Friday, January 29, 2010

Rand vs. Evolutionary Psychology - Norms promoting tolerance and honesty

Bryan Caplan at EconLog wrote something worth reading.

Devils Punchbowl Waterfall at Arthurs Pass in ...Image via Wikipedia
Rand vs. Evolutionary Psychology: Part 2, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty: "If Rand really wanted to build an individualist sub-culture, she would have done so in an evolutionarily informed way. If people naturally care about the opinions of others, jumping on people is a good way to get dishonest conformity, but a bad way to get an honest exchange of ideas. Instead, an individualist sub-culture must be built upon tolerance and honesty. I'd suggest three key norms:

1. Don't think less of people who sincerely disagree.

2. Do think less of people who insincerely agree.

3. Do think less of people who think less of people who sincerely disagree.

I don't claim that these norms are easy. It's tough for humans to follow them perfectly. But they're do-able - and given human nature, they're self-reinforcing. In fact, these guidelines are pillars of the legendary GMU lunch. Our tradition is now in its thirteenth year, and I'm proud to say that unlike the Objectivists, we've never purged a member."

Image via Wikipedia
People moan about overcoming bias - but the unstated is that they bemoan the bias in other people. Disciplines that actually allow one to shed personal bias are very uninteresting to most people. The disciplines that actually allow an individual to shed his own biases are practically the only interesting things in the world.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Neuronarrative: Power Makes the Hypocrite Bolder and Smugger

hypocrisy, not hiporcrisy; hypocrite, not hipo...
The uncomfortable nexus of power and hypocrisy.  Uncomfortable for me.  Contemplating the shakiness of my position could help.

Neuronarrative: Power Makes the Hypocrite Bolder and Smugger: "

Five experiments followed in which researchers examined the impact of power on the moral hypocrisy of the participants. They found a consistent and alarming outcome: those assigned to the ‘high-power’ group repeatedly condemned moral failures of others while committing unethical acts themselves. In one experiment, high-power participants were asked for their positions on cheating and over-reporting travel expenses, both of which they flatly condemned. They and the low-power group were then asked to play a dice game alone, in a private cubicle, to win lottery tickets. The powerful reported significantly higher lottery winnings than the low-power group, even though both groups had the same odds of winning.

Researchers also examined the degree to which the powerful accept their transgressions versus those committed by others. Across the board, they found that people in the high-power group strongly condemned such things as cheating, under-reporting taxes and keeping stolen property, while finding ways to rationalize committing the same actions themselves.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this study addressed whether the nature of power affected the level of hypocrisy. When participants in high-power roles were separated into those with legitimate power versus those with ‘shaky’ power (in other words, a level of power the individual did not believe he or she merited), researchers found that the legitimate power group consistently displayed more hypocrisy. People in the shaky power group, in contrast, were actually harder on themselves, in a way similar to those in the low-power group. Researchers labeled this outcome “hypercrisy.”


...the study produced interesting results that provide yet more reasons to be skeptical of those in power with a taste for moralizing.



Very nice write-up in the Jan 21st 2010 Economist of this very study by Joris Lammers at Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, and Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University, in Illinois.

The Arch at Northwestern's Evanston campusImage via Wikipedia
( original study described at )

But the Economist article ends strangely:
[...] Hypercrisy might thus be a signal of submissiveness—one that is exaggerated in creatures that feel themselves to be in the wrong place in the hierarchy. By applying reverse privileges to themselves, they hope to escape punishment from the real dominants. Perhaps the lesson, then, is that corruption and hypocrisy are the price that societies pay for being led by alpha males (and, in some cases, alpha females). The alternative, though cleaner, is leadership by wimps.
The wording "leadership by wimps" was meant to be read with a "wink", but is indicative of flawed reasoning if one is concerned with a quality of how a competitive organization is managed.

(Firstly, the concept of "alpha males/alpha females" in biology rarely translates into human hierarchies.  "Alpha males" must *always* be vigilant to challenges from any aggressor at any time, with tragic consequences if the alpha male loses - his own offspring may be killed by the new alpha.  In human hierarchies, there are far too many safeguards to the incumbents to make the stakes high enough for those incumbents to earn the title "alpha".  It is pure puffery, in common usage.)

For this discussion, consider "hypocrisy" as "high ranking individuals held to a less rigorous moral standard, low ranking individuals held to a more rigorous moral standard".  Consider "hypercrisy" as the opposite - "high ranking individuals held to a more rigorous moral standard, low ranking individuals held to a less rigorous moral standard".  How will this play out between different competitive organization characterized by differing levels of "hypocrisy" and "hypercrisy"?

Bandage of Faith, 2009, 50x40, oil on canvas b...Image via Wikipedia
The stress of "hypocrisy" throughout an organization can lead individuals to defensively take on the attitude of cynicism.  Below the highest rankings, the organization is characterized by cynical workers.  These cynical workers will then offer only a fraction of their value to the organization.  And the organization will strain to compete.
On the other hand, "hypocrisy" can be a unspoken bonus to high performing individuals at the upper ranking of an organization.  This bonus can attract and retain the high performers, to the benefit of the organization as a whole.

Benefits to the high performers that stress the organization as a whole should attract a critical eye.  Better to choose a different compensation, to avoid an organization permeated by cracks of social-psychic stress.

"Hypercrisy" along with commensurate compensation of high performers would seem to be optimal.  How to do this?

Do this by fostering through the organization a spirit of:
  • High position carries the discipline of high moral rigor and consequence for transgressions
  • High position carries the discipline of awe and humility before the scope of the collective responsibility
  • High position carries the discipline of awareness of the possibility of a reversal of fortune, and the philosophic outlook that is consistent with high effectiveness in the face of grave risk
So...  Why the comment about "hypocrisy tolerated so rule by wimps avoided"?  Probably because The Economist caters to a Conservative audience, and Conservatives have a bug-a-boo about the charge of hypocrisy.

Himachal Pradesh 1999Image by Akira ASKR via Flickr
And it is a shame, about Modern So-Called Conservatism and Modern So-Called Progressivism.  The Self-Called Conservatives want elites to be shielded from the consequences of their own moral transgressions, and the Self-Called Progressives want the lower classes to be shielded from the consequences of their own moral transgressions.  It is a race to the bottom, and functioning society suffers.
A Neo-Confucianist in the mold of Wang Yangming would lead people from the power of his own elevated moral stature and discipline.  Shame for the degeneracy of our own time and place.

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The Unibomber could teach me about being more neighborly

What subprime crisis?  Affordable houses are e...Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr
I have always had the introverted & Aspergers thing going on, so I have always found neighborly-type relationships anxiety laden to the point of being painful. The neighbors I have found myself saddled with have not done anything to help. A motley crew.

I have found there is not fence high enough to make a bad neighbor into a good neighbor, so giving them a fake smile and giving with a wide berth and meeting them more than half-way is the best solution. Give them an inch, watch them take a mile, and just trust the universe to dole out the bad karma to them in the next life, and suck it up. I always assume I will end up paying for 150% of any neighborly transaction, so when it turns out I am *only* paying 145% I am pleasantly surprised, and I use all my spiritual energy for that fake smile I was talking about, and never give any thought to revenge.

Lawyer Eri KisakiImage via Wikipedia
The worst neighbors always have the most free time, and the best neighbors are always working too hard to give any time or energy to a bad scene. So, if you are gainfully employed, you will never win any battle with a bad neighbor. Just be polite, and save your pennies for lawyer's fees, if they *really* *really* overstep.
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Monday, January 25, 2010

High Achiever's Gasoline is Sugar in the Gas Tank of a Slacker

Slackers (lazy geniuses) choke when given the cues of high achievement, and should concentrate on enjoyment instead.

David DiSalvo - Neuronarrative - What Zaps a High Achiever’s Performance Lights a Low Achiever’s Fire

Window shopping at Eaton's department store.Image via Wikipedia
The study authors believe that when high achievers are primed to achieve excellence, the idea that a task is “fun” undercuts their desire to excel.  If something is enjoyable and fun, how could it possibly be a credible gauge of achievement?

Conversely, low achievers who are similarly primed with achievement words perceive a “fun” task as worthwhile. Not only is their motivation to perform improved, so is their ability.
The next paragraph is terrifying to me:

Playground in Firehouse Mini Park and, in back...Image via Wikipedia
This [...] says much about why one-size-fits-all educational strategies so often fail.  For students motivated to achieve excellence, making tasks entertaining may actually be undermining their performance. Likewise, for those not normally motivated to achieve, describing a task as urgent and serious yields the predictable result.
I am probably paying a terrible price for my attitude of looking at work as a long hard slog.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not Evil, Just Wrong (Mostly) - Moral analysis of Global Warming Denial

Michael Tobis does it again, a substantial moral analysis of global warming denial:

SUN VALLEY, CA - DECEMBER 11:  The Department ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Not Evil, Just Wrong (Mostly) - Michael Tobis - Only In It For The Gold: "I have no trace of a doubt that sustainability issues are ethical issues. Talking about ethical issues without mention of evil is a bit like playing hockey without looking at the puck.


Let me be clear. As the movie title (incorrectly I think) claims about President-elect Gore, it is possible to be 'not evil, just wrong' about issues of substance. I believe most of the people who are participating in the attacks on climate science are doing so more or less in good faith, having been led down a path of bizarrely twisted interpretations of who we climate scientists are, what we do, and how we got to where we are. The question is who has been doing the leading.

The confusion about climate science pretty much requires a complete ignorance of the tradition of Jule Charney, [...] and the profound and elegant depth of its achievements. People to whom the Charney tradition is invisible perceive a vastly less sophisticated science than actually exists. It's odd; you'd think the visible improvement in weather forecasting would carry some weight [...]

The Charney tradition (along with the related Stommel tradition in oceanography) is the intellectual core of climatology, but it's pretty much invisible to the outside world. It just doesn't reduce to a nutshell easily. (And at least when I learned the stuff, the pedagogy was lousy to make matters even worse.) So it's easy for people to have essentially no idea that a real and rich science exists. They will put climatology on a par with, say, ecosystem dynamics or economics in 'maturity'.


But this underestimation is not enough to account for our present dysfunction on this matter. The underestimation of the sophistication of planetary physics does not suffice to argue for 'no need to control CO2 emissions'.

Helsingin Energia 1Image by Geonostalgy for the future via Flickr
Consider what the evidence actually shows based on simple physics that predates Charney and Stommel. As is well-known, that evidence (based in radiative transfer and broadly confirmed in plaeoclimate observations) shows that greenhouse gases play a significant role in the energy flows through the system, so that once human perturbations on CO2 concentrations become comparable to and ultimately exceed natural CO2 concentrations, the balance would necessarily change. We also know from geological evidence that very large shifts in climate are possible in consequence of relatively small forcings. Consequently, large CO2 increases are risky. The less we stipulate that we know about the system, the less we can constrain those risks. The plausible worst case (say the 5% credibility scenario) gets more expensive the less we know. Thus the less we know, the more vigorously we ought to refrain from emissions.

[... We] are in trouble as a consequence of the success of this program of misdirection and fearmongering. The techniques being used to undermine the communication channels between legitimate science and competent governance will be with us forever. We will forever be challenged by the malicious techniques that have been developed in this trumped-up debate. We had better develop an immune system to this sort of bullshit or sooner or later some sort of spectacular disaster will result.


Michael puts a fine point on it in the comments below:


At issue here is a bunch of more or less innocent scientists, maybe splitting a hair wrong once in a while this way or that. It's about a scientific subculture supported in substance by every major scientific body on earth, and subjected to what amounts to the extreme libel and defamation.  [...]
If you compare this to a few dozen grumpy bearded green guys who'd love to be just as mean and nasty if they could, you are just resorting to the journalist's favorite hiding place, the middle.
Smokestack of Greater Detroit Resource Recover...Image via Wikipedia

I don't even know if the bearded guys exist, frankly. But even if they do, what importance do they have in the face of this grotesque and successful organized lying, by major media outlets, senators, governors, CEOs and even preachers?

I know balance is your stock in trade as a J-school type, but some situations just don't balance. It's not a law of nature that bad guys are equally distributed on both sides. You actually have an ethical responsibility to pick this time, and to do it right.

Please. Get real. This matters.
The only thing in the favor of those who care about the truth is that the situation is not simply going to go away.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

There's no light the foolish can see better by

Another reminder that you cannot show to those who are determined not to see.

HINES, IL - NOVEMBER 05:  Milton McFarland of ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
There's no light the foolish can see better by

Scienceblogs - Stoat

This is one of my favourite proverbs. I quite often find myself turning it over in my own mind as some particularly dense person fails yet again to see the bleedin' obvious.
And yet I discover that it doesn't appear to be a 'standard' proverb, at least as revealed by 5 mins of not-very-exhaustive google searching. If you know better, tell me.
The meaning, of course, is that once a certain minimal level of literal or metaphorical illumination has been shed on a subject, increasing the level of illumination or quantity of explanation will not allow the foolish to understand any more. Very useful for the GW debate.

I know it from John Crowley's masterpiece, The Deep. Perhaps Crowley invented it.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

I am eating Goatmeal - I would rather be eating Chorizo

Actually, I enjoy a fine bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal - a little bit honey & brown sugar, raisins & banana & cream - a very fine thing. My Baby-Love makes me Sunday breakfast oatmeal with banana - and I cannot complain. Very fine for regular bowel movements (also - see Black Coffee later).

ChorizoImage via Wikipedia
Chorizo & Eggs & Hash Brown Potatoes
Now, lets get into the realm of food I am not allowed to eat! Chorizo & Eggs & Hash Brown Potatoes - & jalapenos & onions & olives & mushrooms & peppers. BooYeah! Chorizo - pure indigestion greasy meaty spicy goodness! Be careful to overcook! Oh Baby, all that fine caramelization and browning going on!
Black coffee w/ Mucho Refills
What do I like about Black Coffee w/ Mucho Refills? (1) It's Black (2) It's Coffee (3) It's Refills Muy Mucho. Coffee is outstanding for Epic B.M.s just before noon.

Las Vegas Buffet Bacon Tray Bacon
Order bacon at Denny's - two lousy pieces! What the hell am I supposed to do with two lousy pieces of bacon? Las Vegas Buffet Bacon Tray Bacon - now THAT is bacon! Also like the flatness of the bacon pieces and the perfection of the cooking - not undercooked (gross jelly like shivering streaks of glistening fat) and not overcooked (overcooked bacon = severe depression)

Half Gallon Jug of Orange Juice
What the hell am I supposed to do with a glass of OJ the size of my thumb?

Several stacks of silver dollar pancakesImage via Wikipedia
Pancakes + Sausage
Best thing about Pancakes - Pancakes is *plural*. And it is *cake*. I use very little butter on my toast, but on pancakes... that butter + warm syrup hits the spot. Breakfast sausage is not my favorite, but with pancakes + butter + warm syrup, Boy-Howdy!
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Friday, January 8, 2010

I cut my own hair - because I am a crazy folk

Hate having people touch me, hate waiting, hate sitting still in that chair, hate stupid chit-chat, hate the horror of a bad haircut, hate them taking my glasses away and forgetting to give them back when they ask me to survey the progress in the mirror, hate getting all shaggy while procrastinating going to barber, hate finding out my barber is a Ditto-Head, hate having somebody assume I saw the game last night, hate tipping for just a middling haircut, hate reading dog-eared old magazines. So I hate the barber - big time.

What should you expect if you get me to shave your head in my bathroom?
Subject: Buzzcut Photographer: Photographer's ...Image via Wikipedia

You should expect a buzz cut if I cut your hair, because that is the only cut I can do. Put on the 3/8" guard, and I go to town. Zip zap zip that razor across my head, until I run out of hairs to cut.

You should expect the same electric razor used to cut ALL MANNER of body hair - I am not shaving down for a swim-meet, and I have no desire to get hairless over my body and baby-smooth, but realized long ago if I chop away at the thickets of curly hairs, I can save on my undergarment laundering bills. So have no illusions of an electric razor in proper hairdresser sanitary condition.

You should expect the back of your neck shaved better than the back of my own neck.

The Buzz MonsterImage by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr
You should expect to be showered clean of tiny hairs afterward.
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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Effective interventions that lead to moral action - here, stopping genocide

Key phrases: "Rwandan radio program designed to challenge norms of deference, legitimize expressions of dissent, and encourage local problem solving and dispute resolution" led to "Our results indicate that although the program did little or nothing to change many domains of individual belief and attitude, it effected profound changes in behavior. Radio listeners in the treatment group became more likely to express dissent with peers and less likely to defer to local officials when solving local problems. These changes were balanced by an increased sense of collective responsibility and local initiative."

Skulls of victims from the Rwandan Genocide fo...Image via Wikipedia
This is important stuff. So little effort is put into effective interventions that lead to moral action - here, stopping genocide.

The Monkey Cage: What Happened During the Rwandan Genocide? And How Can We Mitigate Its After-Effects?: "

Political scientists Christian Davenport and Allen Stam provide an unconventional — and thus controversial — answer to the first question. They discuss this research in the most recent Miller-McCune Magazine. (The project’s website is here.) A few excerpts from the article:
In the end, our best estimate of who died during the 1994 massacre was, really, an educated guess based on an estimate of the number of Tutsi in the country at the outset of the war and the number who survived the war. Using a simple method —subtracting the survivors from the number of Tutsi residents at the outset of the violence — we arrived at an estimated total of somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 Tutsi victims. If we believe the estimate of close to 1 million total civilian deaths in the war and genocide, we are then left with between 500,000 and 700,000 Hutu deaths, and a best guess that the majority of victims were in fact Hutu, not Tutsi…
One fact is now becoming increasingly well understood: During the genocide and civil war that took place in Rwanda in 1994, multiple processes of violence took place simultaneously. Clearly there was a genocidal campaign, directed to some degree by the Hutu government…At the same time, a civil war raged — a war that began in 1990, if the focus is on only the most recent and intense violence, but had roots that extend all the way back to the 1950s. Clearly, there was also random, wanton violence associated with the breakdown of order during the civil war. There’s also no question that large-scale retribution killings took place throughout the country — retribution killings by Hutu of Tutsi, and vice versa.
Mitigating the after-effects of this conflict is the subject of a new article in the American Political Science Review by Elizabeth Levy Paluck and Don Green. Their jumping-off point is the notion that a “political culture” of deference to authority and conformity helps produce genocide. They seek to determine what can mitigate such a culture by encouraging the expression of dissent and collection problem-solving. They randomly exposed rural Rwandans to a radio program that encouraged these behaviors, and other Rwandans to a program about health. What did they find?

A school chalkboard in Kigali. Note the names ...Image via Wikipedia
Our results indicate that although the program did little or nothing to change many domains of individual belief and attitude, it effected profound changes in behavior. Radio listeners in the treatment group became more likely to express dissent with peers and less likely to defer to local officials when solving local problems. These changes were balanced by an increased sense of collective responsibility and local initiative. Our findings suggest that certain aspects of political culture are susceptible to short-term change in the wake of noninstitutional interventions, such as media programs. Evidently, the mass media can influence the set of culturally available behavioral practices that citizens use—the “toolkit” of political cultural conduct.
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Math - could slack off, and still get good grades

To be honest, what I liked best about math was that I could slack off and still be at or near the top of the class. The harder the math got, the better I did, relative to the rest of the class.
A hoodie with the w:University of California, ...Image via Wikipedia

Ultimately, I got a pretty decent undergrad math education from UCLA, took some graduate level algebra as an undergrad. I never had to rise above a loping slacker's pace.

Lacked and would have appreciated: category theory (zip zero zilch taught), better differential equations (I got a decent grade with no need to understand the subject, which is lame), continuous distributions and how they relate to the Fourier transform (if this was taught to me, I don't remember it).

It is shocking how much I need to learn now was invented/developed after I graduated from college. Before 1993 - No distributed revision control, no distributed operating systems, no decent theory of just-in-time compiling, no decent published real-world examples of Bayesian probability, Judea Pearl's theory of causality wasn't invented yet, no decent cryptographic hashes, no Bloom filters, no decent introductory texts on decision analysis. My wife says that is why she doesn't want our daughter to go into computers - you have to keep learning and forget the crap that just doesn't matter anymore. Whatever. I think it is inescapable that you have to keep learning just to keep somebody from eating your lunch.

Mathematical FlowerImage by hyperboreal via Flickr
Frankly, I am glad I didn't do well enough, overall, to attempt a post-graduate degree in math or computers, back in 1993. A lot of what passes in academia today is pretty weak sauce, in applied math and computer science. God bless the IntarWebs. I can just grab the info I need and go. One problem, the tempo has increased.
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Passive-Aggressive expert, Bulls*** Artist

Mainly, I want to make it through the day with the minimum of being bothered by other people's problems. So I got a metric-butt-load of passive-aggressive techniques to make people go away. If I drank some caffenie, I could think of some, right now. For now, left unsaid.
The always handy big

Another thing I was thinking about yesterday - if you are tall, with glasses, and have a deep low voice, people assume you know what is going on and they assume you are in charge. So often times, I am called upon to answer questions I have no business answering. In those times, I just start talking, and begin sentences that I have no idea how they will end - I should look surprised at what I just pulled out of my ass, but I maintain a calm expression. I just calmly bullshit until the other person is satisfied, and they go away. They had no business expecting good information from me, so I don't feel guilty. Strangely, I get a lot of repeat business - answering questions. I have learned, if you really want to learn what is going on, stay away from the guy who *looks* like he knows what is going on, and, instead, shoot-the-shit with the scruffy sketchy looking guy off to the side. That is the guy who *really* knows what is going on - he knows where all the bodies are buried and who really gets the work done. Truthfully, most people are terrified to learn what is really going on, because the news is probably alarming and depressing. So they really want a bunch of comforting, plausible sounding lies. And that is where I come in - happy to serve!

the bullshit wagonImage by jeffc5000 via Flickr
What really happens is that after I get tired making up bullshit for repeat customers, I lay out the facts in as startling a manner as possible, so people crap their pants at the horror of the true situation. And then those people have to run to find a new bullshit artist. So I am not doing my "job" as well as I could.
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Optimize python functions by marking certain promises about its behavior : Python

promise: bytecode optimisation using staticness assertions.

This is a module for applying some simple optimizations to function bytecode. By promising that a function doesn't do certain things at run-time, it's possible to apply optimizations that are not legal in the general case.

Reddit Comments: Optimize python functions by marking certain promises about its behavior : Python: "
I gave a talk on this at our local users group a few weeks ago, the slides are online if anyone's interested:


The above presentation is really nice - great, simple example of the power of this technique.

I was thinking along these lines. Having code where we specify two "speeds":

(1) flexibility/expressiveness/global-mutability/side-effects-happen-globally-immediately are important (at cost to throughput and low-latency)

i.e. dispatch on pattern matching ASTs on global mutable list of patterns, global mutable generic functions, global mutable generic methods

Allow global mutable objects in general. All mutable state is handled like distributed-revision-control & write-on-change, with all communication going through a key-hole (enforcing low latency by throttling large data transfers) as asynchronous messaging as transactions (and building transactions).

Side effects are GO!  Allow global state to change, allow outside communication, all happening ASAP, might pre-calculate while waiting for reply, but wait to the bitter end for reply none-the-less.

(2) throughput and low-latency (performance) are important (at cost to flexibility/expressiveness/global-mutability) - no side effects (all "side-effect messages" are stored, to be returned as a group when function returns, maybe each "side-effect message" is paired with a continuation)

A simple directed acyclic graphImage via Wikipedia
i.e. dispatch on low level bytecode (think: LLVM), preferred data structures are immutable and have the "shape" of directed acyclic graph (possibly a much more restricted form of directed acyclic graph, where each node has an immutable index, and parent indexes are always less than child indexes), the limited explicitly mutable state is local to OS-thread or green-thread.  No traditional asynchronous side-effects allowed.

And there are speeds in the middle, by being explicit about what you are relaxing and what you are constraining. Typically, you expect to pay a "compiling" cost to get down to the low level bytecode - again, by being explicit, if you are doing a lot of this "compiling", you can improve by being explicit about what you are relaxing and what you are constraining.

Low-latency (ability to best react to asynchronous signals) will always be preferred over throughput. If you want to put throughput over low-latency, you have to explicitly say so, with the knowledge that you have very little influence over that isolated code (isolated so able to make no compromise in throughput)


Hey, cool.  People are trying "Promise" out on code in the wild.  Here is creator Ryan Kelly explaining how to make use of the bytecode improvements:

1. Ryan Kelly left...
2010.01.05 Tue 4:25 pm ::
Matt, thanks for taking the time to put this together. The optimizations applied by promise are certainly not in the same league as something like psyco - they have to be quite well targeted to have any measurable effect.
Some clarifications: promising a function pure() doesn't optimise that function at all, but it can speed up things that call that function by inlining its bytecode at the call site. To get this to work, you have to use constant() to promise that references to the pure function won't change. Example:

..def calculate(a,b):
......return a + 2*b
..def aggregate(pairs):

In this scenario, the bytecode for "calculate" will be inlined directly into the "aggregate" function and will save the overhead of many function calls.
By far the biggest speedup that can currently be obtained using promise is inlining pure functions that get called in a loop.
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We are what our ancestors did or didn't eat.

Silhouettes and waist circumferences represent...Image via Wikipedia
I want to eat both the Paleolithic Diet AND the Modern Diet. Having both available on one giant plate is very appetizing to me.

DERIC BOWNDS' MINDBLOG: We are what our ancestors did or didn't eat.: "Ann Gibbons does a nice summary of our human ancestral diet and how it has changed to give us a modern array of diseases. Some slightly edited clips:

By the time hunter-gatherer modern humans swept into Europe about 40,000 years ago, they were adept at hunting large game and had also expanded their palates to dine regularly on small animals and freshwater fish....By studying the ratios of carbon and nitrogen isotopes from collagen in bones, ...the main sources of dietary protein of 27 early Europeans and Neandertals is known; fish eaters, for example, have more nitrogen-15 in their bones than meat eaters...the oldest known modern human in Europe—the 35,000-year-old jawbone from Pestera cu Oase cave in Romania—got much of his protein from fish. By 30,000 years ago, other modern humans got as much as 20% of their protein from fish.

The next big dietary shift came about 10,000 years ago, when humans began to domesticate plants and, later, animals. The move to agriculture introduced staples of the Western diet: cereal grains, sugars, and milk after weaning...The agricultural revolution favored people lucky enough to have gene variants that helped them digest milk, alcohol, and starch...when ethnic groups abandon traditional lifestyles and rapidly adopt Western diets, they often suffer. Researchers have known for more than a decade that the Pima of the southwestern United States have 'thrifty phenotypes': sluggish metabolisms that store fat efficiently and boost survival on low-calorie diets. That's probably because their ancestors in Mexico underwent frequent famine. When they eat the calorie-rich Western diet, the Pima develop high rates of obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol, although their blood pressure stays relatively low...the Evenki reindeer herders and other indigenous peoples of Siberia have very high metabolisms, an adaptation to the cold that allows them to convert fat into energy efficiently. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, many Siberians abandoned traditional lifestyles and diets. They too became obese and developed heart disease but in a different way from the Pima: The Evenki retained low levels of cholesterol and diabetes but developed high blood pressure.

An example of human growth velocity under opti...Image via Wikipedia
Although we are what our ancestors ate, we are also what they didn't eat. In India, for example, more than 66% of the population in some regions experienced famine during British colonialism a century ago. Women who survived tended to have low-birth-weight babies, whose bodies were small and efficient at storing fat. It's as though these babies took cues during fetal and early development about their mothers' lifelong nutritional experience and adjusted their growth and body and organ size accordingly. Human stature often tracks the nutritional status of mothers, and it can take generations for descendants to recover. In India, average height in males dropped at a rate of almost 2 centimeters per century in the decades following colonialism...When these small babies gain weight in childhood, though, it stresses their smaller organs, such as the pancreas and heart, making them more susceptible to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. This is the case in south India today, where many people have thrifty phenotypes with less muscle and more fat per body size. Yet they are shifting rapidly to a high-fat, high-sugar diet. As a result, India risks becoming the diabetes capital of the world.
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