An RPG I played included a magic artifact which could make everyone in the world forget one thing. It could erase memories and written records, and confabulate plausible replacements that would prevent people from noticing the lacunae. The artifact couldn't stop people from re-deriving or re-inventing any knowledge they could easily re-derive or re-invent (so if you asked people to forget about war, they would probably start fighting each other again pretty quickly) and it couldn't remove physical evidence other than writing (so people would still have tanks, warplanes, etc). But it might help confabulate around these things (people might think the tanks were just for fancy parades).

What one thing would you use this artifact for?

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RE: "The Wizard and the Prophet" book review -- I really liked it, but does anyone else feel really weirded out by the feeling that "Wizard" and "Prophet" are going to start being little tribal markers in this community? I understand the sense in which they were meant in the book, but I really feel like those terms obscure more than they clarify and invite people to defend the honor of vague teams more than specific ideas and individuals.

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Something I've been thinking about lately is how, when you're dealing with a motte and bailey argument, you have to remember not to throw out the motte with the bailey (assuming the motte is actually a reasonable, defensible position). In other words, just because a position is often held in bad faith, doesn't necessarily make it wrong, and it's still important to evaluate the motte position on its own terms. In fact, assuming motte and bailey arguers are rational, they will intentionally pick strong positions as their mottes, and it would give them too much power to automatically dismiss any position that is ever held in bad faith.

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I’m not sure if this is the place for post requests, but I’d really love a post on the medium to long term effects, or lack thereof, of MDMA on the brain.

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What is the difference between haplogroups and race?

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Does anyone know what's up with US lumber prices? There appear to be two competing narratives - it's about tariffs on Canadian lumber or it's about beetles that ate a load of trees due to climate change - and it's hard to work out from a distance what the facts actually are. (Also it's possibly pent up demand from the coronavirus slowdown of construction and moving house?)

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I know this violates a norm against unabashed bragging or something, but whatever:

I've recently found out that I write well (according to some people, anyway). I'm in undergrad, and at this point three professors have gone out of their way to tell me that my writing is head and shoulders above that of my peers. I literally did not know this until recently, since I've never had that sort of feedback mechanism. Is there anything I can or should, like, do with this information?

I have no desire to become an author, and I don't think I particularly love writing either, but of course it greatly depends on the subject matter. I feel like someone who is very good at math can put this talent to use in finance, economics, or many other fields. Someone who is good at programming can obviously put this to good use professionally. Someone who is very athletic can train for a specific sport. I feel like writing is something so general that there isn't an obvious way to leverage this as a strength, even if my professors are correct about me. Am I wrong about this, though? Is the answer just "write stuff?"

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1905 is often called the "Annus Mirabilis" because physics was revolutionized in a single year by Einstein publications. What field of study do you think is most likely to next see something similar in the future?

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Does anyone have theories explaining UFOs using the simulation hypothesis (more deeply than just saying "maybe they're artifacts of the simulation")? Probably any such explanation would still seem wildly implausible to me, but I'm just curious if it could work better than theories about extraterrestrials or secret government programs with super-advanced technology.

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I've tried marijuana four times, and I've never had a good experience with it. Am I a non-responder, maybe? The first time I smoked was way back about 20 years ago. I took three or four hits off a pipe, and then suffered really bad depersonalization. More recently (now that it's legal in my state), I tried it three separate times with a vape pen. The first two times I was cautious and took a couple of small hits. I ended up feeling lethargic, my limbs felt heavy, and I had some "brain fog". There was no euphoria at all, and the overall experience was mildly unpleasant. This last time I tried it, I took one big hit off the vape pen, and the result was simply awful. I had a coughing fit so bad I thought I would vomit. After I stopped coughing, I experienced very rapid heartbeat (about 150 beats per minute) accompanied by paranoia and something just short of a panic attack. After I took a beta blocker (propranolol), my heart rate eventually dropped to about 120 bpm, but the paranoia and the panicky feeling persisted for about 3.5 hours. It was so horrible I seriously considered calling 911. Is there a class of people who simply can't tolerate marijuana, or am I doing something wrong?

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I asked Scott a question in the AMA --- https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/ask-me-anything?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjoxOTMwMzExNSwicG9zdF9pZCI6MzQ0MjQwNzUsIl8iOiJBR1ZPViIsImlhdCI6MTYyMDAyMzY0NSwiZXhwIjoxNjIwMDI3MjQ1LCJpc3MiOiJwdWItODkxMjAiLCJzdWIiOiJwb3N0LXJlYWN0aW9uIn0.BCfhjaQPCmY4xREa6LQGh3n-VAr7NMA15WATN5mm2n0#comment-1602370 --- about how incentives affect psychological experiences. I'm curious if anyone else has thoughts on this. To try and make it more concrete, I'm curious if anyone else believes that:

- increasing the expected payout for whiplash injuries would lead to the an increase in the number of people actually experiencing whiplash symptoms

- giving weight to victim impact statements in legal proceedings leads to victim's having a worse post-crime experience

- increasing the disability supports for students in universities (say, extra time on an exam if suffering from anxiety during the term) increases the prevalence of mental health issues among the student body

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So when writing research papers in high school and college there were two rules:

1. cite everything you use

2. you're not allowed to cite non-scholarly sources

Academic papers seem to follow these rules too, but the corollary of both of them put together is that if a good idea originates outside the academy it will rarely if ever enter the academy, right?

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I would realy like to subscribe, but i dont have a credit card and i dont plan on getting one. Is there any other payment method?

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One thing I've been questioning lately is why, despite all the knowledge we have about the various flaws of our respective brains, we still struggle to understand what our future selves will want. It turns out there are some workarounds to this problem, but that they're all unpalatable to most people for various reasons.

I've written about the problem and some possible solutions here and wanted to get your thoughts. What do you think of my arguments? https://davidteter.com/imagination

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What do people think about the German federal election coming up later this year?

For those just tuning in, Merkel has chosen to retire this time round. Her party, the CDU(/CSU) has settled on Armin Laschet as its candidate after a rather lengthy search. Support for the CDU/CSU (and to a lesser extent their coalition partners the SPD) spiked at the the start of the pandemic and stayed high until early this year, when it cratered just as rapidly. Most of this support lost by the CDU went instead to the Greens, who have risen to first place in some recent polls.

How much of the CDU's recent poor performace is due to failures in the vaccination process (which they might be able to fix before September) and how much is that they have no good replacement for Merkel?

Might Annalena Baerbock become the first Green chancellor?

Where do the SPD, FDP and Linke fit in?

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Ceremonial gift giving--that related to holidays, birthdays, and life events like weddings and childbirth--is an idiotic custom that must die.

Proper etiquette demands that one accept a gift and act happy to receive it, regardless of whether it is wanted. Even if a gift is enjoyed, it is rare to impossible that the recipient should enjoy it enough that she would spontaneously buy it for herself. Even if the purchaser was exceedingly generous and bought something that the recipient could not afford--say, a fancy article of clothing--one could have doubtless used the same cash amount to purchase a piece of clothing that they liked more. Or, better yet, they could have used the money to pay rent, or bills, or stocks--something they deem worth buying. The best gift is cash: it is always exactly the item you want.

Gift giving is not an unselfish act. If it were, people would not buy you gifts when you repeatedly said you didn't want a gift. To buy someone a gift is to buy THEM: their affection or a continued relationship with them. Accepting a gift creates the expectation that you OWE the donor something--appreciation, love, continued engagement. People feel uneasy about giving cash gifts because it makes the nature of these transactions obvious.

95% of consumer products such as clothing or decorations are garbage, visual pollution. In choosing a gift, most people choose this pollution, only most people delude themselves into thinking they know someone's taste well enough to choose the ~1% of things that will surprise and delight them. Why shouldn't people think they're great gift givers, when it's rude to for any recipient to let the giver believe otherwise?

Or, gift givers buy that which the recipient loves too much. Thank you very much for buying me the sweets that will tempt me and make me feel like shit after I eat them. Thank you for buying the thing that is somewhat similar to the thing I own and like but have no use for.

A gift is an expectation of future gifts. When someone buys you a gift for your birthday or Christmas, they are creating an expectation that you will reciprocate. To not do so is to show that you don't care about your relationship as much as they do. To give someone a gift is to create an obligation for them, and the feeling of guilt if they do not fulfill that obligation.

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Does anyone know of a good summary on the current state of desalination technology? I've loosely followed Israel's efforts building massive facilities in recent years. In 20 years, will humans be bringing water and agriculture to what is now costal desert (e.g., north Africa, Australia)? In my opinion, brining life to the desert appears more promising than seasteading plans.

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Not so long ago, Scott posed some statistical questions and one of the solutions that came up was stratification.

I recently came across a python package all about causal statistics, DoWhy by microsoft, does these 'fancy' statistical things for you. There is also lots of background theory they provide, including many alternatives to stratification. Bunch of links:

* Homepage of their documentation, which has many links (e.g. examples of usage, background theory, etc.) https://microsoft.github.io/dowhy/readme.html

* An online book that details the four main stages of DoWhy algorithm. https://causalinference.gitlab.io/book/ I think the most interesting section is estimation, e.g. it describes propensity models, stratification, amongst many other techniques. It is somewhat maths heavy, but it also has a lot of discussion and intuition too.

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Looking for recommendations of good newsletters that offer quality suggested purchases or reading, streaming, etc. Similar to Tim Ferriss 5 Bullet Friday or Reccommendo newsletter. Both of which always have great suggestion and recommendations.

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I am interested in getting someone on the economic left to steelman how a "worker ownership of the means of production" market socialism would work. I am not looking for a "public ownership of the means of production" political socialism steelman, unless you're admitting that 'worker ownership' is a motte for the 'public ownership' bailey.

I consider myself a supporter of the free market, but I can't deny that there would seem to be advantages to having worker ownership of their business, except that those advantages are outweighed by significant bad outcomes at edge cases, and the mechanisms to work around those bad outcomes either end up effectively with the imperfect market capitalism we have now or end up at "public ownership of the means of production" socialism with its far more serious problems.

So, we have a group of workers who want to start a business, and they pool their money to start it. This seems like it would be acceptable under both a free market and under worker-ownership market socialism. The first problem is that this seems limited in that for worker-ownership socialism the workers are limited in that they can only start a business with the money they have on hand, which would make it impossible to start a capital-intensive business and impossible for any worker that hasn't amassed a sum of money from helping to start such a business (and I suspect one of the drivers of inequality is that a lot of modern businesses require more of an investment of money to start). Any other mechanism for acquiring money ends up with someone other than the workers owning part of the business.

The second problem is what happens when an employee leaves the business. The most obvious answer is that the company pays out the value of the employee's share of the business; if I'm one of 10 employees all equally invested in the business, the company pays me 10% of the value of the business if I leave, which requires a substantial reserve for a small business. If I keep my share once I leave, the business is no longer employee owned and I still need a way to liquidate my ownership to turn it into something I can use (meaning my shares may end up even further from the workers). If I lose my share without reimbursement, then it is horrible if I die suddenly while employed, as my spouse and kids lose their support.

Likewise, mandating 'worker ownership' makes it hard to hire. Either new employees don't buy in to ownership of the company, in which case they either don't have the same ownership or get ownership without paying for it, or they do have to buy in, in which case it makes it impossible for people without money (such as people just entering the job market) to land a job. If we want to assume that all employees are equal in ownership (which sometimes seems to be assumed), then under current valuation it would take $150,000 to land a job at Walmart and $6,000,000 to land a job at Microsoft, and even at a tenth the value looks rather impossible to sustain.

Finally, there's what happens when the business is no longer viable. The problem with owning the business is owning the businesses debts, and I can't see a way to handle that without either stiffing any creditors or creating a situation where everyone heads to the exits once the business starts to have problems, even if they are potentially salvagable.

One of the reasons I think these scenarios don't get answered is that most socialist economic analysis of businesses under markets seem to assume a steady state, where the business has always existed and will always exist. In the real world, most of the important parts of the business are at the start and the end, and paying for the start and the end accounts for most of the 'surplus value'.

At the same time as we have to work out these issues at the business side, there becomes an issue of what to do for people that want to save money now that investing it isn't an option; you're not just taking away options for people as workers, but taking away options from people that want to invest as a way to save money for the future. If you're going to punish people that want to put 5% of their income from work away to save for retirement in order to stick it to the ultra-rich who can live off their investment income full time, this seems like a massive downside.

It's possible to imagine a system where businesses are strongly encouraged to offer their employees stock options (and with them a share of ownership), but this stretches 'worker ownership of the means of production' well out of what self-described socialists seem to be asking for.

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Transferring money between two US bank accounts is free, either directly via your bank or through middlemen like PayPal. As far as I can tell, every service on the market that allows you to transfer across international borders and currencies costs 3-6% of the transfer. Why is this so much more expensive than transfers within a country? I struggle to imagine that it costs the money managers anywhere near that much to move some numbers around, so why hasn't competition between the many services driven prices down like it has for intracountry transfer?

My first theory is that there just aren't many international transfers so there isn't enough of a market to drive those kinds of competitive prices, and my second theory is that the pricing reflects some kind of regulatory compliance costs where governments require a lot of expensive paperwork in order to set up a service that's allowed to do international transfers at all. But that's all baseless speculation, I'd love to hear from someone who knows something about money transfers.

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I’ve been really disappointed with the guest book reviews. It’s unclear what level of editorial endorsement goes with them, and they look like normal posts. But the quality is...variable. I would not feel comfortable publishing some of them, and it makes me hesitate to recommend the site to people who read those books while they’re up on the front page.

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What are some fun online activities to do with a significant other on the other side of the world? Getting the obvious ones out of the way: Watching something together, playing online games, conversation, etc.

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(reposting this from the last OT since it was done soon before this one opened)

How easy is it to substitute in LED bulbs for the long fluorescent tubes?


I've got a set of 4 tubes in my kitchen, and the ballast is failing. Sometimes I get lucky and all 4 are on if I precisely fiddle with them, for about 5 minutes. But usually just the inner two are lit, and the outer two are barely flickering.

I don't want to replace the ballast.[1] I have good reason to think it's not the bulbs, because I replaced the outer two bulbs and they worked for about a day and then went back to flicker, and rearranging the bulbs always leaves the outer two in dim/flicker.

How plug-and-play are those LED bulbs, especially with a suspect ballast? I see talk about "with ballast" or "direct wire" and it sounds like I have to choose to remove the ballast to use the second, and I don't want to mess with the ballast[1].

[1] Seriously, I don't to replace the ballast. It is behind the drywall in the ceiling and wasn't built to be maintained. The last time I tried this (on another fixture) I had to spend hours with my arms over my head dealing with wires and yanking things out and putting things back and while I got the whole thing to "work" I never managed to get it reattached. This is not the project for me. I have other things to do.

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My ideal utility function (whatever it is) has to explain why I'd gladly accept slightly worse outcomes for the benefit of having made the bad decisions myself freely (whatever that means). I get much more annoyed by equally bad outcomes when they are consequences of impositions I know I wouldn't have chosen.

Otoh, although injustice (whatever that means) also adds extra annoyance, that annoyance feels like a flaw and not part of that utility function. If God comes down and randomly gives some of my neighbours everything I've been wishing for, I'd be annoyed at the injustice but Ideal Dumbledork would not be, and I would never in good conscience prevent this from happening, whereas I may try to prevent someone from being lied/manipulated/forced to do something they don't want to even if I thought it would be slightly beneficial for them to do it. I'm not sure how much of this is just a reflection of a deeper intuition that holding freedom as a value in this way leads in the long run to a happier world, but it doesn't feel like it's only a means to an end.

I wonder, is this the other way around for other people? If someone's intuitions had injustice and freedom swapped, I'm not sure I'd have anything to say. Do you think many people would really prefer (after deep thought and with a straight face) a slightly less happy population but more just world, just because?

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I was rereading Book Review: The New Sultan because I remembered being dissatisfied with the discussion of populism at the end, when something jumped out at me:

>In the course of normal politics, culture, or almost anything else, the elites will always end out on top. This flirts with tautology - of course whoever ends up on top will be a member of the elite! - but on a deeper level it isn't - the populace and elites are different social classes and cultures, so this claim identifies a particular class/culture that always gets its way. The American equivalent might be pointing out that the winner of the Academy Awards is probably going to be from a coastal liberal secular background, and not an evangelical Protestant from Nebraska. Same for the Dean of Harvard, the editor of the New York Times, etc.

>The populace can try to protest this, but their efforts are doomed to failure. Maybe they can make their own movies (eg. The Passion Of The Christ), but for whatever reason these will never be as convincing or have the same sort of clout that the elite version does. Elites have enough advantages in power, connections, education, and maybe even genes (cf. the meritocracy debate) that in the natural course of events, they always come out on top. Trying to come up with a system where elites don't come out on top is an almost futile task, one where you will constantly be pumping against entropy.

"Hang on", I thought. "I remember it generated quite of bit of controversy at the time, but wasn't The Passion Of The Christ pretty critically acclaimed? Who won that year's Academy Awards anyway?" Thus began the dive.

Looking through the 77th Academy Awards (covering 2004), sure enough Passion didn't win any categories. It did score a perfectly respectable three nominations - Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, and Best Makeup - though I suppose one could argue that they're all in technical categories with a bit less cultural impact. (The counterargument being that anyone dismissing those while treating the Oscars with any level of respect is operating with a *very specific* calibration of elitism, but I digress.)

Best Picture that year went to Million Dollar Baby, which is a hard-to-describe non-boxing movie about boxers so I'd direct you towards Ebert's review for a summary. Best Director went to the director of the same, famed son of the Bay Area... Clint Eastwood. Best Actor went to Jamie Foxx whose background is almost working-class Texan to the point of caricature, and Best Actress went to Literal Nebraskan Hilary Swank.

Best Supporting Actor Morgan Freeman (Tennessee). Best Supporting Actress Cate Blanchett (Melbourne). Best Original Screenplay to two Frenchman and a New Yorker, ok maybe now we're getting somewhere, but Best Adapted Screenplay puts us back in Nebraska! (And Seattle, to be fair.) The last category before we hit Foreign Language Films in the listing is Best Animated Feature Film, which went to Brad Bird of Montana.

There is a selection filter in that movie stars are massively weighted towards people currently living in LA for obvious reasons - Hollywood *is* a physical place, after all - and I guess that could be enough to count as a 'coastal background' in a tautological sense. But I personally found the geographic diversity of the winners' birthplaces surprising, and checking the actual results of 2005 a compelling strike against the theory of elites v. the populace described. One could still argue the winners are disproportionately elites if "the elites" is an expanding group that steadily selects talent from non-elites, but this is decidedly different from a treatment where they're assumed to be separate, stable categories. Like most definitions of class.

(Alternatively, we could conclude that the Academy is actually pretty populist and is elevating talent with little apparent bias towards cultural factors. Maybe your posteriors for that ought to be noticeably higher than your priors five minutes ago, but I think I'd rather throw out this particular construction of class than accept that whole-cloth.)

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A bit of doggerel verse I composed after removing Twitter from my life.

"I stopped going to Twitter, because Twitter is hell,

A noisome place that draws me in and traps me in its smell,

It dirtied me, it wearied me, it ate away my soul,

A poison cup I could not sip without draining the bowl.

But when I went round Reddit, that splendid strange bazaar,

Where you can find most anything, whither near or far,

Its mighty stalls were teeming with content to the brim,

That kept linking to Twitter! And Twitter is a sin!

So I went in search of bloggers, an old and threatened breed,

That once was strong and teeming, brought low by Twitter feed,

And the blogs I found were interesting, and well written and wise,

But when I clicked their hyperlinks, Twitter met my eyes!

Everywhere I traveled, the story was the same,

I stopped a while at Facebook, but Twitter was its name,

I stalked some ancient forums, and Twitter beat me there,

The internet is Twitter now, and Twitter I won’t bear."

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May 3, 2021·edited Aug 1, 2022


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Say parallel universes exist, that universes split up into alternate futures. A man plays Russian roulette. In some universes he loses and kills himself. In some universes he wins and survives. Since the man no longer lives in the universes where he lost, from the man's point of view he always wins at Russian roulette. Only the versions that wins are able to observe the outcome of the game. If the man plays ten thousand rounds of Russian roulette, this will start to seem really weird for the man. Like he's supernaturally lucky. But in most of the universes there are other observers than the man. In most of the universes those other observes will not see anything weird.

So let's say there is something that can kill all humans. Like nuclear war or a giant meteorite hitting Earth. From humanity's point of view these things never happen, because we are always observing from the universe where we didn't get killed. This means we might be strongly underestimating the probability of these things happening. We have not had a nuclear war (not counting Hiroshima and Nagasaki) in the more than 70 years with nuclear weapons, so nuclear war seems to have relatively low probability to us. But if parallel universes exists, nuclear war might be much more likely. Maybe nuclear war happens in 90 percent of the universes every year, and we are unable to observe it.

Even if a nuclear war would not kill all humans we could still be underestimating its probability. Say the universes split into two, one with nuclear war and one without. If the nuclear war only killed half of humanity, there would still be twice as many people in the universe without nuclear war. So the number of people that observed that a nuclear war had happened would be only half of the observers that observed that no nuclear war had happened.

I wonder if one can use this to prove that it likely that parallel universe are real. Say we went to other planets and noticed that they had many more massive meteorite impacts than Earth does (adjusted for the size of for the planets.) Like if we find lots of huge meteorite craters on Mars. That would suggest that Earth also gets hit by many large meteorites, but in other universes.

I also think, though I'm not sure, if there has been many cases where humanity did get close to a nuclear war, but then it didn't happen, it makes it more likely that parallel universes are real. A thought experiment: A director shows you a film he made. The film shows a man throwing three darts at a dartboard and failing to hit the bullseye. The director says he used one of two methods to make the film:

Method 1: He filmed the man throwing darts. The man tries his best to hit the bullseye. If the man succeeds with any of the darts, the director deletes the film and starts from scratch. This continues until the director gets a film where the man fails to hit the bullseye with all three darts.

Method 2. The director films the man only once no matter how the man throws. The man tries his best to hit the bullseye.

Your task is to try to guess which of the methods the director used.

Now, does it matter if in the film the man gets close to hitting the bullseye? I think it does. If the man gets really close to hitting the bullseye, you think that man is pretty good. It is likely he succeeded in hitting the bullseye earlier and those films where deleted. Therefore it is more likely the director used method 1. On the other hand if the man never gets close to hitting the bullseye, you'd think that man is pretty bad. It is unlikely he ever hit the bullseye. So the director might have used method 2. Or method 1, there is no way to be sure.

The thought experiment is supposed to be analogues to the nuclear war and parallel universe situation. The man hitting the bullseye is analogues to there being a nuclear war. The director using method 1 is analogous to parallel universes existing. We never observe the man hitting the bullseye, since those films were deleted, just like we never observe nuclear war because the people observing nuclear war got killed. The director using method 2 is analogues to parallel universes not existing. So if we observe that we often gets close to having nuclear war (analogues to the man almost hitting the bullseye), parallel universes are more like to exist.

There has been several times we came close to nuclear war. Wikipedia has a list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_close_calls

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What do people feel about this slogan i'm toying with:


The most important political divide in America is not the red/blue divide.

It's the divide between people who think political polarization is the biggest threat we face, and people who think 'the other tribe' is the biggest threat we face.

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Can anyone recommend a good online statistics course?

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Hi Everyone,

I’m a long-time reader, sometimes commenter, and occasional meet-up go-er. I’ve got an announcement about a project I’m developing that may be of interest to your average SSC/ACX reader: https://spartacus.app/

It’s an online platform for creating or joining campaigns for collective action in adversarial situations - using concepts like Assurance Contracts to solve game-theoretic coordination problems. Think “Kickstarter,” but instead of crowdfunding products, it’s for safely recruiting and organizing participants for any project that requires a group effort, like workplace organizing, whistleblowing, open letters, direct action, formation of clubs or affinity groups, etc.

You can also follow the newly created Twitter account at https://twitter.com/AppSpartacus.

I know this is not an entirely novel concept - many of the underlying principles have been validated by other successful platforms like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Change.org, and The Point, (before it pivoted to become Groupon).

Unlike those other platforms, my focus will not be fundraising or self-expression, but the formation and enablement of group solidarity for specific collective actions in the real world. The aim is to increase the expected value of organizing around concealed preferences by lowering the courage requirements for taking action (from heroic to average) and reducing individual actors’ risks (from potentially catastrophic to marginal).

To preemptively address some common points of feedback:

--Spartacus will prohibit any campaign encouraging illegal actions or violence of any kind.

--The app will have several mechanisms built in to abate the risk of trolls, spammers, or bad faith actors sabotaging or gaming the system.

--The explicit political position of the app is one of J.S Mill style liberal pluralism, and it will be defended as such. Use cases will be ideologically agnostic. There will be no partisan bent, and both “blue” and “red” campaigns will be equally welcome, regardless of who it pisses off. That said, campaign curation will strike for balance to try to avoid the app taking on a partisan valence.

Project Status:

I’m currently looking to recruit people for proof of concept and beta testing.

I’d also love to connect with the following sorts of people in general:

--Anyone with a strong social science background who wants to be involved and/or offer input.

--Anyone who thinks they might be a potential user of the app, and/or has an idea for a good use case.

--Anyone who wants to support this project through signal boosting online.

--Anyone with a SWE background who has experience creating MVPs.

If you’d like to participate, you can fill out this form: https://forms.gle/ECyUAUc54TtjMExz8

If you have questions, you can contact me in the thread, through the intake form on the site, or via Twitter @AppSpartacus


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The $1,000 I put into Dogecoin back in 2014 are now worth $300,000. The problem: I just cannot remember the password I used to encrypt the wallet with those funds. More specifically, when I went to decrypt it back in February of this year, I confidently entered what I was sure was the password, and it didn't work.

By this point I have, via usage of btcrecover and hashcat, tried around 500 million possible passwords, which I generated with my own scripts and intuitions as to possible variations of the password I erroneously recall as being correct.

Does anyone here know of any method for jogging one's memory? I can't shake the feeling that it's the password I originally attempted, but with some kind of variation I added in a fit of misguided paranoia.

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In an weird alternate reality, few unlucky people claiming to be the victims of alien abduction and experimentation before being returned to Earth are discovered to have been mirrored, all the way down to the molecular level. Their hearts are now on the other side and such, but more importantly, their biochemistry and that of all the bacteria in and on them have been flipped to the opposite chirality - they now burn l-glucose instead of regular glucose, their DNA winds the other way, etc.

With modern technology and biochemistry, can the necessary nutrients be synthesized to keep them alive? Are there any other major obstacles to surviving and living a normal lifespan? And how will the l-bacteria on them fare as they scatter into the world and try to compete?

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Bill and Melinda Gates are getting divorced. Without delving too deep into the details (because I am not privy to them), this makes me sad.

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Wondering how many people here have heard of Ben Philippe's "thought experiment" about gassing white people. If not, why not?

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Can anyone recommend a nerd/rationalist friendly interior designer who is either based in the Bay Area or willing to do remote/online design?

I am looking to remake my home office into a space which better satisfies both my logistical and my psychological/aesthetic needs: a place where I can work more easily and feel more at home and at rest. I have an unusual, modernist-ish sense of what "at home and at rest" means and I would like someone who gets that, and who gets how engineers think generally, and who is skilled in the art of interior design, and specifically the art of designing spaces that are genuinely meant for ease and spiritual renewal and not for showing off on Instagram. I have no idea if SSC is a reasonable place to find such a person but I figure it can't hurt to try.

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Are there any notable improvements in nootropics/diy research? i love scott's nootropics surveys but /r/nootropics has been doing that for some time and it's pretty unsatisfying. i dream of being able to source actual research from stuff like this

my context is trying to do and randomized self-experiment with bodywork, and actually completed one finding that 50mg modafinil did not affect fitbit sleep metrics... but it would be so nice to have some real data on 9-me-bc, bpc-157, etc for stimulant tolerance, head-to-head esketamine vs arketamine, etc.

stuff i looked at

Person as Population: A Longitudinal View of Single-Subject Causal Inference for Analyzing Self-Tracked Health Data, 2019, https://arxiv.org/pdf/1901.03423.pdf

The history and development of N-of-1 trials, 2017, https://www.jameslindlibrary.org/wp-data/uploads/2017/02/J-R-Soc-Med-2017-08-Mirza-330-340.pdf

The parametric G-formula for time-to-event data: towards intuition with a worked example,, 205, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4310506/

What’s your favorite self experiment?, 2019, https://forum.quantifiedself.com/t/whats-your-favorite-self-experiment/6416

CONSORT extension for reporting N-of-1 trials (CENT) 2015: Explanation and elaboration, 2015, https://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.h1793

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The Atlantic has a review of the 2018 book " Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower" by Tufts professor Michael Beckley. I found the article interesting reading, especially as I've been growing more concerned about China's power.


Some highlights from the article:

"The claim that China will “overtake” the U.S. in any meaningful way is polemical and wrong—and wrong in ways that may mislead Americans into serious self-harming mistakes. Above all, Beckley pleads with readers not to focus on the headline numbers of gross domestic product. China may well surpass the United States as the largest economy on Earth by the 2030s. China was also almost certainly the largest economy on Earth in the 1830s. A big GDP did not make China a superpower then—and it will not make China a superpower now, or so Beckley contends."

" American analysts often publish worries about China’s growing navy, and especially its two aircraft carriers. But, Beckley writes, “Chinese pilots fly 100 to 150 fewer hours than U.S. pilots and only began training on aircraft carriers in 2012,” and he adds that “Chinese troops spend 20 to 30 percent of their time studying communist ideology.”

When Chinese forces do train, Beckley argues, the exercises bear little resemblance to the challenges the People’s Liberation Army would face in a great-power conflict:

'PLA exercises remain heavily scripted (the red team almost always wins) … Most exercises involve a single service or branch, so troops lack the ability to conduct joint operations, and assessments are often nothing more than “subjective judgments based on visual observation rather than on detailed quantitative data” and are scored “based simply on whether a training program has been implemented rather than on whether the goals of the program have been achieved.'”

"Comparing China’s military spending to that of the United States, for example, doesn’t make much sense. The Chinese military’s first and paramount mission is preserving the power of the Chinese Communist Party against China’s own people. The U.S. military can focus entirely on external threats."

"As China’s population ages, it will deplete its savings. Chinese people save a lot to compensate for the state’s meager social-security provision. For three decades, the savings of ordinary people financed the spectacular borrowing of China’s state-owned enterprises. How much was borrowed? Nobody knows, because everybody lies. What happens as the savings are withdrawn to finance hundreds of millions of retirements? Again—who knows?

China misallocates capital on a massive scale. More than a fifth of China’s housing stock is empty—the detritus of a frenzied construction boom that built too many apartments in the wrong places. China overcapitalizes at home because Chinese investors are prohibited from doing what they most want to do: get their money out of China. Strict and complex foreign-exchange controls block the flow of capital. More than one-third of the richest Chinese would emigrate if they could, according to research by one of the country’s leading wealth-management firms. The next best alternative: sending their children out."

It makes me sleep better at night: on the other hand, just yesterday The Atlantic ran a piece by H. R. McMaster that was much more frightening in terms of China's power and goals for the 21st century.


One section helped me better understand the danger of China's "Belt and Road Initiative" where they loan developing countries money for infrastructure projects:

"In Sri Lanka, the longtime president and current prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, incurred debts far beyond what his nation could bear. He agreed to a series of high-interest loans to finance Chinese construction of a port, though there was no apparent need for one. Despite earlier assurances that the port would not be used for military purposes, a Chinese submarine docked there the same day as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Sri Lanka in 2014. In 2017, following the commercial failure of the port, Sri Lanka was forced to sign a 99-year lease to a Chinese state-owned enterprise in a debt-for-equity swap."

He also raised some serious concerns about Chinese theft of technology: even if they can't innovate as well as we can, what does it matter if they can just steal the fruits of our labors?

"Chinese cybertheft is responsible for what General Keith Alexander, the former director of the National Security Agency, described as the “greatest transfer of wealth in history.” The Chinese Ministry of State Security used a hacking squad known as APT10 to target U.S. companies in the finance, telecommunications, consumer-electronics, and medical industries as well as NASA and Department of Defense research laboratories, extracting intellectual property and sensitive data."

Overall I'm feeling better about the USA's chances against China going forward, but still concerned. And I don't really know anything about China, just what I read in the papers. Any thoughts? Is China a Paper Tiger, or a real one?

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


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We desperately need to be a way to collapse replies to comments. Surely I can't be the only one who doesn't have time to read ALL the comments.

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One area in which my lack of knowledge has always bothered me is understanding statistics that are embedded in reported study results.

Last week, the NYTimes ran an article about the COVID vaccines' effectiveness against a particular variant strain that has become prevalent in NY: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/22/health/covid-ny-variant-vaccine.html?action=click&module=Science%20%20Technology&pgtype=Homepage

The underlying studies that they reference are at the following links: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.03.24.436620v1.full.pdf and https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.02.14.431043v3.full.pdf

In looking at the underlying studies, I couldn't quite tell how seriously I should take the results. On page 7 of study 1, it says that "The E484K version of B.1.526 did show a significant nearly 4-fold decrease in neutralization by vaccine-elicited antibodies but this represents a modest decrease in titer that is not expected to result in a significant decrease in the protection provided by vaccination and is not expected to result in an increased susceptibility to re-infection." One question I had about this is how to even interpret this four-fold impact, which seems high on its face but maybe isn't a big deal given how effective the vaccines are in the first place. That said, that is presumably a medical forum question so I wouldn't necessarily expect this thread to be bale to answer that one.

My bigger question, however, is around this quote, describing the sample used for the results, appearing on page 19 - " Neutralizing titers of serum samples from BNT162b2 vaccinated individuals (n=5) (left) and mRNA1273 vaccinated donors (n=3) (right) was measured. IC50 of neutralization of virus with D614G, B.1.1.7, B.1.351, B.1.526 is shown." If I am reading this right, that suggests that the sample size of vaccinated individuals was 5 Pfizer and 3 Moderna people. Am I crazy to think that this sample size is incredibly low?

Similarly, in the second study, page 8 references a 4.5-fold reduction in titer neutralization for vaccinated plasma, with a p score of 0.00005 (page 8), yet when I look at the description of Figure 5 on page 28, it suggests a sample size of 10.

TLDR - How should I think about appropriate sample sizes and how they translate into confidence in results and the attendant p scores associated with them?

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Since the byline of this blog on the publication list is "P(A|B) = [P(A)*P(B|A)]/P(B), all the rest is commentary.", I decided that it might be nice to have people summarize their favorite* topic** in the format "[obvious statement], all the rest is commentary."

I'll start by summarizing mathematics: "The axioms of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory with the axiom of choice are consistent, all the rest is commentary."***

*I'm not going to police this at all. You can even write about your least favorite topic if you want to for some reason.

**I think you could also do this for ideologies or whatever.

***In an earlier version of this that I mentally drafted, it was "Peano arithmetic", and in general I am much less confident in the consistency of ZFC than in that of PA.

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There are several concepts that we use that basically gerrymander thingspace and so degrade the discourse by causing us to have a bad ontology and thus worse beliefs; if they were forgotten, I would expect our ontology and thus our discourse and beliefs to improve significantly.

Here is a (probably extremely non-exhaustive) list of such things, in no particular order:

- Oppression (in the woke sense)

- Original sin

- Neoliberalism

- Patriotic

- Bodies (as used to refer to "people")

- Heresy/heretic/etc

- Antichrist

- Science, technology (when used interchangeably)

- Being "good without God"

- Intellectual property

- Dialectical materialism

- Queer ecology

- Statism

- Gentile

- Kafir

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Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency, Tom DeMarco

Overview of an important book. The short version is that being busy all the time (efficient) means lack of ability to respond to changing conditions and a tremendous amount of effort spent on managing scarce attention.

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The Biden administration just announced they will lift patent protection for the vaccines. I haven't followed the controversy but clearly the pharma companies resisted this. I don't really understand why the government didn't just pay them to do this a month ago -- Pfizer's market cap is up $22 billion since announcing the vaccine and the Biden administration is passing trillion dollar legislation these days. Can people explain what I'm getting wrong?

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Is there an RSS feed for the site?

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Recommended article: https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-danger-of-fact-ist-politics

Prof. Dotson presents a case how democracy has a hiccup when everyone becomes enamored with (perceived obvious) facts, thus everyone with an opposing facts is either misinformed or nebulous motives. Select quote midway from the essay:

"Scientism further fuels conspiracism by downplaying the fallibility of expert advice and the tentative nature of scientific knowledge. When mistakes or changes in expert advice are not openly discussed, a natural conclusion is that leaders aim to deceive. To put this more starkly, when Hanlon’s Razor — “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” — is no longer available, malicious intent becomes the only explanation."

This made be reconsider some opinions of mine I have been entertaining lately. The argument explains some behavior in one sees in public media. The part I found important myself, however, is that I certainly am not free of it. It is very easy to develop a (pseudo)-mental model of other people's opinions and behavior which allows me to say, they are in the wrong and I can explain why they are thinking so -- they either don't know about, are misinformed about, or because of some personal motivation ignore the obvious facts that I possess. While such state of matters could be true, the article nudged me to re-realize how with such attitude, one easily skips the part where to determine which facts are factual it is required to put them into a severe test.

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In a live electrical wire, is the flow of electricity truly "continuous," or is it quantized/packetized? In other words, if we could slow down time--but not to such a degree that we could see events in Planck Time--and see the electrons moving through the wire, would they always be steadily crawling along, or at some point, would they appear to move in a jerky, stop-go-stop-go manner?

Similarly, are the operations inside of a computer processor continuous or packetized? If you could slow down time enough, would there be split seconds where your computer's processor wasn't actually doing calculations even though the machine was on and running a data-intensive program?

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Why did the U.S. government violate so many of the treaties it signed with Indian tribes? Specifically, what official reasons did the U.S. most often give for doing so? Were the treaties commonly declared invalid because the tribes breached some clause in the agreement, or because the tribal governments that had signed them had collapsed, or what?

The U.S. government would have released some kind of written statement each time, and those statements should be in the National Archives. Has any historian ever explored this issue?

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