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Links to Consider, 1/22
Lee Bressler from Davos; Joseph Henrich on Islamic exceptionalism; Katherine Boyle on extended adolescence; Scott Alexander's readers are really smart
Lee Bressler is in Davos, describing the scene. He captions one of his photos
Not a great photo of the Belvedere Hotel, where the WSJ, Bank of America, PWC, and many others have their lounges and host great events. This is the most important hotel to have access to, as you can also scrounge together a meal for free most of the time.
It seems like an event at which the status hierarchy is very elaborately defined. And someone who makes a deal out of “scrounge together a meal for free” probably is pretty close to the bottom.
Islam, they constrained polygynous marriage, but then they adopted this inheritance rule. And the inheritance rule says that daughters get half of what sons inherit. Well that works fine if you’re a trader like Muhammad. But if your wealth is mostly in land, that means every time you marry a daughter off, part of your land goes away, and you get poorer and poorer and poorer as you marry your daughters off.
What Islamic society started doing was something that’s almost unheard of cross-culturally, except in the Islamic world, is patrilateral parallel cousin marriage. So if you’re a male, you marry your daughter to your brother, to your brother’s sons. And that keeps the wealth within the family and it stops that bleeding off of wealth. Those families get richer and more prosperous, so other groups copy them. But that creates this very endogenous kinship system
On the topic of IQ, Henrich says,
I had a post-doc named Helen Davis, who has shown how the introduction of schooling destroys some cognitive abilities. So people get dumber when you send them to western schools in some ways, but they also get smarter in the ways that we call IQ. It’s just an interesting way that institutions manipulate our cognitive abilities. So when you see differences around the world in IQ, those can be very much the product of schooling, the importance of certain kinds of cognitive abilities, emphasis on pursuing these kinds of things, all those sorts of things.
Hanania offers a lot of pushback against Henrich’s downplaying the role of genes in IQ.
In 1990, the average age of first marriage in the U.S. was 23 for women and 26 for men, up from 20 for women and 22 for men in 1960. By 2021, that number had risen to 28.6 years for women and 30.4 years for men, according to the Census Bureau, with 44 percent of U.S. women between the ages of 25 and 44 expected to be single in 2030. Delayed adulthood has had disastrous consequences for procreation in industrialized nations and is at the root of declining fertility and all-but-certain population collapse in dozens of countries, many of which expect the halving of their populations by the end of the century.
Scott Alexander asks his readers about their educational backgrounds. Among the many tables he presents, there are these two:
I also asked respondents their SAT scores. For verbal:
And for math:
No offense, but I doubt that your average scores are that high. My own verbal SAT score was lower than these averages. My math score was a little higher. As a cognitive elite, I would take Scott’s readers over Harvard grads.
Substacks referenced above: