Thanks for the shout-out!! I recruited a solid engineer from the comments section of your previous post.

Btw people should subscribe here for product updates and to be the first to get notified when sign ups open: meetmeoffline.substack.com

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Are you willing to share anything about how you expect to build up your network of daters? Which in this case I assume cashes out to "how do we attract large amounts of women."

Related: I wasn't clear if your site is meant to be mainstream or rationalist-adjacent. But if it's supposed to be geared towards us nerds, the fundamental problem I see is that there's far more men than women. So if you want to match a fair percentage of couples through your site, you're trying to do one of two things:

- get a large number of women to show enthusiasm for a lifestyle (read: set of ideas, sensibilities, pastimes, etc) that they have hitherto shown no interest in, or

- go the other direction and provide a pathway to push nerdy rationalist men towards "mainstream" sensibilities instead.

Do you have any thoughts on this?

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It's absolutely the right question. I want to think beyond rationalist sphere for sure and attract across a wider variety of subcultures. I think I'm well positioned to make some requests from friends across the near-of-center political spectrum. We have a few ideas here but down to chat if you have ideas!!! I think rationalist forward branding gives non rat women the ick, for sure. :) I don't identify as a rationalist myself, e.g.

Email me if you have ideas!

shreedashreeda at gmail dot com

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Requests from Twitter influencer types*

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I saw quite a couple people raising doubts about the efficacy of #2, and also object based on various ethical grounds, would be nice to get a sense of how many ACX or Less Wrong etc. people are in favour of such technology or think that it could work. I feel like a lot of people are strongly pro, but for various reasons try not to push too hard on this issue.

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Nov 10, 2023·edited Nov 10, 2023Author

I don't know if there's real disagreement on the efficacy. It's definitely not efficacious enough to learn anything useful about individuals at this point. It *might* be efficacious enough to do some broad studies, and to get some minor but nontrivial gains out of embryo selection. I think everyone knowledgeable is agreed on these points, though I could be wrong.

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One thing to consider about selection for cognitive ability is that it is worthwhile to not only consider gains (max - average) but also consider circumstances where couples avoid having a child with extremely low cognitive ability.

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Which happens already of course for Down’s syndrome and other abnormalities.

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Nah, it won't work for the usual reasons that you would call isolated demands for rigor. But it not working is of course nobody's true rejection.

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Nov 10, 2023·edited Nov 10, 2023

Here are what I've seen from skeptics:

[1] https://doi.org/10.1038/s41431-021-01000-x

[2] https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2019.10.033

[3] https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/deac159

[4] https://wwnorton.com/books/9781324035602 (part II of book)

[5] https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmsr2105065

Diana Fleischman, me, Jonathan Anomaly, and Laurent Tellier (co-founder of Genomic Prediction) wrote an article critiquing several arguments from Adam Rutherford. But you see his arguments elsewhere.

My main issue is that skeptics don't make relative comparisons between alternative methods of selection. They primarily focus on the negatives of PGT-P. However, having more true information will inform better decisions than being intentionally ignorant or selecting based on what the embryo looks like.

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We don't exactly just select embryos on "what the embryo looks like." We often do utilize validated genetic testing for chromosomal abnormalities and single-gene disorders for couples at risk.

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Yes, that is true. I was not clear. Thank you.

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I’m willing to help with #2 if needed. I’ve been working as a computational biologist for about 7 years now, and have a PhD in it. I’ve never done anything with polygenic scores before (my research has mostly been about transcriptomics) but I think I could learn it quickly enough to be useful. Also I’m decent with the usual bioinformatics programming languages: Python, R, SQL, Matlab, and somewhat experienced with machine learning.

I think I could devote a couple hours per week to working on this project in my free time. My email is mikest@udel.edu in case either of the project leaders wants to reach out.

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Hey Scott, thanks for featuring my comment about the dating site! Shreeda reached out to me about potentially merging projects but at the moment my team has a fairly comprehensive and somewhat radical vision we are trying to implement and we're trying to keep the team small and efficient. I hope our efforts will be complementary to Shreeda's. We actually intend to build something that will compete with the major apps that are out there, but will also manage to maintain more niche networks, without revealing too much publicly at this stage.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, our main need now is for capital. A couple people have reached out to me interested in investing, which we really appreciate and it would be great to get more. We are now in the process of trying to officially incorporate, which is a bit of a beauracratic hassle, but once we get through that it'll be somewhat more straightforward to accept money. We'll also be somewhat less secretive by that point and also should hopefully have a pitch deck with screens from the app, marketing strategies, etc.

For transparency, my name's Toviah Moldwin, just finished (pending my dissertation being approved) my doctorate in computational neuroscience at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. As for my credentials in matchmaking, I set up two of my friends with each other, they're now married with a very cute toddler. Also they're now both part of my team to build the dating app :)

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And as before, contact me at tmoldwin[at]gmail

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Oh, we could also use some assistance in terms of some of the business aspects, if anyone has experience with getting startups off the ground and would be interested in helping us with that.

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I wish your efforts lots of success! I know a lot of women who would appreciate some better dating alternatives.

I want to ask you a context question that is somewhat to the side of this. So please no pressure to engage around this, it's not directly on the topic.

I'm a psychotherapist pushing 60 (with zero dating app experience) who works with a lot of women in their 20s and 30s who have a lot of dating app experience. I think these are the kind of women you would want to attract to your app -- high-functioning, well-educated, mostly professional, young women looking for steady relationships, and mostly marriage and mostly kids at some point.

(I also work with quite a few men, but most of these men are already partnered by the time they come to me).

The women I've worked with, their collective experiences with dating apps echoes a lot of what this NYT piece describes: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/11/opinion/marriage-women-men-dating.html -- which is to say, they are meeting large numbers of men via dating apps who seem to lack interest or ability to be emotionally present for a committed relationship. (I know we could spend some time parsing what that means -- let's just take it for the moment as what a lot of women themselves are saying.)

My own perception is that this mismatch has been growing for a few generations, so that marriages of people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s are ending in larger numbers partly because women have enough economic independence so that what they mainly want in their relationships is intimacy and they're finding that their partners are not interested in or equipped for that.

The women I work with who have done a lot of dating describe the majority of men they meet on the apps to be ambivalent at best about actual relationship. Quite a few women I know dated men who said they wanted a long-term committed relationship only to find out in the first few dates that the men 1. actually wanted multiple sexual partners but didn't say so, 2. were way more ambivalent about having a close relationship than their profile indicated, or 3. did not consider themselves marriage material and had big unaddressed barriers to any kind of emotional intimacy.

It makes sense to me that we're in the midst of a huge generational change in what people generally want out of intimate relationships and so there's more room for confusion and misunderstanding without any intentional misrepresentation. We've lost the prior forms and have yet to create new ones.

I gather from the men I talk to that the tyranny of winning a physical appearance competition -- which used to be more what women experienced (of my generation) -- is now equally suffered by men and women. Of course the commodification of dating through these apps (as well as the rest of social media) has made this so much worse and I assume is part of what you're working to shift.

Is there a genuine mismatch of aims between men and women on dating apps that will not be fixed by just having more women on there? I realize my view is biased from working largely with the kind of women I do. But it also seems like these women are describing something real, even if it's not clear what it is. Do you think there is something real and significant going on this way and what do you think it is? And do you see it affecting what you're building?

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It seems to me like you are saying that this is something specific for the current generation, but the things you describe -- many men say they are looking for a committed relationship, but they actually just want sex with as many women as possible... attractive men find partners more easily than unattractive ones -- have been true always.

Websites only make it more efficient. The unattractive men can be rejected even before they meet the woman (so now they are under no illusion that they were rejected e.g. for something they said). The men looking for many partners can approach many women just by clicking quickly.

Is there something you specifically thing is new that wasn't here before?

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This is a simple case of their reach exceeding their grasp - if you read or dig up some of the old Oktrends analytics posts by Christian Rudder, or read his book Dataclysm, he talks about the fact that men rate women's attractiveness on a bell curve and message or respond accordingly, but women have more of a threshold model where they will only consider the top 20% of men, and consider the rest unacceptable.

However, if every woman does this, the top 20% of men are inundated and can date whoever they want easily, so any one of them are spoiled for choice and unlikely to commit to any particular woman they date.

Basically, your female patients think because they can pull an 8 or 9 for short-term / sex, they should be able to land one for a LTR, and they're wrong. The real solution is dating 7's and below, who would be more likely to want and enter a LTR, but the dynamics of being able to get seemingly infinite 8's and 9's for dates on the apps and the innate threshold attraction model serves to create this major mismatch of perceptions and desires.

From the female perspective, why settle for a 7 when you can easily get 8's or 9's for dates every day of the week? But those same 8's or 9's have the mirror dynamic - why settle for a LTR when you can easily get more dates / sex any day of the week?

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Thanks for explaining this. In this framing, a long-term relationship is always less preferable to men than a series of one-night stands or multiple simultaneous short-term partners mainly for sex and that's why the "settling" language?

This is one aspect of the mismatch I'm pointing to -- are men saying on apps that they want a LTR but they actually don't but think they have to pose as wanting a LTR to get the sex they actually want? Doesn't it seem like that system would break down pretty fast, like on the first or second date?

Would it not be the case that women looking for a LTR would be sorting first based on that? But what you're saying here suggests that the top 20% of men that women pick are men who don't have to "settle" for a LTR and so wouldn't need to pretend that that's what they're looking for.

And finally, this framing suggests that women are being dumped by the top 20% of men because they are overreaching for a LTR that the in-high-demand man doesn't want. But the experience that women are describing to me is dating men who say they want a LTR on their profile, but then turn out not to want one, or they want non-monogamy when they didn't say that, or it turns out they have no capacity for or interest in the emotional intimacy that having any kind of sustained relationship with a person requires.

How that plays out is that women decline to keep seeing the man after somewhere between one date and a few months. The women aren't being rejected by men.

I can't make sense of this framing you've offered in light of the experiences I'm hearing about from women. It only makes sense to me if the men receiving the top 20% of attention from women are lying in their profiles and saying they want a LTR when that's not actually what they're looking for. But your explanation says they wouldn't need to do that because they don't have to "settle."

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Yes, sorry if it wasn't clear - the 8's or 9's will say they want an LTR while actually wanting to sleep around. This is a very old dynamic, it's the old "guess the password" to (unethically) get what you want thing, and has been a feature of male / female dating for as long as homo saps have been dating, it's just been amplified by these dating app dynamics.

Then there's an additional layer of selection with the dating apps - any of the above threshold men that ACTUALLY want an LTR are not on the apps for very long, because they find it soon and get off the apps. Therefore, 90%+ of the remaining 8+'s on the apps have been selected for lying about wanting LTR's while actually wanting to sleep around. If they *actually* wanted an LTR, they wouldn't be on the app, because they would have found one already.

The solution? Date real people in person, referred by friends or your own judgment over time. The natural factors of personality and behavior that affect attraction in person are much more likely to take over, and they can end up genuinely attracted to a <=7 who is an actual "fair" match, and they can then have the LTR.

Or date <=7 folk on the apps, they're a lot more likely to be genuine about wanting an LTR, and they're still on the apps because it's a lot harder / takes longer for them to get dates, rather than because they've been adversely selected. But again, it's a tough sell - if you think you can pull 8+'s every day of the week, why would you bother trying to date a 7? Apps are just inherently appearance based, so you never get or see the other factors of attraction that make a <=7 acceptable in real life.

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“men who say they want a LTR on their profile, but then turn out not to want one” - not want one *altogether* or not want one *with this girl in particular*? You can be genuinely looking for a LTR, but find that the girl you’ve been out with a few times isn’t for you and still want to see her casually. There’s no contradiction here. Is their whole complaint that “it’s hard to find someone who I want to be in a relationship with that also wants to be in a relationship with me”? Yes, yes it is. Do you think it’s different for men? What do you think the modal male dating experience is?

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I think I posted this meandering question on here because I want to understand what the complementary experience is that men are having because I don't see it so much.

I've seen a number of people over several threads say we need more volume of women on these apps. And I imagine volume would address some issues. But it also seems there is a combination of historical mismatch being exacerbated by the dating app format and a generational shift in heterosexual relationship expectations that isn't going to be solved by having more quantities of women on the apps. And also that women's described experience with these apps is preventing more numbers of them from wanting to be on there. The general view of the women I work with is that the apps are a toxic dumpster fire. And so it seems like figuring out how to make it less of a toxic dumpster fire might be key to recruiting more numbers of women -- which is why I asked my question to the guy developing the new dating app.

Your picture of the modal male dating experience -- that men are looking for what women are looking for, which is to say nice people to meet to try out towards a LTR -- is different from the previous poster who said basically the modal male is looking for lots of varied low-commitment sexual encounters, and that the top 20% get to have that experience while the poor slobs in the lower 80% have to settle for a LTR which is not their preferred option. His picture is that most men lie on their profiles about wanting a LTR in order to attract women to have sex with -- which of course is a dance that has been played in some dating quarters long before apps. It seems like apps have an opportunity to clear some of that up by asking people to say honestly what they're looking for. It doesn't seem like that's happened?

Do you think if apps forced (no idea how) more distinction between "looking for casual sex," "looking to meet people to try out the possibility of LTR," and "looking for LTR with marriage and children" that it would help? I suspect if they could do that, that the number of men who land in the "looking for LTR with marriage and children" would not actually be that big relative to women in that group. But am I wrong about that? Surely the people who research these apps have some insight about this?

I'm fascinated by the description in an earlier thread of people in the orthodox Jewish matchmaking space because of the clarity about what the goal is. The goal is marriage and children and there's shared understanding about what's important in that search. While that's rather too restrictive for most other people, it does seem like there's something to be learned there about clarity of aims and how to communicate them well so that people don't waste time with each other.

I haven't seen data about this, but what you say suggests that for many men, it's fun to keep seeing someone casually even after you've decided they're not LTR material for you. The vast majority of women I know do not find that fun, but rather the experience of seeing whether a guy is LTR material for them is somewhat harrowing followed by extremely disappointing and that the whole thing is more exhausting and costly than enjoyable. Do you think that's a significant difference or not so much?

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I’m sorry for the tenseness of my previous response. I never post here, but I think this is an important topic and you seem refreshingly earnest so I hoped you could get some value out of an exchange that could ultimately benefit your clients.

I don’t mean for my perspective or experience to be taken as universal (I don’t think anyone’s can). Indeed, a lot of men (most? All? I don’t think one can say) go through a phase where they want to sleep with as many women as possible, but obviously it’s trivially true that not all men stay there (plenty of male humans capable of attaining casual sex are married or are in relationships, I’m not going to source or argue this) and I don’t think most stay there for very long honestly.

Apps do already have an “intention” you can set that are pretty much the categories you are describing. Intentions in dating, though, are so context dependent. Some people are never ever going to have a one night stand or casual fling ever again and only want to pursue someone if they think marriage is on the table. There are others who are not going to settle down under any circumstances and are mostly looking for fun. And then there are others who are looking for something serious, but will spend time with someone as long as there’s some amount of substance, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s going to last forever because it sucks to go literally years and years without going on fun dates with people and getting to know someone — even if it doesn’t lead to marriage — can still be a rewarding experience that makes you see dating overall as an enriching part of life.

I didn’t mean to suggest anything about most men wanting to keep seeing people (or anything about “most men” for that matter). I don’t think it’s really that contentious of a claim to say that some people (of all genders) enjoy casual dating. For what it’s worth, I personally have told several women after seeing them a few times that I don’t want to continue because I don’t see it going anywhere only for them to ask to keep seeing each other casually/not seriously. It’s all just way too context dependent to make statements about what “men want” or “women want”. The same exact man or woman wants different things at different points in their life and/or with a different partner.

The whole last part about how dating is draining - no, I don’t think there’s a significant difference in the character of the male or female experiences in dating. It seems like it’s hard for everyone and I don’t really see a “bad guy” here to blame things on. It’s a pretty serious thing to be selecting a life partner that’s naturally going to have ups and downs. I could sit here and tell you about the response rate I receive as a male when I send a vacuous “funny” first message vs anything of value.

You shouldn’t care at all about my advice because I’m a random idiot, but I really encourage you to ask your clients to walk you through the process of the last disappointing guy they went out with. I bet you’ll learn a lot. I have lots of female friends and have heard them speak about this, what they look for and what made them excited about a specific guy, etc. Even without having experience on an app, you’re older and wiser and I bet you’ll see what I have seen — the more someone complains about the dating market, the worse they are at being able to select a quality partner during the pre-date stage. If you take anything from me, I’d really hope it’s this suggestion. It is really hard out there, but if you focus on choosing wisely, you’ll meet people and have experiences with them that positively affect the way you see the other sex and yourself, and hopefully that makes the whole thing a lot easier.

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First, your clients probably know this but you might not: different dating apps have different userbase biases towards LTRs or STRs. These tendencies are somewhat independent of the app's branding, so you have to figure it out first-hand or by word of mouth.

Second, I agree with everything Performative Bafflement said upthread but would qualify that it's not the only possible explanation. To state it more generally, there are plenty of fish in the sea. If you find you're always catching the exact same kind of fish, there must be something wrong with your net. I can personally attest that if you have relaxed or uncommon preferences on any major category (nerdy, less conventionally attractive, interracial...) you will find no shortage of men on dating apps who are genuinely looking for LTRs. That doesn't make dating any easier, just that different dealbreakers will become more salient.

Third, I have a comment to make about emotional intimacy specifically. You said your clients are giving up on each man after "somewhere between one date and a few months". I'm genuinely asking, what makes them think that is a reasonable amount of time for intimacy to develop? Online dating is, above all, a massive numbers game. You have to switch at some point from the tough-skinned, detached demeanor that's appropriate for a near-stranger to the trust and vulnerability needed for a romantic partnership. While everyone does this at their own pace, I think this shift is later and more pronounced in men. They are usually expected to make the first move so they become much more familiar with rejection.

Semi-related: there was a long-past comment thread on this site contrasting the mostly-male experience of being friendzoned with the mostly-female experience of being sexzoned. The gist of it was that men feel emotional intimacy takes more commitment than sexual intimacy, while women feel the opposite. So you might see a relationship where both parties think they're giving more than they're getting.

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"I take your general point that EA is a better-than-nothing proxy for intelligence if you have no other phenotype, but I don't belive to be true in general."

Yes! Thank you! That's what I was trying to get at - the existence of the "Gentleman's Third" should have squashed the idea that "educational attainment = intelligence", in that coming out of an Oxbridge college with a degree might lead an outside observer to naively conclude "that person must be Really Smart" but it ain't necessarily so:



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It looks like in practice IQ and EA correlate genetically at 0.65, see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5985927/ . I stick with my claim that this is high enough for most practical purposes, although definitely if you have real IQ you should just use that.

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I was willing to do #4 by myself for Turkish/English but refrained from commenting because here I always feel underqualified and I was sure people would come up with better stuff. That mostly happened as I thought it would be, but still I'm putting my offer on the table. Do you have a book to learn Turkish to? I'll try to do it like you described.

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I agree with that last comment, I think the most helpful way to understand political change as you describe it is as a market for attention. Asking how to achieve political change is like asking how to make a lot of money on the stock market. There's probably a million ways to do it, but there's also a million people trying to do it, and new strategies only work for a while before everyone learns them and they become ineffective.

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Nov 11, 2023·edited Nov 11, 2023

Making money on the stock market is easy. Just invest in a low-fee index fund, and then wait 30 years. If you don't have 30 years or you want better-than-index-fund returns, *then* it gets hard.

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> Yeah, whipping the rank and file sounds like the way to get something passed. But as hard as it is to get an audience with your congressman, surely it’s even harder to get an audience with the Majority Whip. So what’s the plan here?

Neither meeting is that hard to get. It just takes a bit of concentrated effort. The harder part by far is convincing them and in large enough numbers to prioritize it/get it done. But getting into a room with them is simplicity. Getting into a hundred rooms in coordinated fashion at scale and convincing them all, especially over opposition, is the trouble.

> getting someone made an ambassador seems like a lot of work and string-pulling for a mostly sinecure position that doesn’t have much direct power,

Becoming an ambassador in a smaller country is not at all difficult. Most of them are bundlers meaning it is partly a matter of being in politics but mostly a matter of money. A small enough amount of money that I suspect EA could get it together if it wanted to. What was given to that EA candidate is the same range. In fact gathering it from a dispersed group is advantageous in several ways.

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Sorry, am I understanding you right that you're saying it's not that hard for an ordinary person to get a meeting with literal Dick Durbin or Tom Emmer?

How much does it cost to become an ambassador? Do you pay at the White House front gate, or is there some sort of delicate pretending-you're-not-paying-money task going on that most people can't manage?

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> Sorry, am I understanding you right that you're saying it's not that hard for an ordinary person to get a meeting with literal Dick Durbin or Tom Emmer?

Yes? Getting a phone call is probably the easiest. They regularly call certain important constituents or hold events they attend in person or so on. Which you can often get into with a bit of money. (There are other ways but I'm assuming money's the easiest path for most people. It's not a huge amount either.) It's actually a huge burden to take all those meetings and calls.

> How much does it cost to become an ambassador?

Depends on the country. Poorer countries have relatively weak price signals because relatively few people want to go to them. But for a relatively undesirable post I'd guess in the half a million to million dollar range. I'd have to look up the numbers from the last cycle or two to be sure. There's a paper about it from like a decade ago. I think it's called The Price of the Court of St. James.

> Do you pay at the White House front gate, or is there some sort of delicate pretending-you're-not-paying-money task going on that most people can't manage?

The latter. Though I wouldn't precisely call it difficult. It's not a trivial amount of effort but it's also not that difficult.

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Nov 11, 2023·edited Nov 11, 2023

Yep: https://reason.com/2013/02/01/what-price-the-court-of-st-james-or-how/

- not the actual study (and the link not working), but a fun short look into it

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Ah, I was close. I have the actual study somewhere. However it's out of date. You can still look up the various 'prices' though. You just have to calculate them.

Also, I do want to be clear I'm not some deep insider political animal who knows where every skeleton is buried. This stuff is fairly knowable if you just invest the time. I'm continuously surprised most people don't.

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> The latter. Though I wouldn't precisely call it difficult. It's not a trivial amount of effort but it's also not that difficult.

I assume it rather depends. If you're the sort of person to whom this kind of thing doesn't come naturally, then you're not qualified to be the US Ambassador to [insert random undesirable diplomatic posting here] so it all works out.

They may sell ambassadorships, but they make the process of buying one sufficiently obtuse that it filters out anyone who can't be trusted in that position.

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Maybe the process could be documented explicitly, with enough Rationalist jargon to make it easy for EA types while still excluding the likes of Charles J. Guiteau?

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First off, excellent Charles J. Guiteau reference. As to the point: Like I said in my initial comment, I'm fine documenting this stuff if someone's going to actually use it. I don't want to take the time and effort to write it out only to have it be a curiosity though.

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To some extent. The job of an ambassador in neutral to friendly countries is to gain local knowledge, serve as a connection between the US and their assigned country, and to build up social capital among elites and the population that US diplomacy can then spend down. So it's a lot of going to events, ribbon cutting, throwing parties, charity initiatives, etc.

You can see how a politician or bundler actually has a somewhat similar skillset. And how EA could use such a person. To pick a simple example if they had the ambassador to a country that needed bednets they would have an inside track to directing government funds from USAID to it as a diplomatic initiative.

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I would like to point out: a seat at the table with Xi Jingping and Biden in San Fransisco, by most accounts, costs $40,000. Why is it hard to believe you can get a US Senator to call you for a tenth of that amount or less? I honestly have a bit of trouble with the skeptical response you had.

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K Street is to lobbying what Wall Street is to finance, or Madison Avenue is to advertising. Except K Street is in Washington DC not New York. I don't know about bookers though!

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On the language-learning idea:

IIRC I read this, and then [a friend? google? the comments? unrelated?] told me that this should be done for math.

(Duolingo is adding a "math" section, but it's extremely simplistic and not related to this (and also IIRC

AFAIK their approach probably doesn't work))

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For the Primer on Political Change: Samo Burja's "Great Founder Theory" PDF is a good rationalist-leaning exploration of political *theory*. However, 1) that's not really an actionable primer, and 2) everyone already disagrees about political theory, so take my recommendation here with appropriate reference-class priors on "this political theory is one of the good ones" ever being true lol

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You mentioned the existence of other language-learning plugins like Toucan. Do you have names? I've tried Toucan out a few times, and keep ending up with feelings of "this seems conceptually great but I'm bouncing off of the implementation"; alternatives are thus very much of interest to me.

(From a bit of web-searching, it seems like there's one called Fluent, but it's (a) Chrome-only (and thus incompatible with my use of Firefox as my main web browser) and (b) much more limited than Toucan in terms of what languages it covers. But it sounds, from this post's phrasing, like there are more than just those two?)

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I just clicked through to the link to Weeve in Alzy's comment (https://shop.weeve.ie/pages/shop) and almost wanted to buy something. But then I scrolled down a little further and found two example sentences from English to German.

_Ich bin_ still a little afraid of missing...

In college _ich war_ unjustly accused...

On the first sentence "Ich bin" does mean "I am" and it is technically possible to continue the translation in a grammatical way. But it would be unidiomatic, since the normal German way to say "I am afraid" would hyperliterally translate to "I _have_ fear".

The second sentence is flat out wrong and teaching wrong grammar. In English "was" happens to mark both the past of "to be" as in "I _was_ young and poor, now I am old and poor" and a past passive as in "I _was_ accused by someone, now I am in prison". This is a coincidence that doesn't happen to apply in German. So this particular "i was" actually would be "ich wurde" and not "ich war".

And I didn't dig for this, these are the only two example sentences showcased on their homepage. So, cheap shot, yes this is pretty much exactly the level of German many Irish people learned in school.

More seriously, this is a training for vocabulary, constructed by search&replace. It clearly doesn't have anything for grammar or standard phrases.

That is disappointing, because vocabulary is the easy and pretty much solved part of language learning (https://apps.ankiweb.net/), and also the part traditional classroom learning is semi-successful at.

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Re: number eight (political change): have you seen the Maximum New York blog? The guy in charge seems VERY into this kind of thing

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Nov 11, 2023·edited Nov 11, 2023

> Since I mostly just want to be able to read foreign languages, and the hardest part of that is vocabulary (you can mostly just ignore word-ending changes) I find this pretty useful.

There's a famous poem that begins

Quis multa gracilis te puer in rosa / perfusus liquidis urget odoribus / grato, Pyrrha, sub antro?

Glossing the vocabulary, you get this:

Who many slender you boy in rose / drench liquid press smell / pleasant, Pyrrha, under cave?

Pyrrha is the name of a girl.

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Meanwhile, in Japanese, the word-ending changes are the difference between "eat", "not eat", "did(/did not) eat", "can(/cannot) eat", "was(/was not) eaten", "must eat", "want to eat", "if eaten", "while eating", everything to do with the te-form, and a bunch of different politeness levels to boot.

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Nov 11, 2023·edited Nov 11, 2023

Vocabulary is far and away the easiest part of reading foreign languages. If you don't know what a word means, you can just look it up, and then you'll know.

This is pretty far from being true for grammatical indicators. They are often difficult to look up, usually don't have high-quality glosses, and even when they do have quality glosses or explanations, you may not be able to understand the concept anyway. That last problem does occur with vocabulary - not every object exists in every culture, and some concepts are defined entirely by socialization that doesn't occur in foreign cultures - but that's the exception. Mostly vocabulary issues are solved in the blink of an eye when you learn that árbol means "tree" or 石头 means "rock".

Here's another couplet, from the Metamorphoses:

ad nomen Thisbes oculos a morte gravatos / Pyramus erexit visaque recondidit illa

at name Thisbe eye from death heavy / Pyramus raise see hide that.

You can probably guess what's going on in the first line; I suspect you'll have more difficulty with the second line.


I did once remark to a friend that when I see 就 in a sentence of Mandarin, I usually just pretend it's not there. She replied that that would almost always work.


Of the things you list, "eat", "did eat", "was eaten", and "must eat" are conveyed by Latin verb endings, but negation, possibility, and desire are not. (You have a choice with "must eat"; you could mark that with an auxiliary verb, but you can also use a subjunctive form or a gerundive.) "If eaten", conditionality, cannot be expressed solely through the use of verb endings, but there are strict rules about how to express different types of conditionality that require particular verb forms, so without paying attention to those, you'll have no idea what kind of condition or result is being described.

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Classical Latin and especially Classical Latin poetry is exceptionally difficult to read, not because Latin itself is so hard, but because the style is so convoluted. Even if one knows all the declensions and conjugations, one won't be able to sight-read Horace.

Any modern European language is much easier to learn to read. That said, obviously one does need to learn the grammar, so I don't know where the idea comes from that one can just ignore the word endings. But I do agree with the post you quoted that the vocabulary is the hardest part in learning to read a language, just because there's so much more of it than there is grammar.

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Nov 12, 2023·edited Nov 12, 2023

> Classical Latin and especially Classical Latin poetry is exceptionally difficult to read, not because Latin itself is so hard, but because the style is so convoluted.

That just means it's easy to produce good examples quickly. Every so often I decide to translate a current Chinese pop song, and almost without fail there is some stretch of the song that I end up unable to understand. Glossing without grammar will not work, in any language, in any text of more than a couple of lines. But if I were to provide one of those songs as an example, the difficult sections would be overshadowed by many lines where glossing without grammar looks like it might work. (Also, since I know what those lines mean, they look a lot more accessible, to me, than they actually are.)

Bear in mind that the Latin poetry, like modern Chinese music†, is supposed to be instantly intelligible to a native speaker. It's not some ordeal to listen to it and puzzle together what was meant.

† I did encounter one Chinese song which I quickly learned was written in intentionally archaic language. I gave up on the idea of translating 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 one about four words into the first line.

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Nov 12, 2023·edited Nov 12, 2023

Whether or not it was instantly intelligible to a native speaker or not (and the people who read Horace weren't just native speakers but native speakers educated to understand the conventions of that style of poetry), reading Classical Latin is so hard that even many Classicists can't read it fluently. It would be incredible if a professor of Russian couldn't read a complex Russian text fluently, and Russian is at least as difficult grammatically as Latin is.



Or Dorothy Sayers on her own Latin education (in an essay where she recommends people teach Latin more using Medieval authors):

( https://www.memoriapress.com/articles/greatest-single-defect-my-own-latin-education/ )

"For the moment I will only leave on record that my Latin education ended upon this note. It ended, I say, there, leaving me, after close on twenty years’ teaching, unable to read a single Latin author with ease or fluency, unable to write a line of Latin without gross error"


"I will quote from the preface of a book which I met with only the other day ... I wish I had known of its existence earlier ... That is H. P. V. Nunn’s Introduction to the Study of Ecclesiastical Latin. He says:

Much of Classical Latin is highly artificial, not to say unnatural, in its modes of expression. The authors whose works are most generally read wrote for a fastidious and highly cultivated society of littérateurs . . . and especially under the early Empire, they wrote with a view to reading their works to admiring circles of friends, whose applause they hoped to arouse by some novel or far-fetched term of expression."'

I don't know Chinese, but if prof. Victor Mair who posts on the Languagelog blog from the University of Pennsylvania is to be trusted, classical Chinese texts are written in a style that requires even more erudition to read than classical Latin ones. (Yes, I understand you are talking about modern pop songs, but I just thought I would throw this out here)


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Nov 12, 2023·edited Nov 12, 2023

> reading Classical Latin is so hard that even many Classicists can't read it fluently. It would be incredible if a professor of Russian couldn't read a complex Russian text fluently, and Russian is at least as difficult grammatically as Latin is.

You're drawing the wrong lesson here. The reason classicists can't read Latin fluently is that this skill is not emphasized in their training. As you ... already note in the same breath, the language is not more difficult than other comparable languages.

It is true that Church Latin and premodern scholastic Latin are easier for us to read than classical Latin is. But the reason for that is not that the classical Latin texts were written to be difficult. They weren't. The later Latin texts were written by people whose native languages were much closer to our own, and the Latin those people wrote reflects that.

In one of the selections I quoted, there is an overt appeal to erudition, such as it is: the name Thisbes appears in the genitive case appropriate to its language of origin, Greek. But while this is a highly artificial thing to do in Latin poetry, it poses no difficulty at all to modern classicists.

> if prof. Victor Mair who posts on the Languagelog blog from the University of Pennsylvania is to be trusted

He is trustworthy if you want to know the meaning of modern or classical Chinese text. He's not trustworthy on history, philology, or linguistic structure in general, including on the linguistic structure of modern Chinese. He has not been good for the blog; with him doing most of the writing, there isn't much linguistics content featured anymore, much of the linguistics content that does get featured is transparent nonsense, and many longtime commenters on Language Log were driven away by his policy of deleting critical comments.

Classical Chinese texts vary in difficulty much like Latin texts do, for the same reason: the oldest such text known is the Shi Jing ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classic_of_Poetry ), which is hundreds of years older than any text in classical Latin; the most recent such texts are probably from the nineteenth or even early twentieth century. Just as with Latin, the style of writing shifted over time even as the "classical" form of the language remained noticeably distinct from the spoken vernacular.

One thing that increases the difficulty of reading ancient Chinese documents, without really being a fact about the language itself, is that those documents tend to assume close familiarity with a large corpus of culturally significant texts.

Any modern Chinese high school student is expected to be able to read classical documents to a certain degree, and I can attest that they can do so for personal entertainment if the document is interesting enough. But the degree we're talking about here is not particularly high. They are also expected to be familiar with a selection of famous poetry, but that is likely more about memorization than it is about really understanding the language.

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The only lesson I am drawing is that learning to read Classical Latin texts is considerably more difficult than learning to read modern languages (for whatever reason, but it doesn't seem to be a fact about the Latin language itself). This has also been my personal experience, and it is supported by what I have read from other people, for example the things I linked to by Sayers and Mary Beard.

So whoever it was that first expressed an interest in learning to read a foreign language shouldn't be discouraged by the examples that you provided.

That said, I agree that one can't learn to read without learning grammar.

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> The only lesson I am drawing is that learning to read Classical Latin texts is considerably more difficult than learning to read modern languages (for whatever reason, but it doesn't seem to be a fact about the Latin language itself).

Well, that's sort of the lesson I was calling wrong, and it sort of isn't. I was making the point that this isn't a fact about the language. For your first clause, I have difficulty with your usage - I'm not sure what it means that learning to read Latin "is more difficult" than learning to read other languages, if that claim is not taken to reflect anything about Latin.

I have provided the alternative perspective that it is in fact not more difficult to learn to read Latin, and the reason classicists can't do it at the level you'd expect of a specialist in a modern language is that they don't try. Fluent reading is not valued by the classicist community, it is not a part of their training, and it is not a normal part of their work. But there is a recreational Latin community who do claim to speak and read fluently, and I have little doubt that they considerably exceed the average abilities of classicists.

I'm not sure to what extent this actually is an alternative perspective to yours, versus a confusion over the English phrasing of the claim.

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Nov 12, 2023·edited Nov 12, 2023

More on the topic of Latin, here is the first sentence of De Bello Gallico, book 4, chapter 2. De Bello Gallico is a popular text in large part because Caesar's prose is well known for being exceptionally easy to read.

Mercatoribus est aditus magis eo ut quae bello ceperint quibus vendant habeant, quam quo ullam rem ad se importari desiderent.

Here is the word-by-word vocabulary gloss:

Merchant be access more therefore that what war take who sell have, than because any thing to themselves import need.

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Should we be organizing some kind of army of volunteers to sign women up for the dating site in person? What's the target age group? Should we be canvassing the campuses of colleges that have graduate programs with clipboards and labcoats?

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I like the cut of your jib, boy.

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Wait, isn't donating time and money to further the classical arts the exact kind of anti-Singerian charity that got EA started?

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Not that I recall. EA is mostly not in the business of telling people they should sell all their worldly possessions to donate to the poor. See e.g. "Purchase your fuzzies and utilitons separately"; classical arts is definitely in the fuzzies category, but you do get to have both!

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Wait is there really someone with the Twitter handle @scp_hughes who is a completely different Samuel Hughes from the Sam Hughes better known as qntm who wrote some stuff on the SCP Foundation wiki, along with some other good sci-fi? Wild.

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I don't think security is important for an implicit association test. None of the other online tests have security, and more importantly, I don't think it's even possible to prevent people from cheating if they want to. The most straightforward way to hide your bias is just to delay your responses slightly for the pairs you do associate.

E.g. if the test is looking if you associate "engineering" with "male" and "biology" with "female", and you want to hide that bias, you just don't hit the button as quickly as you could on the rounds where those categories are paired together.

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was 4 (learning languages). Learned about: a) failure mode 1 ( mode2: I put my email. To no avail, but ok) c) best time to comment on "Quests" may NOT be early on. I missed all the good comments. - Happy to see this quest is "solved", did join free Toucan now (fine on wikipedia, silly on ACX - all paragraphs in the comments double?!? ). As with free quixote: Might be a non-useless extra-tool for some learners ("readers" - most people are not). From the Pinocchio screen-shot: https://www.jamez.it/project/the-adventures-di-pinocchio/?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email I doubt those books you need to pay for are any better (prismatexts has hundreds, no way they did this "by hand"). - Seems to me, this tools work best if one has already some understanding of the language (A2-level or better).

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> It seems several people agree on this story. I’m most interested in the question of why the market isn’t resolving it. Every building is built by some specific person or group, whether that’s the government building a courthouse, a developer building homes, a congregation building a church, or a business building a new HQ. None of these people are architects, so why don’t they demand architects implement their preferences instead of the architect’s own?

It is an interesting question, I think the answer is that most of the people making decisions (a) don't care that much and (b) are afraid to be look like rubes in front of their big fancy architects.

Buildings larger than a private home aren't generally ordered by individuals, they're ordered by institutions, and most institutions just aren't set up in a way that enables people's preferences to be satisfied. If you're ordering a new corporate HQ are you going to go out on a limb and say "I want a beautiful building in a neoclassical style", knowing that some people in your own organisation are going to call you an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy, definitely a rube, possibly a white supremacist? Or are you going to hire Zaha Hadid (or your local cheaper equivalent) and just go along with whatever they come up with? I'd probably choose the latter, it's fewer headaches.

The only building projects where the preferences of actual individual clients really matter are houses, and you'll notice that a lot of houses are still being built in traditional styles.

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Nov 11, 2023·edited Nov 11, 2023

I could take a stab at #8, though I am grossly underqualified. It seems to me that targeted political change doesn't happen in a vaccum, but has to be situated within a larger spectrum of strategies, each of which can facilitate the others. To take a quick stab at it, I would suppose that the following list incorporates most of the options. I think of these as chapters in a hypothetical book-sized primer. The list is organized as: Name of strategy - Goal of strategy - A classic source on the strategy.

If anyone can think of additional strategies or sources, please feel free to share.

Forms of Deliberate Political Change:

1. Violent Revolution/Insurgency - Overthrow a regime - Writings of Mao Tse Tung/others

2. Nonviolent Protest Movement - Replace a regime - Writings of Gene Sharp

3. Community Organizing/Civic Disobediance - Empower a community - Writings of Saul Alinski

4. Media-Based Public Awareness Campaign - Change Public Opinion - Multiple Online Sources

5. Volunteer Lobbying Project - Get a law passed/repealed - Multiple Online Sources

6. Campaign for a Candidate - Get someone elected - "Campaign Manager..." by Catherine Shaw

7. Running for Office - Get elected - "Running: How To..." by Peter Fusco

The next step, if this seems like a productive direction to take to anyone, would be to break each chapter down into sub-types and guidelines to doing them, with sources.

Does this approach seem useful to anyone?

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The list is organized from most disruptive to least disruptive, and I missed one:

Propaganda/Mis/Disinformation Campaign - Disrupt a political process - "Dark Money" by Jane Mayer (more an expose than a "How To")

Put is around 3.5 on the list

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Given the insights on #7, I'm struck that it's a coordination challenge. If clients really want those designs, it seems that one solution is 1) aggregating demand for those projects, 2) bringing it to an architecture firm that will provide architects that will not push clients away, and 3) building a pipeline of architecture talent that wants to produce classical design (with ND leading the way there). To that end, I would be open to developing a non-profit towards those ends (I have more free time on my hands than I would prefer, and making the world a more beautiful place seems worthwhile).

Given the lack of messaging here, shoot me a note at robjobva@gmail.com if you have feedback on my assumptions (good or bad), want to help with any of them, or have any experience with goal-oriented non-profits i.e. I'd like to be able to declare success and shut it down at some point.

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The hardest part of #8 is getting people to listen to your good ideas. That is what protests, petitions, lobbyists, etc. are for. The good news is that you already have solved that problem. You have a megaphone that thought leaders, journalists, and donors already listen to. You have a lot of weight to throw around. One long blog post, a series of tweets from you, and several podcast interviews could be huge. The problem is finding an issue where there is not already lots of weight being thrown around people have already taken sides.

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"Political Change" is like "Business Strategy", you have to decide what your priority is. Do you want to change public opinion? Pass a new law? Elect one or more candidates? These are significantly different goals, and each require a significant commitment of time, money and energy. Given limited resources, where do you want to focus?

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Tangential - but related to the EEG study - is there any reliable evidence for caloric stimulation having positive impact on learning rates?

For no other reason than I think that adding a cold water squirt device to a system that attaches electronics to people's heads sounds like the sort of thing that will have either extremely darkly funny or extremely positive net benefit impact on the world.

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Nov 12, 2023·edited Nov 12, 2023

Based on other comments, with respect to #8, it appears that most people are interested in "Volunteer Lobbying Project"--Get a law passed/repealed (from the list I posted earlier).

Based on my own limited experience working with non-profit organizations with an interest in influencing public policy, I can offer a few broad guidelines. First, I don't think you can entirely separate the national from the local in terms of marketing--the ideal entity to undertake lobbying of local officials is a partnership between local advocates of an issue, and a national partner. Each will be seen as offering advantages to the other--the local partner takes the lead and applies first hand knowledge of officials, issues, and the political culture, while a national affiliate will lend a certain prestige as well as acting as a conduit for resources from out of the locality.

For most issues, state governments are often thought most cost-effective in terms of the entry requirements vs. potential impact. You probably want to avoid the largest states or the Federal government for this reason--there are well established lobbying organizations that make entry into the field difficult and expensive. Yet a very small state or locality might not have the national impact you are looking for. Therefore, a mid-sized state or large city might be ideal. Also, you might want to avoid governments dominated by political factions that might be opposed to your agenda for partisan reasons.

You want to establish a small non-profit organization to act as the public face of your program. Most places, this requires three people who act as officers, a charter, an application to the IRS for nonprofit status, and bank account to hold funds. Once you have this together, you need seed money--either out of pocket or as a result of some limited fundraising among like minded colleagues. A few thousand dollars will suffice to get things started.

Once you have official status, and some seed money, it's time to generate some lobbying materials. This will take the form of a "Handbook" for state legislators, ten or twelve pages explaining the importance of the issue of critical thinking skills, and suggested actions a legislator could take to support the cause.

Now you find a local advocacy organization to partner with. This is an important step, so you would want to do a lot research before approaching a potential partner, but this will save time, effort and lend legitimacy to your cause.

Then you contact the local partners, schedule a meeting, and persuade them to join you in the project. Since you are undertaking all the labor and cost, it shouldn't be too hard, provided they have a vested interest in the issue you are advocating. The next step is for the local partner to contact a state legislator or other appropriate public official, get that meeting scheduled, agree with your partner on a meeting agenda, and meet them with the local partner. It's important for the local partner to arrange and attend the meeting, since legislators are far more likely to make time with someone they represent, as opposed to an "outsider" like yourself. With your partner's agreement, it's ok for you to take the lead during the actual meeting. You will be presenting yourself as a spokesperson for a national organization advocating for this issue (this will be true even if you happen to live in the locality you are targeting-it's all about marketing).

From there, it's a matter of using persuasive speech to advocate for your position. Give them a copy of your materials, review it with them, make your pitch, get their feedback.

The more specific the action you want them to undertake, the easier it is to convince them. Offer a copy of a law to submit to a committee, or a clause to insert in a spending bill, or whatever might be happening locally that offers an opportunity to achieve something substantive (you will want to have done some research on this). Find out, from the official and your partner, who else needs to be convinced to lend their support as well. Schedule more meetings. Hand out more materials. Succeed in getting something passed, either into law, or as Department of Education policy, or in some other way.

Then, take that success and use it to support more fundraising. Create fundraising materials that highlight all your activities, advocate partners, officials supporting you, and any other milestones. Get more money. Expand your efforts to new milestones, additional states. Rinse and repeat.

I hope that was interesting and helpful.

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"you should probably try responding to their comment and seeing if they get a notification." - what's up with that anyway? Why don't I get a notification for any reply? Why isn't there some place where I can see all the comments I made?

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> (Generate implicit association tests): Nobody seemed too interested in this one, which is fair - it’s a pretty hard task for questionable payoff.

I think your pitch for it was not the strongest from the list: it was hard for me to figure out what you wanted to be created and what the point would be.

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Nov 14, 2023·edited Nov 14, 2023

Re #7, Scott writes “It seems several people agree on this story. I’m most interested in the question of why the market isn’t resolving it…why don’t [the architects’ clients] demand architects implement their preferences instead of the architect’s own?”

Here’s how that might play out (1/2):

Your town wants to build a new middle school. The current building is old and outdated, the roof leaks, and it isn’t fully wheelchair accessible. Many of the local teachers and parents are pushing hard for the idea, and you think they’re probably right.

Being a public-spirited type with a couple of kids in the elementary school, you take an interest in the project and offer your help. The town is forming a Middle School Building Committee that will consist of a few local officials, school administrators, and other residents. They ask you to join and you agree.

You and your new colleagues start by reaching out to nearby towns that have built schools recently, hoping to learn from their experience. The first thing you discover is that they didn’t manage the nitty gritty details of those projects themselves. For projects of this complexity, it turns out that it’s hard for local government employees and volunteers to tell whether the design and construction team are doing competent work at a fair price. For that oversight, you need to hire an Owner’s Project Manager, a professional firm that represents you throughout the project. At the recommendation of the other towns, you reach out to the handful of OPM firms that do school projects in this region. You interview them, focusing on their experience and their track records of delivering projects on time and on budget, and hire one.

Your OPM starts by doing a conceptual cost estimate for the project. You’re disturbed by how high it is. Despite significant funding expected from the state, this will be the town’s largest capital expense in several decades. You’ll have to issue a municipal bond that will take thirty years to pay back, increasing the average household’s property tax bill by hundreds of dollars per year.

The local newspaper runs a story about the OPM’s estimate and it’s discussed in public meetings and on Facebook. Many residents angrily oppose the project. You’re still convinced that building a new school is the right choice, but you become increasingly nervous, realizing that a bad strategic decision on your part could have serious negative consequences for the town and leave you with egg on your face. All the more reason to go with an experienced team.

Which leads to the next key step in the process: hiring an architectural firm. The architects will be responsible for the design, the technical documents that the contractor will use to bid and build the project, and construction-phase oversight of the contractor. The architects will do half of this work themselves and will subcontract the other half out to engineering consultants whom they will manage: structural engineers, civil engineers, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing engineers, sprinkler engineers, and so on.

Your OPM already has opinions about which architectural firms would be good choices. Some of their names you’ve already heard in your discussions with the nearby towns. Most of the school projects in the region, it seems, are done by a handful of architectural firms: fairly large firms with offices in the major city of your region.

With your OPM’s help, you prepare and issue an RFP for architectural services. The RFP requires that firms list their experience with projects like yours, which effectively limits the field to the usual group. You interview the firms that respond. They seem capable and experienced; it’s reassuring that they’ve done this before and seem to know how it all works.

Judging by their portfolios, all of these shortlisted firms seem to do fairly similar design work. There isn’t a huge range, like one firm that does only Brutalism and another that does only Romanesque. They all seem to do work that could be broadly described as “contemporary”. You’re not an expert when it comes to design, but your tastes run more in the traditional direction. But the architects seem nice enough and they emphasize that their clients’ priorities come first, so that seems promising. You and your colleagues choose one of them.

The initial meetings with the design team focus mostly on the program: the numbers and sizes of different areas of the building. This is mostly straightforward, but you didn’t realize how many regulations the state education bureaucracy has about this nowadays. Fortunately, the designers are already up to speed on them.

Whenever the architects and the engineers start to get deeper into the weeds, they make off-hand references to a confusing array of codes and standards with acronyms like IBC, IECC, ADA, NEC, NFPA, LEED, and so on. Based on your quick Google searches, these appear to be book-length documents filled with dense technical and legal language. It feels like it would take years for you to become well-versed in them, so you don’t try, being forced instead to rely upon the team of specialists you’ve hired.

Did I mention that the state will be providing funds? This funding, which is critical for the viability of the project, doesn’t come easily. Reasonably enough, the state doesn’t want to shell out tens of millions of dollars without significant oversight. To access the funds, you will have to navigate a complex approval process, administered by bureaucrats, that scrutinizes the proposed design and budget to ensure their compliance with state standards. Fortunately for you, your architects have navigated this byzantine process before and are on a first-name basis with the bureaucrats.

Having established the building program and a conceptual plan, the architects come to the next meeting with the first sketches of the building’s exterior. You aren’t thrilled. Earlier you had mentioned some older buildings that you liked, but what they show you seems to be another version of the same style of building that they designed for the last town. You point out cautiously that the curved walls and flat roof don’t fit in with the existing buildings nearby.

The architects listen politely, thank you for your comments, and promise to address your concerns. They come to the next meeting with revised renderings. The proposed design hasn’t changed dramatically, but they’ve added some brick in certain areas and made a few of the roof surfaces sloped rather than flat. This, they tell you, “creates a dialogue” with the context of the older buildings nearby. You agree that the new version is a little better, but it’s still fundamentally different than the older buildings you like.

Truth be told, your architects probably couldn’t do a genuine traditional design even if they wanted to. They’ve done modern architecture for their entire academic and professional careers. Sure, they took an architectural history course in school and had to sketch the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, but that was thirty years ago and now they can barely remember which is which. Architectural styles are like languages, and it takes a lot of practice to become fluent. Even if you could cajole them into a real attempt at a traditional building, the results would be ham-handed.

You don’t fully realize that, but you’re frustrated with the way things are going. It doesn’t seem like the architects are really listening to you, and you wonder whether the town made the right choice in hiring them. You start to poke around online for architects that could do a design more in keeping with the character of the town.

After some searching, you find a couple of firms that have won design awards for traditional buildings in your region. You like these designs much better, but the firms seem to be small, with only a handful of employees listed on their websites, and their portfolios consist mostly of houses. They don’t seem to have done a major school project like yours.

Nevertheless, you write down the names of these firms and ask your OPM about them. The OPM is dismissive. They’re not too familiar with these firms, but they can see that they’re small shops that have no experience with this type of work. Even if these architects wanted to take the job, they tell you, it would be foolish to hire them. You need a firm that knows how these projects work.

The other members of the committee are inclined to agree with the OPM. They don’t seem to care as much as you do about the building’s appearance, and are more focused on practical matters. The project has some momentum in town now, and firing the architect would throw a major wrench in the works. There would be a delay and the committee might look foolish. Besides, the OPM has been telling you, construction pricing has been going up every month. The smart move is to limit risk, stick with the pros, and stay the course.

Reluctantly, you decide not to push the issue any further. It’s probably true that the current architects are the safe bet. There’s only so much that you can do, and you figure that it’s better to stay engaged and push for what changes you can. And you did already win some modifications that made the design a little nicer.

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The architects remain on the job and complete the technical drawings. The town puts the project out to bid, and you sweat it out as you wait for the prices to come in. After all, the town only voted to authorize a certain amount of money for the project. If the contractors’ bids come in high, the No New School crowd on Facebook will have a field day and the town might vote against an increase, putting the entire project in jeopardy.

Fortunately the architects and the OPM did the pre-con cost estimating competently. A couple of the bids are high, but several others land within the range approved by the town. You sign a contract with an solid contractor.

Construction begins. You and the rest of the committee put on your hard hats for occasional site tours, but otherwise you don’t get too involved in the details. Things are handled by the OPM, the architect, and the contractor. You have to approve the contractor’s monthly applications for payment, which run to millions of dollars, but your approval is mostly a formality. By the time the documents get to you, the contractor has already gone back and forth on the line items with the subcontractors and then the architect and OPM have done the same with the contractor. You don’t have the time or the technical knowledge to second-guess their evaluation, so you basically take their word for it.

The construction site is its own complicated world, with lots of large machinery and workers running around. Now that you better understand the scale of the project, the idea of hiring an inexperienced design team seems even more risky, and you’re quietly relieved that you dodged that bullet.

In the end, the project comes in mostly on time and on budget. There were some change orders for things that the architects omitted from the drawings and for unexpected field conditions, but the extra cost is less than the amount of the contingency fund that the OPM wisely advised you to carry. The building opens for the new school year and people seem happy enough.

You still aren’t satisfied with the way that the new school looks, and you occasionally look regretfully at the older school building, built in the 1920s, that now holds the town offices. Despite its age, it just looks nicer for reasons that you can’t quite articulate. But, as you think back about how the process unfolded, you still feel that you made the right choice at each step and aren’t sure what you could have done differently.

Your architect and OPM add your town to their list of qualifications, and move on to the next project three towns over.

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I wonder whether anyone is working on the charitable area of "running major trials to get FDA approval for uses of off-patent drugs that we're very sure will work"? This might involve passing money to large drug companies to offset their expenses, unless there are other groups set up to do that sort of thing. (Not that they'd want the competition, but they might have a department somewhere that could squeeze in some charitable work.) Of course, the perfect solution would be to fix the FDA, but that may be beyond the capability of mere money, so perhaps there's room for a simpler but merely good solution?

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I think I can solve one of these right now, or at least direct people to a resouce that solves it. Implicit Association Tests have been developed through a few means, as per the Behavioral Research Method journal article "Survey-software implicit association tests: A methodological and empirical analysis." https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13428-019-01293-3. It is just a reaction time test, which I've used in my own research to test impulsivity years ago, using a go-no-go paradigm. There is lots of existing software that can do this, likely for much cheaper. I had to have custom code written but today there are a lot more options (e.g., https://www.psytoolkit.org/experiment-library/go-no-go.html).

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As an ordinary layperson who hired an architect to design the house I currently live in, my anecdata is that while in theory you're in charge as the client, they have their own vision for the project and apply a lot of pressure to get what they want too. You get told your ideas are "too hard" or too expensive" or "wouldn't look right" and kind of just have to trust their expertise? (at least on the "too hard" and "too expensive" parts.

Of my original ideas for my house, the surviving elements were "high vaulted ceiling" and the colour palette, and approximately everything else changed. Some things I pushed hard to get a version of what I wanted, some things I just let the architect do what they wanted because I didn't have the energy to research the issue and convince myself that I was right

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Right, and houses are among the simplest kinds of buildings. The dynamic you experienced is even stronger on bigger projects. I described one in my overly verbose pair of earlier comments.

In a nutshell, the answer to Scott’s question is Burnham’s Managerial Revolution. When a process becomes sufficiently complex, the general public has to rely upon the expertise of specialists who know how to navigate the complexity. And those specialists, because they are necessary, have power to shape outcomes according to their preferences, even if those are somewhat different than the public’s preferences.

I should qualify my earlier dismissal of the role that regulation plays in the dominance of modernism. Regulation certainly isn’t a factor in the normal, straightforward way; this isn’t like NIMBY zoning. It isn’t the case that you “just aren’t allowed” to build a Gothic office building or that new sprinkler codes somehow make it impossible to build Corinthian columns. There aren’t any meaningful rules against traditional design.

But there is another level at which regulation does limit clients’ design choice. Over the past century, the amount of regulation in the building industry has grown from near-zero to intense. The past century has also seen the introduction of many new kinds of building systems, which in turn interact with the earlier regulations, require their own sets of regulations, etc. The result is that building design and construction are much more complicated than they were.

Modernism began its takeover nearly a century ago and soon won a total victory. The modernist architectural establishment adapted to the complexity of the field as it increased and now has the expertise to handle it. There has been a small but real traditional revival, but the new entrants, working as individuals or in small groups, have to climb the complexity ladder rung by rung.

The further down the complexity ladder a project is, the lower the barrier to entry and the more we should expect to see traditional design making inroads. New traditional architecture should be more common in houses and less common in schools. But private schools have less regulatory complexity than public schools, so we should expect to see more traditional architecture done for private schools than for public schools. And that is exactly what we see.

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> But I also think that “classical” ... is an easy Schelling category that captures most of what people mean by “good building” without forcing a debate over “well my architecture should be popular too”.

> ...

> In practice, most people’s real opinions are about “classical architecture” vs. “modern architecture”

This seems to be opposite to this claim from the article, which seems to be true to me:

>> As mentioned above, there are definitely popular ‘modernist’ buildings: as the huge 2007 poll by the American Institute of Architects found, the American people really do like Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch and Wright’s Fallingwater. I am not sure I have ever met someone who disliked the Sydney Opera House.

Also the debates would have to be over "my architecture *is* popular", and if they can provide evidence of that, great!

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