464 Comments

Can anyone explain why generalist species like the human and the rat flourish so much when natural selection would seem to favor the creation of specialist species? Or is the assumption in the second half of my question just wrong?

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With vaccinations starting to become widespread, perhaps it's time to bring back SSC meetups. I'm still willing to host, and I live in Detroit. Anyone near me?

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I moved to Canada a few ago (BC to be specific) and so far I've hardly followed Canadian news. This is partly because I haven't found Canadian news sources that really engage me. I'd love some recommendations from Canadian SSC folks!

-- What are your favourite sources for Canadian news?

-- Who are your favourite writers on Canadian issues?

-- What are your favourite Canadian news podcasts/TV shows/radio shows?

Extra points for stuff that's BC specific.

I'd also like your recommendations for books that might give me the background to today's Canadian political issues.

Thanks for your recommendations!

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You should update the page to reflect that you didn't know the meaning of "stand by" when writing the predictions post. It remains the most obviously false thing on this blog, and despite the significant number of commenters pointing out your error, you have neither admitted it nor tried to argue the point.

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Does anyone have a good outside-view guide on nutritional supplements or multivitamins? My impression is

- multivitamins only work if you're unusually deficient in some vitamin (but they might still be good in expectation because you might not be aware of being deficient in something?)

- creatine/protein shakes and the like are probably useful if you're a serious lifter (how would you know you work out enough to need them though?), but may cause liver problems long-term so probably not worth it for most people.

- mealsquares are good because they have chocolate chips (this one isn't a nutritional opinion, I just like their taste and convenience. But I assume they also kinda work like multivitamins in that they're a good way to catch something you're deficient in).

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founding

I'd like to learn more about investing in apartment buildings as a source of passive income, but nearly every "guide to real estate investing" trips my internal "this is a scam" alarm. Can anyone suggest a trustworthy source of information? I'm specifically looking to purchase/invest in and around the Bay Area.

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I am trying to figure out dental stuff, and it turns out that I knew nothing. I thought that brushing your teeth was mainly about removing bits of food stuck in your teeth, but it seems that at least half of the story is about recoating ("remineralizing") your enamel with the flouride in the toothpaste, and rebalancing the pH in the mouth (acid pH = weak enamel, so erosion that leads to cavities).

First issue: I live in an area with little to no fluoride in water, in which water is not artificially fluoridated (but I grew up in an area with high fluoride in water). So it seems like it would be a nice idea to supplement fluoride in my diet, in addition to the one in toothpaste. I thought about fluoridated table salt, which is a mainstream idea in scientific studies apparently... and, of course, I couldn't find it to buy on the internet (unless I import it from Germany, which costs a fortune thanks to recent Brexit). So I need more fluoride than I currently get, but there doesn't seem to be a decent solution.

Further, it seems that xylitol has beneficial effects in repairing damaged enamel, but only in concentrations between 6-10g/day (it gives you diarrhea if you get >45g/day). Great, I thought! Since chewing sugarfree gum after meals is good for teeth anyway (more saliva = better pH), I thought I'd set up the following routine:

-Brush my teeth in the morning 30 minutes after breakfast (I work from home!)

-Chew gum after lunch

-Chew gum after dinner

-Brush my teeth before bedtime

(plus use mouthwash after snacks if I don't want more gum)

...but it turns out that it's really hard to find gums with decent xylitol content, and it's impossible to find toothpaste with ANY xylitol in it, at least where I live (the UK). It drives me quite mad: why?

It seems like there might be a market for a high-xylitol dental product, since the research on it is somewhat solid at this point. I don't want to chew 6 gums per day to slightly improve my teeth.

Has anyone already done the heavy lifting here, to point me to a supplier or a somewhat unconventional source of xylitol/fluoride that I could exploit?

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I have often commented in annoyance about the general (mis)understandings around the Great Library of Alexandria and Hypatia. And now there's a handy-sized two-part explanation of why what you might think you know on these subjects is probably wrong! History for Atheists tackles the topic with Part One here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRXwDHnixc0

Highly recommended (us Irish Catholics have to stick together, even if he's Australian of Irish descent and very definitely ex-Catholic) 😁

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Crazy thing I found out about recently: Leonid Ksanfomality's claims of detecting life on Venus's surface (in the pictures from the Venera landers).

Now, this is a respected scientist who worked on the landers themselves. In the mid-2000s there was reanalysis of the images via computer, and Ksanfomality's group found changes over time that they attributed to motion of living creatures. My impression is of a large number of conclusions drawn from a small number of pixels, but it's still a claim published in a leading journal, not obviously wrong, about macroscopic life on another planet (I don't think it needs to be said how big a deal this would be), and weirdly it seems to be very little-known.

(Aside: Venus's surface obviously can't support terrestrial life, but life there is less absurd than might be thought, despite the 750K temperature. There's an analogy with the ocean bottom - supercritical CO2 taking the place of water - and you also have energy from above, with some sunlight getting through the clouds. It would have to be completely different chemistry than Earth, but it's not so hot as to make chemistry impossible.)

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I hope not political... if so I'll delete. As seen on the dark horse podcast.

https://www.geertvandenbossche.org/

Would young people be 'better' not getting the vaccine?

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Math question:

A while back I came across an interesting problem in investing. When using the TDAmeritrade platform, buying Vanguard index funds incurs a fee of $25 per transaction, regardless of transaction size. I have an account which accrues money at certain amount per week - how frequently should I buy in in order to maximize my return?

Now, in practice the answer is "buy ETFs, which don't carry a commission", with a side order of "simulate it week by week in Excel". But I'd still like to know the answer in the general case: if investable money accrues at a rate of $A per year, investing that money incurs a commission of $B, and the investment account (continually compounding) has an APY of C%, what equation gives me the optimal time between investment buys?

I've tried everything I can think of, and the only thing that's worked is an infinite series which allows me to simulate the answer in Excel. But that's time consuming, as each combination of variables has to be simulated individually. Is there a simpler way?

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I’m quickly running out of Critical Role to listen to; could anybody recommend me a good non-fiction podcast instead? I’m an aspiring biomedical data scientist (currently at university), but I love good content from outside of my field, too.

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founding

The Academy Awards have moved from the Dolby Theatre, their home for the last 20 years, to Los Angeles Union Station. Obviously COVID protocols would prevent the usual packed house full of paid seat fillers, someplace more spread out would work better, but why a train station? Especially considering that the LA Metro insisted that the ceremony not interfere with its usual operations, so trains and buses will be running through and the food court will stay open.

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Does anyone have a good way of figuring out how long it will be before the Fed raises interest rates? In a strange twist, I am considering not buying a house into interest rates rise/the housing market cools.

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Anyone else ever spends time perusing the BLS detailed data on US occupations? Surprisingly granular, so there are lots of interesting little tidbits to be found - like, there are 50k people employed as floral designers??? and how about 100k phlebotomists? and there are still 50k Locomotive engineers and operators??

https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11b.htm

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Random thoughts: Childhood/ “Second Hand” Disability Insurance

As a working adult, you can buy disability insurance, which provides you with replacement income in case you experience an injury or disease that prevents you from earning a salary.

However, you cannot buy disability insurance for a child. Supposedly, children do not need disability insurance because they are not expected to work, so there is no lost income that must be replaced. Expenses directly related to the treatment of the disability fall under the domain of health insurance.

This logic doesn’t hold water, though. Any (non trivial) childhood disability will be expensive even excluding medical costs--it will require unpaid labor by the child’s guardians or caregivers that prevents them from working lucrative jobs. So, when you have a child, you run the risk of his disability requiring your outsize attention and resulting in a loss of income at your job. But there is no “second hand disability insurance” you can purchase to pay for childcare in case such a disability is diagnosed.

As someone who will very shortly be a parent, having a disabled child is one of my biggest fears. Isn’t the purpose of insurance to pay for ‘peace of mind’--to have the confidence that even if the worst happens (disease, death, natural disaster), you or your loved ones will have the resources to deal with it without too much sacrifice from other parts of life? Having a child with a severe disability would require enormous amounts of labor on my part, and/or expensive caretaking to allow me to participate in other parts of my adult life--work, vacation, alone time, etc. Why is there not an insurance market to offset some of these risks?

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How do people as adults navigate their relationship with their parents? In particular the knowledge of their mortality

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I'm reading "The Scout Mindset" by Julia Galef and just wanted to note that Scott's name comes up a few times in her anecdotes. I wasn't expecting that.

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When my son and I jump on the trampoline, we build up a static charge with each other or with ground.

I'm interested, for pedagogical reasons, in *measuring* our charge. Can we do this with an analog multimeter? Are we actually at different voltage levels?

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I really enjoy the speculation about the future found in Nick Bostrom’s talk of ending aging, Robin Hanson’s description of “Age of Em”, and the like. Does anyone have any good sci-fi recommendations that combine great writing and deep characters with explorations of interesting possible futures?

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Are any IQ tests worth taking? If so, which ones and what can you learn about yourself by taking them (looking especially for claims backed up by empirical literature).

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Nutrition question: I want to eat this whole bag of jellybeans. I'm happy to skip a meal and/or skate a marathon or whatever tomorrow to ensure I don't gain weight from such behavior. What's the argument to still forgo the jellybeans? (It will have to be pretty good because I really like jellybeans.)

I think the possible answers are on a continuum.

One extreme is: Health at any size! Sugar is basically poison, regardless of whether it makes you overweight. All that matters is eating real food and exercising.

The other extreme is: Excess body fat kills. As long as you eat some vegetables occasionally (or take multivitamins), calories are calories. All that matters is maintaining a healthy weight and exercising.

I imagine neither extreme is correct but is one of them more correct? If you had to pick a number from 0 (health at any size) to 10 (if you can eat it and stay thin, go for it), what would you pick?

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I don't remember if the last survey asked this (and could therefore be a resource), but since we've learned that ~15% of people don't have an internal monologue, are there statistically significant differences in occupation (etc) that may this leads to?

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Has anyone used a reel lawn mower (and unpowered lawn mower, no gas or electricity)? I'm having another bout of hippie-dom ad thinking of getting one. This would not be my sole mower (I'd keep a gas one for emergencies). But is it something that actually works, or will I regret it because it doesn't do the job?

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Any thoughts about potassium supplementation? Lately (probably starting a year or so ago), I've been getting muscle cramps in my legs and/or feet when I wake up.

Potassium citrate (200 mg) daily solves the problem, but any thoughts about what's going on? Best low-carb sources of potassium if I want to get some of it from food?

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Does anyone have advice about buying cryptocurrency for an American citizen living abroad. From what I can tell American companies don't like working with non-residents, and non-American companies don't like working with American citizens (nor does the US government like it either). (Note, I am a complete beginner in this area, so a multistep process needing deep technical knowledge won't work for me)

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I'd like to get people's take on something.

We've been talking about class a lot lately, and what the different classes are, and what their interests/behavior/markers are. But I'm stuck on something more basic: what _is_ class?

How can we look at a society as aliens coming from Mars and declare: this society is class-less, this other one is very class-ful (stratified?)? Even without the society outright saying there are class restrictions, and even before arguing about what the classes are exactly.

A few hypotheses:

1. Class is that which you are born into, marry within and socialize within. In a class-ful society, we expect to find different groups which (mostly) marry within group, socialize within group, and have children who belong to the same group. In a class-less society you can't predict at birth who will be a child's friends/spouses. -> But what if they're different religions (Catholics & Mormons), or geographic areas (East & West) - separate but equal? Do these count as classes? Do classes have to be stratified - with some at the top and some at the bottom?

2. Class limits your opportunities. If we can predict at birth that someone would not be able to access various opportunities (e.g. be a member of the House of Lords, be a national politician), that means there is a class restriction. -> But how can we distinguish this from heritability of certain positive traits?

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# Update on the Dutch scandal

Short recap: Dutch PM was accused of trying to get rid of a Representative, Omtzigt, best known for demanding that the government acts differently and for his work on another scandal: bureaucrats falsely prosecuting people for childcare allowance fraud, resulting in financial ruin for many.

Dutch news now claims that the cabinet decided to withhold information from the Representatives about the childcare allowance fraud. Allegedly, one minister complained about the information being withheld, pointing to the constitution. Depending on what justification the people present used to withhold this information, they may get in trouble with the House. Amusingly, the leader of Omtzigt's party allegedly said in that meeting that they attempted to teach Omtzigt to have more sensibility, but that they failed.

In an unprecedented move, the cabinet agreed to publish the minutes of the meeting, later today (in the Dutch evening). The minutes are secret and are typically only published after decades have passed. The PM noted that the contents would be 'explosive.'

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Can I make a plea for commenters to not make the lack of book review authors perfect anonymity even worse? It annoys me that just because it is possible in some cases to find out the identity of some of the authors, commenters seem to think it helpful to shout it from the rooftops, explain how the anonymity can be broken, and then complain about the fact that anonymity isn't utterly bulletproof.

There's some painful irony in that it reminds me of the supposed reasoning of people who said Scott's real name was identifiable with a small amount of research and therefore he couldn't claim to be anonymous, couldn't be doxxed, and, by the way, THIS IS HOW I FOUND OUT HIS NAME.

The perfect is the enemy of the good. I prefer to have a norm that says even if you can find out the identity of any of the book review authors, you don't start talking about it, because it rather obviously makes the problem worse. Just keep schtum!

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Concerning that story about the copied personality from the last link post (MMacevedo):

What's your take on brain simulation with silicon hardware. If we use a current super computer to simulate a brain, is there really an entity feeling all that, that the transistors simulate?

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Some of the harmful/wrong things psychiatrists (including Scott) are taught:

- antipsychotics instead of benzos

- DID is rare and possibly fake

- borderline is an early adulthood disorder

Feel free to argue or to add to the list.

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Can anyone give me suggestions for interesting Twitter accounts to follow? For my part, I recommend Rolf Degen, Frank Luntz, ProMED-mail, and History through Pictures.

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Rather niche question: Does anybody know what embassy security was generally like in interbellum-era Europe, or does anybody know where I could look to find this information? Nowadays, of course, embassies are normally quite heavily guarded -- armed guards, body scanners, sometimes bomb-proof walls, etc. -- but I was wondering whether this was always the case (mutatis mutandis for technological differences, of course), or whether it's a more recent development.

I ask because I'm currently writing a story set in the 1920s which is partly set in an embassy, and I wanted to know what sort of things my characters could expect to deal with as they go in.

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Is there a good general (moderate preference for scholarly) history of post-Soviet Russia that you'd recommend? I'm not looking for one of those Peril: Putin's Perfidious Plot to Poison Political Pluralism books, just a sober overview of the major political, economic, social, etc. developments in Russia post-1991. (And thanks to everyone who recommended books the last time I asked a similar question; I've started reading, and am quite enjoying, Lenin's Tomb and can't wait to read The Commanding Heights.)

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I'd love to learn whether MDMA has any medium to long term negative effects on the brain. Anyone have any good articles, posts, or other resources to recommend?

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I'm sure this question has been asked 10 million times, but does anyone have advice on dating re finding people (women specifically in my case) with a 'rationalist' temperament? Is there a good site for such people? Or some code words I don't know about to look for in someone's profile? Is Myers-Briggs type actually a good approximation of this? One might think meetups would be a good place to meet people, but I've always felt it was kind of weird to even have that in the back of my mind while going to meetup, as if it's an ulterior motive.

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How do we feel about vaccination rollouts being triaged by race? In Hamilton, Ontario, under pressure from community activist groups consisting of academics and critical race theorists, the municipal health agency is now admitting registration for anyone 18+ in hotspot neighborhoods who identify as Black or racialized. White people have to be aged 40+ to be eligible for vaccination.

On the ground, the response to this is generally negative. There are a few supporters who repeat the correlative fact that Hamilton's makeup is only 19% POC yet POC comprise 51% of COVID cases... but race, obviously, isn't the causal factor.

To me, prioritizing a healthy 20-year-old Black man over, say, an obese schizophrenic 39-year-old smoker who's white and happens to live in the same postal code seems irrational and gravely mistaken. It seems that this policy, motivated by political pressure from rent-seeking activist groups, will cost lives. Clearly, race isn't the causal factor - it's geographical location, job, family size, comorbidities, etc. So why not triage by those factors?

Am I missing something in this debate?

Links:

https://www.hamilton.ca/government-information/news-centre/news-releases/hamiltons-covid-19-vaccination-program-prioritizes

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/hamilton-bipoc-vaccine-priority-1.5989119

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/bipoc-committee-public-health-1.5772731

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Apropos of nothing but a weird dream I had recently: In my dream, I was reading some Substack comment asking whether AIs could be conscious in principle, and I wrote in response something like that my experience consists of two different things (feelings/sensations or intelligence, and a "thing looking at things"), and that, although AIs would necessary have the former, they would lack the latter and thereby not be conscious. After I woke up, I thought that this was possibly related to the idea of a "tripartite soul" (which possibly recurs in Greek/Egyptian/Christian/etc mythology according to certain people).

So, ACT commenters: Can AIs be conscious? And does this dream shed any insight on this topic?

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Why are these two charts of average rent so different for 2006-2021? One says rent went up 50%, one says it went up 100%

https://mobile.twitter.com/atanzi/status/1387056101187678209

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CUSR0000SEHA

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The external links in the PDFs of the book reviews appear to be broken. They are formatted as links (blue & underlined) but don't actually link to other URLs. (The links in the tables of contents still work.)

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Stumbled across a video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cSG0p-uflA) where Michael Vassar claims that "only about 4% [of the native-english-speaking non-mentally-retarded U.S. population] can give the price to carpet a room, consisting entirely of rectangles with integer-length sides, when the price per square meter of carpet is given." (timestamp for the quote is about 23:50)

Four percent seems implausibly low to me. I've done seem googling to try and find the source of this statistic, but haven't had any luck. Does anyone here know the source, or any studies with similar/dissimilar results?

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Does anyone know where I can find a recording of “The Song of the Voluntary Army"?

http://www.shanghaidiaries.com/archives/2004/10/13/an_aggressive_american_wolf_in_dandong/

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