May 23, 2008
The two countries aren't really that comparable, though -- Brazil's population in 1900 was 17 million, compared to Russia's population of around 130 million.
On the other hand, there really weren't many famous creative figures in Russia before Pushkin's emergence in the 1820s, and then there were many world-famous writers; then, a little later, composers; and, finally, painters.
So, perhaps we're about to enter a new golden age of Brazilian artists and scientists. Stranger things have happened in the history of culture.
You can see one source of pro-Russian bias in that there are eight writers listed who were born before Pushkin, yet I haven't heard of any of them. I suspect that they get mentioned a lot in the reference books that Murray used to build his lists because scholars want to mention the predecessors of Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov in order to make a coherent story out of the history of Russian literature by providing the big names with predecessors who influenced them. In contrast, since there aren't any Brazilian writers who have made themselves world famous, there is no need to clutter up references books with the names of lesser earlier Brazilian writers who influenced them.
Fame breeds fame and obscurity breeds obscurity.
In case you are wondering, there are only 11 Portuguese on the list of 4002, one scientist and 10 writers, mostly of the wealthy 16th Century, with Camoens being the best known.
Despite deserved Oscar nominations for Best Direction, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, and Cinematography, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," a sophisticated Triumph of the Human Spirit movie, hasn't yet been able to break out of the art house ghetto. Its ponderous title, which is both too literary and too literal (and mistranslated to boot), can't have helped help.The film is based on a charming memoir written, incredibly, by a man able to move only his left eyelid. Jean-Dominique Bauby, the 43-year-old editor of the fashion magazine Elle, suffered a massive brain stem stroke while test-driving next year's model BMW. When he awoke from his coma, he was informed that he suffered, permanently, from "maladie de l'emmuré vivant," or "locked-in syndrome."The unfortunate title (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon in this subtitled film's original French) comes from Bauby's metaphorical contrast of his body, which felt like it was encased in one of those vintage pressurized diving suits -- not a "diving bell," which is an open-bottomed structure -- with his mind, which could float like a butterfly through his luxurious memories. He could even relish new sights and (being French) smells. Indeed, The Diving Bell is an ode to the French genius for enjoying small pleasures."Blink" would have been a simpler, more evocative title because his speech therapist taught him to communicate using his eyelid. She would repeat the alphabet (re-sorted in order of frequency of use in French) until he blinked his one good eye to stop her at the right letter.Director Julian Schnabel, the New York artist turned moviemaker, employs prodigious imagination to liven up the proceedings, filming much of it from Bauby's perspective. Nevertheless, "The Diving Bell's" pace is necessarily languid. With time on my hands, I wondered if Morse Code, which POW Jeremiah Denton used to blink "t-o-r-t-u-r-e" when displayed on North Vietnamese television, wouldn't have been faster.Bauby composed his text in his head each morning, memorized it, and then dictated it to a secretary for three hours per day for two months. His short book of about 25,000 words was published in 1997 to rapturous reviews two days before his death.It's a wonderful story, but is it true? Reporter Susannah Herbert has raised doubts in The Times of London, pointing out that Bauby's "secretary," the self-effacing Claude Mendibil, is a professional ghostwriter who refused to show her the original notebooks.I calculate that to complete a first draft in two months, Bauby would have had to dictate 135 words per hour (or one letter every five or six seconds). That would be difficult, but not impossible, because Mendibil would often correctly guess many words' endings. So, I won't reject the movie's authenticity, especially because I want to believe it's true. (Certainly, though, Mendibil deserves the credit she's never claimed for the sheen of the final draft.)One irony of the film is the attitude of veteran screenwriter Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist") toward his hero: "But there was something about him and his lifestyle that I didn't like: He was indifferent to the mother of his children, and that whole glamorous Elle magazine lifestyle … is not so admirable, is it?" To emphasize the scurrilousness of Bauby's abandonment of his old mistress for his new mistress, Harwood adds a third adorable small child to the two he actually left behind.Perhaps Harwood suspects Bauby's stroke was brought on by the favorite hobby of skinny fashionistas, but I can find no evidence online for cocaine use. Similarly, when I had cancer in 1997, acquaintances who didn't smoke would ask my wife if I did. When she'd reply, "No," they'd go away looking pensive. Everybody deep down wants to believe that the sick brought their illnesses on themselves, because that means that, if you're careful, you'll never die.Harwood had to invent for Bauby an emotional arc from initial suicidal depression through recovery of his will to live, because his book portrays him as remarkably chipper throughout his ordeal, espousing a Nabokovian delight in the visual details he could espy from his bed and wheelchair. The film rather misses the point that as a man of fashion, and French fashion at that, Bauby believed in the moral duty of sustaining a classy facade. Thus, he insisted on being dressed each day in his own stylish clothes, noting, "If I must drool, I may as well drool on cashmere."Rated PG-13 for nudity, sexual content and some language.
There's much in it that's true (e.g., "Correlation is not causality"), and maybe a thing or two that is new, but I didn't see anything significant that's new and true, and quite a bit that will be misleading to people who haven't thought hard about the issues.
I'll respond at length elsewhere.
May 22, 2008
In America, Nigerians' education pursuit is above rest
Whether driven by immigration or family, data show more earn degrees
By LESLIE CASIMIR
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Nigerian immigrants have the highest levels of education in this city and the nation, surpassing whites and Asians, according to Census data bolstered by an analysis of 13 annual Houston-area surveys conducted by Rice University.
Although they make up a tiny portion of the U.S. population, a whopping 17 percent of all Nigerians in this country held master's degrees while 4 percent had a doctorate, according to the 2006 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition, 37 percent had bachelor's degrees.
To put those numbers in perspective, 8 percent of the white population in the U.S. had master's degrees, according to the Census survey. And 1 percent held doctorates. About 19 percent of white residents had bachelor's degrees. Asians come closer to the Nigerians with 12 percent holding master's degrees and 3 percent having doctorates. …
Stephen Klineberg, a sociologist at Rice University who conducts the annual Houston Area Survey, suspects the percentage of Nigerian immigrants with post-graduate degrees is higher than Census data shows.
Of all the Nigerian immigrants he reached in his random phone surveys 1994 through 2007 — 45 households total — Klineberg said 40 percent of the Nigerians said they had post-graduate degrees.
"These are higher levels of educational attainment than were found in any other ... community," Klineberg said.
There are more than 12,000 Nigerians in Houston, according to the latest Census data, a figure sociologists and Nigerian community leaders say is a gross undercount. They believe the number to be closer to 100,000.
There are plenty of worthy Nigerian-Americans, but when your countrymen have blanketed the world with faxes and emails for 15 years with accounts of embezzled funds just waiting to be smuggled out of Lagos, well, you do pay a price in credibility.
Consider that the Swiss made money off their reputation for honesty (if you put your money in a Swiss bank, they'll let you have it back), while Nigerians have tried to make money off promoting the stereotype of Nigeria as so corrupt that there are piles of stolen money lying around ripe for the taking.
Skepticism aside, African immigrants to the U.S. are the cream of the crop, a big crop of 770 million people, much like Indian immigrants. A friend of mine from Cameroon came from a family in which eight of the nine children had earned advanced degrees from European or American universities. So, many of them are solid performers.
Also, as Lani Guinier and Henry Louis Gates have frequently complained, there's a big demand from American universities for blacks for quota purposes, and so long as you look at least part African, the admissions committees don't care whether your ancestors were slaves in America or whether your ancestors got rich selling slaves to the Europeans. Moreover, Africans tend to have less attitude than African Americans, so it's all good from the point of view of colleges desperate for "diversity" but who don't actually want to put up with African-Americans from the 'hood.
That said, I don't see much evidence that African immigrants are making the same kind of mark in the upper reaches of American academia and business that Indians are, or even that South Koreans, with only 40 million people, are.
From the Washington Post:
Despite peace, Belfast walls are growing in size and number
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK
The Associated Press
BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Lee Young, 8, and Cein Quinn, 7, live barely 200 yards apart, but they have never met, and maybe never will.
Lee is Protestant, Cein a Catholic _ and their communities in Belfast's west inner city are separated by a wall called a peace line. It's nearly 40 years old and 40 feet high.
Ten years after peace was declared in Northern Ireland, one might have expected that Belfast's barriers would be torn down by now. But reality, as usual, is far messier. Not one has been dismantled. Instead they've grown in both size and number. … Instead, for dozens of front-line communities of Belfast, fences still make the best neighbors.
"The Troubles" began at these sectarian flashpoints in the late 1960s, and survive today in a legacy of mutual fear and loathing. The rate of sectarian killings has fallen to virtually zero thanks to cease-fires underpinned by IRA disarmament, and the feeling on both sides is that the barriers help keep that peace. …
In this city of 650,000, roughly half Catholic and half Protestant, only the university district and upper-class streets, chiefly on the south side, bear no clear-cut tribal identity.
There's something quite similar in Beirut, where the one street open to all ethnicities runs by the American University.
A lot of ethnic struggles aren't driven so much by mass hatred as by thugs, most of them young, who get into scrapes with the other side. In the meritocratic uplands, it all seems irrelevant. But down in the lowlands, where social ties are less determined by having unusually high IQs or particular talent, but by blood and neighborliness, the young thugs are nephews and cousins and neighbors' nephews and cousins. While they may be sons of bitches, they're our sons of bitches.
Catholic colleagues on occasion have invited him across the wall for an after-hours pint at their pub. He won't go. "You'd be afraid that they might recognize you're from the other side. Am I too tight in the eyes?" he said, referring to a stereotype of Protestant eyes supposedly being closer together.
That's the first stereotype I've heard of Belfast Prods and Taigs being even theoretically distinguishable by sight. I've always described the Northern Irish troubles as a classic racial struggle between two partly inbred extended families. They haven't been separated long enough to undergo much selection for different looks, but so what? Thinking of them like this helps you understand the situation better.
People tend to look at me like I'm crazy when I say this because everybody knows that race is only about skin color. So therefore, the Troubles have to be about religion (even though most of the active participants in the Troubles are too hung over to make it to church on Sunday morning).
Do Brazilians hate reading because they are so bad at it or are they so bad at reading because they hate it?
Tyler Cowen points out that in the Nation of the Future:
"Most Brazilians do not read. I don't mean they can't read, I mean they don't read for leisure so much. I was stuck at the Sao Paulo airport for seven hours and did not see a single person reading a book, not once."
Various commenters chime in with similar stories.
Let's do a test to see if I have more Brazilian or Finnish regular readers. There are 192 million people in Brazil and 5 million in Finland. If you were born in Finland, post a comment with the word "Finn." If you were born in Brazil, post a comment with the word "Brazilian." But if you were brought to this particular item by a link and don't routinely visit this site, please don't participate.
Here are some amazing statistics from the big PISA international achievement test of 15 year olds in 2000 (Figure 2.3):
In Brazil, only 4% of the youths read at one of the two highest levels on a six point scale, versus 33% in the USA and 50% in top-rated Finland. Brazil is even worse than Mexico, where 7% can read at a strong level.
I suspect the future will look more and more like a combination of Brazil and the old Ottoman Empire.
From The Atlantic, an anonymous article by a Professor X, who teaches English 101 at a couple of unselective colleges to people who can't learn to form coherent paragraphs:
The idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth. An instructor at a “college of last resort” explains why.
Much of modern higher education today has many of the hallmarks of a pyramid scheme -- Elite English professors were paid by Professor X. (via grad school tuition) to get his Ph.D. which is only good for teaching the unteachable -- except that nobody's getting rich.
Okay, everybody, it's time to all act as if we're shocked, shocked to hear that rich kids have higher IQs than poor kids on average. From the U.K. Guardian:
· Paper suggests class is key to academic ability
· Findings dismissed as wrong and irresponsible
Polly Curtis, education editor
Elite universities are failing to recruit working-class students because IQ is, on average, determined by [I think they mean "correlated with"] social class, according to an academic.
Bruce Charlton, a reader in evolutionary psychiatry at Newcastle University, claims that the greater proportion of students from higher social classes at highly selective universities is not a sign of admissions prejudice but rather the result of simple meritocracy.
Student union leaders responded angrily to his claim, which was also dismissed by a minister.
Charlton's paper, reported today in Times Higher Education, says: "The UK government has spent a great deal of time and effort in asserting that universities, especially Oxford and Cambridge, are unfairly excluding people from low social-class backgrounds and privileging those from higher social classes.
"Evidence to support the allegation of systematic unfairness has never been presented. Nevertheless, the accusation has been used to fuel a populist 'class war' agenda. Yet in all this debate a simple and vital fact has been missed: higher social classes have a significantly higher average IQ than lower social classes."
He argues: "The highly unequal class distributions seen in elite universities compared with the general population are unlikely to be due to prejudice or corruption in the admissions process. On the contrary, the observed pattern is a natural outcome of meritocracy. Indeed, anything other than very unequal outcomes would need to be a consequence of non-merit-based selection methods."
The National Union of Students described the paper as "wrong-headed, irresponsible and insulting".
Gemma Tumelty, NUS president, said: "Of course, social inequality shapes people's lives long before they leave school, but the higher education sector cannot be absolved of its responsibility to ensure that students from all social backgrounds are given the opportunity to fulfil their potential ... many talented individuals from poor backgrounds are currently not given the same opportunities as those from more privileged backgrounds. This problem will not be addressed as long as academics such as Bruce Charlton are content to accept the status quo and do nothing to challenge the inherent class bias in education."
So, it's all Bruce's fault. Him and James Watson's.
Sally Hunt, of the University and College Union for acedemic [They don't call it The Grauniad for nothing!] staff, said: "It should come as little surprise that people who enjoy a more privileged upbringing have a better start in life. However, research has shown that students from state schools outperform their independent contemporaries when they reach university."
Bill Rammell, the higher education minister, told the Times Higher Education that Charlton's arguments had a definite tone of "people should know their place".
Here's Bruce's homepage. I don't think his article is online yet.
Here's something Steven Pinker told me when I interviewed him in 2002 and it's truer than ever:
Q: Aren't we all better off if people believe that we are not constrained by our biology and so can achieve any future we choose?
A: People are surely better off with the truth. Oddly enough, everyone agrees with this when it comes to the arts. Sophisticated people sneer at feel-good comedies and saccharine romances in which everyone lives happily ever after. But when it comes to science, these same people say, "Give us schmaltz!" They expect the science of human beings to be a source of emotional uplift and inspirational sermonizing.
May 21, 2008
It was the 26 toilets that triggered alarm among residents of Greenwich, Connecticut. "Who needs that many toilets?'' asked Charles Lee, who lives across the street from where Russian millionaire Valery Kogan proposes building a 54,000-square-foot (5,000-square- meter) mansion with that much plumbing.
Kogan, chairman of East Line Group, which operates Moscow's Domodedovo International Airport, plans to raze the 20,000- square-foot home on the site, which he bought in 2005. Kogan and his wife, Olga, seek to erect a house with two wings and extensive subterranean space, including room to park 12 cars.
``It looks like they want to duplicate the Winter Palace here in Greenwich,'' said Leslie McElwreath, 45, who lives one street over. ``It'll be an eyesore.''
McElwreath, Lee and other opponents are urging the Greenwich Zoning and Planning Commission to deny a permit when it votes this evening on what would be the largest single-family home built since the town began reviewing plans in 2001. A hundred and seventy-five people signed a petition against the project.
Greenwich, 27 miles (43 kilometers) north of New York, is the hedge-fund capital of the U.S. More than 60 funds occupy 80 percent of its commercial property, according to real-estate broker CB Richard Ellis. The Greenwich Association of Realtors puts the average price of a home in the town of 65,000 at $2.8 million.
Here in Los Angeles, the Executive Director of the city's Los Angeles World Airports department, which manages both the vast LAX and the lesser Ontario airports, makes $305,000 annually. I don't think she can afford to build a 54,000 square foot house in a foreign country. And yet, LA's airports somehow continue to operate without the boss being paid enough to build a palace. If only we had privatized LAX, then the owner of the company that would run LAX could be building colossal homes around the world to flee to when angry Angelenos finally come after him with pitchforks and torches.
On the other hand, the idea that Barack Obama might put Jim Webb on the path to being President someday is pretty funny, although probably not to Barack Obama. (What would Rev. Wright say?) So it probably won't happen.
May 20, 2008
The extent of English-language dominance of the movie market is quite extraordinary. I looked up the top 150 movies in 2007 in terms of box office outside of North America, and 93% of the revenue came from English language movies. The top 30 grossers outside of the American/Canadian market were all English language films.
Not all of these Top 30 movies were American: "Mr. Bean's Holiday," which only made $33 million on this side of the pond but earned $196 million in the rest of the world, is basically a British movie. And some of the others might be considered Anglospheric rather than American, such as the latest "Harry Potter." And lots of the talent involved, such as many cameramen, are from non-English-speaking countries. Still, all of the top 30 earners abroad were made in the English language.
The top of the overseas box office list (the top four were the latest sequels of "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Harry Potter," "Spider-Man," and "Shrek") is very similar to the top of the domestic rankings. "The Golden Compass" did much better overseas ($302 million) than in North America ($70 million), but there weren't many exceptions like that.
Number 31 in overseas box office was the first non-English film, the South Korean horror flick "The Host," which took in $87 million abroad, but $65 million of that came from South Koreans, who must really, really like that film.
Next came the Oscar winning French musical drama "La Vie en Rose," the Spanish horror movie "The Orphanage," the German drama "The Lives of Others," and the Taiwanese (Chinese? Hong Kong?) arthouse sex film "Lust, Caution." There were a lot of Indian films farther down the list, but the highest ranking one was "Om Shanti Om" at #78.
Conversely, the top money-making foreign-language films in North America was the excellent German film about the East German secret police, The Lives of Others, with $11 million, followed by the French Edith Piaf biopic, "La Vie en Rose," whose star Marion Cotillard won a deserved Best Actress Oscar.
The English-language movies that do worst abroad relative to their North American performance tend to be comedies, especially African-American comedies, especially ones with the words "Tyler Perry's" in the title -- his two 2007 films took in over 98% of the worldwide revenue domestically.
On the other hand, while foreigners don't like African-American movies, they like African-American actors fine, especially if they are named "Will Smith." His "I Am Legend," a remake of Charlton Heston's "Omega Man" about the seeming last man on Earth and thus a Will Smith Actathon, took in $328 million overseas.
I was listening to an NPR story on how Bollywood producers often remake American blockbusters without paying royalties, such as a shot-for-shot ripoff of Will Smith's "Hitch." The Hollywood studios don't even bother suing. Their attitude appears to be:
Whatever happens we have got
Mister Will Smith and they have not.
Working with a U.S.-funded Sunni guard force can be a lot like dealing with the mob. Some of the armed men act like the dons of their neighborhood.
By Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 20, 2008
BAGHDAD -- As Arabic pop songs blared from a cafe and children squealed on rickety rides, men armed with pistols and Kalashnikovs wandered through a crowded Baghdad park one recent evening, checking visitors for weapons and keeping an eye out for suicide bombers.
Eight months ago, some of them may have been planting bombs themselves, or firing rounds at passing American convoys. But on this night, they grabbed hands and stomped their feet in a traditional line dance as a U.S. foot patrol stopped to watch.
Residents credit cooperation between the American soldiers and the dancing gunmen, members of a U.S.-funded Sunni neighborhood guard force, for a turnaround in security in Adhamiya, a Sunni Arab enclave in Shiite-dominated east Baghdad that until recently was on the front line of the Iraqi capital's sectarian war.
But doing business with the gunmen, whom the U.S. military has dubbed Sons of Iraq, is like striking a deal with Tony Soprano, according to the soldiers who walk the battle-blighted streets, where sewage collects in malodorous pools.
"Most of them kind of operate like dons in their areas," said 2nd Lt. Forrest Pierce, a platoon leader with the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment. They shake down local businessmen for protection money, seize rivals for links to the insurgency and are always angling for more men, more territory and more power.
For U.S. soldiers on the beat, it means navigating a complex world of shifting allegiances, half-truths and betrayals. ...
Such attacks were once a near-daily occurrence in Adhamiya. When the 3rd Squadron arrived last summer, its soldiers couldn't drive past Abu Hanifa Mosque without getting shot at. On the day they assumed responsibility for the area, the unit they replaced was struck by a roadside bomb that flipped a Bradley fighting vehicle, killing five soldiers and an interpreter.
But the number of attacks plunged to less than one a week after the military began paying local men $300 a month to protect their areas.
The U.S. military now has 843 gunmen on its payroll in Adhamiya, a once-prosperous neighborhood of retired military officers, teachers and professionals enclosed by a 12-foot-high concrete wall. ...
Last month, the number of attacks started to inch back up, leading soldiers to believe that religious extremists and the criminal gangs that thrive on chaos may be trying to stage a comeback. [More]
The problem in Iraq has always been that we've never had a side in the civil war we started there. I've always advised, from during the 2003 invasion onward, bribing Iraqis to calm down, but it doesn't solve the long term problem which is that everybody knows we're eventually going to leave and then there will be a scramble to grab the oil and whatever else is up for grabs. So, if the U.S. now wants to pay various ambitious men so they can build their power bases for the day of destiny, well, sure, they'll take the money.
Steve Sailer's definition of race -- an extended family, inbred to some extent -- is as good as any, and better than many. But it's important to keep in mind that size makes a difference. Just as we see things going on in big lakes (noticeable tides, for example) that we don't see in small lakes, we also see important things going on in the large extended families known as races that we could get away with ignoring when looking at regular family-sized families.
One of the things that goes on at the scale of races is that selection affects gene frequencies over and above what you'd expect on the basis of genealogy. For example, if Al is Betty's uncle, then I can figure out right away the probability (1/4) that Al and Betty share a given allele (over and above the probability that it's shared by the population as a whole). On the other hand, if I know that Al and Betty belong to the same race, and know the average coefficient of inbreeding for that race (relative to some larger population, maybe humanity as a whole), then I can convert this coefficient of inbreeding into a coefficient of relatedness. But I have to be a lot more cautious in my guesses about how likely they are to share an allele by common descent. Because of selection, they may be much more likely to be similar at a locus for skin color, or lactose malabsorption than at, say, the ABO blood group locus.
One implication is that trying to apply Hamilton's theory of kin selection to make predictions about racial altruism is extremely dodgy. One of the assumptions that Hamilton and his successors make in deriving his famous equation B/C > 1/r is that there is no selection between the time a gene is present in a common ancestor and the time it expresses itself among two descendants. This assumption may be plausible enough in extended families -- probably not enough of Alan's siblings have died young while committing altruistic deeds to affect the probability of Betty getting an altruism allele. It's less plausible -- not really plausible at all -- that if Alan and Betty merely belong to the same race, and are genetically similar by virtue of a great many very distant genealogical connections, that selection hasn't had a big impact on any altruism genes.The implication is not that genes are irrelevant to large-scale altruism. Rather, the problem of altruism on large scales is like one of those physics problems where you relax some simplifying assumptions, and suddenly everything gets a lot messier, and you have to start running simulations, and so on.
Raymond Crotty 's sweeping review of history (Histories in Collision, mentioned by Steve Sailer on his blog) is maybe sometimes a little too sweeping, but interesting all the same. One of the things that is going on in the book is Crotty 's attempt to explain why his own folks, the Irish, look relatively feckless compared to various other groups in Northern Europe, who seem from early in their history to be diligently beavering away, saving and accumulating property in proto-capitalist fashion. (Clark 's recent Farewell to Alms would support this for the English.)
To explore this issue, Crotty takes us from generic early Indo-European society (where, he argues, the ability to digest lactose in milk is a key adaptation) to later socio-economic evolution in Northern Europe. Crotty argues that the rural economy of Northern Europe from the Middle Ages on encouraged the development of private property and bourgeois virtues. Keeping cattle (with milk a major part of the diet) in this ecological zone ran into the problem of limited winter forage. Once populations grew past the point that cattle could be turned loose to graze on their own in winter, people needed to make major investments in barns, and in growing and storing hay, to keep a lot of their herds going through the winter.
Ireland, according to Crotty, with a relatively mild oceanic climate, didn 't have this problem, and stayed closer to early Indo-European traditions (which show some convergence with East African pastoralism, including independent evolution of lactose tolerance). In contrast, most of Northern Europe was protocapitalist well before the Industrial Revolution. This seems plausible.
On the other hand, maybe just as important is the way state formation, and the attendant decline in tribal social structure, and tribal kinship, set in on the borders of the Roman Empire, while Ireland and the remoter Slavic world lagged behind.
He's referring to Peter Turchin's theory that state-formation was strongest on "meta-ethnic frontiers," which I discussed here.
I do get an impression (no more than an impression -- it would be nice to see numbers) that Northern Europe in the last millennium was relatively capital intensive and East Asia relatively labor intensive. In the former, you really needed a well-built house, and shelter for livestock, and supply of firewood, feed, and food, and other capital stock to make it through the winter. There were times in the agricultural calendar when work loads were incredibly intense -- so much so that you needed draft animals to do a lot of the work -- and other times where there wasn 't a lot more to do than sit around the stove in the dark. On the other hand, East Asian agriculture (especially South China) seems to have involved more year round endless toil (double or even triple cropping) but maybe less in the way of capital requirements to survive. Probably both the Northern European obsession with capital accumulation at the expense of sharing with kin, and the extreme East Asian work ethic look pretty demented from an earlier tribal perspective.
May 19, 2008
Why aren't there more women in science and engineering? Controversial new research suggests: They just aren't interested.
WHEN IT COMES to the huge and persistent gender gap in science and technology jobs, the finger of blame has pointed in many directions: sexist companies, boy-friendly science and math classes, differences in aptitude. ...
Now two new studies by economists and social scientists have reached a perhaps startling conclusion: An important part of the explanation for the gender gap, they are finding, are the preferences of women themselves. When it comes to certain math- and science-related jobs, substantial numbers of women - highly qualified for the work - stay out of those careers because they would simply rather do something else.
One study of information-technology workers found that women's own preferences are the single most important factor in that field's dramatic gender imbalance. Another study followed 5,000 mathematically gifted students and found that qualified women are significantly more likely to avoid physics and the other "hard" sciences in favor of work in medicine and biosciences.
It's important to note that these findings involve averages and do not apply to all women or men; indeed, there is wide variety within each gender.
Wouldn't it be great if supposedly educated people knew that goes without saying?
Perhaps spending $19 million was the point of spending $19 million? Economists are supposed to think about self-interest and incentives, but they tend to act as if a disinterested pursuit of truth is all that matters in academic politics.
The researchers are not suggesting that sexism and cultural pressures on women don't play a role, and they don't yet know why women choose the way they do. One forthcoming paper in the Harvard Business Review, for instance, found that women often leave technical jobs because of rampant sexism in the workplace.
But if these researchers are right, then a certain amount of gender gap might be a natural artifact of a free society, where men and women finally can forge their own vocational paths. And understanding how individual choices shape the gender balance of some of the most important, financially rewarding careers will be critical in fashioning effective solutions for a problem that has vexed people for more than a generation.
A few years ago, Joshua Rosenbloom, an economist at the University of Kansas, became intrigued by a new campaign by the National Science Foundation to root out what it saw as pervasive gender discrimination in science and engineering. The agency was spending $19 million a year to encourage mentoring programs, gender-bias workshops, and cooperative work environments.
Rosenbloom had no quarrel with the goal of gender equity. But as he saw it, the federal government was spending all that money without any idea what would work, because there was no solid data on what caused the disparity between men and women in scientific fields.
To help answer the question, Rosenbloom surveyed hundreds of professionals in information technology, a career in which women are significantly underrepresented. He also surveyed hundreds in comparable careers more evenly balanced between men and women. ...
Personal preference, Rosenbloom and his group concluded, was the single largest determinative factor in whether women went into IT. They calculated that preference accounted for about two-thirds of the gender imbalance in the field. The study was published in November in the Journal of Economic Psychology.
It may seem like a cliche - or rank sexism - to say women like to work with people, and men prefer to work with things. Rosenbloom acknowledges that, but says that whether due to socialization or "more basic differences," the genders on average demonstrate different vocational interests.
"It sounds like stereotypes," he said in an interview, "but these stereotypes have a germ of truth."
What exactly does the word "stereotype" mean these days among the educated? Something that we all know is true on average but only bad people mention? But do people really know that they are lying? I don't think so.By the way, what I'm increasingly fascinated by how unrebellious, how credulously trusting of authority the post-1960s generations have turned out to be. They go to school, get told obvious lies, then they go out and repeat them over and over and over. The idea that you can't trust anybody over 30 is totally foreign to the youth of recent decades. Perhaps the reason for this stability is because the schools are run by 1960s People, and the 1960s People discovered exactly what callow youths want to hear.
In the language of the social sciences, Rosenbloom found that the women were "self-selecting" out of IT careers. The concept of self-selection has long interested social scientists as an explanation for how groups sort themselves over time. Since human beings are heterogeneous, self-selection predicts that when offered a menu of options and freedom of choice, people will make diverse choices and sort themselves out in nonrandom ways. In other words, even given the same opportunities, not everybody will do the same thing - and there are measurable reasons that they will act differently from one another.
It's striking how the concept of "self-selection" has to be spelled out as if it's some conceptual breakthrough in String Theory, rather than the most obvious thing in the whole entire world. This shows how lacking in basic tools our intellectual discourse is these days. My best guess is that the stupidity of modern intellectual life largely has its roots in group differences in IQ, crime rates, and the like.
The concept of self-selection sets off alarms for many feminists.
Indeed. Rational thought in general terrifies feminists ... and rightly so.
But self-selection has also emerged as the chief explanation in other recent studies of gender imbalance, including a long-term survey done by two Vanderbilt researchers, Camilla Persson Benbow and David Lubinski.
Starting more than 30 years ago, the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth began following nearly 2,000 mathematically gifted adolescents, boys and girls, tracking their education and careers in ensuing decades. (It has since been expanded to 5,000 participants, many from more recent graduating classes.) Both men and women in the study achieved advanced credentials in about the same numbers. But when it came to their career paths, there was a striking divergence.
Math-precocious men were much more likely to go into engineering or physical sciences than women. Math-precocious women, by contrast, were more likely to go into careers in medicine, biological sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Both sexes scored high on the math SAT, and the data showed the women weren't discouraged from certain career paths.
The survey data showed a notable disparity on one point: That men, relative to women, prefer to work with inorganic materials; women, in general, prefer to work with organic or living things. This gender disparity was apparent very early in life, and it continued to hold steady over the course of the participants' careers.
Wow. Who knew?
Here's something more interesting:
Benbow and Lubinski also found something else intriguing: Women who are mathematically gifted are more likely than men to have strong verbal abilities as well; men who excel in math, by contrast, don't do nearly as well in verbal skills. As a result, the career choices for math-precocious women are wider than for their male counterparts. They can become scientists, but can succeed just as well as lawyers or teachers. With this range of choice, their data show, highly qualified women may opt out of certain technical or scientific jobs simply because they can.
So, if you are, say, Margaret Thatcher, and have an Oxford degree in Chemistry, well, that's nice but you have other options in life.
Why this difference? There's a big surplus of males in Benbow and Lubinski's sample of the mathematically gifted, so this suggests that women who are good at math tend to be good at math because they have a high overall g factor. In contrast, males tend to have more specialized mental skills useful in math, such as 3-d imagination skills, which doesn't correlate as highly with the g factor as most other cognitive traits.
In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.
Brilliant and entertaining, OUTLIERS is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.
Isn't Malcolm going to ruin the usefulness of the word "outliers"? We typically use the world outliers in statistics to refer to data points that aren't useful in finding a general pattern and therefore should be ignored. Malcolm's using it to mean the opposite -- the people we should most pay attention to in order to learn how the system works.
For example, say you were to make a study of how to succeed in golf by looking at the behavioral traits of the golfers who have won multiple major championships. By the traditional definition, John Daley would be an obvious outlier that you wouldn't learn much from studying -- he's fat, alcoholic, mentally unstable, a poor decision maker on and off the course. But he's double-jointed, so his incredible flexibility lets him wind up like a pretzel and crush the ball. Unless you're double-jointed too, he's a true outlier whom you should discard from your study.
In contrast, Tiger Woods is not an outlier for the purposes of learning to succeed. His achievements are stunning, but they flow directly from how he has optimized for golf success virtually every aspect of his game (and, indeed, life -- when he's home, guests say, he goes to bed at 8:30 pm and is working out by 5:30 am). I was a huge fan of Jack Nicklaus when he intimidated most other golfers in the 1970s with his focus and analytical mind, but Tiger does everything right that Jack did, and he also does things right where Jack got hung up by overthinking.
But, come November, everybody is going to start referring to Tiger, Roger Federer, Warren Buffett, Meryl Streep, and other people who most should be in the databases of anybody studying how to succeed in their fields as "Outliers!"
Similarly, anybody who wants to make a lot of money in print journalism should study Gladwell closely.
However, there is a sense in which Malcolm is a true outlier. He himself succeeds -- he may well be the highest grossing print journalist in America -- not because he understands the common mind, but because he has the common mind. His inability to think critically means that he's always sincerely gee-willikers enthusiastic about whatever snake oil he's infatuated with at the moment. His lack of skepticism makes him a natural for the self-help circuit.
But Malcolm's ability to be a complete sell-out while also being a complete innocent is an odd, John Daley-like combination. It's hard for normal people to consciously draw useful career lessons from Malcolm's success because the kind of lessons you'd come up with -- e.g., "New Yorker subscribers, editors, and fact-checkers will believe anything" -- undermines achieving the necessary Malcolmtastic mental state of sappy sincerity.
May 18, 2008
In my new VDARE.com column, I compare the interest level in two African disasters of equal lack of strategic important to the American national interest:
Obama has, however, done a nimble job of exciting the Stuff White People Like crowd by repeatedly acting as if he cares about Darfur, a god-forsaken expanse of arid grassland just south of the Sahara in western Sudan, where militias backed by the "Arab" central government in Khartoum have been attacking locals.
Darfur has become a cause célèbre among celebrities such as George Clooney and Matt Damon. Obama has been addressing fashionable Darfur rallies and hiring foreign policy advisers, such as Samantha Power, who are passionate about America getting involved in this huge bit of damn-all in the middle of nowhere.
Darfur’s usefulness as a foreign policy issue to Obama and McCain in appealing to the SWPL contingent is it’s utter uselessness—America has no national interest in Darfur whatsoever, so therefore, the thinking goes, we should get involved because it wouldn’t do us any good—thus demonstrating the purity of our intentions.
In contrast, virtually no celebrities have expressed any interest in "raising awareness" about Zimbabwe, a verdant country at a pleasant altitude in southeast Africa. Over the last decade, dictator Robert Mugabe has destroyed the economy and driven his subjects to the brink of starvation. As with Darfur, the U.S. has negligible national interest in Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, in contrast to Darfur, Zimbabwe doesn’t interest the partisans of purity because of the unfortunate details behind why it is now prostrate: In 2000, Mugabe unleashed his goons to beat up and steal the farms of the efficient white farmers who raised most of the food.
Several members of Barack Obama's inner circle of foreign policy advisers are leaders in the movement to demand we do something about Darfur. For example, in a 2006 Washington Post op-ed entitled "We Saved Europeans. Why Not Africans?" ...
Similarly, in an interview entitled "The McCain Doctrines" with Matt Bai in today's New York Times Magazine [May 18, 2008], John McCain volunteers that he's often thought about starting a war with Sudan, if only a way could be found to make it practical:
"I asked McCain if it was true … that he had been brought to a more idealist way of thinking partly by the genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica. ‘I think so, I think so,’ he said, nodding. 'And Darfur today. I feel strongly about Darfur, and yet, and this is where the realist side comes in, how do we effectively stop the genocide in Darfur?' He seemed to be genuinely wrestling with the question. 'You know the complications with a place that’s bigger, I guess, than the size of Texas, and it’s hard to know who the Janjaweed is, who are the killers, who are the victims. It’s all jumbled up. … And yet I look at Darfur, and I still look at Rwanda, to some degree, and think, How could we have gone in there and stopped that slaughter?'"
Note that, although McCain likes military adventures, the simpler task of intervening in Zimbabwe to avert famine does not appeal to him at all. While McCain volunteered Darfur, the NYT’s Bai has to bring Zimbabwe up:
"Why then, I asked McCain, shouldn’t we go into Zimbabwe, where, according to that morning’s paper, allies of the despotic president, Robert Mugabe, were rounding up his political opponents and preparing to subvert the results of the country’s recent national election?"
McCain tries to spell it out euphemistically for the journalist why a white President of the United States is not going to depose a black tyrant who wrecked his country by persecuting productive whites:
"'I think in the case of Zimbabwe, it’s because of our history in Africa,' McCain said thoughtfully."
Well, not that thoughtfully—the U.S. doesn't actually have much of a history in Africa.
McCain notices his mistake and tries to make himself clear without actually mentioning the W-word:"Not so much the United States but the Europeans, the colonialist history in Africa.'"
... What makes Zimbabwe so unsexy compared to Darfur is that in 1965 the British Colonial Office tried to give the colony of Rhodesia to its black majority. But its white population declared independence and for 15 years resisted an international trade embargo, building a substantial manufacturing base. Finally, in 1979, Margaret Thatcher organized the handover of the country to Robert Mugabe.
The new President devoted the next decade to slaughtering his tribal enemies, largely leaving the white farmers alone to feed the country. In 2000, however, Mugabe began to reward his supporters by telling them to drive out the white minority and steal their land. Not surprisingly, his bully boys proved to be worthless farmers and the country has teetered on the brink of starvation ever since. Mugabe's government has responded to the shortages it created by printing money, driving the annual inflation rate up to 165,000% in April 2008.
Since 2000, Mugabe has clung to power through three elections due to the support of the black South African government, which provides him with cheap electricity. ...
In contrast to Zimbabwe’s famous role in the defeat of European white rule, Sudan is a member of the Arab League and the government espouses fundamentalist Islam, so it lacks the black cred of Zimbabwe. Granted, Sudan's leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir's complexion isn't much fairer than that of the typical member of the Congressional Black Caucus. But that little detail gets lost in most of the Darfur coverage. ...
So, the racial taboos about criticizing blacks don't apply as much to the Sudanese Arabs. In the American politician's mind, they're just white people, more or less. But some of them are misled by anti-Semitism or Islamofascism or anti-Americanism, just like the Germans were misled by Nazism, So, it's okay to kill them. (Indeed, for neoconservative Darfur enthusiasts, killing Arabs is not a bug, it’s a feature.)
But killing Mugabe's goons? They're black. And they beat up white farmers. Oh, man, that's a whole different kettle of fish—lots of domestic political implications that nobody wants to touch. So few white American politicians are excited about getting involved on the side of whites being victimized by blacks. There's no domestic political profit in that!
To a white American politician like McCain, Zimbabwe is the Jena Six brouhaha writ large. As you may recall, the six star football players on the Jena H.S. team had been using their privileged position as local sports heroes to run amok for years, beating up people. But their coaches and fans kept getting them out of trouble so they could continue to star on the Jena H.S. football team.
So, just like in Zimbabwe, you had a gang of black thugs outnumbering and beating up a white person. What was the upshot? Why Rev. Jesse and Rev. Al and all the media came to town and denounced the white people of Jena for their horrible racism!
It was hilarious, but you can see why even a war-lover like McCain wouldn't want to get involved in such a directly analogous situation in Zimbabwe.
Since 2002, I've been pointing out that a crucial piece of missing information that anybody (such as an investor) interested in predicting the path of 21st global history would want to know is what is the potential average IQ of India.
We have some IQ data on India, as collected in Lynn and Vanhanen's IQ and the Wealth of Nations and their other books, and they point toward low average scores.
On the other hand, first, India is an extremely complicated place, so it's harder to come up with a nationally representative sample there than in any other country.
Second, India has been severely burdened by malnutrition, disease, and illiteracy. We know from comparing Africans (average IQ around 70) to African-Americans (average IQs around 85, despite being no more than 20% white) that tropical poverty can prevent people from reaching their genetic potential in IQ.
Something similar is probably true in India. Its recent rapid economic progress makes it more plausible that the environmental deficits lowering average IQ in India will ameliorate to some substantial extent over the course of this century.
An iSteve commenter calling himself Rec1man has built a model of potential Indian average IQ based on IQ scores of the Indian diaspora in various countries more affluent than India. This seems like a plausible approach, so I've been discussing it with him via email and now I'm going to begin posting it.
I want to break my posting of Rec1man's model up into several stages, because, in my experience, it's easy for a reader to skip right to the bottom line of a complex model and accept or reject it as a whole, and then get invested in defending one's initial reaction.
His is necessarily a complicated model because the Indian diaspora is extremely heterogeneous due to the caste system in India and the different selection filters for Indian immigrants in diaspora countries. Thus, for example, the average caste level of the Indian diaspora in the U.S. is much higher than in former British tropical colonies where the British were looking to import diligent peasants rather than computer programmers.
So, Rec1man has come up with estimates of the demographics of the Indian diaspora by caste for each country.
From there, he can work back to estimating IQ by caste within each diaspora country and then to potential IQ by caste in India and finally back to potential overall average IQ for India as a whole.
Today, though, I'm going to post just his demographic breakdowns by caste for Indians in various country, and leave his IQ estimates for another day. This is information I've never seen published before, even though I've long wondered about it.
But, I don't know whether his demographic estimates are accurate. If you have some knowledge of this subject, please comment on whether the following look reasonably accurate or not.
If they do look plausible, then I'll go ahead and post Rec1man's IQ estimates.
Upper Castes, 15%
Backward Castes, 40%
Dalits [Untouchables] and Tribals, 25%
Indians in the U.S.A.
US Brahmins, 25%
US forward castes, 50%
US backward castes, 25%
The British exported castes as per their requirements.
30% upper caste
40% backward caste
In the UK, the British wanted factory workers after WW2, so they did not import dalits (agricultural workers). They imported peasant backward castes from Indian Punjab and Pakistani Punjab. The British knew that Dalits may not be able to work in factories while the backward castes could be trainable
Later in 1970, Idi Amin fell in love with an Indian woman in Uganda. Her family sent her off to India to protect her from Idi Amin's lust. In revenge, Idi Amin expelled the Indians in Uganda, who were mostly small traders, forward merchant castes, and these went to UK
So, in UK:
Forward caste 60%
Backward caste 40%
Pakistanis in UK are all [descended from] backward castes [who converted to Islam].
In Pakistan, few forward castes and brahmins and dalits converted to islam. They remained hindu and went to Indian Punjab
Pakistanis in Pakistan are [by descent]
Forward caste, 10%
Backward caste 80%
and dalit 10%
Bangladeshis in UK are
Backward caste 50%
Similarly, Bangladeshis in Bangladesh are
Backward caste 50%
Razib of GNXP.com comments:
US Brahmins, 25%
US forward castes, 50%
US backward castes, 25%
this looks skewed to me. around 50% of indians in the USA are gujaratis, mostly patels. about 25% are punjabis, often sikhs, who mostly be from jats (i think they're classified as backward, but i don't know, i think it depends on region and stuff). the other 25% are mixed up with various groups; a lot of these are brahmins, but not all. for example, christians from kerala are way overrepresented, and they're derived from non-brahmins by and large. i think a brahmin figure on the order of 15% is more realistic. backward caste depends on how you classify it, since south indian non-brahmins are all technically "lower caste," but i think kerala christians are considered forward. in short, bump up the forward caste number, and lower the brahmin and backward.
most of other numbers look OK, but i think a lot of the muslim classifications are by their nature guess work. i have no idea how backward and forward caste in bangladesh is assigned here. 90% of people in bangladesh are now muslim, and most of the hindus remaining are low caste groups who couldn't or wouldn't move to india for whatever reason. the general consensus is most bangladeshi muslim were non-forward caste peasants, as is true of hindus in west bengal. the only thing with bangladeshis in the UK is something like 90% are from one region of bangladesh, syhlet, but i doubt that makes a big difference in your assessment....
i would add a few other points
1) mauritius, mostly backward castes with a small minority of merchants and upper castes
2) south africa, the same (here the upper classes are disproportionately gujarati merchants)
3) the guyana & trinidad & suriname, the same
4) fiji, the same
a disproportionate number of the overseas diaspora in places where they were sent to do agricultural work are from eastern uttar pradesh and bihar; the north-central gangetic plain. malaysia and singapore are exceptional insofar as the indians are mostly tamils from the south from across the bay of bengal....
The Washington Post sees the Postville raid as more evidence that the government should stop picking on poor, hard-working undocumented workers.Craig Nelsen of ProjectUSA, however, says there is much more to the story.