Future “legibility”

Charlie Stross, SF writer, on reality stickness and ability to forecast into the future:

“You don’t need a science fiction writer to tell you this stuff: 90% of the world of tomorrow plus ten years is obvious to anyone with a weekly subscription to New Scientist and more imagination than a doorknob.

What’s less obvious is the 10% of the future that isn’t here yet. Of that 10%, you used to be able to guess most of it — 9% of the total — by reading technology road maps in specialist industry publications. We know what airliners Boeing and Airbus are starting development work on, we can plot the long-term price curve for photovoltaic panels, read the road maps Intel and ARM provide for hardware vendors, and so on. (..)

(..) However, this stuff ignores what Donald Rumsfeld named “the unknown unknowns”. About 1% of the world of ten years hence always seems to have sprung fully-formed from the who-ordered-THAT dimension: we always get landed with stuff nobody foresaw or could possibly have anticipated, unless they were spectacularly lucky guessers or had access to amazing hallucinogens. And this 1% fraction of unknown unknowns regularly derails near-future predictions.”

from this speech on, of all things, AI https://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2019/12/artificial-intelligence-threat.html

Legibility is a “seeing like a state” term, James Scott terminology but it sticks lately. Scott Alexander on the experts, journalism and legibility. In different terms, like Nate Silver put it, the surpirsing gap between what you read in the news about Covid and what you could gather yourself from preprints and experts’ twitter threads

The point of Scott is that experts in public position and journalists with duty to report to the public have to strip down what the want to communicate in order to make it “legible” to the wide audience, so information and even message geto lost in mainstreammedia https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/journalism-and-legible-expertise

this is not what I wanted to write, I got carried away by the legibility concept which is probably misappropriated and used outside its intended reach. Anyway I wanted to say really, reality ius mostly sticky and the part that sticks from a decade to the next moves in ways you can guess with a proper knowledge strategy. )0% stays the same, )% changes in this way, 1% can’t be easily guessed and that probably chages the meaning of all the rest

Quantum supremacy take 2 (and house warming)

a new demonstration of #quantumsupremacy via #bosonSampling, i.e. solving a calculation problem made with a quantum computer in a time impossible for a traditional computer

It is not therefore a question of having demonstrated a universal, foolproof, scalable or simply useful computer. But the Boson Sampling approach could be useful to go in that direction

The demonstration was made in China, for all the answers, for what we can understand, I refer you to Scott Aaronson who is the referee of the report.

Funny Story as told by Scott:

When I refereed the Science paper, I asked why the authors directly verified the results of their experiment only for up to 26-30 photons, relying on plausible extrapolations beyond that. While directly verifying the results of n-photon BosonSampling takes ~2n time for any known classical algorithm, I said, surely it should be possible with existing computers to go up to n=40 or n=50? A couple weeks later, the authors responded, saying that they’d now verified their results up to n=40, but it burned $400,000 worth of supercomputer time so they decided to stop there”

the conversation on Twitter, tha authors did not get properly billed, their sponsor footed the bill, also becasu all went into residentail heating of the nearby houses https://twitter.com/preskill/status/1334900457894891520

of Biochemistry and Geometry

some Nobel prize was awarded 50 years ago to someone who claimed a protein’s shape could be derived from the atoms building it, so it started a rece at guessing how a protein would fold, folding proteins in short. It came to artificial intelligence news this week, Alpha Fold of Deepmin won some protein-folding olympics https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-03348-4

Twitter reminds me how important and difficult to deal with, is atom’s position in a molecule, detrmining properties https://twitter.com/curiouswavefn/status/1334562488495423489

while reading PIHKAL di Shulgin you can find a chapter named the 4-posiyion where it shows how halucinogenic potency derives from molecules taking the 4- position in a benzene circlae and stay there while in our body

Randomized trials and twitter

this is a lot #meta and also a but #GAC (italian, unnervingly obvious)

112 papers were randomly chosen to be shared on twitter by a group with ~58k followers or to not be shared. Papers that were tweeted accumulated 4x more citations compared to non-tweeted papers over 1yr.

Meta you know, a randomised trial of paper surely describing randomised experiments

GAC because it’s the network baby, read Barabasi’s link e you know that if you look for a job and tell family and frineds you get nothing, but if tell people outside your usual creche you will find. So tell a 58,000-strong Twitter group.

Barabasi went on writing precisely a book to explain the infallible formula of success, the book is titled

The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success

how a fast learning curve looks like

Screenshot 2020-03-08 at 10.35.07

gore edition, new cases and deaths, divergence in growth as case grows and experience is built on how to treat critical patients of a novel disease

But in a “learning curve” framework that works you need to be able to cope with demand, your service should not run into some sort of “diminishing return” at the margin or in a more discrete case, being able to serve the customers in order to have the very same outcomes that you are measutring gains against

In other words, ICU’s might have overflown, critical patients might have gone untreated, mortality might have spiked as a consequence, nd thereafter kept a steeper profile

Screenshot 2020-03-11 at 00.05.17

the disaster medicine protcol was issued by the society of anestesiologists on the 6th, clearly a situation was building up and its exponential nature was not lost on doctors fighting the disease https://www.esanum.it/today/posts/covid-19-le-raccomandazioni-della-siaarti


“without models, there are no data. I’m not talking about the difference between “raw” and “cooked” data. I mean this literally. Today, no collection of signals or observations—even from satellites, which can “see” the whole planet—becomes global in time and space without first passing through a series of data models.”

“Paul N. Edwards – A Vast Machine_ Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming”

” A reanalysis project involves reprocessing observational data spanning an extended historical period using a consistent modern analysis system, to produce a dataset that can be used for meteorological and climatological studies.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_reanalysis


Philosophers should talk more about climate change. Yes, philosophers.

“You have probably heard the common deniers’ complaint that climate scientists adapt models when new data comes in. That is supposedly unscientific because, here it comes (..) But the deniers’ argument merely demonstrates they know even less about scientific methodology than particle physicists. Revising a hypothesis when new data comes in is perfectly fine. In fact, it is what you expect good scientists to do.”


of men and rats

water rats learn in 2 years to eat poisonous cane toads, the great oper air experiment that is Australia

Australian water rats cut cane toads open with ‘surgical precision’ to feast on their hearts

Pellagra ravaged some areas of Europe were corn was staple long after it was imported from the Americas. The Europeans did not import the right method to prepare it which would enrich it of vitamin E and did not develop a remedy for centuries. Maybe water rats would have done better

“despite the long prevalence of a corn-based diet in Central and South America, pellagra did not occur there. In those cultures, ground corn was first boiled in lime water, a procedure which releases the small amount of niacin contained in the corn. In addition, beans traditionally accompanied tortillas made from the boiled cornmeal.” https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/life/entertainment/story/2016/jul/12/clif-cleaveland-pellagrand-history-south/375065/

Golden rice is GM rice enriched with vitamin, its story is worth reading

Block on GM rice ‘has cost millions of lives and led to child blindness’


The shape of the universe

Screenshot 2019-06-07 at 14.13.58



well, not quiet, the article is the story of the hot debate around Hawking’s shuttercock modelScreenshot 2019-06-07 at 14.19.35

“In the 1940s, Feynman devised a scheme for calculating the most likely outcomes of quantum mechanical events. To predict, say, the likeliest outcomes of a particle collision, Feynman found that you could sum up all possible paths that the colliding particles could take, weighting straightforward paths more than convoluted ones in the sum. Calculating this “path integral” gives you the wave function: a probability distribution indicating the different possible states of the particles after the collision.

Likewise, Hartle and Hawking expressed the wave function of the universe — which describes its likely states — as the sum of all possible ways that it might have smoothly expanded from a point.”


We’re not building a machine that calculates answers, he says; instead, we’re discovering questions. Nature’s shape-shifting laws seem to be the answer to an unknown mathematical question. This is why Arkani-Hamed and his colleagues find their studies of the amplituhedron so promising. Calculating the volume of the amplituhedron is a question in geometry—one that mathematicians might have pondered, had they discovered the object first. Somehow, the answer to the question of the amplituhedron’s volume describes the behavior of particles—and that answer, in turn, can be rewritten in terms of space and time