nhaliday + reflection   498

Home is a small, engineless sailboat (2018) | Hacker News
Have also read both; they're fascinating in different ways. Paul Lutus has a boat full of technology (diesel engine, laptop, radio, navigation tools, and more) but his book is an intensely - almost uncomfortably - personal voyage through his psyche, while he happens to be sailing around the world. A diary of reflections on life, struggles with people, views on science, observations on the stars and sky and waves, poignant writing on how being at sea affect people, while he happens to be sailing around the world. It's better for that, more relatable as a geek, sadder and more emotional; I consider it a good read, and I reflect on it a lot.
Captain Slocum's voyage of 1896(?) is so different; he took an old clock, and not much else, he lashes the tiller and goes down below for hours at a time to read or sleep without worrying about crashing into other boats, he tells stories of mouldy cheese induced nightmares during rough seas or chasing natives away from robbing him, or finding remote islands with communites of slightly odd people. Much of his writing is about the people he meets - they often know in advance he's making a historic voyage, so when he arrives anywhere, there's a big fuss, he's invited to dine with local dignitaries or captains of large ships, gifted interesting foods and boat parts, there's a lot of interesting things about the world of 1896. (There's also quite a bit of tedious place names and locations and passages where nothing much happens, I'm not that interested in the geography of it).
hn  commentary  oceans  books  reflection  stories  track-record  world  minimum-viable  dirty-hands  links  frontier  allodium  prepping  navigation 
10 days ago by nhaliday
Computer latency: 1977-2017
If we look at overall results, the fastest machines are ancient. Newer machines are all over the place. Fancy gaming rigs with unusually high refresh-rate displays are almost competitive with machines from the late 70s and early 80s, but “normal” modern computers can’t compete with thirty to forty year old machines.

...

If we exclude the game boy color, which is a different class of device than the rest, all of the quickest devices are Apple phones or tablets. The next quickest device is the blackberry q10. Although we don’t have enough data to really tell why the blackberry q10 is unusually quick for a non-Apple device, one plausible guess is that it’s helped by having actual buttons, which are easier to implement with low latency than a touchscreen. The other two devices with actual buttons are the gameboy color and the kindle 4.

After that iphones and non-kindle button devices, we have a variety of Android devices of various ages. At the bottom, we have the ancient palm pilot 1000 followed by the kindles. The palm is hamstrung by a touchscreen and display created in an era with much slower touchscreen technology and the kindles use e-ink displays, which are much slower than the displays used on modern phones, so it’s not surprising to see those devices at the bottom.

...

Almost every computer and mobile device that people buy today is slower than common models of computers from the 70s and 80s. Low-latency gaming desktops and the ipad pro can get into the same range as quick machines from thirty to forty years ago, but most off-the-shelf devices aren’t even close.

If we had to pick one root cause of latency bloat, we might say that it’s because of “complexity”. Of course, we all know that complexity is bad. If you’ve been to a non-academic non-enterprise tech conference in the past decade, there’s a good chance that there was at least one talk on how complexity is the root of all evil and we should aspire to reduce complexity.

Unfortunately, it's a lot harder to remove complexity than to give a talk saying that we should remove complexity. A lot of the complexity buys us something, either directly or indirectly. When we looked at the input of a fancy modern keyboard vs. the apple 2 keyboard, we saw that using a relatively powerful and expensive general purpose processor to handle keyboard inputs can be slower than dedicated logic for the keyboard, which would both be simpler and cheaper. However, using the processor gives people the ability to easily customize the keyboard, and also pushes the problem of “programming” the keyboard from hardware into software, which reduces the cost of making the keyboard. The more expensive chip increases the manufacturing cost, but considering how much of the cost of these small-batch artisanal keyboards is the design cost, it seems like a net win to trade manufacturing cost for ease of programming.

...

If you want a reference to compare the kindle against, a moderately quick page turn in a physical book appears to be about 200 ms.
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12 days ago by nhaliday
One week of bugs
If I had to guess, I'd say I probably work around hundreds of bugs in an average week, and thousands in a bad week. It's not unusual for me to run into a hundred new bugs in a single week. But I often get skepticism when I mention that I run into multiple new (to me) bugs per day, and that this is inevitable if we don't change how we write tests. Well, here's a log of one week of bugs, limited to bugs that were new to me that week. After a brief description of the bugs, I'll talk about what we can do to improve the situation. The obvious answer to spend more effort on testing, but everyone already knows we should do that and no one does it. That doesn't mean it's hopeless, though.

...

Here's where I'm supposed to write an appeal to take testing more seriously and put real effort into it. But we all know that's not going to work. It would take 90k LOC of tests to get Julia to be as well tested as a poorly tested prototype (falsely assuming linear complexity in size). That's two person-years of work, not even including time to debug and fix bugs (which probably brings it closer to four of five years). Who's going to do that? No one. Writing tests is like writing documentation. Everyone already knows you should do it. Telling people they should do it adds zero information1.

Given that people aren't going to put any effort into testing, what's the best way to do it?

Property-based testing. Generative testing. Random testing. Concolic Testing (which was done long before the term was coined). Static analysis. Fuzzing. Statistical bug finding. There are lots of options. Some of them are actually the same thing because the terminology we use is inconsistent and buggy. I'm going to arbitrarily pick one to talk about, but they're all worth looking into.

...

There are a lot of great resources out there, but if you're just getting started, I found this description of types of fuzzers to be one of those most helpful (and simplest) things I've read.

John Regehr has a udacity course on software testing. I haven't worked through it yet (Pablo Torres just pointed to it), but given the quality of Dr. Regehr's writing, I expect the course to be good.

For more on my perspective on testing, there's this.

https://hypothesis.works/articles/the-purpose-of-hypothesis/
From the perspective of a user, the purpose of Hypothesis is to make it easier for you to write better tests.

From my perspective as the primary author, that is of course also a purpose of Hypothesis. I write a lot of code, it needs testing, and the idea of trying to do that without Hypothesis has become nearly unthinkable.

But, on a large scale, the true purpose of Hypothesis is to drag the world kicking and screaming into a new and terrifying age of high quality software.

Software is everywhere. We have built a civilization on it, and it’s only getting more prevalent as more services move online and embedded and “internet of things” devices become cheaper and more common.

Software is also terrible. It’s buggy, it’s insecure, and it’s rarely well thought out.

This combination is clearly a recipe for disaster.

The state of software testing is even worse. It’s uncontroversial at this point that you should be testing your code, but it’s a rare codebase whose authors could honestly claim that they feel its testing is sufficient.

Much of the problem here is that it’s too hard to write good tests. Tests take up a vast quantity of development time, but they mostly just laboriously encode exactly the same assumptions and fallacies that the authors had when they wrote the code, so they miss exactly the same bugs that you missed when they wrote the code.

Preventing the Collapse of Civilization [video]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19945452
- Jonathan Blow

NB: DevGAMM is a game industry conference

- loss of technological knowledge (Antikythera mechanism, aqueducts, etc.)
- hardware driving most gains, not software
- software's actually less robust, often poorly designed and overengineered these days
- *list of bugs he's encountered recently*:
https://youtu.be/pW-SOdj4Kkk?t=1387
- knowledge of trivia becomes more than general, deep knowledge
- does at least acknowledge value of DRY, reusing code, abstraction saving dev time
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7 weeks ago by nhaliday
Braves | West Hunter
If  Amerindians had a lot fewer serious infectious diseases than Old Worlders, something else had to limit population – and it wasn’t the Pill.

Surely there was more death by violence. In principle they could have sat down and quietly starved to death, but I doubt it. Better to burn out than fade away.
west-hunter  scitariat  reflection  ideas  usa  farmers-and-foragers  history  medieval  iron-age  europe  comparison  asia  civilization  peace-violence  martial  selection  ecology  disease  parasites-microbiome  pop-diff  incentives  malthus  equilibrium 
9 weeks ago by nhaliday
Teach debugging
A friend of mine and I couldn't understand why some people were having so much trouble; the material seemed like common sense. The Feynman Method was the only tool we needed.

1. Write down the problem
2. Think real hard
3. Write down the solution

The Feynman Method failed us on the last project: the design of a divider, a real-world-scale project an order of magnitude more complex than anything we'd been asked to tackle before. On the day he assigned the project, the professor exhorted us to begin early. Over the next few weeks, we heard rumors that some of our classmates worked day and night without making progress.

...

And then, just after midnight, a number of our newfound buddies from dinner reported successes. Half of those who started from scratch had working designs. Others were despondent, because their design was still broken in some subtle, non-obvious way. As I talked with one of those students, I began poring over his design. And after a few minutes, I realized that the Feynman method wasn't the only way forward: it should be possible to systematically apply a mechanical technique repeatedly to find the source of our problems. Beneath all the abstractions, our projects consisted purely of NAND gates (woe to those who dug around our toolbox enough to uncover dynamic logic), which outputs a 0 only when both inputs are 1. If the correct output is 0, both inputs should be 1. The input that isn't is in error, an error that is, itself, the output of a NAND gate where at least one input is 0 when it should be 1. We applied this method recursively, finding the source of all the problems in both our designs in under half an hour.
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10 weeks ago by nhaliday
Vladimir Novakovski's answer to What financial advice would you give to a 21-year-old? - Quora
Learn economics and see that investment and consumption levels (as percentages) depend only marginally on age and existing net worth and mostly on your risk preferences and utility function.
qra  q-n-a  oly  advice  reflection  personal-finance  ORFE  outcome-risk  investing  time-preference  age-generation  dependence-independence  economics 
february 2019 by nhaliday
Lateralization of brain function - Wikipedia
Language
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
Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold | Poetry Foundation
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Searching For Ithaca: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/searching-for-ithaca/
I have found in revisiting the work for the first time in probably five years that it is, like Laurus, a snapshot of a culture that was decidedly more in tune with the divine. It’s been amazing to read and hear about the daily involvement of the gods in the lives of humans. Whether accurate or not, it’s astonishing to hear men talk about bad luck as a consequence of irritating the gods, or as a recognition that some part of the man/god balance has been altered.

But this leads me to the sadder part of this experience: the fact that I want so badly to believe in the truths of Christianity, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Nor can I bring myself to believe (and I mean truly believe, at the level of the soul’s core) in the gods of Olympus, or in any other form of supernatural thought. The reason I can’t, despite years of effort and regular prayer and Mass attendance, is because I too am a prisoner of Enlightenment thought. I too am a modern, as much as I wish I could truly create a premodern sensibility. I wish I could believe that Adam and Eve existed, that Moses parted the sea, that Noah sailed an ark, that Jesus rode a donkey into town, that the skies darkened as his soul ascended, that the Lord will come again to judge the living and the dead.

...

The two guiding themes of The Odyssey are quo vadis (where are you going?) and amor fati (love/acceptance of fate). When I was still a college professor, I relentlessly drilled these themes into my students’ heads. Where are you going? What end are you aiming for? Accept the fate you are given and you will never be unsatisfied! Place yourself in harmony with events as they happen to you! Control what you can control and leave the rest to the divine! Good notions all, and I would give virtually anything to practice what I preach. I would give anything to be a Catholic who knew where he was going, who accepted God’s plans for him. It kills me that I cannot.

...

That question near the end of The Odyssey gets me every time: “And tell me this: I must be absolutely sure. This place I’ve reached, is it truly Ithaca?” I yearn for Ithaca; I yearn for home. I only wish I knew how to get there.
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august 2018 by nhaliday
Why read old philosophy? | Meteuphoric
(This story would suggest that in physics students are maybe missing out on learning the styles of thought that produce progress in physics. My guess is that instead they learn them in grad school when they are doing research themselves, by emulating their supervisors, and that the helpfulness of this might partially explain why Nobel prizewinner advisors beget Nobel prizewinner students.)

The story I hear about philosophy—and I actually don’t know how much it is true—is that as bits of philosophy come to have any methodological tools other than ‘think about it’, they break off and become their own sciences. So this would explain philosophy’s lone status in studying old thinkers rather than impersonal methods—philosophy is the lone ur-discipline without impersonal methods but thinking.

This suggests a research project: try summarizing what Aristotle is doing rather than Aristotle’s views. Then write a nice short textbook about it.
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june 2018 by nhaliday
Dividuals – The soul is not an indivisible unit and has no unified will
Towards A More Mature Atheism: https://dividuals.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/towards-a-more-mature-atheism/
Human intelligence evolved as a social intelligence, for the purposes of social cooperation, social competition and social domination. It evolved to make us efficient at cooperating at removing obstacles, especially the kinds of obstacles that tend to fight back, i.e. at warfare. If you ever studied strategy or tactics, or just played really good board games, you have probably found your brain seems to be strangely well suited for specifically this kind of intellectual activity. It’s not necessarily easier than studying physics, and yet it somehow feels more natural. Physics is like swimming, strategy and tactics is like running. The reason for that is that our brains are truly evolved to be strategic, tactical, diplomatic computers, not physics computers. The question our brains are REALLY good at finding the answer for is “Just what does this guy really want?”

...

Thus, a very basic failure mode of the human brain is to overdetect agency.

I think this is partially what SSC wrote about in Mysticism And Pattern-Matching too. But instead of mystical experiences, my focus is on our brains claiming to detect agency where there is none. Thus my view is closer to Richard Carrier’s definition of the supernatural: it is the idea that some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things.

...

Meaning actually means will and agency. It took me a while to figure that one out. When we look for the meaning of life, a meaning in life, or a meaningful life, we look for a will or agency generally outside our own.

...

I am a double oddball – kind of autistic, but still far more interested in human social dynamics, such as history, than in natural sciences or technology. As a result, I do feel a calling to religion – the human world, as opposed to outer space, the human city, the human history, is such a perfect fit for a view like that of Catholicism! The reason for that is that Catholicism is the pinnacle of human intellectual efforts dealing with human agency. Ideas like Augustine’s three failure modes of the human brain: greed, lust and desire for power and status, are just about the closest to forming correct psychological theories far earlier than the scientific method was discovered. Just read your Chesterbelloc and Lewis. And of course because the agency radars of Catholics run at full burst, they overdetect it and thus believe in a god behind the universe. My brain, due to my deep interest in human agency and its consequences, also would like to be religious: wouldn’t it be great if the universe was made by something we could talk to, like, everything else that I am interested in, from field generals to municipal governments are entities I could talk to?

...

I also dislike that atheists often refuse to propose a falsifiable theory because they claim the burden of proof is not on them. Strictly speaking it can be true, but it is still good form to provide one.

Since I am something like an “nontheistic Catholic” anyway (e.g. I believe in original sin from the practical, political angle, I just think it has natural, not supernatural causes: evolution, the move from hunting-gathering to agriculture etc.), all one would need to do to make me fully so is to plug a God concept in my mind.

If you can convince me that my brain is not actually overdetecting agency when I feel a calling to religion, if you can convince me that my brain and most human brains detect agency just about right, there will be no reason for me to not believe in God. Because if there would any sort of agency behind the universe, the smartest bet would be that this agency would be the God of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa. That guy was plain simply a genius.

How to convince me my brain is not overdetecting agency? The simplest way is to convince me that magic, witchcraft, or superstition in general is real, and real in the supernatural sense (I do know Wiccans who cast spells and claim they are natural, not supernatural: divination spells make the brain more aware of hidden details, healing spells recruit the healing processes of the body etc.) You see, Catholics generally do believe in magic and witchcraft, as in: “These really do something, and they do something bad, so never practice them.”

The Strange Places the “God of the Gaps” Takes You: https://dividuals.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/the-strange-places-the-god-of-the-gaps-takes-you/
I assume people are familiar with the God of the Gaps argument. Well, it is usually just an accusation, but Newton for instance really pulled one.

But natural science is inherently different from humanities, because in natural science you build a predictive model of which you are not part of. You are just a point-like neutral observer.

You cannot do that with other human minds because you just don’t have the computing power to simulate a roughly similarly intelligent mind and have enough left to actually work with your model. So you put yourself into the predictive model, you make yourself a part of the model itself. You use a certain empathic kind of understanding, a “what would I do in that guys shoes?” and generate your predictions that way.

...

Which means that while natural science is relatively new, and strongly correlates with technological progress, this empathic, self-programming model of the humanities you could do millenia ago as well, you don’t need math or tools for this, and you probably cannot expect anything like straight-line progress. Maybe some wisdoms people figure out this way are really timeless and we just keep on rediscovering them.

So imagine, say, Catholicism as a large set of humanities. Sociology, social psychology, moral philosophy in the pragmatic, scientific sense (“What morality makes a society not collapse and actually prosper?”), life wisdom and all that. Basically just figuring out how people tick, how societies tick and how to make them tick well.

...

What do? Well, the obvious move is to pull a Newton and inject a God of the Gaps into your humanities. We tick like that because God. We must do so and so to tick well because God.

...

What I am saying is that we are at some point probably going to prove pretty much all of the this-worldy, pragmatic (moral, sociological, psychological etc.) aspect of Catholicism correct by something like evolutionary psychology.

And I am saying that while it will dramatically increase our respect for religion, this will also be probably a huge blow to theism. I don’t want that to happen, but I think it will. Because eliminating God from the gaps of natural science does not hurt faith much. But eliminating God from the gaps of the humanities and yes, religion itself?

My Kind of Atheist: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/08/my-kind-of-athiest.html
I think I’ve mentioned somewhere in public that I’m now an atheist, even though I grew up in a very Christian family, and I even joined a “cult” at a young age (against disapproving parents). The proximate cause of my atheism was learning physics in college. But I don’t think I’ve ever clarified in public what kind of an “atheist” or “agnostic” I am. So here goes.

The universe is vast and most of it is very far away in space and time, making our knowledge of those distant parts very thin. So it isn’t at all crazy to think that very powerful beings exist somewhere far away out there, or far before us or after us in time. In fact, many of us hope that we now can give rise to such powerful beings in the distant future. If those powerful beings count as “gods”, then I’m certainly open to the idea that such gods exist somewhere in space-time.

It also isn’t crazy to imagine powerful beings that are “closer” in space and time, but far away in causal connection. They could be in parallel “planes”, in other dimensions, or in “dark” matter that doesn’t interact much with our matter. Or they might perhaps have little interest in influencing or interacting with our sort of things. Or they might just “like to watch.”

But to most religious people, a key emotional appeal of religion is the idea that gods often “answer” prayer by intervening in their world. Sometimes intervening in their head to make them feel different, but also sometimes responding to prayers about their test tomorrow, their friend’s marriage, or their aunt’s hemorrhoids. It is these sort of prayer-answering “gods” in which I just can’t believe. Not that I’m absolutely sure they don’t exist, but I’m sure enough that the term “atheist” fits much better than the term “agnostic.”

These sort of gods supposedly intervene in our world millions of times daily to respond positively to particular prayers, and yet they do not noticeably intervene in world affairs. Not only can we find no physical trace of any machinery or system by which such gods exert their influence, even though we understand the physics of our local world very well, but the history of life and civilization shows no obvious traces of their influence. They know of terrible things that go wrong in our world, but instead of doing much about those things, these gods instead prioritize not leaving any clear evidence of their existence or influence. And yet for some reason they don’t mind people believing in them enough to pray to them, as they often reward such prayers with favorable interventions.
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june 2018 by nhaliday
The first ethical revolution – Gene Expression
Fifty years ago Julian Jaynes published The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Seventy years ago Karl Jaspers introduced the concept of the Axial Age. Both point to the same dynamic historically.

Something happened in the centuries around 500 BCE all around the world. Great religions and philosophies arose. The Indian religious traditions, the Chinese philosophical-political ones, and the roots of what we can recognize as Judaism. In Greece, the precursors of many modern philosophical streams emerged formally, along with a variety of political systems.

The next few centuries saw some more innovation. Rabbinical Judaism transformed a ritualistic tribal religion into an ethical one, and Christianity universalized Jewish religious thought, as well as infusing it with Greek systematic concepts. Meanwhile, Indian and Chinese thought continued to evolve, often due to interactions each other (it is hard to imagine certain later developments in Confucianism without the Buddhist stimulus). Finally, in the 7th century, Islam emerges as the last great world religion.

...

Living in large complex societies with social stratification posed challenges. A religion such as Christianity was not a coincidence, something of its broad outlines may have been inevitable. Universal, portable, ethical, and infused with transcendence and coherency. Similarly, god-kings seem to have universally transformed themselves into the human who binds heaven to earth in some fashion.

The second wave of social-ethical transformation occurred in the early modern period, starting in Europe. My own opinion is that economic growth triggered by innovation and gains in productivity unleashed constraints which had dampened further transformations in the domain of ethics. But the new developments ultimately were simply extensions and modifications on the earlier “source code” (e.g., whereas for nearly two thousand years Christianity had had to make peace with the existence of slavery, in the 19th century anti-slavery activists began marshaling Christian language against the institution).
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Who We Are | West Hunter
I’m going to review David Reich’s new book, Who We Are and How We Got Here. Extensively: in a sense I’ve already been doing this for a long time. Probably there will be a podcast. The GoFundMe link is here. You can also send money via Paypal (Use the donate button), or bitcoins to 1Jv4cu1wETM5Xs9unjKbDbCrRF2mrjWXr5. In-kind donations, such as orichalcum or mithril, are always appreciated.

This is the book about the application of ancient DNA to prehistory and history.

height difference between northern and southern europeans: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/who-we-are-1/
mixing, genocide of males, etc.: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/29/who-we-are-2-purity-of-essence/
rapid change in polygenic traits (appearance by Kevin Mitchell and funny jab at Brad Delong ("regmonkey")): https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/rapid-change-in-polygenic-traits/
schiz, bipolar, and IQ: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/rapid-change-in-polygenic-traits/#comment-105605
Dan Graur being dumb: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/the-usual-suspects/
prediction of neanderthal mixture and why: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/03/who-we-are-3-neanderthals/
New Guineans tried to use Denisovan admixture to avoid UN sanctions (by "not being human"): https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/who-we-are-4-denisovans/
also some commentary on decline of Out-of-Africa, including:
"Homo Naledi, a small-brained homonin identified from recently discovered fossils in South Africa, appears to have hung around way later that you’d expect (up to 200,000 years ago, maybe later) than would be the case if modern humans had occupied that area back then. To be blunt, we would have eaten them."

Live Not By Lies: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/live-not-by-lies/
Next he slams people that suspect that upcoming genetic genetic analysis will, in most cases, confirm traditional stereotypes about race – the way the world actually looks.

The people Reich dumps on are saying perfectly reasonable things. He criticizes Henry Harpending for saying that he’d never seen an African with a hobby. Of course, Henry had actually spent time in Africa, and that’s what he’d seen. The implication is that people in Malthusian farming societies – which Africa was not – were selected to want to work, even where there was no immediate necessity to do so. Thus hobbies, something like a gerbil running in an exercise wheel.

He criticized Nicholas Wade, for saying that different races have different dispositions. Wade’s book wasn’t very good, but of course personality varies by race: Darwin certainly thought so. You can see differences at birth. Cover a baby’s nose with a cloth: Chinese and Navajo babies quietly breathe through their mouth, European and African babies fuss and fight.

Then he attacks Watson, for asking when Reich was going to look at Jewish genetics – the kind that has led to greater-than-average intelligence. Watson was undoubtedly trying to get a rise out of Reich, but it’s a perfectly reasonable question. Ashkenazi Jews are smarter than the average bear and everybody knows it. Selection is the only possible explanation, and the conditions in the Middle ages – white-collar job specialization and a high degree of endogamy, were just what the doctor ordered.

Watson’s a prick, but he’s a great prick, and what he said was correct. Henry was a prince among men, and Nick Wade is a decent guy as well. Reich is totally out of line here: he’s being a dick.

Now Reich may be trying to burnish his anti-racist credentials, which surely need some renewal after having pointing out that race as colloquially used is pretty reasonable, there’s no reason pops can’t be different, people that said otherwise ( like Lewontin, Gould, Montagu, etc. ) were lying, Aryans conquered Europe and India, while we’re tied to the train tracks with scary genetic results coming straight at us. I don’t care: he’s being a weasel, slandering the dead and abusing the obnoxious old genius who laid the foundations of his field. Reich will also get old someday: perhaps he too will someday lose track of all the nonsense he’s supposed to say, or just stop caring. Maybe he already has… I’m pretty sure that Reich does not like lying – which is why he wrote this section of the book (not at all logically necessary for his exposition of the ancient DNA work) but the required complex juggling of lies and truth required to get past the demented gatekeepers of our society may not be his forte. It has been said that if it was discovered that someone in the business was secretly an android, David Reich would be the prime suspect. No Talleyrand he.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/who-we-are-6-the-americas/
The population that accounts for the vast majority of Native American ancestry, which we will call Amerinds, came into existence somewhere in northern Asia. It was formed from a mix of Ancient North Eurasians and a population related to the Han Chinese – about 40% ANE and 60% proto-Chinese. Is looks as if most of the paternal ancestry was from the ANE, while almost all of the maternal ancestry was from the proto-Han. [Aryan-Transpacific ?!?] This formation story – ANE boys, East-end girls – is similar to the formation story for the Indo-Europeans.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/who-we-are-7-africa/
In some ways, on some questions, learning more from genetics has left us less certain. At this point we really don’t know where anatomically humans originated. Greater genetic variety in sub-Saharan African has been traditionally considered a sign that AMH originated there, but it possible that we originated elsewhere, perhaps in North Africa or the Middle East, and gained extra genetic variation when we moved into sub-Saharan Africa and mixed with various archaic groups that already existed. One consideration is that finding recent archaic admixture in a population may well be a sign that modern humans didn’t arise in that region ( like language substrates) – which makes South Africa and West Africa look less likely. The long-continued existence of homo naledi in South Africa suggests that modern humans may not have been there for all that long – if we had co-existed with homo naledi, they probably wouldn’t lasted long. The oldest known skull that is (probably) AMh was recently found in Morocco, while modern humans remains, already known from about 100,000 years ago in Israel, have recently been found in northern Saudi Arabia.

While work by Nick Patterson suggests that modern humans were formed by a fusion between two long-isolated populations, a bit less than half a million years ago.

So: genomics had made recent history Africa pretty clear. Bantu agriculuralists expanded and replaced hunter-gatherers, farmers and herders from the Middle East settled North Africa, Egypt and northeaat Africa, while Nilotic herdsmen expanded south from the Sudan. There are traces of earlier patterns and peoples, but today, only traces. As for questions back further in time, such as the origins of modern humans – we thought we knew, and now we know we don’t. But that’s progress.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/reichs-journey/
David Reich’s professional path must have shaped his perspective on the social sciences. Look at the record. He starts his professional career examining the role of genetics in the elevated prostate cancer risk seen in African-American men. Various social-science fruitcakes oppose him even looking at the question of ancestry ( African vs European). But they were wrong: certain African-origin alleles explain the increased risk. Anthropologists (and human geneticists) were sure (based on nothing) that modern humans hadn’t interbred with Neanderthals – but of course that happened. Anthropologists and archaeologists knew that Gustaf Kossina couldn’t have been right when he said that widespread material culture corresponded to widespread ethnic groups, and that migration was the primary explanation for changes in the archaeological record – but he was right. They knew that the Indo-European languages just couldn’t have been imposed by fire and sword – but Reich’s work proved them wrong. Lots of people – the usual suspects plus Hindu nationalists – were sure that the AIT ( Aryan Invasion Theory) was wrong, but it looks pretty good today.

Some sociologists believed that caste in India was somehow imposed or significantly intensified by the British – but it turns out that most jatis have been almost perfectly endogamous for two thousand years or more…

It may be that Reich doesn’t take these guys too seriously anymore. Why should he?

varnas, jatis, aryan invastion theory: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/04/22/who-we-are-8-india/

europe and EEF+WHG+ANE: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/05/01/who-we-are-9-europe/

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/03/book-review-david-reich-human-genes-reveal-history/
The massive mixture events that occurred in the recent past to give rise to Europeans and South Asians, to name just two groups, were likely “male mediated.” That’s another way of saying that men on the move took local women as brides or concubines. In the New World there are many examples of this, whether it be among African Americans, where most European ancestry seems to come through men, or in Latin America, where conquistadores famously took local women as paramours. Both of these examples are disquieting, and hint at the deep structural roots of patriarchal inequality and social subjugation that form the backdrop for the emergence of many modern peoples.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Charade | West Hunter
I was watching Charade the other day, not for the first time, and was noticing that the action scenes with Cary Grant (human fly, and fighting George Kennedy) really weren’t very convincing.  Age. But think what it would be like today: we’d see Audrey Hepburn kicking the living shit out of Kennedy, probably cutting his throat with his own claw – while still being utterly adorable.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/shtrafbats/
Was thinking about how there are far too many reviewers, and far too few movies worth reviewing. It might be fun to review the movies that should have been made, instead. Someone ought to make a movie about the life of Konstantin Rokossovsky – an officer arrested and tortured by Stalin (ended up with denailed fingers and steel teeth) who became one of the top Soviet generals. The story would be focused on his command of 16th Army in the final defense of Moscow – an army group composed entirely of penal battalions. The Legion of the Damned.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/shtrafbats/#comment-103767
There hasn’t been a good Gulag Archipelago movie, has there?

One historical movie that I’d really like to see would be about the defense of Malta by the Knights of St. John. That or the defense of Vienna. Either one would be very “timely”, which is a word many reviewers seem to misuse quite laughably these days.
--
My oldest son made the same suggestion – The Great Siege

Siege of Vienna – Drawing of the Dark?

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/shtrafbats/#comment-103846
The Conquest of New Spain.
--
Only Cortez was fully awake. Him and von Neumann.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Diving into Chinese philosophy – Gene Expression
Back when I was in college one of my roommates was taking a Chinese philosophy class for a general education requirement. A double major in mathematics and economics (he went on to get an economics Ph.D.) he found the lack of formal rigor in the field rather maddening. I thought this was fair, but I suggested to him that the this-worldy and often non-metaphysical orientation of much of Chinese philosophy made it less amenable to formal and logical analysis.

...

IMO the much more problematic thing about premodern Chinese political philosophy from the point of view of the West is its lack of interest in constitutionalism and the rule of law, stemming from a generally less rationalist approach than the Classical Westerns, than any sort of inherent anti-individualism or collectivism or whatever. For someone like Aristotle the constitutional rule of law was the highest moral good in itself and the definition of justice, very much not so for Confucius or for Zhu Xi. They still believed in Justice in the sense of people getting what they deserve, but they didn’t really consider the written rule of law an appropriate way to conceptualize it. OG Confucius leaned more towards the unwritten traditions and rituals passed down from the ancestors, and Neoconfucianism leaned more towards a sort of Universal Reason that could be accessed by the individual’s subjective understanding but which again need not be written down necessarily (although unlike Kant/the Enlightenment it basically implies that such subjective reasoning will naturally lead one to reaffirming the ancient traditions). In left-right political spectrum terms IMO this leads to a well-defined right and left and a big old hole in the center where classical republicanism would be in the West. This resonates pretty well with modern East Asian political history IMO

https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/article/is-logos-a-proper-noun
Is logos a proper noun?
Or, is Aristotelian Logic translatable into Chinese?
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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
Unaligned optimization processes as a general problem for society
TL;DR: There are lots of systems in society which seem to fit the pattern of “the incentives for this system are a pretty good approximation of what we actually want, so the system produces good results until it gets powerful, at which point it gets terrible results.”

...

Here are some more places where this idea could come into play:

- Marketing—humans try to buy things that will make our lives better, but our process for determining this is imperfect. A more powerful optimization process produces extremely good advertising to sell us things that aren’t actually going to make our lives better.
- Politics—we get extremely effective demagogues who pit us against our essential good values.
- Lobbying—as industries get bigger, the optimization process to choose great lobbyists for industries gets larger, but the process to make regulators robust doesn’t get correspondingly stronger. So regulatory capture gets worse and worse. Rent-seeking gets more and more significant.
- Online content—in a weaker internet, sites can’t be addictive except via being good content. In the modern internet, people can feel addicted to things that they wish they weren’t addicted to. We didn’t use to have the social expertise to make clickbait nearly as well as we do it today.
- News—Hyperpartisan news sources are much more worth it if distribution is cheaper and the market is bigger. News sources get an advantage from being truthful, but as society gets bigger, this advantage gets proportionally smaller.

...

For these reasons, I think it’s quite plausible that humans are fundamentally unable to have a “good” society with a population greater than some threshold, particularly if all these people have access to modern technology. Humans don’t have the rigidity to maintain social institutions in the face of that kind of optimization process. I think it is unlikely but possible (10%?) that this threshold population is smaller than the current population of the US, and that the US will crumble due to the decay of these institutions in the next fifty years if nothing totally crazy happens.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Reid Hofmann and Peter Thiel and technology and politics - Marginal REVOLUTION
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Docta Ignorantia – quas lacrimas peperere minoribus nostris!
One minor advantage of cultural homogeneity is that it gives you tools to figure out exactly how ignorant a society’s authors and intellectuals truly were. In an era when the pool of books written on any given topic was small, then if someone says something quirky we can eventually, given enough time and coffee, figure out exactly where he got his quirky ideas from.

...

However it may be, Schelling was a genius, and his contemporaries recognized his genius at an early age and rewarded it. For us this may be slightly difficult to parse, at first: how can you recognize the intellectual talent of a man — of a boy, really — who is in fact deeply ignorant of his own field, philosophy? How can you make him a professor and expect him to lecture on what he has only just started to study?

In our already-degenerate culture, talent has become synonymous with grinding. Having no common standards for the good, the beautiful, and the true, we have no easy way to judge whether someone who disagrees with us is far-sighted or short-sighted. (Imagine looking at Monet’s haystacks for the very first time.) With no consensus on the questions that matter, to seek standards for expertise we have no choice but to turn to the things that don’t matter: the raw mass of (relatively) uncontroversial background material that anyone hoping to become an expert on a certain subject would find useful.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? - Marginal REVOLUTION
Creativity is often highly concentrated in time and space, and across different domains. What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? In this paper we match data on thousands of notable individuals born in Europe between the XIth and the XIXth century with historical data on city institutions and population. After documenting several stylized facts, we show that the formation of creative clusters is not preceded by increases in city size. Instead, the emergence of city institutions protecting economic and political freedoms facilitates the attraction and production of creative talent.

IOW, the opposite of what Dick Florida said.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Books 2017 | West Hunter
Arabian Sands
The Aryans
The Big Show
The Camel and the Wheel
Civil War on Western Waters
Company Commander
Double-edged Secrets
The Forgotten Soldier
Genes in Conflict
Hive Mind
The horse, the wheel, and language
The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History
Habitable Planets for Man
The genetical theory of natural selection
The Rise of the Greeks
To Lose a Battle
The Jewish War
Tropical Gangsters
The Forgotten Revolution
Egil’s Saga
Shapers
Time Patrol

Russo: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/books-2017/#comment-98568
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december 2017 by nhaliday
What era are our intuitions about elites and business adapted to? – Gene Expression
Above natural states are open-access orders, which characterize societies that have market economies and competitive politics. Here access to the elite is open to anyone who can prove themselves worthy — it is not artificially restricted in order to preserve large rents for the incumbents. The pie can be made bigger with more people at the top, since you only get to the top in such societies by making and selling things that people want. Elite members compete against each other based on the quality and price of the goods and services they sell — it’s a mercantile elite — rather than based on who is better at violence than the others. If the elites are flabby, upstarts can readily form their own organizations — as opposed to not having the freedom to do so — that, if better, will dethrone the incumbents. Since violence is no longer part of elite competition, homicide rates are the lowest of all types of societies.

OK, now let’s take a look at just two innate views that most people have about how the business world works or what economic elites are like, and see how these are adaptations to natural states rather than to the very new open-access orders (which have only existed in Western Europe since about 1850 or so). One is the conviction, common even among many businessmen, that market share matters more than making profits — that being more popular trumps being more profitable. The other is most people’s mistrust of companies that dominate their entire industry, like Microsoft in computers.
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december 2017 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
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

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

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

...

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

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

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/biopolitics/#comment-96613
“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/biopolitics/#comment-96797
And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turned out that no one had ever asked. The Colonial Office had no idea.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Americans Used to be Proud of their Universities | The American Conservative
Some Notes on the Finances of Top Chinese Universities: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/world-view/some-notes-finances-top-chinese-universities
A glimpse into the finances of top Chinese universities suggests they share more than we might have imagined with American flagship public universities, but also that claims of imminent “catch up” might be overblown
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Definite optimism as human capital | Dan Wang
I’ve come to the view that creativity and innovative capacity aren’t a fixed stock, coiled and waiting to be released by policy. Now, I know that a country will not do well if it has poor infrastructure, interest rate management, tax and regulation levels, and a whole host of other issues. But getting them right isn’t sufficient to promote innovation; past a certain margin, when they’re all at rational levels, we ought to focus on promoting creativity and drive as a means to propel growth.

...

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

...

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

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

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

...

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

...

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

...

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volatile societies, on the other hand, possess and value mimesis resistant institutions that frustrate attempts at mimicry, and mass produce frustrated, resentful people. These institutions, such as capitalism and beauty hierarchies, are Mimesis Shredders. They stratify humanity, and block the ‘nots’ from imitating the ‘haves’.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
WLGR: The Julian marriage laws (nos. 120-123, etc.)
In 18 B.C., the Emperor Augustus turned his attention to social problems at Rome. Extravagance and adultery were widespread. Among the upper classes, marriage was increasingly infrequent and, many couples who did marry failed to produce offspring. Augustus, who hoped thereby to elevate both the morals and the numbers of the upper classes in Rome, and to increase the population of native Italians in Italy, enacted laws to encourage marriage and having children (lex Julia de maritandis ordinibus), including provisions establishing adultery as a crime.

Jus trium liberorum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_trium_liberorum
The ius trium liberorum, meaning “the right of three children” in Latin,[1] was a privilege rewarded to Roman citizens who had borne at least three children or freedmen who had borne at least four children.[2] It was a direct result of the Lex Iulia and the Lex Papia Poppaea, bodies of legislation introduced by Augustus in 18 BC and 9 AD, respectively.[3] These bodies of legislation were conceived to grow the dwindling population of the Roman upper classes. The intent of the jus trium liberorum has caused scholars to interpret it as eugenic legislation.[4] Men who had received the jus trium liberorum were excused from munera. Women with jus trium liberorum were no longer submitted to tutela mulierum and could receive inheritances otherwise bequest to their children.[5] The public reaction to the jus trium liberorum was largely to find loopholes, however. The prospect of having a large family was still not appealing.[6] A person who caught a citizen in violation in this law was entitled to a portion of the inheritance involved, creating a lucrative business for professional spies.[7] The spies became so pervasive that the reward was reduced to a quarter of its previous size.[8] As time went on the ius trium liberorum was granted to those by consuls as rewards for general good deeds, holding important professions or as personal favors, not just prolific propagation.[9] Eventually the ius trium liberorum was repealed in 534 AD by Justinian.[10]

The Purpose of the Lex Iulia et Papia Poppaea: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/3292043

Roman Monogamy: http://laurabetzig.org/pdf/RomanMonogamy.pdf
- Laura Betzig

Mating in Rome was polygynous; marriage was monogamous. In the years 18BC and AD 9 the first Roman emperor, Augustus, backed the lex Julia and the lex Papia Poppaea, his “moral” legislation. It rewarded members of the senatorial aristocracy who married and had children; and it punished celibacy and childlessness, which were common. To many historians, that suggests Romans were reluctant to reproduce. To me, it suggests they kept the number of their legitimate children small to keep the number of their illegitimate children large. Marriage in Rome shares these features with marriage in other empires with highly polygynous mating: inheritances were raised by inbreeding; relatedness to heirs was raised by marrying virgins, praising and enforcing chastity in married women, and discouraging widow remarriage; heirs were limited— and inheritances concentrated—by monogamous marriage, patriliny, and primogeniture; and back-up heirs were got by divorce and remarriage, concubinage, and adoption. The “moral” legislation interfered with each of these. Among other things, it diverted inheritances by making widows remarry; it lowered relatedness to heirs by making adultery subject to public, rather than private, sanctions; and it dispersed estates by making younger sons and daughters take legitimate spouses and make legitimate heirs. Augustus' “moral” legislation, like canon law in Europe later on, was not, as it first appears, an act of reproductive altruism. It was, in fact, a form of reproductive competition.

Did moral decay destroy the ancient world?: http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2014/01/17/did-moral-decay-destroy-the-ancient-world/

hmmm...:
https://www.thenation.com/article/im-a-marxist-feminist-slut-how-do-i-find-an-open-relationship/
https://www.indy100.com/article/worst-decision-you-can-ever-make-have-a-child-science-research-parent-sleep-sex-money-video-7960906

https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/913087174224044033
https://archive.is/LRpzH
Cato the Elder speaks on proposed repeal of the Oppian Law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lex_Oppia) - from Livy's History of Rome, Book 34

"What pretext in the least degree respectable is put forward for this female insurrection? 'That we may shine,' they say."

The Crisis of the Third Century as Seen by Contemporaries: https://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/viewFile/9021/4625
"COMPLAINTS OF EVIL TIMES are to be found in all centuries which
have left a literature behind them. But in the Roman Empire
the decline is acknowledged in a manner which leaves no
room for doubt."

Morals, Politics, and the Fall of the Roman Republic: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/642930

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_historiography#Livy
The purpose of writing Ab Urbe Condita was twofold: the first was to memorialize history and the second was to challenge his generation to rise to that same level. He was preoccupied with morality, using history as a moral essay. He connects a nation’s success with its high level of morality, and conversely a nation’s failure with its moral decline. Livy believed that there had been a moral decline in Rome, and he lacked the confidence that Augustus could reverse it. Though he shared Augustus’ ideals, he was not a “spokesman for the regime”. He believed that Augustus was necessary, but only as a short term measure.

Livy and Roman Historiography: http://www.wheelockslatin.com/answerkeys/handouts/ch7_Livy_and_Roman_Historiography.pdf

Imperial Expansion and Moral Decline in the Roman Republic: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/4435293
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september 2017 by nhaliday
A simple minded approach – spottedtoad
The Affordable Care Act was a famously complicated bill, but at a very simple level, its intent and effect were to drive more economic activity into the health care sector. Young people and the near poor, in particular, would get more treatment, because the bill would use carrots (the subsidies and Medicaid expansion) and sticks (the mandate) to get them insurance. In fiscal terms, the bill raised taxes on the rich to pay for the subsidies and Medicaid expansion.

So at a basic level, the question for everyone about the bill was (and is), was American economic activity in 2010 insufficiently focused on health care? Not whether any individual deserved more care, but whether in aggregate we were spending enough.

If you read what Peter Orszag or other wonks in the Administration were saying at the time, the intent of the bill was to bend the cost curve and reduce total expenditure by limiting what Medicare reimbursed, using various pilot programs to find out what kinds of treatments were ineffective, get some death panels up and running, and so on.

But that’s bullshit. You made more money available, so more money was going to get spent.

The death panels were real, of course, but they were mostly for young people instead of the old, as it turned out.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Of Mice and Men | West Hunter
It’s not always easy figuring out how a pathogen causes disease. There is an example in mice for which the solution was very difficult, so difficult that we would probably have failed to discover the cause of a similarly obscure infectious disease in humans.

Mycoplasma pulmonis causes a chronic obstructive lung disease in mice, but it wasn’t easy to show this. The disease was first described in 1915, and by 1940, people began to suspect Mycoplasma pulmonis might be the cause. But then again, maybe not. It was often found in mice that seemed healthy. Pure cultures of this organism did not consistently produce lung disease – which means that it didn’t satisfy Koch’s postulates, in particular postulate 1 (The microorganism must be found in abundance in all organisms suffering from the disease, but should not be found in healthy organisms.) and postulate 3 (The cultured microorganism should cause disease when introduced into a healthy organism.).

Well, those postulates are not logic itself, but rather a useful heuristic. Koch knew that, even if lots of other people don’t.

This respiratory disease of mice is long-lasting, but slow to begin. It can take half a lifetime – a mouse lifetime, that is – and that made finding the cause harder. It required patience, which means I certainly couldn’t have done it.

Here’s how they solved it. You can raise germ-free mice. In the early 1970s, researchers injected various candidate pathogens into different groups of germ-free mice and waited to see which, if any, developed this chronic lung disease. It was Mycoplasma pulmonis , all right, but it had taken 60 years to find out.

It turned out that susceptibility differed between different mouse strains – genetic susceptibility was important. Co-infection with other pathogens affected the course of the disease. Microenvironmental details mattered – mainly ammonia in cages where the bedding wasn’t changed often enough. But it didn’t happen without that mycoplasma, which was a key causal link, something every engineer understands but many MDs don’t.

If there was a similarly obscure infectious disease of humans, say one that involved a fairly common bug found in both the just and the unjust, one that took decades for symptoms to manifest – would we have solved it? Probably not.

Cooties are everywhere.

gay germ search: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/of-mice-and-men/#comment-15905
It’s hard to say, depends on how complicated the path of causation is. Assuming that I’m even right, of course. Some good autopsy studies might be fruitful – you’d look for microanatomical brain differences, as with nartcolepsy. Differences in gene expression, maybe. You could look for a pathogen – using the digital version of RDA (representational difference analysis), say on discordant twins. Do some old-fashioned epidemiology. Look for marker antibodies, signs of some sort of immunological event.

Do all of the above on gay rams – lots easier to get started, much less whining from those being vivisected.

Patrick Moore found the virus causing Kaposi’s sarcoma without any funding at all. I’m sure Peter Thiel could afford a serious try.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
My Old Boss | West Hunter
Back in those days, there was interest in finding better ways to communicate with a submerged submarine.  One method under consideration used an orbiting laser to send pulses of light over the ocean, using a special wavelength, for which there was a very good detector.  Since even the people running the laser might not know the boomer’s exact location, while weather and such might also interfere,  my old boss was trying to figure out methods of reliably transmitting messages when some pulses were randomly lost – which is of course a well-developed subject,  error-correcting codes. But he didn’t know that.  Hadn’t even heard of it.

Around this time, my old boss was flying from LA to Washington, and started talking with his seatmate about this  submarine communication problem.  His seatmate – Irving S. Reed – politely said that he had done a little work on some similar problems.  During this conversation, my informant, a fellow minion sitting behind my old boss, was doggedly choking back hysterical laughter, not wanting to interrupt this very special conversation.
west-hunter  scitariat  stories  reflection  working-stiff  engineering  dirty-hands  electromag  communication  coding-theory  giants  bits  management  signal-noise 
september 2017 by nhaliday
The Usual Suspect | West Hunter
Once upon a time, I was working at Hughes Aircraft, analyzing missile guidance sensors and trying to design laser weapons.  My fellow engineers thought I had other strengths –  I was a halfway decent pinochle player.  Some thought my abilities ranged further.

For example, my boss – an English optical designer we will call Roger W, quite a sharp guy – once called me into his office to accuse of me of practicing black magic.  Someone had been placing tiny five-pointed stars over his desk and chair for some weeks.  Naturally, he suspected some kind of sorcery, and even more naturally, he suspected me.
west-hunter  scitariat  reflection  stories  working-stiff  engineering  dirty-hands  management 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Charity Cost-Effectiveness in an Uncertain World – Foundational Research Institute
Evaluating the effectiveness of our actions, or even just whether they're positive or negative by our values, is very difficult. One approach is to focus on clear, quantifiable metrics and assume that the larger, indirect considerations just kind of work out. Another way to deal with uncertainty is to focus on actions that seem likely to have generally positive effects across many scenarios, and often this approach amounts to meta-level activities like encouraging positive-sum institutions, philosophical inquiry, and effective altruism in general. When we consider flow-through effects of our actions, the seemingly vast gaps in cost-effectiveness among charities are humbled to more modest differences, and we begin to find more worth in the diversity of activities that different people are pursuing.
ratty  effective-altruism  subculture  article  decision-making  miri-cfar  charity  uncertainty  moments  reflection  regularizer  wire-guided  robust  outcome-risk  flexibility  🤖  spock  info-dynamics  efficiency  arbitrage 
august 2017 by nhaliday
Montesquieu, Causes of the Greatness of the Romans
What makes free states last a shorter time than others is that both the misfortunes and the successes they encounter almost always cause them to lose their freedom. In a state where the people are held in subjection, however, successes and misfortunes alike confirm their servitude. A wise republic should hazard nothing that exposes it to either good or bad fortune. The only good to which it should aspire is the perpetuation of its condition.

If the greatness of the empire ruined the republic, the greatness of the city ruined it no less.

Rome had subjugated the whole world with the help of the peoples of Italy, to whom it had at different times given various privileges.2;a At first most of these peoples did not care very much about the right of Roman citizenship, and some preferred to keep their customs.3 But when this right meant universal sovereignty, and a man was nothing in the world if he was not a Roman citizen and everything if he was, the peoples of Italy resolved to perish or become Romans. Unable to succeed by their intrigues and entreaties, they took the path of arms. They revolted all along the coast of the Ionian sea; the other allies started to follow them.4 Forced to fight against those who were, so to speak, the hands with which it enslaved the world, Rome was lost. It was going to be reduced to its walls; it therefore accorded the coveted right of citizenship to the allies who had not yet ceased being loyal,5 and gradually to all.

After this, Rome was no longer a city whose people had but a single spirit, a single love of liberty, a single hatred

a In extent and importance, Latin rights were between Roman and Italian rights.

of tyranny — a city where the jealousy of the senate's power and the prerogatives of the great, always mixed with respect, was only a love of equality. Once the peoples of Italy became its citizens, each city brought to Rome its genius, its particular interests, and its dependence on some great protector.6 The distracted city no longer formed a complete whole. And since citizens were such only by a kind of fiction, since they no longer had the same magistrates, the same walls, the same gods, the same temples, and the same graves, they no longer saw Rome with the same eyes, no longer had the same love of country, and Roman sentiments were no more.

The ambitious brought entire cities and nations to Rome to disturb the voting or get themselves elected. The assemblies were veritable conspiracies; a band of seditious men was called a comitia.b The people's authority, their laws and even the people themselves became chimerical things, and the anarchy was such that it was no longer possible to know whether the people had or had not adopted an ordinance.7

We hear in the authors only of the dissensions that ruined Rome, without seeing that these dissensions were necessary to it, that they had always been there and always had to be. It was the greatness of the republic that caused all the trouble and changed popular tumults into civil wars. There had to be dissensions in Rome, for warriors who were so proud, so audacious, so terrible abroad could not be very moderate at home. To ask for men in a free state who are bold in war and timid in peace is to wish the impossible. And, as a general rule, whenever we see everyone tranquil in a state that calls itself a republic, we can be sure that liberty does not exist there.

What is called union in a body politic is a very equivocal thing. The true kind is a union of harmony, whereby all the

b These were the assemblies into which the Roman people were organized for electoral purposes.

parts, however opposed they may appear, cooperate for the general good of society — as dissonances in music cooperate in producing overall concord. In a state where we seem to see nothing but commotion there can be union — that is, a harmony resulting in happiness, which alone is true peace. It is as with the parts of the universe, eternally linked together by the action of some and the reaction of others.

But, in the concord of Asiatic despotism — that is, of all government which is not moderate — there is always real dissension. The worker, the soldier, the lawyer, the magistrate, the noble are joined only inasmuch as some oppress the others without resistance. And, if we see any union there, it is not citizens who are united but dead bodies buried one next to the other.

It is true that the laws of Rome became powerless to govern the republic. But it is a matter of common observation that good laws, which have made a small republic grow large, become a burden to it when it is enlarged. For they were such that their natural effect was to create a great people, not to govern it.

There is a considerable difference between good laws and expedient laws — between those that enable a people to make itself master of others, and those that maintain its power once it is acquired.

There exists in the world at this moment a republic that hardly anyone knows about,8 and that — in secrecy and silence — increases its strength every day. Certainly, if it ever attains the greatness for which its wisdom destines it, it will necessarily change its laws. And this will not be the work of a legislator but of corruption itself.

Rome was made for expansion, and its laws were admirable for this purpose. Thus, whatever its government had been — whether the power of kings, aristocracy, or a popular state — it never ceased undertaking enterprises that made demands on its conduct, and succeeded in them. It did not prove wiser than all the other states on earth for a day, but continually. It. sustained meager, moderate and great prosperity with the same superiority, and had neither successes from which it did not profit, nor misfortunes of which it made no use.

It lost its liberty because it completed the work it wrought too soon.
org:junk  essay  books  literature  big-peeps  statesmen  aristos  history  early-modern  europe  gallic  iron-age  media  the-classics  politics  polisci  ideology  philosophy  conquest-empire  rot  zeitgeist  reflection  big-picture  roots  analysis  gibbon  migration  diversity  putnam-like  homo-hetero  civil-liberty  expansionism  cultural-dynamics  anthropology  anarcho-tyranny  elections  spearhead  counter-revolution  government  democracy  antidemos  quotes  sulla  canon  nascent-state  moments  outcome-risk  prudence  order-disorder  mediterranean  social-choice  rent-seeking  institutions  flux-stasis  stylized-facts  wisdom  egalitarianism-hierarchy  alien-character  law  leviathan  china  asia  sinosphere  orient  the-great-west-whale  occident  explanans  coordination  cooperate-defect  authoritarianism  duty 
august 2017 by nhaliday
The Scholar's Stage: There Is No "Right Side" of History
Open celebrations of slavery like the sort Hammond offered would not become common until the 1840s. By the eve of the Civil War they were the only "politically correct" things a politician from the Deep South could say about slavery. I refer those interested in the story of how slavery's most radical defenders were able to manipulate and mold southern society and culture until political elites across the region championed slavery as a positive good worth dying for to Freehling's book. The point I would like to make here is a bit more basic. The American south of 1860 was more racist, more despotic, and less tolerant of traditional Americans liberties like freedom of speech than was the American south 1790. If you had pulled Jefferson's grandchildren to the side in 1855 and asked them what the "right side" of history was, they would probably reply that it was the abolitionists, not the slavers, who were on the wrong side of it.

There is an obvious lesson here for all politicians and activists inclined to talk about "the right side of history" today. History has no direction discernible to mankind. Surveying current cultural trends is a foolish way to predict the future and the judgments of posterity are far too fickle to guide our actions in the present.
unaffiliated  broad-econ  wonkish  history  early-modern  pre-ww2  revolution  war  usa  ideology  politics  morality  culture-war  info-dynamics  zeitgeist  regularizer  aphorism  rhetoric  stories  parable  meta:prediction  track-record  reflection  metabuch  reason 
august 2017 by nhaliday
THE SYDNEY PHILOSOPHY DISTURBANCES
Where many philosophy departments either capitulated or accommodated to the coming wave of leftist politicisation, Sydney's had two leading members, David Armstrong and David Stove, who were associated with Quadrant and the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, and were not prepared to compromise with the Left. The battle lines of the era, normally dividing parties who had never met each other, were drawn across a department of a dozen people sharing a common room. It is for these reasons that the inside story of that department and its split is of special interest. Those baffled by the developments in universities in the last thirty years have been offered many in-principle analyses, but only a detailed look at events in a single department at the centre of intellectual life will reveal what really happened.
org:junk  org:edu  essay  history  mostly-modern  stories  reflection  postmortem  higher-ed  academia  westminster  philosophy  ideology  politics  culture-war  social-science  rot  lived-experience  drugs  left-wing  info-dynamics  anglo  polanyi-marx 
july 2017 by nhaliday
Vioxx | West Hunter
The Vigor study was submitted in February 2001. The New England Journal of Medicine, a few months later, found that the authors had failed to mention some strokes and heart attacks near the end of the trial. The authors used a cutoff for cardiovascular effects (bad news) that was earlier than the cutoff for gastrointestinal effects (good news). why? Because they were weasels, of course. There was a lot of money riding on this drug’s success.

Other people began to notice the increased heart risks – looking at data from HMOs and such. Merck fought back. There was an MD at Stanford that was concerned about Vioxx: Merck called up the dean of Stanford Medical School at home and warned him about possible loss of financial support: he told them to go fuck themselves.

...

Now it is true that there were studies that showed greater efficacy: 21 such were reported by Scott S. Reuben, former chief of acute pain at Baystate medical Center in Springfield Mass. But as it turns out, he made them all up. There’s is no evidence that Merck knew about this, but it does perhaps say something about the general climate in big pharma.

Merck knew the gist of this for four years before they pulled the plug on the drug. They had their their drug reps lie about cardio risks, threatened researchers and sued journals that talked about the emerging cardio risks. Few physicians were aware of these risks, even though a close reading of the journals would have suggested it – because hardly any physicians read the journals.

Epidemiologists think that Vioxx caused something like 40,000 deaths.

...

In the 70s corporations were the bad guys, whether they were or not. Today, billionaires are your friend.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  reflection  stories  history  mostly-modern  drugs  medicine  meta:medicine  rent-seeking  cardio  public-health  epidemiology  vampire-squid  corporation  madisonian  domestication  pharma  track-record  randy-ayndy  aphorism  interests 
july 2017 by nhaliday
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