## Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

### The Significance of Underlying Variance for Social Outcomes

Thursday, 8 August 2024

Measures — quantities to which some arithmetic can be meaningfully applied — can be fitted to some human attributes, even if not to others. When attempting to compare some populations to others, an assumption is made that the properties of the individuals within these populations are subject to quantification of some sort, and that the quantities are commensurable across populations. But usually these assumptions are implicit and unrecognized, and even those who have some awareness that they are dealing with quantities very often don't have a proper grasp of elementary issues.

Very often, people try to understand distinct populations in terms of some notion of averages. If each and every member of every population were exactly average in every regard, then averages would be perfect measures of the populations as such. More generally, if for any two populations the share of that population deviating from average by some specific amount were the same, averages would be sufficient for any comparison of the attributes of populations, except for population sizes. But if the overall variance from average in one population is different from that in another, then thinking in terms of averages can go very, very wrong.

Here are hypothetic distributions for some attribute within two populations, each population having the same number of members:[1] For both Population A and Population B, the median[2] of the attribute is the same, but Population B has more variance from the arithmetic mean than does Population A. Even though each of these two populations have the same median, more members of the population of greater variance are below some some measure, and more members of that same population are above some measure. Population B2 has the same variance as Population B, but the same arithmetic mean (rather than median) as Population A. Again, even though the center is, by some measure, the same for both populations, more members of the population of greater variance are below some some measure, and more members of that same population are above some measure.

Even if a population has a higher center than Population A, if it has a greater variance then it will dominate the lower range of measures below some measure. And even if a population has a lower center than Population A, if it has a greater variance then it will dominate the higher range of measures beyond some measure.

If a measurable attribute correlates positively with social success, then ceteris paribus, a population of higher variance is going to dominate both social winners beyond some level and social losers below some level. If a population generally has greater variance amongst its attributes, then — discarding the assumption of ceteris paribus — that population is going to dominate both social winners beyond some level and social losers below some level; even if it has the same median or same mean or even a lower center than another populations.

In fact, though I cannot readily graph the cases in which attributes are only partially ordered and not measurable, the reader should see that the underlying point does not depend upon the measurability of the attributes, but only upon one population having greater propensity for variance than another.

But

• If one is only looking at the losers and thoughtlessly assuming that their numbers are explained by averages, then one is going inappropriately to infer that the population is generically inferior.
• If one is only looking at the losers, while thoughtlessly assuming that the averages are the same and that nothing else about the population itself can explain the difference in outcomes, then one is going inappropriately to infer that the population are victims of systemic bias.
• If one is only looking at the winners and thoughtlessly assuming that their numbers are explained by averages, then one is going inappropriately to infer that the population is generically superior.
• If one is only looking at the winners, while thoughtlessly assuming that the averages are the same and that nothing else about the population itself can explain the difference in outcomes, then one is going inappropriately to infer that any rival population are victims of systemic bias.

In each case, if we look at the other end of the distribution, the thoughtless conclusion falls apart.

When the last of these errors is made, an attempt may be made to offset illusory bias, by putting an institutional thumb on the scales to shift Population A generally forward, until the the number of social winners at every level is at least the same. But notice what is then really happening as the relative outcomes for most members of the population of greater variance fall increasingly below those of the population of less variance — at previously targetted levels the population of lower variance comes to enjoy greater social success than does the population of greater variance. And notice that the population of greater variance necessarily still dominates above some value, albeït that the value increases as the institutional thumb comes down ever harder in a misguided attempt to match the upper tails of the distribution.

Only actual systemic bias can bring the number of social winners across populations into equality above any given level of social success beyond the center; and, the larger the population, the greater the required bias for such an outcome, and the more that most of the population of greater variance are victimized.

If the two populations are not equal in size, then the foregoing analysis would simply need to entail talk of proportionality. But one might as well speak and write of two populations of the same size, because the real-world application involves two populations that are very close to the same size in most first-world nations. The greater variance of one of those two populations is a consequence of the greater chaos in the formation of one of that population's chromosomes.

Unfortunately, most of the attempts to analyze what has been happening has entailed ham-fisted theorizing about differing averages.

[1] A population with finite membership cannot perfectly conform to a continuous distribution function; but, the larger the population, the less the necessary non-conformance.

[2] The median for each population is the point such that as many members of the population are above it as are below it.

### It's a Bit Late

Sunday, 16 June 2024

The idea has been that the industrialized world has entered the final stage of something called capitalism, with a revolutionary change to some form of socialism just around the corner

…for more than a century now.

(Actually what we've seen is a slow, grinding transformation away from the use of genuine markets to an administrated order, which in more recent years has threatened to become a neo-feudalism. The transformation began well before the First World War, as technocratic thinking began displacing liberalism.)

### Certainly Unprofessional

Saturday, 15 June 2024

To-day, I updated some software on a Samsung electronic tablet. The latest version comes with an ability to suggest changes on-the-fly to what I've written. These changes include to wording that Samsung calls Professional, to what they call Casual, or to what they call Social. What they call Social seems to be what they call Casual, with the addition of hashtags. What they call Professional certainly isn't very professional.

The software may already have been patched to address this specific error, but I'm sure that many other errors remain, and they will propagate. For decades now, a great many people, even people who imagine themselves as native speakers of the English language, have been uncritically accepting what software has told them about the language.

I will sometimes use software to check my spelling, but I don't simply make every change that it suggests. I find that, in analyzing my writing, grammar-checkers so often flag constructions that are actually correct and so seldom find real errors that these checkers are not worth running. And a person who relies upon software for tone is falsifying his or her relationships.

### A Minor Up-Date

Friday, 14 June 2024

I still await a first decision from the journal to which on 24 February I submitted my paper on Sraffa. On 27 May, I queried the editor about when I might expect a decision. My query was really to ensure that the paper weren't mislaid; I've more than one unfortunate experience of such a thing. On 29 May, I received a reasonable and polite response that he hoped to have a report from the reviewer within a month.

The mission statement of the journal from which I yanked that paper on 21 February declares

Our goal is to provide a definitive answer within one month of submission.

I yanked the paper, submitted on 23 January, after it had idled for four weeks without being sent to the editor-in-chief. On 28 March they none-the-less reported it as placed in the hands of the editor-in-chief.

When I'd yanked the paper, when I received this notice, and when I received an apology and plea for patience, I sent copies of my replies (declaring and reïterating that the paper were no longer on-offer to them) to that editor-in-chief. None-the-less, on 07 June — more than four months after my submission — the editor sent a rejection on the grounds that the work were primarily exegetic. I think that the behavior of the editor and of the administrative staff betrays a gross disorganization that makes a mockery of the supposèd goal of reaching a decision within a month.

### Paper Woes

Thursday, 28 March 2024
The journal from which I yanked my paper on Sraffa on 21 February has yet to remove the listing from Editorial Manager. Worse, on 28 March, I received a couple of notices that the paper was now assigned to an editor. What makes these notices doubly offensive is that the journal claims to attempt to reach a first decision within a month; I submitted the paper to them on 23 January. (Indeed, I began the process some days earlier, but Editorial Manager would not allow me to upload some of the files.) In any case, I responded to the notices:
You were informed on 20 February that this article was no longer available for your acceptance or rejection.

Stop this nonsense immediately.

(Yup, I had misremembered the date on which I yanked the paper.) I again sent a CC of my e.mail to the Editor in Chief, and as it happens one of the notices said that she would handle the paper. I've yet to receive a response; I never received a response to my message in which I withdrew the paper from consideration.

[Up-Date (2024:02/30): On 29 March, just before mid-night PDT, I received a reply from the publisher, apologizing for the inconvenience and thanking me for my patience as the editor considered my manuscript. I responded

Stop. As I have said twice previously, RiE is no longer entitled to accept or reject this paper. You lost those options on 21 February.

The Editor-in-Chief received CCs from the agent and from me.]

A few days ago, I received a desk-rejection of the brief paper on the modality of qualitative probability, which paper I had thought might be too trivial to warrant publication. The editor did not give me a clear understanding of why he rejected the paper, but he probably thought it too trivial to warrant publication.

### Philosophic Manga

Saturday, 23 March 2024

For many years, every manga that I had ever encountered was simply lousy. I came to have little expectation that any were not, but I was aware of Sturgeon's Revelation,[1] and so I would still occasionally look at manga. Eventually, I found some that were quite good, and even a few that were brilliant. I'd like to mention two that I find very interesting as works of philosophy.

Philosophy in general is sometimes characterized as consideration of the True, of the Good, and of the Beautiful. I don't know of a manga to which I'd point as a worthwhile meditation on the Beautiful, but I can point to one manga that has interesting ideas about the True, and another that is a wonderful meditation on the Good.

The official English-language title of the light novel 紫色のクオリア [Murasakiiro no Qualia], by Ueo Hisamitsu, and of its manga adaptation (by Ueo with illustrations by Tsunashima Shirou) is Qualia the Purple, but a better rendering would be Purple's Qualia or The Qualia of Purple. The story is marketted as yuri (work with a theme of romantic love or sexual attraction between females), and it has some elements of that theme, but most readers primarily seeking that theme are going to be generally frustrated.

The actual primary theme of the story is the uniqueness of the epistemics of each person. In response to the same stimuli, we have different sensations, and construct models that are very different not only in these building blocks but in subsequent structure. In the best cases, our models of the external world correspond very well to reality, and thus indirectly the models of one person correspond well to the models of another. But the maps are not the territories, and my maps are not your maps.

In Murasakiiro no Qualia, the character Yukari does not model animals and machines as fundamentally different. However, unlike a couple of other characters, Yukari does not think any less of living creatures for being machines; she treats machines with genuine affection and sometimes love. Moreover, within the framework of the story, Yukari's model works. (I deliberately refrain here from providing examples.) Another character, Alice Foyle, produces what appear to be child-like drawings but contain solutions to challenging mathematic problems.

Ueo doesn't simply write of characters with special abilities flowing from looking at the world differently. Ueo proposes the idea that personal identity itself is located exactly in our respective internal differences of sensation and of all that we build from sensation.

The story also involves elements of speculative science fiction, to which I impute no value except as plot devices. I'm rather more interested in how the protagonist, Gakku, obsessively fights Fate, much as does Homura in Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika.

The official English-language title of 葬送のフリーレン [Sousou no Frieren], by Yamada Kanehito with excellent illustrations by Abe Tsukasa, is Frieren: Beyond Journey's End, though the pirate translations began with the closer translation Frieren at the Funeral; either of these titles is appropriate. (A more literal translation would be Frieren of the Funeral.) This series has become a huge critical and commercial success, and its anime adaptation has likewise become a huge critical and commercial success. (At this time, I've watched only clips of the anime.) Frieren begins with the return of a party of four adventurers after they have saved the world from a Demon King, a quest that they accepted a decade earlier.

The eponymous Frieren is an Elven maga, who had lived a quiet, meandering life for more than a millennium before joining the party, and who can expect to live many millennia more. During the celebration, Frieren casually makes plans to meet the other members of the party, in another fifty years. The significance to human beings of half a century does not begin to register with her until she returns, and finds Himmel, the once youthful leader of the party, to be an old man. And, when not much later Himmel dies, Frieren struggles to understand both how someone with whom she had spent only ten years could have come to mean so much to her, and how she could have failed to recognize that she had only another fifty or so years which she could have spent with him and did not.

Thereafter, Frieren is the story of the further adventures of this Elf, with occasional flashbacks to her time with the party who defeated the Demon King. What's really being delivered is both a bitter-sweet love story — as Frieren comes over decades to recognize that Himmel was the great love of her life — and an extended meditation on the importance of relationships, on the meaning of life, and on the nature of ethics. (The other commentary that I've encountered has missed both the point that Frieren loved and loves Himmel, and the consideration of ethics.)

As to ethics, I'll note that Himmel implicitly rejected the Utilitarian calculus and anything like it, and within the story the ethics that he instead embodied have, since the time of the quest, been propagating. Humans and Dwarves explain their acts of local goodness by saying That's what Himmel would have done. The world of Frieren continues to grow more humane, because of Himmel, long after his death.

Sousou no Frieren is a story that has more than once made me laugh aloud, not because of any jest, but because the author has made some excellent choice, often in having a character do something very right, but sometimes the author's choice involves other things. At least twice, his choice has concerned the rôle of Fate — once to challenge a character, and at another time to treat two of the characters with love.

[1] Ninety percent of everything is crud. Sturgeon did not claim that 10% of everything is not crud; the ninety percent is merely a lower bound. (And a metaphoric one at that, though I encountered one fool who tried to argue as if the legitimacy of Sturgeon's Revelation hung upon a literal interpretation of ninety percent.)

### Long COVID as a Description and as a Name

Friday, 15 March 2024

In the case of what has been called long COVID, two opposing camps are lost in a confusion of name with description.

The idea that SarsCoV-2 would have peculiar long-term effects upon health was immediately popular in some circles for appalling reasons, and thus viewed in other circles with strong inclination to disbelief.

Eventually, a cluster of persistent symptoms came to be widely associated with SarsCoV-2. Some of these symptoms are clearly present in some people, and not psychosomatic. But a very reasonable question is that of whether these symptoms are actually caused by SarsCoV-2, or have some other cause or causes. For some months now, the evidence has strongly indicated that, no, these are, variously, not effects of SarsCoV-2, or are common to respiratory or viral illness more generally. As a description, long COVID has been falsified, but it has lingered as a name.

I continue to encounter recent articles in prestigious, allegedly scientific journals that simply treat as given that these symptoms are caused by SarsCoV-2. An established name is treated as if it were a description. Now some institutions are beginning to insist reasonably that the name long COVID be abandoned, as inapt. But I'm encountering journalists and pundits who thence infer and claim that long COVID does not exists.

That inference doesn't follow if by long COVID is meant a cluster of symptoms, which symptoms are exactly what have been investigated under the name. Only if long COVID is taken to be defined as these symptoms resulting from SarsCoV-2 could we say that nothing fits the concept corresponding to the name.

I doubt that any Briton defined the French disease as especially French. In any case, telling a typical Briton that what he called the French disease did not exist would be tantamount to telling him that syphilis did not exist. What he should instead have been told was that syphilis were not particularly French, and ought to be called something else.

Likewise, the declarations should not be that long COVID does not exist.

### Two More Transoms, and a Note Tost over Another

Thursday, 14 March 2024

The journal to which, on 21 February, I submitted my paper on Sraffa rejected it with the familiar suggestion that I submit it to a journal on the history of thought. An administrator at the next journal to which I submitted it — with a cover letter that, amongst other things, explained why the article did not belong in a journal of history of thought — asked that I shorten it by about 25%, and insisted that my cover letter, which had been written specifically for that journal, needed to be explicitly addressed to the editors. I deleted the submission altogether.

On 24 February, I submitted to another journal, again with a cover letter explaining why the article did not belong in a journal of history of thought. Although the submission form did not require that I specify an institutional affiliation, an administrator contacted me requiring that I provide one. I entered [NONE]; evidently that response was sufficient. For something like ten or eleven days though, the reported status of the paper was that it were undergoing an initial check. Then, for a few days, the reported status was Pending Editor Assignment. When I checked this morning, the status was Under Review.

I'd say that the greatest danger to the paper is that it will be regarded as too long for the journal in question. If their declared ceiling is firm, then indeed the paper is too long; but I know of at least one academic journal that baldly states a ceiling, only later to provide an opportunity to appeal on behalf of a paper that exceeds that ceiling.

The next journal in my queue explicitly does not set a maximum length for papers.

By the way, the journal from which I yanked my paper on 21 February still has the thing listed in their submission system, with seemingly frozen status.

Some time ago, I had the idea for a very short academic paper — called a note — on a potential pitfall in translating from generalized probability to modal logic. After I banged-out a draft of the note, I asked one friend if he thought the point too trivial to bother seeking publication; when he got back to me on Tuesday, he said that he didn't think the point too trivial. Another friend had suggested that I let the editors and referees decide that question. Meanwhile, I had thought that I ought to restructure the presentation a bit. I effected a restructuring early this morning, before going to sleep, and then submitted the note in the after-noon.

### Fifteen-Minute Problem

Thursday, 14 March 2024

I often use the expression 15-minute problem in reference to a problem that could be or could have been solved very quickly (epitomally in as little as fifteen minutes), but won't be or wasn't solved quickly, and perhaps wasn't solved at all, because those who could have solved it didn't want to pay the cost of solving it, and indeed may have regarded solving it in any manner to be itself a cost, rather than a benefit.

### Common yet Ignored Uses

Saturday, 9 March 2024

Some standard dictionaries do not acknowledge the most common uses of the terms dimension and intuition. I don't subscribe to the doctrine — often accepted dogmatically — that common use is the ultimate arbiter of proper use. Moreover, I think that the most common use of dimension (which use arose in ignorant pomposity) is lousy and that the most common use of intuition invites needless confusion. Still, I'm surprised to have the most common use of the former missed altogether, and the most common use of the latter only found glancingly in a definition of another term.

The word dimension originally referred to a measurement between [two things]. When scientists and mathematicians use the singular dimension in reference to space, they mean one of some set of measures or measurements such that a set of these dimensions can jointly identify a position in that space or the extent of something occupying that space. When they declare time to be a fourth dimension, what they mean is that the relationship of time to what we ordinarily regard as space is such that we may as well treat time with space as a single continuum of four measures. When they use dimension to refer to something not meant to be regarded as a measure of this space-time continuum, they mean for it to be treated as none-the-less a measure or measurement, as if it might be graphed.

Some people listening to the scientists and mathematicians, especially as discussion of Einstein's Theories of Relativity began exciting them, tried to figure-out the meaning of dimension from context; other people just faked an understanding, with no real concern for proper meaning. A result was that in the popular imagination, the word dimension came to mean a system that would ordinarily seem to be an independent universe. Extraordinary means would be required to travel from one of these things called a dimension to any other, if such travel were at all possible.

This use was well established in popular fantasy and in science fiction before Rod Serling began presenting The Twilight Zone, but the use and the confusion whence it arose is reflected in some of his prologues, such as this:

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone.

In any case, grab a copy of the OED, of the SOED, or of a Merriam-Webster dictionary; you simply won't find a definition matching this most common use.

You will find at least recent editions of the AHD offering A realm of existence, as in a work of fiction, that is physically separate from another such realm. But you won't find that dictionary actually supporting the most common use of the word intuition.

The word intuition originally referred to direct apprehension. To claim intuition was to claim knowledge without intermediation by anything. The word gained some slightly less breath-taking meanings, but in all cases referred to knowledge, rather than to fallible belief.

But, when the ordinary person uses the word intuition, he or she is not making a claim of infallibility. Rather, intuition is used to refer to inclination of belief, for which no defense is offered in terms of a careful chain of reasoning.

One also doesn't find that more common and more modest use acknowledged in the entries for intuition in the OED, in the SOED, or in a Merriam-Webster dictionary. But I note that in the SOED entry for hunch, the definition is in terms of intuition, yet the two examples given refer each to fallible belief, one overtly. (The other previously mentioned dictionaries also refer to intuition in defining hunch. I've not checked the examples in the OED entry for hunch.)