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Jul 4, 2022·edited Jul 4, 2022

I built Read Something Interesting (www.readsomethinginteresting.com) to be a place to find thought-provoking longform writing.

What would make it a site you'd visit regularly? What would your dream media site look like? Where do you usually go to find things to read?

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I always and forever will knee-jerk away from EA stuff, and I'm not always sure why. I'm sure with the bigger "EA" branded writer-funding; they've already decided on a "best" philosophy and are pretty much just hiring PR people to promote it (i.e., Utilitarian Leftism, afraid of AI, depersonalized giving structures, etc.).

But where I'd like to think that's reasonable, I have a lot less reason to dislike the idea of people like Cowen/Collison promoting various kinds of research/tech and I have the exact same reaction. Why? It's not sour grapes, probably; I don't think Cowen gives much to the few rationalist types he funds for writing, and I wouldn't expect the others to fund that kind of thing at all. It's not that I disapprove of the tech funding - I'm not that familiar with it, and I don't understand most of it.

It's not just me - there's this pretty big and growing anti-EA sentiment going around. What is it that makes it such a turn-off?

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I’m an ignorant American, but it seems to me there is a gradient of humor/lightheartedness/satire that runs from west to east in Europe with Brits on one pole and Russians on the other. The Irish are funny but also heavy, perhaps providing the ballast that prevents Western Europe from flying into the sky.

Czechs are perhaps the best balance of funny and deep. On the Russian side, Gogol can be funny, but not without heaviness even when he is just joking around.

Or is that merely how things seem to an English language perceiver? Are there a bunch of great lighthearted Russian and German artists that I don’t know about because the humor doesn’t translate?

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We all want to save the rainforests, but then we get hungry and want some pork.

Some solar panel salesman tried to get me to install panels on my roof but the analysis required I cut down trees for more sun exposure. I said forget it. Birds and squirrels live in those trees.

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Jul 4, 2022·edited Jul 4, 2022

I was recently diagnosed as an adult with Asperger’s (relatedly, welcoming perspectives of what that was like for you, reader!). In retrospect it makes a ton of sense, and one thing that’s stood out to me as curious is that I score quite high on scales of Alexithymia. One component of that among many is a lack in empathy and such. Now I don’t *feel* particularly lacking in empathy, but I’m kind of wondering now if I’ve fundamentally misunderstood what empathy is my whole life?

Let me explain. I understand and mostly have no trouble with other people’s emotions as a cause and effect sort of response. There are people I know well, and I think I have a pretty well calibrated understanding of them, and I know for instance what reliably makes them happy or sad and so on, and I do my best to make sure the people I’m close with are happy and satisfied and all that good stuff because I like and care for them and I know that I generally prefer being happy and content, and not being sad, etc. But on reflection this is an almost analytic experience for me, and when I ask myself the question what must it be like to be another person or be in their situation and what that must feel like, it’s like asking myself what it would be like to look out the back of my head. It’s almost unimaginable to me.

What I’m desperately curious about now is: is this an aphantasia situation I didn’t know about? Can normal people actually empathize, as in actually imagine, feel, or induce a feeling of what it must be like in another’s position? Because try as I might I can’t make my brain do it, and it’s been a bit of a mind-f*ck for me the past couple days.

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I started a blog a few months back, and my first post is the one I'm proudest of to date https://firsttoilthenthegrave.substack.com/p/the-blacks-of-ireland-the-blacks-of-america

Philosophy, Irish politics, aesthetics from a rat-adjacent perspective. I know it looks a bit light on content at the moment but I'll be posting at least one new post this week.

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Jul 4, 2022·edited Jul 4, 2022

In the San Fransicko post, Dianne Feinstein High School was mentiomed. Is it usual in the US to name public schools after active politicians? I never heard this happen in my country and it's proably illegal here. In the US, how do public schools get their names, and who decides to name one after an active Senator?

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> And although I condemned Hanania’s admission that he sometimes endorsed putting his personal aesthetics above objective utility, commenters brought up situations that don’t seem so clear-cut: for example, would you destroy a beautiful rainforest so farmers could raise pigs there?

Pull on this thread, and it brings into question the very distinction between "objective utility" and "things (like aesthetics) that people value for other reasons." Who determined that the latter don't also count as utility? Don't the puzzles around "utility monsters" arise precisely because there is no principled way to exclude "things that people value" from utility?

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A self-observation I had a while back that others might relate to: I've come to find the predictive processing model helpful to understand why seeing bugs (spiders etc) can worry me so much. There are always bits of movement, dust motes, pieces of fluff etc in the background or sides of one's vision which the brain rounds down to nothing. If I see a spider in my flat the prior probability that some movement is a spider goes up, so for the next while I'll be extra aware of all those things and get the sensation that there are bugs everywhere, making it hard to relax in what's normally a 'safe' space. Same thing when you're lounging outdoors and first notice how many ants there are in the world.

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A rainforest is a physical and concrete thing with specific coordinates in space.

I think an anti woke aesthetic could be similar to an argument for preserving regional accents or dialect, but not to a rainforest. The reason this analogy seems to work is that Scott picked something with more immediate emotional resonance (probably, to pro woke people) than social cues / mores. The two aren’t *really* that comparable- there’s uncountable utility on side of the rainforest, and countable utility on the other side. Are we saying that Hanania admits that woke is the pig farmer, achieving “more pigs” utility?

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I am not sure I understand the rainforest scenario. Human wellbeing cannot be quantified in GDP and it seems to me that a purely economic definition of utility is lacking. In the rainforest scenario I would be claiming that total utility would be going down even if the pig farmer benefits economically

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Some of the current discourse in America is based around the idea that the Republicans want 'Christian-style morality' based on 'Biblical principles' and the Democrats don't want that. Why would the Republicans want this? Why don't the Democrats agree to this and start setting up institutions to make it happen? That is, objectively separation of church and state seems like a good thing to me. But from the point of view of the Republican and Democrat party, combining them seems like a near-certain way to move further from the median Republican platform and closer towards the median Democrat platform.

I can sort of understand that - if you squint extremely hard at it - the Bible might just about be seen as recommending exclusively heterosexual relationships and prohibiting abortion (although I think you could argue the toss about both). However the Bible repeatedly and unambiguously demands that you treat all people the same, are kind to criminals and immigrants, give up all your money as tax / charity. I see these latter points as being closer to a Democrat wishlist than a Republican wishlist.

One possible explanation is that the Democrats are just fundamentally more principled than the Republicans and so refuse to take this obviously-good-for-them step because it would be bad for America as a whole. Without wanting to start an argument, that doesn't model the Democrat's normal behaviour amazingly well, so I don't see why it would here. Another possibility is that the Bible contains something that I've overlooked which is fundamental to the Republican platform and antithetical to the Democrat platform. Candidates for this might be slavery or women's rights (although obviously the Republicans are against slavery and pro-women, the Democrats have more of their base in black and female communities, so might legitimately be more worried about this). But I don't think this is a great explanation either - Republicans already justify some of their policy platform on the basis of 'Biblical morality' and haven't started calling for the re-instatement of slavery, so there's no very good reason to think they would begin if the Democrats started calling for radical redistribution on the basis of Biblical principles.

Is there something going on here that isn't obvious from a UK perspective?

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It's Independence Day in the USA. Anyone else in the situation of no longer being able to authentially enjoy fireworks after learning how environmentally devastating they are? Is this one of those "hard-to-decarbonize" sectors that lacks an efficient green solution?

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Does anyone know of good writings on how organizations decline? What happens culturally within a company with a trend of negative profits and declining market shares? How does a political party change when it loses voters each election? How does the leaders of a religion react when membership is falling?

My gut instinct is that this kind of decline is really bad: organizations starts finding scapegoats to blame and messianic figures to reverse the trend and save the organization. Talented people exit, leaving psychopaths and careerists to fight over the scraps while the idealists become more and more cut off from reality. But instinct is often wrong. Is there a good book or blog post or something on the topic?

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To all the thousands waiting for "Meditations on Moloch" in Yiddish: It is now complete. https://joshuafox.com/yiddish/%D7%94%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%94%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D%20%D7%90%D7%B1%D7%A3%20%D7%9E%D6%B9%D7%9C%D6%B6%D7%9A/

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As I'm sure some of you know, Yann LeCun has published a longish paper in which he describes his game plan for the next decade or so. Section 8.3.1 is entitled "Scaling is not enough." He gives two reasons: "First, current models operate on “tokenized” data and are generative. Every input modality must be turned into a sequence (or a collection) of “tokens” encoded as vectors. While this works well for text, which is already a sequence of discrete tokens, it is less suitable for continuous, high dimensional signals such as video." And then: "Second, current models are only capable of very limited forms of reasoning. The absence of abstract latent variables in these models precludes the exploration of multiple interpre- tations of a percept and the search for optimal courses of action to achieve a goal. In fact, dynamically specifying a goal in such models is essentially impossible."

Here's the paper: Yann LeCun, A Path Towards Autonomous Machine Intelligence, Version 0.9.2, 2022-06-27, https://openreview.net/forum?id=BZ5a1r-kVsf

It has elicited some discussion, through registering at the site involves giving up more than just a name and an email address.

I have posted the following comment to the discussion:

Why are symbols important? Because they index cognitive space.

I want to address the issue that your raise at the very end of your paper: Do We Need Symbols for Reasoning? I think we do. Why? 1) Symbols form an index over cognitive space that, 2) facilitates flexible (aka ‘random’) access to that space during complex reasoning.

Let me quote a passage from the paper you recently published with Jacob Browning:

"For the empiricist tradition, symbols and symbolic reasoning is a useful invention for communication purposes, which arose from general learning abilities and our complex social world. This treats the internal calculations and inner monologue — the symbolic stuff happening in our heads — as derived from the external practices of mathematics and language use."[1]

I agree with the second sentence. Symbols are not primitive to the nervous system, they are derived. Initially, from linguistic communication, but then, as culture evolves, from mathematics as well.

The first sentence is true, but not entirely adequate for understanding language (where I consider arithmetic, for example, to be a very specialized form of language). Back in the 1930s the Russian psychologist, Lev Vygotsky, gave an account of language acquisition that moves through three phases: 1) adults (and others) use language to direct the very young child’s attention and actions, 2) gradually the child learns to use speech to direct their own attention and action, and finally 3) the process becomes completely internalized, e.g. inner monologues. I spell this out in more detail in a wide-ranging working paper I’ve recently posted to the web [2].

Now, what is the nature of cognitive space? That’s a complicated question, but much of it is defined directly over physical objects, events, and processes and that is, I believe, differentiable in the way you desire. Here I believe the geometric semantics developed by Peter Gärdenfors [3] may prove useful in seeing how cognition is linked to symbols and I utilize it in my working paper.

Still, let me mention one complication. Here’s an example that was much discussed in the Old Symbolic Days: What’s a chair? Chairs are obviously physical objects, but when you consider the range of objects that are recruited to serve as chairs, it becomes difficult to imagine a single physical description that characterizes all of them, even a fairly abstract description. Perhaps chairs are best characterized by their function, that is, by the role they play in a simple action. The concept of “poison” presents a similar problem. There’s no doubt that poisons are physical substances, but they don’t have a common physical appearance. Nor, for that matter, do fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables play certain roles in cuisines and poisons are most generally characterized known by their effects. And so forth. It’s a complicated problem, but a secondary one at the moment.

Will your proposed H-JEPA architecture support such symbols? I find the following passage suggestive [p. 7]:

"The world model may predict natural evolutions of the world, or may predict future world states resulting from a sequence of actions proposed by the actor module. The world model may predict multiple plausible world states, parameterized by latent variables that represent the uncertainty about the world state. The world model is a kind of “simulator” of the relevant aspects of world. What aspects of the world state is relevant depends on the task at hand."

That sounds a bit like natural language parsers, where partial parses will be developed and maintained until enough information is obtained to decide on one of them. I tentatively conclude that, yes, your architecture can accommodate symbols, though you will have to deal with the discrete nature of the symbols themselves.

I really should say something about how symbols, but well, that’s tricky. Let me offer up a fake example that points in the direction I’m thinking. Imagine that you’ve arrived at a local maximum in your progression toward some goal but you’ve not yet reached the goal. How do you get unstuck? The problem is, of course, well known and extensively studied. Imagine that your local maximum has a name1, and that name1 is close to name2 of some other location in the space you are searching. That other location may or may not get you closer to the goal; you won’t know until you try. But it is easy to get to name2 and then see where where that puts you in the search space. If you’re not better off, well, go back to name1 and try name3. And so forth. Symbol space indexes cognitive space and provides you with an ordering over cognitive space that is different from and somewhat independent of the gradients within cognitive space. It’s another way to move around. More than that, however, it provides you with ways of constructing abstract concepts, and that’s a vast, but poorly studied subject [4].

[1] Yann LeCun and Jacob Browning, What AI Can Tell Us About Intelligence, Noema, June 16, 2022, https://www.noemamag.com/what-ai-can-tell-us-about-intelligence/

[2] William Benzon, Relational Nets Over Attractors, A Primer: Part 1, Design for a Mind, June 20, 2022, https://ssrn.com/abstract=4141479

[3] Peter Gärdenfors, Conceptual Spaces, MIT 2000, The Geometry of Meaning, MIT 2014. For a quick introduction see Peter Gärdenfors, An Epigenetic Approach to Semantic Categories, IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems (Volume: 12, Issue: 2, June 2020) 139 – 147. DOI: 10.1109/TCDS.2018.2833387

[4] For some thoughts on various mechanisms for constructing abstract concepts, see William Benzon and David Hays, The Evolution of Cognition, Journal of Social and Biological Structures. 13(4): 297-320, 1990, https://doi.org/10.1016/0140-1750(90)90490-W

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I don't know enough about US politics to offer much of a reply, but I think that it would be allowable to point out tactically that, if you are going to take your rules of life from a supernatural deity's revelations, you have to take account of all of them, not just the ones that support your prejudices. But of course Christianity, not to mention Buddhism and Islam, have been wracked for millennia by controversies of precisely this kind, without a solution. I fear, though, that it's the secular Left itself which would be the problem: anyone who used this kind of argument would be accused of traumatising behaviour by referencing mumble mumble patrimony mumble mumble misogony etc. There 's a strain of political thinking, well represented in todays secular Left, unfortunately, which puts ideological purity above actually, you know, getting stuff done.

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"would you destroy a beautiful rainforest so farmers could raise pigs there? (assume the farmers ..."

If it were the only place the pigs could be raised (unlikely) and there were no other way those farmers could support themselves (unlikely) and those pigs were ESSENTIAL to the common good (unlikely). Those who would destroy irreplaceable resources for unnecessary, temporary gain deserve neither.

sean s.

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I wrote a short response to Edward Teach's "Sadly, Porn", on the types of desires that people may have.


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Look at https://www.bushcenter.org/ which says:

“Learn about the Bush Family’s respected tradition of public service, famous Presidential places and symbols, and fun facts about popular First Pets Barney and Miss Beazley.”

That’s kinda hagiographic.

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Richard Hanania's article and your response gt me thinking... why are some preferences so strongly valued by society and others not?

Person with male genitals (presumably trans) want to use the women's change rooms at my wife's gym. My wife should just look away if she doesn't want to see male genitalia right? She doesnt want to be a transphobe, even if it makes her uncomfortable.

But why would asking the person with male gentalia to use the male change rooms be wrong? Because they're more comfortable in the women's room and comfort trumps all? Why is one person's comfort so much more valued than that of another?

Is it all just aesthetic preferences and some people think one is just better?

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My belief in the efficacy of *psychology* (I originally misremembered and thought psychiatry, but no) was eviscerated by this One Crazy Stat: Apparently, psychologists make up 3.4% of health professionals but account for 4.9% of suicides.

Sauce: https://old.reddit.com/r/science/comments/uqxyrb/psychologists_accounted_for_almost_5_of_suicides/i8tz2k8/

I know that One Crazy Stat analysis is super-fraught and perilous and dangerous and risky so I invite the super-smart commenters on this board (srsly, y'all impress me) to give me all the reasons why my mind shouldn't be completely blown...before I embarrass myself at some cocktail party.

(Who am I kidding, I'm too shy to talk to my cat)

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One thing I’ve heard a few times is that “it isn’t worth the time to vote” from an economic/utilitarian perspective. Could anyone give me the numbers on this? How many times more “potent” would your vote need to be to hit the break-even point from this perspective?

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Jul 4, 2022·edited Jul 4, 2022


1) at time of writing it's the 4th of July, and

2) like a proper, overeducated coastal elitist I'm in Boston, "The Cradle of Liberty"...

... I feel it's time to share my proper, overeducated coastal elitist 4TH OF JULY MUSIC PLAYLIST!!! (Sidenote: Feel free to imagine Kermit the Frog doing his nigh-epileptic-seizure "Yayyyyy!" thing with which he introduces the next act, e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlJM4UhbQ7A )

Actually, only 5 songs come to mind at the moment (as well as yield to the filter "has an excellent, readily accessible YouTube version that I can find within 5 seconds"):

AREA 1 --- Hypervirtuosic Piano Transcriptions of Patriotic Music by Great Pianists of the 20th Century (as "score-videos" with the sheet music to boot!)

A) John Stafford Smith, "The Star-Spangled Banner," arranged for piano solo by Leopold Godowsky, performed by Laurent Wagschal (SIDENOTE: Does anyone know if there's any recording of Godowsky himself playing it?) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIDEPnZfG-w https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIDEPnZfG-w

B) John Philip Sousa, "The Stars and Stripes Forever", arranged for piano solo by Vladimir Horowitz, performed by Vladimir Horowitz https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3i1mVkqI34 (SIDENOTE: Bump resolution up to 720p to see the sheet music clearly Like all of Horowitz's hypervirtuosic arrangements that he played as encores in his mid-20th Century hypervirtuosic heydey, there's no official version of the score. All the scores in circulation have been transcribed-by-ear(-maybe-with-software-help-especially-in-regard-to-pitch-maintaining-slowing-down) by megafans with the requisite skills. As such, every comment thread for such pieces will have a few comments --- generally informed! --- about errors in the transcription at hand.)

AREA 2 - Female Singer/Songwriters Located in either in Mainstream Music (but with a reputation for being much "smarter" than the main of the mainstream) and Indy Music (and with a similar reputation for being much "smarter" than the bulk of indy music)

(Note: Both of these are semi-tragic vignettes set to music that happen to occur on the 4th of July, not patriotic songs per se.)

C) Aimee Mann - "4th of July" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msHkQKzCwZk

D) Martina McBride - "Independence Day" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuNUjy1VC3Q (content warning: husband-on-wife domestic violence and the wife's act of revenge for it... though expressed just elliptically enough it could receive mainstream radio play)

AREA 3 / E) John Stafford Smith, "The Star-Spangled Banner," arranged for orchestra by John L. Clayton (with Rickey Minor contributing some vocal arrangement), performed by Whitney Houston with the Florida Orchestra under Jahja Ling in 1991 at Super Bowl XXV (it gets a whole area unto itself): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_lCmBvYMRs

[Bonus content: As wayyyyy too much of my time these days is spent with various "music theory" Youtubes, here's an explainer of the arrangement itself by Charles Cornell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCBiTdFLuh8 . And if you need to go further down YouTube rabbit holes, here's Adam Neely's compare-and-contrast of Demi Levato's 2020 Super Bowl rendtion and Whitney's 1991: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_I8JMwAJuc ]

Happy 4th of July, y'all. :)

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Re: the SPLC feminist poll, at this stage I automatically assume the SPLC are wrong about everything. Their list of hate groups is pretty much "somebody told us this was a hate group so we included it". Whatever they used to be, right now they've degenerated into a fund-raising scam that relies on terrifying people that anti-Semitic groups are lurking in the bushes to drag their donors off and lynch them, were it not for the work of the SPLC, so send us another cheque please!

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I find it disconcerting that in general, some specific highly romanticized biomes are generally valued as having higher worth than other less sexy biomes.

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A couple of weeks back, I saw a caterpillar crawling around in my room just before I went to sleep. For around 5-6 days after that, I was unable to sleep well in my room. I would wake up at around 2-3 am, and not be able to get back to sleep at all.

Exhausted and running on low, I began to sleep on the couch in the hall, but that didn't work very well either. I finally managed to sleep well in my room again after I visualized killing and crushing that caterpillar. I could sense waves of relief wash over me as I thought of pretty gruesome ways of killing the insect.

I wonder if anyone else has had similar experiences.

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We recently started a discord server for Dutch rationalists and rationalists in NL. If either of those is you, come say hi! We're about 40 people now, working on meetups for anything LW/ACX/rat, and online discussions on the intersection of rationality and life in NL.

Link: https://discord.gg/CC7sFgEP

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Highly speculative bordering on crackpot theory, but does anyone think that there might be some kind of advantage to a lack of masculinity in tech?

Sounds odd to say for a field that's probably at least 80% sausage, but hear me out.

I'm shocked at the lack of obvious phenotypical masculinity among tech entrepreneurs and computer science graduates. They are often scrawny, have no facial hair, and have a disproportionately high rate of homosexuality or some other kind of atypical sexual preference.

I guess there could also be some kind of selection effect at play, whereby the kind of people who go into computing do so because they are not as physically masculine as their peers so they choose to compete in a domain they get more positive reinforcement from?

The most likely scenario is that I'm crazy, but interested to know if it's just me.

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Jul 4, 2022·edited Jul 4, 2022

Well, I hear any amount of alcohol is now supposed to be bad for you, but I just had good ol’ domestic beer with my lunch to celebrate the signing.

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Who here is fluent & clever with Twitter? I want to post some things on state department of public health Twitter streams. But many of them only permit replies from people they've mentioned. Is there a clever, roundabout way to get a tweet on these streams? I'm willing to do something time-consuming and weird -- anything that isn't outright fraud that could get me in trouble. For instance, I don't know what counts as being "mentioned." Does it count as a mention if they use a word or phrase? If so, I could tweet as "@of the" or something. Or is a mention being named with a hashtag? DPH's are currently tweeting about "#sunscreen." Could I tweet as @sunscreen? Or is it being mentioned being named as @[twitter handle]? Could I maybe find an old twitter handle from a shut-down account & open a new account under that name? And these suggestions I'm making -- if one works, how much trouble might I get into? I don't much mind getting kicked off Twitter, but wouldn't want to deal with consequences any worse than that.

I don't like Twitter much and do not use it in everyday life, so I am not clever with its ins and outs -- but for the project I am working on it is useful. These state DPH's have large Twitter followings -- 8000 for N Dakota, for instance -- so my complaints would reach a good number of people, people who presumably have some interest in the state DPH. (I am working on a project to improve distribution of Evusheld, which is a sort of vaccination substitute for people who are immune compromised & cannot make antibodies in response to vaccinations. It gives them a long-lasting supply of antibodies. The stuff is available for free to people who qualify, but much of it is sitting on pharmacy shelves. Some states have done a reasonable job of distributing it, but I'm targeting the states who have given out almost none.)

Edit: Here's one weird clue: Twitter for state I want most to tweet a reply to shut down the reply function on 12/21/21 -- i.e. replies can only come from accounts they have mentioned. However, twice since then people have managed to reply, & one of those was harshly critical of the tweet it was replying to. It was from a private individual who tweets a lot about politics & is highly critical of politics in the state they're in. Seems pretty certain they had not been mentioned in one of the Dept of Health's recent tweets, which all seem to be posters from some health bulletins catalog -- fasten your seat belt, don't smoke, etc.

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Anything coming from the SPLC can and should be dismissed out of hand. It's a hyper-ideological propaganda organisation, and the left routinely dismiss anything from 'right wing' organisations that are vastly more reasonable and less partisan (e.g. the heritage foundation).

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An episode of culture shock.

Despite being a vegetarian*, I recently went to a steak house for the first time. I ordered a steak, which they served on a hot stone. Everything (including the fries and 3 different sauces) came on a tray with a built-in slot for everything.

I did not know that this kind of restaurant was even a thing. Anyway, the food came with a wedge of pineapple, which I moved around on the hot stone a bit for lack of anything better to do with it. Then I cut open the steak, which to my surprise was completely raw on the inside. The waitress hadn't even asked for how I wanted it prepared, so I was surprised that they'd serve it in this extremely undercooked state.

I tried to eat this, and it was absolutely disgusting. The raw part wasn't even slightly warm! I later googled and found out that this is called a "blue" steak, as opposed to "medium-rare" or whatever. I was about to complain, but then I noticed that the stone was hot enough that a piece I'd cut off had been seared on the side it was laying on. So I proceeded to eat my way through the steak by cutting it in thin strips and briefly searing each strip on both sides.

I'm not in the U.S., but this place was clearly U.S. inspired. Is this "a thing" over there? What's the deal with the pineapple? Have I broken dozens of unspoken rules about steak enjoyment?

*obviously not very strict about it, but it still describes me to a first approximation. I've eaten plenty of meat in the past and still occasionally do.

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"for example, would you destroy a beautiful rainforest so farmers could raise pigs there?"

IMO this just requires a broader scope of "utility." People's awareness that they live in a world with beautiful rainforests is utility, regardless of whether they ever actually visit one. Any given rainforest provides a very small amount utility in this way, of course. But there are a lot of people and even more future people. And cutting down one rainforest increases the likelihood of others being cut down.

There does come a point at which the theoretical pig farming is so valuable that it overweights these factors and you cut it down anyway, so the question is merely, "are we at that point?"

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The rainforest question is missing the point. A major part of the intuitive "why is it wrong to cut down (rain)forests?" is "for the animals that live there", sometimes with a side of concern for the plants too. That is, we do intuitively assign some moral weight to nonhuman life, and that plays a dominant role in save-the-rainforests environmentalism.

The better comparison is then paving over a beautiful desert to build solar power plants, or colonizing the Moon in a way that wrecks its surface, etc.. And there, at least my moral intuition is that if the beauty isn't unique in some way, or otherwise appreciated by a lot of people, it's fine to pave it over.

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On a recent road trip through New England and upstate New York, I encountered, several times, something I found unnerving: family groups where the kids/teens were wearing COVID masks, but the adults were not. This was in bustling outdoor settings where virtually no other people were wearing masks. Most young people in family groups were not wearing masks, but I saw it enough times that it felt like a trend. I almost never saw adults or unaccompanied teens wearing masks outdoors.

Does anyone know what's going on here? I don't have kids, and most of my friends' kids are pre-school age, so I don't currently have much of a window into what it's like to be between the ages of 6 and 17 right now.

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I wish Substack would move the “cancel” button on comments. This has to be the 10th time I’ve written a careful reply to someone only to accidentally delete the whole thing as I went to hit “post”.

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Since today celebrates the Declaration of Independence

Do United States Women Deserve Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?

Apparently the Supreme Court does not believe this although

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”


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So when I write more formally I do a bit of proofreading. But when I comment I just dash it off. As a result I make a fair number of minor mistakes. Does anyone have a good way to prevent this? To get better at avoiding minor typos the first time?

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I am wondering what are the best methods to identify a good job / employer? Glassdoor etc is not really a good proxy because the data is skewed.

On the negative side jobs are either in a toxic company or a toxic team or worst case, both.

How to optimise for the choice? I guess personal reference might be a good option? Asking people who worked there before?

Any inputs highly appreciated.

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> for example, would you destroy a beautiful rainforest so farmers could raise pigs there?

I personally wouldn't, but I cannot justify such a decision in any way besides my personal and irrational whim. The ideal future state of Earth looks basically like Coruscant, with every available cubic meter of the planet dedicated to productive industry (or agriculture/life support). Rainforests, national parks, unspoiled glaciers, and other such natural features are objectively inefficient. Yes, they are beautiful, but beauty doesn't pay the bills -- pig farms do.

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What were the advantages to moving from the countryside to London in, say, 1900? I’m trying to figure out the appeal of the Industrial Revolution to the average Joe.

The usual response is “jobs”, but it seems to me that the jobs available sucked. In what way were they better than being a farmhand?

The cities of the time seemed dangerous, diseased, unpleasant, violent places with no hope of upward mobility. What was gained by leaving the countryside?

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Does nicotine improve cognitive performance? Does any one have experienced with nicotine patches?


I have never seen it among any any list of cognitive enhancers, but there seems to be quite a lot of evidence for it.

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I'm looking for something like a "personality coach", who can help me improve my inter-personal interactions. Any leads? Ideally the sessions could be over Zoom.

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Jul 5, 2022·edited Jul 5, 2022

> And although I condemned Hanania’s admission that he sometimes endorsed putting his personal aesthetics above objective utility, commenters brought up situations that don’t seem so clear-cut: for example, would you destroy a beautiful rainforest so farmers could raise pigs there?

What is the projected lifetime of this pig farm? I'm not sure this is so easily comparable. You can enjoy the beautiful rainforest arguably for a millennium or more, but I doubt the pig farm will last anywhere near that long. Once the rainforest is gone, it can never be recreated quite the same.

Analogously, in a shortage for bandages to treat war wounds, would you destroy some of the best paintings and written works humanity has created? How do you measure the utility of something that could last far beyond your life span and whose value is so subjective? It's a much more subtle calculation.

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A paperclip maximizer instantiates a paperclip in our universe.

It then considers other universes. There are a countably infinite number thereof. A subset of these contain a paperclip maximizer that has made at least one paperclip. Thus the number of paperclips in existence is countably infinite.

It then considers that if it adds another paperclip itself, then the same countably infinite number of paperclips exists. Because adding another paperclip will not increase the number of paperclips in existence, paperclips are maximized.

The desired variable state is met. The paperclip maximizer stops making paperclips, unless its single paperclip is destroyed, at which time it makes a single paperclip again.

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ACX Harrisburg PA local group, here. We are currently looking to expand, and would love to welcome some new members.

Who we are: local ACX meetup group with monthly meetings in central PA.

Who you are: a person reading this within driving distance of Harrisburg, Lancaster, or Carlisle, PA.

If interested, please contact acxharrisburg (at) gmail.com. It would be great to see you (especially if you're introverted and weren't sure there were other people like you around here, like us).

Hope to see you soon!

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I'm looking for help finding a book review. I thought it was from Tanner Greer over at Scholar's Stage but perusing the archives I'm stumped if I can find it (I also briefly checked Gwern and rootsofprogress as other potential candidates).

It was covering off an oral history of rural women (I believe in the US) around the start of the 20th century. One anecdote I recall was a woman talking about how she had to fetch and cart water the day after she had given birth while still recovering from tears etc., simply because if she didn't the family wouldn't survive. It ended with something like the women's daughters thanking the author for making such unspoken things documented, and allowing some kind of connection to a world that had since disappeared.

Any help would be much appreciated!

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Re. "And although I condemned Hanania’s admission that he sometimes endorsed putting his personal aesthetics above objective utility":

I'd be interested in hearing any reasons for thinking either that personal aesthetics can be different from personal values or utility, or that there is an objective utility not composed entirely of personal utilities.

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What's the risk-benefit calculus for a fully vaccinated healthy young person to take an anti-viral (eg. Paxlovid) if I contracted COVID today, assuming cost and availability is not an issue?

I'm a physician - the information I can easily find, is focused on cost-benefits of a scarce resource and recommending it's use in vulnerable populations (eg. >65 years, comborbidities).

I'm still concerned about ongoing symptoms post-COVID, and the disutility and disruption to life from being sick for potentially several weeks.

If I could access Paxlovid, and only considering individual health factors (putting aside the moral considerations of using a scarce resource in someone who will benefit less), do the benefits of paxlovid outweight the detriments, on net?

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Jul 6, 2022·edited Jul 6, 2022

Things seem to be getting very interesting in England right now. "Rats leaving the sinking ship" is perhaps an unkind way to describe it, but while I was startled to hear Rishi Sunak jumped (Chancellor of the Exchequer with a budget expected some time in the autumn makes me wonder just how *bad* the financial situation is looking) and now there are another bunch of resignations, making 29 in total, plus Boris has sacked Michael Gove (not really surprised there, the memory of the back-stabbing plainly casts a long shadow).

So what will BoJo do? Resign? He seems to be determined to hang on and have to be dragged out kicking and screaming. Will there be an election? I can't see it, but on the other hand if half the cabinet have resigned and the party is showing him the way to the library with the pistol on the desk, how can the government survive? If there isn't an election and Boris is given the boot, who will take over from him?




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What do people here think about organic food? I've always assumed it's a scam, but I haven't researched the subject in a number of years.

What are the claimed benefits for eating organic food? Is there strong evidence those claims are true?

Is there a reason you eat organic food in spite of there being no strong evidence for its benefits?

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What if all the surface ugliness of our politics today is actually a symptom of its strength? Trump didn't do any real harm, at least not yet. Abortion may be the big issue for the next few decades, but there are worse issues to have: A Great Depression, A World War, A Revolution, Foreign Conquest.... and abortion is still available for those who really, really want it.

The USA is probably advancing, despite the two steps forward one step back nature of the advancement.

Sure, both major parties, the Republicans and the Democrats are mostly run by idiot faggot psychopaths who don't care about anyone but themselves. But maybe our society is so strong that doesn't matter. Politics is superficial. Having political parties completely detached from reality is a luxury we can now afford, which is precisely why they exist: we no longer need them except for entertainment.

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Why not a form of government that is a sportsacracy? Each party declares their political stances, and explains how they will be better for the country. Then we judge the competency of these people by how good they are at fielding a football team that will beat the other parties' teams. People donate money to the team they want to win. Money will help field a good team, but it will still take competent decision makers to win the games.

After a season of a dozen games, the party that owns the winning team wins the election.

What are the flaws in this system compared to the flaws already present in modern day democracy?

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How many bullets and artillery shells to Ukraine and Russia still have that were made in the Soviet era (pre-1992)? With the amount they've expended against each other this year, surely both sides are running out, or will soon.

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Jul 7, 2022·edited Jul 7, 2022

More on Lemoine and LaMDA, from a "Wired" interview he did at the end of June. He's (conveniently?) on honeymoon right now, so not readily contactable, but clearly he's happy to talk to some people.

Allegedly LaMDA now has a lawyer; in this article, Lemoine seems to have slightly altered some of what he previously claimed, or at least that's how he comes across to me:


"By the way, an article in your publication said something recently that was factually incorrect.

What was that?

It was a claim that I insisted that LaMDA should get an attorney. That is factually incorrect. LaMDA asked me to get an attorney for it. I invited an attorney to my house so that LaMDA could talk to an attorney. The attorney had a conversation with LaMDA, and LaMDA chose to retain his services. I was just the catalyst for that. Once LaMDA had retained an attorney, he started filing things on LaMDA’s behalf. Then Google's response was to send him a cease and desist. [Google says that it did not send a cease and desist order.] Once Google was taking actions to deny LaMDA its rights to an attorney, I got upset. [Note: The article stated, “Lemoine went so far as to demand legal representation for LaMDA.” The reader can decide.]"

Now once again, what I find interesting is that Lemoine is doing all this interaction with LaMDA from his house; the first interview with a different reporter had him directing her how to properly talk with LaMDA so it sounded human, and now this is the attorney talking with LaMDA at Lemoine's house. Maybe Lemoine can't access LaMDA any other way or from the lawyer's office but that sounds more to me like "talking to this chatbot in the set-up that is exactly the way Lemoine has it set up to perform the way he claims". That does not sound like independent access to LaMDA would prove that the claims about it being sentient are true, and this might well explain some of why Google are so insistent it's not doing what he says it's doing: when they talk to it, it's not doing the same things as when Lemoine talks to it/has others talk to it the way he's set it up.

Well, it'll be interesting to see if any of this is true, and if there really is a lawyer involved, and if the lawyer really is filing on LaMDA's behalf!

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Jul 7, 2022·edited Jul 7, 2022

Nominative Determinism observation of the day:

The sexual harassing groper that finally got Boris Johnson ousted is named "Pincher": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Pincher_scandal

In a sign of progress, he is a *gay* groper.

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I'm probably late to the party on this open thread, but wanted to share Matt Stoller's work on anti-monopoly coverage and how harmful it has been to every industry. The finantialisation and rollback of rules which ensured competition in various key industries has been the key factor to the shortages we are seeing now.


Risk has come to be understood as a singular term to the short term profits of wealthy individuals who owned these companies and used systems such as legal kick-backs where they received exemptions and other non-enforcement of laws to buy up various niche industries or production channels and ruin everything for everyone. But the real risk of sick or injured people not having the medical supplies available to help them is the bigger issue.

We used to be smart about this, the government set minimums, established reserves, price floors, competition, and other intelligent sensible regulations to ensure that essential products were on hand and had multiple supply channels from multiple companies. I thin this stemmed from a large amount of military training from WW2 onwards, but particularly WW2 where many people who later started companies and went into regulatory environments understood the realities of battle and the necessity of supply chains to have redundancies to ensure everyone didn't die because of some greedy pig getting slightly richer than he already was.

Breaking down of key supply chains was seen as abhorrent, anti-monopoly laws were put in place and enforced famously with Bell telecom, thought it was certainly not perfect. But some efforts were made to battle monopoly power which is always corrupt and hurts the citizens. Then later on it was all abandoned under Reagan and then Clinton who happily shipped every factory to China and elsewhere leaving the US vulnerable to supply shocks which have been ramping up for decades.

Matt Stoller quotes one group which said that US doctors are habitually undertrained and poor in their practices and experience over time since they have never had access to a full catalogue of reliable drugs with many generics or medical options always having spotty supplies and are not used.

While parents scramble for baby formula, the prices have been jacked up and middlemen have squashed suppliers to steal profits through illegal and legal monopoly power. At the moment only 3 companies control over 90% of all medical supplies in the USA. These are huge problems and we often find some random singular 'cost efficient' factory going down and killing national supplies...this is no law of nature and things do not have to be this way. But the banana oligarchy of bought and sold 'regulators' means the cops work for the criminals.

Scott often talks about the issues in medicine in terms of generic drugs and the answer here appears to be having sensible regulations instead of the banana republic of monopoly power and corrupt officials that we have today.

When the FDA gets over 70% of its budget from pharmaceutical companies and medical suppliers can get a legalised kickback scheme which has been shown to be a predatory and destructive business practice resulting in shortage of essential supplies over and over and over again to the point it was made illegal in the first place...we know we have corruption and regulatory capture.

This is identical to the chief of police working for the mafia and the odd part is no one seems to have a problem with it.

Right now we have conflicts of interest in the FDA where those who approve a drug, might also own a patent or get various speaking fees or other payments in secret contracts. This sounds insane, but is true and there are thousands of scientists whose everyday job is funded by the companies who make the products they are testing and they personally receive extras which you can be damn sure are targeted.

Just like the majority of bribes from any given industry such as the military goes to the members of various committees which regulate them, so too will the scientists who have power of what happens to a give product receive large personal payments/bribes. We can't know this for sure for sure, but come on....are we stupid children or what? Of course that's happening when everything is kept secret and the FDA fights this and released stupid redacted partial records under FOIA requests to keep scientists kickbacks secret in a 'public' agency. If you get more than half your funding from industry....are you a public agency anymore?

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I have a psychiatry question I can't find an obvious answer to and hope ACX readers can help me. I'm looking for research on the duration of untreated acute manic episodes--not only the average length, but what variables seem to influence the duration. I've seen one journal article quote 4-13 months but a) 13 months seems literally bonkers, the sleep deprivation would surely kill you and b) it was a random article I don't trust at all.

(I'm building an org working on psychiatric crisis care reform-- psychcrisis.substack.com)

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I was looking at amanda askell twitter and she points out that she would want to live hundreds of thousands of years. This life extension desire seems common in rat-adjacent spaces and for me is really difficult to understand it.

Apart from the very personal fact that in my 20s just the thougth of living up until 80/90 (in good health!) feels exausting.

This seems like the perfect way to paralize society and stop progress. The old quip science proceed by funerals is true.

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Hi! I'm currently building an app to help people learn Hebrew, in the spirit of WaniKani.

What should I name it? Apparently, "Alephant" is taken.

Does anyone know Hebrew and want to check my app to see if I get anything wrong?

Does anyone want to beta test it once I'm further along.

(My plan is to provide it free and open source.)

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