Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Dream of the Polymathic Institute

I initially conceived of The Polymathic Institute as a way to promote polymathic research, education, careers, community and lifestyles and, later, as a tool of remediation for the inappropriately excluded.  It is a little acorn from which a mighty oak may grow.  My personal objective is to write a Leonardo blog, write several books, starting with "The Rise of the Microstate" and "Before the Flood" and when it is successful, I may wish to write articles for The Polymath.  There are quite a few other projects that will be taken up by other members when we have found ones who are qualified and interested.

Over the last few years I have come to understand how small the acorn must be in order for it to thrive and grow and how much personal effort I must expend in order for us to succeed.  So, I have scaled back my immediate ambitions to just the Leonardo Network and members who want to advertise in it. While it is relatively small, it is still a daunting task.

From a strategic standpoint, there are three things needed for the Institute to grow.  They are:
  1. Most of our Founding Members must be active.  That means that most of them must create and build a Leonardo blog, start an independent research project, start a book, or launch a business that will raise funds and launch a product or service.
  2. We must have methods to build membership.  That requires money.  Our primary strategy is to build Leonardo with blogs that will advertise for Institute members. 
  3. We need members and interested supporters to be ambassadors for Leonardo and the institute.  Every person who subscribes to The Polymath is a person we don't need to advertise for.  This will speed up growth.

The Polymathic Institute is an admirable project and essential for Polymaths.  We are starting with Leonardo because writing a blog is a natural activity for many of the 140+ IQ Polymaths.  Also, successful bloggers have high income (one study found an average of 138K USD for professional bloggers), short hours and flexible lifestyles.  

I so believe in this that I intend to be a Leonardo blogger as my central professional outlet.  I already have a subscriber list over 1,200 and typical readership of nearly 3,000.  So, I'm ready to go and just need other Leonardo bloggers.  We certainly can start seeing the synergistic effect when we reach 30, though the mature network should have about 350.

Prepaid Ads

I don't believe in soliciting charity in most cases, so I am using two, previously successful, basic reward levels for a Leonardo crowdfund to raise the funds needed to build the Institute.  Lifetime membership in the Institute for 300 USD and prepaid ads in The Polymath that cost 50 USD each at present and, with a Polymath success  could be worth 12,000 USD over time.  The first is a good career investment and the second is a good investment,... period

For an undetermined period of time, those who purchase 7 ads ($350) will also be offered lifetime membership at no cost.

However, in order to jumpstart 2019, up to ten Leonardo bloggers who buy 3 ads in December, 2018, will receive lifetime Institute Membership.  

So, now is the perfect time to jump in and start your affluent and fulfilling 2019.  Use your referral code or, if you don't have one, use 040257.

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Referral Code



Sunday, August 5, 2018

An Information Age Income Model

Inequality has become a political hot button primarily because a shrinking middle class is leading to a bimodal population with regard to income.  It is important to recognize that, as the middle class shrinks, both the upper class and lower class are growing with the upper class growing about twice as fast.

The most common statistics being quoted revolve around the income and wealth of the upper 1%.  This is, of course, good political rhetoric but poor analysis.  The implication is that the '1%' are becoming wealthy through unfair circumstance; they are born wealthy; they were lucky; they got unfair advantage; they cheated, etc.  It is understandable that people don't  want to think that the wealthy earned their wealth fairly.  However, wealth inequality is primarily the result of the Pareto distribution, known more commonly as the 80-20 rule.

The distribution is named after Vilfredo Pareto, a 19th and 20th Century Polymath who found that 80% of Italian real estate was owned by 20% of Italians.  However it proved to not be a trait of just the Italian economy.  The Pareto distribution started popping up everywhere.  For example, 80% of peas come from 20% of the pods.  80% of sales comes from 20% of the salespeople.  In fact, a Pareto distribution is a hallmark of a statistically fair game.

It is widely published that the top 1% of Americans hold 40% of the wealth.  What does Pareto say would be the result of a fair game?  In this regard, .8³=51.2% and .2³=0.8%.   1% computes to 52.8%.  In other words, a "fair game" could be expected to result in an even greater concentration of wealth than prevails today in virtually all of the developed world..  However, it should be recognized that it would be fair in a mathematical sense only.  Social justice considerations would likely not consider it fair at all.


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Still, many, perhaps most, people are inclined to consider modern wealth inequality to be the result of a rigged game, while the facts don't really support that.  Rather, as some wise people have noted, life is not fair.  Pareto assures that there are relative winners and losers.

In recognition of this practical reality, we propose here an income model I=MW+P where MW is the value of productive effort in the form of a minimum wage and P is The Pareto share that, calculated as P=I-MW, can be considered a recognition that those who add more value should be rewarded with greater purchasing power.

While nothing more than a recognition of how liberal democracies function, it places discussions of income inequality on more firm theoretical ground.  In other words, while establishing MW or minimum wage is somewhat arbitrary, one can approach it analytically by subtracting the Pareto Distribution from the actual income distribution and the remainder is the aggregate MW which allows us to calculate a minimum wage.

While precise, it fails on the basis of social justice.  We prefer establishing a democratically arrived upon  value for MW and then considering whether it is consistent with the computed P = Pareto and if not, consider why and what, if anything, we, as a society, should do about it.

We can make a philosophical statement about MW, such as, "Every full time worker should have the resources required to fund a dignified life".  While it certainly sounds like an appropriate criterion, it still leaves plenty of room for interpretation and, therefore, disagreement.  

For example, one could find the rent for a marginal 3 BR apartment, divide it by 28% which is often cited as the qualifying income for housing.  This would establish a minimum income for a married couple with two children.  Suppose that rent is $1,200 per month.  This would result in a calculated MW of $12.36 per hour.

This logic won't compel a consensus on a proper minimum wage.  However, it should lead to an organized discussion amenable to objectively supportable positions.  

We disregard the 1% as a measure of the wealthy.  The problem is that if the number of the wealthy changes significantly, the income of the 1% will change significantly and in ways not reflective of the change in income for its members.

The more technically supported measurement of income inequality is the GINI index which measures the  deviation of the income distribution from perfectly equal distribution. The generally accepted position is that a high GINI, which indicates greater inequality of income, is intrinsically bad.  However, it is a continuous function with no points of inflection.  Therefore, while relative inequality is properly measured, there is little or no criteria for establishing a pount of fairness or economic justness. 

The free enterprise principle, with some modification, is that one's right to consume should be commensurate with the value one adds.  This contrasts with the Marxist philosophy of "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need".  The income model, herein proposed, is predicated upon the free enterprise principle and, as such, extremely high incomes are accommodated.
In other words, if one  creates 10,000,000 USD of value added, one should receive 10,000,000 USD in compensation, save for a potential reduction for MW, if the established value is nore than the actual value added.

As we set a framework for considering what should be MW we can also consider a framework to replace ''the 1%'.  There could be many ways to describe the wealthy.  One could be to see whether a family can afford the cars of the rich.  Husband drives a RR Wraith.  Wife drives a Bentley GTC and they have a Escalade for a SUV.  Per normal budget guidelines, a family needs about one million USD income to afford this fleet.

Neither the home cost calculation of minimum wage, nor the auto calculation for the definition of the wealthy should be taken as a serious argument for definitions.  They are intended as simple examples of a basic logic.  Most governments establish official poverty levels. However, these are not dignity levels and the two may not bear a consistent relationship to one another.

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By bifurcating household income into two distinct factors, minimum wage and pareto distributed free enterprise income, arguments over income inequality cannot be so easily conflated. One discussion would revolve around what constitutes a dignified life. Another conversation will revolve around any difference between the calculated and actual pareto portion. 

These discussions will organize the issues but almost surely won't drive a consensus. However, differences will be well articulated. This will drive the dialogue toward first principles, where it belongs.

The MW+P model will also inform the discussions about taxation and social policy. There are three categories of citizens with regard to the model. They are

People who cannot achieve MW without community assistance. This could be because of disability or simply, based upon economic conditions, because they cannot compete successfully for existing job openings.
The bulk of citizens who earn more than MW but less than the income defined as wealthy.
The wealthy, as likely defined constitutes less than 1% but more than 0.1%.
It seems obvious that taxes levied on group 1 would be fruitless. Taxes on the wealthy, most of whom are extremely mobile, must recognize that, if their taxes are too high, rather than raising revenue, it will result in the wealthy moving themselves and their businesses out of their home nation.

That leaves tax policy a matter of the rates and progressivity between 0% and the wealthy rate. This allows for sufficient latitude to facilitate robust disagreement but puts a practical upper limit on the revenue that can be raised via income tax.

There is also plenty of room for disagreement on the degree and nature of group 1. One could argue that some members of group 1 should experience a lifestyle below the agreed upon level of a dignified lifestyle.  The main argument would be that giving members MW would disincentive them from aspiring to moving into group two.  However, in Western civilization, that may be a very unpopular position, and will not be articulated by any mainstream decision makers.

Some may argue that beyond a progressive tax at the bottom of group 2, the tax rate should be flat.  Others may wish a heavily progressive tax.  However, they are limited to the rate levied upon group 3.

Enlightened tax policy will result in an objective calculation of the tax rate for group 3.  It is a calculation similar to the Laffer Curve.  A low rate will generate low revenue.  As the rate increases revenue will increase until the number of members of group 3 who leave the taxing authority will increase sufficiently to reduce total revenues.


  

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.