Open Thread

This is our monthly place to discuss related topics that have not appeared in recent posts.

GD Star Rating
Tagged as:
Trackback URL:
  • Noumenon

    Religious conversion: did your post comparing it to romantic love mean they operate the same psychologically? Or is converting more about affiliating with a group, signalling an attitude change, self-improvement? Does the factual content of the religious teachings really persuade anybody?

  • A quote allegedly from Charles Murray: “It seems that those who legislate and administer and write about social policy can tolerate any increase in actual suffering so long as the system does not explicitly permit it.”

    • We expect public politics to focus more on appearance than fact. So we’d also expect libertarians to focus more on the appearance of liberty than its reality.

  • You’ve posted about ems becoming more numerous to a Malthusian limit, with only the ems with good work ethics surviving.

    What kind of work would they be doing?

    • Matthew C.

      Obviously creating subprime mortgage-backed securities for central valley McMansions, SIVs for hiding billion-dollar trading losses, and CDOs for bailing out subprime Hellenic mediterranean nations. . .

      • You may not be so far off as all that.

        If there’s no way to increase computing capacity or make ems more efficient, a lot of the work ems do may be efforts to gain or protect territory.

  • Alexey Turchin

    What do think, is it possible to reconstruct you based on posts in your blog? Can future AI do it? If not, what is missed?

  • Do you have stocks, mutual funds, or general investment strategies to recommend?

  • nw

    New study shows joblessness greatly affects male eligibility. This seems obvious but the Huffington Post seems surprised.

  • OhioStater

    Some sports are more honorable than others. Even if you adjust for income, revenues, and TV ratings, some sports are simply more important than others.

    It seems we especially like sports with practical application, especially those with a clear clean link to our primal hunter-gatherer days. If the champion possesses the same traits as the warriors that conquered your country 600 years ago, then there is a clear link between the champion and future political and social status.

    Farmers definitely care more about these “important” sports than foragers, as farmers are closer to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle than foragers.

    Can we then conclude sports fans are non-foragers?

    • Bryce

      It seems we especially like sports with practical application

      On what are you basing that statement? Running, martial arts, fencing, and shooting all seem to have a much stronger link to any practical application or hunter/gatherer/warrior lifestyle than say, football, soccer, baseball, or basketball.

  • IVV

    I asked this earlier, I’ll ask it now that it’s the Open Thread:

    If the Singularity is possible, then wouldn’t it be more likely to have already happened at least once, and we are the subsistence-level ems within a simulation of the Singularity-intelligence?

  • What’s the point of accelerating our computer and genetic technology if we still live under feudalism, openly lie to the public with mainstream media propaganda, and encourage the masses to be the same hypocrites, liars, and cowards that their ancestors were?

    Aren’t we going to wind up holocausting ourselves?

  • Thesis: The new strategy for the US in Afghanistan should be charter cities. Fall back to 1 or 2 “economic zones” where the US military only provides security.

  • Drewfus

    What is the purpose of expensive art? It can’t be aesthetics, because masterpieces sell for a huge premium over copies. Advertisments for owners wealth? Maybe, but does anyone need to see Warren Buffet buying a Picasso to understand that he is very rich?

    My guess: Art has high social value, way beyond it’s utility for individuals. Buying expensive art signals a commitment to social values, thus it improves the buyers social reputation, but more specifically, it makes that individual a more worthy candidate for positions of political power or influence. It’s a way of adding to ones social CV.

    Another way of looking at it; Who will watch the watchers? Not so important – we already watched them buying expensive art.

    • Copies aren’t so perfect as all that– accurate color reproduction is hard. And if we’re talking about oil paintings, the artist may have been working with translucent and transparent layers, and that and the texture of the paint aren’t going to be present in the reproduction.

      None of the above means that most buyers are paying attention at that level of detail, though.

      • Drewfus

        Good points Nancy. Perhaps 3D printing will help to improve the quality of reproductions? If they do, and the price differential of originals to copies remains large, what will economists and art lovers say to explain this?

        Anyway, I think art exists in part to act as a proxy or signal for a commitment to social values, sort of analogous to an engagement or wedding ring, except that the commitment has a much broader context.

        The proposition that art prices represent social value, not personal utility so much, and perhaps aid an individuals political ambitions, could be tested…

        In a hypothetical election, choose between the following two candidates:

        Candidate A has a share portfolio of $10 million. Candidate B has a share portfolio of $5 million, and a personal art collection, also valued at $5 million. Without knowing anything else about the two candidates, which of the two would you vote for?

    • Prakash

      Art, due to it’s social status indicator, preserves wealth better than a lot of alternatives when the currency is being constantly inflated.

      In the bitcoin forum, I think there was this topic of which other asset class would maintain a lot of value in a post bitcoin world of constant deflation. Art was a popular choice.

      • Drewfus

        So art prices are positively correlated with inflation, and deflation? So presumably a steady price level would be against the interest of art owners.

        I’m not sure the purpose of art is well understood at all. I asked a few people about the effect the ‘art connoisseur candidate’ would have on their voting choices and they all said “not much”.

        As mentioned above, I don’t buy the status signal theory of art because it is simply not necessary in the modern world (or perhaps any) to observe art purchase and ownership to be aware that a rich individual is rich, and yet art continues to retain and increase it’s monetary value. What’s going on?

  • Hedonic Treader

    What would be the most efficient way to reduce the average pain-sensitivity of the global human population without undermining survival probability? Can this be done cheaply and in a heritable way?

    We know of some genetic alleles that correlate with a lower pain sensitivity. Is it possible politically and economically to shift the allele frequencies to make human life less painful on average?

  • V.G.

    Discuss this article on breasts, Game of Thrones and power.

  • If the Singularity is likely to lead back to a state where most *people* are subsistence workers, is technological innovation — even in absence of such Singularity — leading us in that direction at the margin? I.e, has the past few hundred years been a mere fluke in which innovation has tended to increase the standard of living for most people, whereas in the future the benefits of innovation may be increasingly enjoyed only by a few at the expense of the majority?

    Or, to put it in plainer language: is increasing automation likely to eventually render those without high IQs permanently unemployed?

    • Eventually the Singularity will lead to all humans being unemployed.

      The whole premise of the Singularity is that AI will be able to upgrade itself and become more intelligent exponentially faster.

      To repeat, the whole premise of the Singularity is that AI will be able to upgrade itself. Humans won’t be able to upgrade themselves, so eventually AI will pass humans in intelligence and the gulf will increase (at an exponentially increasing rate) until the dumbest AI is many orders of magnitude of orders of magnitude smarter than the smartest human.

      High IQ, low IQ, it will make no difference. It is like the best shoveler of dirt thinking he could compete with one of these.

  • Rick Gerkin

    This paper makes an argument for using animal models for neuroeconomics:

    The strengths of this approach are in dispensing with some of the assumptions of behavioral economics, testing very quickly (and in ways that would never pass an IRB for human research), and in getting at the biological bases of economic decision making. One of the possible weaknesses would be that any results might have little applicability to humans, even to naive humans, if humans are indeed a “Homo ” species, whose brains are evolved to make particular kinds of decisions that aren’t applicable to another species, rather than simply being smarter apes. I’d like to hear your perspective on this.

  • Yvain

    Longest-running cancer screening trial confirms that mammograms save lives; cut breast cancer mortality 30%; also cut all-cause mortality (though not mentioned in this report); shorter trials may underestimate benefits of screening; mammograms probably even more effective than previously believed:

    • FYI, the journal article is here.

    • Douglas Knight

      This is about the same minuscule effect as measured by other studies; maybe twice as big. It is irresponsible for you to trumpet the meaningless 30% figure. The figure is meaningless both because net mortality is the relevant stat and because the figure is just a mismeasurement. RCT show that the intervention of mammograms causes misattribution of death to breast cancer (compared to autopsy, assumed to correctly diagnose).

      The recent US study condemning mammograms for women aged 40-50 didn’t quite say that they didn’t work. It said that if you believed the rate of saving lives, they weren’t worth the cost, either in dollars or distress.

  • OhioStater

    Regarding Casey Anthony…is there any evidence media coverage increases the likelihood of acquittal?

  • There is no book called “The Forager Spectrum“. It’s actually “The Foraging Spectrum” by Robert L. Kelly. Just a tip for those googling.

  • Drewfus