MIT Technology Review has an article on Joshua Epstein and artificial life models. (registration required)

“Artificial society modeling allows us to ‘grow’ social structures in silico demonstrating that certain sets of microspecifications are sufficient to generate the macrophenomena of interest.”

In other words, after 250 years we’re back to the Invisible Hand. A small number of factors motivate and inform individual decisions about gathering scarce resources and how to use them. All “complex” social behavior is a result of a large number of simple interactions.


We’re back to zapping people with electricity to make them happy or else.

At his signal, two volts of electricity, enough to power a wristwatch, course through the wires and radiate outward from the tip a few millimeters in every direction. Millions of neurons bask in the electricity, and the effect is fairly immediate. Hire feels warm at first, a bit flushed.

James Flynn documented the average rise in IQ scores were over the 20th century. IQ tests are “renormed” to keep the mean score at 100. IQ test makers consistently renormed it every generation. Flynn reviewed the history of IQ tests, and noticed a trend. Every decade, the mean IQ drifted upwards. The test-makers saw the mean-IQ rise to ~105, so the made the test more difficult to renorm it to 100. The next decade, the IQs rose to ~105 on the more difficult tests, so they renormed it…

The effect was strongest on the Raven Progressive Matrices which tests abstract thinking. The Flynn effect is weakest in culturally biased tests. Literally, you are probably smarter than your grandparents and by a fair measure.

GeneExpression estimates total IQ gains and related evidence to support the Flynn effect. Human height has grown, brain mass and cranial capacity grew, and puberty occurs at earlier ages. This suggests that better nutrition is leading to greater mental and physical development.

Agricultural societies must have been more impoverished than we thought. Poor nutrition meant most people were short and dumb as mules, and humanity is only reaching it biological potential after the Industrial Revolution.

Lumo Motls has a good essay about the myths laymen have of science.

This failure of laymen to get a realistic picture of science is not just a fault of the media and science communication: it is largely a fault of the laymen themselves who often prefer colorful conspiracy theories about the interactions of people over the actual technical content of science. The truth found by science is OK but it is arguably too boring for too many people. Myths are sometimes better even if they are entirely untrue.

Early men lacked anchilles heels, like other apes. Developing this tendon allows modern men to run twice as fast with less energy expenditure.

And humans are still inefficient runners.

Primates expect others to behave rationally.

Primates infer the intention of other primates similar to how humans do. “They expect other individuals to perform the most rational action that they can, given the environmental obstacles that they face.”

Dunbar’s Number is an estimate of the sizes of human and primate social networks. Dunbar discovered that the size of the neocortex is strongly correleated to group sizes.

The average maximum network size for humans is 147.8. Some individual humans may have a larger or smaller maximum social network size. The mean clique size is just under 12. There are cognitive limitations on group sizing, so very large networks have shallow relationships compared to the intimate network.

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