This page is a changelog for Gwern.net: a monthly reverse chronological list of recent major writings/changes/additions.
Following my writing can be a little difficult because it is often so incremental. So every month, in addition to my regular /r/Gwern subreddit submissions, I write up reasonably-interesting changes and send it out to the mailing list in addition to a compilation of links & reviews (archives).
A subreddit for posting links of interest and also for announcing updates to gwern.net (which can be used as a RSS feed). Submissions are categorized similar to the monthly newsletter and typically will be collated there.
Education and general intelligence both serve to inform opinions, but do they lead to greater attitude extremity? The potential civic returns to education include not only the sophistication of citizen opinions, but also their moderation. We use questions on economic policy, social issues, and environmental issues from the General Social Survey [GSS] to test the impact of education on attitude extremity, as measured by deviation from centrist or neutral positions, while controlling for intelligence. We use quantile regression modeling to identify effects on both the most extreme beliefs as well as the most ambivalent. We find that intelligence is a moderating force across the entire distribution in economic, social, and environmental policy beliefs. Completing high school strongly correlates to reduced extremity, particularly in the upper quantiles. College education increases attitude extremity in the lower tail, while postgraduate education increases extremity in the upper tail. Results are discussed in the context of enlightenment and motivated-reasoning theories of beliefs and education. The relevance to political party core and swing voters is briefly discussed.
In the Amagasaki Serial Murder Incident (尼崎連続殺人事件), several family households in Japan were tortured continuously for more than 25 years. These crimes were committed mainly in Amagasaki, and also in six prefectures, Hyogo, Kochi, Kagawa, Okayama, Shiga and Kyoto. Many people were abused and imprisoned; at least 8 people were killed.
This article presents an emerging architectural hypothesis of the brain as a biological implementation of a Universal Learning Machine. I present a rough but complete architectural view of how the brain works under the universal learning hypothesis. I also contrast this new viewpoint—which comes from computational neuroscience and machine learning—with the older evolved modularity hypothesis popular in evolutionary psychology and the heuristics and biases literature. These two conceptions of the brain lead to very different predictions for the likely route to AGI, the value of neuroscience, the expected differences between AGI and humans, and thus any consequent safety issues and dependent strategies.
Intro · Two viewpoints on the Mind · Universal Learning Machines · Historical Interlude · Dynamic Rewiring · Brain Architecture (the whole brain in one picture and a few pages of text) · The Basal Ganglia · Implications for AGI · Conclusion
…The roots of the universal learning hypothesis can be traced back to Mountcastle’s discovery of the simple uniform architecture of the cortex. The universal learning hypothesis proposes that all significant mental algorithms are learned; nothing is innate except for the learning and reward machinery itself (which is somewhat complicated, involving a number of systems and mechanisms), the initial rough architecture (equivalent to a prior over mindspace), and a small library of simple innate circuits (analogous to the operating system layer in a computer). In this view the mind (software) is distinct from the brain (hardware). The mind is a complex software system built out of a general learning mechanism…The key takeaway is that the data is what matters—and in the end it is all that matters. Train a universal learner on image data and it just becomes a visual system. Train it on speech data and it becomes a speech recognizer. Train it on ATARI and it becomes a little gamer agent.
Conclusion: Ray Kurzweil has been predicting for decades that AGI will be built by reverse engineering the brain, and this particular prediction is not especially unique—this has been a popular position for quite a while. My own investigation of neuroscience and machine learning led me to a similar conclusion some time ago.
The recent progress in deep learning, combined with the emerging modern understanding of the brain, provide further evidence that AGI could arrive around the time when we can build and train ANNs with similar computational power as measured very roughly in terms of neuron/synapse counts. In general the evidence from the last four years or so supports Hanson’s viewpoint from the Foom debate. More specifically, his general conclusion:
Future superintelligences will exist, but their vast and broad mental capacities will come mainly from vast mental content and computational resources. By comparison, their general architectural innovations will be minor additions.
The ULH supports this conclusion. Current ANN engines can already train and run models with around 10 million neurons and 10 billion (compressed/shared) synapses on a single GPU, which suggests that the goal could soon be within the reach of a large organization. Furthermore, Moore’s Law for GPUs still has some steam left, and software advances are currently improving simulation performance at a faster rate than hardware. These trends implies that Anthropomorphic/Neuromorphic AGI could be surprisingly close, and may appear suddenly. What kind of leverage can we exert on a short timescale?
The statistic p(rep) estimates the probability of replicating an effect. It captures traditional publication criteria for signal-to-noise ratio, while avoiding parametric inference and the resulting Bayesian dilemma. In concert with effect size and replication intervals, p(rep) provides all of the information now used in evaluating research, while avoiding many of the pitfalls of traditional statistical inference.
Over the past two centuries, diseases have been separated into three categories: infectious diseases, genetic diseases, and diseases caused by too much or too little of some noninfectious environmental constituent. At the end of the 19th century, the most rapid development was in the first of these categories; within three decades after the first cause-effect linkage of a bacterium to a disease, most of the bacterial causes of common acute infectious diseases had been identified. This rapid progress can be attributed in large part to Koch’s postulates, a rigorous systematic approach to identification of microbes as causes of disease. Koch’s postulates were useful because they could generate conclusive evidence of infectious causation, particularly when (1) the causative organisms could be isolated and experimentally transmitted, and (2) symptoms occurred soon after the onset of infection in a high proportion of infected individuals. While guiding researchers down one path, however, the postulates directed them away from alternative paths: researchers attempting to document infectious causation were guided away from diseases that had little chance of fulfilling the postulates, even though they might have been infectious. During the first half of the 20th century, when the study of infectious agents was shifting from bacteria to viruses, Mendel’s genetics was being integrated into the study of disease. Some diseases could not be ascribed to infectious causes using Koch’s postulates but could be shown to have genetic bases, particularly if they were inherited according to Mendelian ratios. Mendel’s genetics and Koch’s postulates thus helped create a conceptual division of diseases into genetic and infectious categories, a division that persists today.The third category—diseases resulting from noninfectious environmental causes—has a longer history. The known associations of poisons with illness provided a basis for understanding physical agents as causes of disease. The apparent “contagiousness” of some chemical agents, such as the irritant of poison ivy, led experts to consider that diseases could be contagious without being infectious. Even after the discovery of causative microbes during the last quarter of the 19th century, many infectious diseases were considered contagious through the action of poisons, but not necessarily infectious .
…This tendency to dismiss infectious causation has occurred in spite of the recognition that (1) infectious diseases are typically influenced by both host genetic and noninfectious environmental factors, and (2) some chronic diseases, such as tuberculosis and syphilis, have long been recognized as being caused by infection.In this essay we analyze the present conceptions of disease etiology from an historical perspective and within the framework offered by evolutionary biology. We begin by analyzing the degree to which infectious causation has been accepted for different categories of disease over the past two centuries with an emphasis on (1) characteristics that make the infectious causes of different diseases conspicuous or cryptic, and (2) the need to detect ever more cryptic infectious causes as a legacy of the more rapid recognition of the conspicuous infectious causes. We then consider principles and approaches that could facilitate recognition of infectious diseases and other phenomena that are not normally considered to be of infectious origin.
Alfred Edward Housman, usually known as A. E. Housman, was an English classical scholar and poet. His cycle of poems, A Shropshire Lad wistfully evoke the dooms and disappointments of youth in the English countryside. Their simplicity and distinctive imagery appealed strongly to Edwardian taste, and to many early 20th-century English composers both before and after the First World War. Through their song-settings, the poems became closely associated with that era, and with Shropshire itself.
Suspicion is a 1941 romantic psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine as a married couple. It also features Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty, Isabel Jeans, Heather Angel, and Leo G. Carroll. Suspicion is based on Francis Iles's novel Before the Fact (1932).
The Bridge on the River Kwai is a 1957 epic war film directed by David Lean and based on the 1952 novel written by Pierre Boulle. The film uses the historical setting of the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942–1943. The cast includes Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins, and Sessue Hayakawa.
Mushishi is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Yuki Urushibara. It was serialized in Afternoon Season Zōkan from 1999 to 2002, and in Monthly Afternoon from December 2002 to August 2008. The individual chapters were collected and released into ten tankōbon volumes by Kodansha. Those volumes were localized to North America by Del Rey between January 2007 and August 2010. The series follows Ginko, a man who dedicates himself to keeping people protected from supernatural creatures called Mushi.
Barakamon (ばらかもん) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Satsuki Yoshino. It started serialization in Square Enix's Gangan Online February 2009 issue. The story follows Seishu Handa, a calligrapher who moves to the remote Goto Islands off the western coast of Kyushu, and his various interactions with the people of the island. An anime adaptation by Kinema Citrus aired in Japan between July and September 2014. Funimation has licensed the series for streaming and home video release. In February 2014, Yen Press announced they have licensed Barakamon for English release in North America.
Subscription page for the monthly gwern.net newsletter. There are monthly updates, which will include summaries of projects I’ve worked on that month (the same as the changelog), collations of links or discussions from my subreddit, and book/movie reviews. You can also browse the archives since December 2013.
Newsletter tag: archive of all issues back to 2013 for the gwern.net newsletter (monthly updates, which will include summaries of projects I’ve worked on that month (the same as the changelog), collations of links or discussions from my subreddit, and book/movie reviews.)