Peril of Good Intentions

Defeated in college

I ran across a friend’s Facebook post about parenting and related a description of a college psychology professor’s eugenics lecture. The reply was that eliminating the genes of less intelligent people seems like it could help improve society. This seeming promise is why it has been tried many times. Before the Holocaust shifted to genocide, it dabbled in eugenics and mimicked United States eugenics programs.

But, let’s assume that a eugenics program stayed away from genocide. I still have issues with this…

Why a specific person is intelligent or not tends to be not so clear cut as good or bad genes. Psychologists tend to be pretty sure that most of intelligence comes from genes. I personally think genes provide recipes for brain cells and a layout of those cells. The brain cells still have to be grown and connections established in the brain. Exposure to various experiences in the raising of the child help achieve the potential provided by the brains. If a person both has good genes and was raised in such a way to maximize their potential, then I think a person ought to become the person we want them to be. Are we at a point where almost all children can are provided the experiences to reach this potential? Not even close. I think people who think we reasonably are at this point feel that eugenics or genetic modification are the ways to push beyond our plateau. I would prefer we fix the environment before we start punishing people for lack of socioeconomic resources or programs to help.

Biases cloud our conclusions in situations where we are not usually aware. It was thought the reason orchestras were almost all male because they were better performers. They shifted to a better mix of genders after the practice of blind auditions became common. Why? Because there are biases which affect opinions assessments beneath our ability to tell. We see similar issues when it comes to intelligence assessment and especially jobs in skilled fields. IQ tests have fought hard to get better at not being WEIRD. Anonymous names on papers change the grades students get and which conference submissions are accepted. Some of meritocracies could be doing much better.

When people think they are objective and unbiased then they don’t monitor and scrutinize their own behavior. They just assume that they are right and that their assessments are accurate. Yet, studies repeatedly show that stereotypes of all kinds (gender, ethnicity, age, disability etc.) are filters through which we evaluate others, often in ways that advantage dominant groups and disadvantage lower-status groups.

The eugenics movements were confident the physically & mentally unfit, materially poor, and atheists needed to controlled. People of color just happened to commonly be identified as meeting their criteria. I will be skeptical of any similar movement to be truly objective because even though they truly intend to be, the prior ones thought they were too. Hindsight shows they were not.

Of course, the abomination that I am was the reasoning for why my parents were not allowed to marry in my home state. It was deemed bad for the Caucasian race to allow mixing with inferior races. That probably fuels my own bias against this kind of thing.

IE and IQ

A friend posted the Internet Explorer users ‘have below-average IQ’ story on Google+. On the one hand, I love the idea of bashing IE users as incapable computer users who ought to get off the Internet. But then my Psychology background screams at this study as generally worthless. The lack of a statistical analysis ought to be another huge red flag.

I generally think an overall WAIS-IV score is mostly meaningless for something like this. IQ is a measure of skills. The typical use of intelligence is capacity instead. The skill set scores of WAIS like Similarities, Block Design, Sequencing, or Coding would at least indicate where are the differences and give better meaning. My favorite part of What is Intelligence? covered which of these are improving and possibly why.

Age is an obvious factor for which they should have controlled. It was even data they collected. The Flynn Effect demonstrates there are IQ changes over time. If the rumors are true that older Internet users are the most likely to use a default web browser, then that could be a very important factor muddling these results. Correcting for age might dramatically change these results.

Location could also be very important. A work computer might be locked down so the user is not taking the test on their preferred browser.

The Ares Imperative

The Ares ImperativeA friend of mine, Steve Ekstrom, is the writer of this comic which I enjoyed for the this first 8 pages. I’m looking forward to the next installments. Check out The Ares Imperative! (And vote for it if you like it. The winner gets published by DC Comics.)
Interview:

Synopsis:

It’s the early 21st Century and corporations continue to manipulate world governments as emerging quasi-religious science cults and techno-centric international terrorists are beginning to develop their own biological weapons mapped out in human genomes. Special Agent Adam Geist operates covertly within the framework of the ultra-classified PROJECT ARES division of the C.I.A. under the supervision of Deputy Director Ted Gerard and his assistant Maxwell Clearwater.

Geist does not fully comprehend the processes, which he has undergone as a part of PROJECT ARES but numerous studies have revealed that alien mitochondria have asserted control of his DNA—altering his higher intelligence functions and his nervous system receptor processing speed. He has become sensitive to electromagnetic fields and has developed heightened senses, which include something akin to Wi-Fi reception. His skin is capable of rapid, localized cellular density adaptation—making him virtually bulletproof.

Due to the secret nature of his existence and the fear that a “super-man” would create in light of the unstable relations between the U.S. and other world powers, Geist is under strict orders: he must eliminate anyone—friend or foe—who learns of his uncanny abilities. Sadly, as he grows in power, his own humanity diminishes from the actualization of his computer-like brain—and now, evidence is beginning to surface that his own strange biology may, in fact, be malevolent in nature…

The LMS is So Web 1.5

The claims Blackboard’s Learn 9 provides a Web 2.0 experience has bothered me for a while now. First, it was the drag-n-drop. While cool, that isn’t Web 2.0 in my opinion. A little more on track is the claim:

The all-new Web 2.0 experience in Release 9 makes it easy to meaningfully combine information from different sources. The Challenges Are Real, But So Are the Solutions

Integrating with a social network like Facebook is a start, but again, in my opinion, it still isn’t Web 2.0.

So, what is Web 2.0? I did some digging. I think the Tim O’Reilly approach meets my expectation best. He quotes Eric Schmidt’s “Don’t fight the Internet.” as well as provide his own more in depth.

Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them. (This is what I’ve elsewhere called “harnessing collective intelligence.”) Web 2.0 Compact Definition: Trying Again

Users expect a site on the Internet to meet their needs or they eventually move on to a site which does. There are so many web sites out there providing equivalent features to those commonly found in an LMS. There is the danger of irrelevance. This is why every LMS company or group strives to continually add new features (aka innovating). The bar continually gets raised, so LMS software continually needs to meet this higher standard.

Tim additionally provides some other rules which you can see at the above link.

When an LMS reachs the point where the resources of the Internet helps people learn, then it will be a Web 2.0. As long as an expert or leader imparts knowledge on students, the LMS is still something different than Web 2.0. Sorry…. The irony? This is exactly what Michael Wesch and PLE advocates preach.

Causal Stupidity

Everything Bad Is Good for You
Image via Wikipedia

I remember as a kid, my parents restricting television and video game use because they would both make me stupid and violent. They worked too hard, so I had plenty unsupervised time to violate the rules. Plus no force would make me do homework.

The past half decade has seen a resurgence of blame on making kids dumber: the Internet. If I were a kid today, then certainly my parents would be trying to limit my time on it. Comics and radio were also accused of making kids dumb during my parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

What I don’t understand is… If we are becoming so dumb from the current media sources, then how is it possible we can invent new technology to make us even dumber? Perhaps Mark Bauerlein and Lee Drutman should read Everything Bad Is Good For You? (a review) Mike Wesch has an engaging video regarding how kids use these technologies called A Vision of Students Today.

These “dumb” kids know something as despite their involvement with media as they still significantly outperform their parents on IQ tests to the degree the grandparents would qualify for the “special class” taking the same tests. These gains are centered in our ability to create better expansive and interconnecting cognitive maps. I suggest What is Intelligence?: Beyond the Flynn Effect for more about this.

Zemanta Pixie

Why One Should Not Connect With Egoists on Social Networks

“Second, if you add me as a friend I assume you want me to send you emails and interact with you.” — Plaxo: the social monster? – Scobleizer

Robert is the geek equivalent of Paris Hilton or Brittany Spears or Lindsey Lohan: A sad trainwreck we all thank a higher being that its not us. People don’t care what he has to say or endorse. They just want appear “cool” to their other geek friends. Because he does not know us, we don’t expect him to actually contact us.

The further a number of connections rises above 150 (Dunbar’s number), the more people listed who are not really a friend. At 5,000, he would require unheard of levels of emotional intelligence (I just don’t see it) to know them all well. Therefore, its clear the connections from Scoble’s perspective is to market to them (aka spam).

Humans 51,749,484,784,784 v. Computers 4

The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog: A Computer Program Wins Its First Scrabble Tournament

When Deep Blue first defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, the computer program’s victory was hailed as a watershed moment for artificial intelligence, and rightfully so. But in November, another program reached a gaming milestone of its own, and no one seemed to notice. The Wired Campus intends to fix that.

At a Scrabble tournament in Toronto, a piece of software called Quackle triumphed in a best-of-five series over David Boys, a computer programmer who won the world Scrabble championship in 1995. The open-source program’s chief designers include Jason Katz-Brown, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who also happens to be one of the top-ranked Scrabble players in the world.

Quackle’s win did not come easily. Mr. Boys leapt out to a quick lead against the software, winning the first two games thanks to words like “pithead” and “redyeing.” But the computer program roared back and took the final three tilts, making a couple of outstanding plays — like “deviating,” placed through two disconnected I’s that were already on the board — that even top-level human players would be hard-pressed to spot.

Quackle earned the right to play Mr. Boys by edging out another Scrabble-playing program, Maven, in a series of games against expert human players. (Quackle finished the Toronto Computer vs. Human Showdown, as the event was called, with a gaudy 32-4 record, while Maven could only muster a 30-6 showing.)

Mr. Boys seemed to have no trouble keeping a sense of perspective after the loss: “It’s still better to be a human than to be a computer,” he said. And as the former world champion undoubtedly realizes, luck plays a much greater role in a Scrabble duel than in a chess match. About a decade ago, Mr. Boys played a perfect game against a more primitive computer program — and he still lost. 

MIT Fraternity Accused Of Robot Hazing

The Onion made me smile tonight.

MIT Fraternity Accused Of Robot Hazing | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Several members of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology chapter of the Theta Tau fraternity are in campus-police custody today following a brutal hazing incident in which one robot remains missing and two others are in critical condition with extensive circuitry and servo-motor injuries, sources revealed Monday.

The robots, experimental prototypes recently devised at MIT’s prestigious Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, were participating in an apparent initiation exercise that police say involved butyl alcohol and compressed air.

MIT Fraternity Accused Of Robot Hazing

The Onion made me smile tonight.

MIT Fraternity Accused Of Robot Hazing | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Several members of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology chapter of the Theta Tau fraternity are in campus-police custody today following a brutal hazing incident in which one robot remains missing and two others are in critical condition with extensive circuitry and servo-motor injuries, sources revealed Monday.

The robots, experimental prototypes recently devised at MIT’s prestigious Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, were participating in an apparent initiation exercise that police say involved butyl alcohol and compressed air.