Ulpian’s life table is the closest thing we have to actuarial data from ancient Rome. Key quote: “Although Keith Hopkins called the table not ‘demographically possible’, it corresponds well to other observed populations with abnormally high mortality rates (such as postwar Mauritius), and to a priori constructions of plausible Roman age structures. In any case, the picture they present is appalling: a society with one of the highest mortality rates on record, with a predicted life expectancy at birth of between 19 and 23.”
Vaughan Bell of MindHacks on good and bad criticisms of psychiatric diagnosis. Interesting to me for the “Psychiatric diagnoses are not reliable” section, which shows that although you can’t get reliable diagnoses out of ordinary practice, you can get them from structured interviews. Which no one does.
Chinese censorship expands to group chats in response to dissidents turning them into “lecture halls” for banned material. Related: China cracks down on Winnie-The-Pooh for purported resemblance to Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Independent: “each day, a cruise ship emits as much particulate matter as a million cars. They say that “30 cruise ships pollute as much as all the cars in the UK”, but I wonder if that’s true – eg if particulate matter is the relevant kind of pollution, and how much pollution in the middle of the ocean compares to in major cities. Probably can’t just ban cruise ships and then stop worrying about car pollution so much.
If you like your questionable science served with a side of other questionable science, here’s MBTI Facial Phenotypes, the average face appearance for each of the Myers-Briggs types (eg “ESTJ”, “INFP”, etc)
Man accused of being D. B. Cooper, the famous hijacker who held an airplane hostage, parachuted out with the money, and was never seen again.
Investigative reporter finds that drug offenders sent to “rehab” instead of prison often end up in privately-owned work camps with a thin veneer of rehabness, where they’re exploited as slave labor in terrible conditions. The camps claim that labor can help teach people good work values which prevents drug relapse, but the “programs” are essentially indistinguishable from difficult work in dangerous conditions without pay or protections. Many “clients” end up just choosing to go with the prison sentence after a while. ACLU vowing to investigate.
Speaking of ACLU cases: city of Dickinson, Texas, tries to make hurricane relief aid conditional on recipients promising not to boycott Israel; appears to be attempt to comply with state law banning officials from doing business with Israel-boycotters.
Inspired by my map of online rationality, Søren Elverlin makes a map of the AI safety community. But how could they represent Roman Yampolskiy with a medieval looking building? Shouldn’t they have used something Romanesque? So disappointed.
Not the Onion: Universe Shouldn’t Exist, CERN Physicists Conclude. Not a moral claim, just a study failing to find any asymmetries separating matter and antimatter.
Profile of leading self-driving car researcher Anthony Levandwoski, who used to lead Waymo, co-founded self-driving truck company Otto, and now…is trying to start some kind of church relating to the Singularity?
A cautionary tale: the archives of fuckedgoogle.com, an early 2000s website arguing everyone else was idiots for not realizing Google was a fad that was about to collapse. Useful vaccination against taking confident-sounding people seriously.
Research in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: People do better than chance at matching people’s faces with their names, suggesting it really is possible to “look like a Bob” or whatever, “even when ethnicity, age, and other socioeconomic variables are controlled for”. Authors claim “people alter their face to meet cultural expectations”, but my guess is it’s going to be some kind of sub-sub-ethnicity sort of thing where Scottish people and Swedish people are both classified as “white” but look sort of different and give their kids different names. Although the studies were done in France and Israel and I don’t know the ethnic situation there.
“My current pet theory of the function of REM is that it is doing the same thing as experience replay in DeepMind’s reinforcement learning algorithms.”
Current Affairs: The Sad Spectacle Of Cities Groveling To Amazon.
Biggest test of police body cameras so far finds they have no effect on police brutality or citizen complaints. Article suggests this is shocking but I remember seeing other studies showing the same last year (but see here).
Puerto Rico is still a disaster area. One bright spot: Google successfully restoring some communications with stratospheric Internet balloons, Tesla successfully restoring some power with portable solar arrays. Meanwhile, in the actual government…
Related: it’s easy to get the impression from the media that everybody hates tech companies, but actually Google’s approval rating is 88%, Amazon’s is 72%, and Facebook’s is 60%. Key quote: “The campaign against big tech isn’t resonating, because it’s based on false premises that most people see right through.”
You know that story about how a neural net trained to detect tanks actually just ended up classifying sunny vs. cloudy days because all the tank pictures were taken during sunny weather? Probably an urban legend.
BBC on Viking re-enactors. Interesting both because Vikings are inherently interesting, and because of the attempt to make a bunch of ‘combat veterans and former football hooligans’ waving war-axes at each other sound touchy-feely and lovey-dovey. The title is “The Viking Therapy Club” and key quotes are eg “According to Qanun the true Viking message, which the Jomsborg Vikings try to promote, is one of tolerance and diversity.”
Related BBC article: Viking textiles have the word “Allah” on them, demonstrating strong connections between Viking and Islamic cultures. Related Twitter followup: No they don’t, although contact between Vikings and Muslims was real enough. A good reminder that everything looks kind of like Arabic if you stare at it hard enough.
Eliezer Yudkowsky on the MIRI site: There’s No Fire Alarm For Artificial General Intelligence. There will be no particular event that creates common knowledge that it’s okay to say AGI seems near, so a conventional wisdom that it’s certainly a long way off will last long past the point when the evidence suggests otherwise.
Related on the new AlphaGo Zero: “I emphasize how all the mighty human edifice of Go knowledge, the joseki and tactics developed over centuries of play, the experts teaching children from an early age, was entirely discarded by AlphaGo Zero with a subsequent performance improvement. These mighty edifices of human knowledge, as I understand the Hansonian thesis, are supposed to be the bulwark against rapid gains in AI capability across multiple domains at once. I said, ‘Human intelligence is crap and our accumulated skills are crap,’ and this appears to have been borne out…[AI proved] fast enough to blow past centuries of human-style learning in 3 days”. And Robin Hanson’s response.
Related…ish: Paperclip maximizer, the game. As if all of you haven’t already played this. If you don’t get the reference, this article explains. Hint: don’t do what I did and use negative quantum operations to turn back time, it just makes you start over from the beginning.
Also: Eliezer is writing a book on the idea of low-hanging fruit vs. the argument from humility (“Surely I’m not so great that I can discover low-hanging fruit everyone else has missed”). First chapter up here, some responses here and here.
The only time you’re allowed to sign up for Obamacare insurance policies this year is between November 1 and December 15 (slightly longer in some states). This is poorly advertised possibly as a sinister Republican plot. If you’re an American and you need health care, check out the Obamacare FAQ sometime during that period so you don’t get left behind.
Relevant to my interests: Ninth Circuit Court rules that whales count as fish for certain legal purposes.
Trump Supporters Help Fill Republican Party Coffers. Key point is probably this graph – whatever other problems Trump is causing the GOP, he’s caused an almost unprecedented flood of small donor fundraising and given the Republicans a major financial advantage going into the midterm elections. May be used for intra-Republican primary conflicts to support Trumpist candidates.
Michael Huemer: What’s Wrong With Soliciting Letters Of Recommendation? For one thing, these have become an irritating exercise in social obligation – most teachers don’t want to ruin their students’ lives or get in trouble, so if the student is at all okay the teacher feels obligated to call them “the next Einstein” or whatever. But it’s also the essence of “who you know rather than what you know”, reinforces the credentialist system, and distributes positions to people who are most sycophantic, most willing to pester others for favors, and who have the teachers most willing to be dishonest. Another factor reinforcing credentialism and undermining meritocracy. Also costs professors many hours of unpaid labor. Huemer recommends weighing other factors instead.
Documents Banned By Section 58 Of The Terrorism Act 2000. British censorship has intensified, with long jail sentences for anybody who reads “terrorist content” online, with “terrorist content” being anything from an ISIS magazine to (potentially) news articles about terrorism. Already used to convict a British Muslim whose brother had gone to fight for ISIS and who had looked up some ISIS stuff to try to understand how her brother was doing. Another person given suspended sentence for possessing a terrorist magazine with a copied Buzzfeed listicle about evading drone strikes.
On how police unions can either fight or reinforce corruption: “The things cop unions do that reformers don’t like – reflexively defend all officers in all situations, fund legal defenses and media campaigns…those are all felt, by cops, as safeguards against police corruption”.