ask Your Representatives

WHY did the worlds greatest military power FAIL to defend even its own HQ?

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Last week, I read about an attempt of the EU to mandate web browsers to carry state-sponsored certificate authorities (CAs) in some online identity vaporware bill.

Initially, I was unsure if Mozilla et al were making a mountain out of a molehill, but the language of a draft I found sounds pretty damning:

> Article 45

> Requirements for qualified certificates for website authentication

> 1. Qualified certificates for website authentication shall meet the requirements laid down in Annex IV. Qualified certificates for website authentication shall be deemed compliant with the requirements laid down in Annex IV where they meet the standards referred to in paragraph 3.

> 2. Qualified certificates for website authentication referred to in paragraph 1 shall be recognised by web-browsers. For those purposes web-browsers shall ensure that the identity data provided using any of the methods is displayed in a user friendly manner. Web-browsers shall ensure support and interoperability with qualified certificates for website authentication referred to in paragraph 1, with the exception of enterprises, considered to be microenterprises and small enterprises in accordance with Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC in the first 5 years of operating as providers of web-browsing services.

(from https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52021PC0281 )

In a nutshell, when a browser connects to a website like google.com via https, it tries to validate the identity of the website to see if it is corrected to the legitimate operators of google.com or some attacker. The idea is that interwoven in the encryption, there is a certificate which is signed by some trusted authority, a CA. A browser comes with a some dozen "trustworthy" CAs preinstalled, few users ever change that list.

For a company, being included as a CA in the browsers is a license to print money. Every https website requires at least one trusted certificate per year lest their users are scared away by warning messages from the browser, and apart from Let's encrypt, CAs generally expect to be paid for that. See also: Honest Achmed's Used Cars and Certificates, https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=647959

The CA system is already an ugly mess, but every mess can be made worse by getting the government involved.

Right now the spooks can obviously get some CAs to sign phony certificates for google.com, but each such use risks discovery. If any CA gets caught issuing malicious fakes, they will likely fall into disfavor with the browser vendors. In fact, TrustCor managed to do so last year just by looking like a spook front without ever having been accused of issuing a false certificate.

However, if governments can mandate the inclusion of their CAs in the browsers by law, the risk of burning a CA no longer applies. And rather than forcing browser vendors to directly include CAs for your spying, why not first compel them to do so for some innocuous reason, like some digital identity act? Once your certificates are in the browsers and you have switched all government websites to them, another bill can empower them to use the CAs for "lawful interception".

I do not consider myself to be a conspiracy nut and do not expect an EU dictatorship, but I think that in any democracy there is a continuous struggle between those wanting more safety and those wanting to keep their freedoms. Still, I had hoped that "we will just force browser vendors to ship our CAs through laws" would be far from the Overton window.

Disappointingly, this topic seems to be of no interest to most mainstream media. The sites I read about it are computer nerd sites like the Register, heise or fefe. Even the EFF focuses more on pro-Palestinian messages being silenced on social media than this. Of course, us computer nerds will probably be the least affected by it as we can compile our browsers from the source code if the situation calls for it.

I would have hoped that post-Snowden, there would be some greater awareness for these issues outside the hacker culture, but I guess there is not.

Further reading: https://www.theregister.com/2023/11/08/europe_eidas_browser/

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Recently been down a city planning / autonomous vehicle rabbit hole.

Hoping to find someone that can explain why public transport doesn't take on an 'uber but for busses' approach? It seems like a much better and more efficient (not to mention more practical / useful) means to run a bus. Particularly in my city which is effectively a thin strip running east to west. Or for regional areas.. What am I missing?

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There is something very slight yet very uncomfortable I've noticed about older people in the anglosphere when they talk about the Russia Ukraine war. Everyone, from John Gray (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSS85bMSnYg&ab_channel=PoliticsJOE) to my relatives to my elected representatives are convinced that Putin said that Ukrainians and Ukrainian culture do not exist and this indicates genocidal intent with which there can never be any negotiation, until they get new orders. As best as I can tell, he never said this.

Instead, he said (https://www.prlib.ru/en/article-vladimir-putin-historical-unity-russians-and-ukrainians) that a separate Ukrainian state did not exist as a historical entity in the modern era before the Bolsheviks created one and he also "blamed" the Bolsheviks for promoting Ukrainian culture at various points in the history of the Soviet Union.

To me both of these statements are fair comment as historical summary but also firmly in the category of true but not particularly relevant or a good enough basis to justify internal interference and external invasion. Demonstrating that Canada and the US were once part of the same country primarily populated by genetically similar people from the British Isles would not seem to create any justification for a US annexation of parts of Canada which historically spoke with more american accents or had the most immigrants from the US in the 19th century.

Instead, the preferred US approach is to swim upstream and to deny things that don't need to be denied in a way that sound very silly to anyone with any familiarity as well as anyone outside of the US media bubble: https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/peace-is-impossible-while-vladimir-putin-denies-ukraines-right-to-exist/

"The Russian dictator went on to repeat many of his most notorious historical distortions, including the claim that Ukraine had been artificially created by Vladimir Lenin and the early Soviet authorities “at the expense of southern Russian lands.”

The modern Ukrainian state has the borders of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic and Russian speaking populations *were* added to the republic precisely to make it less likely that separatist sentiment could permeate through the whole administrative unit. I understand that historically and even now it's trivially easy to lie to the american public for political gain.

But what I've found most striking is that when these errors are pointed out after I take great pains to assure them I'm also opposed to wars of aggression that leave hundreds of thousands dead, there is a defiant refusal to correct it or even acknowledge that there's any meaningful distinction between what they've claimed and reality.

I think there is perhaps something about the unipolar moment from 1991-2021 that changed American culture even more than the cold war.


"That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out."

Now of course, Karl Rove denies having ever said this. But the specific attribution doesn't matter because it works so well as an explanatory hypothesis. I think it's a good description of how many if not most Americans of a certain age and older have been trained to see the world, regardless of their political affiliation. There is so much spending power in the hands of not only the American elite but the American middle and lower classes that whatever enough of them believe really does become reality.


When it comes to tourism and culture this is fairly innocuous even if understandably irritating to people concerned about preserving their culture in the face of a multi-trillion dollar american cultural onslaught. But when it comes to history, politics, or war, this belief seems more dangerous.

It's not simply that they are engaging in war propaganda in a cynical and self-aware way. That would be nothing new or unique, truth has been the first casualty of war since antiquity. The belief is instead that what they believe _really is true_ or will be revealed to be true at some point the future.

I almost wonder if this can be expanded to conspiratorial thinking and the paranoid tendency in America. Ie, we could imagine a conspiracy theorist who has eventually walked back some of their claims after being cornered implying if not saying "I know it doesn't look like the government planned 9/11 as a false flag right now, but more evidence will come out that proves I'm right!"

It's not exactly delusional thinking as has been postulated by others. There's also a force of will behind it, a conviction so certain that they'll do anything to make sure the truth wins out, even if they have to fabricate everything themselves!

Stalin and his cronies talked in didactic marxist terminology and analysis in private and archived all the confessions of the great purge as if they were exculpatory for the regime, while members of the Bush Administration expected to build on Reagan's legacy and create a permanent majority in their favor rather than limping out of office with a 31% approval rating and two wars of occupation most serious analysts regarded as already doomed.

Wars are not (only) a racket. Yes they make a lot of money in wars, yes there's a military industrial complex, but it's not only about money. The true horror is that we're not (only) being manipulated by cynical and selfish people who want guaranteed profits and big megayacht.

Far more concerning is how much of American policy set by both elected and unelected officials is coming from highly emotional and driven people governed by few or no external mechanisms for anticipating likely outcomes beyond their own half-assed intuitions intermingled with what they hope to be true.

All the numbers and calculation and intelligence reports are usually just for show: when they support a decision that's already been made, they're trotted out. When they would seem to undermine it, they're ignored, suppressed, forgotten. It is certain that a CIA analyst somewhere knew that the Afghani government was highly likely to collapse and wrote a report no one higher up wanted to hear, just as it is certain a GRU analyst somewhere knew that Putin's invasion plan was very unlikely to work given Ukrainian force concentrations, training, and equipment. Ignorance is not just the absence of knowledge, it can also be a very active and sophisticated process.

I couldn't sleep and this comment got incredibly out of hand, I would be very gratified to get any response in the unlikely event anyone reads this far.

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Big boost for Scott - the great David French quoted and linked to him in his column!

> I’ve long appreciated the pseudonymous writer Scott Alexander’s description of liberalism: “People talk about ‘liberalism’ as if it’s just another word for capitalism or libertarianism or vague center-left-Democratic Clintonism,” he wrote on his Slate Star Codex blog. “Liberalism is none of these things. Liberalism is a technology for preventing civil war.”


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Why do writers like Scott write f--k instead of fuck in 2023? Are they avoiding some anti-vulgarity algorithm? It reads like something written before Joyce's Ulysses won its court battle against obscenity in 1933. Is 2023 like 1923?

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Anyone have any thoughts on the article linked here? https://twitter.com/cremieuxrecueil/status/1721938608985080259 It seems to provide pretty good evidence that antidepressant use in pregnancy causes (is not merely correlated with) a reduction in mathematics test scores in children. The main alternative hypothesis suggested in the Twitter discussion is that they haven't sufficiently controlled for the effects of maternal depression: although they did control for the presence of depression, they didn't control for its severity, and the latter could be correlated with who used an antidepressant.

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OC ACXLW AI interpretability Breakthrough from anthropic 11/11/23

Hello Folks!

We are excited to announce the 48th Orange County ACX/LW meetup, happening this Saturday and most Saturdays thereafter.

Host: Michael Michalchik

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

Location: 1970 Port Laurent Place

(949) 375-2045

Date: Saturday, Nov 11, 2023

Time: 2 PM

Conversation Starters :

The first concrete step towards AI alignment and safety and our ability to make it highly useful?!

Journal club video:


Community Paper Reading: Decomposing Language Models Into Understandable Components

Short paper walkthrough:


Anthropic Solved Interpretability?

The Paper itself: https://transformer-circuits.pub/2023/monosemantic-features/index.html

Zvi Moshowitz reports on the Paper:


Zvi Moshowitz reports on the reactions to the Paper:


This is a chatGPT glossary and brief overview of the ideas:


Walk & Talk: We usually have an hour-long walk and talk after the meeting starts. Two mini-malls with hot takeout food are readily accessible nearby. Search for Gelson's or Pavilions in the zip code 92660.

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

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

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There's a desire to quantify morality around these parts. Here's the question I've been asking about the current Israel/Gaza crisis when trying to figure out "what's right."

A common question to ask is "to the Israeli government, all other things being equal, how many Gazan civilians are acceptable collateral damage to kill one Hamas soldier/commander/leader?" But what I'd really like to know is, how many Israeli **soldiers** would the Israeli government be willing to lose in order to accomplish the same objective with one less civilian casualty? I wonder if military leadership has explicit answers to both of these questions (I hope they do).

What originally made me think down these lines are the last two decades of American wars in the middle east. Drone warfare was common as a way to kill enemy combatants without American casualties. Drones (and bombs generally) seem like an imprecise weapon compared with a human-held gun. In general, a horrible consequence of long-range warfare has been a dehumanization of conflict. Great for the people who don't have to see death, but sad for those whose death can be just a dot on a screen.

Now in Gaza a similar question is raised. Let's take it as a premise that Israel needs to dismantle Hamas. They can do it with a combination of methods, such as siege, bombing, ground invasion. Waiting allows civilians to evacuate, but maybe Hamas to fortify. Bombs are risk-free for Israel but despite best efforts catch civilians in the destruction. Ground invasion is slower, and puts Israeli lives at risk, but on the surface at least seems safer for the citizens of the city. There's some sort of Pareto curve between "our troops," "our objectives," and "collateral damage" that any army indirectly respects. I would really love to hear a government official be clear about their perspective on these tradeoffs, and barring that, all of your thoughts. From the outside it seems to me that Israel leans too far in the bombing direction when considering these tradeoffs -- to maintain the moral upper hand I think a government should value one of its soldier's lives at maybe the same level as an enemy civilian, even taking the destruction of Hamas as a positive.

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I would love to see Scott write about the Israel Gaza situation and the ideological schisms the West is going through at the moment. I know there probably isnt much original discussion to be had on the topic but I would love a classic Scott greypill.

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Is there some backstory as to why effective altruism generates such a strong reaction to some people such that there's a parade of articles trying to "expose" or "unmask" it and its followers? Personally, I don't care much about effective altruism, and as a result I am mostly indifferent towards it. The strongly negative reactions in a sizeable number of presumably intellectuals or otherwise educated people suggests there's some motivation that I'm unaware of. Does anyone have an explainer?

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I was looking at a comparison photo of USS Gerald Ford and a Nimitz-class carrier, and I realized why the redesigned island (it's smaller and further aft on the Ford) appealed to me:

The new carrier looks more like a Star Destroyer.

This amuses me greatly, though I would caution the Navy against adopting easily-targeted deflector shield generators located directly atop the island...

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Nov 8·edited Nov 12

/Update 2023-11-12: it looks like I can probably get what I want using eww, Emacs's built-in text-only web browser. By default, eww lists only top-level comments, delimited by asterisks for easy isearch navigation, which is already an improvement over the Substack website./


Substack comment threads suck. Does anyone have a "Substack client" that makes them easier to read? This "client" could be a third-party site, native app, Emacs mode, GreaseMonkey script, whatever.


- Show only top-level comments by default, preferably only the first n characters.

- When expanding a top-level comment, expand only one level of replies, not the whole tree.

- Let me hide subtrees without scrolling to the bottom of the parent (which is where the official mobile app puts the hide button).

I know this probably violates the Substack terms of service, so no need to point that out. I'm happy to set up a fiddly hack on my own computer if that's what it takes.

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What are some podcasts or Youtube channels where:

1) The show talks about current events and not just a niche non-political topics like Formula 1 or model aircraft

2) The host(s) are not partisan and provide equal time to left, center and right viewpoints

3) The show editors take feedback seriously and start each episode listing factual/logical mistakes made in the previous episode or at least maintain an extensive list of corrections on their website

Most shows that satisfy (1) utterly fail (2) and (3). The All In Podcast and Joe Rogan satisfy (2) but fails (3). Tom Scott's channel satisfies (3) but fails (2) when it comes to anything political.

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The recent rally in the stock market allowed me to dump some investments I'd been wanting to get rid of without having to eat much of a loss. How shall I reinvest the proceeds?

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This is an hour about highly coded evidence that Bored Ape Yacht Club is actually a 4chan white supremacist conspiracy. I'm not sure whether it was worth my time, let alone anyone else's, but the temptation to post it was strong.

It's a shame that those guys can apparently do some real damage instead of entirely playing elaborate games to prove how clever they are.

I'm reminded of a combination of _Brain Wave_ (an sf novel about the earth moving out of an astronomical stupidity field) and the Flynn effect. What happens if people are smarter but don't have good sense to guide their thinking?

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I find myself thinking about inheritance now and again. One asset supposedly coming my way is a house - but it's unfortunately not easily accessible without a car (I don't drive), in a different city than where I live, and it's got at least a decade remaining of mortgage that I can't afford to pay on top of current rent. On the one hand, renting it out would obviously be profitable, given Bay Area housing market insanity. On the other hand...well, I don't actually want to be a landlord-by-necessity? Doubly so if it's tricky to visit the place and I'd never voluntarily owner-occupy it. Yet cashing out early by selling seems like just as bad an idea, opportunity costs aside. "It's better EV to take the annuity," every lotto winner thinks before taking their amortized of gold anyway.

Advice? Third options I'm not thinking of?

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In an early-2023 survey of 55,000 college students:

- 72% of Jewish Students wanted to censor criticism of BLM.

- 74% of Jewish Students did not want to censor antiwhite speech.


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An enthusiast with a bad idea ended up with the navy spending $100 billion on a ship that can't even travel well on the ocean. A tale of all the normal barriers failing which should prevent something this stupid.

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Nov 7·edited Nov 7

What are the arguments that have caused corporal punishment to go out of fashion in this day and age? Is the issue that it's too likely to traumatize the child, or that it's not actually effective, or that it's damaging to the relationship between the child and their caregiver, or what? (Obviously it could be multiple things.) I'm asking because I frequently see psychological put-downs being promoted instead (e.g. timeout, being sent to your room, etc) -- but to the extent that they're more effective, they presumably are more unpleasant to the child; so what's the advantage?

ETA: I'm not asking for an argument for why I shouldn't beat up my children; among other things, something would have to go very wrong for me to be relying on advice from strangers on the internet for this. I'm wondering about the history of how society recently transitioned from corporal punishment being the norm to it being very much not the norm.

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Americans protesting against Israel seem to think that the US government has the power to stop the war in Gaza. Why do they believe this? The US could of course defeat Israel in a direct military confrontation but short of that it seems unlikely they could persuade Israel to end the war, even if they ended all support for Israel, because Israel doesn't need US support to defeat Iran and its proxies. Or am I wrong, and they do?

If for some unexpected reason the US were suddenly to support the Palestinian Cause instead of Israel, it stands to reason that China would quickly rush in to fill the void, as Israel would accept China as an ally given American abandonment, and China would have more to gain from having Israel as an ally than they'd have to lose by alienating current Arab allies. Or do you disagree?

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I think to actually be precise, by "tension" what I'm actually referring is (a) excessive antagonistic muscular resistance (make your hands as rigid and possible and feel how hard it is to play: then as soft as possible) and (b) unnecessary muscle holding (squeeze your shoulder blades up to your ears and play: then relax them and feel them "floating" on your back)

In both cases it really depends on your whole body awareness: if you're mostly unaware any sort of paying attention to breath and how you're choosing (unconsciously?) to hold or freeze muscles will be quite useful

If that sort of awareness is something you already have I would experiment with going to an extreme you "know" is wrong and then seeing how far you can back off (such as the hand tension thing above)

As a very general note piano technique is much more individual than is usually (?) taught so definitely give yourself permission to try lots of different physical approaches, hand positions, etc

If you're very visual you could try filming yourself, but that's not something that works well for me

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The MATS winter cohort begins on January 8, not January 17: https://www.matsprogram.org/program

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Thought I'd stir the pot slightly by bringing up the kidney donation issue again. I was surprised how much it divided people.

However, even if we can't agree on the morality of removing an organ to save a stranger, perhaps we can agree on the *im*morality of removing an organ for no reason whatsoever? (I mean, aside from the minor enrichment of the medical system) Something like 90% of tonsillectomies are useless! And they're often done on children, for whom consent is far more dubious than in the case of adult organ donation.

One study from the UK: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181105200727.htm

And this is not a new problem: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/article-abstract/607049

Maybe there's some decidedly unsexy effective altruism to be done around this problem?

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Robin Hanson has written many times about studies showing that healthcare collectively has no net positive effect. If one were to take that seriously, what would it imply? There's so much evidence that particular interventions have good outcomes, people are getting cured of all sorts of diseases and conditions. Does it mean that some incidental things are causing catastrophic amounts of damage, enough to offset the entire rest of medicine? If so, what are some candidates for that? Some possibilities that come to mind:

* Doctor's visits: Insufficient sanitation? Disease spreading in waiting rooms? Or maybe from the doctors themselves?

* Painkillers, or other optional medication, having some unknown serious long-term effect?

* Scans and tests being way more dangerous than thought?

* Recklessness caused by knowing that one has a doctor available to help them get through things?

* (Pharmacies secretly poisoning everyone who enters their doors? Medicine-demons that follow insured people around?)

Nothing I can think of seems particularly plausible, but I'm not a doctor and don't really know anything about the topic. Is there research into where the offset might come from?

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I'll be in the Bay Area Tues-Fri (leaving Fri mid day). Would love to meet folks, or attend a fabled 'Bay Area Houseparty'. Drop me a line at circus kerry one word at the google mail place.

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https://astralcodexten.com/ is disturbingly different from https://www.astralcodexten.com/. Please fix. One consequence of that is that Google finds only the placeholder page (first link) instead of the blog (second link).

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Also a question about homeownership and refinancing.

This is hypothetical (given the interest rate environment). But friends were debating a past refinancing offer that would have saved maybe $20k over the life of the loan, nothing seemed off and the offer was reputable, but somehow the new closing costs are up most of the arbitrage/savings from the lower interest rate and increased value of the house.

What am I missing here? Would it have been worth it to take that deal, or is there some other hidden cost, if not financial, to refinancing?

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I wanted to ask about auto and homeowners insurance.

I've been with my current company for a loooong time and they've increased rates so much that, on impulse, I switched to a much cheaper rate with another insurer whose reputation I don't love but the savings were significant. I got the rate contingent on a bundle with homeowners, but their homeowners is consistently reviews very poorly.

All the best homeowners companies I've since quoted with give me a higher auto and homeowners rate (though still lower than my recent unbundled auto rate).

How much does the homeowners' reputation (especially JD Powers claims study performance) matter here?

How much of a liability is it that I already just switched auto insurers in quoting bundled rates?

Thank you.

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The new Semaglutide drugs for weight-loss seem to work well for weight-loss/hunger control. There are also (much more preliminary) claims that the same drugs work as something like a general craving suppressant or willpower booster, helping with things like substance addiction and impulse shopping. My question is: how much of the current observations can be explained with a hunger-mediated mechanism? Hungry people tend to make worse decisions and have worse cognitive abilities, according to both social science and snickers' ad agency, and it doesn't take a strict willpower depletion type model to explain why people trying not to think about lunch might distract themselves with online shopping. Have there been any trials giving Ozempic to e.g. people trying to stop gambling but who aren't trying to lose weight? Also, the benefits of Semaglutides are discussed in terms of weight-loss, but what are the potential utility gains from decreasing the sensation of hunger?

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I am considering creating the following app for Android:

- educational app for very young children. You see a sandpit and a picture of a happy rabbit. You can draw lines in the sand with your finger.

- the letter "A" appears over the sandpit, and the first stroke appears as a line. The happy rabbit looks very intently at it, and gets excited if you start drawing your finger along it. When you complete the stroke, the rabbit gives a happy head shake and the next stroke appears.

- when you complete the entire letter, the rabbit does a whole happy dance and you hear a voice saying "A" aloud. Then rinse and repeat with another randomly selected letter.

- once the child is fluently drawing all the letters of the alphabet, you get to select another alphabet for it to learn. For example, the IPA, the expanded alphabet (containing Scandi/old Anglo Saxon characters), Cyrillic, Hiragana, etc etc. All are just datasets fed through the same system. This stuff will be boring if you have to learn it later in life, I like the idea of feeding the kid as much as we can while it's still got nothing better to do. I also like the idea of the kid's primary school teachers sitting there in confusion because thorn characters keep showing up in the kid's homework.

- and/or: once the child is fluent in the Roman alphabet, we proceed to short words, it writes out "cat" or whatever and hears the word spoken aloud. The words get longer as the child gets more fluent at writing them.

I am in two minds about this second approach (the whole word one). My first (boring) hesitation is it's a lot more data to curate - especially if you want to do the logical thing and have a picture of a cat appear alongside the word.

My second hesitation is that I cannot for the life of me remember how I learned to read/write, so I'm honestly not sure if this kind of learning would be effective. And if it's not - why am I assembling gigabytes of audio and image files to enable it?

I have done exactly zero research on this since having the idea, so if this exact thing already exists (and you'd think it would) do please feel free to link it in.

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I am an incoming undergraduate STEM student, and need a laptop to last me through college. Here are my requirements, listed in order of importance to me:

[1] Maximum of $2000

[2] Dedicated GPU

[3] Can Run Linux

[4] At least 16GB VRAM

[5] At least 16GB RAM

[6] Not a strange / uncomfortable shape / no RGB lights

I plan on purchasing an external drive, so storage is not an issue. The display / also do not matter much to me. Any help / recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

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Has anyone tried xAI's new Grok LLM yet? Is it any good?

I wonder if this will change how people think about Elon Musk's decision to buy Twitter. If you think about it as just buying a social media platform, it seems like it was a pretty bad decision (except for the philosophical stuff like free speech, political neutrality, etc). But if you think about it as a continuous supply of proprietary training data for someone who also owns an LLM company, then maybe that changes things.

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Tyler Cowen published a GPT-4 book designed to be queried and summarized with LLMs. Do you guys know of any service right now that allow to do the same with other books, in pdf format for example ?

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I'm looking for a better name than 'early adulthood' for that period of life, traditionally 18-25 or so, in which you focus on building up your own educational and career capital before settling down and starting a family.

In talking about the changes I see with my generation (millennials), I think 'extended adolescence' is slightly overblown; adolescence implies a lack of independence, which has happened a bit (see: house prices) but isn't the main factor I see, which is more of an extended version of this early adulthood period, which now seems to drag on well into one's thirties.

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On the Road with the Out of Control Rhythm and Blues Band

The road was generally somewhere in the Capital District of upstate New York. Think of it as a group of small cities and towns and centered on Albany, the state capital, Troy, where I lived at the time, and Schenectady, incidentally, where my grandfather had his first job in the United States, and where the band rehearsed in the basement of a photography studio in a somewhat sketchy part of town. The studio was owned by Rick Siciliano, lead vocalist and drummer for The Out of Control Rhythm and Blues Band. I played with the band from about 1985 or 86 to 1990 or so.

Not Exactly the Birth of the Blues

I am told that Siciliano started the band in the early 1980s as a means to attract women; I believe Duke Ellington was thinking the same thing when he decided to play piano. Rick got some of his buddies together to form a band. I hear he was better at attracting ladies than getting gigs. Somehow, though, he managed to gather reasonably good musicians. Chris Cernik joined on keyboards and served as den leader; he brought in his high school friend, John Eof on guitar. Then along came “Bad” Bob Maslyn on bass, Ken Drumm on alto and baritone sax to replace Rick’s buddy, Jimmy, and Rick Rourke on alto and tenor sax. There were others in and out of the band, Giles, some trumpeter whose name’s been forgotten, and then John Hines, who’d studied jazz trumpet at Berklee – that’s BerKLEE, the private music school in Boston, not BerKELEY, the flagship campus of the University of California.

They developed a repertoire organized around Blues Brothers tunes and Rick Siciliano’s taste in pop. They even had a couple of originals, “Lady DJ” (for Rick’s lust object du jour) and “Baby Tell the Truth.” Now we’re getting serious. Before you know it, Out of Control was getting gigs, but other bands were after John Hines. They put an ad in the local entertainment weekly, Metroland, looking for a substitute trumpet player.

I saw the ad, needed money, another tried and true motive for playing music. I called Ken, who acted as business manager, and set up an audition. I forget just how the audition process went, but it’s not like there were 30 trumpeters lined up to get the gig. Fact is, the time when trumpet was king was long gone by then so there weren’t many trumpeters, period. I forget just how I learned the tunes, but there were no charts. Perhaps Chris or Ken got me a set of rehearsal tapes. Whatever. I just listened and learned by ear, like all real musicians play, except for classical cats and other advanced miscreants. I soon became the one-and-only full-time trumpeter for the band.

You can read the rest here: https://3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2023/11/on-the-road-with-the-out-of-control-rhythm-and-blues-band.html

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I want to introduce a magical material to my medieval fantasy setting, but for the sake of internal consistency I want to make sure it can't somehow be used to invent perpetual motion machines or any other revolutionary technologies, so I'm asking you nerds about its engineering applications.

The material is a form of magical ice which behaves exactly like normal ice except that when it melts, rather than turning into liquid water it vanishes entirely, leaving nothing in its place.

The only mundane application I can think of is that you could use it to draw a partial vacuum (fill vessel entirely with ice, let it melt) which seems like it would be very interesting to chemists but not a big deal overall. Are there any applications I'm missing, or is there some really important chemical process you can do with access to a partial vacuum?

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What is the best scientific evidence supporting the existence of mental powers like ESP, telekinesis, remote viewing, and mind-reading?

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What if there is an "equation" for general intelligence, like E=MC^2, but it's too complicated for humans to understand? Like, even if a person had the equation in front of them and had infinite time to study it, they'd never understand it?

BTW, I think this is already the case for equations in very high-level, highly specific fields of math. So much niche cognitive ability and more foundational math must already be possessed to understand them that 99.99% of humans couldn't grasp them even if they tried.

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In modern days, as Neurotechnology is taking stride in every sphere of medical field, battle field, acute surveillance and many more; it is very essential to understand that how can brain -internet connection set up remotely without any surgical intervention. Can anyone comment on this?

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Why haven't smaller cars specifically for urban areas been commercialized on a large scale? I'm not part of the anti-car movement (I think cars are great!), I just don't think that the same vehicles that make sense for suburban or rural living really fit in much tighter urban spaces. Is it really hard that commercialize a much smaller car with a lower speed limit, that can still fit groceries and passengers safely? They'd fit better in parking spaces, both on street and commercial (the massive SUVs trying to park in my local Whole Foods lot, my god. Should be a felony).

There's lots of innovations in automotive design and drive trains on say farms- tons of smaller but sturdy vehicles from multiple manufacturers. Why aren't they more common in major cities?

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Is it time to update on the dangers of climate change? For years I've been in the "it'll be bad but not terrible" camp, but looking at the pretty massive spike in sea surface and air temperatures this year, as well as the sudden loss of Antarctic ice for the first time, I'm questioning that opinion again. It's been a huge jump that looks totally out of whack with any previous year. It could easily be a fluke, but it's got me worried all the same.

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I am considering migrating to Canada. My friend told me that Canada is the most woke/SJW country in the world. In particular, I'm worried about the cancel culture, the dark side of feminism, the dark side of anti-racism, the dark side of pro-diversity, the dark side of wokeness. I tried to check how true this is by looking up relevant statistics per country but didn't find anything relevant enough. I only found some statistics that equate social justice to basically how free and good a society is, and I found statistics like what percentage of people proclaim themselves as feminist.

If you have personal experience living in Canada, please tell me about this aspect and compare it to other countries you've lived in. Since you, fellow commenter, might have different thresholds of the level of wokeness you find acceptable than me, I would be most grateful for information that compares this level between different countries. If you know of some relevant per-country statistics, please post them as well. Also, I am considering migration to other countries too, so if you have an opinion about which countries are most woke/SJW or which regions of which countries are most woke/SJW, please post them too.

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How much artificial intelligence would it take to automatically adapt websites for different platforms? What if the ability to accommodate changes in the platforms is included?

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We are actively working on creating a comment system based on the ACX philosophy of “two of True, Kind, and Necessary.” We want to make it easy to see comments on ACX with T/K/N rankings, be able to moderate comments, choose filtering methods to make it easy to see the best comments first, worst last, and just generally add in mechanisms to make the comment system troll- and spam-resistant.

For our initial public beta, we would probably have our system be independent of any publishing platform, be given a URL, it would import all the existing comments, and then let people interact on our system, but wouldn’t have tight integration with the original platform unless the original platform provides a good comments API for such interaction.

Would commenters here be interested in using such a comment system? Any must-haves, show-stoppers for use, etc?

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What is the fastest way to turn humans into dragons

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How do I stop fascists from destroying epistemics and capturing AGI, leading to eternal darkness

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How do I recover from negative symptoms of schizophrenia

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In a past open thread, I received some great advice for piano practice and improving accuracy. People suggested that I slow down my practice a lot, so that I'm able to play passages with near 100% accuracy; when I did that, my playing improved in a matter of days. And practicing this way really highlights (for me) which passages need work, and I can drill those over and over.

I'm working on Rachmaninoff's Polichinelle. I can play through it at a moderate speed with high accuracy, but I'm really not sure how to get it to the speed that I hear people play it (for instance in piano recital performances on YouTube). It is just an amazing piece when played anywhere near that speed, so I want to figure out how to get there. Any tips?

Thanks as always. This group is a great resource.

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Confession: Ever since I was a teenager learning about Israel and the surrounding region, I've had a quiet pseudo-conviction that there's some property of the land itself that makes some individuals especially passionate about religious faith and/or living *RIGHT. THERE.*

This is of course very silly, but I can't shake it. If someone were to announce, I dunno, the discovery of toxoplasmosis-esque parasites in Israel's soil, or a psychoactive chemical or fungus in her seawater/groundwater, or brain nanobots from a lost civilization destroyed by the Younger Dryas impact which can only self-replicate in Israel's particular geography, or, more likely, something I can't even imagine, I'd feel a fierce satisfaction, not surprise.

Again, I realize this is silly. On a sort of surface-thinking intellectual level, I understand and accept the broad historical context of why so many people are so attached to "RIGHT.THERE."

I just can't make myself *really* believe that really is the only "why" of it.

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Do you ever wear synthetic clothing such as nylon, spandex/Lycra, or polyester? This recent study in Environmental Science & Technology (full text: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.3c01894) seems big if true.

The claim: our sweat can leach harmful plastic additives from synthetic clothing. This is because our sweat contains oils. In theory, some of the leached additives would then be absorbed through our skin.

The study only looked at flame retardant additives in fireproof clothing. Here is why the findings may transfer to many other synthetics:

> Abdallah [the P.I.] says the study implies that other chemical plastic additives, like bisphenols (which have been found at up to 40 times the safe limit of exposure in items from popular sportswear brands), phthalates and PFAS, 'may leach out into sweat and become available for dermal absorption'. These findings can be 'logically extrapolated in terms of someone who is running and sweating intensely', he notes.


Is this enough to make you stop wearing synthetic clothing for exercise, or in general? (That's what Abdallah himself has done.)

Or would you first need to see this experiment re-done on each of those materials, and understand the magnitude of the potential harms?

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I have been reading a lot of long AI papers and related documents lately. The Executive Order was one thing and now I am going through the 100-page report on the current state of alignment, put together by a group of Chinese researchers. How do people maintain focus when reading such long documents, especially when they are out of their depth technically and have to look up/understand aditional concepts all the time?

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Can you find how White can mate in 1 move in this position? https://ic.pics.livejournal.com/avva/111931/240177/240177_600.jpg

If you see it *immediately*, it's probably wrong and it's not a mate or not an allowed move.

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I have recently listened to a podcast episode (this one https://zoe.com/learn/podcast-can-the-mind-slow-aging-with-ellen-langer ) with Ellen J. Langer (well-known Harvard psichology professor). She made some claims that are hard to believe for me (e.g. rigging a clock and thus your subjective time perception, makes wounds heal faster), yet they seem supported by scientific studies.

Is anybody up to date on the current research on these topics? What is the general consensus of the scientific community? Has anybody read her recent book "The Mindful Body"?

I'm not familiar with this field and this seems like a good place to ask for some opinions to people who are more knowledgeable than me.

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Let's continue re-reading Scott's old blog (not SSC, the one before, this one https://archive.ph/fCFQx). "How to teach without your students secretly hating you" https://archive.ph/VLlft (alt https://pastebin.com/N0cWhb9p) is a good list of things not to do, "having a specific definition in mind and trying to squeeze it out of the students one word at a time over the course of 40 minutes" is my personal un-favourite.

Bonus shitpost: https://archive.ph/o3SNI. What other remarkable things were uttered just before leaping off the Tower of Prisms?

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How do we know that the people being trained for AI alignment research will end up doing what the people who designed the training expected?

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Bletchley: PCM type risk gets a nod in the declaration. "Substantial risks may arise from potential intentional misuse or unintended issues of control relating to alignment with human intent." But not much else in the conference or the coverage of it that I have seen. Is anyone surprised about this?

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I am a medical student contemporaneously pursuing a master's in public health. I'm supposed to do an internship where I work on a field-relevant project for the masters, but expect to be fairly busy with my rotation schedule during normal working hours for the next couple of years. Doing an elective rotation at a county or state public health facility is probably an option, but doesn't really pique my interest. I'm wondering if any ACX reader is doing something interesting in health policy, healthcare delivery systems, epidemiology startups, or biostatistics has a project they could use my asynchronous labor in service of. I am smart and creative and would be happy to work in exchange for the institution-legible validation of the fact of this arrangement to the relevant accreditation body.

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Policy professionals of ACX - how difficult have you found it transitioning from one area of policy work to another? Do your skills translate well across fields in general, or are your skills specific to one domain? Or does it depend on how closely related the fields are?

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Gunflint was given a one-month ban for a post of his on Scott's *My Left Kidney* thread. If you've been here for a while, you probably know who he is and what his posts are like I can't think of anyone who's more consistently kind and fair-minded than Gunflint. Here's an instance of that quality: He made no comments at all about the Israel-Palestinian situation -- then, a few days ago, posted that he felt as though he should make no comments at all about it until he spent a couple months learning about the history and cultures involved.

The comment he got banned for was indeed in violation of the 2 out of 3 / true-necessary-kind rule, but its violations were fairly mind and gentle-- certainly nowhere near as bannable as some of the furious posts we've seen in recent days about Israel-Palestine.

Gunflint's comment, along with Scott's ban, is here:


The post Gunflint was responding to is here:


Scott's banning post is followed by posts from me and Moon Moth making the case that the punishment doesn't fit the crime, so I won't repeat any of what we said here. But if any other readers have the feeling that this ban is way too severe a consequence, I hope you'll speak up on this thread and make a case to Scott for a reduced sentence for this gentle member of ACX.

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Does anyone know why there are lots of ready available medications to lower blood pressure if it is too high but (apparently) none to raise blood pressure if it is too low?

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I think I finally went to one of those Bay Area house parties. There were at least two people with paperclip-maximizing costumes, one OpenAI employee, and some very weird burlesque. Didn't encounter the urbanist coven, though.

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Brad West asks me to direct people who know things about the economy, management, and buying and running companies to an idea he wants opinions on: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/WMiGwDoqEyswaE6hN/making-trillions-for-effective-charities-through-the

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I hereby second Freddie DeBoer's nomination for Scott Alexander as King of the Nerds. Can I get a third?

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MrBeast is one of the largest YouTubers. Recently he released a video building 100 water wells in Africa. One of his comments was that other governments or agencies should be doing this, but they're not. He recently cured blindness in 100 Americans by paying for some surgery as well.

Trying to think about these situations. I don't like that these people are basically being left to fend for themselves until some rich YouTuber shows up to help them. But the alternative seems to be that they don't get any help at all. I don't think it's optimal to focus the criticisms on MrBeast, but rather on government for failing to resolve these issues.

I don't like that this guy is basically making videos as a savior for a bunch of people because I think we should already be helping them out.

Why are we unable to determine as a society that resolving blindness in people through a cheap routine surgery is worth subsidizing?

It can't cost that much and then at the SOTU the president can celebrate that we erradicated certain medical conditions from US soil, which I'd find really inspiring.

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I came across a couple of articles like this[1] and this[2], according to which kidney sizes and GFR among Indians is lower than in the West. Do transplant committees take ethnicity into account when screening potential donors? Do they use different criteria in different countries?

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25027077/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15925908/

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Nov 6·edited Nov 6Author

I recently talked to a startup founder working on a product I think is really great and valuable. Lots of people would want it if they knew about it, but they don't. She wanted to know if there were ways to get Substack personalities to market the product. I asked if she'd tried traditional marketing, like billboards, focus groups, and magazine ads, and she said no. She said that conventional Silicon Valley wisdom was to market through "your network" and other things you know and trust - maybe including Substackers you read (she also couldn't find any marketing person who wasn't offputting). This surprised me a lot. I know nothing about startup founding, but she's not very experienced either, and we both agreed we were confused here.

Both for practical purposes and to satisfy my curiosity - does anyone here with more experience in startups have an opinion on this?

(Also, if you're a marketing person who is smart, not offputting, and looking for work at a startup I think is really great and valuable, send me an email at scott@slatestarcodex.com and I guess I'll introduce you)

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deletedNov 6·edited Nov 6
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Removed (Banned)Nov 6
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