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You’re Probably Asking the Wrong People For Career Advice | Hunter Walk
Here’s what I believe: when considering a specific career path decision or evaluating an offer with a particular company, I’ve found people tend to concentrate mostly on the opinions and inputs of two groups: their friends in similar jobs and the most “successful” people they know within the industry. Seems like a reasonable strategy, right? Depends.

...

Ok, so who do advice seekers usually *undervalue*? (A) People who know you very deeply regardless of expertise in your specific professional work and (B) individuals who have direct experience with the company, role and people you’re considering.
techtariat  career  advice  communication  strategy  working-stiff  tech  judgement  decision-making  theory-of-mind  expert-experience  track-record  arbitrage  cost-benefit  contrarianism  rhetoric 
december 2019 by nhaliday
How is definiteness expressed in languages with no definite article, clitic or affix? - Linguistics Stack Exchange
All languages, as far as we know, do something to mark information status. Basically this means that when you refer to an X, you have to do something to indicate the answer to questions like:
1. Do you have a specific X in mind?
2. If so, you think your hearer is familiar with the X you're talking about?
3. If so, have you already been discussing that X for a while, or is it new to the conversation?
4. If you've been discussing the X for a while, has it been the main topic of conversation?

Question #2 is more or less what we mean by "definiteness."
...

But there are lots of other information-status-marking strategies that don't directly involve definiteness marking. For example:
...
q-n-a  stackex  language  foreign-lang  linguistics  lexical  syntax  concept  conceptual-vocab  thinking  things  span-cover  direction  degrees-of-freedom  communication  anglo  japan  china  asia  russia  mediterranean  grokkability-clarity  intricacy  uniqueness  number  universalism-particularism  whole-partial-many  usa  latin-america  farmers-and-foragers  nordic  novelty  trivia  duplication  dependence-independence  spanish  context  orders  water  comparison 
october 2019 by nhaliday
Correlation Neglect in Belief Formation
Many information structures generate correlated rather than mutually independent signals, the news media being a prime example. This article provides experimental evidence that many people neglect the resulting double-counting problem in the updating process. In consequence, beliefs are too sensitive to the ubiquitous “telling and re-telling of stories” and exhibit excessive swings. We identify substantial and systematic heterogeneity in the presence of the bias and investigate the underlying mechanisms. The evidence points to the paramount importance of complexity in combination with people’s problems in identifying and thinking through the correlation. Even though most participants in principle have the computational skills that are necessary to develop rational beliefs, many approach the problem in a wrong way when the environment is moderately complex. Thus, experimentally nudging people’s focus towards the correlation and the underlying independent signals has large effects on beliefs.
study  psychology  cog-psych  social-psych  polisci  epistemic  rationality  biases  dependence-independence  degrees-of-freedom  iidness  media  propaganda  info-dynamics  info-foraging  truth  managerial-state  communication  correlation  🎩 
october 2019 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.

Everything's broken and nobody's upset: https://www.hanselman.com/blog/EverythingsBrokenAndNobodysUpset.aspx
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4531549

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 [ed.: missing the word "valued" here, I think?]more than general, deep knowledge
- does at least acknowledge value of DRY, reusing code, abstraction saving dev time
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may 2019 by nhaliday
its-not-software - steveyegge2
You don't work in the software industry.

...

So what's the software industry, and how do we differ from it?

Well, the software industry is what you learn about in school, and it's what you probably did at your previous company. The software industry produces software that runs on customers' machines — that is, software intended to run on a machine over which you have no control.

So it includes pretty much everything that Microsoft does: Windows and every application you download for it, including your browser.

It also includes everything that runs in the browser, including Flash applications, Java applets, and plug-ins like Adobe's Acrobat Reader. Their deployment model is a little different from the "classic" deployment models, but it's still software that you package up and release to some unknown client box.

...

Servware

Our industry is so different from the software industry, and it's so important to draw a clear distinction, that it needs a new name. I'll call it Servware for now, lacking anything better. Hardware, firmware, software, servware. It fits well enough.

Servware is stuff that lives on your own servers. I call it "stuff" advisedly, since it's more than just software; it includes configuration, monitoring systems, data, documentation, and everything else you've got there, all acting in concert to produce some observable user experience on the other side of a network connection.
techtariat  sv  tech  rhetoric  essay  software  saas  devops  engineering  programming  contrarianism  list  top-n  best-practices  applicability-prereqs  desktop  flux-stasis  homo-hetero  trends  games  thinking  checklists  dbs  models  communication  tutorial  wiki  integration-extension  frameworks  api  whole-partial-many  metrics  retrofit  c(pp)  pls  code-dive  planning  working-stiff  composition-decomposition  libraries  conceptual-vocab  amazon  system-design  cracker-prog  tech-infrastructure  blowhards  client-server  project-management 
may 2019 by nhaliday
Why books don’t work | Andy Matuschak
https://www.spreaker.com/user/10197011/designing-and-developing-new-tools-for-t
https://twitter.com/andy_matuschak/status/1190675776036687878
https://archive.is/hNIFG
https://archive.is/f9Bwh
hmm: "zettelkasten like note systems have you do a linear search for connections, that gets exponentially more expensive as your note body grows",
https://twitter.com/Meaningness/status/1210309788141117440
https://archive.is/P6PH2
https://archive.is/uD9ls
https://archive.is/Sb9Jq

https://twitter.com/Scholars_Stage/status/1199702832728948737
https://archive.is/cc4zf
I reviewed today my catalogue of 420~ books I have read over the last six years and I am in despair. There are probably 100~ whose contents I can tell you almost nothing about—nothing noteworthy anyway.
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may 2019 by nhaliday
A cross-language perspective on speech information rate
Figure 2.

English (IREN = 1.08) shows a higher Information Rate than Vietnamese (IRVI = 1). On the contrary, Japanese exhibits the lowest IRL value of the sample. Moreover, one can observe that several languages may reach very close IRL with different encoding strategies: Spanish is characterized by a fast rate of low-density syllables while Mandarin exhibits a 34% slower syllabic rate with syllables ‘denser’ by a factor of 49%. Finally, their Information Rates differ only by 4%.

Is spoken English more efficient than other languages?: https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/2550/is-spoken-english-more-efficient-than-other-languages
As a translator, I can assure you that English is no more efficient than other languages.
--
[some comments on a different answer:]
Russian, when spoken, is somewhat less efficient than English, and that is for sure. No one who has ever worked as an interpreter can deny it. You can convey somewhat more information in English than in Russian within an hour. The English language is not constrained by the rigid case and gender systems of the Russian language, which somewhat reduce the information density of the Russian language. The rules of the Russian language force the speaker to incorporate sometimes unnecessary details in his speech, which can be problematic for interpreters – user74809 Nov 12 '18 at 12:48
But in writing, though, I do think that Russian is somewhat superior. However, when it comes to common daily speech, I do not think that anyone can claim that English is less efficient than Russian. As a matter of fact, I also find Russian to be somewhat more mentally taxing than English when interpreting. I mean, anyone who has lived in the world of Russian and then moved to the world of English is certain to notice that English is somewhat more efficient in everyday life. It is not a night-and-day difference, but it is certainly noticeable. – user74809 Nov 12 '18 at 13:01
...
By the way, I am not knocking Russian. I love Russian, it is my mother tongue and the only language, in which I sound like a native speaker. I mean, I still have a pretty thick Russian accent. I am not losing it anytime soon, if ever. But like I said, living in both worlds, the Moscow world and the Washington D.C. world, I do notice that English is objectively more efficient, even if I am myself not as efficient in it as most other people. – user74809 Nov 12 '18 at 13:40

Do most languages need more space than English?: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/2998/do-most-languages-need-more-space-than-english
Speaking as a translator, I can share a few rules of thumb that are popular in our profession:
- Hebrew texts are usually shorter than their English equivalents by approximately 1/3. To a large extent, that can be attributed to cheating, what with no vowels and all.
- Spanish, Portuguese and French (I guess we can just settle on Romance) texts are longer than their English counterparts by about 1/5 to 1/4.
- Scandinavian languages are pretty much on par with English. Swedish is a tiny bit more compact.
- Whether or not Russian (and by extension, Ukrainian and Belorussian) is more compact than English is subject to heated debate, and if you ask five people, you'll be presented with six different opinions. However, everybody seems to agree that the difference is just a couple percent, be it this way or the other.

--

A point of reference from the website I maintain. The files where we store the translations have the following sizes:

English: 200k
Portuguese: 208k
Spanish: 209k
German: 219k
And the translations are out of date. That is, there are strings in the English file that aren't yet in the other files.

For Chinese, the situation is a bit different because the character encoding comes into play. Chinese text will have shorter strings, because most words are one or two characters, but each character takes 3–4 bytes (for UTF-8 encoding), so each word is 3–12 bytes long on average. So visually the text takes less space but in terms of the information exchanged it uses more space. This Language Log post suggests that if you account for the encoding and remove redundancy in the data using compression you find that English is slightly more efficient than Chinese.

Is English more efficient than Chinese after all?: https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=93
[Executive summary: Who knows?]

This follows up on a series of earlier posts about the comparative efficiency — in terms of text size — of different languages ("One world, how many bytes?", 8/5/2005; "Comparing communication efficiency across languages", 4/4/2008; "Mailbag: comparative communication efficiency", 4/5/2008). Hinrich Schütze wrote:
pdf  study  language  foreign-lang  linguistics  pro-rata  bits  communication  efficiency  density  anglo  japan  asia  china  mediterranean  data  multi  comparison  writing  meta:reading  measure  compression  empirical  evidence-based  experiment  analysis  chart  trivia  cocktail  org:edu 
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
Is the human brain analog or digital? - Quora
The brain is neither analog nor digital, but works using a signal processing paradigm that has some properties in common with both.
 
Unlike a digital computer, the brain does not use binary logic or binary addressable memory, and it does not perform binary arithmetic. Information in the brain is represented in terms of statistical approximations and estimations rather than exact values. The brain is also non-deterministic and cannot replay instruction sequences with error-free precision. So in all these ways, the brain is definitely not "digital".
 
At the same time, the signals sent around the brain are "either-or" states that are similar to binary. A neuron fires or it does not. These all-or-nothing pulses are the basic language of the brain. So in this sense, the brain is computing using something like binary signals. Instead of 1s and 0s, or "on" and "off", the brain uses "spike" or "no spike" (referring to the firing of a neuron).
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april 2018 by nhaliday
The Coming Technological Singularity
Within thirty years, we will have the technological
means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after,
the human era will be ended.

Is such progress avoidable? If not to be avoided, can
events be guided so that we may survive? These questions
are investigated. Some possible answers (and some further
dangers) are presented.

_What is The Singularity?_

The acceleration of technological progress has been the central
feature of this century. I argue in this paper that we are on the edge
of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise
cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of
entities with greater than human intelligence. There are several means
by which science may achieve this breakthrough (and this is another
reason for having confidence that the event will occur):
o The development of computers that are "awake" and
superhumanly intelligent. (To date, most controversy in the
area of AI relates to whether we can create human equivalence
in a machine. But if the answer is "yes, we can", then there
is little doubt that beings more intelligent can be constructed
shortly thereafter.
o Large computer networks (and their associated users) may "wake
up" as a superhumanly intelligent entity.
o Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users
may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent.
o Biological science may find ways to improve upon the natural
human intellect.

The first three possibilities depend in large part on
improvements in computer hardware. Progress in computer hardware has
followed an amazingly steady curve in the last few decades [16]. Based
largely on this trend, I believe that the creation of greater than
human intelligence will occur during the next thirty years. (Charles
Platt [19] has pointed out the AI enthusiasts have been making claims
like this for the last thirty years. Just so I'm not guilty of a
relative-time ambiguity, let me more specific: I'll be surprised if
this event occurs before 2005 or after 2030.)

What are the consequences of this event? When greater-than-human
intelligence drives progress, that progress will be much more rapid.
In fact, there seems no reason why progress itself would not involve
the creation of still more intelligent entities -- on a still-shorter
time scale. The best analogy that I see is with the evolutionary past:
Animals can adapt to problems and make inventions, but often no faster
than natural selection can do its work -- the world acts as its own
simulator in the case of natural selection. We humans have the ability
to internalize the world and conduct "what if's" in our heads; we can
solve many problems thousands of times faster than natural selection.
Now, by creating the means to execute those simulations at much higher
speeds, we are entering a regime as radically different from our human
past as we humans are from the lower animals.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Fermi paradox - Wikipedia
Rare Earth hypothesis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_Earth_hypothesis
Fine-tuned Universe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe
something to keep in mind:
Puddle theory is a term coined by Douglas Adams to satirize arguments that the universe is made for man.[54][55] As stated in Adams' book The Salmon of Doubt:[56]
Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact, it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!” This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be all right, because this World was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.
article  concept  paradox  wiki  reference  fermi  anthropic  space  xenobio  roots  speculation  ideas  risk  threat-modeling  civilization  nihil  🔬  deep-materialism  new-religion  futurism  frontier  technology  communication  simulation  intelligence  eden  war  nuclear  deterrence  identity  questions  multi  explanans  physics  theos  philosophy  religion  chemistry  bio  hmm  idk  degrees-of-freedom  lol  troll  existence 
january 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.
gnon  canon  literature  big-peeps  philosophy  reflection  culture  society  prioritizing  studying  info-foraging  history  early-modern  germanic  ranking  info-dynamics  cultural-dynamics  diversity  unintended-consequences  community  track-record  letters  academia  rot  homo-hetero  matching  virtu  egalitarianism-hierarchy  communication  explore-exploit  memetics 
january 2018 by nhaliday
Here Be Sermons | Melting Asphalt
The Costly Coordination Mechanism of Common Knowledge: https://www.lesserwrong.com/posts/9QxnfMYccz9QRgZ5z/the-costly-coordination-mechanism-of-common-knowledge
- Dictatorships all through history have attempted to suppress freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Why is this? Are they just very sensitive? On the other side, the leaders of the Enlightenment fought for freedom of speech, and would not budge an inch against this principle.
- When two people are on a date and want to sleep with each other, the conversation will often move towards but never explicitly discuss having sex. The two may discuss going back to the place of one of theirs, with a different explicit reason discussed (e.g. "to have a drink"), even if both want to have sex.
- Throughout history, communities have had religious rituals that look very similar. Everyone in the village has to join in. There are repetitive songs, repetitive lectures on the same holy books, chanting together. Why, of all the possible community events (e.g. dinner, parties, etc) is this the most common type?
What these three things have in common, is common knowledge - or at least, the attempt to create it.

...

Common knowledge is often much easier to build in small groups - in the example about getting off the bus, the two need only to look at each other, share a nod, and common knowledge is achieved. Building common knowledge between hundreds or thousands of people is significantly harder, and the fact that religion has such a significant ability to do so is why it has historically had so much connection to politics.
postrat  simler  essay  insight  community  religion  theos  speaking  impro  morality  info-dynamics  commentary  ratty  yvain  ssc  obama  race  hanson  tribalism  network-structure  peace-violence  cohesion  gnosis-logos  multi  todo  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  sex  sexuality  coordination  cooperate-defect  lesswrong  ritual  free-riding  GT-101  equilibrium  civil-liberty  exit-voice  game-theory  nuclear  deterrence  arms  military  defense  money  monetary-fiscal  government  drugs  crime  sports  public-goodish  leviathan  explanation  incentives  interests  gray-econ  media  trust  revolution  signaling  tradition  power  internet  social  facebook  academia  publishing  communication  business  startups  cost-benefit  iteration-recursion  social-norms  reinforcement  alignment 
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 Function of Reason | Edge.org
https://www.edge.org/conversation/hugo_mercier-the-argumentative-theory

How Social Is Reason?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/08/how-social-is-reason.html

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/02/open-thread-732017/
Reading The Enigma of Reason. Pretty good so far. Not incredibly surprising to me so far. To be clear, their argument is somewhat orthogonal to the whole ‘rationality’ debate you may be familiar with from Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s work (e.g., see Heuristics and Biases).

One of the major problems in analysis is that rationality, reflection and ratiocination, are slow and error prone. To get a sense of that, just read ancient Greek science. Eratosthenes may have calculated to within 1% of the true circumference of the world, but Aristotle’s speculations on the nature of reproduction were rather off.

You may be as clever as Eratosthenes, but most people are not. But you probably accept that the world is round and 24,901 miles around. If you are not American you probably are vague on miles anyway. But you know what the social consensus is, and you accept it because it seems reasonable.

One of the points in cultural evolution work is that a lot of the time rather than relying on your own intuition and or reason, it is far more effective and cognitively cheaper to follow social norms of your ingroup. I only bring this up because unfortunately many pathologies of our political and intellectual world today are not really pathologies. That is, they’re not bugs, but features.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/23/open-thread-07232017/
Finished The Enigma of Reason. The basic thesis that reasoning is a way to convince people after you’ve already come to a conclusion, that is, rationalization, was already one I shared. That makes sense since one of the coauthors, Dan Sperber, has been influential in the “naturalistic” school of anthropology. If you’ve read books like In Gods We Trust The Enigma of Reason goes fast. But it is important to note that the cognitive anthropology perspective is useful in things besides religion. I’m thinking in particular of politics.

https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/30/the-delusion-of-reasons-empire/
My point here is that many of our beliefs are arrived at in an intuitive manner, and we find reasons to justify those beliefs. One of the core insights you’ll get from The Enigma of Reason is that rationalization isn’t that big of a misfire or abuse of our capacities. It’s probably just a natural outcome for what and how we use reason in our natural ecology.

Mercier and Sperber contrast their “interactionist” model of what reason is for with an “intellectualist: model. The intellecutalist model is rather straightforward. It is one where individual reasoning capacities exist so that one may make correct inferences about the world around us, often using methods that mimic those in abstract elucidated systems such as formal logic or Bayesian reasoning. When reasoning doesn’t work right, it’s because people aren’t using it for it’s right reasons. It can be entirely solitary because the tools don’t rely on social input or opinion.

The interactionist model holds that reasoning exists because it is a method of persuasion within social contexts. It is important here to note that the authors do not believe that reasoning is simply a tool for winning debates. That is, increasing your status in a social game. Rather, their overall thesis seems to be in alignment with the idea that cognition of reasoning properly understood is a social process. In this vein they offer evidence of how juries may be superior to judges, and the general examples you find in the “wisdom of the crowds” literature. Overall the authors make a strong case for the importance of diversity of good-faith viewpoints, because they believe that the truth on the whole tends to win out in dialogic formats (that is, if there is a truth; they are rather unclear and muddy about normative disagreements and how those can be resolved).

The major issues tend to crop up when reasoning is used outside of its proper context. One of the literature examples, which you are surely familiar with, in The Enigma of Reason is a psychological experiment where there are two conditions, and the researchers vary the conditions and note wide differences in behavior. In particular, the experiment where psychologists put subjects into a room where someone out of view is screaming for help. When they are alone, they quite often go to see what is wrong immediately. In contrast, when there is a confederate of the psychologists in the room who ignores the screaming, people also tend to ignore the screaming.

The researchers know the cause of the change in behavior. It’s the introduction of the confederate and that person’s behavior. But the subjects when interviewed give a wide range of plausible and possible answers. In other words, they are rationalizing their behavior when called to justify it in some way. This is entirely unexpected, we all know that people are very good at coming up with answers to explain their behavior (often in the best light possible). But that doesn’t mean they truly understanding their internal reasons, which seem to be more about intuition.

But much of The Enigma of Reason also recounts how bad people are at coming up with coherent and well thought out rationalizations. That is, their “reasons” tend to be ad hoc and weak. We’re not very good at formal logic or even simple syllogistic reasoning. The explanation for this seems to be two-fold.

...

At this point we need to address the elephant in the room: some humans seem extremely good at reasoning in a classical sense. I’m talking about individuals such as Blaise Pascal, Carl Friedrich Gauss, and John von Neumann. Early on in The Enigma of Reason the authors point out the power of reason by alluding to Eratosthenes’s calculation of the circumference of the earth, which was only off by one percent. Myself, I would have mentioned Archimedes, who I suspect was a genius on the same level as the ones mentioned above.

Mercier and Sperber state near the end of the book that math in particular is special and a powerful way to reason. We all know this. In math the axioms are clear, and agreed upon. And one can inspect the chain of propositions in a very transparent manner. Mathematics has guard-rails for any human who attempts to engage in reasoning. By reducing the ability of humans to enter into unforced errors math is the ideal avenue for solitary individual reasoning. But it is exceptional.

Second, though it is not discussed in The Enigma of Reason there does seem to be variation in general and domain specific intelligence within the human population. People who flourish in mathematics usually have high general intelligences, but they also often exhibit a tendency to be able to engage in high levels of visual-spatial conceptualization.

One the whole the more intelligent you are the better you are able to reason. But that does not mean that those with high intelligence are immune from the traps of motivated reasoning or faulty logic. Mercier and Sperber give many examples. There are two. Linus Pauling was indisputably brilliant, but by the end of his life he was consistently pushing Vitamin C quackery (in part through a very selective interpretation of the scientific literature).* They also point out that much of Isaac Newton’s prodigious intellectual output turns out to have been focused on alchemy and esoteric exegesis which is totally impenetrable. Newton undoubtedly had a first class mind, but if the domain it was applied to was garbage, then the output was also garbage.

...

Overall, the take-homes are:

Reasoning exists to persuade in a group context through dialogue, not individual ratiocination.
Reasoning can give rise to storytelling when prompted, even if the reasons have no relationship to the underlying causality.
Motivated reasoning emerges because we are not skeptical of the reasons we proffer, but highly skeptical of reasons which refute our own.
The “wisdom of the crowds” is not just a curious phenomenon, but one of the primary reasons that humans have become more socially complex and our brains have larger.
Ultimately, if you want to argue someone out of their beliefs…well, good luck with that. But you should read The Enigma of Reason to understand the best strategies (many of them are common sense, and I’ve come to them independently simply through 15 years of having to engage with people of diverse viewpoints).

* R. A. Fisher, who was one of the pioneers of both evolutionary genetics and statistics, famously did not believe there was a connection between smoking and cancer. He himself smoked a pipe regularly.

** From what we know about Blaise Pascal and Isaac Newton, their personalities were such that they’d probably be killed or expelled from a hunter-gatherer band.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Human conversational behavior | SpringerLink
Dunbar et al

Observational studies of human conversations in relaxed social settings suggest that these consist predominantly of exchanges of social information (mostly concerning personal relationships and experiences). Most of these exchanges involve information about the speaker or third parties, and very few involve critical comments or the soliciting or giving of advice. Although a policing function may still be important (e.g., for controlling social cheats), it seems that this does not often involve overt criticism of other individuals’ behavior. The few significant differences between the sexes in the proportion of conversation time devoted to particular topics are interpreted as reflecting females’ concerns with networking and males’ concerns with self-display in what amount to a conventional mating lek.

What Shall We Talk about in Farsi?: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12110-017-9300-4
How Men And Women Differ: Gender Differences in Communication Styles, Influence Tactics, and Leadership Styles: http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1521&context=cmc_theses
Gender differences in conversation topics, 1922–1990: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00289744
study  sociology  anthropology  psychology  social-psych  language  speaking  communication  pdf  piracy  gender  gender-diff  impro  distribution  evopsych  multi  leadership  iran  comparison  culture  society  ethnography  stylized-facts  evidence-based  history  mostly-modern  org:mag  org:ngo  letters  theory-of-mind 
august 2017 by nhaliday
Blind men and an elephant - Wikipedia
A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: "We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable". So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said "This being is like a thick snake". For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said, "elephant is a wall". Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.
india  asia  aphorism  parable  learning  thinking  individualism-collectivism  spreading  info-dynamics  epistemic  wiki  reference  religion  theos  buddhism  truth  local-global  the-self  n-factor  subjective-objective  analytical-holistic  alien-character  absolute-relative  communication  apollonian-dionysian  essence-existence 
august 2017 by nhaliday
American Spring | Museum of the American Revolution
“The use of pseudonyms or pen names by contributors was not at all unusual in those days, but just why writers adopted them is an interesting question. There usually was little mystery — among the well informed, at least — as to the true identity of an author. Newspapers were leaky sieves of gossip and innuendo. Libel laws may have been of some concern, but prosecution was usually reserved for blatant assaults on individual character rather than advocacy of general political views. Such presumed anonymity tended, however, to allow authors to express views more pointed and accusations more personal than if they had signed their own names. Some authors no doubt also felt that such pseudonyms — particularly when they referenced noted Roman statesmen or were otherwise Latin flavored — added a mark of distinction and gravity to their words.

“Samuel Adams appears to have used at least twenty-five pseudonyms, including Candidus, Populus, and A Son of Liberty, and Alexander Hamilton (Publius, Americanus), Benjamin Franklin (Silence Dogood, Richard Saunders), Robert Livingston (Cato), and James Madison (Helvidius) all employed pen names. Another advantage, according to journalism historian Eric Burns, was that the more pseudonyms an author used, ‘the more likely it was that readers would think of him as several authors [and] his views, therefore, would seem to be held by many rather than simply one man with a prolific pen.’

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pseudonyms_used_in_the_American_Constitutional_debates
https://www.jstor.org/stable/3125034

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_speechs16.html
Benjamin Franklin, An Account of the Supremest Court of Judicature in Pennsylvania, viz., The Court of the Press

...

Of the Checks proper to be established against the Abuse of Power in these Courts.

Hitherto there are none. But since so much has been written and published on the federal Constitution, and the necessity of checks in all other parts of good government has been so clearly and learnedly explained, I find myself so far enlightened as to suspect some check may be proper in this part also; but I have been at a loss to imagine any that may not be construed an infringement of the sacred liberty of the press. At length, however, I think I have found one that, instead of diminishing general liberty, shall augment it; which is, by restoring to the people a species of liberty, of which they have been deprived by our laws, I mean the liberty of the cudgel. In the rude state of society prior to the existence of laws, if one man gave another ill language, the affronted person would return it by a box on the ear, and, if repeated, by a good drubbing; and this without offending against any law. But now the right of making such returns is denied, and they are punished as breaches of the peace; while the right of abusing seems to remain in full force, the laws made against it being rendered ineffectual by the liberty of the press.

My proposal then is, to leave the liberty of the press untouched, to be exercised in its full extent, force, and vigor; but to permit the liberty of the cudgel to go with it pari passu. Thus, my fellow-citizens, if an impudent writer attacks your reputation, dearer to you perhaps than your life, and puts his name to the charge, you may go to him as openly and break his head. If he conceals himself behind the printer, and you can nevertheless discover who he is, you may in like manner way-lay him in the night, attack him behind, and give him a good drubbing. Thus far goes my project as to private resentment and retribution. But if the public should ever happen to be affronted, as it ought to be, with the conduct of such writers, I would not advise proceeding immediately to these extremities; but that we should in moderation content ourselves with tarring and feathering, and tossing them in a blanket.

If, however, it should be thought that this proposal of mine may disturb the public peace, I would then humbly recommend to our legislators to take up the consideration of both liberties, that of the press, and that of the cudgel, and by an explicit law mark their extent and limits; and, at the same time that they secure the person of a citizen from assaults, they would likewise provide for the security of his reputation.

https://twitter.com/ThomasHCrown/status/902616970784370689
https://archive.is/yGAKs
1/ Americans, especially journalists, don't really understand why the First Amendment exists or how it came to be.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
List of Chinese inventions - Wikipedia
China has been the source of many innovations, scientific discoveries and inventions.[1] This includes the Four Great Inventions: papermaking, the compass, gunpowder, and printing (both woodblock and movable type). The list below contains these and other inventions in China attested by archaeology or history.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation
- Ekelund, Hébert, Tollison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

look at Figure 4, holy shit

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

No RCT = No causal claims, for or against ;)
Though I'm open to a regression discontinuity design! cc: @pseudoerasmus
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may 2017 by nhaliday
soft question - Thinking and Explaining - MathOverflow
- good question from Bill Thurston
- great answers by Terry Tao, fedja, Minhyong Kim, gowers, etc.

Terry Tao:
- symmetry as blurring/vibrating/wobbling, scale invariance
- anthropomorphization, adversarial perspective for estimates/inequalities/quantifiers, spending/economy

fedja walks through his though-process from another answer

Minhyong Kim: anthropology of mathematical philosophizing

Per Vognsen: normality as isotropy
comment: conjugate subgroup gHg^-1 ~ "H but somewhere else in G"

gowers: hidden things in basic mathematics/arithmetic
comment by Ryan Budney: x sin(x) via x -> (x, sin(x)), (x, y) -> xy
I kinda get what he's talking about but needed to use Mathematica to get the initial visualization down.
To remind myself later:
- xy can be easily visualized by juxtaposing the two parabolae x^2 and -x^2 diagonally
- x sin(x) can be visualized along that surface by moving your finger along the line (x, 0) but adding some oscillations in y direction according to sin(x)
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Edge.org: 2016 : WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST INTERESTING RECENT [SCIENTIFIC] NEWS? WHAT MAKES IT IMPORTANT?
highlights:
- quantum supremacy [Scott Aaronson]
- gene drive
- gene editing/CRISPR
- carcinogen may be entropy
- differentiable programming
- quantitative biology
soft:
- antisocial punishment of pro-social cooperators
- "strongest prejudice" (politics) [Haidt]
- Europeans' origins [Cochran]
- "Anthropic Capitalism And The New Gimmick Economy" [Eric Weinstein]

https://twitter.com/toad_spotted/status/986253381344907265
https://archive.is/gNGDJ
There's an underdiscussed contradiction between the idea that our society would make almost all knowledge available freely and instantaneously to almost everyone and that almost everyone would find gainful employment as knowledge workers. Value is in scarcity not abundance.
--
You’d need to turn reputational-based systems into an income stream
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Thick and thin | West Hunter
There is a spectrum of problem-solving, ranging from, at one extreme, simplicity and clear chains of logical reasoning (sometimes long chains) and, at the other, building a picture by sifting through a vast mass of evidence of varying quality. I will give some examples. Just the other day, when I was conferring, conversing and otherwise hobnobbing with my fellow physicists, I mentioned high-altitude lighting, sprites and elves and blue jets. I said that you could think of a thundercloud as a vertical dipole, with an electric field that decreased as the cube of altitude, while the breakdown voltage varied with air pressure, which declines exponentially with altitude. At which point the prof I was talking to said ” and so the curves must cross!”. That’s how physicists think, and it can be very effective. The amount of information required to solve the problem is not very large. I call this a ‘thin’ problem’.

...

In another example at the messy end of the spectrum, Joe Rochefort, running Hypo in the spring of 1942, needed to figure out Japanese plans. He had an an ever-growing mass of Japanese radio intercepts, some of which were partially decrypted – say, one word of five, with luck. He had data from radio direction-finding; his people were beginning to be able to recognize particular Japanese radio operators by their ‘fist’. He’d studied in Japan, knew the Japanese well. He had plenty of Navy experience – knew what was possible. I would call this a classic ‘thick’ problem, one in which an analyst needs to deal with an enormous amount of data of varying quality. Being smart is necessary but not sufficient: you also need to know lots of stuff.

...

Nimitz believed Rochefort – who was correct. Because of that, we managed to prevail at Midway, losing one carrier and one destroyer while the the Japanese lost four carriers and a heavy cruiser*. As so often happens, OP-20-G won the bureaucratic war: Rochefort embarrassed them by proving them wrong, and they kicked him out of Hawaii, assigning him to a floating drydock.

The usual explanation of Joe Rochefort’s fall argues that John Redman’s ( head of OP-20-G, the Navy’s main signals intelligence and cryptanalysis group) geographical proximity to Navy headquarters was a key factor in winning the bureaucratic struggle, along with his brother’s influence (Rear Admiral Joseph Redman). That and being a shameless liar.

Personally, I wonder if part of the problem is the great difficulty of explaining the analysis of a thick problem to someone without a similar depth of knowledge. At best, they believe you because you’ve been right in the past. Or, sometimes, once you have developed the answer, there is a ‘thin’ way of confirming your answer – as when Rochefort took Jasper Holmes’s suggestion and had Midway broadcast an uncoded complaint about the failure of their distillation system – soon followed by a Japanese report that ‘AF’ was short of water.

Most problems in the social sciences are ‘thick’, and unfortunately, almost all of the researchers are as well. There are a lot more Redmans than Rocheforts.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Beware General Visible Prey
So, bottom line, the future great filter scenario that most concerns me is one where our solar-system-bound descendants have killed most of nature, can’t yet colonize other stars, are general predators and prey of each other, and have fallen into a short-term-predatory-focus equilibrium where predators can easily see and travel to most all prey. Yes there are about a hundred billion comets way out there circling the sun, but even that seems a small enough number for predators to careful map and track all of them.
hanson  risk  prediction  futurism  speculation  pessimism  war  ratty  space  big-picture  fermi  threat-modeling  equilibrium  slippery-slope  anthropic  chart  deep-materialism  new-religion  ideas  bio  nature  plots  expansionism  malthus  marginal  convexity-curvature  humanity  farmers-and-foragers  diversity  entropy-like  homo-hetero  existence  volo-avolo  technology  frontier  intel  travel  time-preference  communication  civilization  egalitarianism-hierarchy  peace-violence  ecology  cooperate-defect  dimensionality  whole-partial-many  temperance  patience  thinking  long-short-run  prepping  offense-defense 
october 2016 by nhaliday
Why Information Grows – Paul Romer
thinking like a physicist:

The key element in thinking like a physicist is being willing to push simultaneously to extreme levels of abstraction and specificity. This sounds paradoxical until you see it in action. Then it seems obvious. Abstraction means that you strip away inessential detail. Specificity means that you take very seriously the things that remain.

Abstraction vs. Radical Specificity: https://paulromer.net/abstraction-vs-radical-specificity/
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september 2016 by nhaliday
Information Processing: High V, Low M
http://www.unz.com/article/iq-or-the-mathverbal-split/
Commenter Gwen on the blog Infoproc hints at a possible neurological basis for this phenomenon, stating that “one bit of speculation I have: the neuroimaging studies seem to consistently point towards efficiency of global connectivity rather than efficiency or other traits of individual regions; you could interpret this as a general factor across a wide battery of tasks because they are all hindered to a greater or lesser degree by simply difficulties in coordination while performing the task; so perhaps what causes Spearman is global connectivity becoming around as efficient as possible and no longer a bottleneck for most tasks, and instead individual brain regions start dominating additional performance improvements. So up to a certain level of global communication efficiency, there is a general intelligence factor but then specific abilities like spatial vs verbal come apart and cease to have common bottlenecks and brain tilts manifest themselves much more clearly.” [10] This certainly seem plausible enough. Let’s hope that those far smarter than ourselves will slowly get to the bottom of these matters over the coming decades.

...

My main prediction here then is that based on HBD, I don’t expect China or East Asia to rival the Anglosphere in the life sciences and medicine or other verbally loaded scientific fields. Perhaps China can mirror Japan in developing pockets of strengths in various areas of the life sciences. Given its significantly larger population, this might indeed translate into non-trivial high-end output in the fields of biology and biomedicine. The core strengths of East Asian countries though, as science in the region matures, will lie primarily in quantitative areas such as physics or chemistry, and this is where I predict the region will shine in the coming years. China’s recent forays into quantum cryptography provide one such example. [40]

...

In fact, as anyone who’s been paying attention has noticed, modern day tech is essentially a California and East Asian affair, with the former focused on software and the latter more so on hardware. American companies dominate in the realm of internet infrastructure and platforms, while East Asia is predominant in consumer electronics hardware, although as noted, China does have its own versions of general purpose tech giants in companies like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent. By contrast, Europe today has relatively few well known tech companies apart from some successful apps such as Spotify or Skype and entities such as Nokia or Ericsson. [24] It used to have more established technology companies back in the day, but the onslaught of competition from the US and East Asia put a huge dent in Europe’s technology industry.

...

Although many will point to institutional factors such as China or the United States enjoying large, unfragmented markets to explain the decline of European tech, I actually want to offer a more HBD oriented explanation not only for why Europe seems to lag in technology and engineering relative to America and East Asia, but also for why tech in the United States is skewed towards software, while tech in East Asia is skewed towards hardware. I believe that the various phenomenon described above can all be explained by one common underlying mechanism, namely the math/verbal split. Simply put, if you’re really good at math, you gravitate towards hardware. If your skills are more verbally inclined, you gravitate towards software. In general, your chances of working in engineering and technology are greatly bolstered by being spatially and quantitatively adept.

...

If my assertions here are correct, I predict that over the coming decades, we’ll increasingly see different groups of people specialize in areas where they’re most proficient at. This means that East Asians and East Asian societies will be characterized by a skew towards quantitative STEM fields such as physics, chemistry, and engineering and towards hardware and high-tech manufacturing, while Western societies will be characterized by a skew towards the biological sciences and medicine, social sciences, humanities, and software and services. [41] Likewise, India also appears to be a country whose strengths lie more in software and services as opposed to hardware and manufacturing. My fundamental thesis is that all of this is ultimately a reflection of underlying HBD, in particular the math/verbal split. I believe this is the crucial insight lacking in the analyses others offer.

http://www.unz.com/article/iq-or-the-mathverbal-split/#comment-2230751

Sailer In TakiMag: What Does the Deep History of China and India Tell Us About Their Futures?: http://takimag.com/article/a_pair_of_giants_steve_sailer/print#axzz5BHqRM5nD
In an age of postmodern postnationalism that worships diversity, China is old-fashioned. It’s homogeneous, nationalist, and modernist. China seems to have utilitarian 1950s values.

For example, Chinese higher education isn’t yet competitive on the world stage, but China appears to be doing a decent job of educating the masses in the basics. High Chinese scores on the international PISA test for 15-year-olds shouldn’t be taken at face value, but it’s likely that China is approaching first-world norms in providing equality of opportunity through adequate schooling.

Due to censorship and language barriers, Chinese individuals aren’t well represented in English-language cyberspace. Yet in real life, the Chinese build things, such as bridges that don’t fall down, and they make stuff, employing tens of millions of proletarians in their factories.

The Chinese seem, on average, to be good with their hands, which is something that often makes American intellectuals vaguely uncomfortable. But at least the Chinese proles are over there merely manufacturing things cheaply, so American thinkers don’t resent them as much as they do American tradesmen.

Much of the class hatred in America stems from the suspicions of the intelligentsia that plumbers and mechanics are using their voodoo cognitive ability of staring at 3-D physical objects and somehow understanding why they are broken to overcharge them for repairs. Thus it’s only fair, America’s white-collar managers assume, that they export factory jobs to lower-paid China so that they can afford to throw manufactured junk away when it breaks and buy new junk rather than have to subject themselves to the humiliation of admitting to educationally inferior American repairmen that they don’t understand what is wrong with their own gizmos.

...

This Chinese lack of diversity is out of style, and yet it seems to make it easier for the Chinese to get things done.

In contrast, India appears more congenial to current-year thinkers. India seems postmodern and postnationalist, although it might be more accurately called premodern and prenationalist.

...

Another feature that makes our commentariat comfortable with India is that Indians don’t seem to be all that mechanically facile, perhaps especially not the priestly Brahmin caste, with whom Western intellectuals primarily interact.

And the Indians tend to be more verbally agile than the Chinese and more adept at the kind of high-level abstract thinking required by modern computer science, law, and soft major academia. Thousands of years of Brahmin speculations didn’t do much for India’s prosperity, but somehow have prepared Indians to make fortunes in 21st-century America.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289616300757
- Study used two moderately large American community samples.
- Verbal and not nonverbal ability drives relationship between ability and ideology.
- Ideology and ability appear more related when ability assessed professionally.
- Self-administered or nonverbal ability measures will underestimate this relationship.

https://www.unz.com/gnxp/the-universal-law-of-interpersonal-dynamics/
Every once in a while I realize something with my conscious mind that I’ve understood implicitly for a long time. Such a thing happened to me yesterday, while reading a post on Stalin, by Amritas. It is this:

S = P + E

Social Status equals Political Capital plus Economic Capital

...

Here’s an example of its explanatory power: If we assume that a major human drive is to maximize S, we can predict that people with high P will attempt to minimize the value of E (since S-maximization is a zero-sum game). And so we see. Throughout history there has been an attempt to ennoble P while stigmatizing E. Conversely, throughout history, people with high E use it to acquire P. Thus, in today’s society we see that socially adept people, who have inborn P skills, tend to favor socialism or big government – where their skills are most valuable, while economically productive people are often frustrated by the fact that their concrete contribution to society is deplored.

Now, you might ask yourself why the reverse isn’t true, why people with high P don’t use it to acquire E, while people with high E don’t attempt to stigmatize P? Well, I think that is true. But, while the equation is mathematically symmetrical, the nature of P-talent and E-talent is not. P-talent can be used to acquire E from the E-adept, but the E-adept are no match for the P-adept in the attempt to stigmatize P. Furthermore, P is endogenous to the system, while E is exogenous. In other words, the P-adept have the ability to manipulate the system itself to make P-talent more valuable in acquiring E, while the E-adept have no ability to manipulate the external environment to make E-talent more valuable in acquiring P.

...

1. All institutions will tend to be dominated by the P-adept
2. All institutions that have no in-built exogenous criteria for measuring its members’ status will inevitably be dominated by the P-adept
3. Universities will inevitably be dominated by the P-adept
4. Within a university, humanities and social sciences will be more dominated by the P-adept than … [more]
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september 2016 by nhaliday
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