Tag Archives: autism

Why Thomas Sowell Never Got a Nobel Prize

From Wikipedia: ‘On the right and in conservative and libertarian quarters, Sowell is lauded as a “giant”,[40] brilliant,[41] one of the most original[42] and prolific intellects of our time,[43] “a national treasure.”[44] and someone to whom a Nobel Prize should have been awarded long ago.’

So why, in spite of his prolific output spanning six decades, including thirty books and thousands of articles and other commentary, has the greatest prize of all, the Nobel Prize, still eluded him? Is he being snubbed due to prejudice? He’s world-renowned, his articles syndicated on major sites such as Town Hall and National Review, read by millions, and even many on the ‘left’ can find common ground in Sowell’s support of legalization of drugs or his ‘theory’ on how late-talking children are really smart.

So why no Nobel?

There’s a common misunderstanding about how Noble Prize is awarded, specifically the criteria that must be met. Although the recipient must be alive, most importantly, the Nobel Prize is not a lifetime achievement award – rather, Obama’s farcical Nobel notwithstanding, it’s for a specific discovery or finding that has a major, rippling impact on its respective field. This means it has to be a very specific and original, published in a peer-reviewed journal, and that either answers a very important question, challenges a pre-existing theory, and or opens up a new field of research.

Some notable examples in the field of economics, in which whose originators were awarded the Nobel Prize, include:

The Market for Lemons

“The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism” is a 1970 paper by the economist George Akerlof which examines how the quality of goods traded in a market can degrade in the presence of information asymmetry between buyers and sellers, leaving only “lemons” behind. A lemon is an American slang term for a car that is found to be defective only after it has been bought.

George Akerlof was awarded The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2001 for his paper because ‘information asymmetry’ challenges the neoclassical model that assumes ‘perfect information’ (all parties have the same information).

“The Pricing of Options and Corporate Liabilities”

Merton and Scholes received the 1997 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their work on option pricing, specifically, in 1973, for finding a way (the Black–Scholes formula) to price options in lieu of a ‘drift’ parameter, or in more technical terms, ‘risk-neutral pricing’. The original Black–Scholes formula spawned a considerable amount of follow-up research, in addition to being used to price options on the CME and CBOT, and giving birth to the field of quantitative finance.

“Equilibrium Points in n-Person Games, by John F. Nash”

The eponymous ‘Nash Equilibrium’, in which for certain scenarios the best outcome (an equilibrium point) is achieved through cooperation instead of competition, challenged the assumptions of Adam Smith that competition leads to the best outcome:

Adam Smith claimed that if each person in society worked to optimize his welfare the whole society would have the optimal welfare, but on the other hand, John Nash proved by his work on Game theory that in certain cases optimal solution for the individuals could lead to the sub optimal solution for the.entire society.

In 1994, Nash received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (along with John Harsanyi and Reinhard Selten) for his paper, which he wrote in his mid-20′s in 1952 having only taken a few economics courses at the time. Pretty impressive.

“Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk (1979)”

In 2002, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for developing prospect theory, which launched the field of behavior economics. The theory, roughly, states people have an asymmetrically large aversion to losses than desire for gains, whereas conventional theory assumes there is no asymmetry.

“Do stock prices move too much to be justified by subsequent changes in dividends?”

In 1981 Robert Shiller published an article in The American Economic Review titled “Do stock prices move too much to be justified by subsequent changes in dividends?” in which he challenged the efficient-market hypothesis, which was the dominant view in the economics profession at the time. In 2013, Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Shiller jointly received the 2013 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences their work on asset pricing.

That’s enough examples. To my surprise, Nash, who died in 2015, only published a single math book in his lifetime – a small compilation of game theory essays – but he also published some books on Christianity. Merton, Black and Scholes, developers of the Black–Scholes formula, wrote no books. A Google search shows three books for Daniel Kahneman, including his 2011 best-seller Thinking, Fast and Slow. George Akerlof published five books. Combined, that’s still far fewer than Sowell’s thirty. Although books are much longer than papers and therefore seem more substantive, somewhat counterintuitively they have less clout in academia than papers. This is because books are not subject to same high peer review standards as papers, and also because books tend to rehash a lot of information. Thus, the Nobel committee tends to overlook books, in favor of peer reviewed papers with a lot of citations.

Going over Sowell’s biography on Wikipedia, although there are a lot of books, there are no papers aside from his PHD thesis.

Sowell has also written a trilogy of books on ideologies and political positions, including A Conflict of Visions, where he speaks about the origins of political strife; The Vision of the Anointed, where he compares the conservative/libertarian and liberal/progressive worldviews; and The Quest for Cosmic Justice, where, like in many of his other writings, he outlines his thesis of the need for intellectuals, politicians and leaders to fix and perfect the world in utopian, and ultimately he posits, disastrous fashions. Separate from the trilogy, but also in discussion of the subject, he wrote Intellectuals and Society, where he discusses what he argues to be the blind hubris and follies of intellectuals in a variety of areas, building on his earlier work.

Sowell challenges the notion that black progress is due to progressive government programs or policies, in The Economics and Politics of Race, (1983), Ethnic America (1981), Affirmative Action Around the World (2004), and other books. He claims that many problems identified with blacks in modern society are not unique, neither in terms of American ethnic groups, nor in terms of a rural proletariat struggling with disruption as it became urbanized, as discussed in his book Black Rednecks and White Liberals.

It would seem like Sowell is more of an ‘economic historian’ and ‘explainer’ than someone who theorizes or has many original ideas, and that’s why the Nobel has still eluded him. His obserserations are trenchant, but that’s not enough. The main problem is the dearth of peer reviewed papers.

Interestingly, Sowell has received considerable attention for something unrelated to economics – his so-called ‘Einstein Syndrome’ theory:

Sowell wrote The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late, a follow-up to his Late-Talking Children, discussing a condition he termed Einstein syndrome. This book investigates the phenomenon of late-talking children, frequently misdiagnosed with autism or pervasive developmental disorder. He includes the research of—among others—Professor Stephen Camarata, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University and Professor Steven Pinker, Ph.D., of Harvard University in this overview of a poorly understood developmental trait. It is a trait which he says affected many historical figures. He discusses late-talkers who developed prominent careers, such as physicists Albert Einstein, Edward Teller and Richard Feynman; mathematician Julia Robinson; and musicians Arthur Rubenstein and Clara Schumann. He makes the case for the theory that some children develop unevenly (asynchronous development) for a period in childhood due to rapid and extraordinary development in the analytical functions of the brain. This may temporarily “rob resources” from neighboring functions such as language development. Sowell disagrees with Simon Baron-Cohen’s speculation that Einstein may have had Asperger syndrome (see also people speculated to have been autistic).[27]

The success of this theory probably has more to do with an appealing narrative, than any scientific rigor. The reality, which is that delayed-talking is almost always associated with generalized mental delay, is not what people, especially parents, want to hear, instead taking solace in the delusion that their kid may be the ‘next Einstein’. But for every kid who has delayed speech and is brilliant and gets a lot of media coverage (an example being the physics and math prodigy Jacob Barnett, who didn’t speak until he was four but mastered calculus at age 11), the majority of late-takers are simply slow and there is no media coverage. Nowadays, late-talking and other signs of mental impairment are labeled as ‘autism’ (which could explain the surge in autism diagnosis in recent years) instead of ‘retardation’ or ‘borderline-retardation’, as an example of how America’s increasingly politically correct society is more worried about not ‘offending people’ than acknowledging reality:

Euphemism treadmill in action

Although many book and articles have been written about the subject, not surprisingly, Sowell’s ‘Einstein syndrome’ has not passed peer review.

The Gift of Autism

Some recent blog posts about autism:

Autism, genius, and the power of obliviousness

“The A-Word”–when “autism” is used as an insult

A distinction must be made between high-functioning and low-functioning autism; this article discusses the former.

It seems like in today’s economy and society, autism and or autism-like traits are more of a gift than a curse. This is apparent when you look at the wage gap between STEM jobs, which favor analytical ability, introversion, and concentration, over social skills, compared to jobs in the service sector, which tend to require social skills but pay much less. There are exceptions like law, which can be a mixture of both, but it seems everyone who is getting rich or famous these days who is isn’t an entertainer or Tony Robbins, is somewhere on the autism spectrum.

From Eric Raymond:

Yes, there is an enabling superpower that autists have through damage and accident, but non-autists like me have to cultivate: not giving a shit about monkey social rituals.

Neurotypicals spend most of their cognitive bandwidth on mutual grooming and status-maintainance activity. They have great difficulty sustaining interest in anything that won’t yield a near-immediate social reward. By an autist’s standards (or mine) they’re almost always running in a hamster wheel as fast as they can, not getting anywhere.

Social skills are being supplanted by competence, in today’s competitive ‘results-orientated’ economy and society. The jobs that pay the highest tend to require analytical ability more so than ‘people skills’. Algebraic geometry, theoretical physics, or philosophy may not have many direct ‘real world’ applications, but they signal superior intelligence. People who can understand complicated abstractions can apply those skills to any job where critical thinking is required, which for most high-paying jobs is a necessity, as well as get up to speed quickly, which for employers means higher productivity and less time and money spent training.

Some of the richest, most successful, most revered people in our economy – Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffett – are better known for their creations than pleasing others, and rightfully so: innovation is ultimately what advances society, not kissing ass. Of course, some ‘social skills’ are needed to be functional, but competence and talent, especially in Silicon Valley and in higher education, is valued more.

And if ‘Instagram culture’ is any indication, attractive women are embracing ‘nerd culture’, posting ‘memes’ about social awkwardness and introversion. Same for pop culture, with hugely successful shows like The Big Bang Theory that appropriate themes of autism. Neuro-typical-ness has become synonymous with ‘boring’, ‘superficiality’, ‘conformity’, ‘dull’, and ‘shallow’. Being autism-spectrum means being more interesting, using circumlocutions, and not conforming to out-dated social conventions.

Those who can defer short-term social gratification can be entrusted to tell the ‘truth’, not sugarcoat things with wishful thinking, affirmations, and delusions. INTJ people are not afraid to ruffle feathers to make themselves heard, and after many decades, online, the world is finally listening, as people ‘seek’ nerds and wonks for counsel (whether it’s on economics, history, relationship advice, science, math, physics, nutrition, coding, finance & investing, gym, video games, makeup, fashion, sociology, philosophy, political science, alternative ideologies, and so on), with these ‘nerds’ becoming rich successful in the process. As part of the rise of the esoteric celebrity, with the exception of some brands and ‘real’ celebrities, pretty much everyone on YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, Vine (any major social network) with a large following (over 10,000 followers or Karma points), is or was a ‘nerd’ in real life, only to achieve substantial fame online, which would likely not have been possible before 2008. Before 2008, these social networks either didn’t exist or were much smaller.

Philip E. Mason, a British scientist with a PHD in chemistry, known as Thunderf00t on Youtube, is one such example of a ‘STEM celebrity‘, with thousands of followers, who rose to online stardom not only only his knowledge of science but his willingness to skirt political correctness in much overdue criticism of SJW-feminism, which until the likes of Thunderf00t and Sargon of Akkad, for years went unchallenged. It doesn’t even have to be autism – it’s simply the ability to appeal to logic and reason over political correctness.

For example, I would be willing to wager that all these ‘Tumbler teens‘ who have hundreds of thousands of followers and are making more money than their parents, are probably ‘nerds’ in real life, only to become the center of the world in these burgeoning online ‘ecosystems’. Meanwhile, offline, people who may have been popular in high school in the 70′s and 80′s, decades later, deal with inflation-lagging wages, bills unpaid, all the while toiling in obscurity in unfullfilling jobs and a paycheck or two away from homelessness. Intellectualism is more than just reading books – it’s a pathway to fame and fortune – or at least online it is. And offline, it a pathway to job security:

…whether it’s oil falling from $100 in 2014 to $30 today, hurting lots of blue collar energy workers, or the housing bust of 2006-2009, which hurt blue collar construction workers. Or the rise of the low-paying service sector, replacing obsoleted but high-paying factory jobs. Meanwhile, high-IQ tech is doing better than ever, impervious to pretty much all macro conditions, save for a blip in 2000-2002 during the dotcom bubble or in 2008 during the recession. This dichotomy is also observed in the housing market, with real estate in high-IQ regions such as the Silicon Valley constantly making new highs, versus almost everywhere else still well-below the 2006 highs.

Is it fair? Maybe not. Or maybe it’s only ‘karmic justice’ in economic form after decades or even centuries of being marginalized by ‘mainstream society’.

Autism/Asperger’s the New ‘Cool’?

Yesterday the site was hacked and someone posted made a bogus post about poetry, which I deleted this morning. Self-hosted WordPress is a magnet for hackers and spammers.

A post on Hacker News about an autistic Wikipedia editor, Guillaume Paumier, went viral, generating thousands of page views for Paumier’s site and heaps of laudatory approbation for Paumier and the autistic community at large. This agrees with my earlier post about the rise of the Omega male, and how Omegas – not Alphas – are the leaders of the pack in post-2008 America.

In the post-2008 era, social awkwardness, a defining characteristic of Asperger syndrome, is the new ‘cool’, in contrast to being all style and no substance, since awkwardness conveys authenticity and competence. It seems people with the ‘good’ social skills are putting those skills to use at Starbucks, for example, asking techies in line what toppings they want on their coffee, while those who are better at reading code and equations than reading faces are making all of the money in today’s economy. In what could be called the the tyranny of the bookish, today’s cognitive elite, like the 21st century equivalent of kings and barons, are being waited on by the ‘servants’ in the low-paid, but very competitive service sector. Cognitive capital, more than ever, has precedence over social capital, and this is exemplified by the meritocracy that is the tech culture of Silicon Valley, where anyone with a good idea can become instantly immensely rich and successful through hard work and raw intellect instead of family connections.

Servility is ‘out’ and candidness is ‘in’, the willingness to confront and espouse biological and economic reality with ‘Spock-like’ logic without worrying about hurting people’s feelings. Right now there is a demand for bloggers on the alt-right to spread the truth, as people are seeking explanations – even if such explanations are not politically correct – for why the economy has changed so much and why so many people seem to be permanently falling behind in an other wise strong economy, as well as possible solutions. The left says the government isn’t doing enough to help the disadvantaged, yet the left has been waging a war on poverty since the 60′s and entitlement spending is at record highs, so maybe biology, not social factors, is the last stone to be upturned, the final taboo. Liberals would prefer we not talk about biology as it pertains to socioeconomic outcomes.

Guillaume Paumier has gotten more recognition and praise being autistic than the vast majority of neurotypical people. But of course, there are vastly more neurotypical people, but as a matter of percentages, autistic-spectrum people are kinda like the new Ashkenazim of society: a minority, but a very successful, smart, and prominent one. As much as they avoid social interactions, the rest of society and the media apparently can’t get enough, whether it’s extremely successful shows like The Big Bang Theory that feature autism-spectrum protagonists, the rise of nerd culture among millennials, or the the latest scientific discovery that spreads through the media like wildfire, evoking awe and wonder.