The Internet Eats Up Less Energy Than You Might Think – NYT

[…]Telefónica and Cogent, which have reported data traffic and energy use for the Covid year of 2020. Telefónica handled a 45 percent jump in data through its network with no increase in energy use. Cogent’s electricity use fell 21 percent even as data traffic increased 38 percent.

An analysis published on Thursday suggests technology is not an environmental villain. One of the authors is Eric Masanet, a former researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.Credit…Erica Urech for The New York Times

Tarantino and Foster Wallace on pop culture

Pop culture is what America has instead of mythology.

This is something David Foster Wallace talked about in interviews. How many people were shaped by TV culture and how that became the glue in many social circles.

“In fact, pop-cultural references have become such potent metaphors in U.S. fiction not only because of how united Americans are in our exposure to mass images but also because of our guilty indulgent psychology with respect to that exposure. Put simply, the pop reference works so well in contemporary fiction because (1) we all recognize such a reference, and (2) we’re all a little uneasy about how we all recognize such a reference.”

David Foster Wallace

This week in podcasts #6

The Economist Asks – John McWhorter

Good conversation on swearing and its impact. Lane Green from the Economist also joins.

The Ezra Klein Show – Sarah Schulman’s Radical Approach to Conflict, Communication and Change

The central argument is that we often mislabel conflict as abuse and view ourselves and act as victims of abuse without recognizing the power that we have in the situation, the way we may be part of and have a responsibility for ending a conflict.

They have a wide ranging talk where they talk LGBTQ, Israel vs Palestine, compassion, and other important subjects where communication needs to be productive.

The Dishcast – Jonathan Rauch On Dangers To Liberalism

In this episode we discuss his important new book, The Constitution of Knowledge, and get into some heated exchanges over Trump, the MSM, and Russiagate — Jon as the optimistic liberal and me as the pessimistic conservative.

Village Global’s Venture Stories – Education, The Great Stagnation, and Innovation with Noah Smith

Noah Smith, Bloomberg Opinion writer and author of the Noahpinion Substack, joins Erik to discuss:

– Why colleges should try to emulate the Cal State and CUNY systems, which Noah says provide the best value for dollars in education.

– Why the US should want to copy the Japanese and Korean healthcare systems, and the power that a national health insurance program has to drive cost down.

– Why the oil shock precipitated the great stagnation, and the evolution (and non-evolution) of energy sources over the years.

– What climate economics got wrong and why the revolution in green energy is will not only be about reducing carbon emissions but rather the abundance of cheap energy.

– What people get wrong about inflation and monetary policy and how the fed really works.

– What the US should do to increase innovation, and Noah’s take on whether science and commercialization of discoveries is slowing down or not.

Conversations with Tyler – Elijah Millgram on the Philosophical Life

Elijah joined Tyler to discuss Newcomb’s paradox, the reason he doesn’t have an opinion about everything, the philosophy of Dave Barry, style and simulation theory, why philosophers aren’t often consulted about current events, his best stories from TA-ing for Robert Nozick, the sociological correlates of knowing formal logic, the question of whether people are more interested in truth or being interesting, philosophical cycles, what makes Nietzsche important today, the role that meaning can play in a person’s personality and life, Mill on Bentham, the idea of true philosophy as dialogue, the extent to which modern philosophers are truly philosophical, why he views aesthetics as critical to philosophy, and more.

Macro Musings with David Beckworth – Jason Furman on Overheating, Inflation, and Fiscal Policy in an Era of Low Interest Rates

The real takeaway here is how J-Fur talks about how he evaluates information and updates his models. Hint: always use more than one. All models are wrong. The Tetlock Superforcasting or Kahneman Noise approach is best.

UFO follow up

A follow up discussion to the UFO post.

The interesting part is that as I wrote in my post – there is something here. Not little green men, but a bigger issue. Something is causing these things and we don’t know what they are.

Tyler Cowen also thinks we should take this seriously and writes about how markets might react.

Now that the Pentagon takes UFOs seriously, it’s perhaps appropriate to consider some more mundane aspects of the phenomenon — namely, what it means for markets. UFO data will probably remain murky and unresolved, but if UFOs of alien origin become somewhat more likely (starting, to be clear, from a low base rate), which prices will change?

Ezra Kleins take is also good.

One immediate effect, I suspect, would be a collapse in public trust. Decades of U.F.O. reports and conspiracies would take on a different cast. Governments would be seen as having withheld a profound truth from the public, whether or not they actually did. We already live in an age of conspiracy theories. Now the guardrails would truly shatter, because if U.F.O.s were real, despite decades of dismissals, who would remain trusted to say anything else was false? Certainly not the academics who’d laughed them off as nonsense, or the governments who would now be seen as liars.

The New Menu at Eleven Madison Park Will Be Meatless. – NYT

He said that the new Eleven Madison Park will “have an influence on the best restaurants in places like Midland, Texas — affluent places that are not Los Angeles or San Francisco or New York.”

Ruth Reichl, the former editor of Gourmet magazine and restaurant critic for The New York Times from 1993 to 1999, said Mr. Humm’s example could influence the direction of American restaurant cuisine in the years ahead.

“A restaurant like Eleven Madison Park is basically a teaching institution,” Ms. Reichl said, likening its potential impact to that of Chez Panisse, the pioneering restaurant in Berkeley, Calif.

Mr. Humm said the decision is the result of a yearslong re-evaluation about where his career was headed, which reached its breaking point during the pandemic.

“It became very clear to me that our idea of what luxury is had to change,” Mr. Humm said. “We couldn’t go back to doing what we did before.”

Are they serving cicadas?

UFOs or not, this should be a bigger deal

There are “objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are.”


Mr. Rubio said some of the unidentified aerial vehicles over U.S. bases possibly exhibited technologies not in the American arsenal.

It’s been written a lot about now. Some say the new alien overlords are here, some say we don’t know and it’s most likely a reasonable explanation for this.

Wikipedia has a balanced sum up of the case.

What I don’t see covered enough is that no matter what this is, we don’t know. This is one of those Arthur C. Clarke situations – “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” We currently do not know what they are. If it’s another country they have technology far beyond the US military –
“is at least 100 to 1000 years ahead of the US arsenal.” says a former navy pilot.
That alone should make this a much bigger case?

60 Minutes did a piece on it

I want to believe

Put this music on before you read the quotes below.

“In my opinion, I think they were worried that it would panic the public so they started telling lies about it. And then I think they had to tell another lie to cover their first lie, now they don’t know how to get out of it. Now it’s going to be so embarrassing to admit that all these administrations have told so many untruths, it would be embarrassing getting out of it. There are a number of extraterrestrial vehicles out there cruising around.”

Gordon Cooper, Former NASA Astronaut

“There is abundant evidence that we are being contacted, that civilizations have been visiting us for a very long time. That their appearance is bizarre from any type of traditional materialistic western point of view. That these visitors use the technologies of consciousness, they use toroids, they use co-rotating magnetic disks for their propulsion systems, that seems to be a common denominator of the UFO phenomenon.”

Dr Brian O’Leary, Former NASA Astronaut

“Yes there have been crashed craft, and bodies recovered. We are not alone in the universe, they have been coming here for a long time.”

Dr. Edgar Mitchell, Former NASA Astronaut

“The following year, on November 12, 1966, James Lovell and Edwin Aldrin in Gemini 12 also saw two UFOs at slightly over half a mile from the capsule. These were observed for quite some time and photographed repeatedly. The same happened to Frank Borman and James Lovell in Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve 1968, and to Thomas Stafford and John Young aboard Apollo 10 on May 22, 1969. The UFOs showed up both during the orbit around the moon and on the homeward flight of Apollo 10.”

Maurice Chatelain, Apollo Communications Specialist
I Want to Believe

The Cicadas Are Coming. It’s Not an Invasion. It’s a Miracle. – The New York Times

The life cycle of the cicada is unique among insects. A nymph tunnels up from deep in the soil, climbs onto a tree trunk or a plant stem — or anything else it can reach that offers a bit of vertical clearance — and then commences to shed its exoskeleton as dramatically and beautifully as any butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. The new adult appears white, almost translucent, but its armor hardens and darkens as the hours pass. Its eyes turn red. Its intricate wings unfurl.

Cicadas are not locusts. They don’t even belong to the same order of insects as locusts. Cicadas don’t strip fields of every grain of rice or wheat, as swarming locusts do. Cicadas don’t sting, and they don’t bite. The strawlike appendage they have instead of a mouth works only for inserting into tree bark. Cicadas don’t even hurt the trees. (Not the mature trees, at any rate; saplings should be protected with cheesecloth before the cicadas emerge.)

For the past 17 years, these insects have lived as nymphs deep beneath the soil, drinking sap from tree roots…

Well, it’s not singing so much as vibrating. And not love so much as sex. Their only purpose among us is to mate.

The Ezra Klein Show – Is A.I. the Problem? Or Are We?

Worth a listen!

And the famous quote is, “If we build a machine to achieve our purposes with which we cannot interfere once we’ve started it, then we had better be quite sure that the purpose we put into the machine is the thing we really desire.” And this has continued through the early 20th century, as the thought experiment of the Paperclip Maximizer that turns the universe into paperclips, killing everyone in the process.

But to your point, I don’t think we need these thought experiments anymore. We’re now living with these alignment problems every day. So, one example is there’s a facial recognition data set called Labeled Faces in the Wild. And it was collected by scraping newspaper articles off the web and using the images that came with the articles. Later, this data set was analyzed. And it was found that the most prevalent individuals in the data set were the people who appeared in newspaper articles in the late 2000s.

And so, you get issues like there are twice as many pictures of George W. Bush as of all Black women combined. And so, if you train a model on that data set, you think you’re building facial recognition, but you’re actually building George W. Bush recognition. And so, this is going to have totally unpredictable behavior.

There is a computer science research group that has the, I think, somewhat tongue in cheek title of People for the Ethical Treatment of Reinforcement Learning Agents. But there are people who absolutely sincerely think that we should start now thinking about the ethical implications of making a program play Super Mario Brothers for four months straight, 24 hours a day.

Ezra Klein
You talked about one that did Super Mario Brothers, and it’s just caught in this game that has no more novelty. And it’s a novelty seeking robot. And I thought it was so sad.

Brian Christian
Yeah, it just learns to sit there. Because it’s like, well, why would I jump across this little pipe because it’s just the same old shit on the other side. Like, well, I might as well just do nothing. I might as well just kill myself. And there have been reinforcement learning agents that, because of the nature of the environment, essentially learn to commit suicide as quickly as possible. Because there’s a time penalty being assessed for every second that passes that you don’t achieve some goal. And they can’t achieve it, so they’re like, well, the next best thing is to just like die right now.

And again, it’s like we’re somewhere on this slippery slope. I mean, there is this funny thing for me, where the more I study AI, the more concerned I become with animal rights. And I’m not saying that AlphaGo is equivalent to a factory farm chicken or something like that, necessarily. But going back to some of the things we’ve talked about, the dopamine system, some of these drives that are — the fact that we are building artificial neural networks that at least to some degree of approximation are modeled explicitly on the brain. We’re using TD learning, which is modeled explicitly on the dopamine system. We are building these things in our own image.

And so, the odds of them having some kind of subjective experience, I think, are higher than if we were just writing a generic software. This is the huge question of philosophy of mind, is are we going to if we manage to create something with a subjectivity or not? I’m not sure. But these questions, I think, are going to go from seemingly crazy now to maybe on a par with something like animal welfare by the end of the century. I think that’s not a crazy prediction to make.