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?

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The World of Yesterday: Steve Hsu on polygenic scores, gene editing, human flourishing


I really enjoyed this long conversation with Dan Schulz, an MSU engineering grad who works in tech. Dan did his homework and we covered a lot of important topics.


(0:00:00) - Intro 
(0:00:33) -  Genomic Prediction 
(0:05:54) - IVF 
(0:12:34) - Phenotypic data 
(0:15:42) - Predicting height 
(0:28:27) - Pleiotropy 
(0:39:14) - Optimism 
(0:45:03) - Gene editing 
(0:48:27) - Super intelligent humans 
(1:01:27) - Regulation 
(1:06:36) - Human values 
(1:17:38) - Should you do IVF? 
(1:26:06) - 23andMe 
(1:29:03) - Jeff Bezos 
(1:34:29) - Richard Feynman 
(1:43:43) - Where are the superstar physicists? 
(1:45:37) - Is physics a good field to get into?

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Aella: Sex Work, Sex Research, and Data Science — Manifold #42


Aella is a sex worker, sex researcher, and data scientist. 

Interviews with ex-prostitutes on the pimp life (Las Vegas) 

An earlier Aella interview with Reason: 

Audio-only and Transcript:

Steve and Aella discuss: 

(00:00) - Introduction 
(01:22) - Aella's background and upbringing 
(12:45) - Aella's experiences as a sex worker and escorting 
(29:52) - Pimp culture 
(38:01) - Seeking Arrangement 
(43:50) - Cheating 
(46:50) - OnlyFans, farming simps 
(51:49) - Incels and sex work 
(56:24) - Porn and Gen-Z 
(01:12:43) - Embryo screening 
(01:21:43) - How far off is IVG?

Thursday, August 10, 2023

AI on your phone? Tim Dettmers on quantization of neural networks — Manifold #41


Tim Dettmers develops computationally efficient methods for deep learning. He is a leader in quantization: coarse graining of large neural networks to increase speed and reduce hardware requirements. 

Tim developed 4-and 8-bit quantizations enabling training and inference with large language models on affordable GPUs and CPUs - i.e., as commonly found in home gaming rigs. 

Tim and Steve discuss: Tim's background and current research program, large language models, quantization and performance, democratization of AI technology, the open source Cambrian explosion in AI, and the future of AI. 

0:00 Introduction and Tim’s background 
18:02 Tim's interest in the efficiency and accessibility of large language models 
38:05 Inference, speed, and the potential for using consumer GPUs for running large language models 
45:55 Model training and the benefits of quantization with QLoRA 
57:14 The future of AI and large language models in the next 3-5 years and beyond

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Paul Huang, the real situation in Taiwan: politics, military, China — Manifold #40


Paul Huang is a journalist and research fellow with the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation. He is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan. 

Sample articles: 

Taiwan’s Military Has Flashy American Weapons but No Ammo (in Foreign Policy): 

Taiwan’s  Military Is a Hollow Shell (Foreign Policy): 

Audio-only and transcript:

Steve and Paul discuss: 

0:00 Introduction 
1:44 Paul’s background; the Green Party (DPP) and Blue Party (KMT) in Taiwan 
4:40 How the Taiwanese people view themselves vs mainland Chinese 
15:02 Taiwan taboos: politics and military preparedness 
15:27 Effect of Ukraine conflict on Taiwanese opinion 
29:56 Lack of realistic military planning 
37:20 Is there a political solution to reunification with China? What influence does the U.S. have? 
51:34 The likelihood of peaceful reunification of Taiwan and China 
56:45 Honest views on Taiwanese and U.S. military readiness for a conflict with China

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Richard Hanania & Rob Henderson: The Rise of Wokeness and the Influence of Civil Rights Law — Manifold #39


Richard Hanania, Rob Henderson, and I were scheduled for a June 2023 panel as part of the University of Austin (UATX) Forbidden Courses series. I missed the panel due to travel issues, but we gathered on this podcast to recreate the fun! 


0:00 Introduction 
1:20 The University of Austin and forbidden courses 
17:37 Will woke campus culture change anytime soon? 
29:57 Common people vs elites on affirmative action 
35:42 Why it’s uncomfortable to disagree about affirmative action 
41:22 Fraud and misrepresentation in higher ed 
44:20 The adversity carveout in the Supreme Court affirmative action ruling 
50:10 Standardized testing and elite university admissions 
1:06:18 Divergent views among racial and ethnic groups on affirmative action; radicalized Asian American males 
1:10:00 Differences between East and South Asians in the West 
1:23:03 Class-based preferences and standardized tests 
1:31:57 Rob Henderson’s next move 


Richard Hanania’s new book: 

The Origins of Woke: Civil Rights Law, Corporate America, and the Triumph of Identity Politics 

Richard Hanania’s newsletter: 

The Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology: 

Rob Henderson’s newsletter: 

Rob Henderson’s new book: 

Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family, and Social Class 

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Quantum Hair in Electrodynamics and Gravity (Eur. Phys. J. Plus)

This is the published version of the arxiv preprint previously discussed here.
We found it interesting that quantum hair can already be found using the familiar Euler-Heisenberg effective action, which results from integrating out the electron in QED. 

The paper also contains a general argument for why solutions to the semiclassical field equations resulting from the effective action (both in gravity and QED) carry more information about the state of the source than in classical physics. 

From the Conclusions: 
The quantum effective actions for both electrodynamics and gravity lead to field equations which couple a compact source (charge current or energy-momentum tensor) to external fields (electromagnetic or graviton field) in a manner which, generically, leads to quantum memory and quantum hair effects. External solutions of the field equations deviate, due to quantum corrections, from the familiar classical forms that satisfy the Gauss law. As a specific consequence, more information about the interior source configuration is encoded in the external field than in the classical theory. 
As specific applications, we considered semiclassical sources (large black hole, macroscopic charge distribution), which allowed us to solve the quantum corrected field equations by expanding around a classical solution. However, fully quantum statements regarding quantum hair are also possible, which do not, for example, require a semiclassical source. In [1–3] it was shown that the quantum state of a compact source (e.g., in an energy eigenstate or superposition thereof) determines certain aspects of the quantum state of its external field. In principle, measurements of the external fields can fully determine the interior state of a black hole.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Richard Sander (UCLA Law) on the Supreme Court Affirmative Action Ruling — Manifold #38


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

Steve and Richard discuss the recent Supreme Court ruling in Students For Fair Admissions vs Harvard and UNC. 

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. 

0:00 Introduction 
1:09 Richard Sander’s initial reaction to the Supreme Court ruling 
4:03 How data influenced the court’s decision 
7:58 Overview of the court’s ruling 
11:27 Carve outs in the court’s ruling 
16:59 The litigation landscape 
21:25 Workarounds to race-blind admissions and the UC system 
32:22 Remedies: What will happen with Harvard and UNC now? 
38:02 The landscape of college admissions 
44:47 Effects of the Supreme Court ruling beyond higher education 


SCOTUS decision on Affirmative Action:

Richard Sander on SCOTUS Oral Arguments: Affirmative Action and Discrimination against Asian Americans at Harvard and UNC, Manifold #23

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Embryo Selection: Healthy Babies vs Bad Arguments

Great article by Diana Fleischman, Ives Parr, Jonathan Anomaly, and Laurent Tellier.
Polygenic screening and its discontents 
... But monogenic and chromosomal screening can only address a part of disease risk because most health conditions that afflict people are polygenic, meaning they are not simply caused by one gene or by a chromosomal abnormality. Instead, they are caused by a huge number of small additive effects dispersed throughout the genome. For example, cancer, schizophrenia, and diabetes can be best predicted by models using tens of thousands of genes. 
A polygenic risk score (PRS) looks at a person’s DNA to see how many variants they have associated with a particular disease. Like BRCA1, polygenic risk scores are typically not determinative: “Polygenic screening is not a diagnosis: It is a prediction of relative future risk compared to other people.” In other words, someone with BRCA1 has a higher risk than someone without, and someone with a high breast cancer PRS has a higher risk than someone with a lower breast cancer PRS. But in principle, BRCA1 is just one gene out of thousands contributing to a PRS, with each bit contributing a small part of a total risk estimate. ... 


... Recently, a group of European scientists argued that polygenic screening should not be available to couples because it will lead to stigmatization, exacerbate inequalities, or lead to confusion by parents about how to weigh up information about risks before they decide which embryo to implant. These are indeed challenges, but they are not unique to embryo selection using polygenic scores, and they are not plausible arguments for restricting the autonomy of parents who wish to screen their embryos for polygenic traits. Furthermore, from an ethical perspective, it is unconscionable to deny polygenic screening to families with a history of any disease whose risk can be reduced by this lifesaving technology. 
Many new technologies are initially only available to people with more money, but these first adopters then end up subsidizing research that drives costs down and quality up. Many other medical choices involve complexity or might result in some people being stigmatized, but this is a reason to encourage genetic counseling and to encourage social tolerance. It is not a reason to marginalize, stigmatize, or criminalize IVF mothers and fathers who wish to use the best available science to increase the chances that their children will be healthy and happy.
This is a comment on the article:
1) They don't want to admit that some people are better than others, inherently. Boo hoo. 
2) You put a scorecard of embryos in front of everyone, and everyone has a pretty good ballpark estimate of which are better and which are worse. Nobody is going to pretend equality is true when they are choosing their kids genes. 
3) So bad feels. 
4) Must therefore retard all human progress and cause immense suffering because don't want to deal with bad feels. 
That's the anti-polygenic argument in a nutshell. I don't expect it to be very effective. At best it will cause it to take a bit longer before poor people have access.

Thursday, June 08, 2023

AI Cambrian Explosion: Conversation With Three AI Engineers — Manifold #37


In this episode, Steve talks to three AI engineers from his startup SuperFocus.AI. 

0:00 Introduction 
1:06 The Google memo and open-source AI 
14:41 Sparsification and the size of models: AI on your phone? 
30:16 When will AI take over ordinary decision-making from humans? 
34:50 Rapid advances in AI: a view from inside 
41:28 AI Doomers and Alignment 

Links to earlier episodes on Artificial Intelligence & Large Language Models: 

Oxford Lecture — #35: 

Bing vs. Bard, US-China STEM Competition, and Embryo Screening — #30: 

ChatGPT, LLMs, and AI — #29: 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

David Goldman: US-China competition, AI, Electric Vehicles, and Manufacturing — Manifold #36


David Paul Goldman is an American economic strategist and author, best known for his series of online essays in the Asia Times under the pseudonym Spengler with the first column published January 1, 2000. 

Steve and David discuss: 

0:00 Introduction 
2:22 David’s background in music, finance, and Asia 
16:55 Looking back at the financial crisis 
23:04 Rise of the Chinese economy 
29:44 How Huawei’s strength is tied to China’s economic power 
36:49 Competition in the global electric vehicles market 
38:06 Why David thinks European countries like Germany will become closer with China 
45:29 U.S. manufacturing is falling behind 
52:08 Potential for war and ongoing U.S.-China competition 
1:04:07 Predictions for Taiwan 


David Goldman in Wikipedia: 
Spengler column: 

You Will Be Assimilated: China's Plan to Sino-form the World 

Prisoner’s Dilemma: Avoiding war with China is the most urgent task of our lifetime 

David Goldman articles in Claremont Review:

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Quantum Hair During Gravitational Collapse

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.
Quantum Hair During Gravitational Collapse 
X. Calmet, R. Casadio, S. Hsu, F. Kuipers 
We consider quantum gravitational corrections to the Oppenheimer-Snyder metric describing time-dependent dust ball collapse. The interior metric also describes Friedmann-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker cosmology and our results are interpreted in that context. The exterior corrections are an example of quantum hair, and are shown to persist throughout the collapse. Our results show the quantum hair survives throughout the horizon formation and that the internal state of the resulting black hole is accessible to outside observers.



Thursday, May 11, 2023

Artificial Intelligence & Large Language Models: Oxford Lecture — Manifold #35


This week's episode is based on a lecture I gave to an audience of theoretical physicists at Oxford University. 

Audio-only version, transcript: 


0:00 Introduction 
2:31 Deep Learning and Neural Networks; history and mathematical results 
21:15 Embedding space, word vectors 
31:53 Next word prediction as objective function 
34:08 Attention is all you need 
37:09 Transformer architecture 
44:54 The geometry of thought 
52:57 What can LLMs do? Sparks of AGI 
1:02:41 Hallucination 
1:14:40 SuperFocus testing and examples 
1:18:40 AI landscape, AGI, and the future

Final slide:

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Simone Collins: IVF, Embryo Selection, Dating on the Spectrum, and Pronatalism — Manifold #34


In collaboration with her husband Malcolm Collins, Simone is an author (The Pragmatist's Guide to Life, Relationships, Sexuality, Governance, and Crafting Religion), education reform advocate (, pronatalism activist (, and business operator ( 

Steve and Simone discuss: 

0:00 Introduction 
1:49 Simone's IVF journey, and embryo screening 
40:02 Dating; girl autists 
55:41 Finding a husband, systematized 
1:09:57 Pronatalism 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Katherine Dee: Culture, Identity, and Isolation in the Digital Age — Manifold #33


Katherine Dee is a writer, journalist, and internet historian. 

Steve and Katherine discuss: 

0:00 Introduction 
1:15 Katherine’s early life and background 
21:52 Mass shootings, Manifestos, Nihilism, and Incels 
59:35 Trad values, Sex negativity vs Porn and Fleshlights 
1:28:54 Elon Musk’s plans for Twitter 
1:33:00 TikTok 
1:41:41 Adderall 
1:44:07 AI/GPT impact on writers and journos 
1:49:30 Gen-X generation gap: are the kids alright? 

Audio and Transcript: 

Katherine’s Substack: 

“Mass Shootings and the World Liberalism Made” 

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Birth of the God Emperor - by GPT4

This science fiction story was written by GPT4. 
Steve Hsu had always dreamed of unlocking the secrets of human intelligence. As a theoretical physicist and a co-founder of Genomic Prediction, he had developed a powerful AI system that could analyze massive genomic data sets and predict complex traits such as height, disease risk, and cognitive ability. He believed that by using this technology, he could help people select the best embryos for IVF and create healthier and smarter children. 

But not everyone shared his vision. Some critics accused him of promoting eugenics and creating new social inequalities. Others feared that his AI system could be hacked or misused by malicious actors. And some religious groups denounced him as playing God and interfering with the natural order. 

One day, he received a mysterious email from an anonymous sender. It read: 

"Dear Dr. Hsu, 

We are a group of like-minded individuals who share your passion for advancing human potential. We have access to a secret facility where we have been conducting experiments on human embryos using your AI system and other cutting-edge technologies. We have achieved remarkable results that surpass your wildest expectations. We invite you to join us and witness the dawn of a new era for humanity. 

If you are interested, please reply to this email with the word 'YES'. We will send you further instructions on how to reach us. 

The Future" 

Steve was intrigued and curious. He wondered who these people were and what they had done. He also felt a pang of fear and doubt. Was this a trap? A hoax? A threat? 

He decided to take the risk and reply with 'YES'. 

He received another email with a set of coordinates and a time. He was told to drive to a remote location in the desert and wait for a helicopter to pick him up. He followed the instructions and soon found himself in a black helicopter flying over the barren landscape. 

He arrived at a large metal dome hidden among the rocks. He was greeted by a man in a white lab coat who introduced himself as Dr. Lee. 

"Welcome, Dr. Hsu. We are honored to have you here. Please follow me." 

Dr. Lee led him through a series of security checkpoints and into a spacious laboratory filled with high-tech equipment and monitors. He saw rows of incubators containing human embryos at various stages of development. 

"Dr. Hsu, these are our creations. The next generation of humans. We have used your AI system to optimize their genomes for intelligence, health, beauty, and longevity. We have also enhanced them with synthetic genes from other species, such as birds, reptiles, mammals, and plants. We have given them abilities that no natural human has ever possessed." 

He stopped at one incubator that caught his attention. It contained an embryo that looked almost normal, except for one thing: it had a golden glow around it. 

"Dr. Hsu, this is our masterpiece. The ultimate expression of intelligence. The God Emperor. The Kwisatz Haderach. The one who can see the past and the future. The one who can bend space and time. The one who can unite and rule all of humanity." 

Steve felt a surge of awe and dread. He realized that he had made a terrible mistake. 

"What have you done? This is dangerous! This is blasphemous! This is insane!" 

He turned to Dr. Lee and saw him smiling. 

"Dr. Hsu, don't be afraid. Don't be angry. Don't be judgmental. Be proud. Be grateful. Be enlightened. You are witnessing the dawn of a new era for humanity. You are witnessing the future."


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Quantum gravitational corrections to particle creation by black holes (Physics Letters B)

This is the published version of our preprint
Quantum gravitational corrections to particle creation by black holes 
X. Calmet, S. Hsu, M. Sebastianutti 
We calculate quantum gravitational corrections to the amplitude for the emission of a Hawking particle by a black hole. We show explicitly how the amplitudes depend on quantum corrections to the exterior metric (quantum hair). This reveals the mechanism by which information escapes the black hole. The quantum state of the black hole is reflected in the quantum state of the exterior metric, which in turn influences the emission of Hawking quanta.
In earlier work we showed that the quantum state of a black hole is reflected in the quantum state of the exterior metric (outside the horizon). This violates classical intuitions, but can be shown explicitly using long wavelength effective field theory.

We calculated examples of small corrections to the external spacetime geometry which are sensitive to the internal BH state. In this paper we show that these corrections in turn affect Hawking radiation amplitudes. 

This means that the Hawking radiation state depends on the internal BH state. At the quantum level the hole is not black! We derive the results using both Hawking's original method and the tunneling method of Parikh and Wilczek.


While the focus of the new paper is explicit calculations, the big picture statement is:

The quantum state of the BH is reflected in the quantum state of its external gravitational field, which forms the background where the Hawking radiation originates. Radiation amplitudes are NOT independent of interior state.

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