The Future Is Not Here

For a while, this book was a big deal for people in certain tribes of the dissident right, but also with some in the mainstream. People like Thomas Friedman were championing it in the NY Times. so the beautiful people may have been reading it. The very short version is the robot revolution will have the same impact on humanity as the industrial revolution in the 19th century. There’s some truth to it, but like the paperless office, it is a thing that no one will live to see.

That’s the thing with futurists. They are almost always wrong. Most of them look around at current trends, then project those trends into the future. The trouble is no tree grows to the sky. Assuming some current trend will go on forever is like assuming your child will keep growing forever. The lack of 100-foot tall people tells as that trends always slow, come to a halt and often reverse themselves. The current technological trends will also slow and maybe go down dead ends and then end entirely.

On the other hand, many futurologist are just running a racket to get attention, sell book ans get on television to sell books. The way to do that is to either predict things that flatter people or predict things that scare people. Telling people their future will be the same as their present, but more boring, is not a big seller. Astrologers tell their female customers they will meet a mysterious stranger, for the same reason pulp writers crank out bodice rippers. Women by them.

This column in the New Statesman is a good summary.

Futurologists are almost always wrong. Indeed, Clive James invented a word – “Hermie” – to denote an inaccurate prediction by a futurologist. This was an ironic tribute to the cold war strategist and, in later life, pop futurologist Herman Kahn. It was slightly unfair, because Kahn made so many fairly obvious predictions – mobile phones and the like – that it was inevitable quite a few would be right.

Even poppier was Alvin Toffler, with his 1970 book Future Shock, which suggested that the pace of technological change would cause psychological breakdown and social paralysis, not an obvious feature of the Facebook generation. Most inaccurate of all was Paul R Ehrlich who, in The Population Bomb, predicted that hundreds of millions would die of starvation in the 1970s. Hunger, in fact, has since declined quite rapidly.

Science fiction writers are probably the best at getting some things about the future right, because they often have a good working knowledge of science. They also understand that human nature and human organization does not change all that much with technology.  Jules Verne got a bunch of stuff right and Aldous Huxley is looking to have nailed large chunks of cultural change. Still, most of what these people described never happened and will never happen.

Perhaps the most significant inaccuracy concerned artificial intelligence (AI). In 1956 the polymath Herbert Simon predicted that “machines will be capable, within 20 years, of doing any work a man can do” and in 1967 the cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky announced that “within a generation . . . the problem of creating ‘artificial intelligence’ will substantially be solved”. Yet, in spite of all the hype and the dizzying increases in the power and speed of computers, we are nowhere near creating a thinking machine.

Such a machine is the basis of Kurzweil’s singularity, but futurologists seldom let the facts get in the way of a good prophecy. Or, if they must, they simply move on. The nightmarishly intractable problem of space travel has more or less killed that futurological category and the unexpected complexities of genetics have put that on the back burner for the moment, leaving neuroscientists to take on the prediction game. But futurology as a whole is in rude health despite all the setbacks.

This is where the predictions about our machine future fall apart. Yes, massive leaps have been made recently, but we are not close to building machines smarter than their creators. When one second of human thought requires a room full of servers, we are a long way from Terminator. Even assuming some breakthrough where the machines self learn in an increasingly fast recursion, we’re a long way from the machines becoming aware and taking over the planet.

Benjamin Bratton, a professor of visual arts at the University of California, San Diego, has an astrophysicist friend who made a pitch to a potential donor of research funds. The pitch was excellent but he failed to get the money because, as the donor put it, “You know what, I’m gonna pass because I just don’t feel inspired . . . you should be more like Malcolm Gladwell.” Gladwellism – the hard sell of a big theme supported by dubious, incoherent but dramatically presented evidence – is the primary Ted style. Is this, wondered Bratton, the basis on which the future should be planned? To its credit, Ted had the good grace to let him give a virulently anti-Ted talk to make his case. “I submit,” he told the assembled geeks, “that astrophysics run on the model of American Idol is a recipe for civilisational disaster.”

Bratton is not anti-futurology like me; rather, he is against simple-minded futurology. He thinks the Ted style evades awkward complexities and evokes a future in which, somehow, everything will be changed by technology and yet the same. The geeks will still be living their laid-back California lifestyle because that will not be affected by the radical social and political implications of the very technology they plan to impose on societies and states. This is a naive, very local vision of heaven in which everybody drinks beer and plays baseball and the sun always shines.

This really is the crux of it. There’s money in predicting the future. In every town there exists a tarot card reader or psychic. Women with advanced degrees go to these people to get their future. Religion is all about the future. Live your life a certain way and you gain ever lasting life or languish in hell. The animating philosophy of modern political elites is based on the belief that the right arrangements will result in heaven on earth, however that is currently imagined. The demand for these promises is unlimited.

The bits about Gladwell and Kurzweil in the article are interesting. It seems that the people who get rich from telling ruling class types about the future never know a lot about the science they promote. The two guys who authored The Second Machine Age have no science. One has a degree in math, but has never worked in science or technology. Instead he has remained in college teaching management. The other guy just writes books.

Thomas Friedman is a guy who appears to learn the jargon of science and technology, but knows nothing about science and technology. His skill is flattering rich people, especially his wife who is mega-rich. This allows Friedman to flit around the world telling rich people they are the best. The court jester has been a feature of human societies since the Bronze Age. Telling the boss he’s wonderful by predicting the current course will lead to times of plenty is never going to get you fed to the lions.

The Left’s Galileo Moment

Imagine if tomorrow the Chinese announce they have discovered some protein that causes criminality. That’s very unlikely, but let’s just pretend. Further, a simple test can determine if an individual has this protein and therefore is criminally inclined. That would certainly change how we go about fighting crime. The sci-fi concept of pre-crime would become a reality. Everyone could be tested and those with the protein would be flagged in some way. Suspects could be tested to eliminate the innocent. It is an amazing breakthrough that radically changes policing.

Now, suppose in addition to finding this magic protein, they also find a remedy. A person with the crime protein could be given a drug that mitigates the action of the protein. Not only can criminals be found with a blood test, they can be “rehabilitated” with drug therapy. That way, once a criminal is found, they can be repaired. Recidivism rates would fall to zero and there would be no need for a lot of the infrastructure we have in place to monitor ex-cons.

Think about how much human society would change after such a discovery. No need for prisons is the most obvious benefit. That alone is $100 billion in savings to society. Certainly an equal amount would be saved, probably double, in policing. Most crime is committed by repeat offenders. Depending upon who is counting, the number is as high as 80%.  Police forces could be slashed to a fraction of their current size, along with the courts and the whole massive edifice of criminal justice in America.

It sounds pretty good. Now, imagine that conservatives start howling with protest over this new test and the new drug. They start with the invasion of privacy and then move onto the moral issue of not punishing offenders when they are caught. In Congress they try to block this new science and take to the airwaves proselytizing against it. Of course, they are joined by police unions, prison guard unions, lawyers, bureaucrats and everyone else living off the criminal industrial complex.

With that in mind, consider this post by a famous Progressive blog.

Let’s use the term “academic racism” to mean “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” (the Merriam-Webster “full definition” of “racism”), in order to differentiate it from bigotry (the common-use definition).
Anyway, science writer Nicholas Wade has a new book out making the standard case for academic racism. Andrew Gelman, a statistician, has a review of that book in Slate. The review is good, and you should read it, but I thought I’d try to restate Gelman’s point in a slightly more compact way.
Basically, academic racism has a problem, and that problem is overfitting.
Here’s how academic racism generally works. Suppose you see two groups that have an observable difference: for example, suppose you note that Hungary has a higher per capita income than Romania. Now you have a data point. To explain that data point, you come up with a theory: the Hungarian race is more industrious than the Romanian race. But suppose you notice that Romanians generally do better at gymnastics than Hungarians. To explain that second data point, you come up with a new piece of theory: The Romanian race must have some genes for gymnastics that the Hungarian race lacks.
You can keep doing this. Any time you see different average outcomes between two different groups, you can assume that there is a genetic basis for the difference. You can also tell “just-so stories” to back up each new assumption – for example, you might talk about how Hungarians are descended from steppe nomads who had to be industrious to survive, etc. etc. As new data arrive, you make more assumptions and more stories to explain them. Irish people used to be poor and are now rich? They must have been breeding for richness genes! Korea used to be poorer than Japan and is now just as rich? Their genes must be more suited to the modern economy! For every racial outcome, there is a just-so story about why it happened. Read an academic-racist blog, like Steve Sailer’s, and you will very quickly see that this kind of thinking is pervasive and rampant.
There’s just one little problem with this strategy. Each new assumption that you make adds a parameter to your model. You’re overfitting the data – building a theory that can explain everything but predict nothing. Another way to put this is that your model has a “K=N” problem – the number of parameters in your model is equal to the number of observations. If you use some sort of goodness-of-fit criterion that penalizes you for adding more parameters, you’ll find that your model is useless (no matter how true or false it happens to be!). This is one form of a more general scientific error known as “testing hypotheses suggested by the data”, or “post-hoc reasoning”. It’s a mistake that is by no means unique to academic racism, but instead is common in many scientific disciplines (cough cough, sociobiology, cough cough).

If you don’t know much about population genetics and the current state of the science, you might be inclined to accept this as a valid critique. The trouble is the science described by Wade makes no such claims. In fact, few in the HBD world make these sorts of claims. There certainly is speculation about behavioral traits across groups and their possible genetic sources, but nothing definitive.

The fact is, it is very hard to tease out causal relationships when discussing human behavior. Even the most basic of behavioral traits involve an enormous number of factors, including genes. At this stage of the game, the best anyone can do is catalog group differences and then consider the possibility of genetic sources. Just as we have lots of diversity in dogs, bears and birds, we have lots of diversity in people because people are subject to evolutionary pressures.

The Left now finds itself at odds with science. The 19th century Left, focused exclusively on economics, is long gone. The post-war Left has blended culture, socials science, public policy and the law into a secular religion. Just as the Church could not disentangle theology from science, the modern Left cannot separate science from its ideology. Religion, secular or otherwise, are totalitarian. Therefore anything that contradicts the faith is the enemy of the faith and must be destroyed.

The Left’s war on evolution and population genetics is the only possible response to the growing body of evidence contradicting the blank slate and egalitarianism. Otherwise, the foundation stones of their faith crumble. If man is not a lump of clay that can be molded by the enlightened, then the justification for most of what the Left has advocated for centuries falls apart. That’s something they understand much better than the people plowing forward in the human sciences.

There’s another angle, one that I think haunts the Left and one that the HBD crowd fails to appreciate. Going back to my example that started this long post, there’s another option. Instead of “rehabilitating” the criminal with drug therapy, the people known to carry this trait can be sterilized at birth. In a couple of generations, the trait could be eliminated from the population or at least greatly diminished. The remaining people with the gene would be ostracized and unable to find mates.

What the sterilizers missed, natural selection would address. This is not unfamiliar turf for the Left. Prior to World War II, eugenics was very popular with Progressives in America. The man who coined the term was a Socialist. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a motivated by the eugenics movement. Progressives in America thought they could engineer a better society by limited reproduction of the undesirable and promoting among the elite.

That’s probably part of the panic. They know that if they cannot talk people into behaving they way they wish, the choice is.abandon the Utopian dream or start culling the herd. In a way, the war on science that is emerging is an effort by the Left to keep them from going down a very dark road. The Left always warns about what it is plotting to do to society. If they fear the new science will be used for eugenics, it means they will one day use it for eugenics. They hate that.

Rich People on Welfare

Welfare programs for the poor are resented by the middle-class for good reason. Money is siphoned from the taxpayer and given to people who refuse to work or obey the laws and customs of society. The welfare class, when given a chance, makes clear they do not appreciate the help and resent the fact the taxpayer expects them to be grateful. It is no wonder the middle generally resents the lower in a social democracy like America.

Welfare takes many forms. This story about Tesla is an example of how the rich get tax money shoved into their pockets.

Tesla Motors, an electric car maker backed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), posted a $49.8 million loss in the first quarter of 2014. This loss compared to a profit of $11.2 million in the same period a year earlier despite selling more cars.(i) Last year’s profit was not due to electric car sales, but to sales of California zero-emission-vehicle environmental credits to other auto manufacturers. Those lucrative credits have declined and tight battery supply has made it harder to produce the carmaker’s electric vehicles.

“Sales of California zero-emission-vehicle environmental credits to other auto manufacturers” is a nice way of saying free money from the middle-class. The state forces the normal car makers to tax their customers on behalf of Tesla. The cost of those credits, after all, is a part of the cost of building cars. That cost is passed onto the consumer in the price of the car. Tesla, in effect, gets to tax every car buyer in California.

During the first quarter of 2013, Tesla received about $68 million (12 percent of revenue) from the sale of zero vehicle emission credits. Note that without the sale of these credits, the company would have lost over $50 million during the first quarter of 2013.[v] According to a Wall Street analyst, Tesla earned as much as $250 million in 2013 on their sale. Translated into dollars per vehicle, Tesla made as much as $35,000 extra on each sale of its luxury Model S electric sports sedan through state environmental credits that it sold to other auto manufacturers that need to buy credits to satisfy California regulations. Adding in the Federal tax credit of $7,500 per vehicle and a state rebate of $2,500 per vehicle, the state and federal incentives totaled as much as $45,000 per vehicle that Tesla sold for as much as $100,000, depending on the model and options.[vi]  Essentially, regular taxpayers who buy typical cars, trucks and minivans are heavily subsidizing an additional car for a clientele whose average income is just under $300,000 per year.

This is the math problem that haunts modern corporatism. Hidden taxes to subsidize unprofitable ventures looks like a great solution to the “problems” of the market. The rulers look around and say we need to be using electric cars, but the pesky market refuses to comply. That’s called a market failure. The solution to “market failure” is to form these public-private partnerships to “jump start” business like Tesla in order to “nudge” the market in the preferred direction. In theory, electric cars will become competitive at some point and then the market will take care of the rest.

There are two problems with this. One is the money spent on this hidden tax does not come from nothing. It is money that would be spent on some other good or service. These other industries go to the state looking for help for the same reason Tesla gets help. The system quickly becomes a game of whack-a-mole. The state is forever on the hunt for new Peters to rob in order to pay the growing list of Pauls. Government becomes a highwayman, robbing anyone trying to operate a business.

The other problem is the math is not zero sum. The state thinks it can supply an unlimited amount of energy to the economy, as if it is a first order perpetual motion machine. That’s no more possible in an economy than it is in physics. Eventually, the economy begins to grind to a halt or the state grinds to a halt. In California,  the state is bankrupt. Several of its cities are in bankruptcy and the state has no way to pay its pension obligations. Looks like the state will fail first.

That’s the big difference between welfare for the rich versus the poor. The poor are an annoyance. The cost of the various programs is not insignificant, but it is largely paid by the rich. The high earners pay the bulk of the taxes which cover the trillions in welfare payments. The vast web of corporate welfare, subsidy schemes like Tesla and financial shenanigans in the banking system loots the middle class. That’s what the war on the middle is intended to accomplish. That’s why the middle-class is disappearing.

Clinton 2016

I have no love for Karl Rove, but you have to respect his political skills. He got George Bush elected twice and that was not small feat. Bush was one of the worst politicians we’ve seen in decades. By that I mean he lacks the sociopathic charm we prefer in our modern politicians. That and he struggled to string a sentence together. Americans like smooth talking fabulists, who lie on spec. Getting Bush into the White House took extraordinary skills by his team.

That’s why it was fun watching Rove launch of a missile at the old battleship called Hillary Clinton. Politics is a dirty business and Rove is a pro. He knows it is a good time to put that thought out there. Clinton is only getting older and every time she stumbles or looks dazed in public, the brain damage issue will come to mind. Long after people forget about this, they will remember that Clinton has brain damage.

Anyway, just for fun I thought I would look into who else will be running on the Democrat side. Once the fall election is over, the battle to line up donors, fixers and strategists will be on for both parties. A weak Clinton should draw in some challengers with nothing to lose from making a run at her. Plus, the crazy wing has never loved Clinton. That’s why they backed Obama in 2008. It was mostly out of spite. They will be looking for another horse to ride in 2016.

Crazy Joe Biden: It has long been assumed that Crazy Joe will stagger off the stage in 2016 and that will be the end of his time in politics. He’s no spring chicken and has a habit of saying insane things in public. He is also well regarded among the party establishment. He could challenge Clinton as the establishment candidate. His loyal service to Obama has also won him a lot of friends among blacks. Vice Presidents have enormous advantages when running in a primary. Odds: 2-to-1

Fake Indian: Every liberal woman I know loves Fake Indian. She is a darling of the Left, many of whom think Obama let them down. She is a throwback to the 1960’s Left in that she yaps a lot of about the poor and disadvantaged. She is not young, but she is younger than Clinton and Biden. The other thing she has going for her is she can pitch herself as an outsider and a reformer. There’s enough distance between her and the Obama administration to plausibly call her an “insurgent” candidate. Odds: 5-to-1

Knuckles O’Malley: Martin O’Malley is a long way from his days of threatening to punch Baltimore radio hosts. He is the quintessential meritocratic climber. He’s also running the Democratic Governors Association, which means he gets to run around the country raising money and collecting favors. Like Bill Clinton, he comes from a terminally corrupt state and that means he has baggage. He may have knocked up a local news bunny at some point. But, he also has a disarming presentation on the stump and he is a liberal. Odd: 20-to-1

Brian “Nuts” Schweitzer: The nut-roots types loved this guy and they wanted him to take a shot at the open senate seat in Montana. The crazies have this image in their head of the perfect candidate. He is a combination Huey Long and FDR. They are convinced a populist appeal will bring working class white males out to vote. They are right, but that has no place in the party now. Odds: 50-to-1

Mini-me: Duval Patrick is term limited out and will have nothing to so running for president is a good way to fill the time. It is also a good way to audition for jobs. He is also deeply connected to the Axelrod operation in Chicago and that means he will be able to tap into the Obama money machine. As the only black guy in the field, he will get a lot of support from his people in the primaries. Odds: 50-to-1

Andrew Cuomo: His old man never ran, probably because he was so mobbed up, it would have got him killed. Andrew Cuomo does not have the problem. He’s another guy who could cut into Clinton’s support with establishment democrats. He probably does not run if Clinton runs. Plus he knows this is most likely a GOP election to lose. He may be better of waiting until 2020. Odds: 100-to-1

Bottom Line: Clinton runs and wins the nomination.

Health Care

I had my annual physical yesterday. Even though I am no spring chicken, I remain in good health. Other than high blood pressure, for which I take a pill every day, I have no health concerns. I exercise frequently and watch my diet, but I am not like the guys in this story from the Weekly Standard. I take few supplements and I refuse to starve myself into a skeleton. I’m not interested in living forever. If it means looking like this guy, then I’m certainly not interested.

There was a poster on one wall of the examination room graphically describing the horrors of smoking. It featured pictures of brown lungs and mangled faces. The poster was sponsored by one of the nicotine patch makers. There was a calendar sponsored by a local disability lawyer. There was a poster for some drug that must be aimed at fat people. Next to that was a poster for botox.  I started thinking about John Kerry. What in the world would possess someone to have that done? I’m as vain as any other man, but immobilizing your face sounds crazy to me.

Looking around, it occurred to me that one reason America has such a dysfunctional health care system is we have convinced ourselves it is not a business. We think health care is this weird fusion of mystical religion, government service and natural resource. It is none of those things. It certainly should never be any of those things. Europeans made it a government service for the proletariat. It’s cheap and does the basics, but there’s a reason their elites don’t use the system.

Health care is just another service. It is a business. If we looked at it that way, like we do veterinary services, we would do ourselves a world of good. When I take the cat to the vet, I pay for the service. I once had a cat with a heart problem. I was able to get first world, cutting edge cardiac care for the animal at a price that was trivial. A one hour visit with a world class doctor and his cutting edge machines cost $300. For large animals, heart surgery is now available to fix things like heart valves, again, at reasonable prices.

At no time is there any doubt that the transaction is exactly that, a transaction. My vet charges a fee and hopes to make a profit from my business with him. I decide whether the services are worth the money. Normal market forces drive prices down and innovation up. In my little slice of heaven, there are more veterinarians than physicians. The wait time for the vet is the next day while I had to wait over a month to see the nurse practitioner for my physical. That last bit is important. I see a real doctor for the cat. I’ve never met my doctor, just his nurses.

The response whenever I bring this up is “But you can put your cat down. People need lots of care when they are old and you cannot choose to put them down.” That’s not entirely true. We withdraw life saving measures all the time. Living wills are for exactly that. Doctors have been telling families “there’s nothing we can do” for generations. The realities of death have been dealt with since the dawn of time. It is only of late that we struggle with the concept. In Europe, poor people are given pain killers and sent home to die. We used to do the same thing until the reformers came along.

Health care is a math problem. In any society the care and feeding of the helpless members is a top priority. Altruism is one of the oldest human traits and it is what allows us to live in large communities of strangers. We are not going to leave the poor and sick to die in the streets untended. The question is how best to supply that charity to these people. Everyone else should be paying their own way for health services just as we pay our own way for clothes and food. But, when you live in a society run by lunatics with magical thinking about observable reality, you get what we have now.

Reality Makes a Comeback

According to a new study, George Wallace was right when he said “Segregation now, segregation forever!” Of course, everyone has known he was right, regarding the benefits of peaceful separation, but he has so far been wrong about the forever part of his statement. No one is allowed to say it in public, but like so many of our current taboos, people act on what cannot be said.

Segregation is making a comeback in U.S. schools.

Progress toward integrated classrooms has largely been rolled back since the Supreme Court issued its landmark Brown v. Topeka Board of Education decision 60 years ago, according to a report released Thursday by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. Blacks are now seeing more school segregation than they have in decades, and more than half of Latino students are now attending schools that are majority Latino.

In New York, California and Texas, more than half of Latino students are enrolled in schools that are 90 percent minority or more, the report found. In New York, Illinois, Maryland and Michigan, more than half of black students attend schools where 90 percent or more are minority.

Normal people tend to notice things. For instance, if they push a button and nothing happens, they quickly figure out the button does not work. Crazy people stand there all day pushing the button, each time expecting a different result. That’s what we keep seeing with the Left and social policy. Even if we assume their motives are good, six decades of failure should cause some rethinking of their goals.

Project co-director Gary Orfield, author of the “Brown at 60” report, said the changes are troubling because they show some minority students receive poorer educations than white students and Asian students, who tend to be in middle-class schools. The report urged, among other things, deeper research into housing segregation, which is a “fundamental cause of separate-and-unequal schooling.”

This is the next great cause of the Left. White people keep moving away from blacks and Latinos. The result is the schools remain segregated. Busing was a disaster so the only solution is to force blacks and whites to live together. They tried this in Berkeley in the 70’s and 80’s. Berkeley Citizens Action gained control of the housing authority and zoning board. The first thing they did was go after the lace curtain liberals on the hill. It was a disaster, but the Cult never learns from the past.

They tried building housing projects out in the suburbs. That was a hilarious disaster as people just moved away and you ended up with these weird pocket ghettos in the middle of nowhere. This was a phenomenon in the South mostly. Instead of urban reservation, they build “affordable housing” in working class suburbs and the whites then fled to the next suburb.

Although segregation is more prevalent in central cities of the largest metropolitan areas, it’s also in the suburbs. “Neighborhood schools, when we go back to them, as we have, produce middle-class schools for whites and Asians and segregated high-poverty schools for blacks and Latinos,” Orfield said.

Housing discrimination – stopping or discouraging minorities from moving to majority-white areas – also plays a role in school segregation and “that’s been a harder nut to crack,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which argued the Brown case in front of the Supreme Court.

School performance can be entwined with poverty, too.

The reason it is a “harder nut to crack” is people are not insane. In the Baltimore – Washington area parents play all sorts of games to keep their kids out of ghetto schools. Parents will claim to live in a better area, using the address of a friend or relative, so they can send their kid to the better school. Of course, the massive suburbs and exurbs around places like Detroit are the result of sane people fleeing the metastasizing ghetto.

“These are the schools that tend to have fewer resources, tend to have teachers with less experience, tend to have people who are teaching outside their area of specialty, and it also denies the opportunities, the contacts and the networking that occur when you’re with people from different socio-economic backgrounds,” said Dennis Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Racial Justice Program.

For students like Diamond McCullough, 17, a senior at Walter H. Dyett High School on Chicago’s South Side, the disparities are real. Her school is made up almost entirely of African-American students. She said her school doesn’t offer physical education classes or art, and Advanced Placement classes are only available online.

John Rury, an education professor at the University of Kansas, said the work at UCLA has revealed how many of the advances in desegregating schools made after the Brown ruling have stopped – or been reversed.

While racial discrimination has been a factor, other forces are in play, Rury said. Educated parents with the means to move have flocked to districts and schools with the best reputations for decades, said Rury, who has studied the phenomenon in the Kansas City region.

In the South, many school districts encompass both a city and the surrounding area, he said. That has led to better-integrated schools.

Still, around the country, only 23 percent of black students attended white-majority schools in 2011. That’s the lowest number since 1968.

Kansas City is billion dollar experiment that should have put an end to the madness of forced integration. Here’s a long report from Cato on the colossal failure of the reformers to fix the schools. Again, failure never seems to teach these people any lessons. It only encourages them. That’s because their dream of an integrated society is now just vengeance. They hate white people.

Obama the Weirdo

This post over at Marginal Revolution is getting a lot of attention. Steve Sailer is filling the comments thread, which always brings out a lot of responses. The discussion about Obama is following the usual path. Even his supporters struggle to accept that he is a bright guy. That’s always been a strange thing about Obama-mania. The concept of the “first black president” overwhelmed any discussion of the man. His biggest fans know little about him. other than his skin.

There’s something else which will make Obama an inscrutable curiosity for generations to come. The man lacks the usual traits we associate with leadership. There’s no evidence of physical courage. He is an awkward klutz, who is timid and aloof. All of our post-war presidents have been manly, for lack of a better word. He also lacks the risk taking trait. Again, even his biggest fans describe him as excessively cautious. He is also indecisive. This is something his fans loath about him.

That may be why his critics say he is average. He’s smart enough to know he is not smart enough so he waits until the smart people decide. Then he jumps on their idea as if it is his own. That’s a possibility, but being a genius has never been a desirable quality in leaders. Obama is at least as smart as Bush or Clinton, which is to say smart enough. The decisiveness of Bush and Clinton was more than enough to overcome whatever intellectual challenges they faced.

Obama is our first alien president. Everyone in the ruling class is alien to normal Americans, but Obama is alien to the aliens. By the time a candidate is nominated, we know everything there is to know about him from birth to that moment. With Obama, we’re still not sure about large swaths of his life, including where he was born. He never tells stories about his youth or about when he was starting out in life. No one shows up on TV talking about their friendship with Obama.

It’s as if he exists conceptually, but not tangibly. That really is the way to imagine Obama as a president. he is an avatar, a creation projected on the screens of our common culture. When his time is up, the projector will be turned off and he will go away and be forgotten. That’s because he was never a person, but instead a guy who ticked the boxes for a campaign operation. Nice guy who took direction well and never tried to improvise. He read his script as written.

Drunken Idiots

This story about world drunkenness is interesting. Immigrant countries don’t tell us a whole lot with a survey like this, but the old world offers some useful insights. Those screaming about scientific racism love talking about this sort of stuff, never understanding that it undermines their charges, making them look foolish. You can’t explain a map like this with culture alone. It gets worse when those ethnic patters hold for people in North America. From the article:

People in the UK are among the most prolific drinkers in the world, according to a report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Britons over the age of 15 on average drink 11.6 litres of pure alcohol a year, according to the “Global status report on alcohol and health 2014”.

The report provides country profiles for alcohol consumption in the 194 WHO member states, looking at the resulting impact on public health and policy responses.

And it reveals that the harmful use of alcohol causes 3.3 million deaths a year worldwide.

Europe is the region with the highest consumption of alcohol per person, making up the entire top 10.

Belarus takes the top spot, with people on average drinking 17.5 litres of pure alcohol a year, followed by the Republic of Moldova where the figure is 16.8 litres.

Australia and Canada also have high levels of alcohol consumption, with people on average drinking 12.2 and 10.2 litres a year respectively.

In the United States the figure is marginally lower at 9.2 litres.

But in northern Africa and the Middle East, the average figure is less than 2.5 litres of alcohol per person, with many countries having figures below one litre.

When analyzing the stand-off with Russia over Ukraine, it may be useful to remember this map. There are many difference between east and West and they don’t stop at the neck line or the bar bill. Russia is not Western, but it is not Asian either. It is the great transition and that shapes the Russian worldview. They look at Ukraine in a very different way that the sorts of people infesting the State Department.

Average is Over

George Bush was relentlessly mocked for saying he wanted the schools to ensure that every kid is above average. It was a stupid thing to say, but people understood what he meant by it. The stupid part is thinking schools can fix what nature has crafted between the ears of school children. No one likes to hear that of course. Then again, maybe Bush was right and everyone can be above average. Most of us think we’re above average, according to this story in the National Journal.

Forget being smarter than a fifth-grader. Most Americans think they’re smarter than everyone else in the country.

Fifty-five percent of Americans think that they are smarter than the average American, according to a new survey by YouGov, a research organization that uses online polling. In other words, as YouGov cleverly points out, the average American thinks that he or she is smarter than the average American.

A humble 34 percent of citizens say they are about as smart as everyone else, while a dispirited 4 percent say they are less intelligent than most people.

Men (24 percent) are more likely than women (15 percent) to say they are “much more intelligent” than the average American. White people are more likely to say the same than Hispanic and black people.

So, this many smart people must mean that, on the whole, the United States ranks pretty high in intelligence, right?

Not quite. According to the survey, just 44 percent of Americans say that Americans are “averagely intelligent.” People who make less than $40,000 a year are much more likely to say that their fellow Americans are intelligent, while those who make more than $100,000 are far more likely to say that Americans are unintelligent.

The results are not surprising. Western cultures have a habit of inflating their self-worth, past research has shown. The most competent individuals also tend to underestimate their ability, while incompetent people overestimate it. Not out of arrogance, but of ignorance—the worst performers often don’t get negative feedback. In this survey, 28 percent of high school graduates say they are “slightly more intelligent” than average, while just 1 percent of people with doctoral degrees say they are “much less intelligent.”

The second sentence in the last paragraph is interesting. “Western cultures have a habit of inflating their self-worth, past research has shown.” No actual study is noted, so it’s probably not true. That and how people respond to self-assessment surveys is an area of some debate. The respondent could very well be reacting to the questioner in a culturally biased way. In Japan understatement is a valued social good while in America, boasting is valued. What the respondent actually thinks is unknowable.

The End of Social Science

I’m re-reading Nicholas Wade’s Before the Dawn. If I recall, Wade was criticized for being a bit direct and dry in his presentation. These things are a matter of taste, of course, but I find the directness refreshing. If he larded his narrative up with colorful imaginings about early man, I don’t think I would enjoy it very much. There’s a place for everything and population genetics is not the place for imaginative narrative.

Anyway, the point of re-reading the book is in preparation for his new book, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History. The race realist crowd has been talking about it for a while now and many of the usual suspects got early copies to review. HBD Chick has a useful collection of links to reviews from the sort of people who can be trusted to understand the material.

Charles Murray did a very long write-up in the Wall Street Journal, touching on something that has been lurking at the edges of genetics for a while. That’s the challenge it poses to social science. The modern social sciences are based on the belief in the blank slate and egalitarianism. They may place some limits on both, but fundamentally the belief is that people can be made into anything. Genetics is overthrowing that belief and the fields based on it.

The problem facing us down the road is the increasing rate at which the technical literature reports new links between specific genes and specific traits. Soon there will be dozens, then hundreds, of such links being reported each year. The findings will be tentative and often disputed—a case in point is the so-called warrior gene that encodes monoamine oxidase A and may encourage aggression. But so far it has been the norm, not the exception, that variations in these genes show large differences across races. We don’t yet know what the genetically significant racial differences will turn out to be, but we have to expect that they will be many. It is unhelpful for social scientists and the media to continue to proclaim that “race is a social construct” in the face of this looming rendezvous with reality.

After laying out the technical aspects of race and genetics, Mr. Wade devotes the second half of his book to a larger set of topics: “The thesis presented here assumes . . . that there is a genetic component to human social behavior; that this component, so critical to human survival, is subject to evolutionary change and has indeed evolved over time; that the evolution in social behavior has necessarily proceeded independently in the five major races and others; and that slight evolutionary differences in social behavior underlie the differences in social institutions prevalent among the major human populations.”

It is the central debate in human science. Are we what we are because of a vastly complex number of environmental variables that shape out characters? Is it just an accident of birth that makes a Nigerian a Nigerian and a Brit a Brit? Or, is there something else? Have these populations evolved long enough in isolation to be different in ways that run much deeper than skin color and hair type? Real science is pointing at the latter answer, while the soft sciences insist it is the former.

All of which will make the academic reception of “A Troublesome Inheritance” a matter of historic interest. Discoveries have overturned scientific orthodoxies before—the Ptolemaic solar system, Aristotelian physics and the steady-state universe, among many others—and the new received wisdom has usually triumphed quickly among scientists for the simplest of reasons: They hate to look stupid to their peers. When the data become undeniable, continuing to deny them makes the deniers look stupid. The high priests of the orthodoxy such as Richard Lewontin are unlikely to recant, but I imagine that the publication of “A Troublesome Inheritance” will be welcomed by geneticists with their careers ahead of them—it gives them cover to write more openly about the emerging new knowledge. It will be unequivocally welcome to medical researchers, who often find it difficult to get grants if they openly say they will explore the genetic sources of racial health differences.

The reaction of social scientists is less predictable. The genetic findings that Mr. Wade reports should, in a reasonable world, affect the way social scientists approach the most important topics about human societies. Social scientists can still treat culture and institutions as important independent causal forces, but they also need to start considering the ways in which variations among population groups are causal forces shaping those cultures and institutions.

I’m a fan of population genetics and that means I have read more about the topic than most people. I have strong bias toward empiricism. I place fields like economics and psychology in the same bucket as philosophy and religion. They may use the tools of mathematics to build their arguments, but ultimately they rely on faith. Therefore, in the great battle between science and the blank slate crowd, I’m on the side of science.

That said, I would not bet on science. People are not moist robots. At least we don’t see it that way. We very well may be moist robots, but our complexity is beyond our ability to comprehend. That gives social science the edge. Peddling hope in the form of self-help and the quackery of Malcolm Gladwell is always going to trump the appeal of sterile materialism. Magical thinking is the rule. Then there are the vested interests.

How long will it take them? In 1998, the biologist E.O. Wilson wrote a book, “Consilience,” predicting that the 21st century would see the integration of the social and biological sciences. He is surely right about the long run, but the signs for early progress are not good. “The Bell Curve,” which the late Richard J. Herrnstein and I published 20 years ago, should have made it easy for social scientists to acknowledge the role of cognitive ability in shaping class structure. It hasn’t. David Geary’s “Male/Female,” published 16 years ago, should have made it easy for them to acknowledge the different psychological and cognitive profiles of males and females. It hasn’t. Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate,” published 12 years ago, should have made it easy for them to acknowledge the role of human nature in explaining behavior. It hasn’t. Social scientists who associate themselves with any of those viewpoints must still expect professional isolation and stigma.

That’s the lesson of Galileo. The real lesson, least ways. The contemporaries of Galileo knew he was right. His inquisitors knew he was right. That was not the point of contention. The fear of the Church and the defenders of the established order was simple. Pulling the legs out from under current understanding of the world was a threat to that order. The vested interests had, therefore, a natural advantage. Without something readily at hand to replace the current order, the bias was against any knowledge that threatened the order.

If you’re looking for a bright side it is that Galileo foreshadowed the collapse of the Catholic Church as the organizing entity of Western civilization. Soon after Galileo, Europe was devastated in the Thirty Years War. That was the end of Christianity as the organizing philosophy of Western elites. Maybe something similar is happening to the Progressive world order.