Friday, October 7, 2011

The Idiocracy Effect is Okay

Ever since the time of Darwin, science has been gradually revealing (to those with their eyes open) that we were created as part of a giant game of passing information into the future.

Ever since thousands of years before Darwin, the most creative human beings have been engaged in information games other than the biological one, including the game of passing information into the future. They have done this through creating and participating in institutions, writing literature, and inventing maths. (They have also done this through writing radio jingles, copying and sending chain letters, and breeding pigeons.)

When the game of making human babies did not have a good opt-out (i.e., prior to around 1970 C.E.), participation in the wider information games was largely instrumental for better playing the breeding game. But with good ways to opt out of breeding new humans, the original game - the game of breeding to pass some of one's genetic information into the future - is coming to be recognized as a small, rather pathetic subset of the total space of information games.

Only the least creative and least intelligent will continue to play the original game, with its massive costs and limited returns. Those who can't think of any more interesting information game to play will be the parents of future biological humans.

But lamenting this is like lamenting brain drain from print newspapers to electronic media: missing the point, because that's no longer where the interesting information is being created and passed around.

7 comments:

  1. Interesting topic. Is there evidence for the idiocracy effect? How strong is it, how long does it take? Is it self-amplifying? What are the consequences?

    When you write that lamenting is "missing the point, because that's no longer where the interesting information is being created and passed around", do you mean something like Tim Tyler describes here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dukhSvkB1gA

    In other words, biological humans won't be the paradigm of self-replicating information creators and players?

    Or do you try to sneak in a antinatalist stance by associating the decision to have children with low status ("can't think of any more interesting information game to play")?

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  2. I am not aware of the magnitude of the Idiocracy effect, except to the extent that general intelligence and number of offspring are pretty strongly correlated in the negative direction. The more education you have, especially for women, the more likely you are to have no children.

    As to your other questions, yes, but also yes - though I think my antinatalists stance is about as sneaky as a sledgehammer.

    The problem of childbearing I am addressing here is similar to my boyfriend's problem with fashion: huge amounts of resources being put into very low-bandwidth communication.

    Once we recognize our goals as information creation/transfer goals, we must also recognize that childbearing is one of the least efficient ways to accomplish our goals.

    It doesn't even have to be self-replicating intelligent beings we're creating. That is only one way to participate in the information games. Albert Einstein has, I believe, only a single descendant, but he has played the passing-information-into-the-future game very, very well.

    (Haven't watched the video - sorry, will do later if I have time.)

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  3. But at the end of the day, self-replicating intelligent beings are needed to continue the better parts of the information game that you describe. A 'successful' idiocracy in which no one is left to understand the high-bandwidth information complexity created in earlier times would put an end to the very process you're describing - unless humans are replaced by artificial entities that are themselves a result of the memetic/technological level and carry on the game on that level. The alternative would be collapse to a lower level of complexity, where your original observation no longer applies.

    As for describing our goals as 'information creation/transfer goals', what if some of our high-priority goals are actually 'information prevention goals', such as the prevention of the error signal states that we call suffering? It seems much harder to play this game in a way that aims at preventing certain classes of information from existing, rather than perpetuating certain other classes.

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  4. There doesn't seem to be an Idiocracy effect, so far:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect

    Whether that trend will continue is uncertain, of course. However, as wealth increases, parents prefer to put high investment in 1 or 2 children, rather than low investment in many children. Birth rates are below replacement in much of Europe and Japan.

    I also think our understanding of our brains and our ability to manipulate our DNA is progressing fast enough that those who do choose to have children will be able to tweak them for increased intelligence, optimism, etc. Even dumb, religious parents want to have children who are smart and happy.

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  5. John1 (formerly pro-natal guilt-trip-style ocd/depressive)October 7, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    The flynn effect is agreed to have stopped in 1980 births, at least in whites. Secular changes in height stopped not many decades before. The IQ decline in whites should be around 1 point per generation, though it may have gotten a bit worse in recent years.

    One point per 30 years is not a near-term emergency. However, ordinary achievement such as economic production - as opposed to extremely creative achievement - is governed by IQ * conscientiousness. If the latter is also declining at the same 1/15 sigma (or even more), there could be a real problem.

    But ultimately these investigations are frustrating, because a flynn-like effect in conscientiousness may be hard to rule out.

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  6. > I also think our understanding of our brains and our ability to manipulate our DNA is progressing fast enough that those who do choose to have children will be able to tweak them for increased intelligence, optimism, etc.

    It's hard to know if that will work, but it's possible.

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  7. But at the end of the day, self-replicating intelligent beings are needed to continue the better parts of the information game that you describe. A 'successful' idiocracy in which no one is left to understand the high-bandwidth information complexity created in earlier times would put an end to the very process you're describing - unless humans are replaced by artificial entities that are themselves a result of the memetic/technological level and carry on the game on that level. The alternative would be collapse to a lower level of complexity, where your original observation no longer applies.

    As for describing our goals as 'information creation/transfer goals', what if some of our high-priority goals are actually 'information prevention goals', such as the prevention of the error signal states that we call suffering? It seems much harder to play this game in a way that aims at preventing certain classes of information from existing, rather than perpetuating certain other classes.


    I really like this comment.

    This is a "never lose track of your base reality" issue, if you know what I mean - there is an Infinite Fun of information games available, but there won't be anybody left to play them if we dumb down enough.

    I think this relies on the idea that longevity is an important value. There are more interesting games, perhaps, than "make your information last for the longest time possible."

    Also, it's always the question for any particular individual whether having a child or playing the information game is the best use of his time. Super-high-g people don't necessarily have super-high-g children; super-high-g children are likely to come from high-normals, in my experience. One of Einstein's sons had schizophrenia and was hospitalized most of his life.

    In any individual case, it's almost always better to play than to breed - for almost any goal you care to mention. Almost everything we refer to as "maturity" is breeding-related, and almost anything good and human is neotenic.

    For the foreseeable future, there will be plenty of humans. Smart people are better off to opt out of breeding.

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