Monday, 25 January 2016

Hive Minds ?

 

I am very glad that Garrett Jones has written “Hive Mind: How your nation’s IQ matters so much more than your own”.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hive-Mind-Garett-Jones/dp/0804785961/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453587693&sr=8-1&keywords=Hive+Mind

And yes, I know that I have just posted up Stuart Ritchie’s review of the same book, but I had already made a long-drawn-out start on mine, so I am giving you the benefit of two perspectives. 

Jones has focussed attention on the collective effects of intelligence, showing that intelligence strongly shapes societies and economies. This will be something of a shock to many economists, and to The Economist magazine, and the disturbance this may cause them provides intelligence researchers with a source of harmless amusement. It is time that the default hypothesis of equi-potential economic humans was challenged, and this book may do it, if economists get round to reading it. If intelligence is important, and groups vary in intelligence, then the speed with which they learn new things will also vary, with profound consequences for their group achievements.

On a narrower front, how does one distinguish between a hive mind and a set of individuals working together? Is there anything extra? Does the hypothesis of a “hive” mind lead to any testable conclusions? That is, can we detect the difference between an aggregate mind and a hive mind, the assumption being that the spirit of a bee hive involves a higher sense of purpose, and of more closely coordinated intellects, or indeed a critical mass of inter-conectedness that a mere agglomeration of intellects could not achieve?

Were the scientists in the Manhattan Project a Hive Mind? They were certainly very bright, had a common purpose, and worked together pretty well. However, it was clear to all that some were very much brighter than others. Oppie led the pack, Richard Feynmann was more than a sounding board to his elders, and with Neil Bohr and Enrico Fermi the four of them could probably have got the device together, bar the long-winded, hand-operated computing (which Feynmann reorganised into a speedier and more effective process anyway). I say probably, because so many contributed, and I wouldn’t want to exclude Hans Bethe and Joseph Rotblatt, the latter not only for his abilities but for the amusing stories he told me about the project.

Has the Internet made us all into a hive mind? There is certainly a case to be made that our collective ability to retrieve and apply knowledge has increased considerably, and we are more closely inter-connected in terms of thoughts and knowledge than ever before, though Britain, France, Germany and Italy  in the Enlightenment must have been close rivals, certainly in terms of quality and depth of thought, if not quantity of communications. Here is the European Core as depicted by Charles Murray in “Human Accomplishment”.

image

 

So, what do we make of Hive Mind? First, Jones writes well. He wants to communicate, and has thought about the problems inherent in describing intelligence to those determined not to believe that it exists as a measureable characteristic of any importance. His explanations are good: well thought out and clearly written. Being understood takes much more work than being confusing. For example, he describes Spearman’s work in measuring ability as a decathlon where the best athletes tend to do well on all most of the ten events. Although forgotten, Spearman included the discrimination of musical pitch in his tests, finding it correlated with Maths and language ability, suggesting a more general capability than that caused by schooling. Jones calls this “the Da Vinci” effect. Jones says that the summary of ability given by the concept of g  is no more nor less a simplification than giving a person’s temperature in a single number.

Another example: his description of Axelrod’s wonderful “The Evolution of Cooperation”  is a fresh and interesting read. Patience, pleasantness and perceptiveness are required for good cooperation, and higher ability people have more of those than average.

Perhaps higher intelligence only leads to apparently patient behaviour because carefully considering the future requires keeping many facts in mind simultaneously, and having to do a few calculations.

Jones has a deep knowledge of economics, so there is much in the book about the link between personal characteristics and economic behaviour, and therefore between group differences and national economies. The core of the book is a set of explanations about how deeper and faster thinkers make better, more long-term and often kinder decisions.

I learned new things from this book, and also found much that I already knew expressed very well in ways which improve comprehension and memorability. We need more of these books, bringing up to date intelligence research to enclosed subject domains still working on distorted and poor quality findings.

Patience is often mentioned by Jones as a virtue of intelligent people. Since patience, by operational definition, requires the capacity to anticipate future events and to calculate the benefits of delayed gratification, this is part of intelligence,and no further explanation seems necessary. Jones seems to suggest that patience is an important personality variable which may be linked to intelligence. In current parlance “patience” is a facet of the major personality factors, such that patience is an aspect of the conjunction of agreeableness and emotional stability. I think that we will need to do some work on personality variables and economic achievement before concluding that patience is an essential extra requirement.

I admit I can’t understand Jones’s argument about why low skill (low IQ) immigrants are good for high productivity (high IQ) countries. I would have thought the whole tenor of the book was against that notion, but I may have been reading that chapter too late at night. He does say that he hopes rich countries will find “deep and effective” ways of raising the ability levels of people from poor countries, but if, as is very likely, rich countries are rich because of the high ability of their citizens derived from surviving demanding circumstances for many generations, and poor countries are poor because there was less selection for ability, then this quick few-generation IQ-boosting project is unlikely to be successful.

http://drjamesthompson.blogspot.com.uy/2015/09/migrant-competence.html

Has Jones proved that “your nation’s IQ matters so much more than your own”. Not really. Bright people do well in all countries. Bright people can also emigrate to brighter countries, and at least half of them do, away from Africa at least. A bright person can generally make their way anywhere. Jews, even when they are small in number, generally do very well, though much better in open societies.

Can we really prove the contrary assertion “Your IQ matters more than anybody else’s”? Not quite. Jones acknowledges that the smart fraction probably contribute far more than everyone else, but points out that this fraction is mathematically related to the average ability of each nation. A fair point, though the authors did their best to test the soundness of their results by comparing the average IQ with the higher smart fraction IQ, and the finding of stronger effects for the latter seem to be holding up.

http://drjamesthompson.blogspot.com.uy/2014/05/is-smart-fraction-as-valuable-as.html

Have humans achieved a Hive Mind? I think they are on the way to that, having made the biggest leap by switching on the Web at the turn of the Millenium (and about 40% of the world now has access From that collective library we get so much of what we know, or think we know, all of which has become retrievable by anyone with any curiosity, and almost for free. Things known after the year 2000 are more easily retrieved, so now is the new Gutenberg.

I hope this book gets read, and it would be marvellous if The Economist were to review it.  Some-one send them a copy.

39 comments:

  1. "Has Jones proved that “your nation’s IQ matters so much more than your own”. Not really. Bright people do well in all countries. Bright people can also emigrate to brighter countries, and at least half of them do, away from Africa at least. A bright person can generally make their way anywhere. Jews, even when they are small in number, generally do very well, though much better in open societies."

    Why do so many people miss such a simple point ? If a country's mean IQ did not matter so much more to an individual than his own IQ, how is it possible for a low-IQ immigrant from a low-IQ country to increase his wages many times just by moving to a high IQ country ? Yes, individual IQ is very important to ***within***-country inequality, but global income inequality (inequality in the world as a collection of individuals) is determined much more by your country's institutions than by your own effort.

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  2. @James - It isn't that the Ecoomist does not know about intelligence research - but that they are institutionally dishonest. One of their current senior editors, Adrian Wooldridge - once wrote an excellent book on IQ which I would recommend highly:

    A. Wooldridge, Measuring the mind: education and psychology in England, c.1860–c.1990, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK (1994).

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  3. I warmly commend this history to you, doc.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Making_of_the_Atomic_Bomb

    "I can’t understand Jones’s argument about why low skill (low IQ) immigrants are good for high productivity (high IQ) countries." At first blush it seems daft. Maybe they can clean the lavatories that the robots will use.

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  4. I definitely believe Jones's explanation of relationship between IQ and trust. I believe its logical relationship and also my personal anecdote experience.

    Example one. One time I was in need to get some travel map from AAA office before GPS even was known. I am a member of AAA and front desk clerk ask my photo ID (which is fine). But my photo ID address is different from their record address. This clerk (with looks of underclass) refuse to provide the service because of mismatching address on record. No trust. I asked to speak the office manager who immediately understand the situation and figured out likely clerical mistake on their part. I got my map with higher level of manager (yes, trust). All these due to lower level of clerck could figure out problem.

    Example two. During USA election, election office needs voters to produce birth certificate or naturalization paper in order to prove their citizenship. My naturalization paper was locked away in different city during the registration. I only carried my USA passport to registration office. Again the lower level clerck never dealt with passport before. Most Americans below middle class never have a passport in the life since they never need to do oversea travel. Again, the clerk insisted either birth certificate or naturalization paper. She would not trust a passport displaying "NATIONALITY - UNITED STATES OF AMERICA". I told this is more direct legal proof of my nationality than other two papers she asked for. Also told her, without birth certificate or naturalization paper, no body can get a USA passport. Such logics and explanation could not convince her (no trust due to her ignorance). I asked for her superior to deal with the issue. Her supervisor with more educated background (college, I asked) immediately approved my registration without hesitation. Again trust increased with ability to understand.

    My own conclusion is that critical analytical ability (g dependent) has easier time to figure out truth vs false claim. Intelligent person have more confidence to trust due to this ability. Less intelligents are confused about many things and lack ability to figure thing out. So the safest thing to do is not trusting anything they don't know.

    IC

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    Replies
    1. Dim people are wise to be untrusting: they would be even more widely ripped off if they weren't.

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    2. Good for you dearieme. Peons have to follow bureaucratic rules. It is a personal risk to violate the rule. Higher IQ types hang lower IQ types out to dry everyday, all day.

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    3. Actually natural born American might not be USA citizen if some one renounced USA citizenship. This person might still has birth certificate, but not eligible for voting. Yes, like Gustavo said, understanding the whole picture is important to make correct decision. In my opinion, mental ability to trust a stranger.

      IC

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    4. Following Rushton style of analysis on species difference.

      Wild animals with higher mental ability (like big cat, elephants) are easier to be tamed and trained than stupid ones (like small cats, reptiles). Tamed behavior is form of trust with human trainer, which is dependent on animals mental ability. Builder trust is form of learning behavior. Trusting stranger is form of mental prediction which needs even higher level of analytic ability.

      Projecting animal study onto human is what I called Rushton style of analysis. But in medical science, it is quite common to do so. Only on mental ability, human tried to set clear boundary from animals. Rushton violated this boundary.

      IC

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    5. BTW, taming is not the same thing as domestication. Taming is changed behavior from wild animals through training. Tamed animals have trust with their trainers. Such trust depends on animals mental ability.

      IC

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  5. I think it's not a matter of trust, but a capacity to understand rules as a whole, and to interprete when a rule can become flexible in order to solve a problem without committing a fault. Intelligence permits to analyze rules as well as laws and see when they are fair and reasonable.

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    Replies
    1. Excellent comment, I would not change a word.

      The only thing that I would do is change the implied antecedent for trust.

      The lower level person is charged with following and working by the rules. They can well “trust” that if they start “thinking” and applying flexibility in the application of the rules then they will be gone before long. They can also “trust” that the person that this week wants the rule to be bent in their favor will be the very same one back next month who didn’t get the outcome that they wanted and will want the peon fired for not “following the rule.”

      “Smart” people like to set up bureaucratic processes and organizations and have their lessors carry out the work without thinking. Then, when the rule fails they want to blame the peon for not “thinking.”

      Delete
  6. The notion that any country or government can raise the intelligence or abilities of anyone, let alone low IQ immigrants, is contradicted by all research and practical experience. Here in the US, Head Start and various kinds of Federal Job Training have been abject failures for more than 40 years.

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  7. Forgive my niggling, but Fermi, von Neumann Feynman, Bethe, and Teller, among others, were much brighter than Oppie. Fermi's brain was legendary, and von Neumann was up there with Einstein for importance in the 20th century. My father had 2 courses from Fermi in his Physics PhD program at the U of Chicago.....

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    Replies
    1. Niggle gratefully accepted. I did not mean that the four pictured were the brightest, but possibly bright enough to have done the job themselves, and much brighter than the Los Alamos science rank and file. In fact the whole team were involved, given a very tight timetable. See "7 Tribes of Intellect" for more von Neumann worship!

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  8. "von Neumann was up there with Einstein for importance in the 20th century": I doubt it. For creative intelligence, perhaps so - I'm too ignorant to know. But for "importance": nope. Einstein found topics which perfectly suited his brain and which turned out to be hugely important. Still, at least von N didn't footle away his time with macroeconomics, as the very clever Keynes did.

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    Replies
    1. Von Neumann made major contributions to pure math, applied math, nuclear physics, quantum physics, game theory, the theory of computers, and no doubt other areas I don't know about....For sheer productivity, he can't be matched...

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    2. Dearieme,

      You're mistaken, von Neumann worked out his own take on macroeconomics.

      IMO, he is the frontrunner candidate for smartest and most influential intellectual of the 20th century, both.

      Delete
  9. "I admit I can’t understand Jones’s argument about why low skill (low IQ) immigrants are good for high productivity (high IQ) countries. I would have thought the whole tenor of the book was against that notion,"

    Obviously, short term vs long term. In the short term, workers moving from low-IQ tohigh-IQ countries represent a significant increase in world GDP. Suppose a worker earning $1000 in low-IQ country earns $15,000 in a high IQ country. But wages represent only a fraction (50-70%) of the labour product, the remainder going to employers. So the increase in world GDP is on the order of $20-28,000. This is true even if the immigrant receives welfare transfers. Multiply the increase in world GDP by 1 million workers, and you get a pretty massive increase.

    The long term (economic) effects, however, include deterioration in institutional quality, if there are enough low-IQ immigrants. Of course low-IQ people typically vote at lower rates than average, so this effect would be the really long term.


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    Replies
    1. I don't see how your argument bears on "are good for high productivity (high IQ) countries". If that means anything (which may be doubtful) it presumably refers to what is good, per capita, for the people who live there (and their posterity?) before the coming of these low IQ immigrants. Why should those existing residents give a hoot about world GDP?

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    2. In this case the increment in world GDP = increment in the receiving country GDP. I thought that was pretty bloody obvious.

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  10. Obvious but foolish. The receiving country's GDP is not remotely a measure of the benefit to the previous inhabitants and their posterity.

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  11. It was interesting to see in Stuart Ritchie's review of Hive Mind that he thought it could in fact prove to be self-control that is the real variable at work, not in fact IQ. I would go even further and argue that it *could* turn out to be variations in 'Post-formal' psychological development stages (as researched by neo-Piagetians) that are the foundational variable here - underlying both self-control findings and IQ ones. We obviously won't know for sure until someone researches this topic - and no-one has. Prof Terrie Moffitt made comments to me that provide some strong initial support for this possibility. (And Prof Commons' forthcoming paper around WAIS-IV shows how IQ tests completely miss post-formal stages of thinking).

    I've written to both Ritchie and Jones about this, but haven't heard anything back yet. Here's the key material I wrote to Jones (covering self-control and Prof Moffitt's findings - which Ritchie would later highlight in his review!)

    --

    As I think I mentioned in some kind of brief Twitter exchange we had, I still think that (some of?) your insightful global IQ findings may in fact be masking an even more causative factor - the role of stages of psychological development (which you could think of as the continuation of childhood Piagetian growth stages through our adult lives, something that is by now quite well documented). As I think I mentioned, the later (rarer) stages of adult Piagetian psychological growth are known as 'post-formal'. It's strongly related to a shift away from impulsiveness and towards self-control, I think.

    Unfortunately IQ tests are only good at assessing more concrete and, often, rational capacities - but the richer post-formal capacities just aren't captured by IQ tests at all (a forthcoming paper by Prof Michael Commons and others looks at IQ (via WAIS-IV) and psychological development stages and comes to this conclusion). Unfortunately assessing post-formal capacities is a bit more time-consuming than IQ tests, enough that the grand international insights you have shared just cannot be made, as yet, in relation to post-formal abilities. (Also, I'm not even sure anyone is trying to, at the moment).

    I don't have the time right now to back up my argument much. But I will just give one illustrative point.

    A key paper uncovered the hugely important role of self-control - showing how even assessed at age 4 or 5 it can have a massive impact on a whole range of life outcomes at age 40 - ie it concludes that "innovative policies that put self-control centre stage might reduce a panoply of costs that now heavily burden citizens and governments”.

    The paper is by Prof Terrie Moffitt and 12 others and is called 'A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety': http://www.pnas.org/content/108/7/2693

    I spoke with Prof Moffitt, and she told me that this current research on self-control, is in many ways just a case of the 'old wine' of psychological development stages (ie Piaget, Loevinger etc) but in new bottles. Her team was definitely influenced by the psychological stage work, she said.

    Not only that, she spoke to the original researchers from when the Dunedin longitudinal study began in 1974 (data which her paper was based on) and found that their self-control assessment was partly based on Loevinger's assessment of psychological development stage. She hadn't even known that herself!

    I'm not trying to undermine all your fabulous findings, but I do feel that someone needs to get to the bottom of whether differences in developmental stage are the 'real' driving force here. IQ has a moderate correlation with psychological stage - so it's little wonder that IQ can be successfully used as a surrogate measure. But which is really doing the leading?

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    1. Thanks for your very informative comments. My problem with Piaget is how we specify "stages" in a way which contributes to our understanding, rather than just being a re-description. Currently I see children's early cognitive developmental stages as being a product of only two factors: processing speed and memory. Typically, I haven't published anything on this, but said it as an afterthought at a seminar on child development at the 2014 ISIR Graz conference

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  12. My comment on Moffit http://drjamesthompson.blogspot.com.uy/2014/12/are-you-nuisance.html

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  13. The seminar run by Cypriot team looking at developmental stages. Don't have any of my papers with me.

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