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Fun fact: There was a South African neuroscience lab that was certain megabats were just an offshoot of primates because their neurological set up (LC and primary neurogenesis) was so similar to ours

Homoplasy strikes again

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This is a piece on Heidegger and the metaverse: https://whatiscalledthinking.substack.com/p/what-is-presence

This is a piece on longevity and anti-aging that will probably provoke: https://whatiscalledthinking.substack.com/p/longevity-vs-quality-of-life

This is a piece on the ethics of conscientiously objecting to unjust war: https://whatiscalledthinking.substack.com/p/how-to-be-good-when-the-world-is

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This piece on worry makes me wonder about the rationality of worry. What's the rationalist take on worry? https://whatiscalledthinking.substack.com/p/dont-worry

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This piece is about an apparent Biblical contradiction on the topic of fighting poverty https://etzhasadeh.substack.com/p/there-shall-be-no-needy-among-you

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If you rotated your head left and right over a prolonged period, would the images stabilize and your field of vision expand? Hammerhead sharks achieve a wide field of vision by swaying their heads to and fro.

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There are lots of people who regularly do Twitter mega-threads with 20 or even 50 tweets. This is fine if their metric is simply getting engagement on Twitter. But in terms of promoting constructive engagement with an idea it is terrible. People pin a "thread of threads" and it's just awful.

There are also people who do lots of podcasts (Bret Weinstein as a prime example) which is even harder to engage with. A blog, or a wiki, or even photos of a physical journal on Instagram would be easier to cite and discuss.

I was going to ask why so many people insist that Twitter and podcasts are a good medium for conveying ideas, but the answer is obvious - their goal is popularity, not constructive dialog. The better question perhaps is why these people are more invested in talking and getting like-votes than in being heard and understood.

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This is a long piece by a Canadian philosopher on why the race problem in the U.S. has proved so intractable that I found very enlightening: https://www.academia.edu/43470485/Two_Dilemmas_for_U_S_Race_Relations

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Has anyone calculated the average harm caused by a single person choosing not to get a covid vaccine? Like, for every day you don't get vaccinated, you kill X people, where X is probably a lot less than 1, but could still be morally significant. Would be interesting to see how it compares to drunk driving, etc.

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These articles make the claims that IQ does not predict ability for complex cognition or job performance as much as is often claimed. I haven't found any rebuttals to them: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0959354314551163


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Re 3: This is great. Any plan to post about how you 'control' the community? I love the general sense of 'civility' here. I feel compelled to observe that "u suck", is the opposite of +1. Saying what you like about a post is important too.

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I'm curious about inflammation, and anti-inflammatory drugs. I've got the vague idea that inflammation is basically always bad, and for basically any kind of injury taking an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen will basically always help, or at least not hurt.

This seems contrary to the no-free-lunch principle in evolutionary biochemistry. If inflammation is always bad, why does your body do it in the first place? Two hypotheses:

1. Inflammation is actually good for you some of the time, and ibuprofen should be used more sparingly.

2. Inflammation has a benefit in the ancestral environment but usually doesn't today. One theory is that it reduces the risk from infection- in the modern world with easy access to antibiotics infection is much less of a risk, so if reducing inflammation improves healing while increasing the risk of infection that could be a good trade.

Does anyone with actual knowledge want to shed some light?

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Ethereans, what does Ethereum (metaphorically) taste like to you*? (This question is brought to you by yet another one of my weird dreams, in which my brain supplied a possible answer for this question; I won't reveal it now to avoid spoiling the replies but will if someone asks.)

*i.e. what is the sensation of taste that you most associate with the concept of Ethereum (the cryptocurrency)

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I’m roughly fully in support of point #3.

as a clarification, do you mean “ban user” or “remove comment”?

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Straw man for debate: In 401k plans, in addition to automatic (subject to opt out) enrollment and maximum contributions, the default purchase should be an inflation adjusted deferred income annuity with payments beginning at the Social Security full retirement age for the participant's age cohort. Describe it as buying a pension rather than investing in an annuity.

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Even if we don't know the mechanism, we can randomly fiddle with the protocol to see what works better. Maybe knowing the mechanism gives us a better heuristic for what kinds of fiddles are more likely to work, to save search time. But maybe the random fiddles that work will also give us more insight into the mechanism. Probably the random fiddling goes a lot faster if you don't need a separate IRB approval for each iteration.

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Update on my taking daily magnesium supplements. I wrote a comment a couple of months back, noting how my basic personality is pretty skittish/easily frightened, not just in social situations but overall. I have to say that taking magnesium has been.... the single most effective supplement or medication of my life to date?

It seems to have permanently reduced my ambient anxiety level by at least 20%, across a range of situations. It has a number of other benefits, such as improved distance eyesight/enhanced field of vision, which I did not expect at all. Some Googling shows that magnesium is supposed to increase bloodflow to the eyeballs, but as I was noticing sharpened eyesight within just a few days of taking it regularly, I suspect that the change is cognitive instead. My dreams are quite a bit more vivid, I recall them more easily, and I think that they follow more of a structured plot now versus being random?

But the anxiety reduction is the main effect- it's been a pretty significant life change for me. When I read the Hacker News article stating that modern vegetables lack enough magnesium due to agricultural practices, 50% of the accompanying comments said 'supplementation changed my life!' and 50% said 'eh, couldn't really tell the effect'. Put me in the former camp

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So I’m sort of throwing out something I’ve been thinking about so I can see the counterarguments. What I’m about to argue feels wrong to me, but I’m having trouble picking it apart, so maybe I’m missing something or maybe my intuitions are failing. Regardless:

Maybe we shouldn’t vaccinate more people in the US. We should stop vaccination drives, unless you can prove you’re highly at risk.

The rationale would be that (as far as I know) vaccine supply is still pretty limited. And many poor countries have barely passed 1% vaccination. It doesn’t make sense for me why you’d want to vaccinate a healthy American 20-something when the vaccine is vastly more useful in another country.

This seems to go doubly when you’re talking about vaccine mandates. I know people who are changing jobs to avoid these mandates, so clearly many vax-hesitant people think it would be better to spend $4 (about the cost of two doses in the US) and donate the vaccine abroad, than to spend $4 and force them to take the vaccine.

I’m not sure in what moral system this wouldn’t hold. Feels like hedonic and preference utilitarianism, orthodox christianity, negative rights, and most vague systems I can think of would come down on “donate vaccines” unless you just say “foreign lives don’t matter”

Is there a clear counterargument to this? or a different moral system I’m missing?

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"I’m pretty annoyed by comments that say just things like 'This is a bad post' or 'You are clearly misinformed' without any elaboration. This is true whether it’s responding to me or to a commenter."

Oh, my word... I could go on at length about argument-free claims like those in net forums.

I recently read a comment (not at ACX) saying only, "His claims are demonstrably false." No demonstration was given; the poster didn't even identify which claims she didn't like. All of 'em, maybe... Who knows? So, a Bozo poster? Check! Ignore now & in future.

I think the ACX policy change is a good idea but I wouldn't want the task of implementing it.

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Okay, recent events have made me take a long hard look at what marriage is, and while I'm almost certainly reinventing the wheel here, I think I've spotted two valid conceptions - both functionally being legal hooks on which to hang a bunch of consequences.

1) Hook on which to hang incentives to produce and raise children. This isn't necessarily just financial incentives - though there usually are those - but also stuff like adultery laws (which increase certainty of paternity and thus paternal investment in child-raising). Divorce and remarriage in this conception is something that ought be avoided, as that creates single parents and step-parents. Also, gay marriage is obviously stupid in this conception, because it's not going to produce any children (and there's the perennial "do kids need both sorts of parent" problem even with adoption); further restrictions on eugenics grounds are plausible but there are tradeoffs there between ideality and complexity/pissing-people-off.

2) Hook on which to hang assumptions of trust. Here I mean things like auto-dismissing stalking cases, exceptions to privacy laws, priority over blood relatives as emergency contact/medical decider, etc. Under this conception, divorce and remarriage is fine, as is gay marriage.

It should be fairly obvious that these conceptions line up reasonably well with the conservative and progressive views respectively. There is one exception, which I recall from the rhetoric during gay marriage debates - the progressive messaging has frequently claimed that gay couples should be entitled to the same tax benefits of marriage as heterosexual couples, which doesn't seem well-grounded to me (there is no reason to have tax benefits of marriage *at all* in conception #2).


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Posting to advertise for Aristillus, a red/grey tribe aligned, frontier-mindset forum. We intend to provide a civil, high signal, low security (but private) forum for discussion & tech promotion. Our definition of ‘tech’ goes from space rockets to homesteading, and ‘we’ are a mix of centrist, libertarian, center right, proactionary, and rationalist. We talk books, 3D printing, weapons, politics, workouts, life, the universe, and everything.

If this sounds like something you’d like to check out, you can read a little bit more about our rules and culture here: https://aristillus.xyz/pub/about-aristillus

And if you want to join the conversation, here is a link to fill out an application (please check your spam a few days after applying, just in case): https://tripetto.app/run/LGGOVPRYN3

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I liked the articles on the FDA, but it seems to me a subcategory of "can we ever reform broken government bodies, except in cases of abject catastrophe?".

It seems there are lots of departments that start out effective and useful, and gradually accumulate complexity and personnel until they're just baggage. Then they stay that way until war or collapse.

I'd like to hear some good examples of major reform. But I'd love to see someone build in refactoring as a fundamental principle of government.

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So, simplifying a lot, there's a spectrum between depression and elevated mood, and bipolar disorder is characterized by fluctuations between the extremes of this spectrum.

My understanding is there is also an allism-autism spectrum, but is there any kind of "disorder" characterized by fluctuations between the extremes of this spectrum?

(FYI, also asked in https://psychology.stackexchange.com/questions/27423/is-there-something-like-bipolarity-but-for-the-allism-autism-spectrum)

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Is anyone aware of a non-post-hoc reason to think the encephalisation quotient is important (other than a convenient way of keeping humans on top)?

I can see a bit of argument for bigger animal equals more space devoted to movement and basic physiology, but then again, brontosauruses had a brain roughly the size of a walnut , so I'm not entirely convinced how much space that needs to take.

Certainly when we discuss AI here, there's no conception of an EQ equivalent (at least that I'm aware of).

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I've got a question about the mRNA vaccines, which I hope someone here can answer.

As I understand it, standard vaccines work much like an immune response to an actual infection. The immune system detects a virus and creates antibodies that will bind to the virus at a particular attachment site on the virus. (And the immune system caches the information to speed up the process in the future, and does other stuff that I don't think is relevant here, and there are two classes of antibodies, etc.) But the attachment site is not always the same, varying from person to person based on random chance modified by the structure of the virus and the nature of the immune system. (That is to say, some attachment sites are probably more likely than others.) Maybe individual people even develop multiple different types of antibodies that bind to multiple different attachment sites on the same virus. And overall, the population ends up with a variety of different types of antibodies, so that when the virus mutates, any viable new strain will only be able to infect the fraction of the population that had antibodies that bound to an attachment site that mutated. (Insert disclaimers about infection not being a binary state, but more like a race between two growth curves where the initial state matters.)

But with the new mRNA vaccines, we only get antibodies for the narrow selection of attachment sites encoded in the vaccine. That is, we design mRNA that causes ordinary cells to mass-produce particular bits of the virus, and the immune system creates antibodies that bind to those bits, and thus also bind to the actual virus. But doesn't this mean that a vaccinated population will all have similar antibodies? And that if the virus mutates to create a strain that lacks the bit that was encoded in the vaccine, then all those antibodies will be more-or-less equally useless, and the population might as well be unvaccinated with respect to the new strain? (Keeping in mind the possibility that different immune systems might generate different antibodies that bind to that bit, some of which might still work, so again it's not a binary state.) For example, let's say an mRNA vaccine is developed by encoding the spike protein from a particular coronavirus: what happens if the coronavirus mutates to have a slightly different spike protein? (Insert deep-sounding comment about antifragility.)

I ran this by a friend who works in pharma, and she's been wondering about it too.

So, is this something to worry about? How much am I completely misunderstanding and getting horribly wrong?

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So long as the Covid situation is fine, I will likely be taking a trip to New York City next summer. For context, I'm from the UK, in my early twenties, and have never been to the US before. Could anyone recommend to me a good book about the history of NYC?

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Questions on the medium-term regulatory future of crypto

My impression was that part of the goal of crypto was to have a financial system the government couldn't control or regulate. But it is already pretty regulated, the government keeps trying to regulate it more, and everyone expects that if they try, they will succeed. So I guess my questions are:

1. Does crypto, regulated just as strictly as fiat currency, have much extra value over fiat currency?

2. If crypto were heavily-regulated, would that create a situation where the easy-to-use websites all abide by the regulation, but the basic technology is still unregulatable for people with enough skills to use it? Would this create a perverse situation where regulation hurts normal users, but criminal organizations can hire a decent tech guy and ignore all that?

3. In theory, people could set things up on crypto that didn't follow regulations, and the government's only option would be to track down those people and arrest them IRL (hard if they are good at anonymity or live outside the jursidiction of the government involved). Is this accurate? If so, are people doing it? If not, should they be?

4. If there were parallel regulated and unregulated crypto ecosystems, how easy would it be to move money from one to the other?

5. Special-case version of that question: suppose you could spend crypto at all the same companies you could spend fiat at (eg Amazon). Would that make money laundering trivial? Just commit your crime in some way that gives you crypto, tornado.cash it, and then spend it on your Amazon purchases or whatever else you would spend money on?

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Any recommendations for reading on optimal tax policy?

A book targeted at lay-readers would be ideal, but that doesn't seem to exist :)

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I'd recommend taking the clarifications (or mistakes or recommended comments) that you post to the open threads and also posting them to the relevant articles in question, since most people will read the article and never see the OT

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Meta: An ACX commenter at some point recommended an ACX RSS feed which filtered out subscriber-only posts. The URL is: https://pycea.tk/acxfeed

Unfortunately, the feed stopped working 6-ish days ago, and now doesn't work anymore. I noticed it only because I expected to see more ACX posts in my RSS feeds, but they somehow stopped appearing at one point.

Does anyone have an updated RSS feed which filters out subscriber-only posts and which still works?

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Someone pointed out to me that pro-vaccine propaganda* has switched from saying "Covid vaccines prevent the spread of disease" to "vaccines prevent severe illness and death". The person was pointing out that it doesn't take much reading between the lines to infer that we no longer believe that Covid vaccines prevent the spread of disease. My question is, is this true? Or are we doing the masks-in-spring-of-2020 thing again (where there was a common sense position but we didn't have solid studies proving it, so the CDC "did not recommend" masks)?

My prior is still "having had my two shots, I'm probably not going to be an asymptomatic superspreader," but I'd be happier if I were more certain of that, and also happier if I better understood why the pro-vaccine side started dodging the question of whether getting vaccinated reduces spread. Common sense is not foolproof here given that leaky vaccines do exist.

* I hope I don't need this disclaimer -- by calling it propaganda I do not mean to imply it's untrue, just that its goal is to shape behavior rather than simply convey information.

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Were there any rules (canon law?) in Catholicism which could have prevented Catholics from running residential schools or prevented the schools from being as bad?

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Any informed takes on this article, with thesis "hydrogen in blimps is good, actually"? https://www.thecgo.org/news/bring-back-hydrogen-lifting-gas/

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Wondering if there’s an acceptable place in the ACX-iverse to post a job. Is this thread the right place for that?

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Anybody here watch Alok Kanojia's mental health channel on youtube (HealthyGamerGG)? I've found him very insightful and personally helpful. I would love to hear Scott's take on his approach, but he hasn't written any books so a book review is off the table.

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Starting September 2019, I started taking daily doses of powered Reishi mushroom (available anywhere and sold as an immune booster) mixed with hot water and a little Stevia for sweetening. Shortly after, I noticed that my sense of smell has grown appreciably stronger. For example, riding my scooter through my neighborhood (Seattle) in the evening allowed me to sample a different smell every few hundred feet. "Oh, someone is roasting Anaheim chiles, someone else is smoking pot on their porch, someone else decided to pee by the side of the road, someone (perhaps the same person) did a #2 there, leaves are starting to turn, the familiar scent of leaf decay is setting in this Autumn". Since that time, I have reduced my daily intake to about once a week and I still have a stronger sense of smell than any other time in my life, and I'm 63.

This is all incredibly anecdotal and not to be taken seriously as fact by anyone else. And the increased sense of smell may be attributable to something else in my life and not the mushroom powder. Still, it's an amazing discovery and not something I've heard or read about elsewhere except for this recent slew of articles that this post uncovered.

This has nothing to do with entheogens, unless you count Reishi as one. I see mushrooms as vastly under-explored territory, and it doesn't surprise me at all that the experience of LSD or Psilocybin parallels my own sensory awakening.

Apropos to nothing else in this article, my sense of hearing seems to have been affected positively as well around the same time. As a musician who depends on the most subtle aspects of hearing to practice in my chosen field, this is so very wonderful.

I am not saying definitively that Reishi mushrooms contributed to this sense of increased sensory perception, yet I'm not counting it out at all. YMMV.

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What ethical responsibilities do you have if you think someone in your life has joined a cult? Should you do something? Assuming they are there by their own consent and have cut off contact with 99% of the people formerly in their lives, what actions are even .

Without going too much into specifics, it's an ex-girlfriend who broke up with me, quit her job and moved to an isolated earth-first farming commune last winter. Having spoken with her friends and sister, her only contact with the outside world since last winter has been around 4 or so handwritten letters (one of which was breaking up with me).

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Big fan of #3 for more reign-of-terror style comment moderation. I love the quality of the comments section in general, and I think regular bannings are the difference between AST's generally good commenting etiquette and Marginal Revolution's comment dumpster fire.

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I recently learned that I am on the autism spectrum. Honestly, it's a great relief. I'm in my early 20s and have been searching for the last 10 years of my life to find out why it is that I'm so *different* — and now everything makes much more sense.

It's a lot to process and I'm not sure where to go from here. Does anyone here have any advice for how I should approach potentially change lifestyle and life-trajectory type choices given this information?

Some of the lifestyle advice I’ve gotten has been really helpful. For instance, on the suggestion of a friend, I bought earplugs and heavy-duty earmuffs and the silence has been a huge QoL booster (I’m sure there’s a hand-wavey predictive processing explanation for this). Another friend suggested I pretend to write to a soulless robot when drafting emails/messages/etc, which has made communication much much less draining. I’d be thrilled to receive even limited-scope suggestions like these. 

With life-trajectory, how should I think about career, friends, and family? With my career, I just want to accumulate as much human capital as possible to set myself up to do something cool like being a professor, working in venture capital, leading a startup, or something like that in my 40s; I’m not sure if I should focus the human capital accumulation to complement any ASD-related strengths and route round ASD-related weaknesses. Currently I don’t have many friends, but now realize I’d like to change that. I feel like I could get married but I’d need to have an explicit plan.

I would really appreciate the advice, and will be certain to pay it forward.

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I'm curious to hear what positive experiences people have had as a result of the pandemic. As an example, my day care was closed for three months, and both my wife and I were able to work from home while watching our kid, so we saved a lot of money. (We also saved due to not taking trips, reduced fuel expenses, etc.)

Also, my work arrangements are much more flexible now -- I can work from home, or go to the office, or work half and half, which is nice.

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When I was young I benefited a lot from learning a light amount of the Stanislavski Method. Later in life I briefly attended a Scientology church for anthropological reasons and found they were teaching something Stanislavski-adjacent. Anyway, I found it useful for helping me regulate inappropriate/unhelpful emotions without denying those emotions exist.

My eldest has been having a number of anger problems lately. Well, for the past few years. They don't seem to be getting better naturally (or at least I don't think it's the best to wait the 20 years it might take for it to naturally resolve). My first instinct is to start teaching Method since it helped me, but he's (8) younger than I was (13) when I learned it so I'm not sure how appropriate it was (and I was taught by someone with considerably more theatre coaching experience than I have). I was wondering if anyone has any other related practices that might be useful that I could learn about and share with him.

I'm sure there's meditative practices, but I honestly don't know much about them and which ones are woo and which ones are useful tools and which ones are addictive personality rewrites. Anyone have any suggestions?

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I thought I'd post David Brooks article in which he revisits his thesis in Bobos in Paradise. He has some criticism of Paul Fussell ("Most of the book is a caustic and extravagantly snobby tour through the class markers prevalent at the time.") and he acknowledges that some of his ideas on Bobos were naive.


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Can anyone who is familiar with virology speculate on the probability that, at some point over the next ~4 years, we get a new covid variant which is both resistant to existing vaccines and also significantly more deadly (let's say >5% IFR)?

My assumption is that the vaccine resistance thing will just happen naturally over time since there is obviously selective pressure there. So every year we probably get a new variant that requires people to get boosters or requires the pharma companies to tweak the vaccines.

The deadliness aspect doesn't seem adaptive, and I've heard some people argue that there is selective pressure in the other direction (variants are likely to get less lethal over time) though I wasn't really convinced by that argument. So my best guess is that we roll the dice on lethality each year, but I don't know enough about viral mutation to guess what the probability distribution for variant lethality looks like.

Also, if anyone knows of any prediction markets that address something similar to this question, I'd be interested to hear about them.

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Does anyone have new/updated recommendations for floor jobs? (see https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/18/floor-employment/) I'm an incoming physical therapy student having second thoughts about my future. I minored in computer science so programming is likely the next best option but wanted to see if there were any interesting alternatives.

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I've been exploring the fediverse lately, and I'm curious what accounts there are that I should follow. It's been kinda hard to do discovery so far.

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Can anyone who understands taxes help me understand how the current Child Income Tax Credit practices work if a child's claimed dependency changes? Consider this scenario (based on my real life) :

Mom and Dad are divorced. Mom earns little income s.t. she normally doesn't pay any income taxes. Dad earns a bit more income, but also pays pretty low taxes normally. Mom and Dad have agreed to alternate who claims Child as a dependent each tax year. In his 2020 tax return, Dad claimed Child as a dependent. Currently, Dad is receiving payments from the US treasury for the child income tax credit.

What happens if Mom (and not Dad) claims Child as a dependent for 2021? Since the payments are technically an advance on 2021's credit (right?)... does this mean the IRS will come back to Dad and take the money back? After all, he is given the money under the assumption the Child is currently his dependent. But then... if mom claims for 2021.... will she receive a backpayment? Or would it just be like a normal year, where a tax credit doesn't really matter when she isn't paying taxes anyway?

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Hi Scott,

I’ve been researching the permanent effects of long term or intermittent benzodiazipine use. Seems to be lots of evidence for >1 SD effects on multiple cognitive domains for long term users, not much evidence for intermittent long term use (such as myself). I could only find research paper literature reviews on the topic, though, and these are all just building an argument rather than giving an impartial overview.

Given how many people still take these drugs for longer than a month, it seems that there’s a need for such an impartial Scott Alexander type overview.

I couldn’t find anything by you on this, but apologies if I’ve missed it.

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It is the night of July 2, 1996, and you are the President of the United States. New York, Washington, and Los Angeles have just been destroyed by three gigantic alien space ships. Your Secretary of Defense suggests a massive counterattack involving hundreds of F/A-18s firing air-to-air missiles. Mindful of his past mistakes and untrustworthy demeanor, you hesitate and ask the other top military staff for alternative attack plans. In light of the information available at the moment, and all military assets at hand, which plan makes the most sense? 

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Scott you should be aware that John Cochrane, an economist at the Hoover Institution, has put up a long post about your essay: Adumbrations Of Aducanumab.

He liked it and used it to discuss the institutional structure of the FDA:


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I'm seeing a lot of media buzz about kids and young adults having higher hospitalization rates with the Delta variant. I can't find any breakdown of hospitalization rates by age cohorts *over time*. If anyone has links to actual numbers from either public health websites or epidemiological studies please reply with links. Thanks!

(And it seems like Google can only handle five keywords before it starts barfing up useless links. Lol!)

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I’ve gone off about prediction markets before, but honestly I would love a drug clinical trial prediction market. I don’t think it’d be perfect, and would hope nobody uses it to make decisions, but a predictit for drug trials would be fun! https://mobile.twitter.com/kakape/status/1425443477320568835 I wonder about the new solidarity plus drugs. Will they work, and given they’re immunomodulatory I wonder if they’ll be better than / useful in conjunction with the current treatments (they target different pathways)

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I just read an article in Wired about Narxcare and the company named Appriss that owns it. Sounds pretty shady, but it seems to be used by all the states. Anyone think this is a good idea?

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