Pro-palestine "protesters" trap jewish students in library and pound on the glass and scream at them. NYT describes this as simply a "tense situation". I wonder what they would say if college republicans did the same to a group of muslims?


Expand full comment

Man, Razib Khan's latest Substack post is so good. https://www.razibkhan.com/p/casting-out-the-wolf-in-our-midst

He postulates a new thesis for the Bronze Age Collapse! (New to me, anyway.) Here's some key excerpts, but I recommend the whole thing, which includes many fascinating details involving the confluence of mythological, archeological and genetic evidence and the role of dogs and wolves, written in literary-quality prose:

“The koryos were bands of unmarried men who lived on the edge of their communities, just as fledgling Maasai warriors do today. With no possessions or real wealth, these young men raided for much of the year to survive. Formally expelled from respectable society for a period of years, they stole, killed, and committed sexual assault as a matter of course, and their savagery was tolerated, so long as the brutality was directed outward, to victims beyond the community...

The ranging of these human “wolf-packs” across Eurasia 5,000 years ago altered the course of history, triggering a cascade of changes that reconfigured the Bronze Age world...

And despite the catalytic role likely played by cultural decline and climate change, the appearance of aggressive Indo-European agro-pastoralists was responsible for the ultimate extinction of Europe’s Neolithic civilizations...

The thesis then is that a migration of males drove the cultural shift is supported by copious genetic evidence. Data from both Europe and India indicate that steppe ancestry was brought by males and that the maternal lineage (mtDNA) of modern Europeans and Indians is predominantly indigenous...

A 2015 paper comparing genetic diversity between Y chromosomes and mitochondrial (maternal) lineages, found that over 4,000 years ago, for dozens of generations, more than ten women had children for every man in the regions characterized by expansionary Yamnaya. These genetic data make the case for massive levels of de facto polygamy among these early elite Indo-European kindreds...

What precipitated the explosion and dominance of the early Indo-Europeans 5,000 years ago? The switch from farming to nomadism more than five millennia ago inadvertently shifted the balance between culture and anti-culture toward the latter. When conceptualizing the rise and evolution of societies, Marxists refer to an economic “base” influencing an ideological “superstructure,” and here it is clear that the movement away from a cereal-based economic base had massive knock-on effects on the ideological superstructure. The most feral elements that had lain latent in these ancient communities were unleashed upon the world. Whereas their ancestors’ canvas for coming-of-age transgressions and black acts had been perhaps a neighboring glen or a valley, the black youth, the dogs of war now painted their bloody legacy across the length and breadth of Eurasia.”

Expand full comment

My psychiatrist friend suggested “compartmentalization and denial” to me this week as a reasonable response to really horrible things happening so I tried to offer up some dark humor about it, in case anyone cares to read. Rage and scream a little with me, y’know, as a treat. Misery loves company but so do the unhinged. And the company’s always great amongst people in this thread.


Expand full comment

Argentina's national election process has taken a bit of a turn.

Javier Milei, the self-described libertarian who had led in the polling, received only the same 30 percent in the second round that he did in the primaries. That places him second heading into a runoff. Sergio Massa, the Peronist [left-populist] candidate who is the current economy minister and had lagged behind in the primaries, finished first with 37%. Patricia Bullrich, the center-right coalition candidate, finished 3rd with 24%. Since nobody got enough to win outright there will on Nov 19th be a runoff between Milei and Massa.

Quoting the Economist: "Mr Massa’s turnaround is astounding. Since he took up his current job in August 2022 annual inflation in Argentina has increased from 79% to 138%. The price of one black-market American dollar—the currency Argentines prefer to save in because their own loses value so fast—has increased from around 300 pesos to around 1,000. Multiple exchange rates have been invented, adding distortions to Argentina’s already-labyrinthine economic rules. The vast majority of Argentines say inflation is their top concern....

"In response to Mr. Milei’s primary win, Peronist leaders activated the vast apparatus they control throughout the country. In the weeks coming up to the election Mr Massa doled out goodies estimated to cost the equivalent of more than 1% of gdp. These included a bonus for pensioners in pesos worth $100 (at the official exchange rate), and the elimination of income tax for 99% of all workers.

"The effort to win back disillusioned voters was concentrated in the sprawling and often-miserable suburbs of Buenos Aires province, where more than a third of Argentines live. Ten days before the presidential election, lorries owned by a poor municipality called Lomas de Zamora were found to be delivering refrigerators, housing materials and mattresses to voters. One person later thanked the Peronist president of the local legislature for sending her a new stove. In September a puntero, or ward boss, was caught in another district using 48 debit cards to withdraw cash that belonged to local legislators. Police suspect the money was intended to buy votes.

"Fear-mongering also played a role, thinks Maru Duffard, a journalist and political analyst in Buenos Aires. The government built a narrative about “all the things that could be lost” if a free-market candidate like Ms Bullrich—or, worse, a radical libertarian like Mr Milei— came to power. Two days before the election, bus and train stations began showing customers how much their ticket prices would increase if subsidies—which cost the government around 2% of gdp per year—were removed....

"Yet Mr Milei’s loss cannot solely be explained by Mr Massa’s gains. Mr Milei’s bizarre, often aggressive, rhetoric and his radical economic and social proposals put many voters off. In a majority-Catholic country he has called the pope, who is Argentine, an “imbecile”, “a leftist son of a bitch” and “a donkey”—because he considers him left-wing. Although 37% of employees in Argentina work for the public sector, Mr Milei has described the state as a “criminal organisation” and compared it to a paedophile in a kindergarten. He wants to slash public spending by the equivalent of 15% of gdp (from around 40% today), scrap most taxes and ditch the peso for the greenback, a process he says would “blow up” the central bank.

"Beyond his economic reforms, Mr Milei, whose catchphrase is “Long live liberty goddammit!”, proposes to loosen gun-ownership laws, ban abortions and establish a legal market for human organs...."

"Despite Mr Massa’s surprise first-round win, victory in the run-off is not assured, because it is unclear where Ms Bullrich’s votes will go. Her coalition includes both hardliners, who may be prepared to work with Mr Milei, and social democrats who might prefer to cast blank votes. That Mr Milei’s vote share did not budge between the primaries and the first round suggests that he may have hit a ceiling. But the fact that candidates who propose free-market ideas secured more than half of all votes suggests that Peronism may have to reinvent itself soon—or face its long-heralded demise."

Expand full comment

Uuuuum what happened to Scott?

Expand full comment

I wondered what the Chinese version of the 'Chinese Room' article on Wikipedia was like, it was pretty basic, but maybe someone picks up something. Here goes, in translation of course:

The Chinese room (English: Chinese room ) is a thought experiment proposed by American philosophy professor John Searle to refute the idea of ​​strong artificial intelligence . According to the view of strong artificial intelligence , as long as the computer has appropriate programs, it can theoretically be said that the computer has its cognitive state and can perform understanding activities like humans.

The experiment comes from John Rogers Searle 's paper "Minds, Brains , and Programs ," published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in 1980 . [1]

Experiment summary

The experimental process of the Chinese room can be expressed as follows:

A person who knew nothing about Chinese and spoke only English was locked in a closed room with only one opening. There is a manual written in English in the room with instructions on how to handle incoming Chinese messages and how to respond accordingly in Chinese. People outside the room kept sending questions written in Chinese into the room. The person in the room follows the instructions in the manual, looks for the appropriate instructions, combines the corresponding Chinese characters to form the answer to the question, and hands the answer out of the room.

John Searle believes that although the person in the room can fake it and make people outside the room think he speaks Chinese, in fact he does not understand Chinese at all. In the above process, the role of the person outside the room is equivalent to the programmer , the person in the room is equivalent to the computer , and the manual is equivalent to the computer program : whenever the person outside the room gives an input, the person in the room will give a reply according to the manual ( output). And just as it is impossible for a person in a room to understand Chinese through a manual, it is impossible for a computer to gain understanding through a program. Since computers do not have the ability to understand, the so-called "computer has intelligence" is out of the question.

Opposite views

There are opposing views on this Been proposed[who? ] , its content is roughly as follows:

Arguments to the contrary

Everyone thinks that people are intelligent ;Human intelligent decision-making comes from the conversion of electrical signals in brain cells. Each brain cell does not understand the meaning of a word, but simply buffers, transmits or inhibits an electrical signal. The brain cells create grammatical rules and decision - making strategies ( equivalent to Rule books and people who don't understand Chinese), but they don't understand the meaning of each word.[Source Request] Humans, however, have shown the ability to communicate with others. If according to Searle's point of view, then human beings do not have cognitive abilities, but this is inconsistent with the facts. Therefore, it can still be considered that if a certain computer program can complete the Turing test, it means that the computer program has cognitive ability.

Criticism of opposing views

However, this view has also been suggested to have two fundamental fallacies, and is even considered to have a misunderstanding of the concept of "Chinese Room". First, this theory relies too much on the premise that "intelligent decision-making comes from the conversion of electrical signals in brain cells", and mistakenly interprets the phenomenon involving the conversion of electrical signals in brain cells when humans make intelligent decisions as "intelligent decision-making". It is 'produced' by the conversion of electrical signals in brain cells." Not only has this deduction never been proven, there is also insufficient evidence to support it. Secondly, this theory can only deduce that "the buffering, transmission or inhibition of an electrical signal by a single brain cell cannot make it understand the meaning of a word." As for how brain cells (collectively) create grammatical rules and decision-making strategies , does it simply rely on The buffering, transmission or suppression of electrical signals by individual brain cells does not make any reasonable inferences; it also ignores the relationship between "a single brain cell" and an intelligent human being, the latter encompassing the former, the former and many others. Complex relationships such as the latter directly use the reality that "a single brain cell cannot understand the meaning of a word but human beings have intelligence" to deny "the machine cannot gain understanding through programming" and "intelligence is directly related to understanding" The logic of the basis for "ability" is difficult to understand and the deduction is too hasty.

Expand full comment

Any recommendations for blogs / podcasts / books about infant development? I'm looking for something similar to Huberman Lab but geared towards infants.

Expand full comment

When I google 'astralcodexten,' to the right of the results there's a picture of a man and a little girl. This man is not Scott. Do we know who this is and why he's there? Or is this just me?

Expand full comment

If the US continues to supply Ukraine with artillery ammunition through next spring (and/or for Israel), does that greatly increase the odds China would invade Taiwan next summer? We presumably would be low on artillery ammunition at the time, so I'm thinking we would have trouble also supplying Taiwan with such ammunition should they need it. But I don't know enough to know if they would need it.

I've heard the ideal window for invasion from China's point of view is still a few years out, but perhaps the circumstances above could pull it forward to next year?

Expand full comment

To people that have tried both Amphetamines and Atomoxetine (brand name "Strattera") for ADHD: what did you find the differences to be? And was one clearly better than the other?

Expand full comment

Hey this open thread is number 2 in science (🤷‍♂️) on Substack. 🎉

Expand full comment

Has substack felt dramatically worse to anyone else recently? Especially on mobile I seem to be seeing a lot more of comments taking forever to load, or going blank if I scroll to fast, or freezing up; especially on posts with a lot of them.

Expand full comment

Here's an article (https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/iranian-backed-militias-mount-new-wave-of-attacks-as-u-s-supports-israel-d51364d4?utm_source=newsshowcase&utm_medium=gnews&utm_campaign=CDAqDwgAKgcICjDW3MkBMOfLFTCBuuMB&utm_content=rundown&gaa_at=la&gaa_n=AYRtylZmMI7Ftj1s5bu1dyE0g5BGc9O_qEE_cgH5fGe44b9YfhgsB521PJxuSpqSBY5qgfBZ_tg1ZgBy-E23Z5nc4YQX&gaa_ts=653885fb&gaa_sig=FvlfuV8gUmSzvipMSU13RH63t--50DAoUe5sI9IR7ibtBfGlFlPvjdbVECQScRv1UF2rgHnQQhofniwufKdoRQ%3D%3D&isGaa=true) and that link maaaaaay be unpaywalled? I had to link to my google account so might be a one time thing.

But anyway, there's a lot there that is extremely worrisome about the possibility of U.S. troops getting into a shooting war with Iran and/or it's proxy forces. But then this line stood out to me:

"In Yemen, the Iranian-backed Houthis also fired five Iranian-provided cruise missiles and launched about 30 drones toward Israel in an attack that was larger than initially described by the Pentagon, U.S. officials said.

Last week, the USS Carney guided missile cruiser, which was operating in the northern Red Sea, shot down four of the cruise missiles while a fifth cruise missile was intercepted by Saudi Arabia as it protected its airspace, according to people familiar with the episode. Those cruise missiles have a range of more than 2,000 kilometers (about 1,240 miles), the Pentagon said Tuesday, which would enable them to reach targets in Israel.

USS Carney

The U.S.'s guided-missile destroyer intercepted cruise missiles and several drones near the coast of Yemen in the northern Red Sea."

Holy shit a destroyer shot down 4 cruise missiles at the same time, that's dang impressive! I think? Maybe just because our destroyer's are yesterday's cruisers or something?

However, there was a 5th cruise missile, so you know, not great

Expand full comment

New Zealand had an election that was fairly interesting. It seems like the National Party (conservative) will need to cooperate with the ACT (libertarian) in order to have a majority.

It’s rare to see libertarian parties winning seats, much less holding the balance of power. I’m interested to see what they can accomplish in that position.

From what I understand, the results aren’t final until Nov 3.

Expand full comment

Where the hell is Scott?

Expand full comment

I've been recommended, multiple times, and across the internet, the following podcast by history podcaster MartyrMade (a man named Darryl Cooper) on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict called "Fear and Loathing in the New Jerusalem". I'm not a paid subscriber, but the teaser intros to his historical overviews are generally very compelling. I also disagree with his politics when I encounter them on Twitter, but that's not as relevant to me. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to focus on and process a long podcast series right now.

Regarding "Fear and Loathing" (and other related content), the series is almost universally lauded on Reddit and throughout the Internet, or else there are just ad hominem critiques accusing Cooper of being a fascist. To me, that's not really relevant because I want to know the quality of the podcast and the validity of discussion.

I'd love to read or hear a good-faith review of "Fear and Loathing" series, engagement with it, critiques of its assessment of the middle east situation. Maybe one day I'll do one myself, but the near future is not that day.

Expand full comment


Says that some incels are transitioning. At least some of the hypothesis is that they're men who aren't good at masculinity, and are apt to idealize living as a woman. Even though being a woman is difficult in other ways than being a man, some of them are finding that being a woman suits them better.

This also has rather a lot about gender and identity in manga.

Expand full comment

Does anyone have a link to a meme image of Connor Leahy on one of his CNN interviews, photoshopped to have him holding up a sign saying "the end is nigh" with the scene subtitle edited to say something like "crazy homeless man somehow the only sane person in the room"? I feel like I've seen it here or on one of Zvi's blog posts or something, but now can't find it even after extensive googling...

Expand full comment

I was thinking today about the purposes of learning. I had in mind mostly informal learning, but all learning qualifies. Learning serves these purposes:

1) career and economic growth

2) social and status growth

3) sheer infovore pleasure

4) the ability to deconstruct your culture, your received wisdom, your own biases and habits, and question them

4) is most interesting to me. It's the reason I believe novels are one of the best sources of "received wisdom questioned intelligently".

I'll never know everything, but the more I know the more the society recedes from its current state into all the states of possibilities it could have. This gives me pleasure, just knowing that so much else was possible. I only half-care what reality "is", because I mostly live in my imagination.

Going with 4, the main difference between a well-learned and a non-learned person is knowing what is arbitrary and is not, what is fashion and not, what is a choice and not. Looking at a building and understanding the architectural influences and choices. Understanding economically why that building is there. Knowing why you wear the clothes you do or don't. Understanding why this music sounds like this and like that and like that and like this. Understanding why you use the words you do when you do.

These things may seem superficial but for me they are the spice of life. It is my primary incentive to learn more, because I want to see life from ever more perspectives, to understand more of it.

I think "learning" is framed and promoted too much as for careerist or utilitarian reasons. Learning is way more valuable than that.

Expand full comment

I think Matt Yglesias has the best post about the war, which contains information most people don't seem to have: https://www.slowboring.com/p/palestinian-right-of-return-matters?utm_source=profile&utm_medium=reader2

The reason the two-state solution hasn't worked is because Palestinians and relevant Arab nations consider the "right to return" to the land that Israel currently occupies paramount. About 5 million Palestinian "refugees" (scare quotes for a reason) want to return to Israel. These "refugees" are mostly the descendants of refugees who left, intentionally or by force, the land currently occupied by Israel in 1948.

In the mind of the American public, the two-state solution means that Israel, America and other Western powers simply recognize Palestine as a nation-state. For Palestinians and relevant Arab nations, it means that Israel, America and other Western powers recognize Palestine as a nation-state and that 5 million Palestinians, many of whom are currently in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and other Arab states, be allowed to return to Israel, making the population of Israel about 50/50 Jewish/Arab.

When Zionists say the Palestinians won't accept Israel as a Jewish state, what they more or less mean is that Palestinians don't accept the nation of Israel without the right of return, because such right would result in a state that isn't dominantly Jewish.

Most Arab nations which currently house the descendants of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war do not give those Palestinians citizenship rights even though their families may have been in those countries for 3 generations.

Everything above is what I understand the facts to be. Correct me if I am wrong.

One opinion point, though: Why aren't Arab nations like Jordan who don't allow Palestinians living within their borders to have citizenship and equal rights considered to have an "Apartheid regime" by those who think Israel has one?

Expand full comment

How polite are you to ChatGPT when you use it? Whenever I'm speaking to it I find my self saying "Please" when I ask a question and I almost always end my threads with a "Thank you" of some kind.

Expand full comment

Zvi Mowshowitz makes a basic claim which seems to play a role in many AI risk arguments (https://thezvi.substack.com/p/ai-32-lie-detector):

> Unless I am missing something, a sufficiently complex lookup table can simulate any possible mind, if inefficiently.

I think Scott has written similar things.

What would evidence against this look like?

Expand full comment
User was banned for this comment. Show
Expand full comment

I tried to write up a simple summary of heuristic/intuitive reasoning vs. explicit/algorithmic reasoning and how it applies to human and machine learning. Nothing groundbreaking, just a high-level summary of what most ACX readers will already be familiar with. I'd be interested in getting some feedback on it.


Expand full comment

Have seen a lot of comments from people online 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:


Expand full comment

Does anybody have any data on how Universal Education Savings Accounts are working out in states that have them that *isn't* almost entirely compiled by some activist organization? (Or at least some organization that isn't militantly anti/pro ESAs)

Expand full comment

Another thing I've noticed about coverage of the Gaza vs Ukraine war: you never see photos of casualties in the Ukraine war. You always see photos of casualties in the Gaza war.

Every time there's a piece of rubble in Gaza, Associated Press photographers are always rushing to the scene to find someone willing to look distraught for the camera.

Expand full comment

So I could be buying individual 10 Treasuries with about a 5% return right now? And assuming interest rates fall, I could potentially sell them for a profit before the 10 years is up? Seems like a pretty good investment? I do understand interest rate risk, if they were to climb higher, and I do understand the opportunity cost if equities somehow soar higher despite rates staying relatively high (but this seems unlikely?)

Has anyone here ever sold individual Treasury bonds? The process seems rather intimidating, and the commissions a bit opaque

Expand full comment

I have a friend who is extremely anxious about AI negative outcomes to the effect that it is causing problems in everyday life. I want to recommend that he talks to a professional, but I'm worried that some of them might treat it as an irrational fear rather than a rational one, and I don't think that would work for him at all. Any advice?

Expand full comment

The response to Covid (not so much the Feb/Mar 2020 response, but afterwards) fundamentally shattered my confidence in the liberal establishment when it comes to public health & effective messaging.

Similarly, while I was already disdainful of most social progressives, their response to the Black Saturday attacks has shown me that they are both morally bankrupt & have achieved doublethink nirvana. The words "genocide", "apartheid", and "war-crime" no longer have any consistent meaning for them.

For a group that talks a lot about The Science™️, leftists sure do accept the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis uncritically. At least to their credit, while they believe this pseudoscientific about "words determining thought", they sure prove they believe it by waging war on the accepted definitions of words when those definitions are inconvenient.

Expand full comment

I know only arithmetic and want to learn maths for computer science and statistics. I tried Basic Mathematics by Serge Lange but it requires too much prerequisite knowledge for me to tackle. Where can I start learning? Thanks

Expand full comment

Does anyone have any recommendations for books on the topic of cognitive science? Ideally something that would be accessible for someone making a transition form more pop-science reading on the topic to more serious study. Not for me but for a friend, so can't really be more specific, sorry. Appreciate any recs.

Expand full comment
Oct 23, 2023·edited Oct 23, 2023

Question for generally pro-Palestine/anti-Israel ACX'rs.

How much, if any, of your support for the Palestinian cause / antipathy to Israel is premised on your belief that the Palestinian struggle in all its forms, (BDS, terrorism, campus activism, art, etc.) is motivated by an earnest desire for peace and prosperity in a sovereign state of their own (at least on the part of a meaningful majority of the people and leadership class)?

And how much would your support / antipathy erode if it became clear to you that in fact they don't really care about that, and are instead mostly motivated by a desire to see Israel cease to exist as a Jewish state on any large chunk of the land it currently exist on?  

Expand full comment


Frogtopia. I think I've posted this before, but the frog patio has been improved and expanded considerably. Blow past ending wild animal suffering into wild animal pleasure.

Expand full comment

I pay for some journalists that I trust personally, based upon their prior work which they made available for free. I didn’t get there with Jacobin, in part because I didn’t see a lot of stuff I could read for free. But maybe I didn’t look hard enough? I also looked at Noah Smith and Matt Yglesias, FWIW. I kept finding, “here is a thing I believe, but I’ll only give the details to paid subscribers.” Am I just looking in the wrong places?

Expand full comment

What do the Stats of Substack mean? a) What is the difference between an Open and a View? Can Views occur without opening? How? When I divide the # Opens by the Open Rate I get a number not relates to anything I can see. What does it mean?

Expand full comment

So, uh..... how much water am I supposed to be drinking every day? The figures even from reputable medical sources seem absurd, anywhere from 2.5 to 4 liters a day. Then they all vaguely mention that you're getting some % of that from food as well, but they don't really seem to quantify how much.

I eat a pretty healthy diet that's fruit and vegetable-heavy. I drink a small amount of water (like a couple cups plus a tea in the afternoon), and pee clear multiple times a day. I would say I never drink even 1 full liter of actual water unless I'm heavily exercising. Doesn't peeing clear all day mean that I'm getting enough? Or should I be forcing down multiple liters a day for whatever reason? (I know, you didn't log in to ASC to hear about my urine, but here we are)

Expand full comment

I continue to push for better economic data.

1) We need actual wage indexes bases on sane job to sane job wage changes, not unit value indexes. 2) We should have a "Trillionth" a Treasury security that pays a fraction of the GDP some 5 and 10 years in the future. It's trading value together with TIPS would give us market expectations of real and nominal GDP.

3) We need intermediate tenor TIPS 1, 3 and 3 years

Expand full comment

I have a question about jet engines. The basic layout of a jet engine is this:


CF = Compressor fans

COM = Combustion chamber

TF = Turbine fans

The arrows between the three indicate the direction of the airflow through the jet engine.

In the compression chamber (COM), fuel is sprayed in, mixed with the air, and ignited, producing little explosions and also causing the air/fuel mixture to expand in volume. All things being equal, such an explosion should expand outward spherically. That means there should be some force PUSHING BACK from COM into CF. In other words, a result of combustion should be airflow going against the desired direction, so the overall airflow actually looks like this:


Due to this backflow phenomenon, why do jet engines work at all?

How much efficiency is lost due to this phenomenon?

Expand full comment
Oct 23, 2023·edited Oct 23, 2023

I question the conventional wisdom that anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs, icing, etc) are a helpful treatment for acute injuries, and I worry that they're actively harmful. Inflammation seems like a proactive response from the body, surely it would not have evolved if it weren't beneficial to our ancestors. The plausible reasons that I've thought of that anti-inflammatories could still be beneficial are:

- inflammation can be life-saving for extreme injuries, but is counterproductive for moderate injuries. Evolution cares much more about the former.

- inflammation was helpful to our ancestors, but harmful to us. But why? Is inflammation a vestigial response in humans? Does some other element of modern medicine substitute for inflammation?

- anything I'm missing?

I don't have any data to backup my suspicions, but when I've looked for evidence that anti-inflammatory treatments are beneficial I haven't found any data on that side either. Can anybody point me to a good data source here?

Expand full comment

It's Monday, it's raining cats and dogs, so let's be silly!

Another Viva La Dirt League compilation:


Expand full comment

Looking for a recommendation of a desktop PC for music recording. I run Reaper DAW and use 2nd gen Focusrite Scarlett USB interface. It used to be easy to understand PC specs, but now I find myself hopelessly confused by the various processors, memory types, etc. Hoping to spend under $1000 and prioritize low latency.

Expand full comment

Is anyone studying the placebo effect? It seems like there should be something we could learn about ourselves.

Expand full comment

Recently I have played Tin Can (because it was in that humble monthly thingy). It is a spacecraft escape pod simulator. You sit in that shitty escape pod and try to keep life support running for as long as possible, while equipment parts fail, micro-meteorites puncture your hull and the universe generally makes your life miserable. Depending on the mode, you might even get rescued after some time.

A typical sequence is the oxygen deployment device failing. Looking up the error codes, you find one says "power transformer failed". Of course, you did not bring a spare power transformer. Luckily, you have a device which changes the nitrogen content to maintain 1 bar of total pressure, which is much less critical than oxygen. So you decide to cannibalize that. Unfortunately, you forgot to turn the device off and get electrocuted when you try to remove it. After a brief struggle, you succeed in grabbing it and plug it into the oxygen device, which causes the O2 partial pressure to increase back to 0.2 bar or something.

Personally, I would not pay 17 bucks for that game (it is not a game you will likely spend 100s of hours playing), but if it comes on sale it is worth considering.

Expand full comment

What's the steelman case for the benefits of CO2 concentration increasing over time? I can think of two main benefits: faster plant growth with higher CO2, and fewer cold deaths due to higher temperatures. I suspect that these advantages are not being given full consideration in mainstream sources. For example, I've seen sources acknowledging that higher CO2 increases crop growth, but point out that the carbohydrate concentration is so high that other nutrients are diluted (as if too much/too cheap of a source of calories is a bad thing, as opposed to the solution to starvation).

So is there a good source out there that seriously considers the benefits of higher CO2? Most sources opposed to the mainstream narrative on climate change are...not good, and I don't think mainstream sources will seriously consider the possible benefits.

Expand full comment

Comments on substack take a lot of resources to load. With OTs often reaching comment counts in the thousands, I literally can not view any of them on my (pre-covid) android tablet.

Is there a 3rd party interface for them somewhere, like nitter for twitter?

Or could we just host comments on a site where they actually scale (e.g. themotte, lesswrong) and just fetch them below the articles?

Expand full comment

Is metasurprise a thing? Like, initially being surprised by some object level phenomenon, and then realizing that this phenomenon seems predictable and thus being surprised by the initial feeling of surprise?

Expand full comment
Oct 23, 2023·edited Oct 24, 2023

*Where did I get this idea?*

One account of the origins of self-awareness and introspection that I find pretty compelling is the idea that as we evolved (as a highly social species), there was obvious adaptive advantage to being able to model the other minds around us in order to predict what they would do and to manipulate them ('Machiavellian intelligence'). Once we had the machinery to model minds, modeling our own came pretty much for free.

I had this theory mentally tagged as having come from Marvin Minsky's _The Society of Mind_, which I read when I was pretty young. But I've just spent an hour searching through that book and have failed to find the theory there. Can anyone point me to the source of that idea, or toward writing on the topic? Thanks!

Expand full comment

I noticed how much capacity I lost when mildly ill-- a stomach bug followed by UTI. It was almost as though part of my thinking is done with my intestines, and if they aren't happy, I'm badly distracted.

I'm impressed by the number of people who accomplish a lot while dealing with serious physical problems, but I started thinking about how much of a weight illnesses and disabilities are on the human race if you pile the problems up into a huge negative utility lump.

I'm thinking in terms of healing people, not preventing them from existing. (Should I need to say that?)

Please don't bring up diet and exercise-- there is huge range of physical difficulty where they don't help, or only help a little.

I'm thinking about utopia-level medical care. Is this something which should be on the rationalist to-do list. We don't even have a good guess about how much capacity is being lost all the time.

Expand full comment

Is there such a thing as “the rational right?” A group of bloggers / writers that espouses rationalism and right wing politics?

What about “the rational left?”

Any examples of good substacks that fit either genre and are (mostly) free?

Expand full comment

FT railing against mathematicians and, by extension, the EA's. https://www.ft.com/content/fd0bf457-f20b-4121-bcae-145df24c8d1c

Expand full comment

Any fans of Daniel Clowes who are wrestling with his new graphic novel Monica—I've hacked out a (lengthy) first attempt at a thorough understanding of the book, and am looking eagerly for corrections / comments.


Expand full comment

This is slightly self-promotional. In the spirit of 80000 hours, and job searching/recruiting in general, I'm going to share the link to a tool I've been working on for a startup. The founders are UK based cybersecurity experts that have worked with the NCSC.

Basically looks at your LinkedIn activity and generates a report that tells you how you're perceived by your network and recruiters. It is free (would love feedback though.)

Here's the link - https://www.visible.cx/lp/linkedin-report-request

Expand full comment

Hamas is in a bit of a fix at the moment.

Their comfort, though, will be that no-one else wants to rule Gaza after all of this is over.

No other Palestinians are likely to want to step in. It would be political suicide (probably also actual suicide) for any more accommodating-to-Israel Palestinians to be installed in this hornet’s nest.

Direct rule from the Israelis is also not attractive. It will be a black hole swallowing Israeli resources forever.

To “kill all belonging to Hamas”, including all potential future recruits (probably quite a few after last weeks’ Israeli attacks) is impossible unless you unleash something akin to the Final Solution on Palestinians in Gaza. A softer version of the same, to make life so deeply unpleasant for everyone in Gaza that they flee to other countries would have been possible if Egypt (or others) would be willing to accept them as immigrants. But no country in the Middle East want to accept 2 million Gazans as immigrants, for good reasons.

So what is really going on? Arguably, Netanyahu is sending a message to Hamas, along the lines of “Please do not do this again, because if you do, we will do what we are doing now to you again.” The goal is a demoralized and scared Hamas (perhaps re-branded under another name, but with roughly the same people), equally seething with resentment, but whose rage is impotent.

In addition (and related), Israel is likely to try to permanently reduce the capability of Hamas to ever do such a stunt in the future. Expect much stronger fences, perhaps more akin to the old Berlin Wall, and the like.

It must also be remembered that keeping Hamas, or someone equally hostile to Israel, in charge of Gaza has had its benefits from an Israeli perspective. Hamas serves a useful purpose by keeping the memory of the WW2 genocide alive in the minds of Western audiences, in particular in the US, which Israel is dependent on. The main worry from an Israeli point of view has always been that the US will in the long run tire of its support to Israel. This is a real long-term danger since US “realist” interest is arguably in maintaining good relations to other Middle East countries rather than to Israel: Almost all other Middle East countries are strategically and economically more important to the US than Israel.

...Related, the best long-term strategy for the Palestinians has always been to drive a wedge between the US and Israel by insisting on not being hostile to the US, plus to frame their opposition to Israel’s Palestinian policies as “cold”, not “warm”. To achieve this, Palestinian leaders must be able to credibly signal to the US (and other states supporting Israel for similar bad-conscience-since-WW2 reasons) that they will not give in to unhinged bloodlust should they ever be granted real power (arguably Abbas’ strategy). The subtext to the US being “If you disengage from Israel, we will behave in a civilized manner toward the Israeli Jews.” The present unhinged killings by Hamas is in this perspective a godsend to the Israelis, or more specifically to Netanyahu’s clever though rather devious and depressing strategy to control the Palestinians both in the West Bank and Gaza.

In the very long run, Netanyahu’s strategy may wear thin, as it has some in-built problems. But that is another story.

Expand full comment

ACXers - any thoughts on Marc Andreessen's Techno-Optimist Manifesto? https://pmarca.substack.com/p/the-techno-optimist-manifesto

It's not exactly a philosophical treatise or structured argument to support the position, but I'd love to hear your general thoughts on it

Expand full comment

If you had to move to another country, where would you go and why?

I'm Israeli and recent events made me change my plans from "reluctantly move to another country in the next few years" to "Now".

Expand full comment

Does anyone know of a trustworthy source who's researched and written up something on extending healthspan? I'm imagining something similar to Scott's article https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/07/13/things-that-sometimes-work-if-you-have-anxiety/ but discussing medications, supplements, lifestyle changes that work to increase healthspan and wellbeing past middle page.

Expand full comment

A lot of people are bashing Twitter, especially after Musk's takeover, but for me the platform (while buggy) has been working fine in doing the one thing that I actually need it for - connecting me to people. Multiple times now I have been reached by people after writing articles about their work - the latest example is Michael Chorost, after I wrote an article on Cohclear Implants - https://valentinsocial.substack.com/p/auditory-cyborgs-how-cohclear-implants

For me, this experience is mindblowing, a bit surreal even. Twitter makes it easy to engage with experts in your chosen field in a way that no other platform does

Expand full comment

"Ignore the conspiracy theory that Israel is controlled by the Jews! Idiot. Israel is like everywhere else. Israel is controlled by the State Department. "

Here's Moldbug's solution to the Gaza issue:

"How would a sensible sovereign Israel, operating in a renewed multipolar nomos, handle the problem of Hamas and Gaza? First, tackle the root causes of the crisis—send Secretary Blinken, his entourage, and the whole American Embassy home. First class, perhaps. It’s worth it.

Second, call the Chinese and hire their failing construction industry to build an ugly, slapdash, soulless city for 2 million people, in six months, next to Gaza, in Israel but on the Egyptian border. Make it as horizontal as Gaza is vertical. Give it its own power and water, driven by a saltwater pipeline to the coast and a gas line to Israel.

Third, in parallel, build real military fortifications (not wire fences) around Gaza, turn off the utilities and block the checkpoints and the ports, and make sure there is a safe tent for anyone who can get out. Bribe Egypt to let anyone leave Gaza as a refugee, then immediately admit them to the camp while they wait for their new apartment. Only personal possessions that can be carried, and no weapons, come with them.

Fourth, once the only people left in Gaza are thirsty, starving, fanatical solders, level the place with all the weapons available, and give anyone who wants to die the martyrdom they deserve. Bulldoze the rubble into hills and make it a national park.

Fifth, move the border unilaterally so that the new, landlocked Gaza City is now part of Egypt. Egypt has no need to consent. Give Egypt a date when the gas will be cut off. The Gazans are now Egyptians, not Israelis—Egypt can govern them as she wishes. The outcome is a permanent peace. If Egypt cannot prevent Egyptians from shooting rockets at Israel or making other kinds of trouble, of course—more war is needed.

Nothing in this solution involves any kind of violence or combat—any more than the relocation of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh involved violence or combat. The Azerbaijanis only needed a few days of war to make it clear that they were stronger. And the Armenians just had to lose their real estate—not their lives.

The target of the siege of Gaza is not civilians. It is the military regime of Hamas. If Hamas wants to send its civilians out for Israel to house and feed, Israel—being a modern country—will not treat them the way Caesar handled the Gauls at Alesia.

But if Hamas wants to turn its own civilians into hostages—not to mention the 200 hostages it has already taken—Israel cannot prevent this. It has no responsibility to protect enemy civilians from their own government. In fact, an Israel which cared about its national survival would treat the Israeli hostages as already dead.

This solution is not, I am pretty sure, what will happen. I also am pretty sure that, unless G-d takes a little more interest in the world he supposedly created, and in particular the people he supposedly chose, there will be nothing recognizable as Israel in 50 years—just like, after 30 years of governance by Secretary Blinken and his ilk, there is not much of the old South Africa recognizable. US diplomacy, keeping the world safe and orderly and free since 1919.

But this is how might makes right. Now, picture this victory—the victory of force and order over turmoil and chaos—worldwide, cleaning up all the world’s open sores. You are picturing the fall of the American empire—and realizing that, like the USSR (if much better), the GAE can actually fall upward. Almost all the problems it supposedly exists to solve will rapidly solve themselves as soon as it is gone."


Expand full comment

I've been writing a new substack that's a rational-ish approach to analyzing social media and internet culture. If you're like me and a Very Online person, it might be up your alley.


Expand full comment

Let's re-read ancient Scott-posts. Some ACX readers never read SSC, much less the blog before SSC (which is currently here https://archive.ph/fCFQx), but there's a lot of good stuff there.

Here's a fun one: "Jaguars fall, everyone dies" https://archive.ph/NmRLA, in which Scott pondered whether the world would soon perish in an Aztec apocalypse (spoilers: it didn't.)

Expand full comment

If you've ever wondered what it was like to be a musician in the old days, the 1980s, now's your chance: On the road and Out of Control, https://new-savanna.blogspot.com/2023/10/on-road-and-out-of-control-its-blues.html

From the article: "We played the majority of our gigs in the Capitol district, but we did venture out on occasion: Glens Falls (I once saw Mike Tyson fight there), a wedding in Wilton, Connecticut (quarter of a mile from Dave Brubeck’s place), Montauk (unverified rumor has it that Jann Wenner heard us; if so, he didn’t put us on the cover of his magazine), another wedding at a compound in the Adirondacks where sound man extraordinaire Jim Boa miked my trumpet so I could stroll among the revelers, Americade at Lake George, 25,000 middle-age bikers including Malcolm Forbes in full red, white, and blue leathers with his Capitalist Tool balloon, and Montreal in the dead of Winter, where it seems like half the blues guitarists in town lined up to sit in with us at a local jam, which was after our regular gig, playing in white tails for dancing at a GE Plastics marketing convention (Bo Diddly had to borrow a guitar from us because, you know, airlines). "

And, the best gig ever: "Front and center was Lenny, a fan, long hair, leather jacket, wallet on a chain, blue jeans, scruffy boots, and, you know, what I see in my mind’s eye is Lenny dancing on top of his Harley while spinning it around the dance floor shooting laser beams from his eyes and lighting up the crowd. I don’t think that actually happened, doesn’t seem physically possible, does it? Metaphysically, yes. Actually physically, no. But one can never tell about these things. "

Expand full comment

Gonna repeat a request I made on an open thread a couple weeks back because I think it got a little buried (but don't worry I won't post it again after this, I don't want to spam the open threads)....

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

Seems like a fitting topic for this blog ... it's a kinda mysterious psychological phenomenon, the subject of a lot of conflicting popular explanations pseudoscience and such. I imagine that there is a Unified Theory of Hypnosis that all makes sense, but figuring it out would involve sifting through a lot of BS.

Most people have seen stage hypnosis shows or similar - people go up on stage, are told to relax, getting sleepy, 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 seemingly 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"? (when I say "not real" I don't mean "the subjects at hypnosis shows are all plants", but rather that the explanation doesn't involve any sort of distinct psychological phenomenon)

- 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? I assume if instead of "act like a chicken" it's something "worse", at some point it won't work. So what exactly is going on in people's heads that they'll do what the guy says, for at least some things that most people would be embarrassed to have done publicly, but not if it goes "too far"?

- to what extent do you have to believe in it and/or want it to happen, for it to work? If a stage hypnotist went to some remote island where nobody'd ever heard of the concept of hypnosis (but spoke English for some reason) and did the same "relax, getting sleepy" stuff, would it work? Or is it like Scott's description of multiple personality disorder, where you have to have some idea that that's a thing that can happen to people?

- 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)?

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

I thought of this when Scott mentioned Julian Jaynes's book recently (and I read his original review of it). Reminds me of something mentioned in the book - Jaynes claimed that if you blindfold someone on a stage, put a chair in the middle of the stage, and tell them to walk straight across, they'll walk into the chair. But if you hypnotize them, tell them the stage is clear and to walk straight across, they'll walk around the chair and then later insist they walked straight across. What's the deal with that?

Expand full comment

Does anyone know of any major MSM organ anywhere in the world that DIDN'T jump straight on the bandwagon of the Hamas claim about the Gaza hospital? One that reported it with due scepticism from the start?

Expand full comment

Question for AI risk peeps. What are the chances that AI just makes the internet useless and AI progress ends there? I can imagine that AI will be able to use social engineering and traditional hacking to break a lot of cybersecurity. Could it also break other AIs? I guess AI-driven false and irrelevant information, and SEO, could also inhibit new AIs' ability to learn. (Does the Bullshit Asymmetry Principle apply to AIs also?)

Expand full comment

I'm wondering if the first "habitable" exo-planet that we'll find will be weird in some way, like how the first confirmed exo-planets were orbiting a pulsar, and the first confirmed exo-planet around a Sun-like star was a Hot Jupiter. Like maybe it will be bizarrely too large, big enough that it really should be a sub-Neptune but isn't for cosmic luck.

I saw the piece about folks living in their cars. It seems like there should be a booming market (outside of LA, which is trying to ban them) for folks to rent or lease trailers/RVs instead of just living in cars, unless they're completely unemployed. I was thinking about one of William Shatner's memoirs, where he talked about his post-Star Trek days when for a period he was basically living out of a trailer on a truck.

Expand full comment

I would like clarity from the AI-Extinction camp (Scott and Yud included) on two parameters. If we define PCM(n) as a paperclip maximizer that kills n people in one event, then how would you define these:

1. The probability that a PCM(7B+) happens before any other PCM(n) (except n<1)?

2. The change in velocity of capabilities research due to any number of PCM-like deaths?

I believe that the probability of #1 is directionally 0.1%. It's so much more likely that intermediary PCMs will happen first. But if we were to split the difference and come up with a dummy number, we could go with 20%.

I also believe that #2 is not zero. At the very least, one PCM-like death will lead to at least one capabilities researcher quitting. But I think it's much higher than that.

Let's consider one PCM-like death from an advanced AI. And by PCM-like death, I'm excluding deaths like the self-driving Uber death or a drone that veers off course. I'm talking about an AI that "goes against its master" or goes wild, like a paperclip maximizer. As far as I know, there have been no deaths like this yet. The closest thing I can think of is self-evolving malware. I'm sure there has been at least one instance where one of those bit one of the developers in the back, and not in a "I had an accident in a lab" kind of way, but in a, "Oh yeah, I created this malware a year ago. How is it infecting my system today??"

If there was just one PCM-like death, I believe we would lose one Anthropic's worth of capabilities research overnight. I think there are seven Anthropic's worth of research right now, so losing one would be big. A mass resignation or a collective pause would likely ensue. At least in the West, I could imagine most AI researchers not wanting to touch a single line of code until it was all figured out.

I have faith in a coordinated response because our knowledge of the consequences of powerful PCMs is now fixed in the relevant communities. Our approach to advanced AI seems closer to atomic safety than it does to global warming. The community with the relevant knowledge on how to build (and stop) advanced AIs is small, and the community of entrepreneurs with their finger on the trigger, so to speak, is even smaller. Global warming, on the other hand, is a bog standard Tragedy of the Commons. And yet, even global warming doesn't seem like an X-risk.

In conceiving this thought experiment, I discovered what I believe to be my crux with Scott and Yud. Scott's sequence[1] is:

1. We get human-level AI by 2100.

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

3. It succeeds at killing all humans.

After updating, human-level AI no longer seems inevitable to me, and not because Moore's Law fails or the scaling hypothesis peters out. All it will take is a few PCM deaths, and we'll then route around all growth associated with uninterpretable advanced computation. As a result, the history of the world from now until 2100 will, in retrospect, seem steampunk relative to our Jetsons-like expectations. AIs will do all sorts of interesting things, but they'll be bounded. We probably won't have semi-sentient robots but rather a nice botany of stochastic parrots of varying degrees of interestingness.

As a bonus, this scenario is also a solution to Fermi's paradox.

[1]: https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/the-extinction-tournament

Expand full comment
Oct 23, 2023·edited Oct 23, 2023

Okay, what on earth is with the rise in faux-incest porn over the last 3 or so years? I feel like pretty soon I'm going to have to go to specialized fetish sites just for having the "fetish" of not being into incest. Is there any reason for this? I don't really find people having porn to play out their fantasies to be appalling... But this is probably the closest I could be to being appalled or disgusted at something like this. I guess I find it unnerving at least.

Expand full comment

Has anyone here had much success with using ChatGPT to generate decent fiction stories on the fly?

Expand full comment

Any recommendations for good psychiatrists in NYC? Or even general advice on exploring this kind of thing?

Expand full comment

I've gotten into a clinical trial for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, and my wife wrote about our experience as a way of helping others facing the same daunting gauntlet: https://bessstillman.substack.com/p/please-be-dying-but-not-too-quickly

Am I missing something? Is she? Does it have to be this hard?

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment