What we had to begin with + Practice + Memorization = Orientation

Chet Richards, founder of DNI and Belisarius, has an excellent post on decision speed cycle (in the context of the OODA loop):

1. The side which can keep its Orientation more closely matched to the unfolding situation will have an advantage. Another way to say this is that the side whose mental model of the universe is better will find opportunities to create and exploit gaps in the other side’s understanding.

2. You need an inventory of potentially effective actions that can flow smoothly from Orientation via the “implicit guidance and control” link. These actions are generally developed and made intuitive through years of hard training and exercises.

Basically, under this concept, when Orientation decides that it’s time to trigger an action, it just does it. Until then, we continue to observe and to tweak our orientations.

My current projects center around translating these concepts for educational psychologists. It’s a ton of work getting beyond the catch-22 (“why develop a theory if it’s not mentioned in the experimental literature?” “why run an experiment if its not implied by the theoretical literature”), but also a ton of fun.


The term “identity” is used to describe two separate concepts.

The first meaning of “identity” is metacognitive awareness of one’s own preference schedule. Educators often encourage “identity” (that is, better metacognitive knowledge). The purpose of this is emphasized by, and the ability to do this is questioned by, the people’s lack of introspection. Additionally, Catholic theology questions the desirability of “discovering” one’s own identity. Human nature may be sinful, but sin (which accounts for much of the natural preference schedule) does not “name” man. That is, wrong preference schedules cannot be used in describing one’s true preference schedules.

Another use of “identity” is as an in-group/out-group marker. Typically, this occurs when there are rival political coalitions that can affect an individual’s standing. For instance, the famous “erasing racism” study was able to override implicit racist identity by mixing the racial composition of competing groups of males. Similarly, the early “identity” of Catholic Bosnians as “Christian” (in the early part of the Bosnian War, when they were attempted to form ethnically homogenous regions of that state) quickly gave way to an “identity” as non-Serb, as both Bosnian Muslims and Bosian Croats (catholics) united to drive the Orthodox Christian Serbs from their territory.

General intelligence, working memory, and how American Public Schools hurt those who need them most

Colom, R., Rebollo, I., Palacios, A., Juan-Espinosa, M., & Kyllonen, P.C. (2004). Working memory is (almost) perfectly predicted by g. Intelligence, 32(3), 277-296. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2003.12.002.

Andrew Sullivan, Ezra Klein, Half Sigma, and other bloggers of note are going around on the question of the heritability of intelligence in general, and the possibility of biological causes for the differences in general intelligence obsered in different groups. While occasionally people speak carelessly, it’s remarkable how far the Standard Social Sciences Model (SSSM) of all human differences being the result of different environments has already collapsed. There are three traditional ways to attack the notion in biologically-driven racial differences in general intelligence

  1. There is no such thing as general intelligence
  2. There are no such things are races
  3. The environmental conditions in which the races tend to exist are unequal

The first two criticism are discredited. One can deny g or ancestry in the same way that one can deny darwinian selection or the old Earth: through determined dogmatism.

The third criticism remains, if only because of the horrifying inequalities in the world today. Of course, environmental inequalities can rapidly turn into biological inequalities. One only needs to look at the Inbred Gap to know that. Yet it’s also true that one can be trained to perform better on any subset of tests that are used to measure general intelligence. Thus the Flynn Effect: this or that measure will suddenly deviate from the rest, causing illusionary growth or shrinkage in differences.

One measure that very closely approximates g (“(almost) perfectly predicts,” in the word of the paper’s excited authors) is working memory.

This article analyzes if working memory (WM) is especially important to understand g. WM comprises the functions of focusing attention, conscious rehearsal, and transformation and mental manipulation of information, while g reflects the component variance that is common to all tests of ability. The centrality of WM in individual differences in information processing leads to some cognitive theorists to equate it with g. There are several studies relating WM with psychometric abilities like reasoning, fluid intelligence, spatial visualization, spatial relations, or perceptual speed, but there are very few studies relating WM with g, defined by several diverse tests. In three studies, we assessed crystallised intelligence (Gc), spatial ability (Gv), fluid intelligence (Gf), and psychometric speed (Gs) using various tests from the psychometric literature. Moreover, we assessed WM and processing speed (PS). WM tasks involve storage requirements, plus concurrent processing. PS tasks measure the speed by which the participants take a quick decision about the identity of some stimuli; 594 participants were tested. Confirmatory factor analyses yielded consistently high estimates of the loading of g over WM (.96 on average). WM is the latent factor best predicted by g. It is proposed that this is so because the later has much in common with the main characteristic of the former.

Working memory allows you to make sense of information, so that you can remember it. It is most important in that it makes it easier to memorize things. This also explains why school appears to lower general intelligence of high-performing populations, such as Chinese: if you are in an environment where high academic achievement is socially punished, excess working memory capacity naturally atrophies. Similarly, this may explain why the heritability of g increases in life: once out of the socialized public schools, an individuals’ environment is more under his control, and an individual that enjoys tasks that involve the comprehension of complex materials will strengthen those neural connections more.

If g really is working memory, the educational implications are huge. The soft bigotry of low expectations is especially brutal to those apparently with low working memory capacity. Because working memory does not matter once a task is memorized. Memorization is the way-out of the trap of low working memory. And what’s needed for memorization is clear: practice, academic discipline, and practice. Yet who believes that fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education most majority-black schools are models of academic seriousness and discipline?

Even more tragic — if the link between general intelligence and working memory is strong — working memory is trivially easy to test. There’s no need for race-conscious policies at all to battle what may be the worst racial inequality through education. We could close much of the achievement gap, regardless of average biological differences between races.

Instead, we have America’s public schools.

End Genocide

The year is 1500. The continent smells of death. The majority of the population is kept enslaved, though that term is used for only some of the victims. The common people, that ragged mass, work for nobles who either stole the land or had it granted to them from another thief. Food is not abundant. The average diet produces a form of walking starvation, allowing these “children of God” enough energy to labor in the farms and the mines, if not enough to reproduce. Indeed, somewhere around 80% of this population will leave no trace in our world, their genetic material snuffed out through violence, disease, pestilence, or the absence of conditions that would have allowed them to give birth to children who do not die in infancy.

In short, Europe sucked. The rest of the world did, too.

Of course, our goal is to prevent this from happening again. Mass death and work-based starvation are not appropriate fates for humans, whether Europeans or Amerinidans, whether in the 15th century or the 20th. What must be done, therefore, to prevent such genocides?

One tool, blunt but effective, is this: destroy genocidal cultures.

One objection, which must be dealt with straightaway, is to ask whether such self defense is itself genocide. After all, the definition of genocide presented by Moshman (2007) would appear to encompass cultural destruction, or at least transformation, as readily as biological death. This is true. But there can be no debate that the genocide that involves death is infinitely worse than one that does not.

At a first approximation, some form of social organization appear to be inherently genocidal. Take the Lakota Sioux, for instance. Lakota Sioux society was centered around the buffalo, an animal that existed in vast herds as a result to the Amerind die-off centuries earlier. Ignorant of either industry or agriculture, Lakota society forced tribes to follow buffalo herds that were otherwise impeded. Towns, farms, and other tribes that provided resource competition were exterminated or relocated, because no other organization of the means of production was possible as long as Lakota society relied on such wandering.

Following the end of the Sioux Wars, American forces recognized they had captured a Lakoa population in which every able body male was not just potentially a warrior, but actually a warrior. Every family was thus not just capable of harboring a potential genocidier, but actually was providing psycho-scoio-economic support to a warrior whose methods were inherently genocidal. Correctly distinguishing cultural continuity from democide, US forces set up a series of Indian schools with the explicit goal of killing the potential genocider within the child while providing the child a range of life-options, none of which included mass murder.

Off course, merely being settled does not make one peaceful. The examples of genocidal Germany, and merely shockingly inhumane Japan, provide proof of this. Once again, following victory, American forces were faced with thoroughly militarized populations. While the Germans and Japans had transcended the need for talking buffalo, their nightmare was all the more modern, including political institutions, religious organizations (including the National Reich Church and State Shinto), and civil societies focused on external wars of aggression. Once again, the US distinguished between cultural discontinuity and death. Membership in the NSDAP was outlawed, the National Reich Church and State Shinto faiths were persecuted more thoroughly than even the Romans might have dreamed, and core elements of social life (the national anthem in Germany, compulsory education in Japan) were banished.

Technologies advance, of course, and the prevention of genocide is now less kinetically intense, if no less thorough. Cultural folkways are often transmitted from mother to child, attempts to disrupt such transmission. To the extent that we wish to fundamentally alter these societies to reduce their militancy against us and their neighbors, both mother-son transmission and more fundamentally mother-daughter cultural transmission must be disrupted. That is, these cultures will continue to exist so long as mothers are able to train their daughters how to raise families. So, of course, we attack this weak link. Female literacy programs have the direct effect of ending an age-old method of matrilineal acculturation, replacing it with whatever current techniques such girls are introduced to in their texts. The details of those texts of course do not matter: it is not necessary that they become us: it is only critical that they cease being them.

Now, I am aware that the preceding anecdotes are narratives, not statistics. It’s possible that the Germans really would have “chilled ,” and there was no need for a two-strikes-and-your-out policy. Likewise, perhaps the Japanese were forced into war for structural reasons unrelated to State Shinto, and it may be that the nightmarish Ghost Dace Religion, a messianic cult looking forward to the death-by-fire of black and other foreigners in North America, was just another way of saying “I love you.” Maybe the conditions in all of the Islamic world are already above those that would require outside assistance in building female literacy.

Ultimately, the question of when to employ cultural discontinuity as a genocide prevention tool is part technical and part political. But it is an option, a human rights tool. And that is why definitions of genocide similar to “” are not necessarily incorrect but most definitely wrong: lumping the prevention with the disease merely hastens death.


Moshman, D. (2007). Us and them: Identity and genocide. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 7(2), 115-135.

Dozier Internet Law and the language of violence

Considering the pattern unethical, if sometimes hilarious, things to come out of Dozier Internet Law, references to killing shouldn’t surprise me. But they still do:

From John W. Dozier, Jr’s personal blog:

Dozier Internet Law continues to monitor and evaluate developments in the law of the web. Right now it looks like the laws and decisions are continuing to catch up with the “Wild West” mentality that is so prevalent among the “scofflaws” of the web. It’s good to remember that some pioneers get arrows in their backs, I guess.

I’ve previously analyzed Dozier’s nuisance lawsuits as a form of violence at Dreaming 5GW, which led to a reply by curtis at Phatic Communion, but I believe John’s words are the first that include reference to direct, life-altering bodily harm.

Weirdly, in an earlier piece, Dozier defined “sadists” bloggers as those who are the first to recommend physical violence. Granted, John didn’t recommend physical violence yet… “I guess.”