Kevin Drum's Article about AI and Technology 2013-05-15T07:38:18.403Z
Request: A historian's take on the singularity 2011-02-06T02:37:20.147Z
Nootropics and Cognitive-enhancement Discussion Area 2010-09-29T05:29:47.679Z


Comment by knb on The Forces of Blandness and the Disagreeable Majority · 2020-12-23T08:41:15.516Z · LW · GW

I think we’re currently in an era of unusually large amounts of free speech that elites are starting to get spooked by and defend against.  Most people have high, perhaps even growing, tolerance for controversy and offense, but some find it unacceptable, and these people are disproportionately influential.


People always had a lot of free speech, it was just in unmediated human interaction. There was a lively civil society and people had closer relationships with neighbors and extended family and would naturally discuss things. This decentralized communication was a major way ideas and culture were shared. People suggest things like social media have widened the discourse, but ignore the fact that this kind of organic human interaction and community life has steadily declined (see Bowling Alone for more information). To some extent we have traded an unmoderated, uncensored private, in-person discourse for a heavily mediated, censored and monitored discourse. 

Comment by knb on What technologies could cause world GDP doubling times to be <8 years? · 2020-12-18T19:54:45.679Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure if the agenty tasks you have in mind are considered part of manufacturing per se or business management. My impression from above is that production work and factory construction is being automated but design/engineering and business management are not. I'm not sure, but it does seem likely that humans could be out of the loop without AGI. (Though of course AGI could happen before narrow AI actually achieves this level in practice). 

Comment by knb on What technologies could cause world GDP doubling times to be <8 years? · 2020-12-11T18:28:41.531Z · LW · GW

I don't know, but I would guess that 90%+ of the industrial/manufacturing jobs done by humans even just 50 years ago are now done by machines. But this 90% automation didn't lead to a near-doubling of GWP growth rates.

90% automation only gives a ~10x increase in per-worker productivity in manufacturing. Since manufacturing is only a fraction of GWP, a 10x productivity increase only makes GWP (per capita) a few times larger. Take humans out of the process completely and the bottleneck is gone. The feedback loop is only constrained the availability of resources. 

Comment by knb on New Year's Predictions Thread · 2020-02-28T04:59:08.438Z · LW · GW

Looks like it is still the global reserve currency.

Comment by knb on New Year's Predictions Thread · 2020-02-28T04:56:00.382Z · LW · GW

Unless I'm missing something, looks like #1 is actually correct... 2019 GDP PPP per capita for Singapore was 103,181 according to IMF, which adjusts to 84775.10 according to the first inflation calculator on Google.

Comment by knb on Open thread, June 26 - July 2, 2017 · 2017-06-28T02:21:27.138Z · LW · GW

What did you mean by "fanon dwarves"? Is that just a fan interpretation or do you think Tolkien intended it? In Tolkien's idealized world, all economic motivations are marginal and deprecated. The dwarves are motivated partially by a desire for gold, but mostly by loyalty to their king and a desire to see their ancestral homeland restored to them. To the extent the treasure itself motivates Thorin & co., it causes disaster (for example his unwillingness to share the loot almost causes a battle against local men & elves.)

Comment by knb on Open thread, May 29 - June 4, 2017 · 2017-06-04T18:15:51.106Z · LW · GW is popular.

Comment by knb on Open thread, May 22 - May 28, 2017 · 2017-05-24T04:49:19.687Z · LW · GW

I think it's mainly about combining two click-friendly buzzwords in a novel way.

Comment by knb on Open thread, May 22 - May 28, 2017 · 2017-05-23T07:25:42.417Z · LW · GW

This is a good example of the type of comment I would like to be able to downvote. Utterly braindead political clickbait.

Comment by knb on OpenAI makes humanity less safe · 2017-04-05T04:56:35.579Z · LW · GW

One thing to watch for would be top-level AI talent getting snapped up by governments rather than companies interested in making better spam detectors/photo-sharing apps.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Mar. 20 - Mar. 26, 2017 · 2017-03-25T05:54:42.255Z · LW · GW

This seems relevant These statistics do not support your claim that energy consumption per capita has been stagnant. Did I miss something?

Yep, your link is for world energy use per capita, my claim is that it was stagnant for the first world. E.g. in the US it peaked in 1978 and has since declined by about a fifth. Developed world is more relevant because that's where cutting edge research and technological advancement happens. Edit: here's a graph from the source you provided showing the energy consumption history of the main developed countries, all of which follow the same pattern.

I don't really have a single link to sum up the difference between engineering an ICE car with adequate range and refuel time and a battery-electric vehicle with comparable range/recharge time. If you're really interested I would suggest reading about the early history of motor vehicles and then reading about the decades long development history of lithium-ion batteries before they became a viable product.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Mar. 20 - Mar. 26, 2017 · 2017-03-23T04:40:01.821Z · LW · GW

Like a lot of reddit posts, it seems like it was written by a slightly-precocious teenager. I'm not much of a singularity believer but the case is very weak.

"Declining Energy Returns" is based on the false idea that civilization requires exponential increases in energy input, which has been wrong for decades. Per capita energy consumption has been stagnant in the first world for decades, and most of these countries have stagnant or declining populations. Focusing on EROI and "quality" of oil produced is a mistake. We don't lack for sources of energy; the whole basis of the peak oil collapse theory was that other energy sources can't replace oil's vital role as a transport fuel.

"Economic feasability" is non-sequitur concerned with whether gains from technology will go only to the rich, not relevant to whether or not it will happen.

"Political resistance and corruption" starts out badly as the commenter apparently believes in the really dumb idea that electric cars have always been a viable competitor to internal combustion but the idea was suppressed by some kind of conspiracy. If you know anything about the engineering it took to make electric cars semi-viable competitors to ICE, the idea is obviously wrong. Even without getting into the technical aspect, there are lots of countries which had independent car industries and a strong incentive to get off oil (e.g. Germany and Japan before and during WW2).

Comment by knb on Open Thread, March. 6 - March 12, 2017 · 2017-03-10T01:40:23.163Z · LW · GW

Speaking of which, can anyone recommend any short, intelligent, rational writings on feminism for instance? My average exposure to anti-feminist thought is fairly intelligent, while my average exposure to pro-feminist thought is "How can anyone disagree with me?[...]"

There are some intelligent and interesting heterodox feminists who spend a lot of their time criticizing mainstream or radical feminist positions. I could recommend them to you, and you would probably like some of what they have to say, but then you wouldn't really be challenging your current notions and wouldn't be getting the strongest defenses of current feminist thought.

I'm not a feminist (or a marxist) but I do remember being impressed by the thoughtfulness and clarity of Friedrich Engels' The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State when I read it back in college.

Comment by knb on Open Thread, Feb. 20 - Feb 26, 2017 · 2017-02-21T06:04:39.793Z · LW · GW

Isn't a VAT already basically a Robot Tax?

Comment by knb on Allegory On AI Risk, Game Theory, and Mithril · 2017-02-15T05:41:27.290Z · LW · GW

The same game theory would seem to apply equally well in both cases. In what way does it work better with climate change?

Comment by knb on Open thread, Jan. 23 - Jan. 29, 2017 · 2017-01-26T06:04:32.968Z · LW · GW

I think it's a clear enough prediction, but putting some actual numbers on it would be useful. Personally, I would put the odds of a Trump landslide well under 50% even contingent on "supercharged" economic growth. Maybe 25%. Politics is too identity-oriented now to see anything like the Reagan landslides in the near future.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Jan. 23 - Jan. 29, 2017 · 2017-01-26T05:58:02.355Z · LW · GW

Kudos for making a clear prediction.

I voted for Trump but I don't think there is any realistic possibility of a Trump landslide, even if the economy grows very well for the next 4 years. The country is just too bitterly divided along social lines for economic prosperity to deliver one candidate a landslide (assuming a landslide in the popular vote means at least 10% margin of victory.)

In terms of economic growth, I wonder what you mean by "supercharge". I think 4% is pretty unlikely. If the US manages an annual average of 3.0% for the next 4 years that would be a good improvement, but I don't think that could really be called "supercharged."

Trump job approval looks pretty good right now considering the unrelenting negative press, so right now I think Trump is likely to be re-elected if he chooses to run in 2020.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Jan. 16 - Jan. 22, 2016 · 2017-01-17T01:46:11.019Z · LW · GW

I don't think children actually have greater moral status, but harming children or allowing children to be harmed carries more evidence of depraved/dangerous mental state because it goes against the ethic of care we are supposed to naturally feel toward children.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Dec. 12 - Dec. 18, 2016 · 2016-12-25T03:40:12.494Z · LW · GW

I meant the Chinese public. The actual public of most countries is not all that engaged in the ins and outs of these things.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Dec. 12 - Dec. 18, 2016 · 2016-12-20T02:14:44.641Z · LW · GW

If true that's mainly an argument against making pointless precommitments you can't possibly enforce. As it happens, I doubt Chinese pay all that much attention to these kinds of diplomatic bugbears.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Dec. 12 - Dec. 18, 2016 · 2016-12-16T01:46:03.585Z · LW · GW

The signal sent by Trump is that he will take a call from whomever he wants; the Chinese don't get to dictate with whom he speaks. The idea that it makes China more likely to attack Taiwan is ridiculous.

Comment by knb on Land war in Asia · 2016-12-09T02:42:52.506Z · LW · GW

Another aspect to consider is that Hitler had spent the decades leading up to the war declaring the Soviet Union to be an existential threat and noisily pre-committed to a massive seizure of Eastern European land. He dedicated an entire chapter to the topic in Mein Kampf. So Hitler had perhaps already tied his own hands before he even came to power.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Nov. 28 - Dec. 04, 2016 · 2016-12-03T20:26:43.933Z · LW · GW

I immediately thought of this.

Comment by knb on Nassim Taleb on Election Forecasting · 2016-11-30T02:21:14.346Z · LW · GW

I agree, but that isn't what Adams did. Adams first claimed Trump is a master persuader who was virtually certain to win. When Trump was way down in the polls with only weeks left, Adams then switched to predicting a Clinton win, using the Trump controversy du jour as a rationale.

Updating on the evidence would have involved conceding that Trump isn't actually an expert persuader (or conceding that persuasion skills don't actually carry that much weight). In other words, he would have had to admit he was wrong. Instead, he acted like the Trump controversy of the time was something completely shocking and that was the only reason Trump was going to lose.

Comment by knb on Nassim Taleb on Election Forecasting · 2016-11-27T02:27:59.933Z · LW · GW

Adams also frequently hedged his bets and even changed his prediction once the odds for Trump appeared too long to overcome. This is pretty much what you would expect from a charlatan.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Nov. 21 - Nov. 27 - 2016 · 2016-11-22T04:32:53.146Z · LW · GW

The idea here is that humanity had started forming true civilizations before 10,000 BC, and a comet impact or airburst over one of the ice sheets caused a huge fireball and flood that led to mass extinctions and the annihilation of civilization

There's no mystery about what caused the quaternary mass extinction--humans reached the Americas and wiped out the ecologically naive megafauna.

Comment by knb on EMdrive paper published, nearly identical to leaked draft. · 2016-11-20T19:39:02.482Z · LW · GW

Hypothesized to be pushing off the quantum foam.

I'm pretty sure this does not make any sense.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Nov. 14 - Nov. 20, 2016 · 2016-11-19T16:36:52.895Z · LW · GW

I don't really see how this could be helpful. The biographer would have to be able to discern which qualities made the person successful and translate them into actionable specifics. In practice, it's pretty hard for highly successful people to explain their own success in an actionable way even when they seem to be sincerely trying (e.g. Warren Buffet.)

Comment by knb on The Post-Virtual-Reality Sadness · 2016-11-18T02:24:56.449Z · LW · GW

I've played around with the Playstation VR demo at Best Buy and tried a Galaxy Gear VR at the mall, but was pretty underwhelmed by both. Are the high-end products like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive really that much better?

Comment by knb on Yudkowsky vs Trump: the nuclear showdown. · 2016-11-13T21:25:24.532Z · LW · GW

Yudkowsky showed laughable naivete (or he was just playing dark arts) by citing a bunch of "foreign policy experts" who were against Trump. They were against Trump because they were neocons who might have a spot in a Clinton administration but certainly not in Trump's. (People who describe themselves as "experts" implying impartiality should never be taken at face value--most of the times they are advocates rather than experts.)

Hillary Clinton's state department pushed the "Arab Spring" policies which turned the middle east and north Africa into a total slaughterhouse and caused hundreds of thousands of people to die and displaced millions, causing a huge increase in tensions and threatening EU integration. I don't really see why anyone would want to trust the "expertise" of the people responsible for this. Of course, Scott Alexander supported the Libya intervention (and moralized about it obnoxiously). Has he ever admitted he was wrong?

Comment by knb on Open thread, Nov. 7 - Nov. 13, 2016 · 2016-11-12T11:40:29.135Z · LW · GW

Part of the reason I estimated the chance being that high was because I thought (at that time) we were fairly likely to have a recession or major terror attack, which would swing the election to Trump. Neither of those happened, but Trump still won. More recently, II did think the big media company polls were systemically biased by at least a few points in Clinton's favor, so I give myself some credit for that.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Nov. 7 - Nov. 13, 2016 · 2016-11-09T13:53:06.343Z · LW · GW

I too was wrong. I gave him a 45% chance on this site several months ago and my estimate had hardly changed by yesterday (in fact my estimate got slightly worse, down to 40%.)

Comment by knb on Open Thread, Aug. 1 - Aug 7. 2016 · 2016-08-04T01:37:41.725Z · LW · GW

Agreed, that's pretty much why I think he's crazy. He appears to have devoted an insane amount of effort to a fundamentally pointless activity.

Comment by knb on Open Thread, Aug. 1 - Aug 7. 2016 · 2016-08-03T03:26:33.305Z · LW · GW

He's probably just crazy.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Jul. 18 - Jul. 24, 2016 · 2016-07-19T00:29:56.093Z · LW · GW

I don't think so; different types of car are bought by different people and driven differently. E.g. a person who buys a Lamborghini or Ferrari probably likes to drive fast and show off; a person who buys a Volvo probably drives a lot more carefully.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Jul. 04 - Jul. 10, 2016 · 2016-07-10T21:05:55.708Z · LW · GW

The driver also erred in failing to brake, probably because he was inappropriately relying on the algorithm.

Yep, according to the truck driver, the Model S driver was watching Harry Potter, and it was still playing even after the car came to a stop. He probably had his eyes completely off the road.

Comment by knb on Open thread, Jul. 04 - Jul. 10, 2016 · 2016-07-09T15:13:01.830Z · LW · GW

The truck pulled in front of the Model S. The Model S had enough time to break and stop but didn't recognize the truck against the brightly lit sky.

Comment by knb on Open thread, June 20 - June 26, 2016 · 2016-06-26T03:22:03.108Z · LW · GW

What do you think are good ideas for moonshot projects that have not yet been adequately researched or funded?

Comment by knb on Open thread, June 20 - June 26, 2016 · 2016-06-24T23:49:12.958Z · LW · GW

I think apples-to-apples comparison is tricky here. Things like the age structure of the population can matter a lot here. A country with an average age of 50 should have a higher level of net worth than one with an average age of 30.

In any case I'm not sure net worth is the valid way to think about "how rich we are" compared to income or consumption or quality of life or whatever.

Comment by knb on Crazy Ideas Thread · 2016-06-21T13:04:58.571Z · LW · GW

It would only happen in areas of dense human habitation, which already wrecks the ecosystem. No net harm.

Comment by knb on Crazy Ideas Thread · 2016-06-21T01:01:57.596Z · LW · GW

Quite a while anybody could send information to Facebook users because Facebook implemented the open standard of Email.

Sure, I could send emails to your facebook account, but if I wanted to see any of your social media content, I would have to start a Facebook account and access it via Facebook's walled garden. If I want to use Google+ and you use Facebook....

It's as though you had to use a Verizon phone to have a conversation with other Verizon users, and you couldn't use your Verizon phone to contact people who use AT&T. The outcome is inevitably a monopoly due to Metcalf's law.

I don't want everybody to send me messages in an unfiltered way.

Your social network client could still have filters, but the filter would be something you control, and it wouldn't be as arbitrary as "you may only friend-request other facebook users, and only other facebook users may friend-request you."

As far as breaking up Facebook, I don't see a reason why they should have Instagram and WhatsApp but the core Facebook service can't be easily broken up.

Start with an open standard for friend requests; i.e. Google+ must accept friend requests from Facebook and vice versa. Any new startup would be able to create their own social networking client, capable of sending, accepting, and displaying friend requests, media shares, private messages, wall posts, etc. This would create a much better, more competitive system with vastly more consumer surplus.

Comment by knb on Crazy Ideas Thread · 2016-06-20T08:42:45.768Z · LW · GW

I think there is a strong case for breaking up Facebook and Twitter as telecom monopolies. They would be forced to adopt open standards, so anyone could send information to their users, and other companies would be able to create their own clients to send info to facebook/twitter users and vice versa.

Comment by knb on Rationality Quotes June 2016 · 2016-06-07T12:04:59.751Z · LW · GW

Did he give an explanation of why he thinks that would be a "moral imperative?"

Comment by knb on Open Thread May 23 - May 29, 2016 · 2016-05-28T00:52:12.591Z · LW · GW

I'd estimate Sanders' chances as less than 10%, maybe a bit more than 5%.He would need a mass defection of superdelegates at this point, and it's possible they would be directed to jump en masse to someone else (like Biden) even if the DNC decides to dump Clinton.

Comment by knb on 2016 LessWrong Diaspora Survey Analysis: Part One (Meta and Demographics) · 2016-05-15T03:14:59.628Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure that "STEM communities" is a valid reference group for LW.

Comment by knb on Open Thread May 9 - May 15 2016 · 2016-05-11T01:49:34.619Z · LW · GW

For anyone curious about this link, I'll save you some time:

From this, they jump to being seriously worried about their inability to control their next Honda Civic because it will have a mind of its own.

It's that type of article.

Comment by knb on Open Thread May 9 - May 15 2016 · 2016-05-10T03:02:45.370Z · LW · GW

On a related note: if it is true, does that suggest that, as far as we take the diminishing utility of money for granted, by using extrinsic rewards, we are reducing the number of extreme performers? (in so far as we can't keep giving exponential rewards, and money/tokens/what have you motivates in proportion to their utility).

I think the positional qualities of money compensate for this somewhat. People still work hard because they want to keep ahead of their neighbor/coworker.

Comment by knb on Open Thread May 2 - May 8, 2016 · 2016-05-05T16:50:09.672Z · LW · GW

Part of my worldview is that progress, innovation and competence in all areas of science, technology, and other aspects of civilization are correlated.

I'm sure they're correlated but not all that tightly.

What would the world look like if that hypothesis were false? Well, we could find a country that is not particularly competent overall, but was very competent and innovative in one specific civilizational subfield. As a random example, imagine it turned out that Egypt actually had the world's best research and technology in the field of microbiology.

I think there are some pretty good examples. The soviets made great achievements in spaceflight and nuclear energy research in spite of having terrible economic and social policies. The Mayans had sophisticated astronomical calendars but they also practiced human sacrifice and never invented the wheel.

If the theory is true, then the fact that the US still seems innovative in CS-related fields is probably a transient anomaly.

I doubt it, but even if true it doesn't save us, since plenty of other countries could develop AGI.

Comment by knb on Open Thread May 2 - May 8, 2016 · 2016-05-05T15:03:02.518Z · LW · GW

Seems like you're just falling for partisan media histrionics and conflating a lot of different things out of context.

On Fox News, Trump said that regarding Muslims in the US, he would do "unthinkable" things, "and certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country".

In context, Trump is giving a tough-sounding but vague and non-committal response to questions about whether there should be a digital database of Muslims in the country. He later partially walked this back, saying it was a leading question from a reporter and he meant we should have terrorism watch lists. Which obviously already exist.

I've read Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, and this might be a generalization from fictional evidence, but I can't help asking: As a foreign student in the US, how likely is Trump to have me tortured for no reason?

I'd say it's about as likely as you giving yourself a heart attack reading political outrage porn.

Comment by knb on Open Thread May 2 - May 8, 2016 · 2016-05-04T21:46:52.526Z · LW · GW

It's not that I think AI is spectacularly hard, I just don't think we can do Hard Things anymore.

I'm sympathetic to the idea that we can't do Hard Things, at least in the US and much of the rest of the West. Unfortunately progress in AI seems like the kind of Hard Thing that still is possible. Stagnation has hit atoms, not bits. There does seem to be a consensus that AI is not a stagnant field at all, but rather one that is consistently progressing.