Wellcome Collection in London has exhibition on human augmentation 2012-08-03T08:02:15.927Z
Alternative uses of paperclips 2012-01-08T18:24:33.344Z
Simple theory of IMDB bias 2012-01-03T10:20:25.440Z
Can You Build a Better Paper Clip? 2011-08-30T12:07:45.878Z
Genes are overrated 2011-04-20T00:03:19.734Z
Folk theories can be useful even when they're entirely wrong 2011-03-23T16:04:16.620Z
Preference utilitarian measure of historical welfare 2010-04-14T13:32:21.158Z
What would you do if blood glucose theory of willpower was true? 2010-03-22T20:18:21.388Z
Superstimuli, setpoints, and obesity 2010-02-26T23:59:15.227Z
Reference class of the unclassreferenceable 2010-01-08T04:13:36.319Z
Arbitrage of prediction markets 2009-12-04T22:29:14.176Z
Contrarianism and reference class forecasting 2009-11-25T19:41:36.423Z
How to test your mental performance at the moment? 2009-11-23T18:35:47.136Z
Efficient prestige hypothesis 2009-11-16T22:25:01.011Z
Practical rationality in surveys 2009-11-08T14:27:41.688Z
Shortness is now a treatable condition 2009-10-20T01:13:07.428Z
Sociosexual Orientation Inventory, or failing to perform basic sanity checks 2009-09-16T10:00:06.816Z
Notes on utility function experiment 2009-09-05T19:10:05.400Z
Some counterevidence for human sociobiology 2009-08-29T02:08:10.855Z
Mathematical simplicity bias and exponential functions 2009-08-26T18:34:25.269Z
How inevitable was modern human civilization - data 2009-08-20T21:42:41.869Z
Evolved Bayesians will be biased 2009-08-20T14:54:18.626Z
Open Thread: August 2009 2009-08-01T15:06:40.211Z
Absolute denial for atheists 2009-07-16T15:41:02.412Z
Representative democracy awesomeness hypothesis 2009-06-18T03:02:37.973Z
Ask LessWrong: Human cognitive enhancement now? 2009-06-16T21:16:03.029Z
If it looks like utility maximizer and quacks like utility maximizer... 2009-06-11T18:34:35.971Z
London Rationalist Meetups bikeshed painting thread 2009-06-08T01:56:09.381Z
Post Your Utility Function 2009-06-04T05:05:17.958Z
Third London Rationalist Meeting 2009-06-04T03:19:03.981Z
Rationality is winning - or is it? 2009-05-07T14:51:52.763Z
Second London Rationalist Meeting upcoming - Sunday 14:00 2009-05-02T00:17:55.558Z
My main problem with utilitarianism 2009-04-17T20:26:26.304Z
What do fellow rationalists think about Mensa? 2009-04-06T22:08:13.104Z
The First London Rationalist Meetup 2009-04-04T17:49:19.283Z
First London Rationalist Meeting upcoming 2009-04-03T22:28:05.105Z


Comment by taw on The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world? · 2012-09-29T10:08:52.213Z · LW · GW

Your argument depends on choosing what's "central" or "archetypal" example, and that's completely arbitrary, since this doesn't seem to mean "most common" or anything else objective.

It really falls apart on that.

Comment by taw on Counterfactual resiliency test for non-causal models · 2012-09-04T01:47:16.944Z · LW · GW

Some counterpoints:

  • "Behavioural modernity" is a hypothesis which is very far from being universally accepted. Many features supposedly of behavioural modernity have some reasonable evidence of existence far earlier.
  • Any hypothesis linking behavioral modernity with language (the only plausible common cause) is on extremely shaky grounds since as far as we know Neanderthals had language just as well, and that pushes language to nearly 1mya.
  • Behavioural modernity without common cause like language, and without any definite characteristics that weren't present earlier in some form is far less plausible, and pretty much falls apart.

  • Migration out of Africa is dated at anywhere between 125kya and 60kya, not 50kya.

  • Even starting count at 60kya, agriculture being invested 10kya multiple times independently is still extremely surprising.

  • Even disregarding admixtures with Neanderthals, Denisovans etc. most recent common ancestor is more like 140kya-200kya by mitochondrial and Y chromosome dating. Dating anything here is very dubious, so you can find a number that fits your hypothesis whatever your hypothesis might be.

  • At each point of history vast majority of humans lived in places very far from those covered by ice, or particularly cold. Agriculture was invented only in places far from ice. These are still climatic effects like rainfall that depend on glaciations, but these are much more tenuous links.

  • Modern attempts at domesticating plants and animals show it takes a few decades, not tens of thousands of years. Now these are done with benefit of modern science and technology, but still it doesn't imply tens of thousands of years.

  • Agriculture developed in some places very soon after human settlement, like maize and potato agriculture, so that's another argument against requiring thousands of years of plant evolution.
  • If it took plants and animals tens of thousands of years on average, then surely there would be a huge spread in time of domestication. Instead we have an extremely quick succession of domestication events even more ridiculous than the original coincidence (since now number of events is not 7+, it's 100+).
Comment by taw on Counterfactual resiliency test for non-causal models · 2012-09-01T09:42:56.489Z · LW · GW

Well, we know pretty well that even when societies were in very close contact, they rarely adopted each other's technology if it wasn't already similar to what they've been doing.

See this for example:

Agriculture probably initially expanded because farmers pressed north through the continent, not because hunter-gatherers adopted the practice on their own, Scandinavian scientists say.

If in this close contact scenario agriculture didn't spread, it's a huge stretch to expect very low level contact to make it happen.

Comment by taw on Counterfactual resiliency test for non-causal models · 2012-08-31T10:38:55.520Z · LW · GW

All theories of emergence of agriculture I'm aware of pretend it happened just once, which is totally wrong.

Is these any even vaguely plausible theory explaining how different populations, in very different climates, with pretty much no contact with each other, didn't develop anything like agriculture for very long time, and then in happened multiple times nearly simultaneously?

Any explanation involving "selection effects" is wrong, since these populations were not in any kind of significant genetic contact with each other for a very long time before that happened (and such explanations for culture are pretty much always wrong as a rule - it's second coming of "scientific racism").

Comment by taw on Counterfactual resiliency test for non-causal models · 2012-08-31T10:28:27.799Z · LW · GW

How does that reinforce Robin's model? It goes against it if anything. Imagine if humans, dolphins, bats, bears, and penguins nearly simultaneously developed language on separate continents. It would be a major unexplained WTF.

You can start here, but Wikipedia has pretty bad coverage of that.

Comment by taw on Counterfactual resiliency test for non-causal models · 2012-08-31T10:22:48.963Z · LW · GW

Agriculture developed very far from regions most affected by glaciation, and in very diverse climates, so any climatic common cause is pretty dubious.

Comment by taw on Counterfactual resiliency test for non-causal models · 2012-08-30T18:54:29.792Z · LW · GW

It seems rather easy to mess with the inputs T. Weather conditions or continental drifts could confine pre-agricultural humans to hunting essentially indefinitely

This is sort of amazing, but after a couple million years of hunting and gathering humans developed agriculture independently within a few thousand years in multiple locations (the count is at least 7, possibly more).

This really doesn't have a good explanation, it's too ridiculous to be a coincidence, and there's nothing remotely like a plausible common cause.

Comment by taw on AI timeline predictions: are we getting better? · 2012-08-14T20:03:32.042Z · LW · GW

But in a field like AI prediction, where experts lack feed back for their pronouncements, we should expect them to perform poorly, and for biases to dominate their thinking.

And that's pretty much the key sentence.

There is little difference between experts and non-experts.

Except there's no such thing as AGI expert.

Comment by taw on Kurzweil's predictions: good accuracy, poor self-calibration · 2012-07-19T14:13:41.361Z · LW · GW

This is far more sensible judgement of Kurzweil's prediction than OP's.

Comment by taw on Kurzweil's predictions: good accuracy, poor self-calibration · 2012-07-12T15:48:51.876Z · LW · GW

Your judgment on all of these is ridiculously positive. Just about everything you claim as true or partly true seems to be mostly false to totally false to me.

Comment by taw on An Intuitive Explanation of Solomonoff Induction · 2012-07-09T11:49:03.152Z · LW · GW

... and then it becomes incomputable in both theory perfectly (even given unbounded resources) and in practice via any kind of realistic approximation.

It's a dead end. The only interesting thing about it is realizing why precisely it is a dead end.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on moral intuitions · 2012-07-03T14:47:51.380Z · LW · GW

Bushmen lived in contact with pastoralist and then agricultural societies nearby for millennia. The idea that they represent some kind of pre-contact human nature is baseless.

"Industrialized" or not isn't relevant.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on moral intuitions · 2012-07-02T10:22:50.863Z · LW · GW

People make all kinds of stuff about how humans supposedly lived in "natural state" with absolute certainty, and we know just about nothing abut it, other than some extremely dubious extrapolations.

A fairly safe extrapolation is that human were always able to live in very diverse environments, so even if we somehow find one unpolluted sample somehow (by time travel most likely...), it will give us zero knowledge of "typical" Paleolithic humans.

The label has also been used on countless modern and fairly recent historical societies which are definitely not living in any kind of Paleolithic-like conditions. Like agricultural societies in Papua New-Guinea. And banana farmers Yanomami (who are everybody's favourite "hunter gatherers" when talking about violence in "Paleolithic"). etc. Or Inuit who had domesticated dogs, and lived in condition as climatically removed from Paleolithic humans as possible.

With pretty much 100% rate of statement being wrong when anybody says anything about "hunter gatherers" due to these reasons.

One should note, though, that studies of murder rates amongst hunter gatherer groups found that they were on the high side compared to industrialized societies.

That's a great example of all these fallacies put together. Murder rates of some people who were actually not hunter gatherers (my bet is they refer to Yanomami), after fairly significant amount of contact with civilization (so not even in their "natural" state, whatever that might be), in one short time period when research was conducted (as we know 1939-1945 murder rates are perfectly extrapolable to entire European history), among people who are not really hunter gatherers in the first place, was found to be fairly high. This is then generalized to what all humans must have been like in prehistory.

With such a clusterfuck of fallacies happening every time anybody says anything about "hunter gatherers", let's just stop.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on moral intuitions · 2012-06-30T11:37:32.011Z · LW · GW

Dear everyone, please stop talking about "hunter gatherers". We have precisely zero samples of any real Paleolithic societies unaffected by extensive contact with Neolithic cultures.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on moral intuitions · 2012-06-30T11:36:08.033Z · LW · GW

It's not at all obvious if they really believed it. People say stuff they don't believe all the time.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on moral intuitions · 2012-06-30T11:34:45.681Z · LW · GW

I probably have very different sense what's moral and what isn't from the author (who claims to be American liberal), but I agree with pretty much everything the author says about meta-morality.

Comment by taw on Local Ordinances of Fun · 2012-06-20T02:37:38.878Z · LW · GW

That's a difficult question to answer since amount of Internet use correlated with age, wealth, education level, location, language used, employment status, and a lot of things which might have very big impact on people's happiness.

I could give the cached answer that "if it didn't make them happier they wouldn't be using Internet", but there are obvious problems with this line of reasoning.

Comment by taw on Local Ordinances of Fun · 2012-06-20T02:33:59.238Z · LW · GW

I actually know various chans quite well, and they all pretend to be those totally ridiculous everything goes places, but when you actually look at them >90% of threads are perfectly reasonable discussions of perfectly ordinary subjects. Especially outside /b/. This generated far more interest on 4chan than all gore threads put together.

Comment by taw on Local Ordinances of Fun · 2012-06-19T05:00:36.431Z · LW · GW

Total number of hours per lifetime people in every literally utopia ever printed spend watching videos of kittens doing cute things: 0.

Total number of hours per lifetime people in any real utopia would want to spend watching videos of kittens doing cute things: 100s or more.

Anecdotal evidence: Have you seen internet?

More seriously, Internet shows a lot about what people truly like, since there's so much choice, and it's not constrained by issues like practicality and prices. Notice total lack of interest in realistic violence and gore and anything more than one standard deviation outside of sexual norms of the society, and none of these due to lack of availability.

When people are given choice of just about anything (to watch or read that is), they prefer to watch cute things, and funny things, and stories about real and fictional individuals, and factual information about the world (Wikipedia), and connect with people they know etc. This is all so ridiculously mundane no self-respecting utopia writer would ever get near these things.

(and by historical standard of what humans lived like for 99% of their existence, modern society counts as an Utopia already)

Comment by taw on Local Ordinances of Fun · 2012-06-18T19:36:24.199Z · LW · GW

Both this post and the one linked seem to be both about fictional utopias for literature, and actual optimal future utopias. These are completely unrelated issues the same way good fictional international conflict resolution is WW3, and good real world international conflict resolution is months of WTO negotiations over details of some boring legal document between 120+ countries.

Comment by taw on Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids · 2012-05-31T22:57:08.500Z · LW · GW

Well, then I'm puzzled why you didn't reply to these misguided assertions.

Sadly there are many blind spots here where groupthink rules, and people will just happily downvote anybody who has a different opinion. They are not worth replying to. I see the downvote brigade found this thread as well.

Comment by taw on Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids · 2012-05-31T07:07:03.842Z · LW · GW

Answers in that thread were mostly totally misguided and most people didn't even bother to read the Kamin and Goldberger study before restating their cached beliefs.

Comment by taw on Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids · 2012-05-30T10:25:30.381Z · LW · GW

You're too lazy, no shortcuts this time.

Caplan's claim doesn't depend on this line of argumentation, but if it was true (which it's not) it would make his point extremely strongly. Weaker claim that normal parenting styles don't affect outcomes much, because the rest of environment (and genes) together have much greater impact is perfectly defensible.

Comment by taw on Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids · 2012-05-30T10:23:13.510Z · LW · GW

As we know from natural experiment of Dutch famine of 1944 mother's health is extremely important. This brief event had significant effects on two generations.

Comment by taw on Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids · 2012-05-30T10:19:45.145Z · LW · GW

Caplan's arguments are totally wrong, it doesn't make his thesis wrong. I'd expect his thesis to be very likely to be at least mostly correct.

Comment by taw on Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids · 2012-05-30T10:17:29.493Z · LW · GW

If a feature is "100% genetically determined", then it cannot possibly change overnight with no underlying genetic change, and it should be possible to predict from just genetic information.

There are features like that - gender for example is nearly 100% genetically determined. Eye color is pretty much genetically determined. Skin color is reasonably genetically determined.

There's no way in hell to predict IQ, height, weight, or behavior from just genes, and considering entire populations they change drastically in a couple of generations. These are not genetically determined features in any conceivable way.

The very concept of "X% heritable" relies on awful statistical shenanigans, and is best forgotten.

Comment by taw on Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids · 2012-05-30T03:32:12.342Z · LW · GW

The way I see it all heredity studies (adoption, twins etc.) are pretty much universally worthless due to ridiculously wrong methodology (see this for details).

It is trivially observable that populations change drastically in every conceivable way without any genetic change, including along every single behavioral axis claimed to be "highly hereditary" (and the same even applies to many physical features like height, but not others like skin or eye color). Heredity studies are entirely incompatible with this macro reality, regardless of their (universally awful) methodology.

The best argument for Caplan's thesis is that even if we accept that environmental effects totally overwhelm genetic effects (which we should), there's still very little evidence that parental effort within range of typical first world middle class parenting make a big difference.

Comment by taw on Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids · 2012-05-30T01:45:58.005Z · LW · GW

Start here.

Comment by taw on Review: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids · 2012-05-29T18:43:33.045Z · LW · GW

Caplan is drastically overinterpretting evidence for heredity of features, and his main thesis relies on them far too much.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-27T05:13:46.433Z · LW · GW

Solar panel prices are on long term downward trend, but in the short term they were very far from smooth over the last few years, having very rapid increases and decreases as demand and production capacity mismatched both ways.

This issue isn't specific to solar panels, all commodities from oil to metals to food to RAM chips had massive price swings over the last few years.

There's no long term problem since we can make solar panels from just about anything - materials like silicon are available in essentially infinite quantities (manufacturing capacity is the issue, not raw materials), and for thin film you need small amounts of materials.

Comment by taw on Problematic Problems for TDT · 2012-05-23T19:49:11.907Z · LW · GW

Prisoner's Dilemma relies on causality, Newcomb's Paradox is anti-causality. They're as close to each other as astronomy and astrology.

Comment by taw on Problematic Problems for TDT · 2012-05-23T19:47:52.691Z · LW · GW

Philosophy contains some useful parts, but it also contains massive amounts of bullshit. Starting let's say here.

Decision theory is studied very seriously by mathematicians and others, and they don't care at all for Newcomb's Paradox.

Comment by taw on Problematic Problems for TDT · 2012-05-23T17:16:53.432Z · LW · GW

Not counting philosophers, where's this academic interest in Newcomb's paradox?

Comment by taw on Problematic Problems for TDT · 2012-05-23T12:49:09.918Z · LW · GW

Crackpot Decision Theories popular around here do not solve any real problem arising from laws of causality operating normally, so there's no point studying them seriously.

Your question is like asking why there's no academic interest in Harry Potter Physics or Geography of Westros.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-23T12:32:48.454Z · LW · GW

The diagram comes from Wikipedia (tineye says this) but it seems they recently started merging and reshuffling content in all energy-related articles, so I can no longer find it there.

That's total energy available of course, not any 5 year projection.

Comment by taw on Beware Trivial Inconveniences · 2012-05-23T12:20:09.241Z · LW · GW

Wikipedia didn't get hundreds of millions of visitors until after it got so big.

I know it's hard to believe, but when we started in 2001, it was a very tiny very obscure website people were commonly making fun of, and we were excited with any coverage we could get (and getting omg slashdotted - that was like news of the month).

Comment by taw on Learn A New Language! · 2012-05-23T12:17:28.173Z · LW · GW

No, humans living in very poor countries or in remote past also always tried to have at least basic understanding of neighbouring tribe's language. It's hard to come with hard data but modern nation states might probably be about the only large monolingual societies in history, other than small and very isolated places.

In modern Africa it's entirely normal for people to speak 3+ languages. (not necessarily to a very high standard, just to get by)

Comment by taw on Learn A New Language! · 2012-05-20T15:47:46.122Z · LW · GW

Evidence that this works better than other methods being...

Seriously, with such a huge number of people trying to learn a second language (like 90% of all humans) we should have some proper studies by now.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-18T08:31:11.389Z · LW · GW

They are incorrect. Here's a helpful diagram of available energy.

Comment by taw on General purpose intelligence: arguing the Orthogonality thesis · 2012-05-16T17:42:53.712Z · LW · GW

Strong orthogonality hypothesis is definitely wrong - not being openly hostile to most other agents has enormous instrumental advantage. That's what's holding modern human societies together - agents like humans, corporations, states etc. - have mostly managed to keep their hostility low. Those that are particularly belligerent (and historical median has been far more belligerent towards strangers than all but the most extreme cases today) don't do well by instrumental standards at all.

Of course you can make a complicated argument why it doesn't matter (someone's end goals might be extremely hostile, but they act in mostly non-hostile ways for instrumental reasons), but there's not that much difference practically.

You'd pretty much need to postulate infinitely powerful AI (like Eliezer's AI foom idea, which is totally wrong of course) before you can disregard this argument from every single observation we can make of every single intelligent agent in the real world.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-15T08:37:52.537Z · LW · GW

Everything you say is ahistorical nonsense, transatlantic trade on a massive was happening back in 19th century, so wood import from the New World (or Scandinavia, or any other place) could have easily happened. Energy density of charcoal and of coal are very similar, so one could just as easily be imported as the other.

Or industries could have been located closer to major sources of wood, the same way they were located closer to major sources of coal. This was entirely possible.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-15T08:33:08.584Z · LW · GW

The disease killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans per year during the closing years of the 18th century

So? 400,000 people a year is what % of total mortality?

As recently as 1967, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 15 million people contracted the disease and that two million died in that year.

In an important way diseases don't kill people, poverty, hunger, and lack of sanitation kills people. The deaths were almost all happening in the poorest, and the most abused parts of the world - India and Africa.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-14T15:55:01.722Z · LW · GW

Wood ran out because forests weren't properly managed, not because photosynthesis is somehow insufficiently fast at growing forest - and in any case there are countless agricultural alternative energy sources like ethanol from sugar cane.

In 1990 3.5 billion m^3 of wood were harvested. With density of about 0.9kg/cubic meter, and energy of about 15 MJ/kg, that's about 47 trillion MJ (if we burned it all, which we're not going to).

All coal produced in 1905 was about 0.9 billion tons, or about 20 trillion MJ.

In 2010 worldwide biofuel production reached 105 billion liters (or 2.4 trillion MJ). But that's very modest amount - according to the International Energy Agency, biofuels have the potential to meet more than a quarter of world demand for transportation fuels by 2050. And that's not any new technology, we knew how to extract alcohol from plants thousands of years ago.

We don't have enough hydropower to cover all our use, but it could cover very large fraction of our needs, definitely enough to jumpstart civilization, and there's many times more of any of - wind, solar, biomass, or nuclear power than we need - none of them fully available to any new civilization.

The fact that we used something for a certain purpose is no evidence that it was necessary for this purpose, it's just evidence that we're not total idiots to leave a resource unused. Many alternatives which would work nearly just as well were available in pretty much every single case.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-14T06:49:42.785Z · LW · GW

Which part of "Europe" are you talking about? Western peripheries of Roman Empire got somewhat backwards, and that was after massive demographic collapse of late Antiquity, the rest of Europe didn't really change all that drastically, or even progressed quite a lot.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-14T06:45:49.258Z · LW · GW

This argument is only convincing to people who never bothered to look at timeline of historical events in technology. No country had any significant amount of coal mining before let's say UK in 1790-ish and forwards, and even there it was primarily to replace wood and charcoal.

Technologies we managed to build by then were absolutely amazing. Until 1870 the majority of locomotives in the USA operated on wood, canal transport was as important as railroads and was even less dependent on dense fuels, so transportation was perfectly fine.

Entire industries operated on water power just fine for decades before coal or electricity.

Just look at how well science, and technology was doing before coal came about.

Even mentioning oil in this context is pretty ridiculous - it only came to importance by about 1950-ish. Cars can be modified to run on wood of all things without much difficulty, and it happened on mass scale in many economies in war conditions.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-13T05:35:45.286Z · LW · GW

That reasoning is just extremely unconvincing, essentially 100% wrong and backwards.

Renewable energy available annually is many orders of magnitude greater than all fossil fuels we're using, and it has been used as primary source of energy for almost the entire history up to industrial revolution. Biomass for everything, animal muscle power, wind and gravity for water transport, charcoal for melting etc. were used successfully at massive scale before anybody even thought of oil or gas or made much use of coal.

Other than energy, most other resources - like ores - are trivially recyclable. If New Rome wanted iron and copper and so on they'd just need to head toward the nearest dump, and dig there. Amount of ores we dug out and made trivially accessible is ridiculously greater than what they had available.

Annual iron ore mining for example is 2.4 billion metric tons, or 1 kg per person per day. Annual steel production is 1.49 billion metric tons, or 220 kg per person per year. Every year (OK, some of that steel is from recycled iron). Vast majority of them would be easily extractable if civilization collapsed. If we went back to Roman levels of population, each Roman could easily extract tens or hundreds of tons of usable steel from just the stuff we extracted that their technology couldn't.

The same applies to every other metal, and most non-metal resources. It doesn't apply to a few resources like phosphorus and helium, but they'll figure it out somehow.

And even if civilization "collapsed" it's not like our scientific and organizational knowledge would have disappeared, making it ridiculously easier to rebuild than it was to build in the first place.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-13T05:18:18.447Z · LW · GW

The thing is countries would not really be poorer. Properly treated HIV isn't much worse than smoking (I mean the part before lung cancer) or diabetes for most of people's lives. Countries differ a lot on these already, without any apparent drastic differences in economic outcomes.

By the time people are already very old they might live a few years less, but they're not really terribly productive at that point anyway.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-13T05:16:20.180Z · LW · GW

That's already old data by standards of modern progress of medicine, and groups that tend to get HIV are highly non-random and are typically engaged in other risky activities like unprotected promiscuous sex and intravenous drug use, and are poorer and blacker than average, so their baseline life expectancy is already much lower than population average.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-13T05:12:09.666Z · LW · GW

Smallpox wasn't that bad if you look at statistics, and spanish flu happened at a time when humans have been murdering each other at unprecedented rate and normal society was either suspended or collapsed altogether everywhere.

Usually the chance of getting infected is inversely correlated with severity of symptoms (by laws of epidemiology), and nastiness is inversely correlated with broad range (by laws of biology), so you have diseases that are really extreme by any one criterion, but they tend to be really weak by some other criterion.

And in any case we're getting amazingly better at this.

Comment by taw on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) · 2012-05-11T07:03:27.297Z · LW · GW

There's no particular reason to believe this is going to make global thermonuclear war any less likely. Russia and United States aren't particularly likely to start a global thermonuclear warfare anytime soon, and in longer perspective any major developed country, if it wanted, could build nuclear arsenals sufficient to make a continent uninhabitable within a few years.

There's also this argument that mutually assured destruction was somehow stabilizing and preventing nuclear warfare - the only use of nuclear weapons so far happened when the other side had no way to retaliate. I'm quite neutral on this - I'm unwilling to say that nuclear arms reductions either increase or decrease risk of global war (which will eventually turn nuclear or otherwise very nasty).