02 July 2009

Why Asians Can't Think (Outside the Box)

The higher average intelligence of East Asians compared to Europeans is well documented. The question is: why do East Asians -- despite their intelligence -- lag behind Europeans in measures of creativity, particularly over the past millenium?

Dennis Mangan recently looked at differences between thought styles of Asians and Europeans in this posting. Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Political Science provides the grist for discussion:
The first four Euro-American nations are overrepresented among the Nobel laureates by a factor of 5 to 10; Switzerland is overrepresented by a factor of 28! In sharp contrast, all Asian nations are underrepresented among the Nobel laureates. Japan, for example, has been a major geopolitical and economic power for most of the 20th century (Small and Singer, 1982). Yet it has produced only 12 Nobel laureates, the same number as Austria, which has one-sixteenth of Japan's population.

This problem has long been known to East Asian specialists as the "creativity problem" (Eberts and Eberts, 1995, pp. 123-127; Taylor, 1983, pp. 92-123; van Wolferen, 1989, pp. 89-90). Some argue that the ideographic Asian languages curb abstract thinking and creativity among Asians (Hannas, 2003).....Whatever the reason, it is evident from Table 1 that some combinations of cultural, social, and institutional factors combine to stifle basic science in Asia.
_Kanazawa (PDF)
A similar story is told in Charles Murray's classic compilation "Human Accomplishment." While Murray went to great lengths to include as strong an Asian componentas possible in the history of human accomplishment, the cumulative list of Asian accomplishments up to the present fell short.
Q. You pay a surprising amount of attention to Asian culture. Does that stem from the six years you lived in Asia beginning as a Peace Corps volunteer?

A. Put it this way: There are aspects of Asian culture as it is lived that I still prefer to Western culture, 30 years after I last lived in Thailand. Two of my children are half-Asian. Apart from those personal aspects, I have always thought that the Chinese and Japanese civilizations had elements that represented the apex of human accomplishment in certain domains.

When I began the book, I actually hoped to give Asian accomplishment a still larger place than it wound up getting.

Q. Why did you end up with mostly Dead White European Males in your inventory of 4,002 significant figures?

A. That's what happens when you employ the methods I used. And as I spend many pages in the book describing in perhaps excessive detail, those methods are not skewed by Western sources that are unfairly oblivious to non-Western accomplishment. _Charles Murray Interview
So, how does one explain the lagging of East Asians behind Europeans in the creativity race? La Griffe du Lion suggests that East Asians have such high visuospatial ability, that their overall IQ score is lifted higher than all others except for Ashkenazi Jews. But while visuospatial / mathematical ability is quite important in many fields of hard science, mathematics, and engineering / technology, deep creativity and radical innovation appear to spring from yet other parts of the cognitive neural assemblage beyond mere visuospatial ability.
Part of the reason why Asians cannot think for themselves and make original and creative contributions to science is because they are too conformist. One of the factors that Miller identifies as a possible obstacle to the Asian future of evolutionary psychology ("academic conservatism") is actually fatal. Scientific revolutions happen by challenging the established paradigms. No conformists have ever brought about a scientific revolution. _Kanazawa PDF
A conformist culture will certainly lend toward an anti-innovative conservatism, which can leave life-long imprints in the brain of a growing child. On the other hand, culture does not spring out of nothing. Culture is strongly influenced by the genetic complement of a population. For example, communist totalitarian conformity was forced onto several nations of Eastern Europe at roughly the same time that China was forced into communism by the victory of Mao's PLA. But communism did not last in most of the European populations, whereas in China the CCP is still the locus of one-party rule.

Long ago, inventors in China devised gunpowder, printing, paper money, the magnetic compass, and probably other wonders now lost to history. But even millenia ago, entrenched Chinese conservatism prevented the constructive uses of most of these inventions. It was left to Europeans to expand and innovate on these ancient inventions around the time of the "renaissance." Has there been a fatal "lack of curiousity" in Chinese culture?
This lack of curiosity extended into science. While ancient China was in many ways more technologically advanced than ancient Greece, knowledge for its own sake was never valued. The ancient Greeks in contrast wrote and debated tirelessly about abstract ideas that had no connection to the real world. _HBDBooks
Similarly, Hindu mathematicians devised advanced arithmetic notation and algebraic logic, as well as other advanced mathematical concepts for the times. These ideas moved along routes of trade and conquest to Islamic centers of thought in Persia, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Andalusia ... where the Hindu ideas were combined with ideas from ancient Greek mathematics, and a synthesis of sorts was created. But it was left to Europeans to take the Hindu - Islamic - Greek synthesis along with rediscovered Greek ideas, and turn them into the modern mathematics upon which modern technology is based.

East Asian scientists and technologists certainly have the brilliance to maintain and advance the modern technologies that Europeans are bequeathing to them. The question remains: what will be the pattern of advance? Will we see a plodding, step by step elaboration and revising of science and technology centered on current fields of study, from the new "Asian renaissance?" Or will we see the sort of radical creation of entirely new foci of science and technology of the sort we have become accustomed to over the past few centuries, from European inventors and researchers?

There is much to be learned about the cultural -- and genetic -- reasons why different populations seen to have different habits of thought. Rather than shying away from such research as somehow "racist" or "not PC", we should get busy understanding all aspects of this universe we live in.

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16 Comments:

Blogger kurt9 said...

I can tell you what the critical ingredient is that we have that the East Asians do not. It is not Christianity. It is the pioneering spirit. The believe that pioneering and the pursuit of knowledge and innovation in and of itself is a positive value. The belief in an open future and that it is desirable to create that open future.

The late 70's was the heyday for the L-5 Society. At its peek, the L-5 Society was almost exclusively an American phenomenon, with 20 or so local chapters. Next was Australia. The rest of the world was off the map, sort of speak.

I consider transhumanism to be the current metric of pioneering. Again, this is strongest in the U.S. and far weaker outside the U.S. However, I will say that Japanese manga is full of transhumanist ideas and they are usually depicted in a positive light.

Thursday, 02 July, 2009  
Blogger Loren said...

The Far East has historically been ruled by totalitarian states. Someone on a forum somewhere pointed out that China is relatively easy to move around in, allowing a central government to keep control. Things like revolutions don't generally stay local, since they generally just take over the old regime. This has helped reinforce the massive conformism you mentioned. Other regimes in the area I gathered had similar problems.

Modern governments have tried to fix this, but they still seek a top-down control, and that encourages conformism, and they have to lose that before any meaningful progress will be made.

Thursday, 02 July, 2009  
Blogger silly girl said...

Non conformists and free thinkers from all over Europe left to come to the US. Non conformist is not the same as violent or criminal. Honestly if people fit in to their own societies, why leave? Those misfits come here because they have confidence and they want to get away from conformity. More recent immigrants also include those coming to freeload off the modern welfare now available in the US.

Thursday, 02 July, 2009  
Blogger kurt9 said...

Asians are starting to think out of the box. As their cultures loosen up, they will start to innovate more.

I am working with a Japanese guy who has developed new process technology for making MEMS devices. I worked with another Japanese company that developed a new process technology for thin film materials called plasma source ion Immersion (PSII). They are also interested in polywell fusion as well, since it is based on similar vacuum technology and processes.

Of course East Asian people are capable of innovation when they want to be.

Thursday, 02 July, 2009  
Blogger Ivan said...

The Europeans for all their faults had a passionate desire for truth. Whether one credits its origin to the Greeks or Jews or its elaboration in the Christian Logos, the fact remains that no other culture lived for knowledge for its own sake, quite apart from any utilitarian considerations as much as the Europeans and their descendants in America and Russia. The infinite curiosity of the Europeans was remarked upon during the Crusades, their thirst for adventure and knowledge fueled the great geographical explorations. Take any field of human enquiry, say linguistics where offhand I can mention Herder and Ferdinand de Saussare. For a long time Islamic studies were dominated by Westerners and their output outclasses all subsequent efforts by the Third World also-rans. From physics to biology to rocketry to theology the dominant names are Western, the leading themes and frameworks for all ther subjects appears to have been laid by the Western pioneers. What is left for the rest is simply to fill in the blanks. And it is clear that for all the pious hopes of UNESCO and the rainbow people that we develop new paradigms to guide us, the yellow, black and brown races lack the intellectual and moral staying power to do much about it.

Thursday, 02 July, 2009  
Blogger Nathan said...

Well, all I can say is that Europeans weren't a monolithic entity like the Chinese, and there was much more conflict and vying for supremacy in a cramped continent. This combined with the European zest for life leads to creativity. The cliche 'necessity is the mother of invention' holds true in this respect.

Friday, 03 July, 2009  
Blogger al fin said...

Looking at the relationship between intelligence and creativity is a fascinating study. East Asians have high average intelligence, and show high achievement in western universities and research labs.

Quite a lot of modern innovation comes from East Asian researchers, for the most part when working in western labs and research centers.

Innovation occurs at all levels of activity. Some of it is earth-shaking, and some of it just makes daily life more interesting and sometimes more economical.

We'll have to wait and see whether the truly important research and innovation can continue to advance inside research centers that are immersed within East Asian cultures.

Intelligence is necessary to grasp the interworking concepts -- including the math where necessary. But highly intelligent minds are capable of going around in circles, achieving very little. Something more is necessary to put the mind on the path to innovation.

Intelligence, a culture of innovation, enough stability and prosperity to support a research infrastructure and a market to use the products of research. Is that enough?

That is the question.

Friday, 03 July, 2009  
Blogger Ronduck said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Saturday, 04 July, 2009  
Blogger Ronduck said...

But communism did not last in most of the European populations,

I have to disagree with that assertion. Communism not only has survived it seems to have mutated and spread.

Saturday, 04 July, 2009  
Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

Having done business with Chinese and Indians in particular, there is a definite cultural component that punishes creativity, entrepreneurship. Though these particular ethnic groups have not done this exclusively, they seem to do it the most:

They take my very involved proposals, which are very detailed and often involve a fair amount of innovation on my part to solve a problem... and promptly give the ENTIRE proposal to a competitor who doesn't possess the skills to figure out a solution (but can offer a lower price since he didn't have to do as nearly as much work as I did).

If you have a culture that doesn't reward those who innovate.. why innovate?

Sunday, 05 July, 2009  
OpenID tmacivrsn3 said...

The point made of different methods of thinking between the Asian and European world does make sense to an extent. However, it is based knowledge in "ancient" Asia and Europe. This is not the case anymore. There is huge influx of Asians migrating into the western world and having their progeny grow up in the western world where I believe these two ways of thinking are mixed and leading to a new generation of vast possibilities.

Tuesday, 18 August, 2009  
Blogger afewminutesforyou said...

Well, I didn't even read what you have written, but after seeing that you have quoted Kanazawa and used the historical argument, I believed there was no reason to take you seriously. Obviously, you don't take into account many other explanations that account for this gap in achievements beyond the cultural and the typical White supremacist theories. This certainly suggests that you have a narrow mind. You need to take into account many factors and obviously instead of doing that you seem to fall into this "mythical fantasy" and lean towards attractive notions, which are indicative of your stupidity and your delusional beliefs. Biologically, if we compare a prototypical individual of East Asian decent to a prototypical individual of European decent, we can easily conclude in the superiority of East Asians. The current gap is probably attributable to many complex environmental factors, many of which you are probably unaware.

Sunday, 03 January, 2010  
Blogger CD said...

Why Feudal China lasted so long?

Why? How come? What happened????

How come 90% peasants for 2000 years? ???

Workers making 25 cents in 21st. century ????

Why China's Feudal Period Was So Long until the 19th century ??????

How come China missed the Missed:

Science-Age

Industrial-Age

Age of Discovery

Not Win a Nobel Prize in the sciences (physics/chemistry) in 100-years.

and Not Invent the Modern Internet/Web ?????

From the earliest times down to the middle of the 19th century, Chinese society went through three stages

a) primitive society

b) slave society, and

c) feudal society.

The Xia dynasty ruled over a slave society.In the Shang period there was definitely a slave system, as inscriptions on oracle bones showed how slaves were used and ill-treated.During the Western Zhou(1066 - 771 BC)or Eastern Zhou(770 - 256 BC) Chinese society entered the feudal stage.

This social system was to last more than 2,500 years until it was shaken by foreign cannons during the Opium War.But the social system remained unchanged--it was essentially feudal though seeds of capitalism did appear. compared with Europe, where feudalism lasted about one thou sand years until the Industrial age and Age of Discovery. China had a much longer feudal period. Many causes have been mentioned. Among many of them are the following:

#1. A predominant Nature-based, agriculture, peasant-
farm-based economy. This was the economic, agriculture foundation of the feudal system.

Throughout the country the peasants, who made up over 90 percent of the population, produced and made nearly everything for themselves, and not for the market.

They grew rice or wheat or corn, and they also raised pigs, goats and chickens, and grew vegetables. They grew cotton and hemp, and wove very coarse cloth with their handlooms.

They made their own tools, furniture and other things they used. In short, there were very few things that they had to buy from shops in town.

#2.A stable feudal-emperor, dynastic (family-based rule akin to North Korea with Kim family in 21st. century) political system.

For about 2,000 years from the Qin (family-rule) to the end of the Qing dynasty, the country was governed more or less in the same way.
There were modifications from dynasty (family-based rule) to dynasty in the organization and workings of the government, but there were very 'few fundamental changes in the main structure of the political system.

All powers were in the hands of the single emperor alone, who was assisted by a group of ministers led by the prime minister.
Scholars who had passed certain Confucius-cult examinations were given government posts, and some of them understood the problems and wishes of the people.

In spite of its un-democratic nature and many faults, this political system seemed to suit the social conditions on the whole.

Except when there were wars or great political upheavals, the country was ef- fectively governed and law and order were maintained.

Wednesday, 15 June, 2011  
Blogger Painlord2k said...

I would suggest that a part of the reason of the Western success is Christianity. A part of the Christianity memes cleared the way to the innovations and their applications:
1) Manual labor is not devalued. More, it is considered a way to obtain salvation. From the "Ora et Labora" of the Benedictine Monks, to the simple fact that Jesus was a woodworker (an artisan).
2) Rational thiking and faith are mixed together. No blind faith, no blind reason.
3) God is a person and have a personal relation with his creations. It is not something distant or impersonal or unknowable. He want be know, he is benevolent, he is right. His laws are immutable.

The immutable laws are a step ahead, because immutable laws can be discovered and understood, where a capricious god (lika Allah) give no reason to learn rules that can be changed without notices.

Saturday, 18 June, 2011  
Blogger Charles Darwin said...

Truth

Truth: let's find the truth...

All you got to do look at Hanzi: 50,000 block-characters
????

where did HANZI come from???

why is HANZI still used ???

ABC-worldwide

123-worldwide

101010101010101: magic of two.. just two...

on/off

+-+-+-

xxoxoxox

tftftftftft (true. false)

why does anyone need 50,000- block-characters ????

Friday, 09 March, 2012  
Blogger Galileo Galilei said...

1. farm-age.

2. industrial age... 20th century.

3. information/internet age: 21st.century... Now in the Information Age/Internet Age...

All 7-billion people can now access the best-education in earth through a global university..

One Real College can teach 10,000-20,000 thousand students in one year..

One Internet College can reach now in 21st. Century a total population of 100-million to 500-million students worldwide.

Facebook Now has up to 1-billion accounts.

ONE GLOBAL UNIVERSITY CAN REACH 1-BILLION STUDENTS IN THE WORLD...

LET'S PUT THE $100 BILLION SPENT ON EDUCATION INTO ONE GLOBAL UNIVERSTIY THAT CAN REACH 100-MILLION TO 500-BILLION STUDENTS ON EARTH...

Monday, 02 July, 2012  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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