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Python Tutor - Visualize Python, Java, C, C++, JavaScript, TypeScript, and Ruby code execution
C++ support but not STL

Ten years and nearly ten million users: my experience being a solo maintainer of open-source software in academia: http://www.pgbovine.net/python-tutor-ten-years.htm
I HYPERFOCUS ON ONE SINGLE USE CASE
I (MOSTLY*) DON'T LISTEN TO USER REQUESTS
I (MOSTLY*) REFUSE TO EVEN TALK TO USERS
I DON'T DO ANY MARKETING OR COMMUNITY OUTREACH
I KEEP EVERYTHING STATELESS
I DON'T WORRY ABOUT PERFORMANCE OR RELIABILITY
I USE SUPER OLD AND STABLE TECHNOLOGIES
I DON'T MAKE IT EASY FOR OTHERS TO USE MY CODE
FINALLY, I DON'T LET OTHER PEOPLE CONTRIBUTE CODE
UNINSPIRATIONAL PARTING THOUGHTS
APPENDIX: ON OPEN-SOURCE SOFTWARE MAINTENANCE
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september 2019 by nhaliday
The Existential Risk of Math Errors - Gwern.net
How big is this upper bound? Mathematicians have often made errors in proofs. But it’s rarer for ideas to be accepted for a long time and then rejected. But we can divide errors into 2 basic cases corresponding to type I and type II errors:

1. Mistakes where the theorem is still true, but the proof was incorrect (type I)
2. Mistakes where the theorem was false, and the proof was also necessarily incorrect (type II)

Before someone comes up with a final answer, a mathematician may have many levels of intuition in formulating & working on the problem, but we’ll consider the final end-product where the mathematician feels satisfied that he has solved it. Case 1 is perhaps the most common case, with innumerable examples; this is sometimes due to mistakes in the proof that anyone would accept is a mistake, but many of these cases are due to changing standards of proof. For example, when David Hilbert discovered errors in Euclid’s proofs which no one noticed before, the theorems were still true, and the gaps more due to Hilbert being a modern mathematician thinking in terms of formal systems (which of course Euclid did not think in). (David Hilbert himself turns out to be a useful example of the other kind of error: his famous list of 23 problems was accompanied by definite opinions on the outcome of each problem and sometimes timings, several of which were wrong or questionable5.) Similarly, early calculus used ‘infinitesimals’ which were sometimes treated as being 0 and sometimes treated as an indefinitely small non-zero number; this was incoherent and strictly speaking, practically all of the calculus results were wrong because they relied on an incoherent concept - but of course the results were some of the greatest mathematical work ever conducted6 and when later mathematicians put calculus on a more rigorous footing, they immediately re-derived those results (sometimes with important qualifications), and doubtless as modern math evolves other fields have sometimes needed to go back and clean up the foundations and will in the future.7

...

Isaac Newton, incidentally, gave two proofs of the same solution to a problem in probability, one via enumeration and the other more abstract; the enumeration was correct, but the other proof totally wrong and this was not noticed for a long time, leading Stigler to remark:

...

TYPE I > TYPE II?
“Lefschetz was a purely intuitive mathematician. It was said of him that he had never given a completely correct proof, but had never made a wrong guess either.”
- Gian-Carlo Rota13

Case 2 is disturbing, since it is a case in which we wind up with false beliefs and also false beliefs about our beliefs (we no longer know that we don’t know). Case 2 could lead to extinction.

...

Except, errors do not seem to be evenly & randomly distributed between case 1 and case 2. There seem to be far more case 1s than case 2s, as already mentioned in the early calculus example: far more than 50% of the early calculus results were correct when checked more rigorously. Richard Hamming attributes to Ralph Boas a comment that while editing Mathematical Reviews that “of the new results in the papers reviewed most are true but the corresponding proofs are perhaps half the time plain wrong”.

...

Gian-Carlo Rota gives us an example with Hilbert:

...

Olga labored for three years; it turned out that all mistakes could be corrected without any major changes in the statement of the theorems. There was one exception, a paper Hilbert wrote in his old age, which could not be fixed; it was a purported proof of the continuum hypothesis, you will find it in a volume of the Mathematische Annalen of the early thirties.

...

Leslie Lamport advocates for machine-checked proofs and a more rigorous style of proofs similar to natural deduction, noting a mathematician acquaintance guesses at a broad error rate of 1/329 and that he routinely found mistakes in his own proofs and, worse, believed false conjectures30.

[more on these "structured proofs":
https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/52435/does-anyone-actually-publish-structured-proofs
https://mathoverflow.net/questions/35727/community-experiences-writing-lamports-structured-proofs
]

We can probably add software to that list: early software engineering work found that, dismayingly, bug rates seem to be simply a function of lines of code, and one would expect diseconomies of scale. So one would expect that in going from the ~4,000 lines of code of the Microsoft DOS operating system kernel to the ~50,000,000 lines of code in Windows Server 2003 (with full systems of applications and libraries being even larger: the comprehensive Debian repository in 2007 contained ~323,551,126 lines of code) that the number of active bugs at any time would be… fairly large. Mathematical software is hopefully better, but practitioners still run into issues (eg Durán et al 2014, Fonseca et al 2017) and I don’t know of any research pinning down how buggy key mathematical systems like Mathematica are or how much published mathematics may be erroneous due to bugs. This general problem led to predictions of doom and spurred much research into automated proof-checking, static analysis, and functional languages31.

[related:
https://mathoverflow.net/questions/11517/computer-algebra-errors
I don't know any interesting bugs in symbolic algebra packages but I know a true, enlightening and entertaining story about something that looked like a bug but wasn't.

Define sinc𝑥=(sin𝑥)/𝑥.

Someone found the following result in an algebra package: ∫∞0𝑑𝑥sinc𝑥=𝜋/2
They then found the following results:

...

So of course when they got:

∫∞0𝑑𝑥sinc𝑥sinc(𝑥/3)sinc(𝑥/5)⋯sinc(𝑥/15)=(467807924713440738696537864469/935615849440640907310521750000)𝜋

hmm:
Which means that nobody knows Fourier analysis nowdays. Very sad and discouraging story... – fedja Jan 29 '10 at 18:47

--

Because the most popular systems are all commercial, they tend to guard their bug database rather closely -- making them public would seriously cut their sales. For example, for the open source project Sage (which is quite young), you can get a list of all the known bugs from this page. 1582 known issues on Feb.16th 2010 (which includes feature requests, problems with documentation, etc).

That is an order of magnitude less than the commercial systems. And it's not because it is better, it is because it is younger and smaller. It might be better, but until SAGE does a lot of analysis (about 40% of CAS bugs are there) and a fancy user interface (another 40%), it is too hard to compare.

I once ran a graduate course whose core topic was studying the fundamental disconnect between the algebraic nature of CAS and the analytic nature of the what it is mostly used for. There are issues of logic -- CASes work more or less in an intensional logic, while most of analysis is stated in a purely extensional fashion. There is no well-defined 'denotational semantics' for expressions-as-functions, which strongly contributes to the deeper bugs in CASes.]

...

Should such widely-believed conjectures as P≠NP or the Riemann hypothesis turn out be false, then because they are assumed by so many existing proofs, a far larger math holocaust would ensue38 - and our previous estimates of error rates will turn out to have been substantial underestimates. But it may be a cloud with a silver lining, if it doesn’t come at a time of danger.

https://mathoverflow.net/questions/338607/why-doesnt-mathematics-collapse-down-even-though-humans-quite-often-make-mista

more on formal methods in programming:
https://www.quantamagazine.org/formal-verification-creates-hacker-proof-code-20160920/
https://intelligence.org/2014/03/02/bob-constable/

https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/375342/what-are-the-barriers-that-prevent-widespread-adoption-of-formal-methods
Update: measured effort
In the October 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM there is an interesting article about Formally verified software in the real world with some estimates of the effort.

Interestingly (based on OS development for military equipment), it seems that producing formally proved software requires 3.3 times more effort than with traditional engineering techniques. So it's really costly.

On the other hand, it requires 2.3 times less effort to get high security software this way than with traditionally engineered software if you add the effort to make such software certified at a high security level (EAL 7). So if you have high reliability or security requirements there is definitively a business case for going formal.

WHY DON'T PEOPLE USE FORMAL METHODS?: https://www.hillelwayne.com/post/why-dont-people-use-formal-methods/
You can see examples of how all of these look at Let’s Prove Leftpad. HOL4 and Isabelle are good examples of “independent theorem” specs, SPARK and Dafny have “embedded assertion” specs, and Coq and Agda have “dependent type” specs.6

If you squint a bit it looks like these three forms of code spec map to the three main domains of automated correctness checking: tests, contracts, and types. This is not a coincidence. Correctness is a spectrum, and formal verification is one extreme of that spectrum. As we reduce the rigour (and effort) of our verification we get simpler and narrower checks, whether that means limiting the explored state space, using weaker types, or pushing verification to the runtime. Any means of total specification then becomes a means of partial specification, and vice versa: many consider Cleanroom a formal verification technique, which primarily works by pushing code review far beyond what’s humanly possible.

...

The question, then: “is 90/95/99% correct significantly cheaper than 100% correct?” The answer is very yes. We all are comfortable saying that a codebase we’ve well-tested and well-typed is mostly correct modulo a few fixes in prod, and we’re even writing more than four lines of code a day. In fact, the vast… [more]
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july 2019 by nhaliday
Lindy effect - Wikipedia
The Lindy effect is a theory that the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things like a technology or an idea is proportional to their current age, so that every additional period of survival implies a longer remaining life expectancy.[1] Where the Lindy effect applies, mortality rate decreases with time. In contrast, living creatures and mechanical things follow a bathtub curve where, after "childhood", the mortality rate increases with time. Because life expectancy is probabilistically derived, a thing may become extinct before its "expected" survival. In other words, one needs to gauge both the age and "health" of the thing to determine continued survival.
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june 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
Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata - John von Neumann
Fourth Lecture: THE ROLE OF HIGH AND OF EXTREMELY HIGH COMPLICATION

Comparisons between computing machines and the nervous systems. Estimates of size for computing machines, present and near future.

Estimates for size for the human central nervous system. Excursus about the “mixed” character of living organisms. Analog and digital elements. Observations about the “mixed” character of all componentry, artificial as well as natural. Interpretation of the position to be taken with respect to these.

Evaluation of the discrepancy in size between artificial and natural automata. Interpretation of this discrepancy in terms of physical factors. Nature of the materials used.

The probability of the presence of other intellectual factors. The role of complication and the theoretical penetration that it requires.

Questions of reliability and errors reconsidered. Probability of individual errors and length of procedure. Typical lengths of procedure for computing machines and for living organisms--that is, for artificial and for natural automata. Upper limits on acceptable probability of error in individual operations. Compensation by checking and self-correcting features.

Differences of principle in the way in which errors are dealt with in artificial and in natural automata. The “single error” principle in artificial automata. Crudeness of our approach in this case, due to the lack of adequate theory. More sophisticated treatment of this problem in natural automata: The role of the autonomy of parts. Connections between this autonomy and evolution.

- 10^10 neurons in brain, 10^4 vacuum tubes in largest computer at time
- machines faster: 5 ms from neuron potential to neuron potential, 10^-3 ms for vacuum tubes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_von_Neumann#Computing
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Christian ethics - Wikipedia
Christian ethics is a branch of Christian theology that defines virtuous behavior and wrong behavior from a Christian perspective. Systematic theological study of Christian ethics is called moral theology, possibly with the name of the respective theological tradition, e.g. Catholic moral theology.

Christian virtues are often divided into four cardinal virtues and three theological virtues. Christian ethics includes questions regarding how the rich should act toward the poor, how women are to be treated, and the morality of war. Christian ethicists, like other ethicists, approach ethics from different frameworks and perspectives. The approach of virtue ethics has also become popular in recent decades, largely due to the work of Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley Hauerwas.[2]

...

The seven Christian virtues are from two sets of virtues. The four cardinal virtues are Prudence, Justice, Restraint (or Temperance), and Courage (or Fortitude). The cardinal virtues are so called because they are regarded as the basic virtues required for a virtuous life. The three theological virtues, are Faith, Hope, and Love (or Charity).

- Prudence: also described as wisdom, the ability to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time
- Justice: also considered as fairness, the most extensive and most important virtue[20]
- Temperance: also known as restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, and moderation tempering the appetition
- Courage: also termed fortitude, forebearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation
- Faith: belief in God, and in the truth of His revelation as well as obedience to Him (cf. Rom 1:5:16:26)[21][22]
- Hope: expectation of and desire of receiving; refraining from despair and capability of not giving up. The belief that God will be eternally present in every human's life and never giving up on His love.
- Charity: a supernatural virtue that helps us love God and our neighbors, the same way as we love ourselves.

Seven deadly sins: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins
The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, is a grouping and classification of vices of Christian origin.[1] Behaviours or habits are classified under this category if they directly give birth to other immoralities.[2] According to the standard list, they are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth,[2] which are also contrary to the seven virtues. These sins are often thought to be abuses or excessive versions of one's natural faculties or passions (for example, gluttony abuses one's desire to eat).

originally:
1 Gula (gluttony)
2 Luxuria/Fornicatio (lust, fornication)
3 Avaritia (avarice/greed)
4 Superbia (pride, hubris)
5 Tristitia (sorrow/despair/despondency)
6 Ira (wrath)
7 Vanagloria (vainglory)
8 Acedia (sloth)

Golden Rule: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule
The Golden Rule (which can be considered a law of reciprocity in some religions) is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in many religions and cultures.[1][2] The maxim may appear as _either a positive or negative injunction_ governing conduct:

- One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself (positive or directive form).[1]
- One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (negative or prohibitive form).[1]
- What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself (empathic or responsive form).[1]
The Golden Rule _differs from the maxim of reciprocity captured in do ut des—"I give so that you will give in return"—and is rather a unilateral moral commitment to the well-being of the other without the expectation of anything in return_.[3]

The concept occurs in some form in nearly every religion[4][5] and ethical tradition[6] and is often considered _the central tenet of Christian ethics_[7] [8]. It can also be explained from the perspectives of psychology, philosophy, sociology, human evolution, and economics. Psychologically, it involves a person empathizing with others. Philosophically, it involves a person perceiving their neighbor also as "I" or "self".[9] Sociologically, "love your neighbor as yourself" is applicable between individuals, between groups, and also between individuals and groups. In evolution, "reciprocal altruism" is seen as a distinctive advance in the capacity of human groups to survive and reproduce, as their exceptional brains demanded exceptionally long childhoods and ongoing provision and protection even beyond that of the immediate family.[10] In economics, Richard Swift, referring to ideas from David Graeber, suggests that "without some kind of reciprocity society would no longer be able to exist."[11]

...

hmm, Meta-Golden Rule already stated:
Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC–65 AD), a practitioner of Stoicism (c. 300 BC–200 AD) expressed the Golden Rule in his essay regarding the treatment of slaves: "Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you."[23]

...

The "Golden Rule" was given by Jesus of Nazareth, who used it to summarize the Torah: "Do to others what you want them to do to you." and "This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets"[33] (Matthew 7:12 NCV, see also Luke 6:31). The common English phrasing is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". A similar form of the phrase appeared in a Catholic catechism around 1567 (certainly in the reprint of 1583).[34] The Golden Rule is _stated positively numerous times in the Hebrew Pentateuch_ as well as the Prophets and Writings. Leviticus 19:18 ("Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself."; see also Great Commandment) and Leviticus 19:34 ("But treat them just as you treat your own citizens. Love foreigners as you love yourselves, because you were foreigners one time in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.").

The Old Testament Deuterocanonical books of Tobit and Sirach, accepted as part of the Scriptural canon by Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Non-Chalcedonian Churches, express a _negative form_ of the golden rule:

"Do to no one what you yourself dislike."

— Tobit 4:15
"Recognize that your neighbor feels as you do, and keep in mind your own dislikes."

— Sirach 31:15
Two passages in the New Testament quote Jesus of Nazareth espousing the _positive form_ of the Golden rule:

Matthew 7:12
Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets.

Luke 6:31
Do to others what you would want them to do to you.

...

The passage in the book of Luke then continues with Jesus answering the question, "Who is my neighbor?", by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, indicating that "your neighbor" is anyone in need.[35] This extends to all, including those who are generally considered hostile.

Jesus' teaching goes beyond the negative formulation of not doing what one would not like done to themselves, to the positive formulation of actively doing good to another that, if the situations were reversed, one would desire that the other would do for them. This formulation, as indicated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, emphasizes the needs for positive action that brings benefit to another, not simply restraining oneself from negative activities that hurt another. Taken as a rule of judgment, both formulations of the golden rule, the negative and positive, are equally applicable.[36]

The Golden Rule: Not So Golden Anymore: https://philosophynow.org/issues/74/The_Golden_Rule_Not_So_Golden_Anymore
Pluralism is the most serious problem facing liberal democracies today. We can no longer ignore the fact that cultures around the world are not simply different from one another, but profoundly so; and the most urgent area in which this realization faces us is in the realm of morality. Western democratic systems depend on there being at least a minimal consensus concerning national values, especially in regard to such things as justice, equality and human rights. But global communication, economics and the migration of populations have placed new strains on Western democracies. Suddenly we find we must adjust to peoples whose suppositions about the ultimate values and goals of life are very different from ours. A clear lesson from events such as 9/11 is that disregarding these differences is not an option. Collisions between worldviews and value systems can be cataclysmic. Somehow we must learn to manage this new situation.

For a long time, liberal democratic optimism in the West has been shored up by suppositions about other cultures and their differences from us. The cornerpiece of this optimism has been the assumption that whatever differences exist they cannot be too great. A core of ‘basic humanity’ surely must tie all of the world’s moral systems together – and if only we could locate this core we might be able to forge agreements and alliances among groups that otherwise appear profoundly opposed. We could perhaps then shelve our cultural or ideological differences and get on with the more pleasant and productive business of celebrating our core agreement. One cannot fail to see how this hope is repeated in order buoy optimism about the Middle East peace process, for example.

...

It becomes obvious immediately that no matter how widespread we want the Golden Rule to be, there are some ethical systems that we have to admit do not have it. In fact, there are a few traditions that actually disdain the Rule. In philosophy, the Nietzschean tradition holds that the virtues implicit in the Golden Rule are antithetical to the true virtues of self-assertion and the will-to-power. Among religions, there are a good many that prefer to emphasize the importance of self, cult, clan or tribe rather than of general others; and a good many other religions for whom large populations are simply excluded from goodwill, being labeled as outsiders, heretics or … [more]
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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
Prisoner's dilemma - Wikipedia
caveat to result below:
An extension of the IPD is an evolutionary stochastic IPD, in which the relative abundance of particular strategies is allowed to change, with more successful strategies relatively increasing. This process may be accomplished by having less successful players imitate the more successful strategies, or by eliminating less successful players from the game, while multiplying the more successful ones. It has been shown that unfair ZD strategies are not evolutionarily stable. The key intuition is that an evolutionarily stable strategy must not only be able to invade another population (which extortionary ZD strategies can do) but must also perform well against other players of the same type (which extortionary ZD players do poorly, because they reduce each other's surplus).[14]

Theory and simulations confirm that beyond a critical population size, ZD extortion loses out in evolutionary competition against more cooperative strategies, and as a result, the average payoff in the population increases when the population is bigger. In addition, there are some cases in which extortioners may even catalyze cooperation by helping to break out of a face-off between uniform defectors and win–stay, lose–switch agents.[8]

https://alfanl.com/2018/04/12/defection/
Nature boils down to a few simple concepts.

Haters will point out that I oversimplify. The haters are wrong. I am good at saying a lot with few words. Nature indeed boils down to a few simple concepts.

In life, you can either cooperate or defect.

Used to be that defection was the dominant strategy, say in the time when the Roman empire started to crumble. Everybody complained about everybody and in the end nothing got done. Then came Jesus, who told people to be loving and cooperative, and boom: 1800 years later we get the industrial revolution.

Because of Jesus we now find ourselves in a situation where cooperation is the dominant strategy. A normie engages in a ton of cooperation: with the tax collector who wants more and more of his money, with schools who want more and more of his kid’s time, with media who wants him to repeat more and more party lines, with the Zeitgeist of the Collective Spirit of the People’s Progress Towards a New Utopia. Essentially, our normie is cooperating himself into a crumbling Western empire.

Turns out that if everyone blindly cooperates, parasites sprout up like weeds until defection once again becomes the standard.

The point of a post-Christian religion is to once again create conditions for the kind of cooperation that led to the industrial revolution. This necessitates throwing out undead Christianity: you do not blindly cooperate. You cooperate with people that cooperate with you, you defect on people that defect on you. Christianity mixed with Darwinism. God and Gnon meet.

This also means we re-establish spiritual hierarchy, which, like regular hierarchy, is a prerequisite for cooperation. It is this hierarchical cooperation that turns a household into a force to be reckoned with, that allows a group of men to unite as a front against their enemies, that allows a tribe to conquer the world. Remember: Scientology bullied the Cathedral’s tax department into submission.

With a functioning hierarchy, men still gossip, lie and scheme, but they will do so in whispers behind closed doors. In your face they cooperate and contribute to the group’s wellbeing because incentives are thus that contributing to group wellbeing heightens status.

Without a functioning hierarchy, men gossip, lie and scheme, but they do so in your face, and they tell you that you are positively deluded for accusing them of gossiping, lying and scheming. Seeds will not sprout in such ground.

Spiritual dominance is established in the same way any sort of dominance is established: fought for, taken. But the fight is ritualistic. You can’t force spiritual dominance if no one listens, or if you are silenced the ritual is not allowed to happen.

If one of our priests is forbidden from establishing spiritual dominance, that is a sure sign an enemy priest is in better control and has vested interest in preventing you from establishing spiritual dominance..

They defect on you, you defect on them. Let them suffer the consequences of enemy priesthood, among others characterized by the annoying tendency that very little is said with very many words.

https://contingentnotarbitrary.com/2018/04/14/rederiving-christianity/
To recap, we started with a secular definition of Logos and noted that its telos is existence. Given human nature, game theory and the power of cooperation, the highest expression of that telos is freely chosen universal love, tempered by constant vigilance against defection while maintaining compassion for the defectors and forgiving those who repent. In addition, we must know the telos in order to fulfill it.

In Christian terms, looks like we got over half of the Ten Commandments (know Logos for the First, don’t defect or tempt yourself to defect for the rest), the importance of free will, the indestructibility of evil (group cooperation vs individual defection), loving the sinner and hating the sin (with defection as the sin), forgiveness (with conditions), and love and compassion toward all, assuming only secular knowledge and that it’s good to exist.

Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma is an Ultimatum Game: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2012/07/iterated-prisoners-dilemma-is-ultimatum.html
The history of IPD shows that bounded cognition prevented the dominant strategies from being discovered for over over 60 years, despite significant attention from game theorists, computer scientists, economists, evolutionary biologists, etc. Press and Dyson have shown that IPD is effectively an ultimatum game, which is very different from the Tit for Tat stories told by generations of people who worked on IPD (Axelrod, Dawkins, etc., etc.).

...

For evolutionary biologists: Dyson clearly thinks this result has implications for multilevel (group vs individual selection):
... Cooperation loses and defection wins. The ZD strategies confirm this conclusion and make it sharper. ... The system evolved to give cooperative tribes an advantage over non-cooperative tribes, using punishment to give cooperation an evolutionary advantage within the tribe. This double selection of tribes and individuals goes way beyond the Prisoners' Dilemma model.

implications for fractionalized Europe vis-a-vis unified China?

and more broadly does this just imply we're doomed in the long run RE: cooperation, morality, the "good society", so on...? war and group-selection is the only way to get a non-crab bucket civilization?

Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma contains strategies that dominate any evolutionary opponent:
http://www.pnas.org/content/109/26/10409.full
http://www.pnas.org/content/109/26/10409.full.pdf
https://www.edge.org/conversation/william_h_press-freeman_dyson-on-iterated-prisoners-dilemma-contains-strategies-that

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimatum_game

analogy for ultimatum game: the state gives the demos a bargain take-it-or-leave-it, and...if the demos refuses...violence?

The nature of human altruism: http://sci-hub.tw/https://www.nature.com/articles/nature02043
- Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher

Some of the most fundamental questions concerning our evolutionary origins, our social relations, and the organization of society are centred around issues of altruism and selfishness. Experimental evidence indicates that human altruism is a powerful force and is unique in the animal world. However, there is much individual heterogeneity and the interaction between altruists and selfish individuals is vital to human cooperation. Depending on the environment, a minority of altruists can force a majority of selfish individuals to cooperate or, conversely, a few egoists can induce a large number of altruists to defect. Current gene-based evolutionary theories cannot explain important patterns of human altruism, pointing towards the importance of both theories of cultural evolution as well as gene–culture co-evolution.

...

Why are humans so unusual among animals in this respect? We propose that quantitatively, and probably even qualitatively, unique patterns of human altruism provide the answer to this question. Human altruism goes far beyond that which has been observed in the animal world. Among animals, fitness-reducing acts that confer fitness benefits on other individuals are largely restricted to kin groups; despite several decades of research, evidence for reciprocal altruism in pair-wise repeated encounters4,5 remains scarce6–8. Likewise, there is little evidence so far that individual reputation building affects cooperation in animals, which contrasts strongly with what we find in humans. If we randomly pick two human strangers from a modern society and give them the chance to engage in repeated anonymous exchanges in a laboratory experiment, there is a high probability that reciprocally altruistic behaviour will emerge spontaneously9,10.

However, human altruism extends far beyond reciprocal altruism and reputation-based cooperation, taking the form of strong reciprocity11,12. Strong reciprocity is a combination of altruistic rewarding, which is a predisposition to reward others for cooperative, norm-abiding behaviours, and altruistic punishment, which is a propensity to impose sanctions on others for norm violations. Strong reciprocators bear the cost of rewarding or punishing even if they gain no individual economic benefit whatsoever from their acts. In contrast, reciprocal altruists, as they have been defined in the biological literature4,5, reward and punish only if this is in their long-term self-interest. Strong reciprocity thus constitutes a powerful incentive for cooperation even in non-repeated interactions and when reputation gains are absent, because strong reciprocators will reward those who cooperate and punish those who defect.

...

We will show that the interaction between selfish and strongly reciprocal … [more]
concept  conceptual-vocab  wiki  reference  article  models  GT-101  game-theory  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  trust  cooperate-defect  coordination  iteration-recursion  sequential  axelrod  discrete  smoothness  evolution  evopsych  EGT  economics  behavioral-econ  sociology  new-religion  deep-materialism  volo-avolo  characterization  hsu  scitariat  altruism  justice  group-selection  decision-making  tribalism  organizing  hari-seldon  theory-practice  applicability-prereqs  bio  finiteness  multi  history  science  social-science  decision-theory  commentary  study  summary  giants  the-trenches  zero-positive-sum  🔬  bounded-cognition  info-dynamics  org:edge  explanation  exposition  org:nat  eden  retention  long-short-run  darwinian  markov  equilibrium  linear-algebra  nitty-gritty  competition  war  explanans  n-factor  europe  the-great-west-whale  occident  china  asia  sinosphere  orient  decentralized  markets  market-failure  cohesion  metabuch  stylized-facts  interdisciplinary  physics  pdf  pessimism  time  insight  the-basilisk  noblesse-oblige  the-watchers  ideas  l 
march 2018 by nhaliday
Land, history or modernization? Explaining ethnic fractionalization: Ethnic and Racial Studies: Vol 38, No 2
Ethnic fractionalization (EF) is frequently used as an explanatory tool in models of economic development, civil war and public goods provision. However, if EF is endogenous to political and economic change, its utility for further research diminishes. This turns out not to be the case. This paper provides the first comprehensive model of EF as a dependent variable.
study  polisci  sociology  political-econ  economics  broad-econ  diversity  putnam-like  race  concept  conceptual-vocab  definition  realness  eric-kaufmann  roots  database  dataset  robust  endogenous-exogenous  causation  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  tribalism  methodology  world  developing-world  🎩  things  metrics  intricacy  microfoundations 
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.
scitariat  reflection  proposal  ideas  thinking  conceptual-vocab  lens  bio  complex-systems  selection  evolution  flux-stasis  network-structure  structure  composition-decomposition  IEEE  robust  signal-noise  perturbation  interdisciplinary  graphs  circuits  🌞  big-picture  hi-order-bits  nibble  synthesis 
november 2017 by nhaliday
Stability of the Solar System - Wikipedia
The stability of the Solar System is a subject of much inquiry in astronomy. Though the planets have been stable when historically observed, and will be in the short term, their weak gravitational effects on one another can add up in unpredictable ways. For this reason (among others) the Solar System is chaotic,[1] and even the most precise long-term models for the orbital motion of the Solar System are not valid over more than a few tens of millions of years.[2]

The Solar System is stable in human terms, and far beyond, given that it is unlikely any of the planets will collide with each other or be ejected from the system in the next few billion years,[3] and the Earth's orbit will be relatively stable.[4]

Since Newton's law of gravitation (1687), mathematicians and astronomers (such as Laplace, Lagrange, Gauss, Poincaré, Kolmogorov, Vladimir Arnold and Jürgen Moser) have searched for evidence for the stability of the planetary motions, and this quest led to many mathematical developments, and several successive 'proofs' of stability of the Solar System.[5]

...

The planets' orbits are chaotic over longer timescales, such that the whole Solar System possesses a Lyapunov time in the range of 2–230 million years.[3] In all cases this means that the position of a planet along its orbit ultimately becomes impossible to predict with any certainty (so, for example, the timing of winter and summer become uncertain), but in some cases the orbits themselves may change dramatically. Such chaos manifests most strongly as changes in eccentricity, with some planets' orbits becoming significantly more—or less—elliptical.[7]

Is the Solar System Stable?: https://www.ias.edu/ideas/2011/tremaine-solar-system

Is the Solar System Stable?: https://arxiv.org/abs/1209.5996
nibble  wiki  reference  article  physics  mechanics  space  gravity  flux-stasis  uncertainty  robust  perturbation  math  dynamical  math.DS  volo-avolo  multi  org:edu  org:inst  papers  preprint  time  data  org:mat 
november 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
Superintelligence Risk Project Update II
https://www.jefftk.com/p/superintelligence-risk-project-update

https://www.jefftk.com/p/conversation-with-michael-littman
For example, I asked him what he thought of the idea that to we could get AGI with current techniques, primarily deep neural nets and reinforcement learning, without learning anything new about how intelligence works or how to implement it ("Prosaic AGI" [1]). He didn't think this was possible, and believes there are deep conceptual issues we still need to get a handle on. He's also less impressed with deep learning than he was before he started working in it: in his experience it's a much more brittle technology than he had been expecting. Specifically, when trying to replicate results, he's often found that they depend on a bunch of parameters being in just the right range, and without that the systems don't perform nearly as well.

The bottom line, to him, was that since we are still many breakthroughs away from getting to AGI, we can't productively work on reducing superintelligence risk now.

He told me that he worries that the AI risk community is not solving real problems: they're making deductions and inferences that are self-consistent but not being tested or verified in the world. Since we can't tell if that's progress, it probably isn't. I asked if he was referring to MIRI's work here, and he said their work was an example of the kind of approach he's skeptical about, though he wasn't trying to single them out. [2]

https://www.jefftk.com/p/conversation-with-an-ai-researcher
Earlier this week I had a conversation with an AI researcher [1] at one of the main industry labs as part of my project of assessing superintelligence risk. Here's what I got from them:

They see progress in ML as almost entirely constrained by hardware and data, to the point that if today's hardware and data had existed in the mid 1950s researchers would have gotten to approximately our current state within ten to twenty years. They gave the example of backprop: we saw how to train multi-layer neural nets decades before we had the computing power to actually train these nets to do useful things.

Similarly, people talk about AlphaGo as a big jump, where Go went from being "ten years away" to "done" within a couple years, but they said it wasn't like that. If Go work had stayed in academia, with academia-level budgets and resources, it probably would have taken nearly that long. What changed was a company seeing promising results, realizing what could be done, and putting way more engineers and hardware on the project than anyone had previously done. AlphaGo couldn't have happened earlier because the hardware wasn't there yet, and was only able to be brought forward by massive application of resources.

https://www.jefftk.com/p/superintelligence-risk-project-conclusion
Summary: I'm not convinced that AI risk should be highly prioritized, but I'm also not convinced that it shouldn't. Highly qualified researchers in a position to have a good sense the field have massively different views on core questions like how capable ML systems are now, how capable they will be soon, and how we can influence their development. I do think these questions are possible to get a better handle on, but I think this would require much deeper ML knowledge than I have.
ratty  core-rats  ai  risk  ai-control  prediction  expert  machine-learning  deep-learning  speedometer  links  research  research-program  frontier  multi  interview  deepgoog  games  hardware  performance  roots  impetus  chart  big-picture  state-of-art  reinforcement  futurism  🤖  🖥  expert-experience  singularity  miri-cfar  empirical  evidence-based  speculation  volo-avolo  clever-rats  acmtariat  robust  ideas  crux  atoms  detail-architecture  software  gradient-descent 
july 2017 by nhaliday
Abandoned Footnotes: Francisco Franco, Robust Action, and the Power of Non-Commitment
I’m currently in Spain, doing some research on Franco’s cult of personality. In preparing for this project, I recently read Paul Preston’s biography of Franco, which presents Franco as a selfish, vengeful, and ultimately petty tyrant who caused the death of hundreds of thousands of his compatriots. (If not for Hitler, Franco seems like he would certainly have been in contention for the “worst person of the 20th century” award). Yet despite the evidence of Franco’s political cunning (nearly four decades at the top of the Spanish political system puts him in the top 2-3% of all modern rulers in terms of sheer longevity), the portrait that emerges from Preston’s biography is emphatically not one of a decisive and Machiavellian political leader, but one of “astonishing personal mediocrity” (Kindle Loc 17636), a ruler who constantly procrastinated important decisions, acting reactively rather than proactively, and was rarely clear or even coherent about his commitments, to the despair of allies and enemies alike. How could such a person end up leading the winning side of a bloody civil war and becoming the effective ruler of Spain for more than three decades?

Preston argues cogently that luck played a large role, but it struck me while reading his book that one possible key to Franco’s “success” (measured simply by his ability to remain in power) is something that Padgett and Ansell called, in a classic article on the rise of the Medici in Renaissance Florence, “robust action,” action that cannot be easily foiled or prevented by your opponents. Since their ideas about what enables a political leader to act in this way seem to me to illuminate Franco’s spectacular longevity in power, it’s worth describing them in some detail.
econotariat  broad-econ  unaffiliated  history  mostly-modern  europe  mediterranean  politics  polisci  profile  people  big-peeps  power  leadership  antidemos  authoritarianism  revolution  counter-revolution  machiavelli  track-record  analysis  strategy  🎩  robust  adversarial  article 
july 2017 by nhaliday
Defection – quas lacrimas peperere minoribus nostris!
https://quaslacrimas.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/discussion-of-defection/

Kindness Against The Grain: https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/kindness-against-the-grain/
I’ve heard from a number of secular-ish sources (Carse, Girard, Arendt) that the essential contribution of Christianity to human thought is the concept of forgiveness. (Ribbonfarm also has a recent post on the topic of forgiveness.)

I have never been a Christian and haven’t even read all of the New Testament, so I’ll leave it to commenters to recommend Christian sources on the topic.

What I want to explore is the notion of kindness without a smooth incentive gradient.

The Social Module: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/the-social-module/
Now one could propose that the basic principle of human behavior is to raise the SP number. Sure there’s survival and reproduction. Most people would forget all their socialization if left hungry and thirsty for days in the jungle. But more often than not, survival and reproduction depend on being high status; having a good name among your peers is the best way to get food, housing and hot mates.

The way to raise one’s SP number depends on thousands of different factors. We could grab most of them and call them “culture”. In China having 20 teenage mistresses as an old man raises your SP; in Western polite society it is social death. In the West making a fuss about disobeying one’s parents raises your SP, everywhere else it lowers it a great deal. People know that; which is why bureaucrats in China go to great lengths to acquire a stash of young women (who they seldom have time to actually enjoy), while teenagers in the West go to great lengths to be annoying to their parents for no good reason.

...

It thus shouldn’t surprise us that something as completely absurd as Progressivism is the law of the land in most of the world today, even though it denies obvious reality. It is not the case that most people know that progressive points are all bogus, but obey because of fear or cowardice. No, an average human brain has much more neurons being used to scan the social climate and see how SP are allotted, than neurons being used to analyze patterns in reality to ascertain the truth. Surely your brain does care a great deal about truth in some very narrow areas of concern to you. Remember Conquest’s first law: Everybody is Conservative about what he knows best. You have to know the truth about what you do, if you are to do it effectively.

But you don’t really care about truth anywhere else. And why would you? It takes time and effort you can’t really spare, and it’s not really necessary. As long as you have some area of specialization where you can make a living, all the rest you must do to achieve survival and reproduction is to raise your SP so you don’t get killed and your guts sacrificed to the mountain spirits.

SP theory (I accept suggestions for a better name) can also explains the behavior of leftists. Many conservatives of a medium level of enlightenment point out the paradox that leftists historically have held completely different ideas. Leftism used to be about the livelihood of industrial workers, now they agitate about the environment, or feminism, or foreigners. Some people would say that’s just historical change, or pull a No True Scotsman about this or that group not being really leftists. But that’s transparent bullshit; very often we see a single person shifting from agitating about Communism and worker rights, to agitate about global warming or rape culture.

...

The leftist strategy could be defined as “psychopathic SP maximization”. Leftists attempt to destroy social equilibrium so that they can raise their SP number. If humans are, in a sense, programmed to constantly raise their status, well high status people by definition can’t raise it anymore (though they can squabble against each other for marginal gains), their best strategy is to freeze society in place so that they can enjoy their superiority. High status people by definition have power, and thus social hierarchy during human history tends to be quite stable.

This goes against the interests of many. First of all the lower status people, who, well, want to raise their status, but can’t manage to do so. And it also goes against the interests of the particularly annoying members of the upper class who want to raise their status on the margin. Conservative people can be defined as those who, no matter the absolute level, are in general happy with it. This doesn’t mean they don’t want higher status (by definition all humans do), but the output of other brain modules may conclude that attempts to raise SP might threaten one’s survival and reproduction; or just that the chances of raising one’s individual SP is hopeless, so one might as well stay put.

...

You can’t blame people for being logically inconsistent; because they can’t possibly know anything about all these issues. Few have any experience or knowledge about evolution and human races, or about the history of black people to make an informed judgment on HBD. Few have time to learn about sex differences, and stuff like the climate is as close to unknowable as there is. Opinions about anything but a very narrow area of expertise are always output of your SP module, not any judgment of fact. People don’t know the facts. And even when they know; I mean most people have enough experience with sex differences and black dysfunction to be quite confident that progressive ideas are false. But you can never be sure. As Hume said, the laws of physics are a judgment of habit; who is to say that a genie isn’t going to change all you know the next morning? At any rate, you’re always better off toeing the line, following the conventional wisdom, and keeping your dear SP. Perhaps you can even raise them a bit. And that is very nice. It is niceness itself.

Leftism is just an easy excuse: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/leftism-is-just-an-easy-excuse/
Unless you’re not the only defector. You need a way to signal your intention to defect, so that other disloyal fucks such as yourself (and they’re bound to be others) can join up, thus reducing the likely costs of defection. The way to signal your intention to defect is to come up with a good excuse. A good excuse to be disloyal becomes a rallying point through which other defectors can coordinate and cover their asses so that the ruling coalition doesn’t punish them. What is a good excuse?

Leftism is a great excuse. Claiming that the ruling coalition isn’t leftist enough, isn’t holy enough, not inclusive enough of women, of blacks, of gays, or gorillas, of pedophiles, of murderous Salafists, is the perfect way of signalling your disloyalty towards the existing power coalition. By using the existing ideology and pushing its logic just a little bit, you ensure that the powerful can’t punish you. At least not openly. And if you’re lucky, the mass of disloyal fucks in the ruling coalition might join your banner, and use your exact leftist point to jump ship and outflank the powerful.

...

The same dynamic fuels the flattery inflation one sees in monarchical or dictatorial systems. In Mao China, if you want to defect, you claim to love Mao more than your boss. In Nazi Germany, you proclaim your love for Hitler and the great insight of his plan to take Stalingrad. In the Roman Empire, you claimed that Caesar is a God, son of Hercules, and those who deny it are treacherous bastards. In Ancient Persia you loudly proclaimed your faith in the Shah being the brother of the Sun and the Moon and King of all Kings on Earth. In Reformation Europe you proclaimed that you have discovered something new in the Bible and everybody else is damned to hell. Predestined by God!

...

And again: the precise content of the ideological point doesn’t matter. Your human brain doesn’t care about ideology. Humans didn’t evolve to care about Marxist theory of class struggle, or about LGBTQWERTY theories of social identity. You just don’t know what it means. It’s all abstract points you’ve been told in a classroom. It doesn’t actually compute. Nothing that anybody ever said in a political debate ever made any actual, concrete sense to a human being.

So why do we care so much about politics? What’s the point of ideology? Ideology is just the water you swim in. It is a structured database of excuses, to be used to signal your allegiance or defection to the existing ruling coalition. Ideology is just the feed of the rationalization Hamster that runs incessantly in that corner of your brain. But it is immaterial, and in most cases actually inaccessible to the logical modules in your brain.

Nobody ever acts on their overt ideological claims if they can get away with it. Liberals proclaim their faith in the potential of black children while clustering in all white suburbs. Communist party members loudly talk about the proletariat while being hedonistic spenders. Al Gore talks about Global Warming while living in a lavish mansion. Cognitive dissonance, you say? No; those cognitive systems are not connected in the first place.

...

And so, every little step in the way, power-seekers moved the consensus to the left. And open societies, democratic systems are by their decentralized nature, and by the size of their constituencies, much more vulnerable to this sort of signalling attacks. It is but impossible to appraise and enforce the loyalty of every single individual involved in a modern state. There’s too many of them. A Medieval King had a better chance of it; hence the slow movement of ideological innovation in those days. But the bigger the organization, the harder it is to gather accurate information of the loyalty of the whole coalition; and hence the ideological movement accelerates. And there is no stopping it.

Like the Ancients, We Have Gods. They’ll Get Greater: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/04/like-the-ancients-we-have-gods-they-may-get… [more]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
On Pinkglossianism | Wandering Near Sawtry
Steven Pinker is not wrong to say that some things have got better – or even that some things are getting better. We live longer. We have more food. We have more medicine. We have more free time. We have less chance of dying at another’s hands. My main objection to his arguments is not that some things have got worse as well (family life, for example, or social trust). It is not that he emphasises proportion when scale is more significant (such as with animal suffering). It is the fragility of these peaceful, prosperous conditions.

Antibiotics have made us healthier but antibiotic resistance threatens to plunge us into epidemics. Globalisation has made us richer but is also a powder-keg of cultural unease. Industrialisation has brought material wealth but it is also damaging the environment. Nuclear weapons have averted international conflict but it would only take one error for them to wreak havoc.

At his best, Pinker reminds us of how much we have to treasure, then. At his worst, he is like a co-passenger in a car – pointing out the sunny weather and the beautiful surroundings as it hurtles towards the edge of a cliff.

http://takimag.com/article/dusting_off_the_crystal_ball_john_derbyshire/print
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/11/the-new-york-times-on-violence-and-pinker/
albion  rhetoric  contrarianism  critique  pinker  peace-violence  domestication  crime  criminology  trends  whiggish-hegelian  optimism  pessimism  cynicism-idealism  multi  news  org:lite  gnon  isteveish  futurism  list  top-n  eric-kaufmann  dysgenics  nihil  nationalism-globalism  nuclear  robust  scale  risk  gnxp  scitariat  faq  modernity  tetlock  the-bones  paleocon  journos-pundits  org:sci 
june 2017 by nhaliday
Sending Jobs Overseas
*The Great Convergence*: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/11/the-great-convergence.html

Richard Baldwin on the New Globalization: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/04/the-new-globalization.html
To really understand how this changed the nature of globalization, consider a sports analogy. Suppose we have two football teams, one that needs a quarterback but has too many linebackers, and one that needs a linebacker but has too many quarterbacks. If they sit down and trade players, both teams win. It’s arbitrage in players. Each team gets rid of players they need less of and gets players they need more of. That’s the old globalization: exchange of goods.

Now let’s take a different kind of exchange, where the coach of the better team goes to the field of the worse team and starts training those players in the off-season. This is very good for the coach because he gets to sell his knowledge in two places. You can be sure that the quality of the league will rise, all the games will get more competitive, and the team that’s being trained up will enjoy the whole thing. But it’s not at all certain that the players of the better team will benefit from this exchange because the source of their advantage is now being traded.

In this analogy, the better team is, of course, the G7, and not surprisingly this has led to some resentment of globalization in those countries. The new globalization breaks the monopoly that G7 labor had on G7 know-how…

good reviews here:
The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization: https://www.amazon.com/Great-Convergence-Information-Technology-Globalization/dp/067466048X
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The Roman State and Genetic Pacification - Peter Frost, 2010
- Table 1 is a good summary, but various interesting tidbits throughout
main points:
- latrones reminds me of bandit-states, Big Men in anthropology, and Rome's Indo-European past
- started having trouble recruiting soldiers, population less martial
- Church opposition to State violence, preferred to 'convert enemies by prayer'
- a Christian could use violence 'only to defend others and not for self-defense'
- Altar of Victory was more metaphorical than idolatrous, makes its removal even more egregious

http://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2010/07/roman-state-and-genetic-pacification.html

should read:
Pax and the ‘Ara Pacis’: http://sci-hub.tw/https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-roman-studies/article/pax-and-the-ara-pacis1/1EE241F03F65C42B09AB578F83C7002C
PAX, PEACE AND THE NEW TESTAMENT: https://www.religiologiques.uqam.ca/no11/pax.PDF
BANDITS IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE: http://sci-hub.tw/http://academic.oup.com/past/article-abstract/105/1/3/1442375/BANDITS-IN-THE-ROMAN-EMPIRE
Bandits in the Roman Empire: Myth and reality: https://historicalunderbelly.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/thoma-grunewald-bandits-in-the-roman-empire-myth-and-reality-2004.pdf

What Difference Did Christianity Make?: http://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/4435970
Author(s): Ramsay Mac Mullen

The extent of this impact I test in five areas. The first two have to do with domestic relations: sexual norms and slavery. The latter three have to do with matters in which public authorities were more involved: gladiatorial shows, judicial penalties, and corruption.

Clark/Frost Domestication: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/clarkfrost-domestication/
Thinking about the response of the pacified and submission Roman population to barbarian invaders immediately brings to mind the response of contemporary North Americans and Atlantic Europeans to barbarian invaders. It reads just the same: “welcome new neighbor!”

What about the Eastern empire? They kept the barbarians out for a few centuries longer in the European half, but accounts of the loss of the Asian provinces show the Clark/Frost pattern, a pacified submissive population hardly contesting the invasion of Islam (Jenkins 2008, 2010). The new neighbors simply walked in and took over. The downfall of the Western Roman empire reads much like the downfall of the Asian and North African parts of the empire. It is certainly no accident that the Asian provinces were the heartland of Christianity.

This all brings up an interesting question: what happened in East Asia over the same period? No one to my knowledge has traced parallels with the European and Roman experience in Japan or China. Is the different East Asian trajectory related to the East Asian reluctance to roll over, wag their tails, and welcome new barbarian neighbors?

gwern in da comments
“empires domesticate their people”
Greg said in our book something like “for the same reason that farmers castrate their bulls”
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Why Nothing Works Anymore - The Atlantic
But why would new technology reduce rather than increase the feeling of precarity? The more technology multiplies, the more it amplifies instability. Things already don’t quite do what they claim. The fixes just make things worse. And so, ordinary devices aren’t likely to feel more workable and functional as technology marches forward. If anything, they are likely to become even less so.
news  org:mag  rhetoric  contrarianism  technology  accelerationism  primitivism  eden-heaven  unintended-consequences  robust 
february 2017 by nhaliday
probability - Why does a 95% Confidence Interval (CI) not imply a 95% chance of containing the mean? - Cross Validated
The confidence interval is the answer to the request: "Give me an interval that will bracket the true value of the parameter in 100p% of the instances of an experiment that is repeated a large number of times." The credible interval is an answer to the request: "Give me an interval that brackets the true value with probability pp given the particular sample I've actually observed." To be able to answer the latter request, we must first adopt either (a) a new concept of the data generating process or (b) a different concept of the definition of probability itself.

http://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/139290/a-psychology-journal-banned-p-values-and-confidence-intervals-is-it-indeed-wise

PS. Note that my question is not about the ban itself; it is about the suggested approach. I am not asking about frequentist vs. Bayesian inference either. The Editorial is pretty negative about Bayesian methods too; so it is essentially about using statistics vs. not using statistics at all.

wut

http://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/6966/why-continue-to-teach-and-use-hypothesis-testing-when-confidence-intervals-are
http://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/2356/are-there-any-examples-where-bayesian-credible-intervals-are-obviously-inferior
http://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/2272/whats-the-difference-between-a-confidence-interval-and-a-credible-interval
http://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/6652/what-precisely-is-a-confidence-interval
http://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/1164/why-havent-robust-and-resistant-statistics-replaced-classical-techniques/
http://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/16312/what-is-the-difference-between-confidence-intervals-and-hypothesis-testing
http://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/31679/what-is-the-connection-between-credible-regions-and-bayesian-hypothesis-tests
http://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/11609/clarification-on-interpreting-confidence-intervals
http://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/16493/difference-between-confidence-intervals-and-prediction-intervals
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Fluctuating Asymmetry and Environmental Stress: Understanding the Role of Trait History
A conceptually important source of heterogeneity in relationships with FA is variation in the selection history of the trait(s) under study, i.e. traits that experienced a (recent) history of directional change are predicted to be developmentally less stable, potentially through the loss of canalizing modifiers.
study  nature  evolution  developmental  robust  bio  biodet  oscillation  perturbation  roots 
january 2017 by nhaliday
The “Anthropology” of Financial Crises | pseudoerasmus
Germany experienced little increase in unemployment during the Great Recession, and has found “internal devaluation” relatively easy and pain-free, unlike most other countries. Why? Some observations on the role of social capital in financial crises.
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january 2017 by nhaliday
J. Intell. | Free Full-Text | Zeroing in on the Genetics of Intelligence
Rare variants and mutations of large effect do not appear to play a main role beyond intellectual disability. Common variants can account for about half the heritability of intelligence and show promise that collaborative efforts will identify more causal genetic variants. Gene–gene interactions may explain some of the remainder, but are only starting to be tapped. Evolutionarily, stabilizing selection and selective (near)-neutrality are consistent with the facts known so far.

Idiot Proof: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/idiot-proof/
I was looking at a recent survey of current knowledge in psychological genetics. The gist is that common variants – which can’t have decreased fitness much in the average past, since they’re common – are the main story in the genetic architecture of intelligence. Genetic load doesn’t seem very important, except at the low end. Big-effect deleterious mutations can certainly leave you retarded, but moderate differences in the number of slightly-deleterious mutations don’t have any observable effect – except possibly in the extremely intelligent, but that’s uncertain at this point. Not what I expected, but that’s how things look right now. It would seem that brain development is robust to small tweaks, although there must be some limit. The results with older fathers apparently fit this pattern: they have more kids with something seriously wrong, but although there should be extra mild mutations in their kids as well as the occasional serious one, the kids without obvious serious problems don’t have depressed IQ.
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december 2016 by nhaliday
The Evolutionary Genetics of Personality Revisited
While mutations clearly affect the very low end of the intelligence continuum, individual differences in the normal intelligence range seem to be surprisingly robust against mutations, suggesting that they might have been canalized to withstand such perturbations. Most personality traits, by contrast, seem to be neither neutral to selection nor under consistent directional or stabilizing selection. Instead evidence is in line with balancing selection acting on personality traits, likely supported by human tendencies to seek out, construct and adapt to fitting environments.

shorter copy: http://www.larspenke.eu/pdfs/Penke_&_Jokela_2016_-_Evolutionary_Genetics_of_Personality_Revisited.pdf

The Evolutionary Genetics of Personality: http://www.larspenke.eu/pdfs/Penke_et_al_2007_-_Evolutionary_genetics_of_personality_target.pdf
Based on evolutionary genetic theory and empirical results from behaviour genetics and personality psychology, we conclude that selective neutrality is largely irrelevant, that mutation-selection balance seems best at explaining genetic variance in intelligence, and that balancing selection by environmental heterogeneity seems best at explaining genetic variance in personality traits. We propose a general model of heritable personality differences that conceptualises intelligence as fitness components and personality traits as individual reaction norms of genotypes across environments, with different fitness consequences in different environmental niches. We also discuss the place of mental health in the model.
study  spearhead  models  genetics  iq  personality  🌞  evopsych  evolution  sapiens  eden  pdf  explanation  survey  population-genetics  red-queen  metabuch  multi  EEA  essay  equilibrium  robust  big-picture  biodet  unit  QTL  len:long  sensitivity  perturbation  roots  EGT  deep-materialism  s:*  behavioral-gen  chart  intelligence  article  speculation  psychology  cog-psych  state-of-art 
december 2016 by nhaliday
Epistemic learned helplessness - Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz
I don’t think I’m overselling myself too much to expect that I could argue circles around the average uneducated person. Like I mean that on most topics, I could demolish their position and make them look like an idiot. Reduce them to some form of “Look, everything you say fits together and I can’t explain why you’re wrong, I just know you are!” Or, more plausibly, “Shut up I don’t want to talk about this!”

And there are people who can argue circles around me. Maybe not on every topic, but on topics where they are experts and have spent their whole lives honing their arguments. When I was young I used to read pseudohistory books; Immanuel Velikovsky’s Ages in Chaos is a good example of the best this genre has to offer. I read it and it seemed so obviously correct, so perfect, that I could barely bring myself to bother to search out rebuttals.

And then I read the rebuttals, and they were so obviously correct, so devastating, that I couldn’t believe I had ever been so dumb as to believe Velikovsky.

And then I read the rebuttals to the rebuttals, and they were so obviously correct that I felt silly for ever doubting.

And so on for several more iterations, until the labyrinth of doubt seemed inescapable. What finally broke me out wasn’t so much the lucidity of the consensus view so much as starting to sample different crackpots. Some were almost as bright and rhetorically gifted as Velikovsky, all presented insurmountable evidence for their theories, and all had mutually exclusive ideas. After all, Noah’s Flood couldn’t have been a cultural memory both of the fall of Atlantis and of a change in the Earth’s orbit, let alone of a lost Ice Age civilization or of megatsunamis from a meteor strike. So given that at least some of those arguments are wrong and all seemed practically proven, I am obviously just gullible in the field of ancient history. Given a total lack of independent intellectual steering power and no desire to spend thirty years building an independent knowledge base of Near Eastern history, I choose to just accept the ideas of the prestigious people with professorships in Archaeology, rather than those of the universally reviled crackpots who write books about Venus being a comet.

You could consider this a form of epistemic learned helplessness, where I know any attempt to evaluate the arguments is just going to be a bad idea so I don’t even try. If you have a good argument that the Early Bronze Age worked completely differently from the way mainstream historians believe, I just don’t want to hear about it. If you insist on telling me anyway, I will nod, say that your argument makes complete sense, and then totally refuse to change my mind or admit even the slightest possibility that you might be right.

(This is the correct Bayesian action: if I know that a false argument sounds just as convincing as a true argument, argument convincingness provides no evidence either way. I should ignore it and stick with my prior.)

...

Even the smartest people I know have a commendable tendency not to take certain ideas seriously. Bostrom’s simulation argument, the anthropic doomsday argument, Pascal’s Mugging – I’ve never heard anyone give a coherent argument against any of these, but I’ve also never met anyone who fully accepts them and lives life according to their implications.

A friend tells me of a guy who once accepted fundamentalist religion because of Pascal’s Wager. I will provisionally admit that this person “takes ideas seriously”. Everyone else gets partial credit, at best.

...

Responsible doctors are at the other end of the spectrum from terrorists here. I once heard someone rail against how doctors totally ignored all the latest and most exciting medical studies. The same person, practically in the same breath, then railed against how 50% to 90% of medical studies are wrong. These two observations are not unrelated. Not only are there so many terrible studies, but pseudomedicine (not the stupid homeopathy type, but the type that links everything to some obscure chemical on an out-of-the-way metabolic pathway) has, for me, proven much like pseudohistory – unless I am an expert in that particular subsubfield of medicine, it can sound very convincing even when it’s very wrong.

The medical establishment offers a shiny tempting solution. First, a total unwillingness to trust anything, no matter how plausible it sounds, until it’s gone through an endless cycle of studies and meta-analyses. Second, a bunch of Institutes and Collaborations dedicated to filtering through all these studies and analyses and telling you what lessons you should draw from them.

I’m glad that some people never develop epistemic learned helplessness, or develop only a limited amount of it, or only in certain domains. It seems to me that although these people are more likely to become terrorists or Velikovskians or homeopaths, they’re also the only people who can figure out if something basic and unquestionable is wrong, and make this possibility well-known enough that normal people start becoming willing to consider it.

But I’m also glad epistemic learned helplessness exists. It seems like a pretty useful social safety valve most of the time.
yvain  essay  thinking  rationality  philosophy  reflection  ratty  ssc  epistemic  🤖  2013  minimalism  intricacy  p:null  info-dynamics  truth  reason  s:**  contrarianism  subculture  inference  bayesian  priors-posteriors  debate  rhetoric  pessimism  nihil  spreading  flux-stasis  robust  parsimony  dark-arts  illusion 
october 2016 by nhaliday
Noise: dinosaurs, syphilis, and all that | West Hunter
Generally speaking, I thought the paleontologists were a waste of space: innumerate, ignorant about evolution, and simply not very smart.

None of them seemed to understand that a sharp, short unpleasant event is better at causing a mass extinction, since it doesn’t give flora and fauna time to adapt.

Most seemed to think that gradual change caused by slow geological and erosion forces was ‘natural’, while extraterrestrial impact was not. But if you look at the Moon, or Mars, or the Kirkwood gaps in the asteroids, or think about the KAM theorem, it is apparent that Newtonian dynamics implies that orbits will be perturbed, and that sometimes there will be catastrophic cosmic collisions. Newtonian dynamics is as ‘natural’ as it gets: paleontologists not studying it in school and not having much math hardly makes it ‘unnatural’.

One of the more interesting general errors was not understanding how to to deal with noise – incorrect observations. There’s a lot of noise in the paleontological record. Dinosaur bones can be eroded and redeposited well after their life times – well after the extinction of all dinosaurs. The fossil record is patchy: if a species is rare, it can easily look as if it went extinct well before it actually did. This means that the data we have is never going to agree with a perfectly correct hypothesis – because some of the data is always wrong. Particularly true if the hypothesis is specific and falsifiable. If your hypothesis is vague and imprecise – not even wrong – it isn’t nearly as susceptible to noise. As far as I can tell, a lot of paleontologists [ along with everyone in the social sciences] think of of unfalsifiability as a strength.

Done Quickly: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/done-quickly/
I’ve never seen anyone talk about it much, but when you think about mass extinctions, you also have to think about rates of change

You can think of a species occupying a point in a many-dimensional space, where each dimension represents some parameter that influences survival and/or reproduction: temperature, insolation, nutrient concentrations, oxygen partial pressure, toxin levels, yada yada yada. That point lies within a zone of habitability – the set of environmental conditions that the species can survive. Mass extinction occurs when environmental changes are so large that many species are outside their comfort zone.

The key point is that, with gradual change, species adapt. In just a few generations, you can see significant heritable responses to a new environment. Frogs have evolved much greater tolerance of acidification in 40 years (about 15 generations). Some plants in California have evolved much greater tolerance of copper in just 70 years.

As this happens, the boundaries of the comfort zone move. Extinctions occur when the rate of environmental change is greater than the rate of adaptation, or when the amount of environmental change exceeds the limit of feasible adaptation. There are such limits: bar-headed geese fly over Mt. Everest, where the oxygen partial pressure is about a third of that at sea level, but I’m pretty sure that no bird could survive on the Moon.

...

Paleontologists prefer gradualist explanations for mass extinctions, but they must be wrong, for the most part.
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september 2016 by nhaliday

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