nhaliday + proposal   90

Surveil things, not people – The sideways view
Technology may reach a point where free use of one person’s share of humanity’s resources is enough to easily destroy the world. I think society needs to make significant changes to cope with that scenario.

Mass surveillance is a natural response, and sometimes people think of it as the only response. I find mass surveillance pretty unappealing, but I think we can capture almost all of the value by surveilling things rather than surveilling people. This approach avoids some of the worst problems of mass surveillance; while it still has unattractive features it’s my favorite option so far.


The idea
We’ll choose a set of artifacts to surveil and restrict. I’ll call these heavy technology and everything else light technology. Our goal is to restrict as few things as possible, but we want to make sure that someone can’t cause unacceptable destruction with only light technology. By default something is light technology if it can be easily acquired by an individual or small group in 2017, and heavy technology otherwise (though we may need to make some exceptions, e.g. certain biological materials or equipment).

Heavy technology is subject to two rules:

1. You can’t use heavy technology in a way that is unacceptably destructive.
2. You can’t use heavy technology to undermine the machinery that enforces these two rules.

To enforce these rules, all heavy technology is under surveillance, and is situated such that it cannot be unilaterally used by any individual or small group. That is, individuals can own heavy technology, but they cannot have unmonitored physical access to that technology.


This proposal does give states a de facto monopoly on heavy technology, and would eventually make armed resistance totally impossible. But it’s already the case that states have a massive advantage in armed conflict, and it seems almost inevitable that progress in AI will make this advantage larger (and enable states to do much more with it). Realistically I’m not convinced this proposal makes things much worse than the default.

This proposal definitely expands regulators’ nominal authority and seems prone to abuses. But amongst candidates for handling a future with cheap and destructive dual-use technology, I feel this is the best of many bad options with respect to the potential for abuse.
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Imagine there’s no Congress - The Washington Post
- Adrian Vermeule

In the spirit of John Lennon, let’s imagine, all starry-eyed, that there’s no U.S. Congress. In this thought experiment, the presidency and the Supreme Court would be the only federal institutions, along with whatever subordinate agencies the president chose to create. The court would hold judicial power, while the president would make and execute laws. The president would be bound by elections and individual constitutional rights, but there would be no separation of legislative from executive power.

Would such a system be better or worse than our current system? How different would it be, anyway?
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april 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
What are the Laws of Biology?
The core finding of systems biology is that only a very small subset of possible network motifs is actually used and that these motifs recur in all kinds of different systems, from transcriptional to biochemical to neural networks. This is because only those arrangements of interactions effectively perform some useful operation, which underlies some necessary function at a cellular or organismal level. There are different arrangements for input summation, input comparison, integration over time, high-pass or low-pass filtering, negative auto-regulation, coincidence detection, periodic oscillation, bistability, rapid onset response, rapid offset response, turning a graded signal into a sharp pulse or boundary, and so on, and so on.

These are all familiar concepts and designs in engineering and computing, with well-known properties. In living organisms there is one other general property that the designs must satisfy: robustness. They have to work with noisy components, at a scale that’s highly susceptible to thermal noise and environmental perturbations. Of the subset of designs that perform some operation, only a much smaller subset will do it robustly enough to be useful in a living organism. That is, they can still perform their particular functions in the face of noisy or fluctuating inputs or variation in the number of components constituting the elements of the network itself.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
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’.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Trump wants a troop surge in Afghanistan — it makes little sense - Business Insider
neo-colonialism, sensible
The U.S. has been a reasonably successful steward of world peace along some dimensions, no doubt, but we seem to be particularly bad at colonialism for reasons the Battle of Tora Bora perhaps highlights- once a government (or even loosely affiliated military group) is in theory our ally, under our tutelage and cooperating with our military machine, we seem to have no ability to view its actions or abilities objectively. Maybe the reason Britain was, all-in-all more successful as a colonial power despite never exerting the kind of world military dominance the U.S. has since World War II is that, as representatives of a class-based and explicitly hierarchical society, the Eton boys running things for Britain never felt tempted to the kinds of faux egalitarianism that often guides American colonial ventures astray. In his excellent if self-indulgent account of walking across Afghanistan immediately after the Taliban’s fall, The Places in Between, Rory Stewart (an Eton boy turned world traveler and, later, an Iraq War provincial administrator and Tory MP) describes the policy wonks eager to take the reins of the new Central Asian Switzerland in 2001: ...

Mystery deepens over Chinese forces in Afghanistan: https://www.ft.com/content/0c8a5a2a-f9b7-11e6-9516-2d969e0d3b65
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Dream Hoarders: How America's Top 20 Percent Perpetuates Inequality | Boston Review
this is ominous
Has the Democratic Party Gotten Too Rich for Its Own Good: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/opinion/democratic-party-rich-thomas-edsall.html
Saving the American Dream: https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/saving-american-dream/
It’s not just about the people at the top
- Amy Wax

ow can we arrange things so that more people with different levels of affluence can prosper and live meaningful lives? How can we make the advantages that the rich now “hoard” more widely available, thus reducing their incentive to separate themselves? Although these goals are elusive and difficult for any society to attain, ours can probably do better. But the changes required would be far bolder than the tepid ones Reeves proposes, which do little to disrupt current “structures of privilege.” And more dramatic reforms might also advance the causes he holds dear, including enhancing mobility and reducing inequality.
So here goes my laundry list.

Let’s start with Reeves’s proposal to ban legacy admissions. Not only would this increase fairness, but it would discourage private contributions. This would, in turn, promote the worthy goal of defunding the Ivies and other selective universities, which have become counterproductive sites of snobbery, dogma, and progressive indoctrination. Save for the kind of scientific research that benefits everyone, they don’t need any more money and could do with much less.

But we shouldn’t stop there. As suggested by the late Justice Antonin Scalia during oral argument in the Grutter affirmative-action case, selective admissions should simply be abolished and students admitted by lottery, except for math and hard sciences, for which a simple test can determine entrance. The steep pyramid of colleges, in which the affluent crowd monopolizes prestigious institutions, will be immediately flattened, and the need for affirmative action would disappear. In this respect, our system would simply mimic those in northern European countries like Holland and Germany, where enrolling in the university nearest to home is the usual practice and there is no clear elite pecking order. And since fewer than a fifth of colleges take less than half their applicants, with only a tiny group much more competitive, this change would have no effect on most institutions of higher learning.

While we’re at it, we should give up on the fetish of college for all by significantly reducing the number of students attending four-year academic programs to no more than 10 to 15 percent of high-school graduates. The government should dial back on student loans and grants to universities, except for scientific research.

That step, which would reduce the burden of educational debt, is not as drastic as it appears, since many students who start college end up dropping out and only 25 percent of high-school graduates manage to obtain a four-year degree. At the same time, we should step up the effort to recruit highly qualified low-income students to the most selective colleges across the country—something that Caroline Hoxby’s research tells us is not currently taking place. Finally, we should copy some of Western Europe’s most successful economies by tracking more students into job-related nonacademic programs, and by redirecting the private and public money that now goes to universities to creating and maintaining such programs.

More broadly, the amounts freed up by defunding elite colleges and private schools should be used to help average Americans. The Gates Foundation and other rich private philanthropies should stop chasing after educational schemes of dubious value and devote their billions to improving community colleges, supporting the people who attend them, and dramatically expanding vocational programs.

Although Reeves does mention vocational education, he does so only in passing. That option should receive renewed emphasis. And private donors should provide grants to thousands of students of modest means, including stipends for rent and living expenses, to enable them to do the summer internships that Reeves claims are now so important to getting ahead.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Double world GDP | Open Borders: The Case
Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.25.3.83
The Openness-Equality Trade-Off in Global Redistribution: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2509305
Immigration, Justice, and Prosperity: http://quillette.com/2017/07/29/immigration-justice-prosperity/

Some Countries Are Much Richer Than Others. Is That Unjust?: http://quillette.com/2017/07/23/countries-much-richer-others-unjust/
But we shouldn’t automatically assume that wealth disparities across the world are unjust and that the developed world owes aid as a matter of justice. This is because the best way to make sense of the Great Divergence is that certain economic and political institutions, namely those that facilitated economic growth, arose in some countries and not others. Thus perhaps the benevolent among us should also try to encourage – by example rather than force – the development of such institutions in places where they do not exist.

An Argument Against Open Borders and Liberal Hubris: http://quillette.com/2017/08/27/argument-open-borders-liberal-hubris/
We do not have open borders but we are experiencing unprecedented demographic change. What progressives should remember is that civilisation is not a science laboratory. The consequences of failed experiments endure. That is the main virtue of gradual change; we can test new waters and not leap into their depths.

A Radical Solution to Global Income Inequality: Make the U.S. More Like Qatar: https://newrepublic.com/article/120179/how-reduce-global-income-inequality-open-immigration-policies

Why nation-states are good: https://aeon.co/essays/capitalists-need-the-nation-state-more-than-it-needs-them
The nation-state remains the best foundation for capitalism, and hyper-globalisation risks destroying it
- Dani Rodrik
Given the non-uniqueness of practices and institutions enabling capitalism, it’s not surprising that nation-states also resolve key social trade-offs differently. The world does not agree on how to balance equality against opportunity, economic security against innovation, health and environmental risks against technological innovation, stability against dynamism, economic outcomes against social and cultural values, and many other consequences of institutional choice. Developing nations have different institutional requirements than rich nations. There are, in short, strong arguments against global institutional harmonisation.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Behavioral Econ of Paperwork, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty
If X is good, we can noticeably encourage it by modestly simplifying the paperwork. So yes, cut red tape for employment, construction, travel, and adoption. If X is bad, though, we can noticeably discourage it by modestly complicating the paperwork. Indeed, complexity is a viable substitute for explicit means-testing: If you lack the patience to fill out ten forms, you probably don't really need the money.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
In the first place | West Hunter
We hear a lot about innovative educational approaches, and since these silly people have been at this for a long time now, we hear just as often about the innovative approaches that some idiot started up a few years ago and are now crashing in flames.  We’re in steady-state.

I’m wondering if it isn’t time to try something archaic.  In particular, mnemonic techniques, such as the method of loci.  As far as I know, nobody has actually tried integrating the more sophisticated mnemonic techniques into a curriculum.  Sure, we all know useful acronyms, like the one for resistor color codes, but I’ve not heard of anyone teaching kids how to build a memory palace.

US vs Nazi army, Vietnam, the draft: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/in-the-first-place/#comment-20136


Mental Imagery > Ancient Imagery Mnemonics: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mental-imagery/ancient-imagery-mnemonics.html
In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, very elaborate versions of the method evolved, using specially learned imaginary spaces (Memory Theaters or Palaces), and complex systems of predetermined symbolic images, often imbued with occult or spiritual significances. However, modern experimental research has shown that even a simple and easily learned form of the method of loci can be highly effective (Ross & Lawrence, 1968; Maguire et al., 2003), as are several other imagery based mnemonic techniques (see section 4.2 of the main entry).

The advantages of organizing knowledge in terms of country and place: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/02/advantages-organizing-knowledge-terms-country-place.html

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may 2017 by nhaliday
Why I see academic economics moving left | askblog
I have a long essay on the scientific status of economics in National Affairs. A few excerpts from the conclusion:

In the end, can we really have effective theory in economics? If by effective theory we mean theory that is verifiable and reliable for prediction and control, the answer is likely no. Instead, economics deals in speculative interpretations and must continue to do so.

Young economists who employ pluralistic methods to study problems are admired rather than marginalized, as they were in 1980. But economists who question the wisdom of interventionist economic policies seem headed toward the fringes of the profession.

This is my essay in which I say that academic economics is on the road to sociology.

Property Is Only Another Name for Monopoly: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2818494
Hanson's take more positive: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/10/for-stability-rents.html

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may 2017 by nhaliday
Intersection of diverse neuronal genomes and neuropsychiatric disease: The Brain Somatic Mosaicism Network
Towards explaining non-shared-environment effects on intelligence, psychiatric disorders, and other cognitive traits - developmental noise such as post-conception mutations in individual cells or groups of cells
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Call Him George | West Hunter
I hear that Rasmus Nielsen (speaking at SMBE 2014) has evidence that Tibetans picked up some of their altitude adaptation (EPAS1) from Denisovans.

Who could have imagined that?

There are three major high-altitude regions inhabited by humans: highland Ethiopia, Tibet, and the Andean altiplano. In each of these three cases, the locals have adapted in various ways to high altitude – physiological adaptations, as well as cultural. To make it even clearer, those physiological changes are, to a large extent, a consequence of natural selection, rather than individual acclimatization.

The Tibetans deal with high altitude much more effectively than the Amerindians of the Altiplano. You have to think that they’ve lived there longer, been exposed to those selective pressures longer – and that’s quite feasible. Anatomically modern humans have been in Asia much longer than in the Americas, and it’s even possible that they picked up some adaptive altitude-adaptation genes from archaic humans that had been there for hundreds of thousands of years.

There’s another interesting point: the hunter-gatherers of Tibet appear to account for a lot of Tibetan ancestry, probably most of it, rather than than being almost entirely replaced by a wave of neolithic agriculturalists, which is the more common pattern. They had a trump card – altitude adaptation. A story like that which has left Bolivia mostly Amerindian.

Modern Eugenics: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/modern-eugenics/
Recent work in genetics has made it clear that Tibetans, Andean Indians, and Ethiopians adapted independently to high-altitude living. It’s also clear that the Tibetan adaptations are more effective those in Andean Indians. Infant survival is better in Tibet, where babies average about half a pound heavier, and the suite of Tibetan adaptations doesn’t seem to fail with increasing age, while a significant fraction of Andean Indians develop chronic mountain sickness in later life. The Andean pattern look something like an exaggerated acclimatization response, while the Tibetan pattern is more like that seen in mammalian species have lived at high altitude for a long time.


The obvious solution to these apparently permanent problems in Bolivia and Peru is a dose of Tibetan genes. Since Tibetan alleles are more effective, they must confer higher fitness, and so their frequencies should gradually increase with time. This doesn’t mean that Bolivians would turn Tibetan overall – the change would only happen in those genes for which the Tibetan version was more efficient. It wouldn’t take all that high a dose: in fact, if you’re not in a hurry, just a few tens of Tibetans could transmit enough copies of the key alleles to do the job, although admittedly you’d have to wait a few thousand years to complete the process.

Logically, the easiest way to do this would be to encourage some young Tibetan men to immigrate to the Andes. Clearly, men can be more effective at this than women. We could pay them to donate to the local sperm banks. We could subsidize the process, _giving cash rewards to the mothers of part-Tibetan kids, a la the Howard Foundation_ [lmao]. We could give our heros Corvettes. Considering the general level of discontent in Tibet, it might not be too hard to recruit young men for this kind of work.

The project would take longer than the usual NIH time horizon, so probably the best approach is to find some wealthy sponsor. You could get a sure-fire version of this program going, one big enough to make ultimate success a racing certainty, for under a million bucks. The backer would never see the end result, but so what? When we build, let us think that we build forever.

I was thinking again about that Denisovan allele of EPAS1 that plays a big role in Tibetan altitude adaptation. Considering modern humans, it has only been found in Tibetans (high frequency) and in the Chinese (couple of percent). The preferred model in the paper is that it entered the common ancestors of Tibetans and Han, rising to high frequency among the Tibetans because of its advantage. I doubt this: the authors are clinging to a claim of a recent split in a previous publication of theirs – but the idea that the modern Tibetans are a fusion of a Han-like population with a long-established group of Tibetan hunter-gatherers seems more likely to me. So the few copies of the high-altitude EPAS1 allele among the Chinese are probably a result of recent gene flow, possibly from the Tibetan empire (618-841) that controlled parts of China, or from ethnic Tibetans identifying as Chinese.

This allele has some pretty powerful effects on the hypoxia response, which is there for a reason. The usual evolutionary rule is that change is bad: even though the Denisovan allele confers a big advantage at high altitude, the odds are that it is disadvantageous at low altitude. This would explain why it is rare in China and apparently unknown in Japan. This would also explain why it never made it to the Andes – even though there might have been a copy or two in the long-ago East Asian ancestors of the Amerindians, who have a bit of Denisovan admixture admixture (at least, I think they do – interesting if that isn’t the case) , it would most likely have been lost in Beringia. Along the same lines, altitude adaptations probably never managed to travel from Ethiopia to Tibet, which is why they have different approaches to altitude adaptation today.

It is therefore no surprise that this EPAS1 allele does not exist in Melanesians, even though they have 25 times as much Denisovan ancestry as mainland East Asians.

The Tibetan Mastiff can take high altitude better than generic dogs, or so breedists would like you to think. Some of the genetics changes are similar to those seen in human Tibetans – regulatory changes in EPAS1, for example. Domesticated dogs haven’t lived in Tibet all that long – but wolves have. The Tibetan Mastiff picked up some of those useful variants from local wolves, even though the amount of admixture wasn’t large. Adaptive introgression, just as Tibetans seem to have acquired their high-altitude version of EPAS1 from Denisovans.

Andean Indians didn’t have any archaic humans around to steal adaptations from. They have had to develop their own altitude adaptations (in a relatively short time), and they aren’t as effective as the Tibetan adaptations.

Naturally you are now worrying about sad Inca puppies – did they suffer from hypoxia? There are canids in South America, like the maned wolf and the bush dog, but they are probably too divergent to be able to hybridize with dogs. The chromosomes are different, so pre-Columbian dogs probably couldn’t acquire their alleles. Moreover, the dogs of the Amerindians seem to have done poorly in competition with Eurasian dogs: I know of only a few breeds [the Carolina Dog, for example] that are known to have significant pre-Columbian ancestry. Perhaps Amerindian dogs were also scythed down by Eurasian diseases.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
There can only be one! | West Hunter
Dynasties decay.   The founder generally has a lot on the ball – tough, a natural leader, and canny campaigner – but his son is unlikely to be so exceptional.  Partly this is a manifestation of regression to the mean, and partly because his mother was probably chosen for something other than her talents as a warlord. By the fourth or fifth generation, it can be hard to believe that the useless poet on the throne is truly a member of the Golden Family.

This decay is a fundamental historical fact – an inevitable consequence of  biology and primogeniture.  It’s one of the important weaknesses of dynastic rule. The Ottomans, however, found a way around it for some centuries – the law of fratricide.  Upon the death of the Sultan, all of his sons were theoretically eligible for the succession (not just the oldest).  Since the Sultan had a harem, there were a lot of them. Whoever first seized power then had all his brothers and half-brothers executed by ritual strangulation. Incompetents didn’t win out in this struggle.

Dynastic decline through regression seems meaning you go from a guy like Stalin to an imperfect copy of Stalin that’s more like the average person (less competent but lacking in other traits that make Stalin, Stalin). Might not always totally all be “bad” for most people’s status, depending on the Great Man’s balance of competence to traits in a ruler that you don’t really want, but which helped them to seize power anyway.

Speculation, but might inbreeding be a way to hang on to more of the founder’s right stuff?

Thereby why constitutional monarchy and similar arrangements might tend to emerge in more outbreeding populations, because the successors to the big Mafia that runs the state and all the little Mafias that run everything else down from there tend to retain less ancestral competence and less ancestral desire for domination and status, so alternative arrangements are found.

list of evaluations for presidents+
"Competence, of course, is not the same thing as acting in the best interests of the common people. But it is absolutely essential for the continuation of a royal lineage or dynasty."

If everyone in a country was absolutely obsessed with the idea that the human pinkie finger was a symbol of a leader’s connection to god and was required for him to be a good ruler, this whole problem would be solved. The oldest brother could simply have his younger siblings’ pinkie fingers cut off, and let them live.

This would mean that ruling families would be much more free to have big families and expand their power even more.
The Byzantines did something similar with deposed emperors: the disfigured were ineligible for the role of God’s regent, or whatever the emperors were theologically. So, off with the nose! Justinian II ruined this humane custom by by wearing a silver nose after his restoration, à la the Lee Marvin character in Cat Ballou.

Here is my take on a solid alternative to democracy in the West: adoptive monarchy. We are acquainted with the Five Good Emperors of Rome. Before an Emperor died, he would adopt his most capable, wise and just subordinate as his son, who would become Emperor after his adoptive father died. The Roman Empire was perhaps at its most stable and prosperous point duribg this time period, and Edward Gibbon esteemed it as the high point of human history up through the time he was writing his tomes about Roman history, at least for the common Roman citizen.

If the American electorate continues to decline, ever falling into idiocy, factionalism and dementia, then I think it might be prudent to put adoptive monarchy into play, and have our monarchs rule the country in the spirit of the Constitution while temporarily holding it in suspension. The monarchs would have 40 to 80 years to pursue enlightened demographic policies, which would ensure that the American people would be ready for democratic rule again. There of course would be a Congress and courts. Both of these branches of government would at first be impotent, but would gradually regain their former power and prestige. At some point, the monarchy would be abolished, with an elected president regaining command of the executive branch, having about as much power as, say, Eisenhower did.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Low-Hanging Fruit: Consider the Ant | West Hunter
Which ought to be a reminder that biomimetics is a useful approach to invention:  If you can’t think of anything yourself, steal from the products of evolution.  It’s like an an Edisonian approach, only on steroids.

Along those lines, it is well known, to about 0.1% of the population, that some ants have agriculture. Some protect and herd aphids: others gather leaves as the feedstock for an edible fungus. Those leaf-cutting ants also carry symbiotic fungicide-producing  bacteria that protect against weed fungi [ herbicides invented well before atrazine or 2-4D]  Speaking of, if you really, really want to cause trouble, introduce leaf-cutting ants to Africa.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Reconstruction | West Hunter
Since power descended through the male line, you don’t expect to see the same thing happen with autosomal genes. Genghis accounts for about 25% of Mongolia’s Y-chromosomes, but the general ancestry fraction attributable to him must be a lot lower. Still, what if the average Mongol today is 0.5% Genghis? Upon sequencing lots of typical contemporary Mongols, you would notice certain chromosomal segments showing up again and again: not just in one family but in the whole country, and in other parts of inner Asia as well. If you started keeping track of those segments, you would eventually be able to make a partial reconstruction of Genghis’s genome. It would be incomplete, since any given region of the genome might have missed being transmitted to any of his four legitimate sons (Jochi, Chagatai, Ogedei, and Tolui). They certainly didn’t carry his X-chromosome. You might be able to distinguish the autosomal genes of Genghis and his wife Borte by looking at descendants of his by-blows, if you could find them. Still, even if you managed to retrieve 75% of his genome, that’s not enough to make a clone. It would however, allow sure identification if we found his tomb.

And since he’s likely buried in permafrost, his DNA could be in good shape. Then we could clone him (assuming reasonable continuing progress in genetics) and of course some damn fool would. Will.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
O Canada! | West Hunter
Imagine a country with an average IQ of 100, some average amount of education (with some distribution), some average amount of capital per head (with some distribution of ownership of capital). Now add immigrants – 10% of the population – that are the same in every way. Same average IQ, same distribution of IQ, same average amount of capital and same distribution. They speak the same language. They have similar political traditions. In other words, it is as if the US had just peacefully annexed an imaginary country that’s a lot like Canada.

Would the original inhabitants gain economically from this merger? Strikes me that this could only happen from economies of scale – since nothing has changed other than a 10% increase in overall size. There might be some diseconomies of scale as well. I wouldn’t expect a big payoff. Except for Nawapa, of course.

Contrast this with a situation in which the extra 10% is fairly different – lower average IQ, much less education on average, don’t speak English. They don’t bring along a lot of capital. They have and bring along their native political traditions, like everyone, but theirs stink. I can easily see how those immigrants might have improved their economic lot but it’s kindof hard to see how bringing in people with low human capital benefits the original citizens more than bringing in people with considerably higher human capital. Yet it must, because adding more of the same clearly has a small effect, while adding in lower-skilled must have a big positive effect. Practically all the economists say so.

place of birth for the foreign-born population of the US, 2013:
all of Latin America, ~25 million China, ~2.5 million

Caplan’s full of shit. Prosperity through favelas? Hasn’t worked anywhere else.

The countries that look somewhat like our likely demographic destination ( considering recent trends) do worse economically than the United States, including the subgroups with high human capital. Brazil, say.

On the other hand, if you’re talking positional wealth, bringing in people with low human capital definitely works. Servants.

Sponsor An Immigrant Yourself: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/02/13/immigration-visas-economics-216968
No, really: A new kind of visa would let individual Americans—instead of corporations—reap the economic benefits of migration.

I’ve always wanted my own sla—immigrant.......
I feel like people are neglecting the fact that this was written by Eric Posner....
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus


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=




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/




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.

The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

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.

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.

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
The Vasconic Program | West Hunter
My question is what local circumstances give the best chance for a substantial dollop of the formerly-common genotypes persisting for a long time – ideally, to the present day. Where do we find the blood of the Old Ones?

Mitanni, controlling northern Syria and southeastern Anatolia, was a major player in the Bronze Age Near East from 1500 BC-1300 BC. They contended and negotiated with the Hittites and the Egyptian New Kingdom.

Most of the population seems to have spoken Hurrian, but there are traces of something very different in their ruling class. We have preserved diplomatic correspondence (cuneiform tablets last!) showing that the rulers of Mitanni swore by Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya. There are other hints: names of the ruling class often make sense in Sanskrit. Kikkuli of Mitanni’s horse conditioning manual has some Indo-Aryan words (aika, tera, panza, satta). Etc. The semi-educated guess is that Indo-Aryans, as early charioteers, were hired by Mitanni as mercenaries and eventually grabbed the reins of power. After, of course, making a wrong turn at Albuquerque: North Syria is quite a ways from the known stomping grounds of the Indo-Aryans.

There’s likely an interesting story here, but we are missing almost all of it, because we have never found Washukanni, the Mitanni capital. If we did, we’d probably find lots of cuneiform tablets – as we have other capital cities of that era, such as Boğazköy.

Washukanni was probably somewhere in the Khabur triangle. Which brings me to the present, and possible near future: if we end up occupying that area, it’d be nice if we could manage a little digging on the side. We just need to start embedding archaeologists into the infantry.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
I Want a New Drug | West Hunter
Big pharma has taken a new course over the past few years. In the past, most useful drugs originated in some kind of living organism – penicillin, quinine, insulin, etc etc. Nowadays, big pharmaceutical companies use combinatorial chemistry and computer modeling. Merck has sold off its biological-products research arm. This new approach, combined with doubled spending on drug R&D, has been a resounding failure. The rate of development of fundamentally new drugs – ‘new molecular entities’ – is running about 40% of that seen in the 1970s. Since big pharma makes its money from drugs that are still on patent, this slowed innovation is a real threat to their bottom line.


I think that this is an instance of a more general trend: often a modern, advanced approach shows up, and it persists long after it’s been shown to be a miserable failure. You can see some of the reasons why: the people trained in the new technique would lose out if it were abandoned. Hard to imagine combinatorial chemists rooting around in a garbage can looking for moldy fruit.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Federal University | West Hunter
If, as a pilot program, an example, the government set up a new university, mindlessly copying a decent state school from that golden era, like Berkeley or Wisconsin (or maybe from a bit earlier, since we probably want to avoid riots too), I doubt if it would cost a lot more. All those extra administrative personnel? Just don’t hire them. We could manage this by making the project top secret (actually, special access) – that lets you violate a lot of the useless bureaucratic rules, rather like being Uber.

Some things might cost more. If you want a medical school, you have to pay the professors competitive salaries (and MDs make much more than they did back in those days). But then, we could used taped lectures, online courses, etc.

It probably wouldn’t work for long, since politicians would be irresistibly temped to add on useless crap, like preferential admission for Skoptys, or whatever they’re called nowadays.

“Between 1975 and 2005, total spending by American higher educational institutions, stated in constant dollars, tripled, to more than $325 billion per year. Over the same period, the faculty-to-student ratio has remained fairly constant, at approximately fifteen or sixteen students per instructor. One thing that has changed, dramatically, is the administrator-per-student ratio. In 1975, colleges employed one administrator for every eighty-four students and one professional staffer—admissions officers, information technology specialists, and the like—for every fifty students. By 2005, the administrator-to-student ratio had dropped to one administrator for every sixty-eight students while the ratio of professional staffers had dropped to one for every twenty-one students. “

Higher Education In Mass. Enters Full Predatory Mode: http://news.wgbh.org/2016/12/08/local-news/higher-education-mass-enters-full-predatory-mode
academic administrators

I would put the kind of knowledge that you acquire in college into four categories. Obviously majors differ in their mix of these four humours. I’m thinking of economic/GDP/health type impacts.

Things that don’t matter. Like neutral genetic variation.
Things that make you better at doing something useful. Ideally, significantly better – at least better at the task than if you’d just spend an hour or two reading the manual.

Things that make you better at inventing techniques in category 2. What Edison, George Green, or Ramanujan learned in college. Overlaps with #2.

Things that ain’t so. Falsehoods. Ones with practical implications. There are obviously some majors that mostly inculcate falsehoods.

Now some of these can be used for signalling, but the content of education matters (in the broad sense – college but also reading Popular Mechanics). If it didn’t we’d all be living in caves and licking mammoth fat off our fingers.

It can also simply be ignored: lots of Silicon Valley companies give pretty explicit IQ tests without ever bothering to get them approved.

I used to think this, but now I wonder if the degree is used more as a signal of willingness to put up with institutional BS rather than IQ.
Yeah, Griggs is terrible, ham-fisted law, shd be overturned. But overrated as a cause of the edu bubble

- thinks its mostly subsidies not ban on IQ testing
- still getting good tests for cognitive ability plus non-cognitive habits, then moving to new equilibrium should be enough right?

Modern Universities Are An Exercise in Insanity: http://scholars-stage.blogspot.com/2018/01/modern-universities-are-exercise-in.html

My alma mater was Brigham Young University-Hawaii. If you are a member of the LDS church attending the school, then in 2017 your tuition was $3,000 a semester. If you are not a member, it was $5,000 for one semester. The school has a special program where you can graduate in three years by taking three semesters each year, and that costs $8,000 and $16,000 a year for LDS and non-member students respectively.


The average tenure track professor makes $40 an hour. If you were to employ her as a private tutor at the cost of $60 an hour, and had four hours with her a week, and did that for 14 weeks (that's the length of an average college course folks) that is about $3,400.

Were you to employ three such professor-tutors, that would be about $10,200, or a bit over $20,000 a year. In four years you would have racked up $80,000 in costs. But this is still $30,000 less than the total for the 'cost conscious' universities. It is a quarter of what you would pay for Trinity.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
The Case for Protecting Infant Industries - Bloomberg View
pseudoerasmus commentary:
mentioned studies:
China and US today: http://www.ddorn.net/papers/Autor-Dorn-Hanson-ChinaShock.pdf
Turkey: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/econ/Krueger,%2520An%2520Empirical%2520Test%2520of%2520the%2520Infant.pdf
Napoleonic France: http://www.rjuhasz.com/research/jm_blockade_juhasz.pdf

This dismissal was premature. Arguments from theory can break down in any number of ways. And examples like Turkey’s aren’t true random experiments -- for example, countries might try to use protectionism to shore up industries that were uncompetitive to begin with, and which had little hope of ever flourishing. Policy decisions don’t just drive economic conditions, they’re also driven by them. To really know whether infant-industry protection is effective, we’d need some kind of random event that affected the competitive environment.

Economist Reka Juhasz, of Princeton and Columbia, combed through the historical record to find such a random event. And she found one: the Napoleonic Wars. It seems doubtful that Napoleon’s conquest of Europe was an elaborate scheme to protect failing French manufacturing industries, so it’s probably safe to consider its effects as akin to an act of God.

During his wars with Britain, Napoleon tried (unsuccessfully) to bring his island nemesis to its knees by cutting it off from European markets. The move protected industries within the sprawling Napoleonic domains that competed heavily with Britain. The prime example was mechanized cotton spinning, a very high-tech industry for its time, and a locus of intense competition between early industrial nations like Britain and France. With detailed historical records, Juhasz was able to identify how much different regions saw their trade costs with Britain go up as the result of Napoleon’s embargo, and to see whether cotton spinners in those areas flourished.

They did. Juhasz found that in the short term, profits of protected cotton spinners rose, and their size and productivity increased more in the long run. Decades later, these regions were exporting more, relative to less-protected regions, showing that companies in the shielded areas were eventually able to compete in global markets -- just as the infant-industry argument would predict.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
Science Policy | West Hunter
If my 23andme profile revealed that I was the last of the Plantagenets (as some suspect), and therefore rightfully King of the United States and Defender of Mexico, and I asked you for a general view of the right approach to science and technology – where the most promise is, what should be done, etc – what would you say?

genetically personalized medicine: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/science-policy/#comment-85698
I have no idea how personalized medicine is supposed to work. Suppose that we sequence your entire genome, and then we intend to tailor a therapeutic approach to your genome.

How do we test it? By trying it on a bunch of genetically similar people? The more genetic details we take into account, the smaller that class is. It could easily become so small that it would be difficult to recruit enough people for a reasonable statistical trial. Second, the more details we take into account, the smaller the class that benefits from the whole testing process – which as far as I can see, is just as expensive as conventional Phasei/II etc trials.

What am I missing?

Now if you are a forethoughtful trillionaire, sure: you manufacture lots of clones just to test therapies you might someday need, and cost is no object.

I think I can see ways you could make it work tho [edit: what did I mean by this?...damnit]
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december 2016 by nhaliday
The best kind of discrimination – The sideways view
I think it would be nice if the world had more price discrimination; we would produce more goods, and those goods would be available to more people. As a society we could enable price discrimination by providing more high-quality signals to be used by price discriminators. The IRS is in a particularly attractive position to offer such signals since income is a particularly useful signal. But realistically I think that such a proposal would require coordination in order to get consumers’ consent to make the data available (and to ensure that only upper bounds were available); the total gains are probably not large enough to justify the amount of coordination and complexity that is required.

apparently about 1/3 of income goes to capital-holders, and 2/3 to workers (wonder what the source for that is, and how consistent it is across industries)
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Personnel decision | West Hunter
I think we are about due for a career civil servant within the agency or relatively recently retired from it (ideally to academia), with a PhD or M.D. and probably a pay grade of either GS-15 or Senior Executive Service (SES), who has a reputation for integrity, for intelligence, and for getting things done bureaucratically, with some low profile political connections (at least to the ruling party but ideally to both political parties) in private life as well (e.g. through friendships made at a top college, a politician or top political aide parent, or friendships made while attending a top D.C. private school like Sidwell Friends or St. Albion’s or National Cathedral School).

Few federal agencies call for more subject-matter competence to understand its functions well enough to run it well.
The problem is that the typical member of the set you describe is nuts. Members have a lot of incorrect ideas in their heads: in fact, you have to express support of those ideas or you are expelled. So, that means that every educational improvement plan pushed by the Feds fails: you can’t do anything realistic, or you would be a bad person. Every intervention in the Middle East fails: same reason. AIDs shows up, so we abandon quarantine: Fidel Castro deals with the situation 50 times better than we did.

The Aztecs thought that the world would end if they didn’t keep cutting people’s hearts out on an industrial scale. They were crazy. But were they crazier than we are?
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september 2016 by nhaliday
The Hidden American Immigration Consensus: A Conjoint Analysis of Attitudes toward Immigrants - Hainmueller - 2014 - American Journal of Political Science - Wiley Online Library
Polls re "increasing"/"decreasing" levels aren't reliable, because normies have no idea how much we currently have. https://cis.org/Camarota/Survey-Highlights-Popularity-Immigration-Enforcement

The report also noted that almost half of Americans (49%) say that immigration in the U.S. should be decreased while only 15% said it should be increased.

- 13.4% foreign-born
- of those, 25% illegal, 44% naturalized, 25% permanent resident
- 1/2 not proficient in English

It's the immigration, stupid: http://anepigone.blogspot.com/2015/11/its-immigration-stupid.html
Polling on immigration often appears to be all over the place. Wording is crucial. When the choices are "deport everyone" and "secure the border and then offer a path to citizenship", the Cathedral can manufacture headlines to try and create an illusion of amnesty as a political winner. When the questions are more objectively designed, it becomes clear that restrictionism is the populist position.

Over the summer, Reuters approached the issue in the most straightforward manner I've ever come across. In terms of fleshing out public sentiment, the approach is bar none. Respondents were asked about what should be done with illegal immigrants in the US. Only two committal answers--"deport most or all of them" and "allow most or all of them to stay"--along with a third "unsure" cop-out option, were offered as responses.

World Publics Welcome Global Trade — But Not Immigration: http://www.pewglobal.org/2007/10/04/world-publics-welcome-global-trade-but-not-immigration/
In both affluent countries in the West and in the developing world, people are concerned about immigration. Large majorities in nearly every country surveyed express the view that there should be greater restriction of immigration and tighter control of their country’s borders.
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july 2016 by nhaliday
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