Open Thread

Here is our monthly place to discuss relevant topics not covered in recent posts.

GD Star Rating
Tagged as:
Trackback URL:
  • Ben

    Pardon my ignorance, but I’ve been taking an anatomy and physiology course for some time now, and neither the professor nor the TA can answer my questions. Even Google is difficult to consult on the matter.

    What (if any) are the latest and/or “highest probability of breakthrough” areas of research in biological human augmentation?

    For example, speeding up the saltatory conduction by which nodes of ranvier transfer signal between myelinated sheaths would have interesting results. No idea if it’s possible (possibly just promoting the growth and extension of the sheaths themselves?) but if it’s not feasible, what research suggests that it’s not?

    Hell, at this point I’d be thrilled to know if there’s any research into preserving and/or repairing cooper’s ligaments.

    Medicine, in general, seems to focus exclusively on repairing and healing the sick. There’s next-to-no effort towards extending human ability, beyond perhaps sports. What gives?

    • Singularity7337

      Religion is the problem.

    • anon

      It’s partly cultural inertia–for most of human history, medicine couldn’t hope to do any better than treat disease.

      The other issue is that current “human enhancement” technologies are so primitive and risky that it doesn’t really make sense to fix what isn’t broke. So human enhancement will have to piggyback on disease treatment while the techniques are made safe and effective.

      • Ben

        That makes sense. Medicine has a much longer tradition of “don’t fix what ain’t broke” than say computer science or even psychology (in which a focus on happiness and excellence is the latest trend). And for rational historical reasons too. Hmm. Thanks.

        I wonder what else could be used to piggy back enhancement efforts. People do it themselves to get ahead in academic pursuits (everything from caffeine to ritalin to speed), athletics (steroids and supplements), and military applications.

        I personally feel that a lot more could be gained by enhancing existing human structures before emulating them outright or augmenting them. But, that’s a vastly uninformed opinion. I wonder where to get more information on the matter…

  • Fenn

    I am curious why so much thought and effort about the inefficiency of medicine but not buying in to the thesis of Miller’s “Spent”?

    Sure we spend twice as much on medicine as the health benefits justify.

    But surely we could cut our spending on clothes by half, and still keep warm and look presentable.

    We could eat more rice and beans and cut our food spending in half, and still be chunky.

    Spend half as much on housing and still be sheltered.

    Is it because so much of med is paid thru re-distributive means? Even if it is just showing that you care, why pick on this form of signaling?

    • You misunderstand my disagreement about Spent. Of course most clothes and food are signaling; the issue is what they signal and how to respond to that fact.

      • Robert Koslover

        “…most clothes and food are signaling?” I can only conclude that you spend far more time than I do associating with people who dress well and do a lot of eating out.

  • Matt

    You ever think about writing a book about the future of government? I think I would really enjoy a full text on untried alternatives to democracy or new innovations to democracy…

  • Joe

    I’m curious about the phenomenon of corporate giving (that is, charitable donations by firms). I’ve never understood how it works — legally, politically, etc, and searching hasn’t turned up anything helpful. There must be signalling phenomena involved in motivating it, but does anyone really know if it “works”?

    • Singularity7337

      Well, I don’t think there’s ever been an anonymous corporate donation. Maybe that’s a clue.

    • Tracey

      The motivation is this intangible concept called goodwill and it’s a very
      profitable and powerful one. People love buying from corporations that contribute to societal welfare. It gives them warm fuzzies. In the
      somewhat socially enlightened era we live in we want to believe the
      businesses we deal with are not just self-interested, profit motivated,
      money hungry entities. We feel good buying from fair-trade coffee shops. Corporations can capitalize on goodwill just like any other feature a product can offer. I remember being told once that I was helping save a rain forrest in Africa because I bought some soap. That pulled at my heart strings, which was stronger than Body Shop’s competitor’s trying to sell me on low prices. It’s a good thing overall, but I think it’s important to be objective and realize that Ronald McDonald doesn’t really care about your kids:)


    Dear All,

    In response to Mr. Kofmel’s spam/post as a comment above, readers of your blog should be aware that Mr. Kofmel is an internationally wanted fraudster on the run from the police. For independent press verificaiton of the same and to WATCH a BBC documentary about the same, visit our website above.

    Please drop me a line via the website above if you need any further info whatsoever.

  • William Meyer

    Does anyone know of any articles/books/links in which economists of a freemarketarian persuasion address the issue known as the “tragedy of the commons”?

    • The standard solution was to privatize the commons so it’s not a commons any more. The Econ Nobel just went to Elinor Ostrom, who argues that isn’t necessary. I don’t know if she’s a “freemarketarian”, but Peter Boettke is and lucky for him he published a book on the Bloomington School that Ostrom is part of shortly before the prize was announced.

  • What things should I leave up to my subconscious, and what things should I handle consciously?

    For example, I generally trust my instincts when I have to choose between signaling and countersignaling. Is this a mistake?

  • mjgeddes

    My Thought of The Month:

    “Code is valuable, Debate is as free as hot air
    Code moves reality, Debate only moves your mouth
    Code changes the world, Debate only changes your page views”

  • Robin, do you think that a machine can be biased? or Is such a juxtaposition even meaningful?

    • Kenny Evitt

      They’re biased in exactly the same way – to the degree to which their ‘beliefs’ differ from reality, where ‘beliefs’ may be (best) measured via the machine’s or human’s behavior.
      Take hyperbolic discounting – if you wrote a program that traded stocks and you noticed that it also behaved *as if* it had a hyperbolic discount function, wouldn’t it be *useful* to describe it as also being biased?
      If it’s a (relatively) simple machine with a (relatively) simple goal, you could also simply say “the machine is broken”.

  • Any of the Star Trek books read by James Doohan. He does (did – RIP) truly amazing voice acting. Seriously.


  • Karen Patrick

    It would be great to see more updates from you. Not all of the links seem to work.