Anthony Repetto


A wayward math-muddler for bizarre designs, artificial intelligence options, and spotting trends no one wanted; articles on Medium as Anthony Repetto


Topic Contributions

Thank you! I remember hearing about Bayesian updates, but rationalizations can wipe those away quickly. From the perspective of Popper, EAs should try "taking the hypothesis that EA..." and then try proving themselves wrong, instead of using a handful of data-points to reach their preferred, statistically irrelevant conclusion, all-the-while feeling confident.

continuing my response:

When Gregory Lewis said to you that "If the objective is to persuade this community to pay attention to your work, then even if in some platonic sense their bar is 'too high' is neither here nor there: you still have to meet it else they will keep ignoring you." He is arguing an ultimatum: "if we're dysfunctional, then you still have to bow to our dysfunction, or we get to ignore you." That has no standing in epistemics, and it is a bad-faith argument. If he were to suppose his organization's dysfunction with the probability with which he askes you to doubt your own work, he would realize that "you gotta toe the line, even if our 'bar' is nonsense" is just nonsense! Under the circumstance where they are  dysfunctional, Gregory Lewis is lounging in it!

The worst part is that, once their fallacies and off-hand dismissals are pointed-out to them, when they give no real refutation, they just go silent. It's bizarre, that they think they are behaving in a healthy, rational way. I suspect that many of them aren't as competent as they hope, and they need to hide that fact by avoiding real analysis. I'd be glad to talk to any Ai Safety folks in the Bay, myself - I'd been asking them since December of last year. When I presented my arguments, they waved-away without refutation, just as they have done to you.

Thank you for speaking up, even as they again cast doubt: where Gregory Lewis supposed that the way to find truth was that "We could litigate which is more likely - or, better, find what the ideal 'bar' insiders should have on when to look into outsider/heterodox/whatever work, and see whether what has been presented so far gets far enough along the ?crackpot/?genius spectrum to warrant the consultation" He entirely ignores the proper 'bar' for new ideas: consideration of the details, and refutation of those details. If refutation cannot be done by them, then they have no defense against your arguments! Yet, they claim such a circumstance is their victory, by supposing that some 'bar' of opinion-mongering should decide a worthy thought. This forum is very clearly defending its 'tuft' from outsiders; the 'community' here in the Bay Area is similarly cliquish, blacklisting members and then hiding that fact from prospective members and donors.

Whoo. Last cross-post for the night, I think I've responded to the major points... and I hope this shows a bit more of the complexity underneath my simplistic presentation!

How quickly it rains down depends on a few factors, and we can tip those in our favor:

--> Humid Rise - humidity (just the h2o molecule) is only 18g/mol, while oxygen molecules are 32g/mol, so humid air is quite buoyant! Especially considering that water vapor reflects heat (infrared) back to the ground, creating a heat bulge beneath it. The result is that, once humidity begins to rise, it naturally pulls air in from all around it, along the ground. It begins to drive convection. Yet! That humid rise is normally billowy and easily dispersed by cross-breezes, which means that the humidity cannot rise high quickly; it mostly travels far overland, or stays in place. Your rain wanders to an unexpected location! We want to form rain clouds nearby, instead, so we need that humidity to rise really high, quickly, without being torn apart by cross-breezes. That's where the solar concentrators help, with their tall tower at 1200C and radiant, they blast infrared into all the water vapor around them, pummeling a plume high up, carrying that vapor. Up high enough, the air pressure drops, which is key for causing a rapid cooling, and the formation of nice heavy clouds. The faster we take air from the ground up to a few kilometers, the more water it'll still be holding. [[Only a fraction of one gram per m3 is needed for the thinnest clouds, but we could toss a few grams up and it'll come down soon. We want the water to rain, evaporate, and rain down again, in as many cycles as it can. That gives plants time to grab it, in numerous locations, as well as time for the ground to catch some.]] When we look at water-demand for plants in the wild vs. water-resilient greenhouses, we can drop water demand ten-fold because nine-tenths of the water was lost in the leaves to evapotranspiration! As a result, if that leaf-sweat keeps rising and falling as rain as it travels further South, then the same bucket of water ends up getting ten times the use (assuming ground water is eventually used, as well).

--> Albedo - the desert rock is pretty bright, so the addition of vegetation and especially any water-bodies (!) will multiply the solar absorption, which will drive that heat-bulge and evaporation for humidity-buoyancy, to help loft water vapor and form clouds. This is how the Amazon does it - most of her clouds are her armpit fog, caused by solar-to-thermal foliage!

--> Vortices - the solar concentrators themselves can be rigged with a few flanges, to nudge their inflowing convection as it quickens toward the center, to spin that up-draft, helping it stay coherent and push higher, for rains nearby. Any Youtube video on Rocket Stoves by Robert Murray-Smith is best for enjoying such a vortex!

--> Swales - I love swales. I've been preaching swales since 2010. I heard, almost immediately, when Sepp Holzer started pitching his "crater gardens" ... which were dug by an excavator, four feet deep. I was aghast - my favorite swales are micro-swales, a few inches deep, in flakey soils that rain seasonally, to catch it as it dribbles. That's what they're doing in the Sahel, south of Sahara, to stop the deserts. By halting the flow of water along the ground, keeping it for seep, roots, and another evaporation, you prolong the residence-time of each ton of water, leading to a greater equilibrium stock - that is, a high normal lake line, because each ton of water rarely ever leaves.

And, as to infrastructure before success - California could probably boost rains enough to help farmers and forests, here, without needing to conquer an entire desert the size of Europe!

Another cross-post from Lesswrong about a detailed example, the entire Sahara:

Thank you for diving into the details with me, and continuing to ask probing questions!

The water brought-in by the Sahara doesn't depend upon the area of the source; it's the humidity times the m3 per second arriving. Humidity is low on arrival, reaching only 50% right now in Tunisia, their winter drizzles! The wind speed is roughly 2m/sec coming in from the sea, which is only 172,800m/day of drift. Yet! That sea-breeze is a wall of air a half kilometer high - that is why it can hold quite a bit.

If we need +10% of a 500m tall drift, that's 50m; if we can use solar concentrators to accelerate convection, we can get away with less. And, we're allowed to do an initial row that follows the shoreline closely, while a second row is a quarter kilometer inland, running parallel to the shore, where mixing of air lets you add another round of evaporate. So, we could have four rows across the northern edge of the Sahara, each row as thick as it needs to be to hit high humidity, and 10m tall, to send +10% moisture over the entire 9 million km2 of the Sahara.

How much water would we be pumping? The Sahara carries 172,800m/day flow per m2 intake surface x 500m tall x 4,000km coastline at 10g h2o per m3 = 3.5 billion tons per day, a thousand or so dead seas. (About 1.25 Trillion tons a year, enough to cover the 9 Million km2 with 139mm of rain, on average, if it had fallen instead of being sopped-up by adiabatic heat.)

We need 10% of that, or a hundred and eighty dead seas. It seems monstrous, but much of the coastline there is low for miles, so pumping 1 ton to the top of 10m at even just 20% efficiency costs 500kJ. If you want to pump that in a day, using solar, you'll need 1/4th of a square foot of solar. That 1 ton, if we cross the threshold and it becomes surplus rain, will water 3 square meters their annual budget... and the solar is paying for that amount of irrigation every day; 1,000 m2 of rains from a dinner plate of solar, each year. It's that energy efficiency, combined with dead simple capital expenditures, which would make something so insane potentially feasible. I'd pick California to try, first!

500kJ per ton, for 350Mil tons per day - that's 175TJ per day, or 2 GW. That's a nuclear power plant. To pump enough water, continuously, to irrigate 9 million km2, potentially feeding a billion people, once we dig swales! (Check out Africa's better-than-trees plan: "Demi-Lune" swales that catch sparse, seasonal rain, to seep into the ground, with minimal tools and labor!)

These details might help see the complexities

[[a cross-post of my comment from the Lesswrong cross-post of the original post, in that thread of comments!]]

Let's start at a more practical scale: make the Negev Bloom.

The Negev is 12,000 km2, which, if we want grasslands, needs some 300mm extra rain or more each year. That's 3.6 billion tons per year, or just 10Mt a day. With 20g/m3 humidity, we'll need passage of 500 billion m3 of air-flow each day. With convection driven by solar concentrators (those same which drive the pumps) to increase wind velocity during the day to 4m/s, across trays stacked 12.5m high, provides 50m3/sec, 4.32 million m3 per day across each meter of intake.

Next, we pump rows inland, as each humid layer rises, to capture drier air as they mix and move-past. Additional solar concentrators power these, and conveniently, the concentrators' intense heat pushes humid air higher than it would during gentle billowing convection, rising to cool & enter the cloud-cycle faster. We would only be prevented from extending more rows if the elevation rises too high, or we create so much humidity and cloud-cover that our solar concentrators cease. Let's just say we have four rows.

With 4.32 million m3 per meter of intake width, we'll need 116,000 meters... that's only 72 miles. With our four rows, that's a length of coast 18 miles long. The Gaza Strip is enough to water the Negev.

And, as I mentioned in an earlier response to you, the vast majority of the humidity released by the Persian Gulf, Dead Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean, is being used to fight-against the immense downdraft of adiabatically-heated and ultra-dry upper atmosphere, which is descending because of the boundary between Hadley and Ferrel cells. So, yes, there are billions of tons of water evaporating, and no rain!

Yet, we know from geological records as recent as 9,000 bc, the Sahara was wet, with vast lakes - because of a slight increase in humidity above the threshold for accumulation. The deserts are not 'infinitely' dry, such that all water never results in rain. Rather, they are just below a 'threshold', with water added by evaporation in huge amounts, and a slightly huger amount being taken away by adiabatic downdraft. If we add just a portion of humidity, we are doing exactly what occurred across the Sahara repeatedly, and it led to accumulation, because it was enough to cross the desiccation threshold. Our own soil records prove that the desert can be green, with just a little more water than it currently evaporates.

We have repeated evidence of good designs being ignored for a decade or more; hence the Silicon Valley axiom: "10 years ahead of time is as good as wrong." Similarly, good designs can be appallingly simple, and go unnoticed - for example, Torggler's swinging-door design (watch on YouTube; there is no way to explain it properly, because it is so bizarrely simple).

Another example is the original river-clean-up buoy-net system, debuted decades ago, and promptly ignored, despite grabbing all the plastic before it entered the ocean. We continued to hope for 'something to clean up the plastic' and grasped, later, at the Ocean Clean-Up guy who gave a TED talk. He got millions of dollars, and eventually he heard about the river-scooping buoy bot, and he began promoting it. Without that TED-talker's promotion, it's likely we'd all still not know about the more-effective and simpler and safer river-bot. This happens all the time.

Similarly, in 2007, Leapfrog licensed from Anoto a unique dot-pattern, to print on regular paper (tiny dots, you can't see) such that an optic on a 'pen' could read the coordinates, and use an on-board computer and audio to output based upon what it saw you writing. So, you could draw a drum set, and tap each drum to hear it play. Leapfrog was making kid's workbooks and tailored software. I told them to put the dots on clear adhesive plastic, to convert any existing computer screen into a touchscreen. I faxed them my details, granted them license (they held all the others, and I didn't want to compete), and they proceeded to ignore me for six years. Leapfrog spun-off the pen and dots, to Livescribe, who was still stuck on how 'paper is the answer'. By 2013, they'd licensed my touchscreen to Panasonic, who bottled it up inside their $400 tablet that wowed the Germany Electronics Expo with its artistic precision. Artistic precision you could have had in 2007, and you still can't, because Panasonic is camping on the license.

Don't pretend that every simple idea must have already been discovered, or must obviously come into use, if it is known. Human reticence to new ideas is often the bigger barrier.

The primary reason no one already mentioned such a solution is: you can't capture the water. Just like Tesla's hope for free energy, rain from the sky is difficult to market. Yet, I propose it for the governments who have viable lands; they would see tax returns which would make it valuable, as long as it rained in some of the desert.

Here are the less contentious parts, I hope?

"Ben Delo's involvement with EA just quietly stopped being talked about without any kind of public reflection on what could be done better moving forwards."

"Failing to share information because you suspect it will make me less supportive or more critical of your views, decisions, or actions smells of overconfidence and makes you difficult to trust, and this has regularly happened to me in my engagement with EA."

Yes, exactly. Thank you! EA Berkeley had to remove their leader just two years ago, for reasons that none of the membership there is willing to even mention - which makes it sound particularly bad, which means that 'the fact that EA is keeping that bad stuff hidden' is even worse.

Similarly, EA Berkeley members were targeted by a higher-up for blacklisting, and mentioned such in emails to me, only to go silent on the matter until I brought-up the blacklisting as an issue on their slack. At that point, they mentioned that "we've been in private talks with the Blacklister, asking them to stop their behavior" - nothing  public until absolutely necessary.

The EA houses in Berkeley, who are a magnet for EA Berkeley campus members to move-into (most residents are post-grads who were EA Berkeley prior to graduation and moving into the EA house), had repeatedly splurged unnecessarily, and when I pointed this out, the near-universal response on the EA Berkeley slack was 'well, that's them, not us. We're not responsible for anyone else in our org if they're committing petty fraud.' The slack poster Charles He even suggested that I be banned from their slack, for 'disrupting' things by bringing-up their bad behavior!

EA definitely has a brand they're protecting, and other posters seem to be bumping into other icky spots under the surface, too! ( & "Power dynamics: What procedures exist for protecting parties in asymmetric power relationships? Are there adequate opportunities for anonymous complaints or concerns to be raised? How are high-status individuals held accountable in the event of wrongdoing?" from (

Further: when I have posted new ideas on this forum, I was repeatedly strawmanned by EA members until other members eventually pointed-out that I was being strawmanned, and those who did so never admitted and apologized; they just downvoted every comment I made, as a team. EA protects the trolls who downvote-mafia and misrepresent, while looking for reasons to exclude 'non-aligned views'.

Oh, no - not 'because-dating-already', nor as a favor, nor her aspiring to use beauty, or being unqualified. Rather, if people doing the hiring are selecting among excellent candidates, yet their selection favors people who those same authorities hope to try dating. It's the hirer, not the one hired, who I call into question; as I said originally "hoping to hire-in" which places agency and blame with those being biased in their hiring.

Also, I don't expect a flat 'gender disparity' to be indicative of this sort of hiring - rather, internal measure of co-worker and boss relationships would show if the social graph is incestuous. And, though it isn't reasonable to say "the funder of a charity was hiring inappropriately, so the charity must also be doing so," - and, at the same time, "a bunch of young college kids with money who all live and hang out together, dating each other," is the shared characteristic that I argue warrants inclusion of that risk.

Thank you! You are welcome to check - the dismissals had begun, in multiple threads, before a peep from me; they were the initial replies. I became hot in response, only then, which your forum abhors - and I understand that I am downvoted for it! I don't expect you to give me a soap-box in your living room, when I keep offending you.

I can also drop my guise, which I understand if you find doubly offensive: a troll-trap.

After being misrepresented repeatedly, this time I intentionally included the word 'nerd', to see if that would be enough to ignore the other points - YET! I didn't expect that you would take my critique of hiring as a strike against the woman, who is a thoughtful and diligent member of your community, and would definitely do an excellent job assisting! I'm glad to speak in her favor - the question was why, with her quick hire, others languished in comparison? And I pointed to the risk of men in power pulling a 1950's-style 'I get $90k as researcher, and I date my $50k secretary'. THAT is where my heart-strings leapt to shout!

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