November 2019

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.

Title: The first map of America’s food supply chain is mind-boggling

Really cool maps of how food is moved across America. (actual paper)

Title: Tech and Liberty

A thorough analysis of free speech and how the laws of the US and tech companies collide. Nuance should be taken into account.

Title: The Multiverse

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.”

A very interesting newsletter that is worth reading 🙂 About tech (trends).

Title: Polyamory Is Growing—And We Need To Get Serious About It

A good, and long, read about polyamory and how it can work, how many people do it, and how to deal with it as a society. Very interesting.

Title: The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss

A great website that reviews health and nutrition books. This one gets a 60% score (meh), especially because of the low scientific accuracy, but ok healthfulness (if you follow the advice).

Title: Biggest Private Coal Miner Goes Bust as Trump Rescue Fails

Good news, and bye-bye mining (and hi to cleaner energy of course).

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: London Says Air Pollution Fell By Roughly A Third After New Emissions Rules

“According to the report, nitrogen dioxide pollution has fallen by 36% in the central zone since February 2017, when the city first announced a “toxicity charge” on older vehicles.”

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.”

Title: Model hallucinations

“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.

Title: The Google Squeeze

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 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.

Title: The Dawn of Cheap and Easy DNA Writing

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: Integration and Monopoly

That Apple is integrated leads to more advantages than only costs (usability and leverage).

A potential downside is that people are locked-in. So that with a bad keyboard, they don’t leave (but do complain).

Title: A network of science: 150 years of Nature papers

An awesome overview of the papers that were published in Nature. It would be cool to be able to do this for my new field too.

Title: The world’s first Gattaca baby tests are finally here

Designer babies are here (or at least so does Genomic Prediction claim).

Title: Latest advances in aging research and drug discovery

This field is still young (as we all hope to stay), so much needs to be done before we can say that we can do intervention X to live 10 healthy extra lives.

One key idea from the paper is to put the focus on healthspan (instead of lifespan) and get support for those interventions easier.

Another one is that we need good markers of age(ing). If we know what reliably happens during ageing, we can see if interventions prevent/reverse this from happening.

Title: What We Can Learn From the Near-Death of the Banana

Bananas are (here) an example of how our system is quite fragile, so fragile that one disease could wipe out all banana’s (because 99% are genetically identical).

Maybe we can innovate our way out of this mess (genetic editing), but then buyers/sellers should want them.

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).

Title: Could Carbon Capture Save Us From Climate Disaster?

Carbon capture to combat climate change, and… to make money! Now we have to scale it up.

Title: Cigarette Smoking Among U.S. Adults Hits All-Time Low

Some good news (again via the Future Crunch newsletter). Smoking is on the way down (will it ever go close to zero?)

Title: Starlink is a very big deal

A long read on why Starlink will make money and democratize access to the internet!