“… there may not be a significant paradigm shift on the horizon, nor the associated generational change that goes with it. And, to the extent there are evolutions, it really does seem like the incumbents have insurmountable advantages: the hyperscalers in the cloud are best placed to handle the torrent of data from the Internet of Things, while new I/O devices like augmented reality, wearables, or voice are natural extensions of the phone.”
Ben Thompson argues that there have been three revolutions/paradigm shifts in computing.
One Room, Punch Cards, Batch
Desktop & On-Premises, PC, Deliberate
Everywhere, Cloud/Mobile, Continous
With VR, voice assistants, etc, we probably won’t go out of this third mode.
We are still unclear as to why talk therapy works, but in many cases, it works better than drugs. And why do most of them have about the same efficacy, whilst emploring very different modalities?
“Alan Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University, said in 2009 in a widely cited paper: ‘It is remarkable that after decades of psychotherapy research we cannot provide an evidence-based explanation for how or why even our most well-studied interventions produce change.’”
“[T]his alleged equivalence among various therapies is a product of statistics. It says nothing about what works best for each specific individual, nor does it imply that you can pick any therapy and obtain the same benefit.”
The emotional bond with the therapist has been shown to be a reliable predictor of success/healing. The author says that attachment is what is really important.
“On this view, the good therapist becomes a temporary attachment figure, assuming the functions of a nurturing mother, repairing lost trust, restoring security, and instilling two of the key skills engendered by a normal childhood: the regulation of emotions and a healthy intimacy.”
“This pattern of empathising, then re-framing and de-shaming looks uncannily like the mirroring-and-soothing exchanges between mother and infant in the first years of life.”
“… change in therapy occurs not so much in the intellectual communication between client and therapist but in a more imperceptible way – through a conversation between two brains and two bodies.” (this does make me think again of therapy with psychedelics where it’s about a person and his/her feelings in an altered state and without too much intervention (in that session) with the therapist)
“The chief value of psychotherapy, he says, lies in its potential to rekindle our epistemic trust and jumpstart our ability to learn from others in our social environment.”
Great piece about networks and a good history lesson on why credit cards are even a thing.
“It’s easy to forget just how many things a business that takes credit cards does not need to do: it does not need to extend credit, it does not need to collect payment, it does not need to handle excess amounts of cash. It does not, as Nocera noted, need to have much back office functionality at all. Instead banks provide the credit, Visa provides the infrastructure, and merchants pay around 3% of their sales.”
Source: Medium | By: Tyler Cowen (Podcast with Reid Hoffman)
“I guess what I would say is that I tend to think in terms of systems — Dewey was a system thinker — but then I tend to think in terms of Archimedean levers, by which you change the systems.”
“Well, a few things. One is, philosophy allows you to articulate theses with clarity. One of the things that philosophy tries to do is say, “Well, what’s your actual argument? What’s your actual theory? What’s your actual position?” That actually ties into one of the things that I give advice to entrepreneurs and to myself, which is to write out your clearest set of investment theses about what it is you believe the world is and is becoming, what your strategy is at making it happen, and why you can have a rare or unique position in so doing. And then articulating theories around, for example, having a theory of human nature, so that if you say, “The reason why I think this product will succeed is because this is where humanity will go when these kinds of technologies and these kinds of products and services are made available to them within their cultures and within their incentives.” “
“I think it’s also important to choose when you compete, which is frequently an error. I’d say that some of the patterns of how you do that is at least very well described within a board game context.”
Source: World Health Net (via H+Weekly Newsletter)
“Aging is similar to muscular dystrophy in slowing down the mitochondrial replacement process; Epirium claims to have developed technology that can reverse the decline of the ever important mitochondrial function in aging and disease.”
“Epirium claims to have developed a novel pharmacological approach to treat diseases caused by mitochondrial depletion and dysfunction, and the company has carried out proof of concept human studies with plans to move to clinical trials in 2020.”
One to watch, and of course, always stay vigilant.
“They are living, programmable organisms.” When talking about programmable ‘computers’.
The robots, which are less than 1mm long, are designed by an “evolutionary algorithm” that runs on a supercomputer. The program starts by generating random 3D configurations of 500 to 1,000 skin and heart cells. Each design is then tested in a virtual environment, to see, for example, how far it moves when the heart cells are set beating. The best performers are used to spawn more designs, which themselves are then put through their paces.”
“But now, in a study published in the journal Cell Reports in July, an international team of researchers has found a way to make the worms live a full five times longer. That would be equivalent to a human reaching their 400th birthday — and the scientists think the new study could be an important step along the path to making that a reality.”
There is quite the divide between us humans and C.elegans, but it’s good to see that this much progress has been made with them.
“Past research had found a link between two signaling pathways in C. elegans — the insulin signaling pathway and the target of rapamycin pathway — and aging. Specifically, scientists found that altering the former pathway doubled a worm’s lifespan, while altering the latter increased it by 30 percent. Logically, that means altering both pathways should increase the worms’ lifespan by 130 percent. But as the authors of this new C. elegans discovered, it actually increased their lifespan by upwards of 500 percent.”
I think this research was also mentioned in Lifespan by David Sinclair.
“We all age chronologically with the passage of time, but what about our bodies? Is physiological aging inevitable too? A growing cadre of biologists is starting to say no, thanks to developments in the field of epigenetics, which studies not our DNA itself but the processes that determine how our genes “express” themselves in directing our cells throughout our lives.”
“… epigenetic markers don’t just measure aging but help to cause it.“
The article mentions more of what is in Lifespan. It also highlights that research in mice is progressing fast, but human trials are still very limited.
A good critique of too much hype in the AI community and general public. We are still not too far along creating ‘smart’ AI and what it can do at this moment is still very limited.
Title: Carbon capture just got cheaper and more efficient
“The device, reported in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, works a lot like a battery. It absorbs carbon dioxide from air passing over its electrodes. It could be made as small and large as needed, making it easy to use at different carbon dioxide emission sources.”
I wonder if there is a Moore’s Law for the cost of carbon capture over time. It seems like it’s improving quite rapidly now.
“The system uses about one gigajoule of energy per ton of carbon dioxide captured.”
“This is about as concise a distillation of the “commoditize your complements” approach as you will see, at least as far as data is concerned: if you make Facebook better, you can have it all; if you don’t, or are remotely competitive, you are cut off.”
Or in other words, Facebook (and others) act like they give access/interoperability but only do this for non-essential parts.
Title: Peter Singer on being provocative, EA, how his moral views have changed, & rescuing children drowning in ponds
The controversy around Peter Singer’s abortion standpoints helped spark new sales of his ethics book (which also talks about global poverty, animal suffering, and Effective Altruism).
“I think that EA has the potential to really transform philanthropy generally, and although there are certainly some high net worth individuals who give disproportionally a large amount of course, but still, when you look at philanthropy, say here in the United States or other countries too, the bulk of it is not just the huge donors.”
Title: A Framework for Regulating Competition on the Internet
“From a practical standpoint, this means that platforms should have significant latitude in mergers and acquisitions, but significant scrutiny in terms of vertical foreclosure, rent-seeking, bundling, and self-dealing.”
A more high-level analysis of regulations for both platforms and aggregators.
Title: Small rockets are the next space revolution | Peter Beck
Great intro of what Rocket Labs does and why it matters (democratization of access to space).
Title: 99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn’t Hear About in 2019
“1. New surveys revealed that the population of humpback whales in the South Atlantic region now number 24,900 — almost 93% of their population size before they were hunted to the brink of extinction.“
There are 98 more stats just like this waiting for you. There is still some good news out there. And we should be motivated to take action, because we can achieve good things if we do.
Title: Tradeoffs – The Currency of Decision Making
We can’t do everything perfectly, so we should focus on what we value. But we rarely do, we treat time like it’s infinite. There is always a tradeoff, know that it’s there.
Title: David Chalmers on the nature and ethics of consciousness
These are the notes of the related podcast (80000 hours). The podcast is with David Chalmers and is about consciousness. Even some talk about eating meat (and of course that philosophers don’t always practice what they preach).
Title: Aubrey de Grey | Reaching Escape Velocity in Longevity for Most Alive Today | VISION WEEKEND 2019
Optimistic talk about how we can reach escape velocity, i.e. live forever.
Title: Richard Feynman was wrong about beauty and truth in science
“You can recognise truth by its beauty and simplicity.” is the statement of Feynman the author is going against. Ockham’s razor can be true (when two theories are comparable, the simpler might be better/true-er).
The attack on beauty focusses on the fact that beauty is something we humans say. Here I think there is a misunderstanding of the term. I think that beauty could be used as an analogy to ‘hard to vary’ or a good explanation according to Popper.
Title: AlphaStar: Grandmaster level in StarCraft II using multi-agent reinforcement learning
Still not the ‘creativity’ that I think will be the general AI, but it’s not any less impressive!
Title: New GMO Mosquitoes Aim to Eradicate Malaria, But Could Be Disastrous
Go for the clicks XD Title is way too alarming (and expert they spoke to is from another field), but good explainer videos linked. Still not sure how fast this is going to happen, but why not.
One point I think about is that we also have gotten rid of mosquitos here in Europe, and our system didn’t break down. And from the series ‘Unnatural Selection’, I can also imagine that people who suffer from malaria really want this!
Title: How to Use Occam’s Razor Without Getting Cut
“Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.” And for scientists, “When you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is better.“
A bit above my pay-grade, but ink-blots as an analogy for electrons with regard to the multiverse.
“So too the electron occupies many states simultaneously, but not all states can be observed simultaneously (again, to push another analogy: this is akin to the fact that you cannot observe many different times simultaneously. You see a discrete time on the clock, even though you know there must be a continuous number of possible times that have happened and will happen). “
“[U]nlike what you may have heard it is not the case that an electron can be simultaneously a wave and a particle all at once in a universe.”
Title: Cancer mortality predictions for 2019 in Latin America
Just like the above one, linked from Future Crunch newsletter. Cancer mortality rates are falling.
“Between 1990 and 2019, mortality from all neoplasms is predicted to fall by about 18% in Argentina, 26% in Chile, 14% in Colombia, 17% in Mexico and 13% in Venezuela, corresponding to almost 0.5 million avoided cancer deaths. No decline was observed in Brazil and Cuba.”
Title: Maybe It’s Not YouTube’s Algorithm That Radicalizes People
“The paper, written by Penn State political scientists Kevin Munger and Joseph Phillips, tracks the explosive growth of alternative political content on YouTube, and calls into question many of the field’s established narratives. It challenges the popular school of thought that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm is the central factor responsible for radicalizing users and pushing them into a far-right rabbit hole.”
“Instead, the paper suggests that radicalization on YouTube stems from the same factors that persuade people to change their minds in real life—injecting new information—but at scale. The authors say the quantity and popularity of alternative (mostly right-wing) political media on YouTube is driven by both supply and demand.”
“Psychedelics have a remarkable capacity to violate our ideas about ourselves. Is that why they make people better?”
There isn’t a consensus about the ‘I’ and how our brains exactly work, there are many theories from different perspectives. Psychedelics might be a way to come closer to the truth.
“A possible solution comes from the predictive processing theory of cognition, the second set of principles we need to introduce. The details of the framework are still hotly debated, especially among its proponents. However, in broad outline, it views the brain as a prediction machine that models the causal structure of the world to anticipate future inputs. Any discrepancies between an expectation and an input take the form of an error signal that demands a response from the organism – either by updating the internal model, or acting to reduce the unpredicted input.” and “One startling consequence of predictive coding is that perception becomes little more than a kind of controlled hallucination. We do not experience the external world directly, but via our mind’s best guess as to what is going on out there.”
“There’s now considerable evidence about the patterns of brain activity that correspond to the hierarchical self-model. These neural correlates are implemented in certain brain circuits, in particular the salience network and the default mode network.” and “To simplify things a bit, we can say that the default mode network is frequently linked to the narrative self, while the salience network is associated with a more minimal, embodied self and its affective states.”
Let me stop quoting here, you should read the article if interested. The link to psychedelics is that they break the models or make them more open to new paths/interpretations. You will have another way of seeing yourself.
We are making explanations now, but before we didn’t have any, how and why?
One start is the Scientific Revolution, so what happened there (that lead to better explanations)? It isn’t that knowledge comes from the senses. It also isn’t induction. Scientific knowledge is not based on anything, it’s based on conjecture! and tested by observation. But this also isn’t all, we had conjecture and observations (e.g. greek myths why it rained).
“This easy variability is the sign of a bad explanation, because, without a functional reason to prefer one of countless variants, advocating one of them, in preference to the others, is irrational. So, for the essence of what makes the difference to enable progress, seek good explanations, the ones that can’t be easily varied, while still explaining the phenomena.”
“The search for hard-to-vary explanations is the origin of all progress. It’s the basic regulating principle of the Enlightenment. So, in science, two false approaches blight progress. One is well known: untestable theories. But the more important one is explanationless theories. Whenever you’re told that some existing statistical trend will continue, but you aren’t given a hard-to-vary account of what causes that trend, you’re being told a wizard did it.”
Title: Free Will / .. Consciousness, Creativity, Explanations, Knowledge and Choice
Another article from Brett Hall (I’ve been going through his website a bit). He argues for free will as something that is real and emergent.
He agrees there is no ‘naive/libertarian’ free will (that something from outside the laws of physics makes you ‘free’).
He also states that we humans are unique as ‘universal explainers’ or entities that can create explanatory knowledge.
“The creativity is a unique thing people have and other animals do not. So we “feel” consciousness in ourselves but we “observe” creativity in others. I postulate: Creativity (of the kind where people create explanations – create knowledge) is just the outward manifestation of an inner consciousness. What it “feels like” to be creative is “consciousness”.“
Hall also argues that our ‘self’ really is the person that is lost in thought, maybe even more than the meditator who ‘discovers’ himself.
An article about why Google has stayed relevant (and very profitable). One key point is just more ads in search results, especially on mobile. In the article the hotel listing companies are used as an example. And it shows how booking.com and Amazon find a way around it (get customers to come to them directly).
Title: Modern genetics will improve health and usher in “designer” children
A company called Genomic Prediction is letting people choose their babies (when doing IVF), based on disease and/or ‘positive’ traits. No CRISPR or anything like that, but selection. Also: designer babies.
“In 2007 he and his colleagues used models to show that for a condition with a prevalence of 10% in the general population, approximately 10,000 volunteers are required to identify the snps marking the 5% of those at highest risk of developing that condition.”
“In the end, then, it is generally a good idea to remember that human beings have already been optimised by a powerful agent called natural selection. Trade-offs between different pieces of physiology, even in domestic animals, will have been forged in the crucible of evolution and will generally be optimal, or close to it. Genetic tinkering may sometimes improve things. But by no means always.”
Title: The plant-based diet | Michael Greger, MD, | TEDxBismarck
Eat plant-based, the ones with complete cell walls.
Molecular Assemblies is trying to revolutionize synthetic biology. They want to write DNA molecules using enzymes. They have $12 million in funding, there are at least 7 other companies trying too.
“George Church, a geneticist at Harvard University who is a cofounder of both the Human Genome Project and GP-write, says chemical DNA synthesis methods generally induce an error every 1 in 300 bases. Error-correction methods can improve the figure to 1 in 10,000. When enzymes naturally copy a strand of DNA in cells, however, the error rate is close to one in a billion. But he agrees with Kosuri that no enyzmatic synthesis company has come even close to such low error rates.”
Title: I Found Work on an Amazon Website. I Made 97 Cents an Hour.
So the average is more like $1.77, but yeah. And these are tasks mostly done by Americans. Not cool Amazon (but also showing that some people are willing to do this work for this wage).
“Mechanical Turk is now one of a handful of big players in the field known as crowdwork or microwork. (One crowdwork company, Prolific, used by academic researchers, enforces a minimum wage: $6.50 an hour.)” (better)
The article continues to list why some people ‘turk’, and it’s rather depressing (e.g. to pay for insulin).
The customers range from universities and NYtimes (where this article is published) to businesses that need transcribing of business cards.
In the end, it could be a good practice, but then I think it should be used mostly as opportunity by people from countries with lower wages.
Title: Ghost ships, crop circles, and soft gold: A GPS mystery in Shanghai
Very interesting, about the scrambling of GPS and how there is a big mystery unfolding in Shanghai.
Title: Heliogen’s new tech could unlock renewable energy for industrial manufacturing
“At its core, Heliogen is taking a well-known technology called concentrated solar power, and improving its ability to generate heat with new computer vision, sensing and control technologies, says Gross.” (also backed by Bill Gates)
Title: Terminally ill scientist ‘transforms himself into world’s first full cyborg’
(note that the ads on this website are just too much) Good story about how a doctor has given his body many upgrades/adjustments to live longer and thrive.
Title: TEDxBrussels – David Deutsch – The Unknowable & how to prepare for it
If we look towards the future, we will become worse at predicting specific events (because of our creativity and faster innovation). We can use general explanatory knowledge to prepare for the future (which reaches beyond the planning horizon).
The article asks and reiterates that China has been unfairly using (abusing?) tech from the US, and attacking it when feelings got hurt.
With international trade (WTO), the democracy didn’t spread equally as well.
“China is not simply resisting Western ideals of freedom, but seeking to impose their own.”
Technology can be a force for good, but also multiply the control a state has.
“The documents, revealed by the Guardian for the first time, lay out how ByteDance, the Beijing-headquartered technology company that owns TikTok, is advancing Chinese foreign policy aims abroad through the app.”
Title: Trump Betrayed the Kurds. He Couldn’t Help Himself.
So yeah, let’s just leave it with this quote “President Trump doesn’t interpret his abandonment of America’s faithful and intrepid Kurdish ally as betrayal because he can’t even understand why betrayal is a vice. It’s like trying to explain color to a person born with no eyesight.”
Google is coming into your house. They are switching from organising information, to actively helping you be productive: “to “be helpful” Google needs to be everywhere, which by extension means the company needs to be trusted.”
A way to capture this idea is with ambient computing, always being there, always available. And not dependant on a single device (or price).
Title: Investors hope psychedelics are the new cannabis. Are they high?
“In January atai Life Sciences, the German biotech company he founded last year, acquired a majority stake in Perception Neuroscience, a biopharmaceutical firm from New York which is developing a medication for pyschiatric conditions like depression from the drug…”
“In particular, backers think, psychedelic drugs could be used to treat mental-health disorders like depression, anxiety and addiction. In April Imperial College London, inaugurated the first research centre dedicated to psychedelics research. Last month Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore launched America’s first such scientific outfit.”
“The market for antidepressants is dispiritingly large. Over 300m people worldwide suffer from depression. A report last year by the Lancet Commission, a body of experts, estimated that mental-health disorders could cost the global economy $16trn by 2030. Sales of antidepressants were $14bn in 2017…”
“Field Trip Ventures, a Canadian startup, plans to open speciality clinics where they could be administered (and clinical trials conducted).”
It is great that The Economist is talking about the investment here and why it’s happening (decriminalisation and research into the effectiveness).
Title: When should an Effective Altruist be vegetarian?
In this post, another EA-aligned person talks about her considerations of being (or not) vegetarian, and if this has any value/impact on the world.
The first part of the posts focusses on how helping animals (i.e. not eating meat) is not effective (and this you shouldn’t do it?). I don’t really get the analogy, since if I change my behaviour at no cost (you can cook good food with veggies, the costs are not much higher/cheaper if you plan accordingly).
“For instance, if instead of eating vegetarian you ate a bit frugally and saved and donated a few dollars per meal, you would probably do more good (see calculations lower in this post).”
This sounds plausible, but maybe I’m also swayed by the argument of not doing more/no harm (in as much as that is possible). Or I think that it’s just as easy to be frugal as to be vegetarian (says the person with a company that makes convenient vegetarian meals XD).
“For instance, vegetarianism means spending a bit more time searching for vegetarian alternatives, researching nutrition, buying supplements, writing emails back to people who invite you to dinner explaining your dietary restrictions, etc.”
But is this not a one-time investment? And I don’t buy supplements, just eat varied. And I liked cooking before (so same time-investment). She does mention creatine in the next paragraph, I take that for weightlifting and I’m not sure about the effect on IQ (and IQ itself, but that’s another story).
” If you would happily pay this much (in my case, less than $0.002) to eat meat on many occasions, you probably shouldn’t be a vegetarian.”
See the blog for the calculations. I guess that my calculations would be a bit different, and that I don’t think I’m paying much (if anything) extra. And I guess that I don’t see these costs as money I would go and donate (as it’s a percentage of total income, not free cashflow). But all in all a good blog and interesting to read.
Ohh and I liked this part of the first comment very much: “Vegetable production does have negative effects on animals. However, most of the crops grown in the United States are converted into feed for factory-farmed animals. It takes 10,000 calories of crops to feed an animal to create 1000 calories of food for a human. So the negative effects on animals of crop farming is /also/ reduced, in fact dramatically, by not eating meat.”
Title: How Magic Mushrooms Can Help Smokers Kick The Habit
From Short Wave, a new science podcast from NPR.
“New research shows that psilocybin might be an effective treatment for diseases such as depression and addiction. While the work is still in its early stages, there are signs that psilocybin might help addicts shake the habit by causing the brain to talk with itself in different ways.”
“Psilocybin seems to work because it temporarily rewires the brain, according to Johnson. Sections that don’t normally talk to each other appear to communicate more, and parts of the brain that normally do talk to each other talk less.”
Title: Op truffeltrip in Zandvoort: waarom psychedelica een comeback maken (Dutch)
Story about Truffles Therapy (owner, Chi, 31). Interesting, but not much new info for me. But good exposure. Well, ok, I think the rituals and mystical aspects shouldn’t really be part of it, but that is just my opinion/view. Ok, on a second reading, it’s really spiritual/religious (“I’m just a servant of the truffles”).
“‘We willen de golden standard zijn in deze industrie,’ legt Schirp uit aan zijn bureau. Synthesis staat voor de synthese tussen wetenschap en spiritualiteit. ‘Dat is niet makkelijk. We werken met krachtige middelen en moeten daar verantwoordelijk mee omgaan. Daarom investeren we veel in medische kwaliteit. Dit is een ongereguleerde markt, als je daarin de beste standaarden wilt hebben, dan moet je die zelf bouwen.’” (ambition of Synthesis to become the gold standard of retreats)
“Ik moet glimlachen om de brief van John en herken de tweestrijd tussen de gedachten. Toch: weken later ben ik nog steeds gestopt met roken, drink ik bijna geen alcohol en eet ik vrijwel geen vlees. Ik voel me gelukkiger, rustiger, erger me nauwelijks aan zaken waarover ik eerst geïrriteerd zou raken. Een trein die te laat komt, een serveerster die m’n bestelling twee keer vergeet, iemand die voordringt in de rij – in het licht van de oneindigheid van het universum stelt het allemaal weinig voor.” (the final experience of the reporter)
How to look at free speech (on Facebook, et al.) through the lens of the ‘estates’, 1) executive, 2) legislative, 3) judicial, 4) media, 5) you/everyone that now has a voice.
“What is published on the Internet, meanwhile, can reach anyone anywhere, drastically increasing supply and placing a premium on discovery; this shifted economic power from publications to Aggregators.”
Quoting an earlier article: “… the most successful politicians in an aggregated world are not those who serve the party but rather those who tell voters what they most want to hear.”
What is the power of Facebook: “The first and most straightforward way is Facebook putting its thumb on the scale.” and “The second concern is the capacity of trolls, both of the profit-seeking and foreign government variety, to leverage Facebook’s fundamental engagement-seeking nature to push misinformation and division.” and “Facebook’s decision to not fact-check any posts or ads from politicians.”
What can we do against China (and their vision of the internet): “To fight the Internet’s impact, instead of seeking to understand it and guide the fundamental transformations that will surely follow, is a commitment by the West to lose the fight for the future.”
Title: A New Crispr Technique Could Fix Almost All Genetic Diseases
That is quite the bold title. CHECK LATER, no access at the moment.
Title: Ayn Rand on Why Philosophy Matters
In the article, FS takes a look at why we would need philosophy in our lives. Here is a quote of Ayn Rand: ” [y]our only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation—or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown. “
So we need to think for ourselves, be reflective in our thinking. And work from first principles.
“What objectivity and the study of philosophy require is not an ‘open mind,’ but an active mind—a mind able and eagerly willing to examine ideas, but to examine them critically.”
Title: Why Costco is Cheaper than Amazon
Membership (that is the money maker), big stores (long walks, deal hunting), few products (quality, quantity)
Title: Onderzoekers willen mensen in een vegetatieve toestand met psychedelica behandelen (Dutch)
A percentage of people in a vegetative state does respond to stimuli (in their mind), what happens if we give them psilocybin. The idea would be that psychedelics increase the complexity (entropy) for the brain, and so maybe more consciousness.
“Scott and Carhart-Harris want to start slowly, with healthy people anesthetized from sleep, to see how psilocybin influences consciousness and brain complexity in those states. If the results are promising, and the study design is appropriate and safe enough, they will also apply it to people with a consciousness disorder.”
Title: Earth’s rocks can absorb a shocking amount of carbon: here’s how
We are carbon (18%), trees are carbon (80%?), but what if most of the carbon is underground?
“life, in the form of microbes and bacteria, thrives miles beneath our feet in such abundance that its total carbon mass is up to 400 times greater than all 7.7 billion of the humans on the surface. That one of Earth’s largest ecosystems lies deep inside the planet is just one of the many discoveries from the decade-long Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) project that brought together 1,200 researchers from 55 nations to explore the internal workings of our planet.”
“In the next 20 to 40 years CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have to be eliminated and large amounts of CO2 already in the atmosphere need to be removed to prevent very dangerous levels of global warming.” – Or put more back in than we put out? Innovation?
“Experiments pumping carbon-rich fluids into the ophiolite rock formation show that carbonate minerals form very rapidly. That could potentially remove billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, though it would be a huge project and very different for Oman, which is dependent on its oil revenues, he says.”
“Diamonds also provided DCO researchers with evidence that the deep earth has more water—mostly locked up within the crystals of minerals as ions rather than liquid water—than all of the world’s oceans.”
Quite interesting, go read it all!
Title: Quantum computing’s ‘Hello World’ moment
A good analysis of what Google actually did, and much more elaborate than the 500-word articles all around. In short, as far as my understanding goes it was something that only a quantum computer could do. It was not too practical (just like Sputnik), but proves that quantum computers are here.
Title: The Origin of Consciousness in the Brain is About to be Tested
It could be interesting, but the research described isn’t done yet.
Title: How Close are we to Creating Artificial Intelligence / Creative blocks
I’ve been listening to an analysis of David Deutsch’s book The Beginning of Infinity. And it has sparked me to look up some of his articles online. So here is a short analysis of one of them.
The laws of physics say that AI should be possible (universality of computation), but why don’t we have it yet? (AI as in AGI, one that is creative). “But no brain on Earth is yet close to knowing what brains do in order to achieve any of that functionality. The enterprise of achieving it artificially — the field of ‘artificial general intelligence’ or AGI — has made no progress whatever during the entire six decades of its existence.”
“This entails that everything that the laws of physics require a physical object to do can, in principle, be emulated in arbitrarily fine detail by some program on a general-purpose computer, provided it is given enough time and memory.” As theorised by Babbage and Lovelace, and confirmed by Deutsch.
What is lacking in AI programs is ‘creativity’: the ability to produce new explanations. Deutsch argues (in the article and elsewhere) that all AI nowadays doesn’t produce new explanations. If you give it 5 ways of looking at Dark Matter, and it says/computes/confirms that one is correct, then it hasn’t added new explanations.
“What is needed is nothing less than a breakthrough in philosophy, a new epistemological theory that explains how brains create explanatory knowledge and hence defines, in principle, without ever running them as programs, which algorithms possess that functionality and which do not.” It makes me think of The Book of Why, alas one I haven’t read, but which is about the theory that we might be able to do/compute this – but focus on math, not philosophy).
Then he uses some of Popper’s work to argue that induction sucks (e.g. I saw a 1 at the beginning of the calendar each year, until it was the year 2000).
“Now, the truth is that knowledge consists of conjectured explanations — guesses about what really is (or really should be, or might be) out there in all those worlds.” (and that links to this article about the brain).
“Thinking consists of criticising and correcting partially true guesses with the intention of locating and eliminating the errors and misconceptions in them, not generating or justifying extrapolations from sense data.”
“Likewise, when a computer program beats a grandmaster at chess, the two are not using even remotely similar algorithms. The grandmaster can explain why it seemed worth sacrificing the knight for strategic advantage and can write an exciting book on the subject. The program can only prove that the sacrifice does not force a checkmate, and cannot write a book because it has no clue even what the objective of a chess game is. Programming AGI is not the same sort of problem as programming Jeopardy or chess.” AGI is built on a different frame than what is already being worked on.
“And here we have the problem of ambiguous terminology again: the term ‘consciousness’ has a huge range of meanings. At one end of the scale there is the philosophical problem of the nature of subjective sensations (‘qualia’), which is intimately connected with the problem of AGI. At the other, ‘consciousness’ is simply what we lose when we are put under general anaesthetic. Many animals certainly have that.”
Deutsch argues that even apes don’t have AGI (like we humans have) and that there the behaviourist arguments do stand/work. Just like with very smart AI (as commonly used) programs.
He also says the brain is no quantum computer and links to another paper if you were so inclined to learn more).
“The battle between good and evil ideas is as old as our species and will continue regardless of the hardware on which it is running.” So what can we do, stop the AGI development (or think of some guidelines as they are doing now)? Deutsch argues for not (but I can see that it could be good for the current AI landscape, so the one not related to AGI).
“We use, rather, the method of trial and the elimination of error.’ That is to say, conjecture and criticism. Learning must be something that newly created intelligences do, and control, for themselves.”
“I am convinced that the whole problem of developing AGIs is a matter of philosophy, not computer science or neurophysiology, and that the philosophical progress that is essential to their future integration is also a prerequisite for developing them in the first place.”
He ends the article with an optimistic note: “So in one respect I can agree with the AGI-is-imminent camp: it is plausible that just a single idea stands between us and the breakthrough. But it will have to be one of the best ideas ever.”
Title: How Constructor Theory Solves The Riddle of Life / Life without design
How could life be possible? That sounds like an ambitious question if I ever heard one. An article by Chiara Marletto (who works with David Deutsch (see above) on this). (the question is also being asked in GEB)
“The very problem Darwin’s theory addresses is ultimately rooted in physics: living things have certain properties that seem to set them apart from other aggregations of inert matter.” And they seem designed (but are of course not, just evolution through variation and natural selection).
“[L]iving things, again just like factories and robots, have the ability to perform physical transformations with a very high degree of precision, and to do so repeatedly and reliably.”
So life is good at faithful replication, and all other stuff (non-life) in the universe isn’t really good at it. “In other words, the laws of physics contain no built-in facility for accurate transformations; nor, in particular, for biological adaptations that can bring such transformations about.” But where is the jump from one to the other?
She explains that the laws of physics also provide no tailoring for life to exist.
“So, how can we explain physically how replication and self-reproduction are possible, given laws that contain no hidden designs, if the prevailing conception’s tools are inadequate? By applying a new fundamental theory of physics: constructor theory.”
“In constructor theory, physical laws are formulated only in terms of which tasks are possible (with arbitrarily high accuracy, reliability, and repeatability), and which are impossible, and why – as opposed to what happens, and what does not happen, given dynamical laws and initial conditions.”
“accurate self‑reproduction can occur only in two steps. Using letter-by-letter replication and error-correction, the parent cell makes a high-fidelity copy of the recipe to be inserted in the new cell; then it constructs the copying mechanism plus the rest of the cell afresh, following the recipe.”
“Constructor theory gives the ‘recipe’ an exact characterisation in fundamental physics. It is digitally coded information that can act as a constructor and has resiliency – the capacity, once it is instantiated in physical systems, to remain so instantiated. In constructor theory, that is called knowledge” Ok let me stop copy-pasting things here, see the article for more about constructor theory.
It seems logical to me, yet I do also feel that I don’t fully grasp the implications yet.
What is a tech company? “to classify a company as a tech company because it utilizes software is just as unhelpful today as it would have been decades ago.”
And “It was this economic reality that gave rise to venture capital, which is about providing money ahead of a viable product for the chance at effectively infinite returns should the product and associated company be successful.”
WeWork and Peleton are maybe not really tech companies, as defined by the criteria in the article. Though Peleton can be seen as a disruptive technology (ala The Innovators Dilemma).
“There is a growing sense of inevitability that we will eventually do human germ-line modification and that our only obligation is to wait until it is safe.”
There is no hard line between curing/preventing diseases and enhancing our (future) children. We will be able to select the features of our kids, do we want to do that?
“Surely such control is a long way off, but we are now charting a path toward human enhancement that might ultimately reduce variation in the species or, over a long period of time, lead to subspeciation.”
“How is China able to provide enough food to feed its population of over 1 billion people? Do they import food or are they self-sustainable?”
The explanation shows that China is farming fish at enormous scale. Then it goes on to explain other ecosystems, of which many are sustainable/circular (even before it was cool, but now also incorporate solar panels). Greenhouses are also key to feeding more than a billion people, and IoT devices and smartphones are also used.
“We aren’t anywhere near running out of space for landfill.” and “Properly run landfill doesn’t hurt the environment in itself.”, “Even really well run landfills are a very cheap way to dispose of our waste.”, “The main downside of sending something to landfill is we miss the chance to benefit from recycling it — but recycling is only sometimes cheaper or better for the environment.”, “The problem of rubbish polluting the sea, rivers and land can be most cheaply addressed by improving rubbish collection and making sure everything gets to landfill.” “Incinerating waste and generating electricity from it is an alternative form of rubbish disposal that is good for the environment and resolves the problem permanently, but is expensive to operate up front.”, “Sending things to landfill isn’t as ‘unsustainable’ as you might think.”, “Reusable straws and bags are often more resource intensive than single-use ones.”, “If we don’t use materials in the first place, we save resources and don’t have to worry about any of the above.”
Amazon moving back to ‘Day One’, focus on growth and customers, over profit.
“It is also the opposite of harvesting: it is investing, and it seems more likely than not that Amazon’s upcoming results will look much more like the “Day One” company it was for years, with rapidly growing revenue and costs to match. “
A summary of: Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To by David Sinclair
” What if there was a single cause of aging upstream of all the hallmarks of aging? Sinclair believes that there is – loss of information. ” ” Rather, the loss is in the epigenome, or the expression of genetic code that instructs newly divided cells what they should be. “
Should we ask better questions? And what if we asked really simple questions? That could lead to new insights!
” The basic idea: psychedelics reduce the weight of held beliefs and increase the weight of incoming sensory input, allowing the beliefs to be more readily changed by the new sensory information. “
” Psychedelics “heat up” the brain, increasing plasticity and weakening the influence of prior beliefs. As the psychedelic stops being active, the brain “cools” – the hierarchy re-forms, though perhaps in a different configuration than the pre-psychedelic configuration. “
“Carhart-Harris & Friston place the default mode network at top of the brain’s predictive hierarchy. The default mode network is the network of brain regions that’s most active when the brain isn’t engaged with any specific task. It also appears to be the seat of one’s sense of self. The default mode network is intensely relaxed by strong psychedelic experiences – this is subjectively felt as ego dissolution, and allows for the propagation of bottom-up sense data (which are also boosted by psychedelics).”
“Carhart-Harris & Friston identify two mechanisms by which psychedelics may relax the default mode network – activation of 5-HT2AR serotonin receptors (there are lots of these receptors in the default mode network), and disruption of α and βwave patterns, which seem to propagate top-down expectations through the brain (and are correlated with default mode network activity).”
Very interesting and a great resource (the original article and other links) to take a closer look at the science behind why psychedelics might work.
” The story we have been telling ourselves about our origins is wrong, and perpetuates the idea of inevitable social inequality. David Graeber and David Wengrow ask why the myth of ‘agricultural revolution’ remains so persistent, and argue that there is a whole lot more we can learn from our ancestors. “
“… and in almost no way does it resemble the conventional narrative. Our species did not, in fact, spend most of its history in tiny bands; agriculture did not mark an irreversible threshold in social evolution; the first cities were often robustly egalitarian. “
” That is the real political message conveyed by endless invocations of an imaginary age of innocence, before the invention of inequality: that if we want to get rid of such problems entirely, we’d have to somehow get rid of 99.9% of the Earth’s population and go back to being tiny bands of foragers again. Otherwise, the best we can hope for is to adjust the size of the boot that will be stomping on our faces, forever, or perhaps to wrangle a bit more wiggle room in which some of us can at least temporarily duck out of its way. “
The authors try and argue that the history of men is not what we think it is. And that we don’t need to return to that mythical state to become whole again. If we better understand how it was, maybe we can find a better way forward.
” There is no reason to believe that small-scale groups are especially likely to be egalitarian, or that large ones must necessarily have kings, presidents, or bureaucracies. These are just prejudices stated as facts. ” (arguing again Jared Diamond and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, among others).
” The really odd thing about these endless evocations of Rousseau’s innocent State of Nature, and the fall from grace, is that Rousseau himself never claimed the State of Nature really happened. It was all a thought-experiment. ” and “… Rousseau was really trying to explore what he considered the fundamental paradox of human politics: that our innate drive for freedom somehow leads us, time and again, on a ‘spontaneous march to inequality’. In Rousseau’s own words: ‘All ran headlong for their chains in the belief that they were securing their liberty; for although they had enough reason to see the advantages of political institutions, they did not have enough experience to foresee the dangers’. The imaginary State of Nature is just a way of illustrating the point.”
Then they argue why we didn’t live in the blissful egalitarian society of hunter-gatherers: ” To begin with, there is the undisputed existence of rich burials, extending back in time to the depths of the Ice Age. Some of these, such as the 25,000-year-old graves from Sungir, east of Moscow, have been known for many decades and are justly famous. “
They then use historical sites to show that also these were already present 10.000 years ago. They also argue that the growth of society/groups might have been cyclical. ” Why are these seasonal variations important? Because they reveal that from the very beginning, human beings were self-consciously experimenting with different social possibilities. “
The humans of yesteryear experimented and were diverse, it wasn’t paradise (nor hell). A better question to ask (instead of ‘why is it so inequal’?) is to ask ‘why did we get so stuck?’
” The first bombshell on our list concerns the origins and spread of agriculture. There is no longer any support for the view that it marked a major transition in human societies. In those parts of the world where animals and plants were first domesticated, there actually was no discernible ‘switch’ from Palaeolithic Forager to Neolithic Farmer. The ‘transition’ from living mainly on wild resources to a life based on food production typically took something in the order of three thousand years. “
” Another bombshell: ‘civilization’ does not come as a package. The world’s first cities did not just emerge in a handful of locations, together with systems of centralised government and bureaucratic control. ” and “… in the more established heartlands of urbanisation – Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, the Basin of Mexico – there is mounting evidence that the first cities were organised on self-consciously egalitarian lines, municipal councils retaining significant autonomy from central government. “
” The pieces are all there to create an entirely different world history. For the most part, we’re just too blinded by our prejudices to see the implications. For instance, almost everyone nowadays insists that participatory democracy, or social equality, can work in a small community or activist group, but cannot possibly ‘scale up’ to anything like a city, a region, or a nation-state. But the evidence before our eyes, if we choose to look at it, suggests the opposite. Egalitarian cities, even regional confederacies, are historically quite commonplace. Egalitarian families and households are not. “
An overview of what is happening at Wageningen University (in The Netherlands) and surrounding it. How we can feed the world (through new technologies).
” With the right placement and the right light recipes, Marcelis and his team think that their goal of a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse energy costs is within reach. Or, as the Wageningen motto goes: “two times more with two times less”. “
” According to Van Huis, the new age of entomophagy is beginning. Researchers at WUR are looking to capitalise on bugs’ ability to act as both livestock and miniature waste treatment plants. Insects reared on organic waste serve as both food production and waste reduction – a triumph in circular agriculture, where yield and use of resources are optimised for minimal impact on the environment. “We are at the beginning of an exponential growth,” Van Huis says. “
” but this meat is not made up of cow. It’s a mixture of wheat gluten, soy concentrate, colorants and water. “For us, as food engineers,” Van der Goot explains, “we would like to make a product that resembles meat as much as possible.” “
” Both the energy input and the cost of investment for shear cell are lower than those of any available extrusion technology: respectively, 25-40 per cent less, and 40-60 per cent less. “
” In the near future, Van der Goot believes that every restaurant, grocery store and kitchen can be equipped with a fake-meat machine. “
” Food fraud, like the horsemeat-in-beef scandal of 2013 scandal, costs up to $40 billion (£32 billion) a year – but WUR uses a food product’s biological fingerprint to determine its origin and authenticity. “
” ”What I like the most about micro-algae is that it’s such a simple process that can have a very high impact on our society,” says Maria Barbosa, the director of AlgaePARC, a 15-year research programme at WUR looking to create low-cost, low-energy micro-algae production. “
“… vanilla orchid far above his head. These are part of the greenhouse’s “Nethervanilla” crop: proof that growing and harvesting it can be achieved in Dutch greenhouses. “
Very interesting read and great to know what innovations are happening there.
Timeline of the history of psychedelics. How they were used etc.
” Just as much of the world has come to see rapid population growth as normal and expected, the trends are shifting again, this time into reverse. Most parts of the world are witnessing sharp and sudden contractions in either birthrates or absolute population.”
” Capitalism as a system is particularly vulnerable to a world of less population expansion; a significant portion of the economic growth that has driven capitalism over the past several centuries may have been simply a derivative of more people and younger people consuming more stuff. “
” “The UN is employing a faulty model based on assumptions that worked in the past but that may not apply in the future.” ” (there will be less people, because faster than expected, we’re having fewer kids)
” A world of zero to negative population growth is likely to be a world of zero to negative economic growth, because fewer and older people consume less. ” I’m not sure about this, Japan (which they use as an example a lot) didn’t stop running when people got old, and we will keep inventing new things and ways to consume.
Title: Neither, and New: Lessons from Uber and Vision Fund
” Vision Fund is not a venture capital firm, nor is it a public market-focused hedge fund: it is neither, and new, but it very much remains to be seen if “new” is valuable. “
” This is also good news for public market investors: despite all of the press about Uber and WeWork, more companies are up post-IPO than down — and the gains are much larger in percentage terms than are the losses. The tech company formula still works. “
Biotech will present many possibilities. From getting meat and cheese without the animals, to wood without the tree and fuel without fossils.
How do we reverse ageing? Young blood looked promising, in practice not so much. But the underlying science did, so we can do it without turning into vampires.
” As people age, tgf-beta accretes in the blood and this leads to problems such as inflammation or fibrosis. ” … ” Her team gave ageing mice a cocktail of oxytocin, a hormone, and alk5 inhibitor, an enzyme. “
“Go back far enough in time, before animals and plants and even bacteria existed, and you’d find that the precursor of all life—what scientists call a “protocell”—likely had this same trinity of parts: RNA and proteins, in a membrane.”
But how the membranes could form in a hostile environment was unclear. “They’ve shown that the spheres can withstand both salt and magnesium ions, as long as they’re in the presence of amino acids—the simple molecules that are the building blocks of proteins. “
“It seemed that people were just waving their hands and attributing this crucial convergence to some random event. Black, instead, suggested that the membranes themselves were key. If fatty acids can stick to the constituents of both proteins and RNA, they could have gathered these building blocks together as they themselves assembled. “
“The robot revolution we are in the midst of is actually way more interesting. Goldberg calls it the multiplicity. “Multiplicity is not science fiction,” he says. “It’s something that’s happening right now, and it’s the idea of humans and machines working together.” So welcome to the future, where robots do things like gently hand us screwdrivers instead of stabbing us with them. “
I like the argument in this article a lot, we use machines and work together with them, they are not (in all aspects but very limited use, like Go or chess) usurping/supplanting us.
“Very few robots out there are meant to actually replace human labor, and there’s little research to suggest that the jobless future is nigh.”
Zebrafish as a research animal (vs mouse and the like). They are better because they are externally laid and fertilized (easy manipulation), and transparent. “84 percent of genes known to be associated with human disease have a counterpart in zebrafish.”
“… the set of ideas now called ‘Ergodicity Economics’ is overturning a fundamental concept at the heart of economics, with radical implications for the way we approach uncertainty and cooperation. The economics group at LML is attempting to redevelop economic theory from scratch, starting with the axiom that individuals optimise what happens to them over time, not what happens to them on average in a collection of parallel worlds.”
Talking about expected utility theory: “But there is one odd feature in this framework of expectations – it essentially eliminates time.” “But that’s a mistake. This inspired LML efforts to rewrite the foundations of economic theory, avoiding the lure of averaging over possible outcomes, and instead averaging over outcomes in time, with one thing happening after another, as in the real world.”
A very long (and good) essay on ‘The Refragmentation’. Some notes/quotes:
“One advantage of being old is that you can see change happen in your lifetime. A lot of the change I’ve seen is fragmentation. “
“In the middle of the century our two big forces intersect, in the form of the GI Bill, which sent 2.2 million World War II veterans to college. Few thought of it in these terms, but the result of making college the canonical path for the ambitious was a world in which it was socially acceptable to work for Henry Ford, but not to be Henry Ford. “
“In the early 20th century, big companies were synonymous with efficiency. In the late 20th century they were synonymous with inefficiency. “
“It wasn’t just within existing industries that change occurred. The industries themselves changed. It became possible to make lots of new things, and sometimes the existing companies weren’t the ones who did it best. “
“The word used for this process was misleadingly narrow: deregulation. What was really happening was de-oligopolization. It happened to one industry after another. Two of the most visible to consumers were air travel and long-distance phone service, which both became dramatically cheaper after deregulation. “
“Ambitious people started to think of a career less as climbing a single ladder than as a series of jobs that might be at different companies.” (see The Alliance)
“Nothing is forever, but the tendency toward fragmentation should be more forever than most things, precisely because it’s not due to any particular cause. It’s simply a reversion to the mean. When Rockefeller said individualism was gone, he was right for a hundred years. It’s back now, and that’s likely to be true for longer. “
“Hercules (beagle with gene edit) is far from alone, as China is seeing an explosion in CRISPR-based animal studies and embracing the gene-editing technology with unrivalled zest and zeal—so much so that China could soon outpace the US in CRISPR-related research papers and patents across fields such as medical research, agriculture, and industrial applications. “
“[T]hat everything you do online is logged in obscene detail, that you have no privacy. And yet, even expecting this, I was bowled over by the scale and detail of the tracking; even for short stints on the web, when I logged into Invasive Firefox just to check facts and catch up on the news, the amount of information collected about my endeavors was staggering.”
In the article, the writer of Stratechery takes a closer look at tracking pixels and sees that not all are created equal/some are actually useful.