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The Existential Risk of Math Errors - Gwern.net
How big is this upper bound? Mathematicians have often made errors in proofs. But it’s rarer for ideas to be accepted for a long time and then rejected. But we can divide errors into 2 basic cases corresponding to type I and type II errors:

1. Mistakes where the theorem is still true, but the proof was incorrect (type I)
2. Mistakes where the theorem was false, and the proof was also necessarily incorrect (type II)

Before someone comes up with a final answer, a mathematician may have many levels of intuition in formulating & working on the problem, but we’ll consider the final end-product where the mathematician feels satisfied that he has solved it. Case 1 is perhaps the most common case, with innumerable examples; this is sometimes due to mistakes in the proof that anyone would accept is a mistake, but many of these cases are due to changing standards of proof. For example, when David Hilbert discovered errors in Euclid’s proofs which no one noticed before, the theorems were still true, and the gaps more due to Hilbert being a modern mathematician thinking in terms of formal systems (which of course Euclid did not think in). (David Hilbert himself turns out to be a useful example of the other kind of error: his famous list of 23 problems was accompanied by definite opinions on the outcome of each problem and sometimes timings, several of which were wrong or questionable5.) Similarly, early calculus used ‘infinitesimals’ which were sometimes treated as being 0 and sometimes treated as an indefinitely small non-zero number; this was incoherent and strictly speaking, practically all of the calculus results were wrong because they relied on an incoherent concept - but of course the results were some of the greatest mathematical work ever conducted6 and when later mathematicians put calculus on a more rigorous footing, they immediately re-derived those results (sometimes with important qualifications), and doubtless as modern math evolves other fields have sometimes needed to go back and clean up the foundations and will in the future.7

...

Isaac Newton, incidentally, gave two proofs of the same solution to a problem in probability, one via enumeration and the other more abstract; the enumeration was correct, but the other proof totally wrong and this was not noticed for a long time, leading Stigler to remark:

...

TYPE I > TYPE II?
“Lefschetz was a purely intuitive mathematician. It was said of him that he had never given a completely correct proof, but had never made a wrong guess either.”
- Gian-Carlo Rota13

Case 2 is disturbing, since it is a case in which we wind up with false beliefs and also false beliefs about our beliefs (we no longer know that we don’t know). Case 2 could lead to extinction.

...

Except, errors do not seem to be evenly & randomly distributed between case 1 and case 2. There seem to be far more case 1s than case 2s, as already mentioned in the early calculus example: far more than 50% of the early calculus results were correct when checked more rigorously. Richard Hamming attributes to Ralph Boas a comment that while editing Mathematical Reviews that “of the new results in the papers reviewed most are true but the corresponding proofs are perhaps half the time plain wrong”.

...

Gian-Carlo Rota gives us an example with Hilbert:

...

Olga labored for three years; it turned out that all mistakes could be corrected without any major changes in the statement of the theorems. There was one exception, a paper Hilbert wrote in his old age, which could not be fixed; it was a purported proof of the continuum hypothesis, you will find it in a volume of the Mathematische Annalen of the early thirties.
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6 days ago by nhaliday
The End of the Editor Wars » Linux Magazine
Moreover, even if you assume a broad margin of error, the pollings aren't even close. With all the various text editors available today, Vi and Vim continue to be the choice of over a third of users, while Emacs well back in the pack, no longer a competitor for the most popular text editor.

https://www.quora.com/Are-there-more-Emacs-or-Vim-users
I believe Vim is actually more popular, but it's hard to find any real data on it. The best source I've seen is the annual StackOverflow developer survey where 15.2% of developers used Vim compared to a mere 3.2% for Emacs.

Oddly enough, the report noted that "Data scientists and machine learning developers are about 3 times more likely to use Emacs than any other type of developer," which is not necessarily what I would have expected.

[ed. NB: Vim still dominates overall.]

Time To End The vi/Emacs Debate: https://cacm.acm.org/blogs/blog-cacm/226034-time-to-end-the-vi-emacs-debate/fulltext

Vim, Emacs and their forever war. Does it even matter any more?: https://blog.sourcerer.io/vim-emacs-and-their-forever-war-does-it-even-matter-any-more-697b1322d510
Like an episode of “Silicon Valley”, a discussion of Emacs vs. Vim used to have a polarizing effect that would guarantee a stimulating conversation, regardless of an engineer’s actual alignment. But nowadays, diehard Emacs and Vim users are getting much harder to find. Maybe I’m in the wrong orbit, but looking around today, I see that engineers are equally or even more likely to choose any one of a number of great (for any given definition of ‘great’) modern editors or IDEs such as Sublime Text, Visual Studio Code, Atom, IntelliJ (… or one of its siblings), Brackets, Visual Studio or Xcode, to name a few. It’s not surprising really — many top engineers weren’t even born when these editors were at version 1.0, and GUIs (for better or worse) hadn’t been invented.

...

… both forums have high traffic and up-to-the-minute comment and discussion threads. Some of the available statistics paint a reasonably healthy picture — Stackoverflow’s 2016 developer survey ranks Vim 4th out of 24 with 26.1% of respondents in the development environments category claiming to use it. Emacs came 15th with 5.2%. In combination, over 30% is, actually, quite impressive considering they’ve been around for several decades.

What’s odd, however, is that if you ask someone — say a random developer — to express a preference, the likelihood is that they will favor for one or the other even if they have used neither in anger. Maybe the meme has spread so widely that all responses are now predominantly ritualistic, and represent something more fundamental than peoples’ mere preference for an editor? There’s a rather obvious political hypothesis waiting to be made — that Emacs is the leftist, socialist, centralized state, while Vim represents the right and the free market, specialization and capitalism red in tooth and claw.

In Google there's a fair amount of vim and emacs. I would say at least every other engineer uses one or another.

Among Software Engineers, emacs seems to be more popular, about 2:1. Among Site Reliability Engineers, vim is more popular, about 9:1.
--
People use both at Facebook, with (in my opinion) slightly better tooling for Emacs than Vim. We share a master.emacs and master.vimrc file, which contains the bare essentials (like syntactic highlighting for the Hack language). We also share a Ctags file that's updated nightly with a cron script.

Beyond the essentials, there's a group for Emacs users at Facebook that provides tips, tricks, and major-modes created by people at Facebook. That's where Adam Hupp first developed his excellent mural-mode (ahupp/mural), which does for Ctags what iDo did for file finding and buffer switching.
--
For emacs, it was very informal at Google. There wasn't a huge community of Emacs users at Google, so there wasn't much more than a wiki and a couple language styles matching Google's style guides.

https://www.quora.com/Why-is-interest-in-Emacs-dropping
And it is still that. It’s just that emacs is no longer unique, and neither is Lisp.

Dynamically typed scripting languages with garbage collection are a dime a dozen now. Anybody in their right mind developing an extensible text editor today would just use python, ruby, lua, or JavaScript as the extension language and get all the power of Lisp combined with vibrant user communities and millions of lines of ready-made libraries that Stallman and Steele could only dream of in the 70s.

In fact, in many ways emacs and elisp have fallen behind: 40 years after Lambda, the Ultimate Imperative, elisp is still dynamically scoped, and it still doesn’t support multithreading — when I try to use dired to list the files on a slow NFS mount, the entire editor hangs just as thoroughly as it might have in the 1980s. And when I say “doesn’t support multithreading,” I don’t mean there is some other clever trick for continuing to do work while waiting on a system call, like asynchronous callbacks or something. There’s start-process which forks a whole new process, and that’s about it. It’s a concurrency model straight out of 1980s UNIX land.

But being essentially just a decent text editor has robbed emacs of much of its competitive advantage. In a world where every developer tool is scriptable with languages and libraries an order of magnitude more powerful than cranky old elisp, the reason to use emacs is not that it lets a programmer hit a button and evaluate the current expression interactively (which must have been absolutely amazing at one point in the past).

more general comparison, not just popularity:
Differences between Emacs and Vim: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/1430164/differences-between-Emacs-and-vim

Technical Interview Performance by Editor/OS/Language: https://triplebyte.com/blog/technical-interview-performance-by-editor-os-language
[ed.: I'm guessing this is confounded to all hell.]

The #1 most common editor we see used in interviews is Sublime Text, with Vim close behind.

Emacs represents a fairly small market share today at just about a quarter the userbase of Vim in our interviews. This nicely matches the 4:1 ratio of Google Search Trends for the two editors.

...

Vim takes the prize here, but PyCharm and Emacs are close behind. We’ve found that users of these editors tend to pass our interview at an above-average rate.

On the other end of the spectrum is Eclipse: it appears that someone using either Vim or Emacs is more than twice as likely to pass our technical interview as an Eclipse user.

...

In this case, we find that the average Ruby, Swift, and C# users tend to be stronger, with Python and Javascript in the middle of the pack.

...

Here’s what happens after we select engineers to work with and send them to onsites:

[Python does best.]

There are no wild outliers here, but let’s look at the C++ segment. While C++ programmers have the most challenging time passing Triplebyte’s technical interview on average, the ones we choose to work with tend to have a relatively easier time getting offers at each onsite.

The Rise of Microsoft Visual Studio Code: https://triplebyte.com/blog/editor-report-the-rise-of-visual-studio-code
This chart shows the rates at which each editor's users pass our interview compared to the mean pass rate for all candidates. First, notice the preeminence of Emacs and Vim! Engineers who use these editors pass our interview at significantly higher rates than other engineers. And the effect size is not small. Emacs users pass our interview at a rate 50% higher than other engineers. What could explain this phenomenon? One possible explanation is that Vim and Emacs are old school. You might expect their users to have more experience and, thus, to do better. However, notice that VS Code is the third best editor—and it is brand new. This undercuts that narrative a bit (and makes VS Code look even more dominant).

Do Emacs and Vim users have some other characteristic that makes them more likely to succeed during interviews? Perhaps they tend to be more willing to invest time and effort customizing a complex editor in the short-term in order to get returns from a more powerful tool in the long-term?

...

Java and C# do have relatively low pass rates, although notice that Eclipse has a lower pass rate than Java (-21.4% vs. -16.7), so we cannot fully explain its poor performance as Java dragging it down.

Also, what's going on with Go? Go programmers are great! To dig deeper into these questions, I looked at editor usage by language:

...

Another finding from this chart is the difference between VS Code and Sublime. VS Code is primarily used for JavaScript development (61%) but less frequently for Python development (22%). With Sublime, the numbers are basically reversed (51% Python and 30% JavaScript). It's interesting that VS Code users pass interviews at a higher rate than Sublime engineers, even though they predominately use a language with a lower success rate (JavaSript).

To wrap things up, I sliced the data by experience level and location. Here you can see language usage by experience level:

...

Then there's editor usage by experience level:

...

Take all of this with a grain of salt. I want to end by saying that we don't think any of this is causative. That is, I don't recommend that you start using Emacs and Go (or stop using… [more]
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4 weeks ago by nhaliday
Football Still Americans' Favorite Sport to Watch
37% say football is their favorite sport to watch, by far the most for any sport
Baseball is at its lowest point ever, with only 9% saying it is their favorite
Football has slipped in popularity from its peak of 43% in 2006 and 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- American football, under attack from critics in recent years, has lost some of its popularity but is still the champion of U.S. spectator sports -- picked by 37% of U.S. adults as their favorite sport to watch. The next-most-popular sports are basketball, favored by 11%, and baseball, favored by 9%.

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5 weeks ago by nhaliday
Why is Software Engineering so difficult? - James Miller
basic message: No silver bullet!

most interesting nuggets:
Scale and Complexity
- Windows 7 > 50 million LOC
Expect a staggering number of bugs.

Bugs?
- Well-written C and C++ code contains some 5 to 10 errors per 100 LOC after a clean compile, but before inspection and testing.
- At a 5% rate any 50 MLOC program will start off with some 2.5 million bugs.

Bug removal
- Testing typically exercises only half the code.

Better bug removal?
- There are better ways to do testing that do produce fantastic programs.”
* No, its only an opinion!
* In general Software Engineering has ....
NO FACTS!

So why not do this?
- The costs are unbelievable.
- It’s not unusual for the qualification process to produce a half page of documentation for each line of code.
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8 weeks ago by nhaliday
List of languages by total number of speakers - Wikipedia
- has both L1 (native speakers) and L2 (second-language speakers)
- I'm guessing most of Mandarin's L2 speakers are Chinese natives. Lots of dialects and such (Cantonese) within the country.
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march 2019 by nhaliday
Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata - John von Neumann
Fourth Lecture: THE ROLE OF HIGH AND OF EXTREMELY HIGH COMPLICATION

Comparisons between computing machines and the nervous systems. Estimates of size for computing machines, present and near future.

Estimates for size for the human central nervous system. Excursus about the “mixed” character of living organisms. Analog and digital elements. Observations about the “mixed” character of all componentry, artificial as well as natural. Interpretation of the position to be taken with respect to these.

Evaluation of the discrepancy in size between artificial and natural automata. Interpretation of this discrepancy in terms of physical factors. Nature of the materials used.

The probability of the presence of other intellectual factors. The role of complication and the theoretical penetration that it requires.

Questions of reliability and errors reconsidered. Probability of individual errors and length of procedure. Typical lengths of procedure for computing machines and for living organisms--that is, for artificial and for natural automata. Upper limits on acceptable probability of error in individual operations. Compensation by checking and self-correcting features.

Differences of principle in the way in which errors are dealt with in artificial and in natural automata. The “single error” principle in artificial automata. Crudeness of our approach in this case, due to the lack of adequate theory. More sophisticated treatment of this problem in natural automata: The role of the autonomy of parts. Connections between this autonomy and evolution.

- 10^10 neurons in brain, 10^4 vacuum tubes in largest computer at time
- machines faster: 5 ms from neuron potential to neuron potential, 10^-3 ms for vacuum tubes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_von_Neumann#Computing
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Is the human brain analog or digital? - Quora
The brain is neither analog nor digital, but works using a signal processing paradigm that has some properties in common with both.

Unlike a digital computer, the brain does not use binary logic or binary addressable memory, and it does not perform binary arithmetic. Information in the brain is represented in terms of statistical approximations and estimations rather than exact values. The brain is also non-deterministic and cannot replay instruction sequences with error-free precision. So in all these ways, the brain is definitely not "digital".

At the same time, the signals sent around the brain are "either-or" states that are similar to binary. A neuron fires or it does not. These all-or-nothing pulses are the basic language of the brain. So in this sense, the brain is computing using something like binary signals. Instead of 1s and 0s, or "on" and "off", the brain uses "spike" or "no spike" (referring to the firing of a neuron).
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Harnessing Evolution - with Bret Weinstein | Virtual Futures Salon - YouTube
- ways to get out of Malthusian conditions: expansion to new frontiers, new technology, redistribution/theft
- some discussion of existential risk
- wants to change humanity's "purpose" to one that would be safe in the long run; important thing is it has to be ESS (maybe he wants a singleton?)
- not too impressed by transhumanism (wouldn't identify with a brain emulation)
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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
Eternity in six hours: intergalactic spreading of intelligent life and sharpening the Fermi paradox
We do this by demonstrating that traveling between galaxies – indeed even launching a colonisation project for the entire reachable universe – is a relatively simple task for a star-spanning civilization, requiring modest amounts of energy and resources. We start by demonstrating that humanity itself could likely accomplish such a colonisation project in the foreseeable future, should we want to, and then demonstrate that there are millions of galaxies that could have reached us by now, using similar methods. This results in a considerable sharpening of the Fermi paradox.
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march 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.
org:junk  humanity  accelerationism  futurism  prediction  classic  technology  frontier  speedometer  ai  risk  internet  time  essay  rhetoric  network-structure  ai-control  morality  ethics  volo-avolo  egalitarianism-hierarchy  intelligence  scale  giants  scifi-fantasy  speculation  quotes  religion  theos  singularity  flux-stasis  phase-transition  cybernetics  coordination  cooperate-defect  moloch  communication  bits  speed  efficiency  eden-heaven  ecology  benevolence  end-times  good-evil  identity  the-self  whole-partial-many  density
march 2018 by nhaliday
Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios
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://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
Prisoner's dilemma - Wikipedia
caveat to result below:
An extension of the IPD is an evolutionary stochastic IPD, in which the relative abundance of particular strategies is allowed to change, with more successful strategies relatively increasing. This process may be accomplished by having less successful players imitate the more successful strategies, or by eliminating less successful players from the game, while multiplying the more successful ones. It has been shown that unfair ZD strategies are not evolutionarily stable. The key intuition is that an evolutionarily stable strategy must not only be able to invade another population (which extortionary ZD strategies can do) but must also perform well against other players of the same type (which extortionary ZD players do poorly, because they reduce each other's surplus).[14]

Theory and simulations confirm that beyond a critical population size, ZD extortion loses out in evolutionary competition against more cooperative strategies, and as a result, the average payoff in the population increases when the population is bigger. In addition, there are some cases in which extortioners may even catalyze cooperation by helping to break out of a face-off between uniform defectors and win–stay, lose–switch agents.[8]

https://alfanl.com/2018/04/12/defection/
Nature boils down to a few simple concepts.

Haters will point out that I oversimplify. The haters are wrong. I am good at saying a lot with few words. Nature indeed boils down to a few simple concepts.

In life, you can either cooperate or defect.

Used to be that defection was the dominant strategy, say in the time when the Roman empire started to crumble. Everybody complained about everybody and in the end nothing got done. Then came Jesus, who told people to be loving and cooperative, and boom: 1800 years later we get the industrial revolution.

Because of Jesus we now find ourselves in a situation where cooperation is the dominant strategy. A normie engages in a ton of cooperation: with the tax collector who wants more and more of his money, with schools who want more and more of his kid’s time, with media who wants him to repeat more and more party lines, with the Zeitgeist of the Collective Spirit of the People’s Progress Towards a New Utopia. Essentially, our normie is cooperating himself into a crumbling Western empire.

Turns out that if everyone blindly cooperates, parasites sprout up like weeds until defection once again becomes the standard.

The point of a post-Christian religion is to once again create conditions for the kind of cooperation that led to the industrial revolution. This necessitates throwing out undead Christianity: you do not blindly cooperate. You cooperate with people that cooperate with you, you defect on people that defect on you. Christianity mixed with Darwinism. God and Gnon meet.

This also means we re-establish spiritual hierarchy, which, like regular hierarchy, is a prerequisite for cooperation. It is this hierarchical cooperation that turns a household into a force to be reckoned with, that allows a group of men to unite as a front against their enemies, that allows a tribe to conquer the world. Remember: Scientology bullied the Cathedral’s tax department into submission.

With a functioning hierarchy, men still gossip, lie and scheme, but they will do so in whispers behind closed doors. In your face they cooperate and contribute to the group’s wellbeing because incentives are thus that contributing to group wellbeing heightens status.

Without a functioning hierarchy, men gossip, lie and scheme, but they do so in your face, and they tell you that you are positively deluded for accusing them of gossiping, lying and scheming. Seeds will not sprout in such ground.

Spiritual dominance is established in the same way any sort of dominance is established: fought for, taken. But the fight is ritualistic. You can’t force spiritual dominance if no one listens, or if you are silenced the ritual is not allowed to happen.

If one of our priests is forbidden from establishing spiritual dominance, that is a sure sign an enemy priest is in better control and has vested interest in preventing you from establishing spiritual dominance..

They defect on you, you defect on them. Let them suffer the consequences of enemy priesthood, among others characterized by the annoying tendency that very little is said with very many words.

https://contingentnotarbitrary.com/2018/04/14/rederiving-christianity/
To recap, we started with a secular definition of Logos and noted that its telos is existence. Given human nature, game theory and the power of cooperation, the highest expression of that telos is freely chosen universal love, tempered by constant vigilance against defection while maintaining compassion for the defectors and forgiving those who repent. In addition, we must know the telos in order to fulfill it.

In Christian terms, looks like we got over half of the Ten Commandments (know Logos for the First, don’t defect or tempt yourself to defect for the rest), the importance of free will, the indestructibility of evil (group cooperation vs individual defection), loving the sinner and hating the sin (with defection as the sin), forgiveness (with conditions), and love and compassion toward all, assuming only secular knowledge and that it’s good to exist.

Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma is an Ultimatum Game: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2012/07/iterated-prisoners-dilemma-is-ultimatum.html
The history of IPD shows that bounded cognition prevented the dominant strategies from being discovered for over over 60 years, despite significant attention from game theorists, computer scientists, economists, evolutionary biologists, etc. Press and Dyson have shown that IPD is effectively an ultimatum game, which is very different from the Tit for Tat stories told by generations of people who worked on IPD (Axelrod, Dawkins, etc., etc.).

...

For evolutionary biologists: Dyson clearly thinks this result has implications for multilevel (group vs individual selection):
... Cooperation loses and defection wins. The ZD strategies confirm this conclusion and make it sharper. ... The system evolved to give cooperative tribes an advantage over non-cooperative tribes, using punishment to give cooperation an evolutionary advantage within the tribe. This double selection of tribes and individuals goes way beyond the Prisoners' Dilemma model.

implications for fractionalized Europe vis-a-vis unified China?

and more broadly does this just imply we're doomed in the long run RE: cooperation, morality, the "good society", so on...? war and group-selection is the only way to get a non-crab bucket civilization?

Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma contains strategies that dominate any evolutionary opponent:
http://www.pnas.org/content/109/26/10409.full
http://www.pnas.org/content/109/26/10409.full.pdf
https://www.edge.org/conversation/william_h_press-freeman_dyson-on-iterated-prisoners-dilemma-contains-strategies-that

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

analogy for ultimatum game: the state gives the demos a bargain take-it-or-leave-it, and...if the demos refuses...violence?

The nature of human altruism: http://sci-hub.tw/https://www.nature.com/articles/nature02043
- Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher

Some of the most fundamental questions concerning our evolutionary origins, our social relations, and the organization of society are centred around issues of altruism and selfishness. Experimental evidence indicates that human altruism is a powerful force and is unique in the animal world. However, there is much individual heterogeneity and the interaction between altruists and selfish individuals is vital to human cooperation. Depending on the environment, a minority of altruists can force a majority of selfish individuals to cooperate or, conversely, a few egoists can induce a large number of altruists to defect. Current gene-based evolutionary theories cannot explain important patterns of human altruism, pointing towards the importance of both theories of cultural evolution as well as gene–culture co-evolution.

...

Why are humans so unusual among animals in this respect? We propose that quantitatively, and probably even qualitatively, unique patterns of human altruism provide the answer to this question. Human altruism goes far beyond that which has been observed in the animal world. Among animals, fitness-reducing acts that confer fitness benefits on other individuals are largely restricted to kin groups; despite several decades of research, evidence for reciprocal altruism in pair-wise repeated encounters4,5 remains scarce6–8. Likewise, there is little evidence so far that individual reputation building affects cooperation in animals, which contrasts strongly with what we find in humans. If we randomly pick two human strangers from a modern society and give them the chance to engage in repeated anonymous exchanges in a laboratory experiment, there is a high probability that reciprocally altruistic behaviour will emerge spontaneously9,10.

However, human altruism extends far beyond reciprocal altruism and reputation-based cooperation, taking the form of strong reciprocity11,12. Strong reciprocity is a combination of altruistic rewarding, which is a predisposition to reward others for cooperative, norm-abiding behaviours, and altruistic punishment, which is a propensity to impose sanctions on others for norm violations. Strong reciprocators bear the cost of rewarding or punishing even if they gain no individual economic benefit whatsoever from their acts. In contrast, reciprocal altruists, as they have been defined in the biological literature4,5, reward and punish only if this is in their long-term self-interest. Strong reciprocity thus constitutes a powerful incentive for cooperation even in non-repeated interactions and when reputation gains are absent, because strong reciprocators will reward those who cooperate and punish those who defect.

...

We will show that the interaction between selfish and strongly reciprocal … [more]
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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.
ratty  thinking  metabuch  reflection  metameta  big-yud  clever-rats  ai-control  ai  risk  scale  quality  ability-competence  network-structure  capitalism  randy-ayndy  civil-liberty  marketing  institutions  economics  political-econ  politics  polisci  advertising  rent-seeking  government  coordination  internet  attention  polarization  media  truth  unintended-consequences  alt-inst  efficiency  altruism  society  usa  decentralized  rhetoric  prediction  population  incentives  intervention  criminal-justice  property-rights  redistribution  taxes  externalities  science  monetary-fiscal  public-goodish  zero-positive-sum  markets  cost-benefit  regulation  regularizer  order-disorder  flux-stasis  shift  smoothness  phase-transition  power  definite-planning  optimism  pessimism  homo-hetero  interests  eden-heaven  telos-atelos  threat-modeling  alignment
february 2018 by nhaliday
Information Processing: US Needs a National AI Strategy: A Sputnik Moment?
FT podcasts on US-China competition and AI: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2018/05/ft-podcasts-on-us-china-competition-and.html

A new recommended career path for effective altruists: China specialist: https://80000hours.org/articles/china-careers/
Our rough guess is that it would be useful for there to be at least ten people in the community with good knowledge in this area within the next few years.

By “good knowledge” we mean they’ve spent at least 3 years studying these topics and/or living in China.

We chose ten because that would be enough for several people to cover each of the major areas listed (e.g. 4 within AI, 2 within biorisk, 2 within foreign relations, 1 in another area).

AI Policy and Governance Internship: https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/ai-policy-governance-internship/

https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/deciphering-chinas-ai-dream/
Deciphering China’s AI Dream
The context, components, capabilities, and consequences of
China’s strategy to lead the world in AI

Europe’s AI delusion: https://www.politico.eu/article/opinion-europes-ai-delusion/
Brussels is failing to grasp threats and opportunities of artificial intelligence.
By BRUNO MAÇÃES

When the computer program AlphaGo beat the Chinese professional Go player Ke Jie in a three-part match, it didn’t take long for Beijing to realize the implications.

If algorithms can already surpass the abilities of a master Go player, it can’t be long before they will be similarly supreme in the activity to which the classic board game has always been compared: war.

As I’ve written before, the great conflict of our time is about who can control the next wave of technological development: the widespread application of artificial intelligence in the economic and military spheres.

...

If China’s ambitions sound plausible, that’s because the country’s achievements in deep learning are so impressive already. After Microsoft announced that its speech recognition software surpassed human-level language recognition in October 2016, Andrew Ng, then head of research at Baidu, tweeted: “We had surpassed human-level Chinese recognition in 2015; happy to see Microsoft also get there for English less than a year later.”

...

One obvious advantage China enjoys is access to almost unlimited pools of data. The machine-learning technologies boosting the current wave of AI expansion are as good as the amount of data they can use. That could be the number of people driving cars, photos labeled on the internet or voice samples for translation apps. With 700 or 800 million Chinese internet users and fewer data protection rules, China is as rich in data as the Gulf States are in oil.

How can Europe and the United States compete? They will have to be commensurately better in developing algorithms and computer power. Sadly, Europe is falling behind in these areas as well.

...

Chinese commentators have embraced the idea of a coming singularity: the moment when AI surpasses human ability. At that point a number of interesting things happen. First, future AI development will be conducted by AI itself, creating exponential feedback loops. Second, humans will become useless for waging war. At that point, the human mind will be unable to keep pace with robotized warfare. With advanced image recognition, data analytics, prediction systems, military brain science and unmanned systems, devastating wars might be waged and won in a matter of minutes.

...

The argument in the new strategy is fully defensive. It first considers how AI raises new threats and then goes on to discuss the opportunities. The EU and Chinese strategies follow opposite logics. Already on its second page, the text frets about the legal and ethical problems raised by AI and discusses the “legitimate concerns” the technology generates.

The EU’s strategy is organized around three concerns: the need to boost Europe’s AI capacity, ethical issues and social challenges. Unfortunately, even the first dimension quickly turns out to be about “European values” and the need to place “the human” at the center of AI — forgetting that the first word in AI is not “human” but “artificial.”

https://archive.is/m3Njh
US military: "LOL, China thinks it's going to be a major player in AI, but we've got all the top AI researchers. You guys will help us develop weapons, right?"

US AI researchers: "No."

US military: "But... maybe just a computer vision app."

US AI researchers: "NO."

https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/4/17196818/ai-boycot-killer-robots-kaist-university-hanwha
https://archive.is/3wbHm
AI-risk was a mistake.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Sex, Drugs, and Bitcoin: How Much Illegal Activity Is Financed Through Cryptocurrencies? by Sean Foley, Jonathan R. Karlsen, Tālis J. Putniņš :: SSRN
Cryptocurrencies are among the largest unregulated markets in the world. We find that approximately one-quarter of bitcoin users and one-half of bitcoin transactions are associated with illegal activity. Around \$72 billion of illegal activity per year involves bitcoin, which is close to the scale of the US and European markets for illegal drugs. The illegal share of bitcoin activity declines with mainstream interest in bitcoin and with the emergence of more opaque cryptocurrencies. The techniques developed in this paper have applications in cryptocurrency surveillance. Our findings suggest that cryptocurrencies are transforming the way black markets operate by enabling “black e-commerce.”
study  economics  law  leviathan  bitcoin  cryptocurrency  crypto  impetus  scale  markets  civil-liberty  randy-ayndy  crime  criminology  measurement  estimate  pro-rata  money  monetary-fiscal  crypto-anarchy  drugs  internet  tradecraft  opsec  security  intel
february 2018 by nhaliday
What Peter Thiel thinks about AI risk - Less Wrong
TL;DR: he thinks its an issue but also feels AGI is very distant and hence less worried about it than Musk.

I recommend the rest of the lecture as well, it's a good summary of "Zero to One"  and a good QA afterwards.

For context, in case anyone doesn't realize: Thiel has been MIRI's top donor throughout its history.

other stuff:
nice interview question: "thing you know is true that not everyone agrees on?"
"learning from failure overrated"
cleantech a huge market, hard to compete
software makes for easy monopolies (zero marginal costs, network effects, etc.)
for most of history inventors did not benefit much (continuous competition)
ethical behavior is a luxury of monopoly
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Language Complexity and Community Size | Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences
Our simulations thus suggest that language, and possibly other aspects of culture, may become simpler at the structural level as our world becomes increasingly interconnected.
study  org:nat  language  info-dynamics  stylized-facts  sociology  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  correlation  scale  population  community  network-structure  world  nationalism-globalism  prediction  simulation  models  spreading  culture  society  water  britain  anglo  anglosphere  china  asia  sinosphere  memetics  syntax  lexical
february 2018 by nhaliday
Chickenhawks – Gene Expression
I know I seem like a warblogger, and I promise I’ll shift to something more esoteric and non-current-eventsy very soon, but check this table out on fatalities by profession. It ranges from 50 per 100,000 for cab-drivers to 100 per 100,000 for fisherman & loggers. Granted, there have surely been work related fatalities in the American military in the past year, but we’ve had about 30 fatalities so far, and perhaps we’ll go up to 200-300 in the current campaign if we don’t get into house-to-house fighting. How many fatalities occurred during the Afghan campaign? Look at this table of historic casualty rates. I don’t do this to say that being a soldier is something that isn’t a big deal-but for me, the “chickenhawk” insult seems less resonant taking into the account the changes that have been wrought by technology in the post-Vietnam era. Casualty rates seem to be approaching the order of magnitude of some of the more cvil dangerous professions. That is most certainly a good thing.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Which Countries Create the Most Ocean Trash? - WSJ
China and Indonesia Are Top Sources of Plastic Garbage Reaching Oceans, Researchers Say
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january 2018 by nhaliday
The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective - American Affairs Journal
I don’t claim to be a modern-day Alexis de Tocqueville, nor do I have much in common with this famous observer of American life. He grew up in Paris, a city renowned for its culture and architecture. I grew up in Shijiazhuang, a city renowned for being the headquarters of the company that produced toxic infant formula. He was a child of aristocrats; I am the child of modest workers.

Nevertheless, I hope my candid observations can provide some insights into the elite institutions of the West. Certain beliefs are as ubiquitous among the people I went to school with as smog was in Shijiazhuang. The doctrines that shape the worldviews and cultural assumptions at elite Western institutions like Cambridge, Stanford, and Goldman Sachs have become almost religious. Nevertheless, I hope that the perspective of a candid Chinese atheist can be of some instruction to them.

...

So I came to the UK in 2001, when I was 16 years old. Much to my surprise, I found the UK’s exam-focused educational system very similar to the one in China. What is more, in both countries, going to the “right schools” and getting the “right job” are seen as very important by a large group of eager parents. As a result, scoring well on exams and doing well in school interviews—or even the play session for the nursery or pre-prep school—become the most important things in the world. Even at the university level, the undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge depends on nothing else but an exam at the end of the last year.

On the other hand, although the UK’s university system is considered superior to China’s, with a population that is only one-twentieth the size of my native country, competition, while tough, is less intimidating. For example, about one in ten applicants gets into Oxbridge in the UK, and Stanford and Harvard accept about one in twenty-five applicants. But in Hebei province in China, where I am from, only one in fifteen hundred applicants gets into Peking or Qinghua University.

Still, I found it hard to believe how much easier everything became. I scored first nationwide in the GCSE (high school) math exam, and my photo was printed in a national newspaper. I was admitted into Trinity College, University of Cambridge, once the home of Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Prince Charles.

I studied economics at Cambridge, a field which has become more and more mathematical since the 1970s. The goal is always to use a mathematical model to find a closed-form solution to a real-world problem. Looking back, I’m not sure why my professors were so focused on these models. I have since found that the mistake of blindly relying on models is quite widespread in both trading and investing—often with disastrous results, such as the infamous collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. Years later, I discovered the teaching of Warren Buffett: it is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong. But our professors taught us to think of the real world as a math problem.

The culture of Cambridge followed the dogmas of the classroom: a fervent adherence to rules and models established by tradition. For example, at Cambridge, students are forbidden to walk on grass. This right is reserved for professors only. The only exception is for those who achieve first class honors in exams; they are allowed to walk on one area of grass on one day of the year.

The behavior of my British classmates demonstrated an even greater herd mentality than what is often mocked in American MBAs. For example, out of the thirteen economists in my year at Trinity, twelve would go on to join investment banks, and five of us went to work for Goldman Sachs.

...

To me, Costco represents the best of American capitalism. It is a corporation known for having its customers and employees in mind, while at the same time it has compensated its shareholders handsomely over the years. To the customers, it offers the best combination of quality and low cost. Whenever it manages to reduce costs, it passes the savings on to customers immediately. Achieving a 10 percent gross margin with prices below Amazon’s is truly incredible. After I had been there once, I found it hard to shop elsewhere.

Meanwhile, its salaries are much higher than similar retail jobs. When the recession hit in 2008, the company increased salaries to help employees cope with the difficult environment. From the name tags the staff wear, I have seen that frontline employees work there for decades, something hard to imagine elsewhere.

Stanford was for me a distant second to Costco in terms of the American capitalist experience. Overall, I enjoyed the curriculum at the GSB. Inevitably I found some classes less interesting, but the professors all seemed to be quite understanding, even when they saw me reading my kindle during class.

One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring. He asked if perhaps there was another motto or logo that my other classmates might connect with. I told him about the black swan I kept on my desk as a reminder that low probability events happen with high frequency. He didn’t like that motto either and decided to call on another student, who had worked at Pfizer. Their motto was “all people deserve to live healthy lives.” The professor thought this was much better. I didn’t understand how it would motivate employees, but this was exactly why I had come to Stanford: to learn the key lessons of interpersonal communication and leadership.

On the communication and leadership front, I came to the GSB knowing I was not good and hoped to get better. My favorite class was called “Interpersonal Dynamics” or, as students referred to it, “Touchy Feely.” In “Touchy Feely,” students get very candid feedback on how their words and actions affect others in a small group that meets several hours per week for a whole quarter.

We talked about microaggressions and feelings and empathy and listening. Sometimes in class the professor would say things to me like “Puzhong, when Mary said that, I could see you were really feeling something,” or “Puzhong, I could see in your eyes that Peter’s story affected you.” And I would tell them I didn’t feel anything. I was quite confused.

One of the papers we studied mentioned that subjects are often not conscious of their own feelings when fully immersed in a situation. But body indicators such as heart rate would show whether the person is experiencing strong emotions. I thought that I generally didn’t have a lot of emotions and decided that this might be a good way for me to discover my hidden emotions that the professor kept asking about.

So I bought a heart rate monitor and checked my resting heart rate. Right around 78. And when the professor said to me in class “Puzhong, I can see that story brought up some emotions in you,” I rolled up my sleeve and checked my heart rate. It was about 77. And so I said, “nope, no emotion.” The experiment seemed to confirm my prior belief: my heart rate hardly moved, even when I was criticized, though it did jump when I became excited or laughed.

This didn’t land well on some of my classmates. They felt I was not treating these matters with the seriousness that they deserved. The professor was very angry. My takeaway was that my interpersonal skills were so bad that I could easily offend people unintentionally, so I concluded that after graduation I should do something that involved as little human interaction as possible.

Therefore, I decided I needed to return to work in financial markets rather than attempting something else. I went to the career service office and told them that my primary goal after the MBA was to make money. I told them that \$500,000 sounded like a good number. They were very confused, though, as they said their goal was to help me find my passion and my calling. I told them that my calling was to make money for my family. They were trying to be helpful, but in my case, their advice didn’t turn out to be very helpful.

Eventually I was able to meet the chief financial officer of my favorite company, Costco. He told me that they don’t hire any MBAs. Everyone starts by pushing trolleys. (I have seriously thought about doing just that. But my wife is strongly against it.) Maybe, I thought, that is why the company is so successful—no MBAs!

...

Warren Buffett has said that the moment one was born in the United States or another Western country, that person has essentially won a lottery. If someone is born a U.S. citizen, he or she enjoys a huge advantage in almost every aspect of life, including expected wealth, education, health care, environment, safety, etc., when compared to someone born in developing countries. For someone foreign to “purchase” these privileges, the price tag at the moment is \$1 million dollars (the rough value of the EB-5 investment visa). Even at this price level, the demand from certain countries routinely exceeds the annual allocated quota, resulting in long waiting times. In that sense, American citizens were born millionaires!

Yet one wonders how long such luck will last. This brings me back to the title of Rubin’s book, his “uncertain world.” In such a world, the vast majority things are outside our control, determined by God or luck. After we have given our best and once the final card is drawn, we should neither become too excited by what we have achieved nor too depressed by what we failed to … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Christianity in China | Council on Foreign Relations
projected to outpace CCP membership soon

This fascinating map shows the new religious breakdown in China: http://www.businessinsider.com/new-religious-breakdown-in-china-14

Map Showing the Distribution of Christians in China: http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Oct/18/map-showing-distribution-christians-china/

Christianity in China: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_China
Accurate data on Chinese Christians is hard to access. According to the most recent internal surveys there are approximately 31 million Christians in China today (2.3% of the total population).[5] On the other hand, some international Christian organizations estimate there are tens of millions more, which choose not to publicly identify as such.[6] The practice of religion continues to be tightly controlled by government authorities.[7] Chinese over the age of 18 are only permitted to join officially sanctioned Christian groups registered with the government-approved Protestant Three-Self Church and China Christian Council and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church.[8]

In Xi we trust - Is China cracking down on Christianity?: http://www.dw.com/en/in-xi-we-trust-is-china-cracking-down-on-christianity/a-42224752A

In China, Unregistered Churches Are Driving a Religious Revolution: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/china-unregistered-churches-driving-religious-revolution/521544/

Cracks in the atheist edifice: https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21629218-rapid-spread-christianity-forcing-official-rethink-religion-cracks

Jesus won’t save you — President Xi Jinping will, Chinese Christians told: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/11/14/jesus-wont-save-you-president-xi-jinping-will-chinese-christians-told/

http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1001611/noodles-for-the-messiah-chinas-creative-christian-hymns

Catholics in China are split between those in “underground” communities that recognize the pope and those belonging to a state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association where bishops are appointed by the government in collaboration with local Church communities.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-42914029
The underground churches recognise only the Vatican's authority, whereas the Chinese state churches refuse to accept the authority of the Pope.

There are currently about 100 Catholic bishops in China, with some approved by Beijing, some approved by the Vatican and, informally, many now approved by both.

...

Under the agreement, the Vatican would be given a say in the appointment of future bishops in China, a Vatican source told news agency Reuters.

For Beijing, an agreement with the Vatican could allow them more control over the country's underground churches.

Globally, it would also enhance China's prestige - to have the world's rising superpower engaging with one of the world's major religions.

Symbolically, it would the first sign of rapprochement between China and the Catholic church in more than half a century.

The Vatican is the only European state that maintains formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It is currently unclear if an agreement between China and the Vatican would affect this in any way.

What will this mean for the country's Catholics?

There are currently around 10 million Roman Catholics in China.

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2018/02/06/china-is-the-best-implementer-of-catholic-social-doctrine-says-vatican-bishop/
The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences praised the 'extraordinary' Communist state

“Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese,” a senior Vatican official has said.

Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, praised the Communist state as “extraordinary”, saying: “You do not have shantytowns, you do not have drugs, young people do not take drugs”. Instead, there is a “positive national conscience”.

The bishop told the Spanish-language edition of Vatican Insider that in China “the economy does not dominate politics, as happens in the United States, something Americans themselves would say.”

Bishop Sánchez Sorondo said that China was implementing Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ better than many other countries and praised it for defending Paris Climate Accord. “In that, it is assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned”, he added.

...

As part of the diplomacy efforts, Bishop Sánchez Sorondo visited the country. “What I found was an extraordinary China,” he said. “What people don’t realise is that the central value in China is work, work, work. There’s no other way, fundamentally it is like St Paul said: he who doesn’t work, doesn’t eat.”

China reveals plan to remove ‘foreign influence’ from Catholic Church: http://catholicherald.co.uk/news/2018/06/02/china-reveals-plan-to-remove-foreign-influence-from-catholic-church1/

China, A Fourth Rome?: http://thermidormag.com/china-a-fourth-rome/
As a Chinaman born in the United States, I find myself able to speak to both places and neither. By accidents of fortune, however – or of providence, rather – I have identified more with China even as I have lived my whole life in the West. English is my third language, after Cantonese and Mandarin, even if I use it to express my intellectually most complex thoughts; and though my best of the three in writing, trained by the use of Latin, it is the vehicle of a Chinese soul. So it is in English that for the past year I have memed an idea as unconventional as it is ambitious, unto the Europæans a stumbling-block, and unto the Chinese foolishness: #China4thRome.

This idea I do not attempt to defend rigorously, between various powers’ conflicting claims to carrying on the Roman heritage; neither do I intend to claim that Moscow, which has seen itself as a Third Rome after the original Rome and then Constantinople, is fallen. Instead, I think back to the division of the Roman empire, first under Diocletian’s Tetrarchy and then at the death of Theodosius I, the last ruler of the undivided Roman empire. In the second partition, at the death of Theodosius, Arcadius became emperor of the East, with his capital in Constantinople, and Honorius emperor of the West, with his capital in Milan and then Ravenna. That the Roman empire did not stay uniformly strong under a plurality of emperors is not the point. What is significant about the administrative division of the Roman empire among several emperors is that the idea of Rome can be one even while its administration is diverse.

By divine providence, the Christian religion – and through it, Rome – has spread even through the bourgeois imperialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Across the world, the civil calendar of common use is that of Rome, reckoned from 1 January; few places has Roman law left wholly untouched. Nevertheless, never have we observed in the world of Roman culture an ethnogenetic pattern like that of the Chinese empire as described by the prologue of Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義: ‘The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.’1 According to classical Chinese cosmology, the phrase rendered the empire is more literally all under heaven 天下, the Chinese œcumene being its ‘all under heaven’ much as a Persian proverb speaks of the old Persian capital of Isfahan: ‘Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast,’ Isfahan is half the world. As sociologist Fei Xiaotong describes it in his 1988 Tanner Lecture ‘Plurality and Unity in the Configuration of the Chinese People’,

...

And this Chinese œcumene has united and divided for centuries, even as those who live in it have recognized a fundamental unity. But Rome, unlike the Chinese empire, has lived on in multiple successor polities, sometimes several at once, without ever coming back together as one empire administered as one. Perhaps something of its character has instead uniquely suited it to being the spirit of a kind of broader world empire. As Dante says in De Monarchia, ‘As the human race, then, has an end, and this end is a means necessary to the universal end of nature, it follows that nature must have the means in view.’ He continues,

If these things are true, there is no doubt but that nature set apart in the world a place and a people for universal sovereignty; otherwise she would be deficient in herself, which is impossible. What was this place, and who this people, moreover, is sufficiently obvious in what has been said above, and in what shall be added further on. They were Rome and her citizens or people. On this subject our Poet [Vergil] has touched very subtly in his sixth book [of the Æneid], where he brings forward Anchises prophesying in these words to Aeneas, father of the Romans: ‘Verily, that others shall beat out the breathing bronze more finely, I grant you; they shall carve the living feature in the marble, plead causes with more eloquence, and trace the movements of the heavens with a rod, and name the rising stars: thine, O Roman, be the care to rule the peoples with authority; be thy arts these, to teach men the way of peace, to show mercy to the subject, and to overcome the proud.’ And the disposition of place he touches upon lightly in the fourth book, when he introduces Jupiter speaking of Aeneas to Mercury in this fashion: ‘Not such a one did his most beautiful mother promise to us, nor for this twice rescue him from Grecian arms; rather was he to be the man to govern Italy teeming with empire and tumultuous with war.’ Proof enough has been given that the Romans were by nature ordained for sovereignty. Therefore the Roman … [more]
org:ngo  trends  foreign-policy  china  asia  hmm  idk  religion  christianity  theos  anomie  meaningness  community  egalitarianism-hierarchy  protestant-catholic  demographics  time-series  government  leadership  nationalism-globalism  org:data  comparison  sinosphere  civic  the-bones  power  great-powers  thucydides  multi  maps  data  visualization  pro-rata  distribution  geography  within-group  wiki  reference  article  news  org:lite  org:biz  islam  buddhism  org:euro  authoritarianism  antidemos  leviathan  regulation  civil-liberty  chart  absolute-relative  org:mag  org:rec  org:anglo  org:foreign  music  culture  gnon  org:popup  🐸  memes(ew)  essay  rhetoric  conquest-empire  flux-stasis  spreading  paradox  analytical-holistic  tradeoffs  solzhenitsyn  spengler  nietzschean  europe  the-great-west-whale  occident  orient  literature  big-peeps  history  medieval  mediterranean  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  expansionism  early-modern  society  civilization  world  MENA  capital  capitalism  innovation  race  alien-character  optimat
january 2018 by nhaliday
The rate of return on everything - Marginal REVOLUTION
Here is what I learned from the paper itself:

1. Risky assets such as equities and residential real estate average about 7% gains per year in real terms.  Housing outperformed equity before WWII, vice versa after WWII.  In any case it is a puzzle that housing returns are less volatile but about at the same level as equity returns over a broader time span.
2. Equity and housing gains have a relatively low covariance.  Buy both!
3. Equity returns across countries have become increasingly correlated, housing returns not.
4. The return on real safe assets is much more volatile than you might think.
5. The equity premium is volatile too.
6. The authors find support for Piketty’s r > g, except near periods of war.  Furthermore, the gap between r and g does not seem to be correlated with the growth rate of the economy.

I found this to be one of the best and most interesting papers of the year.
econotariat  marginal-rev  commentary  study  summary  economics  macro  investing  ORFE  securities  data  street-fighting  objektbuch  scale  time-preference  cost-benefit  outcome-risk  housing  money  monetary-fiscal  debt  history  mostly-modern  world-war  trends  correlation  moments  growth-econ  inequality  piketty  stylized-facts  war  meta:war
december 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Remarks on the Decline of American Empire
1. US foreign policy over the last decades has been disastrous -- trillions of dollars and thousands of lives expended on Middle Eastern wars, culminating in utter defeat. This defeat is still not acknowledged among most of the media or what passes for intelligentsia in academia and policy circles, but defeat it is. Iran now exerts significant control over Iraq and a swath of land running from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. None of the goals of our costly intervention have been achieved. We are exhausted morally, financially, and militarily, and still have not fully extricated ourselves from a useless morass. George W. Bush should go down in history as the worst US President of the modern era.

2. We are fortunate that the fracking revolution may lead to US independence from Middle Eastern energy. But policy elites have to fully recognize this possibility and pivot our strategy to reflect the decreased importance of the region. The fracking revolution is a consequence of basic research from decades ago (including investment from the Department of Energy) and the work of private sector innovators and risk-takers.

3. US budget deficits are a ticking time bomb, which cripple investment in basic infrastructure and also in research that creates strategically important new technologies like AI. US research spending has been roughly flat in inflation adjusted dollars over the last 20 years, declining as a fraction of GDP.

4. Divisive identity politics and demographic trends in the US will continue to undermine political cohesion and overall effectiveness of our institutions. ("Civilizational decline," as one leading theoretical physicist observed to me recently, remarking on our current inability to take on big science projects.)

5. The Chinese have almost entirely closed the technology gap with the West, and dominate important areas of manufacturing. It seems very likely that their economy will eventually become significantly larger than the US economy. This is the world that strategists have to prepare for. Wars involving religious fanatics in unimportant regions of the world should not distract us from a possible future conflict with a peer competitor that threatens to match or exceed our economic, technological, and even military capability.

However, I'm not sure that OBOR (One Belt One Road) and a focus on the "world island" of Eurasia will be a winning strategy for China. Mackinder's dream of a unified or even fully economically integrated world island will have to overcome the limitations (in human capital, institutions, culture, etc.) of the under-developed middle...

The belt-and-road express: China faces resistance to a cherished theme of its foreign policy: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21721678-silk-routes-are-not-always-appealing-they-sound-china-faces-resistance-cherished-theme

The staggering scale of China's Belt and Road initiative: https://www.axios.com/staggering-scale-china-infrastructure-142f3b1d-82b5-47b8-8ca9-57beb306f7df.html
hsu  scitariat  commentary  video  interview  usa  great-powers  thucydides  rot  MENA  war  iran  iraq-syria  energy-resources  biophysical-econ  the-world-is-just-atoms  geopolitics  foreign-policy  china  asia  expansionism  trade  science  infrastructure  nationalism-globalism  conquest-empire  gibbon  cohesion  identity-politics  demographics  realpolitik  heavy-industry  innovation  duty  honor  integrity  virtu  values  cycles  oscillation  time  age-generation  self-interest  agri-mindset  interests  civilization  multi  news  org:lite  data  analysis  summary  scale  transportation  money  monetary-fiscal  strategy  debt  investing  maps  geography  org:rec  org:anglo  org:biz  trends  current-events  sinosphere  world  europe  definite-planning
november 2017 by nhaliday
Estimation of effect size distribution from genome-wide association studies and implications for future discoveries
We report a set of tools to estimate the number of susceptibility loci and the distribution of their effect sizes for a trait on the basis of discoveries from existing genome-wide association studies (GWASs). We propose statistical power calculations for future GWASs using estimated distributions of effect sizes. Using reported GWAS findings for height, Crohn’s disease and breast, prostate and colorectal (BPC) cancers, we determine that each of these traits is likely to harbor additional loci within the spectrum of low-penetrance common variants. These loci, which can be identified from sufficiently powerful GWASs, together could explain at least 15–20% of the known heritability of these traits. However, for BPC cancers, which have modest familial aggregation, our analysis suggests that risk models based on common variants alone will have modest discriminatory power (63.5% area under curve), even with new discoveries.

later paper:
Distribution of allele frequencies and effect sizes and their interrelationships for common genetic susceptibility variants: http://www.pnas.org/content/108/44/18026.full

Recent discoveries of hundreds of common susceptibility SNPs from genome-wide association studies provide a unique opportunity to examine population genetic models for complex traits. In this report, we investigate distributions of various population genetic parameters and their interrelationships using estimates of allele frequencies and effect-size parameters for about 400 susceptibility SNPs across a spectrum of qualitative and quantitative traits. We calibrate our analysis by statistical power for detection of SNPs to account for overrepresentation of variants with larger effect sizes in currently known SNPs that are expected due to statistical power for discovery. Across all qualitative disease traits, minor alleles conferred “risk” more often than “protection.” Across all traits, an inverse relationship existed between “regression effects” and allele frequencies. Both of these trends were remarkably strong for type I diabetes, a trait that is most likely to be influenced by selection, but were modest for other traits such as human height or late-onset diseases such as type II diabetes and cancers. Across all traits, the estimated effect-size distribution suggested the existence of increasingly large numbers of susceptibility SNPs with decreasingly small effects. For most traits, the set of SNPs with intermediate minor allele frequencies (5–20%) contained an unusually small number of susceptibility loci and explained a relatively small fraction of heritability compared with what would be expected from the distribution of SNPs in the general population. These trends could have several implications for future studies of common and uncommon variants.

...

Relationship Between Allele Frequency and Effect Size. We explored the relationship between allele frequency and effect size in different scales. An inverse relationship between the squared regression coefficient and f(1 − f) was observed consistently across different traits (Fig. 3). For a number of these traits, however, the strengths of these relationships become less pronounced after adjustment for ascertainment due to study power. The strength of the trend, as captured by the slope of the fitted line (Table 2), markedly varies between traits, with an almost 10-fold change between the two extremes of distinct types of traits. After adjustment, the most pronounced trend was seen for type I diabetes and Crohn’s disease among qualitative traits and LDL level among quantitative traits. In exploring the relationship between the frequency of the risk allele and the magnitude of the associated risk coefficient (Fig. S4), we observed a quadratic pattern that indicates increasing risk coefficients as the risk-allele frequency diverges away from 0.50 either toward 0 or toward 1. Thus, it appears that regression coefficients for common susceptibility SNPs increase in magnitude monotonically with decreasing minor-allele frequency, irrespective of whether the minor allele confers risk or protection. However, for some traits, such as type I diabetes, risk alleles were predominantly minor alleles, that is, they had frequencies of less than 0.50.
pdf  nibble  study  article  org:nat  🌞  biodet  genetics  population-genetics  GWAS  QTL  distribution  disease  cancer  stat-power  bioinformatics  magnitude  embodied  prediction  scale  scaling-up  variance-components  multi  missing-heritability  effect-size  regression  correlation  data
november 2017 by nhaliday
Static electricity - Wikipedia
Electrons can be exchanged between materials on contact; materials with weakly bound electrons tend to lose them while materials with sparsely filled outer shells tend to gain them. This is known as the triboelectric effect and results in one material becoming positively charged and the other negatively charged. The polarity and strength of the charge on a material once they are separated depends on their relative positions in the triboelectric series. The triboelectric effect is the main cause of static electricity as observed in everyday life, and in common high-school science demonstrations involving rubbing different materials together (e.g., fur against an acrylic rod). Contact-induced charge separation causes your hair to stand up and causes "static cling" (for example, a balloon rubbed against the hair becomes negatively charged; when near a wall, the charged balloon is attracted to positively charged particles in the wall, and can "cling" to it, appearing to be suspended against gravity).
nibble  wiki  reference  article  physics  electromag  embodied  curiosity  IEEE  dirty-hands  phys-energy  safety  data  magnitude  scale
november 2017 by nhaliday
Bouncing Off the Bottom | West Hunter
Actually going extinct would seem to be a bad thing, but a close call can, in principle, be a good thing.

Pathogens can be a heavy burden on a species, worse than a 50-lb sack of cement. Lifting that burden can have a big effect: we know that many species flourish madly once they escape their typical parasites. That’s often the case with invasive species. It’s also a major strategy in agriculture: crops often do best in a country far away from their place of origin – where the climate is familiar, but most parasites have been left behind. For example, rubber trees originated in South America, but they’re a lot easier to grow in Liberia or Malaysia.

Consider a situation with a really burdensome pathogen – one that specializes in and depends on a single host species. That pathogen has to find new host individuals every so often in order to survive, and in order for that to happen, the host population has to exceed a certain number, usually called the critical community size. That size depends on the parasite’s persistence and mode of propagation: it can vary over a huge range. CCS is something like a quarter of a million for measles, ~300 for chickenpox, surely smaller than that for Epstein-Barr.

A brush with extinction- say from an asteroid strike – might well take a species below the CCS for a number of its pathogens. If those pathogens were limited to that species, they’d go extinct: no more burden. That alone might be enough to generate a rapid recovery from the population bottleneck. Or a single, highly virulent pathogen might cause a population crash that resulted in the extinction of several of that species’s major pathogens – quite possibly including the virulent pathogen itself. It’s a bottleneck in time, rather than one in space as you often see in colonization.

Such positive effects could last a long time – things need not go back to the old normal. The flea-unbitten species might be able to survive and prosper in ecological niches that it couldn’t before. You might see a range expansion. New evolutionary paths could open up. That brush with extinction could be the making of them.

When you add it all up, you begin to wonder if a population crash isn’t just what the doctor ordered. Sure, it wouldn’t be fun to be one of the billions of casualties, but just think how much better off the billions living after the bottleneck will be. Don’t be selfish.
west-hunter  scitariat  ideas  speculation  discussion  parasites-microbiome  spreading  disease  scale  population  density  bio  nature  long-short-run  nihil  equilibrium  death  unintended-consequences  red-queen  tradeoffs  cost-benefit  gedanken
november 2017 by nhaliday
André Staltz - The Web began dying in 2014, here's how
It looks like nothing changed since 2014, but GOOG and FB now have direct influence over 70%+ of internet traffic.
techtariat  facebook  google  amazon  sv  tech  corporation  info-dynamics  media  internet  scale  vampire-squid  market-power  data  distribution  apple  trends  prediction  civil-liberty  privacy  anonymity  power  madisonian  business  analysis  winner-take-all  hci  mobile
november 2017 by nhaliday
[1709.01149] Biotechnology and the lifetime of technical civilizations
The number of people able to end Earth's technical civilization has heretofore been small. Emerging dual-use technologies, such as biotechnology, may give similar power to thousands or millions of individuals. To quantitatively investigate the ramifications of such a marked shift on the survival of both terrestrial and extraterrestrial technical civilizations, this paper presents a two-parameter model for civilizational lifespans, i.e. the quantity L in Drake's equation for the number of communicating extraterrestrial civilizations. One parameter characterizes the population lethality of a civilization's biotechnology and the other characterizes the civilization's psychosociology. L is demonstrated to be less than the inverse of the product of these two parameters. Using empiric data from Pubmed to inform the biotechnology parameter, the model predicts human civilization's median survival time as decades to centuries, even with optimistic psychosociological parameter values, thereby positioning biotechnology as a proximate threat to human civilization. For an ensemble of civilizations having some median calculated survival time, the model predicts that, after 80 times that duration, only one in 1024 civilizations will survive -- a tempo and degree of winnowing compatible with Hanson's "Great Filter." Thus, assuming that civilizations universally develop advanced biotechnology, before they become vigorous interstellar colonizers, the model provides a resolution to the Fermi paradox.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
“Editor’s Introduction to The New Economic History and the Industrial Revolution,” J. Mokyr (1998) | A Fine Theorem
I taught a fun three hours on the Industrial Revolution in my innovation PhD course this week. The absolutely incredible change in the condition of mankind that began in a tiny corner of Europe in an otherwise unremarkable 70-or-so years is totally fascinating. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath are so important to human history that I find it strange that we give people PhDs in social science without requiring at least some study of what happened.

My post today draws heavily on Joel Mokyr’s lovely, if lengthy, summary of what we know about the period. You really should read the whole thing, but if you know nothing about the IR, there are really five facts of great importance which you should be aware of.

1) The world was absurdly poor from the dawn of mankind until the late 1800s, everywhere.
2) The average person did not become richer, nor was overall economic growth particularly spectacular, during the Industrial Revolution; indeed, wages may have fallen between 1760 and 1830.
3) Major macro inventions, and growth, of the type seen in England in the late 1700s and early 1800s happened many times in human history.
4) It is hard for us today to understand how revolutionary ideas like “experimentation” or “probability” were.
5) The best explanations for “why England? why in the late 1700s? why did growth continue?” do not involve colonialism, slavery, or famous inventions.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Inferior Faunas | West Hunter
I mentioned South American paleontologists defending the honor of their extinct animals, and pointed  out how stupid that is. There are many similar cases: Jefferson vs Buffon on the wimpiness of North American mammals (as a reader pointed out),  biologists defending the prowess of marsupials in Australia (a losing proposition) , etc.

So, we need to establish the relative competitive abilities of different faunas and settle this, once and for all.

Basically, the smaller and more isolated, the less competitive.  Pretty much true for both plants and animals.

Islands do poorly. Not just dodos: Hawaiian species, for example, are generally losers: everything from outside is a threat.

something hidden: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/something-hidden/
I’m wondering of any of the Meridiungulata lineages did survive, unnoticed because they’re passing for insectivores or rats or whatever, just as tenrecs and golden moles did. . Obviously the big ones are extinct, probably the others as well, but until we’ve looked at the DNA of every little mammal in South America, the possibility exists.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Health Services as Credence Goods: A Field Experiment by Felix Gottschalk, Wanda Mimra, Christian Waibel :: SSRN
A test patient who does not need treatment is sent to 180 dentists to receive treatment recommendations. In the experiment, we vary two factors: First, the information that the patient signals to the dentist. Second, we vary the perceived socioeconomic status (SES) of the test patient. Furthermore, we collected data to construct several measures of short- and long-term demand and competition as well as dentist and practice characteristics. We find that the patient receives an overtreatment recommendation in _more than every fourth visit_. A low short-term demand, indicating excess capacities, leads to significantly more overtreatment recommendations. Physician density and their price level, however, do not have a significant effect on overtreatment. Furthermore, we observe significantly less overtreatment recommendations for the patient with higher SES compared to lower SES under standard information. More signalled information however does not significantly reduce overtreatment.

How much dentists are ethically concerned about overtreatment; a vignette-based survey in Switzerland: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4474445/
Are Dentists Overtreating Your Teeth?: https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/are-dentists-overtreating-your-teeth/
Have you had a rash of fillings after years of healthy teeth? The culprit may be “microcavities,” and not every dentist thinks they need to be treated, reports today’s Science Times.
How Dentists Rip Us Off: https://www.dentistat.com/ReaderDigestArticle.pdf

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130356647
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Tax Evasion and Inequality
This paper attempts to estimate the size and distribution of tax evasion in rich countries. We combine stratified random audits—the key source used to study tax evasion so far—with new micro-data leaked from two large offshore financial institutions, HSBC Switzerland (“Swiss leaks”) and Mossack Fonseca (“Panama Papers”). We match these data to population-wide wealth records in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. We find that tax evasion rises sharply with wealth, a phenomenon that random audits fail to capture. On average about 3% of personal taxes are evaded in Scandinavia, but this figure rises to about 30% in the top 0.01% of the wealth distribution, a group that includes households with more than \$40 million in net wealth. A simple model of the supply of tax evasion services can explain why evasion rises steeply with wealth. Taking tax evasion into account increases the rise in inequality seen in tax data since the 1970s markedly, highlighting the need to move beyond tax data to capture income and wealth at the top, even in countries where tax compliance is generally high. We also find that after reducing tax evasion—by using tax amnesties—tax evaders do not legally avoid taxes more. This result suggests that fighting tax evasion can be an effective way to collect more tax revenue from the ultra-wealthy.

Figure 1

America’s unreported economy: measuring the size, growth and determinants of income tax evasion in the U.S.: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10611-011-9346-x
This study empirically investigates the extent of noncompliance with the tax code and examines the determinants of federal income tax evasion in the U.S. Employing a refined version of Feige’s (Staff Papers, International Monetary Fund 33(4):768–881, 1986, 1989) General Currency Ratio (GCR) model to estimate a time series of unreported income as our measure of tax evasion, we find that 18–23% of total reportable income may not properly be reported to the IRS. This gives rise to a 2009 “tax gap” in the range of \$390–\$540 billion. As regards the determinants of tax noncompliance, we find that federal income tax evasion is an increasing function of the average effective federal income tax rate, the unemployment rate, the nominal interest rate, and per capita real GDP, and a decreasing function of the IRS audit rate. Despite important refinements of the traditional currency ratio approach for estimating the aggregate size and growth of unreported economies, we conclude that the sensitivity of the results to different benchmarks, imperfect data sources and alternative specifying assumptions precludes obtaining results of sufficient accuracy and reliability to serve as effective policy guides.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Peter Turchin Catalonia Independence Drive: a Case-Study in Applied Cultural Evolution - Peter Turchin
The theoretically interesting question is what is the optimal size of a politically independent unit (“polity”) in today’s world. Clearly, optimal size changes with time and social environment. We know empirically that the optimal size of a European state took a step up following 1500. As a result, the number of independent polities in Europe decreased from many hundreds in 1500 to just over 30 in 1900. The reason was the introduction of gunpowder that greatly elevated war intensity. The new evolutionary regime eliminated almost all of the small states, apart from a few special cases (like the Papacy or Monaco).

In today’s Europe, however, war has ceased to be an evolutionary force. It may change, but since 1945 the success or failure of European polities has been largely determined by their ability to deliver high levels of living standards to their citizens. Economics is not the only aspect of well-being, but let’s focus on it here because it is clearly the main driver behind Catalonian independence (since culturally and linguistically Catalonia has been given a free rein within Spain).

...

This is applied cultural evolution. We can have lots of theories and models about the optimal polity size, but they are worthless without data.

And it’s much more than a scientific issue. The only way for our societies to become better in all kinds of ways (wealthier, more just, more efficient) is to allow cultural evolution a free rein. More specifically, we need cultural group selection at the level of polities. A major problem for the humanity is finding ways to have such cultural group selection to take place without violence. Which is why I find the current moves by Madrid to suppress the Catalonian independence vote by force criminally reckless. It seems that Madrid still wants to go back to the world as it was in the nineteenth century (or more accurately, Europe between 1500 and 1900).

A World of 1,000 Nations: http://www.unz.com/akarlin/a-world-of-1000-nations/

Brief note on Catalonia: https://nintil.com/brief-note-on-catalonia/
This could be just another footnote in a history book, or an opening passage in the chapter that explains how you got an explosion in the number of states that began around 2017.

Imagine for a moment that an ethnic group declared a referendum of independence in an Asian country and the nation state in question promptly sought to take the act of rebellion down. Imagine that in the ensuing chaos over 800 people were injured in a brutal police crackdown. Imagine the international disgust if this had happened in Asia, or the Middle East, or Latin America, or even in parts of Eastern and Central Europe. There would be calls for interventions, the topic would be urgently raised at the Security Council —and there might even be talks of sanctions or the arming of moderate rebels.

Of course, nothing of that sort happened as the Spanish state declared the Catalonian independence referendum a farce.

...

Remarkably, EU officials have largely remained mute. France’s new great hope, Monsieur Macron has sheepishly supported Spain’s “constitutional unity,” which is weasel-speak for national sovereignty—a concept which is so often dismissed by the very same European nations if it happens immediately outside the geographical region of EU. And this attitude towards nationalism—that it is archaic and obsolete on the one hand, but vitally important on the other—is the core paradox, and, some would say, hypocrisy, that has been laid bare by this sudden outbreak of tension.

It is a hypocrisy because one could argue that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been a consistent and very real attempt to undermine sovereignty in many different parts of the world. To be fair, this has been done with mostly good intentions in the name of institutionalism and global governance, the “responsibility to protect” and universal human rights. With history in the Hegelian sense seemingly over after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, nationalism and great power politics were thought to be a thing of the past—a quaint absurdity—an irrelevance and a barrier to true Enlightenment. But unfortunately history does tend to have a sardonic sense of humour.

The entire European project was built on two fundamentally different ideas. One that promotes economic welfare based on borderless free trade, the free market and social individualism. And the other, promoting a centralized hierarchy, an elite in loco parentis which makes decisions about how many calories one should consume, what plastic one should import, and what gross picture of shredded lungs one should see on the front of a cigarette packet. It endorses sovereignty when it means rule by democracy and the protection of human rights, but not when countries decide to control their borders or their individual monetary and economic policies. Over time, defending these contradictions has become increasingly difficult, with cynical onlookers accusing technocrats of defending an unjustifiable and arbitrary set of principles.

All of this has resulted in three things. Regional ethnic groups in Europe have seen the examples of ethnic groups abroad undermining their own national governments, and they have picked up on these lessons. They also possess the same revolutionary technology—Twitter and the iPhone. Secondly, as Westphalian nation-states have been undermined repeatedly by borderless technocrats, identity movements based on ethnicity have begun to rise up. Humans, tribal at their very core, will always give in to the urge of having a cohesive social group to join, and a flag to wave high. And finally, there really is no logical counterargument to Catalans or Scots wanting to break apart from one union while staying in another. If ultimately, everything is going to be dictated by a handful of liege-lords in Brussels—why even obey the middle-man in Madrid or London?

https://archive.is/WKfIA
Spain should have either forcibly assimilated Catalonia as France did with its foreign regions, or established a formal federation of states
--
ah those are the premodern and modern methods. The postmodern method is to bring in lots of immigrants (who will vote against separation)
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Which industries are the most liberal and most conservative?
How Democratic or Republican is your job? This tool tells you: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/06/03/how-democratic-or-republican-is-your-job-this-tool-tells-you/?utm_term=.e19707abd9f1

http://verdantlabs.com/politics_of_professions/index.html

What you do and how you vote: http://www.pleeps.org/2017/01/07/what-you-do-and-how-you-vote/

The Legal Academy's Ideological Uniformity: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2953087

Homogenous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1007/s12129-018-9700-x
includes crosstab by discipline

Neil Gross, Solon Simmons
THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL VIEWS OF AMERICAN PROFESSORS

another crosstab
description of data sampling on page 21, meant to be representative of all undergraduate degree-granting institutions

Computer science 32.3 58.1 9.7

It’s finally out–The big review paper on the lack of political diversity in social psychology: https://heterodoxacademy.org/2015/09/14/bbs-paper-on-lack-of-political-diversity/
http://righteousmind.com/viewpoint-diversity/
http://quillette.com/2017/07/06/social-sciences-undergoing-purity-spiral/
What’s interesting about Haidt’s alternative interpretation of the liberal progress narrative is that he mentions two elements central to the narrative—private property and nations. And what has happened to a large extent is that as the failures of communism have become increasingly apparent many on the left—including social scientists—have shifted their activism away from opposing private property and towards other aspects, for example globalism.

But how do we know a similarly disastrous thing is not going to happen with globalism as happened with communism? What if some form of national and ethnic affiliation is a deep-seated part of human nature, and that trying to forcefully suppress it will eventually lead to a disastrous counter-reaction? What if nations don’t create conflict, but alleviate it? What if a decentralised structure is the best way for human society to function?
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Caught in the act | West Hunter
The fossil record is sparse. Let me try to explain that. We have at most a few hundred Neanderthal skeletons, most in pretty poor shape. How many Neanderthals ever lived? I think their population varied in size quite a bit – lowest during glacial maxima, probably highest in interglacials. Their degree of genetic diversity suggests an effective population size of ~1000, but that would be dominated by the low points (harmonic average). So let’s say 50,000 on average, over their whole range (Europe, central Asia, the Levant, perhaps more). Say they were around for 300,000 years, with a generation time of 30 years – 10,000 generations, for a total of five hundred million Neanderthals over all time. So one in a million Neanderthals ends up in a museum: one every 20 generations. Low time resolution!

So if anatomically modern humans rapidly wiped out Neanderthals, we probably couldn’t tell. In much the same way, you don’t expect to find the remains of many dinosaurs killed by the Cretaceous meteor impact (at most one millionth of one generation, right?), or of Columbian mammoths killed by a wave of Amerindian hunters. Sometimes invaders leave a bigger footprint: a bunch of cities burning down with no rebuilding tells you something. But even when you know that population A completely replaced population B, it can be hard to prove that just how it happened. After all, population A could have all committed suicide just before B showed up. Stranger things have happened – but not often.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Atrocity statistics from the Roman Era
Gibbon, Decline & Fall v.2 ch.XVI: < 2,000 k. under Roman persecution.
Ludwig Hertling ("Die Zahl de Märtyrer bis 313", 1944) estimated 100,000 Christians killed between 30 and 313 CE. (cited -- unfavorably -- by David Henige, Numbers From Nowhere, 1998)
Catholic Encyclopedia, "Martyr": number of Christian martyrs under the Romans unknown, unknowable. Origen says not many. Eusebius says thousands.

...

General population decline during The Fall of Rome: 7,000,000 [make link]
- Colin McEvedy, The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History (1992)
- From 2nd Century CE to 4th Century CE: Empire's population declined from 45M to 36M [i.e. 9M]
- From 400 CE to 600 CE: Empire's population declined by 20% [i.e. 7.2M]
- Paul Bairoch, Cities and economic development: from the dawn of history to the present, p.111
- "The population of Europe except Russia, then, having apparently reached a high point of some 40-55 million people by the start of the third century [ca.200 C.E.], seems to have fallen by the year 500 to about 30-40 million, bottoming out at about 20-35 million around 600." [i.e. ca.20M]
- Francois Crouzet, A History of the European Economy, 1000-2000 (University Press of Virginia: 2001) p.1.
- "The population of Europe (west of the Urals) in c. AD 200 has been estimated at 36 million; by 600, it had fallen to 26 million; another estimate (excluding ‘Russia’) gives a more drastic fall, from 44 to 22 million." [i.e. 10M or 22M]

also:
The geometric mean of these two extremes would come to 4½ per day, which is a credible daily rate for the really bad years.

why geometric mean? can you get it as the MLE given min{X1, ..., Xn} and max{X1, ..., Xn} for {X_i} iid Poissons? some kinda limit? think it might just be a rule of thumb.

yeah, it's a rule of thumb. found it it his book (epub).
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september 2017 by nhaliday
tcjfs on Twitter: "Yearly legal permanent residencies 1996-2015 with a bit more disaggregated and common-sensical designations than DHS https://t.co/167ms5Xr0s"
https://archive.is/70nNG
https://archive.is/5U3Mi
Asian origin according to Department of Homeland Security
not sure tbh. i was just trying to disaggregate "Asian immigration" and I was like holy shit some of these places I would never include

U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents: 2014: https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Lawful_Permanent_Residents_2014.pdf
Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics/yearbook

https://archive.is/pRTqS
Foreign born population by Chinese, Indian, Mexican birth whose residence one year ago was abroad, 2000-2013
The above chart, extended to 2000-2016, with Mexico but also all of Latin/Central/South America:
our latin american immigrants are probably getting less "huwhite"
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Medicine as a pseudoscience | West Hunter
The idea that venesection was a good thing, or at least not so bad, on the grounds that one in a few hundred people have hemochromatosis (in Northern Europe) reminds me of the people who don’t wear a seatbelt, since it would keep them from being thrown out of their convertible into a waiting haystack, complete with nubile farmer’s daughter. Daughters. It could happen. But it’s not the way to bet.

Back in the good old days, Charles II, age 53, had a fit one Sunday evening, while fondling two of his mistresses.

Monday they bled him (cupping and scarifying) of eight ounces of blood. Followed by an antimony emetic, vitriol in peony water, purgative pills, and a clyster. Followed by another clyster after two hours. Then syrup of blackthorn, more antimony, and rock salt. Next, more laxatives, white hellebore root up the nostrils. Powdered cowslip flowers. More purgatives. Then Spanish Fly. They shaved his head and stuck blistering plasters all over it, plastered the soles of his feet with tar and pigeon-dung, then said good-night.

...

Friday. The king was worse. He tells them not to let poor Nelly starve. They try the Oriental Bezoar Stone, and more bleeding. Dies at noon.

Most people didn’t suffer this kind of problem with doctors, since they never saw one. Charles had six. Now Bach and Handel saw the same eye surgeon, John Taylor – who blinded both of them. Not everyone can put that on his resume!

You may wonder how medicine continued to exist, if it had a negative effect, on the whole. There’s always the placebo effect – at least there would be, if it existed. Any real placebo effect is very small: I’d guess exactly zero. But there is regression to the mean. You see the doctor when you’re feeling worse than average – and afterwards, if he doesn’t kill you outright, you’re likely to feel better. Which would have happened whether you’d seen him or not, but they didn’t often do RCTs back in the day – I think James Lind was the first (1747).

Back in the late 19th century, Christian Scientists did better than others when sick, because they didn’t believe in medicine. For reasons I think mistaken, because Mary Baker Eddy rejected the reality of the entire material world, but hey, it worked. Parenthetically, what triggered all that New Age nonsense in 19th century New England? Hash?

This did not change until fairly recently. Sometime in the early 20th medicine, clinical medicine, what doctors do, hit break-even. Now we can’t do without it. I wonder if there are, or will be, other examples of such a pile of crap turning (mostly) into a real science.

The brilliant GP I've had for 35+ years has retired. How can I find another one who meets my requirements?

1 is overweight
2 drinks more than officially recommended amounts
3 has an amused, tolerant atitude to human failings
4 is well aware that we're all going to die anyway, & there are better or worse ways to die
5 has a healthy skeptical attitude to mainstream medical science
6 is wholly dismissive of "a|ternative” medicine
7 believes in evolution
8 thinks most diseases get better without intervention, & knows the dangers of false positives
9 understands the base rate fallacy

EconPapers: Was Civil War Surgery Effective?: http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/htrhcecon/444.htm
contra Greg Cochran:
To shed light on the subject, I analyze a data set created by Dr. Edmund Andrews, a Civil war surgeon with the 1st Illinois Light Artillery. Dr. Andrews’s data can be rendered into an observational data set on surgical intervention and recovery, with controls for wound location and severity. The data also admits instruments for the surgical decision. My analysis suggests that Civil War surgery was effective, and increased the probability of survival of the typical wounded soldier, with average treatment effect of 0.25-0.28.

Medical Prehistory: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/
What ancient medical treatments worked?

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76878
In some very, very limited conditions, bleeding?
--
Bad for you 99% of the time.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76947
Colchicine – used to treat gout – discovered by the Ancient Greeks.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76973
Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm)
Wrap the emerging end of the worm around a stick and slowly pull it out.
(3,500 years later, this remains the standard treatment.)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebers_Papyrus

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/#comment-76971
Some of the progress is from formal medicine, most is from civil engineering, better nutrition ( ag science and physical chemistry), less crowded housing.

Nurses vs doctors: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/nurses-vs-doctors/
Medicine, the things that doctors do, was an ineffective pseudoscience until fairly recently. Until 1800 or so, they were wrong about almost everything. Bleeding, cupping, purging, the four humors – useless. In the 1800s, some began to realize that they were wrong, and became medical nihilists that improved outcomes by doing less. Some patients themselves came to this realization, as when Civil War casualties hid from the surgeons and had better outcomes. Sometime in the early 20th century, MDs reached break-even, and became an increasingly positive influence on human health. As Lewis Thomas said, medicine is the youngest science.

Nursing, on the other hand, has always been useful. Just making sure that a patient is warm and nourished when too sick to take care of himself has helped many survive. In fact, some of the truly crushing epidemics have been greatly exacerbated when there were too few healthy people to take care of the sick.

Nursing must be old, but it can’t have existed forever. Whenever it came into existence, it must have changed the selective forces acting on the human immune system. Before nursing, being sufficiently incapacitated would have been uniformly fatal – afterwards, immune responses that involved a period of incapacitation (with eventual recovery) could have been selectively favored.

when MDs broke even: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/nurses-vs-doctors/#comment-58981
I’d guess the 1930s. Lewis Thomas thought that he was living through big changes. They had a working serum therapy for lobar pneumonia ( antibody-based). They had many new vaccines ( diphtheria in 1923, whopping cough in 1926, BCG and tetanus in 1927, yellow fever in 1935, typhus in 1937.) Vitamins had been mostly worked out. Insulin was discovered in 1929. Blood transfusions. The sulfa drugs, first broad-spectrum antibiotics, showed up in 1935.

DALYs per doctor: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/
The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden – the number of years lost. I’m wondering just much harm premodern medicine did, per doctor. How many healthy years of life did a typical doctor destroy (net) in past times?

...

It looks as if the average doctor (in Western medicine) killed a bunch of people over his career ( when contrasted with doing nothing). In the Charles Manson class.

Eventually the market saw through this illusion. Only took a couple of thousand years.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100741
That a very large part of healthcare spending is done for non-health reasons. He has a chapter on this in his new book, also check out his paper “Showing That You Care: The Evolution of Health Altruism” http://mason.gmu.edu/~rhanson/showcare.pdf
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I ran into too much stupidity to finish the article. Hanson’s a loon. For example when he talks about the paradox of blacks being more sentenced on drug offenses than whites although they use drugs at similar rate. No paradox: guys go to the big house for dealing, not for using. Where does he live – Mars?

I had the same reaction when Hanson parroted some dipshit anthropologist arguing that the stupid things people do while drunk are due to social expectations, not really the alcohol.
Horseshit.

I don’t think that being totally unable to understand everybody around you necessarily leads to deep insights.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100744
What I’ve wondered is if there was anything that doctors did that actually was helpful and if perhaps that little bit of success helped them fool people into thinking the rest of it helped.
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Setting bones. extracting arrows: spoon of Diocles. Colchicine for gout. Extracting the Guinea worm. Sometimes they got away with removing the stone. There must be others.
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Quinine is relatively recent: post-1500. Obstetrical forceps also. Caesarean deliveries were almost always fatal to the mother until fairly recently.

Opium has been around for a long while : it works.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100839
If pre-modern medicine was indeed worse than useless – how do you explain no one noticing that patients who get expensive treatments are worse off than those who didn’t?
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were worse off. People are kinda dumb – you’ve noticed?
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My impression is that while people may be “kinda dumb”, ancient customs typically aren’t.
Even if we assume that all people who lived prior to the 19th century were too dumb to make the rational observation, wouldn’t you expect this ancient practice to be subject to selective pressure?
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Your impression is wrong. Do you think that there some slick reason for Carthaginians incinerating their first-born?

details on blood-letting and hemochromatosis: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100746

Starting Over: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/starting-over/
Looking back on it, human health would have … [more]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Demography of the Roman Empire - Wikipedia
There are few recorded population numbers for the whole of antiquity, and those that exist are often rhetorical or symbolic. Unlike the contemporaneous Han Dynasty, no general census survives for the Roman Empire. The late period of the Roman Republic provides a small exception to this general rule: serial statistics for Roman citizen numbers, taken from census returns, survive for the early Republic through the 1st century CE.[41] Only the figures for periods after the mid-3rd century BCE are reliable, however. Fourteen figures are available for the 2nd century BCE (from 258,318 to 394,736). Only four figures are available for the 1st century BCE, and are feature a large break between 70/69 BCE (910,000) and 28 BCE (4,063,000). The interpretation of the later figures—the Augustan censuses of 28 BCE, 8 BCE, and 14 CE—is therefore controversial.[42] Alternate interpretations of the Augustan censuses (such as those of E. Lo Cascio[43]) produce divergent population histories across the whole imperial period.[44]

Roman population size: the logic of the debate: https://www.princeton.edu/~pswpc/pdfs/scheidel/070706.pdf
- Walter Scheidel (cited in book by Vaclav Smil, "Why America is Not a New Rome")

Our ignorance of ancient population numbers is one of the biggest obstacles to our understanding of Roman history. After generations of prolific scholarship, we still do not know how many people inhabited Roman Italy and the Mediterranean at any given point in time. When I say ‘we do not know’ I do not simply mean that we lack numbers that are both precise and safely known to be accurate: that would surely be an unreasonably high standard to apply to any pre-modern society. What I mean is that even the appropriate order of magnitude remains a matter of intense dispute.

Historical urban community sizes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_urban_community_sizes

World population estimates: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population_estimates
As a general rule, the confidence of estimates on historical world population decreases for the more distant past. Robust population data only exists for the last two or three centuries. Until the late 18th century, few governments had ever performed an accurate census. In many early attempts, such as in Ancient Egypt and the Persian Empire, the focus was on counting merely a subset of the population for purposes of taxation or military service.[3] Published estimates for the 1st century ("AD 1") suggest an uncertainty of the order of 50% (estimates range between 150 and 330 million). Some estimates extend their timeline into deep prehistory, to "10,000 BC", i.e. the early Holocene, when world population estimates range roughly between one and ten million (with an uncertainty of up to an order of magnitude).[4][5]

Estimates for yet deeper prehistory, into the Paleolithic, are of a different nature. At this time human populations consisted entirely of non-sedentary hunter-gatherer populations, with anatomically modern humans existing alongside archaic human varieties, some of which are still ancestral to the modern human population due to interbreeding with modern humans during the Upper Paleolithic. Estimates of the size of these populations are a topic of paleoanthropology. A late human population bottleneck is postulated by some scholars at approximately 70,000 years ago, during the Toba catastrophe, when Homo sapiens population may have dropped to as low as between 1,000 and 10,000 individuals.[6][7] For the time of speciation of Homo sapiens, some 200,000 years ago, an effective population size of the order of 10,000 to 30,000 individuals has been estimated, with an actual "census population" of early Homo sapiens of roughly 100,000 to 300,000 individuals.[8]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
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