Update on Covid19

Truth to be told, I have gotten pretty bored with Covid. But things are picking up again, so maybe it makes sense to write down some idle speculation. Interestingly, we have mostly learned so far that we don’t have much of a clue of what’s going on. One of the reasons seems to be, that there isn’t really a binary distinction between „still vulnerable“ and „immune“. Instead there seems to be a spectrum of immunity.

If you just had a full blown infection, you are probably 99.9% immune. Reinfection might happen occasionally, but seems to be quite rare. But if you did not have a full blown infection, you might still have been exposed to the virus in small doses. This exposure already leads to some protection and when the day comes and you get enough viral particles up your nose to start the illness, you will have a milder case than without earlier exposure. If you have never been exposed to Covid19, you might have some protection because of earlier infections with other Corona-viruses. Karl Friston calls these phenomena „immunological dark matter“.

In the current second wave the case fatality rate is significantly lower than in spring. There are several possible reasons: One is the „dry tinder“ effect, which postulates that there is a certain number of old and frail people who are ready to go and are just waiting for the next severe flu. If the flu season has been mild, dry tinder accumulates and when Covid comes along it burns up. Now, we have burned through the tinder and death rates will stay low. In the summer lull this was a popular argument by anti-lockdown activist. They combined it with the claim that we had basically already reached herd immunity.

Unfortunately full herd immunity is unlikely for most places, as even cities like Madrid that have been hit hard in the first wave have strong second waves now. And without herd immunity it seems very unlikely that we have actually burned through more the 20-30% of the dry tinder. More likely reasons for the lower case fatality rate is increased testing, partial immunity by minor exposure and better treatment protocols.

The increased testing part is a bit scary, because it implies that currently we are slowing the growth rate by testing, diagnosing, isolating and tracking. This seems to be a benefit that will run out if the number of cases becomes too high. So at a certain point we might see an acceleration when testing and isolating happens for a much smaller fraction of cases than right now.

Karl Friston predicts that the second wave will kill far fewer people. Given that he is some 30-50 IQ points smarter than the average epidemiologist, he is well worth listening to. Unfortunately this might well hold for his native UK, but it obviously doesn’t hold for Eastern Europe and I doubt it automatically holds for Germany. Incompetence in the spring might be the best protection in the fall.

Developmental feedback disruption in modern environments

It was always clear to me that shortsightedness cannot be genetic despite being highly heritable. It is simply too disadvantageous in a pre-glasses environment. In recent years is has become clear that lack of exposure to sunlight is one of the culprits, though near-work such as reading is also likely to blame. Myopia is maybe the most common example of our modern lifestyle disrupting developmental feedback loops and leading to developmental disorders and malformations, but there are many others.

Allergies and asthma is another example. It has long been known, that these disorders are a result of lack of exposure to … dirt, basically.

Another example is flat feet. These are due to shoes preventing foot muscles from developing the strength to support a normal arch.

Now scientist seem to start looking into the development of jaws and teeth. Crooked teeth are a uniquely modern trend. Apparently in skulls older than 500 years, teeth almost always fit perfectly together. Our modern diet leads to an underdevelopment of especially the upper jaw, which means that teeth crowd into too little space. As a result teeth grow crooked, wisdom teeth need to be removed, teeth that just wont fit need to be pulled and the rest straightened by braces.

These stories set me thinking. What more developmental feedback loops might be disrupted by our modern environment? In which ways is our mental development disrupted, which role does developmental disruption play in anorexia, depression, ADHD, autism, etc?

It also gives me a different perspective on mutational load. Many of our developmental feedback loops are probably much more resistant to random mutations than to massive disruptions of the lifestyle we evolved to lead. Hopefully, a healthcare of the future incorporates these insights into preventive care that stops this kind of damage from occurring in childhood and teenage years.

Urbanisation and assortative mating

There are two dysgenic trends currently operating:
Populations with lower IQ have higher fertility rates. This is the main reason, why the average IQ is lower whenever a new version of the IQ-database is published [1].
Within almost all populations the fertility patterns are dysgenic because smarter people (mostly educated women) are having fewer kids.

Over time this should lead to exponentially fewer very high IQ people. However, this doesn’t seem to be happening just yet. Mathematics for example is enjoying a golden age, with century old problems being solved. The main reason for this is likely increased assortative mating.

Assortative mating is currently increasing mostly due to urbanization. The more ambitious and more capable people are drawn to the cities, often to study and ultimately to work, marry and have (too few) kids. The same mechanism also holds between countries with high IQ immigration, i.e the more ambitious and capable people from the global south are drawn to the economic powerhouses in the global north.
Additionally social segregation ensures that people marry within the same class. Via gentrification and similar dynamics, more affluent people take over or maintain a grip on the nicer quarters.
This is also ultimately a result of urbanization. If you are rich in a village, you live in the biggest house, but if you are rich in a city you live among your peers, spatially segregated from the lower classes.

One impressive example for the effect of these mechanisms is the intellectual output of Budapest’s jews in the first half of the 20th century. Before the Holocaust roughly a quarter of 800,000 Hungarian Jews lived in Budapest. These 200,000 people produced a handful of super geniuses that together among many other things build the first atomic bomb [2]. It is certainly plausible that stronger assortative mating and a certain amount of self-selection of city dwellers raised the number of geniuses in Budapest even beyond what one could expect from 200.000 people from a group with an average IQ of probably around 110.

Of course in the medium term covering our need for technological and scientific geniuses via increased assortative mating is not sustainably. Let’s hope it lasts until we engineer our way out of the dysgenic dilemma.

[1] https://viewoniq.org
[2] https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/05/26/the-atomic-bomb-considered-as-hungarian-high-school-science-fair-project/

Cad-Dad-Theory

One of the basic HBD-theories is the Cad-Dad-theory. The general idea is that in societies where women are dependent on a male provider to raise children successfully to adulthood, people evolve over time to have stable longterm relationships. Generally it is evolutionarily advantageous for men to just move on to the next fertile woman once a lover is pregnant, but this is not a behavior favored by evolution if it means your children will die. So men evolve to be dads.

This is supposed to have happened in European peoples because for a couple of thousand years plowing was work that required a man’s strength, so women and their children generally depended on a male provider. In Africa however, horticulture was and is the norm, i.e. cultivating gardens with a hoe, not a plow. This was and still is to a large degree women’s work. So in Africa women had the ability to provide for their children on their own. According to the theory, African men consequently stayed „cads“. Random internet dictionary: „an ill-bred man, especially one who behaves in a dishonorable or irresponsible way towards women.

This theory is then used to explain the high rates of single motherhood in African Americans, which is somewhere in the vicinity of 75% and the low rate of marriage. Now for all I know, this theory might well be completely correct. But in this blogpost I want to point out, that African Americans are certainly not a good choice to prove the correctness of the theory or gauge the size of this trait difference, for two simple reasons:

As we know, African Americans average 15 IQ points below the white mean and have the correspondingly lower socio-economic status. If you would control for these factors, the difference between whites and blacks in single motherhood or stable relationships would certainly shrink significantly. The difference attributable to IQ and SES differences cannot at the same time be attributed to some evolved character trait.

Additionally, and maybe even more importantly, the sex ratio of the African American community is severely skewed. This is mostly due to the fact the young African American men are quite likely to get shot or to go to jail (for example for shooting another African American man). In the fertile age range the ratio of women to men in the African American community is something like 130:100. This oversupply of women leads to significantly worse treatment of women and less stable relationships as has been shown for example by using the local variation in sex ratio in Chinese municipalities.

If you control for these two factors I wonder how much of the discrepancy would still remain.

Higher variance in men

In this blog post I want to discuss the observation that got Harvard president Larry Summers into trouble. Summers mentioned in a 2005 talk that men generally have a higher variance in cognitive ability and opined that this might explain the under representation of women in top level science. This led to intense negative press and was likely a factor in his resignation in the following year.

In mathematical ability this ratio of standard deviations for boys and girls is generally around 1.2. This can be observed in the math SAT (where you have to correct for the fact that more girls take the test) and in almost all countries that participate in PISA. This seems like a small difference but it quickly has a very noticeable tail effect. For example, if we put the mean at 100 and the female standard deviation at 15 to make the numbers IQ-like, that going two standard deviations beyond the mean puts girls at 130 and boys at 136. Because an IQ of 130 is roughly 1:50 but an IQ of 136 is roughly 1:100, we can expect to see twice as many boys as girls at the ability level around 136.

Of course being right didn’t help Larry Summers any.

But higher variance for men in all traits that are relevant for fitness also makes evolutionary sense. To see that, it is easiest to instead look at women. Higher variance in this case means that dice with more pips are thrown for fitness relevant traits. So if women had high variance in fitness relevant traits they would risk losing out, but also have the chance to win big. Unfortunately for women that is a bad gamble, because the number of kids they can have in a lifetime is limited by nature. Losing would mean 0 kids, but winning might mean 12 kids instead of 8 (in an environment long ago with nasty childhood mortality on top).

For men this gamble makes more sense, because they can have up to 1000 kids! Which much more nicely balances the chance to have 0. So if there is a way for evolution to increase the standard deviation in men for fitness relevant traits, we should expect to see this.

And in fact there is such a way! The X chromosome only occurs once in a male human cell, but twice in female cells. To handle the superfluous X chromosome, female cells randomly inactivate one of the X chromosomes during embryogenesis. This happens early but not early enough that women are not mosaics of different activated X chromosomes. So the traits encoded on the X chromosomes are averaged over two Xs in women, and are not averaged at all in men!

This increases the standard deviation for men of all traits encoded on the X chromosome compared to women. Unsurprisingly, the X chromosome is found to be enriched for the most fitness relevant traits like height and intelligence.

So we do have the observation, an evolutionary reason and a biological mechanism!

But we are already used to even the most clear cut fact in IQ research being extremely controversial.

Lies by omission in IQ matters

When newspapers or generally mainstream media talk IQ, which occasionally they feel compelled to do, the reporting is often less than complete. You might term it desperate if you don’t want to call it dishonest. After all this is a topic where just mentioning an unequivocal fact might have very negative consequences on your career as a journalist.

In this post I want to point out several types of „lies by omission“ that one should look out for in these circumstances.

Trick number one: Compare childhood IQ, not adult IQ.

Childhood IQ is much more malleable than adult IQ, so this is a way to circumvent the fact that in the long term IQ has almost zero shared environment effect [1]. This trick can be used to show the efficacy of interventions (just don’t ever follow up on the kids) or to prove that disparities in abilities are influenced by some environmental difference. But it goes further than that. Some ethnic disparities in IQ grow with age. For Arab kids this is called the „Simber effect“ [2]. In some studies this effect also shows up for the black-white gap. So by looking only at children, you can effectively hide a big part of an IQ gap that explains disparities in income and other life outcomes.

Trick number two: Ignore the g-factor.

The g-factor is the part of IQ that is both the heritable part and the predictive part. The rest of IQ is basically a measurement problem, which among other things, leads to the Flynn effect. The Flynn effect, the rise of IQ scores observed in many countries in the last century, does not increase g. The increases for the different subtests are anti-correlated with how predictive they are of the g-factor. By omitting these little facts, the Flynn effect can be used to invalidate all kind of observations about heritability and predictiveness of IQ and of the relative permanence of IQ gaps between groups.

Trick number three: Don’t mention the sample size or other sample attributes.

Social science is full of small scale studies that do not replicate. Especially small scale studies with politically expedient results. So there is always something to cite, to prove your point of view. Here is the rub, the main IQ results are extremely robust and often have massive sample sizes. The gap between white and black Americans for example is estimated by a meta study with N=6.000.000! [3] So studies that „refute“ such a result with sample sizes of a few hundred or maybe even just a few dozens should sensibly dismissed out of hand. Especially because these small studies often suffer from egregious sampling problems.

[1] Wilson effect
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23919982/

[2] Simber effect
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320310317_Understanding_the_Simber_Effect_Why_is_the_age-dependent_increase_in_children’s_cognitive_ability_smaller_in_Arab_countries_than_in_Britain

[3] Ethnic differences
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2001.tb00094.x

Ancestral Environment

A few years back I designed a better evolutionary ancestral environment for homo sapiens. It’s on an island of moderate size, where you can grow all kinds of stuff, but only on a small percentage of the area maybe 1% that is spread out over the entire island. In the rest of the ground only a kind of tuber growth which is very nutritious and doesn’t require any cultivation, but it has a small side effect: it’s a very strong contraceptive.

The idea is this setup prevents any kind of Malthusian trap. When is the population grows too much a growing number of people has to eat the tuber to get by. And because those people don’t have any children the population in turn starts declining in an entirely nonviolent fashion. Because the tuber is always available there is no famine, women are not dependent on a man for their children to survive. So they have no reason to evolve to be quite as crazy.

Because the normal diet contains the strong contraceptive, women don’t have to be very choosy with their partners because they will only bear children when they consciously stop eating the tuber. Because there is no overpopulation and women are not particularly choosy, men evolve to be less violent and boisterous. Because you don’t only have to get into a woman’s pants to procreate, but you actually have to convince her to want to have children with you, men evolve to be more supportive and stable partners.

Well, that was the idea anyway. I am absolutely sure evolution would find a way to fuck this up.

Sexual Capitalism vs Economic Capitalism

In my post The Problem with Polyamory, I opined that polyamory, the state or norm of having several partners, as well as dating apps and dating sites, make the human mating market more efficient. This is generally the case for sexual permissiveness.

This means that the political Left is against letting the invisible hand of the market work out the economic fate of people, but in favor of letting the invisible hand of the market work out the sexual fate of people, while for conservatives it’s the other way round.

Economic capitalism has the proven advantage of enabling unprecedented economic growth by aligning incentives for innovation and human nature. Similarly, we can expect sexual capitalism to improve partners and partnerships. For example, I assume that the current high rate of extremely fit people has a lot to do with sexual market pressures and opportunities.

Unfortunately for the Leftist standpoint there is a big difference between goods and partners.

Goods can be improved in quality and availability almost indefinitely. The possibility to innovate does not easily run out. A long history of economic growth can attest to that. That is the reason why we put up with the significant downsides of economic capitalism.

Partners on the other hand are limited by human nature. At least so far. There is no rising tide that eventually lifts all boats. Instead sexual capitalism just like economic capitalism leads to people winning big and people losing big. Without the redeeming feature that in the long run, even the losers of the future will be better off than the winners of the past.

Contagion

As you well know, there is a dangerous virus on the loose. Asian countries seem to not be particularly affected. Europe is hard hit, especially the UK. The US is pretty much going under. Naturally the question arises how contagious this virus is. Specifically, how easily it jumps from its initial breeding ground, the US, to other vulnerable societies, like western Europe.

I am talking of course about the rapidly spreading wokeism. An ideology at the core of which lies the omnipresence and omnipotence of racism by white people. Wokeism is a merge of a marxist inspired theory of oppression and a postmodern inspired focus on subjective sense making. This is why it is called postmodern marxism by some people, which is smugly criticized as a contradiction in terms – real marxists have a materialist world view that doesn’t gel well with postmodernism.

But the combination of real-world claims with the denial of objective truth is actually quite brilliant and necessary for wokeism, because the woke narrative is so out of whack with reality. „Systemic racism“ either cannot be measured or if measured, can not be causally connected to bad outcomes of „oppressed groups“. Racism seems to have especially bad effects if no white people are around (see Raj Chetty’s work), which is why segregation is considered evil. The over performance of many quite different Asian groups has to systematically be left out for any narratives of systemic racism to make even superficial sense. The health outcomes of Hispanics don’t conform to a narrative of oppression. The black murder rate or average scholastic performance is not even remotely explainable by differences in parental income. Etc ad infinitum.

In the US the ideology seems to be endemic. Higher education and a huge chunk of the media work to spread it widely. We currently observe that wokeism is making massive inroads in lower education as well. Although the last months have seen looting, arson and an exploding murder rate in the wake of large-scale protests that are fueled by wokeism, neither the Democratic party, nor the media nor any large company dares to condemn even these violent excesses much less the underlying narrative that should be deeply insulting to any American.

Some pundits have been hinting at „peak woke“ in the last few years. Their predictions unfortunately fail to gel with burning town halls, autonomous zones and raising pressure to conform ideologically, evident in obligatory „diversity, equity and inclusion-statements“ and anti-racism trainings.

Maybe it’ll all blow over. Maybe corporate anti-racism trainings will be a fad like walking over burning coals for team building. Maybe public pressure against police brutality and racism will actually reduce police brutality and racism, that would certainly be nice.

But maybe we are witnessing the first stages of racist commie takeover. If that is the case, the hope for the rest of the West is to stave off the infection until the US is burning good and proper and even our media can no longer ignore the purges, massive grift, lies, hate and violence.

Of all European countries the UK is most vulnerable for two reasons: Shared history and shared language with the US + additional skeletons in the closet. These make woke talking points easy to transfer. With transatlantic slave trade, colonialism, imperialism, tax induced famines with tens of millions of deaths and an under performing minority of darker skinned people, small wonder statues are already being pulled down.

France historically has had the boon of poor English language abilities, which is very conducive to cultural flourishing and might have slowed the infection. On the other hand, a rapidly growing lower class of Berbers, Arabs and sub-saharan Africans coupled with a history of colonialism means that all the seeds are there for a rapid adoption of woke ideology.

In Germany woke talking points have been pushed by the media for more than a decade. But Germany’s colonial history is short and overshadowed by WW2 and the holocaust, which cannot be as easily integrated into wokeism because the victims were almost all white. Additionally Germany’s under performing non-white populations are mostly Turks and Arabs at this point, which historically have been imperialist and genocidal slave traders. In fact the tries to shoehorn the very US-specific woke ideology onto the completely different structure of the German society are often just embarrassing. And while there is the occasional racism scandal in Germany there is nothing even remotely approaching US cancel culture, where it’s open season on wrong thinkers.

Only time will tell whether the rather severe case of ideological poisoning will infect European countries to a similar degree as the US. But at the moment I am at least cautiously optimistic that we still have some time to observe the progression in the US without having to worry about the same events happening in Europe in very short order.

Synthetic porn is coming – no pun intended

Like many of my posts and analyses this title and the general idea is already a few years old. Now websites like thesenudesdonotexist.com are starting to try to make money with artificially generated nude pictures and I better speed up to publish before reality overtakes me.

In the last few years the generation of fully synthetic but photorealistic pictures has made a lot of progress with techniques like generative adversarial networks (GANs) or variational autoencoders (VAs). GANs are capable of creating realistic high definition pictures of human faces, while VAs encode human faces into vectors that allow the generation and modification of pictures of faces. For example by modifying the correct dimensions of the face vectors the resulting picture might have the face turned to one side or have glasses added or have any other detail or characteristic changed that varies between human faces.

Faces generated from VAs can be modified via vector arithmetic.

These results are especially impressive for pictures of faces and the reason is pretty simple: Compared to how two random pictures from the internet might differ, human faces differ along much fewer dimensions. This low dimensionality allows for the precise modeling with todays compute.

Video generation is on much lower level. Video is of course extremely high dimensional and learning from videos still requires enormous amounts of compute. Actually accurately modeling videos for automatic generation seems pretty far away.

However, porn might be the exception here for at least three reasons:
– Porn should be quite low dimensional compared to … well almost any other type of videos really. With enough compute it is probably already possible to model (and generate) stills from porn videos with impressive accuracy.
– There is no shortage of training data.
– There is a strong incentive to create synthetic porn as soon as it becomes remotely feasible.

I assume at some point somebody is going to scrape the funding together to compute porn-stills embeddings with massive compute and then learn the series of embedding vectors that make up a video using a transformer or LSTM. Finally maybe some GANs to fill in high definition detail.

This would allow for strongly customizable on-demand porn and automate a lot of actors and actresses out of their job.