I'm going to try commenting to these one at a time.
#1: A Movement To Fight Attention Hijacking
Oh, God, no. People's attention is being hijacked enough, How about a project to teach people to protect their attention and think about whether what they're doing makes sense. Remember that some of your benevolent uses might be getting things wrong.
#2: Understand The Texture Of Pain
Sounds cool. I don't if you want to expand your subject, but one vagueness about a stabbing pain in the shoulder is that people mean different things by shoulder.
There are a lot of good ideas here. There are also a few bad ones; though I'm not going to point them out.
If I were a billionaire, I would give each of them $10k each, no questions asked. (Signaling risk is real.) Of course, since I'm not a billionaire, that's fairly easy for me to say.
I expect I will be emailing half-a-dozen of these people, a mix of "how can I help" and "would you like an investment -- and I do want my money back".
#3: Acoustics Of Historical Speeches
Note that the wind matters for speeches made outdoors.
#21: Thwart Darknet Murder Plots
This one is a joke to see if I was paying attention, right?
Re. the one on the texture of pain: I like the idea. I just want to highlight how helpful it would be in medical practice to have a device that can measure pain. We still have no practical (eg non-fMRI) way of determining when unconscious or uncommunicative people are in pain, nor of measuring pain levels. So after they characterize the relation between textures in functional imaging, and perceived pain, it would be useful to search for correlations of fMRI-detected pain with some signal that can be found in blood samples (say, detection of endorphins), galvanic response, pulse, or skin temperature, or other simple assays.
#15: Book Discovery Startup
This sounds almost identical to the old Book Genome Project (circa 2013) on Booklamp.com, which aimed to use semantic analysis to categorize books the way Pandora categorized music and use those to build recommendations. That project and company got quietly bought out by Apple Books as soon as their recommendation engine got good (it wasn't announced until months later), and the website was shuttered; I've never heard a word about it or the Book Genome Project again.
I'd be curious to see if Shepherd.com a) gets successful, and b) gets bought out silently the same way.
Thanks for including my project here Scott. If anyone has any questions or advice about mine (making free online tutorials for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology) please let me know! I don't need any money for this, but definitely appreciate advice and constructive criticism.
Haha, losing line breaks was a bit unexpected %) I'll take the liberty to post a version of #6 above, but with line breaks as-submitted :D
I'm Oleksandr Nikitin, and I want to build a system dynamics simulator.
Enable independent researchers to simulate, forecast, and visualize metabolic pathways, epidemic spread, mass transit, ecology, macroeconomics, etc. Show, don't tell. Without code.
Think Airtable+Vensim+Roam+Kumu, integrated and working offline.
Why offline? Why simulate? Why a new tool?
- Complex systems must be simulated. You miss emergent phenomena if you analyze parts separately or simplify the details.
- Offline sets you free from distractions and groupthink. Free to make your own breakthroughs.
- Take your references, notes and data with you, dive deep, then return with the verified, reproducible, interactive model.
- Research can take years. Tools should outlast devices and app stores.
- And it must be fast. Isn’t it insane for a productivity tool to make you wait?
I spent years on prototypes, tested in companies since 2013, now I want to put these experiments together. Not as a startup, but as a tool accessible to everyone.
- Create a community of curious, inquisitive makers.
- Empower them with small, fast and robust core app.
- Iterate and grow together, augment the human intelligence even more.
- Understand the world.
I seek funding to focus on this project full-time, for two years.
To launch and to guide people to the finished research.
Sounds inspiring? Worth the funding? Want more details?
Ping me at email@example.com. Also see https://cortex.substack.com/
I'm happy to answer questions anyone might have about #57, "Advocate Against Subsidies And Tax Breaks For Local Corporations."
I'm the president of the Center for Economic Accountability, the 501(c)(3) that's putting together the "Skeptical Reporter's Guide to Covering Economic Development." Our board chair and I are both regular SSC/ACX readers, and we're grateful to Scott for the opportunity to spread the word about our work to an audience that's predisposed to actually pay attention to research findings.
#1. Attention hijacking...
Wasn't priming, the idea by Yale's prof Bargh, debunked? It is not replicable. Isn't the first idea based on that?
Ofcourse, it might still be true, even if not scientifically provable.
I spent about a year building and running a bespoke dating site with all kinds of interesting ways to match people. None of that matters - there's really only one important problem in online dating, and that's "how do I bootstrap a critical mass of attractive women on the site?" Personality tests (what drove OKCupid's early success) won't work anymore because Facebook has dialed the virality of these back to near-zero, and most people are burnt out on that kind of thing anyway.
Not that I think it's impossible to start a new dating site, but you have to start with the chicken-egg problem and ignore _everything else_ until you solve that. Most people who want to build dating sites spend all their time thinking about the matching stuff, because that's more fun. But it's the wrong problem.
"#8: Help Fund Eyesight Restoration Surgery"
Call me a heartless bitch, but how is this not one of those scam email type appeals about "I am poor sick widow in Third World need urgent medical help God bless you" that I've been pestered with?
Are we allowed to praise and/or deride these proposals ? Because I'm itching to do both...
I think an index could help.
Re #10 tech trees: That's a great idea, we had successfully collaborated in this format previously :) UX is not that trivial to design though
Does listing order indicate your evaluation of them? If not may want to mention how they are sorted so being no. 1 isn't taken as endorsement and vice versa
#17: Algorithms To Select The Best Systematic Review: I don't think this is the sort of thing that machine learning can currently do. Humans are probably still better at evaluating methodologies. And I think the whole system will probably rely on having humans select the best reviews, in order to train the ML algorithm. Why not just have those humans say why they selected those reviews as best?
Nor do I even think there is one best way of doing systematic reviews. It might be better to have a variety of review methodologies and rely on the biases cancelling each other out--which random-forest machine learning has proven to be surprisingly effective.
Mike Saint-Antoine's channel (#41 on this list) is quite good, I've actually used a few of his videos before!
I’m definitely finding I can now abstain from certain kinds of clickbait. I see the click bait and I immediately think about how most journalists have nothing of value to say. I find via that thought, I avoid the pull.
Happy to answer any questions for those curious about #19, AnkiHub (education technology, spaced repetition, etc). Also, check out our page at https://courses.ankipalace.com/ankihub to get updates about the project.
It seems to me like this is extraordinary bad signaling for these projects -- you're essentially saying, "Here are projects that I've judged as being unworthy of receiving grant money, go ahead and pick through the slop and see if there's anything you might be interested in."
I don't understand why anyone that's savvy would want their project listed here as being explicitly judged less worthy then the least-worthy project from the set of all of the winners of the grant. Money is the unit of caring after all!
In retrospect, one way to prevent this signaling risk while still being able to show the losers of the grant process here would be to have the grant awarding process be one where submissions have to meet a certain "very happy-to-fund" standard by direct evaluation, and then randomly allocating funds among the projects that met that standard, while publishing the remaining projects explicitly as projects that definitely could have received funding but simply missed out through luck of the draw. It also would have made the grant process probably easier to administer, as you don't have to compare projects against each other to determine a ranking, just evaluate each against the "very happy-to-fund" standard.
I'm the writer of #11 (Preserve and Categorize Web Fiction), and I'm available in this comment thread if anyone has any questions! It's a humble project in comparison to some of the literally-world-saving-if-they-work ones, but I think it's at the intersection between my skills, my volition and the greater good (for a really nerdy definition of good).
#29: Present An Open-Source Python Library For Monte Carlo Techniques
That's me! I was a bit of an idiot when I sent in my original proposal, I basically said "um, money is nice as a motivator but coding time has zero marginal cost for me and I don't know what I'd concretely spend it on, so I'm not sure how much to ask for?". Some advice if you ever ask for money: actually ask for some. I totally didn't consider the ~$1k cost of attending the conference at the time.
I've just sent in my proposal to the conference selection committee last week - you can read my submitted summary (tinyurl.com/monacosummary) and abstract (tinyurl.com/monacoabstract) at those google doc links. My plan if I don't get accepted is to return any money people want to send me (or they can make funding conditional on that acceptance).
An attempt at some organisation. (each number is placed in the first category of the list that fits if multiple categories would fit):
Science: #2, #9, #10, #12, #14, #25, #31, #45, #48, #55, #59, #65
Engineering: #6, #8 (the second), #16, #17, #24, #27, #28, #29, #30, #33, #35, #39, #46, #51, #58
Rationality: #1, #56
Humanities: #3, #11, #42, #62
Education: #5, #7, #19, #23, #26, #32, #41, #53
Society: #4, #15, #34, #36, #37, #38, #40, #44, #47, #50, #54, #57, #60, #63, #64
Altruism: #18, #20, #43
Personal Funding: #8 (the first), #13, #22, #49, #52, #61
I haven't read #16 but as a note to people outside the academic systems security community, IEEE S&P is one of the four premier conference venues (this field prefers conferences over journals) in the area (the other three venues are ACM CCS, NDSS, and Usenix Security, with CCS and S&P being primary targets for applied crypto) if that helps anybody calibrate a "how seriously should I take this proposal to decide if it's worth exploring" bar
For anyone who is curious, the "thwarting assasination plots" guy is absolutely legit. UK WIred ran an article about him: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/kill-list-dark-web-hitmen. If you are somewhat surprised, so were I; I'd say he should have worked on making the advertisement sound more believable.
Writer of #47 here, building a better social network for gathering political ideas. Happy to discuss any questions/feedback here too.
Also to be more clear about what I'm asking for, I'm really trying to gauge whether people think this is a viable idea, as there's a lot of obstacles and substantial work involved. If there's not much support, I might backburner this idea as I think it's probably too difficult to accomplish by myself, and I have various other financial responsibilities at the moment.
I'm modestly surprised Scott didn't fund Slime Mold Time Mold, as the project is both interesting and the sort of cool correlative fact I'd expect Scott to be very interested in. Maybe he could say why?
Hi Scott, for #5, the link is broken: it should go to https://twitter.com/michael_wiebe/status/1455999023375011842, but your link has a ').' appended.
> 34: Outline A Potential Martian Legal System
"Legal Systems Very Distant From Our Own"
I will say, tying in one of these (#52) to your post yesterday, that while I absolutely love contemporary ACX and read it religiously, it certainly has a very different vibe from very early (2013-era) SSC, which feels more free-spirited and more willing to explore odd topics than the blog as it is today. (Book review posts still do often have that feel, though, and I absolutely *loved* the Book Review Contest, which had people doing their best to apply your style of writing to many works that I doubt you'd have reviewed. Of ACX-era posts, probably the most impressive one was the ivermectin post, the one that made me think the most was "WebMD, or the Tragedy of Legible Expertise", but the one that gave me the most joy to read was the review of Arabian Nights).
Anyway, my point here is that the tone/vibe/feel of contemporary SMTM strikes me as *very similar* to the early days of SSC. So if you're pining for your lost days of youth, uh...try to be more like that.
Thanks for sharing these with us! These are all very creative and/or inspiring ventures. At the very least it's gotten me asking myself whether I should be doing something at least as inspired with my life. I'm a bit overwhelmed by how much there is, but I'll be getting back to this to see if I can pitch in some help somewhere. :)
I find that I don't have anything to say about a lot of them. Also, that many separate entries is too many. I'm going to post about them in small groups.
#4: Handbook For Making Friends In The Post-College Environment
Maybe all the people who get in touch about it should be offered a chance to get in contact with each other.
#8: Alternative Solar Power Plants
Very tentatively offered, but might it work better to have smaller lenses? They might be cheaper to manufacture.
#12: Search Engine To Analyze Research Findings
I'm curious about why Scott and Tyler think it won't work.
How about a more modest goal of improving classification to make research easier, instead of looking for new insights?
Speaking more for myself, it might make sense to be looking at what people want to read as well as looking at the books. What attracts this particular individual? Is there something outside their usual range that would fascinate them?
#19 AnkiHub: I don't understand why this is necessary if Anki already exists. It appears that this will "enable thousands of students to collaborate in real-time to create comprehensive flashcard decks for any subject." Why would this be better than just using Anki web to find decks? I'm not sure what it brings to the table. Care to elaborate?
I think $119 is too expensive for a course that teaches information presumably that can be found at https://www.gwern.net/Spaced-repetition, https://docs.ankiweb.net and other places online.
#56 Aella's dating app: I would really like to see a dating app like this for sure! But I think you're going to have a major branding issue from the start. Few issues: #1 You're Aella #2 "My personal reach is around 750k horny men" if it starts off like this, it will have trouble escaping this stigma #3 "I'd like to make some very anonymized version of the data publicly available." This is going to make people uncomfortable even if it isn't rational. Emil Kirkegaard took a bunch of publicly available data from OKCupid and made it into a dataset and received a great deal of criticism. You may face similar criticisms. I'm not saying don't do this because I think it's a cool idea, but something worth considering. People will be hesitant if they hear about this data getting out in any form.
#14: Survey On Embryo Selection. Securing the right to select embryos and research in this field is probably one of the most important things we could be doing. We can see small gains as the technology is now, but it will definitely shape the future. People should read Jonathan Anomaly's book about genetic enhancement entitled Creating Future People (2020).
#17: Algorithms To Select The Best Systematic Review
I don't have a strong opinion about your project, but "best" is awfully hard to define. I wouldn't be surprising if clipping off a few of the worst is the best you can do.
Mostly my reaction is "gleep!". Doubling every nine years? And I bet some considerable fraction more or less duplicates existing work because it's too hard to find out what's already been done.
The flood of material will only get larger and less manageable.
#19: Software For Spaced Repetition And Other Education Tech
I hope this one works out.
#48: Research Transparency AUDITS Of Published PAPERS
That doesn't look like a bad idea, but I'm not sure that increasing transparency will do a lot to improve quality.
#59: Rapid Replications Of Newly Published Papers
I'm intrigued by choosing the papers to replicate by a random process rather than choosing, say, the most suspicious papers or the most cited papers. Why did you decide on a random choice?
I’m not sure I get 58. Like, it feels like if you could turn (less available) waste heat into (more available) potential energy, that would violate the second law of thermodynamics, or am I misunderstanding how this works?
A surprising number of these seem actively harmful. Mostly between "waste of resources that might cause some direct or indirect harms", but a few to the "kill it with fire" level.
(As opposed to the ones who got the original ACX grants, which were mostly pretty good)
#64 Ebikes - Do you have any sort of plan on how to build protected bike lanes in New York? (AFAICT the only idea that has a chance of working is to just go out and set up bollards yourself, and hope the city is too dysfunctional to tear them back down - but it's a big risk and they'd probably arrest you at some point).
#40 and #47 "Build a Better Social Network" are both similar in spirit to my MeowCat project <https://github.com/cabalamat/meowcat2> so I have emailed both of them to see if we can collaborate.
Thank you, Scott, for publishing our pitch! This is Max from PolicyEngine. Happy to answer any questions or hear feedback from any readers.
Also wanted to share an exciting update since we shared our pitch: the UK Green Party is now using PolicyEngine to evaluate and design their manifesto. To our knowledge, this is the most quantitative and interactive evaluation of a party manifesto in UK history. https://blog.policyengine.org/the-green-party-manifesto-at-policyfest-ee05a2d3b06d
Regarding #52 Slime Mould, it's true that therapeutic doses of lithium case weight gain, however, it's not nearly enough to explain the obesity epidemic (only about 10-20 pounds). And that is at doses much higher than environment doses. A chemical contaminant theory of obesity would probably have to invoke multiple chemicals in combination.
If there is ever a silver bullet against obesity - I still think it's going to be treatments that target the microbiome.
In re #39 I'm awed by the vision of a 55-gallon drum of piss by my bed, and a husky robot that will go dump it for me.
Re: #2, understand the texture of pain:
For interest look up the "Schmidt sting pain index" where he describes bug stings as fruity, spicy, etc. https://theconversation.com/amp/suffering-for-science-why-i-have-insects-sting-me-to-create-a-pain-index-50853
Maybe also hot sauce fans would be good at describing hot sauce pains
Re: #25, life history models of mental illness;
Email me to zoom chat if you'd like at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm not an expert on mental illness but have some background in cognitive science and more in life history evolution. Also look up Dr. Randolph Nesse's (2019) "Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights From the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry." I haven't read it but he, along with the evolutionary biologist George C. Williams, kicked off evolutionary medicine
#3: Did Henry V really give a famous speech at the Battle of Agincourt? I thought that was Shakespeare's invention.
#39: Portable Urinal For Disabled Adults
Looks like a sensible, useful project.
I'm the computational biology collaborator mentioned in #37.
For what it's worth, I think this is a great project. It is worthwhile to do it by itself (figuring out whether antibiotic resistance genes really are traveling between poultry and humans), but it would also help train people locally for other projects and I have committed to helping the bioinformatics/computational biology part of that train.
You can reach out to Emmanuel directly, but I'm also reachable at email@example.com (and see https://luispedro.org/)
#19 seems similar to the project described in these lesswrong posts
The author spent several years trying to put spaced repetition into practice in their high-school classroom, and ultimately comes to the conclusion that this is mostly a bad idea, except for learning languages. Spaced repetition is very good for memorizing things, but not so much for conceptual understanding, and in most areas the second is more useful. I'm sure this is true for research and engineering, though I'm less sure about medicine.
Can you please post the obvious trolls in another post? Your readership is a very creative bunch.
#51 (Phytoremediation): How important is the role of mycorrhyzal fungi? I know that fungi can protect birch trees living on mine spoil that would ordinarily be too toxic.
Very nice. Could you set up a poll in the second half, figure out which ones are other people most excited about or which one people think deserves the most attention?
Curious why #51 didn't make it. Given how little money he asked for, I assume there is a good reason. Is it known not to work or not to have enough effect to matter?
#22 If anyone wants to reach me I'm at zoharatkins at gmail dot com
Nice but are you aware of the the field of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentrator_photovoltaics ?
#9: Help Research Teams Improve Software Quality
I think the key to communicate is the massive difference is code scale. If you have 100 lines of code you can get away with a lot, but it is different even trying to grasp the architecture of 100 000+ lines of code.
#11: Preserve And Categorize Web Fiction
Yes, but how to also rate or grade? And in case anyone ever missed out
#40: Build A Better Social Network
Yay. Good stuff
#56: Aella Wants To Start A Dating Site Like Old OKCupid
Only one comment: in my opinion the okcupid blog archive from 2009-2012 was pretty good.
#6 looks like visions of chaos (https://softology.com.au/voc.htm) but more specific and more focused on real-world simulations instead of fractals and cellular automata