[ExI] dna to search

William Flynn Wallace foozler83 at gmail.com
Sun Nov 9 16:45:07 UTC 2014

Anders, I am going to give you the greatest challenge of your life.
Explain the following to me in plain English (say that I am the head of the
insurance company and don't understand the math.  (from Bill W)

Simple model: Imagine that a condition X will have a cost C it it occurs,
and has a base probability P0. The actual probability P=P0(1+aL+bG), where
L is lifestyle and G is genetic factors (0 means no effect) and a,b small
constants. The expected cost of X is C P0 (1+aL+bG) if we assume
independence of L and G. However, the total expected cost is the sum across
all conditions: E[C] = sum_i C_i P0_i (1+a_i L_i + b_i G_i). Here we are
again assuming independence, which is problematic: if you die of X, you
cannot die of Y, but I have not had breakfast yet, so I will handwave this.
The P0s are skew distributed: there are loads of rare illnesses, and a few
common ones. I would guess that they roughly follow a power-law: let's set
P0_i = i^-alpha, where alpha>1 is a parameter denoting how common rare
illnesses are. I think, based on the fact that hospitals are not treating
just a single dominant disorder, that alpha is likely somewhere around 2.5

So, assume you figure out that you have increased risk of condition i. Then
your expected costs go up by C_i P0_i b_i. If i is randomly distributed as
i^-2, then the expected i is around 3, and P0=3^-2.5. So the change in
expectation is  0.064*C_i b_i. This tells us that if the general noise
level Std[C] is much larger than this, it is likely not worth checking.
Now, the Std[C] for this example depends on the distributions of all the
different factors which I definitely do not have the mettle to guess, but I
would guess it is pretty big since P0 has infinite variance (ah, those
delightful power-laws!) Even if all P0s were equal, if we assume b's tend
to be relatively small, the sum is dominated by the C_iP_0 terms and the
variance becomes due to the variance in treatment costs - which I think I
remember is another heavy-tailed distribution. So unless C_i or b_i is
*unusually* high - like in Huntingdon - or you have an effect on a high
P0_i condition - then the insurer will not care much.

And if it can be offset by a monitorable change in L_i, so much better. In
a sense lifestyle changes are like (usually) low-cost treatments: you can
move that term into the C term.

On Sun, Nov 9, 2014 at 4:28 AM, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:

> BillK <pharos at gmail.com> , 9/11/2014 10:59 AM:
> <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29760212>
> 28 October 2014.     Two genes linked with violent crime.
> The problem with those gene variants is that they are very common; about
> 20% of us have the "dangerous" version. They only seem to become risky when
> combined with a bad upbringing and other factors.
> So if we want to use genetics to reduce violent crime we need to check
> about a fifth of all children for how they are brought up, and give them
> nicer upbringings if they are in trouble. In fact, skipping the gene test
> and just helping kids in trouble seems to be even better, since there are
> non-genetic social causes of kids to go bad too.
> If gene treatments become fashionable and/or compulsory the population
> could gradually change into a healthy monoculture nation of tall
> handsome people with blue eyes and a very placid disposition.
> Would it? I can see strong selective forces for health, intelligence and
> other general purpose goods, but multifactorial traits are harder to move
> than single factor traits. Parents generally do not seem to think hair
> colour merits genetic interventions; in fact, they are surprisingly
> conservative when it comes to any interventions unless they seem really
> good. Having a placid disposition doesn't sound like what any parents would
> go for. And the more blonds there are, the more other hair colors will look
> cool and exotic - there is a very interesting culture and availability
> interaction.
> In any case, human genetic changes are unlikely to matter unless we stall
> on nanotech, AI and other radical technologies: the latter category evolves
> far faster than the human generation time right now. Plus, of course, we
> are getting way better at gene therapy too. Genetics may cease to be
> irreversible.
> I am more worried about psychological hacks that make populations content
> than genetic hacks.
> Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford
> University
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