The Emperor's New Clothes: a story of motivated stupidity 2021-11-20T13:24:14.009Z
Is genetics "dark"? 2021-11-01T18:23:33.584Z
How's it going with the Universal Cultural Takeover? Part II 2021-09-24T09:37:41.287Z
How's it going with the Universal Cultural Takeover? Part I 2021-09-23T19:07:17.492Z
In-group loyalty is social cement 2021-07-06T09:57:59.618Z


Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on Is genetics "dark"? · 2021-11-02T15:29:22.410Z · LW · GW

Re your first paragraph: polygenic scores that directly predict cognitive ability are also being selected against. Polygenic scores designed to predict very high intelligence also turn out to be good at predicting ordinary intelligence, so it doesn't seem likely that "Einsteins" work in some fundamentally different way [1].

I agree that ironing out "errors" could be risky, especially given the current state of our knowledge. But equally, that does not imply that it's no big deal if people's genetics are getting less healthy or smart. There are two risks here.

I agree that we should consider changing phenotypes (e.g. the Flynn effect) as well as changing genes. It could be that speaking loosely, the phenotypic improvement will overwhelm the genotypic decline. But that isn't certain. Genes and environment could interact in complex ways. It's not guaranteed that better environments will be a perfect substitute for genetic endowments.

Lastly, I definitely don't support the deliberate elimination of "less functional people".

[1] Zabaneh, D., Krapohl, E., Gaspar, H.A., Curtis, C., Lee, S.H., Patel, H., Newhouse, S., Wu, H.M., Simpson, M.A., Putallaz, M. and Lubinski, D., 2018. A genome-wide association study for extremely high intelligence. Molecular psychiatry, 23(5), pp.1226-1232.

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on Is genetics "dark"? · 2021-11-02T09:30:52.764Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure I understood all of your points. But overall, yes, we might just get rid of rare mutations, but I wonder if realistically people will stop there. (That is indeed a slippery slope argument.) 

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on Is genetics "dark"? · 2021-11-01T19:17:24.629Z · LW · GW

I think that's basically correct. Or maybe put another way: they act as if finding such genetic differences would plausibly legitimize racial discrimination.

That may not be nuts. Suppose there is real racial discrimination (not a big ask). Then if we discover substantively large differences between ethnic groups, it might be easier to "get away with" racial discrimination because someone can just claim "oh well, ethnic groups are different and that's why we see different outcomes". Similarly, non-deliberate (e.g. unconscious or "structural") discrimination might be harder to spot, if everyone just assumes that different outcomes between groups are the result of different genetics. 

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on How's it going with the Universal Cultural Takeover? Part I · 2021-09-25T06:55:09.219Z · LW · GW

I should add that I use images to help make my point. The Teach A Man To Fish theory of argumentation: if someone sees something themselves, they understand it better than if you hold their hand through it. I'm guessing that Lesswrong readers can appreciate who Ataturk and Erdogan are and why they're relevant to the topic. Not sure that justifies Peepshow clips, though....

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on How's it going with the Universal Cultural Takeover? Part I · 2021-09-25T06:53:12.237Z · LW · GW

Thank you for the suggestion.

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on How's it going with the Universal Cultural Takeover? Part I · 2021-09-25T06:52:35.843Z · LW · GW

I did say "ultimately". I know about the possibility of horizontal cultural transmission, and I discuss it later in the article. I should read TMM, maybe there are great examples of horizontal cultural transmission beating out vertical transmission. In the case we're discussing here, I doubt it. I think the West's cultural infectivity will weaken as its economic dominance slips.

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on How's it going with the Universal Cultural Takeover? Part I · 2021-09-24T18:16:05.735Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure Kaufmann does making that mistake. He focuses on extreme sects within each religion, not on Islam as a whole, and mostly on Western countries rather than the Middle East. You could say I'm making the mistake, because I discuss the probability of non-Westerners buying into Western values. Yeah, that could be. But I also would distinguish between secularization (and other kinds of modernization) and Westernization. (Japan did the one but not the other, for example.)

You're right that marriage and family structure are "deep". A friend of mine suggested that other "deep" Western exports are also important. For example, Erdogan sits atop a recognizably Weberian bureaucracy. That's an institution not a market product. However, I'd say that political and cultural values are, if not deep, important. It matters, say, that Turkey is very far from a liberal state - even if Ataturk introduced Western-style state structures, and if Turks are embracing love marriage and fewer children.

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on How's it going with the Universal Cultural Takeover? Part I · 2021-09-24T09:05:03.764Z · LW · GW

I think shared is too broad. You like Coke, I like Coke - we share that. But it's shared because we both have sugar-loving taste buds. To be cultural, you need something more. Hence the biologists' emphasis on the transmission mechanism via learning.

Does it matter? My argument is that a lot of what gets called "Western culture" is really just "stuff that is appealing to human taste buds", in a broad sense. So yes, it is spreading, but no cultural learning is required. Coca Cola sells Coke, people in India like it and buy it; but this doesn't have implications for things that are actually cultural, such as attitudes to gender, political values, etc.

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on How's it going with the Universal Cultural Takeover? Part I · 2021-09-24T09:00:42.589Z · LW · GW

I think there are two phenomena: 

(1) General Westernization. That certainly still takes place, as you point out. The question is how deep that Westernization is - to put it crudely, is it at "Magna Carta" or "Magna Mac" level? 

(2) The emergence of "hardened" subcultures which are resistant to Westernization and which have high birth rates. The evidence from Kaufmann is pretty persuasive about (2).

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on In-group loyalty is social cement · 2021-07-06T20:49:51.522Z · LW · GW

Here's a nice recent statement of what I take to be the mainstream view.

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on In-group loyalty is social cement · 2021-07-06T13:44:08.258Z · LW · GW

It's a hopeful story, but again I think this is a version of "in the best of all possible worlds". Sure, if everybody is in a long-run repeated game, then anything can be an equilibrium, including all possible efficient outcomes. That might be possible sometimes, but we don't see many firms pursuing a strategy of recommending their rivals' products.

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on In-group loyalty is social cement · 2021-07-06T13:37:53.268Z · LW · GW

So, if there are zero per-individual fixed costs from hiring, then it doesn't matter how many sales any salesperson makes. It seems reasonable to assume that fixed costs are non-zero, so that there is a breakeven below which hiring someone wouldn't be worthwhile. Here's some evidence on that which suggests that indeed fixed costs are large.

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on In-group loyalty is social cement · 2021-07-06T11:46:13.196Z · LW · GW

Right, if both salespeople agreed to swap customers they could cooperate and improve the equilibrium. Standard Coase theorem reasoning applies. But as in many other real-world cases, that kind of enforceable agreement may not be feasible. (What if the salesmen don't know each other? Or there's 1000 firms instead of 2? Note that the salesmen have to know each other. They can't just recommend the other firm's products, because then they're not worth hiring. They're only worth hiring if they are recommending your own products when appropriate, and also being sent new customers from the other firm's salesman.)

Broadly, I think this argument is a similar logic to "the two firms should merge". It'll work so long as it is efficient for the firms to merge. But merging (or agreeing on how to split the customers) may be inefficient for other reasons (e.g. the firms then also agree to charge monopolistic prices). If so it ought to be banned by a benevolent government, as indeed many countries do.

If everyone were fully, globally cooperative then we might be in the best of possible worlds, and might require neither group loyalty, nor firms, nor governments. 

Comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) on Don't Sell Your Soul · 2021-04-07T09:39:09.890Z · LW · GW

Can't believe nobody's mentioned Pascal's wager. Surely this is the simplest reason not to sell your soul.

The other reasons seem to me like the irrational tail wagging the rational dog. If you are sure you don't have a soul, then selling it for $10 is not a big deal, just as if someone offered to buy my Thetan and I'm not a scientologist.