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Comment author: dglukhov 23 March 2017 01:37:23PM *  0 points [-]

"Declining Energy Returns" is based on the false idea that civilization requires exponential increases in energy input, which has been wrong for decades. Per capita energy consumption has been stagnant in the first world for decades, and most of these countries have stagnant or declining populations. Focusing on EROI and "quality" of oil produced is a mistake. We don't lack for sources of energy; the whole basis of the peak oil collapse theory was that other energy sources can't replace oil's vital role as a transport fuel.

This seems relevant These statistics do not support your claim that energy consumption per capita has been stagnant. Did I miss something? Perhaps you're referring strictly to stagnation in per capita use of fossil fuels? Do you have different sources of support? After all, this is merely one data point.

I'm not particularly sure where I stand with regards to the OP, part of the reason I brought it up was because this post sorely needed evidence to be brought up to the table, none of which I see.

I suppose this lack of support gives a reader the impression of naiveté. but I was hoping members here would clarify with their own, founded claims. Thank you for the debunks, I'm sure there's plenty of literature to link to as such, which is exactly what I'm after. The engineering behind electric cars, and perhaps its history, will be a topic I'll be investigating myself in a bit. If you have any preferred sources for teaching purposes, I'd love a link.

Comment author: knb 25 March 2017 05:54:42AM *  2 points [-]

This seems relevant These statistics do not support your claim that energy consumption per capita has been stagnant. Did I miss something?

Yep, your link is for world energy use per capita, my claim is that it was stagnant for the first world. E.g. in the US it peaked in 1978 and has since declined by about a fifth. Developed world is more relevant because that's where cutting edge research and technological advancement happens. Edit: here's a graph from the source you provided showing the energy consumption history of the main developed countries, all of which follow the same pattern.

I don't really have a single link to sum up the difference between engineering an ICE car with adequate range and refuel time and a battery-electric vehicle with comparable range/recharge time. If you're really interested I would suggest reading about the early history of motor vehicles and then reading about the decades long development history of lithium-ion batteries before they became a viable product.

Comment author: dglukhov 21 March 2017 09:05:13PM 1 point [-]

Not the first criticism of the Singularity, and certainly not the last. I found this on reddit, just curious what the response will be here:

"I am taking up a subject at university, called Information Systems Management, and my teacher is a Futurologist! He refrains from even teaching the subject just to talk about technology and how it will solve all of our problems and make us uber-humans in just a decade or two. He has a PhD in A.I. and has already talked to us about nanotechnology getting rid of all diseases, A.I. merging with us, smart cities that are controlled by A.I. like the Fujisawa project, and a 20 minute interview to Ray Kurzweil about how the singularity will make us all immortal by 2045.

Now, I get triggered as fuck whenever my teacher opens his mouth, because not only does he sell these claims with no other basis than "technology is growing exponentially", but he also implies that all of our problems can and will be solved by it, empowering us to keep fucking up things along the way. But I prefer to stay in silence, because most idiots at my class are beyond saving anyway and I don't get off on confronting others, but that is beside the point.

I wanted to make a case for why the singularity is beyond the limits of this current industrial civilization, and I will base my assessment on these pillars:

-Declining Energy Returns: We are living in a world where the return for oil is what, a tenth of what it used to be last century? Not to mention that even this lower-quality oil is facing depletion, at least from profitable sources. Renewables are at an extremely early stage as to even hope they run an industrial, exponentially growing civilization like ours at this point, and there are some physical laws that limit the amount of energy that can be actually absorbed from the sun, along with what can be efficiently stored at batteries, not to mention intermittency issues, transport costs, etc. One would think that more complex civilizations require more and more energy, especially at exponential growth rates, but the only argument that futurists spew out is some free market bullshit about solar, or like my teacher did, only expect the idea will come true because humans are awesome and technolgy is increasing at exponential rates. These guys think applied science and technology exist in a vacuum, which brings me to the next point.

-Economic feasibility: I know it is easy to talk about the wonders of tech and the bright future ahead of us, when one lives in the developed world, and is part of a priviliged socio-economical class, being as such isolated from 99% of the misery of this planet. There are people today that cannot afford clean water. In fact, most people that are below the top 20% of the population in terms of income probably won't be able to afford many of the new technological developments more than they do today. In fact, if the wealth gap keeps increasing, only the top 1% would be able to turn into cyborgs or upload their minds into robots or whatever it is that these guys preach. I think the argument of a post-scarcity era is a lot less compelling once you realize it will only benefit a portion of the populations of developed countries.

-Political resistance and corruption: Electric cars have been a thing ever since the 20th century, and who know what technologies have been hidden and lobbied against by the big corporations that rule this capitalist system. Yet the only hope for the singularity is that is somehow profitable for the stockholders. Look at planned obsolescence. We could have products that are 100 times more durable, that are more efficient, that are safer, that pollute less, but then where would profits go? Who is to tell you that they won't do the same in the future? In fact, a big premise of smart cities is that they will reduce crime by constant suirvellance; In fujisawa every lightpost triggered a motion camera and houses had centralized information centers that could be easily turned into Orwellian control devices, which sounds terrifying to me. We will have to wait and see how the middle class and below react to automation taking many jobs, and how the UBI experiment is carried out, if at all.

-Time constraints: Finally, people hope for the Singularity to reach us by 2045. That would imply that we need around 30 years of constant technological development, disregarding social decline, resource depletion, global warming, crop failuers, droughts, etc. If civilization collapses before 2045, which I think is very likely, then that won't come around and save us, and as far as I know, there is no other hope from futurologists other than a major breakthrough in technology at this point. Plus, like the video "Are humans smarter than bacteria?" very clearly states, humans need time to figure out the problems we face, then we need some more time to design some solution, then we need even more time to debate, lobby and finally implement some form of the original solution, and hope no other problems arise from it, because as we know technology is highly unpredictable and many times it creates more problems than it solves. Until we do all that, on a global scale, without destroying civil liberties, I think we will all be facing severe environmental problems, and developing countries may very well have fallen apart long before that.

What do you think? Am I missing something? What is the main force that will stop us reaching the Singularity in time? "

Comment author: knb 23 March 2017 04:40:01AM 3 points [-]

Like a lot of reddit posts, it seems like it was written by a slightly-precocious teenager. I'm not much of a singularity believer but the case is very weak.

"Declining Energy Returns" is based on the false idea that civilization requires exponential increases in energy input, which has been wrong for decades. Per capita energy consumption has been stagnant in the first world for decades, and most of these countries have stagnant or declining populations. Focusing on EROI and "quality" of oil produced is a mistake. We don't lack for sources of energy; the whole basis of the peak oil collapse theory was that other energy sources can't replace oil's vital role as a transport fuel.

"Economic feasability" is non-sequitur concerned with whether gains from technology will go only to the rich, not relevant to whether or not it will happen.

"Political resistance and corruption" starts out badly as the commenter apparently believes in the really dumb idea that electric cars have always been a viable competitor to internal combustion but the idea was suppressed by some kind of conspiracy. If you know anything about the engineering it took to make electric cars semi-viable competitors to ICE, the idea is obviously wrong. Even without getting into the technical aspect, there are lots of countries which had independent car industries and a strong incentive to get off oil (e.g. Germany and Japan before and during WW2).

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 09 March 2017 09:50:20PM 1 point [-]

I said a few weeks back that I would publically precommit to going a week without politics. Well, I partially succeeded, in that I did start reading for example an SSC article on politics because it popped up in my RSS feed, but I stopped when I remembered that I was ignoring politics. The main thing is I managed to avoid any long timewasting sessions of reading about politics on the net. And I think this has partially broken some bad habits of compulsive web browsing I was developing.

So next I think I shall avoid all stupid politics for a month. No facebook or reddit, but perhaps one reasonably short and high-quality article on politics per day. Speaking of which, can anyone recommend any short, intelligent, rational writings on feminism for instance? My average exposure to anti-feminist thought is fairly intelligent, while my average exposure to pro-feminist thought is "How can anyone disagree with me? Don't they realise that their opinions are just wrong? Women can be firefighters and viking warriors! BTW, could you open this jar for me, I'm not strong enough." And this imbalance is not good from a rationalist POV. I am especially interested whether feminists have tackled the argument that if feminists have fewer children, then all the genes that predispose one to being feminist (and to anything else that corrlates) will be selected against. I mean, this isn't a concern for people who think that the singularity is near(tm) or who don't care what happens a few generations in the future, but I doubt either of these apply to many feminists, or people in general.

Comment author: knb 10 March 2017 01:40:23AM 0 points [-]

Speaking of which, can anyone recommend any short, intelligent, rational writings on feminism for instance? My average exposure to anti-feminist thought is fairly intelligent, while my average exposure to pro-feminist thought is "How can anyone disagree with me?[...]"

There are some intelligent and interesting heterodox feminists who spend a lot of their time criticizing mainstream or radical feminist positions. I could recommend them to you, and you would probably like some of what they have to say, but then you wouldn't really be challenging your current notions and wouldn't be getting the strongest defenses of current feminist thought.

I'm not a feminist (or a marxist) but I do remember being impressed by the thoughtfulness and clarity of Friedrich Engels' The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State when I read it back in college.

Comment author: gjm 20 February 2017 05:28:49PM 0 points [-]

And let's go one step further: who is the culprit? The devil who had an IDEA!

This is the point at which the proposal becomes obviously insane. Not coincidentally, it is also the point at which the proposal stops having anything to do with the thing Bill Gates said he was in favour of. (It is more like saying "we tax income people get from doing their jobs, so we should tax those people's parents for producing a person who did work that yielded taxable income".)

As username2 says, what gets taxed is acquisition of money; when I pay income tax it isn't a tax on me but on my receipt of that income. If anything like a "robot tax" happens, here's the right way to think of it: a company is doing the same work while employing fewer people, so it makes more profit, and it pays tax on that profit so more profit means more tax. We are generally happy[1] taxing corporate profits, and we are generally happy[2] taxing companies when their profitable activities impose nasty externalities on others, and some kinds of "robot tax" could fit happily into that framework.

[1] Perhaps you aren't. But most of us seem to be, since this is a thing that happens all over the world and I haven't seen much objection to it.

[2] This isn't so clear; I've not seen a lot of objection to taxes of this sort, but I also think they aren't used as much as maybe they should be, so maybe they are unpopular.

(For what it's worth, I am not myself in favour of a "robot tax" as such, but if we do find that robots or AI or other technological advances make some kinds of business hugely more profitable then I think it's reasonable for governments to look for ways to direct some of the benefit their way, to be used to help people whose lives become more difficult as machines get good at doing what used to be humans' jobs.)

Comment author: knb 21 February 2017 06:04:39AM 0 points [-]

Isn't a VAT already basically a Robot Tax?

Comment author: CronoDAS 14 February 2017 11:05:24PM 7 points [-]

This seems like a better metaphor for fossil fuel extraction and climate change than AI risk.

Comment author: knb 15 February 2017 05:41:27AM 2 points [-]

The same game theory would seem to apply equally well in both cases. In what way does it work better with climate change?

Comment author: gjm 24 January 2017 03:08:19AM 4 points [-]

Would you like to quantify that enough that we can look back in a few years and see whether you got it right?

Comment author: knb 26 January 2017 06:04:32AM 0 points [-]

I think it's a clear enough prediction, but putting some actual numbers on it would be useful. Personally, I would put the odds of a Trump landslide well under 50% even contingent on "supercharged" economic growth. Maybe 25%. Politics is too identity-oriented now to see anything like the Reagan landslides in the near future.

Comment author: James_Miller 24 January 2017 12:55:28AM 9 points [-]

Prediction: Government regulations greatly reduce economic growth. Trump, with the help of the Republican Congress, is going to significantly cut regulations and this is going to supercharge economic growth allowing Trump to win reelection in a true landslide.

Comment author: knb 26 January 2017 05:58:02AM 0 points [-]

Kudos for making a clear prediction.

I voted for Trump but I don't think there is any realistic possibility of a Trump landslide, even if the economy grows very well for the next 4 years. The country is just too bitterly divided along social lines for economic prosperity to deliver one candidate a landslide (assuming a landslide in the popular vote means at least 10% margin of victory.)

In terms of economic growth, I wonder what you mean by "supercharge". I think 4% is pretty unlikely. If the US manages an annual average of 3.0% for the next 4 years that would be a good improvement, but I don't think that could really be called "supercharged."

Trump job approval looks pretty good right now considering the unrelenting negative press, so right now I think Trump is likely to be re-elected if he chooses to run in 2020.

Comment author: elephantiskon 16 January 2017 09:17:17PM 2 points [-]

At what age do you all think people have the greatest moral status? I'm tempted to say that young children (maybe aged 2-10 or so) are more important than adolescents, adults, or infants, but don't have any particularly strong arguments for why that might be the case.

Comment author: knb 17 January 2017 01:46:11AM *  2 points [-]

I don't think children actually have greater moral status, but harming children or allowing children to be harmed carries more evidence of depraved/dangerous mental state because it goes against the ethic of care we are supposed to naturally feel toward children.

Comment author: ChristianKl 20 December 2016 07:06:28AM *  0 points [-]

As it happens, I doubt Chinese pay all that much attention to these kinds of diplomatic bugbears.

Why do you doubt it?

The fact that they took a US military drone in tit-for-tat, suggests that they do pay attention.

If the Chinese wanted it they could leak all those background checks for the US security clearances to Wikileaks or do any number of actions to retaliate more forcefully than just taking a drone as a symbolic action against the symbolic action of a phone call.

Comment author: knb 25 December 2016 03:40:12AM 0 points [-]

I meant the Chinese public. The actual public of most countries is not all that engaged in the ins and outs of these things.

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 December 2016 09:00:20AM 0 points [-]

The signal sent by Trump is that he will take a call from whomever he wants

That doesn't change anything about the fact that it creates strong internal pressure on Chinese decision makers to answer the action in a way that doesn't result in them losing face in front of their citizens.

Comment author: knb 20 December 2016 02:14:44AM *  0 points [-]

If true that's mainly an argument against making pointless precommitments you can't possibly enforce. As it happens, I doubt Chinese pay all that much attention to these kinds of diplomatic bugbears.

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