共产主义何能实现(how to realize communism)

This reminds of communism, communism as in from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. I’ll first say that even capitalist societies are already very much like that. People generally go into professions that they’re talented in. If one has multiple things one can do, one has to make a pick in favor of one, as one has only 24 hours in a day. There are economic incentives now for this, say for one to pick say computer science over physics, which has no jobs and pays below what a schoolteacher or police officer is paid. Another example would be choosing NFL/NBA (where the big bucks are) over track and field.

I have always perceived money as very artificial. I don’t think my life would change that much if I become super rich. How you feel is more determined by what you know and how your brain is wired, and what you actually do, than how much money you have. I also have doubts on the use of money to motivate people to do better work, especially on the creative end. It works and it doesn’t. In fact, I would say in that in an ideal society people, or at least the ones with the ability and spirit, should be able to do creative work without having to worry too much about money, which is far from the case nowadays. Our society is being so money obsessed (or compelled) due to the so called Satanic Trinity (education, health care, housing). People are scared of falling behind on that game that the system forces people to play.

In my silly K-12 social studies class, we were told that communism doesn’t work because people don’t have an incentive. X could be doing all this work and Y could be doing nothing and at the end they’d get the same. This is such a gross oversimplification of a very complex matter, looking at human nature in a binary way essentially. People edit Wikipedia for free. People volunteer for the homeless and disadvantaged, for free. People go into science for almost nothing. In companies, you’ll find that the stars contribute like 10 times or more, or in some cases, infinity times more by solving a problem nobody else can than the median. Those people are generally higher ranked too on the ladder, but their salary is not matched by difference in magnitude of their contribution. The people who do make 10x more, or even 100x, are largely people planted in positions of parasitism by having the right social connections, playing the politics right, etc. That’s just how broken the current system is, and we all have to live with it, or not.

Again, in those social studies classes, we debated why America is the most innovative and the most successful country in the world. People will say freedom. Freedom to do your own thing, to start your own company, to be a non-conformist. While there is an element of that, it’s rather overblown in my opinion. There are other, more influential factors omitted here: such as the exploitation of labor (remember that America is a nation founded on dispossession and slavery), vast natural resources per capita (and also a geographic position that immunes America from war, barring civil war), and import of foreign talent. With such advantages, it’s almost impossible for America not to be number one. Especially, after WWII, when so many of the best and brightest from Europe came to America. Many of the top Manhattan Project scientists were foreigners, many of them Jewish. Many of the top scientists and engineers (like von Braun) of the space program were captured Nazis. In the 90s, America got a huge chunk of the best and brightest of the former USSR and its satellite states. From the 80s on, many of the smartest young people from mainland China came to the US as well. Those people could hypothetically be making China or the USSR/Russia better instead of making America better.

I remember Nassim Taleb has a high opinion of the America system’s tolerance and encouragement of ad hoc tinkering and experimentation. He cites these Europeans who criticize Americans for being uncultured or lacking knowledge or whatever, and it’s like: you guys writing this silly criticism in Microsoft Word, while looking up stuff on Google, on your iPhone, and all of that was created in America! He does have a very good point. Why do Europeans not create and use their own? Is it because their system is too egalitarian and discourages entrepreneurship? I’m not the most qualified to answer this, but I’ll say that Europe is more or less subordinate to America. There’s NATO and the EU and all that. Also, those technologies listed are very marketing, business driven products. For instance, Microsoft won in the reasonable judgment of many mostly due to its business and legal tactics. Also, Taleb has done some cherrypicking. Linux, an arguably better from a technical point of view operating system, was created by a Finnish genius in his early 20s. American cars lost to Japanese cars and they’re nowhere near able to compete with German cars, because they were objectively worse. I know almost nothing about cars, but I know Japanese cars are more fuel efficient and last longer. America as far as I see it is a society very into marketing and superficial things. It does not revere and respect people who do hard science and technology, real things, enough.

I’ll also say that America is very much a nation of taking advantage of and breeding the ignorant, for the benefit of people with capital. If people were smarter, it would be harder for banks to get people to not pay their credit cards or take on shitty deals. It would be harder for universities for fool people into paying so much for such a shitty education that gets most people nowhere. America also de-emphasizes discipline and self-control. Hey, even Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Also, isn’t discipline and self-control counter to creativity, to the freedom that makes America so successful? This might seem the case intuitively to a naive one, but creative people will tell you that’s so not the case. With everything, there’s a right, systematic way of doing things that is required to be creative. I’m somewhat of an iconoclast I suppose, but I have a high opinion of discipline and self-control. In any case, these words are so vague, mean so little, that it’s rather pointless to use them. You need to be more specific.

I have asked a friend of mine in his 30s, who’s seen much more of the world than I have, if we’ll ever reach the point where education and health care are more or less free, where people don’t have to worry about money much. He, very optimistically in my view, said probably in 30 years or so. I sure hope so, because the current system is very obsolete with respect to the level of technology and production we have available. Self driving cars, AI, will only put more people out of job, and we need to find a place for them.

I recall that in the 50s and 60s, it was widely believed, especially in the socialist camp, that there would be a world revolution and that we would eventually attain communism. This had arguably reached its height in the mid 50s. In the early 50s, America was in a rather passive position ideologically, especially when it was not successful in the Korean War. McCarthyism did not happen for no reason. As a law of nature, any entity whose survival at risk will go to extremes. The denunciation of Stalin by Khrushchev in fact weakened the prestige of the Soviet Union tremendously. Many pro-left people in the West lost hope from that. There was a great ideological rift between the USSR and China following that. The Chinese believed that the Soviets were being revisionists and that their party leadership was being gradually infected by ones who secretly wanted to restore capitalism, or whatever you call it. It was widely believed, according to the writings of Chinese party leaders, that the transition from capitalism to socialism to communism was to be this great social transformation that would span decades or even centuries, with importance, scale, and qualitative difference equal to that of the transformation from feudalism to capitalism in Europe, and that the process would need much consolidation over a long period of time. To them, without that, there could easily be a relapse, and there was, as evidenced by the disastrous (you can look up the increased death rates in Russia that was coupled with prolonged economic depression) disintegration of the USSR and to a lesser extent by the Chinese economic reform. On the opposite view, such was viewed by liberals in the West as the “end of history,” as termed by Fukuyama.

This end of history theory is becoming increasingly discredited more with China’s success and rise. In the 90s, however, it was quite mainstream. In this talk, Kong Qingdong characterized himself as having become political out of what he perceived as the need for him to do so, referring to how in the 90s, the atmosphere in China was so dangerously liberal and pro-West, which is not surprising as the failure of the USSR made everyone suspicious of the whole system and ideology that it had promulgated. If not that, he said he, as a very well-behaved kid, would have become purely a scholar, an academic in a more or less apolitical way. He spoke of how in the 90s, writings in China which criticized America or imperialism had difficulty being published, and in addition to that, he mentioned the laying off of millions of workers from the privatization of many state owned enterprises that enriched many with party connections. The 90s was in some sense a low point, akin to China from the 1927 through the 30s or the Bolsheviks following the failed 1905 Russian Revolution.

It seems though now that China may well surpass America, with its only being a matter of time, a proposition that would have been beyond the pale in the 90s. Back then, people had serious doubts on China’s ability to innovate with its system, coupled with aspects of traditional Chinese culture viewed as not conducive to non-derivative R&D. People cited how the successful countries were all democracies, and the Chinese dissident Fang Lizhi, who produced some first rate work in astrophysics, had openly said that in order for China to become developed, it would need to adopt the parliamentary democratic system. The financial crisis in 2008-9 ruined America’s credibility enormously, especially given that China in many ways appeared virtually unscathed by it. Since then, China has made enormous progress technologically as well. Representative examples are its high speed trains as well as the development of its passenger aircraft. China has also developed an indigenous CPU, Loongson, which is already proliferating across government and military organizations in China. It is their goal to create a whole software ecosystem around their hardware, as has been done for Intel’s. Of course, there is all this military technology too, the details of which are highly classified. A guy from China once said to me that the system there, with its network of state owned enterprises, can complete projects with little delay. Some might say that none of that is very creative, as it is all large scale engineering. As for that, there is basic science, and while China is quite a ways away there, they seem to be improving rapidly. In that respect, Chinese have done exceedingly well in America. Now with more money, many of the best scientists abroad can be lured back and a higher percentage of the best of the younger generation will stay in China to conduct their research. The career prospects in America for scientists are quite dismal, and China I would say has a chance of competing there. As a consequence, a much higher percentage of people in China will be able to enjoy the luxury of doing basic science research. Rather beside the point, but I’d like to note that Fields Medallist Alain Connes has written that the European system is better for breeding truly original thinkers in math who open up new fields, with its having less pressure for grants and for results produced on a shorter time frame than the American tenure system. He expressed his belief that the Soviet mathematicians would have done better had they stayed in the old Soviet system, where the job was just to talk about science. We can see how Perelman solved the Poincare back in Steklov Institute in Russia after America offered him no tenured position and how Yitang Zhang was failed by the American system, where you need to play it safe to secure your next position.

There is even a camp of scholars who believe with confidence that the future will be China’s, that of the IQ proponents, representative figures of which include Philippe Rushton and Richard Lynn. Richard Lynn has written here that China will win after discovering the genes for IQ. It is definitely not impossible, and Steve Hsu has already worked with BGI on that. This goes back to Steve Hsu’s remark on that hypothetical society that can function in a way that the current one cannot because its constituents, its ones in positions of power especially, are too unintelligent. On this, I see a parallel between two highly politically sensitive words in America, which are communism and IQ. I’ll say, judging from their writings, that many of the leaders and scholars of and associated with the Chinese Communist Party in the 20s were highly intelligent, as were Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, all of whom were philosophers very profound and one could say, attaching a somewhat subjective judgment, visionary in their thinking. Mao wrote some of the most beautiful and high quality Chinese poetry, from a literary point of view. It seems that the Chinese with extraordinary literary or verbal gifts are more Maoist leaning, with on the other hand, Deng Xiaoping’s, dubbed by many on the left in China as the father of its corruption, for having promoted short-sighted people like Zhao Ziyang and Hu Yaobang who contributed to negative outcomes of the Tiananmen Square protests, being noted for having a dumb mouth and a dumb pen. Examples include Kong Qingdong, Li Ao, and Lang Xianping. I see the possibility of what many would perceive as too far-fetched: China’s becoming more communist as it closes in on the mystery of human intelligence.

When I was a kid, I thought over-simplistically, not having the intellectual capacity to reason rationally and rigorously. I could not imagine all those people who did crazy things, from geniuses to suicide bombers. I believed that what was easy/difficult for me would be the same for others and that people who struggled were not working hard enough. As I grew cognitively, I became increasingly aware that free will was bunk, that people are not in control of the way they are in a strict sense of the word. The way they are wired biologically correlates with what they become in a statistically predictable way. Science and the American Dream are in opposition to each other. We have in theory the resources for the most part to provide people with what is appropriate for them. This does not happen though in many places due to special interest groups, the hoarding of wealth, and deficiencies in resources affordably accessible to the public at large, based on needs of individuals. America, as unequal as it is, has an irrationally egalitarian education system that comes with stuff like No Child Left Behind. In America, the school one attends is based finely on where one lives, a proxy for parental socioeconomic status, or one of those fancy shmancy prep schools for kids whose parents can afford it, whereas in many other countries, like Germany, it is determined by what is most suitable for the kid given his performance and ability. In America, many employers now require a bachelors for jobs with nothing to do with academic learning, and colleges see this as a way to inflate their tuition, further oppressing the majority of people. There is also the medical system, which I will not go into. America will only further discredit itself by doing this; its facade cannot go on forever.

Let’s see what happens in the 21st century. Humanity may well undergo arguably its most revolutionary transformation ever yet, the ability to predict and control the types of people being born and from doing so realize a resemblance of the ideal society envisioned by Marx.

Some speculation on the possible detailed linkage of brain structure to cognitive function

I recall seeing, probably first on Steve Hsu’s blog, that brain structure is highly heritable, as high as g is, surprise surprise. In fact, g, currently measured non-physically through cognitive tests, is, to my intuition, unguided by detailed relevant knowledge of the area, in its scientific essence a function of brain structure that could be computed through data obtained from a direct neurobiological measurement (through MRI and what not).

On this, I have hypothesized a future where we will be able to predict with reasonable accuracy, to a fine grain of detail, behavioral traits as complex as one’s personality or one’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses (like what subjects one will find more intuitive), which have a high heritable component, and not only that, the course of their development across age. A clone of me who lived in that world could be told at age $n$ or so you will become like X, feel subjectively like Y, be at $X \pm \sigma$ across age group at Z, etc, at age $n+k, k > 0, k \in \mathbb{N}$. Of course, if say $n = 6$, I would only respond with a sense of awe and incredulity, but across time, I would attain ever deeper and more realistic understanding of what was going on, as can be said for virtually every subject matter for virtually every human that has ever lived on this planet. Perhaps this is pushing it a bit too far. Learning to this degree of precision may be too much; there would not be enough data, even if we sequence every human on the planet and run on a computer cluster orders of magnitude larger and more powerful than, say, Google’s jobs which continuously improve the models. However, I do believe we will get somewhere. We will reach the point where we can deliver with reasonable level of confidence personalized medicine and education and such for every individual in a way that based on rigorous biostatistical data as opposed to on blind human intuition, which of course still works well, most of the time, as is done now. What other comes to mind is, as you can probably guess, the possibility of evolving a population vastly different from our own, perhaps one with ability far beyond that of homo sapiens (say, a population wherein everyone is smarter than John von Neumann (which I highly doubt, as that would be rather non conducive to the well functioning of the world)). As for that, as for what should be done, I have little to say other than that we’ll have to decide for ourselves. I do think it would be not a bad thing to use this newly found knowledge to eliminate severe dysfunction and suffering on this planet, which could be done through the likes of preventing the birth of, say, those prone towards severe depression or towards becoming serial killers.

We’ll have to see what happens. Maybe I will be able to see something exciting, possibly even to the level just described, in my lifetime. I am still young, after all.

Some speculations on the positive eugenics effects on the far right tail of intelligence of the Chinese population of the imperial examination system

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 ChernWu WenjunFeng KangYitang 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.

Heritability of BMI and strength measures

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.