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IQ is not a real thing. An IQ test is a vanilla measure of cognitive function that has been misunderstood to be measuring some fundamental underlying characteristic called "IQ" which does not exist. Cogntive function is important but you don't need an IQ test to measure it, and being slightly better at rotating shapes than the median does not make you the master race.

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Thank you for proving my point.

(in particular, the fact that you are perfectly happy to use the term "cognitive function", but freak out about "IQ" because you associate it with being "the master race", is so exactly what I was complaining about that I couldn't have come up with a better example if I'd been trying.)

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You'll notice many of your commentors believing that IQ does in fact relate to superior genetics, a belief system for which "master race" is shorthand. But if the shoe fits...

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"...that IQ does relate to superior genetics"

I think you're still doing the thing. Given that IQ is mostly genetic, if you think having more IQ is better, you could call this "having superior genetics". But you would only do this if you were obsessed with figuring out ways to cast things in order to make people sound evil, which again, is my whole point. I think you are so incapable of looking at this issue through any lens other than how it can be used to make you gain or lose social status that you're talking about the particular status games you can play around it, while being convinced you're talking about the real world and somehow disagreeing with my point.

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A higher level of intelligence (which is what IQ is attempting, imperfectly, to measure) is *useful*. This is true in as much as being "attractive" is useful. But being "better" is a value judgement and thus requires someone making an evaluation. It may give you greater opportunities for success in life, but it won't necessarily make you eg. happier.

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Do you anticipate a post-scarcity utopia where being intelligent *isn't* instrumentally useful? Like even if no one has to be smart in order to earn a living, what kind of life are you imagining where it is never useful to be a bit smarter than you are now?

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Well, define "useful". There could always be situations where being smarter would make you more efficient — games; in any true utopia all human activities would essentially be games — but as I discussed in this comment (https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/heres-why-automaticity-is-real-actually/comment/39366842), in the long run I would expect arbitrarily smart people to have *less* fun. More broadly I don't think the possible gains would be sufficient to outweigh my general bias against mental self-modification. Like I said upthread, I like being me. And "me" is a gradient, not a binary — I'm willing to accept a certain amount of self-modification proportional to how instrumentally necessary it is. I would press a button that changed my favourite flavour of ice-cream in exchange for immortality; I would not press it in exchange for fractionally better parking opportunities in the Heaven parking lot. Making myself arbitrarily smarter seems a lot like pressing a button that may or may not change various aspects of my personality in unpredictable ways (because again, lots of things that I enjoy now might become boring to smarter-me; and not just movies or games, I might e.g. fall out of love with my girlfriend because I find her predictable now).

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IQ is, in practice, defined as the ability to correctly answer a bunch of questions on a sheet of paper within a certain time limit.

I think that all other things being equal, yes, the ability to do things is always better than the inability to do them.

(Obvious objection: "But what if you're strong enough to lift a wardrobe over your head, and now all your friends want you to help them move?")

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"It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question."

Having higher intelligence simply allows a level of understanding and experience that is not possible without it and that is valuable in and of itself.

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Seems dubious to me. In the first place, I think there is a difference between intelligence and understanding/wisdom. I don't think you need superhuman (or even genius-level) memory and processing speed to understand and internalise a correct understanding of the world along all relevant axes, even if, perhaps, you would need them to derive it.

But that's a distraction, because the literal pig probably *won't* understand a lot of things, but I still feel like it's ethical to keep it as it is. I think it all comes down to personal choices and preference, in the end; I'm no hedonium-tiler who would turn every sad philosopher into a happy pig. Equally, however, I feel deeply that turning a happy fool into a sad Socrates against his will would be quite a cruel thing to do. Indeed, even with animals — given the power, would you really enlighten every puppy and every butterfly? I feel like the pithy quote is unfairly tarring the happy animal's existence by choosing a pig.

Perhaps part of the answer lies in reversibility; perhaps everyone should be — if not forced, then at least strongly encouraged — to experience a day (or a month, or a century) of genius, after which they'd get to choose whether to keep it or return to their original self (or indeed, to experiment until they found the right sweet-spot for them). I predict that Smart-Me *would* in fact want to switch back.

(I say switch back, but perhaps Smart-Me would want to continue to exist *but also* conclude that he was a different person from Dumb-Be in such a way that he was morally obligated to resurrect Smart-Me; so the answer here would be duplication. You'd turn into Smart-You, and then Smart-You would decide whether to recreate a copy of Dumb-You to coexist with him. I've heard worse high-concept science-fiction premises.)

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This is so interesting. My intelligence is one of the traits I'd be most eager to self-modify, even ignoring instrumental benefits. Thinking is fun, and it's more fun on days when my brain is working better*. Moreover, when I'm thinking better it's like my internal world is vaster, richer, more interesting.

What am I? A collection of thoughts weaving together in various patterns? If there can be more of those threads, if they can dance more intricately, it feels like 'I' am simply 'more'. Or conversely, losing 90% of my ability to think feels a long way toward dying.

Sometimes though I've wondered if other qualities are like this too, and I just don't have enough of those to see the appeal! It would be interesting to see the correlation between traits and self-modification preferences.

(*I'm sure there are some confounds here. Maybe good thinking days are really good sleep or low stress days, so mood and whatever else are also improved, coloring my impressions.)

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I would certainly respect individual people's preference for self-modifying to be smarter, much as I would respect people's preference for self-modifying to be great athletes, or supernaturally beautiful! Good for you, genuinely. I only mean to question the assumption that everyone would or should choose this (or worse, that it should be chosen for them).

But for what it's worth, as I outlined in other comments, aside from concerns about any kind of mental self-modification, my worry is that at some threshold, becoming smarter just means that you run out of things to think about. Adding up 2 + 2 to make 4 isn't very fun even for people who think "maths" is fun; isn't there some level at which all math problems would seem just as trivial, and the "fun of thinking" would be snuffed out? I truly think there's a "sweet spot" for intelligence, past which it becomes a curse where *at best* you'll just be hunting for puzzles worth your time to solve, which will bring you no more gratification than regular puzzles brought regular-smart you. That limit may not be the current average human IQ, mind you. There's probably *some* room overhead. But not infinitely so, I'm quite sure, and (slightly less sure but still pretty confident) not a *lot* of room, I wouldn't think.

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IQ isn't mostly genetic unless you intentionally construct a statistical artifice to make it appear that way, in which case I'm perfectly reasonable to wonder why you'd go to the trouble.

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My impression is that a very strong scientific consensus disagrees with you. Is this your impression of the situation and you are deliberately defying that consensus, or do you disagree that this consensus exists? Also, how closely have you studied this issue?

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With this I am actually curious what is a strong scientific consensus?

To me it means nothing. We could justifiably say that there is a strong scientific consensus that, for example, vaccines don't cause autism. It is just a shorthand that those who study this issue will find strong evidence that we cannot blame vaccines for autism without actually going through that evidence again and again. Sometimes it is hard to argue with overly sceptical or bad-faith people. It could be an invitation to those people to open any textbook about vaccines and go as deep as one wishes and report back the results. It is the extremely high confidence (>99.9%) that a good-faith participant will reach the same conclusion.

But apart from such basic and fundamental issues, I don't see referring to scientific consensus at all. Instead, it is always about concrete evidence, different strengths of evidence, and going a step higher – referring to meta studies, conclusions of regulators (EMA, FDA), reputable groups such as Cochrane or NICE etc.

For example, what is scientific consensus about masks? I wouldn't be surprised that most people, including healthcare workers would say that there is a strong scientific consensus that masks help to limit the spread of respiratory illnesses. The consensus may appear real.

And yet, from the point of view of evidence-based medicine no strong evidence of mask effectiveness exist. Reviewing all the available is hard, no individual researcher is able to do it alone. We need more resources to make a decision. Respectively, as per Cochrane group no strong evidence exists that masks are effective to protect from respiratory illnesses. If there is any consensus, it doesn't matter because it may be wrong.

Is IQ mostly genetically inherited? I don't know but in practical life this question seems to be less relevant than question about masks. Considering how bad psychology studies are in general, I don't think that the evidence is about IQ inheritance is as good as the evidence about masks (which is not good). It is a bummer that we cannot discuss IQ inheritance with higher level of confidence but that would be the only honest thing to do.

Referring to consensus in this case to me seems an attempt to avoid acknowledging that our state of knowledge is very incomplete. I know it is boring to say that we need more high quality of evidence but that's how I see it.

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You’re being silly. Yes, cognitive function exists, and yes, genetics influences cognitive function. You don’t have to deny basic concepts or start dropping woke terms. Those basic concepts do sometimes come in a bundle with racism, but more often they don’t.

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Nazis who thought of Aryans as a master race rejected the use of IQ testing. Adolf Hitler banned IQ testing for being "Jewish." The groups that test higher than Germans include East Asians and Ashkenazi Jews. Basically all the IQ-realists in Scott's comment section probably accept this.

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023

The ones in Scott's comment section, sure. This is nowhere near the right end of the spectrum.

You have plenty of white supremacists who think those are alien races that need to be wiped out. Hang around frogtwitter sometime.

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Are you going to let the rants of a few ne'erdowells on Twitter force you into refusing to accept scientifically derived knowledge?

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Oh, I accept it. I have since 1994 when that book with the rainbow Gaussian on it came out. What I do with that is another question.

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023

Define 'plenty'.

I would argue that those forces are more than counterbalanced by far-left blank-slatists who dogmatically assume that all differential outcomes are conclusive proof of systematic racism and who are determined to destroy all institutions that demonstrate it. Those forces are much more socially destructive and they're currently winning.

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Okay, and "anti-racists" on twitter often call for acts of homicide against white people - do I get to automatically dismiss all "anti-racists"?

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"Well, you know, it's part of a system of systemic racism, so it doesn't mean the same thing, marginalized racialized people who are subalterns under systems of oppression don't have the same power against people who are part of the hegemonic group"... (goes and shoots a white gas station owner)

I'm skeptical of anyone who puts that in their Twitter at this point, but I think you are right that we would probably draw the line between, say, Steven Pinker and Andrew Anglin at each end in different places.

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Sep 1, 2023·edited Sep 1, 2023

Everybody believes in the concept of 'superior genetics' to some degree.

For instance do you believe that is preferable to be born with sight than born blind? Do you believe that it is preferable to be born with 4 limbs instead of 3?

If you do, then you believe in 'superior genetics'.

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founding
Sep 7, 2023·edited Sep 7, 2023

>Everybody believes in the concept of 'superior genetics' to some degree.

You'd think, but considering the response from some in the disability rights community to Mr. Beast paying to restore vision to a bunch of people I'm sure you could find more than a couple people who'd try to argue that there's no such thing as superior genetics. There's a certain contingent on the left that worships so strongly at the temple of Equality and they're willing to take that position.

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Isn’t the woke position that race is a social construct not genetic?

So if IQ is genetic then it’s not race-related, right? I thought that’d be compatible with the woke position

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IQ is the score on an intelligence test. These scores do exist. "Cognitive ability," "intelligence" or "cognitive function" are the underlying trait that is measured by intelligence tests. The g factor is a construct that arises from factor analysis because all cognitively demanding tests positively correlate. Cognitive function is important, I agree. We would be wise to measure important things and try to influence them. If we do not have an objective measure of cognitive function, we cannot evaluate interventions.

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We would be wise to measure them. But people who measure often mistake the capacity to quantify for the capacity to devise good responses to what they find. I see this constantly among hereditarians, whose policy prescriptions often seem to me to be at about monkey level. So of course the anti-IQ contingent is perpetually freaked out and wants to deny the existence of differential intelligence altogether.

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Which hereditarians are providing monkey-level policy prescriptions, in your view? I think widespread research and subsidy of genetic enhancement technology is the way to go.

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Mostly people who follow well known hereditarians and then extrapolate simplistic policy from whatever they learn. Or Emile Kirkegaard, who is interesting but seems to careen off into extreme determinism here and there (not that I've cataloged examples).

As for genetic enhancement technology, I'm all for research, but except in cases of intellectually debilitating diseases that can or might be ameliorated, that's still science fiction at this point. There is very little known about the genetic basis of intelligence, or for that matter, personality, which is also quite heritable and has a big impact on how people do in the world (and probably has links to intelligence for that matter).

And think about it: if personality traits and IQ are linked developmentally, what will it mean to improve intellect?

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023

The accuracy of polygenic scores is mostly a function of the size of the datasets available. The issue is increasing the size. Even with our current knowledge, selection is possible. It's not science fiction at all. It happens now.

IQ and good things go together. Improving IQ will likely improve personality.

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You and I have absolutely no idea that IQ and "good things" necessarily go together, or that improving IQ will likely "improve personality."

This is exactly the sort of overconfident, biologically untutored, hubristic nonsense I'm talking about.

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It's exactly this slide from IQ to value of an individual that makes people skittish. There are many high-IQ monsters. Also, you don't need to be very bright to be a good citizen. This attempt at moral engineering through IQ will either die a meme idea or develop into atrocity. I too see an increasing number of g-nicks go right up to the conclusion that if we gassed all the stupid people we'd live in paradise, and then their sole caveat is, "but I would never support that, it's immoral... but it would work."

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Excuse my random tangent, but this got me thinking about Nassim Taleb's vendetta against IQ as a useful measurement of intelligence [1]. That got me thinking that even if we were able to nail down g, what we'd be measuring would be the capability of the "hardware".

I don't know about Taleb, but I would propose that more than somebody's "hardware" (their raw intellectual capacity) is the "software" they're running, or the overall set of heuristics, philosophies, priors, Type 2 processes (using first principles, etc) when it comes to overall success in life. Specifically systemized winning [2]. I would not limit "winning" to just things like success in your field or wealth, or billionaires would be considered the best amongst us (as some people do think, to be fair).

However, when I think of somebody who's won at life, I'm thinking of somebody who's figured out emotional maturity, has their priorities right (doesn't sacrifice health for money, has strong relationships that make them happy), has meaning in their life, etc. I don't want to broaden this definition too far, because the raw g plays a big part in being able to actually _understand_ life enough to be able to make the right decisions to get the kind of future you'd want to have. I think I'm talking about *wisdom* vs just *intelligence*.

I'm sure people have thought/written about this plenty, and I'd love to read any prior art on something like this!

[1] https://medium.com/incerto/iq-is-largely-a-pseudoscientific-swindle-f131c101ba39

[2] https://www.lesswrong.com/tag/rationality-is-systematized-winning

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The things you consider wins actually correlate with IQ (or more accurately the g-factor).

But maybe you would be interested in Shane Frederik's work on the CRT (Cognitive Rationality Test). He published some papers suggesting that rationality (as measured by his test) isn't totally colinear with IQ (g). He showed that certain behaviors that we normally consider "good" or "rational" line up more with the CRT than with IQ (in other words, some people with high IQ still acts stupidly).

Keith Stanovitch is also worth reading. He wrote an entire book on the Rationality Quotient, and his latest book, _The Bias That Divide Us_, is also excellent.

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> in other words, some people with high IQ still acts stupidly

This perfectly matches my real world experience, so it instantly lends some credence to Shane Frederik's work. I'll also check out Keith Stanovitch's books, they sound right up my alley, thanks!

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"The g factor is a construct that arises from factor analysis because all cognitively demanding tests positively correlate."

This is a well substantiated empirical finding.

Does anyone else find it counterintuitive, almost downright weird? Naively, I'd expect that, given a fixed volume within a skull, a neuron that assists language processing would be at the expense of a neuron that assists geometrical visualization.

The analogy in a computer system is the e.g. a wire track that is used for a register is not available for an adder and vice versa.

Are there any low level measurements of e.g. things like axon propagation speeds that correlate with g, that would be consistent with some peoples' neurons just working _better_???

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The g factor is found in some animals. This might give us a hint about how it evolved.

The g factor does have biological correlates with biological variables like brain glucose metabolism, brain size, alpha brain waves. I know Jensen discusses some in chapter 6 of The g Factor (https://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/The-g-factor-the-science-of-mental-ability-Arthur-R.-Jensen.pdf). But this is an older book (1998). Richard Haier has a book about the neuroscience of intelligence, but I have not read it.

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Many Thanks!

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Re: cryptocurrency it's worth remembering that any success it has had in poor countries is a direct result of Know Your Customer laws and other restrictions on the banking system by the western world. In a world where anyone could simply avail themselves of a numbered account with an email address the appeal of cryptocurrency would have been limited to some ideological purists.

That's not to defend the role that crypto plays just to observe that it's really a question of regulation more than technology.

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023Author

Really Paxlovid has only caught on because of COVID. If there was no COVID, it would just be a totally worthless bundle of chemicals, and nobody would want it.

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True, and I don't mean to suggest that the regulatory arbitrage of crypto isn't a benefit (indeed I think it is) but I think it should influence how we think about it from a public policy POV. Rather than make it easier to do crypto if you think it's good relax the regs that prevent other kinds of financial instruments from doing the same.

But I admit this may be a bit off-topic.

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I think this only works if there is a single "we" who is both making the crypto and the financial regulations. Otherwise it's like saying "Rather than send Ukraine weapons, we should just have Russia manufacture fewer weapons, since the only point of Ukraine's weapons is to counter Russia's".

(sorry, I guess I'm in a confrontational sarcastic analogy mood tonight)

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Yes, but that's what we do when we have policy discussions. We idealize and talk about what some imagined actor could do -- usually the political entity that we are part of. Without this it would just get too complex to translate between what each individual should do and the positions political coalitions or policy makers should take so we idealize.

I'm not sure how we could have meaningful policy discussions otherwise. Admittedly, I agree that sometimes vagueness about the idealization in play can cause disagreement but I think it's usually better to deal with it when it comes up.

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023Author

I disagree - I think of crypto as a bunch of libertarians trying to confound bad governments (somewhat, though not centrally, including the US). Any idealization that considers both a group and its targeted enemy to be the same actor, and tries to simplify, is going to simplify out everything useful (hence the Russia/Ukraine analogy).

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But that's not really your audience here, they are already convinced and less concerned about practical impact of crypto on developing economies than it's libertarian anti-government effects. For the people you are likely to be usefully affecting by raising the point, I do think that's a reasonable idealization to make.

Or, to put the point another way, this won't make any difference one way or another to the crypto-libertarian audience but might have an affect in policy circles more interested in the harms that limitations on banking pose to the developing world.

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But sure, I agree that to the extent you are talking to them a different idealization should be made and clarification called for. And I suspect this discussion has effectuated such a clarification.

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Two things can be true - it's possible (and likely!) that both (1) cryptocurrency assists in confounding bad governments and (2) when we notice #1, we could try to make governments less bad in that area so as to assist the people who don't use cryptocurrency and lower the transaction costs for those who currently do.

Peter is explicit that he believes both (1) and (2), but I assume Scott does as well.

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I don't follow your argument here Scott. Peter is arguing that in an ideal world western banks/governments would relax their regulation to allow people in the developing world to internet bank on them, removing the valid use case you've argued for crypto. I can see how you'd counter that with "those regulations are there for a reason, remove them and criminals can money lauder through conventional banks without having to go to all the trouble of using cryto"*, but the counter "but western banks/governments are enemies of the developing world and want them all to stay poor so that instead of buying the stuff we make, they feel pressured to sneak across our borders" seems ... obviously false?

*Though perhaps not without having to hand in your libertarian badge.

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Incredible - but some of the US/EU sanctions are targeting weapon (or support equipment) components, thus making Russia manufacture fewer weapons...

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The difference being that we didn't create COVID (well, hopefully...) and even had we, we certainly couldn't make it go away just with a decision to do so. It's a persistent feature of the physical world, now. The same can not be said of banking regulations. If crypto has become a refuge for poorer countries despite its overall inefficiencies because regular banking gatekeeps them via contrived rules, the most efficient world would be one with better rules and no need for crypto's idiosyncrasies.

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Sure, but I think it's relevant to ask whether something is a tech victory, and policy victory, or both.

Paxlovid was both a tech victory and a policy victory; it solved a contingent problem we happened to be having at teh time, and the problem could only be solved by that specific technological advancement or something very like it.

If people are going to call crypto 'a huge tech success story,' it seems fair to ask whether the success was actually due to the technology, or whether it was just a policy success story (in this case, of skirting regulations) which didn't actually need that technology to accomplish all the good it did.

This seems like a relevant distinction if we are asking how to improve the world, and which problems can be solved by better policy, which by better tech, and which need both.

Too often it feels like we just accept bad policy because we are waiting for a tech wizard to save us with a new invention that does an end-run around the problem. Obviously tech is amazing at solving a lot of problems we can't solve with policy alone, but there's a danger of getting complacent and not fixing the policy we can if we get too used to that narrative.

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Incidentally, in the UK medical system Paxlovid is considered unnecessary drug in most cases and used only in rare severe cases. Maybe it works but is not cost effective.

The same thing probably applies to crypto, even if it has some benefits, the cost is too high everywhere except in very special cases.

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Good analogy in general though in the particular case I don't know if I trust the UK medical system to know what's actually cost effective. This country seems to have run most of its pandemic strategy on "stiff upper lip" mindset, and in fact that's a worryingly general principle in its healthcare.

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Less metaphors, please. The UK pandemic strategy was idiotic but very similar to most western countries. Only Sweden managed think in cost benefit terms and got the best results of all comparable countries.

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I think it would be more precise to say that the UK ran its 2020 pandemic response on sheer guesswork, and made a lot of wrong guesses. Its 2021 response, once it understood the dynamics of covid and lockdowns, was a series of increasingly well judged moves. While that distinction may be irrelvant for many things (a lot of the damage was already done by that point) it is relevant for whether the UK medical systems judgement now is any good.

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Eh, I mean, it never really transitioned to a "sustained effort" plan though. I maintain that, past the emergency, COVID is still blatantly a high enough cost (on productivity if nothing else, but on healthcare too) that it justifies a bit more than the essentially nothing that is being done about it now - no genetic monitoring, no surveillance of spread, no vaccination program for most people, no effort to increase air quality or use any kind of protection even in extremely vulnerable settings like cancer wards, or extremely important transmission hubs like schools. There were lots of wild swings, and the "we should take it on the chin" mindset cost us if anything longer and harsher lock downs, but as soon as possible we transitioned to the current approach of essentially doing nothing at all, and essentially preferring the hidden cost to the upfront one. Which is often coated in a rhetoric of "well really, getting sick is actually good for you" (with for example a very abused notion of "immunity debt" - yeah, of course if you don't sick with one specific virus you don't develop antibodies to that specific virus, but that doesn't mean you then get generally weak to all pathogens ever, nor does it mean that being infected for the sake of developing antibodies is necessarily the actual net beneficial trade-off).

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I live in and am a natural-born citizen of the USA, and the single biggest reason I care about cryptocurrency is so that I can exchange money with people without following American KYC laws.

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Wouldn't it be great if you could avoid all of those and not have the downsides of crypto?

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Never gonna happen in this political climate.

I mean anyone that wants that clearly just wants to fund terrorists, right?

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Sure, but the point is, if the value of crypto is just that it's a libertarian endrun around obstructionism and the tech itself doesn't matter, then give the credit to libertarian endruns instead of calling it a tech success story.

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Sep 2, 2023·edited Sep 2, 2023

Would the libertarian endrun be possible without the tech? I think you need a system that is both trustworthy to the participants, but beyond the reach of the governments that want to apply these kind of checks.

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North Korea has stolen billions of dollars of cryptocurrency in order to fund its nuclear program, so whether you want to or not, you're funding terrorists anyway.

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Are you able to say why you object to complying with KYC.

Are the regulations stopping you from doing things the government has decided they don't want you to do or are you an innocent bystander who wasn't supposed to be affected but still is?

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I have very little interaction with these KYC regs/laws/whatever, but I can say they are a massive pain in the ass. I just want to send money to someone to get a thing. I want to send MY money to someone to get THEIR thing.

But now suddenly I have to get tax statements and bank statements and paystubs and other shit. I'm meticulous, and for some dumb reason I have all this stuff handy, and it's still a major pain in the ass.

I can't imagine what it's like for 99% of humanity that doesn't store every single document carefully cross-tagged and in a format available on every electronic device they touch. It must be easier to just put your money into a Crypto system and use it to buy and sell things.

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Sep 2, 2023·edited Sep 2, 2023

"Buying drugs overseas" could reasonably be described as "sending your money to someone to get a thing," which is probably why they're asking if OP was the intended target of the regulations or just collateral.

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Even the intended targets are collateral damage of the moralizing busybodies behind KYC.

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I got Galen and Nagel in 6, but not the standard two. Strange...

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I got Galen also. Not sure why.

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023

Old book review entry on Galen is my guess.

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n=1 here's what my sleepy brain did for the unscramble.

CHURCH, CHRISTINA, RELIGION, PRIEST, *ohhh they are religion words* JESUS CHRIST, [... whut... ALGEN? NAGLE? GELAN? AN LEG?... I'm not spending that much time on a stupid challenge], GOD, HEAVEN, HILL no HELL, [that is not the way you spell PURGATORY!], PEARLY GATES.

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I wonder why so many of us struggled with ‘angel’. Is it because the target word begins with a vowel, and we were presented with a consonant at the front? Is it the soft g?

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On further reflection, it's eery, actually. Not only did people not find ANGEL and ANGLE, but like one person found GLEAN.

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That's me. I'm the one who found Glean. I guess I'm all alone here.

But I agree that I just assumed Scott did a typo on purgatory and wasn't worth my time to find any other solution, and that the catch was actually coming after the break at the bottom of the page. Whoops.

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You're not alone, I also found glean! And I was like "oh, okay, I guess it must be, like, Ruth gleaning Boaz's field, seems legit as being religion-related," lol. But I also thought it was purgatory.

Though playing Wordle has shown me that I'm naturally less inclined to be able to find words that begin with vowels.

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Glean is mentioned 22 times in the King James Bible, so it is a perfectly cromulent 'God word'.

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I have real difficulty doing these tests when I know that there's supposed to be some twist coming. My brain is 10% devoted to the test and 90% devoted to trying to figure out what the big twist is and why the next paragraph is going to call me an idiot if I choose the answer that seems right.

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I kept trying to make it either Legal or Eagle. I finally got Angle due to my binging of Wrestling with Wregret's old WWF Pay-Per-View vids, the last one of which featured Kurt Angle throwing Shane McMahon through a glass pane, except the engineers replaced the sugarpane with heavier glass so Shane just bounced off and landed on his head. And then Angle threw him again until he went through. (Then I realized "Angel" was an option.)

Totally caught "perogatory" though (there's no third r, shut up)

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I agree. I am terrible at word scrambles, and once I realized the religion theme I just went through quickly matching to religious words. Totally missed that there was no U in the purgatory one, I'm just pattern matching. Yet I too stumbled on angel: while the other ones took me less than a second to match to a religious word, the angel one threw me completely off my groove. Took a good five seconds to match to angel. What's up with that?

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Me too. I also got Christina instead of Christian.

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I got Galen and glean.

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I got "glean". The way my brain explained that to me was, "these are obviously religious terms, so there will be one outlier somewhere down the list... ah, there it is". Next one was clearly "god"; without "glean" it might have become "dog". Seeing "prerogatory" later on was far more confusing than it should have been.

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023

I also got "Glean" - took me a while. Upon finding it I considered it to be an unusually obscure reference to the book of Ruth in view of the obvious religious content of the other words (Gleaning features very significantly in Ruth)

On "Prerogatory" I noticed there was no U but (falling victim to the priming effect) assumed that Scott had simply messed up rearranging "purgatory" and moved on. In retrospect I'm not beating myself up over it as I think it's reasonably likely that this is the first context in which I have seen that word written in literally my entire life.

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haha, I just commented above that I found glean and was like "cool, it's religion-related because of Ruth, seems legit." I didn't catch purgatory/prerogatory, at all, though.

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For some reason, I didn't explicitly think "those are religious examples," although I probably thought that unconsciously. I had a very hard time unscrambling "angel" and "hell." I didn't have a hard time unscrambling "purgatory," even though that's the wrong answer.

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I consciously recognized they were religious terms, and think that informed my thinking. The ask of "as fast as you can" led me to assume they were all religious, so I also got "purgatory".

Also, is "prerogetory" actually a word? Google gives me a definition instead for "prerogative".

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023

Likewise, I cannot recall having ever heard the word "prerogatory" and could not find a definition for it.

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Meanwhile, my #4 was SPRITE (and #6 GLEAN, and #10 hurt my head so I didn't bother but it clearly wasn't PURGATORY)

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My #4 would have been "sprite" in normal circumstances, but my brain went "stop, this works in multiple ways", i specifically looked for the pattern, consciously decided "oh, this is about religion", went with "priest", and then with "god", "angel" and "purgatory", because of course.

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I got "stuck" on 4 at first until I came up with "SPRITE" before thinking "wait, that can't be what they wanted" as the theme was that obvious by then. My Protestant upbringing at work I guess.

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I also got Sprite, thought to myself hang on, that doesn't fit with the list, looked harder, got priest and moved on. Not sure that this says 'priming' is what's going on.

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For me, I eventually "got" angel, but that's only because I was explicitly rejecting the others as not being "religious enough."

And that seems to be a flaw in the examples of priming I see (in my layman's capacity). Humans are social. We communicate in patterns. We use structure, similarity and subtext. Are we being "primed," or are we obeying the rules of the road instead of being the asshole in XKCD 169?

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Part of me is hoping "the asshole in XKCD 169" is the guy who cuts someone's arm off on a whim.

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It's assholes all the way down.

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And it's ok, he grew his hand back next strip.

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Alternatively, that's what priming *is*, just ingrained into habit at a low enough level that it doesn't (necessarily) make it to conscious awareness.

"Priming" would apply in a couple of ways for Scott's examples here - to take all the commentary about the unscrambling, "oh, they fit into religious themes" would be the obvious priming, and, for longer-term readers, "Scott has a habit of subverting things a bit in these examples, what's off in this one?" would be a less obvious but still relevant bit of priming.

There's probably also a motte-and-bailey dynamic here, where the impetus to get out to the less-defensible bailey derives from toxoplasma dynamics ("PETA is aggressively wrong, but that's why you've heard of them") - or, more charitably, the ones Scott described.

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I thought that priming was a change in behavior in unrelated things.

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I got angle, not "angel". And "Christina" for number 2, and didn't get anything for 10 (thought of "purgatory" but saw there's no "u").

Also it's not just a question of "priming" - I thought of religious words not just because I was "primed" but because I figured "they're probably going for a religious theme here". I don't think that's necessarily the same as "priming".

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That one took me forever and I eventually came up with glean. Also prerogatory definitely isn't a word, right?

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Galen was my first thought, but I didn't think it was a word. It took me a while to see angel.

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> Cryptocurrency has become an important part of poor countries’ financial infrastructure, so much so that I think it should objectively be considered a huge tech success story.

I'm sorry to keep beating this horse, but I don't really think this is true. I this crypto proponents *claim* this is true, because it matches their ideal theoretical usecase ("what if we didn't have any sort of reliable central bank system and had to rely on decentralized finance for everything"), while also conveniently being ideologically appealing ("look we're helping the global poor") and happening very far away so it's hard for anyone in a first world country to really verify. But I haven't seen any non-crypto people actually talk about crypto succeeding in third world countries, which makes this look exactly how it'd look if it were empty stories being sold by a bunch of determined grifters who'd thrown a bunch of money at the problem and had the inevitable occasional-thing-that-looked-like-a-success-story or broad trend that could be made to look like a success by careful selection of metrics.

Once we remember that these forces exist in strength around crypto and adjust for them, I don't think the case that it's been helpful in the third world holds water.

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023Author

"I haven't seen any non-crypto people actually talk about crypto succeeding in third world countries"

Have you seen Devon Zuegel's article (https://devonzuegel.com/post/inside-argentina-s-currency-exchange-black-markets.html)? Do you think she's a crypto person? (I hadn't heard this, but I guess she has some of the risk factors)

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I hadn't seen this. I don't know this person, but updating mildly away from previous position. Heavy caveats though:

1) At best, the article claims this is occasionally used by some people. This seems to fall significantly short of "an important part of poor countries' financial infrastructure".

2) I'm not actually sure who this person is (or how you ran into her?) I'll take your word that she's not generally a crypto person (the article's vibe mostly matches that), but if e.g. you ran into this article through crypto people sharing it that leaves some heavy selection bias (if I run into more similar articles organically, I'll update away further).

3) Milder objection that feels like moving the goalposts: The article says that the actual most-useful forms of crypto in Argentina are USD-pegged currencies that aren't really decentralized, which doesn't really match the crypto dream - they basically just need a way to have unregulated digital USD (which does carry the risk of being shut down or depegged - to some degree the innovation of crypto over the bank of argentina here is "we haven't been around long enough for you to have seen us fail yet"). I don't really like this objection - it feels a bit too different from my original argument, and a crypto proponent might say "sure, they're not relying on decentralization, but the fact that the option to decentralize exists is what prevents the government from shutting this down in the first place".

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I am very very anti crypto. I think KYC laws are a good use of OECD government resources.

But if you’re unaware that if you live in countries where the government routinely inflates away your savings, steals your dollar-denominated savings by declaring ludicrously incorrect exchange rates, and does other things that lead to a completely dysfunctional financial system, you haven’t been paying much attention to the developing world.

Incredibly large fractions of people in Argentina, specifically, use crypto via multiple layers of techie-assisted proxies to evade capital controls. This has been an established story in the mainstream press for several years.

Evading capital controls is the one trick cryptocurrency is really really good at. I happen to think that’s bad in a rich country context, but it seems undeniable.

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"I am very very anti crypto. I think KYC laws are a good use of OECD government resources."

Geez you sound like the an incredible insufferable neo-liberal Karen. Did you also go through the rotating social media avatar from BLM, to you wearing a mask, to the Ukrainian flag as well? Do you report local yard sales to the IRS to make sure that taxes are paid on the proceeds?

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Keep in mind that it’s probably crucial for social stability that most people have strong bias towards the status quo. I know it feels good to act all superior because you “know more than the common man” but come on, all the recent bashing of normal people as “NPCs” because they don’t have countercultural opinions is getting to be ridiculous.

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Most normal people don't even know what KYC rules are, let alone passionately support them. It takes a certain type of insufferability to know something about our managerial bureaucracies and passionately support them.

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KYC laws are aimed at large-scale fraud & corruption and mostly do good. Since you like tangential ad-hominem attacks here's one for you: you sound like a 14 year old Elon Musk fanboy who just learned the word "neoliberal"

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Large Banks and firms love KYC laws. It prevents competition from smaller firms.

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New laws are sold by appealing to great sounding causes.

Sometimes those causes are the real motivation, but that's a coincidence.

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Wouldn't a Neo liberal be against KYC laws?

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I think in this case, "neoliberal" has completely meaningless valence and is essentially a stand-in for "status quo-supporting member of the borg." It's almost more ad hominem than not.

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On this topic, I have been researching digital banking in Pakistan (the third-ranked country on the Chainanalysis list). My impression is that it is not accurate to characterize crypto as an important part of Pakistan's financial infrastructure.

TLDR: Rural people are unaware of crypto; Those who know about it don't trust it; Even if they did know about it and trust it, they probably could not use it without a bank account; Crypto is associated with scams and speculation; Primary users seem to be young middle-class men; Possible benefits in terms of protection against inflation/evading regulations but I did not find any evidence that this type of use is widespread.

I ran a survey with ~1000 household heads in rural Punjab. Only 3% had heard of crypto (I asked about Binance or Bitcoin) and those who had rated it as less trustworthy than mobile banking platforms (the two largest in Pakistan are JazzCash and EasyPaisa). It would also be much more convenient for Pakistani households to use mobile banking since >90% of people have a mobile banking agent within 30 minutes of their household. Depositing/withdrawing for crypto would likely be much less convenient unless you already have a digital bank account (so not really banking the unbanked)

In qualitative surveys, I heard from one person who used Binance (or a scam version of Binance?). He had deposited in 100-200 US dollars (a lot of money for people in this context) after being told by a friend about an unknown pairs of "Americans" (quotes because I don't know if they are actually Americans) who knew about crypto. These "Americans" contacted him over WhatsApp and encouraged him to put money into an app that looked like Binance. Later, he was unable to withdraw money from the app. I am not sure if this was just a scam or a result of the State Bank of Pakistan releasing official guidance that use of cryptocurrencies was unauthorized in Pakistan.

The other time I heard about crypto was from an executive at fintech company in Pakistan. His fintech company focused on middle class Pakistanis and he was frustrated that the government was not cracking down harder on crypto companies. In his telling, crypto companies (in particular Binance and OctaFX) market through Tik Tok influencers (such as Waqar Zaka) and podcasts that convince young middle-class men that they can make a lot of money through crypto (this makes me think that Pakistani users are actually similar to the stereotypical US user in terms of being very online tech bros). He was particularly scathing about OctaFX which he viewed as basically a scam rather than a legitimate service.

The last time I heard about crypto was talking to well-off individual after the financial sanctions against Russia. He was interested in whether crypto could be used to get his money out of Pakistan if the US ever sanctioned Pakistan. This still seems like an important use case but more as an emergency options than an important part of the financial infrastructure.

My last note is that inflation is a significant problem in Pakistan and many Pakistanis want to save in dollars. There are probably some Pakistanis (maybe the podcast/tik tok listeners) where it would be easier to open a crypto account to save in dollars vs. opening a foreign currency savings account with a traditional bank (which requires a lot of documentation of your income etc.). I don't have first-hand experience with this but I think the most optimistic case for crypto is that all of these middle-class young men are using crypto for this. Looking for safe investments is not really the vibe you get from people like Waqar Zaka though (https://www.instagram.com/waqarzaka/?hl=en)

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This comment is really useful, thank you for posting it. Updating moderately away from the position Scott described in his post.

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Bitcoin may fluctuate wildly, but it may seem pretty stable compared to triple digit inflation. Under those circumstances, even if the price of Bitcoin drops in half while you own it you could still be able to buy a lot more stuff with it than if you had kept local currency.

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You can also just use USD, which is strictly better in most ways (or if in the extreme situation where you can't legally use it, you don't want to use cash, and you don't mind any of the technical risks issues and instabilities that come with crypto, you can use a stablecoin on a centralized exchange).

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Using USD as a unit of account seems to me to be far superior, but as a medium of exchange Bitcoin might have enough advantages to overcome its unit of account deficiencies. Mailing dollar bills has obvious latency and theft drawbacks while using a bank as an intermediary runs into KYC laws.

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From Scott's link above, it seems like the main usecases use USDT on centralized exchanges (though unclear if this is actually common or just something a few black market people in Argentina advertise but nobody uses much). Which basically is a hack to be an unregulated bank, in practice.

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Sep 3, 2023·edited Sep 3, 2023

There's one third world country where cryptocurrency has been very "successful" - cryptocurrency hacks are a major source of funding for the North Korea nuclear program. It's sad to see so many western libertarians accidentally donate their money to the worst of the worst.

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I am so glad you wrote this response. The Banana post was very bad and yet was so positively received.

It’s easy to forget nowadays how good of a scientist Kahnemann (and Tversky!) really were. If you look at the Many Labs replication project results, you see not only that their research stands out by replicating, but often replicating with stronger effect sizes than the originals. Remember they used to do evaluations for the Israeli army at a time when they were constantly engaged in wars against seemingly horrible odds - there was a lot of skin in the game ...

And precisely because the effect sizes are so large, you can often replicate them in classroom contexts. For example, Anchoring, one of my favorites, which you can see play out in basically any sort of negotiation.

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I sometimes suspect the very impressive studies by K&T max have in a sense doomed the social priming research, or at least seduced them onto dangerous paths, by being so strong.

Upcoming researchers knew how strong the K&T results were and thus thought that anything they did that gave them similarly strong results (from unnoticed mistakes to p value fishing to outright fraud) must be moving them closer to the truth.

But - explaining the replication crisis by showing that its underlying anthropology is false is unconvincing anyways. Other fields also have their own replication crises. Maybe they all also have false anthropologies? But, it’s more likely to assume that it is simply the incentives in academia that are bad, because these bad incentives apply to all of those fields, and combined with the lack of strong truth coupling mostly limited to the hard sciences simply lead to bad research regardless of the anthropology.

I want to point to psychophysics as another field whose results stand strong - simply because they’re reasonably hard, with strong effect sizes that are fast to replicate.

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What bothers me about the original post the most is that Kahnemann proposes that we don't need to be automatic--that we have System 1 and System 2 thought, and that when we need to we can switch to System 2 and not be automatic, but it takes more energy so we tend not to. It's like Banana is tilting at windmills; not so much a strawman as seeing demons where they don't exist.

And I include anchoring strategy in all my negotiation trainings, because it's SO REAL.

(I also pulled off an endowment effect/loss aversion for a law school presentation where I gave half the class cookies and asked what they would sell them for, and what the other half would buy them for, and it replicated beautifully that people who had the cookies valued them more than the people who did not.)

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founding

When I was a Cog Psych undergrad at the end of the last century (in Tversky's dept, but not in his group), the value of these puzzles was in helping to test models of how the brain worked. That color illusion tells us that the visual cortex decides on color by comparing to signals from adjacent neurons (approximately). The anchoring effect tells you that there's a part of the brain that is good at doing pairwise comparisons (which is bigger?), and it's faster than the part that measures a given dimensions (how big is this?). What part of the brain system is that, and how does it work?

As Adam Mastroianni is hammering (https://substack.com/inbox/post/136506668), they used to do Science, and this new thing isn't really science. Per your own reply below, I think the incentives in academia shifted badly.

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I also thought that exactly that Adam Mastroianni piece was quite good at explaining what the Literal Banana failed to explain.

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What’s the definition of PREROGATORY? Pretty sure it isn’t a word.

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I associate "pregrogatory" with the Protestant Reformation, but that may just be because I constantly associate/confuse terms that begin similarly.

Along those lines, Naomi Klein has out a new book, "Doppelganger," in which she complains about all the people who confuse her with Naomi Wolf.

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Funny, because the first writer I associate with the name Naomi is Naomi Novik.

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It looks like a derivative of "prerogative", which means a special right granted by one's rank or position.

But I've never seen it before today, and putting it into Google does not return a definition, so like you I question whether it is a recognized word.

It is certainly VASTLY less common than "purgatory":

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=purgatory%2Cprerogatory&year_start=1800&year_end=2019&corpus=en-2019&smoothing=3

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It also seems to be a term in law.

But yeah, to this Papist, it smacks more of Calvinism as the kind of term they'd toss about 😁

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I recently read Trollope's Victorian novel "The Warden" about a nice Church of England cleric who is appointed to a really lucrative 500 year old sinecure, but is shocked when Dickens (who is renamed in the novel "Mr. Popular Sentiment") and Carlyle ("Dr. Pessimist Anticant," which would be a good name for Mencius Moldbug) start a campaign against his prerogatives. I'd assumed that "prerogatory" was in that novel, since the book is devoted to the clash between old prerogatives and modern reforms, but it is not.

So, yeah, "prerogatory" appears to be extremely rare.

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What does "Anticant" mean?

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Against cant.

Cant common Victorian word for trite, virtue-signalling, woke, hypocritical, Mrs Grundy speak

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I was thinking "supererogatory", but it didn't have enough letters.

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I wonder if that wasn't supposed to be PEROGATORY?

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I can't find much on perogatory either, if it's a real word it's a pretty obscure one.

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It is, but it at least comes up in legal contexts on rare occasions.

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Does it? It doesn't appear to feature in legal dictionaries. I found an article titled "Perogatory And Pejorative Name Calling During An Opening Statement Is Going To Draw A Reversal" ( https://illinoiscaselaw.com/clecourses/prosecutor-made-the-statements-but-trial-judge-is-bench-slapped/ ), but as the body of the same article makes clear, the "perogatory" in the headline is a typo for "derogatory".

I also found two citations in which it is a mistake (at this level, hard to call it a "typo") for intended "prerogative"; one in which the mistake is attributed to a third party and called out ( https://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2008/06/aldermanic-pero.html ) and one in which the mistake is made directly by the author ( https://twitter.com/Ed_Rants/status/1520166806756990977 ).

"Perogatory" is not a plausible word because it's malformed; there is no pe- prefix. Can you find a citation that actually meant to write the word "perogatory"... anywhere?

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(I'll respond to your other comment)

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023

Yes, I unscrambled that one as NOT_A_WORD.

I imagine that it might mean something like "being in favour of the existence of prerogatives", things that some people are allowed to do but not others; or perhaps it's a general adjective for the topic of prerogatives.

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023

I'm going to admit that the fact that this person's name is Banana makes me significantly more likely to read their writing. Is that some sort of cognitive flaw?

The idea that people are "mindless sheep“ has been around forever, like you say, this concept of enlightenment and awaking from a sort of lifelong fugue state is heavily used in cults. I find it interesting that lately the trend is to use video game logic to describe it (non-player characters), as if player characters have more agency, when really they're still following a prescribed path set forth by the devs or at least conforming to the rules of the game. I'm also curious how actual sheep compare to more or less scripted NPCs. I certainly feel more empathy for sheep.

I think most of the time when we make choices and things turn out well for us, we don't tend to care about how conscious that choice was. Driving on autopilot from work to home every day tends to be fine, our brain being capable of quietly making the multitude of tiny choices from point A to point B. But if said thoughtless operation results in something horrible (an accident, or just missing a new detour) we easily blame ourselves for our unthinking motions. But it's human. Constant questioning and awareness of why you do everything you do sounds more like an anxiety disorder than wakefulness, doesn't it?

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Yeah, but when you get to Scott's final question, the whole issue becomes a lot more poignant and worth thinking about. Yeah, it's not big deal if we go on autopilot while driving, and check the middle tip box for Uber eats because the set-up nudges us to. But doesn't it give you pause to contemplate the fact that if you were born in the 1700's in the south, you would probably have thought slavery was no big deal?

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Honestly, no it doesn't bother me. I'd be a totally different person. Who I am now is a person who holds the values I do because of my experiences etc. I think as a thought experiment it is interesting but ultimately you're saying "yeah but if you were born in a more racist society wouldn't you be more racist“... yeah, but I wouldn't be *me*, so it isn't relevant to the mortal coil I do happen to inhabit. I'm glad people in the interim have fought for progress so that I don't consider blatant chattel slavery normal. That said there are everyday things we are aware of that are not so much better, just more distant (human rights abuses at the far end of the supply chain etc), and I think it's similar in that our relative nonchalance about it makes us a product of our times too. Who knows what future generations will think of us? Self awareness doesn't edit that, does it?

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I notice you think the awful goings on we aren't much bothered by are now more distant (at the far end of the supply chain). So do you think we are now at least more clear-thinking and humane than people in slave-owning society were? I don't. Clearly, we are more clear-thinking and humane about slavery, as it was practiced then. But you and I got to "read the answers in the back of the book" before we took the is-slavery-basically-ok test, and passed by saying "hell, no." But it seems likely to me that in 400 years your views and mine will seem as blind and barbaric to future humanity as slave society's do to us now. Perhaps the stuff we're seen as grotesquely blind to won't have to do with things like slavery, but will be about other matters entirely.

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Alternatively, we aren't any more "enlightened" now than we were back then, it's just that the abolitionists won. So of course in 400 years our views will be seen as blind and barbaric - not because they *actually are* blind and barbaric, but because the moral system of whoever is in cultural power at that time will probably differ in some ways to ours.

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"Alternatively, we aren't any more "enlightened" now than we were back then, it's just that the abolitionists won."

Agreed. I tend to chalk all mores up to the shifting winds of politics.

( I also find it ironic that Lincoln's administration was responsible for conscripting men nationally for the first time in the USA. Seizing a law-abiding citizen from their life, forbidding them to quit, and forcing them into the line of fire where their ruler's enemies are actively trying to kill them. Kidnapping, slavery, murder. And this is part of USA law to the present day, albeit not currently active. And somehow USA culture accepts this as normal? )

More generally - I don't think it is reasonable to expect any large fraction of a society to reject the current mores of the society - still less to reject the particular portion of the current mores that will happen to be rejected by the winds of politics a century or more from now.

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I'm going to offer a perspective as someone who feels that I've solved the question from first principles.

The steelman for racism is selfishness. Stereotyping is a rational response in a low-information/low-trust environment. E.g. when you meet a lion, your first instinct is to run. Hypothetically you could become best friends. Are you willing to take that chance?

The Rawlsian Veil of Ignorance is an argument for cooperating in a staghunt. (The more I read about society, the more convinced I become that it's staghunts all the way down.) The current zeitgeist is to proclaim the moral superiority and logical superiority of cooperation. Personally, I like pareto optima. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy. But I can also see the argument for defecting. Progressives, however, imagine that cooperation is the only equilibrium in the staghunt, and therefore denounce anyone who defects as necessarily malicious and bigoted, rather than risk-averse to being eaten by the metaphorical lion.

So yeah, I'm personally not a fan of chattel slavery. That said, I also think contemporary complaints about racism are frequently (though not always) overhyped. The fact that the West conflates the two so often is an artifact of recent history, not some manifestation of the inexorable march of progress. Maybe you could make an argument that an over-correction is necessary to overcome past grievances, but that's another discussion.

More broadly, I think social mores are mostly determined by the environment. I'm not a historian by any means, so I'm prepared to be wrong on this. But I suspect that abolition may have had something to do with the West being WEIRD, a la Hienrich. I also suspect that abolition is sticky because of industrialization. There's much less demand for slaves, just likes there's much less demand for horse-drawn plows. Because mechanical horses replaced them.

The fact that slavery is outlawed in the West is a luxury. The West may or may not be able to afford that luxury in the far future. If conditions improve, then future humanity will probably think us barbaric. If conditions deteriorate, then future humanity will probably think us too soft. Personally, I tend to lean toward the later scenario. As Robin Hanson once said, "we live in the dreamtime".

Incidentally, Scott himself tried to tackle this question in Asches and Asches [0], where he notices the seeming paradox of "family good; racism bad. But wait, aren't family and race the same thing!?". Though ultimately, I don't think he was able to escape his prior reflective equilibrium.

[0] https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/06/03/asches-to-asches/

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Does it really bother you? I am pretty comfortable with moral relativism and the idea that if I were raised in another society my values would be totally different, like that feels incredibly obvious to me. It's not even really that interesting, because in this counterfactual "I" am not even me. (More interesting is if I were magically teleported there today, would I even hold on to my values or would I update them away for the sake of convenience)

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It's not that I feel guilty about the attitudes my 18th century self would have had. It's that knowing how different they would be is so at variance with the feeling I have about my present self. If I were to tell the story of how I came to have the tastes and beliefs that I have, it would be a story about realizing things, learning things, being inspired by things, contemplating things, admiring certain thinkers, rejecting certain thinkers because of flaws, etc etc. It would be a story in which I am quite agentic. And yet since most people, including me, share the beliefs of others in their eras and communities, it seems that the true story of how I came by my tastes and beliefs is that I am a sponge absorbing the water in my little tide pool.

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It's an argument for not getting too hung up on castigating people for historical beliefs that are no longer popular, but other than that, there isn't really anything worth worrying about. Maybe you could try to be a moral entrepreneur by figuring out what the next big thing will be (I can see several plausible candidates), but that's a hard and difficult life.

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Yes, I agree. I think it's also an argument for not castigating people of our era who have beliefs that are very unpopular in my circles, but are normal in theirs. That's a lot harder to swallow, though, right? Though in fact I believe it's valid.

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"Constant questioning and awareness of why you do everything" sounds fairly close to hypervigilance, a symptom of PTSD.

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And also of anxiety disorders. Speaking from experience, it's exhausting, stress-inducing, and usually a waste of time.

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I think the core issue is that many psychologists focus their attention on studying phenomena like biases or whatever, which are "secondary effects", artifacts of a constellation of mechanisms that approximate rationality, when really it would be better to study "primary" effects, such as rational choice, because the effect sizes are going to be much bigger, making the results more robust (less sample size needed for bigger effects) and more applicable (more uses available for bigger effects).

That said, small-scale stuff like "people would rather eat an apple than touch a hot stove" is probably too obvious. But I think this can be solved by looking at bigger-scale stuff that would be harder to observe in everyday life, for instance performing big factor analyses, mapping out measurement methods and developmental trajectories, collecting wisdom, and so on.

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I'm not sure what you mean.

My understanding is that economics has great models of rational choice, people mostly follow those models (eg if you ask someone whether they want $50 today or $100 today, they'll choose the $100), and that cognitive biases were interesting because they were deviations from these otherwise simple and broadly-applicable models.

Can you give an example of a real or hypothetical experiment in the program you're interested in?

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My opinion on these topics are heavily inspired by some of the banana's writings, particularly on indexicality. I think it is important to map out extremely concrete cases of real-world scenarios.

When it comes to rational decision theory, this might involve studying what utilities and probabilities people use when waking real-world decisions. So for instance creating a model that can map the contents of food items to corresponding utilities (possibly taking greater context such as diet variety into consideration if necessary, which anecdotally it probably is). Or more economics-focused, mapping out different types of people (students, parents, elderly) and their different needs for houses.

Recently I've become interested in the development of interests. Here, one could also ask questions such as where the variance in interests comes from - e.g. do people mostly get into technical stuff because they think it's good and the future of society (no they don't, AFAICT; there's a correlation but the pattern of correlations is too weak to explain this), or because of some life events (via gaming maybe?) or for other reasons?

Less focused on choice and rationality, there's a bunch of discussion of the effects of culture, but most cultural measures seem overly abstract. I think one could easily design much better measures of culture and apply them to get a deeper understanding of the nature of culture. (Like factor-analyze stuff like soul food, black musicians, idk stuff like that, to measure black culture. Or to measure danish culture, factor-analyze stuff like HC Anderson, Terkel i knibe, Pippi Langstrømpe (yes I know she's swedish) and Matador.) Large factor analyses are generally great because they give you enormous effect sizes across enormously wide topics, and I think it's an absolute shame that they've been nearly entirely restricted to personality, intelligence and interests. (Yes, psychologists do tons of tiny factor analyses, but smaller and more homegenous factor analyses are much less informative.) Blue tribe/grey tribe/red tribe might be a factor anysis topic close to your interests that I'd encourage (yes your blog selects strongly for grey tribe, but you probably also get some of the others as readers - and even then mapping out variation within the grey tribe would be super interesting).

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Thanks, this is a great answer (probably; I'm going to have to think about it more)

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Nice 😁

Also, one thing I've become a fan of is qualitatively studying the residuals. For instance if someone scores higher or lower in some outcome than predicted by a model, ask them why. (Admittedly this is nearly impossible to do in a single-round survey, which many researchers might be restricted to?) They might not be able to explain why, but sometimes they are, and if so this can then be used to improve future models.

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Oh also, sometimes thinking carefully about measurement can teach you something important that you can use to create better measures of stuff. One example is, I came to believe that many common trauma measures (such slas Adverse Childhood Experiences) might be bad because they don't take the long-tailedness into consideration. I haven't had time to write up the details, but I prompted ChatGPT to give an explanation because I wanted to use it for brainstorming trauma items: https://chat.openai.com/share/518f665f-04dd-4ddb-b271-ceaec6299253

Factor analysis is a standard method to design measures, and as you can see from my other comment, I *am* a big fan of factor analysis. However, some people create measures of a phenomenon by dumping a bunch of examples of that phenomenon into factor analysis (again, consider ACEs), and I think that's great when one thinks of the phenomenon as a "general factor", but sometimes such as for traumas that doesn't entirely apply, and in such cases I find that if I apply some thought to the measurement, I can design much better measures.

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"some people create measures of a phenomenon by dumping a bunch of examples of that phenomenon into factor analysis"

That sounds remarkably like p-hacking.

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Your ChatGPT conversation is really eye opening, wow.

Can you say a little more to explain this? "I came to believe that many common trauma measures (such slas Adverse Childhood Experiences) might be bad because they don't take the long-tailedness into consideration." My brain is tired today and I can't put these together. I'm familiar with the ACE research, can you connect the dots for me?

Three random thoughts about trauma distribution and your questionnaire...

1. It's been my clinical experience in treating interpersonal trauma that people with significant trauma symptoms often have experienced multiple really bad traumas, rather than one really bad one, and that there's a reason for that. For instance, the woman who was beaten repeatedly by her father ends up in relationships with abusive men; the impact of earlier trauma has made her unable to hold steady employment which exposes her to various traumatic effects of poverty (exposure to crime and community violence). Early interpersonal trauma also tends to make it so people don't take great care of themselves physically later -- they self-neglect -- which leads to a variety of health problems that come of not doing preventative care, and that can lead to serious illness which can lead to being traumatized by medical intervention. Anyway, you get the picture. I don't have a dataset to look at to tell me whether this is true more generally. It's what I've observed in my work.

2. Dissociation exists on a spectrum and is an extremely common and signal consequence of trauma. I think it's an important measure of severity. I think there are pretty good self-assessments for degree of.

3. I'm thinking you know but I'll mention that people who wind up with diagnoses of PTSD as adults as a result of minor to severe experiences are much more likely to have experienced significant trauma as children. Prior trauma is a huge predictor of being more severely impacted by trauma later in life. Research showed that which soldiers wind up with PTSD is more readily predicted from prior life adversity than from the severity of the wartime trauma they experienced. It seems to me this complicates the question of severity as it relates to any one instance of trauma. It's cumulative, but really more it's an accumulating load that a minor event can then result in catastrophic collapse.

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I definitely agree that the severity of traumatic events is not the sole factor in determining trauma severity. I don't have a good idea of what the other factors are, but I imagine any of the following could matter:

1. The robustness with which one knows how to process the event and react in the future.

2. The community support one has to recover and react.

3. The material buffer and safety, e.g. income and health.

4. The neurological robustness against traumas.

5. Other things that I am too ignorant to think of.

I can buy that e.g. for point 1, certain kinds of abuse by parents could lead to self-neglect, so in that sense I could agree with a model where trauma accumulates in a loop.

My issue with ACEs is more like, do we really expect that factors 1-5 are *mostly* determined by the overall level of trauma one has experienced? No room for culture/ideology, genetic biological predispositions, risky strategies that work fine in some circumstances but fail catastrophically in others, and unknown unknowns?

Or phrasing it another way: What happens to ACEs-style measures if there is some other cause (e.g. poverty; of course by itself, poverty doesn't contribute *that* much variance, but what I mean is there may be a pool of variance contributed by an unknown-to-me number of factors) which contributes to ACEs? Well, that cause might contribute to many other areas in your life too, thereby confounding ACEs with those other areas. But this wouldn't reflect the ACEs causing those bad outcomes, but instead just reflect them depending on multiple things.

This leads most naturally to an answer to question 3. Even if we suppose that most of the variance to trauma-susceptibility is not other traumas, then other traumas would still be correlated simply due to reflecting non-traumagenic trauma-susceptibility, so you'd expect to see a correlation between later PTSD and earlier traumas based on that. Depending on the specifics of your measurement, this correlation could be expected to be quite strong; e.g. if you average a bunch of traumas, that reduces the influence of non-trauma-susceptibility factors.

(Some people try to use multiple regression to fix this. I don't think that works, for reasons that have been extensively discussed by other people. Other people try to use twin studies to fix it. I suspect that also doesn't work, which I didn't properly appreciate until about a year ago; I've attempted to write it up twice, in the "Know your Xc!" section of https://tailcalled.substack.com/p/many-methods-of-causal-inference and the "… or not" section of https://tailcalled.substack.com/p/if-everything-is-genetic-then-nothing . I suspect it is not fixible with pure statistics, except MAYBE with panel data.)

As for point 1: I think one major factor is the distinction between a clinical setting and a statistical setting? I imagine that clinicians primarily treat the 98th percentile+ most traumatized people, who simply are so rare that they don't make much of a dent in the statistics.

A related answer to point 1: I argued that ACEs maybe measure something like trauma-susceptibility, or perhaps problem-susceptibility. (Or maybe even "familial problem-susceptibility". Idk, my original statement was "might be bad" as trauma measures, not "definitely absolutely are bad".) This seems potentially very useful for clinicians, in the sense that it might be the people who are most susceptible to problems that they can help the most? My main issue here is just with taking the scale at face value, and assuming that its correlations are solely due to the traumas it assesses, rather than to various vulnerabilities and sensitivities (that I don't have that deep insight on, and which you might have more insight on).

As for dissociation in point 2, I sort of vacillate between how important I think dissociation is; sometimes I think it is pretty important and sometimes I think it is not so important. Part of my uncertainty is in what phenomena researchers use it to refer to, since there are some things that could be called dissociation which I am pretty sure are important, but which I (with low confidence) don't perceive to be the central instances of dissociation.

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Oh I guess one thing that I didn't emphasize enough in my previous comment is that one needs to be careful to avoid the phenomenon where one gets absurdly strong relationships for stuff that doesn't matter in practice. I don't think that's inherently in tension with "chase down strong effect sizes", I think that's more a question of what subject matter you choose to investigate. My line of comments with Joshua Becker, perhaps especially my final comment, might illustrate how I think one can address that.

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023

"Recently I've become interested in the development of interests. Here, one could also ask questions such as where the variance in interests comes from - e.g. do people mostly get into technical stuff because they think it's good and the future of society (no they don't, AFAICT; there's a correlation but the pattern of correlations is too weak to explain this), or because of some life events (via gaming maybe?) or for other reasons?" But it seems to me that asking a question like this will still land you in the muck , i.e., looking at what you call secondary effects -- things that can't be explained by sensible, obvious factors such as subject's belief that a certain career is good for society, or because as a teen they liked gaming & associate computers with enjoyable challenges. Especially when it comes to career, my sense from listening to a lot of life stories is that many people end up in their careers sort of by happenstance. And for those who decided in advance what career they wanted, the explanation they can give for the decision isn't truly explanatory: " Why am I a biologist? Well, I played outside a lot, and used to climb trees and collect bird's nests . . ."

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Maybe you are right?

I definitely agree that people don't seem good at explaining their interests, as I've tried asking about that with very little success. I have some ideas for how to improve though. I plan to write it up once I get the final results.

I think it's worth at least trying. Even if the finding is a null no matter how I do it, null findings are also themselves something one can learn from.

I'm not sure career happenstance makes it infeasible. I definitely agree that I observe tons of happenstance in people's jobs, but that happenstance also shows up as deviations between their jobs and their interests. So often people have one thing as their job but another thing as what they are interested in. The interest itself can in some ways be pretty robustly correlated with stuff even if the job isn't.

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I have read this comment a few times and do not understand it. I'm having a hard time figuring out in what way these "secondary effects" are falling short, and what you want to do the job. What's missing for you and what are you trying to accomplish?

I'm wondering if it's possibly related to one of two things.

One is that every model explains higher/macro level phenomena in terms of lower/micro level mechanisms. This lower/micro level mechanisms are macro/higher level things to be explained. I study group behavior with models based on premises of individual behavior; psychologists study individual behavior with premises of cognitive model. Do you want us to look lower?

Another is that every model is simple, and gets gradually more complex. You talk below about examining residuals to refine models. One way of interpreting (social) science is as a process of explaining variance: we gradually chip away at it, with more and more nuanced models. Do you want our models to be more detailed?

Are either of these perspectives relevant? I ask because I've been struggling a lot with the philosophy of science lately and I'm very eager to understand what alternative possibilities may exist compared to the standard paradigm.

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This is an interesting question, and your own research subject is an interesting topic. I will read some of your research and get back to you with a more detailed answer with suggestions later.

But for now, prior to reading your research, my thought isn't that you should look lower. Looking lower tends to give you more universal principles, which is sometimes useful, but it also has the disadvantage that one cannot take advantages of the specifics of the situation.

One of the most important things IMO is to have an idea of what you are trying to achieve, as then you can backchain from there to figure out useful methods. And if I understand, the billion dollar question in your field is something like "what methods can groups of people generally use to make better decisions?". Is that correctly understood?

My immediate thought is that this is an especially tough question because you are working at high scale and with strong constraints. Like groups of people making real-world decisions is a "big" and "detailed" thing, which makes it expensive to study directly, and you want to have findings that work for many different kinds of teams solving many different kinds of problems, and which the teams are not already using themselves.

One option is to be less ambitious by picking a narrower target. For instance one could study ways for software engineering teams to make better decisions about what bugs to prioritize. In that case, one could try different variants of quick heuristics that they often use, and compare the quality of those quick heuristics to what a more in-depth evaluation would get you.

Of course being less ambitious is boring and less useful, so I don't necessarily recommend this. But if you want to keep the ambition of having findings that work for many different kinds of teams solving many different kinds of problems, you need to face the fact that it's a genuinely tough problem that probably doesn't budge hugely with a handful of people experimenting on toy tasks, but instead requires lots of people working hard at real tasks?

Fortunately, there *are* lots of people working hard at real problems, like teams of people working in companies. If you trust them to be able to identify their own issues and debug them in ways that work for them, then maybe you could buy information from a bunch of such teams in a bunch of such companies, and try to find common patterns of issues that many teams have and solutions that many teams find to work for them. This would be a form of "wisdom distillation" which might be quite useful?

Also, once you have a bunch of such distilled wisdom, there's the question of how to apply it. You could give it/sell it back to companies, but it might be that they apply it wrong in ways that cause problems. This too is something that can be experimented with, e.g. you can investigate how it goes to apply it and whether there are exceptions or nuances that need to be added.

It's possible I'm totally misunderstanding the goal of your field, in which case what I said might not be so useful to you. 😅 But then with a correction I can give alternative goals. And as mentioned I haven't had time to read your studies in detail yet, so this doesn't directly comment on those studies.

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Or another interpretation, if your goal is to understand how social influences affect people's beliefs about things, then a starting point might be to map out what kinds of social influences people have in their life. This would give you a starting point for making generalizations and distinctions. Once you have a taxonomy of social influences, you can sample from each of the kinds of social influences and investigate the accuracy/helpfulness of those samples, and thereby discover if they are generally accurate/helpful and if there are some exceptions that are not accurate/helpful, or some limitations to the cases that may be helpful.

I should maybe also add, my suggestions so far have been mathematically quite simple, and more focused on qualitative matters or scale. This isn't because I am opposed to fancy math like agent-based models, I just haven't immediately had any use for it in the suggestions I gave. It may be that more investigation would give reasons to use fancier math.

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thank you for this thoughtful reply! i don't think it's helpful to use my own research here as a touchstone, we already have the great example from the OP to focus discussion. i was trying to understand what your comment means in the context of studying rationality and biases. (i can port the basic philosophy of science to my own work later.)

so.. in the context of things like priming and anchoring... is your interest in looking lower? or is it about using more detailed models? both/neither?

i.e., what does it mean---and what is the implication---that anchoring is a "secondary effect" of something? what is the primary thing?

(it's all a secondary "effect" of neurochemistry, right? all a secondary effect of particle physics? sorry if i'm completely misunderstanding, please do correct me if i'm way off base)

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The goal of rationality is to learn how to infer correct information, make good decisions and communicate well.

My impression is that the primary things that interfere with this are commons problems (e.g. most of the value in figuring out information comes from the fact that the information can be applied elsewhere, so people are not sufficiently motivated by themselves to find good information), conflicts (e.g. "politics is the mindkiller", or Ben Hoffman/Michael Vassar type stuff), and lack of robust real-world applicable theory for inference (probably downstream of the previous two problems). Oh and probably also g factor and maybe also some other things.

So my take would be that if you want to study rationality, focusing on e.g. priming is wrong because priming is too small of a bias to be worth worrying about. Basically with main/secondary, I'm referring to their degree of influence over the things we care about, not about level of reductionism.

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Sociology, especially Bourdieu-inspired sociology, tends to use a lot of factor analysis to examine taste and cultural practices and how they are related to the characteristics of individuals. A lot of it is in French for the obvious reason that Bourdieu was French, but I'm sure one can find quite a few books or articles in English. You should check it out.

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Neat, I'll try to look into that! If you or anyone else knows of some good pointers/recommendations then I would love if you could suggest some.

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As far as I remember, the two most influential sociologists in that vein of very quantitative cultural sociology are Bourdieu and Peterson. The most famous book by Bourdieu on this subject is "Distinction," and it is one of the most famous books in sociology in general. That being said, in many ways, it has become dated and is quite criticized even by his spiritual successors. It is also long and quite hard to read.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distinction_(book)

I'm not sure that Peterson has ever used factor analysis (unlike Bourdieu). Still, here is an article on the subject:

https://books.google.fr/books?hl=fr&lr=&id=VHMhOCNyQ-kC&oi=fnd&pg=PA152&dq=peterson+1992+simkus&ots=hI_EKaHnPE&sig=UYUtjk-THn7OC3n64ZR4b1fNzcA&safe=active&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=peterson%201992%20simkus&f=false

But maybe a good first entry could be this article by Coulangeon, which uses factor analysis to explore musical taste and discusses the results compared with Bourdieu's hypotheses and Peterson's hypotheses.

https://www.cairn.info/revue-francaise-de-sociologie-1-2005-5-page-123.htm

There is probably a lot of other, more recent work done with this tool on taste and cultural practices. But this is what has come to mind quickly off the top of my head.

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Sep 1, 2023·edited Sep 1, 2023

'I think one could easily design much better measures of culture and apply them to get a deeper understanding of the nature of culture.'

There's an econ nobel waiting for you if you can do that. Which is another way of saying lots of very smart people have tried and not gotten very far, so it's unlikely to be as easy as you think.

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Maybe. When I think econ and culture, I think stuff like the factors in the world values survey or various other international indexes. These have the challenge that they are not just trying to measure whether a person has a specific culture or their relative placement within a pair of cultures, but instead trying to measure a simplified model of all countries's cultures.

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Well, it is true that studying interactions is harder than studying main effects because of superlinear scaling of required sample size.

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Also, John Wentworth's You are not measuring what you think you are measuring / Solution: Measure lots of things is great.

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/9kNxhKWvixtKW5anS/you-are-not-measuring-what-you-think-you-are-measuring

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> Cryptocurrency has become an important part of poor countries’ financial infrastructure.

Can someone explain why they can't just use dollars? Is there no online service that allows people from poor countries to open accounts? Sounds pretty trivial to make.

(Yes, that would make it centralized, but most people own crypto through centralized platforms anyway.)

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An online service like that would be a de facto bank, which is illegal to run in the US without a bunch of KYC laws (I'm not sure how it would work if you just based your bank in the Bahamas or something, but presumably the US government would eventually come after you on the basis of "anything to do with dollars is our jurisdiction"). Crypto gets around this problem by having so many blatantly illegal things that allowing for banking is too far down the list for governments to bother with.

(That said, the forms of crypto that are used at all in Argentina - which I think is somewhat overstated, basically are this, with the crypto thrown on as a fig leaf https://devonzuegel.com/post/inside-argentina-s-currency-exchange-black-markets.html

Also, not that they do still primarily use dollars, they just have to use paper currency)

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