Thursday, March 24, 2022

Sebastian Mallaby: Venture capital as an engine of courage — Manifold Podcast #8


Sebastian Mallaby is a writer and journalist whose work covers financial markets, international relations, innovation, and technology. He is the author of "The Power Law: Venture Capital and the Making of the New Future." 

Steve and Sebastian discuss venture capital, tech startups, business model and technology innovation, global adoption of the Silicon Valley model, and the future of innovation. 


Friday, March 18, 2022

Quantum Hair from Gravity (published version in Physical Review Letters)

This is the published version of our paper on Quantum Hair on black holes, in Physical Review Letters:
Quantum Hair from Gravity 
Xavier Calmet, Roberto Casadio, Stephen D. H. Hsu, and Folkert Kuipers 
Phys. Rev. Lett. 128, 111301 – Published 17 March 2022 
We explore the relationship between the quantum state of a compact matter source and of its asymptotic graviton field. For a matter source in an energy eigenstate, the graviton state is determined at leading order by the energy eigenvalue. Insofar as there are no accidental energy degeneracies there is a one to one map between graviton states on the boundary of spacetime and the matter source states. Effective field theory allows us to compute a purely quantum gravitational effect which causes the subleading asymptotic behavior of the graviton state to depend on the internal structure of the source. This establishes the existence of ubiquitous quantum hair due to gravitational effects.
The paper establishes that the quantum state of the graviton field (equivalently, the spacetime metric) of a compact matter source depends on the quantum state of the source. This can be established without a short distance theory of quantum gravity -- i.e., near the Planck length. Our results are long wavelength effects and are insensitive to the details of short distance physics, such as whether gravitons are excitations of strings, or something else, at the most fundamental level.

Classical theorems in General Relativity indicate that black holes are nearly featureless -- only a few aspects of the hole, such as its total mass, charge, and angular momentum, are manifested in its asymptotic gravitational field. We show that this "no hair" property does not extend to the quantum realm. Indeed at the quantum level the situation is the opposite: the full quantum state of the compact object can be recovered from the asymptotic graviton state.

In this companion paper we show how these results resolve Hawking's black hole information paradox, which has been an open problem for 46 years.
Quantum hair and black hole information 
Physics Letters B Volume 827, 10 April 2022, 136995 
Xavier Calmet and Stephen D.H. Hsu 
It has been shown that the quantum state of the graviton field outside a black hole horizon carries information about the internal state of the hole. We explain how this allows unitary evaporation: the final radiation state is a complex superposition which depends linearly on the initial black hole state. Under time reversal, the radiation state evolves back to the original black hole quantum state. Formulations of the information paradox on a fixed semiclassical geometry describe only a small subset of the evaporation Hilbert space, and do not exclude overall unitarity.

Note to experts: the companion paper explains why Mathur's Theorem (i.e., entanglement entropy must always increase by ~ln 2 with each emitted qubit) is evaded once one considers BH evolution in the full radiation Hilbert space. The radiation Hilbert space is much larger than the small subspace which remains after conditioning on any specific spacetime background or BH recoil trajectory. Even exponentially small entanglement between different radiation states (mediated by quantum hair) can unitarize the evaporation process.

This is also explained in detail in the talk video and slides linked below.

Press coverage:




Earlier discussion, with more background on the Hawking paradox. See especially the important work by Suvrat Raju and collaborators: 

Quantum Hair and Black Hole Information (December 2021) 

Monday, March 14, 2022

"The Pressure to Conform is Enormous": Steve Hsu on Affirmative Action, Assimilation and IQ Outliers (CSPI Podcast with Richard Hanania)


Another great conversation with Richard Hanania. 

Some rough timestamps: 
Begin: American society, growing up as child of immigrants 

18m: Russia-Ukraine conflict (eve of invasion), geopolitical implications (China, India, Germany, EU) 

38m: Affirmative Action, Harvard case at SCOTUS 

54m: Woke leftists at the university, destruction of meritocracy, STEM vs Social Justice advocacy, Sokal Hoax 

1h25m: Academic economics, 2008 credit crisis, Do economists test theories? 

1h33m: Maverick thinking, Agreeableness, Aspergers, Pressure to conform 

1h39m: Far-tail intelligence, Jeff Bezos and physics, progress in science and technology
Full transcript at Richard's substack.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Genomic Prediction’s Stephen Hsu: Making superhumans will be possible (Sunday Times podcast)

Danny Fortson (Sunday Times) is based in Silicon Valley and has a regular podcast on technology. I really enjoyed this conversation.
Genomic Prediction’s Stephen Hsu: Making superhumans will be possible 
The Sunday Times’ tech correspondent Danny Fortson brings on Stephen Hsu, co-founder of Genomic Prediction, to talk about the plummeting price of genomic sequencing (5:00), predicting height and cancer (9:10), mining biobanks (14:25), scoring embryos (19:00), why investors are staying anonymous (28:00), the need for a society-wide discussion (32:30), when he was accused of being a eugenicist (37:25), how powerful genetic prediction can be (43:15), genetic engineering (49:45), and why Denmark is the future (59:30).

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Vlatko Vedral: Oxford Theoretical Physicist on Quantum Superposition of Living Creatures — Manifold Podcast #7


Vlatko Vedral is Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford and Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) at the National University of Singapore. He is known for his research on the theory of Entanglement and Quantum Information Theory. 

Steve and Vlatko discuss: 

1. History of quantum information theory, entanglement, and quantum computing 

2. Recent lab experiments that create superposition states of macroscopic objects, including a living creature (tardigrade) 

3. Whether quantum mechanics implies the existence of many worlds: are you in a superposition state right now? 

4. Present status and future of quantum computing


Entanglement Between Superconducting Qubits and a Tardigrade: 

Macroscopic Superposition States: entanglement of a macroscopic living organism (tardigrade) with a superconducting qubit (Infoproc blog discussion including Sidney Coleman talk Quantum Mechanics In Your Face!) 

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Geopolitics and Empire podcast: The End of the Unipolar Moment & the Cementing in Blood of the Eurasian Alliance


This was just recorded two days ago. Enjoy! 

From the show notes:
Physicist, startup founder, and polymath Steve Hsu discusses the end of the unipolar moment, the return of geopolitics, and the U.S.-China New Cold War. He believes China is not as fragile as some say. We talk Taiwan, how Beijing has caught up in military tech, and how the nature of naval warfare in the next war will be very different. On the technology and AI front, he feels the U.S. and China are at parity, but that the long-term trend is in China's favor. He feels the social credit system is advancing just as fast in the West as in China and that the digital yuan is rapidly gaining in stature. He gives his view on the Ukraine crisis and how it has been a huge strategic error by the U.S. because it has cemented the Eurasian alliance. He's concerned about a systemic financial meltdown, discusses being a victim of woke cancel culture, and knowing Richard Feynman.

Friday, March 04, 2022

On Ukraine: the return of Multipolarity and Hard Power

I've had numerous requests to comment on the conflict in Ukraine, but have been too busy to write anything. 

For background on the situation, I highly recommend the discussion in the video below, released March 3 2022.

To save time, just listen to the presentations by Mearsheimer and McGovern, and their final comments at the end of the video. Both present historical details from the last decade or so that will shock people who only pay attention to mainstream Western media. (Also in the discussion: Jack Matlock, former US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, and Ted Postol, MIT professor and missile expert.)

Ray McGovern is a retired CIA analyst who served as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. I featured another interview with him in an earlier post on the US catastrophe in Afghanistan: Tragedy of Empire / Mostly Sociopaths at the Top.

Corey Washington and I interviewed John Mearsheimer for the original Manifold, but the episode was not released. It's possible that I might release it some time in the future. 

Mearsheimer has appeared in many posts on this blog. See this March 1 2022 interview in The New Yorker: Why John Mearsheimer Blames the U.S. for the Crisis in Ukraine.

While military and diplomatic aspects of the conflict in Ukraine are worthy of attention, far more important are the long term consequences of Western hysteria and economic war on Russia. Tacit support for Russia from China, India, Brazil, Turkey, OPEC states, indeed perhaps the majority of the world population, may presage a new era of multipolarity and hard power confrontation between great powers.

Why do educated citizens of the countries listed above understand the situation better than the typical American or European? Because they are familiar with Western media propaganda and the history of US imperialism. They are much more likely to understand the facts described by Mearsheimer and McGovern about the recent history of NATO, Ukraine, and Russia leading up to this conflict.

PS I'm surprised there isn't more discussion of systemic risks from defaults of highly networked financial entities that are affected by sanctions on Russia.

This looks dangerous -- like the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in 2008. Or am I missing some structural reforms that prevent that from happening again? (Maybe the earlier round of sanctions have already decoupled Russia enough...) Or will the central banks that effectively run our economies now simply issue a blanket put, allowing all of our clever money men to go back to sleep? People used to complain about "zombie companies" in some countries with excessive state intervention in their economies. It looks to me like we've had zombie financial markets for some time now...

Added from Comments

Of course I think individuals in TW and UKR have every right to vote / fight for the government they want. 

But they are not likely to get their way as the issue is much more important to their giant neighbor (RUS, PRC) than to the USA or soft Europeans in Brussels. 

They are probably better off negotiating a peaceful coexistence with the nearby great power. Finland "Finlandized" itself and that was probably the best it could do... 

What you are seeing right now in UKR is what great power realists like Mearsheimer *predicted* would happen IF the West gave too much hope to UKR without being willing to actually back it up. 

Now, you may say that Joe Smith in Iowa *should* want to back up UKR or TW, send his son to fight on the front lines there. But it is not the case and we know that. We also knew it 10-15y ago when NATO expansion mischief got started and Mearsheimer made his early cautionary statements on this, as did Kennan, Nitze, Perry, Sam Nunn -- all the old cold warriors who ACTUALLY DEFEATED USSR and understood things better than today's leaders. 

US won't even sanction RUS energy imports to this country... How much pain are we willing to endure for UKR? 

We're going to fight this war to the last Ukrainian... If there isn't a negotiated settlement soon UKR will end up like Iraq and Afghanistan -- abandoned by the US and destroyed. 

I can predict something very similar for TW, even though I have extended family living there right now. Does that count towards emotional commitment / empathy? I'm descended from KMT military officers on both sides of my family tree! 

TW should negotiate for the best deal it can get from PRC and not count on the US to protect it. 


US war hawks want to see PRC blow itself up fighting for TW. The conflict will destroy Asian economies and leave USA largely unscathed (just as WWII did). They don't care about the well-being of ~2-3 billion Asians.  

Some of them just can't help themselves and want to see RUS blow itself up fighting in a UKR trap. But this group is very stupid as they are driving RUS into the arms of PRC and that is going to be very bad for USA. 

Some US war hawks are smarter than others...


US to Ukraine, pointing at Russia: "Let's you and him fight."


William Burns is Biden's CIA Director, and was Ambassador to the Russian Federation. What did he write about Ukraine and NATO expansion? From Peter Beinart's substack:
Two years ago, Burns wrote a memoir entitled, The Back Channel. It directly contradicts the argument being proffered by the administration he now serves. In his book, Burns says over and over that Russians of all ideological stripes—not just Putin—loathed and feared NATO expansion. He quotes a memo he wrote while serving as counselor for political affairs at the US embassy in Moscow in 1995. ‘Hostility to early NATO expansion,” it declares, “is almost universally felt across the domestic political spectrum here.” On the question of extending NATO membership to Ukraine, Burns’ warnings about the breadth of Russian opposition are even more emphatic. “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin),” he wrote in a 2008 memo to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players, from knuckle-draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.” 
While the Biden administration claims that Putin bears all the blame for the current Ukraine crisis, Burns makes clear that the US helped lay its foundations. By taking advantage of Russian weakness, he argues, Washington fueled the nationalist resentment that Putin exploits today. Burns calls the Clinton administration’s decision to expand NATO to include Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic “premature at best, and needlessly provocative at worst.” And he describes the appetite for revenge it fostered among many in Moscow during Boris Yeltsin’s final years as Russia’s president. “As Russians stewed in their grievance and sense of disadvantage,” Burns writes, “a gathering storm of ‘stab in the back’ theories slowly swirled, leaving a mark on Russia’s relations with the West that would linger for decades.” 
As the Bush administration moved toward opening NATO’s doors to Ukraine, Burns’ warnings about a Russian backlash grew even starker. He told Rice it was “hard to overstate the strategic consequences” of offering NATO membership to Ukraine and predicted that “it will create fertile soil for Russian meddling in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.” Although Burns couldn’t have predicted the specific kind of meddling Putin would employ—either in 2014 when he seized Crimea and fomented a rebellion in Ukraine’s east or today—he warned that the US was helping set in motion the kind of crisis that America faces today. Promise Ukraine membership in NATO, he wrote, and “There could be no doubt that Putin would fight back hard.” 
Were a reporter to read Burns’ quotes to White House press secretary Jen Psaki today, she’d likely accuse them of “parroting Russian talking points.” But Burns is hardly alone. From inside the US government, many officials warned that US policy toward Russia might bring disaster. William Perry, Bill Clinton’s Defense Secretary from 1994 to 1997, almost resigned because of his opposition to NATO expansion. He has since declared that because of its policies in the 1990s, “the United States deserves much of the blame” for the deterioration in relations with Moscow. Steven Pifer, who from 1998 to 2000 served as US ambassador to Ukraine, has called Bush’s 2008 decision to declare that Ukraine would eventually join NATO “a real mistake.” Fiona Hill, who gained fame during the Trump impeachment saga, says that as national intelligence officers for Russia and Eurasia she and her colleagues “warned” Bush that “Putin would view steps to bring Ukraine and Georgia closer to NATO as a provocative move that would likely provoke pre-emptive Russian military action.”
Oh, there's some historical background to all this? Some context? Wait I'm told every day this crisis just happened because Putin went crazy and wants to rebuild the USSR / Russian Empire. 

Who is full of crap? Western governments and media today, or our CIA Director and former Ambassadors and Secretaries of Defense? The whole world ex-USA/EU can see this. It's only Westerners who are brainwashed.

Added March 7 2022: This is a long Chinese analysis of the military aspects of the war so far. They also cite Oryx estimates. Note comparisons near the end of Russian and PLA capabilities.

More from comments:

I certainly sympathize with "Putin bad", "Russia bad place for me to live", "democracy good" sentiments. 

But suppose the realistic possible outcomes are: 

1. Ukr is dominated by Russia but not destroyed in a war 
2. Ukr is dominated by Russia after a brutal war, with its economy destroyed 
3. (Low probability) Ukr escapes Russian domination thanks to strong US support (avoiding WWIII).  
4. (Low probability) US strongly supports Ukr, leading to MAD, WWIII 

To be very definite, suppose that 

I. Given actual past US policies of ~2010-2022 probabilities are P(#1) = P(#2) = 45% and P(#3) = 9% and P(#4) = 1% 

II. Following advice of Mearsheimer, frmr SecDefs Perry and McNamara, CIA director Burns, etc. etc. we have P(#1) = 95% P(#2) = 4%, others much less than 1%. [ i.e., this is a counterfactual scenario that, in my opinion, turns out better! ]
I think this is a REALISTIC characterization. You may disagree. Under my assumptions II is better than I. 

But this is not primarily a normative or moral discussion... we don't disgree there.

Note, in a standard utilitarian framework P(#4) dominates everything else!

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Manifold Podcast #6: Richard Sander on Affirmative Action, Mismatch Theory, and Academic Freedom


Richard Sander is Jesse Dukeminier Professor at UCLA Law School. 
AB Harvard, JD, PhD (Economics) Northwestern. 

Sander has studied the structure and effects of law school admissions policies. He coined the term "Mismatch" to describe negative consequences resulting from large admissions preferences. 

Topics discussed: 

1. Early life: educational background and experience with race and politics in America. 

2. Mismatch Theory: basic observation and empirical evidence; Law schools and Colleges; Duke and UC data; data access issues. 

3. CA Prop 209 and Prop 16. 

4. SCOTUS and Harvard / UNC admissions case 

5. Intellectual climate on campus, freedom of speech 


Faculty web page, includes links to publications: 

A Conversation on the Nature, Effects, and Future of Affirmative Action in Higher Education Admissions (with Peter Arcidiacono, Thomas Espenshade, and Stacy Hawkins), University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 683 (2015) 

About Prop. 16 and Prop. 209, University of Chicago Law Review Online (2020) 

Panel at Stanford Intellectual Diversity Conference, April 8, 2016, Stanford Law School 

ManifoldOne podcast (transcript).

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Quantum Hair and Black Hole Information (Physics Letters B published version)

This is the published version of our recent arxiv preprint, previously discussed here.
Quantum hair and black hole information 
It has been shown that the quantum state of the graviton field outside a black hole horizon carries information about the internal state of the hole. We explain how this allows unitary evaporation: the final radiation state is a complex superposition which depends linearly on the initial black hole state. Under time reversal, the radiation state evolves back to the original black hole quantum state. Formulations of the information paradox on a fixed semiclassical geometry describe only a small subset of the evaporation Hilbert space, and do not exclude overall unitarity.
The earlier paper, which established the existence of quantum hair, has been accepted by PRL and should also appear soon. 

Seminar video and slides

From the paper:
4. Conclusion 
Hawking's information paradox has been the focus of intense interest for almost 50 years. In his 1992 lecture on the subject, John Preskill wrote [5] 
I conclude that the information loss paradox may well presage a revolution in fundamental physics. 
The resolution described here is conservative: the quantum state of the exterior gravity field is determined by the interior black hole state, allowing the latter to influence Hawking radiation produced at the horizon. Two distinct quantum states of the black hole may produce the same semiclassical external geometry, but the graviton states differ at the quantum level. The relationship between interior and exterior quantum states is not governed by classical no-hair theorems. Indeed, it has gradually been appreciated that gravity itself prevents the localization of quantum information [4], [9], [10], [11], [21], [22], [23], even behind a horizon. We stress that all formulations of the paradox require a degree of factorization between the black hole internal state and the radiation (see, e.g., (6)), which is clearly not true of our equation (4). 
Certain aspects of our expressions (2)-(4) are very clear: the black hole information is spread over many branches of the final radiation state, and macroscopic superpositions of different spacetime geometries play a role in the evaporation. Some of the difficulty in resolving the paradox may originate from a reluctance to accept these aspects of quantum dynamics.

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