Thursday, April 19, 2018

In case of emergency follow the SP

Amazon link

From page 85:
"A meeting was taking place at a U.S. embassy in Africa. Present at the meeting were several NFs, NTs, and SJs, and a solitary SP. At one point an embassy official walked in the room and calmly notified the group that a bomb threat had been made against the embassy and that they must clear the building.

  • The NFs dashed to the phone to call their families to let them know that everything was all right and not to worry.

  • The NTs started debating with one another the effectiveness of embassy bombing, the practice of phoning in bomb threats, and the role each plays in the efforts of international terrorism - a discussion that continued throughout the afternoon at the café across the street.

  • The SJs automatically went to the corner of the room and pulled out an official manual to determine the standard operating procedure for dealing with bomb threats.

  • The one SP, within moments, was in the hallway, directing traffic, answering questions, and getting her colleagues out of harm's way. "
In emergencies, it's the SP you want (Donald Trump is an ESTP btw - emotional haranguing of Trump invariably reflects an underlying type-conflict as experienced by the accuser).

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Equality of gender-outcome: a typological view

Amazon link

From p. 108:
"As we said, certain types are naturally prone to rise to the top of most companies. Traits such as objectivity, punctuality, and accountability are qualities that support productivity and profit. As such, those types sharing Thinking and Judging are naturally promoted, and other types tend to be scarcer the higher up you go.

Though any one of the sixteen types can and does make it to the executive level, those not sharing T and J are the exception, not the rule. It took us ten years of collecting typological data on top managers before we found executives representing all sixteen types. At the executive level upward of 90 percent are Thinking-Judgers.

As a result of all this, we can predict three things about the typological makeup of the higher echelons of the workplace:

  • As long as management is predominantly TJ, women are statistically destined to be in the minority; there are simply fewer T women in the population.

  • Most of the women achieving top-level positions will look typologically like their male counterparts. More than likely they will be TJs.

  • The few Feeling-Perceptive types who make it to the top typically do so for one of two reasons: simply to prove to themselves that they can do it or because they have a missionary zeal to change the organization. The FPs got there not because the system accepted them so much as because of their ability to play the TJ game. While at the top the idealists do have some impact, but as soon as they leave, their programs are often obliterated with the sweep of a pen.
Therefore, diversity in the executive circles of any organization is fleeting and over the long term has low impact on organizational effectiveness."
The failures of equality of gender-outcome in business and government are often explained as the statistical effect of women taking leave to raise children. But the underlying personality differences between men and women are less often remarked upon. This will come as little surprise, except to the NFs amongst you.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Michael Roberts: Total Automation under Capitalism

Michael Roberts has a new book out:

Amazon link

Here is what he has to say about the impact of total automation on capitalism (pages 137-141).
"What does this all mean if we enter the extreme (science fiction?) future where robotic technology and AI leads to robots making robots AND robots extracting raw materials and making everything AND carrying out all personal and public services so that human labour is no longer required for ANY task of production at all?

Let's imagine a totally automated process where no human worked in the production process. Surely, value has been added by the conversion of raw materials into goods without humans? Surely, that refutes Marx's claim that only human labour can create value?

In Marx's economic theory, abstract labour is the only source of value and surplus-value. However, in the case of an economy where robots build robots build robots and there is no human labour involved, surely value is still created?

This was the argument of Dmitriev in 1898, in his critique of Marx's value theory. He said that, in a fully automated system, a certain input of machines can create a greater output of machines (or of other commodities). In this case, profit and the rate of profit would be determined exclusively by the technology used (productivity) and not by (abstract) labour. If 10 machines produce 12 machines, the profit is 2 machines and the rate of profit is 2/10, 20%.

Value reduced to use value has nothing to do with Marx's notion of value, which is the monetary expression of abstract labour expended by labourers. If machines could create 'value', this value would be use-value rather than value as the outcome of humans' abstract labour. But, if machines can create 'value', so can an infinity of other factors (animals, the forces of nature, sunspots, etc.) and the determination of value becomes impossible. And if machines supposedly could transfer their use-value to the product, this would immediately crash against the problem of the aggregation of different use-values.

For Marx, machines do not create value. Rather, concrete labour transfers the value of the machines (and, more generally, of the means of production) to the product. They increase human productivity and thus the output per unit of capital invested, while decreasing the quantity of living labour needed for the production of a certain output. Given that only labour creates value, the substitution of the means of production for living labour decreases the quantity of value created per unit of capital invested. ...

The Dmitriev critique confuses the dual nature of value under capitalism: use value and exchange value. There is use value (things and services that people need); and exchange value (the value measured in labour time and appropriated from human labour by the owners of capital and realised by sale on the market). In every commodity under the capitalist mode of production, there is both use value and exchange value. You can't have one without the other under capitalism. But the latter rules the capitalist investment and production process, not the former.

Value (as defined) is specific to capitalism. Sure, living labour can create things and do services (use values). But value is the substance of the capitalist mode of producing things. Capital (the owners) controls the means of production created by labour and will only put them to use in order to appropriate value created by labour. Capital does not create value itself.  So in our hypothetical all-encompassing robot/AI world, productivity (of use values) would tend to infinity while profitability (surplus value to capital value) would tend to zero. ...

This is no longer capitalism. The analogy is more with a slave economy as in ancient Rome. In ancient Rome, over hundreds of years, the formerly predominantly small-holding peasant economy was replaced by slaves in mining, farming and all sorts of other tasks. This happened because the booty of the successful wars that the Roman republic and empire conducted included a mass supply of slave labour.

The cost to the slave owners of these slaves was incredibly cheap (to begin with) compared with employing free labour. The slave owners drove the farmers off their land through a combination of debt demands, requisition in wars and sheer violence. The former peasants and their families were forced into slavery themselves or into the cities, where they scraped a living with menial tasks and skills or begged. The class struggle did not end. The struggle was between the slave-owning aristocrats and the slaves and between the aristocrats and the atomised plebs in the cities.

A fully robot economy means that the owners of the means of production (robots) would have a super-abundant economy of things and services at zero cost (robots making robots making robots). The owners can then just consume. They don't need to make 'profit', just as the aristocrat slave owners in Rome just consumed and did not run businesses to sell commodities to make a profit. So a robotic economy could mean a super-abundant world for all or it could mean a new form of slave society with extreme inequality of wealth and income. It's a social 'choice' or more accurately, it depends of the outcome of the class struggle under capitalism.

The key issue is Marx's law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. A rising organic composition of capital leads to a fall in the overall rate of profit engendering recurring crises. If robots and AI do replace human labour at an accelerating rate, that can only intensify that tendency. Well before we get to a robot-all world, capitalism will experience ever-increasing periods of crises and stagnation."
Everything Roberts says here is orthodox Marxist economics and yet there is something missing: the use of the abstract concepts of Marx's theory to reconstruct the concrete phenomena, to discern the details of the actual transition to 'a robot-all world'.

Marx was not a vitalist. He did not think that human protoplasm endowed human labour with some mysterious value-producing quality that mere steel and electronics could never replicate. So what if human workers were everywhere replaced by fabricated androids who also toiled in the factories, were paid wages and consumed ersatz food? Does capitalism still work? [Answer: of course].

If one particular capitalist creates a totally automated factory (or one using purely slave labour which is - in Marxist terms - the same thing) is that incompatible with capitalism? [Answer: of course not].

As more and more capitalists automate their factories, displacing human labour, what is the process which unfolds before them and why? How do they perceive the capitalist economy failing before their eyes?

Or will they rather observe, as Peter Singer writes in his book on Marx: ‘Future capitalists will not find their profits drying up as they dismiss the last workers from their newly-automated factories’ (p. 76).

I outlined some answers here.

"The City & The City" disappoints (episode 2)

Amazon link

My earlier hopes for "The City & The City" have been confounded. China Miéville's novel gets its power from its setting: the interpenetrating cities unsettle and remould all social relationships. Miéville then overlaid a police procedural to explore this subversion of everyday life.

The TV series, constrained by four episodes, has put the low-key and inert plot centre stage. The setting now has little to contribute beyond needless complexity while the characters mechanically deploy like chess pieces to push things along. The result: actions and motivations aren't authentic while characters are shallow and unconvincing. Corwi is played as an implausible one-dimensional buffoon while Borlú  is a grumpy, slightly sleazy ESTJ headmaster who could never have pulled his liberal, idealistic ENFJ wife.

I wish I could make a deeper ideological critique of the series, link it to crass political-correctness or SJW shibboleths. But it's just that the TV adaptors haven't allocated enough time, have failed to create that deep immersion in the Besźel/Ul Qoma duality which was the point of China Miéville's work.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Spring at the Bishop's Palace in Wells

The first warm day of the year.

Clare climbs the newly-opened Prison Bastion at the Bishop's Palace

The moat at the Bishop's palace

Wells Cathedral from the Bishop's Palace wall

We walked around the Palace in our jumpers, coats left at home. The sun shone. Felt like they'd terraformed Wells.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Diary: Rocky Mountain Nurseries

The car went in for its annual service and MOT this morning. We had moved to this garage because we thought they did a better job than our previous choice, although how can you tell?

Like those restaurants which pride themselves on being rude to their customers, the staff here used to be rather surly, resenting conversation with effete customers who (they sensed) wouldn't know which end of the torque wrench to apply to the wheel nuts. But over the last couple of years they've mellowed, developing customer-facing skills. Reception now has a coffee machine, and they smile as they offer the card reader.


Next was the Rocky Mountain Nurseries, which Clare vaguely thought was off the Old Frome Road somewhere. It looked astonishingly dilapidated as we eventually drew up.

Clare had received a voucher card for £25. She experiences the same frisson of excitement at garden centres as I encounter in bookshops: Rocky Mountain did not disappoint. It's remote, on the Mendip plateau where land is cheap, but the car park was full. A vast expanse of potted plants, ferns and hangar-like polytunnels beckoned: a foraging heaven.

In the end she chose four plants. We staggered under their weight between plots and outbuildings, searching for someone with a cash register. Turned out they didn't take those particular gift cards after all.

Still, one door closes .. .

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Life in a genetic meritocracy

Note: you may find the text below rather boring, but due to continuing migration and population movements on a global scale the situation described is becoming more prevalent, not less.


Expulsion of the Uganda Asians (Indians)

From the BBC (an interview with Toby Young).
"According to the political scientist Charles Murray, meritocracy inevitably leads to a genetically-based caste system. Why? Because the traits selected for by the meritocratic sorting principle are genetically-based and, as such, likely to be passed on from parents to their children.

Genetic variation means some highly able children will be born to people of average and below average intelligence, but the children of the meritocratic elite will, in aggregate, always have a competitive advantage and over several generations that leads to social ossification."
Capitalism, unlike previous more traditionalist modes of production, is strongly meritocratic. Those able to function at senior levels in industry, finance, the military, government and academia are inevitably highly educated and comfortable with abstractions. Charles Murray was worried about assortative mating amongst elites, which has been facilitated by the expansion in university places. But the situation, globally, is more complex than that.


Refer to Garett Jones's table of National IQs, mentioned in my previous post. Whether through colonialism, general population movements or targeted immigration, it's perfectly possible for people from a cognitively-advantaged country to find themselves a minority in a country where the majority fare markedly less well. Chinese minorities in Southeast Asia and the 'Ugandan Asians' (who were from India) are cases in point.

Such talented minorities, culturally distinct from the majority, tend meritocratically to rise.* While this does work its meritocratic magic when things are going well, it has downsides when the country runs into trouble, as economies invariably do.


How does it feel to be a member of a genetic elite? I can only imagine. There must be the sense of social solidarity with your cultural fellows, plus a vague sense of disquiet directed towards the non-elite majority. Some of that majority will be as accomplished as your group, but few. Most will be less able (although you will want to affirm their capabilities).

How does it feel to be a member of the somewhat-disadvantaged majority? Again, I can only speculate. Most of the time it won't be much on your mind. In any event, such reflections will not be a welcome feature of the zeitgeist.


Now is a time when the interests of elites and the masses are perceived to be diverging across the world. It's when class conflict becomes enmeshed with ethnic identifications that we should start getting a little concerned. In Uganda things did not go well:
Before the expulsion, Asians owned many large businesses in Uganda but the purge of Asians from Uganda's economy was virtually total. In total, some 5,655 firms, ranches, farms, and agricultural estates were reallocated, along with cars, homes and other household goods.

For political reasons, most (5,443) were reallocated to individuals, with 176 going to government bodies, 33 being reallocated to semi-state organisations and 2 going to charities. Possibly the biggest winner was the state-owned Uganda Development Corporation, which gained control over some of the largest enterprises, though both the rapid nature of the growth and the sudden lack of experienced technicians and managers proved a challenge for the corporation, resulting in a restructuring in 1974-5.

"The Ugandan economy fell deep into a crisis under the strain of civil wars, the nationalization of certain industries and the expulsion of the Asians.. . By 1987, President Yoweri Museveni had inherited an economy that suffered the poorest growth rate in Africa."
Meritocracy normally works well, despite its critics. When times get hard, not so much.


* A worked example

From the standardised normal distribution, the percentage of a population more than 1 standard deviation above the mean is 16%, more than 2σ is 2.3% and more than 3σ is 0.13%.

Take a hypothetical population A with the European norm of 100 (standard deviation 15) and a distinct group B representing 0.5% of the population who have a mean IQ one standard deviation up, ie 115.

Assume that elite IQ is three standard deviations above majority-average: a member of the top elite will have an IQ in excess of 145. What is the expected ratio of people from A and B in the elite?

Suppose the population size of A is 20 million so that the population size of B is (at 0.5%) 100,000.

We know that 0.13% of population A (3σ) will make it into the elite (assuming pure meritocracy) contributing 26,000 people.

Population B will have 2.3% (2σ) of its members in the elite; this is 2,300 people.

So the elite ratio A:B is 11:1, a fair distance from the 200:1 overall population ratio.

Stratification will be more intense if population B clusters in certain sectors where they historically specialise, as the Ugandan Asians did in commerce.



Consider four standard deviations above majority-average, an IQ of 160+.  The area under the normal curve above 4σ is 0.003%.

Population A contributes 600 people with this elevated score; population B provides 130 people. The A:B ratio is now around 5:1. Perhaps the really top elite does consist of under a thousand people in a medium-sized country, so the expected ratio is perhaps not too unrealistic.

National IQs - from "Hive Mind"

Amazon link

This is a reference post. The data below is taken from the "Data Appendix" in "Hive Mind" by Garett Jones, which I reviewed here. Click on the images below to make larger.

"Notes: The middle column reports the Rindermann, Sailer, Thompson cognitive ability (CA) scores estimated from the international tests the PISA, the TIMSS, and the PIRLS. The right-hand column reports national average IQ as estimated by Lynn and Meisenberg.

The table only reports data for countries where both estimates are available. Both estimates include data of varying quality; in particular, developing country estimates may be based on small samples or limited numbers of tests and should be treated with caution.

This is a problem that also arises when measuring GDP per person in developing countries, as Morten Jerven's book Poor Numbers documents. Sources: Rindermann, Sailer, and Thompson, "The Impact of Smart Fractions" and Lynn and Meisenberg, "National IQs Calculated." See also Jervens, Poor Numbers. "
The main take-home lesson is that countries differ quite markedly in their average IQ, pretty much as you would expect given their economic and political success or lack of it. Not forgetting that countries are people, not inert geography.

The scores are misleading for countries which are highly stratified ethnically such as Israel, many countries in Latin America and the USA (to some extent). India (not shown) with its castes and jatis is problematic - the concept of national IQ doesn't really apply there at all.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"A Quiet Place" - film

Here's the plot outline from Wikipedia.

Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds turn in the best performances
"In the year 2020 most of Earth's human population has been wiped out by a race of sightless, extra-terrestrial creatures with hypersonic hearing. The creatures use a form of echolocation to hunt.

The Abbott family—husband Lee (Krasinski), wife Evelyn (Blunt), deaf daughter Regan, sons Marcus and Beau—scavenge for supplies while remaining as silent as possible and communicating nonverbally through American Sign Language. The entire family also walk around barefoot everywhere, so as to make no sound with every step they take."
Bottom line: you should see it.

As we sat waiting for the start I wondered how they were going to hold our attention. Ninety minutes in which a small family in a cabin in the middle of nowhere are pursued by monsters resembling the creature from Alien crossed with a bat. A movie where to talk is to die.

They did it by superimposing a family story-arc which, to save spoilers, I'll leave to the film (or you can read the Wikipedia article).

1. Plot holes

In the basement (pictured above) the father has a lab with electronic equipment, monitors and CCTV. Outside, in the adjacent landscape, there's an extensive light grid (like runway landing lights) occupying hundreds of square meters. I conservatively estimate 10-20kW to keep all that powered up. Civilization has collapsed, so where are they getting their power from?

Don't say a diesel generator. Do you have any idea how noisy those things are? And I didn't see any Tesla Powerwall.

I find this unlikely

The monsters have a weakness (naturally!) that any military R&D lab would figure out in an hour's brainstorming. They occupy a similar niche to the sabre-toothed tiger - a species our hunter-gatherer ancestors saw off with collaborative spear-throwing. A couple of machine guns and plenty of ammo would have solved their problem once and for all.

2. The narrative arc

The film does not depend on any of these plot incongruities. Focus instead on the family's overwhelming vulnerability, and empathise with how they cope. It's really a girl's film. One reviewer observed that in some subterranean sense it's a Christian film, one rooted in faith and family.

The movie plays with familiar tricks. A slow start to raise the tension, half-hidden views of ultrafast predator attack, sudden noises which are false alarms, the overcoming of a menace followed rapidly (as you relax) by an even greater threat.

These tropes are effective and the characters rounded, believable and sympathetic. Best performances are from the mother (Emily Blunt) and the deaf daughter, who has the key to the puzzle (Millicent Simmonds).

3. Conclusions

It passed my watch test, I wasn't tempted to look although I surfaced from total immersion just a couple of times.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

More bad times a-comin' (for systematizers) ...

An interesting post (from Arnold Kling).

"Once upon a time, (say, 1930), higher education in America was not for the masses. Harvard was a place for upper-class WASP males, who were not necessarily the cream of the crop intellectually, to firm up their social connections while studying the classics from Western civilization.

By the early 1960s, admission to higher education had become meritocratic, but many of the best colleges did not admit women. This was probably the peak period for “systemizers” to dominate the pool of undergraduates. The classics were still being taught, but many among this brighter cadre of students were gravitating toward the more mathematical and scientific disciplines. To be sure, pre-Med was an especially popular undergraduate choice because guys did not want to end up in Vietnam.

Two developments began in the 1960s that eventually created the state we are in today. One was the attempt to make higher education a mass-market phenomenon. The other was to ensure equal access to higher education for women.

To make a long story short, mass higher education for men was a failure, but for women it was a success. The result was that higher education came to be dominated by empathizers in a number of areas. In the humanities, the classics were displaced by “___ studies” courses, which required less systematic analysis. In these courses and in psychology and sociology, objectivity gave way to the goal of raising the status of women and minorities.

In terms of voting behavior, we now have young, educated women who have bought into the cause of raising the status of women and minorities, a cause which is packaged with other left-wing causes, including socialism. But we have older Americans and younger less-educated men who have not bought into that cause. ...

My sense is that, unfortunately, many of these young educated women have a strong streak of soft authoritarianism. If you want to know what it will feel like when they are in charge, read (the movie does not do it justice) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Today’s well-educated young women, and the men who affiliate with them, have a low tolerance for systemizers whose analysis does not lend support to the cause of raising the status of women and minorities."
To consider at the next "burning injustice" headline.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Military skills

In a remote region of Eastern Europe, Prince Henry presided over an isolated principality still stuck in the mediaeval age.

Henry was a consummate, peerless warrior, skilled at jousting with the lance, a master of sword and axe. He would lead his knights across the small plains of their homeland in military exercises.

One day, his hermetic kingdom finally came into contact with the outside world - the Russians to be precise. As these things go, disagreements arose. The Russians proceeded to address their minor inconvenience.

Henry and his men faced the invasion in glorious array, the Prince in full armour on his war horse leading the way. Across the other side of the plain appeared the vanguard of the Russian forces: spetsnaz troops supported by Armata tanks, helicopter gunships and artillery. Prince Henry gave the order to charge. The ensuring battle must have lasted .. well, all of four minutes.

The question arises: did Prince Henry have military skills?


My view. It's a mistake to get too philosophical about this, treating it as a debate about definitions or eternal abstract categories. Prince Henry and his men trained hard and long and were plainly differently-skilled to his peasants. So they plainly had military skills.

But in the current military context, those skills were useless and could not be leveraged into military effectiveness. In contemporary war-fighting, they had no military skills.

Both things can be true. The term 'military skills' is relational, it's not a thing.


Note: this fable is isomorphic to the discussion of Marx's theory of value as debated between David Harvey and Michael Roberts.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

"The City & The City" on TV - China Miéville

 The cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma

BBC2 showed the first episode of their adaption of China Miéville's "The City & The City" last night. I wrote about it two years ago.

Amazon link

From previous TV adaptations of SF classics, I feared the worst, but this was actually pretty good.

Miéville's book leads with its extraordinary setting, with plot secondary and characterisation a pulp noir third. This doesn't work for TV, where character and action is primary.

The screenwriters therefore beef up the backstory for the lead character, Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad, Besźel, giving him a mysterious vanished wife (not in the novel) who may have vanished into the other city, or who was perhaps taken by - or recruited to - the secret border police Breach. Meanwhile they fill out the character of his sidekick, Lizbyet Corwi, who puts on an aggressive macho schtick to cope with being a female cop in a very traditional man's world.

They've used Liverpool for earthy, seedy, eastern-european Besźel and will perhaps use Manchester as the stalinist, modernist Ul Qoma. We shall see in the next episode.

If you didn't know the book already, the idea of two distinct and hostile city-states occupying the same geography would be a fast learning curve. But overall, I felt they got the mix of plot development, characterisation and exposition about right.

Abigail Nussbaum has a good and characteristically engaged review of the book.

David Reich on Wade, Harpending and Watson

Amazon link

I've now finished Reich's book, having read with trepidation those parts where he criticises Nicholas Wade, Henry Harpending and Greg Cochran, and James Watson by name, not shrinking from use of the r-word. His criticisms are curiously uncompelling, though veiled by intemperate language and tendentious argumentation.

Reich observes that the message of his book is profoundly unsettling to the current liberal orthodoxy. He himself deals with the resulting cognitive dissonance by compartmentalisation .. exhibiting psychic stress when dealing with people who are less inhibited.

None of this really takes anything away from what is a fine piece of science-writing at a high conceptual level, which if taken on board revolutionises our ideas of human history.

And the work is just beginning!


Here's Greg Cochran's considerably more acerbic take.

"Marx: A Very Short Introduction" - Peter Singer

I was impressed by the readability and erudition of Peter Singer's VSI to Hegel, so decided to read his take on Marx.

Amazon link

I was disappointed. Singer is affectionately amusing on Marx's life and I agree with him that Marx retained a (materialist-reframed) Hegelian perspective throughout his life's work. But Singer struggles with Marx's notoriously tricky concept of value (abstract human labour), buying the argument that machines can create surplus-value. In Marxist thinking, only human labour can do that, reflecting the distinction between labour and labour-power.

Once you don't 'get' Marx's theory of value, then the theory of capitalist dynamics tends to go too, and you're left with a static evaluation of Marx's specific predictions, most of which did not track capitalism's evolution throughout the twentieth century.

Singer thereby concludes by seeing Marx more as an ethical philosopher than anything else, but that's a retreat too far. I would, however, be even harder than Singer on Marx's lamentably blank-slate view of human nature, which fatally undermines any naive presentation of Communism.


Singer also wrote this book, which is on my list:

Amazon link

I had thought I might be the only person in the world who cared about the synthesis between Marxism and evolutionary theory, specifically human sociobiology. But I guess that along with Peter Singer I should now add David Reich to my list of good guys too, although he's a liberal-leftist, not a Marxist.