Critical Section


Unnatural Selection

Saturday,  03/15/03  11:27 PM

Welcome to the outline of Unnatural Selection.  I'm writing a book, and this is the skeletal framework on which it will be built.  This outline will evolve into the Table of Contents.  The plan is that eventually each chapter and section heading in the outline will become a link to the contents of that chapter or section.

The book is divided into five parts.  Each part and each chapter begins with a brief summary.  The intention is that a reader in a hurry could read just the summaries and get a pretty good overview of the book's contents.  As summaries are created, they will be placed inline in this outline, and shaded pale yellow.

Please email me with your comments, suggestions, feedback, related links, etc.

Unnatural Selection

Preface

  • Introduction
  • Genesis of the book
  • Dialogs vs. expositions
  • The blog - contributions from the online community
  • Influences
  • Acknowledgements

I: What’s Happening?

Once upon a time the fittest, smartest people were the ones having kids.  Their kids were fit and smart, and each generation was smarter than the last.  But that stopped happening a long time ago, and these days, less fit, less intelligent people are the ones having kids.  So their kids are not as fit and not as smart, and each generation is less and less intelligent.  This is Unnatural Selection.

Dialog: Nature of Intelligence

  • Introducing the characters: Oak, Palm, Beech, Ash, Q9
  • Is there such a thing as "intelligence"?
  • Existence of summary qualities
  • Common nonsense

The History of Population

  • This chapter reviews human population statistics.  Humanity has steadily increased in numbers through about 2,000 years ago.  At that point population levels began increasing more rapidly, interrupted by wars famine, and pestilence.  About 200 years ago human population levels began "exploding"; a continuous increase in an exponential rate of growth that continues through today.  In each of the last 100 years the total human population as increased by an order of magnitude (80M people in 1800, 800M people in 1900, 8B people today).

The History of Selection

  • This chapter discusses the way selection within the human race has changed, as external and internal factors have changed priority.  The advent of agriculture was the first big change, as individuals began to generate more food than they needed for their own survival, enabling individuals to provide for others less able to support themselves.  The advent of social support structures within human societies was the second big change, as societies began to distribute resources among their members to provide for individuals less able to support themselves.

Species History

  • A review of the history of the human race, from earliest identifiable fossils through the present.  Key benchmarks in human cultural evolution are noted, such as the development of tools, use of metals, agriculture, mechanization, social organization, religions, and politics.

The Three Phases

  • Time zero through agriculture (˜5,000 years ago)
    • Natural selection operational - "survival mode"
    • Individuals in survival mode
  • Agriculture through social support (˜500 years ago)
    • Natural selection neutralized
    • Individuals could share resources to aid those less able to survive
  • Social support through present
    • Natural selection reversed - unnatural selection
    • Society could share resources to aid those less able to survive

Memetics

  • Discussion about the fact that ideas ("memes") are socially hereditable, and have largely replaced physical characteristics ("genes") as the mechanism for human evolution.  Certainly the timescale over which memes mutate and evolve are much shorter than the timeframes for genes.  Memes have significant implications for evolutionary selection.  They also offer hope for change.

Regression to Mean

  • This chapter surveys anthropological concepts like "evolutionary pressure" and "regression to mean".  It plays off Appendix A, population mathematics.  The intention is to give readers unfamiliar with evolution enough background to understand the later discussions of population growth and differential birth rates.

Unnatural Selection

  • This chapter discusses the available data on population growth, birth rates, intelligence distributions, etc.  These data are used to draw some inferences about whether the drivers for unnatural selection are truly present (are there differential birth rates between sub-populations with different intelligence levels).  This sets up "Is this Happening?", and also "Why is this Happening?"

Dialog: Ways Things can be True

  • Observation
  • Deduction
  • Induction
  • Extrapolation

Is This Happening?

  • Discussion about whether unnatural selection is actually occurring.
    • Review of direct scientific data
    • Indirect evidence
    • Ways it could not be true.
  • Conclusions

II: Why Isn’t This Obvious?

Aside from gender, intelligence is arguably the most significant human characteristic.  Given that, persistent changes in the mean value of this characteristic in human populations should be readily apparent, but this is not the case.

Concurrent with unnatural selection, several other effects are taking place which "mask" the downward trend in mean intelligence.  These include:

  • Education.  People are far more educated today than at any time in human history, and the quality of education is continuously improving.  Education is also readily available to a larger percentage of humans.
  • Population Growth.  The continued strong growth of the human population means there are more people at every intelligence level than ever before.  The mean value is decreasing but the absolute numbers are not.
  • Political Correctness.  During the last fifty years or so, it has been increasingly difficult to perform serious scientific research on intelligence.  A lot of great work has been done, but the results have been kept quiet, or watered down, or in some cases discredited via personal attacks on the researchers.  Any study which tries to measure intelligence and its correlations to other attributes will be immediately attacked, regardless of its scientific intent or its findings.
  • U.S. Parochialism.  People studying areas related to unnatural selection overwhelming tend live in the United States.  This phenomenon is mitigated in the U.S. by a strong influx of highly intelligent people from other countries, which has a "masking" effect.
  • Time Perspective.  On the scale of human existence, 150,000 years or so, the time period during which unnatural selection has been operating is very small.  It is difficult to analyze such "blips" even from a distance, and more difficult to do so in near-realtime.  It may be decades or even centuries before we have sufficient perspective to clearly see the changes now taking place.

Education

  • People are far more educated today than at any time in human history, and the quality of education is continuously improving.  Education is also readily available to a larger percentage of humans.
  • People perceive knowledge and intelligence similarly.  There are differences between a knowledgeable person who is less intelligent than a more intelligent person with less knowledge, but they are often confused.
  • In many ways the average high-school graduate today knows more technical detail about the world than the most expert scientists of 100 years ago.

Dialog: The Best in the World

  • The piano player.
  • Sorting wheat.
  • 1,000,000 monkeys typing.

Population Growth

  • The continued strong growth of the human population means there are more people at every intelligence level than ever before.  The mean value is decreasing but the absolute numbers are not.
  • Human society evolves technically via the achievements of a small number of very intelligent people.  The total number of very intelligent people continues to increase with population growth, yielding more technical innovation than ever before.  Additionally, human society has evolved to efficiently productize and distribute the fruits of technical ideas, so a higher percentage of ideas get realized.

Political Correctness

  • During the last fifty years or so, it has been increasingly difficult to perform serious scientific research on intelligence.  A lot of great work has been done, but the results have been kept quiet, or watered down, or in some cases discredited via personal attacks on the researchers.  Any study which tries to measure intelligence and its correlations to other attributes will be immediately attacked, regardless of its scientific intent or its findings.
  • If research contains credible evidence that unnatural selection is taking place it will most likely be hidden and ignored, rather than analyzed and publicized.

U.S. Parochialism

  • People studying areas related to unnatural selection overwhelming tend live in the United States.  This phenomenon is mitigated in the U.S. by a strong influx of highly intelligent people from other countries, which has a "masking" effect.

Time Perspective

  • On the scale of human existence, 150,000 years or so, the time period during which unnatural selection has been operating is very small.  It is difficult to analyze such "blips" even from a distance, and more difficult to do so in near-realtime.  It may be decades or even centuries before we have sufficient perspective to clearly see the changes now taking place.
  • The AIDS virus provides a unique opportunity to study rapid evolution.

III: Why is This a Problem?

Say you accept unnatural selection is taking place - the human race is really becoming less intelligent.  So what?  Does it matter?

Unfortunately it matters a great deal.  Studies have shown strong correlations between low cognitive ability and socially undesirable traits, such as:

  • Criminality.  People of lower intelligence tend to commit more crimes.  This may be because the deterrent effect of social punishments are less effective, because the probabilistic consequences are less "computable".
  • Violence.  People with lower intelligence have a higher proclivity toward violence.  This may be because diplomatic approaches toward problem resolution are less useful, or because social deterrents toward violent behavior are less effective.
  • Civility.  People with lower intelligence are less "civil".  The working definition for civility is a kind of enlightened altruism, where people realize investing in cooperation with others pays dividends.  This may be because the calculation of the returns on the investment is less available to people with low cognitive ability.
  • Parenting.  In several key measures of parenting skills people with lower cognitive abilities are found to be worse parents.  Less intelligent people tend to employ more unfocused discipline rather than rational guidance, and to be less consistent and less attentive.  This may be because parenting strategies require forethought and flexibility which may be less available to people with lower intelligence.
  • Responsibility.  The complex attribute summarized as responsibility is a social response to mores; taking responsibility means living up to the expectations created by society, and fulfilling the obligations imposed by the society.  People with lower intelligence are less able to understand a societies mores and the rationale for them, and [as with criminality] less likely to be deterred by the consequences established for those who do not live up to societies' expectations.  This may be because the calculation of consequences is less available.

These factors are themselves hereditary - not necessarily through any genetic connection, but through mnemonic transmission from parents to children, and cultural conditioning.

Correlated Factors

  • This chapter contains a discussion about undesirable social traits which are correlated with low cognitive ability.
  • The data from several studies which indicate the correlations are presented and discussed.
  • There is a difference between correlation and causality.  It is not necessary to show causality to infer negative conclusions from the correlations.  Nonetheless, in the discussion of various correlated traits, some suggestions will be made for causality.

Criminality

  • People of lower intelligence tend to commit more crimes. 
  • This may be because the deterrent effect of social punishments are less effective, because the probabilistic consequences are less "computable".

Violence

  • People with lower intelligence have a higher proclivity toward violence. 
  • This may be because diplomatic approaches toward problem resolution are less useful, or because social deterrents toward violent behavior are less effective.

Civility

  • People with lower intelligence are less "civil".  The working definition for civility is a kind of enlightened altruism, where people realize investing in cooperation with others pays dividends. 
  • This may be because the calculation of the returns on the investment is less available to people with low cognitive ability.

Parenting

  • In several key measures of parenting skills people with lower cognitive abilities are found to be worse parents.  Less intelligent people tend to employ more unfocused discipline rather than rational guidance, and to be less consistent and less attentive. 
  • This may be because parenting strategies require forethought and flexibility which may be less available to people with lower intelligence.

Responsibility

  • The complex attribute summarized as responsibility is a social response to mores; taking responsibility means living up to the expectations created by society, and fulfilling the obligations imposed by the society.  People with lower intelligence are less able to understand a societies mores and the rationale for them, and [as with criminality] less likely to be deterred by the consequences established for those who do not live up to societies expectations. 
  • This may be because the calculation of consequences is less available.

Dialog: Mnemonic Plague

  • The insidiousness of cultural transmission.
  • Separated at birth, and other stories.
  • The myth of immutable heredity.

Mnemonic Transmission

  • The negative social characteristics which correlate to lower cognitive ability are hereditary, just as intelligence itself.  They need not be transmitted genetically, they can also be transmitted culturally via parent/child relationships, and by the cultural environment in which children are raised.

Parent/Child Transmission

  • By far the strongest environmental influences on children are their parents.  Whether via genetic transmission or these environmental influences, correlation between parents and children for these characteristics is high, as with intelligence itself.
  • From a social standpoint the issue of whether these traits are transmitted genetically or environmentally is moot.  Of primary importance is the fact that they are transmitted.

Cultural Transmission

  • Besides parents, there are many other environmental influences on children which lead to cultural transmission.  For example children who are raised in a violent environment will have a higher tendency to resort to violence as a means of settling disputes.
  • People with similar intelligence levels tend to group socially, and hence children tend to be raised in a cultural environment which is characteristic of the intelligence level of their parents.  This means undesirable social traits such as criminality may be culturally transmitted and correlate to intelligence even though there is no link between the attribute and cognitive ability.

Propagation

  • In addition to parent/child and culture/child mnemonic transmission, people are influenced in a variety of other ways.  These ways include:
    • Interaction with friends
    • Social mores
    • Entertainment
    • Religion
    • Political affiliation
  • People of similar cognitive abilities tend to receive and respond to these influences in similar ways.  For example, some forms of entertainment are more popular with people of lower cognitive abilities.
  • The cultural influence from people of similar cognitive abilities tends to "propagate" negative traits fostered for other reasons.

In The Year 2100

  • This section considers scenarios for the year 2100, by extrapolating trends in population, intelligence distribution, and differential birth rates.  These scenarios are interpreted based on correlations with other traits.
  • Analysis of the "most likely" scenarios for 2100 reveal that significant social problems will result if unnatural selection continues unchecked.

IV: Why is This Happening?

Unnatural selection results from differential birth rates between people of differing levels of intelligence.  There are three components to the effective birth rates:

  1. Choice.  People in different cultural environments choose to have different numbers of children.  For various reasons people of lower cognitive abilities are influenced to have more children.  These reasons include:
    • Social selection.  Society establishes active financial and other incentives for people of lower cognitive levels to have children.
    • Social safety net.  At most points in human history people have been constrained to raise only as many children as they themselves could support.  More recently, extended family units have enabled people to have more children than they can support, using the family to provide resources.  More recently still, societies have established programs to support children when their parents cannot.
    • Cultural influence.  Many cultural institutions within society provide active incentive for people to have children (such as religions).  Less intelligent people are more likely to be influenced by such cultural institutions than people at higher cognitive levels.
  2. Generation length.  Less intelligent people tend to have children younger, because they don't have the delaying factors of attending college and/or establishing professional careers.
  3. Death rates.  Throughout human history people with lower cognitive levels have faced higher death rates, because of famine, reduced access to medical care, occupational hazards, and lifestyle factors.  In recent times these factors have been strongly reduced, such that death rates are similar for people at all cognitive levels.

Dialog: Choosing Not to Choose

  • The popularity of defaults
  • Local vs. global decisions

Choice

  • People in different cultural environments choose to have different numbers of children.  For various reasons people of lower cognitive abilities are influenced to have more children.
  • The same types of factors which influence the choice of individuals also influence the collective choice of the individuals in a country.

Social Selection

  • Society establishes active financial and other incentives for people of lower cognitive levels to have children.
  • In many cases the incentive for having more children is an unintended side effect of public policy.  For example, giving more aid to women with more children might seem reasonable, since women with more children have more resource requirements.  However, this also creates an incentive for women to have more children merely to increase their level of aid.
  • Social selection operates at the country level as well.  If wealthy countries provide aid to poor countries based on population levels, it creates an incentive for poor countries to foster higher birth rates.

Social Safety Net

  • At most points in human history people have been constrained to raise only as many children as they themselves could support.  More recently, extended family units have enabled people to have more children than they can support, using the family to provide resources.  More recently still, societies have established programs to support children when their parents cannot.
  • Essentially today's societies say to people: "go ahead and have as many children as you want, if you can't feed them, we'll provide food, and if you can't afford medical care for them, we'll provide it."
  • To some extent a social safety net exists between countries.  Rich countries say to poor countries: "go ahead and have as many children as you want, if you can't feed them, we'll provide food, and if you can't afford medical care for them, we'll provide it."

Cultural Influence

  • Many cultural institutions within society provide active incentive for people to have children (such as religions).  Less intelligent people are more likely to be influences by such cultural institutions than people at higher cognitive levels.

Generation Length

  • Less intelligent people tend to have children younger, because they don't have the delaying factors of attending college and/or establishing professional careers.
  • As shown in Appendix A, Population Math, a 30% shorter generation length is mathematically equivalent to a 30% increase in children/parent ("choice").

Death Rates

  • Throughout human history people with lower cognitive levels have faced higher death rates, because of famine, reduced access to medical care, occupational hazards, and lifestyle factors.  In recent times these factors have been strongly reduced, such that death rates are similar for people at all cognitive levels.
  • In the past differential death rates counterbalanced differential birth rates to keep overall reproductive rates similar.  The recent dissimilarity is partially caused by the elimination of differential death rates.

V: What Can Be Done?

This is a book about a simple thing.  But the simple thing defies a simple solution.

All solutions must affect choice, the first part of the equation which yields the overall reproductive rate.  It is not feasible to affect generation length nor death rates.

Many of the conceivable solutions are impossible to implement for political reasons.  For example, a "eugenic" public policy which actively selected more intelligent people to have birth would be immediately condemned in a firestorm of protest.  Other "impossible" solutions include:

  • Physical / legal prohibition.  E.g. passing a law to restrict the number of children each parent can have.
  • Explicit financial or social penalties.  E.g. a tax on having children, or a restriction on how many children each parent can send through public school.
  • Manual Selection.  E.g. Governmental or institutional selection of parents based on intelligence and other factors.  A clear non-starter in the current political environment.

There are a few ways "choice" might be influenced in ways which would reduce the differential birth rate between people at different cognitive levels:

  • Incentives.  Establish financial and social rewards to influence a reduction in the birth rate.  In many cases these solutions amount to removing societal barriers to natural selection.
  • Resource allocation.  Change social policies toward resource allocation to reward appropriate behavior.
  • Leadership.  Intellectual, Political, and Religious leaders must understand this problem and work together to craft solutions.  In many ways subtle variations in message can have large impacts on constituent behavior.  Leadership influence can be guided by economic reinforcement.
  • Family values.  The high-level influences on birth "choice" will become codified as family values.  These values are local to a community, and culturally transmitted.  This partially accounts for the persistence of large differences in birth rates between societies.  Ultimately the solution to unnatural selection lies in changing the core "family values" of society.

Nature of Solutions

  • All solutions must affect choice, the first part of the equation which yields the overall reproductive rate.  It is not feasible to affect generation length nor death rates.
  • Generation length is primarily driven by lifestyle.  On average, people at lower levels of intelligence have children in their late teens and early twenties, as dictated by biology.  People at higher levels of intelligence tend to delay having children to complete their education and to establish their careers, often waiting until their mid- to late- thirties.
  • Death rates have evened out due to vast improvements in medical care, reduction in dangerous occupations, and advances in food production and distribution.  These changes are permanent and in any event retracting them would be lower quality of life and be undesirable.

What Cannot Be Done

  • Many of the conceivable solutions are impossible to implement for political reasons:
    • Physical / legal prohibition.  E.g. passing a law to restrict the number of children any parent could have.  { This has been tried in China with some success, but also with a wide range of unintended social consequences.  It would be impossible to implement in any Western democratic society. }
    • Explicit financial or social penalties.  E.g. a tax on having children, or a restriction on how many children each parent could send through public school.
    • Manual Selection.  E.g. Governmental or institutional selection of parents based on intelligence and other factors.  A clear non-starter in the current political environment.

Dialog: Cultural Viruses

  • Tipping points and other factors
  • Transmission time vs. assimilation time
  • Why popular things are popular
  • Designing a memetic virus

Incentives

  • Establish financial and social rewards to influence a reduction in the birth rate.  In many cases these solutions amount to removing societal barriers to natural selection.  Solutions include:
    • Societal.  E.g. Stigmatize unmarried women with children, or women otherwise unable to care for their children.  Glorify virtues like self-sufficiency.
    • Economic.  E.g. Change welfare incentives to reward people for not having more children than they are able to care for themselves.
    • Self-correction.  Establish policies that lead to the desired behavior directly, rather than via coercion.  E.g. People don't stop at red lights because it is the law, they stop at red lights to avoid getting hit by other cars.

Resource Allocation

  • Change social policies toward resource allocation to reward appropriate behavior.  Considerations include:
    • Quality vs. quantity of life.  Currently society is "programmed" to value all life equally, and to celebrate additional life.  There must be a realization that under resource constraints all life is not equal, at least in terms of quality of life, and that reducing birth rates will improve the quality of life for everyone.
    • The “mutilated child” effect.  Avoid social policies which reward undesired behavior, even at a short-term cost; e.g. it is not possible to support all children equally and to create an incentive for people not to have more children than they can support themselves.
    • Education.  The message must be communicated that unnatural selection is taking place, and that it has negative consequences for human societies.  This book should be wildly popular and widely quoted :)
    • Contraception.  If people don't want to have children, they shouldn't.  Contraception must be socially supported (see "religious leaders", below!) and readily available to all.
    • Abortion.  For many fetal rights or a woman's right to choice is an emotional moral issue.  From the standpoint of fighting unnatural selection, legal, safe abortion is an essential tool.  Again, if people don't want to have children, they shouldn't.  { Especially if they have pre-knowledge that their child may have significant medical issues. }

Leadership

  • Intellectual, Political, and Religious leaders must understand the problems and work together to craft solutions.  In many ways subtle variations in message can have large impacts on constituent behavior.
    • Intellectual leaders.  Columnists, authors, entertainment personalities, reporters, webloggers.  Open to a free exchange of ideas, receptive to descriptions of problems, creative in working to solve problems.
    • Political leaders.  Generally open to a free exchange of ideas, but will only be receptive to descriptions of problems if endorsed by their constituency.  Not necessarily creative in working to solve problems, can be mired in bureaucracy.  The driver is always how their constituents will feel.
    • Religious leaders.  Generally quite conservative and not open to changes in dogma.  Not open to a free exchange of ideas, in fact, frequently threatened by ideas.  Not creative in problem solving.
  • Leadership influence can be guided by economic reinforcement.

Family Values

  • In many ways the high-level influences on birth "choice" will become codified as family values.  These values are local to a community, and culturally transmitted.  This partially accounts for the persistence of large differences in birth rates between societies.  Ultimately the solution to unnatural selection lies in changing the core "family values" of society.
    • Importance of two parents.  The strong value of having two parents in each family comes from having the additional resources contributed by another adult.  This lessons the chances that people will have children which must be supported by society.
    • Economic reinforcement.  Society must design welfare, tax, and other programs to reward two-parent families, as a way to reduce the carrying cost of one-parent families.
    • The local loop.  Most people are strongly influenced by a "local" combination of social mores, economic incentives, and enlightened self-interest.  This combination of factors generally outweighs more global considerations like "what's good for the country".  To win the battle against unnatural selection, it will be critical to tune the "local loop" so people are pre-incentivized for the desired behavior.

Appendices

A: Population Math

  • This appendix reviews the mathematics of populations, including how hereditable trails are distributed, how favorable and unfavorable traits evolve, the overall affect of favorable traits on mean and extreme values with populations, etc.

B: Selection Model

  • This appendix presents a simple mathematical model of the evolution of intelligence, based on parameterized assumptions.  Using this model, the future mean value of intelligence within a population can be computed for any set of parameter values.


© 2003-2014 Ole Eichhorn

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