nhaliday + speculation   308

Society of Mind - Wikipedia
A core tenet of Minsky's philosophy is that "minds are what brains do". The society of mind theory views the human mind and any other naturally evolved cognitive systems as a vast society of individually simple processes known as agents. These processes are the fundamental thinking entities from which minds are built, and together produce the many abilities we attribute to minds. The great power in viewing a mind as a society of agents, as opposed to the consequence of some basic principle or some simple formal system, is that different agents can be based on different types of processes with different purposes, ways of representing knowledge, and methods for producing results.

This idea is perhaps best summarized by the following quote:

What magical trick makes us intelligent? The trick is that there is no trick. The power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity, not from any single, perfect principle. —Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind, p. 308

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

The modular organization of human anatomical
brain networks: Accounting for the cost of wiring: https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1162/NETN_a_00002
Brain networks are expected to be modular. However, existing techniques for estimating a network’s modules make it difficult to assess the influence of organizational principles such as wiring cost reduction on the detected modules. Here we present a modification of an existing module detection algorithm that allowed us to focus on connections that are unexpected under a cost-reduction wiring rule and to identify modules from among these connections. We applied this technique to anatomical brain networks and showed that the modules we detected differ from those detected using the standard technique. We demonstrated that these novel modules are spatially distributed, exhibit unique functional fingerprints, and overlap considerably with rich clubs, giving rise to an alternative and complementary interpretation of the functional roles of specific brain regions. Finally, we demonstrated that, using the modified module detection approach, we can detect modules in a developmental dataset that track normative patterns of maturation. Collectively, these findings support the hypothesis that brain networks are composed of modules and provide additional insight into the function of those modules.
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7 weeks ago by nhaliday
Theories of humor - Wikipedia
There are many theories of humor which attempt to explain what humor is, what social functions it serves, and what would be considered humorous. Among the prevailing types of theories that attempt to account for the existence of humor, there are psychological theories, the vast majority of which consider humor to be very healthy behavior; there are spiritual theories, which consider humor to be an inexplicable mystery, very much like a mystical experience.[1] Although various classical theories of humor and laughter may be found, in contemporary academic literature, three theories of humor appear repeatedly: relief theory, superiority theory, and incongruity theory.[2] Among current humor researchers, there is no consensus about which of these three theories of humor is most viable.[2] Proponents of each one originally claimed their theory to be capable of explaining all cases of humor.[2][3] However, they now acknowledge that although each theory generally covers its own area of focus, many instances of humor can be explained by more than one theory.[2][3][4][5] Incongruity and superiority theories, for instance, seem to describe complementary mechanisms which together create humor.[6]

...

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

https://twitter.com/search?q=comedy%20OR%20humor%20OR%20humour%20from%3Asarahdoingthing&src=typd
https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/500000435529195520

https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/568346955811663872
https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/600792582453465088
https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/603215362033778688
https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/605051508472713216
https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/606197597699604481
https://twitter.com/sarahdoingthing/status/753514548787683328

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

...

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

...

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

...

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

Furthermore, humorous people are perceived by others to be more cheerful but less intellectual than nonhumorous people. Self-deprecating humour has been found to increase the desirability of physically attractive others for committed relationships.[19] The results of a study conducted by McMaster University suggest humour can positively affect one’s desirability for a specific relationship partner, but this effect is only most likely to occur when men use humour and are evaluated by women.[24] No evidence was found to suggest men prefer women with a sense of humour as partners, nor women preferring other women with a sense of humour as potential partners.[24] When women were given the forced-choice design in the study, they chose funny men as potential … [more]
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7 weeks ago 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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7 weeks ago by nhaliday
The Coming Technological Singularity
Within thirty years, we will have the technological
means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after,
the human era will be ended.

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

_What is The Singularity?_

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

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

What are the consequences of this event? When greater-than-human
intelligence drives progress, that progress will be much more rapid.
In fact, there seems no reason why progress itself would not involve
the creation of still more intelligent entities -- on a still-shorter
time scale. The best analogy that I see is with the evolutionary past:
Animals can adapt to problems and make inventions, but often no faster
than natural selection can do its work -- the world acts as its own
simulator in the case of natural selection. We humans have the ability
to internalize the world and conduct "what if's" in our heads; we can
solve many problems thousands of times faster than natural selection.
Now, by creating the means to execute those simulations at much higher
speeds, we are entering a regime as radically different from our human
past as we humans are from the lower animals.
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8 weeks ago by nhaliday
AI-complete - Wikipedia
In the field of artificial intelligence, the most difficult problems are informally known as AI-complete or AI-hard, implying that the difficulty of these computational problems is equivalent to that of solving the central artificial intelligence problem—making computers as intelligent as people, or strong AI.[1] To call a problem AI-complete reflects an attitude that it would not be solved by a simple specific algorithm.

AI-complete problems are hypothesised to include computer vision, natural language understanding, and dealing with unexpected circumstances while solving any real world problem.[2]

Currently, AI-complete problems cannot be solved with modern computer technology alone, but would also require human computation. This property can be useful, for instance to test for the presence of humans as with CAPTCHAs, and for computer security to circumvent brute-force attacks.[3][4]

...

AI-complete problems are hypothesised to include:

Bongard problems
Computer vision (and subproblems such as object recognition)
Natural language understanding (and subproblems such as text mining, machine translation, and word sense disambiguation[8])
Dealing with unexpected circumstances while solving any real world problem, whether it's navigation or planning or even the kind of reasoning done by expert systems.

...

Current AI systems can solve very simple and/or restricted versions of AI-complete problems, but never in their full generality. When AI researchers attempt to "scale up" their systems to handle more complicated, real world situations, the programs tend to become excessively brittle without commonsense knowledge or a rudimentary understanding of the situation: they fail as unexpected circumstances outside of its original problem context begin to appear. When human beings are dealing with new situations in the world, they are helped immensely by the fact that they know what to expect: they know what all things around them are, why they are there, what they are likely to do and so on. They can recognize unusual situations and adjust accordingly. A machine without strong AI has no other skills to fall back on.[9]
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8 weeks ago by nhaliday
Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios
https://twitter.com/robinhanson/status/981291048965087232
https://archive.is/dUTD5
Would you endorse choosing policy to max the expected duration of civilization, at least as a good first approximation?
Can anyone suggest a different first approximation that would get more votes?

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

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

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

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

Now that's a kind of standard fact of statistics, and there are methods for trying to correct for it and you obviously have to take that into account when considering the fish distribution in your pond. An observation selection effect is a selection effect introduced not by limitations in our measurement instrument, but rather by the fact that all observations require the existence of an observer. This becomes important, for instance, in evolutionary biology. For instance, we know that intelligent life evolved on Earth. Naively, one might think that this piece of evidence suggests that life is likely to evolve on most Earth-like planets. But that would be to overlook an observation selection effect. For no matter how small the proportion of all Earth-like planets that evolve intelligent life, we will find ourselves on a planet that did. Our data point-that intelligent life arose on our planet-is predicted equally well by the hypothesis that intelligent life is very improbable even on Earth-like planets as by the hypothesis that intelligent life is highly probable on Earth-like planets. When it comes to human extinction and existential risk, there are certain controversial ways that observation selection effects might be relevant.
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9 weeks ago by nhaliday
Adam Smith, David Hume, Liberalism, and Esotericism - Call for Papers - Elsevier
https://twitter.com/davidmanheim/status/963071765995032576
https://archive.is/njT4P
A very good economics journal--famously an outlet for rigorous, outside the box thinking--is publishing a special issue on hidden meanings in the work of two of the world's greatest thinkers.

Another sign the new Straussian age is upon us: Bayesians update accordingly!
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Anisogamy - Wikipedia
Anisogamy is a fundamental concept of sexual dimorphism that helps explain phenotypic differences between sexes.[3] In most species a male and female sex exist, both of which are optimized for reproductive potential. Due to their differently sized and shaped gametes, both males and females have developed physiological and behavioral differences that optimize the individual’s fecundity.[3] Since most egg laying females typically must bear the offspring and have a more limited reproductive cycle, this typically makes females a limiting factor in the reproductive success rate of males in a species. This process is also true for females selecting males, and assuming that males and females are selecting for different traits in partners, would result in phenotypic differences between the sexes over many generations. This hypothesis, known as the Bateman’s Principle, is used to understand the evolutionary pressures put on males and females due to anisogamy.[4] Although this assumption has criticism, it is a generally accepted model for sexual selection within anisogamous species. The selection for different traits depending on sex within the same species is known as sex-specific selection, and accounts for the differing phenotypes found between the sexes of the same species. This sex-specific selection between sexes over time also lead to the development of secondary sex characteristics, which assist males and females in reproductive success.

...

Since this process is very energy-demanding and time consuming for the female, mate choice is often integrated into the female’s behavior.[3] Females will often be very selective of the males they choose to reproduce with, for the phenotype of the male can be indicative of the male’s physical health and heritable traits. Females employ mate choice to pressure males into displaying their desirable traits to females through courtship, and if successful, the male gets to reproduce. This encourages males and females of specific species to invest in courtship behaviors as well as traits that can display physical health to a potential mate. This process, known as sexual selection,[3] results in the development of traits to ease reproductive success rather than individual survival, such as the inflated size of a termite queen. It is also important for females to select against potential mates that may have a sexually transmitted infection, for the disease could not only hurt the female’s reproductive ability, but also damage the resulting offspring.[7]

Although not uncommon in males, females are more associated with parental care.[8] Since females are on a more limited reproductive schedule than males, a female often invests more in protecting the offspring to sexual maturity than the male. Like mate choice, the level of parental care varies greatly between species, and is often dependent on the number of offspring produced per sexual encounter.[8]

...

Since females are often the limiting factor in a species reproductive success, males are often expected by the females to search and compete for the female, known as intraspecific competition.[4] This can be seen in organisms such as bean beetles, as the male that searches for females more frequently is often more successful at finding mates and reproducing. In species undergoing this form of selection, a fit male would be one that is fast, has more refined sensory organs, and spatial awareness.[4]

Darwinian sex roles confirmed across the animal kingdom: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/2/e1500983.full
Since Darwin’s conception of sexual selection theory, scientists have struggled to identify the evolutionary forces underlying the pervasive differences between male and female behavior, morphology, and physiology. The Darwin-Bateman paradigm predicts that anisogamy imposes stronger sexual selection on males, which, in turn, drives the evolution of conventional sex roles in terms of female-biased parental care and male-biased sexual dimorphism. Although this paradigm forms the cornerstone of modern sexual selection theory, it still remains untested across the animal tree of life. This lack of evidence has promoted the rise of alternative hypotheses arguing that sex differences are entirely driven by environmental factors or chance. We demonstrate that, across the animal kingdom, sexual selection, as captured by standard Bateman metrics, is indeed stronger in males than in females and that it is evolutionarily tied to sex biases in parental care and sexual dimorphism. Our findings provide the first comprehensive evidence that Darwin’s concept of conventional sex roles is accurate and refute recent criticism of sexual selection theory.

Coevolution of parental investment and sexually selected traits drives sex-role divergence: https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms12517
Sex-role evolution theory attempts to explain the origin and direction of male–female differences. A fundamental question is why anisogamy, the difference in gamete size that defines the sexes, has repeatedly led to large differences in subsequent parental care. Here we construct models to confirm predictions that individuals benefit less from caring when they face stronger sexual selection and/or lower certainty of parentage. However, we overturn the widely cited claim that a negative feedback between the operational sex ratio and the opportunity cost of care selects for egalitarian sex roles. We further argue that our model does not predict any effect of the adult sex ratio (ASR) that is independent of the source of ASR variation. Finally, to increase realism and unify earlier models, we allow for coevolution between parental investment and investment in sexually selected traits. Our model confirms that small initial differences in parental investment tend to increase due to positive evolutionary feedback, formally supporting long-standing, but unsubstantiated, verbal arguments.

Parental investment, sexual selection and sex ratios: http://www.kokkonuts.org/wp-content/uploads/Parental_investment_review.pdf
The second argument takes the reasonable premise that anisogamy produces a male-biased operational sex ratio (OSR) leading to males competing for mates. Male care is then predicted to be less likely to evolve as it consumes resources that could otherwise be used to increase competitiveness. However, given each offspring has precisely two genetic parents (the Fisher condition), a biased OSR generates frequency-dependent selection, analogous to Fisherian sex ratio selection, that favours increased parental investment by whichever sex faces more intense competition. Sex role divergence is therefore still an evolutionary conundrum. Here we review some possible solutions. Factors that promote conventional sex roles are sexual selection on males (but non-random variance in male mating success must be high to override the Fisher condition), loss of paternity because of female multiple mating or group spawning and patterns of mortality that generate female-biased adult sex ratios (ASR). We present an integrative model that shows how these factors interact to generate sex roles. We emphasize the need to distinguish between the ASR and the operational sex ratio (OSR). If mortality is higher when caring than competing this diminishes the likelihood of sex role divergence because this strongly limits the mating success of the earlier deserting sex. We illustrate this in a model where a change in relative mortality rates while caring and competing generates a shift from a mammalian type breeding system (female-only care, male-biased OSR and female-biased ASR) to an avian type system (biparental care and a male-biased OSR and ASR).

LATE FEMINISM: https://jacobitemag.com/2017/08/01/late-feminism/
Woman has had a good run. For 200,000 years humankind’s anisogamous better (and bigger) half has enjoyed a position of desirability and safety befitting a scarce commodity. She has also piloted the evolutionary destiny of our species, both as a sexual selector and an agitator during man’s Promethean journey. In terms of comfort and agency, the human female is uniquely privileged within the annals of terrestrial biology.

But the era of female privilege is ending, in a steady decline that began around 1572. Woman’s biological niche is being crowded out by capital.

...

Strictly speaking, the breadth of the coming changes extend beyond even civilizational dynamics. They will affect things that are prior. One of the oldest and most practical definitions for a biological species defines its boundary as the largest group of organisms where two individuals, via sexual reproduction, can produce fertile offspring together. The imminent arrival of new reproductive technologies will render the sexual reproduction criteria either irrelevant or massively expanded, depending upon one’s perspective. Fertility of the offspring is similarly of limited relevance, since the modification of gametes will be de rigueur in any case. What this looming technology heralds is less a social revolution than it is a full sympatric speciation event.

Accepting the inevitability of the coming bespoke reproductive revolution, consider a few questions & probable answers regarding our external-womb-grown ubermenschen:

Q: What traits will be selected for?

A: Ability to thrive in a global market economy (i.e. ability to generate value for capital.)

Q: What material substrate will generate the new genomes?

A: Capital equipment.

Q: Who will be making the selection?

A: People, at least initially, (and who coincidentally will be making decisions that map 1-to-1 to the interests of capital.)

_Replace any of the above instances of the word capital with women, and you would have accurate answers for most of our species’ history._

...

In terms of pure informational content, the supernova seen from earth can be represented in a singularly compressed way: a flash of light on a black field where there previously was none. A single photon in the cone of the eye, at the limit. Whether … [more]
biodet  deep-materialism  new-religion  evolution  eden  gender  gender-diff  concept  jargon  wiki  reference  bio  roots  explanans  🌞  ideas  EGT  sex  analysis  things  phalanges  matching  parenting  water  competition  egalitarianism-hierarchy  ranking  multi  study  org:nat  nature  meta-analysis  survey  solid-study  male-variability  darwinian  empirical  realness  sapiens  models  evopsych  legacy  investing  uncertainty  outcome-risk  decision-theory  pdf  life-history  chart  accelerationism  horror  capital  capitalism  similarity  analogy  land  gnon  🐸  europe  the-great-west-whale  industrial-revolution  science  kinship  n-factor  speculation  personality  creative  pop-diff  curiosity  altruism  cooperate-defect  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  civil-liberty  recent-selection  technocracy  frontier  futurism  prediction  quotes  aphorism  religion  theos  enhancement  biotech  revolution  insight  history  early-modern  gallic  philosophy  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  ci 
january 2018 by nhaliday
Books 2017 | West Hunter
Arabian Sands
The Aryans
The Big Show
The Camel and the Wheel
Civil War on Western Waters
Company Commander
Double-edged Secrets
The Forgotten Soldier
Genes in Conflict
Hive Mind
The horse, the wheel, and language
The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History
Habitable Planets for Man
The genetical theory of natural selection
The Rise of the Greeks
To Lose a Battle
The Jewish War
Tropical Gangsters
The Forgotten Revolution
Egil’s Saga
Shapers
Time Patrol

Russo: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/books-2017/#comment-98568
west-hunter  scitariat  books  recommendations  list  top-n  confluence  2017  info-foraging  canon  🔬  ideas  s:*  history  mostly-modern  world-war  britain  old-anglo  travel  MENA  frontier  reflection  europe  gallic  war  sapiens  antiquity  archaeology  technology  divergence  the-great-west-whale  transportation  nature  long-short-run  intel  tradecraft  japan  asia  usa  spearhead  garett-jones  hive-mind  economics  broad-econ  giants  fisher  space  iron-age  medieval  the-classics  civilization  judaism  conquest-empire  africa  developing-world  institutions  science  industrial-revolution  the-trenches  wild-ideas  innovation  speedometer  nordic  mediterranean  speculation  fiction  scifi-fantasy  time  encyclopedic  multi  poast  critique  cost-benefit  tradeoffs 
december 2017 by nhaliday
How sweet it is! | West Hunter
This has probably been going on for a long, long, time. It may well go back before anatomically modern humans. I say that because of the greater honeyguide, which guides people to beehives in Africa. After we take the honey, the honeyguide eats the grubs and wax. A guiding bird attracts your attention with wavering, chattering ‘tya’ notes compounded with peeps and pipes. It flies towards an occupied hive and then stops and calls again. It has only been seen to guide humans.

I would not be surprised to find that this symbiotic relationship is far older than the the domestication of dogs. But it is not domestication: we certainly don’t control their reproduction. I wouldn’t count on it, but if you could determine the genetic basis of this signaling behavior, you might be able to get an idea of how old it is.

Honeyguides may be mankind’s oldest buds, but they’re nasty little creatures: brood parasites, like cuckoos.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  trivia  cocktail  africa  speculation  history  antiquity  sapiens  farmers-and-foragers  food  nature  domestication  cooperate-defect  ed-yong  org:sci  popsci  survival  outdoors 
december 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
The political economy of fertility | SpringerLink
This paper studies the political economy of fertility. Specifically, I argue that fertility may be a strategic choice for ethnic groups engaged in redistributive conflict. I first present a simple conflict model where high fertility is optimal for each ethnic group if and only if the economy’s ethnic diversity is high, institutions are weak, or both. I then test the model in a cross-national dataset. Consistent with the theory, I find that economies where the product of ethnic diversity and a measure of institutional weakness is high have increased fertility rates. I conclude that fertility may depend on political factors.
study  sociology  speculation  stylized-facts  demographics  population  fertility  polisci  political-econ  institutions  nationalism-globalism  tribalism  us-them  self-interest  intervention  wonkish  pdf  piracy  microfoundations  phalanges  diversity  putnam-like  competition  israel  MENA  the-bones 
november 2017 by nhaliday
Fish on Friday | West Hunter
There are parts of Europe, Switzerland and Bavaria for example, that are seriously iodine deficient. This used to be a problem. I wonder if fish on Friday ameliorated it: A three-ounce serving size of cod provides your body with 99 micrograms of iodine, or 66% of the recommended amount per day.

Thinking further, it wasn’t just Fridays: there were ~130 days a years when the Catholic Church banned flesh.

Gwern on modern iodine-deficiency: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/fish-on-friday/#comment-97137
population surveys indicate lots of people are iodine-insufficient even in the US or UK where the problem should’ve been permanently solved a century ago
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  ideas  speculation  sapiens  europe  the-great-west-whale  history  medieval  germanic  religion  christianity  protestant-catholic  institutions  food  diet  nutrition  metabolic  iq  neuro  unintended-consequences  multi  gwern  poast  hmm  planning  parenting  developmental  public-health  gotchas  biodet  deep-materialism  health  embodied-street-fighting  ritual  roots  explanans 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Measles and immunological amnesia | West Hunter
A new paper in Science , by Michael Mina et al,  strongly suggests that measles messes up your immunological defenses for two or three years. This is the likely explanation for the fact that measles inoculation causes much greater decreases in child morbidity and mortality than you’d expect from preventing the deaths directly due to measles infection. The thought is that measles whacks the cells that carry immunological memory, leaving the kid ripe for reinfections.  I think there can be a similar effect with anti-cancer chemotherapy.

If correct, this means that measles is much nastier than previously thought. It must have played a significant role in the demographic collapse of long-isolated peoples (such as the Amerindians). Its advent may have played a role in the population decrease associated with the decline of the Classical world.  Even though it is relatively new (having split off from rinderpest a couple of thousand years ago) strong selection for resistance may have  favored some fairly expensive genetic defenses (something like sickle-cell) in Eurasian populations.

We already know of quite a few complex side effects of infectious disease, such the different kind of immunosuppression we see with AIDs, Burkitt’s lymphoma hitting kids with severe Epstein-Barr infections followed by malaria, acute dengue fever that requires a previous infection by a different strain of dengue, etc: there may well be other important interactions and side effects, news of which has not yet come to Harvard.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  ideas  commentary  study  summary  org:nat  epidemiology  bio  health  immune  disease  parasites-microbiome  unintended-consequences  cancer  medicine  long-short-run  usa  farmers-and-foragers  age-of-discovery  speculation  nihil  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  demographics  population  gibbon  rot  harvard  elite  low-hanging  info-dynamics  being-right  heterodox 
october 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.
preprint  article  gedanken  threat-modeling  risk  biotech  anthropic  fermi  ratty  hanson  models  xenobio  space  civilization  frontier  hmm  speedometer  society  psychology  social-psych  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  disease  parasites-microbiome  maxim-gun  prepping  science-anxiety  technology  magnitude  scale  data  prediction  speculation  ideas  🌞  org:mat  study  offense-defense  arms  unintended-consequences  spreading  explanans  sociality  cybernetics 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

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

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

...

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

If you were designing an ideology from scratch you could make use of all of these facts – not that thinking about genetics and selection hands you the solution to every problem, but you’d have more strings to your bow. And, off the top of your head, you’d understand certain trends that are behind the mountains of Estcarp, for our current ruling classes : invisible and unthinkable, That Which Must Not Be Named. .

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/biopolitics/#comment-96613
“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/biopolitics/#comment-96797
And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

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

Rise and Fall: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/
Every society selects for something: generally it looks as if the direction of selection pressue is more or less an accident. Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this. I mean, they would have known how, if they’d wanted to, just as they knew how to select for destriers, coursers, and palfreys. It was still possible to know such things in the Middle Ages, because Harvard did not yet exist.

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

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

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

hmm: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100350
“Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this.”

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

decline of British Empire and utility of different components: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100390
Once upon a time, India was a money maker for the British, mainly because they appropriate Bengali tax revenue, rather than trade. The rest of the Empire was not worth much: it didn’t materially boost British per-capita income or military potential. Silesia was worth more to Germany, conferred more war-making power, than Africa was to Britain.
--
If you get even a little local opposition, a colony won’t pay for itself. I seem to remember that there was some, in Palestine.
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Angels from on high paid for the Boer War.

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

Turned out that no one had ever asked. The Colonial Office had no idea.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
The Water-Crossers | West Hunter
One interesting and puzzling question is when and how humans developed the ability to make ocean crossings.

Baby Steps: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/baby-steps/
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  ideas  sapiens  migration  spreading  world  oceans  anglo  history  antiquity  time  multi  usa  discovery  innovation  roots  archaeology  speculation 
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.
west-hunter  scitariat  rant  discussion  ideas  nature  bio  archaeology  egalitarianism-hierarchy  absolute-relative  ranking  world  correlation  scale  oceans  geography  measure  network-structure  list  lol  speculation  latin-america  usa  convergence 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Definite optimism as human capital | Dan Wang
I’ve come to the view that creativity and innovative capacity aren’t a fixed stock, coiled and waiting to be released by policy. Now, I know that a country will not do well if it has poor infrastructure, interest rate management, tax and regulation levels, and a whole host of other issues. But getting them right isn’t sufficient to promote innovation; past a certain margin, when they’re all at rational levels, we ought to focus on promoting creativity and drive as a means to propel growth.

...

When I say “positive” vision, I don’t mean that people must see the future as a cheerful one. Instead, I’m saying that people ought to have a vision at all: A clear sense of how the technological future will be different from today. To have a positive vision, people must first expand their imaginations. And I submit that an interest in science fiction, the material world, and proximity to industry all help to refine that optimism. I mean to promote imagination by direct injection.

...

If a state has lost most of its jobs for electrical engineers, or nuclear engineers, or mechanical engineers, then fewer young people in that state will study those practices, and technological development in related fields slow down a little further. When I bring up these thoughts on resisting industrial decline to economists, I’m unsatisfied with their responses. They tend to respond by tautology (“By definition, outsourcing improves on the status quo”) or arithmetic (see: gains from comparative advantage, Ricardo). These kinds of logical exercises are not enough. I would like for more economists to consider a human capital perspective for preserving manufacturing expertise (to some degree).

I wonder if the so-called developed countries should be careful of their own premature deindustrialization. The US industrial base has faltered, but there is still so much left to build. Until we’ve perfected asteroid mining and super-skyscrapers and fusion rockets and Jupiter colonies and matter compilers, we can’t be satisfied with innovation confined mostly to the digital world.

Those who don’t mind the decline of manufacturing employment like to say that people have moved on to higher-value work. But I’m not sure that this is usually the case. Even if there’s an endlessly capacious service sector to absorb job losses in manufacturing, it’s often the case that these new jobs feature lower productivity growth and involve greater rent-seeking. Not everyone is becoming hedge fund managers and machine learning engineers. According to BLS, the bulk of service jobs are in 1. government (22 million), 2. professional services (19m), 3. healthcare (18m), 4. retail (15m), and 5. leisure and hospitality (15m). In addition to being often low-paying but still competitive, a great deal of service sector jobs tend to stress capacity for emotional labor over capacity for manual labor. And it’s the latter that tends to be more present in fields involving technological upgrading.

...

Here’s a bit more skepticism of service jobs. In an excellent essay on declining productivity growth, Adair Turner makes the point that many service jobs are essentially zero-sum. I’d like to emphasize and elaborate on that idea here.

...

Call me a romantic, but I’d like everyone to think more about industrial lubricants, gas turbines, thorium reactors, wire production, ball bearings, underwater cables, and all the things that power our material world. I abide by a strict rule never to post or tweet about current political stuff; instead I try to draw more attention to the world of materials. And I’d like to remind people that there are many things more edifying than following White House scandals.

...

First, we can all try to engage more actively with the material world, not merely the digital or natural world. Go ahead and pick an industrial phenomenon and learn more about it. Learn more about the history of aviation, and what it took to break the sound barrier; gaze at the container ships as they sail into port, and keep in mind that they carry 90 percent of the goods you see around you; read about what we mold plastics to do; meditate on the importance of steel in civilization; figure out what’s driving the decline in the cost of solar energy production, or how we draw electricity from nuclear fission, or what it takes to extract petroleum or natural gas from the ground.

...

Here’s one more point that I’d like to add on Girard at college: I wonder if to some extent current dynamics are the result of the liberal arts approach of “college teaches you how to think, not what to think.” I’ve never seen much data to support this wonderful claim that college is good at teaching critical thinking skills. Instead, students spend most of their energies focused on raising or lowering the status of the works they study or the people around them, giving rise to the Girardian terror that has gripped so many campuses.

College as an incubator of Girardian terror: http://danwang.co/college-girardian-terror/
It’s hard to construct a more perfect incubator for mimetic contagion than the American college campus. Most 18-year-olds are not super differentiated from each other. By construction, whatever distinctions any does have are usually earned through brutal, zero-sum competitions. These tournament-type distinctions include: SAT scores at or near perfection; being a top player on a sports team; gaining master status from chess matches; playing first instrument in state orchestra; earning high rankings in Math Olympiad; and so on, culminating in gaining admission to a particular college.

Once people enter college, they get socialized into group environments that usually continue to operate in zero-sum competitive dynamics. These include orchestras and sport teams; fraternities and sororities; and many types of clubs. The biggest source of mimetic pressures are the classes. Everyone starts out by taking the same intro classes; those seeking distinction throw themselves into the hardest classes, or seek tutelage from star professors, and try to earn the highest grades.

Mimesis Machines and Millennials: http://quillette.com/2017/11/02/mimesis-machines-millennials/
In 1956, a young Liverpudlian named John Winston Lennon heard the mournful notes of Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel, and was transformed. He would later recall, “nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.” It is an ancient human story. An inspiring model, an inspired imitator, and a changed world.

Mimesis is the phenomenon of human mimicry. Humans see, and they strive to become what they see. The prolific Franco-Californian philosopher René Girard described the human hunger for imitation as mimetic desire. According to Girard, mimetic desire is a mighty psychosocial force that drives human behavior. When attempted imitation fails, (i.e. I want, but fail, to imitate my colleague’s promotion to VP of Business Development), mimetic rivalry arises. According to mimetic theory, periodic scapegoating—the ritualistic expelling of a member of the community—evolved as a way for archaic societies to diffuse rivalries and maintain the general peace.

As civilization matured, social institutions evolved to prevent conflict. To Girard, sacrificial religious ceremonies first arose as imitations of earlier scapegoating rituals. From the mimetic worldview healthy social institutions perform two primary functions,

They satisfy mimetic desire and reduce mimetic rivalry by allowing imitation to take place.
They thereby reduce the need to diffuse mimetic rivalry through scapegoating.
Tranquil societies possess and value institutions that are mimesis tolerant. These institutions, such as religion and family, are Mimesis Machines. They enable millions to see, imitate, and become new versions of themselves. Mimesis Machines, satiate the primal desire for imitation, and produce happy, contented people. Through Mimesis Machines, Elvis fans can become Beatles.

Volatile societies, on the other hand, possess and value mimesis resistant institutions that frustrate attempts at mimicry, and mass produce frustrated, resentful people. These institutions, such as capitalism and beauty hierarchies, are Mimesis Shredders. They stratify humanity, and block the ‘nots’ from imitating the ‘haves’.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Europa, Enceladus, Moon Miranda | West Hunter
A lot of ice moons seem to have interior oceans, warmed by tidal flexing and possibly radioactivity.  But they’re lousy candidates for life, because you need free energy; and there’s very little in the interior oceans of such system.

It is possible that NASA is institutionally poor at pointing this out.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Second Bananas | West Hunter
Still thinking about domestication. Mostly,  the wild ancestors of domesticate animals were social: presumably, such behavioral tendencies were preadaptations that helped the domesticates come to bond with or at least tolerate people.   Social animals can have adaptive personality variation – difference behavioral strategies.  Sometimes those strategies are facultative, sometimes genetic, sometimes a mix.

I would guess that those wild individuals that account for most of the ancestry of f a domesticated species didn’t have a representative mix of personality types. Probably they were more likely to be followers rather than leaders – not the alphas of the pack, not the most aggressive stallions.  Sidekicks.  With dogs, we can probably check this hypothesis fairly easily, since wolves are still around.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/wyld-stallyns/
A few years ago, I was thinking about genetic male morphs. Turns out that you find qualitatively different forms of males in many species: Barry Sinervos’s lizards, Shuster’s isopods, Lank’s ruffs, jack salmon, etc. Logically, the Y chromosome would be the best place for a such a genetic switch, since that would avoid negative side effects in females. The problem is that the Y carries very few genes.

Alternate strategies don’t have to to be as complicated as they are in ruffs or Uta stansburiana. Different levels of aggressiveness, or different points on the cad/dad axis, would have different selective payoffs in different environments. If a new environment favored lower (or higher) aggressiveness in males , a Y-chromosome that induced lower (or higher) aggressiveness would take off. And since different Y chromosomes do indeed affect the level of aggressiveness in mice [which I just found out], possibly by affecting testosterone production – this mechanism is plausible.

This could explain a funny genetic pattern in the domestication of horses. There’s a fair amount of diversity in horse mtDNA: it looks as if many different mares were domesticated. On the other hand, it looks as if only one stallion was ever domesticated. All living stallions today are his descendants.

Stallions are pretty aggressive, and must have been hard to tame. Maybe one was genetically unusual – wimpier. Tameable.

Fortunately for all concerned, the selective value of aggressiveness, etc. has been the same for all human populations forever and ever, before and after the development of agriculture. Otherwise you might see weirdly rapid expansions of particular Y-chromosome haplogroups – common, yet only a few thousand years old.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/wyld-stallyns-part-deux/
A while ago, I wondered if modern stallions are a male morph adapted to domestication, one in which the strategy is mediated via the Y chromosome.

Looks as if I was right*. Check out “Decline of genetic diversity in ancient domestic stallions in Europe”.

Selection favored one particular kind of Y-chromosome. This had to be based on phenotype, not genealogy. Most likely it was favored under the new environment of domestication. Somehow, these stallions performed better, or were easier to get along with (my bet).

We already knew that Y-chromosomes could do things: Haplogroup I increases the risk of heart disease by about 50%, while the particular variant of Y chromosome influences aggression in mice.

Which means you have to re-examine the starburst phylogeny of R1b and R1a: it’s probably biology, rather than history, that drove those expansions. Some kind of selective advantage. Possibly one reason that those particular Y chromosomes far outraced steppe autosomal contributions. Most likely, R1a and R1b induce specific morphs – their carriers are somehow different. Maybe they’re born to be mild, or born to be princes of the universe. Maybe an R1b guy just finds it easier to cooperate with other R1b guys… Or maybe they’re resistant to typhoid.

* correct predictions mean nothing in biology. Ask any biologist.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Does Polarization Imply Poor Representation? A New Perspective on the “Disconnect” Between Politicians and Voters*
Broockman-Ahler 2015

immigration positions under B.2: http://www.dougahler.com/uploads/2/4/6/9/24697799/ahler_broockman_ideological_innocence.pdf#page=42
distribution: http://www.dougahler.com/uploads/2/4/6/9/24697799/ahler_broockman_ideological_innocence.pdf#page=53

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/904024125030756356
https://archive.is/BrnpJ
38% support immediate mass deportation of all illegals (Broockman 2015). This view has zero representation in either house of congress.

Do you understand the GOP play here by the way? I'm genuinely puzzled. Is it a moral conviction? Because it can't be a vote play.
In my view it's a mix of mindless sentimentality, the donor class, and existing in an hermetically sealed ideological bubble.

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/951989543653265408
https://archive.is/ya2sz
cheap labor lobby, public choice (votes), & subversive elites gripped by multiculti zealotry

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/911291455762845696
https://archive.is/dw6OO
In a 2014 radio interview, Paul Ryan was asked if "immigrants from the 3rd world are more or less likely to support conservative policies":
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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.

good tweet: https://twitter.com/bowmanthebard/status/897146294191390720
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
--
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.
--
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.
--
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?
--
were worse off. People are kinda dumb – you’ve noticed?
--
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?
--
Your impression is wrong. Do you think that there some slick reason for Carthaginians incinerating their first-born?

Theodoric of York, bloodletting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvff3TViXmY

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
Let George Do It | West Hunter
I was thinking about how people would have adapted to local differences in essential micronutrients, stuff like iodine, selenium, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, etc. Australia, for example,  hasn’t had much geological activity in ages and generally has mineral-poor soils. At first I thought that Aboriginals, who have lived in such places for a long time,  might have developed better transporters, etc – ways of eking out scarce trace elements.

Maybe they have, but on second thought, they may not have needed to.  Sure, the Aboriginals were exposed to these conditions for tens of thousands of years, but not nearly as long as kangaroos and wombats have been.  If those animals had effective ways of accumulating the necessary micronutrients,  hunter-gatherers could have solved their problems by consuming local fauna. Let George do it, and then eat George.

The real problems should occur in people who rely heavily on plant foods (European farmers) and in their livestock, which are generally not adapted to the mineral-poor environments. If I’m right, even in areas where sheep without selenium supplements get white muscle disease (nutritional muscular dystrophy), indigenous wildlife should not.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  ideas  speculation  sapiens  pop-diff  embodied  metabolic  nutrition  diet  food  farmers-and-foragers  agriculture  nature  tricks  direct-indirect 
august 2017 by nhaliday
Genetic Architectures | West Hunter
Dairy cattle eventually graduate to McDonalds, so there is some interest in the genetics of beef production in dairy breeds. There is course more interest in the genetics of beef production in beef breeds of cattle.

Usually you don’t find a single allele that makes a lot of difference, but in some beef breeds, there are myostatin mutations that result in a ridiculous-looking, ‘double-muscled’ beast. Homozygosity for myostatin mutations causes difficulties in birth, so it takes really strong selection for beef production to make a myostatin null common. I don’t think you ever see this in dairy breeds.

But, as it turns out, there is a deletion that is pretty common in some dairy breeds that significantly increases milk production while killing homozygotes before birth.

Breeds under weaker selection for single traits, your typical cow of the past, probably have neither.

The point is that the genetic architecture of a quantitative trait does not have to be the same in different populations of the same species. For example, I have the impression that height is not as highly polygenic in Pygmies as it is most other human populations. There’s a particular region on chromosome 3 that seems to influence height- you don’t see such a concentration in Europeans.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  ideas  speculation  sapiens  pop-diff  genetics  population-genetics  QTL  homo-hetero  analogy  agriculture  nature  food  comparison  embodied  archaics  africa  genomics 
august 2017 by nhaliday
Ethiopian altitude adaptations | West Hunter
I said a while ago that the altitude adaptations in Tibet were too damn good, more effective than those seen in Andean Amerindians, and so must have originated in a population that lived at high altitude for a long time.  This seems to be the case.

The same must be true of Ethiopia. Their altitude adaptations also work well. There is a genetic component in Ethiopia that seems to correspond to the original hunter-gatherers, and the altitude alleles must have originated in that population, not the later components that look like East Africans or Levantines.

In both cases, there’s a fair chance that the ultimate origin could be some archaic group.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/ethiopian-adaptations/#comment-22644
You know, I don’t think that is the problem.

I’ve paid attention to the Falasha story for a long time. I think it’s funny as hell.

...

The Falasha are (best guess based on recent genetic studies) locals who converted to an old-fashioned, non-rabbinic Judaism. Genetically pretty much like other highland Ethiopians, definitely so in mtDNA.
On the other hand, the non-African component is probably similar to what we see in the Levant today, as with other Ethiopian highlanders speaking Semitic languages.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
And your little dog, too! | West Hunter
It sure looks as if we’re talking near-complete replacement – which means that the historical process involved does not look much like a peaceful, diffusion-style range expansion.  Perhaps more like the Death Song of Ragnar Lodbrok, which abounds in phrases like this: “Where the swords were whining while they sundered helmets”

Interestingly, there is a very similar  pattern in canine mtDNA.  Today Europeans dogs fall into four haplotypes: A (70%), B(16%), C (6%), and D(8%).  But back in the day, it seems that the overwhelming majority of dogs (88%)  were type C,  12% were in group A, while B and D have not been detected at all.

The ancestors of today’s Europeans didn’t fool around.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Krazy Kats | West Hunter
The way things are going, the cats with the greatest reproductive success will be feral, and the cats best adapted to living with people will have low fitness. Razib Khan has talked about this.  There are a number of other cases in which humans are inadvertently selecting for outcomes they don’t like: deer are getting smaller antlers, we’re seeing more and more jack salmon, etc.  And of course we’re selecting ourselves for this and that, none of it good.

Yet Carlos Driscoll, a University of Oxford biologist, says there’s nothing to worry about re cats. “The population of domestic cats has been stable for a very long time,” Driscoll said.
“There’s a lot of genetic inertia there.”

The thing is, there’s no such thing as genetic inertia.   You can change any species with selection. Horseshoe crabs have been around for something like 450 million years – they’re older than most mountain ranges –  but if you started selecting them for size, or a different reproductive schedule, or the ability to live in brackish water, or the ability to play Go  – change would come.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Why Ethnicity, Class, & Ideology? 
Individual humans can be described via many individual features that are useful in predicting what they do. Such features include gender, age, personality, intelligence, ethnicity, income, education, profession, height, geographic location, and so on. Different features are more useful for predicting different kinds of behavior.

One kind of human behavior is coalition politics; we join together into coalitions within political and other larger institutions. People in the same coalition tend to have features in common, though which exact features varies by time and place. But while in principle the features that describe coalitions could vary arbitrarily by time and place, we in actual fact see more consistent patterns.

...

You might be right about small scale coalitions, such as cliques, gangs, and clubs. And you might even be right about larger scale political coalitions in the ancient world. But you’d be wrong about our larger scale political coalitions today. While there are often weak correlations with such features, larger scale political coalitions are not mainly based on the main individual features of gender, age, etc. Instead, they are more often based on ethnicity, class, and “political ideology” preferences. While ideology is famously difficult to characterize, and it does vary by time and place, it is also somewhat consistent across time and space.
ratty  hanson  speculation  ideas  questions  hmm  idk  politics  polisci  ideology  coalitions  anthropology  sociology  coordination  tribalism  properties  things  phalanges  roots  demographics  race  class  curiosity  stylized-facts  impetus  organizing  interests  hari-seldon  sociality  cybernetics 
august 2017 by nhaliday
The Function of Reason | Edge.org
https://www.edge.org/conversation/hugo_mercier-the-argumentative-theory

How Social Is Reason?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/08/how-social-is-reason.html

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/02/open-thread-732017/
Reading The Enigma of Reason. Pretty good so far. Not incredibly surprising to me so far. To be clear, their argument is somewhat orthogonal to the whole ‘rationality’ debate you may be familiar with from Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s work (e.g., see Heuristics and Biases).

One of the major problems in analysis is that rationality, reflection and ratiocination, are slow and error prone. To get a sense of that, just read ancient Greek science. Eratosthenes may have calculated to within 1% of the true circumference of the world, but Aristotle’s speculations on the nature of reproduction were rather off.

You may be as clever as Eratosthenes, but most people are not. But you probably accept that the world is round and 24,901 miles around. If you are not American you probably are vague on miles anyway. But you know what the social consensus is, and you accept it because it seems reasonable.

One of the points in cultural evolution work is that a lot of the time rather than relying on your own intuition and or reason, it is far more effective and cognitively cheaper to follow social norms of your ingroup. I only bring this up because unfortunately many pathologies of our political and intellectual world today are not really pathologies. That is, they’re not bugs, but features.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/23/open-thread-07232017/
Finished The Enigma of Reason. The basic thesis that reasoning is a way to convince people after you’ve already come to a conclusion, that is, rationalization, was already one I shared. That makes sense since one of the coauthors, Dan Sperber, has been influential in the “naturalistic” school of anthropology. If you’ve read books like In Gods We Trust The Enigma of Reason goes fast. But it is important to note that the cognitive anthropology perspective is useful in things besides religion. I’m thinking in particular of politics.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/30/the-delusion-of-reasons-empire/
My point here is that many of our beliefs are arrived at in an intuitive manner, and we find reasons to justify those beliefs. One of the core insights you’ll get from The Enigma of Reason is that rationalization isn’t that big of a misfire or abuse of our capacities. It’s probably just a natural outcome for what and how we use reason in our natural ecology.

Mercier and Sperber contrast their “interactionist” model of what reason is for with an “intellectualist: model. The intellecutalist model is rather straightforward. It is one where individual reasoning capacities exist so that one may make correct inferences about the world around us, often using methods that mimic those in abstract elucidated systems such as formal logic or Bayesian reasoning. When reasoning doesn’t work right, it’s because people aren’t using it for it’s right reasons. It can be entirely solitary because the tools don’t rely on social input or opinion.

The interactionist model holds that reasoning exists because it is a method of persuasion within social contexts. It is important here to note that the authors do not believe that reasoning is simply a tool for winning debates. That is, increasing your status in a social game. Rather, their overall thesis seems to be in alignment with the idea that cognition of reasoning properly understood is a social process. In this vein they offer evidence of how juries may be superior to judges, and the general examples you find in the “wisdom of the crowds” literature. Overall the authors make a strong case for the importance of diversity of good-faith viewpoints, because they believe that the truth on the whole tends to win out in dialogic formats (that is, if there is a truth; they are rather unclear and muddy about normative disagreements and how those can be resolved).

The major issues tend to crop up when reasoning is used outside of its proper context. One of the literature examples, which you are surely familiar with, in The Enigma of Reason is a psychological experiment where there are two conditions, and the researchers vary the conditions and note wide differences in behavior. In particular, the experiment where psychologists put subjects into a room where someone out of view is screaming for help. When they are alone, they quite often go to see what is wrong immediately. In contrast, when there is a confederate of the psychologists in the room who ignores the screaming, people also tend to ignore the screaming.

The researchers know the cause of the change in behavior. It’s the introduction of the confederate and that person’s behavior. But the subjects when interviewed give a wide range of plausible and possible answers. In other words, they are rationalizing their behavior when called to justify it in some way. This is entirely unexpected, we all know that people are very good at coming up with answers to explain their behavior (often in the best light possible). But that doesn’t mean they truly understanding their internal reasons, which seem to be more about intuition.

But much of The Enigma of Reason also recounts how bad people are at coming up with coherent and well thought out rationalizations. That is, their “reasons” tend to be ad hoc and weak. We’re not very good at formal logic or even simple syllogistic reasoning. The explanation for this seems to be two-fold.

...

At this point we need to address the elephant in the room: some humans seem extremely good at reasoning in a classical sense. I’m talking about individuals such as Blaise Pascal, Carl Friedrich Gauss, and John von Neumann. Early on in The Enigma of Reason the authors point out the power of reason by alluding to Eratosthenes’s calculation of the circumference of the earth, which was only off by one percent. Myself, I would have mentioned Archimedes, who I suspect was a genius on the same level as the ones mentioned above.

Mercier and Sperber state near the end of the book that math in particular is special and a powerful way to reason. We all know this. In math the axioms are clear, and agreed upon. And one can inspect the chain of propositions in a very transparent manner. Mathematics has guard-rails for any human who attempts to engage in reasoning. By reducing the ability of humans to enter into unforced errors math is the ideal avenue for solitary individual reasoning. But it is exceptional.

Second, though it is not discussed in The Enigma of Reason there does seem to be variation in general and domain specific intelligence within the human population. People who flourish in mathematics usually have high general intelligences, but they also often exhibit a tendency to be able to engage in high levels of visual-spatial conceptualization.

One the whole the more intelligent you are the better you are able to reason. But that does not mean that those with high intelligence are immune from the traps of motivated reasoning or faulty logic. Mercier and Sperber give many examples. There are two. Linus Pauling was indisputably brilliant, but by the end of his life he was consistently pushing Vitamin C quackery (in part through a very selective interpretation of the scientific literature).* They also point out that much of Isaac Newton’s prodigious intellectual output turns out to have been focused on alchemy and esoteric exegesis which is totally impenetrable. Newton undoubtedly had a first class mind, but if the domain it was applied to was garbage, then the output was also garbage.

...

Overall, the take-homes are:

Reasoning exists to persuade in a group context through dialogue, not individual ratiocination.
Reasoning can give rise to storytelling when prompted, even if the reasons have no relationship to the underlying causality.
Motivated reasoning emerges because we are not skeptical of the reasons we proffer, but highly skeptical of reasons which refute our own.
The “wisdom of the crowds” is not just a curious phenomenon, but one of the primary reasons that humans have become more socially complex and our brains have larger.
Ultimately, if you want to argue someone out of their beliefs…well, good luck with that. But you should read The Enigma of Reason to understand the best strategies (many of them are common sense, and I’ve come to them independently simply through 15 years of having to engage with people of diverse viewpoints).

* R. A. Fisher, who was one of the pioneers of both evolutionary genetics and statistics, famously did not believe there was a connection between smoking and cancer. He himself smoked a pipe regularly.

** From what we know about Blaise Pascal and Isaac Newton, their personalities were such that they’d probably be killed or expelled from a hunter-gatherer band.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Effective population size for advantageous mutations | West Hunter
So, with beneficial mutations, the effective population size is very different. Instead of being dominated by bottlenecks, it is more influenced by eras of large population size – more and more so as the selective advantage of the mutation increases. In the limit, if we imagine  mutations so advantageous that they spread  very rapidly, the effective population size approaches the population mean.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  ideas  speculation  bio  evolution  sapiens  genetics  population-genetics  pop-structure  population  gene-drift  magnitude  street-fighting  methodology  stylized-facts  nibble  🌞 
august 2017 by nhaliday
THE GROWING IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL SKILLS IN THE LABOR MARKET*
key fact: cognitive ability is not growing in importance, but non-cognitive ability is

The labor market increasingly rewards social skills. Between 1980 and 2012, jobs requiring high levels of social interaction grew by nearly 12 percentage points as a share of the U.S. labor force. Math-intensive but less social jobs—including many STEM occupations—shrank by 3.3 percentage points over the same period. Employment and wage growth was particularly strong for jobs requiring high levels of both math skill and social skill. To understand these patterns, I develop a model of team production where workers “trade tasks” to exploit their comparative advantage. In the model, social skills reduce coordination costs, allowing workers to specialize and work together more efficiently. The model generates predictions about sorting and the relative returns to skill across occupations, which I investigate using data from the NLSY79 and the NLSY97. Using a comparable set of skill measures and covariates across survey waves, I find that the labor market return to social skills was much greater in the 2000s than in the mid 1980s and 1990s. JEL Codes: I20, I24, J01, J23, J24, J31

The Increasing Complementarity between Cognitive and Social Skills: http://econ.ucsb.edu/~weinberg/MathSocialWeinberger.pdf

The Changing Roles of Education and Ability in Wage Determination: http://business.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/@commerce/@research/documents/doc/uow130116.pdf

Intelligence and socioeconomic success: A meta-analytic review of longitudinal research: http://www.emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/Intelligence-and-socioeconomic-success-A-meta-analytic-review-of-longitudinal-research.pdf
Moderator analyses showed that the relationship between intelligence and success is dependent on the age of the sample but there is little evidence of any historical trend in the relationship.

https://twitter.com/khazar_milkers/status/898996206973603840
https://archive.is/7gLXv
that feelio when america has crossed an inflection point and EQ is obviously more important for success in todays society than IQ
I think this is how to understand a lot of "corporate commitment to diversity" stuff.Not the only reason ofc, but reason it's so impregnable
compare: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:e9ac3d38e7a1
and: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:a38f5756170d

g-reliant skills seem most susceptible to automation: https://fredrikdeboer.com/2017/06/14/g-reliant-skills-seem-most-susceptible-to-automation/

THE ERROR TERM: https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/the-error-term/
Imagine an objective function- something you want to maximize or minimize- with both a deterministic and a random component.

...

Part of y is rules-based and rational, part is random and outside rational control. Obviously, the ascent of civilization has, to the extent it has taken place, been based on focusing energies on those parts of the world that are responsive to rational interpretation and control.

But an interesting thing happens once automated processes are able to take over the mapping of patterns onto rules. The portion of the world that is responsive to algorithmic interpretation is also the rational, rules-based portion, almost tautologically. But in terms of our actual objective functions- the real portions of the world that we are trying to affect or influence- subtracting out the portion susceptible to algorithms does not eliminate the variation or make it unimportant. It simply makes it much more purely random rather than only partially so.

The interesting thing, to me, is that economic returns accumulate to the random portion of variation just as to the deterministic portion. In fact, if everybody has access to the same algorithms, the returns may well be largely to the random portion. The efficient market hypothesis in action, more or less.

...

But more generally, as more and more of the society comes under algorithmic control, as various forms of automated intelligence become ubiquitous, the remaining portion, and the portion for which individual workers are rewarded, might well become more irrational, more random, less satisfying, less intelligent.

Golden age for team players: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/10/social-skills-increasingly-valuable-to-employers-harvard-economist-finds/
Strong social skills increasingly valuable to employers, study finds

Number of available jobs by skill set (over time)

Changes in hourly wages by skill set (over time)

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/947904725294260224
https://archive.is/EEQA9
A resolution for the new year: Remember that intelligence is a predictor of social intelligence!
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Superintelligence Risk Project Update II
https://www.jefftk.com/p/superintelligence-risk-project-update

https://www.jefftk.com/p/conversation-with-michael-littman
For example, I asked him what he thought of the idea that to we could get AGI with current techniques, primarily deep neural nets and reinforcement learning, without learning anything new about how intelligence works or how to implement it ("Prosaic AGI" [1]). He didn't think this was possible, and believes there are deep conceptual issues we still need to get a handle on. He's also less impressed with deep learning than he was before he started working in it: in his experience it's a much more brittle technology than he had been expecting. Specifically, when trying to replicate results, he's often found that they depend on a bunch of parameters being in just the right range, and without that the systems don't perform nearly as well.

The bottom line, to him, was that since we are still many breakthroughs away from getting to AGI, we can't productively work on reducing superintelligence risk now.

He told me that he worries that the AI risk community is not solving real problems: they're making deductions and inferences that are self-consistent but not being tested or verified in the world. Since we can't tell if that's progress, it probably isn't. I asked if he was referring to MIRI's work here, and he said their work was an example of the kind of approach he's skeptical about, though he wasn't trying to single them out. [2]

https://www.jefftk.com/p/conversation-with-an-ai-researcher
Earlier this week I had a conversation with an AI researcher [1] at one of the main industry labs as part of my project of assessing superintelligence risk. Here's what I got from them:

They see progress in ML as almost entirely constrained by hardware and data, to the point that if today's hardware and data had existed in the mid 1950s researchers would have gotten to approximately our current state within ten to twenty years. They gave the example of backprop: we saw how to train multi-layer neural nets decades before we had the computing power to actually train these nets to do useful things.

Similarly, people talk about AlphaGo as a big jump, where Go went from being "ten years away" to "done" within a couple years, but they said it wasn't like that. If Go work had stayed in academia, with academia-level budgets and resources, it probably would have taken nearly that long. What changed was a company seeing promising results, realizing what could be done, and putting way more engineers and hardware on the project than anyone had previously done. AlphaGo couldn't have happened earlier because the hardware wasn't there yet, and was only able to be brought forward by massive application of resources.

https://www.jefftk.com/p/superintelligence-risk-project-conclusion
Summary: I'm not convinced that AI risk should be highly prioritized, but I'm also not convinced that it shouldn't. Highly qualified researchers in a position to have a good sense the field have massively different views on core questions like how capable ML systems are now, how capable they will be soon, and how we can influence their development. I do think these questions are possible to get a better handle on, but I think this would require much deeper ML knowledge than I have.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : High Dimensional Societes?
I’ve seen many “spatial” models in social science. Such as models where voters and politicians sit at points in a space of policies. Or where customers and firms sit at points in a space of products. But I’ve never seen a discussion of how one should expect such models to change in high dimensions, such as when there are more dimensions than points.

In small dimensional spaces, the distances between points vary greatly; neighboring points are much closer to each other than are distant points. However, in high dimensional spaces, distances between points vary much less; all points are about the same distance from all other points. When points are distributed randomly, however, these distances do vary somewhat, allowing us to define the few points closest to each point as that point’s “neighbors”. “Hubs” are closest neighbors to many more points than average, while “anti-hubs” are closest neighbors to many fewer points than average. It turns out that in higher dimensions a larger fraction of points are hubs and anti-hubs (Zimek et al. 2012).

If we think of people or organizations as such points, is being a hub or anti-hub associated with any distinct social behavior?  Does it contribute substantially to being popular or unpopular? Or does the fact that real people and organizations are in fact distributed in real space overwhelm such things, which only only happen in a truly high dimensional social world?
ratty  hanson  speculation  ideas  thinking  spatial  dimensionality  high-dimension  homo-hetero  analogy  models  network-structure  degrees-of-freedom 
july 2017 by nhaliday
Low-Hanging Fruit: Nyekulturny | West Hunter
The methodology is what’s really interesting.  Kim Lewis and Slava Epstein sorted individual soil bacteria into chambers of a device they call the iChip, which is then buried in the ground – the point being that something like 98% of soil bacteria cannot be cultured in standard media, while in this approach, key compounds (whatever they are) can diffuse in from the soil, allowing something like 50% of soil bacteria species to grow.  They then tested the bacterial colonies (10,000 of them) to see if any slammed S. aureus – and some did.

...

I could be wrong, but I wonder if part of the explanation is that microbiology – the subject – is in relative decline, suffering because of funding and status competition with molecular biology and genomics (sexier and less useful than microbiology) . That and the fact that big pharma is not enthusiastic about biological products.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Our civilization’s Ottoman years – Gene Expression
How does any of this apply to today? Perhaps this time it’s different, but it seems implausible to me that our multicultural future is going to involve equality between the different peoples. Rather, there will be accommodation and understandings. Much of the population will be subject to immiseration of subsistence but not flourishing. They may have some universal basic income, but they will be lack the dignity of work. Identity, religious and otherwise, will become necessary opiums of the people. The people will have their tribunes, who represent their interests, and give them the illusion or semi-reality of a modicum agency.

The tribunes, who will represent classical ethno-cultural blocs recognizable to us today, will deal with a supra-national global patriciate. Like the Ottoman elite it will not necessarily be ethnically homogeneous. There will be aspects of meritocracy to it, but it will be narrow, delimited, and see itself self-consciously above and beyond local identities and concerns. The patriciate itself may be divided. But their common dynamic will be that they will be supra-national, mobile, and economically liberated as opposed to dependent.

Of course democracy will continue. Augustus claimed he revived the Roman Republic. The tiny city-state of Constantinople in the 15th century claimed it was the Roman Empire. And so on. Outward forms and niceties may be maintained, but death of the nation-state at the hands of identity politics and late stage capitalism will usher in the era of oligarchic multinationalism.

I could be wrong. I hope I am.

AMERICA’S DEMOGRAPHIC DELIBERALIZATION: https://jacobitemag.com/2017/11/03/americas-demographic-deliberalization/
But in the wake of the Civil Rights movement a new multiracial and multicultural vision of America took hold. This counter-narrative rapidly became orthodoxy; it held that the nation belongs to people of all races and cultures, not just whites. That it always belonged to other peoples, even if they had not enjoyed recognition by the white majority.

...

America as a multicultural polity is not an aspiration, but a simple description of fact. We are today a coalition of different factions bound together legally, but rapidly dissipating any cultural unity.

History is rife with stable multicultural societies: the ancient Roman Empire, the territories of the Ottomans, the Mughal Empire. These diverse states maintained harmony through a hierarchy. Understandings and accommodations among elites of the various peoples smoothed tensions and allowed for the operation of government despite animosity simmering beneath the surface. Populist mass movements are functionally impossible within a diverse medley of cultures, because politics in these societies develop into byzantine games of balance, or coalitions of coercion. No social consensus takes hold, preventing any unanimity of purpose.

In these culturally diverse systems there emerge tribunes of the peoples. The plural is key here, for the various people brought together under an empire represent the interest of sub-nations within the greater whole. In the Ottoman Empire Christian sects were led by their clerics, whether Greek Orthodox, Jacobite or the Coptic pope. In the Roman Empire federates were administered under their own law and led by their own warlords. The British Raj at its peak was a coalition of peoples and monarchs, with the queen or king at the apogee of the system.

...

Donald Trump as President of the United States is not a world-historical aberration. His ethno-nationalist vision of the Republican party is to be expected as a reflection of the white American population which is now becoming as racially conscious as minorities have been of late. Facing their own demographic marginalization they are reasserting their own uniqueness. In Europe the rise of ethno-nationalist right-wing parties is a phenomenon that can be attributed to economic distress. But recessions come and go. Rather, demographic and cultural changes are producing men and women who channel the reactionary impulses of a populace who see the world they knew fading away. The National Front, Freedom Party, and Alternative for Germany, are symptoms of a broader phenomenon which won’t be a passing phase.

But the reality is that demagogues cannot turn back time. They can only delay the inevitable. Sans mass ethnic cleansing, accommodations between peoples must occur. And when these accommodations come they will operate as understandings between elites of disparate peoples, and the political units which emerge to foster stability will resemble the ramshackle oligarchies and monarchies. When the people are too many dissonant voices, conductors must come on stage and enforce harmony and suppress individuality. In an age of diversity there will come the oligarchy.

https://twitter.com/razibkhan/status/950859025327017984
https://archive.is/L5i5R
we are all some oligarch's bitch at some point. find your oligarch, know your oligarch, and nurture your relationship with them. it matters
--
Return of the Roman patron-client relationship...

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

https://twitter.com/thespandrell/status/954400568159752192
https://archive.is/94yRl
https://archive.is/zHTgH
So is baizouism the official religion of the permanent government in the states at this point?

How do we get the reaction? The Napoleon or the Deng who puts a stop to the madness?
--
of course it is.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Deep Secrets | West Hunter
I noticed some pundits talking about Trump getting his top-secret briefings. They were musing about the emotional impact of learning the Government’s ‘deep secrets’.

I wonder. I remember being read into a special access program and thinking “Is that all there is’?

There is important information that the U.S. government knows that isn’t on Wiki – details of nuclear weapons, for example – but on the whole I suspect that there are more truly interesting facts (some of them scary) that I know and the Feds don’t than the other way around.

Nazi Germany and the bomb: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/deep-secrets/#comment-85262
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Alzheimers | West Hunter
Some disease syndromes almost have to be caused by pathogens – for example, any with a fitness impact (prevalence x fitness reduction) > 2% or so, too big to be caused by mutational pressure. I don’t think that this is the case for AD: it hits so late in life that the fitness impact is minimal. However, that hardly means that it can’t be caused by a pathogen or pathogens – a big fraction of all disease syndromes are, including many that strike in old age. That possibility is always worth checking out, not least because infectious diseases are generally easier to prevent and/or treat.

There is new work that strongly suggests that pathogens are the root cause. It appears that the amyloid is an antimicrobial peptide. amyloid-beta binds to invading microbes and then surrounds and entraps them. ‘When researchers injected Salmonella into mice’s hippocampi, a brain area damaged in Alzheimer’s, A-beta quickly sprang into action. It swarmed the bugs and formed aggregates called fibrils and plaques. “Overnight you see the plaques throughout the hippocampus where the bugs were, and then in each single plaque is a single bacterium,” Tanzi says. ‘

obesity and pathogens: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/alzheimers/#comment-79757
not sure about this guy, but interesting: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/alzheimers/#comment-79748
http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2010/06/is-alzheimer%E2%80%99s-caused-by-a-bacterial-infection-of-the-brain/

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/the-twelfth-battle-of-the-isonzo/
All too often we see large, long-lasting research efforts that never produce, never achieve their goal.

For example, the amyloid hypothesis [accumulation of amyloid-beta oligomers is the cause of Alzheimers] has been dominant for more than 20 years, and has driven development of something like 15 drugs. None of them have worked. At the same time the well-known increased risk from APOe4 has been almost entirely ignored, even though it ought to be a clue to the cause.

In general, when a research effort has been spinning its wheels for a generation or more, shouldn’t we try something different? We could at least try putting a fraction of those research dollars into alternative approaches that have not yet failed repeatedly.

Mostly this applies to research efforts that at least wish they were science. ‘educational research’ is in a special class, and I hardly know what to recommend. Most of the remedial actions that occur to me violate one or more of the Geneva conventions.

APOe4 related to lymphatic system: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apolipoprotein_E

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/spontaneous-generation/#comment-2236
Look,if I could find out the sort of places that I usually misplace my keys – if I did, which I don’t – I could find the keys more easily the next time I lose them. If you find out that practitioners of a given field are not very competent, it marks that field as a likely place to look for relatively easy discovery. Thus medicine is a promising field, because on the whole doctors are not terribly good investigators. For example, none of the drugs developed for Alzheimers have worked at all, which suggests that our ideas on the causation of Alzheimers are likely wrong. Which suggests that it may (repeat may) be possible to make good progress on Alzheimers, either by an entirely empirical approach, which is way underrated nowadays, or by dumping the current explanation, finding a better one, and applying it.

You could start by looking at basic notions of field X and asking yourself: How do we really know that? Is there serious statistical evidence? Does that notion even accord with basic theory? This sort of checking is entirely possible. In most of the social sciences, we don’t, there isn’t, and it doesn’t.

Hygiene and the world distribution of Alzheimer’s disease: Epidemiological evidence for a relationship between microbial environment and age-adjusted disease burden: https://academic.oup.com/emph/article/2013/1/173/1861845/Hygiene-and-the-world-distribution-of-Alzheimer-s

Amyloid-β peptide protects against microbial infection in mouse and worm models of Alzheimer’s disease: http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/8/340/340ra72

Fungus, the bogeyman: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21676754-curious-result-hints-possibility-dementia-caused-fungal
Fungus and dementia
paper: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep15015
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : A Tangled Task Future
So we may often retain systems that inherit the structure of the human brain, and the structures of the social teams and organizations by which humans have worked together. All of which is another way to say: descendants of humans may have a long future as workers. We may have another future besides being retirees or iron-fisted peons ruling over gods. Even in a competitive future with no friendly singleton to ensure preferential treatment, something recognizably like us may continue. And even win.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Yale Law Journal - Amazon's Antitrust Paradox
This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to “consumer welfare,” defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon’s dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational—even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/06/why-amazon-bought-whole-foods/530652/
https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/06/17/the-distribution-channel-comes-to-you/
https://www.forbes.com/sites/panosmourdoukoutas/2017/06/18/amazon-whole-foods-deal-is-bad-news-for-store-cashiers-and-the-fight-for-15-minimum-wage/
Amazon Must Be Stopped: https://newrepublic.com/article/119769/amazons-monopoly-must-be-broken-radical-plan-tech-giant

Amazon Will Go To Denver: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/09/10/amazon-will-go-to-denver/
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/09/upshot/where-should-amazon-new-headquarters-be.html
http://www.paddypower.com/bet?action=go_event&category=SPECIALS&ev_class_id=45&ev_type_id=22711&ev_id=13023353&force_racing_css=&ev_desc=Where%20will%20Amazon%20build%20their%20Second%20Headquarters?
https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/this-city-hall-brought-to-you-by-amazon/
Real things cities are offering to get Amazon HQ2
*Chicago: Let Amazon keep employees' income tax
*SoCal: Give away $100M in land
*Boston: City employees working just for Amazon
*Fresno: Let Amazon decide how to spend tax dollars

https://www.wsj.com/articles/rules-of-engagement-how-cities-are-courting-amazons-new-headquarters-1522661401
Washington, D.C., might have a leg up, having already hosted Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos for visits when he considered acquiring the Washington Post, which he now owns. Mr. Bezos also purchased the former Textile Museum in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood for $23 million in 2016 and is currently turning it into a private residence.

28-year-old makes millions buying from Walmart, selling on Amazon: https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/28-year-old-makes-millions-buying-from-walmart-selling-on-amazon/ar-AAupB8i

https://twitter.com/DKThomp/status/954028684788273153
https://twitter.com/hyperplanes/status/954020562262781952
https://archive.is/uNk1p
https://archive.is/phiTA
Thread: Why Amazon’s HQ2 is going to Fairfax County

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-01-19/amazon-is-sure-acting-like-it-s-going-to-pick-the-d-c-area

https://twitter.com/NeonPeonage/status/955436146183561216
https://archive.is/lJeaz
walmart is the only entity that has even a slim chance at preventing jeff bezos from intermediating every commodity exchange in the world, u must respect

https://twitter.com/holerepairer/status/955469951833436160
https://archive.is/ig58T
"I tried to save you, but you didn't listen. Now you'll have to face Him alone..."

What Amazon does to wages: https://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21735020-worlds-largest-retailer-underpaying-its-employees-what-amazon-does-wages
Is the world’s largest retailer underpaying its employees?

Flat or falling industry wages are common in the cities and towns where Amazon opens distribution centres, according to an analysis by The Economist. Government figures show that after Amazon opens a storage depot, local wages for warehouse workers fall by an average of 3%. In places where Amazon operates, such workers earn about 10% less than similar workers employed elsewhere.

What Amazon Does to Poor Cities: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/02/amazon-warehouses-poor-cities/552020/
The debate over Amazon’s HQ2 obscures the company’s rapid expansion of warehouses in low-income areas.

The Facts Behind Trump’s Tweets on Amazon, Taxes and the Postal Service: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/29/us/politics/trump-amazon-post-office-fact-check.html

If Workers Slack Off, the Wristband Will Know. (And Amazon Has a Patent for It.): https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/01/technology/amazon-wristband-tracking-privacy.html
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/01/582370715/wrist-watching-amazon-patents-system-to-track-guide-employees-hands
https://boingboing.net/2018/02/02/amazon-patent-could-lead-to-do.html
https://www.jwz.org/blog/2018/02/amazon-patents-wristbands-shock-collars-designed-to-steer-employees-movements/

auto-management -> automation dystopia: http://marshallbrain.com/manna.htm

Amazon’s vision for the future: delivery drone beehives in every city: https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/23/15860668/amazon-drone-delivery-patent-city-centers
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Kinship Systems, Cooperation and the Evolution of Culture
In the data, societies with loose ancestral kinship ties cooperate and trust broadly, which is apparently sustained through a belief in moralizing gods, universally applicable moral principles, feelings of guilt, and large-scale institutions. Societies with a historically tightly knit kinship structure, on the other hand, exhibit strong in-group favoritism: they cheat on and are distrusting of out-group members, but readily support in-group members in need. This cooperation scheme is enforced by moral values of in-group loyalty, conformity to tight social norms, emotions of shame, and strong local institutions.

Henrich, Joseph, The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution,
Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter, Princeton University Press, 2015.
—, W.E.I.R.D People: How Westerners became Individualistic, Self-Obsessed, Guilt-Ridden,
Analytic, Patient, Principled and Prosperous, Princeton University Press, n.d.
—, Jean Ensminger, Richard McElreath, Abigail Barr, Clark Barrett, Alexander Bolyanatz, Juan Camilo Cardenas, Michael Gurven, Edwins Gwako, Natalie Hen- rich et al., “Markets, Religion, Community Size, and the Evolution of Fairness and Punishment,” Science, 2010, 327 (5972), 1480–1484.

...

—, —, Will M. Gervais, Aiyana K. Willard, Rita A. McNamara, Edward Slingerland, and Joseph Henrich, “The Cultural Evolution of Prosocial Religions,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2016, 39, e1.

...

Purzycki, Benjamin Grant, Coren Apicella, Quentin D. Atkinson, Emma Cohen, Rita Anne McNamara, Aiyana K. Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, Ara Norenzayan, and Joseph Henrich, “Moralistic Gods, Supernatural Punishment and the Expansion of Human Sociality,” Nature, 2016.

Table 1 summarizes
Figure 1 has map of kinship tightness
Figure 2 has cheating and in-group vs. out-group
Table 2 has regression
Figure 3 has univeralism and shame-guilt
Figure 4 has individualism-collectivism/conformity
Table 4 has radius of trust, Table 5 same for within-country variation (ethnic)
Tables 7 and 8 do universalism

The coevolution of kinship systems, cooperation, and culture: http://voxeu.org/article/kinship-cooperation-and-culture
- Benjamin Enke

pretty short

Joe Henrich presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-unD4ZzWB4

relevant video:
Johnny Cash - God's Gonna Cut You Down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJlN9jdQFSc

The Clan and the City: Sustaining Cooperation in China and Europe: http://tuvalu.santafe.edu/~bowles/ClanCity.pdf
Over the last millennium, the clan and the city have been the locus of cooperation in China and Europe respectively. This paper examines analytically, historically, and empirically the cultural, social, and institutional co-evolution that led to this bifurcation. We highlight that social organizations, the groups whose members feel moral obligation to, are basic units of cooperation. Social organizations impact institutional development because intra-group moral commitment reduces enforcement cost and social organizations have a comparative advantage in pursuing collective actions. They perpetuate due to positive feedbacks between morality, institutions, and the implied pattern of cooperation.

relevant poem: https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/stranger.html
https://balioc.tumblr.com/post/162371120846/so-if-my-historical-sources-are-telling-me-the

INDIVIDUALISM-COLLECTIVISM AND SOCIAL CAPITAL: http://psych.ut.ee/~jyri/en/Allik%26Realo_JCCP2004.pdf

Cultural Individualism Is Linked to Later Onset of Adult-Role Responsibilities Across Time and Regions: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022022118764838

Honesty, beliefs about honesty, and economic growth in 15 countries: https://www.uea.ac.uk/documents/3154295/7054672/Honesty+paper/41fecf09-235e-45c1-afc2-b872ea0ac882
- more Protestantism -> more honesty -> more economic growth (only significant before 1950)
- note inconsistency between 2 tests for Japan/Korea. just a matter of comparative development?
- some interesting results further in, eg, honest countries expect less honesty (suggested explanation: priming from media that ferrets out corruption as opposed to ignoring it in less honest countries)

Intrinsic honesty and the prevalence of rule
violations across societies: http://sci-hub.la/http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v531/n7595/full/nature17160.html

hmm: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/29/us/computer-science-cheating.html
cf: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:b9130bc6d444

The familial origins of European individualism: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324896479_The_familial_origins_of_European_individualism
[deleeted but still at http://www.jspes.org/spring_summer2018_macdonald.html]
Marriage practices in Northwest Europe are unique among societies with intensive agriculture. Critically, married couples were freely chosen non-relatives who set up their households independently of their parents and their extended families; households typically including non-relatives and were established only after achieving economic viability. This in turn required greater planning and self-control prior to marriage and resulted in greater husband-wife partnership than is typical when marriage is embedded within extended kinship networks (i.e., joint family structure-a form of collectivism paradig-matically occurring in the Middle East). A standard view among historians is that this marriage regime was a response to the unique context after the fall of the Roman Empire in which lords were forced to give incentives to laborers. This hypothesis is rejected for several reasons: 1. there are strong currents of individualism in Indo-European culture long predating the post-Roman period; 2. the manorial system of the post-Roman world was remarkably similar to the prevailing practices of Germanic tribes during the Roman period; 3. individualist families have several disadvantages compared to collectivist families, including later generation time, uncertain inheritance, greater likelihood of sexual assault prior to marriage in households composed of non-relatives-thus making it unlikely to be freely chosen because of incentives provided by lords. This is compatible with a theory that European individualism results from genetically based tendencies resulting in a misfit with medieval environments compared to collectivist family structure. Data are reviewed indicating that the most extreme forms of individualism occur in Scandinavian societies, implying a cline in individualism from southeast to northwest. In conclusion, an ethnically based northwest-southeast gradient is proposed as the main variable in explaining variation in family structure within Western Europe. However, viewed in broader terms-in comparison, say, to the Middle East-all of Eu-rope, including Eastern Europe, is relatively individualistic.

start here: https://hbdchick.wordpress.com/start-here/

medieval manorialism’s selection pressures: https://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/medieval-manorialisms-selection-pressures/
the working theory around here is that the Outbreeding Project set up the selection pressures for getting rid of much of what we could call “nepotistic altruism” in core europe, allowing for greater cooperation and trust between unrelated individuals and, therefore, a more open and “corporate” sort of society. a second working theory is that manorialism set up selection pressures for a whole suite of traits including perhaps: slow life histories; future time orientation; delayed gratification; the good ol’ protestant work ethic; a general compliant nature and even rather strong tendencies toward conformity; perhaps even a high degree of gullibility; perhaps a few extra iq points; and even more cooperation and trust between unrelated individuals. or not. please keep in mind that i’m just thinking out loud in these posts. oh — the manor system also probably contributed to the selection for the reduction in impulsive violence.

...

nor was there ever any classic, bipartite, european-style manorialism in the arabized, islamic world or in china, although there were plenty of large estates in china throughout its history. (don’t know about japan or the korean peninsula.) the difference between medieval european manors and the manors of china has been characterized as a difference between manorialism — which was a sort-of communal agricultural system in which everyone who worked on the manor was a part of a familia — and landlordism, which is what you had in china [pgs. 11-12]:

...

In the European feudal manor, landownership or economic power was merged with military, administrative, and judicial powers; each manorial lord exercised the entire range of those powers. The state system of manorialism was thus one in which sovereignty was parceled out. In Chinese landlordism, by contrast, political authority came to be separated from economic power through private land-ownership and the frequent buying and selling of land. This made possible the centralized imperial state system.

reading list: https://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/reading-list/

european consanguinity bibliography: https://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/european-consanguinity-bibliography/

Interview with HBD Chick: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/interview-with-hbd-chick/

Clannishness – The Series: Zigzag Lightning in the Brain: https://jaymans.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/clannishness-the-series-zigzag-lightning-in-the-brain/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Dogs and Men | West Hunter
Razib Khan talks about a new article that suggests that dogs were domesticated quite a long time ago, perhaps more than 35,000 years ago, well before the last glacial maximum.

We know that dogs have adapted to life with people, have changed in many ways.

I wonder how humans adapted to dogs.  If they were like modern pariah dogs, hanging around the village and eating garbage, doesn’t seem that they would have been that influential. But if used in hunting, they could have been very important, especially back in the Ice Age – and if they were that important, the partnership might have generated significant selective pressures in humans.
west-hunter  scitariat  commentary  gnxp  study  summary  org:nat  bio  nature  genetics  domestication  time  recent-selection  speculation  ideas  sapiens  history  antiquity  pop-diff  🌞  discussion  tip-of-tongue 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Dadly adaptations | West Hunter
If we understood how this works, we might find that individuals and populations vary in their propensity to show paternal care ( for genetic reasons). I would guess that paternal care was ancestral in modern humans, but it’s easy enough to lose something like this when selective pressures no longer favor it. Wolves have paternal care, but dogs have lost it.

This could have something to do with better health in married men. High testosterone levels aren’t cost-free.

It’s possible that various modern environmental factors interfere with the triggers for dadliness. That would hardly be surprising, since we don’t really know how they work.

All this has a number of interesting social implications. Let’s see how many of them you guys can spot.

Poles in the Tent: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/poles-in-the-tent/
I’m considering a different question: what was the impact of men’s contribution on their children’s survival and fitness? That’s not quite the same as the number of calories contributed. Food is not a single undifferentiated quantity: it’s a category, including a number of different kinds that can’t be freely substituted for each other. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates can all serve as fuel, but you need protein to build tissue. And amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are not all fungible. Some we can’t synthesize (essential amino acids) others can only be synthesized from a limited set of precursors, etc. Edible plants often have suboptimal mixes of amino acids ( too many Qs, not enough Us) , but I’ve never heard of this being a problem with meat. Then you have to consider essential fatty acids, vitamins, and trace elements.

In principle, if high-quality protein were the long pole in the tent, male provisioning of meat, which we see in chimpanzees, might matter quite a bit more than you would think from the number of calories alone. I’m not say that is necessarily the case, but it might be, and it’s worth checking out.

Sexual selection vs job specialization: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/sexual-selection-vs-job-specialization/
Pretty much every species is subject to sexual selection: heritable characteristics that lead to more mates or better mates can be favored by natural selection. Typically, sexual selection favors different strategies in males and females. Generally, males can gain fitness with increased mating opportunities, while females gain more from high-quality mates or mates that confer resources. Since the variance in reproduction is usually greater in males than females, sexual selection is usually stronger in males, although it exists and is significant in both sexes.

Usually, though, males and females of a given species have very similar ways of making a living. A male deer and a female deer both eat grass or arugula or whatever. Sexual selection may drive them to evolve in different directions, but finding something to eat mostly drives them in the same direction.

Humans are an exception. In the long past, men hunted and women gathered. The mix varied: in Arctic regions, men produce almost all the food (while women made and repaired gear, as well as raising children). In groups like the Bushmen, women produced most of the calories, but done rightly you would count more than calories: if most of the local plants had low protein or low-quality protein (wrong amino acid mix), meat from hunting could be important out of proportion to its caloric value.

This has been going for a long time, so there must have been selection for traits that aided provisioning ability in each sex. Those job-related selective pressures probably changed with time. For example, male strength may have become less valuable when the Bushmen developed poison arrows.

I was looking for an intelligent discussion of this question – but I ran into this and couldn’t force myself to read further: ” It should not simply be assumed that the exclusion of women from hunting rests upon “natural” physiological differences. ”

God give me strength.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/sexual-selection-vs-job-specialization/#comment-96323
What does Greg think about the “plows vs hoes” theory? (As seen here, although Sarah Constantin didn’t invent it.)

The claim is that some societies adopted farming (Europe, the Middle East, Asia) while some societies adopted horticulture (Oceana, sub-Saharan Africa, various primitive peoples) and that this had an affect on gender relations.

Basically: farming is backbreaking work, which favours males, giving them a lot of social capital. You end up with a patriarchal kind of society, where the men do stuff and the women are mostly valuable for raising offspring.

...

It’s kinda true, in places. There is a connection I haven’t seen explicated: the ‘hoe culture” has to have some factor keeping population density low, so that labor is scarcer than land. Tropical diseases like malaria might be part of that. Then again, crops like yams don’t store well, better to keep them in the ground until eating. That means it’s hard to tax people – easy with grain bins. No taxes -> no State – > high local violence. At times, VD may also help limit density, cf Africa’s ‘sterility belt’.

I am not a Moron: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/i-am-not-a-moron/
So said Augustin Fuentes on Twitter, a few days ago. He’s the same guy that said “Genes don’t do anything by themselves; epigenetics and complex metabolic and developmental systems are at play in how bodies work. The roundworm C. elegans has about 20,000 genes while humans have about 23,000 genes, yet it is pretty obvious that humans are more than 15-percent more complex than roundworms. So while genes matter, they are only a small part of the whole evolutionary picture. Focusing just on DNA won’t get you anywhere.”

Fuentes was claiming that we don’t really know that, back in prehistory, men did most of the hunting while women gathered.

...

Someone (Will@Evolving _Moloch) criticized this as a good candidate for the most misleading paragraph ever written. The folly of youth! When you’ve been around as long as I have, sonny, you will realize how hard it is to set records for stupidity.

Fuente’s para is multidimensional crap, of course. People used to hunt animals like red deer, or bison, or eland: sometimes mammoths or rhinos. Big animals. Back in the day, our ancestors used stabbing spears, which go back at least half a million years. Stand-off weapons like atlatls, or bows, or JSOW, are relatively recent. Hunters took big risks & suffered frequent injuries. Men are almost twice as strong as women, particularly in upper-body strength, which is what matters in spear-chucking. They’re also faster, which can be very important which your ambush fails.
So men did the hunting. This isn’t complicated.

Which contemporary hunter-gather societies followed this pattern, had men do almost all of the big-game hunting? All of them.

...

Look, feminists aren’t happy with human nature, the one that actually exists and is the product of long-term evolutionary pressures. Too bad for them. When they say stuff like “It should not simply be assumed that the exclusion of women from hunting rests upon “natural” physiological differences. “, they just sound like fools.. ‘natural physiological differences” exist. They’re as obvious a punch in the kisser.

Suppose you wanted to construct a society with effective sexual equality – which is probably just a mistake, but suppose it. The most effective approach would surely entail knowing and taking into account how the world actually ticks. You’d be better off understanding that about 6,000 genes (out of 20,000) show significant expression differences between the sexes, than by pretending that we’re all the same. You would to make it so: by hook or by crook, by state force and genetic engineering.

Similarly, if you want to minimize war, pretending that people aren’t warlike is a poor start – about as sensible as fighting forest fires by pretending that trees aren’t flammable.

My advice to Augustin Fuentes, about not being a moron: show, don’t tell.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/i-am-not-a-moron/#comment-97721
Since DNA is the enduring part, the part that gets transmitted from one generation to the next, the part that contains the instructions/program that determine development and specify everything – he’s wrong. Stupid, like you. Well, to be fair, ignorant as well: there are technical aspects of genetics that Agustin Fuentes is unlikely to know anything about, things that are almost never covered in the typical education of an anthropologist. I doubt if he knows what a Fisher wave is, or anything about selfish genetic elements, or coalescent theory, or for that matter the breeder’s equation.

There are a number of complex technical subjects, things that at least some people understand: those people can do stuff that the man in the street can’t. In most cases, amateurs don’t jump in and pretend to know what’s going on. For example you don’t hear much concerning amateur opinions concerning detonation physics or group theory. But they’re happy to have opinions about natural selection, even though they know fuck-all about it.

https://twitter.com/FinchesofDarwin/status/922924692389818368
https://archive.is/AcBgh
"Significantly fewer females are present at hunts than males...females tend to appear at the hunting site once the capture has been made..."

“Women in Tech”: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/women-in-tech/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
World Without Stars | West Hunter
Seems to me that forming in a galaxy might give a solar system enough heavy elements, while being flung into the intergalactic deeps would protect you from cosmic catastrophes like gamma-ray bursts.   Such stars might be good homes for complex life, especially a few billion years ago.

Interstellar travel is hard enough for us, but for these guys, it would be a bitch. That first step is a doozy.
west-hunter  scitariat  speculation  ideas  commentary  study  summary  news  org:nat  org:sci  space  xenobio  death  anthropic  fermi 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Reading | West Hunter
Reading speed and comprehension interest me, but I don’t have as much information as I would like.  I would like to see the distribution of reading speeds ( in the general population, and also in college graduates).  I have looked a bit at discussions of this, and there’s something wrong.  Or maybe a lot wrong.  Researchers apparently say that nobody reads 900 words a minute with full comprehension, but I’ve seen it done.  I would also like to know if anyone has statistically validated methods that  increase reading speed.

On related topics, I wonder how many serious readers  there are, here and also in other countries.  Are they as common in Japan or China, with their very different scripts?   Are reading speeds higher or lower there?

How many people have  their houses really, truly stuffed with books?  Here and elsewhere?  Last time I checked we had about 5000 books around the house: I figure that’s serious, verging on the pathological.

To what extent do people remember what they read?  Judging from the general results of  adult knowledge studies, not very much of what they took in school, but maybe voluntary reading is different.

hmm:
Beijingers' average daily reading time exceeds an hour: report: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201712/07/WS5a293e1aa310fcb6fafd44c0.html
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Rheumatoid Arthritis | West Hunter
It causes characteristic changes in the bones.  Key point:  it is vanishingly rare in Old World skeletons before the 17th century.  Those changes, however, been seen in some pre-Columbian Amerindian skeletons [work by Bruce Rothschild].

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

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/montezumas-revenge/
Everybody knows that the Amerindians were devastated by new infectious diseases after Columbus discovered America and made it stick. Smallpox, falciparum malaria, yellow fever, bubonic plague, cholera, measles, whooping cough, etc : by some estimates, the Amerindian population dropped by about 90%, worse than the Black Plague, which only killed off half of Europe. Naturally, you wonder what ailments the Americas exported to the rest of the world.

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/montezumas-revenge/#comment-2910
Malaria came from Africa, probably. There are old primate versions. Smallpox, dunno: I have heard people suggest viral infections of cows and monkeys as ancestral. Measles is derived from rinderpest, probably less than two thousand years ago.

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

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

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

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/08/27/age-of-discovery-pandora/
In the Age of Discovery, Europeans were playing with fire. Every voyage of exploration risked bring back some new plague. From the New World, syphilis, probably typhus and rheumatoid arthritis. From India, cholera. HIV, recently, from Africa. Comparably important new pests attacking important crops and domesticated animals also arrived, such as grape phylloxera (which wiped out most of the vineyards of Europe) and potato blight ( an oomycete or ‘water mold’, from central Mexico).

If one of those plagues had been as potent as smallpox or falciparum malaria, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
In the first place | West Hunter
We hear a lot about innovative educational approaches, and since these silly people have been at this for a long time now, we hear just as often about the innovative approaches that some idiot started up a few years ago and are now crashing in flames.  We’re in steady-state.

I’m wondering if it isn’t time to try something archaic.  In particular, mnemonic techniques, such as the method of loci.  As far as I know, nobody has actually tried integrating the more sophisticated mnemonic techniques into a curriculum.  Sure, we all know useful acronyms, like the one for resistor color codes, but I’ve not heard of anyone teaching kids how to build a memory palace.

US vs Nazi army, Vietnam, the draft: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/in-the-first-place/#comment-20136

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

The advantages of organizing knowledge in terms of country and place: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/02/advantages-organizing-knowledge-terms-country-place.html
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Columbia | West Hunter
I remember this all pretty well: I’d still welcome the chance to strangle the key NASA players. I remember how they forbade lower-level people at NASA to talk to the Air Force and ask for recon assets – how they peddled ass-covering bullshit about how nothing could possibly have been done. A lie.

One of the dogs that didn’t bark was the fact that NASA acted as if relevant DOD assets did not exist. For example, if you could have put a package into a matching low orbit with those consumables in shortest supply, say CO2 absorbers and/or cheeseburgers, there would would have been considerably more time available to assemble a rescue mission. For some forgotten reason the Air Force has hundreds of missiles (Minuteman-IIIs) that can be launched on a moment’s notice – it wouldn’t be that hard to replace a warhead with a consumables package. A moment’s thought tells you that some such capability is likely to exist – one intended to rapidly replaced destroyed recon sats, for example. Certainly worth considering, worth checking, before giving up on the crew. Just as the Air Force has recon assets that could have been most helpful in diagnosing the state of the ship – but NASA would rather die than expose itself to Air Force cooties. Not that the Air Force doesn’t have cooties, but NASA has quite a few of its own already.

If we ever had a real reason for manned space travel – I can imagine some – the first thing you’d need to do is kill everyone in the NASA manned space program. JPL you could keep.

usefulness of LEO:
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/columbia/#comment-75883
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/columbia/#comment-75891

hmm:
Book Review: Whitey On the Moon: http://www.henrydampier.com/2015/02/book-review-whitey-moon/

https://twitter.com/AngloRemnant/status/960997033053171712
https://archive.is/DTyGN
Homicidal stat of the day: The US spends more in 1 year of providing Medicaid to hispanics than the entire inflation-adjusted cost of the Apollo program.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
How Samuel Huntington Predicted Our Political Moment - The American Interest
The views of the general public on issues of national identity differ significantly from those of many elites. The public, overall, is concerned with physical security but also with societal security, which involves the sustainability–within acceptable conditions for evolution–of existing patterns of language, culture, association, religion and national identity. For many elites, these concerns are secondary to participating in the global economy, supporting international trade and migration, strengthening international institutions, promoting American values abroad, and encouraging minority identities and cultures at home. The central distinction between the public and elites is not isolationism versus internationalism, but nationalism versus cosmopolitanism.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/book-party/wp/2017/07/18/samuel-huntington-a-prophet-for-the-trump-era/
The book looks back to the Revolutionary War, the Jacksonian age, the Progressive era and the 1960s as moments of high creedal passions, and Huntington’s descriptions capture America today. In such moments, he writes, discontent is widespread, and authority and expertise are questioned; traditional values of liberty, individualism, equality and popular control of government dominate public debates; politics is characterized by high polarization and constant protest; hostility toward power, wealth and inequality grows intense; social movements focused on causes such as women’s rights and criminal justice flourish; and new forms of media emerge devoted to advocacy and adversarial journalism.

Huntington even predicts the timing of America’s next fight: “If the periodicity of the past prevails,” he writes, “a major sustained creedal passion period will occur in the second and third decades of the twenty-first century.”

We’re right on schedule.

...

Over the subsequent two decades, Huntington lost hope. In his final book, “Who Are We?,” which he emphasizes reflect his views not just as a scholar but also as a patriot, Huntington revises his definitions of America and Americans. Whereas once the creed was paramount, here it is merely a byproduct of the Anglo-Protestant culture — with its English language, Christian faith, work ethic and values of individualism and dissent — that he now says forms the true core of American identity.

...

The Huntington of 1981, apparently, was just wrong. When listing academics who had — inaccurately, he now insists — defined Americans by their political beliefs, Huntington quotes an unnamed scholar who once eloquently described Americans as inseparable from the self-evident truths of the Declaration. Unless you recognize the passage from “American Politics” or bother to check the endnotes, you have no idea he is quoting himself. It’s as close to a wink as you’ll find in Huntington’s angriest book.

...

Little wonder that, long before Trump cultivated the alt-right and Hillary Clinton denounced the “deplorables” in our midst, Huntington foresaw a backlash against multiculturalism from white Americans. “One very plausible reaction would be the emergence of exclusivist sociopolitical movements,” he writes, “composed largely but not only of white males, primarily working-class and middle-class, protesting and attempting to stop or reverse these changes and what they believe, accurately or not, to be the diminution of their social and economic status, their loss of jobs to immigrants and foreign countries, the perversion of their culture, the displacement of their language, and the erosion or even evaporation of the historical identity of their country. Such movements would be both racially and culturally inspired and could be anti-Hispanic, anti-black, and anti-immigration.” The more extreme elements in such movements, Huntington notes, fear “the replacement of the white culture that made America great by black or brown cultures that are . . . in their view, intellectually and morally inferior.”

...

This is a conflict he had long anticipated. In his 1996 book proclaiming a clash of civilizations, he writes that the West will continue its slow decline relative Asia and the Islamic world. While economic dynamism drives Asia’s rise, population growth in Muslim nations “provides recruits for fundamentalism, terrorism, insurgency, and migration.” Much as Trump mocks politicians who refuse to decry “radical Islamic terrorism,” Huntington criticizes American leaders such as Bill Clinton who argued that the West had no quarrel with Islam, only with violent extremists. “Fourteen hundred years of history demonstrate otherwise,” he remarks.

Huntington’s clash has been caricatured as a single-minded call to arms against Muslims, and certainly the argument is neither so narrow nor so simple. He is probably more concerned with China and fears a “major war” if Washington challenges Beijing’s rise as Asia’s hegemon. Yet the threat Huntington sees from the Muslim world goes far beyond terrorism or religious extremism. He worries of a broader Islamic resurgence, with political Islam as only one part of “the much more extensive revival of Islamic ideas, practices, and rhetoric and the rededication to Islam by Muslim populations.” Huntington cites scholars warning of the spread of Islamic legal concepts in the West, decries the “inhospitable nature of Islamic culture” for democracy and suggests that Islam will prevail in the numbers game against Christianity. In the long run, “Mohammed wins out,” he states. “Christianity spreads primarily by conversion, Islam by conversion and reproduction.”

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/918662411669917697
https://archive.is/Z2FlF
I am rereading Huntington. The only options he foresees are:
* cultural decay
* political breakup
* white re-assertion
* Christian revival
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Lucio Russo - Wikipedia
In The Forgotten Revolution: How Science Was Born in 300 BC and Why It Had to Be Reborn (Italian: La rivoluzione dimenticata), Russo promotes the belief that Hellenistic science in the period 320-144 BC reached heights not achieved by Classical age science, and proposes that it went further than ordinarily thought, in multiple fields not normally associated with ancient science.

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

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

...

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

...

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

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

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

Was Roman Science in Decline? (Excerpt from My New Book): https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/13477
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Lost and Found | West Hunter
I get the distinct impression that someone (probably someone other than Varro) came up with an approximation of germ theory 1500 years before Girolamo Fracastoro. But his work was lost.

Everybody knows, or should know, that the vast majority of Classical literature has not been preserved. Those lost works contained facts and ideas that might have value today – certainly there are topics that we understand much better because of insights from Classical literature. For example, Reich and Patterson find that some of the Indian castes have existed for something like three thousand years: this is easier to believe when you consider that Megasthenes wrote about the caste system as early as 300 BC.

We don’t put much effort into recovering lost Classical literature. But there are ways in which we could push harder – by increased funding for work on the Herculaneum scrolls, or the Oxyrhynchus papyri collection, for example. Some old-fashioned motivated archaeology might get lucky and find another set of Amarna cuneiform letters, or a new Antikythera mechanism.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/spontaneous-generation/
Here we have yet another case in which a discovery was possible for a long time before it was actually accepted. Aristotle is the villain here: he clearly endorses spontaneous generation of many plants and animals. On the other hand, I don’t remember him saying that people should accept all of his conclusions uncritically and without further experimentation for the next couple of thousand years, which is what happened. So maybe we’re all guilty.

...

Part of the funny here (not even counting practical experience) is that almost every educated man over these two millennia had read, and indeed studied deeply, a work with a fairly clear statement of the actual fly->egg->maggot->fly process. As I as I can tell, only one person (Redi) seems to have picked up on this.

“But the more Achilles gazed, the greater rose his desire for vengeance, and his eyes flashed terribly, like coals beneath his lids, as he lifted the god’s marvellous gifts and exulted. When he had looked his fill on their splendour, he spoke to Thetis winged words; ‘Mother, the god grants me a gift fit for the immortals, such as no mortal smith could fashion. Now I shall arm myself for war. Yet I fear lest flies infest the wounds the bronze blades made, and maggots breed in the corpse of brave Patroclus, and now his life is fled, rot the flesh, and disfigure all his body.’ ”

You’d think a blind man would have noticed this.

Anyhow, the lesson is clear. Low hanging fruit can persist for a long time if the conventional wisdom is wrong – and sometimes it is.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Interview: Mostly Sealing Wax | West Hunter
https://soundcloud.com/user-519115521/greg-cochran-part-2
https://medium.com/@houstoneuler/annotating-part-2-of-the-greg-cochran-interview-with-james-miller-678ba33f74fc

- conformity and Google, defense and spying (China knows prob almost all our "secrets")
- in the past you could just find new things faster than people could reverse-engineer. part of the problem is that innovation is slowing down today (part of the reason for convergence by China/developing world).
- introgression from archaics of various kinds
- mutational load and IQ, wrath of khan neanderthal
- trade and antiquity (not that useful besides ideas tbh), Roman empire, disease, smallpox
- spices needed to be grown elsewhere, but besides that...
- analogy: caste system in India (why no Brahmin car repairmen?), slavery in Greco-Roman times, more water mills in medieval times (rivers better in north, but still could have done it), new elite not liking getting hands dirty, low status of engineers, rise of finance
- crookery in finance, hedge fund edge might be substantially insider trading
- long-term wisdom of moving all manufacturing to China...?
- economic myopia: British financialization before WW1 vis-a-vis Germany. North vs. South and cotton/industry, camels in Middle East vs. wagons in Europe
- Western medicine easier to convert to science than Eastern, pseudoscience and wrong theories better than bag of recipes
- Greeks definitely knew some things that were lost (eg, line in Pliny makes reference to combinatorics calculation rediscovered by German dude much later. think he's referring to Catalan numbers?), Lucio Russo book
- Indo-Europeans, Western Europe, Amerindians, India, British Isles, gender, disease, and conquest
- no farming (Dark Age), then why were people still farming on Shetland Islands north of Scotland?
- "symbolic" walls, bodies with arrows
- family stuff, children learning, talking dog, memory and aging
- Chinese/Japanese writing difficulty and children learning to read
- Hatfield-McCoy feud: the McCoy family was actually a case study in a neurological journal. they had anger management issues because of cancers of their adrenal gland (!!).

the Chinese know...: https://macropolo.org/casting-off-real-beijings-cryptic-warnings-finance-taking-economy/
Over the last couple of years, a cryptic idiom has crept into the way China’s top leaders talk about risks in the country’s financial system: tuo shi xiang xu (脱实向虚), which loosely translates as “casting off the real for the empty.” Premier Li Keqiang warned against it at his press conference at the end of the 2016 National People’s Congress (NPC). At this year’s NPC, Li inserted this very expression into his annual work report. And in April, while on an inspection tour of Guangxi, President Xi Jinping used the term, saying that China must “unceasingly promote industrial modernization, raise the level of manufacturing, and not allow the real to be cast off for the empty.”

Such an odd turn of phrase is easy to overlook, but it belies concerns about a significant shift in the way that China’s economy works. What Xi and Li were warning against is typically called financialization in developed economies. It’s when “real” companies—industrial firms, manufacturers, utility companies, property developers, and anyone else that produces a tangible product or service—take their money and, rather than put it back into their businesses, invest it in “empty”, or speculative, assets. It occurs when the returns on financial investments outstrip those in the real economy, leading to a disproportionate amount of money being routed into the financial system.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Antibiotic feed/food supplementation | West Hunter
Many domesticated animals show increased growth and improved feed efficiency when given low doses of antibiotics.  In fact, this is by far the biggest use of antibiotics.  Mostly you hear about this in the context of worries about how this may select for resistant bacteria (which may well be true), but one interesting question is why it even works – and what other applications this technique might have.

It strikes me that it might be useful in food emergencies – famines and so forth.  The dosage is low (200 g per ton) and can increase feed efficiency over 10% in some cases.  Assuming that antibiotic supplementation works in humans (which is likely, considering that it works in a wide spectrum of domestic animals), you might be able to save 5 or 10% more people with a given food supply. Now if we ever bothered to learn exactly how this works, we might be able to find an equivalent approach that didn’t use antibiotics, some other way of knocking out certain pathogens (phage therapy?) or altering the gut flora.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The eternal Axial Age – Gene Expression
Into situation stepped Sulla. Sulla is not a contingent man. Sulla is a type. A reaction, usually a vain and futile attempt to hold the past together, and push it into the future, by brutal means. Sulla arises when social elites lose faith in the present, and attempt to recreate institutions from an idealized past.

Sulla is efficient. Cruel, but certain in his rightness. Sulla is not a clown. He is not narcissistic, for Sulla does have ideals, even if you hold that those ideals are cruel or callous. Sulla is a piece of furniture, found in many places at many times. The United States of America has not seen Sulla yet. I believe it will.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
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