Why, Behavioral Genetics and OnDeck

Your weekly 5 things from the mind of Miles Lasater

Welcome to your Saturday! Here are your weekly five things from the mind of Miles.

  1. Why? Why am I writing this newsletter you ask? It’s fun to share projects and ideas with you.  Also, I’m hoping that you will provide feedback, help me push forward my projects and thinking.  Most important is to point out blindspots or mistakes (not so much in the writing but in the thinking).  Please don’t be shy.

  2. Hamming Resources. I got a few followup questions on Hamming Questions from last week. If you’re at the stage of figuring out what to work on, I recommend the book and website of 80,000 Hours. Or Designing Your Life. If you’re at the stage of figuring out why you aren’t working on those things already and feeling stuck, then I recommend the book 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership or talking to a coach, friend or therapist.

  3. Behavioral Genetics. I’ve almost finished the Coursera course on human behavioral genetics. There were two important and surprising things in the course that I’m still trying to understand.

    1. One, is the point that the more a trait is genetically determined the more important it is to not deprive people of the necessary environment to express that trait.  I think that means that if a trait is strongly heritable then strangely environmental factors become more important. For example, height is strongly heritable yet a lack of proper nutrition during childhood can prevent someone from reaching their full height.

    2. Two, the current consensus is that the shared environment doesn’t have much effect on measurable traits. (BTW, how the shared environment is defined is so strange I’m still wrapping my head around it. According to the course, the shared environment is not the stimulus or the objective facts of the environment that siblings may experience, but rather it is defined by its effect on the individual. I think that means that if someone reacts differently to a common stimulus than that is by definition a non-shared environmental effect.) Evidence in support of this consensus is that adopted siblings are not very similar in most traits. And those traits where there is some similarity in adopted siblings the effect declines with age. A key question: what effect do parents have? The course points to household parental effects from rule following and political beliefs. If you know more about this are, please educate me! 

  4. Probability Soapbox. Let’s redesign the math curriculum to emphasize probability (Bayes theorem for all!) and statistics more. If we have to make room, I think we could teach less calculus or trigonometry. (Yes, calculus is useful in statistics, but I think you can get a lot of use out of statistics without calculus.) And while we’re at it, could we add more sophisticated probability management to our accounting and legal system? For example, GAAP’s treatment of contingencies kicks in with “more likely than not”. We can do better. Who is working on these issues?

  5. OnDeck. Are you familiar with OnDeck? I don’t mean the lender, rather the cohort-based learning company. I participated in the OnDeck founder fellowship, the angel fellowship and will be starting the podcaster fellowship in Feb. I’ve been impressed with the team, execution and growth since I invested last year. Excited to see that they have hired a couple people I knew from other projects including Venture for America. Hats off to Erik, David and team. If you aren’t part of the community, I recommend figuring out a way to get involved. There are many programs or you could speak/present or sponsor. It is particularly powerful if you are changing jobs or at an inflection point in your career.

As a reminder, my work projects are:

Until next week,

Miles