Being Human


It is a part of my being sick that I get obsessed with the stupidest things.  This time, and thanks to a friend who also went down that rabbit hole, I spent days reading about the earliest traces of civilization and the oldest signs of humanity on the land.

Since I also recently started reading Campbell’s comparative religion books, what struck me most was how much the “history of becoming human” has changed.  We seem — now — to be talking of fully human creatures, or as human as any, far older than we expected.

And Gobeleki Tepe has pushed back our “could build impressive stuff” scale too, and there are murmurings of yet older and more impressive stuff.

Some of this is that we have the technology to scan land masses and to study our own genes such as never before.

There’s other interesting stuff lurking in the genes of the animals that are almost symbiotic with humans: dogs appear to have been domesticated at least twice.  Horses, also, are shadowy as to when precisely they were domesticated.  And as for cows, I was highly amused to learn they’re of relatively recent domestication and all domesticated cows come from populations in two neighboring villages in the middle East.  This doesn’t mean of course that they weren’t domesticated elsewhere.  Lineages might have died out.

There’s that shadowy part to this whole thing.  The thing you can see is so much smaller than what might be there.

Or let’s put it another way: if a discovery like Gobleki Tepe can upend all our ideas of ourselves, we really don’t know that much about our past, do we?

Now that we’re talking a full 400k years of modern humans, the idea of past civilizations isn’t risible.  It is perhaps inevitable.  And things like the study of the evolution of the last 10k years or the divergence of human races seems in turn risible.

Because really, what is ten thousand years?  And what are the present races.  There have almost certainly be others going back to the dawn of … to wherever we came from, which seems to recede in the fog the closer we get.

I presume most of our “civilizations” as such have been maybe Egypt/Rome level.  I could be totally wrong, of course.  There has been a recent paper about possible industrial past civilizations, even if it seemed to me that the men doing it put too much reliance on “global warming” as a mark of an industrial civilization.  However, even on skimming, they also seemed to study the dispersal of metals and such which are more reliable.  Of course, they weren’t looking for civilizations in what could be human times.  These would have to involve some other species.  Or we came from elsewhere altogether.

Then again they say something about how everything humans are and we’ve done, if we disappeared tomorrow, we might be missed completely in the fossil record by a future civilization a million years hence.  Which again means we know very little about who we are and where we came from.

We do know some things, looking back: there is a lot of human sacrifice and cannibalism as far back as we can go, and cruel inhuman religions.  Like all babies left with no trace of where they came from, Humans have a tendency to alternately revile and exalt themselves.

OTOH there is the valid question of how much of our present civilization and what we are now came from Judeo Christianity.  We know that it is possible to have a very high degree of civilization without it: India, China, the meso-American civilizations, but none of them seem to conquer nature/develop science as a useful thing the way the US has.

Which in turn leads to all sorts of plot bunnies about humans being “cultivated” — by G-d if you believe or by something at any rate — through 40 rises and falls of civilization or so, and trying to engineer the software in the mind to make it “stick” this time, to shepherd us to the stars, maybe.

But of course you can’t go wade through human evolution and ancient civilizations without coming across racialists.

No, not necessarily racists. just very invested in some races being better than others and everything being defined by race.

Like most such obsessions, they’re fed by two things: the fact that it’s forbidden to even mention differences between races/groups of people in any scientific group, even when it’s bloody obvious; and the Marxist lens that has infused the last 100 years.

Even people who think they’re anti-Marxists see the world through that lens.  Which means they not only think in terms of widgets with every member of the group being the same as every other one,b ut they also believe in hierarchies of groups.  Some groups are better than others.

This nonsense on the left feeds the idea that if every group isn’t precisely represented in the right “proportions” in every field of human endeavor, it’s discrimination.  On the right it feeds into crazyness about how some groups are “inferior” or “unfit for civilization.”

Except here’s the thing: we don’t know what high IQ is good for, other than working in scientific disciplines, but I’m here to tell you that high IQ by itself is not the greatest determinant of… well… anything.

Older son who has always been fascinated by the human brain and how it works says IQ above a certain amount is a handicap.  The same thing that establishes a lot of connections also makes simple things get lost in those connections.  Which explains why the most likely place to find a genius is working a menial job with no future.  Or in a mad house.  There is also a certain amount of neuroticism inhering to high IQ.

For instance, I can write books in a couple of weeks, but I spend most of my time spinning my wheels and lost in my mental underwear.  If one could pare down some of the uneeded connections…

Perhaps it is not a coincidence I only became regularly published once I’d had major concussion.


There is a lot to be said for intelligence.  I’m not knocking it down, me.  It could be said in my case, a certain quickness of thinking and a boundless intellectual curiosity might be the one thing I can contribute to the world, (the Petersonian highest good I can pursue.)

But even in a scientific, western society, it’s not the be all end all.  Older son and I joke that our ancestors must always have been odds in normal tribes.  They couldn’t be just a tribe of their own, because it would die out, between the fact no one would do as told, the fact that we find say new forms of basket weaving far more fascinating than having babies, or the fact that we can get lost in completely unproductive side lines for years.  One or two people with our obsessive nature in the middle of normal people would help, sure.  We come up with a new perspective or really strange stuff, but ah… a lot of us becomes counterproductive.

And the same goes for every level of IQ.  Look, guys, I’d go boogaboo if I were forced to do a lot of the things that people do for fun.  I have a very short patience for repetitive work, and my manual hobbies either are things I can do while watching a movie, or things I do while listening to audio books.  This is not a brag.  It leaves a ton of unfinished things in my wake, as I get bored.  Also, once I really master a skill, I get bored doing it.

It’s not a recipe for civilization, and I’m not the worst of my kind.  I can stay with things long enough to have a career.

Are races different?  Sure.  In the aggregate — which tells us nothing about the individual, btw — they are.  They have different abilities, and yeah, IQ is a part of the picture.  Though it’s almost impossible to extract the shadings of ability from the culture.

Take me, for instance.  I have the greatest trouble with organization.  I come from a culture that values haste (despacho) over planning.  My kids, too, have the same problem.  Which could be because it’s genetic.  Or it could be because they grew up with me, where meals happened when there was a break in the writing, and projects wold strike suddenly.

I noted that my older son, when he won most of the departmental prizes for chemistry at graduation, was up there with people with MOSTLY German last names.  And yeah, chemistry tends to be a German thing, as does btw, grammar in my field.  (Philology tends to be a thing of Latin breeds, though.)  But note that if my son has German ancestry it is minuscule on my husband’s side, and on mine it would go back to the wild tribes who descended on the Roman peninsula, and I’m not even sure how genetically related they are to present day Germans.

Again — culture? genes?  Who cares?  Who is deciding that a race, a purpose, an idea is inferior.

My guess is that if we’ve climbed the civilizational slope again and again, the secret to perhaps staying on top, perhaps getting to the stars, is the variety of us, not everyone fitting the same narrow niche.

And if you think a technological/scientific civilization doesn’t have any room for non-abstract thinkers you’ve been drinking the elitist leftist koolaid again.

Humans are clever apes.  This means we make niches that fit our abilities.

We should be more concerned with cultures holding people back than with genetic abilities.

And as for you — and yeah, me also — as fascinating as all this “where did we come from?” and “what is human?” is, the important thing is to make the best we can of what we have.

Note that older son, for his rabbity Latin disposition, chasing off after enthusiasms, and forgetting odd little things, and not organizing (note this goes back very far.  Romans built to last but they seem to have sucked at the fundamental maintenance of things built which requires the daily, mundane stuff.  Of course they were slave owners, so application to daily tasks was not needed.  Did they not select for it?  Or was it just culture?  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  You lay down your money and you take your winnings) still beat the pants off a few hundred people in the chemistry department and won all the honors.  Now, he was probably doing it on “passion” not obsessive organization.  (We always give birth to strangers.  I have no clue what he loves so much about fussy, minutious chemistry.  I hated the stuff myself.  Physics was my meat.) Sufficiently advanced insanity can replace any kind of carefully planned sanity.

Are we races? Are there differences between the races?

Sure, but in most cases to observe real non-physical differences you have to define races as cultures, and then it all goes murky.

Back when we considered adopting, our pediatrician told us any kid we adopted would become — if not be — high IQ, and he told us of families he knew.  I suppose that fails at the extremes.  But again humans are plastic, adaptable apes.

What we need is for the right and the left to stop obsessing about genetics.  There’s a good chance that the races and cultures we see now are a minuscule part of what existed before, an echo of far more massive differences/ideas/cultures.

Make the best of who you are.  Plot a course for where you want to be.  Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses as dispassionately as humans can.  And then work towards what you want.

And as for other races?  Let each person pursue what he/she wants.  Fight against dysfunctional culture, your own and others.  And let humans be human and climb, their dysfunctional, multitudinous way towards the stars.

This time maybe we’ll make it.



236 thoughts on “Being Human

  1. We must have one of the same ancestors because when I master a skill, I get bored as well. I’m not good with mundane tasks even though I have trained myself to at least wash the dishes once a day. So many times when you talk about these things, I have had the same feelings and thoughts.

    I noticed with me that when I am given certain drugs for illness that I lose myself in the pretty colors or even worse I lose my ability to make connections. This would be a drab and dreary world if I couldn’t see the underpinnings. Also one of the reasons I like to write is that there is so much I don’t know… and every story is new again.

    1. Let’s face it, most people in this blog have more in common with each other than with blood relatives. Either aliens have been very sneaky and we’re all experiments, or, you know, genetics aren’t the be all/end all.

        1. “Oh, crud. We’ve had another one of THOSE babies born to us. What are we supposed to do now?”

          “Well, I guess we could always drop it off on that blue planet over there.”

          “Yeah, but, wouldn’t that be like murder…”

          “Nah. Those hairless apes will take care of anything that looks like them. All we have to do is reshape the ears, remove the tail, and cut off the antennae and they’ll just assume that it’s one of theirs.”

      1. As it has been said that there is a primordial Eve whose DNA marker we all carry, then we are all related. It could be said we are one great big dysfunctional family.

        1. It’s not true that “All men are brothers”.

          But we ARE all cousins, no matter how far removed.

          1. People who say ‘all men are brothers’ with the expectation that this means permenant peace is possible have not read the story of Cain and Abel closely enough.

            1. As one of three male children of my parents, I can conclude that the “brotherhood of man” can be peaceful as long as said brothers are not in the same house.

              My brothers and I get along quite well, but I never want to live with either of them again.

              1. One of my grandmother’s use to say she could love her parents and siblings more the less she saw of them. She was Scottish and emigrated to Canada with my grandfather who felt similar of his family.

            2. Or their Kipling.
              Jubal sang of the Wrath of God
              And the curse of thistle and thorn —
              But Tubal got him a pointed rod,
              And scrabbled the earth for corn.
              Old — old as that early mould,
              Young as the sprouting grain —
              Yearly green is the strife between
              Jubal and Tubal Cain!

              Jubal sang of the new-found sea,
              And the love that its waves divide —
              But Tubal hollowed a fallen tree
              And passed to the further side.
              Black-black as the hurricane-wrack,
              Salt as the under-main-
              Bitter and cold is the hate they hold —
              Jubal and Tubal Cain!

              Jubal sang of the golden years
              When wars and wounds shall cease —
              But Tubal fashioned the hand-flung spears
              And showed his neighbours peace.
              New — new as Nine-point-Two,
              Older than Lamech’s slain —
              Roaring and loud is the feud avowed
              Twix’ Jubal and Tubal Cain!

              Jubal sang of the cliffs that bar
              And the peaks that none may crown —
              But Tubal clambered by jut and scar
              And there he builded a town.
              High-high as the snowsheds lie,
              Low as the culverts drain —
              Wherever they be they can never agree —
              Jubal and Tubal Cain!

      2. The genetics aren’t the experiment, it’s the cultures. And damn if this world isn’t exactly what I’d be trying for if I was an experimenter trying to get the maximum number of variations. Heck, not only do we have thousands of different cultures, we invent new and imaginary ones that we haven’t even tried yet.

      3. “most people in this blog have more in common with each other than with blood relatives”

        The combination of this place being a magnet for “Odds”, your science fiction roots (as that fandom tended to draw Odds historically), and a dose of self selection all run together to make this statement disturbingly true.

        1. Which is not to say that there isn’t a genetic component to Odd-ness. Though it the way that it expresses itself is also Odd.

          I have four half-brothers – two maternal, two paternal. I was raised by my mother and had no contact with the paternal siblings until we were all adults. I’m definitely an Odd. Neither of my maternal-side brothers are. But one of my paternal-side brothers is a bigger Odd than I am. Perhaps coincidently, when we both did DNA testing we found we shared more common DNA than most half-siblings.

          And getting to know him – and finding the high number of personality traits we share – has led me to wonder about nature vs nurture. On the other hand, my two maternal half-siblings (full siblings of each other) are enormously different from each other in both appearance and behavior. So ???

          1. I’d vouch for the genetic component to Odd-ness. My father was an Odd – he was closer to his father, also an Odd, than the rest of his family. My mother was an Odd, and I could see some of her Oddness come from her mother.

            They met. Had children. We’re all pretty Odd; though it seems to have concentrated the most in me.

            And I met an Odd, and we have children… who are also being influenced by an honorary uncle who is also Very Odd.

            This will bode well for the gene pool. ^_^

      4. I dunno – “creatives” at least seem to run in my family.

        Although the two girls create with pictures, not words, so there’s some drift going on there. (I have hopes for the boy, if I can get him to do more. He’s actually made more income from the written word than I have so far – some British game developer bought three “letters from my sister” for color in a post-zombie-apocalypse video game they’re developing. AND they paid right away. Sigh… Back to work.)

    2. Yeah, I hate mundane tasks – if it weren’t for music, talking books or Youtube, I’d never get the house clean. And the worst is those tasks where I have to think about it – those NEVER get done. Organization type stuff – I have a mound of filing to do, stuff that isn’t obvious, or that doesn’t have a place to go, and it just makes my head hurt to even think about it.

  2. Corporately and individually we get in trouble when we adopt the idea that we can be the masters of our world. However much is believed to be known, however much is believed to be understood, it appears that there will always be something more to upset and/or surprise. If only we could master humility — thinking neither more nor less of ourselves than is so — that would help.

  3. “…what struck me most was how much the “history of becoming human” has changed.”

    Once upon a time in the 1970’s, I studied archaeology. What we “knew” about the Neanderthals was that they were big and stupid, and that Modern Humans came from Africa and killed them all. From this not-entirely-unsupported assumption came the world view that this is what Humans are. Locusts. We move into an area and kill everything. This view has become very fashionable the last few years in SF/F, you literally can’t find a new novel in the bookstore that doesn’t proceed from that assumption. (And I’m SO sick of it, holy f-ing f-bombs.)

    Now lately (since 30 years ago almost) there has been tremendous progress made in molecular biology and tracking the human genome. From all that genetics work, plus more digging up stuff, it develops that Modern Humans did not wipe out the Neanderthals. They MARRIED them. They hung out, got bizzay, and had kids with them. The Neanderthals are still here. They’re us.

    This not-so-new history of becoming Human pretty much shit-cans the old “locusts!” theory. This is not to say that many groups in human history were not murderous dickheads. But it does put the lie to the notion that all humans are one bad taco away from going postal, and that human nature is murder/death/kill.

    But Science Fiction, as a culture, did not get the memo! The science fiction genre instead of looking ahead is walking backwards, looking to the past and trying to justify a disproven model.

    What will humans do if they meet aliens, or real AIs, or weird spirits from another plane of existence? They’ll marry them and have funny-looking kids with them.

    1. Well, I’d be very surprised if there are aliens out there who can interbreed with humans.

      Marry perhaps, exchange ideas very likely, but have “funny-looking kids with them” nope. 😀

      1. Is beeeeeg universe. Weirder than expected. So. not impossible.
        … Rare, sure. Non-existent, doubt it
        Though compatibility might be worrisome in some way.

        1. Well, if it happens often, then that’s evidence that “Somebody Was Meddling”. 😆

          1. “Often” suggests two possibilities:

            1. Meddling.
            2. For some reason, intelligent species (pick your definition…) must have (remarkably near) identical biochemistry.
            3. Whatever ox forgot. Ox not count good right now anyway.

            1. “Biochemistry” is one thing but having a genetic code close enough for interbreeding is another thing.

              Our “biochemistry” is the same as the “biochemistry” of all other species on Earth but we can’t interbreed with those other species.

                1. Nod, but we haven’t yet reach the level of genetic engineering to allow that.

              1. Not for lack of trying on the part of those who can’t differentiate between a hornets’ nest and an appropriate place to stick… appendages.

                Happily, many of those who try such things also die of them, thus cleansing the gene pool of any genetic component to their madness.

          2. Or it’s something like the Asari, who are able to directly use their partner’s genetic material without the need for “making the plumbing interface”.

            1. “Hah! Kick him in the quad! Sorry, my father was a krogan.” -Matriarch Aethyta

              Though supposedly they don’t actually use their partner’s genetic material. IIRC, they use their biotics to scan their partner’s nervous system and that does… something to an ova resulting in a little asari girl after the gestation completes. Though Aethyta thinks she inherited her father’s mouth, though he did help raise her so I suspect it’s nurture rather than nature.

            1. Had a novel idea that could be summed up as “Galactia 1980 if it didn’t suck”, but then realized that Weber’s Dahak series is essentially that already.

              1. I think Dahak could be great TV, but since it’s not a reboot of a 1980s show it would never sell.

                1. Occasionally, current science fiction/fantasy series sell in world of TV. Witness Game of Thrones for example. Dahak – with its’ conspiracy theories and retelling of history through a different lens – might be just the thing, especially with the emphasis on the Resistance to Fascist ideologies.

                  Speaking of Weber, Prince Roger’s path across Marduk would be fun TV as well … with beloved characters suddenly killed off by a moment’s inattention in the jungle.

                  1. I notice that Hollywood is not rushing to put any Baen properties on screen. But I’m sure that’s absolutely not ideologically motivated at all . . .

                    1. Maybe. But as near as I can tell, there aren’t any sci-fi book series being made into TV shows these days.
                      Fantasy, yes. Sci-fi, no.

                    2. Doesn’t His Dark Lordship The Conquistador Correia have some TV rights sold somewhere?

                    3. I think he sold MH rights to someone, though I don’t remember the details. And I don’t recall whether it was big screen or little screen.

                    4. Larry has sold an option, IIRC, for MHI to the Walking Dead folks.

                      60Guilders: The Expanse is a book series, no?

                  2. The Last Centurion could be done reality TV style. It’s just a matter of how to market it to the suits:

                    “Yeah, it’s all about climate change and American foreign policy and it even has a female president!”

                    1. Follow the PoV of the British camera crew? Could be done Reno 911-style, albeit with less silliness.

                    2. Errrmmm, they wouldn’t REALLY be this stupid…..
                      Handwavium over soapboxius…… Bad Boy! No Biscuit!

        1. Bio-engineering might be possible, but as I told Ox, interbreeding without bio-engineering is IMO evidence that “Somebody Is Meddling”.

          1. And this would shock you why? I think He has a sense of humor. Lousy one. Like Mycroft, he’d put itch powder in your pressure suit and think it was a howler.

            1. Oh Yes! He has an interesting Sense Of Humor.

              Oh, one of my first attempts at Science Fiction (typewritten and lost in moves) had an universe where humans had developed on several different worlds with no “aliens” around.

              Of course, interbreeding was possible.

              Still, I think God would develop intelligent beings beside us on other worlds.

              Oh, in one SF Universe of mine, there is a group of aliens who everybody else calls the Enigmatic Ones who in my mind (not known in-universe) are Non-Fallen Beings.

              They could be considered angels/gods but that’s one thing that they dislike being considered.

              The Enigmatic Ones have been known to cause rain-storms inside “churches” dedicated to their worship. 😈

              1. And, according to one biologist friend of mine, the fact the Duckbilled Platypus has some how NOT managed to go extinct and is still trucking right along when everything they know about biology says they should be a textbook case of ‘failure to adapt’ and well… they’re not failing to adapt. (It was one of his reasons why platypodes are his favorite critter.)

                  1. His argument was that the ending of Platypus was derived from the Greek so if one was to use something other than the English “Platypuses” then it should be properly Greek and “Platypodes” not shove a Latin declension onto a Greek root. The word has been amusing me ever since, whether he was right or not.

                    1. Yeah, and he’s right. It’s like octopodes (though I’ve been told that the actual Greek word was oktapous). Though we could adopt octopods and platypods as English plural, perhaps.

                1. I’m an agnostic. I don’t completely buy any one religion. But I do see Art in the world, all over. Also fairly clear examples of ‘Gee, I wonder what would happed if I pushed THAT characteristic to the limit?’. So atheism baffles me.

                  On the religion front, I do observe that societies that grew from Protestant Christian bacgrounds are notably preferable to those foundedmin Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or (yuck!) Marxist Atheism. I have ideas about why, but not proof. Still, I cannot help but feel that a culture that is debating whether Gays should be allowed to compell bakers to celebrate their marriage is superior to one that is debating how Gays should be put to death.

              2. I think humans are sufficient evidence of His Humor. And from personal experience, it’s a rough one. Mycroft would have had a great example to follow.

                1. Before I admitted to myself I was an atheist, I used to profess Haldeman’s “aggressively agnostic” stance : There might well be a god, but he sure isn’t someone I’d invite over for dinner or a beer.

          2. *cough*

            You know, if aliens show up and they are basically just humans… there is a theory that would support…. the phrasing of it was something like “made in His image…..?”

            *eyes twinkle* Can’t imagine why it’s not more popular in scifi.

            1. Because it implies personal responsibility? Particularly that icky, old-fashioned idea that one oughtn’t mate with everyone willing, and that being unwilling is caused by nastiness, not prudence.

              Not coveting is also problematicly unfashionable these days in many circles.

              I must admit that I would find the reactions of the usual . . . annoyances . . . to be wildly entertaining.

              1. Because there are Hollywood makeup artists and prosthetic appliance makers who need jobs, darnit!

                The big knock on STTNG was that the aliens were humans with forehead bumps, so now we have mandatory “spend five hours in the makeup chair before work starts every day” makeup for actors playing aliens. But these aliens have bilateral symmetry and two each arms and legs attached in the usual manner. Because limb appliances that include motive systems are really expensive.

            2. Nod, He could do that and it’d be a Great Joke on the asshole atheists. 😆

              I’m just thinking that He might enjoy “creating other models”.

              1. Only if I, to make it short, decided that He was just an amplified version of us– which is inverse to the known that He made us in His image. Deciding that the wide range of humans are all in His image, but that aliens turning out to be a different variety of human (using the able-to-produce-fertile-offspring definition for human) is then attributing a human form to God is as silly as declaring that classifying God as the laws of nature (rather than their author) is avoiding the same flawed thinking.

                1. I didn’t say it would necessarily encourage it for you.

                  OTOH, Arthur C. Clarke was both a Anthropomorphic heretic and an atheist; he thought the discovery of other intelligent species would end Christianity because their not looking like us would end “God’s image.”

                  1. I think it would be “funny” if atheists learn that other intelligent species had religions very similar to Christianity especially if our Christian leadership and their religious leadership started comparing notes. 😀

                  2. I wonder if he’s the guy who came up with that, or at least popularized the notion?

                    I know it comes up all over the place in fandom… to the point that there’s a Catholic monk whose name I can’t remember right now who is an astronomer but basically does scifi cons explaining basic theology. The one that popularized the whole “would you baptize an alien”/”yes, if he asked me to” thing.

                    Brother Guy? That sounds right, I’m using the addon so I can’t do the search ATM.

                2. I’m coming late to this discussion, but I think that the key to man being made in His image lies in Genesis 2:7: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
                  The monkey body isn’t His image, the living soul is, and whoever we find out there who is a living soul is also formed in His image.

                  1. That might be an interpretation, but Genesis 1:26-27 is a good bit less pat:
                    l Then God said: Let us make* human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.

                    God created mankind in his image;

                    in the image of God he created them;

                    male and female* he created them.

                    It can get especially confusing when you remember that He’d be outside of time, and that He and the Son are One, so the incarnation is a consideration….

                    The very idea of the “monkey body” not being important, just the spirit, would rather go against the Incarnation, too. I seem to remember there’s at least three different heresies and arguments about it, not counting the Gnostic copy-paste of Christian theology tidbits.


                    Going off of prior evidence, it’ll make perfect sense in hindsight, in the “good grief, He was slapping us over the head with it” way.

            3. If aliens turned and and they turned out to be humans, only a very small contingent would recognize them as such. Say maybe 12 disciples of a new cult? That’s what it would be called.

          3. There’s a webcomic called Outsider. The Lorai are pretty obviously genetically engineered using humans as a template. But the biochemistry is different, so no babies would occur.

      2. With a significant help from genetic engineering, I’m not going to bet against the possibility of the “funny-looking kids” even without meddling and/or a prior race scattering the seeds of humanity across the stars. I was equally not surprised when it turned out our ancestors and the prior versions of man may have mated successfully. Despite significant time differences, we have not broken humanity into different species primarily because 2 horny individuals have almost always found a way to make things work, no matter how different their genetic heritage is.

      3. Hey! It doesn’t have to be by the natural method. Genetic engineering. Who knows what our descendants can merge their genome with…

      4. Don’t know about “marry.” But that doesn’t limit too much.

        One of the few weird-liberal things Gene Roddenberry got right (or maybe his ghostwriter) was in his novelization of The Motionless Picture. In a footnote, he explains that, since Vulcans mate by heat/rut analogs and marriages are typically arranged when they’re barely out of diapers, romantic love isn’t a “thing” in Vulcan culture. It almost doesn’t exist, they’re not wired for it.

        But friendship…hoo, boy. They have a word–*t’hyla,* I think it is. It is implied to be to friendship what “Romeo and Juliet* is to holding hands at a church picnic. No sexual component at all–just intimacy and mutual trust and loyalty.

        According to Roddenberry, that is what Kirk and Spock had, and genetic (or organ layout) compatibility was simply irrelevant. When I read that, my first reaction was “Why the h**did he think he had to explain it?” Of course, my second reaction was to remember the humor in my high school football locker room and think “Never mind.”

        1. *pinches bridge of nose* Y’know, thinking that folks have to make up a fantasy version of true friendship, and have a giant separation between it and love inside of a marriage, makes so much of the stuff of the last half century or so make more sense……

          1. Yah. I gather he had already had time to get *real* tired of slashfic. Can’t say I blame him. He even added a quote from Admiral Kirk that amounted to saying, in a thoroughly liberal-mealymouth way, “Sorry, folks. I’ve always been into *girls.* What’s *with* you people, anyway?”

            Kirk and Spock. Holmes and Watson. Feh.

    2. Marrying them sounds nicer but looking back at known history it is equally likely that they killed all the males and older females then had their way with the younger females. Of course, go back far enough in various parts of the world and that basically was marriage.

    3. Hmmm. I’d go for a blend of both theories. Why? Because we see it actually happening since the mid-600s with Islam. invade, kill the males, take the females for slaves and reproduction. Yeah, it’s simplistic, but so is Occam’s Razor.

      1. still. Not locusts. And females are so ridiculously hypergamic, you don’t need to kill all the males. They’ll try to mate with the powerful overlords.

        1. (Checks to see if the Evil Overlord List is still on line.) Hmm, that managed to avoid the lists. What we have heah is a failuh of imagination!

    4. What will humans do if they meet aliens, … They’ll marry them and have funny-looking kids with them.

      This was actually a pretty common idea in stf before, say, the 1930s. Burroughs may or may not have started the idea by giving John Carter and Dejah Thoris a son, but he certainly made it popular. A lot of human-alien crosses followed. There are not as many today, but Star Trek offers many recent examples, Spock being the most famous.

        1. and like most such it might be a failure of the imagination. Not, mind you, that I ever wanted to write that (not saying it won’t happen. You know my muse) but it’s still a failure of the imagination.

      1. Sheridan and Delenn have a kid in Babylon 5. Though there’s a *lot* of backstory to that, and Delenn is an unusual case.

        And while we never actually see it, “Valen” presumably had at least one kid as well as I believe it was stated at one point that Delenn was descended from him.

        1. That and the device Delenn used to change may have altered her body enough to allow for reproduction with a human.

          1. That’s pretty much assumed, imo. *Spoiler* (yes, I know, it’s been years; but it’s still a big reveal) used the device to alter himself the other way in order to become a Minbari. And while Delenn was physically a hybrid, that didn’t externally appear to be the case with the other transformation.

            There’s something going on between the two species, though it’s not entirely clear what. And it’s not just the physical transformations. I don’t remember whether it’s a quick line on the show or something JMS had to confirm, but Sinclair apparently wasn’t the only human that the Minbari examined. He was merely the first. And the others apparently revealed similar results (though without the specific link that Sinclair had).

            Even with that, though, Sheridan and Delenn are the only inter-species couple that we’re aware of who have an offspring that’s biologically theirs.

    5. > What will humans do if they meet aliens, or real AIs, or weird spirits from another plane of existence?

      Spammers and con-men will try to get something for nothing, the perpetuall outraged will complain and sue, the Woke will grovel subserviently, the politicians will try to find advantage, the paranoid will announce the end of days, academics will write papers, tradpub and Hollywood will flood the marketplace with drivel, the military will develop plans for conquest or destruction, everyone else will ignore them and go about their business.

      Pretty much the same as contact with any other group…

      1. Also related to yesterday’s discussion, where aliens (not the UFP) take over all the “inaccessible” mass in a solar system; I was reminded of
        “First Contract” by Greg Costikyan.

        1. It would be “funny” if our first alien visitors had more in common with American conservatives/libertarians than they have with the “woke”. 😈

          1. Not surprising, actually. Can you imagine the Woke inventing a starship and then actually risking their necks by using it?

  4. I get bored with things, too. The only hobby that holds my attention (outside of my angora goats) is spinning yarn. I can do that endlessly while watching a British mystery or listening to an audio book. And when I’m done, I feel like I have accomplished something instead of just listening or watching. It makes the guilt of relaxing go away.

    1. I too master crafts, etc., then get away from them & don’t go back, ever; guess that is called getting bored. Drew & wrote as a kid. Not as good as my cousin, or mom’s cousin, both who are selling artists. But I drew. Ditto on the writing. Took up knitting & crocheting, not going to invent patterns, but I can follow them, & results are very good (never admit I could point out every flaw, nope, not gonna) but interestingly enough, no body in my house hold can wear knitted sweaters or vests; go figure. Cross Stitch & embroidery – check. Photography, yes (now ask where all the developed film & digital pictures are, scrapbook? uhhhh, no). Scrap booking, still have lots of unused materials, but maybe someday … Programming, never thought I’d get tired of that. Retired 2 years ago. I know I won’t be enticed back. No way, no how. Did pick up materials to start drawing again … nope, not happening. Gave the materials to my niece who does beautiful work. Housework, uhhhh, heck no. Well do better than some I could name, as long as you don’t disturb the dust on lesser used surfaces 🙂 Windows … well I could learn how to clean them so it actually looks like I cleaned them, might get done. You get the picture.

  5. Nature vs Nurture. Genetics can influence a lot of things, but culture can as well. And epigenetics seems to be telling us that genetic things can be turned off/on by our environment. As if the two weren’t confusing enough as it is, now we also have to look at how the two interact to see what’s happening? Gah, it’s like Schroedinger all over again!

  6. But but… I’m a Dragon! 😉

    Seriously, I think “Race” is one of the silliest idea Humans have come up with. It’s an expansion of “tribe”. IE Those people that I’m closely related to. You can make realistic “general” comments about members of your tribe and about members of that tribe a few miles away but beyond that you’re getting into “silly territory”.

    As for Christianity and the development of Science, I think there’s a good linkage between the two.

    Christianity had a single law-giving God which lead to the idea that humans could understand the world He created because God set up a world with “natural laws”.

    In Multi-gods systems everything happened because of an action of a god and things could happen differently based on the “whims” of one (or more) of the gods.

    Of course, a single God system like Islam is less suited for the development of science because things could happen differently because of the “whims” of Allah.

    Of course, there was another factor in the development of science in the West.

    Humans in general value stability and new ideas/ways of doing things can be a threat to stability.

    China (like many large states in the past) actively worked to suppress new ideas/ways of doing things because the leadership distrusted change.

    In Europe, there were several states and nobody had the power to suppress new ideas/ways of doing things. If one nation tried to suppress a new idea/way of doing things, then its competing nations might surpass that nation.

    Hey! Where Did That Soapbox Come From? 😉

    1. Some philosophers of history and science agree with you. To wit, Stanley Jaki espouses this theory, as does Nancy Pearcy (unsure of spelling of name).

    2. The scientific revolution didn’t take off until Europeans adopted the notion of studying the book of nature for themselves, independent of what the Holy Books or the ancients had said about it.

      1. True, but it was often churchmen who were “studying the book of nature”.

        1. That, too. Also, churchmen were involved in literacy, which meant that more people could read and write and share observations and ideas, across time and space.

    3. I suspect one of the things about monotheism’s popularity is that it’s simpler. You only have to worry about one God, instead of pissing off a dozen or more.

      1. And the idea of Acquired Godhood (taking the ambrosia, whatever) has a problem: of what? The major stuff is taken – which might be as well. Really, considering the Olympian problems… it’s likely best to avoid the issue.

        A monotheist system avoids the problem.. though that Saint of $X thing might be of lesser issue.

        [No, not aspired to godhood, nor even real sainthood. Try to be a fairly decent creature, and sometimes even almost manage it. As to if I’ve ever been sent here or there by Heaven, Hell, or Somewhere Other… I cannot even guess. Others have speculated – in all directions. For all I know they could all be right. Or all be wrong.]

        1. A monotheist system avoids the problem.. though that Saint of $X thing might be of lesser issue.

          Nah, you can ask anybody to pray for you– the “patron saint of ____” is more a matter of feeling comfortable nagging somebody to do you a favor.

        2. Big Shoes to Fill. Children walking in their parents footwear.
          I aspire to being as good a man as my father was, without his faults. I’ve a long way to go.
          I has a conversation with him about 6 months before he died. He told me that he aspired to being as good a man as his father was, without his faults, and feeling that he was only half the man his father was. An inciteful talk. But it got me to wondering if perhaps we’ve all fallen a long ways over the past dozen generations.

          1. I suspect it’s a matter of knowing your own faults, and not seeing those of your forebears.

    4. It popped out of Soapbox Space, an eight-dimensional manifold of space-time.

      1. Hrmm.. we have seen the result of an overdose of Handwavium (just yesterday). Should we be wary of hitting a vein of Soapbox{-ide, -ine}?

        1. Soapboxidine is both incredibly massive and simultaneously incredibly light. It can slide across the floor with very little effort, and then the gravitational field from its mass will cause people’s feet to stick to it for extended amounts of time.

      2. eight-dimensional manifold of space-time.

        But is it infinitely differentiable?

        (Lobachevsky — Tom Lehrer: …analytic and algebraic
        topology of locally Euclidean parameterization of
        infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifold.

    5. China’s “kill all the grandmas” stuff is also the result of a fully entrenched permanent bureaucracy serving a successive cycle of overlord classes, so the only thing that was protected to the last gasp was the bureaucracy. As long as the bureaucratic state stays in power, who cares if the fleet gets burned or the grandmas are forbidden to tell stories or the researchers get sent to the rice fields.

      This is one reason why the current underground civil war between the US bureaucracy and normals is so important – for society to avoid stasis and continue progressing, the US bureaucratic state has to be suppressed.

    6. Worth noting is that the modern concept of “race” is an extremely recent development, historically speaking–as in, no one would have dreamed of describing “Europeans,” “Africans,” “Asians,” or what have you as some kind of monolithic bloc until the 1700s or so.
      I blame the Enlightenment and slavery.

      1. Nod, earlier you’d get people talking about the “English Race”, the “French Race”, the “German Race”, etc.

  7. I don’t know about being human…I’ve never been one. OK, so I’m just joking, I’m just a very Odd one. I could tell you quite a bit about how high IQ, like Beauty, can be a curse, but since nobody has asked, I’ll save it.

    I’m pushing 60 with precarious health and still haven’t figured out what I want to be if I grow up. Being a generalist in a world of specialists may be honorable, but it’s not very lucrative. On the other hand, being the world’s foremost expert at something no one else is interested in isn’t very lucrative either, either. I tend to the extremes; where is this famous middle way?

    1. I, as well, am biding my time as I figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve been doing dispatching for 20 years now as a placeholder

      1. Notice that I said if, not when. Aging is required, growing up is optional….

        1. Police. I did 9-1-1 for 8 years until the Chief decided to disband dispatch and contract it out. So I moved back over the University and just dispatch the campus police and safety office now.

    2. I seem to have made being a generalist work in a field noted for its extreme specialization. Knowing how to make connections among people, ideas, and practices seems to be a very valuable skill.

      1. It is. Heinlein was not understating the power of an encyclopedic synthesist. The biggest problem is finding a position where you can put your full talents to use.

  8. About other industrial civilizations– In my own head I was pretty sure that we were not the only one on this planet. I won’t be surprised if they find more actually. Of course when I said that thought aloud, I was considered either odd or unbalanced.

      1. Story Idea.

        An ancient Alien Species used Earth to develop another intelligent species.

        Once we developed to their standards of “intelligence”, they seeded other worlds with humans while leaving Earth alone to provide for new stock if the transplanted humans died out.

        While the ancient Alien Species is gone, their “guardian machines” prevent our off-Earth cousins from paying us a visit.

        Now what will those “guardian machines” do if we try to leave the Solar System? 😈

        1. I was thinking more that not all human populations develop at the same rate. Let’s say we get to the point we have warp drives, and we find worlds SO tempting most “civilized” humans leave, leaving behind the equivalent of Amazonian tribesmen. Who then start the long climb up in ten thousand years or so.
          Or even, you know, some leave, then a cataclysm reduces Earth to barbarism, etc.
          The stars would be full of us.

            1. Andre Norton – Star Rangers

              Failing galactic empire, where the enforcement arm, of multi intelligent based species (birds, reptiles), including multi-versions based off of humanoid form, is being hounded so that mini-warlords can setup shop, crash land on a deserted planet, far far of of the star charts (in a galaxy far far away*), with non-star, non-mechanized, humanoid limited population.

              And …. (spoiler alert)

              All the crew humanoid based forms, despite their wide ranges of appearances & adaptations (far more different than skin, hair, or eye, color) all originated from this forgotten forsaken planet off the star charts.

              (* sorry couldn’t resist)

        2. A snippet of an idea. That spot in Africa where the U235 is rather depleted didn’t have to be a natural reactor, just the residue of a civilization that had nukes a long time ago.

      2. Humans? What about dinosaurs? Seriously…we have good fossil evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Birds are shockingly smart, ask any parrot owner. Ordinary cages are a suggestion to a parrot, they can open anything short of a padlock.

        I can well believe in an intelligent race of dinosaurs.

        1. knew a guy who got a deal on a Sulfur Crested Cockatoo from a pet shop because it would release all the other birds but one parrot that it harassed and caused to moult. He walked in just as the shop owner was closing the last recaptured bird into its cage. It came with a book of knots. He was told they can injure themselves trying to open padlocks so it was recommended he change the knots every week or it figured out how to untie them.

        2. Yep – dinosaurs that took as long as we did to get sapient at any point in the age of dinosaurs would hardly show up in the sedimentary rock – call the dino’s time span about 140 million years, and overlay any random 20,000 year stretch where they would have been leaving identifiable evidence, then scrub that with plate tectonics and intervening ice ages, and not much would be left.

          I’d look for high-velocity projectile holes in fossilized dino bones to start – though the only hunted dinos that would fossilize would be the ones that got away and died in the mud somewhere so they could fossilize intact. Assuming the environment was at least as efficient as African savannah, where bones from carcasses get eaten by critters like hyena, not much would be left of a kill that had the tasty bits butchered off to take home to the hungry hatchlings.

          If there was a dino civilization that retroterraformed their cities back to nature when they moved out to space, tearing up their railroads and highways and such, I’m not sure much would be left from that long ago on Earth.

          Might be interesting what turns up once we’re peeking around on the Moon, though.

          1. Toolmaker Koan by John McLoughlin
            In that book, the dino civilization destroyed itself in a massive war.
            The meteor that is said to have hit Earth to end the age of dinosaurs was one of their major orbital habitats.

            Funny thing that I remember about the dino civilization is that the “great hunter” T-Rex was just a herding animal of the intelligent dinos. The small arms were breed into them so they couldn’t hunt on their own.

            1. Mr T-Rex?

              “We dinosaurs are doomed. I just know it.” -one of my favorite quotes from that show.

    1. There could be a lot of evidence laying undiscovered 300-400 feet below the ocean that would tell us what people were doing 10K years ago. Also, we don’t do much archaeology in current rain forests.

    2. I’ve often thought that a good hook for a story would be to discover that major ore bodies (like the big iron ore deposits around Lake Superior) are actually the site of prehistoric cities that have completely decayed. All that steel skyscraper framework returning to nature…

  9. I’ve just started reading Thomas Sowell’s Discrimination and Disparities. In the first chapter, he discusses, among other things, IQ. Lots of things influence IQ, including birth order. Firstborn children have higher IQs than later-born children, and twins have IQs several points than people born singly — although if one is stillborn or dies early, this deficit doesn’t manifest. (I wonder how much of the Flynn effect is due to shrinking family sizes.)

    What’s more, IQ is one of a number of prerequisites for success in any field, and frequently not the most important. Since most, if not all, endeavors require several prerequisites in order to achieve success, you can wind up with highly skewed distributions in achievement. (Example: half a dozen necessary prerequisites, each one 90% likely to be present in any random individual, means nearly half the population will lack at least one factor that is essential for success in that field.)

    This applies to cultures as well as individuals. In the 14th Century, no Scottish baron could write his own name. So how did Scotland produce James Watt, Adam Smith, and David Hume? They acquired prerequisites such as literacy and knowledge of the English language. (The Protestant reformation helped with that.)

    But cultures can go for quite a long time missing prerequisites for any field of endeavor, and then become an overnight success when that prerequisite is adopted.

  10. “Which in turn leads to all sorts of plot bunnies about humans being “cultivated” — by G-d if you believe or by something at any rate — through 40 rises and falls of civilization or so, and trying to engineer the software in the mind to make it “stick” this time, to shepherd us to the stars, maybe.”

    Be careful Sarah, you’ll be praying to Mentor of Arisia before you know it. 😉

    What’s a race? If I had to define it today, I’d say it’s a group of traits within a subset of a species which breeds true within that group. Thing is, hair color, skin color, hair shape, facial shape, doesn’t breed true all the time, at least, or especially not any more. And the biggest reason I can find for that is that humans are massively hybridized within our species. It’s certainly not PC, but most of us are mongrels.

    Doesn’t mean we can’t breed a group of humans to be better at something than most of the rest of us. Say, ability to tolerate higher levels of radiation, manufacture our own vitamin C, longer periods of fertility during our lifespans, regeneration, etc. How we go about doing that ethically makes all the difference.

    1. The Nazis described the German people as the harmonious mix of four different races, given the not breeding true thing

  11. There’s always the question of cause and effect, too; racialists have to come up with something to deal with humans being perfectly able to have kids with any other human, and a lot of the modern insanity comes from people accepting and embracing things like the “one drop rule.”
    So…what do you do with folks like my schoolmates, where the gal who identified herself as either “mixed” or “other” has done great, while her brother identified as “black” and has molded himself into one heck of a stupid thug. Both can choose to dress in a way that would make them “look black,” or could be anything from Italian to Spanish to even Islander.

    There dad was from, IIRC, Jamaica. And their mother’s second husband took charge in raising them. No “black” culture to latch on to in our school, either. Just self-sorting.

    Add in outside sorting– imagine someone telling him he’s “acting white” for not being a thug; take a German kid who is clever and sees the famous German names popping up associated with chemistry, and he might want to look into it more, increasing the chance of getting hooked.

  12. I was somewhat established in a skilled blue collar occupation at the age of twenty-nine when I found out that my IQ measured a couple of standard deviations higher than I had previously been led to believe. In the thirty-five years since, I still haven’t really figured out a way to make that IQ pay for itself. The jury is still out on whether to call it a blessing or a curse. I know a few people with substantially higher IQs. Mostly they’re even odder than me.

    I’m not sure how one would recognize the remains of a different highly developed civilization, but I am confident that our present society leaves enough detritus that it should be recognizable for many tens of thousands of years. People still find flint arrowheads in fields, but plastic shot shell hulls are far more common and might be nearly as persistent. Steel may rust, but there is so much of it that some will be sufficiently sheltered to last for a very long time. The same could be said for many of the materials with which our towns and cities are built.

      1. Yep – climate too hot for human civilization develop anywhere but the high polar latitudes, and then ice age scours high polar latitudes clean down to bedrock, and in some places gouges new great lakes and fjords down into the bedrock. Add in mountain ranges popping up and eroding all over the neighborhood and finding anything from a non-planet-spanning civilization – say a steam-age-London located in Antarctica or Alaska – would be pretty tricky.

      2. I don’t think a mere ice-age would be enough to scour away the evidence of the current world wide technological civilization. More localized developments of the past might be easier to miss and could be susceptible to erasure by such things as glacial and river erosion. The sorts of worldwide tectonic processes that could do a more thorough job work on a much longer time scale. There is very little useful paleontological evidence for the earliest life forms three billion years ago, but even that has not been completely erased. Cultural artifacts might be all but impossible to find, even of our civilization after millions of years, but I don’t think tens of thousands of years, or even hundreds of thousands of years would do it.

        One could probably work out some kind of upper limit for levels of technology and geographical extent of hypothetical earlier civilizations. Such estimates would be highly speculative and based on limited knowledge, but the possibility of highly developed civilizations is not something that can be ruled out completely. We have only limited understanding of some of the past civilizations we know existed, so it would be quite a stretch do deny the possibility of some sort of past civilization that we have so far missed the evidence for.

  13. I spent 90 minutes squelching through a mine today. Parts of it were 800 years old. Some chunks are at least 1000 years old. That’s one thing that lasts.

  14. The good Dr. P. says that success correlates with a combination of 2 of the 5 traits that psychologists sort human abilities into. Those 2 being intelligence and conscientiousness which are not correlated at all according to the literature. See: I haven’t studied it myself, and, of course, that depends on what measure you use for success. I know too much about statistical reasoning to discount that last. My apologies, he doesn’t seem to put intelligence as one of the 5 traits, but he does list it as necessary in combination with conscientiousness as a predictor of success.

  15. ” Older son and I joke that our ancestors must always have been odds in normal tribes.”
    This strikes a chord with me because I have long felt America was settled by the dissatisfied, the restless, the eager to know and find something new.
    I’ve extended that theory to this – we have enhanced that gene in almost every generation. The ones who came to the east coast, had children, and sometimes themselves, who were in turn dissatisfied with their lot and wanted to see and know more. The happened so much that finally the last generations to go were the ones who went to California. And that is why it is so very crazy. Too much of the wandering, need to change gene in them.

    1. Umm…no. California was a near-Utopia until the 1970s. The problem was that California was a small-L libertarian paradise. Making it a magnet for every nutjob from the rest of the country. Import a few tens of millions of non-English-speaking unskilled immigrants, and you have a recipe to turn Utopia into Hell.

      1. You may have missed my point and looked only at the punchline. The dissatisfied are those who want to live free, to explore new worlds, those who are not content with the status quo, the seekers of new places and experiences. You must admit they made it to California.

        1. so you’re saying their craziness is caused by the fact that they ARE the status quo in CA?

          1. They are the ones that seem to be moving and shaking the place. I am seriously saying that with enough people who had an intelligent, want to see what’s over the next horizon gene procreating with each other it should show up that we have many more of them now. Those are the people who went west, even when west was across the Alleghenies. I am not a geneticist, I am an elderly lady who thinks about things. So my theory is this gene, this propensity to travel would be multiplied and enhanced enough that should they have had to stay in the same place because they had reached the farthest west they had gone, there could be some really crazy stuff happening, status quo would be them.
            In real life it is so easy to travel now, back and forth happens so often, it is hard to say those who are there are the same ones who went west in the first place.

  16. I think it would need to be over a very long, as in geologically long, time period. If our civilization were destroyed tomorrow the big problem for the next one isn’t “what are all these strange structures we’re finding?” it’s “why is there no coal or iron or copper available?” We’ve pulled up most of the easy stuff.

    On a long enough time frame, that will fix itself, but it is a long, long time.

    Was it Brin’s Uplift series that had civilizations moving from planet to planet and dumping everything into subduction (spell checker says that’s wrong; I disagree) zones as they left?

    1. One “solution” to this problem that I’ve read (no idea where; probably have the paperback laying about, somewhere) is genetically engineered trees that are planted over our landfills. Their seeds are various elements pulled out of the ground.

    2. Maybe not a lot of coal, but plenty of iron and copper – just mine the sites of our current cities.

  17. Oh, g*d, easily bored must be one of my middle names. There are so many things and interests that I picked up, to the point of obsession – and then put down because … no longer interesting. And my daughter is even worse than me. The bits and pieces of crafts that she picked up and mastered, and then left behind. But when you aren’t interested any more, it’s a chore, and BORING … and there you go, wandering off, with whatever project it was, left half-done…

    1. I have a moderate case of that. Which is one reason I rate “dogged persistence” higher than “raw intellect.”

      Being smart helps me form grandiose ideas, but it’s not worth flip for actually getting things done.

      1. I have found that while my family might be easily bored, we are very easily entertained. My husband is a marine biologist, So the children and grandchildren were raised with a great curiosity, especially with the natural world. It doesn’t take much to set us off, scrambling for answers, seeking new views. Give us a fossil, an animal, birds and sea creatures, but really all of them. We are also people watchers, they are the most interesting animals of all. Not boring, entertaining.

  18. “We should be more concerned with cultures holding people back than with genetic abilities.”

    A few years ago there were some essays suggesting that we were handling above-average intelligence in a way that was sub-optimal, and potentially destructive (Charles Murray, WSJ op-eds). High IQ people have disproportionate impact. Murray’s essays, if I’m remembering correctly, were about possible problems in education (mostly at higher levels of education), but what if how they are socialized makes a big difference, too? Previous blog entries here have descriptions of childhood “Oddness” that include many signs of isolation. What if such kids are generally being handled badly, and some of the more dysfunctional characteristics of the adult version are signs of a high-IQ analogy of being “raised by wolves”, the symptoms invisible and undiagnosable because of the small sample size, and trivially avoidable by some approach that happens that happens occasionally by chance without anyone realizing the significance?

    And perhaps a whole culture could take on distinct characteristics based on the side effects that the culture’s typical practices of child-rearing and education have on a variant minority of the population. That would be dependent on both nature and nurture, and very hard to identify.

    1. kids above the upper 2 percent are treated very badly. But they will be. How not? they don’t belong, by definition.
      It is worse, of course, in a world where “mass” has become the way to handle things, and humans get therefore treated as widgets.

    2. the symptoms invisible and undiagnosable because of the small sample size, and trivially avoidable by some approach that happens that happens occasionally by chance without anyone realizing the significance?

      Oh, that one’s dead simple– socialize them with adults.

      One of the standard signals is that the kids prefer being around adults– a common description is “old soul.”

      The biggest advantage of this, IF they’re properly socialized, is that they don’t get use to the “smart” members of their group being dumb as a rock. Simply by life experience, adults will know more, and be able to use their knowledge more– which gives the kids a foundation of accepting that it’s possible for others to know something they don’t, and unless it’s a subject they’ve studied it’s probable.

      It’s being backwards implemented with the fad for homeschooling “high functioning” kids who are “on the spectrum.” I try to actively encourage it by telling stories about how I was a demon to my poor teachers, in all innocence– simply didn’t fit.

      1. That’s probably basically what saved me from some very nasty fates.

      2. This. Which is why they try ever so hard to keep it from happening – “you must only interact with kids your own age so you can socialize” is exactly what you don’t want to do.

        Bets would be if there’s a mix. Getting yourself isolated from the cohort you have to go through high school with is not a strategy for a positive schooling prison term experience, but neither is spending time only with people whom to you are all “slow”, with you being held back so you don’t inconvenience the teachers union role-taker up at the front.

        1. Thing is, you don’t have to be with that cohort.

          My daughter is already learning the basics of what I had to teach myself when I got out of school, as far as “how to just walk up and start a conversation outside of the assigned group.” She doesn’t have a cohort, and isn’t clear that they even exist at school– the neighbor kids are three or four years apart and she considers them both friends, because they’re willing to come and play. TV shows don’t convey that the kids are all the same age, they just use it as a backdrop for the team’s formation.

          1. That’s honestly awesome.

            I think the view of how school is managed, especially the lower grades, might be another perspective difference stemming from me growing up in the tail end of the baby boom in a relatively heavily populated new suburb area here in CA. The schools had developed all these coping strategies for dealing with the unending hordes of kids streaming into the school system, upsetting all the previous ways of doing primary education. It’s far easier to control and herd hordes of kids if you segregate them into sub-herds and put in controls on top of controls. Plus when the classes are large, there are more opportunities for interaction with the same kids one is in class with.

            As the inflow diminished into the late 1960s they just keep doing the same thing they had been doing on the smaller and smaller influxes for the past decade and a half.

            I’ve talked to a few retired teachers, and they all talk about the massive expansion schools had to go through when the masses of baby boom kids just kept enrolling, more every year. New schools getting frantically built, and then they added portable classrooms and hired yet more teachers. There were rows and rows of ‘portables’ at every public school I attended through High School. They are sure not there now.

            You and your daughter have the advantage of a lot of time having passed since that extended school crisis, plus my impression is you live in a less heavily populated region than the booming suburbs of Silicon Valley were back in the day.

            1. Yep for me, although Elf was in San Diego and the DC area so they were…quite stuffed.

              I also grew up with it being expected that I could interact with all the aunts and uncles and cousins and all of those with quotes around the title because not actually blood, even if I didn’t know them– most people only HAVE one or two aunts and uncles these days; my husband didn’t spend time around his aunts and uncles, but his grandfather just assumed he’d come and be presentable at the broker’s office, so he was. We could’ve probably hung out with kids instead, but we had the OPTION to be around adults.

              When do kids these days get that? The six weeks before they hit daycare? The two hours they have to eat and do homework after school and Activities?

              I don’t know who said it, but kids will tend to learn the stuff that you assume they’ll do…..

      3. Socializing among adults sounds like it covers the problem well, but I wonder if it works equally well for high-IQ girls and boys. I know there’s a male/female disparity regarding a willingness to interact with teachers, and that might reflect their experience with adults in general. The category of “high functioning kids who are on the spectrum” might simply be a fairly common subtype of intelligent kids who happen to not be verbally or socially precocious (more likely to be boys than girls, I gather). I would expect adults in general to less inclined to spend time dealing with those, even if there are familial ties.

        I’m sure it’s always a good solution if the right adults are involved, of course.

        1. The category of “high functioning kids who are on the spectrum” might simply be a fairly common subtype of intelligent kids who happen to not be verbally or socially precocious (more likely to be boys than girls, I gather).

          That’s my theory.

          1. If visio/spacial or logical/analytical ability exceeds verbal ability, then the approach of socializing with adults may face significant resistance from both the children and the adults.

            The child will be trying to express ideas that exceed their verbal ability (even if that’s above average), which is likely to be very frustrating.

            The adults will see a child expressing things (apparently simple or even nonsensical ideas) repetitively with increasing frustration, and Occam’s Razor will lead them astray.

            The child gives up trying to talk to the adults, and even sympathetic adults become convinced the child is “slow” and “troubled”.

            This could actively reinforce social barriers and a sense of isolation in this type of child.

            1. Or the adults can adult, instead of acting like overgrown children, alternately indulging the kids without restriction and then being shocked they’re kids, not roughly more adult than the adult. Pretty much by definition, kids don’t know how to say stuff “right.”

              There’s a reason that kids are supposed to listen more than they talk with adults.

              I’ve been bit by the “listen just long enough to dismiss them” folks as a kid, and as an adult. 😉

              1. I don’t expect adults to know how to adult until they’ve had substantial practical experience with kids (taking care of younger siblings in a large family appears be good preparation, but otherwise it’s on-the-job training starting from zero).

                  1. The one reason that I was not totally, totally unhinged when my daughter was born, and I was faced with the responsibility of raising her (alone) was that I had already had a large part in the care of my youngest brother – who was born when I was eleven, and had the great good fortune to be born at the start of the summer holidays.
                    Oh, a baby! I already had lengthy experience with a baby, later a toddler, pre-school, and on up. So – one of my own? No sweat, been there, done that.

                    I have seen speculations here and there, that being an older sib or a cousin in an extended family and having the care of younger ones does wonders for one’s confidence when it comes to taking care of one’s own children, later on.

                    1. Heh, just realized something– “everybody knew” that I’d never have kids, because I just wasn’t that enthused about snagging babies and didn’t babysit.

                      But taking care of animals, especially baby animals, even when it’s the nasty side of it, filled a lot of the same ‘confidence’ slot.

                      No younger cousins close enough to become a chore, and I’m only two years older than my youngest sib.

                1. Or a pet, preferably cat, dog, or horse. Well, more like latter two, as they not only take care, food & medical, but training, if done correctly. No give backs. Cats are easy compared to dogs & horses. Advantage to kid. They eventually grow up; or they are suppose to.

            2. (the big tell on an actually slow kid, vs one who isn’t saying it “right”– they’ll respond to what is being said in ways that make sense, even if it’s at a funny angle. Like the Duchess asking what the difference between a moment and a mom-ent was…because sounding out the word, she thought it was said “mom ent.”)

              1. If you have a indicator for kids slightly to moderately below average, say 20% of the population, you can probably be confident of the diagnosis, but isn’t the population of high-IQ kids who can be mistaken for being dysfunctional much smaller than the population of ordinary dysfunctional kids? That would make false positives more likely than true ones, even for reasonably accurate tests.

                1. We’ve got too many things to define, here, to answer that question— you seem to be using dysfunctional and “kind of slow” for the same group, and I sure wouldn’t swear that there’s a smaller group of prefer-to-socialize-with-adults than there are of “goodness, he’s…special…” kids.


                  As far as false positives go, that has more to do with the diagnosis baseline than the frequency of what’s being tested; for an example, there are different cutoffs for pregnancy diabetes aimed at catching 97.5% or 99% of all gestational diabetes cases, calibrated that way because of the risk associated. They’ve got about a 75% false positive for the screening. The older tests only had a 50% false positive, because it wasn’t considered that big of a deal.

                  Figuring out that you’re smarter than a five year old is not very high on most folks’ priority chart. 🙂

                  1. a young lady i went to college with has had to do the three hour test twice this week…

                  2. I was trying to be brief, but I ended up being vague. And I wasn’t conflating dysfunction with “slow”. To be less vague (but firmly in tl;dr territory):

                    Regarding false positives, what I meant was: a model for tests, including binary tests, is that they have some inherent limiting accuracy, some percent chance of yielding errors. Test tuners can choose threshold criteria to trade false positives for false negatives, or the reverse, but they can’t reduce the amount of errors for the given method and equipment. This isn’t quite right (likelihood of error varies according to where a sample falls in the measurement range, for instance), but it captures an important point: if you’re trying to distinguish true positives that are rare, either the test must be very accurate, or you have to put up with having many more false positives than true. The alternative to using a very accurate test to avoid this problem is to apply a sequence of independent moderately accurate tests.

                    As to test accuracy, for something that’s just a heuristic, I’d expect a decent one to have 60-80% accuracy. If you’re trying to detect the 20% of kids who are “kind of slow” for special consideration, combining several heuristics might be all you need. A 20% frequency is fairly large, so this is a relatively easy problem.

                    Very high IQ kids who have verbal expressiveness to match, and who visibly prefer to socialize with adults may have the solution built into the problem (that is, just encourage this socialization). If the kids actively present themselves to the adults, special testing isn’t needed. If at least some adults unconsciously adjust the way they talk to match the kids’ apparent expressive ability, no special insight or training needed. Nominal levels of care-giver patience and attentiveness may be enough.

                    Very high IQ kids whose verbal expressiveness does NOT match their analytical ability are much harder to address. They have to be actively identified, and they may be miscategorized as dysfunctional. As rough approximations, I figured 10% of normal kids were marginally dysfunctional or worse, while high-IQ mistaken-for-dysfunctional kids would be only a fraction of a percent. Even good assessment heuristics from good observers might leave most of this problem hidden if those numbers are close. I wasn’t including the modern attitude of interpreting normal male behavior as dysfunctional, which sounds like a much larger problem.

                    1. I was trying to be brief, but I ended up being vague

                      Not like it’s a complex subject or anything. 😉

                      Think you might like…chesterton’s, pretty sure… comment. I think in shorthand and then smudge it!

                    2. And now reading through system… it’s accurate, but misses the traditional way you deal with problems, especially with kids:
                      wait for there to be a problem, and deal with it individually.

                      Preferably by someone who knows and cares about the kid, rather than someone with a theory and access to the class of 30 kids.

                      Yeah, it won’t stop problems from showing up. Thing is, it won’t create them, either, and makes it much harder for people to classify stuff they just don’t like as a “problem.”

      4. This. Both Rhys and I preferred being around adults over kids our own age for the most part. We both had the gift of getting them to open up to us. One friend I had then grumped that I was able to get more out of his grandmother in 30 minutes of talk than he’d been able to get in a lifetime. His grandmother said “That’s because she doesn’t think what we have to say is a waste of time, dear.” Which is true. I find older folks have the most interesting stories!

        Rhys has had this description given to him: You talk to complete, total strangers for less than ten minutes and then they hand you their whole damn life story.

        When it happened again, in the presence of the person who described him thus, after the conversation, that guy went “SEE?! I TOLD YOU SO!!!”

  19. Meanwhile, in service to that promise to Shadowdancer:

    The Supreme Court has ruled that that law prohibited a MAGA hat and a button saying “Please I.D. me” is indeed overly broad.

    1. they didn’t say overly broad, they said it was outright unconstitutional restraint on free speech.

  20. The Brits are best at biology, Germans best at chemistry and east European Jews dominate physics and now many clever scientists from Orient and India are contributing to humanity’s knowledge as well.

    Study of ancient DNA is ever so interesting. I have read mostly about Britain and many of them have Portuguese and Northern Spain genes because they were first settlers of UK when last glacial period ended 8,000-10,000 years ago.

  21. Anyone have an opinion on this SpinLaunch thing?

    I have some questions.

    What is the publicly known high end for speed of pumped fluids?

    Has anyone done much on the experimental fluid mechanics of this sort of tethered rocket?

    Are there any standard problems in controls that this closely matches? It’s not the same as an inverted pendulum, is it?

    Anyone know off the top of their head?

  22. I think the reason why we haven’t encountered aliens is that we are the wise elder race.

        1. A possible far, far future conversation….

          “Uh.. you’re… human.. right? I’m curious about something… you didn’t make contact until after a lot of development… but it looks like you’ve been watching us for a long time. Are we in a zoo, or .. well, what gives? So many times we could have used a bit of advice. And you said nothing.”

          “Every civilization we look at that we can talk with has the same question. That advice you think we could give? Is worse than worthless. We learned the hard way. The advised… learned it much harder. Recall the great arms race of your… 2100’s was it? Where you just barely seemed to get by, but did? Bet you wanted some help there. We used to try. Turns out that’s a really bad idea.”

          “Could we talk with any of those civilizations, find out what…”

          “No. We’d like for it to be possible, but.. none made it. After a dozen or saddening failures, we went quiet… and found most figured it out themselves. A few still failed, but..”

          “So you helped most by not helping at all?!”


          “Out of curiosity, how did YOU get past your version of the great arms race?”

          “That system you rejected as mad? It was mad. For you. For the Gleempok. For the Leekber. For the Fuh. For almost everyone. For us…amazingly, and perhaps uniquely, Mutual Assured Destruction worked – and we… got really lucky.. a few times over.”

          “Monsters. You’re monsters!”

          “If only. It’s actually much worse than that. We know. Which is why you’re still on your own with the big stuff. You have a chance that way.”

          1. “Monsters. You’re monsters!”

            “On the contrary, if we were monsters, we’d have kept giving advice.”

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