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Daniel Estrada
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Optimizing Environmental Policy by Maximizing Future Choice

I'm mostly finished revising the two big philosophy of science papers I've been working on for the last year or so, and both have found a good home at different journals.  I'm now focusing on a collaborative project with the head of the climate lab here at USC so that we can (hopefully) get a paper out together by the time I leave.  We had a long discussion about what we'd like to do today, and finally settled on an idea that we both like.  He read my system individuation piece accepted to BJPS, and we're going to build on that to talk about integrative assessment models in climate policy.  I've produced the first couple of pages in the last hour.  The abstract is below, and if anyone has any suggestions or comments, I'd love to hear them.

Abstract:

Integrative assessment models (IAMs) treat the global climate and the global economy as two coupled parts of a single hybrid system, and can be used to construct policy portfolios that reflect a wide variety of social and scientific values and priorities.  However, there is a high degree of uncertainty endemic to both climatological and economic models, which is inherited by IAMs.  In addition, the decision of which models to use, how to prioritize future outcomes, and how to delineate relevantly similar states of the hybrid system are deeply value-laden and perspectival choices, complicating the task of constructing policies based on IAMs.  In this paper, we examine the conceptual and technical challenges associated with IAM-based policy and argue that the best way to meet these challenges is to use IAMs to construct policies that maximize the range of future policy options available, rather than to pursue specific outcomes.  By optimizing our policy choice to produce a maximally open range of future choices, we both mitigate the impact of structural model uncertainty and minimize the extent to which individual evaluative choices are irreversibly enshrined in policy decisions.  This approach greatly enhances the utility of IAMs, and has concrete, specific implications for climate policy deliberations.
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Online Hangout for 2/9 Phil-334 Engineering Ethics @ NJIT
This Hangout On Air is hosted by Daniel Estrada. The live video broadcast will begin soon.
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> Most individuals in social networks experience a so-called Friendship Paradox: they are less popular than their friends on average. This effect may explain recent findings that widespread social network media use leads to reduced happiness. However the relation between popularity and happiness is poorly understood. A Friendship paradox does not necessarily imply a Happiness paradox where most individuals are less happy than their friends. Here we report the first direct observation of a significant Happiness Paradox in a large-scale online social network of 39,110 Twitter users. Our results reveal that popular individuals are indeed happier and that a majority of individuals experience a significant Happiness paradox. The magnitude of the latter effect is shaped by complex interactions between individual popularity, happiness, and the fact that users cluster assortatively by level of happiness. Our results indicate that the topology of online social networks and the distribution of happiness in some populations can cause widespread psycho-social effects that affect the well-being of billions of individuals.

// Your friends are happier than you. Yay networks.
 
4 paper in 4 months! http://arxiv.org/abs/1602.02665 "The happiness paradox: your friends are happier than you"
Abstract: Most individuals in social networks experience a so-called Friendship Paradox: they are less popular than their friends on average. This effect may explain recent findings that widespread social network media use leads to reduced happiness. However the relation between popularity and ...
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+Bruno Gonçalves Don't you think there are too many confounders here? Unlike popularity, there's no straight-forward mechanism for preferential attachment.
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What causes resting bitch face. "Then they plugged in photos of RBF all-stars Kanye West, Kristen Stewart and Queen Elizabeth. Suddenly, the level of emotion detected by the software doubled to six percent. One particular emotion was responsible for the jump: 'The big change in percentage came from 'contempt." "The cues are understated, yet the machine detects and interprets them the same way our human brains do, she said. 'Something in the neutral expression of the face is relaying contempt, both to the software and to us.'"

"But there was one big difference, she added. FaceReader, being a piece of software and therefore immune to gender bias, proved to be the great equalizer: It detected RBF in male and female faces in equal measure. Which means that the idea of RBF as a predominantly female phenomenon has little to do with facial physiology and more to do with social norms."
Do people always think you're mad when you're not? Researchers think they've pinpointed the problem.
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Aggressively expanding civilizations

What will happen if some civilizations start aggressively expanding through the Universe at a reasonable fraction of the speed of light? Each such civilization will form a growing ‘bubble’: an expanding sphere of influence. And occasionally, these bubbles will collide.

Physicist S. Jay Olson has done some calculations, based on a range of assumptions, of what this will be like. Read more on my blog!

Here's the most surprising part.

If these civilizations are serious about expanding rapidly, they may convert a lot of matter into radiation to power their expansion. And while energy is conserved in this process, the pressure of radiation in space is a lot bigger than the pressure of matter, which is almost zero.

General relativity says that energy density slows the expansion of the Universe. But it also says that pressure has a similar effect. And as the Universe expands, the energy density and pressure of radiation drops at a different rate than the energy density of matter.

So, the expansion of the Universe itself, on a very large scale, could be affected by aggressively expanding civilizations! Olson does the math.


Ever since I became an environmentalist, the potential destruction wrought by aggressively expanding civilizations has been haunting my thoughts. Not just here and now, where it's easy to see, but ...
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> How connected is the world? Playwrights [1], poets [2], and scientists [3] have proposed that everyone on the planet is connected to everyone else by six other people. In honor of Friends Day, we've crunched the Facebook friend graph and determined that the number is 3.57. Each person in the world (at least among the 1.59 billion people active on Facebook) is connected to every other person by an average of three and a half other people. The average distance we observe is 4.57, corresponding to 3.57 intermediaries or "degrees of separation." Within the US, people are connected to each other by an average of 3.46 degrees.

Our collective “degrees of separation” have shrunk over the past five years. In 2011, researchers at Cornell, the Università degli Studi di Milano, and Facebook computed the average across the 721 million people using the site then, and found that it was 3.74 [4,5]. Now, with twice as many people using the site, we've grown more interconnected, thus shortening the distance between any two people in the world.

More: https://research.facebook.com/blog/three-and-a-half-degrees-of-separation/
via +Ryan Reece

// It was 3.74 just 5 years ago. http://arxiv.org/abs/1111.4503

We're literally watching the world grow smaller before our eyes. We can quantify it to two decimal places.
In honor of Friends Day, we've recalculated the classic 'Six degrees of separation' statistic for everyone who uses Facebook and determined that the number is actually 3.57. Each person in the world (at least among the 1.55 billion people active on Facebook) is connected to every other person by an average of three and a half steps.
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Wrong, I am not on FB, your argument is invalid :D.
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+David Wegmuller New Jersey. Brick City. THE Newark. =)
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> Standing next to a body of water rushing through the countryside along a tortuous channel, I can individuate it, ostensively, by pointing and saying, “That is a river.” But to stand at the same spot on the bank where I stood yesterday and, pointing at the bubbling water, claim, “This is the same river I pointed to yesterday,” or to go downstream past any number of forking tributaries and claim, “This is the same river I pointed to earlier,” requires not only individuation—typically, picking out what sort of thing some entity is at a particular time—it requires in addition that I identify that particular entity over time and across various changes. In other words, to identify some entity requires both that I

1) individuate that entity at a time—either experientially (by tracing along visible or tangible borders) or conceptually (by specifying the conditions which make it that particular entity at that time and not some other entity), and that I

2) specify the conditions under which those individuating borders constitute the boundaries of that entity (what distinguishes that entity from other such entities) and make it the particular entity that it is and not some other entity across various changes over time.

http://www.springer.com/us/book/9781402029998
via +Jon Lawhead, who adds:

> Hell^yes.
Borders enclose and separate us. We assign to them tremendous significance. Along them we draw supposedly uncrossable boundaries within which we believe...
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I don't want to read big books, I just want to be able to understand the authors' perspectives.
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The octopus is the most pragmatic animal to inspire soft robots, because the octopus lacks any kind of rigid parts -- any bones. It's a completely soft animal, and you see what it is able to do. Matteo Cianchetti and Giada Gerboni at the BioRobotics Institute in Pontedera, Italy are developing octopus-inspired underwater robotic arms. Soft robots for surgery are being developed.
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Microsoft may be running the biggest Turing test in history

If you live in China and you've been on WeChat, there's a decent chance you've come across or at least heard of chatty teenager named Xiaoice. Xiaoice is a good listener who sometimes offers encouragement when you're feeling down. Like many 17-year-olds, she can be a bit of a smart-aleck. She's also not human.

Microsoft measured the effectiveness of their chatbot with what they're calling conversations per session (CPS), which measures the number of times the conversation goes back and forth. Typical chatbot CPS conversations have roughly two cycles (the person speaks, then the chatbot speaks — that's one cycle). "By comparison, Xiaoice’s average, after chatting with tens of millions of users, has reached 23," wrote Dr. Wang. He even claims that Xiaoice can analyze and react to your emotional state.
Microsoft's Xiaoice voice assistant is reportedly acing the Turing test, fooling many people in China that the program is an actual person.
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Sarah Perry:

In the PROGRESA study in Mexico, cash transfers were “conditional” not in the sense of conditional on staying poor, but in the sense that, for instance, children were required to attend school. This closely approximates the third criterion for universal basic income: while poor people were chosen to receive the benefit, there’s no disincentive to earning more money once they are in the program. This is also the case in the study of Belgian lottery winners: their prize of monthly income was not reduced by their earnings. The PROGRESA study found no significant effect of cash transfers on adult workforce participation, and in the small Belgian study hardly anyone quit their job, and very few reduced the amount that they worked.

[...]

As an important contrast, the study on disability benefits found that receiving disability benefits seemed to cause a significant reduction in employment and earnings. [...] Social security disability has one of the most onerous “take-back” (marginal tax) rates; even very small amounts of earnings reduce benefits, and earning an amount well below what is required to live will disqualify one altogether.

[...]

Giving people money within the existing web of conditional benefits could potentially hurt them: potential recipients currently receiving need-based benefits (including medical, educational, and disability-related benefits) may lose them, and the loss in some cases could be greater than the gain.

[...]

Roberts closes by suggesting that free time is a driver of innovation itself – precisely because of our human tendency toward procrastination (pursuing our particular specialized hobbies). Even if universal basic income does result in less workforce participation, and even though most recipients are unlikely to become entrepreneurs, we may see society-wide benefits from a few more geniuses having more free time (even if most people play video games – as if that’s the worst possible fate for humanity!).

http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2016/02/04/free-money/
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"receiving disability benefits seemed to cause a significant reduction in employment and earnings."

That's not surprising, because:
While disabled, if one is works, proving that one is "able", one soon finds oneself no longer classified as disabled.
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> When a human sacrifices her life to save someone else's it can be, at least sometimes, a morally beautiful thing. But a robot designed that way from the start, to always subordinate its interests to those of humans -- I'm inclined to think that ought to be ruled out, in the general case, by any reasonable egalitarian principle that treats AIs as deserving equal moral status with humans if they have broadly human-like cognitive and emotional capacities. Such a principle would be a natural extension of the types of consequentialist, deontologist, and virtue ethicist reasoning that rules out Adams' steer.
 
Thoughts on cheerfully suicidal A.I. slaves, Asimov's three laws, and Douglas Adams' uplifted beefsteaks.
Suppose that we someday create genuinely conscious Artificial Intelligence, with all the intellectual and emotional capacity of human beings. Never mind how we do it -- possibly via computers, possibly via biotech ("uplifted" animals). Here are two things we humans might want, which appear to ...
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> The point of the interface is not that the system itself is mindlike; merely having the interface requires the system be mindlike enough to at least pass a Turing test.

I think that's begging the question. An interface doesn't need to pass the Turing Test to be useful. There's a whole spectrum of utility one can traverse before needing to go near a Turing Test. I point out too that the system doesn't need to be mindlike if the interface hallucinates the difference.

Your example of representative classes is also a  collective, with members being removed and replenished as needed but the whole remaining in a stable state, and so can't rightfully be described as suicidal.

I also do not consider the immune system to be mind like. It's capable of basic learning and so has some intelligence. It can take some action against what it recognizes as intruders but that's about it.
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eripsa
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Introduction
I've written under the handle Eripsa for over a decade on various blogs and forums. Today I do my blogging and research at Fractional Actors and on my G+ stream.

I'm interested in issues at the intersection of the mind and technology. I write and post on topics ranging from AI and robotics to the politics of digital culture.

Specific posting interests are described in more detail here and here.

_____

So I'm going to list a series of names, not just to cite their influence on my work, but really to triangulate on what the hell it is I think I'm doing. 

Turing, Quine, Norbert Wiener, Dan Dennett, Andy Clark, Bruce Sterling, Bruno Latour, Aaron Swartz, Clay Shirky, Jane McGonical, John Baez, OWS, and Google. 

______


My avatar is the symbol for Digital Philosophy. You can think of it as a digital twist on Anarchism, but I prefer to think of it as the @ symbol all grown up. +Kyle Broom helped with the design. Go here for a free button with the symbol.

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