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Category: Statistics

The general theory, methods, and philosophy of the Science of Guessing What Is.

February 22, 2019 | 8 Comments

Woke Science: Implicit Bias Test

I was disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that the Santa Fe Institute became Woke.

The tweet reads:

You are more likely to help someone with a surname you recognize…just one way that “implicit #bias” shapes the landscape of #privilege & #access without us even knowing it.

A rude awakening from SFI External Prof Mahzarin Banaji of @Harvard, via @UCLA

“Thanks for helping me, Mr Same-Surname. But I just realized you might not have helped except you were my brother.”

“By gum, you’re right! I see the beginnings of a new scientific theory!”

“All bias must be eliminated. We will never have full Entropy — I mean Equality — else.”

Perhaps this tweet is the result of a rogue fat blue-haired intern and does not represent whatever passes for a human “resources” department at SFI, but let’s not count on that.

Anyway, the tweet did lead to an article in the Daily Bruin: “Harvard professor lectures at UCLA on implications of subconscious biases.” The picture accompanying the article says “Mahzarin Banaji, a professor and administrative chair at Harvard University, spoke at the California Nanosystems Institute at UCLA regarding how implicit biases affect the way society thinks and their implications.” Banaji, except for the hair color, resembles the Santa Fe tweeter I had in mind.

Her great discovery is that “People often want to help others when they have things in common with them.” Don’t giggle. This is science. A hushed awe is therefore appropriate.

She showed the audience an image of the brain with two areas highlighted. Banaji said that when people talk to those with similar political positions, the part of the brain that lights up when the person thinks of themselves becomes activated. However, when they interact with people with different political positions, a different part of the brain is activated. Banaji said this difference in brain activity is subconscious.

My sister got a Lite-Brite for Christmas one year, and she did about as much useful science with it as Banaji did with her (I’m presuming) fMRI.

John Lassetter, a fourth-year physics student, took an IAT and said he had not thought of implicit bias prior to taking the test.

“One thing I thought was helpful was the advice she gave on how to reduce one’s bias,” he said. “One way is to consume media that shows people in counter stereotypical roles.”

Well, Johnny, that’s pretty much any media these days, so you’re in luck.

What’s behind all this is the so-called Implicit Bias test. Which is not a test, but a crammed full Diversity-office load of them.

Now there are lots of criticisms of these questionnaires masking as hidden-thought-revealers, which we needn’t duplicate: here (and that’s Vox!), here, here, and even here (many more are available).

What concerns us are two things: why bother with “implicit” or “sub-conscious” bias, and the ever-expanding number of areas of “bias” Woke Science is discovering.

There can be masked bias, as when a Traditionalist is called in the HR office and asked “Do you want to be an ally to people who express enthusiasm for this new kind of sexual perversion?”
The Traditionalist, wanting to feed is family, feigns an appointment. But this is not the kind of bias that is supposedly being measure. This is occult bias, a bias that infects the host without the host knowing about it.

The idea there is occult bias is gnostic. I’ll have more to say about this later, when we come to the belief that there are “racists”, “anti-Semites”, “homophobes”, etc. It’s not that people make a “racist” remark, but somehow they are a “racist”. It is part of their ineradicable essence. I defer to next week, when I’ll offer many examples.

Meanwhile, take a look at how bad you are! If you’re a white man, you positively reek with bias.

Your biased against the disabled, religion (Islamophobia), gender-science, weight, age, Asians, “Native Americans”, gender-career, weapons, Muslims, race, sexuality, Presidents (yes, really), and skin tone.

“Did you say weapons, Briggs?”

I did, too. “This IAT requires the ability to recognize White and Black faces, and images of weapons or harmless objects.”

“Aha, so if I see a picture of a black guy wielding a ripe citrullus lanatus, since I’m white, I’m more likely to imagine he’s holding a deadly weapon than a summertime treat?”

You’re white, so you’re racist. You really have no choice.

“So true. I’ll bite on the Presidents. What gives?”

This gives: “This IAT requires the ability to recognize photos of Donald Trump and one or more previous presidents.”

I’m sure all Harvard graduates would be able to recognize Franklin Pierce on site.

“I don’t think they’d recognize anybody but Trump or Obama.”

February 19, 2019 | 6 Comments

Ghost In The AI

There’s a terrific book, well worth scoring a copy, by M. Lamar Keene called The Psychic Mafia.

Keene tells the tale of Camp Chesterfield, a sort of outlet shopping mall of psychics, where marks—I mean patrons—would come to have their palms read, fortunes told — and to have sex with their dead husbands.

You heard me. Psychics would dress in chiffon and cheese cloth, and, supplied with data gleaned from cold and hot readings, would enter a darkened room with flickering candlelight, and proceed to mimic the spousal duties of their marks.

Hot readings are cheating. Cons peek in wallets, purses, and now on the Internet, and note relevant facts, such as addresses, birthdays, and various other bits of personal information. Cold readings are when the con probes the mark, trying many different lines of inquiry—“I see the letter ‘M'”—which rely on the mark providing relevant feedback. “I had a pet duck when I was four named Missy?” “That’s it! Missy misses you from Duck Heaven.” “You can see!”

You might not believe it, but cold reading is shockingly effective. I have used it many times in practicing mentalism (mental magic), all under the guise of “scientific psychological theory.” People want to believe in psychics, and they want to believe in science maybe even more.

What’s funny is that even after you expose the psychic or scientist or scientific theory as a fraud, people still believe, not necessarily in the fraudster, but in the fraud. Keene dubbed this the “true-believer syndrome”.

What is it that compels a person, past all reason, to believe the unbelievable. How can an otherwise sane individual become so enamored of a fantasy, an imposture, that even after it’s exposed in the bright light of day he still clings to it — indeed, clings to it all the harder?…No amount of logic can shatter a faith consciously based on a lie. [Source]

Now it’s strange, but all this psychic business does tie to AI. AI as “Augmented Eternity“, that is. (Thanks to Victor Domin for the tip.)

According to Hossein Rahnama AI as AE will let “you create a digital persona that can interact with people on your behalf after you’re dead.”

Way it’s going to work is that Rahnama is going to scrape a dead person’s digital life off the Internet—do some hot reading, that is—and store it all up as strings. Then, through the magic of AI—statistical algorithms and “if” statements—AE will spit it back out at survivors, who will provide feedback about its accuracy—cold reading. But they’ll call it “contextual clues.”

The contextual part was something Rahnama found useful when he started Augmented Eternity. If you’re going to construct a digital self, it’s not enough to know that somebody said something. You have to know the context in which it was said–was the person joking? Annoyed? Reacting to today’s news? These same kinds of clues end up being crucial when piecing together a digital personality, which is why the Augmented Eternity platform takes data from multiple sources—Facebook, Twitter, messaging apps, and others—and analyzes it for context, emotional content, and semantics.

This is being taken seriously serious. “In a paper published in Nature Human Behavior earlier this year, ethicists Carl Ohman and Luciano Floridi from the Oxford Internet Institute argue that we need an ethical framework for the burgeoning digital afterlife industry.”

If you want to be a hit at your next party, drop the phrase “burgeoning digital afterlife industry.”

Now there is nothing new under the sun, and so this is all the Turing Test, set to the tune of money. It’s easy to fool people they’re not talking to a person when it’s minimal conservation like directing calls. But you won’t be able to do it in a free-ranging conversation. like you used to have with your spouse or father. This was the opinion of Mortimer Adler: a true Turing Test would never be passed.

You won’t be able to do it, that is, unless people want desperately to believe, as Keene has shown us. Of course, what people report believing and what they actually believe sometimes diverge. So it will be appropriate to down-weight initial reports of AE’s success—or the success of any AI routine at mimicking complex situations. Making a fake face is easy. Making one that can pull of the trick of seeming completely human is a whole other order, triply so if you know who that face used to be.

February 13, 2019 | 9 Comments

On Over-Certainty In GMO Beliefs

Only a minor point about GMOs today. Here’s how the Ars TechnicaOn GMO safety, the fiercest opponents understand the least” opens: “Science is our most effective means of understanding the natural world, yet the public doesn’t always accept the understanding that it produces.” (Thanks to Ken Steele for the tip.)

If we start with scientism, as we do here, we’re not likely to escape from it. Here we have the implicit premise that whatever scientists say about the “natural world” goes, and how dare you not accept their word for it. This implies we need to know who is a scientist and who isn’t.

Researchers have been trying to figure out why there’s a gap between science and the public for decades, an effort that is becoming increasingly relevant as the US seems to have a growing discomfort with facts in general. In some cases, the issue is clearly cultural: politics and religion appear to have strong influences on whether people accept the science on climate change and evolution, respectively.

The writer is either ignorant that disagreement among scientists on these topics exist, and therefore it is difficult for a citizen to know what to believe if all he has to go on is the words of disagreeing scientists, or the writer knows full well about the disagreements, but chooses to dismiss those scientists who do not agree with him as not real scientists. The No True Scientist Fallacy.

Enough. The writer is of no use in outlining the problem of uncertainty in GMOs, except where he points us to the Nature: Human Behavior paper “Extreme opponents of genetically modified foodsknow the least but think they know the most” by Philip M. Fernbach et al. Abstract:

There is widespread agreement among scientists that genetically modified foods are safe to consume and have the potential to provide substantial benefits to humankind. However, many people still harbour concerns about them or oppose their use. In a nationally representative sample of US adults, we find that as extremity of opposition to and concern about genetically modified foods increases, objective knowledge about science and genetics decreases, but perceived understanding of genetically modified foods increases. Extreme opponents know the least, but think they know the most. Moreover, the relationship between self-assessed and objective knowledge shifts from positive to negative at high levels of opposition. Similar results were obtained in a parallel study with representative samples from the United States, France and Germany, and in a study testing attitudes about a medical application of genetic engineering technology (gene therapy). This pattern did not emerge, however, for attitudes and beliefs about climate change.

This member of “humankind” (i.e. me) realizes this is yet another survey trying to be passed off as science, and so will be filled at least in large part with opinion masking as indisputable fact. If we removed surveys from the armamentarium of researchers, journals would be drained dry.

Skip that and let’s think about arguments and evidence for and against GMOs.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is agin them. Speaking about their (and other) potential evils, he and some pals said, “It is at the core of both scientific decision making and ancestral wisdom to take seriously absence of evidence when the consequences of an action can be large.”

I publicly teased him about this absurd stance, saying that if his proposition were true then we should marshal all of mankind to protect against Black Swans From Outer Space. There is a complete absence of evidence such Black Swans exist, yet if they did, they would certainly peck every man, woman, and in-between, to death. This pecking would be a mighty large consequence. Send your donations to the Stop the Swans today. Your ancestors demand it.

Taleb’s argument is the core of the so-called precautionary principle, which is the last refuge of the busybody who wants to ban or regulate something without having to point to evidence of the real need of the ban.

Now Taleb’s error does not mean GMOs are safe in every potential aspect. Indeed, his argument says nothing about GMOs, or about anything else, either, and can’t, because whatever the thing is can’t have any evidence for it, or even against it. The precautionary principle is ever empty.

The authors of the Nature paper say “Genetically modified (GM) foods are judged by the majority of scientists to be as safe for human consumption as conventionally grown foods”. This sentence is consistent with saying some scientists judge GMOs as unsafe for human consumption.

Very well, some scientists say yes, others now. How then does a civilian pick whom to believe? Should he trust the majority of scientists running around waving their wee p-values at us, or should instead trust Mary Shelley?

The authors of the paper are on the cheerleading side of science, naturally enough. They remember all the good things scientists have done, and there are many, and forget the bad. Some civilians are gloomier and recall all those ads for drugs that seem to spend an inordinate amount of time warning of side effects, effects which invariably include a worse state of the disease the scientific marvel was supposed to cure, ads followed seconds later by ads for lawyers: “Call us if you’ve taken this pill.”

It can’t be that scientists at this point understand all the long-term consequences of GMOs, for the pretty reason that we haven’t got to the long term yet. This is no argument against GMOs, but if we accept that scientists make mistakes, and that the corporations who push these things want to make a buck, then caution is in order. Add to that all the dietary advice scientists have given us over the years that turned out to be absolute inversions of the truth. But then add to that the many benefits to farming and food production.

Point being, it’s not absurd to take either side in this.

February 9, 2019 | 5 Comments

The Week In Doom — Diversity Statement Edition

Item More Colleges Are Asking Scholars for Diversity Statements. Here’s What You Need to Know (emphasis mine)

The statements tend to be one page, maybe two. In them, scholars are supposed to explain how their experience can bolster institutional efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. Colleges are under increasing pressure to increase access and completion rates for students from underrepresented backgrounds, the thinking goes, so they should hire faculty members who understand their role in improving those outcomes…

Rodrigues…[is] concerned about how search committees will evaluate the statements. She also worries about backlash. Committee members who are skeptical of intentional efforts to promote equity in the academy might even penalize her.

She’s worried there will be a backlash for being too devoted to Diversity!

By requiring them in the hiring process, colleges can signal to scholars of color elsewhere that they are trying to diversify their mostly white faculties. And requiring them for tenure portfolios can prompt faculty members already at a campus, particularly white academics, to think about how they might help create a more welcoming culture.

Diverse means, as we all know, non-white-male. But it also means more, as we’ll see below.

Think: if these oaths are not to enforce ideology, why have them at all?

Recall too my prediction that requiring Diversity oaths will move beyond universities and (publicly) into the corporate world this year.

Now this was from the Chronicle of Higher Education, and it’s behind a paywall. Searching for it on the standard SJW search engine led to a series of boxes of common questions, which the search engine was kind enough to list.

For instance, the first question was “How long is a diversity statement?” Answer (and these might be subject to change and search engine quirks):

2. Length: Schools vary in their length requirements for both the personal statement and the diversity statement, but in general a personal statement should be two to three double-spaced pages, while a diversity statement is usually significantly shorter. It’s often just one double-spaced page — sometimes a bit longer.

Diversity statements are now so routine the answer is banal, and like that for “How long should I leave an apple pie in the oven?”

If you click on the search engine’s question, it provides several more questions.

Like “What is a diversity response statement?” Answer:

The goal of the diversity statement is to show how your past experiences have made you a diverse candidate, and how you’ll apply that diverse perspective at your target institution in your future research and teaching pursuits. You can achieve this goal by showing how you’ve overcome a struggle in life.

From this we learn Diversity means struggle.

“What are some examples of diversity?” Answer (ellipsis original):

Diversity consists of all the different factors that make up an individual, including age, gender, culture, religion, personality, social status and sexual orientation. … Usually, cultural diversity takes into account language, religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, age and ethnicity.

From this we learn that which you lust after is Diversity.

“Why is it good to have diversity in the workplace?” Answer:

Diversity in the workplace is important for employees because it manifests itself in building a great reputation for the company, leading to increased profitability and opportunities for workers. Workplace diversity is important within the organization as well as outside.

From this we learn Diversity is pure politics. It is pure politics because the only good it does is “manifesting” a “great reputation”. And, they imply, the great reputation leads to “increased profitability and opportunities”.

“What is an inclusion statement?” Answer (ellipsis original):

The goal for each program, chapter or league should be to become an organization where diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of the values and culture of the program. … Nearly all successful organizations have an inclusion statement or philosophy that establishes the platform for their values and identity.

From this we learn nothing new: Diversity and Inclusion are pure politics.

“What does commitment to diversity mean?” Answer (ellipsis original):

A real commitment to diversity means having diverse leadership. … Minorities who have the same level and quality of schooling as their non-minority peers are falling out of the leadership pipeline.

From this we learn that minorities at the same level and quality of schooling are not, presumably, as good at getting into the pipeline as non-minorities. So they must be crammed in regardless.

“What is statement of contributions to diversity?” Answer:

The purpose of the statement is to identify candidates who have the professional skills, experience, and/or willingness to engage in activities that will advance institutional diversity and equity goals.

From this we learn that those who are unwilling to play along with the politics of Diversity will find themselves unidentified. And therefore without jobs.

Item Prison slave labor: hey, if it’s woke, it’s fine.

Item “Compared to 2016, significantly fewer Americans feel that political violence is ‘not at all’ justified–with the largest decreases observed among liberals, democrats, moderates (wtf), and independents.”

Won’t it be a surprise when the blows begin. Here’s one fun example.

Item We are officially the stupidest civilization in all of human history

Adidas has pulled a sneaker it was selling in honor of Black History Month after the all-white running shoe was slammed on Twitter.

Has nobody noticed the February snows yet? And from the Update at the bottom:

So, should white boys still be allowed to share their “opinions”? Should we be forced to listen? In honor of Black History Month, I’m gonna go with a hell no.

Black privilege is not being put to good use. Look for it coming to an office near you.