Good column from Ross Douthat today in the Times. I won’t link it because it’s paywalled.

He talks about the strange role reversal of America’s Left and Right happening recently.

Food for thought.

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Just adding tally 5000 to my list of insufferable NPR employees. From the major hosts to most of the reporters. I would pay money for an app that automagically blocked NPR employees or NPR employee adjacent discourse from Reddit and Twitter for me. Rather talk to Carlson or Hannity than these people.

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If this kind of stuff doesn't make you admit that, yes, huge swathes of online leftists are completely mental, I don't know what will: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/qNiAuCqJRdI

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It might be common knowledge here that I don’t like Donald Trump. This is the very first time I haven’t been able to put myself in the other guy’s shoes and see “Yeah, if you look at it that way, I suppose.”

When I’ve asked on this forum how to work it out in my brain the answer is something like, “He may be a bastard, but he’s my bastard.” Okay, I can get as far as “He may be a bastard.” and that’s as far as I can imagine.

His very own words make him out to be so awful a specimen of a human being that I can’t even put it into words.

So I’m going to let a British author express this in his words and say, “Yeah, that’s what I see. “

I might get banned for this but I just have to get my feelings out. I know, “Fuck my feelings.” But beyond that. I’d be interested to see which parts of this his fans disagree with.

“A few things spring to mind. Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.

For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace.

Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever. I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman. But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers. And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface. Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul. And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist. Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that. He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat. He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.

And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully. That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead. There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:

• Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.

• You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss. After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid. He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart. In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish: ‘My God… what… have… I… created?' If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.”

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The Atlantic has an interesting article in which the writer, a progressive, argues that top colleges could foster diversity by increasing admission of applicants from poor and working-class families, rather than by using racial discrimination. And doing so would be better than the current system.


Some quotes:

The dirty secret of higher education in the United States is that racial preferences for Black, Latino, and Native American college students provide cover for an admissions system that mostly benefits the wealthy. The current framework of race-based preferences—which goes before the Supreme Court on Monday—is broadly unpopular, has been highly vulnerable to legal challenges under federal civil-rights laws, disproportionately helps upper-middle-class students of color, and pits working-class people of different races against one another. Major public and private universities cling to the status quo anyway, because doing so is easier financially than helping demonstrably disadvantaged students. These institutions act as if the predominant version of affirmative action is the only way to promote racial diversity, but that simply isn’t true. It’s just better for them.

Top universities’ rhetoric about the value of race-based affirmative action is clearly at odds with the persistence of legacy admissions, in which the children of alumni, who are disproportionately white and wealthy, are admitted at significantly higher rates than their academic performance alone would justify. Yet the two practices are entirely consistent when admissions deans act less as objective evaluators of talent than as casting directors who try to minimize their employer’s expenses and maximize its revenues. Many administrators believe that legacy preferences help persuade alumni to donate more money; that most such alumni can also pay full tuition for their children makes these students all the more valuable.

When universities are forced to stop using race-based admissions, they find fairer ways to achieve racial diversity. After California voters approved the first statewide ban on racial preferences at public universities in 1996, institutions affected by similar measures across the country have adopted an array of progressive policies that indirectly promote racial diversity by doing more to admit socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Thankfully, the political system won’t tolerate resegregation of higher education by race. In red and blue states alike, therefore, colleges that cannot employ race-based preferences have increased financial-aid budgets, taken top-ranking students from high schools in poor communities, dropped the use of legacy preferences, and increased admission of students who transfer from community colleges. Without using race, UC Berkeley and UCLA—which, among the top 25 national universities as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, consistently have the highest percentage of students who receive federal Pell Grants—in 2021 admitted their most racially diverse classes in more than 30 years.

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Is there any reason we can't just program AI with something like "don't do anything that you think we'll dislike?" I would think a sufficiently smart AI could create a pretty good internal model for how the imaginary neutral-average human being thinks, possibly better than we have ourselves, and be able to predict what kinds of world outcomes that we would find strongly distasteful from that. It would be extremely limiting of course but would it be acceptable to let the AI go off of its own best guess of what our values are as a holdover until we figure out how to spell out those values explicitly i.e. actually align it? My gut feeling is that any AI smart enough to do catastrophic damage would also be smart enough that its "things humans want" model would be good enough -ish for it to not go down paths of causing catastrophic damage

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Could a steel wrench last for 1,000 years?

1) The wrench snaps if more that 200 ft-lbs of torque are applied to it. (Note: I made up that figure, so don't criticize me if I'm way off in real life) All users have ways of precisely determining how much torque they apply to the wrench, and no one ever exceeds 180 ft-lbs.

2) The wrench is kept oiled so it won't rust.

3) People who use the wrench are careful not to abuse it by throwing it against hard surfaces or using it for things it wasn't designed for.

4) The wrench is used every day.

Wouldn't the wrench last for 1,000 years under these conditions? If not, why not?

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So people are panicking about Twitter and Elon Musk's actions so far.


I'm someone who has never loved Twitter and I am dismayed at how it influences media and national discourse. It seems to foster a special brand of toxicity and bring out the worst impulses and tendencies of online interaction. My question is, what if the best case scenario happens and it totally implodes? Imagine - advertisers leave, users sunset their accounts, the thing just turns into a ghost town. Do you think national discourse changes for the better? What platform do all those frustrated users move to and will that platform just turn into another Twitter? Is there an equivalent platform at all? Will media outlets actually have to start reporting on meaningful content rather than the latest Twitter dust-up? Those high-profile personalities who suck all the oxygen out of the room, will people simply stop paying attention to them without a platform?

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Nov 1, 2022·edited Nov 1, 2022

Emily Oster wrote an article today that about "Covid amnesty" that got some attention. I only read the first paragraph before it was gated. In that paragraph, she mentions matter-of-factly that the mask she made of a bandana in April 2020 would've done nothing.

Is this now the consensus even among former mask advocates -- that the cloth masks we wore for a year were useless? Or is Oster contrarian here?

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Does GPT count as capabilities research, and if so, does the community wish it hadn’t been invented?

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And Stephen Biko.

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Thoughts on a twit from Steven Pinker about a specific review of “What We Owe the Future” and Jack Handy’s quote. Mr. Pinker, paraphrased and parodied:"Since the future is a garden of exponentially forking paths; stipulating correct answers to unsolvable philosophical conundrums and blithe confidence in tech advances played out in the imagination that may never happen”. Always so elegant. Susan Rice should hire him to help tell Joe what to say. OK FIRST POST; waste of time, deeply philosophical, or horse crap?

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I've been in a lot of discussions regarding the war in Ukraine and what our role should be in Ukraine's defense. I am skeptical of undefined commitments and unclear policy goals, especially when nuclear war is a plausible outcome of a misstep. Most people react with various levels of moral disgust when I question the current path, and engage in various pseudo-arguments or level ad hominems to poison the well against the perspective. The few times my interlocutor seems willing to engage rationally, there is a predictable moment where the tenor of the discussion changes, or they just completely disengage. But I think it is deeply important that this discussion is taken to its conclusion so that our policy coincides with what we consider acceptable outcomes. The alternative is sleepwalking into a nuclear disaster.

So I pose this question to those who are generally in favor of our current level of engagement in Ukraine and wish to see it increased until Russia is driven out: is it your opinion that the U.S. should ensure Russia fully retreats from Ukraine, up to and including a nuclear exchange?

If the answer is "No", then the only way we can be sure of this outcome is to accept a scenario where Russia claims some sort of substantial victory in Ukraine using only conventional weapons. This means that we must limit our support to Ukraine such that Russia always has a path to victory using only conventional weapons.

If the answer is "it won't come to that", we cannot be sure that Putin will judge the costs of using a nuclear weapon as greater than the costs of full retreat. A total defeat in Ukraine can lead to Putin losing control of the country, and possibly being killed by his own people. He may very well rationalize that the minimum cost move is to simply continue to escalate to unconventional weapons regardless of the outcome. He essentially has no offramp right now. Putting the fate of civilization in the hands of a cornered animal is not the rational option.

I have yet to see anyone offer a full-throated embrace of the affirmative case. Although a few people have indirectly accepted it by responding that we cannot give in to nuclear blackmail, otherwise we will unleash an era of dictators annexing the world on the threat of nuclear war. This argument is misguided for a few reasons. The obvious one is that the only reason nuclear war is being discussed is that the U.S. is intervening in Ukraine, raising the costs of Russia's aggression and also the stakes. The threat of a nuclear response is intended to limit the engagement of the U.S. so that Russia can achieve some victory to compensate for the costs is has already suffered. This is not a blueprint for the next territory grab, it is in fact a deterrent. Nuclear brinksmanship carries an inherent cost. States are not likely to engage in imperialist expansion if the expected result is a proxy war with the West at best, a nuclear standoff at worst. The issue with Ukraine is Putin misjudged the severity of the West's response.

I laid out what I take are the possible scenarios and the various sticking points in which progress ends in the discussions I've had. Hopefully those in favor of ensuring a Russian defeat in Ukraine can articulate their reasoning within this framework, or show why this framework is wrong or overlooking an important point.

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Oct 31, 2022·edited Oct 31, 2022

"neurofeedback headsets that can help you reach jhana more easily"

Huey Lewis must be thrilled:

"I want a new drug

One that won't make me sick

One that won't make me crash my car

Or make me feel three feet thick


I want a new drug

One that won't spill

One that don't cost too much

Or come in a pill"

[I tried to eliminate the double spacing]

A caution:

"Concentration can be of great value, but it can also be seriously limiting if you become seduced by the pleasant quality of this inner experience and come to see it as a refuge from life in an unpleasant and unsatisfactory world. You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This of course would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom."

--Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are, 1994

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On pleasure vs. addictiveness: for the past 5 years I have had DMT easily to hand in my home. For the last year or so I've even had it in a pocket vaporiser so that there's no setup required; I could go from conceiving the intent to tripping in about 30 seconds.

I experience no negative side effects from taking DMT, it only lasts a short time so I could easily find time to do it almost every day, and I find the experience is usually extremely pleasurable.

I think I have a fairly strong tendency towards addiction behaviours. And yet I probably take DMT once every 2 months on average. After l trip I almost never feel any compulsion to trip again.

I suspect this is more about the way the pleasure tails off, rather than the way it builds up. After tripping I tend to sit contently for some time and contemplate something. This is usually the most rewarding part and usually leaves me with a feeling of satisfaction that it wouldn't make sense to disrupt by seeking more pleasure. I wonder if that is in common with jhana experiences?

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Oct 31, 2022·edited Oct 31, 2022

Wikimedia, the parasite that funnels most of Wikipedia's funding into woke causes.

https://twitter.com/echetus/status/1579776106034757633 (Archive : https://archive.ph/i2bKY , ThreadReader : https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1579776106034757633.html)

My Highlights :


>In a decade, Wikimedia's spending has soared: from $10 million in 2010 to $112 million by 2020.

>[In] 2021 website hosting cost $2.4 million - which is LESS than it did in 2012.

>according the Wikimedia Foundation's own website, less than half of what they spend goes on directly supporting the website.

>Let's take a look at two big recipients [of Wikimedia's grant money].The SeRCH Foundation received a quarter million dollars of donor cash. [...] it turns out to be a bit more unusual than that. They're proponents of an "Intersectional Scientific Method" involving "hyperspace"(?)

>Wikimedia [also] gave $250,000 to Borealis's Racial Equity in Journalism Fund. That money was then cascaded down to a dozens of ideologically aligned news outlets across the US.

>Back in 2017, a Wikipedian called Guy Macon wrote a strident article entitled "Wikipedia has a Cancer". [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Guy_Macon/Wikipedia_has_Cancer , Archive : https://archive.ph/7ZWzR]

>In the west, an advanced industry of NGOs, charities, and foundations has evolved which funds so much of the weirdness in our daily lives. A caste of activist-professionals have emerged, which inevitably capture any non-profit with spare cash.

>This is what is sometimes called The Blob: a powerful but inconspicuous force that has given us the dysfunction of the 21st century.


Whatever amount you hate wokies by, it's always a good update to at least double it.

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Not feeling clever for this semiweekly post, so, just a disheartening anecdote. Skip if meandering personal stories with no immediate problem-solving applications are boring, lotsa other Spicy Threads ITOT.

A few days ago: sprinting to catch a train, as one does when walking is prohibitively inconvenient. Barely catch it as it's about to leave the station - great! First car, first seat, so happy to sit down after another long day at work....

...but, alas, this is SF, so *of course* there's already an occupant there: human solid waste.

What really bothered me more than anything was...no one else seemed to notice or care? They're just numb to this completely unremarkable remarkable phenomenon. This is the new normal, business as usual, nothing to see here. Nothing to be done about the matter, not even just stopping the train for a few minutes to do minimal cleanup. (Yes, I know the schedules are tight, used to consult for a public transit agency. Still.)

I don't know. It's easy to overplay the Mass Exodus From CA, Blue Cities Mismanaged hand. At the same time, things feel more and more...epistemically Potemkin the longer I live here? Even in the pretty-chill residential districts, the dark heart of downtown slowly expands its reach...first it was overflowing public trashcans, then mass car break-ins, then needle disposal bins in public bathroom stalls (next to the baby-changing stations, logically), then shoplifting sprees, then graffiti that people stopped cleaning up, then shattered glass at transit stops, then...this literal shit. The cognitive dissonance of one of the world's most famous/influential/wealthy/etc cities putting up with such Obvious Nonsense is, well, a lot. The soaring rhetoric and Pollyanna proclamations begin to sound cruel, not hopeful. The Symbolic Representation Of The Thing, not The Thing.

It's kinda a trite oversimplification, but I feel that living in mythological pure-blue Leftist Paradise has done more for shifting my values rightwards than anything else. Conservative friends used to joke about how SF was full of homeless hippies and other caricatures, which I'd then disclaim; now the shoe's dropped on the other foot, and I'm the one asking leftist friends "what are we even doing here?" Which now codes me as, like, a reactionary shill or whatever. What a long and strange journey it's been...I hope The City lives up to its historical reputation again someday. Not holding my breath though.

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I think I posted this one the mid-week open thread too late, so let me try again.

Has anybody read (or even better, reviewed) the book "How to Build a Healthy Brain: Reduce stress, anxiety and depression and future-proof your brain" by Kimberley Wilson ( https://www.amazon.com/How-Build-Healthy-Brain-well-being/dp/1529347025 )?

I'm very much interested in the themes, but I'm afraid I won't gain new insights, being a regular reader of this blog.

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I want to ask for some perspectives on life in general.

It's just until recently that I realized life's ultimate goals are finding meanings, pleasure and being happy. So I wonder what's the meaning of life? It's very clear that I have been a burden to my parents now and in the past. As an undergraduate my GPA sucks and am too socially anxious to try out any activities. In the future I will most probably struggle a lot, both mentally and physically, just to find a job and survive. How can one be happy or positive? I don't remember the last time I actually felt happy. I am really considering ending it here, it's too exhausting living. It will probably be better for my parents too, if I am gone the financial burden will be forever gone.

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A few months ago when the LaMDA controversy was in the news (refresher: https://www.engadget.com/blake-lemoide-fired-google-lamda-sentient-001746197.html) I pretty quickly dismissed LaMDA as not-sentient, and I started wondering whether existing deep learning tech was sufficient to define a system that could plausibly be sentient. I ended up writing a rough sketch of a system design, that I promptly forgot about until yesterday. I figure folks in this community may be broadly interested in where I landed, and I would love to talk to other people who maybe have better intuitions around deep learning than I do: https://amolkapoor.com/writing/misc_nn_sentience.html

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After having inexplicable nightly bouts of extreme anxiety and depression which could only be compared to a horrible cocaine comedown (for those who could relate lol), I have finally identified the culprit. The 25 to 50 mg trazadone I’ve been taking the past few months for sleep has been immediately triggering these episodes starting just 20 minutes after I take it. As soon as I stopped taking the pills i felt fine. Then just to be sure after a few days I took another 25 mg before bed and sure enough that horrible feeling came back. Unreal to have such extreme side effects from such a low dose. However, I’m back to getting poor sleep.

Does anyone know a good sleep medication I can ask my doctor about? Other than ambien or benzos (which also paradoxically give me anxiety).

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Inspired by Grain of Salt's post below on hosting dinner parties: how would you go about gathering interesting people in a small town? And not only small, but suffering from severe brain and youth drain for economic reasons - while otherwise being a pretty much perfect place to live.

So the main issue both I and most of my friends have is that there's literally a handful of people we like interacting with. With a tiny bit of extrapolation I'd guess there are others in the same position, therefore making it an information/coordination problem.

Extra info: town size is ~100k. May be willing to spend cash for this (even thought about hiring somebody part time). Interested in interesting people in general, not in particular niches (like eg boardgames) - but worst case I'd be ok with starting with niches. Myself am moderate introvert with limited free time.

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I've been very loosely following the Ethiopean civil war and have a dumb question. What was Eritrea's motivation for entering the war against Tigray? What do they have to gain from it?

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Unreality is a bad business choice.

I went to my big box, barely-limping-along stationery store to get some toner. I knew it would be cheaper online, but I wanted to take the cylinders home with me. When the manager rang me up, it came to $534, but the lady said if I joined the customer fan club, she'd discount the price by 20%. I knew that 'customer fan club' meant 'surrendering all the information you give us to whomever pays the best price' and flooding your inbox with unwanted propaganda.' But hey, we're talking $106.

So I surrendered all my personal information, but when she re-rang it up, there was no discount. She countered that the discount would show up on the receipt after the transaction was completed. I explained that she hadn't provided a statement showing the discount and the amount of it, that the discount should be over $100, and it had to show up before I paid the bill. She responded, 'Oh no, I've given you a 5% discount on four cylinders of toner, so that totals 20%. I gave you a 5% discount four times. I couldn't decide if her math deficiency was in addition or multiplication.

I explained that a 20% discount would amount to $106.80, bringing the total net to $427.20, went home, ordered the stuff online, got my 20% discount, and an additional $25 savings. Fantasy only works in the Neverland of regressive or wingnut politics. We should take a picture of the big box charade with our dumb phones for posterity. I can't imagine them lasting much longer. I'd have been happy to pay list price, but when she tried to tell me discounting four items 5% is equivalent to a 20% discount, I had no alternative but to take my business online.

If you don't know how to sell produce, you shouldn't be in the grocery business. And save the fairy tales for the NYT. Arizona's campaign for Congress suffers from a similar phantasm: both the wingnut and the regressive are psycho, so I wrote in Elmer Fudd. Maybe they'll get the message.

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The following is presented not because I have an opinion one way or the other, but, in the hope that Dr. Alexander or someone else with relevant expertise might look at the material and advise us as to whether it is worth considering.

"Can Psychedelics Cure?"



"Review: Tripping Toward Recovery This ‘NOVA’ presentation examines ways that hallucinogens can aid in treatments for addictions and psychiatric conditions alongside the history of medical research using these drugs." By John Anderson • Oct. 18, 2022


"This “NOVA” presentation, written and directed by Larkin McPhee, acknowledges, more than once, the kind of hurdles the psychiatric profession may have to leap in getting the public to take psychedelics seriously as medicine with an enormous potential for treating various forms of mental imbalance. ...

"the way the Nixon-era War on Drugs demonized such substances as mescaline, psilocybin and “magic mushrooms” to an extent that it shut the door on research into the uses of these psychedelics as a viable alternative to conventional forms of rehabilitation. The results of recent advances have been—according to the doctors involved and several patients who have undergone drug-partnered therapy—startling. ...

"Nothing is foolproof, as the show makes clear, but at the same time “Can Psychedelics Cure?” explains in easily digestible detail why substances like psilocybin should work, as opposed to other forms of treatment. “They allow the brain to change rather than just suppressing symptoms,” someone says, and in under an hour “Can Psychedelics Cure?” not only shows how the relevant brain circuitry operates but delves into the ways the “mystical” side of a “trip” also contributes to healing of certain disorders."

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Oct 31, 2022·edited Oct 31, 2022

What do folks think about Star Wars: Andor?

For myself, my initial thought was that this was the piece of upcoming Star Wars media I least understood the value of. But it's actually turned out to be by far the best piece of new-era Star Wars, in my view (maybe barring Rogue One, though I think that's weaker, it's complete so it can be actually evaluated, while Andor very much isn't).

It avoids the 'endless side quest' problem of Mandalorian Season 1; the 'nothing makes any fucking sense' problem of the ST; the 'endless fanservice' problem of Kenobi and Mando season 2; and the 'oh my god, all these character are so stupid and incompetent that I can't believe they manage to feed themselves, how did you write this plot and get paid for it?' problem of the Book of Boba Fett.

But besides avoiding those problems, it actually just seems really...good? And I'm thrilled to see a show which isn't engaging in mystery box shenanigans!

But what do other folks think?

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We got any petrogeologists in the house?

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Oct 31, 2022·edited Oct 31, 2022

"Guterres also urged other countries, mainly in the West, to expedite the removal of obstacles blocking Russian grain and fertilizer exports."

Can anybody tell me what those obstacles concretely are? A quick search revealed it's not official sanctions for grain and fertilizer, but there nevertheless are 'obstacles'.

For context: Guterres is obviously also urging Russia do to all kind of things, I'm just interested in the missing piece here. eg. "The Russian declaration came one day after U.N. chief Antonio Guterres urged Russia and Ukraine to renew the grain export deal, which was scheduled to expire on Nov. 19." found at: apnews.com

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Does anybody know if Marginal Revolution’s comment system is buggy? https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2022/10/a-safety-emergency-happened-at-the-wuhan-institute-of-virology-in-november-of-2019.html

The webpage indicates I have upvoted and downvoted a load of comments but I have zero recollection actually doing this. Anyone else get this?

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Does anybody have a recommendation for what supplements to take as a vegan. I tried googling but didn't find any satisfying results. I am taking vitamin b12 and protein powder and planning on also taking Creatine. Any tips or website recommendations?

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Anyone dug into https://electionbettingodds.com ? Looks interesting.

"This site pulls live odds are from FTX.com, Betfair.com, PredictIt.org, and Smarket.com. ... and was designed to translate the odds into a more readable format."

It creates an average(*) of the odds from these prediction markets.

* For their definition of average, see: https://electionbettingodds.com/about.html

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So it looks like Bolsonaro is out and Lula back in, in Brazil.

What is it about South American politics that causes it to swing endlessly between (quite?) far-left and (quite?) far-right? Why do they never settle down to the middle like the rest of us? Would they do a lot better if they did?

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Many people may be aware that I made a post a few open threads back about my prediction for the Senate.

My basically final Senate predictions:

Bennet +12

Murray +11

Kelly +9

Hassan +9

Fetterman +7

Warnock +5

CCM +4

Beasley +3

Barnes +2

Ryan +2

Demmings +1

Above is my updated prediction. Still haven't gotten that Florida poll from Trafalgar. Annoying.

Another poster commented and asked if I would still be here after the election and the answer is yes. 9 days to go.

I also want to predict 60%/40% for Dems keeping the House.

Additionally congrats to President Lula who won his election today in spite of highly illegal vote suppression by Bolsonaro supporters in law enforcement and the military.

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3. I haven't been banned, but maybe I should have been? ;-)

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It just occurred to me that I haven't heard about a beached whale in years. In the early 90s when I first became aware of the news they seemed to be in the news all the time, but I don't recall hearing about one recently. A few seconds of research suggests that the frequency of whale beachings hasn't meaningfully gone down, it's just that they're now reported as local rather than global news.

Is there something going on here, where fairly routine events get outsized media coverage due to fitting in with some political narrative? In the late 80s there was a big anti-whaling movement from bumper stickers to Star Trek movies, so any bad thing that happened to whales was newsworthy regardless of whether it was whaling-related or not... this seems to have continued onwards (after the near-abolition of whaling in 1986) into the 1990s and eventually been forgotten about.

Or have I misremembered the breathless media coverage of whale beachings in the past?

Is there a 2022 equivalent of a 1992 beached whale? What unimportant events are we paying too much attention to these days?

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Oct 30, 2022·edited Oct 30, 2022

Why do American liberals care so little about the treatment of Uyghurs by China?

You can say that they care plenty, but compare this relatively muted care with the outrage over apartheid by Amercan liberals, despite the fact that the treatment of Uyghurs is ostensibly much, much worse than anything that was going on in apartheid South Africa, especially in its later decades. Like many other things, I don't see any non-race-based reasons that aren't just ad hoc rationalizations. Liberals demanded the US government do everything in its power to end the apartheid regime, whereas you might get a angry tweet about the latest UN report if you're lucky but no calls for the US government to do anything.

Liberals will often claim they give less focus to foreign acts of illiberalism because "its not our country" (or our close allies in Europe) e.g. why gay marriage in the US is a much greater issue for them than gays being executed in the middle east. Putting aside the fact this is an entirely one-sided form of opportunistic eurocentrism, the argument for caring so much about apartheid was that we had trade with them so we were complicit in their regime, therefore the US has an obligation to cut off all ties to the country.

Again, putting aside the fact that we have trade and diplomatic relations with almost all countries in the world these days and for many this trade is much greater than we had with South Africa, we have more trade with China than all other countries combined. So then the argument goes, perversely, we can't afford to cut off China the way we did South Africa. So in order for liberal outrage to be worth expressing, we must have some trade with a country, but not too much. So the only reason we didn't refrain from joining WW2 is because Hitler wasn't selling us enough consumer appliances? Or more realistically, if South Africa had been >50% of our foreign trade, there wouldn't have been millions of leftwing Americans demanding an end to apartheid?

Even if this is the kind of argument you want to make, there's a big difference between expressing outrage and e.g. picketing Chinese consulates in the US, and the US government cutting off trade with China. I don't expect the government to do that, but it's obvious that the left just simply do not *CARE* about this as much as they did apartheid, there's not the visceral anger there was over apartheid. And I cannot find a fundamental explanation for this difference other than something to do, implicitly or explicitly, with race i.e. it was white people responsible for apartheid. Maybe there's another argument, I'm happy to hear it if there is.

And yes, this is important. Stuff like apartheid feeds into the hegemonic narratives of western liberalism today. This viewing of white people as uniquely evil is what underpins so much of what the western left support. No, I don't care that you and all your other ratosphere leftwing buddies don't feel this way, your views are an extreme minority amongst those with institutional power i.e. what actually matters.

And if you're going to claim they do care about the Uyghurs as much as they did apartheid, then don't even bother posting, because your views are too divorced from reality to be worth responding to.

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I have a recurring issue with my browser where basically every website with a login regularly claims not to remember me, and I have to jump through some extra hoops to log in. Hoops being, getting an email or text saying 'we noticed a strange login from an unusual location' or something, having to verify with 2FA, etc.

For some websites it's only if I haven't logged in in a couple of weeks, but iCloud seems to just do this periodically- even if I logged in 24 hours ago, it will go through the whole 2FA process and then ask me if I want to 'trust' this browser.

This is all on the same laptop, on the same IP address at home. I don't do anything unusual with VPNs or deleting cookies. The only thing I do that's slightly not-standard is run two adblockers, Adblock Plus and uBlock Origin. I didn't know if they maybe deleted some cookies automatically or did something else similar, maybe interfered with some kind of tracker that sites use to 'know' it's me.

I will say that I never encounter this issue with Google, but literally every other website with a login claims every other week that my login is 'unusual'. Is this..... normal? Could it be caused by my adblockers? Or is this just how we live now? Frankly, I find this level of security for non-financial websites a bit absurd

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For those of you who are really into music, my Russian Futurism blog on Russian classical music might be of interest: russianfuturism.blogspot.com

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How do you get out of the "value = money, status and accomplishments" mindset in dating?

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How do people think Dominic Cummings’s startup party will go

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From Stephen's reply:

> you can predict the addictiveness of a drug by the first derivative of its dopamine spike

Is that something known to the neuroscience/psych pharma people? Or is it new? If it is known, is it measured/taken into account when creating new psych meds?

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It’s interesting how divergent those probabilities of Republicans Senate control are.

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Oct 30, 2022·edited Oct 31, 2022

Some of you may already know the work of Perun, an Australian defence analyst who posts weekly videos about the war in Ukraine, and some other issues. His latest video addresses the question of the defence of Europe, and in particular whether the Europeans (collectively) can defend themselves against the most likely threat, namely Russia, without the assistance of the United States.


His conclusion is, basically, that they can. Whether you look at total manpower, total number of trained soldiers, total spending, the number of tanks or number of military aircraft, the numbers indicate a substantial European advantage. That's not to say there aren't some problems, notably provisions for coordination among the European militaries, but not enough to eliminate the facts on the ground.

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I recently cleaned up a bunch of old (fairly short) novels I finished when I was twelve. They're terrible, of course, but they have some value to me because they're set in a predecessor of the universe I've been authoring stories in as an adult.

I'm curious if anyone here has something from their youth that they've put some effort into salvaging, as opposed to metaphorically (or perhaps literally) setting it on fire?

(Also, extremely long shot, but this is one venue I haven't asked in yet - I don't suppose anyone here spent some time in the late nineties living near Cape Town, South Africa, and happens to have had a pushy preteen sell them a book called "Terror of Time 3" that they still own? I'm looking for a surviving copy of that particular book, my digital copies all went up in flames about 15 years ago.)

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If I say "there could be trillions of people and we could influence the chance of them existing even just a little bit, so x-risk/s-risk should be a moral priority", a lot of EA would be sympathetic. The recent thoughts I've been having point me toward scaling that up because I don't see a principled difference between the above argument and "there could be trillions of trillions of trillions of potential people, and we could influence the chance of them existing every-so-slightly, so x-risk/s-risk overwhems every single other moral priority by orders of magnitude" simliar to Bostrom's Astronomical Waste argument [1]. I'm struggling to see how X-risk doesn't matter more than quite literally anything else whatsoever in the year 2022. If you are an EA that is sympathetic to the first argument, are you also sympathetic to the second? Thanks.

[1] https://nickbostrom.com/astronomical/waste

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Where do people stand on the Students for Fair Admissions cases being heard by the Supreme Court tomorrow? What's your best argument in favor of the plaintiff (SFFA) or the defendant (Harvard or UNC)?

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So I have a friend (maybe more of an acquaintance) who either has a lot of health problems or is a hypochondriac. My guess is that it is a little of both. (Or maybe a lot of both.)

What's the best strategy for dealing with a person like this? He spends a lot of time talking about his various health issues, which seems to stress and depress him. Also it gets tedious for me.

I try to change the subject to something more light when I can. I try to listen to his worries as much as possible. But it feels like a broken record at this point.

I'd like to be as good a friend as I can be. But I honestly don't know what is best for him.

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Pratt's pill strikes

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What’s the most time anyone has spent trying to enter Jhanas without success?

I think seeing all these people talking about them is encouraging me to pursue them seriously. I’d heard about them off and on but I think I hadn’t really believed they were real.

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I write a newsletter containing three interesting things, once a week.

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after the recent post on jhana and meditation states of bliss, the mentioned today of the start up selling a device to reach the states seems like pretty heavy handed marketing.

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This is another update to my long-running attempt at predicting the outcome of the Russo-Ukrainian war. Previous update is here: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/open-thread-247/comment/9948783.

14 % on Ukrainian victory (down from 20 % on October 24)

I define Ukrainian victory as either a) Ukrainian government gaining control of the territory it had not controlled before February 24, regardless of whether it is now directly controlled by Russia (Crimea), or by its proxies (Donetsk and Luhansk "republics”), without losing any similarly important territory and without conceding that it will stop its attempts to join EU or NATO, b) Ukrainian government getting official ok from Russia to join EU or NATO without conceding any territory and without losing de facto control of any territory it had controlled before February 24, or c) return to exact prewar status quo ante.

45 % on compromise solution that both sides might plausibly claim as a victory (unchanged).

41 % on Ukrainian defeat (up from 35 % on October 24)

I define Ukrainian defeat as Russia getting what it wants from Ukraine without giving any substantial concessions. Russia wants either a) Ukraine to stop claiming at least some of the territories that were before war claimed by Ukraine but de facto controlled by Russia or its proxies, or b) Russia or its proxies (old or new) to get more Ukrainian territory, de facto recognized by Ukraine in something resembling Minsk ceasefire(s)* or c) some form of guarantee that Ukraine will became neutral, which includes but is not limited to Ukraine not joining NATO. E.g. if Ukraine agrees to stay out of NATO without any other concessions to Russia, but gets mutual defense treaty with Poland and Turkey, that does NOT count as Ukrainian defeat.


Rather drastic update after just a week is caused partly by previous update being based on wrong information, and partly by genuinely new development, both pointing in the same direction.

Previously, I had based my update on an assessment from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), dated October 21 (https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-october-21), that Russians are withdrawing from their large bridgehead west of the Dnieper river (sometimes called Dnipro, but Dnipro is also an Ukrainian city, which is in turn sometimes called Dnipropetrovsk, so to avoid confusion, I am going to call the river Dnieper).

This assessment was incorrect, as ISW itself admitted on October 24. On the one hand, they can be commended for quickly correcting their mistake, on the other hand, they did it after Kamilo Budanov, chief of Ukrainian military intelligence agency, gave an interview to Ukrainian media where he denied reports of Russian withdrawal.

This does NOT mean that Russian positions west of the river are secure, on the contrary, they are still highly vulnerable, and it would be completely unsurprising if they would be abandoned in a matter of weeks. Which is one of the reasons why I place so high probability on Ukrainian, um, non-defeat. But so far, Russians in Kherson and surroundings are evidently holding out.

ISW until then had been a reliable source of information, so I saw no reason to second guess their assessment. In the future I am going to second guess them more.

Oh, and US midterm elections are incoming. I am convinced that US support for Ukraine would be higher if Democrats win both chambers, and US is obviously by far most important single country supporting of Ukraine. I had somewhat arbitrarily decided that if the probability of Democratic victory in the House elections, according 538 forecast, which I think is by far most reliable around**, slumps below 20 %, I should reflect that in my predictions. So of course in the last few days it is hovering between 19 and 20 %.

So I resolved to reflect it by adding one percentage point to the probability of the Ukrainian defeat.

*Minsk ceasefire or ceasefires (first agreement did not work, it was amended by second and since then it worked somewhat better) constituted, among other things, de facto recognition by Ukraine that Russia and its proxies will control some territory claimed by Ukraine for some time. In exchange Russia stopped trying to conquer more Ukrainian territory. Until February 24 of 2022, that is.

**At least for me as a foreigner not familiar with relevant cultural background. Re: prediction markets, Zvi Mowshovitz noted that in previous elections, they repeatedly overestimated Republicans.

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Is it possible to be a rationalist and a mystic? What do you make of the fact that Bertrand Russell thought Wittgenstein to be a mystic (to his chagrin)?

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Have you made a truly close friend online? If so, where?

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deletedOct 30, 2022·edited Oct 30, 2022
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deletedOct 30, 2022·edited Oct 30, 2022
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