National Achievement Scholarship Program

For many years, The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) has given a test aimed at black students, the National Achievement Scholarship Program, originally called the the National Achievement Scholarship program for Outstanding Negro Students. It was a lower-standard version of the National Merit scholarship program, created because few blacks qualified for the National Merit scholarships. You could have defined other groups that were under-represented in National Merit scholarships, but they probably weren’t as numerous or as important a voting block. And racial favoritism was in vogue then, although not in the way it is today.

The program ended last fall: I didn’t notice it at the time because I was under the weather. You might guess that it’s because blacks have caught up and are now winning the ordinary National Merit Scholarships in rough proportion to their numbers, but that’s not the case. The NMSC is replacing it with a program that aids students that graduate from historically black colleges and universities – money that will help them pay off college loans or finance graduate study.

This strikes me as an odd decision. It can’t be that the administrators of the program have renounced racial favoritism in favor of fairness to individuals and utility maximization: we know that decision would be accompanied by one hundred million angels singing, which has not yet occurred. Generally, everyone expects every affirmative action program to last forever, or at least until this country destroys itself.

I wonder if they dropped the program because too many people were gaming it. There was never any test of blackness: as far as I know, anyone could claim it. I remember urging my little brother to check that box many years ago – [He didn’t and won anyhow]. So for all I know people named Magnusson were applying for and winning it, or perhaps the First Born of Mars. Maybe too many Nigerian immigrants were receiving it, probably after promising the administrators ten million dollars….

I guess that they figure that nobody would be crazy enough to attend Grambling or Howard in search of this money, so the new program should avoid the gaming.

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Gout and Nootropics

Important drugs have often originated in some sort of ‘traditional medicine” – witch doctors and such. Even Western medicine, the most baroque and useless of ‘traditional medicines”, has occasionally yielded a useful therapies. But maybe we should look at traditional diseases, too. What if some disorder had a beneficial side effect – say, was some kind of mental stimulant?

Many people have had the impression that gout had such an effect. It seems to have a special fondness for men of consequence. Alexander the Great apparently had it. “So did Ben Jonson, Talleyrand, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Henry Fielding, Edward Gibbon, Thomas Gray, Stendhal, Sir Isaac Newton, Samuel Johnson, the Pitts (father and son), William Congreve, Francis Bacon, William Harvey, Lord Tennyson, Walter Savage Landor, Charles Darwin, General Winfield Scott, Guy de Maupasssant, and John Barrymore.” And Benjamin Franklin. Havelock Ellis, in A Study of British Genius, said “There is … a pathological condition that occurs so often, in such extreme forms, in men of such preeminent intellectual ability, that it is impossible not to regard it as having a real association with such ability.”

Of course they could all be wrong. But maybe someone should take a look…

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Dead Presidents

That time again: time to contribute. You can send funds via Paypal, by check (to me or to West Hunter Incorporated if you’re after deductibility).

You can also send bitcoins, to 1Jv4cu1wETM5Xs9unjKbDbCrRF2mrjWXr5.

Many people enjoyed my podcast interview with James Miller. If there is enough interest and enthusiasm, I could do more. Thinking of a regular version of this, presumably called “Pod People”.

There are rivals for my time and affections: if one makes the right offer, there might not be much left for you. You wouldn’t want that, would you?

Still aiming at the Kwisatz Haderach, nootropics, and resisting the current tide of crazy.

If you know of other people that might enjoy this blog, pass it on. Especially if they are sustaining injuries from rolling around in a vault full of doubloons and triploons: I’d be glad to help.

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Me and my Shadow

Parabiosis: the idea is connecting the circulatory systems of two animals: mostly this has been done in mice. Interestingly, if you connect an old mouse to a young mouse, the young blood seems to rejuvenate the old mouse, improving its muscles and central nervous system.

Fairly recently, some people are looking fairly seriously at this in anti-aging research. But a lifetime ago, people were already thinking about it, enough so that parabiosis showed up every now and then in the world of ideas. Something like it exists in Brave New World. An improved, better-thought-out version plays in a role in Robert Heinlein’s novel Methuselah’s Children. There we find a group (the Howard families) that have long lives due to a program of selection [which is certainly possible, although slow]. Normals envy them and demand the secret – since there is none, the Howard Families are forced to flee. In their absence, the normals find the secret anyhow – they find artificial means of replicating the various biochemical mechanisms that resulted in extended lifespans in the Howard Families. One such method involved mass production of artificial ‘young” blood via tissue culture – which method is under active development today.

Peter Thiel is apparently interested in this and is even said to be taking plasma injections. Although I suspect he just thinks the cape is cool. Shaving must be hard.

Reminds me a bit of phage therapy: developed a lifetime ago, largely pushed to the side by antibiotics, but making a comeback. And of course it too was part of the mental furniture at one time – it’s central to the plot of Arrowsmith, by Sinclair Lewis.

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The Great Stagnation


We have a problem.

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Halloween Carols

Thinking of disturbing some shut-ins. Canonical example: Ghost Riders of the Sky


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Genetics and HR

You can think of a political ideology as a set of preferences – ” I Like Candy!” – plus a theory of how things work – “lower marginal tax rates will increase economic growth and technological progress”. Generally, the self-destructiveness of the preferences and inaccuracy of the world-theory associated with a particular ideology are limited by natural selection.

As far as I know, no currently popular ideology acknowledges the results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. To a limited, inexact extent, some past worldviews did.

Often practitioners of popular ideologies explicitly reject established results from those fields. They say things like “talent is distributed evenly” – but of course that’s not true. They make plans based on such falsehoods, plans that naturally fail, over and over and over again.

But practical people are also influenced by currently fashionable ideologies – their worldview limits what ideas can be discussed or even conceived of.

Obviously (you’d think) companies would like to hire effectively – although you have to wonder if they really care, considering the lackwits they employ in HR.

If they really cared, they would take a leaf from agricultural geneticists. When evaluating a job candidate, don’t just use data on the applicant – fold in data from close relatives. You’ll get a better estimate.

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