nhaliday + cycles   127

Manifold – man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.
Silicon Valley (Big Tech and startups and VC)
Financial Markets
Academia (Good, Bad, and Ugly)
The View from Europe
The View from Asia (Life in PRC? Fear and Loathing of PRC?)
Frontiers of Science (AI, Genomics, Physics, ...)
Frontiers of Rationality
The Billionaire Life
What Millennials think us old folks don't understand
True things that you are not allowed to say
Bubbles that are ready to pop?
Under-appreciated Genius?
Overrated Crap and Frauds?
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march 2019 by nhaliday
"Humankind is unique in its incapacity to learn from experience" | New Humanist
Your new book claims atheism is a “closed system of thought”. Why so?
Because atheists of a certain kind imagine that by rejecting monotheistic beliefs they step out of a monotheistic way of thinking. Actually, they have inherited all of its rigidities and assumptions. Namely, the idea that there is a universal history; that there is something like a collective human agent; or a universal way of life. These are all Christian ideals. Christianity itself is also a much more complex belief system than most contemporary atheists allow for. But then most of these atheists know very little about the history of religion.

Particularly, you argue, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. What is your disagreement with them?
They treat religion as a kind of intellectual error; something only the crudest of Enlightenment thinkers believed. Not every human being has a religious sensibility, but pretty much all human cultures do. Neither Dawkins or Harris are interesting enough to discuss this at length.

Dawkins is really not worth discussing or engaging with at all. He is an ideologue of Darwinism and knows very little about religion, treating it as a kind of a priori notion, rather than the complex social, and anthropological set of ideas which religion usually entails. Harris is partially interesting, in that he talks about how all human values can be derived from science. But I object strongly to that idea.


You are hugely critical of modern liberalism: what is your main problem with the ideology?
That it’s immune to empirical evidence. It’s a form of dogmatic faith. If you are a monotheist it makes sense – I myself am not saying it’s true or right – to say that there is only one way of life for all of humankind. And so you should try and convert the rest of humanity to that faith.

But if you are not a monotheist, and you claim to be an atheist, it makes no sense to claim that there is only one way of life. There may be some good and bad ways of living. And there may be some forms of barbarism, where human societies cannot flourish for very long. But there is no reason for thinking that there is only one way of life: the ones that liberal societies practice.
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october 2018 by nhaliday
Dying and Rising Gods - Dictionary definition of Dying and Rising Gods | Encyclopedia.com: FREE online dictionary
While the concept of a "dying-and-rising god" has a longer history, it was significantly advocated by Frazer's Golden Bough (1906–1914). At first received very favourably, the idea was attacked by Roland de Vaux in 1933, and was the subject of controversial debate over the following decades.[31] One of the leading scholars in the deconstruction of Frazer's "dying-and-rising god" category was Jonathan Z. Smith, whose 1969 dissertation discusses Frazer's Golden Bough,[32] and who in Mircea Eliade's 1987 Encyclopedia of religion wrote the "Dying and rising gods" entry, where he dismisses the category as "largely a misnomer based on imaginative reconstructions and exceedingly late or highly ambiguous texts", suggesting a more detailed categorisation into "dying gods" and "disappearing gods", arguing that before Christianity, the two categories were distinct and gods who "died" did not return, and those who returned never truly "died".[33][34] Smith gave a more detailed account of his views specifically on the question of parallels to Christianity in Drudgery Divine (1990).[35] Smith's 1987 article was widely received, and during the 1990s, scholarly consensus seemed to shift towards his rejection of the concept as oversimplified, although it continued to be invoked by scholars writing about Ancient Near Eastern mythology.[36] As of 2009, the Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion summarizes the current scholarly consensus as ambiguous, with some scholars rejecting Frazer's "broad universalist category" preferring to emphasize the differences between the various traditions, while others continue to view the category as applicable.[9] Gerald O'Collins states that surface-level application of analogous symbolism is a case of parallelomania which exaggerate the importance of trifling resemblances, long abandoned by mainstream scholars.[37]

Beginning with an overview of the Athenian ritual of growing and withering herb gardens at the Adonis festival, in his book The Gardens of Adonis Marcel Detienne suggests that rather than being a stand-in for crops in general (and therefore the cycle of death and rebirth), these herbs (and Adonis) were part of a complex of associations in the Greek mind that centered on spices.[38] These associations included seduction, trickery, gourmandizing, and the anxieties of childbirth.[39] From his point of view, Adonis's death is only one datum among the many that must be used to analyze the festival, the myth, and the god.[39][40]
wiki  reference  myth  ritual  religion  christianity  theos  conquest-empire  intricacy  contrarianism  error  gavisti  culture  europe  mediterranean  history  iron-age  the-classics  MENA  leadership  government  gender  sex  cycles  death  mystic  multi  sexuality  food  correlation  paganism 
june 2018 by nhaliday
The Hanson-Yudkowsky AI-Foom Debate - Machine Intelligence Research Institute
How Deviant Recent AI Progress Lumpiness?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/how-deviant-recent-ai-progress-lumpiness.html
I seem to disagree with most people working on artificial intelligence (AI) risk. While with them I expect rapid change once AI is powerful enough to replace most all human workers, I expect this change to be spread across the world, not concentrated in one main localized AI system. The efforts of AI risk folks to design AI systems whose values won’t drift might stop global AI value drift if there is just one main AI system. But doing so in a world of many AI systems at similar abilities levels requires strong global governance of AI systems, which is a tall order anytime soon. Their continued focus on preventing single system drift suggests that they expect a single main AI system.

The main reason that I understand to expect relatively local AI progress is if AI progress is unusually lumpy, i.e., arriving in unusually fewer larger packages rather than in the usual many smaller packages. If one AI team finds a big lump, it might jump way ahead of the other teams.

However, we have a vast literature on the lumpiness of research and innovation more generally, which clearly says that usually most of the value in innovation is found in many small innovations. We have also so far seen this in computer science (CS) and AI. Even if there have been historical examples where much value was found in particular big innovations, such as nuclear weapons or the origin of humans.

Apparently many people associated with AI risk, including the star machine learning (ML) researchers that they often idolize, find it intuitively plausible that AI and ML progress is exceptionally lumpy. Such researchers often say, “My project is ‘huge’, and will soon do it all!” A decade ago my ex-co-blogger Eliezer Yudkowsky and I argued here on this blog about our differing estimates of AI progress lumpiness. He recently offered Alpha Go Zero as evidence of AI lumpiness:


In this post, let me give another example (beyond two big lumps in a row) of what could change my mind. I offer a clear observable indicator, for which data should have available now: deviant citation lumpiness in recent ML research. One standard measure of research impact is citations; bigger lumpier developments gain more citations that smaller ones. And it turns out that the lumpiness of citations is remarkably constant across research fields! See this March 3 paper in Science:

I Still Don’t Get Foom: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2014/07/30855.html
All of which makes it look like I’m the one with the problem; everyone else gets it. Even so, I’m gonna try to explain my problem again, in the hope that someone can explain where I’m going wrong. Here goes.

“Intelligence” just means an ability to do mental/calculation tasks, averaged over many tasks. I’ve always found it plausible that machines will continue to do more kinds of mental tasks better, and eventually be better at pretty much all of them. But what I’ve found it hard to accept is a “local explosion.” This is where a single machine, built by a single project using only a tiny fraction of world resources, goes in a short time (e.g., weeks) from being so weak that it is usually beat by a single human with the usual tools, to so powerful that it easily takes over the entire world. Yes, smarter machines may greatly increase overall economic growth rates, and yes such growth may be uneven. But this degree of unevenness seems implausibly extreme. Let me explain.

If we count by economic value, humans now do most of the mental tasks worth doing. Evolution has given us a brain chock-full of useful well-honed modules. And the fact that most mental tasks require the use of many modules is enough to explain why some of us are smarter than others. (There’d be a common “g” factor in task performance even with independent module variation.) Our modules aren’t that different from those of other primates, but because ours are different enough to allow lots of cultural transmission of innovation, we’ve out-competed other primates handily.

We’ve had computers for over seventy years, and have slowly build up libraries of software modules for them. Like brains, computers do mental tasks by combining modules. An important mental task is software innovation: improving these modules, adding new ones, and finding new ways to combine them. Ideas for new modules are sometimes inspired by the modules we see in our brains. When an innovation team finds an improvement, they usually sell access to it, which gives them resources for new projects, and lets others take advantage of their innovation.


In Bostrom’s graph above the line for an initially small project and system has a much higher slope, which means that it becomes in a short time vastly better at software innovation. Better than the entire rest of the world put together. And my key question is: how could it plausibly do that? Since the rest of the world is already trying the best it can to usefully innovate, and to abstract to promote such innovation, what exactly gives one small project such a huge advantage to let it innovate so much faster?


In fact, most software innovation seems to be driven by hardware advances, instead of innovator creativity. Apparently, good ideas are available but must usually wait until hardware is cheap enough to support them.

Yes, sometimes architectural choices have wider impacts. But I was an artificial intelligence researcher for nine years, ending twenty years ago, and I never saw an architecture choice make a huge difference, relative to other reasonable architecture choices. For most big systems, overall architecture matters a lot less than getting lots of detail right. Researchers have long wandered the space of architectures, mostly rediscovering variations on what others found before.

Some hope that a small project could be much better at innovation because it specializes in that topic, and much better understands new theoretical insights into the basic nature of innovation or intelligence. But I don’t think those are actually topics where one can usefully specialize much, or where we’ll find much useful new theory. To be much better at learning, the project would instead have to be much better at hundreds of specific kinds of learning. Which is very hard to do in a small project.

What does Bostrom say? Alas, not much. He distinguishes several advantages of digital over human minds, but all software shares those advantages. Bostrom also distinguishes five paths: better software, brain emulation (i.e., ems), biological enhancement of humans, brain-computer interfaces, and better human organizations. He doesn’t think interfaces would work, and sees organizations and better biology as only playing supporting roles.


Similarly, while you might imagine someday standing in awe in front of a super intelligence that embodies all the power of a new age, superintelligence just isn’t the sort of thing that one project could invent. As “intelligence” is just the name we give to being better at many mental tasks by using many good mental modules, there’s no one place to improve it. So I can’t see a plausible way one project could increase its intelligence vastly faster than could the rest of the world.

Takeoff speeds: https://sideways-view.com/2018/02/24/takeoff-speeds/
Futurists have argued for years about whether the development of AGI will look more like a breakthrough within a small group (“fast takeoff”), or a continuous acceleration distributed across the broader economy or a large firm (“slow takeoff”).

I currently think a slow takeoff is significantly more likely. This post explains some of my reasoning and why I think it matters. Mostly the post lists arguments I often hear for a fast takeoff and explains why I don’t find them compelling.

(Note: this is not a post about whether an intelligence explosion will occur. That seems very likely to me. Quantitatively I expect it to go along these lines. So e.g. while I disagree with many of the claims and assumptions in Intelligence Explosion Microeconomics, I don’t disagree with the central thesis or with most of the arguments.)
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Baldwin effect - Wikipedia
If animals entered a new environment—or their old environment rapidly changed—those that could flexibly respond by learning new behaviors or by ontogenetically adapting would be naturally preserved. This saved remnant would, over several generations, have the opportunity to exhibit spontaneously congenital variations similar to their acquired traits and have these variations naturally selected. It would look as though the acquired traits had sunk into the hereditary substance in a Lamarckian fashion, but the process would really be neo-Darwinian.

Selected offspring would tend to have an increased capacity for learning new skills rather than being confined to genetically coded, relatively fixed abilities. In effect, it places emphasis on the fact that the sustained behavior of a species or group can shape the evolution of that species. The "Baldwin effect" is better understood in evolutionary developmental biology literature as a scenario in which a character or trait change occurring in an organism as a result of its interaction with its environment becomes gradually assimilated into its developmental genetic or epigenetic repertoire (Simpson, 1953; Newman, 2002). In the words of Daniel Dennett,[2]

Thanks to the Baldwin effect, species can be said to pretest the efficacy of particular different designs by phenotypic (individual) exploration of the space of nearby possibilities. If a particularly winning setting is thereby discovered, this discovery will create a new selection pressure: organisms that are closer in the adaptive landscape to that discovery will have a clear advantage over those more distant.

An update to the Baldwin Effect was developed by Jean Piaget, Paul Weiss, and Conrad Waddington in the 1960s–1970s. This new version included an explicit role for the social in shaping subsequent natural change in humans (both evolutionary and developmental), with reference to alterations of selection pressures.[3]


Suppose a species is threatened by a new predator and there is a behavior that makes it more difficult for the predator to kill individuals of the species. Individuals who learn the behavior more quickly will obviously be at an advantage. As time goes on, the ability to learn the behavior will improve (by genetic selection), and at some point it will seem to be an instinct.
concept  wiki  reference  bio  evolution  learning  instinct  culture  cycles  intricacy  dennett  big-peeps  cultural-dynamics  anthropology  sapiens  flexibility  deep-materialism  new-religion  darwinian  evopsych  iteration-recursion 
march 2018 by nhaliday
Antinomia Imediata – experiments in a reaction from the left
So, what is the Left Reaction? First of all, it’s reaction: opposition to the modern rationalist establishment, the Cathedral. It opposes the universalist Jacobin program of global government, favoring a fractured geopolitics organized through long-evolved complex systems. It’s profoundly anti-socialist and anti-communist, favoring market economy and individualism. It abhors tribalism and seeks a realistic plan for dismantling it (primarily informed by HBD and HBE). It looks at modernity as a degenerative ratchet, whose only way out is intensification (hence clinging to crypto-marxist market-driven acceleration).

How come can any of this still be in the *Left*? It defends equality of power, i.e. freedom. This radical understanding of liberty is deeply rooted in leftist tradition and has been consistently abhored by the Right. LRx is not democrat, is not socialist, is not progressist and is not even liberal (in its current, American use). But it defends equality of power. It’s utopia is individual sovereignty. It’s method is paleo-agorism. The anti-hierarchy of hunter-gatherer nomads is its understanding of the only realistic objective of equality.


In more cosmic terms, it seeks only to fulfill the Revolution’s side in the left-right intelligence pump: mutation or creation of paths. Proudhon’s antinomy is essentially about this: the collective force of the socius, evinced in moral standards and social organization vs the creative force of the individuals, that constantly revolutionize and disrupt the social body. The interplay of these forces create reality (it’s a metaphysics indeed): the Absolute (socius) builds so that the (individualistic) Revolution can destroy so that the Absolute may adapt, and then repeat. The good old formula of ‘solve et coagula’.

Ultimately, if the Neoreaction promises eternal hell, the LRx sneers “but Satan is with us”.

Liberty is to be understood as the ability and right of all sentient beings to dispose of their persons and the fruits of their labor, and nothing else, as they see fit. This stems from their self-awareness and their ability to control and choose the content of their actions.


Equality is to be understood as the state of no imbalance of power, that is, of no subjection to another sentient being. This stems from their universal ability for empathy, and from their equal ability for reason.


It is important to notice that, contrary to usual statements of these two principles, my standpoint is that Liberty and Equality here are not merely compatible, meaning they could coexist in some possible universe, but rather they are two sides of the same coin, complementary and interdependent. There can be NO Liberty where there is no Equality, for the imbalance of power, the state of subjection, will render sentient beings unable to dispose of their persons and the fruits of their labor[1], and it will limit their ability to choose over their rightful jurisdiction. Likewise, there can be NO Equality without Liberty, for restraining sentient beings’ ability to choose and dispose of their persons and fruits of labor will render some more powerful than the rest, and establish a state of subjection.

equality is the founding principle (and ultimately indistinguishable from) freedom. of course, it’s only in one specific sense of “equality” that this sentence is true.

to try and eliminate the bullshit, let’s turn to networks again:

any nodes’ degrees of freedom is the number of nodes they are connected to in a network. freedom is maximum when the network is symmetrically connected, i. e., when all nodes are connected to each other and thus there is no topographical hierarchy (middlemen) – in other words, flatness.

in this understanding, the maximization of freedom is the maximization of entropy production, that is, of intelligence. As Land puts it:

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march 2018 by nhaliday
Reid Hofmann and Peter Thiel and technology and politics - Marginal REVOLUTION
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february 2018 by nhaliday
orbit - Best approximation for Sun's trajectory around galactic center? - Astronomy Stack Exchange
The Sun orbits in the Galactic potential. The motion is complex; it takes about 230 million years to make a circuit with an orbital speed of around 220 km/s, but at the same time it oscillates up and down with respect to the Galactic plane every ∼70∼70 million years and also wobbles in and out every ∼150∼150 million years (this is called epicyclic motion). The spatial amplitudes of these oscillations are around 100 pc vertically and 300 pc in the radial direction inwards and outwards around an average orbital radius (I am unable to locate a precise figure for the latter).
nibble  q-n-a  overflow  space  oscillation  time  cycles  spatial  trivia  manifolds 
december 2017 by nhaliday
How do you measure the mass of a star? (Beginner) - Curious About Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer
Measuring the mass of stars in binary systems is easy. Binary systems are sets of two or more stars in orbit about each other. By measuring the size of the orbit, the stars' orbital speeds, and their orbital periods, we can determine exactly what the masses of the stars are. We can take that knowledge and then apply it to similar stars not in multiple systems.

We also can easily measure the luminosity and temperature of any star. A plot of luminocity versus temperature for a set of stars is called a Hertsprung-Russel (H-R) diagram, and it turns out that most stars lie along a thin band in this diagram known as the main Sequence. Stars arrange themselves by mass on the Main Sequence, with massive stars being hotter and brighter than their small-mass bretheren. If a star falls on the Main Sequence, we therefore immediately know its mass.

In addition to these methods, we also have an excellent understanding of how stars work. Our models of stellar structure are excellent predictors of the properties and evolution of stars. As it turns out, the mass of a star determines its life history from day 1, for all times thereafter, not only when the star is on the Main Sequence. So actually, the position of a star on the H-R diagram is a good indicator of its mass, regardless of whether it's on the Main Sequence or not.
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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.

The Kareken-Wallace Cryptocurrency Price Indeterminacy theorem will someday receive the attention it deserves

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.

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.

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

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?

Champ/Freeman in 2001 explain why the dollar-bitcoin exchange rate is inherently unstable, and why the price of cryptocurrencies is indeterminate:

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
Information Processing: Remarks on the Decline of American Empire
1. US foreign policy over the last decades has been disastrous -- trillions of dollars and thousands of lives expended on Middle Eastern wars, culminating in utter defeat. This defeat is still not acknowledged among most of the media or what passes for intelligentsia in academia and policy circles, but defeat it is. Iran now exerts significant control over Iraq and a swath of land running from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. None of the goals of our costly intervention have been achieved. We are exhausted morally, financially, and militarily, and still have not fully extricated ourselves from a useless morass. George W. Bush should go down in history as the worst US President of the modern era.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The staggering scale of China's Belt and Road initiative: https://www.axios.com/staggering-scale-china-infrastructure-142f3b1d-82b5-47b8-8ca9-57beb306f7df.html
hsu  scitariat  commentary  video  interview  usa  great-powers  thucydides  rot  MENA  war  iran  iraq-syria  energy-resources  biophysical-econ  the-world-is-just-atoms  geopolitics  foreign-policy  china  asia  expansionism  trade  science  infrastructure  nationalism-globalism  conquest-empire  gibbon  cohesion  identity-politics  demographics  realpolitik  heavy-industry  innovation  duty  honor  integrity  virtu  values  cycles  oscillation  time  age-generation  self-interest  agri-mindset  interests  civilization  multi  news  org:lite  data  analysis  summary  scale  transportation  money  monetary-fiscal  strategy  debt  investing  maps  geography  org:rec  org:anglo  org:biz  trends  current-events  sinosphere  world  europe  definite-planning 
november 2017 by nhaliday
The Moon And Tides
Why does the Moon produce TWO water tides on the Earth and not just one?
"It is intuitively easy to understand why the gravitational pull of the Moon should produce a water tide on the Earth in the part of the ocean closest to the moon along the line connecting the center of the Moon with the center of the Earth. But in fact not one but TWO water tides are produced under which the Earth rotates every day to produce about two high tides and two low tides every day. How come?

It is not the gravitational force that is doing it, but the change in the gravitational force across the body of the Earth. If you were to plot the pattern of the Moon's 'tidal' gravitational force added to the Earth's own gravitational force, at the Earth's surface, you would be able to resolve the force vectors at different latitudes and longitudes into a radial component directed towards the Earth's center, and a component tangential to the Earth's surface. On the side nearest the moon, the 'differential' gravitational force is directed toward the Moon showing that for particles on the Earth's surface, they are being tugged slightly towards the Moon because the force of the Moon is slightly stronger at the Earth's surface than at the Earth's center which is an additional 6300 kilometers from the Moon. On the far side of the Earth, the Moon is tugging on the center of the Earth slightly stronger than it is on the far surface, so the resultant force vector is directed away from the Earth's center.

The net result of this is that the Earth gets deformed into a slightly squashed, ellipsoidal shape due to these tidal forces. This happens because if we resolve the tidal forces at each point on the Earth into a local vertical and horizontal component, the horizontal components are not zero, and are directed towards the two points along the line connecting the Earth and the Moon's centers. These horizontal forces cause rock and water to feel a gravitational force which results in the flow of rock and water into the 'tidal bulges'. There will be exactly two of these bulges. At exactly the positions of the tidal bulges where the Moon is at the zenith and at the nadir positions, there are no horizontal tidal forces and the flow stops. The water gets piled up, and the only effect is to slightly lower the weight of the water along the vertical direction.

Another way of thinking about this is that the gravitational force of the Moon causes the Earth to accelerate slightly towards the Moon causing the water to get pulled towards the Moon faster than the solid rock on the side nearest the Moon. On the far side, the solid Earth 'leaves behind' some of the water which is not as strongly accelerated towards the Moon as the Earth is. This produces the bulge on the 'back side' of the Earth."- Dr. Odenwald's ASK THE ASTRONOMER
org:junk  nibble  space  physics  mechanics  cycles  navigation  gravity  marginal  oceans  explanation  faq  objektbuch  rhythm 
november 2017 by nhaliday
Fortifications and Democracy in the Ancient Greek World by Josiah Ober, Barry Weingast :: SSRN
- Joshiah Ober, Barry Weingast

In the modern world, access-limiting fortification walls are not typically regarded as promoting democracy. But in Greek antiquity, increased investment in fortifications was correlated with the prevalence and stability of democracy. This paper sketches the background conditions of the Greek city-state ecology, analyzes a passage in Aristotle’s Politics, and assesses the choices of Hellenistic kings, Greek citizens, and urban elites, as modeled in a simple game. The paper explains how city walls promoted democracy and helps to explain several other puzzles: why Hellenistic kings taxed Greek cities at lower than expected rates; why elites in Greek cities supported democracy; and why elites were not more heavily taxed by democratic majorities. The relationship between walls, democracy, and taxes promoted continued economic growth into the late classical and Hellenistic period (4th-2nd centuries BCE), and ultimately contributed to the survival of Greek culture into the Roman era, and thus modernity. We conclude with a consideration of whether the walls-democracy relationship holds in modernity.

'Rulers Ruled by Women': An Economic Analysis of the Rise and Fall of Women's Rights in Ancient Sparta by Robert K. Fleck, F. Andrew Hanssen: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=788106
Throughout most of history, women as a class have possessed relatively few formal rights. The women of ancient Sparta were a striking exception. Although they could not vote, Spartan women reportedly owned 40 percent of Sparta's agricultural land and enjoyed other rights that were equally extraordinary. We offer a simple economic explanation for the Spartan anomaly. The defining moment for Sparta was its conquest of a neighboring land and people, which fundamentally changed the marginal products of Spartan men's and Spartan women's labor. To exploit the potential gains from a reallocation of labor - specifically, to provide the appropriate incentives and the proper human capital formation - men granted women property (and other) rights. Consistent with our explanation for the rise of women's rights, when Sparta lost the conquered land several centuries later, the rights for women disappeared. Two conclusions emerge that may help explain why women's rights have been so rare for most of history. First, in contrast to the rest of the world, the optimal (from the men's perspective) division of labor among Spartans involved women in work that was not easily monitored by men. Second, the rights held by Spartan women may have been part of an unstable equilibrium, which contained the seeds of its own destruction.
study  broad-econ  economics  polisci  political-econ  institutions  government  north-weingast-like  democracy  walls  correlation  polis  history  mediterranean  iron-age  the-classics  microfoundations  modernity  comparison  architecture  military  public-goodish  elite  civic  taxes  redistribution  canon  literature  big-peeps  conquest-empire  rent-seeking  defense  models  GT-101  incentives  urban  urban-rural  speculation  interdisciplinary  cliometrics  multi  civil-liberty  gender  gender-diff  equilibrium  cycles  branches  labor  interests  property-rights  unintended-consequences  explanation  explanans  analysis  econ-productivity  context  arrows  micro  natural-experiment 
november 2017 by nhaliday
“Editor’s Introduction to The New Economic History and the Industrial Revolution,” J. Mokyr (1998) | A Fine Theorem
I taught a fun three hours on the Industrial Revolution in my innovation PhD course this week. The absolutely incredible change in the condition of mankind that began in a tiny corner of Europe in an otherwise unremarkable 70-or-so years is totally fascinating. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath are so important to human history that I find it strange that we give people PhDs in social science without requiring at least some study of what happened.

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

1) The world was absurdly poor from the dawn of mankind until the late 1800s, everywhere.
2) The average person did not become richer, nor was overall economic growth particularly spectacular, during the Industrial Revolution; indeed, wages may have fallen between 1760 and 1830.
3) Major macro inventions, and growth, of the type seen in England in the late 1700s and early 1800s happened many times in human history.
4) It is hard for us today to understand how revolutionary ideas like “experimentation” or “probability” were.
5) The best explanations for “why England? why in the late 1700s? why did growth continue?” do not involve colonialism, slavery, or famous inventions.
econotariat  broad-econ  economics  growth-econ  cjones-like  summary  divergence  industrial-revolution  list  top-n  mokyr-allen-mccloskey  hi-order-bits  aphorism  wealth  wealth-of-nations  malthus  revolution  innovation  the-trenches  science  europe  the-great-west-whale  britain  conceptual-vocab  history  early-modern  technology  long-short-run  econ-metrics  data  time-series  conquest-empire  india  asia  scale  attaq  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  roots  cycles  flux-stasis  whiggish-hegelian 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

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

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


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

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

“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.

And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turned out that no one had ever asked. The Colonial Office had no idea.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Definite optimism as human capital | Dan Wang
I’ve come to the view that creativity and innovative capacity aren’t a fixed stock, coiled and waiting to be released by policy. Now, I know that a country will not do well if it has poor infrastructure, interest rate management, tax and regulation levels, and a whole host of other issues. But getting them right isn’t sufficient to promote innovation; past a certain margin, when they’re all at rational levels, we ought to focus on promoting creativity and drive as a means to propel growth.


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volatile societies, on the other hand, possess and value mimesis resistant institutions that frustrate attempts at mimicry, and mass produce frustrated, resentful people. These institutions, such as capitalism and beauty hierarchies, are Mimesis Shredders. They stratify humanity, and block the ‘nots’ from imitating the ‘haves’.
techtariat  venture  commentary  reflection  innovation  definite-planning  thiel  barons  economics  growth-econ  optimism  creative  malaise  stagnation  higher-ed  status  error  the-world-is-just-atoms  heavy-industry  sv  zero-positive-sum  japan  flexibility  china  outcome-risk  uncertainty  long-short-run  debt  trump  entrepreneurialism  human-capital  flux-stasis  cjones-like  scifi-fantasy  labor  dirty-hands  engineering  usa  frontier  speedometer  rent-seeking  econ-productivity  government  healthcare  essay  rhetoric  contrarianism  nascent-state  unintended-consequences  volo-avolo  vitality  technology  tech  cs  cycles  energy-resources  biophysical-econ  trends  zeitgeist  rot  alt-inst  proposal  multi  news  org:mag  org:popup  philosophy  big-peeps  speculation  concept  religion  christianity  theos  buddhism  politics  polarization  identity-politics  egalitarianism-hierarchy  inequality  duplication  society  anthropology  culture-war  westminster  info-dynamics  tribalism  institutions  envy  age-generation  letters  noble-lie 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Autocratic Rule and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China by Melanie Meng Xue, Mark Koyama :: SSRN
This paper studies how autocratic rule affects social capital. Between 1660-1788, individuals in imperial China were persecuted if they were suspected of holding subversive attitudes towards the state. A difference-in-differences approach suggests that these persecutions led to a decline of 38% in social capital, as measured by the number of charitable organizations, in each subsequent decade. Investigating the long-run effect of autocratic rule, we show that persecutions are associated with lower levels of trust, political engagement, and the under provision of local public goods. These results indicate a possible vicious cycle in which autocratic rule becomes self-reinforcing through a permanent decline in social capital.
study  economics  broad-econ  econotariat  history  early-modern  growth-econ  authoritarianism  antidemos  china  asia  sinosphere  orient  n-factor  social-capital  individualism-collectivism  charity  cliometrics  trust  cohesion  political-econ  polisci  public-goodish  correlation  intervention  unintended-consequences  iteration-recursion  cycles  effect-size  path-dependence  🎩  leviathan  endogenous-exogenous  control  branches  pseudoE  slippery-slope  counter-revolution  nascent-state  microfoundations  explanans  the-great-west-whale  occident  madisonian  hari-seldon  law  egalitarianism-hierarchy  local-global  decentralized  the-watchers  noblesse-oblige  benevolence 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Historically significant lunar eclipses - Wikipedia
On 30 June 1503, Christopher Columbus beached his two last caravels and was stranded in Jamaica. The indigenous people of the island welcomed Columbus and his crew and fed them, but Columbus' sailors cheated and stole from the natives. After six months, the natives halted the food supply.[8]

Columbus had on board an almanac authored by Regiomontanus of astronomical tables covering the years 1475–1506; upon consulting the book, he noticed the date and the time of an upcoming lunar eclipse. He was able to use this information to his advantage. He requested a meeting for that day with the Cacique, the leader, and told him that his god was angry with the local people's treatment of Columbus and his men. Columbus said his god would provide a clear sign of his displeasure by making the rising full Moon appear "inflamed with wrath".

The lunar eclipse and the red moon appeared on schedule, and the indigenous people were impressed and frightened. The son of Columbus, Ferdinand, wrote that the people:

“ with great howling and lamentation came running from every direction to the ships laden with provisions, praying to the Admiral to intercede with his god on their behalf... ”
Columbus timed the eclipse with his hourglass, and shortly before the totality ended after 48 minutes, he told the frightened indigenous people that they were going to be forgiven.[8] When the moon started to reappear from the shadow of the Earth, he told them that his god had pardoned them.[9]
history  age-of-discovery  medieval  early-modern  europe  the-great-west-whale  conquest-empire  civilization  farmers-and-foragers  stories  cocktail  trivia  big-peeps  impro  persuasion  dark-arts  wiki  reference  space  nibble  leadership  sky  earth  cycles  navigation  street-fighting 
august 2017 by nhaliday
How & Why Solar Eclipses Happen | Solar Eclipse Across America - August 21, 2017
Cosmic Coincidence
The Sun’s diameter is about 400 times that of the Moon. The Sun is also (on average) about 400 times farther away. As a result, the two bodies appear almost exactly the same angular size in the sky — about ½°, roughly half the width of your pinky finger seen at arm's length. This truly remarkable coincidence is what gives us total solar eclipses. If the Moon were slightly smaller or orbited a little farther away from Earth, it would never completely cover the solar disk. If the Moon were a little larger or orbited a bit closer to Earth, it would block much of the solar corona during totality, and eclipses wouldn’t be nearly as spectacular.

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august 2017 by nhaliday
Lecture 3: Global Energy Cycle
solar flux, albedo, greenhouse effect, energy balance, vertical distribution of energy, tilt and seasons
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Earth-Moon system
nice way of expressing Kepler's law (scaled by AU, solar mass, year, etc.) among other things

nibble  org:junk  explanation  trivia  data  objektbuch  space  mechanics  spatial  visualization  earth  visual-understanding  navigation  experiment  measure  marginal  gravity  scale  physics  nitty-gritty  tidbits  identity  cycles  time  magnitude  street-fighting  calculation  oceans  pro-rata  rhythm  flux-stasis 
august 2017 by nhaliday
Scanners Live in Vain | West Hunter
Of course, finding that the pattern already exists at the age of one month seriously weakens any idea that being poor shrinks the brain: most of the environmental effects you would consider haven’t even come into play in the first four weeks, when babies drink milk, sleep, and poop. Genetics affecting both parents and their children would make more sense, if the pattern shows up so early (and I’ll bet money that, if real,  it shows up well before one month);  but Martha Farah, and the reporter from Nature, Sara Reardon, ARE TOO FUCKING DUMB to realize this.

Correlation between brain volume and IQ is about 0.4 . Shows up clearly in studies with sufficient power.

“poverty affects prenatal environment a lot.” No it does not. “poverty” in this country means having plenty to eat.

The Great IQ Depression: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/the-great-iq-depression/
We hear that poverty can sap brainpower, reduce frontal lobe function, induce the fantods, etc. But exactly what do we mean by ‘poverty’? If we’re talking about an absolute, rather than relative, standard of living, most of the world today must be in poverty, as well as almost everyone who lived much before the present. Most Chinese are poorer than the official US poverty level, right? The US had fairly rapid economic growth until the last generation or so, so if you go very far back in time, almost everyone was poor, by modern standards. Even those who were considered rich at the time suffered from zero prenatal care, largely useless medicine, tabletless high schools, and slow Internet connections. They had to ride horses that had lousy acceleration and pooped all over the place.

In particular, if all this poverty-gives-you-emerods stuff is true, scholastic achievement should have collapsed in the Great Depression – and with the miracle of epigenetics, most of us should still be suffering those bad effects.

But somehow none of this seems to have gone through the formality of actually happening.
west-hunter  scitariat  commentary  study  org:nat  summary  rant  critique  neuro  neuro-nitgrit  brain-scan  iq  class  correlation  compensation  pop-diff  biodet  behavioral-gen  westminster  experiment  attaq  measure  multi  discussion  ideas  history  early-modern  pre-ww2  usa  gedanken  analogy  comparison  time  china  asia  world  developing-world  economics  growth-econ  medicine  healthcare  epigenetics  troll  aphorism  cycles  obesity  poast  nutrition  hypochondria  explanans 
august 2017 by nhaliday
The Scholar's Stage: Everything is Worse in China
My time here has thus given me a rare vantage point to judge many of the claims made over the course of these campaigns. In few places is this sort of outside perspective more useful than when judging the claims of an American jeremiad. Jeremiading is a fine art. Its practitioners hail from lands both left and right, but my sympathies lie with the cultural traditionalists. You know the type. In America they find little but a shallow husk. For some it is the husk of a nation once great; for others it is the decaying remains of Western civilization itself. Few of these gloom-filled minds deny that wonders have marked their days on this earth. It is not that advances do not happen. It is just that each celebrated advance masks hundreds of more quiet destructions. These laments for worlds gone by are poignant; the best are truly beautiful. The best of the best, however, do not just lament. Every one of their portraits of the past is a depiction of a future—or more properly, a way of living worth devoting a future to.

I have read a few of these books in 2017. The best of these (both for its lyricism and for the demands it places on the intellect) is Anthony Esolen's newest book, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture. This blog is not the place for a full review. I plan to write a proper review for it and a few of the other recently published books of this type for a less personal publication than the Scholar's Stage. Here I will just share one of my strongest reactions to the book—a thought that occurred again and again as I drifted through its pages. Esolen presents a swarm of maladies sickening American society, ranging from a generation of children suffocated by helicopter parenting to a massive state bureaucracy openly hostile to virtuous living. My reaction to each of his carefully drawn portraits was the same: this problem is even worse in China.

Are you worried about political correctness gone awry, weaponized by mediocrities to defame the worthy, suffocating truth, holding honest inquiry hostage through fear and terror? That problem is worse in China.

Do you lament the loss of beauty in public life? Its loss as a cherished ideal of not just art and oratory but in the building of homes, chapels, bridges, and buildings? Its disappearance in the comings-and-goings of everyday life? That problem is worse in China.

Do you detest a rich, secluded, and self-satisfied cultural elite that despises, distrusts, and derides the uneducated and unwashed masses not lucky enough to live in one of their chosen urban hubs? That problem is worse in China.

Are you sickened by crass materialism? Wealth chased, gained, and wasted for nothing more than vain display? Are you oppressed by the sight of children denied the joys of childhood, guided from one carefully structured resume-builder to the next by parents eternally hovering over their shoulders? Do you dread a hulking, bureaucratized leviathan, unaccountable to the people it serves, and so captured by special interests that even political leaders cannot control it? Are you worried by a despotic national government that plays king-maker in the economic sphere and crushes all opposition to its social programs into the dust? Do you fear a culture actively hostile to the free exercise of religion? Hostility that not only permeates through every layer of society, but is backed by the awesome power of the state?

These too are all worse in China.

Only on one item from Esolen's catalogue of decline can American society plausibly be described as more self-destructive than China's. China has not hopped headlong down the rabbit's hole of gender-bending. The Chinese have thus far proved impervious to this nonsense. But it would not be meet to conclude from this that Chinese society's treatment of sex is healthier than the West's.

interesting comments:
Re: authoritarianism and all that. I sometimes describe modern China as “slouching towards totalitarianism.” Bill Bishop descried it recently as a “leninist panopticon.”

(e.g. here http://cmp.hku.hk/2017/07/20/big-data-big-concerns/ here https://amp.ft.com/content/5ec7093c-6e06-11e7-b9c7-15af748b60d0 and here https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d676a4e3267444e/share_p.html# ).

But I think we need to dispense with some illusions. The elites of the CPC are unrelentingly hostile towards the West. They are King Goujian. They won’t be satisfied until China has displaced the United States as the world’s super power and they have the power to control the entire Chinese diaspora. (For those not familiar with the last bit see here http://www.smh.com.au/interactive/2017/chinas-operation-australia/soft-power.html and http://insidestory.org.au/beijings-guoqing-versus-australias-way-of-life ). On the long term will not tolerate an India or Japan that is not subservient, and they are not afraid to interfere with protected liberties in Western countries as long as Chinese-speakers are involved. For the most part they get away with it, as the censorship and intimidation they exercise in Western China-towns is all done in the Chinese language.

In the last few years, usage of the mobile messaging app WeChat (Weixin), developed by Chinese corporation Tencent, has skyrocketed not only inside China but also around the world. For 500 million mobile users in mainland China, WeChat is one of the only options for mobile messaging available, due to frequent or permanent blockage of apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Line, Twitter, and Facebook. For more than 100 million mobile users in the rest of the world, a highly polished user experience, celebrity marketing, and the promise of “free calls and texts” has proven to be nearly irresistible for far-flung members of the Chinese diaspora. This global user base also includes the Tibetan exile diaspora, who through WeChat have become connected on both sides of the Himalayas in near real time like never before.

Beijing Hinders Free Speech in America: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/opinion/beijing-free-speech-america.html
unaffiliated  broad-econ  rhetoric  critique  comparison  trends  usa  china  asia  rot  zeitgeist  religion  christianity  theos  morality  values  the-great-west-whale  identity-politics  class  elite  vampire-squid  gender  sex  sinosphere  orient  occident  integrity  multi  gnxp  scitariat  commentary  civilization  counter-revolution  poast  discussion  crooked  capital  finance  cycles  cynicism-idealism  truth  absolute-relative  expansionism  sulla  honor  pessimism  wonkish  diaspora  data  scale  internet  mobile  intel  news  org:lite  world  org:rec  higher-ed  migration  nationalism-globalism  vitality 
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.

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.
econotariat  economics  political-econ  policy  decision-making  behavioral-econ  psychology  cog-psych  cycles  oscillation  unintended-consequences  anthropology  broad-econ  cultural-dynamics  tradeoffs  cost-benefit  rot  dysgenics  study  summary  multi  EGT  dynamical  volo-avolo  self-control  discipline  the-monster  pdf  error  rationality  info-dynamics  bounded-cognition  hive-mind  iq  intelligence  order-disorder  risk  microfoundations  science-anxiety  big-picture  hari-seldon  cybernetics 
july 2017 by nhaliday
Abandoned Footnotes: Polybius and the Dialectic of Forgetting (Or, Theoretical Models in the Classical World)
We could thus say that political change, in the Polybian story, is all about the emergence of egalitarian norms, their violation by individuals capable of accumulating resources, and the restoration of such norms by those outside the “winning coalition” who still value such norms. The pattern is repeated at the next step in the cycle.
econotariat  unaffiliated  broad-econ  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  summary  canon  politics  polisci  authoritarianism  antidemos  social-norms  egalitarianism-hierarchy  cycles  oscillation  democracy  article 
july 2017 by nhaliday
Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (For Now.) - Reason.com
This is like a reversal of the industrious revolution studied in my JEBO paper: new consumption technologies are money cheap but time pricey

participation has changed along an understudied margin of labor supply. I find that “in-and-outs”—men who temporarily leave the labor force—represent a growing fraction of prime age men across multiple data sources and are responsible for roughly one third of the decline in the participation rate since 1977. In-and-outs take short, infrequent breaks out of the labor force in between jobs, but they are otherwise continuously attached to the labor force. Leading explanations for the growing share of permanent labor force dropouts, such as disability, do not apply to in-and-outs. Instead, reduced-form evidence and a structural model of household labor supply both indicate that the rise of in-and-outs reflects a shift in labor supply, largely due to the increasing earnings of men’s partners and the growth of men living with their parents.

Pointer from Tyler Cowen. My thoughts:

1. When we think of labor force participation declining, we think of, say, John Smith, deciding to never work again. What this paper is saying is that the statistics reflect something different. One month Smith takes a break, then next month he gets a job and Tom Jones takes a break.

2. I think we have always had a large number of workers who are not fully employed year round. That is, there have always been a lot of workers who take breaks between jobs. This is common in construction work, for example.

3. I don’t know if this matters for the phenomenon at hand, but we used to have inventory recessions. In those cases, workers would be out of a job for a while, but they would still be in the labor force, because they were waiting to be recalled by the firm that had laid them off.

4. It seems to me that this is an important paper. Re-read the last sentence in the quoted excerpt.

Job outlook growing worse for young American men: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/01/02/job-outlook-growing-worse-young-american-men-opinion/996922001/
As one might imagine, the absence of a job, quality education, or spouse has not bred otherwise productive citizens. Multiple studies have found that young men have replaced what would otherwise be working hours with leisure time at a near 1-1 ratio. Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago, found that young men spent a startling 75 percent of this leisure time playing video games, with many spending more than 30 hours a week gaming and over 5 million Americans spending more than 45 hours per week.

Higher suicide rates, violent crime, and drug addiction among young men have followed. Suicide rates in the United States are at a 30-year high, with men more than three and a half times more likely to take their own lives than women. Around the United States, violent crimes, homicide in particular, has increased in two-thirds of American cities, with overwhelming young male perpetrators driving the increase. A 2015 Brookings Institute study estimated that nearly half of working-age American men who are out of the labor force are using painkillers, daily.

These problems have been “invisible” for too long.

As video games get better, young men work less and play more: http://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2017/article/video-games-get-better-young-men-work-less-and-play-more

Why Are Prime-Age Men Vanishing from the Labor Force?: https://www.kansascityfed.org/~/media/files/publicat/econrev/econrevarchive/2018/1q18tuzemen.pdf

Prime-Age Men May Never Return to U.S. Workforce, Fed Paper Says: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-23/prime-age-men-may-never-return-to-u-s-workforce-fed-paper-says
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june 2017 by nhaliday
To err is human; so is the failure to admit it
Lowering the cost of admitting error could help defuse these crises. A new issue of Econ Journal Watch, an online journal, includes a symposium in which prominent economic thinkers are asked to provide their “most regretted statements”. Held regularly, such exercises might take the shame out of changing your mind. Yet the symposium also shows how hard it is for scholars to grapple with intellectual regret. Some contributions are candid; Tyler Cowen’s analysis of how and why he underestimated the risk of financial crisis in 2007 is enlightening. But some disappoint, picking out regrets that cast the writer in a flattering light or using the opportunity to shift blame.
news  org:rec  org:anglo  org:biz  economics  error  wire-guided  priors-posteriors  publishing  econotariat  marginal-rev  cycles  journos-pundits  responsibility  failure 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Tyler Cowen on Brexit, Steven Pinker, and Joseph McCarthy | askblog
Also, in my other post today, I mention an event on plutocracy co-sponsored by the Hudson Institute and The American Interest. Tyler Cowen makes remarks that have little or nothing to do with the article that he wrote for the event. Two of his more provocative opinions:

1. Steven Pinker may be wrong. Rather than mass violence following a benign trend, it could be cyclical. When there is a long peace, people become complacent, they allow bad leaders to take power and to run amok, and you get mass violence again. (Cowen argues that there are more countries now run by bad people than was the case a couple of decades ago)

2. Joseph McCarthy was not wrong. There were Soviet agents in influential positions. Regardless of what you think of that, the relevant point is that today Chinese and Russian plutocrats may have their tentacles in the U.S. and may be subtly causing the U.S. to be less of a liberal capitalist nation and more of a cronyist plutocracy.

hmm, the USPS stuff here: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:fc443b256b1a
econotariat  cracker-econ  commentary  marginal-rev  video  presentation  summary  straussian  contrarianism  rhetoric  pinker  peace-violence  cycles  oscillation  flexibility  leadership  government  history  mostly-modern  cold-war  china  asia  russia  communism  inequality  winner-take-all  authoritarianism  antidemos  corruption  anomie  domestication  gilens-page  n-factor  individualism-collectivism  egalitarianism-hierarchy  madisonian  democracy  rot  zeitgeist  the-bones  counter-revolution  flux-stasis  kumbaya-kult  virginia-DC  class-warfare  rent-seeking  vampire-squid  trump  current-events  news  org:rec  amazon  market-power  media  propaganda  taxes  corporation  capital 
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.
pdf  study  turchin  sapiens  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  deep-materialism  population  demographics  cycles  oscillation  world  malthus  🌞  broad-econ  cliometrics  big-picture  sociology  conquest-empire  chart  data  time  🎩  stylized-facts  microfoundations  hari-seldon 
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.
gnon  books  review  summary  turchin  broad-econ  anthropology  sapiens  cohesion  malthus  cliometrics  deep-materialism  inequality  cycles  oscillation  martial  europe  germanic  history  mostly-modern  world-war  efficiency  islam  MENA  group-selection  cultural-dynamics  leviathan  civilization  big-picture  frontier  conquest-empire  iron-age  mediterranean  usa  pre-ww2  elite  disease  parasites-microbiome  nihil  peace-violence  order-disorder  gallic  early-modern  medieval  EU  general-survey  data  poll  critique  comparison  society  eastern-europe  asia  china  india  korea  sinosphere  anglosphere  latin-america  japan  media  institutions  🎩  vampire-squid  winner-take-all  article  nationalism-globalism  🌞  microfoundations  hari-seldon 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: History repeats
Brad Delong, in his course on economic history, lists the following among the reasons for the decline of the British empire and its loss of industrial superiority to Germany and the US.

British deficiencies:
* low infrastructure investment
* poor educational system
* lags behind in primary education
* teaches its elite not science and engineering, but how to write Latin verse

Sound familiar? What is the ratio of Harvard students who have studied Shakespeare, Milton or (shudder) Derrida to the number who have thought deeply about the scientific method, or know what a photon is? Which knowledge is going to pay off for America in the long haul?

Most photon experts are imported from abroad these days. We're running a search in our department for a condensed matter experimentalist (working on things ranging from nanoscale magnets to biomembranes). The last three candidates we've interviewed are originally from (1) the former Soviet Union (postdoc at Cornell), (2) India (postdoc at Berkeley) and (3) China (postdoc at Caltech).

Of course, these Harvard kids may be making a smart decision - why fight it out in an efficiently globalized meritocracy (i.e. science), when there are more lucrative career paths available? Nevertheless, I think we would be better off if our future leaders had at least some passing familiarity with the science and technology that will shape our future.

The future of US scientific leadership: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2005/07/future-of-us-scientific-leadership.html
Does Globalization of the Scientific/Engineering Workforce Threaten US Economic Leadership?: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11457
Note Freeman's Proposition 2: Despite perennial concerns over shortages of scientific and engineering specialists, the job market in most S&E specialties is too weak to attract increasing numbers of US students. Nevertheless, US S&E pay rates are still high enough to attract talented foreigners. This competition further reduces the attractiveness of S&E careers to US students.

Foreign Peer Effects and STEM Major Choice: http://ftp.iza.org/dp10743.pdf
Results indicate that a 1 standard deviation increase in foreign peers reduces the likelihood native-born students graduate with STEM majors by 3 percentage points – equivalent to 3.7 native students displaced for 9 additional foreign students in an average course. STEM displacement is offset by an increased likelihood of choosing Social Science majors. However, the earnings prospects of displaced students are minimally affected as they appear to be choosing Social Science majors with equally high earning power. We demonstrate that comparative advantage and linguistic dissonance may operate as underlying mechanisms.

fall of Rome: https://twitter.com/wrathofgnon/status/886075755364360192
But if the gradualness of this process misled the Romans there were other and equally potent reasons for their blindness. Most potent of all was the fact that they mistook entirely the very nature of civilization itself. All of them were making the same mistake. People who thought that Rome could swallow barbarism and absorb it into her life without diluting her own civilization; the people who ran about busily saying that the barbarians were not such bad fellows after all, finding good points in their regime with which to castigate the Romans and crying that except ye become as little barbarians ye shall not attain salvation; the people who did not observe in 476 that one half of the Respublica Romanorum had ceased to exist and nourished themselves on the fiction that the barbarian kings were exercising a power delegated from the Emperor. _All these people were deluded by the same error, the belief that Rome (the civilization of their age) was not a mere historical fact with a beginning and an end, but a condition of nature like the air they breathed and the earth they tread Ave Roma immortalis, most magnificent most disastrous of creeds!_

The fact is that the Romans were blinded to what was happening to them by the very perfection of the material culture which they had created. All around them was solidity and comfort, a material existence which was the very antithesis of barbarism. How could they foresee the day when the Norman chronicler would marvel over the broken hypocausts of Caerleon? How could they imagine that anything so solid might conceivably disappear? _Their roads grew better as their statesmanship grew worse and central heating triumphed as civilization fell._

But still more responsible for their unawareness was the educational system in which they were reared. Ausonius and Sidonius and their friends were highly educated men and Gaul was famous for its schools and universities. The education which these gave consisted in the study of grammar and rhetoric, which was necessary alike for the civil service and for polite society; and it would be difficult to imagine an education more entirely out of touch with contemporary life, or less suited to inculcate the qualities which might have enabled men to deal with it. The fatal study of rhetoric, its links with reality long since severed, concentrated the whole attention of men of intellect on form rather than on matter. _The things they learned in their schools had no relation to the things that were going on in the world outside and bred in them the fatal illusion that tomorrow would be as yesterday that everything was the same, whereas everything was different._
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Causes of the Great Depression - Wikipedia
Current mainstream theories may be broadly classified into two main points of view. There are also several heterodox explanations. Of the mainstream views, the first are the demand-driven theories, from Keynesian and institutional economists who argue that the depression was caused by a widespread loss of confidence that led to underconsumption. The demand-driven theories argue that the financial crisis following the 1929 crash led to a sudden and persistent reduction in consumption and investment spending.[1] Once panic and deflation set in, many people believed they could avoid further losses by keeping clear of the markets. Holding money therefore became profitable as prices dropped lower and a given amount of money bought ever more goods, exacerbating the drop in demand.

Second, there are the monetarists, who believe that the Great Depression started as an ordinary recession, but that significant policy mistakes by monetary authorities (especially the Federal Reserve) caused a shrinking of the money supply which greatly exacerbated the economic situation, causing a recession to descend into the Great Depression. Related to this explanation are those who point to debt deflation causing those who borrow to owe ever more in real terms.
history  mostly-modern  usa  world  economics  macro  cycles  roots  chart  article  wiki  reference  monetary-fiscal  policy  scott-sumner 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Book Review by John Derbyshire: Doesn’t Add Up
Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy
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


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
How Samuel Huntington Predicted Our Political Moment - The American Interest
The views of the general public on issues of national identity differ significantly from those of many elites. The public, overall, is concerned with physical security but also with societal security, which involves the sustainability–within acceptable conditions for evolution–of existing patterns of language, culture, association, religion and national identity. For many elites, these concerns are secondary to participating in the global economy, supporting international trade and migration, strengthening international institutions, promoting American values abroad, and encouraging minority identities and cultures at home. The central distinction between the public and elites is not isolationism versus internationalism, but nationalism versus cosmopolitanism.

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

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

We’re right on schedule.


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Was Roman Science in Decline? (Excerpt from My New Book): https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/13477
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The eternal Axial Age – Gene Expression
Into situation stepped Sulla. Sulla is not a contingent man. Sulla is a type. A reaction, usually a vain and futile attempt to hold the past together, and push it into the future, by brutal means. Sulla arises when social elites lose faith in the present, and attempt to recreate institutions from an idealized past.

Sulla is efficient. Cruel, but certain in his rightness. Sulla is not a clown. He is not narcissistic, for Sulla does have ideals, even if you hold that those ideals are cruel or callous. Sulla is a piece of furniture, found in many places at many times. The United States of America has not seen Sulla yet. I believe it will.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The wheel of history turns to the gods - Gene Expression
The inevitable rise of Amish machines: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/01/the-inevitable-rise-of-amish-machines/
The authors make a nod to the idea that religion may have spread through group selection: but this is also an argument for why very fertile and religious groups such as the Amish and Roma will reach their “limits to growth.” If they persist in their atypical lifestyles their host societies will simply collapse. Or at least restructure in a fashion to make extremely high endogenous growth of minorities impossible.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The Roman State and Genetic Pacification - Peter Frost, 2010
- Table 1 is a good summary, but various interesting tidbits throughout
main points:
- latrones reminds me of bandit-states, Big Men in anthropology, and Rome's Indo-European past
- started having trouble recruiting soldiers, population less martial
- Church opposition to State violence, preferred to 'convert enemies by prayer'
- a Christian could use violence 'only to defend others and not for self-defense'
- Altar of Victory was more metaphorical than idolatrous, makes its removal even more egregious


should read:
BANDITS IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE: http://sci-hub.tw/http://academic.oup.com/past/article-abstract/105/1/3/1442375/BANDITS-IN-THE-ROMAN-EMPIRE
Bandits in the Roman Empire: Myth and reality: https://historicalunderbelly.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/thoma-grunewald-bandits-in-the-roman-empire-myth-and-reality-2004.pdf

What Difference Did Christianity Make?: http://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/4435970
Author(s): Ramsay Mac Mullen

The extent of this impact I test in five areas. The first two have to do with domestic relations: sexual norms and slavery. The latter three have to do with matters in which public authorities were more involved: gladiatorial shows, judicial penalties, and corruption.

Clark/Frost Domestication: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/clarkfrost-domestication/
Thinking about the response of the pacified and submission Roman population to barbarian invaders immediately brings to mind the response of contemporary North Americans and Atlantic Europeans to barbarian invaders. It reads just the same: “welcome new neighbor!”

What about the Eastern empire? They kept the barbarians out for a few centuries longer in the European half, but accounts of the loss of the Asian provinces show the Clark/Frost pattern, a pacified submissive population hardly contesting the invasion of Islam (Jenkins 2008, 2010). The new neighbors simply walked in and took over. The downfall of the Western Roman empire reads much like the downfall of the Asian and North African parts of the empire. It is certainly no accident that the Asian provinces were the heartland of Christianity.

This all brings up an interesting question: what happened in East Asia over the same period? No one to my knowledge has traced parallels with the European and Roman experience in Japan or China. Is the different East Asian trajectory related to the East Asian reluctance to roll over, wag their tails, and welcome new barbarian neighbors?

gwern in da comments
“empires domesticate their people”
Greg said in our book something like “for the same reason that farmers castrate their bulls”
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The Ionian Mission | West Hunter
I have have had famous people ask me how the Ionian Greeks became so smart (in Classical times, natch). In Classical times, the Greeks – particularly the Ionian Greeks – gave everybody this impression – in everyday experience, and certainly in terms of production of outstanding intellects. Everybody thought so. Nobody said this about the Persians – and nobody said it about the Jews, who never said it about themselves.

It’s an interesting question: perhaps there was some process analogous to that which we have proposed as an explanation for the high intelligence of the Ashkenazi Jews. Or maybe something else happened – a different selective process, or maybe it was all cultural. It’s hard to know – the Greek Dark Ages, the long period of illiteracy after the fall of Mycenaean civilization, is poorly understood, certainly by me.

Suppose that your biological IQ capacity (in favorable conditions) is set by a few hundred or thousand SNPS, and that we have identified those SNPS. With luck, we might find enough skeletons with intact DNA to see if the Ionian Greeks really were smarter than the average bear, and how that changed over time.

More generally, we could see if civilization boosted or decreased IQ, in various situations. This could be a big part of the historical process – civilizations falling because average competence has dropped, science being born because the population is now ready for it…

I think we’ll be ready to try this in a year or two. The biggest problems will be political, since this approach would also predict results in existing populations – although that would probably not be very interesting, since we already know all those results.

The Ancient Greeks Weren’t All Geniuses: http://www.unz.com/akarlin/ancient-greeks-not-geniuses/
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april 2017 by nhaliday
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