Positive change in the world

By Razib Khan | August 13, 2010 12:50 pm

Just want to cheer you up a bit. Click play and watch how things are getting better….

  • http://Untitledvanityproject.blogspot.com Rhacodactylus

    Hmmm, and I’ll bet you most of that was due to scientific and political advancements, not magic.

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  • http://occludedsun.wordpress.com Caledonian

    scientific and political advancements

    I know what a scientific advancement is… but I don’t see what would constitute a political advancement.

  • Katharine



  • ChH

    Caledonian – a political advancement would be the expansion of individual liberty and property rights, which allow people to become more wealthy, which are associated with lower fertility and mortality rates, and higher life expectancies.

  • http://ecophysio.fieldofscience.com/ EcoPhysioMichelle

    Oh, wow. I love how you can actually see the sharp drop in life expectancy in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994 and then rapidly climb back up through the next few years.

  • Brian Too

    Not merely good news, but a really interesting data presentation technique.

  • dave chamberlin

    Track children per women in Mexico from 1960 to 2008. It moves form 6.8 kids per women to to 2.1. That is incredible. It highlights a world wide trend (third world excepted) where parents are choosing at an astonishingly rapid rate to have less children because they are so damned expensive. Hooray. Ironic in a way that terrible goverment leads to povery which leads to less people which leads eventual prosperity. I am assuming that the ex-communist countries which now average 1.4 to 1.8 kids per women are going to be much nicer places to live for average folk each generation that continues such a rapid decline. All these high minded notions of how to make the world a better place and all it will take is for children to be cost inefective.

  • gcochran

    Every society that can make a decent cuckoo clock is dying out.

    “I am assuming” – you’re nuts.

  • dave chamberlin

    Every society that can make a decent witch doctor is dying out too and it don’t mean shit. gchochran is one hell of a writer but I hope he isn’t drinking from the Steve Sailer bottle which preaches that the fornicating hordes are replacing us able cuckoo clock making folks.

  • gcochran

    No one said _you_ could make a fucking sundial.

  • NCC

    Oh my, everyone knows that India and China couldn’t make a cuckoo clock if their asses depended on it.

  • dave chamberlin

    I wish you long life Mr Cochran, the world needs your books. Lay down all your bitter bottles as they may interfere with your life expectancy.

  • gcochran

    If I could learn to suffer fools gladly, I’d be happy all the time.

    But to be fair, this is not really well-known. I remember talking about the distribution of creativity in science and engineering on a fairly high-powered discussion group and was surprised to find that no one there = except me – knew the basic facts. Hardly anyone seems to know that that > 95% of real innovation in the last two hundred years has been due to Europeans and Ashkenazi Jews. Most of the remaining 5% originated in China, Japan, and from certain Hindu castes: but per-capita production of ideas in those groups is way lower than from, say, the Netherlands.

    To a good approximation, no important ideas or inventions have originated in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, or the Islamic world over the past few hundred years. Moreover, the pattern is pretty much the same when you look at diaspora populations from those regions.

    Fertility is sub-replacement in all the populations on the first list. it is holding up in some of the uncreative groups.

    Now if you look at trends _within_ groups – considering differential fertility and IQ: things look even worse.

    There is no reason to think that any of these trends are going to change any time soon.

  • onur

    Hardly anyone seems to know that that > 95% of real innovation in the last two hundred years has been due to Europeans and Ashkenazi Jews.

    But even Europeans, who are supposed to be genetically fairly homogeneous, have significant variation in terms of scientific creativity, with scientific and technological innovations coming mostly from people with origins in more westerly and northerly parts of Europe.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    the ‘innovation belt’ is basically bologna to belfast +/- a few hundred miles on either side since 1600.

  • onur

    the ‘innovation belt’ is basically bologna to belfast +/- a few hundred miles on either side since 1600.

    Are there any info and graphical representation (map, etc.) about the innovation belt available anywhere (especially on the Net)?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    here’s charles murray’s map from *human accomplishment*


    do you think readers would be interested in helping with inputing data for a google maps app which displays the geolocation of innovators over time? greg & i have talked about this in the past.

  • onur

    do you think readers would be interested in helping with inputing data for a google maps app which displays the geolocation of innovators over time?

    I guess so, looking at the comments of the readers about such topics.

  • onur

    What are the criteria of Murray’s map and which years or centuries is it based upon?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    just google charles’ murray and human accomplishment. he lays out his methodology. he stops at 1950.

  • NCC

    Gee whiz, the last whole two HUNDRED years? If that doesn’t prove a genetic as opposed to cultural/economic basis of achievement, what does? I guess a couple hundred years is a plausible bedrock for a genetically based theory if you buy the ‘cognitive/temperament evolution in a handful of generations’ model of social change (as seen in Farewell To Alms and 10K Explosion). Oh, that’s right, Cochran isn’t just buying it, he helped develop it. Well, carry on then.

  • gcochran

    Eastern Europe has produced less than the northwestern corridor, but at the same time has probably outperformed everywhere else on Earth. Andrei Kolmogorov by himself probably contributed more than all of Latin America.

    Maybe a coincidence, but Charles Murray was a member of the discussion group where I put up a long post on this, some ten years ago.

  • NCC

    So we have the record of genetically-based accomplishment of Eastern Europe vs NW Europe. How about those Afro-Arab southern Italians vs Nordic northern Italians?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    NCC/colugo, why don’t you two settle this over beers? i know you live near greg :-) and no, i won’t ever “out” your identity, so feel free to keep commenting. i’ve known who you are for years.

  • gcochran

    The Ashkenazim began to enter the game about two hundred years ago: before that, restrictions from outside and impulses from within kept them from being players. Europeans have been the main innovators for considerably longer, probably 500 years. Could there have been relevant cognitive and psychological changes over five hundred or a thousand years? Sure: look at the breeder’s equation.

    Culture and history and heritable psychological factors other than IQ all make a difference, I think. But there is no population with low tested IQ that contributes much to innovation. This kind of high-threshold event varies enormously between populations with different means.

  • NCC

    “Restrictions from outside and impulses from within.” You think that might be responsible for other inter-group differences in achievement?

    Razib: I dropped in one of his talks some years back. I doubt that anything would get settled over beers though. I can’t even get through to people I mostly agree with so I’ll pass on that.

  • diana

    “Every society that can make a decent cuckoo clock is dying out”

    Switzerland is dying out?

    I hear Norway has a near replacement level birthrate, while Italy is 1.1.

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  • ElectricAngel

    Wow…THE Cochran of the 10,000 year explosion? Loved the book.

    I have previously seen the map of human achievement. I note that the largest sections of it all lie within the boundaries of the old Holy Roman Empire. Note that the Holy Roman Empire (of the German Nation) was not a temporal power of any note after about 1300; the Emperors lost out in fighting against the Comuni of Northern Italy.

    It was from the 10K explosion that I got the explanation for the high IQ in the Netherlands and Germany, following this logic. The Free Imperial Cities of the HRE were places where a person could go to do non-menial work in the Middle Ages (trade, artisanship). The best of these would presumably, like the Ashkenazim, be wealthier, more intelligent, and have more children. In short, they could selectively breed for intelligence in highly urbanized societies. In France, the Ile de France seems to be the only important area on the map, while England glows hottest around London, old Hanseatic port in competitive, import-replacing trade with the HRE northern towns.

    In short, the HRE re-created the ancient Greek system of Federated independent city-states, the same system that gave us Archimedes in Syracuse in Sicily and the Anikythera Mechanism in the Cycladic Islands. The United States, in its more decentralized days, also re-created this system, leading to wealthy, innovative cities starting from New York, and running through the middle of the country to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    Empire kills this process, as the Romans killed Greek tinkering and scientific advancement, as the Nazis nearly did to German achievement, and as DC is doing to most of the US now. So don’t blame the South Americans: they are only now getting their own world-class city in Sao Paolo (and they did come up with much of the tech for offshore drilling through salt layers on their own–this will be pretty important in coming years), as the Chinese are only in the last 30 years unleashing Shanghai to join Hong Kong in enervating the Middle Kingdom, and as Bombay is creating its arc of fellow cities around the Arabian Sea. This Greek model WORKS to produce wealth and innovation; sadly, as the Carthaginians learned, it’s not so successful at defending it.

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    As I always tell the naysayers “best time to be alive”. My friend was like “I wish I was in the Renaissance” era I retorted that she would have probably been dead from giving birth to her fifth kid.

    People forget longevity stats are directly correlated to infant mortality rates.

  • dave chamberlin

    I must be a glutton for punishment to pipe up again on this thread. I really appreciate ElectricAngels comment as he combines the effects of human achievement from selective breeding and systems of goverment which encourage innovation. As fascinating as the Ashkenazim are I find the concentration of genius in Athens during it’s golden age equally interesting. Perhaps in the future I will read a Cochran take on this as well.
    You can beat me like the red headed step child for my next opinion as long as you do it humorously and present counter points as to why I am wrong. I am not gloomy about our genetic future even though as Charles Murray pointed out in the Bell Shaped Curve that women who drop out of high school average 3.1 children while women with graduate degrees average 1.5.
    Since World War Two bright women go to college and marry bright men. This is in itself a selective breeding process never seen before. Your thoughts?

  • Brian Too

    I really don’t place much stock in the idea of genetic up or down-rating. Even if true that kind of change takes centuries or millenia. We see major changes in much shorter time scales. Plus we can link living standards changes directly to public policy.

    What matters is the acceptance of a societal meritocracy, acceptance of ideas over dogma, and a belief that whatever the next life holds, this life is in our hands.

    If the genetics idea has any relevance, my guess is that it will be overtaken by technology. In a hundred years, more or less, we’ll be artificially manipulating the genome and natural selection will be a historical issue. At least in developed civilizations (I’m NOT willing to bet that all of humanity will be on a level playing field for an infinite variety of reasons).

  • ElectricAngel

    To Dave C:
    Athens was merely the brightest spot, and had the best press agents (and all that glorious sculpture by Phidias and Praxiteles.) It was also probably close to the geographic center of the Greek world, with its far-flung colonies in the Crimea, Asia Minor, Southern Italy, and along the north coast of Africa and in Spain. This was a radically decentralized polity with each colonia thriving or failing on its own, and under its own local political control. If you consider the Greek diaspora in the Mediterranean as a country, then Zipf’s law would indicate that one city would rise to prominence, and it would likely be twice the size of the next-largest city, three times the size of the next, etc. Concentrating that many people in a trading port like Athens/Euboea would lead to quite the cross-fertilization, but Syracuse, Alexandria, and the Ionian Coast (Greek until the twentieth Century in many places) had their fair share of inventors.

    The problem with smart people meeting in college is the fact that intelligent people know that children do not pay any more. Several social support systems have undermined them, including welfare (which rewards [yes, it’s not very profitable, but that is assuming you know basic math] lower class out-of-wedlock childbearing) and Social Security, where your retirement is no longer dependent on how well you raise your own children to be productive citizens, but on how well everyone else raises HIS children to do so; in fact, invest much money or time in your kids, and the government will tax away most of the benefit via payroll taxes over their lifetimes. This is a double disincentive to have children, and to nurture them.

    The net result is that the brightest people no longer (like Darwin) have seven children; they are an economic drain with the way society is currently configured. Eliminate Social Security, Medicare, and most welfare, and reincentivize fatherhood by eliminating no-fault divorce and child support laws, and you might change the situation. Otherwise, intelligent people will continue to make the rational choices, as will less intelligent ones, and the average IQ level of the society will drop.

  • dave chamberlin

    To electricangel
    I agree with everything you said. What I should have stated more clearly was innovation depends on that tiny percentage of the population out on the long left tail of the bell shaped curve. Average IQ will drop (if we throw out the flynn effect) but as long as the smartest choose the smartest as their partners (yes, smaller families) that long left tail will be maintained. My only point was it is a very recent change for women to be allowed into the best universities where they pair up with very bright men.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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