Scientific Consensus on Cognitive Ability?

From the web site of the International Society for Intelligence Research (ISIR): a summary of the recent debate involving Charles Murray, Sam Harris, Richard Nisbett, Eric Turkheimer, Paige Harden, Razib Khan, Bo and Ben Winegard, Brian Boutwell, Todd Shackelford, Richard Haier, and a cast of thousands! ISIR is the main scientific society for researchers of …

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Oliver Stone confronts Idiocracy

See earlier post Trump, Putin, Stephen Cohen, Brawndo, and Electrolytes. Note to morons: Russia’s 2017 GDP is less than that of France, Brazil, Italy, Canada, and just above that of Korea and Australia. (PPP-adjusted they are still only #6 in the world, between Germany and Indonesia: s-s-scary!) Apart from their nuclear arsenal (which they will …

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Climate Risk and AI Risk for Dummies

The two figures below come from recent posts on climate change and AI. Please read them. The squiggles in the first figure illustrate uncertainty in how climate will change due to CO2 emissions. The squiggles in the second figure illustrate uncertainty in the advent of human-level AI.   Many are worried about climate change because …

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Rise of the Machines: Survey of AI Researchers

These predictions are from a recent survey of AI/ML researchers. See SSC and also here for more discussion of the results. When Will AI Exceed Human Performance? Evidence from AI Experts Katja Grace, John Salvatier, Allan Dafoe, Baobao Zhang, Owain Evans Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will transform modern life by reshaping transportation, health, science, …

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Epistemic Caution and Climate Change

I have not, until recently, invested significant time in trying to understand climate modeling. These notes are primarily for my own use, however I welcome comments from readers who have studied this issue in more depth. I take a dim view of people who express strong opinions about complex phenomena without having understood the underlying …

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Comey under oath: no obstruction of justice

Almost everything we hear from the media these days is simply motivated reasoning — i.e., partisan nonsense. Wikipedia: …When people form and cling to false beliefs despite overwhelming evidence, the phenomenon is labeled “motivated reasoning”. In other words, “rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information …

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Walter Pitts and Neural Nets

Pitts is one of the least studied geniuses of the early information age. See also Wikipedia, Nautil.us. Cabinet Magazine: There are no biographies of Walter Pitts, and any honest discussion of him resists conventional biography. Pitts was among the original participants in the mid-century cybernetics conferences, though he began his association with that group of …

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20 years of GATTACA (1997)

 A 20 year lag between science fiction and reality… not bad! Embryo selection, but no additional engineering: Geneticist (Blair Underwood): Keep in mind, this child is still you — simply the best of you. You could conceive naturally a thousand times and never get such a result … According to this discussion, an offer of …

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SubAltern Homesick Blues

New York Magazine seems to have dedicated an entire issue to the Alt-Right. If you don’t recognize any of this subterranean internet stuff you should probably have a look. Somehow they left out the Illuminati, though. See The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Subaltern Postcolonial Gramsci Homi Bhabha Babble. BEYOND ALT: THE EXTREMELY REACTIONARY, …

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CNGB: China National Gene Bank

Unbeknownst to me I’ve been skyping with a collaborator who has been working from this location. SCMP: China opens first national gene bank, aiming to house hundreds of millions of samples China’s first national gene bank, claimed to be the largest of its kind in the world, officially opened on Thursday to store and carry …

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Von Neumann and Realpolitik

“Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” — Thucydides, Melian Dialogue. Von Neumann, Feynman, and Ulam. Adventures of a Mathematician (Ulam): … Once at Christmas time in 1937, we drove from Princeton to Duke University …

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Michael Anton: Inside the Trump White House

Michael Anton is head of strategic communications for the National Security Council. See related Politico article. The Atlantic: Michael Anton warned last year that 2016 was the Flight 93 election: “Charge the cockpit or you die.” Americans charged. Donald Trump became president of the United States. And Anton, the author of that now-notorious essay, is …

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Yann LeCun on Unsupervised Learning

This is a recent Yann LeCun talk at CMU. Toward the end he discusses recent breakthroughs using GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks, see also Ian Goodfellow here and here). LeCun tells an anecdote about the discovery of backpropagation. The first implementation of the algorithm didn’t work, probably because of a bug in the program. But they convinced …

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History of Bayesian Neural Networks

This talk gives the history of neural networks in the framework of Bayesian inference. Deep learning is (so far) quite empirical in nature: things work, but we lack a good theoretical framework for understanding why or even how. The Bayesian approach offers some progress in these directions, and also toward quantifying prediction uncertainty. I was …

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Dialog 2017

Too busy to take many photos, but here are a few. First one is of a conversation between Tyler Cowen and Peter Thiel. Dialog is an biannual 2-day thought retreat, gathering 150 global leaders to discuss how to change the world. Dialog was created in 2006 to bring together global leaders across industries to discuss …

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Robots Proctor Online Exams

For background on this subject, see How to beat online exam proctoring. It is easy for clever students to beat existing security systems for online exams. Enterprising students could even set up “cheating rooms” that make it easy for test takers to cheat. Judging by the amount of traffic this old post gets, cheating on …

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Everything is Heritable

  The figure above comes from the paper below. A quick glance shows that for pairs of individuals: 1. Increasing genetic similarity implies increasing trait similarity (for traits including height, cognitive ability, years of education) 2. Home environments (raised Together vs Apart; Adoptees) have limited impact on the trait (at least in relatively egalitarian Sweden). …

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The Eyes of Texas

 The Eyes of Texas Sorry for the blogging interruption. I’m at the annual AAU (Association of American Universities) meeting of Senior Research Officers in Austin, Texas. UT Austin has a beautiful clock tower just up the street from our hotel. As pretty as it is I couldn’t help but think about the 1966 tower sniper (45 …

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A Professor meets the Alt-Right

A Professor meets the Alt-Right Thomas Main, Professor in the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College, is working on a book about the Alt-Right, to be published by Brookings. Below you can listen to a conversation between Main and prominent Alt-Right figure Mike Enoch (pseudonym). It’s an interesting encounter between academic political theory and …

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On the military balance of power in the Western Pacific

Some observations concerning the military balance of power in Asia. Even “experts” I have spoken to over the years seem to be confused about basic realities that are fundamental to strategic considerations. 1. Modern missile and targeting technology make the survivability of surface ships (especially carriers) questionable. Satellites can easily image surface ships and missiles …

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Ratchets Within Rachets

For those interested in political philosophy, or Trump’s travel ban, I recommend this discussion on Scott Aaronson’s blog, which features a commenter calling himself Boldmug (see also Bannon and Moldbug in the news recently ;-) Both Scott and Boldmug seem to agree that scientific/technological progress is a positive ratchet caught within a negative ratchet of societal and …

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Baby Universes in the Laboratory

This was on the new books table at our local bookstore. I had almost forgotten about doing an interview and corresponding with the author some time ago. See also here and here. The book is a well-written overview of some of the more theoretical aspects of inflationary cosmology, the big bang, the multiverse, etc. It also …

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Oppenheimer on Bohr (1964 UCLA)

Oppenheimer on Bohr (1964 UCLA) I came across this 1964 UCLA talk by Oppenheimer, on his hero Niels Bohr. Oppenheimer: Mathematics is “an immense enlargement of language, an ability to talk about things which in words would be simply inaccessible.” I find it strange that psychometricians usually define “verbal ability” over a vocabulary set that …

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