Consummate dilettantism!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Genetics, culture, and success

Barbados is a country that's 80% black but that has one of the highest literacy rates in the world and one of its lowest crime rates (on par with Japan). Not coincidentally, the smartest black people by far I met in Beijing were Barbadian*. Yet these blacks are the descendents of African slaves brought over en masse from Ghana and Nigeria. This suggests to me that culture is far more important than genetics in determining success of countries and populations.


*One of them, having studied Chinese for a mere two years, was getting an engineering degree from a Chinese university. His curriculum was entirely in Chinese. This is, needless to say, extremely impressive.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Genetics/practice in developing high-level skill

Interesting post here. Comments are good too; check this one out:


This is also seen in the shows about various elite military units. The "selection" process isn't really about training. It's about whittling down 125 men to the 13 genetic and psychological freaks that possess the required skills.

THEN the training begins.

This was hammered home in a different TV special that demonstrated the ability of various special forces members to control core body temperature in extreme environments. They soaked one in ice water for an hour, and baked another under heat lamps. Environments that would cripple a normal person in 10 minutes had no detectable impact on performance after an hour of exposure.

And, different specialists were selected for different abilities. The pilot couldn't endure the apoxia, the ranger couldn't handle the disorientation of spinning maneuvers.

In other words, the people who make the news, in either sport or combat, are not like you. No amount of training will ever get you there.