A culture of poverty, russia and the west, Barriers to AI.

Is computational complexity a barrier to AI?

Computational complexity theory describes the steep increase in computing power required for many algorithms to solve larger problems; frequently, the increase is large enough to render problems a few times larger totally intractable. Many of these algorithms are used in AI-relevant contexts. It has been argued that this implies that AIs will fundamentally be limited in accomplishing real-world tasks better than humans because they will run into the same computational complexity limit as humans, and so the consequences of developing AI will be small, as it is impossible for there to be any large fast global changes due to human or superhuman-level AIs. I examine the assumptions of this argument and find it neglects the many conditions under which computational complexity theorems are valid and so the argument doesn’t work: problems can be solved more efficiently than complexity classes would imply, large differences in problem solubility between humans and AIs is possible, greater resource consumption is possible, the real-world consequences of small differences on individual tasks can be large on agent impacts, such consequences can compound, and many agents can be created; any of these independent objections being true destroys the argument.


Will the breakdown of Moore’s law delay AI?

Brain emulation requires enormous computing power; enormous computing power requires further progression of Moore’s law; further Moore’s law relies on large-scale production of cheap processors in ever more-advanced chip fabs; cutting-edge chip fabs are both expensive and vulnerable to state actors (but not non-state actors such as terrorists). Therefore: the advent of brain emulation can be delayed by global regulation of chip fabs.


Russia in Syria. Next steps in the game.

It is not going to be a trivial fight by any stretch of the imagination:

  • There are two S-400 complexes guarding Khmeimim, and several Pantsir systems.
  • Though composition varies from month to month, there are usually around a dozen air superiority fighters (Su-35, Su-35) and a dozen other fighters, as well as a few military helicopters.
  • Around 4o Pantsir systems total in Syria
  • Two Kilo submarines are currently in the region, though not the formidable Moskva cruiser, with its S-300 system
  • Two Bastion anti-ship coastal defense systems
  • Stand-off cruise missiles (Kh-32, Kh-50, Kalibrs) can be fired from deep within Russia, or from Caspian/Iranian airspace

But here are the forces ranged against them:

  • A single carrier such as the USS Harry S. Truman has around four to five dozen F-18s
  • Hundreds of F-15s and F-16s in US bases in Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, and the UAE
  • Hundreds of Tomahawks can be fired from US Navy ships
  • The air forces of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France and Britain, and possibly that of Israel and Turkey
  • B-52 bombers from half a world away

This is a totally lopsided match, which even the optimistic Russian military analyst Andrey Martyanov acknowledges


A culture of poverty.

But just before the first exam, the daughter, Eliza, is physically assaulted outside the school. She takes the test despite having a sprained wrist, and being shaken up. She doesn’t think she did well on it — and this puts Dr. Aldea in a difficult position. He is a basically honest man, but he’s so desperate for his daughter to escape life in Romania — which he regards, basically, as a shithole country — that he enters into the world of corruption to attempt to guarantee her a way out. In other words, he becomes the kind of man he wants her to escape. TAC alumnus Tim Markatos reviews the film in the new Fare Forward. Caution: the review contains spoilers. Here’s an excerpt:

Eliza doesn’t want any part of this rule-breaking, but in the warped logic of this universe Romeo’s exhortation to vice is practically a virtue. For in the slice of Romanian society depicted in Graduation the adults have effectively grown so used to corruption and responding to their circumstances immorally that they have all forgotten what it looks like to do good in the first place. Critic Victor Morton has astutely called the film’s world a “Structure of Sin,” an apt description for the web of rationalized bad behavior that [director Cristian] Mungiu spins tight across each one of the movie’s 128 minutes. According to Morton, “Graduation is not the story of a good man corrupted but a corrupt man trying to do ‘good’ (when it serves him and his) because society runs on corruption.”

Indeed, while Mungiu’s shaky cam and tight editing keep our anxieties high, society here appears to be getting along just fine—with the caveat that the only way anyone in it knows how to respond to sin is through the logic of sin.

NGO Idea #1: Get corporations to spend their charitable donations better

M&S is a supermarket chain with a revenue of £10 billion, 70’000+ employees and a 135 year history. I spent the first 6 months of my professionals life in M&S and as far as I could guesstimate from the information I had access to, M&S has raised roughly £50 million per year for charity for the past decade. In a shockingly unsurprising twist, most of this money went to highly ineffective charities. I doubt M&S is exceptional in this regard.

Like M&S, most large corporations have CSR schemes which raise significant amounts of money. Like M&S, most direct the money raised to popular, well known charities without much regard for effectiveness. This is a waste and, I think, an opportunity. An NGO aimed at persuading blue chips to fund effective charities would not be a bad way for some practically minded effective altruists to do a great deal of good.

Some more interesting stuff I read

An intro to the philosophy of identity from Wait but Why.

Friend networks alone can be used to generate accurate predictions of individual behaviour. We currently give people ownership of their private data. What do we do when public data can be just as revealing?

SSC on the struggle between evolution and meaning.

MRU’s video on why financial intermediaries sometimes fail.

Popehat on Tyranny:“Tyranny is not an abstraction. Tyranny is not faceless government. Tyranny is not some anonymous end boss to be defeated once and then confidently forgotten. Tyranny is us. Tyranny is our inclination to punish and oppress the other. Tyranny is our willingness to abuse our neighbor for not being on “our team.” Tyranny is mouthing platitudes about liberty while cheering its suppression. Tyranny is our capacity to rationalize exceptions to rights for our enemies. Tyranny is our willingness to dismiss violation of rights as unimportant or minimal. Tyranny sold you your morning coffee, greeted you warmly as you walked into the office, made lunch plans with you, and will wave goodbye to you at the end of the day. Tyranny can be you.”

On Peer Review:“When we apply for a grant or want to publish our science, we secretly get the work reviewed by our peers, some of which are competing with us for precious funding, or a bizarre version of fame. Under the veil of anonymity, a reviewer can write anything, included false statements, or incorrect statements to justify a decision. The decision is most often, “do not fund” or “reject”, even if the review is based off of inaccuracies, lack of expertise, or even blatant slander. There are no rules, there are no repercussions. There are few integrity guidelines, or oversight, nor rules of ethics in the review process for the most part. It can lead to internet trolling at a level of high art. In funding decisions, these mistakes can be missed by inattentive panels, but were definitely missed in the CIHR reform scheme before panels were re-introduced. We still have a problem of reviewers self-identifying expertise they simply do not have.

Scientists have to follow strict rules of ethics when submitting data, including conflicts of interest, research ethics, etc.  No such rules are often formally stated in the review process and can vary widely between journals.

This system is historic, back to an era when biomedical research was a fraction of the size it is today, and journal Editors were typically active scientists. The community was small. But as science rapidly expanded in the 90s, so did scientific publishing, and soon editors became professional editors, with some never running a lab or research program. Then, came the digital revolution, and journals were no longer being read on paper and the pipeline to publish increased exponentially.”

A secular Egypt

Kenya moves towards dictatorship.“In the space of just one week, a Kenyan government that proclaims itself a rule-of-law government has repeatedly defied nearly a dozen court orders in an alarming descent toward authoritarianism. When the Kenyan Supreme Court annulled Kenyatta’s reelection in a landmark ruling last year, he promised to “revisit” the judiciary and called the chief justice and his judges “crooks.” “There is a problem, and we must fix it. Going forward we must fix it,” he said shortly after the court’s judgment that a new election would have to be held within 60 days. A few days later, the vice chair of the president’s party, who is widely believed to be a close ally of Kenyatta, openly advocated for a benevolent dictatorship on national television. “What this country needs now is a benevolent dictator. People have been too soft so that things have gone rogue,” David Murathe told KTN News. “You find places like Rwanda are very stable, Uganda is very stable,” he said, quoting two East African nations with notoriously limited space for dissent.

The shameless disregard for the court process, switching off private media outlets, and intimidation of opposition politicians and journalists all build on the intolerance for criticism that characterized Kenyatta’s first term. It began with the vilification of civil society as an “evil society” by senior aides to the president and surrogates on broadcast talk shows until “activist”’ all but became a slur in Kenya. Even as the government borrowed more and more from the West and took in billions of dollars in aid, it accused human rights groups and opposition leaders of being agents of imperialism hellbent on reestablishing colonialism. This is the same administration that is now using colonial laws that Kenyatta’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of a newly independent Kenya, conveniently left in place to cement his own rule. It feels like we’re back to the dark era of Daniel arap Moi, who ruled Kenya with an iron fist for 24 years and is also the political mentor of the current president.”

We should be less concerned about school shootings.

Aliens, Corruption and Skyscrapers in Mumbai

The Fat Leonard scandal.

More on India’s housing crisis. How low floor space indexes limit vertical construction.

Why you (probably) can’t compete with steam. More basic business sense.

A brief overview of Sayyid Qutb’s thoughts and his influence on modern radical Islam.

A story of a fuck-off fund. The message is simple, have a financial reserve or risk being unable to escape bad situations.

Why finding alien life would be very, very bad. Or watch the video.

Longevity, Policing and Asia

A FAQ/Summary of longevity research. Understandable and relatively comprehensive.

Flatworms can regrow missing limbs, including their heads. Surprisingly, they retain previous memories after doing so.

In many states in the US, police officers receive a variety of legal privileges ranging to “get out of jail” cards for friends and family to the right to be told the names of any witnesses against then if they are under investigation for a crime.

An undercover police officer from London talks about his experiences.

The Confucius Institute, and growing Chinese state infiltration of thousands of US  educational institutions. “The Chinese teachers are thoroughly vetted by Hanban, according to Sahlins’ report. They “must have a strong sense of mission, glory, and responsibility and be conscientious and meticulous in [their] work,” Hanban says. They’re also explicitly instructed to toe Beijing’s line on controversial political questions. There can be no discussion whatsoever of human rights in China, or the Tiananmen Square massacre. Sahlins found that should a student raise an uncomfortable question about, say, the political status of Tibet, Hanban’s instructors are ordered to refocus the discussion on, say, Tibet’s natural beauty or indigenous cultural practices (which, ironically, Beijing has spent decades stamping out).”

Rent controls and India’s housing crisis from marginal university.

SSC on Conflict vs Mistake theory, In short, some see politics as the process of finding the truth. Others see it as a perpetual conflict between interest groups. The articles characterisation of the latter group is too narrow and negative.

An Eclectic Mix

The little red podcast on crime in china. In short,  industrialized misreporting and social normilization of crime do not for a happy country make.

Race and Faith: Not anti-or pro diversity. Remarkabally balanced. Deals more with the lack of a healthy discussion surrounding the changes in Britian than the changes themselves. Extract:  “There are two related, but separate, sets of serious social problems associated with 21st century superdiversity… One set of issues arises from the decline in overt bigotry. The evidence is that rather than producing integrated societies in which race and ethnicity count for less and less in our destinies, western societies are more and more stratified by these characteristics. Different racial, ethnic and cultural groups display objective differences in behaviour, achievement and outcomes, often for reasons largely unconnected to discrimination. In our brave new world, instead of social classes or castes being distinguished by Greek letters, as in Aldous Huxley’s novel, they can now be differentiated by skin colour or cultural symbols. The second set of emerging concerns swirls around the question of offence. Increasingly, the world-views of very different social identity groupings are colliding. Incompatible attitudes to sex, religion, belief and the rule of law are producing frictions for which the tried and trusted social lubricants seem just too thin.”

A good article on the network effects which keep bitcoin ahead of alternatives such as Etherium.

Overcoming Bias on collapse theories. Some avenues of thought here are unproductive, but the explanation why competition inevitabaly produces fragile systems is worth reading.

The competitive ecosystem of venture capital and inefficiencies therin. Extract: “The only good reasons to charge your customer money is to test what will cause customers to pay money, and to signal that you can successfully charge your customer money! The purpose of a start-up is to turn itself into a future business, and the potential profits of that future business are what is valuable and what everyone is working to create. It raises money by convincing others of these potential profits, then selling off a portion of those future profits, and then uses that money to enhance its ability to signal its future profits. The system works, to the extent it works, when the signal is both correlated to the company’s ability to succeed (better founders with better ideas can signal more effectively) and the signaling actions themselves serve to create a real company. Founders who understand the dynamics involved will be hill climbing in order to send the best signals possible and raise the most money, so it is very important that their doing so results in actual companies that hopefully do actual valuable things for people.”

Mixing your assymetric info into an existing concensus works better than building a model from scratch

Map vs Button People. A cynical conceptual model which I do not find overly convincing. Yet, I could well be wrong. Worth reading regardless.

A Pocketful of Knowledge

Pocket, an app that lets you save webpages to read later. I’ve found it more convenient than the alternatives. Recommended if you constantly have tabs open to read later.

Why did early innovation take so long? Once again, discovered on Marginal Revolution.

Estate/inheritance taxes are bad because they preference consumption over investment/saving. Also contains persuasive but fairly obvious arguments against libertarian support for tax loopholes.

An old SSC Post collecting interesting facts from a forensic psychiatry conference. One factoid: “During a death penalty case, jurors who don’t believe in capital punishment (and therefore would throw the case for reasons other than the defendant’s guilt or innocence) are automatically excluded from participating. But those jurors are usually more liberal, and the pro-capital-punishment jurors who get tapped are usually more conservative. Liberal jurors are usually more likely to acquit any type of criminal, and conservatives more likely to convict. Therefore, in certain cases it can be easier to get a death penalty conviction than a life in prison conviction, because you’re throwing the most merciful jurors out of the potential pool.”

An excellent review/critique of The Elephant in the Brain from Broken Vase. Excerpt: “There’s no need to be a hypocrite about being a hypocrite. People are watching you to see what will happen if they press a button and see what stock response you send. Will you pull out the slip of paper containing the appropriate answer? That’s what they are checking. They don’t care what your underlying logical algorithm is; that’s not very correlated with the slips of paper that come out when you press buttons, whereas your loyalty is highly correlated with those paper slips. If your logic says that what you write on those slips is about loyalty, but you pull out the right slips of paper, does that make you less loyal? Or more loyal? I’m not even sure”