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Monday, December 11, 2006

We are back from San Diego and the beach house. I got a great deal done down there. New material on both Inferno and Mamelukes, and the column and mail bag although those were written and only needed editing before we left.

All is well. Today's Mailbag is up at Chaos Manor Reviews and the next installment of the column is done and will be posted tomorrow.

A note to subscribers: the one thing I have not done is get content into the subscriber only section. That will happen. It is taking longer than I thought, and I apologize. Part of it is format and mechanism, but we are working on that. You will Real Soon Now get username and password information. Real Soon Now.

I had time to put in a bunch of comments in both View and Mail yesterday. I have a great deal more mail to get up today. It's a great life if you don't weaken.


I heard on the radio driving up that Tony Blair has had enough of diversity in England and is calling for some common standards. I was delighted, but I have no notion of whether this will have an effect.


News: I can't give the source but it's reliable. Intel employees are now allowed to buy Mac equipment. Many are rushing to buy MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, and the beautiful 24" iMac. An interesting development.


Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, RIP


Dear Reader,

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, champion of liberty and loyal friend of Commentary, died on Thursday, December 7, 2006. We felt sure you'd want to know that, in memory of her life and achievements, we’ve posted free on our website her famous 1979 essay in Commentary, Dictatorships & Double Standards <http://www.commentarymagazine.com/cm/main/viewArticle.aip?id=6189&page=all>  . This was the essay that led directly to her appointment by Ronald Reagan as United States ambassador to the United Nations, where she fought heroically to defend American and Western values, to safeguard the state of Israel, and to help spread the message of freedom worldwide.

The Editors

www.commentarymagazine.com <http://alexander.lyris.net/db/351684/2060964/1.gif>

I recall Mr. Heinlein bullying me into a pledge for $2,000 donation to her campaign for President if he could bully her into running. He didn't, so I didn't have to make good. I always wondered, given what he assessed me, how much he bit Larry in the ear for.


DARPA raises stakes for urban robot race

By Stefanie Olsen, CNET News.com Published on ZDNet News: December 8, 2006, 3:44 PM PT

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

update DARPA has granted prize money of $3.5 million for its milestone urban robotics race next November, a far cry from its previously planned trophies.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has approved prize money for the first three finalists of its 2007 Urban Challenge after a confusing twist in the government agency's right to grant monetary awards, organizers said Friday.

DARPA will now grant $2 million for first place, $1 million for second and $500,000 for third. But the agency dropped award money for "Track B" teams, or those roughly 78 teams (out of 89 teams total) competing without government funding, according to DARPA spokeswoman Johanna Spangenberg Jones. Instead, those teams, which could have won supplemental prize money of up to $150,000, will race for the main prize money.

When the 2007 Urban Challenge was first announced in May, DARPA said it would dole out more than $2 million in prizes to the robotics teams that could navigate mock city terrain over a set time. But DARPA presumably lost its granting authority with the passage of a congressional act--the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007--which gave money-granting power to another government agency, Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. So at the time, instead of awarding $2 million for first prize, $500,000 for second and $250,000 for third, DARPA said it would simply give out trophies to the three finalists.

But after much complaint from contestants, Kenneth Krieg, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, approved the prize money.

The race will see as many as 90 teams "drive" an unmanned robotic road vehicle through city traffic, competing to finish a 60-mile course within six hours. Set for November 3 of next year, the challenge will call on robots to safely obey traffic laws, negotiate busy intersections, merge into moving traffic, avoid obstacles and navigate traffic circles.

DARPA has yet to disclose the race location, but has said it will be in the western United States. The government research group didn't unveil the 2005 Grand Challenge location in the Mojave Desert until weeks before that race, in order to avoid giving any team an advantage.

Despite the prize money, the teams will undoubtedly have a hard time finishing the 2007 Urban Challenge, the first race of its kind. Of the 23 teams that competed in the 2005 desert race, only four teams' robots completed the 131-mile course in the allotted 10-hour time. The year before, no teams finished the challenge.

Particularly difficult for the robots next year will be the complexity of the urban environment. That's because robot sensors can easily stumble because of unknown objects or stimulus. "Stanley," for example, the robotic SUV that was the 2005 Grand Challenge winner from Stanford University's Racing Team, got confused when a flock of birds fluttered up in front of the vehicle during the race. The vehicle spun its wheels in several directions before the birds settled down and it could proceed.

Excitement is building for next year's race, nonetheless. Among the teams racing are the Stanford Racing Team, Team MIT from Cambridge, Mass., and a group called "A Bunch of Dropouts" from Kingman, Ariz.<snip>

Now if they would just decide to put up $10 to $20 billion as a prize for a Lunar Colony. Let NASA continue with it's $40 billion (you just know it will be $100 billion before it's done) program, but see if a fraction of that as a prize won't get it done,  and quicker. But that would be intelligent...


And for a new kind of Carol, you really ought to try



I can't recommend The Wire enough.

The Wire is the best sociological exposition of what's wrong with the drug war, the schools, and the inner city in America, period. Get the DVDs from NetFlix or just buy them, starting with Season 1. Season 4 just concluded (focused on education; I recommend staring out with Season 1, though), and will be out on DVD soon.


- Roland Dobbins

I don't watch a lot of TV (The Closer and House are two favorites, and we like NCIS for some reason); I have to confess I never heard of The Wire. I'll look into it, and thanks.


And it's the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Commodore (and later Admiral) Grace Hopper. They named a modern warship, the first one designed to have mixed sex crew, after her, and I got to go on the maiden voyage. I did a sort of report on that here, as well as for BYTE, but it seems to have gotten losted. Here it is again.

I have many more pictures. Perhaps I'll do a real report -- that one was truncated for reasons given in the text -- for the subscribers as the first of the private material?





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Tuesday,  December 11, 2006  

  Is it Warming or CO2?

Subject: By 2040, Greenhouse Gases Could Lead to an Open Arctic Sea in Summers (NY Times)

December 12, 2006 By 2040, Greenhouse Gases Could Lead to an Open Arctic Sea in Summers By ANDREW C. REVKIN

New studies project that the Arctic Ocean could be mostly open water in summer by 2040 ‹ several decades earlier than previously expected ‹ partly as a result of global warming caused by emissions of greenhouse gases.

The projections come from computer simulations of climate and ice and from direct measurements showing that the amount of ice coverage has been declining for 30 years.

The latest modeling study, being published on Tuesday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, was led by Marika Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

The study involved seven fresh simulations on supercomputers at the atmospheric center, as well as an analysis of simulations developed by independent groups. In simulations where emissions continue to rise, sea ice persists for long periods but then abruptly gives way to open water, Dr. Holland said.

In the simulations, the shift seems to occur when a pulse of warm Atlantic Ocean water combines with the thinning and retreat of ice under the influence of the global warming trend. Scientists ascribe most of that planet-scale warming, including a warming of the shallow layers of the oceans, to the buildup of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases in the atmosphere.

After 2040 or so, ice persists in summer mainly around Canada¹s northern maze of islands and the northern coast of Greenland, a region that always tends to accumulate a clot of thick ice.

Separately, scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder found that the normal expansion of sea ice as the Arctic chilled in fall had been extraordinarily sluggish this year, following a pattern seen in recent years. The November average ice coverage was by far the lowest since satellite measurements began in 1979, said Walt Meier, a scientist at the ice center.

The problem is not warming, it's CO2; and if that's the problem, why not address that problem? But we see almost no studies of how to reduce the CO2 levels, which certainly are high, perhaps alarmingly so. We are running an open-ended experiment on CO2 levels, and this is not a sensible thing to do.

I have seen suggestions such as: stimulating plankton blooms, which will cause ocean life to make insoluble carbonates out of CO2 extracted from the atmosphere: they then sink and the CO2 is gone. The oceans are mostly deserts except for places where there is cold water upwelling which brings nutrients from the bottom that will feed plankton.

We can stimulate upwelling (see A Step Farther Out written about 30 years ago) and extract from that at least enough electricity to power the upwelling, and probably enough more to make it worth feeding power to the grid in Hawaii and near other suitable islands near deep water.

That's one suggestion. There are many others. There are processes that will remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Some of those may require power; lots of power; but we have nuclear power technology. If CO2 levels are critical, why are we not trying to DO something about it? Instead all efforts are on silly measures like the Kyoto Accords, which even in the estimati0n of those who like Kyoto (oddly enough that set includes a lot of people who would make a lot of money out of Kytoto) -- even in the estimati0n of the pro-Kyoto advocates it would be expensive and not do much to slow down CO2 released, and certainly do nothing to reduce the levels.

When I see the climate experts focus on the identified problem, which is rising CO2 levels, and start looking for remedies, I'll take them seriously.

Start with some serious research on methods for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Add a few billion in prizes for people who actually do fix some carbon and remove it from the atmosphere. Add a bonus prize for those who fix the carbon, remove it from the atmosphere, and put it somewhere that's accessible if we suddenly need it again.

How long do you think it will be before the "scientific consensus community" actually addresses the real problem?


There is an exchange of views on education over in Mail that's worth your time.




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WednesdayDecember 13

Friday the 13th falls on Wednesday this month

This comes from another conference, with permission.

Charles Murray on Immigration

What's my position on immigration? Well, since apparently someone asked (and I have never published anything on immigration), here goes.

Regarding illegal immigration:

1. Making laws about who gets to become a citizen, under what circumstances, is a legitimate function of the state.

2. Protecting borders is a legitimate function of the state.

3. Enforcing the law is a central function of the state.

4. Immigration reform must begin first with enforcement of existing immigration law. If it takes a wall, so be it.

5. And while I'm at it, I'll mention that English should be the only language in which public school classes are taught (except for teaching English as a foreign language) and in which the public's business is conducted.

Regarding legal immigration:

1. Immigration is one of the main reasons-I'm guessing the main reason apart from our constitution-that we have remained a vital, dynamic culture, but immigration of a particular sort: Self-selection whereby people come here for opportunity. That self-selection process used to apply to everyone. It still applies to the engineers and computer programmers and entrepreneurs who come here from abroad, but it is diluted for low-job-skill workers by the many economic benefits of just being in the United States. Most low-job-skill immigrants work very hard. But Milton Friedman was right: You can't have both open immigration and a welfare state. The tension between the two is inescapable.

2. Massive immigration of legal low-skill workers is problematic for many reasons, and some of them have to do with human capital. Yes, mean IQ does vary by ethnic group, and IQ tends to be below average in low-job-skill populations. One can grant all the ways in which smart people coming from Latin American or African countries are low-job-skill because they have been deprived of opportunity, and still be forced to accept the statistical tendencies. The empirical record established by scholars such as George Borjas at Harvard cannot be wished away.

3. I am not impressed by worries about losing America's Anglo-European identity. Some of the most American people I know are immigrants from other parts of the world. And I'd a hell of a lot rather live in a Little Vietnam or a Little Guatemala neighborhood, even if I couldn't read the store signs, than in many white-bread communities I can think of.

4. When it comes to the nitty-gritty, I would get rid of reuniting-families provisions, get rid of the you're-a-citizen-if-you're-born-here rule, and make immigrants ineligible for all benefits and social services except public education for their children. Everybody who immigrates has to be on a citizenship track (no guest workers). And I would endorse a literacy requirement. Having those measures in place, my other criteria for getting permission to immigrate would be fairly loose. Just having to get through the bureaucratic hoops will go a long way toward reinstalling a useful self-selection process. But, to go back to basics: None of this works unless illegal immigration is effectively ended.

I suppose other libertarians will disagree, but I don't see a single item in this approach that runs against the principles of classical liberalism.

Charles Murray

As usual I find that Dr. Murray makes good sense. I wish more sociologists did.


Intel has released yet another Quad-Core chip. As we said three years ago, the era of computing plenty is coming on fast. With sufficiency, emulation of any system by any other can be done invisibly and without noticeable slowing (do you care if responses are 100 or 200 milliseconds?).


Real or not, buzz around Apple `iPhone' grows FIRM COULD ALTER CELL PHONE MARKET By Troy Wolverton and Sarah Jane Tribble Mercury News

It's perhaps the most hyped consumer electronics product today, and it might not even exist: Apple's music phone.

Nobody seems to have seen it, at least nobody who's talking. Nobody quite knows what it will look like or how it will work. No one even knows what it will be called.

But just about everyone -- consumers, analysts, investors -- is convinced that Apple's working on one. And many are betting that the Cupertino company is going to unveil it at the Macworld conference in San Francisco next month.


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Thursday,   December 14, 2006

Today started off well but quickly degenerated. Oh, well. There's still work to be done.

We have mail on education in response to the previous discussions and observations.

Diatribes, Anecdotes, Evidence, and the Tree of Knowledge

There are new diatribes by Joanne Dow. She sends them daily and I update the page periodically.

I have a number of letters about her observations. One set protests that they are collections of anecdotes and hardly comprise any kind of scientific evidence, particularly for generalizing about a nation, much less an entire culture and religion. Of course this is exactly right. On the other hand, if there is ever to be a remedy to horrors, the horrors must be observed and discussed.

There are plenty of defects in Western civilization. The fundamental debate is whether these are defects: that is, is the basis of judgment that says mangers in the public square are unfair itself correct? What is the fountain of justice? How do we determine what is just, we who are descended from those who ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good an evil? What is evil? Is brutality to our enemies evil? Is brutality to animals evil? We generally believe it is, but: Why? Who has made it so?

We in the West seem to be building a consensus that inequality of result is evil in itself; that equality of opportunity is not only not enough, but is inherently unjust; that that needs to be continuous and ubiquitous state activity to produce equality of results in every conceivable competition except professional sports. Those are out debates.

When we look at non-Western cultures, we usually judge them by whether they are like us; but we know that is not a good basis. So on what grounds do we judge them? If we point to actions we believe are wrong, is this a bad thing to do?

I leave the argument there, and refer you to the Pope's Regensburg speech, still perhaps the most important presentation on ethics and morals of this young century. (Background here; text here.) The importance of this speech in intellectual history and moral philosophy has been lost in the aftermath of the Muslim reaction to the Pope's quotation of a emperor beset by those seeking his destruction; but that quotation and the reaction to it are themselves evidence of the importance of the debates. It is a fundamental question: Who, or What, is the fountain of justice? Is what we believe to be Good good because God wills it, or does God will it because it is good?


And now I will return to Purgatorio. And on a more modest level, Mamelukes, both of which have that question in their background, so to speak.


I have a new IBM ThinkPad. It's silver and it's gorgeous and it's amazing, and I need a name for him. Seems to be a masculine gender machine. I need a name.

I HAVE A NAME, and thanks to those who suggested better ones.  I will tell the story in the column; I ended up with a name I hadn't really intended, but we have it. Computers don't like having their names changed, so this will have to do.


Al Shugart, RIP

Disk drive pioneer Al Shugart dead CO-FOUNDER OF SEAGATE PASSES AWAY AT 76 By Ryan Blitstein Mercury News Al Shugart helped shape the billion-dollar hard drive industry. Special to the Mercury News Al Shugart helped shape the billion-dollar hard drive industry.

* Guestbook: Share condolences for Al Shugart

Alan Shugart, the iconic -- and iconoclastic -- co-founder of Seagate Technology, is dead at 76, according to the company.

One of the creators of the multi-billion dollar hard drive industry, Shugart was also well-known for colorful antics like running his dog for Congress.

He died at about 2 p.m. Tuesday at Community Hospital in Monterey. Shugart's health had declined following open-heart surgery six weeks ago. Until the day of his death, Shugart was still checking work e-mails involving Al Shugart International, his start-up incubator in Santa Cruz, according to his daughter, Teri Shugart.

The legendary Shugart and his business partner Finis Conner, co-founded Seagate in 1979 in time to make the industry's first 5 1/4-inch drives for the IBM personal computer.

I recall him well.

Alex observes

God Bless. Al was a born showman--I remember when he was booted from his own company he said the only job offer he had was putting up barb wire on his daughter's ranch, and he declined.




Once again Microsoft has done it to me.


I have a new IBM Laptop. I have managed to get it into my domain. I can see it from my other computers.  Naturally I cannot access it. Nor  will it access the domain. It can search active directory and find the names of other computers, but it can't access the domain itself.

I think the goal here is to make things so secure that people turn off all the security. Then when the bad guys get in, they can say "It wasn't our fault! You turned everything off!"

I hate this. I hate this a lot.

OK: I found that problem. I turned off the Windows Firewall. That didn't do it. But when I turned off the SYMANTEC PROTECTION FIREWALL that comes preinstalled, LO! My network works.

I HATE THAT.  There are no instructions on this. Just it disables things for you. Monsters. Garros, cabrones, hijos de -- I guess this is a family web site.

On Naming the new IBM ThinkPad which is wicked fast:

I HAVE A NAME, and thanks to those who suggested better ones.  I will tell the story in the column; I ended up with a name I hadn't really intended, but we have it. Computers don't like having their names changed, so this will have to do.


Global Warming:

Freeman Dyson, professor emeritus at Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton University, in an email interview:

"Climate change is a real problem, partly caused by human activities, but its importance has been grossly exaggerated. 

"It is far less important than other social problems such as poverty, infectious diseases, deforestation, extinction of species on land and in the sea, not to mention war, nuclear weapons and biological weapons. 

"We do not know whether the observed climate changes are on balance good or bad for the health of the biosphere.  And the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide as a fertilizer of plant growth are at least as important as its effects on climate."


I have long considered Freeman one of the sanest people on the planet. Even when we disagreed about Cold War strategies it was on a rational basis. I have no quarrel with his statement.

If we need to worry about WARMING, then go paint your roof white. If enough do that it will have an effect.

If the problem is CO2, then let's work on removing some of it, preferably in ways that let us release it again if we need it.

One thing is certain: Kyoto will do neither. Kyoto is like the old Hitler-Stalin pact as a test: any communist who followed the line ("German soldier have liberated the working people of Paris" when the Nazis marched down Champs Elysées) was hard core Stalinist, unresponsive to rational arguments. So are Kyoto adherents.


Neocons Want a Mulligan on Iraq.


-- Roland Dobbins

Indeed they do.



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Friday,  December 15, 2006

First, TITAN, the new Lenovo IBM Z61T ThinkPad, is not only wicked fast but beautiful, and is working fine; the problems I had can be overcome  and have to do with the preinstalled software, in particular the SYMANTEC system with its defaults that protect you from doing anything useful. All this will be covered in the column.

None of it changes the recommendation I made earlier: ThinkPads are the way to go if you want a Windows only laptop. I have some quibbles, and the fingerprint recognition software can drive you partly nuts, but those are quibbles; the machines work and once set up properly Just Work.


IQ and Education

Many of my essays are written in response to mail, but sometimes there is mail on subjects that I was intending to write an essay about anyway. This is one of those cases. The following mail asks questions I had intended to address.

Howdy Jerry,

I don't know if you've been following the latest brouhaha between Steve Sailer http://www.isteve.com/ and Malcom Gladwell. Essentially Malcom said that car dealers were subconsciously racist because they charge black customers more while Steve said they did it on purpose. Steve has been unquestionably combative with Gladwell since the start of his blog, but this blog-fight really escalated until ultimately Gladwell calls Sailer a racist.

Here is, with a few minor variations, a post I put on Steve's blog and I'd appreciate it if you would consider addressing it (I'm not asking/requiring you post my letter on your blog, though you can. I'd just like you to address my points if you would):

In the wake of the Sailer/Gladwell brouhaha I've been reading lots of comments and postings regarding race and people's response to the concept of inherent racial differences.

One of the feelings I'm getting from a variety of posters and pundits is that there may well be differences in racial ability, but what good comes from acknowledging it? The idea being that only someone who desires to denigrate black people would take an interest in the topic for the sole purpose of causing discord and pain to black people and society in general.

In fact, it seems to me that a great many people who tend to shout "racist" are in this position. There is too much data for educated people to not understand it.

Part of their thinking seems to be that differences in IQ tests MUST stem from racism and the poor treatment of black people. In other words in the realm of nature versus nurture the answer is obviously nurture and its white peoples'/America's fault that it is the case.

As such our only recourse as moral people is to shout down anyone who points out these differences as a racist (because clearly that can be their only motivation in speaking publicly about it) and work on ameliorating the root causes of the test score differences.

One might point out that rising test scores among the black population over the decades gives their position some cover and at least raises it as an arguable position.

In fact, my feeling is that the greatest part of problems within the black community are just that: culturally based problems stemming at least in part as a reaction to racism. Whether the shortfall is nature or nurture there is no innate compulsion that the black community be in the situation that it is now with the levels of crime/drugs/unemployment/fatherless children/etc.

So, I have reached a quandary. I don't enjoy being called a racist. It certainly isn't my intention to espouse racist ideology. I have no desire to purge Amerikkka of "mudbloods" or other insane thinking.

I gave the example in another thread: Jerry Pournelle points out that accepting the current reality might help policy makers to develop strategies that can help inner city blacks more than our current stop-up-the-ears and yell, "Racist!" course. Acknowledging the current gap in test scores, whatever their cause, makes presuming that inner city schools should function as a college prep that for a large percentage of the students is unrealistic for a host of reasons. Instead allowing the option of vocational training that gives students the ability to pursue high paying/skilled blue collar jobs would be tremendously beneficial for lower IQ people whatever their race.

At the moment I'm disheartened. I've allowed myself to feel dirty because I've read so many voices calling me racist, bigoted, hate-filled and generally evil. I'm considered the sort of person who should not even be tolerated must less engaged in discourse.

What is the proper stance to take on these controversial issues? Can any GOOD come from looking at this situation and simply saying, "Look, this is the situation as it is now. Whatever the cause we need to address it forthrightly and try to find a way forward that deals with reality as it is rather than what we wish it to be."

Or is such an approach doomed to failure? Only causing more problems, distrust, anger and social chaos.

Perhaps, in this case, the truth doesn't set you free. Let's say that the public fully accepts that blacks on average, at this time -- for whatever reason, are less intelligent than whites. Is that a good and positive thing? How much damage would that do to the already fragile psyches (as witnessed by the many social pathologies within the black community) of black people? What kind of negative reactions would this cause in other races?

Maybe, since I'm not a policy maker, I should just close my eyes and mouth the expected pieties. I'm not saying join in the two minute hate against people like Sailer. But, what good can come of an average guy on the street doing anything else?

That's my question of the moment.

Gerald Hibbs

Your question is astute and important.

The evidence that mean IQ's differ by racial groups, and that a great deal of what we do is predisposed if not determined by heredity -- and thus is influenced by race -- is nearly overwhelming. IQ remains the best single predictor of success in intellectual activities, and IQ is about 60% determined by heredity. There is room for discussion about that 60% number, but it's pretty solid.

Your question is: given that mean IQ is different for different racial groups, so what? Does this have any meaning for public policy, since it is certainly true that individual members of the racial groups can be way above or way below the mean (average) IQ of the group? I personally know brilliant black men and women and abysmally stupid white men and women. I know stupid Ashkenazi Jews even though so far as I know the Ashkenazim as a group have the highest mean IQ of any large hereditarily defined group. Since we can't use the mean IQ when dealing with individuals, what good is it for public policy? Why is it useful to know that different racial groups have different mean IQ's?

It is useful to this extent: if you understand that IQ's differ among racial groups, you will stop expecting equal racial outcomes when there is fair competiti0n. That is: in activities predicted by IQ we do not expect to see numbers of each race in the high achievement group proportional to that race's percentage in the population; and the fact that we see unequal outcomes will not be taken as prima facie evidence that the measurements of success are unfair.

We do not expect 12% of the physics professors to be black, nor do we expect that only 2 or 3% of them will be Ashkenazi Jews: or at least we shouldn't expect that result, and if we do see it, we are justified in concluding that there is something other than competence at physics at work here.

Taking the opposite view: that there must be numbers proportionate to the population frequencies among all the professions, leads to increased numbers of marginally competent people in those professions. This isn't a "racist" statement; it's inevitable.

If we insisted that basketball teams reflect the racial composition of the United States, with proportionate numbers of Asians in NBA teams, and concluded that because there are so few Asian professional basketball players the NBA is racist, you would think us mad.

Part Two

This is not Lake Wobegon. Half the children are below average. Half the children cannot benefit from a traditional college education. Half the children cannot benefit from "a world class university preparatory education." The good news is that they don't need one.

College is not a good place to acquire skills and skill sets. Skills are taught by practice, repetition, drill and kill. They are not taught by education, which is training in ways of thinking, manipulating abstract symbols, doing mathematics and statistical inferences. At least half the populace will never be very good at manipulating abstract symbols. At least half the population will never understand statistical inferences (real statistical inference including understanding the fit of the mathematical model to the population, not just mechanically cranking out numbers with an ANOVA program). At least half the population is not smart enough to be physicians. At least half the population is not smart enough to be registered nurses.

The good news is that it doesn't matter all that much. People not smart enough to benefit from colleges did very well building this country. The American people are smart enough to have built a First World economy, and to manage it quite well. This isn't a country built by eggheads, and the most eggheaded president we ever had, Woodrow Wilson, didn't do a very good job of keeping us out of the Great War nor of doing anything useful with the victory. The Jacobin-inspired patchwork built out of Wilsonian idealism didn't fare very well or for very long. Eggheads build their model worlds in their heads, and act as if their models are real, and soon enough they are trying to force people to act as if the model were true.

There is a place in this world for the children who are below average. They won't become eggheads, but they certainly can become useful citizens. They won't profit from an education that makes them apprentice eggheads; they would do far better at being apprentice plumbers, electricians, carpenters, construction workers, machine shop workers, truck drivers, soldiers and sailors, insurance salespeople, store clerks, and for that matter teachers of those skills. What they need is training in the kind of work they can do.

Part Three

The problem is that the eggheads seem to have convinced everyone that the only thing worth doing is to become an egghead, and if one never gets to be an egghead one's life is ruined.  And since at least half the population is never going to be successful at eggheadery, at least half the population is doomed to failure.

The egghead notion that the only thing that make life worth living is to become an egghead, and the egghead notion that all people are equal and have equal capabilities to become eggheads, has produced a terrible situation in which, in the mad race to leave no child behind, leaves a good part of the population behind. We have built a school system whose only purpose is to turn out apprentice eggheads, and by doing that we have structured a system in which most of the potential eggheads are shortchanged while the rest of the population is doomed to failure.

This is insane.

As to why the schools can't even produce good eggheads, it's obvious to anyone studying the data -- something our lamebrained eggheads manqué have never learned to do. The simple truth is that learning to be an eggheads isn't easy, and requires teaching methods that just won't work with at least half of the population -- yet the classes are carefully designed to eliminate "tracking" and to guarantee that at least half those in the classroom with our budding young eggheads are below average, not able to profit much from egghead training. And since teachers hate to fail, they discover that if they teach the eggheads much eggheadery the rest of their students will fail dismally, they soon put all their effort into the majority in the classroom -- that is, into teaching them a few simple facts and some ways to make use of those facts; and into drilling them until they learn to pass tests.

And the real potential eggheads in that classroom contemplate suicide from boredom.

The simple truth is that smart people do better in the company of smart people, and this is true whether they have gathered together to learn, or to write computer programs, or design atomic bombs, or devise policies for insurance by examining tons of statistical data. We all know this, because, of course, nearly everyone who has read this far is an egghead. We all know that when we are set to do something, it's a lot easier if everyone in the group can be assumed to understand simple instructions and to keep up; when we don't have to set the pace to someone who's a really nice chap but just doesn't get it very well and has to have it explained over and over again.

Some of you reading this may not have any notion of what I am talking about because you were fortunate enough never to have to do intellectually challenging work with average people in your work group. Blessings to you, but you'll just have to use your imagination. The rest of you know precisely what I am talking about.

Part Four

So what has all this to do with race and IQ?

Just this: if the world functions better when eggheads are educated and the rest are taught skills, then we must identify the eggheads and move them to education systems designed for eggheads, and the ordinary people into education systems designed to teach practical skills like automobile repair, electrical installation to meet building codes, etc., etc. And when we do that, then if it is true - as alas and regrettably it is -- that the mean IQ's of different races are not only unequal but in some cases spectacularly unequal -- we will find that the racial composition of our two groups is spectacularly unlike the distribution of those races in the general population. Our egghead group will be topheavy with Asians and Ashkenazi Jews, then whites, and then Latino and Blacks. It will be just the opposite over in the skill set group: sure, lots of whites, but far fewer Asians, and far more Latinos and Blacks.

This is inevitable. It is inevitable because IQ is the best predictor we have of success in the egghead profession. It will be true because the ability to manipulate symbols is unequally distributed across the races.

And since the ability to manipulate symbols is not equal, there are going to be many who simply cannot understand the argument and will insist that if the various races are not equally represented in the two groups there must be discrimination going on. And of course they will be right: there is discrimination, but it is discrimination by ability to manipulate symbols, and because that ability is not distributed equally among the races, the result we obtained follows as the night the day, and there is not one damned thing we can do about it except to devise tests less useful at predicting success. Which is to negate the point of the enterprise.

Now: up to now I have simplified by pretending that there are only two main groups here, those fit to be eggheads and those fit to be almost everything else.

But the fact of the matter is that those two groups are themselves divisible. Moreover, some people have both capabilities: they have both the smarts to learn symbol manipulation, and the temperament to learn skills. And, alas, some people have neither and aren't likely to profit from any general education system we can devise: they have "special needs", indeed, indeed, and they aren't going to fit into any mainstream, and to the extent that we try to put them in with the mainstream we shortchange the vast majority for a tiny benefit for a group that isn't likely to be useful in building a First World civilization to begin with. These are legal issues, and a lot of eggheads make a lot of money manipulating the system, insisting on "equal rights" and "mainstreaming" and then -- suprise! -- insisting that the general education system change itself to accommodate those who were only asking to be treated like everyone else. And so it goes.

Part Five and Conclusion

I am not sure there is a conclusion. It's pretty clear, if you study the data, that eggheads are best educated by and among other eggheads. Worse, the brightest eggheads thrive when put among other birds of that feather. It's clear enough that this can be carried too far.

How we divide our school system; how many "tracks" we have; these are matters for public discussion. Of course they are not much discussed because the education establishment is probably the best example of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy ever seen, and the way it is organized at present is very suitable to Their Highnesses who run the system. But since it is producing such disgraceful results that even the smartest eggheads can't hide how abysmally bad it has become, we may one day get the chance to make a redesign.

If that day ever comes, we will need to take account of all the data: of what we know, not just what we wish were true.

The truth may not set you free; but it's pretty clear that ignoring the truth leads to absurdities like No Child Left Behind. We all know the only way that to be sure no child is left behind is to be certain that no children get ahead.

And making sure that no children get ahead is to abandon the notion that our children will be able to sustain, much less, rebuild the First World Civilization that we want for them -- and for that matter, for ourselves when we get old and dotty.


Interestingly enough, for those who believe IQ is the bunk:

HEALTH | December 16, 2006
On the Brink: In Raising the World's I.Q., the Secret's in the Salt By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
Kazakhstan's iodized salt campaign is an example of how a country can achieve a remarkable public health success.


The author may not know it, but he has said: IQ is important; and a mean 15 point IQ difference is an intolerable disadvantage to a nation. Both of which are true, but not part of the received wisdom of which the New York Times generally partakes. But here is real world data beating up on the received wisdom.



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Saturday, December 16, 2006

My apologies. I was in the middle of the essay above when Niven came over for a hike. We went to lunch. I worked on fiction. I was so tired afterwards that I didn't finish the essay.

I finished it this morning. You will find it above.

I wonder how long it will be before I get mail calling me a racist, and more mail telling me that IQ measures nothing and is determined entirely by cultural factors and the tests are themselves racist.

The trouble with eggheadery is that we eggheads compulsively build models of the world. We can't help it.

Worse, though, is that we may not build formal models and test them against reality. We may just build them in our heads from incidents in our lives. Again we can't help it: anecdotal data is about all most of us have. There are other sources of evidence, but unless we're being paid to look at them, we sort of go with what we have. After all, we're pretty smart.

But then we take those models so seriously that we insist the world conform to our model rather than modify the model when the world hits us hard with evidence that the model is cuckoo.

But that's the nature of the egghead business. Now go read my essay.







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Sunday,  December 17, 2006

I've been working on the Column and Mailbab. The education discussion will continue next week.



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