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Long thread on Maimonides, rationalism, and religion. https://mobile.twitter.com/ZoharAtkins/status/1410612795712802822

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I'm toying with the idea of starting a blog. I feel this community, for good or ill, knows what I have to offer and how I write. I'm curious if there's any thoughts as to: First, what people would be most interested in me talking about. Secondly, stylistic or delivery advice that people would like to see. Thanks in advance!

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Do you edit Wikipedia? Why or why not?

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Re. Further weird shit Covid does:


Any thoughts, or further developments?

Study seems pretty solid, as it is comparing subjects to themselves; but who knows long term.

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Discussion of scam ticket-selling sites. They resemble the actual venue, but vastly overcharge and don't deliver tickets reliably.

The federal government makes some efforts to stop them, but is fairly ineffective partly as a result of not being well-funded for the size of the job, and I suspect that the size of the job keeps increasing.

This gets to the question of what can be done about fraud, and also issues of what makes for a high-trustworthiness society. If a tenth of a percent or so is defecting a lot, they do a good bit of damage.

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Re point 3, I regularly experienced an "expansion" feeling, something like what Shulgin described, while falling asleep when I was younger. It was like my body was inflating or being elongated to incredible lengths. (I've occasionally wondered if Lewis Carroll had similar experiences which inspired the size change magic in Wonderland.) I don't recall anything quite like those other visions, though, certainly not on a regular basis.

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Here is the full New England Journal of Medicine article: https://www.dropbox.com/s/l1gklud7udot4jj/nejmsr2105065.pdf

On one hand the article seems to suggest that this technology is not very effective. On the other hand it expresses concerns about exacerbating inequalities. I feel like at most one of these two concerns can be valid; not both at the same time.

There is a section "unintended consequences" that says that selecting for high IQ would also increase the risk of bipolar disorder. What's not mentioned is that selecting for high IQ would decrease the risk of most other diseases. Bipolar disorder is an exception in that regard. Genetically, most good things cluster together with other good things. So the majority of unintended consequences of selecting for high IQ would actually be positive.

Keep in mind that scientists in western countries can't simply publicly endorse polygenic embryo screening without taking major career risks. Condemning it on the other hand is relatively safe.

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When nerdy people say they are "a little autistic," are they being a little cheeky, or do they mean it in a way that is continuous with a clinical diagnosis of autism? Is it legitimately just a matter of degree?

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I'm starting a self-experiment to see if melatonin can help prevent me from waking up, and am hoping to get some feedback/critique of my experimental design. Anyone have any suggestions?

I realize melatonin is typically used to control when you go to sleep, but I'm hopeful that it will last long enough in the bloodstream that it might impact time asleep as well.

Based largely off of this SSC post (https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/07/10/melatonin-much-more-than-you-wanted-to-know/), I've selected the following protocol:

- Study duration: 4 weeks

- Doses: 0, 0.3, and 3 mg, taken 30 min. before bedtime

- Randomization: pills placed in opaque gelatin capsules, randomly assigned to each day by an assistant (i.e. blinded)

- Measurement: time fell asleep, time woke up, time asleep, HRV, sleeping pulse, fasting blood sugar, change in blood sugar, measured by Apple Watch/Autosleep app & Dexcom G6

- Analysis: effect size and p-value tested for melatonin vs. blank. If meaningful effect size is observed, experiment will be repeated with that dose to confirm.

*Any suggestions on improving the protocol or other interventions would be greatly appreciated.*

For those who are interested, full details, including self-collected data that motivated the study, at: https://www.quantifieddiabetes.com/2021/07/please-critique-my-experiment-design.html

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I'm struggling with how much I can expect from a partner with ADHD. We have a young son who requires a lot of attention, and my husband just doesn't seem to have the patience required to spend long periods of time playing with him. I can deal with it, but I'd sure like to just hang out and play video games also. Am I being ablist to think he should just suck it up and split the time equally?

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I just did a podcast episode with Greg Cochran on UFOs. We both think there is a reasonable chance that some of the UFOs seen by the Navy are aliens. Scott once wrote that Greg had "creepy oracular powers". https://soundcloud.com/user-519115521/cochran-on-ufos-part-1

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So I'll recommend cachelot.com - a collection of essays arguing a fascinating case for cachalots (aka sperm whales) being human-level intelligent. If nothing else, it shows just how little we really know about cetacean and especially whale intelligence, even now. The site also includes a blog on animal intelligence in general, written more rationalist-adjacently than other stuff I've seen on the subject.

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Something I’ve been thinking about a little recently:

Is it surprising how much intelligent people disagree?

I’m often amazed by the extent to which people of roughly equal intellect arrive at such divergent conclusions, even when they are forming opinions based on the same information and possess similar expertise. I also find it fascinating when people that I agree with on one issue express views which I find utterly illogical elsewhere. Intuitively, I am surprised by these observations, but maybe I shouldn’t be.

Interested to hear others’ thoughts.

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On polygenic screening - a recent article in the Guardian gives some evidence that public opinion (in the UK at least) might be positive towards the broad family of genetic screening. Of course, just one data point, and this is post-natal not embryonic, but I think this is useful for context as there was some speculation about whether the tech would be outright banned.

Of course I could see this going differently in the US vs. Europe.


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A possible thought experiment regarding polygenic screening, gene editing, embryo selection, etc. If someone secretly created a child who was intelligent, physically well or not at risk of cancer with the help of these practices, would those who are opposed be in favor of removing the benefits by way of forced intervention? For example, if a baby was selected for intelligence secretly, would you punish the parents and then give the baby IQ lowering pills? Or if the baby is at lower cancer risk, expose the baby to carcinogens to return to a normal risk level?

Those concerned with "fairness" would have a hard time inflicting harm on an already created being but letting a being come into the world without the benefit of good genes is not recognized as a harm as much. It seems pretty much equivalent morally in my view. I think a consistent "fairness" position would mean that children secretly born with them should be harmed to be more fair. I think that's bad, so it's a good point against prohibiting these things.

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I want to run a survey where I ask people to give confidence estimates on various predictions. A number of these predictions are a of the form: "Which of these mutually exclusive options do you think is going to happen?" I'd like the survey tool to force the sum of those predictions to be 100%.

Google forms, which I used previously for a similar survey, doesn't allow you to do this (as far as I know), does anyone know a good, preferably free, tool that does?

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In discussions about free will, determinists will say that all particles are subject to the same rules of causality including the ones between your ears. I do not find this convincing because appealing to current knowledge about the physical world would cause us to reject consciousness, emotions, pain and pleasure. However, that is absurd because we experience these things directly!

Imagine arguing with an android about the feeling of anger. The android keeps telling you that you are mistaken. You do not experience anything like anger. What happens is electrical signals in your brain and hormones in your body. They make you clinch your fist and squint your eyebrows. The android says that it is merely an illusion that you think you have this experience. The android says that chemicals cannot cause experience because no chemicals in the entire world cause these so-called "feelings." You are merely uttering words that your brain told you to and tricking yourself to think a feeling is real.

This is what it feels like when discussing free will. I experience free will directly. I make choices and the fact that I make choices is the reason I even have a concept of free will to believe in. If I had no experience of anger, I would not conceive of anger. If there was no free will, life would be like a movie. This is conceivable but this is not the present state of affairs. So, why can a bunch of particles create consciousness, emotions and pain but it cannot allow us to have choices?

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> 22. Starship reaches orbit: 60%

I wasn't alone in thinking this was an overly optimistic prediction. Yet SpaceX seems to be making steady progress towards that end. The first flight of the full stack is likely to be suborbital for safety reasons and is planned to take place in the next few months. It's not inconceivable that starship reaches orbit by the end of the year.


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Wait, is discussing the previous post political or not?

Wanted to discuss this: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/eugenics/ and how most people's views on this board seem to be matching 2.3 (Obligations to Enhancement) and 2.3.2 (Social Good Maximization).

Though I guess I can't technically talk about what my opinion would be, it's kinda comforting (not really), to see that the moral arguments have all been had before.

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A point of general information: for anyone else who thinks I, or my commenting style, is beyond the pale -

Yes. Yes, it is. That is because I was born, bred and buttered outside of The Pale https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pale 😁

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Hey Scott, I don’t know if you know who Paul Skallas is but he’s plagiarized some of your writing on his substack. The NY Times did a profile on him a few weeks ago (he’s the Lindy effect guy) so I checked out his sub stack and he’s been lifting entire paragraphs from other writers. He plagiarized your writing about new atheism here: https://paulskallas.substack.com/p/new-american-identities-part-3

I haven’t read an article by him that doesn’t include copy/pasted content from other writers. It’s actually insane that he’s been getting away with this…..

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I have a forecasting newsletter which might be of interest to some here. Here are the last few issues together with some highlights:

- https://forecasting.substack.com/p/forecasting-newsletter-june-2021: Some Superforecasters start a substack (https://supers.substack.com/), as does Dominic Cummings (https://dominiccummings.substack.com/); Good Judgment Open's scoring rule is not proper & other problems with current forecasting platforms.

- https://forecasting.substack.com/p/forecasting-newsletter-may-2021: Hypermind experiments with new methods of eliciting, incentivizing and scoring long-range forecasts; Augur launches Augur Turbo on Polygon, but gets very little trade volume

- https://forecasting.substack.com/p/forecasting-newsletter-april-2021: Polymarket is being attacked by “sandwiching” bots; Metaculus launches “Forecasting Causes”. In Reflective Bayesianism (https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/vpvLqinp4FoigqvKy/reflective-bayesianism), Abram Demski outlines questionable and implicit assumptions which Bayesians make.

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Young talents are consistently undervalued globally, but even more so in the Old Economy. I write about what it means to be a Rebellious Intellectual Curious Hustler, and how these talents fare in the Old Economy.  https://www.jack-chong.com/newsletters/newsletter-5/

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Reposting from the hidden open thread:


I am interested in doing some traveling internationally with a family of four (I am from the US). Ideas for places to visit? Here are our constraints/interests:

- Must have cheap cost of living. We would like to be able to stay for several months, renting a house/apartment and buying groceries, rather than living in hotels and dining from restaurants. (though, if eating from restaurants/streetside vendors is cheaper, or at least offsets the costs of having a kitchen, we'd do that too)

- Must be safe enough that I can take 6- and 10-year-old kids with me. We're probably fine in uncomfortable/unusual situations, but I just don't want to be somewhere where there's a decent chance of violence or kidnapping.

- Should have vegetarian food options easily available.

- I speak English natively, Spanish at a somewhat awkward conversational level, and can probably get to awkward conversational level of another language in the 6-12 months before we travel.

- We don't intend to be doing lots of touristy things or sightseeing, but would like there to be some nice natural environments for us to enjoy.

- Should have a culture that is friendly to foreigners, even if we're outside of main tourist hubs. (Not sure exactly what the failure of this would like, but perhaps, e.g., people giving me a hard time about being clueless and not having much grasp of the local language)

- I'm imagining we'd be traveling in winter, but could change our travel time based on when would be best to visit.

So yeah, pretty broad. Just want to spend time away from home, explore a new culture, enjoy nature. I'd love to hear your suggestions (even if they don't particularly fit my constraints!)


So far, I have heard the suggestions: Thailand, rural parts of first-world countries generally, and European Mediterranean during offseason. I also came up with Peru as an option... my son is interested in the Amazon. My other son is interested in seeing pyramids, and Incan ruins seem more feasible than Egyptian pyramids. But it doesn't actually look like things in Peru would be that cheap... the tourist-y things like visiting Macchu Picchu or getting an Amazon tour seem quite expensive, and cost of living still seems to be severalfold that of a place like Thailand. So if anyone has specific experience traveling in Peru or elsewhere in South America, I am curious.

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As for you dreaming question, I guess I missed it. In the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism there are exercises to take control of ones dreaming (what psychologists in the West call active dreaming). I've not read the texts that describe this praxis, but I've been told that they focus on two things: visualization and interaction with meditation deities (that one can generate in one's own mindstream), and the accessing meditational states while in your dreams. I'm not sure if any of these texts have even been translated into English from the Tibetan, but Robert Thurman gave an interesting lecture on practicing the Dharma while sleeping. The Tibet House (in NYC) website used to post these lectures, but I'm not sure if they're still up there.

In Nahaut shamanism, one learns to access to, and to move about in, one's dreams in dream world called Tlalocan. Tlalocan is a name that European anthropologists have translate as the "underworld", but it's only an underworld as far as it's something underneath consciousness. At least that's how one of my Anthropologist friends described it to me. Although Nahuat practitioners dream the get to it by going down a cave (Alice in Wonderland, anyone?). Timothy J. Knab has written about his personal experiences with this form of shamanism, and he's also written an academic summary of practices and the underlying beliefs.

What's interesting to me, as someone who's tried to actively control my dreaming, is that without even trying I experience a landscape full of cities, forests, farms, and rivers. After reading Knab, I realized that the layout of my dream landscape corresponded quite closely with layout of Tlalocan that Knab describes. While in my one personal dream landscape, I frequently interact with the same dream people (entities? dream constructs?) who live in the various cities and houses that I can visit over and over again in my dreams.

Also, another fun exercise (if you're an active dreamer, that is) is to find another active dreamer, and try to dream about each other in your dreams. I tried to do this several times over the years with people I've been simpatico with (lovers and good friends, who have mystical bent) without success. However, recently I had an unintentional dream about former lover whom I had lost contact with. A week later I got an email from her, saying she had dreamed about me (she apologized for not reaching out sooner, but she had had to get may current email address from a mutual friend). Anyway, I said, that's funny I had a dream about her the past week. I said that in our dream we walking around Paris (though the dream city looked nothing like Paris). She concurred that she was with me in Paris in her dream, too. So, ESP? It may be a coincidence because we had both spent time in Paris. But I found that the whole experience sent chills down my spine. ;-)

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Once upon the time somewhere on the interweb I've run into a list of something like "100 useful concepts" containing things like "Explore / exploit trade-off" and the like that most people here will be mostly familiar with. Recently I wanted to look at it in case I'm missing something interesting, and it turned out I didn't bookmark the page and the name is completely ungooglable. Probably because my recollection isn't very clear, it could've been "50 important notions" or anything like that.

Anyone here knows what I'm talking about? I think some standard fallacies and biases and probably nash equilibrium were also on the list, but the only thing I remember certainly is "explore / exploit trade-off". And afair it was not on any resource explicitly associated with ratiosphere, definitely not on LW or SSC.

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I'm planning a trip to London, mainly to see some friends. What should I do/see when I'm over there? Anything that this community finds particularly cool? Doesn't have to be in London.

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Probably extremely minor anecdote: When I was biking, the phrase "Scott Anderson" suddenly appeared in my head, and I spent at least ~five minutes trying to figure out who this person was before realizing that the name was a mashup of the author and "Scott Aaronson".

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Some folks in this thread might be interested in my own Substack, which is a weekly dive into tech policy issues, studies, and then a long read on a topic. This week I wrote on platform legibility channeling the work of James C Scott and Neil Chilson: https://exformation.substack.com/p/every-way-of-seeing-like-a-platform. Here is the key point: "[L]egibility is a fraught project, where slippage occurs and information doesn’t properly capture reality. Similarly, platforms are collecting information about individuals to understand them, but it is not perfect. Illegibility exists." Let me know what you think!

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From a link on Tumblr (no, don't turn away in disdain): the Saga Of Wally The Delinquent Welsh Walrus from around April to right now, as he moves from Wales to the coasts of France, then Spain, then back around to the Scilly Isles: https://donnaimmaculata.tumblr.com/post/656142135645667328/becausegoodheroesdeservekidneys

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Do geothermal power plants raise the Earth's surface temperature? The answer might sound like an obvious "Yes, " but it's not so clear to me.

The Earth's core and mantle are hot, and some of that temperature makes it all the way to the surface and radiates into space. If God snapped his fingers and made the Earth's interior 20°C, then the soil under your feet would get slightly colder.

So, if a geothermal power plant is built, it moves heat from near the mantle to the Earth's surface. The machinery at the power plant gets very hot as a result. However, the ground beneath the station also gets colder.

If the machinery gets 50 degrees hotter, but a larger amount of land around it gets 1 degree cooler, then geothermal power plant should have no net effect on local surface temperatures.

Or maybe it does. What's the answer?

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Suppose Truth were a woman. What then?

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