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Just wanted to say I'm really happy to see you back online and blogging. Take good care and good luck with your other work!

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Am I the only one who misses the "Links" posts? The ones not specific about coronavirus. Is there any chance they'll come back, Scott?

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Candidate concept handle: Hippocratic Pareto Dominance

* for doctors: primum non nocere (first do no harm)

* for dieting: first do not gain

* for holes: if you find yourself in one, stop digging

Anything else?

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This occurred to me too late to post on either of the *Cult of Smart* theads, so I'll put it here:

We ought to take some school horror stories with a grain of salt. My partner, who teaches young kids, regularly encounters parents who are a little too credulous w.r.t. stories their kids tell them.

There was a father who was convinced that his son was being systematically starved at lunch time (there have been several of these, actually). There was a mother who fervently believed that a [much younger child in a different class] was physically abusing her [older, larger child] every day at recess. They called at nights and on weekends and demanded to know why their concerns weren't being taken seriously.

From the outside, it was clear what was going on: the kids determined that their parents were sensitive to stories about X, so they supplied them with stories about X. Sometimes there was a kernel of truth: "Mr. Smith, Eve is right: we did tell her she couldn't have any strawberries. That was because the snack today was blueberries. She ate lots of those." But sometimes they were just totally made up: "Mrs. Jones, I know Adam said that Steve punched him at recess today. But Steve's family has been out of the country since Christmas."

This doesn't invalidate anybody's first-person experiences, and doesn't mean that terrible abuses are impossible. Indeed, I witnessed some bad stuff at school when I was a kid. But we should apply our usual amount of skepticism to really outrageous claims.

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Finally started reading Yudkowsky and while he is mostly ok I wish he hadn't blocked me on twitter because I mostly want to yell at him about lesser problems

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I'm seeing lots of reports on my internet radar of a red-hot housing market, especially for suburban single-family homes. Houses receiving multiple bids soon after being listed, historically low inventory, etc. What's most notable is the rapid price inflation in sunbelt cities like Phoenix, Orlando, Charlotte, and Dallas, such that these cities are no longer cheaper than many traditional northern cities.

I have also read anecdotes of relaxing lending standards. Can anyone in the know confirm or deny this part?

I am starting to get the heeby-jeebies that we are at the start of a new housing mania.

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This paper by Chaz Firestone and Brian Scholl http://perception.yale.edu/papers/16-Firestone-Scholl-BBS.pdf debunks a lot of the literature on purported effects like that being depressed makes things look darker (some of their experiments are on that effect in particular, see experiment 4 of https://perception.jhu.edu/files/PDFs/14_El_Greco_Experiments/Firestone_Scholl_2014_Psychological_Science_Top-down_effects_where_none_should_be_found_The_El_Greco_fallacy_in_perception_research.pdf). They also make a general a theoretical case that convinces me that these claimed phenomena are not genuine.

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Can anyone suggest a good book on neoliberalism, in the sense of "the particular set of reforms that happened in the US in the 1970s and 1980s"? I'm most interested in what the reforms were, what the arguments for and against were, and how they developed over time.

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My wife worked at a day care center many years ago and I assisted one of the County subsidized families -- two children, tiny apartment both parents working at low wage jobs -- with tax preparation and was appalled at how much tax they paid!

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Naval Gazing links post:

The big effort recently has been a look at the various means of propelling warships that have been developed since WWII:

Diesels: https://www.navalgazing.net/Modern-Propulsion-Part-1

Gas Turbines: https://www.navalgazing.net/Modern-Propulsion-Part-2

Combination Plants: https://www.navalgazing.net/Modern-Propulsion-Part-3

Nuclear: https://www.navalgazing.net/Modern-Propulsion-Part-4

I've also taken a look at the sometimes-silly way that militaries name things: https://www.navalgazing.net/The-Designation-Follies

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Thoughts on this new paper about BDNF and depression? https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(21)00077-5 The authors claim to have found a unified way that antidepressants work.

Commentary by Derek Lowe here: https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2021/02/19/how-antidepressants-work-at-last

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I wrote an overly long post on some thoughts I had about Scott's ConTracked idea and the general concept of using betting markets to make short-term decisions, Would appreciate any thoughts people have


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I've been glad to see your recent posts on unpacking what's going on inside 'depression', but I feel like they're going in a direction that doesn't ring true to me. In case it is interesting or useful I'd like to present an alternate take from my experience with the condition. Of course this is based only on my anecdotal evidence as a person who has been very depressed in their life. (Also, of course there are a bunch of things that are lumped into the word 'depression', and I can only speak to the version I've experienced.) Sorry if this is all obvious, or if it's just obviously wrong to someone with more expertise on the subject, but it seems to do a good job of explaining things that I see in the world so feels worth sharing.

Suppose we model the way the brain works as a processor that runs a certain program that deals with sensory data and internal stimuli, and produces thoughts and behaviors. The model presented in "The Precision Of Sensory Evidence" is that the processor is running a program which overweights priors and down-weights sensory evidence, and thus produces a person who acts depressed. Another explanation of depression is the old "chemical imbalance" pseudo-explanation, which says that the processor itself isn't working correctly in some way. I think each of these addresses aspects of the disease but not really the whole thing, and my justification for that claim is that I think I can describe the disease in a way that implies each of these.

A 'healthy' mental program, in a non-depressed person, would have this behavior: in response to [the internal and external inputs I receive], and according to [my rough model of who I am and what I ought to be doing in the world], it produces [behaviors and thoughts that keep me happy and productive]. Critically, it is both a good program on its own, and it is good when run against the reality of their life. Where would they get such a program? Well, they have constructed it throughout their life, and, after whatever course they took through life, they have ended up with a program that is relatively effective in the situation they end up in.

I believe that (my / some others') depression results from the lack of a well-adapted program of this sort. There is just no good model of "what you ought to be doing" or "who you ought to be" that is consistent with the program you have thus written in your life. Maybe because things keep going badly -- social interactions don't produce the positive results they're supposed to, so you've downweighted seeking them out; striving for goals hasn't produced results, so you've downweighted trying. Traumatic experiences, maybe, cause your brain to modify its program to avoid certain behaviors or downweight evidence to avoid thinking of them. And the thoughts and behaviors you fall back to, for lack of _good_ ones, have negative side effects that put you in a worse position to improve the situation.

I'm hand-waving the mechanisms, of course, but the details aren't important so much as the idea that: depression is "having a bad program". I'm guessing that the symptoms of depression follow from a running a cognitive program that just doesn't have anything useful to do, so it falls back to either nothing or the most simple behaviors, such as ingrained habits and responding to inputs. Or it gets caught up on what strong signals it does have, like anxieties, because it doesn't have a more useful strong impulse to do anything.

The critical point here is that fixing depression ought to require a _constructive_ treatment: rather than "fixing the processor", like patching a pothole, it's "getting a better program". Which is necessarily hard, because you may have to _build_ something. I just have trouble believing that everyone's brains "aren't working right, at a chemical level" and that's why we have an epidemic of depression; I think it's more likely that they're working mostly right, they're just doing something ineffective.

This, imo, is why therapy is so important compared to medication. Medication can sometimes patch up the processor to, say, lessen the strength of negative signals, but constructive effort is required to _write a new program_ that is more well-adjusted to the world, such that you don't regress into this maladjusted state. But therapy helps because it directly attacks the problem of your program not working against your environment.

I expect that the way behavior works is that you have a built-in model of what kind of person you are, and what kinds of things that person would do, and predictive-processing produces what your actual ideas of behavior. 'Self-concept' therapy addresses that your model is broken, so predicts bad behaviors. CBT addresses the program that you run on sensory inputs that produces bad results. Etc. Or sometimes the best therapy is just going to be "switching environments" -- maybe your program is fine, for where you grew up, but it can't handle a toxic workplace, or living in a place where you don't really know how to comfortably socialize. Or maybe you just need someone to encourage you to go try some ways of interacting with the world (a new hobby or social group or something), and once you do and you get some positive feedback from that, you find yourself on the path back to being reasonably well-adjusted, and your brain starts working again.

I suspect that the brain was never really supposed to be able to end up in situations that it had no effective behaviors in. Maybe this is a modern problem: in the distant past you had to feed yourself and find shelter and other more basic needs, or you lived in some tribal society where your behavior was strongly dictated for you. But with those needs removed, you need to derive purpose from somewhere else -- maybe a strongly-held identity, or maybe a relationship with society or some abstract goal in life. And if you don't have _those_, your brain kinda breaks down because it doesn't know what to do with itself.

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So I was recently diagnosed as autistic in my thirties. Have had mental health issues (depression) since I was a teenager, started seeing a new therapist, new therapist thinks I have autism. It does make a lot of sense--I, at the very least, have what Scott refers to as "quirky engineer" traits, and I have sensory issues.

I mentioned this to my parents, and they were having none of it. Apparently my quirkiness had been noted early and I had been given a general assessment, which said I was gifted. They gave me links to some 'traits of gifted people' resources, and I was very surprised: a lot of the stuff labeled 'traits of gifted people' also happen to be just straight up the traits of 'high functioning autistic people', including things like sensory problems that I wouldn't have expected to be there ("sensual over-excitability" is the unfortunate term in the gifted literature, apparently).

I'm aware there's lots of chatter about how some things we term mental illness may be adaptive mechanisms in other contexts, but I've never seen two disciplines describing exactly the same thing in very different contexts (or at least, something that appeared that way to me as a layperson). I'm curious if anyone knows if there's anything else out there like this.

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So I don't really think this film series will go over here but I still want to recommend it. Adam Curtis has put out a new series of videos on the BBC called "I Can't Get You Out of My Head."


If you aren't in the UK that link will be no good for you. The first three are viewable here. I think they are pirated but I can't imagine Curtis cares:


So, I am, apparently, late to Curtis, who is well known among those I consider to be my cohort. This is the first of his films I've seen and I've yet to watch the last, 2 hour long installment. But I have watched the first 5 and taken copious notes.

By episode four, I think, he makes an especially damning case about how the viewpoint of society changed in a way that made it very difficult for politicians to be anything but toadies. While I don't really consider myself to be a rationalist exactly I like you guys and I think you all have the potential to undergird some politicians who could be strong.

You need to watch all the films before 4 I think to get it but in 4 it really comes home why they are all so weak now and the roll they serve as punching bags standing in front of the monied interests.

Aesthetically, Curtis is a very interesting filmmaker, a sort of essayist who writes in archival footage. He describes himself, however, merely as a political journalist, but one who understands better how to use music to set a mood and keep people interested better than his peers.

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For anyone who has any feelings whatsoever about Dostoyevsky, here's a piece of modern Russian counter-culture where Dostoyevsky comes back to life (kind of).

It's called "Idiot". The main character is Dostoyevsky; the woman's online nick is "Marmeladka", after Sonya Marmeladova from "Crime and Punishment".

It's watchable without understanding the background song, although the song is a part of it.

Original Russian version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvK7EcuptiY

English version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iH8KSNZ5d4I (I find the words hard to hear, and the lyrics are inferior)

If you opt for checking out the Russian version, Russian lyrics for the song are, for example, at https://text-pesni.com/xyrj . Google translate does an amazingly decent job of dealing with them, so I recommend just pasting them in.

Starting from 1:56 and to the end, the only words are the repeating "Idiot", "without a homeland".

Russian signs in the video:

0:08: on the left screen - "Novel", over the keyboard - "Macintosh"

0:10: on the center screen - "Preparing to copy" (in old Russian orthography)

0:16: "Detected creation of harmful content"

0:17: flashing sign - "destroy"

0:26: "Copy 100% completed"

1:15: "Wanted: replicant"

1:36: "Project Rebirth archive" (in old orthography)

1:38: bottom of the screen, "lyubo: 1821" (obsolete word I'm not sure of the meaning of in this context),"start of the project #Rebirth"

1:40: "lyubo: 1881" (see 1:38), "enclaves are ready #Rebirth"

1:43: "Project Rebirth", "Collected works", "Replicant 01 A.S. Pushkin", "Loading data"

1:51: "Not enough memory! Free space to continue!"

1:54: sign "Do not enter"

2:22: food stand sign "Nastasya Shawarma", "93 rubl"

2:25: trolley destination "Idiot"

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Reading "The Pacific War: 1931-1945" by Saburo Ienaga. Also tried out the Wubi input method for Chinese today (I am trying to learn Chinese); seems pretty interesting, but requires knowledge of character stroke orders.

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Interesting take on the tax prep post about the Obamacare penalty. My understanding (maybe wrong?) was it was never high enough to pay for the subsidies, and was also low enough that young healthy people with income weren't incentivized to buy insurance.

But looks like it still managed to screw some low income people. Congress should have waived the penalty for them. But I'd still like the current congress to raise it to $1 just to make the SCOTUS case trickier. I believe they could do that with 51 votes.

(Disclaimer: I am on Obamacare and otherwise support it - I'm not eligible for anything else).

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Hello. First time caller. Oh, sorry. That was a different context!

For people interested in Universal Basic Income I and a few others are developing a Master Directory to UBI. Currently it has:

20 sections (B, K, N, O, Q unused)

163 total topics

72 benefit topics

22 additional top-level links

360 author links (approx.)

8 universal systems


Currently the content is hosted in Google Drive pages. We are working to convert to static web pages.

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Two thoughts relative to Covid that I have not seen elsewhere ...

1. Perhaps the 30% of the population that has been infected counts more towards herd immunity since they are likely the least covid-careful persons? Behavior is not homogenous and the disease selects for bad behavior. This might help explain the dramatic covid reduction the past few weeks. Perhaps our “total risk pool” has shrunk non-linearly?

2. I’ve seen Dr. Fauci analyzed as a tension between “do real medicine” and “ serve the political masters”. Perhaps his role also includes “do whatever will cause the population to collectively behave in a beneficial manner”. Of course he could not admit or discuss such a role.

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If this is sufficiently open to ask others for links rather than providing them, I recall recently reading a post about Robert Moses. Specifically how he ascended to power by being a mix of cynical enough to use it better than an actual idealist, but with the apparent idealism necessary to get so much more support than someone who was just in it for corrupt self-enrichment (it was pointed out that his pay wasn't large, and he really was more into power than money). Unfortunately, I can't remember where I read it and my attempts with search engines haven't worked. I'm guessing other folks in this space also read it, possibly from the same link I found it from (not that I can remember where that was either).

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Is there an accepted definition of what "good mental health" is? Is at nebulous and hard define as "good physical health"?

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I just wanted to say I really appreciate your increased volume of posts, Scott! Glad to have you back.

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I'm not going to be more specific about the cause, but I went through a period of being distracted and obsessed. I didn't have my color vision tested, but I didn't notice color except for brief periods when the distracted/obsession lifted.

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Massive protests in Myanmar after the military took power in a coup, in the aftermath of an election the military claims is fraudulent. 3 protesters and 1 police officer have died. A nationwide strike is planned. According to Freedom House, worldwide democracy has been in decline for the 14th consecutive year. Myanmar seems to be part of this trend away from democracy and toward an unknown future.

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Over the past two weeks, I read Houghton’s Global Warming: The Complete Briefing and Booker’s The Real Global Warming Disaster (a dissent to the CO2-Warming link).

I have been troubled by the attention that the mainstream CO2 theory is getting, how the IPCC has been working to ensure that other theories are quickly disregarded (their response is eerily similar: “careful computer modeling shows that the minor adjustments pointed out by [dissenter] did not affect the overall conclusions”), the pointed urgency with which governments are moving to spend on a problem whose existence is suspect, and the “here comes a conspiracy theorist / climate change denier” outlook when one tries to talk to other people about these concerns (I tried and failed to get 2 friends to consider the dissent seriously, I know that the sample size is exceedingly small and shows nothing)

I fear that the urgency is clouding the efforts to use government spending to lift people out of relative poverty (i.e. something like: rather than spending on coal fired plants, a robust electrical grid and LPG lines, investment goes to solar panels and “biofuel” based stoves, in an effort to reduce emissions)

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Sparta is a really interesting subject not least to alt right types. And the film 300 is a surprisingly faithful rendering of a lot of Spartan ideology. Tom Holland is an extremely amusing and learned British historian. I did a podcast with him the other day where he talked about all this. He was on excellent form - if you haven’t got time for the whole thing his opening 20 minutes are great! We also talked about Hero because Tom decided that this was the Persian equivalent of 300! https://www.buzzsprout.com/207869/7797244-tom-holland-scores-300

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I can't stress enough how great Tony MacNamara's The Great is. A Dostoyevskian cross between Deadwood and Veep, it's the smartest, funniest, and most incisive piece of media of the 2020s to date. It is also visually beautiful. If you're looking for end-of-the-day entertainment that inspires, move this to the top of your list. Sorry for the evangelizing versus providing a review, but the review would need to be book-length to do the work justice.

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This post might solve the pandemic. Or it might not. I need someone smarter to check my work, so I’m posting it in public in the hopes that it will reach someone, who can check it.

The data shows that COVID-19 has seasonal and latitudinal variance, so we know that sunlight has something to do with it. Everyone knows that when sunlight hits your skin, you get Vitamin-D, so doctors started doing clinical trials on COVID patients involving Vitamin-D.

Preliminary results are in and it seems like there is no signal in the noise. Vitamin-D does not seem to be the important factor here. But sunlight clearly is.

That seemed like an interesting problem to work on (instead of actual work) so I started looking into it.

I think I can explain the seasonal and latitudinal variance of COVID-19 without Vitamin-D. My hypothesis can be tested for cheap and with zero risk to human health. And I can explain the full biochemical pathway of this effect.

Vitamin-D is not the only molecule produced by sunlight acting on the skin.

There is another one, much more important, but very few people know about it, because it was discovered by Russian scientists in the 1990s and not widely studied outside Russia. (Based on the name of the chief scientist, who discovered this effect, she’s probably Estonian.)

If you put your hand in front of a bright white light, what do you see? You see that only red light penetrates through the thinner parts of your hand. This implies that red light goes very deep in your body. A centimeter at least.

Red light with a wavelength of about 810 nanometers is absorbed by an enzyme called "cytochrome c oxidase", which is part of the electron transport chain inside the mitochondria of every cell. The result of this is a photochemical reaction, which boosts intracellular ATP production. ATP is the "fuel" that cells use for most internal processes. When a muscle cell contracts, for example, it spends ATP.

With more ATP available, the cell can do more. Including repair. So your body recovers better and faster.

This effect is used by a "new" field of medicine, which has many names: "red light therapy", "photobiomodulation therapy", "low-level laser therapy", and even "cold laser therapy". The content is the same: intense red light is used to boost body's own healing mechanisms.

I put "new" in quotes, because red light therapy was a pseudoscience for 50 years until Russians figured out that it works by stimulating ATP production via the absorbtion of red light by cytochrome c oxidase.

It's not magic and it's not a super powerful effect unless you haven't gotten enough natural light. Based on the seasonal and latitudinal variance of COVID, however, it looks like red light therapy might be the key to solving this pandemic.

There might be a third light-based biochemical pathway besides Vitamin-D and cytochrome c oxidase that could instead be the key factor in explaining COVID’s seasonal and latitudinal variance, but I haven’t found one.

Here is a scientific overview of the history of red light therapy. How it went from pseudoscience to acceptable medical practice:


Quote from that article: “The work of Tiina Karu in Russia was instrumental in putting the mechanism on a sound footing by identifying cytochrome c oxidase in the mitochondrial respiratory chain as a primary chromophore, and it introduced the concept of “retrograde mitochondrial signalling” to explain how a single relatively brief exposure to light could have effects on the organism that lasted for hours, days or even weeks”

I searched on pubmed if any doctor has tried red light therapy on COVID patients and found two case studies, both showing remarkable improvement:



I also found a paper recommending that doctors try red light therapy for COVID: "Based on the clinical experience, peer-reviewed studies, and solid laboratory data in experimental animal models, LLLT attenuates cytokine storm at multiple levels and reduces the major inflammatory metabolites."


Anyone can buy a cheap LED lamp with the right red wavelengths online. Here is one on Aliexpress:


If I'm right and COVID's seasonal variance and latitudinal variance is mediated not via Vitamin-D, but via cytochrome c oxidase, then all you need to test this hypothesis is to get some suitable red light therapy LED panels and hang them above COVID patients.

I'm pretty sure you don't need to get an ethics board approval to change the lighting in a hospital room from white to red.

A statistically significant randomized trial could be done in any hospital for about $10k spent on lamps, with zero health risk and zero ethical considerations. Just keep doing what you're already doing, but randomly put half the patients under red lamps.

If it works, then soon we're all gonna have red lamps in our homes and we're gonna be so much healthier than before!

P.S: If I'm correct and this idea ends up solving this pandemic, then please send some ETH to my wallet at 0x4aD7690c3cCe53De570738dDE90B8D01027a0f84 It would be funny to say I got a car for solving the COVID pandemic 🙂

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https://scite.ai/ is a nice tool to see which papers have been discredited and which have been confirmed. For example, the findings of the linked "seeing gray" paper seem to have been confirmed by 4 other papers and disputed by 1 (https://scite.ai/reports/seeing-gray-when-feeling-blue-rVaAZD). It's still missing some papers and the algorithm which flags citations is not perfect (as evident by the fact that the "disputing" citation is not actually disputing it), but it has been very useful for me so far.

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Should I buy an Ender 3 Pro?

I'm looking for a printer that's entry level and doesn't take up too much space. I expect to upgrade the print head and mainboard at some point and generally tinker with the printer over time. My plans are somewhere between functional printing and the decorative arts.

Also is there a better place to buy one in the uk than Farnell, which sells them for £191? (I think brexit has disrupted the supply chains)

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Rob Wiblin wrote a Google Doc where he detailed his experience with Wellbutrin (active ingredient: Bupropion). He took it even though he only had mild depression symptoms and seems to have had a very positive experience.


I've also read Scott's take on Wellbutrin on the Lorien Psychiatry website. (https://lorienpsych.com/2020/10/25/wellbutrin/). The side effects don't seem *that* daunting.

I don't qualify as being even mildly depressed on the PHQ-9 questionnaire. On the other hand, I'm also not as happy as I think is realistically conceivable (which, I suspect, is true of most people). Hence, I'm pondering trying Wellbutrin, just to see whether it substantially raises my hedonic setpoint and what side effects I experience. If it seemed worth it, I could just continue taking it for much of my life, maybe seizing to take it when I need to take other serious medications (or when I do suddenly experience side effects).

Rob points out that the cost-benefit analysis here seems very positive:

Either you have a bad experience and stop taking it after a few weeks or months, or you are happier (and potentially more productive?) for much of the rest of your life.

My biggest concerns are long-term side-effects that no one knows of and withdrawal symptoms. Those could potentially ruin the expected value calculus laid out above. (Although Scott writes: "It is probably fair to say in a colloquial sense that Wellbutrin does not cause withdrawal." But probably the withdrawal effects after taking Wellbutrin for years or even decades are not well studied.)

Obviously I don't expect medical advice here, but I'd be curious to hear any thoughts generally, even more so if you've taken Bupropion yourself and even more so still if you've tried it with only very mild depression symptoms or none at all.

In case you're reading this Scott, it would of course be great to add your take on this issue to the Lorien Psychiatry post. Even if you are not in favour, it would be helpful if you made that explicit, though I understand you may not have an opinion and it may not be the highest priority for your patients. Either way, I think it's fantastic to have access to your analyses for free. Thanks so much for that!

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I was hoping that the co-author was faked by an AI.

The truth is less interesting. Some scientific papers have extra co-authors added, people who didn't have anything to do with the paper. This presumably an effort to steal prestige and/or to meet simple-minded metrics.

I've heard of plagiarism, but this is what? Reverse plagiarism?

I'm wondering whether there should be a chart of everything which could be faked in a scientific paper.

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A question about homeschooling (or no-schooling). Online I can find many delightful success stories of homeschooling, but no first-person accounts of it going wrong or not working well. I'ts probably survivor bias; I expect that home- and no-schooling can't work equally well for everyone. I cannot make up my mind if I and my kids are good homeschooler candidates if I have no information on the failure modes. Please share your stories of home- or no-schooling not working out, or perhaps argue why such stories don't exist.

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document.removeEventListener( "visibilitychange", getEventListeners(document)["visibilitychange"][0].listener)

This stops the insane refresh when you navigate back to an ACX tab.


1. It's not straightforward to put this into ACX Tweaks, but it's do-able with work.

2. You have to do this on every ACX tab that you might go to.

3. It stops working if you reload the page. This is one reason I really like to never reload pages, searching for "n e w r e p l" to find new comments to load.

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Are you going to be moving to using a domain you control at some point? Right now you're at the mercy of substack, and at such time in the future as you move away, you'll lose control of all these posts.

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I notice that Astral Codex Ten has been publishing way more content than SSC did. Scott, Is this because you built up a big backlog for your Substack debut and when we burn through it in a few weeks we'll go back to the standard SSC schedule, or are you spending a bunch of hours each day writing this stuff and hoping to maintain roughly this pace indefinitely?

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Sorry if you talked about this before, but can you at some point talk about the link between SSRI and lack of motivation, struggle to concentrate and other similar issues. There is a bit of litterature about this, but it seems like most people are unaware. I don't even think it says something about it in medication warning, and I was never told by my GP.

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Is there any chance for an updated version of this? https://psychiat-list.slatestarcodex.com/

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I know that bail reform is an issue that Scott/EA have been interested in before as a low-hanging fruit of criminal justice reform in the US. I've no idea if this is going to be old hat for everyone in who's interested in this as an issue, but I thought I'd share an explanation of the current English system in the hope that it helps. I apologise that this is going to be really long for uninterested people to have to scroll past!

At the first court hearing of anyone charged with a crime, as well as dealing with various preliminary matters the court assigns them one of three statuses:

Unconditional Bail

Conditional Bail

Remand in Custody

Unconditional bail is where the court just tells you the date of the next hearing and releases you. There's no amount of cash that you pay into the court, or will forfeit if you don't show up. You just go and come back next time, similar to a doctor's appointment. This is what happens to the clear majority of people in the magistrates' courts (non-jury trials, up to 6 months in prison) and about a third of people in the Crown Court (jury trials, up to life in prison). I'm aware in the US people talk about lots of complicated "Pre-trial Services" systems where you're supervised by probation. We don't have this, and it causes no problems. Just give people a date and send them home. If you don't show up, the police arrest you and bring you to court, and you get charged with failure to surrender (which is roughly equivalent in sentencing terms to having a small bag of cannabis for personal use, but goes on your criminal record, unless you manage to evade custody for several years which makes it more serious).

Conditional bail is where the court releases you, but imposes one or more conditions. If you breach a condition, you lose your right to bail (see below). These conditions are rom my rough experience of most common to least:

Residence (You have to live at a certain address)

Not to contact X (X is normally a witness/victim, occasionally a suspected criminal associate)

Curfew (you have to be home between certain hours - this is normally monitored by an ankle bracelet, but not always)

Report to a police station (you have to go to a police station once a week or once a month - this is the equivalent of a residence condition for homeless people, and is mostly so that if they abscond the police know and have an excuse to arrest them before they don't show up to their actual trial)

Not to enter Y (Y will be an area you're not allowed to go to, and varies from a person's house imposed along with a no contact condition, up to not being allowed into a certain county or (rarely) being excluded from everywhere in the universe other than one specific area where you live - the bigger the exclusion area, the more likely you are to have a GPS tag fitted, but this was rare until very recently)

Surety (someone who isn't you promises to pay the court money if you don't show up)

Security (you pay money into the court and lose it if you don't show up)

I would guess that surety applies in less than 0.01% of cases, and I've never seen security imposed for defendants awaiting trial. The exception to this is people awaiting extradition, where almost everyone has a surety or security or else they're remanded in custody.

Remand in custody is self-explanatory; you're kept in prison until your trial.

The law is that, at the start of proceedings, everyone who isn't charged with murder has a right to unconditional bail, unless the court thinks an "exception" applies. These are that the court thinks you are likely to:

Interfere with witnesses

Commit further offences

Fail to surrender (not show up to court next time)

[Various other rare circumstances that don't come up in practice]

If the court thinks your likely to do one of the above, they need to ask whether there are any conditions that mitigate the risk of it. For example, if you're charged with domestic violence you'll probably be given a condition to live somewhere else (rather than share a house with a prosecution witness), or if you're charged with committing burglaries at night you might be given a curfew. There's no risk matrix or anything like that, the judge or magistrates just make a decision about it. The big factor they'll look at is your criminal record, particularly if you've committed offences on bail before, or you've failed to surrender before. If there are no conditions which mitigate the risk, then the court will remand you in custody. You can apply for bail again (normally because you have a better address to stay at, but there are other reasons).

If you breach a bail condition or fail to surrender, then you lose your *right* to bail. However, the court can still bail you, and often will. In practice, they will consider the same exceptions as above, because that's how everyone's used to making the decision and is broadly the rational way to approach it. By and large, if you've interfered with a witness you won't get bail again; if you breached your curfew to go and buy cigarettes you won't.

If you're remanded in custody, there's a time limit of 3 or 6 months (this has been extended during the pandemic). If your trial hasn't started in that time and it's either your fault somehow, or the prosecution and court have both done the best they can but couldn't hear the case in time and you really shouldn't be released on bail, the time limit can be extended. Otherwise, you're eligible for release when the time limit runs out. The CPS (roughly the English DA) freaks out whenever this happens and various very senior people get raked over the coals by even more senior people (and are obligated to right them grovelling apology letters explaining why this happened and what they'll do to stop it happening again), so your trial will *probably* start before the time limit.

I can see loads of criticism of this system from a defendant's-rights perspective (who gets released is unscientific and depends a lot on who your judge is, the quality of your lawyer and how you come across). I mention it more in relation to the surprisingly inside-the-box thinking a lot of (liberal/pro-reform) American have about this, namely:

1. Cash bail, and any remnants of it, are completely pointless and don't need to be replaced by anything weird/expensive. Generally when people don't turn up to court it's a result of non-incentive-amenable fecklessness as opposed to an attempt to abscond.

2. The English police (who are generally fairly underwhelming) have almost no difficulty in arresting anyone they're told to within about 2 weeks. Bounty hunters are probably pointless (and I assume the comparatively saner states don't have them...?). I've no idea if the US being massive/federal would have an impact on this.

3. You can improve your current system without a fancy algorithm which you hand-wring about. I suspect in the US you'd see massive racial disparities in who gets bail and what their conditions are, but if your argument is that more black people should be in prison awaiting trial because the alternative is racist then... kudos for consistently prioritising a single terminal value?

4. We probably go too far on the time limits (I've seen the CPS drop cases because otherwise they'll breach the time limit), but if you want to speed things up then threatening to screw up the DA's career if things take too long is powerful weapon in your arsenal.

In general, the English criminal justice system is largely well-designed, but underfunded and takes the cult of amateurism slightly too far (aka is English). This is one of the areas where I think the US could improve by copying our homework without massive disruption.

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Can anyone recommend blogs focused on UK politics/society that is similar to Scott's writing, i.e. rational, epistemically charitable, and carefully considering all the evidence available, but also readable?

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Are antihistamines (specifically, Citrezine, but in general is also interesting) thought to be associated with depression? I only found one 92-person study from 2014 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24673474/), but it’s paywalled and the abstract makes it sound like it was looking at too much stuff to be a reliable finding. I’m having mood issues shortly after starting 10mg/daily Citrezine and wondering whether that’s a thing.

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Re: the Bean post, "I am not sure why they weren't using exploding harpoons, which did exist." is my new favourite sentence and I think could be the basis for a whole philosophy of life

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Why are people worried about running out of lithium? Lithium is 100% recyclable, so once a ton of lithium is extracted from a mine, it stays on the Earth's surface indefinitely and can be used to make car batteries forever. Sure, it's expensive to extract lithium from a spent battery and use it to make a new one, but the point is, it's available and doesn't get depleted.

There are 1.42 billion cars in the world, so all we need to do is slowly replace them, one at a time, with electric cars. Once all 1.42 billion cars are electric, we're set since we can do 1:1 recycling of the lithium batteries.

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What percentage of non-obese middle-school boys can do a zero-pound squat? That is, go down to squat position and then stand up using only leg muscles?

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Is there a way to get a printed version of Unsong? I know you have plans to edit it significantly, but I'm a fan even of this first edition and would like to own a copy.

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A question for experts in etymology and mythology: are there any names in any Western language that mean "bringer of order" or "from chaos to order" or something like that? Were there any polytheistic gods whose sole purpose was to turn disorder into order, or to fix damaged things?

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Footage of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars has come out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYQwuYZbA6o (skip to 11:52 for the video)

Curiosity had the MARDI camera recording descent and landing at a few frames per second but this is the first ever proper video of a Mars landing. There were also cameras set up to capture the operation of the skycrane, both pointing up from the top of the rover and down from the crane.

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Scott, it may be too late for you to even see it, but I'm curious on your perspective as a medical care provider yourself. People are mentioning some of the peculiarities of the US health insurance system and it's reminding me of when I was going through various orthopedic issues a few years back and at one point freaked out because a statement of benefits I received said my insurance had declined to pay a neurologist who consulted on one of my surgeries remotely because the way they coded the procedure didn't authorize that specific function. The guy had charged them $14,000 for two minutes of work done remotely via video.

It made me wonder how on earth pricing for this kind of thing is supposed to be remotely rational. First, I only personally found out about all of these various specialists that would be working on me as I was in the hospital, already hooked up to an IV, already drugged up, and nine providers all show up with paperwork for me to sign and God knows what I'm signing, possibly agreeing to go into debt for the rest of my life, but if I don't I might lose the ability to walk in a few more months.

But then I later asked an office manager at my main spine surgeon what was up with the ridiculous astronomical prices they charged because I honestly felt kind of sorry for the insurance companies and the guy told me they don't even know what the insurance will actually pay. They just know there is some amount, nobody has mutually agreed to it, and it might change on a whim, so they send a bill with some very big number on it hoping it will be bigger than the number the insurer is willing to actually pay, in order to get the highest price they possibly can. So rather than even bother trying to set an actual price, they just wait until after performing a compensable procedure, quote the highest price after the fact they can possibly think of, knowing they won't actually get paid that much, but hoping they'll get paid whatever the maximum price is the insurer is actually willing to pay.

What the hell, man? It's like Moloch intentionally designed the worst of all possible markets. Has this been your experience of medical billing?

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A book recommendation: Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age, by Stephen Platt. If you want to read something that explains how corn, opium, and Scottish liberals started the beginning of the end for the Qing dynasty, you should read this.

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The Black Sea is anoxic at the bottom, so ancient and medieval shipwrecks are way better preserved than elsewhere, including even an Ancient Greek one from 400 BC! https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/oct/23/oldest-intact-shipwreck-thought-to-be-ancient-greek-discovered-at-bottom-of-black-sea

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I was looking again at that trigger-warnings-don't-work study, and don't think it addresses its question very well at all [Jones et al. 2020, https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702620921341]. The TW they used was: "TRIGGER WARNING: The passage you are about to read contains disturbing content and may trigger an anxiety response, especially in those who have a history of trauma." They checked whether the TW reduced readers' anxiety after reading violent passages from literature (e.g. the murder scene in Crime and Punishment), and it didn't. They checked whether it made participants with trauma view the trauma as more central to their identities, and it did. They also checked whether it made anybody drop out of the study after seeing it, and it didn't (only one person who saw it, and one person who didn't, dropped out).


1. The TW they used was bizarre. A normal TW says like, "tw: incest" or "cw: rape" or whatever. Compared to the normal one, theirs doesn't even say what the trigger is; is way less concise and is written in a tone that feels more intense; and centers the reader's trauma history. Is it surprising that the readers then felt their trauma history was more central?

(They argued that a TW's centering of readers' trauma is implied whether or not it's explicit, since "Why else provide a warning?" - but there's plenty of reason to disclaim disturbing passages, as evidenced by earlier viewer discretion warnings. At most this is an argument for using "content warning" over "trigger warning", a subtle change that many blogs have already done. I might agree with this conclusion, even, but it's really not how they nor the media framed their study.)

2. The main point of TWs is so readers can decide when or whether to engage in material, a question which the study barely addresses. They suggest that their results show readers don't use TWs this way. But all they showed is that study participants, who've already invested a chunk of time in participating in the experiment, aren't *so* cautious after a content-ambiguous TW that they remember the sunk-cost fallacy is fallacious and drop out. Does this prove that people don't, say, "choose not to read a triggering blog post right now because they have work to do"? Of course not.

Beyond just criticisms, I am interested in how predictive-processing models of anxiety relate either to their results, or to TW effectiveness in general. Some thoughts:

1. One thing they mention that I agree is important is "anticipatory anxiety" vs. "response anxiety." I bet a TW that's presented too far ahead, without telling you when the trigger is coming, could definitely increase anticipatory anxiety (you know *that* you'll be blindsided, but not when). That's why e.g. when I recommended a fanfic to a partner which had a potentially-very triggering scene, I told them when and what it was, so they could tell when it was coming instead of just tensing up the whole time.

2. Not even knowing what kind of trigger is coming might make the anticipatory anxiety even worse, on top of meaning readers can't even properly decide whether to read it or not.

I bet uncertain vague predictions of distress at unexpected times, are more anxiety-inducing than concrete predictions of distress that you know when are coming; and I bet predictive processing approaches to this are of value. Possibly relevant papers: [Wilkinson et al. 2017, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01840; Peters et al. 2017, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2017.05.004]

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I just got into an argument with someone who defends Amazon's decision to de-list a book critical of transgender ideology. She didn't defend it on the grounds that Amazon is a private company and this isn't censorship per se. She defended the exclusion because the book offends her, is "anti-science," and is against "trans rights."

The idea that books can offend her, and that the way to deal with them is to point out their fallacies, was offensive to her.

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I wrote the following CSS and put it on the discord that makes the comment stacking a bit easier to read, and widens the whole site. I'm not sure if this is what you referring to, but in case it is, here it is. It's a pretty quick attempt cause frontend isn't my specialty.


.comment > .comment-list {

padding-left: 18px !important;


.comment > .comment-list > .comment-list-collapser {

position: absolute;

top: -20px !important;

padding: 0 0px !important;


@media screen and (min-width: 768px) {

.container {

width: 60% !important;




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In Studies on Slack, Scott made an analogy to Sid Meier's Civilization, discussing the comparative merits of choosing to focus on early attacks vs. economic development/scientific research. If, say, two civilizations are in the Old World and have to focus on fighting each other, they're easy prey later in the game to the civilization with the New World all to itself which can vault over them in terms of wealth/tech. He then makes the point that real history is often more complicated, and a certain degree of conflict can be a spur to innovation, as per the famous Third Man quote about Italy vs. Switzerland.

I realized recently that this is in fact also true in Civilization, and resembles at least some scholars' theories about real history. At least in Civ III and IV (the ones I'm familiar with), while you might think that having a nice comfortable spawn location to yourself, far away from those pesky warmonger AIs, would be a huge benefit to your civilization, it's actually usually a devastating disadvantage. The reason being that you miss out on (voluntary or coercive) technology trading, which has multiplicative benefits. (I.e., not only can you not trade for techs researched by your neighboring civ, but you can't trade for techs that their neighbor on the other side traded to them, and so on.) So, while an isolated start is less precarious/nerve-racking, even if you get an entire continent to peacefully develop yourself it typically makes it extremely challenging, if not impossible, on mid-high difficulty levels to win the game, because you'll be very far behind in tech as it progresses. No matter what path towards victory you want to take---conquest, science, diplomacy, culture---you need to have at least some proximity to the most core meeting (and usually clash) of civilizations in the world, to benefit from the ensuing spread of technology...

Which I recently realized is remarkably contiguous with Ian Morris' argument in his great book War! What is it Good For? about why Eurasian civilizations, and within it European ones, conquered outward rather than vice versa. Morris claims, drawing on Jared Diamond's argument in Guns, Germs, and Steel, that the major Eurasian agricultural civilizations---around the Mediterranean, in the modern Middle East, in India, and in China---developed within a set of "lucky latitudes" that made the movement of people, goods, and ideas easier than in the Americas, Africa, and Australasia. I'd known that major inventions had spread from China to Europe, but I hadn't realized how *fast* they'd done so:

"In 1326—less than forty years after the first definite example of a Chinese gun, and thirty years before the first definite Korean case—two officials in Florence, five thousand miles to the west, were already being ordered to obtain guns and ammunition. The next year, an illustrator in Oxford painted a picture of a small cannon in a manuscript. No invention had ever spread so quickly."

And then, Morris argues, features of European geography created a good amount of mid-sized states who had to fight a lot of siege warfare against each other, which increased the pressures towards military innovation as compared to the larger empires of the Islamic world, India, and China. (I believe a similar argument is made in Walter Scheidel's book Escape From Rome, but I haven't yet read it.) So, when European explorers, merchants, and soldiers discovered the New World, Australia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, they found the natives far behind in technology...

...much as, in Civ, when you start getting into the early modern era and exploring the world, you find far less advanced AI civilizations stuck on remote islands and smaller continents. I don't know if this was intentional on the developers' part or just convergent evolution, but I find it interesting/amusing either way.

(Two random footnotes: the Civ model isn't entirely accurate, because there was, at least in the read of the evidence that I find most convincing, a very high degree of warfare and consequent violent mortality even among non-Eurasian core, non-agricultural tribes---see Azar Gat's War in Human Civilization and Mark Allen and Terry Jones' Violence and Warfare Among Hunter-Gatherers. Also, I think that Orson Welles quote is only partly right: in addition to the many other virtues of the Swiss, as David Landes argued in Revolution in Time, the development of accurate mechanical clocks was ackshually a very important process in economic history. Furthermore, as one interesting writer has observed, Italy's level of cultural/scientific etc. contributions, as per e.g. notable figures listed in Human Achievement, seems to have dropped considerably following the early 17th Century unpleasantness with Galileo. I don't know, did they have less terror, murder, and bloodshed following then? Possibly.)

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Does anyone have experience using Anki or similar spaced-repetition software for various long-term tasks (memorizing stuff for one's job, language learning, etc.)? I'm interested to know your usecase, daily routine, what happens when you mess things up or miss a day of reps or something, and what you got out of it in your long-term goals/productivity increases

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I've been learning poems recently and I'm looking for my next one. I don't really have a pattern for them, so far I know Invictus, The Stolen Child, and If. Does anyone have recommendations on poems that would be good to memorise? I am vaguely interested in ones that are important or significant in some way, and only plan on learning rhyming poems.

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Seems like Kerry will be one of the first places to find out if Musk's Starlink satellites are all they're cracked up to be: https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2021/0223/1198738-spacex-and-co-kerry/

"The pilot project - shrouded in secrecy - is likely to roll out in just weeks in a valley in the MacGillycuddy's Reeks near Killarney.

Musk, the founder of SpaceX and electric carmaker Tesla, is deploying "showers" of satellites into space to provide cheap and fast broadband connection for remote rural locations.

Strict non-disclosure agreements surround the approach in December by Musk's SpaceX Starlink representatives to Kerry County Council.

However, sources have confirmed Musk's small antennae are likely to operate from the remote Black Valley, which is 20 miles from Killarney."

He really does plan for global coverage, doesn't he? I had imagined he'd be concentrating on sites in the US, but testing small out of the way places in Europe does indicate he means *everyone* will get it.

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How are people who are catching coronavirus these days being exposed?

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Problem: high-status media outlets (NYT, NPR, MSNBC, etc) pick a side on some politically-charged topic (e.g. climate change).

Since all high-status sources are in agreement, clearly any disagreement is a crazy conspiracy theory. Any outlet that disagrees has the perception of it reinforced as being low status, and any person who disagrees is perceived as a conspiracy theorist (all the educated and smart people agree, what are you, on the side of Fox News?).

How do we get out of this loop? How can we ever find out the truth about something if whatever NYT et al. pick automatically becomes the truth?

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I remember reading a rationalist-type piece a few years back venturing the hypothesis that, 'Humans schedule their reproduction based on the time they instinctively expect to live. Because people are unprecedentedly safe in modern Western countries, there is a superstimulus affecting their expectation. This could be resulting in women subconsciously estimating that they will be alive and healthy for 150 or 200 years, and ending up never having children.'

This is only what I remember, more or less. I am not saying myself that such a superstimulus would only impact women.

Does anyone know where I can find this piece? I haven't managed to find it with Google. It might possibly have been posted on LessWrong.

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Over the weekend I wrote "ACX Simple," a browser plugin trying to be a dead simple interface to read and reply to comments on ACX. Instead of digging through all the Substack cruft and trying to dynamically disable whatever is making everything suck, I'm just starting from scratch (aside from the CSS) and doing a new interface.


It's "good enough" now to ask for more public comments, but I'm purposefully doing this on the week-old OT instead of the current one, because I know there are going to be problems. You also need to know how to grab the git repository and install an unpacked extension in a Chrome-based browser -- I'll make standalone plugins later as this gets more stable.

Take a look at the README to see what limitations it has and problems I need help with.

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