nhaliday + gregory-clark   48

The Hanson-Yudkowsky AI-Foom Debate - Machine Intelligence Research Institute
How Deviant Recent AI Progress Lumpiness?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/how-deviant-recent-ai-progress-lumpiness.html
I seem to disagree with most people working on artificial intelligence (AI) risk. While with them I expect rapid change once AI is powerful enough to replace most all human workers, I expect this change to be spread across the world, not concentrated in one main localized AI system. The efforts of AI risk folks to design AI systems whose values won’t drift might stop global AI value drift if there is just one main AI system. But doing so in a world of many AI systems at similar abilities levels requires strong global governance of AI systems, which is a tall order anytime soon. Their continued focus on preventing single system drift suggests that they expect a single main AI system.

The main reason that I understand to expect relatively local AI progress is if AI progress is unusually lumpy, i.e., arriving in unusually fewer larger packages rather than in the usual many smaller packages. If one AI team finds a big lump, it might jump way ahead of the other teams.

However, we have a vast literature on the lumpiness of research and innovation more generally, which clearly says that usually most of the value in innovation is found in many small innovations. We have also so far seen this in computer science (CS) and AI. Even if there have been historical examples where much value was found in particular big innovations, such as nuclear weapons or the origin of humans.

Apparently many people associated with AI risk, including the star machine learning (ML) researchers that they often idolize, find it intuitively plausible that AI and ML progress is exceptionally lumpy. Such researchers often say, “My project is ‘huge’, and will soon do it all!” A decade ago my ex-co-blogger Eliezer Yudkowsky and I argued here on this blog about our differing estimates of AI progress lumpiness. He recently offered Alpha Go Zero as evidence of AI lumpiness:


In this post, let me give another example (beyond two big lumps in a row) of what could change my mind. I offer a clear observable indicator, for which data should have available now: deviant citation lumpiness in recent ML research. One standard measure of research impact is citations; bigger lumpier developments gain more citations that smaller ones. And it turns out that the lumpiness of citations is remarkably constant across research fields! See this March 3 paper in Science:

I Still Don’t Get Foom: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2014/07/30855.html
All of which makes it look like I’m the one with the problem; everyone else gets it. Even so, I’m gonna try to explain my problem again, in the hope that someone can explain where I’m going wrong. Here goes.

“Intelligence” just means an ability to do mental/calculation tasks, averaged over many tasks. I’ve always found it plausible that machines will continue to do more kinds of mental tasks better, and eventually be better at pretty much all of them. But what I’ve found it hard to accept is a “local explosion.” This is where a single machine, built by a single project using only a tiny fraction of world resources, goes in a short time (e.g., weeks) from being so weak that it is usually beat by a single human with the usual tools, to so powerful that it easily takes over the entire world. Yes, smarter machines may greatly increase overall economic growth rates, and yes such growth may be uneven. But this degree of unevenness seems implausibly extreme. Let me explain.

If we count by economic value, humans now do most of the mental tasks worth doing. Evolution has given us a brain chock-full of useful well-honed modules. And the fact that most mental tasks require the use of many modules is enough to explain why some of us are smarter than others. (There’d be a common “g” factor in task performance even with independent module variation.) Our modules aren’t that different from those of other primates, but because ours are different enough to allow lots of cultural transmission of innovation, we’ve out-competed other primates handily.

We’ve had computers for over seventy years, and have slowly build up libraries of software modules for them. Like brains, computers do mental tasks by combining modules. An important mental task is software innovation: improving these modules, adding new ones, and finding new ways to combine them. Ideas for new modules are sometimes inspired by the modules we see in our brains. When an innovation team finds an improvement, they usually sell access to it, which gives them resources for new projects, and lets others take advantage of their innovation.


In Bostrom’s graph above the line for an initially small project and system has a much higher slope, which means that it becomes in a short time vastly better at software innovation. Better than the entire rest of the world put together. And my key question is: how could it plausibly do that? Since the rest of the world is already trying the best it can to usefully innovate, and to abstract to promote such innovation, what exactly gives one small project such a huge advantage to let it innovate so much faster?


In fact, most software innovation seems to be driven by hardware advances, instead of innovator creativity. Apparently, good ideas are available but must usually wait until hardware is cheap enough to support them.

Yes, sometimes architectural choices have wider impacts. But I was an artificial intelligence researcher for nine years, ending twenty years ago, and I never saw an architecture choice make a huge difference, relative to other reasonable architecture choices. For most big systems, overall architecture matters a lot less than getting lots of detail right. Researchers have long wandered the space of architectures, mostly rediscovering variations on what others found before.

Some hope that a small project could be much better at innovation because it specializes in that topic, and much better understands new theoretical insights into the basic nature of innovation or intelligence. But I don’t think those are actually topics where one can usefully specialize much, or where we’ll find much useful new theory. To be much better at learning, the project would instead have to be much better at hundreds of specific kinds of learning. Which is very hard to do in a small project.

What does Bostrom say? Alas, not much. He distinguishes several advantages of digital over human minds, but all software shares those advantages. Bostrom also distinguishes five paths: better software, brain emulation (i.e., ems), biological enhancement of humans, brain-computer interfaces, and better human organizations. He doesn’t think interfaces would work, and sees organizations and better biology as only playing supporting roles.


Similarly, while you might imagine someday standing in awe in front of a super intelligence that embodies all the power of a new age, superintelligence just isn’t the sort of thing that one project could invent. As “intelligence” is just the name we give to being better at many mental tasks by using many good mental modules, there’s no one place to improve it. So I can’t see a plausible way one project could increase its intelligence vastly faster than could the rest of the world.

Takeoff speeds: https://sideways-view.com/2018/02/24/takeoff-speeds/
Futurists have argued for years about whether the development of AGI will look more like a breakthrough within a small group (“fast takeoff”), or a continuous acceleration distributed across the broader economy or a large firm (“slow takeoff”).

I currently think a slow takeoff is significantly more likely. This post explains some of my reasoning and why I think it matters. Mostly the post lists arguments I often hear for a fast takeoff and explains why I don’t find them compelling.

(Note: this is not a post about whether an intelligence explosion will occur. That seems very likely to me. Quantitatively I expect it to go along these lines. So e.g. while I disagree with many of the claims and assumptions in Intelligence Explosion Microeconomics, I don’t disagree with the central thesis or with most of the arguments.)
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april 2018 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
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
Enclosure - Wikipedia
Enclosure (sometimes inclosure) was the legal process in England during the 18th century of enclosing a number of small landholdings to create one larger farm.[1] Once enclosed, use of the land became restricted to the owner, and it ceased to be common land for communal use. In England and Wales the term is also used for the process that ended the ancient system of arable farming in open fields. Under enclosure, such land is fenced (enclosed) and deeded or entitled to one or more owners. The process of enclosure began to be a widespread feature of the English agricultural landscape during the 16th century. By the 19th century, unenclosed commons had become largely restricted to rough pasture in mountainous areas and to relatively small parts of the lowlands.

Enclosure could be accomplished by buying the ground rights and all common rights to accomplish exclusive rights of use, which increased the value of the land. The other method was by passing laws causing or forcing enclosure, such as Parliamentary enclosure. The latter process of enclosure was sometimes accompanied by force, resistance, and bloodshed, and remains among the most controversial areas of agricultural and economic history in England. Marxist and neo-Marxist historians argue that rich landowners used their control of state processes to appropriate public land for their private benefit.[2] The process of enclosure created a landless working class that provided the labour required in the new industries developing in the north of England. For example: "In agriculture the years between 1760 and 1820 are the years of wholesale enclosure in which, in village after village, common rights are lost".[3] Thompson argues that "Enclosure (when all the sophistications are allowed for) was a plain enough case of class robbery."[4][5]

Community and Market in England:
Open Fields and Enclosures Revisited: https://www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk/users/allen/community.pdf
Commons Sense: Common Property Rights, Efficiency, and Institutional Change: http://faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/210a/readings/commons1.pdf
Allen’s Enclosure and the Yeoman: the View from Tory Fundamentalism: http://www.deirdremccloskey.com/docs/pdf/Article_52.pdf
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june 2017 by nhaliday
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.

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?



Irrigation and Autocracy: http://www.econ.ku.dk/bentzen/Irrigation_and_Autocracy.pdf
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The Roman State and Genetic Pacification - Peter Frost, 2010
- Table 1 is a good summary, but various interesting tidbits throughout
main points:
- latrones reminds me of bandit-states, Big Men in anthropology, and Rome's Indo-European past
- started having trouble recruiting soldiers, population less martial
- Church opposition to State violence, preferred to 'convert enemies by prayer'
- a Christian could use violence 'only to defend others and not for self-defense'
- Altar of Victory was more metaphorical than idolatrous, makes its removal even more egregious


should read:
BANDITS IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE: http://sci-hub.tw/http://academic.oup.com/past/article-abstract/105/1/3/1442375/BANDITS-IN-THE-ROMAN-EMPIRE
Bandits in the Roman Empire: Myth and reality: https://historicalunderbelly.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/thoma-grunewald-bandits-in-the-roman-empire-myth-and-reality-2004.pdf

What Difference Did Christianity Make?: http://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/4435970
Author(s): Ramsay Mac Mullen

The extent of this impact I test in five areas. The first two have to do with domestic relations: sexual norms and slavery. The latter three have to do with matters in which public authorities were more involved: gladiatorial shows, judicial penalties, and corruption.

Clark/Frost Domestication: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/clarkfrost-domestication/
Thinking about the response of the pacified and submission Roman population to barbarian invaders immediately brings to mind the response of contemporary North Americans and Atlantic Europeans to barbarian invaders. It reads just the same: “welcome new neighbor!”

What about the Eastern empire? They kept the barbarians out for a few centuries longer in the European half, but accounts of the loss of the Asian provinces show the Clark/Frost pattern, a pacified submissive population hardly contesting the invasion of Islam (Jenkins 2008, 2010). The new neighbors simply walked in and took over. The downfall of the Western Roman empire reads much like the downfall of the Asian and North African parts of the empire. It is certainly no accident that the Asian provinces were the heartland of Christianity.

This all brings up an interesting question: what happened in East Asia over the same period? No one to my knowledge has traced parallels with the European and Roman experience in Japan or China. Is the different East Asian trajectory related to the East Asian reluctance to roll over, wag their tails, and welcome new barbarian neighbors?

gwern in da comments
“empires domesticate their people”
Greg said in our book something like “for the same reason that farmers castrate their bulls”
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Contours of the World Economy, 1–2030 AD: Essays in Macro-Economic History
kinda trashes it

Angus Maddison: https://pseudoerasmus.com/2014/06/12/angus-maddison/
This blogpost examines the dubious assumptions behind Angus Maddison’s pre-1200 income data.

Rebasing 'Maddison': The shape of long-run economic development: https://voxeu.org/article/rebasing-maddison
Research on long-run economic development has relied heavily on the database compiled by Angus Maddison. This column presents a new version of the Maddison Project Database based on historical growth data, but also incorporating historical cross-country income comparisons. The revisions shed new light on patterns of long-term development and cross-country income convergence.

File:1700 AD through 2008 AD per capita GDP of China Germany India Japan UK USA per Angus Maddison.png - Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1700_AD_through_2008_AD_per_capita_GDP_of_China_Germany_India_Japan_UK_USA_per_Angus_Maddison.png
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Interview Greg Cochran by Future Strategist

- IQ enhancement (somewhat apprehensive, wonder why?)
- ~20 years to CRISPR enhancement (very ballpark)
- cloning as an alternative strategy
- environmental effects on IQ, what matters (iodine, getting hit in the head), what doesn't (schools, etc.), and toss-ups (childhood/embryonic near-starvation, disease besides direct CNS-affecting ones [!])
- malnutrition did cause more schizophrenia in Netherlands (WW2) and China (Great Leap Forward) though
- story about New Mexico schools and his children (mostly grad students in physics now)
- clever sillies, weird geniuses, and clueless elites
- life-extension and accidents, half-life ~ a few hundred years for a typical American
- Pinker on Harvard faculty adoptions (always Chinese girls)
- parabiosis, organ harvesting
- Chicago economics talk
- Catholic Church, cousin marriage, and the rise of the West
- Gregory Clark and Farewell to Alms
- retinoblastoma cancer, mutational load, and how to deal w/ it ("something will turn up")
- Tularemia and Stalingrad (ex-Soviet scientist literally mentioned his father doing it)
- germ warfare, nuclear weapons, and testing each
- poison gas, Haber, nerve gas, terrorists, Japan, Syria, and Turkey
- nukes at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incirlik_Air_Base
- IQ of ancient Greeks
- history of China and the Mongols, cloning Genghis Khan
- Alexander the Great vs. Napoleon, Russian army being late for meetup w/ Austrians
- the reason why to go into Iraq: to find and clone Genghis Khan!
- efficacy of torture
- monogamy, polygamy, and infidelity, the Aboriginal system (reverse aging wives)
- education and twin studies
- errors: passing white, female infanticide, interdisciplinary social science/economic imperialism, the slavery and salt story
- Jewish optimism about environmental interventions, Rabbi didn't want people to know, Israelis don't want people to know about group differences between Ashkenazim and other groups in Israel
- NASA spewing crap on extraterrestrial life (eg, thermodynamic gradient too weak for life in oceans of ice moons)
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Surnames: a New Source for the History of Social Mobility
This paper explains how surname distributions can be used as a way to
measure rates of social mobility in contemporary and historical societies.
This allows for estimates of social mobility rates for any population for which the distribution of surnames overall is known as well as the distribution of surnames among some elite or underclass. Such information exists, for example, for England back to 1300, and for Sweden back to 1700. However surname distributions reveal a different, more fundamental type of mobility than that conventionally estimated. Thus surname estimates also allow for measuring a different aspect of social mobility, but the aspect that matters for mobility of social groups, and for families in the long run.

The Big Sort: Selective Migration and the Decline of Northern England, 1800-2017: http://migrationcluster.ucdavis.edu/events/seminars_2015-2016/sem_assets/clark/paper_clark_northern-disadvantage.pdf
The north of England in recent years has been poorer, less healthy, less educated and slower growing than the south. Using two sources - surnames that had a different regional distribution in England in the 1840s, and a detailed genealogy of 78,000 people in England giving birth and death locations - we show that the decline of the north is mainly explained by selective outmigration of the educated and talented.

Genetic Consequences of Social Stratification in Great Britain: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2018/10/30/457515
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march 2017 by nhaliday
how big was the edge? | West Hunter
random side note:
- dysgenics running at -.5-1 IQ/generation in NW Europe since ~1800 and China by ~1960
- gap between east asians and europeans typically a bit less than .5 SD (or .3 SD if you look at mainland chinese not asian-americans?), similar variances
- 160/30 * 1/15 = .36, so could explain most of gap depending on when exactly dysgenics started
- maybe Europeans were just smarter back then? still seems like you need additional cultural/personality and historical factors. could be parasite load too.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Why Isn't the Whole World Developed? Lessons from the Cotton Mills
In 1910 one New England cotton textile operative performed as much work as 1.5 British, 2.3 German, and nearly 6 Greek, Japanese, Indian, or Chinese workers. Input substitution, and differences in technology, management, and workers' training or inherent abilities do not explain this. Instead local culture seems to have determined worker performance. Such differences, if widespread, would explain much of the international variation in wages. They also have important consequences for understanding labor migration, the choice of technique, and the sources of economic growth.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Recent evolution in humans
"There is a good theoretical argument for why evolution may speed up due to population growth. Given a particular probability distribution for producing beneficial mutations, a large population implies a faster rate of incidence of such mutations. Because reproductive dynamics leads to exponential solutions (i.e., a slight increase in expected number of offspring compounds rapidly), the time required for an advantageous allele to sweep through a population only grows logarithmically with the population, while the rate of incidence grows linearly."

To elaborate on the last point, consider the set of mutations that are sufficiently advantageous that they would sweep through a population of N humans (i.e. reach fixation) in some specified period of time, such as 5000 years. If the probability of such a mutation is p, the rate of occurrence in the population is proportional to pN. Now imagine the population of the group increases to 100N. The rate of mutations is then much higher -- 100pN -- but the time necessary for fixation has only increased by the logarithm of 100 since selective advantage works exponentially: the population fraction with the mutant gene grows as exp( r t ), where r is the reproductive advantage and t is time. This rather obvious point -- that linear beats log -- suggests that the rate of evolution will speed up as population size increases. (A possible loophole is if the probability of mutations as a function of relative advantage is itself an exponential function, and falls off rapidly with increasing advantage.) If the Hawks et al. results are any guide, as many as 7% of all genes have been under intense selection in the last 10-50,000 years. (See here for another summary of the research with a nice illustration of how linkage disequilibrium arises due to favorable mutations.) Importantly, the variants that reached fixation over this period are different in different geographical regions.

Thus civilization, with its consequently larger populations supported by agriculture, enhanced rather than suppressed the rate of human evolution.

A related question is whether selection pressure remained strong after the development of civilization. Perhaps reproductive success became largely decoupled from genetic influences once humans became civilized? Not only is this implausible, but it seems to be directly contradicted by evidence. The graph below, based on English inheritance records, shows that the rich gradually out-reproduced the poor: the wealthy had more than twice as many surviving children as the poor. (Note the range of inheritances in the graph covers the middle class to moderately wealthy; the poor and very rich are not shown.) Thus, in this period of history wealth was a good proxy for reproductive success. Genes which were beneficial for the accrual of wealth (e.g., for intelligence, self-discipline, delayal of gratification, etc.) would have become more prevalent over time. In a simple population model, any lineage that remained consistently poor over a few hundred year period would contribute almost zero to today's population of Britons.


See also my review of Clark's A Farewell to Alms, and this video of a talk by Clark. When Clark wrote the book he wasn't sure whether it was genetic change or cultural change that led to the industrial revolution in England. In the video lecture he comments that he has since become convinced it was largely genetic. That doesn't jibe with the back of the envelope calculation I give below -- even in the optimistic case (largest effect) it would seem to take a thousand years to have a big shift in overall population characteristics.

Here's a very crude back of the envelope calculation: if, in a brutal Malthusian setting, the top 10% in wealth were to out-reproduce the average by 20% per generation, then after only 10 generations or so (say 2-300 years), essentially everyone in the population would trace their heritage in some way to this group. In our population the average IQ of the high income group is about +.5 SD relative to the average. If the heritability of IQ is .5, then in an ideal case we could see a selection-driven increase of +.25 SD every 2-300 years, or +1 SD per millenium. This is highly speculative, of course, and oversimplified, but it shows that there is (plausibly) no shortage of selection pressure to drive noticeable, even dramatic, change. If the estimate is too high by an order of magnitude (the rich group doesn't directly replace the others; there is inevitably a lot of intermarriage between descendants of the rich and non-rich), a change of +1 SD per 10,000 years would still be possible. There's clearly no shortage in genetic variation affecting intelligence: we see 1 SD variations not just within populations but commonly in individual families!
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january 2017 by nhaliday
'Decessit sine prole' - Childlessness, Celibacy, and Survival of the Richest in Pre-Industrial England - Centre for Economic Policy Research
Previous work has shown that England's pre-industrial elites had more surviving off-spring than their lower-class counterparts. This evidence was used to argue that the spread of upper-class values via downward social mobility helped England grow rich. We contest this view, showing that the lower classes outperformed the rich in terms of reproduction once singleness and childlessness are accounted for. Indeed, Merchants, Professionals and Gentry married less, and their marriages were more often childless. Many died without descendants (decessit sine prole). We also establish that the most prosperous socio-economic group in terms of reproduction was the middle class, which we argue was instrumental to England's economic success because most of its new industrialists originated from middle-class families.

Childlessness and Economic Development : A Survey: https://sites.uclouvain.be/econ/DP/IRES/2019001.pdf
maybe it was eugenic for the aristocracy to be outbred by the bourgeoisie?
I remember Gregory Clark indicating that English aristocracy was outbred by wealthy commoners largely due to specialization in violent activities at least until 17 th century. Maybe not accounting for bastards.
yes, this supports him
Wonder what Gregory Clark thinks about this
He probably would think 👍
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january 2017 by nhaliday
The most stimulating economic history books since 2000 | pseudoerasmus
Inspired by Vincent Geloso, here is a list of the 20-25 books in economic history published since 2000 which I have found most stimulating or provocative. Not necessarily comprehensive, or the best, or the most ‘correct’, but things which influenced, stimulated, or provoked my own personal thinking.

some highlights I wasn't already aware of:
- Lee & Feng, One Quarter of Humanity: Malthusian Mythology and Chinese Realities, 1700-2000
- Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850
- Mitterauer, Why Europe? The Medieval Origins of its Special Path
- Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy
- Temin, The Roman Market Economy

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january 2017 by nhaliday
The genetic basis of social mobility | EVOLVING ECONOMICS
In 2007’s A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, Gregory Clark argued that the higher fertility of the rich in pre-industrial England sowed the seeds for the Industrial Revolution. As children resemble their parents, the increased number of prudent, productive people made possible the modern economic era.

Part of the controversy underlying Clark’s argument – made stark by Clark in articles and speeches following A Farewell to Alm’s publication – was that he considered there may be a genetic basis to the transmitted traits. The higher fertility of the rich and changing character of the population was natural selection at work.

Clark’s new book The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility, also makes a new and unique argument. And like A Farewell to Alms, there is a genetic underlay.

Clark’s primary argument is that across a range of societies and eras – from pre-Industrial to modern England, from pre- to post-revolution China, and across the centuries in the United States, Sweden and India – social mobility is low. The correlation in social status between one generation and the next is around 0.7 to 0.8, meaning we can find the echoes of high status 10 or more generations later. Status does “regress to the mean”, but it does so slowly.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Genetically Capitalist? The Malthusian Era, Institutions and the Formation of Modern Preferences.
The highly capitalistic nature of English society by 1800 – individualism, low time preference rates, long work hours, high levels of human capital – may thus stem from the nature of the Darwinian struggle in a very stable agrarian society in the long run up to the Industrial Revolution. The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality.


key figure:
Figure 8 Surviving Children by Testator’s Assets in £


on foragers and farmers:
When we consider forager societies the evidence on rates of return becomes much more indirect, because there is no explicit capital market, or lending may be subject to substantial default risks given the lack of fixed assets with which to secure loans. Anthropologists, however, have devised other ways to measure people’s rate of time preference rates. They can, for example, look at the relative rewards of activities whose benefits occur at different times in the future: digging up wild tubers or fishing with an immediate reward, as opposed to trapping with a reward delayed by days, as opposed to clearing and planting with a reward months in the future, as opposed to animal rearing with a reward years in the future.

A recent study of Mikea forager-farmers in Madagascar found, for example, that the typical Mikea household planted less than half as much land as was needed to feed themselves. Yet the returns from shifting cultivation of maize were enormous. A typical yielded was a minimum of 74,000 kcal. per hour of work. Foraging for tubers, in comparison, yielded an average return of 1,800 kcal. per hour. Despite this the Mikea rely on foraging for a large share of their food, consequently spending most time foraging. This implies extraordinarily high time preference rates.39 James Woodburn claimed that Hadza of Tanzania showed a similar disinterest in distant benefits, “In harvesting berries, entire branches are often cut from the trees to ease the present problems of picking without regard to future loss of yield.”40 Even the near future mattered little. The Pirahã of Brazil are even more indifferent to future benefits. A brief overview of their culture included the summary,
"Most important in understanding Pirahã material culture is their lack of concern with the non-immediate or the abstraction of present action for future benefit, e. g. ‘saving for a rainy day.’" (Everett, 2005, Appendix 5).


The real rate of return, r, can be thought of as composed of three elements: a rate of pure time preference, ρ, a default risk premium, d, and a premium that reflects the growth of overall expected incomes year to year, θgy. Thus
r ≈ ρ + d + θgy.

People as economic agents display a basic set of preferences – between consumption now and future consumption, between consumption of leisure or goods – that modern economics has taken as primitives. Time preference is simply the idea that, everything else being equal, people prefer to consume now rather than later. The rate of time preference measures how strong that preference is.

The existence of time preference in consumption cannot be derived from consideration of rational action. Indeed it has been considered by some economists to represent a systematic deviation of human psychology from rational action, where there should be no absolute time preference. Economists have thought of time preference rates as being hard-wired into peoples’ psyches, and as having stemmed from some very early evolutionary process.41


on china:
Figure 17 Male total fertility rate for the Qing Imperial

In China and Japan also, while richer groups had more
reproductive success in the pre-industrial era, that advantage was
more muted than in England. Figure 17, for example, shows the
total fertility rate for the Qing imperial lineage in China in 1644-1840. This is the number of births per man living to age 45. The royal lineage, which had access to imperial subsidies and allowances that made them wealthy, was more successful reproductively than the average Chinese man. But in most decades the advantage was modest – not anything like as dramatic as in preindustrial England.

But these advantages cumulated in China over millennia perhaps explain why it is no real surprise that China, despite nearly a generation of extreme forms of Communism between 1949 and 1978, emerged unchanged as a society individualist and capitalist to its core. The effects of the thousands of years of operation of a society under the selective pressures of the Malthusian regime could not be uprooted by utopian dreamers.

Review by Allen: http://faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/Farewell%20to%20Alms/Allen_JEL_Review.pdf
The empirical support for these claims is examined, and all are questionable.

Review by Bowles: http://sci-hub.tw/10.1126/science.1149498

The Domestication of Man: The Social Implications of Darwin: http://gredos.usal.es/jspui/bitstream/10366/72715/1/The_Domestication_of_Man_The_Social_Impl.pdf

hmm: https://growthecon.com/blog/Constraints/
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november 2016 by nhaliday
The Son Also Rises | West Hunter
It turns out that you can predict a kid’s social status better if you take into account the grandparents as well as the parents – and the nieces/nephews, cousins, etc. Which means that you’re estimating the breeding value for moxie – which means that Clark needs to read Falconer right now. I’d guess that taking into account grandparents that the kids never even met, ones that died before their birth, will improve prediction. Let the sociologists chew on that.


If culture was the driver, a group could just adopt a different culture (it happens) and decide to be the new upper class by doing all that shit Amy Chua pushes, or possibly by playing cricket. I don’t believe that this ever actually occurs. Although with genetic engineering on the horizon, it may be possible. Of course that would be cheating.

It is hard to change these patterns very much. Universal public education, fluoridation, democracy, haven’t made much difference. I do think that shooting enough people would. Or a massive application of droit de seigneur, or its opposite.


If moxie is genetic, most economists must be wrong about human capital formation. Having fewer kids and spending more money on their education has only a modest effect: this must be the case, given slow long-run social mobility. It seems that social status is transmitted within families largely independently of the resources available to parents. Which is why Ashkenazi Jews could show up at Ellis Island flat broke, with no English, and have so many kids in the Ivy League by the 1920s that they imposed quotas. I’ve never understood why economists ever believed in this.

Moxie is not the same thing as IQ, although IQ must be a component. It is also worth remembering that this trait helps you acquire status – it is probably not quite the same thing as being saintly, honest, or incredibly competent at doing your damn job.

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november 2016 by nhaliday
Evo and Proud: Genetic pacification in medieval Europe
resulting paper:
Western Europe, State Formation, and Genetic Pacification: http://evp.sagepub.com/content/13/1/147470491501300114.full.pdf
- Henry Harpending
Genetics and the Historical Decline of Violence?: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/genetics-and-the-historical-decline-of-violence/
In the present case we need a response of 1/28 of a standard deviation per generation. Assuming an additive heritability of 0.5 (the true value is probably 0.8 or so from literature on the heritability of aggressive behavior in children) the selective differential must be about 1/14 or .07 standard deviations per generation. In terms of IQ this would correspond to a one point IQ advantage of parents over the population average and in terms of stature parents with a mean stature 0.2 inches greater than the population average. This would occur if the most homicidal 1.5% of the population were to fail to reproduce each generation.


Spoiling for a fight: https://aeon.co/essays/why-has-england-lost-its-medieval-taste-for-violence
The author of this article seems unaware of the possibility that there could be selection for less violent traits in a population

Behavioral genetics and the judicial system: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/22/behavioral-genetics-and-the-judicial-system/
I have no reason to believe that this was planned. If you look at the trend today, you might get the impression that the powers that be are actively trying to increase the fitness of assholes, but I doubt if that is the case. Sure, that’s the effect, but they don’t know enough to do it on purpose.

For example, when the Supremes decided that being sufficiently stupid is a get-out-of-execution card, they weren’t thinking about long-term biological implications. I doubt if they ever do, or can.

A thought experiment: in the light of behavioral genetics, what should you do when it’s clear that one of a pair of identical twins has committed a truly heinous crime – but you don’t know which one?

Even modern societies need violent men. Who is going to wage war if soldiers going to refuse to shoot and/or quickly develop PTSD?
I can think of people that might describe: people like Paddy Mayne, perhaps. But in general, it is possible to find whole countries that produce excellent soldiers and are at the same time internally very peaceful and orderly.

As for PTSD, funny how there used to be high-intensity wars where it wasn’t much of a problem.

Criminal offending as part of an alternative reproductive strategy: Investigating evolutionary hypotheses using Swedish total population data: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263281358_Criminal_offending_as_part_of_an_alternative_reproductive_strategy_Investigating_evolutionary_hypotheses_using_Swedish_total_population_data
- criminals have higher reproductive fitness in Sweden
- not limited to men, so maybe just stems from impulsiveness

Exploring the genetic correlations of antisocial behavior and life history traits: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/08/23/247411
Our genetic correlation analyses demonstrate that alleles associated with higher reproductive output (number of children ever born, rg=0.50, p=.0065) were positively correlated with alleles associated with antisocial behavior, whereas alleles associated with more delayed reproductive onset (age of first birth, rg=-.64, p=.0008) were negatively associated with alleles linked to antisocial behavior.

nice: http://www.newschannel5.com/news/inmates-given-reduced-jail-time-if-they-get-a-vasectomy

Are per-incident rape-pregnancy rates higher than per-incident consensual pregnancy rates?: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12110-003-1014-0
Our analysis suggests that per-incident rape-pregnancy rates exceed per-incident consensual pregnancy rates by a sizable margin, even before adjusting for the use of relevant forms of birth control. Possible explanations for this phenomenon are discussed, as are its implications to ongoing debates over the ultimate causes of rape.

High-low versus the middle is so pervasive, and so explanatory, it is astounding. We have a genuine law of social organisation.
Solzhenitsyn on the Gulags and the lumpenproletariat: https://twitter.com/TheIllegit/status/883797665128919040

Raise the Crime Rate: https://nplusonemag.com/issue-13/politics/raise-the-crime-rate/

turnstile jumping/fair cheating in DC Metro:

"What about bad people? What about racists?"
I don't answer those questions anymore.

People who want to do anything except confront evil men: http://www.isegoria.net/2018/03/people-who-want-to-do-anything-except-confront-evil-men/
This really is a matter of chickens coming home to roost. There has been a tension since the 60’s about what we want police to do. We no longer have fit men with a strong capacity for violence occupying the majority of patrol cars in this country. What we have been slipping towards for decades are a mass of armed social workers with a small force of violent proficient SWAT guys who are supposed to save the day when bad things really, really need to happen but are never there when you really need them.


Finally, our society needs to adjust its attitudes towards violence. There is the recently coined term “pro-social violence” which is used to describe “lawful, moral violence in the service of good.” We need to restore the idea that when violent things happen to bad people, it’s OK and society is better as a whole.
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september 2016 by nhaliday
The Rise and Fall of the Bourgeois Era – spottedtoad
That is, the Bourgeois Era allowed and required men (and then women) to work within the market system to support their families, but a changing technology of production means we are more in need of consumers than producers now. The Bourgeois Era benefited from people who were in some ways “bred for capitalism,” by the combination of Malthusian circumstances and strong states that punished violence with violence and starved the children of those who couldn’t make a living with market labor. But the majority of the people on the planet did not go through that same, centuries-long process, which was only partially effective in the places it operated in any case.

Just in time, however, the “need” for bourgeois lives has dissipated.
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august 2016 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Evidence for (very) recent natural selection in humans
height (+), infant head circumference (+), some biomolecular stuff, female hip size (+), male BMI (-), age of menarche (+, !!), and birth weight (+)

Strong selection in the recent past can cause allele frequencies to change significantly. Consider two different SNPs, which today have equal minor allele frequency (for simplicity, let this be equal to one half). Assume that one SNP was subject to strong recent selection, and another (neutral) has had approximately zero effect on fitness. The advantageous version of the first SNP was less common in the far past, and rose in frequency recently (e.g., over the last 2k years). In contrast, the two versions of the neutral SNP have been present in roughly the same proportion (up to fluctuations) for a long time. Consequently, in the total past breeding population (i.e., going back tens of thousands of years) there have been many more copies of the neutral alleles (and the chunks of DNA surrounding them) than of the positively selected allele. Each of the chunks of DNA around the SNPs we are considering is subject to a roughly constant rate of mutation.

Looking at the current population, one would then expect a larger variety of mutations in the DNA region surrounding the neutral allele (both versions) than near the favored selected allele (which was rarer in the population until very recently, and whose surrounding region had fewer chances to accumulate mutations). By comparing the difference in local mutational diversity between the two versions of the neutral allele (should be zero modulo fluctuations, for the case MAF = 0.5), and between the (+) and (-) versions of the selected allele (nonzero, due to relative change in frequency), one obtains a sensitive signal for recent selection. See figure at bottom for more detail. In the paper what I call mutational diversity is measured by looking at distance distribution of singletons, which are rare variants found in only one individual in the sample under study.

The 2,000 year selection of the British: http://www.unz.com/gnxp/the-2000-year-selection-of-the-british/

Detection of human adaptation during the past 2,000 years: http://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/05/07/052084

The key idea is that recent selection distorts the ancestral genealogy of sampled haplotypes at a selected site. In particular, the terminal (tip) branches of the genealogy tend to be shorter for the favored allele than for the disfavored allele, and hence, haplotypes carrying the favored allele will tend to carry fewer singleton mutations (Fig. 1A-C and SOM).

To capture this effect, we use the sum of distances to the nearest singleton in each direction from a test SNP as a summary statistic (Fig. 1D).

Figure 1. Illustration of the SDS method.

Figure 2. Properties of SDS.

Based on a recent model of European demography [25], we estimate that the mean tip length for a neutral sample of 3,000 individuals is 75 generations, or roughly 2,000 years (Fig. 2A). Since SDS aims to measure changes in tip lengths of the genealogy, we conjectured that it would be most likely to detect selection approximately within this timeframe.

Indeed, in simulated sweep models with samples of 3,000 individuals (Fig. 2B,C and fig. S2), we find that SDS focuses specifically on very recent time scales, and has equal power for hard and soft sweeps within this timeframe. At individual loci, SDS is powered to detect ~2% selection over 100 generations. Moreover, SDS has essentially no power to detect older selection events that stopped >100 generations before the present. In contrast, a commonly-used test for hard sweeps, iHS [12], integrates signal over much longer timescales (>1,000 generations), has no specificity to the more recent history, and has essentially no power for the soft sweep scenarios.

Catching evolution in the act with the Singleton Density Score: http://www.molecularecologist.com/2016/05/catching-evolution-in-the-act-with-the-singleton-density-score/
The Singleton Density Score (SDS) is a measure based on the idea that changes in allele frequencies induced by recent selection can be observed in a sample’s genealogy as differences in the branch length distribution.

You don’t need a weatherman: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/you-dont-need-a-weatherman/
You can do a million cool things with this method. Since the effective time scale goes inversely with sample size, you could look at evolution in England over the past 1000 years or the past 500. Differencing, over the period 1-1000 AD. Since you can look at polygenic traits, you can see whether the alleles favoring higher IQs have increased or decreased in frequency over various stretches of time. You can see if Greg Clark’s proposed mechanism really happened. You can (soon) tell if creeping Pinkerization is genetic, or partly genetic.

You could probably find out if the Middle Easterners really have gotten slower, and when it happened.

Looking at IQ alleles, you could not only show whether the Ashkenazi Jews really are biologically smarter but if so, when it happened, which would give you strong hints as to how it happened.

We know that IQ-favoring alleles are going down (slowly) right now (not counting immigration, which of course drastically speeds it up). Soon we will know if this was true while Russia was under the Mongol yoke – we’ll know how smart Periclean Athenians were and when that boost occurred. And so on. And on!


“The pace has been so rapid that humans have changed significantly in body and mind over recorded history."

bicameral mind: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/you-dont-need-a-weatherman/#comment-78934

Chinese, Koreans, Japanese and Ashkenazi Jews all have high levels of myopia. Australian Aborigines have almost none, I think.

I expect that the fall of all great empires is based on long term dysgenic trends. There is no logical reason why so many empires and civilizations throughout history could grow so big and then not simply keep growing, except for dysgenics.
I can think of about twenty other possible explanations off the top of my head, but dysgenics is a possible cause.
I agree with DataExplorer. The largest factor in the decay of civilizations is dysgenics. The discussion by R. A. Fisher 1930 p. 193 is very cogent on this matter. Soon we will know for sure.
Sometimes it can be rapid. Assume that the upper classes are mostly urban, and somewhat sharper than average. Then the Mongols arrive.
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august 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
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
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.

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.

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

bundles : econpeeps

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