Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

Use of mechanical tools may improve language skills.

The logistics crisis as an introduction to concentration risk.

Thousands of Chinese photographs saved from recycling.

The Two Countercultures.

Green shoots for nuclear energy–in the EU?

Why the ‘woke’ won’t debate.

Teams solve problems faster when they are more cognitively diverse.

The psychological and social costs of the college admissions game and the college treadmill.


21 thoughts on “Worthwhile Reading & Viewing”

  1. David,
    The diverse cognitive approaches is fascinating. It argues that diversity of gender wasn’t helpful.

    I guess I think too much in the box, thinking that thinking is often different between men and women not in conclusions as much as in the way to get to them. When my female employees saw a line winding across the room, they would become uneasy – their solutions often were to pull the people out of line that could help themselves (say, use the walk-up copiers or fill out a request form so it was ready when it was their turn at the counter). The guys were also uneasy, and also worked very hard at being “fair” – but their tendency was to go down the line. On the hand, they (often) more creative at managing a work space or finding a solution to a mechanical problem that was causing the paper to jam. I wonder how much I just thought there were these differences or they really were there. I think to some extent they were – the best person at the counter, joking and responding to customers’ needs, was a gay biology grad student who left to work for People magazine as a writer. He wasn’t perfect but he did combine skills that were often not combined.

    The unease that so many in the state department felt with Trump – the sense that he didn’t know what he was doing – clearly came from a different way of solving problems. The most sympathetic analysis I’ve read came from KT McFarland – a woman who had spent her mid-life years – after work under Kissinger in her youth – being mother, home-room parent, etc. and then coming back to her earlier role as her children reached adulthood. She noticed that few people seemed to see the danger from China that she did and that, remarkably, it was the brash businessman that did. I think people who had stayed in the state department all those years didn’t realize the water was reaching boiling because they were in the middle of the pot. Flexibility is sometimes honed in surprising ways.

  2. From the “concentration risk” link at Ace of Spades: “Real leaders would start calling for a repatriation of manufacturing.”

    A real leader did, and was rewarded by We the People with a giant increase in votes compared to his prior election. Unfortunately, that increase in real votes was not enough to offset the dummy votes.

    Basically, human beings are herd animals. And random observations would suggest that entitled Ivy League graduates in the corridors of power are even more likely than normal human beings to focus most of the efforts on following the herd.

  3. Ginny…years ago, I was in a management class in which we had several interesting outside speakers. One was a psych professor, a Jungian IIRC, who talked about differences in personality structures and how people with different personality types perceive the world differently. His advice to us: You will be tempted to hire people who are like you. Resist this temptation, or you will all happily walk off the cliff together.

    He was talking about individual personality types, not about demographic categories. I would think, though, that there would be *some* correlation, though far from perfect, between demographics (particularly sex) and personality types.

  4. Ginny…”The unease that so many in the state department felt with Trump – the sense that he didn’t know what he was doing – clearly came from a different way of solving problems.”

    I think that is true, and it is not only those in the state department. Trump has an intuitive, pattern-recognizing kind of mind, very different from conventional in-the-box thinkers. He sees connections that others don’t, or at least sees them earlier than most people do.
    Unfortunately, he has not developed the talent of transforming his insights into one-two-three step-by-step form for communication with those who have different kinds of thought processes.

  5. The grade-grubbers and apple-polishers who infest Imperial DC have the straight-A students’ disdain for men of action like Trump that they’ve always had. They literally can not process that he is–in his operational and transactional ways–very smart.

    I used to see the same problem with Reagan in conversation on campus. Too many mediocre intellectuals, convinced that only an intellectual could be intelligent.

    I took some ‘personality’ tests in my various jobs, and found some of them pretty helpful to me. And somewhere along the way–I had a management class in library school–I must have assimilated Jung’s wisdom. It was generally agreed that I “hired good” (why else would people try to poach them?) and that wasn’t because I wanted people like myself.
    Except in providing great public service.

  6. David F: “Unfortunately, he [President Trump] has not developed the talent of transforming his insights into one-two-three step-by-step form for communication with those who have different kinds of thought processes.”

    President Trump’s failures were not failures to communicate, they were the inability to get rid of disloyal civil servants, the difficulty of finding trustworthy lieutenants, and the 24/7 opposition of the foreign-controlled media. The ivy League-credentialed unthinking denizens of the DC Swamp are simply worthless people.

  7. Gavin…those other factors were very important, but I believe there was/is indeed a communications gap. It is not just Ivy-credentialed people who need to have things explained in a step-by-step fashion, it applies to a lot of ordinary people, including many who do useful work, as well.

    For example, when talking about his administration’s Covid response, Trump would tend to pick one particular point and talk about it. He could have taken the opportunity to recap:

    –we immediately closed off travel from high-risk areas
    –we sent the USS Comfort to NYC
    –we initiated a major program for sourcing ventilators and PPE
    –we drove Operation Warp Speed for rapid vaccine development

    He would also tend to go off into UV light, etc, without making clear that these were exploratory options rather than the mainline activities such as those above

  8. I think a lot of the problem with regards to Trump and how the “elite” saw him when he arrived in Washington DC goes back to what I’ve been saying for years: We haven’t actually been identifying that quality we blithely name “intelligence” with all our vaunted IQ tests and the rest of the cursus honorum paths through the institutions. Most of the people we’ve identified, trained, and put in charge of things aren’t actually all that “smart”, especially when it comes to Black Swan unscripted scenarios. They do wonderfully well with things they’ve been taught the scripts for, because that’s what we’ve been identifying, rewarding, and then ensconcing in the hierarchies of our civilization.

    I’m very unsure of the value of testing, to be honest. I’ve always done very well on such things, and not so well on many of the situations I’ve encountered out in the “real world”, outside the classrooms wherein the “system” trained me. It’s not “imposter syndrome”, either–It’s simply the fact that our system does very well at mediocrities, and profoundly less well on the edge cases of life, where most of our peril lies.

    I don’t know jack about Donald Trump. I’ve never met the man, likely never will–All I know is what I see in the distorted media, and what he wants me to observe about himself from what gets out in public from his side of things. From that, I really can’t tell much, other than to observe that he’s unlike every other politician of my lifetime, in that the sumbitch actually did what he said he was going to do on the campaign trail–Or, at least, try manfully to do so. That’s unfortunately unique, at least in my lifetime. So, yeah… I’d likely vote for him again, if only to piss off the media and everyone else on that side of the question. I remain completely ignorant of what the “real Donald Trump” is like, or how he thinks. Dude might be an utter moron, for all I know–But, I go by performance, and I like what I saw of his.

    The problem we have is that we’ve managed to put people into power across our civilization that are utterly non-pragmatic, who do not observe the actual effects of their actions and then adjust them to actually meet their stated goals. Whether this is because they’re ideologues, ignorant, or living in a dream world of their own imagining makes no difference: The fact remains, they’re ineffectual and useless at managing things, because they’ve allowed their beliefs to trump observable reality around them. They keep doubling-down on failure, and while that’s a wonderful thing if you’re a casino owner and they’re your clientele, it’s a terrible thing for a society that you want to keep working around you.

    I don’t know the answers. I do know when I see failure, and I see that everywhere this class of people we’ve made the elect, the “elite”, running things. They’re objectively terrible at the jobs they’ve undertaken, and which we’ve encouraged them to take.

    Personally, I think what’s been going on is that IQ testing and the rest of the regime of things we’ve used to identify, select, train, and put these creatures into power over the rest of us doesn’t actually identify that quality which we think of as “intelligence”. It actually identifies something that kinda-sorta mimics what the rest of us think of as “intelligence”, but which actually… Isn’t.

    If you come up with a theory of the world around you which you then put into effect, only to have it blow up in your face, what you do then really tells the tale of whether or not you’re actually “intelligent”. If you’re just mimicking that quality, you keep repeating your failure, because your belief in your theory trumps objective reality. Which, I am afraid, means that you’re not actually all that smart, because you’re unable to identify a salient problem with your theory–It failed the test of reality. If, however, you take your initial failure with your theory and then actually, wonder of wonders, learn from it, effectively applying those lessons…? You might actually be “intelligent”, as normal rational people would apply the term.

    The root of most of our problems is that we’ve signally failed to observe failure and then make the obvious connections about the individuals behind the failures: We keep behaving like the rubes in that old fairy tale about the Emperor’s New Clothes. Intelligence isn’t to be identified with an abstract test; it is actually identified by success or failure in the specific environment in which performance is taking place. Most of these “educated-yet-idiot” types have been skidding through life from failure to failure simply because they “did well on the tests…”.

    Which, I am afraid, is going to be the epitaph for our civilization.

  9. David F: “For example, when talking about his [President Trump’s] administration’s Covid response …”

    Certainly, President Trump could have done better. But no matter how skillfully he presented his case, it would have been drowned out by the (Chinese-supported?) media’s 24/7 Operation Fear ‘We are all going to die horribly!

    Still, we peons have to remember our irrelevant place in this democratic Republic. What we think matters very little. What counts is what the 635 denizens of the People’s House support, and what the relatively small number (few thousands) of senior civil servants will actually implement.

    President Trump’s inability to get constructive action from the Republican majorities in both House & Senate during his first 2 years had nothing to do with his communication style. He simply could not overcome the communication style of ‘campaign contributions’ from China-linked businesses, foundations, lobbyists, and legal firms.

  10. My mention of ‘personality’ tests wasn’t about IQ, but those psychological profile tests that assign people to types: Intro- vs Extro-vert, Specialist vs Generalist, that sort of corporate-psych bumf. (I consistently scored low on energy measures, which validated all the other results too. For that matter, I consistently scored high on “IQ” tests, but since those have been unmasked as merely a method to reward Whiteness, Maleness, and Middleclassness, I guess I’m really just whiter, maler, and more middleclass than most other testees in my cohorts. We all have our burdens.)

    Allen Bloom, way back in 1987, cited the emergent “Nietzscheanization of the Left” as the trend to follow, and it looks like he pegged it.

    Whatever you think of Nietzsche and his ideas, those will-to-power, dominance is its own reward, notions have pretty clearly been adopted wholesale by the Leftests (that’s not a typo).

    The irony–self-proclaimed materialists denying biological realities like sex differences. Lumpen-Lysenkoism, from those who don’t know who Lysenko was . . . Lenin’s Infantile Left apotheosized.

  11. “The unease that so many in the state department felt with Trump – the sense that he didn’t know what he was doing – clearly came from a different way of solving problems. ”
    The State Department isn’t trying to solve problems for Americans, it’s about working to benefit the globalist bureaucracy that it sees itself as a part of.
    Similarly the CIA and FBI aren’t about benefitting America at all.
    We need to wake up and act upon reality, not our fairy tales about what the government used to be, and now only is in political commercials and National Review editorials.

  12. they said the wall was impossible, that moving the embassy to jerusalem, that tariffs on china, yet he accomplished it, similarly he bagged three terrorist chieftains, al baghdadi, (the austere cleric) the kingmaker of iraqi politics, suleimani, and an aqap chief, al rimi,* (in about a three month interval) from the pensacola bombing, they were seemingly off limits, this was like Reagan’s signature strikes, in libya and other places,
    *there are some suggestion, that he was partially an asset of yemeni security, at least since he was in their custody
    it was only in the w era, that we engaged in expeditionary exercises of long duration, something our Indochina experience should have warned us about, re the covid management, he engaged in the most practical policies with the info he had, which was limited, against the background of a phony impeachment, that involved the country team that had enabled the looting of privat bank. on behalf of the oligarch kolomoisky

    his first instinct was therapeutics, but we know now that a global consensus had been devised to prevent their use feely ferguson’s imperial college was part of the whole nexus that had been devised by the wef wargame, fauci was like a fixture at the mayflower hotel, iimovable not do to talent, but basta (connections) as the arabs call it,

  13. @Cousin Eddie,

    I don’t think there’s all that much difference between those Meyers-Briggs-esque tests and the entire genre of IQ tests we’ve taken up with such glee. They’re all about equally valid and useful; which is to say, mostly not.

    I once worked for a guy who truly “believed” in the validity of those tests; he gave everyone under his authority a raft of tests as a tool for him to use in determining who to trust and who to put in charge of things. I didn’t notice any benefit in terms of organizational success, nor did I see any relation between “doing well on the test” and “doing well in the real world”; guys who should have been effective leaders, based on the testing, were inept at any basic task, and the guys who actually did well at things weren’t put in charge, because they “didn’t test well”.

    Tests are approximations. They’re not reality; this is the fundamental flaw in a lot of our uses of them–Instead of paying attention to reality and actual real-world performance, we rely on the tests to assess and evaluate people for the things we need them to do. And, with the entire raft of “credentialism” that’s come in with the testing regimes, we’ve essentially turned getting those credentials into one long testing campaign, which has seriously distorted our ability to rationally assess and deal with real-world performance.

    I don’t mean to say that tests and testing are useless, more that we’ve taken the lazy-man’s approach and relied on them for much more than we should have, and are suffering the consequences across society. Testing well on anything isn’t the actual thing; it’s how you do with handling reality.

    In essence, what we’ve done here is mistaken the smoke for the flame, and forgotten that not all smoke comes from a usable fire. Which is a really tortured simile, but… It’s a Saturday morning, whaddya want?

  14. Kirk, the tests are what they are, and people take what they can from them. I didn’t mean to imply that I ever used the results to make decisions, I was just noting where they seemed to capture something real about me. (And I hadn’t access to results for other people anyway, unless we wanted to compare.)

    I trusted the results of the tests I devised, gave, and graded, when I taught.

  15. @Cousin Eddie,

    I’m not trying to attack you in any way, just pointing out that the uses we’ve put these things to across society have been horribly distorting.

    It’s one thing to say “Yeah, I gave X a series of tests to see what he’d learned from my history classes”, and rely on that to assess X’s ability as a student in your class; it’s entirely another to use a test to assess that individual’s overall fitness for purpose as a historian in general. It may be that X is a gifted mimic, a human parrot who excels at regurgitating the information presented him. He’s well-adapted to your classroom; out in the real world, X is a man without original thought, insight, or real ability as a historian.

    You still have to test him in order to see what he’s learned in class, but the use of those tests for other purposes…? You really have to go look out at the real world, in order to see what X does. Does he demonstrate original thought, insights into things that nobody else has? Does he make connections missed by others, and does his actual work-product contribute to the general sphere of human knowledge? These are all real-world things that you can’t actually assess very well with a test, and I fear that what we’ve done with the IQ and other testing regimes is to fundamentally mistake the flash with the bang…

    The other thing, of course, is that the test must always be validated; does the thing you are testing for actually bear congruence with real-world performance? If I test your blood for blood-type grouping, and that test gives me a false-positive, and I then give you the wrong blood type, killing you…? Was that a useful test, or not?

  16. I gave a series of tests to see what they had learned from my history classes. That was the entirety of my responsibility; I don’t know what happened to 99% of the students after their semester with me. Their grades in history class were just that–grades in history class at a mediocre state u.

    OTOH I ended up hiring some of the better ones for student assistant jobs in the library, and was always happy with the outcome, and some of them have done very well in the real world.

  17. Which is the point I’m making… Testing is useful only under limited conditions; you really should not apply the results of testing outside of those limitations. Testing in a classroom for those things taught in that classroom? Perfectly valid; useful tool to use in assessing that student under those conditions.

    Remove the limitations, however? To say that our Student “X” is a great mathematician, when the poor bugger can’t balance his checkbook? That’s to extend the use of his history tests past the point of relation to both the student and the situation.

    And, that is what I believe we’ve been doing with IQ tests, and all the other panoply of other human testing. You do well on abstract reasoning on paper, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re any good at all when it comes to on-the-fly dealing with ambiguous situations with other people in them, or things that you were never taught the script for.

    I think that’s a huge part of our problem, as a society: Reality has gone off-script, and the people we’ve put in charge of it all aren’t capable of either recognizing that fact, or adapting to it. One of the things about Trump that I like is that he’s not a guy who works off of a script, so far as observe. He’s apparently a bit more of an originalist, doing his own thinking for himself, not following the “received wisdom” of his betters–Of whom he acknowledges none. Which is why the script-bound hate his guts.

  18. If I were on a team designing a large bridge, I would expect the various members with the possible exception of the architects to express their conclusions, advice and ideas primarily in a quantitative mode. How many astrologers, shaman and aura readers would it take to have a properly diverse team?

  19. I am pretty sure you already believe this, but “diversity” does not imply or include the more important concept of “competency”. Or, fitness for purpose–A diverse group is just like any other committee-like affair: In order to assess the collective intelligence of said group, take the average IQ test score of the group, then divide it by the number of feet the group has. That’s the probable IQ performance you can expect out of it.

    I’ve never gotten the whole point behind “diversity”–Everyone espousing it as a necessity just makes the inferential leap from “normal” to “diverse” as a good thing, and never bothers to explain why it’s a good thing. What point is there to diversity, in the first place? Are there objective reasons you need a gay black man to tell you that your suspension bridge requires those specific cables to stay up, or could a straight asian woman tell you the same information? Objective reality is objective reality; there’s no real point to having different kinds of people telling you about it. The bridge will either stay up or it won’t, and the fact that a gay black man told you it would or wouldn’t hasn’t got a damn thing to do with it.

    Most of the people who’re demanding “diversity” have no idea at all how things work, either physically or culturally. The majority of them are the sort of people I term “order-givers”, in that they give out orders and expect the universe to fall into accord with those orders, never mind the realities of it all. Unfortunately, we’ve bred up their counterparts, the “order-seekers”, who have to have someone tell them what to do, what to think, and how the universe works around them–And, those sycophantic “order-seekers” are unable to recognize that reality is not created by the words of their sought-out masters.

    I’m afraid that there are a lot of people out there who are natural slaves, who are entirely uncomfortable with the idea of doing their own thinking or decision-making. Couple those people with the educated-yet-idiot class of wannabe authoritarian order-givers, and here we are. I think we have to blame a lot of this on the culture and the education system we’ve built over the generations since the Progressives first took everything over.

  20. MCS…don’t need any astrologers, shamans or aura readers, but if you’re a bridge design & project management company, you do need people who can sell the projects, engineers who can manage other engineers, project managers who can run construction, lawyers who can write & review contracts, and maybe even some people with an aesthetic sense who can help make the bridge beautiful. All these sorts of people will probably vary somewhat in their personality structures, and even among the structural engineers and stress analysts, there are probably people whose mode of working varies from one another.

  21. David,
    Providing just what it takes to successfully complete a project is the essence of good management. I’m sure that for every engineering disaster from tunnel vision there will be another from dilution of responsibility and probably many that suffered from both.

    I couldn’t find any hint just what the task in the article was. I especially distrust this sort of artificial situation being widely applicable to the real world. What if the teams that produced such good results did so because they happened to have a single, strong willed member that dragged the rest of the team over the finish line? My experience is that no real team could accomplish anything meaningful from a standing start in 21 minutes.

    I’m sure the consultants would be happy to elucidate me for a few thousand dollars a day.

    I think we both know that my example of diversity is a lot closer to what they have in mind than two engineers using different methodologies to approach the same problem.

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