Honestly demands I admit that soon after penning that sincerity is overrated, and that fiction typically distracts from reality, I fell in love with a fictional movie celebrating sincerity: Once, depicting people who really love music, more than money or sex or anything. It resonated with my cherished memories of being a teen religious cultist (~’74), and a young adult in an idealistic tech community exploring the web, nanotech, and more (’84-93). People feel tied especially tied to others with whom they share a deep love of an unpopular or unrewarded hobby. When other rewards loom larger, such as money, fame, sex, etc., we are less sure of our associates’ motives.
I recently was reading 'Boyd' by Robert Corram about a fighter pilot who developed influential ideas in fighter jet design and maneuver warfare doctrine, named John Boyd.
Boyd seemed to be allergic to money. He was offered a job by a friend at the Pentagon but turned down the money while taking the job (he lived off a government pension). He also didn't charge for lectures and only charged for travel expenses, IIRC, and even then he didn't cash checks sometimes--after he died thousands of dollars of these checks were found in a drawer in his house, never cashed, IIRC.
It seemed like money had a poisonous quality to Boyd. He had a close knit group of friends called "Acolytes" that were involved in the US military establishment, who he was intensely close to. It seems to me Boyd was very motivated by a sense of connection to individuals in his "tribe", as well as following his muse.
His interest in military stuff could be seen as a a form of consideration for "protecting the tribe", the tribe being America.
Actually, come to think of it:If we interpret "Blessed are the poor in spirit" as "If someone favours mental development over financial development, they may be striking a good deal." that might make some sense (no matter the source of the quote).I am inclined to think that there is a bias for learning, that there is a reward mechanism that makes learning an end rather that a mean. Think "reward shaping".
Hmmmm... when I was young I was very preoccupied with my computer. (So much so, in fact, that I missed to make certain experiences at the age where they ought to be made.)Somehow, when I later met my fellow students and some said things like "I don't like this, or even care about it. I heard it would bring a well-paid job, that's why I want that diploma.", somehow I felt offended. Some didn't even want to learn anything - they just wanted the diploma (and ultimately, only money).I think I am feeling with Robin.
Perhaps the biases we do not overcome, by choice or nature, are important.
Cameraderie is born of uncertainty, which we ruthlessly extinguish as part of our success.
Robin: Do you think that increasing the salaries of professors would increase or decrease the quality of the applicants?
You seem to be saying that increasing the salaries decreases the average quality of applicants, but that's at odds with libertarian principles. There must be a way to show the free market leading to bad results if increasing the price offered decreases the quality of the good received.
(BTW, number of papers written has a power-law distribution. I would guess that grant money received does also, tho I have no data on that. So neither is going to be a linear function of any normally-distributed property.)
Robin, that was a very interesting post. I hope that I have understood it.
I wish I had a snappy reply. But instead, I will share my own story of curiosity and academic rewards.
Thirty years ago, studying game theory, I presented to my undergraduate supervisor a new solution concept for a small subset of 2 person games. I thought it was pretty neat. But, he asked me "what do you mean by 'solution'?"
I was floored and had no answer, suspecting a trap. The question haunts me yet.
In due course, I obtained a PhD in decision theory, my external supervisor was a Nobel Prize winner who said very nice things about my results. Not nice enough to automatically catapult me into a preferred tenure track stream - but nice enough to have a decent reputation to capitalize on.
But I didn't capitalize on it - I could not come to grips with the fact that the project I had started and "finished" for the thesis just didn't work well enough. Also, that question about "solution" still bugged me.
Instead, I became a lawyer.
The academic curiosity never died. I continue to plug away, learn and acquire new technical skills. Some day it may make a difference, or not. I can probably live with either result.
But the academic institutions that turned me away did so correctly.
Institutions cannot reward pure curiosity -they must reward results and not good tries.
It is too difficult to design an institution which a) awards "points" for the undertaking of very difficult problems, and b) gives those rewards out for failures, which were worth taking.
Whatever way we end up making our economic living, academic or professional, we can always make time for those ideas that pervade our way of being - whether we get a result or not.
Of course it's an essential part of how humans function and think. The point is, that's bad.Why?
I don't think that eliminating the effects of social groups in cognition is either possible, or desirable. Humans do their thinking in groups, that's just the way it is. That's why scientists congregate at universities, conferences, and journals, and even the radical individualists can't seem to stay away from groups like the Libertarian party (or worse, the Ayn Rand cult), and fora like this blog.
The idea that rationality is something produced by isolated individuals is laughably naive.
I refuse to declare my allegiance to some or other standard political position - deal with it. I may or may not take particular political positions as the topics arise.
We have a word for letting political concerns interfere with the function of rational analysis: "groupthink".
It is always fatal to intellectual endeavor. Always.
Politics is a great servant but a terrible master. Unfortunately for us, we are almost incapable of stopping it from taking control. The only way to defeat it is to deny it battle.
Your observation that you, in your youth, were motivated by idealistic groups that you joined should be a clue that the default libertarian economics position, that people are (or should be) primarily motivated by rational individualistic self-interest, is just plain wrong. Rather than saying "politics is the mind-killer" (a Yudkowskism, maybe you don't believe that), you should recognize that politics and group-formation is an essential part of how humans function and think.The very name of this blog should make it clear they don't believe people are completely rational. Recognizing that politics and group-formation are pervasive to our thinking does not entail endorsing them.
The young may be taught that the point of the controlled experiment is in its power to reveal truth. But much of its power lies in the fact that its being reproducible serves to keep scientists honest. Where controlled experiments are not possible, honesty is less common - see, for example, Global WarmMongering.
Rather than saying "politics is the mind-killer" (a Yudkowskism, maybe you don't believe that), you should recognize that politics and group-formation is an essential part of how humans function and think.
Is-Ought conversion alert!
Of course it's an essential part of how humans function and think. The point is, that's bad.
Robin: surely not close to linear, but he's claiming to find no correlation, which hardly seems plausible either, especially how low GRE averages are even at good schools and given the GRE's high 'g' loading and the pervasive impact of 'g'. My prior for the GRE being predictively worthless with respect to quality of output after controlling for school of attendance with respect to this sort of matter is considerably lower than my prior for the good schools having selective processes that are predictively worthless after controlling for GREs (identical with GREs being predictively with respect to career success worthless after controlling for school of attendance). However, Phil has failed, in his above post, to address the possibility that elite schools create high performance, as opposed to just predicting it, by teaching better than non-elite schools. Many people doubt that they do this, but I think it more likely than not that they actually do, and Phil's research dumps probability mass into this hypothesis as well as into the "no merit consideration other than a threshold effect or two" hypothesis that Phil seems to favor.
Thanks for the sincere post.
Your observation that you, in your youth, were motivated by idealistic groups that you joined should be a clue that the default libertarian economics position, that people are (or should be) primarily motivated by rational individualistic self-interest, is just plain wrong. Rather than saying "politics is the mind-killer" (a Yudkowskism, maybe you don't believe that), you should recognize that politics and group-formation is an essential part of how humans function and think.
Phil, I see no reason to expect number of jobs or papers to be anything close to linear in GRE scores.
Would a consequence of that analysis be that reputable schools are granting PhD's to people who will be at a distinct disadvantage for the rest of their career? That hardly seems a reputable thing to do, but it does seem to describe how the real world works.