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Comment author: James_Miller 17 October 2014 03:50:50PM *  4 points [-]

Something seems off about Roman history. Rome should have been in a Malthusian trap which should have made it easy for the army to find recruits among Roman citizens yet for much of the Empire's history this doesn't seem to have been the case as the Empire relied on Germans to fill the lower ranks. Why? What was the check on Roman population growth if it wasn't starvation? Was it disease?

Comment author: bramflakes 17 October 2014 05:53:35PM *  5 points [-]

Home politics in Rome were incredibly fragile. The ruling elites were never really safe from the next angry uprising, which led to all kinds of economic and political appeasement - this is where we get the phrase "bread and circuses" because that's what the Emperor literally had to hand out for free. Whoever proposed heavy conscription would not long keep his job (or head). Italia was essentially a black hole that sucked in resources from the outer provinces - troops from Germania, bread from Aegyptius, taxes from everywhere else.

As for the Malthusian trap, for Italia at least the answer is simple: they emigrated. Joseph Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies goes into great detail on Rome's perverse economic/demographic situation.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 06 October 2014 10:15:07AM 15 points [-]

Here's a fun game: concepts, ideas, institutions and features of the world we (let's say 21st Century Westerners) think of as obvious, but aren't necessarily so. Extra points for particularly visceral or captivating cases.

For example: at some point in human history, the idea of a false identity or alias wouldn't have even made sense, because everyone you met would be either known to you or a novel outsider. These days, anyone familiar with, say, Batman, understands the concept of an assumed identity, it's that endemic in our culture. But there presumably must have been a time when you would have had to go to great lengths to explain to someone what an assumed identity was.

Comment author: bramflakes 06 October 2014 11:14:31PM *  3 points [-]

The way you raise your children is very important for their life outcomes (common, recent, obvious, and wrong).

Comment author: khafra 03 October 2014 05:17:38PM 3 points [-]

Alien-wise, most of the probability-mass not in the "Great Filter" theory is in the "they're all hiding" theory, right? Are there any other big events in the outcome space?

I intuitively feel like the "they're all hiding" theories are weaker and more speculative than the Great Filter theories, perhaps because including agency as a "black box" within a theory is bad, as a rule of thumb.

But, if most of the proposed candidates for the GF look weak, how do the "they're all hiding" candidates stack up? What is there, besides the Planetarium Hypothesis and Simulationism? Are there any that don't require a strong Singleton?

Comment author: bramflakes 03 October 2014 10:06:28PM 2 points [-]

"They exist but we don't have the tech to detect them"?

Comment author: James_Miller 02 October 2014 12:31:25AM *  16 points [-]

I want to say "live and let live" about non-scientific views. But, then I read about measles outbreaks in countries where vaccines are free.

Zach Weinersmith (Twitter)


Rather than panicking about the single patient known to have Ebola in the US, protect yourself against a virus that kills up to 50,000 Americans every year. It's the flu, and simply getting the shot dramatically reduces your chances of becoming ill.

Erin Brodwin Business Insider

Comment author: bramflakes 02 October 2014 04:43:49PM *  0 points [-]

I feel the Ebola article makes a false comparison. We have highly competent disease control measures that keeps Influenza's death toll bounded around the 50k order of magnitude per year. With Ebola, the curve still looks exponential rather than logistic - if the trend continues we'll have a 6-figure bodycount by January.

A fairer comparison would be Ebola to 1918 Spanish Flu.

(Oh and that isn't even taking into account that the officials have been feeding the media absolute horseshit about the "single patient" with Ebola)

Comment author: Lumifer 01 October 2014 04:26:18PM -1 points [-]

Can you elaborate? I am unaware of the British Empire dehumanizing British settlers in Rhodesia. You don't have in mind the Boer wars, by any chance? That's a different country (and the Boers were not descendants of Brits, too, speaking a different language, for example).

Comment author: bramflakes 01 October 2014 04:47:01PM 2 points [-]

Dehumanize is too strong a word I admit.

"Sold out" would be a better one.

Comment author: Lumifer 30 September 2014 05:15:20PM *  4 points [-]

You'd be amazed at how fast a colonizing country can dehumanize its own descendants as soon as they breed families offshore.

I have strong doubts about that. Can you provide specific examples and expand your argument a bit? Other than the British Empire's disdain for "going native" not much comes to mind.

I also fail to see the relevance of the Boston Tea Party. Exerting military and political power over a colony does not mean dehumanizing the colonists.

Comment author: bramflakes 01 October 2014 04:09:46PM 2 points [-]

Rhodesia comes to mind.

Comment author: SilentCal 30 September 2014 07:39:50PM *  4 points [-]

How do you (EDIT: that is, you personally) pronounce AIXI? I find myself reading it with (pseudo-)Chinese phonetics as Aye-She.

Comment author: bramflakes 01 October 2014 04:06:56PM 0 points [-]


Comment author: bramflakes 26 September 2014 10:13:45PM 2 points [-]

Yeah I have a lot of questions. Like, is this Star Trek style where it's transmitting my matter as energy and reconstructing it on the other end, or is it just creating an exact duplicate of me and I'm really just committing suicide over and over? Hmm, no, I don't feel dead, but am I me, or am I Gordon #6? I might not know the difference. Well, I should continue either way. Even if that means making sacrifices for the Greater Gordon. I mean I can't think of a cause I believe in more than that!

Gordon Freeman, Freeman's Mind

Comment author: bramflakes 24 September 2014 07:41:23PM 3 points [-]

Has anyone written at length about the evolution of cooperation in humans in this kind of Newcomblike context? I know there's been oceans of ink spent from IPD perspectives, but what about from the acausal angle?

Comment author: Vaniver 22 September 2014 07:28:53PM *  4 points [-]

I am unable to find any data on the Chinese national savings rate before 1980, and I am surprised by the claim that it was remarkably low. Does the author cite data to that effect (or any authors blaming that on Confucianism)?

[edit]Found household data for Japan going back to 1962, when it was solidly higher than European numbers.

Comment author: bramflakes 23 September 2014 05:50:11PM *  2 points [-]

I'm surprised by your surprise. It might be hindsight bias on my part, but not wanting to save money in a totalitarian Communist society makes perfect sense to me. Live for today, because tomorrow you might be locked up or the government might embark on some bone-headed 5-year economic plan and your money would be worthless.

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