[ExI] Recent human evolution repost

Kelly Anderson kellycoinguy at gmail.com
Mon Apr 18 07:32:58 UTC 2011

On Sun, Apr 17, 2011 at 6:31 PM, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sun, Apr 17, 2011 at 10:10 AM, Kelly Anderson <kellycoinguy at gmail.com> wrote:
> On average, the next generation of rich parents *was* poorer.

Yes, because of the Malthusian trap. The resources didn't grow for
society as a whole, and with the rich reproducing more than the poor,
it is obvious that many of the rich produced poorer offspring. I
understood this from the paper and it is a very interesting fact.

> Whatever exceptional characteristics the parents have, chances are
> that the average of the next generation will suffer "regression to the
> mean."  Not to mention the well known business of a worthless playboy
> who through impulsive acts burns through the money he inherited.  A
> person I know is from a family that was very wealthy a century or so
> ago.  As he put it, his branch was into fast women and slow horses.
> So whatever memes and genes they started with, they didn't stay
> wealthy.

An old and common story. Now we know why at a little bit deeper level.

> "You know," said Arthur, "it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in
> a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of
> asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I'd listened to what my
> mother told me when I was young."
> [Ford Prefect:] "Why, what did she tell you?"
> [Arthur:] "I don't know, I didn't listen."


> :-)  So much for memes.  You need a personality to pay attention to
> them as well as a source.  (Not that I don't appreciate memes.  Google
> memetics "keith henson")

Memetics sometimes suffer bad press, but I think they are pretty
powerful as a way to comprehend the world.

>> His facts fit the memetic evolution much better in my mind than the
>> genetic evolution. He doesn't state what the rich traits are, except
>> in memetic terms. "Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work" are,
>> after all, primarily memetic.
> I *very* much doubt it.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_study
> Personality characteristics are very much determined by genes as you
> can see by how similar raised apart identical twins are.   Also see
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nurture_Assumption  Memes don't
> particularly come from parents.

I am somewhat familiar with these studies and what they imply. I'm
just unconvinced that the selection pressure in England really
selected for thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work, even if
these are ultimately based in genetics. I see the point, I get the
hypothesis, I simply don't see it as convincing over and above the
memes that were towering over the country.

>> So, in conclusion, I don't find the hypothesis of Dr. Clark to be
>> supported by his facts, because there is an alternative hypothesis
>> that fits his data even better. Again, I strongly encourage you to
>> read Rosen's book.
> I have read dozens of books on the rise of technology during that
> time.  It's a major hobby of mine.

Then I think you would really enjoy Rosen's book. It's written in such
an entertaining way as well. Another really nicely written book is
Frozen Desire, which is a history of money.

> But Clark's hypothesis can and almost certainly will be verified at
> the genetic level.

I can't wait to be proven wrong. At least that way I'm learning something.

> We can get DNA out of bones thousands of years old, and there are lots
> of old human bones in the UK.  The detailed changes in the variations
> of genes will be plotted over the centuries.  If there are changes in
> genes over the centuries that relate to human personality
> characteristics we will figure them out.

Sounds fascinating. I'm still hanging with the meme hypothesis at this time.

> About in time for it to have very little application.

Don't we want AGIs with prudence, negotiation and hard work? :-)

> Keith

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