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

[2] Simber effect

[3] Ethnic differences

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.


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.

Further reflections on Covid-19

The make or break period for Western countries is pretty much over. Most of Europe managed to control the virus. Except Sweden, which is paying for its special strategy. This doesn’t mean these countries are out of the woods. Covid-19 will keep simmering and mismanagement or mishaps might lead to the occasional bigger outbreak. The US is pretty much done for. If they don’t science their way out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves, fatalities will reach several hundred thousand by the end of the year. With both sides of the political spectrum now not giving a damn, shut-downs and social distancing will not get the virus under control. And with riots ongoing and the election coming up this will not change.

In the third world Covid-19 is taking off. Unfortunately the low average age in these countries doesn’t seem to mitigate the death toll much if at all. Healthcare and the general health status of the population seems to matter too much. For the really lowest tier countries we won’t even know how many died. I expect estimates to be all over the place.

I still think the probability that Covid-19 escaped from WIV is substantial, but I don’t know whether it’s closer to 20% or 80%. I assume we will never know, because the matter is complicated enough that the general public will not be able to assess arguments made by evolutionary virologists and of course in the absence of a slam-dunk proof politics will rule the day.

The forecast website Metaculus has the question „Will it turn out that Ovid-19 originated inside a research lab in Hubei“, with a median prediction of 16% down from 20% a few days ago. Of course this is not the same as to ask whether it actually originated in a Chinese lab, so the Metaculus-derived probability for that should be significantly higher. Consider this a sanity check.

However, there is the possibility that this state of affairs will not be good enough for China and at the end of this year or maybe at the start of 2021 they will publish the ultimate proof that Covid-19 is of natural origin. Maybe they’ll find a predecessor of the virus with the furin-site but without the spike-protein, maybe even among samples taken from the Wuhan wet market. If that happens, I’ll update my probability estimate to >95% for a lab accident.

The mirrored contradictions in leftist and right wing ideology

The left is anti-war, anti-violence, anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-nationalism. The anti-racism pillar has led to leftist generally preferring minorities over white people. Especially underprivileged minorities, such as Africans, Hispanics, Muslims, who all have to deal with a considerable amount of prejudice in the general population. Unfortunately for the left, this package of beliefs leads to the central contradiction, that these preferred demographics are generally much more sexist, racist, nationalist and violent than Whites.

The cope is a form of magical thinking: The badness of Whites makes non-Whites do bad things. Systemic racism, which can’t be quantified. Stereotype threat, which ascribes the power to Whites to change other peoples abilities just by having an opinion. Colonialism, which is still the reason for the existence of most of the railroad infrastructure in Africa, has retarded Africas development. Etc.

As I’ve discussed in a previous blogpost this is mirrored by the central contradiction of far-right ideologies: Despite their raison-d’etre being the awesomeness of Whites, the far-right is shifted along all ideological dimensions in the direction of the hated minorities. They complain about „pathological altruism“ and all the other left-wing traits that are exactly what differentiates Whites from almost all other groups.

They try to square the circle with antisemitic conspiracy theories. Whites are awesome, but Jews brainwashed them into population suicide. This again mirrors the left-wing cope: All the unwanted qualities of the preferred group are due to the evil meddling of another group.

The difference is of course, that the left has won the culture war (at least in the west) and can pour their particular blend of bullshit into the minds of all people via education, media and politics. There is also the long-term possibility that once minorities have reached critical mass, the left-wing delusion will seamless transform into the right-wing delusion with Whites being booted out of the coalition and getting handed the role of the Jews.

The New York Times riots

I try to keep this blog non-political, so I am just going to offer a few facts and observations that are orthogonal to the media coverage.

Fifteen unarmed black men were killed by the police in 2019 in the US. (Compared to 25 unarmed white men.) [1]
Unarmed is a somewhat poor proxy for harmless or innocent. If George Floyd is representative even these unarmed victims are ex-cons for armed robbery, high on fentanyl and trying to pay with counterfeit money. Which doesn’t mean they should be killed, but it does mean that their fate does not allow generalization to the non-criminal population.

Given that mostly armed criminals are shot by the police, you can’t take over representation compared to the population as indication of police bias. Instead you have to compare the number fatal shootings with the percentage of violent criminals of each racial group. Given that African Americans commit roughly half of all violent crimes in the US, despite being only 13% of the population [2], it is pretty astounding that they only account for 25% of the victims of police shootings.

The number of 15 killed unarmed black men and even the total number of 236 black men being shot by the police in 2019, is dwarfed by the 20.000 black victims of the Corona virus. The protests will almost certainly kill more innocent African Americans via increased virus transmission than the police would kill in the next couple of decades.

Of course one also has to consider the aim of the protests to reduce racism in the US. If there is one way to reduce racism in the US, it’s to provide a ton of videos of black men vandalizing and looting stores with the occasional assault on white people thrown in. Now that’s for sure.

The trend in police shootings of black men has been 258, 234, 224, 229, 236 from 2015 to 2019, so nothing really changed. If we observe some kind of trend coming to a head and leading to widespread violence, looting and burning, it must be some other trend …

By Zach Goldberg
By Zach Goldberg

[1] Washington Post police shooting database

[2] Wikipedia – race and crime

Testosterone and IQ

Almost twenty years ago I encountered the two-pronged IQ dilemma for the first time, when I realized that almost every second famous chess player was of Jewish descent. Around the same time I began to wonder why there are zero African mathematical or technological geniuses. This was genuinely troubling to me and in the first case I quickly accepted the reason brought forth by a book of chess history, that the systematic study of the Talmud uniquely prepared Jewish kids for playing high-level chess. I now know that this is at most superficially plausible as a closer look reveals that players like Gary Kasparov, Bobby Fischer or Levon Aronian likely never even set a foot in a synagogue.

My cope for the absence of African genius in technical areas was more ingenious and anticipated this blog to a certain degree. I had read about the Eysenck-study which is still a favorite of newspapers to trot out whenever the need arises. The Eysenck study was published in several steps so the numbers are different depending on which part one cites, but the way I remember the newspaper article, the kids of African-American GIs in Germany had an IQ of 99 for the boys and of 101 for the girls. I had also read that testosterone levels correlate negatively with IQ (for men). Despite almost two decades going by I still remember the claim, that this relationship was so robust that it was easily replicable with shoe size and math scores in a random class. Apparently there was an ideal testosterone level for mental achievements, which was in the low male range.

So I took these two disparate facts and combined them into the theory that higher testosterone levels in Africans raised the IQ of African women by bringing them closer to the low male level, but lowered the IQ of African men. The Eysenck-study was evidence in that direction, because the kids were only ten years old and only half African, so it was plausible that this bifurcation would show in full force after puberty. This fit perfectly with the evidence and the leftwing worldview I was raised in: The average IQ of all groups where the same, but patriarchy in Africa suppressed the expression of the superior mental abilities of African women.

Very happy with that theory I avoided checking any facts that might disabuse me off it. Of course the reality is that African women do not tend to do better in mathematics or IQ tests than African men. The testosterone-IQ-connection does not seem to have gained much traction either. However, it still strikes me as very plausible. Rarely are mathematicians or chess professionals particularly well muscled and rarely does it make sense to listen to what a physical athlete has to say. I was reminded of this again, when I saw the AlphaGo documentary recently released on youtube and listened to the unusually high voice of Lee Sedol.

That same high voice I had already noticed among top level chess players, for example, of the top of my head, Viswanathan Anand, Peter Leko, Veselin Topalov, Ivan Cheparinov and Anatoly Karpov. Now, there is such a thing as confirmation bias, so this list containing no less than three world champions does not constitute much evidence. But it would be an interesting project to quantitatively assess the pitch of the voice of top chess players compared to some baseline.