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Apollo's Ascent

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At his blog Greg Cochran raises the issue of the Great Stagnation.


Basically, GDP per capita growth rates throughout the developed world have plummeted relative to the levels of 1950-1973 (the years of the miracle economy, Wirtschaftswunder, trentes glorieuses, etc).

They are however more or less typical of growth rates earlier in the century, substantially higher than in the 19th century, and still cardinally different from the Malthusian stasis that characterized most of human history (when technology increases led to bigger populations but no improvements in individual wellbeing, at least in nutritional terms).

So the question could also be put as: What made the third quarter of the 20th century so special?

(1) Long-term GDP per capita growth is ultimately a function of growth in total factor productivity, or the “A” part of the Cobb-Douglas production function (where GDP = A*Capital^0.3*Labor^0.7).

(2) Total factor productivity is itself, for the most part, a function of technology, including social technology (otherwise known as institutions); and of aggregate cognitive power, which determines the efficiency with which said technology can be utilized.

Now let us look at each of the above in turn:

(a) Social technology – In general, in most places – within the OECD, at least, as a criterion of inclusion – the best mix of institutions for maximizing economic output has already been found and implemented. There are, to be sure, substantial differences in ease of business and hours worked between, say, Italy and the US; but said differences are marginal, not cardinal, such as those between North Korea and the US.

Incidentally, the idea that in most areas of the world improving institutions further has entered the realm of decreasing marginal returns is hardly a fringe view in economics (e.g. Glaeser 2004).

(b) Cognitive power – Literacy was closing in on 100% by 1900 in the US and “core” Europe. At that same time, the Flynn effect took off in earnest, continuing to around 1970-2000 but tapering off or even going into decline by the turn of the millennium. So aggregate elite cognitive power is now increasing at much more modest rates than before.

(c) Technology – As per Apollo’s Ascent Theory, there is an equilibrium technology level for every level of aggregate cognitive power, with the rate of growth of technology being proportional to the gap between the current and equilibrium state. However, since the equilibrium level of technology is now seeing only very minor gains (relative to the trend for most of the 20th century), technological growth has also become more subdued.

(3) The decline in technological growth leads to a decline in the rate of GDP per capita growth in the advanced countries, which are close to the technological frontier.

(4) Why is China growing very fast? Because its growth is based on mere convergence to the developed world, which it can effect by dint of its First World-quality human capital. At a stroke, the reforms of the 1980s involved a quantum leap in social technology (i.e. abandonment of Maoist economics, an aberration that made Soviet-style central planning look rational) and the removal of barriers to technological diffusion from the developed world.

(5) Why was the 1950-1973 period that of the miracle economy?

The conventional explanation is that the world hit a sweet spot in which many interrelated productivity improvements linked to advances in electro-mechanics, decision theory, etc. in prior recent decades that had been marred by war and instability could now all be implemented at the same time. Another important factor is that back then industry accounted for a larger share of GDP than today, which enabled faster growth because productivity improvements in manufacturing are easier to implement than in services.

However, surely another major factor was that the Flynn Effect and improvements in cognitive technology, or what you could view as technology-to-make-technology (e.g. much better “cognitive sorting,” as described by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein in The Bell Curve) was advancing at a very rapid pace during that period.

Also, both Europe and Japan had been wrecked by the war, so they were very much below potential; and Japan especially still had ample scope for pure convergence growth, conveniently protected under the American security umbrella. Hence why most of Europe and especially Japan grew even faster than the US during that period.

There is also a “thermoeconomics” school (e.g. Ayres 2002) which argues that the Great Stagnation is explainable on account of energy conversion efficiency ratios beginning to hit plateaus from the 1970s.


Potentially, this could even lead to a decline in the level of equilibrium GDP, if technological growth slows down past the point at which it no longer fully counteracts increasing resource depletion.

That said, I don’t know to what extent I buy this thesis, and especially the impicit assumption that GDP must be quite tightly linked to material output.

• Category: Economics • Tags: Apollo's Ascent, Economic History 
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Last month there was an interview with Eliezer Yudkowsky, the rationalist philosopher and successful Harry Potter fanfic writer who heads the world’s foremost research outfit dedicated to figuring out ways in which a future runaway computer superintelligence could be made to refrain from murdering us all.

It’s really pretty interestingl. It contains a nice explication of Bayes, what Eliezer would do if he were to be World Dictator, his thoughts on the Singularity, justification of immortality, and thoughts on how to balance mosquito nets against the risk of genocidal Skynet from an Effective Altruism perspective.

That said, the reason I am making a separate post for this is that here at last Yudkowsky gives a more more or less concrete definition of what conditions a superintelligence “explosion” would have to satisfy in order to be considered as such:

Suppose we get to the point where there’s an AI smart enough to do the same kind of work that humans do in making the AI smarter; it can tweak itself, it can do computer science, it can invent new algorithms. It can self-improve. What happens after that — does it become even smarter, see even more improvements, and rapidly gain capability up to some very high limit? Or does nothing much exciting happen?

It could be that, (A), self-improvements of size δ tend to make the AI sufficiently smarter that it can go back and find new potential self-improvements of size k ⋅ δ and that k is greater than one, and this continues for a sufficiently extended regime that there’s a rapid cascade of self-improvements leading up to superintelligence; what I. J. Good called the intelligence explosion. Or it could be that, (B), k is less than one or that all regimes like this are small and don’t lead up to superintelligence, or that superintelligence is impossible, and you get a fizzle instead of an explosion. Which is true, A or B? If you actually built an AI at some particular level of intelligence and it actually tried to do that, something would actually happen out there in the empirical real world, and that event would be determined by background facts about the landscape of algorithms and attainable improvements.

You can’t get solid information about that event by psychoanalyzing people. It’s exactly the sort of thing that Bayes’s Theorem tells us is the equivalent of trying to run a car without fuel. Some people will be escapist regardless of the true values on the hidden variables of computer science, so observing some people being escapist isn’t strong evidence, even if it might make you feel like you want to disaffiliate with a belief or something.

Psychoanalyzing people might not be so useful, but trying to understand the relationship between cognitive capacity and technological progress is another matter.

I am fairly sure that k<1 for the banal reason that more advanced technologies need exponentially more and more cognitive capacity – intelligence, IQ – to develop. Critically, there is no reason this wouldn’t apply to cognitive-enhancing technologies themselves. In fact, it would be extremely strange – and extremely dangerous, admittedly – if this consistent pattern in the history of science ceased to hold. (In other words, this is merely an extension of Apollo’s Ascent theory. Technological progress invariably gets harder as you climb up the tech tree, which works against sustained runaway dynamics).

Any putative superintelligence, to continue making breakthoughs at an increasing rate, would have to not only solve ever harder problems as part of the process of constantly upgrading itself but to also create and/or “enslave” an exponentially increasing amount of computing power and task it to the near exclusive goal of improving itself and prevent rival superintelligences from copying its advances in what will surely be a far more integrated noosphere by 2050 or 2100 or if/whenever this scenario happens. I just don’t find it very plausible our malevolent superintelligence will be able to fulfill all of those conditions. Though admittedly, if this theory is wrong, then there will be nobody left to point it out anyway.

• Category: Science • Tags: Apollo's Ascent, Rationality, Superintelligence 
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book-human-accomplishment Charles Murray has made the entire database compiled for his book Human Accomplishment freely available at the Open Science Framework.

Here is the link:

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.

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The cultural and scientific achievements of Ancient Greece are so manifold that it is barely worth recounting them. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle laid the foundations of Western philosophy. Pythogoras, Euclid, and Archimedes launched mathematics as a disciple grounded on logic and proof, a break from the approximative techniques that had held sway in other civilizations (and would largely continue to do so). To this day many medical schools have their students swear an oath under the name of Hippocrates. Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides – the originators of, and still giants in, the Western literary canon. Herodotus and Thucydides, the founders of a historiography that was something more than just a court chronicle.

Ancient Greek IQ = 125 (Galton)

Bearing in mind the very small population from which these intellectual giants were drawn – at its height, Ancient Athens had no more than 50,000 male citizens – it is little wonder that many thinkers and historians have posited a very high average IQ to the ancient Greeks, including most recently evolutionary psychologist Gregory Cochran. But the argument was perhaps best stated by the Victorian polymath and inventor of psychometrics Francis Galton, in the (not very politically correctly titled) “Comparative Worth of Different Races” chapter of his book Hereditary Genius:

The ablest race of whom history bears record is unquestionably the ancient Greek, partly because their master-pieces in the principal departments of intellectual activity are still unsurpassed, and in many respects unequalled, and partly because the population that gave birth to the creators of those master-pieces was very small. Of the various Greek sub-races, that of Attica was the ablest, and she was no doubt largely indebted to the following cause, for her superiority. Athens opened her arms to immigrants, but not indiscriminately, for her social life was such that none but very able men could take any pleasure in it; on the other hand, she offered attractions such as men of the highest ability and culture could find in no other city. Thus, by a system of partly unconscious selection, she built up a magnificent breed of human animals, which, in the space of one century—viz. between 530 and 430 B.C.—produced the following illustrious persons, fourteen in number:—

Statesmen and Commanders.—Themistocles (mother an alien), Miltiades, Aristeides, Cimon (son of Miltiades), Pericles (son of Xanthippus, the victor at Mycalc).
Literary and Scientific Men.—Thucydides, Socrates, Xenophon, Plato.
Poets.— Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes.

We are able to make a closely-approximate estimate of the population that produced these men, because the number of the inhabitants of Attica has been a matter of frequent inquiry, and critics appear at length to be quite agreed in the general results. It seems that the little district of Attica contained, during its most flourishing period (Smith’s Class. Geog. Dict.), less than 90,000 native free-born persons, 40,000 resident aliens, and a labouring and artisan population of 400,000 slaves. The first item is the only one that concerns us here, namely, the 90,000 free-born persons. Again, the common estimate that population renews itself three times in a century is very close to the truth, and may be accepted in the present case. Consequently, we have to deal with a total population of 270,000 free-born persons, or 135,000 males, born in the century I have named. Of these, about one-half, or 67.500, would survive the age of 26, and one-third, or 45,000, would survive that of 50. As 14 Athenians became illustrious, the selection is only as I to 4,822 in respect to the former limitation, and as I to 3, 214 in respect to the latter. Referring to the table in page 34, it will be seen that this degree of selection corresponds very fairly to the classes F (1 in 4, 300) and above, of the Athenian race. Again, as G is one-sixteenth or one-seventeenth as numerous as F, it would be reasonable to expect to find one of class G among the fourteen; we might, however, by accident, meet with two, three, or even four of that class— say Pericles, Socrates, Plato, and Phidias.

Now let us attempt to compare the Athenian standard of ability with that of our own race and time. We have no men to put by the side of Socrates and Phidias, because the millions of all Europe, breeding as they have done for the subsequent 2,000 years, have never produced their equals. They are, therefore, two or three grades above our G—they might rank as I or J. But, supposing we do not count them at all, saying that some freak of nature acting at that time, may have produced them, what must we say about the rest? Pericles and Plato would rank, I suppose, the one among the greatest of philosophical statesmen, and the other as at least the equal of Lord Bacon. They would, therefore, stand somewhere among our unclassed X, one or two grades above G—let us call them between H and I. All the remainder—the F of the Athenian race— would rank above our G, and equal to or close upon our H. It follows from all this, that the average ability of the Athenian race is, on the lowest possible estimate, very nearly two grades higher than our own—that is, about as much as our race is above that of the African negro. This estimate, which may seem prodigious to some, is confirmed by the quick intelligence and high culture of the Athenian commonalty, before whom literary works were recited, and works of art exhibited, of a far more severe character than could possibly be appreciated by the average of our race, the calibre of whose intellect is easily gauged by a glance at the contents of a railway book-stall.

Francis Galton was writing before the invention of the standard deviation, but in his methodology a “grade” was equivalent to 10.44 IQ points (under an S.D. of 15), so in practice the Athenians had an IQ of perhaps 120 relative to a Victorian British mean of 100. (And presumably, therefore, about 110 relative to the modern Greenwich mean, which is considerably higher than a century ago due to the Flynn Effect).

There are however a few problems with this.

Ancient Greek IQ = 90 (Apollo’s Ascent)

First off, there is no particularly obvious explanation for why this part of the Mediterranean world evolved such a high average IQ – a standard deviation higher than everyone else – in the first place. One would then likewise have to explain why they then lost it so thoroughly that modern Greeks now consistently place lower in European IQ assessments than all but a few Balkan backwaters.

However, it turns out that using the Apollo’s Ascent method of computing aggregate mindpower – with adjustment for the intellectual discovery threshold – as a function of population size, literacy rate, and average IQ can explain the record of Greek achievement just as succinctly without requiring positing superhumanly high average IQ levels which are so dubious from an evolutionary perspective.

Let us treat each of these factors in turn:

Ancient Greek Demography

It is often forgotten that when we are speaking of ancient Greek accomplishment it is more than just a story of Athens, a city that drew the cognitive elites of the entire oikoumene to itself (much as major metropolises like New York, London, Paris, etc. do so today).

To be sure, Athens might have had 50,000 male citizens, and a total population of 250,000-300,000 [CORRECTION: Actually refers to the entire Athenian city-state. Population of just the city was probably about twice less]. But the population of Greece proper was probably at least five times larger, because the total urbanization rate never went much above 20% in any preindustrial country that we know of. Moreover, Greeks were scattered all across the Mediterranean world, in Ionia and Sicily and the shorelines of Egypt, the Italian “boot,” France, Spain, and the Pontic steppe.


Greece: More than just Greece. Source.

According to recent calculations, the total population of Greeks in the 4th century BC was at least 7.5 million, and probably more like 8-10 million (Mogens Herman Hansen in An Update on the Shotgun Method). For perspective, at the time, this represented just under 5% of the world’s population (i.e. remarkably similar to the US today). These figures might still be modest, but they are essentially comparable in magnitude to those of even the biggest preindustrial civilizations (source: Several, but mainly Angus Maddison):

  • Egypt: A consistent 5 million in both Roman and Islamic times
  • Persia: Likewise, around 5 million
  • Roman Empire: 50-60 million (of which 20 million were in the Greek East)
  • Qin China: 22 million in ~210BC (only 2x more than Greek world!)
  • Han China around 1AD: 60 million
  • Byzantine Empire: 10-12 million when it was at its geographical peak
  • Abbasid Caliphate: 30 million
  • Medieval China: 100 million
  • Medieval France: 20 million (most populated W. European country; peak)
  • Renaissance Italy: 10.5 million in 1500

To be sure, many ancient Greeks were slaves and women who were more or less excluded from participating in intellectual endevours. But in that respect they were no different from any other preindustrial civilization that we know of.

Ancient Greek Literacy

In William V. Harris’ Ancient Literacy, he estimates that the literacy rate of late Classical Greece was 5-10%, rising to 10% in the Hellenistic period, and 10-15% in Roman Italy (but considerably lower in the peripheries like Gaul). This might seem very low and it is. But in that period, it was low everywhere; in reality, the literacy rates attained in the classical Mediterranean world were far higher than had been previously seen anywhere else. Because Classical Greece was pretty much the first society in the world (only much smaller Phoenicia could have been even a remote contender) to attain what he calls “craftsman literacy” i.e. around 10%. All previous societies had been limited to the 1-2% rates that he calls “priestly literacy.”

Although he doesn’t spell it out explicitly, the key factor that must have enabled this in my view was the development of the alphabet, which occured first amongst the Phoenicians (who were also respectably creative for their numbers).

It is speculated that the alphabet might have arisen as a result of the intense trading culture of the Phoenicians, which made simplification of the writing system highly adaptive. Due to Greek and Roman influence, Mesopotamian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs were displaced. In contrast, perhaps by the time trade had reached similarly intensive levels in China – perhaps after the construction of the Grand Canal in the 7th century AD – the characters system was already too embedded in the bureaucracy and was kept on due to a QWERTY effect. However, there might also be an HBD angle. Peter Frost has suggested the spread of the ASPM gene from Middle Eastern origins – large lacking in East Asians, and associated with continuous text processing – could have tipped the scales in favor of the adoption of alphabetic systems in the Near East and the Mediterranean in a way that could not have happened in East Asia. (Note that Korea’s Sejong the Great introduced an alphabetic system in the 15th century, for the express reason of increasing literacy amongst the commonfolk, but it took until the 20th century for it to truly catch on).

Whatever the case, it is a simple fact that learning literacy is incredibly easier with alphabet based systems than character based systems. Learn the 50 or fewer symbols of your typical alphabet and their vocalizations and you are pretty much set; everything else is style and detail. In contrast, you need to know 1,000-1,500 characters just to be considered literate in Chinese (and you would still struggle a great deal even with newspaper texts). An average Chinese college graduate is expected to recognize around 5,000 characters and even they frequently have trouble with some remarkably “straightforward” characters. Here is an anecdote that represents this really well from David Moser’s classic essay Why Chinese is So Damn Hard:

I happened to have a cold that day, and was trying to write a brief note to a friend canceling an appointment that day. I found that I couldn’t remember how to write the character 嚔, as in da penti 打喷嚔 “to sneeze”. I asked my three friends how to write the character, and to my surprise, all three of them simply shrugged in sheepish embarrassment. Not one of them could correctly produce the character. Now, Peking University is usually considered the “Harvard of China”. Can you imagine three Ph.D. students in English at Harvard forgetting how to write the English word “sneeze”?? Yet this state of affairs is by no means uncommon in China.

By medieval times, China had by far the world’s most sophisticated infrastructure for increasing human capital, such as movable type (invented 400 years in advance of Gutenberg), cheap mass produced paper (in contrast, the Mediterranean world had to rely on expensive Egyptian papyru, which put a further limit on mass literacy), the system of meritocratic exams for entry into the Confucian bureaucracy, and a vast network of writing tutors, including free ones (the founder of the Ming dynasty Zhu Yuanzhang was an impoverished orphan who was taught literacy in a Buddhist monastery). Even so, held back by its writing systems, medieval China’s literacy rate was no higher than 10% at best (that was the rate at the close of the Qing dynasty and that came after the beginning of education reforms).

There are some scholars like Evelyn Rawski who argue China’s historical literacy rates were far higher. I addressed them in my Introduction to Apollo’s Ascent article (Ctrl-F for “fish literacy”).

Of course at the time of the Ancient Greeks none of this existed yet in China, so the literacy rate then was probably around 1-2% as was typical of societies with “priestly literacy.” Ergo for the great civilizations of the Middle East before the classical era.

This is common sense, but the point needs to be made regardless: Without literacy, no matter how intelligent you are, you can almost never meaningfully contribute to scientific or cultural progress.

With a literacy rate 5 or even 10 times as high as that of other contemporary civilizations (barring the Romans), their modest demographic preponderance over Greece is put into necessary perspective. To be sure, a literacy rate of 10% might not functionally translate into 5 times as much aggregate mindpower (all else equal) as a 2% literacy rate, because presumably, it is the brightest people who tend to become literate in the first place. On the other hand, however, this was a world of hereditary caste and class, of Plato’s Golds, Silvers, and Bronzes. The advanced cognitive sorting that developed in the US in the second part of the 20th century, as described in detail in Charles Murray’s Bell Curve, was totally unimaginable then. Furthermore, there might be a network effect from having a relatively dense concentration of literate people. I would imagine these two factors substantially or wholly cancel out the effect of diminishing returns to higher literacy in terms of human accomplishment. (If you have any ideas as to how this could be quantified, please feel free to mention it in the comments).

Ancient Greek IQ

As I wrote in Introduction to Apollo’s Ascent, there are a number of factors which have been shown to strongly influence IQ, making it just about feasible to guesstimate them historically.

Some of the most important ones as they pertain to Ancient Greece vs. everyone else are:

  • Nutrition
  • Inbreeding/consanguineous marriage
  • Parasitic Load

It just so happens that so far as all of these are concerned the Greeks hit the jackpot.

Nutrition: The Ancient Greeks were remarkable effective at escaping the Malthusian trap for a preindustrial society. (I am not sure why that was the case. Slavery? Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments).

According to a 2005 paper by Geoffrey Kron, citing Lawrence Angel, the average heights for Classical Greece males are 170.5cm, rising to 171.5cm for Hellenistic Greek males, which is similar to the levels attained by Britain and Germany in the early 20th century, and furthermore, compares very well with the average heights of Greek conscripts in the mid-20th century. The n=927 Roman average from 500BC to 500AD was 168.3cm, and the figures for the Byzantine Empire (at least in Crete) appear to have been similar. Here are some figures for other times and places for comparison from Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms:


In other words, the Ancient Greeks were about as tall as the Georgian British, some of the tallest Europeans at that time, who were on the cusp of permanently escaping the Malthusian trap and were likewise undergoing a remarkable cultural and scientific explosion.

This must have been enabled by a remarkable level of personal prosperity, as expressed in how much grain the average laborer could buy with a day’s wage. Again via Gregory Clark:


The Odyssey is full of people sacrificing ridiculous numbers of bulls. While presumably not to be taken literally, it does probably illustrate that there were no major shortages of animal proteins. (The same certainly could not be said for China, India, or Japan, where diets have always been almost fully dominated by carbohydrates). To be sure the Odyssey takes place in the 8th century BC, but cattle shares in the Mediterranean remained high through the period of Classical Greece and only plunged as Greece transitioned into the Hellenistic period, according to an exhaustive paper by Nikola Koepke:


Additionally, as a seafaring culture, fish and sea products must have played a substantial part in the Greek diet. This would have helped them avoid the iodine deficiency that tends to depress IQ and lead to cretinism in more inland and mountainous areas. Even the very poor who could not afford fish would have used garum, the fish sauce popularized by the Romans but invented by Greeks, to flavor their staples.

Inbreeding: Inbreeding/cousin marriage, especially of the FBD type, directly lowers IQ and to a very large extent. But as prominent blogger hdbchick noticed, the Greeks had begun to outbreed extensively in the Archaic Age:

well, from mitterauer again we have [pg. 69]:

“Greek was the first European language to eliminate the terminological distinction between the father’s and mother’s side, a transition that began as early as between the fifth and third century BC.35

so that’s just at the transition point between archaic greece and classical greece. but starting at least in the early part of the archaic period and lasting throughout to the classical period the archaic greeks were outbreeding! at least the upper class ones were — difficult/impossible to know about the lower classes. from Women in Ancient Greece [pg. 67]:

“Marriages were arranged by the prospective groom and the prospective bride’s guardian, and the wife usually (although not always) went to live with her husband’s family. In the early Archaic Age [800 BC – 480 BC], to judge from the evidence of Homer’s poems (e.g. ‘Odyssey’ 4.5), male members of the upper classes generally married women who were not related to them, and who came from different areas. This upper-class habit of exogamy — marrying outside the community — was related to the political importance which marriage possessed in these circles. Marriage exchanges were one of the means by which noble families created political alliances with groups living in other areas, and in this way they made a considerable contribution to the aristocracy’s stranglehold on power. This practice survived to the end of the Archaic Age. However, with the emergence of the *polis*, exogamy began to give way in some places to endogamy — to marriage within the community. For the upper classes, this meant marriage within a tight circle of aristocratic families living in the same *polis*.”

so there was outbreeding in archaic greece for a few hundred years (at least amongst the upper classes), and, then, eventually — after about 400 years or so — there was a linguistic shift to more general kinship terms which reflected that outbreeding.

Moreover, of Emmanuel Todd’s four main European family systems – nuclear, egalitarian, authoritarian/stem, and communitarian (see Craig Willy’s post for a detailed explanation) – the Ancient Greeks practiced the authoritarian type, in which the eldest son stays with the parents while his siblings leave and inherits most or all of his family’s property.

The authoritarian family system, also seen in regions such as Germany, Sweden, Scotland, the Jews, Korea, and Japan (after ~1500), and substantially in 18th century Britain, seems to be highly eugenic in terms of selection for IQ and longterm planning. This stands to reason. Families with a lot of land/property can breed a lot of children and disperse them into the general population, and when they die, the eldest son who inherits everything can himself repeat the process. Those families who mismanage their affairs and lose land no longer have the resources to produce so many children (surviving ones, at any rate) and thus their contribution to the overall genepool peters out.

This is the opposite of the dynamics involved in communitarian family systems, in which property is divided equally amongst the sons. But all of the major Middle Eastern civilizations, as well as the Etruscan Roman heartlands, were characterized by communitarian family systems (albeit with varying rates of cousin marriage: Low in the Roman world, much higher in the Middle East and especially Egypt, where even brother/sister marriages appear to have been been quite widespread under both the Pharaohs and the Greco-Romans).

In communitarian family systems the eugenic factor is much weaker. Family ties play a big role with associated nepotism and (especially in the most endogamous societies) clannishness. Reproductive success is tied not so much on one’s own capability to use intelligence and planning to create surpluses as on support from the extended family and clan. hbdchick calls this “clannish dysgenics,” though considering that communitarian family systems are the “default” for most of human histor, I would argue it might be more apt to talk of “nuclear/stem family eugenics.” Be as it may, aggregate selection for increased IQ is much weaker.

The ancient Greeks also practiced direct eugenics, exposing physically deformed babies. The Spartans in particular are (in)famous for it. However, this seems to have been more or less universally prevalent in preindustrial history, so I doubt this could have been much of a factor.

Parasitic Load: The Mediterranean climatic and agricultural system made for a (relatively) very salubrious environment, in stark contrast to subtropical environments with their humidity and endemic diseases (e.g. India, South China) and to inland agricultural systems heavily dependent on irrigation, in which large bodies of still water are breeding grounds for all sorts of nasty parasites (most major civilizations outside Europe).

In particular, as noted in Mark Elvin’s The Pattern of the Chinese Past, aggregate parasitic load steadily INCREASED in China over the past two millennia, as its demographic center of gravity shifted inexorably south, which was characterized by irrigated rice growing and high humidity.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Ancient Greeks and other Mediterraneans also had one of the most potent counters to parastitic load in the form of their advanced viniculture. Due to their relative wealth (see above), they could afford a lot of wine, and back then it was usually stronger too.

Aggregate Mindpower in Ancient Greece

And now we can put together the final tally for Ancient Greece:

  • Could draw on a population of ~10 million Greeks (Romans: 50 million; Han Chinese: 60 million; Renaissance Italy: 10 million)
  • Had a literacy rate of 10%. Romans – Also 10%; Chinese – ~2%; Renaissance Italy – about 20% (see Van Zanden et al., 2009).

Some back of the envelope calculations for IQ:

  • Greeks are Caucasoids so let’s take the modern Greenwich mean of 100 as first default approximation, and slightly higher for Mongoloids (Romans: 100; Chinese: 105; Italy: 100)
  • Nutrition (subtract from optimal): Greeks – minus 5; Romans – minus 8; Chinese – minus 10 (would increase later); Italy – minus 5 (was very well fed in the depopulated years after the Black Death).
  • Inbreeding/Family Systems: Greeks – minus o (positive advantage of stem family type cancels out relatively modest incidence of cousin marriage); Romans – minus 2 (exagamous communitarian); Chinese – minus 5 (exagamous communitarian but more cousin marriage than amongst Romans); Italy – minus 0 (egalitarian family system with little cousin marriage thanks to Catholic Church regulations)
  • Parasitic Load: Greeks – minus 5 (let’s say that’s best possible in preindustrial age); Romans – minus 7 (did have more irrigation); Chinese – minus 10; Italy – minus 7
  • Guesstimated IQ: Greeks – 90; Romans – 83; Han Chinese – 80; Renaissance Italy – 88. Incidentally, this would give the Greeks enough of an edge to give substance to ancient stereotypes about their intelligence and craftiness but without having to evoke superhuman IQ levels.

Let us recall some definitions:

Assume that the intellectual output of an average IQ (=100, S.D.=15) young adult Briton in the year 2000 – as good an encapsulation of the “Greenwich mean” of intelligence as any – is equivalent to one nous (1 ν).

This can be used to calculate the aggregate mindpower (M) in a country.


Technological growth c * M(>threshold IQ for new discovery) * literacy rate

Here are some rough calculations:



  • c is information tech multipliers, i.e. things that make scientific/cultural progress easier. A modern example would be the Internet. I gave Renaissance Italy a bonus because of its invention of eyeglasses, which essentially doubled the creative lifespans of skilled artisans (and at the peak of their powers), and the spread of the printing press from the mid-15th century.
  • M is total aggregate mindpower. It does not have much meaning for Malthusian societies, but in the modern world it would generally correlate with total GDP.
  • The other Ms refer to the aggregate mindpower that is above the Greenwich mean to one, two, and three standard deviations respectively. Recall that not even a trillion homo erectus will come up with the calculus; you need to be above a certain threshold to make any progress. Recall also that the discovery threshold is generally 2 S.D. above the mastery threshold.
  • Recall also the assumption that (beyond the threshold) more intelligent people are exponentially more effective at solving problems that duller people; but of course the absolute numbers of those highly intelligent people taper off dramatically due to bell curve dynamics.

To understand the Pythagoras Theorem you need an IQ of around 100, implying that to discover it, the threshold is around 130. The Odyssey might be a great classic, but it has a simple, linear storyline with no particularly deep moral themes or conundrums (reminder: The putative heroes end up hanging all the female household servants who had allegedly slept with the suitors and no time is lost on further introspection). I suspect the threshold for writing it is also around 130.



This implies that around that period – the 8th-6th centuries BC in the Mediterranean – you needed a 130 IQ to move the intellectual boundaries outwards. As we can see, Ancient Greece was overshadowed by both the Roman Empire and Renaissance Italy at ΔT(+2.0), except that… conveniently, neither of the latter two existed. Its competitors at the time, civilizations like the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians, lagged substantially in IQ and literacy, and did not compensate demographically; Phoenicia might have matched Greek literacy, but was probably behind in IQ, and had far fewer people. Remarkably, it was vastly ahead of China even 500 years later.

Literacy increased during this period, and the population rose steadily to its plateau of ~10 million as Greeks colonized the Mediterranean rim, and so during this time, intellectually they were the only game in town.

During the two centuries of Classical Greece’s flowering from the 5th-4th centuries BC, the Ancient Greeks almost singlehandedly pushed the discovery threshold up by almost a standard deviation. In the process, tons of discoveries and advancements were made. To really appreciate Euclid, you probably need an IQ closer to 115. Archimedes was perhaps the most quantitatively brilliant Greek of them all, coming tantalizingly close to uncovering the calculus. Understanding classical Greek philosophy (and for that matter, the later works of the Neoplatonists and Gnostics) likewise becomes far more demanding but is not beyond the capabilities of a committed 110 or 115 IQ person. Even so, they have nothing on the likes of 20th century philosophers like Ludwig Wittgenstein or Martin Heidegger. Even very intelligent people have to commit years of dedicated effort in order to master their ideas. The complexity of the Antikythera mechanism (Hellenistic times) has been compared to late medieval European mechanical clocks. To really master them, I suspect the minimal IQ is likewise around 110-115, hence innovating it might require a threshold IQ of around 140-145.

By Hellenistic times, progress became much harder, not because Greeks had become (much) dumber or had become culturally Orientalized, but because the low hanging fruit had already been picked. Naturally, the same went for the Romans.

ΔT(+2.0) i.e. at the 130 discovery threshold for Ancient Greece as of ~500 BC was 43,000 (plus/minus a very large percentage error). ΔT(+3.0) i.e. at the 145 discovery threshold for the Romans as of ~0AD was 2,500 – and there were far more discoveries to be made. Naturally, progress slowed down drastically.

ΔT(+3.0) i.e. at the 145 discovery threshold of Renaissance Italy just by itself more than twice as dynamic as the entire Roman Empire. And the figures for Europe as a whole would have been vastly bigger still. Hence the (real) perception that by the Renaissance, the boundaries were once again being pushed outwards at a face rate, which would become a positive explosion from the 17th century on, when the first incipient mass literacy programs were launched and demographic mass also started soaring.

• Category: History, Science • Tags: Ancient Near East, Apollo's Ascent, BigPost 
HBD, Hive Minds, and H+
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Today is the publication date of Hive Mind, a book by economist Garett Jones on the intimate relationship between average national IQs and national success, first and foremost in the field of economics.

I do intend to read and review it ASAP, but first some preliminary comments.

This is a topic I have been writing about since I started blogging in 2008 (and indeed well before I came across Steve Sailer or even HBD) and as it so happens, I have long been intending to write a similar sort of book myself – tentatively titled Apollo’s Ascent – but one that focuses more on the historical aspect of the relationship between psychometrics and development:

My basic thesis is that the rate of technological progress, as well as its geographical pattern, is highly dependent on the absolute numbers of literate high IQ people.

To make use of the intense interest that will inevitably flare up around these topics in the next few days – not to mention that rather more self-interested reason of confirming originality on the off chance that any of Garett Jones’ ideas happen to substantively overlap with mine – I have decided to informally lay out the theoretical basis for Apollo’s Ascent right now.

1. Nous

Assume that the intellectual output of an average IQ (=100, S.D.=15) young adult Briton in the year 2000 – as good an encapsulation of the “Greenwich mean” of intelligence as any – is equivalent to one nous (1 ν).

This can be used to calculate the aggregate mindpower (M) in a country.

Since sufficiently differing degrees of intelligence can translate into qualitative differences – for instance, no amount of 55 IQ people will be able to solve a calculus problem – we also need to be able to denote mindpower that is above some threshold of intelligence. So in this post, the aggregate mindpower of a country that is above 130 will be written as M(+2.0), i.e. that aggregate mindpower that is two standard deviations above the Greenwich mean.

2. Intelligence and Industrial Economies

There is a wealth of evidence implying an exponential relationship between average IQ and income and wealth in the United States.


Click to enlarge.

There is likewise a wealth of evidence – from Lynn, Rindermann, La Griffe du Lion, your humble servant, etc. – that shows an exponential relationship between levels of average national IQ and GDP per capita (PPP adjusted). When you throw out countries with a legacy of Communism and the ruinous central planning they practiced (China, the Ex-USSR and Eastern Europe, etc), and countries benefitting disproportionately from a resource windfall (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, etc), there is an amazing R2=0.84 correlation between performance in the PISA international standardized student tests and GDP (PPP) per capita. (In sociology, anything about R2=0.3 is a good result).

The reasons for this might be the case are quite intuitive. At the most basic level, intelligent people can get things done better and more quickly. In sufficiently dull societies, certain things can’t get done at all. To loosely borrow an example from Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms, assume a relatively simple widget that requires ten manufacturing steps that have to be done just right to make it commercially viable. Say an 85 IQ laborer has a failure rate of 5% for any one step, while a 100 IQ laborer has a failure rate of 1%. This does not sound like that big or cardinal of a difference. But repeated ten times, some 40% of the duller worker’s production ends up being a dud, compared to only 10% of the brighter worker’s. Consequently, one is competitive on the global markets, whereas the other is not (if labor costs are equal; hence, of course, they are not).

Now imagine said widget is an automobile, with hundreds of thousands of components. Or an aircraft carrier, or a spaceship. Or a complex surgery operation.

More technical way of looking at this: Consider the GDP equation, Y = A * K^α * L^(1-α), in which K is capital, L is labour, α is a constant that usually equals about 0.3, and A is total factor productivity. It follows that the only way to grow per capita output in the longterm is to raise productivity. Productivity in turn is a function of technology and how effectively it is utilized and that in turn depends critically on things like human capital. Without an adequate IQ base, you cannot accumulate much in the way of human capital.

There are at least two further ways in which brighter societies improve their relative fortunes over and above what might merely be implied by their mere productivity advantage at any technological level.


Source: Swiss Miss.

First, capital gets drawn to more productive countries, until the point at which its marginal productivity equalizes with that of less productive countries, with their MUCH LOWER levels of capital intensity. First World economies like Germany, Japan, and the US are extremely capital intensive. It is probably not an accident that Japan, Korea, and Taiwan – some of the very brightest countries on international IQ comparisons – also have by far the world’s highest concentrations of industrial robots per worker (and China is fast catching up). Since economic output is a function not only of pure productivity but also of capital (though subject to diminishing returns) this provides a big further boost to rich countries above the levels implied by their raw productivity. And as the age of automation approaches, these trends will only intensify.

Second, countries with higher IQs also tend to be better governed, and to effectively provide social amenities such as adequate nutrition and education to their populations. Not only does it further raise their national IQs, but it also means that it is easier to make longterm investments there and to use their existing human capital to its full potential.

All this implies that different levels of intelligence have varying economic values on the global market. At this stage I am not so much interested in establishing it with exactitude as illustrating the general pattern, which goes something like this:

  • Average IQ = 70 – Per capita GDP of ~$4,000 in the more optimally governed countries of this class, such as Ghana (note however that many countries in this class are not yet fully done with their Malthusian transitions, which will depress their per capita output somewhat – see below).
  • Average IQ = 85 – Per capita GDP of ~$16,000 in the more optimally governed countries of this class, such as Brazil.
  • Average IQ = 100 Per capita GDP of ~45,000 in the more optimally governed countries of this class, or approximately the level of core EU/US/Japan.
  • Average IQ = 107 – Per capita GDP of potentially $80,000, as in Singapore (and it doesn’t seem to have even finished growing rapidly yet). Similar figures for elite/financial EU cities (e.g. Frankfurt, Milan) and US cities (e.g. San Francisco, Seattle, Boston).
  • Average IQ = 115 – Largely a theoretical construct, but that might be the sort of average IQ you’d get in, say, Inner London – the center of the global investment banking industry. The GDP per capita there is a cool $152,000.

Countries with bigger than normal “smart fractions” (the US, India, Israel) tend to have a bigger GDP per capita than what could be assumed from just from their average national IQ. This stands to reason because a group of people equally split between 85 IQers and 115 IQers will have higher cognitive potential than a room composed of an equivalent number of 100 IQers. Countries with high average IQs but smaller than normal S.D.’s, such as Finland, have a slightly smaller GDP per capita that what you might expect just from average national IQs.

These numbers add up, so a reasonable relationship equilibrium GDP (assuming no big shocks, good policies, etc) and the structure and size of national IQ would be:

Equilibrium GDP of a country exponent (IQ) * the IQ distribution (usually a bell curve shaped Gaussian) * population size * the technological level

Which can be simplified to:

Y ≈ c*M*T

… where M is aggregate mindpower (see above), T is the technology level, and c is a constant denoting the general regulatory/business climate (close to 1 in many well run capitalist states, <0.5 under central planning, etc).

To what extent if any would this model apply to pre-industrial economies?

3. Intelligence and Malthusian Economies


Source: A Farewell to Alms

Very little. The problem with Malthusian economies is that, as per the old man himself, population increases geometrically while crop yields increase linearly; before long, the increasing population eats up all the surpluses and reaches a sordid equilibrium in which births equal deaths (since there were a lot of births, that means a lot of deaths).

Under such conditions, even though technology might grow slowly from century to century, it is generally expressed not in increasing per capita consumption, but in rising population densities. And over centennial timescales, the effects of this (meager) technological growth can be easily swamped by changes in social structure, biome productivity, and climatic fluctuations (e.g. 17th C France = pre Black Death France in terms of population, because it was Little Ice Age vs. Medieval Warm Period), or unexpected improvements in agricultural productivity e.g. from the importation of new crops (e.g. the coming of sweet potatoes to China which enabled it to double its population over the previous record even though it was in outright social regress for a substantial fraction of this time).

All this makes tallying the rate of technological advance based on population density highly problematic. Therefore it has to be measured primarily in terms of eminent figures, inventions, and great works.


Distribution of significant figures across time and place. Source: Human Accomplishment.

The social scientist Charles Murray in Human Accomplishment has suggested a plausible and objective way of doing it, based on tallying the eminence of historical figures in culture and the sciences as measured by their prevalence in big reference works. Societies that are at any one time intensively pushing the technological frontiers outwards are likely to be generating plenty of “Great People,” to borrow a term from the Civilization strategy games.

To what extent does the model used for economic success apply to technology?

4. Intelligence and Technology Before 1800

A narrow intellectual elite is responsible for 99%+ of new scientific discoveries. This implies that unlike the case with an economy at large, where peasants and truck drivers make real contributions, you need to have a certain (high) threshold level of IQ to materially contribute to technological and scientific progress today.

The Anne Roe study of very eminent scientists in 1952 – almost Nobel worthy, but not quite – found that they averaged a verbal IQ of 166, a spatial IQ of 137, and a math IQ of 154. Adjusted modestly down – because the Flynn Effect has only had a very modest impact on non-rule dependent domains like verbal IQ – and you get an average verbal IQ of maybe 160 (in Greenwich terms). These were the sorts of elite people pushing progress in science 50 years ago.

To really understand 1950s era math and physics, I guesstimate that you would need an IQ of ~130+, i.e. your typical STEM grad student or Ivy League undergrad. This suggests that there is a 2 S.D. difference between the typical intellectual level needed to master something as opposed to making fundamental new discoveries in it.

Moreover, progress becomes steadily harder over time; disciplines splinter (see the disappearance of polymath “Renaissance men”), and eventually, discoveries become increasingly unattainable to sole individuals (see the steady growth in numbers of paper coauthors and shared Nobel Prizes in the 20th century). In other words, these IQ discovery thresholds are themselves a function of the technological level. To make progress up the tech tree, you need to first climb up there.

An extreme example today would be the work 0f Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki. At least Grigory Perelman’s proof of the Poincare Conjecture was eventually confirmed by other mathematicians after a lag of several years. But Mochizuki is so far ahead of everyone else in his particular field of Inter-universal Teichmüller theory that nobody any longer quite knows whether he is a universal genius or a lunatic.

In math, I would guesstimate roughly the following set of thresholds:

Mastery Discovery
Intuit Pythagoras Theorem (Ancient Egypt) 90 120
Prove Pythagoras Theorem (Early Ancient Greece) 100 130
Renaissance Math (~1550) 110 140
Differential Calculus (~1650+) 120 150
Mid-20th Century Math (1950s) 130 160
Prove Poincare Conjecture (2003) 140 170
Inter-universal Teichmüller theory (?) 150 180

This all suggests that countries which attain new records in aggregate elite mindpower relative to their predecessors can very quickly generate vast reams of new scientific discoveries and technological achievements.

Moreover, this elite mindpower has to be literate. Because a human brain can only store so much information, societies without literacy are unable to move forwards much beyond Neolithic levels, their IQ levels regardless.

As such, a tentative equation for estimating a historical society’s capacity to generate scientific and technological growth would look something like this:

Technological growth c * M(>threshold IQ for new discovery) * literacy rate


ΔT c * M(>discovery-threshold) * l

in which only that part of the aggregate mindpower that is above the threshold is considered; c is a constant that illustrates a society’s propensity for generating technological growth in the first place and can encompass social and cultural factors, such as no big wars, no totalitarian regimes, creativity, etc. as well as technological increases that can have a (generally marginal) effect on scientific productivity, like reading glasses in Renaissance Italy (well covered by David Landes), and the Internet in recent decades; and the literacy rate l is an estimate of the percentage of the cognitive elites that are literate (it can be expected to generally be a function of the overall literacy rate and to always be much higher).

Is it possible to estimate historical M and literacy with any degree of rigor?


Source: Gregory Clark.

I think so. In regards to literacy, this is an extensive area of research, with some good estimates for Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire (see Ancient Literacy by William Harris) and much better estimates for Europe after 1500 based on techniques like age heaping and book production records.

One critical consideration is that not all writing systems are equally suited for the spread of functional literacy. For instance, China was historically one of the most schooled societies, but its literacy tended to be domain specific, the classic example being “fish literacy” – a fishmonger’s son who knew the characters for different fish, but had no hope of adeptly employing his very limited literacy for making scientific advances, or even reading “self-help” pamphlets on how to be more effective in his profession (such as were becoming prevalent in England as early as the 17th century). The Chinese writing system, whether it arose from QWERTY reasons or even genetic reasons – and which became prevalent throughout East Asia – surely hampered the creative potential of East Asians.

Estimating average national IQs historically – from which M can be derived in conjunction with historical population sizes, of which we now generally have fairly good ideas about – is far more tricky and speculative, but not totally hopeless, because nowadays we know the main factors behind national differences in IQ.

Some of the most important ones include:

  • Cold Winters Theory – Northern peoples developed higher IQs (see Lynn, Rushton).
  • Agriculture – Societies that developed agriculture got a huge boost to their IQs (as well as higher S.D.s).
  • Inbreeding – Can be estimated from rates of consanguineous marriage, runs of homozygosity, and predominant family types (nuclear? communitarian?), which in turn can be established from cultural and literary evidence.
  • Eugenics – In advanced agricultural societies, where social relations come to be dominated by markets. See Greg Clark on England, and Ron Unz on China.
  • Nutrition – Obviously plays a HUGE role in the Flynn Effect. Can be proxied by body measurements, and fortunately there is a whole field of study devoted to precisely this: Auxology. Burials, conscription records, etc. all provide a wealth of evidence.
  • Parasite Load – Most severe in low-lying, swampy areas like West Africa and the Ganges Delta.

This old comment of mine to a post by Sailer is a demonstration of the sort of reasoning I tend to employ in Apollo’s Ascent.

All this means that educated guesses at the historic IQs of various societies are now perfectly feasible, if subject to a high degree of uncertainty. In fact, I have already done many such estimates while planning out Apollo’s Ascent. I will not release these figures at this time because they are highly preliminary, and lacking space to further elucidate my methods, I do not want discussions in the comments to latch on to some one figure or another and make a big deal out of it. Let us save this for later.

But in broad terms – and very happily for my thesis – these relations DO tend to hold historically.

Classical Greece was almost certainly the first society to attain something resembling craftsman level literacy rates (~10%). Ancient Greeks were also unusually tall (indicating good nutrition, for a preindustrial society), lived in stem/authoritarian family systems, and actively bred out during their period of greatness. They produced the greatest scientific and cultural explosion up to that date anywhere in the world, but evidently didn’t have quite the demographic weight – there were no more than 10 million Greeks scattered across the Mediterranean at peak – to sustain it.

In 15th century Europe, literacy once again begun soaring in Italy, to beyond Roman levels, and – surely helped by the good nutrition levels following the Black Death – helped usher in the Renaissance. In the 17th century, the center of gravity shifted towards Anglo-Germanic Europe in the wake of the Reformation with its obsession with literacy, and would stay there ever after.

As regards other civilizations…

The Islamic Golden Age was eventually cut short more by the increasing inbreeding than by the severe but ultimately temporary shock from the Mongol invasions. India was too depressed by the caste system and by parasitic load to ever be a first rate intellectual power, although the caste system also ensured a stream of occasional geniuses, especially in the more abstract areas like math and philosophy. China and Japan might have had an innate IQ advantage over Europeans – albeit one that was quite modest in the most critical area, verbal IQ – but they were too severely hampered by labour-heavy agricultural systems and a very ineffective writing system.

In contrast, The Europeans, fed on meat and mead, had some of the best nutrition and lowest parasitic load indicators amongst any advanced civilization, and even as rising population pressure began to impinge on those advantages by the 17th-18th centuries, they had already burst far ahead in literacy, and intellectual predominance was now theirs to lose.

5. Intelligence and Technology under Industrialism

After 1800, the world globalized intellectually. This was totally unprecedented. There had certainly been preludes to it, e.g. in the Jesuit missions to Qing China. But these were very much exceptional cases. Even in the 18th century, for instance, European and Japanese mathematicians worked on (and solved) many of the same problems independently.


Source: Human Accomplishment.

But in the following two centuries, this picture of independent intellectual traditions – shining most brightly in Europe by at least an order of magnitude, to be sure, but still diverse on the global level – was to be homogenized. European science became the only science that mattered, as laggard civilizations throughout the rest of the world were to soon discover to their sorrow in the form of percussion rifles and ironclad warships. And by “Europe,” that mostly meant the “Hajnal” core of the continent: France, Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and Northern Italy.

And what had previously been but a big gap became an awning chasm.

(1) In the 19th century, the populations of European countries grew, and the advanced ones attained universal literacy or as good as made no difference. Aggregate mindpower (M) exploded, and kept well ahead of the advancing threshold IQ needed to make new discoveries.

(2) From 1890-1970, there was a second revolution, in nutrition and epidemiology – average heights increased by 10cm+, and the prevalence of debilitating infectitious diseases was reduced to almost zero – that raised IQ by as much as a standard deviation across the industrialized world. The chasm widened further.

(3) During this period, the straggling civilizations – far from making any novel contributions of their own – devoted most of their meager intellectual resources to merely coming to grips with Western developments.

This was as true – and consequential – in culture and social sciences as it was in science and technology; the Russian philosopher Nikolay Trubetzkoy described this traumatic process very eloquently in The Struggle Between Europe and Mankind. What was true even for “semi-peripheral” Russia was doubly true for China.

In science and technology, once the rest of the world had come to terms with Western dominance and the new era of the nation-state, the focus was on catchup, not innovation.This is because for developing countries, it is much more useful in terms of marginal returns to invest their cognitive energies into copying, stealing, and/or adapting existing technology to catch up to the West than to develop unique technology of their own. Arguments about, say, China’s supposed lack of ability to innovate are completely besides the point. At this stage of its development, even now, copying is much easier than creating!

This means that at this stage of global history, a country’s contribution to technological growth isn’t only a matter of the size of its smart fractions above the technological discovery IQ threshold. (This remains unchanged: E.g., note that a country like Germany remains MUCH more innovative per capita than, say, Greece, even though their aveage national IQs differ by a mere 5 points or so. Why? Because since we’re looking only at the far right tails of the bell curve, even minor differences in averages translate to big differences in innovation-generating smart fractions).

It also relates closely to its level of development. Countries that are far away from the technological frontier today are better served by using their research dollars and cognitive elites to catch up as opposed to inventing new stuff. This is confirmed by real life evidence: A very big percentage of world spending on fundamental research since WW2 has been carried out in the US. It was low in the USSR, and negligible in countries like Japan until recently. Or in China today.

Bearing this in mind, the technological growth equation today (and since 1800, more or less) – now due to its global character better described as innovation potential – would be better approximated by something like this:

Innovation potential ≈ c * M(>threshold IQ for new discovery) * literacy rate * (GDP/GDP[potential])^x


I c * M(>discovery-threshold) * l * (Y/Y[P])^x

in which the first three terms are as before (though literacy = 100% virtually everywhere now), and potential GDP is the GDP this country would obtain were its technological endowment to be increased to the maximum level possible as dictated by its cognitive profile. The “x” is a further constant that is bigger than 1 to reflect the idea that catchup only ceases to be the most useful strategy once a country has come very close to convergence or has completely converged.

Japan has won a third of all its Nobel Prizes before 2000; another third in the 2000s; and the last third in the 2010s. Its scientific achievements, in other words, are finally beginning to catch up with its famously high IQ levels. Why did it take so long?

Somebody like JayMan would say its because the Japanese are clannish or something like that. Other psychometrists like Kenya Kura would notice that perhaps they are far less creative than Westerners (this I think has a measure of truth to it). But the main “purely IQ” reasons are pretty much good enough by themselves:

  • The Nobel Prize is typically recognized with a ~25-30 year lag nowadays.
  • It is taking ever longer amounts of time to work up to a Nobel Prize because ever greater amounts of information and methods have to be mastered before original creative work can begin. (This is one consequence of the rising threshold discovery IQ frontier).
  • Critically, Japan in the 1950s was still something of a Third World country, with the attended insults upon average IQ. It is entirely possible that elderly Japanese are duller than their American counterparts, and perhaps even many Europeans of that age, meaning smaller smart fractions from the Nobel Prize winning age groups.

Japan only became an unambiguously developed country in the 1970s.

And it just so happens that precisely 40 years after this did it begin to see a big and still accelerating increase in the numbers of Nobel Prizes accruing to it!

Extending this to South Korea and Taiwan, both of which lagged around 20 years behind Japan, we can only expect to see an explosion in Nobel Prizes for them from the 2020s, regardless of how wildly their teenagers currently top out the PISA rankings.

Extending this to China, which lags around 20 years behind South Korea, and we can expect to see it start gobbling up Nobel Prizes by 2040, or maybe 2050, considering the ongoing widening of the time gap between discovery and recognition. However, due to its massive population – ten times as large as Japan’s – once China does emerge as a major scientific leader, it will do so in a very big way that will rival or even displace the US from its current position of absolute primacy.

As of 2014, China already publishes almost as many scientific papers per year as does the US, and has an outright lead in major STEM fields such as Math, Physics, Chemistry, and Computer Science. (Though to be sure, their quality is much lower, and a significant fraction of them are outright “catching up” or “adaption” style papers with no new findings).

If we assume that x=1, and that c is equal for both China and the US, then it implies that both countries currently have broadly equal innovation potential. But of course c is not quite equal between them – it is lower for China, because its system is obviously less conductive to scientific research than the American – and x is higher than 1, so in practice China’s innovation potential is still considerably lower than that of the US (maybe a quarter or a third). Nonetheless, as China continues to convege, c is going to trend towards the US level, and the GDP gap is going to narrow; plus it may also be able to eke out some further increases in its national average IQ from the current ~103 (as proxied by PISA in 2009) to South Korea’s level of ~107 as it becomes a truly First World country.

And by mid-century it will likely translate into a strong challenge to American scientific preeminence.

6. Future Consequences

The entry of China onto the world intellectual stage (if the model above is more or less correct) will be portentuous, but ultimately it will in its effects on aggregate mindpower be nowhere near the magnitude in global terms of the expansion in the numbers of literate, mostly European high IQ people from 1450 to 1900, nor the vast rise in First World IQ levels from 1890-1970 due to the Flynn Effect.

Moreover, even this may be counteracted by the dysgenic effects already making themselves felt in the US and Western Europe due to Idiocracy-resembling breeding patterns and 80 IQ Third World immigration.

And no need for pesky implants!

Radically raise IQ. And no need for pesky neural implants!

A lot of the techno-optimistic rhetoric you encounter around transhumanist circles is founded on the idea that observed exponential trends in technology – most concisely encapsulated by Moore’s Law – are somehow self-sustaining, though the precise reasons why never seem to be clearly explained. But non-IT technological growth peaked in the 1950s-70s, and has declined since; and as a matter of fact, Moore’s Law has also ground to a halt in the past 2 years. Will we be rescued by a new paradigm? Maybe. But new paradigms take mindpower to generate, and the rate of increase in global mindpower has almost certainly peaked. This is not a good omen.

Speaking of the technological singularity, it is entirely possible that the mindpower discovery threshold for constructing a superintelligence is in fact far higher than we currently have or are likely to ever have short of a global eugenics program (and so Nick Bostrom can sleep in peace).

On the other hand, there are two technologies that combined may decisively tip the balance: CRISPR-Cas9, and the discovery of the genes for general intelligence. Their maturation and potential mating may become feasible as early as 2025.

While there are very good reasons – e.g., on the basis of animal breeding experiments – for doubting Steve Hsu’s claims that genetically corrected designer babies will have IQs beyond that of any living human today, increases on the order of 4-5 S.D.’s are entirely possible. If even a small fraction of a major country like China adopts it – say, 10% of the population – then that will in two decades start to produce an explosion in aggregate global elite mindpower that will soon come to rival or even eclipse the Renaissance or the Enlightenment in the size and scope of their effects on the world.

The global balance of power would be shifted beyond recognition, and truly transformational – indeed, transhuman – possibilities will genuinely open up.

🔊 Listen RSS

So now that I’m blogging more or less regularly again I’ve been thinking of setting up a bit more of a structured schedule.

Probably it will be minor posts interspersed throughout the week, with a compendium of my best questions and major posts (called Big Posts) every Thursday or Friday which will (generally) run as Features sometime over the weekend.

So without further any ado, here’s my Q&A’s since last time.


Automation and IQ

What model do you foresee replacing the current global neo-liberal economic model? When do you think it will happen?

The game changer will be automation. To be sure, people have been talking of automation for decades, but I suspect when it truly hits it will be very sudden since it will likely involve a series of rapidly occuring threshold events as robots and AI programs quickly replace humans in industry after industry.
I don’t know when it will happen. Sometime between 2020-2050 is really the best I can do.
In the new world that will arise, many – perhaps most – people will be driven out of their jobs. Only the >130 IQ cognitive elites will still have more or less guaranteed employment in the creative industries and in designing and improving the robots (until/unless superintelligence takes care of them too but that’s another story).
Since almost all income will now accrue to the owners of capital, wealth inequality will soar to levels that make today’s reality seem like some kind of hippie commune.
Presumably the oligarchs can be persuaded to institute some kind of basic universal income system if only for their own benefit (no consumers = no economy). But the outcome won’t necessarily be that rosy. My friend Scott Jackisch posits a sort of neo-feudalism where the oligarchs retreat to their gated mansions, get legitimized by their paid up NRx bootlickers, and keep the proles in line through ubiquitious surveillance and drones. And hackers and cyborg “grinders” lead an insurgency against them from the derelict ruins of the old cities. He really should write a sci-fi novel one of these days.
Anyway… back to reality. I do think eventually there will be UBI. That, and the various MyFace/Twatter entertainment systems, are cheaper than murder drones anyway. An interesting question is to what extent, if any, UBI will be linked to “good behavior” (socially, politically). An even more dystopian scenario (to some) would be to have your basic income get determined by your social justice karma. I think we might well be heading there…
If Rindermann’s “smart fractions” are important to national prosperity now, they will become all-important after mass automation. GDP per capita will *essentially* be linked to the numbers of >130 IQ people you have relative to “dead weight” i.e. everyone below that. Even the most blank slatist economists will realize what idiots they were back when they argued for (~85 IQ) mass Third World immigration.
Since countries like Japan, Korea, and Germany could be expected to become ultra-competitive due to their large “smart fractions,” countries in the <95 IQ zone – i.e., most of the Third World – will have to become protectionist if they want any of their domestic industries to survive. This could lead to a retreat of globalization, and ironically, provide a counter-acting force against rising inequality.

Are you shocked by the amount of low wage labor in large metro areas in America? Most of it came within the last 20 years from immigration. My impression is that Europe (even with its immigration) doesn’t have nearly the amount of stupid unskilled labor that we have.

Yes, I noticed it, though I am not particularly shocked by it. I suspect it’s largely on account of the US having a large class of ~85-90 IQ NAMs (Non Asian Minorities).
In contrast, when I visited France in *the early 2000s*, even the supermarket in the small town I was staying at *already* had an automated self-checkout. It was my first encounter with them. (I had lived in Britain beforehand. Incidentally, for whatever reason, productivity in France is substantially higher than in Britain, which you wouldn’t predict on the basis of neoliberal orthodoxy).
Which raises the really big puzzle of just WHY and HOW American GDP per capita is so much higher than that of the EU countries, and France/Germany in particular. (I tried to answer it here, but didn’t really succeed in doing so:
For whatever reason, the middle class and the smart fractions in the US are just a lot more productive than their European counterparts.

What are your thoughts on driverless cars? Will they be a game changer?

Obviously a lot of lorry drivers, chaffeurs, etc. will find themselves out of work. It will take a long time to implement – even if adopted all at once, it will still take about 20 years to change the bulk of the vehicle stock – so I don’t see this as being an absolutely massive game changer. That said, I look forwards to not having to bother with owning my own car, and being able to do something useful during commutes instead of driving.

Given the coming wave of job automation, what would you suggest is a good long-term career path for someone who is in their early to mid 20s, in the 125-135 IQ range but with no technical skills? This is an odd question, I know, but I’d like to what you have to say about it.

Get in an oligarch’s good graces. That’s what half of NRx is doing! ;)
Slightly less flippant answer: Read N.N. Taleb’s writings on the power law, and internalize it. If you have a 125-135 IQ, you should be able to build a successful passive-income business, write a bestselling book, etc. You will most likely need to make a lot of attempts before you hit gold, but with your cognitive profile, you have a good chance of making it there eventually. People who end up succeeding are usually those who also fail the most beforehand.
You’d do well to start at this now before everyone is unemployed, on basic income, and competing with you trying to do the exact same thing.


My Book, Smart Fractions

I always liked your posts o n education, PISA performance and related economics/demographics. A few days ago I stumbled on . In this database you can see fertility rates for all countries of the world by education level. Is that of use to you? It is.

Thanks a bunch for the link! I look forwards to exploring this. Might even be of use to my book.


“It is. Thanks a bunch for the link! I look forwards to exploring this. Might even be of use to my book.” You’re writing a book?

Yes. The preliminary title is Apollo’s Ascent.
Its big idea is that the rate and global distribution of technological progress in history has largely been a function of the literacy rate and the absolute numbers of “smart fraction” people available.
I actually plan to make an announcement about this relatively soon on the blog with a more detailed exposition of the main thesis (hopefully before Garett Jones’ Hive Mind comes out).

wrt the premise of your book, how does Britain fit in? AFAIK we’re the single largest contributor to ‘human accomplishment’ over past thousand years or so but by no means a large populace so the smart fraction couldn’t have been that large in absolute terms.

Here’s the thing: England made a huge leap forwards in terms of literacy early on in the Early Modern Age. By the time of the Civil War, literacy was at around 40%. This was much higher than practically anywhere else. Renaissance Italy peaked at around 20% and then remained stagnant at that level for centuries. France on the eve of the Revolution was only at around 25%.
For a smart fraction to be capable of contributing to scientific/cultural progress, it needs to be literate. According to Ancient Literacy by William V. Harris, Ancient Greece was probably the first society on Earth to go beyond “priestly literacy” (~1-2%) to “craftsman literacy” (~10%). England was probably the first society on Earth to go from “craftsman literacy” to something resembling mass literacy, and that happened in the 17th century.
You will know from Human Accomplishment that the great bulk of British achievements accrued in the post-1600 period, and that this coincided with the genesis of the Scientific Revolution.
Another thing to bear in mind: Since England was also one of the first societies to escape Malthusianism, it would also have been one of the societies longest subject to dysgenic trends. While British national IQ today is unremarkable relative to other West European countries, it might have been somewhat higher 400 years ago. Finally, the English were unusually well fed by continental European standards from the 17th century onwards – they were a few cm’s taller, for instance – so that would have likely given a further boost to their IQs.

I myself played a round a bit with the Education/Fertility database and calculated a “predicted IQ loss” over the next generation. Because of the extreme fertility differences, Latin America will be hit very hard (loss about 4 IQ points). What is your take on the future of Latin America?

“Brazil is the country of the future… and always will be.” – Charles de Gaulle.
CDG was usually right.
Apart from a burst of strong growth in the 50s-70s, Latin America for most of its history seems to have merely been keeping up with the advanced countries if not actively falling behind them (like Argentina).
If as you say dysgenic trends are particularly strong there, then all the more reasons for longterm skepticism. about 7 hours ago

What developed country has the most eugenic fertility? What about the least? My observation is that Britain has the most dysgenic but I haven’t seen the data? Where does America fit in there?

Not a topic I have looked at in any great detail (yet).
From what I have gathered from Lynn/Murray, trends amongst White Americans are moderately dysgenic and strongly dysgenic amongst Black Americans. However, JayMan statistically disputes that:
As far as I know, most of the differences in fertility rates between developed countries accrue due to fertiltiy differences amongst the more intellectual sorts. So it may be reasonable to assume that dysgenic trends in low fertility countries (Germany, Italy, Japan) are stronger than in high fertility countries (USA, Australia, France). Which if true would be a double whammy of sorts. But as I said I haven’t looked at this in depth, so don’t quote me on this yet. about 2 hours ago


CRISPR, Eugenics, Futurism

How do you think positive genetic engineering will be deployed? will the .1% be able to use it to ensure the primacy of their offspring or will natural inborn inequality be ‘fixed’ by it or any other scenario? When do you imagine it will be used in a majority of human births?

Using CRISPR to “correct” genetic load and vastly increase IQ is a no-brainer to me. Most East Asians would agree with me, though many Americans laboring under Judeo-Christian morality systems would not. Their loss. Most will probably come round eventually, but might miss out in the meantime.
According to estimates I’ve heard from a well informed person the actual technology should be pretty much worked out in 5 years (this was in 2014).
Then it should be mainly regulatory and ethical issues, but they are a big unknown. However, ambitious (ruthless?) billionaires will be able to start upgrading their offspring around about then.
If left to market forces, due to the Moore’s Law-like progress in biotech costs, I expect the procedure will become affordable to the vast majority of people soon after the technology is worked out. If many or most people start doing it, there will be a huge acceleration in technological progress, possibly but not necessarily in sufficient force to take us to a computer superintelligence sometime this century.
So whether it reinforces or suppresses inequality ultimately depends on the regulatory response. Short of a concerted global ban, high net worth individuals will be able to upgrade their offspring but the option will be foreclosed to the proles. The motivations behind any such ban could be naive concern over “human dignity” or other such nonsense, but I don’t exclude the possibility of a transnational oligarch conspiracy to create “global Brahmins” out of their family lines either.

CRISPR&intelligence: I’m reminded of point 6 of Fred Reed ramblings on evolution (I don’t share his skepticism of evolution) Still, remark is interesting. Why are seemingly extremely beneficial traits so rare? Somewhere they must have downsides

Certainly. Bigger brains require more energy. But eventually limits are reached beyond which more intelligence offers diminishing marginal returns and ceases to be strongly selected for.
IMO, Pumpkin Person nails it in his reply to Q3:

More on intelligence&downsides. Beyond brain energy consumption, Cochran thinks the downside of Ashkenazi intelligence is a higher prevalence of a host of specific genetic diseases. Beyond, consider the anxiety about GMOs crops. How then can you brush off the precautionary principle for HUMAN GMOs?

(1) We just avoid the specific Ashkenazi Jewish intelligence genes that result in genetic diseases, thus “missing out” on the modest <1 S.D. improvement in IQ that would have otherwise given us. That still leaves huge scope for improvement, at least on the level of 4-5 S.D.’s, which describes the cream of the cognitive crop today.
(2) I don’t think the anxiety over GMO crops is scientifically legitimate.

What developed country are you most optimistic about over the next 50 years? What country most over-performs their potential? Also, what country most underperforms their potential?

(1) The “Anglo offshoots” i.e. Australia, Canada, even the US. Demographically vigorous. High native IQs. Strong universities and hi-tech sectors. Cognitively elitist immigration policies. The US is a partial exception, but since so many talented people around the globe still want to move to the US anyway, this means that in net terms, things will probably cancel out (especially since with the advent of mass automation, the influence of “smart fractions” is likely to increase even further).
Since the Cucks of Europe are insisting on flooding the continent with <90 IQ Third Worlders, and Sub-Saharan Africans will come to comprise something like 40% of the global population by the end of this century (UN projections) resulting in massive immigration pressure, I don’t hold out much hope for any EU countries, including even Poland and Hungary, who will still have to answer for Juncker’s and Merkel’s choices. Japan and South Korea will do okay but ultimately their potential is going to be constrained by their lower q factor (curiosity) since that will likely attain more of a premium in the coming age of automation.
(2) The US itself is the biggest and most prominent example. See
(3) Once smart fractions (varying IQ distributions), oil windfalls, and Communist legacies are factored in, there are very few countries that truly overshoot or underperform very much.
But the biggest example here is China. See


Charles Murray and Steven Pinker

Do you know Charles Murry and Steven Pinker? They think mainstream-social science is still lagging behind REAL science by ignoring genetic and racial differences. What’s your idea of this situation and political-correctiness of FAKE knowledge ?

They are of course correct, but their high status stops them from being too forthright in calling a spade a spade. This allows Pinker to retain his status as a high priest of modern liberalism, complete with columns in the Guardian, while Charles Murray, for all my respect for his sociological work, is at heart a cuckservative who gets triggered by Donald Trump of all people. As such, they embody the problem at least as much as they contribute to solving it.

Thank you for answering my questions about C Murry and S Pinker. When will the mainstream media & social science accept and talk about the TRUTH? How hard it will be?

I used to think that the flood of new genetic evidence would sweep away the dogmas that have been accumulating in universities and the media since the days of Boas and Gould.
But I have become much more skeptical of late, because I now realize that regressive trends have if anything accelerated. With SJWs making common cause with the Western deep state (NSA, GCHQ, Google, Facebook, etc.) the foundations are being laid for enshrining blank slate, social justice ideology in perpetuity – or at least until whenever its host organism collapses.


The Ukrainian Question

In you wrote that Ukrainian nationalists have been preventing Poroshenko from making good on the Minsk agreements. Why them rather than his Western retainers?

It appears that the latter, not the former, are the ones who got him by the balls. I think the Western powers generally do want to see Ukraine fulfill the Minsk Accords (the Europeans do at any rate; I am not 100% sure on the neocons who are overseeing US policy on Ukraine).
The problem is that the Maidan absolutists and nationalists view fulfilling the Minsk conditions as a great zrada (betrayal) and are uncompromising in their opposition to it. The nationalists might not enjoy huge electoral support, but they have a lot of armed, violent men in their ranks, and that is likely what by far the most important consideration in Ukraine nowadays. If they can overthrow one President, then they can overthrow a second one as well, if the circumstances are right.
Moreover, actually fulfilling the Minsk Accords would raise the risk of the far western regions (Galicia, etc.) demanding the same autonomies as the Donbass. These are generally considered to be the main reasons why Poroshenko isn’t rushing to fulfill them. In fact, he has yet to fulfill a single condition in them.

Are Russian and Ukrainian nationalisms necessarily at odds?

I have no issues with Malorossiyans who take pride in their regional culture, traditions, and identity.
As for the “Ukraine” project, it is a fiction jointly created by Poles and Soviet multikultis to divide the Russian nation.

Why do you say Ukraine is a Communist invention? It was created in 1917 by the February Revolution. Its precedent is the Kyivan Rus

No, it’s absolutely not. Ukraine (namely, “borderland,” there being at various times multiple ukrainas to denote territories near the borders of the Russian world) has absolutely nothing to do with Kievan Rus. The term itself was a Tsarist-era literary invention that was hijacked in the 20th century to serve the cause of Ukrainian nationalism. In the days of “Kievan Rus” itself, the term people from Galicia to Vladimir-Suzdal used was just “Rus,” or “the Russian Land” (Russkaya Zemlya).
This is what results in the very peculiar Ukrainian nationalist sort of schizophrenia in which they propose to prosecute and imprison people calling Russia (aka the modern state), “Russia”, or “Rus”: In a way, they’re sort of proving the point that Ukraine is an unconvincing fiction. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t care.

Could the Russian Empire in the early twentieth century have peacefully transformed into something like the British Commonwealth?

Emmanuel Todd’s work suggests that a transition to Communism was not an accident. Virtually all countries/regions with the exogamous communitarian family system (Eurasia, China, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Cuba) took “naturally” to Communism, at least in the beginning.

But if we consider a what-if in which there was no WW1 and the Russian Empire did not become the USSR, it would also have avoided the “multinational” experiments that created Ukraine and Belarus, and both those regions would have become firmly Russian, just like the French provinces only became truly French in the 19th century through the natural process of nation-building. The fact that there were protests in Belarus in the 1920s when Soviet commissars insisted that they study in Belorussian instead of in Russian in the schools shows how much natural, organic momentum this nation-building process had.
The non-Russian regions (Finland, the Caucasian states, Central Asia, etc.) would have fallen away or more likely become federated states. Relations with Eastern European Slavs would be a lot better. With the exception of the Poles, most East European Slavs were highly Russophilic in the 19th century.


Chinese IQ & Cultural Influence

A Chinese official medical magazine show s China’s average IQ of kids was 103.4 in 2005. But there are huge differences among provinces. Someone think it’s caused by Iodine difficiency in some regions.What’s your idea?

I don’t think differences in iodine deficiency will be playing a major role nowadays. The link between iodine deficiency and IQ depression has been known for a long time now, and Communist countries of all systems are pretty good at solving problems like these!
*Most* countries have major differences between provinces. Moscow is about 2/3 S.D. higher than the Russian average. Northern Italy is 1/2-2/3 S.D. higher than Southern Italy. Recently, Kenya Kura found a similar north/south gap in Japan, which is rather surprising since Japan has a reputation as a homogenous country! China does not have a reputation as a homogenous country, so the fact that it has major differences in IQ between different provinces is not surprising in the least.
Shanghai and Beijing clearly enjoy a “cognitive clustering” effect. Everybody who’s anybody wants to go there (just like Americans want to go to NY or SF; Britons want to go to London; Russians want to go to Moscow; etc). But only the more intelligent and driven Chinese are capable of doing that, especially since China has barriers to urban migration in the form of the hukou registration system.
The far southern provinces have higher levels of admixture with the (lower IQ) pre-Han indigenous peoples, plus Clarkian/Unzian processes of selection for higher IQ would not have had as long a chance to operate there as in Yangtze/Yellow River “core” China. There might also be a slight environmental factor in the form of greater parasitic disease load in the south, but that is more speculative. Yunnan and Guizhou provinces (lowscoring) are also remote and landlocked and have lagged in the developmental process, so their IQs may also be additionally depressed by sheer poverty and great malnutrition (though malnutrition has long ceased to be a major problem in China overall).

My question about anime, china and japan was about how much china could exercise actual cultural influence in the West, like Japan did in the 90′s and 2000′s and still does to some extent in the form of Anime.

If cultural influence is a function of g, q, and GDP – namely, intelligence, creativity, and economic weight, as seems reasonable – then eventually Chinese cultural influence can be expected to massively outweigh Japanese cultural influence in the West.
What specific form that influence will take is something I have no idea about.


Balkan IQ

According to Lynn, Serbia’s national IQ is 90. Basically, all of the Balkans countries seem to have low, as in 85 to 90ish, IQs. But I’m struck at how low the Serbs apparently are in terms of IQ. Have you any experience with Serbs or Serbia? Are you inclined to accept or to doubt Lynn’s numbers?

I haven’t had many personal interactions with Serbs or South Slavs so I can’t say. Actually, even I I did, it still wouldn’t be of much validity, like all personal anecdotes. I knew one Kyrgyz woman who was very bright but Kyrgyzstan has an average IQ of ~75 (derived from PISA). So personal anecdotes aren’t worth much. I do not see any obvious reasons for why the figures for the South Slavs should be incorrect so I assume they are more or less accurate.
The Balkans in general have been Europe’s least-developed region for centuries. Serbia as late as 1913 had an illiteracy rate of more than 90%. This was far lower than the contemporaneous figures even in Russia or Portugal, the two most extreme non-Balkan laggards in Europe at that time. Since development and literacy are both somewhat associated with national average IQs, that would support the finding of low IQs for the Balkans.
JayMan’s theory on this is that whereas the northern Slavs had selection for higher IQs in the form of cold winters – village communities that were too feckless at longterm planning would simply starve to death and vanish off the map – there were no such rigorous selection mechanisms for higher IQs in the Balkans.

The Serbian IQ is that it isn’t much higher than that of black Americans, just 4 or 5 points higher, and yet they seem so much more civilized. Other Balkans countries, IQs are either a tad higher, the same or even lower (Albania) than blacks, and yet they too are more civilized. How can this be? Which other ethnic group has an IQ that is “4 or 5″ points higher than that of American Blacks?

Hispanics are basically civilized people. Ron Unz had an article a few months ago in which he statistically demonstrated that White and Hispanic crime rates were essentially the same. I currently live in a Hispanic majority area and don’t feel particularly unsafe.
There is more to civilization than just IQ.
I think with respect to American Blacks there are two things we have to keep in mind. First, what really characterizes them is their amazing levels of violence. Nicholas Wade suggests it might be linked to the 2R allele of the MAOA gene. South Slavs and especially Albanians have a reputation for being thuggish relative to other Whites, but they have nothing on Blacks in that department. As you correctly point out, you will be far, far safer anywhere in Belgrade than in Baltimore.
Second, the stereotype of the violent, low IQ Black is drawn primarily from the inner city ghettoes. It is an accurate enough stereotype, but note that those ghettoes consist of those Blacks too poor or feckless to move out of them. There are plenty of Blacks living relatively unnoticed in middle class suburban neighborhoods. If we’re talking of real hardcore 95%+ Black ghettoes with 50/100,000 annual homicide rates, the mean IQ there is probably more like 80 instead of 85.


Russian Economy, Society, Foreign Policy

Are there plans in Russian to seriously start re-building their industrial base (ie non-extractive economy)?

So you have to identify whether you mean “re-building their industrial base” in a statistical sense, or in the rhetorical sense that is often used in political debates in Russia.
In statistical terms, industrial output since 2008 has come close to peak USSR (RSFSR) levels. Let’s take a sectoral look. Light manufacturing (e.g. textiles) is now a small fraction of peak Soviet output, but that doesn’t matter much, since those are shit industries anyway (unskilled, low value added). Machine building, an important industry, is at 50%. Car production is TWICE higher relative to peak Soviet levels. Electronics production is substantially higher. Aerospace and military output has increased greatly in the past few years, but still lags Soviet peak output by a large margin. But the Soviet economy was massively distorted to favor heavy manufacturing, especially manufacturing with military applications. It is unlikely that Russia will be able to return to that kind of structure under a market economy that caters to consumer needs. Or whether it is even good sense to make that effort.
In terms of policy debates, there have been arguments by statist economists like Sergey Glazyev to use Russia’s accumulated oil funds to provide subsidized loans to strategic manufacturing sectors (amongst other suggestions). This is quite a radical suggestion that is unlikely to be adopted anytime soon since the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank appear to be run by monetarist hardliners. Unsurprisingly, the consensus of Western and liberal Russian economics commentators is that Glazyev is a madman. Speaking for myself, I do not feel I have the requisite expertise on the Russian economy or industrial policy to venture any firm opinions on this.

What are some things that the West (and America) do better than Russia? Also vice versa?

Relationships between strangers is a key difference in America’s favor (see
Britons are civil, but not very friendly. Russians are uncivil, but can become very friendly once you come to know them. Americans are both civil and friendly.
Overall I think Americans are more open to free speech and freedom in general, such as gun rights. This is, overall, a good thing (so long as society can handle it and American society can). Russians (and Britons, and Europeans in general) are very totalitarian in their attitudes towards gun rights and “hate” speech. I mean you can still easily get fired for voicing the wrong things in the US, but at least you won’t be imprisoned for it.
Needless to say, the average American is still far richer than the average Russian (though the gap isn’t as vast as it first appears due to purchasing power differences), and enjoys much better healthcare and higher education services. Moreover, contrary to eurofag propaganda, US healthcare and higher education is better than in almost all other European countries (e.g. just look at cancer survival rates across countries, or the national shares of Nobel Prize/Fields Medal winners). Of course both healthcare and higher education are an order of magnitude more expensive in the US, but the typical American, so long as he isn’t completely feckless, is usually able to afford them quite easily.
I might come off as highly anti-American in my blog postings but in general I really admire quite a lot of things about ‘Murica!
You can read a LOT more about my comparisons of Russia to the US (and Great Britain) here:

What is your opinion of the “Euro-Siberian” empire that some people on the alt-right (eg Guillame Faye) like to put forth?

Bismarck said that Europe is nothing but a geographical expression. Eurosiberia isn’t even that.
Broadly speaking, I support a Europe of independent nation-states. I do not see a problem with extending the common economic space across the Eurasian steppes, in a gradual, unforced way, and at a pace with which its constituent peoples are comfortable with. But I see no point in any grander constructs.

How do you see future relations between Russia and China?

No China isn’t going to conquer or otherwise “take over” Siberia. The idea is so absolutely fucking stupid but so many seemingly intelligent people appear to take it for granted.
China and Russia complement it each very well. Russia has the mineral and energy resources, China has massive economic and financial heft. There is a lot of scope for joint work in manufacturing and technology and increasing numbers of agreements are getting signed to that effect. Geopolitical disputes between them are minor and fade into insignificance relative to the problems both have with the US and its aggressively ideological approach to international relations.


Quick Rejoinders

You should do a “game” analysis of the major Russian writers and their works, it would be a great humorous read to supplement your usual serious articles. I can see it already: (Gogol – omega, Turgenev – beta-orbiter, Lermontov – shadow-alpha, Tolstoy/Pushkin – peak Aplha, Nabokov- alpha marriage)

“Return of Kings columnist” isn’t on my current list of career goals.

Have you considered getting a PhD in one of the many subjects that interest you and that you write so engagingly and intelligently about on

Why should I pay money to discredit myself?

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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.