nhaliday + death + growth-econ   9

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
Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million B.C. to 1990
The nonrivalry of technology, as modeled in the endogenous growth literature, implies that high population spurs technological change. This paper constructs and empirically tests a model of long-run world population growth combining this implication with the Malthusian assumption that technology limits population. The model predicts that over most of history, the growth rate of population will be proportional to its level. Empirical tests support this prediction and show that historically, among societies with no possibility for technological contact, those with larger initial populations have had faster technological change and population growth.

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

https://jasoncollins.org/2011/08/15/more-people-more-ideas-in-the-long-run/
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Biological Measures of the Standard of Living - American Economic Association
https://academic.oup.com/oep/article-abstract/66/2/349/2362600/How-have-Europeans-grown-so-tall
The evidence suggests that the most important proximate source of increasing height was the improving disease environment as reflected by the fall in infant mortality. Rising income and education and falling family size had more modest effects. Improvements in health care are hard to identify, and the effects of welfare state spending seem to have been small.

GROWING TALL BUT UNEQUAL: NEW FINDINGS AND NEW BACKGROUND EVIDENCE ON ANTHROPOMETRIC WELFARE IN 156 COUNTRIES, 18101989: https://pseudoerasmus.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/baten-blum-2012.pdf
This is the first initiative to collate the entire body of anthropometric evidence during the 19th and 20th centuries, on a global scale. By providing a comprehensive dataset on global height developments we are able to emphasise an alternative view of the history of human well-being and a basis for understanding characteristics of well-being in 156 countries, 1810-1989.

Bones of Contention: The Political Economy of Height Inequality: http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/BoixRosenbluth2014.pdf
- Carles Boix, et al.

Height in the Dark Ages: https://pseudoerasmus.com/2014/06/12/aside-angus-maddison/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation
- Ekelund, Hébert, Tollison

This paper seeks to explain the initial successes and failures of Protestantism on economic grounds. It argues that the medieval Roman Catholic Church, through doctrinal manipulation, the exclusion of rivals, and various forms of price discrimination, ultimately placed members seeking the Z good "spiritual services" on the margin of defection. These monopolistic practices encouraged entry by rival firms, some of which were aligned with civil governments. The paper hypothesizes that Protestant entry was facilitated in emergent entrepreneurial societies characterized by the decline of feudalism and relatively unstable distribution of wealth and repressed in more homogeneous, rent-seeking societies that were mostly dissipating rather than creating wealth. In these societies the Roman Church was more able to continue the practice of price discrimination. Informal tests of this proposition are conducted by considering primogeniture and urban growth as proxies for wealth stability.

Causes and Consequences of the Protestant Reformation: https://pseudoerasmus.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/becker-pfaff-rubin-2016.pdf
- Sascha O. Becker, Steven Pfaff, Jared Rubin

The Protestant Reformation is one of the defining events of the last millennium. Nearly 500 years after the Reformation, its causes and consequences have seen a renewed interest in the social sciences. Research in economics, sociology, and political science increasingly uses detailed individual-level, city-level, and regional-level data to identify drivers of the adoption of the Reformation, its diffusion pattern, and its socioeconomic consequences. We take stock of this research, pointing out what we know and what we do not know and suggesting the most promising areas for future research.

Table 1: Studies of the Supply and Demand-Side Factors of the Reformation
Table 2: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Human Capital
Table 3: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Work and Work Ethic
Table 4: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Economic Development
Table 5: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Governance
Table 6: Studies on the “Dark” Consequences of the Reformation

LUTHER AND SULEYMAN: http://www.jstor.org.sci-hub.tw/stable/40506214
- Murat Iyigun

Various historical accounts have suggested that the Ottomans' rise helped the Protestant Reformation as well as its offshoots, such as Zwinglianism, Anabaptism, and Calvinism, survive their infancy and mature. Utilizing a comprehensive data set on violent confrontations for the interval between 1401 and 1700 CE, I show that the incidence of military engagements between the Protestant Reformers and the Counter-Reformation forces between the 1520s and 1650s depended negatively on the Ottomans' military activities in Europe. Furthermore, I document that the impact of the Ottomans on Europe went beyond suppressing ecclesiastical conflicts only: at the turn of the sixteenth century, Ottoman conquests lowered the number of all newly initiated conflicts among the Europeans roughly by 25 percent, while they dampened all longer-running feuds by more than 15 percent. The Ottomans' military activities influenced the length of intra-European feuds too, with each Ottoman-European military engagement shortening the duration of intra-European conflicts by more than 50 percent. Thus, while the Protestant Reformation might have benefited from - and perhaps even capitalized on - the Ottoman advances in Europe, the latter seems to have played some role in reducing conflicts within Europe more generally.

Religious Competition and Reallocation: The Political Economy of Secularization in the Protestant Reformation: http://www.jeremiahdittmar.com/files/RRR_20170919.pdf
- Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar, Noam Yuchtman*

Using novel microdata, we document an unintended, first-order consequence of the Protestant Reformation: a massive reallocation of resources from religious to secular purposes. To understand this process, we propose a conceptual framework in which the introduction of religious competition shifts political markets where religious authorities provide legitimacy to rulers in exchange for control over resources. Consistent with our framework, religious competition changed the balance of power between secular and religious elites: secular authorities acquired enormous amounts of wealth from monasteries closed during the Reformation, particularly in Protestant regions. This transfer of resources had important consequences. First, it shifted the allocation of upper-tail human capital. Graduates of Protestant universities increasingly took secular, especially administrative, occupations. Protestant university students increasingly studied secular subjects, especially degrees that prepared students for public sector jobs, rather than church sector-specific theology. Second, it affected the sectoral composition of fixed investment. Particularly in Protestant regions, new construction from religious toward secular purposes, especially the building of palaces and administrative buildings, which reflected the increased wealth and power of secular lords. Reallocation was not driven by pre-existing economic or cultural differences. Our findings indicate that the Reformation played an important causal role in the secularization of the West.

look at Figure 4, holy shit

History: Science and the Reformation: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v550/n7677/full/550454a.html?WT.mc_id=TWT_NatureNews&sf126429621=1
The scientific and religious revolutions that began 500 years ago were not causally related, but were both stimulated by printing, argues David Wootton.
https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/923940525673103360
https://archive.is/JElPv
No, the Reformation did not cause the scientific revolution. Nice brief article. 👍

No RCT = No causal claims, for or against ;)
Though I'm open to a regression discontinuity design! cc: @pseudoerasmus
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus
https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/852339296358940672
deleeted

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/943238170312929280
https://archive.is/p5hRA

Did Nations that Boosted Education Grow Faster?: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/10/did_nations_tha.html
On average, no relationship. The trendline points down slightly, but for the time being let's just call it a draw. It's a well-known fact that countries that started the 1960's with high education levels grew faster (example), but this graph is about something different. This graph shows that countries that increased their education levels did not grow faster.

Where has all the education gone?: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1016.2704&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/948052794681966593
https://archive.is/kjxqp

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/950952412503822337
https://archive.is/3YPic

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/862961420065001472
http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/schooling-educational-achievement-and-latin-american-growth-puzzle

The Case Against Education: What's Taking So Long, Bryan Caplan: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/03/the_case_agains_9.html

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/whats-college-good-for/546590/
Students don't seem to be getting much out of higher education.
- Bryan Caplan

College: Capital or Signal?: http://www.economicmanblog.com/2017/02/25/college-capital-or-signal/
After his review of the literature, Caplan concludes that roughly 80% of the earnings effect from college comes from signalling, with only 20% the result of skill building. Put this together with his earlier observations about the private returns to college education, along with its exploding cost, and Caplan thinks that the social returns are negative. The policy implications of this will come as very bitter medicine for friends of Bernie Sanders.

Doubting the Null Hypothesis: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/doubting-the-null-hypothesis/

Is higher education/college in the US more about skill-building or about signaling?: https://www.quora.com/Is-higher-education-college-in-the-US-more-about-skill-building-or-about-signaling
ballpark: 50% signaling, 30% selection, 20% addition to human capital
more signaling in art history, more human capital in engineering, more selection in philosophy

Econ Duel! Is Education Signaling or Skill Building?: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/03/econ-duel-is-education-signaling-or-skill-building.html
Marginal Revolution University has a brand new feature, Econ Duel! Our first Econ Duel features Tyler and me debating the question, Is education more about signaling or skill building?

Against Tulip Subsidies: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidies/

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/01/read-the-case-against-education.html

https://nintil.com/2018/02/05/notes-on-the-case-against-education/

https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2018-02-19-0000/bryan-caplan-case-against-education-review

https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/the-case-against-education/
Most American public school kids are low-income; about half are non-white; most are fairly low skilled academically. For most American kids, the majority of the waking hours they spend not engaged with electronic media are at school; the majority of their in-person relationships are at school; the most important relationships they have with an adult who is not their parent is with their teacher. For their parents, the most important in-person source of community is also their kids’ school. Young people need adult mirrors, models, mentors, and in an earlier era these might have been provided by extended families, but in our own era this all falls upon schools.

Caplan gestures towards work and earlier labor force participation as alternatives to school for many if not all kids. And I empathize: the years that I would point to as making me who I am were ones where I was working, not studying. But they were years spent working in schools, as a teacher or assistant. If schools did not exist, is there an alternative that we genuinely believe would arise to draw young people into the life of their community?

...

It is not an accident that the state that spends the least on education is Utah, where the LDS church can take up some of the slack for schools, while next door Wyoming spends almost the most of any state at $16,000 per student. Education is now the one surviving binding principle of the society as a whole, the one black box everyone will agree to, and so while you can press for less subsidization of education by government, and for privatization of costs, as Caplan does, there’s really nothing people can substitute for it. This is partially about signaling, sure, but it’s also because outside of schools and a few religious enclaves our society is but a darkling plain beset by winds.

This doesn’t mean that we should leave Caplan’s critique on the shelf. Much of education is focused on an insane, zero-sum race for finite rewards. Much of schooling does push kids, parents, schools, and school systems towards a solution ad absurdum, where anything less than 100 percent of kids headed to a doctorate and the big coding job in the sky is a sign of failure of everyone concerned.

But let’s approach this with an eye towards the limits of the possible and the reality of diminishing returns.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/#comment-101293
The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/
I have a problem in thinking about education, since my preferences and personal educational experience are atypical, so I can’t just gut it out. On the other hand, knowing that puts me ahead of a lot of people that seem convinced that all real people, including all Arab cabdrivers, think and feel just as they do.

One important fact, relevant to this review. I don’t like Caplan. I think he doesn’t understand – can’t understand – human nature, and although that sometimes confers a different and interesting perspective, it’s not a royal road to truth. Nor would I want to share a foxhole with him: I don’t trust him. So if I say that I agree with some parts of this book, you should believe me.

...

Caplan doesn’t talk about possible ways of improving knowledge acquisition and retention. Maybe he thinks that’s impossible, and he may be right, at least within a conventional universe of possibilities. That’s a bit outside of his thesis, anyhow. Me it interests.

He dismisses objections from educational psychologists who claim that studying a subject improves you in subtle ways even after you forget all of it. I too find that hard to believe. On the other hand, it looks to me as if poorly-digested fragments of information picked up in college have some effect on public policy later in life: it is no coincidence that most prominent people in public life (at a given moment) share a lot of the same ideas. People are vaguely remembering the same crap from the same sources, or related sources. It’s correlated crap, which has a much stronger effect than random crap.

These widespread new ideas are usually wrong. They come from somewhere – in part, from higher education. Along this line, Caplan thinks that college has only a weak ideological effect on students. I don’t believe he is correct. In part, this is because most people use a shifting standard: what’s liberal or conservative gets redefined over time. At any given time a population is roughly half left and half right – but the content of those labels changes a lot. There’s a shift.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/#comment-101492
I put it this way, a while ago: “When you think about it, falsehoods, stupid crap, make the best group identifiers, because anyone might agree with you when you’re obviously right. Signing up to clear nonsense is a better test of group loyalty. A true friend is with you when you’re wrong. Ideally, not just wrong, but barking mad, rolling around in your own vomit wrong.”
--
You just explained the Credo quia absurdum doctrine. I always wondered if it was nonsense. It is not.
--
Someone on twitter caught it first – got all the way to “sliding down the razor blade of life”. Which I explained is now called “transitioning”

What Catholics believe: https://theweek.com/articles/781925/what-catholics-believe
We believe all of these things, fantastical as they may sound, and we believe them for what we consider good reasons, well attested by history, consistent with the most exacting standards of logic. We will profess them in this place of wrath and tears until the extraordinary event referenced above, for which men and women have hoped and prayed for nearly 2,000 years, comes to pass.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/bright-college-days-part-ii/
According to Caplan, employers are looking for conformity, conscientiousness, and intelligence. They use completion of high school, or completion of college as a sign of conformity and conscientiousness. College certainly looks as if it’s mostly signaling, and it’s hugely expensive signaling, in terms of college costs and foregone earnings.

But inserting conformity into the merit function is tricky: things become important signals… because they’re important signals. Otherwise useful actions are contraindicated because they’re “not done”. For example, test scores convey useful information. They could help show that an applicant is smart even though he attended a mediocre school – the same role they play in college admissions. But employers seldom request test scores, and although applicants may provide them, few do. Caplan says ” The word on the street… [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Links 1/17: Inaugurl Address | Slate Star Codex
“Fanatics got into the Capitol building and committed a mass shooting on Congress while it was in session, and you’ve never heard of them…people have completely forgotten that in 1972 we had over nineteen hundred domestic bombings in the United States” A review of Days Of Rage and history lesson on the 1970s underground. Highly recommended.

New Yorker: The Mosul Dam in Iraq could fail soon, potentially causing a flash flood and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

An ecologist denounces calls to “drain the swamp” as an insult to swamps: “Given the sea of misinformation we currently find ourselves swimming in, I feel this is as good a time as any to clarify what swamps actually are and why they should be regarded as wonderful and valuable parts of nature rather than objects of derision and hatred.” If any of you are oceanographers, can you troll the Washington Post for me by denouncing their use of the term “sea of misinformation”?

The Seasteading Institute announces a deal with French Polynesia to build the first seastead in a lagoon there. I’m still confused on whether they’ve got funding or anything else besides the location. Still a big step.

80,000 Hours’ guide to what charities to give to this season. A good supplement to GiveWell’s Top Charities list

Vox: Why the war on poverty failed, and what to do now. In the form of a long and detailed history of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyveysant neighborhood. Not clear that anyone actually knows what to do now beyond a few good common-sense suggestions.

RIP utilitarian philosopher Derek Parfit: “When I believed the non-reductionist view [of personal identity], I also cared more about my inevitable death. After my death, there will [be] no one living who will be me. I can now redescribe this fact. Though there will later be many experiences, none of these experiences will be connected to my present experiences by chains of such direct connections as those involved in experience-memory, or in the carrying out of an earlier intention. Some of these future experiences may be related to my present experiences in less direct ways. There will later be some memories about my life. And there may later be thoughts that are influenced by mine, or things done as the result of my advice. My death will break the more direct relations between my present experiences and future experiences, but it will not break various other relations. This is all there is to the fact that there will be no one living who will be me. Now that I have seen this, my death seems to me less bad.”

Alex K. Chen on Quora on the speculation that Ritalin may be long-term safer than Adderall. See also this review article. This is definitely not yet psychiatric common knowledge or consensus.

Meta-analysis in the American Journal Of Nutrition: Red meat does not increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

Acemoglu and Restropo: Economic stagnation is not due to aging populations.

User dogtasteslikechicken at the r/slatestarcodex subreddit gives a good summary of the Flynn Effect. But it looks like he is confused about some of the same things I am. For example, rich people and the nobility probably had good nutrition and education in the past. So we might expect a Flynn effect based on nutrition and education not to affect them as much. But if this were true, we would expect a skewed or bimodal distribution in the past (un-Flynned poor people with bad nutrition + Flynned rich people with good nutrition), which I don’t think ever clearly showed up.

Some fallout from the Buzzfeed story on growth mindset I linked last week. The Spectator published what I think is a really nasty and evidence-free denunciation of the phenomenon. Mindset researcher David Yeager has tried to set the record straight and argues that growth mindset actually replicates just fine, eg in this paper, and that several other large and rigorous replications are being attempted. Dweck herself has a reply up here. And Timothy Bates put his failed replications online here. Looks like it will be an interesting year in this field.

Does pupil size correlate with intelligence? (blog post, paper)
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : In Praise of Low Needs
We humans have come a long way since we first became human; we’ve innovated and grown our ability to achieve human ends by perhaps a factor of ten million. Not at all shabby, even though it may be small compared to the total factor of growth and innovation that life achieved before humans arrived. But even if humanity’s leap is a great achievement, I fear that we have much further to go than we have come.

The universe seems almost entirely dead out there. There’s a chance it will eventually be densely filled with life, and that our descendants may help to make that happen. Some worry about the quality of that life filling the universe, and yes there are issues there. But I worry mostly about the difference between life and death. Our descendants may kill themselves or stop growing, and fail to fill the universe with life. Any life.

To fill the universe with life requires that we grow far more than our previous leap factor of ten million. More like three to ten factors that big still to go. (See Added below.) So think of all the obstacles we’ve overcome so far, obstacles that appeared when we reached new scales of size and levels of ability. If we were lucky to make it this far, we’ll have to be much more lucky to make it all the way.

...

Added 28Oct: Assume humanity’s leap factor is 107. Three of those is 1021. As there are 1024 stars in observable universe, that much growth could come from filling one in a thousand of those stars with as many rich humans as Earth now has. Ten of humanity’s leap is 1070, and there are now about 1010 humans on Earth. As there are about 1080 atoms in the observable universe, that much growth could come from finding a way to implement one human like creature per atom.
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october 2016 by nhaliday

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