I had the pleasure to read parts of Understanding Human History: An Analysis Including the Effects of Geography and Differential Evolution by Michael H. Hart. He has astrophysics PhD from Princeton, which implies that he is a serious intellectual, though it doesn’t seem like he was quite so brilliant that he could do good research in theoretical physics, though an unofficial source says he worked at NASA and was a physics professor at Trinity University who picked up a law degree along the way. I would estimate that intellectually, he is Steve Hsu level, perhaps a little below, though surely in the high verbal popularization aspect, he is more prolific, as evidenced by that book, among many others, such as one on the 100 most influential historical figures. He is active in white separatist causes (heh) and appears to have had ties with the infamous and now deceased Rushton.
I recently met this cool guy because we live in the same place. Though he’s not that nerdy (by that, I mean super mathy), we still share many common interests. For instance, he expressed interest when I told him a bit about 艾思奇(Ai Siqi). Additionally, he told me about his appreciation for André Weil and Simone Weil, particularly her mysticism, which I found quite pleasing as I was reading about them not long ago. He also told me about this guy who is trying to understand Mochizuki’s “proof” of the abc conjecture despite being not long out of undergrad, who has plenty of other quirks and eccentric behaviors. Like, that guy joined some Marxist collective, and goes on drunken rants at 3 am, and is in general “aspie af,” something that he described me as too when messaging that guy himself. There is also, “he would literally kill himself if he had to do a tech job.” (laughter) That guy’s dad happens to be a (tenured) math professor from mainland China, more evidence that madness runs in families. Continue reading “My awesome roommate”
Oleg is one of my ubermensch Soviet (and also part Jewish) friends. He has placed at (or at least near) the top on the most elite of math contests. He is now a math PhD student with an advisor even crazier than he is, who he says sometimes makes him feel bad, because he has done too little math research wise. However, this persona alone is not that rare. Oleg’s sheer impressiveness largely stems from that on top of this, he is a terrific athlete, extremely buff and coordinated, enough that he can do handstand pushups, to the extent that he regards such as routine. Yes, it is routine for a guy contending for a spot on a legit gymnastics team, but you wouldn’t expect this from a math nerd huh?
Over the past few months, I had read casually on the imperial examination system (科举) out of curiosity. My knowledge of it, the system that very much defined pre-modern Chinese society, is still very limited and vague, but now I at least know what 进士 and 秀才 are, along with some classical Chinese, background indispensable for understanding that system. I hope, if time permits, to learn more about this over the next year, on the side.
It has occurred to me that the imperial examination system, while doing much to prevent China from developing modern science as the West had for cultural reasons, did select for intelligence at the far tail. The reason is simple. The tests, which were very g-loaded, conferred those who scored highly on them wealth, position, and status that enabled them to have more children, and those from families who scored highly married those from similar families. Over time, there emerged an elite subpopulation with very high base genotypic IQ, one that results in those born from such families to regress not to the overall Chinese mean but to the high mean of that subpopulation. This is consistent with the fact that in the 20th century and probably even today, a disproportionately high percentage of top scholars, scientists, engineers, and even revolutionaries and political leaders of Chinese descent can be traced back to those elite 科举 families, based on the many examples I have seen. I’ll not give specific examples for now; they can easily be found by anyone who reads Chinese.
I will conclude with a note that is likely to be very relevant. Brian Bi, about a year ago, made this following IQ map of China by province.
You can also view it here.
First of all, the data may not be very accurate; I’ll have to check on its source. But for now, let’s assume that it is. Then, what’s most noticeable is the high average of Zhejiang, consistent with the number of mathematical and scientific geniuses of Zhejiangnese ancestry relative to the number of those with ancestry of other provinces, adjusted for province population of course. Examples are numerous: Shiing-Shen Chern, Wu Wenjun, Feng Kang, Yitang Zhang, etc for math. There is also, in another field, Qian Xuesen. Too many to name. Brian Bi and I have wondered the cause of this. It is plausible that the aforementioned effect was much more pronounced in Zhejiang than in other provinces in China. Of course, there is a probably substantial environmental effect here too. So I guess to satisfy this curiosity, I might study some Zhejiangnese history as well.
Aside from prominence in science, Zhejiangnese are stereotyped in China for being really entrepreneurial. They are now one of the most prosperous provinces in China, needless to say. They are, to put it simply, a super breed among Chinese, to my superficial view.
We all know that height is highly heritable (about 0.8 according to my memory). Less well known is that BMI and muscle strength are very heritable too, at 0.5-0.6, according to this. This is somewhat counterintuitive in that common sense in some sense tells us that BMI can be reduced by not eating unhealthy and exercising, and similarly, that everyone can grow muscle from working out with the correct form. Well, it appears that the ability to do so is highly heritable. It conforms to my observation of the sheer difficulty with which overweight people have with gastronomic self control and of the rarity with which physical clumsiness changes within people.
This reminds me of an analogous cognitive characteristic. On the cognitive end, a similarly high level of heritability for vocabulary is similarly counterintuitive (it was to me too, before I had developed some basic psychometric intuition). Isn’t vocabulary memorized, learned? Yes but some people learn it much more naturally than others, and actually retain it. There is, I hypothesize, some neurobiological mechanism that more or less determines the capacity for storing vocabulary. From my personal experience vocabulary is much more about recognition of analogies than about memorization. With the former, the latter is hardly needed to obtain a sizable vocabulary. I also believe analogies are universal, independent of the language in which they are represented; this is largely supported by the fact that the two languages I know well, English and Chinese, share more often than not the same analogies for different definitions of characters/words. A common linguistic construction of semantic units in both, for instance, is the extension of concrete to abstract. So different cultures, with different languages, more or less discovered the same analogies for construction of their respective languages. All this suggests some faculty in the brain, that one has to some degree or another, linked with general ability to discern analogies, that is manifested through vocabulary size, a direct consequence of that ability.
As an FYI, this is personal speculation of a quasi-educated nature. I say quasi because I am constructing an explanation most rational based on my personal knowledge, which is very limited, my having at the present moment not even passing knowledge of linguistics or neuroscience, which I hope to obtain on a gradual basis.