On credentialism and selection systems

I’ve mentioned before that an Asian-American friend of mine, who is quite smart, disapproves of the whole campaign against Asian quotas spearheaded, or at least advocated, by Steve Hsu and others.

His words are the following:

  1. I don’t believe in legitimizing the credentialist culture of modern academia
  2. I don’t generically feel much kinship with Asian-Americans (who are the most affected by purported discrimination in admissions), even if I might feel more kinship with them on average than I would with any other large ethnic group in America (which is itself not necessarily true)
  3. I don’t find it implausible that there are legitimate reasons to discriminate against Asian-Americans in the admissions process, if by ‘discriminate’ we mean ‘weigh their formal accomplishments less than one would for a member of a different race’
  4. At the end of the line, I believe that persistent whining about this is a reflection of emotional immaturity on the part of Steve et al., in that they seem to have a ‘chip on their shoulder’ which they are incapable of overcoming, and if they were actually taking a principled approach, they would come together and try to create a superior alternative to the radically broken university system, which will likely not be saved by any infusion of Asian students

Here’s what I think.

On 1), I don’t like the credentialism culture of modern academia either. Much of it is a superficial and soulless arms race. Not that grades, test scores, publications, citations, impact factor aren’t strong signals but they are prone to manipulation and artificial inflation, and that there are qualities of work not well-captured by those metrics. People are more or less compelled to single-mindedly play this game, often at the expense of actually substantial scholarship, if they are to survive in academia nowadays.

On 2), I hate to say that this country has become more toxically consumed by identity politics over the years, not to mention that people are judged at least subconsciously by who one is associated with. So collective bargaining is crucial for a group’s position on the status hierarchy.

On 3), there is that due to Asian-Americans’ and Asians in general having traditionally been the underdog, as well as their lack of media presence, which is intimately tied to the alienness of their names in the Western linguistic context, some people are inclined to view Asians are grinds who aren’t actually as capable as they might appear on paper. Especially with the whole tiger mother phenomenon that Amy Chua popularized with her infamous book. Of course, China’s rise over the recent years has altered this perception somewhat, especially the one that Asians are smart but not creative, though surely, it does seem that controlling for grades and test scores, or IQ, Asians do seem less creative, though that may be due to environmental factors, such as de facto or implicit quotas imposed by diversity mandates and economic circumstances.

On 4), I mostly disagree. Asian-Americans don’t really have the power to create a sufficiently credible alternative in a world that runs so heavily on associating with prestigious, usually long-established, institutions like Harvard and Goldman-Sachs. In their ancestral countries, China and India, Asians can improve the university and research system and the economic and technological competitiveness of the country as a whole, so as to make their universities more credible as well. In America, all Asian-Americans can really do is make more noise around the issue to exert more pressure on the elite universities, and also donate more and enhance their media and political presence as their socioeconomic position improves, especially at the elite end, improves, so that the elite universities perceive themselves as having more to lose from discriminating against Asian-Americans based on race.

This is all I have to say as pertains exclusively to Asian-Americans. I shall now give my thoughts on credentialism and selection in general.

The job of admissions and hiring committees and HR is astronomically harder than in the pre-internet age. So many people apply for positions they are grossly under-qualified for, now that it’s so easy to shoot off a resume or application online. There are, of course, application fees for college and grad schools, but they are not enough to deter. This means in the selection process can be afford now significantly less time per candidate, and one can argue that as a consequence, the process becomes more bureaucratic and easier to game. Often, people will in the pre-screening stage eliminate all applicants who do not meet certain formal criteria, such as minimum GPA/test scores or a certain degree from a certain set of sufficiently credible universities. In the case of academia, to my limited second-hand knowledge, committees will look at publications lists with a focus on citation count and impact factor of the journals on which the papers were published and also verify the candidate against senior, tenured faculty in the same or at least similar area of research. In the case of industry jobs, what matters more is the interview, where for technical roles, technical questions will be asked to further test the technical aptitude and knowledge, as well as, the softer aspects of communication and personal chemistry. For non-technicals, I can only say it’s even more about credentials (school, companies, job titles, dates of employment) and how you present yourself. I can only conclude that way more energy is expended now in aggregate on application and selection than before, which is quite costly really. In the career world, people are mostly out for themselves and don’t really care about wasting other people’s time, so long as they can get away with it with impunity more or less.

I’ll say that there is a tradeoff between optimizing for one’s formal credentials and optimizing for one’s actual ability and knowledge. One loses out so much more now if one neglects the former too much due to more competition per position. Surely, there has been gross inflation of credentials. This is in its crudest form epitomized by college’s having become the new high school, thereby rendering prestige of institution a stronger signal. Furthermore, the largely consequent grade inflation and watering down of coursework has added more noise to school transcripts. Contest training, for math in particular, has become so much more popularized, that to not have credentials in those raises questions in some circles, and moreover, there is so much more of an obstacle course of summer programs and scholarships and grants and internships and jobs which one must pass through to some degree if one wants a reasonable chance of success at a specified level. In this sense, there is more pressure to conform to an existing, often complexity-ridden system. It may well be that people nowadays are not all that much better in terms of knowledge and proficiency than before, correcting for the positive effects of technology on learning, but they actually put in much more time and effort.

Now, if one expends much energy on actual substance, there is concern as to what would be lost if those translate not into formal credentials. Arguably more common is the other way round, where one turns into a soulless credential-chasing machine. I’ve been amazed at how many people manage to achieve much higher grades, test scores, and awards than what their knowledge and ability from interaction with them would reasonably indicate. Those people tend to be very boring and risk-averse, and they are often the types our current system selects for, like it or not.

I used to feel like to prove that one is actually smart, at least in STEM, one ought to do sufficiently well in one of those major math, physics, or computing olympiads or contests. I would say that for raw technical ability, that is probably still the strongest signal. Grades are somewhat noisy, because it’s not hard to copy or snipe homework solutions, and for tests, there is a large cramming and figuring out what’s gonna be on the test component. Perhaps they are more consequentially so as there are also some genuinely capable or even brilliant students who for related personality reasons have a hard time getting themselves to care too much about grades. I’ve personally seen some high GPA people, even in college, who signal in what they say or write complete idiocy that would make you wonder if they were pretending stupid, especially if said person were female. Some people learn much more deeply and also much more broadly, outside of what the system teaches them, to a high level of retention, much of which is not captured through any formal credential. From my personal experience, tests of a wide range of knowledge, sufficiently substantial but not too esoteric, are stronger signals since they cannot be crammed for, but they are, for the difficulty of organization, seldom administered.

In the real world and in academia though, what matters is the ability to deliver actual projects and conduct meaningful research, and those, while correlated with ability to learn, are not quite the same. Those are also way more context-dependent, which means more noise, both due to more variance and more ambiguity of judgment.

I will say that at times or even often, society is met with the problem of people finagling themselves into a position to judge what they are not really qualified to, per their ability and expertise, which means some resume-padding bozos rising up and actual competents being passed over. This problem I believe has been accentuated by the ever more credentialist culture that has emerged over the recent years. What’s kind of sad is how the more conformism and risk-aversion rises, the more these traits are pressured and selected for.

I’ve come to notice that there tends to be some difference between maverick genius and the conformist first-rate professional. If one looks at history, real genius, the ones who create paradigm shifts, tends to have more very lopsided profiles, though surely, it might go too far to say that *most* of the real geniuses were out of it in a Stallman or Galois like fashion, especially as it’s the deranged ones which garner more attention. But one can say with high level of confidence that there were many real geniuses who had a hard time fitting in even into the elite mainstream of his profession, who have even been marginalized. I’ve been told that the real genius mathematicians like Perelman, Langlands, and Shimura more or less cut contact with the mathematical community apparently out of disgust. There is also evidence that plenty would-be real geniuses did not actually make it, with their enormous potential having been thwarted by the system at some point and hardly realized. In an ideal world that optimizes for collective value, if somebody else can do the job much better than you and actually really wants to, you should let him do the job and get out of his way. Of course, reality is far from that. I have personally felt that way with regard to my mathematical ability, often feeling that I wasn’t good enough when I failed to derive something on my own, yet I see so many people worse than I am even so eager to play the whole credentialist game without recognizing how deficient they really are. This suggests that I am very partial towards a certain side of the spectrum. I even feel that in some sense, nothing is more embarrassing then formally being much higher than what one’s ability actually merits, since it demonstrates not only incompetence but poor character. However, I am, regrettably, or not, feeling that circumstances are pressuring me ever more towards the opposite direction.

On manipulating perceptions

My thoughts on the importance of perception management, in addition to actually being good, by way of a chat log.

dude I think the jewish domination of liberal media is just IQ
if white americans are 100 SD 15, ashkenazim are 115 SD 15
Then if you look at 130+
In the US you have a 30:1 ratio but among 130+ you would expect like
dude like 1/3 of the 130+ whites in the US are jews
jewish verbal is probably even > 115 since spatial is lower
also they are coastal and liberal
lol you idiot it has much to do with personality socioeconomics culture too
which leads to more representation
yeah i’m saying that
coastal and liberal
already on the 2:1
updating more
Lol also if Jewish verbal is so high why are Asians beating them at PSAT/SAT
Read Myth of American Meritocracy by Unz
link me the stats
I read it
He has stats there
have you read Janet Mertz takedown
Yes I’ve skimmed through that
Unz overestimates harvard % jewish
and underestimates other things
Sure he probably does a little
math olympiad % jewish
wait like half the white people at mop are jewish
like half
Since it can be hard to tell by surname
dude I think chinese americans have a massive
verbal IQ
way higher than of mainland china
maybe even higher than ashkenazim
But they haven’t been here long enough
like Jews in the 50s
also a lot of them are not interested
in verbal professions
how trainable is verbal SAT?
I agree the trainability of the SAT is overstated by people but cramming vocab is totally a thing, no
I dont trust unz statistics at all lol
Lol because Chinese-Americans know that verbal careers like law are rigged against them
So many strong ones are hesitant to enter
There’s a cultural affinity aspect to that as well
chinese prefer medicine or law
I think a lot of it also is that a society with a functional legal system is alien to most chinese people 😛
once I asked zuming whether china had a legal system
his response: No
Haha he’s both right and wrong
but yeah law is jewish
but I mean jews are not pulling the strings or anything
they are smart verbally
And they tend to be coastal and liberal
The tribe is not jews, it’s coastal liberals
130+ secular coastal liberals are like half jewish
but they dont think of themselves as jewish but as secular coastal liberals
like NYT columnists are half jewish
because 130+ secular costal liberals in the US are half jewish
Lol lol
if you add the adjective new york
secular new york coastal liberals
it’s a majority easily
NYT columnists
like manhattan is 20% jewish
NYT is full of garbage
its pretty reliable
Sometimes they call Rouhani a “moderate” and I wince – he’s certainly better than ahmadenijad, but he’s no moderate … “pragmatist” is the right word
You really need to broaden your horizons lol
See politically, the Anglo world is setting the standards right now
yes, I very much enjoy not living in a society with sesame credit
sesame credit?
I don’t even know what that is
china could become an orwellian state
Oh that
isn’t that great
Orwellian state what does that even mean
It’s just this phrase for evil regime coined by the Anglo media based on the works of an Anglo writer, that’s all.
I’ve read 1984 and Animal Farm
They’re pretty good
Very hyperbolic of course, as is much media
I actually exchanged briefly with Unz
Maybe I should ask him about what he thinks of Jews being subsumed into the white category in these racial classifications
What do you think of these IQ tests as actual measures of real, biological intelligence
They are very noisy for sure
Especially verbal, because exposure to language varies widely
on an individual level
on a group level good
they are measuring something important
Whether it’s 100% genetic I dont know
I doubt it
Lol when most Chinese kids’ parents don’t know English all that well
Heck I’m even unfamiliar with some of the more colloquial English language
People viewed me as funny for it in school
what do you think about steven pinker
he’s one of my favorite people
No opinion of him
Also those tests are noisy predictors of actual ability on real things as well from my observation
The discrimination against Asians in admissions right now is likely partially premised on the perception that their test scores inflate their actual ability due to prep.
There is still the perception that Asians do well in school but don’t go on to do great things
Again it’s only a perception
Being good and being perceived as good are far from perfectly correlated.
I think there is discrimnation against asians
for being recent
for being perceived as grade grubbers
Yeah they’re also not rich or well-connected.
this perception is not wholly unjustified ofc
yeah also that
i am strongly opposed to ivy asian quotas
There is resistance towards Asians becoming successful in America
It’s a white country after all
Anyhow, I think in a matter of time, the best young people in China will come here for grad school less and less.
America will become a place for China to send its second-rates.
I’ve written that China needs to get better at marketing
china gives 0 shits about academics
it’s way too right wing to care about academics
too right wing?
And I’ve read on Zhihu that in recent years, the Chinese who studied math in France have turned out better than the ones who came to US for grad school.
that’s about france vs US
not china vs US
Lol math I think the best young people will still study abroad for a while.
There’s also engineering
Plenty of that China does well now.
I think in actual STEM ability/competence, China/Chinese still have much room for improvement, but now, they’re not bad, and the potential is there, with trends in favor of them.
It’s the whole game of manipulating perceptions that will take longer
Due to cultural difference and inertia
In that regard, it’s already been massively successful in just the last five years if you think about it
The media portrayal in the West has already drastically changed.
For instance, dismissiveness of Chinese tech companies is metamorphizing into fear.
I’m not gonna argue whether or not it’s gone to the other extreme
People can have different opinions on that
In any case, I don’t think China has transitioned to foundational innovator, that’ll take a while, but the increasing level of sophistication combined with the scale is certainly very formidable.
China still relies on US companies for its semiconductors/chips. She has not created a viable ecosystem for its homegrown ones yet. But that could well happen in a decade.
Then US will have even less bargaining chip.
Now, China can easily get away with what it’s doing to Taiwan largely because it is so much stronger economically, technologically, and militarily.
jack ma is a smart guy
but I mean
Nobody wants to piss off the powerful, because there’s much to lose.
china’s system doesnt make too much room for jack ma and yitang zhang
The lack of political freedom is a big obstacle here
Lol Jack Ma isn’t smart IQ wise
Struggled to get into a college
He has other qualities
The lack of political freedom is a big problem for innovation
Elaborate on that one 
Name a totalitarian society that was innovative
Germany under the Kaiser wasn’t really totalitarian
all their jewish scientists moved to america and israel
ussr had good academics, certainly
Because they prevented them from leaving
They didn’t have much in the way of tech
Uh, Sputnik?
low tech
very low tech
your cell phone is better
there won’t be a chinese steve jobs
Sure computer technology they were behind, because semi-conductors and integrated circuits were invented in America
Lol Steve Jobs is mostly marketing 
chinese bill gates
And what you say about Sputnik is ridiculous
First satellite in orbit
That was back in 1957 silly
You don’t think Ren Zhengfei is as impressive as Steve Jobs?
So much of the global telecommunications infrastructure
Now their phones, which US is banning.
Lol what if China once it has the resources starts a huge propaganda/PR war
You bitch about totalitarianism
China has a ton of young people with nothing to do.
Have them troll the YouTube comments, drown out all the anti-communist Chinese.
Numbers do matter
The Chinese government could also incentivize more people in the West to start blogs supportive of Chinese ideology.
Try to buy out US media outlets
You don’t think China once it is advantaged in resources can start playing the game of manufacturing consent as well

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.

Something I learned today about Microsoft

I recall when I was in high school, some old guy told me that Microsoft got really lucky with its IBM deal. I didn’t know about that, and I didn’t care enough to learn about that until today. Apparently, Microsoft bought the license for an operating system created by Gary Kildall and his company by the name of CP/M, from which they derived MS-DOS. It is said that Microsoft basically

According to Wikipedia,

When Digital Research founder Gary Kildall examined PC DOS and found that it duplicated CP/M’s programming interface, he wanted to sue IBM, which at the time claimed that PC DOS was its own product. However, Digital Research’s attorney did not believe that the relevant law was clear enough to sue. Nonetheless, Kildall confronted IBM and persuaded them to offer CP/M-86 with the PC in exchange for a release of liability.

I’d totally believe it. The truth is to win in business, even in technology, is as much if not more about connections, marketing, and legal tactics, than about the innovativeness of the actual technology and product itself. Bill Gates, in addition to being very gifted technically, was from a very prominent family, with his father as a partner of a law firm, and he was willing to engage to the extremes in cutthroat, win-at-all-costs behavior.

I can see the following analogy. Bill Gates is to Gary Kildall as Thomas Edison is to Nikola Tesla. Tesla was much stronger, more inventive, and more farsighted technologically, but Edison was the one to successfully commercialize and gain credit, and similarly, Kildall actually did very foundational programming work, in compilers and operating systems, or so it seems; Bill Gates did not but he ended up winning. Heck, Kildall even had it much worse in many ways. Tesla is more or less a household name, though less so than Edison. On the other hand, very few people have heard of Kildall. I see another, less direct analogy. You know how the Chinese government is often despised for using access to the Chinese market to extort technology/IP from foreign companies? Concretely, there is that China purchased high speed rail technology from German and Japanese companies and basically reverse-engineered and re-designed it, and eventually with its size, built what is now by far the world’s largest high speed rail network. I wouldn’t be surprised if what the Chinese did in high speed rail technology was mostly of an incremental and scaling nature, as opposed to one of foundational innovation. As much hype as there is in the media about Chinese tech, I still don’t see all that much radical innovation there. Of course, that has much to do with China’s having started very very behind. When you’re like that, you can in most fields only learn and copy, and even that is often pretty non-trivial. After all, most countries and corporations cannot even copy. So you could say there is somewhat of a parallel between China and Microsoft. The one glaring exception I can think of is that China sucks at marketing, while Microsoft is for the most part good at it. By the way, Bill Gates is revered, often blindly, in China, with few people there seeming to know or care about his nasty side. He has marketed himself very successfully, especially his whole philanthropic foundation. As cynical as I am, I think Bill Gates is doing all that mostly after he already won, to redeem himself, reputation wise.

There is another parallel between the two. Microsoft may not be the best at anything or closely relatedly, terribly innovative, but it can do just about everything, and China is like that too. Microsoft has its own software ecosystem, from operating system to programming language to distributed system to search engine to word processor to phone (which I just learned got cancelled). Microsoft even has a prominent games division, with Xbox and Age of Empires, which I much enjoyed playing as a kid, though I wasn’t very good at it. In this way, Microsoft is more comprehensive than Google. Google doesn’t really have programming languages (C# is a much bigger deal than Go as far as I can tell), nor does it have its own PC. And the other major tech companies like Apple, Facebook are all much more specialized.

I’ll conclude with a comment on my take related to this whole trade war ongoing between US and China that’s been so big in the media lately, particularly on how US likes to blame to China for stealing its technology. I seriously believe this is way overblown, though of course I can’t know for sure how much actually valuable the Chinese actually managed to steal from US defense companies. To convince you that I’m not saying this out of any ethnic bias, I’ve give some justification of my position.

First of all, those really smart, high trained, and highly creative/innovative/productive mainland Chinese in America have mostly stayed in America, benefitting American companies and the American economy massively. Sure there is some communication and collaboration with people in China, but I would expect it to be relatively minimal in anything that is terribly advanced and not already in the public domain (which means academia doesn’t count). Why? Because if you’re working in America at the cutting edge of technology you’re busy enough yourself. And you’re a Pacific Ocean apart. But if those people actually return to China with their expertise, then they could contribute massively to China’s science and technology. There seems to be much more of that happening in the past couple years, and I expect the trend to continue that way.

There is also that military technology wise, China seems to be developing mostly indigenously, with of course much input from Russia, whose equipment at the most advanced level China often prefers over her own for obvious reasons. After all, the technological ecosystem left behind by the former USSR that Russia inherited, while much inferior to the US one, is still quite formidable. On this, I find it necessary to extend this to a phenomenon with much deeper roots little heard of in America due to political bias. It is that China more or less unambiguously got way more technologically from the former Soviet Union than from the US. China’s modern technology and industry was essentially founded upon what the Soviet Union gave to China in the 50s. That was the decade when China achieved basic modernization in a comprehensive way with the help of the designs the Soviet Union provided then for a wide array of technologies from chemical plants to cars to airplanes, that was accompanied by Soviet experts actually working in China. It has occurred to me given how effective the Soviet STEM education system was, they had trained enough of a surplus of, relative to the ones working at home, second-rate, scientists and engineers and technicians to send to China. Sure, there were some highly trained, brilliant people with higher education and work experience in the US who returned to China in the 50s who did important work there afterwards, but that doesn’t really count as actual technology transfer. There was basically no direct exchange with the US during that period. So if Russia blames China for stealing its technology, there is not really all that much that the Chinese can say, given their history of more or less cloning a lesser version of the best that the Soviets/Russians had, but if the US does, China can perfectly reasonably say for many things that the US had basically nothing to do with it.

Why am I saying this? Because there seems to be much misunderstanding in America on this matter, so I feel somewhat obliged to point this out. How people will react, that is another matter. But I’ll at least keep a solid, publicly viewable record.

I consider myself pretty dispassionate by the way. I mostly want to understand how the world actually works. There is propaganda everywhere, but I shall say that much of US propaganda is especially ridiculous. Given the pervasiveness and dominance of Anglo culture, a legacy of the British Empire and later American supremacy of course, it might fool the majority of people, but there will always be some who cannot be fooled, even if they grow up in America. I think it’s time that American elites face the truth instead of denying it; it’ll be beneficial for both America and the world at large. Downgrading and outright denying the achievements and ability of groups or nations for political reasons signifies not only poor character, but also personal insecurity. No other elite does this as grossly as the American elite. Also, a propaganda/culture war is hard to sustain if relies too much on telling lies. America’s doing this will also further alienate the elites of certain high achieving groups in America who contribute much to America’s technology and innovation. It cannot last forever.

In saying this I convey another implicit message. It’s important to be technically strong, but it’s just as important if not more so to know how to stand up for yourself and even act in a cutthroat/rogue way if really necessary. Know how to advocate for yourself and don’t let others take credit for your work and your accomplishments. China could learn more of that side of Bill Gates, and I believe they already are. Of course, they will do even better in the future with that. Another group that ought to do that, with allusion to Michael O Church, are the programmers and technologists in Silicon Valley and in America at large, who are an increasingly marginalized group. It’ll be good for both themselves and for America as a country.

Big Picard theorem

I’ve been asked to prove the Big Picard theorem, assuming the fundamental normality test. Assuming the latter, it is a very short proof, and I could half-ass with that. I don’t like writing up stuff that I don’t actually understand for the sake of doing so. There’s little point, and if I’m going to actually write up a proof of it, I’ll do so for real, which means that I go over the fundamental normality test in its entirety.

First some preliminaries.

Theorem 2.28 (Riemann mapping theorem). Let \Omega \subset \mathbb{C} be simply-connected and \Omega \neq \mathbb{C}. Then there exists a conformal homeomorphism f : \Omega \to \mathbb{D} onto the unit disk \mathbb{D}.

Proof: Linked here.

Theorem 2.30. Suppose n is bounded, simply-connected, and regular. Then any conformal homeomorphism as in Theorem 2.28 extends to a homeomorphism \bar{\Omega} \to \bar{\mathbb{D}}.

Schwarz reflection principle. Suppose that f is an analytic function which is defined in the upper half-disk \{|z|^2 < 1, \text{Im } z > 0\}. Further suppose that f extends to a continuous function on the real axis, and takes on real values on the real axis. Then f can be extended to an analytic function on the whole disk by the formula

f(\bar{z}) = \overline{f(z)}

and the values for z reflected across the real axis are the reflections of f(z) across the real axis.

We begin by presenting the standard “geometric” procedure by which the covering map \pi : \mathbb{D} \to \mathbb{C} \setminus \{p_1, p_2\} may be obtained. Here p_1, p_2 are distinct points. This then leads naturally to the “little” and “big” Picard theorems, which are fundamental results of classical function theory.


The construction takes place in the Poincaré disk. In the above figure, we have a circle C_2 reflected about C_1. The configuration is such that C_2 intersects C_1 perpendicularly. We are reflecting C_2 across C_1. The intersection points must be fixed, and the reflection must preserve the orthogonality. Moreover, reflection preserves the geodesic nature, and under the hyperbolic metric, geodesics are generalized circles. From this, we can deduce that C_2 goes to itself, with its two arcs relative to C_1 interchanged.

To construct the map, we start with a triangle \Delta_0 inside the unit circle consisting of circular arcs that intersect the unit circle at right angles. Reflect \Delta_0 across each of its sides and one gets three more triangles with circular arcs intersecting the unit circle at right angles.


The above figure shows how the unit disk is partitioned by triangles as a result of iterating these reflections indefinitely. To obtain the sought after covering map, we start from the Riemann mapping theorem which gives us a conformal isomorphism f : \Delta_0 \to \mathbb{H}, the upper half-plane. This map extends as a homeomorphism to the boundary by Theorem 2.30. Thus, the three circular arcs of \Delta_0 get mapped to the intervals [-\infty, 0], [0,1], [1,\infty], respectively. By the Schwarz reflection principle, the map f extends analytically to the region obtained by reflecting \Delta_0 across each of its sides as just explained above. There is that 0, 1, \infty are on the boundary of the unit disk and thus omitted. There is also that complex conjugation as specified in the Schwarz reflection principle reflects the upper half plane to the lower half plane. This way, we obtain a conformal map onto \mathbb{C} \setminus \{0, 1\} defined on the entire unit disk that is a local isomorphism and a covering map.

Theorem 4.18. Every entire function which omits two values is constant.

Proof. Indeed, if f is such a function, we may assume that it takes its values in \mathbb{C} \setminus \{0, 1\}. But then we can lift f to the universal cover of \mathbb{C} \setminus \{0, 1\} to obtain an entire function F into \mathbb{D}. By Liouville’s theorem, F is constant.     ▢

Theorem 4.19 (Fundamental normality test). Any family of functions \mathcal{F} in \mathcal{H}(\Omega) which omits the same two distinct values in \mathbb{C} is a normal family.

Theorem 4.20. If f has an isolated essential singularity at z_0, then in any small neighborhood of z_0 the function f attains every complex value infinitely often, with one possible exception.

Proof. Suppose without loss of generality that z_0 = 0 and define f_n(z) = f(2^{-n}z) for an integer n \geq 1. We take n so large that f_n is analytic on 0 < |z| < 2 by making the neighborhood about z_0 sufficiently small. Suppose by contradiction every neighborhood of f omits the some two points. Then every function in this family, defined via f, omits the same two points. Thus, by the fundamental normality test, some subsequence of the family f_{n_k}(z) \to F(z) uniformly on 1/2 \leq |z| \leq 1 where either F is analytic or F = \infty by Weierstrass’s theorem (see here). By the maximum principle, in the former case, f is bounded near z = 0, which means it’s removable. In the latter case, convergence to \infty implies that z = 0 is a pole, contradicting that f has an essential singularity there.     ▢


  • Schlag, W., A Course in Complex Analysis and Riemann Surfaces, American Mathematical Society, 2014, pp. 70-72,81,160-164.

Face recognition in China

I recently learned that face recognition, led by unicorns SenseTime and Megvii, has reached the level of accuracy and comprehensiveness that it is percolating into retail and banking, and moreover police are using it to detect suspects, or so various media articles say, like this one. Just Google “face recognition china.” I’m both surprised and impressed. Of course, in hindsight, what they did was mostly collect, aggregate, and organize enough data to train the deep learning models to the level that they can be put to production. The Chinese government has, after all, resident identity cards for all Chinese citizens with photos. I was certainly somewhat envious of the people involved in that in China, and I feel like such a failure compared to them, and that my life has been so boring and uneventful in comparison. Of course, whether I’m suited to do deep learning is another matter. After playing a bit with neural nets, including on the canonical MNIST data set, I sure was disappointed, and I understood immediately why this guy, who is doing a machine learning PhD at Stanford, had said to me that deep learning is very engineering heavy. I wish I had the enthusiasm and motivation for stuff like GPUs. As for that, all I’ve done was play with CUDA in a way so minor almost as if I did absolutely nothing. Again I don’t see myself as terribly suited towards engineering (I’m too much a purist at heart), but I might eventually be compelled to become interested in that, and once I do, I don’t think I’ll do badly. This also makes me wonder what I would’ve ended up like had I stayed in China. I’m sure I would’ve been weird there too, though I would also be more like everyone else. I wonder what I would have ended up majoring in there, and what I would’ve ended up doing afterwards. I’d like to think that I would have gotten a much better education and cultural experience there, though of course, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. For instance, in America, Asian quotas means you are judged relative to other Asians, but being in China means that automatically, and China, by virtue of having low resources per capita, is, needless to say, a grossly competitive society with fewer second chances, and thereby even harsher on late bloomers, though surely, the gaokao happens at age 18, whereas in America, grades start necessarily mattering at as early as age 14-5, when many are still very immature. I must acknowledge that as much as I dislike various aspects of the American education system, it is extremely generous, from what I see, relatively speaking, in tolerating failure at a young age. In China, you test into a specific department at a university, and once you’re in, it’s very hard to change, which means some land in majors they end up finding themselves unsuitable for. At age 18, it’s really hard to make such a decision, especially when you don’t really know anything about the actual content of the major, which is usually the case when one is a clueless kid. This is why I say that before you commit officially to an area, always try to learn something about it on your own beforehand to increase confidence that you actually have at least reasonable, and preferably high, talent for it.

On the broader topic of technology in China, it is needless to say that they are still quite a ways behind America and the advanced Western countries. Look at what the ZTE ban has done. China has its own CPUs but not the ecosystem for it. China still buys and deploys much of its most advanced military technology, including jet engines and surface-to-air missiles, an indicator that its indigenous versions of those are still seen as unproven, unreliable, and of lower quality, though surely they’ve made great strides on that the past decade. I stumbled on the video of this military parade held on August 1st, 2017 to mark the 90th anniversary of the Nanchang Uprising that showcased some of the latest developments. I didn’t like it all that much at first, with its overall presentation, the imagery and music in sync, kind of, how should I say it, corny, and I felt the music paled in comparison to the music of the Soviet Red Army, which is very hard to beat, at least based on my taste, though listening to the music again, I grew to like it more. Surely, I would characterize the whole thing as rather sinister, and representative portions of that would be this and this. Musically, the part that left the most memorable impression was this, and to be honest, I found the non-musical aspect of that part both awkward and sinister, especially coupled with the music. I’m sure many people in the West would view this parade as rather weird, or even effeminate, as much as I hate that stereotype of East Asians in America.

Yet in spite of overall and in some cases critical backwardness, China is managing to unveil a face recognition system at a level of sophistication and scale, and also scariness/creepiness that many in America could only dream of. Surely, that was far from my expectation. Who knows. Maybe in a decade, China will have a nationwide genome database. I say this with the awareness that for anything of scale, there is a tremendous advantage to homogeneity and central organization. We already see, in the case of face recognition, China’s using this to compensate for its inferior technology as far as strict quality and capability is concerned.

As far as I can tell, Chinese and Chinese society place a strong emphasis on STEM and the society as a whole is far more scientifically literate than American society, which is advantageous for certain pro-STEM policies and government, though surely, China is still struggling to produce the best people in many areas, for which the corresponding elite subcultures in the West are difficult if not impossible to transmit. It will be very interesting to see what kind of novel stuff comes out of China organically over the next decade or so, especially as China seeks further to create its own distinct ecosystem, as opposed to remaining in many ways still a subsidiary of America and Russia. In any case, I am quite a fan of the political culture of China, and on the contrary, I am rather sick of the one in America.

On grad school, science, academia, and also a problem on Riemann surfaces

I like mathematics a ton and I am not bad at it. In fact, I am probably better than many math graduate students at math, though surely, they will have more knowledge than I do in some respects, or maybe even not that, because frankly, the American undergrad math major curriculum is often rather pathetic, well maybe largely because the students kind of suck. In some sense, you have to be pretty clueless to be majoring in just pure math if you’re not a real outlier at it, enough to have a chance at a serious academic career. Of course, math professors won’t say this. So we have now an excess of people who really shouldn’t be in science (because they much lack the technical power or an at least reasonable scientific taste/discernment, or more often both) adding noise to the job market. On this, Katz in his infamous Don’t Become a Scientist piece writes:

If you are in a position of leadership in science then you should try to persuade the funding agencies to train fewer Ph.D.s. The glut of scientists is entirely the consequence of funding policies (almost all graduate education is paid for by federal grants). The funding agencies are bemoaning the scarcity of young people interested in science when they themselves caused this scarcity by destroying science as a career. They could reverse this situation by matching the number trained to the demand, but they refuse to do so, or even to discuss the problem seriously (for many years the NSF propagated a dishonest prediction of a coming shortage of scientists, and most funding agencies still act as if this were true). The result is that the best young people, who should go into science, sensibly refuse to do so, and the graduate schools are filled with weak American students and with foreigners lured by the American student visa.

Even he believes that now the Americans who go into science are often the ones who are too dumb or clueless to realize that they basically have no future there. I can surely attest to how socially inept, or at least clueless, many math grad students are, as I interact with them much more now. The epidemic described by Katz is accentuated by the fact that professors in science are not encouraging of students who seek a plan B, which everyone should given the way the job market is right now, and even go as far as to create an atmosphere wherein even to express a desire to leave academia is a no-no. I am finding that this type of environment is even corroding my interest in mathematics itself, which is sad. In any case, I sort of disagree with Katz in that I feel like the very top scientific talent of my generation still mostly ends in top or at least good graduate schools, though surely there are many who feel alienated or don’t find the risk worth taking, and end up leaving science. I myself am thinking of forgetting about mathematics altogether. So that I can concentrate my motivation and time and energy on developing expertise in some area of software engineering that is in demand, for the money and (relative) job security, and hopefully also find it a sufficiently fulfilling experience. There are a lot of morons in tech of course, but certain corners of it do provide refuge. I had always thought of mathematics as being a field with a much higher threshold cognitively in its content, enough to filter out most of the uninteresting people, but that’s, to my disappointment, less so than I expected. I do have reason to be scared, because one of the smartest and most interesting people I know took like five years following his math PhD to make his way into full employment, in a programming/data science heavy role of course, despite being arguably much better at programming than most industry software engineers with a computer science degree, which he lacked, an indicator of the perverse extent to which our society now runs on risk-aversion and (artificial) credential signaling. I can only consider myself fortunate that I do have a computer science degree from a reputable place, and with that, I have already made a modest pot of gold, despite being frankly quite mediocre at real computer stuff, which I have had difficulty becoming as interested in as I have been in mathematics. Maybe I was even fortunate to have not been all that gifted in the first place, which in some sense compelled me to be more realistic, as there is arguably nothing worse than becoming an academic loser, which academia is full of nowadays, sadly. This type of thing can happen to real geniuses too. Look at Yitang Zhang for instance, the most prominent case to come to mind. Except he actually made it afterwards, spectacularly and miraculously, with his dogged belief in himself and perseverance under adversity. For every one of him, I would expect like 10 real geniuses (in ability) who were under-nurtured, under-recognized, or even screwed, left to fade into obscurity.

I’ll transition now to a problem that I’ve been asked to solve. Its statement is the following:

Let f be holomorphic on a simply-connected Riemann surface M, and assume that f never vanishes. Then there exists F holomorphic on M such that f = e^F. Show that harmonic functions on M have conjugate harmonic functions.

Every p_0 \in M corresponds to an open connected neighborhood U =  \{p : \lVert F(p) - F(p_0) \rVert < F(p_0)\}. Let \{U_{\alpha}\} be the system consisting of these neighborhoods, (\log F)_{\alpha} a continuous branch of the logarithm of F in U_{\alpha}. From this arises a family F_{\alpha} = \{(\log F)_{\alpha} + 2n\pi i, n \in \mathbb{Z}\}.

In Schlag, there is the following lemma.

Lemma 5.5. Suppose M is a simply-connected Riemann surface and

\{D_{\alpha} \subset M : \alpha \in A\}

is a collection of domains (connected, open). Assume further that these sets form an open cover M = \bigcup_{\alpha \in A} D_{\alpha} such that for each \alpha \in A there is a family F_{\alpha} of analytic functions f : D_{\alpha} \to N, where N is some other Riemann surface, with the following properties: if f \in F_{\alpha} and p \in D_{\alpha} \cap D_{\beta}, then there is some g \in F_{\beta} so that f = g near p. Then given \gamma \in A and some f \in F_{\gamma} there exists an analytic function \psi_{\gamma} : M \to N so that \psi_{\gamma} = f on D_{\gamma}.

Using the families of analytic function F_{\alpha} as given above, it is clear that near p \in D_{\alpha} \cap D_{\beta}, (\log F)_{\alpha} + 2n_{\alpha}\pi i = (\log F)_{\beta} + 2n_{\beta}\pi i when n_{\alpha} = n_{\beta}, which means the hypothesis of Lemma 5.5 is satisfied by the above families.

I’ll present the proof of the above lemma here, to consolidate my own understanding, and also out of its essentiality in the construction of a global holomorphic function matching some function in each family. It does so in generality of course, whereas in the problem we are trying to solve it is on a specific case.

Proof. Let

\mathcal{U} = \{(p, f) | p \in D_{\alpha}, f \in F_{\alpha}, \alpha \in A\} / \sim

where (p, f) \sim (q, g) iff p = q and f = g in a neighborhood of p. Let [p, f] denote the equivalence class of (p, f). As usual, \pi([p, f]) = p. For each f \in F_{\alpha}, let

D'_{\alpha, f} = \{[p, f] | p \in D_{\alpha}\}.

Clearly, \pi : D_{\alpha, f}' \to D_{\alpha} is bijective. We define a topology on \mathcal{U} as follows: \Omega \subset D_{\alpha, f}' is open iff \pi(\Omega) \subset D_{\alpha} is open for each \alpha, f \in F_{\alpha}. This does indeed define open sets in \mathcal{U}: since \pi(D'_{\alpha, f} \cap D'_{\beta, g}) is the union of connected components of D_{\alpha} \cap D_{\beta} by the uniqueness theorem (if it is not empty), it is open in M as needed. With this topology, \mathcal{U} is a Hausdorff space since M is Hausdorff (we use this if the base points differ) and because of the uniqueness theorem (which we use if the base points coincide). Note that by construction, we have made the fibers indexed by the functions in F_{\alpha} discrete in the topology of \mathcal{U}.

The main point is now to realize that if \widetilde{M} is a connected component of \mathcal{U}, then \pi : \widetilde{M} \to M is onto and in fact is a covering map. Let us check that it is onto. First, we claim that \pi(\widetilde{M}) \subset M is open. Thus, let [p, f] \in \widetilde{M} and pick D_{\alpha} with p \in D_{\alpha} and pick D_{\alpha} with p \in D_{\alpha} and f \in F_{\alpha}. Clearly, D'_{\alpha, f} \cap \widetilde{M} \neq \emptyset and since D_{\alpha}, and thus also D'_{\alpha, f}, is open and connected, the connected component \widetilde{M} has to contiain D'_{\alpha, f} entirely. Therefore, D_{\alpha} \subset \pi(\widetilde{M}) as claimed.

Next, we need to check that M \setminus \pi(\widetilde{M}) is open. Let p \in M \setminus \pi(\widetilde{M}) and pick D_{\beta} so that p \in D_{\beta}. If D_{\beta} \cap \pi(\widetilde{M}) = \emptyset, then we are done. Otherwise, let q \in D_{\beta} \cap \pi(\widetilde{M}) and pick D_{\alpha} containing q and some f \in F_{\alpha} with D'_{\alpha, f} \subset \widetilde{M} (using the same “nonempty intersection implies containment” argument as above). But now we can find g \in F_{\beta} with the property that f = g on a component of D_{\alpha} \cap D_{\beta}. As before, this implies that \widetilde{M} would have to contain D'_{\beta, g} which is a contradiction.

To see that \pi : \widetilde{M} \to M is a covering map, one verifies that

\pi^{-1}(D_{\alpha}) = \bigcup_{f \in F_{\alpha}} D'_{\alpha, f}.

The sets on the right-hand side are disjoint and in fact they are connected components of \pi^{-1}(D_{\alpha}).

Since M is simply-connected, \widetilde{M} is homeomorphic to M (proof given in the appendix). We thus infer the existence of a globally defined analytic function which agrees with some f \in F_{\alpha} on each D_{\alpha}. By picking the connected component that contains any given D_{\alpha, f}' one can fix the “sheet” locally on a given D_{\alpha}.     ▢

By this, we can construct an analytic F such that for all \alpha,

f_{|U_{\alpha}} = (\log F)_{\alpha} + n_{\alpha} \cdot 2\pi i, \qquad n_{\alpha} \in \mathbb{Z}.

from which follows e^F = f.

For the existence of harmonic conjugates, we do similarly. Take a connected open cover of M, \{U_{\alpha}\} where each U_{\alpha} is conformally equivalent to the unit disc, and v_{\alpha} is a harmonic conjugate of u in U_{\alpha} (which exists uniquely up to constant on the unit disc. Let F_{\alpha} = \{v_{\alpha} + c, \quad c \in \mathbb{R}\}. Then by the same lemma, there exists v such that for all \alpha,

v_{|U_{\alpha}} = v_{\alpha} + c_{\alpha}, \quad \text{some } c_{\alpha} \in \mathbb{R}

that is harmonic and conjugate to u since it is the harmonic conjugate to u on every element of the cover, again with choise of c_{\alpha}s to ensure that on intersection of cover elements there is a match.




Math festival

I had the pleasure of volunteering for a math festival for elementary school children. There were puzzles, mathematical games, various fun math worksheets (sometimes with figures of animals as variable names heh), building blocks, and the likes. It was organized by some Russians working in technical fields in the area, of which one family has produced some relatively distinguished mathematicians, which go back to, of course, the Soviet era. I was thoroughly impressed by their organization, energy, and enthusiasm, as well as their variety. I had briefly attended back when I was a high school student the math circle that they had started well before then even and kept up till now.

Again, this furthers my impression that Russians/Soviets have quite a culture of pure pursuit of excellence, that some highly educated ones in STEM have brought over to the US as well. When they were not satisfied with what kids were getting here, education wise, they started their own math circles. I was actually, at the crypto-arithmetic station I was mentoring, with this adult adult, who was mentoring the same station. I would, expectedly, when there were no kids there, talk with him (occasionally in my very limited Russian) about various things, such as software technology and also competitive programming in Russia. On the latter, this year’s ACM ICPC, held in Beijing, was won by Moscow State and Moscow Institute of Physics & Technology, with Peking University and University of Tokyo taking third and fourth, despite the home field advantage. This is consistent with Russians beating Chinese and Japanese on TopCoder and CodeForces as well, with the former American organized one in decline, much out of its outdated Java Applet (and almost certainly an over-bloated, unmaintainable legacy system) user interface and the latter Russian organized one on the rise. On this, that guy was like: in Russia, people really care about doing things well, in America, people do things for money, which only sometimes leads to good results. He said that back in the Soviet era, life was much better for kids, because activities such as sports and math were free, though of course, there were selection mechanisms in place on limited capacity, which really encouraged kids to become really good at what they chose to do. Moreover, he was like if America, with its abundant resources, actually utilized it very well for education, it would be like a paradise, except that’s far from the case. I told him that it seems like Russia’s economy and science research, despite difficulties, is resurging. On that, I had read on Zhihu that the younger generation of Russians has produced some real stars in math, most notably this guy named Alexander Efimov, who is the youngest invited speaker of the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) this year, or something like that, and they are staying at that Steklov Institute or similar places instead of coming to America. I also brought up my knowledge of the existence of Yandex and vKontakte, Russia’s Google and Facebook respectively, as well as its vibrant defense sector. While at the event, something came to my mind, which was given all the hype of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections, will there be backlash soon too for supposed Russian interference in American education, with events like these? Yes, I noticed how the event was full of Russians and parents and immigrant kids of other nationalities, and Americans were few. I like how the Soviet Union and Russia has quite a different ecosystem, both culturally and technologically, which is a positive for diversity. It seems like though Russia is essentially Western culturally, white and Christian, the West is so reluctant to accept her as a member of the Western community, and on the contrary, many of these idiot American politicians are always seeking to give her trouble. On this note, I remember how Gwydion Williams keeps emphasizing and reiterating how the West blundered in the 90s by ruining Russia with awful economic advice instead of more wisely integrating the fallen USSR into the Western system, which she would have been eager to be part on, so long as terms were reasonable. In any case, I find that the USSR left us some pretty damn good stuff culturally, scientifically, technologically, and artistically, and I am willing to acknowledge and appreciate that notwithstanding how many in our current culture might perceive me for it.

Bob Sykes on Disqus once said:

Russia’s economy is often derided as merely Spain East, but the range of things they do indicates that their economy is at least as large as Germany’s and might be as large as Japan’s. Our economists not only produce deeply flawed policies, they can’t even count.

I agree. I heartily believe that GDP is a deeply flawed measure of economic power. It is a very artificial, human construct. It does not take into account the quality or self-sufficiency of the economy, and is prone to artificial inflation. In Russia’s case, it is transparently clear to me that they are grossly underrated, both right now and potential wise, largely for political reasons. It is transparently clear to me that Russia has the advantage of possessing, for the most part, 1) the expertise and infrastructure to create military hardware that is at least close to American/Western levels 2) a highly scientifically literate and technologically skilled workforce and population 3) ethnic and cultural homogeneity (which America certainly lacks and could be ruined by, eventually) 4) a culture and education that emphasizes excellence and substance over superficial flash and showmanship. So despite what on the surface appears to be deep difficulties and a near permanent state of collapse, I am confident that Russia will make quite a comeback in a matter of time. Of course, altering and correcting perception, under American/Western controlled world public opinion and political norms, is another matter.

In order to not digress too much into politics, I’ll conclude with some photos I took from today’s event.

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More on population, eugenics, China

I had the pleasure of learning recently the name of the guy who is said to have proposed the one-child policy in China. His name is Song Jian, and he is a PhD in control theory from Moscow State who later became one of China’s top experts in missile guidance systems, rising up on the state apparatus through that. Well, it only became natural for him to develop a theory of population control that with his prestige and position was eventually put into implementation. In 1950, China’s population was 475 million. By 1975, that had risen to over 900 million, almost doubling in a quarter of a century.

Of course, it’s somewhat of a brutal policy. On this, I’ve seen some very kind and loving Americans who have adopted orphans from China, and most of them are female. Yes, there is due to this a gender imbalance, with necessarily means some men won’t be able to get married and have children, which will cause some social problems. Though it surely has its merits, in that it prevents genuinely dysfunctional people from having too many children. From this we can only expect that my generation of Chinese will have higher average IQ and overall ability than the generation of my parents, many of whom grew up with quite a few siblings.

Again, I am both surprised and pleased to hear that this infamous one-child policy originated from a hard (maybe even autistic, by today’s ridiculous standards 😉 ) scientist as opposed to some politician, though of course, once he became old, he essentially became a politician. By the way, I’m totally in favor of a totalitarian state run by people like him, me, and Hsu. I think with that, the world would become a much better place. I’m also pleased that Hsu, despite being a distant relative of Chiang Kai-shek, wishes the Chinese government could go more in that direction. In DNA Dreams, he was like

You have to remember that BGI is an independent, maverick organization, it’s not part of the Chinese government. People in the West, who we talked to, like even my colleagues at Oregon that I talked to about this project, they say, oh can’t the Chinese government just ORDER all the smart kids to show up, they’ll just order all the smart kids to spit in a tube and you’ll get their saliva, and I said well I wish that were the case.

I remember vividly how once when hanging out with some people, one of whom appeared in that documentary, right after that part was played, another guy cracked up. It’s like, Hsu is not only an IQ and genius obsessed freak, he’s also a pro-Chinese communist!!!!!! Well, not every uber high IQ person I’ve talked to agrees with him. One, a math PhD who knows quantum field theory and general relativity, believes that if Hsu’s vision does pan out, people will be more miserable, and we’ll have more genius misanthropes who end up like Robert Mercer. Another, on my telling him Hsu’s suggestion of the possibility of some regime’s eventually making IQs under 80 and expensive genetic diseases illegal, was like: his ideas scare me. I had also told him about Hsu’s opinion that any smart government would invest just as much in genomic prediction as it would on, say, a particle accelerator. Well, as a derivative of that, Hsu thinks that the Chinese government could get even smarter than it is right now. Oh yes, in DNA Dreams, Hsu also brought up the possibility of producing nice humans, honorable humans, caring humans, which means he’s not exclusively an IQ elitist, and is aware that a large number of people with those aforementioned traits not associated with brains is also beneficial and necessary for the world. Though Hsu can be pretty damn elitist and aggressive, I highly doubt he’s a psychopath with any malicious intent, and he is elitist and aggressive, I believe, in the right way. Not to mention that he’s also just very realistic, like most high IQ people, and at the same time ambitious enough to pursue his dream of using genomic prediction to create a better world. If only there were more people like Hsu in positions of power and influence.

Taiwan on WordPress

I recently saw how now China is demanding that airlines across the world stop listing Taiwan and Hong Kong as separate countries. And it is succeeding somewhat, with several, the most prominent of which is arguably Delta, having already succumbed. When I just looked at the countries of visitors of my site, I was pleased to see some hits from Taiwan. Could the Chinese government start demanding the same from WordPress? Well, WordPress would have no reason to care, because it is already banned in China anyway, so it has nothing to lose, and also nothing to gain unless the Chinese government offers in exchange to un-ban it, which seems exceedingly unlikely. And because of that, I am hosting this on another domain, while still using WordPress as the content generation and storage tool. To be honest, I also refer to Taiwan as separate from China, because it really is different. It’s been under its own system since 1950 when the KMT fled there, and has obviously developed its own political culture. There is also that it was colonized by Japan and was really only settled by Han Chinese from the 17th century on, not to mention that it was also briefly colonized by the Dutch and Spanish, until Koxinga. So I guess the place is not so integrally Chinese. The aborigines there were displaced, with the Han population in Taiwan’s being higher than it is in mainland China, and nobody really cares about that, even less so than people care about what happened to the Native Americans.

Apparently, China is more aggressive now on Taiwan, well obviously because it can. Some people seem exceedingly anxious that the fall of this last bastion of the free world seems imminent. They seem way more emotional about it than I am; I personally am pretty apathetic about Taiwan. Though maybe that’s because Taiwan will fall (or be liberated) sooner or later. Maybe if there really was a serious chance of Taiwanese independence, I would be a little worried, who knows.

I’ve noticed how so many Taiwanese have been massively successful in the US, especially in technology and academia. Jensen Huang of Nvidia, the stock of which has almost 10x’ed the past couple years. Jerry Yang of Yahoo. Steve Chen of YouTube. Horng-Tzer Yau as math professor at Harvard. And a few days ago, I learned to my great surprise that one of the main developers of AlphaGo is Taiwanese too, and his name is Aja Huang. Pretty impressive. A guy I know well, whose grandparents fled as KMT officers to Taiwan, was, on this, like: “well, those evil capitalists who fled to Taiwan sure weren’t a random cut of the population.” 😉 Obviously so, and believe me that it had occurred to me that the IQ distribution in Taiwan and Hong Kong is fat right-tailed for that very reason before he noted this. Many of the wealthy and highly educated fled there, either because they were in the KMT, or to preserve some of their wealth, or out of fear of prospects under the communists. Though surely, most of the cognitive elite stayed, with arguably most of them strongly against the KMT, and the newly established PRC was in fact quite successful at luring back those elite Chinese studying or working in the West at that time. I think it was great that those uber talented Chinese in Taiwan and Hong Kong were able to study in the West during that period, mostly in United States, where many of them reached astonishing levels of success, which means Chinese civilization maintained some really beneficial contact and exchange with the advanced Western countries despite the conflict. Relative to their counterparts in the mainland, they were certainly advantaged in this regard, at least individually, though surely, the elite Chinese who studied in the USSR also gained tremendously, for themselves yes, but much more for the expertise that they brought back to China, with all of them returning eventually by default, in contrast to those Taiwanese, who stayed in America as professors or engineers or technology entrepreneurs. Taiwan economically also seems to be doing quite well, with its semiconductor industry sufficiently prominent. Unfortunately for certain people, China is poised to gobble up all that, with Taiwan’s economy already dependent on the mainland.

Politically, obviously the regime that fled there, by virtue of their having to flee there, was full of sore, incompetent losers. Turns out Chiang Kai-shek et al. cared more about preserving himself than about preserving his mother country. Apparently, there was also a secret agreement between Chiang and Stalin right after the war where Stalin would promise not to support the communists in exchange for Chiang’s letting Mongolia become independent which would bring any Chinese nationalist utter humiliation. That Moscow did not support the Chinese communists in their war against Chiang, with the exception of sort of letting the Chinese communists capture the city of Harbin that the Red Army had occupied after they left, only makes the Chinese communists more formidable. In the following video, in a UN meeting, the Republic of China representative arguing in favor of his regime in exile says something along the lines of, in English: “it was not the purpose of the statement of Cairo and Potsdam to give Formosa to a puppet regime in China, so that that regime might as make it to its imperial master at Moscow, to use the resources of Formosa to destroy the freedom of the world and to break the peace of the world.” Expectedly, the PRC representative responded with rage, referring to the then 475 million Chinese, as an indication of just how genuinely democratic the Chinese communists actually were ;). Well, what he says has some truth to it, aside from the puppet regime part, by the aforementioned. We all know that those conferences at the end of WWII were mostly about how the US and USSR, the emergent superpowers, would share power after the war, with each wanting to get a bigger piece of the pie for himself. Since Chiang was pro-US, the US gave him a pretty damn good deal, especially relative to what he had actually contributed to the defeat of Japan in the war. I don’t think occurred to those Americans responsible for that the possibility that all of mainland China would fall to communism just 4 years later. Astonishingly, it did, even when America armed the KMT, whereas the USSR, by agreement with Chiang, had not armed his enemy. So all that for America backfired disastrously, and in fact, America was in reality indirectly arming its own enemy, the possibility of which probably also hardly occurred to those morons. On the other hand, America did an excellent job keeping its allies, the most important of which were in Western Europe and East Asia, especially relative to the USSR, which was critical for America’s winning the Cold War. In the region that China’s trying to take over now, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore all developed very well economically with America’s aid, for which America essentially bought their anti-communism in exchange. The thing is that now all that had been well-nurtured and seemingly secured is increasingly on the verge of being transferred away to a force that America has failed to tame. So backlash is perfectly expected, as there is much to lose. I don’t have anything to comment on this really other than what is roughly the objective situation. After all, I don’t like to be too politically opinionated. Though surely, I have quite a casual interest in politics, from a more scientific viewpoint. It’ll be fascinating to see what happens in the next X years.