Monday, September 24, 2012

Peter Turchin's 2020 Prediction

Peter Turchin (the would-be real-life Hari Seldon) has predicted, based on his theories of 50-year historical cyces, that 2020 will be an unstable and turbulent year for the U.S. (Review of his work War and Peace and War here.)

It will be very interesting to see if any anarchists or fundamentalists or other agitators 8 years from now cite Turchin as the reason they chose to make their move now. After all, one of Hari Sedon's rules for making psychohistorical predictions was that the population under observation could not know the predictions, lest they alter their behavior!

If you think this is unlikely, you may want to consider that there have already been people (you may recognize this guy and this guy too, and maybe even this one) influenced by Hari Seldon's theories, when they were still fiction.

Japan 8 Times More Likely to Have Nukes in 2014 Than 2013

At least, that's what the people at Intrade think at the moment. Acquisition by New Years Eve '12-13, 1.5%, and by NYE '13-'14 11.9%.

Intrade has no market for nuclear terrorism events in the U.S., no doubt in part because a prediction market doesn't function when the outcomes in question make the contract unenforceable. That said, most terrorism experts put it at beow 1% over the next decade, athough there is a broad range, and one places it as high as 29%. (Bunn, Matthew. 2006. A Mathematical Model of the Risk of Nuclear Terrorism. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science September: 103-20, and a good summary of multiple opinions here.)

Of the existential risks of liberal democracy, weapons of mass destruction present a less likely but more consequential risk than states' failure to budget sustainably. Whether this reality percolates down from the political heavens to voters that insist on making it a central issue in their political process seems to be, unfortunately, an entirely separate question.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Drone Technology: Institutions vs. Individuals

In this wired piece by Chris Anderson on the drone boom, he mentions that hobbyists are currently ahead of militaries. This is good, but not a permanent state of affairs. The clearest threat from drones is not the singularity (yet) but rather a world of ubiquitous surveillance if the drones are only in the hands of states.  Consequently we shouldn't be surprised when the legislatures of the world start making this technology illegal, except of course for state-controlled institutions. Frank Fukuyama, himself a drone enthusiast, has already expressed this concern.  Drone hobbyists would be well-advised to set online news alerts for "legislation" "drone", and organize pre-emptively in anticipation of the inevitable paranoia that politicians will promulgate through the media.

Maybe this is why Anderson's company 3D robotics has its headquarters in San Diego and a new manufacturing center in Tijuana, just across the international border.

Richard Posner Calls for Marijuana Legalization

Not a surprise that more and more respected legal and political minds are making this argument.  Here's the story.