nhaliday + big-picture   262

Alon Amit's answer to Why is there no formal definition for a set in math? How can we make any statement about sets (and therefore all of math) if we don’t even know what it is? - Quora
In the realm of mathematics, an object is what it does (I keep quoting Tim Gowers with this phrase, and I will likely do so many more times). The only thing that matters about points, lines, real numbers, sets, functions, groups and tempered distributions is the properties and features and rules they obey. What they “are” is of no concern.

I've seen this idea in a lot of different places
q-n-a  qra  math  lens  abstraction  essence-existence  analytical-holistic  forms-instances  big-picture  aphorism  axioms  definition  characterization  zooming 
4 days ago by nhaliday
C++ Core Guidelines
This document is a set of guidelines for using C++ well. The aim of this document is to help people to use modern C++ effectively. By “modern C++” we mean effective use of the ISO C++ standard (currently C++17, but almost all of our recommendations also apply to C++14 and C++11). In other words, what would you like your code to look like in 5 years’ time, given that you can start now? In 10 years’ time?

https://isocpp.github.io/CppCoreGuidelines/
“Within C++ is a smaller, simpler, safer language struggling to get out.” – Bjarne Stroustrup

...

The guidelines are focused on relatively higher-level issues, such as interfaces, resource management, memory management, and concurrency. Such rules affect application architecture and library design. Following the rules will lead to code that is statically type safe, has no resource leaks, and catches many more programming logic errors than is common in code today. And it will run fast - you can afford to do things right.

We are less concerned with low-level issues, such as naming conventions and indentation style. However, no topic that can help a programmer is out of bounds.

Our initial set of rules emphasize safety (of various forms) and simplicity. They may very well be too strict. We expect to have to introduce more exceptions to better accommodate real-world needs. We also need more rules.

...

The rules are designed to be supported by an analysis tool. Violations of rules will be flagged with references (or links) to the relevant rule. We do not expect you to memorize all the rules before trying to write code.

contrary:
https://aras-p.info/blog/2018/12/28/Modern-C-Lamentations/
This will be a long wall of text, and kinda random! My main points are:
1. C++ compile times are important,
2. Non-optimized build performance is important,
3. Cognitive load is important. I don’t expand much on this here, but if a programming language or a library makes me feel stupid, then I’m less likely to use it or like it. C++ does that a lot :)
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27 days ago 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 
8 weeks ago by nhaliday
Why is Software Engineering so difficult? - James Miller
basic message: No silver bullet!

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

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

Bug removal
- Testing typically exercises only half the code.

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

So why not do this?
- The costs are unbelievable.
- It’s not unusual for the qualification process to produce a half page of documentation for each line of code.
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9 weeks ago by nhaliday
Contingent, Not Arbitrary | Truth is contingent on what is, not on what we wish to be true.
A vital attribute of a value system of any kind is that it works. I consider this a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for goodness. A value system, when followed, should contribute to human flourishing and not produce results that violate its core ideals. This is a pragmatic, I-know-it-when-I-see-it definition. I may refine it further if the need arises.

I think that the prevailing Western values fail by this standard. I will not spend much time arguing this; many others have already. If you reject this premise, this blog may not be for you.

I consider old traditions an important source of wisdom: they have proven their worth over centuries of use. Where they agree, we should listen. Where they disagree, we should figure out why. Where modernity departs from tradition, we should be wary of the new.

Tradition has one nagging problem: it was abandoned by the West. How and why did that happen? I consider this a central question. I expect the reasons to be varied and complex. Understanding them seems necessary if we are to fix what may have been broken.

In short, I want to answer these questions:

1. How do values spread and persist? An ideology does no good if no one holds it.
2. Which values do good? Sounding good is worse than useless if it leads to ruin.

The ultimate hope would be to find a way to combine the two. Many have tried and failed. I don’t expect to succeed either, but I hope I’ll manage to clarify the questions.

Christianity Is The Schelling Point: https://contingentnotarbitrary.com/2018/02/22/christianity-is-the-schelling-point/
Restoring true Christianity is both necessary and sufficient for restoring civilization. The task is neither easy nor simple but that’s what it takes. It is also our best chance of weathering the collapse if that’s too late to avoid.

Christianity is the ultimate coordination mechanism: it unites us with a higher purpose, aligns us with the laws of reality and works on all scales, from individuals to entire civilizations. Christendom took over the world and then lost it when its faith faltered. Historically and culturally, Christianity is the unique Schelling point for the West – or it would be if we could agree on which church (if any) was the true one.

Here are my arguments for true Christianity as the Schelling point. I hope to demonstrate these points in subsequent posts; for now I’ll just list them.

- A society of saints is the most powerful human arrangement possible. It is united in purpose, ideologically stable and operates in harmony with natural law. This is true independent of scale and organization: from military hierarchy to total decentralization, from persecuted minority to total hegemony. Even democracy works among saints – that’s why it took so long to fail.
- There is such a thing as true Christianity. I don’t know how to pinpoint it but it does exist; that holds from both secular and religious perspectives. Our task is to converge on it the best we can.
- Don’t worry too much about the existence of God. I’m proof that you don’t need that assumption in order to believe – it helps but isn’t mandatory.

Pascal’s Wager never sat right with me. Now I know why: it’s a sucker bet. Let’s update it.

If God exists, we must believe because our souls and civilization depend on it. If He doesn’t exist, we must believe because civilization depends on it.

Morality Should Be Adaptive: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/04/morals-should-be-adaptive.html
I agree with this
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april 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
general relativity - What if the universe is rotating as a whole? - Physics Stack Exchange
To find out whether the universe is rotating, in principle the most straightforward test is to watch the motion of a gyroscope relative to the distant galaxies. If it rotates at an angular velocity -ω relative to them, then the universe is rotating at angular velocity ω. In practice, we do not have mechanical gyroscopes with small enough random and systematic errors to put a very low limit on ω. However, we can use the entire solar system as a kind of gyroscope. Solar-system observations put a model-independent upper limit of 10^-7 radians/year on the rotation,[Clemence 1957] which is an order of magnitude too lax to rule out the Gödel metric.
nibble  q-n-a  overflow  physics  relativity  gedanken  direction  absolute-relative  big-picture  space  experiment  measurement  volo-avolo 
november 2017 by nhaliday
What are the Laws of Biology?
The core finding of systems biology is that only a very small subset of possible network motifs is actually used and that these motifs recur in all kinds of different systems, from transcriptional to biochemical to neural networks. This is because only those arrangements of interactions effectively perform some useful operation, which underlies some necessary function at a cellular or organismal level. There are different arrangements for input summation, input comparison, integration over time, high-pass or low-pass filtering, negative auto-regulation, coincidence detection, periodic oscillation, bistability, rapid onset response, rapid offset response, turning a graded signal into a sharp pulse or boundary, and so on, and so on.

These are all familiar concepts and designs in engineering and computing, with well-known properties. In living organisms there is one other general property that the designs must satisfy: robustness. They have to work with noisy components, at a scale that’s highly susceptible to thermal noise and environmental perturbations. Of the subset of designs that perform some operation, only a much smaller subset will do it robustly enough to be useful in a living organism. That is, they can still perform their particular functions in the face of noisy or fluctuating inputs or variation in the number of components constituting the elements of the network itself.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Benedict Evans on Twitter: ""University can save you from the autodidact tendency to overrate himself. Democracy depends on people who know they don’t know everything.""
“The autodidact’s risk is that they think they know all of medieval history but have never heard of Charlemagne” - Umberto Eco

Facts are the least part of education. The structure and priorities they fit into matters far more, and learning how to learn far more again
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Demography of the Roman Empire - Wikipedia
There are few recorded population numbers for the whole of antiquity, and those that exist are often rhetorical or symbolic. Unlike the contemporaneous Han Dynasty, no general census survives for the Roman Empire. The late period of the Roman Republic provides a small exception to this general rule: serial statistics for Roman citizen numbers, taken from census returns, survive for the early Republic through the 1st century CE.[41] Only the figures for periods after the mid-3rd century BCE are reliable, however. Fourteen figures are available for the 2nd century BCE (from 258,318 to 394,736). Only four figures are available for the 1st century BCE, and are feature a large break between 70/69 BCE (910,000) and 28 BCE (4,063,000). The interpretation of the later figures—the Augustan censuses of 28 BCE, 8 BCE, and 14 CE—is therefore controversial.[42] Alternate interpretations of the Augustan censuses (such as those of E. Lo Cascio[43]) produce divergent population histories across the whole imperial period.[44]

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

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

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

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

Estimates for yet deeper prehistory, into the Paleolithic, are of a different nature. At this time human populations consisted entirely of non-sedentary hunter-gatherer populations, with anatomically modern humans existing alongside archaic human varieties, some of which are still ancestral to the modern human population due to interbreeding with modern humans during the Upper Paleolithic. Estimates of the size of these populations are a topic of paleoanthropology. A late human population bottleneck is postulated by some scholars at approximately 70,000 years ago, during the Toba catastrophe, when Homo sapiens population may have dropped to as low as between 1,000 and 10,000 individuals.[6][7] For the time of speciation of Homo sapiens, some 200,000 years ago, an effective population size of the order of 10,000 to 30,000 individuals has been estimated, with an actual "census population" of early Homo sapiens of roughly 100,000 to 300,000 individuals.[8]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million B.C. to 1990
The nonrivalry of technology, as modeled in the endogenous growth literature, implies that high population spurs technological change. This paper constructs and empirically tests a model of long-run world population growth combining this implication with the Malthusian assumption that technology limits population. The model predicts that over most of history, the growth rate of population will be proportional to its level. Empirical tests support this prediction and show that historically, among societies with no possibility for technological contact, those with larger initial populations have had faster technological change and population growth.

Table I gives the gist (population growth rate scales w/ tech innovation). Note how the Mongol invasions + reverberations stand out.

https://jasoncollins.org/2011/08/15/more-people-more-ideas-in-the-long-run/
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Montesquieu, Causes of the Greatness of the Romans
What makes free states last a shorter time than others is that both the misfortunes and the successes they encounter almost always cause them to lose their freedom. In a state where the people are held in subjection, however, successes and misfortunes alike confirm their servitude. A wise republic should hazard nothing that exposes it to either good or bad fortune. The only good to which it should aspire is the perpetuation of its condition.

If the greatness of the empire ruined the republic, the greatness of the city ruined it no less.

Rome had subjugated the whole world with the help of the peoples of Italy, to whom it had at different times given various privileges.2;a At first most of these peoples did not care very much about the right of Roman citizenship, and some preferred to keep their customs.3 But when this right meant universal sovereignty, and a man was nothing in the world if he was not a Roman citizen and everything if he was, the peoples of Italy resolved to perish or become Romans. Unable to succeed by their intrigues and entreaties, they took the path of arms. They revolted all along the coast of the Ionian sea; the other allies started to follow them.4 Forced to fight against those who were, so to speak, the hands with which it enslaved the world, Rome was lost. It was going to be reduced to its walls; it therefore accorded the coveted right of citizenship to the allies who had not yet ceased being loyal,5 and gradually to all.

After this, Rome was no longer a city whose people had but a single spirit, a single love of liberty, a single hatred

a In extent and importance, Latin rights were between Roman and Italian rights.

of tyranny — a city where the jealousy of the senate's power and the prerogatives of the great, always mixed with respect, was only a love of equality. Once the peoples of Italy became its citizens, each city brought to Rome its genius, its particular interests, and its dependence on some great protector.6 The distracted city no longer formed a complete whole. And since citizens were such only by a kind of fiction, since they no longer had the same magistrates, the same walls, the same gods, the same temples, and the same graves, they no longer saw Rome with the same eyes, no longer had the same love of country, and Roman sentiments were no more.

The ambitious brought entire cities and nations to Rome to disturb the voting or get themselves elected. The assemblies were veritable conspiracies; a band of seditious men was called a comitia.b The people's authority, their laws and even the people themselves became chimerical things, and the anarchy was such that it was no longer possible to know whether the people had or had not adopted an ordinance.7

We hear in the authors only of the dissensions that ruined Rome, without seeing that these dissensions were necessary to it, that they had always been there and always had to be. It was the greatness of the republic that caused all the trouble and changed popular tumults into civil wars. There had to be dissensions in Rome, for warriors who were so proud, so audacious, so terrible abroad could not be very moderate at home. To ask for men in a free state who are bold in war and timid in peace is to wish the impossible. And, as a general rule, whenever we see everyone tranquil in a state that calls itself a republic, we can be sure that liberty does not exist there.

What is called union in a body politic is a very equivocal thing. The true kind is a union of harmony, whereby all the

b These were the assemblies into which the Roman people were organized for electoral purposes.

parts, however opposed they may appear, cooperate for the general good of society — as dissonances in music cooperate in producing overall concord. In a state where we seem to see nothing but commotion there can be union — that is, a harmony resulting in happiness, which alone is true peace. It is as with the parts of the universe, eternally linked together by the action of some and the reaction of others.

But, in the concord of Asiatic despotism — that is, of all government which is not moderate — there is always real dissension. The worker, the soldier, the lawyer, the magistrate, the noble are joined only inasmuch as some oppress the others without resistance. And, if we see any union there, it is not citizens who are united but dead bodies buried one next to the other.

It is true that the laws of Rome became powerless to govern the republic. But it is a matter of common observation that good laws, which have made a small republic grow large, become a burden to it when it is enlarged. For they were such that their natural effect was to create a great people, not to govern it.

There is a considerable difference between good laws and expedient laws — between those that enable a people to make itself master of others, and those that maintain its power once it is acquired.

There exists in the world at this moment a republic that hardly anyone knows about,8 and that — in secrecy and silence — increases its strength every day. Certainly, if it ever attains the greatness for which its wisdom destines it, it will necessarily change its laws. And this will not be the work of a legislator but of corruption itself.

Rome was made for expansion, and its laws were admirable for this purpose. Thus, whatever its government had been — whether the power of kings, aristocracy, or a popular state — it never ceased undertaking enterprises that made demands on its conduct, and succeeded in them. It did not prove wiser than all the other states on earth for a day, but continually. It. sustained meager, moderate and great prosperity with the same superiority, and had neither successes from which it did not profit, nor misfortunes of which it made no use.

It lost its liberty because it completed the work it wrought too soon.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Is the economy illegible? | askblog
In the model of the economy as a GDP factory, the most fundamental equation is the production function, Y = f(K,L).

This says that total output (Y) is determined by the total amount of capital (K) and the total amount of labor (L).

Let me stipulate that the economy is legible to the extent that this model can be applied usefully to explain economic developments. I want to point out that the economy, while never as legible as economists might have thought, is rapidly becoming less legible.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Muscle, steam and combustion
Vaclav Smil’s Energy and Civilization is a monumental history of how humanity has harnessed muscle, steam and combustion to build palaces and skyscrapers, light the night and land on the Moon. Want to learn about the number of labourers needed to build Egypt’s pyramids of Giza, or US inventor Thomas Edison’s battles with Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse to electrify homes and cities, or the upscaling of power stations and blast furnaces in the twentieth century? Look no further.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Superintelligence Risk Project Update II
https://www.jefftk.com/p/superintelligence-risk-project-update

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.jefftk.com/p/superintelligence-risk-project-conclusion
Summary: I'm not convinced that AI risk should be highly prioritized, but I'm also not convinced that it shouldn't. Highly qualified researchers in a position to have a good sense the field have massively different views on core questions like how capable ML systems are now, how capable they will be soon, and how we can influence their development. I do think these questions are possible to get a better handle on, but I think this would require much deeper ML knowledge than I have.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
The Rise and Fall of Cognitive Control - Behavioral Scientist
The results highlight the downsides of controlled processing. Within a population, controlled processing may—rather than ensuring undeterred progress—usher in short-sighted, irrational, and detrimental behavior, ultimately leading to population collapse. This is because the innovations produced by controlled processing benefit everyone, even those who do not act with control. Thus, by making non-controlled agents better off, these innovations erode the initial advantage of controlled behavior. This results in the demise of control and the rise of lack-of-control. In turn, this eventually leads to a return to poor decision making and the breakdown of the welfare-enhancing innovations, possibly accelerated and exacerbated by the presence of the enabling technologies themselves. Our models therefore help to explain societal cycles whereby periods of rationality and forethought are followed by plunges back into irrationality and short-sightedness.

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51ed234ae4b0867e2385d879/t/595fac998419c208a6d99796/1499442499093/Cyclical-Population-Dynamics.pdf
Psychologists, neuroscientists, and economists often conceptualize decisions as arising from processes that lie along a continuum from automatic (i.e., “hardwired” or overlearned, but relatively inflexible) to controlled (less efficient and effortful, but more flexible). Control is central to human cognition, and plays a key role in our ability to modify the world to suit our needs. Given its advantages, reliance on controlled processing may seem predestined to increase within the population over time. Here, we examine whether this is so by introducing an evolutionary game theoretic model of agents that vary in their use of automatic versus controlled processes, and in which cognitive processing modifies the environment in which the agents interact. We find that, under a wide range of parameters and model assumptions, cycles emerge in which the prevalence of each type of processing in the population oscillates between 2 extremes. Rather than inexorably increasing, the emergence of control often creates conditions that lead to its own demise by allowing automaticity to also flourish, thereby undermining the progress made by the initial emergence of controlled processing. We speculate that this observation may have relevance for understanding similar cycles across human history, and may lend insight into some of the circumstances and challenges currently faced by our species.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
The Iran-Saudi Arabia Conflict Explained in Three Maps – LATE EMPIRE
As you can see, a high percentage of Saudi oil happens to be in the Shi’a-populated areas of their country. Saudi Arabia’s rulers are ultraconservative religious authoritarians of the Sunni conviction who unabashedly and colorfully display their interpretation of the Islamic religion without compromise. Naturally, such a ruling caste maintains a persistent paranoia that their Shi’a citizens will defect and take the oil under their feet with them with the assistance of the equally ultraconservative, ambitious, and revolutionary Shi’a Iran.

The American “restructuring” of the Iraqi political map and subsequent formation of a Shi’a-led government in Baghdad has created a launching pad for the projection of Iranian influence into Saudi territory.

So that’s the conflict in a nutshell.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
On the effects of inequality on economic growth | Nintil
After the discussion above, what should one think about the relationship between inequality and growth?

For starters, that the consensus of the literature points to our lack of knowledge, and the need to be very careful when studying these phenomena. As of today there is no solid consensus on the effects of inequality on growth. Tentatively, on the grounds of Neves et al.’s meta-analysis, we can conclude that the impact of inequality on developed countries is economically insignificant. This means that one can claim that inequality is good, bad, or neutral for growth as long as the effects claimed are small and one talks about developed countries. For developing countries, the relationships are more negative.

http://squid314.livejournal.com/320672.html
I recently finished The Spirit Level, subtitled "Why More Equal Societies Almost Almost Do Better", although "Five Million Different Scatter Plot Graphs Plus Associated Commentary" would also have worked. It was a pretty thorough manifesto for the best kind of leftism: the type that foregoes ideology and a priori arguments in exchange for a truckload of statistics showing that their proposed social remedies really work.

Inequality: some people know what they want to find: https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/economics/inequality-some-people-know-what-they-want-to-find

Inequality doesn’t matter: a primer: https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/inequality-doesnt-matter-a-primer

Inequality and visibility of wealth in experimental social networks: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature15392
- Akihiro Nishi, Hirokazu Shirado, David G. Rand & Nicholas A. Christakis

We show that wealth visibility facilitates the downstream consequences of initial inequality—in initially more unequal situations, wealth visibility leads to greater inequality than when wealth is invisible. This result reflects a heterogeneous response to visibility in richer versus poorer subjects. We also find that making wealth visible has adverse welfare consequences, yielding lower levels of overall cooperation, inter-connectedness, and wealth. High initial levels of economic inequality alone, however, have relatively few deleterious welfare effects.

https://twitter.com/NAChristakis/status/952315243572719617
https://archive.is/DpyAx
Our own work has shown that the *visibility* of inequality, more then the inequality per se, may be especially corrosive to the social fabric. https://www.nature.com/articles/nature15392 … I wonder if @WalterScheidel historical data sheds light on this idea? end 5/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Over the long term civilization matters – Gene Expression
This sort of dynamic has been used to argue that Samuel P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order is not a useful framework. But on the contrary what Turchin and colleagues have shown is that over the long run civilizational fissures tend to result in the most vicious and dehumanizing wars.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Books I suggest you read so you won’t be misled as often – Gene Expression
People often ask me for history books on a very specific topics often, assuming I’ve read something on an issue because I exhibit some fluency discussing something that might seem abstruse or arcane. The thing is that I haven’t always read a monograph on a singular topic even if I know a fair amount on it. It’s just that I’ve read a larger number of history books, so the union of my knowledge set is quite wide and expansive.

...

In any case, what books should you read? It’s useful to read big general surveys because they allow you to frame and interpret narrower monographs.

...

What is my goal with providing you this list? I want you to be able to iterate through historical assertions people in the media and politics make against your internal data set. See if they are full of shit. They often are.

There are two classes of bullshit. The first class are the nakedly mendacious. This is more common in the political class, where lying is a form of art. The second class are just ignorant and don’t know any better. This is more common in the pundit class.

One trick that the pundit class pulls sincerely because they are often ignorant is that they cite a historian to buttress an assertion, even getting a quote from that historian. But quite often the historian is clearly misleading the audience…the historian may not utter a lie, but in their presentation they allow the reader to have a takeaway that aligns with the normative bias of the pundit, and the historian that has prostituted themselves to some cause. Obviously you will never master a specific area of history like an academic with a command of another language, but if you know enough you can easily smell bullshit when it’s being injected into the information stream.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/06/15/the-system-of-the-world-by-william-h-mcneill/

other: http://gapersblock.com/airbags/archives/22_books_to_get_you_up_to_speed_on_the_entire_world_part_6_the_whole_world/
military history: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/06/12/books-i-suggest-you-read-so-you-wont-be-misled-as-often/#comment-2518
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june 2017 by nhaliday
spaceships - Can there be a space age without petroleum (crude oil)? - Worldbuilding Stack Exchange
Yes...probably

What was really important to our development of technology was not oil, but coal. Access to large deposits of high-quality coal largely fueled the industrial revolution, and it was the industrial revolution that really got us on the first rungs of the technological ladder.

Oil is a fantastic fuel for an advanced civilisation, but it's not essential. Indeed, I would argue that our ability to dig oil out of the ground is a crutch, one that we should have discarded long ago. The reason oil is so essential to us today is that all our infrastructure is based on it, but if we'd never had oil we could still have built a similar infrastructure. Solar power was first displayed to the public in 1878. Wind power has been used for centuries. Hydroelectric power is just a modification of the same technology as wind power.

Without oil, a civilisation in the industrial age would certainly be able to progress and advance to the space age. Perhaps not as quickly as we did, but probably more sustainably.

Without coal, though...that's another matter

What would the industrial age be like without oil and coal?: https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/45919/what-would-the-industrial-age-be-like-without-oil-and-coal

Out of the ashes: https://aeon.co/essays/could-we-reboot-a-modern-civilisation-without-fossil-fuels
It took a lot of fossil fuels to forge our industrial world. Now they're almost gone. Could we do it again without them?

But charcoal-based industry didn’t die out altogether. In fact, it survived to flourish in Brazil. Because it has substantial iron deposits but few coalmines, Brazil is the largest charcoal producer in the world and the ninth biggest steel producer. We aren’t talking about a cottage industry here, and this makes Brazil a very encouraging example for our thought experiment.

The trees used in Brazil’s charcoal industry are mainly fast-growing eucalyptus, cultivated specifically for the purpose. The traditional method for creating charcoal is to pile chopped staves of air-dried timber into a great dome-shaped mound and then cover it with turf or soil to restrict airflow as the wood smoulders. The Brazilian enterprise has scaled up this traditional craft to an industrial operation. Dried timber is stacked into squat, cylindrical kilns, built of brick or masonry and arranged in long lines so that they can be easily filled and unloaded in sequence. The largest sites can sport hundreds of such kilns. Once filled, their entrances are sealed and a fire is lit from the top.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The story of modern human origins just got more complicated
https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2017/06/06/a-reticulation-pulse-expansion-of-modern-human-genetic-variation/
https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2017/06/11/the-search-for-eden-opens-up-new-vistas/
https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2017/08/26/northeast-africa/

https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/25/out-of-africa-to-out-of-eden-well-perhaps-not-yet/
https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/28/none-dare-call-it-multiregionalism/

The slow death of Out of Africa: http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-slow-death-of-out-of-africa.html
The significance of the discovery of modern humans in Arabia >85kya is that it provides a second spot (other than Israel) were modern humans existed outside Africa long before the alleged 60kya blitz out of the continent. We now have modern humans outside Africa in roughly two locations (Israel and Arabia), and three time slices (~175-85kya) in Misliya, Shkul/Qafzeh, and Al Wusta-1. It is no longer tenable to claim that these modern humans "died out" to make way for the alleged 60kya OoA event.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
How important was colonial trade for the rise of Europe? | Economic Growth in History
The latter view became the orthodoxy among economists and economic historians after Patrick O’Brien’s 1982 paper, which in one of many of Patrick’s celebrated phrases, claims that “”the periphery vs peripheral” for Europe. He concludes the paper by writing:

“[G]rowth, stagnation, and decay everywhere in Western Europe can be explained mainly by reference to endogenous forces. … for the economic growth of the core, the periphery was peripheral.”

This is the view that remarkable scholars such as N. Crafts, Deirdre McCloskey, or Joel Mokyr repeat today (though Crafts would argue cotton imports would have mattered in a late stage, and my reading of Mokyr is that he has softened his earlier view from the 1980s a little, specifically in the book The Enlightened Economy.) Even recently, Brad deLong has classifyied O’Brien’s 1982 position as “air tight”.

Among economists and economic historians more on the economics side, I would say that O’Brien’s paper was only one of two strong hits against the “Worlds-System” and related schools of thoughts of the 1970s, the other hit being Solow’s earlier conclusion that TFP growth (usually interpreted as technology, though there’s more to it than that) has accounted for economic growth a great deal more than capital accumulation, which is what Hobsbawm and Wallerstein, in their neo-Marxist framework, emphasize.

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/890034395456974848
A friend tonight, on the third world and the first world, and our relationships to the past: "They don't forget, and we don't remember."
https://twitter.com/edwest/status/872337163458932736
imo the European Intifada is being fueled by anti-Europeanism & widely taught ideas like this one discussed - Europe stole its riches

https://www.thinkpragati.com/opinion/1863/dont-blame-empire/
The British Empire was cruel, rapacious and racist. But contrary to what Shashi Tharoor writes in An Era Of Darkness, the fault for India’s miseries lies upon itself.

Indeed, the anti-Tharoor argument is arguably closer to the truth, because the British tended to use the landlord system in places where landlords were already in place, and at times when the British were relatively weak and couldn’t afford to upset tradition. Only after they became confident in their power did the British start to bypass the landlord class and tax the cultivators directly. King’s College London historian Jon Wilson (2016) writes in India Conquered, “Wherever it was implemented, raiyatwar began as a form of military rule.” Thus the system that Tharoor implicitly promotes, and which is associated with higher agricultural productivity today, arose from the very same colonialism that he blames for so many of India’s current woes. History does not always tell the parables that we wish to hear.

...

India’s share of the world economy was large in the eighteenth century for one simple reason: when the entire world was poor, India had a large share of the world’s population. India’s share fell because with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, Europe and North America saw increases of income per capita to levels never before seen in all of human history. This unprecedented growth cannot be explained by Britain’s depredations against India. Britain was not importing steam engines from India.

The big story of the Great Divergence is not that India got poorer, but that other countries got much richer. Even at the peak of Mughal wealth in 1600, the best estimates of economic historians suggest that GDP per capita was 61% higher in Great Britain. By 1750–before the battle of Plassey and the British takeover–GDP per capita in Great Britain was more than twice what it was in India (Broadberry, Custodis, and Gupta 2015). The Great Divergence has long roots.

Tharoor seems blinded by the glittering jewels of the Maharajas and the Mughals. He writes with evident satisfaction that when in 1615 the first British ambassador presented himself to the court of Emperor Jehangir in Agra, “the Englishman was a supplicant at the feet of the world’s mightiest and most opulent monarch.” True; but the Emperor’s opulence was produced on the backs of millions of poor subjects. Writing at the same time and place, the Dutch merchant Francisco Pelsaert (1626) contrasted the “great superfluity and absolute power” of the rich with “the utter subjection and poverty of the common people–poverty so great and miserable that the life of the people can be depicted…only as the home of stark want and the dwelling-place of bitter woe.” Indian rulers were rich because the empire was large and inequality was extreme.

In pre-colonial India the rulers, both Mughal and Maratha, extracted _anywhere from one-third to one half of all gross agricultural output_ and most of what was extracted was spent on opulence and the armed forces, not on improving agricultural productivity (Raychaudhuri 1982).

...

The British were awful rulers but the history of India is a long story of awful rulers (just as it is for most countries). Indeed, by Maddison’s (2007) calculations _the British extracted less from the Indian economy than did the Mughal Dynasty_. The Mughals built their palaces in India while the British built most of their palaces in Britain, but that was little comfort to the Indian peasant who paid for both. The Kohinoor diamond that graces the cover of Inglorious Empire is a telling symbol. Yes, it was stolen by the British (who stole it from the Sikhs who stole it from the Afghanis who stole it from the Mughals who stole it from one of the kings of South India). But how many Indians would have been better off if this bauble had stayed in India? Perhaps one reason why more Indians didn’t take up arms against the British was that for most of them, British rule was a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

more for effect on colonies: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:4b0128372fe9

INDIA AND THE GREAT DIVERGENCE: AN ANGLO-INDIAN COMPARISON OF GDP PER CAPITA, 1600-1871: http://eh.net/eha/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Guptaetal.pdf
This paper provides estimates of Indian GDP constructed from the output side for the pre-1871 period, and combines them with population estimates to track changes in living standards. Indian per capita GDP declined steadily during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries before stabilising during the nineteenth century. As British living standards increased from the mid-seventeenth century, India fell increasingly behind. Whereas in 1600, Indian per capita GDP was over 60 per cent of the British level, by 1871 it had fallen to less than 15 per cent. As well as placing the origins of the Great Divergence firmly in the early modern period, the estimates suggest a relatively prosperous India at the height of the Mughal Empire, with living standards well above bare bones subsistence.

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/832288984009207810
but some of the Asian wage data (especialy India) have laughably small samples (see Broadberry & Gupta)

How profitable was colonialism for various European powers?: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/p1q1q/how_profitable_was_colonialism_for_various/

How did Britain benefit from colonising India? What did colonial powers gain except for a sense of power?: https://www.quora.com/How-did-Britain-benefit-from-colonising-India-What-did-colonial-powers-gain-except-for-a-sense-of-power
The EIC period was mostly profitable, though it had recurring problems with its finances. The initial voyages from Surat in 1600s were hugely successful and brought profits as high as 200%. However, the competition from the Dutch East India Company started to drive down prices, at least for spices. Investing in EIC wasn’t always a sure shot way to gains - British investors who contributed to the second East India joint stock of 1.6 million pounds between 1617 and 1632 ended up losing money.

...

An alternate view is that the revenues of EIC were very small compared to the GDP of Britain, and hardly made an impact to the overall economy. For instance, the EIC Revenue in 1800 was 7.8m pounds while the British GDP in the same period was 343m pounds, and hence EIC revenue was only 2% of the overall GDP. (I got these figures from an individual blog and haven’t verified them).

...

The British Crown period - The territory of British India Provinces had expanded greatly and therefore the tax revenues had grown in proportion. The efficient taxation system paid its own administrative expenses as well as the cost of the large British Indian Army. British salaries were lucrative - the Viceroy received £25,000 a year, and Governors £10,000 for instance besides the lavish amenities in the form of subsidized housing, utilities, rest houses, etc.

...

Indian eminent intellectual, Dadabhai Naoroji wrote how the British systematically ensured the draining of Indian economy of its wealth and his theory is famously known as ‘Drain of Wealth’ theory. In his book 'Poverty' he estimated a 200–300 million pounds loss of revenue to Britain that is not returned.

At the same time, a fair bit of money did go back into India itself to support further colonial infrastructure. Note the explosion of infrastructure (Railway lines, 100+ Cantonment towns, 60+ Hill stations, Courthouses, Universities, Colleges, Irrigation Canals, Imperial capital of New Delhi) from 1857 onward till 1930s. Of course, these infrastructure projects were not due to any altruistic motive of the British. They were intended to make their India empire more secure, comfortable, efficient, and to display their grandeur. Huge sums of money were spent in the 3 Delhi Durbars conducted in this period.

So how profitable was the British Crown period? Probably not much. Instead bureaucracy, prestige, grandeur, comfort reigned supreme for the 70,000 odd British people in India.

...

There was a realization in Britain that colonies were not particularly economically beneficial to the home economy. … [more]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
How is Chinese history organized? - Quora
Typically, in my mind, this is how I structure history:
1. Dinosaurs
2. Cavemen
3. Pre-Christian
4. Roman (500 BC to 500 AD)
5. Dark Ages
6. Middle Ages
7. Renaissance (Machiavelli and the Tudors go here.)
8. Reformation
9. Industrial Age (WWI & WWII go here.)
10. Information Age

First two are the same.
3. Dawn of civilization.
4. Loose united, feudal lords fighting each other.
5. United by first emperor of Qin, centralised government.
6. Warlords fighting for uniting.
7. United.
8. Repeat 6&7 for several times.
9. Last empire Qing.
10. Moderation, struggling from foreign invading force, revolution.
11. Revolution of revolution, communism take over.
12. Reform, non-communism.
13. Economic powerhouse, world factory.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Long-Term Population Cycles in Human Societies
This survey of a variety of historical and archeological data indicates that slow oscillations in population numbers, with periods of roughly two to three centuries, are observed in a number of world regions and historical periods. Next, a potential explanation for this pattern, the demographic-structural theory, is discussed. Finally, the implications of these results for global population forecasts is discussed.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Book Review: Peter Turchin – War and Peace and War
I think Turchin’s book is a good introductory text to the new science of cliodynamics, one he himself did much to found (along with Nefedov and Korotayev). However, though readable – mostly, I suspect, because I am interested in the subject – it is not well-written. The text was too thick, there were too many awkward grammatical constructions, and the quotes are far, far too long.

More importantly, 1) the theory is not internally well-integrated and 2) there isn’t enough emphasis on the fundamental differences separating agrarian from industrial societies. For instance, Turchin makes a lot of the idea that the Italians’ low level of asabiya (“amoral familism”) was responsible for it’s only becoming politically unified in the late 19th century. But why then was it the same for Germany, the bloody frontline for the religious wars of the 17th century? And why was France able to build a huge empire under Napoleon, when it had lost all its “meta-ethnic frontiers” / marches by 1000 AD? For answers to these questions about the genesis of the modern nation-state, one would be much better off by looking at more conventional explanations by the likes of Benedict Anderson, Charles Tilly, or Gabriel Ardant.

Nowadays, modern political technologies – the history textbook, the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, the radio and Internet – have long displaced the meta-ethnic frontier as the main drivers behind the formation of asabiya. Which is certainly not to say that meta-ethnic frontiers are unimportant – they are, especially in the case of Dar al-Islam, which feels itself to be under siege on multiple fronts (the “bloody borders” of clash-of-civilizations-speak), which according to Turchin’s theory should promote a stronger Islamic identity. But their intrinsic importance has been diluted by the influence of modern media.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Genetics allows the dead to speak from the grave - The Unz Review
BOOKMARKIt is a running joke of mine on Twitter that the genetics of white people is one of those fertile areas of research that seems to never end. Is it a surprise that the ancient DNA field has first elucidated the nature of this obscure foggy continent, before rich histories of the untold billions of others? It’s funny, and yet these stories, true tales, do I think tell us a great deal about how modern human populations came to be in the last 10,000 years. The lessons of Europe can be generalized. We don’t have the rich stock of ancient DNA from China, the Middle East, or India. At least not enough to do population genomics, which requires larger sample sizes than a few. But, climate permitting, we may.

...

At about the same time the evidence for Neanderthal admixture came out, Luke Jostins posted results which showed that other human lineages were also undergoing encephalization, before their trajectory was cut short. That is, their brains were getting bigger before they went extinct. To me this suggested that the broader Homo lineage was undergoing a process of nearly inevitable change due to a series of evolutionary events very deep in our history, perhaps ancestral on the order of millions of years. Along with the evidence for admixture it made me reconsider my priors. Perhaps some Homo lineage was going to expand outward and do what we did, and perhaps it wasn’t inevitable that it was going to be us. Perhaps the Neanderthal Parallax scenario is not as fantastical as we might think?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Edge.org: 2017 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC TERM OR CONCEPT OUGHT TO BE MORE WIDELY KNOWN?
highlights:
- the genetic book of the dead [Dawkins]
- complementarity [Frank Wilczek]
- relative information
- effective theory [Lisa Randall]
- affordances [Dennett]
- spontaneous symmetry breaking
- relatedly, equipoise [Nicholas Christakis]
- case-based reasoning
- population reasoning (eg, common law)
- criticality [Cesar Hidalgo]
- Haldan's law of the right size (!SCALE!)
- polygenic scores
- non-ergodic
- ansatz
- state [Aaronson]: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3075
- transfer learning
- effect size
- satisficing
- scaling
- the breeder's equation [Greg Cochran]
- impedance matching

soft:
- reciprocal altruism
- life history [Plomin]
- intellectual honesty [Sam Harris]
- coalitional instinct (interesting claim: building coalitions around "rationality" actually makes it more difficult to update on new evidence as it makes you look like a bad person, eg, the Cathedral)
basically same: https://twitter.com/ortoiseortoise/status/903682354367143936

more: https://www.edge.org/conversation/john_tooby-coalitional-instincts

interesting timing. how woke is this dude?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Book Review by John Derbyshire: Doesn’t Add Up
Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy
https://twitter.com/HoustonEuler/status/887479542360702977
My embedded opinion is that Cathy O'Neil frequently writes foolish things
She's a former mathematician/finance quant who dresses up a lot of progressive dogma with phony skepticism

http://www.vdare.com/tag/minority-mortgage-meltdown
http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2008/10/subprime_suspects.html
http://voxeu.org/article/minority-mortgage-market-and-crisis

Causes of the Financial Crisis: https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/causes-of-the-financial-crisis/
Look, Wall Street was definitely a bad actor from 2000-2008. But the idea that they were solely responsible for the crisis has got to go. There were four main factors, in descending order:

a) A huge global savings glut that meant there were vast amounts of cash people were eager to lend out, combined with…

b) Enormous pressures to make use of all that money to increase lending and reduce standards for lower-income and minority households.

This book has some of the story, mostly focusing on the expansion and growing political power of Freddie and Fannie in the 1990s, but it really wasn’t any secret that reducing credit-worthiness (sorry, barriers to homeownership) was an explicit goal of the Clinton and Bush administrations and affiliated banks. Bush gave a long speech on these goals in mid-2002. Countrywide, led by Angelo Mozilo, pledged $600 billion in loans to low-income and minority homeowners in early 2003. Then, the Bush administration was bragging in late 2004 about the commitments they had elicited from lenders to expand low-income and minority lending by over $1 Trillion. Then, a few months later, in 2005, Countrywide, with a former HUD secretary on its board, released a press release bragging that they were going to increase their book of lending to minority and low-income households to $1 Trillion. Looking back on the crisis, liberal sociologists find, unsurprisingly, that subprime lending and the subsequent foreclosures were concentrated in minority households.
c) The efforts to extend massive amounts of credit to non-creditworthy families were abetted by fraud and irresponsible borrowing by those same households. See, for example, Atif Mian’s papers on widespread fraud in mortgage applications.
d) Bad actions by Wall Street (Inside Job is probably a good version of this.)

The idea that only d matters is just nuts.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Why China Cannot Rise Peacefully - YouTube
- unexpected accent/tone lol
- principles: states as unit of action/global anarchy, uncertainty (fog-of-war), states as rational, selfish actors
- consequences: need to become as powerful as possible, regional hegemon, prevent peer competitors (no other regional hegemon in world, eg, China)
- future: China as giant Hong Kong
- future coalition: India, Japan, Russia, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea, and the USA
- does he actually think Brazil coulda gotten as powerful as the US? lol.
- his summary of American grand strategy (lol):
1. Europe (great powers)
2. NE Asia (great powers)
3. Persian Gulf (oil)
- "Europe will become distant 3rd, Europe is a museum, lotta old people." lol
- "not gonna help us with Asia, got their own problems, bankrupting themselves"
- counterarguments: "not gonna grow, China's a Confucian culture (don't pay attention to those), economic interdependence." doesn't buy the last either.
- best counterarguments: nuclear deterrence, economic interdependence, "age of nationalism"
- mass-murder usually strategic (eg, maintaining power) not ideological

debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd-1LymXXX0

interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXSkY4QKDlA
- Clinton's a realist
- plenty of economic independence prior to world wars
- nukes makes WW3 unlikely, but do not rule out limited war (eg, over East/South China Sea)
- Confucian pacifism argument is ahistorical
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may 2017 by nhaliday
What would count as an explanation of the size of China? - Marginal REVOLUTION
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may 2017 by nhaliday
One more time | West Hunter
One of our local error sources suggested that it would be impossible to rebuild technical civilization, once fallen. Now if every human were dead I’d agree, but in most other scenarios it wouldn’t be particularly difficult, assuming that the survivors were no more silly and fractious than people are today.  So assume a mild disaster, something like the effect of myxomatosis on the rabbits of Australia, or perhaps toe-to-toe nuclear combat with the Russkis – ~90%  casualties worldwide.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69221
Books are everywhere. In the type of scenario I sketched out, almost no knowledge would be lost – so Neolithic tech is irrelevant. Look, if a single copy of the 1911 Britannica survived, all would be well.

You could of course harvest metals from the old cities. But even if if you didn’t, the idea that there is no more copper or zinc or tin in the ground is just silly. “recoverable ore” is mostly an economic concept.

Moreover, if we’re talking wiring and electrical uses, one can use aluminum, which makes up 8% of the Earth’s crust.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69368
Some of those book tell you how to win.

Look, assume that some communities strive to relearn how to make automatic weapons and some don’t. How does that story end? Do I have to explain everything?

I guess so!

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69334
Well, perhaps having a zillion times more books around would make a difference. That and all the “X for Dummies” books, which I think the Romans didn’t have.

A lot of Classical civ wasn’t very useful: on the whole they didn’t invent much. On the whole, technology advanced quite a bit more rapidly in Medieval times.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69225
How much coal and oil are in the ground that can still be extracted with 19th century tech? Honest question; I don’t know.
--
Lots of coal left. Not so much oil (using simple methods), but one could make it from low-grade coal, with the Fischer-Tropsch process. Sasol does this.

Then again, a recovering society wouldn’t need much at first.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69223
reply to: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69220
That’s more like it.

#1. Consider Grand Coulee Dam. Gigawatts. Feeling of power!
#2. Of course.
#3. Might be easier to make superconducting logic circuits with MgB2, starting over.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69325
Your typical biker guy is more mechanically minded than the average Joe. Welding, electrical stuff, this and that.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69260
If fossil fuels were unavailable -or just uneconomical at first- we’d be back to charcoal for our Stanley Steamers and railroads. We’d still have both.

The French, and others, used wood-gasifier trucks during WWII.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69407
Teslas are of course a joke.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
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