Sorokin’s Norma

Vladimir Sorokin is a (post)modern Russian author. His style is of the absurdist/surrealist variety, with a generous dose of obscenity and bodily-function realism. His novel Norma (“The Norm”) describes a society without overt authoritarian repression; the citizens mostly get to go about their daily lives. There’s one catch, though: everyone above a certain age has to consume a daily portion of “norma”, which we’re not entirely comfortable describing on a family-friendly blog. The attitude towards this daily ordeal is somewhat complex: nobody pretends to enjoy it, but somehow that’s ok (“nobody said this would be comfortable” is a common refrain of CRT bullies). Nobody dares openly question or criticize this practice; the most common coping strategy is just to quickly get it over with.

I suppose I’ve already given away where I’m going with this. Suppose you’re a professor in a STEM field, or a corporate employee, or a math teacher. You are largely apolitical, or at least have no desire to mix politics with work or private life. You love your job and do it well. Now imagine being subjected to this, on pain of losing everything you love and have worked so hard to attain. Nor is this a one-time event. Robin DiAngelo’s and Ibram X. Kendi’s mind-numbing drivel will be regularly shoved down your throat in mandatory reading groups.

How do you respond to this? Game theory predicts what we’re already observing: the vast majority will hold their noses and quietly swallow the norma, rather than calling it out for the revolting shit that it is.

Update: Instalanche!

Anarcho-tyranny: because

harassing law-abiding citizens is a hell of a lot easier (and safer!) than going after violent thugs. Tweet-size summary:

UPDATE: After posting I realized that this 0.75 years old — but you come to this blog for timeless wisdom, not breaking news.

Wanting to scream at the talking heads

George Will and Steven Pinker say mostly reasonable things here, which makes it all the more maddening when they make obvious, dumb blunders. At around 14:00-18:00 they lament the demise of robust rational discourse. You can’t hurt people’s feelings anymore! Speech is violence! Well, not quite, stupid-smart folk. There is a certain protected class of individuals whose feelings are indeed sacrosanct. You do not belong to that class*. The feelings of you and people like you are fair game to be violated and trampled in the most baroque ways imaginable (try speaking on campus — you’ll be lucky if your feelings is all that gets hurt). Are they really oblivious to this distinction regarding hurt feelings? Crimestop much?

* Will (in that 14-18 segment) briefly veers off into dangerous territory by mentioning this bit of apartheid, but gets no reaction from the others and quickly retreats to safe ground.

Shame on the ADL

for forcing us to concede Sailer’s point, but more importantly, for being pro-Jewish in name only (actually, are they pro-Jew even in name? wouldn’t that be… racist?). Tell us, ADL, what group poses the greatest physical danger to American Jews on a day-to-day basis, out there in the street? ADL won’t tell American Jews where the real threat lies, but we will. ADL will try to score cheap virtue-signalling points by fretting about “white supremacy“, but any Jew who’s more worried about that in Current Year than, say, Islamic terrorism is suicidally stupid.

Tucker for President!

Whither Quanta Magazine?

Scientific American has long been a worthless woke rag — and that was before they descended into the sheer madness of the penis pedestal. The prestigious journal Nature followed suit; the Mathematical Association of America wasn’t far behind. We’re not going for an exhaustive list, you get the idea.

Quanta magazine has managed to hold out as a standard-bearer among the craven bleating herd. The standard they bore was of high-quality math reporting. Until now:

One of these is not like the others. We weep.

Algorithmic Unfairness

We’ve been meaning to comment on fairness in AI. After all, the cancel list saga began with a kerfuffle inside google. We had obliquely referenced that event here, but see the doxa post for a must-read summary.

Aaron Roth is a CS professor at UPenn who specializes in this stuff. Two years ago, he wrote a blog post titled “Algorithmic Unfairness Without Any Bias Baked In”, where he steelmans the claim that datasets are not the only source of algorithmic bias. He illustrates his point with the following example. Consider two populations of candidates, say Red and Blue. Both have the same distribution of IQ, but the Blues are wealthier. Colleges would like to admit people based on IQ but must use the SAT tests as proxy. The Reds take the test once but the Blues (being wealthier) take it twice and report the higher of the two scores. Thus, a color-blind admission algorithm will unfairly admit dumber Blues just because they had the money to take the test twice. [We can debate the meaning of “fairness*” till we turn blue in the face, but in this case that won’t be necessary — we can take it to mean how closely the algorithm’s behavior aligns with the institution’s goals.] The remedy Roth advocates is to take the Red/Blue status into account, and normalize the Blue scores in accordance to the advantage afforded by their wealth.

We have no mathematical objections to Professor Roth’s example; it’s perfectly valid as far as it goes. But presumably, his goal was not to illustrate a theoretical hypothetical — what’s very much at stake is the real-life implications. And that being the case, I call shenanigans on a number of points.

Point 1: If Roth is in favor of race-blind affirmative action based on socioeconomic status alone, we would very much support him on that. This came out quite muddled in his example, where “color” is perfectly predictive of wealth. I have a suspicion that the Red/Blue trick was designed to pull a fast one. No reasonable person would object to the toy conclusion of his toy example, and yet he doeth protest: “But you might reasonably object: because we have learned separate models for the Blues and the Reds, we are explicitly making admissions decisions as a function of a student’s color!” This seems like a sneaky way to argue for race-based affirmative action (the phrase “student’s color” is all too suggestive) when really his example only supports discrimination based on wealth level. We would love for Prof. Roth to clarify this point.

Point 2: This is secondary to point 1, but can’t we just keep track of how many times a person takes a test and normalize for that directly?

* Well, not really — the word has kinda been appropriated to have a narrow, tendentious meaning. That’s the nice thing about being in poweryou get to change the plain, commonly accepted sense of familiar words to suit your political needs.

The BLM thugs only win if you let them

— that’s my takeaway from David Cole’s latest characteristically entertaining piece (“The restaurant was functioning perfectly—whites, Jews, Mexicans—until BLM showed up for reparations.”) Cole makes it very clear that he offers no policy prescriptions (“I’m not in any way advocating for other states to follow our lead”), merely offering a snapshot of the state of affairs:

Is there crime in Hispanic underclass neighborhoods? Absolutely. SoCal will never be Reykjavik (it never was). However, Hispanic crime lacks the predatory antiwhite hate-driven hostility of black crime. The best deal? No. But a better deal than 1980s black L.A., and I say that from experience. Plus, there’s the issue of offsets. To an extent, Mexican underclass criminality is offset by the value of Mexican labor. There was no such offset in black L.A. You got just the crime, but not the dishwashers and drywallers.

The heartening takeaway, at least for me, is that when the would-be robbery victim fights back instead — crucially, with the backing of the police chief and the broad community at large — the thugs scurry off with their tail between their legs. Of course, fighting back monsters is really the only viable option, but it certainly does help to know you won’t be prosecuted for defending yourself. PTT was on this a while ago. (We do wonder if Cole might be behind the times on Reykjavík, which reported a record number of rapes in 2018. By a weird coincidence, this is right about the time “Tiny Iceland Open[ed] Its Doors to Immigrants“).

From the other side of the barricades, embattled lefty political analyst David Shor basically confirms that punching back is much better for GOP prospects than taking it lying down. He also gives away much of the game: “Obviously, D.C. and Puerto Rican statehood are great. But we should really strongly consider adding more than two states. I’ve been trying to push the U.S. Virgin Islands, for example — home to largely nonwhite, marginalized people who don’t have representation.” He doesn’t mention court-packing, but that’s obviously another path to long-term lefty supremacy. This is no joke, people.

Radical candor from Scott Alexander

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve followed the Scott Alexander saga. PTT has mostly been an admirer of Scott (real last name: Siskind), although we did take him to task for crimestop when discussing transgender issues and race-and-IQ. His latest — a review of deBoer’s book — is a must-read. This passage, on the genetic basis of intelligence and its relevance to you-know-what, particularly stood out:*

I’ve vacillated back and forth on how to think about this question so many times, and right now my personal probability estimate is “I am still freaking out about this, go away go away go away”. And I understand I have at least two potentially irresolveable biases on this question: one, I’m a white person in a country with a long history of promoting white supremacy; and two, if I lean in favor then everyone will hate me, and use it as a bludgeon against anyone I have ever associated with, and I will die alone in a ditch and maybe deserve it. So the best I can do is try to route around this issue when considering important questions.

He goes on to explicitly enjoin any contact with this third rail: “(Feel free to talk about the rest of the review, or about what DeBoer is doing here, but I will ban anyone who uses the comment section here to explicitly discuss the object-level question of race and IQ.)”

Hats off to Scott for his refreshing candor. His combination of erudition and honesty is a rare breath of fresh air. Avoiding third rails is a matter of survival. We’re not yet at a stage where going there will get you imprisoned or killed, but it will most certainly get you, and those with varying degrees of association with you, cancelled. Fired and permanently unhirable. Banned from all social networks. Cut off from financial services. We have plenty of chutzpah here at PTT, but we do stop at calling out, from behind the veil of anonymity, a guy who’s putting his livelihood on the line.

* Petty pendantry: “irresolveable” has an extra ‘e’ and what he calls “algebra” is, at best, more like “linear equations in 2 unknowns”.

Update: We still think he could do better on the transgender stuff — and, in particular, would love for him to address the challenges issued in our Napoleon post.