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Lateralization of brain function - Wikipedia
Language functions such as grammar, vocabulary and literal meaning are typically lateralized to the left hemisphere, especially in right handed individuals.[3] While language production is left-lateralized in up to 90% of right-handers, it is more bilateral, or even right-lateralized, in approximately 50% of left-handers.[4]

Broca's area and Wernicke's area, two areas associated with the production of speech, are located in the left cerebral hemisphere for about 95% of right-handers, but about 70% of left-handers.[5]:69

Auditory and visual processing
The processing of visual and auditory stimuli, spatial manipulation, facial perception, and artistic ability are represented bilaterally.[4] Numerical estimation, comparison and online calculation depend on bilateral parietal regions[6][7] while exact calculation and fact retrieval are associated with left parietal regions, perhaps due to their ties to linguistic processing.[6][7]


Depression is linked with a hyperactive right hemisphere, with evidence of selective involvement in "processing negative emotions, pessimistic thoughts and unconstructive thinking styles", as well as vigilance, arousal and self-reflection, and a relatively hypoactive left hemisphere, "specifically involved in processing pleasurable experiences" and "relatively more involved in decision-making processes".

Chaos and Order; the right and left hemispheres: https://orthosphere.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/chaos-and-order-the-right-and-left-hemispheres/
In The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist writes that a creature like a bird needs two types of consciousness simultaneously. It needs to be able to focus on something specific, such as pecking at food, while it also needs to keep an eye out for predators which requires a more general awareness of environment.

These are quite different activities. The Left Hemisphere (LH) is adapted for a narrow focus. The Right Hemisphere (RH) for the broad. The brains of human beings have the same division of function.

The LH governs the right side of the body, the RH, the left side. With birds, the left eye (RH) looks for predators, the right eye (LH) focuses on food and specifics. Since danger can take many forms and is unpredictable, the RH has to be very open-minded.

The LH is for narrow focus, the explicit, the familiar, the literal, tools, mechanism/machines and the man-made. The broad focus of the RH is necessarily more vague and intuitive and handles the anomalous, novel, metaphorical, the living and organic. The LH is high resolution but narrow, the RH low resolution but broad.

The LH exhibits unrealistic optimism and self-belief. The RH has a tendency towards depression and is much more realistic about a person’s own abilities. LH has trouble following narratives because it has a poor sense of “wholes.” In art it favors flatness, abstract and conceptual art, black and white rather than color, simple geometric shapes and multiple perspectives all shoved together, e.g., cubism. Particularly RH paintings emphasize vistas with great depth of field and thus space and time,[1] emotion, figurative painting and scenes related to the life world. In music, LH likes simple, repetitive rhythms. The RH favors melody, harmony and complex rhythms.


Schizophrenia is a disease of extreme LH emphasis. Since empathy is RH and the ability to notice emotional nuance facially, vocally and bodily expressed, schizophrenics tend to be paranoid and are often convinced that the real people they know have been replaced by robotic imposters. This is at least partly because they lose the ability to intuit what other people are thinking and feeling – hence they seem robotic and suspicious.

Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West as well as McGilchrist characterize the West as awash in phenomena associated with an extreme LH emphasis. Spengler argues that Western civilization was originally much more RH (to use McGilchrist’s categories) and that all its most significant artistic (in the broadest sense) achievements were triumphs of RH accentuation.

The RH is where novel experiences and the anomalous are processed and where mathematical, and other, problems are solved. The RH is involved with the natural, the unfamiliar, the unique, emotions, the embodied, music, humor, understanding intonation and emotional nuance of speech, the metaphorical, nuance, and social relations. It has very little speech, but the RH is necessary for processing all the nonlinguistic aspects of speaking, including body language. Understanding what someone means by vocal inflection and facial expressions is an intuitive RH process rather than explicit.


RH is very much the center of lived experience; of the life world with all its depth and richness. The RH is “the master” from the title of McGilchrist’s book. The LH ought to be no more than the emissary; the valued servant of the RH. However, in the last few centuries, the LH, which has tyrannical tendencies, has tried to become the master. The LH is where the ego is predominantly located. In split brain patients where the LH and the RH are surgically divided (this is done sometimes in the case of epileptic patients) one hand will sometimes fight with the other. In one man’s case, one hand would reach out to hug his wife while the other pushed her away. One hand reached for one shirt, the other another shirt. Or a patient will be driving a car and one hand will try to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction. In these cases, the “naughty” hand is usually the left hand (RH), while the patient tends to identify herself with the right hand governed by the LH. The two hemispheres have quite different personalities.

The connection between LH and ego can also be seen in the fact that the LH is competitive, contentious, and agonistic. It wants to win. It is the part of you that hates to lose arguments.

Using the metaphor of Chaos and Order, the RH deals with Chaos – the unknown, the unfamiliar, the implicit, the emotional, the dark, danger, mystery. The LH is connected with Order – the known, the familiar, the rule-driven, the explicit, and light of day. Learning something means to take something unfamiliar and making it familiar. Since the RH deals with the novel, it is the problem-solving part. Once understood, the results are dealt with by the LH. When learning a new piece on the piano, the RH is involved. Once mastered, the result becomes a LH affair. The muscle memory developed by repetition is processed by the LH. If errors are made, the activity returns to the RH to figure out what went wrong; the activity is repeated until the correct muscle memory is developed in which case it becomes part of the familiar LH.

Science is an attempt to find Order. It would not be necessary if people lived in an entirely orderly, explicit, known world. The lived context of science implies Chaos. Theories are reductive and simplifying and help to pick out salient features of a phenomenon. They are always partial truths, though some are more partial than others. The alternative to a certain level of reductionism or partialness would be to simply reproduce the world which of course would be both impossible and unproductive. The test for whether a theory is sufficiently non-partial is whether it is fit for purpose and whether it contributes to human flourishing.


Analytic philosophers pride themselves on trying to do away with vagueness. To do so, they tend to jettison context which cannot be brought into fine focus. However, in order to understand things and discern their meaning, it is necessary to have the big picture, the overview, as well as the details. There is no point in having details if the subject does not know what they are details of. Such philosophers also tend to leave themselves out of the picture even when what they are thinking about has reflexive implications. John Locke, for instance, tried to banish the RH from reality. All phenomena having to do with subjective experience he deemed unreal and once remarked about metaphors, a RH phenomenon, that they are “perfect cheats.” Analytic philosophers tend to check the logic of the words on the page and not to think about what those words might say about them. The trick is for them to recognize that they and their theories, which exist in minds, are part of reality too.

The RH test for whether someone actually believes something can be found by examining his actions. If he finds that he must regard his own actions as free, and, in order to get along with other people, must also attribute free will to them and treat them as free agents, then he effectively believes in free will – no matter his LH theoretical commitments.


We do not know the origin of life. We do not know how or even if consciousness can emerge from matter. We do not know the nature of 96% of the matter of the universe. Clearly all these things exist. They can provide the subject matter of theories but they continue to exist as theorizing ceases or theories change. Not knowing how something is possible is irrelevant to its actual existence. An inability to explain something is ultimately neither here nor there.

If thought begins and ends with the LH, then thinking has no content – content being provided by experience (RH), and skepticism and nihilism ensue. The LH spins its wheels self-referentially, never referring back to experience. Theory assumes such primacy that it will simply outlaw experiences and data inconsistent with it; a profoundly wrong-headed approach.


Gödel’s Theorem proves that not everything true can be proven to be true. This means there is an ineradicable role for faith, hope and intuition in every moderately complex human intellectual endeavor. There is no one set of consistent axioms from which all other truths can be derived.

Alan Turing’s proof of the halting problem proves that there is no effective procedure for finding effective procedures. Without a mechanical decision procedure, (LH), when it comes to … [more]
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september 2018 by nhaliday
WHO | Priority environment and health risks
also: http://www.who.int/heli/risks/vectors/vector/en/

Environmental factors are a root cause of a significant disease burden, particularly in developing countries. An estimated 25% of death and disease globally, and nearly 35% in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, is linked to environmental hazards. Some key areas of risk include the following:

- Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene kill an estimated 1.7 million people annually, particularly as a result of diarrhoeal disease.
- Indoor smoke from solid fuels kills an estimated 1.6 million people annually due to respiratory diseases.
- Malaria kills over 1.2 million people annually, mostly African children under the age of five. Poorly designed irrigation and water systems, inadequate housing, poor waste disposal and water storage, deforestation and loss of biodiversity, all may be contributing factors to the most common vector-borne diseases including malaria, dengue and leishmaniasis.
- Urban air pollution generated by vehicles, industries and energy production kills approximately 800 000 people annually.
- Unintentional acute poisonings kill 355 000 people globally each year. In developing countries, where two-thirds of these deaths occur, such poisonings are associated strongly with excessive exposure to, and inappropriate use of, toxic chemicals and pesticides present in occupational and/or domestic environments.
- Climate change impacts including more extreme weather events, changed patterns of disease and effects on agricultural production, are estimated to cause over 150 000 deaths annually.

Note the high point at human origin (Africa, Middle East) and Asia. Low points in New World and Europe/Russia. Probably key factor in explaining human psychological variation (Haidt axes, individualism-collectivism, kinship structure, etc.). E.g., compare Islam/Judaism (circumcision, food preparation/hygiene rules) and Christianity (orthodoxy more than orthopraxy, no arbitrary practices for group-marking).

I wonder if the dietary and hygiene laws of Christianity get up-regulated in higher parasite load places (the US South, Middle Eastern Christianity, etc.)?

Also the reason for this variation probably basically boils down how long local microbes have had time to adapt to the human immune system.

obv. correlation: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:074ecdf30c50

Tropical disease: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_disease
Tropical diseases are diseases that are prevalent in or unique to tropical and subtropical regions.[1] The diseases are less prevalent in temperate climates, due in part to the occurrence of a cold season, which controls the insect population by forcing hibernation. However, many were present in northern Europe and northern America in the 17th and 18th centuries before modern understanding of disease causation. The initial impetus for tropical medicine was to protect the health of colonialists, notably in India under the British Raj.[2] Insects such as mosquitoes and flies are by far the most common disease carrier, or vector. These insects may carry a parasite, bacterium or virus that is infectious to humans and animals. Most often disease is transmitted by an insect "bite", which causes transmission of the infectious agent through subcutaneous blood exchange. Vaccines are not available for most of the diseases listed here, and many do not have cures.

cf. Galton: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:f72f8e03e729
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july 2018 by nhaliday
Eternity in six hours: intergalactic spreading of intelligent life and sharpening the Fermi paradox
We do this by demonstrating that traveling between galaxies – indeed even launching a colonisation project for the entire reachable universe – is a relatively simple task for a star-spanning civilization, requiring modest amounts of energy and resources. We start by demonstrating that humanity itself could likely accomplish such a colonisation project in the foreseeable future, should we want to, and then demonstrate that there are millions of galaxies that could have reached us by now, using similar methods. This results in a considerable sharpening of the Fermi paradox.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Plague of Frogs | West Hunter
For a few years the herpetologists were concerned yet happy. Concerned, because many frog populations were crashing and some were going extinct. Happy, because confused puppies in Washington were giving them money, something that hardly ever happens to frogmen. The theory was that amphibians were ‘canaries in a coal mine’, uniquely sensitive to environmental degradation.


It took some time for herpetologists to admit that this chytrid fungus is the main culprit – some are still resisting. First, it was a lot like how doctors resisted Semmelweiss’ discoveries about the cause of puerperal fever – since doctors were the main method of transmission. How did this fungus get to the cloud forests of Costa Rica? On the boots of herpetologists, of course.

The second problem is Occam’s butterknife: even though this chytrid fungus is the main culprit, it’s just got to be more complicated than that. Even if it isn’t. People in the life sciences – biology and medicine – routinely reject simple hypotheses that do a good job of explaining the data for more complex hypotheses that don’t. College taught them to think – unwisely.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Adam Smith, David Hume, Liberalism, and Esotericism - Call for Papers - Elsevier
A very good economics journal--famously an outlet for rigorous, outside the box thinking--is publishing a special issue on hidden meanings in the work of two of the world's greatest thinkers.

Another sign the new Straussian age is upon us: Bayesians update accordingly!
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Why has the prevalence of obesity doubled? | SpringerLink
The prevalence of obesity has doubled over the last 25 years. We estimate the effects of multiple socio-environmental factors (e.g., physical demands at work, restaurants, food prices, cigarette smoking, food stamps, and urban sprawl) on obesity using NLSY data. Then we use the Oaxaca–Blinder decomposition technique to approximate the contribution of each socio-environmental factor to the increase during this time. Many socio-environmental factors significantly affect weight, but none are able to explain a large portion of the obesity increase. Decreases in cigarette smoking consistently explains about 2–4 % of the increase in obesity and BMI. Food stamp receipt also consistently affects the measures of weight, but the small decrease in food stamp program participation during the period we examine actually dampened the increases in obesity and BMI. Collectively, the socio-environmental factors we examine never explain more than about 6.5 % of the weight increases.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Fermi paradox - Wikipedia
Rare Earth hypothesis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_Earth_hypothesis
Fine-tuned Universe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe
something to keep in mind:
Puddle theory is a term coined by Douglas Adams to satirize arguments that the universe is made for man.[54][55] As stated in Adams' book The Salmon of Doubt:[56]
Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact, it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!” This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be all right, because this World was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? - Wikipedia
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires (Satire VI, lines 347–348). It is literally translated as "Who will guard the guards themselves?", though it is also known by variant translations.

The original context deals with the problem of ensuring marital fidelity, though it is now commonly used more generally to refer to the problem of controlling the actions of persons in positions of power, an issue discussed by Plato in the Republic. It is not clear whether the phrase was written by Juvenal, or whether the passage in which it appears was interpolated into his works.


This phrase is used generally to consider the embodiment of the philosophical question as to how power can be held to account. It is sometimes incorrectly attributed as a direct quotation from Plato's Republic in both popular media and academic contexts.[3] There is no exact parallel in the Republic, but it is used by modern authors to express Socrates' concerns about the guardians, _the solution to which is to properly train their souls_. Several 19th century examples of the association with Plato can be found, often dropping "ipsos".[4][5] John Stuart Mill quotes it thus in Considerations on Representative Government (1861), though without reference to Plato. Plato's Republic though was hardly ever referenced by classical Latin authors like Juvenal, and it has been noted that it simply disappeared from literary awareness for a thousand years except for traces in the writings of Cicero and St. Augustine.[6] In the Republic, a putatively perfect society is described by Socrates, the main character in this Socratic dialogue. Socrates proposed a guardian class to protect that society, and the custodes (watchmen) from the Satires are often interpreted as being parallel to the Platonic guardians (phylakes in Greek). Socrates' answer to the problem is, in essence, that _the guardians will be manipulated to guard themselves against themselves via a deception often called the "noble lie" in English_.[7] As Leonid Hurwicz pointed out in his 2007 lecture on accepting the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, one of Socrates' interlocutors in the Republic, Glaucon, even goes so far as to say "it would be absurd that a guardian should need a guard."[8] But Socrates returns to this point at 590d, where he says that _the best person "has a divine ruler within himself," and that "it is better for everyone to be ruled by divine reason, preferably within himself and his own, otherwise imposed from without."_[9]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
The Grumpy Economist: Bitcoin and Bubbles
Bitcoin is not a very good money. It is a pure fiat money (no backing), whose value comes from limited supply plus these demands. As such it has the huge price fluctuations we see. It's an electronic version of gold, and the price variation should be a warning to economists who long for a return to  gold. My bet is that stable-value cryptocurrencies, offering one dollar per currency unit and low transactions costs, will prosper in the role of money. At least until there is a big inflation or sovereign debt crisis and a stable-value cryptocurrency not linked to government debt emerges.

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

Cryptocurrencies also raise in a new way questions of exchange rate indeterminacy. As Kareken and Wallace (1981) observed, fiat currencies are all alike: slips of paper not redeemable for anything. Under a regime of floating exchange rates and no capital controls, and assuming some version of interest rate parity holds, there are an infinity of exchange rates between any two fiat currencies that constitute an equilibrium in their model.

The question of exchange rate indeterminacy is both more and less striking between cryptocurrencies than between fiat currencies. It is less striking because there are considerably more differences between cryptocurrencies than there are between paper money. Paper money is all basically the same. Cryptocurrencies sometimes have different characteristics from each other. For example, the algorithm used as the basis for mining makes a difference – it determines how professionalised the mining pools become. Litecoin uses an algorithm that tends to make mining less concentrated. Another difference is the capability of the cryptocurrency’s language for programming transactions. Ethereum is a new currency that boasts a much more robust language than Bitcoin. Zerocash is another currency that offers much stronger anonymity than Bitcoin. To the extent that cryptocurrencies differ from each other more than fiat currencies do, those differences might be able to pin down exchange rates in a model like Kareken and Wallace’s.

On the other hand, exchange rate indeterminacy could be more severe among cryptocurrencies than between fiat currencies because it is easy to simply create an exact copy of an open source cryptocurrency. There are even websites on which you can create and download the software for your own cryptocurrency with a few clicks of a mouse. These currencies are exactly alike except for their names and other identifying information. Furthermore, unlike fiat currencies, they don’t benefit from government acceptance or optimal currency area considerations that can tie a currency to a given territory.

Even identical currencies, however, can differ in terms of the quality of governance. Bitcoin currently has high quality governance institutions. The core developers are competent and conservative, and the mining and user communities are serious about making the currency work. An exact Bitcoin clone is likely to have a difficult time competing with Bitcoin unless it can promise similarly high-quality governance. When a crisis hits, users of identical currencies are going to want to hold the one that is mostly likely to weather the storm. Consequently, between currencies with identical technical characteristics, we think governance creates something close to a winner-take-all market. Network externalities are very strong in payment systems, and the governance question with respect to cryptocurrencies in particular compounds them.

Explaining a price rise via future increases in the asset's value isn't good economics. The invisible hand should be pushing today's price up to the point where it earns normal expected returns. +
I don't doubt the likelihood of a future cryptocurrency being widely used, but that doesn't pin down the price of any one cryptocurrency as the Kareken-Wallace result shows. There may be a big first mover advantage for Bitcoin but ease of replication makes it a fragile dominance.

I actually can't believe governments are allowing bitcoin to exist (they must be fully on board with going digital at some point)

btc will eventually come in direct competition with national currencies, which will have to raise rates dramatically, or die

The technology of Bitcoin Cash is very similar to the technology of Bitcoin. It offers the same sorts of anonymity, security, and so forth. There are some reasons to believe that in the future, Bitcoin Cash will be a bit easier to trade than Bitcoin (though that is not true in the present), and there are some other technological differences between them, but I’d be surprised to learn that those differences are accounting for any substantial fraction of the price differential.

The total supplies of Bitcoins and of Bitcoin Cash are currently about equal (because of the way that Bitcoin Cash originated). In each case, the supply will gradually grow to 21 million and then stop.

Question 1: Given the near identical properties of these two currencies, how can one sell for ten times the price of the other? Perhaps the answer involves the word “bubble”, but I’d be more interested in answers that assume (at least for the sake of argument) that the price of Bitcoin fairly reflects its properties as a store of value. Given that assumption, is the price differential entirely driven by the fact that Bitcoin came first? Is there that much of a first-mover advantage in this kind of game?

Question 2: Given the existence of other precious metals (e.g. platinum) what accounts for the dominance of gold as a physical store of value? (I note, for example, that when people buy gold as a store of value, they don’t often hesitate out of fear that gold will be displaced by platinum in the foreseeable future.) Is this entirely driven by the fact that gold happened to come first?

Question 3: Are Questions 1 and 2 the same question? Are the dominance of Bitcoin in the digital store-of-value market and the dominance of gold in the physical store-of-value market two sides of the same coin, so to speak? Or do they require fundamentally different explanations?

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

Lay down a marker:
And remember that the modern macro dogma is that monetary systems matter little for prosperity, once bare competence is achieved.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
If Quantum Computers are not Possible Why are Classical Computers Possible? | Combinatorics and more
As most of my readers know, I regard quantum computing as unrealistic. You can read more about it in my Notices AMS paper and its extended version (see also this post) and in the discussion of Puzzle 4 from my recent puzzles paper (see also this post). The amazing progress and huge investment in quantum computing (that I presented and update  routinely in this post) will put my analysis to test in the next few years.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Medicine as a pseudoscience | West Hunter
The idea that venesection was a good thing, or at least not so bad, on the grounds that one in a few hundred people have hemochromatosis (in Northern Europe) reminds me of the people who don’t wear a seatbelt, since it would keep them from being thrown out of their convertible into a waiting haystack, complete with nubile farmer’s daughter. Daughters. It could happen. But it’s not the way to bet.

Back in the good old days, Charles II, age 53, had a fit one Sunday evening, while fondling two of his mistresses.

Monday they bled him (cupping and scarifying) of eight ounces of blood. Followed by an antimony emetic, vitriol in peony water, purgative pills, and a clyster. Followed by another clyster after two hours. Then syrup of blackthorn, more antimony, and rock salt. Next, more laxatives, white hellebore root up the nostrils. Powdered cowslip flowers. More purgatives. Then Spanish Fly. They shaved his head and stuck blistering plasters all over it, plastered the soles of his feet with tar and pigeon-dung, then said good-night.


Friday. The king was worse. He tells them not to let poor Nelly starve. They try the Oriental Bezoar Stone, and more bleeding. Dies at noon.

Most people didn’t suffer this kind of problem with doctors, since they never saw one. Charles had six. Now Bach and Handel saw the same eye surgeon, John Taylor – who blinded both of them. Not everyone can put that on his resume!

You may wonder how medicine continued to exist, if it had a negative effect, on the whole. There’s always the placebo effect – at least there would be, if it existed. Any real placebo effect is very small: I’d guess exactly zero. But there is regression to the mean. You see the doctor when you’re feeling worse than average – and afterwards, if he doesn’t kill you outright, you’re likely to feel better. Which would have happened whether you’d seen him or not, but they didn’t often do RCTs back in the day – I think James Lind was the first (1747).

Back in the late 19th century, Christian Scientists did better than others when sick, because they didn’t believe in medicine. For reasons I think mistaken, because Mary Baker Eddy rejected the reality of the entire material world, but hey, it worked. Parenthetically, what triggered all that New Age nonsense in 19th century New England? Hash?

This did not change until fairly recently. Sometime in the early 20th medicine, clinical medicine, what doctors do, hit break-even. Now we can’t do without it. I wonder if there are, or will be, other examples of such a pile of crap turning (mostly) into a real science.

good tweet: https://twitter.com/bowmanthebard/status/897146294191390720
The brilliant GP I've had for 35+ years has retired. How can I find another one who meets my requirements?

1 is overweight
2 drinks more than officially recommended amounts
3 has an amused, tolerant atitude to human failings
4 is well aware that we're all going to die anyway, & there are better or worse ways to die
5 has a healthy skeptical attitude to mainstream medical science
6 is wholly dismissive of "a|ternative” medicine
7 believes in evolution
8 thinks most diseases get better without intervention, & knows the dangers of false positives
9 understands the base rate fallacy

EconPapers: Was Civil War Surgery Effective?: http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/htrhcecon/444.htm
contra Greg Cochran:
To shed light on the subject, I analyze a data set created by Dr. Edmund Andrews, a Civil war surgeon with the 1st Illinois Light Artillery. Dr. Andrews’s data can be rendered into an observational data set on surgical intervention and recovery, with controls for wound location and severity. The data also admits instruments for the surgical decision. My analysis suggests that Civil War surgery was effective, and increased the probability of survival of the typical wounded soldier, with average treatment effect of 0.25-0.28.

Medical Prehistory: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/
What ancient medical treatments worked?

In some very, very limited conditions, bleeding?
Bad for you 99% of the time.

Colchicine – used to treat gout – discovered by the Ancient Greeks.

Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm)
Wrap the emerging end of the worm around a stick and slowly pull it out.
(3,500 years later, this remains the standard treatment.)

Some of the progress is from formal medicine, most is from civil engineering, better nutrition ( ag science and physical chemistry), less crowded housing.

Nurses vs doctors: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/nurses-vs-doctors/
Medicine, the things that doctors do, was an ineffective pseudoscience until fairly recently. Until 1800 or so, they were wrong about almost everything. Bleeding, cupping, purging, the four humors – useless. In the 1800s, some began to realize that they were wrong, and became medical nihilists that improved outcomes by doing less. Some patients themselves came to this realization, as when Civil War casualties hid from the surgeons and had better outcomes. Sometime in the early 20th century, MDs reached break-even, and became an increasingly positive influence on human health. As Lewis Thomas said, medicine is the youngest science.

Nursing, on the other hand, has always been useful. Just making sure that a patient is warm and nourished when too sick to take care of himself has helped many survive. In fact, some of the truly crushing epidemics have been greatly exacerbated when there were too few healthy people to take care of the sick.

Nursing must be old, but it can’t have existed forever. Whenever it came into existence, it must have changed the selective forces acting on the human immune system. Before nursing, being sufficiently incapacitated would have been uniformly fatal – afterwards, immune responses that involved a period of incapacitation (with eventual recovery) could have been selectively favored.

when MDs broke even: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/nurses-vs-doctors/#comment-58981
I’d guess the 1930s. Lewis Thomas thought that he was living through big changes. They had a working serum therapy for lobar pneumonia ( antibody-based). They had many new vaccines ( diphtheria in 1923, whopping cough in 1926, BCG and tetanus in 1927, yellow fever in 1935, typhus in 1937.) Vitamins had been mostly worked out. Insulin was discovered in 1929. Blood transfusions. The sulfa drugs, first broad-spectrum antibiotics, showed up in 1935.

DALYs per doctor: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/
The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden – the number of years lost. I’m wondering just much harm premodern medicine did, per doctor. How many healthy years of life did a typical doctor destroy (net) in past times?


It looks as if the average doctor (in Western medicine) killed a bunch of people over his career ( when contrasted with doing nothing). In the Charles Manson class.

Eventually the market saw through this illusion. Only took a couple of thousand years.

That a very large part of healthcare spending is done for non-health reasons. He has a chapter on this in his new book, also check out his paper “Showing That You Care: The Evolution of Health Altruism” http://mason.gmu.edu/~rhanson/showcare.pdf
I ran into too much stupidity to finish the article. Hanson’s a loon. For example when he talks about the paradox of blacks being more sentenced on drug offenses than whites although they use drugs at similar rate. No paradox: guys go to the big house for dealing, not for using. Where does he live – Mars?

I had the same reaction when Hanson parroted some dipshit anthropologist arguing that the stupid things people do while drunk are due to social expectations, not really the alcohol.

I don’t think that being totally unable to understand everybody around you necessarily leads to deep insights.

What I’ve wondered is if there was anything that doctors did that actually was helpful and if perhaps that little bit of success helped them fool people into thinking the rest of it helped.
Setting bones. extracting arrows: spoon of Diocles. Colchicine for gout. Extracting the Guinea worm. Sometimes they got away with removing the stone. There must be others.
Quinine is relatively recent: post-1500. Obstetrical forceps also. Caesarean deliveries were almost always fatal to the mother until fairly recently.

Opium has been around for a long while : it works.

If pre-modern medicine was indeed worse than useless – how do you explain no one noticing that patients who get expensive treatments are worse off than those who didn’t?
were worse off. People are kinda dumb – you’ve noticed?
My impression is that while people may be “kinda dumb”, ancient customs typically aren’t.
Even if we assume that all people who lived prior to the 19th century were too dumb to make the rational observation, wouldn’t you expect this ancient practice to be subject to selective pressure?
Your impression is wrong. Do you think that there some slick reason for Carthaginians incinerating their first-born?

Theodoric of York, bloodletting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvff3TViXmY

details on blood-letting and hemochromatosis: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100746

Starting Over: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/starting-over/
Looking back on it, human health would have … [more]
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august 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
Overcoming Bias : Why Ethnicity, Class, & Ideology? 
Individual humans can be described via many individual features that are useful in predicting what they do. Such features include gender, age, personality, intelligence, ethnicity, income, education, profession, height, geographic location, and so on. Different features are more useful for predicting different kinds of behavior.

One kind of human behavior is coalition politics; we join together into coalitions within political and other larger institutions. People in the same coalition tend to have features in common, though which exact features varies by time and place. But while in principle the features that describe coalitions could vary arbitrarily by time and place, we in actual fact see more consistent patterns.


You might be right about small scale coalitions, such as cliques, gangs, and clubs. And you might even be right about larger scale political coalitions in the ancient world. But you’d be wrong about our larger scale political coalitions today. While there are often weak correlations with such features, larger scale political coalitions are not mainly based on the main individual features of gender, age, etc. Instead, they are more often based on ethnicity, class, and “political ideology” preferences. While ideology is famously difficult to characterize, and it does vary by time and place, it is also somewhat consistent across time and space.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Data We Have vs. the Data We Need: A Comment on the State of the “Divergence” Debate (Part I) | The NEP-HIS Blog
Maybe as reaction to Pomeranz, the Great Divergence gets dated earlier & earlier & earlier on the slimmest evidence. Next: Pangaea breakup
I think it's a bit out of control, the urge to keep bringing the roots of the great divergence earlier and earlier and earlier
@s8mb @antonhowes I am impatient w explanations which do not start w origination/adoption/diffusion technology as proximate cause
@s8mb @antonhowes in respect of which finance, market integration, & formal institutions all dead ends for divergence of West with the Rest
Are you more with Pomeranz that there's not major difference until c. 1750 or 1800, or do you put departure much earlier?
it's now beyond doubt established there was a major diff in living standards, state capacity, market integr+
between the most advanced regions of China and the most advanced regions of Europe, no doubt
@bswud +broadberry estimates evidence groupthink on matter (i.e., everyone wants to locate precursor to IR earlier and earlier) @antonhowes

The Little Divergence: https://pseudoerasmus.com/2014/06/12/the-little-divergence/
The Early Transformation of Britain's Economy: https://growthecon.com/blog/Britain-Shares/
There’s a nice working paper out by Patrick Wallis, Justin Colson, and David Chilosi called “Puncturing the Malthus Delusion: Structural Change in the British Economy before the Industrial Revolution, 1500-1800”. The big project they undertake here is to mine the probate inventories (along with several other sources) from Britain in this period to build up a picture of the rough allocation of workers across sectors. They do a very nice job of walking through their data sources, and the limitations, in the paper, so let me leave those details aside. In short, they use the reported occupations in wills to back out a picture of the sectoral structure, finding it consistent with other sources based on apprentice records, as well as prior estimates from specific years.

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june 2017 by nhaliday
Cold War Triumph of Liberal Capitalism — in Hindsight
Edit (an addendum): My point is that most of the violent illiberal means by which the Cold War was waged constituted pure waste. They were ineffective and unnecessary. They did not matter in the end. Decision-makers at the time may have rationally thought differently, but in retrospect it appears to be true. How can anyone disagree? Was the American war in Vietnam or the Soviet war in Afghanistan not a big waste of human life and national fortune?


Peripheral Strategies: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/peripheral-strategies/
Pseudoerasmus had an interesting thought about the Cold War: that all the West’s efforts in the Third World were pointless, had little effect on the ultimate outcome, with the possible exception of some big oil producers. “most developing countries could have disappeared into a black hole 16 galaxies away & it might have made little difference to the outcome.”

Nice to be arguing with someone who’s not crazy, for a change.


Look at the correlation of forces, write down the power equation, and he sure looks right.

But he’s not right.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
- the genetic book of the dead [Dawkins]
- complementarity [Frank Wilczek]
- relative information
- effective theory [Lisa Randall]
- affordances [Dennett]
- spontaneous symmetry breaking
- relatedly, equipoise [Nicholas Christakis]
- case-based reasoning
- population reasoning (eg, common law)
- criticality [Cesar Hidalgo]
- Haldan's law of the right size (!SCALE!)
- polygenic scores
- non-ergodic
- ansatz
- state [Aaronson]: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3075
- transfer learning
- effect size
- satisficing
- scaling
- the breeder's equation [Greg Cochran]
- impedance matching

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

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

interesting timing. how woke is this dude?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
[1705.03394] That is not dead which can eternal lie: the aestivation hypothesis for resolving Fermi's paradox
If a civilization wants to maximize computation it appears rational to aestivate until the far future in order to exploit the low temperature environment: this can produce a 10^30 multiplier of achievable computation. We hence suggest the "aestivation hypothesis": the reason we are not observing manifestations of alien civilizations is that they are currently (mostly) inactive, patiently waiting for future cosmic eras. This paper analyzes the assumptions going into the hypothesis and how physical law and observational evidence constrain the motivations of aliens compatible with the hypothesis.


simpler explanation (just different math for Drake equation):
Dissolving the Fermi Paradox: http://www.jodrellbank.manchester.ac.uk/media/eps/jodrell-bank-centre-for-astrophysics/news-and-events/2017/uksrn-slides/Anders-Sandberg---Dissolving-Fermi-Paradox-UKSRN.pdf
Overall the argument is that point estimates should not be shoved into a Drake equation and then multiplied by each, as that requires excess certainty and masks much of the ambiguity of our knowledge about the distributions. Instead, a Bayesian approach should be used, after which the fate of humanity looks much better. Here is one part of the presentation:

Life Versus Dark Energy: How An Advanced Civilization Could Resist the Accelerating Expansion of the Universe: https://arxiv.org/abs/1806.05203
The presence of dark energy in our universe is causing space to expand at an accelerating rate. As a result, over the next approximately 100 billion years, all stars residing beyond the Local Group will fall beyond the cosmic horizon and become not only unobservable, but entirely inaccessible, thus limiting how much energy could one day be extracted from them. Here, we consider the likely response of a highly advanced civilization to this situation. In particular, we argue that in order to maximize its access to useable energy, a sufficiently advanced civilization would chose to expand rapidly outward, build Dyson Spheres or similar structures around encountered stars, and use the energy that is harnessed to accelerate those stars away from the approaching horizon and toward the center of the civilization. We find that such efforts will be most effective for stars with masses in the range of M∼(0.2−1)M⊙, and could lead to the harvesting of stars within a region extending out to several tens of Mpc in radius, potentially increasing the total amount of energy that is available to a future civilization by a factor of several thousand. We also discuss the observable signatures of a civilization elsewhere in the universe that is currently in this state of stellar harvesting.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Antibiotic feed/food supplementation | West Hunter
Many domesticated animals show increased growth and improved feed efficiency when given low doses of antibiotics.  In fact, this is by far the biggest use of antibiotics.  Mostly you hear about this in the context of worries about how this may select for resistant bacteria (which may well be true), but one interesting question is why it even works – and what other applications this technique might have.

It strikes me that it might be useful in food emergencies – famines and so forth.  The dosage is low (200 g per ton) and can increase feed efficiency over 10% in some cases.  Assuming that antibiotic supplementation works in humans (which is likely, considering that it works in a wide spectrum of domestic animals), you might be able to save 5 or 10% more people with a given food supply. Now if we ever bothered to learn exactly how this works, we might be able to find an equivalent approach that didn’t use antibiotics, some other way of knocking out certain pathogens (phage therapy?) or altering the gut flora.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  speculation  ideas  agriculture  food  efficiency  disease  parasites-microbiome  medicine  drugs  pharma  retrofit  questions  dirty-hands 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Chinese innovations | West Hunter
I’m interested in hearing about significant innovations out of contemporary China. Good ones. Ideas, inventions, devices, dreams. Throw in Outer China (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore).

super nationalistic dude ("IC") in the comments section (wish his videos had subtitles):

on the carrier-killer missiles: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/chinese-innovations/#comment-91280
You could take out a carrier task force with a nuke 60 years ago.
Then the other side can nuke something and point to the sunk carrier group saying “they started first”.

Hypersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, or the mysterious anti-ship ballistic missiles China has avoid that.
They avoid that because the law of physics no longer allow radar.

I was thinking about the period in which the United States was experiencing rapid industrial growth, on its way to becoming the most powerful industrial nation. At first not much science, buts lots and lots of technological innovation. I’m not aware of a corresponding efflorescence of innovative Chinese technology today, but then I don’t know everything: so I asked.

I’m still not aware of it. So maybe the answer is ‘no’.

hmm: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/chinese-innovations/#comment-91389
I would say that a lot of the most intelligent faction is being siphoned over into government work, and thus not focused in technological innovation. We should expect to see societal/political innovation rather than technological if my thesis is true.

There’s some evidence of that.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Quantum Supremacy: Office of Science and Technology Policy QIS Forum, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, White House Complex, Washington DC, October 18, 2016. Another version at UTCS Faculty Lunch, October 26, 2016. Another version at UT Austin Physics Colloquium, Austin, TX, November 9, 2016.

Complexity-Theoretic Foundations of Quantum Supremacy Experiments: Quantum Algorithms Workshop, Aspen Center for Physics, Aspen, CO, March 25, 2016

When Exactly Do Quantum Computers Provide A Speedup?: Yale Quantum Institute Seminar, Yale University, New Haven, CT, October 10, 2014. Another version at UT Austin Physics Colloquium, Austin, TX, November 19, 2014; Applied and Interdisciplinary Mathematics Seminar, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, November 25, 2014; Hebrew University Physics Colloquium, Jerusalem, Israel, January 5, 2015; Computer Science Colloquium, Technion, Haifa, Israel, January 8, 2015; Stanford University Physics Colloquium, January 27, 2015
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Open niches | West Hunter
When I first learned that  mitochondria (and chloroplasts) have their own  DNA and their own personal DNA replication mechanism, I wondered if they had their own viruses that hijacked that replication mechanism.   It was a long time  coming, but it seems that there are indeed viruses that infect the mitochondria of some fungi. Obviously, this kind of thing is particularly likely in fungi.

Since living cells are exchanged between mother and unborn children,  and persist for decades, there is a possible niche for cells that are transmitted from mother to daughter, and on to granddaughters after that, and so on.  Probably to sons as well, but they would most likely be dead ends.  It is easy to show that a maternally transmitted host cell line would have to have effects on fitness that are no worse than neutral –  in practice, beneficial.

So humans could well carry a maternally transmitted symbiote that was originally human – something like canine venereal sarcoma.

This ought to be true of mammals generally, and  even if we don’t have one, some other mammalian species might.

interesting fact:
Cytoplasm can flow between cells in fungi. This facilitates transmission of mitoviruses: they don’t have to go through a cell wall or membrane every time in addition to the mitochondrial membrane.
west-hunter  scitariat  speculation  discussion  trivia  bio  nature  sapiens  parasites-microbiome  genetics  gender  ideas  EGT  cooperate-defect  🌞  questions  ecology 
april 2017 by nhaliday
Bari, 1943 | West Hunter
There is no really good general way of estimating which facts that another person has floating in his head without personal contact. The same is true for populations – people in general,  people in particular professions, etc. Sometimes,  though, the utter lack of recognition of what ought to be an obvious connection, the dogs that don’t bark,  makes  clear that nobody in the talking  classes has ever heard of a particular event.

They ought to be talking about Bari, 1943.
west-hunter  scitariat  history  mostly-modern  iraq-syria  MENA  war  current-events  biotech  arms  analogy  comparison  commentary  maxim-gun  world-war  questions 
april 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Big, complicated data sets
This Times article profiles Nick Patterson, a mathematician whose career wandered from cryptography, to finance (7 years at Renaissance) and finally to bioinformatics. “I’m a data guy,” Dr. Patterson said. “What I know about is how to analyze big, complicated data sets.”

If you're a smart guy looking for something to do, there are 3 huge computational problems staring you in the face, for which the data is readily accessible.

1) human genome: 3 GB of data in a single genome; most data freely available on the Web (e.g., Hapmap stores patterns of sequence variation). Got a hypothesis about deep human history (evolution)? Test it yourself...

2) market prediction: every market tick available at zero or minimal subscription-service cost. Can you model short term movements? It's never been cheaper to build and test your model!

3) internet search: about 10^3 Terabytes of data (admittedly, a barrier to entry for an individual, but not for a startup). Can you come up with a better way to index or search it? What about peripheral problems like language translation or picture or video search?

The biggest barrier to entry is, of course, brainpower and a few years (a decade?) of concentrated learning. But the necessary books are all in the library :-)

Patterson has worked in 2 of the 3 areas listed above! Substituting crypto for internet search is understandable given his age, our cold war history, etc.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
- Chinese eugenics [Geoffrey Miller. Pretty weird take. ("30 years running"? No.)]
- finance [Seth Lloyd]
- demographic collapse
- quantum mechanics [Lee Smolin]
- technology endangering democracy
- "idiocracy looming"
- the Two Culture and the nature-nurture debate [Simon Baron-Cohen]
- "the real risk factors for war" [Pinker]
org:edge  frontier  uncertainty  risk  discussion  list  top-n  multi  planning  big-picture  prediction  links  spearhead  blowhards  pinker  technology  fertility  dysgenics  trends  finance  culture-war  postmortem  2013  enhancement  aversion  democracy  q-n-a  metameta  zeitgeist  speedometer  questions 
january 2017 by nhaliday
(Gil Kalai) The weak epsilon-net problem | What's new
This is a problem in discrete and convex geometry. It seeks to quantify the intuitively obvious fact that large convex bodies are so “fat” that they cannot avoid “detection” by a small number of observation points.
gowers  mathtariat  tcstariat  tcs  math  concept  rounding  linear-programming  research  open-problems  geometry  math.CO  magnitude  probabilistic-method  math.MG  discrete  nibble  org:bleg  questions  curvature  pigeonhole-markov  convexity-curvature 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Thinking Outside One’s Paradigm | Academically Interesting
I think that as a scientist (or really, even as a citizen) it is important to be able to see outside one’s own paradigm. I currently think that I do a good job of this, but it seems to me that there’s a big danger of becoming more entrenched as I get older. Based on the above experiences, I plan to use the following test: When someone asks me a question about my field, how often have I not thought about it before? How tempted am I to say, “That question isn’t interesting”? If these start to become more common, then I’ll know something has gone wrong.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Economists and the Reds | West Hunter
Heilbroner once said: “The farther to the right one looks, the more prescient has been the historical foresight; the farther to the left, the less so. ”

You know, someone should blame right-wingers for being correct about some things, since that more or less automatically drove left-wingers into being wrong.

I think that’s less of a problem today.

Well, how long was the political right particularly associated with capitalism…100-150 years? Before and after that, I don’t know if the political right’s track record of prediction looks that good.

Heilbroner was talking about people like Friedman, not Edmund Burke.

Paul Samuelson’s repeated predictions of the Soviet Union economy catching up with the USA: https://utopiayouarestandinginit.com/2015/01/24/paul-samuelsons-repeated-predictions-of-the-soviet-union-economy-catching-up-with-the-usa/

Kissinger detente: http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/whic/ReferenceDetailsPage/DocumentToolsPortletWindow?displayGroupName=Reference&jsid=1a94cad9fcddfd654fdca52eca9cf6c8&action=2&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CCX2876100022&u=catholiccenhs&zid=c159e34f1bdf497a992077a286af2b4b

In a passage eliminated from The Nation version, Miss Sontag also criticized liberal publications. ''Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Reader's Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only The Nation or The New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of Communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?''

I think I would have been a Communist in 1910.

I’m not sure what you have to add to 1910-me to make me not a Communist. Extra IQ wouldn’t work - there were a lot of Communist geniuses. The best rationality training available at the time wouldn’t work - it tended to produce a progressive atheism that segued easily into Communism. Some sort of Burkean conservativism would’ve been the only hope, but I’m not sure how you could have convinced me of Burkean conservativism.


Overall I’m very gloomy at whether rationality alone could have prevented Communism, and I’m gloomy that whatever the next Communism is, we’ll have to go through it before we learn our lesson.


I think one could truthfully say that one reason for the failure of Communism in the Soviet Union was that the heart of the country had been torn out. Something similar happened in France, in the 1920s and 1930s. People would talk about some problem that need to be solved, or some desirable innovation, and explain that it never happened, because the guy that should have done it died at Verdun. But it was worse in Russia. And it’s not just the dead: a lot of guys were crippled – so many that they made Moscow look bad, and therefore were exiled to Central Asia for appearances’ sake.

In part, the Soviet Union failed because ” an assegai had been thrust into the belly of the nation”. This makes a half-decent excuse: but it would be a better excuse if the Soviets hadn’t done so much of it to themselves.


Back in the 1950s, Russia was a lot weaker than it looked. I wonder how many people understood that. Ike, certainly.
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january 2017 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]
west-hunter  discussion  politics  government  policy  science  technology  the-world-is-just-atoms  🔬  scitariat  meta:science  proposal  genetics  genomics  medicine  meta:medicine  multi  ideas  counter-revolution  poast  homo-hetero  generalization  scale  antidemos  alt-inst  applications  dimensionality  high-dimension  bioinformatics  no-go  volo-avolo  magnitude  trump  2016-election  questions 
december 2016 by nhaliday
Last Ditch | West Hunter
Various responses have led me to think about what nations are willing to do in the last extremity, when they see doom impending. Over the Cold War, now apparently forgotten, major nations seemed willing to take the enemy down with them, more or less completely. Thousands of nuclear weapons can do that.


I suspect that the Soviets used tularemia at Stalingrad in 1942, but many seem to think that the natural default hypothesis is that Stalin would never have done such a thing. Churchill was ready with anthrax if the Germany ever managed to cross the channel.

didn't know that about Churchill

motives for the Civil War and WW2 (later on down the thread): https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/last-ditch/#comment-85471
For the North, more about preserving union than destroying slavery. For the South, mostly about protecting slavery, but also about a growing nationalism based on a different way of life – one based on slavery. Slavery Slavery Slavery.


“Has mankind no experience of somewhat hostile countries living side by side without killing 5% of their population?” Not much, no. I find myself at a disadvantage in this kind of argument, since my head is filling up with all the bloody noise of history, far faster than I can type. There are a few hundred books you should read that might give you more perspective on this, but why not start with Thucydides?

In 1914, the great majority of the world’s productive capacity was in Europe. Any country that dominated the continent would been the number one world power. If you value your national independence, you don’t want that. So: when somebody threatens to take over Europe, you oppose them. The same reason that England, and other nations, opposed Imperial Spain at its height – it threatened to dominate Europe. For the same reason that England and others opposed France for a couple of hundred years: the same reason that people resisted Germany, the same reason nations resisted the Soviet Union. Why did Sparta oppose Athens? It’s still the same old story.

Here I thought that all of my audience read the Cambridge Modern History while waiting in the dentists’s office. Boy was I wrong!
west-hunter  history  war  nuclear  risk  realpolitik  parasites-microbiome  mostly-modern  tactics  arms  russia  britain  iron-age  usa  medieval  meta:war  scitariat  disease  defense  communism  biotech  maxim-gun  old-anglo  world-war  early-modern  revolution  the-south  questions  peace-violence  statesmen  big-peeps  allodium  frontier  discipline  martial  nietzschean  courage  multi  poast  thucydides  ideology  politics  exit-voice  impetus  aphorism  stylized-facts  roots  alt-inst  institutions  broad-econ  vitality  axioms  flux-stasis  flexibility  short-circuit  strategy  prudence  intel  organizing  interests 
november 2016 by nhaliday
- quantum supremacy [Scott Aaronson]
- gene drive
- gene editing/CRISPR
- carcinogen may be entropy
- differentiable programming
- quantitative biology
- antisocial punishment of pro-social cooperators
- "strongest prejudice" (politics) [Haidt]
- Europeans' origins [Cochran]
- "Anthropic Capitalism And The New Gimmick Economy" [Eric Weinstein]

There's an underdiscussed contradiction between the idea that our society would make almost all knowledge available freely and instantaneously to almost everyone and that almost everyone would find gainful employment as knowledge workers. Value is in scarcity not abundance.
You’d need to turn reputational-based systems into an income stream
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november 2016 by nhaliday
commentary: http://www.kdnuggets.com/2011/01/edge-what-scientific-concept-improve-cognitive-toolkit.html

- chunks w/ handles
- kayfabe (ie, homo hypocritus) [Eric Weinstein]
- probability distributions
- personality traits continuous w/ mental illness [Geoffrey Miller]
- path dependence
- findex (I actually do this is in Workflowy)
- base rates (the old saw)
- risk literacy (sure)
- scale analysis
- constraint satisfaction
- positive-sum games [Pinker]
expert  discussion  psychology  rationality  metabuch  list  thinking  top-n  🤖  concept  pinker  org:edge  multi  models  spearhead  pre-2013  big-picture  conceptual-vocab  links  pro-rata  metameta  cooperate-defect  GT-101  q-n-a  🔬  chart  zeitgeist  canon  learning  neurons  illusion  realness  distribution  personality  psychiatry  path-dependence  info-foraging  risk  outcome-risk  scale  magnitude  zero-positive-sum  expert-experience  interests  questions 
november 2016 by nhaliday
Enigma | West Hunter
The modern consensus is that breaking Enigma shortened the war by at least a year.

Although a number of highly-placed people knew the story, some because they had been personally involved during WWII, the successful decryption of Enigma was kept secret until 1974, when F. W. Winterbotham published The Ultra Secret.

Most historians didn’t know about it. Without that information, the course of World War II can’t really have made sense. Why didn’t anyone notice?

various WW2 trivia in the comments/corrections

high school:
They couldn’t hide an anomalous level of success. In fact, the Germans came to realize that the Allies had some kind of intelligence edge, but never managed to figure out what it was. When your opponent anticipates your moves, you must eventually notice.

Professional historians, after the war, don’t seem to have noticed anything anomalous. I find this revealing because _I_ noticed that things had gone weirdly smoothly while I was still in high school. I wrote an essay about it.

I wish I still had it around. I didn’t manage to guess how many rotors Enigma had, for sure. I only talked about how mysteriously well things had gone, didn’t know why. I remember the conclusion: God protects drunks, babies, and the United States of America.
west-hunter  rant  history  social-science  war  intel  mostly-modern  error  bounded-cognition  contradiction  descriptive  realness  being-right  scitariat  info-dynamics  track-record  great-powers  world-war  questions  truth  multi  poast  canon  alt-inst  thick-thin  open-closed  trivia  ability-competence  letters  expert-experience  explanans  inference  technology  crypto  people  theos  religion  aphorism  reflection 
november 2016 by nhaliday
IJA | West Hunter
So an army that routinely executed last stands – one that always refused to surrender, that kept fighting until eliminated by firepower or starvation – would be anomalous. It’s hard to imagine, but it’s easy to remember: that’s what the Imperial Japanese Army was like in World War Two.

In a typical battle, less than 2% of Japanese forces were taken prisoner. Of those that were, many had been knocked unconscious. Wounded Japanese soldiers would try to kill Allied medics: Japanese sailors would attack Americans trying to fish them out of the water. As a young American infantry officer who faced them in Guadalcanal and Burma said, “for sheer, bloody, hardened steel guts, the stocky and hard-muscled little Jap doughboy has it all over any of us.” George MacDonald Fraser told of a Japanese soldier he encountered in August of 1945, when they had utterly lost the war: ” the little bastard came howling out of a thicket near the Sittang, full of spite and fury.. He was half-starved and near naked, and his only weapon was a bamboo stave, but he was in no mood to surrender.”

The Japanese usually lost those battles (after their attacks in the beginning of the war) , losing something like ten times as many killed as their Western opponents, a ratio normally seen only in colonial wars. The Japanese relied on ‘courage and cold steel’, which simply wasn’t very effective. They simply did not grasp the dominance of artillery and automatic weapons in modern war – partly because they hadn’t fought in WWI (except for a small naval role), but, more importantly, because they didn’t want to understand. They’d had a chance to learn in the border conflicts with the Soviet Union in the late 30’s (Khalkin-Gol), but refused to do so.

In addition, Japanese heroism is seldom fully appreciated because they were such utter assholes, in their treatment of prisoners and of conquered nations – cannibalism, vivisection, the Rape of Nanking and the destruction of Manila, germ warfare experiments on prisoners… even the water cure, although now we’re in favor of that. Under the Japanese, Asia was a charnel house. Regardless, their courage was most unusual.


Many other nations and empires have tried to inculcate this kind of ultimate obedience, some going to great lengths – but Imperial Japan is the only one that achieved it, as far as I can tell. There’s isn’t even any reason to think they they tried particularly hard to do so – certainly they’d didn’t go anywhere near as far as the Spartans.

If cultural anthropologists had any curiosity – which of course they don’t – they ought to find this story fascinating. How was it even possible?

Oriental Depravity: https://salo-forum.com/index.php?threads/oriental-depravity-thread.5814/
While the West has historically been vastly more dynamic and creative than the Orient, it surely isn't in the world of the now, which is nothing but chaos and decay. Unless you consider swinish purveyors of architectural swindles such as Frank Gehry to be "creative." We can't even send men to space any more, or produce physical embodiments of advanced technology. Our current technological heroes produce absurd accouterments to human narcissism, harvest advertising dollars and employ vast armies of smelly bugmen to achieve this.

Perhaps a resurgent Japan would turn into a consumerist empire of vast cruelty of nip broads slaughtering fields of Chinamen for their Prada Bags, or eating Siamese livers while their owners are still alive. Who cares? The West is an empire of vast totalitarian cruelty and brutal crotch level stupidity right now.

Japanese war crimes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_war_crimes
west-hunter  history  asia  war  military  altruism  japan  mostly-modern  sinosphere  martial  meta:war  scitariat  defense  zeitgeist  great-powers  world-war  peace-violence  individualism-collectivism  n-factor  alien-character  ideas  curiosity  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  courage  honor  duty  multi  gnon  poast  🐸  discussion  speculation  data  scale  trivia  cocktail  chan  morality  sanctity-degradation  conquest-empire  nihil  nietzschean  death  pro-rata  impact  cost-benefit  track-record  russia  pre-ww2  wiki  reference  article  aphorism  rant  occident  orient  the-great-west-whale  cohesion  questions  sulla  genetics  population-genetics  deep-materialism  new-religion  hari-seldon  EGT  leviathan  reflection 
november 2016 by nhaliday
Diamond on domestication | West Hunter
Jared Diamond, in discussing animal domestication, claims that the local availability of species with the right qualities for domestication was key, rather than anything special about the biology or culture of the humans living there. In some cases that may be true: there aren’t many large mammals left in Australia, and they’re all marsupials anyway. Stupid marsupials. He claims that since Africans and Amerindians were happy to adopt Eurasian domesticated animals when they became available, it must be that that suitable local animals just didn’t exist. But that’s a non sequitur: making use of an already-domesticated species is not at all the same thing as the original act of domestication. That’s like equating using a cell phone with inventing one. He also says that people have had only mixed success in recent domestication attempts – but the big problem there is that a newly domesticated species doesn’t just have to be good, it has to be better than already-existing domestic animals.


In fact, in my mind the real question is not why various peoples didn’t domesticate animals that we know were domesticable, but rather how anyone ever managed to domesticate the aurochs. At least twice. Imagine a longhorn on roids: they were big and aggressive, favorites in the Roman arena.

Let me throw out an idea originated by an old friend, Ivy Smith. Consider mice, cats, and toxoplasma. Toxoplasma is a protozoan with a two stage life cycle: one in an intermediate host (mice and rats, among others) and a definitive host (some feline). Toxoplasma only reproduces sexually in the definitive host, and it ‘wants’ to end up there. It manipulates the behavior of the intermediate host in ways that increase the probability of transmission to the definitive host. For one thing, it makes mice like the smell of cat urine, which elicits fear in uninfected mice. In fact, it seems that toxoplasma-infected mice are sexually excited by cat urine. How weird – a parasite rechanneling sexual interest…

The idea is that at least some individual aurochs were not as hostile and fearful of humans as they ought to have been, because they were being manipulated by some parasite. The parasite might have caused a general reduction of fear or aggression without infecting or aiming at humans – or, maybe, humans really were the definitive host, and the parasite knew exactly what it was doing. The beef tape worm – which we originally acquired from lions or hyenas back in Africa a couple of million years ago – might have gained from making infected bovines quiet, passive, maybe even overly friendly in the presence of humans. This would have made domestication a hell of a lot easier.

Parenthetically, such host manipulation may play a really important ecological role. For all we know, if canids and felids had to rely purely on their own abilities, they’d starve.

The beef tape worm may not have made it through Beringia. More generally, there were probably no parasites in the Americas that had some large mammal as intermediate host and Amerindians as the traditional definite host. Amerindians simply hadn’t been there very long. Domesticating bison may have too hard for unaided humans, back in the day.

Every technique is in competition with rival techniques. This inhibits the development of new techniques, even if they have high potential in the long run. To succeed, they have to beat out existing techniques in the short run.

For example, there are potential advantages for superconducting electronics for computing, but CMOS keeps improving. It’s a moving target: it’s not enough to be good, or interesting, you have to be better. Soon, not in 50 years. This is particularly difficult considering the enormous amount of resources currently invested in improving semiconductor computing technology.

In the same way, one successful domestication tends to inhibit other domestications. Several crops were domesticated in the eastern United States, but with the advent of maize and beans, most were abandoned. Maybe if those Amerindians had continued to selectively breed sumpweed for a few thousand years, it would have been competitive: but nobody is that crazy. Pretty crazy, but not that crazy.

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that all human groups have equal mental capabilities – except for the inhabitants of New Guinea, who are clearly smarter than the human norm.

If this is the case, there’s money to be made. Good performance in a lot of high-paying jobs requires intelligence above some fairly high threshold. Such people are scarce [outside of New Guinea], and that means that their labor is expensive. The fraction of individuals above a high threshold increases dramatically with a higher mean, and since people in PNG don’t have high incomes, there is a fantastic arbitrage opportunity here. You could locate some of the many geniuses that must exist in PNG, rapidly and inexpensively teach them high-tech skills (which they would learn easily, since they’re geniuses, natch), apply for H1B visas, and them resell them to the highest Silicon Valley bidder. This wouldn’t last, of course – these guys would not stay peons forever. They’d be generating their own start-ups in a few years, founding hedge funds, dominating the Vegas poker tournaments, etc. Some, less materialistic, would become grandmasters, win Fields medals, or write seminal books about the attractions of cannibalism. Still, you could make a lot of money in the short run, and if you were careful to build good relationships with your employees, they might let you in on the ground floor of an IPO later.

Poul Anderson, always a visionary, foresaw this. A character in one his books put it thusly:” I am a racist – a dedicated, fanatical racist – who maintains, and can scientifically prove, that his own race is inferior. The only true humans on earth, my friends, the main line of evolution, the masters of the future, are the lordly Melanesians. ”

Of course that character was feigning insanity, but still.

PNG = Papua New Guinea

final review:
Guns, Germs, and Steel revisited: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/guns-germs-and-steel-revisited/

He never says he was willing to wave the point, so how do you know that?

Next, europeans and Chinese ( northeast Asians) test smarter than anyone else. Noticeably so. And they act it, more or less. kinda sorta. More complicated mistakes.

lower genetic diversity in Amerindians+possibility that fast mutating viruses might adapt to their host and hit relatives harder
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november 2016 by nhaliday
The Day Before Forever | West Hunter
Yesterday, I was discussing the possibilities concerning slowing, or reversing aging – why it’s obviously possible, although likely a hard engineering problem. Why partial successes would be valuable, why making use of the evolutionary theory of senescence should help, why we should look at whales and porcupines as well as Jeanne Calment, etc., etc. I talked a long time – it’s a subject that has interested me for many years.

But there’s one big question: why are the powers that be utterly uninterested ?

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute and the Abagail Adams Institute host a debate between Peter Thiel and William Hurlbut. Resolved: Technology Should Treat Death as an Enemy

What if you could buy an extra year of youth for a million bucks (real cost). Clearly this country ( or any country) can’t afford that for everyone. Some people could: and I think it would stick in many people’s craw. Even worse if they do it by harvesting the pineal glands of children and using them to manufacture a waxy nodule that forfends age.

This is something like the days of old, pre-industrial times. Back then, the expensive, effective life-extender was food in a famine year.

Once upon a time, I wrote a long spiel on life extension – before it was cool, apparently. I sent it off to an interested friend [a science fiction editor] who was at that time collaborating on a book with a certain politician. That politician – Speaker of the House, but that could be anyone of thousands of guys, right? – ran into my spiel and read it. His immediate reaction was that greatly extending the healthy human life span would be horrible – it would bankrupt Social Security ! Nice to know that guys running the show always have the big picture in mind.

Reminds me of a sf story [Trouble with Lichens] in which something of that sort is invented and denounced by the British trade unions, as a plot to keep them working forever & never retire.

He’s got the argument backward: sure, natural selection has not favored perfect repair, so says the evolutionary theory of of senescence. If it had, then we could perhaps conclude that perfect repair was very hard to achieve, since we don’t see it, at least not in complex animals.* But since it was not favored, since natural selection never even tried, it may not be that difficult.

Any cost-free longevity gene that made you live to be 120 would have had a small payoff, since various hazards were fairly likely to get you by then anyway… And even if it would have been favored, a similar gene that cost a nickel would not have been. Yet we can afford a nickel.

There are useful natural examples: we don’t have to start from scratch. Bowhead whales live over 200 years: I’m not too proud to learn from them.

Lastly , this would take a lot of work. So what?

*Although we can invent things that evolution can’t – we don’t insist that all the intermediate stages be viable.


doesn't think much of Aubrey de Gray: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/of-mice-and-men/#comment-15832
I wouldn’t rely on Aubrey de Gray.

It might be easier to fix if we invested more than a millionth of a percent of GNP on longevity research. It’s doable, but hardly anyone is interested. I doubt if most people, including most MDs and biologists, even know that it’s theoretically possible.

I suppose I should do something about it. Some of our recent work ( Henry and me) suggests that people of sub-Saharan African descent might offer some clues – their funny pattern of high paternal age probably causes the late-life mortality crossover, it couldn’t hurt to know the mechanisms involved.

Make Room! Make Room!: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/06/24/make-room-make-room/
There is a recent article in Phys Rev Letters (“Programed Death is Favored by Natural Selection in Spatial Systems”) arguing that aging is an adaptation – natural selection has favored mechanisms that get rid of useless old farts. I can think of other people that have argued for this – some pretty smart cookies (August Weismann, for example, although he later abandoned the idea) and at the other end of the spectrum utter loons like Martin Blaser.


There might could be mutations that significantly extended lifespan but had consequences that were bad for fitness, at least in past environments – but that isn’t too likely if mutational accumulation and antagonistic pleiotropy are the key drivers of senescence in humans. As I said, we’ve never seen any.

more on Martin Blaser:
This is off topic, but I just read Germs Are Us and was struck by the quote from Martin Blaser ““[causing nothing but harm] isn’t how evolution works” […] “H. pylori is an ancestral component of humanity.”
That seems to be the assumption that the inevitable trend is toward symbiosis that I recall from Ewald’s “Plague Time”. My recollection is that it’s false if the pathogen can easily jump to another host. The bulk of the New Yorker article reminded me of Seth Roberts.

I have corresponded at length with Blaser. He’s a damn fool, not just on this. Speaking of, would there be general interest in listing all the damn fools in public life? Of course making the short list would be easier.

I have corresponded at length with Blaser. He’s a damn fool, not just on this. Speaking of, would there be general interest in listing all the damn fools in public life? Of course making the short list would be easier.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
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