Open Thread, 02/11/2019

Rereading Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, and it’s striking how different Americans today are in relation to development and economic growth. Yes, we want to be richer, but in large parts of the country, there is a strong tendency to want to bake incumbency advantages into the cake. Texas and Florida still retain relatively open development cultures, which explains much of their growth. Meanwhile, of course people are fleeing California due to the expensive (at least if you want to have children).

The Brown Pundits BrownCast is pushing along fast. We’ll probably stabilize to somewhere between 4 and 8 episodes a month. The last two have been very popular (they touch on Hindu nationalism).

Having done these podcasts now for a few months…the BrownCast is quite different than The Insight. On The Insight we’re tackling technical and scholarly topics, and the goal is clarity and density of exposition. Not dialogue as such. BrownCast is different.

This causes issues because speaking is far lower data density and less structured than writing. During every podcast, I take notes but rarely get a chance to follow up. Extemporaneous digressions are common. To be frank, it’s probably interesting, but the quality of insight is just lower on a substantive scale.

It makes me much more appreciative of the thesis in Warriors of the Cloisters that the Buddhist recursive-argument technique led to the flowering of scholarship and thought that was progressive, contingent, and cumulative. Written dialogue and disagreement is fruitful because of the external structure imposed upon it, removing the ability of individuals to temporize, dodge, and digress. It makes human stupidity just a little less stupid.

Speaking of stupid. Last week I was having beers with a member of the “mainstream media” who was coming through Austin. We were talking all things D.C., and I mentioned offhand that a key aspect of Ilhan Omar that is not spoken of enough is that she’s likely not very smart in comparison to the average member of Congress. She graduated from North Dakota State University with bachelor’s degrees in political science and international studies in 2011. Her B.A. likely indicates an ability to parrot platitudes. Not the ability to think analytically, or, to engage in verbal parsing so as to be subtle enough to maintain deniability. Her attempt to lift the ban on trans powerlifters is probably sincere.

Relative stupidity is I think an explanation for these sorts of cringe-inducing tweets:

An Anarchist View of Human Social Evolution. Peter Turchin reviews a tendentious essay. Of course he’s correct. Of course it won’t matter.

I contributed a chapter to the book, Which of us are Aryans? I didn’t think it would be available in the United States, but according to Amazon some independent booksellers are distributing it! Obviously I talk about genetics. At least what we knew in the summer of 2018. I would like to thank Priya Moorjani in particular for detailed feedback on my initial draft.

Walter Jones, congressman who worked to atone for his Iraq war vote, is dead at 76. Jones was an honest and sincere man. That’s why he never became nationally successful as a politician.

There are so few science blogs in the world now that are active. But here is a new one on quantitative evolutionary biology, After Sol.

The Dune Reboot Could Be the Next Lord of the Rings. Unlikely, but one can hope.

Cupertino Mayor: “Build the Wall”.

A Bell Beaker superhighway.

Patterns of African and Asian admixture in the Afrikaner population of South Africa. No big surprise when it comes to the issue of admixture (confirms what I found). But there are some interesting suggestions of really strong selection. I would bet not a true positive, but if I’m wrong, super notable.

If you aren’t subscribed to my total feed, The ghost of empire and the origin of all repression.

Is there adaptation in the human genome for taste perception and phase I biotransformation?

The Bonfire of the Democrats. Related:

You made your bed now lie in it.

Parag Khanna’s new book, The Future is Asian, is out. I also got a copy of Wes Yang’s The Souls of Yellow Folk. In general I seem to agree with Wes, so I didn’t see the point in reading a collection of his essays…but a friend suggested I really should because it’s that good. So there you go.

Tides of History has been on fire recently. Games of Thrones and Late Medieval Politics. Patrick Wyman’s podcast is one where when there’s a new episode I immediately listen and ignore the rest of the queue. It’s that good.

Also, this week’s In Our Time is on Aristotle’s Biology. Highly recommend a listen. Armand Leroi, author of The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science, is one of the guests.

Characterization of prevalence and health consequences of uniparental disomy in four million individuals from the general population.

Several people have asked me about my reduced frequency of posting. A major issue is that I’ve been trying to figure out how to implement the MemberPress plugin to my satisfaction (the Patreon I’ve set up for the BrownCast is easier to manage obviously). I have particular concerns and needs, and it’s not entirely easy to customize in the way I want. But at this point, I think I’ve implemented “leaky gating” for this website in a way I want. I am only gating the long-form essays. They will become free after about a month (and you get a few freebies, so it allows outside sites to link without a major issue). I’m currently set up for one tier, a $2/month membership that renews every month. The registration page is here. You can change your status (pause, cancel), on the account page. These two links are on the top right.

It seems everything works correctly except the password reset email. I’ll try and get it fixed, but if anyone has an issue you can email me until I get that working.

30 thoughts on “Open Thread, 02/11/2019

  1. “The Future is Asian”


    City population, 2100. (million people) 1. Lagos: 88 2. Kinshasa: 83 3. Dar Es Salaam: 73 4. Mumbai: 67 5. Delhi: 57 6. Khartoum: 56 7. Niamey: 56 8. Dhaka: 54 9. Kolkata: 52 10. Kabul: 50 11. Karachi: 49 12. Nairobi: 46 13. Lilongwe: 41 14. Blantyre: 40.9 15. Cairo: 40 (GCI)

  2. The Amazon one line reviews of books like Khanna’s always tend to be kinda dumb. They kind of tend to go on about Asia “reprising the lead role …. (as) the economic, technological and cultural centre of the world (that it held) for most of recorded history (barring) the last 500 years of Western dominance (which) almost appear an aberration” or “this century …. is likely to be an Asian century”.

    But those are kind of dopey in that they seem to imagine that there was a long period of advancement in Asia, or gaps which were in any way comparable to the gaps in technology, economic structure, wealth, innovation, science which were enjoyed by Britain during “Britain’s Imperial Century” or the US during the “American Century”. Even at the height of a divergence during Song Dynasty kind of time scale (which accumulated over several centuries) there seems to me comparatively little gap compared to this sort of scale you can see between mid 20th century US and China and calculations of per capita wealth go the opposite way from a richer China (per head).

    It does seem, at the moment, like the Industrial Revolutions were a sui generis event in divergence of societies and their capacity to act on a world scale that won’t be repeated, one that is being reversed by convergence and in the absence of the like of serious divergence, population size alone wouldn’t be enough to make Asia anything like “central” in the manner that Western Europe or the US were. (Plus, if I’m wrong I’ll probably be long dead by the end of the century! So this is the enjoyable kind of prediction to make.)

    Anyway, leaving aside my grumbles on the rhetoric that surrounds works with such titles, hopefully the book is still worth reading for you and has something to add! (Though the description makes it sound a lot like much it a banal listing of the fact that countries with rich potential for agriculture and so large populations, do, yes, have large banks, large companies and large cities.)

  3. Jaak, I think the idea is that Asians will be numerous and prosperous, while Africans will just be numerous.

    Matt, if you haven’t read it, you might be interested in Ian Morris’ Why the West Rules–For Now, which tries to track “the West” and “the East” over the last several thousand years.

  4. @Roger, yes, maybe I’ve heard of it, having a quick look at a summary and review it doesn’t seem too off base, in the broad recounting of the facts from the neolithic on. (Normal caveats about imposing linear models on history, etc.)

    Seems to come unstuck on the divergence (both “Great” and “Little”) in the last thousand years and there are some questionable choices (not necessarily wrong!). off the top of my head:

    1) Comparing China, a relatively uniform civilization, to “the West” as a more heterogenous set of different cultures, has a certain utility in grand historical scope and perhaps fairness to it. But will average out points when the East Mediterranean and then Western Europe are at quite different states relative to China. So can give an unusual impression of where the leading edge is, and how close to the “cutting edge” China was.

    2) His “Social Development Index”, using largest city size as an index for social development confounds urbanization rate, where parts of Europe takes a lead over China relatively early, and polity population size, which means that the capital will have a large population. Latter seems not so useful as index of SD (Switzerland is not at a lower level of development that the USA, etc.).

    Also get the impression tends to place an emphasis on the colonization of the Americas and their resources as a decisive factor in the “Great” Divergence , which I’m far from convinced on – that this fundamentally accelerated rather than simply re-channeled deeper processes rooted in ideas and underlying material social evolution in a different form.

    Re; the Turchin link, though most academics on the topic are far from anarchists, I always find it surprising on him to read in English language an academic that looks at states in a way that both is questioning how they formed and yet is seemingly so pro-state:

    “Without taxes we could have no government, and without government we would have no public goods that it produces, which is what really makes possible the high standard of living we enjoy in reasonably well-governed societies (which include Western Europe and North America).”

    “The conclusion from this is that the way forward to sustaining and increasing the well-being of large segments of population is not to abolish government, but to evolve institutions that keep bureaucrats working for the benefit of the population”

    Seems quite strikingly different from the more familiar drumbeat that public goods are less responsible for the high standard of living in the developed world, rather much more the efficient private provision of goods (if public goods have much role to play at all, merely as a “night watchman”).

    And while the argument for abolishing government is not common (anarchists not being typical), more familiar to me is thinkers proposing to develop substitutory technology and devolution to smaller, less centralised polities which can operate with a relatively smaller bureaucracy, while maintaining large markets, as an alternative to mass bureaucracy and a large bureaucratic occupational class.

    Possibly this just reflects my own biases!

  5. Patterns of African and Asian admixture in the Afrikaner population of South Africa. No big surprise when it comes to the issue of admixture (confirms what I found). But there are some interesting suggestions of really strong selection
    Pericentromeral chr 21 being completely replaced by introgression? Yes, hard to imagine, especially since they posit that the European DNA flow never stopped.

    Overall conclusions from 300 years old church records studies panned out nicely by DNA. But two DNA conclusions contradicted the conclusions of historians/genealogists.

    1) No bottleneck?? I mean if the admixture % is as predicted by the church books, then the number of founders should also be as predicted by the books – on the order of 200-300 founders. Is ROH always sensitive to detecting such founder events?

    2) Khoesan DNA widespread despite a near-total lack of intermarriage records? But who were the “van de Kaap” brides then (local girls w/o ancestry spelled out in the church records)? Surely Khoi-San descendants?

    … and weren’t the East Asians in the Cape Colony mostly Malay? The exercise of comparing Asian segments with CHB vs. JPT sounds kind of silly in this respect…

  6. 1) No bottleneck?? I mean if the admixture % is as predicted by the church books, then the number of founders should also be as predicted by the books – on the order of 200-300 founders. Is ROH always sensitive to detecting such founder events?

    i tink 200-300 has to be too small. seems like later german guys were too numerous.

    anyway, yeah, bottlenecks have to be REAL extreme.

    … and weren’t the East Asians in the Cape Colony mostly Malay? The exercise of comparing Asian segments with CHB vs. JPT sounds kind of silly in this respect…

    should have used CDX. they were from what is today malaysia+indonesia

  7. Re: Cupertino Wall

    Mehlinger just did not get it. The Mayor of Cupertino already given permission to build the Cupertino Wall, Sunnyvale can pay for it and start charging tolls or Cupertino can air lift in their daily supplies, just like the Berlin Wall. Cupertino employees living outside the Wall will find there is additional costs for working in Cupertino and they might be looking for works elsewhere. In short Cupertino will be starved of everything. The mayor of Cupertino might be too dumb to realize the consequences.

  8. “year 2100 projections are stupid. so in general i think ppl who repeat them like they’re insightful are kind of stupid.”
    -> Since I like to be less stupid … How so?

  9. -> Since I like to be less stupid … How so?

    they assume particular parameters of growth and change. but they have a hard time predicting more than 20-30 years (a generation). e.g., for a while the UN consistently OVERPREDICTED future population because they didn’t predict demographic transition in much of the world.

    if you read demographic futurology in the 1930s of the USA in 2000 it’s hilarious and off by hundreds of millions of people! +/-

    also, there is a weird thing in christian evangelical circles where china will be majority christian in 20 years since 1980.

  10. Matt, his Index moves around, to whatever is the “leading” or “most advanced” part of the East or West. Several people have pointed out that though it has several parts, the overall Index pretty closely tracks one of its components: per capita energy use.

    There is a slightly later book, The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations, mostly about composing the Index. I found it surprisingly interesting, though it didn’t live up to the subtitle. I read it before Why The West Rules, which is much more of a narrative and did a better job explicating the other book’s subtitle.

  11. I just wanna know when people will stop claiming ancient Egypt as ‘black’. How many studies are gonna have to be published before this nonsense goes away? Ethnic arabisation of the egyptians the greatest myth ever. Someone needs to actively start disseminating what population genetics has found so that people trying to steal the ancient civilisation of modern egyptians can finally shut the hell up. Maybe you should do it Razib lol.

  12. @CoolinOnIce

    There’s still reasonable doubt whether the modern DNA and the limited Late Period DNA we have is representative of early periods, so it’s probably a waste of time till we get more ancient DNA.

    In any case, the people who think evil albino mutants have stolen ancient black civilization will assume the results are faked, and those who define ‘black’ strictly on whether you are dark enough to be discriminated against by a Victorian colonist will have no reason to change their definition, so the answer is probably never.

  13. I simply cannot make heads or tails out of Yeglesias’ tweet.

    Let’s break it down:

    “Every Democratic nominee is inevitably put through a series of authenticity s*** tests”

    I have no idea what a “s*** test” is. Or how that would apply to candidates for office. Urban Dictionary says its the old does this dress make me look fat question. To which there is no good answer. (No one is a nominee until after a convention or primary has nominated him, so none are around at this point).

    “that Republicans are exempted from” No Republican begins to believe that Republicans are exempt from unfair media harassment. “Binders full of women” anyone?

    “because it’s in the interests of the rich people who run the media to sideline the substantive stakes in American politics.”

    The media are run by rich people, that much is true. The only one of them who is not a left wing Democrat and fully paid up member of the #Resistance is Rupert Murdoch.

    What is the interest of those rich people what and are the substantive stakes in American politics? Something tells me that Yeglesias does not regard the stakes as being the looming bankruptcy of the welfare state, the epidemic of deaths of despair, the inability of the US Navy to meet the challenge of Chinese aggression, or the collapse of the EU and NATO.

    Has Twitter destroyed Yeglesias’ ability to have a coherent thought?

  14. Razib, please tell Steve Sailer about the uncertainty of this population prediction thingy. Every so often he puts out a piece about the ‘African Population Explosion’ that he’s so confident will be manifested later in the century. Supposedly, one in three people will be African by 2100. He never forgets to remind us about how Africa will have around 4 billion people by then!

  15. Insightful, i thought steve did that to be provocative? do his readers take him seriously?

    to be clear, african population growth has a head of steam. they’ll get much more populous.

    that being said, my skepticism is tuned up for 80 year projections in light of other stuff i’ve read. do most people know that ashkenazi jews were going through a population explosion in the 17th and 18th century in poland? (scaring gentiles) stuff changes

  16. @Roger, re: moves around, so when energy consumption per capita in Morris’s model for ‘West’ is behind ‘East’ until approx. 1700 AD, he’s measuring that by the leading edge within the ‘West’ being behind ‘East’?

    That’s kind of surprising to me, as if you take a grab bag of Western European nations (France, Italy, Germany, UK, Spain) and China in about 1600 on real GDP per capita estimate measures, and there’s a fairly sizeable advantage over China. See – Or as implies, even a substantial advantage by 1300-1400, and even for a part of Europe (Britain) which was not particularly sophisticated.

    I’d have thought the discrepancy between the energy use and GDP measure would be caused by a composite of West Europe+Eastern Europe+West Asia. But if not, that implies, I guess, that wealth/living standards and energy use were somewhat more divergent than I’d have thought; productivity must have been much higher in Europe, somehow, despite lower energy use? That seems hard to understand since more activity producing wealth should capture more energy.

    (Employment structure tends to imply quite a bit lower secondary industry in China by 1750 – / And different overall structure – China heavy on agriculture, then services, little manufacturing and industry. Secondary manufacturing industry should be energy intensive? But lack of pre-1700 estimates for China mean lack of much ability to tell when crossover occured.)

  17. Re: Omar

    With respect to 25th percentile university entry SAT score:

    Harvard University, rank=4/1300, SAT25=1430, SATV25=710, SATM25=720, IQlike=128.1
    University of Pennsylvania, Rank=18/1300, SAT25=1380, SATV25=680, SATM25=700, IQlike=124.5
    Fordham University, rank=96/1300, SAT25=1170, SATV25=580, SATM25=590, IQlike=109.3
    North Dakota State University, rank=315/1300, SAT25=1000, SATV25=495, SATM25=505, IQlike=96.9

    About 6 member of Congress are not graduates.

  18. Andrew oh Willeke recently blogged a paper about the Austronesian settlers of Madagascar probably having taken a northerly route around the Indian Ocean, picking up Indian and Arabian wives along the way, rather than going straight across. about 1500 years ago.

    I commented on this over there, but I suspect chances of an actual discussion are better here.

    And … wtf? A significant number of exotic people, in highly distinctive ships, are supposed to have sailed waters that had been the regular shipping lanes of literate maritime trading civilizations for millennia, and nobody noticed them or found them interesting enough to write anything down?

  19. @Megalophius Yeah, you’re right. What’s even more bothersome is somalis/ethiopians on social media claiming vehemently that they are not an admixed population at all and are no different to west-Africans. Its jarring. People will never believe or admit to something that goes against their personal agenda. Sigh.

  20. ” ‘Old’ sperm produces healthier offspring”.

    Not a reversal of paternal age-mutation effects, rather “Sperm that live for longer before fertilising an egg produce healthier offspring”New research published today shows that longer-lived sperm in an ejaculate of a zebrafish male produce offspring with longer and healthier lifespans—who in turn produce more and healthier offspring themselves—than the shorter-lived sperm in the same ejaculate..

    New advances in brutally simple gamete selection techniques. Part N in “Selection effect explain differences in X”….

  21. No. So long ago now that I can’t remember the last time I got an error. Seems like years, and probably is.

    Don’t want to irritate by repeatedly posting “no”, so if I ever get one in future, I will flag it up. Otherwise, I’ll shut up.

  22. If the study on Afrikaners detected something real concerning selection this would be truly huge. Especially a selective sweep with 100 percent Khoisan genetic legacy on a allels related to testes, reproduction and masculinity. I’m sceptical its real, but if it is, just huge and highly interesting.
    That’s something which should be investigated!

  23. “The Making of a DNA Detective: CeCe Moore, an amateur genealogist turned professional, helps police crack decades-old cases.” by Allysia Finley on Feb. 15, 2019.

    Christy Mirack was murdered in 1992, but the case wasn’t solved until last year. … She had been beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted. Police collected a semen sample, ran it through a DNA database, and found no matches. The crime went into a cold-case file.

    In June police arrested a 49-year-old suspect, Raymond Rowe, a local disc jockey known as “DJ Freez.” They found him with the help of Parabon NanoLabs, a Reston, Va.-based forensic DNA company. “There was well over 1,000 people investigated for Christy’s murder, and Raymond Rowe was never on that list,” CeCe Moore, who heads Parabon’s genetic-genealogy lab, tells me. Ms. Moore, 50, has used a combination of modern genetic technology and old-fashioned family trees to help law enforcement track down criminals long on the lam.


    Ms. Moore … enjoyed learning about genetics in high school but studied music and arts in college because biology made her squeamish: “Cutting open frogs always grossed me out.” As she pursued a career in musical theater and TV production, she remained interested in genealogy (the study of family histories) and genetics (the analysis of DNA).

    A decade ago Ms. Moore decided to test 40 of her family members. “Second cousins are predicted to share, on average, 3.125% of their DNA,” she says. “I wanted to see, with real data, if it was going to match the computer simulations.” The average held up, although the distribution was broad: Ms. Moore’s second cousins shared anywhere between 1% and 6% of her DNA.

    … A major breakthrough for the genealogy field came last spring when law enforcement used autosomal DNA to identify the “Golden State Killer,” who had committed more than a dozen murders and 50 rapes in California during the 1970s and ’80s. The suspect, now in his 70s, was arrested and charged with 13 murders, … By finding distant relatives that matched the perpetrator’s DNA, law enforcement was able to reverse-engineer his family tree. …

    Parabon has been fielding dozens of requests from law-enforcement agencies across the country to crack cold cases, and breakthroughs are coming more rapidly as more people upload their data to GEDMatch. In January police in La Mesa, Calif., arrested a 39-year-old man suspected of a machete killing in 2006. A week earlier Parabon identified a suspect who allegedly assaulted two women in Mississippi in 1990.

    Ms. Moore is optimistic that within a few years most cold cases will be solvable with public data. GEDMatch contains data from more than 1.2 million individuals and is adding 1,000 to 2,000 genetic profiles each day.

    As for the complaint that genealogy can draw innocent relatives of criminals into investigations, she notes that it can also exonerate innocent people who might needlessly be pulled into investigations. “There are hundreds or thousands of people that are investigated in crimes that are innocent,” she notes. “In all of the crimes I’ve worked except one, the [identified perpetrator] didn’t appear on their person-of-interest list.”

  24. “New testing helps nab nurse, 44, in brutal Alaska killing from 25 years ago, authorities say” By Louis Casiano | Fox News

    A relatively new type of genetic testing was credited Friday with helping authorities in Alaska solve a case in which a 20-year-old woman was found brutally murdered in the bathroom of a university dorm room more than 25 years ago.

    On Friday, a 44-year-old man working as a nurse across the country in Auburn, Maine, was arrested in connection with the 1993 cold case killing of Sophie Sergie, who was found to have been sexually assaulted, stabbed multiple times and shot in her head, according to Alaska State Troopers.

    The suspect, identified as Steven Downs, was 18 at the time of the slaying. He is charged with sexual assault and murder in the death of Sergie and is expected to be extradited to Alaska. No motive was given for the killing and it was unclear if Downs and Sergie knew each other prior to her death.

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