February 2017

Culture War Watch #1

Those Who Can See wrote an interesting post a couple years ago on the reason for cultural profiling. It’s a more statistics oriented version of some of my slightly polemic past writing. It’s useful to compose this stuff together, because over time those of us who read this stuff start to put the anecdotes together in our head, but often don’t have a single source to present it clearly. And not only clearly, but without needless anger. Not only does anger towards other political tribes and cultural out-groups completely mind kill your ability to think clearly, but it is also pointless. Does sitting on your couch feeling angry improve your life?

The question of cultural shifts is what the current immigration culture wars are truly about. Terrorism and ISIS are the discrete and observable results from the far end of the right tail. In some ways ISIS is even a red herring, since we already know the baseline scenario for humans in lawless anarchy is a brutalistic and savage existence.

The more important question is how do two sides of a country discuss this sort of thing? One side wants a Paris that retains it’s ethno-nationalistic French pride, well into the second half of the 21st century. The current course is a predominantly Muslim Paris. Is it okay to not want that? Why is it wrong? I think I’m even handed and articulate enough that I could get away with saying I would prefer the Paris of Hemingway to the Paris of today, but I’m not entirely sure. I know it’s cool to punch Nazis who spew hate speech, and I know I’m not a Nazi, but what if someone else says that I am? The bar seems awfully low lately.

My methodological idol, Jens Hainsmueller, the director of the Stanford Immigration Policy Lab, gave an interview.

Previously in the interview he raised points I agree with in regard to Trump’s executive order. Ending refugees so suddenly, and causing airport panic, was counterproductive. A sane policy can change the course of the US immigration policy in a fundamental way, while avoiding airport panic, revoking green cards to refugees who have spent the past frustrating, agonizing, years of their lives working with lawyers, and deporting illegal immigrants who have grown up in the US. Instead of causing fear, panic, and breaking our promises, we can simply cut off new promises. This is my strong preference.

Hainsmueller went on to say in his interview:

About 40% of Forbes 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their kids. This includes many of the most successful American brands: Apple, Google, Intel. The same goes for science. At the Stanford GSB, 40% of MBAs are citizens of another country. With these policies — emphasizing a more exclusionary approach and creating a climate that’s hostile toward immigrants — you will push some of this much-needed energy out of the U.S. economy and stymie discovery and innovation going forward.

No doubt this is true, but does this past observation of the 20th century predict the 21st? The demographic and rationale for immigrating to the US has changed. Different demographics have different probabilities of cultural assimilation, as well as mean IQs. Again, a sane immigration policy rank order metrics that benefit our nation, such as cultural fit, religious fit, expected IQ, and education, and then focus on using those immigrants as economic fuel. One way to get there is to walk through the halls of a major tech firm on the west coast, and make a list of the types of diverse people that you see, then do your best to let in more of them. Plenty of my colleagues have had an incredibly challenging time getting permits to work in the US.

This common sense approach to nation building is not really permissible to research either:

Uncomfortable though the topic may be, the authors have attempted a rigorous analysis. Denunciations came quickly, however. Within hours of publication, Mr Hamermesh received vitriolic messages and was labelled a racist in an online forum popular among economists.

A huge hidden danger in this mass denial and quasi-censorship is that it breaths life into the alt-right. While the debate continues, my own view (mainly from reading comments on Nick Land’s site, xenosystems.net) is that the neoreactionary movement and alt-right are extremely different. After all, we know the political founder of the movement is himself both Jewish, and happily pro-Jewish. If you read the true alt-right hubs, they are clearly anti-Semitic.

Both the NRx and alt-right movement reject the media and the cathedral, but the differences largely end there. The alt-right is far more base, and willing to turn inconsistencies into propaganda to push their cause forward. The NRx movement seems far more subdued, anti-violence, and wanting to optimize the world as it is, not conquer it for their tribe. Classifying nebulous political movements is probably a waste of time, but this is how I see it at the moment.

My point being, if we want the alt-right to lose, we need to find ways to discuss inconsistencies and irregularities in our current cultural policies in a rational and non-extreme way. I try to be optimistic though, and look to guys like Faisal Saeed Al Mutar as proof there are smart secular Muslim refugees who are trying to reshape their culture. I also hope genetic engineering and advanced technology might allow us to outright solve the challenge of different races, by increasing the IQ of the human race by a standard deviation or two.

The main reason I am optimistic though is because spending your time and energy angry that over the coming decades the demographic of your country will change in ways that, currently, seem to be strongly sub-optimal, is a shitty use of your time and emotions.


Gender Equilibria

Studying social equilibrium outside of mathematical game theory is pretty tough. Since the world is complicated, and there is lots of information, it’s pretty tough to use textbook game theory models to classify an equilibrium. Even the Prisoners Dilemma, which is probably the most useful, has varied success depending on the context. Some researchers will test it out on undergraduates every once in a while, or on real prisoners, then claim it doesn’t work, because they all cooperated. The reality obviously is that they missed some parameter. It turns out prisoners who share the same prison, or students who both cheer for the Wildcats at the home game, have community connections.

It’s tough to measure and parameterize that stuff though with, like, numbers. So we use words instead, which are better at complex and high-dimensions, but don’t easily replicate.

Recently I was thinking through a sad equilibrium on women in the workplace. Let’s say that there exists some very high pressure job, which is represented 85% by men and 15% women. How do we break this down? Or, is it a problem? And if it is a problem, can we be explicit?

Let’s start by assuming that there are only two reasons any person enters a job: The first is an intrinsic interest, the second is the distribution of men and women within the job. Now let’s suppose a single women with intrinsic desire x* to do this job. For this women, the threshold of the intrinsic desire necessary would need to be greater than a man, because this existing distribution is heavily male dominated. Another way to say it, is that there could exist a man with intrinsic desire x* who enters this career, and a women with the same intrinsic desire x* who decides not to, because the additional consideration of gender balance pushed her away.

Is this a bad equilibrium? Without boring ourselves by mathematizing our assumptions, we can see that it’s possible that based only on the intrinsic desire distributions alone that the equilibrium distribution could be something like 70% and 30%, but once we add the refinement that women wouldn’t want to work in a field heavily male dominated, it grows even more skewed to 85% and 15%.

This is actually what I think is happening in reality. It’s also why I’m simultaneously against mandates for equal (50%) representation, and equal (no control variables) pay, and still strongly for improvements in social conditioning and appropriate decorum for how men treat women in the workplace.

I also view it as an example between the difference between a rationalist framework of the world combined with kindness, as opposed to a progressive framework of the world. In the rationalist world you create a strong prediction and argument for how things could be better, while doing your best to scientifically estimate the parameters involved in a non-utopian way. In the progressive one you say “I’ve determined parameter phi must be equal to zero, in accordance with the postmodern law of reality.”


Review #2

The big question now is whether the progressive system really has collapsed. Has the ‘enemies defeat’ really signaled such a huge change? If Grand historical narratives work well in the abstract, and they work well when you paint the future with a sweeping brush or massive projected change. I am unconvinced these predictions really do map to reality. Sure, Trump was the savior of Western civilization. The reality now is that he needs to figure out a country works. It’s one thing to take grand sweeping views on immigration or Russia, but actually handling the paperwork and managing the White House staff is different. I had bought into Scott Adams argument for a while that Trump was playing 11-dimensional space-backgammon. After the immigration fiasco it’s harder to reconcile. For a law and order candidate it doesn’t look good to have uncertainty in airports, randomly detained travelers, and mass protests.

If you read nothing else, read the comments in Scott Aaronson’s blog post on immigration. Mencious Moldbug (of Unqualified Reservations) debates Scott Aaronson for pages. It would take ages to read it all, but Moldbug’s comments (he’s posting as boldmug here) #153, #192, and #276 are particularly interesting. My favorite comment by ‘boldmug’:

I just think smart people should have a good practical grasp of actual historical reality as it actually happened. This (as I see it) is a little bit different from what you get in school these days, though less in concrete facts than interpretations. And it includes being able to solve a simple “ideological Turing Test” for any recent period. As Cicero said, those who fail to understand history will always remain children.

A good way to frame this test is to ask what the best minds of some other period would make of ours. Once you can pass this test for a period, I’d argue, you can feel comfortable about applying the lessons of that period to our present reality.

Until you feel you can pass this test, I think, try another period. Or try an argument that doesn’t need to use history as a weapon.

Historically, it’s in turbulent periods like this that understanding our enemies is the most important possible thing. I’m not trying to persuade anyone of anything. I’m just trying to give people some tools which I think solve the problem in a neat way.

And two, on “return to the past”: I would argue that what some historians call “presentism,” basically racism as applied to the past, is fundamentally a problem that can’t be worked around. It has to be solved. A presentist society is a suicidal society. Feel free to disagree with me on this.

Moldbug’s an interesting guy. His epistemic style is to understand the past, not the base facts or statistics, but be able to truly understand the political views of the time sufficiently well to have a conversation with anyone from that time, without appearing crazy. And to understand what aspects of your modern political views they would find crazy, and who is currently shaping our political views.

This is probably the invisible glue that binds the reactosphere, the rationalsphere, and methodology blogs together. The community behind all of these shares a strong distaste for the ‘scientific consensus’ of fields with high uncertainty (e.g. Political Science, or climate prediction). Whether it’s Marginal Revolution, Less Wrong, SSC, or more neoreactionary areas, none of can be basically right while also accepting the mainstream moral and scientific consensus of Harvard Law policy wonks being basically right.

This Popehat post is old, but pretty funny, covering a refugee scifi hypothetical. It also seems to be a self-evident pattern that refugee preferences are correlated with the economic tribe you’re in. While it’s important and probably useful to know the statistics or ‘economic studies’ on refugees and their interaction with the labor force, it’s also clearly irrelevant to the debate. The rotting parts of America see rich coastal cities full of people who appear more interested in helping ‘outsiders.’ They wouldn’t be wrong either. At this point a nontrivial subset of the greater left would find a more natural (political) ally in a Muslim immigrant than a redneck townie; which is bad news for social dynamics.

Lastly, I ordered a book by Charles Lindbergh. Interesting guy. I think if anyone, sincerely, wants to avoid having horrible views of the world, it’s important to read books by people who seem to be genuinely good people but, for some reason, came to a different conclusion on some question that seems self-evident today. Why did they come to a different conclusion? What was their evidence and reasoning based off of?