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March 20, 2005

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» Abiola Lapite's "Minimal Set" from Dienekes' Anthropology Blog
But, what does "genetic diversity" have to do with the ability to establish (or re-establish) civilization? Many human groups with low genetic diversity (compared to Africans), e.g., Amerindians, or East Asians, were able to create civilization. [Read More]

» Abiola's Minimal Set from NuSapiens
In fact, this is quite similar to what probably happened when the first biologically modern humans left Africa. Of course, the OOA humans had the extra challenge of meeting archaic sapiens, such as Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalis, in their travel... [Read More]

Comments

Kenji

"Full-time philosophers, musicians, poets, artists, lawyers, teachers* and the like would have to come from the generations succeeding the founding one, as the assumption is that headcount constraints wouldn't apply to them."

Plato would cry at this suggestion!

Without lawyers, how do you handle disputes?

Abiola Lapite

"Without lawyers, how do you handle disputes?"

Most of humanity has managed and still does seem to be managing this somehow ... A community has to reach a certain size before the dispute resolution mechanisms that have been used for most of human history fail to function, and that size is well beyond a few hundred people.

Andrew

"To keep the effective population size as high as possible, the breeding system would have to be monogamous, with one male for every female, and all members of both sexes would have to be strictly heterosexual."

If we're being ruthlessly practical, why not send 100% women along with frozen sperm?

CLO

Why Africans or African Americans? Also, African Americans have significant amounts of European blood, don't they? Finally, wouldn't you obtain the best genetic variation by not having 70%+ of the group being the same?

I'm not at all knowledgeable about genetics, so correct me if I'm wrong..

Stentor

CLO: There's a huge amount of genetic diversity among the different peoples of Africa, more so than on other continents -- they're not all "the same."

Abiola Lapite

"If we're being ruthlessly practical, why not send 100% women along with frozen sperm?"

Sperm don't have skills, can't engage in physical exertions, and they can't provide the sort of intimate companionship that men can. Besides, a living, breathing man is a walking sperm factory all his life, while you're assuming that there'll be nice storage facilities with fridges and so forth to keep all that sperm viable.

"CLO: There's a huge amount of genetic diversity among the different peoples of Africa, more so than on other continents -- they're not all "the same.""

Indeed, most genetic variation in the rest of the world is a *subset* of that within Africa, and on average, two Africans differ more from each other than do two Europeans, who again are likely to vary more than two East Asians. For the sake of capturing that portion of human genetic variation that isn't common in Africa, even 20-30 non-Africans per 100 is probably too many.

hex

"Which kinds of people would you choose?"
What you are proposing here sounds more or less exactly like those fantasies right-wingers have when they dream of creating a "master race", with Africans substituting Aryans and only a minor concession (30% Chinese/Europeans). All genetically tested, of course; the females to be used as breeding machines; and all the males professionals of the highest calibre. Who, may I ask, would do the dirty work, such as digging the pit latrines? The pregnant females? Most of them, being modern, "civilised" humans, would die in childbirth, and the males would bash each other's brains out fighting for the rest. And another thing: what would the lingua franca be? English? Mandarin? German? Frankly, I give your lot no more than a year, by which time those who remain will hopefully have mastered the fine art of hunter-gathering.

Abiola Lapite

"What you are proposing here sounds more or less exactly like those fantasies right-wingers have when they dream of creating a "master race", with Africans substituting Aryans and only a minor concession (30% Chinese/Europeans)."

Be that as it may, the fact is that "Aryan" dreams of a "master race" are pure nonsense, while everything I've said has been based on well accepted facts about the nature of human genetic variation. If one wanted to preserve as much human genetic diversity as possible, then the best bet would be to pick mostly Africans.

"Most of them, being modern, "civilised" humans, would die in childbirth, and the males would bash each other's brains out fighting for the rest."

We aren't talking about Fletcher Christian and the Mutiny on the Bounty crew, so on what basis do you draw this conclusion? South Africa's Afrikaner community owes most of its ancestry to a very small number of original settlers, and the men amongst them didn't all bash each others brains out, despite being almost as isolated from 17th century Europe as if they were on another planet.

João da Costa

"If one wanted to preserve as much human genetic diversity as possible, then the best bet would be to pick mostly Africans."

It's very interesting that I just looked today at Sailer's site and the guy put recently there an article claiming exactly the opposite, namely:

"The common claim that Africans are the most genetically diverse people is true only of junk genes. Africans are not necessarily more physically or behaviorally diverse than other races, as facile pundits like Malcolm Gladwell assume."

This makes me wonder who is right in the assessment of this thing about genetic diversity. In fact, I'm too tired today to make a more complete examination of the existing data about this in the Net. By the way: how "junk" are really those famous "junk genes". Is their function in the body really nil or only unknown by today's science (maybe some regulatory function)?
A somewhat different but related question that made me wonder for a long time is about the nature of the "original race" of man, who walked the Earth circa 100~200.000 years ago. I have already read somewhere that Black Africans are actually a "young race" because some of its typical phenotypical charateristics are actually "recent" (I don't remember which ones. Hair type, perhaps. I'm citing this by memory) so, maybe they are not the more ancient type! Who knows?
Were those "original men" more similar to today's Africans or otherwise? Or, maybe, similar to some today's mixed race groups?
Has anybody some more grounded thoughts about this?

Abiola Lapite

"This makes me wonder who is right in the assessment of this thing about genetic diversity."

Who do you choose to believe, myself or a race-crank who spouts absurd theories about the behavior of people on a continent you know at first hand? Sailer isn't a credible source of information for *anything* to do with race, as he can be trusted to downplay anything that might suggest that Africans aren't doomed to stupidity and lasciviousness by their genes. Frankly, I'm amazed you even read his rubbish.

Jim

We used to do this exercise in class years ago during the Cold War, since we were in a priamry target zone. We called it the Bomb Shelter exercise, and it was hard on us the first few times. Genetic diversity is important but insufficient. You need a full range of personality types, something that tends to occur in natural groups regardless but can be neglected if you are putting a group together artificially.

It is also crucially important to select for the cultural adaptations you guess you will need. This is why you cannot just take a bunch of sperm samples along, the way you might for some insect species. You don't want to forego the cultural contibution of the donors. Human communities are not bacteria colonies and different rules apply.

We and our communities succeed as much or more because of our cultural adaptations as because of any special genetic advantage. There is some minor advantage to some of the mutations outside of Africa, such as lactose tolerance, the cholera-fighting mutation (that can also develop into cystic fibrosis) and some cold adaptations you see in Asia. But that is a quibble.

Speaking of cultural adaptations, can ooyu spot the cultural bias that formed this comment? "....and all the males professionals of the highest calibre. Who, may I ask, would do the dirty work, such as digging the pit latrines?" I guess officers don't dig their own latrines in the british Army. And by the way, pregnant females who do a reasonabale amount of physical labor tend to be healthier and tend to handle birth better.

Kenji

I am with Abiola on the point about genetic diversity of Africans, but I am wondering if that should make any difference to the way we analyze the problem of determining the initial population. The human species as a whole is very homogeneous compared to other species; so, any genetic diversity you achieve by having a higher percentage of Africans in the initial population may in case be immaterial to the goal of maximizing survivability.

odocoileus virginianus

My layman's understanding is that genes once thought to be silent are not neccesarily silent at all. Gene expression is a much more complex, constantly changing process.

Sailer denies African genetic diversity because it doesn't fit into his reactionary agenda. I wish he'd confess his ignorance of Africa and Africans the way he confessed his ignorane of higher math. Once he admitted that he had serious trouble with Calc, and never advanced to Diff Eq's, I lost what little respect I had for him.

I still read him, though, because millions of white guys all across the USA think just like him. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer, so they say.

Alek

If there is any hope of preserving a significant amount of the sciences, it seems you would need at least 3 physicists. A theoretician could double as mathematician (advanced mathematics comes up even in simple endeavors), and two experimentalists. The reason for two experimentalists is not so obvious immediately, until you consider the second generation. It would be difficult for an experimentalist to pass on so much information without some significant loss of data, especially while working. Also, one could easily double as your engineer. (I think it's funny you consider physicists crucial, since so much was accomplished before modern physics knowledge.)

Computers would probably appear as soon as there was time to play with them. In other words, endowed by the memories of such machines, and physicists knowing how all the small parts of a computer work, together with a desire for computational power at some point, computers would be a short step up. Of course, there would have to be a reasonable sized population before such thoughts would cross anyone's mind, so perhaps the legends of computers (passed down among the academics, at least) may be too far from fact to lead builders directly to them.

Who can't dig a ditch? If you're afraid the academics can't stand physical labor (not true, we just have more interesting things to do), then maybe we can train some bacteria to do it for us. Modern times are different from those of the past; academics haven't all been pampered.

hex

South Africa's Afrikaans community owes most of its ancestry to a very small number of original settlers [...] being almost as isolated from 17th century Europe as if they were on another planet."
Almost, but not quite: unlike your planet-hoppers, those first settlers were greeted on arrival by the indigenous khoi-khoi, who provided not only ready, if not always willing, labour as well as opportunity for - uh - genetic exchanges. Then there were the shiploads of home comforts, implements, seeds and plants, as well as more people from Europe. The Cape Sea Route had then already been in existence for 200-odd years. Hardly "another planet".

Jim

However desirable it may be to preserve the sciences, there are whole bodies of necessary lore that academics would not bring with them. Anyone can dig a ditch, but not everyone can weave a serviceable basket, or tell what plants are edible or inedible or good for other things. Living off of fishing or agriculture sound great until you try to figure out how to make it work year round. How do you make chees, how do you milk the cow, how do you keep the cow alive - these things used to take a full childhood to learn and all these academics people are proposing for this colony would be pretty hopeless. The physical labor is not the point, and getting the right breeding stock assembled doesn't matter unless it happens to be preadapted to digesting grass. What you really would need would be a competent corps of Australian aborigines or Khoisan people with the technical skills to feed everyone else.

Andrew

"What you really would need would be a competent corps of Australian aborigines or Khoisan people with the technical skills to feed everyone else."

Well, hopefully the colonists wouldn't have to rely on hunting and gathering! (indeed, if you are on another planet, highly specific knowledge about flora and fauna in the Australian outback or the desert in southern Africa isn't going to help you much...) Let's instead get sophisticated agriculture experts...if you're going to another planet you probably need hydroponics, greenhouses, etc. at first.

Jim

The specific agricultural expertise from Earth would be equally useless, and the basic skills you need for hunting/gathering transfer at least as well. And you can hardly expect to start farming on virgin soil the first day. You need to clear fields,and that can take months, and unless you happen to hit the rain cycle just right, you need to find something to eat.

The Plymouth colony nearly all died in their first couple of years, even after happening onto cleared fileds left by people who had all died in an epidemic. The Virginia Colony also survived mainly through charity from the local people, an that was in lush country. there you go - whatever agricultural expertise they might have brought from Europe would have been about worthless in Virginia. Nothing they knew would have grown anyway. What they needed was some peasants who might have been able to figure out what weeds were and weren't edible, and who knew how to poach deer and rabbits. None of those useless "gentlemen" had any idea.

There is a huge survivalist literature that goes into minute detail on just what skills are needed to get through Y2K or whatever. Competence in calculus or Tang poets don't rank very high.

Venu S

[retarded blogroach splatted]

Abiola Lapite

Run along back to your little board for retarded Neo-Nazis, "Venu S", your fellow retard "eufrenio" is missing your company.

Ah, the internet, where even subliterate idiots get to be nuisances to people far above them in learning and intelligence!

Andrew

"And you can hardly expect to start farming on virgin soil the first day."

I would hope that if we have the technology to fly to another planet, we could also have technology to grow food in an artificial environment. (I am assuming that you need life support along the way?) As for the Pilgrims and Virginia colonists, futuristic space-traveling technology is surely more advanced than 17th century English agriculture... But, yes, point taken that generalists will be better than specialists!

NuSapiens

What kind of stuff do they get to bring?

Abiola Lapite

"What kind of stuff do they get to bring?"

I don't know that this matters too much, as it will eventually break, burn out, rust or crumple away, and the society wouldn't be large enough to support a highly specialized repair industry.

dsquared

If you're bringing along three physicists and then planning to tell them that one of them is going to have to spend most of his time doing civil engineering work and one of the others is going to have to be a consultant mathematician and statistician to all sorts of other projects, I suspect that you will need a lawyer after all!

Abiola Lapite

"I suspect that you will need a lawyer after all!"

Ah, but you're approaching the problem from the
sociological angle, which I failed to address.

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