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Links to Consider, 11/21
Charles Rosenbauer on the state of computer science; Mary Harrington on the AWFLs; IQ and Midwits; Twenty-somethings not in the labor force; Brink Lindsey on nuclear power;
Moore’s law is coming to an end. It is slowing down rather than coming to a grinding halt, but already Dennard scaling has broken down, which eliminates many of the real benefits from scaling further for chips that are not almost entirely memory.
…The “Singularity” will fail to materialize. The vast power of human ingenuity will prove to not be purely the result of big brains, but rather the product of human language allowing us to stand on the shoulders of giants, giants whom themselves stand upon the shoulders of others. Yes, more powerful brains will be capable of some impressive feats, but will also be prone to making many arguments along the lines of “heavy objects fall faster than light objects” without constant real-world experimentation that is not bottlenecked by compute. Exposure to real-world entropy will become a more relevant bottleneck toward progress.
At undergraduate level, women are especially heavily represented among arts and social sciences courses – topics so overwhelmingly progressive that only 9% of undergraduates vote Republican. These overwhelmingly Left-wing female graduates then cluster in the institutions that set and manage social and cultural norms, such as education, media, and HR. In American nonprofits, for example, 75% are female, while HR, the division of corporate life most concerned with managing the moral parameters of everyday working life, is two-thirds female.
The catchy acronym is AWFL: affluent white female liberals. I will reiterate that I am ok with them playing in the games of business and politics. But I want them to stick to the rules that can be impersonally applied, including free speech and fair competition.
A commenter pointed to this analysis from 2019.
Today’s bachelor’s degree is the equivalent [in terms of average IQ] of a high school graduation certificate from fifty years ago, and today’s graduate degree falls short of a bachelor’s degree from a generation ago.
This is an inevitable consequence of increasing the share of the population that attends college. In the sixties, 10% of American adults had college degrees. Since then that figure has more than tripled, to 34% today.
If you think that college can transform someone with an average IQ into someone who belongs in the elite, then expanding it down the IQ scale is a good thing. But if you think of expanding college education as creating a cadre of whatcalls midwits, then it is not a good thing. This would be an interesting issue to explore, if it were not for the taboo on doing research involving IQ.
The WSJ has a story about “missing” young workers.
for people ages 20 to 24, participation that averaged 72.1% in 2019 stood at just 70.8% in October.
That equals a shortfall of about half a million workers in their early 20s when comparing the current size of that workforce with 2019 levels.
…The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental group that promotes economic growth, tracks the share of people who aren’t in employment, education or training, known as the NEET rate. The NEET rate for U.S. workers ages 20 to 24 rose from 14.67% in 2020 to 18.27% in 2021, the highest since 2014.
My curmudgeon’s take is that there are more young middle-class folks who are not ready for adulthood. I noticed during my last years of teaching high school (I stopped after June of 2016) that kids were not dating, were not getting their driver’s licenses, and just generally seemed less grown up. College these days caters to that, sheltering and regulating students way more than when I was in college.
My prior impression was that nuclear power had always been a high-cost white elephant propped up only by subsidies, but Hall documents that back in the 1950s and 60s, the cost of new plants was falling about 25 percent for every doubling of total capacity — a classic learning-curve trajectory that was abruptly halted in the 1970s by suffocating regulation. In 1974 the Atomic Energy Commission was abolished and the new Nuclear Regulatory Commission was established. In the almost half-century since then, there has not been a single new nuclear power plant approved and then subsequently built.
He is referring to the book Where is My Flying Car? by J. Storrs Hall.
Let us use Virginia Postrel’s terminology of dynamism vs. stasism. Lindsey, channeling Hall, is saying that we have chosen stasism. There are many others who take this view, including Peter Thiel and Tyler Cowen.
The question I have is “Who is ‘we’?” How did the stasists achieve cultural and political power? And what are they gaining from it? Until we understand that, I don’t see how we can change the situation.