California Tries to Block Ballot Proposal Seeking to Execute Gay and Lesbian Residents – The Atlantic

Unless a court intervenes, the state will have to allow an attorney to collect signatures for a ballot measure that would authorize mass murder.

Source: California Tries to Block Ballot Proposal Seeking to Execute Gay and Lesbian Residents – The Atlantic


I’m even less sure what to think of the plan (threat?) to publicize the names of anyone who signs the petition. Sure, I and everyone I’d willingly associate with would be strongly against the proposal (it is, truly, wretchedly offensive), but isn’t outing people for their personal beliefs and political actions (especially those so out of favor that violence might be directed at them were they known) also wrong?


From comments:

I have mixed feelings on the concept of the “outing”. On the one hand, there is the problem with the possibility if intimidation, but on the other, the anonymity has allowed for some very questionable, if not vile political campaigns given nobody actually has to own up to their belief.

In the end I tend to think what value does a “belief” have if one is not willing to own up to it? Its one thing to demand legislation that alters other people’s life in a negative way, but being allowed to hide who is making the demands? Its bad enough that we now allow the funding sources of such campaigns to be hidden under the guise of free speech.

We wind up with a lot of vitriol spewed whose author’s remain hidden behind bland shell organizations, immune from having consequences for their actions. Its like a modern version of the KKK, hiding behind their white sheets, free to burn crosses and shout epithets, immune from consequences because nobody knows who they are.

$4 Billion Corp. To Indiana: We Warned You About RFRA, Now We’re ‘Forced To Dramatically Reduce Our Investment’ – The New Civil Rights Movement

Source: $4 Billion Corp. To Indiana: We Warned You About RFRA, Now We’re ‘Forced To Dramatically Reduce Our Investment’ – The New Civil Rights Movement


Is it “fair” for a corporation, public or private, to use its financial and economic position to sway social policy?

The Economics of California’s Drought – The Atlantic

California is the world’s fifth-largest supplier of food and its agriculture uses 80% of the state’s water.

Source: The Economics of California’s Drought – The Atlantic

The California drought has intensified during its four-year duration, with 40 percent of the state now in “exceptional drought,” the highest category.

Source: California’s Next Megadrought Has Already Begun – Slate

A Police Gadget Tracks Phones? Shhh! It’s Secret – The New York Times

A growing number of law enforcement agencies have acquired sophisticated surveillance technology to track cellphones but have done so with an unusual restriction: They must not talk about it.

“So, just to be clear,” Joe Simitian, a county supervisor, said, “we are being asked to spend $500,000 of taxpayers’ money and $42,000 a year thereafter for a product for the name brand which we are not sure of, a product we have not seen, a demonstration we don’t have, and we have a nondisclosure requirement as a precondition. You want us to vote and spend money,” he continued, but “you can’t tell us more about it.”

Source: A Police Gadget Tracks Phones? Shhh! It’s Secret – The New York Times

Infant Mortality

The ethical issues that come with crowdfunded healthcare

To choose one, though, also means to choose it over all the others.

Who, out of all the people who have shared their tragedy on the Internet, is the most deserving of money?

the most pressing ethical question surrounding medical crowdfunding is not the inequalities it illuminates, or how donors choose who to fund, or how sites choose who to host—it’s why the practice has become necessary in the first place.

Source: Is It Fair to Ask the Internet to Pay Your Hospital Bill? – The Atlantic


From comments:

Perhaps the phrase of most interest to me in the whole article was “necessary care.” Who defines it, and who should? And does an extremely expensive procedure with a middling chance of success for a child with an extremely rare genetic disease count? This question may reveal the true utility of crowdfunding campaigns–not that they pay for “necessary care,” but that they can be used to pay for extraordinary care that doesn’t meet any objective cost-benefit analysis. They’re an opportunity to say “help me because you love me/ sympathize/ find my story compelling,” even if the procedure can’t be justified as “necessary” in a way that means society as a whole should cover the tab involuntarily.

— Disqus commenter EBennetDarcy



In the 1850s, the infant mortality rate in the United States was estimated at 216.8 per 1,000 babies born for whites and 340.0 per 1,000 for African Americans
— Wikipedia “Infant_mortality” from Sullivan, A., Sheffrin, S. (2003) Economics: Principles in Action, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-13-063085-3

That rate is from more than 1-in-5 to over a third of children born, dying before they turned 5 years old.

The US infant mortality rate at 6.1 is now called “a national embarrassment” by the Washington Post.
Our infant mortality rate is a national embarrassment – The Washington Post

The US Federal CDC lists the number of live births in the US as just under 4 million.
FastStats – Births and Natality –

With 4 million births and an infant mortality rate of 6.1, that works out to 24,400 children born last year dying within the following 5 years.

Finland has their rate down to 2.3 though, so we could presumably cut that figure to only 9,200. If we could save half of those (so 4,600 infants) for $250,000 each, then saving their lives would cost $1.15 billion dollars. At $1 million each the total cost would be $4.6 billion.

Paying for exceptional care for exceptional cases does cost an exceptionally large amount per case. However, *because* of their rarity, I don’t think this is as bad as it seems like at first blush/consideration (usually comparing such staggering figures to the annual incomes of normal people).

My opinion is that we can afford this, and should, and a national / universal / single-payer health system (through “insurance”, federally managed/administered, or whatever) would accomplish this. It would be a far better use of the funds than [insert government thing you don’t like here; I’ll pick the F-35].

A hundred and fifty years ago, the only option was “too bad, try again”. We can and should do better now, for everyone.

Machine intelligence – Sam Altman


SMI does not have to be the inherently evil sci-fi version to kill us all. A more probable scenario is that it simply doesn’t care about us much either way, but in an effort to accomplish some other goal (most goals, if you think about them long enough, could make use of resources currently being used by humans) wipes us out. Certain goals, like self-preservation, could clearly benefit from no humans. We wash our hands not because we actively wish ill towards the bacteria and viruses on them, but because we don’t want them to get in the way of our plans.

It’s very hard to know how close we are to machine intelligence surpassing human intelligence. Progression of machine intelligence is a double exponential function; human-written programs and computing power are getting better at an exponential rate, and self-learning/self-improving software will improve itself at an exponential rate. Development progress may look relatively slow and then all of a sudden go vertical—things could get out of control very quickly (it also may be more gradual and we may barely perceive it happening).

Because we don’t understand how human intelligence works in any meaningful way, it’s difficult to make strong statements about how close or far away from emulating it we really are. We could be completely off track, or we could be one algorithm away.

I prefer calling it “machine intelligence” and not “artificial intelligence” because artificial seems to imply it’s not real or not very good. When it gets developed, there will be nothing artificial about it.

Source: Machine intelligence, part 1 – Sam Altman



we will face this threat at some point, and we have a lot of work to do before it gets here.

it seems like what happens with the first SMI to be developed will be very important.

I mean for this to be the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one.

Provide a framework to observe progress. … require development safeguards to reduce the risk of the accident case. … humans will always be the weak link in the strategy (see the AI-in-a-box thought experiments) … Require that the first SMI developed have as part of its operating rules that a) it can’t cause any direct or indirect harm to humanity (i.e. Asimov’s zeroeth law), b) it should detect other SMI being developed but take no action beyond detection, c) other than required for part b, have no effect on the world.

In politics, we usually fight over small differences. These differences pale in comparison to the difference between humans and aliens, which is what SMI will effectively be like. We should be able to come together and figure out a regulatory strategy quickly.

Source: Machine intelligence, part 2 – Sam Altman


The AI-Box Experiment by Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
AI-box experiment on RationalWiki
AI box on Wikipedia