So I starting reading through this odd print . And it’s a bit alarming considering the public health messaging . I don’t think I have the capacity to defend the paper but would love to listen to others on the subject


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Jan 15, 2022·edited Jan 15, 2022

Listening to the Shift mystic gospel talk and this guy is already annoying me.

Did you know that Aramaic is incapable of being conceptual? That you can't say "right" or "wrong" in Aramaic, those are Greek concepts? That it's a language rooted in nature and the earth, and you can only say things using agricultural metaphors?

It's the usual sort of vague concepts universally applied (so same in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.) and god/goddess stuff, but he's working "my family are Lebanese and my heritage is Aramaic" hard, and Christianity is all about living in harmony with everyone and everything.

There you go: all join hands and sing kumbaya, that's all it's all about!

Oh yeah, and Christianity went off the rails early, we have to go back to original Aramaic texts. Plus first use of word "patriarchy".

Your standard New Age stuff.

EDIT: And he's just name-checked Joseph Campbell! The inspiration for his "four part Gospels, four part journey, four parts in nature" gimmick!

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Jan 15, 2022·edited Jan 15, 2022

Saw this bit on nominative determinism (on the off chance it hasn’t been posted): https://twitter.com/70sbachchan/status/1476613566262386688?s=21

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Jan 14, 2022·edited Jan 14, 2022


Today I am being... spiteful! 👿

I have a Facebook which I only use to keep up with family members. For some reason, it is now being spammed with a particular type of ads - the spiritual awareness, psychic readings, learn your inner cabbage flavour malarkey.

Generally I have no trouble at all ignoring that, but one particular ad today really got me going because it annoyed me because it's that high-falutin' blend of dumb pop-culture Gnosticism (which has little or nothing to do with historical Gnosticisms) and appeals to authority, as in "this guy has a PhD! Impressive! So you can *really* trust him to know his onions!"

As an aside, yes STEM people I know this chancer comes out of the humanities, but the mystic magic effect of letters after the name does emanate from the aura of "trust me, I am a qualified expert, look at my high-class university qualifications". Ordinary people are going to be impressed, because of the association of "MD" with doctors, and "Professor Whozis" with lab-coat wearing scientists being interviewed on the latest astounding discovery. You can't be too smug about the humanities because the science guys with PhD after their name (hi, Neil!) use such to bolster their credibility as "I am Big Expert" in the public eye.

(I did say today was my day for being spiteful).

Okay, out of sheer "fudge you", I have signed up for the webinar tomorrow being hosted by The Shift Network (a term which has a different meaning in Ireland - yes, tomorrow evening I will be getting the shift! https://www.dailyedge.ie/getting-the-shift-3332738-Apr2017/), a site that has featured "over 3,100 thought leaders in domains as diverse as spirituality, holistic health, psychology, Qigong, somatics, Indigenous wisdom, enlightened business, yoga, herbalism, and peacebuilding."

So what, sez you, the usual grab-bag of New Age woo. Ah, but they like to throw in some pseudo-science bait to keep it all "cross our hearts, this is all based on Real Science!" for the college-educated lot:


I'm going to say here not that poor/working-class people don't fall for this kind of bilge, but that when they do, they stick to psychic phone lines, ghost-hunting shows on TV, and maybe going to a show featuring a medium or astrologer once in a while. You need the nice, middle-class types to fall for "this is quantum mitochondrial vibration" guff, e.g. a 'real' doctor who will teach you all about how to tone up your vagus nerve to, amongst other things, "Reduce tinnitus (ringing in the ears), TMJ, teeth grinding, and even fainting by regulating vagal tone

Access the energetic gateway to your gut — to balance your microbiome":


Right, after that lengthy prolegomenon, what has my knickers in a twist?

Here let me launch into "why is it always Catholics?" I'm sure the Orthodox have people like this, but you don't get them making public spectacles like this, or at least I haven't seen any. Our pal, Alexander John Shaia, PhD is a former Maronite Catholic (potted bio here https://www.quadratos.com/alexander-john/) who has made a niche out of exploiting 'hidden wisdom tradition' within Christianity with his own patent version (the quadratos, which seems to be taking the four Gospels and stitching them into a quilt of 'four seasons, four ways, four paths' mapping: https://www.quadratos.com/the-four-paths/ "Quadratos is a new name for the ancient, universal, four-path journey of growth and transformation. Recognized by every major religious faith and school of psychology, the four-path Journey is sequential, cyclical and never-ending.")

Fair enough, but why am I so annoyed by this? At best (and let's hope for the best), this is simply the mystical tradition at work, another modern Christian version of what the Jewish tradition did with kabbala. If St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and St. Dominic could all develop spiritual exercises and paths out of their mystical experiences, why not Dr. Shaia? At worst, it's another re-packaging of "Chicken Soup for the Soul" self-help bafflegab.

If the guy is just a shyster, a grifter, a conman in the long tradition of using a spiritual cloak to extort money and followers out of spiritually-striving boobs, why do I care? I don't know, maybe today is just a bad day to hit on this. I do take my faith seriously, so it does annoy me when I see someone using a combination of re-heated Gnosticism lifted straight out of that Dan Brown novel on top of allegedly Scriptural exegesis, sprinkled with appropriate buzzwords.

I'm finding "the Patriarchy" particularly grating, recently. Dr. Shaia promises to help us:

"- Excavate gifts for your transformation from Christianity’s mystical feminine teachings hidden beneath the shadow of patriarchy

- Learn how the Story of John may have been written by a woman"

"May have" is doing a lot of work there. Of course he has to appeal to "if you think nasty old traditional Christianity is anti-woman, here's my appealing new version which is all Divine Feminine".

I don't need that, thanks all the same, Al. So what makes me think this guy is a hoofler instead of a genuine if well-intentioned mystic? Well, this marketing angle (appeal to women, because they are going to be the majority of the spiritual strivers and seekers with disposable income and time out there) and this charming lump of absolute freakin' nonsense from his Quadratos main hustle page:

"This long awaited publication by Alexander John Shaia brings new depth and meaning to the celebrations and traditions of Christmas, rejoining the Festival of Christmas with its roots in the Celtic celebration of the Winter Solstice.

The ancient Celts celebrated for 13 Days at the Solstice in honor of the mysteries and power of birth, believing the Solstice to mark the rebirth of the sun and with its growing light the promise of life returning amid the barrenness of winter. Early Christians saw the beauty and truth of the Celtic rituals and added a new layer to the story—the story of a universal Jesus the Christ, born anew like the sun, in the midst of our own seasons of outer and inner darkness.

Follow along from the Winter Solstice to the 6th of January with Alexander John’s simple meditations and celebrations for each of the 13 days. This small book offers an essential practice for our time. We must remember that darkness is not the end. Rather, in the very moment of the deepest dark, new life begins."

(Breaking this into two pieces because it's running long and I don't want to hit Substack's comment limit)

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Jan 13, 2022·edited Jan 13, 2022

Yes, this study only looks at 12-19yo people. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find comprehensive data on the side effects. What I know from my own social circle (which is ~200 people dataset) is that my uncle lost hearing from his other ear (came back in two weeks) and one other friend developed nasty angina right after second dose. Also one of my close friends had a 15s seizure episode where he lost control of his limbs. He has never before had any seizure-like symptoms. Overall I would count the angina and my situation as serious which is 2/200.

-> From bayesian standpoint it seems unlikely that the serious side-effects for whole population are under one in a million but it's possible.

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Anyone else finding double responses? I find I have my response (and the responses to me) copied twice... weird. It might explain the large number of comments on this open thread.

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Jan 12, 2022·edited Jan 12, 2022

Meta-question: what is it with the obsession of this community about prediction markets? I think everybody understands that "past performance does not guarantee etc etc" so it's ultimately a futile effort. Sun rises every day but one day it won't. I see some people hope it helps them with the investing but passive indexes outperform active indexes anyway. Other than that, what is the allure? What is the allure to know the future in detail even?

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Anyone have thoughts on the long term future of prediction markets? I know they've been discussed here before, but they seem to be getting more traction and people involved + a ton of new ones are popping up. I think only one called that Scott mentioned before called Kalshi is actually regulated, but there are a ton on the blockchain too.

If they work out they could be a pretty useful information discovery tool, but I'm not sure how to think about their long-term viability / what to do to make them so? So many ones in the past have failed, but the PM literature is super interesting

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X-Post from LessWrong (https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/BvYJMhvC26Cxi2RPF/political-office-for-beginners):

If an American citizen was looking to run for office (from local, state, all the way to federal), what would be the recommended steps to take?

Specific questions that come to mind:

* How would a Millennial or Gen Z'er deal with existing social media accounts?

* How would a Gen X'er or Boomer create and navigate social media accounts and advertising?

* Where and how would the first $10,000 do the greatest good? First $100,000? Etc.

* Are there political grants/party grants/etc. available in the United States for less-funded campaigns?

* When should a citizen start campaigning for an election?

* Where and how would the first 100 hours do the greatest good? First 1,000? Etc.

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One issue that has been discussed on AstralCodexTen multiple times previously is that long term prediction markets are inefficient because the return you would get from being right is less than the return you would get by investing the money in more traditional ways. The idea that seemed obvious to me when I first read about this is for the prediction market to invest the money on your behalf while they have it, and return it with interest, like how banks handle savings. Is there some non-obvious reason why this wouldn't work?

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I think it’s time for Scott to revisit some of the older “more than you wanted to know” covid threads and evaluate if some of them were true or were ever true.

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My partner is looking for a position in the tech policy domain. I'm wondering if anyone here can recommend an organization with a strong ethical mission (civil liberties, social justice, existential risk) that would benefit from someone with a solid AI/tech background and communication skills.

My partner's specialty is AI safety, regulation, existential risk, that kind of thing. They've just graduated from MIT with a PhD in computer science and have experience in crafting policy and

state-level legislation. We live in Vancouver, WA currently, but are scouting out positions more broadly.

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Jan 12, 2022·edited Jan 12, 2022

I'm reading a book called "How Democracies Die". In this book, the authors give many examples of countries that were once democratic that were taken over by a demagogue with ambition. Examples include Chavez in Venezuela, Peron in Argentina, Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany, Orban in Hungary, Erdogan in Turkey, Putin in Russia, and many others.

One claim the book makes I found interesting is that political parties need to actively prevent demagogues from taking power. To back this claim, they give many examples of popular demagogues in the US that you've never heard of. You've never heard of them because the political parties refused to support them as candidates.

Then the book gives examples where ideological opposite parties ally to prevent demagogues from taking power. They give examples like Belgium in the 1930s, where a center right Catholic party allied with the socialist party to prevent the fascist party (modeled after Germany's Nazis) from gaining power. Many conservative Catholic voters supported the socialists such that they won.

Another more recent example is Austria in 2016, where the ÖVP (Austrian People's Party) kept the radial right Freedom Party (FPÖ) out of the presidency. The last two candidates remaining after the first round were former Green Party chair Van der Bellen and the FPÖ leader Norber Hofer. So some in the ÖVP, including former presidential candidate Andreas Khol and Chairman Reinhold Mitterlehner, as well as many rural mayors, supported their ideological rival Van der Bellen.

Anyway, the book makes the further claim that presidential systems are less stable against demagogues, because governing only happens through compromise. In parliamentary systems, the prime minister always has a governing majority. Most Latin American countries had presidential systems with legislatures and a supreme court modeled on the US.

I'm curious, can anyone point to counter examples to this, wherein a country with a presidential system, bicameral legislature, and supreme court, does not have a problem governing due to polarization and demagogues gaining power?

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So my wife and I have been doing some financial planning, and the topic of our kids’ college educations came up. So that led to the question of ballpark numbers for the cost of college in 16 years (the older kid just turned 2). Without getting into the weeds of whether college is worth the time and expense for a particular individual, I’m now curious about how colleges set their tuition and if there is any good way to make long-term predictions about college tuition. So if you’ve looked into this and have some insights, I welcome any comments. All I can find with my Google-Fu is a bunch of different websites repeating the claim that national average college tuition has been growing by 6% per year for the last ten-ish years, so the bar is pretty low. What follows is an account of the high-school-physics-level data analysis I did; feel free to ignore it if you want.

To narrow down the question, I just looked at in-state tuition for CU-Boulder (we live in Colorado and public universities seem to be more transparent about tuition than private ones). Since tuition depends on the number of credit hours taken, I assumed 15 credits per semester. I also only looked at tuition for SY ’05-’06 and later since CU made major changes to how they charged tuition for full-time students at that year. Then CU made a large tuition decrease in SY ’20-’21 which was facilitated by COVID relief money, and then for SY ’21-’22 brought the tuition back up to SY ’19-’20 levels. So my data set is tuition for the CU-Boulder College of Arts and Science from 2005-2019. Here’s the basic graph: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vRhcMYCa-LCcMXVHf7huePzxZaxwu46NMFDqXxoVbgsZJZs2rfE2YKLKVkM1dgyN4wO_PilN96paaXq/pubchart?oid=1896179159&format=interactive.

During this time, the cost of tuition increased (on average) 4.9% per year. But its not a particularly close fit, and a linear trend line actually fits the data better, if we go by R2 values. Extrapolating to 2038 gives $11,355 per semester using the linear fit and $17,215 using the exponential. My guess is that tuition will be somewhere between those two numbers, and I don’t really trust such a large extrapolation to be more precise than that. But because I was curious, I compared it to the US CPI and the Denver Metro Area CPI to try to link it to inflation. Unsurprisingly, there was a much closer link to the local CPI than the national, and the graph is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vRhcMYCa-LCcMXVHf7huePzxZaxwu46NMFDqXxoVbgsZJZs2rfE2YKLKVkM1dgyN4wO_PilN96paaXq/pubchart?oid=25903969&format=interactive

For what its worth, the Denver Metro CPI has increased on average by 2.4% per year, and that was very consistent in the time under consideration (much more so than tuition increases). So if I combine the relationship between tuition and CPI with that between CPI and time, I get a prediction of $13,635 per semester for the 2038 tuition. I don’t know if this is actually a better prediction than the limits set by the linear and exponential extrapolations but the fact that it falls between them is encouraging.

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So if I'm reading the conclusions from the Diseasonality threads correctly, the factors that lead to greater flu incidence in winter are mostly at the population, rather than the individual, level. Specifically, does it mean that dressing up warm doesn't protect you/children from the flu that much? Are there trials about this (sounds straightforward to do)?

What about the "common cold", whatever that is. Also not affected by keeping warm?

Relatedly, why do you get a runny nose (which is also a flu symptom) the moment you go outside to the cold and wind? Is it just a coincidence that it's also a flu symptom, and is affected by the cold?

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Jan 11, 2022·edited Jan 13, 2022

Tales from real estate development y'all may find interesting.

I'm building a duplex in Indianapolis. It's on a corner lot, which is a great location. However, big problem: The current zoning laws dictate that corner lot houses have to face the street with more houses on the block. This may seem like no big deal, except that I have a long, narrow lot, and the long side faces that street. The resulting buildable area is a 17'x138' rectangle. On a wider lot, this would be fine, but 17' is not enough to build a reasonable design. The garage alone is 24'x24'.

Everyone involved agrees that this rule is very stupid and makes no sense, including the (quite nice) people at the planning department, but there's also no way around this except for a variance.

So, I have to submit a variance request, which is a WHOLE GODDAMN THING. $600+ in application fees, for starters. Then I have to retrieve and display signage on the property, which, okay.

NOW I have to send letters to FIFTY-FIVE community organizations, homeowners, and real estate holding companies notifying them of the variance and giving them an opportunity to veto it. That makes no fewer than 56 veto points in the process, the first being of course the board of zoning appeals.

Sending paper letters to that many people is expensive and seriously time-consuming - I've spent over $140 on the needed materials so far and haven't even gotten to the actual "mailing the crap" part.

So in order to get approval to make my house point the same way as the other houses on the block, I lose about 2 months in my schedule, $800 so far, and all of the hair this process has caused me to pull out.

TL;DR of course the rent is too damn high.

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Does evolution have to start with spontaneous generation? Does spontaneous generation have to start with divine intervention?

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Jan 11, 2022·edited Jan 11, 2022

What are good spaces to post classifieds for rationality/EA types?

More specifically, what is the policy on shilling in the ACX Open Thread?

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Scott had written about the future of polygenic selection of babies. There is now a metaculus essay about it, with questions to forecast: https://www.metaculus.com/notebooks/9247/polygenic-selection-of-embryos/

(Not unrelated: I wrote the essay (!), somewhat inspired by Scott's piece to ask these questions on metaculus)

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I thought of something after reading your post on homeopathy again which you linked from your movie talk,

Yes there is a placebo effect and also I saw Dr Ben goldacre years ago talking about a nacebo effect but would the real test (or control? Or whatever) be the complete opposite? Like if someone DIDN'T have a clue if they were drinking something homeopathic and still got effects?

Has anyone ever had their drink spiked homoeopathically?

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Are there any speed reading systems that actually work? I've been stuck around 250wpm forever and I feel very IO limited like an 8-core CPU with a 56k internet connection. I often listen to audiobooks at 1.75x which is coincidentally also around 250wpm. I would rather have neo's ability to download data than have a left hand.

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Lately, I’ve noticed that people seem to use “Just because it fits the data, doesn’t mean it is true. Correlation isn’t causation” as a way of shutting down a discussion on a theory they don’t want to discuss. I basically interpret it as “I don’t want to discuss this. Please shut up.” These days, I just oblige.

But recently I’ve been thinking, if correlation with existing data and a narrative for how it works isn’t enough to mean a theory isn’t true or at least plausible, then what is enough?

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Exercise confusion: Glycolysis, the main pathway to free up energy in anerobic exercise is ten times less efficient than oxidative energy production that is used for aerobic exercise. Wouldn't that mean that anerobic exercise should produce 10 times more weight loss than aerobic exercise if matched for total work.

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Bret Weinstein was pushing worry about mRNA vaccines, as not adequately proven to be safe.

I don't know what, if anything, he's been saying on the subject lately, but so far as I know, mRNA vaccines haven't turned out to be especially dangerous, and I'm wondering what would be adequate evidence that they're generally safe.

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Jan 11, 2022·edited Jan 11, 2022

On Dec. 26, 2021, Edward O. Wilson, one of the greatest, and kindest, scientists of the 20th century, died at the age of 92.

On Dec. 29, Scientific American published an "Opinion" piece ( https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-complicated-legacy-of-e-o-wilson ) calling him just another dead racist whose "dangerous ideas" must be forgotten if we want an equitable future. It called for science journal articles to henceforth be annotated with comments from humanities scholars to provide "context" for their "problematic aspects", and for "commitments from the entire scientific community to determine the portions of historically problematic work ... to be debunked and replaced."

(Also, Darwin and Gregor Mendel were also racist, as is the normal distribution, and physics, which is ruled by "white empiricism". Also, "the application of the scientific method" condemns seeking the specific causes of the inequitable outcomes faced by blacks in America when they can all be explained by structural racism.)

Laura Helmuth, editor-in-chief of *Scientific American*, tweeted that (https://twitter.com/laurahelmuth/status/1476531766118682625) the opinion piece was an "Insightful critique of E.O. Wilson's work & racism inherent in genetics".

(It's unclear whether Scientific American will stick to its claim that genetics is inherently racist by refusing to publish any more articles on genetics.)

The only reference to anything Wilson did or said is the claim that his 1975 book *Sociobiology* "contributed to the false dichotomy of nature versus nurture and spawned an entire field of behavioral psychology grounded in the notion that differences among humans could be explained by genetics, inheritance and other biological mechanisms."

This is a lie in several ways. For one, Wilson was the one debunking the dichotomy of nature versus nurture, by presenting examples of how genes and environment interacted to shape evolution, at a time when academic Marxism was enforcing the dogma that human behavior is infinitely flexible and *entirely* due to environment. For another, Wilson could hardly have spawned behavioral psychology in 1975, because John Watson published "Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It" in 1913. For another, the focus of that final chapter of *Sociobiology* is on the differences between humans and other animals, not between humans and other humans.

There are certainly things in *Sociobiology* that some people would call racist and sexist. Genetics is, in fact, inherently racist and sexist, if by that we mean that it claims that genetic differences can lead to behavioral differences. Wilson expects that male and female humans have some different innate abilities and proclivities, just as the male and female of every other mammalian species (except possibly wolves) has. He says nothing about racial differentiation, but does ask how genetics might interact with social stratification (as any evolutionary biologist who actually cared about social stratification would have to).

Dr. Wilson, like his enemies, had an intense political commitment: his greatest concern was the extinction of other species by humans. He was *literally the most pro-diversity person on the planet*. Yet as far as I know, unlike his backstabbing Harvard colleagues like Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, he never slanted his research to promote his politics.

I admire Dr. Wilson for more than just his science. The personality he revealed in his books is beautiful. He's been more gracious to me personally than anyone else in academia ever was. I'd like to go through what he wrote, and show that he didn't publish anything morally wrong, and did many things morally right; and what a wonderful person he was, and what an injustice SciAm has done by damning him at just the time they should have praised him.

But, as much as I'm outraged at how Ed Wilson has been unjustly vilified, whether or not he or his science was racist is *beside the bigger point*. Even if he /had/ been an unrepentant racist, and his theories had been used to justify racist policies, it would be wrong to suppress them.

Scientific American isn't alone. Nature and Science, formerly considered the two greatest science journals in the world, both committed recently to take race and racial issues into account in deciding whom to hire and what to publish (although neither proposed outright suppression or a collective project of retrospective purgation).

It took Western civilization 3000 years, from the Greek Dark Age almost to the present, to learn the lesson that our epistemology--the way we decide what we believe--must be firewalled from our ideologies. *That was the main point of the Enlightenment*. This is because very right things can look wrong to people who believe wrong things, and nobody is always right. And from the time Europeans began voicing this opinion in the 17th century, it took centuries more of violent struggle, including actual wars, *including the one against the Nazis*, to make that firewall a reality. Not a completely flame-proof reality, but a powerful social construct nonetheless; and one that was constructed not to concentrate power, but to disperse it.

What's at stake here is empiricism and liberalism itself--the hard-won knowledge that physical evidence is more reliable than revelation, that no one is always right, that diversity is better than unity, and that free speech and free action is more helpful than hurtful. We no longer suppress observations that seem to contradict the words of the Bible; neither should we suppress them if they seem to contradict the words of Marx, Foucault, or Cornel West.

The wave of the counter-Enlightenment that began 400 years ago, whose many ideologues each longed for a world where their own private prejudices would rule supreme, is now cresting and *might win*. It seems in some ways to be at the stage the Nazis were at in 1934, after consolidating their power, when they began to persecute Jews and empirical philosophers (it was the Nazis who solidified the power of "continental philosophy" in France and Germany) and rewrite the history books.

Democracy went extinct in Europe in the 4th century BCE, and remained almost inconsequential there for the next 2000 years. If it wins control over America and Europe now, it might be another 2000 years before anything like liberal republicanism or democracy appears again. I am not being hyperbolic. The problem with being America is that we can't count on America to rescue us.

Scott Aaronson declared that he would no longer write for, nor take interviews from, Scientific American ( https://scottaaronson.blog/?p=6202 ). Jerry Coyne, whom I'd never heard of but apparently he has 73,000 subscribers, wrote an angry post critiquing the whole mess ( https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2021/12/30/scientific-american-does-an-asinine-hit-job-on-e-o-wilson-calling-him-a-racist/ ). But SciAm has never asked to interview me, and I don't have 73,000 subscribers. So I brooded on this for days, feeling utterly helpless, before it struck me that I'm not completely helpless. There was, in fact one thing I could do to help: I could vote Republican.

I am totally serious about this. I'm going to vote party-line Republican from now on until we beat back this madness. Climate change and structural racism in America are utterly trivial compared to the prospect of dismantling science and liberalism. Nothing the Democratic party stands for is worth the extremism it tolerates in its attempt to "motivate the base". 10 years ago, I *was* the Democratic base, but now I'm leaving. I'll even vote for Donald fucking Trump if the Republicans foolishly insist on running him.

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If Biden declared Trump a domestic terrorist and had him assassinated by drone strike, would he have broken any laws?

My understanding based on Obama-era precedent is that:

* the President has total authority over the Disposition Matrix and may place anyone he wants on it

* this includes US citizens

* the War on Terror extends over the entire globe

Of course there are a million *political* reasons why he would never do this, but I'm curious if there are any *legal* ones.

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Does anyone here have a strong interest in or opinion on riverine or littoral naval warfare and economic activity? I'm doing a thing where I'd like to have at least a somewhat detailed and accurate picture of this since it is a major part of the experience. Given where I'm from I wanted to have a geography that had an excessive amount of river/lake/delta/inner sea related area.

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How can I, for the least expenditure of money, negate my lifetime's carbon footprint up to this point in my life? How do I even calculate what my footprint has been?

I was thinking of donating money to a land trust to buy forests or wetlands somewhere in the Third World for preservation. Of course, it only accomplishes my goal if the land was 100% sure to be bulldozed and paved over otherwise, which I'm not sure I could prove would have been the case.

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From Zvi’s recent covid post:

> I’m going to tentatively put my probability that China keeps Omicron contained at 40%, but I don’t have great knowledge about many details that could update that, including the opinions of others who have thought about it. So I would update quickly, especially if someone offered to wager on either side.

This virtuous disclaimer serves a function that feels missing to me in “report my probabilities and later check if they were calibrated”— how confident are you in this prediction?

One fun and badass fix would be: offer both sides of a bet! "I'll bet right now for at 35% implied and against at 45%" is a lot different than the same @5% and @95%. You can still update if you get a lot of interest but if you don't bet at least one taker that's bad form and people should consider your bullshit called, and take you less seriously.


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Did we ever figure out what percent of COVID cases are asymptomatic? Seems like something pretty important and I remember a ton of speculation back in 2020, but discussion seems to have died down about that.

Also, is there a different symptomatic/asymptomatic rate for different variants? A priori I would guess that this ratio is directly related to viral strength (so all variants' ratios would be the same, except Omicron, which would have relatively kore asymptomatic cases). I know very little about this, though.

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Should gain-of-function research on contagious diseases be considered a crime against humanity? What are the benefits that offset the current pandemic?

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The Earth's northern hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun from c. September 21 through the new year until c. March 21. The decreased density of the solar radiation, and shorter time of sun exposure, causes winter. The maximum tilt away from the Sun is defined as the Winter Solstice.

And conversely, the Earth's northern hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun from c. March 21 until c. September 21. The increased density of the solar radiation, and longer time of sun exposure, causes summer. The maximum tilt away toward the Sun is the Summer Solstice.

Mitigating that, though I don't know to what extent, is that the Earth's closest annual approach to the Sun (perihelion) happens in January, typically the coldest part of the (northern hemisphere) winter. Conversely, the Earth is farthest away from the Sun in July (aphelion), which should, in the northern hemisphere, mitigate or moderate the effects of the Earth's tilt somewhat.

But, I (as someone living at c. 50 N) wonder then, whether the seasons are more extreme in the southern hemisphere, where these effects are additive rather than subtractive.

It seems that the distance between perihelion and aphelion (147M km vs. 154M km) is significant enough that there should be a measurable effect.

Thoughts on this from the community? Thanks, just idly curious.

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Possibly OT:

One technical annoyance about reading comments on substack (as opposed to e.g. reddit) is the collapse subthread behaviour.

On reddit, if you collapse a subthread, you will automatically be scrolled to the item below whatever you collapsed. On substack, if you collapse a thread, the length of the page will change (obviously), but your scroll position (relative to the page start) will not.

Say you are reading thread number n, and after some messages (scrolling down k pixels), you decide to skip the rest and click collapse. Instead of thread n+1 being visible, you will view whatever is at (approximately) thread n+1 plus k pixels. You might end up deep in the discussion of n+1, or at n+3, or whatever. Practically, this means I am less likely to read more than one or two screenfuls into a thread I am likely to collapse eventually.

Does anyone else here observe that behaviour? If so, does anyone prefer that to the reddit-style "scroll to next item" behaviour? Has anyone bugged substack about this yet?

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Jan 10, 2022·edited Jan 10, 2022

There’s too much incivility here, and I think the amount is increasing. I would say that we should do something about it, except that “we” are not in a position to do much, because we are thinking, feeling and posting in a Scottocracy. I am pretty OK with that set-up, but believe it is time for people to prod Scott to take some action to curb the incivility. It is damaging the forum.

Scott, recently, in a discussion of somebody’s rude post about his *Don’t Look Up* review: “The combination of insulting and wrong gets you banned.” Well, but posts don’t really sort into a box with 4 compartments identified by rude vs polite and right vs.wrong. Rudeness/courteousness and rightness/wrongness are both dimensions along which comments can vary, so what we actually got here is a Cartesian communication space, with 2 axes. Now what? Even if we ban the entirety of Quadrant III, rightness less than 0, courteousness less than 0, how do we make decisions about points in the rest of the space? Is everything in the other quadrants acceptable? If somebody savagely attacks somebody else, but makes a single halfway decent point while doing so, is that OK? Or is there a case for banning that fucker (or at least deleting his post)?

Even if we came up with a formula spelling out what ratio of rightness to rudeness makes a post acceptable it wouldn’t really be useful, because who would want to spend their time making the judgment calls about whether somebody’s cleverness is sparkles brightly enough to make their rudeness tolerable? Surely not Scott, and I’m guessing not you either, reader. So I’m proposing an easy-to-implement approach: Let’s ban primitive verbal abuse, hereafter called PVA.

Here is a specimen. It’s a close cousin of an actual post made here recently, altered enough to obscure its origin:

“For fuck’s sake, screw your head on straight you vengeful heartless lunatic.”

The comment qualifies as PVA because (1) its main intent is clearly to distress the recipient and (2) it has very little substantive content.

The great thing about feature 2 is that it frees the mod from Cartesian considerations. There is no need to consider the rightness-wrongness dimension when adjudicating the case against posts like this one, because it has so little substantive content that it extrudes barely at all into the right/wrong dimension. PVA is heavy on words that are meaningful if used literally, but are being used in a way that has very little meaning beyond “should be despised.” It is impossible to make a good case that someone is a moron, a lunatic, heartless, a brat or a piece of shit, unless you are using one of these terms literally. (And if anyone here identifies a post made by an ACTUAL BLOB OF FECES, I fully support their calling out the poster, even in ALL CAPS.)

In my PVA specimen there is only one word that means anything: *vengeful*. But as it’s used here, it too has very little meaning beyond *despicable*. It would certainly be possible to make a case that somebody’s post is vengeful — though I think you’d have to write a long, smart paragraph to make the case that the post in question is an exercise in revenge, rather than, say, an effective takedown of somebody else’s idea. But the specimen’s author isn’t saying the target’s post was vengeful, he’s saying the target is a vengeful person — and to make a case for that, you’d have to write a whole New Yorker length article.

The incivility on this forum is destructive, because incivility breeds more incivility. Nobody is at their best when rudely attacked. Some will fire back with more of the same, and even people with the restraint not to do so are likely to become more irritable. And when people whose habitual style is incivility read ACX and notice a fair amount of that stuff here, they’ll see our forum as fun place to hang out. And all that goes double for PVA. I have received some PVA comments here, and it felt sort of like having someone spit in my face. It was startlingly unpleasant, and in the aftermath I could feel myself becoming temporarily dumber, meaner and more impulsive.

So I’m proposing that this forum implement some simple system for reporting PVA. How about a *Report* button under each post? I have 2 practical suggestions for making the system as simple and effective.

-Scott, you could probably hire a grad student to identify and deal with unacceptable incivility, following standards you spell out. If all you’re after is PVA, the task would be especially easy. I’m sure there are plenty of grad students who would see the job as WAY better than being a TA. (In my town, they now call themselves TF’s — “Totally Fuckeds.”)

-Remove unacceptable posts, rather than leaving them up with *(banned)* by the poster’s name. That way, you are punishing the poster by removing his turd from the limelight, and also sparing everyone else the unpleasantness of stepping in it.

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Can anyone steelman a notion about regression for IQ regression for mean from POV of person like Kevin Bird who believe that high heritabilities from twins studies are confounded (PGS are giving more population stratification, etc etc) and true genetic heritability is low? Why would couples of 160 IQ produce children with 130 IQ but not children with 160 IQ? The answer if easy if you accept genetic explanation. And theirs is?

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Does anyone have a good refutation of Scott’s post steelmanning NIMBYs? It seems to me like the actual effect on rent from building lots isn’t that pronounced as we would like to think. The literature seems to say the same but I don’t know if Im reading these results properly. I keep thinking of Scott bringing up New York as an incredibly dense city where most inhabitants still give away half their paycheck in rent every month.

Edit: it was dumb not to include the post


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Anybody knows good resources regarding mindfulness meditation and depression? A friend is going through a depressive episode and we're trying to find out if she should continue meditating and if there are specific forms of meditation that might (not) be helpful.

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Does anyone have a good understanding of why direct capture of CO2 from the air is so hard to do efficiently at scale?

Is it the thermodynamics of separating the molecules, the low proportion of CO2 molecules in the air, the energy required to force air through the system, all of these and more? Or is it just that we haven't been trying to invent and built these technologies for very long?

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Like many people I'm annoyed at how weak our understanding of nutrition and the long term effects of different diets/etc is. Running well designed study to learn more would be insanely expensive and would take a very very long time. There probably isn't any institution out there that would currently fund such a thing. But if someone *would* it seems like it would be massively beneficial for humanity. I'm curious if anyone has tried or even tried to design such a study.

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I'd like advice on trying nootropics to enhance my ability to focus on cognitively challenging tasks. I'd like to test the nootropics one at a time (so not a supplement that has like 20 different ingredients). I also don't want to take anything that requires a prescription (so modafinil and Adderall are out), and I don't want to do nicotine for fear of getting addicted. What are some of the best nootropics to try first? I'm leaning toward creatine and phenylpiracetam, but I'm open to suggestions.

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Description of a gigantic searchable collection of conspiracy theories.

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Jan 10, 2022·edited Jan 10, 2022

If anyone is interested in a toy example of the different approaches of navigating a search space, there have been a bunch of posts recently about efficient strategies for the game Wordle (last one is my own):




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I just read that some military communications are "speeded up transmissions," and that sometimes, when you hear a momentary burst of static while listening to the radio, it's actually a military message. Is this true? Does anyone know more about this?

How much data can such transmissions cram into a one-second long radio pulse?

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I have an idea for a simple product I'd like to sell. It's a pet litter box with a removable metal grate that would separate the pet from the litter below. How do I go about finding a manufacturer, and getting the ball moving with this? I'd like to sell the litter boxes myself through Amazon.com.

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See down-thread for almost everyone thinking it obvious or at least widespread knowledge that the covid vaccines don't and/or shouldn't protect against transmission, and particularly in the case of omicron. Given this consensus, I wonder where the community stands with regard to the justification of vaccine mandates at *this* stage in the course of things. In particular I'd be interested in hearing from those who are strongly in favor of mandates, and especially from those who think they can formulate a compelling legal (i.e. not simply moral) basis for their position.

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I have a strong tendency to trust the scientific consensus. Of course Scott has a post about this (https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/04/17/learning-to-love-scientific-consensus/), but it's also the simple, obvious logic that most experts know more than I do about their own subject.

But I have one annoying exception that's really frustrating my epistemic model of the world, and that's the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquatic_ape_hypothesis).

I love the AAH! It strikes me as a smart and elegant idea with the ability to explain so much of what's unique about human anatomy.

I won't go into the entire theory here (though might in the comments below), but in a nutshell, AAH allows us to take one big geographic factor (changing sea-levels forcing early humans to adapt to life along the seashore) and we suddenly have a good explanation for a variety of major factors including:


Subcutaneous fat

Loss of fur

Weak sense of smell

Extreme loss of water and salt while sweating

Communication via words.

The list goes on.

If you read Elaine Morgan's Scar's of Evolution you get a tour de force making this hypothesis seem super likely. I flatter myself as someone who can detect a crank or a nutjob and this just isn't the case. She's also gotten approval from heavyweights like Daniel Dennett, and even Richard Dawkins gave it a nod in his book The Ancestor's Tale.

Of course, there are aspects that are a lot weirder and bigger stretches, but open intriguing doors of consideration:

Aquatic Mammals tend to have higher levels of intelligence.

Elephants seem to be another example of a mammal that went semi-aquatic then returned to life on land.

Males going bald but females not (don't even ask lol).

I fully understand that there are alternative explanations for everything. This is clearly an open debate with lots of gaps in our understanding.

But I just can't understand how the Scientific consensus seems so dismissive of this great idea.

Nobody talks about AAH, there are no good video essays either explaining or explaining why it's wrong.

I've tried looking into a proper debunking but nothing seems impressive or convincing.

The scientific consensus seems to regard this idea as not even worth considering for some reason.

But here we have an amazing theory that's initially counter-intuitive, but on further reflection explains a lot.

I'd love to hear the thoughts of people here. Am I just too stuck on an outdated idea that's easily proven false, or maybe I'm wrong about the scientific consensus, perhaps?

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Is anyone here following development status of omicron specific boosters?

I don´t, honestly, they will not help with this wave. But I´m starting to be moderately concerned about a new wave next winter, due to waning immunity. It would be nice to avoid it, and omicron specific boosters seem like maybe best option (?)

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YIMBY supporters (or YIMBY Ideological Turing Test passers) of ACX: What’s the YIMBY case (if any) for the existence of public parks rather than, for example, bulldozing Central Park to make way for more housing? Is there in fact a consistent argument against this?

Applying what I understand to be the basic principles / arguments in favor of YIMBY principles, it seems that public parks are – broadly speaking – the ultimate YIMBY anathema (I’m being only partially tongue in cheek here, I think I’m applying what I generally see as the core pro-YIMBY arguments):

• Unlike low-density zoned homes, public parks house literally no one, and thus preclude people living in the city center even more than single-family zoning does, and thus represent the maximum in opportunity costs vis a vis land that could be, but isn’t used for residential development

• Proximity to public parks generally (modulo ones that become popular drug dealer / criminal / homeless hangout spots) increases property values in the area, which prevents people lower down on the income ladder from living there in there, which as I understand it is among the chief terminal goals of YIMBYism (i.e., to bring down housing prices).

Now, obviously accusing YIMBYs of wanting to bulldoze central park for more apartment buildings is the sort of thing that would typically have a strong negative emotional valence, so I’m concerned that this risks being a straw man, but I’m not certain that that’s true here--perhaps the YIMBY argument is that you just bite that bullet, in fact the economic value of shoving more people into the city center is virtually always going to be larger than the economic value of a public park, and if parks create so much utility then they can pay their own rent in the form of private parks that people can pay to enter—and the fact that these are thin on the ground suggests that in fact parks are and essentially always will be a suboptimal use of land that can only exist by thwarting the march of the private market.

Alternatively, the (in my view weaker) YIMBY-compatible argument for public parks might be that there’s a difference in kind between the utility of public greenspace in parks—which anyone can enter—versus private greenspace as imposed in the form of setbacks and lawns / minimum lot sizes.

I don’t think this argument is totally specious (in particular, I would agree that the utility of greenspace tends to scale superlinearly with its contiguous area. I would say that Central Park provides much more value than a set of microparks of equivalent size scattered throughout New York. Also there are many activities that just can’t reasonably take place (or take place only in a dramatically degraded manner) in smaller areas—frisbee, sports fields, wildlife habitats, etc.), but I don’t think that that argument directly responsive to the kind of bulldozer utility-maximization arguments that are the core of YIMBY—parks can have superlinear utility but still have less total utility than apartment buildings do.

However, beyond the superlinear utility argument (which isn’t a knockdown) arguments that public greenspace intrinsically provides more utility than private greenspace *in a way that justifies deviation from laissez-faire land use* seem weak. Despite being public, parks are going to provide dramatically more utility to people who live in their immediate area than to the residents of a city at large, which creates an (admittedly imperfect) analogy with the private enjoyment of lawns being enjoyed by the owners of said lawns (and as the SFH-zoning contingent would often say, lawns create public external utility because SFH neighborhoods both look and are significantly nicer places to be than denser neighborhoods, which is why SFH zoning is a thing in the first place). And without a superlinearity argument, it would seem to be arbitrary whether the geographically-limited benefits of a park are distributed among many parcels for *de jure* private enjoyment versus a different set of parcels for *de facto* private enjoyment by dint of the costs in time and travel imposed on those who aren’t geographically proximate. As far as I can tell the counterargument to *that* might be something like a set of apartment buildings providing for more intensive and efficient use of greenspace for enjoyment rather than individual houses with lawns that are 99% unoccupied, but I think that while this is a decent argument it isn’t a knock-down (in brief, because lawns provide externality reduction in addition to recreation space, and because more intensive use of the commons tends to degrade their utility).

So, TL;DR: YIMBYs, why shouldn’t we bulldoze Central Park and cover it with apartment buildings?

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Jan 10, 2022·edited Jan 10, 2022

Is there a way in Substack comments to collapse each top-level comment and replies or to just skip to the next one? I find it very annoying to have to manually scroll past long sub-threads on topics I'm not interested in, especially because the indentation differences are hard to follow.

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This got some great responses over on FdB's substack, so I want to ask the smart people over here as well:

Does anyone here have a story of learning a new language in their adult life, especially with a focus solely on reading/writing*? I'm attempting to take up German. I've been doing Duolingo for the last two weeks, and I plan to start supplementing it by hand-translating books on botany or something. Lots of people seem to recommend Anki but that seems so soulless to me.

*I say solely on reading/writing because I have no interest in speaking verbally to people in the language. I just want to read fountain pen forums and philosophy books dammit!

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It seems that any expert working in a giving area will typically be "alarmist" about whatever they are an expert on. There's probably a couple of reasons for that. The most simple is that if you spend all of your day focused on a topic it will probably be more important to you than other people. Second is that you are more likely to know about all possible catastrophic potential. And third, if your life/income is tied to an industry/topic, the more "alarm" there is about it, the more funding *and* importance you'll have.

I think this is true of everything from climate change to virology to diet and economic issues. I feel like this is a topic Scott may have touched on, but I don't remember anything specific.

Is this a common thought/understanding? Is there a name for it? (Or am I off base here?)

If so, what do we about it in an era where we *need* to "trust the experts" and "follow the science"?

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Jan 10, 2022·edited Jan 10, 2022

I am concerned that the [edit: longtermist] effective altruist community is committed to ending all human consciousness and thereby ending all human value. This seems inconsistent with their stated aims.

There's a dominant strand of thought in that community that uploaded people would be conscious and therefore the best way to increase long term utility would be to transition human society to computers.

David Chalmers has a good account of the view that computers would be conscious here:


His view is that if you created a computer that replicated the outputs of a brain region for a given set of inputs, when connected all together we should consider the simulated brain to be conscious since it would be functionally equivalent.

Here's my sketch of the problem. If you think that the existence of consciousness depends on the physics/metaphysics of our universe, I don't think such a machine can be conscious in the same way humans are.

The meta problem of consciousness is the difficulty of explaining why humans talk about consciousness. A lot of theories of consciousness give an explanation for why we might have consciousness (atoms are conscious, sufficient computation generates consciousness etc), but the meta problem asks how the consciousness that is generated can causally affect our utterances (for instance this comment). If we think that the correct theory of consciousness will be able to solve this problem, then the statements of conscious systems about their consciousness should be causally affected by their conscious states.

In other words, the outputs of a system that is conscious in our universe should be different in a universe that does not allow consciousness (even if such a universe is merely a philosophical possibility). i.e. if you "turn off" consciousness in our universe, we would presume that our behavior would change (even if the only change is that philosophy of mind seminars become really boring).

Unfortunately, a computer simulation of a brain cannot fulfil that requirement. If we simulated a brain, then at some level, the brain and the input of a question "are you conscious?" can be represented as a Turing machine with a given state. A Turing machine's outputs are logical truths in the same way as 2+2=4 is. We don't think that metaphysics or physics affects whether 2+2=4 is true and by the same logic, the output of a Turing machine with a given set of inputs should not vary according to metaphysics either.

What this means is that the simulated human brain's answers about whether it is conscious cannot be causally connected to whether it is conscious or not. If we think that the meta problem of consciousness should be solvable by a correct theory of consciousness, this means that simulated minds are doing some fundamentally different from human brains when they talk about their claimed conscious states.

Basically, human brain uploading is a process precisely designed to build zombies that will trick us (and themselves) into thinking they are conscious.

If you are an illusionist about consciousness, then none of this should trouble you because you don't think there is a hard problem of consciousness. But, if you think that consciousness does exist, you should be really worried that brain uploads would report exactly the same internal experiences in a universe without consciousness.

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First, I apologize to Scott if this is not appropriate to post here, and will delete it if that's the case.

My father is a programmer who mostly worked for energy companies in the Houston area throughout his career. In his retirement, over the past decade and more, he's been working on what appears to me to be a very powerful machine learning modality based on specification logic (S-logic), which uses developmental networks called S-networks for learning and prediction. I'm an archaeology professor, so far from an expert on this stuff. What I write here will rely on what he's explained to me, the introductory documents he's written, and what I've seen of this methodology.

S-networks are self-constructing software objects that use aspects of S-logic (including model trees, weight interval probabilities, and multi-dimensional vector distance) to learn and predict complex memories. S-networks are a kind of neural network, but they differ from other neural networks in widespread use, and the methodology was developed independently of existing neural networks. I understand that S-networks are never subject to "catastrophic forgetting," for one thing.

An S-network provides a service to a client application, existing in its own partition separate from the application that relies on it. It starts off with no memories at all, and begins learning and predicting immediately and indefinitely as it accumulates disparate types of data. The foundational S-network software service is provided as an API with versatile tools for developmentally learning complex situations, prioritizing them, recognizing them, and reporting those recognitions, which should facilitate software development methodologies that emphasize modular design and separation of function. Client applications might produce very complex developmental learning situations, but when they use S-networks, all of the retained learning complexity resides separately in the S-networks. An application interacts with an S-network to record its restricted view of events and receives predictions from the S-network at a neural scope corresponding to a high-level complex situation previously learned, involving that application and potentially other agents. Each application/agent can then optionally use the S-network to record additional learning about a new response, which might mean adding new types of data, adding to detailed memories for an existing type of data, or adjusting biases of memories, for example, those involved in ambiguous predictions. I've observed this modality in use; we've been experimenting with it as a tool for placing archaeological ceramic sherds in ceramic types (a technical concept in archaeology analogous to "species" in biology), and it works.

The reason I'm posting this is that my father is looking for potential collaborators who might be interested in working with him on this methodology, with a view to their building a business. (My dad does not want to be involved with *running* the business; he wants to focus on developing S-logic and S-networks.) It's that commercial aspect that makes me hesitant to post about it here in Scott's space; I don't want to spam the open thread for private gain. But considering that this tool is extremely powerful, with potential applications for everything from heavy industry to social media, I thought I might reach out to a community many of whose members are software developers who are (importantly) aware of AI risk. I've been reading SSC/ACX since about 2014, and if very little technical knowledge about AI has rubbed off on me, I do know that about the readership. My father and I are both a little apprehensive about potential abuses of this tool, which I won't go into here.

Anyhow, if anybody would like to find out more, I would like to put my dad in touch with people who are able to build on this work in ways that I can't. My Gmail address is cociyo, and if you would like, I can share a longer and more detailed introduction to S-logic/S-networks and connect you with my father. I live in Central Texas; my parents live in Georgia but should be living in Michigan in about a year - but geography is perhaps not very important to this kind of undertaking.

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I'm currently ~150 pages into Godel, Escher, Bach and can't describe what the book is about or even what I'm benefiting from reading it, other than it being quite enjoyable at times. I'm currently enrolled in uni (bio-chem) so any reading is somewhat of an opportunity cost to me.

Could anyone share their experiences with it and/or what you took from the book?

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I've been wondering about how people who don't understand technical complexities, and who know they don't, make decisions about which experts to trust. I have a hunch that i'm hoping people can poke holes in: most debates between competing people claiming to be experts aren't really about technical complexity; they are just debates about values in disguise.

For example, some people hate cryptocurrency all-together, some are 'bitcoin maximalists', and some are into 'cryptocurrency' as a general thing. I don't think most people involved here understand most of the technical details. So how does someone decide to become, say, a bitcoin maximalist if they don't understand what a consensus algorithm really is?

My hunch is that people are using their existing values, and seeing how well they map onto the kinds of arguments made in different communities. For example: bitcoin tends to draw more right-leaning people, because of its libertarian ethos. Even if people don't understand the details of technical arguments, anyone with a libertarian bent gets a vibe from the community around bitcoin which is very much aligned with their existing values: “don't trust institutions, people in general are shitty, so it's better for none of them to have power. It will take a very long time but doesn't need some leader making adjustments. Simple rules are the best, and correctly aligned incentives will keep everything working better than any alternative. The money supply should be fixed, nobody should have the power to create more, because that power will invariably be used for corrupt purposes. Proof-of-work Mining incentivizes renewables, and keeps skin in the game.”

Contrast this set of values with those held by "the ethereum community", which has a different set of values: “more complexity lets us do more good. A community should collaboratively make decisions to move together as a whole. With the right knowledge, we can make better decisions and thus improve the world for everyone. The money supply should be whatever the community decides and isn't a hugely important detail. Mining is wasteful and a technological relic, there are more advanced solutions which use less energy.”

Both of those philosophies reflect different values systems. And I suspect those value systems _themselves_ are what people are using when they choose which camp to join.

My hunch is that the same thing applies to arguments over lockdowns or vaccine mandates, etc - people aren't 'arguing' over cause and effect beliefs, they are just loudly shouting their existing priors. I'm pretty sure there's nothign new in this idea (e.g. posts on less wrong about 'flag waving', etc) - but what i'm wondering is, if we can't fight that, wouldn't it make more sense to try and come up with arguments for things we believe in, from multiple camps?

I can imagine something like a 'rosetta stone' of arguments, which tries to make red-tribe centric AND blue-tribe centric arguments for the same things. Is that likely to work? If you did so anonymously (so people didn't see you as a hypocrite), wouldn't that be a better way to advance your values in the world?

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For anyone interested: Recently finished a very short novella on my (free) substack, minus an epilogue I will write probably sometime this week, purpose of which is to explain pillars of what I call an algorithmic republic. Specifically seeking criticism or any points of confusion. Am already planning a rewrite as I went overboard with a few jokes.

The Forum: a way of replacing regional broad based authority by allowing people to either direct their votes themselves or to choose representatives based on topic.

The Index: so learning lingo of this group and this is something like a prediction market but using juries to adjudicate adversarial claims and keeping ratings by topic so you can auto-suppress noise.

Minerva: autonomous non-lethal sentry drones that can be summoned via wake word or wake sign.

Am going to write out case studies of each of these in the following weeks to explain how they could be used to address real world problems.

Again, all criticism welcome.

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So Arnold Kling had interesting piece last week, arguing (I guess from a right-wing perspective) that the US could use a COO to manage the government, along with a more independent auditor. (Honestly you can safely skip the first three-quarters of this piece and just get to the logistics starting at 'Restructuring The Regulatory State'). I disagree with large chunks of what he wrote, but it's an interesting jumping off-point for a discussion.


France uses a semi-presidential system, where a popularly elected President manages external affairs, and a more traditional Prime Minister apparently manages domestic ones (I don't know the exact division of labor). It'd be interesting to take Kling's COO and adapt it a bit to the US- say, a coalition in Congress appoints a COO to do the actual day-to-day management of the US government (2ish million employees, so the size of Walmart- a budget of I believe $6ish trillion). They could manage the bureaucracy, perhaps by being given the power to fire a small number of otherwise protected civil servants every year- enough to keep the bureaucrats on their toes, not nearly enough to go back to the 19th century patronage system. Making the position less partisan by removing direct election and maybe requiring a supermajority in Congress for an appointment might help make day-to-day management less political. (If Congress can't agree then maybe the 'old' COO can name their successor, to incentivize Congress to play ball).

Would be curious to hear people's thoughts! I'm a bit of a democracy skeptic, and would like to make some of the actual administration of the government less democratic & more technocratic. And of course most other 1st world countries already have a non-popularly elected Prime Minister, so it's not too wild of an idea

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I'm a early 30s Canadian looking to spend 2-6 weeks in an American city this Jan-March to 1) get away from winter here and 2) a trial run to provide better evidence for if I should think about moving to a new city.

Right now I'm considering visiting Austin, Denver or San Diego (+ maybe somewhere in Arizona).

If any SSCers either know someone or have an apartment or an extra room I can rent, please let me know! Alternatively, if anyone wants to sublet/do a homestay in my apartment in Toronto, that would be great as well :)

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What is the currently accepted theory on how the brain's memory works?

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I'm a reporter covering the diagnostics beat, which for the last two years has basically meant COVID testing. I wrote a (longish) thing looking back on my reporting and trying to figure how much I thought FDA had or hadn't messed up with rapid tests. Thought it might be of interest to people here (though, warning, it ends up amounting to something of an apologia for FDA.)


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"A brilliant, feisty scientist at the center of a nasty, backstabbing, utterly absorbing, cliff-hanging scramble for the Nobel Prize. "The Emperor of Scent" is a quirky wonderful book." Praise for "Emperor of Scent" by John Berendt. https://www.amazon.com/Emperor-Scent-Story-Perfume-Obsession/dp/0375759816. I blew through this book, a fun read. The old school idea is smell is a sensed by sensing the shape of a molecule. The 'outside' idea is that we sense the vibration spectra of molecules. I wish there was a betting market for the vibration idea.

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Along with three out of four of my immediate family, I have Omicron. All four of us were double-vaxed with boosters. Among my friends I know of 12 who have Omicron, and think 8 of them were fully vaxed.

I've not previously held militant negative opinions about vaccinations, but from my perspective it doesn't seem that my November'21 booster worked very well.

I don't see much news on this. MSM and social seems to prohibit saying anything that might seem vaccine negative. I understand they don't want to feed those who are blindly anti-vax, but how do we ensure appropriate risk and reward for big-pharma if not by good/bad coverage and statistics? What action can moderate people take that doesn't require us to join some fringe movement?

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Jan 10, 2022·edited Jan 10, 2022

If I were to send 1,000 relatively personalized letters to 1,000 (ultra-)high net worth individuals, requesting a substantial donation ($100K-1M) to cover my living expenses for the next years (or my entire lifetime), so I can focus on the high-impact work hopefully improving the world, how likely am I to succeed? Specific probabilities would be appreciated.

On one hand, rich people are rich because they're good at making money and not spending it too much. There are many organizations specialized in fundraising, and they probably went for most of the low-hanging fruit. On the other hand, there are exceptions to the efficient market hypothesis. I keep hearing about the multimillionaires (e.g. living in the Middle East) who waste money on luxuries and generally don't know what to do with it. Does it create a space I could utilize to my and the world's benefit, and if so, how?

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I'm interested in the easily movable tiny/prefab homes. Is there any chance I could get a solid one (~60 sqm = ~650 sqft) for <$100k in the next few years? Any recommendations would be appreciated. People keep telling me that I should consider a RV if mobility is important.

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I have a couple of elderly and/or disabled family members with no particular interests, spending a lot of time at home, isolated and stressed out due to the pandemic, mostly watching TV and doing household chores. How could I make their lives more interesting? Books and board/card games don't seem like a good fit. I thought about buying a VR headset and virtual trips through beautiful locations, but I'm open to many different ideas.

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As a quick question to the commentariat, based on the side-comment about Magellan in the movie review for the move "Don't Look Up":

What human thinker first pointed out that the Earth casts a rounded shadow on the Moon during an eclipse, and that this was evidence for the spherical nature of the Earth?

I am curious who here can correctly identify the actual source of that argument.

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A Straussian Reading of Brown Bear, Brown Bear: https://mobile.twitter.com/ZoharAtkins/status/1476360940711030787

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Jan 10, 2022·edited Jan 10, 2022

Here are some words I would like to see retired from media (and Twitterati) accounts of COVID. In other contexts, these words could maybe take a two-year sabbatical:

Cases/infections/[Variant_name] are:

Surging/Spiking/Skyrocketing (<-- This one really Grinds My Gears) /Soaring

-->> Apparently, cases or what-have-you never "increase" or "rise". Or ever "decline". Based on the media reports, every human being must now be dead.


Covid / [Variant_name] / THE PANDEMIC is:

Raging/Exploding/Out of control/Dominant

-->> OMGWTFBBQ! Shelter in Place! Maybe it won't notice us!


Hospitals / Health Care Workers / Health Care System is/are:

Besieged/Overwhelmed/At Capacity/Collapsing

-->> Have they considered the option of just turning patients away?


While I am writing the Style Guide, here is another change:

"Eight HOMES have already been lost in the deadly wildfires, and another 200 HOMES are threatened."

-->> Eight HOUSES burned down. Not HOMES, you maudlin grifters. Yet every disaster, it is required to say "HOMES" for maximum bathos.

-Fire will burn down your HOUSE

-Alcoholism destroys HOMES


Also: TRAGEDY needs to go back to being a reserved word. Accidents and natural disasters are not TRAGEDIES unless somebody involved brought it on themselves through HUBRIS, or were BLIND to their inner nature, or were past a Point of No Return.


Oedipus, King Lear, Rick Ankiel, Chris Bell


Covid deaths, Tornadoes, JFK, Buddy Holly

_____________ END OF PRESCRIPTIVISM ___________

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I am curious if anyone is following the all death data being reported in various nations in relation to the pandemic .

The idea is to assess the pandemic and it’s response based on all death data , and by some breakdown of age range and sex - in comparison with a 10 year average .

It appears that 2020 tends to be higher then the average , and 2021 is higher then 2020 or the same in most highly vaccinated nations .

Should we have expected to see highly vaccinated nations with the same all death numbers as 2020 or less? Considerate the effectiveness of vaccines and the “harvest effect” that the Lancet wrote about in the summer of 2020 in analysis of Italian excess death numbers .

I would have expected 2021 to be demonstrably better ( less and closer to average ) then 2020. So what could be the reason ?

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Happy British Monday morning, everyone!

I've been on Ribbonfarm reading about creepiness-as-unpredictability. It sounds like an impulse I should fight against. Nothing human is alien to me, etc. I warmly invite everyone to do something spontaneous immediately!

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Jan 10, 2022·edited Jan 10, 2022

If I only have access to 1mg melatonin, can I dissolve the 1mg tablet in 100ml of water and drink only 30ml? Does this work like I (naively) expect it to?

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Can't remember if I linked this before, but Chimerical Colors seem kind of weird and interesting:


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I've taken 20-35 mg a day of dextroamphetamine (in the form of 70 mg vyvanse + 0-15 mg of straight up dextroamphetamine per day, all prescribed) for ADHD for the past few months. My heart rate when I'm sitting still but doing something actively (e.g. if I'm working on the computer or having a conversation with a few friends) varies between 90-ish and up to 110-ish during the day. It can increase to over 130 if I'm e.g. walking around or cooking food. According to my sports watch my overall resting heart rate is between 58-62 most days, but I think that's mainly because my heart rate is low during sleep (when the amphetamine has worn off).

I was curious whether this was normal and healthy or if I was putting too much stress on my heart, so I asked my GP about it (I don't have regular access to the psychiatrist who originally prescribed the medication). He told me it was normal, but to be honest I don't completely trust him: he's old and mostly treats older patients. Does anyone have any insight or any links to insight about whether the mentioned heart rates are normal/healthy or not? For reference, I'm around 30 and my max heart rate is roughly 200 or slightly above that.

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Why don't manufacturers increase the price when there is high demand and low supply? (Like PS5 or certain cars) And why do people get upset when these products are sold second hand at a higher price?

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