National entropy

Maybe the reason that the Chinese continue to do so well is that China is smarter than we are. Simplest explanation I can come up with.

I don’t mean that individual Chinese are smarter than individual Americans, but suppose in a celestial experiment, the usual Martian were asked to gaze down upon both the US and China as organisms and select which one seemed to be more intelligent. On the one hand, the China organism would appear to be engaging in various self-improvement exercises, while the US organism spends most of its energy running up and down the street barking at cars, knocking small children off bikes, and chasing its ideological tail.

Consider: Soon, more Chinese will ride their high-speed train system than Americans will fly our airline system. You wanted to compare Chinese train ridership with American??? Compare high-speed train ridership???

As Keith Bradsher describes the benefits in an article in today’s New York Times:

Productivity gains to the economy appear to be of the same order as the combined economic gains from the usual arguments given for high-speed trains, including time savings for travelers, reduced noise, less air pollution and fuel savings, the World Bank consultants calculated.

Companies are opening research and development centers in more glamorous cities like Beijing and Shenzhen with abundant supplies of young, highly educated workers, and having them take frequent day trips to factories in cities with lower wages and land costs, like Tianjin and Changsha. Businesses are also customizing their products more through frequent meetings with clients in other cities, part of a broader move up the ladder toward higher value-added products.

My old friend, Bill Lind, now heads the Center for Public Transportation at the American Conservative. Hey Bill, time to get to work.

As a side note, the economic and social gains China gets from better integrating its population seem to confirm the value of physical contact, even in this age of virtual everything.

28 thoughts on “National entropy

  1. Maybe we were smarter when we were a lot higher percentage of Asian immigrants. I’ve periodically commented old report that half the advance STEM degree graduates from Cal. univ. were from far east … and they made up at least half of expertise in silicon valley for Internet bubble. In the past, all the 4.0 graduates we interviewed from Cal. univ. were from far east.

    • Reminds me of what Steve Spurrier once said about the University of Georgia: They get all these great players, but then I don’t know what happens to them.

  2. Great comic lines, but not sure rail traffic is a good assessment choice.

    STEM skills? The Sovient Union had ’em in spades, from 1950-1980.

    makes you wonder if we’re teaching citizens to think … vs just have “STEM” skills

    Overdiagnosing autism in intelligent, introverted boys shared by @GOOD community member

    Sikh who teaches at Columbia University in NY assaulted by teenagers shouting anti-Muslim taunts

  3. “A Marine officer stationed with our counter-drug traffic effort in Bolivia told me the traffickers went through the Loop 12 times in the time it took us to go through it once. I mentioned that to Colonel Boyd, and he replied, “Then we’re not even in the game.””

    I wonder if the Martians, in their observance, compared the two nations within their areas of land mass, in events and the magnitude of those events what they would find?

    The magnitude of the Cultural Revolution is, in my opinion, unquestionable greater than anything the U.S. has ever gone through including the Civil War, but the number of events (changes) the culture in the U.S. has gone through seems to me to be far greater than any movement within the area of the Chinese culture.

    In other words, do we “win” by going through the loop more times (if that is even true), or does the Chinese “win” because of the magnitude of their trip through the loop?

    • After all, one sign of “smartness” is the ability to take the most advantage of all orientations, or to be put in the position that has the most advantage, in the area of the environment you are observing. So does the advantage go to the Chinese culture, the American culture, or are they now one and the same?

    • Good points. As Fabius continues to point out, it isn’t clear that we even have an OODA loop in the sense of an implicit orientation that allows for effective actions (cf. Patterns 74; Organic design 23).

      Gerald Seib had an interesting piece on this yesterday in the Wall St. J., although he probably wouldn’t put it in these words, “How to Understand House Republicans.” (paywall)

      Half of the current Republican conference, by contrast, was elected in recent years when debt and deficit concerns, anger at Obamacare and the rise of the tea party formed the backdrop for their campaigns. If they act as if they don’t see the world as do more-established Republicans—including House Speaker John Boehner, class of 1990—it’s because they don’t.

      Second, most have been elected from congressional districts that, thanks to Republican power at the state level, were drawn by state legislatures to be secure, conservative redoubts for Republicans. The magic of drawing partisan districts explains how Republicans could have lost the popular vote for the House in 2012 by more than a million votes nationally, yet kept control of the House by 33 seats.

      • A implicit orientation is much like a moment of inertia. In both there is zero velocity. In other words, a moment of inertia is much like a pivot point. Torque is always energy, but only power when it moves. The advantage of a implicit command (to move) is that it never changes 🙂 Kinda sticking point between Zen and I.

      • Larry,

        “The advantage of a implicit command (to move) is that it never changes 🙂 Kinda sticking point between Zen and I.”

        I’m not sure I understand. Boyd suggested that;

        The key idea is to emphasize implicit over explicit in order to gain a favorable mismatch in friction and time (ours lower than any adversary’s) for superiority in shaping and adapting to circumstances. Organic Design 22

        It isn’t clear to me how an implicit command that is unchanging would help accomplish this.

      • Friction and time suggest movement or a change in time over a change in distance (velocity).

        Friction is the ability of two forces to occupy the same space (environment), or nearly so.

        This dual occupying of the environment is accomplished by a normalizing force acting on both forces.

        When this normalizing force is an implicit command, as long as the environment Observed remains the same (friction on earth pushes against the normalizing force), so there are advantages not for the structure of the force to change, and the structure will remain the same if the culture inside it remains the same.

        An implicit and explicit command acts on that culture, and the discussion (10+ years ago) Zen and I first had was about implicit and explicit commands, with him saying explicit commands never change, and I said it is only implicit commands that never change.

        In other words, Boyd was talking about changing the frictional forces and the time when that change happens (Act), but his statement only implies what he says about the normalizing force or the environment the normalizing force Acts in.

      • Ha! Well Chet, work, as defined in physics, is the moving of a weight a distance. Perhaps there have been times that I thought Boyd had given me a burden to carry a distance, but then that burden seems to disappear quite easily when I talk to you.

        Not trying to sound too physical, nor less human 🙂

      • Larry,

        Read this over several more times. Are you arguing that implicit commands become a part of the culture and so continue to operate (never change) so long as that culture exists?

        I think you may be on to something, but it isn’t clear to me that you’re using “friction” and “implicit” the same way Boyd did. Suggest you search on these terms (and “entropy”) in Patterns, Strategic Game, and Organic Design and see what you think.

        Also, physics and other subjects may be great sources of ideas, but you need to make your argument in terms of human organizations.

        Good luck,

      • To the first, yes. But they do move (velocity, i.e a change in distance over a change in time), perhaps against friction if the normalizing force releases some of the weight (burden), as the environment changes. But it depends on the structure of the society. Is it structure as the Right (as I defined once as a structure), or the Left (also defined). And, of course, there could be other designs of structure in place, I am very limited on my knowledge of other cultures.

      • ” it isn’t clear to me that you’re using “friction” and “implicit” the same way Boyd did.” It depends on if I used some of my engineering skills and transposed it into what he said about maintaining virtue correctly.

  4. they had this on PBS (PRI’s The World segment) yesterday

    The Smartest Kids in the World: a Look at Schooling in Finland, South Korea, and Poland
    New book searches for reasons why 3 high-flying nations’ schools soar

    A Time magazine reporter based in Washington, D.C., Ripley spent three years on a quest to learn how three countries — Finland, Poland and South Korea — had vastly improved their education systems in just a few years. All three have gone from international laggards to leaders in the past few decades, increasing academic rigor while the U.S. education system, one of the largest, most storied and best-funded in the world, has muddled through, obsessed with reform but seemingly stuck in second gear.

    … snip …

    • Lynn, thanks.

      Marco Werman led the PRI feature with Finland. He quoted this: “We pay our teachers like the doctors. Students enjoy over an hour of recess. And there’s no mandatory testing.”

      Want to know what an organization really considers important? Follow the money.

    • The Soviet Union did the same, from 1950-1980, and look how that panned out.

      It always boils down to the assessment metrics used. Are Finnish/Polish/Korean kids drilled to exception on STEM skills, or do they have freedom to actually explore audacious options? What would John Boyd say? No matter the practice at past skills, there are ALWAYS new options to explore. Those aggregates that allow social fast transients to occur, will always outdo those societies that look good on paper.
      Look at Nokia as one example.

      • Roger,

        Thanks. “What would John Boyd say?” — I’ll ask him next time I see him.

        The USSR went from a Third World country in 1922 to second most powerful in the world by 1960, defeating Nazi Germany along the way. So I think it panned out pretty well, until the absurdity of their social and economic system finally brought them down. Entropy washed out big investments in STEM education. Even today, ironically, those investments are are paying off in their space and military export programs, two of the few bright spots in their economy.

        And Nokia had a nice run. Did Finnish education suddenly turn from audacious exploration to rote memorization?

        What all this has to do with China investing while we spend on weapons to defeat the USSR and on invading Middle Eastern countries is lost on me.

      • Just the old reminder that we have zero predictive power. So we may hypothesize many things .. but in the end, we’ll have to find out what it all may mean, by good old trial and error. We always act on what expanding numbers of us THINK, but in the end we find out what little (if any) of what we think ever approximates the next reality check.

      • The S. Korean with 20hrs/day was contrasted with Finnish & Polish … which had hrs much more like the US (but much more effective)

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