Fri, 20 July 2018
My guest today is Roman Yampolskiy, computer scientist and AI safety researcher. He is the author of multiple books, including Artificial Superintelligence: A Futuristic Approach. He is also the editor of the forthcoming volume Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security, featuring contributions from many leading AI safety researchers.
We discuss the nature of AI risk, the state of the current research on the topic, and some of the more and less promising lines of research.
Mon, 9 July 2018
Could cultural attitudes about gender reflect economic conditions hundreds of years ago? My guest today says they do!
Melanie Meng Xue of Northwestern University has shown that China's cotton revolution had far-reaching consequences extending even to the modern day:
The cotton revolution (1300-1840 AD) in imperial China constituted a substantial shock to the value of women's work. Using historical gazetteers, I exploit variation in cotton textile production across 1,489 counties and establish a robust negative relationship between high-value work opportunities for women in the past and sex ratio at birth in 2000. To overcome potential endogeneity in location, I use an instrument pertaining to suitability for cotton weaving. I find evidence that premodern cotton textile production permanently changed cultural beliefs about women's worth, and that its effects have persisted beyond 1840 and endured under various political and economic regimes.
Sat, 30 June 2018
Today's episode of Economics Detective Radio features a conversation with Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation. Robert is the author of Rethinking America's Highways: A 21st-Century Vision for Better Infrastructure, a book on how to fix America's infrastructure woes by changing the way roadways are funded:
Americans spend hours every day sitting in traffic. And the roads they idle on are often rough and potholed, their exits, tunnels, guardrails, and bridges in terrible disrepair. According to transportation expert Robert Poole, this congestion and deterioration are outcomes of the way America provides its highways. Our twentieth-century model overly politicizes highway investment decisions, short-changing maintenance and often investing in projects whose costs exceed their benefits.
We discuss this book, as well as Robert's recent controversial piece in Reason, "Stop Trying to Get Workers Out of Their Cars." I challenge him on the issue of upzoning and we discuss the some of the necessary conditions for a successful implementation of mass transit. Robert argues that mass transit works best in cities with a high concentration of jobs in a central business district. Without a single concentrated area that many thousands of people want to commute to and from, a mass transit system often can't get the necessary ridership to justify its cost.