Monday, January 30, 2012

Will the singularity outrun HBD?

"It's just around the corner!"  I declared behind closed doors to friends in 2007.

I said this after Saletan published his piece on liberal creationism following Watson's remarks on Africans and IQ.  I thought that it was a short time until the curtain fell and the world would be exposed to the truth.

I was incredibly naive.  Still hoping, a few months ago, when Andrew Sullivan had his race and IQ brouhaha, I had a bit more hope, since, well, he was gay, and therefore, hopefully slightly more immune to character assassination. 

As usual, nothing, happened, the story was buried, life goes on.  10,000 children die every day due to malnutrition and preventable causes in Sub Saharan Africa and no one cares enough to truly question why.  I railed against self-important liberals eating organic this and fair trade that, oblivious to how their denial of human differences caused misery in the world.

But then after reading Friedman's recent column on automation, I'm struck by how UNIMPORTANT HBD is.

Why?  Because average no longer cuts it.

We've been agonizing about the NAMs that commit crimes, join gangs, go on welfare, etc.  But what if the problem isn't NAMs, but rather normal people?

The company “has produced a kind of souped-up iPad that lets you order and pay right at your table. The brainchild of a bunch of M.I.T. engineers, the nifty invention, known as the Presto, might be found at a restaurant near you soon.   

We're no longer talking about the 70 IQ ghetto kid who can barely read. Here we're talking about a 90ish IQ waitress, who's not breaking the law, maybe barely graduated from high school.  Her job options are dwindling.

And I still remember the article on document review lawyers (probably a 115 ish IQ job) replaced by software.

Some programs go beyond just finding documents with relevant terms at computer speeds. They can extract relevant concepts — like documents relevant to social protest in the Middle East — even in the absence of specific terms, and deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents.
“From a legal staffing viewpoint, it means that a lot of people who used to be allocated to conduct document review are no longer able to be billed out,” said Bill Herr, who as a lawyer at a major chemical company used to muster auditoriums of lawyers to read documents for weeks on end. “People get bored, people get headaches. Computers don’t.” 
The number of computer chip designers, for example, has largely stagnated because powerful software programs replace the work once done by legions of logic designers and draftsmen.
Software is also making its way into tasks that were the exclusive province of human decision makers, like loan and mortgage officers and tax accountants. 
We’re at the beginning of a 10-year period where we’re going to transition from computers that can’t understand language to a point where computers can understand quite a bit about language.

So what happens when merely average isn't good enough?  Well, this blog post sarcastically notes the inherent contradiction in what Friedman is saying: most people are average.  That's how it is, deal with it.  

I agonized over HBD, thinking the end was near.  Articles like this in the economist hint at troubling truths to emerge.

We will also identify the many genes that create physical and mental differences across populations, and we will be able to estimate when those genes arose. Some of those differences probably occurred very recently, within recorded history. Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending argued in “The 10,000 Year Explosion” that some human groups experienced a vastly accelerated rate of evolutionary change within the past few thousand years, benefiting from the new genetic diversity created within far larger populations, and in response to the new survival, social and reproductive challenges of agriculture, cities, divisions of labour and social classes. Others did not experience these changes until the past few hundred years when they were subject to contact, colonisation and, all too often, extermination.
If the shift from GWAS to sequencing studies finds evidence of such politically awkward and morally perplexing facts, we can expect the usual range of ideological reactions, including nationalistic retro-racism from conservatives and outraged denial from blank-slate liberals. The few who really understand the genetics will gain a more enlightened, live-and-let-live recognition of the biodiversity within our extraordinary species—including a clearer view of likely comparative advantages between the world’s different economies.

Miller is a brilliant evolutionary psychologist, but I did not share his optimism.  Genocide still occurs in the world, and justification of racial hierarchies will not all of a sudden make us sing kumbaya.

But, my point is, is that if the machines are catching up to the average among us, what difference does it make? 80 IQ peasant replaced by the tractor, 100IQ factory worker replaced by a robot, a 105 IQ replaced by Siri, 115 IQ lawyer replaced by software, or a 125 IQ software chip designer.

What happens when none of us have any options?

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