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Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lake Como and Florence photos

I was in Lake Como for a small meeting of ~30 people, including sovereign wealth, hedge, and pension fund heads, plus a few intellectuals and leading figures from government. Brexit made for extra excitement in our discussions. Hint to scaremongers: the smart money is not as scared as you have tried to make the public.

I can't really share many photos from that meeting, which was held at two large villas on the lake, one a hotel and the other a private estate. Most of the photos below are from Florence. In the first photo below I'm giving some after dinner remarks at the Como meeting.











Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit: victory over the Hollow Men

Congratulations to Dominic Cummings, a formidable man. I met Dominic at SCI FOO in 2014. We talked long into the night, and I came away impressed with his tenacity and capability for long term planning. He urged me to study Bismarck.
The Telegraph: The long war: how Vote Leave and the Eurosceptics won

“Vote Leave, take back control”.

The phrase was the brainchild of the man who masterminded the Brexit campaign: Dominic Cummings. Vote Leave insiders say that Mr Cummings, more than anyone else, is responsible for delivering the result for Brexit.

A former special adviser to Michael Gove, Mr Cummings was already a controversial figure in Westminster. Combative and fiercely intelligent, he clashed repeatedly with the Prime Minister’s advisers, and was blamed by Number 10 for a succession of critical briefings to the media.

He was adamant that Vote Leave would not work with Nigel Farage or the other leave campaign groups which had formed – Leave.EU and Grassroots Out, both of which had Ukip support and money from the wealthy Ukip backer, Arron Banks.

But in February, Mr Cummings faced a crisis. Vote Leave was battling against the rival groups to win official recognition from the Electoral Commission watchdog as the designated Leave campaign. At stake was the entitlement to a free nationwide mailshot, TV referendum campaign broadcasts and a higher spending limit of £7 million during the campaign.

Kate Hoey, the pro-Brexit Labour MP quit Vote Leave to join Grassroots Out, saying she could not work with Mr Cummings or Matthew Elliott, the chief executive of Vote Leave. She accused the pair of spreading “lies” about fellow activists and said they had deliberately undermined attempts unite the rival Brexit groups.

Yet, Mr Cummings won the battle for designation as the official campaign - and went on to win the referendum. With a group of only 60 staff inside Westminster Tower and minimal resources, Mr Cummings virtually single-handedly plotted an “asymmetric” campaign against almost the entire political and financial establishment.

“He is a great guy,” one Vote Leave insider says. “He inspires fierce loyalty from everybody who works with him but he rubs people up the wrong way because he has got no time for fools.”

With a background in science, Mr Cummings bases everything he does on rigorous research. He commissioned detailed surveys, ran "quizzes" on commercial websites to test voters’ views, and oversaw focus groups that tested Vote Leave’s key campaign messages.

By early May, he had settled on the three key points that would form the basis for the final weeks of the campaign: a promise to take back control of £350million a week of taxpayers’ spending from Brussels; a promise to take back control over immigration; and warnings that countries such as Turkey and Serbia were in line to join the European Union in the years ahead.

All these points had been rigorously tested in focus groups. The most striking reaction from voters in the discussions was to Turkey’s accession to the EU.

“When Turkey comes up, light the blue touch paper and take a step back,” one Vote Leave source said at the time.

“People say ‘this is insane, this country is totally wrecked if that happens. These are countries at war, they are full of terrorists.’"

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron’s campaign had recruited Barack Obama to warn that Britain would be at the “back of the queue” for a new trade deal if it voted to leave the EU.

Vote Leave’s focus groups showed that this ploy had backfired. Voters resented the US President’s intervention and did not believe the economic “scaremongering” that the Prime Minister was putting forward, even though it was supported by the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of England, among others.

But the Leave campaign had to transform public support into votes.

Mr Cummings was forced to design and build a database of voters entirely from scratch in order to map exactly the streets and postcodes around the UK which were likely to vote to Leave. This enormous process of building a database of 46million voters could not even begin until February.

But the information was critically important so that on polling day last Thursday, Vote Leave’s army of 20,000 volunteers knew which doors they had to knock on in order to get their voters to turn out.

Mr Cummings also used cutting-edge technology to target his messages at precisely the individuals who were receptive to his messages. He hired data specialists from America and Canada, who analysed polling evidence and information from Facebook in order to build up a picture of their target voters.

By the end of the referendum campaign, Vote Leave had spent well over £1 million on Facebook, YouTube and other online advertising, sources suggested.

Vote Leave had attracted 553,000 “likes” on Facebook, just short of the 556,000 people who supported the official Remain campaign, Britain Stronger In Europe. ...

On Thursday June 23, after years of plotting and months of hard-fought and bitter campaigning, the Eurosceptics had their referendum. Mr Cummings’s volunteers knocked on doors across the country, getting out their voters.

When the polls closed, the atmosphere inside Westminster Tower, with its views over Lambeth Bridge to Big Ben across the Thames, was subdued. The final polls suggested that Remain had just edged ahead.

Michael Gove went to bed early. Boris Johnson stayed up later watching the analysis on television at home. For Vote Leave campaign staff, who had to watch the results all night, a buffet of pasta, cakes and tiramisu was laid out inside the office on the seventh floor.

... When ITV called the result for Leave, the room erupted. “The office went a bit crazy. There was lots of cheering, and hugging. Nobody could believe it.”

Dan Hannan, the MEP and leave campaigner, leapt onto a table and made a speech, thanking the Vote Leave campaign staff, declaring that it was “independence day” and that they had all made history.

Then everyone in the room began calling for Mr Cummings. “Dom, Dom, Dom,” they chanted.

Mr Cummings, who was in a room next door, came into the main open plan office, stood on a desk and told the staff: “This is all about you. You did this.” Then he celebrated by punching the air - and punched a hole in the low ceiling above his head.
See also The Hollow Men:
... students leave university for politics and the civil service with degrees that reward verbal fluency, some fragments of philosophy, little knowledge of maths or science, and confidence in a sort of arrogant bluffing combined with ignorance about how to get anything done. They think they are prepared to ‘run the country’ but many cannot run their own diaries.

... Cameron is superficially suitable for the job in the way that ‘experts’ often judge such things – i.e. basic chimp politics skills, height, glibness etc, so we can ‘shove him out to give a statement on X’. That’s it. In a dysfunctional institutional structure, someone without the skills we need in a prime minister can easily get the job with a few breaks like that.

... Our leaders are like 19th Century Germans who had lost religion of whom Nietzsche said, ‘they merely register their existence in the world with a kind of dumb amazement’. They get up every day and react to the media without questioning why: sometimes they are lauded, usually they are trashed, but they carry on in a state of ‘dumb amazement’ without realising how absurd their situation is. Meanwhile, the institutions within which they operate continue with their own momentum and dynamics, and they pretend to themselves that they are, in the phrase they love, ‘running the country’.
From Cummings' Some Thoughts on Education and Political Priorities (footnote 181 page 86):
181 I read blogs by physicist Steve Hsu from 2005 that were prescient about the sort of collapse that came with the ‘quant meltdown’ of August 2007 and the crash of September 2008, though the issues were so technical I could not assess them usefully. Almost nobody in Westminster who I emailed them to paid any attention (Alistair Heath is an exception) and many then gave speeches saying ‘nobody saw this coming’.
I can't resist adding this for Dominic :-)
The scale of Bismarck's triumph cannot be exaggerated. He alone had brought about a complete transformation of the European international order. He had told those who would listen what he intended to do, how he intended to do it, and he did it. He achieved this incredible feat without commanding an army, and without the ability to give an order to the humblest common soldier, without control of a large party, without public support, indeed, in the face of almost universal hostility, without a majority in parliament, without control of his cabinet, and without a loyal following in the bureaucracy. He no longer had the support of the powerful conservative interest groups who had helped him achieve power. The most senior diplomats in the foreign service ... were sworn enemies and he knew it. The Queen and the Royal Family hated him and the King, emotional and unreliable, would soon have his 70th birthday. ... With perfect justice, in August 1866, he punched his fist on his desk and cried "I have beaten then all! All!"

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end


All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the superman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end. -- Thus Spoke Zarathustra

The kind of thoughts one has while overlooking Lake Como from a grand villa  :-)
The New Atlantis: Friedrich Nietzsche gets a bad rap, for celebrating the will to power and leaving good morals by the wayside; in growing numbers, Americans are beginning to feel the same uneasy skepticism toward the Silicon Valley moguls who have come to thoroughly dominate our economy and imagination. For critics on the left as well as the right, today’s tech titans are uncomfortably squishy, or indifferent, when it comes to partisan, ideological matters. ...

... As Nietzsche knew, a democratic society like ours is supremely unlikely to produce any bona fide supermen. But supernerds? They’re multiplying like rabbits, and they’ve got an open field. Nothing can stop them; certainly not the rest of us.

According to Peter Thiel, however, that scary conclusion is false, for an even scarier reason. In interviews, speeches, and his new book of adapted college lectures, Zero to One, Thiel — the most political and theoretical of the supernerds — raises the prospect of a remarkably comprehensive failure among our best and brightest.

... Thiel’s critique, it turns out, has much in common with Nietzsche’s: Nietzsche worries that Darwinian competition breeds mediocre humans, while Thiel complains that commercial competition breeds mediocre companies. The principle of incremental success produces no true success at all; instead, it suppresses creative genius.

Zero to One is mainly “about how to build companies that create new things,” as Thiel writes in the preface. ...

Thiel begins by distinguishing between two kinds of technological progress: horizontal progress, which means “copying things that work — going from 1 to n,” and vertical progress, which means “doing new things — going from 0 to 1.” The modern world, says Thiel, “experienced relentless [vertical] technological progress from the advent of the steam engine in the 1760s all the way up to about 1970.”

... “Making small changes to things that already exist might lead you to a local maximum,” he writes, “but it won’t help you find the global maximum.” And with limited resources in a global economy, nothing less than the world is at stake. To find the global maximum, entrepreneurs must “transcend the daily brute struggle for survival” by building “creative monopolies” — creating markets where none exist, rather than dumping their energies into wringing the last marginal dollar of value from markets choked with belligerent competitors. For example, Google, as Thiel points out, has basically held a monopoly over Internet search since the early 2000s. For Thiel, the benefits of creative monopolies extend far beyond the companies themselves. While we typically think of monopolies as exploitative and domineering, “creative monopolists give customers more choices by adding entirely new categories of abundance to the world.”

Creative monopolies require what Thiel calls “definite optimism,” which involves making bold, specific plans for the future, and taking risks to fulfill them. ...

... Overtly, we’re increasingly at the mercy of our technological overlords. Covertly, our social life has become crippled by something so powerful that it can render even the most promising supernerd all but powerless, to say nothing of you and me. Our kryptonite is a cosmic idea, one with which Nietzsche was all too familiar: “the people have won — or ‘the slaves’ or ‘the mob’ or ‘the herd’ or whatever you like to call them,” Nietzsche said about the self-styled democratic free spirits. “‘The masters’ have been disposed of; the morality of the common man has won.” Nietzsche despised this mob-ification of morals. ...

As Francis Fukuyama put it in Our Posthuman Future (2002) ... a division between the metaphorical 1 and 99 percent might come about through a biotechnological revolution — something about which even the most assertive of our supernerds at Google are still cagey. ...

“We live in a world,” Thiel told the Dinner for Western Civilization, “in which courage is in far shorter supply than genius.” As he puts it in Zero to One: “Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply.” ...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Arthur Kroeber (Gavekal) on Chinese economy



Highly recommended. Kroeber gives a realistic assessment of the Chinese economy, covering topics such as historical development models, infrastructure investment, debt levels, SOEs vs private enterprise, corruption pre- and post-Xi, demographics, hukou reform, etc.
In this episode of Sinica, we present an in-depth interview with Arthur Kroeber, founding partner and head of research for Gavekal Dragonomics, an independent global economic research firm, and the editor-in-chief of its journal, China Economic Quarterly.

Arthur’s new book, China’s Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know, superbly explores China’s astonishing expansion during the “reform and opening up” period and the challenges the country now faces as growth slows. He provides a clear-eyed take on a huge range of subjects, from the internationalization of the renminbi to local debt to the way China’s state-owned enterprises function (or don’t). The book is a refreshing antidote to much of the commentary in the media, where “The Conventional Wisdom” we discuss in the podcast consists of doomsayers predicting China’s imminent collapse and Pollyannas who see the country as an unstoppable economic juggernaut.

Monday, June 20, 2016

EQ, IQ, and all that

This Quora answer, from a pyschology professor who works on personality psychometrics, illustrates well the difference between rigorous and non-rigorous research in this area. Some years ago a colleague and I tried to replicate Duckworth's findings on Grit, but to no avail, although IIRC our sample size was roughly as large as hers. In our minds, we used Grit and Conscientiousness (Big5) interchangeably, although we specifically used Duckworth's Grit Scale survey in our measurements.

Note, I do believe that the ability to model the internal emotions and feelings of others varies from individual to individual, and this is probably how I would define something like EQ. However, that is different from the claim that EQ is something we can reliably measure and use to predict outcomes, or that it isn't a combination of other already known constructs.
Quora: Jordan B Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, a clinical psychologist,... 10.3k Views

There is no such thing as EQ. Let me repeat that: "There is NO SUCH THING AS EQ." The idea was popularized by a journalist, Daniel Goleman, not a psychologist. You can't just invent a trait. You have to define it and measure it and distinguish it from other traits and use it to predict the important ways that people vary.

EQ is not a psychometrically valid concept. Insofar as it is anything (which it isn't) it's the Big Five trait agreeableness, although this depends, as it shouldn't, on which EQ measure is being used (they should all measure THE SAME THING). Agreeable people are compassionate and polite, but they can also be pushovers. Disagreeable people, on average (if they aren't too disagreeable) make better managers, because they are straightforward, don't avoid conflict and cannot be easily manipulated.

Let me say it again: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EQ. Scientifically, it's a fraudulent concept, a fad, a convenient band-wagon, a corporate marketing scheme. (Here's an early critique by Davies, M., Stankov, L. and Roberts, D. Emotional intelligence: in search of an elusive construct. - PubMed - NCBI ; Here's a conclusion reached by Harms and Crede, in an excellent article -- comprehensive and well thought-through (2010): "Our searches of the literature revealed only six articles in which the authors either explicitly examined the incremental validity of EI scores over measures of both cognitive ability and Big Five personality traits in predicting either academic or work performance, or presented data in a manner that allowed examination of this issue. Not one of these six articles (Barchard,2003; Newsome, Day, & Catano, 2000;O’Connor & Little, 2003; Rode, Arthaud-Day, Mooney, Near, & Baldwin, 2008;Rode et al., 2007; Rossen & Kranzler,2009) showed a significant contribution for EI in the prediction of performance after controlling for both cognitive ability and the Big Five... For correlations involving the overall EI construct, EI explained almost no incremental variance in performance ([change in prediction] = .00. Findings were identical when considering only cases involving an ability-based measure of IE...." See: http://snip.ly/7kc45

Harms and Crede also comment: "...proofs of validity [for EI[ seem to come from measuring constructs that have existed for a long time and are simply being relabeled and recategorized. For example,one of the proposed measures of ESC,the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (Mikolajczak, Luminet, Leroy, & Roy,2007), makes use of measures of assertiveness, social competence, self-confidence,stress management, and impulsivity among other things. Most, if not all, of these constructs are firmly embedded in and well-accounted for by well-designed measures of personality traits such as the Hogan Personality Inventory (Hogan & Hogan, 1992)and the Multidimensional Personality Ques-tionnaire (Tellegen & Waller, 2008). The substantial relationships observed between these ESC and trait-based EI measures, and personality inventories, bears this out. It therefore appears that the predictive validity of ESC or EI measures may be accounted for in large part by the degree to which they assess subfacets of higher-order traits relevant to the outcomes being predicted. For example, Cherniss (2010) relates that two studies of self-discipline showed them to be significant predictors of academic performance and then criticizes Landy (2005) for not taking them into account in a review of studies of ‘‘social intelligence.’’ Given that self-control (or impulse control)is widely regarded as a major subfacet of conscientiousness (Roberts, Chernyshenko,Stark, & Goldberg, 2005) and that numerous studies have linked Conscientiousness with academic performance, that there is a link between a facet of Conscientiousness and academic performance is hardly news."

IQ is a different story. It is the most well-validated concept in the social sciences, bar none. It is an excellent predictor of academic performance, creativity, ability to abstract, processing speed, learning ability and general life success.

There are other traits that are important to general success, including conscientiousness, which is an excellent predictor of grades, managerial and administrative ability, and life outcomes, on the more conservative side.

It should also be noted that IQ is five or more times as powerful a predictor as even good personality trait predictors such as conscientiousness. The true relationship between grades, for example, and IQ might be as high as r = .50 or even .60 (accounting for 25-36% of the variance in grades). Conscientiousness, however, probably tops out at around r = .30, and is more typically reported as r = .25 (say, 5 to 9% of the variance in grades). There is nothing that will provide you with a bigger advantage in life than a high IQ. Nothing. To repeat it: NOTHING.

In fact, if you could choose to be born at the 95th percentile for wealth, or the 95th percentile for IQ, you would be more successful at age 40 as a consequence of the latter choice.

It might be objected that we cannot measure traits such as conscientiousness as well as we measure IQ, as we primarily rely on self or other-reports for the former. But no one has solved this problem. There are no "ability" tests for conscientiousness. I am speaking as someone who has tried to produce such tests for ten years, and failed (despite trying dozens of good ideas, with top students working on the problem). IQ is king. This is why academic psychologists almost never measure it. If you measure it along with your putatively "new" measure, IQ will kill your ambitions. For the career minded, this is a no go zone. So people prefer to talk about multiple intelligences and EQ, and all these things that do not exist. PERIOD.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EQ. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EQ. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EQ.

By the way, there is also no such thing as "grit," despite what Angela Duckworth says. Grit is conscientiousness, plain and simple (although probably more the industrious side than the orderly side). All Duckworth and her compatriots did was fail to notice that they had re-invented a very well documented phenomena, that already had a name (and, when they did notice it, failed to produce the appropriate mea culpas. Not one of psychology's brighter moments). A physicists who "re-discovered" iron and named it melignite or something equivalent would be immediately revealed as ignorant or manipulative (or, more likely, as ignorant and manipulative), and then taunted out of the field. Duckworth? She received a MacArthur Genius grant for her trouble. That's all as reprehensible as the self-esteem craze (self-esteem, by the way, is essentially .65 Big Five trait neuroticism (low) and .35 extraversion (high), with some accurate self-assessment of general life competence thrown in, for those who are a bit more self-aware). See http://snip.ly/5smyx

By the way, in case I haven't made myself clear: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EQ. OR GRIT. OR "SELF-ESTEEM."

It's crooked psychology. Reminiscent of all the recent upheaval in the social psychology subfield: Final Report: Stapel Affair Points to Bigger Problems in Social Psychology

Thursday, June 16, 2016

New Yorker on Silicon Valley (HBO)


Almost all the startup people I know watch Silicon Valley (HBO), and they agree with me that it unerringly captures the essence of startup life in a hilarious way. Also good: Billions (Showtime) on the hedge fund world.
New Yorker: ... “The first part of the job is making sure we get the specifics right, because our audience won’t tolerate any mistakes,” ...

Dotan worked part-time for a few weeks, but then came on full-time. At first, he oversaw a staff of four: an expert in file compression; a user-interface engineer, to help write the code on the characters’ screens; a C-level tech executive; and a Silicon Valley lawyer, to draft realistic contracts. By the end of the first season, Dotan’s staff had grown to twelve. “If someone is holding a document on the show, that document is written out, in full, the way that it would be in real life,” ...

“Some Valley big shots have no idea how to react to the show,” Miller told me. “They can’t decide whether to be offended or flattered. And they’re mystified by the fact that actors have a kind of celebrity that they will never have—there’s no rhyme or reason to it, but that’s the way it is, and it kills them.” Miller met Musk at the after-party in Redwood City. “I think he was thrown by the fact that I wasn’t being sycophantic—which I couldn’t be, because I didn’t realize who he was at the time. He said, ‘I have some advice for your show,’ and I went, ‘No thanks, we don’t need any advice,’ which threw him even more. And then, while we’re talking, some woman comes up and says ‘Can I have a picture?’ and he starts to pose—it was kinda sad, honestly—and instead she hands the camera to him and starts to pose with me. It was, like, Sorry, dude, I know you’re a big deal—and, in his case, he actually is a big deal—but I’m the guy from ‘Yogi Bear 3-D,’ and apparently that’s who she wants a picture with.”

The three biggest public companies in the world, as measured by market capitalization, are Apple, the Google parent company Alphabet, and Microsoft. Are they enlightened agents of philanthrocapitalism or robber-baron monopolies? “In the real Silicon Valley, as on the show, there is a cohort of people who have a real sense of purpose and actually think they’re going to change the world, and then there’s a cohort of people who say farcical things about their apps that they clearly don’t believe themselves,” Sam Altman, who runs the startup incubator Y Combinator, told me. The show accurately reflects this complexity because the people who make it—like all thoughtful people, including the most powerful people in Silicon Valley—can’t decide how they feel about Silicon Valley. “I swing back and forth,” Clay Tarver, one of the show’s writers and producers, told me. “The more I meet these people and learn about them, the more I come away thinking that, despite all the bullshit and greed, there actually is something exciting and hopeful going on up there.”

Hemingway's cafes


WSJ: Hemingway’s Favorite Parisian Cafes, A tour of the literary Parisian cafes Hemingway’s generation made famous. For some reason they don't mention Les Deux Magots!

See also With Pascin at the Dôme:
I always wondered who Hemingway had in mind as the dark sister when he wrote the short story With Pascin at the Dôme, which appeared in the collection A Moveable Feast. According to the article Who Was With Pascin at the Dôme?, it was the model Bronia Perlmutter (on the left, below). The early 20th century precursor to Natalie Portman?
With Pascin at the Dôme: ... I went over and sat down at a table with Pascin and two models who were sisters. Pascin had waved to me while I had stood on the sidewalk on the rue Delambre side wondering whether to stop and have a drink or not. Pascin was a very good painter and he was drunk; steady, purposefully drunk and making good sense. The two models were young and pretty. One was very dark, small, beautifully built with a falsely fragile depravity. The other was childlike and dull but very pretty in a perishable childish way. She was not as well built as her sister, but neither was anyone else that spring.

'The good and the bad sisters,' Pascin said. 'I have money. What will you drink?' 'une demi-blonde,'I said to the waiter. 'Have a whisky. I have money.'
...
Can anyone identify this third wave coffee place I visited last week? Hint: it's in the east bay.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Interview with James Miller Future Strategist podcast



James Miller is professor of Economics at Smith College. We had a fun conversation -- the hour went by almost before I noticed!

Does anyone know of a service that will create a text transcript of the discussion?

Foo Camp 2016

I was at Foo Camp the last few days. This year they kept the size a bit lower (last year was kind of a zoo) and I thought the vibe was a lot more relaxed and fun. Many thanks to the O'Reilly folks for running this wonderful meeting and for inviting me. My first time was 9 years ago!

I ran a session TRUMP 2016? CAN IT HAPPEN HERE? (a few people in the session caught the Sinclair Lewis reference) to get a feel for whether the tech community understands what's happening in our country. At another meeting earlier in the year I concluded
Everything at this meeting is off the record, so I can't say much about it. The one comment I'll make is that among this group of elites almost no one I've spoken to groks Trump or his appeal to a large number of Americans.
The other session I co-ran (with Othman Laraki of Color Genomics) was on genomics.

Lots of good stuff at hashtag #foocamp.

Here's a list of book recommendations from one of the sessions (James Cham).

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Roe's scientists: original published papers

Gwern has provided scans of the original papers published by Anne Roe on studies of 64 eminent scientists. These papers include details concerning the selection of these individuals and the psychometric testing performed on them. Roe's scientists -- selected in their 40's and 50's for outstanding research contributions -- scored much higher on a set of high ceiling psychometric tests than the general population of scientists or PhDs.

Roe's work, combined with SMPY and Duke TIP longitudinal studies, and the earlier Terman studies, supports the claim that measured cognitive ability in the far tail significantly increases the likelihood of important contributions to science and technology.

See Annals of psychometry: IQs of eminent scientists.
1. Roe 1949, "Psychological Examinations of Eminent Biologists": http://www.gwern.net/docs/iq/1949-roe-biologists.pdf

2. Roe 1951, "A Psychological Study of Eminent Biologists": http://www.gwern.net/docs/iq/1951-roe-biologists.pdf

3. Roe 1951, "A Study of Imagery in Research Scientists": http://www.gwern.net/docs/iq/1951-roe-imagery.pdf

4. Roe 1951, "Psychological Tests of Research Scientists": http://www.gwern.net/docs/iq/1951-roe-scientists.pdf

5. Roe 1953, "A Psychological Study of Eminent Psychologists and Anthropologists, and a comparison with Biological and Physical Scientists": http://www.gwern.net/docs/iq/1953-roe-psychologists.pdf

6. Roe 1953, _The Making of a Scientist_: https://www.dropbox.com/s/i7raf2aup5pdpgy/1953-roe-makingscientist.pdf

7. Roe 1951, "A psychological study of physical scientists" (physicists/chemists) now available: https://www.dropbox.com/s/qh34xcxl0pzc9lr/1951-roe-physicalscientists.pdf
The individuals in the study are listed below.
Physicists will recognize names such as Luis Alvarez, Julian Schwinger, Wendell Furry, J.H. Van Vleck and others. Also in the group were Carleton Coon, B.F. Skinner, Linus Pauling and Sewall Wright.

Allport, Gordon W.(Gordon Willard), 1897-1967
Alvarez 1911-1988, Luis Walter
Anderson, Edgar, 1897-1969
Babcock, Horace W., 1912-2003
Beach, Frank A., (Frank Ambrose), 1911-1988
Beadle, George Wells, 1903-1989
Beams, Jesse W., (Jesse Wakefield), 1898-1977
Bearden, J.A. (Joyce Alvin), 1903-1987
Bonner, James Frederick, 1910-1996
Bruner, Jerome S. (Jerome Seymour), 1915-
Cleland, Ralph E., (Ralph Erskine), 1892-1971
Coon, Carleton S., (Carleton Stevens), 1904-1981
Corner, George Washington, 1889-1981
Doisy, Edward Adelbert, 1893-1986
Epling, Carl, 1894-1968
Ewing, W. Maurice, (William Maurice), 1906-1974
Furry, W.H. (Wendell Hinkle) , 1907-1984
Guilford, J. P. , (Joy Paul), 1897-1987
Hallowell, A. Irving , (Alfred Irving), 1892-1974
Hansen, William Webster, 1909-1949
Harlow, Harry Freerick, 1905-1981
Hilgard, Ernest R., (Ernest Ropiequet), 1904-2001
Joseph Edward, Mayer, 1904-1983
Kirkwood, John Gamble, 1907-1959
Kluckhohn, Clyde, 1905-1960
Knudsen, Vern Oliver, 1893-1974
Lashley, Karl Spencer, 1890-1958
Lindsey, Donald B.
Linton, Ralph, 1893-1953
Mayer, Joseph Edward, 1904-1983
McMillan, Edwin M. (Edwin Mattison), 1907-1991
Morse, Philip M., (Philip McCord), 1903-1985
Mueller, J. Howard, (John Howard), 1891-1954
Muller, H. J., (Hermann Joseph), 1890-1967
Mulliken, Robert Sanderson, 1896-1986
Muskat , M. (Morris) , 1906-1998
Northrop, John Howard, 1891-1987
Pauling, Linus, 1901-1994
Rhoades, Marcus M., (Marcus Morton), 1903-1991
Ritcher, Curt Paul, 1894-1994
Robbins, William Jacob, 1890-1978
Robertson, H. P., (Howard Percy), 1903-1961
Rogers, Carl R., (Carl Ransom), 1902-1987
Romer, Alfred Sherwood, 1894-1973
Schwinger, Julian Seymour, 1918-1994
Sears, Robert R., (Robert Richardson)
Shapiro, Harry L., (Harry Lionel), 1902-1990
Skinner, B. F. (Burrhus Fredric), 1904-1990
Smith, Homer William, 1895-1962
Sonneborn, T.M., (Tracy Morton), 1905-1981
Stanley, Wendell M., (Wendell Meredith), 1904-
Stebbins, G. Ledyard, (George Ledyard), 1906-2000
Stevens, S. S., (Stanley Smith), 1906-1973
Stewart, Homer Joseph, 1915-2007
Stratton, Julius Adams, 1901-1994
Strong, William Duncan, 1899-1962.
Sturtevant, A.H. (Alfred Henry), 1891-1970
Tuve, Merle Antony, 1901-1982
Van Vleck, J. H., (John Hasbrouck), 1899-1980
Willey, Gordon R., (Gordon Randolph), 1913-2002
Wright, Sewall, 1889-1988

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Industrial Development – China and Africa (LSE)



Hsieh (the first speaker) gives a nice characterization of (for lack of better terminology) efficient crony capitalism in China -- in which local governments compete to promote growth and development by working with local and foreign companies to get things done. I've been told that Xi's crackdown on corruption has crippled the incentive structure of this system. Hsieh comments on this at the beginning of the Q&A.
Industrial Development – China and Africa

Chang-Tai Hsieh is Winkelried Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago.

John Sutton is the Sir John Hicks Professor of Economics at LSE.

Dr John Page is Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution (@BrookingsGlobal), IGC Country Director (Tanzania) and former Chief Economist for Africa, World Bank.
See also Howard French: China's Second Continent.

Also recommended: How the World Works, James Fallows in The Atlantic (1993).

Sunday, June 05, 2016

$1.2 trillion college loan bubble?


See also When everyone goes to college: a lesson from S. Korea. Returns to a "college education" are highly dependent on the intrinsic cognitive ability and work ethic of the individual.
WSJ: College Loan Glut Worries Policy Makers

The U.S. government over the last 15 years made a trillion-dollar investment to improve the nation’s workforce, productivity and economy. A big portion of that investment has now turned toxic, with echoes of the housing crisis.

The investment was in “human capital,” or, more specifically, higher education. The government helped finance tens of millions of tuitions as enrollment in U.S. colleges and graduate schools soared 24% from 2002 to 2012, rivaling the higher-education boom of the 1970s. Millions of others attended trade schools that award career certificates.

The government financed a large share of these educations through grants, low-interest loans and loan guarantees. Total outstanding student debt—almost all guaranteed or made directly by the federal government—has quadrupled since 2000 to $1.2 trillion today. The government also spent tens of billions of dollars in grants and tax credits for students.

New research shows a significant chunk of that investment backfired, with millions of students worse off for having gone to school. Many never learned new skills because they dropped out—and now carry debt they are unwilling or unable to repay.

... nonprofit colleges, which enroll about 2.7 million students a year. A report released in May by Third Way, a nonpartisan think tank, revealed that among students who enrolled in 2005, on average only half graduated from such institutions within six years. On average, nearly four in 10 undergraduates at those schools who took on student debt earned no more than $25,000 in 2011, the same as the typical high-school graduate. ...

Friday, June 03, 2016

Elon Musk on the Simulation Question



See earlier discussion Living in a Simulation:
Let R = the ratio of number of artificially intelligent virtual beings to the number of "biological" beings (humans). The virtual beings are likely to occupy the increasingly complex virtual worlds created in computer games, like Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft (WOW will earn revenues of a billion dollars this year and has millions of players). In the figure below I have plotted the likely behavior of R with time. Currently R is zero, but it seems plausible that it will eventually soar to infinity. (See previous posts on the Singularity.)

... Think of the ratio of orcs, goblins, pimps, superheroes and other intelligent game characters to actual player characters in any MMORPG. In an advanced version, the game characters would themselves be sentient, for that extra dose of realism! Are you a game character, or a player character? :-)

Parametric and semi-parametric models for genome enabled prediction


This is a recent MSU seminar on genomic prediction. Vimeo won't let me embed the video, so click here to watch the talk.

Results are presented for models ranging from simple linear and linear + dominance to reproducing Hilbert space kernels and neural nets. Results are consistent with sub-dominant nonlinear (non-additive) effects, but interesting GxE effects are seen in some plant breeding experiments.

The paper below is by the speaker and MSU professor Gustavo de los Campos.
Genome-Wide Regression and Prediction with the BGLR Statistical Package

ABSTRACT Many modern genomic data analyses require implementing regressions where the number of parameters (p, e.g., the number of marker effects) exceeds sample size (n). Implementing these large-p-with-small-n regressions poses several statistical and computational challenges, some of which can be confronted using Bayesian methods. This approach allows integrating various parametric and nonparametric shrinkage and variable selection procedures in a unified and consistent manner. The BGLR R-package implements a large collection of Bayesian regression models, including parametric variable selection and shrinkage methods and semiparametric procedures (Bayesian reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces regressions, RKHS). The software was originally developed for genomic applications; however, the methods implemented are useful for many nongenomic applications as well. The response can be continuous (censored or not) or categorical (either binary or ordinal). The algorithm is based on a Gibbs sampler with scalar updates and the implementation takes advantage of efficient compiled C and Fortran routines. In this article we describe the methods implemented in BGLR, present examples of the use of the package, and discuss practical issues emerging in real-data analysis.

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