Sexual Selection Explains Civilization

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Sexual selection explains civilization, Matt Ridley says:

[Jason Collins and two colleagues at the University of Western Australia] mathematically explored the possibility that “as females prefer males who conspicuously consume, an increasing proportion of males engage in innovation, labor and other productive activities in order to engage in conspicuous consumption. These activities contribute to technological progress and economic growth.”

Psychological evidence points the same way. In one experiment, men who were shown pictures of women promptly expressed more extravagant desires for expensive luxuries, whereas women showed no such effect after seeing pictures of men. There’s historical evidence, too. As Aristotle Onassis is supposed to have said, “If women did not exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning.”

Moreover, Michael Shermer, in his book “The Mind of the Market,” argues that you can trace anticapitalist egalitarianism to sexual selection. Back in the hunter-gatherer Paleolithic, inequality had reproductive consequences. The successful hunter, providing valuable protein for females, got a lot more mating opportunities than the unsuccessful. So it’s possible that men still walk around with a relatively simple equation in their brains, namely that relative success at obtaining assets results in more sexual adventures and more grandchildren.

If so, this might explain why it is relative, rather than absolute, inequality that matters so much to people today. In modern Western society, when even relatively poor people have access to transport, refrigeration, entertainment, shoes and plentiful food, you might expect that inequality would be less resented than a century ago—when none of those things might come within the reach of a poor person. What does it matter if there are people who can afford private jets and designer dresses?

But clearly that isn’t how people think. They resent inequality in luxuries just as much if not more than inequality in necessities. They dislike (and envy) conspicuous consumption, even if it impinges on them not at all. What hurts is not that somebody is rich, but that he is richer.

This is a classic statement of sexual selection. It isn’t the peacock with the big-enough tail that gets to mate; it’s the peacock with the biggest tail.

It’s time we ended this mendacious cycling hysteria

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

It’s time we ended this mendacious cycling hysteria, Alexander Boot says:

When bicycles first appeared in the 19th century, they revolutionised Britain’s country life. Suddenly farmers acquired an easy means of courting girls in other villages, thereby reducing inbreeding and improving the nation’s genetic stock.

Cycling quickly became essential transportation for some, entertainment for others, a competitive sport for others still. So far, so good. Now fast-forward to our own time — only to observe that cycling has become downright pernicious.

Rather than simply being good exercise and a cheap way to travel, it has claimed something to which it isn’t entitled: moral ascendancy. Cycling has taken a place next to wind farms, solar panels, public foreplay with trees and hoodies, not smoking, not driving after a pint, not using private medicine and other merit badges of PC modernity.

Overnight a Londoner riding a bike to work stopped being an irresponsible miser willing to risk his life to save a few pennies, or else a health freak prepared to die for stronger leg muscles, or perhaps an impatient chap outracing a bus in rush-hour traffic. He’s now a secular saint doing his bit for environmental and personal health.

Hybrid-Electric Combat Vehicle

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

The Congressional Budget Office reports that the Army’s proposed Ground Combat Vehicle may have to weigh 84 tons to meet its stated requirements:

This would make the GCV heavier than the 64-ton M1A2 Abrams tank and more than twice as heavy as the 33-ton M2A3 Bradley fighting vehicle its replacing.

BAE Systems’ new infographic details the benefits of the hybrid electric drive system they developed for the GCV:

I’m not sure how silent a tracked vehicle can be, even if it is running on batteries, but having an enormous generator attached to a mechanized infantry unit could come in handy.

Iron Dome

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Israel’s Iron Dome relies on the ancient Chinese principle of wu wei — or doing nothing:

Iron Dome uses two radars to quickly calculate the trajectory of the incoming rocket and do nothing if the rocket trajectory indicates it is going to land in an uninhabited area. But if the computers predict a rocket coming down in an inhabited area, guided missiles are fired to intercept the rocket. This makes the system cost-effective. That’s because Hezbollah fired 4,000 rockets in 2006, and Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired over six thousand rockets in the past eight years and the Israelis know where each of them landed. Over 90 percent of these rockets landed in uninhabited areas and few of those that did hit inhabited areas caused casualties.

Tom Wolfe’s California

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Tom Wolfe is most identified with New York City, and his most recent book takes place in Miami, but Michael Anton looks back at Tom Wolfe’s California:

That piece — “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby” — represents the first time that Wolfe truly understood and was able to formulate the big idea that would transform him from an above-average feature writer into the premier cultural chronicler of our age. Those inhabiting the custom car scene were not rich, certainly not upper-class, and not prominent — indeed, they were almost invisible to society at large. Wolfe described his initial attempt to write the story as a cheap dismissal: “Don’t worry, these people are nothing.” He realized in California that he had been wrong. These people were something, and very influential within their own circles, which were far larger than anyone on the outside had hitherto noticed.

“Max Weber,” Wolfe tells me, “was the first to argue that social classes were dying everywhere — except, in his time, in England — and being replaced by what he called ‘status groups.’ ” The term improves in Wolfean English: “Southern California, I found, was a veritable paradise of statuspheres,” he wrote in 1968. Beyond the customizers and drag racers, there were surfers, cruisers, teenyboppers, beboppers, strippers, bikers, beats, heads, and, of course, hippies. Each sphere started off self-contained but increasingly encroached on, and influenced, the wider world.

“Practically every style recorded in art history is the result of the same thing — a lot of attention to form plus the money to make monuments to it,” Wolfe wrote in the introduction to his first book. “But throughout history, everywhere this kind of thing took place, China, Egypt, France under the Bourbons, every place, it has been something the aristocracy was responsible for. What has happened in the United States since World War II, however, has broken that pattern. The war created money. It made massive infusions of money into every level of society. Suddenly classes of people whose styles of life had been practically invisible had the money to build monuments to their own styles.” If Wolfe’s oeuvre has an overarching theme, this is it.

Our totalitarian democracy

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Alexander Boot discusses our totalitarian democracy:

In most people’s minds, totalitarianism and democracy are antonyms. Yet the two can happily coexist not only on the same planet but also in the same country. To understand this, we should focus on the essence of totalitarianism, not its incidental manifestations, such as violence.

For elected leaders are also capable of violent oppression. Just look at the democratically elected Hitler, Perón, Mugabe, Putin, Lukashenko, Ahmadinejad and Macîas Nguema (who gratefully murdered a third of the population of Equatorial Guinea that had voted him in).

Conversely, if we define the term rigorously, even a non-violent democracy can be totalitarian. The term should properly apply to any political system that a) concentrates all power within a small elite, b) removes all checks and balances on this power, c) leaves people no viable choice, d) relies on populist brainwashing to change people’s views and personalities, f) reliably elevates to government those unfit to govern.

Each one of these telltale signs is amply observable in today’s Britain and most other so-called democratic states. They all show the dangers resident in a democracy whose power is unchecked by other estates.

The benefits of unchecked democracy are held to be self-evident, which is just as well for they would be impossible to prove either theoretically or empirically. Yet in traditional Western thought even God was regarded as a hypothesis awaiting philosophical and evidential proof. As democracy is not divine, one feels so much more justified in holding it to scrutiny.

First it is important to strip unlimited democracy of its non-partisan mask. Unlike the limited democracies of Hellenic antiquity and Western polity, universal suffrage is a radical idea that came to the fore after man was pronounced to be good to begin with and, what is more, infinitely perfectible.

It followed ineluctably that all good and further improvable people were equally qualified to choose their leaders and govern themselves. Once Americans elevated universal suffrage to secular sainthood, and spread this fideistic notion high and wide, opposition to it became impossible in the West.

But in reality the promise of democracy becomes larcenous when democracy is unchecked by the power of other estates. By atomising the vote into millions of particles, democracy renders each individual vote meaningless. What has any weight at all is an aggregate of votes, a faceless bloc. Consequently, political success in democracies depends not on any talent for statesmanship, but on the ability to put such blocs together.

This has little to do with statesmanship. Coming to the fore instead are a knack for demagoguery, photogenic appearance, absence of principles, ability to lie convincingly, selfishness and an unquenchable thirst for power at any cost.

Tocqueville warned against this with his usual prescience: ‘I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.’ He formed this ideas of American democracy at the time of Jefferson, Adams and Madison, to name but a few. One wonders what Tocqueville would say today, observing our politicians in action. He would certainly feel that what has been realised is not his prophesies but his nightmares.

The ostensibly democratic, but in fact neo-totalitarian, state acquires more power over the individual than any monarch who ruled by divine right ever had. French subjects, for example, were shielded from Louis XIV by many layers of local government, and the Sun King wielded more power over his loftiest courtiers than over the lowliest peasants. It would not have occurred to him to tax his subjects at 75 percent, something that comes naturally to France’s democratic leaders.

How to Get Startup Ideas

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common, Paul Graham says:

They’re something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way.


The verb you want to be using with respect to startup ideas is not “think up” but “notice.” At YC we call ideas that grow naturally out of the founders’ own experiences “organic” startup ideas. The most successful startups almost all begin this way.

The Benghazi Affair

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Jerry Pournelle has some experience thinking about incidents like the Benghazi Affair:

As to what might have been done: we knew that conditions in Benghazi were deteriorating long before September 11, 2012, and also that 9-11 is a memorable anniversary. Benghazi is a seaport. The United States has ships called helicopter carriers. Helicopters land on them. Helicopters can carry Marines. Marines carry rifles in addition to bayonets and ammunition. Marines have been known to defend US diplomatic institutions against local attack, and their effectiveness is well known.

As to obtaining Libyan permission to allow a US helicopter carrier — say something like the late USS Tripoli — to berth in Benghazi, their refusal would itself be something worth knowing, and they certainly have no capability of preventing such a ship to stand off shore; and surely the Libyan provisional government would not refuse a US request to send in helicopters to rescue American diplomatic personnel. We could negotiate that in advance of 9-11, and doing that would be simple prudence.

It is not as if we have not gone through such things before. The United States has some experience in these matters. And we did have warning in advance.


Back in the 1950’s I partnered with some senior officers of the US Navy to write papers on international security. Our conclusion, based in part on experiences of the British Royal Marines in Africa, was that ships capable of carrying about a battalion of Marines with helicopter transportation and air support would be capable of handling the vast majority of violent incidents taking place within 100 km. of deep water. Those papers are said to have been influential in the design and commissioning of the Iwo Jima class helicopter assault carriers including the USS Tripoli which served as President George H W Bush’s flagship when he visited Somalia. My son Phillip was an ensign on the Tripoli at that time. I don’t claim much credit in ship design, but I did have some small input in development of tactical use; count me as a fan of Iwo Jima class as a means of force projection. Alas, they are pretty well gone, and I am not all that impressed with what replaced them.

I still believe that the Navy needs the modern equivalent of the Iwo Jima class ships: a battalion of marines with transport and fire support. Their purpose is to deal with situation like the Benghazi incident — largely by deterring them. The threat of an avenging company of Marines not an hour away is a very effective deterrent to terrorists planning an armed attack. They can’t stop a suicide bomber, but they can sure stop a group with AK-47’s, RPG’s, LMG’s, and mortars.

Guilty by Headline

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Whenever the media wants to demonize a public figure, Scott Adams (Dilbert) finds, they follow a specific pattern:

  1. Quote the public figure out of context to make him look more ridiculous than usual.
  2. When the public figure tries to put the quote back in context, the headlines the next day will say, “[Public Figure] Doubles Down”
  3. When the public figure tries to clarify a hasty remark, or one taken out of context, the headline is “[Public Figure] Backpedals on Earlier Remarks.”

Backpedaling and doubling down are words the media use to signal their opinion that the figure in question is an unscrupulous weasel. It also helps distract from the fact that the media often invents news by removing context. Doubling down sounds a lot better than the more accurate alternative: “Public Figure Correctly Points Out that We Manufactured News by Removing Context.”

Adams hates it when context ruins a good story:

Perhaps you read the so-called “news” in the United States that an obsessed FBI agent sent a photo of himself, shirtless, to a married woman who is connected to the story of General Patreus and his extra-marital affair. That’s what I call a story! Sex, power, wow!

Days pass. Now a lawyer for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association explains that the photo was in a larger context of the two families who have been social friends for years sending joke photos to each other on a regular basis. The picture in question showed the agent humorously standing between two firing-range dummies that I assume were also shirtless.


Should the Northeast Bury its Power Lines?

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Hurricane Sandy left 6 million people without power. Irene left 7.4 million homes without power. So, should the Northeast bury its power lines?

Fallen trees, snow, and ice are major causes of power outages, so putting electrical infrastructure underground means customers have fewer service interruptions. According to data from the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), between 2004 and 2008, customers with aboveground electrical infrastructure experienced 1.3 power outages per year, on average. In contrast, customers with underground electric networks experience an average of 0.1 outages per year. In addition, underground lines seem to cause fewer injuries than overhead lines.

Yet 80 percent of our power lines are located aboveground, and the main reason for that is cost. “It’s tremendously expensive to bury power lines,” says Mark Garvin, president of the Tree Care Industry Association, whose members are often hired to clean up fallen trees after a big storm.

It can be somewhat affordable to use underground power cables when you’re starting from scratch, he says; developers building new housing tracts can install buried power cables alongside fiberoptics lines and water systems.

But retrofitting is much pricier. “If you’re talking about a built environment where the lines are already up and you’d have to dig through peoples’ lawns and driveways, it becomes prohibitively expensive,” Garvin says.

For example, in a new suburban neighborhood, installing ordinary overhead power lines costs about $194,000 per mile on average. Installing underground power lines would cost $571,000 per mile. And to retrofit an older suburban neighborhood with underground lines, the costs climb up to an average of $724,000 per mile.

For high-voltage transmission lines—the thick cables typically slung between towers that carry electricity across long distances—new underground installations can cost as much as $23 million per mile. Those costs get deflected to the consumer.


Underground power lines aren’t infallible either; damage from flooding, dig-in events, and other accidents can occasionally cause power outages. And when power outages do occur across underground systems, the damage is harder to locate and requires more time and money to repair. In July 2006, thousands of people in the Queens borough of New York City went without power for nine days during a heat wave. The electric company blamed the blackout on underground cables. Underground power lines can also be less adaptable, harder to upgrade, and have longevity of about 20 years less than overhead power lines, according to the EEI report.

General Failure

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Not one US Army general has been relieved for combat ineffectiveness in Afghanistan or Iraq, Thomas E. Ricks notes:

During World War II, top officials expected some generals to fail in combat, and were prepared to remove them when they did. The personalities of these generals mattered enormously, and the Army’s chief of staff, George C. Marshall, worked hard to find the right men for the jobs at hand. When some officers did not work out, they were removed quickly—but many were given another chance, in a different job. (Ginder, Landrum, and Williams were all given second chances, for instance—and all, to varying extents, redeemed themselves.) This hard-nosed but flexible system created a strong military, not only because the most competent were allowed to rise quickly, but also because people could learn from mistakes before the results became crippling, and because officers could find the right fit for their particular abilities.

In World War II, the firing of a general was seen as a sign that the system was working as planned. Yet now, in the rare instances when it does occur, relief tends to be seen, especially inside the Army, as a sign that the system has somehow failed. Only one high-profile relief occurred during the American invasion of Iraq, and the officer removed was not a general but a Marine colonel. Relief has become so unusual that even this firing made front-page news.

How did this transformation occur? Why has relief become so rare, and our military leadership rank so sclerotic? The nature of the wars the nation has fought since World War II is one reason. Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq were all small, ambiguous, increasingly unpopular wars, and in each, success was harder to define than it was in World War II. Firing generals seemed to send a signal to the public that the war was going poorly.

But that is only a partial explanation. Changes in our broader society are also to blame. During the 1950s, the military, like much of the nation, became more “corporate”—less tolerant of the maverick and more likely to favor conformist “organization men.” As a large, bureaucratized national-security establishment developed to wage the Cold War, the nation’s generals also began acting less like stewards of a profession, responsible to the public at large, and more like members of a guild, looking out primarily for their own interests.

In Vietnam, the consequences of this shift in Army practices became painfully evident. Almost no generals were fired in that war, and those few who were removed were only the top men, ousted by civilian leaders in Washington—generals did not fire other generals. Not coincidentally, appropriate risk-taking diminished (the art of combat pursuit was almost lost in Vietnam), and a “cover your ass” mentality took hold.

These corrosive tendencies were reinforced by a new policy of officer rotation after six months in command, which encouraged many leaders to simply keep their heads down until they could move on—and likewise encouraged superior officers to wait out the tours of bad officers serving beneath them. Instead of weeding out bad officers, senior leaders tended to closely supervise them, encouraging habits of micromanagement that plague the Army to this day.

Jim Kalb on the 1960s

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Paleo Retiree (né Michael Blowhard) cites Jim Kalb on the 1960s:

The ‘60s claimed to be about liberation. In fact, they were much more about the rise of a new ruling class of experts, managers, and media people. That class, which is still with us, has some unusual qualities. The most notable is that it denies that it is a ruling class, and claims instead to be a neutral means through which expertise, rational administration, and the machinery of publicity help people attain their goals. Our rulers today tell us they are here to help us: to educate us, free us from the prejudices of the past, let us know what we really want, and make sure we all get it. They claim their power is liberating, and back up the claim by pointing to their suppression of authorities that compete with them, such as family, custom, religion, and traditional hierarchies. If we can go shopping, play video games, surf the Internet, and sleep around, and we don’t have to listen to Mom, Dad, or the Pope, we must be free. Aren’t suppression of incorrect thoughts and safeguards like the Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) mandate worth having to protect that?

Commenter Fabrizio also enjoyed this passage:

The new elite claimed to be democratic, since it was a meritocracy open to all, it claimed to interpret popular needs and aspirations, it included people who had been outsiders under the old regime, and it mostly avoided the direct use of force. In fact, it was narrow, self-selected, and utterly uninterested in views other than its own. It was composed by definition of those who knew better, so why should they listen to anyone? Hence the increasing insistence on formal certification and propagandistic educational materials informing us that everything we thought we knew was wrong. The new, rational, democratic, and liberated order turned out to mean that people can’t be allowed to do much of anything without training and supervision by their betters. Otherwise they won’t do it right, and they might hurt themselves or others. They are required to be free in the way they’re told to be free, and that is decided by committees whose expertise exempts them from any need for personal knowledge.

What Happens When You Get Rid of Affirmative Action?

Friday, November 16th, 2012

What happens when you get rid of Affirmative Action?

Proposition 209 banned using racial preferences in admissions at California’s public colleges. We analyze unique data for all applicants and enrollees within the University of California (UC) system before and after Prop 209. After Prop 209, graduation rates of minorities increased by 4.4%. We characterize conditions required for better matching of students to campuses to account for this increase. We find that Prop 209 did improve matching and this improvement was important for the graduation gains experienced by less-prepared students. At the same time, better matching only explains about 20% of the overall graduation rate increase. Changes after Prop 209 in the selectivity of enrolled students explains 34-50% of the increase. Finally, it appears UC campuses responded to Prop 209 by doing more to help retain and graduate its students, which explains between 30-46% of the post-Prop 209 improvement in the graduation rate of minorities.

Noor Inayat Khan

Friday, November 16th, 2012

In September of 1944, Noor Inayat Khan was executed at the Dachau concentration camp:

Her name is not one that you would expect among a roster of concentration camp inmates in 1944. She was not Jewish, nor indeed European. Although she had been in France at the time of the German invasion of 1940, she had escaped with her family to England, and could have remained there safely for the duration of the war. Why was she in Dachau?

Noor (the name means “light of womanhood”) was the child of Hazrat Inayat Khan, a leader of the Sufi movement, and his American wife. She was a descendent of Tippu Sultan, a prince who had been one of the most effective enemies of British rule in India. Strangely, she was born in Moscow, where certain members of the Czar’s court were interested in Sufiism. After the Revolution, the family moved to a suburb of Paris. Noor is remembered as gentle, shy, musical, dreamy, and poetic. She was noted for her kindness to animals, and it was to her that neighborhood children often brought an injured kitten or puppy. She attended the Sorbonne and became a writer of children’s books and stories; she broadcast some of her stories on the radio. (Her book, Twenty Jataka Tales, is still in print.)

As World War II approached, Noor and her brother Vilayat both decided that the urgencies of the situation overrode the pacifist principles of Sufiism. She studied nursing, against the wishes of her then-fiance, with the intent of assisting the wounded in the coming war. But the collapse of the French Army took place more quickly than anyone had expected, and she escaped to England with her family. There, she enlisted in the Royal Air Force and became a radio operator, skilled in the high-speed transmission and reception of Morse code.

Wanting to contribute at a higher level, she applied for a commission. The interviewing officer asked her about her views on Indian independence, and she became very vehement on the subject — saying, in essence, that she would be loyal to the British Empire while the war against under Hitler was underway, but that afterwards she would work for Indian independence. She left the interview feeling that she had lost her temper and ruined her chances.

She never found out if she would have gotten the RAF commission or not, because she was presented with another opportunity to serve. She was contacted by the secret organization Special Operations Executive, which supported resistance operations in France and other occupied countries, and asked to come in for an interview. SOE badly needed radio operators, who were sent into occupied Europe by parachute and light aircraft. The job was, of course, a very dangerous one: the Geneva Convention afforded no protection to secret agents.

The interviewer was SOE’s principal recruiter, the writer Selwyn Jepson. He was immediately impressed with her, but was reluctant to accept her for the job…telling her that she might be of more value to humanity if she survived the war and continued writing her children’s books. She indignantly rejected the suggestion. Jepson: “..with rather more of the bleak distress which I never failed to feel at this point in these interviews, I agreed to take her on.”

Noor was sent to an SOE training school. The curriculum included shooting, hand-to-hand combat, practice sabotage missions, and mock interrogations. While the waa no question about Noor’s technical proficiency in communications, concerns were raised concerning her overall fitness for the role of a secret agent: particularly her dreamy and absent-minded nature and her striking and easily-recognizable appearance. The training organization recommended that she be removed from the program, but was overridden by Maurice Buckmaster, head of SOE “F” section, who believed in her capabilities. (“F” section was responsible for operations in occupied France.)

Certainly my first thoughts turned to the question of sending a half-Indian woman to Nazi-occupied France as a secret agent. Nothing to see here…

Anyway, keep reading.

On Letting a Computer Help with the Work

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

When Thomas Schelling first worked out his game-theoretic models of segregation, he used coins on a grid to manually demonstrate how micromotives could lead to macrobehaviors — and he recommended against using the primitive computers of the time:

I cannot too strongly urge you to get the nickels and pennies and do it yourself. I can show you an outcome or two. A computer can do it for you a hundred times, testing variations in neighborhoods demands, overall ratios, sizes of neighborhoods, and so forth. But there is nothing like tracing it through for yourself and seeing the process work itself out. It takes about five minutes — no more time than it takes me to describe the result you would get. In an hour you can do it several times and experiment with different rules of behavior, sizes and shapes of boards, and (if you turn some of the coins heads and some tails) subgroups of nickles and pennies that make different demands on the color compositions of their neighborhoods (Schelling 1974, 48).

Later, when computers had advanced enough to give real-time feedback, he changed his mind, learned BASIC, and learned what programming does to the programmer:

First, programming requires a decomposition of a whole that is given before by a more or less intuitive description. Simple components have to be identified and specified. Their interplay, the parameters and their possible values, all that has to be exactly defined in a precise language with a rigorous grammar. Whoever started to program, realises after some lines of coding the ambiguities and the holes in informal descriptions that, beforehand, he or she considered perfectly clear and complete. Programming implies to resolve the ambiguities and to fill the holes. In short: Programming forces the programmer to sharpen his or her view on the subject.

Second, programming has an inherent tendency, if not irresistible seduction, to generalisation: it often transforms the original subject, its features or components, into instances of something much more general.

A first example: In an informal description we may have two groups, blacks and whites. In the program they are represented by two lists. But why to stop with just two. Why not three, four, five … ? Whoever commands the natural numbers, can’t avoid asking that question, and in that moment the idea of a generalised group structure with m groups of possibly different group size is born. Such a generalised view may require not even a single additional line of code, because the original case (blacks and whites only), was technically realised in such a way that, whether two or m groups, is simply a question of just one parameter value in the lines that were already written to cope with two groups. It is a frequent programming experience that code, written to implement a specific feature of the subject matter, unintentionally (!) realises the particular as an instance of a generalisation that goes far beyond the original feature.

Another example: While programming rules of movement, starting from some intuitive descriptions, it becomes obvious that there are much more and totally different possible rules. For instance, rules that require consent of the neighbourhood that someone wants to enter. Almost never can we implement all alternatives. But from now on we know that whatever we implement is just an instance of something more general that might be called a migration regime. Again, programming has changed the view. In short: Programming is an eye opener; by programming — for the most part unintentionally — we get to a more general point of view.