114 Comments

"More than 1 million children are behind on their reading due to the Pandemic. 11 year olds have the reading age of 7" - the pandemic's been on for two years now.

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for #102--how can waterfighting be made competitive? How do you win?

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RE: #83. That's not a grant, that's an investment. I assume if you've been working with attorneys and you're asking for just 100k the returns must be miserable, but it sounds like something potentially very lucrative. Who here does litigation financing?

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founding

So last time I tried to be as nice as possible to every pitch. I think this time, to be fair, I will do the opposite.

https://newslettr.yevaud.com/p/contra-acx-grants-part-ii/comments

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#67: Make the weighted vests in the form of mail hauberks. Encourage compliance by periodically attacking test subjects with a sword.

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#89 WikiCiv.org - A reader emailed noting that I didn't make a specific ask. I would mostly like editors to contribute content, the site is cheap enough to run that I don't especially need funds. Also putting me in touch with anyone who might like to collaborate would be very helpful too. Thanks!

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>#85: Study The Neuroscience Of How The Self Matures

>"In earlier stages the focus is on exterior stimuli, while in later stages the exploration is of one’s interior experience, and how the exterior world is interpreted through our interior experience."

What is "the focus" and how is this falsifiable?

>"Qualities such as compassion, dis-identification from the concept of self, and an understanding of the constructed nature of experience, become stronger and more nuanced at each stage."

Where are these "Qualities" and how can I measure them? How can I measure "an understanding of the constructed nature of experience?"

>"Our team, led by renowned Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar, is seeking funding to conduct a series of experiments to characterize the maturity process in scientific language and situate it within the fields of psychological and cognitive neuroscience. Charitable gifts of $50,000 to $500,000 will allow us to conduct essential preliminary studies to establish proof of concept and enable us to seek federal funding. Please contact slazar@mgh.harvard.edu with questions."

Half a million? Really? I can't believe Harvard took her, good thing they're not all like that! https://www.epsilontheory.com/gell-mann-amnesia/

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(Banned)
Feb 10, 2022·edited Feb 10, 2022

>and a few that violated my sensibilities for one or another reason

And yet somehow, a woke loony like Alice Evans didn't offend your sensibilities enough not to hand over 60 thousands dollars

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# 126: Restore the American Chestnut Tree

The American chestnut tree was once the dominant tree in much of the Eastern US. In 1904, a blight from Asian chestnuts arrived in New York. It obliterated the American chestnut, killing 3-4 billion trees. Today, less than 100 are left in their native range. Chestnuts are significantly more nutritious and delicious to people and animals than acorns and (unlike acorns) are produced in large quantities every year. Their nuts were an important source of food for people, livestock, and wildlife, especially in rural Appalachia, and their lumber was world renown. Now, they're just a line in a Christmas song. Several groups are trying to restore the American chestnut tree. I am not associated with any of them.* The American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation (https://www.accf-online.org/) breeds the few surviving blight resistant trees. The American Chestnut Foundation (https://acf.org/) backcrosses American chestnuts with Chinese chestnuts. SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry (https://www.esf.edu/chestnut/) has made a resistant tree using genetic engineering and is trying to get legal permission to release it into the wild from the USDA-APHIS, EPA, and FDA.

*Which is why I didn't submit this as a grant proposal. I did do a service project with ACF years ago, and met two of the surviving trees.

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"#125: Plant Trees For Carbon Capture

My name is Dan Sparkman and I want your help to plant trees for carbon capture. There are plenty of people planting trees and they are mostly worthy of support. However most reforestation projects are eventully going to be cut down. I aim to plant forest gardens which should stand for hundreds of years. "

Why? In hundreds of years, technology improvements will mean emissions will be vastly lower and/or carbon capture will be vastly more effective.

Furthermore, there's nothing unique about this idea. Other people with more knowledge and resources are already working towards reforestation efforts so I cannot possibly imagine it could be cost effective to donate to this cause instead of many others.

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#70 & #71 are the same application.

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To #91 re: Aquaporins, I have to assume you are already familiar, but if you're not there is a company doing Aquaporin based filtration and desalination.

https://aquaporin.com/

I guess your angle is more getting them into vesicles and seeing if they will passively uptake water from a salt solution?

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Wouldn't a more likely MOA for weight loss while wearing weighted belts be the increased caloric expenditure required for every step? I wear 30+lbs of gear all days at work. Just climbing a few flights of stairs is a workout, and I'm famished by the end of the day. Without counting calories as well as tracking weights, this project seems of a limited scope.

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"#68: Educational Software To Hit Developmental Windows In Babies

One way to counteract the growing burden of knowledge and increase innovation is to teach people more in less time. Early childhood education could be useful to this end. ... I plan to create a simple computer interface with accompanying educational software specifically targeted at babies. The interface will be simple enough that a baby can intuitively use it, and the software will make it easy to develop learning modules for babies."

This proposal makes me grind my teeth. Realistically, when you're dealing with a three month old baby, your childcare is most concerned with feeding them, changing their nappy, giving them a warm, safe place for naps, and then handing them back to the parents at the end of the day.

People *are* already working on "explicitly teaching skills and knowledge", I'll leave some links to Irish standards below. I'd be more sympathetic if this was aimed at helping at-risk children to catch up to and achieve age-appropriate developmental milestones, not "treat babies like rats on a treadmill". You want to teach babies perfect pitch, woo-hoo. Meanwhile, the kind of babies most at risk are not going to be very much helped with "the burden of knowledge" by computer software they can use to learn music, and the babies whose parents will load up on this are the kids who are already in the rat-race to pile up perfect grades, the right mixture of extra-curriculars and hobbies, and craft the best application to the good university for the good degree for the good job. Now they can start as soon as they're out of the cradle, instead of waiting until they're two years old. How nice. Because the world will stop turning if we don't churn out 15 year olds ready to start their adult working lives at that age.

Early Childhood Curriculum Framework:

https://ncca.ie/media/4151/aistear_theearlychildhoodcurriculumframework.pdf

National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education

https://siolta.ie/media/pdfs/siolta-manual-2017.pdf

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Is it just me, or do most of these sound like outright scams -- or, to be more charitable, well-intentioned proposals that are obviously doomed to failure ? Is there any evidence that babies can use computer interfaces, or that *this time* the video courses can finally replace in-person classroom instruction (unlike all those other ones that crashed and burned), or that spirits do exist after all, etc. ? I know there's lots of evidence against all of these propositions (and more), but maybe I'm missing the one slam-dunk argument for them ? If so, why wasn't it in the proposal ?

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118 is mis-titled, it has the same title as 117 even though the content is different

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I'm very surprised Scott didn't fund #122: In Vitro Gametogenesis. I'm guessing the problem was the quality of the applicants themselves, rather than the quality of the idea.

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#96 Improve the Readability of Scientific Writing

Hi, I'm a scientist and I'm just... not sure how that's going to work?

Consider these sentences that I just made up but that could be taken from the scientific literature:

"We induced tumors in the Drosophila midgut by overexpressing the yki transcription factor in intestinal stem cells using Gal4/UAS."

"We observed a 5-fold increase in GFP fluorescence intensity after 24-h incubation of the reporter cells with interferon-gamma."

"TGF-beta signaling triggers SMAD phosphorylation followed by changes in gene expression."

How do you make these sentences any easier to understand for the lay reader? I promise, I'm not deliberately trying to make these sentences difficult. Just, they're dealing with complex concepts, and pretty much every scientific article is composed of sentences like these. Sure, the Introduction section is supposed to ease you into the article, but the author assumes that you already are at least somewhat conversant with the field. If you're reading a paper on Drosophila, they're not going to explain to you what Gal4/UAS is.

I really hope I'm not coming across as super arrogant and stuck-up here. If there is a simple way to make scientific papers more accessible without sacrificing scientific rigor and information density, I would really like to know!

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Hi! Jess here from #119. Happy to answer questions; also, the short link in my post seems to be broken; this is the url it's pointing to: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LljPlu4X2V3p4WqQ51dD99LFYWdp6f3QSl9k4OUA7qg/edit#heading=h.sja1agog8fc8

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Cut to 10 years later and we're all dead due to #82. The ghost of Scott says to the ghost of Eliezer: "didn't expect that, did you?"

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I really like your chutzpah Bendini:

#79: A) Get people to state their intentions explicitly and honestly. B) Put everything in place that’s necessary to ensure that people actually do A, instead of just pretending to do it. The core insight is A, but it’s irrelevant without B’s infrastructure.

...if you have solved that one, I believe you have a decent shot at the Nobel memorial price in Economics in Stockholm. Since this is THE question to solve in the human sciences. You can write the story of human evolution as our attempt to be able to differentiate the genuines from the fakes.

Re: Darwin's theory (embryo version) in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and the Animals, where he suggests that involuntary blushing evolved as a way for humans to signal to others that they are self-bound to behaviour like honesty and chastity, thereby once-and-for-all providing signals impossible to fake, therefore gaining more trust from others, therefore being better able to spread their genes. A theory of why altruism toward non-kin exists builds on the same idea: Giving money to total strangers is a way to appear pseudo-self-bound to honesty in your everyday dealings, making more people willing to take the risk to deal with you, and gaining an evolutionary advantage that way. (Wrote a paper about that myself some decades ago.)

So again, if you have solved this one, humanity will thank you in the for-ever future. And you will probably influence the future path of human evolution. But when something is too grand to be true, there is usually some snag in the theory.

Best of luck though!

PS...and we have just got a demonstration of how difficult it is to do this differentiation, in Scott's blog post of the trials and tribulations he went through in order to decide who to fund and who not to fund among the hopeful.;-)

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As a stem cell biologist and oogenesis researcher, I endorse #121 (cell culture media optimization) and #122 (meiosis induction by SCNT).

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I hope that #107: RADVAC: Open Source Vaccines doesn't get lost in the shuffle because of pandemic burnout.

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#113, David Gretzschel here.

I’m a little bit mortified about that pitch. I noticed that my original whitepaper was doing a bad job of translating my idiosyncratic understanding into good, well-reasoned explanation. And I started wondering if the bitcoin addresses that Coinbase generates for deposit are persistently linked to my account :)

Will get my own wallet when I get around to it.

Of course, I still should have written the pitch by February 5, as I promised.

But in the meantime I was already looking more into memory palaces and long-term memory retention, areas that I previously neglected. And what I learnt from research made me want to reconsider how those aspect fit into the larger problem.

So, I asked Scott to rescind it, so that this didn’t have the “vague promises, secret knowledges and I can totally turn lead into gold, trust me bro”-vibe.

And I figured, that he might just sort me out anyway, because this must have appeared borderline scummy. Well, he said, “no takebacks” and stood by that. And apparently, I’m not that obviously untrustworthy. Fair enough.

I’m glad he posted it anyway, because I got five emails already expressing interest and/or telling me about similar projects and what appear to be similar approaches.

So this worked out great!

Although I’m quite excited to discuss that, this is a rare weekend within the next couple months, where I don’t have time to respond to questions or work on/think about this project.

But if you want to leave questions in the comments or by email, feel free to do so.

Next week, I’ll have time to get to them.

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Re: #96: Improve The Readability Of Scientific Writing

Look up Steven Pinker's "The Sense of Style" and his talks about it; he's a famous guy to get endorsement from if you can, once you've got some actual work published, and also the book has some good tips.

Don't try to "create a new journal to publish rewritten versions of existing papers"; that'll get you into weird copyright issues at worst, or just throw people off as weird and radical at best. A thing you could do instead is try to sell your services as an "editing plus" or even "academic ghost-writing" company, working closely with the paper authors / scientists to optimize their language for readibility. (I'd say "editing plus" so they can still call themselves authors while acknowledging your company, explicitly, so you can get advertised in the journals they publish in; maybe even get a contract with an existing journal to be their go-to place to send things to edit.)

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Is there someplace one can buy weighted belts to give it a try yourself (I know that it won't be useful for the study but it's an interesting thing to try...and I figure it makes every movement a bit more of an exertion).

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Regarding #77 (Computer programs which write themselves) how is this different than the Racket project or, more generally, the problem of creating new programming languages? I'm a big fan of Racket (a programming language optimized for writing programming languages) but there are reasons that most programs aren't written in Racket.

Namely, that programming languages are all about tradeoffs. What things are easy to do and easy to think about and what is less easy. We build a bunch of different languages because different domains are easier to program when different things are easier to write/think about.

The more a language/development environment focuses on being able to manipulate programs themselves the less optimized your language will be to deal with other kinds of problems. More generally, as you increase the number of layers involved in creating a program (e.g. you go through some kind of advanced program transformation) you often make it harder to reason/conceptualize what the program is doing. That's a cost.

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Regarding #124 Are you familiar with Steve Hsu's work using machine learning to improve predictions of phenotypes from genetic information?

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The project of preserving dead peoples' legacies is really cool. I thought about this idea a long time ago, it's nice that someone is actually trying to do it.

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I just started a two year unpaid sabbatical to pursue my personal interests and to complete my MBA. I am 36 years old. About five months ago I discovered Data Science. I've been teaching myself SQL and R for about two hours per day. I am seeking 149$ to purchase a subscription to Datacamp.com . This website is a better teaching platform compared to my University. Please DM @streamust on twitter if you can sponsor me. 📊

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For Michael Arntzenius, I understand the motivation is to create tools to program in existing languages, that's directly applicable to work now.

Is there much interest out there in creating new languages from scratch with voice programming in mind? There are a lot of weird conventions in languages trying to make them compact that don't necessarily make sense outside of typing.

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#88: as somebody with a physics education I always thought "emergent phenomena" meant stuff like temperature and ferromagnetism, that don't exist in an underlying physical theory but emerge from collective behaviour of many particles. Then when I read Less Wrong I always got a bit confused about how EY liked to rant about "emergent phenomena", which I thought were so uncontroversial. But it turns out it's a euphemism for woo? You learn something new every day.

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