Has wealth ever increased?
Of growth and development as a misunderstanding
The myth of growth relies on the essential claim that we are incomparably wealthier now than our ancestors a thousand years ago. Every macroeconomics textbook opens on this claim, supported by a cu...
Purifying and pontifying
A toy model of learning
I've come to believe that the vast majority of scientific or expert knowledge is obtained via two major epistemic operations: purification and pontification.
Let's say that knowledge, scientific...
Collective mistakes and individual conflicts
Cartoon 1d political philosophy becomes cardboard 2d political philosophy
I have recently been enlightened on a fairly basic dichotomy of political intuitions: the Conflict vs Mistake axis.
Do you believe that political events and social evils are mainly about people ...
Note-to-self: Quantum Mechanics
The ABC of QM
Everything I now understand about QM I owe to Aaronson and Baez. Some of what I hope to understand eventually I owe to Coecke.
Inventing QM in 1800:
To deal with some measurements, we need som...
The triumph of semantics over arithmetics.
More and more in our life is being Yelpized: our decisions between alternatives guided by scores assigned by unknown individuals. Unsurprisingly, research on this topic is more than sprawling, espe...
Note-to-self: Machine learning
Blame peer pressure
Note-to-self: collections of disorganized thoughts for my own future re-consumption, updated when I feel like it.
1. Basic ideas:
Old-timey interpretation of machine learning is about process...
The Language that Won't Die
For when we disappear.
Imagine that you're part of a civilization that is bound to disappear fairly soon, due to (pick one) environmental upheaval, resistant parasites, coordination failure in a nuclear Mexican standoff,...
Goodhart's Law and Futarchy
A predictable failure mode for prediction markets
A short post today, to share a few thoughts about a classic idea in economics: Goodhart's law - to paraphrase, "when a metric becomes a target, it ceases to be a good metric".
In other words:
Unfriendly AI and Context-Free Values
For the love of Goedel, don't make utilitarian AIs.
As you might have heard, quite a few people are becoming agitated at the thought that we may actually be seeing good AIs in the near future. The general reasoning is that once we make AIs better th...
Privilege and the tactics of Ethos
This was probably a mistake.
As the mass of writing on privilege and systemic oppression expands faster than the known universe, it is becoming difficult to have any idea of which arguments have already been beaten to death. I...
Of Tourism as Bhakti
Hereafter, I attempt to analyze my feelings after a busy vacation.
Boorish as it may seem, popular bhakti is - a sannyasin knows - more than pretense and empty rites.
It does appear crude, c...
Thoughts on a class of hard problems
The far shore of simple.
I like to dream about problems that have not given rise to any convincing formal theory because they exist so far beyond our current grasp, no one knows what solving them might even look like.
The Fermi Paradox solved
Or, So long and thanks for all the probes
A small offshoot of Philosophy hour.
I will refrain from writing the Internet's billionth exposition of the Fermi Paradox
More interesting is the biologist's obvious answer: we - and other ...
Rituals and analogism
What are the semantics of ritual?
Lately, I have been involved in an immensely challenging and interesting project: building a grammar of rituals. This post is a series of thoughts I presented to my collaborators in this project. I...
Doping and the boundaries of humanity
Is there any ethical ground for rejecting genetically-enhanced athletes?
This post is the first of the Philosophy Hour series, where I jot down some thoughts that resulted from over-lunch debating with my colleagues.
People who excel at sports are winners of a geneti...
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