LW/ACX Saturday (7/29/23) The Educated mind (book review)


Hello Folks!

We are excited to announce the 36th 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, July 29th, 2023

Time: 2 PM

Conversation Starters :

Your Book Review: The Educated Mind - by a reader


Audio https://podcastaddict.com/astral-codex-ten-podcast/episode/160946654

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.

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

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

There is only one reading this week because it is pretty long. Here is a summary according to chatGPT and Claude 2, respectively.


1. The book "The Educated Mind: How Cognitive Tools Shape Our Understanding" by Kieran Egan discusses the idea of cognitive tools, mental frameworks that help us understand and interpret the world.

2. Egan proposes a theory of education based on these cognitive tools, which he categorizes into five different stages: Somatic, Mythic, Romantic, Philosophic, and Ironic.

3. The Somatic stage is pre-linguistic and is based on bodily sensations and emotions.

4. The Mythic stage involves understanding the world through stories and binary opposites.

5. The Romantic stage is characterized by a fascination with the limits of reality and a focus on heroes and heroic qualities.

6. The Philosophic stage involves systematic thinking and the search for underlying principles and theories.

7. The Ironic stage is characterized by skepticism towards all grand theories and a focus on the complexity and contradictions of life.

8. Egan criticizes traditional education systems for focusing too much on the Philosophic stage and neglecting the other stages.

9. He suggests that education should be a process of guiding students through these stages in order to allow them to fully develop their understanding and cognitive abilities.

10. The original review's author agrees with many of Egan's points but also raises some criticisms, such as the lack of practical suggestions for implementing Egan's theories in real-world education systems.

11. The author also questions whether Egan's stages are truly universal or whether they are specific to Western culture.

12. Despite these criticisms, the author concludes that "The Educated Mind" is a thought-provoking book that offers valuable insights into education and cognitive development.

13. Other reviews describe the book as a "tour de force" that offers a fresh perspective on education, with Egan's ideas seen as radical and thought-provoking.

14. Some readers found the book to be a bit dense and academic but still highly insightful.

15. Egan's emphasis on the importance of imagination in education is highlighted in multiple reviews.

16. While Egan's ideas are compelling, they may be difficult to implement in practice, as noted by several reviewers.

17. Egan's critique of the three traditional educational ideas (socialization, platonic, and progressivist) is seen as a significant contribution to the field.

18. Egan's ideas require a radical shift in our understanding of education, which may be challenging but necessary, as per some reviewers.

Claude 2:

The review discusses the educational theory of Kieran Egan, laid out in his 1997 book The Educated Mind. Egan argues that mainstream education is failing students by trying to balance three incompatible goals: socializing students to fit into society, teaching academic content, and facilitating individual development. This "sad triangle" of mismatched aims sabotages real learning.

As an alternative, Egan proposes rebuilding education around a series of "cognitive tools" that have served humanity successfully for millennia, like storytelling, binary opposites, humor, gossip, extremes, and the lure of certainty. By tapping into capacities students already possess, education can become meaningful and motivating.

The core of Egan's theory outlines five "kinds of understanding" that education should foster in sequence:

- Mythic understanding deals with metaphor, story, jokes, and mental imagery. This matches the cognitive strengths of young children.

- Romantic understanding seeks extremes, ideals, and heroic individuals. It suits early adolescents' hunger for inspiration.

- Philosophic understanding builds general conceptual schemes and seeks anomalies. It emerges in older adolescents.

- Ironic understanding juxtaposes perspectives and doubts certainties. It aims for sophistication.

- Somatic understanding is bodily and intuitive rather than linguistic. It grounds all human cognition.

Egan argues this sequence represents the natural order in which humans gain new cognitive abilities as their language evolves. Education should therefore recapitulate this pattern to properly prepare the mind for more complex thinking.

Unlike traditional stage theories, Egan stresses that the goal is to educate students to use all these modes of understanding in harmony. Ironic understanding, in particular, helps balance the others. This approach aims to make education more meaningful by embracing emotion, imagination, and the wisdom accumulated through cultural evolution. Done right, Egan believes it can motivate students and develop sophisticated rational thinking.

The reviewer argues that Egan's theory rings true by describing how many members of the rationalist community learn - through stories, extremes, theoretical debates, and intellectual irony. Egan also anticipated ideas from scholars of cultural evolution like Joseph Henrich about how cognition builds on collective wisdom.

However, critics worry that Egan's paradigm is too eccentric and academically unfashionable ever to be widely implemented. But the review suggests it may warrant small experiments to empirically test its merits. Overall, Egan's vision promises a bold new conception of human education, even if uncertainties remain about its practicality.

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Why did Substack quit sending notifications for sibling comments? It was easier to follow threads of interest when they did.

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Think this is a political issue vulnerable to some directed focus/effective altruism: some pro-life groups have started trying to fuck up PEPFAR, a bipartisan initiative that has stopped tens of millions of Africans from dying of aids over the past 20 years. Currently about twenty million people get anti-AIDS medication through it. Whether you live in a red or blue state, whether you live in a county that's +40 Trump or +40 Biden, please call your rep/senators and tell them to pass PEPFAR on through as it failing to be renewed or getting thousand cutted to death could kill literally millions of people, and it's the sort of thing that's never going to catch the national media news because it's not spicy kulturkampf shit.


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Random prediction market tidbit: Betting site has the No result heavily favoured (at 1.22) in Australia's Indigenous Voice referendum: https://www.bluebet.com.au/sports/Politics/142/Australian-Referendums/The-Voice-Referendum/The-Voice-Referendum/1192045/All-Markets

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I literally found a $100 bill lying on the ground in a busy area.

Checkmate, economists!

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God bless Max, who else has a boar guy on standby? 😁


Boar and Hazelnut Stew.

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Jul 25, 2023·edited Jul 25, 2023

The future we never got - unless it's going to happen with Bezos, Musk, et al (also why the hopes about "if we can just align AI and get it right, then we'll have Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism where everyone is rich and has their own staff of personal robots run by AI churning out all they ever need or want" sound so old hat to me and don't get me all excited - we were promised this kind of lifestyle by the 80s/90s/00s):


The article is a little bit sour - I don't think O'Leary was "unhinged" for his fears of what might happen instead of the 70s techno-optimism, and while Bezos' view of Space Colonies is dated, what makes it grim? - but it's a useful reminder of the high hopes for Science! of the past, and how culture-bound such hopes are (the very 70s imagining of the near future should remind us that our imaginings of the near-future are likely every bit as misplaced about how it will be like; e.g. even if we had people doing zero-g commutes today, they're not going to be reading magazines but instead they'll be on their smartphones):

"In his High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space (1977), written as a speculative dispatch from the future, it is the accommodating gyroscopic cylinder, not the planetary sphere, that holds the secret for life freed from earthen ground.

'To go on with our situation, it's a comfortable life here. Fresh vegetables and fruit are in season all the time, because there are agricultural cylinders for each month of the year, each with its own day-length. We grow avocados and papayas in our own garden, and never need to use insecticide sprays. Of course we like being able to get a suntan without ever being bitten by a mosquito. To be free of those pests, it's worth it to go through the inspections before getting aboard the shuttle from Earth.'

The cylinder becomes a kind of Eden regained in O’Neill’s fantasy, an Arcadia retrofitted with solar panels and cosmic-ray shields. Not only can you slurp personal papayas under a bug-free sun, but laborers tasked with processing raw space materials will have time for “reading magazines” during their zero-gravity commutes. Resource mining will be automated, leaving workers plenty of opportunity for “swapping stories and passing the coffee-pot back and forth”. Even television reception will be better, and “the ubiquitous, ugly TV antenna of American suburbia will vanish”, due to receivers built directly into the cylindrical endcaps.

...In an interview about the project, Davis discusses how his images of O’Neill’s ideas still have a “freshness”, for they continue to embody “the aspirations people have had ever since the space age began”. While this is certainly true — and the artists’ visions of artificial cylindrical worlds have had an outsized influence on science fiction — these psychedelic vistas populated by high-tech homes and cocktail-sipping residents were also a product of their cultural climate.

It was a heady time for both artists and theorists. A report on O’Neill’s 1977 summer study, claiming that space cities would be feasible by 1990, appeared next to Timothy Leary’s unhinged essay about “The Psychological Effects of High Orbital Migration”, in which the hallucinogen researcher expressed his concerns about “the South Americanization of Space (i.e. the emergence of civil-service bureaucracies, military dictatorships, class struggle, centralized monopolies, imposition of standardized life-styles)”.

...If Jeff Bezos’ mockups of Blue Origin space colonies feel as dated as they do grim, it is because they borrow heavily from Gerard O’Neill, whom he studied under at Princeton in the 1980s, and the artworks featured below."

Also, I had no idea Bezos studied under O'Neill, you learn something every day!

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All the requests for book recommendations below reminded me - any news of the lady who got the ACX grant to write her book about the patriarchy? I know that's not exactly it, but it's early morning and my brain can't dredge up the real facts.

Is she currently off researching? When is the likely publication date?

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If I don't finish reading more than 25% of The Sequences, can I still criticize the Rationalist community here? I mean the Sequences are so tedious and boring and I'm yet to come across an idea I haven't heard before. In general, it reads like an old-school self-help book but with a culty vibe. Like Dianetics, maybe. The culty vibe comes from the use of the word "rationalists" (to separate the enlightened from the un) and claims that rationalism is "an art" and the general tone that this is The Answer. All the same information could be conveyed without that culty sounding shit, but I suspect it is the culty sounding shit that has made it so popular because the information is basically all the stuff that was in the air in the intellectual sphere of teh webz at the time. Many of the same ideas were also on PUA blogs. As the lady says, everything that rises must converge.

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"he estimates that $100K - $200K in campaign funds" for 120,000 signatures. Exceptional value if true. Average cost per signature in 2022 was $12.97.


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I wonder if the acx dictator book club will last long enough that it can uncontroversially do one on netanyahu. I give it like 3-5 years on average.

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I picked up an old backburnered, simply for fun, programming project yesterday. I want to code up an app that will let me generate themed crossword puzzles in the style of those offered by the NYTs. I would enter a few answers that establish a theme and the code would fill in the rest.

I have an XML file with about 100,000 thousand words and phrases. It's been so long since I worked with the data that I've forgotten who I stole it from. It's a great list in that there are few entries that are terribly obscure.

Here's a handful from the 15 1etter section of the XML.


These are great for my purposes. I'd like to make the puzzles challenging in the newer NYTs style of word play rather than simple obscurity. In the late 90's and early 2000's the later in the week puzzles were made more challenging using clues like "Second place finisher in the 1932 Kentucky Derby." Yuck.

But eyeballing the list yesterday I realized there were no plurals. I think this would seriously hobble the fill in the remaining answers algorithm, making it more likely that the code would be forced to pick, oh say, specialize botany terminology. I plan to manual purge those sorts of words from the list as they appear.

If the data set had part of speech markings, I could easily write code to create plurals for the nouns, but no such luck.

In poking around I've found data sets with plurals included but they contain too many obscure words and none of them contain common phrases.

So can any one point out a similar data set similar to what I now have with nouns along with their plurals?

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What non fiction book would you recommend that will change the way I see the world and make me understand much more of what is going on around me.

I am planning on reading Gödel Escher Bach, the book of why (Pearl) , the Feynman lectures, the elephant in the brain (Hanson), Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein), Quantum Computing since Democritus (Aaronson) and other similar books.

I haven't ready any of them yet, only started some. Do you have any similar books. They don't have to be very similar, I wouldn't mind reading something about linguistics, anthropology or history.

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For any of you that went to the meet up in Berkeley or are otherwise familiar, could you point me in the direction of the discontinued history forecasting project that Scott was referring to during the Q&A?

He was talking about various AI’s that were to compete against one another in a forecasting tournament wherein they would attempt to predict historical outcomes with a limited dataset. For example, the fall of the Byzantine empire, or other verifiable outcomes from the past. He mentioned that the project was funded by FTX and was discontinued.

I’d love to look into it and read more if anyone knows what I’m referring to.

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I'm trying to finally read the Sequences, but am constantly annoyed that it reads like it was written by a teenager. For instance:

"This is one of the secret writing rules behind Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. When I write a character, e.g. Draco Malfoy, I don't just extrapolate their mind, I extrapolate the surrounding subjective world they live in, which has that character at the center; all other things seem important, or are considered at all, in relation to how important they are to that character. Most other books are never told from more than one character's viewpoint, but if they are, it's strange how often the other characters seem to be living inside the protagonist's universe and to think mostly about things that are important to the main protagonist."

The Sequences is a world in which Harry Potter exists but 20th century literature does not.

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Yale has in recent years perpetrated/enabled several of the most egregious examples of academia spinelessness in today's culture wars. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find this article in the current issue of the alumni magazine:


Seems like a sensible, thoughtful and clear institutional attitude to the topic -- a new feeling to be having regarding Yale's current administration.

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I feel like there should be a climate group, just stop oil or extinction rebellion style, that releases SO2 to try to lower temperatures. Reading https://caseyhandmer.wordpress.com/2023/06/06/we-should-not-let-the-earth-overheat/ makes it quite clear that this would not be that difficult to achieve... you'd need a motivated billionaire and few dozen engineers (plus some good opsec). The big problem would probably be arousing suspicion from distorting the sulphur market, although I'm sure there are ways round that.

I assume you'd only need to do it for a few months before it would have noticeable effects (I'm no climate scientist so maybe it would take more/less time), and it would be an instant global story for days or weeks, at which point you'd all probably be arrested. BUT the cat would be out of the bag, and I think it would have a high chance of making geoengineering done by governments a reality.

What do we think.

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It occurs to me in hindsight that one factor that weighed in significantly in determining my career path, quasi-consciously, is evaluating likeness to prospective peers. While it's normal enough in the first place to ask yourself what everyone else is doing, I was bothered by the perception that I wouldn't fit in or didn't like anyone - or that the jobs in question weren't something "guys like me" would do (self-image/narcissism did some lifting here, but I was mostly concerned with whether I would enjoy the work). Later when I discovered that many software developers either pined for or had an interest in drastically different fields, I questioned if that was foolish, or if those particular devs are also different than I am.

Judging in-group potential intuitively like a book cover was probably foolhardy. I've never seen a crowd I would describe as "my people", not at rat meetups or otherwise. I like individuals, I knew few. I was never compelled to follow in their path.

I can't say I've ever found a burst of enthusiasm for woodworking, farming or whatever, but sometimes I identify with the desire to set aside the abstract work I don't measure up to, and pick up a tool. Not for mindlessness, but the kind of focus and flow that is... just going through the motions. Even if I were to entertain this seriously, it seems unwise now. So many trades take 5+ years to become a journeyman, notwithstanding time and money sunk into education, and fighting for an apprenticeship. And of course, the grass is always greener. But I do feel burned and over-matched. I don't belong.

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I swear Brian Caplan is just trying to give Scott an aneurism at this point


My own strawman of his argument is:

1) We have previously established that everyone has free will everywhere all the time, even when it seems they haven't

2) Therefore when drug abusers do bad things to get more drugs, they are doing it willingly.

3) And we should blame them for that

4) We have also previously established that if incentives don't work, you just didn't try big enough incentives.

5) Therefore let's increase the punishments for drug abusers who commit other crimes ; that should work.

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I've seen several economics papers trying to estimate the costs of climate change. Usually these find GDP losses of 3 to 6% by 2100, compared to GDP if there was zero warming (https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2021/11/claims-about-the-costs-of-global-warming.html). Which means that the world would still be much richer, just slightly poorer than if there was zero warming. I found that some of them don't account for climate tipping points. But according to some papers adding them raises to cost of climate change by 24% (https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2103081118).

This... doesn't seem that bad. Do you know of a book/article criticizing these estimates and making the case for radical climate action ? How reliable are these estimates ?

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Short story recommendation! From a 2016 anthology of Lovecraftian fiction, the story "Bright Crown of Joy" by Livia Llewelleyn.

There's a summary here but it doesn't convey the strangely beautiful writing, which is chock-full of body horror (if you look at it one way) but the narrator doesn't, and so we don't either:


There seems to be a strain of new Mythos writers who take the side of the monsters, and while generally I harrumph about that, this story is beautiful and strange and poetic. I recommend it! The anthology is "Children of Lovecraft" edited by Ellen Datlow.

You could say it's a kind of transhumanism.

And while "Humanity is becoming something without consciousness or individuality" I much prefer Llewelleyn's take on it than Peter Watts in "Blindsight".

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A ton of events in Prospera upcoming in H2-2023: https://lu.ma/infinita

Aug 24-25: Devfest Honduras on Island 2023 with Google Developer Groups https://lu.ma/googledev2023

Sep 8-10: Contech, Hardware & Material Superabundance 2023 - A Próspera Builders' Summit https://lu.ma/contech2023

Nov 3-5: AI & Crypto Futures 2023 - A Próspera Builders’ Summit https://lu.ma/crypto2023

Nov 17-19: DeSci & Longevity Biotech 2023 - A Próspera Builders' Summit https://lu.ma/longevity2023

There are two special events that we're currently collecting a waitlist for:

Oct 30 - Dec 15: Prospera Buildweeks https://lu.ma/buildweeksH22023

- We plan a full 6 weeks of permanent residence for 100+ entrepreneurs

- Zuzalu-style decentralised organization of events, workshops, co-living

Dec 8-10: Prospera General Summit 2023 https://lu.ma/general2023

- All members of the core Prospera community are invited

- Discussions about the past, present and future of Prospera with the full leadership team

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So the other day I came across the following short poem by Abbas Kiarostami:

Beyond good and evil,

the sky

is blue.

It's clearly(?) meant as a haikuesque juxtaposition of the timelessness objectivity of natura versus the tumultuous abstract life of humans. I like that interpretation, it feels nice and simple yet powerful, like this sort of poem ought to be.

Yet to me it immediately developed an entire new dimension because it brought to mind EY's "A Fable of Science and Politics". (If you haven't read it, I encourage you to do so here: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/6hfGNLf4Hg5DXqJCF/a-fable-of-science-and-politics The connection will be clear.)

It is highly unlikely that the two texts are causally connected in any meaningful way, but how amazing would it be if one had influenced the other?

Anyway, I love that works of literature can develop such disparate dimensions that the author could have never dreamed of.

Can you think of other examples of this phenomenon? :)

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Hi ACX readers,

I just wrote a short essay on ritualisation vs habitualisation: https://open.substack.com/pub/zantafakari/p/build-rituals-not-habits?r=p7wqp&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

Have a read and subscribe if this kind of thinking interests you!

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Anyone have sources for ideas about architecture that adapts to its environment and climate?

I live in the Far Southwest at 32° latitude outside Tucson; our climate is similar to that of El Paso, so we share a lot of architectural practices. But I’d like to look into building techniques, especially passive ones, that mitigate extremes at 32° latitude north or south, e.g.

Tel Aviv, Jordan

Santiago, Valparaiso

Buenos Aires

Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne

Alexandria, Cairo

Beirut, Damascus

Lahore, Delhi

Madeira Islands, Morocco


Nagasaki, Miyazaki

Does anyone else sleep outdoors?

I found Aysegul Seker IIlgin’s master’s thesis for Middle East Technical University — Form and Space in Roman Domestic Architecture: The Architectural Language of the Atrium House — online. It’s been a great resource for discovering how Roman engineers used architecture to adapt to their environment and climate. But it’s about fifteen centuries dated.

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So [[Google Zeitgeist]] is at [[Wikipedia:RFD]].

What was Google Zeitgeist? It is referring to [[Google Hot Trends]] here, not their annual conference (nor a generic concept of attendance at an infamous SF bar). The filtered real-time feed of the top 100 "trending" search queries.

It was wonderful, and it was terrible, and eventually Google got people called "project managers" who realized that maybe Google should just not have that data stream available for free to the entire internet.

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Book Recs on Family Systems Theory?!? (Family Systems Theory tends to focus heavily on individuals maintaining their integrity in the face of opposition, to use specialized meanings of the words "differentiation" and "regressive," and to worry about enmeshment more than about open conflict.)

I am slightly obsessed with a few books that build stuff on it--first "A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix" by Edwin H. Friedman, and now ones by the "sexual crucible" psychologist guy, David Schnarch... mainly "Passionate Marriage."

I haven't read the original one Murray Bowen yet, but I know it exists! Does anyone have other recs of good solid books that use this analysis? I'd like to have one to recommend to people that isn't "Here's this leadership book that was thrown together from some guy's notes after he died" or "Here's.. basically a sex book intended for people who've been in a long-term relationship for quite a while."

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Strange question: can anyone point me to good resources - preferably academic writings or advanced blog posts - that thoroughly deal with / argue against Radical Skepticism? (like Epistemological Nihilism, Pyrrhonism, etc.) I'm aware of Meditations on First Philosophy, but I was interested to know if there are more.

I'm asking for a friend. No, I'm dead serious - I recently had a debate with an old friend where he (as far as I could tell) honestly defended the idea that - paraphrasing his own words here - all truth is relative, or if it isn't it's impossible to know, that believing the truth "doesn't matter" anyway, and so on. He even went so far as to express doubt over his own existence.

Personally, I find nihilism like that to be repulsive and pseudo-philosophical, and obviously wrong. But what kind of resources would - at least in theory - help someone like my friend pull himself out of whatever hole he's fallen into? (He admitted to me that he thought nihilism was stupid, but he couldn't see any way to avoid it; so he's open to changing his mind.)

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I’ve noticed that I have an inherent distrust for advertisements. When I see an ad for a product, I come away wanting to buy it less (~95% of the time) and will often make a point of avoiding buying it. I never thought about it much but I realized that I must be in the minority here, or ad campaigns wouldn’t be a thing that companies did. Do y’all ever buy anything from ads?

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I've had a go at an "Explained Fiction" about ubiquitous LLM virtual assistants. I think we're not far away. The fiction is shorter than the explanation. I welcome all feedback, especially from the discerning ACX hoards.


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No Barbie/Oppenheimer discussion? Personally I enjoyed them both, but probably enjoyed Barbie more. Barbie had that 30 Rock/Mean Girls energy where even if I don't agree with everything in it it was still fun to watch and felt like a breath of fresh air. By far the worst scene in it is the car chase for it's gratuitous ad placement. Oppenheimer was fine I suppose. I liked the execution of the bomb scene, and the movie flew by (definitely did not feel like 3 hours). I wish Nolan would've focused more on either Oppenheimer or on the dilemma behind creating the bomb. As it is it felt to me like a weird mix of the two (along with the RDJ scenes). I haven't read the book it's based on though, so perhaps this is just how the work is structured. Really though it was nice being back in a theatre, can't wait for Dune Pt 2 later this year!

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Come one Scott we need the kabbalistical review of Barbie! It's Eve and more

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EdRealist was getting spicy lately about Caplan, so I went back and read his things about the Caplan. What struck me is:

"Caplan argues that only students from the Excellent or Good categories should invest in college. The NAAL report finds that only two percent of blacks read at proficient levels, 31% score at the intermediate level. If blacks or colleges took Caplan’s directive and only went to college with that qualification (which is actually broader than Caplan would like) just 4% of the overall population would be black college graduates."


I'd hope Mr. Ed can come and explain why the best answer isn't just. "So?" Why not? Are black college graduates from the lower tiers of achievement worth educating in this way in some objective way? Or is it just some sort of racial balancing desire and we must always take into account the peculiar desires of college administrators to be around black twenty somethings?

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Jul 23, 2023·edited Jul 23, 2023

Question about legal marijuana growing: I'm trying to help some people whose very difficult adult son has filled their back yard with marijuana plants. In our state, people with medical marijuana cards, which the son has, are allowed to grow "up to twelve flowering and twelve vegetative cannabis plants in your home for personal use." Can someone explain what the point is of the distinction between flowering and vegetative plants. I looked up marijuana cultivation and it seems like a vegetative marijuana plant is just an immature one that has not reached the flowering stage yet. Is that right? If so, what's the point of having the law written this way, rather than just stating that people with medical marijuana cards are allowed to grow 24 plants per year? Is the point that people have to stagger when they plant the things, so that the second 12 reach maturity a month or so later than the first 12? The law in a neighboring state is similar, except for allowing fewer plants in each of the 2 categories. What's the point of the state micromanaging the planting schedule? (And also, isn't 24 plants a ridiculously large number for personal use? The plants are *big,* like 5 feet or more tall. I looked up how much weed you get from each plant, & google said 1 lb per plant average. 24 plants/yr. works out to an ounce per day!)

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So I wrote a loooong piece on YIMBYism recently (https://woolyai.substack.com/p/yimbies-overpromise) and one of the things that confused the dickens out of me was the New York and Washington DC suburbs.

See, for data I was looking at Metropolitan Statistical Areas, which are less about cities and more about cities and burbs, like New York is really New York plus Jersey plus any place you could get in an hour's drive from Manhattan. And these MSAs show those prices are...really well managed and affordable. Like, apparently the New York burbs are some of the most affordable, at least in terms of price growth, in the US. Which is superweird but I went and grabbed the raw zillow data (https://www.zillow.com/research/data/) and it looks like it's true.

Which is kinda wild to me, because I ain't an East Coast boy and if you go an hour outside of LA or SF, like Dublin or Napa, the prices are still stupid. So I'm sure we got some East Coast people here, what's going on with the NY burbs. Is it like Manhattan is stupidly expensive but you can get a nice house in the burbs for a reasonable price or is it prices are stupid everywhere and I'm missing something? Because I genuinely couldn't figure this out.

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Jul 23, 2023·edited Jul 23, 2023

Would gas lines in urban areas continue to work during extended, multiday or longer power outages? So any heating system that uses gas, mostly involving a boiler. Extended outages could be caused by a natural disaster, cyberattack, war, etc.

One could construct a battery to run the boiler itself. My question is- would gas continue to flow through city infrastructure if power were out for several days, weeks, longer....? I mean the gas plant must itself run on electricity- right? Because if the gas doesn't flow from the city line without electricity, then everyone with a heat source that's not firewood is in pretty bad shape

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There is a much better design argument from physics than biology. In this episode of our podcast Physics to God, we argue that the qualitative laws of physics, quantum mechanics and general relativity, exhibit clear signs of being designed.

We do not argue about science as the intelligent design argument does in biology. Rather we accept the scientific position about the laws of physics and only argue about the proper philosophical conclusion to be inferred from these laws. This leads to an independent support for the existence of an intelligent cause of our universe.

Physics to God is available on all podcast platforms or at https://youtu.be/j-oI3fVMJCs

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Dating ad: I’m a 28-year-old woman (she / her pronouns) who works as an AI alignment researcher and lives in Berkeley, CA. I’m looking for a man, aged ~24-34, who lives in the Bay Area and is looking for a monogamous, or at least primary, partner. Check out my dating doc! https://docs.google.com/document/d/1n_O2nBYJwsZDSXXrVCo9zZHVioeHyvjNWRk6TVCauS8/edit?usp=sharing

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just wanna plug nicomachean.substack.com cus I think its pretty awesome and I would love brutal feedback on how to improve which is something the rationalist community does well. HIT ME BABY!

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Do AIs dream?

Ok, ignore the clickbait lede and forgive my non-knowledge of AIs/LLMs. I think what I'm asking is, are AI models performing downtime processing and/or code changes? To be more specific, lets say you have an LLM with a single text input box as it's only input, ask it a question, and then took a hash of the code immediately after closing the input window. If you took another hash six hours later would it be the same? And if no, are the code changes analogous to our own neural processing? Are the models constantly replaying inputs and strengthening/weakening/trimming connections?

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It's easier for me if the NYC meetup is in Brooklyn.

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I have an international tax question, not particularly deep but difficult to google, and I wonder if anyone here might have answers.

I’m a dual citizen of the US and Germany with both passports. I like Europe--I lived in NYC for decades and I’m done. I want to stay this side of the pond. What I’m looking for is a ~Schengen country I can 1. live in on the basis of my German passport and 2. work in remotely for a US employer: normal US job, normal US paychecks, earning dollars, paying the IRS first. This is not viable in Germany. Last fall my US employer gave up on trying to solve it and set me up with German HR at a sister company. Alas, that job has recently and suddenly become untenable. Other than the global factor, it wouldn’t be a problem. I’m in high demand. But it will be much easier (endanger my prospects of retaining US payscale much less) if I don’t have to ask a new employer to do this whole sister-company maneuver. In Germany it’s the only way. So, as much as I was just starting to feel settled here, damn it, it seems reasonable to look at other options.

My research this last few years was oriented to third-country nationals, focused on residency/path to citizenship. Now that I have the holy-grail Schengen passport, those aren’t issues any longer, and I feel almost back to square one. Portugal’s non-habitual residency still seems interesting. Bulgaria may be a thing? It’s tricky. I now have multiple critical search terms that aren’t normally expected to go together and basically nothing I find online fits.

Is there a go-to answer, resource, or recommendation?

(To clarify, I’m not rich enough for, like, Monaco. I’m talking about a middling New York non-finance salary: kind of rich in much of Europe in day to day terms but nothing like tax-haven rich. I just want to do, like, normal-person-level tax planning.)

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Can you name any interesting powerful people worth learning about that aren't very well known to the public? Looking for powerful but relatively obscure figures.

The first example that came to mind for me is most of Biden's cabinet [0]. Looking through that list I barely recognize anyone, and yet they all probably wield a good amount of power within their area.

A different kind of example would be how two developers were the only ones responsible for OpenSSL back in 2014 during the Hearbleed bug, despite how important it was to the Internet.

Are there any really important things which are basically propped up by 1 or 2 people continuing to maintain something?

[0] https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/cabinet/

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A month is a decent time to wait to get a first cold look at a complex event, and so we have one the best summaries I’ve seen of what that Wagner rebellion was about. Here’s a reasonable translation from the original Russian:

“Today is a month since Wagner rebelled and moved to Moscow, capturing two Russian regional centers in the course of movement, not meeting the slightest resistance.

Then, of course, we were informed that next to Moscow he would have been met and defeated, but it is difficult to say how it would be in reality. Several fainting soldiers and ten bags of sand near the Moscow Ring Road somehow did not look like an indestructible line of defense.

In reality there was no rebellion. There was a banal dispute between economic entities, which was to be resolved through supreme arbitration long before its acute phase. But the problem is that the arbitrator is no longer able to make prompt decisions. What is the reason, it does not even matter, the main thing here is the statement of this regrettable fact.

It was the lack of a solution to the dispute that led to an escalation, an increase in the conflict and its self-developing state. It is possible that Prigozhin was not going to go to Moscow, but the logic of events dragged him, it was impossible to stop.

In fact, Lukashenko literally saved Putin by acting as such an arbitrator and fixing the situation without bringing it to the point of no return. If this mess had lasted for another day, Wagner would have crossed the Moscow Ring Road by that time, and then events could have begun to develop according to their internal scenario. It was enough for one or two ministers to run to Prigozhin with an oath of allegiance, and the mass defection to his banner would not be stopped - officials have their own understanding of the situation, they always swear an oath to the strong. And on June 25, Lukashenko would have nothing to manage, but he would have to congratulate the new Fuhrer of Russia.

In general, Putin was very, very lucky, as it is unlikely that it would all end well for him personally. Someone has to be responsible for all the outrages.

Nevertheless, the events of June 23-24 should not be presented as a rebellion. Rather, they are described by the phrase "it happened."

The main thing in these events is what they have demonstrated - the regime is absolutely vulnerable. It has no way to resist in the event of a real, not cardboard, internal shock. And these shocks are inevitable, as Putin has ceased to play his role and ceased to perform his functionality. More precisely, now he's doing it randomly. And bringing another dispute between two or even more criminal clans to a boiling point in such an environment is a matter of time. Maybe in a month everything will happen again with other organized criminal groups, maybe in a year. But this is most likely inevitable. And Lukashenko may be busy at this time and will not have time, as a month ago.”

Original: https://t.me/anatoly_nesmiyan/11576

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Jul 23, 2023·edited Jul 23, 2023

Yoram, how much would you proposal cost an average middle class individual that doesn't qualify for EITC and doesn't live in a rural community? It seems in the neighborhood of $50-60 per year on gasoline and a 10% increase in utility bills on gas and electric, both increasing regularly for the foreseeable future. That gets pretty steep pretty quickly.

Utah already has fairly high state income, and very low property taxes. Your proposal feels like yet another strike against younger people, typically transplants, who live in SLC, don't have family roots in the state, don't own real property in this state, and typically are disliked by the legislature of this state, yet seem to be expected to pay for everything in the state while subsidizing longtime residents/property owners/landlords who pay very little. I haven't been here for very long and frankly I'm not sure I'm staying much longer, why would I want to pay more to maintain the value and usability of their property? Good luck on this bill but I don't think I want to volunteer, if anything it seems directly against my interests.

If you write a ballot act that pays for this with an increase in our laughably low property tax or a tax on a certain non-profit entity I won't name, I'll be all for it.

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Recently, 7 US AI companies - including OpenAI and Meta - pledged that they would make their system safer to use for public. And one way they thought to go about is to 'watermark' the content that AI generates.

This would look effective on AI gen image. But it feels superficial, doesn't it?

Watermark on Ai gen image? You could always remove it via Crop and Photoshop. Same is the case with watermarked AI gen videos; there do exist tools online which you can use to remove watermarks on a video.

Watermark on Ai Gen Audio? Silence that specific frequency, and (maybe) layer it with non-watermarked sound. Watermark on AI-generated essays? Well firstly, how would you go about watermarking a 'text'?

Is this even as effective?

What, in your opinion, is the best way to watermark AI-generated content?

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Last year, I read with great interest on ACX a very well-written review of the book "Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts" by Stanislas Dehaene. Based on the book, Dehaene defines consciousness as the subjective awareness of oneself and the external world. He considers the main function of consciousness to be the brain's "global workspace," acting as a central hub that integrates and transmits information from different specialized brain modules.

After reading the review, I started to contemplate whether consciousness, as a global workspace that integrate information ‘spatially’, from different parts of the brain, could also play a similar role temporally in integrating different successive events into episodic autobiographical memory. To my delight, I later came across a paper that mentioned, "Previous research suggests that episodic autobiographical memory, autonoetic consciousness, and sense of self rely on one another." So my hypothesis seems in fact an already accepted idea!.

I wanted to test whether correlates of 'consciousness' would positively correlate with episodic memory but not with other types of memory. To conduct the test, I created a short survey using mostly existing scales developed for cognition studies. I selected scales that estimated the frequency of inner monologue and self-awareness as correlates of consciousness, while including episodic memory as my primary focus, and semantic and spatial memory as controls. I have a particular interest in inner monologue since I barely experience it, making it a rather mysterious phenomenon to me! I posted two slightly different surveys on one of ACX's open threads, and on ACX and Sam Harris subReddit about a year ago, and recently reposted them.

To my surprise, my seemingly obvious hypothesis turned out to be generally false: people with frequent verbal inner monologue do not, in fact, have better episodic memory. Self-awareness showed only a small positive effect on it. The factor that strongly correlates with episodic memory is visual self-talk. These results were consistent across two different samples from ACX readers, providing me with a reasonable level of confidence that it is not just a random outcome. My current proposed explanation (kind of an ad hoc explanation!) is that may be verbal thoughts are too recent on an evolutionary time scale to have been integrated in our memory processes.


I was quite surprised by the absence of link between inner monologue and episodic memory. Moreover, individuals with frequent verbal inner monologue not only don't have better episodic memory, but they also, on average, perform slightly worse in spatial memory. This led me to wonder whether inner monologue is more related to personality than cognition. As a result, I included a measurement of personality (Big Five) in the second version of the survey. Interestingly, inner monologue showed no significant relationship with these five personality traits, while visual self-talk displayed significant correlations. So this inner monologue thing remains very mysterious for me!

I would be, of course, very interested in any comments you might have on this subject

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Here's a common take which I would like to understand better: "Investment/stock analysis, even among professionals, doesn't really work. Passive investment strategies are the way to go. One time Warren Buffett made a bet.... [etc. etc.] ....and that's why actively managed funds are terrible and you should just put your money in the S&P 500".

Obviously this is a little shallow. Given that 1. there are a bunch of analysts still employed, 2. they seem to be paid decently well, and 3. (judging by the previous book review) they seem to have reasonably sophisticated techniques, I have to assume there's a bit more to this story. I know that many finance jobs are not entirely about profit-maximization (and instead something like managing risk), but as I understand it, there are still tons of people in hedge funds with the sole goal of making money from markets.

Could anyone shed light on this topic? I'm especially interested in eg an essay by a professional trader defending their usefulness in light of common criticisms of actively managed funds.

(this is not a question about personal finance. I just want to understand)

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Evidence based software engineering is something of a niche topic. Publicly available data is hard to find (yes, there is lots of code on Github, which is a bit like saying that there are lots of animals in the jungle) and good data analysis skills are rewarded in many other venues. There is now a discord channel https://discord.gg/hAPX2UrV

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I'm considering getting into Hexachess, as in chess with a hexagon board (yes CGP Grey inspired).

Anyone have experience with it? Is it worth the investment or just a clearly inferior gimmick?

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Jul 23, 2023·edited Jul 23, 2023

Instinct to Morality (diagram & table)


- - -

A Balanced Sense of Self (micro-treatise supported with endnotes)


[links work better w/ installed .pdf reader]

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Elo everything is good and all, but what about restricting the scope a bit? Ideas: ranking cities (people who lived in both cities say where they liked it more), diseases (more/less painful), employers… It seems like a weekend project, especially with gpt4. Getting people on board to kickstart it is the hard part.

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Has anybody been using lemmy? What do you think of it and its architecture?

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