## Archive for the ‘commentary’ 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 undertaken 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 and of a lack of redunancy for another.

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.

### On Distributions of Measurable Human Attributes (A Prologue)

Monday, 8 July 2024

Often, when talking about the distribution of measurable human attributes, people refer to the bell curve, which is to say to a Gaussian distribution, more commonly known as a normal distribution.

One immediate difficulty is that the Gaussian distribution extends symmetrically without lower limit to measurements with positive probability, whereas the natural measures of most of the attributes that will interest us have lower limits of possibility (typically at or above zero). For example, no one has negative weight or negative height. Simply truncating the lower bound of a Gaussian distribution usually doesn't make a great deal of sense, because few people will even be near the lower bound, rather than a fair number at it or just barely above it.

Instead, the distribution will more typically look something like this:

Mind you that measures can always be transformed, and a measure that has a lower bound of b can be transformed into a measure without lower bound simply by the device of subtracting the bound and then taking a logarithm: measure1(x) = loge[measure0(x) - b] Some set of transformations can surely be used to arrive at one with a distribution that is well approximated by a Gaussian distribution. But, for the most part, I'd rather use natural or familiar measures than manipulate the data to arrive at a Gaussian distribution, especially as one otherwise typically needs to invert the transformations at the end of the analysis, to make sense of things.

In the near future, I plan to post an entry about misreading the consequences of different variances in different human populations. What I have to say could all be expressed in terms of Gaussian distributions, but I don't want to do so, nor did I want that future entry to begin with a discussion such as that here.

### 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.

### There Is No Pie

Sunday, 26 May 2024

Imagining all of a society's various generation and allocation of goods and services as if the creation and distribution of one big pie is very much analogous to imagining all of the sexual interactions of that society as one enormous orgy.

### Endorsement

Saturday, 13 April 2024

I have not voted for any Presidential candidate since the 1988 General Election, and I will not be voting for any Presidential candidate in the 2024 General Election.

As I and very many people before me have noted, my vote or non-vote in any present election of significance has no effect on the outcome that election. The margin by which any candidate in such an election wins or loses is always in the thousands of vote, so that an individual vote could be given to a different candidate or simply not cast, without a different winner resulting. But, as I have also noted, a vote cast or withheld in a present election has some effect, albeït usually very small, on the subsequent behavior of those active in the political process, as they have a sense of what they can't, can, or must do to win the next election, based upon the margins of victory and votes altogether withheld.

The least effective thing that a potential voter can do is to vote for a candidate whom he or she dislikes.

[…]

The most effective thing that a potential voter as such can do is to vote for a candidate of whom that voter approves, even if that candidate has no chance of winning, or to submit a ballot from which no candidate receives a vote.

I endorse submitting a ballot in which no Presidential candidate is selected. Where not given a better option to reject all candidates explicitly, a voter should enter something such as [ALL CANDIDATES REJECTED!] as-if a write-in vote, to prevent a poll-worker or election official otherwise taking advantage of the opportunity to check a box for his or her preferred candidate.

In the General Elections after 1988 and through 2020, I considered the Presidential nominees of the Libertarian Party, but rejected each. When, in 2020, Jo Jorgensen joined the pile on top of those who lost their jobs for saying all lives matter, I decided that I would not vote for any subsequent Presidential nominee of that party unless he or she unequivocally denounced Jorgensen and this later nominee's campaign acted to make Jorgensen's victims whole. Of course, I considered the chances of a nominee's taking such responsibility to be negligible.

Then, in August of 2021, Rebecca Lau, Chairman of the Manhattan Libertarian Party from 18 June 2021 to 10 October 2023, wrote My opinion is that the unvaccinated should die. This declaration began a cascade of fifteen-minute problems, with the Manhattan Libertarian Party, then the New York Libertarian Party, then the Libertarian Party National Committee, and finally all the remaining parties affilitated with the LPNC not effecting solutions. I consequently vowed never again to vote for any candidate of these parties for any office.

### 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.

### No Brokawing, Please!

Friday, 15 March 2024

As far as I'm concerned, any generation of people who produce a generation of fuck-ups is itself a generation of fuck-ups.

Gen Z was produced by Generations X and Y. Generation Y was produced by the Boomers and by Generation X. Generation X was produced by the Silent Generation and by the Boomers. The Boomers were produced by the Greatest Generation and by the Silent Generation. The Silent Generation was produced by the Lost Generation and by the Greatest Generation. And so on back.

Any general condemnation of Gen Z is a general condemnation of all these prior generations. Personally, I'm prepared to make those condemnations. Most people of my generation are fuck-ups.

### 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.