Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cognition über alles

Slides for a brief introduction to my panel at the University of Chicago Conference on Genetics and Behavior later this week. See also One hundred thousand brains.

Some relevant comments, from an essay by David Deutsch:
It is uncontroversial that the human brain has capabilities that are, in some respects, far superior to those of all other known objects in the cosmos. It is the only kind of object capable of understanding that the cosmos is even there, or why there are infinitely many prime numbers, or that apples fall because of the curvature of space-time, or that obeying its own inborn instincts can be morally wrong, or that it itself exists. Nor are its unique abilities confined to such cerebral matters. The cold, physical fact is that it is the only kind of object that can propel itself into space and back without harm, or predict and prevent a meteor strike on itself, or cool objects to a billionth of a degree above absolute zero, or detect others of its kind across galactic distances.

But no brain on Earth is yet close to knowing what brains do in order to achieve any of that functionality. ...

... the answer, conceived in those terms, cannot be all that difficult. For yet another consequence of understanding that the target ability is qualitatively different is that, since humans have it and apes do not, the information for how to achieve it must be encoded in the relatively tiny number of differences between the DNA of humans and that of chimpanzees. So in one respect I can agree with the AGI-is-imminent camp: it is plausible that just a single idea stands between us and the breakthrough. But it will have to be one of the best ideas ever.

[ AGI = ‘artificial general intelligence’ ]
We are, after all, merely machines that dream we are awake ;-)


ahd said...

What an unfortunate title. I would imagine that you're often on the defensive when people tag you as a eugenicist and associate eugenics with the vile implementation efforts of the Nazis rather than its blameless definition. No need to fan that flame. And the same applies even if you're being clever and riffing on the surname Deutsch...

steve hsu said...

Let's hope not everyone is as sensitive as you are.

"Deutschland über alles" predates the Nazis by almost a century.


The song is also well known by the incipit and refrain of the first stanza, "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles" (literally, "Germany, Germany above all"), but this has never been its title. The line "Germany, Germany above all" meant that the most important goal of the Vormärzrevolutionaries should be a unified Germany overcoming the perceived anti-liberalKleinstaaterei. Along with theFlag of Germany, it was one of the symbols of the March Revolution of 1848.

ahd said...

I know that - I read the same wikipedia entry. Nevertheless, I bet nine of ten American jews will associate "Deutschland uber alles" with Hitler and Nazi Germany even though the song predates WWII by a century. Just pointing out, hopefully helpfully (say that 3x fast), that your title pushes emotional buttons that I'm sure you didn't intend. No biggie, just something to bear in mind for next time.

a last a loved a long the said...

The Kleinstaaterei is exactly what arch-federalists and states-rights-ers want. It's not so bad.

Germany's anthem hasn't changed, or perhaps it's changed from the Horst Wessel or the Neu Deutschenleid (Neu Deutschland Leid?). At least the Russians changed the words to the Soviet anthem (by far the best of national anthems btw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U06jlgpMtQs).

bg2b said...

The music for Russia's anthem is excellent, but I still think France's has it beat.

ronthehedgehog said...

Majority of scientific/technological progress attributable to far outliers in cognitive ability.

WTF? Steve knows that Terman's study passed over two future Nobelists and included none. He must know that the paradigmatic Randian superman was ridiculed for his studpidity. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/transcript/henryford-transcript/

Narrator: In early summer 1919, Henry Ford arrived at the courthouse in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, a small town north of
Detroit. Ford had sued the Chicago Tribune for libel after the paper called him an "ignorant idealist … and an anarchist enemy of the nation." Now, he would take the stand.

To disprove the allegation of libel, the Tribune set out to prove Ford's ignorance. "Do you know anything about the Revolution, Mr. Ford?" the Tribune's lawyer asked.

"Yes, sir," Ford replied.

"What revolution did you have in mind, Mr. Ford?"

"In 1812," Ford answered to the amazement of the people in the courtroom.

John Staudenmaier, Historian: They basically asked him, you might say, high school questions. And he was revealed to be
pathetically inarticulate and ill informed. The stuff he didn't know was amazing to people.

Narrator: "Don't you know there was not any revolution in 1812?" the lawyer persisted. "Don't you know that this
country was born out of a revolution in 1776? Did you forget that?"

"I guess I did," Ford answered.
Steven Watts, Historian: For everyone who was there, particularly newspaper reporters, what this seemed to clinch was their
suspicion that Henry Ford was a rural rube, who had stumbled into his success, a stupid man representing stupid ideas and stupid people.

Narrator: "Mr. Ford," wrote the New York Times, " has been submitted to a severe examination of his intellectual qualities. He has not received a pass." The New York Post put it even more harshly, "The man is a joke."

nooffensebut said...

Has anyone figured out a defense of g against Hampshire et al?

twoL said...

Here's an easy one:
It's all well and good to say that different processes run on different neural networks which may be independent of each other. But that says nothing against g, because g is a *measured* variable in human cognition. g is a general factor that captures most of the variance of different cognitive tests. It's a fact that most of the variance can be capture by one variable. It could be, for instance, language and math reasoning run on independent networks, but in the end the performance of one is highly predictive of the performance of the other. This suggest that if each system has its own distinct capacity, then g is capturing some fact about an underlying phenomenon that affects all of the systems, since each system's performance is so highly correlated to the other systems.

Anyways, the paper generally doesn't make an argument against g because g comes out of measurements. If each system, as they claim, was really independent of the others, we would have measured it. Considering how well correlated all the systems are, it makes more sense to talk about intelligence using one variable that capture the vast majority of the variance of these supposedly independent systems.

5371 said...

You forgot Fratelli d'Italia, and come to think of it, Giovinezza as well ...

5371 said...

Since a feral child is not capable of any feats of understanding or technique, it is obvious that not all ''the information for how to achieve it must be encoded in the relatively tiny number of differences between the DNA of humans and that of chimpanzees''.

steve hsu said...

Even a feral child has a much better mental model of the world than any animal.

"how to achieve it" -- Deutsch is referring to the *difference* in learning ability between apes and man.

The brain evolved to learn from its environment. Its DNA program is short, but it requires interaction to develop properly.

big fan said...

Long time lurker of your blog... Big fan! I wonder if you could share some reading tips regarding finance books?

nooffensebut said...

Couldn't a "g" be derived for the common component of intelligence and height, since they correlate and reflect development factors and mutational load. If general intelligence doesn't have a neural basis, then other formulations seem as legitimate, though not as a refutation of differential psychology.

steve hsu said...

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/search/label/books then search on page for word "finance"?

Results are not that great but you could also squint at the photo of my bookshelf :-)

Somewhere on my blog there is a list of recommendations but I can't seem to find it now, sorry!

a last a loved a long the said...

"The higher-order “g” factor is an artifact of tasks recruiting multiple networks"...Don't the g fairies already admit this?

"It's a fact that most of the variance can be capture by one variable...the vast majority of the variance..."FALSE.

If each system, as they claim, was really independent of the others, we would have measured it."FALSE.

given a sufficiently large and diverse battery what one actually finds is that the g-loading of the least g-loaded has a limit of 0, and that the putatively most g-loaded are merely those tests which are most alike, though perhaps in cryptic ways.

so the tests chosen for iq test batteries are chose because they are alike to one another.

iq = pseudoscience
psychology = pseudoscience
psychologists = people too dumb to be real scientists.

a last a loved a long the said...

has a much better mental model of the world than any animal

And so the individualist ideology shows itself again. Who needs facts when you've got truthiness?

Man is an idiot without the society of other men. Even if one lived as a hermit in a Montana shack, if he reads, he's part of that society.

Lee Kuan Yew on individualism: “In the East the main objective is to have a well ordered society so
that everybody can have maximum enjoyment of his freedoms. This freedom
can only exist in an ordered state and not in a natural state of
contention…the individual…is not pristine and separate [but] is part
of…the wider society.”

Asher Jacobson said...

@ a last a loved a long the

Truth is an available explanation that best fits, explains and predicts the observable facts. That's it. If you have a better quantifiable model that fits, explains and predicts human behavior and outcomes then I welcome you to offer it.

Asher Jacobson said...

Also, I don't think you quite understand what "truthiness" means. It is something that is factually correct on its face but is misleading in context or presentation. For example, let's say I do some research and find out that the population of black homosexuals who voted GOP increased by 50 percent between 2008 and 2012. It's a "true" statement but it is misleading because the population of black homosexual who vote GOP is statistically negligible.

Learn to use basic terms properly.

ronthehedgehog said...

If Bouchard's data is corrected for restriction of range and if the reliability is taken to be .90 for the WAIS, then even this lowest correlation of Bouchrad's three IQ measures is "really" about .86, the same as for height.

.86*.9 = .774. If the range is restricted so that no values less than z = -1.4 and none higher than z = 2.2 (the minimum and maximum of the MZAs' WAIS scores) are allowed for one of the twins, the SD is a little less than Bouchard's (10 vs 10.8 points), and the mean of an n=20 sample of the sample correlation, given an actual, correlation of .774 is ... around .69!

The n=20 pseudorandom sample of the sample correlation from highest to lowest:


James Hedman said...

"or detect others of its kind across galactic distances."

ORLY? I somehow must have missed that happening.

RMB said...

If they are there :)

ronthehedgehog said...

Yet Rushton claimed of one of the most salient changes in anatomy from ape to man...the stupid have more of it. The smart less.

For example, an adult gorilla's erect penis is about 4 cm (1.5 in) in
length; an adult chimpanzee, significantly smaller (in body size) than a
gorilla, has a penis size about double that of the gorilla. In
comparison, the human penis is larger than that of any other primate,
both in proportion to body size and in absolute terms.[15]

nooffensebut said...

If verbal and math scores correlate due to mutational load or some other indirect relationship, then continued belief in general intelligence is little more than an expression of political supremacy of psychologists over the subject. The field should be allowed to merge with neuroscience. You wouldn't be so interested in a common factor for intelligence and height.

a last a loved a long the said...

But even given the h^2 of height, according to the P = G + E model, if one twin had an IQ of 145, the other twin would score so high or higher 20.5% of the time. if one twin had an iq of 160, the other would score >= 160 13.6% of the time.

iamtestsubject111 said...

perhaps you might consider forcing commentators to just use one name when posting ?
or even more radically stop one commentator from poisoning every single thread by repeating exactly the same comments, over and over again, as part of his obsession with disproving psychometrics ?

namae nanka said...

Humans are very sexually dimorphic; when only muscle-mass is concerned the disparity is as big as with gorillas. Human females are unique amongst the primate species to carry large amounts of fat in their bodies.

Iamexpert said...

Rushton focused on penis size because we have good statistics from the World Health Organization, but his point was about sex organs in general. Chimps have double the testicle size of humans.

ronthehedgehog said...

so men's testes are golf balls compared to chimps' beach balls, but their penises are fire hoses compared to chimps' coffee straws?

look, as london young might say,...

rushton was a moron.

twoL said...

I would be pretty interested in a common factor for intelligence and height, but the correlation there is very small. I think a lot of the fuss on this topic is dedicated to the use of the term "general intelligence" which people don't like for various reasons. Okay, then just say the g factor. Everything is still the same.

Roger said...

I think cognition is like Turing-completeness in a computer artchitecture: as you gradually add complexity and abstraction, you suddenly cross a threshold where the system becomes Turing-complete. Similarly, the difference between Neandethals and homo sapiens genomes are small, but we crossed the cognition threshold where we can laboriously bootstrap ourselves up to thinking and talking about subjects entirely outside our ecological niche (like prime numbers and space-time curvature), and they didn't quite.

botti said...

Have you read any of Cochran's papers or book with Harpending? The idea that he is a "pinhead" is just silly.

ronthehedgehog said...

I've read his paper on Ashkenazi intelligence and I've read his blog. That was plenty, much more than enough. But microcephaly is genetic, so I pity him.

ESRogs said...

Steve, what's your take on AGI-is-imminent? Are you as concerned as some others (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-hawking/artificial-intelligence_b_5174265.html ) are about it?

steve hsu said...

NOT imminent.


tstev said...

I posted a reply to you on the other thread as your post is hanging for approval and it can not be replied to so you see the reply above your post.

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