Jun 252024

This morning, I was confronted with examples of both racism and virtue signaling in unexpected ways.

The morning local news told me that Middle Eastern drivers are 2.9 times more likely to be stopped by police, even though it is white drivers who are the most likely to be charged. Unsaid but implied, cops are supposedly racists.

But if you know how people drive in some Middle Eastern locales, perhaps there is a different explanation. Especially considering that when you are driving a police cruiser, chances are you have absolutely no idea who the driver is until they stop, you walk over, and they roll down the driver side window. Imagine you are a cop, stopping someone because he drives like they do in places like Cairo or Baghdad. You walk over, they roll down the window. “Oh damn, another Middle Eastern driver on my record,” you think, and you let them go with a verbal warning, lest you end up being accused of racism.

So which is more likely? That cops have magic eyes and can tell the ethnicity of a driver even from a sillhoutte as their cruiser follows another vehicle, or that perhaps, just perhaps, Middle Eastern drivers who grew up in a very different driving culture have some trouble, at least initially, to adjust their driving habits, so they do in fact end up being stopped more often but that cops also tend to be more lenient in their case?

Or perhaps none of the above. My speculation is not any better than anyone else’s: It’s still speculation. What matters are the data. Just make sure that the sampling and statistical analysis are free of hidden biases.

It is surprisingly hard to convince image generation AI to produce images on this topic without running into dumb (keyword-based) blocks against “harmful” content. This one is from Midjourney.

I was still pondering this when I received an e-mail. Someone asked if, as a scientist, I believe in things like genetic differences between races or policies that take such differences into account. After some thought, I responded with a question myself. I asked if they meant the genetic differences between blondes and brunettes. Or maybe the genetic differences between people with big vs. small noses. After all, we “know” that blondes are supposed to be dumb and people with big, hooked noses are consumed with greed and are disloyal…

 Posted by at 12:54 pm