Archive: January 1, 2008
Happy New Year to you all. We spent last night celebrating 2007 the old fashioned way, with friends, food, and football. And we plan to bring in the new year the same way :)
It could not be windier here; the dogs are blowing around the yard, and anything not nailed down or planted has long since gone airborne. Not a good day for a ride but I'm going to try to squeeze one in anyway. I did a 40 miler yesterday and it felt like 80; by "Ole's Law" every wind is a headwind.
I have a Moxi attached to my HDTV; and if you had asked me yesterday I would have said I liked it. The combination of cable box and DVR is nice. But the UI is not nice, at least not as nice as my seven-year old Tivo's. This morning I was trying to do a simple thing, doubtless in concert with millions all over the world; I was setting up the Moxi to
tape record the games I'm interested in watching today. It was painful. I finally resorted to going upstairs, using the Tivo to figure out which games were on and on which channels, and then going back downstairs to program the Moxi. So that's it. I'm getting a Tivo HD. I confidently expect a lot of trouble getting two cablecards from AT&T and getting them installed and working, but I don't care; I want the Tivo UI. So be it.
Did you see that Peter Garrett. lead singer of Midnight Oil, is Australia's new Environment Minister? "The music of Peter Garrett has always been politically charged. Now the towering, baldheaded former singer of Midnight Oil is charged with practicing politics -- as Australia's new environment minister... A longtime environmental campaigner and advocate for Aboriginal rights, Garrett made his first foray into politics with an unsuccessful bid for the Senate as a member of the Nuclear Disarmament Party in 1984." Now that's cool...
If you're not into football, or even if you are, you might consider watching The Four Horsemen. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens sat down for an unmoderated 2-hour discussion. These four are known as atheists (or as I prefer, "brights"), but additionally are smart, thoughtful, and funny. And not strident, in contrast to their detractors... [ via Russell Beattie ]
Rogers Cadenhead considers the Long Bet Winner: Weblogs vs. The New York Times The bet: "In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times' Web site.". So, blogs won, narrowly, but interestingly the actual winner was Wikipedia, which beat both. That is, the wisdom of crowds beat the wisdom of individual experts and the wisdom of institutional experts. Not surprising, in retrospect, and it has implications for many fields, including Digital Pathology...
I'm going to have to be ruthless with the 200 or so items I have saved up to post about... nobody wants to read a bunch of old news, least of all you. Still some of this stuff is genuinely interesting. I'll try to sprinkle it in among the new stuff.
One of the more interesting ideas from 2007: How to keep Brown alive. Since discrimination based on race is illegal - and clearly should be, whatever the good intentions of those involved - maybe we can use income, socioeconomic status, or other factors as proxies? Or perhaps we should go all the way and use performance on standardized tests?
I should mention parenthetically that Slate and Salon continue to be two of my favorite websites, despite the fact that I disagree with most of what is written on them. (For similar reasons, The New Yorker continues to be a favorite magazine.) Public discussion of these issues seems important.
Global dimming? At first I thought it was Unnatural Selection - the idea that the world is getting dumber because of differential birthrates between smart people and dumb people - but no, merely the idea that sunlight is being blocked by pollution. That might be happening - in fact it might be a result of the Unnatural Selection kind of global dimming - but it isn't quite as interesting to me...
One of my favorite thinkers is Jared Diamond. In 1987 he published as essay: The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. The mistake? Agriculture. Which led to many things, including - ta da - Unnatural Selection... Maybe the end result will be a carbon tax on babies?
My 2007 "rolling a boulder uphill" award goes to Michael Newdow, who has been trying to get "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance since 2000, arguing that it violates the separation of church and state. Courts have ruled in his favor twice in the meantime, but the rulings have been overturned on technicalities. It doesn't seem like our biggest problem, but on merit you have to say he has a point. Next up: taking "in God we Trust" off our currency.
It would be cool to see a Presidential candidate sworn into office using a copy of Godel, Escher, Bach instead of a Bible. But don't hold your breath.
Still, the Economist notes an increasing number of [admitted] atheists in America, believe it or not.
Google is celebrating the New Year with a new logo - celebrating the 25th anniversary of TCP/IP. Interesting that they'd use RJ25 jacks, though, instead of coax cable. All I can say is, there's no place like 127.0.0.0.
John Dvorak, tech curmudgeon: 2007: The Miserable Year in Review. I agree with all his points, but not his conclusion; it was not a miserable year in tech at all, he just picked the low points. What about iPhone or the OLPC? Or the Wii, or Kindle? I guess "best of" is in the eye of the beholder, but we can all agree on "worst". That would be Vista...
Found on Digg: the cutest thing you'll see all day. (The development of a baby panda, seen at right.) Un-bear-able.
Music news: album sales plunge 20% this Christmas. I'm shocked. Meanwhile Apple is preparing to launch video rentals on iTunes. Will this be the end for DVD sales? Yes. Interestingly, it is being reported that the rentals will be time-limited. That implies unbreakable DRM. And as we all know, "unbreakable DRM" is an oxymoron. Paging dvd jon...
Of course most consumers are sitting out the high-def war between blue-ray and HD-DVD... they're waiting for high-def video downloads. My prediction for 2008: this isn't going to end like the VHS / beta war, with a clear winner, it is going to end with both sides losing to an attack from below, courtesy of the 'net.
On August 31, 2003, I posted IQ and Populations, which to this day remains my second most popular post. Unlike Tyranny of Email, my most popular article, the reaction is not generally positive. The post is popular in the sense of being widely linked, but unpopular in the sense of being widely disputed. While Tyranny asserts opinions that nearly everyone agrees with, IQ and Populations reviews facts with which nearly everyone disagrees.
Just today I received a friendly email which stated with confidence: "I just wanted to assure you that regardless of studies and debatable ideas such as IQ measurements, the world is unlikely to become any dumber because of a larger number of Indians as a proportion of the world population." My correspondent goes on to write "It is difficult to see how you could buy the argument that an entire population of over a billion people in some intellectual way scores lower on a standardized IQ test."
Here's what I replied:
Thank you for your email. It is gratifying to get a response to posts I made four years ago, and this one still gets a lot of traffic.
Here’s something to consider… if I were to say that the average height as measured of the population of India was smaller than the average height as measured from the population of the Netherlands, I believe you would not disagree. Furthermore the average height as measured of Indians is larger than that of Chinese. These are not controversial statements. And of course any given Indian or Dutchman or Chinese can be much taller or shorter than the average.
Yet if similar statements are made for measured IQ, people get very uncomfortable. It seems harder to believe that the average measured IQ for distinct populations would be exactly the same than to believe there would be some difference, yet when a study shows such a difference to exist, it is immediately discredited. Not only could I buy this argument, but it is not based on opinion, it is based on fact. Different populations have different measured characteristics for height – and for IQ. And of course as with height, any given individual can vary widely from the average; in fact the variations within each population are larger than the differences between the averages.
I believe the discomfort from this measured result is because measured IQ is not only a proxy for intelligence, it is a proxy for worth. Unlike height or other mundane physical characteristics which seem at best loosely correlated with “success”, measured IQ and intelligence are strongly correlated. This is why people are so eager to discredit first the measurements of IQ and secondly the correlation of IQ to intelligence.
Finally, given that average measured IQ differs between populations, and since measured IQ is hereditary – whether genetically based or purely a result of environment, or some combination, study after study has shown that measured IQ of parents is strongly correlated to measured IQ of their children – it follows that the relative birth rates of different populations will affect the overall measured IQ of people in general. It may be an uncomfortable conclusion but it follows logically from the facts.
Cheers, and thanks again for your email…
So, is this really true? Yes. Is this uncomfortable? Yes. Is this important? Yes.
© 2003-2017 Ole Eichhorn
Return to the archive.
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji
Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
the big day
solving bongard problems
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
where are the desktop apps?