Deep Blue’s accidental genius (with video).

According to the film, Deep Blue was trapped in a loop, and rather than spin its wheels, IBM had programmed the computer to just make a “safe legal move.” Essentially, this means it just made a nothing move that would force the onus back on Kasparov without losing a piece or position. The grandmaster, however, had assumed that there was some deeper logic at work, and was rattled.

(AI will be an accident, and according to some estimations a mistake.)

Quotable (#117)

David Deutsch on AI, in The Guardian:

Despite [the] long record of failure, AGI must be possible. That is because of a deep property of the laws of physics, namely the universality of computation. It entails that everything that the laws of physics require physical objects to do can, in principle, be emulated in arbitrarily fine detail by some program on a general-purpose computer, provided it is given enough time and memory.


“Getting rid of your brain sounds like a bad idea.”

It says a lot about the cosmos that evolution seems to disagree.

The oldest known fossil with a complex brain is about 520 million years old. This was a time when life became much more abundant and diverse, often referred to as the Cambrian explosion. […] Discovered in China, the animal looked like a woodlouse with claws. It seems to have had an elaborate brain-like structure consisting of a fore-, mid- and hind-brain, all of which had specialised neural circuits. […] This suggests that complex brains were in place as early as 520 million years ago. But they may not have stayed.


Quotable (#116)

Some hard-core anti-utopianism from a Brazilian jail cell:

Solution?….There´s no solution at all, buddy. The idea itself of solution is already a mistake. Have you ever looked at the size of the 560 slums in Rio de Janeiro? Have you ever flown in helicopter over the periphery of São Paulo? What solution? The solution would only come up with many billion dollars spent with a high-level ruler, an immense political will, economic growth, revolution in the education, general urbanization… and should everything be almost under the baton of an enlighten tyranny, that should jump over the secular bureaucratic paralysis, which was passing over the accomplice legislative (or you think that 287 leeches are going to act? If they let it be, they are going to steal up even the PCC….) and even the court, which obstructs punishments. There would have to be a radical reform of the penal process of the country, there would have to be communication and intelligence between municipal, state, and federal police officers (we do conference calls among prisons …). And all that would cost some billion dollars and would implicate on a deep psychosocial change on the political structure of the country. In other words: it is impossible. There is no solution.

Are you afraid of dying?

It is you who are afraid of dying, not me. As a matter of fact, here in jail you cannot come in and kill me … but I can order to kill you out there…. We are human bombs. In the slum there are a hundred thousand human bombs… We are in the centre of the insoluble itself, really… You are the good and I am the evil and, in between, the frontier of death, the only frontier. We are already another species; we are already other animals different from you. Death for you is a Christian drama on a bed, a heart attack… Death for us is the daily meat laid down in a ditch… Didn’t you intellectuals used to talk about class struggle, about “be marginal (from law), be hero”? So it is; we arrived, here we are! He, he… You’ve never expected for these new warriors of cocaine, have you? […] I am intelligent. I read. I read 3.000 books and I read Dante … but my soldiers are all strange anomalies of the twisted development of this country. There is no more proletariat or unhappy ones, neither exploited ones. There is a third kind growing up outside, cultivated in the mud, educating on the absolute illiteracy, graduating in the jails, like a monster Alien hidden in the cracks of the city. A new language has already grown up. – Don’t you hear the wiretaps made “with the permission of the Justice”? Maybe so. It is another language. We are facing a kind of post-misery. That’s it. The post-misery generates a new culture of killing, aided by modern technology, satellites, cellular phones, internet, modern weapons. It is the shit with chips, with megabytes. My commanded ones are a mutation of the social being; they are funguses of a great dirty mistake.

Notes: Marcola is the first nationwide criminal leader of note in Brazil. Perhaps, the most important in Latin America. PCC stands for Primeiro Comando da Capital – First Command of Capital. Here, capital means the city of Sâo Paulo.


Quotable (#115)

From Arnold Kling:

John Taylor, who claims to be the intellectual heir of Milton Friedman, says that the Fed’s big mistake was loose monetary policy prior to the financial crisis and the Fed is too loose now.

Scott Sumner, who claims to be the intellectual heir of Milton Friedman, says that the Fed’s big mistake was too tight monetary policy during the financial crisis and that the Fed is too tight now.

John Cochrane, who claims to be the intellectual heir of Milton Friedman, seems to be saying that these days the Fed is impotent.

I do not claim to be the intellectual heir of Milton Friedman. My views happen to be closest to Cochrane’s.

Game Theory

Attempting to hold rationality and humanity together is an unenviable task, if not simply an impossible one:

In a series of interventions, Adil Ahmad Haque and Charlie Dunlap have debated the Defense Department Law of War Manual’s position on human shields (here, here, and here). Claiming that the manual does not draw a distinction between voluntary and involuntary human shields, Haque maintains that it ignores the principle of proportionality, thus permitting the killing of defenseless civilians who are used as involuntary shields. Dunlap, however, insists that the manual includes all the necessary precautions for protecting civilians used as shields by enemy combatants, and argues that the adoption of Haque’s approach would actually encourage the enemy to increase the deployment of involuntary human shields. …

Sensitivity to the plight of ‘human shields’ directly increases their tactical value. That is the ultimate ‘proportionality’ involved in the discussion. Disciplined attention to incentives under conditions of unbounded competition reliably heads into dark places.

Quotable (#114)

Crypto-anarchy in Forbes:

There is something about the Internet that brings out resistance to authority. “Libertarianism is much more important in cyberspace than in real space,” says David Friedman. “Nearly all political discussion on-line is pro- or antilibertarian. Libertarianism is the central axis.”

[…] Against all this governments are fighting a battle they have no prayer of winning, says Walter Wriston. Fortified with strong cryptography and growing exponentially, Wriston says, the Internet will irrevocably weaken governments as we know them. “They haven’t got a chance in hell with that thing,” he chuckles. “There’s no way anybody can control it.” […] We do not know where all this will end, and neither does anyone else, but for better or worse, the implications for politics, for economics and for human freedom are enormous. The 20th century was the century of Big Wars and Big Governments; fascist, communist, welfare state. The 21st century is going to be something quite different.

End of an Era?

Tyler Cowan expects a phase-change in Chinese development (with video).

“Imagine about 10% a year growth for almost 35 years — that has transformed everything.” But the ‘low-hanging fruit’, he argues, is now gone. Deep and prolonged recession could be in prospect, but the medium-term prospect — based on massive (and durable) investment in human capital — remains unambiguously positive.

“Perhaps the greatest danger is capital flight …” which could easily go nonlinear.


Can we stop calling it ‘liberalism’ yet?

According to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, using the term “politically correct” as a pejorative is a politically incorrect “microaggression”.

A campaign entitled ‘Just Words’ which seeks to “raise awareness of microaggressions and their impact” asserts that the terms “politically correct” and “PC” have “become a way to deflect, [and say] that people are being too ‘sensitive’ and [that they] police language.”

Fermi Paradox

It’s worse than you thought:

The Fermi paradox is the discrepancy between the strong likelihood of alien intelligent life emerging (under a wide variety of assumptions), and the absence of any visible evidence for such emergence. In this paper, we extend the Fermi paradox to not only life in this galaxy, but to other galaxies as well. We do this by demonstrating that traveling between galaxies – indeed even launching a colonisation project for the entire reachable universe – is a relatively simple task for a star-spanning civilization, requiring modest amounts of energy and resources. We start by demonstrating that humanity itself could likely accomplish such a colonisation project in the foreseeable future, should we want to, and then demonstrate that there are millions of galaxies that could have reached us by now, using similar methods. This results in a considerable sharpening of the Fermi paradox.


More recent Fermi Paradox sharpening here.

Descending from the abstract plane, there’s this slender thread to hang on to.