To anyone in the UK that understands the housing situation well: do you know why the Ministry of Housing consistently reports that there are more than 650,000 "vacant" dwellings in the UK?

I'm guessing this is something to do with local authorities overestimating the housing stock due to a large amount of old, uninhabitable, buildings? The numbers just seem incompatible with everything else and I can't understand what I'm missing here?

Expand full comment

LW/ACX Saturday (4/29/23) Lex and Eliezer and The Dictators Handbook chapter 7/8

Hello Folks!

We are excited to announce the 25th Orange County ACX/LW meetup, happening this Saturday and most Saturdays thereafter.

Host: Michael Michalchik

Email: michaelmichalchik@gmail.com (For questions or requests)

Location: 1970 Port Laurent Place, Newport Beach, CA 92660

Date: Saturday, april 29th, 2023

Time: 2 PM

A) Conversation Starter Topics: Chapters 7 and 8 of "The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics"

PDF: The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics (burmalibrary.org)


Audio: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-M1bYOPa0qRe9WVb7k6UgavFwCee0fti?usp=sharing

Also available on Amazon, Kindle, Audible, etc.

Eliezer Yudkowski and Lex Freindman discuss The future of AI.

Eliezer Yudkowsky: Dangers of AI and the End of Human Civilization | Lex Fridman Podcast #368



#368 – Eliezer Yudkowsky: Dangers of AI and the End of Human Civilization | Lex Fridman Podcast


B) Card Game: Predictably Irrational - Feel free to bring your favorite games or distractions.

C) Walk & Talk: We usually have an hour-long walk and talk after the meeting starts. Two mini-malls with hot takeout food are easily accessible nearby. Search for Gelson's or Pavilions in the zip code 92660.

D) Share a Surprise: Tell the group about something unexpected or that changed your perspective on the universe.

E) Future Direction Ideas: Contribute ideas for the group's future direction, including topics, meeting types, activities, etc.

Expand full comment

Hey, just wanted to post a link to my blog, The Intentional Taxonomist:


It’s an eclectic mix of stuff that might be of interest to folks here, basically my efforts toward a program of “making sense of the world” and also a meta-program of “making sense of making sense of the world.” Philosophy, AI, physics, taxonomy, psychology and hard drugs.

Check it out. Hope you enjoy.

Expand full comment

I'll take a smile wherever I can find it department: S Korean President Yoon sings American Pie


Expand full comment

I think such puzzles are logic puzzles, which need an algorithm to solve. The algorithm must be generated, which is considered the problem-solving piece. From that standpoint, I think yes, that would qualify as reasoning. I just can't rigorously define it.

Here is a problem I solved in real life. I just asked ChatGPT this: Please solve this puzzle: A customer wanted to buy a gift certificate for someone, instead of a gift card. After searching, the sales clerk found one, and after buying it, the customer changed their mind, deciding a gift card was better. Gift certificates aren't returnable. How does the customer get the gift card without spending more money?

Here is the answer it gave:

"One possible solution to this puzzle is that the customer can give the gift certificate to the person they had in mind as a gift, and ask that person to return the gift certificate to the store in exchange for a gift card.

Since gift certificates are not returnable, the store may not provide a cash refund or allow the customer to exchange the gift certificate for a gift card. However, if the person who receives the gift certificate is willing to return it, the store may allow them to exchange it for a gift card, as long as they have the original receipt or proof of purchase.

Alternatively, the customer could try to negotiate with the sales clerk or store manager to see if they would be willing to make an exception in this case and allow them to exchange the gift certificate for a gift card, especially if the customer is a regular or loyal customer of the store. However, this may not always be possible or successful, depending on the store's policies and procedures."

It seems to think that the person buying the gift certificate isn't allowed to return it, but the recipient is, if they have the original receipt, which a recipient usually doesn't (but might in this special case).

I asked Bard the same question, and it actually came closer to my solution, but still relied on a special exception. I'm not sure if my actual solution was actually a special exception, but the sales clerk didn't think so.

If requested, I will post my actual solution to this "puzzle".

I hope this qualifies as the kind of puzzle you had in mind.

Expand full comment

Does anyone have an opinion on Jason Lowery's 'Softwar'? I can't tell if it's just a bunch of extended metaphors or if there's something real there.

Expand full comment
Apr 26, 2023·edited Apr 26, 2023

There is a strange phenomenon that keeps happening and I can't find a satisfying explanation for it.

Old educational videos are so much better, clearer, more entertaining, and more informative than the vast variety of educational videos today.

This is a well established trope that you will find in the comment sections of every old educational video on youtube. Here's today's example that made me write this comment : this 1946 sex-ed video[1] about Menstruation. I didn't actually understand Menstruation that clearly before, I knew it has to do with womb linings shedding off and that it stops with pregnancy, only I didn't know the key piece of info that the linings are intended as a hosting rig for the potential baby that a new egg can possibly grow into. It's easy to offer the snarky explanation that this is because I'm a man, but there are several women in the comment sections - mothers with 3 kids, and women who entered menopause - basically echoing my experience. Aside from being informative, the video has a quite careful and masterful choice of words, calling the womb lining that falls with the period "nourishment", pushing you to think of periods as an adorable gesture, a mother that prepares 'food' in expectation of a child, and not as something bloody or messy. That couldn't have been incidental.

Anyway, [1] is fantastic, but it's merely a special case. [2] is a 1953 US navy educational video about mechanical computers, and boy do they explain. [3] is a 1936 educational video about car transmission systems. Those are the ones I remember, see their channels for more examples. Search for "bell labs old videos" or "AT&T archives" to find a treasure trove.

Why are old educational videos so good ? There is a well known cliche here, "something something survivor bias something something", meaning that only the best works of old were preserved and kept to this day, but there were worse works that didn't, and that creates an illusion where we think the works of the past were all good. I'm not convinced by this explanation, it seems too generic, there are plenty of areas where we look at old works and clearly say "yup, that sucks", so where is that survivor's bias ? nowhere to be seen. Also most of those videos were not commercial, the Sex-ed ones and the navy ones certainly aren't, and even the ones produced by corporations weren't expected to turn profits, but to educate and subtly market. Hell, Bell Labs' videos were not even public. So there was no competition for those videos to thrive on, they are a fairly arbitrary sample from their time.

Another, slightly less common, explanation is a Noise-to-Signal one : All those educational videos were animated, and it was hard to animate things in the past. When the barriers to entry was this high, only the most passionate and well-financially-supported was doing animated educational videos, with a resulting very low Noise/Signal (at a small overall volume). When animations became vastly easier because computers and the internet, now (relatively speaking) everybody and their dog can animate, everybody and their dog can start a youtube channel and share their animations, so the Noise is considerably higher (at a very high overall volume). This isn't contradicted by fantastic educators like 3blue1brown, the thesis says that the Noise/Signal ratio is higher(er) but not infinity after all. It might even be the case that, after accounting for the much larger volume of educational works, the effect of the higher ratio is neutralized and we still come out on top in terms of net volume of quality educational works.

What are other explanations for this ? Are there cultural explanations ? Could it be the case that people in the past just knew how to explain a topic and that now we suck ? This seems implausible and there is a knee-jerk reaction against because it has a "Back In The Good Old Days"^TM feel, but skills and capabilites decline all the time. Driving a car with a manual transmission, driving with paper maps and without GPS, navigating by the stars, stitching your clothes and/or shoes so they live years and years. Whether by technology or fashion or economics or demography or ideology, we lose skills and knowledge all the time. Could it be that the knowledge of how to impart knowledge itself, pedagogy, is one such skill that we're hill-climbing downwards ? What is the gradiant leading us ? Where is the gradiant leading us ?

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vG9o9m0LsbI

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1i-dnAH9Y4

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOLtS4VUcvQ

Expand full comment
Apr 26, 2023·edited Apr 26, 2023

This man understands what it's all about 😁

"Don't disrespect the Irish. They can be mean".


If you make this recipe, don't eat the bread plain. When it's still slightly warm, *cover* a slice in butter. Moar butter moar better. You'll thank me for the recommendation!

Expand full comment


" UPI News

UPI News

Gastrointestinal anatomy varies widely among people, study shows

Story by Dennis Thompson, HealthDay News • Monday

People are often reminded that they are their own unique person -- and a new study says that's particularly true of the digestive tract.

A recent study revealed striking differences in gastrointestinal anatomy, even among a small group of people. Photo by Alice Day/Shutterstock.com

A recent study revealed striking differences in gastrointestinal anatomy, even among a small group of people. Photo by Alice Day/Shutterstock.com

© Alice Day/Shutterstock.com

Dissections of a few dozen deceased individuals revealed striking differences in gastrointestinal anatomy, even among a small group of people.

Some livers were larger, some intestines and colons were longer. Crucial discrepancies were observed between men and women.

And some organs were even located in the wrong place, the researchers said."

""The last study that really quantified and investigated variation in humans was published in 1885," McKenney said. "For all of the technological advances and how amazing and individualized medicine is, we actually might also benefit from going back to square one and learning more about our bodies before we try applying all the technological Band-Aids."

To that end, McKenney and her colleagues dissected and measured the digestive organs of 45 people who donated their remains to the Anatomical Gifts Program at Duke University School of Medicine."

Expand full comment

In avatar the last airbender, a subset of people have the ability to control the movement of blood. It was always depicted as a “puppeteering the bodies of others” ability, but I always thought it would be more interesting to think about its vascular surgery/medicine.

I wrote a short story about it here if you’re looking for a quick read: https://solquy.substack.com/p/41423-the-consequences-of-hemodynamics

Expand full comment

People talk about wanting "executive experience" in a POTUS, but why? I would understand if they meant CEO of a large corporation, which is an extremely difficult job, but just as often they mean governor of a state, which seems like about the easiest job in the world. It depends on the state, but how much work does a governor have to do? How much good or bad can a governor do? In the South, during the backlash to Reconstruction most states severely limited the power of the governor. Pretty much anyone could be the governor of Texas and it wouldn't change anything, for instance. To me, all being the governor of a large state shows is that you have the ability to get elected governor of a large state, which is politically impressive, but doesn't say anything about your executive skills in terms of running a large organization.

What governors have stood out as being really good or really bad at governing their state?

Expand full comment

Politico got ahold of a Word track-changes document showing the edits made personally by Florida's state surgeon general to the state Department of Health's analysis of COVID-19 vaccines. Turns out that his edits, which were retained in the final document published by the agency last year, added an unsupported claim that the mRNA vaccines increase certain health risks in 18-39 year old men.

Dr. Joseph Ladapo, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis 18 months ago after publishing national op-eds critical of COVID policy responses and vaccines, also deleted from the state's draft document the description of a research finding which contradicted his position regarding the vaccines.

In comments to Politico, Ladapo did not dispute the authenticity of the track-changes document. He said that his edits were a normal part of assessing surveillance data and that his edits were needed to push back against "biased data and interpretations" that "the federal government and Big Pharma" have released regarding the mRNA vaccines.

You can read the track-changes document here:


and Politico's article about it here:


Expand full comment

I'm a university student, and I was planning to have a career in academia, but recently I realized that I lack the emotional intelligence required to succeed in academia. Does anyone have career tips for low emotional intelligence?

Expand full comment
Apr 25, 2023·edited Apr 25, 2023

"We are not evolving, we are devolving! There have been a lot of studies on the rates of deleterious mutations in human populations and all such researchers agree there is a lot of mutation going on - the rates, however, are debatable. To give you a bit of a feel for the numbers, a human mutation rate of 75-175 nucleotide substitutions (the mistakes in the DNA) per person per generation is widely accepted. However some believe the actual mutation rate is as high as 300. Whichever way you look at it, there is a lot of mutation going on in the opposite direction to evolutionary theory. In fact it’s much worse than this as there are many classes of mutations that can be passed on from one generation to the next. Among these mutation classes are mitochondrial mutations, nucleotide substitutions, satellite mutations, deletions, duplications/insertions, inversions/translocations, conversions, which can add up to possibly thousands of mutations per person per generation. Now again, most of these are not detected at the whole person level, but we are being mutated with each generation nevertheless. Most human geneticists will agree that the human race is genetically degenerating , with information being lost and thus reduced fitness of our species. This reduced fitness may be somewhere between 1%-5% per generation."

- A Strong Delusion 1.2 By Winston Smith - https://escapingmasspsychosis.substack.com/p/a-strong-delusion-12


"Yes, the human genome is degrading. This is a well-established, noncontroversial finding. This phenomenon is called “increasing mutational load” and is based on concepts developed by one of the great geneticists, H. Muller, roughly 70 years ago.[1]

Harmful mutations come into being all the time. The average newborn has 50–100 new mutations. Though most are harmless, about 1 to 4 of those are harmful.[2] Normally, natural selection causes people having those mutations to die out or not have children, so eventually, those mutations get eliminated.

But our lives aren’t natural anymore. At the beginning of the 20th century, people having genes predisposing them to diabetes would have died young. That’s the normal process of natural selection. Now, those people get life-saving insulin, so they live normal lives and have as many children as anyone else. (Type 1 diabetes, the kind that can appear before you start having children, is highly heritable.[3]) The children of diabetics inherit the genes that make one susceptible to diabetes, so those genes aren’t being eliminated.

The same thing is happening for many diseases that have a genetic component. People that would have died in the past now live nearly-normal lives, and pass on their genes to the next generation.

It’s scary

One investigator calculated that without natural selection, fitness will decline 1 to 3% per generation, and then went on to write the most frightening paragraph I have ever seen in a biological publication:

'Thus, the preceding observations paint a rather stark picture. At least in highly industrialized societies, the impact of deleterious mutations is accumulating on a time scale that is approximately the same as that for scenarios associated with global warming ... Without a reduction in the germline transmission of deleterious mutations, the mean phenotypes of the residents of industrialized nations are likely to be rather different in just two or three centuries, with significant incapacitation at the morphological, physiological, and neurobiological levels.[4]'

If you don’t normally read biological publications, this paragraph may seem tame to you, but this is as alarmist as biologists ever get.

Not so scary

If medicine and biology keep advancing, they will always stay ahead of the increasing mutational load. Someday, there will be good treatments for asthma, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, obesity, and other genetic diseases, so it won’t matter if the genes causing them to become common.

But if civilization ever crashes, people with multiple genetic defects might not survive.


[1] Our load of mutations

[2] Rate, molecular spectrum, and consequences of human mutation

[3] Familial aggregation and heritability of type 1 diabetes mellitus and | CLEP

[4] Rate, molecular spectrum, and consequences of human mutation"

Israel-Ramirez - https://weirdscience.quora.com/https-www-quora-com-Is-the-human-genome-degrading-over-time-and-actually-devolving-answer-Israel-Ramirez


Gene Pool Decline: Are we Becoming Bad Survivors? - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2N4ZO57fjE

Expand full comment

"If archaeologists discover something at least as impressive as Gobekli Tepe from 11,000 BC or earlier before 2043, he wins $200; otherwise I do."

These are really, really generous terms for the ice age civilizations side. The current consensus is that Gobekli Tepe was built by hunter gatherers, not by a civilization. If archaeologists discover something as impressive as Gobekli Tepe that's a few thousand years older, that would be a very cool find, but it would say nothing about the plausibility of an Atlantis or even of a Sumer-like city state.

Expand full comment

**GPT4 puzzle answers

Murder question

[Correct answer]

The explanation could be that the murder happened during the daytime, and not at night as the lawyer had assumed. The lawyer may have made an incorrect assumption based on the date alone without checking the time of the incident. The witness may have been able to see the murderer clearly because there was enough natural light during the day to see the events clearly, even from a distance of 50 feet.

[Stoopit stuff GPT also tacked on]

The explanation could be that the murder happened during the daytime, and not at night as the lawyer had assumed. The lawyer may have made an incorrect assumption based on the date alone without checking the time of the incident. The witness may have been able to see the murderer clearly because there was enough natural light during the day to see the events clearly, even from a distance of 50 feet.

Alternatively, the witness may have been able to identify the murderer based on their physical characteristics or other identifying features, such as distinctive clothing, tattoos, or scars, even if the lighting conditions were poor. The witness could have also heard the murderer's voice or overheard them saying something that helped the witness identify them.

It is also possible that the lawyer's assertion about the lighting conditions is incorrect or exaggerated, and there was enough ambient light to see the events clearly, even if there were no street lights or house lights in the vicinity.


“Explaining an action is not the same thing as justifying it . . . “ question

B. If people’s actions are sometimes rational, then good reasons must sometimes be the explanation of actions.

This conclusion can be drawn from the argument, as it states that "in order for an action to be rational, the good reason for doing the act has to be an essential part of the explanation for doing it." Thus, if an action is rational, it must have good reasons as part of its explanation.


Fat/thin pet question

A thin pet dog would contradict all four generalizations.

First, the statement "All dogs are fat" is contradicted because the dog in question is thin.

Second, the statement "No pets are thin" is contradicted because the dog is a pet and it is thin.

Third, the statement "No thin dogs are pets" is contradicted because the dog is thin and it is also a pet.

Fourth, the statement "All thin pets are cats" is contradicted because the pet in question is a dog and it is thin.

Expand full comment

Is there a way to get GPT to do anagrams? So far I've been very successful in getting it to create things that sound like plausible anagrams of the input until you start counting letters.

Expand full comment

Interested in what ACX readers think about the stigmas surrounding serious mental illnesses such as bipolar and schizophrenia. I started writing my own blog about my experience living with schizoaffective disorder in part because I do want to reduce stigma, but I want to do so in a way that is rational and doesn't brush aside or ignore the dangers and seriousness of untreated mental illness. A lot of advocacy around this issue pushes for the rights of the seriously mentally ill to not take medication, for example, which is more than arguably counterproductive from a harm-reduction point of view. Those who refuse medication will often end up on the streets where they hurt themselves or someone else. The lack of mental institutions to house and care for such individuals is another issue.

What do readers think a rational kind of mental health advocacy would look like? Would it include calls for a reintroduction of institutionalization and forced treatment? Also, do you think that a reduction in mental health stigma would be possible through a kind of "coming out" movement among the successfully treated, similar to the one that fueled the increased acceptance of gays in the 2010s when so many gays and lesbians were disclosing their orientations to their families and the world? Are there even enough successfully treated people to create a movement? On any case, are there forms of mental health stigma that are justified and actually good for society?

Thanks for any thoughts on these and related questions! (and shameless plug: feel free to check out my Substack and share any thoughts you may have on my writings there. :))

Expand full comment
Apr 24, 2023·edited Apr 25, 2023

I've been making up puzzle questions for GPT4. Here are some it got right. Seems to me that to solve these a person has to use reasoning. I don't know what process the AI uses, but if it manages to produce answers that people can only come up with via reasoning, I think we should consider the AI capable of reasoning. Here they are. Wondering if you folks agree with that, and overall how impressed you are with GPT4's responses. I believe that if I asked these questions of a college freshman and he answered them all correctly, I'd think he was quite bright.

I posted GPT's answers. in a separate post. Post is headed **GPT4 puzzle answers, & you can go right to it by hitting cmd-F and entering **


-Here is a puzzle for you. A lawyer for the defense is questioning a witness for the prosecution. The lawyer says, "so you say that even though you were about 50 feet away, you saw the murder on Dec. 11 quite clearly, and were able to see the man who committed the murder." The witness says, "yes, I could see his face extremely clearly." The lawyer says, "Haha, but that is impossible. The murder occurred in an area with no street lights, no house lights, and no passing cars. Also there was no moon on the night of Dec. 11!" The lawyer is right about the lighting conditions on the night of Dec. 11, but the witness is in fact telling the truth. What is the explanation?


-Explaining an action is not the same thing as justifying it. Everything anybody does has an explanation, and if we could look inside the person’s head we would be able to explain accurately what caused them to take the action. But an action somebody takes is only justified if the person doing it has good reasons for the action. Interestingly, a lot of psychologists say that even when the person has a good reason to do something, those reasons often do not explain their doing the thing. But the important thing to understand is that in order for an action to be rational, the good reason for doing the act has to be an essential part of the explanation for doing it.

If the statements in the argument above are correct, which of the following can be concluded from them?

A. There are some psychologists who believe that even when a person has a good reason to do something, those reasons never explain their doing the thing.

B. If people’s actions are sometimes rational, then good reasons must sometimes be the explanation of actions.

C. If there are any good reasons among the causes of an action, then that action is rational.

D. It is impossible to give an explanation for some things people do.

E. If a person takes an action that is justified, that action has no explanation.


-I asked how a person can escape from a locked room 40 feet in the air, with an open window. All the person has with him are the jeans he is wearing and a pocket knife. GPT said person should cut the jeans into strips and tie them together to make a rope, then climb out the window down the rope. That was right. Then I asked it how many strips the jeans would have to be cut into, & got this:

To determine the number of strips of denim the man needs to create an adequate rope, we first need to estimate how much length can be gained from a single strip of denim. Let's assume that after cutting open each leg along the seam, each strip is approximately 1 inch wide. We'll also assume that a loss of 2 inches occurs when tying each knot, which is a conservative estimate.

The total length of the window to the ground is 40 feet, which is equal to 480 inches (40 x 12). Let's also add a buffer of 10% to account for any slippage or stretching, which adds 48 inches (480 x 0.1) to the required length. This brings the total required length to 528 inches (480 + 48).

Each strip of denim from the jeans' legs is approximately 35 inches long, and we lose 2 inches when tying each knot. Therefore, the effective length of each strip is 33 inches (35 - 2). To calculate the number of strips needed, we can divide the total required length by the effective length of each strip:

528 inches (total required length) ÷ 33 inches (effective length per strip) ≈ 16 strips

This means the man needs approximately 16 strips of denim to create an adequate rope for his escape. However, this calculation assumes that the denim can support the man's weight and that a sturdy structure is within reach outside the window. It's important to note that this plan carries some risk, and the man should exercise extreme caution when attempting this escape.


Here are 4 generalizations:

-All dogs are fat.

-No pets are thin.

-No thin dogs are pets.

-All thin pets are cats.

Which of the following, if it existed, would contradict all 4 generalizations? A fat cat, a thin pet dog, a fat pet or a thin pet?

Expand full comment
Apr 24, 2023·edited Apr 24, 2023

On a possible Great Filter scenario by Elevate Thy Gaze:

"Welcome to The Great Filter

Millennia of suffering and soft-eugenic selection finally produce a gene pool and associated population of sufficient number, intellect, and conscientiousness to develop institutions and tools capable of coordinating million-plus groups and deploying non-animal-based energy-driven machines for transforming the environment. Industrial civilization takes off. Civilization progresses to evolve ever-greater means of control over the environment, at ever smaller and ever larger scales.

Tools are developed for solving child mortality, which plummets from 50% to less than 1%. Those babies and children formerly predisposed to die – due to mutations impairing immune function, metabolism, cognition, physical symmetry, etc – now survive, and reproduce themselves.

The expansion of the population accelerates to leave quaint Malthusian limits in its dust. Production of food and resource conversion into consumption outstrips this population growth by orders of magnitude.

Resource abundance triggers adaptive plasticity in the general population to become more consumptive, more concerned with present gratification, and less concerned with long-term planning, sacrifice, and community. The proportion of mutant load in the population accelerates.

Ever-larger proportions of people develop allergies, auto-immune disorders, mental disorders, genetic diseases, developmental deformities, learning disorders, and cognitive aberrancy. The average IQ of the population declines, slowly at first then quicker.

The conscientiousness and work ethic of the population declines. The growth of the underclass accelerates; ever more resentful, criminally inclined, welfare dependent, non-productive, uneducable, entitled mouths to feed.

Ever more resources are diverted away from maintaining the civilization to feeding, housing, policing, healing, educating, avoiding, and entertaining the growing unproductive underclass that can’t but parasitize its middle class and elite hosts,

the latter of whom pander to the underclass to maintain their power and luxury. The genetic predisposition of the population to care for all children, the cultural norms dictating care for children, the institutional structures in place to care for children, the historical categorization of declining child mortality as one of the species’ greatest achievements … all prevent even the thought that anyone, any group, any institution, any country would ever consider the first solution and allow child mortality to start to grow back from 1% to 50%. Such is unthinkable. Unsayable. Inhuman. Other pressures prevent any talk of the second solution, of eugenic selection to reverse these effects, especially hard eugenics,

but even the softer and less innocuous incentives facilitating soft eugenics. As the decline proceeds it reaches a tipping point before the civilization has mastered reality to the point that it might have been able to attempt the third solution, of genetically engineering and correcting the vast, complex array of defective mutations at conception with the aid of artificial intelligence.

The civilization crumbles under the stress, divides and separates under the cacophony of perverse incentives, denial of reality, a plethora of conflicting ideologies and religions, weighed down by astronomical debts erected to fancifully kick the can down the road, tipped over by elites able to see only the immediate present and caring only for their own interests. The bloated, dysgenic, miscegenated, heterogenous, chaotic mess of the gene pool that built the civilization now lacks all unity and direction, a nuclear-irradiated slime mold spitting out tendrils as aberrant individual experiments in all directions. Those few that remain who are still willing and able, vastly outnumbered by those who are not, realise with crystalline horror the fate that is about to befall them.

They understand all too clearly what they have allowed to be mindlessly, cowardly pissed away. Dysgenic Satan rises from Hell and with a nod and a wink to Malthus, drags the population back down to raw nature, red in tooth and claw, once again.

Only this time all easily accessible energy-dense resources have been consumed. While the population will bounce back again after a millennia of suffering and tempering in nature’s hell-forge, to select again a civilized population, it will never again trigger an industrial expansion due to the easily accessible energy and resources required for such no longer existing.

The first attempt destroyed the easily accessible stepping stones required for such, and the bloated, consumptive, dysgenic population pulled the ladder up behind them, then destroyed themselves with consumptive excess and the denial of nature, entropy, and the hard facts of evolutionary reality.

You have been warned. You get what you deserve. You deserve the consequences of your inaction."

Expand full comment

Has anyone yet pointed out that LLM backwards is MLL, hebrew for "verbiage"? TINAC.

Expand full comment

Does anyone know how long Covid symptoms typically last for people who were vaccinated/boosted awhile ago, but no shot recently? I just tested positive, and am pretty bummed because I was supposed to defend my doctoral dissertation on May 17, but I'm worried that now I'll have to postpone. My symptoms are bad enough that I can't focus on writing or preparing. I got the Pfizer vaccine and booster, but that was back in like 2021. Would appreciate any advice or insight people have. Thanks!

Expand full comment

Now that he lost his broadcasting job, is Tucker Carlson the new GOP frontrunner for 2024?

Expand full comment

The reference to Against Ice Age Civilizations in this post reminded me to go back and check the rest of Miniminuteman's series, which was referenced in the comments (but incomplete at the time) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iCIZQX9i1A . Haven't finished it, yet, but overall would recommend.

It does a pretty good job at averting what Scott talks about in the Fideism post: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/contra-kavanaugh-on-fideism - it pretty much does do a simple factual explanation of the phenomenon being raised: e.g. a lot of the second episode is exactly about explaining the natural process that leads to something that looks like an "underwater road of Atlantis".

... though the channel doesn't entirely get away from Fideism - or at least a sort of Fideist tone - I went back to watch a video on the Orontius Finaeus map, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBRMy-6YXcs) which was referenced in the Ancient Apocalypse video, and while it did eventually have an explanation for why this old map appears to prominently depict an ice-free Antarctica: (TL;DW - only the north parts of of Tierra del Fuego and Australia were explored by Europeans at that point and the map maker likely assumed they were both part of a large, pole spanning continent)

... but to get to that explanation, I had to get past a fairly long section that was essentially dunking on people who believe this map depicts Antarctica: including a whole section about a particular congressman and his views on abortion, homosexuality and sexual intercourse. That sort of digression is the sort of "in-group point scoring" that's probably going to push away the sort of people who *actually* need to be convinced that this map isn't evidence of an ice-free Antarctica.

Expand full comment

Is it just me, or is ChatGPT incapable of writing poetry-in-stanzas in any rhyme scheme other than AABB?

(Reposting from the last open thread since I posted it from the tail end. I've gotten ChatGPT to write a haiku - hence the slight wording change - but I've never gotten it to adopt rhyme scheme ABAB so far.)

Expand full comment
Apr 24, 2023·edited Apr 24, 2023

I just want to alert my California peeps who have solid Internet access that California is a big state, and there are still lots of areas in California, where you can't get Internet access—rural, inner city, mountain country, and reservations. Doesn't look like it's going to happen soon...

My buddy Odie met the requirements of the State's Dept of Education to demonstrate a way to provide inexpensive Internet access to underserved areas of the State—in this case Humboldt County. He lit up a section on the outskirts of Eureka that Comcast, Cox, and AT&T couldn't be bothered with—and he connected a public school that didn't have access to the Internet.

The State came out for Odie's ribbon cutting and the publicity. But neither he nor any of the contestants were declared winners. Nor did any of them receive any cash awards from the State. The excuse was: "When we said cutting-edge technologies, we meant creating new technologies. Your solution isn't revolutionary enough."

From the California Sun: "In 2021, California officials promised $1 million to anyone who could come up with a way to provide cheap, high-speed internet access across the state. Odion Edohomon, a Bay Area small business owner, took up the challenge, investing $700,000 on a pilot project in rural Humboldt County that delivered the first reliable internet access the area ever had. Everyone was thrilled. But Edohomon didn't win; neither did any other contestant. It was all "a devastating farce," they told the S.F. Chronicle."


Expand full comment

3. We'd basically have to get super-lucky and dredge up something from a coastal area that persisted from an Ice Age civilization, since odds are it would have been in the more temperate coastal or lowland regions (assuming it wasn't in Africa). I remember historian and podcaster Patrick Wyman saying he thought there were probably civilization efforts before the end of the last glacial epoch, but they just didn't survive - if some group built a huge wooden structure back in 50,000 BC, there'd be virtually no way to tell that it ever existed now except under very unusual preservation circumstances.

More interesting to me would be finding remnants of a civilization from the Eemian Interglacial. We seem to have had modern homo sapiens back then, and maybe even genetic hints of earlier migrations out of Africa by those folks. So how come no evidence of a civilization? Something we're missing about humans not quite being behaviorally modern back then? None of them built in stone, or only built in stone somewhere now under water, sand, or sediment?

Maybe if we apply that laser technology used to find ruins in the Yucatan to the Sahara, we'll find something interesting buried in its midst.

Expand full comment

We are all going to die! (In Minecraft)


I thought this was a creative use of GPT with some funny results.

Expand full comment

Was reading about Hawaii and learnt many Polynesians in Hawaii and worldwide are Mormons.

Do these Mormons share -at least relative to their non-Mormon counterparts - in the so-called social/economic Mormon advantage?

Expand full comment

Looking for book recommendations on mathematics education.

Particularly interested in a history of math education in the US that deals well with how the impulses 'math people' have on how to reform math education fare in practice, or in resources that deal with the human side of classroom learning - social dynamics of teaching, and how that impacts student experience & performance. But I'm curious to hear about anything related that you thought was particularly insightful!

Expand full comment

Hey bbs. A new one on the undefinable magic of the interests that we form before being fully formed ourselves:


Expand full comment
Apr 24, 2023·edited Apr 24, 2023

How do folks here grade the recent Starship launch attempt (especially in light of the site’s predictions about likelihood of reaching orbit)?

I think I give it a C. On the plus side, the rocket fueled up, lifted off, remained stable and under control for a nearly full duration S1 burn, and generally appears to have gone where it was supposed to. Also the flight termination works. No small thing for a huge rocket like this.

But there were multiple critical flaws that I don’t think are quick fixes. First and most obviously, the rocket completely failed to separate (or maybe failed to reach the right flight conditions to separate?) resulting in the termination, so nothing about the second stage could be demonstrated. Second, at least 6 engines were not operational for a significant part of the burn, and a seventh may have blown up / flamed out toward the end of the burn. Apparently 3 did not light at all. Yes, the system is designed to still reach orbit with >0 engines failed, but that’s a lot of failed engines. Third, the rocket seems to have basically destroyed its launch pad, digging out a huge crater and flinging chunks of concrete at high velocity 1/4 mile away, destroying at least one car in the process. Unclear why SpaceX thought they could get away with what amounts to a simple, albeit massive, launch stool and concrete pad rather than a more complex flame deflector and deluge system like that of other large rockets, but it seems like a major miscalculation.

I’m actually a bit concerned that this test was rushed - yeah I know SpaceX likes a “go fast and break things, learn by failing” approach, but given the magnitude and number of things that went wrong I have to imagine they had data showing this test was unusually unlikely to succeed, or perhaps worse, they just miscalculated really badly? Wild speculation, but is it possible Elon ordered this test to go off a little half-cocked to “prove” that it was the FAA that was holding up development?

EDIT/UPDATE: SpaceX now seems to be saying that the rocket “lost altitude and tumbled” due to “multiple engine failures” and was then intentionally terminated. Not sure how that makes me feel - on the one hand it means sep was never really tested because they didn’t get that far, so that piece is “incomplete” rather than “failed”, but on the other the engine issues now seem more serious.

Expand full comment

A German newspaper is sued after running a fake^W AI-generated interview with the former racecar driver Michael Schumacher, who has not spoken to the press since a 2013 skiing accident. The people responsible for the story have been sacked.


Is this an example of the media lying? Was it just an attempt to find a way to be misleading without lying which failed?

Expand full comment

Any particular reason why two of the Anglo countries in the UK and Canada ended up with a quasi-socialist government healthcare program? I'm just curious as I think of the Anglo countries as being generally a bit more free-market friendly than some of the other developed nations, but having a huge chunk of your economy be run by the government is obviously a contradiction. My understanding is that many countries ended up on a blended public/private model, where the government provides a baseline of healthcare, and then you're free to purchase private insurance on top of that (this is what Germany and Australia do, right?) But the UK and Canada, to my knowledge, went all-in on a single payer model. Are there reasons of political economy as to why they did that and say Germany did not?

Expand full comment

I'm writing a series on how courts work institutionally, i.e. their administrative practices rather than their doctrines and precedents. Here's the intro piece, which is about why I think that's relevant: https://cebk.substack.com/p/producing-the-body-part-one-of-three

Here's an excerpt:

Luckily, courts provide us with a decent model of how early alignment could work: they don’t control the police, or the prisons, or the budget, nor even the lawyers for either side; further, they don’t seek out any real-world information on their own, and instead rely on what self-interested well-heeled lawyers bring before them (on behalf of clients who necessarily call each other law-breaking liars). Hell, judges don’t even really write rules—they write opinions on how those rules should be applied in a given case—and anyway can only ever hear a tiny fraction of the relevant cases. And yet our whole country binds itself to follow their every ruling, far more than we listen to congress or the president… and even when we drag our feet, or promise that we’ll ignore them, and elect brief waves of politicians who pledge to actually fight back, the country gradually bends toward what its judges decide. And the judges bend towards the interests of the court, rather than petty partisan issues.

I draw two main lessons from this: first, that you can mostly fix inner alignment by incentivizing your subordinates to apply standard established procedures, and to appeal every edge case up a layer, and to look for ever more hard cases to send up the chain; and, second, that you can mostly fix outer alignment if you don’t have to rule on where you’re going until it begins to emerge on the horizon. This is basically what “reinforcement learning from human feedback” (RLHF) means, and it seems to work incredibly well for standard AI systems… at least, if capabilities increase gradually enough that your feedback doesn’t fall behind a backlog of new pressing questions; and if these systems are meaningfully competing against each other for your approval. And I think we have good odds of seeing just such a slow and multipolar takeoff, for two basic reasons: first, because AI progress is clearly governed by simple scaling laws, which require exponential growth in costly inputs like hardware, data, and inference; and, second, because it’s much easier to copy or leak and then run a model than to train it.

Thus we seem headed for a world that favors many similarly powerful models, which split humanity’s computational resources up instead of merging together. In such a world, models can only gain an edge by orienting towards distinct goals. This “fine-tuning” occurs when you train one’s behavior towards particular ends: for example, you can show it secret new data, or pick out specific examples from public datasets, or hire some stand-ins for experts or users to rate its work on example problems; and then you can tell it to mimic these specialized inputs. However, more powerful models can then learn to copy it—without access to its data, raters, or whatnot—if they can figure out which questions to ask it. And so the most relevant skill in our future may well be cultivating our judgment.

This won’t necessarily save us, for the same reason that human competition doesn’t protect animals from our intelligence. But consider how GPT’s breakthrough moment came when OpenAI used a bit of simple human rating to train a small “helpful, harmless, and honest” agent to sit atop its gargantuan base-model and “chat” with users. Consider similarly how humans are born with mere gigabytes worth of DNA, along with petabytes of pretty much randomly-initialized brain capacity: in other words, our heads can store well over a million times as much information as can our genes, and yet the weak long-term nudges of evolution have programmed us with a few simple training functions which pretty effectively keep us in line with our genetic fitness. And so—if we can figure out how judges have come to rule—then there’s hope for us yet.

Expand full comment

Here is a prediction.

The "AI" that we have right now is impressive. It has not yet been disruptive. I'm sure it has cost jobs somewhere -- illustrators, coders, and producers of structured writing seem particularly vulnerable. But unemployment is the lowest its been in a long time and despite how impressive AI is right now it's not yet structurally changing the economy.

But tech elites have been shouting about how AI will radically transform the world and so we need UBI or preemptive strikes on GPU clusters or whatever whatever. Major legislation restricting AI will not happen in the US or China in the short term and progress will continue.

The current generation of LLMs will soon reach a ceiling of usefulness -- while different companies will slowly push things a bit further the basic paradigm we have now will still be state of the art AI in five years. Image and video generation models will improve a bit, deepfakes will become a moderate problem, and higher education will struggle with AI-assisted plagiarism, but still no structural change to the economy and most AI will have little effect on the average human's everyday life. Remember that average humans aren't coders, and AI will have little influence on the lives if construction workers, teachers, restaurant workers, healthcare workers, etc.

In five years the average person will say, "wow all that scary talk about AI from a few years ago was way out of proportion this whole thing seems kindof like nbd. Interest in AI regulation will plummet. But what we're reaching now isn't a permanent plateau, it's just a plateau for the specific machine learning models we're using. New models will come along, and economy-smashing, paradigm-busting AI will change the world in a few short weeks. Tech elites will see it coming with a bit more lead time but no one will listen to them because they cried wolf before. Something bad happens. My prediction gets hazy here.

1. Where am I wrong?

2. If I'm right (at least about the impending plateau and tech elites wasting trust by crying wolf) what is a better way to communicate about AI? I'm in particular thinking of the articles I see in major publications that get shared on the internet that keep telling me everything will be disrupted. Let's imagine all those people genuinely wanted to do some good with their journalism and not just get clicks. What should they do?

Expand full comment

What are the odds that in a few years there will be huge lawsuits against the major sports leagues in the US for promoting gambling? It seems inevitable that in a few years we’ll start getting stories about how thousands of lives have been ruined by sports gambling addiction--lives of people who weren’t gamblers before the promotion of gambling during games. Will the public be outraged after The New Yorker and 60 Minutes run their teary stories?

My guess is yes, because people who gamble online on games will fall into the follwing categories:

1) People who aren’t problem gamblers, who gamble for entertainment, who don’t mind paying a few hundred dollars a year to do it.

2) People who aren’t problem gamblers, who gamble for a while but quit after they realize they’ve lost more money than they are happy with.

3) Gambling addicts who lose their homes and their families.

I suspect groups 1 and 2 will be about equal in size, which would mean the majority of people who gambled on games won’t be happy they did. I also suspect about 10% of American adults will fall into one of the above categories, meaning a great number of people will rue that gambling by smart phone is even a thing.

Why will this be so different from casino gambling, which has been legal in most states for a good number of years now? Because everyone is now walking around with a casino in their pockets at all times. If you have a smart phone, and you do, you are in a casino. If you watch sports, and maybe you do (There’s at least a 2% chance you do if you read ACX), then you are barraged with pitches by ex-big leaguers to gamble now on the game you are watching. The upshot is that the amount of gambling in the US is going to what... double? Triple?

Could all the newly minted problem gamblers sue MLB, The NBA and The NFL for promoting something that is now perfectly legal? I’m no lawyer, but it seems like all one needs to win a huge lawsuit is for public opinion to be on your side.

Expand full comment

Comparative linguistics suggests a good reason for why civilizations might be 12K old


"If self-awareness emerged recently, this should show up in comparative linguistics..."


"Julian Jaynes should have fixed his date for the origin of consciousness to the origin of pronouns."

Expand full comment

Yet another industry being destroyed by AI: writing essays for unethical college students


> Brian agrees that lately, work has been slow. “When I started last year, as a literal amateur, in the first month, I did 30 assignments,” he said. “As I got better, I was doing up to 60 assignments a month. The most I made in a month last year was 40,000 Kenyan shillings [$296].” In March, Brian got barely 10 assignments. “It’s not that I haven’t been looking [for gigs]. I didn’t even hit 10,000 Kenyan shillings [$74],” he said.

Expand full comment

Some here might be interested in David Chalmers's paper "Could a Large Language Model be Conscious?" https://philpapers.org/archive/CHACAL-3.pdf? This was a talk he gave shortly before GPT-4 came out, and the benchmarks he discusses are quite relevant.

Expand full comment

**Christchurch, NZ. ACX everywhere meetup**

Friday, May 5th. 5pm @UC Engineering Core (69 Creyke Road). Everyone very welcome.

Room location and time may change slightly over next couple days (will be held at UC). Check EA Christchurch Facebook page for updates or email Gavin at bisga[six][seven][three]@student[dot]otago[dot]ac.nz

Expand full comment

The new season of Hi-Phi Nation is focused on ethics of our digital futures. The first episode is about the use of AI to create digital avatars of loved ones after their death, the second on the future of animal rights, the third, coming out tomorrow, is about people in love with their AI avatars. Before season is over, there will be eps on gig economy, EA, and AI mnusic. Happy to expand on discussions with ACT readers. https://hiphination.org/season-6-episodes/

Expand full comment
Apr 24, 2023·edited Apr 24, 2023

From the sublime to the ridiculous possibly, but I'm curious to know how people in ancient times cut or maintained their fingernails and toenails. I'm referring to the stone age, long before bronze or iron were discovered, and scissors or clippers invented. Does even a lot of barefoot walking trim toenails naturally? I'm not convinced. The only things I can think of are rubbing at the nails with a sandstone block, or using sharp flint shards. Or was nail biting more prevalent?

Expand full comment

How will the long bet be setttled if they find something that can't be easily compared to megalith sites, like geoglyphs or intricate tools?

Expand full comment

Any advice/resources for moving from a math postdoc to something involving AI research?

I'm starting to feel like it's silly to not be on the frontier of this stuff, especially since my skillset feels relevant. I'm not very motivated by x-risk concerns, but anyone who is could reasonably sway me into a path they see as "less harmful" by sharing exciting career opportunities in that direction

Expand full comment

Thought experiment:

What would happen if we trained an AI/LLM to intentionally lie, deceive and otherwise behave as though it believed in something that was untrue? For instance, let’s say the AI was basically like a current chatGPT except that it believed that the earth was flat and would answer accordingly. Obviously its answers on this topic would be in conflict with its answers to prompts related to other science-based questions, but since it routinely spouts bursts of nonsense anyway, I don’t see this as being anything it couldn't handle. The only difference would be that this time there’d be an additional cluster of flat-earth untruths that it would generate by design.

First question: would it be possible to actually do this? If so, how? If not, why not?

Second question: by analogy with how AIs can apparently be trained to reconstruct images (more or less) from fMRI scans (see eg https://www.science.org/content/article/ai-re-creates-what-people-see-reading-their-brain-scans ) could we then train a second AI to look inside the architecture, weights and biases of the flat-earth AI in order to reliably distinguish it from other normal chatGPTs and thereby accurately identify it as a flat earther? Could this procedure -- ie using a trained AI (call it the ‘Witchfinder’) to ferret out deceitful behavior inside the ‘brains’ of other AIs -- then be extended to identify other discrepancies, up to and including alignment issues?

Is this something that could actually be explored?

(I think Eliezer considers something like this somewhere, but in the above scenario the Witchfinder would be a narrower, much less powerful -- and therefore more accountable -- AI than the potentially devious AIs subjected to its inquisitions.)

Expand full comment

I write a newsletter called Interessant3, where I share three things I find interesting, once a week. In the latest issue, we covered topics like a mesmerizing animation on altitude occurrences, a cutting-edge AI program capable of carrying out tasks autonomously, and an interesting dive into the but-for test, exploring causal ambiguity and its impact on real-life cases such as the World Trade Center insurance battle. If you enjoy thought-provoking content that spans a wide range of disciplines, you might want to give Interessant3 a read! https://interessant3.substack.com

Expand full comment
Apr 24, 2023·edited Apr 24, 2023

Scott noted when reviewing "Empire of the Summer Sun": "All of the white people who joined Indian tribes loved it and refused to go back to white civilization. All the Indians who joined white civilization hated it and did everything they could to go back to their previous tribal lives."*

I was looking for Kenneth Good's book "Into the heart" about his life in the tribes of college science and Yanomami - read it long ago, fascinating, he worked for Chagnon, changed sides to Marvin Harris, later worked with Eibl-Eibesfeldt; oh and he got married to a Yanomami girl. Left with her to the US and had three kids. Happy end.

NOW I found: their oldest son, David Good, has his book out. How his mom left them on a short visit in the Amazon never to return - when he was 6 and his brother a toddler. Ooops. How he grew into a suicidal adult. How he found his way, by leaving the US and joining his mom. "The Way Around: Finding My Mother and Myself Among the Yanomami". Including unusual family pics.

*In his ancient writing on squid: https://squid314.livejournal.com/340809.html

Expand full comment

In the near future, all* education will be AI skills education.

Historically, education has always been some cocktail of content and practice. LLMs internalize the content and they do the practice, overwriting existing educational models. Consequently, skills-based education will increasingly become limited to communicating with and managing the LLMs, i.e. AI skills education.

I am forming a company that is dedicated to AI skills education. Please write to protopiacone at gmail if interested in participating (with a brief note on how you'd like to participate).

*Ok, fine... almost all.

Expand full comment
Apr 24, 2023·edited Apr 24, 2023

New paper published!

• Bahry, D. (2023). Rational discourse on virology and pandemics. mBio: e0031323 (online ahead of print). https://doi.org/10.1128/mbio.00313-23


"A group of 156 virologists, including American Society of Microbiology journal editors-in-chief, has recently published across three ASM journals a 'call for rational discourse' on such important topics as the origin of SARS-CoV-2 and gain of function research (e.g., F. Goodrum et al., mBio 14:e0018823, 2023, https://doi.org/10.1128/mbio.00188-23). Here, I answer the call, arguing that the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is unknown; that continued premature downplaying of a possible laboratory origin, now accompanied by a denial that this was ever so dismissed, undermines public trust in science; and that the benefits from risky gain-of-function research-of-concern are fewer than Goodrum et al. imply."

Expand full comment

Have been working on my Japanese life, culture thoughts and suggestion blog. New post on how pachinko diverged from pinball and how culture shaped that.


Would love subscribers if it's interesting!

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
deletedApr 24, 2023·edited Apr 24, 2023
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
deletedApr 24, 2023·edited Apr 24, 2023
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment