nhaliday + novelty   46

Lateralization of brain function - Wikipedia
Language functions such as grammar, vocabulary and literal meaning are typically lateralized to the left hemisphere, especially in right handed individuals.[3] While language production is left-lateralized in up to 90% of right-handers, it is more bilateral, or even right-lateralized, in approximately 50% of left-handers.[4]

Broca's area and Wernicke's area, two areas associated with the production of speech, are located in the left cerebral hemisphere for about 95% of right-handers, but about 70% of left-handers.[5]:69

Auditory and visual processing
The processing of visual and auditory stimuli, spatial manipulation, facial perception, and artistic ability are represented bilaterally.[4] Numerical estimation, comparison and online calculation depend on bilateral parietal regions[6][7] while exact calculation and fact retrieval are associated with left parietal regions, perhaps due to their ties to linguistic processing.[6][7]


Depression is linked with a hyperactive right hemisphere, with evidence of selective involvement in "processing negative emotions, pessimistic thoughts and unconstructive thinking styles", as well as vigilance, arousal and self-reflection, and a relatively hypoactive left hemisphere, "specifically involved in processing pleasurable experiences" and "relatively more involved in decision-making processes".

Chaos and Order; the right and left hemispheres: https://orthosphere.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/chaos-and-order-the-right-and-left-hemispheres/
In The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist writes that a creature like a bird needs two types of consciousness simultaneously. It needs to be able to focus on something specific, such as pecking at food, while it also needs to keep an eye out for predators which requires a more general awareness of environment.

These are quite different activities. The Left Hemisphere (LH) is adapted for a narrow focus. The Right Hemisphere (RH) for the broad. The brains of human beings have the same division of function.

The LH governs the right side of the body, the RH, the left side. With birds, the left eye (RH) looks for predators, the right eye (LH) focuses on food and specifics. Since danger can take many forms and is unpredictable, the RH has to be very open-minded.

The LH is for narrow focus, the explicit, the familiar, the literal, tools, mechanism/machines and the man-made. The broad focus of the RH is necessarily more vague and intuitive and handles the anomalous, novel, metaphorical, the living and organic. The LH is high resolution but narrow, the RH low resolution but broad.

The LH exhibits unrealistic optimism and self-belief. The RH has a tendency towards depression and is much more realistic about a person’s own abilities. LH has trouble following narratives because it has a poor sense of “wholes.” In art it favors flatness, abstract and conceptual art, black and white rather than color, simple geometric shapes and multiple perspectives all shoved together, e.g., cubism. Particularly RH paintings emphasize vistas with great depth of field and thus space and time,[1] emotion, figurative painting and scenes related to the life world. In music, LH likes simple, repetitive rhythms. The RH favors melody, harmony and complex rhythms.


Schizophrenia is a disease of extreme LH emphasis. Since empathy is RH and the ability to notice emotional nuance facially, vocally and bodily expressed, schizophrenics tend to be paranoid and are often convinced that the real people they know have been replaced by robotic imposters. This is at least partly because they lose the ability to intuit what other people are thinking and feeling – hence they seem robotic and suspicious.

Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West as well as McGilchrist characterize the West as awash in phenomena associated with an extreme LH emphasis. Spengler argues that Western civilization was originally much more RH (to use McGilchrist’s categories) and that all its most significant artistic (in the broadest sense) achievements were triumphs of RH accentuation.

The RH is where novel experiences and the anomalous are processed and where mathematical, and other, problems are solved. The RH is involved with the natural, the unfamiliar, the unique, emotions, the embodied, music, humor, understanding intonation and emotional nuance of speech, the metaphorical, nuance, and social relations. It has very little speech, but the RH is necessary for processing all the nonlinguistic aspects of speaking, including body language. Understanding what someone means by vocal inflection and facial expressions is an intuitive RH process rather than explicit.


RH is very much the center of lived experience; of the life world with all its depth and richness. The RH is “the master” from the title of McGilchrist’s book. The LH ought to be no more than the emissary; the valued servant of the RH. However, in the last few centuries, the LH, which has tyrannical tendencies, has tried to become the master. The LH is where the ego is predominantly located. In split brain patients where the LH and the RH are surgically divided (this is done sometimes in the case of epileptic patients) one hand will sometimes fight with the other. In one man’s case, one hand would reach out to hug his wife while the other pushed her away. One hand reached for one shirt, the other another shirt. Or a patient will be driving a car and one hand will try to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction. In these cases, the “naughty” hand is usually the left hand (RH), while the patient tends to identify herself with the right hand governed by the LH. The two hemispheres have quite different personalities.

The connection between LH and ego can also be seen in the fact that the LH is competitive, contentious, and agonistic. It wants to win. It is the part of you that hates to lose arguments.

Using the metaphor of Chaos and Order, the RH deals with Chaos – the unknown, the unfamiliar, the implicit, the emotional, the dark, danger, mystery. The LH is connected with Order – the known, the familiar, the rule-driven, the explicit, and light of day. Learning something means to take something unfamiliar and making it familiar. Since the RH deals with the novel, it is the problem-solving part. Once understood, the results are dealt with by the LH. When learning a new piece on the piano, the RH is involved. Once mastered, the result becomes a LH affair. The muscle memory developed by repetition is processed by the LH. If errors are made, the activity returns to the RH to figure out what went wrong; the activity is repeated until the correct muscle memory is developed in which case it becomes part of the familiar LH.

Science is an attempt to find Order. It would not be necessary if people lived in an entirely orderly, explicit, known world. The lived context of science implies Chaos. Theories are reductive and simplifying and help to pick out salient features of a phenomenon. They are always partial truths, though some are more partial than others. The alternative to a certain level of reductionism or partialness would be to simply reproduce the world which of course would be both impossible and unproductive. The test for whether a theory is sufficiently non-partial is whether it is fit for purpose and whether it contributes to human flourishing.


Analytic philosophers pride themselves on trying to do away with vagueness. To do so, they tend to jettison context which cannot be brought into fine focus. However, in order to understand things and discern their meaning, it is necessary to have the big picture, the overview, as well as the details. There is no point in having details if the subject does not know what they are details of. Such philosophers also tend to leave themselves out of the picture even when what they are thinking about has reflexive implications. John Locke, for instance, tried to banish the RH from reality. All phenomena having to do with subjective experience he deemed unreal and once remarked about metaphors, a RH phenomenon, that they are “perfect cheats.” Analytic philosophers tend to check the logic of the words on the page and not to think about what those words might say about them. The trick is for them to recognize that they and their theories, which exist in minds, are part of reality too.

The RH test for whether someone actually believes something can be found by examining his actions. If he finds that he must regard his own actions as free, and, in order to get along with other people, must also attribute free will to them and treat them as free agents, then he effectively believes in free will – no matter his LH theoretical commitments.


We do not know the origin of life. We do not know how or even if consciousness can emerge from matter. We do not know the nature of 96% of the matter of the universe. Clearly all these things exist. They can provide the subject matter of theories but they continue to exist as theorizing ceases or theories change. Not knowing how something is possible is irrelevant to its actual existence. An inability to explain something is ultimately neither here nor there.

If thought begins and ends with the LH, then thinking has no content – content being provided by experience (RH), and skepticism and nihilism ensue. The LH spins its wheels self-referentially, never referring back to experience. Theory assumes such primacy that it will simply outlaw experiences and data inconsistent with it; a profoundly wrong-headed approach.


Gödel’s Theorem proves that not everything true can be proven to be true. This means there is an ineradicable role for faith, hope and intuition in every moderately complex human intellectual endeavor. There is no one set of consistent axioms from which all other truths can be derived.

Alan Turing’s proof of the halting problem proves that there is no effective procedure for finding effective procedures. Without a mechanical decision procedure, (LH), when it comes to … [more]
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september 2018 by nhaliday
Theories of humor - Wikipedia
There are many theories of humor which attempt to explain what humor is, what social functions it serves, and what would be considered humorous. Among the prevailing types of theories that attempt to account for the existence of humor, there are psychological theories, the vast majority of which consider humor to be very healthy behavior; there are spiritual theories, which consider humor to be an inexplicable mystery, very much like a mystical experience.[1] Although various classical theories of humor and laughter may be found, in contemporary academic literature, three theories of humor appear repeatedly: relief theory, superiority theory, and incongruity theory.[2] Among current humor researchers, there is no consensus about which of these three theories of humor is most viable.[2] Proponents of each one originally claimed their theory to be capable of explaining all cases of humor.[2][3] However, they now acknowledge that although each theory generally covers its own area of focus, many instances of humor can be explained by more than one theory.[2][3][4][5] Incongruity and superiority theories, for instance, seem to describe complementary mechanisms which together create humor.[6]


Relief theory
Relief theory maintains that laughter is a homeostatic mechanism by which psychological tension is reduced.[2][3][7] Humor may thus for example serve to facilitate relief of the tension caused by one's fears.[8] Laughter and mirth, according to relief theory, result from this release of nervous energy.[2] Humor, according to relief theory, is used mainly to overcome sociocultural inhibitions and reveal suppressed desires. It is believed that this is the reason we laugh whilst being tickled, due to a buildup of tension as the tickler "strikes".[2][9] According to Herbert Spencer, laughter is an "economical phenomenon" whose function is to release "psychic energy" that had been wrongly mobilized by incorrect or false expectations. The latter point of view was supported also by Sigmund Freud.

Superiority theory
The superiority theory of humor traces back to Plato and Aristotle, and Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. The general idea is that a person laughs about misfortunes of others (so called schadenfreude), because these misfortunes assert the person's superiority on the background of shortcomings of others.[10] Socrates was reported by Plato as saying that the ridiculous was characterized by a display of self-ignorance.[11] For Aristotle, we laugh at inferior or ugly individuals, because we feel a joy at feeling superior to them.[12]

Incongruous juxtaposition theory
The incongruity theory states that humor is perceived at the moment of realization of incongruity between a concept involved in a certain situation and the real objects thought to be in some relation to the concept.[10]

Since the main point of the theory is not the incongruity per se, but its realization and resolution (i.e., putting the objects in question into the real relation), it is often called the incongruity-resolution theory.[10]


Detection of mistaken reasoning
In 2011, three researchers, Hurley, Dennett and Adams, published a book that reviews previous theories of humor and many specific jokes. They propose the theory that humor evolved because it strengthens the ability of the brain to find mistakes in active belief structures, that is, to detect mistaken reasoning.[46] This is somewhat consistent with the sexual selection theory, because, as stated above, humor would be a reliable indicator of an important survival trait: the ability to detect mistaken reasoning. However, the three researchers argue that humor is fundamentally important because it is the very mechanism that allows the human brain to excel at practical problem solving. Thus, according to them, humor did have survival value even for early humans, because it enhanced the neural circuitry needed to survive.

Misattribution theory
Misattribution is one theory of humor that describes an audience's inability to identify exactly why they find a joke to be funny. The formal theory is attributed to Zillmann & Bryant (1980) in their article, "Misattribution Theory of Tendentious Humor", published in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. They derived the critical concepts of the theory from Sigmund Freud's Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious (note: from a Freudian perspective, wit is separate from humor), originally published in 1905.

Benign violation theory
The benign violation theory (BVT) is developed by researchers A. Peter McGraw and Caleb Warren.[47] The BVT integrates seemingly disparate theories of humor to predict that humor occurs when three conditions are satisfied: 1) something threatens one's sense of how the world "ought to be", 2) the threatening situation seems benign, and 3) a person sees both interpretations at the same time.

From an evolutionary perspective, humorous violations likely originated as apparent physical threats, like those present in play fighting and tickling. As humans evolved, the situations that elicit humor likely expanded from physical threats to other violations, including violations of personal dignity (e.g., slapstick, teasing), linguistic norms (e.g., puns, malapropisms), social norms (e.g., strange behaviors, risqué jokes), and even moral norms (e.g., disrespectful behaviors). The BVT suggests that anything that threatens one's sense of how the world "ought to be" will be humorous, so long as the threatening situation also seems benign.


Sense of humor, sense of seriousness
One must have a sense of humor and a sense of seriousness to distinguish what is supposed to be taken literally or not. An even more keen sense is needed when humor is used to make a serious point.[48][49] Psychologists have studied how humor is intended to be taken as having seriousness, as when court jesters used humor to convey serious information. Conversely, when humor is not intended to be taken seriously, bad taste in humor may cross a line after which it is taken seriously, though not intended.[50]

Philosophy of humor bleg: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/03/philosophy-humor-bleg.html

Inside Jokes: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/inside-jokes
humor as reward for discovering inconsistency in inferential chain



People of all ages and cultures respond to humour. Most people are able to experience humour—be amused, smile or laugh at something funny—and thus are considered to have a sense of humour. The hypothetical person lacking a sense of humour would likely find the behaviour inducing it to be inexplicable, strange, or even irrational.


Ancient Greece
Western humour theory begins with Plato, who attributed to Socrates (as a semi-historical dialogue character) in the Philebus (p. 49b) the view that the essence of the ridiculous is an ignorance in the weak, who are thus unable to retaliate when ridiculed. Later, in Greek philosophy, Aristotle, in the Poetics (1449a, pp. 34–35), suggested that an ugliness that does not disgust is fundamental to humour.


Confucianist Neo-Confucian orthodoxy, with its emphasis on ritual and propriety, has traditionally looked down upon humour as subversive or unseemly. The Confucian "Analects" itself, however, depicts the Master as fond of humorous self-deprecation, once comparing his wanderings to the existence of a homeless dog.[10] Early Daoist philosophical texts such as "Zhuangzi" pointedly make fun of Confucian seriousness and make Confucius himself a slow-witted figure of fun.[11] Joke books containing a mix of wordplay, puns, situational humor, and play with taboo subjects like sex and scatology, remained popular over the centuries. Local performing arts, storytelling, vernacular fiction, and poetry offer a wide variety of humorous styles and sensibilities.


Physical attractiveness
90% of men and 81% of women, all college students, report having a sense of humour is a crucial characteristic looked for in a romantic partner.[21] Humour and honesty were ranked as the two most important attributes in a significant other.[22] It has since been recorded that humour becomes more evident and significantly more important as the level of commitment in a romantic relationship increases.[23] Recent research suggests expressions of humour in relation to physical attractiveness are two major factors in the desire for future interaction.[19] Women regard physical attractiveness less highly compared to men when it came to dating, a serious relationship, and sexual intercourse.[19] However, women rate humorous men more desirable than nonhumorous individuals for a serious relationship or marriage, but only when these men were physically attractive.[19]

Furthermore, humorous people are perceived by others to be more cheerful but less intellectual than nonhumorous people. Self-deprecating humour has been found to increase the desirability of physically attractive others for committed relationships.[19] The results of a study conducted by McMaster University suggest humour can positively affect one’s desirability for a specific relationship partner, but this effect is only most likely to occur when men use humour and are evaluated by women.[24] No evidence was found to suggest men prefer women with a sense of humour as partners, nor women preferring other women with a sense of humour as potential partners.[24] When women were given the forced-choice design in the study, they chose funny men as potential … [more]
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Rheumatoid Arthritis | West Hunter
It causes characteristic changes in the bones.  Key point:  it is vanishingly rare in Old World skeletons before the 17th century.  Those changes, however, been seen in some pre-Columbian Amerindian skeletons [work by Bruce Rothschild].

The obvious explanation is that RA is caused by some pathogen that originated in the Americas and later spread to the rest of the world.  Like the French disease.

Everybody knows that the Amerindians were devastated by new infectious diseases after Columbus discovered America and made it stick. Smallpox, falciparum malaria, yellow fever, bubonic plague, cholera, measles, whooping cough, etc : by some estimates, the Amerindian population dropped by about 90%, worse than the Black Plague, which only killed off half of Europe. Naturally, you wonder what ailments the Americas exported to the rest of the world.

We know of two for sure. First, syphilis: the first known epidemic was in 1495, in Naples, during a French invasion. By 1520 it had reached Africa and China.

From the timing of the first epidemic, and the apparent newness of the disease, many have suspected that it was an import from the New World. Some, like Bartolome de las Casas, had direct knowledge: Las Casas was in Seville in 1493, his father and uncle sailed with Columbus on the second voyage, and he himself traveled to the New World in 1502, where he spent most of the rest of his life working with the Amerindians. Ruiz Diaz de Isla, a Spanish physician, reported treating some of Columbus’s crew for syphilis, and that he had observed its rapid spread in Barcelona.

I have seen someone object to this scenario, on the grounds that the two years after Columbus’s return surely couldn’t have been long enough to generate a major outbreak. I think maybe that guy doesn’t get out much. It has always looked plausible, considering paleopathological evidence (bone changes) and the timing of the first epidemic. Recent analysis shows that some American strains of pinta (a treponemal skin disease) are genetically closest to the venereal strains. I’d say the Colombian theory is pretty well established, at this point.

Interestingly, before the genetic evidence, this was one of the longest-running disputes among historians. As far as I can tell, part of the problem was (and is) that many in the social sciences routinely apply Ockham’s razor in reverse. Simple explanations are bad, even when they fit all the facts. You see this in medicine, too.


There are two other diseases that are suspected of originating in the Americas. The first is typhus, gaol fever, caused by a Rickettsial organism and usually spread by lice. Sometimes it recurs after many years, in a mild form called Brill’s disease, rather like chickenpox and shingles. This means that typhus is always waiting in the wings: if the world gets sufficiently messed up, it will reappear.

Typhus shows up most often in war, usually in cool countries. There is a claim that there was a clear epidemic in Granada in 1489, which would definitely predate Columbus, but descriptions of disease symptoms by premodern physicians are amazingly unreliable. The first really reliable description seems to have been by Fracastoro, in 1546 (according to Hans Zinsser in Rats, Lice, and History). The key hint is the existence of a very closely related organism in American flying squirrels.

Thinking about it, I have the impression that the legions of the Roman Republic didn’t have high casualties due to infectious disease, while that was the dominant cause of death in more recent European armies, up until the 20tth century. If smallpox, measles, syphilis, bubonic plague, perhaps typhus, simply hadn’t arrived yet, this makes sense. Falciparum malaria wasn’t much of a factor in northern Italy until Imperial times…

The second possibly American disease is rheumatoid arthritis. We don’t even know that it has an infectious cause – but we do know that it causes characteristic skeletal changes, and that no clear-cut pre-Columbian rheumatoid skeletons are known from the Old World, while a number have been found in the lower South. To me, this makes some infectious cause seem likely: it would very much be worth following this up with the latest molecular genetic methods.

American crops like maize and potatoes more than canceled the demographic impact of syphilis and typhus. But although the Old World produced more dangerous pathogens than the Americas, due to size, longer time depth of agriculture, and more domesticated animals, luck played a role, too. Something as virulent as smallpox or falciparum malaria could have existed in the Americas, and if it had, Europe would have been devastated.

Malaria came from Africa, probably. There are old primate versions. Smallpox, dunno: I have heard people suggest viral infections of cows and monkeys as ancestral. Measles is derived from rinderpest, probably less than two thousand years ago.

Falciparum malaria has been around for a while, but wasn’t found near Rome during the Republic. It seems to have gradually moved north in Italy during classical times, maybe because the range of the key mosquito species was increasing. By early medieval times it was a big problem around Rome.

Smallpox probably did not exist in classical Greece: there is no clear description in the literature of the time. It may have arrived in the Greco-Roman world in 165 AD, as the Antonine plague.

The Pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis: http://sci-hub.cc/http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1004965

In the Age of Discovery, Europeans were playing with fire. Every voyage of exploration risked bring back some new plague. From the New World, syphilis, probably typhus and rheumatoid arthritis. From India, cholera. HIV, recently, from Africa. Comparably important new pests attacking important crops and domesticated animals also arrived, such as grape phylloxera (which wiped out most of the vineyards of Europe) and potato blight ( an oomycete or ‘water mold’, from central Mexico).

If one of those plagues had been as potent as smallpox or falciparum malaria, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Lucio Russo - Wikipedia
In The Forgotten Revolution: How Science Was Born in 300 BC and Why It Had to Be Reborn (Italian: La rivoluzione dimenticata), Russo promotes the belief that Hellenistic science in the period 320-144 BC reached heights not achieved by Classical age science, and proposes that it went further than ordinarily thought, in multiple fields not normally associated with ancient science.

La Rivoluzione Dimenticata (The Forgotten Revolution), Reviewed by Sandro Graffi: http://www.ams.org/notices/199805/review-graffi.pdf

Before turning to the question of the decline of Hellenistic science, I come back to the new light shed by the book on Euclid’s Elements and on pre-Ptolemaic astronomy. Euclid’s definitions of the elementary geometric entities—point, straight line, plane—at the beginning of the Elements have long presented a problem.7 Their nature is in sharp contrast with the approach taken in the rest of the book, and continued by mathematicians ever since, of refraining from defining the fundamental entities explicitly but limiting themselves to postulating the properties which they enjoy. Why should Euclid be so hopelessly obscure right at the beginning and so smooth just after? The answer is: the definitions are not Euclid’s. Toward the beginning of the second century A.D. Heron of Alexandria found it convenient to introduce definitions of the elementary objects (a sign of decadence!) in his commentary on Euclid’s Elements, which had been written at least 400 years before. All manuscripts of the Elements copied ever since included Heron’s definitions without mention, whence their attribution to Euclid himself. The philological evidence leading to this conclusion is quite convincing.8


What about the general and steady (on the average) impoverishment of Hellenistic science under the Roman empire? This is a major historical problem, strongly tied to the even bigger one of the decline and fall of the antique civilization itself. I would summarize the author’s argument by saying that it basically represents an application to science of a widely accepted general theory on decadence of antique civilization going back to Max Weber. Roman society, mainly based on slave labor, underwent an ultimately unrecoverable crisis as the traditional sources of that labor force, essentially wars, progressively dried up. To save basic farming, the remaining slaves were promoted to be serfs, and poor free peasants reduced to serfdom, but this made trade disappear. A society in which production is almost entirely based on serfdom and with no trade clearly has very little need of culture, including science and technology. As Max Weber pointed out, when trade vanished, so did the marble splendor of the ancient towns, as well as the spiritual assets that went with it: art, literature, science, and sophisticated commercial laws. The recovery of Hellenistic science then had to wait until the disappearance of serfdom at the end of the Middle Ages. To quote Max Weber: “Only then with renewed vigor did the old giant rise up again.”


The epilogue contains the (rather pessimistic) views of the author on the future of science, threatened by the apparent triumph of today’s vogue of irrationality even in leading institutions (e.g., an astrology professorship at the Sorbonne). He looks at today’s ever-increasing tendency to teach science more on a fideistic than on a deductive or experimental basis as the first sign of a decline which could be analogous to the post-Hellenistic one.

Praising Alexandrians to excess: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1088/2058-7058/17/4/35
The Economic Record review: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1111/j.1475-4932.2004.00203.x

listed here: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:c5c09f2687c1

Was Roman Science in Decline? (Excerpt from My New Book): https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/13477
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Chinese innovations | West Hunter
I’m interested in hearing about significant innovations out of contemporary China. Good ones. Ideas, inventions, devices, dreams. Throw in Outer China (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore).

super nationalistic dude ("IC") in the comments section (wish his videos had subtitles):

on the carrier-killer missiles: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/chinese-innovations/#comment-91280
You could take out a carrier task force with a nuke 60 years ago.
Then the other side can nuke something and point to the sunk carrier group saying “they started first”.

Hypersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, or the mysterious anti-ship ballistic missiles China has avoid that.
They avoid that because the law of physics no longer allow radar.

I was thinking about the period in which the United States was experiencing rapid industrial growth, on its way to becoming the most powerful industrial nation. At first not much science, buts lots and lots of technological innovation. I’m not aware of a corresponding efflorescence of innovative Chinese technology today, but then I don’t know everything: so I asked.

I’m still not aware of it. So maybe the answer is ‘no’.

hmm: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/chinese-innovations/#comment-91389
I would say that a lot of the most intelligent faction is being siphoned over into government work, and thus not focused in technological innovation. We should expect to see societal/political innovation rather than technological if my thesis is true.

There’s some evidence of that.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
In a handbasket | West Hunter
It strikes me that in many ways, life was gradually getting harder in the Old World, especially in the cradles of civilization.

slavery and Rome/early US: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/in-a-handbasket/#comment-80503
Rome and innovation: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/in-a-handbasket/#comment-80505
"Culture’s have flavors and the Roman flavor was unfavorable to being clever. The Greeks were clever but not interested in utility. While the central American civilizations liked to cut people’s hearts out and stick cactus spines through their penis in public. Let us all act according to national customs."

It helps to think about critical community size (CCS). Consider a disease like measles, one that doesn’t last long and confers lifelong immunity. The virus needs fresh, never-infected hosts (we call them children) all the time, else it will go extinct. The critical community size for measles is probably more than half a million – which means that before agriculture, measles as we know it today couldn’t and didn’t exist. In fact, it looks as if split off from rinderpest within the last two thousand years. Mumps was around in Classical times (Hippocrates gives a good description), but it too has a large CCS and must be relatively new. Rubella can’t be ancient. Whooping cough has a smaller CCS, maybe only 100,000, but it too must postdate agriculture.

"let no new thing arise":

Before 1900, armies usually lost more men from infectious disease than combat, particularly in extended campaigns.  At least that seems to have been the case in modern Western history.

There are indications that infectious disease was qualitatively different – less important –  in  the Roman legions.  For one thing, camps were placed near good supplies of fresh water. The legions had good camp sanitation, at least by the time of the Principate. They used latrines flushed with running water in permanent camps  and deep slit trenches with wooden covers and removable buckets in the field.  Using those latrines would have protected soldiers from diseases like typhoid and dysentery, major killers in recent armies.  Romans armies were mobile, often shifting their camps.  They seldom quartered their soldiers in urban areas –  they feared that city luxuries would corrupt their men, but this habit helped them avoid infectious agents, regardless of their reasons.

They managed to avoid a lot of serious illnesses because the causative organisms  simply weren’t there yet. Smallpox, and maybe measles, didn’t show up until the middle Empire. Falciparum malaria was around, but hadn’t reached Rome itself, during the Republic. It definitely had by the time of the Empire. Bubonic plague doesn’t seem to have caused trouble before Justinian.  Syphilis for sure, and typhus probably,  originated in the Americas, while cholera didn’t arrive until after 1800.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Einstein's Most Famous Thought Experiment
When Einstein abandoned an emission theory of light, he had also to abandon the hope that electrodynamics could be made to conform to the principle of relativity by the normal sorts of modifications to electrodynamic theory that occupied the theorists of the second half of the 19th century. Instead Einstein knew he must resort to extraordinary measures. He was willing to seek realization of his goal in a re-examination of our basic notions of space and time. Einstein concluded his report on his youthful thought experiment:

"One sees that in this paradox the germ of the special relativity theory is already contained. Today everyone knows, of course, that all attempts to clarify this paradox satisfactorily were condemned to failure as long as the axiom of the absolute character of time, or of simultaneity, was rooted unrecognized in the unconscious. To recognize clearly this axiom and its arbitrary character already implies the essentials of the solution of the problem."
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Surprising Popularity
This week Nature published some empirical data on a surprising-popularity consensus mechanism (a previously published mechanism, e.g., Science in 2004, with variations going by the name “Bayesian Truth Serum”). The idea is to ask people to pick from several options, and also to have each person forecast the distribution of opinion among others. The options that are picked surprisingly often, compared to what participants expected, are suggested as more likely true, and those who pick such options as better informed.



different one: http://www.pnas.org/content/114/20/5077.full.pdf
We show that market-based incentive systems produce herding effects, reduce information available to the group, and restrain collective intelligence. Therefore, we propose an incentive scheme that rewards accurate minority predictions and show that this produces optimal diversity and collective predictive accuracy. We conclude that real world systems should reward those who have shown accuracy when the majority opinion has been in error.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher | West Hunter
In 1930 he published The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, which completed the fusion of Darwinian natural selection with Mendelian inheritance. James Crow said that it was ‘arguably the deepest and most influential book on evolution since Darwin’. In it, Fisher analyzed sexual selection, mimicry, and sex ratios, where he made some of the first arguments using game theory. The book touches on many other topics. As was the case with his other works, The Genetical Theory is a dense book, not easy for most people to understand. Fisher’s tendency to leave out mathematical steps that he deemed obvious (a leftover from his early training in mental mathematics) frustrates many readers.

The Genetical Theory is of particular interest to us because Fisher there lays out his ideas on how population size can speed up evolution. As we explain elsewhere, more individuals mean there will be more mutations, including favorable mutations, and so Fisher expected more rapid evolution in larger populations. This idea was originally suggested, in a nonmathematical way, in Darwin’s Origin of Species.

Although Fisher was fiercely loyal to friends and could be very charming, he had a quick temper and was a fine hater. The same uncompromising spirit that fostered his originality led to constant conflict with authority. He had a long conflict with Karl Pearson, who had also played an important part in the development of mathematical statistics. In this case, Pearson was more at fault, resisting the advent of a more talented competitor, as well as being an eminently hateable person in general. Over time Fisher also became increasing angry at Sewall Wright (another one of the founders of population genetics) due to scientific disagreements – and this was just wrong, because Wright was a sweetheart.

Fisher’s personality decreased his potential influence. He was not a school-builder, and was impatient with administrators. He expected to find some form of war-work in the Second World War, but his characteristics had alienated too many people, and thus his team dispersed to other jobs during the war. He returned to Rothamsted for the duration. This was a difficult time for him: his marriage disintegrated and his oldest son, an RAF pilot, was killed in the war.


Fisher’s ideas in genetics have taken an odd path. The Genetical Theory was not widely read, sold few copies, and has never been translated. Only gradually did its ideas find an audience. Of course, that audience included people like Bill Hamilton, the greatest mathematical biologist of the last half of the 20th century, who was strongly influenced by Fisher’s work. Hamilton said “By the time of my ultimate graduation,will I have understood all that is true in this book and will I get a First? I doubt it. In some ways some of us have overtaken Fisher; in many, however, this brilliant, daring man is still far in front.“

In fact, over the past generation, much of Fisher’s work has been neglected – in the sense that interest in population genetics has decreased (particularly interest in selection) and fewer students are exposed to his work in genetics in any way. Ernst Mayr didn’t even mention Fisher in his 1991 book One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought, while Stephen Jay Gould, in The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, gave Fisher 6 pages out of 1433. Of course Mayr and Gould were both complete chuckleheads.

Fisher’s work affords continuing insight, including important implications concerning human evolution that have emerged more than 50 years after his death. We strongly discourage other professionals from learning anything about his ideas.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Darwin, Mendel and statistical fluctuations
Freeman Dyson discusses Darwin's failure to discover Mendelian inheritance. Had Darwin a stronger grasp of statistics (then under development by his cousin Francis Galton), he might have discovered the properties of the basic units of inheritance, so central to his theory of natural selection.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Oppenheimer on Bohr (1964 UCLA)
I find it strange that psychometricians usually define "verbal ability" over a vocabulary set that excludes words from mathematics and other scientific areas. A person's verbal score is enhanced by knowing many (increasingly obscure) words for the same concept, as opposed to knowing words which describe new concepts beyond those which appear in ordinary language.
hsu  scitariat  thinking  metabuch  language  neurons  psychometrics  dimensionality  concept  list  critique  conceptual-vocab  quotes  giants  discussion  wordlessness  novelty  tricki 
january 2017 by nhaliday
ho.history overview - Proofs that require fundamentally new ways of thinking - MathOverflow
my favorite:
Although this has already been said elsewhere on MathOverflow, I think it's worth repeating that Gromov is someone who has arguably introduced more radical thoughts into mathematics than anyone else. Examples involving groups with polynomial growth and holomorphic curves have already been cited in other answers to this question. I have two other obvious ones but there are many more.

I don't remember where I first learned about convergence of Riemannian manifolds, but I had to laugh because there's no way I would have ever conceived of a notion. To be fair, all of the groundwork for this was laid out in Cheeger's thesis, but it was Gromov who reformulated everything as a convergence theorem and recognized its power.

Another time Gromov made me laugh was when I was reading what little I could understand of his book Partial Differential Relations. This book is probably full of radical ideas that I don't understand. The one I did was his approach to solving the linearized isometric embedding equation. His radical, absurd, but elementary idea was that if the system is sufficiently underdetermined, then the linear partial differential operator could be inverted by another linear partial differential operator. Both the statement and proof are for me the funniest in mathematics. Most of us view solving PDE's as something that requires hard work, involving analysis and estimates, and Gromov manages to do it using only elementary linear algebra. This then allows him to establish the existence of isometric embedding of Riemannian manifolds in a wide variety of settings.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, by James Fitzjames Stephen

ὲδύ τι θαραλέαιξ
τὸν μακρὸν τείνειν βίον έλπίσι, φαγαɩ̑ξ
θνμὸν ὰλδαίνονσαν εύφροσύναιξ
φρίσσω δέ σε δερκομέγ’α
μνρίοιξ& μόθοιξ& διακναιόμενον.
Ζε͂να γὰρ ού& τρομέων
ένίδία γνώμη σέβει
θνατοὺξ ἄγαν, Προμηθεῠ
Prom. Vinct. 535–542

Sweet is the life that lengthens,
While joyous hope still strengthens,
And glad, bright thought sustain;
But shuddering I behold thee,
The sorrows that enfold thee
And all thine endless pain.
For Zeus thou has despised;
Thy fearless heart misprized
All that his vengeance can,
The wayward will obeying,
Excess of honour paying,
Prometheus, unto man.
Prometheus Bound (translated by G. M. Cookson)


I. The Doctrine of Liberty in General

II. The Liberty of Thought and Discussion

III. The Distinction Between the Temporal and Spiritual Power

IV. The Doctrine of Liberty in Its Application to Morals

V. Equality

VI. Fraternity

The general result of all this is, that fraternity, mere love for the human race, is not fitted in itself to be a religion. That is to say, it is not fitted to take command of the human faculties, to give them their direction, and to assign to one faculty a rank in comparison with others which but for such interference it would not have.

I might have arrived at this result by a shorter road, for I might have pointed out that the most elementary notions of religion imply that no one human faculty or passion can ever in itself be a religion. It can but be one among many competitors. If human beings are left to themselves, their faculties, their wishes, and their passions will find a level of some sort or other. They will produce some common course of life and some social arrangement. Alter the relative strength of particular passions, and you will alter the social result, but religion means a great deal more than this. It means the establishment and general recognition of some theory about human life in general, about the relation of men to each other and to the world, by which their conduct may be determined. Every religion must contain an element of fact, real or supposed, as well as an element of feeling, and the element of fact is the one which in the long run will determine the nature and importance of the element of feeling. The following are specimens of religions, stated as generally as possible, but still with sufficient exactness to show my meaning.
I. The statements made in the Apostles' Creed are true. Believe them, and govern yourselves accordingly.
2. There is one God, and Mahomet is the prophet of God. Do as Mahomet tells you.
3. All existence is an evil, from which, if you knew your own mind, you would wish to be delivered. Such and such a course of life will deliver you most speedily from the misery of existence.
4. An infinitely powerful supreme God arranged all of you whom I address in castes, each with its own rule of life. You will be fearfully punished in all sorts of ways if you do not live according to your caste rules. Also all nature is full of invisible powers more or 1ess connected with natural objects, which must be worshipped and propitiated.

All these are religions in the proper sense of the word. Each of the four theories expressed in these few words is complete in itself. It states propositions which are either true or false, but which, if true, furnish a complete practical guide for life. No such statement of what Mr. Mill calls the ultimate sanction of the morals of utility is possible. You cannot get more than this out of it: "Love all mankind." "Influences are at work which at some remote time will make men love each other." These are respectively a piece pf advice and a prophecy, but they are not religions. If a man does not take the advice or believe in the prophecy, they pass by him idly. They have no power at all in invitos, and the great mass of men have always been inviti, or at the very least indifferent, with respect to all religions whatever. In order to make such maxims as these into religions, they must be coupled with some statement of fact about mankind and human life, which those who accept them as religions must be prepared to affirm to be true.

What statement of the sort is it possible to make? "The human race is an enormous agglomeration of bubbles which are continually bursting and ceasing to be. No one made it or knows anything worth knowlhg about it. Love it dearly, oh ye bubbles." This is a sort of religion, no doubt, but it seems to me a very silly one. "Eat and drink, for to-morrow ye die;" "Be not righteous overmuch, why shouldest thou destroy thyself?"

Huc vina et unguenta et nimiurn brevis
Flores amoenos ferre jube rosae,
Dum res et aetas et Sororum
Fila trium patiuntur atra.
Omnes eodem cogimur.

These are also religions, and, if true, they are, I think, infinitely more rational than the bubble theory.


As a matter of historical fact, no really considerable body of men either is, ever has been, or ever has professed to be Christian in the sense of taking the philanthropic passages of the four Gospels as the sole, exclusive, and complete guide of their lives. If they did, they would in sober earnest turn the world upside down. They would be a set of passionate Communists, breaking down every approved maxim of conduct and every human institution. In one word, if Christianity really is what much of the language which we often hear used implies, it is false and mischievous. Nothing can be more monstrous than a sweeping condemnation of mankind for not conforming their conduct to an ideal which they do not really acknowledge. When, for instance, we are told that it is dreadful to think that a nation pretending to believe the Sermon on the Mount should employ so many millions sterling per annum on military expenditure, the answer is that no sane nation ever did or ever will pretend to believe the Sermon on the Mount in any sense which is inconsistent with the maintenance to the very utmost by force of arms of the national independence, honour, and interest. If the Sermon on the Mount really means to forbid this, it ought to be disregarded.

VII. Conclusion

Note on Utilitarianism

"Some people profess that the Sermon on the Mount is the only part of Christianity which they can accept. It is to me the hardest part to accept."

—James Fitzjames Stephen

This distinguished philosopher was one day passing along a narrow footpath which formerly winded through a boggy piece of ground at the back of Edinburgh Castle, when he had the misfortune to tumble in, and stick fast in the mud. Observing a woman approaching, he civilly requested her to lend him a helping hand out of his disagreeable situation; but she, casting one hurried glance at his abbreviated figure, passed on, without regarding his request. He then shouted lustily after her; and she was at last prevailed upon by his cries to approach. “Are na ye Hume the Deist?” inquired she, in a tone which implied that an answer in the affirmative would decide her against lending him her assistance. “Well, well,” said Mr Hume, “no matter: you know, good woman, Christian charity commands you to do good, even to your enemies.” “Christian charity here, Christian charity there,” replied the woman, “I’ll do naething for ye till ye tum a Christian yoursell: ye maun first repeat baith the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed, or faith I’ll let ye groffle there as I faund ye.” The sceptic was actually obliged to accede to the woman’s terms, ere she would give him her help. He himself used to tell the story with great relish.

A counterfactual world in which Mill is taught only as a foil for J.F. Stephen, Hart as a foil for Devlin, and Kelsen as a foil for Schmitt.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
gt.geometric topology - Intuitive crutches for higher dimensional thinking - MathOverflow
Terry Tao:
I can't help you much with high-dimensional topology - it's not my field, and I've not picked up the various tricks topologists use to get a grip on the subject - but when dealing with the geometry of high-dimensional (or infinite-dimensional) vector spaces such as R^n, there are plenty of ways to conceptualise these spaces that do not require visualising more than three dimensions directly.

For instance, one can view a high-dimensional vector space as a state space for a system with many degrees of freedom. A megapixel image, for instance, is a point in a million-dimensional vector space; by varying the image, one can explore the space, and various subsets of this space correspond to various classes of images.

One can similarly interpret sound waves, a box of gases, an ecosystem, a voting population, a stream of digital data, trials of random variables, the results of a statistical survey, a probabilistic strategy in a two-player game, and many other concrete objects as states in a high-dimensional vector space, and various basic concepts such as convexity, distance, linearity, change of variables, orthogonality, or inner product can have very natural meanings in some of these models (though not in all).

It can take a bit of both theory and practice to merge one's intuition for these things with one's spatial intuition for vectors and vector spaces, but it can be done eventually (much as after one has enough exposure to measure theory, one can start merging one's intuition regarding cardinality, mass, length, volume, probability, cost, charge, and any number of other "real-life" measures).

For instance, the fact that most of the mass of a unit ball in high dimensions lurks near the boundary of the ball can be interpreted as a manifestation of the law of large numbers, using the interpretation of a high-dimensional vector space as the state space for a large number of trials of a random variable.

More generally, many facts about low-dimensional projections or slices of high-dimensional objects can be viewed from a probabilistic, statistical, or signal processing perspective.

Scott Aaronson:
Here are some of the crutches I've relied on. (Admittedly, my crutches are probably much more useful for theoretical computer science, combinatorics, and probability than they are for geometry, topology, or physics. On a related note, I personally have a much easier time thinking about R^n than about, say, R^4 or R^5!)

1. If you're trying to visualize some 4D phenomenon P, first think of a related 3D phenomenon P', and then imagine yourself as a 2D being who's trying to visualize P'. The advantage is that, unlike with the 4D vs. 3D case, you yourself can easily switch between the 3D and 2D perspectives, and can therefore get a sense of exactly what information is being lost when you drop a dimension. (You could call this the "Flatland trick," after the most famous literary work to rely on it.)
2. As someone else mentioned, discretize! Instead of thinking about R^n, think about the Boolean hypercube {0,1}^n, which is finite and usually easier to get intuition about. (When working on problems, I often find myself drawing {0,1}^4 on a sheet of paper by drawing two copies of {0,1}^3 and then connecting the corresponding vertices.)
3. Instead of thinking about a subset S⊆R^n, think about its characteristic function f:R^n→{0,1}. I don't know why that trivial perspective switch makes such a big difference, but it does ... maybe because it shifts your attention to the process of computing f, and makes you forget about the hopeless task of visualizing S!
4. One of the central facts about R^n is that, while it has "room" for only n orthogonal vectors, it has room for exp⁡(n) almost-orthogonal vectors. Internalize that one fact, and so many other properties of R^n (for example, that the n-sphere resembles a "ball with spikes sticking out," as someone mentioned before) will suddenly seem non-mysterious. In turn, one way to internalize the fact that R^n has so many almost-orthogonal vectors is to internalize Shannon's theorem that there exist good error-correcting codes.
5. To get a feel for some high-dimensional object, ask questions about the behavior of a process that takes place on that object. For example: if I drop a ball here, which local minimum will it settle into? How long does this random walk on {0,1}^n take to mix?

Gil Kalai:
This is a slightly different point, but Vitali Milman, who works in high-dimensional convexity, likes to draw high-dimensional convex bodies in a non-convex way. This is to convey the point that if you take the convex hull of a few points on the unit sphere of R^n, then for large n very little of the measure of the convex body is anywhere near the corners, so in a certain sense the body is a bit like a small sphere with long thin "spikes".
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Search results for compressed sensing
Added: Here are comments from "Donoho-Student":
Donoho-Student says:
September 14, 2017 at 8:27 pm GMT • 100 Words

The Donoho-Tanner transition describes the noise-free (h2=1) case, which has a direct analog in the geometry of polytopes.

The n = 30s result from Hsu et al. (specifically the value of the coefficient, 30, when p is the appropriate number of SNPs on an array and h2 = 0.5) is obtained via simulation using actual genome matrices, and is original to them. (There is no simple formula that gives this number.) The D-T transition had only been established in the past for certain classes of matrices, like random matrices with specific distributions. Those results cannot be immediately applied to genomes.

The estimate that s is (order of magnitude) 10k is also a key input.

I think Hsu refers to n = 1 million instead of 30 * 10k = 300k because the effective SNP heritability of IQ might be less than h2 = 0.5 — there is noise in the phenotype measurement, etc.

Donoho-Student says:
September 15, 2017 at 11:27 am GMT • 200 Words

Lasso is a common statistical method but most people who use it are not familiar with the mathematical theorems from compressed sensing. These results give performance guarantees and describe phase transition behavior, but because they are rigorous theorems they only apply to specific classes of sensor matrices, such as simple random matrices. Genomes have correlation structure, so the theorems do not directly apply to the real world case of interest, as is often true.

What the Hsu paper shows is that the exact D-T phase transition appears in the noiseless (h2 = 1) problem using genome matrices, and a smoothed version appears in the problem with realistic h2. These are new results, as is the prediction for how much data is required to cross the boundary. I don’t think most gwas people are familiar with these results. If they did understand the results they would fund/design adequately powered studies capable of solving lots of complex phenotypes, medical conditions as well as IQ, that have significant h2.

Most people who use lasso, as opposed to people who prove theorems, are not even aware of the D-T transition. Even most people who prove theorems have followed the Candes-Tao line of attack (restricted isometry property) and don’t think much about D-T. Although D eventually proved some things about the phase transition using high dimensional geometry, it was initially discovered via simulation using simple random matrices.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Diamond on domestication | West Hunter
Jared Diamond, in discussing animal domestication, claims that the local availability of species with the right qualities for domestication was key, rather than anything special about the biology or culture of the humans living there. In some cases that may be true: there aren’t many large mammals left in Australia, and they’re all marsupials anyway. Stupid marsupials. He claims that since Africans and Amerindians were happy to adopt Eurasian domesticated animals when they became available, it must be that that suitable local animals just didn’t exist. But that’s a non sequitur: making use of an already-domesticated species is not at all the same thing as the original act of domestication. That’s like equating using a cell phone with inventing one. He also says that people have had only mixed success in recent domestication attempts – but the big problem there is that a newly domesticated species doesn’t just have to be good, it has to be better than already-existing domestic animals.


In fact, in my mind the real question is not why various peoples didn’t domesticate animals that we know were domesticable, but rather how anyone ever managed to domesticate the aurochs. At least twice. Imagine a longhorn on roids: they were big and aggressive, favorites in the Roman arena.

Let me throw out an idea originated by an old friend, Ivy Smith. Consider mice, cats, and toxoplasma. Toxoplasma is a protozoan with a two stage life cycle: one in an intermediate host (mice and rats, among others) and a definitive host (some feline). Toxoplasma only reproduces sexually in the definitive host, and it ‘wants’ to end up there. It manipulates the behavior of the intermediate host in ways that increase the probability of transmission to the definitive host. For one thing, it makes mice like the smell of cat urine, which elicits fear in uninfected mice. In fact, it seems that toxoplasma-infected mice are sexually excited by cat urine. How weird – a parasite rechanneling sexual interest…

The idea is that at least some individual aurochs were not as hostile and fearful of humans as they ought to have been, because they were being manipulated by some parasite. The parasite might have caused a general reduction of fear or aggression without infecting or aiming at humans – or, maybe, humans really were the definitive host, and the parasite knew exactly what it was doing. The beef tape worm – which we originally acquired from lions or hyenas back in Africa a couple of million years ago – might have gained from making infected bovines quiet, passive, maybe even overly friendly in the presence of humans. This would have made domestication a hell of a lot easier.

Parenthetically, such host manipulation may play a really important ecological role. For all we know, if canids and felids had to rely purely on their own abilities, they’d starve.

The beef tape worm may not have made it through Beringia. More generally, there were probably no parasites in the Americas that had some large mammal as intermediate host and Amerindians as the traditional definite host. Amerindians simply hadn’t been there very long. Domesticating bison may have too hard for unaided humans, back in the day.

Every technique is in competition with rival techniques. This inhibits the development of new techniques, even if they have high potential in the long run. To succeed, they have to beat out existing techniques in the short run.

For example, there are potential advantages for superconducting electronics for computing, but CMOS keeps improving. It’s a moving target: it’s not enough to be good, or interesting, you have to be better. Soon, not in 50 years. This is particularly difficult considering the enormous amount of resources currently invested in improving semiconductor computing technology.

In the same way, one successful domestication tends to inhibit other domestications. Several crops were domesticated in the eastern United States, but with the advent of maize and beans, most were abandoned. Maybe if those Amerindians had continued to selectively breed sumpweed for a few thousand years, it would have been competitive: but nobody is that crazy. Pretty crazy, but not that crazy.

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that all human groups have equal mental capabilities – except for the inhabitants of New Guinea, who are clearly smarter than the human norm.

If this is the case, there’s money to be made. Good performance in a lot of high-paying jobs requires intelligence above some fairly high threshold. Such people are scarce [outside of New Guinea], and that means that their labor is expensive. The fraction of individuals above a high threshold increases dramatically with a higher mean, and since people in PNG don’t have high incomes, there is a fantastic arbitrage opportunity here. You could locate some of the many geniuses that must exist in PNG, rapidly and inexpensively teach them high-tech skills (which they would learn easily, since they’re geniuses, natch), apply for H1B visas, and them resell them to the highest Silicon Valley bidder. This wouldn’t last, of course – these guys would not stay peons forever. They’d be generating their own start-ups in a few years, founding hedge funds, dominating the Vegas poker tournaments, etc. Some, less materialistic, would become grandmasters, win Fields medals, or write seminal books about the attractions of cannibalism. Still, you could make a lot of money in the short run, and if you were careful to build good relationships with your employees, they might let you in on the ground floor of an IPO later.

Poul Anderson, always a visionary, foresaw this. A character in one his books put it thusly:” I am a racist – a dedicated, fanatical racist – who maintains, and can scientifically prove, that his own race is inferior. The only true humans on earth, my friends, the main line of evolution, the masters of the future, are the lordly Melanesians. ”

Of course that character was feigning insanity, but still.

PNG = Papua New Guinea

final review:
Guns, Germs, and Steel revisited: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/guns-germs-and-steel-revisited/

He never says he was willing to wave the point, so how do you know that?

Next, europeans and Chinese ( northeast Asians) test smarter than anyone else. Noticeably so. And they act it, more or less. kinda sorta. More complicated mistakes.

lower genetic diversity in Amerindians+possibility that fast mutating viruses might adapt to their host and hit relatives harder
west-hunter  technology  antiquity  sapiens  nature  speculation  parasites-microbiome  🌞  farmers-and-foragers  domestication  scitariat  ideas  questions  toxo-gondii  multi  books  review  critique  africa  agriculture  agri-mindset  long-short-run  incentives  info-dynamics  group-selection  gwern  india  asia  red-queen  pop-diff  poast  aphorism  developing-world  oceans  arbitrage  race  scifi-fantasy  psychometrics  psychology  cog-psych  iq  intelligence  psych-architecture  paying-rent  realness  disease  scale  civilization  population  density  prudence  marginal  novelty  earth  direction  geography  path-dependence  china  europe  immune  spreading  diversity  galor-like  genetics  genomics  alt-inst  competition  capitalism  cost-benefit  tradeoffs  big-peeps  sex  sexuality 
november 2016 by nhaliday
The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everday Life

A Book Response Prediction: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/03/a-book-response-prediction.html
I predict that one of the most common responses will be something like “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” While the evidence we offer is suggestive, for claims as counterintuitive as ours on topics as important as these, evidence should be held to a higher standard than the one our book meets. We should shut up until we can prove our claims.

I predict that another of the most common responses will be something like “this is all well known.” Wise observers have known and mentioned such things for centuries. Perhaps foolish technocrats who only read in their narrow literatures are ignorant of such things, but our book doesn’t add much to what true scholars and thinkers have long known.


Elephant in the Brain on Religious Hypocrisy:
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august 2016 by nhaliday
Answer to What is it like to understand advanced mathematics? - Quora
thinking like a mathematician

some of the points:
- small # of tricks (echoes Rota)
- web of concepts and modularization (zooming out) allow quick reasoning
- comfort w/ ambiguity and lack of understanding, study high-dimensional objects via projections
- above is essential for research (and often what distinguishes research mathematicians from people who were good at math, or majored in math)
math  reflection  thinking  intuition  expert  synthesis  wormholes  insight  q-n-a  🎓  metabuch  tricks  scholar  problem-solving  aphorism  instinct  heuristic  lens  qra  soft-question  curiosity  meta:math  ground-up  cartoons  analytical-holistic  lifts-projections  hi-order-bits  scholar-pack  nibble  giants  the-trenches  innovation  novelty  zooming  tricki  virtu  humility  metameta  wisdom  abstraction  skeleton  s:***  knowledge  expert-experience 
may 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : crfrontiergood-vibesthinkingvague

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