◄►Bookmark◄❌►▲ ▼Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
Here is the link: https://osf.io/z9cnk/
Incidentally, my concept of Apollo’s Ascent was to a significant extent the result of my reaction to Human Accomplishment. (A brief reminder of the AA thesis: The rate and global distribution of technological progress is dependent on the absolutely numbers of literate “smart fraction” people available to different societies at different points in history). Although Human Accomplishment was a thoroughly brilliant work, I had some quibbles with its core argument – namely, that Christianity was at the root of Europe’s post-1450 intellectual preeminence.
The Greeks laid the foundation, but it was the transmutation of that foundation by Christianity that gave modern Europe its impetus and differentiated European accomplishment from that of all other cultures around the world.
This was a judgement that Murray appears to have made relatively late in the writing process, and I suspect that as a social scientist he might not have been 100% satisfied – intellectually, at any rate – with ascribing possibly the biggest puzzle in world history to unquantifiable and unfalsifiable “transcendental values.”
After all, purely cultural explanations don’t tend to have a greaat track record in explaining economic success/failure (which are substantially related to intellectual achievement: You need smart fractions both to invent stuff and to have more productive economies). See how Confucianism was first used to explain the stagnation of East Asian societies before 1950, before the historians and sociologists did a 180 and started citing that same Confucianism to explain the success of the East Asian tiger economies when they burst into prominence by the 1980s. I don’t think it’s a particularly wild or radical idea that concrete, quantifiable concepts such as literacy rates and smart fractions would be a more credible explanation. But let the eventual critics of Apollo’s Ascent be the judge of that.
Speaking of Apollo’s Ascent, writing the book will be much easier with access to Charles Murray’s database. It would also be on much firmer theoretical ground, since instead of just highlighting general patterns – it’s not as if I have the time or resources to construct a comprehensive database of human accomplishment by myself – I will also be able to run numerical experiments, e.g. on on the correlation between calculated historical “aggregate mindpower” levels in different countries (aka literate smart fraction people) and their production of eminent figures.
Charles Murray was actually kind enough to email me the HA database a couple of months ago, so this public release is mostly redundant for my own project. But it is a very good thing nonetheless that many more people will now be able to run their own historical and social “experiments” using his data, including those who might earlier have shied at openly requesting it.
It is also part of a general process now underway in which there is growing demand for scientists to make their data publically available as opposed to just on request. To a significant extent I think the reason more scientists don’t yet do this is that the technical means for doing so – especially for older scientists who tend to be less computer savvy – are still few and far between. The Open Science Framework, for instane, only began operations in 2011. So persons such as Emil Kirkegaard who are heavily involved with the opening up of the scientific process – incidentally, it was partly thanks to his timely prodding that the Human Accomplishment data was released – should also be strongly commended.
To go a bit meta, this process – both in its technological and social aspects – is itself an information technology that acts as a multiplier on aggregate mindpower, in the style of Renaissance reading glasses and the Internet. The Flynn Effect has stopped in the developed world, literacy rates are pretty much maxed out, and Apollo’s load almost always gets heavier, not lighter. Just like in the Civilization video games, you need more and more “science points” to generate discoveries as you go up the technology tree. As such, we have to start eking everything we can out of existing technology to keep up the production of our Great Scientists. Shifting to open science paradigms is by far not the worst way of going about this.