More evidence for my hypothesis on South Asians vis-a-vis East Asians

Link to comment on Steve Hsu’s blog. The “my hypothesis” in the title is with reference to one of my previous blog posts. Content copy-pasted below.


In pure-visual ability, above data clearly indicated East Asian ability. Naturally they excel in STEM field.

But in silicon valley, South Asian engineers move up easily in corporate world. Advancing in corporate world is depending more on social skill than engineering skill. South Asian also display strong social skill as result of people from high density origin.

Some Chinese American engineers told me about their experience in silicon valley. They did most work while Indian colleagues seems not able to do much. But once the project is done, these Indian colleagues are fantastic at putting everybody’s work together and present to the superiors. These Indian American are natural conference presenters. Good social skill gets all credits for career advance.

Indeed, making other thinking you smart is more important than wether you are really smart in subjective world (social dependency world). This is so true for most part of world.

When objective measurement is criteria, you get totally different picture because God is judge here. Human opinion is meaningless.


The Brahmins

The cognitive and personality profile, and overall achievement package, of Indians as a group is a rather interestingly unbalanced one. Sometimes they do spectacular things, like discovering the infinite series for trigonometric functions of sine, cosine, tangent, and arctangent as early as the 14th century, producing a good number of real geniuses like Ramanujan and Satyendra Nath Bose, and reaching Mars orbit on its first attempt, being the first Asian nation to do so, and doing so at a small fraction of the cost expended by NASA. An IMO gold medalist I talk to once said to me that there are probably more Indians than Chinese with IQ 160+ due to very high Brahmin IQ that has stabilized (meaning regression to a stable high Brahmin mean as opposed to the low Indian mean) over millennia of inbreeding within caste. I thought maybe. Certainly, I do sometimes get the impression that Indians, at least in science, are better than Chinese at breeding the type of genius with the right combination of technical ability and scientific discernment that manages to discover radically deep and groundbreaking science in a very independent and spectacular fashion. The Chinese have produced geniuses of the highest order (or close) in science the 20th century, like Chen Ning Yang in theoretical physics and Shing-Shen Chern in pure math, with Yang-Mills and Chern classes ubiquitous now in the literature of their respective fields, which are now very intertwined. However, they did so only after much training, exposure, and reinforcement based on the whole framework of modern science developed in the West over many centuries, and ancient China, on the other hand, did not produce in pure science anything near what Indians did, a sign of lack of genius and of poor taste, both in its rare individuals and at the collective societal level. On this, I like to think that Indians are Greeks and Chinese are Romans.

In sharp contrast to China, India in practical matters has been largely a complete fuckup, or at least vastly outmatched by China. It is well known that the ancient Chinese invented gunpowder and paper-making, whereas nothing of equal direct impact came out of ancient India. In modern times, China developed nuclear weapons way faster than India did, and even before that, defeated India in a war in 1962, which, even worse for India, was entirely her fault. Economically and infrastructurally, holistically speaking, India, exemplified by its frequent power outages and accident-prone train system, could be regarded as a few decades behind China, which is further confirmed by that India’s life expectancy and infant mortality rate is, today, where China had been at 20+ years ago. Given that the two had been around the same level in 1950, India’s development has unambiguously been a complete failure.

How to explain this? On this, I recall how my Chinese friend’s mom had said that it’s not because China’s elite is smarter than India’s elite, but because China’s grassroots is smarter than India’s grassroots. This is well-confirmed by international IQ studies which tend to put China’s average IQ at around 105 and India’s around 82, which is a 1.5 sigma difference. So even if India’s +3 sigma is as smart or smarter than China’s +3 sigma, there are too many dumb, dysfunctional people holding India back, from their needing to be fed while doing the routine work rather poorly. So, the smart, (usually) high caste Indians opt to go to America to escape India’s dysfunction, so ubiquitous that even the ultra-rich at home cannot immune itself. The best and brightest in that category tend to go through the IITs at home for undergrad, the most reliable ticket to a high paying tech job in the United States. That stratum of Indians has established by now quite a presence in top American tech companies and universities (just about every top STEM academic department in the US has several prominent Indian profs). For example, Microsoft and Google both have Indian CEOs, and plenty of Indian engineers and managers, with many of them in high ranking positions, especially at Google. In contrast, there are few Chinese in top leadership positions. When I learned that Google has several Indian SVPs but no Chinese, a guy from China responded with humorous ease followed by sarcastic insult: “不用担心,阿里巴巴的SVP全都是中国人,百度的SVP也全都是中国人,没有一个印度人。(In translation: Don’t worry, Alibaba’s SVPs are all Chinese, Baidu’s SVPs are all Chinese, not a single Indian) What does India have? Tata? Infosys?” This is, based on my experience, similar to how people react to the astronomical success of certain Indian academics, entrepreneurs, and business leaders in America. They will say: “Sure, an individual brilliant Indian does extremely well in America. But what does India as a nation get from that?”

Even such brilliance of these elite Indians is somewhat questionable. On TopCoder, which plenty of Indians obsess over on Quora, now infested by low status Indians, India is ranked, as I am currently writing this, only 11th out of the 31 countries on there, with only two red (the highest category) coders, despite having more than twice the number of members as China, the second most populous nation in this algorithmic coding contest. They’ve actually done better in recent years. I remember back years ago when I participated, I, having been on the lower side of yellow (the second highest category) coder, would have ranked close to the top among the Indians. Of course, one must not discount the possibility that the best Indians have better things to do than practice for a contest where one solves artificial algorithmic problems, which is consistent with my having seen and worked with many Indians who are very competent at real software engineering, with quite a strong sense for systems design and real world production code, which are rather orthogonal to, and much more consequential than, what one sees in those contrived coding contests and interviews. Still, the dismally low performance of Indians on TopCoder still raises suspicions, because TopCoder, like the International Math Olympiad, which India is complete garbage at, is a 100% objective and fair contest, whereas success in the real world software engineering, determined by promotions and professional level, has a political and context component. It’s not just the Indians at home; even in America, where the smartest Indians tend to go, the Chinese kids beat the Indian kids by a wide margin on the elite math, computing, and physics olympiads, even when the Indian kids seem to have improved a fair bit over the recent years. From this, one can only conclude that Indians are naturally not that strong in the abilities which these contests load on, though of course they may be relatively much more talented in research and engineering, for which these contests are very imperfect predictors.

You, the reader, have probably noticed that up to now, we’ve focused mostly on brains and technical ability. Yes, they are essential, but personality characteristics (both individual and collective) and “soft skills” also matter, especially if one wants to rise to a leadership position. From my personal observation, Indians are, in general, very good at projecting confidence and assertiveness from the way the talk and present themselves, much better than Chinese are, at least in the American cultural context, even when you discount the language barrier Chinese face relative to Indians. I’m talking not only about how one says things in terms of word choice, but the vocal tone and body language behind it. Sure, you can disdain this as superficial, but it matters. Perception matters as much, and in some cases, more, than substance. There is also that Indians seem to have a stronger network and help each out more in the career world. Collective intelligence or ethnic nepotism, you be the judge.

I have stories to tell on this. First of all, I remember vividly how when I interned at the place as an Indian schoolmate, he was the only one who scheduled, successfully in a few cases, coffee meetings with executives, as an intern (!!!!!), when it never would have occurred to me, or probably almost everyone else except him, to even try. One can sort of link this to collective intelligence, in that it is an indicator of discernment with regard to who matters (the executives) and who doesn’t (the engineer worker bees) within the political organization. And needless to say, you rise up in the organization by aligning yourself with the people who matter. Yes, my telling a full-time engineer this was met largely with a response in the likes of: “He knows who matters and who doesn’t. And even if he completely fucks up, he has nothing to lose, he’s only a 2nd year college intern. In any case, he gets good practice interacting with people who matter.” There is also that multiple people I know have complained about blatant Indian favoritism in interviews in the likes of what is described in this Quora answer. Yes, others have told me that when Indians interview other Indians, the bar is much lower. It’s not just in interviews. Another guy told me about how he once worked for a company that turned into ruins after Indian managers protected some Indian fuckups from getting fired. Personally, I have seen a case of Indians getting promoted way faster than those of other ethnic groups on a big team with an Indian director. So sometimes, I ask myself the verboten. Could it be that Indians really are far higher ranked in tech companies than their ability and contribution, because they are much more self-promoting and collectively nepotistic than those of other groups? Moreover, could it be that many people secretly think and resent this but are too afraid to say out of fear of being publicly vilified for “being racist” and having their careers ruined from alienating a national group increasingly powerful in corporate America? And that gradually, other groups, as they awake to the rigging of the game and get past, reluctantly, their moral objections, will quietly do the same, transforming tech companies and the American workplace at large into literal prison gangs contend, destroying whatever is left of the ideal of meritocracy and fair play in this country, ever more mired in identity politics?

Don’t get me wrong. There is much variance in personality and character and ability in those of any ethnic group, including for Indians, and much overlap between ethnic groups. Like, I know of this really brilliant Indian who donates most of his tech salary to very worthy causes, leaving little for himself, and he would be the last person I would expect, based on his characterized as autistic personality, to successfully climb the corporate ladder, though through sheer talent alone, he should do just fine in the appropriate position. Moreover, I have interacted with several Indians who had been very kind, tolerant, and helpful towards me. However, averages can differ by a standard deviation or more, with enormous social consequences.

I actually feel somewhat sympathetic for India and the Indians here. Somebody, on this, even said something along the lines of: “India is just such a shitty place that the Indians here have nothing to lose, so they play dirty political games and engage in the most spineless social climbing.” What can be done to resolve this? Immediately, I cannot think of anything other than drastically reducing the number of abjectly impoverished, low IQ Indians in India by simultaneously improving economic conditions and enforcing birth control on the poor and unable, so that less suffering and dysfunction is spread to the next generation. India could, instead of drinking the democracy Kool-Aid, learn from China, in a way compatible to its own culture and circumstances, just as China did from the West and the Soviet Union, to great success. Its elite needs to correct many of its deeply flawed social attitudes, and not only that, actually act accordingly with full force; otherwise, the excessive damage India does to itself, America, and the world at large with its internal dysfunction and exported corruption will always far outweigh what its elites contribute to science and technology. I can’t be optimistic on this though, barring some really radical change.

On Russia and Russians

I was told yesterday by that uber pro-American anti-communist American Jew that American liberals actually hate Russia more than they hate China. I was surprised. He said that this is seldom realized, and that

if you compared xi to putin people would consider that offensive even
people have a double standard against white countries when it comes to human rights

So, the logic is because Russia is white, they should be held to higher standards for human rights and democracy, and the extent to which Russia is “freer” (than China, which blocks Google and Facebook and is still a one-party totalitarian state) is not enough to offset the differentiated standard.

I don’t get it, why are Western liberals so intent on hating Russia, why why why? Because Russia is such a threat to their world domination? (The USSR is gone and there’s basically zero hope of Russia recovering to that level, but that’s apparently not enough.) I had also heard that in the UK it’s the Russians, not the Muslims, who are most resented, for being tall, blonde, and alpha and taking the tech jobs. It’s another one of those they’re hated for being too good. Russians being good attracts more resentment than admiration, they must have failed politically somewhere.

From my experience working, observing, reading, and interacting, it does seem like Russians are technically extremely powerful. Of course, the ones here in America are a select group. At a place where I worked, there was this big Russian guy who was quite an ubermensch programmer doing much of the technical heavy-lifting. He was also a higher up in the company, though not terribly high up, and it took him some time in officially low ranking positions (where I’m sure he contributed a ton) to get there. There is good reason to believe the pattern of Russians being ranked (much) lower in American tech companies relative to their ability and contribution, given how political promotion and performance reviews are, and the extent to which salary is determined by one’s “circumstances.” There seem to be very few Russians high up in corporate America, despite their ability. On this, I can’t help but think: could it be that the American elite only wants them to do the hard technical work (where they contribute much more than they get) and find them too threatening to allow into positions of power? It seems though that as a group, they’re more or less accepting of this treatment, content with a very intellectually stimulating job. My Russian friends tells me that very few go back due to lack of opportunity, notwithstanding that Russia has Yandex (which was, curiously, founded before Google) and vKontakte, and its own military ecosystem.

I know that there is the widely stereotype that Russians are smart and really creative, while Chinese are smart but lack spark. There is some truth to that as far as I can tell. On TopCoder and CodeForces and at the ACM ICPC, all of which I’ve participated in, with mixed success, the Chinese still cannot beat the Russians, even when they seem to try really hard. Petr was superhuman, and ACRush, while also an ubermensch, was still a notch below Petr. Though ACRush, with his Chinese connections, has started his own self-driving car company, while Petr is still working for Google. CodeForces, created by Russians, is now much better maintained and consequently more popular across the world to competitive programmers.

I’ve observed that Russians are not as obsessed about prestigious schools here in the US as Chinese are. Plenty of really smart ones only attend state schools, to save money, and also maybe because the elite schools discriminate against them too, because their being Russian and worse connected in American society would be a disadvantage for them in the career world.

From what I’ve seen, Russians are very well-rounded too, actually smart and capable in all respects. Even in athletics, they’re feared and targeted (with reference to the Olympic ban). This might mean that they’re not very good at putting on a stupid smile and going along with all the stupid bullshit that goes on in this society. If they’re this good, maybe they instead of being taken advantage of by American capitalists who only want to extract as much as they can out of them for as little as they can get away with should build their own technology and institutions in Russia, where they actually end up having ownership. They did that in the USSR days (but bad luck and stupid political decisions blew it all away), maybe they should continue to do so.

To conclude, I’ll say that I’ve heard that “Russians/Eastern Europeans get macho and that leads to individualism/isolation in the workplace.” Maybe because they’re pissed that they (the ones in America are some of the best and brightest) have to answer to idiots who they have a hard time pretending to respect.

On meritocracy

I had the fortune to get to know this guy about five or six years older than me because we started a job on the same day, when I was straight out of school, who was willing to tell or at least hint to me some realities about the corporate world. I never worked directly with him, but we would chat during lunch and at various events. Most memorable was when he said to me: “like you’re more competent than most CEOs of corporations.” I was like: “wait really?” You see, at that time, I was still a clueless kid. Amused by my naiveté, he went on to tell me: “haha, being a CEO is not about competence, it’s about being in the club, once you’re in, it’s basically impossible to fail. It’s about having obtained certain credentials and networks, like a name school MBA and an executive position at a company. Once you’re in that group and the people there accept you, you’re a perpetual CEO.” Interestingly, I vaguely remember that he also mentioned Meg Whitman, in a tone that made it seem as if he actually had a high opinion of her.

Having seen more over the years, I can better appreciate what he was saying. And I feel much more at ease with what actually goes on in corporate hierarchies, including the militantly non-meritocratic aspects, accepting it as more or less an inevitable product of human nature, not that I really approve of it. As a nerd who had been fairly high up on the whole academic merit hierarchy, I certainly felt uncomfortable, or even indignant, with respect to all that at first. In fact, I still prefer and respect most people who manage to excel in what is actually more or less strictly ability-based, even if they’re not officially very high up based on the position they hold and rarely rich. Math contests and coding contests and sports are basically 100% skill based. Sure, people have good days and bad days but the variance is relatively small, an indicator that most of the variance is natural measurement error, as opposed to owing to external circumstances. As a concrete example, the p-value of Kobe Bryant’s suddenly becoming an average player (barring an injury) would be exceedingly small. STEM work is also pretty skill-based, though there, especially when working with a team and with many decisions made above under the influence of globally influenced circumstances outside one’s control (such as funding and political support), there is far more of a luck component. Entrepreneurship has a skill component but it is extremely luck-loaded. Much of it is due to access via connections derived from social class and being at the right place at the right time. Of course, in hindsight, it is easy to frame a major success as mostly a function of skill and of “vision,” a grossly overused and meaningless word, as opposed to luck. This goes back to what CEOs are generally good at: presenting a facade of vision and leadership.

I wonder what percentage of people are actually aware of what that guy told me about corporate CEOs (as opposed to entrepreneur turned CEOs, who tend to have more actual skill from what I see). I would guess less than 5% of the population, maybe even less than 1%. Certainly, many if not most in that CEO class are aware and don’t care, so long as they are winning, or maybe many of them, accounting for a sufficiently high percentage, are actually delusional, believing that their success has been mostly due to objective skill. In any case, what one can draw from this, more generally, is that the efficient market hypothesis and rational agents stuff from economics, a field I sort of disdain without having actually studied, is bullshit, or at least highly imperfect, because in reality, people act along imperfect, and often grossly incorrect, information.

I’ll conclude with the following note. Michael O Church will often say that it’s often hard to tell a great software engineer from a mediocre one who is an excellent salesman, even for technical people. This has, of course, much to do with software engineering being very specialized, with everyone having their own distinct style, niche, and combination of skills. For a non-technical person, it is almost impossible. As a technical person myself, I have also from my personal experience come to the conclusion that it is very hard, if not impossible, to judge people working in a field vastly different from yours at an advanced level. This is why people resort to prestige of institution, citations, impact factor, job title, salary, and references, often blindly, all of which, while surely possessing much genuine signal, are also very prone to noise and artificial manipulation. One has to realize an individual, no matter how smart, can only know so much, and that our collective knowledge functions as a distributed system. From this one can only infer that in non-technical, it’s even harder, which means it’s all about perception, your sociological position, and how well you play the game of peddling connections and favor on a very opaque but surely extant market.

I’ll go as far as to say that IQ, g, and technical talent are real. Academic performance depends largely on these. A guy with a genuine 145+ IQ will almost certainly find schoolwork not terribly difficult and perhaps uninspiring and will very likely excel in elite academic contests. As an example, I know for a fact that Michael O Church has quite a track record of that, having been 5th in National MathCounts, made it to the Math Olympiad Summer Program, which takes only the top 30 or so in the nation-wide high school math contest, and received an honorable mention (about top 75, with some elite international students in contention this time) on the college Putnam contest (which is difficult enough that there is astronomical score variance). This profile, which is highly replicated, is also more evidence for the stability of IQ and technical/mathematical ability/aptitude, and thereby proxies of it. He will find advanced math and science not all that hard when most of his peers (or-not) find it impossibly difficult, meaning that the grad school route will become somewhat of a default. Then, he will realize that academia and research are grossly competitive for a mediocre salary, much owing to the scarcity of jobs from stagnant or even declining funding vis-a-vis an increasing population of highly smart people, wherein probably half of the genuine 145+s in America are immigrants, often from places with GDP per capita a fraction of America’s. He will find that in a corporate job, even a technical one, his far tail smarts are not anywhere near as much an asset as they were in school, and that there are many intellectual mediocrities commanding high salaries and positions of power out of connections and political ability. He will realize that he is no longer considered terribly high up on the hierarchy, unlike in the school setting that hinges much on academic performance. He will realize that he is way more competent than most CEOs, but that doesn’t matter because he’ll still be answering to them, unless corporate America is overthrown in a way that the actual smart people end up in positions of power.