Saturday, December 10, 2016

Humanities - the orphans of the academy

Interesting data point and an interesting discussion string. Humanities people in the discussion are introducing nuance, definitions, citation practices, etc. as reasons for low citation rates of humanities research. I tend to suspect that this is actually driven by relative utility - Occam's Razor.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Another one bites the dust

There is no settled science no matter what the consensus might be.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ability level, coupled with commitment, determines whether and the extent to which noteworthy accomplishments are reached

Want to be successful? Have ability and commitment. Study validates folk wisdom.
The educational, occupational, and creative accomplishments of the profoundly gifted participants (IQs ⩾ 160) in the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) are astounding, but are they representative of equally able 12-year-olds? Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (TIP) identified 259 young adolescents who were equally gifted. By age 40, their life accomplishments also were extraordinary: Thirty-seven percent had earned doctorates, 7.5% had achieved academic tenure (4.3% at research-intensive universities), and 9% held patents; many were high-level leaders in major organizations. As was the case for the SMPY sample before them, differential ability strengths predicted their contrasting and eventual developmental trajectories—even though essentially all participants possessed both mathematical and verbal reasoning abilities far superior to those of typical Ph.D. recipients. Individuals, even profoundly gifted ones, primarily do what they are best at. Differences in ability patterns, like differences in interests, guide development along different paths, but ability level, coupled with commitment, determines whether and the extent to which noteworthy accomplishments are reached if opportunity presents itself.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Security versus xenophobia

From Net Opposition To Immigrants of Different Nationalities Correlates Strongly With Their Arrest Rates In the UK by Noah Carl. Psychology so caveat lector. The abstract:
Public beliefs about immigrants and immigration are widely regarded as erroneous. For example, members of the public typically overestimate the immigrant fraction of the population by ~10–15 percentage points. On the other hand, popular stereotypes about the respective characteristics of different groups (e.g., sexes, races, nationalities) are generally found to be quite accurate. The present study shows that, in the UK, net opposition to immigrants of different nationalities correlates strongly with the log of immigrant arrests rates (r = .77; p = 0.00002; 95% CI = [.52, .90]) and with the log of their arrest rates for violent crime (r = .77; p = 0.00001; 95% CI = [.52, .90]). This is particularly noteworthy given that Britons reportedly think that an immigrant’s criminal history should be one of the most important characteristics when considering whether he or she should be allowed into the country. Moreover, the associations are not accounted for by a general opposition to non-Whites, non-Westerners, foreigners who do not speak English, Muslims, or those from countries with low average IQ. While circumstantial in nature, the study’s findings suggest that public beliefs about immigrants are more accurate than is often assumed.
Translation into the vernacular: 1) People hold accurate estimations of the degree to which different immigrant groups commit crimes and 2) Those criminality rates predict the degree to which people oppose immigration from those countries of origin.

Simpler still: Citizens don't want to import people likely to commit crimes. They distinguish accurately between groups in terms of the probability of committing crimes. Opposition to immigration is based on perceived criminality not on xenophobia or racism.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

IQ, behaviors and life outcomes


Click to enlarge

The source document is: Intelligence Research: Fifty Years of Satisfaction by Douglas K. Detterman

Among his observations in the original slide presentation:
Schools and teachers account for very little of the variance in academic achievement and should not be the focus of improving academic achievement

All psychological traits show significant and substantial genetic influence (with the caveat that no trait is 100% heritable)

Heritability is caused by many genes of small effect (no single silver bullet)

Fifty year forecast: The internet revolution and automation will continue at a quickening pace.
40% TO 60% of current jobs will disappear

A large portion of these jobs will be held by people with IQs less than 115 (85th percentile)
People who manage the flow of information will also be affected

Employment dislocation will be widespread and rapid

No more than 7% of variance between students can be attributed to schools and teachers.

It doesn't matter where you go to college

Human capital can only be improved by focusing on individual students and their capabilities, not by focusing on schools and teachers.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Not global trade but increased efficiency.

It is not global trade, it is improved productivity that causes job losses and disruption. From The Myth and Reality of Manufacturing in America.
Three factors have contributed to changes in manufacturing employment in recent years: Productivity, trade, and domestic demand. Overwhelmingly, the largest impact is productivity. Almost 88 percent of job losses in manufacturing in recent years can be attributable to productivity growth, and the long-term changes to manufacturing employment are mostly linked to the productivity of American factories.
We shouldn't try and stop productivity improvement. That is the path to immiseration and poverty. The focus should be on 1) Continuing to improve productivity and then 2) Improving the support mechanisms related to skill building and job transition.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Pareto in the unlikeliest of places

Not all of them can be politicians.

All the news that fit to be imagined

I really like the New York Times as a news dissemination engine even though I object to their role as a political partisan in the civic discourse.

I comment often on the role that cognitive bubbles play in determining how we think about things and I have commented also that I suspect that much of the apparent bias in the NYT is likely a function of unconscious cognitive isolation. They think what is important among highly educated, highly compensated people in New York must be the same for the nation at large.

I came across this interesting tidbit.

OK, its the NYT. In some ways not too surprising. But it is worth digging deeper.

My first question is whether this is simply a function of hysteria around Trumps election. The NYT is full of articles about how Trump and his supporters are racist, misogynist, homophobic and islamophobic. I did a search at the site Olson uses and came up with these results.

Click to enlarge.

Well, it does look like the rise of Trump is correlated with the NYT talking about racism, islamophopbia, misogyny, and homophobia. Citations are up for each. Racism is up 74% from 2015, islamophopbia up 46%, misogyny up 160%, and homophobia up 56%. Woof. But that's not quite the full story.

When was the most recent low point for mentions for each of these items? Racism was only 0.27% of the time as recently as 2011 and mentions have increased 459% since then. Homophobia was almost gone in 2008 when it was mentioned only 0.03% of the time but mentions have increased 367% since then. Misogyny was also vanishingly small in 2010 when it gained mentions in only 0.02% of articles but has now rocketed up 1200% since then. Islamophobia was hardly on the radar screen as recently as 2013 (0.01% of articles) but now has also increased 1200%.

Have things really gotten so bad, so quickly? Well, not if you look at the FBI hate crime reports which show ups and downs of +/- 5% in any of those years on a very small base (about 5,000 such crimes a year versus some 2 million violent and property crimes.) Is there another way to check? Well, there's always NGRAM Viewer and Google Trends.

NGRAM Viewer only goes to 2008 and it shows a sharp dip in discussions about racism in recent years and a modest drop from a low base for discussions about homophobia and misogyny which had gained some modest currency in the late 1980s and early 1990s before starting to fall. Islamophobia simply isn't on the radar screen in that time period.

Google Trends (what people are searching about) shows a reasonably similar picture since its inception in 2004.

All negative terms are flat or trending down up till late 2012. From 2012 onwards there has been a slow rise in searches on racism and misogyny but nothing too dramatic. Homophobia and Islamophobia are pretty flat through this period.

If we adjust the timeframe to only the past couple of years, it is much the same with the exception of the week of the election when searches about Racism and Misogyny shoot up before falling back dramatically.

Net is that either from crime statistics or based on what people are talking about, there isn't much empirical change or fresh concern about racism, misogyny, homophobia, and islamophobia. The crimes aren't there and the public is not discussing these issues. That suggests to me that the results for the New York Times reflect not an objective reality but reflect the concerns of those who write for the NYT. Concerns not shared to the same degree by their fellow Americans. I'd say this likely supports the bubble theory.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The spirit which is not too sure that it is right

Judge Learned Hand is one of the most quotable judges.
The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women.
The above quote is from his evergreen “The Spirit of Liberty” speech at “I Am an American Day” ceremony, Central Park, New York City (21 May 1944) which I have quoted a number of times.

Of course, the real world demands action that presumes you know what is right. The challenge is to act with certitude while retaining the clear understanding that little is known with finality.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Have I kept my honor bright?

I just attended the Atlanta Area Council's Golden Eagle Luncheon, a key event in the annual fund raising for scouts. We raised $1.75 million towards the good works of Boy Scouts of America. The key note speaker was CEO of Exxon Mobil, Rex Tillerson, himself an Eagle Scout. An excellent speech ending with a reminder of the Scout Vesper (sung to O Tannenbaum).
Softly falls the light of day,
While our campfire fades away.
Silently each scout should ask:
"Have I done my daily task?
Have I kept my honor bright?
Can I guiltless sleep tonight?
Have I done and have I dared
In everything to be prepared.?"

Listen Lord, oh listen Lord,
As I whisper soft and low,
Bless my Mom and bless my Dad,
There is something they should know.
I have kept my honor bright.
The Oath and Law has been my guide.
Mom and Dad, this you should know,
Deep in my heart I love you so.