nhaliday + offense-defense   22

Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios
Would you endorse choosing policy to max the expected duration of civilization, at least as a good first approximation?
Can anyone suggest a different first approximation that would get more votes?

How useful would it be to agree on a relatively-simple first-approximation observable-after-the-fact metric for what we want from the future universe, such as total life years experienced, or civilization duration?

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

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

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

Now that's a kind of standard fact of statistics, and there are methods for trying to correct for it and you obviously have to take that into account when considering the fish distribution in your pond. An observation selection effect is a selection effect introduced not by limitations in our measurement instrument, but rather by the fact that all observations require the existence of an observer. This becomes important, for instance, in evolutionary biology. For instance, we know that intelligent life evolved on Earth. Naively, one might think that this piece of evidence suggests that life is likely to evolve on most Earth-like planets. But that would be to overlook an observation selection effect. For no matter how small the proportion of all Earth-like planets that evolve intelligent life, we will find ourselves on a planet that did. Our data point-that intelligent life arose on our planet-is predicted equally well by the hypothesis that intelligent life is very improbable even on Earth-like planets as by the hypothesis that intelligent life is highly probable on Earth-like planets. When it comes to human extinction and existential risk, there are certain controversial ways that observation selection effects might be relevant.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Information Processing: US Needs a National AI Strategy: A Sputnik Moment?
FT podcasts on US-China competition and AI: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2018/05/ft-podcasts-on-us-china-competition-and.html

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

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

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

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

Deciphering China’s AI Dream
The context, components, capabilities, and consequences of
China’s strategy to lead the world in AI

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

US military: "LOL, China thinks it's going to be a major player in AI, but we've got all the top AI researchers. You guys will help us develop weapons, right?"

US AI researchers: "No."

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

US AI researchers: "NO."

AI-risk was a mistake.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Sources on Technical History | Salo Forum - Chic Nihilism
This is a thread where people can chip in and list some good sources for the history of technology and mechanisms (hopefully with illustrations), books on infrastructure or industrial geography, or survey books in engineering. This is a thread that remains focused on the "technical" and not historical side.

Now, on the history of technology alone if I comprehensively listed every book, paper, etc., I've read on the subject since childhood then this thread would run well over 100 pages (seriously). I'll try to compress it by dealing with entire authors, journals, and publishers even.

First, a note on preliminaries: the best single-volume primer on the physics, internal components and subsystems of military weapons (including radar, submarines) is Craig Payne's Principles of Naval Weapons Systems. Make sure to get the second edition, the first edition is useless.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
[1709.01149] Biotechnology and the lifetime of technical civilizations
The number of people able to end Earth's technical civilization has heretofore been small. Emerging dual-use technologies, such as biotechnology, may give similar power to thousands or millions of individuals. To quantitatively investigate the ramifications of such a marked shift on the survival of both terrestrial and extraterrestrial technical civilizations, this paper presents a two-parameter model for civilizational lifespans, i.e. the quantity L in Drake's equation for the number of communicating extraterrestrial civilizations. One parameter characterizes the population lethality of a civilization's biotechnology and the other characterizes the civilization's psychosociology. L is demonstrated to be less than the inverse of the product of these two parameters. Using empiric data from Pubmed to inform the biotechnology parameter, the model predicts human civilization's median survival time as decades to centuries, even with optimistic psychosociological parameter values, thereby positioning biotechnology as a proximate threat to human civilization. For an ensemble of civilizations having some median calculated survival time, the model predicts that, after 80 times that duration, only one in 1024 civilizations will survive -- a tempo and degree of winnowing compatible with Hanson's "Great Filter." Thus, assuming that civilizations universally develop advanced biotechnology, before they become vigorous interstellar colonizers, the model provides a resolution to the Fermi paradox.
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october 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
Stockpile Stewardship | West Hunter
A lot of our nuclear weapons are old, and it’s not clear that they still work. If we still did underground tests, we’d know for sure (and could fix any problems) – but we don’t do that. We have a program called stockpile stewardship, that uses simulation programs and the data from laser-fusion experiments in an attempt to predict weapon efficacy.

I talked to some old friends who know as much about the nuclear stockpile as anyone: neither believes that that stockpile stewardship will do the job. There are systems that you can simulate with essentially perfect accuracy and confidence, Newtonian gravitational mechanics for example: this isn’t one of them.

You had two approaches to a problem that was vital to the security of the United States: option A was absolutely sure to work, option B might possibly work.

The Feds picked B.

interesting: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/stockpile-stewardship/#comment-65553
Can’t they stick a warhead on a space launcher, loop it around the moon followed by some compact instrumentation and detonate it there, out of view? And keep mum about it.

How hard would it be for radioastronomers to notice a nuclear blast on the other side of the Moon? Would reflected light over interplanetary distances be even detectable?

I once brought this up to a bomb-designer friend: people have in fact worried about this.

They signed a treaty against that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Space_Treaty

The Soviets signed a treaty against developing germ warfare too, but they did it anyhow. Do you think that the Galactic Overlords automatically vaporize treaty violators?

People working in US intelligence may well have opinions, but they don’t know jack about nuclear weapons. I once said that Iraq couldn’t possibly have a live nuclear weapons program, given their lack of resources and the fact that we hadn’t detected any sign of it – in part, a ‘capacity’ argument. I later heard that the whole CIA had at most one guy who knew enough to do that casual, back-of-the-envelope analysis correctly, and he was working on something else.

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december 2016 by nhaliday
The Membrane – spottedtoad
All of which is to say that the Internet, which shares many qualities in common with an assemblage of living things except for those clear boundaries and defenses, might well not trend toward increased usability or easier exchange of information over the longer term, even if that is what we have experienced heretofore. The history of evolution is every bit as much a history of parasitism and counterparasitism as it is any kind of story of upward movement toward greater complexity or order. There is no reason to think that we (and still less national or political entities) will necessarily experience technology as a means of enablement and Cool Stuff We Can Do rather than a perpetual set of defenses against scammers of our money and attention. There’s the respect that makes Fake News the news that matters forever more.

THE MADCOM FUTURE: http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/images/publications/The_MADCOM_Future_RW_0926.pdf

ai robocalls/phonetrees/Indian Ocean call centers~biologicalization of corporations thru automation&global com tech

fly-by-night scams double mitotically,covered by outer membrane slime&peptidoglycan

trillion $ corps w/nonspecific skin/neutrophils/specific B/T cells against YOU
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Beware General Visible Prey
So, bottom line, the future great filter scenario that most concerns me is one where our solar-system-bound descendants have killed most of nature, can’t yet colonize other stars, are general predators and prey of each other, and have fallen into a short-term-predatory-focus equilibrium where predators can easily see and travel to most all prey. Yes there are about a hundred billion comets way out there circling the sun, but even that seems a small enough number for predators to careful map and track all of them.
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october 2016 by nhaliday

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