Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Measuring National IQ With a Simple Policy Agility Test?

Commentary by Roger Erickson

Jerrit Erickson writes ... [we're] skeptical of the practicality of IQ tests, but there's something very profound in here.

Predicting [Personal] IQ With a Simple Visual Test
"The results of a visual test where people were told to quickly detect movements showed similar IQ results as a classic intelligence test. 'The relationship between IQ and motion suppression points to the fundamental cognitive processes that underlie intelligence, the authors write. The brain is bombarded by an overwhelming amount of sensory information, and its efficiency is built not only on how quickly our neural networks process these signals, but also on how good they are at suppressing less meaningful information."

Let's make some useful connections:

IQ and Visual Signal Suppression?  How about National IQ and Policy Agility?
Intelligence and jobs? How about national intelligence and job markets?
Unqualified application, vs quiet review of options?
Automatic visual "mapping?  How about auto-representation of emerging options?
Sensory Gating?  How about Policy Gating?
Schizophrenia?  How about national-schizophrenia?
Economics? How about context relevance?
Adaptation? How about national-self-tuning?
Self tuning?  Without distributed resources?
Policy Agility? How about methods for connecting distributed decision-making?
Policy Gating? Without adequate student training?
Data stuffing?  How about Map Making?

Discussing these in an economics blog gives citizens a chance to also perceive a national culture as an entity able to develop ... with or without national-schizophrenia-like attributes. As you'll see below, it's absolutely criminal that ecology, biology and systems theory are not absolute prerequisites for opening what passes for economics and policy textbooks! Our present national policy process could easily be described as "national schizophrenia."

Jerrit: "How good they are at suppressing less meaningful information?" This sounds like the strongest published confirmation yet of why many famously smart people didn't do well at school or couldn't hold down a 9 to 5 job. In some expressions, intelligence is indistinguishable from laziness or apathy.

Indeed. What's that old saying? "When you come across a group of people digging themselves into a hole, they'll always ask you to jump in and help them dig." Those who immediately question where the whole process is going ... are less able to muster the initiative to participate. They may even appear to be uncooperative or unemployable, while those most motivated to participate feverishly are motivated primarily by rank ignorance and stupidity!

Before we begin relating this to economic policy, note that the range of comments at Slashdot isn't auto-arranged so that all readers can parse the commentary "at a glance". Nor is it easy for a given reader to rapidly and automatically parse the spectrum of commentary on their own! :)  So much for technology.

For every bit of information, it is more important to have a "map" of "options space" to fit the data into. Without context, data is meaningless. [Also, it's assumed - based on past feedback - that readers who have never perceived anything past the end of their own nose will stop reading here. Hopefully that will cut down on some of the previous, irrelevant feedback. There are only a few ways to recode the statement "I'm clueless. Therefore I'm angry."]

For those readers who are less perceptually myopic, there's a 3rd confluence as well.

Those humans whom we call schizophrenics have long been known to have a deficit in sensory input suppression - often called sensory gating. The condition seems obvious in retrospect, given their inability to suppress randomly triggered neural patterns, such as hallucinations and unexpected associations. Initial evidence suggests that the population incidence of schizophrenia has been stable for centuries, suggesting that the syndrome represents peak assembly skill applied to the pinnacle of human development - already perfected over 200K years ago.

It's not yet known if only a few or multiple molecular-catalyst failures during development are responsible for the behavioral pattern we call schizophrenia. The subtleties of human neural development may have been largely solved over 200K years ago, but that doesn't mean we can ignore the basics when it comes to our diet and environmental quality. More importantly, schizophrenia as we term it is observed ONLY in homo sapiens. Using these observations as an analogy, it seems obvious that the unique features of distributed organization that are seen ONLY in large-scale human cultures are susceptible to subtleties seen in no other system whatsoever!  Our most compelling need is to continue to have MOST OF US sort out what few things are relevant for further national evolution, while promptly ignoring everything that isn't.  Ya think? It's called methods for getting everyone on the same page.

However, that primal issue ISN'T EVEN MENTIONED in economics textbooks!

Nor is it taught as the prime issue for every pre-teen or later student, regardless of the discipline being studied.

Individual sensory gating? That's passe. Surely we need new catalysts to help us accelerate national Policy Gating? Ya Think?

Jerrit's email was also quite correct in surmising that every system - "biological" or not - has to include distributed methods for self-tuning, based on any and all available sensory feedback.

Without a self-tuning infrastructure, you don't have an adaptive system.

Adaptive systems are able to seemingly pump information upstream against the gradient of entropy - leading many to label the accelerating resource capture as "reverse-entropy," even though that conflicts with the exact, narrow meaning originally defined by physicists. [Later on, oddly, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle didn't even mention degenerate semantics! :) ]

The very term "auto-catalysis" itself assumes accumulation of sub-processes that tilt the system at play into additional resource trapping. After all, what is acting as the catalyst, and what is acting as a substrate for the catalysts to act upon? Can a lock and a key "auto-catalyze" one another? Only if they remain oiled, and if something has machined them to fit - or selected from enough options to find two that DO fit. There are always preconditions, plus expanding options that are only explorable through diversity, recombination, and enough resources to drive the break-neck exploration.

It's immediately a given that what we call life itself - or even a deity - is a statistically inevitable and unending consequence of our preceding context. If there's a resource gradient, any given ensemble will settle into forms that accumulate and trap more and more of the available resources - at a RATE that depends upon available diversity of both substrates and sub-catalysts.

We cannot achieve a recombinant culture without maintaining highly distributed resources. That part is trivial. A vibrant middle class is a matter of national security.

Finally, what does all this quite obviously imply about economic policy?

At our latest level of social-auto-catalysis, we're still awaiting the latest, greatest method that will actually allow us to parse our current volumes of available feedback.  Only then can we subsequently improve the auto-catalytic quality of our distributed decision-making.

Don't hold your breath, but it IS inevitable.

Ok, maybe not BY the graduates of our current school system, but somewhere, somehow, it'll happen. It's inexorable statistics. All we can affect is the rate, and whether those involved are our descendants, or not.

Our job should be to get out of the way and LET it happen sooner? Ya think? But how?

By training young students to ALWAYS and QUICKLY zero in on "where is this going?" Again, YA THINK? That way even economic policy teams might see through the clutter and actually regain interest in national, not just personal, outcomes.

Could we actually do that with our school systems, instead of forcing citizens to hoard largely irrelevant data - lacking any meaningful context? Easily! Overnight. We'd just have to re-purpose every existing K-12 teacher in the country, but we could turn this country upside down, within a year.

Why not? The only good bureaucracy is an adaptive bureaucracy - in which case it's no longer a bureaucracy. [At least by our current use of the word. :) ]

As they say in India, or at least in their Parliament, "Can u Babu?" Wall St. was even worse than that, so we'd better not. Our very survival depends on accelerating our intrinsic ability and practiced skill at treating EVERY goal, policy, strategy, tactic and tool as something to instantly weed through. What should we be looking for? Signs of relevance or irrelevance to the new outcomes we're capable of imagining every day? You would think, but few of our politicians or voters appear to have much practice at that anymore.

The only thing keeping the USA from exploring insanely exciting options is our own STUPID austerity. What on earth are we saving up our fiat for? It's only as good as what we apply it to, and we can apply it optimally only if we regain our lost ability to screen out irrelevant cultural bullshit FASTER every year, not slower.


Roger Erickson said...

Well, no comments, so I'll reveal the hidden survey question I was hoping some would pick up on. It's been asked before, so now I'm experimenting with what motivates people to actually think.

Question: Why aren't we training all students to be systems thinkers - by immersing them in situational analysis and awareness, rather than forcing them to be disoriented specialists?

Roger Erickson said...

Std conspiracy theories always come back to purposeful "divide and conquer" as one reason. Yet the mass of evidence suggests sheer institutional momentum.

What'd Napoleon say?
"Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."

That still dumps us back to the question of what to do about our nation's situation, but it does dovetail with my perennial thesis, that "PEOPLE WILL DO ANYTHING IN THEIR POWER TO AVOID THINKING."

It's easier to blame a point source scapegoat, and much more work to actually further tune an increasingly complex system.

My worry is that we'll over-provision ourselves with Luddites once again, then wastefully lose more than necessary through another clumsy culling. There's always a better way, but the US doesn't seem to be working on it anymore. At least not very actively.

Roger Erickson said...

what would YOU do if you could be a Teacher, Principle or School District Commissioner?
(or, what WILL when it comes time to educate YOUR kids?)

Roger Erickson said...

meanwhile, we may have hit bottom? at least in a few places? Other locales are obviously sinking even lower.




Seems easy to summarize. Connectivity makes a better system - regardless of system type? It's shocking how few adults in this supposedly "connected" world were prepared to even grasp what that means.

You can't staff a rocketship with a crew that doesn't even know what a rocket is.

Coordination can't scale without shared orientation - aka, no autocatalysis without balanced feedback summing NET situational awareness.

i.e., minus a panic response (fight or flight)

a) don't bother over much with details until there's consensus about "where is this going", and why

b) after parsing purpose or intended outcome, then ruthlessly SELECT what tiny fraction of data matters!!!

If citizens are spending too much time in panic mode, it just means that some other nation is eating your nation's lunch.

SchittReport said...

roger, what are the consequences of failing the test? (the framework is pointless unless there are realistic solutions attached)

- mandatory re-education until pass?
- targeted lobotomy to eliminate parts of the brain which lead to flawed thinking patterns?
- deportation?
- elimination?
etc etc

Roger Erickson said...

"failing the test" right now means a failed outcome (depressions, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, S&L, mortgage fraud, etc, etc)

the point of a framework is to start paying better attention to early indicators, so that interventions and adaptations can come earlier than outright failed outcomes

e.g., we're installing "fast transient" triggers into automobiles (auto-braking, ABS, etc, etc)

in cultures, "fast transients" can take the form of Automatic Stabilizers - but those are only as good as the threshold mechanisms used to trigger and maintain them.

If we used a bank or insurance lobby to set auto-braking or ABS stds, we'd be in deep trouble.

Why on earth do we let a lobbying process alter what would otherwise be an "Outcomes Based" response to preventing repetition of past mistakes?