Posted on December 2, by Scott Alexander I. On The Road is a terrible book about terrible people. Jack Kerouac and his terrible friends are brought to the brinks of a lot of things, actually.
One informal analysis suggests short first names are strongly correlated with higher salaries. They are bad in several ways, and modern glyphs are little better.
For example, v and w, or m and n. People confuse them all the time, both in reading and in writing. Even though they share relatively few pixels, they are still identical under rotation, and we can see that.
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We could confuse them if we were reading upside down, or at an angle, or just confuse them period. OK, so we now have a set of unique and dissimilar glyphs that are unambiguous about their orientation. Well, we might want them to be easy to write as well as read. How do we define easy to write?
We could have a complicated physiological model about what strokes can easily follow what movements and so on, but we will cop out and say: Rather than unwritable pixels in a grid, our primitives will be little geometric primitives.
The fewer the primitives and the closer to integers or common fractions the positioning of said primitives, the simpler and the better.
We throw all these rules in, add a random starting population or better yet a population modeled after the existing alphabet, and begin our genetic algorithm. What 26 glyphs will we get? Dehaene describes some fascinating and convincing evidence for the first kind of innateness.
In one of the most interesting chapters, he argues that the shapes we use to make written letters mirror the shapes that primates use to recognize objects. After all, I could use any arbitrary squiggle to encode the sound at the start of Tree instead of a T.
But actually the shapes of written symbols are strikingly similar across many languages. It turns out that T shapes are important to monkeys, too. When a monkey sees a T shape in the world, it is very likely to indicate the edge of an object - something the monkey can grab and maybe even eat.
A particular area of its brain pays special attention to those important shapes. Human brains use the same area to process letters. Dehaene makes a compelling case that these brain areas have been recycled We did not invent most of our letter shapes, he writes.
They lay dormant in our brains for millions of years, and were merely rediscovered when our species invented writing and the alphabet. But who is to say that a butterfly could not dream of a man?
You are not the butterfly to say so! Better to ask what manner of beast could dream of a man dreaming a butterfly, and a butterfly dreaming a man. This is a reasonable objection. But it is rarely proffered by people really familiar with IQ, who also rarely respond to it.
I believe they have an intuitive understanding that IQ is a percentile ranking, not an absolute measurement. IQ is ordinal, not cardinal. It is plausible that the 20 points separating and represents far more cognitive power and ability than that separating andor and And if retarded kids are closer to Einstein that the smartest non-human animal, that indicates human intelligence is very narrowand that there is a vast spectrum of stupidity stretching below us all the way down to viruses which only learn through evolution.
Current IQ tests are designed for, tested against, and normed on fine distinctions among humans. It is very hard to test animal intelligence because of differing incentives and sensory systems, but if one deals with those problems, there ought to be some general intelligence of prediction and problem solving; the approach I favor is AIXI-style IQ tests.
A gap like 20 points looks very impressive from our narrow compressed human perspective, but it reflects very little absolute difference; to a sheep, other sheep are each distinctive. In Big O computer terms, we might say that geniuses are a constant factor faster than their dimmer brethren, but not asymptotically faster.
The practical impact of a few factors out of thousands may be minimal, and explain the findings without denying the existence of such differences. It has the advantage of all digital data: An upload could well be immortal. But an upload is also very fragile.
It needs storage at every instance of its existence, and it needs power for every second of thought. So reliable backups are literally life and death for uploads.
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I. There’s a story about a TV guide that summarized The Wizard of Oz as “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again.”. It’s funny because it mistakes a tale of wonder and adventure for a crime spree.
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is the opposite; a crime spree that gets mistaken for a tale.