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[1709.01149] Biotechnology and the lifetime of technical civilizations
The number of people able to end Earth's technical civilization has heretofore been small. Emerging dual-use technologies, such as biotechnology, may give similar power to thousands or millions of individuals. To quantitatively investigate the ramifications of such a marked shift on the survival of both terrestrial and extraterrestrial technical civilizations, this paper presents a two-parameter model for civilizational lifespans, i.e. the quantity L in Drake's equation for the number of communicating extraterrestrial civilizations. One parameter characterizes the population lethality of a civilization's biotechnology and the other characterizes the civilization's psychosociology. L is demonstrated to be less than the inverse of the product of these two parameters. Using empiric data from Pubmed to inform the biotechnology parameter, the model predicts human civilization's median survival time as decades to centuries, even with optimistic psychosociological parameter values, thereby positioning biotechnology as a proximate threat to human civilization. For an ensemble of civilizations having some median calculated survival time, the model predicts that, after 80 times that duration, only one in 1024 civilizations will survive -- a tempo and degree of winnowing compatible with Hanson's "Great Filter." Thus, assuming that civilizations universally develop advanced biotechnology, before they become vigorous interstellar colonizers, the model provides a resolution to the Fermi paradox.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

What if some ideology or political tradition did? what could they do? What problems could they solve, what capabilities would they have?

Various past societies knew a few things along these lines. They knew that there were significant physical and behavioral differences between the sexes, which is forbidden knowledge in modern academia. Some knew that close inbreeding had negative consequences, which knowledge is on its way to the forbidden zone as I speak. Some cultures with wide enough geographical experience had realistic notions of average cognitive differences between populations. Some people had a rough idea about regression to the mean [ in dynasties], and the Ottomans came up with a highly unpleasant solution – the law of fratricide. The Romans, during the Principate, dealt with the same problem through imperial adoption. The Chinese exam system is in part aimed at the same problem.


At least some past societies avoided the social patterns leading to the nasty dysgenic trends we are experiencing today, but for the most part that is due to the anthropic principle: if they’d done something else you wouldn’t be reading this. Also to between-group competition: if you fuck your self up when others don’t, you may be well be replaced. Which is still the case.

If you were designing an ideology from scratch you could make use of all of these facts – not that thinking about genetics and selection hands you the solution to every problem, but you’d have more strings to your bow. And, off the top of your head, you’d understand certain trends that are behind the mountains of Estcarp, for our current ruling classes : invisible and unthinkable, That Which Must Not Be Named. .
“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.
And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

It might be worth making a reasonably comprehensive of the facts and preferences that a good liberal is supposed to embrace and seem to believe. You would have to be fairly quick about it, before it changes. Then you could evaluate about the social impact of having more of them.

Rise and Fall:
Every society selects for something: generally it looks as if the direction of selection pressue is more or less an accident. Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this. I mean, they would have known how, if they’d wanted to, just as they knew how to select for destriers, coursers, and palfreys. It was still possible to know such things in the Middle Ages, because Harvard did not yet exist.

A rising empire needs quality human capital, which implies that at minimum that budding imperial society must not have been strongly dysgenic. At least not in the beginning. But winning changes many things, possibly including selective pressures. Imagine an empire with substantial urbanization, one in which talented guys routinely end up living in cities – cities that were demographic sinks. That might change things. Or try to imagine an empire in which survival challenges are greatly reduced, at least for elites, so that people have nothing to keep their minds off their minds and up worshiping Magna Mater. Imagine that an empire that conquers a rival with interesting local pathogens and brings some of them home. Or one that uses up a lot of its manpower conquering less-talented subjects and importing masses of those losers into the imperial heartland.

If any of those scenarios happened valid, they might eventually result in imperial decline – decline due to decreased biological capital.

Right now this is speculation. If we knew enough about the GWAS hits for intelligence, and had enough ancient DNA, we might be able to observe that rise and fall, just as we see dysgenic trends in contemporary populations. But that won’t happen for a long time. Say, a year.

“Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this.”

Maybe the Chinese imperial examination could effectively have been a selection for intelligence.
Nope. I’ve modelled it: the fraction of winners is far too small to have much effect, while there were likely fitness costs from the arduous preparation. Moreover, there’s a recent
paper [Detecting polygenic adaptation in admixture graphs] that looks for indications of when selection for IQ hit northeast Asia: quite a while ago. Obvious though, since Japan has similar scores without ever having had that kind of examination system.

decline of British Empire and utility of different components:
Once upon a time, India was a money maker for the British, mainly because they appropriate Bengali tax revenue, rather than trade. The rest of the Empire was not worth much: it didn’t materially boost British per-capita income or military potential. Silesia was worth more to Germany, conferred more war-making power, than Africa was to Britain.
If you get even a little local opposition, a colony won’t pay for itself. I seem to remember that there was some, in Palestine.
Angels from on high paid for the Boer War.

You know, someone in the 50’s asked for the numbers – how much various colonies cost and how much they paid.

Turned out that no one had ever asked. The Colonial Office had no idea.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
World Without Stars | West Hunter
Seems to me that forming in a galaxy might give a solar system enough heavy elements, while being flung into the intergalactic deeps would protect you from cosmic catastrophes like gamma-ray bursts.   Such stars might be good homes for complex life, especially a few billion years ago.

Interstellar travel is hard enough for us, but for these guys, it would be a bitch. That first step is a doozy.
west-hunter  scitariat  speculation  ideas  commentary  study  summary  news  org:nat  org:sci  space  xenobio  death  anthropic  fermi 
june 2017 by nhaliday
[1705.03394] That is not dead which can eternal lie: the aestivation hypothesis for resolving Fermi's paradox
If a civilization wants to maximize computation it appears rational to aestivate until the far future in order to exploit the low temperature environment: this can produce a 10^30 multiplier of achievable computation. We hence suggest the "aestivation hypothesis": the reason we are not observing manifestations of alien civilizations is that they are currently (mostly) inactive, patiently waiting for future cosmic eras. This paper analyzes the assumptions going into the hypothesis and how physical law and observational evidence constrain the motivations of aliens compatible with the hypothesis.
preprint  study  essay  article  bostrom  ratty  anthropic  philosophy  space  xenobio  computation  physics  interdisciplinary  ideas  hmm  cocktail  temperature  thermo  information-theory  bits  🔬  threat-modeling  time  scale  insight  multi  commentary  liner-notes  pdf  slides  error  probability  ML-MAP-E  composition-decomposition  econotariat  marginal-rev  fermi  risk  org:mat 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Evolution of Virulence | West Hunter
Once upon a time, I thought a lot about evolution and pathogens. I still do, on occasion.

It used to be the case [and still is] that many biologists thought that natural selection would inevitably tend towards a situation in which pathogens did infinitesimal harm to their host. This despite the epidemics all around them. I remember reading a book on parasitology in which the gormless author mentioned a certain species of parasitic copepod that routinely blinded the fish they attached to. He said that many a naive grad student would think that that these parasitic copepods were bad for the fish, but sophisticated evolutionists like himself knew (and would explain to the newbies) that of course the fish didn’t suffer any reduction in fitness by going blind – theory said so ! Clearly, that man had a Ph.D.

If a pathogen can gain increased reproduction by tapping host resources, or by doing any damn thing that helps itself and hurts the host, that tactic may pay, and be selected for. It depends on the balance between the advantages and costs – almost entirely those to the pathogen, since the pathogen evolves much more rapidly than the host. In some cases, as much as a million times faster – because of generations that may be 20 minutes long rather than 20 years, because pathogens often have very large populations, which favors Fisherian acceleration, and in many cases, a relatively high mutation rate. Pathogen evolution is, at least some cases, so rapid that you see significant evolutionary change within a single host. Along the same lines, we have seen very significant evolutionary changes in antibiotic resistance among pathogenic bacteria over the past few decades, but I’m pretty sure that there hasn’t been much evolutionary change in mankind since I was a kid.

So when analyzing virulence, people mostly consider evolutionary pressures on the pathogens, rather than the host. Something like the Born-Oppenheimer approximation.
west-hunter  bio  disease  parasites-microbiome  red-queen  thinking  incentives  evolution  🌞  deep-materialism  discussion  mutation  selection  time  immune  scitariat  maxim-gun  cooperate-defect  ideas  anthropic  is-ought  gender  gender-diff  scale  magnitude  stylized-facts  approximation  analogy  comparison  pro-rata 
april 2017 by nhaliday
The Great Filter | West Hunter
Let us imagine that we found out that nervous systems had evolved twice (which seems to be the case). And suppose that you spent a lot of time worrying about the Fermi Paradox – and had previously thought that nervous system evolution was the unlikely event that explains the great silence, the bottleneck that explained why we don’t see signs of alien intelligent life. Thus in our past: we’re safe. Now you’re worried: maybe the Great Filter lies in our future, and the End approaches. But not just that: you assume that the political class noticed this too, and will start neglecting the future (cough, cough) because they too believe that isn’t going to be one.
Worrying about the Great Filter might not be crazy, but assuming that politicians are hep to such things and worry about them is. If you think that, you have less common sense than a monotreme. And that’s real common. I’ve had analogous arguments with people: they didn’t have any common sense either.
west-hunter  discussion  troll  risk  government  evolution  neuro  eden  antiquity  bio  fermi  threat-modeling  scitariat  anthropic  nihil  new-religion  xenobio  deep-materialism  ideas 
february 2017 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Beware General Visible Prey
So, bottom line, the future great filter scenario that most concerns me is one where our solar-system-bound descendants have killed most of nature, can’t yet colonize other stars, are general predators and prey of each other, and have fallen into a short-term-predatory-focus equilibrium where predators can easily see and travel to most all prey. Yes there are about a hundred billion comets way out there circling the sun, but even that seems a small enough number for predators to careful map and track all of them.
hanson  risk  prediction  futurism  speculation  pessimism  war  ratty  space  big-picture  fermi  threat-modeling  equilibrium  slippery-slope  anthropic  chart  deep-materialism  new-religion  ideas 
october 2016 by nhaliday

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