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nyan_sandwich comments on Rationality Quotes November 2012 - Less Wrong

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Comment author: MugaSofer 14 November 2012 02:02:47PM -1 points [-]

Every (neurotypical) human I have ever observed, even indirectly, terminally valued human life. Have you ever met a racist? They're not evil mutants, they simply don't think minorities are people (and may think they are an active threat to "real" humans.) Of course, a mind that terminally values killing humans is possible. I simply haven't seen any evidence that it exists in real life, and plenty of evidence for minds with a stable CEV that terminally values human life (among other things.)

Comment author: wedrifid 14 November 2012 02:33:14PM *  11 points [-]

[Racist people] simply don't think minorities are people (and may think they are an active threat to "real" humans.)

Just not true. Not all racist people are confused on matters of fact in such a convenient way.

Comment author: MugaSofer 15 November 2012 09:50:05PM 1 point [-]

In my experience, they are. Could you provide a counterexample? Bearing in mind that I was using "people" to exclude evil mutants.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 November 2012 01:40:00AM 1 point [-]

In my experience, they are. [confused on basic matters of fact]. Could you provide a counterexample?

You could call me a proto-racist in that I think that some races are more intelligent than others, more civilized, more violent, while still very much human.

There are no confusions of fact between me and someone who hates people of "lesser" races, only a lack of compassion.

Comment author: Peterdjones 16 November 2012 11:47:15AM -1 points [-]

And there I was thinking civilisation was memetic, not genetic.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 November 2012 04:51:21PM -1 points [-]

No one said it was genetic.

People always assume that acknowledgeing a trait in a person requires you to have an explanation for it. And then they note that all possible explanations are politically controverisal, so they conclude that the trait does not actually exist. This is bad logic, as far as I can tell.

The fact is, race is a good predictor of things like civilization, intelligence, violence, etc. I offer no explanations.

Comment author: Abd 17 November 2012 02:00:31AM *  1 point [-]

The fact is, race is a good predictor of things like civilization, intelligence, violence, etc. I offer no explanations.

Eh? What is this thing you call "race," Earth Monkey?

We used to think the answer was obvious. You know, it's obvious what "race" someone is, isn't it? Until you start to look at the details.

Race is a cultural convention. There is a science of population genetics, and it isn't about "race." Rather, people use population genetics to infer the social marker called "race."

I adopted an African girl. What "race" is she? What determines this? She has tribal markings on her eyes -- or the scars from tribal medicine for conjunctivitis, hard to tell -- but the markings are characteristic of her region and tribe, so someone who knows could tell where she comes from, as to the region.

I once had a friend tell me that my Chinese daughter was, of course, going to be more intelligent than the Ethiopian girl. The Chinese daughter is no slouch, intellectually, but her younger sister is definitely smart as hell. My friend was a racist. Lots of people are racist. That is, they believe that race is a biological or even a "spiritual" reality. He wasn't being mean, he was just being ignorant.

Comment author: Vaniver 17 November 2012 03:17:18AM *  4 points [-]

I adopted an African girl. What "race" is she? What determines this?

What determines it? Ancestry. Race is basically a way of asking "who were your ancestors?" and accepting a blurry answer because, well, each person has a lot of ancestors! That version of race is obviously a biological reality, because people have different ancestries, even going back long distances, and the ancestry distribution can be geographically plotted. If you go back thirty generations for me, I would need to have about a billion distinct ancestors for there to be no inbreeding; the entire world didn't have that many people! Europe, the probable source for most of my ancestry, only had about 50 million people thirty generations ago, and even then it's unlikely that all of them are my ancestors- for one, many of them didn't have any children! I'd estimate somewhere less than 10% of the total world population at any point since 1000 AD is in my ancestry, and the distribution of their contribution to my ancestry is pretty localized. It's probable there's many people out there who share none of my ancestry for a full thirty generations back, and there's one who (probably) shares it completely.

Knowing she was adopted from Africa, odds are good that she's mostly African. That's only one step more informative than "human," since it only gives you the archaic racial category- Negroid- which tells you as much as "Caucasoid" or "Mongoloid." Ethnicity would give a much narrower picture- about one person in six is African, but only about one person in four thousand is Gurage.

Adding on the data that she's Ethiopian muddies the picture- due to its northeastern position, Ethiopia has been the site of significant mixing, and there's quite a bit of ethnic diversity: the primary ethnicity, Oromo, is only a third of the population- your Chinese daughter, though, most likely has significant Han ancestry (92% of the population of mainland China).

So, using the archaic terms and assuming she's from one of the more prevalent ethnicities, your daughter probably has about 60% Caucasoid ancestry and 40% Negroid ancestry.

I once had a friend tell me that my Chinese daughter was, of course, going to be more intelligent than the Ethiopian girl.

So, good IQ estimates in Africa are generally hard to come by, but Ethiopia supposedly has the world's lowest average IQ, at 63 (administered in 1991, sample size of 250), and China is estimated to have an average IQ of 100. Working off that data (and assuming both groups have a standard deviation of 15), that gives a 96% chance that the Chinese daughter is smarter. Now, the Ethiopian data is spotty, especially the normality assumption- one of the pitfalls of historic IQ testing is that 0 scores are treated as 0s, dragging down the average, instead of an separate number of "people who didn't understand the concept of the test." It's also not clear what selection effects adoption has; children that get adopted out are likely to not be representative of the country as a whole, and it's hard to say if that would be a positive or negative effect. If we use the African American average IQ of 85 instead of the estimated Ethiopian averaged IQ, and still assume that we should use the Chinese average, we get a 76% chance that the Chinese daughter is cleverer.

Of course, given that they're your daughters, there's not much reason to guess; you could just get them both tested, which would be way cheaper and more informative than sponsoring another test of Ethiopian national IQ.

Comment author: Abd 17 November 2012 02:50:26PM -1 points [-]

I adopted an African girl. What "race" is she? What determines this?

What determines it? Ancestry. Race is basically a way of asking "who were your ancestors?" and accepting a blurry answer because, well, each person has a lot of ancestors!

That is not what "race" means when people use the word. Race is a division of humanity into categories. Who determines the categories? Do those categories naturally occur? On what does the "race" category depend? Can "race" be identified visually? Can it be genetically determined?

Yes, if you divide people up into "races," or into geographical population groups, and study their genetics, you can find statistical significance, but the two divisions will produce differing evaluations for individuals.

The classic way to identify someone's "race" involves identifying one's own group visually (and sometimes behaviorally, perhaps through dialect or language), and then lumping together those who don't seem to match "my race" into other groups. That is why someone who is "mixed race" will be lumped into the "other group," until the mixture becomes small enough to not be visible. How people perceive themselves is irrelevant to this process.

"Race" is a racist concept, naturally. The word "racist" is hot, and gets mixed up with racial chauvinism, but that's distracting. I use "racism" to refer to the belief in race as an objective reality.

That version of race is obviously a biological reality, because people have different ancestries, even going back long distances, and the ancestry distribution can be geographically plotted.

I wrote that population genetics was a reality. Race is not. It's arbitrary, and race is not scientifically defined. The conclusion is a non sequitur. Race has been totally discredited academically, and that's not just political correctness.

Knowing she was adopted from Africa, odds are good that she's mostly African.

Odds are entirely that she is African, i.e., she was born in Africa. I know that her grandparents were born in Africa, in her tribal region. Beyond that, I don't know. Probably it goes back further, but there are always strays.

If her ancestry plot maintains "African" location, say entirely, back, say, 20 generations, does that mean that she is racially "African"? I hope you'd know that this could give results that might seem preposterous to those who depend on visual identification of "race."

The basic question is being ignored. How is "race" identified? As used, my "race" does not depend on where I was born. It depends on ... what? Where someone else was born? Who, specifically? What lumps all these people together? And separates them from others, who might look quite the same?

That's only one step more informative than "human," since it only gives you the archaic racial category- Negroid- which tells you as much as "Caucasoid" or "Mongoloid."

"Archaic racial category." So race is being used to define race? Those are just as you stated, "racial" categories, which assumes some identity based on ... what?

Ethnicity would give a much narrower picture- about one person in six is African, but only about one person in four thousand is Gurage.

Adding on the data that she's Ethiopian muddies the picture- due to its northeastern position, Ethiopia has been the site of significant mixing, and there's quite a bit of ethnic diversity: the primary ethnicity, Oromo, is only a third of the population- your Chinese daughter, though, most likely has significant Han ancestry (92% of the population of mainland China).

Lucky guess about my Chinese daughter. The one-child policy impacts Han Chinese the most.

However, "Ethiopian" tells you almost nothing about "race." Let's start with this: Each tribal grouping in Ethiopia, by default, considers itself to be very different from the others. There are over seventy such groupings in Ethiopia, if we mark them by language.

So, using the archaic terms and assuming she's from one of the more prevalent ethnicities, your daughter probably has about 60% Caucasoid ancestry and 40% Negroid ancestry.

Unlikely, in fact. She's from the Kambata-Timbaro Tribal Region, her native language was Kambatigna. It's a minor ethnicity, there are maybe a few hundred thousand Kambata.

In the U.S., she is readily identified by people as "Black." She doesn't look "Ethiopian" (which is popularly known through high-Arab ancestry general appearance). Is "Black" a race? What defines it?

I once had a friend tell me that my Chinese daughter was, of course, going to be more intelligent than the Ethiopian girl.

So, good IQ estimates in Africa are generally hard to come by, but Ethiopia supposedly has the world's lowest average IQ, at 63 (administered in 1991, sample size of 250), and China is estimated to have an average IQ of 100. Working off that data (and assuming both groups have a standard deviation of 15), that gives a 96% chance that the Chinese daughter is smarter.

Was that a test administered racially, or was it according to how and where the child was raised and tested?

What kind of intelligence was measured? Intelligence generally confers survival value, but the form of intelligence selected shifts with environment.

Garbage in, garbage out.

Of course, given that they're your daughters, there's not much reason to guess; you could just get them both tested, which would be way cheaper and more informative than sponsoring another test of Ethiopian national IQ.

Ethiopian "national IQ" is totally irrelevant. Somehow, Ethiopia, with that supposedly low IQ, managed, almost uniquely in Africa, to avoid extended outside control, with an ancient and literate culture.

What I personally know is that, possibly contrary to stereotypes, the Ethiopian girl is highly competitive, she stars at whatever she does, the Chinese girl -- raised here since she was under a year old -- is shyer and suffers from the shadow of her younger sister. Both girls have no difficulty figuring out how to do what they want on computers. I have no confidence that IQ tests would tell me much of value, though at some point both girls will be tested to determine if they belong in "gifted" programs.

My racist friend knew nothing about my daughter's ethnicity, he was judging entirely on "African," based on his early experience with "Blacks" on the street in America (are they "African"?) , which wasn't, shall we say, "positive."

Comment author: [deleted] 20 November 2012 02:31:52AM 4 points [-]

Sorry I ddin't read all of your wall of text yet, but I find it fishy that you're allowed to redefine "racism" to mean "non-hating acknowledgement of differences due to ancestry" but Vaniver isn't allowed to use race in the normal sense of "what's ur ancestry?".

Comment author: [deleted] 17 November 2012 09:35:50PM *  1 point [-]

It's probable there's many people out there who share none of my ancestry for a full thirty generations back,

Yep. The most recent common ancestor of living humans lived at least a couple millennia (i.e. about seventy generations) ago. (EDIT: I'm not fully convinced that that implies that for any time t later than that, there's at least one with you no ancestry at time t. I'm too tired to trust my cognitive abilities right now.)

and there's one who (probably) shares it completely.

Do you have any reason in particular to suspect that you and your sibling may have different biological fathers, or is the “probably” a 1-is-not-a-probability self-nitpick?

Comment author: Vaniver 17 November 2012 11:47:45PM 1 point [-]

Do you have any reason in particular to suspect that you and your sibling may have different biological fathers, or is the “probably” a 1-is-not-a-probability self-nitpick?

It's not "1-is-not-a-probability" so much as it is "the base rate of this is not 0"; there's also the chance that I was switched at birth (hospitals are much better at avoiding this now than they have been in the past). If my family signs up for 23andMe, then the probability will either shoot up towards 1 or drop down to negligible, but until then I'm going with the base rate.

Comment author: [deleted] 17 November 2012 09:14:15PM *  0 points [-]

Now, the Ethiopian data is spotty,

It's also not clear what selection effects adoption has;

Also, probably the effects of nurture contribute to keeping their average IQ that low; it seems unlikely to me that the fact that the average IQ of African Americans is 22 points higher is entirely due to the European genetic admixture in the latter. (EDIT: And I hadn't even noticed you mentioned Ethiopians have lots of Caucasoid ancestry too!)

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 21 November 2012 12:05:12AM *  1 point [-]

Eh? What is this thing you call "race," Earth Monkey?

Genetically differentiated human populations defined by phenotype.

"Race is a cultural convention."

A quote from wikipedia:

"Forensic physical anthropologist and professor George W. Gill has said that the idea that race is only skin deep "is simply not true, as any experienced forensic anthropologist will affirm" and "Many morphological features tend to follow geographic boundaries coinciding often with climatic zones. This is not surprising since the selective forces of climate are probably the primary forces of nature that have shaped human races with regard not only to skin color and hair form but also the underlying bony structures of the nose, cheekbones, etc. (For example, more prominent noses humidify air better.)" While he can see good arguments for both sides, the complete denial of the opposing evidence "seems to stem largely from socio-political motivation and not science at all". He also states that many biological anthropologists see races as real yet "not one introductory textbook of physical anthropology even presents that perspective as a possibility. In a case as flagrant as this, we are not dealing with science but rather with blatant, politically motivated censorship".

Comment author: RobbBB 21 November 2012 12:22:06AM *  1 point [-]

The input is the claim 'Race is a cultural convention.' You output the interpretation: 'None of the phenotypic variations associated with any racial schema are physically real; they are hallucinations or figments.' Given how transparently ridiculous the assertion is, one must at least take a moment to pause and reconsider whether the anthropologists' claim is really what you take it to be.

Perhaps what is being denied is not the existence of morphological variation between human populations, but rather the conceptualization of these differences under the traditional concept of Race, with its assumptions of discreteness and of other markers of cultural and bio-diversity strictly mapping on to a small set of physiognomic markers. Perhaps what is also being asserted is that the precise boundaries between races, and how large or small a 'race' gets to be, is culturally constructed and varies across different groups possessing 'race'-like categories. Is it more likely that anthropologists are speaking somewhat loosely and infelicitously, or that they think the existence of darker and lighter skins in different parts of the world is a Grand Alien Conspiracy?

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 21 November 2012 01:25:39AM *  2 points [-]

Given how I might have said/believed something similar myself just a couple years back, I think I know what is meant. You get a photo of Colin Powell and he was about light-skinned as Bush -- so since different people of the same skin-hue are one called 'white' and the other 'black', one thinks it might the division may be entirely a cultural artifact.

Also there's no single characteristic which doesn't fluctuate gradually across populations -- so any grouping seems again entirely arbitrary.

But a visual that got me to understand the above view was too-simplistic was this graph here at Lewontin's argument and criticism. Though any one characteristic wouldn't suffice to divide humanity meaningfully into races, several characterics taken together in can form clusters...

So such groupings are in fact meaningful.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 21 November 2012 09:11:39PM 1 point [-]

The input is the claim 'Race is a cultural convention.' You output the interpretation: 'None of the phenotypic variations associated with any racial schema are physically real; they are hallucinations or figments.' Given how transparently ridiculous the assertion is, one must at least take a moment to pause and reconsider whether the anthropologists' claim is really what you take it to be.

The problem is that when asked to justify that statement 'Race is a cultural convention' anthropologists in interpret it in the way you describe in your second paragraph, but they than proceed to use it in arguments as if it means 'None of the phenotypic variations (except possibly skin color) associated with any racial schema are physically real; they are hallucinations or figments'.

Comment author: MugaSofer 16 November 2012 11:35:32PM 1 point [-]

The fact is, race is a good predictor of things like civilization, intelligence, violence, etc.

Better than, say, poverty? Source please.

Comment author: Vaniver 17 November 2012 01:35:03AM *  6 points [-]

Make sure you're distinguishing between the claim that P(intelligence = x|income = i) = P(intelligence = x|race = r,income = i), which would be that poverty screens off the effects of race, and the claim that P(intelligence = x|race = r) = P(intelligence = x), which is the claim that intelligence and race are unconditionally independent. The first claim is only relevant to nyan_sandwich's claim if by "good" you mean "better than income" rather than "worth knowing."

As it stands, both of those claims are pretty obviously false if you take a look an unbiased look at the data. Life is not fair.

Comment author: [deleted] 21 November 2012 01:33:28PM 2 points [-]

The left-hand side of the first equation was supposed to be P(intelligence = x|income = i)?

Comment author: Vaniver 21 November 2012 03:50:11PM 1 point [-]

Yes, it was. Thanks for the correction!

Comment author: MugaSofer 17 November 2012 05:37:00PM 1 point [-]

By poverty, I meant background, not income (which is determined by background to an extent, along with talent and so on.). Just a point of clarification there. And yes, I was claiming both that poverty screens off race. However, note that it was not merely intelligence - a much more plausible claim - but violent tendencies and "civilization".

Comment author: [deleted] 20 November 2012 02:21:20AM 0 points [-]

I've retracted the civilization thing because it's not clear what it even means.

do you think violent tendency is less corellated with race than intelligence? (it depends where we are talking about. I would expect only a very weak link here in my hometown (vancouver), a strong link in US and european cities)

Comment author: AlexanderD 17 November 2012 09:01:46AM *  1 point [-]

What do you mean by "race?" I notice a lot of discussion below on this topic already, but the term is unclear to me, and I don't see how anyone can usefully disagree or agree without this information. Some people use "race" to indicate loose groupings based around skin color, whereas others mean much more strictly a specific genetic group.

Incidentally, there is no canonical "race," just generally-agreed upon loose labels that vary from person to person. Because of this, it is generally not useful for predicting anything, and should be avoided, I think. A "white person" from Sicily and a "white person" from Iceland do not have much more in common with each other than they might with a disparate other range of people, so it's not a meaningful grouping (except perhaps when speaking of historical things). It is wiser to be more exact.

There's the additional danger that you will be misunderstood, and that someone will (very reasonably) think that you are advocating simple-minded racism of a common sort. Saying "race is a good predictor of things like civilization, intelligence," etc. is a fairly specific sort of social code, and if you don't actually mean that "black people are dumb" or "Asians can't drive," (and I'm not saying that you necessarily do) then you should find another sort of phrasing.

Comment author: [deleted] 20 November 2012 02:44:46AM 0 points [-]

Incidentally, there is no canonical "race," just generally-agreed upon loose labels that vary from person to person.

yes, "race" as normally used is woefully underdefined.

Because of this, it is generally not useful for predicting anything, and should be avoided, I think.

Woah there. To the extent you can agree on a test for race, it will be useful for prediction. Obviously some tests (actual genetic heritage) will be more interesting that others "lol what's ur skin color". As you say:

A "white person" from Sicily and a "white person" from Iceland do not have much more in common with each other than they might with a disparate other range of people, so it's not a meaningful grouping (except perhaps when speaking of historical things). It is wiser to be more exact.

Yes, agree. Let's be specific enough so that we all agree which set of people we are talking about, and agree that that is a meaningful grouping. Then I think we will find that membership in that set will predict many things.

There's the additional danger that you will be misunderstood, and that someone will (very reasonably) think that you are advocating simple-minded racism of a common sort. Saying "race is a good predictor of things like civilization, intelligence," etc. is a fairly specific sort of social code, and if you don't actually mean that "black people are dumb" or "Asians can't drive," (and I'm not saying that you necessarily do) then you should find another sort of phrasing.

Saying that race is a good predictor of such things is roughly equivalent to saying "black people are dumb" or whatever (with suitable disclaimers of probabilisticness that really should not be needed on this site). Call that simple minded if you like; I'd rather be right than high-minded.

(and just-so it's clear, racially-based (or anything-based, really) hatred is stupid and unproductive. compassion is so much nicer.)

Comment author: AlexanderD 21 November 2012 06:14:53AM *  1 point [-]

To the extent you can agree on a test for race, it will be useful for prediction. Obviously some tests (actual genetic heritage) will be more interesting that others "lol what's ur skin color".

I would suggest that most people do have a common test for race. It is something along the lines of, "To what extent does this person match a small set of specific physical characteristics?" For someone to be "black" in many places in modern America, it means that their skin tone is relatively dark, their lips are big, their nose is wide, and so on. But of course, this tends to fall apart under close scrutiny, and is complicated by a lot of cultural baggage, like the fact that "white" is the default, so those of mixed-race are often identified with (or themselves choose to identify with) their minority identity. A prominent example is President Obama, who has few of the physical characteristics of the stereotypical "black" person. This is why it is a very sloppy and pretty useless label, and even though most people agree on a "test," it remains so.

Saying that race is a good predictor of such things is roughly equivalent to saying "black people are dumb" or whatever (with suitable disclaimers of probabilisticness that really should not be needed on this site). Call that simple minded if you like; I'd rather be right than high-minded.

Of course, it's absolutely better to be right. But it's very difficult to determine whether you are right or wrong without rigorous definition of your terms and inquiry. You think that race correlates with other traits, and I agree - but only with strong caveats and reservations, particularly when it comes to questions of causation. That's why I began by asking: what do you mean by "race"?

EDIT: You appear to be engaged in several other discussions along these lines, so please just let me know if you consider this one is too parallel to the others to be useful. It can be difficult to explain yourself to several people all at the same time, I know.

Comment author: [deleted] 21 November 2012 04:08:33PM -1 points [-]

See this for my full opinion on all of this. Anything I said that contradicts that is deprecated.

The quick version of what I mean by "race" is those things that are both heritable and clustered with visible and genetic markers. Not exactly the classic definition of "race" because it includes memetic heritage as well as genetic.

Comment author: Peterdjones 16 November 2012 04:57:39PM 1 point [-]

I thought genes had something to do with race, but feel free to clarify.

The fact is, race is a good predictor of things like civilization, intelligence, violence, etc.

Across cultures?

Comment author: DaFranker 16 November 2012 05:01:56PM 1 point [-]

Across cultures?

Currently unknown, since they are strongly correlated anyway; race is also a good predictor of cultures.

Comment author: Peterdjones 16 November 2012 05:39:48PM -2 points [-]

Not really. There are people of just about every race in just about every culture.

Comment author: DaFranker 16 November 2012 05:48:28PM *  2 points [-]

I show you a picture of an asian person (if you're good at distinguishing them, you notice they're of Japanese ethnicity, specifically) that you do not know, and it is obvious that I've photoshopped clothing, background, and other environmental visual cues that could reveal that person's culture. You only have their body frame and their face to work with.

What is your probability assignment that this person is of generic asian (japanese) culture, as opposed to any other culture (e.g. that of amazon hunter-gatherer tribes)? Is this probability equal to that for any other culture, as per an even-distribution hypothesis?

Comment author: [deleted] 20 November 2012 02:06:18AM 0 points [-]

Come on, man. Do you even probability?