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Answer by FoyleSep 12, 202310

Nothing wrong with the universe, from an Anthropic perspective it's pretty optimal, we just have most humans running around with much of their psychology evolved to maximize fitness in highly competitive resource limited hunter-gatherer environments, including a strong streak of motivating unhappiness with regard to things like; social position, feelings of loneliness, adequacy of resources, unavailability of preferred sex partners, chattel ownership/control, relationships etc and a desire to beat and subjugate most dangerous competitors to get more for ourselves (men wanting to take down the men in the tribe next door who are likewise planning to murder them, women wanting to take down women outside of their immediate friend/family circle that compete for essential resources they need for their kids).  We are designed to be to some degree miserable and discontent, with maladapted compulsions to make us work harder on things that don't have immediate payoff, but that do improve our chances of survival and successful procreation over long term.

The fix would be hacking human brains (benignly) and figuring out how to rewire the innate negative psychological drives to enable greater contentment in a post-scarcity technological world.  There's a good chance that will become possible post singularity (if humans aren't all dead) 


As counterpoint from a 50 year old who has struggled with meaning and direction and dissatisfaction with outcomes (top 0.1% ability without as yet personally satisfactory results) I have vague recollections of my head-strong teen years when I felt my intellect was indomitable and I could master anything and determine my destiny though force of will.  But I've slowly come to the conclusion that we have a lot less free-will than we like to believe, and most of our trajectory and outcomes in life are set by neurological determinants - instincts and traits that we have little to no control over.  Few if any have drive necessary (another innate attribute) to overcome or modify their base tendencies over long term, a sisyphean endeavour at best, and the likely reason we see such heavy use of nootropic drugs.

Without an (almost literal) gun to your head you can only maintain behavioural settings at odds with your likely genetically innate preferences for short periods, months, perhaps years, but not decades, 'fake it till you make it' in personality modification mostly doesn't work - in my experience people (myself included) almost always fall back into their factory settings.  Choose your goals, careers and partners accordingly, follow your interests, and try to find work environments where others strengths can compensate for deficits you perceive in yourself, eg working with some highly conscientious types is a massive boon if you are ADHD and probably leads to greater satisfaction and better results.

I don't think it's mild.  I'm not American, but follow US politics with interest.

A majority of blue-collar/conservative US now see the govt as implacably biased against their interests and communities, eg see recent polling on attitudes towards DOJ, FBI eg

There is widespread perception that rule of law has failed at the top levels at least - with politically motivated prosecutions (timing of stacked Trump indictments is clearly motivated by his candidacy) and favored treatment of Hunter (majority of US population see corruption in Biden's VP doings).

And worst of all a substantial fraction of US do not believe results of 2020 elections were legitimate.  In recent polling: "61% of Americans say Biden did legitimately win enough votes to win the presidency, and 38% believe that he did not".

The traditionally middle seeking and sense-making Media has become implacably polarised, with steadfast silence on or spinning of stories inconvenient to their 'side'.

The greatest concern must be that the rate of descent into extreme political and institutional Tribalism and differential treatment on that basis. Long term that can only lead to a violent collapse in rule of law, or repressive policing.

The only antidote is dogmatic enforcement of even-handed treatment at all levels, govt employees must be seen to be scrupulously non-partisan or everything will inevitably fall apart.

Ruminations on this topic are fairly pointless because so many of the underpinning drivers are clearly subject to imminent enormous change.  Within 1-2 generations technology like life extension, fertility extension, artificial uteruses, superintelligent AI, AI teachers and nannies, trans-humanism and will render meaningless today's concerns that currently seem dominating and important (if Humans survive that long).  Existential risk and impacts of AI are really the only issues that matter.  Though I am starting to think that the likely inevitable next generation of MAD - space based nukes hanging like an undetectable sword of Damocles over our heads is scary as hell too - coordinated global 1st strikes with only 2-3 seconds between detectability and detonation of stealth bombs re-entering from far distant orbits at >10km/s.

But even in their absence if there was close to a technology level freeze starting now evolution would move in to fill the gap - within a few generations individuals and cultures whose psychology or rules moved them to have more kids - eg religious fundamentalists, highly impulsive, strong maternal or paternal drives and strongly patriarchal cultures (Looking around world places that treat women like shit seems to have higher fertility) would steadily grow to dominate the gene pool - seeing a greater number of kids being born. 

purported video of a fully levitating sample from a replication effort, sorry I do not have any information beyond this twitter link.  But if it is not somehow faked or misrepresented it seems a pretty clear demonstration of flux-pinned Meissner effect with no visible evidence of cooling. [Edit] slightly more detail on video "Laboratory of Chemical Technology"

Seems quite compelling - most previous claims of high temp superconductivity have been based on seeing only dips in resistance curves - not full array of superconducting behaviours recounted here, and sample preparation instructions are very straight forward - if it works we should see replication in a few days to weeks [that alone suggests its not a deliberate scam].

The critical field strength stated is quite low - only about 25% of what is seen in a Neodymium magnet and it's unclear what critical current density is, but if field reported is as good as it gets then it is unlikely to have much benefit for motor design with B² dependent torque densities <10% of conventional designs, unless the applications are not mass/cost sensitive (wind turbines replacing permanent magnets?).

Meissner effect could be useful for some levitation designs (floating houses, hyperloop, toys?) Likely some novel space applications like magnetic sails, perhaps passive magnetic bearings for infinite life reaction control wheels and maybe some ion propulsion applications.  But lightly biggest impacts will be in digital and power electronics with ultra-high q inductors, higher efficiency transformers, and maybe data processing devices.

It might be transformative for long distance renewable power distribution. 

[Edit to add link to video of meissner effect being demonstrated]

Meissner effect video looks like the real deal.  Imperfect disk sample is pushed around surface of a permanent magnet and tilts over to align with local field vector as gets closer to edge of cylindrical magnet end face.  Permanent magnets in repulsive alignment are not stable in such arrangements (Earnshaw's theorem) - they would just flip over, and diamagnetism in conventional materials - graphite the strongest - is too weak to do what is shown.  The tilting shows the hall-marks of flux pinning working to maintain a consistent orientation of the superconductor with ambient magnetic field, which is a unique feature of superconductivity.  No evidence of cooling in video.

If this is not being deliberately faked then I'd say this is a real breakthrough.

Desalination costs are irrelevant to uranium extraction.  Uranium is absorbed in special plastic fibers arrayed in ocean currents that are then post processed to recover the uranium - it doesn't matter how many cubic km of water must pass the fiber mats to deposit the uranium because that process is, like wind, free.  The economics have been demonstrated in pilot scale experiments at ~$1000/kg level, easily cheap enough making Uranium an effectively inexhaustible resource at current civilisational energy consumption levels even after we run out of easily mined resources.  Lots of published research on this approach (as is to be expected when it is nearing cost competitiveness with mining).

Seems likely, neurons only last a couple of decades - memories older than that are reconstructions, - things we recall frequently or useful skills.  If we live to be centuries old it is unlikely that we will retain many memories going back more than 50-100 years.

In the best envisaged 500GW-days/tonne fast breeder reactor cycles 1kg of Uranium can yield about $500k of (cheap) $40/MWh electricity.

Cost for sea water extraction (done using ion-selective absorbing fiber mats in ocean currents) of Uranium is currently estimated (using demonstrated tech) to be less than $1000/kg, not yet competitive with conventional mining, but is anticipated to drop closer to $100/kg which would be.  That is a trivial fraction of power production costs.  It is even now viable with hugely wasteful pressurised water uranium cycles and long term with fast reactor cycles there is no question as to its economic viability.  It could likely power human civilisation for billions of years with replenishment from rock erosion.

A key problem for nuclear build costs is mobility of skilled workforces - 50 years ago skilled workers could be attracted to remote locations to build plants bringing families with them as sole-income families.  But nowadays economics and lifestyle preferences make it difficult to find people willing to do that - meaning very high priced fly-in-fly-out itinerant workforces such as are seen in oil industry.

The fix is; coastal nuclear plants, build and decommission in specialist ship yards, floated to operating spot and emplace on sea bed - preferable with seabed depth >140m (ice age minimum).  Staff flown or ferried in and out (e-VTOL). (rare) accidents can be dealt with by sea water dilution, and if there is a civilizational cataclysm we don't get left with a multi-millenia death zone around decaying land-based nuclear reactors.

Goes without saying that we should shift to fast-reactors for efficiency and hugely less long term waste production.  To produce 10TW of electricity (enough to provide 1st world living standards to everyone) would take about 10000 tonnes a year of uranium, less than 20% of current uranium mining in 500GW-day/tonne fast reactors. 

Waste should be stuck down many km-deep holes on abyssal ocean floors.  Dug using oil industry drilling rigs and capped with concrete.  There is no flux of water through ocean bed floor, and local water pressures are huge so nothing will ever be released into environment - no chance of any bad impacts ever (aside from volcanism that can be avoided).  Permanent perfect solution that requires no monitoring after creation.

Answer by FoyleApr 05, 202350

It appears that AI existential risk is starting to penetrate consciousness of general public in a 'its not just hyperbole' way.

There will inevitably be a lot of attention seeking influencers (not a bad thing in this case) who will pick up the ball and run with it now, and I predict the real-life Butlerian Jihad will rival the Climate Change movement in size and influence within 5 years as it has all the attributes of a cause that presents commercial opportunity to the unholy trinity of media, politicians and academia that have demonstrated an ability to profit from other scares.  Not to mention vast hoards of people fearful of losing their careers.

I expect that AI will indeed become highly regulated in next few years in the west at least.  Remains to be seen what will happen with regards to non-democratic nations.

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