skybrian's recent activity

  1. Comment on The amazing power of "machine eyes" in ~health

    skybrian
    Link
    From the blog post: [...] [...]

    From the blog post:

    In this post I am going to briefly review what has already been gleaned from 2 classic medical images—the retina and the electrocardiogram (ECG)—as representative for the exciting capability of machine vision to “see” well beyond human limits. Obviously, machines aren’t really seeing or interpreting and don’t have eyes in the human sense, but they sure can be trained from hundreds of thousand (or millions) of images to come up with outputs that are extraordinary.

    [...]

    Of course, AI models have been shown to be quite useful for detecting eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy. But this is about the indirects, the not so obvious. That work has now extended to detection of kidney disease, control of blood glucose and blood pressure, hepatobiliary disease, a previous study on predicting heart attack, close correlation of the retinal vessels with the heart (coronary) artery calcium score, and, prior to the new report above, the ongoing prospective assessment and tracking of Alzheimer’s disease (“AlzEye,” Moorfields Eye Institute, UK, led by Professor Pearse Keane).

    [...]

    Let’s turn to the ECG. As a cardiologist I’ve been reading these for over 35 years and I enjoy that, quickly recognizing patterns like rhythm abnormalities, enlargement of the heart, low voltage, or pericarditis. But I am no match for machine eyes. Here are the first crop of deep learning ECG reports which surprised me. I could never estimate a person’s age or sex, or their hemoglobin, by looking at an ECG, and it would be challenging to come up with an accurate assessment of a person’s ejection fraction, the main metric used for heart pump function.

    But there’s more. Recently deep neural networks of ECGs have been trained to pick up valve disease, diabetes, predict atrial fibrillation that has risk of stroke, and pretty accurately predict the filling pressure (pulmonary capillary wedge) of the left ventricle (the heart’s main pumping chamber).

    For the retina and the ECG, none of these machine vision capabilities have been put into practice with one major exception—the ejection fraction. Mayo Clinic did a randomized trial with primary care physicians, giving half the enhanced machine reading and the other group, with only standard machine reads, serving as controls. The accuracy of detecting patients with low ejection fraction was improved and this health system now provides these deep learning outputs routinely. Raising awareness for difficult diagnoses such as amyloid or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is also getting incorporated in the leading edge Mayo ECG interpretations.

    1 vote
  2. Comment on Recommend chill/background games for my second monitor? in ~games

    skybrian
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    I'm still playing Compact Conflict which is Risk-like game that you can play in a few minutes. At this point, on hardest settings, I win more than half of the time, and when I don't it's usually...

    I'm still playing Compact Conflict which is Risk-like game that you can play in a few minutes.

    At this point, on hardest settings, I win more than half of the time, and when I don't it's usually because I started in a "middle" position that results in multiple opponents attacking at once. But somehow I still find it fun to play occasionally.

    1 vote
  3. Comment on Norway's digital currency experiment – what is it and how does it work? in ~finance

    skybrian
    Link Parent
    Competition tends to sounds good to people who learned about economics, but it matters a lot what kind of competition it is. There is a lot of competition to defraud elderly people, for example....

    Competition tends to sounds good to people who learned about economics, but it matters a lot what kind of competition it is. There is a lot of competition to defraud elderly people, for example. There was competition to sell people swampland in Florida, and to sell time shares. There is also competition between crypto exchanges and between cryptocurrencies, but most of the competitors are pretty shady.

    To get the good kind of competition you need ways of keeping the scammers from taking advantage and ways for customers to recognize a bad deal, or it becomes a market for lemons. In some cases the consumers themselves can judge which products are good, and the consequences of getting it wrong aren’t too bad. I don’t think this is true of bank accounts, though, unless you are careful to only keep a small amount of money in them.

    (It’s also somewhat dubious for software. What would it take for you to trust a new browser from an unknown vendor? What signals do you have that they are as good at security as they need to be?)

    The regulation of banks means that they mostly only compete to take people’s money in tricky but legal ways (unexpected fees for example), though there are sometimes illegal practices that result in class-action lawsuits and giant settlements. This is somewhat better than what we see with cryptocurrencies. Coinbase is the only company that seems somewhat trustworthy to me in a mainstream way, but there are still horror stories about people not being able to get their money out, so I’m somewhat skeptical of them too.

    So sure, competition might be okay in theory, but the proof is seeing solid, trustworthy companies arise that people are happy to do business with. Until that happens it’s only a theoretical advantage.

    Looking at it that way, the rise of Visa and Mastercard are a success story for competition because they pretty much do what people want them to and offer pretty good consumer protection, at least for people who can use them responsibly. (Though plenty of people get in trouble by running up credit card debt.)

    2 votes
  4. Comment on After Ukraine – The great clean energy acceleration in ~enviro

    skybrian
    Link
    From the article: […] (Note: it seems that delaying Diablo Canyon’s retirement isn’t a done deal and in any case it’s not relevant for Europe.) Conservation:

    From the article:

    according to Brussels-based think tank Breugel, by the middle of September European governments had committed EUR 500 billion ($480 billion) to keeping the lights on. And this may be just a start: Norway’s energy major Equinor has warned that European energy market participants might need $1.5 trillion in liquidity guarantees to continue to operate. Clearly, this can only go on for so long before the bond markets exact punishment. A re-run of the European financial crisis of 2011 cannot be ruled out.

    Other than spending public money, many of our leaders spent the early months of the crisis arguing for whatever energy technology they had always favored – be that renewables, heat pumps and electric vehicles, hydrogen, fracking or nuclear power. Of course, none of these can be deployed fast enough to make much of a difference over the next two critical winters.

    […]

    There is a limited number of things that could actually help over the coming two winters compensate for the loss of Russian gas: energy efficiency; sourcing more gas from non-Russian sources; keeping existing nuclear plants online and bringing back those that are offline; burning more coal; and, as a last resort, demand reduction – rolling power cuts, gas rationing and the like. That’s it. The rest, when it comes to helping Ukraine, is noise.

    No fewer than 25 Floating Storage and Regasification Units – which enable LNG to be injected into the European system – are in various stages of planning in Europe, with the first ones due to arrive this winter. Germany alone has decided on locations for no fewer than five, though supply negotiations are tricky, with LNG suppliers angling for long-term contracts and buyers angling to avoid them as they interfere with their climate plans.

    On nuclear, Belgium has decided to keep its remaining plants running until 2035. California has given Diablo Canyon a reprieve beyond its 2025 planned closure. Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has firmly backed the reopening of more of his country’s plants, shuttered since Fukushima. Germany, however, has decided to allow two of its last three plants to remain operational “to provide an emergency reserve”, but it is hard to see what would constitute an emergency if this winter’s supply squeeze does not qualify. French engineers, meanwhile, are working round the clock to bring back online as many as possible of the 32 plants (out of a total of 56) that are currently offline for routine maintenance or because of corrosion.

    (Note: it seems that delaying Diablo Canyon’s retirement isn’t a done deal and in any case it’s not relevant for Europe.)

    Conservation:

    Germany’s Chancellor may be talking up hydrogen, but his ministries are beavering away, demolishing planning barriers to renewable energy projects and accelerating the electrification of heat and transport. No new natural gas boilers may be installed after 2024. Heat pump installations across 21 of the 27 EU member states have doubled over the last four years and are now growing by 34% per year. Plug-in vehicles account for around 20% of new car registrations in the EU, up from less than 5% three years ago. Europe is not just going cold turkey on Russian energy for a couple of years – it is looking to go clean for good.

    1 vote
  5. Comment on The smartest website you havent heard of in ~comp

    skybrian
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    As a hobbyist, I've looked at McMaster-Carr, but never buy anything because it's pretty expensive and I'm not sure it's what I need anyway. For nuts and bolts and other basic supplies, I tend to...

    As a hobbyist, I've looked at McMaster-Carr, but never buy anything because it's pretty expensive and I'm not sure it's what I need anyway. For nuts and bolts and other basic supplies, I tend to buy kits containing an assortment of them on Amazon, so I'll have a variety on hand.

    2 votes
  6. Comment on Norway's digital currency experiment – what is it and how does it work? in ~finance

    skybrian
    Link Parent
    One problem is that customer service ends up being provided by apps. Unlike with physical currency, people are not really doing things themselves. They aren't going to write their own apps, and...

    One problem is that customer service ends up being provided by apps. Unlike with physical currency, people are not really doing things themselves. They aren't going to write their own apps, and the app vendors aren't likely to provide the kind of support an unsophisticated person needs. Apps from unknown vendors are themselves a security risk; this is as bad as choosing a VPN to trust.

    I also don't buy the idea that there's "no intermediary." There are physical computers that run the blockchain, and you don't do transactions without connecting to them. You also need network access, which is provided by an intermediary.

    So it's not really like physical cash, which works offline.

    3 votes
  7. Comment on Norway's digital currency experiment – what is it and how does it work? in ~finance

    skybrian
    Link Parent
    You might ask why we don’t all have bank accounts with our country’s central bank, and I think the answer is that central banks don’t want to have to do customer service for many millions of...

    You might ask why we don’t all have bank accounts with our country’s central bank, and I think the answer is that central banks don’t want to have to do customer service for many millions of customers, or take the blame when someone has trouble banking. (Though in some countries, post offices provide some financial services.)

    Banks aren’t always the most consumer-friendly organizations, particularly when they decide to say “no” for unclear, security-related reasons. But they do have many bank branches with people who are used to dealing with customers of a wide variety of technical and financial sophistication.

    I guess digital currency avoids the whole issue by not having customer service? It’s convenient for the issuer that none is expected.

    A central bank digital currency could be interesting as a way for foreigners worldwide to be able to hold a currency easily without needing to open a bank account. To do that it would have to actually launch, though, and have lower requirements for opening an account than your typical bank.

    Somehow these central bank digital currencies never launch. They research them for a couple years, but nothing ever happens. I would have guessed that Estonia would do one by now.

    5 votes
  8. Comment on Weekly megathread for news/updates/discussion of Russian invasion of Ukraine - September 29 in ~news

    skybrian
    Link
    Refuting annexation, Ukrainian forces push on from Lyman toward Luhansk (Washington Post) (This is mostly interviews with people in Lyman, from reporters visiting there.) [...]

    Refuting annexation, Ukrainian forces push on from Lyman toward Luhansk (Washington Post)

    (This is mostly interviews with people in Lyman, from reporters visiting there.)

    Just two days after Ukrainian troops claimed victory in Lyman, a city of 22,000 that the Russians had used as a vital transport hub in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, there was almost no military presence left there — a sign of how quickly Ukrainian forces are advancing after months of incremental gains, if any.

    [...]

    Though the Ukrainian military surrounded Lyman over the weekend, most of the Russian forces had withdrawn before then, locals said. A handful of enemy soldiers, however, might still be hiding in the surrounding woods.

    After the Ukrainian military departed Lyman in its convoy of armored personnel carriers, a few Ukrainian soldiers implored reporters from The Washington Post not to enter the city because it could still be dangerous.

    Meanwhile, on the northern approach to Lyman, soldiers from Ukraine’s 81st Air Assault Brigade were on the lookout for fleeing Russians. A burly commander said that his unit had arrested a local separatist in the nearby forest. “The unit operating here was from the area,” the commander said. “They knew the routes through the forest when they needed them.”

    1 vote
  9. Comment on Defective altruism - the repugnant philosophy of “Effective Altruism” offers nothing to movements for global justice in ~humanities

    skybrian
    Link Parent
    Having the same laws for everyone is an important principle of justice and one that I support, but I don't expect it to result in the kind of changes you seem to be hoping for. There's a common...

    Having the same laws for everyone is an important principle of justice and one that I support, but I don't expect it to result in the kind of changes you seem to be hoping for. There's a common quote about how it can easily go wrong:

    In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.

    It seems pretty clear that advantages correlate, and so do disadvantages. Rich people tend to get better education, often have better health, have supporting friends and family members, and so on. Getting ahead doesn't necessarily require any legal advantages, though they often have those too. It's hard to say what's causal when many graphs move in the same direction. Meanwhile, people who are suffering the most often have so many different things going wrong with their lives that it's hard to know where to begin to even stabilize things for them.

    When there are new opportunities, these advantages often snowball. A legal regime that attempts to limit them (with steeply progressive tax rates, for example) can help, but it only does so much. I think it would be very difficult to prevent Big Tech from happening in some form, even if the top companies turned out to be different than the ones we got. (There are big companies and billionaires in China, too.)

    I expect that whatever crises or disasters might happen, some people will be better able to take advantage of them than others. Relatively few of them will come from a poor background, but a few poor people becoming rich doesn't change much. Wars can cause some rich families to be ruined, but inequality will reappear, often with new people on top. And who will suffer the most? People who don't have the connections and resources to cope.

    Climate change results in lots of investment opportunities for venture capitalists. Many of those investments were in companies that went out out of business, but electric cars turned out to be a good investment for Musk, and here we are. If we ever did get even more serious about climate change, I expect there would be more opportunities for companies that are well-positioned to help.

    And similarly, having a good, fair, just, efficient legal system would probably be an advantage for rich people. Highly corrupt countries tend to be poor.

    It's hard to think of any good thing that well-off people couldn't somehow take advantage of. I don't think it's a good reason to hope for wars, revolutions, or other disasters.

    1 vote
  10. Comment on Defective altruism - the repugnant philosophy of “Effective Altruism” offers nothing to movements for global justice in ~humanities

    skybrian
    Link Parent
    In recent years, many authoritarians have tended to be right-wing. But in the 20th century, "socialism is good" didn't work very well as a heuristic. Leaders who talk a good game about socialist...

    In recent years, many authoritarians have tended to be right-wing. But in the 20th century, "socialism is good" didn't work very well as a heuristic. Leaders who talk a good game about socialist (or communist) principles often turn out to be untrustworthy.

    (And despite his many articles, it's unclear if Nathan J. Roberson is himself committed to socialism when it comes to the organization of Current Affairs itself.)

    So I'm quite skeptical of the notion that socialism could guard against anything. What's the argument for that? Believing hard is not enough. There has to be more than that.

    It seems like Scandinavian countries have done pretty well with socialist democracy, while countries in other parts of the world have often done badly. It's unclear why this is. Education, maybe?

    3 votes
  11. Comment on Defective altruism - the repugnant philosophy of “Effective Altruism” offers nothing to movements for global justice in ~humanities

    skybrian
    Link Parent
    Here is another example of "sacrifice versus impact." Consider the difference between a non-profit and for-profit organization. A charity can have all the same problems as a for-profit company....

    Here is another example of "sacrifice versus impact." Consider the difference between a non-profit and for-profit organization.

    A charity can have all the same problems as a for-profit company. They have budgets and leaders who decide how to spend them. The spending decisions can be good or bad. They can treat their workers well or poorly. Often, non-profits rely on low-paid or volunteer labor. Or they might spend lots of money on marketing and pay some people very well despite not doing all that much.

    Is a non-profit hospital better than a for-profit hospital? Hospitals seem to have similar problems due to their mission, regardless of formal structure.

    Yet, charities typically get social credit for the sacrifice of foregoing profit. Meanwhile, any good work by a for-profit company, no matter the impact, will be discounted because they were doing it to make money. (Even if the argument for how they're going to make money off of it is kind of tenuous, like "it's good marketing.")

    One of the reasons I'm a fan of GiveWell is that in a way, it's an attempt to hold charities accountable. They can only evaluate a few charities, though, and they have specific ideas of what "impact" looks like. There's certainly room for other charity evaluators that have different goals.

    (And there are other charity evaluators, but I don't know enough about them.)

    2 votes
  12. Comment on Defective altruism - the repugnant philosophy of “Effective Altruism” offers nothing to movements for global justice in ~humanities

    skybrian
    Link Parent
    That’s only the case if certain philosophies are taken overly seriously. I think very few people would do that, unless it justifies something they’re inclined to do already? More likely, weird...

    That’s only the case if certain philosophies are taken overly seriously. I think very few people would do that, unless it justifies something they’re inclined to do already? More likely, weird philosophical results become fodder for lots of philosophical discussions, not action.

    Better to judge people on what they actually do. What gets funded?

    3 votes
  13. Comment on What the Securing Open Source Software Act does and what it misses in ~tech

    skybrian
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    Seems vague. I guess it will fund some open source security work?

    Seems vague. I guess it will fund some open source security work?

    5 votes
  14. Comment on Why did we wait so long for wind power? Part II in ~enviro

    skybrian
    Link Parent
    I generally agree that some kinds of energy need to be expensive to encourage conservation, but it should be a carbon tax. Electricity comes from a variety of sources and making solar or wind...

    I generally agree that some kinds of energy need to be expensive to encourage conservation, but it should be a carbon tax. Electricity comes from a variety of sources and making solar or wind power more expensive than they need to be would be going in the wrong direction.

  15. Comment on Why did we wait so long for wind power? Part II in ~enviro

    skybrian
    Link Parent
    Need to adjust that for inflation. 20 cents in 1979 is about 80 cents now, so still almost 4x what you're paying.

    Need to adjust that for inflation. 20 cents in 1979 is about 80 cents now, so still almost 4x what you're paying.

    2 votes
  16. Comment on Why did we wait so long for wind power? Part II in ~enviro

    skybrian
    (edited )
    Link
    From the article: [...] [...] [...] [...] [...] [...]

    From the article:

    NASA's aim [in the 70's and 80's] was to quickly develop large, 1MW+ turbines that could be used for large-scale power generation. It held a series of workshops with wind power experts throughout the 1970s, and funded the rebuilding of Juul's Gedser turbine (which had been sitting in storage) for testing. NASA's first test turbine, the 100 kW MOD-0, was built at at Plum Brook Station near Cleveland in 1975. The MOD-0 was based on the designs of Ulrich Hutter and operated as NASA's testbed for 10 years.

    [...]

    These turbines largely failed to live up to expectations. The MOD-1, intended to be the first economically competitive large-scale turbine, produced electricity at the uncompetitive rate of 20 cents per kWh, compared to the average electricity price in 1979 of 5 cents per kWh. It operated for just 130 hours before an expensive shaft failure caused it to be mothballed and eventually sold for scrap. Likewise, the MOD-2 turbines exhibited higher-than-anticipated stresses, and stopped operating in 1986 (and were likewise sold for scrap). The MOD-5B was sold to a power utility and operated intermittently until 1996, when it was also sold for scrap. Several other planned MOD turbines were cancelled. None of the NASA designs were successfully commercialized, and GE, Westinghouse, and Boeing all left the wind turbine market (GE would eventually return after acquiring Enron's wind-power division in 2002 following the company's bankruptcy).

    [...]

    As stated in “The Wind Power Story”

    In hindsight, it is more accurate to say that while NASA wasn’t necessarily moving in the wrong direction, they were trying to get there too quickly. As wind turbine technology history demonstrates, you cannot simply upsize from a 100‐kW to a 1‐MW wind turbine and maintain acceptable levels of reliability and performance. Instead, wind researchers—both public and private—would need to build and test successively larger wind turbines over a period of decades—not years—to reach the 1‐MW level in the late 1990s.

    [...]

    Thanks to these generous incentives, beginning in 1980 California saw a massive investment in wind power. By 1986 96% of the world's wind-generated electricity was being generated in California, and by 1987 California had nearly 17,000 wind turbines producing more than 1.2 GW of electricity. Unlike previous wind turbines (which were typically stood alone or in small groups), these turbines were mostly in large "farms" of many turbines, built by companies like US Wind, Zond, and Seawest.

    [...]

    But the tide turned for the California wind experiment. The energy crises of 1973 and 1979 gave way to an oil glut in 1986 - oil prices fell from $35 per barrel in 1980 to $10 per barrel in 1986. The Reagan administration was less inclined to spend government funds on wind power development, and the wind power tax credits were increasingly seen as a tax dodge for wealthy investors (Forbes would later call it "The Great Windmill Tax Dodge"). Both federal and California credits were removed or allowed to expire, and turbine installation in the US collapsed[.]

    [...]

    However, as the US market was declining, the European market was rising, also largely due to government incentive programs. In 1990 Germany passed a Feed-in-Tariff, which required utilities to purchase wind power at favorable rates, which became a popular mechanism in other European countries. Denmark's parliament agreed to develop 100 MW of wind power between 1986 and 1990, and passed its own Feed-in Tariff in 1990. The UK similarly passed a Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) program in 1990, and by 1995 had installed 250 MW of wind power. By 2000, more than 70% of the world’s wind energy was being generated in Europe, mostly in Germany, Denmark, and Spain.

    [...]

    Wind turbines are thus a good illustration of the complexities and multifaceted nature of economies of scale. There are many simultaneous scale effects at work - learning curve effects, geometric scaling, statistical scaling, fixed cost effects - which often pull in different directions. It's not necessarily obvious, even to experts, which effects will dominate.

    2 votes