Thursday, November 8, 2018

What Are Trump and Pelosi Doing?

Somebody in the White House had a brilliant idea and, consequently, President Trump, surprisingly, is publicly supporting Pelosi for Speaker.  Simultaneously, despite strong opposition from within the House Democratic Caucus, Pelosi is confidently stating that she will be Speaker.  She is also taking a pointedly nonconfrontational tone.  What is going on?

Trump believes that he can deliver enough GOP votes to get Pelosi the Speakership,  contrary to the wishes of many House Dems.  Why would he do this after using  Pelosi as a threat against Dems in the midterms?  Because Pelosi is about power and Trump can give it to her in exchange for bipartisanship.  She renigs and he pulls GOP support.  He said he was better at this and it appears he might be right.

When President Clinton was overwhelmed by the Contract With America, he decided to become conciliatory with the Gingrich led House.  Consequently, he went on to have an effective next two years.  When President Obama was swamped by Republican voters in 2010 he became intractable and consequently got little done.  Trump, however, seems to be crafting a coerced, or at least enticed, bipartisanship which may lead to achievements that will be viewed positively by Americans in both parties.

This deal, if it gets cut, will turn down the partisan fires in key areas.  These will include, but not be limited to, no impeachment of Trump and/or Kavanaugh and ratification of treaties, especially on trade and NATO reorganization.

Why is this analysis not being put forth on any of the mainstream news outlets?  There are two reasons.  First, every news outlet is partisan and this analysis does not benefit either side.  Second, it probably goes over the head of many of their readers and viewers which is to their commercial detriment.

This is a clear example of why The Polymath and the Leonardo Network are needed.  There is a place for the most erudite, intellectual among us to generate and disseminate nonpartisan analysis at the highest level of intellectual sophistication.  These 'memes' will not go viral, but they will seep into the public discourse and improve it.

If you support such an effort, please subscribe to The Polymath.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Logic of Microstates

The first day of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing exemplifies the breakdown in civil discourse between Liberals/Democrats and Conservatives/Republicans.  As I say, America is headed for a divorce.  The 2014 Pew report on political polarization demonstrates the expectation of compromise, much less consensus, is unrealistic.  This, however, is not about that.  It's about legalization of Microstate formation as a solution.

The two party system is inherently polarizing.  Multiparty parliamentary systems allow for both  extreme and more moderate visions to find expression in the political process.  Republicans must identify the median of the 50%+ most conservative voters and stake out that platform.  Democrats must do the same on the left.

As the two medians diverge, the party platforms also diverge.  As the distributions skew to the extremes, compromise becomes politically less tenable.  If the movement seen from 2004 to 2014, continues from 2014 to 2024, America will likely pass a point of no return.  The 'divorce' will become unavoidable.

Microstates can ameliorate and, perhaps stop, the trend.  The residents of microstates would come from those least satisfied with the two parties' positions and the resultant body of laws, programs and policies.  By leaving and joining microstates, the remaining body politic will average much closer to the middle and compromise will become easier.

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Because of this, when properly explained, Democrats, Republicans and aspiring microstate citizens all should favor legal mechanisms for microstate formation.  The biggest impediment will be both Republican and Democrats who fear that they will lose more constituents to microstates than the other party.

It is not clear that one side would lose more than the other.  The Right is prone to ideological insularity and the Left is prone to Marxist and Ecotopic utopianism.  However, because of this concern, if the political class agrees, they will favor this only incrementally.  However, that is good enough because, once initiated, microstates will gain popularity.  


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This reasoning just needs to be disseminated.  I favor that and will work for it because I want to live in a Polymathica microstate...Maybe two.  Dissemination is not unrealistic because there are plenty of groups actively pursuing city states and microstates.  

Later as I continue writing "The Rise of the Microstate" I will discuss the necessary characteristics of the enabling legislation, the details of market based governance and the business development of microstates.



Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Life Expectancies and Expectations

I was 51 years old when I met my wife.  Being from Russia where male life expectancy was 57 years, she expressed the belief that we would likely have a short, but hopefully happy, life together.  Displeased with her attitude I told her that I planned on living to 93.  It now appears that my prognostication may have been pessimistic.

At the outset, I will emphasize that while I enthusiastically support the research efforts in what is generally known as radical life extension, this article is not about that.  Here, I am examining existing statistical trends in life expectancy.




Recently, there have been several articles discussing life expectancy and income.  What they found is that the upper quintile income 50 year old man has a life expectancy of 88.8 years.  That was me at 50.  However, a more precise statement is that of those upper quintile men who were 50 in 1971, half of them were alive in 2010.  

The graph clearly shows the life expectancy of a 50 year old upper decile man has been consistently increasing at the rate of .225  years per year.  Since I am 29 years younger than the cohort used for the analysis, one would have to adjust and render a life expectancy of 88.8+(29×.225) or 95.3 years.  That was my "if trends continue" life expectancy when I was 50.  However, every year you survive doesn't bring you a year closer to your actuarial death age because surviving that year increased you life expectancy.  So, we can look at the actuarial tables and see how much surviving the last 18 years since I was 50 has gained for me.  Using a life expectancy calculator, I find that it has added 3.0 years.


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So, a pure extrapolation of current trends suggests that my life expectacy is about 98.3 years.  There are reasons why that may be too high and reasons that it may be too low.  However, that just means that 98 is a well balanced estimate based on current trends.  Of course, life extension breakthroughs over the next thirty years could increase life expectancies even more, which is the basis of the life expectancy escape velocity concept.

A very valid question is whether the extra years will be productive years?  Or will it just add 15 years of increasing frailty?  I know that at 68 I am nowhere near ready to sit back in my rocking chair and just watch the days and weeks and months and years roll by.  Certainly I can take encouragement from Andy Rooney who did his show up to six weeks of his death at 92.  Milton Friedman died at 94 with a Wall Street Journal column "in the mail".  So, based on history, it seems probable that those extra years can be productive.

But, it doesn't end there. Based on Mayo Clinic research, United Biotechnology is beginning clinical trials on senolytics, which, while not demonstrated to increase lifespans in mouse models, appears to stimulate youthful phenotypes.  In other words, while they won't make you live longer they will make you live younger.

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This is going to be a huge change for most people.  For many people 'empty nest and working' is an idyllic time of life.  Income is high, one is engaged in life and free from the encumbering responsibility of parenting.  Sadly, it is also often one of the shortest phases of life, typically lasting no more than ten to fifteen years.  Now, if like Andy Rooney and Milton Friedman, one works into one's 90s, this time of life may last for 35 years or more.

I just told my wife about these new calculations.  It may seem like a surprising conclusion, but why? Prince Phillip is 98 and he just retired.  Queen Elizabeth II is 92 and still working.  The last two POTUS to die were 93 and Bush I and Carter are 94.  Over the next few years, as we get more examples like the ones I mention here, it will seem less fanciful.

When articles discuss this, they routinely emphasize that, depending upon the study, the upper decile collects 15 to 20 years more social security than the lower decile.  They imply, though they do not substantiate, that the gap in life expectancy is the result of the income disparity.  Most of it, in all likelihood, is not.

First, sickly people generally earn less and also die sooner.  Second, lower income people tend to use various illicit drugs that are a contributory factor in both lower income and life expectancy.  Third, it appears that the genes that contribute to higher IQ also contribute to longer lifespans.  IQ and income are positively correlated.  Lastly, the success traits that lead to higher income also lead to healthier lifestyles.

Having said that, there is a tendency for lower income people, out of the fear of cost, to wait longer to seek medical services once symptoms appear.  Still, the lowest decile in the U.S. generally qualify for Medicaid and/or Medicare.  This would be more of a likely explanation for the second and third decile.

My son just turned 30 and if you run these numbers on his age group, you get ridiculous results that, without radical life extension breakthroughs, won't happen. The reason is because these gains are the result of delaying the age related causes of death. Without new technologies that slow the aging process the life expectancy curve will be sigmoidal with, according to current research, an asymptote at just over 100.  So, this 100 year life expectancy applies to nearly everyone.

For me, I plan on spending the next five years or so working primarily on The Polymath Institute, this blog and a few books .  Then I will shift my focus to building some expression of Suma Caye.  That will take me to 83.  After that I will put my efforts into investing in polymathic enterprises and writing additional books, if I have any more in me.  Those are my plans, since I'm planning on thirty more years.

How about you?  Will the expectation of a 100 year lifespan change how you plan your life?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Humanoid Robots May Be Imminent

Star Trek: The Next Generation, set in the 2360s had a crew member, Data, that was an android or humanoid robot.  While a Data is not likely any time soon, a reasonable facsimile may be available far sooner than is generally imagined.  Current technological progress is not inconsistent with a product introduction around 2030.

The problem of creating one is comprised of two pieces -.  one, the robotic body, two the artificial intelligence.  Both technological pieces are currently exploding. What is necessary, primarily, is to bring together the various technologies in one robot.

The product will rely on distributed simulated general intelligence.  This is already within current technology.  The robot will house a program similar to SiriAlexa, Google Assistant, Cortana  or Bixby. These personal assistant programs can interface with users using natural language, voice recognition and voice synthesis.

Using a search function it can access anything on the Internet and, in this way it can simulate general intelligence.  If you ask the robot to play chess, it will access an online chess program and will play a game with you.  If you ask it whether a bump on your arm is worrisome, it will access IBM's Dr. Watson and interact with you with that expertise.

If you ask it to clean the house or make you beef stroganoff it will access the necessary information online.  In fact, once Personal Assistant Robots (PAR) are introduced, "apps" that simulate a myriad of knowledge realms and capabilities will proliferate. Again, this does not exceed current technology.

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By this method, the PAR it will accurately simulate AGI and appear to be a conscious entity more knowledgeable,  and expert than any human.  However, as we know with current personal assistants, chess programs, etc. it is not AGI.  It is SGI or simulated general intelligence.  While the quest for AGI will likely continue in the lab, SGI will be a cheaper and less troublesome product.  SGI is the future and it is here in rudimentary form, already.  And the competition is stiff and improvement is therefore rapid.

Scene analysis is critical to the effectiveness of a PAR.  Fortunately, due to multiple applications, the technology is advancing rapidly.  Clearly, Boston Dynamics has installed relatively good software.  Facial recognition software has also become more sophisticated, driven by law enforcement demand.

While nobody has yet put together all the software required of a PAR, the pieces either currently exist or are within easy reach of current technology requiring only moderate modification to simulate a cohesive whole.

Boston Dynamics Atlas robot not only can run over uneven terrain it recently demonstrated a back flip.  While being developed for defense, the technology is about to move into the consumer market with the 2019 introduction of SpotMini.

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Boston Dynamics is not a leader in robotic hands and fingers.  This research and development has been driven primarily by prosthetics and it is already very advanced.

The construction of humanlike bodies and faces, driven, in part, by competition between sex robot manufacturers, is progressing rapidly.  The companies that are creating the most humanlike faces are not at state of the art voice interaction, but, while not at the point of fooling anyone are getting quite good.  It is important to note, especially those presented by Hanson Robotics, that many videos of humanlike robots are scripted and presented as real AI that is well beyond current technology.

However, as Siri and Alexa demonstrate, the current AI is quite sufficient to function as a useful personal assistant.  We are seeing that these executive programs are advancing rapidly.

It is clear that bringing together the most advanced current technology, in just a few years a first shot at a humanoid robot would likely be successful.  The business potential may be enormous.

Of course, the likelihood of market acceptance will be based, among other things, upon price vs. benefits.  One of the primary benefits is to organize and execute the details of one's life.  As Google demonstrates here, much of that can be done already. However, picking up dry cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. will require a physical presence.

The other significant benefit is as a domestic, that cleans, cooks, gardens, does home and auto maintenace, etc.  It is, in fact, the primary benefit of a humanoid robot, over a virtual robot, such as Alexa.

Robots have no life of their own, so the only down time is for maintenance.  They may need 10% for charging and maintenance.  At $10 per hour equivalent, the net present value of a robot's work will be around 500K USD.

While the present value may be 500K USD, the cost will need to be less in order to be a successful product.  A basic robot may cost the same as a luxury car, say 100K USD.  There will also be some operating costs.  A total monthly cost may be around 1,000 USD.

With, say a 2% initial market penetration, the industry may start St about 100 billion USD but has the potential to grow much, much larger.

The basic models will likely look like Atlas or Asimo.  Many people find the more human robots 'creepy' and they actually prefer the Asimo style models. There is controversy right now over Harmony, the sex doll, by Real Doll.  Real Doll and and it's competitors are naturally the most aggressive group in pursuing human like robots.  On one hand, most people will likely have a negative reaction to this degree of human simulation, but on the other hand, some people may be willing to spend substantial funds to create very life like and custom designed robots, a la Stepford Wives.

Most humanoid robots are currently not for sale, the exception being Harmony, which costs 15,000 USD.  She is, however, far frim complete, with no movement below the neck.  However, if the initial price point is 100,000USD there is plenty of room for improvement.

There are many activities that will be appropriate for PARs, but there will also be plenty of roles where people will prefer humans.  Home domestics, hotel house cleaning, etc. will likely be robots; fashion consultants, wait staff, etc. likely will remain human.