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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org in case either of the project leaders wants to reach out.
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 :)
"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:
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.
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.
> 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.
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!
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))
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
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?)
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.
Re: number eight (political change): have you seen the Maximum New York blog? The guy in charge seems VERY into this kind of thing
> 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.
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?
Wait, isn't donating time and money to further the classical arts the exact kind of anti-Singerian charity that got EA started?
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.
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.
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).
> 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.
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?
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
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 email@example.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.
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.
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.
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.
"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?
> (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.
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.
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?
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).
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
> 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!