All of jacopo's Comments + Replies

Counting Lightning

I mostly agree with the other commenters that the story does not show the qualitative changes we may expect to see from autonomous weapons. But I found it a very good short story nevertheless, and believable as well. I think it could serve well if broadly diffused, by getting someone to think about the topic for the first time before going into scenarios farther away from what they are used to.

2maximkazhenkov2moAgreed. The story is very well written in terms of literary quality.
Why do you need the story?

I notice that while a lot of the answer is formal and well-grounded, "stories have the minimum level of internal complexity to explain the complex phenomena we experience" is itself a story :) Personally, I would say that any gear-level model will have gaps in the understanding, and trying to fill these gaps will require extra modeling which also has gaps, and so on forever. My guess is that part of our brain will constantly try to find the answers and fill the holes, like a small child asking "why x? ...and why y?". So if a more practical part of us wants to stop investigating, it plugs the holes with fuzzy stories which sound like understanding. Obviously, this is also a story, so discount it accordingly...

1Jon Garcia2moYep. That's just how humans think about it: complex phenomena require complex explanations. "Emergence," as complexity arising from the many simple interactions of many simple components, I think is a pretty recent concept for humanity. People still think intelligent design makes more intuitive sense than evolution, for instance, even though the latter makes astronomically fewer assumptions and should be favored a priori by Occam's Razor.
An Unexpected Victory: Container Stacking at the Port of Long Beach

I agree it would be very good, and possibly an economic no-brainer. My point is just that what is discussed in the post works for a political no-brainer, by which I mean something that no one would bother to oppose. To get what you want you need a real political campaign, or a large scale economic education campaign. Even then it's difficult, imo, unless your proposals fit one of the cases I mention above.

That said, of you are thinking of the US there is an easy proposal to be done for medicine, which is making medical school equivalent to a college degree... (read more)

2CronoDAS3moRight now the bottleneck for becoming able to legally practice medicine as a doctor in the US is the number or residency positions for training medical school graduates, not the number of people graduating from medical schools.
An Unexpected Victory: Container Stacking at the Port of Long Beach

The problem is, licensed people have made an investment and expect to repay it by reaping profits from the protected market. Some have borrowed money to get in and may have to file for personal bankruptcy. So they will oppose the reform by any means at their disposal, for which I don't blame them (even if it is obviously against the general interest).

Such a reform would be doable in the following cases (1) it compensates the losers in some way (2) it's so gradual that current licensed will mostly retire before it's fully implemented (3) it is decided by a ... (read more)

1nomiddlename3moPerhaps a targeted campaign for reform in the area of highest impact. Medicine comes to mind but that also seems like the scariest area to mess with. I also forgot to mention that these reforms would dramatically lower the cost of education as people could choose to skip formal rigid degrees entirely.
Book Review: Rise and Fall of the Great Powers

On Prussia:

  • they managed to have almost the same GNP as France while keeping larger military spending, it's not surprising that they won the war
  • of course, it may be surprising that they managed to get there. Given the model, you would expect that they sacrificed internal stability, but in fact it was France that was the most unstable country in that period! (Revolution, Napoleon, restoration, second Republic, second empire)
  • you could say the political instability may have really hindered France, forcing higher consumption spending, but how comes this was
... (read more)
1TheRealSlimHippo3moThese are great points, thank you for pointing them out. I think I agree with your overall take - the analysis is not finished with Kennedy's framework, rather it's a good place to start. We can then go into more detail on each trade-off - analyzing why Japan gets to an investment rate of 45% whereas the Soviet Union only to 30%, say. On your specific points: 1. Good point - although I think this can only be taken so far. The Entente powers spent less on the military but had slightly higher overall economic output, and that's why they had an advantage. Certainly its unusual that Germany would defeat France so decisively. 2. I agree! Which I think is one of the reasons why Prussia sits uneasily in the framework. I think its worth noting that whereas France had domestic issues - Prussia had significantly worse external problems. These caused far more destruction than France's convulsions. The "Miracle of the house of brandenburg" and the fact that the non-Russian Napoleonic wars were fought mostly in Germany come to mind. 3. Why do you say it wasn't true pre-Napoleon? 4. I think I have to disagree here. Prussia was in a century and a half contest with Austria the moment it seized the Silesian coal fields. I agree that quick and decisive victories did the trick, but the difficulty is its not clear how Prussia managed to win decisive victories whilst not falling behind economically.
Covid 9/30: People Respond to Incentives

On effectiveness and public health studies: the thread quoted says multiple times "in the US". I would be curious to know if this kind of things are done more elsewhere or it's an implicit assumption that it could be done only in the US anyway (which could very well be true for what I know, drug profits are way higher in the US after all).

Does anybody know?

Schools probably do do something

My feeling is that many of the people which did not benefit tend to "generalise from one example" and assume that's true for most kids. Actually, I (despite being generally pro-schooling) would say something stronger than you: there is a minority of people who are actually harmed by school compared to a reasonable counterfactual (e.g. home-schooling for some). Plus, many kids can see easily where the system is failing them, less easily where it's working.

Book Review: Who We Are and How We Got Here

Thanks for the review!

Regarding the "countering racism" doubts, I can see how the results should disprove at least some racist worldviews. 

I think that an interpretation of human history among racists is the following: the population splits in to clusters, these clusters diverge in different "races", eventually one emerges as "the best" and out-competes or replaces all others, before splitting again. Historically, this view was used to justify aggressive expansionism, opposition to intermarriage, and opposition to any policy that could slow this proce... (read more)

What fraction of breakthrough COVID cases are attributable to low antibody count?

According to my understanding (which comes from popularized sources, not I am not a doctor nor a biologist) antibody counts are not the main drivers of long-term immunity. Lasting immunity is given by memory T and B cells, which are able to quickly escalate the immune response in case of new infection, including producing new antibodies. So while high antibody count means you're well protected, a low count some months after the vaccine could mean that the protection has reduced, but in almost all cases you will be protected for a much longer time. Note tha... (read more)

Rage Against The MOOChine

For info, you can find most of the exercises in python (done by someone else than Ng) here. They are still not that useful: I watched the course videos a couple of years ago and I stopped doing the exercises very quickly. 

I agree with you on both the praise and the complaints about the course. Besides it being very dated, I think that the main problem was that Ng was neither clear nor consistent about the goal. The videos are mostly an non-formal introduction to a range of machine learning techniques plus some in-depth discussion of broadly useful con... (read more)

The Myth of the Myth of the Lone Genius

On this I agree with you. But the Darwin issue is a bit of a special case - the topic was politically/religiously charged, so it was important that a very respected figure was spearheading the idea. Wallace himself understood it, I think - he sent his research to Darwin instead of publishing it directly. But this is mostly independent of Darwin's scientific genius (only mostly, because he gained that status with his previous work on less controversial topics).

On the whole, I agree with jbash and Gerald below - "geniuses" in the sense of very smart scientis... (read more)

The Myth of the Myth of the Lone Genius

What you say is even more true than you think. We would have had "relativity" in 1906, if you are satisfied with an experimentally indistinguishable theory which kept the ether as a conventional choice (a degree of difference similar to the one between interpretations of quantum mechanics). Poincaré had already submitted a paper in 1905 before seeing Einstein's, building on Lorentz's previous work. Now, Einstein's theory is preferable for several reasons, but ultimately the difference is small. 

If you look you find similar stories for Newton, Mendelee... (read more)

If individual performance is Pareto distributed, how should we reform education?

Maybe zero-sum was not the right expression, because I think it is broader than strictly zero-sum games. I meant winner-takes-most situations, where the reward of the best performer is outsized with respect to the reward of the next-best. This does not necessarily mean that the game is strictly zero-sum. In many cases, it is just that the product you deliver is scalable, so everyone will just want the best product (of course, preferences may mean that the ranking is not the same for everyone). 

I am also convinced that all the things you mentioned have... (read more)

1yhoiseth8moThanks a ton. That is very helpful. I think I understand your point now. (Others in the comments have also said something similar, but I didn’t grasp it until now.) Let me try to work through it in my own words and apply your insight to my question: Education contributes to people’s abilities — at least, that’s the idea. It also certifies them. Ability is roughly Gaussian, so tests and teaching should assume that. Which they currently do. Results, however, depend on many other (possibly overlapping) things, such as 1. luck; 2. market structure; 3. intellectual property rights; 4. economies of scale; 5. branding; and 6. network effects. For education policy, Pareto results don’t matter. Schools can only affect the input, not the output. I still think my reform suggestion is good. But I am no longer convinced that Pareto performance implies anything for education education reform. Unless, of course, it turns out that ability does follow a Pareto distribution. But that seems unlikely to me.
If individual performance is Pareto distributed, how should we reform education?
Answer by jacopoMay 25, 202116

I think there is a crucial difference between performance, as defined in the paper, and ability which should be taken very much into account. I will not debate if their definition of performance is consistent or not with the common usage, but they failed to state their definitions clearly and I think you misunderstood their results because of this. 

The paper measures performance as the results of (roughly) zero-sum competitions. This is very clear when they analyze athletes (number of wins), politicians (election wins, re-elections) and actors (awards... (read more)

3yhoiseth8moThanks for the insightful comment. I agree that the performance measures used tend toward zero-sum games. I don’t, however, think that research is an example of a (roughly) zero-sum game. Scientific breakthroughs to be made is not a limited resource in anywhere near the same sense as sports trophies is a limited resource. When we’re counting papers, we’re getting closer to zero-sum, but I still think it’s significantly positive-sum. Leaving that aside, I still think we need more examples from positive-sum games. We could look at things like 1. jobs created by entrepreneurs; 2. wealth created by entrepeneurs; 3. salaries; 4. books sold by authors; 5. returns made by investors; and 6. records sold by artists. My hunch is that these also follow a Paretian distribution, but I’m only about 70 percent sure of that. Hypothetically, if I was right, what would you think then?
3Dagon8moI think that's very important to note, thank you! In fact, the two measures may be quite related - it's believable that pairwise comparisons across a normal distribution along with some noise (most of these are small numbers of contests) can look a lot like a power law (without the asymtotic crazy-large values). But really, the tie between education and ability or performance is pretty tenuous in the first place, so we shouldn't take any policy recommendations from this mathematical curiosity.
What will 2040 probably look like assuming no singularity?

No I missed it, that's great! I was only aware of phase I. It should be revised way up then.

What will 2040 probably look like assuming no singularity?

No but all neighbors are, except Kosovo (and Bosnia that is on the track for NATO access). A new Serbia-Kosovo war (or Serbia-someone else) is in principle possible and as you say would not imply NATO breakdown. But US and EU have currently a strong grip on the region, the last war sent the message that they were willing to maintain it with force, and I think they have and will continue to have strong interest in no new war developing. And no country in the area should be suicidal enough to go against them. So I think the probability of open war there is very low, unless EU or NATO breakdown has already happened or is happening at the same time.

2ChristianKl8moAnother scenario would be NATO kicking out Turkey and some Greek/Turkish war.
What will 2040 probably look like assuming no singularity?

It is certainly possible but what kind of scenario are you thinking about? 

For moving west of Ukraine the conflicts will have to involve EU or NATO countries, almost certainly both. So that would mean either an open Russia-NATO war or the total breakdown of both NATO and EU. Both scenarios would have huge consequences for the world as a whole, nearly as much as a war between China and US and allies.

5Mary Chernyshenko8moI don't imagine a big open war between Russia and whoever else, more like a series of ethnic conflicts which would quietly spring up. This scenario is convenient for most players. ...but this is probably just depression speaking, Europe does seem better put together now that I think of it.
2ChristianKl8moNo, Serbia is in Europe and West of Ukraine. The last war in that area didn't cause a breakdown of NATO or the EU and a new one wouldn't need to result in that either.
What will 2040 probably look like assuming no singularity?

I think he might be referring to the Simon–Ehrlich wager. And indeed there have been other similar claims in the past, more often proven wrong than correct.

What will 2040 probably look like assuming no singularity?

You are right of course, and I am going by other people's analysis so I am not sure how much they are correct or wrong this time around. I do not think we will have hugely rising commodity prices making green energy unfeasible, unless there is a war (or just a trade war) blocking the supply of a key input. 

Nevertheless, the extrapolation of decreasing costs for solar and wind based on current trends will eventually hit some "hard" limit, and metals are a likely candidate. After all, as manufacturing costs for panels reduce, the fraction of cost coming... (read more)

What will 2040 probably look like assuming no singularity?

Thanks for the clarifications! I realized that maybe you are mostly interested on the tech sector in the US and AI-related development, which explains also why you didn't think of biomedical research immediately. Is this impression correct? If so, you might want to edit further the question to restrict the range of answers. 

I fixed the link, I didn't notice but it had taken the ) as part of the address.

BTW, I read your post on military tech in the meantime, it was interesting.

3Daniel Kokotajlo8moIt's true that that's what I'm mostly interested in, but I don't want to restrict the question to that stuff -- I asked this question so I could learn more things! Please don't hesitate to answer with biotech stuff or non-US stuff or non-tech stuff! Thanks!
What will 2040 probably look like assuming no singularity?
Answer by jacopoMay 17, 202118

I think 10x decrease in energy prices is too much. My reasons are:

  1. There are some constrains on solar/wind which are currently not binding, but will be by the time we have converted most energy production to green energy. The main ones are metals (see e.g. and land use (in India, China, Europe, Japan and a few other Asian countries especially as population density is high, but that's most of the world population anyway). This of course does not consider the possibility of ma
... (read more)
7johnswentworth8moExtending on point 2: if we want to talk about a price drop, then we need to think about relative elasticity of supply vs demand - i.e. how sensitive is demand to price, and how sensitive is supply to price. Just thinking about the supply side is not enough: it could be that price drops a lot, but then demand just shoots up until some new supply constraint becomes binding and price goes back up. (Also, I would be surprised if supercomputers and AI are actually the energy consumers which matter most for pricing. Air conditioning in South America, Africa, India, and Indonesia seems likely to be a much bigger factor, just off the top of my head, and there's probably other really big use-cases that I'm not thinking of right at the moment.)
4MondSemmel8moI understand that Malaria resists attempts at vaccination, but regarding your 80% prediction by 2040, did you see the news that a Malaria vaccine candidate did reach 77% effectiveness in phase II trials [] just last month? Quote: "It is the first vaccine that meets the World Health Organization's goal of a malaria vaccine with at least 75% efficacy."
4ChristianKl8moPeople argued for metal prices being a problem for a long time and those predictions usually failed to come true.
3Daniel Kokotajlo8moThanks! I edited my thing on energy to clarify, I'm mostly interested in the price of energy for powering large neural nets, and secondarily interested in the price of energy in general in the USA, and only somewhat interested in the price of energy worldwide. I am not convinced yet that the increased demand from AI will result in increased prices. In fact I think the opposite might happen. Solar panels are basically indefinitely scalable; there are large tracts of empty sunny land in which you can just keep adding more panels basically indefinitely. And transporting the energy to other places won't be an issue for AI because the datacenters can be built right where the solar panels are. If storing energy is a problem, just do your AI training runs during the day when energy is plentiful. So I predict that AI-related demand for energy will mostly just result in vastly increased supply, rather than increased prices -- but when supply increases, economies of scale will result, that may even drive the price lower! The point about metals is new to me, I'll go read up on that, thanks. For some reason your link seems to be broken.
Election results in Central Europe match some pre-WW1 borders

Interesting reading, although I wonder if there are alternative or complementary explanations - instead of direct cultural transmission, one could think of different economic paths due to different starting levels of industrialization, infrastructure, education etc., which then generate different cultural clusters. Culture will also influence the economy, of course, in a sort of co-evolution. 

Btw, if you wanted to apply this to Italy (another Italian here!), I think you should not look at coalitions but single parties within them. The Austro-Hungarian... (read more)

1ForensicOceanography9moThank you for your reply! The differences in economic developement are undoubtedly a part of the story; it is hard to isolate the "material culture" from the rest of the culture. I never said it has to be direct cultural transmission (expecially in the case of Poland, which was resettled by colonists from all the other areas of Poland. Barely one sixth of the population of Western Poland in 1950 was made of Germans who inhabited in the same place in 1939; is it enough to have direct cultural transmission? Maybe, but the quick resettlement itself may have been a cause of cultural divergence). The economy and the environment shape the culture, but sometimes also the opposite is true (you can tell which is the border between Dominican Republic and Haiti simply by looking at Google Earth). Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy/Veneto are two sides of the same Po Valley, and as far as I know have similar densities of small manifactures: so yes, maybe the former border is a part of the explaination for the fact that they have ended up opposing each other politically.
All is fair in love and war, on Zero-sum games in life

Consider also that when a zero-sum game is embedded in a positive-sum one, often the most effective way to negotiate is to threaten to walk away from the positive-sum game if you don't get a bigger share of the spoils (e.g. threaten to leave the job if you don't get a rise). The simplified version is the ultimatum game: 

This also means that holding a positive-sum trade sacred has the side effect of freezing the zero-sum part of it to the status quo.

If my previous research is wrong, what are my options ?

I think this happens to many scientists. I found myself in a similar situation once - we could not have done better at the time, but we could have noticed that the tools we used were not sufficient. Fortunately, by the time we noticed we had better tools and we found that the conclusions were still valid, even if some quantitative results were pretty inaccurate. As you, I wanted to submit an erratum, but my boss insisted to include the results in another related paper instead. I still feel that an erratum would have been better, but I think he was worried ... (read more)