- Gates on refrigeration using intermittent power for rural vaccine delivery.
Multiple camera views of Tomahawk Missile test, including from F-18 chase plane.
- Suggested thesis topics to maximize impact on the world for grad students. (After you select a academic subject, just click all the “areas of interest” to see the complete list of suggested thesis topics in that subject.)
My non-profit, the Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative, is aiming to distribute around $750k in grants to individuals or small groups for projects to reduce x-risk, in annualized amounts up to $300k: http://existence.org/project-grants-1/
…Thanks to Jaan Tallinn for his incredible moral support, and funding for the program!
- Ground is about to be broken on the factory for constructing spaceships that will deliver human beings to Mars.
- Self-driving cars are probably worth $0.5T to $5T per year. Each day the tech is delayed costs more than a $1B.
- It’s a sorta-misconception that US corporations must strictly maximize profits (or, more generally, shareholder value). As long as the corporate leaders aren’t stealing for their own benefit, the courts generally give wide latitude to their strategies and goals, including very tenuous argument about improving communities and generating goodwill. However, the details are complicated; there have been at least a couple cases where leaders explicitly endorsed leaving huge rewards on the table in order to pursue goals that had no benefit to shareholders whatsoever, and they were successfully sued. The most recent and relevant one in 2010 pitted Craigslist founder Craig Newmark against his investor eBay. In response, some state (including the all-important Delaware) have recently created the category of benefit corporations which are for-profit (normal taxes, etc.),
I’ve been mulling for a long time whether to stay in physics, and a colleague pointed me toward this Master’s thesis on career regret by Hennessey.
In this blog post I’ll mostly just pull out notable excerpts. I encourage you to read the thesis if this catches your interest. (See also Hanson on deathbed regrets.)
From the introduction:
If you work full time for thirty years the number of hours spent on the job would be approximately 60,000…
… [continue reading]
What if you never figured out what you want to do with your life? What if you spent your whole life searching and never found the work you wanted?
Public service announcement: Feedback from my readers is eagerly sought. Let me know in the comments or by email what you do and don’t find interesting, and maybe a bit of background about yourself. (EDIT: 0.3% response rate? Get it together!)
Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…
- “Complete lifecycle of HIV in 3D”. This really drives home how insane the world is going to be once intelligent agents are accurately designing machines on the molecular scale.
It’s the largest global engagement strategy since the Marshall Plan — only…like 40 X as large in real dollars.
Here’s a slightly hokey 6-minute introduction from Vox (“7 out of the 10 biggest construction firms in the world are now Chinese”):
(H/t Malcom Ocean.)
Relatedly, here’s diplomat Kishore Mahbubani on the potential for conflicts between the US and China (45 minute of lecture and 45 minutes of questions):Interestingly, I’ve found when increasing video playback speed that YouTube on Chrome has fewer skips and clips that impede intelligibility than VLC does playing back the file (at the same speed). Does anyone know why? Or can anyone recommend an alternative to VLC (or a new VLC plugin)?a
(H/t Julia Peng.) Some of the important/interesting claims: (1) The Chinese people are largely accepting of authoritarianism and generally believe that their long history makes democracy less suitable there. (2) The Chinese economic rise has been meteoric, demonstrating that economic liberalism can be pretty cleanly separated from political liberalism. (3) The US ought to submit to more multi-lateralism and international rule-of-law now in order to establish norms that will constrain China later.
Having heard Geoffrey Hinton’s somewhat dismissive account of the contribution by physicists to machine learning in his online MOOC, it was interesting to listen to one of those physicists, Naftali Tishby, here at PI:
The surprising success of learning with deep neural networks poses two fundamental challenges: understanding why these networks work so well and what this success tells us about the nature of intelligence and our biological brain. Our recent Information Theory of Deep Learning shows that large deep networks achieve the optimal tradeoff between training size and accuracy, and that this optimality is achieved through the noise in the learning process.
In this talk, I will focus on the statistical physics aspects of our theory and the interaction between the stochastic dynamics of the training algorithm (Stochastic Gradient Descent) and the phase structure of the Information Bottleneck problem. Specifically, I will describe the connections between the phase transition and the final location and representation of the hidden layers, and the role of these phase transitions in determining the weights of the network.
Based partly on joint works with Ravid Shwartz-Ziv, Noga Zaslavsky, and Shlomi Agmon.
I was familiar with the general concept of over-fitting, but I hadn’t realized you could talk about it quantitatively by looking at the mutual information between the output of a network and all the information in the training data that isn’t the target label.… [continue reading]
A lot of people sound worried that new and improving techniques for creating very convincing videos of anyone saying and doing anything will lead to widespread misinformation and even a break down of trust in society.
I’m not very worried. Two hundred years ago, essentially all communication, other than in-person conversation, was done through written word, which is easy to fake and impersonate. In particular, legal contracts were (and are) typeset, and so are trivially fakeable. But although there were (and are) cases of fraud and deception through foraged documents, society has straightforward mechanisms for correctly attributing such communication to individuals. Note, for instance, that multi-billion-dollar contracts between companies are written in text, and we have never felt it necessary to record difficult-to-fake videos of the CEOs reciting them.
The 20th century was roughly a technological Goldilocks period where technology existed to capture images and video but not to fake them. Images, of course, have been fakeable at modest cost for many years. Even in 1992, Michael Crichton’s Rising Sun used high-tech fraudulent security footage as a realistic plot point in then-current day. Although we may see some transition costs as folks are tricked into believing fraudulent videos because the ease of faking them has not yet entered the conventional wisdom, eventually people will learn that video can’t be trusted much more than the written word.Which is to say, most of the time you can trust both text and video because most people aren’t trying to defraud you, but extra confirmatory steps are taken for important cases.a This will not be catastrophic because our trust networks are not critically dependent on faithful videos and images.… [continue reading]
We recently hosted a conference at Perimeter Institute on “Open Science”. Video from all the talks is available here. I spokeIt might be more accurate to say that I occasionally mumbled something intelligible in between long stretches of the words “um” and “ah”. Luckily, you can watch the video at high speed by using using a browser plugin like Video Speed Controller for Chrome. Unfortunately, I don’t know a simple way to embed playback speed controls directly into the HTML rather than forcing you to install a plugin or download the video and watch it with a player featuring such controls.a on the importance of “knowledge ratchets”, i.e., pedagogical documents (textbooks, monographs, and review papers) that allow for continuous improvement by anyone. After starting off with my new favorite example of how basic physics textbooks, and physicists, are egregiously uninformed about central elementary things, I ranted about how important it is to allow for people who are not the original author to contribute easily to the documents composing our educational pipeline (broadly construed to include the training researchers on recent developments).
(I forgot to put on the microphone for the first minute and a half; the sound quality improves after that.)
Luckily, when I wanted to illustrate the idea of in-PDF commenting on articles that generated feedback for the authors, I didn’t have to just use mock-ups. Luis Batalha from Fermat’s Library took the mic for the second half of the talk to show off their Chrome plugin “Librarian” and talk about their strategy for gaining users.… [continue reading]
Extrapolating my current trajectory, I will combine more and more links posts into larger and larger multi-month collections until eventually I release one giant list for all time and shutdown the blog.Just kidding. I will get back to actual, non-link blogging before too long…a
- FHI report on China’a AI ambitions, based on recent translations of their policy whitepapers.
- Relatedly: 80k on China and Ben Todd specifically on why not to translate EA writing into Chinese.
- If someone’s veins are too diseased to reliably deliver intravenous fluid, an alternative is intraosseous infusion.
New Waymo self-driving video:
- The $100M US Drone base outside Agadez, Niger.
- I support the use of FaKe LaTeX. (H/t Daniel Filan.) What’s amazing about this is that Microsoft Word could obtain most of the beauty of LaTeX if only they set some good defaults!
- Hawking obituary by Penrose. Commentators seem to agree this one gives the best summary of Hawking’s technical contributions.
- Larry Page’s Flying Taxis.
We socially unskilled people tend to prefer things to be out in the open and clear, where we can read them and understand them and react, at least at some very basic level. That’s who I am. I am a nerdy person. So personally, I prefer things to be more out in the open where I can have some idea what the heck’s going on, and I will notice them.
But I think that has given me some advantage in being a social scientist, in that when you’re really socially skilled and you move about in the social world, you just intuitively do all the right things, and you don’t think explicitly about it.
- Bryan Caplan reviews Hanson and Simler, and in several cases makes critiques similar to mine.
Viruses face strong adaptive pressure to have small genomes and, as a consequence, their external structure is made of a small number of repeating proteins. This is why they often have a high degree of geometric symmetry.
Virus genomes also make use of overlapping genes to wring out more efficiency.
Daniel Bernstein is the author of qmail. Bernstein created qmail because he was fed us with all of the security vulnerabilities in sendmail. Ten years after the launch of qmail 1.0, and at a time when more than a million of the Internet’s SMTP servers ran either qmail or netqmail, only four known bugs had been found in the qmail 1.0 releases, and no security issues. This paper lays out the principles which made this possible
- Luke Muehlhauser excerpts Daniel Ellsberg.
Project Excalibur was a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) research program to develop [a space-based] x-ray laser as a ballistic missile defense (BMD). The concept involved packing large numbers of expendable x-ray lasers around a nuclear device [on an orbiting satellite]. When the device detonated, the x-rays released by the bomb would be focused by the lasers, each of which would be aimed at a target missile. In space, the lack of atmosphere to block the x-rays allowed for attacks over thousands of kilometers.
- Jeff Kaufman reports on the excellent news that Charity Navigator is beginning the slow push to accounting for effectiveness! GiveWell deserves tremendous credit for instigating this long ago.
- Useful, basic arguments for and against whether cryptocurrencies (and tokens) are good for anything.