All of Jacopo Baima's Comments + Replies

The Future of Nuclear Arms Control?

"I think a good path for nuclear modernization would be to generally reduce nuclear weapon yields while increasing precision"

I am unsure about this. I have the feeling that this is in part the trend going on right now, and that geopolitics experts are very worried, because it gives a path to gradual escalation and makes nuclear war more likely. When nuclear bombs were large and inaccurate, they were kept only as last option of deterrence: it was clear that any use would be followed by a devastating counter-strike with ~100% probability. In contrast, when a... (read more)

I generally agree with this thought train of concern. That said, if the end state equilibrium is large states have counterforce arsenals and only small states have multi-megaton weapons, then I think that equilibrium is safer in terms of expected death because the odds of nuclear winter are so much lower. There will be risk adaptation either way. The risk of nuclear war may go up contingent on their being a war, but the risk of war may go down because there are lower odds of being able to keep war purely conventional. I think that makes assessing the net risk pretty hard, but I doubt you'd argue for turning every nuke into a civilization ender to improve everyone's incentives: at some point it just isn't credible that you will use the weapons and this reduces their detergent effect. There is an equilibrium that minimizes total risk across sources of escalation, accidents, etc. and I'm trying to spark convo toward figuring out what that equilibrium is. I think as tech changes, the best equilibrium is likely to change, and it is unlikely to be the same arms control as decades ago, but I may be wrong about the best direction of change.
A review of Where Is My Flying Car? by J. Storrs Hall

I have not read the book so I might not give it justice. But while the topic is greatly worthwhile some of the stories given to explain "the roots of stagnation" seem off to me. I will try to explain why.

On nanotech: the NNI was a US initiative, and it is strange to explain a worldwide setback with a dysfunction of US funding. Europe has a completely different science funding system, with EU-scale funding interacting with different national systems and priorities. A research area that got large centralized funding in the EU is that of nanoscale materials, ... (read more)

The author does overstate the harm from NNI. Drexler's vision needed larger-scale coordination than just a bunch of small academic labs that needed to focus on publishing papers. It needed something closer to the Apollo program. The details of NNI are just a small part of the political and cultural changes which made it harder to organize an Apollo program in 2000 than it was in 1960. The author does have libertarian tendencies, but he implies that libertarianism is less important than the difference between a well-run government and a poorly run government. A fair amount of the book is devoted to analyzing why the US government became worse around 1970.

The increased damage is due to building more on the flood plains, which brings economic gains. It is very possible that they outweigh the increased damage. Within standard economics, they should be, unless strongly subsidized insurance (or expectation of state help for the uninsured after a predictable disaster) is messing up the incentives. Then again, standard economics assumes rational agents, which is kind of the opposite of what is discussed in this post...

The straightforward way to force irrational homeowners/business owners/developers to internalize... (read more)