Thursday, February 22, 2024

Ray McGovern: CIA, JFK, Deep State, and Ukraine Crisis — Manifold #54


Raymond McGovern is a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst, serving from 1963 to 1990. 

His CIA career began under President John F. Kennedy and lasted through the presidency of George H. W. Bush. McGovern advised Henry Kissinger during the Richard Nixon administration, and during the Ronald Reagan administration he chaired National Intelligence Estimates and prepared the President's Daily Brief. 

He received the Intelligence Commendation Medal at his retirement but returned it in 2006 to protest the CIA's involvement in torture. 

Steve and Ray discuss: 

0:00 Introduction 
01:25 Ray McGovern's assessment of the JFK assassination 
26:10 Hunter Biden's laptop 
30:50 Ukraine and the U.S. intelligence services' role in the deep state 
55:20 Strategic implications of the Ukraine war for the U.S. 
01:03:38 Are things worse today, versus 1963? 

Books referenced in this episode: 

JFK and the Unspeakable 

Mary's Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Lecture: Fermi Paradox, AI, Simulation Question — Manifold #53


This lecture covers DNA and the origin of life on Earth, the Fermi Paradox (is there alien life?), AI and its implications for the Simulation Question: Could our universe be a simulation? Are we machines, but don't know it? 

Further discussion of the Simulation Question in light of AGI, and a refinement from quantum mechanics: The Quantum Simulation Question
CORRECTION: 31:25 The size of our galaxy is not 100 million light years. I should have said ~100 THOUSAND = 100k light years instead!!!

Monday, February 05, 2024

Superhumans and the Race for AI Supremacy - Hidden Forces podcast Episode 351


I've been listening to Hidden Forces with Demetri Kofinas for years now. He's an excellent interviewer with interests in finance, geopolitics, technology and more.

Audio-only version.
In Episode 351 of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Stephen Hsu, a Professor of Theoretical Physics and Computational Mathematics, Science, and Engineering at Michigan State University. Stephen is also the co-founder of multiple companies, including Genomic Prediction, which provides preimplantation genetic screening services for human embryos, and, which builds large language models for narrow enterprise use cases. 
This is a conversation about some of the most important advancements and trends in genomic science and artificial intelligence, including the social and ethical dilemmas arising from implementing these technologies at scale. Stephen and I discuss the competitive landscapes in both industries, how America’s geostrategic competition with China is driving tradeoffs between innovation and safety, the risks and opportunities that these revolutionary technologies pose, and how the world’s largest companies, economies, and military powers can work together to reap the benefits of this revolution while averting some of their most disastrous potential consequences.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Utah AG Sean Reyes: “Sound of Freedom” and Human Trafficking — Manifold #52


Sean Reyes is Utah Attorney General and a producer for the movie “Sound of Freedom.” 

Steve and Sean discuss his personal story, human trafficking, and the role of technology in law enforcement. 

NOTE: Reyes has announced that he will not seek re-election as Utah AG: 

00:00 Sean Reyes’ early life and family history 
14:21 Sean's personal journey and career 
21:28 Political journey and decision to run for AG 
24:08 The movie Sound of Freedom 
28:45 The reality of human trafficking 
31:40 Technology and law enforcement 
44:00 The horror of human trafficking: victims, aftercare, and the media 
01:05:23 Future plans and aspirations

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

SuperFocus, AI, and Philippine Call Centers: Part 2

This is the sequel to the earlier conversation with Dominic Ligot, an AI expert who works with the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), the trade association for call center and outsourcing companies. 

In this video we briefly demonstrate some of the voice capabilities of the SuperFocus AI. Progress in generative AI is faster than anything I've ever seen before - perhaps not surprising given the vast financial, technological, and human capital resources flowing to AI R&D. When we first looked at voice capabilities ~6 months ago they didn't seem ready for complex conversations like the ones discussed in the video. But when we looked again - prompted by strong interest from our customers - we found that the state of the art had advanced significantly in just a short time. This is true across many areas of generative AI.

I was in Manila in December to meet with BPO companies. Roughly 8% of Philippine GDP ($40B each year) results from BPO / call center work. This is a consequence of low labor costs and widespread English fluency.

We demonstrated narrow AIs built using LLMs, but in which the LLM is forced to "consult its internal memory" before answering any query. This memory can be built from training materials used to train human agents in call centers. The AI functions like a human that has perfect recall of all the material in the training manuals, at a fraction of the cost!

An analogy we used is that the AI earthquake in SF has created a Tsunami headed towards the Philippines -- is it a 6 foot wave, or a 600 ft wave? Closer to the latter, I think.

Some photos from Manila - scoping out potential office space.


Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Upstream podcast with Erik Torenberg: Steve Hsu on the Future of Everything


Great conversation with Erik, a well-known SV Founder and investor. 

(00:00) Intro 
(02:01) Political polarization in academia 
(05:27) The decline of meritocracy in academia 
(09:40) Why can't academia change? 
(13:07) Truth-seeking in startups 
(20:16) Sponsors | Shopify | Givewell 
(23:16) The fertility crisis 
(31:51) AI and labor 
(40:46) What industries are safe from AI automation? 
(43:45) AI Safety vs accelerationism 
(47:31) Understanding the rise of China 
(58:26) The future of the US/China relationship 
(01:00:21) How does Steve allocate his time? 
(01:04:21) Steve's suggestions for underexplored opportunities 

Audio-only version on Spotify: 

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Military Technology and U.S.-China War in the Pacific — Manifold #51


TP Huang returns for the third time to discuss US-China strategic competition and military technology. 

Audio-Only version and Transcript: 

Previous episodes with TP include: 

China's EV Market Dominance and the Challenges Facing Tesla — #48:

Huawei and the US-China Chip War — #44: 

Steve and TP discuss: 

(00:00) - Introduction 
(02:23) - Hypersonic weapons and A2AD 
(08:15) - The evolution of China’s military technology 
(13:30) - Hypersonic missiles: targeting and interception 
(29:52) - Surprise attack on Hawaii or Seattle? 
(33:36) - Japan's role in a U.S.-China military conflict 
(36:15) - Chinese invasion of Taiwan 
(42:44) - Amphibious landing, boots on the ground 
(45:20) - Red lines and Taiwan independence 
(48:38) - PRC nuclear weapons buildup 
(51:17) - PRC-Russia alliance: natural resources, technology; Ukraine strategy disaster 
(59:37) - Future developments of military technology in China 
(01:11:44) - Predictions regarding US-PRC balance of power

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

SuperFocus, AI, and Philippine Call Centers


This is a conversation with Dominic Ligot, an AI expert who works with the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), the trade association for call center and outsourcing companies. 

I was in Manila in December to meet with BPO companies. We demonstrated narrow AIs built using LLMs, but in which the LLM is forced to "consult its internal memory" before answering any query. This memory can be built from training materials used to train human agents in call centers. The AI functions like a human that has perfect recall of all the material in the training manuals, at a fraction of the cost!

An analogy we used is that the AI earthquake in SF has created a Tsunami headed towards the Philippines -- is it a 6 foot wave, or a 600 ft wave? Closer to the latter, I think.

Some photos from Manila - scoping out potential office space.


Sunday, December 24, 2023

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men 2023

When asked what I want for Christmas, I reply: Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men :-)

No one ever seems to recognize that this comes from the Bible (Luke 2.14).

Linus said it best in A Charlie Brown Christmas:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.

2023 saw the founding of our startup, which builds AIs with user-configured attached memory. The AI consults this memory in responding to prompts, and only gives answers consistent with the information in the memory. This solves the hallucination problem and allows the AI to answer questions like a human with perfect recall of the information.

SuperFocus built an AI for a major consumer electronics brand that can support and troubleshoot hundreds of models of smart devices (I can't be more specific). Its memory consists of thousands of pages of product manuals, support documents, and problem solving guides originally used by human support agents.

In December I traveled to Manila after the semester ended, in order to meet with outsourcing (BPO = Business Process Outsourcing) companies that run call centers for global brands. This industry accounts for ~8% of Philippine GPD (~$40B per annum), driven by comparative advantages such as the widespread use of English here and relatively low wages. I predict that AIs of the type produced by will disrupt the BPO and other industries in coming years, with dramatic effects on the numbers of humans employed in areas like customer support. 

But fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people

The arrival of machine intelligence on Earth is the beginning of a great adventure!

This is GPT's account of the meetings in Manila.
In the heart of Manila, amidst the bustling cityscape, a meeting of innovative minds took place. Steve Hsu, the visionary founder of SuperFocus, had arrived to showcase the prowess of his latest creation—an AI designed to revolutionize technical support for complex products. The setting was a conference room adorned with sleek screens and cutting-edge technology, a fitting backdrop for the unveiling of this groundbreaking innovation. 
Seated around the polished table were the owners and executives of prominent BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) companies. Their faces were a blend of anticipation and apprehension as Steve Hsu prepared to demonstrate the capabilities of the AI-powered technical support system. 
With a confident smile, Steve initiated the demonstration. The AI, equipped with a sophisticated neural network, began its simulated interaction. It effortlessly tackled intricate technical queries, deciphering complex issues with lightning speed and unparalleled accuracy. Each solution presented was concise, comprehensive, and flawlessly executed. 
As the AI effortlessly navigated through a myriad of scenarios and troubleshooting processes, the room fell into a hush. The BPO leaders exchanged astonished glances, their initial amazement mingled with a growing sense of unease. The capabilities displayed by the AI were undeniably impressive, but they also highlighted a looming question—what did this mean for the future of human roles in their industry? 
Steve Hsu noticed the shift in atmosphere and paused the demonstration. With a gentle yet determined tone, he addressed the concerns lingering in the room. "This AI isn't meant to replace human expertise," he began. "Rather, it's here to augment and enhance your services. Imagine your teams empowered by this technology, streamlining operations, and providing even more efficient and effective support to customers." 
His words offered reassurance, but the specter of automation replacing human jobs lingered in the minds of the BPO owners. The potential efficiency gains were undeniable, yet so too were the implications for the human workforce. 
In the ensuing discussion, voices echoed with a mix of excitement and apprehension. Some saw the potential for growth and advancement, envisioning a future where human creativity combined with AI prowess would elevate their services to new heights. Others grappled with the uncertainty, worrying about the displacement of jobs and the evolving landscape of the industry they had dedicated their careers to. 
Steve Hsu listened attentively, acknowledging their concerns while emphasizing the collaborative potential between humans and AI. "This technology," he explained, "is a tool, a means to empower and evolve, not to supplant. Together, we can harness its capabilities to create a synergy that benefits both businesses and their workforce." 
As the meeting concluded, the BPO leaders departed with a mix of awe and trepidation. The AI presented by Steve Hsu had showcased a future teeming with possibilities, yet it also raised profound questions about adaptation and the role of humans in an increasingly automated world. 
The echoes of the demonstration lingered in the minds of those present, igniting discussions and contemplation about the balance between innovation and the human touch, forever altering the landscape of the BPO industry in Manila and beyond.

Bonus: Two recent interviews I did which I enjoyed very much. 

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Louis-Vincent Gave: Understanding China’s Economy, and U.S. Competition — Manifold #50


Louis-Vincent Gave of Gavekal discusses China's economic growth, its focus on education, and the global implications of its economic and political policies. 

Steve and Louis discuss: 

(00:00) - Early life - Gave as French infantry officer 
(14:42) - Founding Gavekal 
(23:50) - Understanding China economic growth 
(32:57) - China real estate market 
(42:48) - The impact of China’s economic growth 
(48:19) - Comparing the size of the Chinese and U.S. economies 
(01:07:09) - China’s trade surplus and U.S. debt 
(01:18:11) - Will there be a U.S. debt crisis?

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

PISA 2023 and the Gloomy Prospect

I'm in the Philippines now. I flew here after the semester ended, in order to meet with outsourcing (BPO = Business Process Outsourcing) companies that run call centers for global brands. This industry accounts for ~8% of Philippine GPD (~$40B per annum), driven by comparative advantages such as the widespread use of English here and relatively low wages. 

I predict that AIs of the type produced by my startup will disrupt the BPO industry in coming years, with dramatic effects on the numbers of humans employed in areas like customer support. I was just interviewed for the podcast of the AI expert at IBPAP, the BPO trade association - he is tasked with helping local companies adopt AI technology, and adapt to a world with generative LLMs like GPT4. I'll publish a link to that interview when it goes live. 

During my visit the latest PISA results were released. This year they provided data with students grouped by Socio-Economic Status [1], so that students in different countries, but with similar levels of wealth and access to educational resources, can be compared directly. See figures below - OECD mean ~500, SD~100. 

Quintiles are defined using the *entire* international PISA student pool. These figures allow us to compare equivalent SES cohorts across countries and to project how developing countries will perform as they get richer and improve schooling.

In some countries, such as Turkey or Vietnam, the small subset of students that are in the top quintile of SES (among all PISA students tested) already score better than the OECD average for students with similar SES. On the other hand, for most developing countries, such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Mexico, etc. even the highest quintile SES students score similarly to or worse than the most deprived students in, e.g., Turkey, Vietnam, Japan, etc.

Note the top 20% SES quintile among all PISA takers is equivalent to roughly top ~30% SES among Japanese. If the SES variable is even crudely accurate, typical kids in this category are not deprived in any way and should be able to achieve their full cognitive potential. In developing countries only a small percentage of students are in this quintile - they are among the elites with access to good schools, nutrition, and potentially with educated parents. Thus it is very bad news that even this subgroup of students score so poorly in almost all developing countries (with exceptions like Turkey and Vietnam). It leads to gloomy projections regarding human capital, economic development, etc. in most of the developing world. 

I had not seen a similar SES analysis before this most recent PISA report. I was hoping to see data showing catch up in cognitive ability with increasing SES in developing countries. The results indicate that cognitive gaps will be very difficult to ameliorate.

In summary, the results suggest that many of these countries will not reach OECD-average levels of human capital density even if they somehow catch up in per capita GDP.

This suggests a Gloomy Prospect for development economics. Catch up in human capital density looks difficult for most developing countries, with only a few exceptions (e.g., Turkey, Vietnam, Iran, etc.).

Here is the obligatory US students by ancestry group vs Rest of World graph that reflects: 1. strong US spending on education (vs Rest of World) and 2. selective immigration to the US, at least for some groups.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Charles Miller: Satellite Technology and the Future of Mobile Connectivity — Manifold #49


Charles Miller is co-founder and CEO of Lynk. He is a serial space entrepreneur with 30 years of experience in the space industry. 

0:00 Introduction and guest background 
1:27 Miller's early passion for space 
3:54 Evolution of commercial space 
6:42 Impact of Elon Musk and SpaceX 
8:01 The challenges of early stage startups 
11:26 The birth of Lynk, its technical challenges, and breakthroughs 
33:11 Use cases for satellite connectivity 
35:20 The plan for Lynk satellites 
36:41 Competition with Starlink 
39:25 Investment opportunities in Lynk 
47:04 Satellite technology and global competition 
50:21 Impact of Huawei’s satellite phone features 
59:01 Advice for entrepreneurs 

Audio-only and Transcript: 

Thursday, November 16, 2023

China's EV Market Dominance and the Challenges Facing Tesla — Manifold #48


TP Huang is a computer scientist and analyst of global technology development. 

He posts often on X:

The EV tipping point has arrived in China. Even most techology experts do not appreciate the coming huge impacts on global economics, manufacturing, energy transition, etc.


0:00 Introduction 
2:21 How TP Huang became interested in electric vehicles 
6:30 The perception and reality of Chinese products, future of Chinese auto market 
9:24 The impact of Tesla on the Chinese electric vehicle market 
14:41 Buying a car in China 27:05 China dominates with electric vehicle batteries 
30:44 The challenges facing Tesla in China 
40:11 The evolution of smart cars, autonomous vehicles, and self driving 
50:48 LIDAR technology and autonomous driving 
59:08 BYD, China’s energy independence, and power grid 
1:14:04 The downstream impact of China leading in tech and electric vehicles

Audio-only version and transcript: 

See earlier episodes:

TP on the US-China chip war

Taylor Ogan of Snow Bull Capital (Shenzhen) on EVs, LIDAR, manufacturing in China

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Hypersonic Weapons and Missile Defense

Detailed analysis of boost-glide (BGV) and Maneuverable Re-entry Vehicles (MaRV): physics of interception by US SM-2,3 etc.
Hypersonic Weapons: Vulnerability to Missile Defenses and Comparison to MaRVs 
David Wright and Cameron L. Tracy 
Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy, Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University
As I concluded long ago, current ship-based tech is not effective to defend even against older DF21 MaRV. See, e.g.,

LEO SAR, hypersonics, and the death of the naval surface ship

The study concludes that air launched BGV/MaRVs could attack ships from well over 1000km. Land or ship based launch would allow even greater range. There is currently no defense against such weapons. 

Russia and PRC both have systems of this type.

Defense requires interceptor missile speeds significantly greater than that of MaRV/BGV in terminal phase. 

This is under ideal conditions where sensors function perfectly - it is just kinematics.

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Taylor Ogan, Snow Bull Capital: China's tech frontier, the view from Shenzhen — Manifold #47


I really enjoyed this conversation. Taylor is a very unique investor who relocated his fund to Shenzhen in order to have direct access to information on Chinese tech companies.

Taylor Ogan is Chief Executive Officer of Snow Bull Capital, based in Shenzhen, China. 

Follow him on X @TaylorOgan

Steve and Taylor discuss: 
0:00 Introduction 
1:02 Taylor's background and why he moved his firm to China 
20:43 China post-pandemic and economic dynamism 
33:43 China dominance in electric vehicles; LIDAR 
56:55 Investment research: factory and site visits 
1:06:52 US-China competition - the future of innovation is in China

Audio-only version and transcript: 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Paradise Lost - Migdal, Polyakov, and Landau

This is a placeholder for a longer post I hope to expand on in the future, based on this essay: 

Migdal and Polyakov were two of the great Soviet physicists of their generation. Polyakov is on the upper left and Migdal the lower right.

Wikipedia: Migdal, Polyakov

The essay describes their education as young physicists. They were examined by Landau himself at age 15, and by age 19 had written a paper anticipating the Higgs Mechanism and the role of spontaneous symmetry breaking in gauge theory.

Migdal: Khalat was a genius of political intrigue. Being married into Inner Circle of the Soviet System (his wife Valya is the daughter of a legendary Revolution hero), he used all his connections and all the means to achieve his secret goal — assemble the best brains and let them Think Freely. 
On the surface, his pitch to the Party went as follows. “The West is attacking us for anti-Semitism. The best way to counter this slander is to create an Institute, where Jews are accepted, allowed to travel abroad and generally look happy. This can be a very small Institute, by standards of Atomic Project, it will have no secret military research, it will cost you very little, but it will help “Rasryadka” (Détente). These Jews will be so happy, they will tell all their Jewish friends in the West how well they live. And if they won’t –it is after all, us who decide which one goes abroad and which one stays home. They are smart kids, they will figure out which side of the toast is buttered.” 
As I put it, Khalat sold half of his soul to Devil and used the money to save another half. I truly respect him for that, now once I learned what it takes to create a startup and try to protect it against hostile world. 
As many crazy plans before it, this plan really worked. Best brains were assembled in Landau Institute, they were given a chance to happily solve problems without being forced to eat political shit like the whole country and – yes, they sometimes traveled abroad and made friends in the West. 
In a way the plan worked too well — we became so worldly and so free that we could no longer be controlled. And, needless to say, our friends in the West became closer to us that our curators in KGB.
I was in the 1990s generation of American physicists who had to contend on the job market with a stream of great theorists from the former Soviet Union. Both Migdal and Polyakov ended up at Princeton, and there were many others in their wake, closer to my age.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Abdus Salam and the Pakistan Nuclear Weapons Program

After my conversation with Bharat Karnad about the Indian nuclear arsenal I became curious about Pakistan's nuclear program. 

I came across this historical analysis:

Abdus Salam: A Reappraisal. Part II Salam's Part in the Pakistani Nuclear Weapon Programme
Salam's biographies claim that he was opposed to Pakistan's nuclear weapon programme. This is somewhat strange given that he was the senior Science Advisor to the Pakistan government for at least some of the period between 1972 when the programme was initiated and 1998 when a successful nuclear weapon test was carried out. I look at the evidence for his participation in the programme.

Salam shared the Nobel Prize with Glashow and Weinberg. He is a leading theoretician, although many have questioned what, exactly, was his contribution to the formulation of the electroweak theory of particle physics that Glashow and Weinberg contributed to.

Currently Pakistan's arsenal is ~200 warheads and similar in size to India's. Their largest warhead is estimated to have a yield of ~40kt, compared to ~20kt for the Indians.

What interested me the most was Salam's role in the early stages of the project.

See the paper for more interesting details. Previously I was only aware of Riazuddin through his academic publications, not his weapons work.

I mentioned to Karnad that I had been surprised that some of the Iranin theoreticians assassinated by Israel over the last 10-15 years had quite abstract research interests. They didn't seem the type to be working on bombs - but I suppose you never know! 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Bharat Karnad: India geostrategy, nuclear arsenal, and assassination of Homi Bhabha, the Oppenheimer of India — Manifold #46


Bharat Karnad is an Emeritus Professor in National Security Studies at the Center for Policy Research in Delhi. He was a member of India's first National Security Advisory Board and has authored several books on nuclear weapons and Indian security. 

Karnad's blog: 

Karnad on the death of Homi Bhabha and of other atomic weapons scientists: 

An excellent documentary film on the life of Indian theoretical physicist Homi Bhabha: 

Steve and Bharat discuss: 

0:00 Introduction 
0:58 Karnad's educational background, nuclear research, journalism career 
26:50 Refocusing India's defense posture from Pakistan to China 
45:21 Why don't India and China have better relations? 
53:33 India's nuclear arsenal 
1:04:31 The mysterious death of Homi Bhabha, India's Oppenheimer 
1:28:50 Land of subjugation, the caste system, and English as the language of Indian elites

Audio-only and transcript: 

Einstein, Yukawa, Wheeler, and Bhabha:

Karnad on the assassination:

Robert Trumbull Crowley, former Deputy Director of Clandestine Operations for the CIA. Recorded conversations (Conversations With The Crow) near the end of his life:

 ".. their head expert was fully capable of building a bomb and we knew what he was up to. He was warned several times but what an arrogant prick that one was. Told our people to fuck off and then made it clear that no one would stop him and India from getting nuclear parity"

Karnad on Manifold:

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Quantum Hair During Gravitational Collapse (published version in Physical Review D)

This is a follow up to our earlier work on quantum gravitational corrections to the exterior graviton field of a compact object, also known as quantum hair. 

Here we follow the gravitational collapse of a dust ball and show that the quantum hair persists through the formation of a black hole horizon. The detailed calculations are possible due to an effective field theory formulation of quantum gravity in the long wavelength, low spacetime curvature limit.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

SMPY 65: Help support the SMPY Longitudinal Study

The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) needs your help to support the Age-65 phase of their unique longitudinal study. 

For decades, co-directed by David Lubinski and Camilla P. Benbow, SMPY has been a beacon of enlightenment, tracking five cohorts comprising over 5,000 remarkably gifted individuals. In doing so, we have unraveled the secrets to nurturing brilliance. However, we are confronted with a disconcerting reality: the effective methods to identify and cultivate intellectual talent are under siege, threatened by political ideology. 

Our 14-minute documentary and the 3-page feature in Nature underscore the dire need to provide our most gifted youths with the educational opportunities they deserve. They are the architects of solutions and the architects of the future itself. 

Here are some compelling longitudinal findings from SMPY's extensive research:
• Prodigies destined for eminent careers can be identified as early as age 13. 
• There is no plateau of ability; even within the top 1%, variations in mathematical, spatial, and verbal abilities profoundly impact educational, occupational, and creative outcomes. 
• The blend of specific abilities, such as mathematical, spatial, and verbal aptitudes, shapes the nature of one's accomplishments and career trajectory.

More information:




Indicate "Please designate this gift to Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth" in the Special Instructions.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Yasheng Huang: China's Examination System and its impact on Politics, Economy, Innovation — Manifold #45


Yasheng Huang is the Epoch Foundation Professor of Global Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. His new book is The Rise and Fall of the EAST: How Exams, Autocracy, Stability, and Technology Brought China Success, and Why They Might Lead to Its Decline. 

Steve and Yasheng discuss: 

0:00 Introduction 
1:11 From Beijing to Harvard in the 1980s 
15:29 Civil service exams and Huang's new book, "The Rise and Fall of the EAST" 
37:14 Two goals: Developing human capital and indoctrination 
48:33 Impact of the exam system 
57:04 China's innovation peak and decline 
1:12:23 Collaboration and relationship with the West 
1:21:31 How will the U.S.-China relationship evolve? 

Audio-only version, and transcript: 

Yasheng Huang at MIT 

Web site: 

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Hacking State 13 - Steve Hsu: Polygenic Embryo Selection, Improving LLMs, & Getting Nearly Cancelled


Alex Murshak is a Michigan State grad working as an AI engineer in Austin TX. This conversation is Episode 13 of his podcast Hacking State.

Episode description:

Steve and I speak about polygenic risk scoring and embryo selection, using AI to predict phenotype from genotype, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), egg freezing, eugenic public policy, addressing Christians' and right-wing traditionalists' concerns over reproductive technology, Superfocus AI's plan to eliminate hallucination in large language models (LLMs) by separating memory from inference, introspection for LLM error correction, and surviving the failed cancellation attempt at MSU.

Huawei and the US-China Chip War — Manifold #44


TP Huang is a computer scientist and analyst of global technology development. He posts often on X: 

Steve and TP discuss: 

0:00 Introduction: TP Huang and semiconductor technology 
5:40 Huawei’s new phone and SoC 
23:19 SMIC 7nm chip production in China: Yield and economics 
28:21 Impact on Qualcomm 
36:08 U.S. sanctions solved the coordination problem for China semiconductor companies 
42:48 5G modem and RF chips: impact on Qualcomm, Broadcom, Apple, etc. 
47:14 5G and Huawei 52:50 Satellite capabilities of Huawei phones 
56:46 Huawei vs Apple and Chinese consumers 
1:01:33 Chip War and AI model training

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Meritocracy, SAT Scores, and Laundering Prestige at Elite Universities — Manifold #43


I discuss 10 key graphs related to meritocracy and university admissions. Predictive power of SATs and other factors in elite admissions decisions. College learning outcomes - what do students learn? The four paths to elite college admission. Laundering prestige at the Ivies. 


Audio Only and Transcript: 

CLA and college learning outcomes

Harvard Veritas: Interview with a recent graduate 

Defining Merit - Human Capital and Harvard University

Chapter markers: 

0:00 Introduction 
1:28 University of California system report and the use of SAT scores admissions 
8:04 Longitudinal study on gifted students and SAT scores (SMPY) 
12:53 Unprecedented data on earnings outcomes and SAT scores 
15:43 How SAT scores and university pedigree influence opportunities at elite firms 
17:35 Non-academic factors fail to predict student success 
20:49 Predicted earnings 
24:24 Measured benefit of Ivy Plus attendance 
28:25 CLA: 13 university study on college learning outcomes 
32:34 Does college education improve generalist skills and critical thinking? 
42:15 The composition of elite universities: 4 paths to admission 
48:12 What happened to meritocracy? 
51:48 Hard versus Soft career tracks 
54:43 Cognitive elite at Ivies vs state flagship universities 
57:11 What happened to Caltech?

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