Sustainability

There have been societies that functioned for a long time, thousands of years. They had sustainable demographic patterns. That means that they had enough children to replace themselves – not necessarily in every generation, but over the long haul. But sustainability requires more than that. Long-lived civilizations [ones with cities, literacy, governments, and all that] had a pattern of natural selection that didn’t drastically decrease intelligence – in some cases, one that favored it, at least in some subgroups. There was also ongoing selection against mutational accumulation – which meant that individuals with more genetic load than than average were significantly less likely to survive and reproduce. Basically, this happened through high child mortality, and in some cases by lower fitness in lower socioeconomic classes [starvation]. There was nothing fun about it.

Modern industrialized societies are failing on all three counts. Every population that can make a decent cuckoo clock has below-replacement fertility. The demographic pattern also selects against intelligence, something like one IQ point a generation. And, even if people at every level of intelligence had the same number of children, so that there was no selection against IQ, we would still be getting more and messed up, because there’s not enough selection going on to counter ongoing mutations.

It is possible that some country, or countries, will change in a way that avoids civilizational collapse. I doubt if this will happen by voluntary action. Some sort of technological solution might also arise – but it has to be soon.

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156 Responses to Sustainability

  1. Querious says:

    I’d be interested in your estimate on how long it will take for civilization to collapse if no changes take place and no solutions are found. 200 years?

  2. Toddy Cat says:

    I’d be interested in your estimate on how long it will take before someone squeals “Raciss!” in this thread? Five comments? Ten?

  3. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    I believe Jayman has some data suggesting that fertility patterns among the religious are eugenic, or at least not dysgenic. I think we’re heading for a society with a religious elite presiding over a horde of orcs.

  4. Anonymous says:

    For the voluntary thing to work, you would need the prevalence of such a combination of liberalism and conservatism that would look like the opposite of libertarianism. Unfortunately, it is not to show off their boring pragmatism that people go political. Technology is the only hope.

  5. Polymath says:

    And, even if people at every level of intelligence had the same number of children, so that there was no selection against IQ

    Depends on generation time. Assuming IQ doesn’t affect overall number of children, but lower IQ people have shorter average generations (due to higher IQ people postponing kids to get educated), then it’s dysgenic if population is growing, eugenic if population is shrinking.

    • gcochran says:

      Like I don’t know that. If I had said that the Malthusian parameter was independent of IQ, fewer people would have gotten the point.

  6. Rudolf Winestock says:

    If the solution is technological, then, perhaps paradoxically, it stops becoming a technological problem and starts becoming a people problem. The chuckleheads, as you call them, won’t believe their own lying eyes now, so we have no reason to believe that they would be any more sensible if a good, morally unproblematic, technological solution were to appear. And they wouldn’t let anyone else be sensible about it either.

    My vote goes to the saying (I forget who said it) “Anything that cannot go on indefinitely will stop.” I agree with the commenter “The Man Who Was…”, above, who said that society will be an elite of religious natalists ruling over hordes of orcs.

    • Frank Tern says:

      “we have no reason to believe that they would be any more sensible if a good, morally unproblematic, technological solution were to appear.”

      Well, maybe. But the chuckleheads go to extraordinary lengths to secure advantages for the few children they do have. I doubt they’d pass up an opportunity to give their child an edge that’ll actually work. If wealthy Americans start engaging in eugenics en masse, how will that affect the conversation on genes and IQ?

      And remember that this will be happening in the context of other changes. If technological unemployment is a real thing, and a large and growing fraction of the population is to be rendered unemployable by automation in the near future, it’ll necessitate shifting the tax burden away from wages and onto capital ownership. When the very wealthy are personally on the hook for every single person who isn’t bright enough to work, perhaps they’ll change their minds about what’s permissible to discuss.

      • Rudolf Winestock says:

        You are insufficiently cynical. Some of these people *still* look on Karl Marx appreciatively. During the eighteenth century, their predecessors said “crush the unspeakable thing!” They had their chance with the French Revolution and promptly created a nightmare worse than anything the Church was ever even accused of. They’re *still* not sorry. These people are really good at seeing what they want to see and verbally humiliating the foresighted.

      • Dan says:

        I’m with Frank. Elites liberals are the distilled essence of hypocrisy. Not only did Obama keep his girls far away from the unwashed masses in DC public schools (expected), he personally killed a voucher program that let a lucky few of these filthy kids attend his daughters’ elite Sidwell Friends school (even I was impressed). I have no doubt that as soon as such technology becomes available, left-liberals will shove to the front of the line.

  7. Cloudswrest says:

    The present world population depends on exponential technology growth and (currently) unsustainable natural resources. If our technology foundation fails, we’re all f___ed. But if it continues for at least a few more decades perhaps many, if not all, can be saved. Even if the so called “singularity” does not happen.

    Given the present growth in genetic understanding and technology it won’t be too long before most if not all genetic errors and deficiencies can and will be corrected.

    If space development happens rapidly enough so that self sustained colonies can be developed on the moon then perhaps it matters not what happens to those “left behind”.

    I would hate to have to decide…who stays up and…who goes down.

    Well, that would not be necessary, … It could easily be accomplished with a computer. And a computer could be set and programmed to accept factors from youth, health, sexual fertility, intelligence, and a cross-section of necessary skills. Of course, it would be absolutely vital that our top scientists and engineers be included to foster and impart the required principles of leadership and tradition. Naturally, they would breed prodigiously, eh? There would be much time, and little to do. Ha, ha. But ah, with the proper breeding techniques and a ratio of say, ten females to each male, I would guess that they could then work their way back to the present Gross National Product within say, twenty years.

    … you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn’t that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?

    Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious…service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

  8. Toddy Cat says:

    “elite of religious natalists ruling over hordes of orcs”

    Getting back to GC’s point, is this sustainable?

    • Rudolf Winestock says:

      As far as elites lording over the masses, that’s the default state of humanity. As far as the elites being religious, in many societies, the elites did almost nothing but ritual worship full-time (Sumer? Egypt? The upper castes of India? Somebody can help me out.)

      Perhaps I should write a science fiction story of a future society dominated by Mormons, Orthodox Jews, and traditionalist Catholics with hipsters, SWPLs, and redditors at the bottom. Anyone interested?

  9. Michael says:

    Long-lived civilizations [ones with cities, literacy, governments, and all that] had a pattern of natural selection that didn’t drastically decrease intelligence – in some cases, one that favored it, at least in some subgroups.

    Greg,

    Do you mean here that civilization generally mildly decreased intelligence?

    • gcochran says:

      Dunno. I would guess that civilization increased IQ in a number of cases. And it may have decreased IQ in other situations (not just today). But It can’t have decreased IQ by too much, or things would have fallen apart.

      • Harold says:

        “It’s hard to think of an environment in which the human hallmarks of intelligence, sociality, and language would NOT be adaptive.” — Steven Pinker

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        “It’s hard to think of an environment in which the human hallmarks of intelligence, sociality, and language would NOT be adaptive.”

        Compared to what though? Cockroaches seems to be doing real well, so maybe small size etc. are even more adaptive than intelligence and you can’t have both. There are trade-offs.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “It’s hard to think of an environment in which the human hallmarks of intelligence, sociality, and language would NOT be adaptive.” — Steven Pinker”

      However it’s easy to imagine an environment where there were diminishing returns on intelligence and wouldn’t diminishing returns create a plateau?

      For instance if you had a civilization where 10% of the population had roles requiring an average IQ of 100 but diminishing returns above that and 90% of the population farm laborers requiring less, say 90 then if the 10% had above replacement and the laborers below replacement then over time the laborer average might go up to 100 so the average of the whole population goes from 91 to 100 but with no change at the high end.

      It seems to me the downwardly mobile Clarke model would have a natural plateau based on the pressure of cognitive needs at the high end so could hit a bumper if that pressure was fixed.

  10. JayMan says:

    “And, even if people at every level of intelligence had the same number of children, so that there was no selection against IQ, we would still be getting more and messed up, because there’s not enough selection going on to counter ongoing mutations.”

    I have mentioned this in conversations on the topic. Presumably, this really got going fairly recently, only since the advent of modern medicine, etc. This is the awful downside, ironically, of institutions like the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. One can imagine how much of the health issues we’re seeing stem from genetic degradation of the population (I have imagined such: IQ and Death).

    While I’ve offered ideas on what to do about this, quite likely only a technological solution will make any real impact. Upside, I’d gather because of the genetic load thing, whenever embryo screening for IQ becomes viable, it may have the positive side effect of selecting for health in general.

    It’s only too bad I can’t use it right now, and I’m stuck doing things the “old-fashioned” way… :)

  11. fnn says:

    Bruce Charlton says the average Victorian Englishman had an IQ of 115:

    http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/search?q=victorians+

  12. The exception is Mormons

    http://mormonfertility.blogspot.co.uk/

    If Utah was a nation, it would be viable on two out of the three criteria – but I think mutational accumulation is probably happening everywhere and among all groups.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      The Mormons and Amish more or less prove that a lot of the problem is cultural. The traditional Christian morality that was dominant until the 60s was for all its faults more adaptive. The mostly failed attempt to defend that culture was mostly based on things like “tradition” and “God says so” which isn’t enough for a lot of people but when you combine it with these ideas of adaptive behavior it mostly makes perfect sense.

      Those places which still have a strong Christian tradition left should really latch onto these ideas of adaptive behavior to reinforce their religious message and create a kind of living ark to salvage what they can from the wreckage.

  13. JayMan says:

    If anyone wants some entertainment, you can see how my attempts to drive home this message to smart liberals in form of this post (which was aimed a few intelligent liberals I know personally who are sitting on their laurels when it comes to reproduction despite having money and favorable life circumstances, wasting their youth), fell on some seriously deaf ears (“Count the problematic assertions!”).

    That should give you an idea of just what we’re dealing with here.

    BTW, to date, my friends’ behavior hasn’t yet changed, either… :\

    • misdreavus says:

      Why the hell do you even bother? They are totally impervious to reason.

      • gcochran9 says:

        Reason is not the only tool available.

      • misdreavus says:

        I’m not even sure the baseball bats would do anything.

      • Rudolf Winestock says:

        Anyone have links as to what actually causes people to change their minds? Not on this topic, but on *anything*?

        One theme of the Enlightenment was that giving information to *The People*(tm) and setting them free from Church authority was sure to give the victory to sweet reason in any debate. So much for that prediction. What the salon attendees promised did not happen; what the black robes prophesied came to pass.

        As far as “Reason is not the only tool available.” is concerned, I agree; but the powers that be seem to be on hair trigger alert on that.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Once upon a time, I had some fun with a bunch of libertarians. They had the screwy idea that the social patterns they favored would actually work – you know, if you let John Doe or Joe Blow make his own decisions, like choosing whether to wear a seat belt, he’d pick the right answer – the answer that worked in practice, tended to keep him alive. On any question. Now a real true-blue libertarian would say that whatever Joe Blow chose would be the right answer by definition, even if it blew his head off, but these guys weren’t that pure. So I steered the discussion around to the subject of credit cards. About 40% of those Americans with credit cards keep a balance on their credit cards and pay ridiculous high interest. But that must be the right decision!

          So they spent a lot of effort arguing that there must be good reasons for this. It was fun to watch. In fairness, one of the major discussants was drinking pretty heavily at the time.

          You use reason in developing a rhetorical strategy, but the strategy is not necessarily sweet reason itself.

      • melendwyr says:

        What about the libertarians who think Joe Blow should be permitted to make his own decisions in order to best eliminate the people who make stupid choices?

        If someone wants to not wear a seatbelt, and I don’t have to pay for the consequences if they get hurt, is it in my interests to force them to wear and protect them from their own foolishness?

        Forget genes for a second, just look at ideas – selection is still critically important!

  14. a very knowing American says:

    I expect that in another half millennium or so, the population of the US will be mostly divided between the Amish and the descendants of Octomom.

  15. dave chamberlin says:

    I agree with your individual facts but the worst case scenario is in my opinion very improbable. The world is comprised of countries with incredibly variable projections at this point and those projections change radically in as short a time frame as a decade. Lets first take a look at a cukoo clock type making country, Germany. Incredibly they are averaging 1.36 kids per couple right now and that number keeps right on dropping. They will allow guest workers in from the crazy counties like Egypt but they aren’t going to allow full citizenship and they will give them the heave ho whenever it suits them. What folks in the incredibly unworldly country of the United States don’t realize is you don’t stop illegal immigration at the border with a silly fence you stop it by strict laws that punish employers of illegal aliens. Germany isn’t going to allow itself to fill up with Egyptians who want to work there. Lets take a look at a second world country Mexico. In one generation their replacement population per couple has dropped right through the floor from damn near 6 kids per couple to 2.2. (I’m working off of memory so please don’t take these numbers as actual but only aproximations.) My overall point is the countries like Egypt are headed towards a civilization collapse scenario but they are atypical, thank God. In my opinion it is damned good news that urban people in first and second world countries are economically squeezed so that they will not replace themselves with 2.1 kids per couple or anywhere near it. It looks like (and everything is still changing quickly) that we will cap out at 8 billion people and then start heading the other way pretty damned fast. We will reach the top of the population pimple mid century and head down to a far more managable population.

    That is population, a second seperate issue you bring up is declining intelligence. The present situation isn’t rosy, I don’t disagree that we are getting dumber since the fruits of the industrial revolution and modern medicine have kept the herd from being culled. But inevitable collapse of civilization because of this? I don’t see it. A more likely scenario is a smaller population of highly intelligent holding things together until genetic engineering comes to the rescue. I see the extremely large standard deviation in human intelligence as proof that even though half our genes are expressed in the brain, a relatively small optimum combination make a huge difference and thanks to DNA being organic computer code we will find what those opimum combinations are in the next century. Even if we aren’t rescued by scientists fixing stupid there are reproduction stratigies that can be resorted to and the countries that follow them will rise and the ones that don’t will sink. Cloning, increased classism where the highly intelligent almost always marry each other, more countries like Canada that only allow immigration to an economic elite are some of the stratagies that illustrate this.

    People can take my words or Cochrans words out of context and make us sound like we are elitist assholes but really all we are saying is a whole lot of human misery that is forthcoming is preventable if we drop this goofy idealism that we are superior to every other species and evolution doesn’t apply to us.

    • JayMan says:

      Overall, I expect fertility rates to rise in Eastern and Southern Europe, and eventually East Asia, leveling off near replacement level. This is what a “mature” modern civilization (like most Anglo nations, France, and Scandinavia) does (see my posts on that, here and here).

      I agree that it’s generally good that fertility is crashing in the developing world, apparently in step with modernization. It, really, is the best them for them (and us).

      For the developed world, long term, fertility is not the issue. The problem is the dysgenic aspect. That’s a tougher nut to crack. My guess is a technological solution. But, we need one sometime soon…

      • anon666 says:

        I do wonder why Germany’s fertility comes closer to that of Southern and Eastern Europe (1.3-1.4) rather than that of other wealthier Northern European countries (1.8-1.9).

      • JayMan says:

        @anon666:

        Apparently because Germany is much more crowded (Another Tale of Two Maps). I’d imagine that the effective cost of living in Germany is much higher than it is in the countries to the N and W. And as you’ve seen, the Germans are much less cheerful than their more fecund neighbors accordingly.

      • anon666 says:

        Yes, I remember that blog entry. The problem with that is that Germany has only have the population density of higher-TFR Netherlands and England (England specifically, instead of the entire UK):

        Germany: 593/sq mi
        Netherlands: 1,047.1/sq mi
        England: 1,054.1/sq mi

        I don’t think the difference can be attributed to Muslims, as the percentage is roughly the same in all three countries.
        Germany: 5.4%
        Netherlands: 6%
        England: 5%

        The only plausible hypothesis that I’ve heard attributes the difference to social conservatism in Germany, namely the expectation that women stay home once they have children, and supposedly this expectation reigns throughout Southern and Eastern Europe, in addition to East Asia. Anglo, French and Nordic countries, on the other hand, supposedly has a culture that support working mothers. So the effect of conservatism might be the exact opposites of what most HBDosphere commentators say. I have seen much data to support this, but I haven’t heard any other plausible explanations.

      • anon666 says:

        Sorry, I mean to say that I have NOT seen much data to support this explanation.

      • JayMan says:

        @anon666:

        Yes, the fertility in fairly dense Britain and the Netherlands is primarily native fertility.

        The determining factor may be effective cost of living. A long term project of mine is to figure out what the effective land value is in terms of years of work on a median salary needed to acquire a decent sized home in these countries. It’s possible that in Britain and the Low Countries that works out favorably.

        Or indeed, it could very well a dual income thing. But, does Germany tend to not have working moms? I’m not familiar enough with the precise metrics in these countries to answer that.

    • Anonymous says:

      Personally I would allow all males with a QI>125 ( can be adjusted) shagging-rights on all females they fancy, without fathering obligation, and make female refusal or abortion either illegal or heavily fined.
      this will solve both the under- replacement fertility rates and dysgenic QI evolution…
      As an added benefit, I will be worshipped as the new prophet by all the male geeks in the world, eclipsing Tolkien and Lucas…
      /s

      • Anonymous says:

        I never liked Tolkien and Lucas anyways, so I might as well start worshiping as soon as your Holy Book comes out. I have high expectations that it might even eclipse Beavis and Butt-Head as The Greatest Thing Man Has Ever Done.

    • Anonymous says:

      DC, you I don’t know about but of course Greg is an elitist asshole his own daughter’s advice ignored. He still is right more often than most and it behooves those care about their children’s future to listen to his intemperate outbursts.

    • anon666 says:

      The majority of new immigrants (although not all) to Germany are other Europeans:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22446774

      “The rise in immigration from Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy was a jump of 40-45% compared with the 2011 figures.

      Poland topped the list of countries of origin in 2012, with 68,122 Poles moving to Germany, followed by Romania (45,684), Hungary (26,165), Bulgaria (25,044) and Greece (21,970).

      Immigration from non-EU European states rose by 14%, from Africa by 14% too, and from Asia by 10%.

      The figure for emigration of people from Germany last year was 712,000.”

  16. fnn says: May 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm – Bruce Charlton says the average Victorian Englishman had an IQ of 115:

    http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/search?q=victorians+

    More on this just published, reanalysis of essentially the same reaction time data:

    http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-decline-in-general-intelligence.html

    Still looks like Victorians were about 15 IQ points (one SD) above today’s average.

    Reaction times are the most objective data available concerning trends in general intelligence – and the one SD decline is plausible in terms of declining rates of innovation and several other convergent sources of evidence.

    So, if this 15 IQ point decline seems too large/ too rapid according to current theories of dysgenic change – maybe we need to supplement the current theories.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Again, I don’t believe a word of it. As for the declining rate of innovation, you have to have a really wide-ranging understanding of modern science and technology to have any feeling for what the underlying causes are. I come closer than most, and I probably don’t know enough. You don’t know enough. Let me tell you one thing: if genetic potential IQ for IQ had dropped 1 std, we’d see the end of progress in higher mathematics, and that has not happened at all.

      Moreover, the selective trends disfavoring IQ all involve higher education among women and apparently nothing else – a trend which didn’t really get started until much more recently.

      Not long enough, nor is dysgenic selection strong enough.

      • Discard says:

        Higher education and voting for women, are, in the long term, ephemeral fads. So, for that matter, is democracy. Great things have been accomplished by societies that had involuntary servitude and/or didn’t allow women out of the house. Slavery and patriarchy are the default settings for civilization. They’ll be back.

      • dieter says:

        What are those slaves supposed to do? Agriculture was mechanized.
        Domestic work too. We’ve got indoor plumbing, washing mashines, refrigerators and now even robotic lawn mowers that actually work.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        So, Dr. Cochran, waht are your thoughts on why technological progress is decelerating? Admittedly, none of us know enough, but I’ve heard lots of theories, none of which make a whole lot of sense. I’d like to hear what you think, one elitist asshole to another…

      • Discard says:

        Dieter: At this very moment, there is plenty of scut work for the humble. The nice neighborhoods of Southern California are awash in the latest appliances, but they’re still a gold mine for Mexican maids and gardeners. The better sort of fruits and vegetables are picked by hand, not machine. Imagine what a real commitment to Green policies could do. Noisy, fuel-burning street sweepers replaced by former professors of gender studies with brooms. Tractors replaced with draft animals, lovingly tended by unemployed social workers. When cheap oil is gone, cheap labor will replace it.

      • dieter says:

        @Discard: Humans and farm animals are energy inefficient. That’s is why they were replaced with tractors, combine harvesters and lawn mowers in the first place. Food is energy. You get more work done by feeding your tractor with bio-ethanol. Tractors don’t need energy, when they are not working. They’ve got wheels. You could run them on electricity from wind power, etc.

        Lawns will be replaced with shade trees. Horses for recreation and pets will become less affordable, when oil and food becomes expensive. Expensive Energy will accelerate, rather than undo, the trend towards greenhouses and factory farming under controlled conditions.

        James Howard Kunstler and many others in the peak oil community fantasize about a return to the 17th century. They fail to understand that thermodynamics apply to laborers and draft animals too.

      • Discard says:

        Dieter: Putting people to work planting rice by hand or grooming horses is much more efficient than paying them large salaries to sniff out sexism and racism or to lose my data at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Servitude is not an ideal form of social and economic organization, but a way to manage otherwise useless or even destructive humans. Morally, I think it preferable to turning them into fertilizer.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Dr. Charlton has never been shy about offering opinions in areas where he doesn’t really know the subject.

      • JayMan says:

        “Moreover, the selective trends disfavoring IQ all involve higher education among women and apparently nothing else – a trend which didn’t really get started until much more recently.”

        There’s probably also relaxation of selection against lower IQ thanks to a reduction of mortality rates in the lower classes these days. One would imagine that’s likely been going on for at least much of the 20th century.

        A 1σ decline sounds way too high though.

      • harpend says:

        But the mortality decline started in the 19th century and came on with a bang: suddenly poor people were having lots of surviving children and the change was apparent to everyone. This flood of reproduction of poor people was the motivation for the whole eugenics movement.

    • misdreavus says:

      “Reaction times are the most objective data available concerning trends in general intelligence – and the one SD decline is plausible in terms of declining rates of innovation and several other convergent sources of evidence.”

      Hardly. They have mediocre test-retest reliability, and their correlations with g are pretty low, in the 0.2-.4 range.

    • dieter says:

      Jonathan Huebner showed that the marginal return of innovation is in decline. That doesn’t say anything about the productivity of innovators.

      http://accelerating.org/articles/InnovationHuebnerTFSC2005.pdf

      For the purposes of this paper, the rate of innovation is defined as the number of important technological developments per year divided by the world population.

      Grigori Perelman may well be smarter than Newton, but you can’t discover calculus twice.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      Is reaction time related just to IQ? I can see how it would be related to IQ but i’d wonder if fast reactions were also connected to violence i.e. i’d wonder if a population that came more recently from a clan-warfare or vendetta type environment would have faster reactions also?

      If so then a drop in RT might signify a drop in IQ over time, an increase in pacification over time, or a bit of both.

      If aggression was a critical component in innovation then that part of the idea would stand either way.

      • JayMan says:

        Reaction time can be separated into two components: decision time (time to come up with an answer) and movement time (time to physically move oneself once decision is made). More intelligent people have faster decision times, but some groups (like Blacks) have faster movement times despite having longer decision times.

        I don’t know how much you can make that distinction about historical data, though.

  17. east hunter says:

    if you ever get tired of being a writer and professor, you could certainly make a good living as a lifestyle counselor / fertility consultant to wealthy, doting and high IQ parents looking to maximize the fitness of their progeny. it is no small thing in todays world for the highly educated to procreate young. can you imagine elites pronouncing the benefits of teen pregnancy. why the next thing you know we’d have arranged marriages and we all know that only backwards societies do that.

    alternatively, given the prevalance of IVF amongst the highly educated (I came close myself), it is a hop, skip and a jump to actual genetic engineering. Every IVF clinic offers “PGD” – preimplantation genetic diagnosis – which is pretty much all we seem to be able to understand right now.

    I’d like to think that more precise genetic engineering is right around the corner, but people once thought the same about fusion energy. perhaps our collectively declining IQ has already caught up with us.

    • Mike Johnson says:

      With current trends, it looks to be about ~7 years until we can effectively synthesize DNA in chunks as long as the longest human chromosome. Once that happens, the world will change.

  18. observer says:

    If embryo selection for intelligence becomes available within the next 20 or even 100 years, (Hsu makes it sound probable in the shorter time frame), it’s hard to see how the current dysgenic trend is really worth worrying about. Only mass immigration can screw things up that quickly. Oh, wait…

    But having already been born, I’d much appreciate it if some post-natal upgrades became available before the kids can outthink me. That seems like a harder problem to solve Unless Cochran is ready to market those smart pills.

    • dieter says:

      High IQ causes low fertility. So parents who select for high IQ embryos won’t have many grandchildren.
      Or in other words, if you want grandkids, don’t choose your smartest embryo!

      People also want to have beautiful kids. Looks are more sought after than IQ. There is potentially a tradeoff. Head circumference correlates with IQ. Large heads don’t look good, unless they are attached to a large frame, so that things stay in proportion. Large frames make women particularily unattractive. Hollywood actors, both men and women, are average in size and slender.

      And what about Greg’s theory about Ashkenazi intelligence? If high IQ genotypes can sometimes cause crazyness or dysfunction, would you still take the risk and choose the smartest embryo?

      Parents also want their kids to be nice, polite and agreeable. There goes Greg Cochran.

      Embryo selection is just a new dimension, next to sexual and natural selection, for evolution to work with. The hope that it will automatically favor the traits that would produce the kind of society we wish for, is completely unjustified.

      My hunch is, that we would see more sexual dimorphism.

      • dieter says:

        I forgot to mention myopia (nearsightedness). Yet another thing parents don’t want their children to have that does correlate with IQ.

        btw.:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myopia#Education_and_IQ

        Regarding the relationship to IQ, several explanations have been proposed. One is that the myopic child is better adapted at reading, and reads and studies more, which increases intelligence. The reverse explanation is that the intelligent and studious child reads more, which causes myopia.

        Smells like BS.

      • JayMan says:

        @dieter:

        “High IQ causes low fertility. So parents who select for high IQ embryos won’t have many grandchildren.
        Or in other words, if you want grandkids, don’t choose your smartest embryo!”

        It does right at this moment. A post eugenics/genetic engineering world would be a markedly different environment, and that might turn the relationship on its head.

        “People also want to have beautiful kids. Looks are more sought after than IQ. There is potentially a tradeoff. Head circumference correlates with IQ. Large heads don’t look good, unless they are attached to a large frame, so that things stay in proportion. Large frames make women particularily unattractive. Hollywood actors, both men and women, are average in size and slender.”

        Maybe, maybe not. There is an association between IQ and looks, and that may be due to shared genetic load and pleiotropy. While there are some negative hits to beauty associated with attractiveness, it’s more likely that selection for IQ alone would be neutral to even positive with regards to looks than it is to be negative.

        “And what about Greg’s theory about Ashkenazi intelligence? If high IQ genotypes can sometimes cause crazyness or dysfunction, would you still take the risk and choose the smartest embryo?”

        I doubt that this would be as much of a problem for populations that weren’t placed under the heavy selection for intelligence the Ashkenazis have.

        “Parents also want their kids to be nice, polite and agreeable. There goes Greg Cochran.”

        That’s a longer-term project. Non-additive variance seems to play a much bigger role in personality than it does in IQ, so that will be a tougher nut for geneticists to crack.

        If there is any selection for personality, it’ll be through the types of people who go through this proceeded. I’m betting the Shark types may be more willing (see Staffan’s new post: The Personality and Geography of the Entrepreneur).

        “Embryo selection is just a new dimension, next to sexual and natural selection, for evolution to work with. The hope that it will automatically favor the traits that would produce the kind of society we wish for, is completely unjustified.”

        Fair point. I’m sure we could guide it with the right policies, as Greg has intimated.

      • dieter says:

        A post eugenics/genetic engineering world would be a markedly different environment, and that might turn the relationship on its head.

        Or it could increase the relashionship. I just came up with a couple of hypothesis out of the top of head to show how.

        My head size proportionality hypothesis could be pleiotropic, btw.

        Directional selection decreases variability. Kanazawa claims that people get uglier at both ends of the IQ distribution. Both looks and IQ are obviously based on countless genes.

        So an intuitively probable scenario for me would be a society of hollywood actors. Good looking, charming, more sexual dimorphism, somewhat higher mean intelligence, but lower variation. (few dispropotionaly large headed geniuses)

        But we could even see speciation or the formation of new races.

  19. austin says:

    You mention subgroups, which makes me think of increasing assortative mating. The effect of lower fertility completely negates (and then some) this trend?

    • misdreavus says:

      Assortative mating may change the allele frequencies of a certain subgroup within a population, but it does not alter the population as a whole.

  20. dieter says:

    This is going to sound one-worldish, but we do have a global population in many ways. High IQ individuals are busy solving problems for low IQ populations. Modern technology allows us to do more with less. We can produce cuckoo clocks by the millions without any skilled artisans.
    We have better surveillance for crowd control and can afford to imprison a large share of the population, using another large share, who would otherwise be useless, as guards.

    Malthus will have the last laugh. But we can go much lower in average IQ and skill keep civilization afloat. Idiocracy works.

  21. RS says:

    > It looks like (and everything is still changing quickly) that we will cap out at 8 billion people and then start heading the other way pretty damned fast.

    I don’t think that’s too clear for Subsaharan Africa, or Afghanistan. Trends do look good elsewhere — though I am not certain about Pakistan.

  22. RS says:

    > Malthus will have the last laugh. But we can go much lower in average IQ and skill keep civilization afloat. Idiocracy works.

    You are very wrong. The world is essentially pretty unstable, a good example would be 1914-45. One can be pretty sure that even modest dysgenesis enhances the odds of such wild events.

    • dieter says:

      What difference does it make from a darwinian point of view? If anything, I have seen claims that the world wars were dysgenic, thus causing more Idiocracy.

      Although the world wars were idiotic, they required a lot of sophistication and organization to pull off. WWII was fought over ideology. Idiocracies lack these ingredients.

  23. Greying Wanderer says:

    “Basically, this happened through high child mortality, and in some cases by lower fitness in lower socioeconomic classes [starvation]. There was nothing fun about it.”

    People figured out ways other than child mortality and starvation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajnal_line

    “The Western European pattern of late and non-universal marriage restricted fertility massively, especially when it was coupled with very low levels of childbirth out of wedlock. Birth control took place by delaying marriage more than suppressing fertility within it.”

    Also smart men didn’t specifically marry smart women for most of history. Where there was a choice they married attractive aka healthy / fertile women aka low genetic load. Seems to me assortative mating solely on IQ would lead to all sorts of negative genetic defects in every other area.

    .
    @discard
    “Higher education and voting for women, are, in the long term, ephemeral fads.”

    In a world where women had to have eight or more live births to get two surviving adults then higher education for women might have been pointless. A world where a woman can have 2-3 with a strong likelihood of them surviving to adulthood is different.

    • Discard says:

      Are women with higher education having 2 or 3 kids? I don’t think so. If we have to choose between higher than replacement fertility for intelligent women, or education for intelligent women, the only civilized choice is more smart babies.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        1) My point was simply that in terms of efficient use of resources lower levels of child mortality implies higher levels of female education.

        2) There seems to be an assumption that smart men married smart women in the past but that higher education for smart women in modern times made them want fewer kids . I don’t think that assumption is very likely at all. It could just as easily be that smart women *always* wanted fewer kids than the less smart but smart men *didn’t* use to marry smart women – they married women based on fertility cues instead with the smart women becoming nuns, witches and geishas.

        So maybe what we’re looking at is
        historical option) smart man has 8 kids with averagely smart but very healthy woman
        modern option) smart man has 1 kid with a smart woman

        So maybe only the mid-range of IQ should assortatively mate on IQ – which they mostly always have done – while high IQ people should (go back to?) select on overall health.

      • Discard says:

        How many kids are smart men having? Is marrying smart women causing them to have fewer offspring? Perhaps you’re right, that it would be better for smart men to marry bright enough but very healthy women, and have larger families. I know one such couple, with two smart sons and a third who puts his elder brothers in awe. We get a replacement for Dad, and a couple very good runners up.

      • JayMan says:

        “How many kids are smart men having? Is marrying smart women causing them to have fewer offspring?”

        See here: It’s not the cads, it’s the tramps

        Fertility among men is neutral for IQ to slightly eugenic. It’s fertility among women that is dysgenic.

      • albatross says:

        I wonder what impact on dysgenic fertility the student loan bubble has. To a first approximation, smart ambitious people who are neither rich nor driven intellectual superstars all end up carrying several tens of thousands of dollars of debt when they graduate. This has changed in the last 30-40 years, as tuitions have gone up far too much for most people to work their way through school. It seems inevitable that this must affect decisions about when and whether to marry, have kids, and buy a house. Are you sure you want to marry this nice girl who’s great with kids and is cute and smart, but she has $30K in student loan debts hanging over her from her English degree, and she now makes $12/hr as a preschool teacher? Won’t that be a little rough, since you’re carrying another $40K of debt from your poltical science degree, and what with the recession, not many people are buying luggage at the store where your degree has qualified you to work?

        The mirror image of this is the way child support obligations work–another kind of debt that’s impossible to discharge, and that offers men the opportunity to be in unrepayable debt forever thanks to stupid (and socially destructive) decisions they made in their 20s. I wonder if this has some eugenic effect, by convincing people at the bottom to be more careful not to have kids. (I think the incentives work out so that the men should want fewer kids, and the women more, but I certainly don’t know a lot about it.) Or is that negated by the low-IQ, low-education, lousy-socialization “shit just happens” approach to life planning? At the very bottom, I gather it’s not uncommon for lowlifes to have enough child support cases that, short of winning the lottery, they will never be out from under. At that point, there’s not even any incentive to avoid more kids.

      • Discard says:

        Albatross: Student debt forgiveness for breeders.

  24. Anonymous says:

    IQ correlates with looks, not much of a traidoff there

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      Does it? Or does IQ only correlate with looks among populations who assortatively mated on overall attractiveness (aka low genetic load) for a long time?

      Say you have four traits: IQ, looks, health and height and you select on only one, say height, then won’t you by definition end up with a population which is taller than a control population but lower in the other three traits?

      Whereas if you select on overall attractiveness, which includes IQ as one component, then you’re effectively selecting on low genetic load so you’ll end up with a population who are taller, smarter, healthier and better looking – not as much in any individual trait as you’d have got from selecting for that one trait but still higher than before.

      The reason i say it is people at the artisan level have been doing this since forever – assortatively mating on overall attractiveness – and it may not matter so much today due to differing proportions but back when you had 80% laborers, 10% artisans and 10% aristos i think it may mattered a great deal.

      Hence all the Smith, Mason, Tailor, Wright, Cook type names.

      • misdreavus says:

        “The reason i say it is people at the artisan level have been doing this since forever”

        Huh? That’s news to me.

      • JayMan says:

        @Greying Wanderer:

        “Does it? Or does IQ only correlate with looks among populations who assortatively mated on overall attractiveness (aka low genetic load) for a long time?”

        Satoshi Kanazawa’s findings showed that the attractiveness-IQ correlation held within all races surveyed. But, since this was done in the U.S., it’s possible that that connection was due to increasing White admixture among the higher IQ individuals in other races, at least for the non-Asians…

      • Discard says:

        Greying Wanderer: You’re speculating about assortive mating among the artisan classes, but I’d bet a quarter that you’re right. People used to pay a tradesman to take their son as an apprentice, just as they will go into debt today to stick a STANFORD sticker in their rear window. Same people, same ambition, different century.

    • dieter says:

      You are completely mistaken. Linear correlations are not transitive!

      1.) High IQ makes the children of men attractive, because they can afford attractive wives. (so the theory goes). That does not mean that the causes of high IQ in individuals also cause them to be attractive.

      The correlation of IQ and good looks don’t contradict the following statements: “Beauty makes you dumb and your children smart. Intelligence makes you ugly and your children beautiful.”

      2.) With embryo selection, everybody, including stupid men, can have more attractive children. And you can select against specific high IQ genes that increase uglyness.

      • JayMan says:

        @dieter:

        “You are completely mistaken. Linear correlations are not transitive!

        1.) High IQ makes the children of men attractive, because they can afford attractive wives. (so the theory goes). That does not mean that the causes of high IQ in individuals also cause them to be attractive.”

        It’s not clear that that’s the reason for the connection. It likely is, but it could be a pleiotropy thing as well (as could be the case with IQ and height).

    • JLikens says:

      Perhaps – publication bias could be a factor, though.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      Basically i’m wondering if this is a another W.E.I.R.D thing which people have assumed is general.

      • Anonymous says:

        “Does it? Does it?” My impression is that it does, it does. I think there is something to Miller’s “Mating Mind”, especially when so many actual manifestations of intelligence, famous or everyday and private that I can recall, can’t be useful but as reliable indicators that one’s 10,000-genes-or-so strong mind cannot be much loaded. By implication, in populations that have been under strong _natural_ selection for intelligence, one would expect a lower correlation between IQ and other fitness indicators. Its easy to recall ugly smart Jews, but not ugly smart Blacks. I don’t know if anybody has looked for the relative quantifications, could Jayman or somebody be nice and give the exact Kanazawa links? (I hate reading that guy, he is a horrible writer who thinks he’s funny when he’s being a mere smartass). I am also under the impression that there is a strong correlation between female vs male hotness and average population IQ. I might be wrong (dunno what’s the case with the pygmies and bushmen), but if not, dunno what to make of it, in light of Frost’s sexual selection reasoning. Could have something to do with smart guys valuing smart gals more than vice versa (if this is really the case), or the fact that dumb gals are really intolerable in the morning.

  25. g2-337af867fe9cd20258bdbc586fbefd0d says:

    I dont understand Greg’s last words (in the this post): “It has to be soon”.

    How soon? We can sustain civilization even losing one IQ point by generation for the next two hundred years. (Except if some genocidic Hunnic horde re-appears. Then we would collapse like Rome).

  26. mathlogic says:

    Oversupply of food should be used to produce meat. No rescue for famine, disaster, ect. Let IQ be a factor in natural selection again. For most part of human history, upper class consumes meat; underclass starves. Rich people hoarding food even poor people dying outside of rich people’s doors.

    • JayMan says:

      How about we not do that again?

    • L'Esprit de l'Escalier says:

      Poor people dying outside of rich people’s doors: here is documentary evidence from 1845 (which happens to be the first year of the Irish potato blight, although these observations were made in Copenhagen).
      The Little Match Girl

      • Discard says:

        In partial defense of mathlogic, it was once the case that many of the poor in Europe were high IQ people, poor due to circumstances beyond their control. Think of the brilliant men born to poor families, like Andrew Carnegie or Beethoven. But today, a Let Them Eat Cake policy would not be so dysgenic.
        But, in the interest of humane policy, I would favor a hysterectomy-for-food program.
        Ant at a bare minimum, Saint Paul nailed it: “Let those who will not work, not eat.”

  27. wrt the measured OneSD decline in ‘g’ since Victorian times based on simple reaction time data, I have posted a ‘what next?’ agenda:

    http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-15-point-decline-in-g-since.html

    • misdreavus says:

      You have provided absolutely no proof of a 1stdv decline in “g” since the Victorian era.

    • misdreavus says:

      You haven’t even provided proof of a 1 stdv decline in reaction times, either. Sampling bias alone might explain the reported decrease since Galton’s day.

  28. Abelard Lindsey says:

    Instead of obsessing over what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms and forcing people to have kids who don’t want them, it seems that you guys should be working to develop exowombs. I know there are at least two groups of researchers working on these. One a Japanese team, the other an American team comprised mostly of Chinese researchers.

    Greg, You’re a bright guy. You could make up a third group to develop exowombs. You could finance your effort using crowdsourcing. I would hit up all of the social conservatives such as Jonathan Last and others who obsess endlessly over the “birth-dearth: I’m sure they would be willing to put their money where their mouths are. If not, then all I can say is that talk is cheap.

    Exowomb technology can be combined with germ-line genetic engineering to make the kids smarter and healthier, thus increasing the robustness and sustainability of the civilization.

    You certainly have the intelligence and probably the skill set to do this work. Another option would be to help Aubrey de Grey and others to develop the biotechnology to cure aging. They could certainly benefit from a man of your intelligence and ability.

    Working privately with like-minded individuals to develop technological solutions seems more sensible, and far more effective, at solving a particular problem than trying to browbeat people who want nothing to do with it into doing things they don’t want to do at all. Surely a man of your intelligence can see the logic in this.

    • observer says:

      Indeed. Plenty of smart people just don’t feel like breeding. Or at least would prefer to wait until the next century to do so.

      I’m not in a position to know if SENS is viable in the next few decades. But if it is it ought to be the top research priority in science. Maybe sometime Mr. Cochran can weigh in with his views on the subject.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      Exowomb technology can be combined with germ-line genetic engineering to make the kids smarter and healthier, thus increasing the robustness and sustainability of the civilization.

      Oh great. Once you end up with a population where no women want to have babies the natural way because of exowombs your population is easy to eliminate.

      • gcochran9 says:

        “We could practice ectogenesis,” Mordan answered imperturbably, “if we wished. It has been done. But it would be a mistake.”

        “Egg’s sake, why?”

        “Contra-survival in nature. The race would be dependent on complex mechanical assistance to reproduce. The time might come when it wasn’t available.”

      • observer says:

        What, no exowombs? This ruins my vision of Cochran as a (transsexual) clone of Ariane Emory…

  29. Greying Wanderer says:

    @Jayman
    “As HBD Chick would say, where does culture come from? New environments (in this case the post contraception one) can cause new traits to emerge, as old genetic differences can have new meaning”

    True that will be a big part of it but i don’t think the decline of religion was entirely naturally occuring. It was partly the result of direct attack – kinda proved imo by the huge amount of religiosity involved in post-religious political fads. From my point of view what happened was people created adaptive behaviors and then wrapped them in religion as cultural reinforcement so the two were entwined Other people then attacked the religion part because they didn’t like religion and in the process took out the entwined adaptive behaviors without realizing the consequences.

    .
    “Reaction time can be separated into two components: decision time (time to come up with an answer) and movement time (time to physically move oneself once decision is made). More intelligent people have faster decision times, but some groups (like Blacks) have faster movement times despite having longer decision times.

    I don’t know how much you can make that distinction about historical data, though”

    That’s the kind of split i was expecting. You’re right it’s just a hunch but reaction speed is so important in violence i wondered if there might be a pacification element in it. The test would be seeing if groups like Somalis, Albanians, Chechens etc with a very recent history of vendetta type environments had a faster movement component in their reaction time than other groups controlling for IQ. Just a thought though.

    .
    “Satoshi Kanazawa’s findings showed that the attractiveness-IQ correlation held within all races surveyed.”

    Yeah i thought there would be a universal correlation as even in an arranged marriage environment there’ll be an indirect long-term correlation between wealth (IQ) on one side and attractiveness on the other but i still wonder if it’s significantly higher among W.E.I.R.D populations because of more assortative and less arranged marriages. Just a guess though.

    .
    “How about we not do that again?”

    ditto

  30. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    However, we will be the most diverse, tolerant and socially just civilization to collapse. Surely that must count for something.

  31. albatross says:

    So, is there any evidence for declining intellectual abilities over tIme? I know there’s a quite plausible argument for why this should be happening, but where is the evidence that it is happening?

    As far as fertility goes, I’ve seen plausible arguments that many countries, most notably Japan, have passed beyond the point of no return. There will inevitably be an unprecedented population pyramid with lots of old people and hardly any kids, unsustainable programs for the elderly, etc., because of feedback effects. Few births today mean few potential parents 20-50 years from now, and the culture they inherit is very likely to keep about the same notion of the right family size, when to get married, etc.

    • JayMan says:

      “So, is there any evidence for declining intellectual abilities over tIme? I know there’s a quite plausible argument for why this should be happening, but where is the evidence that it is happening?”

      See above. How good it is is another story.

      “As far as fertility goes, I’ve seen plausible arguments that many countries, most notably Japan, have passed beyond the point of no return. There will inevitably be an unprecedented population pyramid with lots of old people and hardly any kids, unsustainable programs for the elderly, etc., because of feedback effects. Few births today mean few potential parents 20-50 years from now, and the culture they inherit is very likely to keep about the same notion of the right family size, when to get married, etc.”

      That’s all bullpuckies… ;)

  32. albatross says:

    What policies can anyone suggest that could plausibly be enacted and that could plausibly work to reverse low-fertility and dysgenic fertility patterns? What could be done on a smaller scale that might expand over time?

    I suspect the most important thing is a change in widely-held values. That’s not really a policy, and it’s not something government policies even have all that much control over. To some extent, the prestige media can influence this, but there are limits, and some values (more trashy behavior, more sex, more violence, more raunchy humor, etc.) are probably inherently easier for the media to push than others (like monogamy, legitimacy, large family sizes, etc.). Without a change in values, it will be hard to enact many of the right policies, and those policies will probably not be very effective.

    The low-hanging fruit first: Stop subsidizing babies at the bottom, or create strong financial and personal incentives for people on or near public assistance not to have kids, especially out of wedlock. Offer women on welfare cash bonuses to go on long-term birth control. Create a mechanism to let men who are liable for child support to pay for their bastards’ upkeep get out of child support obligations if they get a vasectomy. Make sterilization surgery free for people close to the bottom, offer convicted criminals, the mentally ill, and welfare recipients cash to get it. Invest research dollars in developing reliably reversible sterilization surgery. All that drops total fertility (bad news) but also cuts down on dysgenic fertility (good news).

    Skew tax policy massively toward intact families with kids. Cut their taxes, let them deduct everything related to child expenses, eliminate the marriage penalty for couples with kids. This will hopefully increase fertility, and the pattern will be broadly eugenic.

    Neither of these will have a big enough effect to fix the problem. But I can kind-of imagine how you could do them.

  33. diana says:

    Dr. Cochrane,

    I was having an argument about pacifism with an Israeli guy once when I lived there. I was young and hotheaded and angry that anyone would live in Israel and be a pacifist. (There were and are a few.)

    He calmly said to me, “There’s a cure for everything. Including pacifism.”

  34. JayMan says:

    Dr. Cochran, a few (unflattering, and unwise, IMO) thoughts on your ideas from Kevin Mitchell:

    Wiring the Brain: The New Eugenics – same as the Old Eugenics?

  35. diana says:

    The comments here are clueless.

    Can someone tell me why do Orthodox Jews have so many kids, and Reform Jews have so few? Same ethnic group, wildly different birth rates.

    (Hint: reason has nothing to do with it.)

  36. about_libertarianism_again says:

    Cochran said: “Now a real true-blue libertarian would say that whatever Joe Blow chose would be the right answer by definition, even if it blew his head off, but these guys weren’t that pure. So I steered the discussion around to the subject of credit cards. About 40% of those Americans with credit cards keep a balance on their credit cards and pay ridiculous high interest. But that must be the right decision!”

    I disagree that any of the major libertarian thinkers have claimed that the individual choice is _always_ the best choice, just that it is better than the alternative of letting the public sector make that decision for everyone. Quote of a major libertarian thinker claiming so?

    An example of a seemingly wrong decision for individual: horse riding, mountain climbing are among the most dangerous hobbies in terms of accidents leading to deaths. Are the people who practice them fools? Should the activities be banned? It probably wasn’t the “right decision” for the unlucky fellow who broke his neck, but pretty nice for the large majority.

    So the costly credit situation is just one where the individual pays extra for the immediate availability of money (in a typical situation he runs out of money before his next paycheck). If they feel that paying extra is easier than managing their money better then that is their decision.

    There is a similar phenomenon where I live with these “quick loans” available by cellphones. In the said case, while the percentages of the payments are quite high, we are typically talking about small sums of money, so that the payment for that extra availability of a small sum of money is not that high.
    While I don’t have the data about the typical American case I don’t think it is that different. And if it is; if someone really pays significant amounts of their income as credit card balance payments then they have probably had it coming one way or another.

    I suppose my main take on this issue is that I don’t believe these payments are a major factor in making people poor. What does make people poor for certain is an 8.1$/gallon average gas price. Or a double digit unemployment rate. We would not have these issues in a free market society, I believe.

    • gcochran9 says:

      ” then that is their decision” – that’s fucking obvious. The question is whether they tend to make decisions that work very well – saying ‘that is their decision” is exactly the kind of crap I was referring to. As for “they probably have it coming” – if I’m smarter than you, which I surely am, using those smarts to rook you in every possible way must be just peachy. In fact, I’ll bet I could manage it even after warning you in advance.

      On average, families in this country have paid between 10% and 14% of their income in debt service over the past few decades. That fraction averages considerably higher in low-income families – more like 18%. A quarter of those low income families are putting over 40% of their income into debt service. That’s mostly stuff other than credit-card debt.

  37. RS says:

    > I dont understand Greg’s last words (in the this post): “It has to be soon”. && How soon? We can sustain civilization even losing one IQ point by generation for the next two hundred years. (Except if some genocidic Hunnic horde re-appears. Then we would collapse like Rome).

    The problem is that variance in ordinary (vs extremely creative) achievements is largely a function of (IQ * Conscientiousness), and C is probably declining somewhat faster than IQ despite probably being somewhat less heritable. It’s hard to be certain about any of this. But it’s pretty unlikely to be declining slower than IQ. Let’s say it’s declining 1.3 times faster than IQ in stdv units. In that case, if you expect a civilizational decline of X per unit time due to IQ decline alone, you should expect a decline of 1.3(X^2) per unit time, overall. –The exponent probably being at least as important as the coefficient.

    (IQ * C) does not, to my knowledge, approach to total determination of individual success in ordinary achievement — but at the social level, between nations, (IQ * C) does seem to be almost totally determinative of GDP/head. Mean national IQ alone is pretty close to being a 0.99 correlate of GDP/head — but I don’t think that would or could be the case, were it not for the fact that mean IQ and mean C are, evidently, also nearly 0.99 correlated across nations.

    • RS says:

      > The exponent probably being at least as important as the coefficient

      …and much more clearly known.

      On the other hand, though, something appears to be seriously wrong with my picture. National mean IQ, national mean C, and GDP/head cannot all be linear correlates with a value rather near 0.99. Because that would make them essentially all linear functions of one another — which I don’t believe is mathematically possible. GDP/head would have to be a quadratic function of the other two, no? –Assuming it to be a function of both. I’m feeling mildly innumerate here.

  38. Abelard Lindsey says:

    Most of your responses to my idea of privately developing exowomb technology to resolve this issue indicates a certain immaturity and lack of perspective. Ever since I came of age in the 1980’s, I’ve encountered or at least heard about all kinds of schemes and dreams that require Other Peoples’ Money or Other Peoples’ Efforts, all manner of wonderful ideas that could be realized if only we can get others to pay for them or others to do want we think they should do.

    I remember Jerry O’neill’s space colony idea and the L-5 Society that emerged to promote it. I remember Saul Kent telling us how he thought the 1970’s would have the life extension equivalent to the Apollo Moon program in the 1960’s. There is the global warming stuff, and the Tokamak fusion program. I have seen so many concepts over the past 30 years and nothing has come out of them. Why? Because all of them has required Other Peoples’ Money or Other Peoples’ Effort.

    Now that there are private efforts to accomplish the same goals, head way is finally being made in these areas. SpaceX is finally developing low cost space access. There are at least 5 privately funded efforts to develop (plasma) fusion power. The life extension people have finally figured out reality and are developing SENS and stem-cell regeneration privately.

    30 years of life experience has taught me that if you want to accomplish something, you have to do it yourself, meaning that you finance it and do the work privately. This is the only approach to doing – Anything at all. The idea of roping in lots of other people who want nothing to do with it, either in paying for it or even working for it in some capacity, is a complete non-starter. Forget about it. Its never going to work.

    Only the D.I.Y. approach can ever work for accomplishing any goal at all. This is the reason why I believe in private technological solutions to problems and not political ones.

    Despite you guy’s intelligence and years of experience, you seem to not have learned this lesson at all. 30 years of personal life experience has taught me this lesson good and hard.

    • observer says:

      Abelard,

      I didn’t see anyone arguing that exowombs couldn’t be developed privately. The argument made against them was that they would entail greater dependence on technology and thus endanger the future of the race if the technological infrastructure should ever collapse. That particular argument seems weak, since we’re already almost completely dependent on the techological base for our survival and would be even more dependent if we ever left the planet. So I have trouble believing Cochran’s SF quote was written in all seriousness: I think he was flippant with you because he doesn’t believe libertarianism to be a credible position.

      Cochran’s general objection to libertarianism also seems to be on practical grounds. If a society takes individual freedom as a moral absolute, and chooses to maximize that freedom regardless of the consequences, it falls behind a society that is sometimes willing to put individual freedom behind other concerns–survival, for instance, or prosperity, or what have you. The observed fact that decentralization and broad individual freedom often give better results than centralized power does not prove them to be cure-alls. Even your friend Mr. Thiel admits that government funded projects from the 40s and 50s appear to have provided great benefits, while more recent ones have been wasteful; he was puzzled as to why this was so.

      I’ve never figured out what Cochran’s politics really is, beyond his dislike for basic stupidity and political correctness, but the point he makes against libertarianism, as I read it, is sound.

      • Discard says:

        Observer: The collapse of our technological base would not entail our extinction. North America was supporting a hundred million people in 1900, and I can’t see a technological collapse that would leave us without 19th Century technology. Yes, we’d see a radical drop in population, but it would be manageable. But a loss of natural breeding capacity would be like a loss of farmland. Civilization needs babies like it needs food.

      • observer says:

        Discard,

        Not outright extinction maybe. But if all the technology developed after, say, 1700, stopped working tomorrow, most of us in the industrialized world would die, after which those left alive would fall back to a 7th century standard of living, at best, and be outcompeted by the Amish. With the low hanging natural resources already picked, technological civilization would probably never recover.

        So it’s true that the human race, whatever that is, will survive in some form. I’m not sure that means anything to me if all of the individuals I care about would be dead. And it’s just a silly thing to worry about if you are considering using exowombs. Which I’m not. I would be shocked if they work as well as the real thing within the lifetime of anyone reading this. They can’t even get formula milk right yet.

      • Abelard Lindsey says:

        My comments were not a defense of libertarianism per se. Indeed, I don’t recall using the word “libertarian” in them at all.

        Rather, they were based on my personal life experience about any kind of human endeavors in general. That privately pursued solutions work better than public ones for the simply reason that it is much easier to do a particular thing if you don’t need to persuade large numbers of people to either finance your scheme or to actually invest personal time and effort into it, particularly if those people do not share your interest in it.

        This is not libertarian or any other political theory. This observation is based on REALITY. If you want to do a particular thing, its always better to do it yourself than to rely on others to do it. I find this to be true in EVERY sphere of human endeavor. This is why I find “political” discussion about how to coerce people into doing this or that to be so silly and pointless. This is especially true for what my wife and I do in the privacy of our own home. The very notion that the government (or people who don’t know us personally) has an interest in what we do in the privacy of our own home is so silly and pointless, I find it difficult to even consider such a notion with a straight face.

        The other reason why I favor private decentralized solutions is because technology in many areas is leading to empowerment of small groups to do things that only large corporations and governments could do in the past. Biotechnology and additive manufacturing are two areas that will undergo such a transformation in the coming decades.

        As aside, I think the government projects of the 40’s and 50’s, aside from the Manhattan Project, accomplished very little. Much of what many claim to have been invented by NASA or its contractors were actually invented by private business earlier. A good example is Teflon, which was invented by a chemical company in 1938. In fact, I think many of the government programs of the past have done incredible long-term damage. NASA and the Apollo program is a good example. It convinced people that space development is horrifically expensive and can be done only by large government programs, thus setting progress back 50 years. Same with nuclear power. The government pushed nuclear power into the marketplace when it was not ready for the prime-time, hence touching off the anti-nuclear movement, which also ended up delaying progress 40 years.

      • observer says:

        Abelard,

        I hear you. I often read your comments with interest and was responding in part to your exchange with Cochran over the last few threads. I am puzzled as to why he is worried about the current dysgenic trends when embryo selection is almost within reach and will reverse those trends in short order. I’m sure people will botch that up as well, but not in the same way. In this situation the exhortation to breed doesn’t add up, and I was putting it down to social conservatism. But Cochran is a smart guy, and when a rocket scientist tells me that 2+2=5 I have to stop and wonder for a moment if I’m missing something. Maybe eventually he will explain what he is thinking.

        As an aside I have trouble getting excited about space development in the near term and I wish Musk, Bezos, and the like would put their money into biology, medicine, and SENS first. But what do I know.

    • Discard says:

      observer: I can’t see anything short of a meteor bombardment putting an end to all post-1700 technology. I could replicate John Deere’s steel plow or Cyrus McCormack’s reaper if I had to, in my back yard. Post 1900 maybe, a world without electricity. At that time, North America supported a population of around 100 million. There’s room for you and all your friends, and mine too. Not so for diversity consultants and psychotherapists.
      But it would mean the end of exowombs, sex changes, and AIDS research. It’s best to rely on very, very mature technologies, like sex and farming, for survival.

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  40. oogenhand says:

    Reblogged this on oogenhand and commented:
    Dysgenics may be a problem, but a bigger problem is lopsided demographics. Too many old people, too few young people.

  41. Anonymous says:

    The left only survives because the mentally masturbating conservative gnomes who populate the blogs and the think tanks are too vapid, cluless and obsessed with navel gazing that they can’t out-argue these satanists.

  42. Abelard Lindsey says:

    I spent part of last weekend with a group of life extension researchers (SENS, stem cell regeneration/rejuvenation, and the like). These people told me that they expected us to have complete control over aging by mid-century (2050) and that there was no plausible scenario, (short of a nuclear war or major impact) where we would NOT have complete control over aging by the end of this century. Unless anyone thinks this demographic problem is existential within the next 20-30 years, it seems to me that the technological solution is staring us right in the face, and its NON-coercive to boot.

    • diana says:

      I keep hearing this. And I think it is total bullshit. Three of my four maternal aunts, and one uncle lived to past 90. They were in pretty good shape for nonagenarians. I repeat, for nonagenarians. One lived to 104, and she was (duh) the toughest.

      But after 90, the human body (and mind) goes downhill pretty quickly.

      • observer says:

        I keep hearing somebody landed on the moon. And I think it is total bullshit. My great aunt Betty was a long jump medalist, and my uncle still holds the record at his high school. They jumped pretty far for humans. I repeat, for humans. One made it past six meters and she was (duh) the toughest.

        But after 6 meters, the human body lands pretty quickly.

        • diana says:

          Funny, I never heard that “someone landed on the moon.” I heard about a space program, dating from the 1950s, involving thousands of people, scientists, politicians, engineers, which culminated in a man walking on the moon, after many attempts. It was all quite out in the open. No one just “landed on the moon.”

          But when it comes to people living to 250, and exowombs, etc., it’s always, “I heard about this” and “I heard about that.”

          ” I spent part of last weekend with a group of life extension researchers (SENS, stem cell regeneration/rejuvenation, and the like.)”

          Give me details: names of life extension researchers, peer-reviewed articles, etc. This is all too murky for me to take it seriously.

          What I do take seriously is the fact that we are messing around with human reproduction bipaternal and bimaternal mammals, injecting genes from one species into another….the potential for disaster is high.

          Everyone here is so hopeful that all of this is going to end well…I’m an old girl and I say that it won’t. What human being can fuck up, they will. And they never, ever foresee consequences.

      • Abelard Lindsey says:

        Yes, and leading Scientists in 1900 such as Lord Kelvin said heavier than air flight would remain a fantasy as well.

        See, the thing is that we don’t need you or others to agree with us that it is possible. The cost of the R&D effort to make our objectives a reality is low enough that it can be privately financed and developed. Additionally, the cost of biotech research continues to drop at a faster rate than the famed “Moore’s Law” in semiconductor manufacturing. This means that work that costs $1 billion today, will likely be done for less than a million during the 30’s. This means the development of biotechnological immortality by 2050 is a near certainty.

      • Abelard Lindsey says:

        BTW, Diane. The likely timeline for the development of radical life extension is such that I will likely make it and you will not. How’s that for a thought?

  43. anon says:

    IQ is a concept that requires some renovation. We’re not getting dumber, unless you think Google is making us dumber, which is *the* dumbest idea there is.

    No, intelligence is shiftily migrating out of individuals and into the information ether, tapped when needed.

    We’ve never been smarter.

  44. Abelard Lindsey says:

    The reason why I expect exowombs to be developed is because I think there is a huge market for them. Lots of women want to have kids, but do not want to go through the hassles and difficulties (not to mention the resulting medical complications, which are quite significant) of natural pregnancy. This is especially true for professional women and higher income couples in general, which would be the target market for such services (exowombs would be operated as a service, not bought). Given the legal environment and general squeamishness of Western populations in the development of this technology, I expect it to be developed and be made available as service in East Asian countries first. This, of course, will be combined with genetic sorting and selection services as well. I think there is a huge money-maker in this opportunity.

  45. RS says:

    > Additionally, the cost of biotech research continues to drop at a faster rate than the famed “Moore’s Law” in semiconductor manufacturing. This means that work that costs $1 billion today, will likely be done for less than a million during the 30′s. This means the development of biotechnological immortality by 2050 is a near certainty.

    What you say is true of one specific procedure, DNA sequencing. It’s not true in general.

    Anyway, despite much-increased spending, there haven’t been many landmark breakthroughs in applied biomed since the 70s, other than the HIV drugs. I’m referring to (A) actual, fully-implemented breakthroughs with (B) a very big, broad impact, so I’m not counting the cervical cancer vaccine or the use of stem cells or gene therapy or something in a few limited applications. All honor to these advances, they just aren’t landmarks like the HIV drugs, the TB drugs, the first advent of serious anticancer and immunosuppressive agents, or the contraceptive drugs (which I think have been mostly negative in impact, but they still had a huge impact). H pylori is a minor landmark, but otherwise I think you need to go back to the 70s.

    So, let no one say the field is stagnant, but it’s not setting the world on fire IMO. I see limited inductive reason to expect that something comparable to a moon landing is on the horizon. Embryo selection is a good candidate but I’m not sure it will be highly effective in practice: I suspect it is mostly rare alleles of large effect that you are going to want to select out, perhaps mostly /very/ rare ones, and I’m not sure how distinguishable they are going to be from the rare alleles of near-zero effect which we all have in far, far greater numbers.

    I think there’s a fair chance we are going to have to sustain advanced societies the old-fashioned way, by political action in the broad sense. Such as heavy taxation to yield revenues for quite strongly incenting eugenic and disincenting dysgenic reproduction. It sure beats not having advanced societies at all.

    I think the idea that you can forecast the advent of things like cold fusion or agelessness 60 years from now or something, is absurd. Such an advent is so incredibly complex and contingent. Making such a forecast with any real level of certainty seems approximately as complex as actually accomplishing the goal right now, or next year. In other words it’s an absurdity. ‘Cold fusion in 50 years’ and ‘general AI in 50 years’ have become cliches and stock humor. It’s not that they are necessarily going to not happen, it’s just that they seem to be totally non-bankable.

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  50. Mike Manley says:

    Nothing in this blog indicates that Cochrane’s brain works that way. Some people are excellent analysts and expositors. Others are well adapted to creating new ideas and technologies. “Intelligence” is neither here nor there. Some people got it and some don’t.

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