Have seen a lot of comments questioning the authenticity of the crimes reported on October 7th.

Someone did a deep dive on most of the videos and pictures uploaded to X (Twitter) to see what was likely true or false- it also speculates on the fate of Shani Louk (the girl who's body was apparently seen in the back of a truck with two broken legs). Have a look and see what you think!


It does not discuss the allegation of beheaded babies, which seems to be a point of contention. The original claim, that around 40 babies were killed in a kibbutz and that some of them were beheaded- has not explicitly been verified. That said, it does appear that some babies were beheaded, though it is not clear whether they were from the kibbutz being discussed at the time, nor whether the beheading was after death or not:


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OC ACXLW Irvine Campus Market place! Year in AI report and AI safety is not Platonism 10/21/23


Hello Folks!

We are excited to announce the 46th Orange County ACX/LW meetup, happening this Saturday and most Saturdays thereafter. Change in venue this week!

Host: Michael Michalchik

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

Location: Irvine campus marketplace


(949) 375-2045

Date: Saturday, Oct 21, 2023

Time: 2 PM

Conversation Starters:

1) Year In AI Summary Report

REPORT: The State of AI


Powerpoint and text summary


State of AI Report 2023

The State of AI Report analyses the most interesting developments in AI. We aim to trigger an informed conversation about the state of AI and its implications for the future. The Report is produced by AI investors Nathan Benaich and the Air Street Capital team.

2) We're Not Platonists, We've Just Learned The Bitter Lesson



We're Not Platonists, We've Just Learned The Bitter Lesson


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I'm pro-Israel but would like to donate to the relief efforts in Gaza. What would be a good charity to donate to?

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Israeli government TWITTER ACCOUNT literally fabricating a photo of blood in a child's bedroom. If they feel the need to do this, they are bankrupt in their claims Hamas targeted civilians.


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Oct 15, 2023·edited Oct 15, 2023


1) - BREAKING: New footage has emerged putting paid to the 'Hamas desert rave massacre' propaganda.

It sucks when a music festival happens to be in the middle of IDF and Hamas fighting.


[As can clearly be seen and heard in the footage: uniformed, armed 'Israeli' interlopers are exchanging fire with the Hamas fighters.

Any ravers that got ironed out clearly were caught in the crossfire.

I'll say it again, GENIUSES: if you don't want to get iced, don't go partying on occupied land! DUH!

🔴 @Cultures_of_Resistance]

2)The burned baby

You actually don't need that though, just look at the morphology of the image it's clearly not human. Considering the fabrication of the 40 beheaded babies that even the Biden government was forced to retract, the image is highly suspect.

3) The beheaded baby story was a complete Israeli lie that reached the HIGHEST LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT


Biden actually confirmed having seen evidence for it! Then had to retract

after evidence mounted it was a fabrication


4) The scantily clad EMD chick was literally just in rave-wear, she wasn't stripped and raped by Hamas and is apparently still alive.

5) Israeli government TWITTER ACCOUNT literally fabricating a photo of blood in a child's bedroom. If they feel the need to do this, they are bankrupt in their claims Hamas targeted civilians.


When Israel feels the need to fabricate THIS MUCH, I think we all know who the real victims are.

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Well wahddya know, no evidence whatsoever for the beheading/burning Jewish infants story!

The fact that Israelis felt the need to fabricate that story, the fact that it spread to the highest levels of government and was spread in mainstream media really raises some eyebrows. I suppose the endless parade of videos of Israelis happily cheering on a massacre of Gazans tells us nothing about what they intend.

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If you are anonymous this is not for you

If you are not anonymous, it is.


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MADNESS. Palestinian residential towers are getting bombed by israeli occupation warplanes. The massacres are ongoing.

October 13, 2023.

The long list of massacres committed at the hands of apartheid israel goes back to the 1940’s till today.

Some of the massacres committed by apartheid israel:

Tantura: The Palestinian village of Tantura is located on the Mediterranean Sea near the city of Haifa. The village of Tantura was occupied by apartheid Israel in 1948 and it has a buried history.

Tantura, TRT World:


Tantura, Middle East Eye (MEE):


Tantura is not the only Palestinian village that has a buried history, here is another place, Deir Yassin:

“They told him: “throw your son in the oven, throw your son in the oven”

He said: “I will not throw my son,

They said: “grill him”

Then they hit Haj Hamed on his head and took his child, and they threw the child into the oven.

They then took the father and threw him after his son in the oven.

They told him: “follow your son.””

(Othman Akel. A survivor of the Deir Yasin massacre committed by the zionists in Palestine in 1948).

You can watch the Deir Yassin massacre testimonies:


Albert Einstein joined others to sign an open letter to New York Times, entitled “New Palestine Party,” on December 2, 1948, warning of fascism in Israel, and distress about the Deir Yasin massacre.

Burayr is the location of another massacre on their long list:


Qibya massacre of 1953:


Historians have recovered official israeli apartheid army documentation offering proof that soldiers poisoned wells in Palestinian villages to prevent Palestinians from trying to return to their homes after the 1948 Nakba.


Official documentation of the ‘Cast Thy Bread’ operation." – Haaretz

► Archived version: https://archive.ph/vzUqe


All rights and credits are reserved to the respective owner(s).

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After using Manifold for a couple weeks, I think "prediction market" should be replaced with "poll of ten nerds". And that's if you make a market about AI. If you make a market about anything else, good luck getting even one trader.

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How can the world deal with Hamas?

We are a few hours away from a likely ground incursion / invasion of Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) into Northern Gaza. For the past week I've been trying to figure out a more reasonable way that the world can deal with Hamas, as an alternative to what the Israeli government is considering doing. I am having trouble coming up with a rational option aside from status quo (leave the group as is) or Israel's option (eliminate no matter the cost).

What other option exists to deal with a group with the following fact sheet (and please correct anything that is factually wrong in the statements below):

Hamas was elected democratically in 2006 and stayed in power since then.

The leaders of Hamas and their families live in relative luxury while the average Gazan lives near the poverty line.

They promote radicalized education in Gaza, half of which are under the age of 19.

They use humanitarian aid for war (for example, digging up water pipes and turning them into missiles).

They strategically place their military operations near school, hospitals, residences, and commercial areas.

They convince Gazans to stay in urban areas and not to head to places IDF is advising them to go to in order not to get bombed.

They recruit minors to their cause and send them in paragliders to murder people (and be murdered by IDF)

They have the sympathy of many, EVEN IN ISRAEL, because of the civilian death toll every time there is an IDF operation.

I really don't know what can be done that is better than either option presented above.

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Can you do a more in-depth blog post on the axis I and axis II divide? I know the 5th edition of DSM seems to switch the approach, but does it? It makes no difference what the chapter is called as long as the overall approach is not much different in practice.

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Israel's One Real Mistake Isn't What You Thought It Was


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Hey all, I must admit I'm not a reader of ACX or interested in much of the subject matter, but I'm a bit desperate for advice, so apologies for being selfish.

I'm currently working as an "AI" software engineer for $XB B2B startup. I'm super burned out, but not in the way a vacation or therapy appointment could fix (or maybe I haven't found the right therapist). I just really don't care about the company or even software as a craft anymore. I feel like I'm wasting my time away doing something I actively hate every day. The internal torture is extremely bad and I only manage to keep it at bay by constantly reminding myself of how privileged I am.

I have considered starting something myself or even quitting with no plan, but there is a glaring issue. I have pretty severe ADHD and I'm afraid I will never be able to stick to something past the hyper-fixation phase. For example, a few years ago I was extremely into growing psychedelic mushrooms. Didn't care about consuming them at all, just wanted to reach the highest level of cultivation. It got to the point where I was reading several papers a day on the subject and purchasing thousands of dollars of lab equipment. Then, the interest just evaporated. Haven't touched the equipment since. The same thing has happened for the potential tech startup ideas I had. It's also difficult to explore new ideas after work because I'm constantly stressed about getting fired.

I did talk about this with my friends and family, but for the most part they all say something along the lines of: "Duh, everyone doesn't like working. Just work harder, pick up a hobby or side-project, and retire early."

What else can I do here? Plan B is I ask my psychiatrist to get me back on stimulants and try to autopilot through work.

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Oct 12, 2023·edited Oct 12, 2023

I have just learned of "Miyake Events" which are giant solar storms that would likely do very substantial damage to nearly all modern electronics including things like communication networks and the power grid. The best estimate available now is that one happens roughly once every 1000 years. If there is a 10% chance of this happening in the next 100 years I am contemplating whether this is actually a greater threat to humanity than global warming is.

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Oct 12, 2023·edited Oct 12, 2023

On a lighter note, the SBF trial is underway and the courtroom sketches of Caroline Ellison are absolutely hilarious (couldn't find them collated in one place outside a paywall) : https://www.google.com/search?q=courtroom+sketch+caroline+ellison&sca_esv=572772429&tbm=isch&sxsrf=AM9HkKkot93rF8KoozN5kxIEBgnfeuQFpg:1697088933825&source=lnms&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiy5rX45O-BAxXbbfUHHXCSCVoQ_AUoAXoECAIQAw&cshid=1697089050045177&biw=2048&bih=1033&dpr=1.25

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What interesting differences have you noticed between the way the media covers the war in Ukraine vs wars in the Middle East?

One thing I just noticed is the grim obsession with "death toll". I've been reading articles on the Ukraine War for a year and a half, and the words "death toll" rarely come up; occasionally you'll see it in the context of one particular strike, but never in the context of a trying to keep a running count of deaths in the entire war. But now we're back to wars in Israel, and all of a sudden we're back to having the words "the death toll has reached..." in every article like it's a bridge collapse or an earthquake. Why is it so? It can't just be a lack of reliable numbers, because the numbers are pretty darn unreliable in the Middle East too (especially on the Palestinian side where they can be presumed to be entirely made up).

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Why do muslims around the world feel so categorically different about Xinjiang than they do about Palestine? Sure, there's a lot of differences, but if Israel explicitly annexed Gaza and then treated the people of Gaza the way the people of Xinjiang are being treated e.g. 'reeducation camps', destroying mosques, would people be okay with that? It seems like they would be much less happy about it than the current status quo, despite such a state of affairs being much more similar to the Xinjiang situation that they basically are okay with.

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Oct 11, 2023·edited Oct 11, 2023

Looks like AI in business is the hot new topic, at least if the Microsoft Ignite seminar (workshops? event? I don't know what exactly to call it) is any example.

This bit made me both twitch and go "hmmm".

There's an unmerciful amount of guff on the session descriptions, as you'd expect (I don't want to be engaged with whatever you're selling to spy on employees) and this jewel of prose leaves me as it found me, but I think the straws in the wind as to what big businesses hope to achieve with AI are to be seen there, and also why it's naive to call for slowdowns or pauses or halts. There's money to be made, Chuck! Big money! And you expect me to leave all those dollar bills lying on the sidewalk?


"Adopting “decision intelligence” powered by AI will lead to exponential growth, but People, Process and Culture are the impediment that needs to be addressed with an impactful AI strategy. Hear how you can operationalize and embed AI organically in enterprise with focus on value stream mapping, to harness AI driven insights in business processes, to drive agility."

People are impediments to AI. So inconvenient, we fleshbags, aren't we? Seems more and more like 'AI was not made for man, but man was made for the AI' is the likely future, and not "it'll free us all up to be cultured gentlepersons of leisure, rich fat and happy, while AI does all the work and pulls magical post-scarcity rabbits out of the cosmic hat".


I'm registered for online access to two days of the hoo-ha, so maybe I'll learn something applicable to work (very unlikely) or at least how to properly grovel before our new AI overlords.

EDIT: Look at the digital swag I can get! God bless Microsoft, they've never been cool and they'll never be cool and they may have more brains than an illithid banqueting hall but they're *hopeless* at design 😁


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Hey guys, I have a humble request for any practical advice you could offer to aid me in overcoming a counterproductive humility.

I know that sounds like a joke so I made a post explaining it.


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There is a certain line of argument employed by Pro-Israeli commenters (elsewhere, not ACX) that goes something like this :

1- Nothing ever excuses the rape and murder of civilians that Hamas did

2- Therefore, we can't really blame the IDF when it bombs Gaza

Which stares Contradiction in the face and then gives him a kiss.

(If **Nothing** can ever justify what Hamas did, not even the amount of murder or rape or pillage which happened to Palestinians from 1948 till October 7th 2023, then, surely, the comparatively tiny amount of murder and rape and pillage that Hamas did in that one day can't ever justify the murder and rape and pillage that the IDF has started in October 8th and that the ground forces amassing on Gaza's perimeter is no doubt planning to finish ?)

Other than

[Implied] 3- Israelis/Jews and Arabs/Muslims should play by different rulebooks because the lives/dignity of the former exceeds those of the latter

, what other implied premises can one append to (1) and (2) to make the argument not contradictory-ish ?

My attempt at this looks something like :

[Implied] 3- Rape and Murder and Pillage are worse when they're done by non-state actors than when they're done by state actors

[3's Justification, good faith] 3-a Because state actors are often better trained, more restrained, and with lots of things to lose if they got too far in the Rape and Murder and Pillage

[3's Justification, bad faith] 3-b Because I have been brain washed into thinking so, there are no meaningful difference in the Rape and Murder and Pillage done by both kinds of actors

[Implied] 4- Hamas is a Jihadi non-state actor that justifies Rape and Murder and Pillage with icky Muslim rhetoric and commits it using icky-looking middle eastern men with overgrown beards

[Implied] 5- Israel is a state actor that justifies Rape and Murder and Pillage with sob stories about the Holocaust, and commits it with an army containing sexy models/conscripts posing on instagram and tiktok

[Implied] 6- Therefore, Israel's RMP is not "really" true RMP, or maybe a less intense style of RMP than the brutal style practiced by Hamas. The RMP mentioned in (1) references only the brutal kind, not the lite kind practiced by Israel.

In other words, a Motte-And-Bailey. (1) and (2) can only hold together if you switch the definition of RMP in the midst, and quietly so. 

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I have to say I'm fascinated by people who think not supplying your war enemy with food and electricity is some kind of war crime!

Have they no knowledge of wars or history?

Do they not think this is a real war?

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I'm not a fan of banning. Especially not without an attempt to rectify the problem through conversation first. So, MK, if what Viliam says is true (I assume it is, I myself haven't read more than 3 of your comments) then to admit that's obnoxious behavior which shouldn't be done or tolerated.

From the few comments of yours that I read I have an additional concern.

I think it's only right that in conversations such as these people who are long time readers of SSC, and therefore in some sense part of the community, he granted the benefit of the doubt whereas people who comment here because it exists he asked to leave.

I don't know you or how long you've been reading but your comments are so single-dimensional and monomaniacal that it raises the question whether you have a handle on how people here speak and think.

For one, we tend not to be monomaniacal. There was some goofball here who used to troll each and every comment section with his demand that Scott retract some supposed misunderstanding of Karl Marx.

Once people caught on to the fact that his mind and intentions really were THAT blinkered, everyone agreed that he should go away - absolutely regardless of whether his point regarding Marx was right or wrong.

So please MK, if you are here to write against Israel but not a general appreciator of this blog or its commentators then I would ask you to find a different venue. I think you can understand that nobody wants to be used like that.

I wish you well in your life and I wish for a resolution to all of the many many imperfections in the lives of all people.


Lest I be accused of a willingness to critique your local output on account of not sharing your sense of the gravity of this situation or of being too ignorant about it to have an opinion let me tell you that is not the case. I haven't said much about it here because my interests herein are broader than the contexts in which they have thus far been raised.

More importantly my analysis, sentiments and desired next steps are too nuanced and conditional to be expressed in clear and unambiguous words at all.

For starters, I am deeply religious, irreligious, and anti-religious.

There are certain terms, motifs and concepts for which I have no jargon but religious/mystical jargon - despite my not believing in the things that nearly everone who uses these terms claims to literally believe.*

So, for anyone capable of not getting caught up in the terminology (unfortunately I have no other) I was the tool by which a video and a post were produced yesterday. To be perfectly accurate, the post came from pre-standing conceptions within me but the instructions to read what I read in the video came from beyond me. I did not even fully realize the words I was going to say until I said them. And other than the words spoken in English, I did not compose them.

Whether to agree, disagree, or disregard, thinking that one understood either the video or post fully is an absolutely sure sign of having misunderstood them fully.

On that account, I can't in good conscience recommend that anyone watch or read either of them** but anyone who believes they may have something to gain by experiencing the words that flowed through me yesterday regarding the situation these are the two locations where you would find them.

The video is entitled “Emes” and is almost entirely an overly deliberate maggidic enunciation of a Biblical passage*** and the Substack article is entitled, “A Point” **** because it was the least assuming title I had for a piece which ultimately speaks to the entirety of the Civilizational Experiment, from the moment that metaphorical Eve enticed Adam to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge until The Big Goodbye. *****


* The fight between the religious weltanschauung and the rational one is largely a matter of misunderstood semantics.

Religion in fact has tended to pull humankind towards science.

Religions are the story into which people fit their emotions. And when millions of people share a common narrative they tend to get inspired at the same time. That’s an awesome power.

Remember how Thiel said that Trump’s followers take him Seriously But Not Literally? That’s what a lot of religion is.

Obviously nearly no one on earth believes in an afterlife. When you see them doing everything ^^not to die^^ and wailing with pity for their dead relatives you know that they don’t take ^^literally^^ their claims to certitude in an afterlife.

What they do is take it SERIOUSLY.

They can sense, as can you and I, that every moment of life has a greater meaning than we can justify by the facts as we know them.

Religious People see the reverence that we have for the living moment just as nakedly as we can see their doubts about heaven.

So they know that when we say that we are but dust in the wind that accidentally came together in an unimportant manner yadda yadda we are being literal – but not serious.

After all, we too experience moments of pure joy – or at least we (like them) know those moments exist, are “real” on some sense we can’t put into words or measure and want them.

I really don’t think there is much debate anout the facts as there is about misunderstanding each others’ terms.

When it comes down to it we are all rather religious and we are all rather rational.

** Here is a more easily accessible and enjoyable video about the religion of the Jews of medieval Kaifeng, China


*** https://youtu.be/8JKwC6Mvkns?feature=shared

**** https://ydydy.substack.com/p/a-point

***** Should you find my output meaningful or believe that they may be meaningful to others within your network please share them.

I am not constituted with an effective capacity to sell myself so I generally refrain from promoting my own output. But if you want this to have a broader audience, please understand that it is, very deliberately, out of my hands. You're in the driver's seat on this one.

I am willing and eager to participate in public conversations or podcasts as well (in 2000-2001 I was likely the most broadly heard public speaker on matters Israel related om 3 continents) so long as it is understood that I won't participate as a foil for whomever owns the mic but intend to speak as freely and comfortably as if the platform were my own.

I mention this because my willingness to participate publicly has no limits. It goes without saying that most hosts would be glad for me to speak as fully and freely, but my invitation to invite me on to a platform extends to anywhere there is a serious audience. If an exterminationist has a sizeable audience and can guarantee me the freedom to speak without censorship then I am willing to join him too. That's why my Nachmanidean precondition is spelled out up front.

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I propose banning Marty Khan. Not for the content of his comments, but for the fact that he is copying essentially the same text over and over again, dozens of times.

I don't want to participate in discussions were you "win" by posting more copies of your argument, and where any reasonable argument is lost in the sea of repeated text.

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Hamas appears hell bent on a total PR disaster with their present foray into Israel. I am genuinely puzzled by the inept handling of the “story” that emerges from their apparently gleeful killing of civilians even including babies, and if the rumors are true also including totally unnecessary beheadings of some victims. Does Hamas really not understand that such lack of restraint makes them appear, in the eyes of Western audiences, as totally unfit to run a country?

For comparison, the Algerian resistance to France (in the days when Algeria was a part of France) placed home-made bombs in French restaurants in Algeria, similarly blowing up women and children. The difference from Hamas consists of how this blowing-up-of-innocents was presented to a Western audience.

When asked by journalists how the Algerian resistance could justify targeting civilians, the capable spokesperson said something along these lines (quoting from memory): “Waging war is expensive. We do not have access to French high-tech military technology. If the French would kindly let is borrow modern fighter planes, rocket launchers and submachine guns from their arsenals, I can promise that we would stop to use home-made bombs. However, at the moment this is the only type of weapons we can afford and have access to”.

My point in this context is that the Algerian resistance presented killing of civilians and children as an unfortunate effect of their lack of more sophisticated weapons - it was not due to wild-eyed, unhinged bloodlust when finally having the enemy at their mercy. It was a cold, calculated thing which they regretted but had to do due to lack of other weapons.

This is a type of cold reasoning when killing innocents that calms Western audiences. Because it signifies to them that the leaders of the resistance can probably be trusted to show self-restraint, if and when they should be given control of the country – i.e., that whey will not go on a wild blood purge killing all “pied noirs” (i.e. French) living in Algeria, the day the resistance might eventually win the war.

But Hamas and its warriors apparently do not understand this. Their chaotic killing spree is one thing. The fact that they seem to be proud of it, is what does the real damage to their cause. Because it suggests that if they should ever win the war, it will initiate a period of beheadings, murder and mayhem reminiscent of how ISIS behaved in Iraq – heads on pikes, total lack of self-restraint once you have won. Not the type of people you can trust to hand over a government to.

My question is if this is a case of what George Tsebelis called the “nested games” problem. Within a Gaza-type culture, perhaps gleefully raping women, beheading husbands and killing babies is interpreted as a signal of strength (I am guessing here). Hence such behavior causes no image/reputation problem. But if so, this Gaza-game is “nested” within a broader, global game for how these actions are to be interpreted. And for a global audience, the glee-part of the killings does not signal strength – instead, it signals lack of self-restraint when in a position of power. And people who cannot be trusted to show self-restraint when in a position to kill civilian non-combatants, and (even worse) indicate that they enjoy the killing and humiliating of such victims, are not people it is easy to do deals with.

A person who understood this, was Yasser Arafat. During 9/11, he went on TV symbolically donating blood to Americans – because he understood that the glee that many ordinary Arabs showed when seeing the footage of the twin towers going down, was totally counterproductive to the Palestinian cause. Since it indicated to US citizens that ordinary Arabs hated them and would show no restraint if they ever got the upper hand in dealings with them, or in they protected state (Israel).

Similarly, the lack of emotional restraint when Hamas went on its killing spree will signal to Israel and its allies that it is simply too dangerous to let unhinged Hamas-people ever acquire power. In short: Hamas is shooting itself in the foot again and again during this conflict. Are they totally devoid of a competent PR strategy vis a vis a Western audience? Apparently so. Or is it something I am missing? Since the leadership of Hamas, like any leadership, is likely to be composed of clever people – simply because it requires intelligence to rise to the top of any political movement. Why are they none the less so inept in presenting an image as something else that emotionally driven, indiscriminate killers? It really is puzzling and I have no good answer. Comments are welcome.


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has substack (on pc) been unbearably slow recently for anyone else?

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Is everyone else also suddenly able to “Like” comments using the app?

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Somehow I stumbled into a fix for the annoying pop-ups promoting "iCloud" that arrived with Apple's latest update, Sonoma 14.0.

The pop-ups insist one updates his/her signature on the lawyerly gobbley-gook that gives them the right to give away our personal data and thank them for it. I don't use iCloud.

It turns out I was signed in to iCloud, and didn't know. When a button reading 'sign out" showed up on the screen, I clicked. Voila, no more fascist pop-ups. The problem wasn't that I wasn't signing in, but that I was signed in to begin with.

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Does anyone have good book/article/blog recommendations for thinking better from first principles in engineering, design, and/or entrepreneurship?

Does anyone have good book/article/blog recommendations for opportunities in robotics?

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Has anyone else been following the Twitter scuffle around SBF's argument that Shakespeare is unlikely to have been one of history's top writers, just based on the fact that there were very few writers around in the 16th century.

In Bayesian terms, something like:

P(exceptionally acclaimed writers posses exceptional writing talent | exceptionally acclaimed writers were disproportionally born a long time ago) << P(writing acclaim depends more on historical prestige than talent | exceptionally acclaimed writers were disproportionally born a long time ago)

I've seen a lot of back lash to the argument, but it seems likely true to me.

Has anyone experienced a deep appreciation of Shakespeare, above what you experience (at the risk of sounding like a philistine) one of HBO's prestige dramas, in terms of the depth of the characters, subtleties of the plot, use of themes etc.? If so, are you confident that appreciation isn't tied to anything like sophistication signalling, group think, or anything like that?

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Lately I have been reading and writing about the history of psychedelics in the last 60 years and one of the discoveries I made is that the leading figures in the field rarely have any idea about the practicalities of politics and regulation. Rick Doblin and MAPS is the obvious exception, but it seems like most researches/thinkers only engage with regulators in the form of commentary and the occasional open later. While it's important to voice your opinion, policy will be created by politicians, most of who would never read those open letters. I wonder how much this applies to AI as well. I've heard the occasional comment from those in the know that MIRI and LessWrong have a notoriously bad grasp on the practicality of politics, and if that's true it would point to the same pattern

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In the wake of the recent attacks in Israel, I was thinking about whether I hug my wife enough - this led to the question of how much time, in total, I had spent embracing her. Clearly, there were things I had spent more time on - I commute to work, so I'd wager I'd spent more time in a car than hugging my wife. Likewise, the time spent on the Internet clearly beats time spent in someone else's arms.

How about time on an airplane? Over the course of your life, and over the course of the average American's life, do you think they spend more time hugging people or more time on an airplane?

(I'm not going to count time spent sleeping in someone else's arms, which probably cuts out most hugs given in infancy. Though I will count time sleeping on a plane, which might be a double standard).

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I recently read about Storybook Brawl, and as a former Magic player, the fact that all SB abilities are written in the first person (e.g. "I don't take damage when attacking") is very jarring. I'm curious why the developers decided to write it that way. Is it just to save space on the card over saying "this character" or whatever? I'm curious if the developers ever wrote publicly about design decisions like that.

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I've just finished reading Eat Like the Animals (Raubenheimer and Simpson), which posits that the global obesity rate increase is due to a concept called Protein Leverage (the modern ultra-processed diet is too low in protein, and humans tend to eat until protein requirements are met, hence everyone tends to overeat).

While it sounds plausible, I find it too convenient (really? Studies done on locust, mice, and primates all agree?). Can anyone help me find any evidence against the protein leverage hypothesis? Almost everything about this is published by the two authors who wrote the book, or people collaborating with them, finding very positive results.

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I was recently reading through the Wikipedia page for Hamas and I realised something: the more controversial a topic is the more trust I give to Wikipedia to portray it accurately, but also the less trust I place on traditional media sources, with these two variables acting independently.

Non-traditional media sources, like blogs, are a crapshoot; you'll find the best stuff there but also the worst, and there are no shortcuts to figuring out which is which.

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Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023

I recently read a brilliant short story called The Nose, by Gogol. Analyzing it, Syracuse university professor George Saunders (in his book "A swim by the pond in the rain", in which he analyzes great Russian short stories) introduces the "skaz" tradition in Russian literature.

A familiar example of this, is Sascha Baron Cohen doing Borat.

Saunders explains this tradition :

Since all narration is misnarration, Gogol says, let us misnarrate joyfully. It’s like a prose version of the theory of relativity: no fixed, objective, “correct” viewpoint exists; an unbalanced narrator describes, in an unbalanced voice, the doings of a cast of unbalanced characters. In other words, like life.

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Is there any conceivable way in which the Hamas attack leads to things getting better for the people of Gaza?

The answer strikes me as a resounding "no", even if you think Israel are evil. Which means either the people aroudn the world celebrating the attack are too foolish to understand this, or they're literally just celebrating that people they hate were killed, even if this means the people they support will pay for that many times over.

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Is there any remote possibility that the Israeli government had advance knowledge of the Hamas attack? It's very unlikely, but it would obviously otherwise represent a very significant intelligence failure and has coincided with a period of Netanyahu trying to increase his power and receiving significant push back.

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The Three Day Rule was a good idea

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Does anyone have any hot takes on how ADHD works "under the hood"?

I have suspected I have undiagnosed ADHD for a long time (from my work habits), but only recently became aware of other symptoms that totally line up with my experience: talking incessantly and often over other people, seemingly not recording or recalling emotional memories, and "rejection-sensitivity dysmorphia" (RSD) in which I am hyper-aware of social rejection and spend, like, most of my life with racing thoughts about rejections in the recent and distant past.

I am curious which of these things causes the other. Like, fine, maybe it's "the brain is wired wrong and everything breaks a bit". But could it instead be that the rejection-sensitivity causes everything else? I ask because, before noticing this was a list of ADHD symptoms, I had spent a lot of time self-analyzing and that was sort of the conclusion I had come to -- that my brain was fundamentally hyper-concerned with whether I was "acceptable" to others, and this maladaption seemed to make me talk a lot (always trying to perform as social and gregarious), pay too much attention to rejection, and obsessively engage with whatever I was doing basically as a way of avoiding thinking about the acceptability-question.

This is just one theory. Maybe there are others? Has anybody managed to somewhat-fix their ADHD with just therapy? What made the difference?

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In a sub comment behind the fold I took the plunge and shared a particular video of mine.

I was responding to a comment about different laws in different countries regarding free speech and agreeing that (while there are legal means in place to get around the problem) it would in fact be ideal if Freedom Rang from the Rhine to the Rio and that I'm actually interested in inviting the world to a conversation just as soon as I can find a single word description for the project.


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Any recommendations for "off the beaten track" sights and restaurants in SF? Any events this week that look particularly interesting?

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Once I saw an illustration with two versions of a composition by Mondrian, one as he painted it and the other with all of the lines made the same thickness, which altered the balance of it completely. It was perhaps in a book of Edward Tufte or Christopher Alexander. But now I can’t find it. Does anyone happen to know where this came from?

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Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023

Hamas's ostensible reason for their terror attacks was to "defend Al Aqsa". There are people who buy that, or who feel sympathy for what Hamas has done given the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. If you are one of those people, I have a question for you. Would your view of these actions change if in fact Hamas's actions were not motivated by defending their religious or ethnic group, but a cynical coordinate effort with Russia to distract the West from Ukraine?

Because senior Hamas officials met Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov after the last round of fighting [1] and possibly a number of times since then [2], Russia pre-positioned captured Ukrainian weapons in Gaza [3], Russian state-linked hackers began hacking Israel the day before the attack and threw in additional resources within an hour of the rocket strikes. Those rockets fell at 6:30AM and the hacking attacks that morning were by 7:30AM (both Moscow and Jerusalem time) [4], an unlikely hour to make a snap decision and get results. The unified message of Russian propagandists is weak evidence by comparison, but is notable.

[1] https://mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/1858373/

[2] https://www.ynetnews.com/article/sj0dtokba

[3] https://kyivindependent.com/military-intelligence-russia-gives-hamas-weapons-captured-in-ukraine-to-discredit-kyiv/

[4] https://www.securityweek.com/hackers-join-in-on-israel-hamas-war-with-disruptive-cyberattacks/

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Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023

[edit] This an attempt at modeling what A. Huxley would call the "common ground" of humanity and my speculation on how it came about supported by various authors. Lastly, a few techniques that seem broadly helpful in living well.

"When the drive for self-preservation operates freely we feel pleasure; when it is impeded we

feel pain.”

--Spinoza via K. Malik, The Quest for a Moral Compass, 2014

Being Human (plateaued)


Instinct to Morality ............. 2 [minor diagram upd.]

Advancing Humanness .... 3 [diagram upd.]

Steps to Betterment ........... 4 [completed]


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Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023Author

Does anyone have a good explanation for the sudden peace treaty between the ADL and Musk? (see https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1709592361481777360 ; this was before the recent Hamas attack so that can't explain it). Did Musk back down in some way? Did the ADL back down in some way? Did they realize they didn't actually disagree on anything? Why was it in (at least one of their) interests to start a giant fight last month, and why did it stop being in their interests to pursue that fight?

Also, do people believe https://www.tesla-mag.com/x-recaptures-90-of-top-100-advertisers-ceo-linda-yaccarino-says/ ? Obviously Twitter has incentive to lie and say that everything is now going great. But we also got all of our original "things are going badly" info from Twitter, and they don't seem to have different incentives now compared to then.

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Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023

When I was young, a museum exhibit that made a great impression on me (we didn't travel internationally then - well, children didn't unless their parents were very, very wealthy or missionaries or oil company executives or something) was the display of gifts from other heads of state or their representatives, to the LBJ White House, which had pride of place in his presidential library. It was a quite marvelous collection of objects, to my eyes. (Gifts were more of a big deal then too.)*

Hopefully this will not inspire any tangents about LBJ. Maybe I should have left his name out. But: the whole thing had a cool midcentury vibe.

I loved connecting the diversity of gifts with the diversity of countries. (I didn't yet have any inkling then, that the countries featured in the Countries of the World series that I also then loved, with their pictures - were not all totally equal in terms of their integrity as countries, or their origins. I knew no history. I knew something about Christmas customs in Sweden, e.g.) I loved the concept of "country" and "all different".

The thought that the world was so diverse thrilled me.

What a disappointment it has been to find that that diversity in the world has diminished over the rest of my life, and that it held a completely different meaning for everyone else, or at least those who would prove most influential. And that while other countries may persist - Iran seems eternal, for instance - it was my own that was feeblest of all in its country-ness.

*This sort of thing is evidently embarrassing now. The gifts have been reduced to a small display near the bathroom, I believe, on an upper floor.

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My post was deleted. Can I ask why?

I posted a draft previously and I assumed silent approval. : )

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I posted the link to Aella's recent article about a gigantic kink survey unthinkingly to a space that's generally unfriendly to rationalists. I just posted it because I thought it was interesting, and forgot about the rationalist markers.

Some points were brought up that might be reasonable-- are there a lot of kinksters, perhaps especially trans, who are sick of questionnaires and therefore won't reply? I don't think she mentioned that particular selection effect.

There was also a commenter who was concerned about privacy for individuals. Are Aella's surveys putting people at risk? At more risk than just living in the world? It's not as though medical systems are proof against data breaches.

Have people who've answered questionnaires said that the questionnaires made their lives worse in any way? This seems unlikely to me, but I might as well check.

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Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023

Does anyone know a good book on the intellectual history of human equality. The types of questions I would want to read about:

* Some claim equality is a Western concept, is it?

* How has the popularity of the concept waxed and waned?

* What has been meant by the concept through history? How has the claim of equality evolved?

* How did the arguments against equality change through history?

* How do people view the concept today?

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Palestinians have the right to armed resistance. Israels defenders justify slaughtering whatever Palestinian civilians they do on the thinnest of pretexts while magnifying any errors Palestinians commit to liberate their homeland.

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I was reviewing trolley problems with my children yesterday. Aside from having to explain what a trolley was, it was interesting how they tried to push the limits of the hypotheticals. I discovered that, while trolley problems intuitively worked for them about as I'd have expected, not all ethical thought experiments fared as well.

In particular, Peter Singer's drowning child analogy did not go well. While I agree with the ethos of charitable giving, and am not trying to litigate the fundamental ethics of altruism, I think the drowning child analogy struggles to connect in a some key ways:

1. Saving the child's life isn't fundamentally a monetary transaction. Losing the value of the suit is incidental to saving the child's life. If you were jogging in a track suit or a swimsuit you'd do the same thing. The analogy forces us to transform the saving of the child's life into a transaction when it takes the leap from "would you save a drowning child even if it happened cost you the value of a nice suit" all the way to, "would you trade the value of a suit to save the life of a child in a low-income country?" Fundamentally, the thing that caused you to take action was the child in peril and the observation that you could do a thing to save that child's life. When you decide to jump in and save the drowning child, you didn't consider the value of the suit because you're not a monster.

But extending the analogy to far-away people forces you to consider the value of the suit as part of the motivating principle for jumping into the lake in the first place. It wasn't a transaction until the analogy turned it into one. Now, the obvious rejoinder would be, "Isn't trading the value of the suit itself an action you could take to save a child's life?" That may be true, but it's not the value judgement the analogy is asking us to consider in the case of the drowning child.

We can stretch the analogy a little farther to demonstrate this point. That suit you're wearing cost $100,000. Do you still jump in to save the child? If you didn't, choosing instead to preserve the value of the suit, would you feel bad about watching that child drown? Personally, I'd jump in - or if not feel terrible in a fundamentally different way than I would feel for not donating to help people far away from me. And yet nobody is suggesting that $100k per life saved is a reasonable threshold for EA. Maybe you could argue that's because there's a lot of lower-hanging fruit on the EA tree before we hit the $100k/life threshold. By the point where we're asking people to donate that much per life saved, the moral argument gets a lot less compelling - and yet the drowning child argument DOESN'T. It's seemingly unaffected by cost, opposite to the way the far-off transaction is entirely dependent on cost.

Indeed, is there a dollar amount for the suit that changes the mental calculus for whether you feel compelled to jump into the lake and save the drowning child, versus selling the suit and donating the money to buy bed nets to prevent malaria? Say you could save a hundred lives by donating the suit to buy bed nets. Arguably, you should keep walking past the drowning child to preserve the value of the suit for far-off EA work - secure in the knowledge you're doing the right thing. But who has that intuition? At that point, the analogy is no longer working with our intuitions but against them.

The drowning child analogy fails to connect when it transforms an intuition that's not fundamentally a transaction into a transaction.

2. Saving a drowning child carries certainty of the benefit. Charitable giving to far away people (or far future people) loses this link to both certainty and benefit. As with so many financial transactions that seem good on paper (but end terribly in real life), the presence and magnitude of risk are ignored.

There's always the potential that your intervention doesn't have the effect you're hoping for, such that a "life saved" from buying a theoretical bed net doesn't translate into an actual bed net getting delivered to an actual person in need or that person doesn't use it in a way that saves their life or whatever. When you jump into the lake to save the child, you know the child's life was saved. The corollary is at least as important: if you DON'T jump in to save the child you have to watch them drown, knowing that you might have saved them. The risk differential is very large.

Okay, sure, but does that break the analogy? After a few dozen bed nets you can probably estimate that at least one life has been saved. Maybe you have to toss a bit more money at the problem to get the effect you wanted, but the low-hanging fruit is already so much lower than the cost of a suit that we should be able to price risk into the equation. And yet it still doesn't seem to work.

The problem isn't just the uncertainty of the magnitude of the effect. It's the uncertainty of the presence of an effect at all. Or in some cases, whether the net effect might even be negative. This is especially true in the field of far-off charity work. The long history of attempts at economic aid/development is littered with examples where the best intentions made people worse off than if nothing had been done to 'help'. (https://www.amazon.com/The-Idealist-Jeffrey-Sachs-Poverty/dp/0385525818/) Food aid can be used to prop up a dictatorship and expand suffering. Refugee camps inadvertently prolonged the Rwandan genocide. To this day, compassionate Russian families can take in 'refugee' children from occupied Ukraine - an act that outside of Russia is considered a war crime of forced deportation and cultural genocide. The problem with being far from the problem is not knowing whether your efforts are actually helping. In the drowning child analogy, there's no chance that the child might have survived if you hadn't jumped in to save them, and a certainty that jumping in to save the child won't INCREASE the chance of the child dying. The intuition we should be taking away from this is that it REALLY matters how certain you are that your solution is effective. Risk should not be ignored.

EA is perfectly positioned to help close the gap of uncertainty. But the only way it can do so is by acknowledging the fundamental problem with the drowning child analogy: the farther away the person in need, the less moral weight we feel toward helping that person. And rightly so! Where the distance is greater, the risk that aid is transformed from net benefit to net harm increases - something the development community has learned through sad experience. One of EA's biggest goals should be risk minimization. We need to transform intangible, uncertain opportunities for aid into something akin to walking by a drowning child, where the potential to save a life is certain. If we can do that, we can restore the link between a drowning child fifteen feet away and suffering people ten thousand miles away. What we can't do is pretend that these two situations are the same, as the drowning child analogy tempts us to do. Making them morally equivalent is a very difficult, unsolved problem. But one we are working on.

3. There's a story in the New Testament that has always struck me as odd. A woman washes Jesus' feet with some expensive oil (and her hair?), to which Judas complains that this was a big waste of money that could have been donated to the poor. On one hand, this demonstrates that the argument over transforming acts of compassion into transactions to help the poor is a lot older than the present debate. On the other hand, Jesus' answer seems a bit out of character when he says, "The poor you have with you always." Isn't this the man who spent all his time helping the poor and the downtrodden? What kind of answer is this?

I've thought about this a lot. I think it's a direct response to Judas's impulse to throw money at "the poor" in an attempt to "fix the problem". Poverty is a long-run problem that can't be solved by blindly throwing money at it and hoping it goes away. That's not what Jesus did when he visited the poor, because it's not a real solution. Real solutions to human suffering require more personal care and attention than just selling stuff to "give to the poor". I think Jesus is correct to diagnose simple "give to the poor" solutions as inadequate to solve - or even make progress on - problems of human suffering. Indeed, that approach will ensure poverty will always be with us.

I like that EA is trying to do the hard work of trying to solve the hard problems of making altruism effective. In my experience, many in the community are not making the same crass financial calculation Judas made. They take the struggle seriously. I worry a framing like the drowning child analogy, which transforms the hard problem-solving work into a monetary transaction, may do the whole movement a disservice.

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Interesting resource: u/lrq3000 on Reddit has compiled a literature review and treatment protocol for sighted non-24 hour sleep wake disorder. I have not fully fact checked everything, but the stuff I have verified is good science and the recommended protocol works very well for me.


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Lately I’ve been thinking a good sci fi book to write would be about a future in which we’ve developed a perfectly reliable test for psychopathy. How would it affect our politics? Would discrimination against psychopaths be legal? Would we require all candidates for office to disclose their test results? Of course, a psychopathic candidate could lie about their results, or maybe they would try to sell it as benefit -- “the world is cruel and you need someone ruthless to protect our interests”

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If we don’t find mechanisms to deliberately enhance physical/emotional closeness among homo sapiens, the very architecture of consciousness strictly dictates that attempts to achieve AI alignment - or any outcomes that don't make the apocalypse-o-meter tick upwards - are predestined to futility. Civilization, particularly Western, has been running an optimization process that aims for an atomized human model - and it's now disintegrating. What if we designed an app engineered to mend these ruptures, with the eventual aim of handing the reins over to benevolent AI steered by the process?


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Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023

I have a question that I feel compelled to ask that I can't get off my mind. Does anyone here know a lot about war and related topics?

I'm not siding with either Israel or Palestine, but the recent surprise attack concerns me for reasons that are separate from what's going on over there.

I have seen a user on poa.st (website with lots of Nazis and other far-right people on it) say something about a "milsim" which made me think they meant "military simulation" and they are planning some kind of attack or coup.

Again, I'm not saying that any party is in the right but the attack in the Middle-East happened despite Israel's intense surveillance of Gaza, which makes me think that attacks in general can come at any time without warning.

Am I just being paranoid or is this a real risk? If not, can someone with expertise in the matter walk me through why it isn't?

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Just published a piece in 3 Quarks Daily: https://3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2023/10/next-year-in-jerusalem-the-brilliant-ideas-and-radiant-legacy-of-miriam-lipschutz-yevick-in-relation-to-current-ai-debates.html

Here's the title and introduction:

Next year in Jerusalem: The brilliant ideas and radiant legacy of Miriam Lipschutz Yevick [in relation to current AI debates]

I first became aware of Miriam Lipschutz Yevick through my interest in human perception and thought. I believed that her 1975 paper, Holographic or Fourier Logic, was quite important. David Hays and I gave it a prominent place in our 1988 paper, Principles and Development of Natural Intelligence, and in a related paper on metaphor.

Since Yevick’s work shares a mathematics with some work in machine vision and image recognition, I wondered whether or not that paper had been cited. Moreover, that work is relevant to current debates about the need for symbolic processing in artificial intelligence (AI). As recently as 2007 Yevick was arguing, albeit informally, that human thought requires both poetic, Gestalt, or holographic processing, on the one hand, and analytic, propositional, or logical on the other.

As far as I can tell, her work has been forgotten.

That is one thing. But there is more. I become curious about her, this woman, Miriam Lipschutz Yevick.

What about her? And so I began reading her 2012 memoire, A Testament for Ariela, which takes the form of letters she had written to her grand-daughter in a three-year period in the mid-1980s. The memoire says nothing about her mathematical ideas, though it does mention that in 1947 she became the fifth woman to get a mathematics Ph.D. from MIT. She also talks of her friendship and correspondence with David Bohm, who became a noted quantum theorist. It quickly became clear that she had not had an academic career worthy of her intellectual gifts. Yet she did not seem bitter about that. She had a rich and fulfilling life.

This essay is about both her life and her holographic logic. The work on holographic logic leads me to a harsh assessment of the current debate about artificial intelligence. Thinking about her life leads me to conclude with an optimistic look at the future: next year in Jerusalem.

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I haven't heard of incels in a while, and yet, the circumstances have not changed, and there should still be lots of them around, maybe even more than when they were in the spotlight. Does anyone know of places online where incels congregate these days?

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Is Jason Isbell good to see in concert? It's a moot point until next year, but I follow a Salt Lake City podcast, and a while back the hostesses were joking about how he performs so frequently at the Red Butte Gardens concert venue that they should offer him a condo up there or something. It makes me curious.

With the Fried Chicken Sandwich trend, how come nobody has turned out a good Chinese food sandwich? You could totally turn General Tso's Chicken or something else into a sandwich, and in fact I tried my hand at making an Orange Chicken Sandwich (roll, toppings, Panda Express Orange Chicken) and it was pretty good.

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For those of you who, like me, were fans of Michael "The OFloinn" Flynn, of "The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown" (among many others) fame, you should know that he passed away on 30 September, according to tofspot.blogspot.com.

He will be missed greatly.

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Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023

I have a request for a post ...

a "much more than you wanted to know" type post about hypnosis!

It seems like the sort of thing that's up Scott's alley. Kind of mysterious psychological phenomenon, a lot of pop-science out there about it, probably some truth if you can sift through the BS.

Most people have seen stage hypnosis shows or similar - people go up on stage, are told to relax, etc, then "when I say [trigger word] you'll think you're a chicken" then the guy says the word and people, even people who are normally very reserved and would never do something like this, act like a chicken. The first-hand accounts from "subjects" aren't always consistent in what is going on in their heads when this happens. Some obvious questions about this (and hypnosis in general):

- is it "real"? What exactly would it mean for it to be "real" vs "not real"?

- are the subjects who act like chickens able to control themselves and deciding to go along with it? Not able to control themselves, perhaps because they aren't really conscious and their bodies are simply "taking orders" from someone? Somewhere in between?

- you always hear "it can't make you do something you don't want to do" but most people would normally be pretty embarrassed to publicly act the way people act at these stage hypnosis shows, so is that right?

- to what extent do you have to believe in it, or want it to happen, for it to work?

- how much overlap is there between hypnosis and other phenomena (like being really focused on something, or listening to a charismatic speaker, to name some oft-cited examples)?

- is using hypnosis to change habits, recover repressed memories, or realize you were a feudal archer in a past life, a real thing?

- what does the answers to the above say about our "theory of mind"?

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The city of Detroit is apparently about to try a Georgist land value tax. Here is the Economist's article about it in this week's issue:


From the vantage point of a new apartment on the 33rd floor of the Book Tower, a stunning 1920s Italian-Renaissance-style skyscraper in downtown Detroit, two aspects of the city are visible. Look south-east, towards Canada, and you see a skyline thick with cranes. New towers are shooting up, old ones being rebuilt, and the pavements below are thick with pedestrians. Cross to the other bedroom, however, and you get quite a different view. Right up to the edge of a highway entire city blocks are occupied by nothing but tarmac. At 11am an ocean of surface parking is uninterrupted by even a single car.

Just over a decade ago Detroit became the biggest American city to go bankrupt. Since then its city centre has made a remarkable recovery. The Book Tower, which was completely derelict in 2009, has been rebuilt at a cost of over $300m by Bedrock, a property firm owned by Dan Gilbert, Michigan’s richest man. Yet though downtown is humming, huge parts of the city remain blighted.

The city now has a more ambitious plan to reduce the amount of vacant land. It intends to tax it. A lot. Will it work?

The idea, proposed by Mike Duggan, the city’s pugnacious mayor, is to replace Detroit’s current property tax with a split tax. In essence, assessors will distinguish between the value of its land and of the buildings on it. This done, the city’s property tax will be reduced from 2% for every $1 of assessed value (which is less than market value) to 0.6%. To make up for the revenues lost, land will be taxed at a new rate of 11.8%, whether or not it has anything built on it. In Michigan changes to property-tax rates have to be approved by voters. A law to allow that cleared its first hurdle in the state House in late September. A referendum could happen in February.

The principle of taxing land instead of buildings has a long history. Over a century ago Henry George, a liberal economist, argued that the rich used land ownership to hoard the wealth being created by progress. His most dedicated fans adopted the slogan “Do you see the cat?” (based on a convoluted metaphor), to refer to his ideas that land ownership underpinned high inequality. Yet George’s proposal—a single tax on land value—has barely been tried. If Mr Duggan’s scheme becomes law, Detroit will be one of the first big cities anywhere in the world to implement one.

How come Detroit is able to try something so radical? One advantage, says Jay Rising, the city’s chief financial officer, is that the city now raises very little from its current system. In 1959, according to a study by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a think-tank in Massachusetts, the city’s property tax raised over $1bn, adjusted for inflation. By 2019, after decades of economic decline, the figure had fallen to just $119m. “If this was 80% of our revenues, we’d be a lot more nervous,” says Mr Rising. In fact it is just 16%. Moreover, the value of residential land is very low, which makes it an easier sell to voters.

The hope is that taxing land more will in fact spur development. Right now, says Alex Alsup of Regrid, a data firm, Detroit has “a very pure version of speculation”. As downtown booms, people who bought land nearby years ago—such as the owners of the car parks—merely have to wait for investment nearby to raise the value of their own land. Higher taxes might force them to sell up to people who will build on it. “It is entirely possible that this land tax has the ability to free up properties,” says Kofi Bonner, the ceo of Bedrock.

The bigger immediate benefit, though, comes from reducing taxes on most residents. The city argues that 97% of homeowners will get a tax cut. Lower tax rates on improvements ought to encourage people to invest in properties—and help some avoid falling behind on their taxes. Though they raise little, Detroit’s property taxes are punishing to poor homeowners. Between 2011 and 2015, according to a study published in 2019, one in four city properties went into tax foreclosure, their owners having fallen behind on payments.

But Bernadette Atuahene, one of the authors of that study, suggests that high rates were not the only problem. What mattered more was that after the great financial crisis, Detroit’s assessor systematically overvalued the homes of the poorest residents. When people could not pay, Wayne County, which includes the city, added interest at 18%. Homes ended up auctioned, with any excess over the tax owed banked by the county. Ms Atuahene worries that the proposed new tax does nothing to fix this problem—and if residential land ends up overvalued, may exacerbate it. “We currently have an assessment division that’s not doing its job,” she says.

Getting assessments right is one of the long-standing challenges of land-value taxes, and explains why they are so rare. Still, if the city can do that well, there will be real gains. Gabriel McNeil, a 61-year-old former chef who now lives on disability benefits, says that even a small tax cut would help him a lot. Having bought his home for just $8,000 in 2013, he struggles with tax payments of thousands of dollars each year. “The property tax is not designed for lower-income people at all,” he says. “It’s not easy to keep up.” For some, any cut is better than nothing.


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I am finding is harder to navigate the current political and economic environment these days, especially in America. There are too many variables to reconcile and I think, generally, the assumptions we made in the past may no longer stand up. I come back to two themes: (1) Hobbes' Leviathan and the state of nature is a state of war and (2) Trump's "American Carnage speech. This is what Trump said, "Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories, scattered like tombstones across the across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge, and the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."

Put simply, the perception of the rule of law in America is in question and there are a whole host of second and third order effects that no one seems to talk about. Take something like insurance. Car insurance in America is compulsory, but increasingly people are choosing not to insure their vehicles, and given a lack of any enforcement mechanism, people who choose to follow the rules are left with bearing the cost of those who just ignore the rules. This is just one example where people just choose to ignore the rules, are not held accountable in any way, and then it becomes a slippery slope.

And you can point to dozens of other examples, and it's like how does a society function like this? Are there new norms that take its place or do we all live in this kind of limbo until the system breaks?

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What does Gen X not get about life in 2023? (I'm Gen X)

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Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023

It's been 50 years since the Yom Kippur War, so I did some reading on it. This is regarded as the Arab-Israeli war that Israel nearly lost, but was it really?

The turning point seems to have been the Egyptian decision to leave their positions to attack east into well-prepared Israeli defenses. They had to do that because the Syrians were losing and demanded Egypt do something to distract the IDF.

But let's assume Egypt did the militarily smart thing and stayed put in its own defenses. Israel would have just neutralized Syria and then, once that was done, send all of its forces to the Sinai where they would have beaten up Egypt and driven them out of the peninsula. Egypt's army had only gotten a few miles east of the Suez Canal anyway. Their positions were so shallow.


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So- what were the political alignments in the 50s, 60s and 70s in the US again? It's hard for me to get my mind around. Is it true that labor and working-class types generally voted for Democrats, or at least left-leaning candidates? But we know that relative elites, intellectuals, college professors and Hollywood types were politically left-wing even then- this was the epicenter of anti-Vietnam war sentiment, civil rights, hippies, Jane Fonda, some degree of sympathy to Communism, and so on. So that part (intellectuals and Hollywood) were left-wing then- basically the same as today. So Jane Fonda and the working class guy down at the steel mill were..... on the same political side, is that correct? Kind of hard to imagine.

And the suburbs/the upper middle class was generally center right, do I have that correct?

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You should know that substack has a fairly new feature to make it harder for people to comment on posts. The user hits reply; substack announces that "for your security, we need to re-authenticate you". Substack sends a the user an email; when it arrives the user clicks on a link in it, and this brings up a new web window/tab with the post the user intended to comment on, but not focussed on the part of the thread they intended to respond to.

If they can still remember what they were about to type, they get to hunt for the desired position possibly deep in a thread. The old window is still open to tell them what to search for, but any attempt to type the reply there gets yet another demand for re-authentication, except the second time (with the user already verified) no actual email appears to be sent.

Once again: your old software was much better, except for monetization, and perhaps for bringing in randos who might subscribe (and pay).

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It is self-evident that some people respond to particular medications in the desired way and some people don't, right? Are there ways to account for that when studying whether a medication works or not?

An example I have in mind is, say, a novel antidepressant. There is some controversy about whether antidepressants reliably help people, and to me it seems like it would be helpful to be able to identify which people react to a medication (if in fact any do react), calculate an effect size for that group of people as opposed to for a broader population, and ideally look for traits among that group that predict whether (or how well) a given person will react. Though, I suppose, that's more easily said than done. We would have to have some idea of what kind of traits to look for. Genes (of which there are many)? Environmental differences (of which there are many)? People's medical histories (which are extremely varies)?

A simplified example: Say you have a randomized controlled double-blinded study for a medication, in which 60% of your experimental group has the desired response to the medication and (e.g.) 40% of your control group also shows some response. Then you take those 60% who responded to the medication, and re-assign them to a new control group and an experimental group. If the medication has some effect for some people, you would expect more than 60% of people in this second experimental group to respond to the medication, right?

My intuition is that this would help distinguish between the people in the control group who would've responded to the placebo and the people who had a real response to he medication. Does that stand to reason?

I don't have a science background beyong my degree's general education requirements and my statistics knowledge tops out around stats 101 so I could be completely off base here.

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The discussion about evolution below made me realize I have no idea whether I learned about evolution in school. (Public school, 1960s, northern Delaware, USA) I picked it up somewhere, and I have no memory of where I learned it.

Do people remember where and when they learned about evolution?

Does anyone remember when evolution became a hot political issue? There was the monkey trial (1925), but I don't remember it being a hot political issue until rather recently.

I consider variation and selection to be an extremely beautiful and applicable abstract idea. By comparison, global warming is very limited in time and space and the theory isn't as tidy. I was surprised to find that people seem to think evolution and global warming are the same sorts of thing. This may be political.

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The Gaza strip has a population of 2.3 million and is growing at 2%/year: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_Strip#Demographics. If the trend continues they'll surpass the density of Singapore in ~14 years. Is this demographic issue discussed in Israel/Palestine?

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Can anyone recommend some good machine learning datasets to practice with (besides MNIST) that are easy enough to be done with only linear layers, no convolutions? I'm learning Julia and trying to write a neural net from scratch to practice with. Already did MNIST. Thanks!

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I used to consider myself a free-speech extremist (no on thoughtful is an absolutist) but I confess that seeing protesters in Times Square chanting "700"(the death toll of civilians in Israel) and making throat-slitting gestures the day after the murder of 260 concert goers, the rape of women; and desecration of corpses; the kidnappimg of elderly dementia patients and toddlers...makes me rethink.

The Mill-ian idea that anybody has anything to learn from these people (or making extremely basic arguments against them) is a bad joke.

I'm not looking to argue too much. I'm just tracing the story of how one doctrinaire civil-libertarian is led away from dogma

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Recently I have been playing the video game Book of Hours a lot.

Taking place in the same universe as Cultist Simulator, it nevertheless plays quite differently.

Where in CS, you play a ruthless cult leader who recruits members towards some sinister end, loots occult places for books, reads these books strictly for their arcane content, summons eldritch horrors and sends them after the investigators looking into the crimes of the cult, in BoH, you play the role of a librarian carefully reclaiming a vast library building.

The upside of librarians not living as fast as adepts is that they also don't die young, all the menaces which could lead to involuntary game ends are missing from BoH. Where a spoiler-free play-through of Cultist Simulator would involve quite a lot of suffering on the players part (especially for the advanced ends, where you would need to figure out how to reach your objectives quickly under adversarial conditions), Book of Hours can reasonably be played without spoilers.

If you go down that road, I would recommend making notes. A text editor is sufficient for most stuff, preferably complemented by a spreadsheet for memories and skills. (Optionally also crafting stations and crafting recipes). Reading books will give you skill lessons, which work quite differently from the lessons in CS. Where in CS you required n lessons to raise an attribute from (n-1) to n, in BoH to upgrade a skill you require *one* lesson of *any skill with a shared principle* and (n-1) memories with a shared principle.

So to upgrade a skill from one to nine, one will need eight lessons and a total of 36 memories. While the intent of the game is likely to only allow the skill level nine if the player knows how to create eight memories worth suitable principles within a day, as an unintended consequence the game feels a bit like playing a version of Factorio where you have to manually feed every assembly machine. Before that, the player is also free to agonize about /which/ skill to increase as much as they want.

My reason to play the game is that I really like to explore the world-building at a more leisurely pace than Cultist Simulator offers. The crafting system is nice, and with the less abstract representation of physical items you can hoard as many books, plants, drinks etc as you can fit on your shelves.

Or we could talk about feud between Failbetter Games (Fallen London, Sunless Sea) and Alexis Kennedy, which is very culture war related.

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I would appreciate fellow ACX readers' thoughts on my proposal that Occam's razor doesn't always reduce complexity - it just defers complexity from explanations to objects


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I'm trying to find a more in-depth exploration of a behaviour I've been noticing - I'm not sure if I read something about this in a SSC/ACX post, or perhaps a comment section. I can't think of the correct terms to describe it, so hopefully I can show what I mean by way of anecdote:

I was watching reality TV with a friend a while back, and one of the people on the show got into a conversation about evolution, or rather she explained that she was devoutly Christian and didn't believe in evolution. My friend immediately went to "wow, what a dumbass," while I said something along the lines of "who cares, she's a hairstylist by trade, says she loves her family and all that, what does it matter in her life whether she 'correctly' believes in evolution or not". I think I also reflected on the fact that in our (my friend's and mine) lives, knowledge of evolution affects approximately zero of our day-to-day interactions, except when its pulled out - like in this anecdote - to laugh at someone for being stupid.

Anyway, my friend got a bit defensive, we changed the subject.

I guess I'm wondering how much being "correct" on topics like evolution is the issue here, or if its simply another tribal calling-card that lets one dunk on the outgroup. Neither my friend nor I have any scientific education, though I am starting to turn my studies in that direction. Understanding evolution and natural selection is important for biological studies etc, but in my day-to-day I'm fine with people having "incorrect" views on these things - I still trust them on, say, interpersonal matters, if they get along well with people; but I'll discount supposedly scientific recommendations (structured water, anyone?).

If this is all very vague, let me ask for personal experiences - how much does disagreement on key topics affect how you value other people, if at all, depending on context?

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Suppose you are presented with evidence of “nonhuman vehicles”, ie UFO’s. How does this evidence change your prior beliefs about the difficulty of aligning an AGI?

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Another parenting question:

Every parent I know uses a smartphone or a tablet as an off switch for their children. For context, I'm thinking about kids aged 0-5 here. Most of the time the parents just slap on a kid's video on Youtube. Sometimes it's apps and games to play instead.

Every parent (entirely unprompted by us) goes through the same conversation, where they assure us with a slight edge to their voices that we'll have to do the same and we'll find we don't have a choice. Since I'm never the one to say, "Urgh, I would never let *my* kid become a screen zombie," I have to assume they said it to themselves and are now pre-emptively justifying their choices to us.

Thing is, I don't necessarily condemn the practice outright, and I absolutely see the tactical value of having an off switch for your child when you need a break.

My instinct is to look at the detail of what's actually happening on the smartphone, and take each factor on its own merits:

- the child is learning patterns like "swipe up on screen" before it learns patterns like "turn page of book", which to me feel more "natural".

---> I can't see a problem with this, because I know it eventually will learn both sets of patterns, and I can't see that the order of learning matters at all.

- the sensorium offered by the smartphone is limited to a small screen, tinny audio, and the feeling of fingertips on plastic. There is no broader or deeper stimulus, nothing's ever in your peripheral vision, and a child raised this way will be what Bret Victor calls "touch blind".

---> I can see the point, but it only really holds if the child is never made to do anything else. I don't see "finger on a screen" as inherently bad, so I don't see that the smartphone does any harm if provided as an addition to an already stimulating environment.

- the child could become superstimulated and unable to find mundane real-world things interesting.

---> I don't know what to think about this.

---> But I notice that this is the exact opposite of the school of thought that says I should be giving the kid as much stimulation as possible to encourage its neural connections to form.

- I can put educational apps on the device and the child will (hopefully) wind up associating learning with leisure time, as well as (debateably) learning various subjects relatively well before it gets to school. Desiring the lure of the smartphone, it will end up begging me for access to these things.

---> Can anyone see a downside to this?

- the child will be exposed to media that I don't control, and may not understand or approve of. At best my child learns to speak in Americanisms that will annoy me, at worst it imbibes memes and indoctrination from my political outgroup.

---> My current thinking is I could just disable Internet access and fill the device with media from my own childhood.

- the foundation may be laid for the child to be exposed to social media at a young age.

---> I am firmly against social media and would lump it in with smoking and gambling as things I very much don't want my children to get involved in.

---> However, if the device cannot access the Internet, I think I should be safe on this one. At least I might have bought myself a few years until I can work out how to address the subject down the line.

What have I missed? Does anyone have any thoughts?

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Scott, what do you think about the state of magic mushrooms in California? Recently there was an attempt to decriminalize, but Newsom vetoed it. His argument was that we need regulation in place before legalization can take place.

Do you have any thoughts on what good regulations would look like? And if legalized, would you wait and see before making use of magic mushrooms in your own practice, or would you pick up the tool?

Source with more details here: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-10-07/gavin-newsom-psychedelics-magic-mushrooms-sb-58-veto-drugs-california

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Bizarre multilingual pun: 'Jamas' in Spanish, pronounced 'hamas', means 'never again'.

So one of the most antisemitic organizations has a name that sounds like an anti-Holocaust slogan.

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Few months back, I got many interesting responses when I asked those who did believe Russia will easily overrun Ukraine why they thought that.

So, another attempt, this time addressed to those who thought current Ukrainian offensive will be taking ground faster than it in fact does. Why did you thought that?

After all, everyone paying attention knows it generally takes superior forces to do a successful offensive against prepared enemy position, and Ukraine obviously does not have clearly superior foreces, at least not in the quantitative sense. When airpower is taken into account, Russia probably still has overall superiority in the overall “military useful machines” category, while after Russian mobilization, number of troops is firmly in “too close to call” territory.

Theoretically this might have been compensated in hard to observe “quality of soldiers” category, but before the offensive started, we’ve seen roughly zero signs (like e.g. mass surrenders) that gap in “quality” is so large it would enable quick Ukrainian breakthrough.

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What do people here make of The China Convergence and its theory? (please no comments about length, it's fine to skim)


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AI in Homer. Iliad book 18

She [Thetis mother of Achilles] found him [the smith god Hephaestus], busy with his bellows, sweating and hard at work, for he was making

twenty tripods that were to stand by the wall of his house, and he

set wheels of gold under them all that they might go of their own

selves to the assemblies of the gods, and come back again- marvels

indeed to see. They were finished all but the ears of cunning workmanship

which yet remained to be fixed to them: these he was now fixing.


and a bit later

There were golden handmaids also who worked for him and were like

real young women, with sense and reason, voice also and strength,

and all the learning of the immortals;

I have not read Jaynes and don't know whether he deals with thesee

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Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023

I have a few questions about personality classifications in psychology.

I really like the Myers-Briggs system. It seems to me intuitive, clearly defined, easily understood and easily applied to classify people I know. Apparently though, it lacks evidential support compared to the Big Five system. And that system I find completely useless and infuriating as a layman and a philosopher. I can barely tell the difference between the five different dimensions, I find the dimensions and their relationships with each other vaguely defined (from what I've seen on the internet), and I find the tests I've seen on the internet to have inferior and vaguer questions than the Myers Briggs tests. I'm probably lacking understanding of it though, so I have three questions.

1. How exactly do you "evidentially" test personality systems? What does it even mean for a system to be supported by evidence? Evidence for doing what exactly? And how is it measured?

2. Do the dimensions of the Big Five have precise definitions? What are they? All I can find is very vague and rambling descriptions.

3. What exactly is wrong with the Myers Briggs system?

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What is the psychology of the Westerners who support Hamas?

Surely they cannot be ignorant of the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians and the video of the German woman whose body was mutilated by Hamas got some approving comments by some Westerners. While some contrarianism might explain it, the Democratic Socialists of America and the "Squad" have declared their support for Hamas.

What kind of psychology would produce such moral decisions?

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Oct 9, 2023·edited Oct 9, 2023

I've found an fascinating topic: People who voluntarily fought on both sides of a war. If we limit ourselves to a strict definition of volunteers (e.g. no PoWs or drafted deserters) and define "side" strictly as sovereign military organizations (e.g. someone who fought for the Finns against the Allies and then against the Axis once the fins switched sides in ww2 doesn't count), I can only find one example (though I'm sure there's more):

The Swede Patrik Gustaf Bergin joined the Danish as a volunteer during the First Schleswig War in 1849. He participated in the Battle of Fredericia but was discharged during the armistice. Then he surprisingly joined the Schleswig-Holstein side during 1850 and fought against the Danes. His stated reason was that he was appealed by how the Danish army treated the civilian Germans, but it's also speculated that he was motivated by pride from his own perceived mistreatment by the Danish Army. He was lambasted for this in the Swedish press, since Sweden was formally neutral but informally on the Danish side. He was wounded during the Battle of Isted and died a few days later.

Does anyone know of more people like this?

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I missed the 'gay younger brothers' post when it was fresh and comments were happening, so posting my question here:

How much will decreasing family sizes, as in children per women / number of siblings per child decrease the proportion of gay people in a population?

I'm struggling to understand exactly what the statistics are saying here, but taking the Dutch meta-study at face value as correct, how would one go about calculating this figure? In countries like the Netherlands or Canada, one can probably (?) assume that at adulthood a significant majority of gay people are 'out' already, so additional social acceptance probably (?) would only be a minor mitigating factor.

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Will the Hamas attacks help or hurt Netanyahu politically?

The lack of preparedness for the Yom-Kippur War ended the dominance of the lAbour party in 73, and Israel found itself caught equally unprepared this time.

On the other hand Netanyahu is a shrewd politician and has done a great job painting himself as the only person who can keep Israel safe, does such a attack bolster his support when safety seems much more critical.

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What are people's prognoses for how the current dramatically heightened phase of the Israel-Palestine conflict will end? IDF is bound to conduct a large ground operation in Gaza, what will happen there?

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deletedOct 9, 2023·edited Oct 10, 2023
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