Sunday, October 26, 2014

"San Francisco Is Smarter Than You Are"

And probably more racist.
 Depending on the source, San Francisco's population is between 6.0 and 6.6% black vs. 14.2%  for the country as a whole. S.F. city and county use zoning laws to keep black folks out.
The same goes for Seattle and Portland. Someone should do a story on it.
The city is a big brain that can solve big problems.
Its achievements are undeniable. Having hosted what some historians call the greatest creation of wealth in human history,1 the San Francisco Bay Area had the fastest growth rate in the United States in 2012,2 the highest per-capita gross domestic product,3 one of the highest average IQs,4 and has been called one of the country’s greenest cities.5 If cities were people, then San Francisco would certainly be called a genius. But are we willing to extend that term to a city, or should we insist that genius is contained within the confines of the human head?

To understand this question, let’s start inside the head. For the most part, there’s no single process in charge. Most parts of our brain work free from any conscious control, and intelligence is an emergent property of neuron behavior: A brain is intelligent, even though the individual neurons that make it up are not. At a higher level, human minds have different functions that are sometimes in competition with each other. One part of the mind might desire cupcakes, but another part of the mind knows that eating them might make us grumpy. One part of our mind knows we’re looking at an optical illusion, but another is still fooled by it. The evolutionarily newer parts of our brain know it’s “just a movie,” but we get scared nonetheless.

These conflicts can affect even our highest faculties. According to neuroscientist Joshua Greene, moral judgments are made according to two separate processes in the brain, what he calls “personal” and “impersonal.” Suppose a train is about to kill five people on a track, and you are asked if it is morally justified to pull a switch that will cause it to run on a different track that would result in the death of only one person. Most people say that this answer to the “impersonal” version of this dilemma is morally justified. 
Suppose instead that, rather than pulling a switch, you were required to push a heavy man onto the tracks, killing him, in order to stop the train from killing five other people. In contrast with the first version of the problem, people are more likely to find this action immoral.

The second version relies on reasoning by evolutionarily older parts of our brains. Our old brains don’t want us hurting people, and in our ancestral environment this meant, usually, putting your hands on somebody. We didn’t evolve with remote-controlled killer drones. A different and evolutionarily newer part of the brain evaluates the first version of the problem. It tends to think in a utilitarian way—what is for the greater good?...MORE