nhaliday + eden-heaven   51

Flammarion engraving - Wikipedia
A traveller puts his head under the edge of the firmament in the original (1888) printing of the Flammarion engraving.
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6 weeks ago by nhaliday
WHO | Priority environment and health risks
also: http://www.who.int/heli/risks/vectors/vector/en/

Environmental factors are a root cause of a significant disease burden, particularly in developing countries. An estimated 25% of death and disease globally, and nearly 35% in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, is linked to environmental hazards. Some key areas of risk include the following:

- Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene kill an estimated 1.7 million people annually, particularly as a result of diarrhoeal disease.
- Indoor smoke from solid fuels kills an estimated 1.6 million people annually due to respiratory diseases.
- Malaria kills over 1.2 million people annually, mostly African children under the age of five. Poorly designed irrigation and water systems, inadequate housing, poor waste disposal and water storage, deforestation and loss of biodiversity, all may be contributing factors to the most common vector-borne diseases including malaria, dengue and leishmaniasis.
- Urban air pollution generated by vehicles, industries and energy production kills approximately 800 000 people annually.
- Unintentional acute poisonings kill 355 000 people globally each year. In developing countries, where two-thirds of these deaths occur, such poisonings are associated strongly with excessive exposure to, and inappropriate use of, toxic chemicals and pesticides present in occupational and/or domestic environments.
- Climate change impacts including more extreme weather events, changed patterns of disease and effects on agricultural production, are estimated to cause over 150 000 deaths annually.

ed.:
Note the high point at human origin (Africa, Middle East) and Asia. Low points in New World and Europe/Russia. Probably key factor in explaining human psychological variation (Haidt axes, individualism-collectivism, kinship structure, etc.). E.g., compare Islam/Judaism (circumcision, food preparation/hygiene rules) and Christianity (orthodoxy more than orthopraxy, no arbitrary practices for group-marking).

I wonder if the dietary and hygiene laws of Christianity get up-regulated in higher parasite load places (the US South, Middle Eastern Christianity, etc.)?

Also the reason for this variation probably basically boils down how long local microbes have had time to adapt to the human immune system.

obv. correlation: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:074ecdf30c50

Tropical disease: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_disease
Tropical diseases are diseases that are prevalent in or unique to tropical and subtropical regions.[1] The diseases are less prevalent in temperate climates, due in part to the occurrence of a cold season, which controls the insect population by forcing hibernation. However, many were present in northern Europe and northern America in the 17th and 18th centuries before modern understanding of disease causation. The initial impetus for tropical medicine was to protect the health of colonialists, notably in India under the British Raj.[2] Insects such as mosquitoes and flies are by far the most common disease carrier, or vector. These insects may carry a parasite, bacterium or virus that is infectious to humans and animals. Most often disease is transmitted by an insect "bite", which causes transmission of the infectious agent through subcutaneous blood exchange. Vaccines are not available for most of the diseases listed here, and many do not have cures.

cf. Galton: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:f72f8e03e729
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july 2018 by nhaliday
More arguments against blockchain, most of all about trust - Marginal REVOLUTION
Auditing software is hard! The most-heavily scrutinized smart contract in history had a small bug that nobody noticed — that is, until someone did notice it, and used it to steal fifty million dollars. If cryptocurrency enthusiasts putting together a $150m investment fund can’t properly audit the software, how confident are you in your e-book audit? Perhaps you would rather write your own counteroffer software contract, in case this e-book author has hidden a recursion bug in their version to drain your ethereum wallet of all your life savings?

It’s a complicated way to buy a book! It’s not trustless, you’re trusting in the software (and your ability to defend yourself in a software-driven world), instead of trusting other people.
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april 2018 by nhaliday
The Hanson-Yudkowsky AI-Foom Debate - Machine Intelligence Research Institute
How Deviant Recent AI Progress Lumpiness?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/how-deviant-recent-ai-progress-lumpiness.html
I seem to disagree with most people working on artificial intelligence (AI) risk. While with them I expect rapid change once AI is powerful enough to replace most all human workers, I expect this change to be spread across the world, not concentrated in one main localized AI system. The efforts of AI risk folks to design AI systems whose values won’t drift might stop global AI value drift if there is just one main AI system. But doing so in a world of many AI systems at similar abilities levels requires strong global governance of AI systems, which is a tall order anytime soon. Their continued focus on preventing single system drift suggests that they expect a single main AI system.

The main reason that I understand to expect relatively local AI progress is if AI progress is unusually lumpy, i.e., arriving in unusually fewer larger packages rather than in the usual many smaller packages. If one AI team finds a big lump, it might jump way ahead of the other teams.

However, we have a vast literature on the lumpiness of research and innovation more generally, which clearly says that usually most of the value in innovation is found in many small innovations. We have also so far seen this in computer science (CS) and AI. Even if there have been historical examples where much value was found in particular big innovations, such as nuclear weapons or the origin of humans.

Apparently many people associated with AI risk, including the star machine learning (ML) researchers that they often idolize, find it intuitively plausible that AI and ML progress is exceptionally lumpy. Such researchers often say, “My project is ‘huge’, and will soon do it all!” A decade ago my ex-co-blogger Eliezer Yudkowsky and I argued here on this blog about our differing estimates of AI progress lumpiness. He recently offered Alpha Go Zero as evidence of AI lumpiness:

...

In this post, let me give another example (beyond two big lumps in a row) of what could change my mind. I offer a clear observable indicator, for which data should have available now: deviant citation lumpiness in recent ML research. One standard measure of research impact is citations; bigger lumpier developments gain more citations that smaller ones. And it turns out that the lumpiness of citations is remarkably constant across research fields! See this March 3 paper in Science:

I Still Don’t Get Foom: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2014/07/30855.html
All of which makes it look like I’m the one with the problem; everyone else gets it. Even so, I’m gonna try to explain my problem again, in the hope that someone can explain where I’m going wrong. Here goes.

“Intelligence” just means an ability to do mental/calculation tasks, averaged over many tasks. I’ve always found it plausible that machines will continue to do more kinds of mental tasks better, and eventually be better at pretty much all of them. But what I’ve found it hard to accept is a “local explosion.” This is where a single machine, built by a single project using only a tiny fraction of world resources, goes in a short time (e.g., weeks) from being so weak that it is usually beat by a single human with the usual tools, to so powerful that it easily takes over the entire world. Yes, smarter machines may greatly increase overall economic growth rates, and yes such growth may be uneven. But this degree of unevenness seems implausibly extreme. Let me explain.

If we count by economic value, humans now do most of the mental tasks worth doing. Evolution has given us a brain chock-full of useful well-honed modules. And the fact that most mental tasks require the use of many modules is enough to explain why some of us are smarter than others. (There’d be a common “g” factor in task performance even with independent module variation.) Our modules aren’t that different from those of other primates, but because ours are different enough to allow lots of cultural transmission of innovation, we’ve out-competed other primates handily.

We’ve had computers for over seventy years, and have slowly build up libraries of software modules for them. Like brains, computers do mental tasks by combining modules. An important mental task is software innovation: improving these modules, adding new ones, and finding new ways to combine them. Ideas for new modules are sometimes inspired by the modules we see in our brains. When an innovation team finds an improvement, they usually sell access to it, which gives them resources for new projects, and lets others take advantage of their innovation.

...

In Bostrom’s graph above the line for an initially small project and system has a much higher slope, which means that it becomes in a short time vastly better at software innovation. Better than the entire rest of the world put together. And my key question is: how could it plausibly do that? Since the rest of the world is already trying the best it can to usefully innovate, and to abstract to promote such innovation, what exactly gives one small project such a huge advantage to let it innovate so much faster?

...

In fact, most software innovation seems to be driven by hardware advances, instead of innovator creativity. Apparently, good ideas are available but must usually wait until hardware is cheap enough to support them.

Yes, sometimes architectural choices have wider impacts. But I was an artificial intelligence researcher for nine years, ending twenty years ago, and I never saw an architecture choice make a huge difference, relative to other reasonable architecture choices. For most big systems, overall architecture matters a lot less than getting lots of detail right. Researchers have long wandered the space of architectures, mostly rediscovering variations on what others found before.

Some hope that a small project could be much better at innovation because it specializes in that topic, and much better understands new theoretical insights into the basic nature of innovation or intelligence. But I don’t think those are actually topics where one can usefully specialize much, or where we’ll find much useful new theory. To be much better at learning, the project would instead have to be much better at hundreds of specific kinds of learning. Which is very hard to do in a small project.

What does Bostrom say? Alas, not much. He distinguishes several advantages of digital over human minds, but all software shares those advantages. Bostrom also distinguishes five paths: better software, brain emulation (i.e., ems), biological enhancement of humans, brain-computer interfaces, and better human organizations. He doesn’t think interfaces would work, and sees organizations and better biology as only playing supporting roles.

...

Similarly, while you might imagine someday standing in awe in front of a super intelligence that embodies all the power of a new age, superintelligence just isn’t the sort of thing that one project could invent. As “intelligence” is just the name we give to being better at many mental tasks by using many good mental modules, there’s no one place to improve it. So I can’t see a plausible way one project could increase its intelligence vastly faster than could the rest of the world.

Takeoff speeds: https://sideways-view.com/2018/02/24/takeoff-speeds/
Futurists have argued for years about whether the development of AGI will look more like a breakthrough within a small group (“fast takeoff”), or a continuous acceleration distributed across the broader economy or a large firm (“slow takeoff”).

I currently think a slow takeoff is significantly more likely. This post explains some of my reasoning and why I think it matters. Mostly the post lists arguments I often hear for a fast takeoff and explains why I don’t find them compelling.

(Note: this is not a post about whether an intelligence explosion will occur. That seems very likely to me. Quantitatively I expect it to go along these lines. So e.g. while I disagree with many of the claims and assumptions in Intelligence Explosion Microeconomics, I don’t disagree with the central thesis or with most of the arguments.)
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april 2018 by nhaliday
The Coming Technological Singularity
Within thirty years, we will have the technological
means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after,
the human era will be ended.

Is such progress avoidable? If not to be avoided, can
events be guided so that we may survive? These questions
are investigated. Some possible answers (and some further
dangers) are presented.

_What is The Singularity?_

The acceleration of technological progress has been the central
feature of this century. I argue in this paper that we are on the edge
of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise
cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of
entities with greater than human intelligence. There are several means
by which science may achieve this breakthrough (and this is another
reason for having confidence that the event will occur):
o The development of computers that are "awake" and
superhumanly intelligent. (To date, most controversy in the
area of AI relates to whether we can create human equivalence
in a machine. But if the answer is "yes, we can", then there
is little doubt that beings more intelligent can be constructed
shortly thereafter.
o Large computer networks (and their associated users) may "wake
up" as a superhumanly intelligent entity.
o Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users
may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent.
o Biological science may find ways to improve upon the natural
human intellect.

The first three possibilities depend in large part on
improvements in computer hardware. Progress in computer hardware has
followed an amazingly steady curve in the last few decades [16]. Based
largely on this trend, I believe that the creation of greater than
human intelligence will occur during the next thirty years. (Charles
Platt [19] has pointed out the AI enthusiasts have been making claims
like this for the last thirty years. Just so I'm not guilty of a
relative-time ambiguity, let me more specific: I'll be surprised if
this event occurs before 2005 or after 2030.)

What are the consequences of this event? When greater-than-human
intelligence drives progress, that progress will be much more rapid.
In fact, there seems no reason why progress itself would not involve
the creation of still more intelligent entities -- on a still-shorter
time scale. The best analogy that I see is with the evolutionary past:
Animals can adapt to problems and make inventions, but often no faster
than natural selection can do its work -- the world acts as its own
simulator in the case of natural selection. We humans have the ability
to internalize the world and conduct "what if's" in our heads; we can
solve many problems thousands of times faster than natural selection.
Now, by creating the means to execute those simulations at much higher
speeds, we are entering a regime as radically different from our human
past as we humans are from the lower animals.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Diving into Chinese philosophy – Gene Expression
Back when I was in college one of my roommates was taking a Chinese philosophy class for a general education requirement. A double major in mathematics and economics (he went on to get an economics Ph.D.) he found the lack of formal rigor in the field rather maddening. I thought this was fair, but I suggested to him that the this-worldy and often non-metaphysical orientation of much of Chinese philosophy made it less amenable to formal and logical analysis.

...

IMO the much more problematic thing about premodern Chinese political philosophy from the point of view of the West is its lack of interest in constitutionalism and the rule of law, stemming from a generally less rationalist approach than the Classical Westerns, than any sort of inherent anti-individualism or collectivism or whatever. For someone like Aristotle the constitutional rule of law was the highest moral good in itself and the definition of justice, very much not so for Confucius or for Zhu Xi. They still believed in Justice in the sense of people getting what they deserve, but they didn’t really consider the written rule of law an appropriate way to conceptualize it. OG Confucius leaned more towards the unwritten traditions and rituals passed down from the ancestors, and Neoconfucianism leaned more towards a sort of Universal Reason that could be accessed by the individual’s subjective understanding but which again need not be written down necessarily (although unlike Kant/the Enlightenment it basically implies that such subjective reasoning will naturally lead one to reaffirming the ancient traditions). In left-right political spectrum terms IMO this leads to a well-defined right and left and a big old hole in the center where classical republicanism would be in the West. This resonates pretty well with modern East Asian political history IMO
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios
https://twitter.com/robinhanson/status/981291048965087232
https://archive.is/dUTD5
Would you endorse choosing policy to max the expected duration of civilization, at least as a good first approximation?
Can anyone suggest a different first approximation that would get more votes?

https://twitter.com/robinhanson/status/981335898502545408
https://archive.is/RpygO
How useful would it be to agree on a relatively-simple first-approximation observable-after-the-fact metric for what we want from the future universe, such as total life years experienced, or civilization duration?

We're Underestimating the Risk of Human Extinction: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/03/were-underestimating-the-risk-of-human-extinction/253821/
An Oxford philosopher argues that we are not adequately accounting for technology's risks—but his solution to the problem is not for Luddites.

Anderson: You have argued that we underrate existential risks because of a particular kind of bias called observation selection effect. Can you explain a bit more about that?

Bostrom: The idea of an observation selection effect is maybe best explained by first considering the simpler concept of a selection effect. Let's say you're trying to estimate how large the largest fish in a given pond is, and you use a net to catch a hundred fish and the biggest fish you find is three inches long. You might be tempted to infer that the biggest fish in this pond is not much bigger than three inches, because you've caught a hundred of them and none of them are bigger than three inches. But if it turns out that your net could only catch fish up to a certain length, then the measuring instrument that you used would introduce a selection effect: it would only select from a subset of the domain you were trying to sample.

Now that's a kind of standard fact of statistics, and there are methods for trying to correct for it and you obviously have to take that into account when considering the fish distribution in your pond. An observation selection effect is a selection effect introduced not by limitations in our measurement instrument, but rather by the fact that all observations require the existence of an observer. This becomes important, for instance, in evolutionary biology. For instance, we know that intelligent life evolved on Earth. Naively, one might think that this piece of evidence suggests that life is likely to evolve on most Earth-like planets. But that would be to overlook an observation selection effect. For no matter how small the proportion of all Earth-like planets that evolve intelligent life, we will find ourselves on a planet that did. Our data point-that intelligent life arose on our planet-is predicted equally well by the hypothesis that intelligent life is very improbable even on Earth-like planets as by the hypothesis that intelligent life is highly probable on Earth-like planets. When it comes to human extinction and existential risk, there are certain controversial ways that observation selection effects might be relevant.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Unaligned optimization processes as a general problem for society
TL;DR: There are lots of systems in society which seem to fit the pattern of “the incentives for this system are a pretty good approximation of what we actually want, so the system produces good results until it gets powerful, at which point it gets terrible results.”

...

Here are some more places where this idea could come into play:

- Marketing—humans try to buy things that will make our lives better, but our process for determining this is imperfect. A more powerful optimization process produces extremely good advertising to sell us things that aren’t actually going to make our lives better.
- Politics—we get extremely effective demagogues who pit us against our essential good values.
- Lobbying—as industries get bigger, the optimization process to choose great lobbyists for industries gets larger, but the process to make regulators robust doesn’t get correspondingly stronger. So regulatory capture gets worse and worse. Rent-seeking gets more and more significant.
- Online content—in a weaker internet, sites can’t be addictive except via being good content. In the modern internet, people can feel addicted to things that they wish they weren’t addicted to. We didn’t use to have the social expertise to make clickbait nearly as well as we do it today.
- News—Hyperpartisan news sources are much more worth it if distribution is cheaper and the market is bigger. News sources get an advantage from being truthful, but as society gets bigger, this advantage gets proportionally smaller.

...

For these reasons, I think it’s quite plausible that humans are fundamentally unable to have a “good” society with a population greater than some threshold, particularly if all these people have access to modern technology. Humans don’t have the rigidity to maintain social institutions in the face of that kind of optimization process. I think it is unlikely but possible (10%?) that this threshold population is smaller than the current population of the US, and that the US will crumble due to the decay of these institutions in the next fifty years if nothing totally crazy happens.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Hubris - Wikipedia
Hubris (/ˈhjuːbrɪs/, also hybris, from ancient Greek ὕβρις) describes a personality quality of extreme or foolish pride or dangerous overconfidence.[1] In its ancient Greek context, it typically describes behavior that defies the norms of behavior or challenges the gods, and which in turn brings about the downfall, or nemesis, of the perpetrator of hubris.

...

In ancient Greek, hubris referred to actions that shamed and humiliated the victim for the pleasure or gratification of the abuser.[3] The term had a strong sexual connotation, and the shame reflected upon the perpetrator as well.[4]

Violations of the law against hubris included what might today be termed assault and battery; sexual crimes; or the theft of public or sacred property. Two well-known cases are found in the speeches of Demosthenes, a prominent statesman and orator in ancient Greece. These two examples occurred when first Midias punched Demosthenes in the face in the theatre (Against Midias), and second when (in Against Conon) a defendant allegedly assaulted a man and crowed over the victim. Yet another example of hubris appears in Aeschines' Against Timarchus, where the defendant, Timarchus, is accused of breaking the law of hubris by submitting himself to prostitution and anal intercourse. Aeschines brought this suit against Timarchus to bar him from the rights of political office and his case succeeded.[5]

In ancient Athens, hubris was defined as the use of violence to shame the victim (this sense of hubris could also characterize rape[6]). Aristotle defined hubris as shaming the victim, not because of anything that happened to the committer or might happen to the committer, but merely for that committer's own gratification:

to cause shame to the victim, not in order that anything may happen to you, nor because anything has happened to you, but merely for your own gratification. Hubris is not the requital of past injuries; this is revenge. As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: naive men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater.[7][8][9]

Crucial to this definition are the ancient Greek concepts of honour (τιμή, timē) and shame (αἰδώς, aidōs). The concept of honour included not only the exaltation of the one receiving honour, but also the shaming of the one overcome by the act of hubris. This concept of honour is akin to a zero-sum game. Rush Rehm simplifies this definition of hubris to the contemporary concept of "insolence, contempt, and excessive violence".[citation needed]

...

In its modern usage, hubris denotes overconfident pride combined with arrogance.[10] Hubris is often associated with a lack of humility. Sometimes a person's hubris is also associated with ignorance. The accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or punishment will follow, similar to the occasional pairing of hubris and nemesis in Greek mythology. The proverb "pride goeth (goes) before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (from the biblical Book of Proverbs, 16:18) is thought to sum up the modern use of hubris. Hubris is also referred to as "pride that blinds" because it often causes a committer of hubris to act in foolish ways that belie common sense.[11] In other words, the modern definition may be thought of as, "that pride that goes just before the fall."

Examples of hubris are often found in literature, most famously in John Milton's Paradise Lost, 'where Lucifer attempts to force the other angels to worship him, but is cast into hell by God and the innocent angels, and proclaims: "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven." Victor in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein manifests hubris in his attempt to become a great scientist by creating life through technological means, but eventually regrets this previous desire. Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus portrays the eponymous character as a scholar whose arrogance and pride compel him to sign a deal with the Devil, and retain his haughtiness until his death and damnation, despite the fact that he could easily have repented had he chosen to do so.

One notable example is the Battle of Little Big Horn, as General George Armstrong Custer was apocryphally reputed to have said there: "Where did all those damned Indians come from?"[12]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
On the economics of the Neolithic Revolution | A Fine Theorem
Matranga writes a simple Malthusian model. The benefit of being nomadic is that you can move to places with better food supply. The benefit of being sedentary is that you use storage technology to insure yourself against lean times, even if that insurance comes at the cost of lower food intake overall. Nomadism, then, is better than settling when there are lots of nearby areas with uncorrelated food availability shocks (since otherwise why bother to move?) or when the potential shocks you might face across the whole area you travel are not that severe (in which case why bother to store food?). If fertility depends on constant access to food, then for Malthusian reasons the settled populations who store food will grow until everyone is just at subsistence, whereas the nomadic populations will eat a surplus during times when food is abundant.

It turns out that global “seasonality” – or the difference across the year in terms of temperature and rainfall – was extraordinarily high right around the time agriculture first popped up in the Fertile Crescent. Matranga uses some standard climatic datasets to show that six of the seven independent inventions of agriculture appear to have happened soon after increases in seasonality in their respective regions. This is driven by an increase in seasonality and not just an increase in rainfall or heat: agriculture appears in the cold Andes and in the hot Mideast and in the moderate Chinese heartland. Further, adoption of settlement once your neighbors are farming is most common when you live on relatively flat ground, with little opportunity to change elevation to pursue food sources as seasonality increases. Biological evidence (using something called “Harris lines” on your bones) appears to support to idea that nomads were both better fed yet more subject to seasonal shocks than settled peoples.

FROM FORAGING TO FARMING:
EXPLAINING THE NEOLITHIC
REVOLUTION: http://sci-hub.tw/10.1111/j.0950-0804.2005.00259.x
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Logic | West Hunter
All the time I hear some public figure saying that if we ban or allow X, then logically we have to ban or allow Y, even though there are obvious practical reasons for X and obvious practical reasons against Y.

No, we don’t.

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/005864.html
http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/002053.html

compare: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:190b299cf04a

Small Change Good, Big Change Bad?: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/02/small-change-good-big-change-bad.html
And on reflection it occurs to me that this is actually THE standard debate about change: some see small changes and either like them or aren’t bothered enough to advocate what it would take to reverse them, while others imagine such trends continuing long enough to result in very large and disturbing changes, and then suggest stronger responses.

For example, on increased immigration some point to the many concrete benefits immigrants now provide. Others imagine that large cumulative immigration eventually results in big changes in culture and political equilibria. On fertility, some wonder if civilization can survive in the long run with declining population, while others point out that population should rise for many decades, and few endorse the policies needed to greatly increase fertility. On genetic modification of humans, some ask why not let doctors correct obvious defects, while others imagine parents eventually editing kid genes mainly to max kid career potential. On oil some say that we should start preparing for the fact that we will eventually run out, while others say that we keep finding new reserves to replace the ones we use.

...

If we consider any parameter, such as typical degree of mind wandering, we are unlikely to see the current value as exactly optimal. So if we give people the benefit of the doubt to make local changes in their interest, we may accept that this may result in a recent net total change we don’t like. We may figure this is the price we pay to get other things we value more, and we we know that it can be very expensive to limit choices severely.

But even though we don’t see the current value as optimal, we also usually see the optimal value as not terribly far from the current value. So if we can imagine current changes as part of a long term trend that eventually produces very large changes, we can become more alarmed and willing to restrict current changes. The key question is: when is that a reasonable response?

First, big concerns about big long term changes only make sense if one actually cares a lot about the long run. Given the usual high rates of return on investment, it is cheap to buy influence on the long term, compared to influence on the short term. Yet few actually devote much of their income to long term investments. This raises doubts about the sincerity of expressed long term concerns.

Second, in our simplest models of the world good local choices also produce good long term choices. So if we presume good local choices, bad long term outcomes require non-simple elements, such as coordination, commitment, or myopia problems. Of course many such problems do exist. Even so, someone who claims to see a long term problem should be expected to identify specifically which such complexities they see at play. It shouldn’t be sufficient to just point to the possibility of such problems.

...

Fourth, many more processes and factors limit big changes, compared to small changes. For example, in software small changes are often trivial, while larger changes are nearly impossible, at least without starting again from scratch. Similarly, modest changes in mind wandering can be accomplished with minor attitude and habit changes, while extreme changes may require big brain restructuring, which is much harder because brains are complex and opaque. Recent changes in market structure may reduce the number of firms in each industry, but that doesn’t make it remotely plausible that one firm will eventually take over the entire economy. Projections of small changes into large changes need to consider the possibility of many such factors limiting large changes.

Fifth, while it can be reasonably safe to identify short term changes empirically, the longer term a forecast the more one needs to rely on theory, and the more different areas of expertise one must consider when constructing a relevant model of the situation. Beware a mere empirical projection into the long run, or a theory-based projection that relies on theories in only one area.

We should very much be open to the possibility of big bad long term changes, even in areas where we are okay with short term changes, or at least reluctant to sufficiently resist them. But we should also try to hold those who argue for the existence of such problems to relatively high standards. Their analysis should be about future times that we actually care about, and can at least roughly foresee. It should be based on our best theories of relevant subjects, and it should consider the possibility of factors that limit larger changes.

And instead of suggesting big ways to counter short term changes that might lead to long term problems, it is often better to identify markers to warn of larger problems. Then instead of acting in big ways now, we can make sure to track these warning markers, and ready ourselves to act more strongly if they appear.

Growth Is Change. So Is Death.: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/growth-is-change-so-is-death.html
I see the same pattern when people consider long term futures. People can be quite philosophical about the extinction of humanity, as long as this is due to natural causes. Every species dies; why should humans be different? And few get bothered by humans making modest small-scale short-term modifications to their own lives or environment. We are mostly okay with people using umbrellas when it rains, moving to new towns to take new jobs, etc., digging a flood ditch after our yard floods, and so on. And the net social effect of many small changes is technological progress, economic growth, new fashions, and new social attitudes, all of which we tend to endorse in the short run.

Even regarding big human-caused changes, most don’t worry if changes happen far enough in the future. Few actually care much about the future past the lives of people they’ll meet in their own life. But for changes that happen within someone’s time horizon of caring, the bigger that changes get, and the longer they are expected to last, the more that people worry. And when we get to huge changes, such as taking apart the sun, a population of trillions, lifetimes of millennia, massive genetic modification of humans, robots replacing people, a complete loss of privacy, or revolutions in social attitudes, few are blasé, and most are quite wary.

This differing attitude regarding small local changes versus large global changes makes sense for parameters that tend to revert back to a mean. Extreme values then do justify extra caution, while changes within the usual range don’t merit much notice, and can be safely left to local choice. But many parameters of our world do not mostly revert back to a mean. They drift long distances over long times, in hard to predict ways that can be reasonably modeled as a basic trend plus a random walk.

This different attitude can also make sense for parameters that have two or more very different causes of change, one which creates frequent small changes, and another which creates rare huge changes. (Or perhaps a continuum between such extremes.) If larger sudden changes tend to cause more problems, it can make sense to be more wary of them. However, for most parameters most change results from many small changes, and even then many are quite wary of this accumulating into big change.

For people with a sharp time horizon of caring, they should be more wary of long-drifting parameters the larger the changes that would happen within their horizon time. This perspective predicts that the people who are most wary of big future changes are those with the longest time horizons, and who more expect lumpier change processes. This prediction doesn’t seem to fit well with my experience, however.

Those who most worry about big long term changes usually seem okay with small short term changes. Even when they accept that most change is small and that it accumulates into big change. This seems incoherent to me. It seems like many other near versus far incoherences, like expecting things to be simpler when you are far away from them, and more complex when you are closer. You should either become more wary of short term changes, knowing that this is how big longer term change happens, or you should be more okay with big long term change, seeing that as the legitimate result of the small short term changes you accept.

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/growth-is-change-so-is-death.html#comment-3794966996
The point here is the gradual shifts of in-group beliefs are both natural and no big deal. Humans are built to readily do this, and forget they do this. But ultimately it is not a worry or concern.

But radical shifts that are big, whether near or far, portend strife and conflict. Either between groups or within them. If the shift is big enough, our intuition tells us our in-group will be in a fight. Alarms go off.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Readings: The Gods of the Copybook Headings
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four —
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began: —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
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april 2017 by nhaliday
The End of the Past | Notes On Liberty
The phenomenon coined by Fernand Braudel, the “Betrayal of the Bourgeois,” was particularly powerful in ancient Rome. Great merchants flourished, but “in order to be truly valued, they eventually had to become rentiers, as Cicero affirmed without hesitation: ‘Nay, it even seems to deserve the highest respect, if those who are engaged in it [trade], satiated, or rather , I should say, satisfied with the fortunes they have made, make their way from port to a country estate, as they have often made it from the sea into port. But of all the occupations by which gain is secured, none is better than agriculture, none more delightful, none more becoming to a freeman’” (Schiavone, 2000, 103).

Such a cultural argument fits perfectly with Deirdre McCloskey’s claim in her recent trilogy that it was the adoption of bourgeois cultural norms and specifically bourgeois rhetoric that distinguished and caused the rise of north-western Europe after 1650 (here, here, and here).

Could Rome Have Had an Industrial Revolution?: https://medium.com/@MarkKoyama/could-rome-have-had-an-industrial-revolution-4126717370a2
This question is prompted by Kingdom of the Wicked, a new book by Helen Dale. Dale forces us to consider Jesus as a religious extremist in a Roman world not unlike our own. The novel throws new light on our own attitudes to terrorism, globalization, torture, and the clash of cultures. It is highly recommended.
Indirectly, however, Dale also addresses the possibility of sustained economic growth in the ancient world. The novel is set in a 1st century Roman empire during the governorship of Pontus Pilate and the reign of Tiberius. But in this alternative history, the Mediterranean world has experienced a series of technical innovations following the survival of Archimedes at the siege of Syracuse, which have led to rapid economic growth. As Dale explains in the book’s excellent afterword (published separately here), if Rome had experienced an industrial revolution, it would likely have differed from the actual one; and she briefly plots a path to Roman industrialization. All of this is highly stimulating and has prompted me to speculate further about whether Rome could have experienced modern economic growth and if Dale’s proposed path towards a Roman Industrial Revolution is plausible.

...

This assessment is bold but consistent with the recent findings of archaeologists who continue to uncover evidence of dense trading networks and widespread ownership of industrially produced consumption goods across the empire.

...

From this wealth of evidence, we know that the classical world experienced what Jack Goldstone has called a “growth efflorescence”.
But at even the Roman empire at its peak in the reign of Marcus Aurelius does not appear to have been on the verge of modern economic growth. Rome lacked some of the crucial characteristics of Britain on the eve of the Industrial Revolution. There was no culture of invention and discovery, no large population of skilled tinkerers or machine builders, and no evidence of labor scarcity that might have driven the invention of labor-saving inventions.

Could the Ancients Have Had an Industrial Revolution?: http://adlows.com/2017/11/12/ancient-industrial-revolution/
I would suggest that what specifically was missing in the case of Rome was a ratchet. By that, I mean some way to lock in the gains of new inventions. Where both the Dutch and British had many social and commercial mechanisms to spread knowledge of new innovations, Roman technology stayed in use only so long as the state continued to fund it. There was no widely-diffused base of knowledge that was constantly passed on and modified, resilient enough to survive political upheavals.

To put this in perspective, consider how stunningly little of Rome’s engineering knowledge endured the collapse of the empire. Imperial authorities erected aqueducts and amphitheaters, and laced the land with a complex network of roads and bridges. Yet none of these feats of engineering ratcheted; all such knowledge was lost with the fall of Rome.

...

So for all the astonishing engineering feats of the Romans, they were unlikely to incubate an industrial revolution. Is there anyone in antiquity who could have? Perhaps: those notoriously metaphysical Greeks.
econotariat  history  economics  growth-econ  iron-age  mediterranean  europe  early-modern  comparison  the-classics  innovation  roots  capitalism  the-great-west-whale  industrial-revolution  coordination  counterfactual  culture  society  values  divergence  broad-econ  revolution  rent-seeking  social-norms  🎩  gibbon  chart  leviathan  cultural-dynamics  zeitgeist  wealth-of-nations  great-powers  mokyr-allen-mccloskey  modernity  political-econ  microfoundations  technology  cjones-like  reason  multi  fiction  scifi-fantasy  gedanken  org:med  britain  gallic  labor  supply-demand  incentives  trade  status  law  property-rights  institutions  markets  conquest-empire  inequality  egalitarianism-hierarchy  knowledge  volo-avolo  decentralized  military  war  darwinian  competition  speculation  science  the-trenches  pseudoE  hari-seldon  cycles  whiggish-hegelian  flux-stasis  malthus  gnosis-logos  eden-heaven 
april 2017 by nhaliday
Why Nothing Works Anymore - The Atlantic
But why would new technology reduce rather than increase the feeling of precarity? The more technology multiplies, the more it amplifies instability. Things already don’t quite do what they claim. The fixes just make things worse. And so, ordinary devices aren’t likely to feel more workable and functional as technology marches forward. If anything, they are likely to become even less so.
news  org:mag  rhetoric  contrarianism  technology  accelerationism  primitivism  eden-heaven  unintended-consequences  robust 
february 2017 by nhaliday
China invents the digital totalitarian state | The Economist
PROGRAMMING CHINA: The Communist Party’s autonomic approach to managing state security: https://www.merics.org/sites/default/files/2017-12/171212_China_Monitor_44_Programming_China_EN__0.pdf
- The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has developed a form of authoritarianism that cannot be measured through traditional political scales like reform versus retrenchment. This version of authoritarianism involves both “hard” and “soft” authoritarian methods that constantly act together.
...
- To describe the social management process, this paper introduces a new analytical framework called China’s “Autonomic Nervous System” (ANS). This approach explains China’s social management process through a complex systems engineering framework. This framework mirrors the CCP’s Leninist way of thinking.
- The framework describes four key parts of social management, visualized through ANS’s “self-configuring,” “self-healing,” “self-optimizing” and “self-protecting” objectives.

China's Social Credit System: An Evolving Practice of Control: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3175792

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12771302
https://twitter.com/Aelkus/status/873584698655735808
http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/06/face-recognition-applied-at-scale-in.html
The Chinese government is not the only entity that has access to millions of faces + identifying information. So do Google, Facebook, Instagram, and anyone who has scraped information from similar social networks (e.g., US security services, hackers, etc.).

In light of such ML capabilities it seems clear that anti-ship ballistic missiles can easily target a carrier during the final maneuver phase of descent, using optical or infrared sensors (let alone radar).

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-all-seeing-surveillance-state-feared-in-the-west-is-a-reality-in-china-1498493020
https://twitter.com/0xa59a2d/status/880098750009659392
https://archive.is/zHmmE
China goes all-in on technology the US is afraid to do right.
US won't learn its lesson in time for CRISPR or AI.

https://www.acast.com/theeconomistasks/theeconomistasks-howdoyouwintheairace-
Artificial intelligence is developing fast in China. But is it likely to enable the suppression of freedoms? One of China's most successful investors, Neil Shen, has a short answer to that question. Also, Chinese AI companies now have the potential to overtake their Western rivals -- we explain why. Anne McElvoy hosts with The Economist's AI expert, Tom Standage

the dude just stonewalls when asked at 7:50, completely zipped lips

http://www.indiatimes.com/technology/science-and-future/this-scary-chinese-surveillance-video-is-serious-cause-for-concern-but-just-not-why-you-think-330530.html
What you’re looking at above is the work of SenseTime, a Chinese computer vision startup. The software in question, called SenseVideo, is a visual scenario analytics system. Basically, it can analyse video footage to pinpoint whether moving objects are humans, cars, or other entities. It’s even sophisticated enough to detect gender, clothing, and the type of vehicle it’s looking at, all in real time.

https://streamable.com/iyi3z

Even China’s Backwater Cities Are Going Smart: http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1001452/even-chinas-backwater-cities-are-going-smart

https://twitter.com/ctbeiser/status/913054318869217282
https://archive.is/IiZiP
remember that tweet with the ML readout of Chinese surveilance cameras? Get ready for the future (via @triviumchina)

XI praised the organization and promised to help it beef up its operations (China
Daily):
- "China will 'help ... 100 developing countries build or upgrade communication systems and crime labs in the next five years'"
- "The Chinese government will establish an international law enforcement institute under the Ministry of Public Security which will train 20,000 police for developing nations in the coming five years"

The Chinese connection to the Zimbabwe 'coup': http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/17/africa/china-zimbabwe-mugabe-diplomacy/index.html

China to create national name-and-shame system for ‘deadbeat borrowers’: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2114768/china-create-national-name-and-shame-system-deadbeat-borrowers
Anyone who fails to repay a bank loan will be blacklisted and have their personal details made public

China Snares Innocent and Guilty Alike to Build World’s Biggest DNA Database: https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-snares-innocent-and-guilty-alike-to-build-worlds-biggest-dna-database-1514310353
Police gather blood and saliva samples from many who aren’t criminals, including those who forget ID cards, write critically of the state or are just in the wrong place

Many of the ways Chinese police are collecting samples are impermissible in the U.S. In China, DNA saliva swabs or blood samples are routinely gathered from people detained for violations such as forgetting to carry identity cards or writing blogs critical of the state, according to documents from a national police DNA conference in September and official forensic journals.

Others aren’t suspected of any crime. Police target certain groups considered a higher risk to social stability. These include migrant workers and, in one city, coal miners and home renters, the documents show.

...

In parts of the country, law enforcement has stored DNA profiles with a subject’s other biometric information, including fingerprints, portraits and voice prints, the heads of the DNA program wrote in the Chinese journal Forensic Science and Technology last year. One provincial police force has floated plans to link the data to a person’s information such as online shopping records and entertainment habits, according to a paper presented at the national police DNA conference. Such high-tech files would create more sophisticated versions of paper dossiers that police have long relied on to keep tabs on citizens.

Marrying DNA profiles with real-time surveillance tools, such as monitoring online activity and cameras hooked to facial-recognition software, would help China’s ruling Communist Party develop an all-encompassing “digital totalitarian state,” says Xiao Qiang, adjunct professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Information.

...

A teenage boy studying in one of the county’s high schools recalled that a policeman came into his class after lunch one day this spring and passed out the collection boxes. Male students were told to clean their mouths, spit into the boxes and place them into envelopes on which they had written their names.

...

Chinese police sometimes try to draw connections between ethnic background or place of origin and propensity for crime. Police officers in northwestern China’s Ningxia region studied data on local prisoners and noticed that a large number came from three towns. They decided to collect genetic material from boys and men from every clan to bolster the local DNA database, police said at the law-enforcement DNA conference in September.

https://twitter.com/nils_gilman/status/945820396615483392
China is certainly in the lead in the arena of digital-biometric monitoring. Particularly “interesting” is the proposal to merge DNA info with online behavioral profiling.

https://twitter.com/mr_scientism/status/949730145195233280
https://archive.is/OCsxs

https://www.techinasia.com/china-citizen-scores-credit-system-orwellian
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/amp/news/world/chinese-blacklist-an-early-glimpse-of-sweeping-new-social-credit-control/article37493300/

https://twitter.com/mr_scientism/status/952263056662384640
https://archive.is/tGErH
This is the thing I find the most disenchanting about the current political spectrum. It's all reheated ideas that are a century old, at least. Everyone wants to run our iPhone society with power structures dating to the abacus.
--
Thank God for the forward-thinking Chinese Communist Party and its high-tech social credit system!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Credit_System

INSIDE CHINA'S VAST NEW EXPERIMENT IN SOCIAL RANKING: https://www.wired.com/story/age-of-social-credit/
http://www.wired.co.uk/article/chinese-government-social-credit-score-privacy-invasion

http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/24/chinese-citizens-want-the-government-to-rank-them/
The government thinks "social credit" will fix the country's lack of trust — and the public agrees.

To be Chinese today is to live in a society of distrust, where every opportunity is a potential con and every act of generosity a risk of exploitation. When old people fall on the street, it’s common that no one offers to help them up, afraid that they might be accused of pushing them in the first place and sued. The problem has grown steadily since the start of the country’s economic boom in the 1980s. But only recently has the deficit of social trust started to threaten not just individual lives, but the country’s economy and system of politics as a whole. The less people trust each other, the more the social pact that the government has with its citizens — of social stability and harmony in exchange for a lack of political rights — disintegrates.

All of which explains why Chinese state media has recently started to acknowledge the phenomenon — and why the government has started searching for solutions. But rather than promoting the organic return of traditional morality to reduce the gulf of distrust, the Chinese government has preferred to invest its energy in technological fixes. It’s now rolling out systems of data-driven “social credit” that will purportedly address the problem by tracking “good” and “bad” behavior, with rewards and punishments meted out accordingly. In the West, plans of this sort have tended to spark fears about the reach of the surveillance state. Yet in China, it’s being welcomed by a public fed up of not knowing who to trust.

It’s unsurprising that a system that promises to place a check on unfiltered power has proven popular — although it’s… [more]
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Edge.org: 2016 : WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST INTERESTING RECENT [SCIENTIFIC] NEWS? WHAT MAKES IT IMPORTANT?
highlights:
- quantum supremacy [Scott Aaronson]
- gene drive
- gene editing/CRISPR
- carcinogen may be entropy
- differentiable programming
- quantitative biology
soft:
- antisocial punishment of pro-social cooperators
- "strongest prejudice" (politics) [Haidt]
- Europeans' origins [Cochran]
- "Anthropic Capitalism And The New Gimmick Economy" [Eric Weinstein]

https://twitter.com/toad_spotted/status/986253381344907265
https://archive.is/gNGDJ
There's an underdiscussed contradiction between the idea that our society would make almost all knowledge available freely and instantaneously to almost everyone and that almost everyone would find gainful employment as knowledge workers. Value is in scarcity not abundance.
--
You’d need to turn reputational-based systems into an income stream
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november 2016 by nhaliday

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