Monday, November 30, 2009

Humans and Science

The Volokh Conspiracy is one of the best law blogs around, and this post does a beautiful job of bringing what we know about changing human behavior to bear on the global warming problem. You can talk all day long about the science of global warming, but unless you know something about the science of human action, you're never going to get result. Here's the gist:
I’m not asking about climate science here, I’m asking about collective action problems in international law and policy. How is this exercise different from previous failures? Even if new states are persuaded to say yes on paper, on what grounds does anyone think that these commitments will be fulfilled this time, particularly given the record of Kyoto? The article linked here from the AP talks about “momentum building” and “legally binding agreements.” What does that mean and how? Legally binding to prevent defection down the road, how? This is not an attempt to get snarky, but complete puzzlement on my part. How is this different from earlier attempts?
I've been vocal about pursuing supply-side fixes to the global warming question. I don't think humans have the political tools we would need to keep developing nations from using fossil fuels if that is the cheapest available source of energy. That leaves us with the option of building better mousetraps with a lower carbon footprint.

Nothing beats nuclear power for a free-market means of cutting the carbon footprint. I'm all for nukes, whether global warming is a man-made crisis, a politically-driven fraud, a statistical blip, or a solar cycle. We've got the technology to provide cheap, clean, safe electricity anywhere on earth. Let's do it!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Intelligence of the Blogosphere

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit linked to this Harvard blogger who included Instapundit in his research on the interconnectedness of blogs, as shown in this chart:

The new science of artificial "neural networks" suggests that one can model the blogosphere (or any human community) as a neural network. Each blogger has a set of regular inputs (like the dendrites on a neuron) and a single output (like the axon). "Learning" occurs as synapses form and/or break between dendrites and neurons (and/or strengthen and weaken), with the "intelligence" of the system emerging as a result of interconnected nodes.

There's no real question whether the blogosphere (and other networks of communicators, such as the traditional media) is a neural network--the more interesting question is "how intelligent is it?"

That turns out to be a remarkably easy question to explore. Politics divides the blogosphere neatly into left and right sides, and both sides of the blogosphere are constantly making predictions. Those predictions get tested every election cycle. That means researchers should be able to:

  1. map out the general structure of the neural network on both sides,

  2. collect pre-election predictions,

  3. compare those to public opinion polls (as a "baseline"), and

  4. compare the "spread" between predictions and polls to the actual results.

A neural network built around the axis of the DailyKos/DemocraticUnderground/FireDogLake blogs might prove to be more "intelligent" than the competing net that includes Drudge/Instapundit/RedState, or it might not. As a matter of pure science, I'd love to know which is better.

And, as a political junkie, I'd love to add all the "intelligence" I can find to my own side!