It seems that Elon Musk might have pulled off what The Artist Formerly Known as Prince pulled off.

Expand full comment

I just read about a question concerning Proposition 65: https://diy.stackexchange.com/questions/279310/is-my-stainless-steel-kitchen-sink-really-chemically-dangerous

It seems this is turning out to be utterly useless, and therefore of negative value. Is California going crazy?

Expand full comment

If you’re interested in AI Governance and want to help others find careers where they do the most good they can, this may interest you.

Impact Academy is hiring a Program Director to lead its Project Exploration Program within AI Governance. This position requires a combination of leadership, strategic thinking, entrepreneurial spirit, and an understanding of AI governance.

You can find more info about the role at https://impactacademy.org/job-opening/ai-governance-lead/ and you can apply by completing this form by 10 September: https://airtable.com/shrVBATR3N8Zq3UqO

If you know someone you think might be a good fit, please share this job description. There is a $500 prize for referring a successful candidate.

Expand full comment

Having just read the post on AI and intelligence Platonism I'm struck with a question. OpenAI made a great token predictor by, in some part, choosing not to have linguists try to embed their knowledge into the model.

With that in mind if we let a token prediction savant (IE GPT-X) embed concepts into the model why should we expect this to lead to an intelligence explosion?

Expand full comment

Saturday (8/19/23) Untrustworthy RCT's and Extinction Forcasts


Hello Folks!

We are excited to announce the 39th 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, Aug 19, 2023

Time: 2 PM

Conversation Starters :

Medicine is plagued by untrustworth clinical trials.pdf


The Extinction Tournament - by Scott Alexander


Audio: https://podcastaddict.com/astral-codex-ten-podcast/episode/161177373?fbclid=IwAR2GqOxFtKVdm2E1ayYLdT4xqWQVeFoTRSyvUk8C_y9wyJRkBcpbArux2Hc

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.

A summary and questions are forthcoming:

Expand full comment

Why studying group differences in intelligence matters: If you don't, you end up saying insane things like "Pakistan can become the next Singapore"


Expand full comment

Were there actually any black women at Oppenheimer's early quantum physics lectures at Berkley?

Expand full comment

I wrote a quick piece on conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia (a very specific case study) -- it might make for an interesting read! (It's to-the-point and quite accessible -- tl;dr celebrities like self-promotion, who'd have thought?)


Expand full comment

I haven't seen this recognized much, but many researchers believe that cultures as distant as Australian Aboriginals and the Navajo are so similar they share a cultural root. I write about the most compelling examples of similarities, and how far back the root may go: https://www.vectorsofmind.com/p/evidence-for-global-cultural-diffusion

Expand full comment

Temporary Pig Kidney:

I just read about a recent advance, where a patient received a pig kidney, and it has so far functioned in his body for a month. It made me consider, what if a pig kidney were not implanted, but instead connected to the circulatory system as is done with dialysis? I could be disposable, allowing the patient to even not take organ rejection drugs, which I presume suppress the immune system. Once the thing goes bad, replace it with a new one.

For a frightening taste of the red pill, arrange a tour of a dialysis center. I used to drive a guy to dialysis a few days a week, what a frightening place. First off, the guy was an admitted alcoholic, who said he used to drink 18 beers before work. Doctors told him he'd suffer greatly if he didn't stop. He said he'd had three warnings of kidney failure before they finally went. In his working days, he was a pipe-fitter overhauling the cooling system on freight train engines. Disassembling, rodding out—cleaning the pipes—reassembling the radiator for the engines. I'm sure this is some heavy lifting and a lifetime of this work results in a pretty fit dude. When I met him, he was 67, and looked like he was 87. Sitting on the side of the road, needing a lift to Walmart to fill some prescriptions, I had to help him get up. He smelled like crap too. Kidney patients don't excrete some salts in their urine, as healthy people do, they excrete them through their skin. Of course he's still a shit-head—a habitual liar, mostly lying to himself—and doesn't bathe every day ...

Expand full comment

What do contemporary journalists mean when they casually employ the term "late capitalism"? Do progressives use it in an almost value-neutral way to describe a mixed or market economy in the 21st century? Is it meant to signal "I'm a progressive, btw." Might a non-progressive journalist write like that?

Example: In the recent New Yorker piece by Patrick Radden Keefe about the art dealer Larry Gagosian -- an excellent, interesting article -- Keefe writes: "Being supported by a mega-gallery like Gagosian is a gift, but it's complicated: such artists must produce work while this rowdy bacchanal of late capitalism plays out around them."

Is that just how progressives write now, where "late capitalism" just means "capitalism", or should one take it to have genuinely Marxist overtones?

Expand full comment

Published an update on some crossword puzzle authoring code I'm working on.


Expand full comment

Earth.org claims:

"An average-sized dog generates 770 kg of CO2e, and an even bigger dog can emit upwards of 2,500 kilograms of CO2e, which is twice as much as the emissions deriving from an average family car per year."


Now, I want this to be true because I like cars and don't like dogs. But is it?

Expand full comment

I am trying to flesh out a personal rule of thumb and would appreciate others' insights. I have an idea bin in my head labelled "Hypotheses to only consider as a last resort because they are weak to confirmation bias". A trivial example of this would be the idea "I am smarter than everyone in this room and they are all jealous of me". When you believe this notion even a little, it can make all opposition seem like outpourings of spite or jealousy, preventing its own correction. So one should not entertain it before exhausting all other options.

I'm currently considering adding another idea to that bin: "trend X is a social contagion". I define social contagion as an idea with neutral or negative practical value that spreads mainly on its own Coolness Factor among mostly passive hosts. Basically the old school meaning of Meme. Putting that idea in the bin would mean treating everyone, even Those Darn Kids, with a strong presumption of intellectual agency and rational behaviour. Big ask, right?

What I would like from commenters here: pick your favourite purported social contagion (regular suspects on this blog are bisexuality, transgender, various mental illnesses...) and tell me what it would take to FALSIFY your belief that it's nothing but a trend. Would you require RCTs? A proven biological mechanism? Evidence from other cultures or time periods?

Thanks in advance for your respectful comments.

Expand full comment

is there any relation between iq and empathy?

Expand full comment

In two months I'll be running the Dublin Marathon to raise money for Focus Ireland, a charity that does great work for the homeless in the city. If you'd like to support this excellent cause, please consider donating to my fundraiser here: https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/FionnMurray

Expand full comment

I have a question: why is it that studios and book publishers invest so much effort and money in making new films and publishing new books, instead of endlessly re-publishing and marketing stuff from their archives?

Expand full comment

Tom Holland of The Rest Is History podcast argues that modern progressivism is secularized Christianity, with the main common themes that the first will be last and vice versa. That value revaluation that Nietzsche hated so much and wanted to revalue again.

Yet, as far as I can tell, most modern progressives despise Christianity and in fact think of themselves as a reaction to it.

I want to know, in a Tom Holland sense of Christianity (the last will be first and vice versa), who are the real Christians today, in an intelligent sense.

Pop and political culture want you to believe transsexuals are. They have somehow been last and therefore now should be first. Ironically, I think that culture doesn't care much for Christianity.

Yet, isn't the real Christianity those who abide by it, not those who merely speak in its tongues?

Perhaps gays and transsexuals are the most Christian culture we have. They want to turn our corrupt society of money changers upside down. They want to reverse power. They want the last to be first, like Jesus did.

Expand full comment

As for recent TV, I thought Fleishman Is in Trouble (Hulu) staring Jessie Eisenberg and Claire Danes was good. A NYC Jewish couple gets divorced. Shades of A Marriage Story and Philip Roth. I like how nobody is right or wrong, good or bad. Or maybe everyone is wrong and bad and that's just how it is, the only way it can be if we want to thrive and move on.

What I did not like was all the stolen use of recent cliche's without citation as if they were profound: Hemingway's "Slowly and then quickly." The comedy podcast (Anthony and Opie?) (Adam Carolla?) joke about the Free Pass your spouse would let you have sex with (the idea being it's a celeb you would never actually have a chance with) yet one caller comes in and says his Free Pass is Helen at the local Deli. Fleishman steals that joke and tries to make it meaningful. There were at least 3 or 4 other recent cliches it stole and that drove me nuts. Otherwise the writing is pretty good.

I liked how unabashedly secular Jewish it all was. How melancholy, painful, funny, cruel, and optimistic it is. I feel like most people around these parts think TV sucks, but it doesn't. Not all of it. Plenty of it is better than the last book you read.

Expand full comment

Has anyone updated on the dangers of global warming in the past 2 years?

I myself have experienced some confirmation bias. I think global warming is a problem -- I can't quantify it. I expect the next couple decades to be hotter, and, living in a hot place, I'm not happy about it.

Now, I don't think climate change will be the problem at the level progressives keep screeching about, much like I don't think AI is the risk doomers screech about, or Hell is the hell Christians once screeched about, but I think progressives, doomers and Christians have about equal points. There's probably something there in each case to be taken seriously in appropriate measure; I don't believe the measure is high but it's non-zero.

Or is Hell the place with the screeching?

Expand full comment

Legal sports gambling is still relatively new in the USA. Does anyone know much about how the ecosystem works? My questions:

- If someone wants to give gambling advice for money, is that regulated?

- How efficient are the markets?

- Are hedge funds betting on American sports? If not, why not?

- Are there popular gambling advice companies or personalities?

- Are there hedge funds for sports gambling? Is that legal?

Expand full comment

I've been out and about exploring the Boston area (which is my home), and have seen *several* different types of outdoor signs expressing NIMBY views (to wit: several signs opposing the 528 Boylston St proposal in Newton, and a different type of sign opposing the 845 Boylston St proposal in Brookline). Meanwhile, I have yet to see even a single YIMBY sign.

Apparently YIMBY groups do exist in the Boston area (according to the reddit post https://www.reddit.com/r/yimby/comments/wn3g9w/yimby_groups_in_boston/ ). But all this is making me wonder: is the Boston area leaning YIMBY or NIMBY overall (among the subset of people who live there and happen to have a strong educated opinion on this issue)?

Expand full comment

Results by religion for ACX Survey 2022 question 157: “What do you think is the percent chance that AI will destroy humanity before 2100?”

- Atheist and not spiritual:

Mean (%): 16.1, SD: 22.1, 95% Confidence Interval: 15.31 - 16.83

- Atheist but spiritual:

Mean (%): 15.2, SD: 19.9, 95% Confidence Interval: 13.70 - 16.67

- Deist/Pantheist/etc.:

Mean (%): 13.6, SD: 19.9, 95% Confidence Interval: 10.96 - 16.21

- Agnostic:

Mean (%): 12.2, SD: 17.1, 95% Confidence Interval: 11.26 - 13.15

- Lukewarm theist:

Mean (%): 11.3, SD: 16.9, 95% Confidence Interval: 9.83 - 12.77

- Committed theist:

Mean (%): 9.2, SD: 15.5, 95% Confidence Interval: 8.02 - 10.30

Expand full comment

Is there a news source or Substack detailing the Chinese tech scene, and what startups are hot there at the moment? I'd like to keep an eye on (read: steal or adapt good ideas) from what they may be doing in my specific industry. They're clearly smart and are approaching problems in a different way due to a different starting point, such as building a mobile-first super app as they mostly skipped the desktop era that we take for granted here in the West. Anyways I'd love to search every month or so and see if they have some innovative ideas in my specific little niche, so if there was 1 good source of info on their new startups I'd love to read it

Expand full comment
Aug 14, 2023·edited Aug 14, 2023

In his zoom conference "Anticipating AI's Major Risks For Society" Yoshua Bengio quoted Bostrom's work


out of context, which I think is kinda rude considering Yoshua Bengio seems to currently be moving from the field of AI capabilities into the field of AI safety, of which Bostrom was a pioneer.


Edit: I should maybe not be so offended, considering Bengio is lending a lot of legitimacy to AI x-risk, but it still bothers me that Bengio seems to be coopting the work of Yudkowsky, Bostrom, the author of this blog, and many others in a way that seems to me to deny them credit. Am I wrong in my assessment of Bengio, or the strategic picture, or just reading too much into a single presentation slide?

Expand full comment

Hey Scott, you might find this thread interesting, or rather, the linked poll:


TL;DR The tweet offers a choice between a red pill, where if you take it you will live, and a blue pill, where if more than 50% of people take it, they'll live, and if less than 50% take it, they die.

Roko was dumbfounded by the answer, and started talking about how it eroded his faith in humanity. I don't know much about him, but that comment amused me quite a bit, as it actually *improved* my faith in humanity.

Expand full comment

Is the Narrative about OxyContin and Purdue Pharma mostly true? Purdue pushed, pushed, pushed OxyContin, knowing they were pushing it too hard, and then millions of people who otherwise wouldn’t have been drug addicts got addicted to opiates? Does anyone who isn’t a defense attorney have a different narrative they believe to be truer?

Expand full comment

Maybe things really have begun to unravel due to global warming already: I just got an email that the insurer for the condo where I live (in Puerto Rico) is hiking up its rates, because its own insurer (insurance agencies are re-insured by even bigger agencies) is hiking up rates due to:

1. Past atmospheric events in PR, USA, Europe, and other regions

2. Inflation in construction costs

3. An increase in severe losses

4. Increase of the dollar relative to the euro

5. Increase in interest rates

6. Reinsurers have lost from 31% to 50% of their capital (!!)

Items 1, 3, and 6 seem very relevant. The email also says that reinsurers are diminishing their participation in the Caribbean (presumably because they see what's coming). And I don't know, I don't see this process stopping. Maybe at some point, the reinsurers go broke, then I don't know what happens when the next Maria hits. I wrote a schizo post on reddit about this once, about how much can our civilization take as climate disasters start happening more frequently, and well, it seems the fraying has begun. Maybe the mighty first world nations will be ok, but I always did hear most of the damage from global warming would affect the undeveloped countries.

It all reminds me of the start of Asimov's Foundation, about how the Empire starts to unravel in the fringes first, and it's only about 200 years later that Trantor, the capital planet, is a nuked wreck.

Expand full comment
Aug 14, 2023·edited Aug 14, 2023

I’ve come across the blogpost by Joscha Bach were he presented a development model with seven stages.

I’d be interesting to hear some of your thoughts about it. I found it presents an interesting perspective and I can somewhat relate.


Expand full comment

I remember a blog post making the case that we shouldn't publish new novels anymore because they only take shelf space away from older better ones, or something like that. Might've been partly joking. In my mind it's a Gwern post but I can't find it. Does anyone know it?

Expand full comment

I'm reading about the anticipated drop of Georgia state charges related to the fake-electors scheme in that state as well as Trump's attempts to bully state officials into "finding" him some more votes. Interesting tuff -- I didn't even know that there was such a thing as state-level "RICO" laws.

[The following is from "The Status Kuo" on Substack by Jay Kuo, who among others things is an attorney licensed to practice in federal courts.]

"Unlike federal RICO law, under Georgia law prosecutors don’t have to prove an underlying “criminal enterprise. They only have to prove that the defendants committed some illegal acts in pursuit of a single criminal goal....Experts agree. “Because of its breadth,” said attorney Norm Eisen in an interview with The New Yorker, “Georgia prosecutors are more prone to utilize their criminal RICO provision as a vehicle for major cases.” Because of this, Eisen believes that Georgia is one of the best places for prosecutors to bring a RICO charge.

Professor Volkan Topalli, who teaches criminology at Georgia State, concurs, explaining it this way: The state’s RICO law creates a “whirlpool effect” for cases charging criminal conspiracies. “If you capture one person in the whirlpool, everyone else gets sucked in along with them.”....

[Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis] understands RICO law well. She’s famous for having brought broad state RICO charges to bust up a ring of administrators and educators who were in on a scheme to help students cheat on standardized tests, using money to reward those who aided the effort while punishing those that refused to help. Willis explained state RICO law perfectly then. “You don’t, under RICO, have to have a formal, sit-down dinner meeting where you eat spaghetti,” she said, likely referencing a famous scene from the movie Goodfellas. “But what you do have to do is all be doing the same thing for the same purpose. You all have to be working towards that same goal. In this case, the goal—inflate test scores illegally.”

Last year, Willis brought a 56-count RICO indictment of more than two dozen people associated with a gang called Y.S.L., including the Atlanta rapper Jeffery Williams known widely as Young Thug. And just last week, Willis’s grand jury issued RICO indictments against eight alleged associates of the PDE street gang, who are accused of running a pandemic unemployment insurance conspiracy spanning multiple states....

Importantly, a defendant doesn’t have to have been employed by the enterprise. It is enough that they were associated with the enterprise through its pattern of racketeering. See how the whirlpool that gets created, sucking in any defendant who was part of the group? Defendants can get caught in the whirlpool, even low level foot soldiers, and then could get hit with RICO charges with all the harsh penalties that come with them....

We know about the use of false documentation to establish a fake set of Georgia electors (along with fake slates in six other states). That’s at least one predicate act of creating a false document and attesting falsely under oath. Knowingly making false statements to Georgia legislators could also qualify as a predicate act, and people like Rudy Giuliani did this quite brazenly, claiming falsely that there were suitcases full of ballots that election workers pulled out from under the table. So there’s two.

Breaking into voting systems and copying and disseminating the software is considered “computer trespass” under the law. And in a bombshell dropped over the weekend, CNN reported that there are communications between the Trump campaign and lower level operatives that evinced a top-down scheme to commit computer trespass in Coffee County, Georgia to try and prove their wild voter fraud claims. Trump attorney Sidney Powell’s fingerprints are likely all over that scheme. That’s three.

Trump’s infamous phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he threatened criminal consequences if they did not “find” 11,780 votes to flip the state to Trump, could comprise solicitation of a government official to commit a crime and intimidation of a state official. So, now that makes four. Any efforts by the Trump campaign to intimidate election workers like Ruby Freeman would also count, if there’s evidence to back it up. Five. And there are likely others.

These actions, though separate, are probably enough to form a “pattern of racketeering activity” under the statute, where the common criminal goal was to overturn the results of the 2020 election. That whirlpool could sweep in anyone who was working toward that goal, which is probably why as many as eight of the fake electors have struck immunity deals so that they don’t get charged with a state RICO violation...."

Expand full comment

Wrote a short story about three AI’s stuck in a box if you’re looking for something light to read!


Expand full comment

The old blog was better. Substack takes longer to load. And it lags when I type. Moore's law, my butt! Return to tradition. I'm becoming a reactionary.

Expand full comment

Have you ever been a part of a large-ish gossip/secret situation? Alice tells you and bob about why charly is mad about her, and it relates to what delphine told him, but then bob tells you that Emil gave him additional or contradictory informations, etc etc. The stuff of stereotypical fictions about high school girls.

It can be an awful experience when you're strongly impacted by what happened or how it develops, or very fun if you're simply in a position of figuring it out as a spectator. Sometimes, if you're a bit of a toxic and bitter cunt, it can be both. If so you're in good company, don't worry, we're all friends.

Beingin one for the first time of my life, however, led me to a realisation on how information can travel. In a situation where every party got it's secrets on one or some of the other, things are somewhat stable, nobody will really starts massively spilling the beans to anyone, an omniscient observer could trace a graph of who got what on whom. But when you and bob both know the same thing, and know that the other knows (or each know a secret on the other and know the other knows), suddenly you both can start sharing informations, and maybe probing someone else independently, but also will probably start sharing data on other subjects, willingly or accidentaly. And then all things break loose, because other people end up in full disclosure agreements with one or the other, and it snowballs out of control. the graph of secrets untangle, the non-proliferation treaty is broken, and everyone end up knowing everybody else knows (even for people who actually don't know shit, but everyone assume they're savy to what everybody knows).

There must have been relevant and well thought out things written on information theory and this kind of behavior, but I'm not aware of it. Anyone got a good starter on such phenomenon?

Written on the substack app, which is aweful. Sorry if typos escaped my verification

Expand full comment
Aug 14, 2023·edited Aug 15, 2023

Recognizing When We’re Happy

[edit: typo corrected]We can recognize when we're happy and be thankful(1) or always find ourselves chasing a wabbit(2)

thereby driving our own unhappiness(3), mostly unawares.

OneDrive: https://1drv.ms/b/s!Av3DdRPJXjSngU0NCqBcc0yx_Vrs?e=ZjWdo1

[links work better w/ installed .pdf reader OR Use magnifying glass with + sign at bottom of page to zoom in]

Expand full comment

My thoughts on the (non-AI-specific) Doomer mindset:

In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, the world runs on the Theory of Narrative Causality. Things happen because That's The Way They Happen In Stories: e.g., million-to-one chances ALWAYS succeed. Doomers implicitly believe the same thing: we live in a story called "And Man Grew Proud".


The defining event of "And Man Grew Proud" is the moment at which the gods Strike down Man for his Hubris. Thus, any great ambition beyond the scope of our current capability, e.g., AI, geoengineering, space colonization, is not only doomed to failure, but will drag civilization down with it. Any attempts to ameliorate the disaster will be laughable, because haven't you *read* "And Man Grew Proud"? That's not how the story goes! There is, however, a faint ray of hope: if you are maximally critical of any new venture, you may be one of the few survivors who get to remake the world in their image, or at least last long enough to say "I told you so" with a very smug look on your face.

I think this explicit-ization of Doomerism is particularly accurate for the professional writers among them, who likely spent their formative years marinating in literary tropes and seem to have trouble imagining that the world could work any other way. I've lost count of how many times I've seen general Doomerism taken as axiomatic: the only uncertainty is as to the precise vector by which our Doom will be sealed.

Also, "Doom" is fun to say.


Expand full comment

People seem to be a lot more malleable when they're young-- that's part of why education is such a big fight because they're likely to keep believing at least some of what they're taught in school.

Suppose that mental malleability lasted for a longer period, perhaps as a side effect of longevity treatment, or perhaps by something more subtle than psychoactive drugs. Would you want that? What effects might it have on a large scale?

Expand full comment

Curious to know if anyone knows what the EA stance is (or otherwise, the general animal welfare-ist stance is) on insect welfare? The other day I saw a market stall with some fried insects and balked, not because they were bugs, as I totally would have tried them before I became vegetarian, but because I was vegetarian. This despite me brutally squashing countless cockroaches, spiders, mosquitos, and other more benign bugs in my room.

Is there something substantially different about the brains of insects/arthropods such that they don't feel pain, or they feel less? That is, is cricket back on the menu?

Or is it more that the general point of animal-welfare minded vegetarianism is less about the pain in death than it is about poor life conditions, suggesting that most animal-welfarists are fine with wild-caught larger animals too?

Or should I just feel generally worse about standard pest control?

Expand full comment

Recently there was an IEEE magazine article on how the next generation of batteries will be made of silicon. I work in the autonomous vehicles industry and I can’t help but think: wouldn’t this make our absurd Americanized SUVs even heavier and more dangerous? I am all for better energy storage solutions (especially ones that won’t blow up) but...

Expand full comment

Is there an analog of the Lizardman's Constant¹, but for scenario estimation? If someone tells you a plausible scenario that has no outside view, what is the immediate probability that your heart assigns? Is it 5%?

The problem with the standard AI Extinction line is that there is no good outside view and no great bases for inside views. Plausible stories then rush to fill in this vacuum. Scott, for example, gives a 33% chance to this sequence²:

1. We get human-level AI by 2100.

2. The AI is misaligned and wants to kill all humans

3. It succeeds at killing all humans.

#1 has OK outside views. Moore's Law will continue, or at least some version of it. The Scaling Hypothesis has some credibility, although not as much as Moore's Law. And there is a "capitalism gets what capitalism wants" or "tech makes what tech wants" driver to the world economy. This last point is potentially countered by Scott's own "1960: The Year The Singularity Was Cancelled"³ But overall, #1 is relatively clean.

#3 is also OK from an inside view. Yudkowsky's standard scenario is that an Evil AI could spawn a million instances of itself and accomplish whatever it wants. Never mind that such an amassing might be bottlenecked by GPU shortages, or that other aligned AIs wouldn't anticipate Evil AI. Either way, let's give interesting percentages to #1 and #3.

But #2 only has plausibility going for it. In my heart—in the 10 seconds contemplating it—it's believable. "Oh yeah. Sure, why wouldn't there be an unaligned AI that wants to kill humans? All it has to do is want. And alignment? Pfft, who knows if we ever achieve that." But why should #2 be dignified with even 5%? Why isn't it 0.005%? How well-defined is "alignment"? Is a gun unaligned? And what does it mean for an AI to "want"? Do we have a glimpse of a notion of "will" or "agency" yet?

Lizardman estimation gives positive hypotheses too much credit, much like Russell's teapot or Pascal's wager. In the case of Pascal, it makes sense to pray every night if the odds that it gets you into Heaven is 5%. But what if the odds it gets you out of Hell is 5%? You might be praying to a lot of Gods.

(Cross-posted on Philosophistry)

[1]: https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/12/noisy-poll-results-and-reptilian-muslim-climatologists-from-mars/

[2]: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/the-extinction-tournament

[3]: https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/04/22/1960-the-year-the-singularity-was-cancelled/

Expand full comment

I just saw "Avatar 2," and noticed the humans have a new kind of attack helicopter called a "Sea Wasp." It has two rotors on either side of it, and each pair of rotors partly overlaps. Here's a close-up video of the toy version:


Does this rotor arrangement make any engineering sense?


Expand full comment

A lot of people in this comments section have blogs. Do you think that blogging has been good for you? Do you think more people should do it? What advice would you give to somebody who is considering starting a Substack or other blog?

Expand full comment

I have trouble engaging in creative activities. I have wanted to write fiction and plan a TTRPG campaign, but when I start, I feel anxious and tend to procrastinate. Any advice or resources to deal with this problem will be welcomed.

Expand full comment

Marginal Revolution unofficial birthday party. If you're in London on the 20th, turn up for some sparkling conversation, barbecue+cake


Expand full comment

I'm out of work for a month, and my partner is simultaneously extra busy. The relationship is still new enough that are economies are separate. We usually split chores 50:50. But during the next month, we both agree that I should do more chores, and my partner will pay me for their troubles. But how do we calculate the right pay? I see three ways:

#A: Try to figure out the market rate. Thus is hard since hiring someone to do chores is not the same as having s live in partner do them. I rather not do this if possible.

#B: Use this logic: if I were a homemaker with a full-time workload at home we would split my partner's earnings 50:50. Thus for every hour I work, my partner should pay me half the hourly rate they make.

#C: Alternative logic: If I'm doing all chores, I'm doing my share and my partner's share. My partner should only pay me for their share, so I should get half their hourly rate for half the work, and do my regular share without pay.

Both #B and #C seems fair to me in isolation but they don't square (#C is half of #B). Am I missing something? (We're likely to go with #C and ultimately it doesn't matter much to us.)

Expand full comment

I'm hoping some SSC readers who also read electoral-vote.com can help solve this mystery.

The site made this post (https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2023/Items/Jul24-3.html) with an obvious factual error in the second paragraph. I have sent them multiple notifications to correct, and have gotten confirmation that they received my notice, but they refuse to correct the error.

Now I know Hanlon's Razor says 'Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity', but what makes this suspicious is that they have very promptly corrected other errors I have sent since. Otherwise I wouldn't have thought anything of it, but they clearly do not want this information fixed.

I don't really know why though... I'm confused as to what is in it for them. Does anyone have an theories as to why they would want to intentionally spread this misinformation?

Expand full comment

Anyone in the secondhand washing machine business?

Expand full comment

Does anyone have something smart to say about the current Israeli political crisis?

Expand full comment
Aug 14, 2023·edited Aug 14, 2023

I would be grateful for some pointers on scientific literature on ADHD in adult women, and also a common comorbidity, ODD. I have a couple recent articles (linked from the adult ADHD Wikipedia page), but would be glad to have other literature. Reason: it seems a family member has the ADHD diagnosis (of which I was previously unaware), and I wonder about the possibility of the ODD element in the mix. My main interest is (naturally) to understand the general phenomenon, and so hopefully act (and react) appropriately in my own specific relationship setting. Many thanks!

[Edit:] Also, if anyone has any experiences of interacting with ADHD + ODD diagnosed young women to share, that also would also be valuable, I expect.

Expand full comment

Is chatGPT optimised to produce credible, if non factual answers to questions?

I was trying to find the episode in Frasier where Elvis Costello guested, playing a character called Ben who was a guitarist. ChatGPT assured me that the character was played by Linwood Boomer - who in fact never appeared in Frasier. It also got the episode wrong.

With some prompting it got it right.

However on the same thread I said to chatGPT that it was right about Linwood Boomer playing in Frasier but wrong about the actual episode. It confidently responded with another episode that the actor also was not in.

So I upped the stakes and said that while that was right, I now realised that Boomer was in 4 episodes and it confidently responded that:

I apologize for the oversight. You're correct. Linwood Boomer appeared in four episodes of "Frasier."

1. "A Midwinter Night's Dream" (Season 1) as Mike.

2. "It's Hard to Say Goodbye If You Won't Leave" (Season 3) as Tom.

3. "Where Every Bloke Knows Your Name" (Season 5) as Mike.

4. "Roz and the Schnoz" (Season 5) as Steve.

Thank you for pointing that out, and I appreciate your patience.

None of this is true. This seems pretty bad overall, since if you ask who played these characters independently in a different instance it gets them right. So, as much as LLMs can “know” anything chatGPT knows the answers and lies.

Edit: I don’t care to discuss the word “know“ here. This isn’t the topic. If you want to replace “know“ with - “has a record of”, “can retrieve correct information regarding”, then by all means do that.

Expand full comment
Aug 14, 2023·edited Aug 14, 2023

While tidying my garage the other day I found an old 40 litre (c 10 gallon) can of diesel fuel which I had left there at least seven years ago. I've heard that high-energy fuels like gasoline and diesel degrade over time and are almost useless after a couple of years. But as it still seemed to smell quite strong, I thought as an experiment I'd try pouring half of it into my car tank, diluting the 20 or so litres of fresh fuel, already in it as a safety margin. (Using just the old fuel, poured into an empty tank, seemed a step too far as a first experiment.)

When I started the car, I half expected it to start backfiring like a Laurel and Hardy charabanc. But everything seemed to run as normal. The only effect I've seen is that it seems to have burned through the fuel faster than usual. But I didn't measure the mileage rigorously and that observation may just be my imagination.

I think modern car engines can sense the strength of the fuel and dynamically adjust their timing and fuel injection to match. So maybe that accounts for any reduced mileage, if the old fuel has indeed turned to gnat's piss and thus needs combusting at a greater volume per stroke. I hope I haven't somehow knackered the engine though, with some kind of soot buildup that wouldn't occur with fresh fuel.

So what do knowledgeable readers think? Should I proceed to stage 2 of the experiment and try pouring the remaining 20 litres or so into an empty tank? :-)

Expand full comment

I read Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, by C. G. Jung. The first 5 chapters present interesting maps, but then Jung spends like 8 chapters talking about fish symbolism and it feels like most of what he wrote went over my head. After the fish chapters I've found it challenging to read on. Has anyone here read it and gotten something useful out of his fish symbolism schizoposting?

I like the way Jung maps astrology, treating it as a symbolic expression or representation of the collective unconscious, and trying to tease out interesting interpretations from this perspective. Unfortunately I felt like his points were a bit undecypherable, and the most I got out of the fish stuff was basically something like "there's two fish, one is Christ and the other is the Anti-Christ" and he thinks this is somehow important or relevant.

Since we're on a similar topic: I really enjoy reading fantasy novels with interesting magic systems, and lately I've become interested in learning more about """real-world magic systems""" like magic rocks and other occult topics. The problem is that many of these systems appear to have evolved organically or have been passed down through word-of-mouth, so it's difficult to find authoritative and structured writeups of how the "full magic system" is supposed to function. Does anyone have suggestions for books on the topic? I'm mostly looking for creativity and novelty. Big bonus points if they include interesting idea maps or interpretations of reality. Reading fantasy stories with their shallow magic systems just isn't scratching my itch anymore, so I'm hoping that diving into something with a bit more background lore and history will prove interesting.

Expand full comment

Andy Clark, author of Surfing Uncertainty (previously reviewed at SSC) has a new book called 'The Experience Machine: How Our Minds Predict and Shape Reality'. I haven't read it yet but seems to be aimed at much less of a specialist audience than SU (a 'trade book' rather than a scholarly monograph), so this is perhaps a good avenue for those who want a deeper but still accessible dive into predictive processing than that the old review:


Expand full comment

Scott: when was the last time you attempted going vegan/vegetarian? I know you’ve written that you were once vegetarian and encountered health issues, but iirc that was a relatively long time ago, and Faunalytics has found that people who adopt veg*n diets later in life are more likely to stick with them, perhaps because of having more life skills like cooking. https://faunalytics.org/veg-obstacle-analysis/

Expand full comment

Anyone here have any experience with naturalistic AI-driven voice-changer programs? I’m looking for something that can take a recorded dialogue in my own voice (i.e. it doesn’t need to be real-time), and transform that into the voices of two or more different characters, such that it is capturing the pitch and timing nuance and mapping it on to the artificial voices. Looking for maximum realism, across a range of combinations of sex, age, and global English-speaking accents.

I ask because a few of the services calling themselves “speech to speech” seem to actually just be “transcribe your speech to text, then use it to drive a text-to-speech voice generator”. I don’t mind paying a reasonable amount, but I’d like it to be impossible to tell that it’s artificial. Anyone have any recommendations?

Expand full comment

So, I recently learned about the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin (and Door County on that peninsula), a common tourist destination for residents of that state: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Door_Peninsula

You might say, that's an unusual name, what is it the door to? Is it the door to Lake Michigan?

Well, you see, off the tip of the peninsula is Washington Island. And inbetween the peninsula and the island is a dangerous strait, one known simply as "Death's Door". And the peninsula (and the county) are named after this!

So, it's not the door to Lake Michigan! It's the door to death!

I mentioned this to someone else and they said it sounded like the sort of thing that ought to have been in Unsong. :P

Expand full comment

In a recent interview with Paul Graham, Tyler Cowen asked an interesting question. Unfortunately the conversation moved on before pg had a proper chance to answer, so I'm going to ask the same question here:

Why is there not more ambition in the developed world? Say we wanted to boost ambition by 2X. What’s the actual constraint? What stands in the way?

(Bonus questions not asked by Tyler: What does ambition even mean? How can you increase your own ambition by 2X? Is this a good thing to do, in general?)

Expand full comment

I discovered this little game: https://armorgames.com/behold-battle-game/19375?fp=ng

It's not the best game, but the interesting thing about it, it forces you to practice predictions. The idea is that it's an auto battler - two armies are randomized, and you need to predict "who will win".

I found out it takes actual mental effort to win at this game. At first you make simple rules like "elf archers will win almost anyone", and then I started counting total HP, DPS of the two armies and comparing them, and then you take into account also behavior of units.

It's a nice little way to practice predictions.

Expand full comment

Are there any examples of cultures who developed a particularly advanced technology *before* other technologies that might be expected to be developed first?

The context for this wondering is that I feel persuaded by arguments that aliens capable of interstellar travel wouldn't be flying around in biologically crewed craft that are even slightly prone to crashing or being shot down. But, what if they had mastered inter-dimensional movement?

Expand full comment

Something that struck me about Oppenheimer was how much it reminded me of unsong. It's another story about a random sciency guy discovering an apocalyptic superweapon, and his discomfort about whether the authorities will misuse it and whether the people running everything are trustworthy or benign. And the like Aaron, the movie's Oppenheimer is the sort of person who has a lot of detached thoughts about it all, but is the sort of guy who wants to figure it all out in his head before jumping in to say anything.

Expand full comment

I wrote a short thought experiment about how our cultural perceptions of AGI might influence the course of human-AGI relations: https://whitherthewest.com/2023/08/14/the-pygmalion-dilemma/

Expand full comment

I wrote an article in which I weighed in on the debate between Scott and Bryan Caplan about mental illness. I concluded Scott was even more right than even he thinks--even if Caplan is right about basically everything he says, his position is still fundamentally incorrect. https://benthams.substack.com/p/even-if-lots-of-mental-illnesses

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment