The Lottery

Lotteries can be useful natural experiments; we can use them to test the accuracy of standard sociological theories, in which rich people buy their kids extra smarts, bigger brains, better health, etc.

David Cesarini, who I met at that Chicago meeting, has looked at the effect of winning the lottery in Sweden.  He found that the “effects of parental wealth on infant health, drug consumption, scholastic performance and cognitive and non-cognitive skills can be bounded to a tight interval around zero.”

As I once mentioned, there was an important land lottery in Georgia in 1832. The winners received an 160-acre farm. But by 1880, their descendants were no more literate, their occupational status no higher. The families in the top 2/3rds of income managed to hang on to some of their windfall, but lower-income families did not.

This remind of a story by Gerald Kersh, “Whatever Happened to Corporal Cuckoo? ” – about a medieval soldier who stumbled into immortality.  Someone asks him (in 1945) – why hadn’t he saved his pay?  With compound interest, yaddaa yadda.

” Why didn’t I save my pay? Because I’m what I am, you mug! Hell, once upon a time, if I’d stayed away from cards, I could’ve bought Manhattan Island for less than what I lost to a Dutchman called Bruncker drawing ace-high for English guineas!  Save my pay! If it wasn’t one thing it was another. I lay off liquor. Okay. So if it’s not liquor, it’s a woman. I lay off women. Okay. Then it’s cards or dice. I always meant to save my pay; but I never had it in me to save my pay!  Doctor Paré’s stuff fixed me–and when I say it fixed me, I mean, it fixed me, just like I was,  and am, and always will be. ”

Low leverage of wealth on your children’s  traits is something that exists in a particular society, with a particular kind of technology. Back in medieval times, a windfall could  have kept your kids alive in a famine, and that certainly had a long-term positive effect on their cognitive skills.  Dead men take no tests.  The most effective medical interventions today are cheap – everyone in Sweden and the US already has them – but there are places where those interventions are not universally available.  Some families in Mozambique can afford artemisin, some can’t – this must make a difference.

Suppose we had a method of dramatically improving a kid’s genetic potential for intelligence and success, one that cost five million dollars a pop: then wealth could  influence the next generation in ways that it can’t today.  In other words,  Cesarini’s conclusions are correct for Sweden-now  (but not for Sweden in 1700), probably correct for the US today, but maybe not true tomorrow.

It is not just wealth that has a small effect on your kid’s potential: playing Mozart doesn’t help either. Other than locking away the ball-peen hammers, it’s hard to think of any known approach that does have much effect – although we don’t know everything, and maybe there are undiscovered  effective approaches (other than genetic engineering). For example, iodine  supplements have a good effect in areas that are iodine-deficient.  We now know (since 2014)  that bromine is an essential trace element – maybe people in some parts of the world would benefit from bromine supplementation.

What about the social interventions that people are advocating, like Pre-K ?  Since shared family effects (family environment surely matters more than some external social program) are small by adulthood, I think they’re unlikely to have any lasting effect.  We might also note that the track record isn’t exactly encouraging. If there was a  known and feasible way of boosting academic performance, you’d think that those teachers in Atlanta would have tried it. Sure beats prison.

Maybe there’s an effective approach using fmri and biofeedback – wouldn’t hurt to take a look.  But even if it did work, it might simply boost everyone equally, and obviously nobody gives a shit about that.

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106 Responses to The Lottery

  1. Years ago a UK friend to whom I explained these sorts of findings about the non-effectiveness of wealth in boosting intellectual achievement interrupted me impatiently and said “Of course not, or the Royal Family would be the brightest in the country”

    • dearieme says:

      Since they are not remotely the richest that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I guess the Rothschilds are both rich and largely pretty bright. Perhaps they are rich because they’ve been pretty bright.

      • Yudi says:

        I think the guy meant that the members of the royal family have had a lot opportunity to pass wealth to their children for a very long time, much longer than most present-day rich people.

        • dearieme says:

          Yeah, but they are penniless immigrants compared to, say, the Duke of Westminster. Also, their lives for many generations were complicated by the constraints on whom they might marry: spouses had to be royalty, not commoners. That pattern broke with the late Queen Mum, but only because her husband was not heir to the throne. The Rothschild’s could presumably choose clever girls from clever families, as well as cascade cash down the generations.

          Still, I take your point – if it were as easy as having heaps of moolah, you wouldn’t see “clogs to clogs in three generations”.

        • ARTHUR C. CLARK says:

          Very long time–how long time? When George IV and William IV came to the throne they were deeply in debt. Parliament had to pay off the loans since obviously the King could not be in debt. How can the King be in debt as he had been the Duke of Cornwall with much rental property? Gambling is the only possibility.

      • Dale says:

        You write, “Perhaps they are rich because they’ve been pretty bright.”

        Given that the Rothschilds made their money by financing the deficits of all of the governments of Europe for a couple of centuries, I’d guess that you’re right.

  2. AnonymousCoward says:

    “But even if it did work, it might simply boost everyone equally, and obviously nobody gives a shit about that..”

    If so, even if it’s free and publicly available, it would work disproportionally on people with the patience to do something as boring as fmri and biofeedback. So… more inequality.

    At the other end of the spectrum: an intervention which I suspect might disproportionally help the less able is strict, authoritarian, boarding-school-type environments. This kind of thing is perhaps currently too much work to be worth it, and unfashionable besides. But, that might change.

    Neal Stephensons “The Diamond Age” gives an interesting vision of an electronic device (a “book”) which basically keeps the child in a VR teaching/adventure sim, governed by a (weak) AI, gently telling the kid what to do all the time. I suspect that this kind of sim will initially be a lot more useful for the less able child, not least because the sim might simulate less dysfunctional social interactions, and be able to make up for deficient parenting and deficient social environment.

    • JayMan says:


      “At the other end of the spectrum: an intervention which I suspect might disproportionally help the less able is strict, authoritarian, boarding-school-type environments.”


    • @ AC – Everyone – well, all sensible people, perhaps an unfair qualification – can see how this might be so. How it should be so. The evidence that it actually is, is lacking.

      I think I have considerable cred in having done the personal life-experiment on providing better environment. My third and fourth sons were brought here from a Romanian orphanage, my fifth, adopted from irresponsible relatives. Getting them as teenagers certainly diminishes whatever rescue effect there might be, but we put a lot of time, money, and effort into giving them a better chance, because we believed it might help. All three have other siblings brought up in worse environments.

      I now believe son #3 would have succeeded regardless. Son #4 was likely spared late teenage years of street-fighting, jail, sniffing furniture glue and dying, so that’s a clear plus. There may be other advantages, but I no longer think they are large. Son #5 is still an open question. He would tell you that living with us has been a night-and-day difference. I am less sure. He now shows qualities that were not present six years ago, but do show up in some of his half-siblings, and were not strong lessons of ours. Some things we hoped for and stressed in all of them have not developed.

      In all cases, it certainly wasn’t a negative, and might have been a plus. That’s enough.

      I graduated from an eastern college in 1975. We were taught that everything was environment except maybe eye color. Having multiple children can dissuade you of that. As for thrassymachus, the calvinist belief in the elect seemed to make Puritans more intense in their pursuit of faith, not laid back. If you want your child to be one of the modern Elect, then you have a good likelihood of having a child who also wants that. Insisting they do that is likely to be a shared happiness for the whole family. Problem solved.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’ve heard that small kids should be told that people can improve their intelligence, rather than it being set in stone, but that morality should be treated the opposite way: portray good people as good and bad people as bad, with no complexity beyond that. This makes a fair amount of sense to me. “It’s okay if I’m dumb now, because I’ll be smart later” is a positive thing for a kid to be thinking, because everyone will stumble somewhat when attempting something difficult and new, whereas “It’s okay if I’m bad now, because I’ll be good later” is not something you want a kid to think.

        If good and bad are set in stone, you’ll believe you’re a good person, and you’re going to REALLY REALLY want this belief to be borne out. You’re going to fear and dread anything that would indicate that you’re a BAD person, and you’re going to make DAMN SURE that you have cause to think that you’re a good person. But what works for morality doesn’t work when it comes to the “modern Elect” of ability. To fear and dread anything that smacks of dumbness will simply make you avoid challenging situations and never develop yourself beyond what can be done with natural gifts. Whereas avoiding situations that might challenge your virtue is probably something that tends to work out for the best.

    • Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      Genes will win out unless you believe in Tinkerbell.

    • I doubt it. Military style camps do not work well for crime prevention, for instance.

      • AnonymousCoward says:

        That’s interesting, thanks Emil.

        I wasn’t so much thinking of post-incarceration crime prevention of incarcerated offenders, as of life outcome effects of boarding-schools on pre-criminal, pre-incarceration youth.

        I agree that juvie camps seem to not prevent post-camp crime. But they likely work fine for preventing crime for the duration of the forced stay. Isolating predatory criminals from the vulnerable and crime-seduceable might have effects which are only measured by looking at the outcome of the society from which the criminal predators been extracted. Even if strict structures don’t make nasties less nasty, strict structures might improve the life outcomes of all the less able non-nasties by saving them from TNB.

    • melendwyr says:

      More likely, the child never develops the executive functions necessary to tell themselves what to do, for much the same reason that a child forcibly confined to a wheelchair for their entire lives will be unable to walk.

    • Hipster says:

      There are many charter schools that follow this model. They seem able to take the same population of students that routinely do terribly and have them pass standardized exams and graduate from college. They don’t increase IQ but they do succeed in making kids do their work, which helps. If you’ve ever seen some inner city schools, they are often insane with no one even doing any work because there is no discipline.

      The same 90 IQ kid will learn a lot less when students are fighting and yelling in class vs. in a class where things are orderly and students are doing their work.

      And a city full of grown people who have actually learned High School level content is much preferable to adults with a 3rd grade reading level.

      • gcochran9 says:

        ” the same population of students”

        Want to bet?

      • ursiform says:

        Charter schools take students from the same population, but generally not through random selection, so the don’t mirror the parent population.

        Students probably do learn more studying in a better environment, but 90 IQ kids will never learn more than they have the capacity to learn. Sure, I’d rather fill them 90% full than 60% full. But don’t expect them to master Newton or Tolstoy.

  3. thrasymachus33308 says:

    That’s discouraging- I want very badly to improve my child’s outcome in life. What does work, anything?

    • JayMan says:

      Smart drugs, if they ever get invented.

      • dip says:


      • They have been invented, but not properly tested. Worse, there is some evidence that they work best for the less bright, meaning that while they could lower inequality a bit, they have poor chance of improving humanity’s overall progress.

        Randall, D. C., Shneerson, J. M., & File, S. E. (2005). Cognitive effects of modafinil in student volunteers may depend on IQ. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 82(1), 133-139.

        Small sample (as with these studies), so not that convincing. But maybe.

        • Richard Harper says:

          Similarly on the nutritional front the main strategies are generally to avoid long term deficiencies in B6, B12, choline, cholesterol .. . but very large amounts (beyond the paleo) can sometimes even reduce cognitive functioning. (Back in the 1980s when I was much more into this topic it seemed about a third of the smart drugs were connected somehow to choline function. I have generally suspected the same is more or less true for the other studies of cognitive enhancing drugs — that mostly they work only for persons who happen to be getting insufficient nutrition for optimizing the metabolic pathways upon which the specific drug happens to act. As for Adderall and Modafinil, there is far more neurodiversity than is dreamt of in clinical cognitive ability testing assumptions.

          • Richard Harper says:

            Just now checking up on perhaps the best nutrition and cognitive functioning researcher ever, Richard Wurtman. Seems he might no longer be active – his list of grad students ends at 2005, though his front page at MIT indicates activity as late as 2008 and a project that goes through 2010. Long career. Large number of publications.

      • Count Doofus says:

        I suggest Atomoxetine. It increase norepinephrine and dopamine in neocortex

    • dip says:

      Be good to them. Have fun with them. Make sure that when they look back on their childhood, they smile.

      If you’re here, commenting and desiring success for your kid, chances are you’re already doing a lot of things “right” and your kid has already got a good start in life.

    • jIM says:

      Choice of mate might be where your decision would have the most effect.

    • How about loving them?

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      My gran would have said good food and she was right about most things – question is which are the specific bits that make good food.

    • Cain says:

      Make sure your kid gets a high grade point average in high school so he or she can get into a good(or at least a better) college.

    • Harry Cross says:

      Send them to an expensive fee-paying school. It will have little or no impact on their intelligence but it will help your children join the mutual back-scratching networks that reap dividends later in life.

  4. Flinders Petrie says:

    I yam what I yam, and that’s all that I yam.

    People a few decades ago to be much more content and self actualized (not to mention more productive members of society) when they weren’t constantly told that the only difference between themselves and Shakespeare is that he had better teachers and his parents had more money in the bank.

  5. pyrrhus says:

    As I recall, the majority of lottery winners blow the whole sum within a few years….talk about lack of lasting effects…

  6. Patrick Boyle says:

    If I had been on the edge of the Serengeti a while back when the human brain was exploding. Say a million years ago. Their brains getting larger and larger as the man-apes evolved towards man. I probably wouldn’t have noticed any improvement in intellectual capacity even if I lived hundreds of years.

    But my first computer – which I remember quite well – was an Altair. It’s not hard to imagine that in few short years if I want to do something I won’t check my smart phone for my schedule. I will check for permission.

    You Greg, are a smart guy. So for most of us, if we are overtaken by machine intelligence on New Years day on 2050. You won’t be surpassed for maybe as much as another week. Your intellectual advantage over the average man on the streets is about to be wiped out.

    The reasons why your points in today’s posting work, is because human ability is largely uniform and can only be changed very slowly. If our smartphones allow us to continue to exist, being a physicist or a geneticist will be just another ‘app’.

    • L says:

      If the day should come. Our AI would also come to the conclusion that the human population is itself the biggest cause of natural resource depletion, global climate change, lost of natural habitat, environmental pollution etc..

      Having fewer dummies is a quality of life issue for the smart fraction. It would solve a lot of problems in the long term, but the future is already here. A human population due to hit the 9 billion mark within this century.

      Being smarter has certainly not made us any wiser. I would choose first to make human beings beautiful, then smart. We tend to do nice things for beautiful people, so it would naturally be an advantage with a quick return on investment.

      • JayMan says:


        All that depends on the AI’s goals, which aren’t by any means a given consequence of being AI.

      • Yeah, what JayMan said. Resource depletion? climate change? Why on earth would a machine care in the least about that? Hell, even I don’t care about them much. Those are aesthetic concerns of a small minority of human beings. Please sit back and question whether these core values of yours actually have the meaning you have been assuming.

        • L says:

          I’m in California, we are approaching a 5th year of drought, climate change is an all too real part of daily life where I live. If this is part of a larger climate pattern and not just a once in a while dry spell; it will mean untold damage to the ecosystem as well as the economy of our state.

          If we had a learning machine, it’s task would be to solve problems that we humans care about. It could be mundane at the beginning, but the multitude of ‘problems’ that we face are all related.

          • ursiform says:

            What we call “drought” is the normal state of affairs in California. Unfortunately, both the population and agriculture boomed during an unusually wet period, and people expected it to continue.

            Climate change will make it worse, but a decade of reckoning was coming anyway.

          • ChrisA says:

            Note that there are plenty of places that receive much less rainfall than California, like Dubai, or Sydney, that are actually thriving places. Drought is just a technology issue; we don’t bemoan the lack of electricity, we build power stations.

  7. Chip Smith says:

    While it might not satisfy the social justice czars, “boosting everyone equally” seems like a grand outcome, assuming such a boost could be substantial. The real-world problem with psychometric disparities has less to do with gaps as such than with the socially pathological tendencies that reside nearest the cliff’s edge.

    Smart drugs seem like a better bet than any imaginable social intervention, but no one’s putting any money on that slot.

    • Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      To what extent is Future Time Orientation a matter of the up-regulation of various neurotransmitters and the down-regulation of others?

      To that extent, perhaps we can produce drugs to change behavior for the better.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “The real-world problem with psychometric disparities has less to do with gaps as such than with the socially pathological tendencies that reside nearest the cliff’s edge.”

      Agree. Bumping up the low end will solve lots of problems imo.

  8. John T says:

    I recently saw sal kahn of kahn academy (the educational youtube videos) give a talk at a conference. Made one point that was interesting to me: roughly 700 yrs ago if you asked literate people what percentage of the world could become literate with access to basic teaching and books they would likely have thought not much more than were already literate whereas in reality nearly 100% of people can be made literate with basic teaching and access to books. His point was that we may be similarly blind about peoples’ potential in other ways today.

    I’m not sure how accurate his read of medieval popular opinion is but if he’s right, he makes an interesting counterpoint to some of the conclusions about social policy one might draw from this blog post even though I’m not sure there are any direct contradictions.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Khan academy.
      The question is whether almost all people, or at least most people, including people from different populations, are able to master considerably more complex subjects, not just learning to read.
      If we hadn’t tried, we really wouldn’t know.
      But we have tried: we know the answer. As the complexity increases, the fraction that can’t cut it goes up and up. And the percentages are not the same for every population.

      • John T says:

        He is indeed Indian, not German. And i believe “Sal” is a nickname. I think the point would be that social interventions don’t need to increase people’s potential but use whatever potential they have. Are our social interventions so ineffective because we are already close to that frontier (at least in the west) or because of incompetence of people administering them, politics involved, etc? Social interventionists obviously think there’s still low hanging fruit, at least globally, which doesn’t require any improvements in innate ability, genetic potential, IQ

      • Dale says:

        You’re right, of course. But over the centuries, evolution can modify things. Indeed, it must have, if different populations have different abilities at various cognitive skills. And it looks like the longer a population has lived under bureaucratic and/or mercantile systems, the higher its average IQ. Needless to say, the Chinese score highest. It’s hardly impossible that 700 years ago, the fraction of the European population that could become literate was significantly smaller than it is today.

        • Morten says:

          …or higher average IQ lead to earlier development of mercantile systems and bureaucracies in societies with the smarter populations. How can you know which way the causality (if any) went?

          • Dale says:

            You write, “How can you know which way the causality (if any) went?”

            An interesting point, though it’s possible someone clever will figure out a way to do it. (I’ve seen some analyses that tease apart some remarkably messy causalities.)

            But unless you assume that different groups have different average IQs from the moment of creation, the difference must have come from somewhere, and selection for it seems the most likely cause.

        • Dylan says:

          It’s plausible that the flynn effect has affected different SES groups to differing extents. This would help to explain why even though the average IQ back in the day was much lower than it is now, there were still many geniuses.

          • Dale says:

            That is to say, that different SES groups have experienced different selective pressures.

            But it’s hard to say what a genius back then was like. There don’t seem to have been that many geniuses — how many people in Europe in the 1300s made great intellectual contributions? And yet it was a time when a truly clever person could have learned all the available academic knowledge in ten years.

    • Beyond Anon says:

      whereas in reality nearly 100% of people can be made literate with basic teaching and access to books.

      So, what is your definition of literate? That they have sat in classes for a bunch of years where they were exposed to instruction on reading.

      You can lead a horse to water, you can’t actually make it drink, and high rates of literacy around the world may be a myth. At least claims of 99% literacy.

      • gcochran9 says:

        They can read simple things. Useful things. If you want to talk about higher levels of literacy, or the lack thereof (functional illiteracy), you need to define your terms. And you should act fast, before I define functional illiteracy – which would include anyone who wasn’t reading Anna Karenina in middle school.

        • Beyond Anon says:

          They didn’t have middle school where I grew up.

          How about this for a definition of literacy relevant to those states claiming high levels of literacy:

          All those who can read any and all government forms and fill them out correctly can be claimed to be literate

          In the equivalent of middle school I guess I was reading one science fiction novel a day, various sections of EB and any text books we had been given in school. That was more than 40 years ago so they weren’t the watered down text books we have today.

          • MawBTS says:

            All those who can read any and all government forms and fill them out correctly can be claimed to be literate

            Do we have a time element? What if it takes me several hours of intense concentration to fill in my drivers license renewal form?

          • ursiform says:

            “All those who can read any and all government forms and fill them out correctly can be claimed to be literate”

            The problem with that definition is that some government forms appear to be written by people who are not literate or, in some cases, not logically inclined. Thus the written content of the form is not always sufficient to figure out how the government wants it filled out.

        • Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

          I spent some time years ago helping Middle School Hispanic kids with their reading.

          They were definitely not struggling with Anna Karenina. Nor were they struggling with Flowers For Algernon. It was much simpler material … it seemed like something was missing.

        • No, no, no. Mel Ott hit 511 lifetime home runs in a small ballpark. And he is one of two players with 6-letter names in Cooperstown. That was what was important in middle school.

        • ursiform says:

          In middle school I was mostly reading nonfiction–science, history, that kind of stuff. (I didn’t discover Russian literature until high school.) I think I was functionally literate, just not interested in literature. (Guess I was a little slow as a kid.)

        • Toad says:

          How about being able to read the dirty bits in latin texts that used to be left untranslated?

  9. dearieme says:

    The solution to juvenile crime is well known.

    • Dale says:

      Heh… The important question is, Does winning the lottery increase the number of one’s children (legitimate and not)?

  10. kai says:

    Those last days a Belgian-french newspaper issued a few article on Belgian “special schools”, schools who welcome kids with learning difficulties. The “shocking” news was that kids from poor families were about 5-10 times as likely to end up in one of those schools that kids from rich families. Which the journalist and the study author find very suspect because, of course, things like auditory or visual problems, visual deficiencies, attention deficit or low IQ (the reason given for orienting kids to special schools) are as common for poor than for rich. Yeaaaah sure, the journalist found it so obvious that not a single time this was mentioned as an assumption, that may not be true so worth checking. It was like everybody knows that, like the “earth is spherical” and “if you really want it, you will get it”.

    They even tried to pose as experts much above layman knowledge, telling that “IQ has been shown many time in multiple studies to measure education and family wealth, not inherent brain power”…hu, and if you think otherwise it’s because you are a poorly informed schlum full of stereotypes (i.e. not brainwashed enough). Not a single reference to those “multiple studies”, how surprising…

    What was more hilarious (or maybe less depressing, I can not decide) was when they interviewed “experts”, the psychologues/teacher responsible for advising parents about putting their child in such “special schools”, in particular about the reason why so many more poor kids were advised to go compared to rich kids (hint from journalist: it is of course social injustice and wealthy parents playing their connection muscles). It was quite easy to read between the lines of the expert answers: they are fully aware that IQ is a quite solid measure very well suited to the task (which child will not be able to keep up in a general school) and that poor families have much more chance to have a low IQ kid that rich ones. I believe that one even think that the reason is IQ heritability and low wealth/low IQ connection, the other I don’t know, maybe he/she still believed that it was upbringing….
    But i had to read between the lines to guess, because none of the specialist had the balls to say so to a journalist, and to call bullshit on the “social injustice”. They know why there is so much more poor kids in special schools, they hint very subtly at it, they use this knowledge in their work (at least for know, they may me prevented in the future if quota are put in place)…But they will not admit any of this knowledge to the PC inquisition, even if, to their credit, they didn’t took the journalist bait. Those psychologues are more clever than I thought, I guess not taking the bait was their way to be able to both keep their job and sleep at night 😉

    • Dale says:

      I remember a to-do in the US when some federal department started investigating why three or four times as many boys are in special ed. as girls. IIRC, the statistics are that males are overrepresented on both tails of the IQ spectrum.

      As for the US and special education, the highest fraction of students with certified learning disabilities is in Connecticut, which is the richest state. But I suspect that something to do with US law, which gives students with learning disabilities first claim on the money, and can get them extra time on tests — certainly that would come in handy when taking the SAT!

  11. Dylan says:

    This is a good way of isolating wealth as a factor. It’s often so muddled with other considerations. For example, wealthy people tend to possess certain virtues and characteristics independent of their wealth (those which helped them become rich in the first place) and thus create environments for their children that wealth alone cannot achieve. Most sociologists just ignore that possibility and assume that wealth per se is what’s important. No. Wealth is just the downstream effect of the parent who is a good role model for their children.

  12. Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    Someone once told me that African Americans must have more efficient brains, since their brains were smaller, on average, than the brains of whites, but they were just as smart.

    So, assume that there was some radical mutation out there that gave you an IQ of 100 but required 10% less brain volume to achieve that that the average white person.

    How many generations would be required before it swept to fixation?

    • Toad says:

      How many generations would be required before it swept to fixation?

      A little before the year 2100?

    • Matt says:

      If you’ve got nutritional constraints such that growing a large brain “cheaply” means more food resources to spare for the body’s health, and thus you generally work out having more kids by being healthier and fitter, then it’s an advantage.

      Otherwise it wouldn’t really matter, if everyone just has enough calories already that there are virtually no tradeoffs between brain vs health.

      It also depends on whether the important the brain that’s more efficient for size is energetically and nutritionally cheaper – if it has less volume but takes about as much protein, fat and glucose to run, then it hasn’t got a clear general selective advantage even under conditions of limited nutrition.

      • ursiform says:

        If you increase volume efficiency without increasing energy efficiency you probably end up with a thermal problem. You literally get hotheads.

        (Or does that explain something?!)

        • Count Doofus says:

          I wonder if increased temperature in this interglacial period made brain more efficient, justifying the reduction in size that we observe in skull in the last 25K years. Other options like increased desease load due rise in temperature would mean that human got dumber in all planet.

        • Matt says:

          Ursiform, true. That would also depends though on

          whether human brain size is actually close to the limit where thermal load causes health problems, which reduce fitness which reduce survival and reproduction
          whether the vascular system and brain geometry can alter to more successfully radiate heat

          Across species there is some evidence brain “volume-specific glucose utilization rates” scale negatively with volume – Could support the idea that larger brains are either more efficient with energy, or anyway use relatively less.

          Neanderthals with their characteristic long, broad and low brain shape have different heat dissipation patterns within the brain and out from the brain, and Chimpanzees generate lower thermal load than humans, because of size –

          Only relatively example of a more efficient for size brain in population group difference I’m directly aware of that seems pretty clear would be Ashkenazi Jewish vs NW European White North American brains. You can see via the FMRI the cluster corresponding to the Ashkenazi Jews has a lower average brain volume at (even when corrected for body size), yet AJs tend to test better. ADNI subjects are spread out primarily along a NW-SE axis and form two distinct clusters corresponding to NW European and Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (see also online suppl. fig. S5) …. “Intracranial and brain volumes and cortical surface area progressively increase with the amount of inferred NW European ancestry (fig. ​(fig.3b),3b), and these measures are approximately 5% larger in the 10% of individuals with the most NW European ancestry compared to the 10% with the most SE European ancestry” (i.e. in the ADNI Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry). Although its pretty small compared to the within group variation for both (and this no doubt relates to within group cognitive variation to some extent).

      • dip says:

        Tell that to my pelvis.

        Women who birth small-headed babies are much more likely to survive childbirth; even today, I bet they’re more likely to try it more than once.

        Childbirth is awful.

    • ursiform says:

      Assuming the premise and expanding the argument… it would appear that Bushmen and Aborigines have the most efficient brains of all. Which means there must be an evolutionary advantage to developing less efficient brains …

      • Count Doofus says:


      • Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        it would appear that Bushmen and Aborigines have the most efficient brains of all.

        I wonder if Bushmen have the visual acuity of Aboriginal Australians? It would be cool to see if the same approach has been selected for, ie increased Striate Cortex.

  13. Jim says:

    I don’t think the difference is that great. Isn’t it more like 5-6%?

  14. Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    And to think, this was all about getting women into bed:

  15. Cpluskx says:

    What would a genetically enginered (or hybrid vigour) human look like? What would be his abilities?

  16. Ah the lottery. A useful tool for exposing that mo money causes mo problems for people who get it without ever learning how to plan for the future. A medical doctor friend of mine concluded she could solve a host of problems her patients were having if only she could get them to plan ahead and eat healthy meals. Only one problem. None of them plan ahead whatsoever. These people couldn’t keep a candy bar in their pocket for more than five minutes.

    It isn’t just the lottery it is inheritances. When life long broke people inherit a fat chunk from recently deceased relatives they do stupid things with the money and burn through it. The lottery, inheritances, seven figure salaries to pro athletes, if they can’t see the big picture and plan ahead it will all be gone soon enough.

    One statistician got the bright idea lotteries could tell from a huge data set if people could to any degree predict the future. After all millions of people are guessing tomorrow’s lottery numbers. The answer is they can’t. However here is one weird finding. Lottery winners are just a hair better then random when we are in a period of little to no solar storms. 🙂 If the gullible want to run with that then be my guest. Maybe aliens that can communicate through telepathy will come here in packs during the next Maunder Minimum.

    I personally have a parapsychology experiment I want to conduct. I think we possibly inherited the psychic ability to sense when hungry carnivores are watching us. OK, slim and none are better words than possible for this hidden ability humans might have but I want the funding bucks to see if people can sense when a real hungry lion is watching them.

    • JayMan says:

      @dave chamberlin:

      “A medical doctor friend of mine concluded she could solve a host of problems her patients were having if only she could get them to plan ahead and eat healthy meals. Only one problem. None of them plan ahead whatsoever. These people couldn’t keep a candy bar in their pocket for more than five minutes.”

      Because that’s the problem.

    • Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      Did you suggest to her that it might be genetic.

  17. We see this also with different types of criminals. It is a citizenry favorite to deplore all the nice stuff white-collar criminals have in minimum-security prisons. But if there is even a moderate budget X every year for recreational equipment, the prisons where the inmates don’t break up the pool tables, secretly strip away metal for making shivs, or throw the exercise bikes across the gym are going to look much nicer ten years down the road, even if starting from the same place.

    See also schools, parks, countries. It’s like the Miracle Of Compound Interest, but with self-control.

  18. Pingback: Lotteries | evolutionistx

  19. Pingback: Wise Tim, Crime, and HBD: Part 2, the HBD-view expanded | evolutionistx

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