This is our monthly place to discuss relevant topics that have not appeared in recent posts.
The secret identity of 'Satoshi Nakamoto' could be Wei Dai, Nick Szabo and Hal Finney (together) - the joint creators of Bitcoin.
I won't post or link to the evidence, but for those interested, the hacker community /reddit seem to have some convincing evidence that these folks are indeed the joint creators of Bitcoin.
These folks are known to the transhumanist community. Wei Dai in particular, is known to be involved in AGI research and has made real independent research breakthroughs on his own ('Less Wrong' top-rated poster).
Point of interest: 'Satoshi Nakamoto' could control 1 million bitcoins, with an estimated value currently approaching $US 1 billion. This is more than enough to run a secret Manhattan-style AGI project that no government agency or corporation could match.
"If technology collapsed, there would be no similar incremental approach available for successor civilizations. They would have to jump from scavenging our landfills to mile-deep mines. I think the same would hold true for oil and gas drilling."
Some of the survivors would remember (not in the least through archaeology) what is possible technologically and they would know about deep lying resource deposits. Technology could advance with far less initial resource consumption because the search for new resources and technologies could be directed (they wouldn't need an entire consumer society to support innovative enterprise because governments and businesses would already know a lot of inventions are possible and commercially viable: investment where profit is assured.) Even if everyone forgot about the old world they'd eventually rediscover scientific principles but development would be slow because science would be less profitable.
It is of course discussed by evolutionary biologists, the total fitness of males & females must be equal. This helps to explain why the natural sex ratio tends toward 50:50. Razib Khan elaborates here: http://www.unz.com/gnxp/let...
This is an extremely interesting point, as it could also explain the preference for being male. Freud held it derives from possession of a large reproductive organ; most usually, we think of male physical strength. But merely being male endows one with an astoundingly greater reproductive advantage. But then, why is the equilibrium close to 50-50? (Seems this must be discussed by evolutionary biologists, but the considerations are new to me.)
I also meant to say that any assumption that the past cycle of civilizations rising, falling, then rising again is a form of bias. Current civilization is unprecedented. The rises after falls of prior civilizations is not precedent for a rise after the fall of the current civilization. This makes the "recurrent collapse" scenario seem unlikely to me. (Recurrent collapse discussed in section 2.2 at http://www.existential-risk...
It seems to me that one could characterize the past as having had civilizations rise then fall, particularly in the extent of trade, and thus the gains to specialization, which tend to correlate to technological change. In the past, new civilizations rose from the ashes of old ones over time periods that seem to have been on orders of magnitude that were comparable to the civilizations themselves (hundreds of years, generally).
Would that be possible if modern civilization fell back to the extent of trade, gains to specialization, and technological change that prevailed in, say, the middle ages? (I.e. pick any cause of that fall you like and focus on the outcome.) Here is one particularity that makes me think the answer could be no. Mining was historically critical for both fuel and metals. When population got to the point that wood-based charcoal was rising quickly in price, mined coal stepped in. But at the point when this happened, the deposits were near the surface. As surface deposits were used up, mining technology only had to advance incrementally to allow mining at deeper levels. If technology collapsed, there would be no similar incremental approach available for successor civilizations. They would have to jump from scavenging our landfills to mile-deep mines. I think the same would hold true for oil and gas drilling. (And I don't know much about either mining or drilling. Experts should feel free to contradict me.)
Maybe this means that technology would just take a completely different path. One could say in theory that it might be much less intensive for certain types of resource (such as transportable fuel and metals). Maybe I am blinded by history, but I can't see that.
If this technological problem would be insurmountable, then the failure of our current civilization would assure one of the extinction or equivalent outcomes for humanity discussed in Global Catastrophic Risk because humanity would never escape earth or have any other ability to prevent some eventual species-level doom (asteroid impact or whatever).
I don't recall seeing this scenario in Global Catastrophic Risk, but maybe I just don't remember. In any case, I don't recall seeing anything on it recently. If anyone has seen it, can you point me to it?
Maybe the preference being expressed is actually for descendants. So, it might be better to think of healthy grandchildren, rather than healthy children. A high-status son can father many more grandchildren than a high-status daughter can birth. I recall reading about studies that found that the preference between male and female children, and the level of investment in them, often had to do with the status of the parent, and thus the parent's reproductive strategy.Bias warning: What I read was a summary, not the studies, so the actual science could have been misrepresented. And I like stories that key on these kinds of things, so I could have remembered a misinterpretation that I liked, rather than the interpretation of either the summary or the study.Max
Dear Friends, Could someone kindly focus on "original research" and "new knowledge" regarding the human species? Take the example of human population dynamics/overpopulation. The 'science of the anthropocene' appears to be ignoring the elephant in our planetary home. After all, human beings are a part of, not apart from, Earth systems, are we not? The way this matter is 'overlooked' is incredible. http://www.panearth.org/ Extraordinary claims call out for extraordinary evidence. I get that. Let's discuss the research and the extant knowledge. Thank you. Always, Steve
You appear correct, I was using older numbers. In 1980 in the US the gender gap was slightly above years. However it appears to be down to under 5 years today. The primary cause seems to be that heart disease (a male heavy disease) mortality is declining fast relative to cancer (a relatively gender neutral disease).
Many smokers, fat people, and heavy drinkers, themselves, would prefer to be otherwise. Yet, how many men would prefer to be women?
Related to addictions, I think I would recommend book called Power of Habit. The author speculates that 40% of what we do are habits (brain's way to conserve energy by not using conscious thought). Once a habit loop is formed, (such as browsing Overcoming Bias to pick a random example) is formed, it's hard to get rid of it if the same clues and rewards are present.
Actually the book had interesting idea, the far-mode belief, even irrational (such as belief in God) is required to overcome habit routines when the temptation is very strong.
But yeah in far-mode we tell idealistic stories how we can and do behave better but probably do not live up to the expectations in near-mode. I have been aware of habit loops for long time but changing them is sometimes very hard, and more often than I'd like to admit I fail to do so.
We tell many kinds of idealistic moral stories in far-mode to for signaling reasons but our near-mode actions can be in complete opposition to those. I don't want to condemn morality here, I'd take Tyler's approach that things are complicated, and certain immorality probably corrupts your character even though we hurt others indirectly in many ways.
Related to addictions, here's a an interesting piece about our addiction economy:
Your numbers are off, at least for Western European countries. A female smoker in Western Europe has a shorter life expectancy than a male non-smoker and women don't live 7 years longer on average. Plus, don't you think it would suck to be a woman in a world with a severe shortage of men?
An apparent paradox. The vast majority of parents have very strong preferences for healthy children. Most parents would sacrifice many resources to prevent their children from being smokers, obese or heavy drinkers. Yet being born male is a worse health detriment than any of these factors (at least in terms of impact on life expectancy). Given this one would expect that new parents would overwhelmingly prefer new born girls to boys. Who wouldn't want their child to have an extra seven years of life expectancy.
Yet this is not the case. In fact it seems as if the preference for boys is equal, if not stronger than the preference for girls. Thoughts?
Robin: A while ago you wrote about the "Big Change" assignment that you give to your students (http://www.overcomingbias.c.... I wonder if you could give some examples of the most interesting (to you) questions that your students have posed and answered.
How is it that if you compare the North East and South, in the South the white homicide rate is much higher than in the north but the black homicide rate is much lower in the South (BTW there are 2 exceptions Louisiana and NY.) Could it be a status issue due to there being a higher percent of blacks in the south blacks have higher average status despite the fact that it the south is generally believed to be more prejudiced. How does this fit into Robin's model were status drives health and other life outcomes?
Thanks for posting and linking to this interesting story.