nhaliday + mena4   27

The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective - American Affairs Journal
I don’t claim to be a modern-day Alexis de Tocqueville, nor do I have much in common with this famous observer of American life. He grew up in Paris, a city renowned for its culture and architecture. I grew up in Shijiazhuang, a city renowned for being the headquarters of the company that produced toxic infant formula. He was a child of aristocrats; I am the child of modest workers.

Nevertheless, I hope my candid observations can provide some insights into the elite institutions of the West. Certain beliefs are as ubiquitous among the people I went to school with as smog was in Shijiazhuang. The doctrines that shape the worldviews and cultural assumptions at elite Western institutions like Cambridge, Stanford, and Goldman Sachs have become almost religious. Nevertheless, I hope that the perspective of a candid Chinese atheist can be of some instruction to them.


So I came to the UK in 2001, when I was 16 years old. Much to my surprise, I found the UK’s exam-focused educational system very similar to the one in China. What is more, in both countries, going to the “right schools” and getting the “right job” are seen as very important by a large group of eager parents. As a result, scoring well on exams and doing well in school interviews—or even the play session for the nursery or pre-prep school—become the most important things in the world. Even at the university level, the undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge depends on nothing else but an exam at the end of the last year.

On the other hand, although the UK’s university system is considered superior to China’s, with a population that is only one-twentieth the size of my native country, competition, while tough, is less intimidating. For example, about one in ten applicants gets into Oxbridge in the UK, and Stanford and Harvard accept about one in twenty-five applicants. But in Hebei province in China, where I am from, only one in fifteen hundred applicants gets into Peking or Qinghua University.

Still, I found it hard to believe how much easier everything became. I scored first nationwide in the GCSE (high school) math exam, and my photo was printed in a national newspaper. I was admitted into Trinity College, University of Cambridge, once the home of Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Prince Charles.

I studied economics at Cambridge, a field which has become more and more mathematical since the 1970s. The goal is always to use a mathematical model to find a closed-form solution to a real-world problem. Looking back, I’m not sure why my professors were so focused on these models. I have since found that the mistake of blindly relying on models is quite widespread in both trading and investing—often with disastrous results, such as the infamous collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. Years later, I discovered the teaching of Warren Buffett: it is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong. But our professors taught us to think of the real world as a math problem.

The culture of Cambridge followed the dogmas of the classroom: a fervent adherence to rules and models established by tradition. For example, at Cambridge, students are forbidden to walk on grass. This right is reserved for professors only. The only exception is for those who achieve first class honors in exams; they are allowed to walk on one area of grass on one day of the year.

The behavior of my British classmates demonstrated an even greater herd mentality than what is often mocked in American MBAs. For example, out of the thirteen economists in my year at Trinity, twelve would go on to join investment banks, and five of us went to work for Goldman Sachs.


To me, Costco represents the best of American capitalism. It is a corporation known for having its customers and employees in mind, while at the same time it has compensated its shareholders handsomely over the years. To the customers, it offers the best combination of quality and low cost. Whenever it manages to reduce costs, it passes the savings on to customers immediately. Achieving a 10 percent gross margin with prices below Amazon’s is truly incredible. After I had been there once, I found it hard to shop elsewhere.

Meanwhile, its salaries are much higher than similar retail jobs. When the recession hit in 2008, the company increased salaries to help employees cope with the difficult environment. From the name tags the staff wear, I have seen that frontline employees work there for decades, something hard to imagine elsewhere.

Stanford was for me a distant second to Costco in terms of the American capitalist experience. Overall, I enjoyed the curriculum at the GSB. Inevitably I found some classes less interesting, but the professors all seemed to be quite understanding, even when they saw me reading my kindle during class.

One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring. He asked if perhaps there was another motto or logo that my other classmates might connect with. I told him about the black swan I kept on my desk as a reminder that low probability events happen with high frequency. He didn’t like that motto either and decided to call on another student, who had worked at Pfizer. Their motto was “all people deserve to live healthy lives.” The professor thought this was much better. I didn’t understand how it would motivate employees, but this was exactly why I had come to Stanford: to learn the key lessons of interpersonal communication and leadership.

On the communication and leadership front, I came to the GSB knowing I was not good and hoped to get better. My favorite class was called “Interpersonal Dynamics” or, as students referred to it, “Touchy Feely.” In “Touchy Feely,” students get very candid feedback on how their words and actions affect others in a small group that meets several hours per week for a whole quarter.

We talked about microaggressions and feelings and empathy and listening. Sometimes in class the professor would say things to me like “Puzhong, when Mary said that, I could see you were really feeling something,” or “Puzhong, I could see in your eyes that Peter’s story affected you.” And I would tell them I didn’t feel anything. I was quite confused.

One of the papers we studied mentioned that subjects are often not conscious of their own feelings when fully immersed in a situation. But body indicators such as heart rate would show whether the person is experiencing strong emotions. I thought that I generally didn’t have a lot of emotions and decided that this might be a good way for me to discover my hidden emotions that the professor kept asking about.

So I bought a heart rate monitor and checked my resting heart rate. Right around 78. And when the professor said to me in class “Puzhong, I can see that story brought up some emotions in you,” I rolled up my sleeve and checked my heart rate. It was about 77. And so I said, “nope, no emotion.” The experiment seemed to confirm my prior belief: my heart rate hardly moved, even when I was criticized, though it did jump when I became excited or laughed.

This didn’t land well on some of my classmates. They felt I was not treating these matters with the seriousness that they deserved. The professor was very angry. My takeaway was that my interpersonal skills were so bad that I could easily offend people unintentionally, so I concluded that after graduation I should do something that involved as little human interaction as possible.

Therefore, I decided I needed to return to work in financial markets rather than attempting something else. I went to the career service office and told them that my primary goal after the MBA was to make money. I told them that $500,000 sounded like a good number. They were very confused, though, as they said their goal was to help me find my passion and my calling. I told them that my calling was to make money for my family. They were trying to be helpful, but in my case, their advice didn’t turn out to be very helpful.

Eventually I was able to meet the chief financial officer of my favorite company, Costco. He told me that they don’t hire any MBAs. Everyone starts by pushing trolleys. (I have seriously thought about doing just that. But my wife is strongly against it.) Maybe, I thought, that is why the company is so successful—no MBAs!


Warren Buffett has said that the moment one was born in the United States or another Western country, that person has essentially won a lottery. If someone is born a U.S. citizen, he or she enjoys a huge advantage in almost every aspect of life, including expected wealth, education, health care, environment, safety, etc., when compared to someone born in developing countries. For someone foreign to “purchase” these privileges, the price tag at the moment is $1 million dollars (the rough value of the EB-5 investment visa). Even at this price level, the demand from certain countries routinely exceeds the annual allocated quota, resulting in long waiting times. In that sense, American citizens were born millionaires!

Yet one wonders how long such luck will last. This brings me back to the title of Rubin’s book, his “uncertain world.” In such a world, the vast majority things are outside our control, determined by God or luck. After we have given our best and once the final card is drawn, we should neither become too excited by what we have achieved nor too depressed by what we failed to … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Seven charts that show how the developed world is losing its edge
Savings China’s gross savings (at market exchange rates) are nearly as large as those of the US and EU combined. China saves almost half of its national income. This extraordinarily high share is likely to fall but that decline is set to be gradual, since Chinese households are likely to remain frugal and the share of profits in national income is likely to remain high.

80% of the US had no real increase in income 2005 to 2012-2014

Time to worry about the American consumer?: https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2017/08/03/2192172/time-to-worry-about-the-american-consumer/
Two basic ways to spend more money: you can earn more and save the same, or you can earn the same and save less. Newly revised data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that American consumers have spent the past two years embracing option 2. The average American now saves about 35 per cent less than in 2015:


Not since the beginning of 2008 have Americans saved so little — and that’s before accounting for inflation. It could be a sign of trouble ahead.

this seems not good

China's Financial Debt: Everything You Know Is Wrong: http://www.unz.com/article/chinas-financial-debt-everything-you-know-is-wrong/
As China Piles on Debt, Consumers Seek a Piece of the Action: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/business/china-debt-consumers.html
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july 2017 by nhaliday
The Effect of Smoking on Obesity: Evidence from a Randomized Trial
These results imply that the drop in smoking in recent decades explains 14% of the concurrent rise in obesity.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult | openDemocracy
this is the right wing intellectual equivalent of getting off to bbc porn
big asian iq/temperament shaped by thousands of years of malthusian capitalism & intensive agriculture DESTROYS white enlightenment morality
One of the key texts of the anti-white left is an online essay by a Weibo user named “Fantasy Lover Mr. Liu,” titled “The Road to Spiritual Plague: The History of the Evolution of the White Left.” The abrasive text begins: “Trump’s victory is only a small stone flung from humanity’s sling against the giant we face: the spiritual plague.”

Liu’s essay is, essentially, a somewhat unhinged history of the white left. He identifies several waves of the white left, the third wave coming with thinkers like Michel Foucault and the Frankfurt School, whom, he writes, were so traumatized by the horrors of the Second World War that they sought to deconstruct Western culture without actually considering an alternative.

The fourth and final wave, Liu says, was led by the students of the professors who had staged protests against the Vietnam War and had succeeded in ousting established academics on both the left and the right. He argues that academic curiosity was lost as the New Left demanded ideological purity on the questions of identity politics. To Liu, intellectual shallowness, isolation, and violence constitute the main features of the modern white left. Its advocates created a hive-mind in academia, which allowed them to spread white left values through Western society. The riots and protests that followed the election of Trump are the best evidence of this.

Chinese Social Media Notices US Cultural Revolution: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/08/chinese-social-media-notices-us.html

Air China magazine warns London visitors to avoid ethnic minority areas: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/09/07/air-chinas-safety-tips-for-london-visitors-may-raise-eyebrows.html

Sinic culture warring:
Singapore: https://medium.com/chinese-privilege/to-my-dear-fellow-singapore-chinese-shut-up-when-a-minority-is-talking-about-race-48e00d7c7073
The virus has reached Hong Kong (April 2017).

china will beat us because making money reliably gets you pussy there
this is what Nick Land was trying to get at with the whole 'libidinal materialism' idea
So you're saying James Damore is the harbinger of the failure of "capitalism with American characteristics" for this reason.

people dont really make money for explicitly instrumental reasons anymore

Surreal to read several paragraphs of “tfw no gf” from a guy worth 10 figures


Saving the Baizuo from his own stupidity is a important task. But very difficult and thankless.

I feel like I can predict how the Baizuo will behave, and the arguments he will give. But for the life of me I can’t understand his perspective.

The best places to live are inhabited by the Baizuo. The Baizuo makes for a good friend. And yet... he is a Baizuo. 😓

Can the Baizuo be saved from his own stupidity?

83% too far gone...:(

Multicultural America
I'm privy to a Chinese family having a meltdown because father was assigned an Indian doctor - eldest son is flying in - they want "a white doctor", not an affirmative-action doctor - a matter of honor & duty
Do Chinese see whites as dumb or misguided or both? I've heard mixed comments on this?
They see us as "too nice" - a beautiful but short-lived flower
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Is soy good or bad for me? | Examine.com
The estimated per capita consumption of soybean oil increased >1000-fold from 1909 to 1999.
https://twitter.com/evolutionarypsy/status/892489043446988800 (increase started during 60s)

Clinical studies show no effects of soy protein or isoflavones on reproductive hormones in men: results of a meta-analysis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19524224
No significant effects of soy protein or isoflavone intake on T, SHBG, free T, or FAI were detected regardless of statistical model.

some good ones:
pros and cons: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/
reproductive consequences: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3443604/
visuospatial memory: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC64558/
reject (in humans)t: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19524224


A: yes
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus


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=




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/




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.

The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

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.

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.

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]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
“Neoliberalism” and “The Cathedral” are the Same Damn Thing – spottedtoad
or.... maybe capital in the short run likes anarcho tyranny, big sclerotic capturable states, dumb pliant consumers, etc

The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter XI, Part III

Adam Smith on why Capital ought to be scrupulously distrusted in politics:
The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.

Roundworm Eyed Doll: Neoliberalism, Social Justice and Barbie's New Hair: http://roreiy.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-response-to-southwood-thesis.html

Corporate Leaders: Progressive Activists, Not Conservative Villains: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/445705/corporate-leaders-progressive-activists
The Market for Virtue: Why Companies like Qantas are Campaigning for Marriage Equality: http://quillette.com/2017/08/29/market-virtue-companies-like-qantas-campaigning-marriage-equality/
But companies aren’t being altruistic when they back causes like marriage equality. Research shows that executives pursue ethical behaviour because they think there is a business case for it. This is called the “market for virtue”, in which businesses aim to improve their public image or ward off regulation in exchange for ethical behaviour.

But there is little evidence that social responsibility initiatives necessarily result in positive outcomes for businesses. In fact, it may result in worse outcomes for society as a whole, as businesses put their resources behind causes that are already popular and ignore pressing issues such as inequality and stagnating wage growth.

its hard to disentangle the extent to which these things are done because they make them money
or because these values have become universal in the managerial caste from which they draw their leadership/upper echelon employees
Here is the essential difference in the models left and right must employ to publish: The left gets sponsors, we get scraps.

Since I should try to tweet a minimum number of tweets that will actually get me in trouble when I get inevitably doxxed: whatever else it is about, Woke Capital is probably also about average members of the Anglosphere/American population getting stupider.

The Rise of Woke Capital: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/opinion/corporate-america-activism.html
There's a simple reason companies are becoming more publicly left-wing on social issues: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-companies-ditching-nra-delta-selling-guns-2018-2
The main reason that companies have been increasingly willing to take one side of hot-button social issues (the left-leaning side) is that's increasingly a good strategy to please customers and employees.

Partly this is because certain policy issues have disproportionately left-leaning polling. Gay rights are popular. Most of the gun regulations on offer in the current debate poll well, too.

But it's also because socially liberal segments of the public punch above their weight as potential customers (and, in some cases, as potential employees) for these companies.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Discovering Limits to Growth | Do the Math
One may of course be skeptical that this general trend will also apply to the growth of our technology and economy at large, as innovation seems to continually postpone our clash with the ceiling, yet it seems inescapable that it must. For in light of what we know about physics, we can conclude that exponential growth of the kinds we see today, in technology in particular and in our economy more generally, must come to an end, and do so relatively soon.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Social Epistasis Amplifies the Fitness Costs of Deleterious Mutations, Engendering Rapid Fitness Decline Among Modernized Populations | SpringerLink
- Michael A. Woodley

We argue that in social species, interorganismal gene-gene interactions, which in previous literatures have been termed social epistasis, allow genomes carrying deleterious mutations to reduce via group-level pleiotropy the fitness of others, including noncarriers. This fitness reduction occurs by way of degradation of group-level processes that optimize the reproductive ecology of a population for intergroup competition through, among other mechanisms, suppression of free-riding.


Fitness indicators theory (Houle 2000; Miller 2000) predicts that the behavioral and physiological condition of prospective partners strongly influences female mate choice in particular, as these constitute honest indicators of underlying genetic quality. Furthermore, as deleterious mutations are pleiotropic (i.e., they can influence the development of multiple traits simultaneously), they are a source of genetic correlation among diverse behavioral and physiological domains, yielding a latent general fitness factor( f ). This optimizes the efficiency of sexual selection, as selection for quality with respect to one domain will increase the probability of selection for quality “across the board” (Houle 2000; Miller 2000). If purifying selection is primarily cryptic—working by virtue of those lower in f simply being less successful in competition for mates and therefore producing fewer offspring relative to those higher in the factor—then considerably less reproductive failure is needed to solve the mutation load paradox (19% instead of 88% based on simulations in Leseque et al. 2012).


Theoretical work involving humans suggests a loss of intrinsic fitness of around 1% per generation in the populations of modernized countries (Lynch 2016; Muller 1950). Thus, these might yet be undergoing mutational meltdown, albeit very gradually (i.e., over the course of centuries)


An interesting observation is that the fitness of the populations of modernized nations does appear to be rapidly decreasing—although not in a manner consonant with the direct action of deleterious mutations on the fitness of individuals (as per the mutation load paradox).


Increased education has furthermore encouraged individuals to trade fertility against opportunities to enhance their social status and earning power, with the largest fitness losses occurring among those with high status who potentially carry fewer deleterious mutations (i.e., by virtue of possessing higher levels of traits that exhibit some sensitivity to mutation load, such as general intelligence; Spain et al. 2015; Woodley of Menie et al. 2016a). Hitherto not considered is the possibility that the demographic transition represents a potential change in the fitness characteristics of the group-level extended phenotype of modernized populations, indicating that there might exist pathways through which deleterious mutations that accumulate due to ecological mildness could pathologically alter fertility tradeoffs in ways that might account for the maladaptive aspects of the fertility transition (e.g., subreplacement fertility; Basten, Lutz and Scherbov, 2013).


Cooperation, though offering significant fitness benefits to individual organisms and groups, involves some costs for cooperators in order to realize mutual gains for all parties. Free riders are individuals that benefit from cooperation without suffering any of the costs needed to sustain it. Hence, free riders enjoy a fitness advantage relative to cooperators via the former’s parasitism on the latter.


The balance of selection can alternate between the different levels depending on the sorts of selective challenges that a population encounters. For example, group selection may operate on human populations during times of intergroup conflict (i.e., warfare), whereas during times of peace, selection may tend to favor the fitness of individuals instead (Woodley and Figueredo 2013; Wilson 2002). A major factor that seems to permit group-level selection to be viable under certain ecological regimes is the existence of free-rider controls, i.e., features of the group’s social ecology that curb the reproductive fitness of the carriers of “selfish” genetic variants (MacDonald 1994; Wilson 2002).


High-status individuals participate in the generation and vertical cultural transmission of free-rider controls—these take the form of religious and ideological systems which make a virtue out of behaviors that overtly benefit the group, and a vice out of those that only favor individual-level fitness, via the promotion of ethnocentrism, martyrdom, and displays of commitment (MacDonald 1994, 2009, 2010; Wilson 2002). Humans are furthermore equipped with specialized mental adaptations for coordinating as part of a group, such as effortful control—the ability to override implicit behavioral drives via the use of explicit processing systems, which allow them to regulate their behavior based on what is optimal for the group (MacDonald 2008). The interaction between individuals of different degrees of status, i.e., those that generate and maintain cultural norms and those who are merely subject to them, therefore constitutes a form of social epistasis, as the complex patterns of interactions among genomes that characterize human culture have the effect of regulating both individual- and group-level (via the curbing of free-riding) fitness (MacDonald 2009, 2010).

Mutations that push the behavior of high-status individuals away from the promotion of group-selected norms may promote a breakdown of or otherwise alter these social epistatic interactions, causing dysregulation of the group’s reproductive ecology. Behavioral changes are furthermore a highly likely consequence of mutation accumulation, as “behavior” (construed broadly) is a large potential target for new mutations (Miller 2000; Lynch 2016) 1 owing to the fact that approximately 84% of all genes in the human genome are involved in some aspect of brain development and/or maintenance (Hawrylycz et al. 2012).

Consistent with the theorized role of group-level (cultural) regulatory processes in the maintenance of fitness optima, positive correlations exist between religiosity (a major freerider control; MacDonald 1994; Wilson 2002) and fertility, both at the individual differences and cross-cultural levels (Meisenberg 2011). Religiosity has declined in modernized nations—a process that has gone hand-in-hand with the rise of a values system called postmaterialism (Inglehart 1977), which is characterized by the proliferation of individualistic, secular, and antihierarchical values (Welzel 2013). The holding of these values is negatively associated with fertility, both at the individual level (when measured as political liberalism; Goldstone et al. 2011) and across time and cultures (Inglehart and Appel 1989). The rise of postmaterialist values is also associated with increasingly delayed onset of reproduction (Klien 1990) which directly increases the (population) mutation load.

Pathological Altruism

Some of the values embodied in postmaterialism have been linked to the pathological altruism phenomenon, i.e., forms of altruism that damage the intended recipients or givers of largesse (Oakley et al. 2012; Oakley 2013). Virtues associated with altruism such as kindness, fidelity, magnanimity, and heroism, along with quasi-moral traits associated with personality and mental health, may be under sexual selection and might therefore be sensitive, through the f factor, to the deleterious effects of accumulating mutations (Miller 2007).


Another form of pathologically altruistic behavior that Oakley (2013) documents is self-righteousness, which may be increasing, consistent with secular trend data indicating elevated levels of self-regarding behavior among Western populations (sometimes called the narcissism epidemic; Twenge and Campbell 2009). This sort of behavior constitutes a key component of the clever silly phenomenon in which the embrace of counterfactual beliefs is used to leverage social status via virtue signaling (e.g., the conflation of moral equality among individuals, sexes, and populations with biological equality) (Dutton and van der Linden 2015; Charlton 2009; Woodley 2010). There may be a greater number of influential persons inclined to disseminate such beliefs, in that the prevalence of phenotypes disposed toward egoistic behaviors may have increased in Western populations (per Twenge and coworkers’ research), and because egoists, specifically Machiavellians and narcissists, appear advantaged in the acquisition of elite societal stations (Spurk et al. 2015).

[Do Bad Guys Get Ahead or Fall Behind? Relationships of the Dark Triad of Personality With Objective and Subjective Career Success: http://sci-hub.tw/http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1948550615609735

After controlling for other relevant variables (i.e., gender, age, job tenure, organization size, education, and work hours), narcissism was positively related to salary, Machiavellianism was positively related to leadership position and career satisfaction, and psychopathy was negatively related to all analyzed outcomes.]


By altering cultural norms, elite egoists may encourage the efflorescence of selfish behaviors against which some older and once highly influential cultural systems acted. For example, Christianity in various forms strongly promoted personal sacrifice for the good of groups and proscribed egoistic behaviors (Rubin 2015), but has declined significantly in terms of cultural power following modernization (Inglehart 1977). Thus, it is possible that a feedback loop exists wherein deleterious mutation accumulation raises population levels of egoism, either directly or indirectly, via the breakdown of developmental constraints on personality canalization; the resultantly greater number of egoists are then able to exploit relevant personality traits to attain positions of sociocultural influence; and through these … [more]
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march 2017 by nhaliday
PTSD: The War Disorder That Goes Far Beyond the Battlefield | Vanity Fair
This is an old problem, and today’s vets are not the first Americans to balk at coming home. A source of continual embarrassment along the American frontier—from the late 1600s until the end of the Indian Wars, in the 1890s—was a phenomenon known as “the White Indians.” The term referred to white settlers who were kidnapped by Indians—or simply ran off to them—and became so enamored of that life that they refused to leave. According to many writers of the time, including Benjamin Franklin, the reverse never happened: Indians never ran off to join white society. And if a peace treaty required that a tribe give up their adopted members, these members would often have to be put under guard and returned home by force. Inevitably, many would escape to rejoin their Indian families. “Thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we have no examples of even one of those aborigines having from choice become European,” wrote a French-born writer in America named Michel-Guillaume-Saint-Jean de Crèvecoeur in an essay published in 1782.

One could say that combat vets are the White Indians of today, and that they miss the war because it was, finally, an experience of human closeness that they can’t easily find back home. Not the closeness of family, which is rare enough, but the closeness of community and tribe. The kind of closeness that gets endlessly venerated in Hollywood movies but only actually shows up in contemporary society when something goes wrong—when tornados obliterate towns or planes are flown into skyscrapers. Those events briefly give us a reason to act communally, and most of us do. “There is something to be said for using risk to forge social bonds,” Abramowitz pointed out. “Having something to fight for, and fight through, is a good and important thing.”
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Exposure to exogenous estrogen through intake of commercial milk produced from pregnant cows - Maruyama - 2009 - Pediatrics International - Wiley Online Library
7 men, 6 children, 5 women
After the intake of cow milk, serum estrone (E1) and progesterone concentrations significantly increased, and serum luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone and testosterone significantly decreased in men. Urine concentrations of E1, estradiol, estriol and pregnanediol significantly increased in all adults and children. In four out of five women, ovulation occurred during the milk intake, and the timing of ovulation was similar among the three menstrual cycles.

mice study w/ n=60: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160803124441.htm
study  hmm  hypochondria  food  embodied  🐸  multi  gavisti  model-organism  human-study  endocrine  mena4  news  org:sci  science-anxiety  sanctity-degradation  intervention  null-result  public-health 
december 2016 by nhaliday
What is up with carbon dioxide and cognition? An offer - Less Wrong Discussion
study: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1104789/
n=22, p-values < .001 generally, no multiple comparisons or anything, right?
chart: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/ehp.1104789.g002.png
- note it's CO2 not oxygen that's relevant
- some interesting debate in comments about whether you would find similar effects for similar levels of variation in oxygen, implications for high-altitude living, etc.
- CO2 levels can range quite to quite high levels indoors (~1500, and even ~7000 in some of Gwern's experiments); this seems to be enough to impact cognition to a significant degree
- outdoor air quality often better than indoor even in urban areas (see other studies)

the solution: houseplants, http://lesswrong.com/lw/nk0/what_is_up_with_carbon_dioxide_and_cognition_an/d956

except that environmental instability tends to be harder on more 'complex' adaptations and co2 ppm directly correlates with decreased effectiveness of cognition-enhancing traits vis chronic low-grade acidosis
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may 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : peeps

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