North Korean dictator mandates facelifts

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From Daily NK:

 Since the start of the 2000s, young women working in North Korean restaurants both in Pyongyang and abroad have been required to have double eyelid surgery..The reason why Kim Jong Il made the decision is supposedly connected with restaurant sales.

If it would make the waitresses more attractive and so allow them to bring in additional revenue I can’t imagine that Kim Jong-Il would balk at, say, using a retrovirus to insert cat genes into the girls.

IQ and Crime

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The study cited in this blog shows that small changes in IQ have a much bigger impact on incarceration rates than do small changes in socioeconomic status.  (Of course, having a higher IQ might just stop you from getting caught rather than reducing the amount of crime you engage in.)

If it turns out that brain fitness programs such as the duel-N-back succeed in increasing IQ then massive use of duel-N-back by students in dangerous neighborhoods might do much to reduce crime.

Quoted in the Washington Post

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Although not singularity related, my views on the budget negotiations and game theory are discussed in this Dana Milbank column.

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Competition for human actors.

A big part of choosing a career should be figuring out how AI will influence the salaries of various professions.

The laws of nature don’t preclude singularity

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Forbes technology blogger Alex Knapp in an article expressing a bit of skepticism towards Kurzweil’s vision of singularity writes:

“But all technology is, ultimately, going to be limited by the laws of nature. And those laws are going to place fundamental constraints on not only what’s possible, but what’s economically feasible”

This is completely accurate.  But the reason why I think a singularity is likely is because we know that nature allows for the existence of John von Neumann’s brain – a general intelligence device built using relatively cheap materials.  And it’s extremely unlikely that in coding for von Neumann the random forces of evolution came anywhere close to building the smartest possible machine that could be assembled consistent with (1) not violating the laws of nature, and (2) using stuff that could only be bought today for less than, say, $1 billion.

Lojack Kids

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Leiby Kletzky was an eight-year-old boy who was recently kidnapped (and later killed) in Brooklyn while he was walking alone to meet his mother.   He had apparently begged his parents to let him walk alone to the predetermined destination where the mother was waiting.

LoJack has significantly reduced the number of cars that are stolen by allowing police to quickly find stolen cars.  Unless the kidnapping rate goes way up, probably even passed the level for wealthy Mexicans, parents are not going to directly LoJack their kids.  But I suspect that the smart clothing most children will end up wearing will have the effect of them being LoJacked.  As the world becomes more wired we will probably have lots of devices on us that are continually in contact with various networks.  At this point it would be trivial for parents to quickly locate their child’s clothing, and I imagine that a relatively simple narrow artificial intelligence program would be able to figure out if someone forced a child to remove his clothing in part because children could be given a panic word to use if attacked.  Plus another program could alert parents if a child took his clothing off in a non-specified area.  Clothing that monitored body signs could also alert parents when their child came under extreme stress.  Soon technology will greatly reduce the type of horror that struck Leiby Kletzky.




I should have been paid for joining Google+

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The value of Google+ is roughly proportional to how many people will join it.  Consequently, if lots of people sign up for Google+ and put much effort into finding friends, writing content, and describing themselves then the service will be a success giving Google an asset worth tens of billions of dollars.  Of course, the reverse could easily happen with Google+ never coming close to getting as many users as Facebook causing most people who have signed up for Google+ to stop devoting time to it.

An obvious solution for Google would have been to pay people to spend time on Google+.  The danger of this strategy is that lots of low income people would try to create multiple accounts to get the payment.  But Google could limit its payments to people who have pre-existing arrangements with the company and consequently avoid having to pay for fake users.  Also, given its vast store of knowledge I bet that Google could somehow come up with an algorithm to almost guarantee that no one had more than a single account.

Let’s look at the numbers:  If Google gave 50 million people $100 each it would cost the search giant only $5 billion, much less than a successful social networking site would be worth to it.  Google would only pay this hundred dollars to users who put in, say, 20 hours of work on the website.  As Google has a valuable brand name and a great reputation most people would trust Google to honor its word.

Taking this to the next level, Google could use everything it knows about you to price discriminate in pay based upon how valuable you are to the company.  I expect that as we approach singularity a lot more of this will happen as companies learn a great deal more about us.

We know that Internet users are very reluctant to pay for content meaning that if Google charged even one dollar per person and figured out some way of eliminating payment transaction costs Google would have far fewer customers than it does by charging a price of zero.  I wonder if the reverse holds and if you charge negative prices (and have no payment receipt transaction costs for customers ) then you get vastly more users?

Ten reasons why Singapore could make an excellent location for the transhumanist community

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  1.  pro-eugenic - important if genetic enhancement technologies prove practical but are banned in the United States and Europe.  Many transhumanists would undoubtedly want their children to benefit from such technologies.
  2. Favors high IQ immigrants- would make it easier for Transhumanists to obtain permission to work in Singapore.
  3. English speaking.
  4. Rich - 15.5 % of Singaporean households have net worths over $1 million.
  5. Intelligent, results oriented government – Singapore is unlikely to ban technologies for scientifically illiterate reasons.
  6. Militarily safe – faces no serious external military threat and is unlikely to use any of the technologies that Transhumanists might give them to initiate aggression.
  7. No class warfare.  Government won’t expropriate the wealth of Transhumanists.  Rich singularity supporters would feel safe living in Singapore.
  8. Multiracial – Transhumanists of different faiths and ethnicities would feel comfortable in Singapore.
  9. Business-friendly political environment  that’s likely to persist.
  10. Unlike in the U.S., Western Europe or Japan, Singapore  faces no looming fiscal crisis that threatens the country’s long-term economic prospects.

Singleton and liberty


A singularity blogger who wants to steer the trans-humanism movement towards “feminist revolutionary action” disapproves of some trans-humanist’s dreams of a friendly singleton.  As this blogger writes “Those of us who value freedom look with skepticism and fear at the prospect of erecting an invincible [enlightened?] monarch.”

But a singleton might be the only way of stopping trillions from living under the absolute control of petty dictators.  For example, a man with a mastery of nanotechnology who lived in a decentralized future could build a rocket ship, fly off to some uninhabited solar system and create millions of sex slaves.  All too many men, I fear, would love to follow this path.



The singularity and budget negotiations

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Republicans and Democrats are currently conducting budget negotiations over how to handle the US debt.  While in general I think we would be much better off if more voters understood the singularity, in this instance I’m glad that any politician talking about the singularity would be dismissed as a lunatic.

The American people seem to like both low taxes and high levels of government spending on entitlements.  Alas, these dueling desires have created an enormous federal budget deficit that seriously threatens America’s long-term prosperity.  The threat is so strong that politicians might actually be on the verge of doing something to mitigate it.  The Democrats want to reduce the budget deficit by increasing tax revenue whereas the Republicans want to lower the deficit by cutting spending.  If, however, many voters believed in a coming singularity then our politicians’ budget solution would be to declare that we can run up as high debts as we want because it will be easy to repay them post-singularity.  The economic problem with this approach, however, is that government debt tends to crowd out private investment and so probably increases the time until singularity.



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