Thomas Edison’s battles with Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse to electrify homes and cities, or the upscaling of power stations and blast furnaces in the twentieth century? Look no further.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Book review: "Working Effectively with Legacy Code" by Michael C. Feathers - Eli Bendersky's website
The basic premise of the book is simple, and can be summarized as follows:

To improve some piece of code, we must be able to refactor it.
To be able to refactor code, we must have tests that prove our refactoring didn't break anything.
To have reasonable tests, the code has to be testable; that is, it should be in a form amenable to test harnessing. This most often means breaking implicit dependencies.
... and the author spends about 400 pages on how to achieve that. This book is dense, and it took me a long time to plow through it. I started reading linerarly, but very soon discovered this approach doesn't work. So I began hopping forward and backward between the main text and the "dependency-breaking techniques" chapter which holds isolated recipes for dealing with specific kinds of dependencies. There's quite a bit of repetition in the book, which makes it even more tedious to read.

The techniques described by the author are as terrible as the code they're up against. Horrible abuses of the preprocessor in C/C++, abuses of inheritance in C++ and Java, and so on. Particularly the latter is quite sobering. If you love OOP beware - this book may leave you disenchanted, if not full of hate.

To reiterate the conclusion I already presented earlier - get this book if you have to work with old balls of mud; it will be effort well spent. Otherwise, if you're working on one of those new-age continuously integrated codebases with a 2/1 test to code ratio, feel free to skip it.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
A Review of Avner Greif’s Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade
Avner Greif’s Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade (Cambridge University Press, 2006) is a major work in the ongoing project of many economists and economic historians to show that institutions are the fundamental driver of all economic history, and of all contemporary differences in economic performance. This review outlines the contribution of this book to the project and the general status of this long standing ambition.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Man's Future Birthright: Essays on Science and Humanity by H. J. Muller. - Reviewed by Theodosius Dobzhansky
Hermann J. Muller (1890-1967) was not only a great geneticist but a visionary full of messianic zeal, profoundly concerned about directing the evolutionary course of mankind toward what he believed a better future.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Django Unchained, or, The Help: How “Cultural Politics” Is Worse Than No Politics at All, and Why | nonsite.org
By Adolph Reed, Jr. (University of Pennsylvania)

This is a perspective that can provide some badly needed clarity on debates in contemporary politics regarding the relation of race, racism and inequality. For example, Ron and Rand Paul, libertarians of the highest order, do not oppose the 1964 Civil Rights Law because they hate, or even don’t like, black people. (And, for the record, whenever one finds oneself agreeing at all with Kanye West about anything, it’s time to take a step back, breathe deeply and reassess.) They oppose it, as they’ve made clear, because it infringes on property rights. They dislike black people because they understand, correctly, that black people are very likely to be prominent among those committed to pursuing greater equality. They oppose black people’s demands and all others intended to mitigate inequality because any efforts to do so would necessarily impinge on the absolute sanctity of property rights. I don’t mean to suggest that the Pauls aren’t racist; I’m pretty confident they are, no matter how much they might protest the assessment. My point is that determining whether they’re racist, then exposing and denouncing them for it, doesn’t reach to what is most consequentially wrong and dangerous about them or for that matter what makes their racism something more significant than that of the random bigot who lives around the corner on disability.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Who Closed the American Mind? | The American Conservative
Bloom relates that “I found myself responding to the professor of psychology that I personally tried to teach my students prejudices, since nowadays—with the general success of his method—they had learned to doubt beliefs even before they believed in anything … One has to have the experience of really believing before one can have the thrill of liberation.” Bloom’s preferred original title—before being overruled by Simon and Schuster—was Souls Without Longing. He was above all concerned that students, in being deprived of the experience of living in their own version of Plato’s cave, would never know or experience the opportunity of philosophic ascent.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
On the effects of inequality on economic growth | Nintil
After the discussion above, what should one think about the relationship between inequality and growth?

For starters, that the consensus of the literature points to our lack of knowledge, and the need to be very careful when studying these phenomena. As of today there is no solid consensus on the effects of inequality on growth. Tentatively, on the grounds of Neves et al.’s meta-analysis, we can conclude that the impact of inequality on developed countries is economically insignificant. This means that one can claim that inequality is good, bad, or neutral for growth as long as the effects claimed are small and one talks about developed countries. For developing countries, the relationships are more negative.

http://squid314.livejournal.com/320672.html
I recently finished The Spirit Level, subtitled "Why More Equal Societies Almost Almost Do Better", although "Five Million Different Scatter Plot Graphs Plus Associated Commentary" would also have worked. It was a pretty thorough manifesto for the best kind of leftism: the type that foregoes ideology and a priori arguments in exchange for a truckload of statistics showing that their proposed social remedies really work.

Inequality: some people know what they want to find: https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/economics/inequality-some-people-know-what-they-want-to-find

Inequality doesn’t matter: a primer: https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/inequality-doesnt-matter-a-primer

Inequality and visibility of wealth in experimental social networks: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature15392
- Akihiro Nishi, Hirokazu Shirado, David G. Rand & Nicholas A. Christakis

We show that wealth visibility facilitates the downstream consequences of initial inequality—in initially more unequal situations, wealth visibility leads to greater inequality than when wealth is invisible. This result reflects a heterogeneous response to visibility in richer versus poorer subjects. We also find that making wealth visible has adverse welfare consequences, yielding lower levels of overall cooperation, inter-connectedness, and wealth. High initial levels of economic inequality alone, however, have relatively few deleterious welfare effects.

https://twitter.com/NAChristakis/status/952315243572719617
https://archive.is/DpyAx
Our own work has shown that the *visibility* of inequality, more then the inequality per se, may be especially corrosive to the social fabric. https://www.nature.com/articles/nature15392 … I wonder if @WalterScheidel historical data sheds light on this idea? end 5/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Nancy MacLean Owes Tyler Cowen an Apology – Russ Roberts – Medium
https://notesonliberty.com/2017/06/26/james-buchanan-on-racism/
http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2017/06/nancy_macleans.html
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/448958/nancy-maclean-vs-tyler-cowen
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/06/28/some-dubious-claims-in-nancy-macleans-democracy-in-chains/
http://www.independent.org/issues/article.asp?id=9115
http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/wither-academic-ethics/
lol: https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/879717516184080384
hmm: https://twitter.com/razibkhan/status/891134709924868096
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/08/04/james-buchanan-was-committed-to-basic-democratic-values/
http://policytrajectories.asa-comparative-historical.org/2017/08/book-symposium-democracy-in-chains/
http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality/henry-farrell-steven-m-teles-when-politics-drives-scholarship
http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality/marshall-steinbaum-book-explains-charlottesville
https://twitter.com/Econ_Marshall/status/903289946357858306
https://archive.is/LalIc
So any political regime premised on defending property rights is race-biased. If you want to call that racist, I think it's justified.

lmao wut
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/09/01/georg-vanberg-democracy-in-chains-and-james-m-buchanan-on-school-integration/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/historical-fiction-at-duke-1508449507

The Bizarre Conspiracy Theory Nominated for a National Book Award: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/453408/nancy-macleans-democracy-chains-will-conspiracy-theory-win-national-book-award

https://thebaffler.com/salvos/master-class-on-the-make-hartman
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: The Pivot and American Statecraft in Asia
Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, critiques the Obama administration's so-called pivot to Asia. Australian strategists are a good source of analysis on this issue because they are caught in the middle and have to think realistically about the situation.

Whenever I see a book or article on this topic I quickly search for terms like DF-21, ASBM, ASCM, cruise missiles, satellite imaging, submarines, etc. The discussion cannot be serious or deep without an understanding of current military and technological capabilities of both sides. (See High V, Low M.)

...

This Aug 2016 RAND report delves into some of the relevant issues (see Appendix A, p.75). But it is not clear whether the 2025 or 2015 scenarios explored will be more realistic over the next few years. A weakness of the report is that it assumes US forces will undertake large scale conventional attack on the Chinese mainland (referred to as Air Sea Battle by US planners) relatively early in the conflict, without fear of nuclear retaliation. A real decision maker could not confidently make that assumption, PRC "no first use" declaration notwithstanding.

See also Future Warfare in the Western Pacific (International Security, Summer 2016) for a detailed analysis of A2AD capability, potentially practiced by both sides. I disagree with the authors' claim that the effectiveness of A2AD in 2040 will be limited to horizon distances (they assume all satellites have been destroyed). The authors neglect the possibility of large numbers of stealthy drone radar platforms (or micro-satellites) which are hard to detect until they activate to provide targeting data to incoming missiles.

This article by Peter Lee gives a realistic summary of the situation, including the role of nuclear weapons. As a journalist, Lee is not under the same political restrictions as RAND or others funded by the US military / defense industry. The survivability of the surface fleet (=aircraft carriers) and the escalatory nature of what is known as Air Sea Battle (=ASB) are both highly sensitive topics.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Everything Under the Heavens and China's Conceptualization of Power
These guys are not very quantitative, so let me clarify a part of their discussion that was left rather ambiguous. It is true that demographic trends are working against China, which has a rapidly aging population. French and Schell talk about a 10-15 year window during which China has to grow rich before it grows old (a well-traveled meme). From the standpoint of geopolitics this is probably not the correct or relevant analysis. China's population is ~4x that of the US. If, say, demographic trends limit this to only an effective 3x or 3.5x advantage in working age individuals, China still only has to reach ~1/3 of US per capita income in order to have a larger overall economy. It seems unlikely that there is any hard cutoff preventing China from reaching, say, 1/2 the US per capita GDP in a few decades. (Obviously a lot of this growth is still "catch-up" growth.) At that point its economy would be the largest in the world by far, and its scientific-technological workforce and infrastructure would be far larger than that of any other country.

- interesting point: China went from servile toward Japan to callous as soon as it surpassed Japan economically (I would bet this will apply to the US)
- conventional Chinese narrative for WW2: China won the Pacific Theater not the US
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/06/world/asia/chinas-textbooks-twist-and-omit-history.html
https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/06/a-story-about-world-war-ii-that-china-would-like-you-to-hear/259084/
- serious Chinese superiority complex overall
- "patriotic education", the fucking opposite of our god-awful ideology
- in Chinese history: each dynasty judges the last, unimpeachable
- ceding control of South China Sea would damage relations with neighboring countries (not enforcing their legitimate claims) and damage international norms (rule of law, etc.)
- next 10-15 years dangerous (Thucydides); of course Hsu criticizes
- suggestions: cultivate local alliances, prevent arms races, welcome Chinese international initiatives
I'm highly skeptical of all but the alliances
- ethnic melting in Chinese history, population structure (not actually as much as he thinks AFAIK), "age of nationalism", Tibet, etc.

Gideon Rachman writes for the FT, so it's not surprising that his instincts seem a bit stronger when it comes to economics. He makes a number of incisive observations during this interview.

---

At 16min, he mentions that
I was in Beijing about I guess a month before the vote [US election], in fact when the first debates were going on, and the Chinese, I thought that official Chinese [i.e. Government Officials] in our meeting and the sort of semi-official academics were clearly pulling for Trump.

---

I wonder if the standard of comparison shouldn't be with the West as a whole, not just the United States?

It depends on what happens to the EU, whether western powers other than the US want to play the role of global hegemon, etc.

The situation today is that the US is focused on preserving its primacy, wants to deny Russia and China any local sphere of influence, etc., whereas Europe has little appetite for any of it. They can barely allocate enough resources for their own defense.

Europe and the US have their own demographic problems to deal with in the coming decades. An aging population may turn out to be less challenging than the consequences of mass immigration (note population trends in Africa, so close to Europe).

If China behaved as an aggressive hegemon like the US or former USSR, it would probably elicit a collective back reaction from the West. But I think its first step is simply to consolidate influence over Asia.

---

interesting somewhat contrarian take on China's girth here: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/08/03/manufacturing-chinese-history-cheaply/

China Does Not Want Your Rules Based Order: http://scholars-stage.blogspot.com/2016/06/china-does-not-want-your-rules-based.html
There is much that is good in this narrative. McCain proclaims that "no nation has done as much to contribute to what China calls its “peaceful rise” as the United States of America." He is right to do so. No nation has done more to enable China's rise than America has. No country's citizens have done more for the general prosperity of the Chinese people than the Americans have. This is true in ways that are not widely known or immediately obvious. For example, the role American financiers and investment banks played in creating the architecture of modern Chinese financial markets and corporate structures is little realized, despite the size and importance of their interventions. Behind every great titan of Chinese industry--China Mobile, the world's largest mobile phone operator, China State Construction Engineering, whose IPO was valued at $7.3 billion, PetroChina, the most profitable company in Asia (well, before last year), to name a few of hundreds--lies an American investment banker. I do not exaggerate when I say Goldman Sachs created modern China. [2] China has much to thank America for.

...

In simpler terms, the Chinese equate “rising within a rules based order” with “halting China’s rise to power.” To live by Washington’s rules is to live under its power, and the Chinese have been telling themselves for three decades now that—after two centuries of hardship—they will not live by the dictates of outsiders ever again.

The Chinese will never choose our rules based order. That does not necessarily mean they want to dethrone America and throw down all that she has built. The Chinese do not have global ambitions. What they want is a seat at the table—and they want this seat to be recognized, not earned. That’s the gist of it. Beijing is not willing to accept an order it did not have a hand in creating. Thus all that G-2 talk we heard a few years back. The Chinese would love to found a new order balancing their honor and their interests with the Americans. It is a flattering idea. What they do not want is for the Americans to give them a list of hoops to jump through to gain entry into some pre-determined good-boys club. They feel like their power, wealth, and heritage should be more than enough to qualify for automatic entrance to any club.

https://twitter.com/Aelkus/status/928754578794958848
https://archive.is/NpLpR

Greer is even more pessimistic as of late:
https://scholars-stage.blogspot.com/2019/05/are-we-ready-for-what-comes-next.html
That is the political reality of the present moment. We will ride through this conflict not with the people we want, but with the people we have. But that people can be prepared. This is not the first time Americans have stood indifferent to the maneuvers of rising tyrannies. Indifference can be changed. It has been changed many times before.

But not by accident.

We do not face war. But we do face something like unto it. Economic weapons will be drawn and used. We will face a rough time. Before us lies an escalating circle of punishment and counter-punishment. The Chinese people will hurt dearly.

But so will ours.

Victory won will be worth its price. But that price will be paid. The Chinese understand this. They prepare their people for the contest that is coming.

We would be wise to follow their example.

https://scholars-stage.blogspot.com/2019/10/chinas-vision-of-victory.html
This book will not be pleasant reading for some. It is built on a hard foundation of official PRC and CPC statements, white papers, laws, and pronouncements—together these documents suggest that China's ambitions are far less limited than many Americans hope:
> China’s Vision of Victory is a useful antidote to the popular delusion that Chinese leaders seek nothing more than to roll back U.S. hegemony in the Western Pacific—or that they will be sated by becoming the dominant East Asian power. Despite presenting modest and peaceful ambitions to foreigners, the Chinese Communist Party leadership transparently communicates its desire for primacy to internal audiences. By guiding readers through a barrage of official documents, excerpted liberally throughout the book, Ward shows just how wide-ranging these ambitions are.
> To start with, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) already defines its maritime forces as a “two-ocean navy.” Chinese energy demands have led the PLA to extend its reach to Pakistan, Africa, and the disputed waters of the South China Sea. White papers spell out Chinese ambitions to be the primary strategic presence not just on the East Asian periphery but in Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Southern Pacific. China’s leadership claims that it has core economic interests as far abroad as Europe, Latin America, the Arctic, and outer space. With these economic interests come road maps for securing Chinese relationships or presence in each region.
> By 2050, the Chinese aim to have a military “second to none,” to become the global center for technology innovation, and to serve as the economic anchor of a truly global trade and infrastructure regime—an economic bloc that would be unprecedented in human history. In their speeches and documents, Chinese leaders call this vision of a China-centered future—a future where a U.S.-led system has been broken apart and discarded—a “community of common destiny for mankind.” That ambition debunks the myth of a multipolar future: China seeks dominance, not just a share of the pie.[1]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Links 6/17: Silinks Is Golden | Slate Star Codex
Vox tries its hand at an explainer about the Sam Harris / Charles Murray interview. Some criticism from Gene Expression, The Misrepresentation Of Genetic Science In The Vox Piece On Race And IQ. From Elan, The Cherry-Picked Science In Vox’s Charles Murray Article. From Sam Harris, an accusation that the article just blatantly lies about the contents of the publicly available podcast (one of the authors later apologizes for this, but Vox hasn’t changed the article). From Professor Emeritus Richard Haier, who called it a “junk science piece” and tried to write a counterpiece for Vox (they refused to publish it, but it’s now up on Quillette). And even from other Vox reporters who thought it was journalistically shoddy. As for me, I think the article was as good as it could be under the circumstances – while it does get some things wrong and is personally unfair to Murray, from a scientific point of view I’m just really glad that the piece admits that IQ is real, meaningful, and mostly hereditary. This was the main flashpoint of the original debate twenty-five years ago, it’s more important than the stuff on the achievement gap, and the piece gets it entirely right. I think this sort of shift from debating the very existence of intelligence to debating the details is important, very productive, and worth praising even when the details are kind of dubious. This should be read in the context of similar recent articles like NYMag’s Yes, There Is A Genetic Component To Intelligence and Nature’s Intelligence Research Should Not Be Held Back By Its Past.

interesting comment thread on media treatment of HBD and effect on alt-right: http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/14/links-617-silinks-is-golden/#comment-510641

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

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

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

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

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

New study finds that growth mindset is not associated with scholastic aptitude in a large sample of university applicants. Particularly excited about this one because an author said that my blog posts about growth mindset inspired the study. I’m honored to have been able to help the progress of science!
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Bald Men Fighting Over a Comb: Arguments About the Classical Tradition | Quillette
Defending Western History From Political Propaganda: http://quillette.com/2017/09/06/defending-western-history-political-propaganda/
White Pride and Prejudice: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/22/opinion/jane-austen-and-white-pride-and-prejudice.html
Conservatism and Classics…: https://bsixsmith.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/conservatism-and-classics/
To be sure, all kinds of men and women make superficial reference to the classics to ennoble their ideas. (Ms Zuckerberg wrote quite an entertaining piece on the Roman roots of pick-up artistry.) But what bugs progressive classicists is less, I think, the idea that actual fascists will seek inspiration in their field (where, after all, they will not find race mysticism, populism or especially pronounced anti-semitism) but the idea that the classics might inspire conservatism: special appreciation of European culture and attachment to its social, intellectual and artistic traditions. That people might consider the modern world, read the classics and wonder if one or two things have gone wrong along the way strikes even them as an all too plausible idea to imagine.

How I was Kicked Out of the Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting: https://quillette.com/2019/02/26/how-i-was-kicked-out-of-the-society-for-classical-studies-annual-meeting/
What happens when a scholar defends the teaching of great classical authors & traditions of Western Civilisation at the Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting?

She is shouted down and banned from future attendance at meetings. Video embedded.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Economic Growth in Ancient Greece | pseudoerasmus
Maybe land-and-dung expansion does not really require a fancy institutional explanation. Territory expanded, land yields rose, and people have always traded their surpluses. Why invoke “inclusive institutions”, as Ober effectively does, for something so mundane ? Perhaps the seminal cultural accomplishments of classical Greece bias some of us to look for “special” causes of the expansion.

Note, this is not an argument that political economy or “institutions” play no role in the rise and decline of economies. But in this particular case, so little seems established about the descriptive statistics, let alone the “growth accounting”, of Greek economic expansion in 800-300 BCE that it’s premature to be speculating about its institutional causes.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
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