# 2017 news

Annual summary of 2017 gwern.net newsletters, selecting my best writings, the best 2017 links by topic, and the best books/movies/anime I saw in 2017.
30 November 201720 May 2020 finished certainty: log

This is the 2017 summary edition of the gwern.net newsletter (), summarizing the best of the monthly 2017 newsletters:

# Writings

Posts:

Site traffic (July 2017-January 2018) was up: 326,852 page-views by 155,532 unique users.

# Media

## Overview

AI/genetics/VR/Bitcoin/general:

Genetics in 2017 was a straight-line continuation of 2016: the UKBB dataset came online and is fully armed & operational, with exomes now following (and whole-genomes soon), resulting in the typical flurries of papers on everything which is heritable (which is everything). Genetic engineering had a banner year between CRISPR and older methods in the pipeline—it seemed like every week there was a new mouse or human trial curing something or other, to the point where I lost track and the NYT has begun reporting on clinical trials being delayed by lack of virus manufacturing capacity. (A good problem to have!) Genome synthesis continues to greatly concern me but nothing newsworthy happened in 2017 other than, presumably, continuing to get cheaper on schedule. Intelligence research did not deliver any particularly amazing results as the SSGAC paper has apparently been delayed to 2018 (with a glimpse in ), but we saw two critical methodological improvements which I expect to yield fruit in 2017–2018: first, as genetic correlation researchers have noted for years, genetic correlations should be able to boost power considerably by correcting for measurement error & increasing effective sample size by appropriate combination of polygenic scores, and MTAG demonstrates this works well for intelligence ( increases PGS to ~7% & to ~10%); second, Hsu’s lasso predictions were proven true by demonstrating the creation of a polygenic score explaining most SNP heritability/predicting 40% of height variance. The use of these two simultaneously with SSGAC & other datasets ought to boost IQ PGSes to >10% and possibly much more. Perhaps the most notable single development was the resolution of the long-standing dysgenics question using molecular genetics: has the demographic transition in at least some Western countries led to decreases in the genetic potential for intelligence (mean polygenic score), as suggested by most but not all phenotypic analyses of intelligence/education/fertility? Yes, in Iceland/USA/UK, dysgenics has indeed done that on a meaningful scale, as shown by straightforward calculations of mean polygenic score by birth decade & genetic correlations. More interestingly, the increasing availability of ancient DNA allows for preliminary analyses of how polygenic scores change over time: over tens of thousands of years, human intelligence & disease traits appear to have been slowly selected against (consistent with most genetic variants being harmful & under purifying selection) but that trend reversed at some point relatively recent.

For 2016, I noted that the main story of VR was that it hadn’t failed & was modestly successful; 2017 saw the continuation of this trend as it climbs into its “trough of productivity”—the media hype has popped and for 2017, VR just kept succeeding and building up an increasingly large library of games & applications, while the price continued to drop dramatically (as everyone should have realized but didn’t) with the Oculus now ~$300. So much for “motion sickness will kill VR again” or “VR is too expensive for gamers”. Perhaps the major surprise for me was that Sony’s quiet & noncommittal approach to its headset (which made me wonder if it would be launched at all) masked a huge success, as PSVR has sold into the millions of units and is probably the most popular ‘real’ VR solution despite its technical drawbacks compared to Vive/Oculus. There continues to be no killer app, but the many upcoming hardware improvements like 4K displays or wireless headsets or eyetracking+foveated-rendering will continue increasing quality while prices drop and libraries continue to build up; if there is any natural limit to the VR market, I haven’t seen any sign of it yet. So for 2018–2019, I wonder if VR will simply continue to grow gradually with mobile smartphone VR solutions eating the lunch of full headsets, or if there will be a breakout moment where the price, quality, library, and a killer app hit a critical combination? Bitcoin underwent one of its periodic ‘bubbles’, complete with the classic accusations that this time Bitcoin will surely go to zero, the fee spikes mean Bitcoin will never scale (“nobody goes there anymore, it’s too popular”), people can’t use it to pay for anything, it’s a clear scam because of various peoples’ foolishness like taking out mortgages to gamble on further increases, Coinbase is run by fools & knaves, random other altcoins have bubbled too & will doubtless replace Bitcoin soon, Bitcoin has failed to achieve any libertarian goals and is now a plaything of the rich, people who were wrong about Bitcoin every time from$1 in 2011 to now will claim to be right morally, the PoW security is wasteful, etc—one could copy-paste most articles or comments from the last bubble (or the one before that, or before that) into this one with no change other than the numbers. As such, while I have benefited from it, there is little worth saying about it other than to note its existence with bemusement, and reflect on how far Bitcoin & cryptocurrencies have come since I first began using them in 2011: Even if Bitcoin goes to zero now, it’s unleashed an incredible Cambrian explosion of cryptography applications and economics crossovers. Cryptoeconomists are going to spend decades digesting proof-of-work, proof-of-stake, slashing, Truthcoin/HiveMind/Augur, zk-SNARKs and zk-STARKs, Mimblewimble, TrueBit, scriptless scripts & other applications of Schnorr signatures, Turing-complete contracts, observed cryptomarkets like the DNMs… You can go through and each section corresponds to a project made possible only via Bitcoin’s influence. Bitcoin had more influence in its first 5 years than Chaum’s digital cash has had in 30 years. Cryptography will never be the same. The future’s so bright I gotta wear mirrorshades.

A short note on politics: Donald Trump’s presidency and its backlash in the form of Girardian scapegoating (sexual harassment scandals & social-media purges) have received truly disproportionate coverage and have become almost an addiction. They have distracted from important issues and from important facts like 2017 being one of the best years in human history, many scientific & technological improvements and breakthroughs like genetic engineering or AI, or global & US economic growth. Objectively, Trump’s first year has been largely a non-event; a few things were accomplished like packing federal courts and a bizarre tax bill, but overall not much happened, and Trump has not lived up to the apocalyptic predictions & hysteria. If the next 3 years are similar to 2017, one would have to admit that Trump as president turned out better than George W. Bush!

## Books

Nonfiction:

Fiction:

1. , Scott Alexander (review)
2. , Steven D. Carter
3. , (January review)
4. Sunset in a Spiderweb: Sijo Poetry of Ancient Korea, Baron & Kim 1974

## TV/movies

Nonfiction movies:

Fiction:

Anime: