My experiment with GPT-3:

But one elder approached Jezuboad, and sought not the simple answer. And given his works in the philosophy of nature, none dared stop him. And he questioned Jezuboad once again "What did the angel speak to thou? Why can you not give us more details? These will be passed on to our children and their children onward. How do we combine heavenly ritual with nature and reason?" 16) And Jezuboad answered, “The angel told me that the Lord is the source of all understanding and that only by seeking Him out and asking for guidance can we truly understand. He said that the scriptures are like a puzzle, and only by piecing together the parts can we find the whole. He said that nature is a reflection of the Lord’s will, and that by studying it we can come to better understand the divine. He said that reason is a gift from the Lord, and that by combining it with faith we can discern truth from falsehood. He said that, ultimately, all of these elements must be combined to gain a true understanding of the Lord’s will.” 17) And the elder nodded, and said “Thank you, Jezuboad. You have enlightened us all.”

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Wrote about the Sapient Paradox and Julian Jaynes's bicameral minds. I think his theory works if the date is pushed back. "Consciousness, taken seriously, would have extraordinary ramifications. We would see a phase change in creativity, planning, and searching for meaning."


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Does anyone have any off-the-beaten-path suggestions about headache prevention for women? Things beyond "get good sleep" and "keep stress down"?

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To people who take ADHD meds: how do you track if they are working for you in any sort of objective or quantified manner?

I've been diagnosed a few months ago, been on Concerta, Ritalin and Vyvanse, can't figure out if there's a positive effect, nothing at all, or do they make things worse.

I certainly feel none of these "is this how it's like to be normal" feelings I get from ADHD subreddit memes, but I'd like to know if there's some obvious parameter I can track that the meds are supposed to help with. Then I'll see if the parameter changes when I go off meds.

(Yes, I know the irony in trying to track something regularly while on ADHD. I used to track money, weight and partners on Google sheets but dropped all of them)

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YouTube keeps suggesting me videos with pro-Russian propaganda, but the one today was especially dumb. A "radically independent news" channel interviewing a former American military expert a month ago. He keeps repeating that Ukraine is never going to capture Kherson, it's just a fantasy; Russians are not even trying to fight hard, because they are trying to save Russian lives, and yet they keep winning; and if Ukraine gives up, Russia will help them rebuilt and live in prosperity, but if they insist on fighting, they will be utterly destroyed as a nation and they deserve it... (Meanwhile, in the parallel universe where I live, Russians have already lost Kherson, and the number of their dead soldiers is approaching 100 000.)

If we had a prediction market, instead of complaining online I would be busy making my first million dollars placing easy bets against the author and half of his comment section.

(not going to make a hyperlink, but v=JCR-Phtgx0k)

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In a real sword fight, if two men hit their sword blades against each other multiple times, like in a Star Wars lightsaber battle, don't the blades get so deeply deformed and chipped that they have to be thrown away after the fight is over?

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"The Dark Side of the Moon" is a cheesy science fiction movie released in 1990 but set in 2022. As silly as it was, the movie depicted many aspects of the present day accurately.


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There isn't a railroad connecting the Lower 48 to Alaska. In fact, Canada's railroads don't even connect to Alaska's--the farthest north the trains in Canada go is about halfway up British Columbia.

Let's say Warren Buffett offers to fix this problem by paying for a new railroad that will link Alaska's railroads to British Columbia's, allowing trains to travel from the Lower 48 to Alaska.

1) Does the terrain even allow for such a railroad line to be built? Maybe it hasn't been built because the area is too rugged.

2) Would the railroad line be profitable? Would there be enough rail traffic on it to pay for its upkeep? Maybe very little moves in and out of Alaska.

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Anyone have any views on this in relation to this "is Jhana actually real" debate?


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I was kind of charmed by Garrison Keillor’s first paragraph in today’s Substack.

‘One advantage for us Christians of living in New York is that we’re a small minority just like in early A.D. living among Romans and Turks so we can’t lord it over people. We walk quietly. If schools avoid using the word “Christmas,” we understand. Children walk past, cursing like truckers. We ignore it. In places where Christians form a powerful majority, they can bully and persecute with great enthusiasm, even though our Savior instructed us in kindness and charity.‘

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Packing for an ambulance ride to a local hospital, I grabbed a new copy of ‘The Oppermanns’, Lion Feuchtwanger’s novel of Germany in 1933 (9781946022332) and threw it in my travel bag. I had just started it, and thought it might be good to have some reading along if I had the focus to read. I’ve had pancreatitis for seven years, and am a retired librarian and researcher who likes to read a good book each time he thinks he’s dying. My library has doubled.

‘The Oppermanns’ was originally published in Amsterdam, also in 1933, and was dictated — not written — by the German-Jewish screenwriter / playwright / novelist Feuchtwanger between April and October of that same year. Dictated a screenplay, I said, between April and October of 1933. In the twelve or so hours I huddled under a blanket in the emergency room lobby, I read the first three hundred pages. Morphine helped me focus. Feuchtwanger distracted me nearly as much from both the pain and the cosmic dysphoria and, possibly, death or its simulacrum closing in. Is ‘The Oppermans’ a film or a novel? Dystopia or fantasy? Is it about caste or politics?

It is. And it’s true.

The narrative seems clumsy and dense at first. If you start the book as a novel, Feuchtwanger doesn’t dance along like John Grisham, Anne Tyler, Doctorow, Erdrich, etc., but in time the dictated screenplay somehow emerges and steadies and clarifies itself, sort of gets down to business and hard data, and scene after dystopian scene unfolds in netherworld of caste hatred and terror. It’s easy to slip into a somnolent acceptance of the violence, and chide the speaker for rather overdoing it. (What is this? Quentin Tarantino fan fiction in a time shift to the 1930s?) If Hollywood should ever decide to stop pandering to vulgar ideologues, I recommend Feuchtwanger’s dictated script. Overpaid social engineering propagandists should jump out of the daisy chain and study it. Study it as if pop culture actually had a brain and at least some ashes of character left, instead of stoking the fire.

Although I don’t know if I ever saw or met Feuchtwanger, who settled in my home town of Pacific Palisades, I may have raced past his home on my red Schwinn with the other ten-year-old gangsters in the Black Knights, Buddy Holly blaring on my transistor radio.

Feuchtwanger passed in 1958, God bless him. He made it (actually, both God and Feuchtwanger did, although it was sketchy for a time). I can’t really explain the book, but would like to quote:

‘It was not the individual crimes that had so deeply disturbed him, it was the fact that they remained unpunished. He was a German to the core, he was a member of the Steel Helmet Association, but he was also a jurist to the core. That there were brutal people of poor judgment to be found in a nation comprising sixty-five million human beings, he could very easily understand. But the barbarism and criminality of the caveman should be proclaimed as the normal temper of the nation and should be written into the laws of the country, that was what made him ashamed to be a German. The cold-blooded pogroms that were undertaken against workers and [p. 260] Jews, the anthropological and zoological nonsense that now inspired legislation, the legalized sadism — it was all this that so incensed him.’ — pp. 259-60. I survived too.

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I was thinking about how to make the open threads better. And I thought maybe have several categories/ headings each week... The headings would change each week as some topics dropped off and others started up. And there would always be the topic/ heading of 'other', for new stuff or whatever didn't fit in one of this weeks categories. That would help organize the discussion.

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Is anyone particularly well acquainted with mythology? I am looking to read a number of things, and so far I have gotten good suggestions from posters here when I've asked for things like this. I am looking for suggestions for translations/adaptions of the following:

The Matter of Britain - I have tried reading Mallory in Middle English and found it a little hard to enjoy. I know that Arthurian legend is very extensive, so it's hard to narrow down what is a good starting point

Irish mythology - I've seen very little discussion of good texts for this. I'm particularly interested in the Mythological and Ulster cycles.

Norse mythology - the poetic and prose Eddas mainly. I have been informed that starting with Neil Gaiman's book is an accessible way to get a baseline before reading the translations, would people agree with that?

Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.

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Calloo callay, Tim O'Neill has a new post up! We've been discussing Catholicism, Mormonism, etc. a lot further down in the thread, and of course a lot of this involves discussion of history and primary sources and what we can and can't know about the past.

So for your delectation, How History Is Done:


"For over seven years now I have used History for Atheists to debunk bad historical arguments, historical myths, pseudo history and fringe historical claims used by many of my fellow atheists. Long before I began this site and its attendant video channel and podcast, I have found myself debunking bad history and fringe claims used by ideologues of various stripes: Christians, Muslims, nationalists, fascists, socialists, New Agers and contrarians. After well over three decades of this (admittedly rather odd) pastime, I have come to understand that while a fixed ideology is often the reason these people argue for these bad ideas, the reason many of them come to accept these myths and nonsense in the first place is a fundamental misunderstanding of historiography. Essentially, they do not understand how history is done, so they cannot recognise bad historical claims.

...I have often found that this confusion about how the study of history works can stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of how history as a discipline differs from the hard sciences. After all many people (though certainly not all) come to an atheistic position from their study of science. Science seems very certain compared to history. You can make hypotheses and test them in science – or at least you can in the hard sciences. You can actually prove things, as far as anything is provable. Scientific propositions are, by definition, falsifiable. If I claim light travels in a vacuum at 299,792,458 metres per second, someone can potentially come along and show, empirically, that I’m wrong. Compared to this kind of science, history can seem like so much hand-waving, where anyone can pretty much argue anything they like and all claims are equally valid. So when some atheists say “you can’t PROVE Jesus existed” they often think this means the claim he didn’t exist is somehow equivalent to the claim he did and that there is no way to determine which is more likely than the other. In its more extreme naïve form, this misconception can lead to atheists who seem to think that no valid claims about the past can be made at all and that the whole enterprise of history is worthless and can simply be dismissed.

In fact, history is very much a rigorous academic discipline, which has its own rules and methodology much as the hard sciences do. This does not mean it IS a science. It is sometimes referred to as one, especially in Europe, but this is only in the broader sense of the word; as in “a systematic way of ordering and analysing knowledge”. But before looking at how the historical method works, it might be useful to look at how the sciences differ from it.

The hard sciences are founded on the principle of probabilistic induction. A scientist uses an inductive or “bottom up” approach to work from observing specific particulars (“mice injected with this drug put on less fat”) to general propositions (“the drug is reducing their appetite”). These propositions are falsifiable via empirical testing to rule out other explanations of the particulars (“the drug is increasing their metabolism” or “those mice are more stressed by being stuck with syringes”) and so can be tested.

This is all possible in the hard sciences because of some well-established laws of cause and effect that form a basis for this kind of induction. If something is affecting the mice in my examples above today, it will affect them in the same way tomorrow, all things being equal. Done properly, this allows a scientist to work from induction to make an assessment of probable causation via empirical assessment and do so with a high degree of confidence. And their assessment can be confirmed by others because the empirical measures are controlled and repeatable.

Unfortunately, none of this works for the study of the past. Events, large and small, occur and then are gone. A historian can only assess information about them from traces they may, if we are lucky, leave behind. But unlike a researcher from the hard sciences, a historian cannot run the fall of the Western Roman Empire through a series of controlled lab experiments. They cannot even observe the events, as a zoologist might observe the behaviour of a gorilla band, and draw conclusions. And there are no well-defined laws and principles at work (apart from in a very broad and subjective sense) that allow our historian to, say, accurately measure or even postulate the effects of the rise of the printing press or decide on the exact course of the downfall of Napoleon in the way a theoretical physicist can with the composition of a distant galaxy or the formation of a long dead star."

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Does anyone have a contrarian (i.e. conservative, anti-labor) take on the rail strike situation?

The story as I understand it (mostly from reading Twitter leftists) is that the "tentative agreement" reached before the midterms only grants workers 1 day of paid sick leave per year (this is what negotiators agreed to put on the table before the midterms, but I don't think anyone's agreed to it yet). From some cursory reading it seems that these workers aren't paid particularly well, even after a pay raise that's in this agreement, so I find their demands for better benefits reasonable.

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Biden is about to shatter the Democratic coalition pretty irreperably. Still better than Trump or Cruz or w/e but not good.

Democrats piss on your leg and tell you it was raining but thank god for them Republicans shit in your mouth and say it was free chocolate.

Depending on what the lead is from the rail unions there's some chance, ~5% maybe, of an attempt anyway, of a general strike.

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I'm working on unpacking all the meat in "Effective Altruism As A Tower Of Assumptions". Different aspects are addressed in separate child messages:

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So, trying to open a can of worms: It strikes me as plausible that there are all sorts of possible AI risks. And it's really hard to figure out which of them will materialize and which will not. Did anyone make decent predictions what the development of the horseless carriage would do to society? (I am sure that somebody predicted that it was an existential threat.)

But there is one one AI risk that is certain, namely automation of the work output of "Educated people [who] think that the only kind of smarts worth having is the kind they possess -- superior powers of articulation combined with deep stores of knowledge." That is, people like you and me and blog writers. I propose that the remarkable attention provided to AI risk in blogs is due to this factor.

For instance, one blogger protested that while we know how autos work, we don't know how AIs work, and that makes them dangerous. Of course, we don't know how autos work, in the sense that we can't predict from their mechanical structure their influence on society. But more to the point, "we" don't know things like that. Perhaps some highly-educated types know the internal operations of XYZ but the vast majority of humans do not. And in reality, we don't assess the safety or danger of XYZ by analyzing its internal operation; we watch what happens with XYZ in the real world.

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I have three free subscriptions to Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning to give away. This open thread is 2 days old with lots of existing comments, so I can't really expect many responses, but if you do want it reply with an email address to send the subscription to.

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Is it important to keep AI generated material out of training sets for AIs? Is it possible?

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What kinds of reasonably priced things are on your holiday wishlist? I have a birthday near Christmas so my family/partner are bugging me to make a list, but I really can't think of anything I want/need. Any book recommendations are also welcome.

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I'm having trouble finding people in my area willing to cuddle. Does anyone have advice?

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An apparent glitch in the PC interface resulted in my thread and resulting comments being spread across separate threads.

So here's the basic point. I make the case for what I'm calling "More Effective Altruism." It funds initiatives that, per dollar or hour invested, make the biggest difference in increasing the world's people's efficacy and happiness--what I term "Gross World Flourishing."

That, while of value in itself, is of even greater value in the long term, because it enables people to increase not just current but future Gross World Flourishing.

Here's just one example of such an initiative: Match.com-like software would match low-income kids of high intellectual ability, drive, and ethics with mentors, either paid or volunteer humans (screened and trained online. Or the "mentor" can be a mentoring/counseling app, adapted from extant ones or developed custom.

The pool of low-income gifted kids have great potential that, unlike with rich kids, is unlikely to be fully realized. Mentoring, even virtual, would help these kids get over practical and emotional roadblocks, increase motivation and, in turn, be more likely to develop preventives and cures for diseases, become wise leaders, even develop more effective and altruistic iPhones.

The focus probably should be on kids from developed nations because there are fewer external barriers to maximizing their efficacy in the world.

I benchmark this against typical EA recommendations---augmenting the health of a non-selected population in developing nations and I believe it's clear that "More Effective Altruism" would more increase Gross World Flourishing, which is what I believe is the most valuable outcome variable.

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Perimutuel is a terrible format for prediction markets because there's little incentive to arb incorrect probabilities early. If I bet on youngkin 0.5% now I have no idea what my actual payout will be. Could be anywhere between 200-1 and 5-1. My payout odds would be determined by people who bet after me with more information than me, so the best move is not to play. The early better subsidy can never be big enough to make me want to bet that even if the odds are off by an order of magnitude.

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I clicked on the reply button in the email I received and it took me to the person's comment. I responded there.

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Question for the Canadians: what’s actually going on with Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID)? I’ve seen some scare stories recently (1) but I’ve also learned not to trust most media reports, on any side. But a quick perusal of the relevant stats (2) shows that MAID is now 3.3% of all deaths in Canada and has been growing by ~33%/year. That’s….kinda spooky, although the relevant years are the 20/21 Covid years, so those stats could easily be abnormal.

This feels like on of those things that will be popping up as CW over the next 5-10 years and I’d appreciate any Canadians with actual insight into the program so I can get this set straight in my own mind before CW eats all reasonable discussion.

(1) https://www.theamericanconservative.com/the-collapse-of-consent-in-canada/

(2) https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/medical-assistance-dying/annual-report-2021.html

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I just read Freddie De Boer's latest (https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/your-personality-has-to-be-load-bearing) and it was a little anxiety inducing. Primarily because of:

> The constituent elements of our personalities can’t be fully enumerated, but I would name honesty, creativity, gentleness, courage, perceptiveness, equanimity, extroversion, intelligence, kindness, and a sense of humor as essential parts.

I guess because I feel deficient in creativity, courage, extroversion and sense of humor. I don't think I've ever made something my 'thing' to cope for that, in the way described in that article, but I've never done well with people, so this makes me think I've to try harder, which makes me think on why X didn't like me, and how do I get Y to like me, and that's a bad headspace to be in (is it?).

Do normies regularly think deliberately on how to make someone like them, or is their social interaction as fluid and unconscious as it looks?

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I get bored with implementation so no. But right, Match.com is the right metaphor. And per another comment I made, even the base version of the mentoring could be an app, for example, the already existing AI-driven counseling apps.

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Thanks, Villam. A couple points obfuscated by the glitch in the linking to comments:

1. Identifying low-income US Gifted kids could be as easy as one email to the mailing list of the school counselors association. Perfect no, excellent in increasing Gross World Flourishing compared with EA charities such as mosquito nets., absolutely.

2. For easy scalability, use AI-assisted mentoring, a variation on or even using the already existing AI-based counseling apps. That could be the baseline intervention with human mentors provided at least in the pilot test to see which lead to better outcomes.

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I want to see this movie. I have no idea who any of the actors are, I've seen nothing by the director before, and it looks like they're throwing everything plus the kitchen sink into it, but it seems like it will be fun. And it involves Hanuman, my favourite monkey-god.

Teaser 1:


Teaser 2 (I presume this is the love interest):


Trailer (where the action really takes off):


Interesting review and comparison of two upcoming big budget historical/mythological fantasy-superhero movies, "Hanuman" as above and "Adipurush":


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For anyone who might be interested, I'm offering a $1000 cash prize to the first person who can produce a plausible, comprehensive alternate explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon, other than the one officially espoused by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm especially interested in feedback from those who may not have much background on this topic, but who are open minded and serious. Anyone is welcome to check this out and give me feedback.

The details are here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sGMzRWQr5zyN0b06tXVggmJlPLUZWKVvpj0qflRaOBc/edit?usp=sharing. I look forward to anyone's analysis of the logic and evidence involved!

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In the semiglutinde discussion, there were people who said they had ways for everyone to lose weight or everyone could enjoy exercise, and were resistant to claims that in fact, these things are not true of everyone.

To put it mildly, this is not Bayesian. It's not adjusting beliefs in accordance with evidence.

I'm not even sure why people would stick to strong generalizations about everyone when it's clear that people vary quite a bit, and especially why people with that mental habit would show up in a rationalist venue. Are you not weird in some way or other?

There's a bit in Stirner's _The Ego and It's Own_ about how making grand abstractions about the world gives a feeling of power, and I think he was right. Yes, even if that's a generalization about people. I don't think he got to the idea that making those generalizations can be a way of getting real power.

There are examples of this sort of thing in many areas in addition to weight loss and exercise, and I invite more examples.

"Everyone's really polyamorous". "No one can make polyamory work."

"No one is really an atheist."

"Everyone is really heterosexual".

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Nov 28, 2022·edited Nov 28, 2022

Everyone will have heard of dark matter, the mysterious invisible non-interacting diffuse substance which among other things gives galaxies enough extra mass for their stars to orbit the galaxy without tangential sheer (luckily for us - or else all kinds of "interesting" cosmic objects would have passed the solar system dangerously close over time!)

The consensus of opinion among physicists is that dark matter is composed of a hypothetical particle called an axion, and several searches are currently underway to detect these. To my way of thinking, this has somewhat the feel of the phlogiston theory of heat; but whatever one's views, thorough searches are absolutely the right thing to perform.

Quite a popular, but less widely accepted, contending theory (MOND, short for Modified Newton Dynamics) is that over cosmic distances the behavior of gravity varies slightly from hitherto established laws, and accounts for the effect without the need to posit the presence of any extra kind of matter.

But to my knowledge, a third possibility has not been seriously considered, tachyons, i.e. particles traveling faster than light speed.

For most physicists, tachyons are the word that dare not speak its name. Mention these with a physicist standing behind one, and they will likely start smirking, rolling their eyes, and twirling their finger making a loony sign!

Not least this is because anything traveling faster then light speed is heading into the past, which plays havoc with causality and related calculations. But that very difficulty could be the reason why dark matter as tachyons don't interact with normal matter or light, so causality is preserved.

I very much doubt tachyons could be produced by any conventional interaction. But inside a black hole, who is to say? For all we know, black holes could be leaking a constant stream of tachyons, like steam from a pot of boiling water!

From an external observer's standpoint, this would not affect any of its measurable properties such as mass, because the event horizon is a frozen barrier to discern anything going on in the future inside. (I believe Hawking radiation is a surface phenomenon or, strictly speaking, occurring a whisker above the surface.)

One might even be able to extend this notion to explain dark energy: Normal matter particles ("bradyons") gain energy as they approach light speed. But, paradoxically, tachyons (if they exist) lose energy as their speed increases.

So if these tachyons can transfer energy somehow, in a non-localized form, to conventional fields and as a result accelerate ever faster, then the result will be a uniform background of them traveling arbitrarily fast from unlimited distances (far beyond the cosmic horizon), which could manifest itself as a uniform expansion of space. That said though, I'm not sure if the signs of the energy could be reconciled, because I gather dark energy is negative whereas presumably tachyons have positive energy.

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Is the comment threading here messed up for anyone else? Seems to be a lot of replies posted as top level comments

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Nov 28, 2022·edited Nov 28, 2022

Thank you to everyone on the semaglutinide post who shared their struggles with weight loss. I would like to understand the *internal* experience of what people mean when they say the 'can't control themselves' (or equivalent).

I fully empathize with the comments saying 'get more willpower' are not helpful; I do not know where my willpower came from, so it would be unreasonable to ask someone else to get more.

My experience of weight loss is, I realise, not typical (I gained weight after two step changes in my metabolism, one after stopping swimming and another in my mid to late twenties, and in both cases lost the weight by deciding to eat less until my hunger levels stabilised at a lower baseline).

When people struggle with self control, is it like:

A) It feels like sleepwalking, where the actions happen on a non conscious level (eating too much, getting through the whole bag of crisps)

B) It feels like possession, where you're aware of what's happening but it feels like an outside force is controlling your limbs

C) It feels like an outside force is persuading you too do something you don't want to (like certain instances of schizophrenia)

D) You forget what your earlier wants were and are only aware of new wants which supplant them, like how in a dream you aren't aware that your actions seem strange/not in keeping with your awake self

Furthermore, I'm interested in how it's different between eating the junk in front of you absentmindedly vs driving to the store to get more, which just be premeditated to a certain degree (I find the latter much harder to understand; why make the decision harder for your future self? This is an honest question.)

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Nov 28, 2022·edited Nov 29, 2022

I would like to signal boost https://metamoderna.org, another addition to the ecosystem of “Let's try to make the society and governance suck less“.

I would especially mention https://metamoderna.org/is-metamodernism-the-last-stage-of-development-chaos-theory-might-hold-the-answer/. The core thesis is that the developmental phases of the culture are changing with ever increasing speed and (drawing on some hyperspeculative resemblance with chaos theory) come to a conclusion of an incoming social singularity. What do you think about this theory?

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Nov 28, 2022·edited Nov 28, 2022

Some questions about historical demographics of Europe (after looking trough Maddison project data: https://www.rug.nl/ggdc/historicaldevelopment/maddison/releases/maddison-project-database-2020)

(and some of the questions might just be because errors in the data. And I know that the modern states mostly didn't exist in 1000 CE, I'm just using the same "area of what now is the country" shorthand as the data.)

1. The population of southern Europe (e.g. Italy) looks pretty stable between 1 CE and 1500 CE. The population of northern Europe (e.g. Netherlands) grows a lot during the same time period. Why? Was there some technological innovation or climatic change that suddenly made northern Europe more livable? (And if so, why didn't it have any impact on southern Europe?)

2. Extreme example of previous question: WTF is going on in Finland? Between 1000 CE and 1500 CE, population grows by a factor of seven!? Why wasn’t Finland already this densely populated in 1000 CE if it had extra capacity to spare and everyone else was Malthusian? What prevented a 500 CE peasant from the area around Milan to escape the Malthusian conditions of Italy for apparently empty Finland?

3. The dataset only starts in 1 CE, but let’s move beyond that. Why is Greece so sparsely populated compared to Italy? Did Italy become densely populated with the Romans, if so why? If not, why do I don’t hear anything about the pre-roman populations of Italy? Why is the history of pre-bronze-age collapse so sparse on the western Mediterranean? (Weren’t they literate?) I'm getting the impression that most people lived in the eastern Mediterranean during the bronze age, then during antiquity the population of Italy and Spain exploded, then during medieval times people figured out that you could live in norther Europe as well.

4. Why did population grow so much even before the Industrial Revolution? How could e.g. the UK feed four million in 1500 (presumably under Malthusian conditions) and eight million 1700 (presumably also under Malthusian conditions)?

If anyone wants to recommend a book on medieval demographics instead I'd be happy to know!

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Thank you. Candidly, I've now done as much as I feel I can volunteer to do. If that goes nowhere, so be it.

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Perhaps I'm replying to the wrong place. I started an open thread by speaking about Gross World Flourishing as a potent dependent variable and then used low-income US Gifted Mentoring website (like a Match.com for mentoring) as an example of a program that would yield more of than than do traditional EA-recommended donations.

Effectiveness and yes-cost-effectiveness would be greater using my model, whether it's volunteer mentors, low-pay mentors (which as I argued would likely decrease the quality and retention of mentors) or, developing AI- virtual mentoring. All would, for the reasons I outlined, likely yield far more effective altruism in terms of improving Gross World Flourishing than traditional EA-recommended spends.

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Yes, ok, that’s fair. But we’re not talking about an outpatient situation when somebody comes to the doctor for headaches and fatigue, saying all else is fine, and eventually via tests or whatever it becomes clear the person’s got a major drinking problem that’s an important part of the picture. My ER example was an emergency situation where it makes sense to believe the patient because (1) if you delay to try to figure out whether you’re getting the full truth the man could die from his internal bleed and (2) there’s no obvious benefit to his lying. It’s not as though they give you OxyContin for gastric bleeds. Showing up at psych admissions saying you’re hearing voices is sort of analogous. That’s pretty ominous. And the patient must be quite distressed because nobody goes into the psych ward for fun. And if there is more to learn about him you’ll have a chance to do it during his inpatient stay.

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The recent post on semaglutide made me wonder something. Is there a point where you may want to make certain unfashionable risk tradeoffs, if your particular situation is bad enough on the long term?

For example, 3 months on a mild steroid course, lots of protein and not-very-intense gym have a pretty decent chance of converting maybe 10 pounds of fat to muscle, which works a lot better long term than just losing 10 pounds.

And yet I don't see this ever recommended. A cursory google finds mostly things like study proposals and acts like this is a revolutionary new treatment option, instead of something body builders (and in all likelihood Hollywood actors) have been using routinely for 50 years.

Wonder how many other options are ignored due to stigma and unwillingness to calculate tradeoffs.

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I get much colder than people around me, putting on more layers, complaining about cold when others are warm, etc. Also, when I'm cold I tend to sneeze a lot. This is exacerbated by sudden drops or changes in temperature - opening a window, someone laying a cold hand on me, touching cold floor with my feet. It can also happen when I'm getting warmer, paradoxically - I was feeling cold, afraid I might sneeze, put on a coat and immediately sneezed.

This is definitely a 1st-world problem, but I hate sneezing, so I was wondering if any of you have ideas or suggestions for the causes of my increased sensitivity? Bonus for potential treatments / tests to run.

Relevant information:

- pretty lightweight - 63 kg over 1.80 m, late 20s

- generally healthy, no chronic condition I know of

- occasional blood tests seem within the norm. Blood pressure is good enough to donate regularly.

- happens mostly in winter, but also in ACed offices in summer

Please tell me all the obvious things I should try/do.

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What happened to letter.wiki? I loved the idea and some of the conversations were actually interesting. Now the site is down. A last official tweet from 2022-10-18 says that it's available in archive, but no explanation is given for why the site seems permanently closed.

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China protests - register your predictions.

I predict that 6 months from now:

China will have abandoned Zero COVID (in practice): 65%

China will have abandoned Zero COVID (officially): 30%

The protests will have subsided or been crushed: 85%

The CCP will still be in power: 99%

There will be some kind of formal international condemnation of China's handling of the protests: 20%

China will have killed 10 or more protestors: 90%

China will have killed 100 or more protestors: 60%

China will have killed 1000 or more protestors: 10%

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Business idea: Cancel Insurance. Worried your coworkers might try to get you fired if they knew your political or other beliefs? Transfer that risk to an insurer, who can replace lost wages that result from getting cancelled.

This would take a lot of the sting out of getting cancelled. (Maybe wages aren't the only concern that could be mitigated from getting cancelled?) Which would allow people who are concerned about having to hide their views/opinions to breathe a little easier. Could this lead to moral hazard, where people with the insurance are more likely to say the kind of dumb insensitive thing that will get them cancelled?

Maybe in the short term, but I'm thinking longer-term it might make it more difficult to cancel people. You can only cancel so many people before your audience gets tired of the game. Long-term, the insurance game might kill the 'joy' of cancellation and the practice could peter out.

There are probably a dozen reasons why this is dumb. Or maybe it exists already, but it's plagued by bad SEO (all searches take you to pages about how to cancel your insurance) so it doesn't get much traction. Thoughts?

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I wrote a short story about a mouse singularity which I thought this crowd might like: https://solquy.substack.com/p/111422-the-squeakularity

Hope y’all are having a nice end to the weekend :)

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Well, a few at SSC knew of my personal history, so an update here: my and my beloved roommate have moved to an apartment in a woodsy part of San Francisco (we can see the Pacific Ocean through the tree branches and with an open window we can hear the waves), she’s been told that her remaining tumors are nit growing and there’s no need for chemotherapy for at least six months, she walks with a cane but she still walks.

Due to the higher rent we’re both going to be much poorer because of the move, but our former mutual roommate’s drunken behavior made staying at our old place unwise.

I still spend weekends with my legal wife and her kids (only the older one knows that he’s not my genetic son, only my legal one) and the 17 year old boy is applying to colleges now, his hope is UCB.

The six year old is as energetic as ever.

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I think this article [1] has finally convinced me that AI X-risk is something I should actively be worrying/thinking about.

[1] https://alexw.substack.com/p/war

Edit: to be clear--the article isn't arguing for AI X-risk. But its description of an AI arms race convinces me that we'll have some deadly military tech running complicated AI algorithms. It's much easier for me to imagine how a bug or a misalignment could lead the robots to Kill All Humans

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My father passed away 10 days ago at the age of 60. I have been trying to calculate how many years of him did we lose?

He had diabetes(requiring insulin infections), had been on dialysis last 8 months, then underwent a kidney transplant which looked successful for 3 months but then fungal infection occured. He smoked until the age of 50 and consumed gutkha(tobacco) until few years ago. My grandfather (youngest of 3 brothers) died aged 50 from cancer. My aunt died aged 54 (also diabetic and underwent dialysis). My grandmother died aged 74 (also underwent dialysis). My father was the youngest of 3 brothers (other 2 are alive with diabetes aged 62 and 64)

How long would he have lived if the kidney transplant was successful? How long if he had stopped consuming tobacco and let the medicines do their work? How long if we never went for transplant and continued with dialysis?

I have my estimates ranging from 4-8 years.

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We are part of the same community, and I hope I can give back one day. I like reading people's posts here because I think many people here are smart, and we have similar interests.

I am in Canada and looking for someone interested in studying the following condition. I believe I have something called maladaptive daydreaming. I can confirm I have been engaging in the behaviour since I was at least four. When I was little, I would pace while moving leaves up and down for the entire day except for stopping to eat, according to my parents. I thought I was alone in doing this type of daydreaming until I read the following article, and it described me perfectly. This article explains it really well—https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/04/when-daydreaming-replaces-real-life/391319/ (If a paywall shows up, put the link in archive.org, and it should work). Today I don't use leaves, but I pace for multiple hours a day while daydreaming, and it causes distress because these thoughts are useless, and they waste a tremendous amount of time. I manage to get decent grades, but it's exhausting updating all my plotlines.

MD is not an official diagnosis, so I can’t get medication for it. There is limited time because it has gotten worse in university.

If I get an appointment with a psychiatrist in the future, I am considering leaving the daydreaming out of the description of my behaviour and framing it as OCD (my dad is a hoarder) because otherwise, I don’t see how I can get medication/help for this (so far I have not been able to see a psychiatrist).

Here is how it is similar to OCD (the problem is it is not OCD, like that diagnosis sort of fits, but it doesn't exactly).

Obsessions (stories that play out in a daydream) are unwanted and distressing thoughts, images (more like a video, I feel emotion during this process), or urges that a person tries to resist (I fight against going into a daydream, but it is very difficult. My strategy has been focused on actively blocking triggers rather than resisting a trigger). I blocked all my music apps and social media. Blocked specific keywords related to media; I move furniture frequently, so I can't go into my default setting, and it is harder to pace etc.

Compulsions (pacing and repeating the same story) are repeated behaviours that reduce anxiety, neutralize obsessions, or prevent harm (when my emotions are high, I daydream way more. I pace so much that many of my socks have holes in them. Generally, the daydreams are pleasant; otherwise, they do not last as a plot line. I know when I am done daydreaming. Most of the time, they make me feel good). 

What advice do you have? I am desperate, so I would be willing to take a bus to the US to meet anyone who would like to study this or meet over Zoom at any time.

Is there some list I can get on where if someone wants to research this, then they can easily contact me?

You are all very busy; thank you for reading my long post. Sincerely, Smaug.

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I was going to start a discussion about AI, get people's thoughts using a somewhat novel focus for a discussion of the current state of AI. I'm a lawyer who, while not working directly on AI projects, I get called in to test and guide them constantly, and from my perspective: what I'm reading about what's coming down the pike does not match what is actually being developed. I wanted to get different takes from people in different industries. It occurred to me that people who aren't lawyers working directly with coming AI products might be under the misapprehension that "AI can write briefs for you", just because that's been repeated ad nauseum for months and that it is apparently going to happen tomorrow. Yeah, no. I wanted see what the truth was elsewhere. Is AI really going to start giving us our medical diagnosis?

Then my wife and I got drunk after the kids went to bed, and now I can't do that shit. Having a hard time just typing. So I want to talk about something that's been bugging me for weeks: What PC game should I tackle next? What games have you played that you though were really excellent?

Lately I've bouncing around, and I can't commit to one game. I finished Pathfindrer: Wrath of the Righteous, as a Lich! Great game. I moved on to Pillars of Eternity 2, which I've already beat three times. Started a fourth - this is going to be the first game I complete all achievements. Really great game, maybe my favorite CRPG right now. But I wandered off, and I've played Darkest Dungeon, Inscryption, They Must Be Billions (good game. Hard.), Vampire Survivors, my twelfth run at Morrowind, and huge time on Divinity Original Sin 2 (I love the world and the characters. I cannot stand how the game handles equipment upgrades and it just makes me want to quit). I've also got a game of Solasta going. Pretty good game if you can handle a tire fire of a plot. And I came full circle and started another game of Pathfinder. Two, actually: I'm working on an Azata run and an Aeon run.

This is a ridiculous long, drunken way of asking for recommendations for great games. The don't have to be new, just something that really blew you away, like Disco Elysium (you don't have to be THAT blown). Any thoughts?

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1. Perfect is the enemy of the good. Describing the criteria and asking counselors to refer kids who fit them is a cost-effective, fine approach that promises to do far more good than does much "effective" altruism.

2. Of course, nothing is no-cost.--much altruism costs---We spend BILLIONS on altruism already. What I'm proposing is to increase the effectiveness of altruism beyond what is touted as effective altruism. But I certainly would start by funding just the creation of the software, the online training, and coordinating the program. My intuition says that paying the mentors (They're not tutors) would create the wrong incentive: doing it for the money. I'd guess that per Big Brothers and Sisters, by using volunteer mentors, you'd get and retain high-quality mentors and proteges by providing crisp, excellent training and support. And Big Bros/Sisters takes all sorts of kids. With GiftedMentorMatch, retention of mentors and proteges should be even greater. Certainly, the pilot test could have multiple cohorts: those with paid and unpaid mentors and proteges.

3. Of course, evaluating the program is a cost but a worthy one. It would result in ideas for improving the program or scrapping it.

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Forgive my ignorance but should I/need I do something about that?

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Are there any free digital tools I can use to attach checksums to my personal computer files so I can tell later on if any of them have been corrupted? I'm thinking of starting a system where I keep three different external hard drives that contain backups of all of my files. All the files will have checksums, and once every few years, I will compare the contents of the three for fixity. Once that is done, I will add whatever new files I've accumulated on my PC since the last fixity check.

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Why aren't we making massive use of flywheels to store energy? Every article I've read about them says they're amazing devices.

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Why don't investors in the stock market just place a large number of low-downside, exponentially high-upside bets? This is famously how venture capital works- VC firms invest in a large number of startups, most of whom fail and so the investment goes to zero. Their returns are made by a small number of very large wins- an early investment in Google, Facebook, Uber, etc. A few years ago I saw a document floating around showing that very early Snapchat investors made a 15,000X return. (Fun fact, Jeff Bezos was an early Google investor after hearing a pitch from Larry & Sergey, and even if Amazon had somehow failed Bezos would still be a billionaire just based on that investment alone. Another fun fact, Bezos' parents' $200kish investment in Amazon is considered by some to have the single highest documented return of any known investment in world history).

If it works for startups- shouldn't it work for equities as well? Make a large number of bets with the potential for extremely high gain (I'm thinking here of Soros shorting the pound), accepting that the large majority of them will fail. If I'm not mistaken Nassim Taleb advocates for something like this in one of his books. Is this a viable investment strategy for someone willing to accept a lot of risk? If not, how are equities different from VC investments in startups?

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I converted from atheism to Catholicism - ask me anything.

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They may TEST smart, but underachievement is almost a proverb. Candidly, as a member of Mensa, I can attest to underachievement being all too pervasive.

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Maximal contribution to the world, including to themselves. So it would subsume increased happiness. But also, one might not be happy working 70+ hours in a lab trying to develop a preventive for cancer, but if the person were well-suited to that, any altruism that furthered that, would be contributing to Gross World Flourishing. Such efforts, for example, mentoring such young people, would have a higher probability of being "effective altruism" than providing mosquito nets, for example.

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1. Identification is less challenging than getting services to developing nations---One email to the members of the school counselors' association will generate plenty of kids.

2. As I wrote, screening and training of both mentors and proteges would be online, like driver's traffic school.

3. There would easily be short- as well as long-term measures of efficacy: e.g., increases in student attendance, achievement, etc.

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>lots of people are walking around with minor hallucinations after lsd

I wish there was some official scale for hallucinations; not because I care what doctors think but I want to hear more opinions on the matter and organize my thoughts

I only need to explain an aura migraine to a normie once a decade to be like ... well I wont tell you or probably anyone else about seeing shapes or anything else. But I should probably have well thought out answers for how badly Im doing and how much better I could realistically be when should I worry about my mental health vs toughing it out and assuming it will go away tomorrow.

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Nov 28, 2022·edited Nov 28, 2022

The unofficial SSC/ACT forum is a great place for conversations without censorship. The global mod is Obormot who is quixotically determined to allow free speech as long as it’s legal within the US. Every brilliant Scott article is discussed.

Come back Johan Larson and John Schilling

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I organised 4 conferences in Prospera this year. Robin Hanson joined for one of them (he shared some insights here: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2022/11/why-not-for-profit-government.html).

I plan to do 4 more conferences in 2023! If you're interested in joining, please join our TG group: https://t.me/+xhTw-dudXBc1NmE6

I also plan to do visits to Ciudad Morazan (also Honduras), and Talent City in Nigeria.

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Nov 28, 2022·edited Nov 28, 2022

Question for the readership re: calibration.

Say you take a bunch of probability calibration tests and get good results. What does this mean for the *scope* of your competency as a probabilistic forecaster? Are your subjective probability ratings valid for any Yes/No question posed to you? If not, how do you tell the difference between topics your calibration is valid for and topics it isn't valid for?

I ask because LessWrong suggests that a person's degree of calibration is a *general* property of that person (https://www.lesswrong.com/tag/calibration), and I think this is incorrect. For example, a person who is well-calibrated for election forecasting may be a useless predictor of the correctness of sentences in Spanish, or sentences about Quantum Field Theory.

I think this matters when people argue that they're calibrated based on some online test, and therefore their subjective 30% probability of AGI taking over the world in the next 50 years is actually meaningful.

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What if Nietzsche was a chad? The question comes from a review of Bronze Age Pervert I read a few months ago. I can no longer find the review online, but the question has stuck with me.

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What should one takeaway from the Rosenhan experiments? It's the one where participants pretended to have auditory hallucinations to gain admission to a psychiatric hospital but were otherwise normal and many were found by the hospital staff to have other types of psychosis. The results seem pretty damning to the field of psychiatry. So what should the overall takeaway be? I'm imagining it's some version of one of the following:

1. Psychiatric diagnosis is not reliable and future psychiatrists will look back on our approaches with horror.

2. Things used to be bad but they're much better now (e.g. that was the era of state-run asylums but community mental health services are much better).

3. That study is garbage/meaningless for these reasons...

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The placebo effect is real and salubrious.

But do we ever test two placebos against each other?

Let's say we have group A getting placebo A. And group B getting placebo B. And group C getting nothing.

Then after trial endpoint we give to the remainders of groups A, B, and C who had no positive effect placebos B, C (nothing), and A. And then endpoint we again give remainders without positive effect a third round of placebos or nothing control that they did not yet have.

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Requesting advice on where to donate.

I'm going to make my annual donations before the end of the year. I'm planning to make donations in the following 4 categories: 1) helping the poor; 2) animal welfare; 3) climate change; 4) Ukraine. Below I list what I think are the best organizations to donate for these causes (in my situation) and I would greatly appreciate suggestions for better organizations.

I prefer to make donations to organizations that are registered charities in Canada, so that tax deduction allows me to donate more. I usually make donations through RC Forward, which is a Canadian charity that forwards money it receives to effective global charities. (If you know of any reason to think that they are not trustworthy please let me know!) So far my plan is to donate to the following organizations:

1. RC Forward Global Health Plan (https://rcforward.org/fund/global-health/) and/or RC Forward Human Empowerment (https://rcforward.org/fund/human-empowerment/).

2. I am really unsure about this one. I'd like to offset suffering caused by my  and my family's fish and cheese-eating and my dog's meat eating. I'm considering donating to https://rcforward.org/fund/animal-welfare/ which divides funds between Faunalitics, The Humane League and Wild Animal Initiative, but their descriptions don't entirely convince me that these are the most effective ways to offset animal suffering. 

3. RC Forward Climate Change Fund https://rcforward.org/fund/rc-forward-climate-change-fund/.

4. Sending money to friends of friends of friends who help people in Kharkov and refugees in Hungary. My understanding is that official organizations (like the Red Cross) are highly inefficient. But please comment about any effective organizations that you know in this area.

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Citizens from multiple cities across China all start to protest against the government's zero- Covid policy. The government has long been criticized for brainwashing people, and yet some in Shanghai were brave enough to chant 'Xi JinPing, step down' and 'CCP, step down' during the protest. Do you think the Chinese are 'smart / mature' enough for a truly democratic republic?

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Just one example: Software that would pair low-income U.S. intellectually gifted kids with screened/online-trained mentors. The gap between their potential and likely actualized potential is huge and, crucially, the barriers are far fewer than, for example, feeding starving people in "developing" nations to achieving greatly with major ripple effect, what I call Gross World Flourishing, (e.g., wise leaders, inventors of better preventions and cures of diseases, better technology, wise optimization of AI's benefits vs liabilities, etc.)

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Nov 28, 2022·edited Nov 28, 2022

Given the reputational issues caused by SBF and Scott talking about reputation markets, I'm surprised nobody in this community has commented on the allegations against/market on Richard Hanania's past writing.

Seems like the embrace of RH might in hindsight be seen as problematic.

Edit: given the comments below, I deleted reference to and details on the market.

Scott - can you please shed light on if this type of discussion is appropriate for open threads? I thought after your recent posts on reputation markets, this type of discourse was to be highlighted. Other commentators seem to disagree so until you provide guidance, I cautiously deleted the original reference.

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I have started a new Substack blog “Psychiatry at the Margins” that may be of interest to some readers of ACX. It’s a newsletter about exploring critical, philosophical, and scientific debates in psy-sciences.


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If twitter dies off and there’s no replacement, is this good or bad for society.

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Does anyone have a data driven prediction of how much capital gains income will be realized in the United States in 2022?

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Should not THE depehdent variable be, NOT gross world happiness but gross world FLOURISHING?

And shouldn't the foundational definition of Effective Altruism be "Where the dollars/effort are most likely to increase gross world flourishing? Currently EA is dramatically not directed there.

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Nov 28, 2022·edited Nov 28, 2022

You were supposed to signal boost this comment, Scott. There was a great self referential pun, temporal shenanigans, a beautiful use of the numerology of the number 7 in the Babylonian tradition. But alas, the moment is gone.

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What’s something you’ve recently learned about yourself?

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Let's suppose we tried to fix the current obsession with college degrees as a generic credential of ability by making it illegal to require college graduation for a job. You could still require that specific things be known, or specific coursework completed, as long as they were demonstrably job-related, but you could not require that the applicant be a college graduate in general. What, then, would employers who currently use a college degree, any college degree, as a requirement start doing instead?

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Assuming that

a) God is CEO of the World and

b) The primary task of CEO per Thorndike is capital allocation

What is your mental model of how God allocates capital? If God is too triggering, replace it with your preferred noun (eg Nature, Space, Consciousness, etc.)

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Meta has trained an AI to play Diplomacy (a strategy game involving negotiation, persuasion, and deception) against human players: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.ade9097

Discussion on the subreddit here: https://old.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/z1x894/humanlevel_play_in_the_game_of_diplomacy_by/

This seems pretty big to me, since strategic planning and persuasion could be useful in taking over the world.

I know Diplomacy is also popular in the SSC comment section, I played an online game back in ~2018. Maybe we should play again, now including an AI.

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I've just read Kim Stanley Robinson's _The Ministry for the Future_, and I'm curious about how plausible the social changes are. In particular, there's a pretty centralized economy with the government kept in check by the possibility of huge demonstrations and possibly the threat of more assassinations.

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"I lost my list of things I was supposed to signal-boost for this week’s Open Thread in a computer crash."

Why not use Google docs or something?

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If AOC primaries Biden how do you think she will fare

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