Quantitating the Cult

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There are omnipresent nods to the “Cult of Diversity” in the mainstream culture. This is no longer a powerful faction, it is now an essential face of the State Cult as well as the Elite Cult. But what exactly is diversity??? How do you precisely describe it?

One way to do it is simply transpose into sociological discourse the usages of information theory common in ecology. For example, the index of species diversity:

In this case, s = number of species pi = proportion of total sample belonging to ith species.

The maximum diversity you can attain is obviously:

In other words, every individual within the population is of a different species.

The “evenness” or “equitability” of the population is given by:

The relevance to discussions of “diversity” is obviously that H’ and J’ are related, but they are not equivalent. In verbal terms, there are different ways one can attain a state of diversity. How relevant it is to your perception of aspects of public policy are dependent on your values and your goals. For example, in regards to immigration, the record of writings and opinions expressed on this weblog by me over the past 3 years suggest that I favor 1) a relatively non-diverse stream of immigrants in terms of educational qualifications (they should be above the population median), 2) but diverse in terms of national origin (so that group mobilization of non-natives is dampened). I also of course prefer that the stream is moderate enough that the rate of absorption is in equilibrium with the rate of immigration. Now, in everyday discourse “diversity” is clearly sometimes highly sensitive to the states of “s,” that is, an Asian is not interchangeable with a Latino is not interchangeable with a black (see How Asians became White by Imbler Volokh). On the other hand not all dimensions have equal weighting. Who talks about the “diversity” that working class people of all races bring to a firm, as opposed to specific racial minorities (be they privileged by class or not)?

Those of us who dissent from the Cult of Diversity are at a sharp disadvantage at the current juncture. Nevertheless, the guerrilla strikes must continue until the day someone runs into the marketplace and declares that God is dead. At that point, we will be ready to offer an alternative, and more ancient, vision. But there will also be others, ready to offer a tried and true formula. Remember, the Cult is simply metastable.

Addendum: Let me be specific as to why I posted this, I really tire of the abstract, idealized and mysterious moving targets of “diversity.” I recently read a Guardian piece about 49 Up. I’ve watched all the previous episodes of this series, and plan to watch this one in the near future, but the columnist states: “There is only one black participant and only four of the 12 are women.” First, the participant is of mixed-race. Second, fact, the UK is 92% white in 2001. 1 out of 12 is about an 8% representation on the show, about right. But since the show selected its participants in the 1960s, one should more properly judge the representation by the proportions in those days. The overall point is that like the commonly accepted claims of Mystery Religions even the most superficially ludicrous contentions of the Cult of Diversity get a pass. This is because True Diversity is not something that exists in this world, it exists in the Other World, the Kingdom of Heaven. The numbers really don’t matter from what I can tell because those who promote diversity most strenuously seem to see numbers as means, not ends (else why not more concern about the declining proportion of males receiving bachelor’s degrees?). In the near future I’ll offer what I think appropriate (acceptable) H’ and J’ values for the USofA are, with stipulations about the character of species diversity (so to speak).


  1. Razib, when are you going to write a book?

  2. let me entertain your query seriously. i would ask, what should i write about? and, let me offer if i have to ask you such a question, i shouldn’t be writing any books in the near future :)

  3. You should write a “Lies my biology teacher told me” type of book, basically a book-length FAQ that you’d write for this site. There are simply too many half-truths and lies that come up over… and over… and over… Lewontin’s Fallacy being a prime example. Plus you have an irreverent style that would go over well w/ younger readers — although the comment about capitalism being like the so-so girl who takes it “front door and back” on the first date may decrease your likely female readership to zero. 
    The format: begin w/ the lie (cited), explain how it isn’t a minor point but has caused great misunderstanding, debunk it, then follow w/ personal musings on the topic. You could group the small Chapters into themed Parts, e.g., Part I: race and IQ. Each would be pretty stand-alone, facilitating casual reading. It would be one of those paperbacks you read just for intellectual self-defense, even if you aren’t going into biology.

  4. But aren’t most biology “lies” told by the other teachers? Otherwise, agnostic, I agree with you.

  5. There are two kinds of diversity: internal and external. The currently favored kind is internal: every institution is supposed to “look like America.” Which of course eliminates external demographic diversity in that it makes every institution look alike.

  6. One other quantitative mental model I have re: diversity is that of modern portfolio theory. 
    As long as a group tends to have an absolute advantage (economic comparative advantage is not enough) in anything relevant, the modern portfolio theory model suggests that you want some of those people around. What fraction of your society you want them to comprise, that depends on the details of the utility function you’re trying to optimize.

  7. There is only one “institution” that is not supposed to “look like America”. Immigration. Otherwise 75% of immigrants would be white, 12% black, and 12% hispanic.

  8. Maybe you’d prefer a formula that subtracts H and Hmax instead of taking their ratio. 
    I’m just guessing at what you mean for S, but I think you mean H with all p_i being equal.

  9. Here’s a math link to how I think about measures of inequality 

  10. jon, i’ll check the other formulas when i have time. in regards to “s,” i mean that the degree of diversity added by various groups is not equivalent, they are weighted. i.e., a black muslim adds more diversity than a russian orthodox immigrant, because they are more distinctive racially and religious from the majority….

  11. A small note of realism where book-writing and book-publishing are concerned? Unless you either 1) have a good professional reason for doing so, or 2) have a really unstoppable inner drive, don’t even think of writing a book. 
    * Fewer and fewer people are buying, let alone reading, books.Let’s say you do OK and sell 20,000 copies. That’s a pathetically small number. And how many of those copies will actually be read? Maybe … 2000? 
    * The money stinks. Nearly all your spare time for a year or three will go into this book, and if you’re lucky you’ll make 40 grand, of which 15% goes to your agent, 35% to Uncle Sam, and you pay your own expenses. 
    * The process is usually very unpleasant. There’s formulating the pitch and outline. There’s putting up with an agent. There’s actualy researchig and writing — and remember, a book is longer than the longest term paper you’ve ever written, plus you’ve then got to write it (if you’re publishing for the general audience) in a pretty snazzy style. That’s about as much fun as building a house by hand. And then you have to endure editing, copy editing, and the fact that publication (reviews, publicity, sales) will, 9 out of 10 times, be seriously disappointing. I know people who had breakdowns when their books were published because they put so much of their lives and hopes into ‘em, and then … nada. 
    * You’re already doing a lot of writing with this blog, and you’re already reaching a lot of readers here, probably many more than you’d reach with a book. Instead of taking on the additional burden of writing a book, why not pat yourself on the back for all the good writing and all the good publishing you’re doing already? 
    Conceptually, many people are stuck in an old paradigm, where “the book” is still something real and substantial and everything else is just a sad approximation of a book. In actual fact these days, books are by and large parasitical on the other media. The only reason they have any prestige at all any longer is because many people have sentimental memories of what books meant to them as kids, or in college. 
    BTW, I invite anyone who’s curious about the state of book publishing to visit my blog and check the archives under “books, publishing, etc.” And of course if anyone wants to publish a book anyway, have a ball and god bless.

  12. Abstruse concepts and arguments can only be fully expressed in books or long articles. Blogs have their uses of course, but novels and textbooks cannot be expressed in a couple of posts. No one questions their fundamental worldview by reading a short argument. The internet’s prominence, like that of TV, derives largely from its promotion of and by low attention spans. Who *wants* to spend the time and effort to think critically about someting for more than 15 minutes, when you can ‘skim’ through a couple of preaching-to-the-choir websites with your deliberative faculties on autopilot? No, I don’t either. But I had better, and so had we all.

  13. 7-up participants were chosen to maximize class diversity — the old bugaboo of British life, and one that still appear to be more important than ethnicity. Every 7 years, the questioner tediously quizzes the participants on whether they believe they were denied opportunities in life. Sometimes, the participants rebel — they’re lives are quite OK, thank you very much you condescending upper-class twit. 
    Still, the movies show how important class is in the UK, and how few (actually, none) of the participants escape their class (expect for the guy who moved to Australia). 
    So the moives seem to shwo that comprehending intranational segmentation (aka diversity) is important in understanding how people live, but the type of segmentation that matters differs across different countries (regional diversity matters in Canada more than racial diversity). 
    As for books — why the hell not. It may help you pick up chix. But get a good editor!

  14. The numbers really don’t matter from what I can tell because those who promote diversity most strenuously seem to see numbers as means, not ends (else why not more concern about the declining proportion of males receiving bachelor’s degrees?). 
    Males don’t count ;-) see the repeated ritual dances about shortage of women in maths and no word about shortage of men studying psychology or teaching. 
    I’ve read some opus of OECD about differences in education between countries and sexes and whatnot. There was that part about male student averages being better in maths and female student averages being often better in reading. Several para followed about improving girl’s performance in math. Not a single sentence was wasted about improving reading in boys.

  15. they’re lives are quite OK … But get a good editor 

  16. Sometimes, the participants rebel — they’re lives are quite OK, thank you very much you condescending upper-class twit. 
    well, apted was from a middle class background, like two of the boys (one of whom became a lawyer but dropped out of the series after 28 UP). some of his interactions with the upper class individuals seems to reflect both deference and contempt. and yes, he is quite patronizing to the lower class individuals. but as all the news stories highlight: the series is highly bimodal in a nation that became middle class as these kids were growing up.

  17. (Billy Budd, I found your comment interesting enough to disagree. I?m a strong advocate of online learning, social networking, and discovery. I believe that web-based communication and knowledge tools will significantly change human society.) 
    ?Abstruse concepts and arguments can only be fully expressed in books or long articles.? 
    No. There are many web sites devoted to specific topics. Sites on genetics, on mathematics, on physics, on astronomy. From my experience most of these sites are better than textbooks at explaining and teaching new concepts. (I?ve also read several science textbooks online. So the online format includes the book format as a subset.) 
    ?No one questions their fundamental worldview by reading a short argument.? 
    Depending on the evidence, a short argument could change my worldview. (E.g., demonstration of a strong AI.) On the other book length arguments are unlikely to change my worldview as complex arguments usually depend on many assumptions. My accumulated knowledge and experience would likely lead to my disagreeing with some of those assumptions. 
    ?Who *wants* to spend the time and effort to think critically about someting for more than 15 minutes, when you can ‘skim’ through a couple of preaching-to-the-choir websites with your deliberative faculties on autopilot?? 
    I would. And I assume that the people with whom I wish to share ideas would also. The Internet can satisfy both people with short attention spans and those who ponder topics deeply. 
    I don?t doubt that a significant portion of humanity must be forced to learn ?hard? subjects. That force could be the economic incentive of a job or the short-term incentive of a grade. I believe that intellectual curiosity is a more effective motivation.

  18. Razib wrote: 
    the series is highly bimodal in a nation that became middle class as these kids were growing up. 
    I’m not sure what you mean here. The kids started off and remained bimodal in class. For example, none of the children of the lower-class kids attend university (barring the Australian). Are you arguing the series in nonrepresentative? That the kids are atypical in that they all haven’t become ‘middle class’?  
    The guardian article says co-producer clair lewis 
    was struck by how the children who’d been to private schools have uniformly found success, taking top jobs in the law, business and media. “The others have done well too, but they’re not running Britain,” … “they are the way they are because of how they started out”. 
    There has been a levelling in wealth — the cockney kid has a home in Spain. But that’s not the same as class. I’ve watched most of the series (though not the latest one) and I see it as showing the permanence of class division in England, even as wealth divisions blur. Of course, real Brits should chime in with more authoritative views.

  19. The reason to write specialized books and put them on the web is to make friends. Might even help find a job :-)

  20. Fly, 
    I do not doubt the efficacy of the internet in promoting ideas, whether in the form of books or otherwise. If a website contains a textbook or a book-long argument, it would also count as a book, albeit in electronic format. But I also do not doubt the *inefficacy* of short articles or discussion forums to genuinely convince readers about certain topics. 
    Short arguments may be good for technical issues, but are almost always question-begging for fundamental ones. I found this out when arguing with Christians in a discussion forum. No person ever converts from or to (e.g.) Catholicism in a debate. Ever. Their belief in a religion rests on so many assumptions — metaphysical, epistemological, scientific, etc — that it would take a very long time to even scratch the surface, and get beyond differences in terminology (to say nothing of other issues). Their beliefs are contradictory, but there is little hope of convincing them by a series of short arguments. A short argument, if bad, evokes scorn, and if good, infuriates. 
    Those who *are* convinced by short arguments about (e.g.) religion obviously do not think (or need to think) systematically, since religion depends on other assumptions, which in turn depends on other ones. So they might be more open-minded, yes, but hardly right, and if so, for the wrong reasons. 
    I do not know for certain whether the internet is a major cause of short-attention spans; more likely it is a symptom as well as a medium which encourages its expression.

  21. ikram, 
    apted has bemoaned the lack of middle class people on the show, in hindsight, because the people he picked have led unrepresentative lives for the modal briton. i.e., the upper class kid who goes to work in the inner city school, the barrister, solicitor and documentary producer. or the “lower” class people who drive a taxi, work in a library, etc. the only remaining person of middle class origin is a mentally ill drifter. the other guy left the show because attacks against him after 28 Up, but went back to school and became a barrister…and apted has been trying to coax him back for years (without success). 
    anyway, the last (42 Up) DVD has a lot of this info.

  22. Billy Budd, part of my mind agreed with what you first wrote while another part disagreed. In my comment I focused on my disagreement because I?ve had something I?ve wanted to say for the last few weeks. (My comments usually reflect thoughts that have been percolating for some time before being triggered by a specific event.) 
    From my reading of recent posts and their associated comments I believe that people are focusing too much on solving today?s problems using yesterday?s solutions. Redesigning a liberal arts college seems to miss the larger question of whether such institutions will play any significant societal role in twenty years. Focusing too much on present racial differences misses the irony that the same science that is establishing the reality of genetic determinism is providing tools that will undermine that determinism. I?m not suggesting that we just wait for advancing science to solve all our problems but I do believe that accelerating change can?t be ignored when proposing solutions. 
    With GNXP, Razib is riding the new wave of communication and education. Publishing a book would be a step backward.

  23. fly, i agree. humanity-as-we-know-it and politics-as-we-know and society-as-we-know-it is likely has an expectancy on the order of decades, not centuries (i.e., either singularity or the big crash). but 20 yrs vs. 100 yrs makes a difference…what would you bet? (if at all?)

  24. Billy Bud: Do you think book length arguments *do* convince people better than short ones? That isn’t my experience. Usually, book length arguments are only examined when you already suspect them of being true. Certainly the main thing I have been importantly convinced of is the greater feasibility of technological than of institutional means of increasing intelligence, and my conviction comes primarily from articles and discussion. The most important book length arguments I have found convincing have been collections of articles from the academic literature. 
    Razib & Fly: I give a time to singularity estimate of 15-80 years, but expect most of that uncertainty to be resolved within 15 years, leaving too little time before the critical juncture for conventional political action from someone who is currently an ordinary private citizen to matter.

  25. FWIW, I think books can be great, of course. But I spent many years caught up in the book-publishing biz, and the realities of publishing a book aren’t generally very attractive.  
    Picture it this way: You spend almost all of your spare time for a couple of years on this project. Oh, OK, you’re late, like every other book author, so it’s all of your spare time for three years. The editing is a pain, the jacket isn’t perfect, but there the book is finally! And what a letdown. The reviews are appreciative, the book sits on the shelf for six weeks and gets remaindered. You suspect that even your friends who tell you how great it was didn’t really read every word.  
    Out of the process you wind up with enough money to buy a used Taurus. And maybe you have some prestige — something you can turn into some lectures, some talks, a little bit of a rep you can turn into another book proposal. But, given what you’ve just gone through, do you really want to do it again? 
    For every Malcolm Gladwell and/or Steven Pinker, cashing big checks and handing out quotes to glossy magazines, there are dozens of others just as smart and hard-working for whom the above scenario is accurate. It’s a tough life. Like I say, I’ve known people who’ve had complete breakdowns when their books came out. I know other writers — including a science writer you’re probably aware of — who simply won’t write books. Why would they? The money isn’t very good. If you’re employed already, you’re probably well-enough paid already. And you value your free time. Remember all that free time our author devoted to his book for three years? That’s time he might have used otherwise: on friends, on family, on travel, on napping, on developing a life and a career. All of it gone, and the book no longer even on the shelves.  
    The people who actually make a living at writing serious-popular nonfiction are 1) rare and 2) super-super devoted to doing so. It’s a very hard life.  
    How about the whole having-your-say thing? Well, once your book has had its little window of availability, and gotten its reviews and stimulated a feature article or two, it’s gone, it’s over, it’s done. It ain’t on the web — no one can read it any longer, at least not without buying it. Put a decent posting or essay up on the web, and it’s there for the whole world to see. 
    I’m mainly concerned with the experience of writing and publishing books. 90% of the time, the experience sucks, the money’s not much, and the work you put into it dies. Webwriting has its disadvantages — you don’t generally get paid at all, for instance. But it’s fast, it’s easy, it works with the modern schedule, and the writing remains alive and available.

  26. It ain’t on the web — no one can read it any longer, at least not without buying it. 
    don’t forget amazon search or google print. you can get dozens (around 50 last i checked) searchable pages.

  27. Razib: ?but 20 yrs vs. 100 yrs makes a difference…what would you bet?? 
    Kurzwiel?s estimates seems reasonable to me. As does Michael?s range of 15-80 years. I?m not focused on the Singularity. (By definition one can?t plan for the Singularity.) I?m living day-by-day and trying to decide what type of planning makes sense in today?s world. 
    As an example, suppose I?m forming a telecommunications company. I know the products that are currently on the market. I even know some of the products that will be announced in the next couple of years. I?m aware of new disruptive technology. If I could offer a product based on the disruptive technology today I could gain significant market share. But designing and building the new product takes time. Capturing new customers takes time. Will I ever be able to make money from my product idea? In order to be successful a company has to predict where the marketplace will be in the future. What services will be offered and at what price. In today?s world a business forecaster must plan for accelerating technology cycles. 
    I suspect that is not only true for the business world but is also true of all institutions. People can?t assume what worked in the past will work in the future. People can?t assume that because college degrees and universities play an important role today that they will do so tomorrow. To the extent that institutions fail to meet market needs, I believe they will be bypassed by alternate technologies. That will be true for the medical community and for the educational system. 
    I question the future value of university degrees. Why is a Harvard degree valuable? Is it because of what Harvard teaches? I expect the students who attend Harvard could learn at least as effectively in small study groups led by a mentor with access to the Internet. What Harvard supplies is a filter, connections, and accreditation. If you are accepted to Harvard then you are likely to have either the talent or the connections that will make you a valuable employee. If there existed a better filter for talent and a better method for building connections that didn?t require a fortune in tuition and four years of a person?s life I believe a company could bypass the degree system and gain a competitive edge by attracting and retaining talented people. Online learning, online certification, and social networking software might supply those needs. 
    (Is journalism school really better than blogging experience in creating new reporters?)

  28. Fly: You are unfortunately wrong about the singularity. It can and must be planned for. People who look carefully can see general features and they aren’t pretty.  
    PLEASE look seriously at the stuff written on http://www.singinst.org

  29. Fly, I think that the chess world has already seen some of what you are getting at re: education. (Sorry, this will probably be a little incoherent, but I’m quite tired.) 
    A little background on titles in the chessworld. The title grandmaster is the highest title one can attain in the chess world. It’s origins are somewhat disputed, but often traced back to a tournament in Tsarist Russia in 1914. 
    After WWII, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) became the dominating organizing force in the chess world, and created a means of awarding titles based on results. In the 1950s, Boris Spassky became the youngest grandmaster ever, winning the title at age 18. Not long thereafter in 1958, Bobby Fischer became the youngest GM ever, at age 15.  
    Fischer held this record until 1991! Judit Polgar finally beat his record by a few months. Then, Peter Leko lowered the age further. Since Leko, the GMs are getting younger and younger at a veery fast clip. I think the current record is held by a Chinese player named Bu, but it’s hard to keep up. (It’s not uncommon to hear jokes about a fetus becoming a GM.) 
    And the record is only part of it. There are LOTS of prodogies at any given moment. The holder of ‘youngest ever’ depends to an extent on luck these days. It’s also not uncommon for teenagers no one has heard of to win (or almost win) tournaments with very strong fields. (E.g. Wang Hao and Needleman.) 
    The reason for my post is to ask (and answer): why has this happened? It’s simply a matter of technology and information. When Spassky became a GM, he was part of the Soviet chess machine: talent was identified early, and provided extensive coaching and playing opportunities (in the Soviet Union only, typically) designed to get the most out of their talent. Fischer was a manaically hard worker who was fortunate to be living in NYC, where he had access to large libraries and lots of foreign magazines. The fact that Spassky and Fischer are two of the all-time great talents also helped. 
    When Polgar came along, she and her sisters were taught by their fother and mother in an intensive home schooling environment, so that the father could test his own education theories. (They were taught much besides chess.) This took place in Communist Hungary, for the most part. 
    Since then? Well, now almost every serious chess player in the developed world (and many elsewhere) have access to things these players did not: databases of millions of games, and strong chess playing programs. This has revolutioned chess education.  
    Now everyone has databases of MILLIONS of games. And programs that are arguably of GM strength. I don’t have any talent, and this all came along too late for me anyway, but young players can now absorb vast amounts of information in a very short time, amounts that didn’t even exist 25 years ago. IT has changed preparation: players can play openings they’ve never played before after a few hours of study, and play them very very well, whereas back in the day one would prepare for months before trotting out a new opening. I’ll skip some of the other changes this has entailed, but it is filtering down through all levels of the game. Players weaker than me will often catch me with deep opening preparation. Class C players knowing lines 25 moves deep? Preposterous! 
    Mainly, it has allowed everyone to have access to amounts of data that were inconceivable 25 years ago, and now everyone has a strong training partner. The long path to being a GM has been turned into a short walk. I see no reason why this won’t become more common in other fields of endeavour.  
    Curious about plate techtonics and what the world used to ‘look’ like? A few minutes on your favorite internet search engine, and you have more information at your finger tips than existed on the topic one hundred years ago, plus really neat graphics of Pangeia. 
    I know everyone reading this is aware of IT and the changes it guarantees, I’m just not sure if everyone is aware of how it has already reshaped the chessworld. (The reshping is much more radical than my brief description above.) I think we chessplayers have been the canaries in the coal mine, and that many other fields are about to be similarly swamped. Actually, I think we may have probably already passed the point of the Singularity, and we just haven’t realized it yet.

  30. Icepick, 
    Something similar has happened in mathematics. At a few places such as the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies extremely bright people could regularly gather and share their ideas. And that was only after you got your PhD. It was a self-reinforcing closed system. The Internet has changed the game. 
    With the Internet, talented people can discuss their ideas from anywhere in the world. Doesn?t matter if you are a student or retired. The PhD used to be the ?union card? that got you into the game. My guess is that it isn?t as important now and will be even less important in the future. 
    Groups such as GNXP weren?t really possible before the Internet.

  31. Fly, this effect should hit areas with low barriers first. There’s nothing really stopping anyone from playing chess (except perhaps locale), so there’s not much of an entry problem. 
    But consider, say, Law. To become a practicing attorney in the USA, it is necessary to pass a bar exam. To take the exam, one has to graduate from an accredited law school. To get into law school, one has to complete an undergraduate college degree, and so on. But really, is there any doubt that a lot of bright people could pass the bar exam by studying on their own, if given access to the relevant material without jumping through all those hoops? My guess is that if it were opened up, we be seeing a rush to who was the youngest person to pass a bar exam.  
    So the interesting question is: how long will it take before these artificial barriers get overrun?

  32. It seems to me that public choice theory indicates that artificial barriers tied to high fees and with legal force will endure.

  33. Icepick: ?So the interesting question is: how long will it take before these artificial barriers get overrun?? 
    michael vassar: ?It seems to me that public choice theory indicates that artificial barriers tied to high fees and with legal force will endure.? 
    They will certainly continue to be obstacles. As will tradition. 
    My guess is that methods will be found to bypass the obstacles.  
    For example, law. Suppose an innovative lawyer hired some very bright kids out of high school. He used them for legal research and encouraged them to develop new methods and programs to improve their work. He might also encourage them to learn law online and supervise that learning. Most of the real work would be done by the young, talented, non-degreed employees with oversight and final review by a lawyer. For the kids it would be an opportunity to make good money while accumulating knowledge and experience. They should then find it easy to get the degree and pass the law exam if they believed it would further their career. 
    Or cases might be off-shored to India. With the final work rubberstamped by a local lawyer. 
    Or routine cases might be handled with AI. In that case high legal fees would be shifting labor from the legal arena to IT.

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