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REST is the new SOAP | Hacker News
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27 days ago by nhaliday
Ask HN: What's a promising area to work on? | Hacker News
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28 days ago by nhaliday
Advantages and disadvantages of building a single page web application - Software Engineering Stack Exchange
Advantages
- All data has to be available via some sort of API - this is a big advantage for my use case as I want to have an API to my application anyway. Right now about 60-70% of my calls to get/update data are done through a REST API. Doing a single page application will allow me to better test my REST API since the application itself will use it. It also means that as the application grows, the API itself will grow since that is what the application uses; no need to maintain the API as an add-on to the application.
- More responsive application - since all data loaded after the initial page is kept to a minimum and transmitted in a compact format (like JSON), data requests should generally be faster, and the server will do slightly less processing.

Disadvantages
- Duplication of code - for example, model code. I am going to have to create models both on the server side (PHP in this case) and the client side in Javascript.
- Business logic in Javascript - I can't give any concrete examples on why this would be bad but it just doesn't feel right to me having business logic in Javascript that anyone can read.
- Javascript memory leaks - since the page never reloads, Javascript memory leaks can happen, and I would not even know where to begin to debug them.

--

Disadvantages I often see with Single Page Web Applications:
- Inability to link to a specific part of the site, there's often only 1 entry point.
- Disfunctional back and forward buttons.
- The use of tabs is limited or non-existant.
(especially mobile:)
- Take very long to load.
- Don't function at all.
- Can't reload a page, a sudden loss of network takes you back to the start of the site.

This answer is outdated, Most single page application frameworks have a way to deal with the issues above – Luis May 27 '14 at 1:41
@Luis while the technology is there, too often it isn't used. – Pieter B Jun 12 '14 at 6:53

https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/201838/building-a-web-application-that-is-almost-completely-rendered-by-javascript-whi

https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/143194/what-advantages-are-conferred-by-using-server-side-page-rendering
Server-side HTML rendering:
- Fastest browser rendering
- Page caching is possible as a quick-and-dirty performance boost
- For "standard" apps, many UI features are pre-built
- Sometimes considered more stable because components are usually subject to compile-time validation
- Leans on backend expertise
- Sometimes faster to develop*
*When UI requirements fit the framework well.

Client-side HTML rendering:
- Lower bandwidth usage
- Slower initial page render. May not even be noticeable in modern desktop browsers. If you need to support IE6-7, or many mobile browsers (mobile webkit is not bad) you may encounter bottlenecks.
- Building API-first means the client can just as easily be an proprietary app, thin client, another web service, etc.
- Leans on JS expertise
- Sometimes faster to develop**
**When the UI is largely custom, with more interesting interactions. Also, I find coding in the browser with interpreted code noticeably speedier than waiting for compiles and server restarts.

https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/237537/progressive-enhancement-vs-single-page-apps

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/21862054/single-page-application-advantages-and-disadvantages
=== ADVANTAGES ===
1. SPA is extremely good for very responsive sites:
2. With SPA we don't need to use extra queries to the server to download pages.
3.May be any other advantages? Don't hear about any else..

=== DISADVANTAGES ===
1. Client must enable javascript.
2. Only one entry point to the site.
3. Security.

https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/287819/should-you-write-your-back-end-as-an-api
focused on .NET

https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/337467/is-it-normal-design-to-completely-decouple-backend-and-frontend-web-applications
A SPA comes with a few issues associated with it. Here are just a few that pop in my mind now:
- it's mostly JavaScript. One error in a section of your application might prevent other sections of the application to work because of that Javascript error.
- CORS.
- SEO.
- separate front-end application means separate projects, deployment pipelines, extra tooling, etc;
- security is harder to do when all the code is on the client;

- completely interact in the front-end with the user and only load data as needed from the server. So better responsiveness and user experience;
- depending on the application, some processing done on the client means you spare the server of those computations.
- have a better flexibility in evolving the back-end and front-end (you can do it separately);
- if your back-end is essentially an API, you can have other clients in front of it like native Android/iPhone applications;
- the separation might make is easier for front-end developers to do CSS/HTML without needing to have a server application running on their machine.

Create your own dysfunctional single-page app: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18341993
I think are three broadly assumed user benefits of single-page apps:
1. Improved user experience.
2. Improved perceived performance.
3. It’s still the web.

5 mistakes to create a dysfunctional single-page app
Mistake 1: Under-estimate long-term development and maintenance costs
Mistake 2: Use the single-page app approach unilaterally
Mistake 3: Under-invest in front end capability
Mistake 4: Use naïve dev practices
Mistake 5: Surf the waves of framework hype

The disadvantages of single page applications: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9879685
You probably don't need a single-page app: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19184496
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20384738
MPA advantages:
- Stateless requests
- The browser knows how to deal with a traditional architecture
- Fewer, more mature tools
- SEO for free

When to go for the single page app:
- Core functionality is real-time (e.g Slack)
- Rich UI interactions are core to the product (e.g Trello)
- Lots of state shared between screens (e.g. Spotify)

Hybrid solutions
...
Github uses this hybrid approach.
...

Ask HN: Is it ok to use traditional server-side rendering these days?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13212465

https://www.reddit.com/r/webdev/comments/cp9vb8/are_people_still_doing_ssr/
https://www.reddit.com/r/webdev/comments/93n60h/best_javascript_modern_approach_to_multi_page/
https://www.reddit.com/r/webdev/comments/aax4k5/do_you_develop_solely_using_spa_these_days/
The SEO issues with SPAs is a persistent concern you hear about a lot, yet nobody ever quantifies the issues. That is because search engines keep the operation of their crawler bots and indexing secret. I have read into it some, and it seems that problem used to exist, somewhat, but is more or less gone now. Bots can deal with SPAs fine.
--
I try to avoid building a SPA nowadays if possible. Not because of SEO (there are now server-side solutions to help with that), but because a SPA increases the complexity of the code base by a magnitude. State management with Redux... Async this and that... URL routing... And don't forget to manage page history.

How about just render pages with templates and be done?

If I need a highly dynamic UI for a particular feature, then I'd probably build an embeddable JS widget for it.
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7 weeks ago by nhaliday
Why general audience news will only get more ideologically polarized: propaganda pays the bills – Gene Expression
The “best” thing about the game that the Indian media played, and the game that the American media plays, is that the people believe that the propaganda is actually fair and balanced! Even the journalists themselves may believe the propaganda because many of them lack specialized knowledge to know when the people they interview are lying to them or misleading them (the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect is really disturbing).

Finally, if you are one of those people who strangely prefer the truth, there is a way you can get it: become wealthy and buy the truth. If you are running a hedge-fund or some such other thing, information is not just a passive consumption good. Information is input into the production of more wealth and power. People in this sort of results-driven financial sector mine informants for truth in a very conscious manner to maximize returns for themselves and their clients. And of course, there exists a market for what is basically “reality-based journalism”. It’s just a market that is invisible to us plebs unless we find ourselves having access to nuggets of truth which no one wants to hear, but which global capital wants to profit from….

The “media” that you see and hear about. The media with the big budgets and large news organizations are actually just a simulacrum of an objective data-gathering and transmission institution. In reality, they are tribal newsletters. On the narrow scale, they often reinforce particular tribal narratives and ignore countervailing ones. But on a broader national scale, they collectively flatter our self-image as a people in a sometimes ludicrous fashion.
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12 weeks ago by nhaliday
Information Processing: Beijing 2019 Notes
Trump, the trade war, and US-China relations came up frequently in discussion. Chinese opinion tends to focus on the long term. Our driver for a day trip to the Great Wall was an older man from the countryside, who has lived only 3 years in Beijing. I was surprised to hear him expressing a very balanced opinion about the situation. He understood Trump's position remarkably well -- China has done very well trading with the US, and owes much of its technological and scientific development to the West. A recalibration is in order, and it is natural for Trump to negotiate in the interest of US workers.

China's economy is less and less export-dependent, and domestic drivers of growth seem easy to identify. For example, there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit in the form of "catch up growth" -- but now this means not just catching up with the outside developed world, but Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities catching up with Tier 1 cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc.

China watchers have noted the rapidly increasing government and private sector debt necessary to drive growth here. Perhaps this portends a future crisis. However, I didn't get any sense of impending doom for the Chinese economy. To be fair there was very little inkling of what would happen to the US economy in 2007-8. Some of the people I met with are highly placed with special knowledge -- they are among the most likely to be aware of problems. Overall I had the impression of normalcy and quiet confidence, but perhaps this would have been different in an export/manufacturing hub like Shenzhen. [ Update: Today after posting this I did hear something about economic concerns... So situation is unclear. ]

Innovation is everywhere here. Perhaps the most obvious is the high level of convenience from the use of e-payment and delivery services. You can pay for everything using your mobile (increasingly, using just your face!), and you can have food and other items (think Amazon on steroids) delivered quickly to your apartment. Even museum admissions can be handled via QR code.

A highly placed technologist told me that in fields like AI or computer science, Chinese researchers and engineers have access to in-depth local discussions of important arXiv papers -- think StackOverflow in Mandarin. Since most researchers here can read English, they have access both to Western advances, and a Chinese language reservoir of knowledge and analysis. He anticipates that eventually the pace and depth of engineering implementation here will be unequaled.

IVF and genetic testing are huge businesses in China. Perhaps I'll comment more on this in the future. New technologies, in genomics as in other areas, tend to be received more positively here than in the US and Europe.

...

Note Added: In the comments AG points to a Quora post by a user called Janus Dongye Qimeng, an AI researcher in Cambridge UK, who seems to be a real China expert. I found these posts to be very interesting.

Infrastructure development in poor regions of China

Size of Chinese internet social network platforms

Can the US derail China 2025? (Core technology stacks in and outside China)

Huawei smartphone technology stack and impact of US entity list interdiction (software and hardware!)

Agriculture at Massive Scale

US-China AI competition

More recommenations: Bruno Maçães is one of my favorite modern geopolitical thinkers. A Straussian of sorts (PhD under Harvey Mansfield at Harvard), he was Secretary of State for European Affairs in Portugal, and has thought deeply about the future of Eurasia and of US-China relations. He spent the last year in Beijing and I was eager to meet with him while here. His recent essay Equilibrium Americanum appeared in the Berlin Policy Journal. Podcast interview -- we hope to have him on Manifold soon :-)
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july 2019 by nhaliday
The Scholar's Stage: Book Notes—Strategy: A History
https://twitter.com/Scholars_Stage/status/1151681120787816448
https://archive.is/Bp5eu
Freedman's book is something of a shadow history of Western intellectual thought between 1850 and 2010. Marx, Tolstoy, Foucault, game theorists, economists, business law--it is all in there.

Thus the thoughts prompted by this book have surprisingly little to do with war.
Instead I am left with questions about the long-term trajectory of Western thought. Specifically:

*Has America really dominated Western intellectual life in the post 45 world as much as English speakers seem to think it has?
*Has the professionalization/credential-iization of Western intellectual life helped or harmed our ability to understand society?
*Will we ever recover from the 1960s?
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july 2019 by nhaliday
Computer latency: 1977-2017
If we look at overall results, the fastest machines are ancient. Newer machines are all over the place. Fancy gaming rigs with unusually high refresh-rate displays are almost competitive with machines from the late 70s and early 80s, but “normal” modern computers can’t compete with thirty to forty year old machines.

...

If we exclude the game boy color, which is a different class of device than the rest, all of the quickest devices are Apple phones or tablets. The next quickest device is the blackberry q10. Although we don’t have enough data to really tell why the blackberry q10 is unusually quick for a non-Apple device, one plausible guess is that it’s helped by having actual buttons, which are easier to implement with low latency than a touchscreen. The other two devices with actual buttons are the gameboy color and the kindle 4.

After that iphones and non-kindle button devices, we have a variety of Android devices of various ages. At the bottom, we have the ancient palm pilot 1000 followed by the kindles. The palm is hamstrung by a touchscreen and display created in an era with much slower touchscreen technology and the kindles use e-ink displays, which are much slower than the displays used on modern phones, so it’s not surprising to see those devices at the bottom.

...

Almost every computer and mobile device that people buy today is slower than common models of computers from the 70s and 80s. Low-latency gaming desktops and the ipad pro can get into the same range as quick machines from thirty to forty years ago, but most off-the-shelf devices aren’t even close.

If we had to pick one root cause of latency bloat, we might say that it’s because of “complexity”. Of course, we all know that complexity is bad. If you’ve been to a non-academic non-enterprise tech conference in the past decade, there’s a good chance that there was at least one talk on how complexity is the root of all evil and we should aspire to reduce complexity.

Unfortunately, it's a lot harder to remove complexity than to give a talk saying that we should remove complexity. A lot of the complexity buys us something, either directly or indirectly. When we looked at the input of a fancy modern keyboard vs. the apple 2 keyboard, we saw that using a relatively powerful and expensive general purpose processor to handle keyboard inputs can be slower than dedicated logic for the keyboard, which would both be simpler and cheaper. However, using the processor gives people the ability to easily customize the keyboard, and also pushes the problem of “programming” the keyboard from hardware into software, which reduces the cost of making the keyboard. The more expensive chip increases the manufacturing cost, but considering how much of the cost of these small-batch artisanal keyboards is the design cost, it seems like a net win to trade manufacturing cost for ease of programming.

...

If you want a reference to compare the kindle against, a moderately quick page turn in a physical book appears to be about 200 ms.

https://twitter.com/gravislizard/status/927593460642615296
almost everything on computers is perceptually slower than it was in 1983
https://archive.is/G3D5K
https://archive.is/vhDTL
https://archive.is/a3321
https://archive.is/imG7S
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july 2019 by nhaliday
CPC Elite Perception of the US since the Early 1990s: Wang Huning and Zheng Bijian as Test Cases
What makes this paper distinct from previous research is that it juxtaposes two of the most influential yet under-studied America watchers within the top echelon of the CPC, Wang Huning and Zheng Bijian. To be sure, the two have indelibly shaped CPC attitudes, yet surprisingly enough, although Zheng has been written about extensively in the English language, Wang has hitherto largely remained outside academics’ purview. This paper also aims, in passing, to explore linkages between Wang and Zheng ideas and those of other well-known America watchers like Liu Mingfu and Yan Xuetong. It is hoped that this comparison will offer clues as to the extent to which the current advisory shaping CPC thinking on the US differs from the previous generation, and as to whether CPC thinking is un-American or anti-American in essence. The conclusions will tie the study together by speculating based on Wang and Zheng’s views about the degree to which New Confucianism, as opposed to Neo-Liberalism, might shape Chinese society in the future.

https://twitter.com/Scholars_Stage/status/1145940572013649921
https://archive.is/Fu4sG
I want someone to translate Wang Huning’s book “America Against America”
For the record, in Chinese that's《美国反对美国》。Wang traveled across USA in the '80s, visiting big cities and small towns. Book lambasted democracy, contrasting the 'ideal' of American rhetoric with the 'reality' of American life. Wang is now one of Xi's closest advisors.
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july 2019 by nhaliday
The End of the Editor Wars » Linux Magazine
Moreover, even if you assume a broad margin of error, the pollings aren't even close. With all the various text editors available today, Vi and Vim continue to be the choice of over a third of users, while Emacs well back in the pack, no longer a competitor for the most popular text editor.

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

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

[ed. NB: Vim still dominates overall.]

https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:6adc1b1ef4dc

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

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

...

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

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

How is Emacs/Vim used in companies like Google, Facebook, or Quora? Are there any libraries or tools they share in public?: https://www.quora.com/How-is-Emacs-Vim-used-in-companies-like-Google-Facebook-or-Quora-Are-there-any-libraries-or-tools-they-share-in-public
In Google there's a fair amount of vim and emacs. I would say at least every other engineer uses one or another.

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

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

https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=US&q=%2Fm%2F07zh7,%2Fm%2F01yp0m

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

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

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

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

https://www.reddit.com/r/emacs/comments/bh5kk7/why_do_many_new_users_still_prefer_vim_over_emacs/

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

https://www.reddit.com/r/emacs/comments/9hen7z/what_are_the_benefits_of_emacs_over_vim/

https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/986/what-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-vim-and-emacs

https://www.quora.com/Why-is-Vim-the-programmers-favorite-editor
- Adrien Lucas Ecoffet,

Because it is hard to use. Really.

However, the second part of this sentence applies to just about every good editor out there: if you really learn Sublime Text, you will become super productive. If you really learn Emacs, you will become super productive. If you really learn Visual Studio… you get the idea.

Here’s the thing though, you never actually need to really learn your text editor… Unless you use vim.

...

For many people new to programming, this is the first time they have been a power user of… well, anything! And because they’ve been told how great Vim is, many of them will keep at it and actually become productive, not because Vim is particularly more productive than any other editor, but because it didn’t provide them with a way to not be productive.

They then go on to tell their friends how great Vim is, and their friends go on to become power users and tell their friends in turn, and so forth. All these people believe they became productive because they changed their text editor. Little do they realize that they became productive because their text editor changed them[1].

This is in no way a criticism of Vim. I myself was a beneficiary of such a phenomenon when I learned to type using the Dvorak layout: at that time, I believed that Dvorak would help you type faster. Now I realize the evidence is mixed and that Dvorak might not be much better than Qwerty. However, learning Dvorak forced me to develop good typing habits because I could no longer rely on looking at my keyboard (since I was still using a Qwerty physical keyboard), and this has made me a much more productive typist.

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

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

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

...

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

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

...

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

...

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

[Python does best.]

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

The Rise of Microsoft Visual Studio Code: https://triplebyte.com/blog/editor-report-the-rise-of-visual-studio-code
This chart shows the rates at which each editor's users pass our interview compared to the mean pass rate for all candidates. First, notice the preeminence of Emacs and Vim! Engineers who use these editors pass our interview at significantly higher rates than other engineers. And the effect size is not small. Emacs users pass our interview at a rate 50… [more]
news  linux  oss  tech  editors  devtools  tools  comparison  ranking  flux-stasis  trends  ubiquity  unix  increase-decrease  multi  q-n-a  qra  data  poll  stackex  sv  facebook  google  integration-extension  org:med  politics  stereotypes  coalitions  decentralized  left-wing  right-wing  chart  scale  time-series  distribution  top-n  list  discussion  ide  parsimony  intricacy  cost-benefit  tradeoffs  confounding  analysis  crosstab  pls  python  c(pp)  jvm  microsoft  golang  hmm  correlation  debate  critique  quora  contrarianism  ecosystem  DSL  techtariat  org:com 
june 2019 by nhaliday
Interview with Donald Knuth | Interview with Donald Knuth | InformIT
Andrew Binstock and Donald Knuth converse on the success of open source, the problem with multicore architecture, the disappointing lack of interest in literate programming, the menace of reusable code, and that urban legend about winning a programming contest with a single compilation.

Reusable vs. re-editable code: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01966146/document
- Konrad Hinsen

https://www.johndcook.com/blog/2008/05/03/reusable-code-vs-re-editable-code/
I think whether code should be editable or in “an untouchable black box” depends on the number of developers involved, as well as their talent and motivation. Knuth is a highly motivated genius working in isolation. Most software is developed by large teams of programmers with varying degrees of motivation and talent. I think the further you move away from Knuth along these three axes the more important black boxes become.
nibble  interview  giants  expert-experience  programming  cs  software  contrarianism  carmack  oss  prediction  trends  linux  concurrency  desktop  comparison  checking  debugging  stories  engineering  hmm  idk  algorithms  books  debate  flux-stasis  duplication  parsimony  best-practices  writing  documentation  latex  intricacy  structure  hardware  caching  workflow  editors  composition-decomposition  coupling-cohesion  exposition  technical-writing  thinking  cracker-prog  code-organizing  grokkability  multi  techtariat  commentary  pdf  reflection  essay  examples  python  data-science  libraries  grokkability-clarity 
june 2019 by nhaliday
Analysis of Current and Future Computer Science Needs via Advertised Faculty Searches for 2019 - CRN
Differences are also seen when analyzing results based on the type of institution. Positions related to Security have the highest percentages for all but top-100 institutions. The area of Artificial Intelligence/Data Mining/Machine Learning is of most interest for top-100 PhD institutions. Roughly 35% of positions for PhD institutions are in data-oriented areas. The results show a strong interest in data-oriented areas by public PhD and private PhD, MS, and BS institutions while public MS and BS institutions are most interested in Security.
org:edu  data  analysis  visualization  trends  recruiting  jobs  career  planning  academia  higher-ed  cs  tcs  machine-learning  systems  pro-rata  measure  long-term  🎓  uncertainty  progression  grad-school  phd  distribution  ranking  top-n  security  status  s-factor  comparison  homo-hetero  correlation  org:ngo  white-paper  cost-benefit 
june 2019 by nhaliday
Should I go for TensorFlow or PyTorch?
Honestly, most experts that I know love Pytorch and detest TensorFlow. Karpathy and Justin from Stanford for example. You can see Karpthy's thoughts and I've asked Justin personally and the answer was sharp: PYTORCH!!! TF has lots of PR but its API and graph model are horrible and will waste lots of your research time.

--

...

Updated Mar 12
Update after 2019 TF summit:

TL/DR: previously I was in the pytorch camp but with TF 2.0 it’s clear that Google is really going to try to have parity or try to be better than Pytorch in all aspects where people voiced concerns (ease of use/debugging/dynamic graphs). They seem to be allocating more resources on development than Facebook so the longer term currently looks promising for Google. Prior to TF 2.0 I thought that Pytorch team had more momentum. One area where FB/Pytorch is still stronger is Google is a bit more closed and doesn’t seem to release reproducible cutting edge models such as AlphaGo whereas FAIR released OpenGo for instance. Generally you will end up running into models that are only implemented in one framework of the other so chances are you might end up learning both.
q-n-a  qra  comparison  software  recommendations  cost-benefit  tradeoffs  python  libraries  machine-learning  deep-learning  data-science  sci-comp  tools  google  facebook  tech  competition  best-practices  trends  debugging  expert-experience  ecosystem  theory-practice  pragmatic  wire-guided  static-dynamic  state  academia  frameworks  open-closed 
may 2019 by nhaliday
One week of bugs
If I had to guess, I'd say I probably work around hundreds of bugs in an average week, and thousands in a bad week. It's not unusual for me to run into a hundred new bugs in a single week. But I often get skepticism when I mention that I run into multiple new (to me) bugs per day, and that this is inevitable if we don't change how we write tests. Well, here's a log of one week of bugs, limited to bugs that were new to me that week. After a brief description of the bugs, I'll talk about what we can do to improve the situation. The obvious answer to spend more effort on testing, but everyone already knows we should do that and no one does it. That doesn't mean it's hopeless, though.

...

Here's where I'm supposed to write an appeal to take testing more seriously and put real effort into it. But we all know that's not going to work. It would take 90k LOC of tests to get Julia to be as well tested as a poorly tested prototype (falsely assuming linear complexity in size). That's two person-years of work, not even including time to debug and fix bugs (which probably brings it closer to four of five years). Who's going to do that? No one. Writing tests is like writing documentation. Everyone already knows you should do it. Telling people they should do it adds zero information1.

Given that people aren't going to put any effort into testing, what's the best way to do it?

Property-based testing. Generative testing. Random testing. Concolic Testing (which was done long before the term was coined). Static analysis. Fuzzing. Statistical bug finding. There are lots of options. Some of them are actually the same thing because the terminology we use is inconsistent and buggy. I'm going to arbitrarily pick one to talk about, but they're all worth looking into.

...

There are a lot of great resources out there, but if you're just getting started, I found this description of types of fuzzers to be one of those most helpful (and simplest) things I've read.

John Regehr has a udacity course on software testing. I haven't worked through it yet (Pablo Torres just pointed to it), but given the quality of Dr. Regehr's writing, I expect the course to be good.

For more on my perspective on testing, there's this.

Everything's broken and nobody's upset: https://www.hanselman.com/blog/EverythingsBrokenAndNobodysUpset.aspx
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4531549

https://hypothesis.works/articles/the-purpose-of-hypothesis/
From the perspective of a user, the purpose of Hypothesis is to make it easier for you to write better tests.

From my perspective as the primary author, that is of course also a purpose of Hypothesis. I write a lot of code, it needs testing, and the idea of trying to do that without Hypothesis has become nearly unthinkable.

But, on a large scale, the true purpose of Hypothesis is to drag the world kicking and screaming into a new and terrifying age of high quality software.

Software is everywhere. We have built a civilization on it, and it’s only getting more prevalent as more services move online and embedded and “internet of things” devices become cheaper and more common.

Software is also terrible. It’s buggy, it’s insecure, and it’s rarely well thought out.

This combination is clearly a recipe for disaster.

The state of software testing is even worse. It’s uncontroversial at this point that you should be testing your code, but it’s a rare codebase whose authors could honestly claim that they feel its testing is sufficient.

Much of the problem here is that it’s too hard to write good tests. Tests take up a vast quantity of development time, but they mostly just laboriously encode exactly the same assumptions and fallacies that the authors had when they wrote the code, so they miss exactly the same bugs that you missed when they wrote the code.

Preventing the Collapse of Civilization [video]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19945452
- Jonathan Blow

NB: DevGAMM is a game industry conference

- loss of technological knowledge (Antikythera mechanism, aqueducts, etc.)
- hardware driving most gains, not software
- software's actually less robust, often poorly designed and overengineered these days
- *list of bugs he's encountered recently*:
https://youtu.be/pW-SOdj4Kkk?t=1387
- knowledge of trivia becomes more than general, deep knowledge
- does at least acknowledge value of DRY, reusing code, abstraction saving dev time
techtariat  dan-luu  tech  software  error  list  debugging  linux  github  robust  checking  oss  troll  lol  aphorism  webapp  email  google  facebook  games  julia  pls  compilers  communication  mooc  browser  rust  programming  engineering  random  jargon  formal-methods  expert-experience  prof  c(pp)  course  correctness  hn  commentary  video  presentation  carmack  pragmatic  contrarianism  pessimism  sv  unix  rhetoric  critique  worrydream  hardware  performance  trends  multiplicative  roots  impact  comparison  history  iron-age  the-classics  mediterranean  conquest-empire  gibbon  technology  the-world-is-just-atoms  flux-stasis  increase-decrease  graphics  hmm  idk  systems  os  abstraction  intricacy  worse-is-better/the-right-thing  build-packaging  microsoft  osx  apple  reflection  assembly  things  knowledge  detail-architecture  thick-thin  trivia  info-dynamics  caching  frameworks  generalization  systematic-ad-hoc  universalism-particularism  analytical-holistic  structure  tainter  libraries  tradeoffs  prepping  threat-modeling  network-structure  writing  risk  local-glob 
may 2019 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Moore's Law and AI
Hint to technocratic planners: invest more in physicists, chemists, and materials scientists. The recent explosion in value from technology has been driven by physical science -- software gets way too much credit. From the former we got a factor of a million or more in compute power, data storage, and bandwidth. From the latter, we gained (perhaps) an order of magnitude or two in effectiveness: how much better are current OSes and programming languages than Unix and C, both of which are ~50 years old now?

...

Of relevance to this discussion: a big chunk of AlphaGo's performance improvement over other Go programs is due to raw compute power (link via Jess Riedel). The vertical axis is ELO score. You can see that without multi-GPU compute, AlphaGo has relatively pedestrian strength.
hsu  scitariat  comparison  software  hardware  performance  sv  tech  trends  ai  machine-learning  deep-learning  deepgoog  google  roots  impact  hard-tech  multiplicative  the-world-is-just-atoms  technology  trivia  cocktail  big-picture  hi-order-bits 
may 2019 by nhaliday
its-not-software - steveyegge2
You don't work in the software industry.

...

So what's the software industry, and how do we differ from it?

Well, the software industry is what you learn about in school, and it's what you probably did at your previous company. The software industry produces software that runs on customers' machines — that is, software intended to run on a machine over which you have no control.

So it includes pretty much everything that Microsoft does: Windows and every application you download for it, including your browser.

It also includes everything that runs in the browser, including Flash applications, Java applets, and plug-ins like Adobe's Acrobat Reader. Their deployment model is a little different from the "classic" deployment models, but it's still software that you package up and release to some unknown client box.

...

Servware

Our industry is so different from the software industry, and it's so important to draw a clear distinction, that it needs a new name. I'll call it Servware for now, lacking anything better. Hardware, firmware, software, servware. It fits well enough.

Servware is stuff that lives on your own servers. I call it "stuff" advisedly, since it's more than just software; it includes configuration, monitoring systems, data, documentation, and everything else you've got there, all acting in concert to produce some observable user experience on the other side of a network connection.
techtariat  sv  tech  rhetoric  essay  software  saas  devops  engineering  programming  contrarianism  list  top-n  best-practices  applicability-prereqs  desktop  flux-stasis  homo-hetero  trends  games  thinking  checklists  dbs  models  communication  tutorial  wiki  integration-extension  frameworks  api  whole-partial-many  metrics  retrofit  c(pp)  pls  code-dive  planning  working-stiff  composition-decomposition  libraries  conceptual-vocab  amazon  system-design  cracker-prog  tech-infrastructure  blowhards  client-server 
may 2019 by nhaliday
Links 3/19: Linkguini | Slate Star Codex
How did the descendants of the Mayan Indians end up in the Eastern Orthodox Church?

Does Parental Quality Matter? Study using three sources of parental variation that are mostly immune to genetic confounding find that “the strong parent-child correlation in education is largely causal”. For example, “the parent-child correlation in education is stronger with the parent that spends more time with the child”.

Before and after pictures of tech leaders like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Sergey Brin suggest they’re taking supplemental testosterone. And though it may help them keep looking young, Palladium points out that there might be other effects from having some of our most powerful businessmen on a hormone that increases risk-taking and ambition. They ask whether the new availability of testosterone supplements is prolonging Silicon Valley businessmen’s “brash entrepreneur” phase well past the point where they would normally become mature respectable elders. But it also hints at an almost opposite take: average testosterone levels have been falling for decades, so at this point these businessmen would be the only “normal” (by 1950s standards) men out there, and everyone else would be unprecedently risk-averse and boring. Paging Peter Thiel and everyone else who takes about how things “just worked better” in Eisenhower’s day.

China’s SesameCredit social monitoring system, widely portrayed as dystopian, has an 80% approval rate in China (vs. 19% neutral and 1% disapproval). The researchers admit that although all data is confidential and they are not affiliated with the Chinese government, their participants might not believe that confidently enough to answer honestly.

I know how much you guys love attacking EAs for “pathological altruism” or whatever terms you’re using nowadays, so here’s an article where rationalist community member John Beshir describes his experience getting malaria on purpose to help researchers test a vaccine.

Some evidence against the theory that missing fathers cause earlier menarche.

John Nerst of EverythingStudies’ political compass.
ratty  yvain  ssc  links  multi  biodet  behavioral-gen  regularizer  causation  contrarianism  education  correlation  parenting  developmental  direct-indirect  time  religion  christianity  eastern-europe  russia  latin-america  other-xtian  endocrine  trends  malaise  stagnation  thiel  barons  tech  sv  business  rot  zeitgeist  outcome-risk  critique  environmental-effects  poll  china  asia  authoritarianism  alt-inst  sentiment  policy  n-factor  individualism-collectivism  pro-rata  technocracy  managerial-state  civil-liberty  effective-altruism  subculture  wtf  disease  parasites-microbiome  patho-altruism  self-interest  lol  africa  experiment  medicine  expression-survival  things  dimensionality  degrees-of-freedom  sex  composition-decomposition  analytical-holistic  systematic-ad-hoc  coordination  alignment  cooperate-defect  politics  coalitions  ideology  left-wing  right-wing  summary  exit-voice  redistribution  randy-ayndy  welfare-state 
march 2019 by nhaliday
Language Log » English or Mandarin as the World Language?
- writing system frequently mentioned as barrier
- also imprecision of Chinese might hurt its use for technical writing
- most predicting it won't (but English might be replaced by absence of lingua franca per Nicholas Ostler)
linguistics  language  foreign-lang  china  asia  anglo  world  trends  prediction  speculation  expert-experience  analytical-holistic  writing  network-structure  science  discussion  commentary  flux-stasis  nationalism-globalism  comparison  org:edu 
february 2019 by nhaliday
soft question - What are good non-English languages for mathematicians to know? - MathOverflow
I'm with Deane here: I think learning foreign languages is not a very mathematically productive thing to do; of course, there are lots of good reasons to learn foreign languages, but doing mathematics is not one of them. Not only are there few modern mathematics papers written in languages other than English, but the primary other language they are written (French) in is pretty easy to read without actually knowing it.

Even though I've been to France several times, my spoken French mostly consists of "merci," "si vous plait," "d'accord" and some food words; I've still skimmed 100 page long papers in French without a lot of trouble.

If nothing else, think of reading a paper in French as a good opportunity to teach Google Translate some mathematical French.
q-n-a  overflow  math  academia  learning  foreign-lang  publishing  science  french  soft-question  math.AG  nibble  quixotic  comparison  language  china  asia  trends 
february 2019 by nhaliday
Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2018
Rust, Python, Go in top most loved
F#/OCaml most high paying globally, Erlang/Scala/OCaml in the US (F# still in top 10)
ML specialists high-paid
editor usage: VSCode > VS > Sublime > Vim > Intellij >> Emacs
ranking  list  top-n  time-series  data  database  programming  engineering  pls  trends  stackex  poll  career  exploratory  network-structure  ubiquity  ocaml-sml  rust  golang  python  dotnet  money  jobs  compensation  erlang  scala  jvm  ai  ai-control  risk  futurism  ethical-algorithms  data-science  machine-learning  editors  devtools  tools  pro-rata  org:com  software  analysis  article  human-capital  let-me-see  expert-experience  complement-substitute 
december 2018 by nhaliday
Does left-handedness occur more in certain ethnic groups than others?
Yes. There are some aboriginal tribes in Australia who have about 70% of their population being left-handed. It’s also more than 50% for some South American tribes.

The reason is the same in both cases: a recent past of extreme aggression with other tribes. Left-handedness is caused by recessive genes, but being left-handed is a boost when in hand-to-hand combat with a right-handed guy (who usually has trained extensively with other right-handed guys, as this disposition is genetically dominant so right-handed are majority in most human populations, so lacks experience with a left-handed). Should a particular tribe enter too much war time periods, it’s proportion of left-handeds will naturally rise. As their enemy tribe’s proportion of left-handed people is rising as well, there’s a point at which the natural advantage they get in fighting disipates and can only climb higher should they continuously find new groups to fight with, who are also majority right-handed.

...

So the natural question is: given their advantages in 1-on-1 combat, why doesn’t the percentage grow all the way up to 50% or slightly higher? Because there are COSTS associated with being left-handed, as apparently our neural network is pre-wired towards right-handedness - showing as a reduced life expectancy for lefties. So a mathematical model was proposed to explain their distribution among different societies

THE FIGHTING HYPOTHESIS: STABILITY OF POLYMORPHISM IN HUMAN HANDEDNESS

http://gepv.univ-lille1.fr/downl...

Further, it appears the average left-handedness for humans (~10%) hasn’t changed in thousands of years (judging by the paintings of hands on caves)

Frequency-dependent maintenance of left handedness in humans.

Handedness frequency over more than 10,000 years

[ed.: Compare with Julius Evola's "left-hand path".]
q-n-a  qra  trivia  cocktail  farmers-and-foragers  history  antiquity  race  demographics  bio  EEA  evolution  context  peace-violence  war  ecology  EGT  unintended-consequences  game-theory  equilibrium  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  sapiens  data  database  trends  cost-benefit  strategy  time-series  art  archaeology  measurement  oscillation  pro-rata  iteration-recursion  gender  male-variability  cliometrics  roots  explanation  explanans  correlation  causation  branches 
july 2018 by nhaliday
Ultimate fate of the universe - Wikipedia
The fate of the universe is determined by its density. The preponderance of evidence to date, based on measurements of the rate of expansion and the mass density, favors a universe that will continue to expand indefinitely, resulting in the "Big Freeze" scenario below.[8] However, observations are not conclusive, and alternative models are still possible.[9]

Big Freeze or heat death
Main articles: Future of an expanding universe and Heat death of the universe
The Big Freeze is a scenario under which continued expansion results in a universe that asymptotically approaches absolute zero temperature.[10] This scenario, in combination with the Big Rip scenario, is currently gaining ground as the most important hypothesis.[11] It could, in the absence of dark energy, occur only under a flat or hyperbolic geometry. With a positive cosmological constant, it could also occur in a closed universe. In this scenario, stars are expected to form normally for 1012 to 1014 (1–100 trillion) years, but eventually the supply of gas needed for star formation will be exhausted. As existing stars run out of fuel and cease to shine, the universe will slowly and inexorably grow darker. Eventually black holes will dominate the universe, which themselves will disappear over time as they emit Hawking radiation.[12] Over infinite time, there would be a spontaneous entropy decrease by the Poincaré recurrence theorem, thermal fluctuations,[13][14] and the fluctuation theorem.[15][16]

A related scenario is heat death, which states that the universe goes to a state of maximum entropy in which everything is evenly distributed and there are no gradients—which are needed to sustain information processing, one form of which is life. The heat death scenario is compatible with any of the three spatial models, but requires that the universe reach an eventual temperature minimum.[17]
physics  big-picture  world  space  long-short-run  futurism  singularity  wiki  reference  article  nibble  thermo  temperature  entropy-like  order-disorder  death  nihil  bio  complex-systems  cybernetics  increase-decrease  trends  computation  local-global  prediction  time  spatial  spreading  density  distribution  manifolds  geometry  janus 
april 2018 by nhaliday
My March 28 talk at MIT - Marginal REVOLUTION
What happens when a simulated system becomes more real than the system itself?  Will the internet become “more real” than the world of ideas it is mirroring? Do we academics live in a simulacra?  If the “alt right” exists mainly on the internet, does that make it more or less powerful?  Do all innovations improve system quality, and if so why is a lot of food worse than before and home design was better in 1910-1930?  How does the world of ideas fit into this picture?
econotariat  marginal-rev  links  quotes  presentation  hmm  simulation  realness  internet  academia  gnon  🐸  subculture  innovation  food  trends  architecture  history  mostly-modern  pre-ww2 
march 2018 by nhaliday
The Falling Price of Fat | Pseudoerasmus
Summary : There are too many baroque explanations for the increased prevalence of obesity. I suggest a simple mechanism : falling food prices, rising incomes.
econotariat  broad-econ  pseudoE  economics  supply-demand  food  obesity  trends  explanans  cynicism-idealism  money  compensation  cost-benefit  backup  epidemiology  public-health  roots  regularizer  parsimony 
february 2018 by nhaliday
Why has the prevalence of obesity doubled? | SpringerLink
The prevalence of obesity has doubled over the last 25 years. We estimate the effects of multiple socio-environmental factors (e.g., physical demands at work, restaurants, food prices, cigarette smoking, food stamps, and urban sprawl) on obesity using NLSY data. Then we use the Oaxaca–Blinder decomposition technique to approximate the contribution of each socio-environmental factor to the increase during this time. Many socio-environmental factors significantly affect weight, but none are able to explain a large portion of the obesity increase. Decreases in cigarette smoking consistently explains about 2–4 % of the increase in obesity and BMI. Food stamp receipt also consistently affects the measures of weight, but the small decrease in food stamp program participation during the period we examine actually dampened the increases in obesity and BMI. Collectively, the socio-environmental factors we examine never explain more than about 6.5 % of the weight increases.
study  sociology  medicine  health  epidemiology  public-health  obesity  trends  roots  explanans  labor  supply-demand  food  welfare-state  urban-rural  variance-components  volo-avolo  questions 
february 2018 by nhaliday
Information Processing: US Needs a National AI Strategy: A Sputnik Moment?
FT podcasts on US-China competition and AI: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2018/05/ft-podcasts-on-us-china-competition-and.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

...

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

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

...

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

...

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

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

https://twitter.com/mr_scientism/status/983057591298351104
https://archive.is/m3Njh
US military: "LOL, China thinks it's going to be a major player in AI, but we've got all the top AI researchers. You guys will help us develop weapons, right?"

US AI researchers: "No."

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

US AI researchers: "NO."

https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/4/17196818/ai-boycot-killer-robots-kaist-university-hanwha
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/technology/google-letter-ceo-pentagon-project.html
https://twitter.com/mr_scientism/status/981685030417326080
https://archive.is/3wbHm
AI-risk was a mistake.
hsu  scitariat  commentary  video  presentation  comparison  usa  china  asia  sinosphere  frontier  technology  science  ai  speedometer  innovation  google  barons  deepgoog  stories  white-paper  strategy  migration  iran  human-capital  corporation  creative  alien-character  military  human-ml  nationalism-globalism  security  investing  government  games  deterrence  defense  nuclear  arms  competition  risk  ai-control  musk  optimism  multi  news  org:mag  europe  EU  80000-hours  effective-altruism  proposal  article  realness  offense-defense  war  biotech  altruism  language  foreign-lang  philosophy  the-great-west-whale  enhancement  foreign-policy  geopolitics  anglo  jobs  career  planning  hmm  travel  charity  tech  intel  media  teaching  tutoring  russia  india  miri-cfar  pdf  automation  class  labor  polisci  society  trust  n-factor  corruption  leviathan  ethics  authoritarianism  individualism-collectivism  revolution  economics  inequality  civic  law  regulation  data  scale  pro-rata  capital  zero-positive-sum  cooperate-defect  distribution  time-series  tre 
february 2018 by nhaliday
Reid Hofmann and Peter Thiel and technology and politics - Marginal REVOLUTION
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february 2018 by nhaliday
The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective - American Affairs Journal
I don’t claim to be a modern-day Alexis de Tocqueville, nor do I have much in common with this famous observer of American life. He grew up in Paris, a city renowned for its culture and architecture. I grew up in Shijiazhuang, a city renowned for being the headquarters of the company that produced toxic infant formula. He was a child of aristocrats; I am the child of modest workers.

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-china-exclusive/exclusive-china-vatican-deal-on-bishops-ready-for-signing-source-idUSKBN1FL67U
Catholics in China are split between those in “underground” communities that recognize the pope and those belonging to a state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association where bishops are appointed by the government in collaboration with local Church communities.

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

What will this mean for the country's Catholics?

There are currently around 10 million Roman Catholics in China.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/china-vatican-deal-on-bishops-reportedly-ready-for-signing/2018/02/01/2adfc6b2-0786-11e8-b48c-b07fea957bd5_story.html

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

If these things are true, there is no doubt but that nature set apart in the world a place and a people for universal sovereignty; otherwise she would be deficient in herself, which is impossible. What was this place, and who this people, moreover, is sufficiently obvious in what has been said above, and in what shall be added further on. They were Rome and her citizens or people. On this subject our Poet [Vergil] has touched very subtly in his sixth book [of the Æneid], where he brings forward Anchises prophesying in these words to Aeneas, father of the Romans: ‘Verily, that others shall beat out the breathing bronze more finely, I grant you; they shall carve the living feature in the marble, plead causes with more eloquence, and trace the movements of the heavens with a rod, and name the rising stars: thine, O Roman, be the care to rule the peoples with authority; be thy arts these, to teach men the way of peace, to show mercy to the subject, and to overcome the proud.’ And the disposition of place he touches upon lightly in the fourth book, when he introduces Jupiter speaking of Aeneas to Mercury in this fashion: ‘Not such a one did his most beautiful mother promise to us, nor for this twice rescue him from Grecian arms; rather was he to be the man to govern Italy teeming with empire and tumultuous with war.’ Proof enough has been given that the Romans were by nature ordained for sovereignty. Therefore the Roman … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Team *Decorations Until Epiphany* on Twitter: "@RoundSqrCupola maybe just C https://t.co/SFPXb3qrAE"
https://archive.is/k0fsS
Remember ‘BRICs’? Now it’s just ICs.
--
maybe just C
Solow predicts that if 2 countries have the same TFP, then the poorer nation should grow faster. But poorer India grows more slowly than China.

Solow thinking leads one to suspect India has substantially lower TFP.

Recent growth is great news, but alas 5 years isn't the long run!

FWIW under Solow conditional convergence assumptions--historically robust--the fact that a country as poor as India grows only a few % faster than the world average is a sign they'll end up poorer than S Europe.

see his spreadsheet here: http://mason.gmu.edu/~gjonesb/SolowForecast.xlsx
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december 2017 by nhaliday
The rate of return on everything - Marginal REVOLUTION
Here is what I learned from the paper itself:

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

I found this to be one of the best and most interesting papers of the year.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
The Grumpy Economist: Bitcoin and Bubbles
Bitcoin is not a very good money. It is a pure fiat money (no backing), whose value comes from limited supply plus these demands. As such it has the huge price fluctuations we see. It's an electronic version of gold, and the price variation should be a warning to economists who long for a return to  gold. My bet is that stable-value cryptocurrencies, offering one dollar per currency unit and low transactions costs, will prosper in the role of money. At least until there is a big inflation or sovereign debt crisis and a stable-value cryptocurrency not linked to government debt emerges.

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/939242620869660672
https://archive.is/Rrbg6
The Kareken-Wallace Cryptocurrency Price Indeterminacy theorem will someday receive the attention it deserves

https://www.mercatus.org/system/files/cryptocurrency-article.pdf
Cryptocurrencies also raise in a new way questions of exchange rate indeterminacy. As Kareken and Wallace (1981) observed, fiat currencies are all alike: slips of paper not redeemable for anything. Under a regime of floating exchange rates and no capital controls, and assuming some version of interest rate parity holds, there are an infinity of exchange rates between any two fiat currencies that constitute an equilibrium in their model.

The question of exchange rate indeterminacy is both more and less striking between cryptocurrencies than between fiat currencies. It is less striking because there are considerably more differences between cryptocurrencies than there are between paper money. Paper money is all basically the same. Cryptocurrencies sometimes have different characteristics from each other. For example, the algorithm used as the basis for mining makes a difference – it determines how professionalised the mining pools become. Litecoin uses an algorithm that tends to make mining less concentrated. Another difference is the capability of the cryptocurrency’s language for programming transactions. Ethereum is a new currency that boasts a much more robust language than Bitcoin. Zerocash is another currency that offers much stronger anonymity than Bitcoin. To the extent that cryptocurrencies differ from each other more than fiat currencies do, those differences might be able to pin down exchange rates in a model like Kareken and Wallace’s.

On the other hand, exchange rate indeterminacy could be more severe among cryptocurrencies than between fiat currencies because it is easy to simply create an exact copy of an open source cryptocurrency. There are even websites on which you can create and download the software for your own cryptocurrency with a few clicks of a mouse. These currencies are exactly alike except for their names and other identifying information. Furthermore, unlike fiat currencies, they don’t benefit from government acceptance or optimal currency area considerations that can tie a currency to a given territory.

Even identical currencies, however, can differ in terms of the quality of governance. Bitcoin currently has high quality governance institutions. The core developers are competent and conservative, and the mining and user communities are serious about making the currency work. An exact Bitcoin clone is likely to have a difficult time competing with Bitcoin unless it can promise similarly high-quality governance. When a crisis hits, users of identical currencies are going to want to hold the one that is mostly likely to weather the storm. Consequently, between currencies with identical technical characteristics, we think governance creates something close to a winner-take-all market. Network externalities are very strong in payment systems, and the governance question with respect to cryptocurrencies in particular compounds them.

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/939259281039380480
https://archive.is/ldof8
Explaining a price rise via future increases in the asset's value isn't good economics. The invisible hand should be pushing today's price up to the point where it earns normal expected returns. +
I don't doubt the likelihood of a future cryptocurrency being widely used, but that doesn't pin down the price of any one cryptocurrency as the Kareken-Wallace result shows. There may be a big first mover advantage for Bitcoin but ease of replication makes it a fragile dominance.

https://twitter.com/netouyo_/status/939566116229218306
https://archive.is/CtE6Q
I actually can't believe governments are allowing bitcoin to exist (they must be fully on board with going digital at some point)

btc will eventually come in direct competition with national currencies, which will have to raise rates dramatically, or die

http://www.thebigquestions.com/2017/12/08/matters-of-money/
The technology of Bitcoin Cash is very similar to the technology of Bitcoin. It offers the same sorts of anonymity, security, and so forth. There are some reasons to believe that in the future, Bitcoin Cash will be a bit easier to trade than Bitcoin (though that is not true in the present), and there are some other technological differences between them, but I’d be surprised to learn that those differences are accounting for any substantial fraction of the price differential.

The total supplies of Bitcoins and of Bitcoin Cash are currently about equal (because of the way that Bitcoin Cash originated). In each case, the supply will gradually grow to 21 million and then stop.

Question 1: Given the near identical properties of these two currencies, how can one sell for ten times the price of the other? Perhaps the answer involves the word “bubble”, but I’d be more interested in answers that assume (at least for the sake of argument) that the price of Bitcoin fairly reflects its properties as a store of value. Given that assumption, is the price differential entirely driven by the fact that Bitcoin came first? Is there that much of a first-mover advantage in this kind of game?

Question 2: Given the existence of other precious metals (e.g. platinum) what accounts for the dominance of gold as a physical store of value? (I note, for example, that when people buy gold as a store of value, they don’t often hesitate out of fear that gold will be displaced by platinum in the foreseeable future.) Is this entirely driven by the fact that gold happened to come first?

Question 3: Are Questions 1 and 2 the same question? Are the dominance of Bitcoin in the digital store-of-value market and the dominance of gold in the physical store-of-value market two sides of the same coin, so to speak? Or do they require fundamentally different explanations?

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/944582032780382208
https://archive.is/kqTXg
Champ/Freeman in 2001 explain why the dollar-bitcoin exchange rate is inherently unstable, and why the price of cryptocurrencies is indeterminate:

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/945046058073071617
https://archive.is/Y0OQB
Lay down a marker:
And remember that the modern macro dogma is that monetary systems matter little for prosperity, once bare competence is achieved.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Asabiyyah in Steve King’s Iowa – Gene Expression
What will happen if and when institutions collapse? I do not believe much of America has the social capital of Orange City, Iowa. We have become rational actors, utility optimizers. To some extent, bureaucratic corporate life demands us to behave in this manner. Individual attainment and achievement are lionized, while sacrifice in the public good is the lot of the exceptional saint.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Remarks on the Decline of American Empire
1. US foreign policy over the last decades has been disastrous -- trillions of dollars and thousands of lives expended on Middle Eastern wars, culminating in utter defeat. This defeat is still not acknowledged among most of the media or what passes for intelligentsia in academia and policy circles, but defeat it is. Iran now exerts significant control over Iraq and a swath of land running from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. None of the goals of our costly intervention have been achieved. We are exhausted morally, financially, and militarily, and still have not fully extricated ourselves from a useless morass. George W. Bush should go down in history as the worst US President of the modern era.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The staggering scale of China's Belt and Road initiative: https://www.axios.com/staggering-scale-china-infrastructure-142f3b1d-82b5-47b8-8ca9-57beb306f7df.html
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Dollar General Hits a Gold Mine in Rural America - Bloomberg
“It reminds me of a craps table,” Brown, the commercial real estate analyst, says. “Essentially what the dollar stores are betting on in a large way is that we are going to have a permanent underclass in America. It’s based on the concept that the jobs went away, and the jobs are never coming back, and that things aren’t going to get better in any of these places.”

HOW DOLLAR GENERAL BECAME RURAL AMERICA’S STORE OF CHOICE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-dollar-general-became-rural-americas-store-of-choice-1512401992

The Supply Chain In Lieu Of The Welfare State: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/12/04/the-supply-chain-in-lieu-of-the-welfare-state/

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/01/u-s-fact-day-2.html
“Over the last five years a new Dollar General opened every four-and-a-half hours…”

That is from The Economist. The article attributes much of the success of the chain to its location decisions, such as opening near churches, schools, highways, and post offices.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
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