I can appreciate the story - it's a paean to a lost world when we didn't need to be competitive. The thing is, money provides more power for the fisherman, which he would need if his environment changed:
-rebuilding after an earthquake
-fleeing if the local government goes bad
-dealing with a crash in tuna price
We all still live in a competitive environment. Hunter-gatherers were replaced by massively-reproducing (but probably unhappy & unhealthy) farmers. In the example, fishing represents pure surplus value, produced from nothing - and in economic situations like that, producing less than others means you'll eventually be out-competed and replaced.
In reality the same tragedy of the commons applies to fishing, and we haven't solved it there either.
Until competition is restrained, we've gotta compete. Individuals can opt out but they're just removing their traces from the future - those left will still be struggling until we have a way to globally eliminate environments which force people to be maximizers. And in a big universe, it's uncertain whether we can ever really control enough to be able to relax. It may even be computationally impossible to really stop the continuous evolution of competition in how we live life
Focusing solely on wealth inequality leads to strange conclusions:
The richest people should destroy productive resources
But destroying productive resources (efficient water purifiers, better solar panels, computers that do more computations using less energy) would have been wrong in almost all of history - so why would we adopt beliefs now which make it right?
I think it makes more sense to focus on getting everyone to a basic level of freedom & choice; i.e. good health, good education, and freedom of information.
A successful world is one where everyone has at least these basics. In that world, we don't have to worry if the richest person's swiss bank account balance doubles, or they build a few more mansions. The problem of wealth is the people who don't have enough!
If you judge countries externally by their Gini coefficient, countries which blow up the richest people's resources (or just stifle innovation (The USSR, 60s China)) will have a "better" number. So it's a really bad number to use, since there are evil ways to maximize it.
I'm suggesting we should use numbers like the absolute # of people in poverty, or national health, or access to education - those numbers aren't gameable and allow better solutions to rise to the top naturally (and we don't care how they go up, as long as they go up)
Say there's someone who wants to reduce inequality, and we ask them whether they approve of various scenarios:
Situation: "People living on a certain well-off island discover a way to farm more efficiently, which means they produce 10% more food, but that technology only works on their island. Is this good or bad?"
Inequality reducer: "This is bad, because that island's average income will go up while the rest of the world stays the same"
Situation: "We discover a free, simple cure for Alzheimer's"
Inequality reducer: "That's horrible, because Alzheimer's does the most damage to highly educated countries - those countries will now have way more mentally together, experienced 70-year-olds making them even richer, which will increase economic inequality with poorer countries where fewer people suffer from alzheimer's"
You have got to see this is a bit weird, right? It's a focus on minimizing local distortions sometimes can have a bad effect. In fact, imagine we really did have "equality" - the anti-inequality advocate would object to any change in that world, since it would lead to a temporary bit of inequality as information about the change propagated through it. Even simple things like the first invention of mechanized agriculture, or machines to make clothing, introduced tons of inequality at first, since there was only one copy of them at first! But we're better off now that our civilization doesn't have to devote 50% of everyone's life to growing food & making clothes by hand!
The other way to think about it is that that we just have to make sure everyone has at least a basic level of food, health, education, and freedom. That lets us focus on the main problems (people who don't have enough), and never could lead us into condemning gains in human quality of life.
That's an absolute straw man - someone wanting to reduce inequality doesn't want to do it at the expense of all other considerations, which is the assumption you've made.
Complaining about an increasing wealth gap does not mean that the only other option is perfect equality of wealth. Have you seen the breakdown of wealth in America? The gap between, say, the top 1% and the rest of society is staggering. The top 0.1% have more wealth than the bottom 90%!
It's a broken system that results in some people having wealth so wildly out of proportion with the rest of society, and its hard to argue its proportional to the value of their contributions.
What precisely is the proper level of inequality? i.e. what is the Gini coefficient of an equal society? I've never seen it calculated. (It's not 1.0 since there are age effects, plus it's expected that immigrants will be poorer than well-established people, etc.)
How did you get public subsidy into discussion anyway?
I have posted a simple question. What if large asset control inequality is inevitable? Is bringing down the wealthy, so that a new class of wealthy takes over and possibly destroying large means of the assets in process benefit society?
Thus far that is the biggest outcome generated by previous attempts at decreasing inequality.
"If congress passes a tax cut for the top 1%, that increases inequality, not because some group has suddenly "found a way to farm more efficiently"
That is, public subsidy is naturally a part of the discussion.
>What if large asset control inequality is inevitable?
There is nothing "inevitable" about asset control because there is nothing "inevitable" about our economic system. It is all a function of the choices that we make, so you are begging the question to some degree.
Some of the choices are related to, say, tax-policy, as noted. But, the system itself is one that we have constructed from the ground up to allocate resources (from property rights to market function to fiat currency). We've created ALL of the rules from whole cloth, so how can we turn around and say, "well, that's inevitable", as if nature has decided?
>Is bringing down the wealthy, so that a new class of wealthy takes over...
This is a strawman similar to monkeypiza's comment above. "Bringing down the wealthy", creating a new class of wealthy that "takes over", etc. are not the stated desire or inevitable result of making the system more equitable. It's not a binary proposition.
When we have, say, tax code that favors capital over labor, while we simultaneously assault unionization, the outcome is clearly skewed in one direction. Surely, you see that these factors are out of balance in disfavor of one group. And, if so (and your interest is in fairness), then you would have to flip your original argument in the other direction.
>How did you get public subsidy into discussion anyway?
Consider all the wealth that comes from natural resources, often extracted from state-owned lands. Consider the intellectual property policies that create wealth out of ideas by state fiat. Consider fiscal and monetary policies deliberately aimed at ensuring the health of the financial, insurance, and real-estate sector.
You make inequality out as the result of purely economic factors, when it is as much the result of political decisions. If congress passes a tax cut for the top 1%, that increases inequality, not because some group has suddenly "found a way to farm more efficiently" or discovered a cure to Alzheimer's, but because we decided it that way.
And as matthewmacleod has stated, you have constructed a complete straw man for someone against inequality. The inequality movement doesn't believe in destroying productive resources. The idea behind redistribution (e.g. taxing the rich and giving it – possibly through increased social spending – to the poor) is to make up for what is seen as an unfair rewarding of wealth and inequality of opportunity. And before you say that this results in the same thing as destroying resources because it drags the economy, I invite you to look into the research being done on the negative economic effects of inequality, not to mention its effect on society as a whole.
At the margin, I think we both mainly want to help poor people, right? I'm just pointing out that using measures like the Gini coefficient can inadvertently reward bad behavior. Of course neither side directly wants to destroy resources, but if we're comparing national Gini numbers & policies, there's no good way to distinguish between good vs bad ways to lower it. i.e. China's Gini has been going up, but they also are pulling tons of people out of poverty - is it bad or not? I'm not in favor of inequality, but just pointing out that historically the things that have moved people out of poverty have been market based innovation (the world since 1800), not direct assaults on inequality (USSR, Chinese revolutions, cuba etc.)
> I'm just pointing out that using measures like the Gini coefficient can inadvertently reward bad behavior
Great, duly noted. When you make grand assertions about the inequality movement in the future, I suggest you do some background research and actually understand their claims first.
> just pointing out that historically the things that have moved people out of poverty have been market based innovation (the world since 1800), not direct assaults on inequality (USSR, Chinese revolutions, cuba etc.)
You need a history lesson. First of all, reducing inequality is not the same as moving a nation out of poverty (remember, technically, the US is the richest nation in the world). And secondly, look at the US in the 1930s-40s, when JFK's New Deal and WWII – not "market based innovation" – led to the largest expansion of the middle class yet. See http://spot.colorado.edu/~kaplan/econ3080/Krugman-middle.htm...
Inequality in the US is a result of decisions we have made, not because the rich have suddenly become more innovative.
I hope he writes about wechat's grouping function, which is taking off like crazy now.
Group: In a normal chat, you can unilaterally add people to create a group, and it is permanent, and can be named. The creator has kick privileges, but anyone can add more people. So when people have dinner, they'll just add everyone they want to invite and then send the invite, maps, etc. to the group. Then during/after the event, everybody will send photos. Invitees can also add their own people to the group. I have current groups for weekly dinners, old parties, meetups, and work. It's way easier to set up and does much more than google+ / email / whatever it's replacing.
Some groups (for birthdays, etc.) stay around forever, as that person's social hub. Our work group sees a lot of use.
Once a group gets big you can't force-add people (they have to accept invites when the group is 40+). There are also some very touchy issues with leaving - when you leave the whole group gets a message, so people feel stuck in groups, or have to think carefully about how to get out gracefully.
I think this is what google hangouts / wave were meant to be. Not much management required, and unrelated people can be brought in, so it's under many people's control.
It probably won't happen in China, but I'd love to see anonymous messaging groups - you can see who's in the group but not who sent every message. Sort of like 4chan, and another way to allow more people to contribute; it'd also pull out things you won't be able to find out otherwise.
The selection in Ashkenazi was not done in the same way proposed here - filtering took whole lifetimes. In this system, you compress the whole "live 50 years and have slightly more / fewer children" step into one procedure.
This one is equivalent to picking the best one of 50 naturally occurring children, and raising them alone, every generation.
If Michael Jordan he had 50 children with a similarly elite mother, most of them would regress to the mean - but the best one could conceivably be near his level. If he had only one kid, it's very likely that the kid would regress significantly.
Also, of course there are negatives to high IQ but most of the time, this selection method wouldn't be done for that level. Two people of IQ 100 would be able to reliably have children of IQ 115, and those kids would have happier, longer, healthier lives, with no increased risks. [see the scottish IQ study; iq at age 11 was linked to a lifetime of better outcomes]
That is the real benefit of this technology - to give people the option of gradually bringing out the best of what's already inside themselves. I don't want to be forced to give my kids a random selection of my genes - I want to exercise some control. And of course there could be problems - perhaps +IQ genes might lie next to other, undetected bad genes. But that's random, and we're already completely subject to it.
You seem to have missed the author's explanation of how they could get 10-15 IQ points per generation:
"Potentially, the results would allow all Chinese couples to maximize the intelligence of their offspring by selecting among their own fertilized eggs for the one or two that include the highest likelihood of the highest intelligence. Given the Mendelian genetic lottery, the kids produced by any one couple typically differ by 5 to 15 IQ points. So this method of "preimplantation embryo selection" might allow IQ within every Chinese family to increase by 5 to 15 IQ points per generation."
Once we've found which genes produce a 10-15 IQ point difference (and that's a big "once"!), we select for those genes, and get a 10-15 point boost in the next generation. Eventually, assuming an ongoing eugenics program, we get a strain that breeds true for those characteristics, and the 10-15 point gain becomes permanent. What makes you (or the author) assume that every generation we're going to find another set of genes that will produce another 10-15 point boost?
I don't think you even need to think of it on the level of genes (because most of the time, chromosomes are inherited whole (barring crossing over)). So you'd just be picking the best combinations of random selection of chromosomes contributed by the parents.
It's like being able to roll 100 times and picking the best one in D&D character creation. The improvement might not be able to be done infinitely, but could at least get us to everyone having IQ 130, which would mean a reduction in all the problems associated with lower IQ. (Crime, poverty, lack of educational achievement, bad health)
i.e. a father has two variants of chromosome 6, one good and one great. Why not make sure that his kids just "by chance" get the great one? There will be lots of tradeoffs, but it'd always be better to occasionally step in and make a choice than to always accept randomness.
Is fertility heritable? Some aspects of it certainly are. i.e. lust, passion, lack of self control, working sperm, and mental traits such as the susceptibility to anti-abortion arguments, the desire to have a child in women, and the tendency towards religion are all either already proven to be heritable, or very likely are. I don't think the UN is taking this into account, since it's very un-PC and is mostly fairly recent research.
So as modernity attacks the desire to reproduce (with abortion/birth control, modernity, education, distraction, late marriage, etc.) we end up eliminating people who are vulnerable to not reproducing. The only people left will be ones who are resistant.
So my overall point is, even though the population growth rate may be slowing down, it doesn't mean it'll slow down forever. There are already resistant strains at low frequency in the population now - they will increase in prevalence and become the majority; they'll continuously suffer defections, some of whom will be high achievers due to not spending the time to reproduce, and the mindset that allows them to break away from conventionality - but as long as they don't reproduce, they'll be gone eventually.
I don't see any evidence that the heritability of desire to have large families (or the heritability of factors linked to not accidentally having large families) is anywhere near as strong as the effect of socioeconomic trends which have decimated the cultural and rational reasons for having large families in developed countries. Looking at a different aspect of heritability, modernity did far more damage to the intake of celibate religious orders and celebration of virginity than aeons of selective removal from the gene pool of those especially vulnerable to the idea that chastity was a virtue.
Populations of people that think birth control is a good idea and are quite happy to defer their children until later in life still reproduce in sufficient numbers to remain the majority in developed countries, especially assuming that many offspring of reproductive fanatics will end up "defecting" and behaving according to the prevailing social norm rather than their parent's preferences or inherited instincts.
Given the continued reproduction of people who think birth control is a sensible idea, women should have careers and more than three kids is a headache, I think heritability of desire to have large families would have to be almost deterministic for us to start to worry about hyper-fertile people taking over.
I think we can keep it going for a while, as you say, by continuously absorbing defectors from more fertile populations. But I think if you admit to any genetic component to this at all, there will definitely be genetic flow, with the more fertile populations eventually taking over.
I think you're placing too much emphasis on genetics. Genetics play a major role in determining the traits of an individual, but the way the individual was raised and the culture they grew up in also play a major role. The exact balance between the two is different depending on the trait, but an argument to the tune of "treat the likelihood of reproducing solely as a genetic trait" isn't going to have enough predictive power to say that people who don't want to have children are going to die off.
The same argument (falsely) applies to homosexuality. Since homosexual people don't pass on their genes, surely they must be bred out of the population? Well, estimates put the rate of homosexuality between 1% and 10%, so that didn't really turn out the way the purely-genetic argument would predict. It's just more complex than pure genetics.
The things I mentioned aren't just genetic - culture is also very heritable. So selection will work on that level, too.
The argument about homosexuality is similar to asking why amazon hunters keep getting killed by jaguars - you could "disprove" evolution by asking "why hasn't evolution just selected the ones resistant to jaguars?" But it's because getting as close to danger as possible is an effective strategy. That's one of the more reasonable genetic explanations for for why homosexuality still exists, too.
I'm surprised no one has talked about atypical reproduction strategies. If someone was the type of person who would like to clone themselves, and they did it 50 times, their kids may be that type of person too (and there would be selection for clone-parents who educate kids to continue the tradition). This would be a locally adaptive behavior, and would end population decline.
I don't think that would have influence. If you wanted to have many children, there are easier and especially cheaper ways.
The majority of world population wouldn't be able to afford it, even if it got really cheap, like 100USD per clone, only a small percentage of the population could afford it to really have 50 clones, even if it became a trend that would not have a huge effect.
A person can already decide to have more than 10 children in most cases, basically for free, potentially even with monetary benefits (Canada, Europe, ...).
Just have the next big pop star talk about how great it is to have many children and how everybody should do the same.
Or lets have a big debate about the awful effects of overpopulation.
> If you wanted to have many children, there are easier and especially cheaper ways.
And surely, more fun ;) When you're poor, that's about the easiest thing you can do to help pass the time ... which is why there's all this evidence of increasing wealth/women's rights results in fewer births.