nhaliday + success   58

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
Career Options for Scientists
Most PhD students in the biological sciences will not go on to become academics. For these individuals, choosing the best career path can be difficult. Fortunately, there are many options that allow them to take advantage of skills they hone during graduate and postdoctoral work.

The declining interest in an academic career: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0184130
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september 2017 by nhaliday
The Only Game in Town | West Hunter
Over on Discover gnxp, Victor said “As far as IQ is concerned, I find such comparisons meaningless. An IQ test devised by members of some African tribe is going to be very different from one devised by Western academics. And I can guarantee that most “Caucasians” would not do very well on such a test.”

I mention this not because it is true or sensible, but rather because it is often said.  I can hardly count the times that I have seen someone make this argument.  The person putting it forth usually thinks of it as utterly crushing.  Another related argument is that there are ‘lots of different kinds of intelligence” – so who can say what really matters?

Well,  I can.   IQ, as measured by IQ scores, is a decent measure of the cognitive skills that you need in order for technical innovation or more routine science and engineering.  It’s generally useful in modern technical civilization. Populations with low average IQ produce very few individuals that are good at innovation. Very few.   If there were one or a few kinds of intelligence that were not measured well by IQ tests, but allowed people with low IQs to accomplish remarkable things –  you’d think we would notice.   We know that they don’t invent railroads or transistors or penicillin:  what comparably important and useful things have they done?
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august 2017 by nhaliday
How civilizations fall | The New Criterion
On the role of radical feminism in the decline of civilization.

Marx provided the model for all subsequent movements aiming to take power. His “make your own tribe” kit was found useful by nationalists, anarchists, and many brands of socialist. Hitler made the most creative use of it by playing down victimization and representing every Aryan as a superior type of person. It took the world in arms to get rid of him. But before long, revolutionaries discovered that a revolution based on the proletarian tribe only really worked if you were dealing with pretty unsophisticated peoples—preferably non-Europeans who lacked all experience of freedom and genuine political life. In socially mobile European states, the workers mostly found better things to do with their time than waste it on revolutionary committees and the baby talk of political demonstrations. Something new was needed.

It was provided by such socialists as Mussolini and Lenin who adopted the principle of the Praetorian Guard: a tightly knit vanguard party, which could use the masses as ventriloquial dummies and seek power on its own terms. This development was part of _a wider tendency towards the emergence of oligarchies ruling through democratic slogans_.


In the course of the 1960s, a new tribe was established that also sought to overthrow the Western citadel from within and had notably greater success. This was Betty Friedan’s radical feminists. It was a tribe constructed out of women who had taken some sort of degree and were living domestic lives. Technology had largely liberated them from the rigors of beating, sweeping, and cleaning, while pharmacology had released them from excessive procreation. In tactical terms, radical feminists made one innovation that has turned out to be crucial to the destiny of the West over the last half century. They suppressed almost completely the idea that their project involved a transfer of power and operated entirely on the moralistic principle that their demands corresponded to justice.

What lay behind this momentous development? It is a complicated question, but I think that Diana Schaub understood the essence of it in her essay “On the Character of Generation X”: 1

[Betty] Friedan was right that the malaise these privileged women were experiencing was a result of “a slow death of the mind and spirit.” _But she was wrong in saying that the problem had no name—its name was boredom._ Feminism was born of boredom, not oppression. And what was the solution to this quandary? Feminists clamored to become wage-slaves; they resolutely fled the challenge of leisure.


The most obvious fact about it is one that we can hardly mention, now that the revolution has succeeded, without embarrassment or derision, because it is a fact which powerful contemporary forces make recessive. It is simply that this civilization is, in the crude terms of creative hits, the achievement of white males. The history of Western civilization is a succession of clever men developing the set of traditions or inventing the benefits which, intertwined, constitute the West. And from Thales and Euclid to Einstein and George Gershwin, nearly all of them were male. They constitute the set of “dead white males” whom the radical revolutionaries in the sub-academic culture have denigrated and vowed to remove from their pedestals. I once heard a feminist put it this way: “There’s no such thing as a great mind.” This doctrine is so powerful that the simple factual statement that it has been men who have created what is commonly meant by Western (and for that matter, any other) civilization seems like an insensitive affront to the equality of mankind. And the next step in my argument must be to deal with this as a problem.


_The key to modern Western civilization is its openness to talent wherever found._ The feminist demand for collective quotas has overturned this basic feature of our civilization. The crucial point is that the character of a civilization is revealed by its understanding of achievement. European civilization responded to achievement wherever it could be found. To replace achievement by quota entitlements is to destroy one civilization from within and to replace it with another. We are no longer what we were. The problem is to explain how the West collapsed.


This example not only illuminates the success of radical feminism, but also reveals something of the long-term significance of these massive shifts of power. For the real threat to universities came not from students but from government. Students were a minor irritant in academic life, but governments were now bent on destroying the autonomy of the institutions of civil society. Students merely functioned as their fifth column. They had the effect of forcing universities even more into a public domain. Students wanted the academic to become the political and that was the effect they had. _Before 1960 universities largely ran their own affairs. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, they had all succumbed to the state subsidies that destroyed their autonomy._


In a few significant areas, however, no such demands are made. These areas are either where women graduates have no wish to go (rough outdoor work) or where lack of ability could lead to instant disaster, such as brain surgery or piloting commercial aircraft. Women are to be found in both, but only on the basis of ability. Universities are obviously a soft touch because the consequences of educational betrayal take decades to emerge. The effect of university quotas for “gender diversity” for example has often been to fill humanities departments with women in order to equalize numbers “distorted” (one might say) by technology and the hard sciences where even passably able women are hard to come by. Many women in the humanities departments are indeed very able, but many are not, and they have often prospered by setting up fanciful ideological courses (especially in women’s studies), _which can hardly pretend to be academic at all_.

What however of areas where women are patently unsuited—such as the army, the police force, or fire fighting? They have in fact all been under attack because although women are unsuited to the rough work at the bottom, these areas have enviable managerial opportunities higher up. They are _one more irresistible gravy train_. The fire-fighting case was dramatized by the New York judicial decision that a test of fitness for the force that nearly all women failed must be discriminatory, and therefore illegal, an extension of the idea of “the rule of law” far beyond any serious meaning. This was the doctrine called “disparate impact.” Similar considerations have affected women in the armed forces. Standards of entry have been lowered in order that women may qualify. One argument for so doing is that the rejected tests looked for qualities only rarely needed in the field, and that may indeed be true. Yet, the idea that soldiers are heroic figures doing something that women generally cannot do has forever been part of the self-understanding of men, even those who have never heard a shot fired in anger. A small boy inclined to cry out at the sting of iodine or the prick of an injection might be told “be a soldier.” Today according to the feminist doctrine he is more likely to be told to express his feelings.

The assault of women on areas such as the church raises similar issues. In principle there is not the slightest reason why women should not take on a priestly role, and one might indeed suspect that feminists may be right in diagnosing resistance in part to an unhealthy attitude to women on the part of some of the clergy. In a pastoral role, women might well be better than men, as some women are in politics. The problem is that women priests raise very awkward questions of Christian theology. Jesus selected only male disciples. Was the son of God then merely a creature of his own culture? Here most conspicuously the entry of women changes entirely the conception of the activity and not for the better. Female clergy have done little to reverse the current decline of the church. Indeed while women as individuals have often enhanced what they have joined, _the entry of women in general has seldom done much for any area previously dominated by men—except, significantly, bureaucracy_.


Let us now return to the teasing question of _why the male custodians of our civilization sold the pass_. Some element of _cowardice_ must certainly be recognized, because the radicals were tribal warriors making ferocious faces and stamping their feet. The defenders were white, male, and middle class, and the radicals had long been engaged in a campaign to erode the morale of each of these abstract categories. They denoted racism, sexism, and elitism respectively. Caricatured in terms of these abstractions, men found it difficult not to be written off as oppressors of women. Again, _the defenders were not united_. Many had been longstanding advocates of liberal feminism and from confusion believed that radical feminism was _merely a rather hysterical version of classical liberalism_. Retreat is a notoriously difficult maneuver to control. Each concession could be used to demand further concessions in the name of consistency. Hence the appearance in all English-speaking countries of legislation mandating equal opportunities—and who could possibly be against that? Before long, the movement had taken over the universities, many public bodies, industrial firms and, above all, the media. _Quite rapidly, hiring for status-giving jobs requiring degrees had become closely circumscribed by a set of rules. The dogma was that 50 percent of all jobs belonged to women, though the reality of quotas was long denied._

There are, of course, deeper currents. One of them is that men tended to react to radical feminism with a high-minded feeling that nothing but justice, a notoriously fluid idea, should determine public policy. _The balancing of … [more]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Determinants of Trust
Both individual experiences and community characteristics influence how much people trust each other. Using data drawn from US localities we find that the strongest factors that reduce trust are: i) a recent history of traumatic experiences, even though the passage of time reduces this effect fairly rapidly; ii) belonging to a group that historically felt discriminated against, such as minorities (black in particular) and, to a lesser extent, women; iii) being economically unsuccessful in terms of income and education; iv) living in a racially mixed community and/or in one with a high degree of income disparity. Religious beliefs and ethnic origins do not significantly affect trust. The latter result may be an indication that the American melting pot at least up to a point works, in terms of homogenizing attitudes of different cultures, even though racial cleavages leading to low trust are still quite high.

Understanding Trust: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13387
In this paper we resolve this puzzle by recognizing that trust has two components: a belief-based one and a preference based one. While the sender's behavior reflects both, we show that WVS-like measures capture mostly the belief-based component, while questions on past trusting behavior are better at capturing the preference component of trust.

MEASURING TRUST: http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/laibson/files/measuring_trust.pdf
We combine two experiments and a survey to measure trust and trustworthiness— two key components of social capital. Standard attitudinal survey questions about trust predict trustworthy behavior in our experiments much better than they predict trusting behavior. Trusting behavior in the experiments is predicted by past trusting behavior outside of the experiments. When individuals are closer socially, both trust and trustworthiness rise. Trustworthiness declines when partners are of different races or nationalities. High status individuals are able to elicit more trustworthiness in others.

What is Social Capital? The Determinants of Trust and Trustworthiness: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7216
Using a sample of Harvard undergraduates, we analyze trust and social capital in two experiments. Trusting behavior and trustworthiness rise with social connection; differences in race and nationality reduce the level of trustworthiness. Certain individuals appear to be persistently more trusting, but these people do not say they are more trusting in surveys. Survey questions about trust predict trustworthiness not trust. Only children are less trustworthy. People behave in a more trustworthy manner towards higher status individuals, and therefore status increases earnings in the experiment. As such, high status persons can be said to have more social capital.

Trust and Cheating: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18509
We find that: i) both parties to a trust exchange have implicit notions of what constitutes cheating even in a context without promises or messages; ii) these notions are not unique - the vast majority of senders would feel cheated by a negative return on their trust/investment, whereas a sizable minority defines cheating according to an equal split rule; iii) these implicit notions affect the behavior of both sides to the exchange in terms of whether to trust or cheat and to what extent. Finally, we show that individual's notions of what constitutes cheating can be traced back to two classes of values instilled by parents: cooperative and competitive. The first class of values tends to soften the notion while the other tightens it.

Nationalism and Ethnic-Based Trust: Evidence from an African Border Region: https://u.osu.edu/robinson.1012/files/2015/12/Robinson_NationalismTrust-1q3q9u1.pdf
These results offer microlevel evidence that a strong and salient national identity can diminish ethnic barriers to trust in diverse societies.

One Team, One Nation: Football, Ethnic Identity, and Conflict in Africa: http://conference.nber.org/confer//2017/SI2017/DEV/Durante_Depetris-Chauvin.pdf
Do collective experiences that prime sentiments of national unity reduce interethnic tensions and conflict? We examine this question by looking at the impact of national football teams’ victories in sub-Saharan Africa. Combining individual survey data with information on over 70 official matches played between 2000 and 2015, we find that individuals interviewed in the days after a victory of their country’s national team are less likely to report a strong sense of ethnic identity and more likely to trust people of other ethnicities than those interviewed just before. The effect is sizable and robust and is not explained by generic euphoria or optimism. Crucially, national victories do not only affect attitudes but also reduce violence. Indeed, using plausibly exogenous variation from close qualifications to the Africa Cup of Nations, we find that countries that (barely) qualified experience significantly less conflict in the following six months than countries that (barely) did not. Our findings indicate that, even where ethnic tensions have deep historical roots, patriotic shocks can reduce inter-ethnic tensions and have a tangible impact on conflict.

Why Does Ethnic Diversity Undermine Public Goods Provision?: http://www.columbia.edu/~mh2245/papers1/HHPW.pdf
We identify three families of mechanisms that link diversity to public goods provision—–what we term “preferences,” “technology,” and “strategy selection” mechanisms—–and run a series of experimental games that permit us to compare the explanatory power of distinct mechanisms within each of these three families. Results from games conducted with a random sample of 300 subjects from a slum neighborhood of Kampala, Uganda, suggest that successful public goods provision in homogenous ethnic communities can be attributed to a strategy selection mechanism: in similar settings, co-ethnics play cooperative equilibria, whereas non-co-ethnics do not. In addition, we find evidence for a technology mechanism: co-ethnics are more closely linked on social networks and thus plausibly better able to support cooperation through the threat of social sanction. We find no evidence for prominent preference mechanisms that emphasize the commonality of tastes within ethnic groups or a greater degree of altruism toward co-ethnics, and only weak evidence for technology mechanisms that focus on the impact of shared ethnicity on the productivity of teams.

does it generalize to first world?

Higher Intelligence Groups Have Higher Cooperation Rates in the Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma: https://ideas.repec.org/p/iza/izadps/dp8499.html
The initial cooperation rates are similar, it increases in the groups with higher intelligence to reach almost full cooperation, while declining in the groups with lower intelligence. The difference is produced by the cumulation of small but persistent differences in the response to past cooperation of the partner. In higher intelligence subjects, cooperation after the initial stages is immediate and becomes the default mode, defection instead requires more time. For lower intelligence groups this difference is absent. Cooperation of higher intelligence subjects is payoff sensitive, thus not automatic: in a treatment with lower continuation probability there is no difference between different intelligence groups

Why societies cooperate: https://voxeu.org/article/why-societies-cooperate
Three attributes are often suggested to generate cooperative behaviour – a good heart, good norms, and intelligence. This column reports the results of a laboratory experiment in which groups of players benefited from learning to cooperate. It finds overwhelming support for the idea that intelligence is the primary condition for a socially cohesive, cooperative society. Warm feelings towards others and good norms have only a small and transitory effect.

individual payoff, etc.:

Trust, Values and False Consensus: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18460
Trust beliefs are heterogeneous across individuals and, at the same time, persistent across generations. We investigate one mechanism yielding these dual patterns: false consensus. In the context of a trust game experiment, we show that individuals extrapolate from their own type when forming trust beliefs about the same pool of potential partners - i.e., more (less) trustworthy individuals form more optimistic (pessimistic) trust beliefs - and that this tendency continues to color trust beliefs after several rounds of game-play. Moreover, we show that one's own type/trustworthiness can be traced back to the values parents transmit to their children during their upbringing. In a second closely-related experiment, we show the economic impact of mis-calibrated trust beliefs stemming from false consensus. Miscalibrated beliefs lower participants' experimental trust game earnings by about 20 percent on average.

The Right Amount of Trust: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15344
We investigate the relationship between individual trust and individual economic performance. We find that individual income is hump-shaped in a measure of intensity of trust beliefs. Our interpretation is that highly trusting individuals tend to assume too much social risk and to be cheated more often, ultimately performing less well than those with a belief close to the mean trustworthiness of the population. On the other hand, individuals with overly pessimistic beliefs avoid being cheated, but give up profitable opportunities, therefore underperforming. The cost of either too much or too little trust is comparable to the income lost by forgoing college.


This framework allows us to show that income-maximizing trust typically exceeds the trust level of the average person as well as to estimate the distribution of income lost to trust mistakes. We find that although a majority of individuals has well calibrated beliefs, a non-trivial proportion of the population (10%) has trust beliefs sufficiently poorly calibrated to lower income by more than 13%.

Do Trust and … [more]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Links 6/15: URLing Toward Freedom | Slate Star Codex
Why do some schools produce a disproportionate share of math competition winners? May not just be student characteristics.

My post The Control Group Is Out Of Control, as well as some of the Less Wrong posts that inspired it, has gotten cited in a recent preprint article, A Skeptical Eye On Psi, on what psi can teach us about the replication crisis. One of the authors is someone I previously yelled at, so I like to think all of that yelling is having a positive effect.

A study from Sweden (it’s always Sweden) does really good work examining the effect of education on IQ. It takes an increase in mandatory Swedish schooling length which was rolled out randomly at different times in different districts, and finds that the districts where people got more schooling have higher IQ; in particular, an extra year of education increases permanent IQ by 0.75 points. I was previously ambivalent about this, but this is a really strong study and I guess I have to endorse it now (though it’s hard to say how g-loaded it is or how linear it is). Also of note; the extra schooling permanently harmed emotional control ability by 0.5 points on a scale identical to IQ (mean 100, SD 15). This is of course the opposite of past studies suggest that education does not improve IQ but does help non-cognitive factors. But this study was an extra year tacked on to the end of education, whereas earlier ones have been measuring extra education tacked on to the beginning, or just making the whole educational process more efficient. Still weird, but again, this is a good experiment (EDIT: This might not be on g)
ratty  yvain  ssc  links  commentary  study  summary  economics  education  oly  math  success  tails  endo-exo  roots  causation  regularizer  environmental-effects  psychology  social-psych  replication  social-science  europe  nordic  iq  cog-psych  intervention  effect-size  marginal  tradeoffs  cost-benefit  large-factor  multi  personality  serene  growth  stress  psych-architecture  emotion  endogenous-exogenous 
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
pdf  study  spearhead  gregory-clark  economics  cliometrics  status  class  mobility  language  methodology  metrics  natural-experiment  🎩  tricks  history  early-modern  britain  china  asia  path-dependence  europe  nordic  pro-rata  higher-ed  elite  success  society  legacy  stylized-facts  age-generation  broad-econ  s-factor  measurement  within-group  pop-structure  flux-stasis  microfoundations  multi  shift  mostly-modern  migration  biodet  endo-exo  behavioral-gen  regression-to-mean  human-capital  education  oxbridge  endogenous-exogenous  ideas  bio  preprint  genetics  genomics  GWAS 
march 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Success, Ability, and all that
Better to be Lucky than Good?: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2018/03/better-to-be-lucky-than-good.html
The arXiv paper below looks at stochastic dynamical models that can transform initial (e.g., Gaussian) talent distributions into power law outcomes (e.g., observed wealth distributions in modern societies). While the models themselves may not be entirely realistic, they illustrate the potentially large role of luck relative to ability in real life outcomes.


Of course, it might be the case that better measurements would uncover a power law distribution of individual talents. But it's far more plausible to me that random fluctuations + nonlinear amplifications transform, over time, normally distributed talents into power law outcomes.
hsu  scitariat  meta:prediction  success  variance-components  correlation  signal-noise  street-fighting  methodology  multi  technocracy  quality  human-capital  money  wealth  compensation  distribution  inequality  winner-take-all  coming-apart  power-law  pareto  random  models  nonlinearity  roots  explanans 
january 2017 by nhaliday
What was the hardest part of doing your Ph.D.? - Quora
I think it’s a 5-way tie, each hard in its own way:
- Picking a good topic.
- Figuring out how to bound it.
- Actually getting started.
- Going on when nothing works as you had planned.
- Knowing when to stop.

A good advisor can make some of these things easier, but you’re the one who has to do them all.
q-n-a  qra  grad-school  phd  planning  scholar  success  advice  prioritizing 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Competent Elites - Less Wrong

Cochran: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:d8fc1403ad19

How to Become a C.E.O.? The Quickest Path Is a Winding One: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/11/upshot/how-to-become-a-ceo-the-quickest-path-is-a-winding-one.html
New evidence shows that a mix of skills, especially technology skills, counts more than simply long experience in one specialty.

What Does a C.E.O. Actually Do?: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/c-e-o-actually/

On empathy: psychopaths, sociopaths and aspies: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2011/06/on-empathy-psychopaths-sociopaths-and.html
Last week a startup CTO, who didn't know my background, characterized all CEOs as "warm sociopaths" :-) He is at least partly right: many business and political leaders are good at reading other people's thoughts and emotions, but lack genuine concern for their well being. On the other hand, many geeks are very bad at mind reading or emotional perception, yet adhere to a strict moral code.

East Asian sociopaths?: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2011/06/east-asian-sociopaths.html
Some would assert that CEOs and other people in leadership positions are often warm sociopaths. Interestingly, it is claimed that there is a huge variation between groups in the rate of sociopathy. Perhaps this is related to the under-representation of E. Asians in leadership positions in the West, despite their high educational achievements? (Instead of sociopathy other factors like aggressiveness in interpersonal relationships might play a role.)

THE ILLUSION OF ASIAN SUCCESS: Scant Progress for Minorities in Cracking the Glass Ceiling from 2007–2015: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.ascendleadership.org/resource/resmgr/research/TheIllusionofAsianSuccess.pdf
Asians are not making it into top ranks at tech firms.
EPI = %exec / %professionals
MPI = %managers / %professionals

CEOs really are worth more than they used to be: https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/economics/ceos-really-are-worth-more-than-they-used-to-be
more: https://twitter.com/s8mb/status/762711050437419008
More silliness on executive pay: https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/yes-chief-executives-really-do-matter
ratty  lesswrong  hmm  impro  high-variance  impact  business  rhetoric  reflection  power  optimate  success  big-yud  multi  hsu  scitariat  signal-noise  leadership  humility  elite  entrepreneurialism  s-factor  organizing  stereotypes  iq  personality  discipline  ability-competence  management  class  strategy  career  planning  data  idk  jobs  long-term  tactics  org:rec  empirical  working-stiff  org:data  progression  knowledge  org:lite  brands  economics  labor  industrial-org  study  summary  audio  podcast  interview  albion  econotariat  nl-and-so-can-you  econometrics  natural-experiment  randy-ayndy  links  twitter  social  discussion  wonkish  chart  winner-take-all  trends  inequality  wealth  compensation  article  org:ngo  org:anglo  random  pdf  white-paper  race  demographics  asia  analysis  visualization  time-series  diversity  commentary  gnon  unaffiliated  right-wing  sv  tech  usa  the-west  california  corporation  psychiatry  socs-and-mops  pop-diff  speculation  psychology  morality  cooperate-defect  explanans  n-factor  disease  self-interest  crooked  vampi 
january 2017 by nhaliday
How Does Hedge Fund Activism Reshape Corporate Innovation?
This paper studies how hedge fund activism reshapes corporate innovation. Firms targeted by hedge fund activists experience an improvement in innovation efficiency during the five-year period following the intervention. Despite a tightening in R&D expenditures, target firms experience increases in innovation output, measured by both patent counts and citations, with stronger effects seen among firms with more diversified innovation portfolios. We also find that the reallocation of innovative resources and the redeployment of human capital contribute to the refocusing of the scope of innovation. Finally, additional tests refute alternative explanations attributing the improvement to mean reversion, sample attrition, management’s voluntary reforms, or activists’ stock-picking abilities.
study  economics  finance  investing  innovation  business  industrial-org  econometrics  wonkish  roots  corporation  success 
december 2016 by nhaliday
Spatial Ability for STEM Domains: Aligning Over 50 Years of Cumulative Psychological Knowledge Solidifies Its Importance
1. "Compared to students in the control group, students in the training group showed larger improvements in spatial skills despite extremely high spatial skills prior to training."
2. "We found large gender differences in spatial skills prior to training, as many other researchers have. However, these gender differences were narrowed after training."
3. "Students in the training group had one-third of a letter grade higher GPA in a challenging calculus-based physics course."
4. "None of these training improvements lasted over eight to ten months."

I wonder if continuous training could be useful at all and provide any transfer

What Innovations Have We Already Lost?: The Importance of Identifying and Developing Spatial Talent: http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-44385-0_6

Technical innovation and spatial ability: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2013/07/technical-innovation-and-spatial-ability.html
The blobs in the figure above (click for larger version) represent subgroups of individuals who have published peer reviewed work in STEM, Humanities or Biomedical research, or (separately) have been awarded a patent. Units in the figure are SDs within the SMPY population.

Early spatial reasoning predicts later creativity and innovation, especially in STEM fields: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130715070347.htm
Confirming previous research, the data revealed that participants' mathematical and verbal reasoning scores on the SAT at age 13 predicted their scholarly publications and patents 30 years later.

But spatial ability at 13 yielded additional predictive power, suggesting that early spatial ability contributes in a unique way to later creative and scholarly outcomes, especially in STEM domains.
pdf  study  psychology  cog-psych  psychometrics  spatial  iq  psych-architecture  multi  news  org:lite  generalization  longitudinal  summary  gender  diversity  gender-diff  pop-diff  chart  scitariat  org:sci  intervention  null-result  effect-size  rhetoric  education  innovation  🔬  hsu  success  data  visualization  s-factor  science  creative  biodet  behavioral-gen  human-capital 
december 2016 by nhaliday
University Innovation and the Professor's Privilege
This paper studies a natural experiment: the end of the “professor’s privilege” in Norway, where university researchers previously enjoyed full rights to their innovations. Upon the reform, Norway moved toward the typical U.S. model, where the university holds majority rights. Using comprehensive data on Norwegian workers, firms, and patents, we find a 50% decline in both entrepreneurship and patenting rates by university researchers after the reform. Quality measures for university start-ups and patents also decline.
study  economics  innovation  academia  nordic  europe  natural-experiment  longitudinal  property-rights  success 
december 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Chip Away At Hard Problems
One of the most common ways that wannabe academics fail is by failing to sufficiently focus on a few topics of interest to academia. Many of them become amateur intellectuals, people who think and write more as a hobby, and less to gain professional rewards via institutions like academia, media, and business. Such amateurs are often just as smart and hard-working as professionals, and they can more directly address the topics that interest them. Professionals, in contrast, must specialize more, have less freedom to pick topics, and must try harder to impress others, which encourages the use of more difficult robust/rigorous methods.

You might think their added freedom would result in amateurs contributing more to intellectual progress, but in fact they contribute less. Yes, amateurs can and do make more initial progress when new topics arise suddenly far from topics where established expert institutions have specialized. But then over time amateurs blow their lead by focusing less and relying on easier more direct methods. They rely more on informal conversation as analysis method, they prefer personal connections over open competitions in choosing people, and they rely more on a perceived consensus among a smaller group of fellow enthusiasts. As a result, their contributions just don’t appeal as widely or as long.
ratty  postrat  culture  academia  science  epistemic  hanson  frontier  contrarianism  thick-thin  long-term  regularizer  strategy  impact  essay  subculture  meta:rhetoric  aversion  discipline  curiosity  rigor  rationality  rat-pack  🤖  success  2016  farmers-and-foragers  exploration-exploitation  low-hanging  clarity  vague  🦉  optimate  systematic-ad-hoc  metameta  s:***  discovery  focus  info-dynamics  hari-seldon 
december 2016 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Advice to a new graduate student
first 3 points (tough/connected advisor, big picture, benchmarking) are key:

1. There is often a tradeoff between the advisor from whom you will learn the most vs the one who will help your career the most. Letters of recommendation are the most important factor in obtaining a postdoc/faculty job, and some professors are 10x as influential as others. However, the influential prof might be a jerk and not good at training students. The kind mentor with deep knowledge or the approachable junior faculty member might not be a mover and shaker.

2. Most grad students fail to grasp the big picture in their field and get too caught up in their narrowly defined dissertation project.

3. Benchmark yourself against senior scholars at a similar stage in their (earlier) careers. What should you have accomplished / mastered as a grad student or postdoc in order to keep pace with your benchmark?

4. Take the opportunity to interact with visitors and speakers. Don't assume that because you are a student they'll be uninterested in intellectual exchange with you. Even established scholars are pleased to be asked interesting questions by intelligent grad students. If you get to the stage where the local professors think you are really good, i.e., they sort of think of you as a peer intellect or colleague, you might get invited along to dinner with the speaker!

5. Understand the trends and bandwagons in your field. Most people cannot survive on the job market without chasing trends at least a little bit. But always save some brainpower for thinking about the big questions that most interest you.

6. Work your ass off. If you outwork the other guy by 10%, the compound effect over time could accumulate into a qualitative difference in capability or depth of knowledge.

7. Don't be afraid to seek out professors with questions. Occasionally you will get a gem of an explanation. Most things, even the most conceptually challenging, can be explained in a very clear and concise way after enough thought. A real expert in the field will have accumulated many such explanations, which are priceless.
grad-school  phd  advice  career  hi-order-bits  top-n  hsu  🎓  scholar  strategy  tactics  pre-2013  scitariat  long-term  success  tradeoffs  big-picture  scholar-pack  optimate  discipline  🦉  gtd  prioritizing  transitions  s:***  benchmarks  track-record  s-factor  progression 
november 2016 by nhaliday
How to do career planning properly - 80,000 Hours
- A/B/Z plans
- make a list of red flags and commit to reviewing at some point (and at some interval)
advice  strategy  career  planning  80000-hours  long-term  thinking  guide  summary  checklists  rat-pack  tactics  success  working-stiff  flexibility  wire-guided  progression  ratty 
november 2016 by nhaliday
For potential Ph.D. students
Ravi Vakil's advice for PhD students

General advice:
Think actively about the creative process. A subtle leap is required from undergraduate thinking to active research (even if you have done undergraduate research). Think explicitly about the process, and talk about it (with me, and with others). For example, in an undergraduate class any Ph.D. student at Stanford will have tried to learn absolutely all the material flawlessly. But in order to know everything needed to tackle an important problem on the frontier of human knowledge, one would have to spend years reading many books and articles. So you'll have to learn differently. But how?

Don't be narrow and concentrate only on your particular problem. Learn things from all over the field, and beyond. The facts, methods, and insights from elsewhere will be much more useful than you might realize, possibly in your thesis, and most definitely afterwards. Being broad is a good way of learning to develop interesting questions.

When you learn the theory, you should try to calculate some toy cases, and think of some explicit basic examples.

Talk to other graduate students. A lot. Organize reading groups. Also talk to post-docs, faculty, visitors, and people you run into on the street. I learn the most from talking with other people. Maybe that's true for you too.

Specific topics:
- seminars
- giving talks
- writing
- links to other advice
advice  reflection  learning  thinking  math  phd  expert  stanford  grad-school  academia  insight  links  strategy  long-term  growth  🎓  scholar  metabuch  org:edu  success  tactics  math.AG  tricki  meta:research  examples  concrete  s:*  info-dynamics  s-factor  prof  org:junk  expert-experience 
may 2016 by nhaliday
Deliberate Grad School | Andrew Critch
- find a flexible program (math, stats, TCS)
- high-impact topic
- teach
- use freedom to visibly accomplish things
- organize seminar
- get exposure to experts
- learn how productive researchers work
- remember you don't have to stay in academia
academia  grad-school  advice  phd  reflection  expert  long-term  🎓  high-variance  aphorism  hi-order-bits  top-n  tactics  strategy  ratty  core-rats  multi  success  flexibility  metameta  s:*  s-factor  clever-rats  expert-experience 
may 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : frontiergrowthvague

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