Easy to find possible evolutionary advantages in many traits, but often a simpler story fits just as well: random imperfection & variation. Here maybe too!
Some people are much less pretty than others (say, judged by the opinion of most). Any advantage from this diversity? Straightforward explanation (although diversity-benefit stories might easily be found too): it may just be variation, despite the regularly even very large costs to those on the lower tail of the distribution. Evolution would clearly like to get it right for us, but sometimes just doesn’t hit it quite so well. When considering genetic disabilities, skin problems, or so, this would probably be even more obviously the main explanation.
In analogy to the prettiness example, it seems only natural for there to be (even quite strong) variation around that optimum along the conscientiousness axis.
Psychological character traits are in each new human very subtly impacted by re-mixed genes and by experience; that variance is relatively large need not surprise. Moreover, evolution has very messily and with limited time at disposal shaped homo sapiens’ psychology, within an ever changing social and natural environment, and with interaction effects between different traits of which I guess many may have evolved rapidly in different phases, suggesting quite different levels of conscientiousness may have been useful at different places and times overall. Even if lower variance would be attainable after many millions of years of steady evolutionary pressure on a large interconnected population, our recent past, which has shaped our modern brain, has not had anything near that*.
In sum: not so sure we need to involve a story of evolution to have purposely selected some diversity here. It’s not impossible, but the principle of parsimony suggests: a bit like for so many of our character traits, large observed variability seems plausible also without special story.
*I once called this “Ad Hoc Evolutionary Adaptation” (though I believe the concept per se is not as new as I thought back then).
Not answering your main point, but small note on the “leaving out very” point: I’ve enjoyed McCloskey’s writing on writing. She calls the phenomenon “elegant variation” (I don’t know whether this is her only) and also teaches we have to get rid of this unhelpful practice that we get thought in school.
Very kind Adam; sadly undeserved here! The possibility only struck me once I had a selfish reason to not take a vaccine for now, so we could also just congratulate some half-conscious process for being reasonably successful in trying to save my self-esteem in this particular instance, oopsie ;-).
Good points! On 1.: Partly agree. But maybe the world is a bit more dynamic; at least until very recently I think I read from new supply agreements; not sure it was the last one to be in the near future.
On 2.: I think it hinges not least upon the exact interpretation of (say, lower) vaccination numbers by the officials: “more to vaccinate still, let’s ensure we have enough doses in the coming months”, or “not all seem to be willing to get vaccinated, we won’t need so many doses in the next round either”. I the latter case, I could see ‘my’ not-vaccinating to rather increase the medium-term supply available to other countries, in expectation. It is not obvious to me which case is more pertinent. I guess if we see many unused doses in the next days, while the entire population would have been allowed to use them, this would rather point officials towards a reduced demand by the population, even in the medium-term, as long as the pressure to vaccinate does not increase.
Thanks, I could see there being some truth in what you write. On the other hand: the value of the marginal vaccine in the region is very strongly affected by, e.g., (i) the presence of unvaccinated high-risk people, and (ii) the likelihood of having excess hospitalizations that cannot be treated properly and lead to death. Both of these, afaik, exists in some poor countries, but are now very rare/not acutely foreseen in my place.
Adding to your first point: Or they don’t make arguments simply because—even if strong and in the absence of social costs—it does not pay.
(I think of the example of some policy debates where I know tons of academics who could easily provide tons of very strong, rather obvious arguments, that are essentially not made because none seems to care getting involved)
I paint a stylized case of some type of situation where the question arises, and where my gut feeling tells me it may often be better to release the argument than to hide it, for the sake of long-term social cohesion and advancement:
You’re part of an intellectual elite, with their own values/biases, and you consider hiding a sensible argument (say, on a political topic) because commoners, given their separate values/biases, would risk to act to it in a way that goes counter your agenda. You might likely not release the argument thus.
In the long-run this can backfire. The only way for society to advance is by reducing the gap between the elite and commoners. Commoners understand if they are regularly fed biased info by the elite; and the less seriously the elite engages, the less commoners will trust and be able to be hauled into more nuanced ways of thinking.
In short, in this stylized case: Intellectual honesty, even risking an immediate harm to your values, may likely enough pay in the long-term. Lifting the level of the discussion, by bringing up rational arguments for both ‘sides’, is important, especially in democratic systems where you eventually anyways rely on a common understanding of the world.
Maybe this does not generalize well, and my hunch is wrong: in the long-run we’re all dead, and the level of public discussions is often so low that adding an argument in one direction is often just ammunition being exploited without impacting much along other dimensions.
Few random thoughts from an energy economist; might be of some interest to you Steven and the odd reader:
Your COP assumptions seem very reasonable indeed I think.
I’m an energy engineer & economist studying practical energy and power systems. I see bias towards heat pumps all over the world, even in places where marginal implied GHG emissions with heat pumps seem higher than when directly heating with gas.
Do many heat-pump people you talk about have PV panels on the roof? Given tariff asymmetries between feeding-in and drawing power locally to/from the grid, there tends to exist a strong self-consumption incentive; it can be highly lucrative to consume your PV power rather than to sell it to the grid.
The largest share of your home electricity tariff is often not at all the “energy” component but based on transmission costs and other fees/taxes (so what @Gerald Monroe writes is not necessarily a reason not to expect high electricity price differences)
While I find much of the post not good evidence of a large share of adult people being mean, I did experience multiple times adults being arbitrarily mean in situations with no apparent reason at all—while I believe most people are innately somewhat good, I agree there is a significant share of them being evil to random strangers for really no apparent reason at all.
Different point, probably not the most crucial point here but: In these prisoners-dilemma/public-good behavioral games, I always wonder whether the results are affected by the fact that participants might, half-consciously or consciously, understand that it’s zero-sum: no real economic value gets lost. It’s merely a transfer between the leader of the experiment and the participants. No social value gets destroyed from defecting, only money gets transferred between different agents in response to my behavior in the game.
Nordhaus seems to miss the point here, indeed. He does statistics purely on historic macro-economic data. In these, there could not be even a hint of the singularity we’d here talk about—and that also he seems to refer to in his abstract (imho). This core singularity effect of self-accelerating, nearly infinitely fast intelligence improvement, once a threshold is crossed, is almost by definition invisible in present data: Only after this singularity, we expect things to get weird, and visible in economic data.
Bit sad to see the paper as is. Nordhaus has written seminal contributions in integrated environmental-economic modelling in the resources/climate domain. And also for singularity questions, good economic analysis modelling explicitly substitutabilities between different types of productive capital, resources, labor, information processing, could be insightful, I believe, and at least I have not yet stumbled upon much in that regard. There is a difficulty to imagine a post-singularity world at all; but interesting scenarios could probably be created, trying to formalize more casual discussions.
Great starting point for the technical side, thanks. I’d be very keen on insights about navigating the social space while life-logging.
Love the idea. Questionnaires would often also benefit from being organized this way. Dozens of times I wanted to help people by filling in their questionnaire but had no good option to convey where I’m sure and where I really can barely say anything specific.