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At least some conservatives are taking Scott up on his "Against Classism" suggestion:


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I imagine some people on the left who sweated out paying their student loans in full are going to be resentful too.

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I'm a person on the left who sweated out paying my student loans in full, and I am glad that other people are getting relief. It doesn't go far enough, and we need real tuition and loan reform, but it's a good start.

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And exactly what does the jubilee do to achieve either of tuition or loan reform?

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It recognizes that something is dreadfully wrong.

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Ah yes, the 2020s, where signaling and performance are ALL-IMPORTANT.

As long as we all vigorously indicate to each that something is dreadfully wrong, who needs to actually solve the actual problems?

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Though in my case sweated out is an exaggeration. I'm old enough to have graduated with reasonable debt.

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This was a "red pill" moment for me. I paid off my student loans in full recently. Boy am I a chump. Another bailout that ultimately rewards bad behavior. Seems like political suicide to me.

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Ok look if you actually did pay off your loan since March 2020 or I guess at least the amount that's being cancelled and that your income was below the marked one then you can talk to your loan servicer to get that payment back, and then apply for the 10k or 20k with Pell grants.

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Would there be any benefit to Mexico joining NORAD?

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Okay, well...thoughts on the Biden administration's just-announced-today student loan cancellation and forgiveness?

*Risky gamble for midterms, there was some real solid Sound Policy Momentum building for a minute there.

*Exacerbates deficit and also inflation(?), largely regressive, most college-educated already lean D (including didn't-graduates in this category).

*Fairness principles, as with all means-tested benefits; plus larger concerns of those who already paid back loans, and thus partially helped pay for this bailout.

*Time discount: yes, covid + Ukraine has been an outsize destabilizing double punch, but all Future Student Debtors are left out of this jubilee. Proposed ongoing Dept. of Ed reforms will eventually equal the magnitude of front-loaded relief, but it's quite a disproportionate situation for anyone currently existing who isn't *quite* college-age yet.

*Money is fungible, this could have been spent on many more higher-ROI things. Like pandemic preparedness or international relations/foreign policy improvement to help avert getting into future situations like the current one.

As someone suddenly relatively much richer and having a positive net worth for the first time ever, I'll take the money self-interestedly, but...even most-charitably framed as some sort of unique economic-justice response (recompense for Millennials who graduated into the Great Recession), it still seems like an inefficient option within that possibility-space. There are so many worse-off and more-deserving than student debtors...and a majority of Americans never went to college, still. I don't know. This does not feel like The Way. I could be wrong though.

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What struck me were the income limits. From the standpoint of the people designing the bill, an individual making only $120,000/year or a couple making only $240,000 count as poor and deserving of charity.

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Ah, I see John Schilling beat me to it. Indeed - the majority of student debt (dollars; I think possibly also *debtors*, too, but unsure on that stat) are exactly those we'd usually categorize as some sort of "middle class" rather than "poor". Even me, who earns...south of $35k annually...that's only "poor" by the relative measure of SF's high CoL. Elsewhere in America that'd be enough for a mortgage or whatever. And I did manage to scrounge up the liquid cash to pay off loans in full, sans degree, working dead-end retail, which totaled around half that annual income when the original payment pause started. It's not fun, but eminently doable...so I have a hard time (morally) understanding why I get this money and not the homeless customers who shop at my store daily.

At the point where you stress out about having zero foodstamps funds, not just cause of the food, but because then you gotta pay the punishingly regressive SF $0.25 paper bag fee - *that* is poor. All those people making up to $120k/$240k...I dunno what their deal is, but it sure ain't that.

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The target audience for this move is people who thought that they would automatically get a job with a six-figure starting salary just because they got a Master's Degree in, uh, let me get back to you on that. So anything less than six figures is "deserving of charity" because they are deprived of what they have rightly "earned". Throw in a bit of a cushion on that to cover the edge cases, and you get to $120K.

The guy making $60K/year from his communications degree, and paying $10K/year on his $90K of student loans, is well above any sensible definition of "poverty", and he's not going to worry where his next mean is coming from, but he's absolutely the guy whose vote Biden is trying to buy.

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I listened to Elizabeth Warren sales pitch on the News Hour last night. I’m about as liberal as one can be on ACX and… oh boy. This one is going to be regarded as an unforced error in the D’s rear view mirror.

Maybe Bernie’s booming angry old man voice can make it better. <weak stab at humor>

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The most optimistic steelman I can come up with is framing it as some sort of paternalistic quality control...Everybody Knows that everyone needs a college degree to access the American Dream, so it's colleges' fault when that "promise" doesn't pay out due to "misleading claims about market relevance". (Hold forth diatribe against predatory for-profit colleges here. They shall be the primary media angle, the perfect victims.) Just as gun manufacturers are to be held accountable for when their products are misused and injure people, colleges are to be held liable for degrees that don't pay out. Because we're the government, and we're here to insulate you from the capitalistic vagaries of market forces. Tertiary ed is too big to fail - we have the best universities in the world, and this helps ensure their excellence.

...sorry, I can't actually make it pass the Ideological Turing Test, but the logic is at least consistent. No matter the many erroneous factual assumptions...

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True. I know a couple of those guys. They are enormously pissed at Biden today.

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Two times the median household income, or 4 times for a DIC.

Meanwhile, some no-high school guy who bought a mom&pop grocery store and is working 80 hours a week cause he can't afford workers and is clearing $20k a year? That's a corporation that stole PPP money from the American taxpayer.

This is obscene.

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It's a grotesque bribe to young college educated people who at least have the education if not the actual degree. It's funded from the paychecks of waitresses, janitors and plumbers who didn't go to college. It is timed for the midterms, after which Biden plans on resuming loan charges, and it adds to the deficit.

And Biden defends this...chicanery by the claim that big businesses get tax breaks.

I hope those people who are gifted with this illegal transfer do fantastic things with the windfall.

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Well, if it helps you feel slightly better, I'm putting the vast majority of my fallen wind into retirement accounts and investments based on Rationalist advice. (It's thanks to places like ACX that I bothered to try attempting future-planning in the first place, instead of wallowing in hand-to-mouth hedonistic poverty...maybe I'll end up remaining poor anyway, but by George, I've got to at least make an honest go at moving up. Easiest way to ensure failure is not to try at all.)

Since a direct repayment-reversal isn't really possible, would you say voluntarily tossing those forgiven debts back into the General Fund (like on annual tax return) is the next-most-appropriate "clawback"? Not as altruistic as bednets, but I'd like to rebalance the scales from this uncomfortable "gift" someday, if possible...

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Oddly enough, it does.

For me, I had zero downside financially from covid. I made enough that I only got a trivial handout from the first covid check, and I put a wad of cash in the church collection plate the next week.

If I was in your position, with debts, I think I would keep half for the debts (understanding that we aren't talking real money in the hand here) and give the rest away. Part of it to the general fund, sure. Or to maleria bednets, or in singles to the beggers at street corners, or to an animal shelter, or something.

Maybe something you think the govt should have funded instead of this, if you're pro govt spending in general.

And if you are struggling with financial planning in general, check out Dave Ramsey Financial Peace. Solid program that works for a lot of people I know.

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Me either, which is certainly lucky and I know better than to do dental checkups on unexpected equines...but it's been weird to largely come out ahead as a result of covid, knowing the majority of others are suffering. (Not just abstract-others, but most of my peer group.)

Assuming that the policy proposal goes through as planned, I'm actually debt-free now...that's part of the head-spinningness, I've not been in this financial situation ever since reaching the age of majority. Less than 5 years ago, I had...triple the debt load than what just got wiped out. More debt than an entire year's worth of income. So it's like waking up one day and realizing you've been having a bad financial dream all along, and now you get out of jail free, collect $200, pass Go and start life for real. (At a much older age than you'd expected to, as a child.)

A lot of that was due to poor college choices - I knew tertiary ed wasn't for me, and still slammed into that ivory tower wall l over and over - and a lot of that was due to being the unfortunate victim of a professional con artist. Things are better now, and I've gotten much wiser quickly, yet...clearly, both parents' genetic disposition for spendthrift hoarding got passed on to me. It's something to remain vigilant about. I've been semi-successfully hacking it by getting excited about investments instead: it really is exciting to earn capital gains for the first time! But I know I can and should get consumption even lower. (It's also patriotic - fight inflation by spending less!)

Government spending..."It is the role of government to do for the people what the people cannot do for themselves." This wasn't it. The most marginal would have been better served by, say, direct checks, since perhaps student debt load isn't actually their most pressing financial need (or they don't have any!). When a man needs a fish, any fish, you really ought to give him an actual fish, rather than lowering his salmon tribute...I get the argument that this is doable vs. many other much-better more-desireable impossible-things, but. But. Guess this is why I'd make a terrible politician.

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Why couldn’t those kids just work their way through school like I did? Asks the guy who paid 1,000 bucks a year as an undergrad and had grad school paid for by his employer.

Not sure how voters will react to this. It’s a politically dangerous move for sure. I don’t fully understand how the cost of a degree has jumped so dramatically since I was in school, but it really is insanely expensive now.

If there were some way to lower those costs to current students, no one would complain.

Who am I kidding? Someone will always complain not matter what any administration does, because reasons.

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Even after reading various pieces like Scott's old "Considerations on Cost Disease", I'm...not really sure? There's several identifiable pieces to the puzzle - continually turning up the tap on govt-backed student loans is indeed a big one, subsidies behave exactly as expected - but they never quite add up to the full picture. Loans + credentialism arms race + non-legible/hard-to-evaluate "product" + "college experience" expectations gap + narrowing of employment tests + tedious racial gap analysis + hollowing out of non-tertiary-ed paths + teachers' unions/protectionism + school funding structure (Board of Education separate from rest of state/local govt, federal mandates) + lack of competition (largely shitty for-profits, ~no one else doing the University of Austin thing) + continual weird failures to utilize technology + administrative bloat + ...

Lotsa puzzle pieces, and they fit together to form a depressing picture, but it still doesn't *quite* map perfectly onto actual costs. Housing and healthcare seem simple to tally up by comparison...

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Costs went up mostly because tuition available via loans went up. Colleges, like students, took the free money.

Loan forgiveness is nearly the exact opposite of what needed to happen.

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I think it's a poor policy overall, but it's important context that most of those other priorities can't get through Congress right now, so it's basically Biden doing what he can through the mechanisms he has. The "fairness" argument is strong, except it can equally run up against the "better than nothing argument."

Politically, I doubt it will matter. People have short memories these days and this will be out of the news by November.

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Isn't that just a version of Bad Thing Exists -> We Must Do Something -> This Is Something? Political capital is not as perfectly fungible as the unit of caring, but...I dunno, maybe there were Reasons behind the scenes. A limited-time opportunity or whatever. It'll certainly make a mark on history, and that doesn't count for nothing, I guess. Then again, that's still economics-style thinking versus politics-style thinking. Which is definitely not the modern modus operandi. The recent ACX re-litigation of utilitarianism must be on my mind...

Can't wait to see what other October Surprises await on the long road to Election Day.

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I think maybe the logic is more:

Bad Thing Exists -> Many Things Must Be Done To Address It -> This is One of Those Things -> Ergo, This Should Be Done Even if Other Things Cannot be Done

Which makes sense in isolation, but does not factor in the possibility that Doing This Thing will hurt your ability to Do Other Things, both for fiscal reasons (i.e. spending the budget here and starving future initiatives) as well as political reasons (i.e. making people mad and hurting the chance for progress & compromise on those fronts).

To be clear, I'm not big on the policy. I think there are a lot of illogical and unhinged reactions to it but there are also good faith critiques.

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I like that revised flowchart and will now think of it as the Policy Marshmallow Test.

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Midterm polling numbers look scary -> something must be done -> this is something

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Couple thoughts.

1) I'm broadly in favor of our new Covid/student debt policy of just throwing money out of helicopters in the vague direction of problems. No joke, I don't trust government to execute really complex policies and and as long as there's not a ton of hidden language or effects, simpler policy is better.

2) Man, how does this not feed inflation? Like, inflation literally just slowed down so we're going to give $10-20k to a group of people...not defined by wise financial decision-making.

3) This...pretty clearly feels like a sop to an overwhelmingly Democratic voting bloc.

4) Have we just quietly accepted that student loans are busted? Because there's been an moratorium on student loan repayments since Covid started, right? And now that's getting extended again, along with the debt relief, right? So, uh, when do college debt payments go back to normal? Cuz it's been, like, 2.5 years now.

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Probably aimed at increasing turnout rather than winning over swing voters. I think the people pushing for student loan cancellation would never consider voting Republican, but might stay home rather than vote for a boring establishment Democrat like Biden.

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I thought the same thing, but now I squinted at it a little bit, and I'm not so sure.

First, we are a bit too far away from the midterms. In 2.5 months, either something might eclipse this, or the novelty might fade, and the people who weren't originally planning to vote might go back to not planning to vote.

Second, if you look at the polls, Republicans are quite likely to take the House, but somewhat unlikely to take the Senate. It feels as if FiveThirtyEight is actually overestimating Republicans' chances in the Senate (it has them at 1 in 3). Republicans are likely to take NC, OH, WI, but everything else - AZ, GA, NH, NV, PA - seems very unlikely. That's going to put Republicans at 49 in the Senate, or maybe, if they are super-lucky, at 50. So that enormous cash handout is not very likely to change outcomes. Are they taking FiveThirtyEight's 1 in 3 odds of Republican Senate takeover as being too high and striving to reduce them?

I'm worried that there's something I'm missing. It doesn't look like it's something about election administration, because the polls say what they say, and thus if they don't cheat, they'll probably get the results FiveThirtyEight says they would. I wonder if it's something about getting people who get the money more active in some way other than voting.

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Possible - I'm pretty wary of such reasoning though, it genuinely hasn't seemed to pan out in any of the last three (or possibly more) elections: https://www.slowboring.com/p/progressives-mobilization-delusion

But who knows, I think historians will be debating the "bribe" effects of covid-era direct stimulus on vote turnout for decades to come. None of my peers were upset about the by-now several checks we've all gotten, that's for certain...and they're far more progressive than me, yet also bearish on the value of voting at all. Curious to see what happens come November.

(Relatedly, it'd be interesting to compare the median perceived effects of "eliminating debt" vs "giving out money", even for identical net amounts of money...perhaps that's the angle being worked here. Psychology and sociology, the oil to economics' water...)

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A very nice little history of polyhedral dice, but it also caused me to think about redundancy and roughage ratings for videos and texts.

Redundancy has an obvious meaning-- roughage is things like small talk between the hosts.

Some videos are very efficient and I appreciate it, some have a little personalization-- Answers with Joe is at a good level of that for me. Some have what I consider to be agonizing levels of repetition.

And then there's repetition between videos. Is there anyone who talks *about* the Fermi Paradox without explaining it yet again?

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For people who follow AI more closely, why is speech generation progressing so much slower than image generation? It feels like it should be much easier to put together a synthetic voice that sounds natural than generate a realistic photo, but at least on the public-facing side of things this doesn't seem to be the case. What's the reason behind this, assuming that it's actually the case?

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If you look at images generated by AI, very often, you'll notice, by looking closer/more attentively, some small glitches here and there, figures in the background that aren't really complete, or shape weirdly, unnatural body parts (typically ears or hands), etc. If you just glance at the piece, it don't really look out of place, either your brain fills the gaps, or the details are too small to notice immediately.

With text, however, if you start having nonsensical words in the middle of your sentences, then it gets glaring really, really fast. I know that, because most of the books I read on kindle were digitalized through OCR, and it fails here and there, transforming a letter into another, or a pair of others.

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Aug 24, 2022·edited Aug 24, 2022

Your brain just has a much wider tolerance for variation in art and photography than it does with speech. In general speech generation is pretty convincing but there is something "off" that makes it sound robotic. With the human voice, even the slightest abnormality can throw you off whereas that isn't the case with art by its very nature.

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What about the success of generating faces? The brain is extremely finely tuned to recognise faces, it's why we have such a strong uncanny valley reaction to ones that are even a little off, but it seems like there's been lots of progress in photorealistic face generation e.g. This Person Does Not Exist.

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What if Trump removed the classified documents from the White House on January 20, 2021 and took them to Mar-a-Lago, the National Archives informed him that the action was illegal shortly thereafter, and then Trump promptly returned them to the Archives so they were only in his possession for, say, two months? Would he still be in trouble right now?

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Unless he took something blatantly, obviously, undeniably off limits, I don’t expect him to have a problem now.

Which brings up the thought that the Justice Department thinks it does have something obviously off limits.

I think It was Chris Christie who first made the point that, “If you take a shot at the king, you better make sure you don’t miss.”

But again, we don’t know what they have so it’s just speculation at this point.

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Is he in trouble? I'd bet (were I a betting man) that this is over, unless he has another closet with another set of documents he's still withholding and another informer tells the FBI about it. He isn't charged with anything. I'll be shocked if that changes.

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What? I thought the documents were at Mar-a-Lago until the FBI removed them.

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Aug 24, 2022·edited Aug 24, 2022

I doubt it's relevant. This case will turn on what procedures, if any, a President needs to follow to declassify documents. No one doubts the President has plenary power to declassify anything he chooses -- he derives that power straight from Article II of the Constitution, from his position as Commander in Chief, so that power can't be circumscribed by any law Congress passes. But nobody has ever had to think about what procedure the President needs to follow, because heretofore the generic procedure for declassification has boiled down to "ask the President."

Presidents routinely declassify things implicitly, and in the moment, e.g. when JFK called former President Eisenhower to talk about the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Kennedy implicitly declassified a bunch of stuff by just telling it to Eisenhower, and of course he was perfectly within his right to do so.

It would also be perfectly legal (or more correctly perfectly constitutional) for President Biden to tell former President Trump a bunch of classified stuff, or hand him some classified documents, if he wanted Trump's opinion on something. Biden wouldn't need to tell anybody about that, or write it down somewhere, or follow some procedure, he could just do it.

Here we have the decidedly weird situation where President Trump may want to assert that by his actions in "communicating" to his future former President self some classified information, he was doing essentially the same thing other Presidents have done, implicitly declassify something by communicating it to someone other than himself -- in this case, his future non-President self. It's a very weird situation, and God knows how anyone intends to resolve it.

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I think any court that rules that your future self is a different person will successfully precipitate the full breakdown of law and order in the US by reducing the law to a transparent farce that protects the strong and enslaves the weak, which means I'll place like a 30% odds on it happening.

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Of course Trump is a different person today. That's the whole basis for the investigation, right? When he was President, certainly he could store any number of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, and he wouldn't need to ask anyone's permission or even tell anyone, and this investigation would be inherently absurd.

The issue here is Trump is *no longer* the President, he's a private citizen, and as such it is generally illegal for him to have classified documents -- unless, of course, the President said he could and declassified them for that purpose. Id est, Joe Biden could certainly have sent all those documents to Mar-a-Lago and said "Here, Donald, I want you to take a look a these and tell me what you think." That, too, everyone agrees would be legal, and Biden would not need to ask anyone's permission or even tell anyone.

I think people think there is some kind of "procedure" for declassification, laid down by statute, and even the President is subject to that. But there isn't. The President's power to declassify doesn't come from any statute, it's in the Constitution (implied by his role as Commander in Chief) so no mere law passed by Congress can limit it, or specify how it's carried out, courtesy of the Supremacy Clause. To the extent there's any procedure, it's whatever the President says it is, and it necessarily doesn't apply to himself unless he says it does.

And as I said above, we have long accepted that Presidents can declassify information implicitly, just by conveying the information to someone not previously certified as being able to have it. That's what happened when President Kennedy talked to private citizen Eisenhower about Cuba, or when GWB talked to 41 (his former President private citizen dad) about whatever secret stuff he felt like talking about. If President Obama talked over the pending killing of Osama bin Laden with his wife or kids, that too everyone agrees would be perfectly constitutional. (Whether it's advisable is another story.)

So the question is: can the President implicitly declassify stuff by conveying it to his future non-President self? Like, while still President he has a bunch of classified docs shipped to the room in which he'll know he'll wake up the next day as a private citizen. Did he just implicitly declassify them, or what?

It's a lot like the question of whether the President can pardon himself. It's definitely a weird Moebius strip kind of question, but it's neither a trivial nor (as it turns out) unimportant question. And I have no idea how anyone proposes to resolve it. Congress can't resolve it by passing a law, and no court can resolve it by pointing to an existing law, because Supremacy Clause. The Supreme Court can issue an opinion on what the Constitution says about this, and maybe that will work, but Presidents have always asserted a co-equal right to interpret the Constitution as far as their own powers go, and the Supreme Court has usually been reluctant to oppose this.

Ultimately this probably has to be decided by The People, as the only true ultimate sovereign, by their deciding which point of view they'll countenance.

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It goes to mens rea. I believe the relevant standard is ‘knowingly’ (actual knowledge that you have classified info in your possession). In your scenario, Trump could say that he was unaware that files in his possession were classified and that he returned them as soon as he was informed by a credible authority. It’s not dispositive but it is certainly more helpful than keeping them once so informed.

If the standard is really ‘knowingly’, any crime could be tough to prove. Only 300 files so far have been claimed as ‘classified’ and that’s a moniker that is frequently applied to some really mundane records. I suspect if you really dove into the LBJ or Clinton or Bush presidential libraries you could come up with some technically classified material inadvertently stuck in the archives. On the other hand, if the records were highly sensitive, preserved in some highly personal safe, dealt with matters that he gained by concealing, that he’d discussed having with others and he’d failed to return the material when asked, then yeah that’s a better case.

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If the document is labeled "TS//SCI", then it's an unambiguous violation of the law to take it out of a government facility and put it in your private stash. And I'm pretty sure you won't find any documents so labeled in the LBJ/Bush/Clinton archives; those archivists know their jobs.

But if there's no evidence that you meant to do anything beyond carelessly packratting your old work files, and you return them promptly on request, nobody's going to throw you in jail for that. It's when you *don't* return them promptly on demand, or otherwise behave in a manner inconsistent with this being an honest mistake, that you get in serious trouble.

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A smaller subset of files were marked TS, but that doesn’t change the legal analysis. Under the statute, he has to knowingly remove classified information and then have specific intent to retain it.

By way of example, a former Secretary of State was found to have retained a significant store of classified info on a personal server. Unauthorized possession was not in dispute, but the DOJ declined to prosecute because they found no specific intent to retain classified information which would be the mens rea required for violation of 18 U.S.C. 1924.

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That former Secretary of State. You’re talking about Kissinger, right? :)

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War crimes are no big deal, but God help you if you mishandle classified documents....

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Hello folks!

I am glad to announce the second of a continuing series of Orange County ACX/LW meetups. Meeting this Saturday and most Saturdays. Note this week we will meet at 3:30 not 2. The first meeting was great, and I hope to see many of you at this one. Based on the first meeting, I chose two popular topics to prompt future conversation and activities.

Saturday, 8/27/22, 3:30 pm

1900 Port Carlow Place, Newport Beach, 92660

The Picnic tables outside the community clubhouse

33.6173166789459, -117.85885652037152


Plus code 8554J48R+WFJ

Contact me, Michael, at michaelmichalchik+acxlw@gmail.com with questions or requests.

This week it will be at 3:30 (usually 2:00) to avoid a conflict with an online LW meetup

Activities (all activities are optional)

A) Two conversation starter topics this week will be. (readings at the end)

1) Forecasting and predicting the future

2) Psychedelics.

B) We will also have the card game Predictably Irrational. Feel free to bring your own favorite games or distractions.

C) There will be opportunities to go for a walk and talk about an hour after the meeting starts and use some gas barbeques if anyone wants to grill something. There are two easy-access mini-malls nearby with takeout hot food available.

D) Share a surprise! Tell the group about something that happened that was unexpected or changed the way you look at the universe.

E) Make a prediction and give a probability and end condition.

F) Contribute ideas to the future direction of the group. Topics, types of meetings, activities, etc…

Conversation Starter Readings:

Suggested readings for this week are these summaries. These readings are optional, but if you do them, think about what you find interesting, surprising, useful, questionable, vexing, or exciting.

1) Prediction

Superforcasting is a review of experiments done about how well various types of experts do in predicting the future. Generalists tend to do better than specialists in prediction, but why? Groups tend to do better than individuals, but are there ways to improve the performance of groups even further? How can you train yourself to be better at prediction? How can you help others?


Or The Harvard business review application to business


Or the ACX Review


And this excerpt from Future Babble is a more critical look at prediction science.


For psychedelics:

The tale of two receptors is an interesting speculation as to the underlying pharmacology of psychedelics. Hypothesizing that serotonin can both help us cope with the distress of a bad situation and help us look for creative ideas out of the old mental habits that can keep us trapped in a bad situation. Conventional antidepressants and atypical antipsychotics operate on the acceptance system, while psychedelics operate on the later, lateral thinking. Is this perspective useful? Oversimplified? Can it be made into a rigorous scientific idea, or is it just another evolutionary just-so story? What possible uses and hazards does this suggest for psychedelics?

https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/10/10/ssc-journal-club-serotonin-receptors/ or https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269881117725915

If you want a more general introduction to psychedelics, here is a book summary of the recent popular review of psychedelics. “ How to change your mind” by Michael Pollen


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I've been hunting around for datasets regarding stock-prices and commodities prices, but this is a very new space for me. Does anyone have any suggestions? It seems like there's nothing available that's open source.

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This is awesome, can't believe I didn't know about this.

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For both individual stocks and indices (basically anything with a ticker symbol), Yahoo! Finance has very easily downloadable historical data going back decades. It's basically the last functional thing left in the Yahoo! universe.

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I started looking for such years ago, and my impression is that they just aren't available as open source. There used to be pages of daily stock prices in paper newspapers, but I'm not sure when that ended.

I'm kind of surprised no one has succeeded at cracking a source.

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It's possible to extract data from Yahoo's financial data api; but that requires time and effort...but thanks for reminding me about the newspapers, maybe those prices could be OCR'd.

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Aug 23, 2022·edited Aug 23, 2022

On Thursday 8/25 night starting at 8:00pm eastern, 7:00pm central The St. Louis Rationality Group will have an online discussion of the ACX Book Review Contest in GatherTown.

We are inviting all other ACX/Rationality readers as well.

If you haven't read all the book reviews, still come.

If you are nervous about talking to people because you find old age makes you less social, still come. If you will be late due to time zones or other obligations, still come.

If you feel awkward, still come.

It'll be fun.

Here is the link to the event, click it for more information:


Let's talk ACX Book Reviews. You need not have read every book review to be part of this event, as long as you have read three or so you are good. The purpose here is to meet and learn from each other and share thoughts about this year's book reviews.

Wander from room to room and group to group and talk! No rules about group size or how long you have to stay within a group.

Here are some questions to ask each other:

Do you like or dislike the book review contest?

What makes a good book review?

Are there any books that you have read because of a great book review?

Which book reviews from this year's contest were your favorite?

Did you learn anything useful or insightful from any of the book reviews?

Is book reviewing an art?

What's the best book you've read in the past two years?

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How many have signed up so far?

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This sounds really cool! I'm in

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I think there's too much focus on trying to design utopian cities, and there should be more focus on trying to design utopian towns first. Get things right at a small scale first, before scaling up to a megacity. If you can take a greenfield site and a budget in the single-digit billions and build a medium-sized town of twenty thousand people, and persuade twenty thousand people that they want to live there because your urban design is so wonderful, then I might believe you can do it with a larger city.

Here's my idea for a town of 20,000. I've tried to cut a middle path between standard urban design and the anti-car fundamentalism of so many "urbanist" type thinkers.

- The whole design looks like a scaled-down Adelaide (check it out) with a downtown core surrounded by a ring of parks surrounded by a ring of suburbs.

- Downtown core is dense and highly walkable. A few major streets and a bunch of narrow lanes. In general there's no parking within downtown itself, but there's space for delivery trucks etc to keep the shops supplied. A narrow river running through the centre of town would be nice.

- Next, the ring of parks, which hide underground car parking beneath. If you want to go downtown, you can park underground and walk. Supermarkets etc can be placed at the outer edges of downtown close to the carpark entrances to make grocery shopping convenient.

- Immediately outside the ring of parks, medium-density apartments and terrace housing, gradually turning into quarter-acre blocks as you go further out. Some major arterial roads head into the residential areas, but there's also tendrils of parkland with bicycle paths in them. A bunch of corner stores and cafes are sprinkled throughout the suburbs. Street layout isn't a grid, nor the cul-de-sac maze of most modern suburban developments, but some kind of haphazard mishmash of the two.

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Nobody wants to live in towns, though. People move to cities because there are jobs and social life there.

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20k isn't a big town. It's hard to make somewere of that size not walkable. A notable example of modern, small-scale urbanism is Poundbury, England. It's a suburb of Dorchester but it seems to have a well developed core despite its population of under 4,000. I think that in practice, you'd struggle to build a critical mass of jobs in a place below 50-100k people unless there's a bigger city nearby to commute to or a single large employer (e.g. a university).

I'd recommend laying out the parks and green space as radial wedges rather than in rings. That way it isn't an obstacle to travel between the suburbs and the centre and it allows for gradual expansion rather than constraining the CBD. It would make sense to use the river floodplain for this.

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According to the first Google result I found (https://www.checkatrade.com/blog/cost-guides/cost-build-car-park/), putting your car parks underground 3-10xes the cost of building them. Could you use attractively-designed multi-story car parks instead?

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I don't think that attractive multi-storey carparks are really a thing.

I don't think the cost of underground car parking is a particularly big deal on the scale of the whole project. And we're building it cut-and-cover, at large scale, on a greenfield project, and covering it with not-very-heavy parkland, so I think that's about as cheap as it gets.

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I've never seen anything that really works for that.

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For making multi-story car parks less fugly, or for making tunnelling less ruinously expensive? Me neither, on both counts :-(

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I meant the former, but you're right of course.

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One probably wants to start a line city with at least a kilometer. That's 20 buildings and about 15,000 persons. In your ballpark.

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All the comment threads in this post are hidden behind “Continue Thread” links, which are wildly inconvenient to read on a mobile device: is it one uninteresting reply, or a major subthread of interesting opinions from the most prominent bloggers who follow scott? No idea, lets click on 543 slow-loading links one by one to find out!

I miss static html, and dearly wish for substack and similar single-page-application monstrosities to all shutdown, their leaders discredited, their investors bankrupted, and their developers unhireable.

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I'm pretty sure Scott deliberately changed this as of the last Open Thread because people were complaining about the lag of the fully-revealed thread.

Personally, I'm not getting any lag (laptop), and I'm also not seeing the Continue Thread links, so I don't really have any beef with this either way, but something that *does* annoy the heck out of me is that if I accidentally click a link, e.g. one of the omnipresent "gift a subscription!" links, my thread-state is completely obliterated when I hit Back, notably removing the new reply markers which makes catching up very frustrating.

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I can't say I like substack at all for reasons like this. I think there attempt to model conversation gets a 2/5 stars. 3/5 at best

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I've entirely abandoned trying to access ACX via mobile, whether through the Substack app or via mobile webpage. Not a good look when so much of the Substack UI is Mobile First(tm)-oriented. It's almost like they didn't anticipate any blogs becoming popular enough to have hundreds or thousands of long-winded comments! Reading comments via email notifications is a decent workaround, but that's purely passive, I have to wait until I get home to reply...

...and then watch as the editor struggles to keep up, cause of idk what background process chicanery hogging CPU cycles and leading to the same issues Himaldr-2 notes. Like yeah, my laptop's old and not very powerful...but cmon, it's a blog, and Open Threads don't even have pictures. It's 99% unformatted text, man! Genuinely confused at what's causing such hang-ups. Especially frustrating cause the Open Threads are usually highlights of my weekly ACX experience, and I do enjoy browsing through the entire "stack" hunting for interesting conversations to participate in. The top-level posts definitely don't always cut it for worthiness-heuristics.

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"It's almost like they didn't anticipate any blogs becoming popular enough to have hundreds or thousands of long-winded comments!"

They had no idea what Scott's commentariat are like 🤣

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Aug 23, 2022·edited Aug 23, 2022

Oh God, this so, so, so much.

That's the worst, but there are a few more things that anger me:

This (probably Substack as a whole, but I only comment here) is also the only page wherein — and I'm not sure if due solely to how ungodly slow it becomes with a lot of comments, or some other error — I cannot select (highlight) more than a paragraph or so of text; it gets slower and slower until it finally refuses to select at all any more.

Trying to select a *small* amount is also fraught: no response, no response... SUDDENLY HUGE BLOCK HIGHLIGHTED

Too, just composing a comment at all is a chore because the letters take an eternity to show up, the cursor freezes, etc. Deleting is particularly fun.

And I don't even get to use italics or boldface, for all the slow, clunky bloat. You'd think such awful design would at least offer a bunch of features to compensate!

Edit: The edit function is the sole bright spot that's been added (IIRC, at least, it was not initially possible?) -- but of course, even that is screwy: edits don't appear until a refresh, and trying to edit again before doing so erases your first set of changes.

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I think everywhere is optimising for reading on mobile devices, which is of course a pain because then the design has to fit on a narrow screen with limited scrolling down capacity.

This is why I do everything on my desktop PC like a dinosaur.

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Agree 100% with maybe later. I almost never read the open thread posts because threads are so hard to follow on this website format. I would bet that there would be a lot more commenting and reader engagement if we had the classic, Slate Star Codex-type commenting format.

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This link has received some valuable feedback from a few particpants in the Model Monday thread for August 1.


This is a serious attempt at imagining a linear city. It was inspired by Neom but is different in many respects.

Our linear city:


... PARK ...

... PARK ...

... PARK ...

... PARK ...


... PARK

... PARK ...

... PARK ...

... PARK ...


The buildings resemble the UN building.

100 meters high, 30 stories

10 residental stories

90 meters long

25 meters thick

There are 2000 of them in the completed 100-KM city with a population of 1.5 million.

The city is 200 meters wide. The park is 150 meters wide.

I would love to see others participate in the design.


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Why would you not put the parks on the outside of the line? With this layout all the places you want to go are an extra 150 meters away from a train stop.

It would also give you more room for the parks - 150 meters is not actually that big when it comes to nature. Central Park is 0.8 km wide.

Also, I still don't see how a line has benefits over a grid (or maybe a circle if there are limits to the shape of your Hyperloop), but we've beaten that horse to death in the original Neom thread already.

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If you are talking about BIG PARKS, yes, they could go outside the line city.

Apparently you don't believe the central concept: most of what you want is within a six-minute walk.

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Parks come in all size. The park in front of the church where I live is the size of a small block.

Can you see this?


Looks like about 30 meters by 50 meters. That's the main park for our beach town.

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Again: a cross shape allows access to nature , and reduces transit times.

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Have you written up your cross idea?

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Are you talking about a cross (two intersecting lines)? Not a grid. How is this better?

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Everyone has a clear view, and the maximum travel distance is halved.

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I'm quite interested in your thoughts, but I'm mystified by this brief comment.

I would also like to understand your cross design, but I can't with a few words every few days.

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Cool stuff. I have some ideas/questions:

- Make diagrams of the layout. The attempts at explaining the layout left me unclear on how it would look. If someone can make a simple sketch, that’s the first step to getting a diagram.

- How do you propose to acquire the land and get permission to build? The proposed location of USA has different constraints than Saudi Arabia, and solving the land acquisition and zoning is a big part of making it feasible.

- You mention: “Stores could open after the commuting peak.“ How would that work? Many people commute to work in stores. If you push back store hours, that would tend to push back peak commuting time as well.

- Is there a proposed governance structure required, or just a standard city governance proposed? The proposed location of Birmingham to Montgomery in Alabama crosses 5 or 6 counties. Any ideas about how that might work with governance?

- I remain skeptical that hyperloop-based travel makes any sense on earth. On Mars you get near vacuum for free due to little atmosphere. On earth, maintaining the vacuum over multiple lanes/airlocks/etc is not a solved problem, and planning travel around more conventional rail/maglev systems would make more sense.

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>>Hyperloop will almost certainly work. There are no major technical challenges in terms of missing or infeasible technologies, we solve equal or more difficult infrastructure problems relatively frequently, and anyone who claims otherwise is speaking completely from ignorance.<<


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I’m not going to pay for Quora+ so I can’t read that. If you have a non-paywalled version somewhere I’m interested.

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I don't pay for Quora.

I copied the text.

Q. Isn't it true that Elon Musk's Hyperloop will never work?

A. No, not at all.

At this point, I’ve written enough answer on the subject that I think I reasonably qualify as skeptical of both Elon Musk in general and the Hyperloop project in particular.

Let me be the first to say that the idea is completely feasible, and most of the criticism is based on ignorance. The only thing that’s really up in the air is if all the tech challenges can get worked out in a way that give it some market viability.

The skepticism surrounding Hyperloop is a complete mess, and has no real logic behind it. The general problem is that community doesn’t do enough research nor have enough knowledge to be drawing conclusions about these issues, so there’s a general trend to just insert a convincing-sounding argument that doesn’t disagree with the little bit of knowledge the person does have. That creates huge holes in people’s logic that they don’t have enough knowledge to actually address, so usually they find some way to distract from them. Appeals to authority are rampant, and arguments from incredulity are just as bad.

I would strongly suggest you ignore all of it, because at best it’ll just be confusing, and at worst you will come away with opinions that are straight-up wrong.

For example, people frequently discuss the “massive pressure” a Hyperloop tube would have to withstand, but don’t ever put it in perspective. If they did, they would realize that it isn’t actually massive at all relative to other structural loads. The pressure exerted by the atmosphere on a vacuum chamber is only about as much pressure as a tunnel that’s 9 meters underwater. This is not actually a very challenging design problem and isn’t really an unprecedented structure in any way - at worst it would be expensive to build.

Most skeptics act like it is a major obstacle though, which is almost objectively wrong.

That’s just one example, but hopefully it illustrates my point while keeping this answer brief. I could go through each of the other claims and explain in detail why they’re either oversimplified, missing critical information, or just outright wrong, but I think that would distract from the conclusion:

Hyperloop will almost certainly work. There are no major technical challenges in terms of missing or infeasible technologies, we solve equal or more difficult infrastructure problems relatively frequently, and anyone who claims otherwise is speaking completely from ignorance.

The real question is whether or not it can be done cost-effectively, and if the final product will actually get built.

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Thanks (the complete text didn’t show for me).

That answer presents conclusions while skipping the argument that would justify them, so I don’t find it very convincing.

Using an existing, proven, commercially viable technology (like HSR / maglev) is more feasible than one that isn’t yet (hyperloop). If money is no object and you’re sufficiently convinced that hyperloop will be a comfortable viable means of transportation, go for it!

I kind of get where you’re coming from. I’m a proponent of nuclear power, but I think uranium-based plants are a historical artifact from focusing on refinement of payloads for weapons, and trying to use that same refinement pipeline for fuel for power generation. If the plan had been to find a better, more available, safer power generation source, I think thorium would have been chosen instead of uranium. I would love for a billionaire to make a push for thorium power, and when designing a city, I would push for thorium-based nuclear plants.

But thorium power hasn’t been implemented at scale yet, while uranium power has. If I were trying to give advice on a feasible power source for a city right now, uranium power would be my recommendation. If we had all the money to spend to push through approvals and develop the tech, thorium is the clear choice.

In this analogy HSR or maglev are uranium (established), and hyperloop is thorium (unestablished). I personally think hyperloop has a bigger gap to feasibility than thorium power, but hopefully the analogy clarifies my recommendation, and why I’m not trying to step on your hyperloop optimism (despite my pessimism).

Side note: as long as you’re collecting hyperloop feasibility articles, here’s another one: https://transsyst.ru/transj/article/view/81420

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I completely understand your analogy. It is quite possible that fusion power will be perfected. Then fission power will seem like a sidetrack.

These Japanese maglev trains are huge.


They are completely inappropriate for a system with a stop every kilometer. Hyperloop (as I envision it) can handle depositing a passenger every kilometer.

You haven't addressed this difference.

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Thank you very much for your comments.

I assume you want an ink sketch of the ETT lanes, not just text characters. I will see what I can produce.

Placing the city (which I dubbed "Coosapolis") in Alabama is an attempt to get a more "grounded" feeling for the concept. Other elongated cities have developed along cities, e.g. Volgograd. I didn't get as far as governmental permissions (though that would certainly impact actual construction of a line city).

I'm dealing with the peak traffic problem right now. Richard Gadsden gave me some good data on that. More coming on that.

There are a lot of folks thinking about Hyperloop so I will leave the vacuum problem to them. I am confident it can be solved.

Running a 200 mph train every few minutes down the middle of the line city would destroy the livability IMHO. For me it's buried Hyperloop or nothing.

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Aug 24, 2022·edited Aug 24, 2022

Here's a quick sketch of the proposed layout for a 400 m long segment. Let me know if I should correct anything (no promises, as I don't have that much time to work on this): https://twitter.com/brinkwatertoad/status/1562507083605737473?s=20&t=kzKy2y3AYfaYL439jA9c5A

Note: the yellow side-walks are 10 m wide, which is pretty wide! Sufficient for foot traffic and bike lanes both directions with room to spare so you're not right up against the buildings.

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Yes to an ink sketch. I would also appreciate one of the proposed city layout (buildings, parks, etc.).

About trains: I agree that above ground train wouldn't be great, by buried High-Speed Rail or Maglev seems like it would be similar to buried Hyperloop in terms of impact on livability. You could use lower-speed lines for local trips and high-speed lines for longer trips. This makes the proposal more feasible as it reduces the number of hard problems that need to be solved to make it work.

If you don't value feasibility that highly or if you're just interested in planning what a hyperloop system could be that's fine too. It's cool stuff!

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The problem with Hyperloop is that it has to move in a straight line! No problema.


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Do you know of any critiques of Hyperloop that claim it won't work?

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Yes, many exist and are easily findable.

Some of the early critiques focus on some of the embarrassing mistakes from the original paper (like this https://leancrew.com/all-this/2013/08/hyperloop/). I’m not concerned about the raised structure issues, but when your original white paper has stuff like that it’s hard for structural engineers to take it seriously.

For a more recent version (I don’t share every concern mentioned), see this: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frsc.2022.842245/full

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Thank you.

See the critique I just posted. They are NOT worried about vacuum. They think Hyperloop must travel in a straight line at a constant elevation. How about that! Linear cities and hyperloop: a match made in heaven.

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You can't detach one pod from a conventional train.

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Correct. You transfer trains by getting off a high speed one and back on a local one if needed.

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I've been re-reading Meditations on Moloch. The first time I read it I remember being very struck by how profound it seemed, but looking over it again, I think its main thesis is just that "coordination problems can be very harmful and are difficult to overcome", which seems quite obvious in retrospect.

I'm pretty sure I already had a good understanding of the trouble coordination problems can cause and probably most other readers did as well. Even thinking that though I still feel like that post has some huge insights that aren't immediately obvious and maybe are difficult to articulate, and I'm wondering if anyone else has any ideas about what made it so special.

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I still love that piece. Maybe I could be persuaded it's overrated among Scott's fans, but coordination problems are desperately underrated by humans in general, and in particular it's even more underrated by policymakers and polticians. Moloch is the enemy.

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It's possible that the post looks worse in hindsight because of the same cognitive bias described in the post "Read History of Philosophy Backwards," from 2013. Correct ideas tend to win out and eventually become regarded as common knowledge/sense, while intellectual mistakes stand out more and more over time as the world moves past them.

I read it many years ago though, so it's also entirely possible that it just actually wasn't as good as I remember.


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I agree with this assessment about it looking worse in hindsight than it was at the time, for the same reason as in the "history backwards" post but also another:

The optimism has worn off.

2014 was a long time ago.

The reason for describing the problem as "Moloch" rather than merely as "coordination is hard" isn't just to tip the hat to Ginsberg, it's because of perverse and pervasive it is. "Moloch" in fact is too parochial a diety, but is punchier than a phrase like "hidden forces of global subversion". In any case, if in 2014 an avowed transhumanist could end a long poetically-written piece about coordination problems with a battle cry about killing god, in 2022 it seems much harder to do so. Moloch seems to be winning the alignment war, and dying with dignity seems a long shot.

So yes, the perennial portions of "Meditations on Moloch" are now more mainstream, but also the hopeful portions of it (which justify the poetic tone) are also less believable. That doesn't make it less brilliant, it just makes it something that was brilliant and went unheeded.

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Can you elaborate on what you think is do different in 2022 compared to 2014. I can think of the pandemic that we failed to prevent/contain for reason maybe related to Moloch and international tensions have risen, but mostly Moloch's strength and our ability to resits don't seem that different to me. To me, the really the big historical victories for Moloch are things like the failures of Soviet central planning and western Social Democracy, which both happened quite a while ago.

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If we limit our examination to the turn at the end of "Meditations on Moloch" (i.e. the possibility of using AI to defeat Moloch/Gnon), and compare the tone of the AI research/alignment 'community' in 2014 and 2022 (especially the Big Yud, but not just him), the loss of hopefulness is obvious.

The other ways in which the race to the bottom has intensified in the last 8 years (whether click-driven news, increasingly addictive entertainment, widening gaps between rich and poor, or what-have-you) add up to arguably as big a victory for Moloch as any similar 8 years in the decline of the Soviet experiment, but I won't pretend to be able to quantify such a thing.

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I interpreted the concluding paragraph of Meditations on Moloch as saying something more specific than that.

> As long as the offer’s open, it will be irresistible. So we need to close the offer. Only another god can kill Moloch. We have one on our side, but he needs our help. We should give it to him.

I thought this is hinting at the fact that if we get AI alignment right we may be able to overcome these kinds of coordination problems once and for all. Assuming there will be a unipolar, god-like, benevolent AI.

Regardless of whether that interpretation is correct, the ideas around coordination problems hadn't been very clear to me before reading the article, so maybe it's an example of what's described here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/11/read-history-of-philosophy-backwards/

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I still like the post, but perhaps it's because I'm enough of a contrarian to think Elua isn't much better a bargain than Moloch. We'll still end up eaten, it's just a matter of which god devours us and how conscious we'll be as it happens. Screaming into the brazen belly of fiery Moloch, or docilely drugged like Eloi for flower-wreathed Elua?

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If "Eula" was renamed to "The Son of Man", and "eternal flower paradise" was renamed to "The Kingdom of Heaven which shall reign forever and ever, Amen", would you still describe it as being devoured?

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“You!” he cried. “You never hated because you never lived. I know what you are all of you, from first to last — you are the people in power! You are the police — the great fat, smiling men in blue and buttons! You are the Law, and you have never been broken. But is there a free soul alive that does not long to break you, only because you have never been broken? We in revolt talk all kind of nonsense doubtless about this crime or that crime of the Government. It is all folly! The only crime of the Government is that it governs. The unpardonable sin of the supreme power is that it is supreme. I do not curse you for being cruel. I do not curse you (though I might) for being kind. I curse you for being safe! You sit in your chairs of stone, and have never come down from them. You are the seven angels of heaven, and you have had no troubles. Oh, I could forgive you everything, you that rule all mankind, if I could feel for once that you had suffered for one hour a real agony such as I —”

Syme sprang to his feet, shaking from head to foot. “I see everything,” he cried, “everything that there is. Why does each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a fly have to fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe? For the same reason that I had to be alone in the dreadful Council of the Days. So that each thing that obeys law may have the glory and isolation of the anarchist. So that each man fighting for order may be as brave and good a man as the dynamiter. So that the real lie of Satan may be flung back in the face of this blasphemer, so that by tears and torture we may earn the right to say to this man, ‘You lie!’ No agonies can be too great to buy the right to say to this accuser, ‘We also have suffered.’

“It is not true that we have never been broken. We have been broken upon the wheel. It is not true that we have never descended from these thrones. We have descended into hell. We were complaining of unforgettable miseries even at the very moment when this man entered insolently to accuse us of happiness. I repel the slander; we have not been happy. I can answer for every one of the great guards of Law whom he has accused. At least —”

He had turned his eyes so as to see suddenly the great face of Sunday, which wore a strange smile.

“Have you,” he cried in a dreadful voice, “have you ever suffered?”

As he gazed, the great face grew to an awful size, grew larger than the colossal mask of Memnon, which had made him scream as a child. It grew larger and larger, filling the whole sky; then everything went black. Only in the blackness before it entirely destroyed his brain he seemed to hear a distant voice saying a commonplace text that he had heard somewhere, “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?”

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I am glad that you are well-read. I am saddened you are completely uninterested in asserting a point.

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Aug 24, 2022·edited Aug 24, 2022

Oh dear, am I not engaging in the slap-fight you anticipated? How uncouth of me to refuse to play this game!

I'm enjoying this late summer afternoon, I don't feel the need to start off an exchange of "But reelly, now, reelly whydonchu?"

And if what I quoted does not give you the point I was making, well, that obscurity is on me. Has Elua ever drunk from the cup? Can you answer that? Then we can talk about the marriage feast of the Lamb.


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Totally agree. I think that post is hugely overrated.

My initial reaction the first time I read it was "ok so he illustrated the prisoner's dilemma a bunch of times. Big deal." And some of the examples aren't really good. Take Las Vegas: I think it's totally reasonable that it exists. There's nothing wrong with having a place to hedonistically self-indulge.

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I don't think Scott's problem with Vegas was anything to do with hedonism (that wouldn't be a coordination problem), I think his problem was that the whole city had been built off profits from gambling. Since gambling is zero sum every building represented a net loss to society as a whole and was just wasted capital.

His point was if human society was organised by a rational planner it would never even conceive of making something so wasteful, but the combined result of many individual actors following there own perceived self interest did produce a result that was collectively irrational. Kind of the whole point of the post.

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I think he meant that Las Vegas is even worse than that; it's not "hedonistically self-indulg[ing]". It's people sitting in front of slot machines feeding in coin after coin like prisoners on a treadmill. That's where the bulk of the profits come from, not the James Bond-roulette-baccarat-dinner jackets and evening gowns fantasy of high-stakes glamorous gambling. It's addiction and desperation and not fun or glamorous or anything near hedonism.

It's what is described in the Harlan Ellison story "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes", where Las Vegas is its own circle of Hell.

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>so he illustrated the prisoner's dilemma a bunch of times.<

But that's neither literally nor figuratively what the post is; not all coordination problems are or are equivalent to a Prisoner's Dilemma, nor was the larger point "here are some examples of the Prisoner's Dilemma". Nor was the objection to Las Vegas "people shouldn't be self-indulgent!", at all.

Perhaps this is why you didn't get too much out of the post.

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Yes....but there is also no reason to have it in a desert where water is _extremely_ scarce (I don't recall meditations on moloch being anti-vegas, merely anti "let's build a giant city in one of the driest deserts on earth when there is no particular reason to have it there".

I think that post is one of those "once you have integrated the idea, it's obvious, but if you have not integrated the idea, it will radically change your worldview" kind of things. And I think that this community vastly over-indexes for people who are likely to have either encountered it already or to have figured it out on their own.

The point that "many of the world's issues are because coordination is hard" is one that most people don't get (or at least, they don't act like they do). Most of the world acts like problems are because "bad people are in charge". Realizing that most people aren't bad, that most people are trying their best, but that coordination problems and incentive structures make even "obvious" solution hard to reach can be a truly world shaking realization, if you are coming from "man if only people weren't so evil".

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Wait what? Las Vegas sits at the confluence of the two largest rivers in the region for several hundred miles, the Virgin and Colorado. It has gobs of water -- or rather, it *would* have, except for the fact that 1/3 of the Colorado water is siphoned off by California and another 1/5 by Arizona.

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>largest in the region

That region being a very dry desert. You've correctly identified the tallest dwarf.

I'd argue that the Colorado river doesn't have enough regular flow that _any_ large city (or large agricultural base) should be siphoning off of it. The fact that other places are also trying to drink from the same, too-small straw doesn't make Las Vegas' existence acceptable.

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Aug 23, 2022·edited Aug 23, 2022

That's just silly. The Colorado is quite a large river -- you've seen photos of the Grand Canyon, one assumes? -- and the bulk of human urban and industrial water usage always comes from a nearby river. Only agriculture relies even partly on water falling from the sky.

So there's no general reason at all not to put a city in the desert, and some good reasons to do so -- the eternal sunshine and stable weather lends itself well to certain activities, actually including agriculture (given modern irrigation technology), flght (both transport and aircraft development and training -- note that Las Vegas is home to a substantial amount of USAF training), being a transport and distribution hub in general (which Las Vegas is), manufacturing that benefits from stable weather and a minimum of hail, snow and rain (i.e. where you're building big things that have to be outside for part of their construction), and even solar power (the Ivanpah solar power station is in Las Vegas).

The main problem is not the existence of Las Vegas per se, but the fact that the water that you might think "naturally" belongs to Las Vegas, which arrives there on two big rivers, has been siphoned off long ago by water transport infrastructure built in the 30s by two distant states -- California and Arizona -- which were built up much earlier than Nevada.

And the real solution is not to limit or reverse Las Vegas, but for California in particular to build up its own water infrastructure instead of resting on its prior claim to the Colorado water. California has metric assloads of water in the Sierra Nevada, but it hasn't built a water project since the 50s, even as the population has doubled, because of NIMBY problems and the obsession of state government with other priorities than the basic infrastructure of life. It's the same reason I-5 and CA-99 are the same size they were 40 years ago, when there were half as many cars on them, and why the electric transportation lines haven't been expanded in 40 years, and remain wholly inadequate to support the hypothetically arriving transition to EVs.

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Aug 23, 2022·edited Aug 24, 2022

You realize the Grand Canyon took 6 million years to form and that it's size has nothing to do with the amount of water in the Colorado river in any given year, right? But I'm the one being silly.

Also, the current water storage capacity in CA is enough to capture >100% of total rainfall in some (drier) years and that in drought years >80% of total outflows from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers are diverted for other uses (which, as aforementioned represent the bulk of total CA outflows)? Water storage is not CA's problem, and it doesn't have an "assload" of water in the Sierras. The problem is that it's population and ag industry developed on assumptions of annual average rainfall that appear to be historical anomalies and that reversion to the mean + climate change are resulting in a drier climate. Building more storage won't increase the rainfall, and the wet years that exceed current storage capacities are getting fewer and farther between.

As for who uses what water, why does the upstream claim have precedence to the downstream claim? Why is positional claim more important than temporal claim? And as for "modern irrigation" technology, that mostly amounts to drawing down non-renewable aquifers.

The point is that there is not enough water in the Colorado for everyone who wants it and has some sort of claim to it (either positional or historical). So we should ask ourselves "which uses of water are _required_ to be in the place where they are? I'd argue that, among all the uses of the Colorado River, none of them are _less_ geographically based than Las Vegas.

Every one of the reasons you listed for Las Vegas being where it is is either non-unique and exists somewhere else with more water/natural resources or else is a historical accident that is where is _because_ Las Vegas is there and _also_ has nothing to do with being where Las Vegas is, and would have developed just fine somewhere else if Las Vegas never existed.

And while I agree that CA has _horrible_ NIMBY development policies, I really don't see how they have anything to do with water infrastructure.

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Right, I mean if we're going to talk about cities that shouldn't exist due to the lack of a water supply then we should be talking about San Francisco, not Las Vegas. Las Vegas gets its water from a dam about twenty miles out of town; San Francisco pipes its water in from freaking two hundred miles away.

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San Francisco sits at the mouth of the largest estuary on the west coast, downstream of a confluence of rivers that represent something like greater than 80% of the total outflow of CA. If San Francisco doesn't have enough water, then there is not a city in the state of CA that should exist. Not to mention the fact that >70% of water useage in CA is ag use, not urban. So CA is _also_ using too much water, but it's not because of cities.

Additionally, my point wasn't that "there isn't enough water". It's that "there isn't much water AND there is no particular reason to be _there_ specifically. San Francisco has a _very_ good reason to be exactly where it is, that couldn't be anywhere else: the aforementioned "largest port/estuary on the west coast". You can't move San Francisco Bay, so you can't move San Francisco. What natural feature does Las Vegas rely on?

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So why doesn't San Francisco get its water from the Sacramento River? I'm not saying that Vallejo shouldn't exist, I'm just saying that San Francisco shouldn't exist.

Las Vegas relies on the natural feature of the Hoover Dam. Admittedly the Hoover Dam isn't strictly speaking a natural feature, but presumably that particular site was considered the optimal place for damming the Colorado River.

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Aug 22, 2022·edited Aug 22, 2022

I've severely fallen behind in my poetry reading, so I'm looking for recommendations of decent modern (writing in the last twenty years) poets.

What I am not looking for:

(1) the standard "chopped-up prose" where it's

Because I write

The lines

Like this, that

Makes this



(No, it doesn't. e.e. cummings could get away with it, but you, modern poet person, are *not* e.e. cummings).

(2) Em, this is going to sound critical, but also not whatever it was that girl poet produced for Biden's inauguration (granted, all official poets/poet laureates produce crappy stuff for the Big Official Occasions). If we're talking spoken word poetry, I'm afraid I'm stuck on John Cooper Clarke as my most recent exemplar of same (so, yeah, the 90s).

What I am looking for:

Something modern and good. Is this an impossible request? Hit me with your favourites!

(That reminds me, I've got to go re-read "The Four Quartets").

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Leonard Cohen is mostly thought of as a singer, but some of his songs are good poetry.

You might, or might not, enjoy some of my poems at the back of the _Miscellany_.


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John M Ford, if you can find a copy of his collection 'Timesteps', or the only good 9/11 poem http://www.110stories.us/

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Just checking - I assume you're looking for recent poetry in English only?

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Yes, please, I have no foreign language proficiency! Translations into English also welcomed, I still remember the translation of The Rose Thieves years after reading it: https://mhsteger.tumblr.com/post/751527535/vasko-popa-born-29-june-1922-died-5-january

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I've enjoyed Louise Glück--maybe known for having won the Nobel prize in 2020--you can check out the poem "The Egg"

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Thanks for the recommendations, I'm enjoying them all even if some of them are not my thing. But this is exactly what I need, recommendations outside what I'd usually read.

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Aug 23, 2022·edited Aug 23, 2022

If you have any interest in spoken-word poetry, I'd recommend Shane Koyczan, Andrea Gibson, or the Narcissist Cookbook.

Most of my favorite written-word poetry is from a while ago, but some modern poems I enjoyed:



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Aug 22, 2022·edited Aug 22, 2022

Ethan Coen's The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way doesn't quite squeak into the last twenty years, being published in 2001, but maybe it'll make a decent recommendation anyway.

If you don't like the poem of the same title, quoted at https://www.npr.org/2009/04/16/103175352/ethan-coens-recreational-writing-projects, then don't bother with the rest. If you do like it, then the book is not as good, but the poems mostly rhyme, often try to be funny, and sometimes succeed.

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A great ask. But I'll ignore your request and give a recommendation of a modern poet who I think does "chopped up" prose in a way that's really successful: Dean Young. Here's his "See A Lily on Thy Brow:"

It is 1816 and you gash your hand unloading

a crate of geese, but if you keep working

you’ll be able to buy a bucket of beer

with your potatoes. You’re probably 14 although

no one knows for sure and the whore you sometimes

sleep with could be your younger sister

and when your hand throbs to twice its size

turning the fingernails green, she knots

a poultice of mustard and turkey grease

but the next morning, you wake to a yellow

world and stumble through the London streets

until your head implodes like a suffocated

fire stuffing your nose with rancid smoke.

Somehow you’re removed to Guy’s Infirmary.

It’s Tuesday. The surgeon will demonstrate

on Wednesday and you’re the demonstration.

Five guzzles of brandy then they hoist you

into the theater, into the trapped drone

and humid scuffle, the throng of students

a single body staked with a thousand peering

bulbs and the doctor begins to saw. Of course

you’ll die in a week, suppurating on a camphor-

soaked sheet but now you scream and scream

plash in a red river, in a sulfuric steam

But above you, the assistant holding you down,

trying to fix you with sad, electric eyes

is John Keats.

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Thank you for that, and I hope I don't sound ungracious and ungrateful when I say I hated this poem.

So the title is lifted from "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" and he's evoking Keats. Well, okay. But aren't you the great one altogether, reminding us of what the world was like pre-antibiotics and pre-anaesthesia? And just to rub our noses in the grimdark of it all, the teenage labourer may be committing incest! Why not, indeed? Of course he's going to die, because what would a modern grimdark social justice poem be without a victim in the end? Every bit as maudlin as 19th century poetry about dying maidens, and worse because it has pretensions to realism - harsh economic conditions, sex work, etc. etc. etc. let us check off the bingo card.

I'll stick to Keats, for original imagery, and if I want medical poetry, Dannie Abse, who did it first and better, Mr. Oh Yah I Studied For A Nurse. Read this poem based on an account of an operation from 1938 for real body-horror:


And let me quote "The Pathology of Colours" in full:

I know the colour rose, and it is lovely,

but not when it ripens in a tumour;

and healing greens, leaves and grass, so springlike,

in limbs that fester are not springlike.

I have seen red-blue tinged with hirsute mauve

in the plum-skin face of a suicide.

I have seen white, china white almost, stare

from behaind the smashed windscreen of a car.

And the criminal, multi-coloured flash

of an H-bomb is no more beautiful

than an autopsy when the belly's opened -

to show cathedral windows never opened.

So in the simple blessing of a rainbow,

in the bevelled edge of a sunlit mirror,

I have seen, visible, Death's artifact

like a soldier's ribbon on a tunic tacked

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I am straying a bit from the original discussion in that it's not a poem at all but this also reminded me a lot of Georg Heym's The Dissection: https://weirdfictionreview.com/2012/05/the-dissection/ in that it tries to shock you with the description but also has a romantic undertone

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Has there been any attempt to use technology to decrease the number of teachers needed in K-12 education? I.e. we could imagine a model where a high school or even entire school district only needs to hire one history teacher per grade (or 2-3 if we want honors/AP level history too) to teach all the students in that grade history via Zoom. Then, you could have part-time teaching assistants, who could range from local college students to stay-at-home parents to retirees help “tutor” kids outside of the main lessons being taught via Zoom.

Essentially, instead of needing all teachers to hold undergraduate degrees, as is the case in most school districts (although many districts are dropping this requirement already due to a shortage of qualified applicants) I’m picturing a model where 80-90% of the teaching is done by numerically fewer but “higher quality” (whether that means more credentialed like a MA or PhD or more years of experience) teachers and then the last 10-20% of tutoring being done by less credentialed tutors but in a more individualized, in-person style.

I haven’t worked out logistically exactly how this model would work - but I feel like the advent of video calls / YouTube etc. is made for this sort of more centralized, but possibly higher quality teaching + individualized tutoring system.

I know I’m not the only one who has thought of a model like this, (I think I’ve heard it proposed by a few different people on different podcasts) but I’m wondering if anyone/anywhere is actually trying to put this into place?

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You might want to have the tutoring done by older students — algebra by sophomores who got good grades in freshman algebra. Teaching is a good way of learning.

My daughter tells me that Oberlin did it that way at the college level. Any student who had done well in a class could be paid to tutor students in that class. But it was a supplement, not a standard part of the system.

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I think our civilization is lucky that printing books was invented before general education.

Otherwise we would be stuck in a situation where a few people keep saying: "couldn't we print books that contain school knowledge? so that kids could read the correct version even if their teacher makes a mistake, or could read the book at home again if they forget what the teacher said?" but most people would be yelling at them: "don't you dummies realize that a mere book can never replace an actual human teacher? a human can react in real time to what kids are doing or saying, can answer their questions, etc." "But we are not talking about replacing teachers with textbooks. How about having teachers *and* textbooks? That way, one teacher could perhaps teach 20 kids in a classroom at the same time, so we would need fewer teachers than we do with 1:1 tutoring." "No; education is our sacred value, and any compromises are completely unacceptable!"

Luckily, the books were invented before general education, so it is okay to use a book in the classroom. It's just not okay to use anything that was invented later, such as videos, interactive application, computer testing, etc. Don't you know that mere movie or a computer cannot replace an actual human being?

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Great comment. I will just add that pretty much every classroom in the US has a TV or projector for showing videos, computers and Ipads are ubiquitous in the classroom, and adaptive computer based testing like MAP is ubiquitous. We've transitioned to using all this technology with minimum pushback from teachers and parents.

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When you show up to school you recognize that you can walk out the front door or play hooky. No matter how much pressure society or your parents put on you, you know you are essentially there by choice. And standing in front of you is some lady who is inexplicably dedicated to making sure you grok Beowulf. She is relentless, and no matter how much of a nitwit goon you are, she perseveres. You don't remember anything about the bear, but you get that humans have been writing stuff for thousands of years, and in spit of modernity we are somehow the same as we always were. Plus you met this girl, and that is why you showed up semi regularly.

Zoom lectures? Most teens are not watching those, but they will still show up to the the tutoring sessions for the hang, which is going to be really tricky for those tutors to navigate. That is why the zoom lecture/tutoring method is not used more.

It is not uncommon for schools enroll students in online classes (usually specialized subjects like AP physics, IB Econ etc) A teacher will be a mentor or overseer. This does decrease the number of teachers needed, especially in smaller schools.

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Aug 22, 2022·edited Aug 22, 2022

As Carl Pham mentions below, the problem is that while this model may work for college (because the students are older, and pre-selected for intelligence and interest in the subject, and should at least theoretically have the self-discipline to do the work), it is a much different kettle of fish for younger children.

For 12-15 year olds, I think it would be much more difficult. And for 4-12, impossible.

EDIT: You would also need to keep a very tight rein so that educational fads weren't included (and I'm not talking about the culture war "As a teacher, I am truly oppressed by not being able to tell my class about how I'm polyamorous and bisexual with my husband and girlfriend") but things like this account of the wars over teaching reading: studies showed that the old-fashioned method of phonics gave better outcomes, but teachers hated it, opposed it, and insisted on the Latest Trendy Fad. Now some teachers are trying to get the old ways back, but good luck with that:


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Sure. There was this widget called the printing press, invented in 1450ish, which allowed the great minds to write down very carefully the best possible instruction in a subject matter and have it widely distributed at tiny cost. Eventually completed changed education, from a 1:1 (or 1:5 say) teacher:student ratio in Aristotle's day to what we have now.

But what we have now is stable for entirely different reasons, I think. It's not about the best possible delivery of the subject material -- this has long ago been delegated to the textbook, or assorted pseudo-textbooks (e.g. videos and Internet thingies). What the teacher does *now* is mostly centered around what you might call education nursing care, what an RN does for patients pre- and post-surgery in the hospital: unsnarling unexpected kinks, observing and assisting with exceptions and dysfunction, providing a human face that inspires effort by students who are wired to please authority figures, maintaining a positive social climate, keeping civil peace, tending the emotional well-being of the students.

These things all demand a certain modest teacher:student ratio because there is a limit to the bandwidth the teacher's mind has -- she can only keep track of 2-3 dozen other human beings before stuff starts to slip by even the most apparently psychic, with eyes in the back of the head and on top. In college where the students are more self-reliant, socially, you can up this to anywhere beween 100 to 1000 or probably 5000 without much harm. But at the K-12 level it's impossible for one person to keep track of the emotional state of 50 or more 10-year-olds, and have an accurate "read of the room" for social currents, so that's where we're stuck.

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About the printing press. Yes, it was great, although for a further century the hand written book eclipsed the printing press for output, and not because the press was complicated to make, but people preferred the hand written volume and there were a lot of people who were trained to copy write books. But what the press did do, in terms of education, was print off Alphabet posters - in one Venetian warehouse destroyed by fire in c.1500 more than 10,000 (!) alphabet posters were discovered by modern-day archeologists. The result of the proliferation of alphabet posters was increased literacy, and the primary purpose of the posters was in pedagogy. I do not think though, that the press greatly increased the number of authors and the translation or commentary on the classics remained the primary form of writing. Our present-day need for new interpretations and for each student to say something new was not part of European education then (and is still not part of education everywhere). When all students learned the same texts, at the same time, then class sizes of 100 to 150 students were both common and efficient. Whether the individual education outcomes of the present day are superior is a matter for another discussion.

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That only works *if* all the kids are on the same basic level of understanding and attainment, you've got small class sizes, and you are going for "extruded grade-attaining product" not education.

Give the kids the potted highlights curriculum so they can select the right answers on a multiple-choice test marked by machine? Perfect!

Actually teach them history (or at least, the ones who are interested in history)? Or any other subject? Nope.

The *real* teaching would be done by the 'part-time teaching assistants' and, depending on whether little Johnny gets retired Joe the former mailman or Sally, the college student doing a degree in History and doing this as a summer-vacation nixer, the level of teaching is going to vary wildly. (Lest anyone think I am looking down my nose at Joe, if he really does have a love of history, then he might be a *great* choice). But in general, if you depend on volunteers and parents, you are going to get "Ah, yeah, okay, Second World War was 1939-1945 and Hitler was the bad guy" level of teaching.

I honestly don't get what is this perpetual desire to do away with real, live teachers and replace them all by technology. "I was a smart kid who loved maths and taught myself by reading the textbooks, so every kid can do the same for every subject!" is the best guess I can make on this.

Have any of you ever stood up in front of a class of secondary school age pupils and tried teaching? (Despite having no qualifications for teaching at all, I got roped into doing this for my old school because the science teacher was out sick and since I was already doing preparing the science lab for them, I was asked to take - which really was mostly supervise - science classes. And religion. And study sessions. Look, it's a long story, the moral of which for me was "I definitely do not want to be a teacher").

You can't do it by Zoom and one teacher, preferably just a part-time unqualified supervisor, overseeing a class of fifty little peppers all full of zeal to learn the heck out of the subject. Whatever the subject. You'll have a mixed range of ability and kids who (a) hate this subject with a passion (me and maths) (b) kids who love this and want to advance (c) the bulk of the class who are just doing this because it's one of the subjects on the curriculum and they want to do the least work to get a passing grade.

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Thanks for your reply. I think there are two main competing priorities, at least in my mind, we’re trying to balance and where I think technology might be able to help:

1. Class size/Instructor:student ratio

2. Cost

On 1) I believe maximizing 1:1 or as close to 1:1 in-person teaching time would lead to the best educational outcomes. I imagine we align pretty closely on the idea that in a world of high quality teacher-abundance, every K-12 student would have a personal tutor, paid for by the state, who had subject-matter knowledge and real motivation to teach. Obviously, the whole day wouldn’t just be spent with your tutor, as we want to build socialization + collaboration skills too. But the core teaching/lesson-giving/asking and answering subject questions I think benefits the most from as close to a 1:1 instructor:student ratio as possible.

On 2) Cost-efficacy of K-12 education - while I think we’d be more than justified in spending an order of magnitude more on K-12 education, I haven’t seen much evidence this is politically viable in the near-term.

Maybe all it takes to deliver higher quality education is the mean salary for teachers shooting up to six figures+, incentivizing more (and possibly more intelligent) people to go into teaching, schools having the funds to hire this hopefully near-surplus of new teachers, and the result being smaller class sizes with higher quality in-person teachers. I just honestly don’t think this is possible or is likely to become possible for a long time.

So, instead, I’m thinking about ways technology can decrease cost of education while increasing the quality. One way to do that, maybe, would be getting the “best” teachers to teach the most students. I don’t think, as the commenter above stated, this is necessarily through using lots of asynchronous content like Khan Academy (although I do think Khan Academy is an awesome resource for self-learning) so much as it is technology possibly allowing larger synchronous classes (akin to when my college lectures went online during covid but still allowed for live q&a on part of students) with the best teachers teaching core content via Zoom and then in-person tutors (themselves possibly being instructed by the super-teachers) supplementing the core lessons and facilitating in-person discussion, projects, etc.

To be clear, I have relatively low confidence (~30%) that this would definitely be a better model than our current one - but I have relatively high confidence (~75%) it would be worth trying at the high school or even middle school level and seeing what the results are. Which is why I’m curious if anyone anywhere is actually trying a model like this…

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There seems to be little political will to actually improve education. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but it seems not to be just "the other team" mucking things up. However, this shouldn't stop us from speculating about what systems that will never be implemented could be better. After all, the smart people in this comment section like doing things like calculating how many trains it would take on what schedules to make Neom work, with no concern whatever that the place won't be built. That having been said, I submit the solution is:

Machine Learning trending towards Machine Teaching.

Children in a virtual narrow-AI-assisted educational panopticon that tracks their eye movements and dishes out rewards and punishments in some partially game-ified manner will fully individualize learning. Unfortunately or fortunately, such children will also be evaluated in real-time for their genuine cognitive capacity, leading to enormous amounts of chagrin when it turns out that not every child is equally educable. Unfortunately or fortunately, by then we'll either be living on UBI or toiling in the paperclip mines, so this won't matter as much as anxious parents might think.

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One test on this is how hard it's been to get later start times for high school students., and it's been very hard.

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There's enormous political will to actually improve education. Most states spend about half their budget on public education. We have a Federal Department oF Education, notwithstanding the Constitution gives no powers at all to the Federal government with respect to it (barring the service academies). Every 2 or 3 years, we have a new school bond measure, a measure to reform education this way or that, new state standards, new state tests, curriculum reform, Federal mandates of this or that form. There are few things in which the electorate fiddles around more consistently and expensively.

But improving education for reals -- meaning the ultimate outcome is better educated adults after 13 years of effort -- is like improving physical fitness or losing weight: all the pain is up front, and all the reward is well down the line.

For people to end up more mentally fit, they have to endure increased levels of discomfort and effort, the same way they do if they to want to be more physically fit. No pain, no gain. Students need to study longer hours. They need to be compelled to learn faster, to fail more often, to come closer to the limits of their abilities. They need to feel bad because they didn't grok something more often, and be more afraid of the humiliation of being left behind, so they try much harder.

Which all sounds miserable, and it is. So just as in the case of physical fitness and losing weight, the air is absolutely filled with cons, swindles, and Get-Smart-Fast schema that promise A Free Lunch. You can lose weight *without* feeling hungry! And not only that, you can be more educated *without* feeling stupid, without staying up late sweating over incomprehensible gobbledegook until a glimmer of sense shows through. Just take this equivalent of educational amphetamines and you will feel 100% smarter right away.

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Aug 23, 2022·edited Aug 23, 2022

"They need to feel bad because they didn't grok something more often, and be more afraid of the humiliation of being left behind, so they try much harder."

Shaming only works if the capability is there and it's laziness or lack of effort that is holding someone back. Believe you me, I cried real tears over not being able to 'grok' maths like everyone else did, and I got the "well you're perfectly capable in all the other subjects, so it must be that you are lazy not stupid" from teachers (as well as blazing rows with my father when he tried explaining the maths homework to me and I still Did. Not. Get. It).

You could have beaten me like a donkey, and you would not have improved my mathematical performance. What *did* work for my entire Junior Cert class was pure fear instilled in us by our maths teacher who had the herculean task of fitting three years' work into one year, and succeeded by terrorising us (you can't beat education by nuns!) so that everyone - including myself - at least scraped a pass in the state exam. But that was pure rote memorisation and no understanding on my part.

So yeah, your pedagogical method would certainly have worked to instill shame and humiliation in younger me, but would *not* have achieved improvement in mathematical attainment. Like tone-deafness for music, you can't make something happen if the capacity is not there originally.

(When I say "terrorised", I mean precisely that, and it was achieved not by violence - corporal punishment was not allowed in schools any more by that time - or raised voice and temper tantrums; just quiet, steely menace. We had a new teacher for the first two years of the course and he didn't cover everything adequately so our third year teacher had to revise all the course work we *should* have done as well as the new material. And when I say "fear", yes, because one time I was holding a piece of paper in my hand waiting to go up and recite the theorem we had learned, and the paper was shaking because I was trembling with fear. Oddly enough, meeting her outside of class years later, she was much more pleasant. But in the classroom? Hoo boy!)

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Well, yeah, neither the carrot nor the stick works on someone who's already trying his or her best. But...you are certainly aware that this description does not, alas, apply to all students. Not even most of them.

And I only emphasized the stick because there's a large current demographic that thinks you can achieve it all with just the carrot. Unfortunately, that is also not true of human beings in general. We are generically lazy, and at some point the expense of the carrot required to get us off our asses is exorbitant compared to the price of a similarly-motivating stick. So we mortal sinners need both to do our best.

The general point I'm trying to make is that I think the major component of improved student outcomes is necessarily increased student effort, which will not be fun, for the same reason bumping up one's gym workout from once a week to thrice isn't fun.

Plus I think almost all nostrums which promise significantly improved outcomes for *no* significant increase in student effort are attractive scams just like the scams that promise to let you lose weight without eating less and exercising more.

So in general I view someone who says "We should improve educational outcomes! It would be easy! We only don't do it because of [insert conspiracy theory, conclusion that everyone's a moron, no one's ever thought of this here]" as a Pied Pier hawking snake oil, a politician taking the low road to re-election, or a naif.

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I think there is a way to hack learning. Just like it's possible to get and stay fit by participating in engaging and exciting activities like hiking or group sports, there must be a way to present the material in a way that makes learning exciting and interesting. Difficult, yes, but the way a tough video game is difficult, not the way walking uphill in wet socks with pneumonia is difficult.

The problem is designing a learning experience that can actually deliver that.

Honestly, I think the biggest issue is that teaching is a mass profession. There are over 3 million teachers in the U.S. That's, like, 1% of the population. If course, if you got the top 1%, that'd be one thing but for the most part the top one percent will end up in much more lucrative and/or intellectually demanding fields.

Increasing the pay and the prestige of the teaching profession could potentially nudge things in the right direction but it would come with a huge cost, considering just how many people you'll have to recruit.

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I think there's only so much "exciting! fun!" you can make of learning, there does come the part where only hard slogging will get your through. You have to grind on, learning the rules, doing the homework, practice practice practice, and the rote memorisation. If you like the subject and/or have any capacity for it, you'll put up with this to get where you want to go. If you're only doing this for good grades on a test, you'll put up with it and then, once the test is done or you've left school, with a sigh of relief promptly forget everything you crammed into your skull.

But there is that "I know tomorrow my joints will ache and my muscles burn and my socks are wet and there's another five miles to go" element of all learning, no matter how fun! exciting! modern! your educational methods.

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Flipped classro style? You watch Khan Academy lectures as homework and in class you do the exercises while the teacher walks around and answers questions?

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A current fad which is doing incalculable damage, that. It has the major advantages (to the educational bureaucracy) of slowing down the pace of learning, since Socratic Q-and-A necessarily delivers new information far less efficiently than a good lecture (because the organization of the material, such as it has, is from the student -- the newbie -- instead of the teacher -- the master), and it socializes the cost of ignorance, since everything is a group project and the completely clueless are dragged along by the good-to-average students around him. Both effects improve grades *and* make the students happier with their outcomes, since who wouldn't be happy with the same grade for less average effort?

But genuine learning, which is always and everywhere an individual task -- nobody can master d/dx e^-bx for you, you've got to grok the principle all by your lonesome -- suffers, I think. You end up willy nilly with a significant expansion of Dunning-Kruger sufferers.

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I think you're misunderstanding the "fad". The students DO watch a lecture first. The whole point here is that live time with a teacher need not be spent on a lecture since a good lecture can be recorded and shown at any time to any number of people. Then the much more valuable time face to face with an expert can be spent on improving the understanding of tougher bits rather than delivery of the basics.

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That would only be true if the total classroom time were subtantially expanded. Basically you're just talking about the lecture + recitation model, which has been in use for centuries.

The current fad is by contrast basically replacing the lecture with a bigger recitation, and not adding to the total instructional time. So the components of the lecture have to get squeezed into some other and smaller space, where they lose a significant amount of their effectiveness. Sure, maybe a video. That is considerably less valuable than an actual in-person lecture, because it is 100% passive. If you've ever given a successful talk, you know that it is highly interactive, even if the audience says nothing out loud. The good lecturer "reads the room" and adjusts his or her pace, content, and style to capture and hold the interest and information absorption rate of the audience.

Furthermore, human beings are naturally better tuned to an in-person lecture, and will pay greater attention, especially to subtle non-verbal cues that come from tone of voice, expression, gesture, and so on -- and thereby learn more. There's a darn good reason why people prefer to get critical communications in person -- why nobody likes to be fired or get a grave medical diagnosis by Zoom meeting.

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Aug 23, 2022·edited Aug 23, 2022

Good points about the benefits of in-person lectures, however, they can be somewhat offset by a few counterpoints.

1) Due to teaching being a mass profession, a lot of the in-person lectures end up being delivered by mediocre lecturers. Online lectures can be delivered by brilliant teachers and scaled massively.

2) Online lectures allow for pausing and Googling to clarify a difficult passage or rewinding. Questions could be asked by viewers and addressed by experts, creating permanent comment threads that one could refer to at any time but that could go far more in-depth than random questions asked during the lecture.

These two points could offset the drawbacks of online instruction. Or not. A lot would depend on the actual implementation.

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I don't disagree with you on those points, and if you're suggesting a more multimedia form of "textbook" for people who learn better that way, I'm all for it.

But I would view this as chipping away at the role of the textbook, not really replacing the role of the teacher. As I said elsewhere, I don't really think the role of the teacher, except at the most advanced levels, is primarily the exquisitely crafted delivery of expert information. Even in college, most instructors just pretty much follow a textbook (sometimes that they assign, sometimes that from which they learned themselves). Not until you get to the graduate seminar does it become reasonaby common to totally design your own curriculum and mode of delivery.

So by me the primary job of the teacher is to take care of the human aspects of education. Keep track of the students, get to know them, judge how much they can absorb and how fast, assess whether methods of instruction are working or not, inspire students, motivate them, place the information in context, and so on. Stuff that is for the most part outside the plain communication of info -- which, I think, is done quite well by a textbook, and I agree with you can also be done with videos for people who like to see and hear stuff more than read it.

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As far as I can tell the people heavily invested in a manned mission to Mars don't expend a lot of effort trying to predict when that will happen. They may discuss the issue, argue about when it is likely to happen, but they don't try to predict. In contrast, the people heavily invested in AGI, whether or AGI itself or out of fear about AI going rogue, these people do expend a lot of effort trying to predict when AGI will happen. Why?

That is, we have two (possibly overlapping) groups of people heavily invested in two different kinds of future technology. One group tries to predict when their favored technology will emerge, the other group does not. Why the difference?

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I suspect because there's basically nothing else to talk about with AGI; it's not well-enough understood. Whereas with Mars, the technical challenges are all easy for the chattering classes to understand and form opinions on.

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Because a mission to Mars has no effect on 99.9999% of humans

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>> Why the difference?

Well, it makes a big difference in everyone's life whether AGI happens in 2035 or 2085. By contrast, the only person who really cares whether it is 2035 or 2085 for the Mars trip is Elon Musk.

FWIW, even if mankind does have a future in space, a permanently inhabited lunar habitat is a much more significant milestone than a visit to Mars.

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I haven't seen this dynamic personally, and I wouldn't be surprised if this is treating both groups too homogenously, but taking the premise at face value:

Perhaps it's because AGI is much more of a a pure technical question: there aren't a ton of regulatory or other hurdles in the way of AGI (at least not currently), someone could invent it in their basement, essentially. And there's various metrics you can make trendlines out of and try to predict where things are moving: AI performance metrics, network size, etc.

Whereas in the MM2M case, while there's definitely technical hurdles, it seems like the bulk of the hurdles are not technical: the main hurdle is either a government or a private company deciding that it's worth the money to try to make it happen, and you can't put a nice trendline on that.

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Yeah I don't think there are actually any technical hurdles. We already know how to get people there and have them live there with some measure of safety. We just don't want to spend the resources or accept the current level of risk.

AGI might in the extreme case not even be possible.

Honestly if I were a nation state or large space firm I would already be sending people and resources up there non-stop, if only to stake a claim. Yes some people would die, but I have a secret for you, everyone dies. It is a much simpler problem if you view it as a one way trip, and there would be no shortage of recruits.

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The U.S. government is the richest organization in the history of the world. It is also, not coincidently, the only organization to put people on the moon. If Musk ends up having anything to do with going to Mars, it will because NASA contracts out some of the work to him (as they have already done with the Artemis program).

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Also not coincidentally, the US government is immune from the consequences of ineptitude.

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Space-Ex spends what a billion a year? A little more? Don't think getting a person to Mars would take more than a couple billions. Would probably be more expensive than curiosity, though I am not sure how much (2-4X?).

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Thinking over these comments plus some thoughts of my own, I observe that we know a great deal about the technical requirements of a manned mission to Mars. My sense is that the area of largest uncertainty is the mental and physical health of humans spending that much time away from earth's gravity, atmosphere, and magnetosphere. Otherwise, it's mostly a matter of whether or not we're willing to commit the resources to the job.

AGI is something else. We really don't know how to do it. If we did, there would be multiple projects targeted directly at it. As it is, all we have are ideas and theories and lots of things we don't know. So we're left trying to predict when it will happen, as though it were something outside our control in the way the weather is, or another pandemic. And, given how vague the idea is, the more elaborate prediction efforts strike me as Rube Goldbergesque in complexity, more epistemic theater than anything else.

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The rocket that sent curiosity need to carry curiosity, plus the parachute. A rocket carrying people would need to carry an air-filled compartment filled with people, the equipment to keep the air fresh, enough food to last for the months-long journey, and also enough food and fuel to make it back (unless the plan is "go to Mars and starve there").

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Aug 22, 2022·edited Aug 22, 2022

A) What is wrong with go to Mars and starve there? I don't think I would plan on anyone coming back for many many missions. Too much additional cost for little additional gain. We got more than enough people.

B) Yeah they will need food and air etc.

C) You don't need to send everything in the same launch.

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Now I’m picturing Matt Damon growing potatoes. What will he use to make the barren soil fertile?


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If I were rich enough I could predict the hour the first man will land on Mars with 100% accuracy (barring any particularly nasty fatal accidents) by just... paying for the mission and setting the launch date. It's just a question of when someone will do it.

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I found myself unsubscibed from this substack. Any idea why that might have happened? I thought I'd seen nothing from ACX for a while and came to this manually, that's how I knew I'd been unsubscribed. Normally, I receive an email when a new post appears.

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Aug 22, 2022·edited Aug 22, 2022

Did you get unsubscribed, or just stop getting alerts? I am still subscribed, but I've stopped getting the posts in the substack "inbox" page. I have still not figured out how to fix this and have just been checking the substack manually every other day or so

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It might be a good thing. To present myself as an extreme outlier in this regard, I'm not subscribed to anything, anywhere. If I want to see what someone is up to I have to remember that person exists and type enough words into a browser to bring up a feed. This is purely for my own benefit -- a "pull" rather than a "push". For instance instead of just being told when Rolf Degen throws something onto twitter, I have to think "i'm in the right cognitive space at the moment to read abstracts of papers that probably won't replicate, let's see what this guy has found since I checked last."

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No idea. Just subscribe again.

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I did! Just curious how I got unsuscibed.

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@Meetups: why not publish the available list around Aug 24th as planned, and then invite a second round of applications for organizers ... and publish an extended list say two weeks later?

I might organize sth. if there isn't an organizer in my place (I guess there is), but I simply don't have the time *now* to sign up.

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I think that would be worse. Not everyone reads the original announcement, and if you give people an out of "but you can do it later" then fewer people will sign up to begin with, and then they might not even remember that they meant to sign up and miss the announcement for the second round of sign-ups.

I don't believe you can't spare the few minutes that it takes to sign up. You can check the option of "don't publish my meetup if there is someone else organizing", you can leave the location as "TBD" and if it turns out you don't have time to organize it after all, you can cancel it and no one would hold it against you. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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Scott wrote repeatedly about Prospera, the startup city in Honduras.

I visited it for 5 weeks, and I love the vision & the team behind it!

I decided to start a VC fund focused on startup cities, because I think we can build great startups there enabled by better regulations (e.g. peer country regulation, 3D on-chain property rights).

If you're an entrepreneur or innovator, I'd like to show it to you:

Prospera Healthtech Summit, September 23-25, 2022: https://infinitafund.com/healthtech2022

Prospera Edtech Summit, October 28-30, 2022: https://infinitafund.com/edtech2022

Prospera Fintech Summit, November 18-20, 2022: https://infinitafund.com/fintech2022

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Are you interested in other models?


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I recently heard an interview with Ye Tao, founder of the MEER project which aims to reflect sunlight back into space to help cool the climate.

I was surprised by his claim that at least 1.5°C of additional global warming is already baked in, irrespective of decarbonisation, on account of a net energy influx of 1.5W per square metre. Also that if all coal plants shut now, it would actually temporarily exacerbate the problem as reflective matter produced by burning coal would dissipate from the atmosphere much faster than the cooling effect from the decreased CO2. (Note that he was not shilling for coal – he very much agrees that we need to stop burning fossil fuels, he just thinks reducing the energy influx is even more urgent.)

Does anyone know any papers supporting these claims, and more generally whether whether they are generally accepted or in conflict with the mainstream predictions for warming?

Interview here:


MEER details here:


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So the reason why a certain amount of warming is "baked in" is because of CO2 that's already in the atmosphere + relatively large lag times on warming to equilibrium. Which is why a lot of people are focusing on long-ish term projects to remove carbon from the atmosphere (once we are actually done emitting it at least). Additionally, the claim that immediate stoppage of all fossil fuels would result in short term increased warming from reduction in reflective materials also seems to be pretty mainstream.

I suppose mirrors could work but I'm skeptical that A) costs would be lower than air-capture carbon and b) that there wouldn't be significant knock on effects from reflecting enough sunlight, even if you do it over the ocean.

Sunlight does things _other_ than heating the planet. Removing carbon from the air is pretty much the only way to reverse warming that we can be relatively certain won't have any significant unintended consequences, since all it's doing is reversing what we did in the first place. Every other option is just adding a new alteration on top of the existing alteration, and predicting outcomes from those changes is difficult.

I'm not necessarily against other options, but I'm going to need a fair bit of convincing to overcome my prior that the ideal scenario is

1) First stop as much carbon emitting as is reasonably possible (ideally all fossil fuel burning)

2) Begin working on removing and storing atmospheric carbon to closer to pre-industrial levels.

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"Removing carbon from the air is pretty much the only way to reverse warming that we can be relatively certain won't have any significant unintended consequences, since all it's doing is reversing what we did in the first place."

Other than browning the planet? CO2 is an input to photosynthesis, and if you read the IPCC report carefully you can find the passage where they report that total coverage of the planet with plants has increased, probably due to the increase in CO2.

Also, of course, reducing the amount of CO2 reduces the yield of C3 plants — all the important crops except maize, sugarcane and sorghum, which are C4. And it makes all plants, including C4, more vulnerable to water shortages.

Climate change has both good and bad effects. The closest one can come to win/win is to keep the good effects and minimize the bad effects — dike against sea level rise, for instance.

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"X degrees more warming is locked in even if we stop literally all emissions tomorrow" is a pretty mainstream talking point that I hear mostly from environmentalists and the anti-anti-global warming people don't seem to push back on it much (at least, not the ones who accept the basic model of why warming occurs).

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Aug 22, 2022·edited Aug 22, 2022

So those facts generally line up with my understandings. And certainly large space shades/mirrors are one of the easier ways to engineer our way out of the problem. Doesn't take that much material, doesn't need widespread global cooperation, and doesn't require that much change from people, plus isn't directly fucking with the atmosphere like some designer aerosol would. Plus easy to "undo" (just make it be able to change shape).

Human induced climate change by us not being to control ourselves is bad and sort of lame and disgusting like someone shitting in a can next to their desk because they are too lazy to go to the bathroom. So if I was world dictator I would still absolutely want to put an immediate stop to unplanned climate change.

But my "hot" take is that despite the above, climate change also isn't the end of the world because I think in the long run humanity would have decided they wanted to warm the planet eventually.

A) Further "terraforming" of the earth is wildly cheaper than terraforming any other body in the solar system.

B) Much of the land on the earth is very high in the northern hemisphere or in Antarctica and is fairly unusable for comfortable human habitation. And in particular Antarctica is covered in ice.

C) Meanwhile the parts of the planet that are "hotter/wetter" generally have a higher carrying capacity and larger numbers of people in them by far than the parts that are "colder/drier". And despite what the alarmist might tell you, the main outcome of climate change is a warmer/wetter earth, not some global drought. The world will look more like India/Brazil, and less like Siberia/Canada/Antarctica.

Anyway, I think the current rate of change is probably quite sub optimal, likely causing more damage to the biosphere than needed (though I still think human activity & land use is 10 times the problem climate change is in terms of damage to biosphere). But a world with higher sea levels and high rain, and a higher temperature is just likely more suited to human use in the long run.

Yes losing most of the glaciers will be sad, and the "original setup" humanity found the earth in. But that setup was naturally changing constantly even on relatively small timescales, so my rational brain just isn't that concerned about it.

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