While reading How The West Was Won on SSC (https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/open-thread-194-londonoxford-meetups) I thought: In what sense do egalitarian gender norms work better, and what is the evidence of that? Maybe it's a successfully-spreading meme, but so are infinity false religions. It seems to contribute to unsustainably-low levels of fertility in a lot of countries, and there doesn't seem to be any evidence that women are happier now than many decades ago when gender norms were less-egalitarian in the US -- surveys say the contrary.

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Some advice: that forum that is linked from the main page is for the hard right only, and the mods intend to keep it that way.

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Any recommendations for good and relevant discord discussion servers? The one linked to from this substack is run by pompous losers and has nothing to do with Scott or the blog.

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I keep reading all these "principled stances" against getting vaccinated within this community, mainly on Data Secret Lox.. There's this new thing where they compare themselves to Muhammad Ali, because Ali took a principled stance against the Vietnam War.

I get that there are some anti-vaxxers ("niggers", according to their own sense of victimhood, going by the Muhammad Ali analogy) who are smart and have looked at stats and discovered that things aren't quite as cut and dry as the broadcast news presents it.

I don't think the typical anti-vaxxer is someone who understand stats and who has looked at the numbers. I think the typical one is more like Kyrie Irving of the Celtics, former Flat Earther, who never saw a conspiracy theory he didn't like.

If this great clip from Charles Barkley doesn't convince the Flat Earther/Anti-vaxxers, I don't know what will: https://twitter.com/JimmyTraina/status/1450627000234823681

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On their website, Harvard brags about having a 98% graduation rate. This means that a Harvard acceptance letter signals an at least 98% chance of having whatever intellectual qualities are signaled by a Harvard diploma (I suppose it also signals being able to fund a Harvard education, I have no idea how many people turn down an acceptance letter for lack of tuition money). Under the signaling theory of education, does it represent a market failure that acceptance letters are not treated as nearly equivalent to degrees?

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Just a note that we are having a realspace South Bay SSC/ACX/DSL meetup this Sunday. We had them pretty regularly before the pandemic, then stopped, then had one a few months ago, then stopped because infection rates were going up. They have now come down, to about a third of their peak in Santa Clara County, so we decided to do another one. For details:


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Surprisal party: a party where you invite someone over and everyone tries to keep them slightly on edge, so that they continually don't know what to expect.

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If Elon Musk turned $10 billion worth of his Tesla shares into U.S. dollars, and then he secretly burned all the money and never told anyone about it, what effect would his action have on the economy and on the dollar's value?

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The sixth IPCC report is now out. I have looked over all of it and read some bits of interest to me.

One issue that has been discussed here is drought. The fourth report claimed that climate change was increasing it, the fifth retracted that claim. The sixth has a nice map dividing the world into forty-five regions. In fifteen of them, it shows drought increasing, in one decreasing. In only two of the fifteen does it show moderate confidence of human contribution to the increase.

So at the moment, if you accept what that map shows, the claim that climate change has increased drought is true but not very true, supported for two out of forty-five regions. One of the two is the western North America, where many of us live.

There is, however, a serious problem with the report. They are defining drought by soil moisture. But one of the effects of increased CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, mentioned in the report, is a decreased need of plants for water. If the amount of water in the soil decreases by ten percent and the amount of water needed by the plants by twenty percent drought has increased by their definition, decreased by the measure relevant to us — how well plants grow.

The report does not provide the information that would be needed to redraw the map defining drought by plant growth instead of soil moisture, but it does report, with strong confidence, that over the past two or three decades global plant growth has increased. That suggests that average drought has decreased, the opposite of what the IPCC report shows.

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Any criticisms of this gravity-based desalination system? Why isn't the design widely used?


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Some IQ thoughts (Not a humble brag, I swear): I'm taking advantage of covid distance learning to get a cs degree, and have some observations.

I don't buy any text books, I don't study, and I play videogames during lectures.

I still usually get As, and in my non-math classes I am disappointed by a less than 99% correct assignment.

I've been put into groups with people that also get A's, and in each case but one, I do all the work because it's been faster for me to just finish the assignment than try to explain what is going on to my group mates.

I have all A's for my classes other than discreet mathematics so far (In college, I didn't give a shit during highschool), and I repeat: I have never studied at all, even once (except for discreet mathematics, holy shit.). I have 0 hours studying on the clock.

This has made me even more of a socialist.

It's bullshit that some people can just be born strong, social, or smart; and reap rewards for something they didn't earn and that can't be learned, and Grades are a dumb way of rating performance.

There are people in my classes who have way lower grades than me that I KNOW could perform at my level or better, they just do badly in school.

I'm not sure how to square this circle. Every day, it becomes clearer to me that nobody deserves anything, and any success you have is a product of your history or your capacity; and if your capacity is determined by your genes and upbringing, you didn't actually earn it and have no reason to be more proud of being smart than a trust fund kid has of being rich.

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Oxford meet up was great but I had to leave early and forgot to sign up for notifications about future meet-ups in the area. Who should I email?

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Does gender have predictive power when controlling for biological sex?

I.e., there is the [gender continuum test](https://programs.clearerthinking.org/gender_continuum_test.html) that found a bunch of questions that all correlate with some biological sex. If someone takes this test, I choose a bunch of questions at random and they show me their answers, I can then predict their remaining answers with (slightly) above accuracy random because [the answers I have] correlate with [their biological sex] which correlates with [their remaining answers].

However, say they tell me their biological sex first, and then I get a bunch of answers. Do they help me to further predict the remaining answers? If e.g. a cis woman gives unusually male-like answers on two questions, is she more likely to give unusually male answers to the remaining questions?

I've never heard anyone give an explicit answer to this question, which seems kind of weird. This has to have been studied. (Also I assume the answer is yes.)

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Are there cults that are open about being cults? As in, openly "we think being a cult member is the ideal state to be in, sign up for brainwashing today"?

Obviously, this is not how to make the most money as a cult leader, but it seems more ethical and there's a degree of plausibility to the hypothesis.

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I've heard that most cosmologists believe the universe is fated to expand forever, because the rate at which it is expanding keeps going up. However, how can we be sure that the rate of the universe's expansion won't plateau someday, or even become negative?

After all, do we understand what is controlling the rate of the universe's expansion? Is there anything preventing it from sharply slowing down in 1 million years? Hasn't it changed in the past?


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Are "designer knives" and very expensive knives worth it? I'm talking about things like $200+ lockback blades and hand-made chef knives from Japan.

The whole knife industry seems like a scam. It's just a sharp strip of metal!

Why not just buy kitchen knives from the Dollar Store and sharpen them until they can cut through paper edgewise?

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I'm still reeling over that essay about how Leverage was allegedly a cult-like cult. There are some specific points that give it a true Manson Family feel:

"People (not everyone, but definitely a lot of us) genuinely thought we were going to take over the US government.

One of my supervisors would regularly talk about this as a daunting but inevitable strategic reality (“obviously we’ll do it, and succeed, but seems hard”). Another supervisor bemoaned with some (performative?) unease the necessity of theories about violence and military skill, because they just couldn’t see any other way we’d get to world takeover level."

Similar revolutionary claims are made on the Less Wrong post:

"The stated purpose of the group was to discover more theories of human behavior and civilization by "theorizing", while building power, and then literally take over US and/or global governance (the vibe was "take over the world"). The purpose of gaining global power was to lead to better coordination and better outcomes for humanity."

If this were a right-wing group wouldn't that alleged goal to "literally take over the US", "(a lot of us) genuinely thought we were going to take over the US government" warrant an investigation by, um, the US government?

Then add to this already creepy story that (Leverage cult-leader) Geoff Anders just last month was one of Tyler Cowen's Emergent Ventures winners? (Jeffrey Epstein vibes.) (Does Emergent Ventures do any vetting or do well-connected Silicon Valley types simply connect themselves to such awards?)

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Sometimes on a website, I'll see that work wrap breaks words along syllable marks. Like

Mr Smith was ac-

cused of robbery

I look at the source, and "accused" is one word.

When did browsers get this power? Does it have a built-in dictionary that says when to split words? Is there a style-sheet option to let the browser do it that way?

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This is a quantum mechanics ---> free will post. I'd definitely forgive you for skipping it. The usual quantum mechanics - free will connection is "maybe free choice is a currently-unknown-to-physics "control" that "people" have over whether certain electrons in their brain are spin-up or spin down, and their bodies' behaviours flow out of that". I am not going to make that connection. This idea has definitely been articulated before

1) ASSUME the many worlds interpretation is true

2) ASSUME the following bit of psychology: people *love* looking back at their past decisions and saying that they define them. Like, "I'm just not the kind of person who would have left them lying by the side of the road". To me this seems very likely to be true, indeed it is exactly how people talk about their own morality.

3) ASSUME that, in a person's brain that, when they are in a state of genuine indecision about something, it is possible for their eventual decision to be influenced by quantum phenomena (eg again whether some bunch of electrons a certain sodium channel are spin-up or spin-down).

(I know 3 is a bit of a stretch (though note I'm not saying anything about microtubules!). For what it is worth I am a structural biologist who has studied quantum mechanics and neuroscience and I'd guess that this is true. If it isn't, this is only of theoretical interest but that's not nothing)

Putting this all together, we get that you can have two Everett branches containing, say, Alice1 and Alice2, looking back at a choice she made and saying "the decision I made about what to major in at college that day really defines me as a person", and in one branch she majored in philosophy and in the other she majored in physics.

Note how both Alices are, in some sense, correct. They could really become quite different people from one another.

It came down to what we could call a very trivial little random fluctuation. Consider the instant AFTER the fluctuation happened in Alice1's head, but BEFORE she became aware of anything different from what Alice2 would be experiencing. In this instant we could scarcely say they were very different people, because the difference between them is something that "they" have no "control" over.

But on the other hand, they are going to become different people, and they really did have something going on that distinguishes a decision they made. Which sounds like free will to me.

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Even if humans went extinct, wouldn't the big piles of rock and concrete we've created to build breakwaters like the one shown in the video survive for thousands of years? As long as the Great Pyramids?


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Any theories about why people are generally able to increase their strength, but not their IQ?

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My partner and I are trying to have a baby, which got me wondering about the state of embryo selection and other type of existing genetic manipulation that may improve my child's health outcomes.

Does anyone have any experience with such technologies? Where should I be looking at if I wanted to find out more about the current commercial applications?

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One thing that is fueling China's "lying flat" social movement is burnout over having to work very long hours. The "9-9-6" work week, which amounts to 72 hours, is a notorious national phenomenon.

If China's government somehow mandated that no one, with a small number of exceptions, could work more than 50 hours per week, what would be the effect on the country's economy, living standards, and on the other factors that the "lying flat" people complain about?

I suspect that it might backfire, and that "9-9-6" is propping the country up.

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For those who have been to the meetups, what is the gender ratio?

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Not sure this is appropriate from an open thread, but since we've recently discussed climate-related decision making.

Is there any way for a retail investor to invest in carbon-capture technology companies _today_?

Refining a little bit my rationale: I expect no significant international coordination to happen around preventing release of CO2 &co, and I expect that eventually (barring the technological singularity from happening) that eventually the only course of action for reducing significant climate change effects, if they start to inconvenience first world political elite, is to mandate CO2&co removal.

Thus, my question on whether there's any way to do some early investing in companies working in this area, other then maybe becoming an icelandic citizen?

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You are offered a pill that would make you immune to aging and all diseases, but would also severely hinder your long-term memory, so that it'd be hard for you to keep memories for longer than one month. Don't count on future medicine and technology to fix it.

Would you take it? Would your answer change if instead of a month it was one week, or one year?

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In the context of the recent post on architecture, it's pretty funny that the London meetup is in the most hatefully brutalistic anti-human location that exists in that city.

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Could interested people take a look at this paper, which looks at the prevalence of MDD pre- and post- COVID? The result that COVID has caused a lot of MDD is not all that surprising to me, nor is the pretty interesting finding that the mental health effects of COVID have absolutely swamped the physical health effects.

However, Table 1 has the authors look for explanations for what is causing the MDD. If I'm reading the table right (and I may very well not be), both the daily number of reported cases and lockdowns (as measured by decreasing human mobility) significantly increase the number of MDD cases, but the daily number of reported cases increases MDD by an order of magnitude more than lockdowns. This seems sort of logical based on Figure 3 - countries which I intuitively think of as being 'lockdown lite' have a lot of MDD increase, countries which I think of as being 'lockdown heavy' have minimal MDD increase.

I find this result really surprising and counterintuitive - it suggests that the first order result of lockdown is to cause MDD (for obvious reasons) but the second order result is to prevent MDD by preventing cases which somehow prevent MDD. I can tell a couple of 'just so' stories for why this should be the case (maybe the media hypes up case numbers which causes anxiety), but I certainly didn't predict it before reading this paper. In fact, I think the consensus was that there was a pretty direct tradeoff between mental health in lockdown and physical health in non-lockdown.

I wish the authors had worked harder at looking at the lockdown vs no-lockdown comparison - for example there's going to be an obvious correlation between a rising number of cases and the issuing of lockdown orders. But previously I thought there was almost no question at all that lockdown was net utility-negative (due to the mental health impact) whereas now I think I might have been quite seriously wrong for the past couple of years!

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I am looking for ancient sources on "primitive" thinking. How did people describe and think of the inner lives of non-states people, the rural, the uneducated, the foreign, especially the hunter-gatherer societies. I'm basically looking for anthropology sometime BCE, though I'll take sources up to the Middle Ages, too.

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"how to attract and retain talent"

"head of talent"

Why do businesses consistently refer to their (usually highly educated) workforce as "talent"? Instead of you know... "skill" or something

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Moving to the bay area (SF) soon. Reading books about bay area and startup culture at the moment. Just finishing Chaos Monkeys, recently finished Uncanny Valley. I also opened the Phoenix Project: I was amused to discover a book so dedicated to corporate-speak and stock and straw-men characters could exist (not a recommendation).

What perspectives on bay area/tech culture have you heard/read that stuck with you?

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Really enjoying "Midnight Mass" so far. What's fascinating about it is how much it feels like a Stephen King horror story - if you told me that it was adapted from a Stephen King short story or novella and I didn't know any better, I'd believe you.

Speaking of which, I'm going to re-read "The Shining" again this month. It used to be my favorite King novel, although it's been supplanted by "Pet Sematary" ("Shining" definitely has the better film adaptation, though).

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Here is a game. Me and my math and CS friends haven’t figured out an optimal strategy yet, so I present it to you.

5 players sit at a table in a circle. They are free to coordinate strategies before the game begins (knowing the rules), but no information can be given once the game begins.

At the start of the game, each player rolls 5 fair, six-sided dice (so there are currently 25 dice in play). They keep the dice the rolled hidden from the other players.

They then select one of their five dice and remove it from play (it’s been destroyed).

They then pass their four remaining dice to the player on their left.

They then remove a dice, pass, remove a dice, pass, and remove a dice so that each player has one dice if front of them.

All 5 remaining dice are then revealed, and ordered in ascending order. The players win if they have produced a 5 length straight (either 1,2,3,4,5 or 2,3,4,5,6) from their remaining dice.

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Traditional horary astrologer here: send me your query and I will use the tools of the astrological tradition to give an answer. My email is FlexOnMaterialists@protonmail.com. This is a free service; I am quite discreet.

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I don’t follow philosophy so this is more curiosity than a serious proposal. Couldn’t one turn Singer’s “drowning child” thought experiment around to make something like the opposite point based on the same intuition?

Suppose you’re walking to work and you see a drowning child. Doing a quick cost/benefit analysis—which, despite the speed with which you make it, you are confident is correct—you calculate that if you ignore this child and proceed to work, you will earn sufficient extra income to save three malnourished children in the third world. So you decide to ignore the child’s weakening cries for help and proceed to the office, knowing that you will add your marginal income for the time saved to charity. (Assume you’re paid by the hour, or paid piecemeal for your labor or something.)

The lesson: A universalist mindset with regard to altruism can lead one to become a moral monster who will ignore the particularized suffering in one’s direct experience.

I’m not saying that the latter thought experiment is better than Singer’s original. It just seems interesting to me that the intuitive (and obviously correct) imperative to save a drowning child could seemingly lead to opposite lessons depending on the choice made by the passerby. Singer wants to use the reader’s moral imperative to save the child as a hook to support the “universalist” approach, whereas many would probably view the “universalist” passerby walking past the drowning child to earn money for eleemosynary contributions to motivate the opposite moral approach.

(To the extent there is any value in this reverse-Singer thought experiment, I’m sure it has undoubtedly been presented much better by others in things I haven’t read. As noted, I don’t know philosophy.)

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The Schmitt thread pairs well with this smaller one on Fukuyama and the End of History https://mobile.twitter.com/ZoharAtkins/status/1446549049725890566

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Interesting article by Oliver Traldi at Arc Digital on ”Virtue signalling” and progressive culture (also relevant for the public perception/discussion of effective altruism): ”Dorland, at least in my imagining, thought the etiquette of a progressive writers’ group would be logical, just like a child might expect the English language to be logical. But she was wrong. You get praise for doing good not when you do good but when you do something that makes other people feel that they are good. Nothing points one out as a rube so quickly as this, as failing to realize that it’s all just a game; and that’s what the term “virtue signaling” is really meant to capture. Every hick, like me, makes the same mistake. We get to these prestigious social circles and can’t tell the salad fork from the steak knife or whatever, and we think: “Wow, there are so many rules in this society. They must care a lot about following them.” But that isn't right. It’s only the rube who cares about following the rules, in the end, and thus we’re the only ones who are surprised when different rules apply to different people. What the smart set cares about is making the rules.” https://www.arcdigital.media/p/my-kidney-for-your-approval

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Livestreaming musical events seems like it will only be a more common thing in the future, and the progression toward this has been drastically accelerated by the pandemic. Yet AFAICT there isn't an integrated idiot-proof DIY livestreaming device on the market; instead you have to enlist the expensive services of specialized engineers.

Why is this? Surely it can't be that technically difficult to integrate a decent camera and a couple of good microphones in a camcorder-ish box controlled by an app on one's phone, with the software to do a straightforward "here is the website you go to to view this livestream, login/buy this ticket/whatever to see it" kind of thing. Or can it? Is there complexity I'm missing here, or is the market too small, or is this coming and just not ready yet, or is it actually available already?

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London meetup location has changed. It's been updated in the comments to the lesswrong event sign-up, and people who've signed up were emailed with the new location.

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