Innate mathematical ability

This morning I had the great pleasure of reading an article on LessWrong on innate ability by Jonah Sinick. Jonah has been one of my greatest influences and inspirations, having interacted with him substantially. He is unusual in one of the best ways possible. I would not be surprised if he goes on to do something extraordinary.

When I catch with Jonah, I like to talk with him about math, mathematicians, and IQ, which happens to be what that article of his on LessWrong is about. 😉 That article resonates with me deeply because I myself had similar experiences as he did. It is hypothesized by me that I was also twice exceptional, albeit in different ways, with its effects compounded by my unusual background, all of which mediocrities within the American public school system are not good at dealing with in an effectual way.

This writing of Jonah has brought forth reflections in my own minds with regard to mathematical ability, development, and style. I’ll say that as a little kid under 6, I was very good at arithmetic and even engaged in it obsessively. However, by age 8, after two years of adjusting to life in America starting off not knowing a word of English, I had forgotten most of that. I was known to be good at math among the normal normal students; of course, that doesn’t mean much. In grade school, I was not terribly interested in math or anything academic; I was more interested in playing and watching sports, particularly basketball and baseball.

I didn’t have any mathematical enrichment outside of school other than this silly after school math olympiad program. Nonetheless, I managed to test into two year accelerated math once I reached junior high, not that it means anything. In junior high, we were doing this stupid “core math” with graphing calculators and “experiments.” I didn’t realize that I was actually a joke at math until I failed miserably at the state mathcounts contest, having not prepared for it, unlike all those other tiger mommed Asian kids, who to me seemed way beyond me at that time. It only occurred to me that I might have some real talent for math when I made the AIME in 10th grade, taking the AMCs for the first time, being one of four in my high school of about 2000 to do so. I thought it was fun solving some of those math contest problems, which were more g-loaded, with an emphasis on the pattern recognition side.

It was after that I started to read up on the history of mathematics and mathematicians. I taught myself some calculus and was fascinated by it, not that I understood it very well. But I could easily sense that this was much more significant than many of those contrived contest problems, and soon, I began to lose interest in the contest stuff. It was also after that that I learned about proving things, which the American public school math doesn’t teach. I finally realized what mathematics is really about.

Like Jonah, I had some difficulties with careless errors and mental organization. I don’t think my raw intellectual horsepower was very high back in high school, but fortunately, it has improved substantially since then that it is for the most part no longer the major impediment.

I took calculus officially in 11th grade, and it was a breeze for me. I could easily compute the areas and volumes and such but the entire time, I felt quite dissatisfied, because I could not actually understand that stuff at a rigorous, theoretical level as I poured through our textbook that went up to vector calculus during lecture, which was rather inane, expected if one considers the mismatch between cognitive threshold relative to the distribution of ability of the students. I knew from reading online the rich world of math far beyond what we were covering, most of which I was not intellectually mature enough to access at that time. However, I vividly remember during summer after 11th grade, while attending a math summer program, I was able to comfortably write out the delta epsilon definition of limit with understanding of why it was reasonably defined that way. Still, I would say I was still quite weak in terms of both my mathematical maturity and overall intellectual ability. There were too many things I wasn’t aware of, including the g factor, that I easily would have been had I been higher in verbal ability, which would have enabled me to read, absorb, and internalize information much more rapidly and broadly. In contrast, Jonah had discovered independently, or so he says, the lack of free will at the age of 7!

I made some incremental advances in my math knowledge from reading and thinking outside of school the next year. As for contest math, I almost made the USAMO. Though I had improved, I was still not terribly quick and careful with solving contest style problems and doing computations. I think close to graduation, I also solved some Putnam problems.

Only in undergrad did I learn real math more seriously, but even there, nothing too advanced. US undergrad is a joke, and I also was one, just to a lesser extent than most of my “peers.” Almost certainly, Jonah, based on he’s told me, had gained much deeper and broader knowledge at the same stage, from the reading works of giants like Euler and Riemann.

I’ve noticed how there are a lot of Chinese-(American) kids really into those high school math contests, and they now also dominate USAMO and Putnam (though careful, as in the latter, there you’ve got some of Chinese internationals drawn from the elite from China). I will say that at the lower levels, many of those kids have some pretty low taste and an inability to think outside the system that would enable them to discover the existence of real math, as opposed to this artificial math game that they enjoy playing or are pressured to doing so for college. Though those contests have a high pattern recognition component to them, there is not really much depth or substantial math knowledge. It is also my belief, with reference to Jonah’s article, that math contests are mostly M loaded while real math is more V loaded. So this behavior is consistent with the lopsidedness in favor of M and perhaps also short term working memory of Chinese students. It has also been Jonah’s belief that controlling for g, these contests select for low taste and value judgement, and I surely identify with that perspective. So maybe college admissions are somewhat fair to assess an Asian penalty?

Of the thesis of Jonah’s article, a representative figure is Terry Tao. There, Jonah also pointed out that Tao’s research in math is more concrete and problem solving oriented by pure math standards, in line with what appears to be the same lopsided (modulo the absolute level, as Terry is a far far outlier) cognitive profile of his based on testing at age 9 and 10. Again, people enjoy what they are best at, and though, Terry Tao is almost certainly at least +4 sigma at verbal, he is far more rare, at least +5 sigma, a real übermensch, in the (in some sense dual) pattern recognition component, which means he leans towards the areas of math more loaded on the latter. I have heard the saying that even other Fields medalists are intimidated by Terry Tao. The breadth and volume and technical power of his work is almost unrivaled and otherworldly. The media makes it seem like Terry is a league above even the other Fields medalists. However, Jonah seems to believe that the deepest and most leading of mathematicians are the ones who are more theory builders, who create through leaps of insight and synthesis new fields and directions that keep mathematicians busy for decades, and even centuries. That would be say Grothendieck or SS Chern, and an ability that is more loaded on verbal ability, crudely speaking. Again, I have felt the same. This might explain why the advantage of Chinese students is not anywhere near as pronounced in math research as in contests, and why some people say that generally speaking, the Chinese mathematicians are more problem solving and technical than theoretical, more analysis than algebra. Likewise, we can predict the opposite for Jews who are skewed in favor of verbal. A corollary of this would be that the Jews produce the deepest thinkers, adjusted somewhat for population, which is almost certainly the case, if you look at the giants of mathematics and theoretical physics.

I’ll conclude with the following remark. I used to revere somewhat those who placed very highly on those contests, until I realized that many of them are actually somewhat weak in terms of deep understanding and thinking at a more theoretical level. Yes, I have met MOSPers who got destroyed by real math and who are not very intellectually versatile, with glaring weaknesses; I was quite surprised initially that even I seemed to be smarter if not a lot than some of them. Once upon a time, I couldn’t understand those who appeared very strong at real math (and often also science and/or engineering and/or humanities) who struggled with more concrete math and/or contest-style problem solving, like Jonah, who has written on LessWrong of his difficulties with accuracy on the trivial math SAT. I’ve met this other guy, who I thought was an idiot for being unable to perform simple computations, who is leagues beyond me in the most abstract of math, who writes prolifically about partially V-loaded areas of math like model theory. Now, the more metacognitive me has awakened to the reality that I may never by deficit of my neurobiology be able to fathom and experience what they’re capable of. After all, there are plenty I am almost certain are and are essentially doomed to be very delusional by nature relative to me, and since I’m at the far tail but not quite so much, there are bound to be people who view me the same. I can only hope that I can become more like them through some combination of exposure and organic neurobiological growth, but I as a realist will not deem that very likely.

Humanities

I’ve been very distracted by humanities lately and I am even contemplating making a career in it, which would have been farthest from my mind in high school or college. In high school, I struggled greatly with English class when in the novels I was forced to read, I couldn’t understand what was going on half of the time, due to misunderstanding of definitions of words or lack of requisite familiarity with the cultural context. There is also that I only started learning English at age 6, without being exposed to it much at home, which means I don’t know the English names of certain household items. Literature made little sense to me, but history I rather liked, though I disliked the American rendition of history.

I started reading Chinese online in high school. It was very difficult for me at that time, but gradually I was able to make sense of things. For language at school, I took Spanish and I was horrendous at it. I’ve forgotten most of it by now, but I could easily relearn it with my much enhanced level of verbal maturity. I’m not very motivated to learn Spanish anymore because there isn’t very much high culture in it (pardon my snobbery).

I hardly took humanities courses in college, but I did take a few that were required. I remember vividly how in the writing class I took most of the students couldn’t write coherently at all. I did starting in my third year of college develop an interest in Chinese poetry. I remember spending quite a while to memorize 蜀道难, without understanding what it was really saying as it was full of type of Chinese language literary that I had no exposure to at that time. I started reading Baidu Baike without feeling like it was too overwhelming.

In high school and even in college, it never occurred to me to take humanities seriously. There are no jobs in that. And students who major in it, at least not in the very top schools, are pretty fucking dumb. Additionally, I always considered language my weak point. In high school, I remember calculus being super easy for me while English class being almost torture. I had to really force myself to write those literary analyses and memorize the details of what happened in the each chapter of Dubliners by James Joyce so that I could actually ace the quizzes. Honestly, how do you fucking expect high school students to really understand what’s going on in that.

Early in my fourth year of undergraduate, I started learning Russian out of a desire to understand the lyrics of some beautiful Russian songs. Also, the grammar of the language, being highly inflectional, was quite fascinating. Also, the Soviet Union, which shaped the course of 20th century history so substantially, was viewed by me as an entity to be understood to a reasonable level.

I know American education really emphasizes liberal education where in undergraduate you study very generally. It is in contrast to many other systems, where students focus mostly on their major in college. In China, the education system of which was influenced by the Soviet Union in the 50s, has very specific majors, where say you major and engineering and by the time you graduate you are already sort of an expert in a very narrow part of engineering, such as automobile engines. So because of that, I didn’t actually learn a ton of math or computer science despite majoring in them, although it also had to do with my having been quite dysfunctional back then.

On humanities, I’ve also seen people who major in them as rather spoiled. “English literature” was cited by a Chinese immigrant engineer I worked with as something for rich people who don’t have to worry about making a living. Yes, there are actually parents who pay for their kids’ tuition at a non-state school which is like $50k / year now for them to study a useless subject with no employment prospects, and I’ve even seen cases of parents paying them for continual study. To be fair, just being able to study is already privilege. After all, most people in this world not by choice are engaged in menial labor that is often also dangerous and bad for health. It’s especially egregious when these useless humanities students (many of whom aren’t even any good at humanities or language) also support very unprogressive and even vile politics. There are probably many of those at many of America’s Ivies (I’ve been told that at Yale the major for kids who party too much to graduate is American Studies). On that other hand, there are obvious advantages of entitlement, which I won’t go into.

I grew up in very ordinary middle class American neighborhoods, surrounded by very ordinary people. I wasn’t like the other kids at all, though the environment made me fit in artificially. That there are parents who spend over $50k / year on enrichment for their (often idiot) children was so foreign to me at that time. I believed firmly in, by virtue of upbringing, meritocracy, and the gradual realization of the world’s so not being that way was rather disillusioning. Why play it fair when you don’t have to? Instead of feeling of disgust at such, I have evolved to view it as very normal and inherent to human nature.

As for humanities, I haven’t been reading novels in their entirety, which I don’t really have the patience for, but I have learned countless words in Chinese, English, and Russian, which I have a much better memory for now. The humanities culture in China, a rich civilization and culture of millennia, which I have indirect access to via my internet connection, has deeply impressed me. I read classic poetry in it and imagine how anybody could have possibly written this. It is evident that I am still quite a ways away from the big brains in anything, and it is possible that I am simply not naturally talented enough. I will say though that most kids in my current generation, especially in America, are as dumb and ignorant as rocks. Is this due to genetic deterioration or due to the degenerate culture that pervades my generation? I feel like much is the inability of many to recognize that latter and the mental courage to counter it at the expense of some degree of social isolation. We are in an era of civilizational decline, and when I say this, I echo the private exchanges among many highly gifted and aesthetically discerning people who must hide to some degree in the suffocating atmosphere of this country, especially in the corporate world.

Most of my friends are in STEM, in fields like math or software engineering, so the types within my milieu constitute a rather lopsided group. I have little contact with any in the world of humanities and social science in America and I am curious as to what kind of people they are. Well, Steve Hsu says many of them are high V lower M types, confused, in the likes of Stephen Gould. My temporary loss of interest in mathy material is worrisome. Am I degenerating into those I looked down on as saying nothing of substance. (In case you haven’t noticed, I am saying absolutely nothing of substance right now, but perhaps it needs to be said for social and political reasons, as part of an cultural/ideological war in some sense?) Perhaps this is an artifact towards my intelligence shifting more towards the verbal end of things? Could it possibly be that now with some more years of organic cognitive maturation I am now metamorphosing towards the reverse direction of lopsidedness?

When I talk with people in the software profession, it is apparent that they are types for whom learning natural language is unintuitive, despite programming being a very languagy pursuit, with many programmers conspicuously bad at math, as the work is of a very qualitative nature. There had been to me many parallels to writing in software engineering to my blind intuition but such is clearly not the case empirically.

There are many people, especially certain parents, who will say that once you’re an age, you can’t just study and that you have to go out and earn money and do something that’s directly useful to others, that makes some tangible contribution to society. That can be writing software or building houses or scrubbing toilets. But it can’t be hiding in academia, especially in a subject like pure math or comparative literature. There are all these stereotypes of about those in pursuit of or already in possession of Permanent Head Damage as kids who don’t want to grow up many of whom also lack common sense or have no practical skills, who manage to put spoons and forks flat on the dishwasher. There are also stereotypes in virtually all societies that those people only know books and are often too uppity to engage in forms of labor regarded as more menial.

I thought that maybe I could go into history or political science or language. Maybe I could even make a career in that. It’s not impossible. Or maybe even go into the legal profession?

I’m at a loss on where to take my life as software, which I’m not bad at, does seem not to marry my personality. Most software engineers will see me as too weird for say learning Russian on my own. Now am I one of those dysfunctional weirdos who can only survive in academia, which we already know has no jobs? Also, at this point, I am mostly a consumer, rather than a producer, of knowledge, a state of intellectual incapacity that will hopefully alter itself. There have been times when I could not help but see myself as good for nothing, though surely my standards on that are quite high. Hopefully, I can find something in which I can truly excel and even make a name for myself. Let’s see if that happens.

Languages

I find myself increasingly into languages and the humanities, more exclusively verbally loaded things. This is in contrast with my high school self, who was quite weak with that. I recall struggling greatly with English class. I dreaded reading novels and writing those BS literary analyses of them because there were so many places where I’d be completely at sea, and plus, I wasn’t very good with writing or communication in any way. Also, I lacked common sense and general knowledge, indispensable for literature. From that I could only conclude that I’m very naturally bad at literature and at verbal things.

I also remember being having really low self-esteem in third grade because I couldn’t read Harry Potter, which many of the other kids seemed to have with ease and with great enjoyment. I only started learning English at almost 6.5 years of age, so I guess I do have some excuse for sucking at these things. Also, there was also this slang I didn’t know even in middle school, which the other kids taunted me for. I was also overly literal minded and couldn’t get jokes or idioms. Maybe because I was borderline autistic? Who knows.

Anyhow, with some more years of age all this has mostly disappeared. I still wouldn’t consider myself super high V, like +4 sigma at this. If I were, I wouldn’t have to look up so many Russian words despite having studied it (entirely independently, with some long hiatuses) since fall of 2013! That I did by accident on my desire to understand the lyrics of Катюша (Katyusha), which is such a beautiful song. From this, I was brought into the beauty of Soviet music, which I listen to regularly to this day. Those composers were such high aesthetic discernment! I can’t think of any national music that is better than Soviet music!

Because I’m not a genius, unlike Pushkin or Lenin, I feel like I actually have to do deliberate practice; I can’t just learn by osmosis, even with internet dictionaries and Google translate. Sure, one can say I never had formal training, but I don’t think formal training makes much difference. The genuinely gifted tend to be able to learn things on their own without feeling like they’re trying. And needless to say, no matter what instruction you are given, it’s still up to you to form the mental processes required for mastery.

The best way to do deliberate practice is to perform some translations, at my current level. I’ll do one here, on this writing of Lenin on anti-Semitism. From doing this, I can hopefully remember all the words that I don’t know permanently. To be less uncreative, I’ll do it in a very analytical way, you’ll see what I mean.

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Антисемитизмом называется распространение вражды к евреям. Anti-Semitism is on called enlarged spread of enmity towards Jews. Когда проклятая царская монархия доживала свое последнее время, она старалась натравить темных рабочих и крестьян на евреев. What time сursed Tsarist monarchy to lived its through track time, she tried on incite dark workers and peasants on Jews. Царская полиция в союзе с помещиками и капиталистами устраивала еврейские погромы. Tsarist police in union with through place and capitalists with concrete purpose build Jewish through thunder. Ненависть измученных нуждой рабочих и крестьян помещики и капиталисты старались направить на евреев. Not on see from wear out by need workers and peasants landlords and capitalists tried on drive on Jews. И в других странах приходится видеть нередко, что капиталисты разжигают вражду к евреям, чтобы засорить глаза рабочего, чтобы отвлечь их взоры от настоящего врага трудящихся – от капитала. And in other countries motion inwards go see without sparsity, that capitalists enlarged burn enmity towards Jews, what conditionally cover waste eyes of workers, what conditionally away attract them in dawn away on standing enemy of working people – from capital. Вражда к евреям держится прочно только там, где кабала помещиков и капиталистов создала беспросветную темноту рабочих и крестьян. Enmity towards Jews holds firmly only there, where bondage of landlords and capitalists with built without having light darkness of workers and peasants. Только совсем темные, совсем забитые люди могут верить лжи и клевете, распространяемой против евреев. Only with all dark, with all with beaten people can believe lies and libel, enlarged spread against Jews. Это – остатки старого крепостного времени, когда попы заставляли сжигать еретиков на кострах, когда существовало рабство крестьян, когда народ был задавлен и безгласен. These – of stay of old serf time, what time priests with to make burn heretics on stake, what time existed slavery of peasants, what time on humanity were on weighed and without voice. Эта старая крепостническая темнота проходит. Народ становится зрячим. This old feudal darkness through go. People become able to see.

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I stopped after the first paragraph. There are few more. I won’t continue on like this because it’s a bit too tedious and not the best use of my time. This exercise did help much educationally for me.

What Lenin described is basically a common tactic used by colonialists (and current day corporate executives), namely directing their enemy against a harmless, easy to target group, to distract them, in this specific case with Jews as the scapegoat. Compared to divide and conquer, where British colonialists incite X Indian to kill Y Indian, after which British colonialists kill X Indian, this is actually rather mild. I wonder what pieces Lenin wrote on the divide and conquer tactic.

In light of divide and conquer, the communists lost the Cold War after many great triumphs because they fought too much against themselves. The Sino-Soviet split weakened the socialist camp tremendously. By the 80s, the USSR was more behind, and America through soft, ideological means successfully brought about its implosion. The same almost happened with China with the 89 protests, but China did not do what the USSR stupidly did.

There’s also what Michael O Church loves to say, that in Silicon Valley, the executive scumbags love to fuel tensions between the working class and intellectual class. To those throwing rocks at Google shuttles, it’s like dude, you’re attacking the wrong people! This also brings to mind the classic tactic of enticing one’s enemy group with wealth and benefits to bring them to your side. The American elite did that during the Cold War to its working classes and they won with that, and after the pressure on them (from an external power) was over, they believed they could get away with depriving medical care and creating a higher education bubble and did just that. My friend loves to say that we won’t have a revolution because it’s much easier now for rich people to give poor people a little more to get them to shut up. People aren’t starving anymore.

I’ve read writing about how psychopathy, or the willingness and ability to take advantage of others, propels people to the top. Psychopathy I’m sure also runs in families. Now the question is how much longer will the world be ruled by psychopaths who suck people’s blood. I can’t imagine that changing in the next century. Humans are too awful and defective. However, maybe once we discover the genes for psychopathy, we can do something about that. 😉

The chosen people

I have always had a fascination with Jews as a group. They are after all this super high achieving, creative ultra minority group that accounts for like 25% of the people at the top of various disciplines. Most notable are mathematics and physics. In math, you have von Neumann, Grothendieck, Paul Cohen, etc. In physics, the list is even longer: Einstein, Feynman, Gellman, Landau, Teller, too many to name. And these are the brainiest fields. But also, Jews excel at the highest levels in literature and music and in softer sciences. Marx, Freud, Chomsky, etc. They also excel in finance, law, and entrepreneurship. Look at the founders of some of the important SV firms and the top Wall Street hedge funds. This is rather universal. Even in the Soviet Union, some of the most prominent musicians and film producers were Jewish. Sergei Eisenstein, Iosif Kobzon. And many of the most infamous Russian oligarchs are Jewish too. In that realm, comes to mind Roman Abramovich, that guy who, in addition to marrying a trophy wife, bought the world’s best soccer team!

People use IQ as an explanation. Jews as a group, as we all know, have a very high median IQ (with extra advantage at verbal), and we all know what effect such has on the far tail (assuming same sigma (even there, Jews may be higher)). But could IQ alone account for most of such disproportionate achievement? A highly talented math PhD of Jewish origin has hypothesized (and communicated such directly to me) that Jews, aside from cultural and socioeconomic advantages, have higher aesthetic discernment, which enables them to be more creative. We all know that in science and the arts, horsepower is important, but there is also the taste and vision aspect.

I know some Jews, some of whom have lived in Israel, and I enjoy talking with them enormously. One of them I consider far smarter than I am. On the other hand, one of them, who is quite deficient academically and spouts a lot of nonsense, I have a rather low opinion of. He once sent me photos of military hardware that China bought and cloned from Israel to express to me how uncreative Chinese people are. I had already know, from talking with people in China, that China imported some cutting edge military technology from Israel, especially in the 80s. Earlier today, I glanced through the page on the Six Day War, the one in which Israel decisively defeated Arab countries that the Soviet Union had supported during the Cold War. It further reinforced my impression of how formidable the Israeli military is. I know that they have nuclear weapons, and are widely believed to possess thermonuclear ones as well, which they are very confident work despite not having tested them. A guy I talk to, who is doing a PhD in string theory at a top school, of very neutral Indian origin, however, says that they didn’t develop them on their own. (In contrast, it is almost universally accepted that China developed those independently in the 60s after the Soviet experts left.) To my great surprise, Gwydion Madawc Williams, who is highly knowledgeable about history and politics in an objective way, has publicized his doubts as to whether Israel would even survive in the long run. That seems to me quite far-fetched. Even though the demographics, and perhaps even public opinion, is against them, they are too competent and powerful (with weapons of mass destruction) not to survive. I may be wrong though in that judgement, with my near total lack of knowledge at the detailed level.

Yes, I know almost nothing about Jewish culture or even about Israel. I recall learning about it in my bull shit history class senior year of high school, which had the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of its major units. I know who Herzl was, what the Balfour Declaration was, and other such commonly known facts. However, how could a 17 year old possibly understand something like that in any deep, non-trivial way? Maybe in my spare time, I can actually accumulate all that requisite knowledge of biblical history as well as of the modern one. And learn some Hebrew too. If only I had the intellectual horsepower to devour that alongside Chinese language and history, which is already boundless enough. In spite of the great degree of my lack of JvN, I’ll do what I can. I could at least do better than all those Jews I’ve talked to who’ve said completely ridiculous things about Chinese culture and history to me. Jewish culture is little known and misunderstood outside those who practice it, but Chinese culture is far more so, with China having been traditionally isolated from and developed almost entirely independently of the West, alongside the freeze in relations with America following the Korean War that lasted for 20 years, the legacy of which is still ubiquitous today in America, around which global culture revolves. Though I grew up almost entirely in America, someone as intelligent as I am inevitably realized over time that the American or Western portrayal of Chinese culture, both the traditional one, and the PRC one, is more or less nonsense, and factually inaccurate in many ways. To de-brainwash myself on that one, I did what any reasonable person would do: read a ton of Chinese online, learning it in the process.

I’ll conclude by writing that as far as I see it, Jewish intellectual supremacy is hard to deny. As a group, Jews really do seem to produce a lion’s share of the geniuses, and by genius, I mean one who radically changes a field, who produces revolutionary work, as opposed to one who merely becomes professor at first rate university. It won’t be a surprise if this persists for quite a while, perhaps through the 21st century. People love to talk about now how in the young generation, it is the East Asian students who are outperforming, with their domination now of the IMO and Putnam contests, and other olympiads, as well as their increasing population in hard STEM departments in universities. There is still however some doubt on their ability to create new fields, to alter the face of science, as there is the widespread belief that East Asians are not as creative. Though I definitely cannot say with confidence, at this point, that Jewish ultra intellectual elite can be matched, I do think the aforementioned hypothesis regarding East Asians is rather overblown. I’ll explain why in the next paragraph.

First of all, I’ve come to realize that Japan has been producing ceiling creative people at a very high rate since they’ve been a developed country. This is true for mathematics, for physics, for engineering, for video games, for anime. That Jewish math PhD cited earlier in this post feels the same. Their high performance in science is evident from the plethora of Japanese names at the apex of various scientific fields who created their own directions which turned out to be extremely important and fundamental. In theoretical fields, Yoichiro Nambu, Hideki Yukawa, Goro Shimura, Kiyoshi Ito, Kenkichi Iwasawa, too many to name. Japanese have won a lion’s share of Nobel Prizes in the 21st century. Given such, it’s ironic that Satoshi Kanazawa wrote that Asians can’t think. People then will point to China and its underperformance. For that, one needs to keep in mind that China did not begin rapid modernization until the 1950s, whereas Japan was already more or less an advanced country during WWII. The high level of poverty, the great need for applied work, which diverted many of the smartest people away from pure science, and political movements such as the Cultural Revolution that substantially disrupted pure research all contributed to this. China following the reforms had many of its best and brightest go to American PhD programs, with most of them not returning, many of them eventually becoming professors in good or top American universities. It seems like that that cohort of mainland Chinese in America did exceedingly well, many becoming quite distinguished. As for conformism, if one knows the slightest about 20th century Chinese revolutionary culture and history, it will be apparent that Chinese are plenty non-conformist. That way smarter than me guy with Jewish blood, who I talk to regularly, once said that Jews produce the greatest extremes in virtually every direction, from Benjamin Netanyahu to Norman Finkelstein, from Garry Kasparov to Bobby Fischer, which I could not disagree with. As I learned more about 20th century Chinese history and culture though, I feel like Chinese are plenty crazy too. Politically, there is the very original culture and political system created by the Chinese communists, and on the other direction, you have liberal anti-communists like Fang Lizhi as well as Liu Xiaobo and other Tiananmen Square liberals who are now saying crazy things in America in the likes of Kasparov and Fischer. The Chinese communists developed one of a kind methods of warfare that proved to be highly successful, that enabled them ultimately to fight successfully against the most powerful country in the world, proving Chinese military ability in the modern era for the first time. However, due to cultural and linguistic isolation, coupled with political bias from the West, this is little known by the rest of world.

I’ll conclude by saying that all of this, on Jews, on East Asians, is rather consistent with theories derived from psychometrics. Psychometrics would predict, based on their higher base IQs, that those two groups would be vastly overrepresented within the intellectual elite, as they are. And it also seems to me that higher IQ really does make people more likely to be non-conformist and extreme, not only intellectually but also politically. Genius and madness go together.

Programming types

Programming, the intense hacker side of it, attracts a certain breed of person. In short, I would put it as that it attracts those who are higher in autism than in g, though of course one needs to be reasonably high in both, especially the verbal side of g, as its activity is largely one of reading (of logs and documentation) and writing (of code (and its supporting documentation), the quality of which has good variable names as a major component). I do feel at times that programmers, even elite ones, are lacking in scientific taste. Many of them are mathematically null. They thrive on and even love the detailed minutiae involved in the work, such as encodings (like UTF, ASCII, that type of thing), the ins and outs of Unix, and arcane facts of various languages. I had to encounter in my work today parsing of CSV files, and it turned out that the CSV reader was not reading under the correct encoding. I ended up diffing my output with the output generated via a means more or less guaranteed to work to aid such’s diagnosis. I’m not bad at this type of thing any longer, having trained myself or more like grown to be able to patiently resolve such problems in a systematic, foolproof fashion.

Does that mean I enjoy this type of thing? No, not at all, though I find it tolerable, more or less. Too autistic for me. It does not have the depth that mathematics has. It has not the beauty of poetry or of music. It has not the wittiness of words or the expressiveness of (human) language. Nor does it have the significance on the world that politics has. There are more meaningful to be doing than programming, though needless to say there is much demand for it as the world now runs on computer programs, which are written mostly by politically incompetent and often socially awkward who answer to morons with MBAs.

I’ve come to notice that programmers tend to be very narrow. They only know programming. There are of course exceptions. Mathematicians and to a greater extent physicists are more broad, and more deep. It makes them very boring to talk with. The people who are more well rounded who are in programming are often, from my observation, in it for the easy money, which is of course paltry relative to what the parasites of our society suck in, but nonetheless a very good sum by the standards of ordinary folk.

There is of course another world of programming, that of the incompetents, who often know only Java and barely know any computer science even. They’re far from the functional programmers who I work with. This industry is so in need of grunt labor that those people manage to find their way into six figure salaries. Yes, this includes places like Google and Facebook. There are Google engineers who don’t know what the difference between stack memory and heap memory is and who think C++ pointers are scary, who make 200k a year or almost. I won’t talk more about them. Waste of breath.

老代中国科学家与诗词

读关于中国老一代科学家的资料,很难不观察到他们都有很好的语文修养,将写诗作为他们的业余爱好。几个月前,我看到了杨振宁吹捧陈省身的一首诗,为:

天衣岂无缝
匠心剪接成
浑然归一体
广邃妙绝伦
造化爱几何
四力纤维能
千古寸心事
欧高黎嘉陈

这被我翻译成英文为:

How not woven the fabric of the universe
Spliced with craft
Comes together as one
Wide and broad with unparalleled mystery
Nature loves geometry
Fiber bundles describe four forces
Long unsolved problems
Euclid Gauss Riemann Cartan Chern

今天我又看到,来自这里,关于彭桓武与陈能宽长达十年的诗缘。此中,对我印象较深的是:

亭亭铁塔矗秋空,
六亿人民愿望同。
不是工农兵协力,
焉能数理化成功。

第一句代表的当然是中国第一颗,在秋天,放在铁塔上实验的,原子弹,此为当时中国所有人的共同愿望。后两句又,符合共产党对于无产阶级之重视,强调了工农兵的重要性。这首诗很符合当时的国情,强调知识分子为人民服务,而非摆着架子,瞧不起底层人民。六亿人民与工农兵又让我想起在毛泽东的《送瘟神》“六亿人民尽舜尧”那一句,所表达的观念相似。

如何解释之?我想是大科学家,按照在Steve Hsu的博客上在关于g的讨论中用的语言,V都很高与中国老的科举的那一套结合所产生的自然结果。