Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Feminists not good at is-ought distinctions

1) Men vary in their propensity to violence.
2) Circumstances vary in their likelihood to provoke violence.
3) It's common sense to reduce your exposure to the wrong kinds of men in the wrong kinds of circumstances.

Pretty simple. And that's what Stephen A. Smith is saying here:

"What I’ve tried to employ the female members of my family — some of who you all met and talked to and what have you — is that ... let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come — or somebody else come, whether it’s law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know — if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they already put their hands on you."

ESPN, The World Wide Leader in Political Correctness, suspended Smith to silence the ratcheting chorus of shrieking feminazi's, too stupid to separate ought from is.

So I was just forced to watch this morning's First Take. A) I'll never feel clean again B) I'm now aware that I can provoke my own beating.

Whoa, check your white privilege, Michelle. Not everyone can safely ignore reality. Are you aware that: "In 2011...black females were murdered by males at a rate of 2.61 per 100,000 in single victim/single offender incidents. For white women, the rate was 0.99 per 100,000." Smith, who is black, might not know the numbers, but he's experienced the score I'm sure.

#SuspendBeadle, #BeadleHitler

Monday, July 28, 2014

Who is the next Milton Friedman?

Conservatives believe the country has been moving left for 100 years, except for a brief pause in Milton Friedman's heyday. The leftward march has resumed and is accelerating because we lack a free-market hero of Friedman's caliber. That's what the Right believes, and it's why they ask "who is the next Milton Friedman?".

Friedman's brilliance, honesty, and charm partly explain his impact. But the environment he operated in mattered, too. Newton said that thing about seeing further because he stood on the shoulders of giants; well, in the 1960's Friedman was knee deep in quasi-Marxist dwarves. Free market fruit hung lower back then.

Fruit hangs low in biology land today. Economics has utterly failed to integrate itself with solidly supported, widely implicated facts from genetics and psychometrics. Economists can't explain cross-country wealth variance, a real shocker since GDP's closest correlates are hate factors.[1] 

To the Right, the question "who is the next Friedman?", seems to mean who is the next charming, super articulate defender of free markets.

It ought to mean, who will champion and popularize today's big, true, unfashionable, Leftist-suppressed ideas.

The next Friedman is the guy who can integrate econ with genetics and popularize it with out getting burned at the stake.
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[1] Definition of Hate Factors (noun)
1
:  highly explanatory factors excluded from statistical analyses post-hoc on the basis of political inconvenience
Etymology
First Known Use: me, just now

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Historical doubling of life expectancy a mystery?

Hanson's paper, "Fear of Death and Muddled Thinking" contains much that I already knew. For example, that only a few things like gender, exercise, population density (pollution), social status and injecting heroine into your eyeball certainly affect health outcomes; that the vast majority of medical spending is net useless; that medical professionals would rather not talk about that; and that the delusional optimism and squeamishness of medical consumers prevents them from getting at the truth. 

Life expectancy has been rising steadily for more than 100 years. The causes must be understood, right? Apparently not, which is news to me:
But what about those miracles of modern medicine we have all heard so much about? Did not the introduction of antibiotics, for example, dramatically reduce death rates for key diseases? Well, not much actually. If you look at graphs of death rates versus time for those key diseases, you usually cannot see any change in the trend near the dates when famous treatments were introduced to “cure” those diseases (McKinlay & McKinlay, 1977). 
Lifespans have more than doubled in the last century or so, and medicine cannot claim credit for much more than a year or so of that increase (Bunker, Frazier, & Mosteller, 1994). If medicine for treating individuals is not quite the miracle we have heard, does public health make up the difference? Have not we all heard how the introduction of modern water and sewer systems greatly improved our ancestors’ health? Well, a century ago the U.S. cities with the most advanced water and sewer systems had higher death rates than the other cities. Also, we can look today at how the death rates of individual households correlates with the water sources and sewer mechanisms used by those households. Even in poor countries with high death rates, once we control for a few other variables like social status we usually find that water and sewer parameters are unrelated to death rates (Lee, Rosenzweig, & Pitt, 1997). 
Well we must live longer now for some reason, right? Yes, and in fact in the developednations it seems that age specific death rates have fallen at a relatively steady exponential rate for at least a century (Lee & Carter, 1992; Tuljapurkar, Li, & Boe, 2000).  But the fact is that we just do not know why we now live so much longer.
Most of the obvious theories have serious problems, you see. For example, exercise, smoking, social status, and urban living appear to have large effects on individuals. But the time trends for exercise, urban living, and smoking have been in the wrong direction - those trends would predict decreasing lifespan. And since social status is usually thought to be relative to contemporaries, it is hard to see how average social status can increase with time. Finally, while the biggest advances in nutrition, medicine, and public health seem to have occurred during the first two thirds of the twentieth century, death rates have fallen just as fast during the last third of the twentieth century. Perhaps some new influence rose in importance just as those other influences became less important, but if so it seems a remarkable coincidence that the total rate of improvement has remained pretty steady.
I can think of some obvious objections to this. For example, if a large benefit of antibiotics is to reduce the rate of infection by reducing prevalence , then benefits would accumulate over time, and wouldn't immediately follow introduction of the antibiotic. Also, on the effect of better water/sewer systems, if the negative effects of population density are big, relatively, than that'd more than obscure the benefits of cleaner systems in dense cities on health. Lot's of other potential issues, but Hanson's a careful guy, so if he says that we don't know why life expectancy has risen, then he's at most slightly exaggerating. After all, we're trying to explain a doubling. Some causes should be blatantly obvious.

The world's gotten a lot richer in the last 100 years. Stress hurts health, and worrying about paying for food and heat and clothes is stressful. Maybe it's something like wealth reduces stress which increases life. But then why do piss poor Chinese, people who lived through Mao, live just three years less than Americans? Why do relatively poor Mexicans outlive Americans, despite being the fattest bunch ever to trample the earth?

The relevant time frame is way too short to be explained by selection for healthier, better ecologically matched people. Physical occupational rigor has changed lots in the West, but again, manual labor is far more extensive in many long lived countries.

Better nutrition? Christ. You try Googling for "malnutrition change in last century" and 2/3's of the hits assert that climate change is gonna decimate agriculture causing a malnutrition crisis.

Hanson would predict as much. People prefer to think about stuff that certainly won't kill them to things that might.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Simple population genetics math

The simplest equations of population genetics.

For example, given two alleles A and a, with P(A)=p and P(a)=q, where p+q=1 (mutually exclusive), the probability of AA=p^2, aa=q^2 and Aa=2pq...

That's true assuming random mating, no selection and no gene flow from other populations.

If you observe that the frequency of AA in reality is greater than p^2, that might mean allele A is being selected for, i.e. is increasing in frequency because its bearers have more kids.

If the frequency of Aa exceeds 2pq, well that's pretty weird. It might mean that AA's are mating with aa's more frequently than random chance predicts. Opposites attract?

Other formulas describe:

  • fitness: fitness of AA= w = kids(AA) / kids(any genotype)
  • mutation
  • inbreeding
  • effective population size
  • genetic drift
  • narrow sense heritability
  • response to selection for a continuous (many gene controlled) trait (like height or IQ)

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This is the beginning of a collection of the simplest math of various fields inspired by Yudkowsky: "But for people who can read calculus, and sometimes just plain algebra, the drop-dead basic mathematics of a field may not take that long to learn. And it's likely to change your outlook on life more than the math-free popularizations or the highly technical math."

Sumner on AD

Sumner says dispense with the talk of Aggregate Supply vs. Aggregate Demand shocks, and replace with Nominal vs. Real shock distinctions. "A nominal shock is an unexpected change in NGDP. A real shock changes the price/output split for any given level of NGDP." Why the need for the change? Because the AS v. AD framework is confusing.
Level 1: If people decide to spend less, then aggregate demand will fall. By "spend less" the speaker usually means save a larger fraction of their income.
Level 2: But saving equals investment, so if society saves more it will invest more. You are "spending more" on investment projects.
Level 3: But planned savings may exceed planned investment.
Level 4: In that case interest rates will fall, equalizing actual saving and investment.
Level 5: But perhaps it's income that falls, and that is what equalizes actual saving and actual investment.
Level 6: But why should income fall? How does an attempt to save more reduce M*V?
Level 7: If you try to save more and as a result interest rates fall, then velocity will tend to decline, as there is a lower opportunity cost of holding onto cash.
Level 8: Yes, velocity would fall, but I asked why M*V would fall. If the central bank uses the Taylor Rule, or if it targets inflation or NGDP, it will adjust the money supply to prevent M*V from falling.
Level 9: That may be true if interest rates are positive, but at the zero bound they cannot offset the fall in V.
Level 10: Sure they can. There is nothing special about the zero bound in interest rates. All that matters is the zero bound in eligible assets left to buy. And no central bank has ever come close to that zero bound. No central bank has ever said they were out of ammunition.
Level 11: But central banks are reluctant to do unconventional monetary policies at the zero bound, and hence if people try to save more, then M will not fully offset V. 
I could go on and on, but I decided to let my opponents have the last word. After all, this "enlightenment" stuff is kind of arrogant. Now let's consider an extra 100 million immigrants suddenly flooding into the US. Does this raise AS or AD? 
Level 1: Clearly AD rises, there are lots more shoppers!
Level 2: No, that's an AS shock, there are lots more workers.
Level 3: It depends on the monetary policy. Under the gold standard M is unaffected. So it's a positive supply shock and the wave of immigration causes deflation. Remember 1865-96?
Level 4: No, the wave of immigrants raises the return to capital. Interest rates rise and velocity increases. Both AS and AD rise.
Level 5: But we are probably not at the zero bound if 100 million immigrants pour in, and we now have fiat money, so it entirely depends on whether the central bank is targeting inflation or NGDP.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why self-experiment

Cost, incentives and knowledge mean small self-experiments are virtually guaranteed to pay off better than distant grand ones, says Seth Roberts, contrasting self medical experiments with "ending poverty":
My personal science is the polar opposite of what Sachs did. He tried to help others (poor Africans), I try to help myself. He tries to help people he knows almost nothing about, I try to help myself — and I know a lot about myself. He tried to do something big (end poverty). I try to do something small (e.g., sleep better). What he did cost millions of dollars. What I do costs nothing. I can test a new idea about how to sleep better in days. Sachs took years to test his ideas. For me, failure costs almost nothing. Sachs’s failure cost him years of his life. You have to be an extraordinary person with great talent to do what Sachs did. Whereas anyone can do personal science.
Relates to recent Hanson post on 'big-scope bias'.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sailer on Gladwell

A classic:
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...Gladwell devotes 47 pages to propounding the argument of an airline consultant named David Greenberg that (in Gladwell`s exaggerated version): “The single most important variable in determining whether a plane crashes is not the plane, it`s not the maintenance, it`s not the weather, it`s the culture the pilot comes from.”
Greenberg argued that in a highly deferential culture like Korea, co-pilots were afraid to speak up when their commanding officers were flying the plane into a mountain. Thus, in 2000, after a series of crashes, Korean Air hired Greenberg to train its cockpit crews in the more broadly participatory style that American airlines have espoused since the invention of “Crew Resource Management” in 1979. And Korean Air stopped having so many crashes.
Gladwell grandly entitles this notion of the dangers of excessive deference “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes.” He illustrates it with a long account of a Colombian airliner that crashed on Long Island in 1990 because the first officer never made clear to the surly New York air traffic controllers that they were running out of fuel and needed emergency priority to land.
Yet is Colombia truly a “high deference” culture? Judging by its drug lords, jungle rebels, and military coups, it might seem a rather aggressive culture. Perhaps that Colombian co-pilot held his tongue not out of deference to a bunch of lowly air traffic controllers, but out of the Colombian`s traditional macho pride.
Or maybe he had poor English language skills and couldn`t think of the right phrase. Who knows? At this point, it`s all speculation because everybody is dead.
Is “cultural deference” the single most important variable in airline safety, as Gladwell claims? Let`s try a simple reality check: Does Japan, a famously polite and deferential country, have a disproportionate number of crashes?
I spent a few hours poking around on the Internet and foundAirSafe.com, which lists every “fatal event” involving a scheduled airliner. According to the rigorous definition they employ, there were 45 fatal airline events on Earth between the beginning of 2004 and October 2008. I entered all 45 into an Excel spreadsheet and looked at the results.
  • First, not one of the 45 crashes involved a Japanese airline.
This is not to say that excessive deference to captains might not be a problem. After all, American airlines have been fighting it for almost 30 years. But apparently it`s the kind of problem that a highly competent country like Japan can train its aircrews to avoid.
  • Second, my spreadsheet quickly suggested a far more general “ethnic theory of plane crashes”—one that Malcolm Gladwell would never, ever mention.
The International Civil Aviation Organization summarizes the number of departures by region, allowing us roughly to estimate rates of crashing per flight.
North America (the U.S. and Canada) accounts for 42 percent of the world`s airline departures, but only seven percent of the fatal events on AirSafe`s list of 2004-2008.
But Latin America has only seven percent of the departures, but 18 percent of the fatal crashes, since 2004. Thus, airlines headquartered in Latin America have been 16 times as dangerous as airlines based in North America.
Africa and the Middle East, lumped together, are 42 times as dangerous as North America—with five percent of all departures and 33 percent of all crashes.
In summary, First World airlines are fairly safe.
In contrast, the old Second World (the ex-Soviet Union) looks quite dangerous, with nine crashes among its airlines.
And the Third World (Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia) is, unsurprisingly to VDARE.COM readers, highly dangerous relative to its small number of departures. Third World airlines accounted for 29 of the last 45 fatal events.
None of this is astonishing. Third World and ex-Soviet countries are much more dangerous in general (here`s a website that tracks Third World bus plunges), most likely due to lower levels of general competence.
Still, that`s a rather important thing to know. Wouldn`t you say? Useful when booking your next overseas trip?
Malcolm Gladwell`s books are sold in vast quantities in airport bookstores to frequent fliers. So you might imagine he`d want to clue his loyal readers in on how to minimize the danger of dying in a crash. But that would involve violating the taboos against political incorrectness—which could make him as popular on the corporate speaking circuit as Charles Murray.
Forget it!
And “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes” is perhaps the bestchapter in Gladwell`s new opus.
“Rice Paddies and Math Tests” isn`t the worst chapter, either, but it`s still lame.
Gladwell argues that the reason Chinese kids are good at math is because they work hard.
Math requires hard work, no doubt. But discounting aptitude this completely is something that only somebody as bad with numbers as Gladwell would do. Anybody with any skill at math knows that, no matter how hard you try, you`ll always run into somebody who is better at it than you are.
Why do the Chinese work hard? Because, according to Gladwell, their ancestors worked in rice paddies, which demand much more effort than the wheat fields harvested by lazy Europeans.
To explain why whites are so lazy, Gladwell contrasts the “autonomous” work of Chinese rice growers to the closely managed work of European farmers:
“The peasants of Europe worked essentially as low-paid slaves of an aristocratic landlord, with little control over their own destinies. Growing rice is too complicated and intricate for a system that requires farmers to be coerced and bullied into going out into the fields each morning. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, landlords in central and Southern China had an almost completely hands-off relationships with their tenants: they would collect a fixed rent and let farmers go about their business.”
Malcolm apparently believes that European aristocrats would, in the manner of Parris Island drill sergeants, wake up their tenants each morning and force them out of their beds!
These Da Vinci Code-quality howlers pop up repeatedly inOutliers.
Nonetheless, Gladwell is certainly right that rice farmers work hard. Not surprisingly, though, he fails to mention the even more relevant contrast to rice farming: the “female farming” culturesof tropical Africa, which demand mostly just hoeing by women, with very little labor from men. By Gladwell`s logic, that might explain a lot about African-American culture, but he wouldn`t go there even if he ever thought of it.
Rice growing makes the Chinese hard working, which, in Gladwell`s theory, makes them good at math.
(Of course, vast numbers of Chinese live in the wheat belt, around the Yellow River. Indeed, that`s where Chinese cultureoriginated. But never mind that…)
Is Gladwell arguing, as geneticist Henry Harpending and evolutionary theorist Gregory Cochran document in their upcoming book The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, that the life or death Malthusian struggle to grow enough food to survive caused humans to evolve rapidly in recent millennia?
Is Gladwell theorizing that rice growing selected Chinese genes for hard work and/or math?
Of course not! It`s all a cultural legacy from working in the rice paddies, he says.
No nature, just nurture. Nobody here but us chickens.
Let`s try a reality check. Why don`t the rice paddy cultures of Southeast Asia, such as Cambodia and Indonesia, produce math wizards? There has been a sizable Filipino population in California for several generations, but very few make it to Cal Tech.
It`s a puzzlement. At least to Gladwell...
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