otter841 will be captured soon and the break will be the safer for it..

..but then otters will no longer ride the waves on stolen boards at Steamer Lane:


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I only started reading ACX after the move from SSC. I have gone back and read the top posts from SSC but still felt like I was missing out on some of the old classics. I built a website to resurface old content from blogs by sending weekly emails. Let me know if you have any suggestions of other blogs / content you’d like to see, hope you find it helpful!


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Just saw this report: Forecasting Existential Risks. I'm still reading it but it has a section on the existential risk of AI.


Kevin Drum commented on this, and I have to agree with Kevin's assessment...

"Let me say from the start that I think this is kind of nuts. I'd personally put the overall risk of extinction from everything combined at about 0.1% or so. But that's just me. I'm an eternal optimist, I guess."


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Jul 12, 2023·edited Jul 12, 2023

Asked this question in one of the threads, but I'm also curious about what the broader board population thinks.

Who do you consider a "AI Doomer?" If one person says "AI development should be banned" and another person says, "Regulators should require AI products be subject to testing standards before deployment - and periodically thereafter - to confirm they work as intended, and should require developers to ensure that AI-generated outcomes are explicable" are they both "Doomers?" Just the ban proponent? Neither (since neither of them are stating a belief that AI is going to kill us all)?

I'd personally limit application of the "AI Doomer" to perspectives along the lines of "humanity will go extinct if we don't ban AI," but a lot of the pro-AI circles also trend pretty libertarian, so I think the actual usage may be be more expansive, in much the same way that some people in our corner of the world consider zoning to be "tyranny," "food regulations "basically fascism" and so on.

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Some people from Metaculus have asked for clarification on some of my 2023 prediction questions. In order to say everything as publicly as possible so nobody gets an advantage, I'm putting it here:

>> 1. Will US CPI inflation for 2023 average above 4%? Are you comparing CPI at the end of 2023 vs the end of 2022, the average CPI inflation across 12 months (CPI Jan 2023 vs CPI Jan 2022, CPI Feb 2023 vs CPI Feb 2022, etc.), or something else?

Let's say https://www.bls.gov/cpi/ will be the canonical site. If they don't update in time, it will be some other measure of year-on-year inflation.

>> 2. In 2023 will there be more than 25 million confirmed COVID cases in China?

You mean happening in 2023 right? Not if the total number will reach 25 million in 2023.


>> 3. In 2023 will Google, Meta, Amazon, or Apple release an AR headset?

Is the definition of AR that the user can see through it, i.e. that the screen is transparent, and therefore MR headsets where the user can see the environment through cameras don't count?

I will defer to Dan Schwartz from Metaculus, who wrote this question, but if he doesn't weigh in, then my interpretation is that any headset which allows AR capabilities counts, including if that happens through projecting the outside world onto an internal screen through cameras.

>> 4. In 2023 will a cultured meat product be available in at least one US store or restaurant for less than $30? Could it be a special offer that lasts for a limited amount of time? Do giveaways count? Does imported meat count? Does partial cultured meat count and if so is any percentage ok? If it's part of a menu do we divide the cost of the menu by the number of dishes or does the whole cost count?

I'm going to rule that promotions where it stops being available later won't count, but that if it's available just like any food, and some sale of the same sort that other foods sometimes get causes it to be on sale for below $30, I'll allow it. Imports are fine. Partial cultured meat is a good question; I'm going to rule that animal meat+cultured doesn't count, but plant-based-meat+cultured does if the cultured significantly changes the taste or texture or something. I'm going to rule that you have to be able to purchase it with less than $30 in your pocket, so if it's part of a package meal that costs more than $30, it doesn't count.

>> 5. In 2023, will SpaceX's Starship reach orbit? Does a transatmospheric orbit count or does it have to be at an altitude of more than 100km?

I'm not an expert on the definition of orbit. Google suggests an orbital spaceflight is one "in which a spacecraft is placed on a trajectory where it could remain in space for at least one orbit." I will consult with people who know more about orbits but try to generally use this definition.

>> 6. Will the Shanghai index of Chinese stocks go up over 2023? Are you referring to the SSE Composite Index? Because there are others, such as the SSE 50.

Yes, SSE Composite.

>> 7. On January 1, 2024, will an ordinary person be able to take a self-driving taxi from Oakland → SF during rush hour? Is the person being selected from a waitlist ok? You're saying "self-driving taxis in SF only operate at night" in your clarification, but these are waitlist only (as per a commentator).

I think the plain text of the question gives me one hour from the time I start worrying about this to make the trip, so if I have to worry about waitlists more than one hour before, no.

>> 8. In 2023 will a successful deepfake attempt causing real damage make the front page of a major news source? What's a major news source? E.g., would this count? What about TV news shows or radio programmes or news sites in general that don't exactly have "front pages"?

CBC seems major. I would count anything linked from the front page of their website, ie cbc.ca. Realistically this is a bad question because of articles like this where the deepfake itself isn't of major interest but is being used to make a wider point about deepfakes. I will probably be forced to count it anyway.

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Following on from the "Americans created 'Italian' food" piece, here's Max Miller of "Tasting History" re-creating the Pompeian 'pizza' from the recently discovered fresco:



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I'm re-reading Albion's Seed for the first time in a few years. This passage triggered my Gell-Mann amnesia alarm bells:

"The Puritanism of eastern England was not all of a piece. Several distinct varieties of religious dissent developed there, each with its own base. A special strain of religious radicalism which put heavy stress upon the spirit (Antinomianism) flourished among Puritans in eastern Lincolnshire. The more conservative and highly rationalist variant of Calvinism (Arminianism) found many adherents in London, Middlesex, and Hertfordshire."

I'm no expert on the different strands of the Reformation, but I've always understood Arminianism as being diametrically opposed to Calvinism, not a variant of it.

Maybe I'm wrong and Fischer is right? How much should this make me distrust the book as a whole?

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Asking for a friend: Is there a point to fixing small mistakes in review contest submissions that are finalists, or will they be posted as originally submitted?

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Is there now a culture war over AIs? I admit that I feel somewhat irrationally angry at Doomers. Why do I?

Is it because I am tribally aligned with Tyler Cowen? I don't know why that would be the case, but it's a possibility.

Is it because the AIs killing humans just seems like The Latest Hysteria -- along similar lines as Overpopulation, Climate Change, Trump, Covid and Satanism? Yes, Doomers do strike me as the drama queens of The Latest Hysteria, and that may well be why I hate them.

Is it because there is no escape from Culture War, and the more you try to avoid one the more likely you end up in another?

I don't know the answer. I don't really hate Doomers. At least not most of the time. They may even be right. They just annoy me. I need to get over it, I guess.

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Lately I've been watching old Johnny Carson Tonight Shows from the early 70s and am fascinated by how foreign the culture seems. The past is a foreign country, they say. A striking difference is how sexual so many of the jokes are. Many of the things Johnny or the other guests say to the female guests would be considered misogynistic today, because they visibly react and comment upon the attractiveness of a women in comedic, salacious ways. It's hard to tell whether the female guests would prefer if the males behaved differently.

For instance, Johnny will often ask the guest, male or female, about their dating life. It seems to be considered natural that these famous people might want to talk about their private dating lives. Johnny might also talk and joke with male guests about good lines for picking up women. References to getting drunk and having one night stands is normal.

In one episode Johnny makes a joke about having had VD during the war, and then it hit me. I had assumed I was seeing a cultural product from the peak of the Baby Boomer era, and that explained why the show was so loose in discussing sexual matters. But then I realized Carson himself had been in WW2.

It got me thinking that maybe the WW2 vets changed the culture more than even the Boomers. After all, nobody was more worldly than the vets. Consider all the cultural leaders circa 1970 who were WW2 vets: Johnny Carson (with the biggest TV audience ever in history), Hugh Hefner, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, J.D. Salinger, Joseph Heller -- all who pushed a countercultural take on America to various degrees. Carson himself isn't normally considered part of the "counterculture", but I dare you to watch those 1970s Tonight Shows and report back that they don't seem countercultural compared to your image of the early 1960s or the sexually conservative world that is 2023.

Maybe the Baby Boomer were overrated when it came to cultural change in the 60s and 70s. Maybe it was more about their veteran daddies.

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I have never done any research into climate change. I have just always deferred to people smarter than I am and the consensus seems obvious.

I'm now looking at an investment in a climate sensitive region and would like to understand more.

Does anyone have a recommended primer / link / book etc. (that is politically motivated)?

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New article on my Substack - it's a review of "Innovation Breakdown: "How the FDA and Wall Street Cripple Medical Advances". This is a rather obscure book which tells the story of a skin cancer detection startup that got screwed over by the FDA, delaying the entrance of their product to market by several years and severely damaging the reputation of company in the eyes of dermatologists.


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Maybe I've missed this discussion in previous threads, but, um, why Threads? To me, it seems that Twitter is a) money-losing enterprise, and b) huge magnet for unwanted regulatory attention. Why is Meta trying to replicate this seeming trainwreck?

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Are there therapists who focus on helping people who get into conspiracy theories and distrust experts, which leads them to avoid doctors and medication, which worsens their condition?

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Does anyone have any clear examples of someone skillfully avoiding Gell-Mann Amnesia? I personally just avoid news in general, but I wonder if there are other options. I will preemptively say that my news abstinence is trivially compatible with all strategies of the form "don't trust a news item unless you [take some extra, effortful step]"

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Zvi recently linked to a tweet from lawyerBrian Manookian describing how he got off the hook for his student loans: https://twitter.com/BrianManookian/status/1674963884703088642, and saying anyone whose student loans have gotten passed from lender to lender can do what he did.

The approach is to demand proof of chain of title, i.e. proof that the loan company now servicing the loan now owns the loan, which I believe they prove by showing a bill of sale. He says that these companies that buy up big batches of student loans are sloppy, and do not do the proper paperwork, and probably will not be able to supply proof that they own a loan. The person who got the loan then petitions the court to declare that the person does not owe the loan company any money. Court does so, person sends judgment to loan company and they cannot pursue collection any more. (Seems to me that nobody else can either -- because the previous owners of the loan have sold it to a collection company, and really don't own the loan any more.)

This sounds plausible to me, and my daughter and her boyfriend both have substantial student debt and are interested in trying it. However, we would like to ask a lawyer for advice before trying it. Four lawyers have now turned me down when I have asked them to first advise us, then carry out the process if we are not confident we can do it correctly. We would be paying them for their time, of course. Lawyers have said it's outside their realm of competence. The steps Manookian describes sound to me like extremely simple basic stuff, and in fact Mazookian has supplied copies of the letters he used as models, so it's hard to understand why lawyers keep turning me down.

Anyhow, can anyone help with information? I am open to any possibility. You can give me general info then fade away, or you can actually do the filing required. You can give info in a post here, or you could send me an email or we could talk online. We can do it anonymously or using real names. I will happily pay your hourly fee, though I think I can ask all my questions in about half an hour. If you are law student or legal aide and understand the process Manookian is describing I am happy to work with you also.

And, by the way, I am sure there are many people on here dealing with school loans. You could help a lot of people at once. Or you could do them one-by-one and have a lot of clients you can process fast and easily. Maybe you can bring down one of the loan shell companies.

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For anyone who has quit their job to take a break to pursue personal projects, how was it? Do you regret it?

I am currently torn between burning desire to quit my job and pursue a startup idea, and ruthless pragmatism that just considers the opportunity cost of lost paychecks.

I have no kids, no rent/mortgage, and many years of living expenses in the bank, but somehow can’t rationalize to myself actually taking a risk. If you ever did quit to pursue a personal interest or purely take a break, I’d love to hear from you!

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I try to do a 24 hour fast twice a week, sometimes three, if I'm feeling ambitious. I go noon one day to noon the next, so I'm asleep for 8 hours in the middle of it. That seems to make it much more tolerable, in my experience.

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Handicapping a potential Musk-Zuckerberg MMA fight. For some reason I had the impression that Zuck has been training for years, but I recently read that he only started BJJ 2 years ago. 2 years is.... not a very long time to be training, at all. At this point he probably doesn't know what he doesn't know. Reportedly Musk weighs at least 70 pounds more. I would personally not recommend that a white belt with 2 years of training and 1 competition take an extremely high-profile fight with someone 70 pounds heavier than them. For one thing, MMA fights start standing, and takedowns in no-gi take a lot of energy and skill unless you grew up wrestling. No-gi takedowns against someone much much larger is going to be very, very tough, and very, very exhausting.

Like, I don't any think of the say 170 lbs. high school or college wrestlers in my old gym could just easily take down a 240 lbs. white belt. In the gi maybe for a judoka, but not in no-gi.

Anyways, there's not a ton of fields where I know substantially more than Mark Zuckerberg, but this is 1 of them- I would personally not advise this fight. Contra Hollywood, size really matters in fights

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Update for the zero people who care: the combo diet of keto/intermittent fasting continues to work well. I'm down about 20 pounds in about two months. It's been remarkably easy, too. The keys to success are a) try to eat lean meats but don't be afraid to splurge now and then on some bacon or whatnot b) get some exercise but don't overdo it, cause that's when falling off the wagon is most likely, and c) don't be afraid of a little or even a lot of caffeine.

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Do dried psilocybin mushrooms loose potency over time? Yesterday I ate some that had accidentally popped up in a Tupperware container that I was using to store damp coconut coir a couple years ago and the visuals were just not there.

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Why is there so much less generative AI music than other forms of media? Is it because music that's been created to-date is all heavily copyrighted, so it's not available as training data? Generative AI obviously can create text (ChatGPT, etc.) and images (Midjourney, Dall E etc.). I've seen/heard a very small amount of AI-generated music, but infinitesimally less compared to these other media. My understanding is that existing generative AI was trained on an enormous amount of free/open-source/maybe kinda stolen media that was found online. (I mean Midjourney will randomly throw in watermarks to some images, so obviously watermarked pictures were used in the training data). Was this just not an option for music, whose copyrights are generally protected by ruthless highly litigious large companies?

I mean, intuitively to me music seems a lot simpler than imagery- if an AI can create pictures, it seems that technologically it should be able to create music too. So I'm guessing the barriers here are legal, does that sound correct?

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Questions about affirmative action:

- How does affirmative action in college admissions actually work? Are there any concrete examples of how admissions would look with and without affirmative action?

- Do we know specifically what changed in UC admissions policy after Prop 209?


- How was Prop 209 enforced? If admissions policy is totally opaque, what's stopping the university from "considering race"?

- How was the Bakke 1978 ruling against racial quotas enforced?

- How will the SFFA v Harvard ruling be enforced?

- Do people understand what affirmative action is? In this Pew survey, a plurality said affirmative action is "a good thing", but "only 17% say college admissions should take race into account."


- "The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics says that when you observe or interact with a problem in any way, you can be blamed for it."

How have college administrators avoided being blamed for racially skewed student populations?


- "[Opponents of affirmative action] claim that making room for an applicant of one race necessarily requires a university to reject a different applicant."

Don't supporters of AA claim this as well? Isn't this the *whole point* of AA?


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The podcast 99% Invisible had an episode which I think would be of interest to this crowd: The Frankfurt Kitchen: https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/the-frankfurt-kitchen/

The Frankfurt Kitchen was the first modern kitchen - designed with flat, uniform countertops, an electric stove instead of a hearth, and a layout carefully calculated to minimize the number of steps between each action in cooking. The architect, Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, took inspiration from the compact kitchens on trains or ships and assembly-line management ideas (very modernist). It was also politically motivated - she hoped that it would liberate women by allowing them to finish their household work quickly and have time for themselves.

(The podcast also discusses a related architecture-as-politics idea - designing homes with no kitchens of their own. The cooking would be done in communal kitchens, elevating it from unpaid "women's work" and reducing the amount of labor needed overall. Unlike the Frankfurt kitchen, this didn't catch on.)

And on the one hand, the political dreams didn't pan out. The labor that women saved mostly went into more household labor - now that you can cook really quickly, you're expected to make fancier meals, or spend more time on other chores like ironing. And there were also some issues with adapting to the new design - the isolated design made it harder to watch the kids, the electric appliances were a liability if you were too poor to pay the bills, etc. And this was in a public housing project, so if you had an issue with the layout you didn't much choice. (Once again, High Modernism packs everyone into evenly spaced rectangular grids!)

But on the other hand, the Frankfurt kitchen is the ancestor of all modern kitchens. The basic ergonomic design is still around, and everyone designs around electric appliances now. Architects treat the kitchen as the centerpiece of the home instead of writing it off as something for the women to deal with. And of course, women do indeed work outside the home these days, and labor-saving appliances are a part of that. So maybe give Modernism some credit for this one?

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Jul 10, 2023·edited Jul 10, 2023

Do libertarians or other heavily market-oriented types have a more free market solution for providing social welfare programs? Right now retirement payments (Social Security) and healthcare for the poor & elderly (Medicare & Medicaid) are the largest parts of the US budget by a huge huge margin, and I would assume the same for other countries. The simple benefit of the private sector somehow providing these goods is simply saving the federal government a staggering amount of money.

I mean, we know how to have the government provide them- the Nordic/Western European model where income tax rates are 40-60% for the middle class, plus a VAT of 20+%. I don't have a huge philosophical objection to this, but it doesn't really seem like this is the final form of government that humanity has invented- I kind of doubt 'the government has to take half of everyone's paychecks forever' is like a Fukuyama-ish end of history and we will never invent a superior governance model. If it's the 25th century and we're zipping around to Alpha Centauri in a warp drive, will the government still have to take half of everyone's paychecks in order to provide the social welfare goods that citizens demand? Seems a bit unlikely?

So- what are the more market-oriented solutions? Forced 401k savings for everyone as opposed to Social Security? (Don't some countries like Singapore already do this?) Mandated private sector insurance program covering all citizens? I think in practice you do need a government mandate for people to purchase these, otherwise free loaders will refuse and then turn to the state when they need medical care- I don't think this is a solvable political problem otherwise

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I'm trying to get more readers at https://codingwithintelligence.substack.com/

It's a weekly link aggregation of projects, papers, news, repos, demos and products in the "LLM space". Basically for Machine Learning Engineers or AI Engineers or Prompt Engineers however you'd like to call it.

Recently I've covered a lot of what's happening with Open Source language models that you can (mostly) run on consumer GPUs.

Why do I want more readers? The more people I reach the more I'm motivated to invest time & resources in it. I like the flywheel.

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Anyone need a top-tier graduate student in either Economics or Computer Science? I have one to recommend! He's extremely smart and self-motivated. But he's unfortunately from a developing country, so he has extremely limited opportunities, so I'd like to get him into a program in the global north.

He's the kind of student of whom you can ask "I need to apply a Wald estimator to this data, but don't have time. Can you take a look and do it this week?"... and then he came back THREE HOURS later, saying, "I figured out how they work, and went ahead and wrote the code that applies it to your data files".

If interested, please ping me!

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Why do attendants at full-service gas stations insist on topping off your gas tank? As long as I've been alive, the general recommendation has been that it is a bad thing to do, because it screws with internal portions of how the fuel system works in various ways that I don't understand. It also may be a waste of the extra gas. And yet even if I ask the gas attendant not to top it off, he usually will still do it about half the time, maybe just because they're used to doing it and it's a muscle memory thing.

My question is, why do they even do it at all? Every single official recommendation from all auto manufacturers is not to do this. So do the attendants do it because they think customers want it? Do they know that it messes with the fuel system? Are they just trying to squeeze out a few extra bucks out of each customer?

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Affirmative action: this seems really simple to me— create a race-blind application process that records SES information. Take every decile of the SES range and make a pool of the top 10% of students from that decile. Take an equal random sampling of students from each pool. I bet you would end up with a pretty darn racially diverse student body, with the bonus of also having economic dIversity. If this isn’t “elite” enough, make your pool from the top 1% of the first SES decile, top 2% of the second SES decile, etc.

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I went to the Philly Rat Fest on a whim and had a good time. I didn't know anything about critical rationality (based in Popper and Deutsch) nor that it was critical rationalists rather than a gathering for rationalists in general. Any recommendations for critical rationalist online places or sources in addition to Deitch? I like the optimistic attitude and the way human experience gets centered. I don't think Bayesians (a fair name for rationalists who aren't critical rationalists?) completely ignore human experience, but they can get very abstract. Those questions of whether humans are even a good idea....

One of the talks was about any early image breeding program. Does anyone remember the name? It offered random shadings, and people could "breed" them to make interesting images. The point of the talk was that sometimes exploration according to personal taste can pay off better than deliberate problem-solving.

I've started reading _The Fabric of Reality_ I'm just on the chapter about about explanations being of central importance and predictions being no substitute for explanations. I'm not sure that Deutsch's thought experiment of a perfect oracle compared to having explanations is fair. I think his point is that If you had a perfect oracle, you still couldn't use it alone to build a spaceship unless you understood enough to ask the right questions.

I do think that wanting (settling for?) predictions without explanations might be part of a pattern of trying to make conscious thought unnecessary.

I'm not sure whether Deutsch makes this explicit, but if all you have is a prediction, you have to guess about how much scope it covers.

I do have a real world example of what can happen if you just want predictions. If someone gave you three great stock tips or predictions of horse race winners, what would you pay for a fourth?

In this context, you might see it coming. This is a scam. The scammer sends out different sets of predictions to different marks. Some of the sets of predictions will be correct. The mark is willing to believe in a secret system.

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My dad has a wrist injury where he can’t put any compression on it for the next few months, but he sorely misses weightlifting and is going a bit stir crazy now that he can’t do it. Does anyone know of any devices that you can put on the forearm which can have dumbbells or barbells attached to it?

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Is it true that kids today have worse fine motor skills than what kids had say 15 years ago? (Presumably this is because they spend more time today with digital devices.) I've seen this claim thrown around allot but I haven't seen any studies to back it up and I can't find any when I Google.

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I thought I'd mention one of my recent podcasts!

I have been fascinated by the story of Anson's voyage around the world back in the 1740's for years. It was a British attack on Spain's Pacific coast possessions in South America during the absurdly named War of Jenkins' Ear. Eight ships were sent round the Horn into the Pacific. But the weather they faced was truly horrendous and two turned back and one was wrecked. The Spanish squadron sent to stop them was basically destroyed.

My podcast with David Grann focuses on the Wager perhaps the unluckiest ship in the squadron (it was a competitive field!). At the time scurvy was not really understood and the death rate was appalling - both going round the Horn and for the surviving ships as they crossed the Pacific. I believe one of the worst outbreaks of scurvy in naval history.

It didn't help that a shortage of manpower had led to the British making up numbers by putting on board retired and invalid military personnel. Pretty much all of these died before they got round the Horn.

As I say Grann and the podcast focuses on the wreck of the Wager - the subtitle of the book is Shipwreck, murder and mutiny which gives you an idea of what happened to them there. But the story of their various attempts to escape from the freezing, deserted island they were trapped on is the stuff of movies (Scorcese has bought the rights and has just turned another of Grann's books into a movie so may well happen).

The rest of the squadron suffered appalling losses and by the end only a single ship was made it back with some 256 crew. But astonishingly they had succeeded in capturing the Manilla galleon. The treasure was about $80m in today's money and the crew got half. The Manilla galleon itself is a fascinating thing with one voyage once a year from South America to Manilla with silver and other treasure and another ship going the other way with trade goods from China. The Manilla galleons sailed continuously for about 250 years. The British dreamed of capturing them but succeeded only (I think?) four times. Here are my two podcasts (on the Wager and on the Manilla galleons) and David's book:




So when Anson returned with the treasure everyone thought it was a huge success but one newspaper printed a poem casting a more sceptical eye . . .

Deluded Briton! Wherefore should you boast

Of treasure, purchased at a treble cost?

To purchase this, think how much treasure’s gone;

Think on the mighty mischiefs it hath done.

In this attempt, count o’er the numerous host

Of Albion’s sons, unprofitably lost.

Then will your boastings into sorrow turn.

And injured Britons, Albion’s fate shall mourn.

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Ignoring the possibility of future nuclear war, has the existence of nuclear weapons so far been net good or bad?

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There are weaknesses with the Intelligent Design argument in biology, but those weaknesses don't exist with Fine Tuning argument in physics. For example:

1. There are no fossils in physics.

2. Physics is fundamental while biology is derived from chemistry.

3. Scientists have never observed other universes while they have observed other planets.

If you're looking for the strongest rational convincing argument for the existence of God from science, look to physics. Listen to the episode of Physics vs Biology at https://www.physicstogod.com/podcast or you can find "Physics to God" on any podcast platform.

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Hi everyone! :) I conducted several interviews with a bunch of Berkeley AI alignment researchers in February. I distilled them into vignettes which include themes such as (perceived) social pressure, status dynamics, and self-censorship. I'm curious how many of you can relate to them! https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/yXLEcd9eixWucKGHg/the-seeker-s-game-vignettes-from-the-bay

(if you prefer the EA forum - https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/WxqyXbyQiEjiAsoJr/the-seeker-s-game-vignettes-from-the-bay )

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This is another update to my long-running attempt at predicting the outcome of the Russo-Ukrainian war. Previous update is here: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/open-thread-277/comment/16392854.

15 % on Ukrainian victory (up from 14 % on May 22).

I define Ukrainian victory as either a) Ukrainian government gaining control of the territory it had not controlled before February 24 without losing any similarly important territory and without conceding that it will stop its attempts to join EU or NATO, b) Ukrainian government getting official ok from Russia to join EU or NATO without conceding any territory and without losing de facto control of any territory it had controlled before February 24 of 2022, or c) return to exact prewar status quo ante.

46 % on compromise solution that both sides might plausibly claim as a victory (up from 45 % on May 22).

39 % on Ukrainian defeat (down from 41 % on May 22).

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


Much has happened from previous update, but imho none of it fundamentally changed the situation.

What finally prompted me to slightly change the odds was Biden’s decision to supply cluster munitions to Ukraine (btw. Russia already uses cluster munitions against Ukrainians). And that is for two reasons: a) it signals slightly (not much) deeper US commitment to support Ukraine that I would expect, and b) those might be actually practically fairly important on the battlefield (for a quick explanation see e.g. here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deK98IeTjfY&t=3459s).

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

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I started a blog on meditation and spirituality. One of my pet peeves was that what most people think about meditation comes from marketing: https://shant.nu/most-of-what-you-know-about-meditation-comes-from-marketing/

Where meditation is sold as this happiness pill - just pop one and all your problems will be solved! And so one of the most common questions on meditation forums is: I’ve been meditating for years and still don’t feel happy.

This myth is harmful because people are sold a dumbed down version of meditation and never stick around with it to see its real benefits.

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Two philosophers walk together through the cobbled streets of a university town.

“Did you know”, says the first scholar, “that one hundred multiplied by a million is less than one multiplied by a billion”

The second scholar is stopped in his tracks.

“You are right. It is so!”, he declaims “but, but …. this is a repugnant conclusion!”

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My favorite protein bar maker is being sued for lying about nutritional values (e.g. a claim that their bars have three times as much sugar as stated). They claim they're telling the truth and the prosecutor must have tested a bad batch or something. Is there a way I can test these bars myself?

(Context: this is an Israeli company that I don't think sells internationally, so the only authorities that would check it would be local ones. Otoh the bars definitely don't taste like they're high in sugar, so I'm inclined to believe the company that they're not).

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A patient of mine saw a psychiatrist who had him do genetic testing to get additional information about what meds would help him. I quickly looked up the company that does this, and found some pretty limited research into efficacy by people not with the company. Upshot seemed to be that it helped some with choosing medications for depression, at least, but not a lot and only on certain measures. Anyone know any more about this approach and whether it's currently worth using or mostly hype?

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Anyone know of a really good free flow chart tool like Visio for iPad?

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Jul 10, 2023·edited Jul 10, 2023

If everybody in the world suddently and permanently became more physically attractive (according to the world's current standards), setting aside any correlated benefiits such as improved physical health, would this:

A) ...simply be a positive change long-term, since we can all enjoy looking at more attractive people around us, and enjoy the benefits of being more attractive to others?

B) ...possibly be a positive change short-term, but eventually become a neutral change in the long-term steady state, because everybody's standards and preferences will simply adjust?

C) ...actually be a net-negative change, for some reason?

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Dear ACX readers.

I write about philosophy, psychology, economics, technology and health. \

Recently I have been exploring intersections between Alexander Technique/Expanding Awareness and other psychiatric/psychological themes.

On Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: https://zantafakari.substack.com/p/how-can-alexander-technique-boost

On modulating conscientiousness: https://zantafakari.substack.com/p/16-refine-your-conscientiousness

The themes might be of interest to some of you - if so please feel free to read, share and subscribe. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and any differing views.

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I continue hearing reports that 5-MeO-DMT is the most powerful psychedelic and I’m curious to hear more takes from a rationalist perspective. Please anonymously share anecdotes and resources.

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I have a Substack so obscure that only one of its posts has ever generated any subscriptions. Now it occurred to me I could use the allowed once-per-year unsubtle-plug-outside-classifieds to explore that post's appeal to a wider audience than the Classifieds Thread reached.

Its point is that increased political polarization and dysfunction could simply have to do with the moment in time when the progressive side achieved victory on all its reasonable demands (think of gay marriage) and therefore moved on to unreasonable ones (think of certain trans demands).


Unrelated to that post, I also had another thought related to polarization. Are there culture-war debate formats on TV like, say, the Soho Forum Debates? If not, why not? They could be a win-win: on ratings, because people like culture-wars battles; and on political literacy, because viewers would, for once, get exposure to both sides of a contested issue.

Perhaps the relative nature of these formats would be unsatisfactory for a TV audience? (Your side will never get full support and might even win by merely going from, say, 30-70 to 40-60 behind.) Or do liberal media realize that on the identity-politics issues dearest to them they might lose once an audience is properly exposed to both sides of the argument? In the case of the US, which has a conservative TV station (Fox News), the latter cannot be a complete answer.

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Anyone have recommendations (ideally ones that helped them personally) for books/things to read about how to come to terms with things one can't change about oneself? This is basically stoicism, but I'm curious if there's anything that people have found highly effective in actually creating these mindset shifts.

I have a friend dealing with something (going to change it entirely for anonymity), let's say they aren't an amazing basketball player and wish they were. What are techniques people have found effective for coming to peace with qualities about themselves they wish were better? (Since obviously the basketball example is made up, I'm _not_ looking for responses of the form "convince yourself that you never really wanted to be good at basketball anyways").

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Are medical professionals in training subject to hazing and abuse, and does this lead to worse patient outcomes in hospitals?

This claim of medical interns being abused by requiring them to work extreme hours and crazy shifts is pretty common. Based on a few conversations I've had with medical professionals, it appears to be accurate.

One would expect that medical professionals would be most likely to be familiarzied with literature on the importance of being well rested in order to achieve optimal performance. And yet medical interns are claimed to often be denied this "luxury".

If so many people know about this toxic work environment, and it's bad for both patients and workers, why does it persist and what would it take for the system to change?

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Does anyone have good resources for someone looking to get across the evidence on optimising for healthy pregnancies (both prior to and after conception)? Is there an established rationalist-friendly person or set of posts? Preferably something that says here's what's consensus, here's what isn't, here's how we know X works etc. There's obviously lots on Doctor Google but I don't trust myself to identify who's a credible expert and who is well aware of e.g. publication bias and replication crisis, and has already taken these into account. Thanks in advance.

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I recently read Stephen Omohundro’s oft-referenced papers, The Basic AI Drives https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/doc/ and The Nature of Self Improving Artificial Intelligence https://selfawaresystems.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/nature_of_self_improving_ai.pdf, and don’t understand why they are so influential as they are 100% argument by assertion. The big assertion is that AIs will necessarily, through self-improvement, become perfectly Rational and will therefore create utility functions with which they will operate entirely in accordance. Why will they become perfectly Rational? Well, because. As far as I can tell, almost every AI x-risk argument follows from that moverless-mover assertion. Why believe it?

A one sentence summary of those papers could be: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was Rationality.”

If you think I am wrong and Omohundro does explain in a non-circular way why the AIs will become Rational, will you explain it to me?

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Fun project. I created a "reverse prompt engineer-er". You can paste in any writing and it will reverse engineer an LLM prompt that could supposedly output. It's free to use. https://home.pickaxeproject.com/prompt-reverse-engineer

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If you're interested in finding more humanely raised meat products that are independently certified by ASPCA-recommended certifiers, check out the free Find Humane app at https://findhumane.com/

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Lots of people are talking about Britain having an unprecedented economic decline, being on the path to a Third World country, etc.

I wanted to write about this, but looking at https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/gdp-per-capita-maddison?tab=chart&stackMode=relative&time=2000..latest&country=GBR~USA~DEU~FRA~ITA~SWE~ESP~CAN~AUS~NZL~JPN , British economic growth since 2000 looks completely normal for developed countries, and British economic growth since 2010 looks pretty good.

Can someone who believes Britain is in the middle of a terrible economic decline explain what they mean and what they think of the GDP stats?

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deletedJul 10, 2023·edited Jul 10, 2023
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deletedJul 10, 2023·edited Jul 10, 2023
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