nhaliday + c:***   29

Growing Collectivism: Irrigation, Group Conformity and Technological Divergence
This paper examines the origins of collectivist cultures that emphasize group conformity over individual autonomy. In line with the hypothesis that collaboration within groups in pre-industrial agriculture favored the emergence of collectivism, I find that societies whose ancestors jointly practiced irrigation agriculture have stronger collectivist norms today. The positive effect of irrigation on contemporary collectivism holds across countries, subnational districts within countries, and migrants. For causal identification, I instrument the historical adoption of irrigation by its geographic suitability. Furthermore, this paper establishes that, by favoring conformity, irrigation agriculture has contributed to the global divergence of technology. I document (i) a negative effect of traditional irrigation agriculture on contemporary innovativeness of countries, cities, and migrants; (ii) a positive effect on selection into routine-intensive occupations; and (iii) that the initial technological advantage of irrigation societies was reversed after 1500.

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/09/varying-rainfall-make-people-collectivists.html
This kind of investigation is always going to be fraught with uncertainty and also controversy, given imperfections of data and methods. Nonetheless I find this one of the more plausible macro-historical hypotheses, perhaps because of my own experience in central Mexico, where varying rainfall still is the most important economic event of the year, though it is rapidly being supplanted by the variability of tourist demand for arts and crafts. And yes, they are largely collectivist, at least at the clan level, with extensive systems of informal social insurance and very high implicit social marginal tax rates on accumulated wealth.

Have you noticed it rains a lot in England?

(lol)

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/05/chinese-wheat-eaters-vs-rice-eaters-speculative.html
http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1508726/why-chinas-wheat-growing-north-produces-individualists-and-its-rice
in-depth reflection on agricultural ecologies, Europe vs China, and internal Chinese differences/ethnic identity/relations with barbarians/nomads, etc.: https://www.gnxp.com/blog/2008/08/wealth-of-communities.php

Irrigation and Autocracy: http://www.econ.ku.dk/bentzen/Irrigation_and_Autocracy.pdf
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/08/in-defense-of-the-wittvogel-thesis.html

Emerging evidence of cultural differences linked to rice versus wheat agriculture: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X1930082X
- Historical rice farming linked to interdependent culture.
- Differences tested in China and Japan, as well as in worldwide comparison.
- There is evidence for differences among urbanites with no direct experience farming.
- Rice farming is also linked to holistic thought, fewer patents for inventions.
- Rice cultures are not ‘pro-social’ but rather tight ties, strong division of close versus distant ties.

The agricultural roots of Chinese innovation performance: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014292119300893
We provide robust evidence that counties with a legacy of rice cultivation generate fewer patent applications than other counties, and a legacy of wheat production tends to be associated with more patent applications. The results for rice are robust to, e.g., controlling for temperature, precipitation, irrigation, disease burden, religiosity, and corruption, as well as accounting for migration patterns.

Steve Hsu on this stuff:
Genetic variation in Han Chinese population: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/07/genetic-variation-in-han-chinese.html
Largest component of genetic variation is a N-S cline (phenotypic N-S gradient discussed here). Variance accounted for by second (E-W) PC vector is much smaller and the Han population is fairly homogeneous in genetic terms: ...while we revealed East-to-West structure among the Han Chinese, the signal is relatively weak and very little structure is discernible beyond the second PC (p.24).

Neandertal ancestry does not vary significantly across provinces, consistent with admixture prior to the dispersal of modern Han Chinese.

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2014/01/china-1793.html
My fellow officers informed me, that while the negotiation was going on, the ships were constantly crowded with all kinds of refreshments, and that when they were first boarded by the Chinese they received every attention from them that could be shown; and that the presents received by the different officers belonging to the embassy, were of immense value. That the natives of this part of China were of different complexions and manners from those in and near Canton; their colour being nearly white; and in their manners were much more free and candid; and that they were of a larger stature, and more athletic than the southern Chinese—they were much more sociable, and not so particular respecting their women being seen by the men. And were even fond of receiving the officers into their houses, when on shore, provided it could be done without the knowledge of the mandarins.

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2014/06/large-scale-psychological-differences.html
The study below discusses a psychological/cognitive/personality gradient between N and S China, possibly driven by a history of wheat vs rice cultivation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_and_southern_China
http://shanghaiist.com/2015/07/01/average-heights-men-women.php
https://www.quora.com/Why-are-Northern-Chinese-people-generally-taller-than-Southern-Chinese

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/08/01/the-great-genetic-map-of-china/
pdf  study  economics  growth-econ  cliometrics  path-dependence  roots  wealth-of-nations  shift  homo-hetero  innovation  divergence  individualism-collectivism  broad-econ  values  stylized-facts  china  asia  sinosphere  agriculture  h2o  leviathan  institutions  group-level  social-structure  authoritarianism  scale  egalitarianism-hierarchy  europe  the-great-west-whale  madisonian  chart  prepping  cultural-dynamics  civilization  🎩  correlation  urban  transportation  frontier  regional-scatter-plots  rent-seeking  orient  anglosphere  great-powers  antidemos  n-factor  multi  econotariat  marginal-rev  commentary  within-group  gnxp  scitariat  gregory-clark  malthus  disease  parasites-microbiome  health  diet  modernity  political-econ  world  north-weingast-like  occident  microfoundations  open-closed  general-survey  fluid  branches  urban-rural  explanans  decentralized  domestication  anthropology  hari-seldon  straussian  britain  anglo  troll  responsibility  moments  outcome-risk  uncertainty  latin-america  pop-diff  recent-selection  flux-stasis  dist 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus
https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/852339296358940672
deleeted

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/943238170312929280
https://archive.is/p5hRA

Did Nations that Boosted Education Grow Faster?: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/10/did_nations_tha.html
On average, no relationship. The trendline points down slightly, but for the time being let's just call it a draw. It's a well-known fact that countries that started the 1960's with high education levels grew faster (example), but this graph is about something different. This graph shows that countries that increased their education levels did not grow faster.

Where has all the education gone?: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1016.2704&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/948052794681966593
https://archive.is/kjxqp

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/950952412503822337
https://archive.is/3YPic

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/862961420065001472
http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/schooling-educational-achievement-and-latin-american-growth-puzzle

The Case Against Education: What's Taking So Long, Bryan Caplan: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/03/the_case_agains_9.html

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/whats-college-good-for/546590/
Students don't seem to be getting much out of higher education.
- Bryan Caplan

College: Capital or Signal?: http://www.economicmanblog.com/2017/02/25/college-capital-or-signal/
After his review of the literature, Caplan concludes that roughly 80% of the earnings effect from college comes from signalling, with only 20% the result of skill building. Put this together with his earlier observations about the private returns to college education, along with its exploding cost, and Caplan thinks that the social returns are negative. The policy implications of this will come as very bitter medicine for friends of Bernie Sanders.

Doubting the Null Hypothesis: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/doubting-the-null-hypothesis/

Is higher education/college in the US more about skill-building or about signaling?: https://www.quora.com/Is-higher-education-college-in-the-US-more-about-skill-building-or-about-signaling
ballpark: 50% signaling, 30% selection, 20% addition to human capital
more signaling in art history, more human capital in engineering, more selection in philosophy

Econ Duel! Is Education Signaling or Skill Building?: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/03/econ-duel-is-education-signaling-or-skill-building.html
Marginal Revolution University has a brand new feature, Econ Duel! Our first Econ Duel features Tyler and me debating the question, Is education more about signaling or skill building?

Against Tulip Subsidies: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidies/

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/01/read-the-case-against-education.html

https://nintil.com/2018/02/05/notes-on-the-case-against-education/

https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2018-02-19-0000/bryan-caplan-case-against-education-review

https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/the-case-against-education/
Most American public school kids are low-income; about half are non-white; most are fairly low skilled academically. For most American kids, the majority of the waking hours they spend not engaged with electronic media are at school; the majority of their in-person relationships are at school; the most important relationships they have with an adult who is not their parent is with their teacher. For their parents, the most important in-person source of community is also their kids’ school. Young people need adult mirrors, models, mentors, and in an earlier era these might have been provided by extended families, but in our own era this all falls upon schools.

Caplan gestures towards work and earlier labor force participation as alternatives to school for many if not all kids. And I empathize: the years that I would point to as making me who I am were ones where I was working, not studying. But they were years spent working in schools, as a teacher or assistant. If schools did not exist, is there an alternative that we genuinely believe would arise to draw young people into the life of their community?

...

It is not an accident that the state that spends the least on education is Utah, where the LDS church can take up some of the slack for schools, while next door Wyoming spends almost the most of any state at $16,000 per student. Education is now the one surviving binding principle of the society as a whole, the one black box everyone will agree to, and so while you can press for less subsidization of education by government, and for privatization of costs, as Caplan does, there’s really nothing people can substitute for it. This is partially about signaling, sure, but it’s also because outside of schools and a few religious enclaves our society is but a darkling plain beset by winds.

This doesn’t mean that we should leave Caplan’s critique on the shelf. Much of education is focused on an insane, zero-sum race for finite rewards. Much of schooling does push kids, parents, schools, and school systems towards a solution ad absurdum, where anything less than 100 percent of kids headed to a doctorate and the big coding job in the sky is a sign of failure of everyone concerned.

But let’s approach this with an eye towards the limits of the possible and the reality of diminishing returns.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/#comment-101293
The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/
I have a problem in thinking about education, since my preferences and personal educational experience are atypical, so I can’t just gut it out. On the other hand, knowing that puts me ahead of a lot of people that seem convinced that all real people, including all Arab cabdrivers, think and feel just as they do.

One important fact, relevant to this review. I don’t like Caplan. I think he doesn’t understand – can’t understand – human nature, and although that sometimes confers a different and interesting perspective, it’s not a royal road to truth. Nor would I want to share a foxhole with him: I don’t trust him. So if I say that I agree with some parts of this book, you should believe me.

...

Caplan doesn’t talk about possible ways of improving knowledge acquisition and retention. Maybe he thinks that’s impossible, and he may be right, at least within a conventional universe of possibilities. That’s a bit outside of his thesis, anyhow. Me it interests.

He dismisses objections from educational psychologists who claim that studying a subject improves you in subtle ways even after you forget all of it. I too find that hard to believe. On the other hand, it looks to me as if poorly-digested fragments of information picked up in college have some effect on public policy later in life: it is no coincidence that most prominent people in public life (at a given moment) share a lot of the same ideas. People are vaguely remembering the same crap from the same sources, or related sources. It’s correlated crap, which has a much stronger effect than random crap.

These widespread new ideas are usually wrong. They come from somewhere – in part, from higher education. Along this line, Caplan thinks that college has only a weak ideological effect on students. I don’t believe he is correct. In part, this is because most people use a shifting standard: what’s liberal or conservative gets redefined over time. At any given time a population is roughly half left and half right – but the content of those labels changes a lot. There’s a shift.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/#comment-101492
I put it this way, a while ago: “When you think about it, falsehoods, stupid crap, make the best group identifiers, because anyone might agree with you when you’re obviously right. Signing up to clear nonsense is a better test of group loyalty. A true friend is with you when you’re wrong. Ideally, not just wrong, but barking mad, rolling around in your own vomit wrong.”
--
You just explained the Credo quia absurdum doctrine. I always wondered if it was nonsense. It is not.
--
Someone on twitter caught it first – got all the way to “sliding down the razor blade of life”. Which I explained is now called “transitioning”

What Catholics believe: https://theweek.com/articles/781925/what-catholics-believe
We believe all of these things, fantastical as they may sound, and we believe them for what we consider good reasons, well attested by history, consistent with the most exacting standards of logic. We will profess them in this place of wrath and tears until the extraordinary event referenced above, for which men and women have hoped and prayed for nearly 2,000 years, comes to pass.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/bright-college-days-part-ii/
According to Caplan, employers are looking for conformity, conscientiousness, and intelligence. They use completion of high school, or completion of college as a sign of conformity and conscientiousness. College certainly looks as if it’s mostly signaling, and it’s hugely expensive signaling, in terms of college costs and foregone earnings.

But inserting conformity into the merit function is tricky: things become important signals… because they’re important signals. Otherwise useful actions are contraindicated because they’re “not done”. For example, test scores convey useful information. They could help show that an applicant is smart even though he attended a mediocre school – the same role they play in college admissions. But employers seldom request test scores, and although applicants may provide them, few do. Caplan says ” The word on the street… [more]
econotariat  pseudoE  broad-econ  economics  econometrics  growth-econ  education  human-capital  labor  correlation  null-result  world  developing-world  commentary  spearhead  garett-jones  twitter  social  pic  discussion  econ-metrics  rindermann-thompson  causation  endo-exo  biodet  data  chart  knowledge  article  wealth-of-nations  latin-america  study  path-dependence  divergence  🎩  curvature  microfoundations  multi  convexity-curvature  nonlinearity  hanushek  volo-avolo  endogenous-exogenous  backup  pdf  people  policy  monetary-fiscal  wonkish  cracker-econ  news  org:mag  local-global  higher-ed  impetus  signaling  rhetoric  contrarianism  domestication  propaganda  ratty  hanson  books  review  recommendations  distribution  externalities  cost-benefit  summary  natural-experiment  critique  rent-seeking  mobility  supply-demand  intervention  shift  social-choice  government  incentives  interests  q-n-a  street-fighting  objektbuch  X-not-about-Y  marginal-rev  c:***  qra  info-econ  info-dynamics  org:econlib  yvain  ssc  politics  medicine  stories 
april 2017 by nhaliday
The Production of Human Capital in Developed Countries: Evidence from 196 Randomized Field Experiments
Randomized field experiments designed to better understand the production of human capital have increased exponentially over the past several decades. This chapter summarizes what we have learned about various partial derivatives of the human capital production function, what important partial derivatives are left to be estimated, and what – together – our collective efforts have taught us about how to produce human capital in developed countries. The chapter concludes with a back of the envelope simulation of how much of the racial wage gap in America might be accounted for if human capital policy focused on best practices gleaned from randomized field experiments.
study  economics  policy  education  human-capital  race  labor  meta-analysis  gwern  field-study  🎩  evidence-based  c:***  biophysical-econ  intervention  stylized-facts  broad-econ  chart  input-output 
november 2016 by nhaliday
Do Immigrants Import Their Economic Destiny? - Evonomics
How do immigrants change the countries they move to? Immigration has become a big political issue in the U.S., the UK, Germany, and beyond, and experts and pundits alike have tried answering this question. At least among economists, almost all the debate has focused on the short run, and most of that has focused on lower-skilled immigrants. The overall answer is fairly clear: low-skilled immigrants don’t have a major effect on the rest of the economy one way or the other. That means that in the short run, the most important effect of low-skilled immigration is that it helps low-skilled migrants themselves.

But what happens in the very long run? As immigrants shape the culture of their new homelands, will they import more than just new ethnic cuisines? Will they also import attitudes and policies that wound the golden goose of first-world prosperity? Ultimately, will migrants make the countries they move to a lot like the countries they came from?

This is one of the great policy questions in our new age of mass migration, and it’s related to one of the great questions of social science: Why do some countries have relatively liberal, pro-market institutions while others are plagued by corruption, statism, and incompetence? Three lines of research point the way to a substantial answer:

- The Deep Roots literature on how ancestry predicts modern economic development,
- The Attitude Migration literature, which shows that migrants tend to bring a lot of their worldview with them when they move from one country to another,
- The New Voters-New Policies literature, which shows that expanding the franchise to new voters really does change the nature of government.

Together, these three data-driven literatures suggest that if you want to predict how a nation’s economic rules and norms are likely to change over the next few decades, you’ll want to keep an eye on where that country’s recent immigrants hail from.
economics  policy  growth-econ  data  links  summary  survey  contrarianism  econotariat  🌞  🎩  stylized-facts  hive-mind  c:***  path-dependence  spearhead  walls  2016  cracker-econ  longform  cliometrics  empirical  migration  big-picture  garett-jones  biodet  wonkish  trust  democracy  s:*  essay  rhetoric  easterly  news  org:sci  org:mag  china  asia  sinosphere  developing-world  sociology  big-peeps  current-events  nationalism-globalism  broad-econ  gender  intervention  assimilation  chart  article  zeitgeist  wealth-of-nations  the-bones  prudence  antidemos  microfoundations  branches  hari-seldon 
september 2016 by nhaliday
Molecular Psychiatry - Genetics and intelligence differences: five special findings
Here, we highlight five genetic findings that are special to intelligence differences and that have important implications for its genetic architecture and for gene-hunting expeditions.
(i) The heritability of intelligence increases from about 20% in infancy to perhaps 80% in later adulthood.
(ii) Intelligence captures genetic effects on diverse cognitive and learning abilities, which correlate phenotypically about 0.30 on average but correlate genetically about 0.60 or higher.
(iii) Assortative mating is greater for intelligence (spouse correlations ~0.40) than for other behavioural traits such as personality and psychopathology (~0.10) or physical traits such as height and weight (~0.20). _Assortative mating pumps additive genetic variance into the population every generation_, contributing to the high narrow heritability (additive genetic variance) of intelligence.
(iv) Unlike psychiatric disorders, intelligence is normally distributed with a positive end of exceptional performance that is a model for ‘positive genetics'.
(v) Intelligence is associated with education and social class and broadens the causal perspectives on how these three inter-correlated variables contribute to social mobility, and health, illness and mortality differences.

also interesting: assortative mating greater for verbal (~0.50) than spatial IQ (~0.30)
iq  survey  genetics  meta-analysis  study  variance-components  org:nat  summary  genetic-correlation  assortative-mating  top-n  🌞  c:***  spearhead  big-picture  biodet  sociology  behavioral-gen 
september 2016 by nhaliday
The Control Group Is Out Of Control | Slate Star Codex
Trying to set up placebo science would be a logistical nightmare. You’d have to find a phenomenon that definitely doesn’t exist, somehow convince a whole community of scientists across the world that it does, and fund them to study it for a couple of decades without them figuring out the gig.

Luckily we have a natural experiment in terms of parapsychology – the study of psychic phenomena – which most reasonable people don’t believe exists but which a community of practicing scientists does and publishes papers on all the time.

The results are pretty dismal. Parapsychologists are able to produce experimental evidence for psychic phenomena about as easily as normal scientists are able to produce such evidence for normal, non-psychic phenomena. This suggests the existence of a very large “placebo effect” in science – ie with enough energy focused on a subject, you can always produce “experimental evidence” for it that meets the usual scientific standards.

http://redux.slate.com/cover-stories/2017/05/daryl-bem-proved-esp-is-real-showed-science-is-broken.html
science  study  stats  yvain  replication  summary  insight  essay  social-science  len:long  ssc  ratty  c:***  meta:science  natural-experiment  psychology  social-psych  error  bounded-cognition  postmortem  🤖  2014  🔬  info-dynamics  multi  news  org:lite  longform  profile  illusion  realness 
july 2016 by nhaliday
A Meta-Analysis of Blood Glucose Effects on Human Decision Making
mixed evidence for ego-depletion:
We did not find a uniform influence of blood glucose on decision making. Instead, we found that low levels of blood glucose increase the willingness to pay and willingness to work when a situation is food related, but decrease willingness to pay and work in all other situations. Low levels of blood glucose increase the future discount rate for food; that is, decision makers become more impatient, and to a lesser extent increase the future discount rate for money. Low levels of blood glucose also increase the tendency to make more intuitive rather than deliberate decisions. However, this effect was only observed in situations unrelated to food.
http://daniellakens.blogspot.nl/2017/07/impossibly-hungry-judges.html
psychology  productivity  regularizer  study  meta-analysis  pdf  cog-psych  field-study  c:***  time-preference  discipline  values  decision-making  stamina  embodied-cognition  neuro-nitgrit  replication  null-result  ego-depletion  neuro  food  self-control  solid-study  multi  street-fighting  critique  scitariat 
july 2016 by nhaliday
The new politics of meaning | Meaningness
The politics of meaning are swirling into a new configuration. Since the 1960s, “values issues” have defined stable left and right political coalitions. Most people dutifully lined up with one side or the other, and most political questions were forced to align with a fixed left vs. right opposition.

The 2016 American Presidential campaign, and the UK Brexit vote, have split “left” and “right” internally, each into roughly equal halves. A new basic division of political opinion has emerged—in these countries, at least. But what is it?

I suspect the fault line in the new politics reflects the communal versus systematic modes of relating to meaning. This realignment offers both fearful risks and hopeful opportunities—because both modes are partly right and partly wrong. Although a communal/systematic split could be catastrophic, it may also point the way to a new mode that heals the fundamental crisis of meaningness that has plagued the West for a hundred years.
politics  prediction  speculation  postrat  insight  chapman  britain  community  essay  hmm  values  haidt  things  brexit  2016-election  c:***  trump  vague  systematic-ad-hoc  individualism-collectivism  ideology  populism 
july 2016 by nhaliday
Compound Interest Is The Least Powerful Force In The Universe | Slate Star Codex
some summary of Gregory Clark's arguments

SLAVERY AND THE INTERGENERATIONAL TRANSMISSION OF HUMAN CAPITAL: http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/refs/Mozilla_Scrapbook/w9227.pdf
Using a variety of different comparisons, (e.g. within versus across regions) I find that it took roughly two generations for the descendants of slaves to "catch up" to the descendants of free black men and women.

The lasting effect of intergenerational wealth transfers: Human capital, family formation, and wealth: http://sci-hub.tw/http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X17302788
https://twitter.com/bswud/status/910470548601413635
Jargon aside, their results show that bequests tend not to benefit people much unless they have high human capital

The Intergenerational Effects of a Large Wealth Shock: White Southerners After the Civil War: https://www.nber.org/papers/w25700
The nullification of slave-based wealth after the US Civil War (1861-65) was one of the largest episodes of wealth compression in history. We document that white southern households with more slave assets lost substantially more wealth by 1870 relative to households with otherwise similar pre-War wealth levels. Yet, the sons of these slaveholders recovered in income and wealth proxies by 1880, in part by shifting into white collar positions and marrying into higher status families. Their pattern of recovery is most consistent with the importance of social networks in facilitating employment opportunities and access to credit.

Shocking Behavior : Random Wealth in Antebellum Georgia and Human Capital Across Generations: https://www.nber.org/papers/w19348
We track descendants of those eligible to win in Georgia's Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832, which had nearly universal participation among adult white males. Winners received close to the median level of wealth - a large financial windfall orthogonal to parents' underlying characteristics that might have also affected their children's human capital. Although winners had slightly more children than non-winners, they did not send them to school more. Sons of winners have no better adult outcomes (wealth, income, literacy) than the sons of non-winners, and winners' grandchildren do not have higher literacy or school attendance than non-winners' grandchildren. This suggests only a limited role for family financial resources in the transmission of human capital across generations and a potentially more important role for other factors that persist through family lines.

Lottery Winners Don't Get Healthier: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/06/politically-incorrect-paper-of-the-day-3.html
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/08/lottery-winners-do-not-avoid-bankruptcy.html
N.B. the result is not that most lottery winners go bankrupt or that winning money doesn’t help people–the result, as Robin Hanson might say, is that bankruptcy isn’t about money.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/04/22/the-lottery/
Low leverage of wealth on your children’s traits is something that exists in a particular society, with a particular kind of technology. Back in medieval times, a windfall could have kept your kids alive in a famine, and that certainly had a long-term positive effect on their cognitive skills. Dead men take no tests. The most effective medical interventions today are cheap – everyone in Sweden and the US already has them – but there are places where those interventions are not universally available. Some families in Mozambique can afford artemisin, some can’t – this must make a difference.

...

It is not just wealth that has a small effect on your kid’s potential: playing Mozart doesn’t help either. Other than locking away the ball-peen hammers, it’s hard to think of any known approach that does have much effect – although we don’t know everything, and maybe there are undiscovered effective approaches (other than genetic engineering). For example, iodine supplements have a good effect in areas that are iodine-deficient. We now know (since 2014) that bromine is an essential trace element – maybe people in some parts of the world would benefit from bromine supplementation.

What about the social interventions that people are advocating, like Pre-K ? Since shared family effects (family environment surely matters more than some external social program) are small by adulthood, I think they’re unlikely to have any lasting effect. We might also note that the track record isn’t exactly encouraging. If there was a known and feasible way of boosting academic performance, you’d think that those teachers in Atlanta would have tried it. Sure beats prison.

Maybe there’s an effective approach using fmri and biofeedback – wouldn’t hurt to take a look. But even if it did work, it might simply boost everyone equally, and obviously nobody gives a shit about that.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/04/22/the-lottery/#comment-68758
They can read simple things. Useful things. If you want to talk about higher levels of literacy, or the lack thereof (functional illiteracy), you need to define your terms. And you should act fast, before I define functional illiteracy – which would include anyone who wasn’t reading Anna Karenina in middle school.
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june 2016 by nhaliday
Goodreads | Gwern's review of Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle
- book about the Pirahã and their language/culture
- reminds me of julian jaynes
- some interesting analysis in comment

They seem to need relatively little sleep, mature quickly, never plan ahead or make long-term investments (such as making wicker rather than palm leave baskets) or talk about the distant future/past (and will very rarely talk about anything they learned from someone now dead: "generally only the most experienced language teachers will do this, those who have developed an ability to abstract from the subjective use of their language and who are able to comment on it from an objective perspective"), and will casually throw away tools or things they will need soon. They know how to preserve meat, but never both unless intending to trade it; food is eaten whenever it's available, and since they fish at all hours, everyone might wake up at 3AM for fish.

...

They have difficulty understanding foreigners are like them, and can understand language, in a bizarre echo of the Chinese room:

Then I noticed another bemusing fact. The Pirahãs would converse with me and then turn to one another, in my presence, to talk about me, as though I was not even there.

...

Their language, in their view, emerges from their lives as Pirahãs and from their relationships to other Pirahãs. If I could utter appropriate responses to their questions, this was no more evidence that I spoke their language than a recorded message is to me evidence that my telephone is a native speaker of English. I was like one of the bright macaws or parrots so abundant along the Maici. My "speaking" was just some cute trick to some of them. It was not really speaking.

All of this is part of Everett's case that the Pirahã are, like Luria's peasant, ruled by an "immediacy of experience principle" and this yields an extraordinarily conservative culture on which new ideas and concepts roll off like so much water off a duck's back.

Their supernatural beliefs are particularly fascinating: dreams are simply interpreted literally and discussed as supernatural events that happened, and any random thing can be a 'spirit', with regular theatrical performances of 'spirits' who are obviously tribe men (but when asked, Pirahã deny that there is any connection between particular men and spirits, part of their weak grasp on personal identity (I was particularly amused by the Heraclitean tone of one anecdote: "Pirahãs occasionally talked about me, when I emerged from the river in the evenings after my bath. I heard them ask one another, 'Is this the same one who entered the river or is it kapioxiai [a dangerous spirit]?'"), where names change regularly and are considered new people). Some of the spirit appearances are group hallucinations or consensus, and Everett opens Don't Sleep with the anecdote of being part of a group of Pirahã staring at an empty sand bank where they see the spirit Xigagai saying he will kill anyone going into the forest that day. This example is a bit perplexing: what could possibly be the use of this and why would they either perceive it or go along with it? Similarly, it's hard to see how the spirit outside the village talking all night about how he wanted to have sex with specific women of the village is serving any role, and the tribesman reaction when Everett walks up and asks to record his ranting is hilariously deadpan: "'Sure, go ahead', he answered immediately in his normal voice". Other spirits make more sense:

Pirahãs listen carefully and often follow the exhortations of the kaoaib6gi. A spirit might say something like "Don't want Jesus. He is not Pirahã", or "Don't hunt downriver tomorrow", or things that are commonly shared values, such as "Don't eat snakes." Through spirits, ostracism, food-sharing regulation, and so on, Pirahã society disciplines itself.
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april 2016 by nhaliday

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