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Mail 446 December 25 - 31, 2006
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December 25, 2006
December 26, 2006
Due to pressure of time, this will be a short shrift day
I have some questions for the economic theorists.
Has anyone ever done a study of the effects of marginal tax rates in Haiti or sub-Saharan Africa?
Also, have crime indexes, objective school quality measurements and air/water pollution measurements ever been factored into calculations of 'per capita GDP'? Has a 'reliability index' ever been compiled (or attempted) to use for weighting different governments' economic statistics?
Assume for a moment the average 'per capita' in a country is living in a one-room tenement in the middle of a city with an exhaust and stink fouled atmosphere, no toilet or running water and raw sewage flowing in the gutter outside. Now add several pieces of consumer electronics and furniture with a retail value of $4,000 USD to this tenement room. What percent rise in "per capita GDP" will the paper money free trade cultists tell us has occurred?
Subject: Energy Independence
Ironic which country is actually trying to pursue energy independence, isn’t it?
Subject: I can see clearly now....
Timoid of Angle
Had a brainstorm and googled Norman Dean and lo! up came your site in the queue.
Yeah well ... in 1960, I was a shiny-sleeve Army private in Washington,DC and had of course read of the Campbell-interpreted Dean space drive [nice cover with the submarine, eh?] Anyway, I was bored, working as a journalist in Military District of Washington info office in Building T-7 across from the national airport. And started cold calling to follow up on the story.
I can tell you, for sure, one of the orgs that was curious about the Dean drive [or Dean effect, depending on who you read at the time] was NASA. Within a half hour of asking idle questions of various government underlings and getting the pass the buck process, I ended up talking to the 2IC of NASA R&D, after these many years I could not tell you his name. But I was pleased that a 'nobody draftee' could work the system.
In those days, I guess, the label of social engineering had not even been invented but I and others were proving what worked. Amazing what chutzpah can manage ... of course I never announced my lowly rank but the mere mention of 'journalist' and military, they made it easy for me.
So I ended up with a cordial chat with someone high up the ladder who took the topic seriously enough.
Beyond that, all I can say is, I got a copy of the early patent, loaned it to a friend when I got back to AT&T tech work in Cincinnati. He built a prototype of the 'unidirectional' thingy and powered it up: "it jumped all over the workshop" is all I know of the 'test results', LOL.
Oh yeah ... before I got out of the army, my buddy Jim Wilde and I sent Dean a registered letter with drawing and description of a television camera platform based on a Dean drive. That would have been a godsend given the 'tanks' we used to push around the studios in those days. No response. Oh well, he could have made heaps on that one application along.
Best regards, Joseph
As I said in my account, Boeing took it seriously enough that we would have bought the drive if we had any real evidence that it worked. Alas, I never got to see it.
You said you are wondering when someone is going to use AJAX to reverse engineer something like Mathematica as a free web app.
There is a project something like that. It's called SAGE.
Python is the perfect language for a project like this. It enables them to glue together some really disparate stuff. For example, SAGE includes MAXIMA, a symbolic math package that can take derivatives and integrals; MAXIMA is a LISP tool, but most people find Python much easier to learn than LISP.
I suggested that they should make a bootable CD image that runs SAGE in web-server mode. You could take any spare PC, boot from the CD, and your network now would have a SAGE server. I can imagine that being very popular in schools.
-- Steve R. Hastings
From another conference
The power law of of practice only holds for "simple" activities. If the activity is made up of component skills then each of the component skills will exhibit the power law.
As for the "take-off" associated with expertise, John Anderson's theory is that there are two types of long-term memory: declarative and procedural. These two types of memories correspond roughly to knowledge and (highly practiced) skills. Declarative knowledge is quickly acquired and quickly forgotten (like people's names or phone numbers). Procedural memories are slowly acquired and slowly forgotten (like riding a bike or swimming). Skills go through a three-stage process of acquisition: cognitive, associative and automatic. At first when we are learning to drive, we must consciously tell our limbs what to do. Then several individual actions are grouped together (reaching down, moving the shift lever, grabbing the steering wheel again) into single actions. Then the grouped actions are further grouped together into large groups like "driving." The acceleration associated with expertise is the automatization of skills. Automatized skills are quick, smooth, and do not occupy working memory, so you can drive a car and hold a conversation at the same time, until you come upon a situation that requires actions that have not been automatized. Then you must use conscious working memory to reason through the situation and you have to stop talking for a few moments. With experience and practice, more and more reactions become automatized.
The current version of Anderson's theory is a little different from my description:
The American Conservative isn't the only source of characterizing the Vietnam war as a US loss. John Kerry, in a Washington Post editorial does the same thing, extracted below.
But of course we did win; then threw away the victory.
From another conference
La Griffe's du Lion's number closely comports with what Steve Sailer reports in his article in the current (15 January 2007) edition of THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE about the U.S. Army:
Of course, the officer corps must be much smarter than that, but the Armed Forces function well with the great majority of its members having the cognitive ability represented above.
-- Roland Dobbins
Very interesting; certainly on target.
- Roland Dobbins
One learns something new daily...
Shades of Dr. Semmelweis.
Hospital very bad. Many go in. Few come out.
The Imam Scam and the Democrats' House of Games.
- Roland Dobbins
Wheee! Let the Good Times Roll
Subject: the esp experiment
Hello Dr. Pournelle,
Thanks for that link to the Esp experiment. That was a gem!
It provided a nice lesson in 'headology' ( copyright by Terry Pratchett and sums it up pretty well, I think) for my son.
With some gentle prodding as to where to look and what to ignore, it proved to be a real eye-opener in the end.
Keep the good stuff coming and best regards
December 27, 2006
Roland has twice sent this:
Subject: The most significant news story of 2006 (priority one).
The most significant news story of 2006.
I will probably comment in the column since it affects us all.
Subject: Changes in Global Climate
I have long argued with friends that the first order factors determining global climate are external to the planet -- solar output cycles, orbital variation, and the precession of the Earth as it spins.
This Scientific American article seems to support that view. http://www.tiny.cc/iDy9F
The article goes on from there to discuss how they did their research using Oxygen and Carbon isotope ratios in foraminifera samples taken from deep ocean sediment cores and how their results relate to orbital eccentricity.
Interesting -- global climate is in fact a complex system.
Best regards, Clyde Wisham
**** "Whoever knows he is deep strives for clarity - and whoever would like to appear deep strives for obscurity. The crowd considers anything deep if they cannot see the bottom, for they are afraid of going in the water". -- Nietzche ****
Global climate is a complex system! Who'd have thunk it?
If the problem is CO2 then let's engineer up ways to remove CO2. Preferably reversible ways. Just in case.
Subject: Re the IQ discussion and "tech" schools
The tech schools worked well and indeed were required when we were still actively making things in this country. But big dirty industry is evil so as a result we no longer make things. So we no longer generate the jobs for the "tech" educated beyond things like auto-repair and running a cash register. So the "tech education" portion of society has no outlet for employment.
I'd like to see us get back into the business of actually making things in this country. We still do on a small scale. But most industry has been exported. Look at how long it takes Boeing to make a plane today. Look at how frequently B-29s rolled off the production lines in WW-II, then peaked at something like one an hour. With our advanced production technologies and a similar army of people we COULD produce. But today that's such an indecent proposition that we simply don't produce.
Part of that problem is cheap wages for production workers in China and other emerging nations. But part of it is related to the collective sigh of relief from the liberals as each production job leaves the US for some other nation so that OUR nation can be nice and clean.
Subject: Charles Brumbelow on Blogs
Indeed, proper journalists are required for proper news. One could argue that most of the bloggers are not proper journalists. But that does not state all bloggers are proper journalists. If 90% of them are crap then 10% have something to say.
In a world with the media hopelessly slanted liberal with liberals who have the gall to state that they are unbiased but conservatives could not be unbiased if they ran the news media. The blogs have moved in and the ones I watch more or less work to keep the media honest hoisting them with their own reportage, 'fauxtography', staged news, and outright fabricated news and sources.
In THIS regard those 10% or even 0.1% of the blogs that try to be as direct and honest as they can and acknowledge their own biases are doing us a major service if we only listen. I note that Charles Johnson, Michelle Malkin, and others of their quality get a "sour expression on their typers" when proven wrong; but, they have the charming attribute of actually admitting it publicly in their blogs. Reuters and AP could take lessons.
Subject: Solar cell breakthrough
I wonder if you had heard of this. If it can get to the market quickly and on peoples rooftops it might cut down some of our reliance on fossil fuels. The best efficiency I have heard before this was about 22%. It would really be something if they could get that number above 50%.
Even with very high efficiency the solar constant plus atmospheric scattering plus latitude plus night time limits severely what you can get from ground based solar. And there's the need for batteries. But yes, it's still exciting news.
"This is about my reputation, our dignity."
- Roland Dobbins
December 28, 2006
Subject: With Disappointment
Jerry, Re. IQ discussion
I've been reading the discussion on IQ. First with interest, then increasingly with alarm.
You elitist shits!
The conclusion by various commentators that IQ+ people's economic/cultural contribution is greater than IQ- people's contribution is pure elitism. Somehow the commentator self assigns to the IQ+ group and assumes that other people are 'less productive'/'less skilled'/'less' than him. That makes him an 'elite'/'compassionate' person with a 'responsibility' to 'take care' of those not as 'fortunate' as he.
What a load of crap!
At this point I would present my solution to the IQ difference problem but that would make me one of the elite. I sure don't want to be in that group.
With disappointment, Ephraim F. Moya
I was wondering who would be first with this.
If you had bothered to follow what I at least have been saying, you would have learned that I have every reason to believe that people who aren't all that good at symbol manipulation can be quite productive, but have to be taught skills, not "educated" in the intellectual activities that go on in college. One need not be an automotive engineer to repair cars, nor a Ph.D. physiologist to repair human bodies.
But skills must be taught in ways other than what our schools are doing.
Given this sample of your thinking, perhaps it is as well that you withhold your solution to the problem, but I'm willing to listen.
I realize that it is insulting to say that half the children are below average, and that we must learn to live with that. Persuade me that this is not true.
"No matter how much we do, the Amish won't sign up."
- Roland Dobbins
Subject: Peter Drucker on education
Especially the excerpts from pages 198, 202, 203 of _Post-Capitalist Society_.
Subject: Mr. Ephraim F. Moya's Comments
Why is it considered elitist and wrong, Dr. Pournelle, to observe that not all children are equal in IQ when we have no hesitation about recognizing that not all children are equal in athletic ability?
Or, to ask the same question another way, why is the concept of "No Child Left Behind" (aka "No Child Gets Ahead") acceptable in academics but not in athletics? Even at the youngest ages, those children who exhibit athletic abilities superior to others in their group tend to get more playing time, further widening the gap. If "No Child Left Behind" was applied, they would receive less playing time so that the less skilled could catch up.
Certainly the Clancys, Heinleins, Nivens, and Pournelles (to mention a few) have exhibited superior skills at symbol manipulation and should be financially rewarded for this. Likewise, the Mannings, Jordons, and others have exhibited superior athletic skills worthy of financial rewards.
Is there confusion between the intrinsic "worth" of a person and the intellectual and/or athletic skills of a person?
Speaking for myself, I have neither intellectual nor athletic skills to command vast annual salaries/earnings. However, that does not make me intrinsically worth any less than the individuals I named. And, unless I've missed something, they still put their pants on one leg at a time just like I do.
Happy New Year!
P.S. I thought you were taking off this week, but apparently I was mistaken.
I probably should take the week off, but then I get behind. Now I have to write next week's column.
Subject: IQ, Education, and Ability
(I think I owe you a subscription update and a reply on another subject. Apologies, a project required pretty exclusive attention for a while. -Paul)
In regards to your current essay, I can not help but feel that something is missing. You, and others, tend to emphasize the divide between 'Hi IQ' and 'Loq IQ' people as a division in society. While I agree there is evidence towards that, I'm not sure I buy it as an absolute thing. I'm not sure you do either.
Yes, IQ is a great predictor of success. But then, so are other things. For example, a Hi IQ job hopper is less desirable as a programmer than a person who is perhaps less bright, but much more motivated, disciplined, or just plain excited about a job. And ability - any ability - grows with practice.
I rather think that instead of directing children to a pre-college or vocational path based primarily upon IQ, that we need more than one way to measure - and nurture - whatever ability they have. This is the slippery slope where the ultra-liberals step in and get silly, and where you more correctly point out that every child is not capable of benefiting equally from education.
Still, education should find and nurture whatever talents and abilities a person has. That is quite the same thing as saying that almost all children can be taught to read. They have to be able to read to be able to us their talents, abilities, or intelligence effectively. Education should use testing, repetition and similar well proven methods to initially train and evaluate children. And then let the results steer the children into paths in which they become more and more successful. The issues lie in what the very basics all children need to learn are. Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic served very well for a long time, and seems like a good start. This is something I agree NCLB can be effectively used for.
As you can guess by now, I am a little bit confused over exactly where this balance should be. Both my wife and I went through public education and were quite successful. We then attended private university, in which we were even more successful. One of children thrives on public education, and one requires private education to thrive.
Our experience shows *us* that the balance must be something adjusted to the individual, not the group, not the IQ level, and most certainly not the demands of the federal government. Using IQ to help find that balance is a good idea - using IQ to arbitrarily define the balance point is less so. And not using it at all is even less a good idea that over-using it.
This is where we tend to start agreeing with you that local control over schools and community standards is much more effective than what we have now. We simply have too much government and too little individual responsibility.
We are not in substantial disagreement. If all children were taught to read by end of First Grade -- something that used to be done and certainly could be done now -- then many problems would vanish. Add compulsory eye and hearing exams to identify physical needs (we can't insist the kid wear glasses but we can discover that he can't see the blackboard and tell the parents, and at $11,000 per kid per year it's pretty expensive not to throw in a couple of hundred bucks worth of spectacles) and we will have got past many problems.
But half the children will be below average.
I do not propose rigid cutoffs between skill learners and those to be educated; there is a substantial middle ground, and even the low IQ students need some grounding in Civics and the national saga and such.
We nationalized education when we should not have done that. Devolving it back to local districts is very difficult now. I wish that were not so.
Do note that at $11,000 per pupil ($1.1 million per 100 students) the problem is not lack of money. Think what you could do with a million dollars and 100 students.
>>The US doesn't MAKE very much.<<
And a lot what we still made was for the construction industry. It seems to me the real question about reindustrialization is what focal point we'll use to drive it. What's the goal? Competing with China making cheap junk for Wal-Mart does not strike me as a worthwhile goal. Energy and fuels independence is a worthwhile goal. This raises the question of what kinds of fuels and energy to begin with.
This 1995 DoE brochure gives a different perspective on inedible biomass potential.
"Estimates of the biomass resource available for U.S. fuels production average 2.45 billion metric tons per year. One ton of feedstock can be converted to 721 liters (186 gallons) of methanol."
2.45 billion tons x 186 gal/ton = 455.7 billion gallons per year. Or 10.85 billion 42 gal/barrels. Now divide by 2 to account for methanol's lower heating value compared to gasoline. This is 5.42 billion barrels of 'gasoline equivalent' liquid fuel. This year, 2006, the USA will use 7.4 billion barrels of oil from all sources for all purposes. Now add in other countries' annual biomass resources and it's clear petroleum has a potential peer competitor in biomass derived liquid fuels, and one that is very widespread.
I subscribed several weeks ago to T-Pub's archive program for $9.95/month, which gives me 10 files per day. The "Alt Fuels" CDs are my main interest. What these 20 years of Solar Energy Research Institute (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) files document is pretty disturbing. Apparently Hazel O'Leary zeroed out all biomass thermochemical to fuels funding (and policy support) during the Clinton Administration. These programs dated back to the early 1970s and the casualties included:
--- inedible biomass to methanol via gasification - synthesis gas - catalysis. --- ablative fast pyrolysis of waste biomass to produce 'bio-crude oils', plus post process hydrocarbon cracking. --- biodiesel from algae grown with rapid culture in power plant cooling water ponds. --- biomass thermochemical conversion to ethers.
This was a very bi-partisan act since the GOP controlled the House or Congress in this period, and also did nothing after 2000 to reverse this policy. The biomass fuel program shifted to emphasis on distilling and pressing edible food crops into ethanol and biodiesel, plus 'cellulosic' conversion using non-thermochemical pathways. The former now has crop prices doubling annually while the latter might arrive concurrently with hydrogen fusion for power plants.
The previous thermochemical technologies were far enough along that private companies continued to build on the existing foundations. Commercial systems based on biomass to methanol and ablative fast pyrolysis are now available.
Mr. Jeff Greason's one year help wanted ad for one master machinist is also a labor market indicator. And a bad one for a safe near term physical execution of a large nuclear power plant program. Our skilled labor base is seriously deteriorated compared to what it was during the first nuclear power plant program. Biomass projects are inherently smaller. They're better scaled to the county and township level, which jurisdictions also have control of large waste streams. Other politicians are pushing forward with local energy and fuels independence. For instance, Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois is pushing a state coal to liquid fuel program.
All good ideas. Were I in charge, I'd put in a 12.5% tariff on all imports, phase out the economy from regulations as much as possible consistent with environmental protections, and stand back. I suspect the problem will solve itself.
Subject: Education and IQ
In reading through the recent postings and emails on education I think there is one aspect of the issue that is a greater problem than it may appear. I am aware that you are in no way disparaging the worth of people based upon their IQ or occupation. Many others do, to the point where they must 'save' them by getting everybody through college and into jobs that are somehow considered acceptable. This is in part the human ego at work.
I have made very meaningful contributions to my employers working in IT, operations, and management in general. In, for example, plumbing, I have made no contribution to the world (although I have saved a few bucks at home). In economic terms, the person for person contribution of the IQ average+ versus the IQ average- is almost certainly greater (I've never seen a study but I can't imagine the reality being otherwise). In cultural terms (and I assume you mean art, philosophy, etc.) I presume the same is true. One could also point out that the person with plumbing skills contributes far more at plumbing than yours truly. All of this has exactly zero impact on our worth as human beings.
It has become quite fashionable for many people to look down their noses at people based upon what they 'do'. In my own experience, it is more often those of the so-called liberal school of thought. Some of the most vocal 'champions' of opportunity I've worked with have turned out to be the most elitist, condescending, dishonest types imaginable and left those who at first thought they were being helped out in the cold. Unfortunately, in the even greater scale of politics at large this type of behavior serves them well. I believe that a huge part of the problem today - willingly nourished by political opportunists - is the long trend of looking at many of the skill based careers - AND THOSE WHO HOLD THEM - as being inherently inferior. Oh, did I say career? We're only supposed to call those occupations 'jobs', right? Making people feel inferior and insecure is one way to make them susceptible to your control, and that's what politicians do.
Until we overcome this politically nourished and divisive stigma, education reform will be hard to come by. Probably impossible.
The psychology is pervasive in our society today, and that is wrong. A person is somehow supposed to feel bad about their son being a plumber - why? It has been said for many years that a college level liberal arts education makes one a better person and a better citizen. Many roads lead to Rome, yet some push their own (toll) road as the only 'worthy' path. Political opportunists will sling mud at any discussion such as the one you are leading. I salute you for leading it.
Regards, George Gillan
PS: Subscription renewal on the way.
Peters: The Return of the Tribes.
- Roland Dobbins
Subject: half the children are below average
Jerry: A (very) small nit,
Half the children are below the median in intelligence.
-- Right now the Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem, from the outside, to be an elite colluding against the voter. Peggy Noonan
I assume those who know the difference also know that it's very nearly true as I say it and the difference isn't worth worrying about.
It's pithier to say below average rather than at or below average. And as to median, on a normal bell curve mean median and mode are all equal. The real world distribution is pretty close to a normal curve.
Subject: Subject: Solar cell breakthrough
Daylight hours may limit the application of ground based solar, but at least here in Phoenix that may not be that much of a limiting factor. I conservatively estimate that during the summer months about 2/3rd of my electrical bill is due to my air conditioner, which naturally has it's greatest load when sunlight intensity is the highest. The problem is not the efficiency of the solar cells, it is the cost. In order to enable substantial distributed ground based solar-electric production we do not need more efficient solar cells, we need cheaper cells on a dollar/watt basis. What we really need is solar cells with around 5-10% efficiency, but at a cost/watt of 1/10th of conventional silicon cells.
A couple of real world examples:
1) Arizona State University just built a new parking garage that features solar panels on the top of the structure sufficient to power all of the lights in the building, along with the required batteries, inverters etc. By dividing the cost of the system by the monthly electrical savings I worked out that the system will pay for itself (assuming not one red cent of maintenance) in about 22 years. Of course, being a state run institution, ASU is not required to be a good steward of taxpayer money. No rational person or corporation would invest in such a thing. Bring the cost down by an order of magnitude and the financial situation changes considerably.
2) A good friend of mine works at our local nuclear plant. One wall of his garage is full of batteries. His analysis is that given the cost/watt of silicon solar cells, he can save more money by putting in what I would basically describe as a solar electrical system without solar panels. He charges the batteries at night (when power is cheaper) and runs his house on the batteries during the day. He could hook up solar panels to the system any time he desired, but at off-peak rates of around 0.04$ kW/hr, there is no economic reason to.
That being said, 40% efficient solar panels have some interesting military applications.
Mark E. Horning, Physicist, L-3 Communications Night Operations Center of Excellence Air Force Research Lab; AFRL/HEA
There will always be local conditions that may make ground based solar economical, but never many; there are real economies of scale to large central systems particularly when much of that is already in place. That said, there are advantages to having some degree of local autonomy.
Most advocates of ground based solar don't do any math of course. The head of the ecology now movement in California was proud of saying the only physics he ever took was Ex-Lax.
My neighbor Ed did have power yesterday when we had winds in Studio City that brought down our power for an hour or so. Fortunately my Falcon UPS systems were more than up to the job.
And on that subject
Subject: Wind power
Jerry: The NY Times has an article about wind power that has some good points. One point is that wind power can't replace any conventional power generation, because power has to be supplied even when the wind doesn't blow. In other words, wind power has to be built in tandem with conventional power plants. (As an aside, consider what a breakthrough efficient, large scale, electricity storage would be!) Another point from the article, it appears that energy companies are investing in wind power as a hedge against future CO2 limits.
No group of professionals meets except to conspire against the public at large. Mark Twain
But this is the wrong way to address CO2 isn't it? Rather than distort economics, better simply to have CO2 removal schemes. Ocean bloom stimulation is one. Tree planting is another.
"Regulatory science" is junk science with a badge.
One question re Joann’s area. Why do none of the URL’s show as hyperlinks? You can always cut and paste them, but there are so many this is quite tedious.
I continue to have trouble with some of your links, and not just the ones from the “Letters from England” either (which is where I first noticed this). For instance if you look at Wednesday’s mail, the link Roland considers the “most important news story of 2006”, shows as:
But if you hover your mouse over it and look in the reveal window at the bottom of the (IE) page, this is what you see:
Notice that “%20%3E” at the end that appears out of nowhere.
If you click on the link, this results in a “page not found” message from ParaPundit, but manually editing out the extraneous characters at the end of the URL gets the job done.
I have to think this may be some strange artifact of the publishing software you’re using. Sometimes the extraneous characters are in the interior of the URL, usually just “%20” somewhere, frequently, but not always, when the URL was broken over two lines. This used to happen a lot with Harry Erwin’s submissions, but seems to be very infrequent there these days.
-- Cecil Rose email@example.com
The %20 is an extra space character at the end of the URL; it comes in when I convert from the Tiny URL that is often sent. I do that by going to the tiny URL, then mark and copy the resulting URL from where Firefox actually finds the page. I manually break the URL lines if they are too long. The case you mention has been fixed. The URL owner sent me the warning.
All this comes about because I use -- and must use -- plaintext as the way to preview messages. I rarely open them for obvious reasons.
FrontPage has a "paste special" option that works quite well: it sees two carriage returns as a paragraph marker, and a single carriage return is ignored. That works find until we come to URL's which don't show up with their associated linkage unless I manually add a space or a break character at the end of each line. I generally do that for Harry Erwin's weekly letters unless I am in a tearing hurry, but Ms. Dow's diatribes would take long minutes to reformat and I don't have time. For security reasons I don't open attachments unless I have very good reason to believe that the attachment was sent by someone I know (and not someone faking the return address); I won't go into how I find out if an attachment is from the real subject but I am sure you can think of ways.
I have been copying Ms. Dow's text from the plaintext previews without opening the messages. I then read them as they are pasted in, but unless the URL is excessively long and must be broken into two lines with a <br> character I don't do anything to them, and FrontPage doesn't automatically embed the links unless I put a space or break at the end of the URL line. I could I suppose paste them into Word which does automatically do URL embedding, but then I'd have to deal with the fact that she often puts a full carriage return at the end of the URL; that means in HTML that you put a full paragraph break at the end of it. This can make the things very long and very ugly.
I have explained this at length because it is an annoyance I wish I had a better solution to. I have (since I began writing this reply) gone through part of that page and inserted spaces and breaks. It's tedious work.
Most of you send mail to me as it's needed: double space (two CR) at the end of a paragraph. Paste special takes care of extraneous line endings that aren't paragraph marks. I usually add a break or space at the end of a URL in the message, but that's easily done as I read it -- assuming that it's not just full of them as the Erwin Letters from England and Dow's Diatribes necessarily are. Please continue to do that. Double spacing at the end of a paragraph -- that is, two carriage returns where you want a real line break -- makes my life a lot easier.
Subject: Happy New Year
A draft of the report on the trip to Rome, Florence, and Siena is up on my blog.
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information
Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw>
And Happy New Year to you and yours.
From Colonel Couvillon
As you may or may not know, I am a volunteer with Spirit of America. Jim is a great guy with an idea that we as the American people can connect with the people where our military are serving and show that we CARE they are able to be free and improve their lives and country. THAT makes it safer for our servicemen abroad. If you get a chance, visit www.spiritofamerica.net - better yet, tell your friends. Don't forget, "We're at war. Are you doing all you can?" You can also visit www.americasupportsyou.com for many other organizations that support our fighting men and women.
Happy New Year,
Subject: r.e. Low-IQ human beings *are* assets
That seems like good business. "University Prep" clearly demands lots of PCs loaded with software. At least one desktop unit per student plus laptops at home and complete in-school networks.
It gets worse when the Symbol Manipulators decide to manipulate symbols called 'money' to increase their incomes by reducing the left side's incomes. A high IQ is no guarantee of any kind of morality or human worth. A high IQ can equally describe a humanitarian benefactor or an amoral sociopath. There are other quotients we used to measure as being more important, but don't any more. Two are what we could label "Civic Quotient" and "Moral Quotient". These latter two have even been symbol manipulated into being absolute moral evils under the symbol called 'intolerance'. "Emotional Quotient" or "EQ" has come into modern favor. Even though most philosophers and theologians have condemned this for millenia as 'flattery' and evil.
Right siders do infinitely more damage with complex financial scams than left siders. This is because more exotic symbol manipulation conceals the cheat better: viz the symbology of "free trade" with production done by off-shore workers with living and working conditions equal to or lower than black slaves on 19th Century plantations. And right siders often remember to coordinate with other right siders to legalize whatever scams they come up with.
Some people even think the Right Siders as a group have intentionally destroyed traditional 'trades' education to dumb down the left sider further to make them more pliable.
This system has been implemented by the highest IQ fraction leadership the USA ever possessed. It is Symbol Manipulation in excelsis that benefits right side IQers the most. There is no evidence it is 'moral' or even wise in terms of long run national survival. But if the symbol manipulator has no personal genetic stake in the future, or feels no moral obligation towards his non-relative neighbors and propagates this attitude to his children, then such outcomes can be deemed 'acceptable'. Keynes once justified his theories by saying "in the long run we are all dead." And this outlook was certainly valid for a childless homosexual. A heterosexual with children often considers that "in the long run my children inherit what's done."
A high IQ is a good criteria for the type of post-high school education students are admitted to. And it can be *one* useful criteria for post graduate employment placement. But it's not the only criteria or even the most important one. People who have problems using IQ measurements also had problems with the now banned "CQ" and "MQ" tests earlier.
I know no one who claims a high correlation between IQ and morality, but there may have been studies. Certainly most successful con artists have been smarter than average; they almost have to be. But charm and persuasiveness are not a monopoly of the eggheads, and it is certainly the case that most criminals -- defined as thos convicted of major crimes -- come from the left side of the bell curve. (I am aware of the argument that the smart crooks don't get caught and therefore don't get into the statistics, but this is by it's nature a hard hypothesis to prove; high IQ crooks not only don't get caught, but tend to manipulate the system so that they didn't technically commit a crime, or leave no evidence that a crime was committed. This is less worrisome than being mugged in the mall.)
I am not sure what you are driving at in the rest of your letter. It would seem to me that having laws forbidding personnel departments to use IQ tests as a hiring factor needlessly rob businesses of tools and distort the market for "credentials"; as do most diversity quota laws. I see no reason why a Lebanese store owner should not give preference to his relatives when it comes to jobs. And if he expands that store to a chain, I see no reason why that preference should not be continued. The market will decide if this is prudent; no laws are needed that I know of.
IQ is the best predictor of success in surprising situations: that is, suppose we have an assortment of groups. Ditch diggers, stock salesmen, baseball umpires, hardware store salesmen, Wal-Mart clerks, physics professors, clergymen, and housewives. We now get a panel of experts in each profession, and have them rate the various groups on their success at that they are doing. That is, a panel of expert preachers rank orders the group of clergymen from best to worst. Another panel of ditch diggers rates the ditch diggers from best to worst. And so forth. Of course the ratings generally won't be terribly reliable -- that is, the rating scores will probably show a fairly high variance -- but we will have the ratings. In every study like this that has been done -- it's expensive research so there aren't an awful lot of such studies -- IQ has been the best single predictor of one's success standing within one's group. Note that I said best single predictor. It's not necessarily a very good predictor, but it will be the best one you have.
Obviously the mean IQ of the ditch diggers will be considerably lower than that of the physics professors; indeed there may be no overlap whatever. No matter. IQ will still be the best single predictor. Annoying as that may be.
Most critics of the IQ tests have no idea how test items are chosen, and how item validities are established (and many have no idea of what I just said).
Enough for the morning. I have work to do.
IQ isn't a measure of honesty. We do have some tests that will sort out gross psychopathy from normal and find highly disturbed individuals. For obvious reasons, the effectiveness of these tests diminishes with the IQ of those tested...
If what you are trying to say is that a Republic ought to have use and value for as many of its citizens as possible, and that the leadership ought to have to win the approval of the majority of the citizens, of course we agree. One does wonder about diminishing returns: how far below average intelligence do we go in recruiting voters? Do we really want to "get out the moron vote"? But of course as IQ lowers, the simpler the political arguments must be to appeal to them; and eventually it will come down to "Trust me. I'm charming."
Hello Dr. Pournelle,
The December 29 issue of the National Post newspaper has an article by Colby Cosh about a potential US Foreign Legion. It could almost have been written by you. Perhaps Mr. Cosh has been visiting your web site.
The first and last paragraphs of the article:
"In 1787, shortly after the Constitutional Convention that gave final form to the government of the rebellious American colonies, a woman approached 81-year-old Ben Franklin and asked what sort of arrangement the delegates had come up with. "A republic -- if you can keep it," quipped Franklin. Even then, he and his colleagues understood that creating a Roman-style republic meant setting out on the Roman road to empire -- and, inevitably, to imperial decline."
"Some find the idea of recruiting "American" soldiers in Mexico or India distasteful. The concept has already inspired talk of "blood money" and "coercion" of the world's poor. And foreign military recruitment is dangerous to national security in the long run, as the Romans (and the French) discovered. But for the U.S., there is no other way out of the immediate dilemma. Sooner or later, under one name or another, there will be an American Foreign Legion."
-- Best regards, Ajax Pickering
Machiavelli says that Republics that rely for essential defense on paid soldiers -- mercenaries if you will although that name has a connotation I don't care for -- will eventually find they have no defense. Either the army will ruin you by losing essential battles, or it will rob the paymaster and become the state: Sforza becomes Duke.
There are ways to mitigate this. The French Foreign Legion was established by the monarchy, but was never to set foot on French soil. It was an army for foreign conquest, and it was good at that. It had some glorious victories, and defeats even more glorious. They were good and loyal soldiers through Empire and Republic. There is no good reason why the US could not recruit a Foreign Legion, officered by West Pointers, and kept in a reconquered Panama Canal Zone, or Guam, or bases in the Middle East, or on bases leased in the Philippines. There is no good reason why such an army could not be highly effective.
The problem is that with such an army we are no longer a republic. That kind of army is an imperial instrument. The French so used it. The Legion propped up Maximilian of Mexico, conquered and occupied French Indo China, kept Algiers reasonably pacified until it was too late for that, and so forth. The Third French Republic was a republic -- sort of -- at home, and an empire throughout the world. If the US had such an instrument it would be used.
Doubtless at first to Do Good. Mogadishu, the Sedan -- there is no end of places with monsters and dragons to slay. It would have been used in a twinkling in Serbia if Clinton had possessed such an army.
Our volunteer army has been used in an imperial manner, in ways that conscripts would not have been used. Imagine what can be done with an army of foreigners.
We did have an arrangement with the Philippines whereby citizens of our protectorate both before and after we gave it independence could serve in the Navy (presumably in other services, but the Navy got most of them) and become citizens. Many did, and quite honorably. That did no real damage to the Republic, but a Navy is not usually an imperial instrument.
If we are going to continue our imperial adventures, we will need constabulary. There is no good reason why we cannot build an American Foreign Legion of light infantry and military police, keep it overseas, and use it as the Romans used auxiliaries. It could never defeat our heavy infantry and armor brigades, our Legions. But once we build an army that con govern without the consent of the governed -- something that is perfectly possible -- then it will teach the real Legions those secrets. There will be civilian persecution of soldiers who will appeal to their comrades. Adjustments will be made. Special officers representing the Army will be appointed. Perhaps the Secretary of Defense will be the beneficiary of a Tenure of Office Act. Or a popular president will be allowed to serve two terms, resign and be appointed Secretary of State, and all the others in the line of succession resign so that there he is again; all this at the point of bayonets from the Washington garrison.
And one day the Legions will discover that emperors can be made in places other than Washington.
But then I write science fiction. It can't happen here.
December 30, 2006
Let me see if I can paraphrase your position on using IQ in schools.
Since IQ is correlated to performance in school the school system should determine the IQ of all students and then assign IQ- students to 'skill' school and IQ+ students to 'symbol manipulation' school.
Its easy to see how dangerous the 'study' of ephemeral traits of people can be by just doing a mental experiment. Just substitute a word or phrase for the pair 'IQ' in the above statement and see what you'll be saying. For instance, try these words:
The flaw in the study of IQ versus school path is that it requires a person (we'll call him the FIRST PLUS) to assign the value of the plus/minus attribute to the first group of students. This, invariably and immediately, brings the FIRST PLUS's prejudices into play. Including his prejudice that he is a member of the plus group.
The FIRST PLUS could then further divide the plusses into plus-plus and plus-minus groups and then require the plus-plusses to assign the plus/minus attribute to subordinate plusses, etc. Consider how many prejudices are involved now.
Even if somehow this system could be started it brings up the system problems:
1. If the FIRST PLUS determines that the IQ cutoff point is 100 then what should the subordinate plusses do with students whose IQ is 99.9? After all, they're ALMOST plusses. 2. What will the FIRST PLUS do when there is a surplus of minuses?
I think we should just go with the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…”
I know I would be happier if I were free to choose the school I attend. To me the ability to do with my life whatever -I- want is included in my right to Liberty and my right to the pursuit of happiness.
My right to Life might also be in play if I were a surplus minus.
As this applies to schools I think:
1. Make the schools as equal as possible. 2. Try to be sure that each student learns a 'base set' of knowledge and skills. 3. Let the students assign themselves to a life path.
Rule 2 above requires that some person decide what the 'base set' is. I don't know what to do about that except to make the selection as open as possible.
Ephraim F. Moya
I see. We are to ASSUME that all the children are above average and treat them all alike. Even if this dooms many to most to 12 years of useless public schools that teach them little of relevance to what they will actually be doing.
And of course we do NOT assume that all can learn to read in the first grade and hold the teachers accountable for doing that. (If we did that, we might in fact remedy some of the problems of the system.)
You should be happy, because we do about what you say. We assume that all the kids are equal. We then have No Child Left Behind, which requires the teachers to spend most of their time in those equal classes bringing up those about to be left behind, and thus those who might get ahead don't get much opportunity to do so. This may be wasteful of a valuable resource, but it works for equality.
Of course many see this coming and send their children to private schools where they do NOT assume that all are equal and that none will be left behind, but enforce standards and spend a good bit of time with the successful students. Note that -- at least last time I saw the statistics -- more than half of the public school teachers send their children to non-public schools. Perhaps they know something?
Equality over effectiveness, all by assumption; this would be the very definition of Political Correctness. And perhaps that is as it should be, but I have seen few convincing arguments.
Being free to choose the school to attend: will you support vouchers? We currently spend $11,000 per student in the public schools. A $5,500 a year voucher would do better work for half the cost -- and allow anyone to attend a school of his choice, at least if he can get into that school. Or would you require that schools accept and retain anyone who asks to be let in?
But that would still be preferable to what we do now. Will you support vouchers and choice?
Free world quality self-study courses are available online for anyone wanting to *do* something about 'industrial trades' training. The local educators may not cooperate, or might want too many millions and still not be capable of producing trained students.
1. Basic "Shop" techniques.
How to use hammers, hacksaws, files, vises, etc.
2. U.S. Navy "EDTRA" technical correspondance courses.
These are archived PDFs, including electronics, electrical, basic steel working, introduction to hand tools and introduction to machining.
3. Basic Engineering Training.
The U.S. Department of Energy "Fundamentals Handbooks". These were originally written for training nuclear reactor operators. All the handbooks contain extensive generic information on their subject matter:
--- DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Classical Physics (142 pages) --- DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Electrical Science (4 separate volumes, 4 separate pdf files) --- DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer, and Fluid Flow (three volumes) --- DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Instrumentation and Control (two volumes) --- DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Chemistry (two volumes) --- DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Engineering Symbology, Prints, and Drawings (two volumes) --- DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Material Science, (two volumes) --- DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Mechanical Science (two volumes)
The US Government spent millions developing these training courses and manuals. I suggest trying these for subject matter content before paying $100s & $1000s for other texts that can easily be inferior or merely equivalent material.
Lathes and mills for basic machinist training can be costly. And they'll get more costly as the dollar depreciates because the low end tools are made in China these daze. Individuals and groups may want to consider actually *building* machine tools as part of an entry level training program. The late David Gingery will teach you how, using low cost parts and free "junk".
This series has sold over 500,000 copies since 1980. David Gingery is a great example of what 'trades education' can achieve. He was not a 'symbol manipulator' but he still contributed more to society than many legions of modern "Ph.ds".
Doing things 'the Gingery way' requires some basic small scale foundry work. This mechanical engineer http://stephenchastain.com/store.htm has written a series of high quality how-to books on small scale ferrous and non-ferrous foundry work, including how to build and operate your own cupolas and furnaces.
Those who progress this far will discover foundry fuels are costly for routine operations. Propane is expensive, and industrial metallurgical coke is both expensive and impossible to source in many areas in less than railroad car quantities.
Don't fret, go here: http://gasifiers.bioenergylists.org/?q=gallmeierretort This is a metallurgical grade charcoal retort prototype I'm now testing. I designed and built this from common items using common shop tools. It uses scrapped hardwood pallets for feedstock and process fuel. I'll tell anyone needing foundry fuel for educational purposes precisely how to build and operate one. My email address is at the bottom of the article.
The above methods require little paper money and rely entirely on locally available tools and materials. They do demand heavy investments of personal time and effort.
So people who prefer to find solutions in paper money should probably wait until 2008. I'm sure their saviour will be on the public ballot by then.
ps I have no financial connection with any concern listed above.
A few take-away thoughts:
"...a Syrian village...thrived in rocky country whose soil was good only for growing olive trees. This village sustained a ridiculously high population for many, many years -- a population that was far higher than could be supported from the agricultural yields of that area. "So what were they living on? Trade. They grew their olives and shipped the oil abroad. Apparently their oil was so highly regarded throughout the Mediterranean that it enabled them to import almost all the food and wine they required to sustain their population.
"They had specialized. It worked very well for them -- until the whole system of trade broke down and there was no way for them to get their goods out to their potential markets. Either it was no longer safe enough to transport their oil and sell it profitably, or the markets had dried up because of the crash of the economy elsewhere."
"What people overlooked was that everything depended on the Roman Army. The army wasn't carrying the goods, it wasn't even actively protecting the trade. The army was mostly stationed at the border, while the economy boomed in an empire so safe that none of the cities had walls. But the economic system that offered so much prosperity could only last as long as merchants could trust in the safety of the goods they transported, and as long as people could remain in place to do their work instead of having to flee barbarian invaders."
"For a century, America has been the great cushion to absorb the shocks that might have brought down western civilization."
"The result, over the past sixty years, has been a pax Americana covering much of the world. And the world has prospered fantastically wherever the American military sustained it.
"Let me say that again: As with Rome, the American military has been the wall behind which a system of safe trade has allowed an extraordinary degree of specialization and therefore mutually sustained prosperity."
There is more... Thought provoking and worth the read to me.
the white man's burden,
When did we inherit that burden? What did we do to earn that curse?
The Roman system collapsed thoroughly under the weight of tax farmers and a burgeoning bureaucracy, until it was decreed that each man must take up his father's line of work.
Of course nothing of the sort could happen to us as we police the world.
Subject: Good analysis from Lebanon
is over here:
I didn't initially read the initial piece but there's a link from part two (the link above) to it. Pretty good info on the political situation in Lebanon.
Indeed. I have no way of knowing how accurate that is, but it sounds about right.
One of the problems with solar power is that it is produced as low-voltage direct current. This means that for centrally generated solar power to be useful it must be converted to high-voltage alternating current for transmission.
Ironically, most electronic devices transform medium voltage (110 volts here, 220 volts elsewhere) AC to . . . low voltage DC. This, of course, suggests that if practical and affordable home-sized photovoltaic systems become available, electronic devices might start shipping with DC inputs in addition to AC inputs.
The efficiencies involved in leaving out the two transformation processes would mean that less generated power would be needed to get work done by electronic devices, which would make locally generated solar power more attractive.
Another thought: LED-based lighting is now available, and prices are beginning to fall. This is another potential use for direct current power sources. Again, LED's are much more efficient than incandescent lights, so that a provider of DC current would need to provide less power to get the same work done.
And then there are the electronic refrigeration units. Do they need AC or do they use DC? Recalling that an air conditioner is basically a refrigerator, and recalling that electric motors work quite well with DC, it seems to me that there is a real place for building-based solar power. In fact, the peak generation efforts of solar power would occur during peak demand: during the hottest days.
Supplement the whole thing with standardized gas-core nukes, and we would not need coal for anything other than making gasoline.
It will take time, but yes, that might be practical. Particularly since cooling it mostly needed in daytimes.
Where to begin in dealing with Mr. Moya's views on education?
1) Jerry, you clearly don't believe in segregating students solely based on IQ. You repeatedly stress that IQ is not the only factor that determines success. You merely state the obvious. Some students will do well with symbolic manipulation. Some will not. There will be a significant correlation with IQ. Efforts to make all competent in ever-increasingly complex levels of symbolic manipulation is doomed to frustration and failure. On the other hand, it creates a bottomless money sinkhole for professional educators.
2) A student who has limited ability with symbolic manipulation cannot "choose" to do calculus, although he may make an excellent auto mechanic. This does not diminish his worth as a person in any way.
3) Letting each student decide what "base set" of classes to take is letting the inmates run the asylum. In the best case, the student will choose a grab-bag of classes which interests him. In the worst case (which will happen frequently), the student will choose the path of least resistance. In neither case will a student become adequately educated.
4) The appeal to the Declaration of Independence is particularly ironic. Most of the Founders would probably have thought the notion of mandatory universal public education rather bizarre.
Cheers, Steve Chu
I am troubled by the position of one of your readers: "1. Make the schools as equal as possible." Why? To 'make' everybody the same? Discriminating on the basis of ability and achievement is proper and constructive. Achievement should weigh more heavily than ability, partly because it takes ability to achieve and partly because it demonstrates the productive use of ability.
We are all created equal, we are not all the same. True equality is our worth as human beings. Demanding equality in other ways is forcing falsehood upon us - we might or might not be 'equal' in our economic worth, cultural worth, etc. We are all different, and our contributions to the world will almost certainly vary as much as we do. That means that when objective measures are applied some will contribute more than others do in various areas. That's reality. It says nothing about our worth as human beings. Falsely hobbling people by forcing sameness does not promote equality. It destroys people's spirit.
Yes! Exactly what it says! Unfortunately, at least one of your readers grossly misinterprets the meaning.
You have the right to PURSUE happiness. You do NOT have the right to be my brain surgeon. You do NOT have the right to be anybodies' brain surgeon. If you CAN make the grade, and you DO make the grade... then remember that patients can still choose another surgeon. Or would you outlaw their right to choose?
You can choose your life path to the destination of your choice. You might get there. You might not. Choosing your path IS your right. Getting to your destination is NOT your right.
Regards, George Gillan
Subject: How do we counter Pournelle's Iron Law in education
How do we counter Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy in the education industry? Shall we outlaw teacher unions? Shall we impose control from without, like civilian control of the military? How do we guarantee quality?
I don't think teachers are a monolithic block of incompetents. A former classmate of mine returned to our old high school as an English teacher. After three years of frustration trying to pound appreciation of the language and the literature into heads ill-suited to the task, he instituted threshhold testing that divided the students into different groups. The different groups were taught different curricula and graded according to mastery of their respective syllabi. Note that the outcome would be a letter grade reported in the same class regardless of to which group a student was assigned. But the students quickly realized they were segregated according to ability.
The upshot was that one student complained to her parent who was a member of the school board. My friend actually had to appear before the board to defend his actions. It was a kangaroo court. By a vote of four to three my friend kept his job. But the parent vowed "to get" the teacher the next year after the election changed the composition of the board.
Last I heard, my friend was selling class rings to graduating seniors. He said he made more money and did not have to deal with asinine politics.
Maybe we get the education system we deserve instead of the one we want.
Respectfully h lynn keith
You have asked the relevant question. I don't think I have an answer.
On IQ and Socio-Economic Status
Often overlooked in the discussion of IQ and SES is that many adults end up above or below the SES in which they grew up. Jensen puts the number here at 33-50% of the adult population. What explains this upward and downward mobility? According to Jensen, the most important factor is educational achievements related to IQ.
As for parental SES and child IQ, of course there is a notable correlation. More meaningful is that the correlation between adult SES and IQ (.50-.70) is significantly higher than the correlation between parental SES and IQ (.30-.40).
Let me quote Jensen here:
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