replying to this:


"Is it true that there is no highest prime number? If so, Can you provide a physical explanation for that fact?"

sure i guess i could, but explaining that particular fact entirely and in detail would take a fair amount of time and effort.

can you narrow down your question to one of the following, or propose your own narrower question? i don't know which part of this you believe to be inexplicable on physicalism (perhaps you think every part of it is inexplicable?):

-how are numbers physical?

-how is the property of a number "being prime or not" physical?

-how are mathematical proofs physical?

-how are facts about non-existent/hypothetical sets physical?

-what about when those sets are infinite?

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Feb 11, 2022·edited Feb 11, 2022

Tyler Cowen's recent maxim is "Context is that which is scarce". https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2022/02/context-is-that-which-is-scarce-2.html

At first this struck me as trivial: context requires lots of information, something without context less, so obviously "lots of information" is a more difficult ask than something requiring little of it.

We lack lots of knowledge is trivial.

I don't think his point is about how ignorant the population is. Rather, consider the ignorance of a population as a level, in the same sense that last year's GDP is a level.

Now let's divide the intellectual world into two kingdoms: knowledge and ideas. The Kingdom of Knowledge is that level: how much people know about stuff.

It would be hard to measure what our knowledge quotient is because there is so much stuff one could know, but the measurement of knowledge in a population *could be* objective regardless of how difficult it would be to do in practice.

Now consider the stream of information most people consume today. Most of it exists in the Kingdom of Ideas. What I mean by "ideas" are either theses or something with an implied thesis. For instance:

-"Raise the Minimum Wage"

-"There's a correlation between race and IQ"

-"Diversity in management improves results"

-"We have too many regulations"

-"Gender and biological sex are different"

-"Zoning is the problem"

-"We need election reform"

-"Russia will invade the Ukraine"

-"Prediction markets are important"

-"Context is that which is scarce"

All of the above reside in the Kingdom of Ideas not the Kingdom of Knowledge.

Of course, ideas aren't worth much without context, without knowledge. That goes without saying. We want ideas but the less knowledge we have to put those ideas into context the less valuable those ideas.

So what I think Tyler is saying by "Context is that which is scarce" has to do with the ratio of our intake of new information divided between knowledge and ideas. On Twitter, on Substack, we are inundated with more ideas. But most of these ideas, good or bad by their own merits, aren't helpful if we don't have the proper knowledge base in which to analyze them intelligently.

For every tweet we probably need an effort post to give us the background knowledge to, say, get the joke.

So I think Tyler is saying that reading theses is like consuming intellectual junk food at this point, whereas eating our vegetables would be, perhaps, reading more old books, taking more classes and travelling more to new locations.

Of course, it's easier to write an idea than an effort post. This post is an example. I haven't given you any knowledge.

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For Effective Atruists: Is Combatting Ageism The Most Potentially Impactful Form of Social Activism?

I argue that 15-17 year olds are the most oppressed group in the West. Not only is ageism everywhere, permeating every space, infesting every mind, even those of the oppressed — this oppression is still enforced by the State. Imagine if we still had forced racial segregation. What teens face from the State every day is similar. I know many might say it’s not as bad, but I have philosophical reason to disagree. More on that later.

You have to understand that laws are ultimately enforced with deadly force if the disobedient will not yield. The government will escalate force until you die if you are serious about disobeying a law. That is, if you refuse to obey, and you refuse to accept the invalid actions of the State in response, they will kill you. Let me provide a concrete example. You know that being forced to go to a facility against your will simply for being, say, 17 years old, for 40 hours a week is an extreme violation of your civil liberties. Therefore, you don’t go. The government sends people whose job is to commit violence on behalf of the State, to commit violence on you. At first they will try to restrain you. You’re probably not strong enough to resist, but say you can knock these people out. They’ll shoot you. Their protocol says to spray you with the whole magazine-worth of ammunition. That’s what they’ll do. Maybe if you’re lucky, you knock one out for laying hands on you for illegitimate reasons, the others (they always come in packs) will aim their guns at you because you’re dangerous to them with just your hands. Most will probably just kill you right then and there. They have “qualified immunity” and won’t face any repercussions, because you were “belligerent” and “dangerous.” Maybe they’ll yell at you to get down. They won’t go away though. They’ll probably surround you and if you try to leave they’ll get “scared” and boom you’re dead. The point is they will escalate violence until it’s life or death. They ultimately enforce the law with the threat of murder.

To my knowledge, this is the only way a State can have laws. Hell, advanced restraining sounds more nightmarish than this. The point is that State enforced oppression is a big deal. If you are a 16 year old who decides that it’s your moral right to be able to travel as you please, and you try to use this right, the state will ultimately escalate violence until you are dead. They will lynch you like for exercising your civil rights. In contrast, the most decentralized oppressors can do is refuse to associate with you under various conditions. Sometimes it’s unfair, but it’s a lot different than the State sending a death squad after you for minding your own business.

So. Are teens the most oppressed? Yes. Teens are virtually treated like criminals on account of their age, similar to black people before 1960. They are treated like children, similar to women before feminism. Yet unlike criminals and children, teens don’t deserve it. Oppression is unjust subordination.

If you think they do deserve it, you’ve fallen prey to harmful, pseudo-scientific narratives that should make old-fashioned racial phrenologists blush. I debunk these narratives in my book, An Empirical Introduction to Youth. The gist is that all of the data agrees that the brain is developed by the age of 15. Even 13 and 14 year olds have judgment capacities that rival certain adult demographics. This makes sense because it would be weird for evolution to make people idiots until the age of 25 with mature, dangerous bodies. The pseudo-scientists and the media who talk about these studies lie about their findings, similar to how Stephen Jay Gould claimed that Samuel Morton lied about his phrenology findings even though he didn’t. They do this because of who pays them: foundations like MacArthur and Johnson which are run by the owner class and their hired-brains, the PMC. The owner class set up the education system in order to offload corporate overhead, such as cost of training, onto tax-payers. The PMC were and are hired to improve this system using their brains, among other things. In the process of doing so, they inject their own desires and attempt to reduce teens and young adults to something like their slave-class, which exists to make them look important, to pay them tuition, low level work for them, and so on.

If this sounds extreme, just read Foucault! Power corrupts knowledge, and deceit is a fundamental tool of power. The point is to manage your opinions and to manufacture your consent. The :”default” view on this issue, like many issues in fact, is not to be trusted. Said view only benefits a small class of masters, and is extremely harmful to teens.

Anyway, to recap: yes, teens are the most oppressed identity group. What should we do about it? I leave that to a future writing.

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The Solution to Many Problems: One Billion Persons on Earth

Author: Peter Rodes Robinson

[Photo of refugee boat]

Massimo Sestini—Polaris

How many humans are too many?

The concept of "carrying capacity"  originated in the 1840s to specify the maximum weight that could be carried by a ship. Estimates of the maximum carrying capacity of the Earth vary widely though the number ten billion pops up frequently. For example sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson said "If everyone agreed to become vegetarian, leaving little or nothing for livestock, the present 1.4 billion hectares of arable land (3.5 billion acres) would support about 10 billion people." Of course this calculation means: forget about eating meat.

When it comes to cramming people on to the Earth, we are not talking about a cruise ship. More like steerage class on the Titanic or worse. Ecologist Paul Ehrlich has said that even a "battery chicken" world would not support more than 4-5 billion humans long term.

Until recently the rate of human population growth was increasing. In other words the doubling time was getting shorter and shorter, from approximately 2000 years to 700 years to 37 years! Fortunately the doubling time is now getting longer.


These are the first three paragraphs of my essay. Immodestly, I believe it is well written and presents a vital thesis. If you read it, you can tell me I'm wrong (about either or both contentions). You will also find many links

Or you might find something more interesting to comment on. I hope you will read it and comment. I adore feedback.

Peter Robinson

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Feb 10, 2022·edited Feb 10, 2022


In 2022, even ethnic erasure is automated.

I have to admit I get a special kind of schadenfreude from institutions blundering into dumpster fires this way.

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Feb 10, 2022·edited Feb 10, 2022

I just asked a girl out, unambiguously, in-person, for the first time in a very long time. I was building it up in my head to be a bigger deal than it really was, like Harry Potter in 4th year. But it was no biggie. When I came into the gym all the treadmills were occupied so I was forced to take the treadmill next to her (otherwise I would feel weird about doing even that). Then there was 30 minutes of both of us silently doing cardio while I avoid looking at her or doing anything weird and I listen to Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs at 2.5x speed. Then when she finished her exactly 50 minute cardio session and walked away she left her bottle behind and I said "hey you forgot your bottle" and she said she was just going to get a towel to clean the machine. (without a hook like that to give me license to initiate a conversation I would feel weird about it). Then as she's cleaning the machine I comment "so you did 50 minutes of cardio, that's a lot" and she laughed and smiled which I took as a green light, so then I just asked "do you wanna go out with me sometime" and she was like "no, that guy who was talking to me earlier was my boyfriend. Have a nice day." and I say "Have a nice day" and she walks out of the gym with her boyfriend.

What are some venues I can go to where I can feel maximally licensed to initiate conversations with strangers, but which aren't bars? I feel like cafeterias in school and university were great for this, but restaurants for adults are terrible for this. At school it was perfectly normal for strangers to sit together for a meal and talk to each other. There were countless times where random strangers put their tray the table where I was already sitting, and vice versa, and strike up a conversation. But in restaurants this is just not done -- I've eaten in restaurants approx 5000 times post-college and it has never happened once, p<0.000001. Why are restaurants so much more antisocial than school cafeterias? I'll take a stab at it. People who are going to the same school have a lot in common -- age, occupation, intelligence, etc. Whereas out in the adult world a random stranger has a vastly lower expectation of having anything in common with you. Without a high expectation of strangers having something in common it feels less worthwhile to try to talk to them. So the comparative antisocialness of restaurants compared to school cafeterias could be an example of what Robert Putnam calls "hunkering down" in response to diversity.

I am orders of magnitude more likely to initiate (and be initiated) in conversations with strangers at conferences and conventions, where we are all basically pre-screened to have something in common. But outside of some environment where people are pre-screened to have something in common, serendipitous conversations with strangers are exceedingly rare for me. No one initiates and I don't initiate either. I feel like "doing cardio next to each other for 30 minutes" is a sufficient threshold of having something in common though.

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Law Enforcement recently seized ~$400 Billion in crypto stolen in the 2016 Bitfinex hack (link at end). From the DOJ Statement of Facts:

>"On January 31, 2022, law enforcement gained access to Wallet 1CGA4s by decrypting a file saved to LICHTENSTEIN’s cloud storage account, which had been obtained pursuant to a search warrant."

What is your interpretation of this with respect to law enforcement decrypting someone's file? Seems like the options are:

1. Perp used a deprecated encryption method that has now-known vulnerabilities or exploits

2. Perp used robust encryption but got lazy and left the decryption tools somewhere discoverable

3. Perp used "robust encryption" but it turns out the govt can bypass it anyway via secret means

4. The word "decrypt" was used incorrectly or imprecisely in the affidavit and what the authorities actually did was something more like unlocking a password-protected zip folder


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Since substack reads these comments, I think the new layout is a bit annoying in so far as I have to scroll so long to get to the post I'm interested in. I'd suggest you reduce the amount of text to just a paragraph or two in the preview

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I only have time to visit Prescott or Flagstaff. Which should I visit and why?

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I just published an article on the crazy housing market, what's causing it, and whether it's now a good itme to buy a house. https://kavoussi.substack.com/p/the-housing-market-is-on-fire

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In the UK there has been some controversy in Parliament and the news media. PM Boris Johnson suggested that the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, bore some responsibility for the decision not to charge a now-notorious (and dead) sexual abuser with any crimes. Starmer was the most senior prosecutor in England and Wales at the time. (Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate justice systems.) A lot of people have criticized Johnson for unfairly blaming Starmer over what was actually the decision of an unnamed junior prosecutor.

Which prosecutors tend to make which charging decisions, in which sorts of cases? If it's the lower-level prosecutors who typically make these decisions, how often are they overruled? Does it depend on the type of crime and/or the prominence of the accused?

I expect it will be hard to generalize about this.

England and Wales and the US (federal or state) interest me the most, but I'm happy to read about any country.

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Below I asked about ways in which workplaces have grown woker than they were a few decades ago. The biggest surprise for me were claims that employees are now often strongly encouraged to talk about social issues at their workplaces--issues they may prefer to be silent about--with potential career-limiting punishments for remaining silent about them.

My question now is: why are so many corporations suddenly doing this? Is it:

1) They are covering their asses against potential discrimination lawsuits

2) They are focused on ESG compliance due to woke investors

3) The women in HR are True Believers in wokism and want to hear the rest of the workforce repeat the Party Line

4) Upper Management are True Believers and want to hear the workforce repeat the Party Line

5) Upper Management and HR believe that the majority of workers are now woke, and therefore it's good for morale for everyone to proclaim their solidarity in these beliefs

6) Something else?

I'm inclined to believe it is mostly about 1, somewhat about 2 and little about 3. Maybe at 70%/20%/10% ratios.

What do others think?

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Feb 9, 2022·edited Feb 9, 2022

EDIT, added the next morning: I would really like to be able to put this result up on a forum I’m on where there’s an ongoing discussion of the culpability of the unvaccinated, but I am not confident it’s a good enough analysis, even by back-of-an-envelope standards. Would really appreciate hearing from people who’ve done more of this sort of thing whether my analysis is merely rough and approximate (which is OK) or fatally flawed in some way that makes the result off by an order of magnitude. And if it’s fatally flawed, what do I need to take into account to fix it?

I am in the middle of a long argument on a huge state Reddit sub about how long and how much people get to hate on those who didn’t get vaccinated. There’s a “never forgive, never forget” mentality, and people writing purple prose containing phrases like “blood on their hands.” Honestly, people sound as though they think every person who refused vaccination caused quite substantial damage — like maybe on average each non-vaxed person killed one other person.

So I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation, trying to come up with a figure for how many US covid deaths it’s reasonable to blame on those who refused available vaccinations. So I compared our death rates and non-vaxed rates to Canada’s, from 1/1/20 to 10/3/21, and used these figures:

How many covid deaths did the US have above the number it would have if its vaccination rates were the same as Canada’s: 670,000 deaths

How many unvaxed were there in the US as of 10/3/21: 112,200,000.

So ratio of first number to second is 6:1000, or 1/167. So you can think of this as meaning it takes 167 unvaccinated people to produce a covid death that would not have happened if we’d all been as good about vaccination as Canadians. Or you could think of it in terms of “micromorts.” Every US citizen who did not get vaccinated killed 1/167 of a person — they accumulated 1/167th of a micromort.

I know calculating antivax micromorts could be called both Aspergerish and ghoulish, but I’ve gotten sort of preoccupied with trying to figure out how much societal damage a person caused who declined vaccination. And how does it compare to the damage caused by being a smoker? Or by being someone who frequently drives when impaired by alcohol, accumulating let’s say 1000 ETOH miles per year.

Is anyone else interested in playing around with these numbers?

And if you’re not: Where might I find data on “micromorts” for other activities that are dangerous to others? Also, is there a better country to compare the US to than Canada? I want to compare us to a country that gives a rough idea of what vaccination rates it might have been possible to achieve in the US, given our size, wealth, infrastructure etc.

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Which country had the best chemical weapons in WWII?

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Long-time lurker here, commenting for the first time. I realize this is going to sound like a troll post, but I have a serious question I want to ask.

By now, it seems to be common knowledge in the rationalist community that the IQ gap between different races is partly due to genetics - Scott himself has acknowledged that the evidence seems solid to him. However, the scientific community at large continues to reject this view and bully dissenters such as James Watson, for what appear to be ideological reasons; the experts in the relevant fields appear to be complicit in this, which shows that even highly competent people are not immune to being misled. From this, I can conclude that the scientific community has failed at the task of upholding high epistemic standards in the face of ideological pressure, and every claim that it makes is now potentially suspect, especially if it is related to politicized subjects, including global warming, the safety of COVID vaccines, or the (lack of) efficacy of conversion therapy for transgender people.

Given the above, please tell me how a layman such as myself is supposed to trust any claim that is presented as the scientific consensus.

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Politics allowed so this. Mitch McConnell grows something resembling a spine.


If you can’t get past the paywall;

WASHINGTON — Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, pushed back hard on Tuesday on the Republican Party’s censure of Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and its characterization of Jan. 6 as “legitimate political discourse,” saying the riot was a “violent insurrection.”

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Feb 8, 2022·edited Feb 8, 2022

Is Ageism Against Youth Rational?


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Does anyone else think Glenn Greenwald's latest (about the Joe Rogan/Spotify censorship campaign) is a little over the top? I agree with him in spirit, but the rhetorical heat level makes me uncomfortable. So does the word choice "liberals" to refer to an essentially authoritarian faction within the democratic party that wants literally the opposite of the root of the word.

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What is up with the options for responding that appear below each post? As of this thread we now have the option to report comments. As of last night, evening of 2/7, there was a Report button, and also a Give Gift button. The latter allowed the reader to donate money to pay for a month's or a full year's subscription to ACX for the writer. This morning, the Give Gift button is gone, but meanwhile somebody sent me a heart in the night, liking a comment I'd made. How did they even do that? There was no 'Like' option when I was on yesterday evening.

So wutz up? And while I'm talking about options, would like to express my preferences:

-I'm delighted to have a Report button

-I want the option to send someone a "like." It makes posting here feel more real and satisifying -- it least it does that for me. It adds an element that's there in spoken conversation, where people's facial expressions let the speaker know when they are moved or amused or othrwise taken with his ideas. (On the other hand, I wouldn't want accumulated like votes to appear alongside posts -- that feels like high school.)

-I didn't like that give gift thing as a way of expressing approval. Seems unreasonable to have to pay $10 to tell someone you liked their post. And it seems like many recipients would find the gift useless, because they already are subscribed for the year, do not want to subscribe at all, or have no need of a little ACX scholarship. And it seems like the money basically is a donation to Substack.

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Incivility is *way* down. I put up a post on Open thread 206 complaining about the degree of incivility, especially instances of flat-out PVA, Primitive Verbal Abuse. That was a month ago, and I can't remember seeing a single instance of it since. Worse thing I've seen since is occasional sniffiness and irritability - "you're continuing to argue back despite my clarifications, seems like willful refusal to consider my point" kind of thing. And that stuff is just par for the course.

So no PVA is great. I'm delighted by the absence of turd-dropping harpies zooming over the conversations here, but am not sure why they're gone. Doubt that my posts convinced any harpies to change their ways.

Scott, did you ban a bunch of people?

Everybody else: Do you agree that civility level is much improved?

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Self promotion: A few days ago I published a book review of "Where is my Flying Car". (This book previously appeared in the ACX book review contest). https://moreisdifferent.substack.com/p/notes-from-who-stole-my-flying-car

Please consider subscribing to my Substack if you are interested in Progress Studies, metascience, or AI. I feel optimistic I will have a couple posts on those subjects published in the next few months.

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Feb 8, 2022·edited Feb 8, 2022

Hey, have you guys heard of ZDoggMD? I just discovered this guy and loving it. He's a sort of rationalist / scout mindset type of guy, but with a different branding. As a doctor, he's doing a lot of videos on vaccine misinformation lately, and I think he's doing a fantastic job.

Great video (if a little dry) on the divisions in society, "Covidiots Vs. Covidians? An Alt-Middle View": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZIJ0ekD_HE

Another example: here he's arguing against hydroxycloroquine king Peter McCullough using the FLICC analysis framework without explicitly naming it (Fake experts, Logical fallacies, Impossible expectations, Cherry picking and Conspiracy theories): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pcIbVvHI2c

And like myself, he's promoting a political middle: "If you like the way we talk about these things, join our tribe of alt middle people. We're trying to change discourse. We're trying to fight social media and big tech's dominance on weaponizing our hatred of each other. We're trying to think clearly. We have a good time." But unlike myself, he does a good job :)

Then in another video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpH1kpkkwAg) two doctors have this conversation that makes my heart flutter:

> Yeah a lot of the people who used to love me hate me, and you know, and people who used to hate me love me. [...]

> Honestly that's why I like to do a show with you, because I know this about you, you've been consistent. In fact, I reached out to you years ago, prior to Covid, because I saw your work. And I said, this guy is as skeptical of how medicine does its business as I am. A that was a kinship right because we both share that particular compass. And what's interesting is what i've had to learn, what I've had to grow into myself, is understanding how how to to look at another side compassionately and be able to speak to them in a way that is accepting of who they are without giving up the fact that I actually think what I'm saying is right and I need to persuade you. So that's been a change for me that Covid helped to accelerate. And the truth is, if you're not allowed to change, grow, or have strong opinions, because you're afraid the audience is going to abandon you, then that's a bad [business] model, right, it means you're dependent on clicks. [...]

> So your survival mechanism is that you, probably to a large degree, you're willing to tolerate massive losses in your audience?

> Yeah I am, in fact I'm willing to tolerate it going to zero, i just don't care, but it took me a long time to get to that point. [...]

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WARP, a rationality camp I help organize, is open for applications for ~another week! Relevant for 16-19 year olds.

What? A 10-day programme on applied rationality. More details at https://warp.camp/.

Who? Students between 16 and 19 years old. Usually 20-30 attendees and a dozen staff. Organized by the ESPR team (https://espr-camp.org/).

When? 22nd March - 1st April 2022.

Where? Oxford, United Kingdom

Price? Free! OpenPhil generously covers the whole cost of the program for participants.

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I am trying to find a book review scott published on SSC possibly 2019ish. Subject was on the Holocaust, and I think the gist of the analysis was that Jewish populations did worse (by far) in areas that were effectively stateless when the Nazis invaded, and were (much?) better protected in areas with strong functioning governments. Assuming I am not hallucinating this, If anyone could give me the book title and even better a link to the review I would be most grateful. Thanks!

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Was going to try and submit this via the AC grants, might still, but going to post here-

I have a proposal that doesn’t require any funding. I am hoping you might write a post on David Pearce’s Hedonistic Imperative.

It is essentially a trans-humanistic argument that humanity is ethically obligated to use technology to guide its own evolution to reduce suffering asnd maximize eudaimonic and “hedonistic” states. By “hedonistic” we do not mean “wire head hedonism.” We mean raising the baseline of mental health in a similar way in which Bayesian rationalism aims to raise the “sanity” wireline.

We know that much of a person’s baseline happiness is determined by genetics. In the short term, we can use technology to improve this basis for everyone. But long term, towards a post-human future where mood states and spiritual states might be comparable to the MDMA experience. There is already top down stimulation technology developed by IARPA’s brain project for PTSD that works “too well” in terms of curing depression and creating euphoric states. But this is just a narrow framework of what could be possible. There are experiments involving electromagnetic fields that induce a temporary form of ablation of turning off neural circuits temporarily to determine their function. There was a story (and I would have to dig to find the link because it was years ago) where someone who had previously only been able to draw stick figures was able to see the world as an artist and while this EM field was in place, draw realistically detailed art.

There is the possibility, not that far in the future, that people can not only improve their states of well being, but not be limited by their genes and experiences to access different modes of consciousness and being.

Pearce’s view is ambitious and comes from a negative uiltitarian standpoint where he emphasizes the abolition of suffering. I sympathize with this, but I don’t see that the basic idea necessarily has to be conditional on accepting negative utilitarianism or any specific ethical system as a prerequisite with whatever philosophical baggage that entails. Pearce and many who support the HI advocate for the abolition of suffering in all sentient creatures. In the extreme long term, this means a re-engineering of the biosphere.

However, I along with Pearce and others have started something called the biohappiness initiative. The aim is not adoption of the HI as a specific dogma, but opening the Overton Window to discussion of these considerations. This is ethically urgent as humanity is already in the time where the decision we make now will influence the future in incredibly dramatic ways. I see this as as intersecting with existential risk.

For sure, many will be wary of such a utopian ideal. And wary for good reason. But the important thing to understand is the beginning of these changes is already happening, and if we collectively stick our heads in the sand and adopt a “wait and see” approach, the evolution of this will be an extension of the current condition in which these dynamic forces began to shape.

Governments, corporations, and specific visionaries will push these things along a Fabian gradient. Much like the early days of the internet, when engineers understood that the principles they established then would have dramatic consequences in the future, we can’t afford to wait, as in the case of the internet, till these things have become such a part of the fabric of our society they can’t be reversed and re-engineereed in hingsight. If evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve.

We already see talk of how Elon Musk’s neuralink hips could cause orgasm. Imagine a metaverse that directly connected to the brain where instead of the “soft” dopamenergic push of Facebook’s tricks, one had induced orgasms to reinforce behavior.

Or the experiments where people’s sense of ethical judgements can be altered. Or the technology that can read images from peoples mind and even insert them (if you’re skeptical of any of this I can provide links but I think you are better informed then the average person on these matters.)

Or Xi Jingping’s combination of big data and mood monitoring helmets. It is not hard to see how any number of nightmarish dystopian possibilities could evolve.

Or, to put things in terms of conventional existential risk, how when people integrated more and more with technology, the “runaway ai” scenario could look more like the Borg then Skynet.

Musk already has stated his goal is to combine machine and human intelligence and understands the risks, but feels it is the only way to stop the purely AI singularity.

We are summoning a kind of techno Moloch that can runaway with nature of humanity in a way where this really will be “the dreamtime”, and no push to say “no we shouldn’t” will stop whats already growing and evolving. For the same reasons we can’t just play civ and design the perfect society, we cant stop this change. Even if such things we’re banned in the US, we can’t stop Jingping or Putin- but as you understand its deeper then that.

But we can imagine an actual dreamtime. We can open up and accept the inevitable, and realize we can’t go the luddite route. The only way out is forward. Towards a difference between literal heaven and hell.

My aim in asking you to cover this is to get our ideas into the Overton Window of discussion. I do not expect you to agree with everything Pearce says. I don’t myself. But the ideas as a counterpoint to the “digital copy upload” version of transhumanism which is more popular at least is worthy of discussion. If nothing else then as a counterpoint to the current trend of discussion which strikes me as not unlike Huxley’s Brave New World, where he later admitted he presented two insane option and only later wish he had included a saner option.

The entry to Pearce’s work is Hedweb.com.

There needs to be a discourse, at least amongst the tech minded crowd, where there is something more then just “we need to summon a lesser a Molloch to fight the bigger Molloch.” It seems to me that for all of Less Wrong’s success at raising the profile of existential risk, no one has any solutions that don’t involve creating the very thing they are afraid of (like proposals to create a global AI to find and shut down existential risk). I believe the HI, or at lest the general thrust of it, is a sort of “third” or “fourth” way, and really the only chance we have of avoiding disaster.

-David Kinard

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Interesting essay on public intellectuals! Interesting example (Thomas Friedman. I agree!).

The ones that deserve to fade, I think, have strong opinions on hard questions in areas they know nothing about.

But they stay around if they market themselves well.

Lots of average thinkers say outrageous things for attention, to stick around.

Which leads us to...who is the audience for these public intellectuals? What is that audience looking for from public intellectuals?

If you want to impress seriously smart people with your ideas, you're only going to have a small, niche audience. I'd be satisfied with that if I were a public intellectual.

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Looking for opinions / experiences with a similar situation (I amconsidering a job offer)...Thanks!


I am currently working for a more or less consultation company, doing data science and machine learning. The company has grown considerably over the past 2 years, from a startup of a few dozen people to a mid sized company of almost 200 (and growing). The work is shotgun-like, we do all kinds of data science and ML but this also means it is not too focused (although not everybody does everything) and projects usually last a few months to a year. I can learn quite a bit of this and that but it is not that focused. I learned A LOT about business and thinking about it when doing data science though, I doubt I could learn it as much elsewhere. There are also a lot of people who know a lot about specific ML-related things I don't know yet and want to know. The pay is average to perhaps somewhat below average in the field (it is supposed to increase company wide this year though and I would likely get a bit of a promotion on top of that which would probably translate to a 10-15 percent increase or so in pay)

We have a client/partner company where I've been leading a data science project (for the past year or so). The company is a startup which recently got funding from their main investor and are looking for others. It is run by two business guy and all data-related stuff has been done by us. They want to boost their development and are looking for an internal data science team (they will need data engineers as well) and they offered me a position leading that team. The pay offered is extremely good compared to my current pay (twice as much, in fact). However, being a startup (and there is competition in their field which might be a bit head of them), they may easily crash and burn. I also have an option with my current company payable in about 2 years which I would lose and which is good enough to cover quite a bit of the difference (though not all).

I am quite confident in my data science and business skills, somewhat less so in my data/platform engineering and DevOps abilities (or MLOPs, though I feel nobody has really figured out proper MLOPs yet) but I suppose I understand these well enough to recognize people who actually understand it very well and who would therefore be good additions to the team. The founders are entirely business people and the "tech" part of the job would be up to me entirely because of that. I think it might be interesting to build something almost from scratch like that but at the same time it is a bit risky. I am in my early 30s so I guess I can afford a bit of risk though :)

To summarize, I guess the main motivations to stay where I am are familiarity, more security and a lot of ML-oriented people I think I can still learn a lot from (probably the last thing is the main motivation for me). The main motivation to take the offer is the pay, focus on one clear thing (instead of working on 2-3 disparate projects at any given moment and having fairly limited time to code) and simply the fact that it is something new that I have not tried before (setting up and running a focused team like that).

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I read John Gray's "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" and I found it to be a very good description of the differences in how my wife and I behave/communicate and how that leads to conflict.

Now, I've read a few popular psychology/self-help books before, so I wouldn't have been surprised to see a few vaguely plausible but quite general claims that kind of make sense, so that you could fit them to your reality like a horoscope. But this was more than that. I read many of the accounts of arguments couples had had and thought, "Wow, that's just the kind and sequence of things we said when arguing about X the other month, with the male/female roles matching."

To what degree are the claims the book makes about typical differences in male/female behaviour/preferences true? There's a summary of some of the key claims here:


I haven't been able to find a good discussion of this online. There are plenty of people who say, "This book is amazing and saved my marriage." as well as those who say, "This is a terrible book because it perpetuates sexist stereotypes," but not much else. I found one paper where someone did a survey of "romantic gestures" in the book suggested for men/women and didn't find men/women preferred them as the book might suggest, but that's about it.

John Gray makes a number of dubious-sounding claims about hormones and nutrition elsewhere, but he's not an expert on biology or medicine, so I don't have much faith in those. On the other hand, he has claimed that before writing his book, he was a celibate "monk" for nine years, then had sex with hundreds of women over a couple of years and asked them to "tell him their stories". If true, I suppose that may be a bigger data source than most social science studies.

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What is a very fascinating aspect of your favorite historical group that has never been implemented in a video game in a representative way? Consider the Socii system of the Romans as a potential example. Examples can be political, religious, administrative, etc. Don't limit yourself to war games mechanics.

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can I get money to push anti climate legislation?

as a hedge against the very remote possibility the cathedrals' orthodoxy is wrong

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For the political and moral philosophers on here: Do you consider Marxism as an ideology (as originally intended by Marx) to be fundamentally deontological or consequentialist in nature, a mix of both, or something else altogether?

I've always considered Marxism to be a hard consequentialist ideology, since it seems largely centered around a sort of "the ends justify the means" logic (though I suppose that could be said about most ideologies). But recently I heard someone arguing that Marxism actually exemplifies the flaws of *deontological* thinking, since the Marxist worldview - despite its claim of scientific objectivity and "historical materialism" - is heavily rooted in moral axioms and value judgments which are simply taken for granted. And I think he had a point there, though I always considered the axioms of the Marxist worldview to be epistemological rather than moral, but maybe they're both. Another person in the discussion claimed that Marxism combined both deontological and consequentialist thinking (and in his very critical view, it combined the worst elements of both, though some may find that overly harsh).

I suppose an argument could also be made that Marxism was rooted in virtue ethics (see: https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/v/i.htm#virtue), though that seems like a bit more of a stretch to me. And I've occasionally heard people say that Marxism was an egoist or nihilist ideology, but that usually comes from either 1. anti-Marxist conservatives who don't really know what Marxism is and just think of it as generically evil, and also think of egoism/nihilism as generically evil, or 2. leftists who are egoists or nihilists themselves and also nominally Marxist, but only adhere to Marxism for tribal signaling reasons and/or because they think it would personally benefit them. In both cases, I think it's safe to say that those people don't have a great understanding of what Marxism is, and the idea that Marxism is either egoist or nihilist in nature seems rather obviously wrong to anyone who's actually familiar with it.

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Over on reddit I heard the new term "sanewashing" to refer to a situation where

* A radical fringe produces a new term like "defund the police" and mean it in a literal sense.

* Due to luck or some other reason the term becomes widespread and associated with the tribe.

* More moderate and influential members of the tribe try to redefine the term to something within the overton window "we mean more money for social care".

Sort of like a bailey organically forming around a motte. But without the people in the bailey ever agreeing with the motte. I don't have any deep thoughts but I thought it was an interesting word and wanted to share.

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Report from various other blogs:


The Zvi responds to Bounded Distrust.


"The difference is that Scott seems to think that the government, media and other authority figures continue mostly to play by a version of these rules that I believe they mostly used to follow. He doesn’t draw any parallels to the past, but his version of bounded distrust reads like something one might plausibly believe in 2015, and which I believe was largely the case in 1995. I am confused about how old the old rules are, and which ones would still have held mostly true in (for example) 1895 or in Ancient Rome.

Whereas in 2022, after everything that has happened with the pandemic and also otherwise, I strongly believe that the trust and epistemic commons that existed previously have been burned down. The price of breaking the old rules is lower, but it is more than that. The price of being viewed as actually following the old rules is higher than the cost of not following them, in addition to the local benefits of breaking the old rules. Thus the old rules mostly are not followed."


ACOUP, a professional Roman historian, responds to Were There Dark Ages? (an old SSC post, which he's probably not aware of).

Part I: Words: https://acoup.blog/2022/01/14/collections-rome-decline-and-fall-part-i-words/

"In this sense there really is a very strong argument to be made that the ‘Romans’ and indeed Roman culture never left Rome’s lost western provinces – the collapse of the political order did not bring with it the collapse of the Roman linguistic or cultural sphere, even if it did fragment it."

"And so when it comes to culture and literature, it seems that the change-and-continuity knight holds the field – there is quite a lot of evidence for the survival of elements of Roman culture in post-Roman western Europe, from language, to religion, to artwork and literature."

Part II: Institutions: https://acoup.blog/2022/01/28/collections-rome-decline-and-fall-part-ii-institutions/

"If on politics we have a bit of a mix between decline and continuity, when it comes to the cities that made up the old political system, the ‘decline and fall’ knight strikes a clear blow: the system of social organization that characterized the ancient world practically vanished and would have to be redeveloped centuries later. The institutions that had maintained it (like the curiales) largely vanished, replaced in some cases by local ‘notables’ and in other cases by ruralization."

"Indeed, the institutional Church was in some ways a lifeboat in which other elements of the Late Roman world were carried through the storm of the fifth century into the Middle Ages."

Part III: Things, coming on Friday. ACOUP has promised a discussion of how life changed for the typical person in this part.


My own blog has been laying out a simple model for what it would take to transition electricity production from mostly fossil fuels either to solar & wind or to nuclear.

Part 1: http://thechaostician.com/generating-electricity-without-fossil-fuels-part-i-overview-of-alternative-power-sources/

How should we generate electricity?

Currently, the majority of our electricity comes from fossil fuels, especially coal and natural gas. Burning fossil fuels has given us access to tremendous amounts of energy and has made modern civilization possible. Without them, we would have had trouble feeding ourselves, let alone obtaining our current standard of living.

Unfortunately, burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases that warm the global climate. And they will run out eventually. What other sources are available?

Part 2: http://thechaostician.com/generating-electricity-without-fossil-fuels-part-ii-the-perspective-of-the-grid/

In this post, we will take the perspective of the grid. How do each of these power sources impact the functioning of the grid?

Part 3: http://thechaostician.com/generating-electricity-without-fossil-fuels-part-iii-a-simple-model/

This post will put together the results of Parts I & II in a simple model to test different strategies for moving away from using fossil fuels to generate our electricity.

The simplifications in the model will make the transition away from fossil fuels look easier than it is. But they should be a fair comparison between the different strategies we might use.

In Part 4, coming on Thursday, I will compare these strategies and describe what I think the best policies are.

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I'd be curious if you have any commentary on the wordcel vs rotator spectrum: https://roonscape.substack.com/p/a-song-of-shapes-and-words

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Does anyone know of grants that a non-profit can apply for in the Seattle are to acquire computers for daily use?

A local non-profit is looking for somewhere between 8-12 laptops - in some cases they can make do with Chromebooks, but in other instances they'd need Macbooks (because of software dependencies). Factoring in support contracts, I'm thinking roughly USD 10k.

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Feb 7, 2022·edited Feb 7, 2022

You know how children are easily entertained? They play the same games for hours, they watch their favorite movies over and over and so on. Some of them would even eat the same food every single meal if they could.

I wonder if that has something to do with the way they learn. Supposedly there are some topics like language, music and multiplication tables that are said to be easier to learn while you are a child. Learning those topics involve lots of repetition, and children are apparently more tolerant of repetition. Is that really true or just folk pedagogy?

If true, is there a way to induce this state of mind? If there is, what would be the drawbacks?

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Also there's a ton of data coming out of the altered transcriptome of first pregnancies (nulliparous mothers) vs subsequent pregnancies from scRNAseq of various model organisms

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So, I've been tapped to review a battery science-related paper by a journal editor who is a friend of mine. I've done peer review before, but those were on shorter papers with a focus on specific technological advances; this is closer to a review paper. Does anyone have any tips on how to do it well? I'd like to do a good job on this.

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Feb 7, 2022·edited Feb 7, 2022

Is there any data repository on families around the world and their offspring # and gender ratio?

Whenever I meet another family with seven daughters like my mothers I definitely think there's gotta be some weird LINE1 biology/methylation/TET dysregulation requiring rhox or something going on in the Dad's spermatogenesis but then I remember I should look at actual empirical data

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Feb 7, 2022·edited Feb 7, 2022

You are sent back in time to 1939 take over the Emperor of Japan's body and mind. Your task is to direct Japanese government and military policy so as to ensure the long-term survival of the Japanese Empire. What do you do?


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I'll admit I'm too lazy to pursue the primary sources used by The Scholars Stage blog author, but one of their statements seems false on the face of it.

"By contrast, productivity in the arts (for example, music or drama) peaks in the 30s and 40s and declines steeply thereafter, because artistic creativity depends on a more fluid or innovative kind of thinking."

What the what?! I can't think of any painter in the last two centuries who peaked in their 30s or 40s. The visual arts is something that seems to benefit from continued to practice and innovation into old age. Many novelists continued to producing good work well into old age. Music is not my forte, but many of the great classical composers continued producing until they died. Popular music may be a different story, but I'm not convinced.


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The movie Soylent Green was set in 2022. This review fact-checks every aspect of it (cannibalism wasn't the only thing it predicted), and concludes it was comically wrong.

"The fact that it was so far off the mark should be FOOD FOR THOUGHT for anyone who takes the current crop of doomsday global warming movies set in the future (e.g. – Geostorm, Snowpiercer, Interstellar) seriously."


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Is there a decent graph/table on what ages people have their first kids at? It is really easy to find an average, but hard to find a listing of what percent of of first kids where born by women age 20 vs 21 vs 22...

I would predict the data would show two peaks around 18-22 and another in the 30s. I think the increase in the average age that we see is due to the 18-22 peak shrinking and with smaller growth in the peak that occurs in the 30s.

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The public intellectuals article was recently featured on Thinking About Things (http://thinking-about-things.com) which is why it was probably in someone's mental cache. Highly recommend the newsletter, it often features blogs I've never heard about.

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Feb 7, 2022·edited Feb 7, 2022

Since the last politics-allowed thread, I read the latest Human Freedom report by the Fraser Institute. Given their political leanings, this is basically a report on how libertarian each nation is.


I want to bring up Hungary, which got a special call-out in the section which discusses the countries with the biggest changes in score from 2008 to 2019:

> Hungary's rating decreased from 8.41 to 7.73

If Hungary had maintained its score of 8.41, it would be the 30th most libertarian country. With it's score of 7.73, it ranks 59th. Looking at the historical data for Hungary (page 187), which only goes to 2008, its score does seem to start decreasing once Orbán came to power in 2010. This is driven by a reduction in personal freedom. Econ freedom stayed around 7.5 +/- 0.10, but personal freedom fell from 9.11 to 7.88.

I remember when Scott reviewed Orbán in the dictator book club, many people countered that he wasn't a dictator. Seeing the above motivated me to lookup Hungary in The Economist's Democracy Index. Again we see Hungary's score decline year over year when Orbán is in power: 7.21 down to 6.56. This still places them in the Flawed Democracy category.

So it may have been premature to call Orbán a dictator, he is definitely pushing the country hard in that direction. I think he fits being in the Dictator's Book Club regardless.

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Feb 7, 2022·edited Feb 7, 2022

RE: Yoram Bauman and the Utah ballot initiative

I'm a resident of one of your high-need signature counties for the Clean the Darn Air ballot initiative. I read the 2020 initiative and I vaguely remember not supporting it last time around. Then I read through the proposal and I still don't support it. I'll provide my objections and give you a chance to respond.

1. I support getting rid of the regressive grocery tax, but why are you proposing to replace it with another regressive tax? I own two electric cars and no gas cars. I have an electric lawn mower and snow blower, and I have solar panels on my roof. If anything, this legislation would be financially beneficial to me, since I buy groceries. The only reason I'm able to avoid the additional carbon tax is because I'm well off. Many of my neighbors are also well off and are similarly able to avoid much of the financial burden from the proposed carbon tax. Those heaviest hit would be my friends and family who are less well off, with no solar, electric vehicles, etc. Thus, this is a heavily regressive tax - probably more so than the grocery tax it proposes to replace.

2. I understand the need to get rural support as a practical matter in getting this bill passed. I don't support the proposition to gain that support through a direct wealth transfer from cities to rural communities. Much of the natural beauty of Utah would be better served if fewer people were incentivized to settle on every square inch of it. If people in rural communities are having a hard time making ends meet unless they move to the city, why encourage them to stay?

I do support what you're trying to do. Of the many different cities/states I've lived, the Salt Lake Valley sometimes has the worst air quality I've seen. This is a problem of geography (there's a weather phenomenon caused by the mountains and the nearby lake that traps the air - and all local emissions - in a 'bubble' across the whole valley). It can't be solved by moving the mountains, so the only viable solution to the air quality problems is to reduce local emissions. The power plants have all been moved outside the valley, so the main source of emissions comes from vehicles. Trucks are especially bad culprits, since lots of people use them as daily drivers, and they're particularly popular around here.

I'm on the side of cleaning up the darn air. But I don't see the sense in trading one regressive tax for another in order to make that happen. The burden should not be primarily borne by the poor, to the benefit of the rich, in order to make the air quality better. If you come up with a different approach, I'm open to supporting future initiatives.

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I enjoyed the article about public intellectuals. Scott(or anyone else) what young upstart should we be reading, keeping an eye on?

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Somebody I know came up with a term for something we're both aware of: "Other People's Shit."

The thing being pointed at is this amorphous blob. It's fashion, but it isn't fashion. It's politics, but it isn't politics. It's nostalgia, but it isn't nostalgia. It's having shelves full of stupid plastic figurines that represent the media you consume, but it's that, for everything; you have your shelf full of mass-produced political views, media consumption, musical preferences; all in place of being a person; it's reference comedy, but instead of comedy, it's reference culture.

I know too many people, at this point, whose political opinions are whatever political opinions they think they're supposed to hold, whose media consumption is whatever media consumption they're supposed to engage in, who are nostalgic for whatever it is currently fashionable to be nostalgic about. It's the most boring zeitgeist in history: Have you seen the new Marvel TV show? Isn't John Carpenter's synthwave the best? September 6th was a coup! Look at my new Funkopop, isn't it so me? Isn't rickrolling the best?

I'm not talking about fashion trends themselves, or the fact that people share common cultural influences and so tend to have lots of things in common; it's something else, almost a state of fear of not being part of the thing, of not having the shelf full of the right things. It's Family Guy as a lifestyle.

And I'd love to be complaining about the next generation, so I could be shaking my fist at them, but honestly, they seem way better about this specific thing than my own. And it isn't like other generations don't have fashion that everybody buys into, but it's not that; I struggle to name exactly what it is, but I find it incredibly cringeworthy. It's a little bit corporation-as-identity, but the corporate part isn't even necessary.

And as I look at fashion, and generations, this reference culture thing is something the baby boomers and millenials share in common. You could say it originated with generation x, and observational humor a la Seinfeld, except it's even more evident in what Christmas songs we hear every year, and what music keeps getting trotted back out. And it may look like baby boomers are the opposite in some respects, but it's an opposite which is also the same thing - I Can't Drive 55 is almost the theme song of their generation, a compulsive refusal to buy in, which becomes its own kind of buy in.

The silent generation, generation x, and generation z, have almost an oppositional attitude, culminating in generation z finding it gauche to reference memes. Not that generation Z doesn't have its own fashion, with its own legacy; the heritage of ratfink is evident in their memes, inherited from their parents, inherited from their parents in turn - but their fashion looks, at least from the outside, more one-and-done; their nostalgia more specific and less shared. "Other People's Shit", or reference culture, could also, from the perspective of the other generations, be called something like poser culture, if that helps illustrate the difference.

And also maybe at least one of the positive aspects of the culture, because it is not inherently exclusive.

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Feb 7, 2022·edited Feb 7, 2022

For the prediction contest update.

Re: Q4 2021, that's not an issue, because people presumably answered based on what was actually written in the question. I can see tossing it based on the "Scott recommendation" part, though.

The Bored Apes one is more of a problem. Please don't change the target there, because then either everyone who has already entered needs to notice and go back and change their prediction (not going to happen), or else you'll end up with a mix of what people were predicting. So either leave the contest judged as the original stated, or else decide to throw the question out completely.

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I've been thinking a lot lately about being "ahead of the curve" and the benefits it can incur to your life. Namely, a good heuristic for achieving wealth, fame, status, etc. is being one of the early-adopters of something small before it achieves immense growth. We see this as basically the lingua franca of startups, where everyone wants to hop on the next Google or Uber rocketship. Most cryptocurrency projects - especially the scammy ones - use "getting in early" as their prime marketing funnel. If you bought Bitcoin in 2011, you're very wealthy now.

Was curious if any SSC/ACX readers have strategies they use to hone this type of behavior. Are there communities or blogs or forums you read and spend a lot of time on? Areas you live? The type of work you do or the people you work with?

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Does anyone have data on health and safety of babies sleeping on their stomachs vs backs? I know the “official recommendation” is that back sleeping is best, and the understanding I have is that this recommendation comes from a correlation in studies on SIDS, which is still poorly understood.

I’d like to see analysis of multiple factors and the tradeoffs involved, if any such analysis exists.

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If the US had a much smaller population, would it still be anywhere near as wealthy per capita? America famously has quite a bit higher income per capita than most other developed countries- $63k annually per the UN & World Bank, versus $45k for Germany, $40k for Britain, $39k for France & Japan, etc. Let's write an alternate history where North America is just physically a much smaller place, so despite becoming an independent country only so many Europeans could settle here. (Or, more interestingly, the North American continent became a bunch of different smaller countries, as South America did).

That higher income- is it just a return to scale for America? Like, if Germany had a population over 300 million, would it also have a much higher average income? This would be my intuitive guess- there's some network effects to being huge, so more & more businesses are founded and productivity gets improved when you already have a huge population & economy. I am a bit skeptical of the jingoistic, America's success is due to its unique culture argument. To argue against this point though, the few developed countries that have higher incomes are very small- Norway and Switzerland, with Iceland and Denmark coming pretty close to the US.

So- would the US be poorer per capita if it had Germany's population? Would Germany be as wealthy or wealthier than the US per capita, if it had America's population? Bit of a common sense note, of course there are minimum cultural prerequisites needed to become wealthy (Nigeria, Pakistan and Mexico are obviously not, despite being near or above Japan's population). My question takes for granted that developed countries have a baseline level of cultural competence/stability, then you add the larger population into the mix

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I discovered this blog in the middle of last year, and since then I've also read hundreds of archived posts on slatestarcodex. After all that, I have two questions/confusions:

1. What is Scott's political position? I know it seems like a simplistic question and an attempt to force a large set of nuanced beliefs into a meaningless label, but is there some rough description (like "left-leaning centrist" or "evidence-based conservative" or "anti-government utilitarian")? I'm trying to make sense of him focusing most of his criticism on the left while voting for Elizabeth Warren, for example, and other things like that. Every time I think I've grasped his general stance I read something else from him that doesn't fit.

2. The "rationalist" label. It was my understanding that rationalism is an approach to knowledge that takes logical argument as its fundamental basis, while empiricism takes experience or evidence as fundamental. Kant and Descartes vs Hume and Heidegger. But the "rationalist community" seems to be built on evidence and experiment and suspicious of pure reason. Is the word being used to mean empiricism or am I misunderstanding the community? I've never seen this addressed.

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I've been experiencing a lot of problems posting comments recently. The Chrome tab for ACX randomly hangs when trying to post a comment. Sometimes the comment gets posted during such a hang, sometimes not. Anyone else notice this recently? Just happened to me now. This started happening maybe a couple of weeks ago.

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I've become a bit addicted to optical illusions. Some of the most astonishing are still pictures that look like they're moving.




So I had a printshop do some nice quality prints of these, and... the printed versions aren't moving when I look at them!

My best guess is that some Bayesian subconscious part of my brain knows that printed images never move, while on screen images often do, and interprets them accordingly.

Another theory is that I need better prints.

I welcome your insights or speculation!

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I haven't commented on why you suck before, but I have spent quite some time thinking on it, because I, too, enjoy reading you less, and recommend you less, than I used to.

One reason is that since you moved to substack, I read every one of your posts, regularly, instead of once in a while a bunch of those that look most interesting to me. Of course the average quality/relevance to me goes down that way.

Another thing is that (I think) more of your posts are presupposing agreement on some basic ideas you wrote about before. From your end, no reason to stick to the broad, general question when you can use your answer as a step-stone to reach higher. From the reader's end, you become a lot less interesting or relevant to those that disagree with you on the first step.

A third is that the more I read from you, the more I learn about you, and the better I identify areas of disagreement. The first contact with a new idea is strange, foreign, fascinating, but over time you figure our whether and how to integrate it into your own worldview, and at that point you're over it and don't need or want exposition to the raw, unintegrated form of the idea anymore.

And lastly I'm just personally very disinterested in prediction markets and special economic zones, think AI risk is ridiculous, and want more neuroscience, rumination on cognition, and tidbits from science and history that I wouldn't encounter on my own. I am not sure if the ratio has changed or just seems like it to me.

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I turned Scott's short allegory from his Ivermectin article (about aliens, space plague, and brain implants) into an audio drama. I reached out to Scott and received his blessing, so I'm glad to now share it with you.

Teaser (1 m 30 s): https://twitter.com/TheProgramAS/status/1488888506894192640

Full episode (18 m 30 s): https://programaudioseries.com/22-JN-antivirus-solutions-for-home-and-business/ or search for the latest episode of "The Program audio series" (full title) in your podcast app

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Much more than you wanted to know request: Uyghur situation in China. I still feel unsure about the facts on the ground, it seems like there is something bad going on there but also like it's not a genocide in the WW2 sense. Is it "cultural genocide" in the sense that Westerners use the term? Are there large-scale forcible detainments happening? Is it uniform, is it based on political dissidence, is it well-understood by the Chinese citizenry? I would like to know more. Also, if somebody has a good overview of this situation I would love to be directed that way.

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A terrible comment.

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Is there a good example of a situation in US history where a government entity was created to solve a problem, and it was later determined that this government entity wasn’t able to solve the problem, so the governmental entity was disbanded?

The only relevant situation I can think of that fits the general shape is prohibition. Are there other such examples?

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On 5 (Why Public Intellectuals Have Short Shelf Lives) - does anyone have ideas how to avoid such fate?

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I think that shameless self promotion outside of classified threads (ie. spam), should be considered reportable. And yes there a particular annoying commenter I have in mind. Any other thoughts on this?

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Does the report button also serve as a way of ensuring our gracious host sees our most insightful comments?

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Re: Public Intellectual Shelf Life: what of C S Lewis?

Reading his collected correspondence there's this moment toward his late 40's when he worries to a friend that he's made his mark and is more or less done publicly, and it takes you a moment to realize that he hasn't written Narnia yet. And then he hands the world _Till We Have Faces_, which is a book I'm now going to stop thinking about so I don't start to cry again. Meanwhile _Letters to Malcolm_ is as good as anything he wrote earlier in life. Maybe he died just as the well ran dry but I wouldn't bet on it, and he probably qualified as a public intellectual by the time he gave the first _Mere Christianity_ address, so that's conservatively a 20 year high.

The Christian part of me would like to chalk it up to God growing larger the older you get, but that feels a little like special pleading. Are theologians outliers in general? Or is he just personally an outlier? Or am I missing something in the chronology?

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Fact-checking the US President


A Reader's Story on her concerns about the mRNA vaccines


Inflation renamed - Cost of Living Crisis


UPDATE - Correlation between Increased Mortality rates and the Vaccination programme in England


Thanks Scott!

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Suppose you are present at the US constitutional convention, and you’ve somehow managed to convince everyone that factions are going to be a thing. What would you change, aside from using approval voting? Anything? Would you make the factions official government entities with specific rules?

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What if anything could be done (by governments or with business arrangements) to make it more likely for people to live in extended families? Might remote work do a lot in that direction for some families?

Maybe remote work could be the big deal enabling extended families.

I don't mean that extended families would necessarily live in the same house, but let's say that everyone is within fifteen minutes of each other. Social contact and help are *convenient*.

I don't know that it would be a better world that way. I think the present world is commercially convenient and makes it relatively easy (not actually easy) for people to get away from abusive relatives. Unfortunately, it also breaks up families where people are good for each other and might have something to do with demographic collapse.

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I want to leave the below here, to see if anyone has any reactions to it. I don't think I agree with it, but it's a perspective you don't often hear. The person answering the questions is late author Toni Morrison.

I think there's maybe something to the idea that people have a hard time raising a family because we have norms for when you're supposed to develop a career and all, that were based around the model of men working and women at home; and now women are in the workforce but the norms are unchanged, and aren't designed for people to take substantial time off for childrearing.


Q. This leads to the problem of the depressingly large number of single-parent households and the crisis in unwed teenage pregnancies. Do you see a way out of that set of worsening circumstances and statistics?

A. Well, neither of those things seems to me a debility. I don’t think a female running a house is a problem, a broken family. It’s perceived as one because of the notion that a head is a man.

Two parents can’t raise a child any more than one. You need a whole community — everybody — to raise a child. The notion that the head is the one who brings in the most money is a patriarchal notion, that a woman — and I have raised two children, alone — is somehow lesser than a male head. Or that I am incomplete without the male. This is not true. And the little nuclear family is a paradigm that just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for white people or for black people. Why we are hanging onto it, I don’t know. It isolates people into little units — people need a larger unit.

Q. And teenage pregnancies?

A. Everybody’s grandmother was a teenager when they got pregnant. Whether they were 15 or 16, they ran a house, a farm, they went to work, they raised their children.

Q. But everybody’s grandmother didn’t have the potential for living a different kind of life. These teenagers — 16, 15 — haven’t had time to find out if they have special abilities, talents. They’re babies having babies.

A. The child’s not going to hurt them. Of course, it is absolutely time consuming. But who cares about the schedule? What is this business that you have to finish school at 18? They’re not babies. We have decided that puberty extends to what — 30? When do people stop being kids? The body is ready to have babies, that’s why they are in a passion to do it. Nature wants it done then, when the body can handle it, not after 40, when the income can handle it .

Q. You don’t feel that these girls will never know whether they could have been teachers, or whatever?

A. They can be teachers. They can be brain surgeons. We have to help them become brain surgeons. That’s my job. I want to take them all in my arms and say, ”Your baby is beautiful and so are you and, honey, you can do it. And when you want to be a brain surgeon, call me — I will take care of your baby.” That’s the attitude you have to have about human life. But we don’t want to pay for it.

I don’t think anybody cares about unwed mothers unless they’re black — or poor. The question is not morality, the question is money. That’s what we’re upset about. We don’t care whether they have babies or not.

Q. How do you break the cycle of poverty? You can’t just hand out money.

A. Why not? Everybody gets everything handed to them. The rich get it handed — they inherit it. I don’t mean just inheritance of money. I mean what people take for granted among the middle and upper classes, which is nepotism, the old-boy network. That’s shared bounty of class.

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Thanks for sharing the Scholars’ Stage article

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Idea to increase birth rates: Similar to women's quotas have parents quotas for professorships, boards of directors, government positions, etc., conditioned on taking 6 months parent time.

I fell like people compete for status much more than for money, so one-time cash handouts for babies seem not as attractive. It would reframe getting children from a career hindrance that has to be compensated to an advantage in your career. Also it costs almost nothing, much of the bureaucracy of managing quotas exists anyways. It increases parents in visible high-status positions and pushes institutions and companies to accommodate them. Since it's required by law, employees who get pregnant are appreciated by the company (as the quota has to be filled anyway) instead of met with "why now?".

Why aren't at least states like Hungary, Russia etc who really seem bound on improving their birth rates in any way possible doing this?

Is there a flaw that I overlook?

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We are having an ACX/LW meetup in Budapest this Saturday.

Anyone interested is welcome to join us.

Further information:


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Does anyone alse find default substack font for articles awful? Default font used for comments is much better, imho. But perhaps I just have idiosyncratic preferences...

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How about having the occasional review thread? Not ambitious contest reviews, but just relatively short reviews of books, movies, etc.?

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What do folks think the 1/6 event at the Capitol means? I tend towards that it was bad because of threats, deaths, and vandalism while not feeling very sure that it means high risk of ending democracy in the US.

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Recently, I came across the work of Robert Kegan and Ken Wilber on "Development". I would define development as a life-long series of processes of personal improvement inclusive of education, learning, parenting, self-improvement, etc.

Whereas, the "science" of development has mostly focused on children, Kegan and Wilber take a more life-long view. I have found some of their conclusions very helpful. I'd like to know if there are other advanced thinkers on this topic that I'm missing. Does the ACX community have any recommendations to further my research?

Note: Wilber focuses a lot on spiritual development, which is a bit of a foreign territory for me. He also tends to be defined by that part of his work. At this point, spiritual development is not the avenue of research that I'm looking for.

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My suggestion for the ACX grants: next time, give them a classier name.

It sounded like several of the grants you were awarding were for people to further their careers in fields you want to encourage, including in academia. For an academic, the line on the CV saying e.g. "Rhodes scholar" can be more important than the actual money. By contrast, "Astral Codex Ten grant recipient" sounds like a weird internet thing.

Okay, it *is* actually a weird internet thing, but you can probably increase the impact with no extra cost by dressing it up a bit. Call them "Foresight grants", or something.

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I'd like to hear a SSC take on what's going on in Ukraine.

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I keep reading on the internet about how much woker US Corporations are now and that everyone has to bite their tongues or be sent to the gulag. Perhaps I am merely fortunate to have not experienced this yet.

But I'm curious what specific things one can't say now in a professional work environment that one could say with impunity 30 years ago. You could certainly get fired 30 years ago for saying something that might be interpreted as racist or sexist. Generally, smart people figure out quickly to avoid talking about politics and religion at work.

What's a concrete example of something one can't say now in a "woke workplace" that they could say 30 years ago?

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Can somebody help me find a less charged word to use in an argument about Wordle? I was trying to explain to somebody that I don't like the fact that Wordle's "Share this neat pattern with your friends! Compare your results!" billing encourages people to spam my social media feeds with daily reminders that the game exists. It reminds me of the Dark Age of Farmville and other cheap MMOs that only survived by incentivizing their players to give the game free advertisement on social media. I described its psychology as "exploitative", and when someone else said that it also reminds them of cheap Facebook MMOs, I agreed with them, but after that the conversation quickly got bogged down in discussion of how most MMOs try to get players to spend as much money and time as possible on them, and since Wordle is "free and doesn't take long", people said that I wasn't right to say it was "exploitative like an MMO".

I think "exploitative" is a perfectly fair word for something that tricks people into telling everyone they know about it on a daily basis, but I realized that if other people reserve that word for games that specifically try to make the player spend money, I might be Worst Argument In The World-ing. I tried to think of an alternate word, but all I could come up with was "manipulative" which has the same problem. Is there another word that better sums up my gripe?

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Why didn’t the US succeed in banning TikTok? Maybe someone with a legal background could help me understand why the executive order failed. I can see reasons why we wouldn't want almost 100 million Americans using a highly addictive, effectively Chinese government-owned tech app. The downsides of banning of course would include the loss of some people’s incomes and maybe a dangerous precedent for government control of online platforms?

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Advice on motivation and brain fog?

I think I am basically suffering from pathological under-stimulation of my frontal cortex. Every day I struggle against debilitating brain fog paired with raging impulsivity, desperate to have the presence of mind that makes me feel competent, functional, and alive. I have tried Vyvanse, Adderall, Welbutrin, Cymbalta, etc., with mixed results: the stimulants often helped enormously for a short while (usually a matter of two or three days or so), but as I took them I developed a tolerance which completely undermines their effects. Wellbutrin unfortunately didn't pair well with my anxiety, and Cymbalta has taken the hysterical edge off of the neuroticism while turning my impulsivity into pathological listlessness and avolition, where I just wallow in my bedsheets all day. It beasts panicking, I suppose; but my grades are going to suffer if something doesn't change soon.

What is so strange is that there are other days (or, more often, stretches of a few hours here and there) in which the fog lifts somewhat or entirely and I feel remarkably better. I can think, write, speak, etc. without any feeling of impairment whatsoever. Better, even: people tell me that I can be strikingly articulate and knowledgeable, but this is only said of me when I experience a parting of the fog.

I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and am currently treating it with CPAP, and it does make me feel more refreshed by my sleep. I notice that on the days without CPAP, I feel much worse. Sadly, none of the cognitive symptoms have subsided despite about two months of treatment, causing me to fear that I have suffered from permanent brain damage.

I wake up in the mornings gasping for air intellectually. My mind is a disorganized, haphazard array of random, incomplete sentences. Or else it is just blank and vacant, with thoughts only occurring to me with great difficulty. *"Chair... Shoes... eh, eh.... walk! Yes,* I wanna walk. Sh-sh, sh....*Shower!* Need, Ne...Ne... I... I... Need, I need, I need, need, a sh-*shower!*" is essentially my internal monologue in the mornings. I will talk to myself with the hope of jump starting my brain, but the effort is usually hopeless and my thoughts come out in hideous, elliptical, self-interrupting and inarticulate sentences.

I have learned not to meet people for coffee in the mornings or allow any extended social interactions, because when I do I alarm people by my shocking lack of basic self-awareness (like walking away after paying for my food/coffee and leaving my credit card or forgetting to pick up what I just paid for; forgetting people’s names who I interact with on almost a daily basis) and confused/jumbled speech.

I experience the brain fog in involuntary physiological cycles; my mind is obliterated in the mornings and slowly becomes tractable in the afternoons and extremely vivid and clear in the late evenings. Conversation helps. Sugary foods and soda helps. Intense exercise can wipe me out, but a walk or something more relaxed can help. Feeling appreciated/impressive/socially desired and enjoying an adrenalizing experience helps (clubbing, drinking with friends, etc.). The fog usually happens with a lot of neurotic and unhealthy/self-critical thoughts and, weirdly, rampant impulsiveness that pervades my body, driving me to while my life away in a hedonistic blur.

My life is vibrant and thrilling when the fog is gone and my cerebral function is restored; I feel focused, accomplished, and extremely capable. Otherwise, I am a shell of my true self and burn with a feeling of waste and loss. Please share your thoughts and offer any ideas you may have about improving cognition, awareness, intellectual engagement, etc.

I wish so badly that I had endless reserves of energy to draw from in order to accomplish my goals. A latent part of me is tempted to begin pursuing options around electroconvulsive therapy, just so that I can resolve my mood problem without the need for antidepressants. I’ve had enough of having my brain on factory settings, and feel strangely unperturbed by the idea of permanently changing it for the better.

I am in desperate need of effective treatment for my lack of motivation, and become a vastly more functional human being on extended release Vyvanse (30mg). If not for the tolerance problem, I would literally be among the happiest and most fulfilled humans to ever live.

What can I do to overcome this? Some solutions I have been thinking about so far:

- Figure out some sort of optimized dosing schedule that trades off my need for the medication with tolerance; experiment with taking on-and-off 4 days a week, 3 days, or even only 2 days. Completely give myself over to my symptoms during the intervening days, getting nothing done and whiling my time away in a haze of motivational poverty and brain fog, so that the drug days can be livable.

- Experiment with other stimulants that use different mechanisms (do those exist?) and rotate between them in multi-day blocks. Risk becoming addicted to nicotine. (Already tried Modafinil, but turned out to be an unfortunate outlier in terms of side effects. Gives me intolerable anxiety, although somehow Vyvanse actually *decreases* my anxiety. No idea how this is possible from a biological perspective.) One problem with this approach is that I’m not aware of other stimulant medications with comparable efficacy that use different mechanisms.

- Increase the dosage on Vyvanse. I question the wisdom of this, because won’t it just plant me back in my initial position a few days later, and with only worse side effects in the meantime? If I tolerate to 30mg, why would it be any different at 50 or 70?

- Just give up and hate myself? I hope this isn’t the ultimate answer, but a deeply pessimistic, fatalistic part of me worries this will be the eventual result. I will be forced to submit to biological slavery because of the sheerest, freak accident of genetics that created my dysfunctional brain.

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I just realized that the past two years have been full of scissors statements.


There's the initial responses to covid, the BLM demonstrations and riots, the January 6 demonstration and riot, Operation Warp Speed, the vaccine mandates, the trucker convoy...

The odd part is that not only are they controversial but they are unpredictably controversial. You didn't know who will be on which side ahead of time.

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I'm a huge fan of "Reign of Terror" moderation and feel strongly that if you (Scott) are looking at a comment and feeling torn about whether to delete it, the answer is yes for the love of god delete it.

Also I'd like to repeat my comment from the last subscribers-only thread on the "why does [Scott] suck" comments:

The complaints sound like classic Golden Age thinking. My own perception is that SSC/ACX has gotten better and better. Consider recent works of genius like "Diseasonality" (maybe most of the genius of that one is in the title) or the one about "no evidence" and the "kids and climate change" one. Not to mention that every time he reviews a book, the review is better than the book itself. He's an absolute national treasure. (Conflict of interest disclosure: he's been amazing to me and to Beeminder and we're in the same social circles etc.)

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