From my Taki’s Magazine column:
Turing worship is related to two groups riding high in the 21st century: gays and nerds. The Imitation Game exploits Turing’s status as one of the relatively rare gay-nerd intersections to create a victim for our times.
Back in the previous millennium, The Onion headlined:
Gaywads, Dorkwads Sign Historic Wad Accord
… “For too long, wad factionalism has divided the wad community, senselessly pitting wad against wad in bitter inter-wad disputes,” dorkwad representative Tad Patrick Reems, 15, told reporters. “Now is the time for us to set aside our differences and join together in opposition of our common enemy—the mean, popular kids who have mercilessly inflicted locker-room wedgies upon us since time immemorial.”
Movies, however, take a long time to put together. Thus The Imitation Game’s notion of a gay-nerd alliance against the Haven Monahans now seems more clichéd than galvanising.
This is not to say that Turing doesn’t deserve his endless approbation.
Read the whole thing there.
From Paul Graham’s 2004 essay “What You Can’t Say:”
No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true…
Some would ask, why would one want to do this? Why deliberately go poking around among nasty, disreputable ideas? Why look under rocks?
I do it, first of all, for the same reason I did look under rocks as a kid: plain curiosity. And I’m especially curious about anything that’s forbidden. Let me see and decide for myself.
Second, I do it because I don’t like the idea of being mistaken. If, like other eras, we believe things that will later seem ridiculous, I want to know what they are so that I, at least, can avoid believing them.
Third, I do it because it’s good for the brain. To do good work you need a brain that can go anywhere. And you especially need a brain that’s in the habit of going where it’s not supposed to.
Great work tends to grow out of ideas that others have overlooked, and no idea is so overlooked as one that’s unthinkable. Natural selection, for example. It’s so simple. Why didn’t anyone think of it before? Well, that is all too obvious. Darwin himself was careful to tiptoe around the implications of his theory. He wanted to spend his time thinking about biology, not arguing with people who accused him of being an atheist.
In the sciences, especially, it’s a great advantage to be able to question assumptions. The m.o. of scientists, or at least of the good ones, is precisely that: look for places where conventional wisdom is broken, and then try to pry apart the cracks and see what’s underneath. That’s where new theories come from…
It’s not only in the sciences that heresy pays off. In any competitive field, you can win big by seeing things that others daren’t…
Training yourself to think unthinkable thoughts has advantages beyond the thoughts themselves. It’s like stretching. When you stretch before running, you put your body into positions much more extreme than any it will assume during the run. If you can think things so outside the box that they’d make people’s hair stand on end, you’ll have no trouble with the small trips outside the box that people call innovative.
When you find something you can’t say, what do you do with it? My advice is, don’t say it…
The most important thing is to be able to think what you want, not to say what you want. And if you feel you have to say everything you think, it may inhibit you from thinking improper thoughts. I think it’s better to follow the opposite policy. Draw a sharp line between your thoughts and your speech. Inside your head, anything is allowed. Within my head I make a point of encouraging the most outrageous thoughts I can imagine. But, as in a secret society, nothing that happens within the building should be told to outsiders. The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club. …
The trouble with keeping your thoughts secret, though, is that you lose the advantages of discussion. Talking about an idea leads to more ideas. So the optimal plan, if you can manage it, is to have a few trusted friends you can speak openly to. This is not just a way to develop ideas; it’s also a good rule of thumb for choosing friends. The people you can say heretical things to without getting jumped on are also the most interesting to know.
On the other hand, while whispering in the catacombs is better than no discussion at all, there are advantages to writing things down. As Graham explains in “Writing, Briefly:”
I think it’s far more important to write well than most people realize. Writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them. If you’re bad at writing and don`t like to do it, you’ll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated. … Write a bad version 1 as fast as you can; rewrite it over and over; expect 80% of the ideas in an essay to happen after you start writing it, and 50% of those you start with to be wrong …
And there are advantages to dragging your written thoughts into the public arena and challenging anyone in the house to show them wrong. One major benefit is that quite frequently somebody you don’t know shows up and proves you wrong. (But then you can then
steal borrow his or her ideas.)
A few of us lunatics ignore Graham’s prudent good sense and write openly and honestly for the public in the hope that public discussion is good for our country and our world.
Of course, one problem with that is that it’s hard to make any kind of living off of such writing, especially in today’s climate in which advertisers don’t want to be associated with anything “controversial.”
Fortunately, I’ve found that I have generous readers. So, here’s The End of the End of the Year iSteve Panhandling Drive:
I now have six ways for you to send me money, including Paypal, fee-free bank transfers, and multiple tax deductible methods via VDARE.com:
First: You can use PayPal (non-tax deductible) by going to the page on my old blog here. PayPal accepts most credit cards. Contributions can be either one-time only, monthly, or annual.
Third: You can make a tax deductible contribution to VDARE by clicking here. (Paypal and credit cards accepted, including recurring “subscription” donations.) If you send VDARE a check make sure to put “I like Steve Sailer” on the Memo line. Note: the VDARE site goes up and down on its own schedule, so if this link stops working, please let me know.
Fourth: if you have a Chase bank account (or even other bank accounts), you can transfer money to me (with no fees) via Chase QuickPay (FAQ). Just tell Chase QuickPay to send the money to my ancient AOL email address(steveslrATaol.com — replace the AT with the usual @). If Chase asks for the name on my account, it’s StevenSailer with an n at the end of Steven. (Non-tax deductible.) There is no 2.9% fee like with PayPal or Google Wallet, so this is good for large contributions.
Fifth: if you have a Wells Fargo bank account, you can transfer money to me (with no fees) via Wells Fargo SurePay. Just tell WF SurePay to send the money to my ancient AOL email address steveslrAT aol.com — replace the AT with the usual @). (Non-tax deductible.) There is no 2.9% fee like with PayPal or Google Wallet, so this is good for large contributions.
Here’s the Google Wallet FAQ. From it: “You will need to have (or sign up for) Google Wallet to send or receive money. If you have ever purchased anything on Google Play, then you most likely already have a Google Wallet. If you do not yet have a Google Wallet, don’t worry, the process is simple: go to wallet.google.com and follow the steps.” You probably already have a Google ID and password, which Google Wallet uses, so signing up Wallet is pretty painless. You can put money into your Google Wallet Balance from your bank account and send it with no service fee. Or you can send money via credit card (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, Discover) with the industry-standard 2.9% fee. (You don’t need to put money into your Google Wallet Balance to do this.) Google Wallet works from both a website and a smartphone app (Android and iPhone — the Google Wallet app is currently available only in the U.S., but the Google Wallet website can be used in 160 countries). Or, once you sign up with Google Wallet, you can simply send money via credit card, bank transfer, or Wallet Balance as an attachment from Google’s free Gmail email service.Here’s how to do it. (Non-tax deductible.) Thanks!
Happy New Year!
A significant difference over the last couple of centuries between Britain and several of the Continental Powers, such as France, Germany, and Italy was that the British tended to enjoy the clash of parties in parliament, seeing it as great political theater, while the Continentals tended to find party politics unseemly and a roadblock to Getting Things Done. Thus, Continentals tended to periodically demand a Man on Horseback.
Former Obama Administration official Cass Sunstein is the husband of UN Ambassador Samantha Power and the propounder of such swell ideas as the government should battle conspiracy theorists by mounting secret conspiracies to hire agents provocateur to engage in “cognitive infiltration” of conspiracy theorist websites. In 2013, Sunstein wrote a column in favor of Bowling Alone entitled “Could Bowling Leagues and the PTA Breed Nazis?”
Here’s the abstract of his latest, a timely effort in the wake of the Democrats losing the recent Congressional election:
Cass R. Sunstein
Harvard Law School
December 14, 2014
University of Chicago Legal Forum, Forthcoming
“Partyism” is a form of hostility and prejudice that operates across political lines. For example, some Republicans have an immediate aversive reaction to Democrats, and some Democrats have the same aversive reaction to Republicans, so much so that they would discriminate against them in hiring or promotion decisions, or in imposing punishment. If elected officials suffer from partyism – perhaps because their constituents do – they will devalue proposals from the opposing party and refuse to enter into agreements with its members, even if their independent assessment, freed from partyism, would be favorably disposed toward those proposals or agreements. In the United States, partyism has been rapidly growing, and it is quite pronounced – in some ways, more so than racism. It also has a series of adverse effects on governance itself, above all by making it difficult to enact desirable legislation and thus disrupting the system of separation of powers.
Under circumstances of severe partyism, relatively broad delegations of authority to the executive branch, and a suitably receptive approach to the Chevron principle, have considerable appeal as ways of allowing significant social problems to be addressed. This conclusion bears on both domestic issues and foreign affairs.
The “Chevron principle” refers to a 1984 Supreme Court decision limiting the judicial branch’s right to limit the power of the executive branch.
It never seems to occur to Sunstein that someday his wife won’t be in the meetings where they decide who to call a drone strike in on. Maybe we’ll soon see a paper from Sunstein called “Electionism” denouncing the divisive, time-wasting, outmoded tradition of holding Presidential elections when the current President is obviously addressing significant social problems with his amnesties and drone strikes.
I’m a big fan of Paul Graham’s advice essays, especially “What You Can’t Say,” so I don’t want to be too hard on him for parroting the standard talking points on immigration. But it’s worth recalling that he has stated that successful Silicon Valley start-up CEOs likely grew up in America simply because of the accent advantage it gives them.
From “Silicon Valley’s Start-Up Machine” by Nathaniel Rich in the NYT Magazine about essayist Paul Graham’s Y Combinator boot camp for entrepreneurs:
Several years ago, Paul Graham — whom everybody calls P.G. — began to film the interviews he and his partners held with prospective Y.C. inductees. When reviewing the footage, he focused on the interviews with start-ups that ultimately failed. Like any savvy marketing executive, he wanted to isolate patterns that portended ill, which he called “negative predictors.” He was already aware of a few — investors tended to be biased against older founders, for instance. “The cutoff in investors’ heads is 32,” Graham says. “After 32, they start to be a little skeptical.” And Graham knew that he had his own biases. “I can be tricked by anyone who looks like Mark Zuckerberg. There was a guy once who we funded who was terrible. I said: ‘How could he be bad? He looks like Zuckerberg!’ ”
… But after ranking every Y.C. company by its valuation, Graham discovered a more significant correlation. “You have to go far down the list to find a C.E.O. with a strong foreign accent,” Graham told me. “Alarmingly far down — like 100th place.” I asked him to clarify. “You can sound like you’re from Russia,” he said, in the voice of an evil Soviet henchman. “It’s just fine, as long as everyone can understand you.”
This was bad news for Strikingly’s David Chen, who moved in 2005 from Guangzhou to the United States to attend high school at Houghton Academy, in upstate New York. He spoke English fluently but struggled to pronounce words like “build,” “mobile” and, most ominously, “strikingly.” Yet Chen had clearly established himself as the fledgling company’s impresario and spokesman. …
One week before Demo Day, Graham told the Strikingly founders that Chen’s accent was too strong. The quiet, reserved Bao — who spoke less frequently than either of his partners despite being the group’s only native English speaker — would have to deliver the pitch instead. Bao denied that he was anxious, but as he tried to memorize the pitch, he grew even quieter than usual. “I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m comfortable with public speaking,” he admitted.
In other words, it’s a myth that tech billionaire entrepreneurs are magnanimously bringing poor Asians to America to start companies to compete with them.
The reality is that billionaires just want code-fodder. The number of H-1B visa workers who will prove competition for the Zuckerbergs is negligible.
Los Angeles has always been full of bizarre and entertaining local news, but the dominant Los Angeles Times traditionally found tabloid stories in poor taste.
In the last decade, however, it featured a first rate reporter named Sam Quinones who combined a taste for lurid crime stories with impressive big picture analytical chops. His 2008 LAT article “A familial mean street: Networks of relatives have bred crime on once-peaceful Drew Street, police say” was so good that I commented upon it at length in VDARE.
He focused on the extended family of that Mama Leon that had made Drew Street of Glassell Park in a prime location just north of downtown Los Angeles into a pocket battlefield:
“An illegal immigrant and mother of 13, [Maria] Leon has a lengthy arrest record and three convictions for drug-related crimes—for which she’s served no prison time, according to court documents. …
“Police said Leon, 44, and her extended family were deeply involved in the drug trade that has made Drew Street among L.A.’s most notorious.” …
“The Leons—and members of several other immigrant families on Drew Street whom authorities have charged with criminal acts—hail from the town of Tlalchapa in the state of Guerrero, which has a reputation as one of Mexico’s most violent regions. Police estimate that dozens of members of these extended families belong to the Avenues gang. …
“’It’s been a safety net for them to rely on each other—brothers, cousins and all,’ said LAPD Lt. Robert Lopez. ‘The likelihood of someone within your family ratting you out is really low.’”
“Police task forces, gang sweeps, arrests—even a 2002 gang injunction—have done little to break the bonds of family and culture that breed criminal activity on Drew Street, officials said. …
“The city said that ‘I’m not supposed to have gangs out in the yard’ in front of the apartment building, according to one landlord who requested anonymity, fearing reprisal. ‘I’m the one who is supposed to go and chase them out? I don’t think so.’” …
“Over the years, Leon had 13 children with five men, according to court records. Several of her sons are documented gang members, according to police. One of Leon’s sons, Daniel, was killed last month in the shootout on Drew Street after allegedly firing an AK-47 at officers.
“The close family ties on Drew Street, along with the poverty and overcrowding, have made it difficult for police to penetrate, authorities said. Police report having seen lookouts standing atop apartment buildings, watching for cops or rival gang members, ready to whistle or chirp their Nextels in warning.”
Now, Quinones is back with an article, “The End of Gangs” in Pacific Standard, on radical new strategies begun under Bill Bratton that the LAPD has been using to crush gangs, including cleaning up Drew Street.
Traditionally, the LAPD focused on arresting the “kingpins,” the leaders of the gangs. Kill the head and the body will die. This assumed there were a few really bad criminals and a lot of marginal kids who would straighten up and fly right once the malign influence of the kingpin was gone. Instead, removing the leadership just led to wars to become leaders.
So, LAPD started using federal RICO indictments to round up all the foot soldiers in massive military-like operations and then packing them off to federal penitentiaries in places like Arkansas.
FEW PLACES SHOW MORE clearly how CompStat, community policing, RICO indictments, and shifts in the real estate market can come together to alter a terrain than those nasty two blocks in Northeast L.A. around the corner from where Simon Tejada lives. …
As [Officer] Murphy introduced himself around, he kept private the knowledge that the department was preparing a massive RICO indictment against the Drew Street gang. This had come about because an LAPD officer who had patrolled Drew for several years had paid a visit to Chris Brunwin, the federal prosecutor. The two had worked together on the Highland Park gang case. In years past, the idea that an LAPD street officer would even know a federal prosecutor, let alone visit one, was hard to imagine. But the door was now open.
Thus, in June 2008, three months into Bill Murphy’s tenure as a Captain III, thousands of police officers poured onto Drew Street and into nearby areas. SWAT teams from as far away as the East Coast came in to help. Seventy gang members were indicted.
As the SWAT trucks moved out that afternoon, city street cleaners moved in. They covered the graffiti, removed trash, cut down sneakers hanging from telephone wires, and swept streets that hadn’t been swept in a year. They repaired a fountain in the pocket park at the end of Drew Street. Officers began walking foot beats, and kept at it for the rest of the summer.
A grim setback came on August 2, when Drew Street gang members shot to death a deputy sheriff as he prepared for work one morning, but the murder proved the gang’s last gasp. Another RICO indictment quickly followed, with 90 members of the Avenues gang sent off to federal and state prison. Landlords, facing hefty legal penalties for allowing criminal activity on their properties, began evicting gang tenants. Then came the unheard-of: Residents started tipping off officers on which gang members had committed a series of robberies.
By the end of the year, kids were playing in the street. The Northeast Division grew adept at social media, using Twitter to announce crimes that had just happened.
Peace unlocked value. A new neighbor of Simon Tejada’s paid $350,000 for a house last year. Graffiti still occasionally pops up on Drew, but is quickly painted over. The incessant crack trade is gone, as are the menacing kids in hoodies lurking behind cars. Families no longer fall asleep to the sound of gunfire, helicopters, and screeching tires. The area has attracted several Filipino families with young children and no gang affiliations. In conversations I had with them, they seemed only vaguely aware of the street’s notorious history.
The city attorney’s office took possession of the Leon family’s Satellite House in a nuisance abatement lawsuit, and the city brought in massive machinery that devoured it in what amounted to a public exorcism. A community vegetable garden went up on the lot.
DREW STREET, HOBBLED BY overbuilding, remains vulnerable. Dense apartments keep attracting new low-income renters, many of them service workers from Tlalchapa, Guerrero, whose sons, like so many dislocated young men, may be drawn to gang life. Suspicion of the police is still strong. The same tenuous peace holds in many neighborhoods across Southern California.
So, the idea is that instead of going into one small neighborhood and arresting, say, the top eight gang leaders and sending them to local prisons, from which they continue to run things, you arrest 160 gang members and send them off to federal prisons halfway across the country.
It’s straight out of Machiavelli’s The Prince: don’t engage in a pitter-patter of repression against the local power structure that just allows resentments to fester. Instead, assert your authority over an area in one massive coup against the old power structure, and then the locals who are left will come around to your rule.
Venture capitalist and fine essayist Paul Graham writes in favor of Silicon Valley billionaires’ efforts to pass the Senate immigration bill, which increases H-1B visas from 85,000 new ones per year to 180,000.
American technology companies want the government to make immigration easier because they say they can’t find enough programmers in the US.
Anti-immigration people say that instead of letting foreigners take these jobs, we should train more Americans to be programmers.
Who’s right? The technology companies are right. What the anti-immigration people don’t understand is that there is a huge variation in ability between competent programmers and exceptional ones, and while you can train people to be competent, you can’t train them to be exceptional.
Exceptional programmers have an aptitude for and interest in programming that is not merely the product of training.
The US has less than 5% of the world’s population. Which means if the qualities that make someone a great programmer are evenly distributed, 95% of great programmers are born outside the US.
Funny, then, how we mostly seem to wind up with upper caste Indians as H-1Bs. If you asked H-1Bs if programming talent was evenly distributed just within India, they’d scoff at the notion: “Untouchables? I say, that’s a good one!”
The anti-immigration people have to invent some explanation to account for all the effort technology companies have expended trying to make immigration easier. So they claim it’s because they want to drive down salaries.
But if you talk to startups, you find practically every one over a certain size has gone through legal contortions to get programmers into the US, where they then paid them the same as they’d have paid an American.
I was going to enumerate the non sequiturs, economic fallacies, and slippery changes of focus, but I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader.
We have the potential to ensure that the US remains a technology superpower just by letting in a few thousand great programmers a year.
Okay, so let’s say “a few thousand” means 5,000. Then what do we need 85,000 H-1B grunts for, much less 180,000?
Let me refocus from Silicon Valley to another giant California industry that is highly talent-dependent and remains totally dominant globally: the movie industry.
Here, from Box Office Mojo, are the top three dozen box office smashes so far in 2014 at overseas theaters (i.e., excluding revenue from North America):
Rio 2 $367
Godzilla (2014) $324
Edge of Tomorrow $269
The Maze Runner $238
The LEGO Movie $210
Gone Girl $191
RoboCop (2014) $184
Hercules (2014) $171
The Expendables 3 $167
Need for Speed $160
Dracula Untold $159
22 Jump Street $140
Big Hero 6 $121
And, finally, the 37th biggest movie outside of North America so far in 2014 is the first non-English language movie, by the Japanese animation master Miyazaki:
The Wind Rises $113
Now some of these movies are likely more British or New Zealander than American, but the first three dozen are all English-language movies with substantial American involvement. Everybody complains about Hollywood, but it’s a spectacularly successful export industry.
But here’s the relevant fact for thinking about Graham’s logic: Hollywood, unlike Silicon Valley, makes very little use of H-1B visas. Indeed, overall Hollywood is a high cost industry, with fairly strong unions and a lot of nepotism.
Hollywood’s world dominance is not because America has a monopoly on talent. When I went to Turkey in 2009 I was amazed by how spectacular their home-grown TV commercials were. And the best foreign talent — e.g., Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Birdman, The Tree of Life) does get to the United States, even though Hollywood seldom uses H-1b programs.
So, once again, what do we need H-1Bs for, much less vastly more H-1Bs?
Whenever I read denunciations of The Bell Curve, I’m struck by how little subsequent data are cited. We hear a lot of a priori arguments that were musty when the late Stephen Jay Gould was trumpeting themand a lot of ad hominem anger, but few references to new data that have emerged in the 20 years since.
It’s not as if there isn’t a lot more data today.
What made The Bell Curve of particular importance was that around 1990 Murray and Herrnstein got their hands on a particularly rich data set: the federal 1979 National Longitudinal Study of Youth tracking of 12,000+ nationally representative youngish people combined with the Pentagon’s 1980 administration of the AFQT/ASVAB enlistment test to the NLSY sample.
This was due to the Pentagon’s 1976 misnorming of AFQT scores that led to the Stripes Era of the Carter Administration military. Non-commissioned officer kept calling up Senator Sam Nunn to tell him that there must be something wrong with the new test because a lot of the new recruits were dumb as a box of rocks. Nunn finally got the brass to look into this and, sure enough, they’d screwed up in determining the passing scores.
Fortunately, there was a nationally representative sample of 15 to 23 year olds already under steam in the NLSY and adding a good cognitive test like the AFQT to it would be of benefit to social scientists as well. So in 1980 most of the NLSY panel sat down and took the AFQT so the Pentagon would finally know how smart the average American youth was. This led to the Top Gun era of the Reagan Administration military. (I’m oversimplifying history, but the misnorming fiasco deserves to be better known.)
So, if Herrnstein and Murray are wrong, we now have 20 more years of data from the NLSY79 tracking, which now includes thousands of children of females in the original study, including both mother and child IQ-like scores. You can access NLSY79 data here. The most recent published update is from 2012.
Plus we have the NLSY97 tracking study from 18 years later that has now been running for 17 years.
And we have lots of other long-term tracking samples, such as ADD Health.
Overseas, there is the Dunedin sample. The medical and dental school in the New Zealand city of Dunedin enrolled virtually every child born in Dunedin over a 12-month period in 1972-73 into this lifelong study. The subjects are now in their early 40s and their children are being enrolled as they reach age 15. A sizable documentary is being prepared on the results called “The Science of Us.” (Above is a brief trailer.)
Here are some selected papers published based on this universe of roughly 1000 individuals. (You can get the links to the papers here.)
Credit Scores, Cardiovascular Disease Risk and Human Capital
Is Chronic Asthma Associated with Shorter Leukocyte Telomere Length at Midlife?
Employment among schoolchildren and its associations with adult substance use, psychological wellbeing, and academic achievement
Community water fluoridation and intelligence: Prospective Study in New Zealand
Smoking Cessation and Subsequent Weight Change
Tobacco Smoking in Adolescence Predicts Maladaptive Coping Styles in Adulthood
Is Obesity Associated With a Decline in Intelligence Quotient During the First Half of the Life Course?
The p Factor: One general psychopathology factor in the structure of psychiatric disorders?
Prospective developmental subtypes of alcohol dependence from age 18 to 32 years: Implications for nosology, etiology, and intervention
Retinal vessel caliber and lifelong neuropsychological functioning: Retinal imaging as an investigative tool for cognitive epidemiology
Stability and change in same-sex attraction, experience, and identity by sex and age in a New Zealand Birth Cohort
Childhood and adolescent television viewing and antisocial behavior in early adulthood
The relationship between multiple sex partners and anxiety, depression, and substance dependence disorders: a cohort study
A 32-Year Longitudinal Study of Child and Adolescent Pathways to Well-Being in Adulthood
Persistent Cannabis Users Show Neuropsychological Decline from Childhood to Midlife
Does Being an Older Parent Attenuate the Intergenerational Transmission of Parenting?
Undercontrolled temperament at age 3 predicts disordered gambling at age 32: a longitudinal study of a complete birth cohort
Can Childhood Factors Predict Workplace Deviance?
Patterns of sexual partnering and reproductive history: Associations with timing of first birth in a birth cohort
Risk factors prospectively associated with adult obsessive-compulsive symptom dimensions and obsessive-compulsive disorder
Adolescent, and their parents, attitudes towards graduated driver licensing and subsequent risky driving and crashes in young adulthood
A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety
The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study: tips and traps from a 40-year longitudinal study
Consistency and reliability of self-reported lifetime number of heterosexual partners by gender and age in a cohort study
Adolescent screen-time and attachment to parents and peers
How common are common mental disorders? Evidence that lifetime prevalence rates are doubled by prospective versus retrospective ascertainment
Adverse childhood experiences and adult risk factors for age-related disease: depression, inflammation, and clustering of metabolic risk markers
Researching genetic versus nongenetic determinants of disease: A comparison and proposed unification
Predictive value of family history on severity of illness: the case for depression, anxiety, alcohol dependence, and drug dependence
And here’s the home page of psychologists Avshalom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt who have written some of the most ambitious papers based on the Dunedin population.
At James Thompson’s Psychological Comments, he summarizes an upcoming Caspi and Moffitt paper based on 40 years of Dunedin data where they look at who are net contributors and who are net consumers of the common weal.
This strikes me as potentially hugely useful in immigration policy. My opinion has been that our immigration system ought to try to exclude individuals (and thus their descendants) who are likely to cost far more than they pay in taxes. Here’s an upcoming study of a first world city over the last 40 years:
What if we were to take an objective measure? Track a thousand newborns, and keep a close account of the profit and loss ledger. At this point you may feel a trifle uneasy. Who are we to judge these matters? What price the jocular remark of a mute inglorious Milton? How could one possibly assess the wit of someone who lacks a Twitter account?
Furthermore, you may recoil at the possible results of such an enquiry. If some individuals turn out to be a nuisance and a high cost to society, what then? Should they be exiled to some other land whether the natives are even more generous and gullible, or should we intervene as best we can to make them into productive citizens?
The usual strategy of successful institutions these days, such as Harvard University or the New England Patriots, is to devote much care to whom they select.
These are not trivial matters, and the researchers were at pains to highlight the moral choices which arise from a clear headed evaluation of costs and benefits. In particular, their discussion pre-supposes a compassionate society, with redistributive taxation providing educational, health and welfare benefits. The question barely arises outside a welfare states. In such less kindly states, if people are a nuisance they are simply a nuisance, but not a direct cost, since no one will be paying them any benefits.
Terrie E. Moffitt & Avshalom Caspi used the ISIR 2014 conference to test reactions from assembled researchers about the findings so far, and about the issues which arise from them. They presented their data on the Dunedin study, a four-decade longitudinal study of a birth cohort of 1000 New Zealanders. They examined risk factors in childhood and measures of social, health, and economic costs in adulthood.
Adult social and economic outcomes fit the Pareto principle: 20% of the cohort accounted for approximately 80% of every outcome: the cohort’s months of social welfare benefits, years of absent-father childrearing, pack-years of cigarette smoking, hospital admissions, pharmacy prescription fills, criminal court convictions, and injury-related insurance claims. Moreover, high-cost individuals with one problem outcome tended to also have multiple problem outcomes. An ultra-high-cost sub-segment of the cohort was identified who accounted for 80% of multiple problems. …
The authors know all this, and realise that the beguiling Pareto observation is a post-hoc description, which of itself predicts nothing. In this case it simply asserts: there are some troublesome people, and they will account for most social problems. The critical question is: which kids will grow up to be responsible for a disproportionate amount of trouble (and can anything be done to make them behave better)?
The authors say: Risk factors measured in childhood that characterized this ultra-high-cost group were: low family socio-economic status, child maltreatment, low self-control, and low IQ. Effect sizes were very large. Predictive analyses showed that together, SES, maltreatment, self-control, and IQ measured in the first decade of life were able to predict 80% of the individuals who are using 80% of multiple costly services. We developed an index of the integrity of a child’s brain at age three years. This age-3 brain-integrity index was a strong predictor of the cohort members who four decades later became members of the ultra-high-cost population segment.
Implications: Much research has shown that childhood risk ‘X’ can predict poor adult outcome ‘Y’, but modest effect sizes discourage translation of findings into targeted childhood interventions. This study illustrates that the vast bulk of a nation’s social services, crime control, and health-care are expended on a relatively small population segment. During early childhood, this population segment is characterized by a small set of risk factors: low SES, child maltreatment, low self-control, low IQ, and poor brain integrity. Reducing these factors may bring surprisingly good return on investment.
The comments from the audience were that it would be an error to describe the neurological examination as an “index of the integrity of the child’s brain”. Brains are assumed to be present. Better to say that an examination of behaviour, skills and neurological responses shows that many of the troublesome children can be detected at that age.
The assessment is interesting. It includes the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, which is simple and a good predictor. A word is spoken and the child has only to point to the one of four pictures which best describes the word. It has been doing good work since 1959 and is an excellent example of the power of intelligence measures: simple to do but profound in their implications. …
The core of the argument is a social one, and goes to the heart of policy making. The authors calculate that about 45% of the population are “low cost users”. In other words, they draw very little on community resources, yet pay most of the taxes that provide those services to others. The authors have identified some ultra high cost users who are a net drain on resources.
When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Taking care of your own citizenry’s problem children is one thing, taking care of other peoples’ is something else.