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I sent in a bunch of review scores without giving my address. Should I re-send them with my address?

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Apr 24, 2022·edited Apr 24, 2022

Why is there an international shortage of MAOIs?

They are decreasingly prescribed by physicians despite their extreme efficacy. Is it just not worth it anymore for pharmaceutical companies to produce them?

Follow-up question: where can I get it? (Darknet recommendations?)

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I've had asthma since I was a kid but it's been mostly mild. I'd have an attack maybe one or twice a year and it was harder to breath but never to the point where I felt like I would actually panic or pass out. As a kid I had an inhaler but I never bothered with that as an adult.

But yesterday I had a pretty severe attack. Worse than any I'd had before to the point where I had a definite feeling of panic that made it very hard to control my breathing. The panic would constantly make me try to inhale my next breath before I could finish exhaling my previous one. It lasted for hours but it did subside eventually.

So I went to the pharmacy to buy an asthma inhaler and they straight up refused to sell me one. Prescription only apparently. But the problem is I don't have a doctor or internet (I'm on wifi at a café atm) so no virtual visits either. So that leaves the only (official) option of sitting for eight to ten hours in a room full of sick people so I can talk to a doctor for five minutes and get the stupid piece of paper that permits me to buy an emergency inhaler in case of another attack. Of course if I catch something while I'm there that could well trigger an attack in itself.

Ah well. I just looked up asthma inhaler prices online and there's a wide range of prices but possibly I couldn't afford one anyway. (the markup on some of them must be in the range of 10,000 percent markup) So I guess I'll just have to take my chances.

So I'm feeling a little bitter atm. I'm in BC, Canada for those who would like to make note of the data point wrt the relative state of health care in various countries.

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Study suggests that time-restricted eating (intermittent fasting) isn't more effective than restricting calories (dieting).

No discussion of what people tolerate better.


"Of the total 139 participants who underwent randomization, 118 (84.9%) completed the 12-month follow-up visit. The mean weight loss from baseline at 12 months was −8.0 kg (95% confidence interval [CI], −9.6 to −6.4) in the time-restriction group and −6.3 kg (95% CI, −7.8 to −4.7) in the daily-calorie-restriction group. Changes in weight were not significantly different in the two groups at the 12-month assessment (net difference, −1.8 kg; 95% CI, −4.0 to 0.4; P=0.11). Results of analyses of waist circumferences, BMI, body fat, body lean mass, blood pressure, and metabolic risk factors were consistent with the results of the primary outcome. In addition, there were no substantial differences between the groups in the numbers of adverse events."

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The Master and His Emissary (https://www.amazon.com/Master-His-Emissary-Divided-Western/dp/0300188374) has been sitting in my reading queue for a few years, and I'm about ready to start reading it.

It was published in 2009. What has happened since its writing that should affect how I read it? I'm particularly interested in (a) results McGilchrist relies on that have since failed to replicate and (b) well established (replicated) results that postdate the book and should meaningfully affect my reading.

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With Google having become far less useful recently due to a severe bias toward mainstream news and SEO-optimized sites, I'm finding it especially urgent to learn news ways of finding useful and detailed information.

Apart from Google Scholar, what techniques have you discovered for finding useful, detailed information sources *that you didn't know about before*?

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Lottery of Fascinations... the jump rope expert.


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Looking for a link from a relatively recent post, about how if people are truly on the fence about making a change in their life ( breaking up, moving, changing jobs, etc. ), there was a study that flipped a coin for them, and found that people who made a change were ultimately happier. Where was that?

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Here's a list of all the books reviewed, without subheadings. I don't know if anyone else wants this, but I found it a useful tool for browsing.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin H. Friedman

A History of the Ancient Near East

A Secular Age by Charles Taylor

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

1587, A Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline by Ray Huang

Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old, by Andrew Steele

Albion: In Twelve Books

An Education for Our Time by Josiah Bunting III

An Empirical Introduction to Youth by Joseph Bronski

Anthropic Bias by Nick Bostrom

At the Existentialist Café by Sarah Bakewell

Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom by Stephen Platt

Bronze Age Mindset

Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty

Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

Come and Take It: The Gun Printer's Guide to Thinking Free by Cody Wilson

Consciousness and the Brain by Stanislas Dehaene

Cracks in the Ivory Tower: The Moral Mess of Higher Education

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen

Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-Battering System That Shapes Their Lives by Jeff Schmidt

Economic Hierarchies by Gordon Tullock

Exhaustion: A History by Anna Schaffner

Facing the Dragon: Confronting Personal and Spiritual Grandiosity by Robert Moore

Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe by Roger Penrose

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

From Paralysis to Fatigue: A History of Psychosomatic Illness in the Modern Era by Edward Shorter

From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000 by Lee Kuan Yew

Future Shock by Alvin Toffler

God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert

Golem XIV by Stanisław Lem

Haughey by Gary Murphy

History Has Begun by Bruno Macaes

How Solar Energy Became Cheap: A Model for Low-Carbon Innovation

I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by René Girard

In Search of Canadian Political Culture by Nelson Wiseman

Industrial Society and Its Future by Ted Kaczynski (also known as the Unabomber Manifesto)

Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress by Hasok Chang

Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by Abigail Shrier

Island by Aldous Huxley

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

Japan at War: An Oral History by Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore Failor Cook

Kora in Hell: Improvisations by William Carlos Williams

Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper

Making Nature: The History of a Scientific Journal by Melinda Baldwin

Making Sense of Tantric Buddhism: History, Semiology, and Transgression in the Indian Traditions by Christian K. Wedemeyer

Memories of My Life by Francis Galton

Mind and Cosmos by Thomas Nagel

More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave by Ruth Schwartz Cowan

MOSCOW-PETUSHKI by Venedikt Yerofeyev

Nobody wants to read your sh*t by Steven Pressfield

Now It Can Be Told: The Story of the Manhattan Project by General Leslie M. Groves

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson

Pericles by Vincent Aulay

Private Government by Elizabeth Anderson

Public Choice Theory and the Illusion of Grand Strategy: How Generals, Weapons Manufacturers, and Foreign Governments Shape American Foreign Policy by Richard Hanania

Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker

Reason and Society in the Middle Ages by Alexander Murray

Robert E. Lee: a life by Allen C. Guelzo

San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities by Michael Shellenberger

Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut

Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks

Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal

Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson

Troubled Blood by J.K. Rowling

The Age of the Infovore by Tyler Cowen

The Anti-Politics Machine by James Ferguson

The Axis of Madness

The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch

The Book of All Hours series - “Vellum” and “Ink” - by Hal Duncan

The Book of Blam by Aleksander Tišma

The Book of Why by Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky’

The Castrato by Martha Feldman

The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change

The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow

The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton

The Diamond Age or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner by Daniel Ellsberg

The Ecotechnic Future by John Michael Greer

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon by Karl Marx

The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World - And Us by Richard Prum

The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul

The Fall of Robespierre: 24 Hours in Revolutionary Paris by Colin Jones

The Future of Fusion Energy by Jason Parisi and Justin Ball

The Goal / It’s Not Luck by Eliyahu Goldratt

The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space by Gerard K. O’Neill

The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s secret strategy to replace America as the global superpower by Michael Pillsbury

The Internationalists by Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro

The Irony of American History - by Reinhold Niebuhr

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch by Lewis Dartnell

The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen

The Mathematics of Poker by Bill Chen and Jerrod Ankenman

The Matter With Things by Iain McGilchrist

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

The Motivation Hacker by Nick Winter

The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas Szasz

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Matsuo Basho

The New Science of Strong Materials by J. E. Gordon

The One World Schoolhouse by Salman Khan

The Origins of The Second World War by A.J.P. Taylor

The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter by Kai Bird

The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers by Richard McGregor

The Reckoning by David Halberstam

The Republic by Plato

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

The Righteous Mind – by Jonathan Haidt

The Russian Revolution: A New History, by Sean McMeekin

The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord

The Tyranny of Metrics by Jerry Z. Muller

The Virus in the Age of Madness by Bernard-Henri Lévy

The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East by Abraham Rabinovich

Three Years in Tibet by Ekai Kawaguchi

Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality by Helen Joyce

Troubled Blood by J.K. Rowling

Trump: The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump and Tony Schwartz

Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters by Steven Koonin

Unsettled. What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, And Why It Matters by Steven E. Koonin

Very Important People: Status and Beauty in the Global Party Circuit

Viral by Alina Chan and Matt Ridley

War in Human Civilization by Azar Gat

When men behave badly by David Buss

Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities

Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliott Friedman

Yąnomamö: The Fierce People by Napoleon Chagnon

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Scott, you can consider adding to the book review rating form a free text field for feedback which will be shared with the book review author. Feedback is valuable for improvement! :)

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Hi everyone who came to the Irvine Meetup, just wanted to say I had a great time! Thank you for dropping by, Scott!

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So I was reading Medium today as I often do, and.... something inside me snapped after I saw Medium's reading recommendations. And so I felt compelled to write this. https://medium.com/big-picture/im-sick-of-medium-s-russian-propaganda-7fe63eaaa63f

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I've began skimming through the reviews. Is it OK to speculate on who wrote what ?

Also, what scaling do people use for ratings ? I feel I've been rating things a bit too high - giving 5-6 to just OK reviews.

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Is being "intellectually angry" a thing? I don't mean being angry about some culture war issue; it's more "someone is wrong on the internet" but with an added feeling of helplessness that I can't possibly correct them.

The issue is AI Alignment Risk and this website. I love this website. Scott is one of my favorite all-time bloggers. But taking AI Alignment Risk so seriously is obviously so fucking crazy that it makes me "intellectually angry".

I've never understood exactly what the Rationalist community is, never really tried that hard. I mostly like them, yet there has always seemed something slightly *off* about them. Off in the way that Mencius Moldbug is brilliant but also clearly... off.

I realized today what the offness is, for me. It's the difference between Platonic vs. Aristotelean thinking. The term Rationalism has bemused me because I have often thought over the years: "Isn't this just Enlightenment thinking and didn't that start in the 18th century?"

But now I see the difference. The Enlightenment focused on empiricism and was most influenced by Aristotle. Rationalists, in their embrace of Bayesian thinking, seemingly feel free to discard empiricism, and this has led them to believe some crazy, rudderless shit. Such as AI Alignment is a reasonable thing to spend tons of time and money and human intelligence on.

To be clear, our gracious and brilliant host is also a brilliant, trenchant empiricist--when he works with empirical data. Unfortunately, he also seems to update--way too much---on non-empirical issues while in the company of persuasive friends. AI Alignment being the main one.

I think we need more debate between those who believe AGI is an X risk vs those who don't. All the headline debate on the issue here now seems to be between those who believe AGI is a huge risk and those who believe it is only a very, very major risk.

It makes me intellectually angry, if that's a thing.

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Is it ok to rate reviews that I started but then found annoying and ragequit? Or only reviews that I read all the way through?

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I'm reading a bunch of the reviews, and it strikes me how many people have "the makings" to be pretty good writers were they to spend a bit more time doing it.

There's a period of time you go through when you start writing regularly with the intent of publishing where you get rapidly better, and I keep seeing things where it's like "this guy is already pretty good, I wish he'd write ten articles in three months and be great".

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Apr 18, 2022·edited Apr 18, 2022

I've seen Jim Kennedy around thorium reactor groups a lot, and now he's giving his origin story:

> So I met with the Pentagon guy and I laid out this plan, and I said "well here's what [China's] doing and here's how we can counter it, and if we we counter it like this, they won't be able to offset our actions, and we'll be successful at building, reestablishing a value chain," and the guy says to me "wow this is this is really interesting, you put a lot of thought into this... this is really good," and I said "yeah yeah, thanks, you know, I appreciate it, I'm sure that you've got, you're looking at other things, right?"

> He looks at me, like, "what do you mean?" I said "well, I mean, I just kind of threw this together and, you know, I'm just a private sector guy, and this is the Pentagon and I'm sure you guys have been looking at this and you have like, a real plan, right?"

> He goes "I don't, I don't understand what you're talking about." I said, "this is a national security issue, so I am under the assumption that the Pentagon is on top of this, and there's lots of other good plans, and I'm not the only private sector guy with the solution." And he goes he just he's looked at me like (shrugs) "well no, that's, that's it." And I said "what do you mean?"

> I said, "this is national security. You know, you guys should be developing a plan, it's not my responsibility." I said "what if i didn't show up?" and I swear to god, this is what he says, he goes "well you're here aren't you?"

Evidently this is a guy who became interested in thorium molten salt reactors not to solve global warming and air pollution like many of us, but because the U.S. is letting China control the global supply of rare earth materials that are critical for manufacturing various high-tech goods (notably motors and magnets). Mostly this is a result of laws around thorium. Heavy rare earths are always found together with thorium geologically, and U.S. law says that a company cannot dig up rare earths, extract those rare earth earths and bury the rest. Why? Because the residual dirt is considered "nuclear waste", or in technical terms "source material".

This is the main reason China controls 90% of the rare earth market. And this is, of course, a national security issue since it means China has huge leverage over *everyone* else in case there is any conflict between China and anyone else. We could simply change the law, of course, but I guess we won't because politics. So Kennedy's solution involves some kind of thorium trust. Rare earth miners will extract the thorium and deliver it to a group in charge of storing it, and this group will in turn sell it to people making reactors that use thorium, such as Thorcon. But, grain of salt, I have a sense that I don't quite understand what he's saying about the problem or solution.


Edit: I'm disavowing Kennedy's comments against NATO, though. Because https://twitter.com/jessicabasic2/status/1513836355440111621, plus he asserts "the Russians" are "calculating rational people" and it's become very clear that Putin is calculating, but not so much rational. But all that other political stuff isn't what he usually talks about and isn't why I listen to him.

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Why not give Ukraine T-55s and T-62s?

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@Scott Alexander — The comments section on lorienpsych.com disappeared at some point. How can we provide feedback on the articles?

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Apr 18, 2022·edited Apr 19, 2022

UPDATE: After a day of discussion it has become clear that we don't actually have a free speech norm; that is, the majority of users *does* support physical violence against people with different policy opinions on controversial issues, such as age of consent. Even though I was pessimistic before this day, I was still not calibrated pessimistically enough. This additional social evidence has convinced me that it is irrational for me to support the free speech of people who have opinions differing from me, as such a civilizational norm is broadly not reciprocated. It would be the equivalent of cooperating with defectors on the iterated prisoner's dilemma. I will henceforth support physical violence as an acceptable response to the expression of political opinions I disagree with.

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The book-review form has a space for entering your email addresses "to prevent spam and accidental double votes"; however, entering something in that space has not been made mandatory, which I think means that several of my votes have become accidental _non_-votes because I am a moron and often forget to do things.

Scott, if you're reading this and it's easy to do (which I _think_ it is), if you are going to ignore submissions in which that space is left blank could you please make it impossible to submit the form with that space left blank? If you're concerned about spammers and somehow making the field mandatory will make their robots fill things in there, you could have another mandatory field labelled "please enter four plus three" or something.

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I have a friend who I think might have Borderline Personality Disorder.

Any resources people would recommend?

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Alas, my shameful pride. Reading book reviews other than mine, I find myself envious of the good and scornful of the bad. I cannot exorcise the implicit comparison and enjoy them in their own rights! I am tainted and untrustworthy as a reader and evaluator, and as such, cannot bring myself to submit ratings of any of the reviews I have read.

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Any widely published nonfiction book can be condensed to a 3 page PDF without losing information [textbooks excluded], change my view

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Apr 18, 2022·edited Apr 18, 2022

Idle thoughts: Kant proposed that consciousness/sentience/free will is the result of the rational and physical (/animal) being combined. Chomsky proposed* that consciousness is contingent on language. Take a blended view and look at the latest work coming from AI and could it be that consciousness is the combination of physical/animal (blind sensory input in real time with no specific "training" set) and emergent language processing? It removes the rationality aspect from Kant which was always a challenge (making everything constantly consistent) and allows a potential gateway to understanding future interactions with LLMs.

I wonder, what does it "feel" like for a model to be trained vs called**? How much does real-time sensory input impact the nature of sentience? We know drugs are a problem for humans, could an AI fall into a mode of simply feeding itself fake data to "succeed" in its training?

For some reason I tend to imagine e.g. GPT-3 as being akin to a writer in a pure state of flow: divorced from worldly concerns and purely focused on following the train of thought where it leads.

* I have read Kant, but am relying on a single interview of Chomsky's I've listened to. I may be getting him completely wrong.

** I'm not really up to speed on the technical side of the current models, but the basic data science stuff I did with NNs didn't feed back the "real" output data back into training models, so there was no feedback loop to "learn" from calls to predict, unlike in training procedures (I imagine there must be *some* way of doing this in current models in order to keep stories consistent etc.).

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Judging my interest in the book reviews from titles alone:

* 1587, A Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline by Ray Huang

I'd like to see more Chinese history. A lot of what's out there has barriers to consumability for a Canadian like me. A good review can help sort that out.

* In Search of Canadian Political Culture by Nelson Wiseman

The title caught my interest. So did the reference to Albion's Seed. I'm also starting to think that we may be at the start of a new paradigm shift in Canadian politics, so this is good time to read a history.

* More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave by Ruth Schwartz Cowan

Recently Technology Connections released a video on the modern style can opener. He makes a point in the video on how small household inventions don't seem to catch on anymore. It's something I've been thinking about since, and this book seems to be in the same area.


* Private Government by Elizabeth Anderson

Is this a new Machinery of Freedom? For most of these I think there is a 50% chance I'll read the book if the review is good. For this one, I'll just read the review. Aside: I loved the intro to Scott's review of that book.

* Public Choice Theory and the Illusion of Grand Strategy: How Generals, Weapons Manufacturers, and Foreign Governments Shape American Foreign Policy by Richard Hanania

After reading The Dictator's Handbook, a lot of books about politics have become hard to take seriously since they over-attribute everything to the person in charge. This book sounds like it could be different. The specific topic isn't interesting enough to get me to read the book, but the review seems interesting.

* Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker

My only interest in this is the name Steven Pinker.

* The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow

There is two reviews of the same book.

* The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

I've listened to this book three times now. It is my ideology for understanding ideologies. It is my hammer that makes everything look like a nail. I am very interested to see someone else's review of this book to see what they learned differently from me.

* Yąnomamö: The Fierce People by Napoleon Chagnon

I'll probably just read the review. The subsection title "They’re kinda dicks" really grabbed my attention.

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Is there any way to estimate what it costs Americans to deal with the medical insurance system?

Ideally, it would include everything-- time (including time spent by helping other people), money, difficulties with getting treatment.

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I think the review for The Age of The Infovore is truncated?

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Apr 18, 2022·edited Apr 18, 2022

Trying to get in touch with a bunch of (mostly) American VCs for several reasons, I have contacts but some are too tenuous for me to get an introduction through them (I could bring up "btw I know X" but it would be weird to ask for an introduction).

Is cold emailing at all effective? Is LinkedIn at all effective? Any pointers appreciated.

To be clear this is not primarily about a startup that needs funding otherwise I'm sure I could find a funnel on their site or somewhere similar.

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Am I the only one who reads through all the banned comments out of sheer morbid curiosity?

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Go and see Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. It was weird and indescribable and riveting. The trailers did not do it justice. It's not merely great, it's an opportunity to see genius showing off.

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"start a conditional prediction market ... if the prediction market is higher than 25% then you can send me an email with a link to the market and argument and I’ll look at it."

Isn't there something distortionary about this? E.g., suppose the market were at 30%, I believe the true chance of it being worth reading is 0%, and I have unlimited money. Ideally, I'd bid the price down to ~0. But then Scott doesn't look at the appeal, the market won't get resolved, and I make no money! Is there ever a reason to drive the price below 25%, regardless of your true belief?

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Found this piece of comedy gold in a freewrite I did a few months ago (because I'm usually a mediocre writer - at least personal-writing-wise), so I'm posting it here now. Feel free to analyze it to oblivion and beyond.

> The moon is not made of cheese, as is commonly thought, but is made of rock. The sun is also not made of cheese, though far fewer believe this, but the sun is made of plasma. If the moon or the sun were in fact made of cheese, I would expect that their sizes would be quite different, because cheese, rock, and plasma have different densities from each other, which means that equal masses of these three substances would take up different amounts of space. Also, if the sun were made of cheese, I think that the gravitational pressure alone would be enough to make it burn and turn it into plasma again.

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Really enjoying checking out all the book reviews! One of them is mine. I'd love to assist in the review rating process, but want to make sure that's kosher first. Are we assuming that everyone will give their own review a 10, or banning the practice of rating one's own review?

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My daughter got Wordle on her first try. I am not sure what the odds of that are. However it did get me thinking about how millions of people doing Wordle are all focusing on the same thing at the same time. It would be an interesting way to test if there is any collective consciousness that can be shared albeit unconsciously. I was wondering if anyone had ever tried to do any research in this area.

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I am disappointed that once again nobody has reviewed the Road to Wigan Pier. There is much to delve into with the second half.

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Reading a biography of Angela Merkel called "The Chancellor" by Kati Marten. Written before the recent war in the Ukraine it was interesting to read about Vladimir Putin's relationship with Merkel and the west in general. In 2007 at a meeting in Munich he was highly critical of democracy and the nations that support it: "His stated goal had become to reclaim Russia’s place as a formidable global player by any means necessary". He also didn't like the criticism coming from a reporter about the war in Chechnya and somehow she was murdered outside a Moscow apartment on Putin's 54th birthday. Elsewhere he proclaims: "His ultimate goal is to weaken the European Union and its ally the United States." and he feels the Soviet collapse was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”. Seems like a nice guy though ;). Here's the full quotes from the book:

"On February 10, 2007, the somber prime minister of a resurgent Russia strode onto a stage in Munich to deliver a scorching diatribe against democracy, the West, and everything for which Angela Merkel stands. “Russians are constantly being taught about democracy, when those who teach us do not want to learn themselves,” he rebuked the gathering of transatlantic security specialists and government officials. Gone was the accommodating Putin of just a few years earlier, grateful to be a part of the European family and proud that the German chancellor spoke good Russian. His stated goal had become to reclaim Russia’s place as a formidable global player by any means necessary. Blending lies with threats, he taunted the audience, deflected hard questions, and punctured the West’s moral superiority. “Wars have not diminished,” he charged, in spite of the West’s attempts to broker peace around the globe. “More are dying than before.” Though Putin had not yet thrown his support behind Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal war against his own people, he scolded Washington for its wars in the Middle East and referred to the Cold War as a “stable” era. Merkel, sitting in the front row, was visibly shaken by the Russian’s venomous performance—and his description of the system that had kept her its prisoner for thirty-five years. Not since Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev pounded the UN podium with his shoe in 1960 and earlier proclaimed, “We will bury you!” had the world heard such vitriol from a Russian head of state. But Khrushchev thundered at the height of the Cold War; this was 2007. Things were supposed to be different now. Yet for the next decade and a half, Angela Merkel’s relationship with Putin would be her most frustrating and dangerous. It would also be her longest relationship with a fellow head of state, its roots reaching back to November 9, 1989."

"Vladimir Putin, once a proud standard-bearer of the humiliated Soviet Union, had learned a lesson he would not soon forget. Unchecked demonstrations and sudden eruptions of freedom can topple even the world’s most heavily armed empire. His battle to reverse what he considered to be “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century” (Soviet collapse) would ensnare Angela Merkel, a product of the same failed state. Their convoluted relationship would zigzag between faint hope and despair on her side, and dogged determination on both their parts. She was chancellor of Germany, and he was the modern-era czar of Russia. Divorce was not an option."

"From his perspective, the Cold War did not end in 1989; it merely took a short breather. Since then, Russia’s tactics had evolved. While the Soviets brandished nuclear-tipped missiles, Putin opts for weapons that are less conventional and less visible but ultimately more flexible and effective, such as spreading discord in the West through disinformation and cyber warfare, Putin sees himself, in his own words, as “the last great nationalist.” His ultimate goal is to weaken the European Union and its ally the United States. “The main enemy was NATO,” Putin said of his KGB service in Dresden"

"But he failed to intimidate her. In Dresden, the site of Putin’s deepest humiliation, Merkel even flipped his script. It was she who both diminished and humiliated him. The leaders met in his former town in October 2006, three days after the Moscow murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a reporter and human rights advocate whose coverage of Russia’s savage proxy war in the republic of Chechnya had gotten under the president’s skin. When Politkovskaya was shot dead in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on Putin’s fifty-fourth birthday, some observers felt the timing of her murder was not a coincidence."

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I'm looking for good sources on war in Ukraine, and everything related.

Could be anything from concrete experts that you deem competent to podcast series, media outlets or blogs and much more. I don't care much if this is on military strategy in UKR or global consequences and international allies or any of the many other related issues. Instead, I do care for analytical power and/or high-level expertise. I'd be very grateful for your hints and recommendations.

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Medical billing rant:

So I'm uninsured and pay cash. This works well for many doctors. My PCP gives me a cash discount to $100 per visit vs. $125 for the non-cash patients. My old shrink gave me a cash discount also. (Cash is great: no counterparty risk, no insurance overhead, no billing overhead, no collections overhead, no credit card fees/delays, and maybe even lower taxes ;) At some other doctors this is horrible. I saw an urgent care doctor for 2 minutes and then waited around for their minion to perform a rapid strep test, then paid $140 by credit card. I thought that covered it all. Then a week later they mailed me a surprise bill for an additional $350, which was ridiculous and I never agreed to, except in the sense that the legalese bs you sign at the beginning is a blank check for them to bill you anything for anything without your informed consent. I could have stayed home and done my own strep test for less than $2 per test. I hate the way the healthcare system works like that. Advance disclosure of prices should be mandatory. When I go to any clinic I should demand they tell me what they're going to bill me in advance or else I'll walk out, give them a negative review on google, and go to their competitor, rinse and repeat until I find a clinic that doesn't suck. Unfortunately 99.9% of people either have insurance or aren't that assertive, including me, so we get this fucked up system where you have to sign a blank check to be seen by a doctor, instead of transparency and informed consent about billing. Why is society so adamant about transparency and informed consent about research but doesn't give the slightest fuck about transparency and informed consent around medical billing? Seems like the latter is way more likely to fuck up someone's life than taking a survey that some IRB objects to.

policy idea: as a condition for accepting medicare, doctors must agree not to charge cash patients more than medicare would pay for the same procedure. This would greatly reduce the variance and the risks of surprise billing to uninsured patients. I bet that urgent care clinic is getting less than $200 from medicare instead of the $500 that it billed me.

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Have you considered setting up a site that just presents a random review to the user on each visit?

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Anyone good to read on the shakespeare authorship question? Have a feeling this is a prime example in a poor ability to interpret information, lack of clear statistical priors etc. Often the arguments sound good when you ignore fairly mundane positive info. Anyway was just hoping someone around here would know. Thanks

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There's a mendelian study on the association between alcohol use and cardiac disease that claims a straightforward *positive* correlation between any amount of drinking and higher risk

Previously all studies show a large decrease in mortality risk with moderate drinking, which I believe is dominated by a negative cardiac risk correlation

So what this study does is isolate certain genes found to be correlated with problem drinking and uses the prevalence of the genes to rate the person's likely drinking amount, and then correlates their risk of cardiac disease to that. The study does mention the problem of using genes tied specifically to problem drinking and notes that the study screened out actual problem drinkers

Should I consider this to be reliable evidence? My current attitude is that it isn't but is worth being aware of and moderating how strongly I assume moderate drinking is beneficial

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I was reminded of this concept by Scott's recent post on AI. Can anyone lay out a situation where acausal trade is plausible? This is related to a comment I made on another post, but roughly I think people jump from "very smart thing which can do things we cannot" to "thing which can accomplish anything which can be stated in English." When someone mentions something like acausal trade in the context of AI, I immediately stop paying attention since I assume they're not a serious thinker.

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A cursory look over the entries makes it look better than last year. I'm going to be reading these for months.

BTW Scott, duplicate entries for Troubled Blood by Rowling are in separate links- books 3 and 4.

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I was caught totally off guard by both DALLE and Alpha Fold Ai in the last 6 months, both strike me as hugely important. Can anyone give me clues as to what might be the next big AI to make headlines?

Also, is there a list anywhere of all the psychological and biological research that has been discredited by the replication crisis? Or maybe I need to read review articles?

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I created a prediction market for whether anyone else will outbid Elon Musk to buy twitter before the poison pill expires on April 14 2023: https://manifold.markets/J/will-anyone-outbid-elon-musk-to-buy

Current value is 5%.

If the twitter board persists in blocking the offer despite lacking any reasonable belief that they can get a better offer, they're probably violating fiduciary duty. The $54.20 offer was already a 37.8% premium above the closing price the day before it was announced.

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Oh, this is great! I'm delighted with the selection of reviews and already see several I want to read. There's also one book on here I've read, disliked, and won't review but I'm interested to see how others feel about it. This is so good, this will keep me going for my Easter break!

The book review contest is a wonderful idea, thanks for doing it, Scott.

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The Joseph Bronski link is to the Crazy Jalfrezi post, and I don’t see any Joseph Bronski post in any subthread there either.

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The Global Virome Project is aiming to build a catalog of viruses and evaluate their pandemic risk: https://www.globalviromeproject.org/

This is a bad idea for two main reasons. First, is the risk of collecting viruses from wildlife and having them escape accidentally from labs. But also, publishing sequences of potential pandemic pathogens will enable bad actors to credibly threaten to cause pandemics. See this commentary by Prof. Kevin Esvelt: https://www.science.org/do/10.1126/f079e4e4-7689-4837-bc83-1f3fd961e946/full/

I'm sure the people at Global Virome Project mean well but as it is currently planned, their project will do more harm than good.

If you are in the USA I encourage you to contact your congressperson about stopping this.

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Does anyone have an idea as to Russia's capability of significant conventional escalation in the form of missiles, bombs' and artillery?

I don't read very much about this.

Is it that they do not have the capability to unleash much greater conventional destruction or is it that imaginations are gripped more by the horror of non conventional weaponry?

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Musk: "To get a self-driving car, we need to solve real-world intelligence" - which, in many ways, is a human-level general intelligence. Same applies to Tesla’s humanoid robot Optimus. The timeline is:

"Around 2025, Musk thinks there will be rapid growth year-over-year in the usefulness of Optimus."


(the links post was the wrong place to comment with this)

Basically, if this particular endeavor works out, then at least for a short time (possibly quite short, assuming Optimus learns to self-improve despite the safeguards Musk talked about) there will be a time where menial jobs will go away, and productivity will soar, while unemployment will be soaring in tandem... So the Depression-era legacy of coupling of jobs with income might finally be broken, and Marx's dream of plenty and “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" might actually come to pass... in the best case, anyway. Humans will certainly manage to eff it up with ideology and culture wars.

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Prediction: The prediction/forecasting platform that gains the lions share of users will be the platform that allows predictions to be made within substack, LessWrong, EA Forum, and other blogging and journalism platforms. As in, ACX writes a post about topic X, and at the end of the post Scott embeds a prediction widget to invite readers to make a prediction about topic X.

An advanced version of this would be an attention market for essays, bloggers, and journalists. Essays that lead to changes in the market get promoted to other forecasters. Overtime, the stats would begin to show which bloggers and journalists are best at getting people to update a lot (persuasion factor), and which are best at getting people to update in the right direction (accuracy factor). Super journalists as opposed to superforecasters, so to speak (name tbd).

An even more advanced version would create an attention market for the comments section, allowing you to mark specific comments as having influenced you, and promoting those comments to other readers. Supercommenters (name tbd).

A yet even more advanced version would identify individuals who are good at separating signal from noise. In other words, those people who are good at identifying blogs/comments which should lead you to update vs false leads. Super Curators (name tbd).

And of course, this ecosystem would incentivize bloggers and journalists to focus on where they can cause the largest updates, keeping their readers accurate over time, and getting users to react appropriately to the news. It also gives quantitative feedback to writers and commenters about the influence of any particular thing they’ve written.

Haven’t thought this all the way through, and perhaps it introduces some bad incentives or reduces independence of forecasts too much. I’m also not sure if it could be a liquid market or if it would have to be a forecasting platform. Though perhaps blogs and journalists have their own reputation and revenue models, and so the ‘market’ aspect wouldn’t be as important.

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I hope everyone is having a great weekend! I am currently studying for the CA bar. Does anyone have tips on effective study methods? Thank you!

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Regarding heavy weapon shipments to Ukraine:

The Czech republic sent Ukraine some modernized T-72s, Slovaks sent their S300 anti-aircraft systems, I think that Poland also sent some tanks. The russians sent our (Czech) government an angry note, saying that we are not allowed to export weapons of Soviet origin. Our ministry of defence basically told them it was bullshit and there are no such provisions in any contracts. The russians then posted online about destroying both the SAMs as well as the tank shipments, neither turned out to be true. They have not done anything else to stop these shipments.

Despite all of this, Germany still seems to be unwilling to send Ukraine heavy equipment of its own, they cite the fear that "Europe could become a target of russian aggression". I am honestly not sure if this is due to cowardice, extreme naivete or affinity towards russia (which Germany has shown a plenty of, sadly). Is this uncharitable of me and is there a different explanation? I can't think of anything and it seems to me that Germany is rapidly losing any realistic bid for a leading role in the EU with its current approach. Zelensky is not very diplomatic towards Steinmeier, but it is very hard to blame him.

The UK and the US are doing a lot more and to me they seem to be the only NATO members other than Poland, the Czech republic, Slovakia and the Baltic states who are really providing Ukraine significant military aid. But NATO countries (including the Czech republic) officials still keep repeating that they cannot easily send Ukraine NATO tanks (other than the Soviet era reserves such as the Czech T-72s) because it takes time for the soldiers to learn how to use them. Is this still a valid reason though? The war is unlikely going to end in a week or even a month. How hard is it to learn how to operate patriots for example? Does it take more than a few weeks? It might require military instruction from the US but UK (i.e. NATO) instructors are in Ukraine again already, training Ukrainian troops, so I don't see why the US could not do the same. Or am I missing something?

So far it seems to me that russia backs down every time the West shows a litte bit of backbone. Putin threatened to only accept payment for gas in roubles, when the West said they would not comply, Putin backed down. When the Czechs sent tanks, russians sent an angry not and tried to spread fake news about their destruction but nothing else. When the UK apparently sent military advisors to Ukraine again, russia did nothing. To me it implies that NATO can definitely flex its muscle a lot more.

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Well, given my understanding of prediction markets if I am banned, I’m a goner.

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The US embassy in Ukraine had withdrawn most, if not all, of its staff, and is not providing consular services to any Americans still in Ukraine. They were told to leave before the war started, and now the US embassy is not there to provide help if they are trying to get out now.

How normal is this?

How many countries are currently providing consular services to their citizens in Ukraine? Which countries closed their embassies before the war started? Or when did they close them?

When wars start, do other countries typically withdraw their diplomatic presence? I would guess that international law discourages countries at war from targeting the diplomatic staff of third parties. But is the expectation that other diplomats will leave? Or is the US (and others) being especially cautious here because they expect laws of war will not be followed?

When the embassy and consulate close, how are their roles replaced? I could see that it would be useful to have a filmation presence in a capital city, regardless of how the war is going. You might want to stand with the current government - or you might want to be there when a new government takes over. This obviously has to be balanced against the safety of your diplomats.

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If full-scale nuclear war is not an X-risk--as many informed people seem to now agree--how is an Evil AGI an X-risk? What is a scenario in which an Evil AGI destroys humanity? Please offer some detail. For instance, how exactly does the paper-clip maximizer go around murdering 7 billion humans? We know that detonating all the nuclear weapons on Earth won't do it.

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Here's a fun thought exercise I came up with that y'all might enjoy:

So, we accept* that the most reproductively successful man of the last thousand years or so was Genghis Khan, due to all the unsavory behavior, high status & reproductive success of his legitimate issue, etc. A more challenging question though, is "who was the most successful /woman/?" Without an equally powerful mitochondrial DNA study, linked to an unusually fecund historical woman, the question might initially seem unanswerable, but with a little thought, I think it can be solved!

My answer rot13'd:

Gur nafjre vf npghnyyl dhvgr fubeg, ohg V'z cnqqvat vg bhg jvgu guvf rkgen grkg fb crbcyr qba'g havagragvbanyyl vasre vg whfg sebz gur fgehpgher bs gur fragrapr, ohg ertneqyrff, V cebcbfr gung gur jvaare vf... uvf zbgure. Rib-cflpu / fbpvbybtvpny vzcyvpngvbaf yrsg gb gur ernqre.

* Zerjal et al. (2003) show ~8% of men in a large region of Asia (over 10 million individuals) are descendants of the same guy via shared Y-chromosomal haplogroup, who is proposed to be Khan. If you don't accept that that guy was the historical Khan, well, let "Khan" mean "that guy".

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Curious to hear people’s thoughts on this blogpost.

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What are the best artistic works that could be called gateways to “rationalism”?

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On a trip to Vermont a guy who makes maple syrup told me that, counterintuitively, sap flows through a tree faster when it's cold out. I didn't have a chance to ask him why. Any theories?

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