March 9, 2009

Biology Is Destiny

Palm up.  Measure your index finger (2D) and ring finger (4D) from bottom crease to tip of finger (not nail).

Question: does life begin at conception?
  Why, or why not?

I. Nature:

The study looked at 49 male futures traders (high velocity, high leverage).  The mean age was 27, the mean annual income about $500k (range -$4000 to $8M.)

The study found that low 2D/4D ratios (long ring fingers) were highly correlated to higher profits; the ratio also predicted the ranking of the traders based on of profits.

2. Nurture:

Chronological age was not a factor in profits, though years of experience was.

So "nurture"-- years of experience-- and "nature"-- the prenatal testosterone exposure, which causes long ring fingers-- both affect performance.

The study found that experience boosts profits by 9 times over inexperience;  low 2D/4D (long ring fingers) ratios boost it 11 times over high 2D/4D ratios.

finger trader.JPG

Having lots of experience only barely made up for having a higher finger ratio (short ring finger).

The same authors had done a prior study with traders, and found that levels of morning testosterone (which fluctuates both intraday and interday) predicted that day's profits; the higher the am testosterone, the higher the profits for that day.

Taken together, some people may have a biologic advantage to making money in futures trading; this biologic advantage may be greater than having experience.


Other studies have found relationships of 2D/4D ratios to everything from homosexuality to osteoarthritis.

I don't know why the 2D/4D ratio (intrauterine testosterone exposure) have an effect on such things.  What interested me about the paper was this:

The financial markets are made up of many sectors and types of trading, and each of these may select for different biological traits. But if markets select traders on the basis of their profitability and their occupational preferences (36), then low-2D:4D traders will continue to influence asset prices and equilibria in some of these sectors. Contrary to the assumptions of the rational expectations hypothesis, financial market equilibria may be influenced as much by traders' biological traits as by the truth of their beliefs. (emphasis mine)
What the authors suspect-- and what seems obvious once you say it out loud-- is that not only are certain people better suited for certain work or environments, but that they then change the environment itself so that they are the ones best suited for it.

A ha! the system is stacked for a certain group, against another group!

But it's no more stacked against us than our technological world is better suited to electrical engineers.  This is why we have an economy that uses money; we can hire someone who is suited for that work, to act as our agent.

But what about things that can't be bought?


If philosophy and ethics attract certain types of people, then those people go on to further alter the answers to ethical questions.  It occurs to them to ask certain questions and not others; and those with a differing perspective or mindset do not naturally possess the equipment that allows them to join in the discussion. What do you think happens to ethics?

Diversity of opinion is an illusion.  The choices "it is ethical" and "no, it's not ethical" are actually of the same form, they come from the same kind of brain.  For example, they both presuppose that the question is an ethical one, and not a logical one, or a practical one, or even a religious one, or a mechanical one, or a mathematical one, or a...

But once a field is dominated by a group, that group reinforces its groupthink.  It decides the form of the discussion.  For example: the question for everyone is about ethics.  Those who think it is, say, a logic problem are forced to remold their logical argument into a quasi-ethical one, just to be able to participate in the discussion.  And their intellectual compromise is thus both less ethical and less logical.  This reinforces for the ethicists that their perspective is the rigorous one.  When you hear someone speaking broken English, you assume you're smarter than him; it sounds like he's dumber than you.

These compromisers die and are never heard from again.  It is a bat talking to a bumblebee about what color a flower is.

A student of history knows that history repeats; what is different is the people living it, and how they frame their present.

Since this dialogue is absolutely impossible, then the only kind of change that is possible is a paradigm shift.

Paradigm shifts cannot occur without a change in biology: it requires a completely new generation of human beings.