Quacks who write software make us all look bad
By now I'm sure that many of you have read about the research which claims that people aren't smart enough for Democracy to flourish. This was big news and made the rounds (including here on Reddit). The main researchers listed were Dunning and Kruger and I don't think anyone disputes their credentials.
Except that this is a science article, not a link to the actual research. In particular, I was intrigued by this by a reference to a software simulation validating their results. That piqued my curiosity.
Mato Nagel, a sociologist in Germany, recently implemented Dunning and Kruger's theories by computer-simulating a democratic election ... some text omitted ... When such an election was simulated, candidates whose leadership skills were only slightly better than average always won.
Who the heck is Mato Nagel? As far as I can tell he's a medical doctor and not a sociologist (the address on that site is the same as the one listed in Mato Nagel's paper below). However, being a software engineer, I wanted to see that computer simulation (I haven't found it yet), but I found Dr. Nagel's paper and that's what I'm asking about. It screams BS to me due to its dumbing down of a complex problem space. In particular:
- It assumes that leader ships skills have a normal distribution (evidence, please)
- It assumes that people's inability to judge a leader's ability translates to not voting for that leader (again, no evidence is offered)
- It ignores how elections are actually conducted (such as voters preferring a particular party)
- It makes multiple references to "Fauceir theory" (see below)
- It cites as an illustration a non-democratic society not speaking the French language of their leaders (how is this relevant?)
Regarding faucier assumptions, the paper repeats the term multiple times but doesn't define it. I assumed that this was simply a well-known term, but I had trouble finding it, until I found fauceir-evolution.org. The domain is registered to Dr. Nagel and the bits of material I found about this are all published by him.
The paper also had this:
First, we define a scale of leadership qualities in analogy to intelligence. We assume that for each individual a Capability Quotient (CQ) can be determined. That is, the sum of all an individual's leadership qualities divided by the average sum of such qualities. To better handle the figures, this quotient is multiplied by 100. Then the better-than-average leader possesses a CQ greater than 100 while people with a CQ below 100 are not recommended to become leader at all. Next we assume that the distribution of CQ is the same as Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Then the normal distribution's mean is 100 and the standard deviation 15 ...
There are no sources cited for any of this, nor do they explain why CQ should have the same distribution as IQ (which is in itself a problematic construct). I admit, of course, that like Dr. Nagel, I am not a sociologist, so perhaps these are perfectly appropriate assumptions and I simply don't have the background to judge them.
Dr. Nagel's paper was published at Maxwell Science Organization (MSO) and I was curious about them, too. and And while hardly a smoking gun, I'm finding multiple sites listing MSO as not requiring peer review and generally producing very low-quality papers. In fact, several sites claimed that MSO is a fake science publishing organization.
So is Dr. Nagel a quack? There's a strong whiff of BS about all of this and it seems to have attached itself to the very prominent (and respectable) Kruger and Dunning (though I don't think this is their fault).