Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

OK, I'm going to jump in and point out that the first link (about verbnoun) has a number of inaccuracies. See this thread on /r/AskHistorians: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/xd9zu3/what_was_happening_in_the_english_language_that/iob5wk4/

In particular, note that "sellsword" is not from the listed time period at all, but rather was invented by fantasy fiction authors sometime around the 1950s! "Scofflaw" is also not from that time period, being invented in the 1920s.

Expand full comment

On point 21, you mean how many racial-equity-related classes they took as a *high schooler*, right?

Expand full comment

One might guess that the increased amount of seniors in the Congress would be a result of increasingly advanced gerrymandering leading to safer and safer incumbent districts, where popular (or even less popular) incumbents can then keep their seats forever and ever without any real challenge.

Expand full comment

Link #28 goes to some private Google Doc rather than to anything most people can see.

Expand full comment

Hi Scott, I met you at the LA meetup, thoroughly enjoyed your Q and A, thanks again for coming. Just a correction, on #24, I believe the size of Prince Charles Island is 3,600 square miles, rather than 36,000 square miles, which is like half the size of all New England and probably would have been discovered before 1948.

Expand full comment

Regarding Georgism in Space, I think we are already at the point where physical space (in certain places) is becoming scarce. These places are geostationary orbit and low Earth orbit.

The space in LEO is mostly limited by the probability of collision between different spacecraft, while the space in the geostationary orbit is limited by the possibility of communicating with a satellite without interfering with its neighbors.

Which brings me to another limited resource that the article omits: the electromagnetic spectrum. Electromagnetic radiation seems like the only viable medium for fast long-distance communications. And with it you only have limited bandwidth in a given place and given direction. In most practical cases we will run out of bandwidth in electromagnetic spectrum far earlier than we run out of energy, matter or space.

Expand full comment

Regarding 21 and racial diversity classes, isn't this just going to play out that richer districts can offer more college focused classes, same as it always does?

Expand full comment

I suspect the Ethereum roadmap won't happen in quite that way. For a bit of background -- originally (or at least, early on), Ethereum was supposed to have four phases: Frontier, Homestead, Metropolis, Serenity, with Serenity being the transition to proof-of-stake. Things didn't work out that way.

Frontier (the original version) and Homestead both happened, but Metropolis got split into two updates, Byzantium and Constantinople. (I might have the history a bit wrong here, I wasn't paying attention to Ethereum at the time; this is my rough impression of what happened, but someone who followed it closer can correct me.) Meanwhile it turned out that the transition to proof-of-stake was actually quite a hard problem, so Serenity kept getting pushed further and further back. Thing is, there was still a need for more updates despite not having reached the Serenity phase; so updates kept happening, and I guess since it was still Metropolis, these updates mostly got named after cities. (Yes, one of them was Istanbul, but no, it didn't directly follow Constantinople, due to some unusual circumstances intervening.)

Eventually the name "Serenity" went away and people just started talking about "the merge" instead. Also, the convention of naming updates after cities became enshrined, even though the original Frontier-Homestead-Metropolis-Serenity plan was now dead. (E.g., the merge -- which has now happened -- is officially the Paris update, though hardly anyone calls it that. People do typically call the other updates by their city names, though, as most other updates don't have any other name to refer to them by.)

So now Vitalik has his new plan of merge-surge-verge-purge-splurge, of which the merge has already happened. But I suspect this one won't play out as planned either. In fact, I can already point out one way in which it almost certainly won't, in that Vitalik lists Ethereum Object Format as one of the improvements to be included in the far-off Splurge, but it's actually going to happen much *sooner* than that; it's planned for the very next update to come (to be named Shanghai). I don't know why he put it in the Splurge, given that that feature has been planned for Shanghai for quite some time. (Shanghai has been in the planning for much longer than updates usually are, because it was scheduled for after the merge, and the merge was delayed repeatedly, to the point that a number of people kept saying that the transition to proof-of-stake would never actually occur.) Perhaps it logically belongs there, but that's not when it's going to happen.

So, I'd treat the merge-surge-verge-purge-splurge plan as somewhat aspirational; meanwhile updates will continue as usual and will continue to be named after cities. :P I expect each stage beyond the merge to be split up between multiple updates, but also bits and pieces will be pulled forward or pushed back, with things just generally not happening in the order Vitalik has presented; there will probably not be any one update, or even series of updates, that one can truly identify as "the surge" or "the verge" or what have you.

(I do have to wonder whether they'll ever declare an *end* to the updates; they can't *really* claim to be decentralized until they do, after all! But it looks like there's a lot that people want changed before we're anywhere close to such a halt...)

Expand full comment

I'm still not him to the Kardashians, can someone explain #41 to me?

Expand full comment

Here's a link to the Wikipedia essay "Wikipedia has cancer", that has been updated through the years up until the financial statements of 2020 to 2021: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Guy_Macon/Wikipedia_has_Cancer. The financial statements themselves are linked at the end of the article, here's the one from 2020/2021: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/1/1e/Wikimedia_Foundation_FY2020-2021_Audit_Report.pdf. For example, you can see page 3 that the expenses in "Salaries and wages" went from 66 millions of dollars in 2020 to 67 millions of dollars in 2021, or that the "Travel and conferences" expenses went from 2 millions of dollars to 29 thousands dollars in the same period.

Expand full comment

Oooh! I love that dragon hollow mask illusion. I used to have one on my desk for years!

You can print and make one in a few minutes, I think this link will work for it: https://www.instructables.com/Hollow-Face-Illusion-Dragon-Without-Leaving-your-d/

Expand full comment

Very happy to see the Sam Kriss and Scott Alexander universes intersecting, which I didn’t think would ever happen outside of my head.

Expand full comment

Re #8, I think the overall increasing trend in Congress age is explainable by increases in healthy life expectancy (as opposed to life expectancy in general, which has only increased a little). A typical 75yo now can be physically active and enjoy a thriving career and social life, whereas a typical 75yo a century ago might have been mostly blind or deaf, toothless, and physically infirm.

The more interesting bit is why this otherwise smooth trend underwent a massive drop in the late 20th century (if you connect the earlier data to today's you get a pretty smooth curve).

I could spin a just-so story about how the late 20th century rejected the traditions of respecting the age and accumulated wisdom of your elders and started idealising the energy and passion of youth instead - but I think that hasn't gone away and we still idealise youth, so it wouldn't explain why the graph started shooting back up again.

I also think the drop is too early to be related to the demographic shifts of WW2 and the baby boom.

Expand full comment

Re #29: you (Scott) are a nuanced and empathetic thinker who usually reasons along the lines of "I can see good points on both sides and understand where they're each coming from, but on balance and after extensive research I come down on side X." But many people are more polarised: they think their side is right right right and the other side is evil evil evil.

So, in their minds, any concessions along the lines of "You make a valid point, but here's why I think X" are necessarily insincere and deceitful; whereas, from you, it could be a perfectly sincere and accurate reflection of your thought processes in arriving at conclusion X.

Expand full comment

Re: 15

In Brazil, there is a distinction between cannibalism and anthropophagy. The former refers to humans eating human meat because they like the taste of it, while the latter refers to a practice among some indigenous tribes of eating the flesh of your enemies in order to gain their features (eg. eating the heart of a brave warrior in order to gain his courage). The video refers to Bolsonaro being offered meat in the context of anthropophagy.

So he wasn't just being like "I wanna see what human meat tastes like", but rather saying that he would eat the flesh of his enemies in order to steal their power. I would say that is pretty on-brand for a mussolinoid like him.

Expand full comment
Oct 12, 2022·edited Oct 12, 2022

Seeing that Hollow Dragon Mask (#36) put me in mind of this optical illusion I discovered earlier this year, the Ames Window. It's really quite startling in a way that I don't find normal concave-face videos are: https://youtu.be/0KrpZMNEDOY

Expand full comment
Oct 12, 2022·edited Oct 12, 2022

#9: Alright, maybe i haven't watched enough of it, but out of the few I viewed back in the days, presenting Jon Stewart as "No more treating politics like a staged wrestling match" is only right in the sense that a wrestling match includes an opponent, while stewart's concept was simply to have one wrestler on stage shit-talking his would-be opponent. It didn't "solve" the news, it went from 8-graders debates toward 8-graders rants.

Which we should be grateful for, tho, because now we have Tucker giving us 11-grader rants.

#22 is a shame, because the first link supposed to lead to the description of the sadistic conclusion only get me to the profile page of it's creator and not to it's paper.

Expand full comment

If somebody said that universities would try to do what affirmative action 2.0 is obviously aimed at doing, it would have been considered a dumb conservative conspiracy theory. Now that this explicitly what is being attempted, anyone opposed to it will be called a dumb racist.

The college system must be destroyed. Oh, and Biden is spending half a trillion on college debt and doing practically nothing to stop more of this debt being accumulated in the first place.

Expand full comment

I feel like link #9 doesn't really do a good job of arguing for its claims. It claims that Jon Stewart paved the way for Tucker Carlson. But what I was thinking the whole time reading it was, OK, but what about the many conservative talk shows on Fox News that preceded Carlson? The piece occasionally mentions them, but it never contrasts Carlson against them. As such I'm left with no idea how Carlson differs from them, and why it might in fact have more in common with Stewart, leaving me unclear as to why I ought to consider Stewart, rather than these other shows, to be Carlson's most direct predecessor. If you want to argue for X, you have to rule out the obvious alternatives to X, and this piece doesn't do that at all.

Expand full comment


seemsover 70 as percent of population is on the rise.

that plus congress has incumbency rates higher than monarchies.

Expand full comment

#38: This has been known for decades. Here is a paper from 1986 describing the network in skeletal muscle:


This paper from 1999 has some really nice pictures clearly showing the network, also in skeletal muscle:


This paper demonstrates some of the functional implications of the reticulum. The intramitochondrial space can function as an energy highway, transporting energy from the periphery to the center of the cell:


Expand full comment

#38. Mitochondria:

Someone else in that twitter thread points out that mitochondria can change their shape from little capsules to fused spiderweb network, depending on conditions.


There also seems to be some evidence that the mitochondria of standard model organisms are relatively unusual when compared with most eukaryotes — many of the model organisms have lost the ancestral bacterial FtsZ/MinCDE division system and replaced it with eukaryotic dynamin systems:


I don't know how well the comparative morphology of mitochondria has been studied across different eukaryotic lineages, but there is presumably some connection between morphology and the nature of the protein systems used for replication and remodelling.

Expand full comment

RE: political bias in Wikipedia. The "what if" scenario of right-wing culture influencing wikipedia actually happened, though not in the main org. There is a famous example of Croatian wikipedia where couple of far-right writers were responsible for most of the articles about history making it almost unusable for historical research in that language.

Expand full comment

I really hate essays like #6 which seem to me* to be basically arguing that the discovery that people and consciousness are made up of parts means that it is wrong and irrational to have the full scope of complex human values. I am a great proponent of "rescuing the utility" function:


For instance, I value human individuality and personal identity greatly. If, as the essay argues, it may turn out that we are made out of pockets of subdivided consciousness or some other such thing, that does not change anything for me. Whatever chain of pockets or whatever produces the phenomena we call individuality and personality are terribly precious and important. The same goes true for all other human values. Making discoveries about what the things we value are made of generally should not change our values. It is always possible to "rescue" them.

I would also like to call attention to Sniffnoy's classic essay on Goal-thinking vs desire-thinking:


I got the impression that algekalipso was very much a desire-based thinker, where I am very much a goal-based thinker. For instance, when I read the sentence "It just so happens that above a certain level of valence, the phenomenal self starts to become an impediment to further bliss. " my immediate reaction was "so much the worse for bliss!"** A great many of my desires are at least partially based on states of the universe outside my own head. The essays focus on the importance of the strength of qualia to the exclusion of other things rubbed me the wrong way.

*I should caution that I find some of the ideas discussed in link 6 to be the kind of thing that triggers horrible OCD spirals where I become alternatively furious and terrified that someone is trying to convince me that I am not logically allowed to value what I value. It is possible that this is causing me to read link 6 uncharitably, and it is actually making much more modest and reasonable claims.

**It is possible that I am misunderstanding what the "phenomenal self being an impediment" means and that what algekalipso is referring to is actually the kind of state Scott describes in this essay:


In that case, it seems like people's selfhood and individuality still exists, people still act the way they normally do. It is just that the specific sensation of having a self is somehow weakened, even though the person still does lots of stuff that shows they still have a self, like acting according to their goals, behaving in a self-interested manner, etc. This is still a little unnerving to me, I don't think I'd like it. But it seems a lot less objectionable than turning everyone into the Borg/Human Instrumentality, which is how I initially read it.

Expand full comment

Re #16:

I agree there's a big component of safety theatre and PR here. But also, big companies that develop AI models don't just publish papers and models, they also use them for their own applications. Someone else releasing a model without safety controls is irrelevant if what they care about is avoiding swastikas / boobs in their own products.

Expand full comment

#33 Wikipedia - To me cancel culture is inherently defined by a formless, undefined mass that bays for blood. They will never be satisfied, only move on from your virtual corpse when you have been 'cancelled' out of virtual existence.

It's quite possible that the discourse has reached that stage when seen in aggregate (which is inherently difficult to do, we just assemble collages of what other people see), but I just got the impression that people are mildly miffed that

a) the money given to Wikipedia isn't mostly being spent on Wikipedia

b) they are in nowhere as dire a strait as they seem to portray themselves in, every single time

That the initiatives being funded are a tad weird is a cause for concern yes, but I think that's also something you inherently sign off on when giving money in an undirected manner. Also, Wikipedia's contributors have themselves been having this discussion for years now, particularly because they feel that it's cringe to pretend to be needy to prey upon people's emotions. Nothing has come of it afaik.

Expand full comment

So if Shakespeare had been middle- or upper-class he would have been Speareshaker?

Expand full comment

>>> Also, there’s some federal regulation protecting “navigable” rivers, and the definition of a “navigable river” is “a river someone has successfully navigated”

I think you are being a bit glib about the creep of federal power and the EPA's attempt to classify every mud puddle in the nation as "navigatable waters" in order to force the sort of project-prevention that characterizes land use in CA on the rest of the country.

I'll grant the central valley issues, but while that's typical of CA, it's not of the rest of the country, legendary burning rivers or no.

More perspective might be added to the journalist-paddler's anti-hydropower stance by examining the fiscal protection shenanigans around shutting down the Diablo nuclear plant. (Link: https://thebreakthrough.org/issues/energy/the-faulty-diablo-canyon-study-that-started-it-all)

Expand full comment

On #1: This is what I heartily enjoy about spanish insults, finally spelled out. Verb-noun is much snappier than noun-verber.

Think "watch out for that butt-licker" vs ""watch out for that lick-butt".

Expand full comment

Doesn't seem far off the % of voters over 70.

Expand full comment

22. Yeah, the so called "sadistic conclusion" seems obviously supperior to repugnant one. The most important thing is that in the repugnant conclusion scenario, you are actively motivated to create more people with lives barely worth living, lowering average happiness close to zero. While in "sadistic conclusion" there is no moral impulse to actually create victims, unless the only other option is creating lots of people whose lives are barely worth living - which is completely unrealistic scenario anyway.

The whole strinct line of "life worth living" is poor defined even on the intuition level. I think any creation of new people should be considered a loan in utility. On itself it's negative, because you create more unsatisfied preferences and doom another sentient creature to death, by resourses that could have been spent on satisfying already existent preferences, counterfactually. However eventually this loan may be paid by new preferences being satisfied and actions of new person contributing to improving society.

Expand full comment

8. There are just a lot more people alive past 70 than there used to be, that’s the biggest factor.

Expand full comment

8. Tentatively, people are staying at least somewhat healthy longer, so the age in Congress has been increasing. Is this enough to explain the age in Congress going up, or are there active systems blocking successors? I'm reminded of something I read long ago (decades) about Congress having less turnover than the Politburo.

32. I'm pleased to hear about the new spice. I'm not pleased to hear that something I heard so many times as true probably isn't true.

Expand full comment

Thanks for linking to my post! I highly recommend reading the comments, btw; there are some really good counter-arguments and tangential discussion there that I haven’t had time to address yet (as I’ve been offline for most of this last week).

Expand full comment

Interesting throughout. At:

5. Gaius Julius Caesar is a German politician from my region. Christian Democrat, obviously. When introduced to Helmut Kohl, the chancellor demanded his papers. Checked out. 2nd from left: https://asc-images.forward-publishing.io/2021/5/9/42e5f0ab-6bab-4bd7-b80f-676437528cc8.jpeg?w=1024&auto=format

14. + 15. Great ideas for campaigners in the Philippines, I'd say.

16. Swastikas on boobs got drawn by Adolf Hitler - in the novel (not in the movie) "Look Who's Back" /"Er ist wieder da" by Timur Vermes (2012, movie: 2015 - available in English, see wikipedia). Well, one swastika on one boob of an ex of a music-producer. She was not amused. The reader is.

26. Sam Kriss sounds great, thank you. But that link deserved a trigger-warning! Says anti-trigger me. Saturn devouring his son. Creeped me out, I got a baby-son last month. ( Use Google image search first to adjust to those lil' pics, the post shows a close-up. )

28. is by invitation only?

33. I am afraid this is true. After having read some w-articles the last years, I felt: Is this WOKIPEDIA now?! Stuff about ecology, ethology (sic!) - not really super-hot issues one could not write sine ira about. - That is too bad, as Wikipedia still is a great reference, one of the wonders of our world. Now they will have a harder time to get my 5€. Worse, it may bring in more NYT/WaPo supporters.

Expand full comment

Is there a risk of developing AI as a result of efforts to control AI?

Expand full comment

I think Wikipedia is an interesting case study of nonprofit governance. Here is a website that has the power to raise hundreds of millions of dollars but only costs single-digit millions to run. It’s a nonprofit, so they can’t take the rest of the money home with them. What do they do?

Economists say that nonprofit leaders use their excess revenue to “profit” via increased status — they spend the money on things that burnish their reputation and on growing the organization they run so that they have more people to boss around.

Looking at the Wikimedia Foundation’s activities over the past decade, I think that analysis fits pretty well. The upshot is, nonprofits will always raise as much money as they can and if they can’t spend it on their mission they’ll find stuff to use it on anyway. Oh, well. It makes me feel perfectly fine about not giving them money, though.

Expand full comment

Re 40, on the Trump and Biden comparison.

One relevant difference is due to the (insane) way budgets, taxes and spending work in the US system Biden could unilaterally forgive student debt as an executive action, but not unilaterally spend a similar amount. So the comparison would be more to what other options are available via executive action.

Trump tax cuts I believe we're passed by Republicans in congress, so could theoretically have been spent on other things (within the set of things that could pass congress with Trump's backing).

majority would vote for)

Expand full comment

The "Wedding of the Waters" sounds like a good way to spread invasive species.

Also from the Wikipedia page, they also did a "firefall" by dumping hot embers off a cliff. That would definitely get you arrested these days.

Expand full comment

Sniffnoy beat me to it, but I'm thinking these reversed nouns are going to be a godsend to people playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Expand full comment

25 is a lovely demonstration of Simpson's paradox.


Expand full comment

Sadly, the Minecraft-in-Minecraft thing doesn’t appear real. They offer a download of a world—but it can’t run. They say it’s disabled because it would be too slow to be useful, but also that they didn’t run it on the usual Minecraft Java system, but on a special interpreter that runs at high speed.

In other words, they have a computer program good for generating Minecraft-like screen shots of this work—but neither that program nor any valid inputs to jt are available.

I’m not 100% sure it’s a hoax, but it’s definitely unsubstantiated and falls short of its claims.

Expand full comment

Perhaps if Lula had condescended to at least listen to what the devil had to say, he might have won outright in the first round.

Honestly, this leftist obsession with purity will be the end of us.

Expand full comment

AI-based racebending might help people who can’t deal with the idea of black mermaids and hobbits and Norse gods (or audiences who will just pay more for Chinese elves) but it doesn’t solve all of racists’ problems; you can make the actors in Hamilton white, but it won’t change the fact that they’re singing rap music 😱.

And it doesn’t help with the larger problem. “Representation” isn’t just about pixel color, it’s about plots too. You won’t get “Black Panther” or “Lovecraft Country” or “Roots” just by changing the race of characters in a story written about white people. And you can’t just arbitrarily change the race/sex of characters without creating plot holes or unbelievable situations. (You can make a Special Feminist Edition of “The Godfather” with an all-girl mafia, but it’s not going to be a very believable story.)

Expand full comment
Oct 12, 2022·edited Oct 12, 2022

Re: 22. There are a number of things which annoy me about this attempted defense of the sadistic conclusion, starting from the introduction telling us that the sadistic conclusion is "practically devoid of content" and that "embracing it is trivial." Even on a generous evaluation of what Armstrong goes on to show, it's nothing like either of those claims.

First, Armstrong wants to say that "sadistic" is a bad label. And sure, for similar reasons one might complain about the "repugnant" label. But whatever we do with the labels, the point remains that the implication is counterintuitive. And I can say from experience that it is not hard to elicit the intuition without prejudicing the case with a bad-sounding label.

So the only thing that even really purports to be substantive is the second part, which amounts to pointing out that the sadistic conclusion follows (with some auxiliary assumptions) from views where creating an underclass of people with worth-living lives is bad, and that some people find such views initially attractive. Somehow, Armstrong thinks, pointing this out defuses the argument. But that's just not how things work dialectically. We start with a view that seems appealing to a lot of people, we find a consequence which seems very counterintuitive, and this is a reason (not necessarily a decisive one) to reject the original view. You can't avoid this kind of reasoning by saying "ah, but the consequence follows from a view that is appealing to a lot of people and/or under dispute, so its counterintuitiveness can't be used as an objection." This is just how counterexamples work.

Finally, it's worth pointing out that the main views which imply the sadistic conclusion, namely the averagist views, imply something much worse (than just the claim that adding a sad person is sometimes better than adding some not sad people). Imagine a population A as big as you like, all of which is suffering to as bad a degree as you like. Now imagine a Great Life, as great as you like. Averagism implies that it can be better to add A than to improve every existing person's life and add a population all of which have a Great Life. Even if the mild version of the sadistic conclusion doesn't move you, this is pretty bad, and there's a reason essentially everyone who has to pick between it and other bullets in population ethics spits it out.

Expand full comment
Oct 12, 2022·edited Oct 12, 2022

#13: At the risk of pointing out the obvious - if the 538 deluxe model makes a perfectly accurate prediction of the chances that Republicans will win the Senate 2022, and there's a 47% of the Republicans winning the Senate in 2022 (51 seats, as the VP is a Dem)... then the 538 deluxe model will not favor the Republicans on election day.

Overall, prediction markets have a bias towards "neutrality,"* which the Salem/CSPI market doesn't overcome. For example, on average, in 2020, the mean PredictIt prediction for each individual state going to either Biden or Trump was an 86.74% probability (there's a lot of non-swing states), whereas 538 had a 91.66% probability. 538's Brier score was also lower.

*: Time value of money means a return of less than N% isn't worth it. If I go buy something at 96% probability, when it's really 99% probability, and it won't resolve until 2024, I might as well put my money in stocks or bonds. There's also some psychology here, where winning long shot bets "feels" better than winning easy bets like the Dems winning Cali in 2024 (which PredictIt had at 92%). The Salem/CSPI market doesn't have this problem, but it has a different one, namely, that I'm not maximizing my average winnings, but my probability of being in the top N forecasters - which means taking riskier bets, which means a bias towards "neutrality".

Expand full comment

I'd like to point out that although Caio Mussolini has "Giulio Cesare" as his middle names, he's *actually* named after Gaius, the emperor whom almost everyone calls "Caligula".

Expand full comment

That Jetson One looks fun, but it also feels 20 years late. Haven't we had some iteration of small flying "cars" for 20-30 years that all went nowhere?

Expand full comment

Re. no. 8: What explains this?

I'm going to put my money on Baby Boom + Dramatically Increased Health Span

Expand full comment

For those who are interested in more Covid data, I have an analysis is excess California deaths (by month):

*) Going back 20 years, and

*) Compared to an idiot simple 'expected deaths' model

The arrival of Covid can not be missed.

Also, California deaths are now back to the 'normal' range (though a bit higher than expected as is not uncommon ... things tend to wander above and below the 'expected' value as my model is VERY simple).


Expand full comment

#36 (might be a repeat.) This is from Gathering for Gardner (Martin Gardner.) And you can print the dragon out and fold it up. It's really neat the way it 'watches' you as you move around it. My first hit for https://www.gathering4gardner.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/3D-dragon.pdf

Expand full comment

" To me this just seems like good hygiene - don’t cold open with “YOU AND EVERYONE YOU TRUSTED ARE IDIOTS” "

If you think they and everyone they trusted are idiots then opening with "You and everyone you trusted were behaving sensibly at the time" is *lying*. You are a damn dirty liar who says things that aren't true in order to make people agree with you. This is traditionally recognized as an effective technique, and terrible hygiene.

Expand full comment

My guess re: the elderliness of Congress:

Politics appeals most to older people to begin with - most voters are in the upper age bracket. There are also more old people now then ever - and that massive increase in the elderly population has expanded the pool of elderly, who were already the most likely to run for office/be involved in politics.

I think the only way to reverse it is to get people under 50 more interested in politics, but I'm not sure that's a great idea either.

Expand full comment

#30, Not if it is a logistic curve. Initial exponential driving force is countered by resource constraints. Very common curve in biology.

Expand full comment

#33, Interesting link. No general answers but one person's response here. I will no longer be donating to Wikipedia, unfortunately, as I consider it an otherwise wonderful aspect of the internet. Not canceling Wikipedia. But withdrawing my own support. Different.

Expand full comment

Most of the time I have a lot of respect for Scott's taste and share most of his interests, and then every now and then he links to "one of the best essayists alive today" and it's just several thousand words of wanking off on the page about how things change over time and have you ever considered that maybe the internet is bad?

IDK maybe I'm missing something but it's kind of baffling.

Expand full comment


Expand full comment

The fall line thing and the navigable river thing are related. The big political story of the past few decades has been the story of the Rust Belt turning from reliable democrats to reliable republicans. (This is both the “Reagan Democrats” thing and part of the Trump phenomenon.) People sometimes talk about the Rust Belt as though it’s a latitude phenomenon, but in many ways it’s really about the presence of the navigable rivers. Industry tends to locate where shipping is easiest. Over the decades and centuries, the relative importance of seaports, river ports, rail hubs, airports, interstate highways, etc, has changed. I think the biggest change is that with the rise of global container shipping, seaports have gone up in importance (despite already being very high) while river and lake ports have gone way down in importance (despite still being significant). Landlocked sites have become usable in ways they weren’t, particularly if they got a good interstate while having bad terrain for rail. You can see the phenomenon of the Rust Belt as being shaped primarily by dependence on river and lake shipping. The obvious cases are Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh, but places like St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans have had the same economic decline as the rest of the Rust Belt despite being geographically far from them, and places like Columbus and Indianapolis have been booming despite being surrounded by the Rust Belt, partly because they are places that never developed a major river shipping industry but have been able to benefit from highways and from the growing importance of state government.

The cities on the fall line are an interestingly different case than either. These include places like Minneapolis on the Mississippi, and the Texas cities like Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, San Antonio. In the northeast, the Fall Line cities were early centers of industry because they had water mills, which then declined in importance. I think for these other cities, their river wasn’t necessarily navigable, so the loss of industry hasn’t been as big.

Expand full comment
Oct 12, 2022·edited Oct 12, 2022

#8 "What explains this?"

Wisdom ?

Expand full comment

21: " ... academics are already planning to replace it with a system of ranking applicants on diversity statements, how many racial-equity-related classes they took as an undergrad, and how many racial-equity-related extracurriculars"

1. Wow, can that be gamed. And it will. Entire fancy private schools in the Northeast will be given over to that for a ciriculum.

2. If I wanted to make an argument for shutting down most of Academia, I could ask for a better course of action.

3. How about a law, removing admissions from the schools discretion and making them entirely dependent on the results of national examinations. This is approximately the system followed by many European and Asian countries. What I would like better is a national lottery for admissions.

4. Don't overplay your hand, dudes.

Expand full comment

24: "I can’t imagine there are many undiscovered lands left, so William is out of luck at least until we get off Earth."

There is a Prince William County in Virginia. When he was young, we bought a shirt for our son who is named William from the Prince William Yankees, a minor league baseball team.

Expand full comment

26: "His new blog starts with The Internet Is Already Over."

A consummation devoutly to be wished.

Expand full comment

I think the description of the "fall line" thing in #34 isn't quite right. What allegedly differs sharply across the fall line isn't the _partisan lean_ of the districts, it's _how they've changed recently_, which allegedly tracks wealth and social class -- historically, poorer people have been more Democratic and richer people have been more Republican, but that's been changing of late, and the suggestion is that there's a sharp wealth gradient across the fall line.

Expand full comment

"40: " ... the cost of Biden’s college loan forgiveness has been estimated at ~$500 billion .."

The statement that the forgiveness is a cost is, at best, a distortion. The loans were made years ago, the money long since went out the door.

The accounting showed no cost because they counted the student's obligation to repay the amount as an asset equal to the loan which showed no impact on the deficit, even though the money was borrowed and increased the debt.

The loans will never be repaid at their face amount due to their speculative nature and the inevitable vicissitudes of life (premature death, chronic illness, simple failure, etc.). A private lender would have been required to charge the the forecast defaults against the asset over their life time, thus disclosing the true cost. The Federal Government, just assumed the perfect and impossible case.

The write down for the forgiveness is at worst just adjusting the accounting failure to the reality of the situation.

Was it fair? No. Was it wise? No. Will it be repeated? Yes.

Expand full comment

PredictIt is a wishcasting shitshow where sometimes the wishcasters get lucky. People who take it too seriously should not be trusted. I've made money there, although typically I am too poor to dump hundreds of dollars into limbo for months.

Anyone looking at the PI numbers these days is a fool. It is flooded with "Trumper Pumpers" who are way more delusional than even the "Bernie Bros" were.

They literally have no evidence or arguments for their position. Even Trafalgar poll results don't support the market movements these days.

Expand full comment
Oct 12, 2022·edited Oct 12, 2022

That Sam Kriss essay was transcendent.

Even if he seems like a nutter…many geniuses are.

Expand full comment

The summary of 18 pretty radically misstates how navigability is determined. So, the example given is the navigability determination for the Los Angeles River by the EPA. The actual report is here:


But as they describe "this navigability evaluation for the Los Angeles River focuses on several key types of evidence:

(1) Ability of the river under current conditions of flow and depth to support navigation by watercraft;

(2) History of navigation by watercraft on the Los Angeles River;

(3) The current commercial and recreational uses of the river; and

(4) Plans for future development and use of the river which may affect its potential for commercial navigation. "

In other words, actually being able to navigate down it is one piece of evidence, but not how determinations are made, for obvious reasons.

The broader underlying argument about how to properly define Waters of the US is one I leave to other people.

Expand full comment

#25 - you buried one of the most interesting parts. The response from “liberals” reversed when the question asked about “your sons / daughters” instead of generic “boys / girls”.

Lots of potential in exploring the implications of that with varying degrees of charity.

Expand full comment

#36 seems inspired by a popular papercraft toy that people can make at home: https://www.thinkfun.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Dragon-Illusion-BBC.pdf

Had one when I was younger and it's just as mind boggling in person.

Expand full comment


I ran into ‘catchpenny’ the other day. First citation is late 18th century British English. Kind of charming in its way.

Expand full comment

On the Wikimedia link/thread, I'm less concerned about where they're putting the money and more concerned that they are regranting money to things that aren't Wikipedia. The appeal they make is very much "please keep Wikipedia running" while the actual spending is "oh, we need like half the money to keep the site running". I'm mostly upset that they preyed on my desire to keep a thing I love in the world to get money from me that they didn't need to keep the thing in the world. That money had higher marginal utility allocated elsewhere.

Expand full comment

Item 21 would be very alarming if true as stated, but it isn't. Or at least that Inside Higher Education article doesn't represent any evidence for it.

I shared the article with my spouse who now does college-admissions counseling and who was previously an associate dean of admissions. She pointed out correctly that the authors are simply a pair of assistant professors who write about such topics; and also that their article simply _proposes_ that universities "can consider" yadda yadda. The whole thing is a string of "might" do this, "could" do that, etc.

Also all factual claims in the piece are vague e.g. "ethnic studies is being implemented as a graduation requirement", "schools are implementing restorative justice practices", etc. Zero numbers or even named examples. There are more than 3,000 degree-granting colleges in the USA and nearly 27,000 high schools; it requires only 2 in order to support the vague statement that "schools are...." My personal experience across many topic areas has been that broad vague factual handwaving offered with zero numbers or even specific examples invariably proves to be just air.

So the statement that "academics are planning to", at least based on that article, is a fairly hilarious (to my spouse anyway) overstatement. "Inside Higher Education has printed writeups like that since forever; the next actual decisionmaker who reads one of them, let alone acts on it, will be the first."

Expand full comment

I've argued elsewhere that the fairness doctrine was responsible for increased polarization, mostly focusing on the AM radio. That article does a much better job covering its influence on 90s TV media and the resulting segments. I'm young enough that it was my parents and grandparents watching these shows rather than my own cohort. It was easy to assume that broadcast news had always been like that.

What's the next step in journalism? Or the *next* next step, since I think it's fair to read the last ten years of social media as a categorical change both in coverage and in attitudes. The pessimist in me says it's filter bubbles, which have a strong memetic appeal even if they're less "useful." Experiments in aggressively free/balanced forums tend to run to one sort of capture or another. The Internet is as close as we can currently get to radical exit rights, and I'd consider it possible that hitherto-empty niches could be populated with AI-scraped or -generated content. I'm not confident that desire for authenticity or a similar sentiment will overrule that.

Expand full comment

>The markets give the Republicans better odds, and seem to be counting on pollsters missing paranoid anti-pollster Republicans.

These markets know that they weight the results to match population statistics, right?

Like, yes, it's possible for there to be polling errors for sure, but the cause has to be more complicated than 'Republicans not talking to pollsters'. That's a very obvious trend that you can correct for by weighting to party registration, actual vote turnout from past elections, and many other sources of data that give you a good idea of how many republicans there actually are in a place.

>Given that all the “Trust And Safety” stuff seems more about protecting AI companies’ reputations than really preventing boobs or swastikas from being drawn, what are we actually doing here?

Replace 'reputation' with 'brand identity' and yeah, pretty much.

Every major brand spends a lot of money on creating and maintaining its brand identity. Parents won't let their kids use Disney's website if users plaster the forums with porn, Christians won't use Craigslist if it is widely and explicitly used by prostitutes to meet clients, and investors will pull out of OpenAI if it becomes synonymous with deepfake porn and automated Nazi bots. This is just a normal part of running a brand in the modern economy.

Of course, the difference here is that they're trying to smuggle the costs of maintaining their brand under the headline of 'AI Safety' in order to get additional good will for the same price. Definitely this has negative externalities if anyone believes it, and they should be called out until making false claims like this ends up being a net negative for their brand and they stop making them.

>the idea that if you want a movie character to have a different race or gender or just be played by a different actor, you can make it happen

I'm not aware of much work being done on AI for voice generation. Changing gender/race/nationality may not make a very watchable movie without this technology, and it's the part I expect us to be farthest away from.

Aside from, you know, changing scenes and the entire plot in ways that are thematically appropriate for the changes to the character such that the movie retains equal artistic merit, that's probably also an issue for a lot of movies. But by the time we have that we probably won't have humans involved in making moves in the first place.

>but the charities do also fund controversial work like opposing scientific objectivity

If you are going to write articles about how we need to carefully distinguish between 'Trump gets a lot of support from white supremacists' vs 'All white supremacists support Trump, but there aren't enough of them for it to be fairly characterized as "a lot of support,"' then could we please also carefully distinguish between 'Science shouldn't be objective' and 'Human scientists cannot be perfectly objective, so we should interrogate claims of objectivity and investigate the role bias actually plays in the scientific process in reality'?

Because this comes up *a lot*, whenever we talk about any progressive-aligned or post-modern science group, and it's pretty much always the same story. Post-modernism doesn't say we *shouldn't* have good things, it questions the narratives of people who *claim* that we already have perfectly good things and can only maintain those things by keeping those people in unquestioned power.

As always, if a claim of bad actions by people you dislike seems really appealing to you, it deserves more scrutiny, not less.

>Here’s a variant of the Hollow Mask Illusion I hadn’t seen before:

This one's a classic, there's a free diagram that you can cut out and make yourself with some tape, we had a bunch around the office.

Note that at the size shown in the tweet it probably works a lot better with a monocular camera than with human eyes, and there's probably a limited set of distance/height/lighting it works for in person. But the smaller sizes work this well to the naked eye at a large range of view configurations.


The cube version is also very striking and works at an even greater range of view configurations, and is even easier to make yourself:


Expand full comment

Regarding the verb-noun word formation, it reminds me of an old B.C. comic strip in which the cavemen are choosing names for animals. Referring to a shaggy creature with a very long snout, a character asks "What does it do?" The reply is "It eats ants." So they promptly decide to call it an eatanter.

Expand full comment

“ “[The Salem/CSPI forecasting tournament] thinks there's only a 22% chance that the 538 deluxe model will favor Republicans on election day, [but that] there's a 47% chance Republicans will actually win the Senate.”

This is a somewhat misleading interpretation of the market, as we would expect this sort of outcome (where P(R’s win the Senate) > P(538 thinks R’s win the Senate) even if the markets believed 538’s polling was perfectly accurate. I walk through the math demonstrating this here:


Also, the null hypothesis for the whole “congress is getting older” seems to be that it is a function of A. Seniority based politics, where the person who has been there the longest is in charge, which means that the high status people in politics will proportionately be older and B. A longer lifespan, where more people are able to function further into their 70’s and 80’s than previously. The way these interact is that more people are able to hang on in politics longer, and because they’ve been in so long they are disproportionately at the top.

Expand full comment

"What explains this?"

Demographics, Baby Boomers are aging and that is making the US population skew older than it has in the past and will in the immediate future. This tool is fun to play with: https://population.un.org/wpp/Graphs/DemographicProfiles/Pyramid/840

Expand full comment

If you could do self-supervised learning on a dataset that includes nudity and swastikas, but *in a principled way* produce a generative model that reliably will not produce nudity or swastikas even when asked, yet still performs adequately in other situations, that seems like useful progress towards goals quite relevant to AI safety. Likewise getting a model to produce racially diverse images when that doesn't reflect the dataset.

Of course "add a keyword filter + a nudity classifier + randomly add Black to the prompt" is not a good solution, it's kind of depressing. But it seems like "it would be better if we knew how to solve this problem properly" is actually something everyone can agree on: the AI ethics people, the AI safety people, and the upper management at tech companies.

Expand full comment

"22: Stuart Armstrong argues that the “Sadistic Conclusion” - one of the potential alternatives to the Repugnant Conclusion usually considered even worse and not worth thinking about - is actually underrated."

> Then, given that this underclass is a bad outcome (and given a few assumptions as to how outcomes are ranked) then we can find other bad outcomes that are not quite as bad as this one. Such as… a single victim, a tiny bit below the line of “worth living”. So the sadistic conclusion is not saying anything about the happiness level of a single created population. It’s simply saying that sometime (A) creating underclasses with slightly worthwhile lives can sometimes be bad, while (B) creating a victim can sometimes be less bad. But the victim isn’t playing a useful role here: they’re just an example of a bad outcome better than (A), only linked to (A) through superficial similarity and rhetoric.

This argument is pretty much what I was thinking. When comparing a very large group of people just above some line, to 1 person just below that line, it seems obvious that the latter situation is better (or, more precisely, it seems obvious that if you can make them arbitrarily close, then you can make the latter situation better). Note that in my intuition, this line doesn't even have to be near the point of "barely worth living." It could be well below that point and you still would want 1 slightly worse off person than many slightly better off people.

I also agree the name is misleading. It's only "sadistic" in the sense that the worst-off person is (very slightly) worse off than the worst-off person in the other scenario.

Expand full comment

To help explain 8) :

Magni Berton, R., Panel, S. Strategic gerontocracy: why nondemocratic systems produce older leaders. Public Choice 171, 409–427 (2017). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11127-017-0449-5

Abstract :

One characteristic of nondemocratic regimes is that leaders cannot be removed from office by legal means: in most authoritarian regimes, no institutional way of dismissing incompetent rulers is available, and overthrowing them is costly. Anticipating this, people who have a say in the selection of the leader are likely to resort to alternative strategies to limit his tenure. In this paper, we examine empirically the “strategic gerontocracy” hypothesis: Because selecting aging leaders is a convenient way of reducing their expected time in office, gerontocracy will become a likely outcome whenever leaders are expected to rule for life. We test this hypothesis using data on political leaders for the period from 1960 to 2008, and find that dictators have shorter life expectancies than democrats at the time they take office. We also observe variations in the life expectancies of dictators: those who are selected by consent are on average closer to death than those who seize power in an irregular manner. This finding suggests that gerontocracy is a consequence of the choice process, since it disappears when dictators self-select into leadership positions.

Expand full comment

>39: Very large Pew poll of black Americans. Findings include: 60% say racism is an extremely big problem, 15% say they are regularly (64% from-time-to-time, 21% neither of the above) discriminated against

We should all be well aware that this is no way proves the existence of widespread discrimination. Not that respondents are outright lying, just that the perception of discrimination should be expected to be >> actual discrimination. Virtually all racial differences in outcomes are assumed by most leftists to be the result of discrimination, even when there are obvious alternative explanations supported by the data.

An obvious example would be policing. Black people have more police interactions, but they also live in areas with higher crime rates, so this is what we should expect to happen in race-neutral society. But many will perceive this as "discrimination" against blacks, which if we're taking to be correct even in light of what I said above, then this would also mean that the police "discriminate" against men relative to women, and against whites relative to asians.

Expand full comment

Brazil is 100% not okay

Expand full comment

I think I got moderated/comment deleted.

Expand full comment
Oct 13, 2022·edited Oct 13, 2022

Regarding #33, on the Wikimedia Foundation: This is mostly correct, but missing some important context.

The Foundation did make some clear culture war statements during the BLM push in 2020, along with transferring money to culture war causes around the same time, via the "Knowledge Equity Fund" which was explicitly inspired by the George Floyd protests. This received some pretty strong pushback from the volunteer editor community. In the 2021 Wikimedia Foundation Board Elections, candidates were specifically asked by volunteers whether they would support spending on areas not related to the Wikimedia projects, and elected trustees that were largely opposed to such actions. (Quotes from the elected candidates, on the question: "Considering that the money are needed for the development of Wikimedia movement, especially in the Global South, I don’t think WF has any money to spare for any other causes irrespective of their worth. There’s an NGO or 100 for any cause, and WF cause is exclusively Wikimedia movement support.", "The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to support and empower the communities of the Wikimedia projects and the projects themselves. Among the many worthy goals that one can set, we choose to pursue this one. We should devote virtually all the resources of the Wikimedia Foundation to it. [...] The Wikimedia Foundation looks relatively big and well-resourced (in terms of money, people, etc.), and it is tempting to use some of them for other purposes. However, the truth is that the Wikimedia Foundation is not so big, and the resources are very limited. If we scatter them in too many different places, we will end up achieving nothing - and the Wikimedia projects will be the first to pay the price.", "I'd say that, given that our resources are scarce, and given that as I write in my statement, we also want to grow in regions less covered, as well as get ready for new tech and social challenges, we need to be really smart and selective about what purposes outside our immediate focus we choose. At this time, I'd be reluctant to start funding projects entirely unrelated to Wikimedia projects.")

A recent post on the Wikimedia mailing list by Chris Keating, who seems to generally be pretty well-informed, states: "[M]y perception is that the Knowledge Equity Fund was initially a deliberate attempt led by US-based staff to have the WMF 'do something' to align itself with a broader progressive movement in the USA. I believe the main advocates for this have now departed, that it was never a particularly good fit with the WMF's overall approach to grantmaking, that the evolution of the WMF's approach to this fund was positive, but still if the whole thing is now forgotten about that's probably no bad thing." The KEF still exists, and _sorta_ seems to be winding down (it hasn't done any spending since its initial grants in September 2021, but they are still theoretically planning to do another round, which may or may not happen).

On the massive spending increase: Yes, the Foundation increased its spending rapidly for many years, at a rate which is generally agreed to have been unhealthy. The Board recently hired a new CEO (along with a mostly-new executive team), who apparently intends to do things somewhat differently. A recent quote from the Board vice-chair: "I do believe that under previous management, WMF has grown too fast. That said, we have new management, and the focus now is on stopping that growth and stablizing the organization." It is true that most spending is not spent on hosting. It is mostly spent on software development. Much of this is very useful in improving the websites. Some spending is on less-useful things. (Unfortunately, it is much more difficult to get a sense of the specifics, as the Foundation has slipped a lot on spending transparency in recent years, but the Executives have stated that they intend to fix this.)

Are the Wikimedia Foundation's fundraising messages misleading? Yes, they are. The English Wikipedia community recently came to a clear consensus that the fundraising messages are misleading, and asked that the WMF change them. The WMF did not respond, IIRC.

Is donating to the Wikimedia Foundation necessary to keep Wikipedia from disappearing? No. The Endowment recently reached a size such that interest alone is enough to pay for raw hosting costs indefinitely. (This was a major goal for a long time, as hosting itself was considered by many to be the "ultimate" aim which must be protected above all else.)

Is donating to it _worthwhile_? Maybe. A lot of the technology development helps Wikipedia greatly. Some of its inflating budget is, frankly, quite harmful to Wikipedia. Whether the overall balance is such that donating to the WMF does more good than donating elsewhere is a very complicated question, but I don't think the linked tweets do much to enlighten people on that.

Expand full comment

#28: It took me longer than I like to admit to get "The Counterfactual Plateau".

Expand full comment

On 20 and 27, I never understood why people trusted any statistics provided by dictatorships.

Why on earth would anyone expect that a government that jails and kills its country's dissidents would be honest when providing numbers that may make it look bad?

OK, some people do use these numbers for their political purposes - Cuba's presumably awesome healthcare was touted as a reason the government in the US should take as much control of healthcare as possible, and thus we ended up with the Obamacare monstrosity. But other than people who need these numbers to be good to help with promoting their agenda, why would anyone think they somehow reflect reality?

Expand full comment

The supposed rediscovery of silphium has happened a few times- a near identical story went around back in 2017. I’ve been interested in silphium since I first heard of it in high school. I’d love it to be true, but even a similar plant with culinary potential would be interesting.

I read an article somewhere that theorized about why silphium couldn’t be cultivated outside Cyrenaica (northern Libya). Silphium might have had some complex ecology or root structure that defied transplantation. It’s also possible that the desirable version was a hybrid and couldn’t be grown from seed. Archaeologists never seem find the seeds amid remains of other foodstuffs.

On that note, I was surprised to find several other people at an ACX meetup a while back who are also into historic cooking. Any other ACX food history nerds here?

Expand full comment

Regarding 21. I think there's something worth pointing out. Under the current system it's a one actor system. The university says we want >X% black people, and quietly say and <Y% Asian people. <Z% Jews if you go back to the start of all this.

Under the hypothetical new system where they ask for lots of social justice courses its a two actor system. The university can select which courses give an admissions boost, and the students can change their studies to match. If the university says they want people who study Kendi, suddenly there's going to be a lot of Kendi summer schools catering to ambitious students.

If anything this might backfire and favour Asian students even more because they have the strongest traditions of extra-schooling focused on what universities want. And the more transparent they are about gaming the system against Asian students the higher the risk of a follow up court case.

Expand full comment

Regarding custom films, this has in principle been possible with CGI animated films for ages, but mostly doesn't happen. But they *do* make some changes! For example there's a Pixar movie where a kid gets broccoli pizza and hates it, in the Japanese version they changed broccoli to green peppers, because that has the right cultural association there. Swapping out a character is more work than that but not enormously more.

Expand full comment

#28: well, the map is not the territory, but it's nice to see ACX being more or less at the exact centre of Rationalia. Surely a coincidence! Yggdracxil, the World-Blog.

The old SSC reddit being literally on another continent feels pretty true, too. Strange how far some apples have fallen from the original Tree of Knowledge. Or maybe it's more that the tree uprooted itself and walked away. (I guess one could take that even further back, to the LiveJournal days...)

Also interesting to note the conspicuous absences. Though I suppose anything could happen in The Illegible Isles...and that seemed like Feature Not Bug of certain infamous personalities.

Expand full comment

> 7: New flying car project, Jetson One

It's a personal helicopter

Expand full comment

I think these threads would benefit from a standardized syntax for commenters to use in order to reference links. e.g. "#22" or "22:" with "22" being frowned upon

Expand full comment

I haven't checked every commment to see if my point has been made, but Scott says "I would still like to see a good analysis of whether the neoliberal wave was inevitable (because the mid-century statist policies which seemed to work so well for so long were unsustainable) or an overreaction to a contingent recession and if we hadn’t done it we could have returned to mid-century-style statist policies and they would have gone back to working well. I suspect inevitable but I haven’t seen any really good treatments of this question." I think he fails to consider that it might not have been inevitable and statist policies not worked well at all, and we would have stayed in an even more suboptimal equilibrium.

Expand full comment

The islands formerly known as the Queen Charlottes were named after a ship, not Queen Charlotte.

Expand full comment


"This added an additional level of complication, as there was no way to know what neurons would actually find rewarding."


"This is where the research team turned to theoretical neurobiology. One proposal for how sensory networks learn to interpret the world is that they try to minimize the mismatch between what the network thinks is going to happen and the actual state of the world. In this view, learning networks naturally try to minimize the discrepancy between the predicted and actual states.

Put in Pong terms, the sensory portion of the network will take the positional inputs, determine an action (move the paddle up or down), and then generate an expectation for what the next state will be. If it's interpreting the world correctly, that state will be similar to its prediction, and thus the sensory input will be its own reward. If it gets things wrong, then there will be a large mismatch, and the network will revise its connections and try again."

Expand full comment

Are you against capabilities research or against more people going into capabilities research than already exist?

Expand full comment

Speaking of flying cars, does the Moller Skycar hold the record for longest standing vaporwave project? It's been in "development" since I was a kid.

Expand full comment

>what are we actually doing here? Is it damaging public trust in AI safety? Producing false confidence? Muddying the waters?

It's establishing already existing rules in new realms. We don't want swastikas an porn in public, so we forbid them in public facing AI. You can train your own stable diffusion on all hitlers and swastikas available, but don't expect the public to tolerate or even support this. If you must have that, you can have it, but not with public facing tools.

Expand full comment

As far as kayaking "The Crucible" in the upper San Joaquin goes, I wonder why they can't use a drone to scout it out and find the safest route.

Expand full comment

As a Brazilian, I can ensure you that the answer to the question "Is Brazil OK?" has been "No" since, at the very least, 1889.

Expand full comment

>Or is it cancel culture to worry about this?

I think "I won't give charity money to people who are going to spend it on things I think are actively bad" is about the most defensible boycott possible.

Expand full comment

I enjoyed 18 well enough, but it's an annoying example of a certain style of journalism. As soon as the hashtag was chosen the article's content was a foregone conclusion. All the writer's scripted encounters are with environmental activists of one stripe or another. The people he just runs into are either neutral or hostile toward his thesis, but he sticks doggedly to it anyway. I would've thought Scott, of all people, would be more of a critical reader here.

Expand full comment

The Jon Stewart article was kind of interesting, went in a lot of different directions.

I thought they were just going to talk about the shame Tucker felt in the moment, when arguing with Stewart. Starting about here and going for the next 2 minutes:


Is that moment the birth of a supervillain?

You can ask the same thing about Donald Trump, after Obama roasted him at the 2011 correspondent's dinner:


Expand full comment

In my daydreams 80% of all donations to Wikipedia are secretly re-donated to internet archival projects.

Expand full comment

8: Increasing age of senators. You'll probably also see increasing age of the average research grant recipient. Increasing age of marriage. Increasing dominance of megacorp brands. What all these things have in common is perhaps a general trend of trust building up much more slowly now than it used to. Or maybe this is just the Law of the Instrument on my part because I've been reading Liars and Outliers and Matt Levine's bloomberg issue on crypto.

Expand full comment

22. If there's uncertainty about where to draw the "worth living" line, and you value the reduction pain somewhat higher than the increasing of pleasure, then a single barely worth living life has negative expectation. A single barely-not-worth-living life has a somewhat larger negative expectation, but it could still be better to create one of those than two of the former.

Expand full comment