How Asia works

How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region by Joe Studwell is the book on development I want to read. Meanwhile in my bubble everybody is reading it and so here is Scott Alexander reviewing it

and here Noah Smith doing some critics to it “What Studwell got wrong “”

Studwell book is good because it has a 3-step concise, no-bullshit, recipe to develop past the middle income trap:

land reform

promote export

Control finance

Pretty much what would be anatema to IMF and World Bank, not requiring full democracy, rather working well under autocracy, but in the end economis and countries should open up to mjeet the gorwing challenges of an advanced economy

I have been wondering wether this recipe could work for Africa, I will keep an eye on the issue. By chance I ran into this blog post on the divergence in the tropics between some east asina and some west african countries, which in the end boild down to high food prices, which keep high industrial salaries and sitlfe growth. Also, in the flying geese model, asia had Japan, Africa has no seed investments from a contiguous mature country

Food Prices and the Little Divergence

Resilient as a Cuban

After Cuba lost USSR financial support in the n90’s,, calories intake fell, they lost weight and became helathier, mortality fell “Impact of Energy Intake, Physical Activity, and Population-wide Weight Loss on Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Mortality in Cuba, 1980–2005”

Conversely, when North Korea lost that support, infant mortality and mortality over 65 started diverging markedly versus South Korea “The life expectancy gap between North and South Korea from 1993 to 2008 “

I found it in this 3d of the Pseudoerasmus which start off mortality comparison between China and India last century betwee

Jewish achievement

debate between Noah Smith and Scott Alexander about Jewish achievement (so many Nobel prizes e.g.), how could be explained, should he be modelled into policies?

The point is, if you believe that Jewish achievement is real, a phenomenon per se, then you shouldn’t do much to correct discrimination, it hinges around USA legal term that is ground for claiming sistemic discrimination.

The argument goes, if jews have been able to be so good despite persecution etc, then why black can’t do the same? It must be their fault, not the white man’s fault. Conservative shit

Noah goes all the way showing statistical confounders and cultural factors that let you question why one should use the nobel prizes won by Jews to question current anti-discrimination policies

Interoperability Cory Doctorow edition

I am so happy Cory is spelling this need of interoperability for me, without him I would be left feeling vaguely angry at things the way they go on the internet while now I have a much clearer idea.

The great news is that a bill named The ACCESS act was introduced to House Judiciary Committe in the US, “a bill to force interoperability on the biggest tech platforms,” more from Cory here:

The proposed changes to the ACCESS act allow me to see in details the main problem of interop legislations, here

also Cory wrote unsurprisingly a SF story centered arounf interoperability: “Inside the Clock Tower: An Interoperability Story”

Göbekli Tepe

rewriting history, aprticularly the idea that agriculture was the driver of urbanization, while at Göbekli Tepe we find monolithic temples without agriculture, but already wild cereals and beer

“That fishing, hunting, or gathering could sustain complex societies means that social technology, rather than the discovery of farming, is the key bottleneck of civilization” the thesis here

Göbekli Tepe article on italian newspaper, long and well written

Sabine Hossenfelder on Chiara Marletto


Chiara Marletto worked with David Deutsch on Constructor Theory ” a new mode of explanation in fundamental physics, first sketched out by David Deutsch, a quantum physicist at the University of Oxford, in 2012.[1][2] Constructor theory expresses physical laws exclusively in terms of what physical transformations, or tasks, are possible versus which are impossible, and why”

Marletto’s book is indeed titled “The Science of Can and Can’t” it’s about the role of counterfactuals in fostering science growth, It’s about method and so Sabine is on it. I was actually wondering ether I should read Marletto’s book now it is on the list, maybe not

Sabine’s definition of emergence “I have, above, used emergent to mean a property of a composite system that can be derived from the laws of the system’s constituents, but which doesn’t make sense on the level of constituents. Conductivity, for example, is a property of materials, but it makes no sense for individual electrons. Temperature is another example. Waves in water, cyclones, the capacity to self-reproduce—these are all emergent properties.” Thiis is Weak Emergence defintion, the strong one would imply that the emergent propertieds cannot be derivied from the laws of its components at all “There is no known example in the real world for strong emergence (which is why physicists normally use the word “emergence” as synonym for “weak emergence”)”

Plagues and people

30 years before Guns, Germs and Steel, The Fates of Human Societies studied based on agriculture, geography and germs, I was saying 30 years before there was another attempt at a grand narration based on Germs, Plagues and People by William H. McNeill in 1976.

Here the destiny of mankind is seen trapped between microparasites like bugs, viruses etc and the macroparasitism of states and political power. And the 2 things are related in the sense that where you get less bugs you also get more central government, proof is, once we got Covid the government started giving us money for nothing

Anyway I got to know it reading this book review on ACX, go there if you are curious and want to know more, great review

Quantum experiments

experiments that show the otherworldly character of quantum physics, someone would call it also manyworldly

Two-slit ecperiment (conigli di schroedinger ?)

Interferometro di Mach-Zehnder (beginning of infiniti Deutsch, but also

kw: interference experiments -> link: Two slits and one hell of a quantum conundrum, book by Philip Ball

The Bomb Experiment explained by Sabine H. “quantum mechanics tells you something about the path that the photon didn’t take. That’s the sense in which quantum mechanics is truly non-local and weird. Not because you can’t observe the wave-function. And not because of entanglement. But because it can tell you something about events that didn’t happen”

Renewables, more like Internet than Oil&Gas

Renewable energy behaves more like Telecom/Internet than Oil&Gas, economics-wise, taking into account sourcing and transportation.

Oil&Gas is about exploration, find an oil field and your paramount problem is shipping the oil to the market, provided there is a market. Imagine the Dutch who just discovered an oil field in Sumatra in 1885, with no clear market nearby, how could they feel stranded.

So you fret finding buyers, then booking rail carts to the refinery, sold what is in demand and dump the rest into streams. At early times, you could sell kerosene for light and throw away the exploding part od oil. Over time internal combustion engines are developed and most of oil used. Gas used to be vented, but a market developed there too. Today all oil is used, unless there’s a glut then it stays aboard ships around the world, which is the cheapest stockage, as we learned in 2020.

Wind&Solar, you need not discover them, there are maps and no need to dig a hole in the ground. Rather you have to study government papers to find money buried in there for sustainable projects, but that’s another story.

The story is that the economics of solar and wind is now competitive and so it should be a case of “build it and we will fill it” and the best way to promote renewables in the world would be building power lines from most productive areas to markets, according to forecast consumption.

Sun and wind is there for us, To be clear, if Europe builds direct current power lines going into sahara states, should it expects those pipes to be filled wiht renewable electricity which has found a market ? Smart money would move to north afrcia and build capacity, like in the end some smart money thought it could profit from Sumatra oil and built refineries nearby.

So the global renewable energy build-up should look very much like the global broadband buildup at the turn of the century when most undersea cable would be laid (but demand took time to materailize and the bandwidth glut le to a few telecomm companies, while the slack was picked up by internet players like google etc, dark fiber).

So my question, why are we not building those power lines ? The technolgy is called High Voltage Direct Current Transmmission, isn’t it ready from prime time ? Are we waiting to develop a business case for it ? Or we need first figure out how to fit it in our geopolitics ? China has already proposed those links as part of Belt and Roads so now you know. Still, if the econommics of renewable production are right, why don’t we create the market for the would be producer of the world ?

Let’s built it and they will fill it.

Le energie rinnovabili non sono come il settore Oil&Gas, somigliano piuttosto a Telecom/Internet, tutto dipende da dove si trovano.

Il petrolio lo trovi in giacimenti, quando hai il giacimento hai il problema di portarlo al compratore. Nei tempi eroici Rockfeller monopolizzò vagoni ferroviari e oleodotti in USA . Immaginatevi invece gli olandesi che nel 1885 trovano il petrolio a Sumatra e non c’è ancora un mercato in Asia, nemmeno una raffineria nè un compratore.

Invece oggi, negli anni pioneristici delle rinnovabili, tutti vogliono avere più rinnovabili e meno co2 nel proprio kix energetico, non se ne producono abbastanza, nonostante le sovvenzioni. Ma tutti dicono che ormai gli economics di solare ed olico sono giusti, sono i migliori, LCOE più basso e allora perchè non crescono più velocemente. Una modesta proposta, costruiamo una o più linee HVDC verso i paese del Sahara e vediamo se le riempono di elettricità rinnovabile

le linee HDVC sono linee a corrente continua ottimali per il trasporto su lunghe distanze oltre, gli 800 km. Se ne potrebbero stendere tante sul fondo dei mari come all’inizio del secolo, in pieno di boom internet, si stendevano migliaia di km di fibra ottica su cui far passare il traffico internet. Sulle prime, tropa fibra, molti fallimenti e fibra rimasta spenta. Ma col tempo, ce l’avete costruita e noi l’abbiamo riempita, Google et al. hanno comprato dark fiber per anni e non hanno più smesso

Possiamo ripetere l’impresa con le linee elettriche, facendo partire un boom di investimenti in rinnovabili nei paesi più dotati di sole e vento ?