Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Darkness is the norm

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Copper production shows three peaks: The Roman Empire in the west, the Song Dynasty, and modernity.

The Roman Empire in the west and the Song Dynasty had about seven times the preceding and following level of copper production, thus while those civilizations were going concerns, they had far more production and wealth than the rest of the world put together.

When the Roman Empire in the West fell, its GDP dropped about a hundred fold.

So, looking at the past few thousand years, the norm has been relatively brief periods of civilization in relatively small parts of the world.

I would guess the problem is that the state lacks the cohesion and self discipline necessary to refrain from devouring civil society, and anarchy lacks the cohesion necessary to keep the roads safe and property rights secure. Technology can advance during anarchic periods, often quite rapidly, but the amount of wealth, as indicated by copper production, shipwrecks, and such, tends to be very low indeed during such periods.  Despotic states, on the other hand, have higher wealth, probably because they can make the roads safe over a large area, but are apt to end technological progress, and often reverse it. (more…)

No real AI progress

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

AI is a hard problem, and even if we had a healthy society, we might still be stuck. That buildings are not getting taller and that fabs are not getting cheaper and not making smaller and smaller devices is social decay. That we are stuck on AI is more that it is high hanging fruit.

According to Yudkowsky, we will have AI when computers have as much computing power as human brains.

The GPU on my desktop has ten times as much computing power as the typical male human brain, and it is not looking conscious. (more…)

mens rea

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

I have been arguing that social decay is ending technological and scientific progress.  In most areas it has strikingly slowed, in some areas, going backwards in the west, as we forget how to do what once we could do.  Others, however, argue that technological and scientific progress is still running hot, or that if it has slowed, it is that we ran out of low hanging fruit.

But a big tell is that people are lying about it. The lie indicates not only failure, but that the failure is shameful – that the failure is in us, not in external circumstances.  That we are lying about it shows the failure is social decay. (more…)

Tall buildings and the social order

Monday, January 20th, 2014

To make and keep the upper stories of a tall building habitable requires routine high technology.  The lifts have to work, the water needs to be pumped, the toilets have let the poop down one hundred stories without shattering violence.  It is not all that expensive.  Current office space costs in the centers of major cities are so high that very tall buildings are immensely profitable.  It is simply difficult to do, requires able people working together, both initially to build the systems, and subsequently to keep them going.

It is habitable floors that are hard to do, and habitable floors are what generates the rental income.  So, to assess a society’s technological level, count habitable floors.

By and large, the taller the building, the more the profit.  Doubtless there is a limit, but in the center of most major cities, most tall buildings are below that limit.  If people could build taller, they would.  At our present technological level, settling space seems likely to be fatally unprofitable, but building upwards, building the city of tomorrow, is highly profitable. (more…)

Races and subspecies

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Darwin defined race and subspecies to mean the same thing, a difference between kinds that is noticeable, but less than a species difference.

He then proceeded to argue that there was no objective distinction between a race difference and species difference, that two very different races were the same degree of difference as two closely related species.

And thus, that race is the origin of species. Over time, races may become more different, and, as some ill defined and undefinable date, it becomes reasonable to call them two different species rather than two different races.

He then proceeded to argue that the difference between the more distant human races, in particular the difference between blacks and whites, is large enough to be called a species difference, and considerably larger than the differences between many kinds that are recognized as distinct and different species.

(more…)

A creationist, an evolutionist, and a Darwinist were walking in the woods

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

They saw patch of flowers.

“Why are these flowers beautiful?” asked the creationist rhetorically.

“OK” said the evolutionist, “Why?”

“For the joy of God and man,” said the creationist.

“No” said the evolutionist, “Beauty is subjective, in the observer, not in the flower, and nothing in nature has any purpose.  It just is.”

“No,” said the Darwinist.  “These flowers must be pollinated by a creature that drinks nectar by daylight, probably a bee, and the flowers are beautiful to please the bee, as a woman is beautiful to please her husband.”

“That is sexist,” said the evolutionist, “and why should bees care about beauty?”

Leftism as cancer

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Leftism is to memes as cancer is genes.

If the cells of the body mutate, cells that multiply at the expense of the body will be selected.  And cells that mutate to a faster mutation rate will be selected, since they will have more fast multiplying variants.

In a healthy body, each cell lives for the body, and performs its role in the whole body, making the body one. In cancer, each cancer cell lives for itself, at the expense of the body, parasitically, until the parasites devour the host

Left wing memes are selected by propagation through state power for propagation through state power. (more…)

Moore’s law ends. Technological singularity postponed indefinitely

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

The fabs will soon be delivering “16nm” chips.  But they are not in fact 16nm chips.  That is just marketer spin.  The wire to wire spacing, the pitch, is still 64nm, as it has been for some considerable time.  There have been substantial improvements in power consumption, and this and that, but chips have just stopped getting denser.  There are no more transistors per unit area than in previous technology generations.  They are 64nm chips, and we have been stuck at 64 nm for some time. (more…)

Progress

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

In 1900, there were no planes, no space travel. Motorcars were toys that enthusiasts played with, not useful means of transport.  There were no computers, no radios, no antibiotics, no rockets, no nuclear power, no knowledge or understanding of the interior the atom, no very useful plastics.

In 1961 we had all of this stuff

Since 1961, what have we got?

The last man on the moon is getting pretty elderly.  We have abandoned supersonic transport, and supersonic fighter planes are close to being abandoned.

Cell phones and the internet show radical improvement, but are just more intense and improved use of computers and radio, technologies that existed well before 1961.  Genetic technology shows promise, but is not yet doing anything big.  While reading genes continues to improve, writing them may well have peaked, and without vastly improved writing, gene technology is not going anywhere exciting.  AI remains thirty years in the future, as it has been for the past sixty years, even though every desktop now contains more computing power than the human brain.

And, as I regularly point out

The last man on the moon left in 1972

The tallest building in the united states was finished in 1974.

Cars are becoming humbler.

 

Dysgenics and mutational load

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

It seems probable that most variation in health, beauty, and IQ is due to genetic load, large numbers of rare genetic variants. About fifteen percent of the human genome is under negative selection, meaning that in about fifteen percent of the human genome, any random change is likely to be harmful, most variants get eliminated by natural selection in a reasonable time.

The mutation rate in humans is one or two mutations per hundred million bases per generation, probably around one mutation per hundred million bases, for a total of around thirty to sixty mutations per generation, implying around five to nine harmful mutations per generation.

Since we must have been near equilibrium in the ancestral environment, this implies five to nine harmful mutations were eliminated every generation.

This amounts to natural selection working fiercely – that just to stay in the same place we were running mighty fast, that survival of the fittest was pretty harsh.  Since we have not been experiencing severe natural selection since the Industrial Revolution, the number of harmful mutations in the typical individual must have increased by about forty or so.  We must have devolved quite significantly. (more…)